Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

#2 Sense and Nonsense 1974

Having just been pregnant for 9 and 1/2 months I feel I am a bit of an authority on that subject. It can be a drag but it also can be an uplifting experience. (No pun intended.) I really recommend the condition for almost everyone and it seems unfair that most males are unable to attain this experience. I say most because there was a story on the radio concerning a pregnancy test which was positive, on a supposedly male  specimen. This WAS one of those stories you always wonder about. There is no way one can find out the truth behind it. If it is true, it has to be one of those exceptions which proves the rule. Being a mother is strictly a female priority.

I have always believed this to be true of all living organisms, people, plant or animal. However there is one sea creature which makes a habit of male pregnancy or at least a reasonable facsimile. The female sea horse lays the eggs and places them in a pouch in the male sea horse’s abdomen. He then incubates them for about a month and a half which can be a long time if you are a sea horse. The encyclopedia doesn’t say whether he gets morning sickness, liver spots, headaches or labour pains, but one can assume he is not all that comfortable, especially since he is hatching up to 200 little ones. I imagine though that he feels it is all worthwhile when he sees all those little offspring of his.

I am curious though if sea horses could talk whether they would call daddy “mummy” and vise versa. Does he have the maternal instinct or would you still say it was paternal. What about the female sea horse…does she stay home and mind the babies or does she go out and bring home the grub. Our encyclopedia only has two paragraphs on the sea horse and the largest paragraph dwells on how odd they look. It is true that they look pretty weird but I am really more interested in their habits than their appearance. They could be starting a precedent in the process of evolution. The female sea horse has also attained the ultimate in womens’ lib which is a large step ahead of the bra-burners of our society.

If men could ever become pregnant we would have to change our classifications of a lot of things. The mens wear section of the department store would have to be enlarged to include paternity clothes. Also the hospitals would have to change the names of some of their wards from maternity to paternity wards. One other thing which a lot of mothers still do is nurse their babies. Fathers would have to become equipped to handle this. In fact, daddys it seems to me, would begin to look a lot like mummies, except of course they would probably still have to shave. A busty father with a beard would look a little incongrous I would think.

One thing that burns me up is when you dress a baby girl up all in pink ruffles and someone says, “Isn’t it cute, is it a boy or a girl?” I can understand it when she is dressed in any other colour but pink, but as far as I know pink is strictly a girl colour. In fact I remember just a few years ago when Jerry Lewis’ wife was expecting her umpteenth child, the rest of whom where all boys, he plastered “THINK PINK” on everything: the walls of his house, their car, luggage, I think even his wife, had these large stickers pasted on them. I wish I could remember if it worked or not. It seems to me she did have a girl and if so, then it proves the power of thinking the right colour. It also proves that pink is definitely the girl colour.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sense and Nonsense 1974

In the spring of 1974 I was aware of two things: I was too pregnant to continue working at my job as janitor at Lejac School and I absolutely sucked at knitting and crocheting to fill in time at home.

So, I composed a batch of Sense and Nonsense writings and mailed them off to The Nechako Chronicle newspaper in Vanderhoof.

The editor, Mr Glenn Clark, (not THAT Glenn Clark) offered me 3 cents a column inch for my weekly blatherings and I was ecstatic. Some months I received a cheque for as much as  20 dollars.

Column #1 Sense and Nonsense

I read somewhere that the human brain works best when the body is in a vertical position. I suppose it is something to do with the blood supply to the brain. If this is true then the blood flows best when it is flowing uphill. I am sure this is contrary to one of Newton’s laws of gravitation…but then people are contrary anyway….

…..I understand one of the local businesses (formerly employing men only) have been practising discrimination. A large photo of an undresssed lady is part of the decor in one of the lunchrooms. The women employees tacked up a photo of Burt Reynolds (suitably undressed) on another wall. This picture was torn down by the authorities. Someone was saying the ladies have since circulated a petition demanding equal rights. If this is successful, it could be a great step forward for womens’ lib and may go down in history as such.

The sun is shining beautifully this morning and you can almost see the leaves popping out and the grass growing. This year I am determined to grow some flowers. Every year I try and every year I fail miserably. The only flower I have ever grown successfully is the nasturtium and I even failed them one year. It rained all summer and all I got was a lovely crop of leaves.

This year I have started petunia, portulaca, zinnia and nastutium. My sister-in-law says these flowers will grow in Brooks, Alta., and therefore will grow anywhere.

Being in a maternal state I spent a large part of Saturday searching for maternity smocks unsuccessfully. I even went to a rummage sale in Vanderhoof with no luck. When we got back home my teenage daughter filled me in. I had been looking at the wrong racks. The teenage racks were full of cute smock tops which are the “in” thing. Now I don’t look pregnant, I just look “in”. (Who am I trying to kid!)

The birds outside are chirping like crazy. I used to believe that a robin sang because he was happy. I’d listen to them for hours enjoying thier optimistic state of mind. I have since found out that the reason a robin sings is because he is establishing his territory. His song is a challenge to all other male robins and woe unto any of them who disregards this vocal “no trespassing” sign. So much for another childhood illusion.

 

 

 

 

 

BRAIN CHEMICAL DISORDERS

 

BRAIN CHEMICAL DISORDERS by Doris Ray [ this was a series of blogs several of which were published in the book “Making Noise: Northern Women, Caring & In/visible Dis/abilities” edited by Si Transken & Lynn Box of Prince George BC in 2007]

On Being a Mother

Sometimes I think we mothers have no control at all over events that shape the course of our lives. After the last babe has fled the nest, we should be able to rest upon our laurels. The big job is done.  We have fed and diapered our flock and launched them successfully through infancy, adolescence and other milestones such as attaining that all-important driver’s license.  Now they are married or in college or perhaps hitchhiking around the world. Your only obligation is to send them money periodically—if you have some. (If you’re really lucky and I know I’m fantasising, they’ll send YOU money once in awhile.)

But that’s not necessarily the way it works.  We are allowed five minutes or so to bask in a state of warm complacency before our REALLY big job begins.  Unforeseen circumstances loom that are beyond our control and we find ourselves caught up in a brand new facet of the human experience. Destiny  points the way and we have no choice but to hang up our hats and become enmeshed in something  that is in  dire need of our particular talents and dedication.

For me it was mental illness.  At the age of 21 my son Bruce was struck down by  the symptoms of an illness which at  times was  so bizarre that  it was  beyond my capacity to comprehend.  Despite his doctor’s diagnosis of schizophrenia, I  sometimes suspected  that  he had multiple personalities, or else was in a state of  being  possessed by otherworldly entities.  Bruce was puzzled and bemused by the hallucinations he was experiencing.  At first he recognised that they stemmed from his own runaway imagination; later on, he became overwhelmed by them.

In 1993 I became inadvertently drawn into the dark world of mental illness where tragic circumstances sometimes occur when its victims are unmedicated or wrongly medicated.  Schizophrenia  adversely affects the lives of family members, friends and other members of the community, as well as the victim.  Sufferers don’t always realise that they are ill.  Sometimes they express disturbing and even criminal behaviour.  When that occurs we can no longer ignore or sweep under the carpets, the plight of the mentally ill in our society.

I’ve learned that schizophrenia is a disease that has concrete and specific symptoms due to physical and biochemical changes within the brain. It strikes one in every hundred young people—world-wide, and is usually treatable with medication.  It has nothing to do with diminishing intellect or talent.  Over the years my son has managed to retain his ability to write poetry and draw cartoons. For that I am grateful.

Doris Ray is a board member on the BC Schizophrenia Society, a non-profit organisation that advocates for those with a family member or friend suffering from a brain chemical disorder such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression or an anxiety disorder such as OCD.  To contact the Prince George Branch of BCSS call: 561-8033 or 1-888-561-8055 (toll free)    

Upon Being Politically Correct

Nowadays being “politically correct” has become a part of our social conscience.  Sometimes I think it has swung too far: I would not in the least mind being referred to as a fisherman, even though I am biologically a woman. I am also against feminising manhole covers and Manitoba. But I do see red whenever someone in the media uses the word schizophrenic in reference to anything other then the disease. The other day I half listened to a CBC Radio broadcast  featuring some long winded intellectual.  I could not believe it when this smart person misused both the word “schizophrenic” (he was referring to a situation where there were two or more options) and also the word “psychotic” instead of  “psychopathic”.

Psychosis is an acute symptom of a brain chemical disorder. The sufferer has withdrawn from reality into a delusional realm of existence.  His behaviour is most often not criminal, although he is a high risk for suicide.  A psychopath, according to my dictionary, is “an individual who is emotionally unstable to a degree approaching the pathological, but with no specific or marked mental disorder.” People diagnosed as psychopathic often express antisocial and even criminal behaviour patterns.

There is the same social stigma attached to a brain chemical disorder such as schizophrenia as there is to homosexuality.  During my son’s adolescent years I believed the worst thing that could happen to him was that he could turn out to be gay.  (He’s not.)  He was shy and didn’t date so that thought had occurred to me.  Many times over the past twenty years I have reminded myself of that paltry concern.  I have wished fervently that one morning I would wake up to the knowledge that instead of my son’s having been afflicted by a devastating brain disease, he was merely gay.  Everything, it seems, is relative.

 When The Hard Drive Doesn’t Work

It must be very hard to accept the fact that you have a chronic, incurable illness.  It must be especially hard to acknowledge that your brain—the part of you which houses every piece of remembered information, as well as the emotional content associated with each experience, can become faulty. But the brain like every other organ in the human body, is subject to the possibility of becoming diseased or of malfunctioning.

The brain is similar to the hard drive on a computer.  When it doesn’t work properly, it may begin to churn out garbled information. You have relied on that hard drive ticking away inside your head for all the days of your life. At first you have a tendency to believe the false information you are receiving.  If your brain informs you that you are not sick, how are you supposed to know the difference?  If your brain tells you that other people can read your mind and are plotting against you, you may believe that as well. When you finally realise that you have a brain chemical disorder and its not going away anytime soon, you need to develop a sense of humour—big time!

Retaining a Sense of Humour

I was down at the Coast during the “big blow” on Easter Sunday 1997. A big wind in the country is merely an interruption between the snow or rain and the ever-popular sunshine. The important thing to remember is to stay off the lakes in your rowboat or canoe. But a wind storm in an urban setting can be an eerie experience, especially if one is imaginative and spending the night on the Riverview Hospital grounds in Port Coquitlam.

Mental patients–I have found–are like everyone else. Those whom we know and love are just fine. It’s the strangers we have a tendency to mistrust. But when I am anywhere south of Hope or Princeton, I begin to  notice that there are a lot more strangers strolling about than there are friends. Many have attributes that would qualify them as being “weird” in downtown Fraser Lake. (Simply not wearing parkas and winter boots in April would do that.)

When the sun goes down in the city I never know what to do with my purse. Draping its strap across the opposite shoulder used to deter snatchers, but now I hear that is not enough. Seasoned crooks merely cut the strap and run. Even though it contains nothing more valuable than Kleenex and an occasional coughdrop, I clutch mine closely to my bosom. Holding my head up I stride confidently, gazing neither left nor right, hoping to create the illusion that I am armed with a lethal weapon or at the very least have a black belt or better in karate.

Cottage 119 at Riverview is for patients’ family members to stay when they are visiting. Conveniently, it was right  around the corner from where my son resided. At five-thirty on Easter Sunday, Bruce and I were finishing dinner when there came a tremendous burst of wind, followed by a high volume of screeching and wailing sounds from somewhere outside the building. The creaking of branches from nearby trees, as they gnashed and rubbed together, completed the symphony.

Each succeeding gust of wind produced more banshee-like shrieks that pierced the air above the droning sounds of traffic on the nearby highway. These high pitched sounds were not unique to the Riverview area. Later that evening my daughter phoned and said the same eerie noises emanated from outside her in-law’s home several miles away. The hydro was off over there, she stated, which made things even spookier.

She wondered if her not-very-courageous, nervous and overly-imaginative mother was up to handling the situation. I assured her that in the event of a power failure, my finger was poised to dial the telephone for a taxicab.

My son had to leave at 9 P.M. If I was alone in the dark at that time, I was out of there!

Bruce and I discussed the history of the large tract of land known as Riverview. We agreed that the lush grounds would be a wonderful place to live, if one were considered “sane” and did not have to be there. There has been a concerted effort afoot by entrepreneurs to get their hands on the valuable piece of real estate, and build condos and monster homes upon it. That hope is not being shared by mental health advocates and promoters of Hollywood North.

People in the film industry are often seen skulking and lurking in and around the architecturally-pleasing old buildings. I have noticed that mental patients are usually pretty laid back. Chances are if a really weird character was spotted on the Riverview grounds, it would be a movie or television star and not a resident.

There are many beautiful trees on the Riverview grounds, most of which shed their foliage in great heaps in the fall. Now outside our window, we could see these wrinkled pieces of brown parchment, the corpses of last year’s beautiful leaves, begin to rise and dart erratically up into the darkening sky like flocks of small, hungry bats. The scene was more reminiscent of Halloween than Easter.

My son was now mentally stable. I could tell because his sense of humour was evident. He had mentioned that there was an historic graveyard located a short distance from the cottage. Just then a gust of wind blew up, setting in motion whatever it was that caused the shrieking noises.

“Perhaps its the ghosts of long dead mental patients,” Bruce suggested with a grin. I was not amused.

Major Depression

Major depression is the most common of all brain chemical disorders. According to statistics one man in ten and one woman in five will suffer a serious depression at some time in their lives.  Many of us become depressed when we anticipate or experience unpleasant situations.  It’s that “blah” feeling that envelopes us when our least favourite aunt arrives for an extended visit and the anguish that tears us apart (after the murderous rage has subsided!) when we discover a parking lot dent in our brand new car.  And in my case, the ultimate down-in-the-dumps despair I once felt when I stepped on the bathroom scales.  (I remedied that a few years ago when the offensive measurement of poundage went out with the garbage!)  Those dark feelings usually dissipate within a reasonable length of time and are a part of everyday living.  But when those feelings don’t go away, the sufferer may become trapped inside a demoralised and hopeless state of existence.

Symptoms of major depression are: tearfulness, brooding, irritability, obsessive rumination, anxiety, phobias and excessive worry over physical health

Panic Attacks

I had my first panic attack when I was about 13 and in the eighth grade.  The teacher in our small rural school had asked me to read a poem to the class from our English textbook.  I had been reading aloud to this same bunch of kids since Grade 2 so this should not have been a big deal.  But that day an idle thought drifted through my mind that was to cause me consternation for more than four  decades of my life. For some reason I thought,  “What if I can’t do this?  What if the words get stuck in my throat?”  And that’s exactly what happened!  My throat closed up tightly and I could barely breathe, let alone talk.

After that excruciating experience I avoided reading aloud to my classmates, or to anyone else. As a young mother I usually joined whatever organisation happened to be sponsoring my children’s’ particular endeavours. I enjoyed the interaction with other people although it seemed I was forever being nominated for the position of secretary.  I would always decline.  My heart would beat fast and I ‘d be trembling as I fumbled for an excuse. I knew I would have no problem with the business of keeping track of the minutes; it was the thought of reading them aloud at the next meeting that terrified me.

Panic attacks can occur at any time.  You might be shopping, sleeping or in the middle of a meeting.  An episode usually begins abruptly, peaks within 10 minutes, and lasts about half an hour. Signs and symptoms can include a rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling and shortness of breath, as well as other body alarm signals.  The symptoms of panic are so intensely physical that it often doesn’t occur to people that the attack they are having is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.  They may even think they are having a heart attack.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The plight of victims suffering from a psychiatric illness known as obsessive compulsive disorder was the theme of a Jack Nickolson movie entitled  “As Good As It Gets.” Jack did not experience hallucinations or delusions but he was overly concerned about things that made no sense to his friends. Common fears are: fear of contamination, concern with order and neatness, doubts of having injured someone, left something on (or unlocked) and inability to throw anything away.  The person will be driven to perform specific ritualised behaviours calculated to temporarily reduce their discomfort such as: repeated hand washing and cleaning, excessive ordering and arranging, checking and rechecking, and collecting useless objects.  A diagnosis of OCD is made when obsessions and compulsions become so marked they interfere with social and occupational activities, or cause intense subjective distress.  Thankfully, there are now effective treatments available for those who suffer from persistent panic attacks or OCD.

Bi-polar Disorder

Psychosis can occur in extreme states of mood disorders as well as in schizophrenia. Psychotic depression often takes the form of delusions of imaginary poverty, terminal illness, cosmic self-blame for world problems.  Conversely, psychotic mania (in bipolar illness) involves delusions of wealth, great personal power, unlimited abilities or cosmic importance—symptoms that in psychiatric terms are referred to as “grandiosity.”

Those suffering from manic depressive disease or what is now referred to as bi-polar disorder often experience a constant “double whammy” of symptoms.

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the day we watched a TV show called WKRP.  It featured an unlikely group of characters working together to produce a radio program.  Our family thought it was hilarious. One character by the name of Johnny Fever was a cocaine addict. (In those days cocaine addicts were rare so it was ok to laugh at them) Johnny was paranoid at times.  At one point someone accosted him about his drug-induced symptom.

“When everyone is after you,” Johnny explained,”Paranoia
just makes good sense.”

Well paranoia certainly makes good sense nowadays.

Ordering almost anything on the Internet has become a game of dodgeball where the trick is to not be taken in by corporate chicanery. Last summer I ended up paying a fortune for tickets to see Bob Dylan’s show in Prince George. I put my money on a link that appeared to be Ticketmaster but it turned out to be a scammer from the States. Think I paid twice or more of the advertised cost. The scammer’s explanation was that US dollars were a third more in value than ours  and there was a cost for the service. I felt pretty stupid on being “had” but recently learned smarter people than me had almost fallen into the same phoney Ticketmaster scheme.

Another blood, sweat and almost-tears event occured last night when I attempted to cash in some of my RBC Rewards points collected from Visa. I wanted it to cover a Westjet trip to Vancover. The flight was close to Christmas and the price was pretty high for my budget.The hardest part was finding the exact link where I could begin the process. Firstly, I had to set up an online bank account. But that was not enough.I then had to try and find another link, one that didn’t bombard me with advertisments for this and that all of which cost money.

I finally gave up and discovered Air Canada had one ticket that cost less than 200 dollars on a flight to Vancouver two days before Christmas.

I paid for it with my Visa. I will go back to using the old-fasioned telephone to cash in my RBC Rewards.

Stronger

So glad I purchased one of Lynne Hanson’s CDs. Really enjoyed her musicality, both her guitar playing and her beautiful voice, during this evening’s concert at the Legion. But I wasn’t able to pick up on all the lyrics because I’m becoming more and more “audio-challenged” [translation: deaf] as years go by.

I’m pleased that the words to Lynne’s songs were included with the CD. The lyrics to “Stronger” are what’s been going through my mind lately.  Especially the line that goes, “You can curse or you can pray, world spins anyway”
[That’s when I need to remember to get on my knees]

Stronger by Lynne Hanson & Lynn Miles

Some things don’t make us better they just break us
Make us holler to the sky and ask how could you forsake us
You can’t always win this game, some things won’t ever be the same
It’s living with the pain that shapes and makes us.

chorus: I used to believe in the stories
Where the good guys win, the underdogs get the glory
I don’t believe it any longer
Sometimes what don’t kill you won’t make you stronger

Heart of steel only bends so far
It’s the deepest cuts that always leave a scar
It’s not weak to bleed, sometimes tears are what you need
It’s the toughest lessons teach us who we are.

chorus:Even the tallest mountains crumble
Most graceful dancers sometimes stumble
You can curse or you can pray, World spins anyway,
It’s the biggest mistakes that make us humble.

 

RAFE MAIR

In the fall of 1999 I was on a book tour set up by my publisher Cynthia Wilson of Caitlin Press. As publisher Cynthia knew everyone of any journalistic significance in British Columbia. My book “The Ghosts Behind Him” was about my son Bruce’s battle with the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Cynthia knew Rafe Mair and was in on a secret that very few others were privy to. The loud, gruff, often confrontational CKNW radio talk show host suffered from clinical depression. During my interview with him he confided that if he didn’t take his antidepressant medication he would dissolve into tears in a very short time.

Rafe Mair passed away yesterday. Today I’m remembering when my cousin Florence drove me to the large building in New Westminster where he ruled in his glass and chrome domain. Florence and I sat all alone in the waiting area listening to Rafe’s angry rasping voice in a telephone interview with a politician named Moe Sihota who was part of the NDP government of the time. Moe seemed to be holding his own in the conversation but I was pretty intimidated. When it was my turn to enter Rafe’s glass enclosed cage I expected to be eaten alive in a lion’s den.

I was surprised to meet this friendly, soft-spoken gentleman who appeared to be far more of a pussycat than a lion. And Rafe was an excellent interviewer. He admitted that he hadn’t read the book but his queries and gentle comments drew the devastating story out from my heart and soul.

From my perspective Rafe Mair was a class act. And he went out of his way to let his audience know about the book signing I was to do in Langley that evening.

GUNS: tools or weapons?

I thought I’d put out my own personal perspective about the use of guns. Being a Canadian I will try to be polite.

I’ve been a part of the gun culture in rural British Columbia for most of  my life. As a child living in the bush with very litle money coming in, our family very often subsisted on moose meat and venison. I still have no qualms whatever about accepting the good healthful food that nature has to offer. My main concern has only been that the hunter’s rifle be properly sighted in, and that he aim precisely – not wounding the animal and causing it to live in pain and possible impairment. The rifle is a tool.  It needs to be a good one and be in skilled hands. That way the dying part will occur quickly; possibly quicker than what happens in meat processing plants.

I understand that in the States “the right to bear arms” is significant, dating back to centuries-old confrontations. People who are being shot at are given the inalienable right to shoot back. And everyone- even sweet little old ladies- are permitted to store derringers in their handbags.

One such lady from Montana stopped by our tourist information center during the last American election. She said, “If Hillary gets in, I’m moving to Canada.  You know what? She wants to take away our guns!”

If I kept a gun in my handbag I’d be dangerous. Weapons of any kind make me paranoid. I used to ride a bicycle through our rural neighborhood. On one occasion I was attacked by a dog soon after disembarking from my bike.  Using my bicycle as a shield, I managed to repel the beast until its owner saved me from being lunch. Even so, I was traumatized for weeks.

I had read that postmen sometimes carried an umbrella as a weapon to repel dogs when they made their rounds. Dogs were apparently intimidated by the sight of an umbrella opening up before their eyes. I tucked one in the basket for when I went bike-riding. If I spotted a dog I would clutch the umbrella, preparing to scare off any large, middle-sized and even little-bitty dogs I encountered. It got so bad that my “fight-flight” primal instincts lit up no matter how friendly the dog turned out to be.

After I began leaving my weapon at home I found I was no longer paranoid. Dogs and humans are alike in that there’s very few that actually need an umbrella in the face.

 

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