January 21, 2007

from the heart of a friend who aches with the loss of a friend

This is from my friend Bobby Jo. I want to see beyond what is so commonly first seen.

Let me tell you about Gerry.

Gerry has spent half of his life (literally) in jail. He went in to juvy at a young teen, and basically never came out.

Ok, three months here or there, but basically locked up.


Because Gerry was a very violent person. He almost killed a person, he beat someone else so bad they are paralyzed for life, he beat up his parole officer, beat up inmates, guards, friends, loved ones. He beat up his councillor. He beat up a woman. He lived by his fists ... he hurt people.

People were afraid of Gerry, he was a very intimidating person. My friends who came to my house were often afraid of him.

It seemed apparent who was the victims, and who was the victimizer.

Many thought Gerry belonged in jail, or was a bad person, a lost cause or really disliked him for what he inflicted, emotionally or physically, onto others.

But I say to you, without minimizing the suffering he caused or the pain of the victim’s, that Gerry was also the victim.

Let’s go back to those fundamental years of growth as a child.

Dad was drunking lots. Dad was angry, by his own right, and found himself beating up his kids, his wife…himself.

So often auntie was over, being one of the care givers.

But auntie also had her own pain and brokenness and found herself acting out sexually to/with the young boys, the young Gerry.

Poverty, family violence, sexual abuse…Gerry became angry, scared and afraid.

This pain and fear caused young Gerry to act out, and end up in juvy. The anger, fear, feelings of rejection and loneliness grew and teenage Gerry started acting out more and more. So the guards (or what ever you want to call them) at the silaps program (some kind of group in the juvenile jail) thought they would teach Gerry a good lesson, put him in his place…so they took him one night, for a real “ride” and beat him up (or as Gerry put it “boot fucked” him) until the wee hours of the morning...a few times over.

Yah, they taught him alright…to be more afraid, more distrustful, to be more angry.

Gerry new something was not right in him.

He was diagnoses with a number of mental health disorders, many starting in early childhood. Personality disorders.

As Gerry grew up, often he would lengthen his sentence by assaulting people while in prison. Prison was the only thing he new.

Gerry went to counseling, group therapy, saw a psychologist.

Gerry went to anger management.

Gerry tried medication.

Then Gerry was dropped into "the free world" at the age of 30. It was new. It was scary. It was different. It was big.

But Gerry met a girl. His first girl friend. His first love. The first time in a long time he was not alone in the world. He was wanted, he was needed.

Kathy was a sex worker addicted to heroin.

Said want to know what I am going through? My pain? Here try some.

Gerry ended up getting addicted to drugs and getting street involved, and again, in and out of jail, but for short periods of time.

Gerry went to treatment.

Failed. Used. Beat people up.

Then Gerry went to treatment again.

Failed. Used. Beat people up.

Tried to commit suicide through overdose.

Then went to treatment again.

Failed. Used. Used. Beat people up.

The drugs, the fear, the anger had a hold on him.

The loneliness burned him.

Gerry tried life skills program.

Failed. Used. Beat people up.

Gerry tried working like crazy.

Failed. Used. But stopped beating people up...mostly.

Then tried to commit suicide through over dose.

Gerry tried treatment again.


Tried to commit suicide, I found him o.ding on my bathroom floor. Had to resuscitate him.

What a close call. I almost beat him up.

Drugs, violence and mental health issues got in the way of what he saw as success.

Gerry just could not beat this addiction.

And he wanted to, god knows, he wanted to. He tried again and again.

He wanted to stop being angry and violent.

I know this. I saw.

Gerry would cry. cry. cry.

pray and pray.

And try again.

He wanted a “normal” life.

He wanted a family, a home and a good job…someone to love.

He wanted to give back, to love people.

The disappointment and desperation and feelings of failure would not go away.

He would have periods in the last few years of clean time, but the old demon would sneak back.

The anger always came back.

Yesterday Gerry committed suicide.

He o.ded on crystal meth.

He left a message…I can’t do this any more. The pain, disappointment is too much.

I went to the hospital and held Gerry as he passed on to his peace.

I gave the dr. permission to pull the life line.

So, as much as many would see him as a victimizer, I also saw that he was a victim.

I think I hate those words.

He never recovered from the wounds of his past.

Psychology did not cure him, jail did not cure him, medication did not cure him, religion did not cure him, anger management and the 12 steps did not cure him.

He tried, but even drugs would not give him any peace...or cure him.

Can you cure a broken spirit?

This is what I wonder when I sit here.

Did Gerry really have a chance? A choice?

I don’t know.

Mental health, family violence, poverty, addiction…they are all very complex.

I hope we never think we have the answers.

I loved Gerry very much.

In all the turmoil, I saw such amazing beauty.

I would tell him, my ex-partner , my friends how much beauty I saw in him.

It would make me cry.

I got to see moments of amazing compassion.

I got to see moments of amazing love for me and other friends.

I got to see the amazing depths of his intelligence, knowledge and wisdom.

I got to see his creativity and ability to put words together in a way that would make me shiver.

I got to see some amazing personal growth.

He taught me about perseverance. He taught me that everyone has a story.

He taught me about honesty.

He taught me about pain.

He taught me no discipline, no theory, no answer, no treatment, was hard and fast…concrete.

That things, life, people were complex. Multifaceted. Unique.

He taught me to be grateful.

He taught me how blessed I was.

Gerry changed me.

I hope he is not tormented anymore and that he has found true peace.

I hope he can forgive us, society, and community for failing him.

Rest in peace my love.

December 14, 2006


a wonderful flow of thoughts that inspired me as it came across my email from a midwife in Quebec... Jennie Stonier

"I actually love that the notion of exploring visions...my only objection to the word "vision" is that it is static....it is like the difference between knowing and knowledge. When we write things down and articulate them, knowing becomes knowledge. Not that this is by any means bad...just that there is more.

As they say, "Full truth is deeper than articulation."

And that has been something of an issue for midwives in trying to articulate and define our uniqueness, our specificity, hasn't it? That illusive fluid relationship 'with woman'...the knowing, the storying that passes between the listener and the teller does not truly claim a "truth", but rather a willingness to EXPLORE truth, the reality of the moment, or whatever you want to call it....and then this present moment changes, evolves, is dynamic, not static...probably nonrepeatable...like the quantum world described by physics (and mystics).....so bla bla bla bla...but i am wondering if this does not touch the "essence" we are all circling around when trying to create a "vision" of midwifery....this dynamic mutually interactive personal relationship BETWEEN women-

-between midwife and woman, storyteller and storylistener, whichever each one is called to, holds the potential to change both, to create something new- and perhaps stumble upon a different way to think, to envision, to know, to relate to what we call truth, reality or at least one another.......In any case, midwifery - its visions and way of being with woman appear to be evolving and are quite clearly being challenged in these times. Just like "knowing", i think "visioning" implies something essential yet malleable and subject to context and relationship, something like the midwife's relationship with woman, n'est-ce pas?

~so be the mutable midnite musings of a reluctant convalescent.... "


Even though the blog below is long, the story is INCREDIBLE!!

This story will speak to you to your core and about the incredible resolve to align one's life and actions to the example of Jesus, to lay down her own life to give other's the chance to live. My dear friend and mentor, Vicki Penwell.

Vicki Penwell Survives Ferry Sinking in Philippine Seas

Latest Update from the Penwells:

Yes, you read right.

Here is what happened. I left White Beach alone to go to Manila and meet the Medic team coming back from outreach the day after our island was pounded by the second big typhoon since December 1st. Scott put me on the boat, and we both wondered aloud to each other about how many people were boarding…I was one of the last on, and had a very crowded seat up front. Turns out the boat was built to hold around 80 and they put 104 people on. We headed out in the ocean for the hour and 20 minute crossing to Luzon Island, where Manila is located.

This is the day after the typhoon, and even though the coast guard was allowing crossings, the seas were still very rough. This became apparent when we began hitting pretty big waves within minutes of leaving shore, and the boatload of people began screaming with each rise and fall of the boat over the rough seas. Then people around me began to throw up…waves were washing up into the boat and drenching people.

About 45 minutes into the trip I heard a very loud sharp crack, like wood splintering. Five minutes later there was another loud crack like a gunshot, and the boat engine cut out. What had happened was the outrigger had snapped and the second crack was the sound of the fractured bamboo pole puncturing through the hull of the boat. Everyone stood up and began to panic, grabbing life vests from the racks above. I was in the front; all the racks with life vests were in the middle and back section. All around me were people standing up screaming to be passed a life vest, or pushing and shoving to get to where they could get one.

I determined right away that I was not going to fight anyone for a life vest, that I would choose then and there to give up my rights so that others could live, the motto I have tried to live my life by. So I sat calmly while panic ensued around me; water rapidly rose and within 10 minutes the inside of the boat was full of water and sinking fast. Kind of sad, there was no chivalry from the men around me, each person was fighting to get their life vests, grabbing and pushing and it was absolute chaos. I decided to wait to get a life vest after all the other passengers had theirs, or until someone handed me one. It didn't happen; the boat was overloaded and there turned out to be enough life vests for every passenger except the three crew members, and me.

I allowed the panicked crowd to push past me as the boat was taking on water fast, I determined to not push anyone to save myself. I realized everyone thought they might die

when I saw them abandoning their bags and their backpacks and purses…people do not let go of their stuff unless they are saving their own lives.

I had time to take my phone out and try to call Scott, the connection was bad and he could not hear me, so I sent off a quick text message; it said, "sinking, I love you". I knew it would freak him out, but I didn't know what else to do! If I died I wanted him to know my last thoughts were ones of love toward him.

I was the last one off the boat and had to swim out through the opening in the side. Once outside everyone was clinging to the outriggers, I thought the boat would sink all the way, but because the outriggers were bamboo, it only sunk to the roof, and we could still hold on while we waited to be rescued. At this point the real danger became the heavy swells that beat down upon us and smashed us over and over again into the submerged boat. I am pretty bruised up from that. And waves would wash over me and swamp me with diesel water and I would sputter back up, all the while trying to keep my grip. The diesel along with the salt water stung my eyes pretty much. With each wave that hit I would also find myself entangled in rope, and remembered that Scott said that was how so many fishermen in Alaska died, so I would quickly try to free myself before the next wave washed over me.

Besides trying to comfort a woman near me that was crying, there was not much I could really do to help anyone, we all were just trying not to get washed away from the capsized hull we were clinging to. After about a half hour a crew member realized I had no life vest and produces one for me from somewhere; I must say I was relieved to take it, and since the crew was on top of the roof of the boat, I knew no one else's life would be lost in the process of saving mine, so I was glad to have it.

We treaded water for over an hour before boats got there to rescue us.

The rescue operation itself was an entirely scary matter. I hadn't realized before how dangerous it was to try to get out of water in stormy seas and into another boat. A 25 passenger speed boat came up close and people were trying to jump from the roof of our sunken boat, but each wave would slam the boat into the side of the sunken boat, and I feared someone would be smashed and killed by being caught into between the two boats. I did not relish the idea of getting rescued that way, it looked so dangerous and scary. At this time, as people were pushing to get in position to get rescued, I heard the first honorable thing, when a man yelled at the men to stop trying to get in, and he said "babaes!", which means women first! That boat left when it had 25 on board, and the rest of us were then instructed to try and swim to one of two other ferry boats that had now arrived and were waiting a ways away, not wanting to get too close for fear of the waves slamming them into the sunken boat and endangering the passengers still in the water. I had to swim in the rough seas, finally getting close enough for them to throw a rope to me, and then I had to cling to the bamboo outriggers, bucking up and down in the rough waters, and climb up the slippery poles (I was wet and greasy with diesel fuel). After being in the water that long, my arms and legs felt like jelly, and it was really hard to crawl up far enough for hands to reach down and pull me the rest of the way into the boat. This is how all of the rest of us got out of the water.

After everyone was in and as much luggage as they could rescue from the ocean was pulled up, we headed into Batangas. That last 30 minutes felt like longer because I was very nauseated and very cold now. A group of young adult Filipinos realized I was alone and came over and were very kind to me, asking if I was okay and was I traveling alone

(something Filipinos never do is travel anywhere alone!) I had my eyes closed trying hard not to throw up, and one of the young men sat by me and held my hand! It was really so sweet, I felt like I was without my sons there with me at that time, so God sent someone to be kind and take care of me like a son would. When I began to shiver he brought me a sheet and even got me water to drink.

When we got to the dock, an ambulance was there and camera crews were filming us, we were a bedraggled lot! The Philippine Red Cross came and handed out dry clothes, and my new friends shared a candy bar with me. I was loving the fact that after 15 years of me giving out food and clothing to poor Filipinos, now I was the one in need and Filipinos were giving me food and clothing!

They had medical checkups available, and phones for us to call our families on. The trouble was, I had never memorized anyone's number, as they are all programmed into my cell phone, which was in my pocket totally waterlogged so of course would not work. So I could not call Scott and tell him I was ok. He and Ian were beside themselves wondering if I was dead that whole time. They both admitted to crying many tears thinking I may be dead and being so so worried during that long time they waited to find out if I had survived.

Really the whole thing was a miracle. Usually when ferry's sink here, which happens somewhere in the Philippines about once every year or so, there are some casualties, and this time everyone on board was rescued. Also it was a blessing there were no children on board, nor any really elderly or handicapped people. So, even though everybody dies someday, and we must all be prepared at a moments notice to die, still and yet, yesterday was not my day to go after all! God must still have work for me to do. I was glad to know that I felt calm and at peace as I faced the possibility of death, and I was able to give up my rights and try to help others rather than scratch and claw to survive. I only feel so bad knowing that Scott and Ian and Rose and the rest of my dear friends here did not known if I was dead or alive for 7 hours!

We are all back together today, appreciating each other more than ever, and thankful for life itself.

I did however lose my waist pack full of money…the waves ripped it off my waist as I fought to stay afloat in the rough seas. I was carrying money for team expenses to Manila, and lost over $3,000 of Mercy In Action's money. Now that I have survived I feel pretty bad about losing all that money.

So that is my adventure, it was a little like being in a disaster film, like Titanic only on a smaller scale, and the water was not so cold!

I love you all, and will send our Christmas newsletter to you all when

I am rested up a bit. I am really ok, just a few cuts and bruises.

Love and blessings


December 05, 2006

Special Olympics

Did you know that Elijah is a Special Olympic athlete!! He trains every Thursday night at Sargent Park pool! You should see the kid swim (but only if his goggles fit right!) I got this in the inbox.

Please join us on Saturday, December 9th, from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (EST) for Special Olympics Day on TSN.

Special Olympics Day on TSN is a 2 hour live show honouring the inspirational achievements of Special Olympics athletes across Canada. Special Olympics Canada and TSN are proud to present the sixth annual Special Olympics Day on TSN on Saturday, December 9th. Throughout the day, TSN will air a collection of features focusing on courageous and motivating Special Olympics athletes, coaches, volunteers and vignettes featuring our sponsors and partners. Highlighting the day’s programming is a live two-hour special which will air from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 9th, 2006.

On December 9th viewers are invited to call the Special Olympics hotline at 1-888-888-0608 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST) to donate funds or AIR MILES® Reward Miles to Special Olympics Canada. Callers will also receive information on volunteer and coaching opportunities with Special Olympics Canada. Viewers can also log on to www.specialolympics.ca throughout the day to make donations and acquire additional Special Olympics Canada information.

About this blog

So obviously I am not a consistent blog writer since re-joining the Canadian rat race of work, church, social commitments, and driving around in a van trying to stay on schedule.

I am trying to reflect, look outside myself, align myself with teachings of Jesus, recognize the presence of God in others, in the physical and the spiritual.

I am trying not to get obsessed with things, buying things, using things, kitchen renos, etc.

But somehow I want a new blog. I think that getting or creating a new thing will give me some new inspiration. So I think I am going to try to figure out something new for the new year.

July 04, 2006

Fragile What?

By Mary Beth Langan and Sally Nantais

Although Fragile X Syndrome is the most common known cause of inherited cognitive impairment, the up-to-date name for mental retardation, the average person has not heard of Fragile X Syndrome. The average health professional has very little knowledge, or dated knowledge, of Fragile X Syndrome. Until our children were diagnosed, we were average people asking, “Fragile what?”

Cognitive impairment related to Fragile X Syndrome affects probably one in 4,000. However, because more milder learning difficulties are probably much more common, it is estimated that one in 2,000 are affected.

Approximately 1 in 100 to 200 women and 1 in 800 men are carriers of Fragile X Syndrome.**

It’s critical to remember these numbers are only estimates because it is also estimated that 80-90% of people with FXS are not yet correctly diagnosed.

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic condition caused by a mutation of the FMR1 gene on the X chromosome. The mutation can differ from person to person, typically a boy with a full-mutation’s genetic material does not produce FMR1 protein, or not enough of it. Through research, it has been determined that the FMR1 protein is critical for typical brain development. Boys only have one X chromosome, therefore they are typically more affected than girls. Girls have an advantage because they have two X chromosomes; an unaffected chromosome may produce enough FMR1 limiting the affect.

What does this really mean?

Unless a parent already knew they were a carrier of Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), they wouldn’t know their child might have FXS until they began to see developmental delays. There are minor physical traits noted in many persons with FXS, but not in all. These are traits which may also be present within the typical population, nothing unique which would necessarily indicate FXS testing is necessary for your child.

Fragile X Syndrome may cause:

· Mild learning problems to severe cognitive impairment

· Behavior issues such as ADHD and ADD

· Autistic-like features such as poor social skills, poor eye contact, hand-biting and hand-flapping

· Shyness and social anxiety

The majority of persons with FXS have autistic-like features (estimated at 50–90%); a smaller percentage (approximately 30%) have a true dual diagnosis of autism.

Within the first few years in the life of a child with undiagnosed FXS, two of the most common things parents often notice are language delays and sensory issues. Even after a diagnosis of FXS, many parents believe working on these issues are the most important methods to help their child be the best they can be.

In recent years, research has also discovered that Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) not only affects children with a full mutation, but also male and female carriers of FXS.

· Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), discovered in 2001, is a neurological disorder that can involve tremors, balance irregularities, difficulty walking and dementia which sadly is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's and/or Alzheimer’s. This condition is present in some older FXS carriers (typically after the age of fifty), usually in males but FXTAS can also affect female carriers.

· Premature Ovarian Failure, more commonly known as early menopause, is a condition that affects 20-28% of the female FXS carrier population.

Who should test for Fragile X Syndrome?According to the American College of Medical Genetics (2005), individuals for whom testing should be considered:

Fragile X Syndrome:

Individuals of either sex with mental retardation, developmental delay, or autism, especially if they have (a) any physical or behavioral characteristics of fragile X syndrome, (b) a family history of fragile X syndrome, or (c) male or female relatives with undiagnosed mental retardation. Individuals seeking reproductive counseling who have (a) a family history of fragile X syndrome or (b) a family history of undiagnosed mental retardation.

Ovarian dysfunction:

Women who are experiencing reproductive or fertility problems associated with elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, especially if they have (a) a family history of premature ovarian failure,(early menopause) (b) a family history of fragile X syndrome, or (c) male or female relatives with undiagnosed mental retardation.

Tremor/ataxia syndrome:

Men and women who are experiencing late onset intention tremor and cerebellar ataxia of unknown origin, especially if they have (a) a family history of movement disorders, (b) a family history of fragile X syndrome, or (c) male or female relatives with undiagnosed mental retardation.

Testing criteria is specific, yet as parents of first generation children with Fragile X Syndrome, we often question statements like “male or female relatives with undiagnosed mental retardation.” Until our children were born, no one in our families fit this description.

What is the most important reason for testing for Fragile X Syndrome?

Test for Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) to obtain a diagnosis or to rule it out. If you don’t have what may be the correct diagnosis of FXS, then you will never be aware of improved treatments or the cure when it’s found.

Within our lifetime, quite possibly within the next 10-20 years, we believe there will be a cure. With a diagnosis of Fragile X Syndrome, there is hope. After all, they are just one gene away from a cure.

When testing for Fragile X Syndrome, it is critical that the correct blood tests are ordered – the Fragile X DNA (Southern Blot) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. Inaccurate results occur far too often with the generic chromosomal panel.

If you would like to learn more about Fragile X Syndrome, go to fragilex.org for the National Fragile X Foundation or fraxa.org for the FRAXA Research Foundation.

July 22 is Fragile X Awareness Day. Our hope is that this time, next year, we won’t hear “Fragile what?” as often, at least we’ll know you won’t be asking “Fragile what?”

Mary Beth Langan and Sally Nantais are both Fragile X Syndrome carriers; each has a son with Fragile X Syndrome.

June 23, 2006

Rik Leaf

I have been intending to write a review of Rik's latest album "Now is the winter of my discontent". The lyrics are inspiring, dream provoking, quotable. Rik sent us a CD while we were in Manila and it gave us vision on days we felt lost.

There is Rik Leaf concert this Saturday night at the Park Theatre. Doors open at 8pm. COME! I am really looking forward to a night of dancing, friends and incredible music!

June 19, 2006

Spirited Energy: God moves

Manitoba has a new slogan: Spirited Energy

Did you know that Manitoba means : The Creator moves
(Manitou Ba)

We were thinking about making a little sticker for our new license plates covering the "spirited" with the word "spiritual".

What ideas does the phrase "spiritual energy" bring?

Both words are full of life.
Not physical nor touchable things.
life giving
not boring or exhausted
on the verge of something


June 10, 2006

451 Alfred

For any one out there who was a part of our School of Justice community in 2001-02 and spent time in 451 Alfred, the big house we rented for our girls, I just happened to go in there yesterday. One of the families I am working with just moved in. It has been re-done and very beautiful. I walked around this freshly painted, totally clean house with reno-d bathrooms. I kept thinking about the dirt that was in all the corners and disgusting bathroom on the main floor that we tried our best to clean. In the end we just tried to paint over all the dirt, as if that would help. I think they tore out the old bathroom and the kitchen cupboards and put new ones in.

I also thought about a crazy cat and a group of people who pushed through many differences and became the greatest of friends.

I went into the basement into that prayer room we had. It is still green. It still has grafitti about Jesus on the walls.

Good memories. Are any of you reading this? I might have to email you and tell you too!