2009: A Very Full Year
What would you think if you lived in a so-called democracy where the year started out with parliament suspended by the ruling party in order to avoid defeat? What if that same party did the same thing to wind up the year to avoid further criticism of its ineptitude? Only in Canada, you say… hmmm.
Meanwhile, the rest of us got on with life and the phlegmatic populace in this lucky country of ours didn’t bother to protest any of the stupidities of our government or the unutterable wastefulness of our participation in the Afghanistan fiasco.
The Philcox/Buxton/Skene household continued its routines with Cubs, Brownies, Rotary, Flames swim team training, Melinda’s personal coaching for Brian, Reading Clinic for the Doodads; and the revitalized FASworld Toronto Support Group.
The first swim meet of the year was in Pickering with both kids involved; Ont. Prison Chaplains FASD workshop was an interesting experiment as it was done by teleconference call with my slides sent across the province by e-mail; Vicky’s weight clinic resumed with little or no progress; and Dr. Michael Sgro at St. Mike’s developed a medication trial for Kenny that had miraculous results for both his behaviours and our peace of mind; The Variety Village Swimathon was a winner for the kids; and our visit to the Hillcrest Spa in Port Hope was a sad one as we were the last clients to stay as it closed down at the end of January.
February was a gathering of the cousins and others in the extended Rose family (that’s on my late mother’s side) as we got together for Aunt Lil’s 100th b-day: she appeared to be stable but didn’t remember everyone. I started work on shoulder therapy as this cranky body seems to give me problems from time-to-time; there was another swim meet at Variety Village where the kids managed to improve their times; and we managed to get together with Jo & John Nanson of Saskatoon (she’s the renowned psychologist who has done such pioneer work in the justice system in Saskatchewan on FASD issues and has been an ongoing help and support for our work) while they were in Toronto.
Sometimes it’s hard to switch personal professionals in your life but we were very happy to find a new dentist for the whole family who is aptly named Dr. Chiu.
We had visits from Jennifer & her new baby and young sister Alexis: she was the young student who volunteered to stay with us a couple of days a week to help with the kids when Bonnie had her year of chemo and radiation back in 2004. Then we connected with Brian, Madigan & Catherine Skene, the kids’ uncle, aunt and cousin whom they had never met before. For our finale in March, we decided to switch from Bell to Rogers for house phones and that turned into an adventure and a half but was resolved with several months of free service.
April brought pool opening preparation and now that we have solar heating and a salination system the pool stays clear and virtually problem-free for the whole season. With our new Rotary Club (Scarborough Twilight) having just received its charter, I was able to speak at the Rotary District 7070 Assembly to invite representatives from the 55 clubs in our district to come to our charter night event and found the response exceptionally positive. Realizing all the changes in our lives and seeing how the lives of Cleo and Colette were evolving we started the process of updating our wills. This has turned into a rather complicated exercise, which we will eventually complete sometime in 2010.
Our first major FASD workshop of the year was a full day in Magnetewan where social workers and parents came in from the surrounding counties. We were most gratified that, in spite of it being a sunny Friday and there was a smelt festival event that day, everyone stayed until the very end of our presentation. And Bonnie’s book, Damaged Angels continues to be a best seller.
Our friend Stephanie Jones had a break from her work as a special ed teacher at the remote Webequie Reserve in Northern Ontario so she was able to have a birthday celebration lunch with us before heading back to her island location where she has learned to adapt to the ways of an isolated aboriginal community. The Webequie reserve is one of our Rotary club’s world service projects and we have sent them gently used and new books for the children as well as a more recent shipment of 36 cartons of hockey skates and other equipment.
May gave me a chance to take the Doodads to a Blue Jays game while they were still winning occasionally and to a swim meet in Bowmanville. The facilities for viewing the action there are so bad that this was the location that inspired me to take up swim meet officiating for something productive to do when I was taking Cleo & Colette to swim meets years ago.
Holly Kramer of the Harm Reduction Network asked me to do a FASD workshop for street workers – Colette and I did our presentation in a jammed up room downtown in between a talk by an aboriginal elder and some ex-prostitutes who were fighting for decriminalization of their former trade. West Hill baseball season started for Kenny, in his second year having moved up to Mosquito level; our new Rotary club had garage sale to raise a little money for new projects.
Harm Reduction Network invited me to give another workshop, this time for Toronto Health Nurses at a splendidly appointed presentation room at Toronto’s City Hall. That’s when my laptop crashed and I couldn’t present the PowerPoint slides in the extraordinary projection system there. So we had to make do with printed handouts and a lot of extemporaneous filling in. That’s when I finally made the commitment to switch from PC to Mac. Let me tell you, this has been an interesting – and steep – learning curve that isn’t over yet. However, the switch has taken me on a whole new creative path.
There was another swim meet in Pickering and our Rotary Charter Night event scheduled for mid-June included Wilf Wilkinson, the immediate Past President of Rotary International. He had graciously agreed to come from his club in Trenton to induct all our charter members. Then, after getting this special event organized, it turned out that Bonnie went in my place while I went in her place to a very special event in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This was a tribute to our long time friend Jann Gates who was Bonnie’s roommate at Stanford when they were both taking postgraduate programs. Jann was being honoured by staff and students of the Waldorf School in Santa Fe, the organization where she had taught and been an administrator for over 34 years both there and in New York. As Bonnie’s representative and friend of Jann and her family I resolved to take photos of the event so that I could make an album which would be a record of the occasion.
However, inspired by the creation of a travel book created by my brother-in-law Geoff Danzig, and now using a MacBook, I was able to use the Apple templates to create a book for Jann. The result was hugely successful and Jann ordered an additional 25 copies to share with friends around the world.
Here Jann is joined by her daughter Leslie, her daughter-in-law Kate and her good friend Norah.
In July I photographed my coach Melinda’s daughter’s wedding and created a book album for them as well to everyone’s joy and satisfaction. In the past I simply put photos together in a photo album for friends who were usually having their second marriage but the capability of creating a true book has been enormously satisfying. The key, I believe, to having a true memory book of any kind of special event is to show everyone who was there. I wish I had such a document from the time Bonnie & I were married.
The same month, Kenny did a basketball camp, which he loved, and Vicky did a “Mamma Mia” musical camp that included a hilarious wind-up show presentation. We also had the chance to visit with long-time former neighbour and FASworld Canada director, Adrian Hill at his family retreat known as Graceland on Lake Baptiste in Haliburton County. It was a great break from routine where we used to have property in the same area. Our only regret was missing Heather who was away on one of her many projects.
However, the really big trip of the year was to Vancouver where we stayed with brother-in-law Geoff and cousin Taylor in their splendid house that was like living in a private resort all to ourselves. Along with a huge pool and adjacent hot-tub, the pool room and the incredible theatre room were all well used during our stay. We also managed a few days on Vancouver Island where we visited with Bonnie’s former roommate Sue Langlois (nee Campbell) who hadn’t seen each other for over 47 years! Sue’s house, that looked out on Brentwood Bay, made us want to move to the coast immediately. We missed out on a visit to brother Paul and sister-in-law Pat who now live in Duncan but it wont be long before we’re back in their neighbourhood again. Meanwhile the Doodads and Taylor had a great time together including a trip to Whistler where we travelled on the world’s longest cable car line between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Here are some photos from that trip.
Then we were caught up in the final stages of organization for the biggest and best FASDay ever. Sept. 9/2009 was the tenth anniversary of International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day and with the help of CAS Toronto and other support agencies, we carried out our Pregnant Pause event in downtown Toronto which garnered national coverage on the APTN. Everyone tucked a balloon under a shirt so we all mimicked pregnancy and there were signs for motorists and other passersby urging abstinence from alcohol when planning and during pregnancy.
That same day we were invited to the F.A.C.E. Conference sponsored by Motherisk at The Sick Children’s Hospital where Bonnie & I were presented with plaques in honour of the work we have been doing over the past ten years on behalf of FASD. The presentation was made before an audience of researchers from across the country including Jo Nanson, Sterling Clarren, Ab Chudley, Gideon Koren and many others who have attacked this issue with fervour. Deb Matthews, then Minister of Children & Youth Services and now Minister of Health presented the awards. We are pleased to know that the Ontario Government realizes that FASD is the most common, most expensive, yet most preventable of all mental disorders in the industrialized world.
So where do you go from here? How about another workshop… off we went to Saskatoon later that month where Bonnie gave the closing plenary speech at the Saskatchewan FASD Family Network and Government of Saskatchewan Conference. As keynote closing speaker in Saskatchewan, she challenged the province to develop a national FASD coalition headquartered in that province. The basis for the challenge is the provincial coalition, which already exists in Saskatchewan – the only province to have such an organization. We believe that an Ontario coalition of family support groups would be an important step to making this a reality. Then, in October we presented to the Association of Protective Workers of Ontario and Association of Family Service Workers of Ontario who gathered in Toronto from across the province.
Another swim meet in November, here in Toronto then a meet in Kingston where Variety Village swimmers including those with disabilities were challenged by a team coached by Vicky Keith the former coach of the Flames when Cleo & Colette swam for the team. Keith is a famous long distance swimmer who has swum Lake Ontario both ways on the same occasion and the English Channel.
And the best news of all – this was worth waiting for—Bonnie has had her final check-up and has been told not to come back to see her oncologist any more!
What a great way to wind up the year. All the best for you in 2010.
Brian Philcox, Jan. 3/10