A Sweet Childhood Memory – The Littlest Angel

It’s less than a week before Christmas. I’m not a huge fan of the day (after all, I’ve spent more time in synagogues the past 15 years than anywhere else!), but I do have a childhood ritual that I have re-visited often over the years. And it all has to do with a grumpy little angel.

The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell.

The Littlest Angel

When I was growing up in Montreal in the 1960s, part of what made Christmas so special for me and my two younger sisters was lying in bed on Christmas Eve night and listening to the legendary Paul Reid broadcast The Littlest Angel on CJAD Radio. It was 20 minutes of magic that endures today for me, despite the fact that it’s obviously decades old and a bit dated.

Why does this story of a little angel who’s finding it hard to fit in stick with me? I’m not what you’d call religious, so it’s not that.

It reminds me of happy times. We didn’t have much, my mother was raising the three of us alone, but she always made sure Christmas happened for us.

And Paul Reid’s voice, a voice silenced too young, was unforgettable – gentle, comforting and with a hit of humour.

It’s a treasure. Give it a listen. I’m going to.

 

 

Front Row Centre – Christmas Queen 2 is a Holiday Delight

I’m not a very Christmas-y person – but I love to laugh. And there are plenty of those to be had at Vancouver Theatre Sports League’s Christmas Queen 2 – You Better Watch Out.

This year’s production is set at the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop, where the final preparations for Christmas Eve are in full swing – until Santa returns from vacation with a new girlfriend  – and all hell breaks loose.

Qe3noDngj95e6X3kaNdHKW1PEsqA793u-eaHCTgbMyQ

The happy (?) couple.

What happens? Well, in this improvised fairy tale, it’s largely up to the audience, who determines where the story goes at every performance, which, of course is part of the fun. The rest is up to a stellar cast, including the beautifully evil Pearce Visser as Queenie, who delivers an over-the-top performance and steals the show. And I loved the twists and turns that resulted in Santa (Andrew Barber) and Marty the Elf (Nathan Clark) borrowing heavily from Back to the Future to save the day.

My recommendation – go for the quirky story lines that you can contribute to, go for the laughs, and sit at the tables right next to the stage and become the object of the Christmas Queen’s scorn. I was!

Christmas Queen 2 – You Better Watch Out runs at the Improv Centre on Granville Island Wednesday through Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. now through December 19. Book your tickets here.

And Happy Holidays!

When This Day is a ‘Day’ No Longer

It’s here again. December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Here’s the theme for 2015:

Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

“The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

Persons with disabilities must be able to fulfil their role in society and participate on an equal basis with others. It is important to focus on the ability and not on the disability of an individual. Often, the societal image of persons with disabilities is impacted by attitudes based on stigma and discrimination, as well as archaic ideas about disability and persons with disabilities that are often the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others. It is important to note that disability is part of the human condition, and that all of us either are or will become disabled to one degree or another during the course of our lives.

By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.”

Nice words, eh? But they don’t mean much to me. Neither does having a day that focuses on disabled people.

They’re just words. It’s just a day.

I don’t want there to be a ‘day’ for disabled people. I don’t want a light shone on disability as something to be celebrated, or marvelled at. I don’t want a day that urges the world to take notice, take action, and suddenly care. I don’t want a day that is designed to leave people momentarily motivated, inspired or guilty.

I don’t want a day makes me angry, and sad and frustrated and diminished and confused.

I believe with all my heart that accessibility and inclusion and the breaking down of barriers should be as natural as breathing. Simply having a day that points out the need for this only serves to raise awareness for a brief time, and then, it disappears.

It’s not what we need.

Here’s what we need, people.

We need a world where accessible, affordable housing isn’t an impossibility for too many of us, and we are relegated to living arrangements that restrict our movements and severely erode our quality of life.

We need a world where we can get hired for any job we want. There may be a glass ceiling for some, but for us, it’s a glass door. You don’t see it’s there until you run smack into it.

We need a world where we can go into any building, without discovering that no one thought to install an automatic door opener, or the ramp is too steep to manoeuvre, or the ‘accessible’ bathrooms don’t accommodate a power chair or a scooter, or someone had put the Braiile labels in the elevator in UPSIDE DOWN.

We need a world where we don’t have to go through the service entrance, or the back door or through the underground parking to access an entrance to a theatre or arena – only to find that we have the worst seats in the house.

We need a world where accessible parking isn’t hogged by those who don’t need it, and where we can actually REACH the parking meter from wheelchair height. We need a world where accessible transportation isn’t a privilege or luxury, but a right.

We need a world where we’re not yelled at because our speech disabilities or our hearing impairments or our cerebral palsy make us automatically stupid or incompetent or drunk.

We nee a world where our guide dogs or service dogs aren’t refused service at a restaurant, or a ride in a cab.

We need a world where we can read a menu in large print, review a document on our computer in a format that will work, or get have interpreters at an event so we can fully participate.

We need a world where everyone who requires caregivers have enough compassionate, competent workers who accommodate our schedules and needs, not theirs.

We need a world where none of us are questioned for our desire to have a family, or our ability to raise kids.

We need a world where our disabilities, mental, physical, and environmental aren’t second-guessed just because they appear invisible to others.

We need a world where we don’t have to push, cajole, beg and badger governments to protect our rights through legislation.

We need a world where being different doesn’t make us the object of bullying, exclusion, condescension and discrimination.

We need a world where all of us are accepted for the smart, talented, beautiful, sexy and valuable people we are.

As I write these words, tears form in my eyes. I know I am lucky to have a disability that doesn’t limit me that much. I can travel, I can take care of myself. I can live anywhere I want because I’m not encumbered by stairs or doors that are too narrow or bathrooms I can’t get into. Hell, despite my lack of sight, I can fake my way into most situations. I can write, I can bring my world to life with my camera. I am loved and appreciated.

It’s still hard, though. I was bullied as a kid and as an adult. I was denied the chance to pursue a teaching career. I’ve had people refuse to hire me. It’s a struggle to find paid work.Maintaining self-confidence is a constant struggle.

But I continue to try. I continue to show the world what I can do in the hopes that it not only helps me, but others, and especially kids. I continue to fight with and for my community.

I’m only one person. But if enough of us fight, and persuade, and influence, and prevail, we won’t have to ‘celebrate’ this day again.

Will you help?

World AIDS Day is Over – Now What?

“The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free”
– Robert Brault

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a global event designed to increase awareness of HIV, the fight to eradicate the disease, and the people living with it every day. I marked World AIDS Day by attending AIDS Vancouver’s Red Ribbon Awards honouring pioneers in HIV research, and those people who for years have been dedicated to supporting the HIV community.

It was a lovely, moving event. And it’s over.

But the need to help this vulnerable community isn’t.

AIDS Vancouver will be holding its annual Holiday Grocery Day on Tuesday, December 15th from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, with the goal to provide festive food to 700 people, on this single day.

header-img

How can you help?

Volunteer your time. There’s a need for Holiday Grocery Event Day Volunteers  on December 14th for set-up, and again on the 15th during the event.

Make a donation online, by mail, or in person. Cash donations ensure that the AIDS Vancouver Grocery Program can continue to operate all year round.

Donate in-kind, or become a sponsor. Contact Heidi Morgan, Grocery Coordinator, by email at heidim@aidsvancouver.org, or phone: 604-696-4678.

AIDS Vancouver is located at 803 East Hastings St., Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A 1R8. Hours of operation are 9 am – 4 pm Monday – Friday.

Image 2015-12-02 at 11.55 AM

I plan to be there, camera in hand. Can you spare some time, or give to this cause?

A Nod to the TEDxVancouver Performers

Well, here we are. My first #NaBloPoMo project is at its end, so I thought I’d end with a bang and highlight the awesome performers at this year’s TEDxVancouver.

There will be actual videos of the speakers’ presentations forthcoming, and I’ll be posting them with their awesome backstories – but these people were fantastic!

I wanted to acknowledge them with my camera.

So, here’s a bit of a TEDXVancouver montage. Enjoy. And thank you, as usual for your ongoing support. It’s greatly appreciated.

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

Photo by Cathy Browne

I can’t wait to photograph the next TEDxVancouver!