If You Don't Have Stress, You May be a Carrier

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I have long believed that depression can be cured when you take away the source of the depression.
Not all depression, but a lot of it.
Many people, including me, could have been saved from a world of depression and heartache if we hadn't been taken out by circumstances beyond our control.
Death. Unemployment. Divorce. Sexual assault.
A lot has happened in my life, and not all of it has been good.
But I've been lucky to have loyal friends who have always supported me, and talked me down from the ledge. None of them had a pot to piss in, but each of them had a friendly ear, a warm hug, an open door.
The world is a nasty place full of people who don't have stress but are carriers.
They hurt you, mock you, leave you, bankrupt you, under-employ you, sexual harass you, put you down so far it looks like up.
If I were a bettin' girl, I would say all those carriers are tweeting all over the place about the importance of recognizing mental illness in the…

Birthday wishes for Ashley Simpson

In November, my cousin Ashley Simpson would have been 35 years old. If she wasn't working, she likely would have celebrated with her big messy family chowing down on a feast prepared by her pa, John Simpson, who would have thrown everything at the usual gang: a turkey, a roast beef or ribs, pots of potatoes and veggies, and lots of yummy desserts.

Ashley might have tried some of the legal pot here in Ontario, or maybe brought her own, and washed down her meal with her favorite beverage, a fizzy and boozy Palm Bay. Likely she would have made some crack about showing the politicians how to do the whole pot thing. Then she'd giggle, and venture off to play with her gaggle of nieces and nephews, threading marshmallows, painting faces, and singing the kids' songs so many of us forgot so long ago.
Everybody would be there. There's half a town of young people from Thorold and St. Catharines who call her parents mom and dad. Ashley and her sisters adopted a slew of strays alo…

Drones offer help and hope to families of the missing

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John Simpson spent this past weekend playing host to golfers at the 2nd Annual Ashley Simpson Golf Tournament in Niagara. John, his wife Cindy and organizer Amanda Haveman have been working tirelessly on this event for weeks. It's meant to raise money, as well as awareness about the plight of missing women and girls in Canada.

It's the cause of John's lifetime. He's spent his savings trying to find his missing daughter Ashley -- my cousin -- who disappeared without a trace in Salmon Arm, B.C. nearly two and a half years ago. Like all parents of the missing, thoughts of Ashley consume him. The stress has cost him employment, and his health, and yet he continues looking straight ahead, fueled only by his faith that he will some day find Ashley.
Every spring, John goes back to Salmon Arm, and joins Ashley's Army, a group of volunteers who get to work scouring the bush and logging roads, casting their gazes toward running streams and rivers. Cin…

Sasha Fierce and Mama Rose

Two years ago, her parents entrusted me with her care.
Next week, I will hand her back to them, and she will enter the big, bad world of daycare.
I'm sad. I can't lie.
But it's time.
Alas, she remains untoilet-trained, and continues to speak a combination of Russian and French with a hint of Hindi -- unless she wants peaches or supe.
Then, her English is just fine.
Oh yes, and she drinks more juice than water most days.
I make no apologies. I am her grandmother, not her mother.
And I've never been a particularly focused caregiver.
When I need a nap I take one.
So for a time every day, the iPad has been the nanny.
Which might explain the Russian and the Hindi.
And her fixation on ghosts.

In my own defence, I kept her out of the hospital, though we did have a few close calls.
Like the time she brought the occasional table down on her neck.
Or the other time she tumbled down the stairs because a certain grandpa couldn't remember to close the door.
She's had a few…

Ashley's Ghost

Like most women of a certain age, I live with ghosts.
Ghosts of dear friends, ghosts of favorite pets, ghosts of dear departed family members.
When I'm at the lake, I visit with them often. I see Finnigan catching a Kong in the lake, and Gordie taking his last swim. I see Jennette, too, in the chair next to me having a cocktail or a morning smoothie.
It's here where I am most at peace, with the waves lapping or the thunder clapping. It's a place to think, to ruminate, to wonder what could have been. For the most part, the endings were sad but expected; there's no need or want to be angry. We each have so many heartbeats, so many tears in us.
As humans, the only thing that keeps us sane is our ability to move on.
But there is one ghost who lives with me who won't be put in the nice memory box, and that is the ghost of my cousin Ashley Simpson who disappeared in April two years ago in the wilds of Salmon Arm, British Columbia.

Ashley left with barely a trace after a…

A Viking Send Off

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Scott and I were sitting around a couple of nights ago planning our funerals -- as one does on a beautiful summer night.
Actually, we were in a money management meeting in the backyard, eating tapas and drinking.
We have those now and again to make sure that we have enough money to live out the rest of our days, and leave enough to dispatch our asses so the kids don't have to pass the hat. Me, I could care less. Might as well sweep me to the curb but not everybody thinks that way.
We don't have a lot of expenses but we do have to budget for home and car repairs, vet bills, and so on. I'm hoping to have a little dental work done, and maybe replace the carpets after the unfortunate pet incidents involving seizures, mouth foam, urine and feces.
But I also want to make sure that death is covered. I don't worry about taxes because, in the last few years, I haven't made enough money to pay taxes.
I applied for the Canada Pension Plan when I turned…

Fear of Flying

Renee (second row, third from left), Rose (front second from left). 

When you meet someone from your past, a curious thing happens --they set "fresh eyes" on you.
My friend Renee hadn't seen me in nearly 45 years when I took her to the lake.
In high school, I was five foot six and weighed 130 pounds. Today, I weigh as much as my older brother who is six foot two. He likes to remind me of this fact on his regular phone call every ten years or so.
Renee hasn't changed much at all. She's tiny with a big wallop of wavy hair. Because she strictly attends to her diet, and an exercise regime, she still reminds me of the girl who took the bus with me everyday so many years ago. The only wink to old age is her decision to let her hair go grey. She likes to sweep it back into a messy bun that gives her a slight bohemian vibe.
In high school, I would rather go pantless than be caught without my lipstick and full make up which included an unfortunate foray into blue eyeliner…