Bigger

CHOCOLATE THERAPY                                       The writer attempts to garner courage by digging into a carton of chocolate ice cream.

 

BIGGER:

I want to write about sexual assault, but I struggle for words

When I tried to become a writer as an adult, I had a very hard time.  I kept putting inadequate words in ALL CAPS, needing them to be bigger and bigger and BIGGER.  Finally I thought no, I’m not a writer.  I need to try visual art instead — big and then bigger canvasses, bolder strokes, stronger colours.  

A sexual predator is about to be (has been) confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.  I’m Canadian, so why does it matter to me?  Well, it does.  

Like millions of women, I felt the truth of Christine Blasey-Ford’s testimony in my body.  And, to my surprise, in that same body, I felt the strong need to withdraw and defend from the assault of Brett Kavanaugh’s loud protestations of purity and innocence.  

She testified that when Kavanaugh, aided and abetted by his buddy, assaulted her, he wore his laughing face — a face and sound encoded in her brain forever.  When Kavanaugh presented the hearing with his angry, self-pitying, attacking face,  the face encoded in my brain forever came forcefully out of the box that I try hard to keep it in on a day-to-day basis.  

I am experiencing symptoms that I thought 10 years of therapy had eradicated:  painful muscle spasms; the recurring desire to vomit; an all-over-body tremor; sleep disturbance; emotional volatility and difficulty concentrating.  I want to write about sexual assault, but I struggle for words.  

Christine Blasey-Ford and her husband went to couple counselling when a dispute over architectural details of their home renovation became problematic.  He couldn’t grasp why she needed an extra front door — and even to herself, it must have seemed a bit strange, but she knew she needed that.  

My partner and I went through a similar struggle when we were renovating our home.  It wasn’t about doors for us.  It was about height of ceilings — she wanted nice low spaces that felt cozy and safe, but to me that felt unbearably claustrophobic.  I wanted to raise the roof to make a high cathedral ceiling with windows up there — a meditation loft,  a place for my mind to go even when my body couldn’t.  I fought for it and, like Blasey-Ford, because I had a loving partner and because I felt strongly about it, I got my wish.  But as for her, it was a previously unidentified trauma-related wish.  I never realized that until she spoke on TV.   I wonder how many other women have struggled to have bizarre-seeming architectural safety wishes respected and accommodated.  I wonder how many have not been as lucky as Blasey-Ford and me.  

Her attacker went on to rise through the echelons of power, largely out of her sight and conscious mind.  She escaped to the opposite coast — where accidental encounters, like the one with her attacker’s sidekick at the grocery store, would be unlikely — and proceeded to make the best of her life.  I too have made use of geography to put distance between myself and my attacker.  

I was well into adulthood before my sisters and I took action to get my father out of a job in which he had easy access to vulnerable children, but although we succeeded, he retained his reputation as a “retired” Baptist pastor — a holy man of god — and retains it to this day, in his 100th year on this earth.  We did not press criminal charges — one of my sisters was extremely reluctant to do that — but eventually we filed papers with Ontario’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and after a formal hearing in which we were all heard separately, were awarded monetary compensation.  

The recognition of wrong-doing was important to my healing.  The money is long gone.  But the sight of that angry, self-righteous attacking face is burned forever into memory.  A person with that emotional make-up and mind-set should have neither the power to define morality, nor the privilege of occupying any seat of justice, particularly at the Supreme level.  

Patricia Seeley grew up in Ontario, but now lives in a small house with high ceilings on the rugged Fundy shore in Kings County, Nova Scotia.  

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Northbound 2018

On the first half of this trip, I find myself short of words to describe this journey, but Catherine is not without photos, and those I share with pleasure:

Night 1:  Las Cruces, NM; Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces. 866-383-0443 ***** We loved it!  Soft beds, easy access.

Love that Spanish style!

On our way out of town we noticed that the white sands of Alamagordo were on our route, so we dropped in to introduce them to Carla.

Carla enjoyed being introduced to the white gypsum sand dunes of Alamagordo, New Mexico

Catherine and I had visited the white sands way back in 2012, but Carla had never been there.  They look just like snowbanks, but they don’t feel like snowbanks — HOT!  We didn’t stay long, but Carla will bring her grandson to visit when he’s a little older.

Night 2: Dalhart, TX; La Quinta 806-249-1145 **** Exceeded our lowish expectations.

Stinky feedlots greeted us outside Dalhart, but inside the hotel all was fresh, clean and sweet!

 

Night 3:  Wichita, KS;  Ambassador Hotel by Marriott.  316-239-7100  ***1/2 Nice enough, but our high expectations were not quite fulfilled.  Lousy water pressure!

Pretty cut-out metal artwork and a series of mosaic panels outside the Ambassador’s doors.

The movie of the night was A Winter’s Tale — some lovely flights of fantasy and magic that took us to a beautiful place where stuff works out for the good in the long run.  Enjoyed it a lot, then at the end learned that the infamous Steve Mnuchin (of DJT’s cabinet) was one of the producers!  Yuck!  Still, the Pegasus was splendid!  I wished one would come along and whisk us home!

Night 4:  Topeka, KS;  Clubhouse Inn and Suites. 785-273-8888  Some clubhouse!  Had seen better days.  **1/2 at best.

Our main reason for going to Topeka was to see the museum that is housed in the old school to which Linda Brown’s dad was seeking to have her admitted.  Kansas was never a slave state, and the “separate” education Linda was entitled to was relatively well-funded, offered excellent teachers, books and materials, etc.  As the guide told us, they never would have had signs like these in Kansas, although they were everywhere further south.  Brown was considered a good test case for those reasons — the court would be forced to turn its mind to the question of why “separate” is not “equal” ever.

Brown v. Board of Education Museum

 

Night 5:  Saint Louis, MO  The Moonrise Hotel  6177 Delmar in the Loop 314-721-1111 Now this was a fun place to stay!  *****  VERY pet friendly, excellent food, fun decor, all “moon” themed.  The owner is a moon-stuff collector and it’s everywhere.

Moon Stuff Everywhere!!

The “chandelier” over the stairwell is instantly recognizable as a sculpture by the famous glass artist, Dale Chihuly.  His installation in the Phoenix botanical garden was one of our (non-blogged) highlights back in 2014:

Two favourite sculptures by day …

and by night!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night 6:  Columbus, OH   Aloft Columbus Westerville.  614-899-6560  Very brand new and modern in design, they had overlooked one important element in their accessibility plan:

A cautionary tale!

there was no way to get Catherine into the big soft comfy bed!  We’re used to encountering beds on platforms and we carry bed risers with us to allow access via lift, but this platform was WAY too heavy and WAY too awkward to raise up.   (I grumpily managed to get Catherine all set for sleep in her wheelchair).  Carla and I grumpily shared a Hawaiian pizza with the weirdest feature ever — cinnamon!  Which I love but not on pizza!  In the morning, we explained to the owners what a lift is and what the problem was, and they had some ideas about how to fix it for future Hoyer-lift users.  Meanwhile, if you’re a Hoyer user, avoid the Aloft and Alt chains!

Night 7 and 8:  Seneca Falls, NY    The Gould Hotel.  877-788-4010

A very pleasant little apartment in an historic renovated hotel dating back to the turn of the last century.  It wouldn’t be accessible for everyone but we made it work.

The Highlight: Women’s History Museum

We all enjoyed the Women’s History Museum, then Patricia enjoyed a great massage (by Suzanne, in a place called Massages for Women) while Carla and Catherine took in the other museum in town dedicated to “It’s a Wonderful Life” in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, which was probably inspired by Seneca Falls.  The Gould has a very pleasant and beautifully accessible dining room, where we enjoyed locally sourced food and wine.  We didn’t know that NY has a couple of hundred wineries!  Fun stay, would go again.

Night 9:  Portsmouth, NH  The Hampton Inn

This one, not so much.  Just OK, not memorable at all.

Just a place on the way.

 

Night 10:  St. Andrews, NB  The Algonquin

We do love this place!

Good old St. Andrews!

The tin can fish is one of several in the lobby sculpted by local artist,  Alanna Baird

And Ossie’s, although no longer visible from the new and improved highway, is nevertheless THE PLACE to go for lunch!

Night 11:  HOME!!!!

Home, Sweet Home!!

 

 

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Jackson to Tucson

The truth is, you could easily drive through the South and never notice or learn about its shameful history or its continuing racist reality — but why would you want to do that?  Opportunities exist and we feel that it’s our responsibility to seek them out.  The newest just opened in December in Jackson, Mississippi, now a thriving metropolis, but in the not-so-distant past, a major slave-owning, slave-trading centre.  This article from the New York Times describes the new museum better than I could.

Abandoned by the Law

We all heard about it when the White President was invited to speak at the opening, causing several of the people honoured in the exhibit to boycott.  Good enough reason for us to go!  We found the museum layout a bit confusing and the displays very print-heavy, but man oh man, what stories all that print tells!!   Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, but don’t fail to check out the Birmingham and Montgomery AL Museums as well.

Two Houses of History in Mississippi

 

One of the weird things about this museum is that it is physically housed in the same building as the Mississippi History museum, but the two are completely separate.  You can buy a “bundled” ticket to see both, but we had time for only the civil rights history.  I asked the (white) ticket taker when we were leaving at closing time how much of the history we’d just seen was reflected on the other side, and he chuckled ruefully and said, “Very little.  You chose the right one!”   So just in case you thought that racism was mostly “in the past”, before “separate but equal” was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court back in the 1950’s — well think again.

Two realities (and resistance to both by two exhausted cats!)

The next day we drove, just the two of us and the cats, off of the super-highway on a diagonal jaunt to Henderson, Texas (Baymont Inn and Suites Henderson was friendly and accommodating).  It was a nice, relaxing drive that reminded us a lot of the road between Barrie and Orillia, or other slow-paced rural roads we’ve enjoyed in the past.  Listening to a good story on tape helps the miles spin by and so it was as we enjoyed https://www.amazon.com/My-Name-Lucy-Barton-Novel/dp/B0191YMBJ8/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1515614386&sr=8-1

And the next day, a relatively easy run to Austin, TX, checking in the the Hyatt Regency for two nights.  Catherine had an appointment in Spicewood, TX with some accessible switch magicians at a company called ASL (Adaptive Switch Labs) where we were going to have a little look-see at a brand new super-sensitive joystick that had been in development for a

Austin Highlights: Music, Cocktails and a Quantum Leap in wheelchair control

whole year but is not yet available through distributors.  Our wonderful rehab folks in Halifax had seen a demo and heard how great it was, so strongly urged Catherine to drop in.  Much to our shock and amazement, we left the shop at the end of the afternoon with their little tiny joystick hooked up to her chair!!  It’s a proto-type — she’s “field-testing” it for them — but wow!  I hadn’t seen her drive with such confidence in several years!  She’s struggled with some placement challenges since and we need to do some re-programming on the chair, but it is by far the lightest-touch joystick ever made, as far as we know.  So thank you, ASL in Spicewood, Texas!

Cleaned up the filthy car in preparation for Carla’s takeover!

Carla joined us for our second night in Austin.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner in the lobby bar and the cosmopolitan atmosphere as a couple in full South-Asian regalia and their guests took the escalators up and down to the second floor wedding reception, complete with colourful saris and whatever it is they call the long silk coats the men wear.

Carla’s at the wheel, I’m in the back with the cats. All is well with the world!

And then it was serious nose-to-the-grindstone driving first to Fort Stockton, TX (Candlewood Suites), then to Las Cruces, NM (The Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre):

An unforgettable Golden Globes was the main event in New Mexico this trip!

and finally our last day on the road, winding up in Tucson, Arizona at last!  It’s always great to be off the road and have a place to settle into for a good long stay. We are endlessly grateful to Carla and her husband Michael for making their guest house available to us so generously year after year.

Overwhelmed by bags, but thrilled to be back “home”!

I’ll post noteworthy animal appearances or field trips (if any) as the season progresses.  Mostly, however, we are looking forward to a warm, quiet winter.  Bye for now!

 

 

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The Road up till now …

It’s been one of those road trips with few notable events or features, so I’ll skip the details and just let the pictures do the talking …

A brand new standard in “cat friendly”!

The Algonquin Hotel, St. Andrews, New Brunswick:  A whole new standard in “Cat Friendly”!  The cats chose to sleep elsewhere, but the provision of plush beds and individual little ceramic bowls blew the competition out of the water!  And on the human side, every comfort was provided, including what still stands out as the best dinner of the trip to date: a filo-gift-wrapped piece of halibut on the smoothest ever bed of creamed parsnip with shaved brussels sprouts on the side — delicious!

Period decor makes Catherine extremely nervous!

The Garrison Inn, Newburyport, Massachusetts, named after a local journalist and self-described agitator, offered lovely antiques and displays of pretty china, making Catherine feel like a bull in a china shop, literally!  The room wasn’t great for access, but we made it work.  Murray and Joy said the town itself was lovely to walk around in, but it was way too cold for us to venture out, so they brought me take-out and we got through the night.  For me, the highlight was waking up early and discovering a whole big book about William Garrison, titled “All on Fire”, about his personal struggle to bring the practice of slavery out of the genteel acceptability of his mid-19th century society into the bright light of moral outrage where it deserved to be.  I managed to read the introduction before Catherine woke up and our travelling day began.  However, I plan to actually read the book:  https://www.amazon.ca/All-Fire-William-Garrison-Abolition/dp/0393332365/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514899424&sr=1-2&keywords=All+on+fire

After that, the rooms and lobbies and luggage trips in and out of this or that motel blur in memory:

Residence Inn by Marriott,  Trenton, NJ (just off the turnpike)

The Quality Inn, South Hill, Virginia (The only really yucky one of the bunch)

Country Inn and Suites, Anderson, South Carolina (You would definitely expect a warming up of the weather by now, but no such luck — still freezing cold!!)

Joy learned about iPad Scrabble

Murray’s driving was stellar!

We dropped Murray and Joy off at the Atlanta airport, bidding them farewell, then carried on just the two of us for several days, until Carla joins us in Austin, TX for the final sprint to the Arizona sunshine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Westin, Birmingham, Alabama (Finally a nice luxurious hotel for our New Years Eve!  Still cold, so we celebrated by hunkering down early and watching two pay-per-view movies to bring us to the midnight hour.  The New Year arrived in style!)

 

All — including cats — set up for movie night!

Please don’t judge us harshly on our choice of movies!

And finally, Jackson, Mississippi (And my first digestive disaster of the trip — hopefully my last!!  Turned out to be just indigestion, but last night it felt like possible food poisoning!!  No worries, though, by this morning things were totally fine!)  We will be here for one extra night, giving the cats a welcome respite from road travel, and giving ourselves a chance to visit the new Jackson Civil Rights Museum which opened last month.  The event made the news because museum management invited white supremacist DJT to speak at the opening — a controversial invitation to say the least!  We will try to get there today, but the darned weather is not cooperating.  At least it’s dry, but the cold is not letting up!!

What we left and where we’re headed.

We are SOOOO looking forward to our final destination!

Just us now …

Schooling two new folks in the ways of the disabled traveller.

… and the travellers health insurance card, just in case it DID turn out to be food poisoning!  But phew!  It didn’t.

 

 

 

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Southbound 2017

We’re off on our seventh annual excursion to Tucson, Arizona from Baxters Harbour, Nova Scotia.  (We missed last year for reasons of political revulsion, but decided this year  not to give DJT the power to spoil our fun.)

Santa_and_Rudolph_in_a_Dory, by Rick Graham, Baxters Harbour, NS

Santa and Rudolph came to us in their little balsa-wood dory just as we were packing up to leave — hand-made and hand-delivered by a local gentleman who makes these and other delights.

 

We were keeping an eye on the weather report, because the thought of trying to get up our steep driveway in the predicted Christmas Day blizzard was out of the question for me.  Murray, our driver, and his companion, Joy, were not available to start the trip until Boxing Day, so I convinced Catherine that it would be great to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a nice cozy hotel where someone else would cook for me and we could watch Christmas movies to our hearts’ content — start the big trip nice and relaxed for a change.

Christmas eve. Not what I had in mind!

But my romantic fantasy bumped up against a hard-edged modernity and a service-free ethic at the Alt Hotel at Halifax airport.  The checking in procedure was mysterious, there was nobody to help me with our ridiculous amount of luggage, the accessible room was designed for someone with no need for a Hoyer lift to get into bed, so Catherine was going to have to sleep in her chair, and last but not least, there was no restaurant — just a self serve cafeteria with a microwave and sandwich press.  Oh brother, not at all what I had in mind!

 

 

A strange but ultimately OK Christmas Day

Still Christmas came, as it inevitably does and I flipped my Happy Switch, found an open airport Starbucks for breakfast, and a pub-type restaurant where I could order a yummy meal of seared scallops and seafood fettuccine for my Christmas dinner, and we settled in to watch one of our favourite Christmas movies with its airport love theme — and all was well.  The hotel managed to find a cot for Catherine to sleep on the second night, and it all turned out OK.

 

 

 

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Thoughts on innovative leadership

Thoughts on innovative leadership (in the middle of the night)

Four people want to lead a political party.
Only one can win.
OR
ALL FOUR CAN WIN
And share the glory and the responsibility
Equally and cooperatively.
We need not choose between principles and power.
We need only find ways of exercising principled power in a feminist way.

All four candidates believe in reforming the electoral system such that every vote counts and nobody is left out.
All four believe in repairing our broken relations with First Nations
All four believe in restoring our strong peace-promoting voice on the international stage.
All four believe in strong labour unions and basic limits on poverty.
All four like and respect each other.

And yet we, as voters, are expected to choose to elevate one above the others
Because that’s the way patriarchal systems have always been organized.
But we are not about maintaining patriarchal systems, are we?
We are not about maintaining colonial values and methods, are we?
We are not about destroying capitalism and replacing it with communism, are we?
No we’re not.

We have a better idea.
Let’s support each other in sickness and in health.
Let’s encourage each other’s ideas as long as they’re GOOD ideas that benefit the earth and all of her creatures, including but not limited to humans.
Let’s redirect our boundless energy and creativity into activities, products, systems, negotiations, arrangements that reward without punishing.
Let’s harness the sun, the wind, the heat of the earth
And bend our minds to the noble task of healing the enormous wounds we’ve caused and perpetuated in our short time on earth as a species.

Now realistically one little third-place political party in a middle power country like Canada
May not appear to be well-placed to lead the world into this still-young millennium
BUT someone, somewhere, sometime — before it’s too late and all opportunities to arrest the current race to destruction are lost — someone, sometime, somewhere, well-placed or not
Simply has to make a start.
Why not us? Why not here? Why not now?

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Staying home

I wanted our first winter in our newly renovated place to be a happy choice — a decision to hunker down and really settle in.  Christmas lights, crackling fires, snowy branches, deer strolling by, creative projects unfolding in the studio, book chapters being written, all in calm, peaceful serenity.  Sure there were little worries about steep driveway access and too much snow to handle, but on the other hand there would be rewards for sticking it out through the long months, eventually to watch colour return and the branches bud out in the inevitable spring.

Our home, perched halfway down a long steep slope towards the Bay of Fundy.

Our home, perched halfway down a long steep slope towards the Bay of Fundy.

But the decision to stay here cannot be characterized as a “happy choice”.  Rather, it is a choice to avoid a repulsive situation:  an America that democratically elected a fascist.

Like never before, I fear for our safety.  But that’s not all of it.  I am repelled by Trump and his followers.  I am repelled by knowing that to get to Arizona we have to drive through town after town, state after state, where the studied, hard-won tolerance of the last 5 decades is no longer respected.  Women are not respected.  People with disabilities are not respected.  Black and brown-skinned people are not respected.  Lesbians, gay men and their loving relationships are not respected.  The “winners” are empowered to gloat, goad and harm the “losers”.  And I just don’t want to be there while all of that is going on.

My heart goes out to our American friends.  I will miss seeing them.  I will send them positive thoughts and wish them well.  But I cannot join them there.  The million-woman march calls to me; Standing Rock calls to me.  In my heart I stand and march with them, but I will stay home.

Maybe only this year.  By next year, maybe things will cool down.  Maybe by next year, Trump will recant a lot of his scandalous rhetoric and settle into seriously governing the country.  Probably not.  But maybe by next year, school principals will figure out how to explain to kids that it’s not OK to be mean to their fellow students just because the President just tweeted this or that mean thing.  Maybe in the long run, it’s good that the authority of the Oval Office will be diminished in that undignified way.  Maybe kids will learn that following a leader’s lead is optional, and that they can, instead rely on their own innate sense of justice, or listen to their mom or their principal instead.  Maybe they’ll learn to think for themselves.  Maybe they’ll find a way to make amends to the brown-skinned kid or the kid with cerebral palsy.  Maybe.  But I worry.

My Tucson friend Naomi challenged all of us to “reflect love… reflect the contradictions … mirror the now” in response to this Nina Simone video:  http://thetab.com/us/2016/11/21/nina-simone-interview-inspiration-need-right-now-55708.

Can I rise to that challenge?   I want to knuckle down and try …

 

 

 

 

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