Archive for the ‘Hot Topics’ Category

Hot Topic: Mental Illness

July 13, 2010

Here’s the answer to yesterday’s question…Yes, I know, the title gives it away  🙂  All of the celebrities mentioned have a mental illness of some sort, whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia…there are many, MANY different mental illnesses out there. One thing that bothers me is the label “crazy”, as in “He just went crazy one day”. Oftentimes mental illnesses are always in the background, and certain words or events set them off. I do understand, though, that we are woefully undereducated on the subject and accept that sometimes people just use words that are familiar to them because they don’t know any better terminology. I’m going to take a big leap and tell my personal story…

I remember being nervous quite often as a young child. I was afraid to dive in swimming class; I didn’t mind jumping into deep water, but something about going in face-first really bothered me. I was TERRIFIED of playing team sports because trying to remember the rules made me worry so much that I couldn’t think of anything else. I didn’t want to join choir or the track team (or any other individual sport) because I didn’t think I was good enough, and that people would laugh at me or be disappointed when I let the “team”, or the rest of the group, down. I was what you would label “gifted”, and as a result teachers gave me more responsibilities than the other kids. I remember one incident where my Grade 1 teacher asked me to take a note to another teacher’s classroom; I was so nervous about knocking on her door and having all the kids staring at me that I went back and told my teacher that the other teacher wasn’t in her classroom.

Junior high is usually a wasteland of embarrassment, heartbreak and low self-esteem for most people, but to be honest, I really enjoyed it. I started to come out of my shell; I joined band and discovered I was a GOOD clarinet player!; and I had a great group of friends. Sure, there were spats, but we were always there for each other. My grades remained high, and I even had my very first date to my Grade 8 graduation dance.

High school is where things started to really go downhill. I went into an advanced program with dreams of going into medicine, and my grades plummeted. I was sick nearly every morning, and avoided studying because doing so would make me MORE nervous about the upcoming test. I did very well with essays because I could sit and take my time, writing at my own leisure. I simply didn’t know what was wrong with me, which is not a good feeling at all.

Fast forward 8 years. I was at my third university, having switched programs twice. I had taken dozens of courses, but did not yet have a degree. I took my father out to dessert for his birthday, and he broached the subject of depression, giving his personal experiences. With each word he spoke, describing situations and feelings he had experienced, I realized that I finally had an answer to what was wrong with me.

I’m doing much, MUCH better now. I’m taking medication: Effexor, which is part of the SNRI class of antidepressants. I have also found a wonderful therapist whom I call by her first name and who has given me a lot of encouragement. I’m still working on my problems with relationships, but things aren’t going to get better overnight. And, of course, the blog helps me get some of my feelings out too. If you’re still here, thanks for reading  🙂

Are we too PC, or are we being “culturally sensitive”?

July 5, 2010

Late spring/early summer is a busy time for national holidays in our part of the world; Mexico’s falls on 5 May (Cinco de Mayo); Canada’s falls on 01 July (Canada Day); and the USA’s falls on 04 July (Independence Day).

I have interacted with hundreds of tourists from the USA over the years, and Independence Day being yesterday reminded me of one particular encounter. Notice how I refer to the country directly to the south of Canada, and which is to the immediate north of Mexico? That’s right, the United States of America. Not the States, not America, not the United States. Until this particular visitor brought it up, I never really thought to much about the fact that a) Mexicans and Canadians are also Americans, as are Brazilians, Chileans, Columbians…; and b) Mexico’s full name is the United Mexican States (“Estados Unidos Mexicanos”), so they are also technically the United States.

Those who know me well know that I can be…ummm…rather anal about correct spelling and grammar, so do I want to put those who “don’t care” about the above on the rack or in the gallows for people to throw tomatoes at? Nope. I have referred to people from the USA as “Americans” my whole life, and I do not consider myself to be American. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change any time soon; the woman who brought this issue up just really made me think.

I’ll save the story about the “you guys” encounter for another time…

Freedom to Read Week: February 21-27

February 24, 2010

So here we are, halfway through Freedom to Read Week here in Canada. Ask anybody who has known me for either my whole life, or just part of it, and they will tell you that I love to read. Cereal boxes, novels, labels on household cleaners, magazines; it doesn’t matter. Since I learned to devour the written word at the age of four, I have been plowing through reading material like it’s going to drop off the face of the earth at any moment.

I firmly believe that we should have the freedom of choice in what we read. I do believe that some reading materials are age-appropriate; for example, I probably wouldn’t encourage a six-year old to pick up “The Homoerotic Photograph: Male Images from Durieu/Delaceriox to Mapplethorpe” (on a Canadian challenged books and magazines list as of February 2009) as it probably goes over most kids’ level of understanding. However, I absolutely disagree that books such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Tom Sawyer” be banned from junior and senior high schools. Kids then are at the age where they gain more and more independence by the day, and I think that discouraging them to read ANY book sends a negative message about literacy (on the other hand, teens often do the opposite of what you tell them to anyway!).

Therefore, I propose that we as humans keep a more open mind about literature, whether it relates to religion, politics, sexual orientation or race (these seem to be the most frequent hot topics). You may object to the subject matter in a particular piece, but that doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t have the choice of whether or not to pick it up because they find it interesting. Not everyone shares the same beliefs. I think that if everyone comes to this understanding, our libraries and school bookshelves can be places where learning of all sorts, not just of chosen topics, can take place.

Hot Topic: Tipping

February 18, 2010

Spurred on by this article, I got to thinking about tipping.

I have mixed views on this practice, as I’ve been on both sides of the issue. My first job was as a busgirl at a large, busy restaurant during the summer in a tourist area. I earned the grand sum of $4.75 an hour to clear off tables, collect trash, refill ketchup dispensers, clean washrooms, water plants…you get the idea. Since it was a buffet restaurant without wait staff, people generally did not tip (and I wouldn’t expect them to; I know I wouldn’t if I went to that sort of place). However, I got to know which tables to go clear off first, because the drivers/tour guides of those big bus tours always left a dollar or two on the table 🙂  I saved my “tips” in a jar, and by the end of the summer I believe I collected around $80- $90.

I’ve also eaten in a LOT of restaurants all around the world, from Hong Kong to Warsaw. I’ve gotten stellar service that I remember to this day (the waitress at the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando back in 2001 who divulged the “secret” of the Heinz glass ketchup bottle), and some really bad service (the guy at the Hard Rock Cafe in Montreal who told us as he saw us leaving the table after our meal, “You DO know tips aren’t included?” We promptly went back and took our tip right off the table). I firmly believe that a tip is a small amount of money that tells a server “Hey, you did a great job today”. I do NOT agree with many practices employed by eateries, such as instituting a mandatory “tip”, usually 15-20%. You can be sure that if I did not receive adequate service, I would be requesting the amount be removed from my bill. The article included above stated that a staff member informed people that the surcharges were to cover extra waitstaff, marketing costs, and janitorial staff; costs I believe that a) the owner/management should have snticipated ahead of time, and b) should not be passed onto the customer.

In short, I don’t believe in price-gouging, whether it be in the form of a mandatory tip or increased prices during a major event. I believe that a server has to earn his/her tip, and if they don’t earn it in my opinion, they aren’t going to get it. I’d love to hear what others think about this issue  🙂