Saturday, 20 July 2013

My mistress

I realised that Stratford Festival in particular, theatre in general, is my mistress. I'm ok with that.  Stratford makes me think, makes me prioritize, puts my heart on my sleeve to rediscover what has been hidden for so long. Stratford gives me a hug when I need it. It kicks me in the gut when I need it, too. It never disappoints me and fills my heart with hope.

There are far worse things I could be doing far worse things with my life. Plus, I almost always have one of my kids with me. It's not as if I am abandoning them while I am off cavorting. I think I have only been to Stratford twice this summer alone. One was for Romeo and Juliet. The other was Tommy.

Plus, the youngest had their play, The Grunch, until just before school ended. This week, 3/4 kids volunteered for Driftwood Theatre's Bard's Bus Tour. They were ushers, greeters, and helped Steven at the concession stand. Oh, Cordelia loved helping and being around someone who let her be her, and let her help out. She had a blast.

It is a great season so far at Stratford. The boy who played Charlie Bucket last year in their production of Willy Wonka plays one of the 10 year old Tommy's. Luke played his dad last year. I still need to take the kids to see him. I had to see it first. With a molestation scene, and 10 year old Tommy being brought to a prostitute by his dad, I had to make sure they'd be ok with seeing Josh up there. It's pretty benign, those scenes. I still need to bring them. Dakota was on stage with Josh, too, in The Music Man.

Tommy itself is quite the spectacle (don't see it if you have a concussion). The singing is extraordinary. Jeremy Kushnier has a most incredible voice. Well, all of the cast does. Paul Nolan, who played Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar, plays Cousin Kevin is fantastic. He is quite versatile. Kira Kuloien as Mrs Walker has the poise of a mother of that time. She's hopeful and gentle with Tommy (Josh). I adore her. And wow - is she beautiful! And, of course, there is Lee Siegel. We love Lee.

Romeo and Juliet has grown on me. Cordelia had tweeted Antoni Cimolino last year requesting Stratford to do it this season. Coincidence? She takes all the credit. We saw the show May 1 in all her glory. Jonathan Goad is perfection as Mercutio. Sara Topham is adorable and heartbreaking as Juliet. Daniel Briere is a wonderful Romeo (and quite the rock star at the stage door - great hair cut). Kate Hennig plays The Nurse in all her daftness incredibly well. Antoine Yared`s Paris is fantastic. I always thought of Paris as a bit of a priss, but he doesn`t play him like that at all. Tyrone Savage plays Tybalt. I don`t think there are many actors at Stratford with his swagger and projection. I love watching him onstage.

I`ve seen this play 2 more times since May. The third time I was struck dumb. I don`t know what changed, but it became magical on that stage. It`s like fairy dust from Queen Mab was sprinkled over it. It has more finesse, but also much more heart. It captivated me like I didn't expect.

The Three Musketeers is good fun. it starts off with the sound of a sword fight. In my family, that demands attention and begs to be seen multiple times. Luke Humphrey knocked my socks off as D'Artangnan. It's a great show for children of all ages, like the circus, except here, it's costumes and swords and love - not clowns (thank goodness). It's great to see Mike Shara on stage again. Cordelia really to a liking to him in The Matchmaker last year.

Going back to my childhood, Blithe Spirit was one of the first plays I saw with my mom. It is the show I was most looking forward to this season. It certainly did not disappoint. Seana McKenna can do no wrong. As Madame Arcati - wow. I will only ever see her in the role from now on. Michelle Giroux (possibly distant relative because my maiden name is Giroux - she's also Graham Abbey's wife) was out of this world (no pun intended). The command she has of her voice, the tones of her voice, lead me along like a puppy after treats. Sara Topham (young Juliet in R&J) transformed herself into an angry and controlling wife by play's end. I want to steal her costumes. Well, the patterns of her costumes. It was also funny seeing Ben Carlson be picked on by 2 very strong female characters. I want to go back.

I want to go back to Blithe, but I need (read NEEEED) to go back to Waiting for Godot. I won tickets and took Luke, who is almost 12. It was his turn to go since his siblings had already been this season. I had trepidation bringing him to a Samuel Beckett play, but I am very glad I did. Godot is a master class in acting. It got my heart racing (Randy Hughson). Made me cry (my favourite from last year as Pistol, the Swooney Tom Rooney). Made me raging mad (Brian Dennehy). Made me wince and feel melancholy (Steven Ouimette).  And my Luke? He got it. He understood the play.

I've been going to theatre my entire life, except for maybe the first 5 or 6 years. This is by far, the best production I have seen. I wish I was a wordsmith. I knew by the cast that it was going to be a remarkable production, but in my imagination (and I have a large and healthy imagination), I could not have envisioned anything close to this. When can I go back?

A note about our trips to stage doors. Actors and actress at Stratford are kind, patient, and very loving to the kids when I bring them to the doors (I never go by myself). I see it that the kids need to understand that they actors aren't their characters (important for Cordelia last year after 42nd Street and Sean Arbuckle). The kids can ask questions, which sounds pretty basic. But, if you are a child, or a shy teenager, speaking to the stars of show takes courage, takes them out of their safety zone. While I may be the one who starts the conversation with the actor/actress, they always turn the conversation to the kids, without fail. I love them for that. Sure, I get my own questions in and make small talk, too, but the focus is on the kids and them. It teaches them that actors or actresses really are just regular people with high profile jobs. They encourage the kids to keep up their acting (Tom Rooney made sure to get Luke talking about doing Shakespeare) and they encourage me to keep bringing the kids.

Theatre teaches so many things about life, important lessons that people would be hard pressed to learn in more singular professions. Teamwork (cast AND crew), trust, learning about others you work with, or on the pages of the plays, being ready and available, reliability, fun...the list goes on. We have never met anyone who has not been patient, even if they were in a rush. The kids learn that they are important to people. That people will listen and take the time to get to know them. And thank them for coming.  The kids will remember that feeling more than anything, I would wager. They have their favourites - all of them.

I'm off to play a board game with the eldest boys and my mom. We are going to play crokinole. That is a blast from the past. I don't think I've played since I was 12. This should be fun. Next post will be about Driftwood Theatre and what we are doing in Kids4Bard this year. We are having a BLAST!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Long night's journey into day

Life has changed for the better. Decisions which I made a year ago, I am now seeing fruit and life is wonderful. I am not saying things are easy by any means - no one has an easy go in life. The home life I have with my children is full of peace and contentment, ignoring, of course, the inherent nature of those waving teenage years. Life is good.

I feel a bit odd sharing very personal information, but I also feel a need to share my journey. I am not sharing to look for pity or sympathy. I share because maybe someone else feels stuck. Maybe someone else feels low and is barely hanging on.

I do not regret my marriage...not because of the incredible children which came from it, but rather because what I came away from it with: strength, dignity, some self-worth (still working on that), knowledge about mental health issues, boundaries, compassion...knowing where to end it.

You see, my ex-husband was patient, kind, caring, patient, and loving when we married. I had a list of desirable traits I wanted in a husband, and he had everything on that list. I felt blessed and very lucky. No one asked me out in high school. Not that I was ugly (hopefully). I was told by a few of my crushes after high school graduation that they were too scared or nervous to ask me out. One, Darren, even had the audacity to say he wanted to take me to prom, but thought I would say no. Darren was a dear friend who was also tall, dark, dimpled, and gorgeous - easily the best looking guy at school. When he told me that he wanted to ask me to prom (he said that the following summer) but did not, I punched him in the gut. I thought no one wanted me. I thought I was ugly or undesirable. The date I had at prom was awful. I really should have just went by myself. I would have had a far better time.

I also was told 5 years ago (2008) that I was the only one in high school that had no enemies, that people wanted to be their better selves when they were around me. The president of the student council and the most popular person in the school told me that. I thought she hated me.

So, when my ex asked me out, I felt special. I felt wanted. He treated me great! He bought me hockey cards, baked me cookies, sat on my bed while I wrote my final essays for university with no compaints. He even listened to Into the Woods with hardly a complaint. None. I felt like I found someone who would give me unending support in my career, whatever I thought that would be. He loved watching me be me.

Except when we traveled by car. We always had to listen to his music, which I kind of liked because it was broadening my musical tastes. Plus, he did not like my singing, especially the high notes. I gave him a headache. The bugger. I can sing, not good enough to be onstage, but I can sing. He .... could not. Still cannot. But I held my tongue because he was so patient and kind and helpful. Love is blind...I thought the trade-offs were worth it.

Things started taking a turn 3 years into the marriage. I feel like such a sap. But you see, my mom has a mental health issue. The way the ex started to treat me was not so different as she treated me. It felt normal to me. While what the ex did was more severe than my childhood, it breaks down simply, to this

If you do not do or wear or watch or go _____________________ then you do not love me. And I will tell you how that makes me feel until I go too far.

Of course, they were not this straightforward. It was not so blatant. There was much manipulation. Much control. Much guilt.

I realised I was being emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially abused only 8 years ago, but it felt wrong. The ex-to-be loved me. He only wanted what was best...I came to realise that was wrong in the months and years which passed.

I have actually been working on this stage of my life for over 4 years, 4 years out of 15. I feel stupid.

8 years ago, the ex was diagnosed with a mental health disorder, which, when looked at in a certain light, made complete sense of his actions. There were the grandiose thoughts (seen as me always being wrong), the spending sprees, the bursts of energy, or the complete absence of energy. It made the control and manipulation almost look reasonable.

So I waited...I waited for the right medication, the right dose, the right therapist. I waited for him to be ready for marriage counseling. I had sympathy for him while he ran from it (counselling) - 3X.

Then I heard, it was always my fault because in counseling, all the issues in the marriage revolved around his actions towards the kids and I. He said he was not ready to face his failures. So I had to wait. Again.

The last time that happened was 2012. I knew it was going to be my last attempt at fixing us. I kept that to myself because I wanted to see a real change in him because he wanted to change, not because I was going to file for divorce (as happened before). But again, I heard it was all my fault, that yes, he had failings, but I had to be patient and help him through it.

Not anymore.

I got my life in order and he moved out complete with guilt trips, manipulations, threats...but they held no weight anymore. I was free.

The sun rose on the new life I worked so hard to ensure for my kids, who also had their share of control and guilt from their dad, but that is their story to tell. It was hell for them. For years, I lacked strength to protect them - I was depleted. One day, after a particularly bad verbal tirade by the ex, my then 11 year old son looked at me and said, "Mom, why didn't you protect me?"

That is still the worst moment of my life. I will carry that failure with me forever.

From that moment, I have worked to ensure he knows that I am protecting him - protecting him with everything in my arsenal.

In no way has this past year been easy but damn it all - it is worth it. I would love to have started this journey years ago, but I lacked strength. I have worked long and hard on filling up my spirit to get to this point. I could not have done it earlier.

Now, the house has no more egg shells. When you walk in the doors, it feels different. It's as if you can actually feel the peace which dwells here. There are no more fears of talking about nonsensical things. No more fears of giving a differing opinion. No more fear of singing.

No more fears.

The sun has risen on a new day...a new life without fear of being me. A new life where my kids feel no fear within our walls.

And it is just beginning...

Sunday, 31 March 2013

I really am reading

I don't have access to a computer. It's hard to type a whole blog on my phone.

Right now, I'm reading Duddy Kravitz. I haven't read it since high school. It is surprising how much I remember in 25 years - and how much I forgot. A man without land is nobody. How twisted that became in Duddy's head.

I also read: A Handmaiden's Tale for the first time. But that was back in November! A very feminist book, to be sure, but makes you look at our culture and society differently, especially from my mind as a midwife. The birth scene was powerfully written. I discovered myself humming along with them.

Waiting for Godot: huh...not quite sure what to say about this. There are some excellent one liners that ring true in life. Stratford is putting it on this year. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe it will be like Shakespeare where it is best understood live?

Who Has Seen the Wind? I have always adored this book. What I remember most is the gopher tail scene. It breaks my heart how it is written.

A Long Day's Journey into Night. First time. Wow! I loved this. There are some great quotes to live by. I'll post them later. A brilliant play that shows very clearly the downward spiral of mental illness and addictions. Incredible.

Let's see: Romeo & Juliet (I don't know how many times), Measure for Measure (1st time), Merchant of Venice (2nd time, first time in almost 30 years -grade 8).

I read more, but I can't remember right now. OH!! Our Babies, Ourselves. It looked at evolution, biology, culture & society and how they each mould our outlook on life. Western society is incredibly self-centred, egotistical, and against what our biology has programmed us to be. Awesome read! Changed me. We need to stop looking at cultural practises from a Western viewpoint which makes us look "right" and them "wrong." It's so good...

I also read 2 full Thornton Wilder plays:: The Matchmaker & Our Town. I tried to read By the Skin of Our Teeth...I truly tried but found it unreadable. I made it to the 2nd half. I had such hopes for it when it had a talking dinosaur...I could not finish it.

I think that's it for now.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Back to my Reading

The title of my blog is Inspiteofmyreading. I have been doing a lot of reading, it's just not apparent from my pitiful posts so far this winter...and fall, too, I suppose. I do have a life outside of Stratford's season. Honestly. It has taken me a while to get into my groove, fill that void. There's reading, went through a Simple Plan stage (Save You is in my top 5 songs of all time probably because it is the song that rings truest to my heart and life), but also I've started watch - GASP - Canadian tv on CBC. I had no idea we had such wonderful shows on our government funded television (outside This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report - among the funniest shows I've ever watched - watch skits on Youtube).

And my dear kids keep me sane....mostly: 2 teens and 2 tweens are the best of me and get the better of me.

I know I've complained that I don't get enough time on a computer to write. I am books/plays behind in my posting. I need to make this a priority. I feel like I have to reread the books I've read since November again because I forget what moved me. And, as usual, I have lots to say about them (Handmaid's Tale was a great read from the birthing eyes of mine) plus A Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Who Has Seen the Wind, and the Shakespeare always flitting around in the back.

High school English is now completed for Dakota. He didn't get to read Merchant of Venice nor and novels by any Canadians (Richler, Atwood, Davies, etc). I guess that will be up to me to have him read. My little library has slowly been growing in size the past couple of months, so there will be lots of books to read.

Braeden seemed to easily get into his English, minus memorizing lines from the Bard.  He learned a lot reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish he had written down how he felt while reading it.

Luke & Cordelia are working their way through Romeo & Juliet: sword fighting and romance are perfect for both of them. I wonder if Cordelia realizes they die at the end yet?

So, to stop my unblogging of books I read, I decided to work on the most recent, then work back.

And this brings me to today. I finished a fantastic book by the equally fantastic Brian Haner. He is Artist Formerly Known as Guitar Guy, from Jeff Dunham's show.

Brian has always been a favourite of ours. We've tried a couple of times to see him when he's been in our area with Dunham to no avail due to PR responsibilites. But he was always sweet to us by email. When we had our fire, I asked him if he wouldn't mind sending a donation for a fundraiser (when there was one planned for us) and we received the aigned cds before we moved into our more permanent home. The kids were ecstatic. We saw Brian & Jeff in Toronto (Brian played O Canada behind his back - buy it on iTunes!), plus Jeff and I saw them in Buffalo. Word of advice - don't see a comedian on the same tour twice. It's really not as funny the second time.

The kids & I also posted a video for Brian's "Grandma was a Racist" with the kids singing it to my mom. The quality is horrible. The house is a mess but we had fun. Geeze, Cordelia may have been 5 or 6. The song is hilarious and makes some great points about how words can stay with you, but they don't have to control who you become...and revenge is sweet!

A week after the fire, Jeff up and left - well, there's a lot to that story, but I won't divulge it here.  Mental illness is ... well, I won't swear here either. Jeff was supposed to meet up with us for Thanksgiving, but backed out. His dad was in his last days in Hospice. I don't know if he went to see his dad or not. I just know I had 4 broken hearted children who needed some fun in their lives.

We went for a drive to Long Point, Ontario, it's a world biosphere protected zone or something like that. While we were driving, we listened to Brian's Fistfight  At the Wafflehouse.  "Thanksgiving" made us almost pee ourselves, knowing that even if we were having a screwy holiday, there probably were other families in worse states than us. I'm pretty sure we listened to the entire album, twice, even with innocent little ears in the van. We had plans to do another video for SpongeBob, got away from us. We laughed and that's all that mattered. I took a few great pictures that day, with smiles on their faces. These are my favourites:

Dakota and Braeden were camera shy. Shy is not in Cordelia's vocabulary.

We had a good Thanksgiving with a family from church whose extended family had children the same ages as ours. SO much food! It was a great day filled with laughter and love. Come to think of it, we had 2 Turkey Days...the people who put us up after the fire (or put up with us) fed us with as much love as food. We were very blessed that holiday weekend.

Anyway, that's our brief history with Brian Haner :-)

A few months ago, he released another book (he wrote Carney Man, too, but I've been nervous to read that one), called Ginny Reb.

You have to understand that Brian is a comedian. I really didn't know what to expect, other than in a tweet he mentioned that he was a history buff.

Brian wrote this book, from a young woman's point of view about her life during the Civil War. I love the Civil War and history (yes, I even took a couple of US history classes in University because, let's face it, American history is more exciting than Canadian - but I think Russia has us both beat: Russian history class was awesome).

Ginny Reb is a mixture of Titus Andronicus, Cymbeline, Mulan, and Somewhere in Time. Strange but wonderful. Ginny is a woman my daughter can look up to. I look up to her. She didn't need a knight on a white horse to save her. She saves herself - and the men, a real force to be reckoned with. I love her dearly.

The research Brian put into it...I can't imagine how long (question 1, Brian). The guns, clothes, battles, strategic lines - incredible detail - even down to what rations would be, how much ammo they'd carry.

But the book does not get bogged down in superfluous detail. It enriches the story. You can see the colour of the dirt, what the tents looked like, how soldiers treated those on or off their side.

This is where the book has its centre: it draws moral lines on the ground. It's not a book about right/wrong. It's a book about how an environment can change a person, how it can make the fight or flight response occur. Brian does an incredible job, not rationalising really, but explains how a person could become...more or less than who they really are. Circumstances happen in everyone's life where you need to make a choice - to die (inside, not just a physical death) or to fight (others, own instincts).

Question 2 to Brian would be, what side of the war was he trying to explain? It's not just about slavery. That is paramount in his writing - and in history. People focus on that, but it's about land, customs, societal norms...come to think of it, this is what the Idle No More movement is about, what First Nations rights are about. Hmmm...I'll think about that comparison some more and dissect my thoughts later.

There are some scenes which young eyes shouldn't read. I'll let Braeden read it. He's 15, but I wouldn't go younger than that. It's not graphic per se, it just kicks your heart in. I don't know how I'd recover from what happens to Ginny.

Question 3 - why didn't she open the letter? 4 - why no midwife (assuming they left when soldiers were coming in). 5 - Was there a women like this in that War?

Whatever you may think of Brian's music and lyrics, his portrayal of race relations is heart stopping, for good and bad. There is a scene in a church that brought tears to my eyes.

My mom raised me going to Emancipation Days in Amherstburg, Ontario. I worked at a museum which was said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. I was honoured to work there (odd story - my mom worked there 10 years prior!)

This book is a quick read, even with me playing board games with the kids in between chapters. It only took 2-3 days to read.

The story about the watch made me sigh. The story about the letter baffles me. There is a brutal rape scene - be warned. No vocabulary was given to describe what exactly was done but hearing the thoughts from her father during it ripped my heart out, then and after when it was ...I don't want to give away too much. There is always fallout from a rape. Brian really understood what he wrote, even if he's a man. How he could write about the consequences from a man's perspective, and a woman's...I don't know how he did it (question 7?). Well done, Brian. I've had to counsel women after a rape (kinda comes with my job). Their fears are well explained in Ginny Reb. It actually does a damn fine job of it. I'm afraid to ask Brian how he knows those emotions (as well as the men who did it, or supported her after). I don't think I want to know.

If you want to buy the book, please go to to order. It's only $15 and WELL worth the money. AND he will sign it for you. You will be happy you did. If there is a young woman in your life, buy it for her. Ginny is a great heroine for any girl to look up to.

I have some favourite quotes, but I'll post another day, very profound statements that I shared with the boys immediately. I have to find them again before Braeden starts in.

I'm almost inclined to buy Carney Man. That song has some risqué parts, innuendoes mostly, that I'm not sure I'd enjoy if expanded on in a book. I'm not a 50 Shades-typereader. But if the book is like this, sign me up!

The only parts missing for me were: no midwife, the breastfeeding (you'd have to read the book to understand). Also, I would have liked to have read the discussion between Ginny and General Lee. That would have been entertaining.

Remarkable book by a great person (we've only communicated by email or twitter - is he really who he says he is? LOL).

I asked Brian to sign the CD to the kids, but he signed the book for me. Wonderful surprise. Nya:weh, Brian.

Let me know if you read it. Then we can talk more openly.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

End of my season

I am so far behind my blogging. I don't have a computer of my own (first world problems) and I detest blogging when someone is awake. But, I'm afraid the month-gone visit to finish my season at Stratford will not have the exclamation point I was hoping it would.

Let me tell you about my friend, Mary. She and I, in the words of Anne of (won't you please call me Cordelia) Green Gables, is a bosom friend, in more than one sense. When we met, it was as if I had known her all my life. She just fit, you know what I mean? We met at the National Breastfeeding Conference in Toronto back in 2008 (hence, another meaning to 'bosom' friend, and I also spoke at that conference this year). We have been friends ever since. We are like 2 schoolgirls when we get together.

We don't see each other enough. Last year, the only time we saw each other was at - GASP - Camelot at Stratford, which just happened to be Cordelia's very first trip to Stratford. Otherwise, we have stolen a concert in Toronto together, gabbed away at other breastfeeding conferences, emailed, or texted.

Mary wrote her lactation consultant exam this summer, so she didn't have much time for relaxation while she was studying. I think I said something about needing a girl's day away as an award for finishing the exam. And, Stratford won our time away together.

But this day, it wasn't just the Festival we planned on enjoying - we intended to paint the town: find hidden bookshops, and resale stores...look for local stores which would steal our hearts...and eat.

These pursuits were accomplished and then some. We found gems everywhere we went - from the wonderful bookstores to quaint tea shops to a ... well, for lack of better word, a wiccan store (great place for Harry Potter type items), and inexpensive gifts for us and our children, an early start to Christmas shopping. shhhhh

Oh - the weather was sublime. Perfect. Late summer weather in October, but not too hot. We could not have scripted a more beautiful day away.

We, as human beings, need time away from everything. Women, especially, because we put ourselves on the bottom of life a lot of the time. We need time to charge our batteries, take stock in what happiness is to us and embrace it. It's healthy. We owe it to our families and ourselves to take that time just for us.

Our matinee was, "Much Ado About Nothing," which I was so happy I didn't miss (it closed just a couple of days later). It was so much fun. I adore Claire Lautier and Ben Carlson. It was a light play compared to Cymbeline and Henry V, but worth the wait. We had fun. [I actually had to check the birth day of Luke Humphrey because he, uh, knows how to dance, let's say. Eek. He's going to play Dartagnon next season (Three Muskateers). Hip hip hooray! That's a book I need to buy - next time I go to the Waterford Old Town Hall book sale.]

Miss Mary hadn't gotten her LC exam marks, as of that date. They came out earlier in the week. I tried to help her look it up during lunch, but we were missing the special code for her exam. She sent out some emails to people at work when the play started.

We sat in the very top row in the balcony and heard every word. It was a much quieter play than Henry - much less people walking in the background.

During intermission, out on the balcony with the sun streaming down on us, Mary received her code for the exam pass/fail. I knew how she felt - I was there last many years of work, hours studying to write the exam, co-workers eager and hoping you passed...she was too nervous to check, so I did it for her.

I will never forget the ecstatic look on my dear friend's face when I told her she passed. Relief, happiness, peace, bliss...I'm so glad that I was a part of it. When I found out my marks, I was alone in my office and ran to the main midwives' office, jumping up and down to the point where my supervisor (whose office was directly above) came down to find out what the emergency was.  Yes, I know how Mary felt...

With the feeling of imminent "what if" removed from us, we thoroughly (even more so?) enjoyed the second half.

Claire L helped Braeden to have an extremely happy birthday back in September, so he made her a special gift as thanks, which I gave her after the show. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of his final project. What he did was write her favourite Sonnet in Elvish. It was beautiful! He's got talent.

We found a great tea shop, and an olive oil place (chocolate olive oil, ladies!) before we headed to Down the Street for dinner. We had packed lunch, so we splurged a bit on dinner because Mary passed! And, we deserved it. If you haven't eaten there, go. Their menu is wonderful!

We gabbed and reminisced throughout dinner. She and I have never run out of things to discuss. But, I bet even silence would be great with her. It's been a while since I've had a close friend like her. We don't seem to have them like we do when we are children, do we? Why is that? Why do we let life get in the way?

Our evening show was, "The Matchmaker." I could have seen this show a dozen more times and I would have laughed as hard each time. Poor Mary, I think she ran out of kleenex. Our abs were sore from laughing so ferociously. If you missed this show, you really missed out. Stellar cast, hilarious script, clockwork comical timing, gorgeous costumes, men singing...(had to slip that in there).  Oh - and I finally met the dashing Mike Shara. He was quite wonderful. He'll be a Muskateer, too (hint hint).

If anyone remembers, waaaay back in the summer, I wrote I felt badly about what I construed as laughing at Josh Epstein when he asked me if Boing Boing was my first play in New York. Anyone remember? I wrote that I'd make it up somehow. I let Braeden's talent make it for me (thank you, Braeden). He wrote, in Elvish, "Studio 58" "Hop the Twig" and "Wait for Rain" for him. That I have pictures of, but not here. I'll post them later. I'm glad I was able to give it to Josh after the show because I didn't know then that he wasn't going to come back the next season. Ack! Since I really 'got into' Stratford the past 2 seasons, Josh has been there in my most favourite shows (Titus, Cymbeline, Matchmaker).

I just didn't think about him not being here. And not only him, but others are gone, too - like Cara. Oh, Cordelia did NOT take that news well at all. Poor girl. I'm just going to have to bribe Miss Cara to come back and help Kids4Bard one day, when she's not busy. Her career is shooting straight up. We'll have to wait a bit. And Josh is back in BC, where Cordelia wants to be (she was born there and has a very deep yearning to see it, since we moved back to Ontario when she was 7 months).

I still have yet to hear about my other favourites...Sean and Claire mostly. I hate wait.

I think The Matchmaker is a show I will go to the archives to watch when I'm old., not just to laugh again, but to reminisce about the days when I saw it. The day with my lovely Cordelia, dressed up like a princess, being treated like a princess, meeting Sean, Cara, Marilou, wearing Peggy's head piece...a day of perfection for my daughter - watching her watch "We're in the Money," will be one of the highlights of my life.

Then, the heavenly day with my mom, which I thought I'd never feel again.  The magic of theatre enveloping us, protecting us, binding us together like The Force...laughing with Cara, talking with Josh - having the light bulb go on that if it wasn't for my mom, I wouldn't have been in Stratford, then and there. The ride home where anything and nothing and everything was talked about with no regrets, no disillusionment, no hiding...I'll never forget that day.

Then, this day with Mary: making us a priority, giggling without a care in the world, finding treasures and treasures we had forgotten we had lost (resale stores will do that)...seeing her face, giving her the biggest hug in the world when I told her she passed...talking about life, boys, theatre, blessings, regrets...the perfect weather...It was the perfect day to end my season at Stratford.

Where will I be when I see it in the archives? Will my children be grown? What will they be doing? Will I be a grandma? What will I be doing, other than breasfeeding and midwifing? Will I feel peace and happiness in every aspect of my life? Will there be a Cornelius Hackl to my Irene Milloy? Will my children's dreams be fulfilled? Will mine be realised?

All I believe is that whatever we are all doing, where ever we go, we will all look back at this 60th season in Stratford and be grateful for those we shared it with, those we met, those emotions we felt. We will realise that this summer changed us, permanently, for the better.

And with this, I say good night...nya:weh for sharing this with me, whoever you are that reads this. Write me a word or two...

I will be back soon with my autumn reading (which is the reason I started the blog in the first place - literature)....stay tuned. xoxo

Monday, 5 November 2012

60 Things I learned during Stratford's 60th Season

Here I am, in Montreal on my computer. We did a quick walk of Old Montreal and my heart longs to go back. That will be done tomorrow, after the Indspire Conference is completed. Anyone want to volunteer to be a tour guide?

I still need to write a blog about my final trip to Stratford, with my friend, Mary. It was a perfect day in many ways. I finally say Much Ado, then cracked ribs laughing at The Matchmaker again. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow...or on the train back home on Wednesday.

60 Things I Learned This Season, in no particular order:

1     Buy early - I would have missed A Word or Two
2     There's enough on Stratfest's website to keep one happy over the winter.
3     Yes, one musical can change a life (Cordelia & 42nd Street).
4     Stratford employs wonderful people, on and off the stage, who almost always go that extra mile
5     Actors can improve a show over a matter of even a couple of weeks
6     Not enough praise goes to the costume designers or set designers or lighting designers or...
7     The look of the play can change dramatically from the first press shots to final stage production (ie - pictures of Sean Arbuckle as Pirate King, and Kyle Blair, are nothing like what ended up in the show).
8     Pay grade: Christopher Plummer is up here - everyone else is down here (Q&A with Sean A after 42nd Street)
9     Kids get Shakespeare when they see it better than when they read it (Luke at Cymbeline - 1st Shakespeare and he loved the entire 3 hours. He was 10 at the time).
10   Dressing kids up to see a play does help them to behave better.
11   Actors/actresses love knowing children are getting into the arts and will help them as much as they can with encouragement or answering questions
12   Dakota is the most shy child I have - he wouldn't go on camera for the Kids REact video.
13   If you don't ask, the answer is always no. Just ask!
14   A man should love and honour his girlfriend/wife as Cornelius Hackl does of Ms. Milloy
15   A good sword can be used in multiple plays and have a grand effect
16   Cymbeline - I doubt another Shakespeare play will ever attain this level of perfection again - but it will be fun trying
17   Bring kids to a beautiful spot to tell them news that may change their life forever. In that way, they will have a peaceful spot to remember the news (see blog on Hirsch)
18   Actors have an inner strength I can't understand (see Hirsch, but also Claire Lautier as Tamora in Titus from last year)
18   Everyone who works at Stratford makes it a success
19   Henry V- I didn't know one could ever miss a play, like a friend who moves away
20   Artists on Broadway help younglings reach for bigger dreams
21   Security on the Armouries is TIGHT but necessary!!
22   Question and answer moments on Stratfest's facebook helped us to learn a LOT
23   The Q&A's helped me to come up with Kids4Bard
24   One can act a really good French accent
25   Christopher Plummer can act, and has the best command of the English language I've witnessed
26   Going to a play alone is sometimes a good thing, but talking about a play with a child or friend afterwards may be necessary
27   Seeing other people's struggles onstage helps to bring my own solutions into focus (Wanderlust)
28   Hobbies for actors include: sewing, horse racing, and making perfumes (among others)
29   Happiness is reconnecting with a parent you thought you wouldn't feel close to again, ever
30   Stage Door meet & greets are always better when I'm with a child or a friend (I doubt I'll ever do one by myself, even if it was told me to I should - I'm too shy and would feel like a stalker)
31   Men who sing are fantazmazing.
32   Even the simplest of plays can be transformative (Charlie Brown)
33   I am completely jealous of women who sing (Ms. Peacock and Ms. Hutton)
34   Actors think Elvish is cool (Braeden feels like he found soulmates)
35   A man should do what you ask if they want to feel worthy of you (see Cornelius and Barnaby in Matchmaker)
36   Everyone remembers Cordelia.
37   Shirtless Wonders is a list which should grow every year.
38   Cara Ricketts is a wonderful human being - Cordelia wants to adopt her as a big sister she will never have
39   Closing night performances rip your heart out
40   I don't have a before/after theatre in my life - it's just always been there (thanks for helping me realize that, Josh)
41   building up A word or two to grandiose heights - and what I got out of it most was memories of my dad, and feeling like I was wrapped up in my favourite blanket
42   Tom Patterson Theatre is my favourite theatre
43   Backstage crew work long hours, after actors leave for drinks
44   Even a chorus girl can be a star
45   Nell and Pistol will stay with me forever - best love story of the season for me
46   I need Wanderlust on my ipod
47   Stratford Exhibition is one of my favourite places in the entire world - one day I'm going to retire there to volunteer
48   In first seasons, actors would stay with local families while the plays were going on (Sir Alec Guiness included)
49   It took around 14 hours to get costumes repaired and ready for 42nd Street's next performance
50   That look I saw in Cara's and Steve Ross' eyes... I got a glimpse into their hearts (see previous blogs)
51   Actors need to project at all times in case their microphones stop working
52   My kids really do love the theatre
54   I want someone to treat me like Cornelius wants to treat Ms. Milloy - every woman deserves that
55   Words are spectacular beings in their own right - how they are said, and how you receive are 2 different animals - domesticated or wild
56   We all need an adventure in our lives (I need to find that last monologue from Matchmaker and memorize it)
57   Introspection is rarely unfelt pain, but necessary to feel to get to where you want to be, or be who you want to become
58   Theatre creates safe zones for people (friends, strangers, family) to share their most intimate emotions, without fear of retaliation or of not being heard
59   Festival Theatre backstage is huge
60   Theatre can make you laugh as much as it can make you cry, but only if you open yourself up to your own emotions

I thought 60 would be hard to come up with, but I found I deleted some to add others. I may still have another 60 in my head...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Healing begins at home. Idle No More

I don't have time tonight to edit this properly. But, here is my presentation at the 22nd Annual Breastfeeding Conference. Toronto, ON 2012

I have the PowerPoint. Just let me know if interested.

This is about language - the power of language today which both hurts and hinders. And empowers. When one can speak the language of the medical and scientific literature, you can better explain stark realities in terms they can understand.

Sago, everyone.

Thank you to the organising committee for inviting me to give this presentation. I am honoured to be speaking with such distinguished scholars and breastfeeding advocates. I am also grateful to be speaking to a captive audience – you can’t run and hide much while I am speaking, unlike my family.

Let me say at the start, I am explaining realities from the other side of the fence. I was raised on this side, down in Windsor, knowing of my heritage, but not knowing the depth of my history.

On my community of Six Nations, the first question we hear from people we meet is, “Where are you from? And, who is your family?” Allow me to introduce myself:

My grandfather was born on Six Nations. He was a Mohawk speaker in the home. At the appropriate age, he was sent to Residential School. Discussing his experience in the Mush Hole, he didn’t mention to us physical or sexual abuse, but there are many other forms of abuse. Head trauma, not attended to by any medical practitioner left him with memory loss, a change in personality, and, as per the government wish to take the Indian out of the child, lost his language and culture. He and my grandmother, a non-native, produced 4 children. They were both heavy drinkers, pregnant or not. I believe my mom is the only child of their relationship who has not been in jail. I also believe they all suffer from FASD. They were raised in separate non-native homes. My mom doesn’t know where she was for the first 6 months of life. We all know about the importance of bonding in infancy. She didn’t get that. She was put into a permanent foster home when she was 6 months old, and left when she was 18. My mom didn’t know she was Mohawk until that time when CAS gave her a brief copy of her family history.
My dad is French Canadian, one of 13 children. He was a homebirth and he was breastfed. I say that is why at his age of 82, he only has high blood pressure issues. He was the stabilizing force in our home while we grew up.
My parents married, produced 3 children – myself and 2 older brothers. They divorced after 25 years and remarried each other 7 years ago. It’s not as romantic as it sounds. My mom’s mental illness, which I attribute to FASD and lack of bonding in infancy, led to many issues in their marriage, our childhood, and our adulthood. If my brothers and I didn’t work so hard to break the cycle, it could have had effects on our children as well.

I graduated with a joint degree from Trent University in Native Studies and History. A year later I became a very content stay at home mom for the next 10 years.

I have been studying and working on Six Nations for 9 years now. Cordelia was 7 months old when I started back to school. She weaned after she turned 3. I started schooling at the Birthing Centre to become an Aboriginal Midwife, graduating 5 years ago. I spent the following years as the Community Breastfeeding Coordinator, and studying for the IBCLC exam, passing it last year. As far as my networking has been able to find, I may be the only band member IBCLC working on their own community in Ontario. It does make a difference to how women listen to me. I am asked for advice on reserves an hour or 2 away because they don’t have anyone in their community with the knowledge or skill that I have or the health care providers women will trust.

I have been very blessed by support from the Director of Health and front line staff, because breastfeeding is strongly encouraged and supported. While I am still working with departments to follow the WHO Code and to get BFI ready, they are eager to send clients my way for prenatal breastfeeding classes because they and their clients believe it to be important, not just their families but our Community as a whole. When notified of the WHO Code for our Breastfeeding Day last year, one department took it to heart so much, I was asked if their very large basket of baby goods was permitted to include teething toys. Mentioning the WHO Code as a base for the event made a difference then, and I’m sure it’s continuing to make a difference in their offices today.
Here is part of a talk from Ruby Miller, Director of Health at our Breastfeeding Day this year. After listing the risks of formula feeding to mom and baby, she said this:

The Creator intended for babies to be breastfed, to be nurtured at their moms’ hearts for as long as mom and baby feel the need. Nothing man-made could ever have more advantage to our children’s health.

In our community, we are privileged to have an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, on call to help moms and families with breastfeeding education and proper breastfeeding support. Generations of our people have not breastfed and vital breastfeeding education, passed from our grandmothers, has been lost.

Let’s bring it back.

Let’s make this day the start of a community-wide commitment to bring back the normalcy of breastfeeding in our community. Together, we will promote the significant benefits of breastfeeding to everyone. Mothers, fathers, grandparents...let us all remember these benefits of breastfeeding not just for the baby or the mom, but to our families, and to our community as a whole.

Being a Registered Nurse, I know that our Best Practises for infant feeding begins with skin-to-skin to contact immediately after birth, baby-led breastfeeding, and having babies within mom’s reach so they can be fed when babies show signs of hunger.
I congratulate the moms who have breastfed their children. They will see how their health and the health of their children is stronger, not just in their infancy, but in the childhood and adulthood, as well.

As Pat Martens would say, this is an upstream approach to breastfeeding in our community. Buy-in from the big boss is always a good thing. The dissemination will take more time, but I’m determined, or just plain stubborn enough, to make that happen.

Other First Nations communities are not as fortunate. While speaking at the annual Best Start Conference in March about how to work and serve people on a reserve, or with Aboriginals who are clients, I was shocked and disheartened that women from fly-in communities asked me basic questions about breastfeeding. I was asked, “If breastfeeding hurts, how can I make the pain stop?” and “What is a tongue tie?” and “How can you tell if baby is getting enough breastmilk?” I wonder if they would have approached a non-native as freely as they approached, and shared a meal, with me.

For us in this conference, we realize how multi-faceted these answers are. I felt useless in answering. For example, for the “How can you tell if baby is getting enough breastmilk,” question, my answers started with: How old is baby? How many wet/dirty diapers? How is the weight loss/gain? Is mom in pain? Were there drugs used in her birth? My answers were vacant stares. The one woman thought I could help her client fully, right then and there – give her the knowledge she needed to return to her community and fix her right up.

We all know that can’t happen. I was astonished at the lack of breastfeeding knowledge these women had, especially working with healthy babies programme. These wonderful women attended that Best Start Conference to bring knowledge home. I know they went home knowing more research about breastfeeding teaching or why it’s healthy, but not the how-to’s. As an example, can you teach me to play a French horn, without teaching me first what an “A” should sound like, or how to vibrate my lips together properly in the mouth piece in order to make that A?

The women from the fly-in communities are caring, loving, and receptive to knowledge. They know their grandmothers were breastfed, maybe some were even breastfed themselves. But because of the residential schools, and the 60’s Scoop, it wasn’t just children that were taken out of their homes. Knowledge was also stolen from these children, knowledge about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting.
I understand that there are some in Canadian society who take the stance that what happened to Aboriginals in the past, has no, or should have no, bearing on the present day. If you read comments after Canadian media articles regarding any First Nations’ issue, you will always read things like this, and I quote:

It's time to end the reservations completely. They've outlived any usefulness they ever had.

When you squish all the poverty, dysfunction, depression and limited opportunities you can into such a small geographic area, of course people turn to substance abuse as an escape
The parents of these youth have to start... parenting.

The problem isn't substance abuse; it's a lack of parenting. If I came home drunk or high on drugs when I was a youth, my parents would have take swift, corrective action. They wouldn't have turned to the government to solve the problem.

Lock the gas away, control the community, insure that drugs are not coming into the community and report the people who are bringing them in, community elders and youth know who they are. See that the kids go to and stay in school. Put some of the government $$ towards scholarships etc, towards the youth in terms of educational programs. Help build their confidence. Assimilate maybe?

Trans-generational trauma sounds like a convenient cop-out to avoid taking responsibility.

Other cultures managed to overcome such stigmas in much less time. some by immigrating, others through pulling themselves out of despair.

What do you do when no-one thinks they're responsible for themselves?
It's difficult to be partners with people who won't work.

I bring these comments (copy and pasted directly from media sites) into this talk because this is how some, hopefully only a loud-mouthed minority of, Canadians think. Some people with these opinions work not only on reserves, but in health care positions which have them work with First Nations people, through Friendship or Health Access Centres, hospital settings, or home visits. I have seen with my eyes, and heard with my ears comments like the ones I’ve mentioned said to my clients, or said to me (because I don’t look Mohawk).
I am not a spokesperson for my community. While researching for this presentation, I have been in contact with people on reserves coast to coast to coast and coast, if you include the Great Lakes. They have allowed me to share their wisdom with you. They all agreed on one vital point: The Residential School system is the turning point; the turning point of disconnectedness, of dysfunctional families, of a lot of addictions, and the loss of traditional parenting knowledge, including breastfeeding.

Why am I Poor: First Nations Child Poverty in Ontario, Best Start Resources 2012 SLIDES

In areas of the north, there is often a lack of local child mental health services
To deal with serious issues such as FASD, depression, autism, and behavioural problems...waiting list of 18 months to get a child diagnosed, after which, there was no local service provider available to work with the child and the family. The only alternative was to take the child outside of the community for critical services.
(Why Am I Poor?)
The majority of protection workers are straight out of university and are armed with the best intentions. They go into a First Nations home and see overcrowding for example, or that there may not be a lot of food in the home, and the worker immediately sees neglect. The worker is evaluating the situation from their own perspective and not from that of the family or culture. (WAIP)

Almost 30% of water in First Nations was potentially harmful.

22 % on reserve households lived in inadequate housing and were in core-housing need, compared 2.5% of Non-Aboriginal households.

Off-reserve, 21% of Aboriginal households had problems affording housing and were in core-housing need, compared to 14% of NAH (CMIHC, 2009)

Living in poverty over extended periods is linked to an increased risk of behaviour problems, depression, emotional problems and family dysfunction (AFN, 2006)

Education: Report from BC by Canadian Teachers Federation confirms that not only do Aboriginal students experience racism in schools, Aboriginal teachers experience it as well (St. Denis, 2010)

Food insecurity: 33% of Aboriginal households in Canada experienced food insecurity compared to 9% of NAH.

In areas of the north, there is often a lack of local child mental health services

To deal with serious issues such as FASD, depression, autism, and behavioural problems...waiting list of 18 months to get a child diagnosed, after which, there was no local service provider available to work with the child and the family. The only alternative was to take the child outside of the community for critical services.

Underpinning the approaches that are effective in working with First Nations families is the need to stabilize the family, strengthen the family unit and avoid focussing on the needs of the child separately from the needs of the family.

The First Nations approach is to consider the perspective of the family, not of the individuals in the family and to identify what the family needs to help them succeed. There needs to be recognition that there is a long history and current realities behind the immediate family problems and that it will take time and support for the family to change.

SLIDES on Social Determinants of Health
Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL, 21 OCTOBER 2011
6. Health inequities arise from the societal conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, referred to as social determinants of health. These include early years’ experiences, education, economic status, employment and decent work, housing and environment, and effective systems of preventing and treating ill health. We are convinced that action on these determinants, both for vulnerable groups and the entire population, is essential to create inclusive, equitable, economically productive and healthy societies. Positioning human health and well-being as one of the key features of what constitutes a successful, inclusive and fair society in the 21st century is consistent with our commitment to human rights at national and international levels.
7. Good health requires a universal, comprehensive, equitable, effective, responsive and accessible quality health system. But it is also dependent on the involvement of and dialogue with other sectors and actors, as their performance has significant health impacts. Collaboration in coordinated and intersectoral policy actions has proven to be effective. Health in All Policies, together with intersectoral cooperation and action, is one promising approach to enhance accountability in other sectors for health, as well as the promotion of health equity and more inclusive and productive societies. As collective goals, good health and well-being for all should be given high priority at local, national, regional and international levels.
8. We recognize that we need to do more to accelerate progress in addressing the unequal distribution of health resources as well as conditions damaging to health at all levels. Based on the experiences shared at this Conference, we express our political will to make health equity a national, regional and global goal and to address current challenges, such as eradicating hunger and poverty, ensuring food and nutritional security, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, employment and decent work and social protection, protecting environments and delivering equitable economic growth, through resolute action on social determinants of health across all sectors and at all levels. We also acknowledge that by addressing social determinants we can contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Let’s look at where Aboriginal Communities are today in relation to social determinants of health Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Submission to the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, “Social Determinants of Health and Canada’s Aboriginal Women” June 4, 2007
“The vulnerable and marginalized in Canadian society, particularly Aboriginal women, are suffering from...lack of action, continuing to endure the poorest socioeconomic and health status of all Canadians.”
“The population health approach which is predominant today in Canada and internationally, recognizes that primary health care is a limited actor in human health outcomes. The population health approach is thus compatible with native ancestral laws and spiritual beliefs, in which interconnectedness and holism as keys to healing and health are central tenets...holistic approach incorporates physical, mental, emotional and spiritual factors with her personal situation, nature and the environment, as well as her family, community and other relationships and societal settings and interactions. However, the lived experiences of Aboriginal women in the 21st century often impose disconnection on Aboriginal women, isolation and marginalization in and from their own communities; due to a number of factors the population health approach now commonly labels the social determinants of health.”

It’s been 200 years of this dysfunctional, non-traditional model which has been pushed upon our communities. If we didn’t abide by the terms, we still had to abide by the terms. I have spoken with people whose family history includes women who hid in the bush with their children to stop the Federal Agents from taking their children to residential schools.
How many of us cried the first day we brought our children to school, even with the knowledge we would be getting them back at the end of the day.
What if we didn’t know if we were ever getting them back? [As an aside, the issue of not knowing if your child is coming back is still alive and unwell for fly-in communities. But, that is not the focus of my talk.]
Disconnect from traditions:
Namely roles of men and women, IPV/Child Abuse
Any lower socioeconomic group of people find themselves with this issue, as well.

Why Am I Poor? First Nations and Child Poverty in Ontario. Best Start Resource Centre, 2012
In some residential schools, the death rate was as high as 75% from disease, starvation and abuse.
The children who survived often had low literacy rates and did not have parenting or life skills.
35% of First Nations adults believed that their parents’ attendance at residential schools negatively affected the parenting they received as children. Additionally, 67% of the adults surveyed believed that their grandparents’ attendance at residential schools affected their parenting skills. (Chiefs of Ontario, 2003)
Considering population size, Aboriginal children in Canada were 5 times more likely to be substantiated for neglect than non-Aboriginal children (Trocmé et al, 2005). In contrast, maltreatment of non-Aboriginal children is most often in the categories of domestic violence, physical abuse or neglect, each occurring in about a third of cases (Trocmé et al, 2006).
A study of 3 sample provinces found 10.23% of status First Nations children in out-of-home care, versus 3.31% of Métis children and 0.67% of other children (Blackstock et al., 2005).
Another study found that Aboriginal children represent 40% of the children in out-of-home care in Canada (Farris Manning & Zandstra, 2003). There are 3 times as many Aboriginal children in child welfare care today than were in residential schools at their peak (Blackstock, 2003).
The high rate of poverty today is linked to the traumas experienced by current and past generations brought about by efforts to colonize and assimilate Aboriginal people in Canada through damaging government is clear that service providers who understand the impact of these past traumas are more likely to be effective in providing culturally sensitive and appropriate services to their clients.

Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett SLIDE
In a sample of primary care of 35 patients, those who experienced childhood abuse or partner violence in adolescence or adulthood reported twice as many symptoms on a review of systems than their age-matched, non-abused counterparts. They were also more likely to abuse substances and report a wide variety of chronic pain syndromes.

...we do know that women experiencing past or current VAW are at increased risk for depression, PTSD and physical health consequences antenatally and postpartum…Not all women who have experienced past abuse become depressed, end up in unsupportive or abusive relationships, or have difficult relationships with their children. These hopeful signs offer us at least a glimpse of what the perinatal experiences of all abuse survivors could be like. And improving the antenatal and postpartum experiences of women with a history of violence is a goal worth pursuing.

Dr. Karleen Gribble

Breastfeeding requires frequent close physical contact between mother and child and some research has found that breastfeeding women seek greater proximity to their babies. Breastfeeding involves infant-mother skin-to-skin contact which both increases a mother's desire to be with her baby and her sensitivity to her infant. Research has found that the more that babies and mothers are kept together, the greater the impact on the mother in terms of exhibition of responsive caregiving and security of attachment in the child.
Children with a history of relational trauma may experience lifelong difficulties with feeling empathy, trusting others and developing intimate relationships as their internal model of relationships tells them, "Do not let us care too much for anyone. At all costs let us avoid any risk of allowing our hearts to be broken again...”
Therefore, mothers who wish to breastfeed their adopted child are advised to instigate caregiving strategies that will build trust and attachment.
Breastfeeding has the potential to promote the development of the child-maternal attachment relationship in vulnerable adoptive dyads...
However, the impact of breastfeeding as observed in cases of adoption has relevance to all breastfeeding situations and this deserves further investigation. In particular, there may be applicability of the experience of adoptive breastfeeding to other at risk dyads, such as intact families with a history of intergenerational relationship trauma.
The Health Effects of Childhood Abuse: Four Pathways by Which Abuse Can Influence Health. Dr. Kendall-Tackett Child Abuse & Neglect, 6/7, 715-730
Results: Childhood abuse puts people at risk of depression, PTSD, participating in harmful activities, having difficulties in relationships, and having negative and attitudes towards others. Each of these increases the likelihood of health problems, and they are highly related to each other.
Conclusions: Childhood abuse is related to health via a complex of matrix of behavioural, emotional, social and cognitive factors. Health outcomes for adults survivors are unlikely to improve until each of these factors is addressed.
To improve health outcomes for adult survivors, clinicians must consider and address each of the ways by which victimization can influence health. For example, admonitions to abstain from smoking or substance abuse are likely to be unsuccessful until the traumatic past events that are driving these harmful activities are addressed and resolved. Admonitions to exercise will not be helpful if the patient believes that nothing she does makes any difference. Telling a patient to “lose weight” is likely to fail if he has no ability to make and keep friends, and eats when he is lonely or stressed. Recognizing the complexity of the forces that lead to health, clinicians and researchers must strive for an approach that addresses all these pathways. Health outcomes are unlikely to improve if professionals in the child maltreatment field continue in the current mindset of treating mental health and physical health sequelae separately. Only by recognizing, and addressing, all of these underlying factors can we hope to improve the health of adult survivors of childhood abuse.
Children who are breast fed may be more resilient to the stress associated with parental divorce.
Breast feeding may be associated with a variety of exposures and family characteristics that confer
resilience against stress related to parental divorce. Montgomery, S. M., Ehlin, A., & Sacker, A. (2006). Breast feeding and resilience against psychosocial stress. Archives of Diseases of Childhood, 91, 990-994

GAS Slide
George Albert Smith: “You cannot drive people to do things which are right, but you can love them into doing them, if your example is of such a character that they can see you mean what you say.”
Breastfeeding is the original traditional medicine. Help people to trust that. I recently met a family, who has never had a generation that has not been breastfed. Wouldn’t researchers love to study those women! In this day, in these past decades of the media and medical machine of formula marketing, there is a family that has not succumbed to it.
I asked the great-grandmother about how they breastfed in her day. (She is close to 80). She said – I just let the babies tell me when they were hungry. I kept the baby as close as possible at all times. Grandmas, and, aunties and sisters would come over to take care of the new mom so she could take care of the baby. Long term breastfeeding problems were unheard of because moms, and aunties and sisters and grandmas were there to help. Women also grew up always seeing babies at the breast. Men didn’t ask to feed the babies because it wasn’t their role. If men were meant to feed babies, they would have working breasts, too. Breastfeeding also meant babies knew where they were safe, where their centre was. They knew mom was there to take care of them first and foremost.
“Breastfeeding had a positive impact with parenting behaviours regardless of marital status or income level. However, it appeared to be particularly important for single and lower-income mothers, continuing to have a positive effect for these groups when their children were 5 years of age, but not for married and higher-income mothers, or for the sample overall. Conversely, not breastfeeding seemed to have particularly negative consequences for the parenting behaviours of single and lower-income mothers.”
Here are a couple of other quotes, directly from the paper:
P 39,
​Breastfeeding is often difficult for new mothers, and in some communities it may be such a rare practice that mothers lack role models or the support of peers. In addition, Bolling et al. (2007) found that while reasons for stopping breastfeeding included insufficient milk, rejection of the breast and pain or discomfort in the first 2 weeks, in later months, return to work became a factor.
​Parenting programmes, for example, that focus on skills such as awareness of the needs and feelings of others, including the child, may be particularly useful, especially for those mothers without support of a partner.
​...parenting of lower income mothers is more vulnerable when they feel less control over their lives, targeting resources at these mothers may be particularly beneficial.
​Our findings indicate that both who you are and what you do are important in terms of parenting—personal characteristics such as interpersonal sensitivity and education and behaviours such as breastfeeding are significant predictors. Socio-demographics perhaps have less influence than we might expect (only education has independent significance)—the other socio-demographic factors are mediated by the processes such as social networks and post-natal depression. Given this, we can see that there is room for intervention – “what you do” and even personal characteristics are amenable to support if appropriately and sensitively offered.


Maternal Child Health Program
At the September 13 2004 Special Meeting of First Ministers and National Aboriginal Leaders, the Prime Minister announced additional funding for programs that promote the health status of Aboriginal people - one of these programs is the Maternal Child Health program in First Nations communities, on-reserve.
Why are Maternal Child Health Programs important, and how do they differ from other approaches?
In the past, health services in First Nations communities have focussed on treatment and crisis response. MCH takes a more proactive, preventative and strategic approach to promoting good health and preventing disease.
Early experiences are the foundation on which an individual’s life is built. In Canadian and international health systems, MCH programs have been shown to have a positive effect on the participating mother and child’s physical and mental health. In fact, effective MCH programs enhance the physical, psychological, cognitive, and social development of all family members.
Home visiting by nurses and family visitors – a key element of MCH programs – has been linked with improved parenting skills and quality of home environment, improved cognitive development of infants and young children, and the decreased incidence of unintentional injury. These visits have also improved detection and management of postpartum depression, improved rates of breast-feeding, and enhanced quality of social supports to mothers.
Cost-benefit analysis of two long-term home visiting studies, conducted by David Olds of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and his colleagues, indicate that the social and economic benefits of home visiting programs outweigh the costs by a ratio of more than five to one.
Interventions like MCH, that focus on improved reproductive health, prenatal and postpartum services, and early childhood development, present an opportunity to break the cycle of persistent gaps in life chances between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. These kind of approaches are referred to as making strategic ‘upstream’ investments early in a child’s life.
In sum, the MCH program will be community-based, community-driven and community-involving. By building on community-specific cultural knowledge and ways of doing things, it will deliver the culturally appropriate services and supports that community members need, and that they will appreciate and accept.

Case Studies