Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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Castaway: The Final Chapter

On October 3, 2018, I was given the clearance by my doctor to take my first steps. I had already made a physio appointment for the next day to help get me moving as soon as possible. The doctor also warned me, in a slightly condescending way, that if I didn’t do what I was told, I could potentially lose mobility and flexibility in my ankle. His exact words, “We babied your ankle for six weeks. Now you have to be aggressive or you will not recover properly. You need to be out of the walking cast in one week.” Determined to show him that he misjudged me as a potential princess, I asked if I could take my first steps, then and there. He nodded and I got up, almost squealed in pain, but I wasn’t going to show any sort of emotion and then tried to walk while using my wheelchair as a crutch. I underestimated how weak I would be, how painful it was to try to walk on my now inflexible ankle and how poor my balance would be. I took my note for physio, plunked myself down in my wheelchair, and my cousin, kindly took me home. All I could think about was how was I going to take off the walking cast in a week. How was I supposed to walk more than 5 steps?

There wasn’t a lot that I could do that first day, but I committed to standing, at the very least, as often as I could, using a walker to help me maintain my balance. I only took 5 steps that day. Better than nothing but not the strides that I was hoping for either. I eagerly waited for physio the next day wondering what the difference between passive and active exercise would be. I showed up at Totem Life Science and was told to wait in my wheelchair for Katie, my physiotherapist. I wasn’t afraid of the pain that I knew would come, but I was afraid of losing my balance a little and re-injuring myself. Katie is a young, positive, skilled physiotherapist. She got me to stand, then walk around the examining table. She looked at my ankle, and showed me the passive exercises that I was supposed to do. They were the ones that I could basically do lying down. I had to rotate my ankle every hour, ten times in each direction. Point and flex the foot the same amount of times, then use an exercise band and do the same thing. I was also supposed to ice it, pretty much hourly. I walked a little more, but felt very thrown off by the cast. I started to understand why I needed to be out of it so quickly – it made me feel unbalanced and it was also hurting my hips. She told me to bring my walker, if I had one, and my running shoes the next day.

I did all of the passive exercises, every hour on the hour like I was told. I iced my ankle, and I went back to physio the next day. Katie told me when I got there, that I would be walking out the door that very day and that I was going to do physio in my running shoe. My ankle was sore, and I had my doubts, but Katie said – trust your ankle – it’s solid, remember that it will hold. So I did. I walked back and forth (with the walker) and did everything that she told me to do and being out of the cast made it so much easier. I asked what else I could do at home, aside from the passive exercises, and she said just walk as much as possible and ice my ankle as much as possible. She said try to walk without the cast when you can. I committed to doing everything that I was told to do and more. I used my mother’s walker which was way too short, when I got home and walked the corridors of the the condo. I knew that there were about 180 steps end to end, and I did the walk three times that afternoon. It hurt, more than I can tell you, but I did it. Then, I did it again, two more times that day, happy to see some progress. Over the weekend, I did it 6 laps, 4 times a day. I pushed the walker away and used I forced myself to walk to it. I did all of the passive exercises all weekend long.

When I went back to physio, Katie could see that I made a big effort and that my walking improved and I stopped using the air walker in 6 days. She was able to spend the time doing ultrasound therapy and massage versus watching me do the assigned exercises. She would add new exercises to improve my balance and my dorsiflexion (ability to move your foot upward so that it is closer to the shin which is crucial for walking). I added single leg squats, regular squats, sideways walking and balancing on my leg to my passive exercise routine. If you don’t work on dorsiflexion, you will limp, have issues walking up and down the stairs and have the potential to injure yourself. Speaking of which, within two weeks, Katie had me try the stairs. My mantra became up with the good and down with the bad. This essentially meant leading with my good foot up the stairs, and the bad foot down the stairs. Once I could figure out the stairs, I did them as often and possible and walked outside so that I could get used to different terrain. I walked as much as I possibly could.

In addition to twice weekly physio sessions, I also saw Stacy, a chiropractor, who was a great support in my recovery. She is one of the owners of Totem Life Science and referred me to Katie. She was also the person who explained to me that the intense, burning pain that I was having was nerve pain. I went to Stacy once a week for additional massage and ultrasound therapy. It really helped to speed things along. By November 5, I was able to go back to work and by December 20, Katie and Stacy both told me that I was well enough to no longer require physio. Here are some tips to remember if you are recovering from ankle surgery and starting to walk:

Everyone is different and will respond differently to treatment and physio. Not to sound cheesy, but recovery is really a marathon and not a sprint and you can’t compare where you are to someone else. Worry about your progress and only your progress.

Do your exercises at home religiously. Don’t shortchange yourself. If you do them at home, your physiotherapist can focus on the “hands-on” therapy that they are so skilled at rather than babysit you as you do the exercises you should be doing on your own. They are trained professionals and will know if you aren’t doing everything that you are supposed to at home. They notice your range of motion and gait. By ignoring the exercise, you hurt only yourself and you will have a longer recovery.

It will hurt – there is no way around that, but the ability to walk is worth it. The pain gets better in time.

You will notice huge changes the first week, and like me, you will get so excited and then….. After the first two weeks, the hard work really begins when you have to really focus on your dorsiflexion. It is the very last thing to come back, and you need to keep pushing through this part of your treatment and your progress will slow.

Lose your pride. I walked with a walker inside and outside. I used canes, had my air cast on to help keep my distance from people. One thing that I didn’t care about was how people saw me. I wanted to walk and I wanted my mobility back as quickly as possible and if it meant that people would see me in a walker, then that was fine. I also knew that I had the good fortune of knowing that my situation was temporary. Others do not have that luxury.

People watch and be sensitive – I always give up my seat on the subway to people who are older, pregnant and have mobility issues. When I was on public transit with a cane and cast, I was offered a seat maybe 60% of the time. People can be rude, but that doesn’t mean that you should be. Use your injury to be a more thoughtful rider.

When I went to my final orthopedic appointment on November 21. The doctor kept saying look at the nice veins! Your ankle looks really good! Look at the flexibility, it’s really coming. He told me that he was impressed with my progress. This was the very doctor who a few weeks early looked at me so skeptically. I wanted to say, you doubter! I showed you! Instead, I just said the truth – I had a great physiotherapist and chiropractor and I listened to them and did everything that they told me to do. My ankle gets a little stiff and sore here and there, but overall, I couldn’t be more grateful for the ability to get myself around pretty much like I used to. They say it takes a full year for the swelling to completely go away, so I’m trying to be patient.

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Political Correctness and the Art of Being a Grinch

I celebrate Chanukah, the more low-key Festival of Lights.  I appreciate it when people wish me a Happy Chanukah – really.   By the same token, if I know someone celebrates Christmas, I wish them a Merry one.  I don’t go for the Happy Holiday thing unless I’m not sure what that particular person celebrates.  I wish my Muslim friends an Eid Mubarak when it is their holiday.  I firmly believe that it is politically correct to offer wishes in the manner that the person celebrates.  I also know some people that are Jehovah’s Witnesses and I don’t wish them anything at the holidays, nor do I wish them a happy birthday.  It is about respecting people’s beliefs, not watering them down.

If you speak to most people who are minorities in Canada, most feel the same way.  My Jewish and Muslim friends appreciate and enjoy other people’s traditions.  If truth be told, it is extreme political correctness that is ruining the holidays.  I’ve written about my thoughts on this before (holiday trees?  Please, it’s a Christmas tree) but now, the sensitive, participation award winning people of the world are trying to ban “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (the cartoon).  “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is said to have questionable lyrics about consent and little Rudolph because it features verbal abuse and bullying.  

Here is the truth – “Baby It’s Cold Outside” does feature questionable lyrics, but who really pays attention?  Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt performed it on The Muppets with the Lady herself singing the traditionally male part of the duet.  Rudolph actually has an anti-bullying message with the one thing that makes the adorable little reindeer different being the very thing that saves the day (his bright red nose) – a positive message for any child who feels different.  

Can we not just live and let live?  It is up to the individual to decide what messages a song carries.  If those particular lyrics are an issue, how about some very misogynistic Rap or Hip-Hop lyrics?  Should we ban 80’s music too?  “Every Breath You Take” is about stalking if you read the lyrics as is “Hungry Like the Wolf” by my beloved Duran Duran.  Are you doubting me?  How about this:
Stalked in the forest too close to hide
I’ll be upon you by the moonlight side

A little creepy, isn’t it?  How about “Your So Vain” by Carly Simon?  It’s about Warren Beatty and if you think about it is bullying him.  How about any song Taylor Swift does?  It’s usually a revenge song against one of her ex-boyfriends – does that not qualify as bullying?  There is also “Cake By The Ocean” by DNCE with these lyrics:

Not so serious, girl, why those feet cold? 
We just getting started, don’t you tiptoe 
Tiptoe, ah 

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  I do not want any song banned unless it promotes hate.  Certain songs, like the ones I’ve noted or “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are of the time that they were created in and people should understand that and stop reading too much into things.  This hyper-political correctness is often to detriment of the causes that they are trying to support as a select few take it seriously.  Many causes, including the #MeToo and other Women’s Rights movement are so important, but what starts out in such a promising way, gets watered down when they take things too far.  It is about gender equality, not female superiority.  Many women have been harassed and you know when it is happening, but I have had male friends who are ardent supporters of women’s rights called out for innocently touching a woman on the arm or for opening a door for them.  

Why can we just not let people judge for themselves what is appropriate?  If you don’t like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” turn off the radio and TV respectively.  Vote with ratings – not by doing something that is not in the interest of anyone.  Remember, book banning and burning was part of the Holocaust and the Taliban rule of Afghanistan.  You might think it’s an extreme comparison, but when you start banning things, and subscribing to a mob mentality – this is the result.  I know that some smart aleck out there will say “What about if this was Mein Kempf if you believe in freedom of speech?”  Again, there is a difference between hate propaganda and freedom of speech.  I absolutely agree that people are entitled to freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression as laid out in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that means everyone, not a select few who force their will on others.

Let people enjoy their holidays including Christmas and lives – and while you have the right to express yourself, remember that the message is lost when it’s taken too far, like it has been lately.


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Brock McGillis – First but not Last

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Photo courtesy of Brock McGillis

Brock McGillis isn’t just a former OHL and professional hockey playing, having played in both the USA and Europe; he is also the first, and so far only, pro hockey player to openly come out as gay.  In addition to providing on and off-ice training with elite level hockey players in the City of Greater Sudbury, Brock also serves as a mentor and a motivational speaker.

With a mission to create equality regardless of sexuality, gender or race, and a focus of helping LGBTQ+ youth on loving themselves, he has an important message.  He also wants to help all youth shift their language, treat others with respect and become the support system that LGBTQ+ kids need.  I was deeply touched by his message.  I’m straight, or what’s considered an ally, but I have many people in my life from this community.  It absolutely breaks my heart to think of them being hated just for being who they are.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a hockey fan.  The only sport I love watching is figure skating, but when you hear a story that is so humane, I needed to know more.  Brock was kind enough to call me and answer some questions.  To illustrate the kind of person that he is, this is someone who made the time to chat with me, even though he’s been interviewed by the likes of CBC’s The National, Yahoo and other bigger and better newspapers and blogs and for that I’m thankful.  Here are just some of the questions that I asked:

Children, including those that are part of the LGBTQ+ community have pressures on them that even you may not have experienced growing up.  For example, with social media, there is no escape from bullying, you can’t even get away from it at home.  What tips or tools do you recommend to help cope with these additional pressures?

First off, tell someone.  It’s hard to engage with a bully and I don’t encourage kids to do this.  You may not be in a place to confront the bully.  If I’m reactive to a bully, there will be a barrier.  If you are going to speak to them, personalize it.  For example, I ask them if they know that 95% of people know someone who is LGBTQ+.  It could be a family member or a friend.  Ask if they would want a person in their life to be hurt or if they would intentionally hurt them.  If there is an ally there, they should know that laughter hurts more than words.  Don’t laugh.  But the kid being bullied needs to stay strong and not react.

You have openly admitted that there was a time when you thought about taking your life.  If someone that you knew or was mentoring felt the same way, what is your advice to them?

Mental illness is becoming an epidemic.  There are resources available and help that is available so that you can find a support system.  Don’t hide your illness – people are there for you and want to help.  How can they not want to? Part of the issue is that mental health isn’t visible so people can’t always see your struggle.  You have to be open, then people can support you.

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Image courtesy of Brock McGillis

Many kids do not grow up in a household where they will be accepted if they are LGBTQ+.  How can they get help when they don’t have at-home support?  How can you get the courage to come out if you don’t know how people will react?

Pick your spot when  you come out.  You know your surroundings and what you are dealing with.  Come out when it’s feasible for you to move on, when you can be independent, not when there is the danger of you getting kicked out of the house.  You will feel better when you accept yourself.  You have to love yourself.  I love being a gay man.  I want people to be clear and hear that.  Once you love yourself, you can withstand hate.  But some people just need time.  We expect people to be OK with everything the minute that we come out.  We’ve had years to think about this, they haven’t  Some people just need time.

I read a quote of yours that was heartbreaking.  It was something to the effect of “…how badly I wanted approval in a world that did not approve of me.”  What do you say to someone who feels exactly the same way?

You don’t need approval, you have to approve of yourself.  It’s all internal.  When I starting approving of myself, it empowered me.  I stopped caring about what others thought.  You have to accept yourself.  Seeking acceptance from others implies a hierarchy.  No one is above or below anyone else.  We don’t need to accept others, and others don’t need to accept us.

What is the toughest question that any young person has asked you and how did you answer it?

It was actually at the second school that I spoke at – I was fresh into this, there were about 1,000 students.  There was a kid that had this arrogance about him, and his question out of everything that I was saying about my experience of coming out was “What about in the showers.  Isn’t it awkward for you and your teammates?”  I wasn’t reactionary, but I wanted to send a message.  I asked him if had siblings and a sister, and he said yes.  I asked if he played hockey, he said yes.  We are taught in hockey that we are all a family, all brothers, right?  Again the answer was yes.  Finally, I asked him if finds his sister hot and he turned beet red.  The whole school cheered.  I used the moment to inform and educate him while taking him down a peg.  I’m still in touch with him today and have mentored him in hockey.

How can we help as allies?

You can help in a number of ways.  You can start by being a shoulder for someone and showing that you care.  Voice your support for either a person being bullied or the LGBTQ+ community.  Some people show their support by going to Pride an marching or by going to a rally.

Other ways are more simple.  Treat everyone as an equal and help encourage openness by not being judgmental.  I like to say that normal doesn’t exist, we are all weirdos in our own way.  Having a discourse with someone that is struggling is always helpful.  It can also be a grassroots initiative by an individual to help create awareness.  Allies need to stand up, engage and educate.

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Image courtesy of Brock McGillis

Do you ever see hockey truly being integrated with makes and females playing on the same professional team?

It’s a difficult equation in professional hockey.  Men and women are built differently and it would be hard for a woman that is 5’1 to withstand hits from a man that is 6’7.  Goal tenders aren’t required to get involved in that level of fighting, so that may work.  I want the best players regardless of gender or sexuality. I just think physiologically it may be more difficult for women. It really is about the best players though – period.

My Take – I was curious about how a pro hockey player would answer this question.  Before all you women out there get all up in arms, think about it for a minute.  I’m not an expert, but from what I understand, women’s hockey doesn’t allow checking – it would add another dimension to their game.  If you think about it objectively, and you compare just on size alone, Brock has a very good point.  Maybe one day there will be women players in the NHL, then again, but maybe there won’t.   Either way, women can still play and participate.

Finally, as time is passing, we can’t forget about the children who have been touched by Humboldt tragedy.  What message do you have for them?

One of the survivors said, ” I haven’t cried and I won’t cry.  I’m a tough Canadian guy.”  Man, you need to cry, you need to grieve.  No one will judge you and if they do, to hell with them.  It’s so sad, and people will be mourning for a long time.  It won’t change overnight.  Hockey is Canadian culture and Canada is hugging you right now, holding you up.  We are all your support system and that won’t go away.

My last thoughts:  In September, 1995, Hillary Clinton stated the following “…let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all,”.  We are at a point where we have to recognize that LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.  We are living in a world right now where hate is, once again, becoming permissible.  In Russia, it’s OK to discriminate openly against gay men and women.  In the Middle East, gay men are marched off of roof tops to their deaths.  Gay men and lesbian women are forced into unwanted sex changes in Iran in order to be with the person that they love.   In North America, LGBTQ+ kids continue to be bullied on a regular basis and that frustration sometimes can lead to suicide.  It was an honour to speak with someone who is so passionate about helping kids in this community and is actively seeking to mentor them.

 

 


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The First Birthday Without You

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“Was Zaydie as good of a person as you remember him to be?” I asked my mother about my grandfather one day.  Everyone just thought he was a wonderful, kind gentleman, and my mother was the original Daddy’s Girl, but I was still curious.  “Oh no, Jill, he wasn’t.  He was better.”  Even though it’s only been 6 weeks, I can already tell you the same thing about my mother, she was better than I remember.   We had our first holiday without her two weeks ago.  Now, it’s her birthday and we are trying to figure out what to do.  I did a little self-torture, looking at birthday cards that I wouldn’t be able to give her.  That was the day that I got a little sign from her.  Last night, I read cards and poems online that people wrote to their dead mothers just to make sure that I could cry, although, there hasn’t been a shortness of tears on my part.  She really was special.

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Nobody loved a birthday more than my mother, especially the cake.  Every year, we had buy her the same cake – the repulsive store bought chocolate cake with the GIGANTIC pink roses.  She loved it, and every year for my birthday, when I was growing up, I got that very cake even though I hated it.  She’d always say “Tough luck.  I love it, and that’s what your getting.”  That was my mother – every inch a brat.  But before you write her off, that was only one part of my mother, she was so much more than that.  I could gush about how brave she was, but here is a quote from my cousin, a very religious and learned Rabbi, when I ask him for a quote for a treasured book in our family:

Judith Schneiderman returned her heroic,courageous and dearly beloved soul to her Maker on March 3, 2018. May She find comfort forever in the everlasting world. Rest peacefully. Never to be forgotten.

You see, my mother was heroic, not because she had cancer, but because of who she was.  You don’t become a hero because of a disease or because you die, you become one because of how you live you life and my mother lived her life with honour.  She was honest and giving and made decisions that were right, even when they weren’t right for her.

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I was told by many people how special my mother was to them.  One of her pottery teachers wrote this to me “I often told her that when I “grow up” I want to be just like her. “  Me too.  My mother loved life.  Even when she was at her sickest, she still lived it.  She managed her pain from cancer with nothing more than Tylenol until 6 days before her death when she couldn’t handle it anymore.  Even though she was bed-ridden the last year of her life, we still laughed, and she still loved having visitors.  She was still herself.  She was curious about everything and she never felt sorry for herself, not even once.  I wish that I could be as brave as she was.

To be a Motherless Daughter is a very sad thing.  My sister wrote these beautiful words:

“The end is the beginning

Bright lights…I cover my eyes

A slap, a cry, the journey of life begins

Daughter to wife, wife to mother

Motherless daughter, child no more

Full circle, light in my eyes and I cry.”

When my mother died, my sisters and I lost our last parent (and really, our only one).  My aunt lost her sister and became the last of the first generation of N’s (we all refer to ourselves as N’s, D’s or M’s in our family meaning the Zelikovitz brother that we belonged to, Nathan, David or Max) – a very difficult place to be.  My cousins lost their aunt and beloved cousin.  Her friends lost the joy of having my mother around.  It’s so hard on everyone.  Her friends and family called me today, thinking about her, and crying too.

“You can never count your mother out – she’s hard to predict because she’s so tough.”

“If you had told me a year ago, I’d still be standing here talking to you about your mother, I would have told you that we were both crazy.”

“Your mother was an absolutely lovely woman…She had a wonderful outlook/attitude that I admired deeply.”

Those are all direct quotes from her doctors.  Even they recognized the type of person that she was.  The week before she died, her palliative doctor told me that though she wasn’t conscious, she could still hear.  She said that it was important to keep talking to her.  With at least a dozen people in and out all day, every day, we never had to worry about her not having something to listen to.  Even then, everyone wanted to be around her.  My sisters and I talked to her all day, every day, no matter how hard it was on us, we told her that if she needed to go, that it was ok.  The doctor gave me one last piece of advice, because my mother was so strong, she had to know that she wasn’t dying because she wasn’t fighting hard enough, it was just that she was too sick from all of her illnesses to go on.  Everyday, I told her that she fought so hard, but she could stop fighting and rest.  And eventually, she did, in her own time, in her own way.

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I’m often told by people what a wonderful relationship that I had with my mother, and some even said that they wished that they could have had the same kind of bond with theirs.  My favourite photo is the black and white picture above you – even though it’s not perfect, it perfectly illustrates us.  No one ever has made me laugh harder than she did, and no one ever had a better mother.  I spent a lot of time with her the last year, and many times, before I’d leave she’d say thank you to me for something that I did for her.  I’d always tell her that you never have to thank me, I wish I could do more.  I should have said, “No Mummy, thank you.  Just thank you.”  Wherever she is, I hope that she knows that on her birthday, and every single day, how much she is loved and missed.

 

 

 


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Being Different in A Trump Sort of World

I never realized that I was different from most kids my age until I was at least 4.  Sure, around Christmas time, I wondered why we didn’t have lights or decorations.  My mother just said that we celebrate Chanukah (yes, it really does have a Ch).  I also wondered why Santa didn’t visit us, and she told me that we had a special dot on our door that told Santa not to deliver gifts to our house.  Being gullible, I looked for that stupid dot long after I realized that Santa wasn’t real.  I never did find it.  Just another little disappointment that I’ve had to learn to live with.  Anyway, I was born in Montreal and raised in Sydney, a small city in Nova Scotia.  Being Jewish wasn’t the rule, it was the exception.  Once, when I was about 4, I was playing outside and an older boy, or should I say bully,  from around the corner drove his bicycle over my feet.  He did this simply because I was a Jew.  Luckily, I told my older sister and friend Paul what happened and my sister knocked him off of his bike, and Paul jumped on him and pulled his ears until he apologized.

There were other incidents as I was growing up.  One boy kept yelling “Jill is Jewish” in the playground.  I didn’t get too offended, because even though it was meant as a slur, it was just a fact.  A couple of other kids told me that they knew that I was rich because I was Jewish.  I had no idea what my parents had, all that I knew was that I never did get Superstar Barbie because they said that they couldn’t afford it.  My friends were all very respectful though and defended me when bullying came up.  Interestingly, my closest friends in high school were Muslims and Hindus.  None of us cared about what made us different – we grew up in a very similar way.  The most uncomfortable encounters actually were with adults.

My neighbour, who seemed like a perfectly nice man that let me take his dog for a walk when I was walking my own puppy, later became a bit of a terror.  He got fired from the bank when he told a Jewish customer that he wished Hitler had finished all Jews off.  He  held a bit of a grudge.  When I’d walk my dog, there were times that he would follow us around with his car getting a little too close for comfort.  He threatened to “take a stick” to me and my dog if I ever let Rascal on his lawn.  I was 8 years old at the time, and finally realized that there really was something different about me, something that certain people may not like.

My grade 12 English teacher was the second adult that made things uncomfortable for me.  Just my luck, we were reading “The Merchant of Venice” and he felt it necessary to discuss the character of Shylock’s Judaism for longer than necessary.  Some of what he said absolutely was important to the narrative of the play.   Throwing in his opinion that all Jews are rich, that you never see a Jewish cab driver or maintenance person wasn’t.  He directed comments about Jews being doctors mainly, looking right at me (my father was a doctor) when he said it was just a little slice of heaven.  There was more, but he’s not worth any extra time than this.  Again, most kids and teachers were great.  People from the East Coast (of Canada) are very friendly and welcoming.  Most of the time when they’d make comments or ask questions, it was curiosity, not malice.

When I moved to Toronto, I experienced far worse.  Here is a small smattering of things that I rarely have spoken to anyone about:

  • A woman walked up to me walking along the street with a friend, and said “Excuse me, do you think you are in Jew-town?”.  Me, “Pardon?”  thinking that she couldn’t have said that.  The woman retorted, “You heard me” and walked away.
  • A person, not realizing that I was Jewish, joked about my part time job as a cashier at a card store saying that I was playing “the Jewish” piano.
  • Sitting with a group of friends and acquaintances watching TV one day, a skit came on featuring Hasidic Jews.  It was funny, and if you can’t laugh at your own people, who can you laugh at?  One person took it one step too far and he said exactly these words, “I f%$king hate f$#king Jews with their f$#king big noses and f#$king big wallets.”  He went on to say more, but stopped after a minute more of his tirade when the room got very silent.  He turned to me and said, “Your not Jewish, are you?”.   The last words that I ever said to him were “As a matter of fact, I am”.
  • “You are such a nice person Jill, it’s really too bad that you are going to hell because you don’t accept Christ as your saviour.  Sin is sin in God’s eyes.”
  • “Oh, when I said that Jews were obnoxious and horrible, I didn’t mean you Jill, you aren’t like that.  I meant other Jews.”  If I had a dime for every time someone said some form of this to me, I’d have a couple of hundred dollars at least.
  • I’m not religious, but out of guilt (it’s one of the stereotypes of my religion that’s actually true), I go to synagogue twice a year on the High Holidays.  Every time that I go, there is security that has to check my purse before I’m allowed on the premises.  Imagine going to church and needing to have it checked by bomb-sniffing dogs and needing police protection?  That’s our normal.

The list goes on and on, as it probably does for everyone who is a visible or invisible minority.  There have been times when I’ve seen what it’s like for someone else.  I was in Memphis with my friend when we were waiting for a car rental place to open up.  An African American woman came out of a bus with a whole bunch of children who also happened to be African American.  She was distraught, because the store was late opening and they had to be on the road and she wanted to return the keys for a car.  We offered to do it for her, and she looked like she was going to cry.  She explained that it was just such a nice thing to do after she had such a rough day.   Her group was on a high after taking the kids to the National Civil Rights Museum.  When she checked into her hotel, the front desk clerk told her to keep her little (insert the “N” word here) quiet.  It was traumatizing for her to go from the extreme of how far her people had come, to how much further there still was to go.

Another time, I was on a bus, and there was a young-ish black child (maybe 11 or 12) on his own.  A mentally ill woman starting walking up and down the bus shouting derogatory things about black people.  It was awful, and I just wanted to die for this child.  I talked to him and said you know what she saying isn’t true.  She’s mentally ill, right?  He slowly nodded, but it was so heartbreaking.  I just kept talking to him the rest of the bus ride so that he wouldn’t feel so alone.

All of the things that have happened over the course of my life didn’t prepare me for what I saw in Charlottesville.  The march by the Neo-Nazis and KKK sent chills down my spine.  Watching them take over the streets with their tiki-torches and Anti-Semetic signs was a horrible reminder of what it must have been like to be a Jew (or any minority) in Germany in the 1930’s.  The weekend’s festivities where they spouted hate against African Americans and all other minorities was a reminder that there are home grown terrorists in the US (and Canada) too.  They are being enabled by a President that doesn’t understand moral equivalency because he is completely immoral.

Here is what I have to say to the KKK, the Neo-Nazis/Fascists and haters of all kind.  “Jews will not replace us” (coming from a Nazi Germany and Neo-Nazi saying meaning basically that whites will not be replaced with immigrants and non-whites) makes zero sense.  I have no desire to replace a racist, sexist low-life who spends most of their time hiding behind a hood.  What am I supposed to replace you at?  Marketing for the KKK?    I can imagine the campaigns now: “Wearing White after Labour Day – a Klan do”; “Waterproof Eye Liner – How to paint a Swastika on your face without smearing it.”;  “The All White/Alt Right Food Diet”; “17 Different Woods That Are Best for Burning Crosses”.  I could go on, but I won’t, they aren’t worth it.

If you hate people because of their colour, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender/gender orientation or any other reason, you are a loser.  Really, just a big, old loser.  All of the people marching in the streets for “their country” and “their land” should remember that by ancestry, they too are immigrants.  The only Native Americans, are just that, the Native Americans.  You know, the ones whose land your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents took away?  The Confederates lost the Civil War – get over it.  The Nazis lost World War 2 – it’s time to get on the right side of history.  The side that embraces people that are different than you.  The side that Trump seems confused by.  There are no “fine” Neo-Nazis or KKK.  There are fine people that may be white or black or gay or straight or trans or Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Native American/First Nations or Chinese or Japanese or South-East Asian or Arabic or even a mix of all of the above.  We need to learn from history so that the devastation of events like the Holocaust never happen again.


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Plop – Revisiting My Take on Goop

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The people who know me best know how much Gwyneth Paltrow and I have in common.       I’ve written about my respect for her several times before, indeed citing some of our greatest similarities, minus the size of my wallet of course.  Check these out if you know not of what I speak – https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/plop/https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/plop-part-deux-dos-due-zwei-twee/  Gwynnie does have it tough, don’t get me wrong.  Just recently, Goop was called out by NASA for spreading misinformation about using NASA technology in healing stickers sold on her site.  She also enraged GOOPIES (get it, like Groupies, only snobbier) at a recent Summit for the brand in NYC.  Not only did many get upset and leave the meeting of the fabulous minds due to lack of Gwynnie time and ill treatment if they only spent $500 on their ticket, there were ridiculous line ups for treatments promised when they booked their day of grace with the chosen Hollywood Health Nut.  Lastly, some of her adoring public is thinking about consciously uncoupling with Gwyneth when she admitted on Jimmy Kimmel’s show that she really has no idea about what is being sold on her site.

I would never abandon my Gwynnie though, and decided to take some of her advice (even if she doesn’t take it herself) and live the Goop-ie life for one week.  Here are some of the things that I tried…

  • Earthing – Gwynnie said she didn’t know what this was really, maybe some electromagnetic energy force field that’s only available in the ground.  I knew she was just kidding, after all, she was on Jimmy Kimmel and we all know what a joke-ster she is, so I decided to try Earthing for myself.  I pondered the name first, that’s just how deep I am, and thought, well, this is something that I can only do on Earth – not Venus, Mars or Jupiter, just Earth – coolio.  Immediately, I felt a connection to the land.  It can also cure a multitude of maladies like insomnia, arthritis, inflammation and depression.  According to Clint Ober, simply put, “Earthing therapy rests on the intuitive assumption that connecting to the energy of the planet is healthy for our souls and bodies.”  I decided to walk bare-foot through the park, or tip-toe through the tulips, if you will.  I kicked off my Naot sandals (not on Goop’s list of must have, I must invest in one of their choices) and plunged forward into the grass.  Immediately, I jumped back after stepping into a big pile of doggie doo – GROSS!!!! I found a bird bath and joined my fine feathered friends for a quick rinse before I tried again.  I got squeamish thinking I saw a worm and a deer tick.  Earthing isn’t for the faint of heart, so I gave up, running like a girl back to the safety of the pavement and my sandals.  Verdict – caused more stress then it cured.
  • Jade Egg Practice – wanting a deeper sense of connection to myself and all of the other side benefits of the Jade Egg suggested on Goop including some kegel help, I decided to try it.  When I saw the $66 price tag, I immediately thought, I can’t spend that much money on my hoo-hah why not try a regular hen’s egg?  Same shape – right?  Except every time I did it, the egg kept cracking – what a mess!  People on the subway also looked at me strangely because every time I tried to shove my way into the doors, another egg yolk appeared at my feet.  Verdict – don’t use regular eggs, and skip this whole thing. 
  • IV Drip  (available at the Goop Wellness Summit) – I wasn’t able to charter a private jet to fly down to LA to partake in a weekend of wellness and GP disciples, so I thought about just getting an IV drip which they promise will rehydrate you!  Then I thought about it and went with nature’s hydration, scientifically proven to help you bring more water to your little cells – good old water.  Verdict – OH PLEASE!
  • Meaningful small talk – My Gwynnie has meaning behind all of her conversations, so delving deeper into Goop, I found an article on how to have meaningful small talk.  All 8 steps would be overwhelming for a mere mortal like me, so I decided to start with one small tip – ask for advice, because it makes people feel good about themselves.  I’ve started at a new work place, so I thought this would be a great way to get to know people.  I went to the Executive VP’s office and asked him if he knew the best place to find a gun-metal coloured purse would be.  I’ve been looking everywhere for one!  Instead of feeling like an expert, he ordered me to leave his office.  I then walked into the Sales VP’s office and asked him if he thought I should go with Mac Lipglass for a tried and true colour (my fave is Love Child) or go with Charlotte Tilbury?  He never heard of either but I’m sure it made him feel important to be included in such a riveting conversation.  Verdict – mixed.
  • Spirituality (Understanding How to Move and Manipulate Energy) – GP is a spiritual goddess, really!  It pours out of her pores.  The first thing that I think of when I see her, aside from the awful hunchback she will have later in life if she keeps slouching, is how she is a child of the Earth – so in touch with herself.  I read this article and felt overwhelmed by the ten steps, so I focused on one for more energy: “Make a list of different feelings. Free associate with each feeling. What is your relationship to that feeling? What are your beliefs or images about those feelings? Where do you tend to feel those feelings, if at all, in your body?”  When I wrote down my feelings, particularly about Goop, the first was bored.  I saw myself yawn as I was thinking about my feelings.  I felt my arms stretch back and my mouth open wide enough to catch flies.  My relationship with boredom – too boring to think about.  My beliefs are???? Not sure, can’t answer that one.  I think it’s find something less boring to do.  Verdict – MEH!

So, after basking in Goopie brilliance for one week, I learned several valuable lessons – never go to someone who is not a health care practitioner for advice or someone who has no clue what she is talking about for that matter for mental advice.  Stars like Gwynnie and Cameron Diaz, will never be my go to girls when I need treatment for something.  Remember Goop isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a business.


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The Bravery Bell

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“Promise me you’ll remember, you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – A. A. Milne, Christopher Robin.

In many hospitals that have chemotherapy wards, you’ll find a Bravery Bell.  The idea is that any cancer patient that finishes their last chemo session gets to ring it, much like the bells that end a round of boxing.  I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to hear the bell ring, and each time, it brings a smile to my face and wish that I could join the systemic care team in applauding the latest patient that completed their treatment.  The last time that I heard it ring though, it also made me think about so many things.

Many patients with cancer face a different type of battle – their chemo never ends.  Are they any less brave than the ones who get to complete their treatment?  Shouldn’t they get to ring the bell too?  Others are treated with radiation – when their treatments end, they don’t have a bell to ring.  How about the family members that accompany the patients to their treatments, trying not to show any outward signs of fear, even though inside they are terrified of what their loved one will go through.  Trying every day to lift their spirits, trying to feel hope even when there may not be any.  Aren’t they brave too?

How about the wonderful nurses that provide such diligent care to each and every patient in the Chemotherapy Centres.  The nurses that quietly make sure that each and every patient is comfortable and warm and that their families are clear on what will happen.  The nurses who care about patients when they are at their sickest and most vulnerable.  If I could, I’d ring the Bravery Bell for them.  How about the doctors, no matter what the discipline, that contact patients and family members to reassure them and answer each and every one of their questions.  They too should get to ring that bell.

Cancer is the great equalizer.  Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay, male, female or transgender, it doesn’t discriminate – anyone can get it.  It is unique in that the cure or the life prolonger often makes you sicker than the disease.  It makes patients, families, health care providers and care givers braver than they ever thought possible.

To learn more about the Bravery Bell and the nurse who brought it to Princess Margaret Hospital, click here https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/09/19/for-donna-the-bravery-bell-tolls.html