Thursday, April 30, 2009

Depression and Suicide - hand in hand?

That title should send a chill down one's spine.

Depression is something not to be dismissed lightly. I was watching an amazing programme last night on WNED on teenage depression in Hamilton, Ohio and how the school system is trying to help its students.

As we all know, depression can be caused by many things including a chemical imbalance in the body, certain medications and/or life's uncertainties and misfortunes. The death of a loved one, often triggers depression, as the person realizes that they are truly alone and their loved one will not be returning. Divorce, also, can cause depression for the same reason.

In my view, nobody is immune from becoming depressed, even a person with deep faith.

Depression is not just a state of mind but is also related to physical changes in the brain and is connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in the brain and nervous system. I believe these chemicals are called neurotransmitters.

Mental health problems should not be viewed as a human weakness. There still is a stigma attached to mental health problems, which may prevent a hurting person from getting the help they need and prevent their suicide. As physical illness is viewed with compassion by most people, shouldn't mental illness be viewed the same way?

Physicians can prescribe drugs which will help balance the chemicals and a social worker, pastor, therapist, or a caring friend can be invaluable to help overcome depression by verbalizing ones feelings, whether positive or negative. A non-judgemental person to listen, can do wonders for the hurting one. NOBODY SHOULD HAVE TO WALK THIS VALLEY OF DEPRESSION ALONE.

Among the more common factors in depression are:

A history of Depression running in families. It can run in family groups for generations.

Traumatic event or stress:

Financial problems, breakup of relationships by death or free will, changes in lifestyle, which can also include good changes such as graduating from school or getting married.

Non-Optimistic Personality:

Low self-esteem, and/ or people with a negative outlook on life are at a higher risk for becoming depressed.

Serious Medical Conditions:

Heart disease, cancer and HIV can contribute to depression, partly due to physical weakness and the stress the condition brings on. Depression can actually make the medical condition worse, since it weakens the immune system and it can make pain harder to bear.

Teenagers are not alone in having suicidal thoughts, the population is aging and many elderly people who find themselves alone are not immune to thoughts of suicide. In fact, I remember one medical doctor, knowing just the right amount of pills to do away with himself, did just that. He lived in a Retirement Residence in Toronto and had everything he could possibly use but in spite of this, he decided to end it all. I also knew one young man, whose girlfriend got pregnant, who jumped off the roof of the Eaton's Center. Unfortunately, I know of others who have also ended their lives.

Suicide can affect all ages and positions in life.

I have some concern for a casual friend I know through another friend. He lost his wife a few years back and he has health problems himself. They are compounded by economic difficulties. He is a single Dad now and he will be alone once his last daughter leaves the nest to go to university. My concern is for him once he is no longer with his daughters and really has to face life alone.

In my view, his close friends need to make sure to invite him, to call him on the phone and to include him in their lives.

In my view, men are at a real disadvantage when it comes to getting the help they need. Societal views tend to think that men must be towers of strength and they have been conditioned not to cry since babyhood.

When they are in despair, that despair can turn into rage, depression, anger turned inward and it can spoil their internal happiness.

Women, on the other hand, have each other to verbalize too!

That programme has brought up a lot of very sad memories for me but it was good for me to have seen it.

A heavy subject today, but one worthwhile talking about!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A possible poem?

I think I will write about Willie Thompson and my building in a poem and leave people guessing which building it is. The other article for H magazine is finished and is just factual. In a poem, I can make it more fantasy and this may suit my purpose better.

I hope to go over to the library this week to the Special Collections Section and start research on the building and especially on him.

It should be very interesting. Since I live here, I don't want to provoke any anger by other people nor by any other force. Several people whom I know fairly well, have had experiences in this building. These people are not fanciful people and have their feet solidly on the ground.

One of my neighbours, a Minister, who is also a close friend, has corrected me when I said I didn't believe in ghosts. He said "Yes you do". He pointed out that there are forces of good and evil in spirit form. I hadn't thought of it that way before.

It sure shed new light on the subject for me.

I have a lot of research to do for two topics I am bringing for the B & B retreat. It will be held at a lovely cottage right on a lake and will be at the end of May. I also want to continue research on this building at the library. I will have plenty to keep me interested.

I love doing research, always have and hope always will. I also love interviewing people, and as long as I have my list of questions ready, I do quite well. Have interviewed people from many walks of life and thoroughly enjoyed talking with them.

I think if I did not have my writing and my various other interests, I would be very bored.

What a blessing for me that this side of my brain was not diminished by the lack of oxygen during the cardiac arrest.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An opportunity to help

What a blessing happened today on the Barton Bus going towards Ottawa Street. A young fellow in a wheelchair and with a sturdy cane got on the bus. He did not know exactly where he was going so asked some directions where the nearest foodbank was. He said it very quietly.

A lady, in the know, told him and as he was manouvering his way off the bus, I slipped him $20 just so he could buy some food that would not provided. I have taken people to food banks myself in Toronto so I know that they cannot possibly provide all the necessities one needs to survive.

I know that people on disability have no choice but to use foodbanks to get food, and I liked that this young man was helping himself as much as he was able. He also was not begging on the corner of the street somewhere. Begging, by the way, is illegal in Hamilton but it is done all the time.

I never do anything to get things in return and I thank God that this opportunity came this morning. What a blessed thing it is to help another in their time of need.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Poetic Cross-Pollination

Yesterday was a very good day for me. Our President of Tower Poetry, Norm Brown, was kind enough to pick me up in downtown Hamilton and then go and pick up Jeff in his area. We then proceeded to drive to Oakville where we spent a very good day discussing the writing process and poetry with poets from that area. Each poet was able to read his/her own work for three minutes before the group.

This was the second year this lovely event has been held at Central Library on Navy and Lakeshore in Oakville.

We were most fortunate in the weather, it was like a summer day but we paid for it later on with a severe thunderstorm.

Happily for our little group, we were home by that time.

This year, we had a very good speaker, Jody Sanderson, who is the Editor of Oakville Today and a lecturer at Sheridan College.

Among the points she offered for our consideration were the following:

1. Who are you writing for?

2. Format: - write a lead, then take out every second work, rework and try and make it tighter.

3. Be concise - choose the best words. Be considerate of the busy editor.

4. Content: What is the editor looking for?

5. Be consistent - when you start one way, continue doing it the same way.

6. Don't take anything personally.

7. Have a peer review - such as a workshop. Your friends won't want to hurt your feelings.

8. If critiquing sounds wrong, it may be that the ones doing it are not correct. It remains your

9. Read your work out loud to yourself at home.

10. Dealing with success or rejection - it is only the editor's opinion, don't take it personally.

11. Know that you won't get rich or famous by your writing.

The group broke for a delicious Boston Pizza lunch which was provided free of charge. In the afternoon, former English language High School teacher, Norm Brown, took us through some thought provoking exercises which offered people the opportunity to get to know each other and to express their opinions, should they wish to.

The event was a success again this year, thanks to the hard work of Elka Enola and Norm Brown.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hamilton E.M.S. people in action

Sirens shrilling, firetruck arriving, ambulance and police cars converging on the parking lot where a man lies still as death. Happily for him, some of his native brothers are with him and surround him as if to protect him.

The fire truck with its burly firemen and their bags arrive first, then the ambulance and the police. All ready to help this unfortunate man lying so still on the ground.

People, cutting through to the McNabb platform stop to stare and then hurry on to catch their respective buses. A moment's though, no more, for this man.

A back board is brought from the waiting ambulance and ever so gently, the man is placed on it and then lifted onto the waiting stretcher to be whisked off to the nearest hospital.

The scene changes as the man is taken away and his friends walk away.

This parking lot has quite a story to tell, if it could but talk. It would tell of street people sitting in the alcove drinking out of paper bags, drunken laughter and of its use as a public urinal. It would tell of graffi artists sneaking there when nobody was around and decorating the walls of the C.I.B.C. bank with gang symbols.

It also would tell of ordinary folk parking there for business and/or pleasure, each individual with a different story to tell.

Such is life in the downtown core in a big city!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Too exciting a day!!!!

I must say that I can do without this kind of excitement. The superintendent called me to tell me that there had been a catastrophe and Cat Global were there trying to fix the situation and that there would be no elevators working. She hoped that I did not have to go out. The catastrophe was sewage backing up into the elevator shafts.

Unfortunately for me, I had made a commitment to Freeway to lead a Creative Writing Session and so I went down the 9 flights of stairs with my heavy bag and coat, then took the bus to the Freeway. As I was crossing Main Street, a lady all of a sudden just collapsed on the sidewalk and thankfully two men helped her right away. She crumpled like a rag doll.

In the meantime, before leaving I sent my son and daughter an e-mail telling them that I may not be able to get back in with all those stairs to climb. My son called right away and did not want me to even attempt the climb back upstairs.

After I got home from the workshop, he offered to pick me up and I could stay with them for a few hours or even overnight if necessary.

I called after the workshop and found out that the elevators would not be operational for several days but that they would help me up the stairs so I opted for that course. I don't like to be away from home for very long, especially with the cats there needing attention. I am a real homebody sometimes!

The superintendents were great, we did a few steps, stopped, rested and then carried on. They carried my coat and my very heavy work bag. I am so thankful to them.

I let my son know that I was upstairs as soon as I got in the door and will remain here until the elevators are in order. I don't need to go out until Saturday for the poetry event in Oakville.

Other than the mess downstairs and all the catastrophe men working, and the inconvenience of no elevator, the day went fabulously well!

I had prepared enough work for about two hours worth of exercises and people participated very well and we all had some good laughs and each person read their work out loud. I also did a handout for the group (10 people including myself) and I have offered my help to a lady who is a new writer.

All in all, it was a good day.

I shudder to think how much the condo fees will go up from this latest disaster!

Andrew, my neighbour on the 7th floor called me to ask if I needed anything as he was going away for the weekend and wanted to make sure I had what I needed. What a nice thing for him to do. I am so blessed with my neighbours here in the building.

An early night for me, I should think!

Glad my son is staying here at least for the summer

I have been most fortunate to have had my son living fairly close to me here in Hamilton. That was the whole purpose of me moving to Hamilton.

He had a part time job offer in Ottawa which was to start today but after he calculated it all out, it was not worth the move at least for that job offer.

My hope is that he remains in Hamilton or in Toronto which is not very far away. It is nice to have him close by just for moral support and he has been there for me when I have had to go into the hospital. I also enjoy it when he comes to visit me when he is downtown.

The problem with Hamilton is that there are so many lay-offs and no matter how many resumes he sends off, he is not getting interviews. Having a degree does not seem to help in this economy either. He has good work experience and is not a lazy fellow. He is working so very hard on Civi-side as well.

My hope is that he will get a job soon, the summer will be tough as the Army stands down which means there is not the usual work available for the Reservists.

We're a family and I will be there for him as well as for Anna and Billy. God willing, things will improve for him soon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

To mention the ghost or not to mention, that is the question!

I have a dilemma. The article I am writing for H Magazine would be much more interesting if I mentioned about the unseen presence who lives in this building.

Now before you run for the men in the white coats to have me locked away, let me explain what I mean.

I have been told by a number of sensible and reliable people about the ghost or spirit who lives in this building. It would seem that he was the handyman or caretaker while this building was an office tower, and he stayed on once it fell into disrepair. I don't know whether he died here or not.

As a former reporter, I tend to want proof before writing about something, but in this case, I think I would prefer to do without that proof!

According to my sources, this spirit is not a malevolent being.

There are odd things which do happen from time to time here, the elevator door opens where nobody has pressed the button, one woman has had him appear in her home in the early hours of the morning, and the assistant superintendent has had some really wierd thing happen when she has been on duty. I hope to ask her more about that when she comes back on duty and will write about it on this blog.

My problem is that I don't want to scare people away from buying in this building. I certainly would not want to give anybody a sense of fear to visit or live here. Also, what would my fellow inhabitants feel upon reading this information on their home?

I think I have answered my own question here, best to stick to the facts and make them as interesting as I can.

Let us hope that the former caretaker finds rest and peace for his soul.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Writing about the Piggott Building

Last night I spoke to the Editor of H magazine, who is also a poet, and asked her if she would be interested in an article on the Piggott Building and she said yes.

I'll probably start it today. I want it to be generic enough so that I do not offend any of my neighbours.

I may even interview some people who have had encounters with the ghost who lives here.

It is a grand old building and has had quite a history in Hamilton.

Now onto other things. Central Poetry's Open Mic will be held at Westdale Library in May and then next seasons workshop meetings will also be held there. Central library is having major renovations and we have to move away for at least a year.

I am not overly thrilled about that, as it is at night and the Westdale buses are like Sardine tins when the McMaster students get out which would be about the time we would leave.

In the dead of the winter, I doubt that I will be able to go unless I took a taxi both ways which would be quite costly.

I would miss the fun we have with that group as they can be a real lively group sometimes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A sad situation for a Quebec lady

I was reading the Montreal Gazette today as I usually do and came across the story of a young Quebec woman who moved to Saudi Arabia with her boyfriend who was returning to his own country.

She now wishes to leave this country and take her 3 children with her. It appears, from the story, that this man has also physically abused her.

Many people want the Canadian Government to intervene on her behalf. How can they? Saudi Arabia is a sovereign country with their own set of laws which differ greatly from our laws.

She voluntarily went there to live and during that time, two of her three children were born in Saudia Arabia which makes them Saudi citizens.

From what I read, this couple are breaking the laws of Saudi Arabia by living together without marriage which will reflect very badly on both of them when it comes to legal issues. In fact, I am quite surprised that the boy's family did not insist on them getting married there.

Normally, from what I have learned, the children of a marriage belong to the husband's family in many, if not all, Arab speaking nations.

I know one Canadian lady who was married to a Saudi many years ago - they had one son and when she wanted to leave her husband, she was not allowed to bring her son out of Saudi Arabia. She has been back to visit him, of course, and he is a grown up now.

I have always felt her pain to have to leave her child behind. The laws in other countries are not as liberal as ours are. I would think it would be a wise decision for any Canadian girl to remain in Canada with her foreign husband, and definitely not go to live in his country.

However, it is a risk to marry somebody whose roots are not here deep in the Canadian soil. It is almost inevitable that a man will miss his mother and greater family "at home" and want to go back to live close to them. In many countries, the family unit is very strong and generally the children, even though grown up, will remain in the family unit until they marry. Even after they marry, quite often the newly married people move in with the family group.

As for this young lady, I don't know what the legal status would be since they are not married, but I am very much afraid that she will need to leave her children behind or remain there with them.

I do feel so sorry for her though, as either way, she is in a terrible position.

I think in order to resolve this situation, we need another King Solomon with his great wisdom.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A lovely concert and luncheon afterwards

The library held its monthly concert at Centenary United Church due to renovations in Jackson's Square.

It was so easy for me to get to, just go out the back door and I was there! I love living downtown!

It was the Duet Club as well as the Hamilton Women Police choir and it was very nice indeed.

The Duet club were all older women and the Police choir were all young women!

My friend Jennifer has joined our little Whitehern Group and she came for the first time. She really enjoyed herself I think.

We sat by ourselves as we were not able to locate our friends in the church as there were quite a few people there. We met over at the McNabb cafe and enjoyed a good time together.

I like it in there as they are very friendly and the food is really delicious! They have reasonable prices as well.

Of our men, only Bryan came today. I guess the other two were busy with other things. Too bad, they missed a lovely concert and a fun time afterwards.

All in all, a very nice afternoon!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A pleasant afternoon spent with a friend

I ended up sleeping too long and missed going anywhere today for the service. However, my friend Rosie picked me up and brought me to her place on the Mountain. We had a lovely time just chatting and eating.

I always enjoy going to her place.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tower Poetry workshop

Today was our poetry workshop and although we were an extremely small group, it went quite well.

I think a lot of people were away due to the long weekend. I brought my Cat and the Spider poem and the group seemed to like it. In fact, one of the ladies thought it would be a good child's picture book.

I can actually see that as well. Who knows, perhaps one day?

I still like writing short stories more than poetry but am determined to improve on my poetry.

My friend Jeff drove me home which was very nice of him. It is the first time that I have ever driven with him, but he seems to be a careful driver and I felt safe with him. I am always leary about driving with people for the first time since my car accident many years ago. I lost one year of my life due to this accident and it has stuck with me. I hope never to have to go through that again.

All in all, a good afternoon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My son may be leaving Hamilton

I was chatting with my son Ken and in the very near future, he may move away, not to Toronto but a much more distant city. He is in the process of getting a job there.

I feel a little "down" about it as I moved to Hamilton to be near him. It was his idea at the time and it was really hard for me to leave my familiar places and good friends that I had in Toronto. We have had six years of being in the same city, for which I am thankful, and just the thought of moving to another city seems somewhat daunting to me.

I have become very established here and I like it here and have some good friends here now too.

If I move away so far, I will never see my Toronto nor my Hamiltonian friends. He may move again after that, who knows, as he is young. If I moved to the same city where he plans to go, it would be very lonely as he is a busy fellow trying to run a small business plus doing his part time job.

Hopefully, he will change his mind. We'll have to see what happens.

The school children and Freeway's Seniors

What a pleasure it was to have the young children come to visit with us at Freeway. I hope they come again. I believe that they were in Grades 5 and 6.

They were darlings. All girls except for one dear little boy called Isaac.

We divided into two groups and each group worked on an individual theme to make a poem.
Each child wrote one line and one of the little girls asked me to finish it off, which I did. Then both groups came together and performed on the stage. it was great fun!

The children also did a dance for us and one brave little girl sang a song.

Johnathan, one of the volunteers there, also favoured us with a song as well. Johnathan is developmentally delayed and a regular volunteer there.

It was great fun and the kids were so original. We wrote on a striped zebra which used to be in Zac's furniture store.

There was much giggling and laughing and, I for one, thoroughly enjoyed being with those dear children. I really miss having children around! When I worked at Regent Park, Duke of York School, I used to get lots of hugs from the kids and I miss those hugs!!!!

In two weeks time, I will be leading a Creative Writing workshop at Freeway so had better start to prepare! It should be fun and some of the "Whitehern Gals" want to come to that.

Ed and Carmelita picked me up and drove me home. I am so spoiled!

I never have to ask, they always call to see if I want a ride. I really appreciate that. I don't ask for rides so when somebody thinks of it and offers, I am so happy about that.

I made two pendants as little gifts for Easter for Carmelita and also for Jeannette, the co-ordinator for this little group and both of them liked them, which made me happy.

Our group will continue during the summer months which I am very happy about. Oh, another thing, it was grand to see Irene come for the first time to the group. We are always glad to welcome people. One does not have to be a senior to join and it is free!

All in all, a delightful way to spend a few hours among nice people.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A spiritual experience

Tonight I had the great spiritual pleasure of tuning in to a Catholic programme. It was truly transforming and uplifting.

I was particularly drawn to one of the speakers who is a native and who has been discriminated against and treated so very badly. I relate to that as my nephew is native. He was adopted by my brother and sister-in-law when he was 5 years of age. He lived with me for a time when he was in Toronto as well.

He told the story of his grandmother and himself as a little boy. They were attacked and robbed by some youth and left badly off. This grandmother was a spiritual person and instead of turning to hate, she turned to God.

For Christmas, she handcrafted three pair of moccasins for her attackers and brought her grandson to where they lived and gave them.

I was so touched by this story as this woman knew true liberation of the soul. Forgiveness frees the spirit. Her example was such a positive one for her grandchild.

Another man told a story of a song that a mother used to sing all the time to her son. He was a marvelous storyteller and in his tale, he showed the little boy growing from babyhood to adulthood. Eventually, the man left home to set up housekeeping with his wife and they too, had a child.

One day, the Mother called the son and asked him to come home as she was very tired. He came and she tried to sing him the song one last time, but was unable to as she was so exhausted.

He cradled her in his arms and sang the song for her.

Needless to say, I was in tears when I heard this story. It reminded me of two men, both called Mr. Campbell who used to visit their elderly mothers in Henderson Hospital, in the Medical Ward. They were right next to me and that is why I came to know them so well.

I remember telling both of them what good sons they were to their mothers. They would feed them and sit by the hour with them. I remember one of them saying that it was his turn to be good to his Mom as she always treated him so well. Both the Mrs. Campbell's died but they died knowing that they were loved.

What more can anybody want in life, than to know that they are loved.

The priest also said, and I agree, that we can take nothing from this world but the love we have shown to others.

How very true.

Such freedom when one thinks about it. We strive for more things, better accommodation, prestigious job, more money and yet we will all leave this behind us when we go.

What will remain in the hearts of our families and friends is the memory of the love and affection we have shown to them. Not what we have given them specifically, but how we have treated them.

Just like the two Mr. Campbell's, caring for their mother in love and affection. A profound experience tonight and what a blessing to have been able to see this programme.

This same man told the story of parents picking up school children from Primary School in Scotland at the time of the terrible shooting of the little ones in school. I could just visualize them holding their children close as they picked them up. He had been a teacher in a nearbye school.

Life is so precious and should not be taken for granted as each day is a new day - a gift from God.

Monday, April 6, 2009

GRIT LIT - The wrap-up event

I thoroughly enjoyed this event and was glad that I went. It was such a pleasure to see how many people came out and also it was good business for the Bread and Roses Cafe.

I was particularly interested in the work of two different authors as they touched my heart.

One was a lady who wrote a poem about a mother's experience of many, many years ago with her co-joined babies and the other was a man with his experience with Bi-Polar disorder.

I cannot seem to remember their names at this time. I could relate to these experiences as a mother and also I know three people with Bi-Polar and have watched them struggle, along with their families for many years.

A most worthwhile event.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A sad day for a friend

Today, as I opened up my computer to check my e-mails and Facebook entries, I found some very sad news awaiting me.

Lukie, a dear member of my friend Grace's family, had to be put to sleep. I can certainly understand the pain the whole family is going through as I have had to do that several times over the course of many years of having animals live with me.

Animals are such a blessing to have and when they die, a huge hole is left in the family structure.

May God grant His healing to this family who have lost their beloved friend.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Travelling on city buses

Good Morning!

Although the weather here is certainly not "good" however, one has a choice to either choose to be thankful even for the heavy rain, or to moan and complain about it.

I choose to be thankful as I find rain very restful!

It is a great day to be warm and cozy at home, read a book with a good cup of coffee in one hand and the cats curled up, contented as can be!

What a wonderful situation to be in. I also will be looking forward to going to a literary event tonight.

On my bus travels yesterday I saw a potentially dangerous situation occur. A young native father and his little boy were blocking the entrance of the bus with the carriage. The little boy was sitting on a double seat while the father stood holding the stroller. Another lady, who sounded like she was from Africa, tried to get past him with her baby and got quite verbal about it.

I actually thought she was right, as elderly people with canes also were having difficulty getting past the carriage. The potential for a fall was quite high.

Instead of co-operating, the young father became quite defensive and would not move for the life of him! The driver kept silent but kept looking in his mirror.

Eventually, the young father got off and the mother could wheel her baby carriage further down in the bus.

It was a potentially explosive situation and happily, it was diffused by taking no action.

If the bus would have had to stop quickly, it would have been very dangerous not only for the two opposing factors but also for anybody trying to squeeze past, including the older folk.

How very unfortunate that people have to become so stubborn! The young man could have kept the little fellow in the stroller and moved further down in the bus, instead of blocking the entrance way.

Ah, for the joy of riding city buses!!!!