bogey & ruby

bogey & ruby

Sunday, October 26, 2014


I unfriended two facebook friends this week-end, a rare occurrence for me.

One is of no consequence, a random facebook dude I kept bumping into via the posts of a mutual friend. He seemed harmless enough initially but as it turns out, he is a right-winged anomaly amid a sea of lefties, his main purpose in life being to goad liberals into his pit of self-perpetuating nastiness. Indeed, he is the sad and pathetic lone troll of his own facebook posts.

The second person I unfriended however is someone I know personally. It happened as a result of two separate but equally hateful posts from her that showed up on my newsfeed suggesting: 1) that niqab-wearing Muslims could very well be terrorists and 2) if they ("they" presumably referring to niqab-wearing Muslims) don't like it here they should "insert expletive here" go to back to their own countries.

Not surprisingly, the awful circumstances, media hype and government reaction surrounding the recent killings of two Canadian soldiers have fanned the flames of intolerance. Mention the word terror and the usual suspects appear. Not the ones bearing rifles mind you, but rather the ones who, like predictable Pavlovian-trained dogs, fire up their self-righteous, narrowminded views and post them publicly, grammar mistakes and all.

For a refreshingly different take on these events, read this and this and this.

I wrote about the upsetting posts to a good friend of mine. He replied with a question, "Are you still friends with that racist?". Which made me stop and think because if being a facebook follower counts then yes, I was still friends with her. And for that matter, did I really consider her to be a racist?

I asked my son to pull out the list of words he was studying for his grade five Ethics and Religious Cultures course. Words like value, self-esteem, prejudice, discrimination and open-mindedness. He knew the definitions of these words by heart which pleased me but suddenly I wondered if he really understood them.

I was confused. Not to mention the two words I really wanted to clarify were not even on his list. I looked up the word racist first and wasn't convinced. Then I looked up bigot. Bigot, "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially :  one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance". This fit the profile better than racist.

I thought back to the words my son had memorized and hoped he would not learn about racism and bigotry the way I had, being on their receiving end. Having your peers tell you "go home Paki" when you're only seven years old gouges the psyche. Being pre-judged for no other reason than the colour of my skin was probably the most defining moment of my life. No doubt, it's exactly the same feeling as being judged, hated, called a terrorist, or told to go back to your own country, for any other outwardly religious or cultural difference. It hurts. It maims. Sometimes it even kills. On this issue, there is no grey zone for me. I find it immoral, unconscionable, unjustifiable. I will not tolerate it.

So what's the solution if I can't change the world with loving kindness and peaceful intent? For starters, I can take a stand and dissociate myself from some of the ugliness on the net. I can take back control and stop the propagation of these hateful memes on my newsfeed.

Living an authentic life requires removing the pieces that don't fit, and that includes people whose core values are diametrically opposite to mine. What I did was the right thing for me, for my family and for peaceful niqab-wearing Muslims everywhere. I unfriended the bigot.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Eye To Eye

I was at the local grocery store the other day when an elderly lady in the canned goods aisle flagged me down in a panic and asked me if I could reach a can of something fishy from the top shelf. I looked her in the eye ... directly in the eye ... almost at eye level and asked, "Are you serious?". On the tip of my toes, I reached up to the cans of something fishy that were stock-piled in fours, removed the top three and lowered them ever-so-gently while she, who could be me in thirty years but only if I start my yoga practice right away and take calcium supplements and eat cans of something fishy on a regular basis to prevent shrinkage, steadied me from behind with two hands and a very large black patent pocketbook, its gold clasp digging into my lower back. "I only need one.", she said firmly. I placed the other two cans of something fishy on the shelf that was at eye level. We smiled at our respective pocketbook reflections. Then she thanked me and I promptly forgot all about my can of something fishy and whatever else I had gone down that aisle to get in the first place.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Compassion: " put ourselves in somebody else's shoes, to feel her pain as though it were our own, and to enter generously into his point of view. Compassion can be defined, therefore, as an attitude of principled, consistent altruism."~ Karen Armstrong from Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

I went on a home visit today and found the client, who was discharged from hospital five days ago, in a state of complete and utter despair. Because of bureaucracy and budget cuts, her case worker has to wait a week before presenting this client's basic quality of care needs to a manager. And even then, there is no guarantee she will get services.

I find it appalling that qualified healthcare professionals have to justify why a handicapped client sitting in her own bodily functions needs help. Unfortunately, it's the higher-ups sitting in their offices that wield the power. I'm not saying they're all without empathy. But there is a necessary detachment that is only possible as one moves up the management ladder, further away from the human story.

I truly wish it were the other way around. A process whereby deciding to veto services makes THEM accountable to the client. And while they're explaining things to the client, to my client, might as well hand her that box of Kleenex as she weeps in humiliation.

I did not do a physiotherapy evaluation today. Instead, I held out a box of Kleenex and rummaged for facecloths and towels and garbage bags. I cleaned up a mess that started out as a rumour and is now a big fat lie.

I'll probably get in trouble for this post. I don't care. The Hippocratic oath I took years ago trumps any loyalty I may have to my employer.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I will not be silent about things that matter.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Top 75%

Remember that cross-country race my son ran a week ago? Well, the results are in and he made it into the top 75%! More specifically, he placed 348th out of 458 runners in his age category. Woo hoo!

He was so afraid he might be dead last that I decided to explain what a claim to fame was. I have quite the collection of famous claims myself, not to mention my "hair on fire" photo in a museum in LA.  Perhaps it will be on a greeting card one day. 

I digress ...

My boy was thrilled with his virtual 348th place ribbon. So thrilled, he is sleeping with the print-out, probably dreaming of strategies to improve his pace of 5.39 minutes per kilometre.

As for me, I am relieved and happy. I am also very grateful he goes to a school that promotes physical activities in a positive and non-threatening way so that children with motor challenges like my son feel comfortable participating.

You don't have to come in first to win the race.

So run Sean, run. Run like the wind.

The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

-- Bob Dylan

I am so proud of you. xo

Monday, October 13, 2014


Where I work, everyone wants to walk. But those who want to walk the most are the ones who, for reasons of illness, progressive degenerative disease or injury, can no longer walk.
I remember asking a young paraplegic client of mine if he ever dreamed about walking. "All the time.", he said. He also kept up to date on the latest research in spinal cord injuries and knew exactly how much it would cost to get the latest walking devices such as Rewalk. What's a mere $70 000 if it means you can walk again?

There are huge physiological and psychological benefits to walking, to any weight bearing activity really. Sometimes though, the damage to the neurological system is too severe, and the connections between motor cortex and muscles are no longer viable. In spite of this, there is often a discrepancy between what the clinician knows (prognosis) and what the patient believes (hope). The physiotherapy evaluation then becomes confrontational as we ask the client to perform certain functional movements, only to have them realize they are no longer able to.

After thirty years in the field, I can usually predict what the outcome is going to be. Then there are those times I am proven wrong. In this context, I love being wrong, being put in my place by a universe that knows better than me. Miracles, albeit small ones, can and do occur and clients who were slated to spend the rest of their days wheelchair-bound rise up to pat me on the head. Yep, once in a while the complacency of experience is humbled by a little upheaval.

Last week, one of those very miracles stood up for the first time since her stroke three years ago, from the geriatric chair she is mechanically lifted into everyday. She then walked with a walker at least three meters down the hallway of the private residence where she lives. The first thing she said when she looked over at me was,"Gee, I feel so tall!". On the other side, her devoted husband couldn't stop beaming and kissing her. Her private caregiver filmed the whole thing from behind (thankfully cutting off the back of my bad hair day). And the staff of the residence cheered her on.

It was the kind of moment you live for as a physiotherapist, the convergence of an entire career into that one incredible feat. There was joy, there was gratitude, and there was reverence for the powers that be, the ones that allowed the damaged neurones to find their way again.

Accepting the prognosis may make it easier for some to cope. It certainly relieves the discomfort of healthcare workers faced with the sometimes unrealistic and cost-inefficient demands of clients. I mean, facts are science, right? Facts and truth. Yet there is also hope, and hope is something I refuse to take away from my clients, especially when it's the only thing getting them through the day. Because of that hope (I give credit where it's due), the universe occasionally offers up a big fat juicy miracle. And when it does, I bow in awe to its magnificence.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

I is for ...

'Tween moon glow
And the dawning
I waken to a light on
His eyes on me
They shine on
The love for him
They see.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cross-Country Race

I haven't taken any sick leave in over a year, the incentive being an extra paycheck for unused days, right before Christmas. As it happens, tomorrow I will take a couple of hours off to watch my son participate in a cross-country race. Because he asked me to.

He hasn't been training for long. In fact, it's only been once a week for the past month, at school, before classes start in the morning. I like those days because I get to the office early after dropping him off and feel like we are both getting a productive start to the day.

Truthfully, I could do without the race but it is included with the activity fee, tee shirt and all.

I want my son to run because he can already put one foot in front of the other and running simply means doing so at a faster pace. It's what the literature recommends for DCD kids. Activities that involve reciprocal movements of the arms and/or legs such as swimming, cycling or running. Of these three activities, running is the only one he can do with relative ease. We have been working on swimming in an adapted program for the past seven years. Cycling, the past four. It's been exhausting for all of us but particularly for him, because the gains are so slow in coming and he is so behind in everything. Deep breath, mummy. One day at a time.

I decided the best strategy was to prepare him both physically and mentally for not winning the race, even though I know he secretly wishes he would. So we have been training on my treadmill, trying to improve his individual time and speed, without having to compare himself to others. We've also been working with the occupational therapist on things like technique and breathing.

The most difficult part however, is the mental preparation. It takes incredible persistence on his part to learn a new motor skill let alone improve upon it. And even with all his hard work, the payoff is at best, mediocrity, all of which take a toll on his self-esteem. "I suck" or "I'm not good at that" is a pretty common refrain these days and while I don't feed into it, we do discuss how he feels about things. So the challenge is to avoid setting him up for failure and to find a deeper meaning to the race, something that will stay with him longer than any medal would, long after the runner's high has faded.

I hope the race is a positive experience for him and that running remains an activity he can pursue long term for all its health benefits.

I will be watching the race with my heart in my throat tomorrow, cheering for my boy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014