Monday, 8 February 2016

Weight, sadness and what I wore

That's me, front, second from the left.

When I was in high school, I was a size 12, which today would be a size 8.

I was proud of my tiny waist, it was a 23 as I recall, but my big hips bothered me. I wasn't delusional; I knew there was nothing I could do about them. There was no fat on them, just the hip bone. But I was aware of them.

For years, I was jealous of girls I'd consider scrawny today. They got to wear see through jumpsuits made of bubble wrap, and maxi coats that hugged their lithe bodies. Me, I settled for clothes that were tailored, like the outfit in this photo, shirts that didn't cling, skirts that weren't too snug. I would have been the perfect private school girl.

I realize now that my body shame started back in high school. It was hard to accept that I didn't have a perfect body, the kind the boys all drooled over. I was just an anonymous kid, the egghead, who hung out with the freaks and geeks in the audio-visual room.

I read my first diet book, by Adele Davis, back in Grade 10 after seeing her on the Merv Griffin Show. I didn't need to diet, but I knew I needed to know about dieting. So I became obsessed with diets.

On the outside, I was a normal teenager who ate pizza and drank pop. But on the inside, I always wondered how soon it would be until I was forced to consume a hamburger pattie, no bun, a peach slice and a mound of cottage cheese. (This was considered diet food in the 70s.)

My first diet was the Scarsdale Diet, an insane regime which was basically starvation in nature. The diet was popular with folks who wanted to drop a deuce in two weeks. I loved Scarsdale and spent years on and off it, consuming 700 calories, feeling the internal burn as my body suffered through ketosis. But I never got sick, not once. It was awesome.

The real trouble started when I had kids. After I had the boys, Irish Twins 13 months apart, I lived on Haagen Daz ice cream, big platters of beef and potatoes, cakes and cookies. I was a happy mom who loved her food, and ate it in large quantities.

When I was 31, I bought my first size 16. While I was doing other things, my tiny waist was swallowed whole by the beluga that consumed the rest of me.

I managed to lose that weight with Scarsdale just before I conceived my daughter Marissa. Amazingly, I was smaller the day after her birth than before I got pregnant. I was back to my high school weight, with big boobs that squirted milk. They were both handsome and handy.

Life couldn't have been better.

Then the bottom fell out. My husband left me with three kids under seven. My mother died suddenly, and I was completely alone. The career I had carefully nurtured crumbled under me, as I tried to stave off depression and thoughts of suicide. I spent years struggling with substance abuse.

Everything I cherished and believed in was taken away from me. There didn't seem to be much point worrying about my dress size, anymore. I felt completely unloved and unloveable.

After ten years, I managed to crawl out of my cave, and found love again.

But by this time, my boys were heavily into drugs, and my daughter was a ghost. Scott and I managed to bring them back from the brink, get them back into school, and right the Good Ship Simpson. But by then, I was in court, in the battle of my life against an ex-husband, who refused to help fund their education.

The final battle crippled me. The only thing I could count on was the warmth of my kitchen and the soft bellies of my beloved dogs. I made massive meals to feed the kids, and the crowd. I ate like there was no tomorrow because I knew I couldn't count on there being a tomorrow.

The bad stuff continued to pile on. I went through the menopause from hell. I lost my bladder control, and developed debilitating PTSD which was the fallout from the battle with my ex. I woke nightly, drenched in sweat, with night terrors.

And I gained 50 pounds.

When you grow up skinny, you don't realize that weight loss and gain is a cruel game. The weight loss doesn't last, the pounds creep up your back side, a few at a time until suddenly, without warning, you have become Jabba the Hut.

It's a terrible practical joke played on women, weight gain. It smacks you where you live -- right in the gut. I could lose it, but I couldn't keep it off.

Then suddenly, in middle age, the weight just moved in, like a permanent squatter, and no amount of exercise and dieting could budge the scale.

The last 20  years have been the worst of my life. I have suffered from low self-esteem, panic attacks, depression, economic uncertainty, the dull heart ache from the loss of my mother and my marriage, and the ultimate abandonment -- the fleeing of the children from the nest.

My sadness has settled, like memory foam, just above and below my navel.

My weight has consumed me, wrapped me in a cocoon, from which there is no escape. It has made me cling to the homefront and kept me out of the stores. Aside from the occasional pair of shoes and tops to replace the ripped, worn out ones, I haven't bought new clothes in close to five years.

But something good happened this year. I found out that I was accepted in a breast reduction program with a surgeon at the Ottawa Hospital. I was over-the-moon. It gave me hope.

Just one caveat.

My surgeon told me that she wouldn't perform a breast reduction until I lost about forty pounds. I should be worried. After all, I haven't been able to lose a single pound in five years despite a punishing exercise regime.

But I'm not worried, not at all.

I saw it as a sign. It was time to tear off the fat suit, and join the human race again.

I realize that my weight issues didn't start in my 40s or 50s. They started back in high school when my hips were too wide and my eyes were too close together. The girl in the photograph never got any older. Instead, she became a first class judgy bitch.

And she has let me know, every day since, that I am a failure, a loser and a fraud.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm in one of those horror movies, where the mom has to go into the ether to try to save her daughter from the demons that are consuming her. Insidious, that's a great description for the evil that has robbed me of my youth and vigor.

It's time to beat back the demons, and save the girl in the photo, and become the hero in my own story.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

At the Media Apocalypse, only the cockroach survives

A short history of newspapers in Canada (as told by the cockroach)

I started out my journalism career as a scab, and now I am a cockroach.

While all the successful journos are either retired, packaged or punted out of the newsrooms, I survive.

I don't have a nice house, or a pension, I exist on crumbs thrown at me by the rich and powerful who have systematically dismantled the media landscape and rewarded themselves with big bonuses. I make $200 here, $50 there. I don't have a legacy or a career; I have a drawer full of clippings.

And a blog.

I was a scab when I started because that was the only way I could get work. I crossed picket lines, watched other scabs get their tires flattened by irate pressmen, the ones with the unions, the ones with a promise of a pension. I was little, I was small, I got in through the cracks to make my living.

That newspaper died in 1980 when the giant head decided to consume its tail in search of maximum profit.

The newspaper I worked for died along side another one. So sad, they were great Canadian newspapers -- the one I worked for, the other one shut down by the corporate lip-smackers. Now they exist in the fond memories of paperboys, and on microfiche at the Library of Parliament.

People left the business, took good government jobs with pensions. They bought houses and country club memberships, but I kept it up. Cockroaches know, when the time comes to tear down the house, she can always move to another one. We live in the walls to save money.

I moved to the walls of another great newspaper. That newspaper also had a legacy, a purpose. Alas, forty years later, it, too is foundering. Instead of being closed, it is being molded into something new, a hybrid concoction, a mixture of white flour and wheat, flax seed and butter. Nobody is quite sure what it is -- it has a tabloid heart and a broadsheet skin.

Now people are leaving, again. Tossed out on their ears. Nothing to show for their dedication, blood, sweat and tears.

The head is eating its tail again.

More good people are leaving, but this time there aren't good government jobs to go to. Distinguished writers are getting sick in the street. Even the posh leather bars they once frequented are closing.

Big giant heads are repairing to their log homes in the country, appearing on all news channels for the same $200 as the cockroach, writing books that are either discounted on Amazon, or they languish as rock bottom remainders at Chapters.

The news hole now is even too small for the cockroach who moves on to the last great battleground -- ghetto publishing. The bosses live in far off lands, places where people still believe that print is not dead. They soon begin eating their tails, and set the cockroach free again.

Now there are no walls to live in, no newsprint to eat, no clippings to collect.

There is just the cockroach standing, at the Media Apocalypse, and she is eying her tail.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Jian Ghomeshi and the cult of celebrity

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has been feeling uncomfortable over the coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi circus taking place in Toronto this week.

It's hard to look away when somebody is being burned at the stake.

It is so incredibly unfair, this trial. The women have done nothing wrong. Their only crime is that they had crushes on a celebrity whose favorite past time was to beat the shit out of women.

He's the bad guy, but they are being judged and found wanting.

What this trial is about is the cult of celebrity. It's about the abusers and the women who adore them.

If Ghomeshi had been the guy at Walmart fluffing the bananas, not one of these women would look at him. If he was the kindly teacher, he'd be up on charges faster than Fat Albert could say, "Hey, Hey, Hey!"

But he's a celebrity, a cute little gnome like creature with a sly smile, whose winks and nudges have made a lot of women and men wet over the years. And that puts him in another class.

I've met a lot of celebrities over the years, thanks to my day job, and I've encountered a few socially. I always tell my friends and my kids to stay away from them. A lot of celebrities are creeps with lots of money and a high opinion of themselves.

Like the Eagles, those nice California boys. Who wouldn't want to hang out with them at the after party, the shindig the boys referred to as "Spread Eagle?" Who wouldn't want to get up close and personal with writers, movie stars, rock legends who blow into town and leave with girls' panties draped over the drum kits.

What happens on the road, stays on the road, right?

The tabloids are filled with tales of celebrities behaving badly. Even little Justin Bieber was accused of punching a limo driver on the back of the head.

The mantra for girls everywhere, when dealing with celebrities, should be buyer beware. And that truth is no more evident than in the case of Ghomeshi, a cowardly little snit who waited until the girl's back was turned to clock her. And he got away with it for years.

Because he is a celebrity.

And he's still getting away with it. His pit bull, Marie Henein, can barely contain her glee as she rips apart the women on the stand, humiliating them, revealing them to be nothing more than silly little girls with school crushes who kept coming back for more. The subliminal message keeps being repeated over, and over, and over again. She wanted it. She asked for it.

The pitbull kept raising questions. Why would these women write love letters to a guy who upsided them on the head, or pulled their hair? Are they no better than the heroine in Fifty Shades of Grey?

The answer, in my mind is not a simple one. They crushed on a guy, he strung them along, then he bashed them in the head. That's not about them liking it, or asking for it. It's about him, the big celebrity rejecting them. That's why these women kept writing to him, and meeting him, because they felt humiliated by him, and were made to feel small. To a person, these women -- like abused children -- wanted to know what was wrong with them.

It's not about sex. It was never about sex. For Ghomeshi like Cosby, it was all about power. They used their power, their celebrity, to feast on unarmed women, blindside them, and humiliate them. What they left in their wake was nothing less than human destruction.

Even now, Ghomeshi holds all the power over those have been brave enough to step up, and expose themselves to public humiliation. Their reward is for it to happen all over again, this time in front of the nation, the world, even.

Because they are vulnerable, because they are human, because they are damaged, Ghomeshi still holds the cards, and will probably get away with it. He bought this trial, and his big city lawyer and her website that makes people think she's straight out of Boston Legal.

And the salacious media is stepping up to make sure everybody knows every lurid detail. Ghomeshi's women are being treated no better than the Salem Witches, burned at the stake of public opinion.

What woman would ever come forth now? It's a joke, a sideshow, a freak show played out for entertainment by media who are arguing that they should be allowed to show "bikini shots"  that are "in the public interest".

If there's any good news, it's that Ghomeshi will never, ever, work in this country again. He might win the battle but he's lost the war.

He'll never feel safe walking the streets of Toronto knowing that he's being watched. Suddenly, there will be no table at his favorite restaurant. His opinions won't matter because he'll be talking to the wall. Believe it or not, shunning is a fitting punishment for a narcissist.

Shun away, Canada.

Ghomeshi may have thrown these women on the fire, but he, in the end is the toasted marshmallow.

Sweet dreams, Jian.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Cancer Diaries: From warrior to survivor

A month ago, my little cancer warrior headed down the corridor at the Ottawa Hospital toward an uncertain surgery in hopes of removing a malignant tumor in her mouth. It was a difficult eight-hour operation that would see the removal of part of her jaw, gums and a handful of teeth, all to be replaced with a graft from her left arm.

JLove spent her Christmas and New Year's convalescing first in the observation area, then in a hospital bed. She was only able to write out her thoughts, and she could barely speak due to the fact doctors had inserted a trach tube in her mouth.

The surgery went well, and though she was in a great deal of pain with a tongue the size of a grapefruit, she persevered, never complaining, grinning and raising a thumbs up on occasion. Jennette was as brave a soldier as anyone I've ever seen, and was more concerned about the trouble she was causing others.

Today, we walked back into that hospital and it seemed a whole lot less scary. She met with her surgeon, Dr. Johnson as well as the speech therapist, and the radiology oncologist for the final verdict.

She's healed up nicely, and has only a few telltale scars and a mouthful of marbles. They left the best news for last. She will not be needing further treatment, no radiation, or any other horrible procedure. The doctors are confident that they slayed the dragon.

Tomorrow, I will hand her back her car keys and she will begin her new life, not as a cancer warrior but as a cancer survivor. She will also begin another difficult journey in her quest to become a lifelong non-smoker.

We are so proud of Jennette Katherine Lovie.

She is a brave woman with a bright future.

Congratulations, my little friend.

You did it!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Let's talk about seniors' mental health

Today is Bell Let's Talk Day, the day when we can all talk about mental health.

Here's what I want to talk about.

I was at the Queensway Carleton Hospital yesterday to bring Jennette, my little cancer warrior, to find her 88-year-old father who was sent there because he had chest pains. We got to the hospital, and we were told he wasn't there.

"Of course he's here," I said, seeing the worry in poor Jennette's face. "The home said they sent him here."

I looked around and there were at least 200 souls sitting in the waiting room in various states of distress. One woman was hobbling around on her cane crying.

We were escorted into the intake room where there were more than 30 people, mostly seniors, laying on gurneys. There was no sign of Jim so we waited in the hallway where we were constantly jostled so that the orderlies could add more gurneys.

It was like a scene out of Code Black, the series about a Los Angeles hospital that is in a constant state of overcrowding.

Aside from the patients, the place was over-run by paramedics, about a dozen of them who were hanging around, checking their phones or half lying on gurneys.

I have been to many hospitals in my 60 years, and I've never seen anything like it. The intake room was a virtual litter box filled with little old men and women languishing, crying, staring into space.

Scott, Jennette and I stood by a doorway across from a woman in her 80s sporting a sutured eye with blackness running down her cheek. She looked at me with pleading eyes.

"Can you help me?" she asked. "I need the nurse. I want to get out of this bed."

Being the helpful type, I buttonholed the volunteer who just shrugged.

"She's been doing that all afternoon."

Then the volunteer walked away. Every medical person who walked by ignored the woman who was obviously suffering from some sort of dementia.

"Stay in that bed," ordered an overwhelmed nurse. "You hit your head."

"No I didn't," the woman said, turning to me.

"I scraped it yesterday; now they won't let me out of this bed."

I tried my best to humor the woman, but she got louder and louder.

"Get me outta here," she said trying to negotiate the barrier on the side of the bed.

I smiled at her, and Scott started talking to her. Her mood seemed to pick up.Then we were ordered out of the intake room because there were too many people.

As I was leaving, I waved to the lady who was now spread-eagled and exposing her vagina to the whole room. Nobody even noticed.

How could this happen, I wondered. Didn't the staff see that the woman was confused and in distress? Why couldn't they at least have taken her to a more private place, and allowed her to keep her dignity?

Just because she had dementia and was there all alone, didn't mean she should be treated worse than an animal. If that were my mother, I would have screamed bloody murder.

I should have done something, or said something. Frankly I didn't know what to do.

So I did nothing -- until now.

I think about what I would have done if I'd seen an animal in distress, or a child wandering around asking for help. I would have endangered myself to help a dog. I would have spent all day helping the child in distress.

Heck, I would have done the same for a senior who fell on the ice. And so would you.

Why are we so quick to turn our back on our elders who have mental health issues? Don't they deserve our respect? Don't they deserve support and kindness?

That's what I want to talk about.

LeBreton Flats: Ottawa doesn't need another shrine to millionaires

Just what Ottawa needs -- another hockey arena.
And more shopping.
And more concert venues.
A car museum? A beer museum?
An aquarium to babysit the kids while the guys can go to the beer and car museums while the ladies shop for designer togs?
It's like a bunch of guys got together after a midnight pickup hockey game to decide what Ottawa needs more of. One woman on Twitter last night wondered if any women were actually involved in putting together the two proposal to develop LeBreton Flats, that fetid black hole eyesore that sits in the middle of Bytown.
Don't get me wrong, I like the Senators, don't love them, but like them. They do some good in our community it's true by visiting kids in the hospital and building community rinks. But for heaven's sake, do we have to reward them by letting them take up prime downtown land to build yet another shrine to a bunch of millionaires?
I don't know about you, but even if the rink was built downtown, I still wouldn't be able to afford to go to it. Two weeks ago, Scott and I won hockey tickets that were worth $250 bucks a piece and we still were out of pocket $50! By allowing the Sens to build downtown, it would mean I'd only save, let's see, THE PARKING and THE GAS. Wait, if we took OC Transpo, it would be the equivalent to the parking, so really we're saving gas money.
Come on.
We don't need another sports venue.
We already have that monstrosity in the middle of the Glebe. It has a hockey arena, sure, not a fantastic hockey arena but still. It also has a stadium and prime shopping. Maybe not a car museum, but it has cinemas. At least I think it has cinemas cause I haven't been there yet. Can't afford anything they sell there.
Here's a point. I used to go to the Ottawa Farmer's Market which was located near Carleton University. Then they moved it to the Glebe and built a Whole Foods beside it. Now I don't go to the Farmer's Market anymore because I have to pay to park there. So the 100 mile diet is no longer accessible to me because I have to spend the $10 I would have forked over for cheese -- on parking.
So I walk to Loblaws and buy it from California.
I won't be able to buy anything at the new LeBreton site, either. So there's nothing for me in either of these proposals.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but we're lower middle class. Not middle class enough to buy stinky cheese and pay for parking, not upper class enough to buy Sens tickets.
We walk our dogs, eat at home, and watch the Senators on the television.
I feel I'm not alone in this. A lot of the people who live around LeBreton live in public housing. Lucky for them, I suppose, they will be able to hear concerts for free. But they won't actually be able to SEE the concerts.
It's too bad that the proposal writers didn't throw a bone to the poor, like they did in the days of the
Canterbury Tales. Perhaps they could hold free public executions in the square.
Look up the Knight's Tale, you'll see what I mean.
Tell you what I'd like to see at LeBreton.
Instead of a car museum, I'd like to see an auto plant which pays its workers living wages not the minimum wages that will be paid to the people who will sell designer clothes to rich people at the new shrine.
That's what we need in this town, good jobs for the people who don't work in the tech sector or in government.
We don't need another shiny penny, or a reminder that there are two classes in Ottawa, those who can afford $500 a pair hockey tickets and those who serve the popcorn.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Rosie Tits: I want to be Sporty Spice not Posh Spice

When you tell people you're getting a breast reduction, you get all sorts of advice. Women, literally, crawl out of the woodwork to tell you they've had one, their aunty had one, or their best friend had one after high school.

To a person, I've never heard "I hate the way they look" after surgery. Before was always worse.

I mean, it's understandable. You've got to really hate your boobs to endure four hours of surgery. And you have to have faith that the surgeon who accepts your case doesn't disappoint. You don't want to wake up expecting you'll look like Charleze Theron, and you end up looking like Granny Clampett.

It takes a lot of guts to get a breast reduction; it's not for sissies.

And no chicken to my knowledge has ever said, "take the leg, leave the breast." I don't know why I said that, it just seemed funny to me.

There is a lot of soul searching that goes into the process but when you finally commit, you wonder why it took 25 years.

The burning question is this: how small or how big do you want them? You only have one chance, so it's important to get it right. Lots of women don't do the Full Monty because it requires more reconstruction to save the nipple. If the surgeon goes too small, it chokes off the blood supply to the nipple, it dies, and you have to find a tiny casket for it, an R&B group who will be available at the last moment and a minister who will set the right tone at the memorial.

"Ah, lefty, we knew you well. You were a good sport all these years. Righty, you were simply too big for your britches."

The other option, if you want to really want to go smaller, is to simply take off the nipples and make new fake ones. Doctors might be good at this, but no one has ever admitted, to me at least, that she chose permanent pasties over the real McCoys.

I say "who cares?"

The draw back to actual nipple removal is you never have that feeling again. You know, the Marvin Gaye, "sexual feeling" again. That feeling you first felt as a tween in the shower after watching a Kanye West video.

Truth be told, I haven't had that feeling for a while now. It's like what happens when you put a really nice top in the dryer instead of paying the ten bucks to go to the dry cleaner. It's just never the same again when the elastic's gone out of it.

You also have to make sure your boobs fit your body. I have a German-Scottish affair, which means big hips, so if I were to go too small, I would look like a bowling pin. I also have the shoulders of a six-year-old.

So my surgeon is going to have to make some sort of compromise. I don't want Papa Bear Boobs, but I don't want Baby Bear Boobs, either. Mama Bear boobs would be just right.

Here's my bottom line.

I dream of sports boobs, the ones that fit into a sports bra, the ones that don't feel like I've had to squish them into tube socks. At age 60, which I will be, I want to be able to run and jump. I want to play tennis again without fear of blacking out my eyes. I want to play golf without having to stand four feet from the ball.

I don't really give a rat's ass about what I'm going to look like in a tube top or a strapless dress cause I will never wear those. I'm Sporty Spice not Posh Spice.

The other problem for girls like me, the women Sarah Silverman describes as having "heavy Jewish breasts" is that our boobs are very dense, a doctor's term explaining why he missed the breast cancer because he couldn't see it. (It must be tough being a radiologist looking at a dense breast which might be akin to being forced to watch a Stephen Sondheim musical where all kinds of shit happens in the dense forest, shit that you're not expecting. Spoiler alert, Cinderella actually leaves Prince Charming!)

Back in the old days, when my boobs weren't nearly as large and meaty, I was on the university rowing team. Even back then, as skinny as I was, I had trouble running because I felt like my bra was like a slingshot full of gravel. So that's something I'm going to discuss with my doctor.

I'm not planning to run a marathon. I'm not crazy. I'm not signing up for Survivor. I just want to be active and not dragged down by dead weight.

I can dream, I can hope, but ultimately it's up to the person wielding the scalpel.

And with that image in my brain, I just peed myself.