Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thank you for Thoughts and Prayers

Good news. My husband has an appointment for a CT scan on Oct. 5. However, through my social media channels, I have learned that there are a number of people who are waiting a long time for their scan. It maybe that it is not considered “urgent” but of course it is for the person involved. They may be caught in the limbo of the hospital being closed a few months ago.

Before COVID, people were able to get a CT scan in good time. Since everything, including testing, was closed during the quarantine, scans can be behind by two months as the hospitals catch up. I have learned there are no private labs with CT scans in Ontario and, of course, the border is closed. The machines are very expensive to buy and maintain, unlike blood tests.

The number of COVID cases are climbing again and many people are getting tested, as they should. If this second wave fills up the ICU and hospitals, we may end up with tests stopped. Routine tests for breast cancer have actually never started up again. Update: breast cancer tests have started again.

You know where I am going. Wear your mask and keep 6 feet apart from other people. Follow the rules for parties, events and services. Listen to public health. My husband’s aunt died of COVID in March. My cousin is still suffering from it. COVID isn’t just killing those with the disease, the side effects of another quarantine will kill others.

My husband has asked me to keep his health journey private. So I won’t be blogging about this again. Thank you so much everyone for your caring and prayers.

Will COVID Kill My Husband Even Though He’s Not Infected?

In the month of August, I noticed my retired husband began to nap twice a day with a full eight hours of nightime sleep. He lost his appetite, giving half of his favourite pork chop to the dog and not eating the mashed potatoes with gravy. Veggies have never been a favourite.

We made an appointment with the doctor. His heart, lungs, blood pressure, really everything seemed fine. Negative to COVID. We suspect but hope not cancer.

Our doctor sent in a requisition for a CTscan. Due to the labs catching up from the pandemic restrictions, it could be two months before my husband gets a CTscan. The doctor has put URGENT on the requisition and we are willing to travel for a test that will be sooner. Still it may take awhile.

I know as the retired director of HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre, plus all the people around me that have or have had cancer, that two months to diagnose cancer means the difference between life and death.

Provincial Government, is there not some way to increase the capacity of the medical system so people can be diagnosed in a timely fashion?

I am sick of heart that my wonderful husband may end up a victim of COVID without having the disease.

Addendum: Please wear a mask, social distance and don’t go out if you are unwell. Don’t have big parties or go to large gatherings. If the COVID cases soar again, we could have another lockdown. We are now learning what the lockdown meant when everything was closed. A two month wait for people to have necessary medical tests. Breast cancer tests are still not happening.

Support Button Factory Arts

There’s a little gem in Uptown Waterloo, Button Factory Arts. It supports artists with exhibitions. You can take classes from fused glass to learning water colour. There are also art lessons for children. There is an art therapist available. In this time, classes are on-line, outside or onsite.

Also in this time of COVID, non-profits have found that their donations are drying up. A lot of charities depend on in-person galas, auctions and performances to raise funds. The Button Factory raises a lot of funds through their courses and exhibitions. From March to the present, these in-person events have not been possible.

I am proud to be a board member of Button Factory Arts. We are raising 10,000 dollars through a GoFundMe to keep the organization going. We are very close to our goal, just over 2,000 short.

Please think of donating to this fine organization. Waterloo needs the arts.

https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/button-factory-arts-annual-giving-campaign/waterloocommunityartscentre

The Road to Bike Lanes is Paved with Good and Bad Intentions

Yesterday Kitchener Councillor John Gazzola said the following on twitter regarding being against bike lanes on Westmount Road:

In an effort to more fully explain my thoughts on cycling let me share my experiences. I have been cycling on Westmount Rd for the last 18-20 years. It is a very busy street with miles & miles of sidewalks on each side of it. I continue to ride on the sidewalk. No harm to pedest.

When my old dog was a puppy, we were leash training down a sidewalk. A cyclist riding on the sidewalk ran over my dog. We rushed him to the vet. He ended up OK but for his whole life, my sheltie was afraid of bicycles.

A month ago, I was standing socially distancing in a line waiting to enter a bus on University Ave. Along came a man riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. All of the people standing in line moved over. I did not. I yelled at him to get off the sidewalk. He swerved around me, swearing. Pretty clever making that rude hand sign with only one hand on the handle bars.

Whose sidewalk is it anyway? There are laws against riding on the sidewalk, but despite me asking Regional staff and police over the years, they have never been enforced.

Another person on twitter said as part of the bike lane controversy: Pedestrians don’t want cyclists on sidewalks, car drivers don’t want them on roads. I wonder if giving cyclists their own lanes would work!

If I had a nickel for every time a politician invoked the words “silent majority”, I would be rich. If I had a dime for every time a person (usually old), looked out their window and said, “that cycle lane, that bus is empty”, I would give Bill Gates a run for his money. There once weren’t sidewalks along stretches of Westmount. I’m sure home owners said, “No one walks on the sidewalks, we don’t need them.”

You may have noticed the cycling trips counter in Uptown Waterloo. It only records bikes on the cycle path. I know, I have tried to make it register me walking. Many thanks to the Waterloo Chronicle for asking for the statistics that the Region has been gathering on cycling trips in the Uptown. https://www.waterloochronicle.ca/news-story/10132369-cyclists-trail-usership-up-by-thousands-in-waterloo/

According to numbers provided by the Uptown Waterloo Cycle Tracker, located on the southeast corner of King and Erb streets, from the beginning of April through the end of July, a bicycle was detected 23,873 times. That’s up almost 5,000 trips from a year ago (17,928) during the same time period.

This is during the pandemic when there are no university students, the biggest bicycle users, in town.

I have also been told that there is apparently a bicycle shortage as more and more people buy bicycles. A friend (Thanks Suzanne) checked this out at Canadian Tire and found very few bikes for sale. People are riding bikes and they need to be able to do it safely. That is why Regional Council is putting temporary separated bike lanes on Westmount, University, and Erb.Oh yes, and Coronation Blvd in Cambridge.

The cries of pain from car drivers because narrower roads mean they have to drive slower. Yet it is common for constituents to complain that people should drive slower, say the speed limit. Cambridge, unfortunately has always had a number of very angry people. Council caved and removed the temporary lanes from Coronation boulevard before even a month was gone. This is unfortunate because the wide medium on the road that once displayed wonderful flowers and now is full of weeds could be narrowed to include separated bike lanes.

Now that we have heard from former Mayor Doug Craig that Cambridge has been once more ignored by the wicked Region that put bike lanes on Coronation Blvd, you can be sure they will stay removed.

You may not remember, but Mayor Craig said Cambridge did not want the LRT and so Cambridge got express buses for their first stage. Once Kitchener Waterloo got LRT, he and his council complained that Cambridge was once more ignored and left out. (Even though the Region has been working for several years on the Cambridge extension). Expect Cambridge to shout about their lack of bike lanes when the temporary lanes in Kitchener and Waterloo become permanent.

If I had a quarter for every time Cambridge shouted about being left out …

If you examine these photos, you can see that cars with only one person in them, seem to be a whole lot more than the same number of cyclists or pedestrians. Something to consider when driving.

Mandated Mask Wearing: Waterloo Regional Council has Passed Controversial Health Measures Before (And they all got re-elected).

Wearing the mask my daughter got me at the beginning of the pandemic.

When I ran for Regional Council for the first time in 2000, the Region had just passed the no-smoking by-law. Like today, the province refused to pass a law banning smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor locations. A man smoking on his front steps, who had probably been forced out there, asked me if I agreed with it. I did. I do not know who voted for the by-law but no-one lost a seat because of it. The whining and anger over that by-law was huge, as many bar patrons also smoked. The Region used by-law officers to enforce. Eventually the province stepped up. Today, you would never know there had been a controversy

The second instance occurred during my early years as a councillor. Regional Council decided to ban cosmetic pesticides. Interestingly, the medical officer of health would not put out an order for this ban. Council went ahead anyway. There was a lot of whining and anger.By-law officers that also regulate lawn watering regulated spraying. Even today, people still grumble about their dandelions. The province, once again, stepped in after the fact.

This brings us to today. We are in the middle of a pandemic and in the first stages of reopening restaurants, stores and bars. From March to almost the end of May, public health wanted everyone in their homes to stop the spread of this new disease so wouldn’t recommend mask wearing. Now that the numbers are down, but still a bit of spread, wearing a mask is recommended. Like the ban on the spraying of cosmetic pesticides, public health will not recommend a by-law mandating the wearing of masks in places where social distancing is difficult or in restaurants, bars and stores.

Health Canada says,”When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.” It is not known by how much wearing a mask will decrease people’s risk.

When we look at who gets COVID-19, it is important to note that only one case was traced to the large BLM march in Kitchener. I know from my daughter who attended, that almost everyone, including herself, wore a mask. They tried to social distance. Working from home, she quarantined herself for two weeks afterwards. On the other hand, a party in London with no social distancing and masks, has caused COVID spread.

I always wear a mask when I visit a store, and most establishments have their staff masked by provincial decree. Yet there are so many customers not masked. Some are going to be asymptomatic and spreading the virus. Why does everyone have to be masked when I visit the hairdresser (Thanks Control ) and the dentist (Thanks Waterloo Smiles) but not when I visit Basics?

Waterloo Regional Council is the Board of Health. They have passed health measures before both with the recommendation of public health staff and without the recommendation of public health staff. Certainly public health measures have been successfully passed locally before the province moved ahead.

We can’t carry on with everyone shut up in their homes. Everyone needs to wear a mask, hand wash or use sanitizer, not touch their face, and practice social distancing. Follow the recommendations of a safe bubble of ten people.

There will be whining and anger, that is no surprise. There has been whining and anger over the introduction of seat belts, smoking bans, and cosmetic pesticides bans. The world moves on.

Thank you Mayor Berry Vrbanovic for introducing this motion.

Defunding the Police

Defunding the Police

When I was a Regional Councillor, every year we struggled over the budget, trying to get it down to a 1 or 2 percent increase. We would debate adding a million to our social service budget for “unnecessary” items that had been cut back by the provincial government. Things like eyeglasses, walkers, food hampers and dental care for the working poor. Eventually we put money towards some of these necessities for the poor. Money, but not enough, was added for social housing. Transit fares were increased. And so on. We would get the budget down to our 1 or 2 percent goal.

Then the police budget was added. If we were at 1 percent increase, the police budget would add another 1 percent (even though the police budget might actually be going up 3 to 5 percent or more). Half the Region’s budget increase was policing. Other than sending the police budget back to the police board to par down, Regional Council had no way of cutting or changing the police budget due to provincial law. We had to pay it from property taxes though.

The police are expensive. The WRPS 2020 budget, as passed, had an increase of 6,25% for a budget of almost 200 million dollars. This came out to a 1.38% property tax increase versus a Regional operating budget of 1%. Over 90% of the police budget goes to compensation ( paying people).

Defunding the police does not mean getting rid of the police. We will always have sex traffickers, assaults, child porn, fraud, murders, and theft. What defunding the police means is moving funds to what the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has been advocating for over 25 years. Not well being, but social development. We need to stop pulling drowning people out of the water and go up stream to stop them falling in.

In an interview with NPR, Alex S. Vitale, the author of the 2017 book The End of Policing,(you can download the e-book for free) states:

One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.

This also includes illegal drugs and all the problems they bring with them. Fentanyl and meth are still a crisis. They did not go away when COVID-19 appeared. Poverty and unemployment have increased. Social problems are not the responsibility of the police but they end up the last resort in times of crisis.

A few years ago, a family member disappeared and we were afraid he was going to commit suicide. When he was found, the police had a civilian mental health team with them. The team defused the situation and the police did not have to go to emergency with our family member (who is fine now) . Police and EMS spend a lot of unnecessary costly time in Emerg waiting for their patient to be moved over to hospital staff.

Counselling, drug and addiction services, homeless shelters and social housing, immigrant and employment services, youth services, sexual assault counselling, mental health, Family and Children’s Services, the food bank, Community Justice Initiatives and more are always chronically short of funds. Recently many have had government funds cut by the province. In this time of pandemic, their charitable donations have dried up.

What if all the organizations in our community that practice crime prevention by social development got a 5 or 6 percent increase per year from our governments. Police would not be the organization of last resort for addiction, mental health, poverty and homelessness emergencies. We wouldn’t need so many police and those we would have could turn their attention to serious and complicated crimes. They would be properly defunded.

Here is a link to a petition and letter writing campaign spearheaded by the local Black Lives Matter. bit.ly/DefundThePoliceKW

You can also write to the WRPS police board here:

https://www.wrps.on.ca/en/about-us/police-services-board.aspx

I might point out that there is a vacancy on the police board!

A bit of Advice to My Staff on My Retirement

Last Thursday, the HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre staff had a Zoom coffee half hour for me on my retirement. They are a fabulous staff: hard working, creative and compassionate to our members. They asked me what advice I would give them as they moved forward. Here is my advice:

  1. Keep work and personal technology separate. Work computers, email, text etc. are only to be used for work communications.  Use personal phone, email and text for personal things, whether browsing the Internet, texting, volunteer work, or Facebook.  Even if you only have one phone, have an email account for work and one for personal. I have done this my whole political life and my work life. It works very well with only the occasional crossover when someone wrote something personal to me at my work email. Also, and this is hard, try to keep your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts not too radical. An potential employer will look for you.
  2. Assume when you send an email that it will look like you are snippy or shouting. No I don’t mean writing in caps which is the traditional way of shouting on the Internet. I mean that unlike face to face or even a phone call, email and text don’t have body language, face expression or voice tone so the person receiving it can’t tell what you mean. This is why novels have to describe these things and why we have emojis. Unfortunately in business or work communication, emojis seem flippant. Maybe we need to develop work emojis! Meanwhile, try and be incredibly polite in your emails and texts. If something is important, phone, zoom or meet face to face. This is why we have meetings.
  3. When you want to propose a project or or have been asked to propose a project, bring three decent options for your boss to look at. Even if you have only one option, at least make sure your boss knows what you are up to! Be prepared for questions and discussion, that’s the final way people communicate.
  4. Make sure everyone is included. I call this the “Bad Fairy Mistake.” In the story Sleeping Beauty, the King and Queen invited all the good fairies to the christening of Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) but they forgot or didn’t want to ask the bad fairy. The bad fairy found out she was left out (They always do) and cursed Princess Aurora to sleep for a hundred years on her 16th birthday. (I particularly like Disney’s Maleficent with Angelina Jolie, rather than the original animated version)
  5. Treat your co-workers like you want to be treated.

Keep Well in this time of pandemic. I am onto the next adventure. Maybe I will even be writing more often in my blog

Is Fundraising the Best Model for a Charity?

laurie and fashion Santa

Laurie wearing her HopeSpring wig during treatment.

For the last 8 months, I have been very busy learning the job of Executive Director of HopeSpring. HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre helps people affected by cancer, whether the patient, caregiver, family, or supporter. The organization offers non-medical  psycho-social programs like gentle exercise (yoga and tai chi), relaxation therapies (massage, therapeutic touch), cancer care counselling (individual and family), stress reduction (art expression, meditation), and group peer support (caregivers, men, women, ovarian cancer). HopeSpring is 100 percent funded by donations. Thank you so much to all of you who support HopeSpring.

It is a very different financial environment from overseeing a regional municipality where shortfalls, whether from other levels of government or inflation are filled with property taxes. Charities must raise the funds they need to survive each year by donations from individuals and corporations, and grants. There is no taxpayer available to cover any shortfalls. We are dependent on the generosity of our donors.

When the pleas from charities come in your door or email this time of year, don’t be irritated. Everyone of us is providing a much needed and necessary service. There truly isn’t anything like a free lunch. Donate Here

The Federal Government’s Plan for Non-Profits and Charities

The federal government is going ahead with  a social finance fund where for-profit companies would take on the risk of a charity’s proposed plan. To me this sounds very much like the public private partnership the Region of Waterloo used to build the LRT. It’s working!

So for HopeSpring, where we are starting a capitol fundraising plan in the next year to raise funds for a new home, this idea would be a very good one.  HopeSpring is growing and our space is too small.

For profit partnerships for charities

There are also funds that will fund Investment Readiness for social finance and will be distributed through community foundations. Social innovation and finance funds

Here is the question HopeSpring has to think about. Right now all our services and programs are free. We feel this is very important as people with cancer have enough to think about and also, since often chemo and radiation mean time off work, funds can be limited. A regular priced wig can cost 200 to 300 dollars. Yet they are important for women who lose their hair temporarily from chemo. We don’t want them to go without, as often women won’t think of themselves. So all our wigs are free due to the generousity of Zonta.

It has been hinted in conversations about social finance funding, that HopeSpring should charge for our counselling sessions as other non-profit counselling organizations do for those who can afford it. However the hospital cancer social workers are “free” for cancer patients with payment coming from government sources. Some hospital social workers in some hospitals are being cut back, leaving cancer patients without the resources to get help for anxiety, stress and loss. HopeSpring could fill the gap if we have the donations. The difference between government funding and fundraising.

So here is my question: Is fundraising the best model for charities?

Three years ago, we almost lost HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre due to the ending of a major fundraising golf tournament. This near bankruptcy has happened to other organizations like the Symphony. The community rallied around and raised the funds for HopeSpring to continue through a gofundme. We know the community wants HopeSpring.  Now three years later, we are on our feet again in a smaller location, helped by the generosity of the Inn of Waterloo and our donors. But with the growth in cancer cases, the need has become greater.  Middle class families (the people the Federal government has dedicated a ministry to) cannot afford 90 to 100 dollars a session for cancer counselling on top of all the other caregiving and financial problems involved with having cancer. Thank goodness for medicare that covers most of the costs of treatment.

Fundraising is a good model for charities like HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre, but only with your support. Every year we need donations from people like you to survive. When those pleas come through your mailbox or in an email, please sit down and put together an annual giving plan. Charities need your help every year, not just once. If you want HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre to continue to survive and thrive, please become an annual donor. Thank you to all of you who donate, you keep us helping people affected by cancer.

Donate Here

 

I Levelled Up in Karate!

Never did I think that I would be taking karate in my 60s! As many of you know, my grandson has mild autism (used to be called Asbergers). His mother thought that taking karate would be good for him, not only to protect himself but also following directions, participating and standing in a line. So far he can participate for half an hour.

My grandson goes to the Kitchener Kicks Dragon Heart program. Recommended by Kidsability

Karate Class

Dragonheart class takes their exam

, it is a karate program for those with disabilities. All of the participants have autism or are mentally disabled.

Our Sigung (Sensei) is a blind black belt, right out of a Japanese historical action film. He is firm but dedicated to the students who are only asked to do to their ability. This week was very exciting because we practiced with staves. I never thought I had aggression in me, though I still can’t fight my way out of a paper bag.

At the leveling up ceremony many had taken a year to move up to a yellow belt (the one above the basic white), but the pride filled the room. One little boy who started last September could not walk. He does his moves with the help of his mother. At the levelling up ceremony, he walked up to receive his new black and white belt (a half level above white). We all clapped, only a few dry eyes.

I started out as an assistant for Robbie. I also signed up to pay each week. When my grandson finishes his half hour (He is going longer over time), I continue to work on my moves. At the levelling up ceremony, I was shocked. I got a certificate and a black and white belt. Sigung said I was working hard. I fist bumped several times with one of the other students.

Recently, one of the HopeSpring fundraisers was telling me about his 17 year old grandson who has autism. He just won national gold for karate and is attending the PanAm games. I don’t think this is Paralympics. The woman who looks after the registration desk at Kitchener Kicks told Robbie and me that her son has been a twice World Karate champion and has gone to Ireland and Austria. He has autism. She told us that 4 months after he started, the boy’s school teacher asked why her son was suddenly listening and following directions. The only thing they could think of was karate. We hope that will happen to my grandson. He was also excited about the staves on Saturday. Maybe at the next test in December, I will go up another level and Robbie will too!

 

 

 

 

 

No styrofoam: Reusable doggy bag reminds me of my mother-in-law

Whenever we went to a restaurant with my Mother-in-law, she would always take home a few sugar packets and a bit of meat for the dog wrapped in a paper napkin. I felt embarrassed. How times change.

Though we don’t take sugar packets, my husband and I do get a doggy bag when we eat out. My husband insists that we take the fries home to reheat for the grandkids and a little bit of meat for our incredibly spoiled dog. Unfortunately, our favourite restaurant uses Styrofoam boxes for the leftovers.

Reuseable doggy bag

Take your own doggy bag

Styrofoam is actually polystyrene. But the foam containers at restaurants and packaging are commonly called Styrofoam. Common Styrofoam is thrown away and not recycled. Not a market.

In memory of my Mom-In-Law we now take her favourite reusable Tupperware for the doggy bag. (BTW, if you know where I can find more containers with an attachable lid, I’m buying them!) Costco and Boar’s Head food truck have disposable containers that are compostable.

In Ontario, companies are now supposed to find alternatives to Styrofoam and eventually look after their own packaging. Not sure what will happen with the change in provincial government.

Vancouver and  various American states have banned Styrofoam restaurant containers. Legal staff say Waterloo region could also do this. They would consult with restaurant owners and the public before moving ahea. if you think this is a good idea, lobby your Regional councillors or the province.