Pinkie Patti and the Piano Man

Mom piano hands“Do you want to try playing Ms Patti?” Eric the Piano Man questions, gentle yet intent.

“I don’t think I can. I don’t know how,” Mom replies.

She adores singing, knows the words to hundreds of songs, still remembers them mostly. But she never learned to read music or play an instrument.

Now she’s 85 and in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Her language skills are beginning to evaporate – she rarely completes a sentence anymore. It seems unlikely she should be able to play the piano at this stage, even as she’s coming ’round the mountain.

Eric is undeterred.

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Somewhere over the rainbow is here. And now.

No point writing any words. This video speaks for itself.

Fight the Good Fight. Your Way.

Journalist, author, motivational speaker and world-record-holding marathon swimmer Diana Nyad made five attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida.

She first tried at age 28 in 1975.

She failed.

She made four subsequent attempts in August 1978, August 2011, September 2011, and August 2012. She finally succeeded in making the historic crossing “sans” shark cage in August 2013 at age 64.

“Find a way,” she says in the TED talk below. “You have a dream and you have obstacles in front of you, as we all do. None of us ever get through this life without heartache, without turmoil, and if you believe and you have faith and you can get knocked down and get back up again and you believe in perseverance as a great human quality, you find your way.”

I too am tenacious. Determined. Doggedly so. Perhaps stupidly so.

One thing is certain: once I’ve got my eyes on the prize I’m not likely to give up, and my stick-with-it-ness has helped me achieve cool things (like becoming a triathlete at age 50), and taken me places (from the Great Wall of China to the Arctic Circle) I never would have dreamed possible.

In my experience, the hardest decisions in life are those that force us to choose between giving up or trying harder, washing our hands or taking responsibility, doing the “right thing’ or doing the easy thing.

These are tough choices. At first glance, giving up, washing our hands and doing the easy thing may appear more attractive. Clearly these choices are less troublesome and burdensome. But they are invariably less satisfying, less honourable, and less enriching as well.

Even in adversarial situations when the prospects of failing far outweigh those of success, my pit-bullish unwillingness to surrender serves me well – albeit not always bloodlessly!

“There’s always a chance,” I remind myself.

There’s a chance – slim though it may be when you’re outnumbered, outgunned, and outsmarted – that you will emerge victorious. Sheer determination sometimes carries the day. Not often. But enough to make the struggle worthwhile.

This is truth, not some hallucination like those Nyad experiences during her long distance swims.

God knows I’ve lost many times. And I’ve been lost many times. But I’ve also won. And I’ve also  been found.

AWR better to lick woundsI learn from my failures (much more than from my successes); I get up, dust myself off, shed some tears, heal my hurts, and keep going. I’d rather lick my wounds and be battle-scarred than kiss ass and compromise my values.

I don’t hold any world records. I’m not internationally renowned like Diana Nyad. And I don’t have a big expert team to support me. Mostly I just have myself and a merry band of international misfits, rabblerousers and amazing women to cheer me on.

But like Nyad, I’m unwilling (maybe even unable) to give up.

According to Wikipedia, Nyad describes marathon swimming (in her 1978 autobiography) as a battle for survival against a brutal foe—the sea—and the only victory possible is to “touch the other shore.”

You don’t have to be a marathon swimmer or famous or special to be courageous in life. You don’t have to be shot at to be brave.

We all fight our own daily battles (big and small) against our own brutal foes. The only victory possible is to find a way–our own way–to persevere, prevail and live another day.

Fight the good fight. Whichever way is your way.

Merry Christmas from Mom & me

Merry Christmas from Pinkie Patti and I in frosty and frozen Canada to you, wherever in the world you are.

(It’s amazing what you can do when you try…)

This is what a “fumerist” does…

Veteran comedian Kate Clinton describes herself as “a faith-based, tax-paying, America-loving political humorist and family entertainer,” and “fumerist” (feminist humourist). She’s a lesbian. She’s also witty and funny.

She celebrates her 66th birthday today (November 9, 2013). Continue reading

Sara Is Finally Free

Sara Kruzan niceIn November 2009, I featured Sara Kruzan’s story on AmazingWomenRock.com in a post entitled “How Much Time for This Kind of Crime?

At the time, I tried to make sense of the violence of her desperate action, and the life of abuse that had driven her to it.

I wrote:

“This moral dilemma leaves me torn: a teenaged girl kills the ruthless and manipulative pimp who has entrapped and abused her. She is then sentenced to life in prison without parole for his murder. I’m 100% against violence and killing; and yet, somehow, something doesn’t seem right… It feels to me like she has gone from one prison to another…”

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Catherine never complained

Catherine I am luckyMy cousin Catherine was born with a heart defect.

She began having (then-experimental) surgeries to correct it at the age of two. She had many such surgeries and spent countless days, weeks, sometimes even months in hospital. The number of times she might have died are too numerous to mention.

She never complained. She amazed everyone with her will to live.

In addition to the surgeries and hospital stays, she took all kinds of prescription drugs and faced multiple challenges throughout her childhood and early adolescence: attention deficits, learning issues, and limits on what she could and could not do.

She never complained. She made the most of life.

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