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The right to be who you are

 

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When you were eight did you know what you wanted to do when you were older? Most importantly, did you know who you are? Most of us couldn’t answer that question, I know I couldn’t. When I was eight I was involved in after school programs, playing with my friends and making sure I was doing good in school.

Meet Bella. Isabella Burgos is eight-years old and a firecracker. Meeting her for the first time you know that she is going places. Bella loves the colour pink, she loves school and, most importantly, her family. Over the last month Bella has faced some harsh criticism for being who she is – a girl. But why would someone criticize for her that? For being a girl?

When Isabella was born, she was born a boy. This past summer she decided that she would no longer be a boy, but what she believed in her heart that she is – a girl. She returned to school a girl and soon after she was at the end of harsh words that came from an adult. Yes, an adult. It started over the use of the washroom. Identifying herself as a girl, Bella began using the girls bathroom until the mother of a fellow classmate found out – when she took it upon herself to approach Bella and scold her for using the girls bathroom. But then it quickly escalated to much more than that – she was criticized for being a girl and not what she was born as. Not only did the adult go after Bella, she took it further and went after her brothers and then her parents.

Bella is now forced to use the gender neutral bathroom at school and Bella, her parents and the other party, along with the school, are now in a battle over human rights. Bella’s right to be who she is.

Being transgendered is not a choice, it is who you are. It is just like being gay – you did not wake up one day and decide that you were going to start living your life as a gay person. You’ve known all of your life who you are and who you identify yourself as… you just decided to make it public and share your life story with others. This is what Bella has done – she is telling the world who she really is and that she and her family do not have an issue with it.

Bella’s story has touched my heart. When I heard this story, I cried. For a girl of her age to go through this, it is incredible. She wasn’t scared to come out and tell the world that she was a girl, but now one person is probably making her confused. Nobody has the right to make her feel that way, nobody. I was lucky enough to live my young life without judgement and the freedom to be who I wanted to be and the freedom to make my own decisions… why does she have to go through that with hate following her around? It’s not fair.

This is bullying and it needs to stop. This is a hate crime and it needs to stop. I am not writing this blog entry to try to get you to change your mind on your opinions or beliefs. I am simply asking you to stand up for this injustice and treat Bella as an equal. It is our human right to be treated equal and live a life with dignity and respect. It is our human right to be free of discrimination and it doesn’t matter what your gender is, what colour your skin is, what religion you follow…. we all have human rights and want to be treated equally and fairly.

I commend Bella for standing up for her rights, for herself and what she believes in. I met her on Saturday and she is just like any other eight-year old girl – bouncy, full of life and filled with curiosity. She put a smile on my face and touched my heart. I commend her parents and her siblings for standing next to her, protecting her, supporting her… like her dad said, “It is our job to keep our children safe and that is what we’re doing.”

Bella, you’re a trailblazer and you’re going to go far in this world. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Get out of town

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Have you ever needed to escape? I mean really needed to escape, escape from what is grinding you down? Taking away your energy? Erasing your spirit? Well after everything that has happened over the last few weeks, yesterday I grabbed a friend and headed the heck out of town.

And it was exactly what I needed. What my spirit needed.

I woke up early to pick up my sweet and dear friend Vanessa and we headed for the lovely little town of Gimli, Manitoba. Now, if you haven’t been… you’re definitely missing something. It’s this quaint little town, nestled on the banks of Lake Winnipeg, home to Icelandic settlers. This past weekend Gimli hosted the annual Icelandic Festival, a fun festival celebrating its Icelandic roots. You seriously need to do this once or twice in your lifetime. It really is fun!

The weather was perfect and I am proud to say that I walked that entire town… with no issues! Talk about a HUGE feat! We made it in time for the parade, watched it and enjoyed it! Love, love, LOVE small town parades! Walked to the beach and sat on the shore watching a sailboat waaaaayyyy off in the distance, and then walked to the park where the main festivities are held. Now, I haven’t been there in ages (since I was a kid), so everything has definitely changed. Once we surveyed the happenings at the park, we walked all the way back to the car and drove back to the park with our delicious (and it was very delicious) picnic lunch. GO SANDWICHES!

After our lunch and a quick tour of the pavilion, we headed back to the boardwalk area to check out a cute little store called Tergesen’s (I seriously need to go back with cash!) and then back to the beach! I honestly can say I don’t remember swimming in a lake when I was a kid. So, to change that, I dipped my feet into the cool lake and zoned out for a bit. Some people say that Manitoba is a boring province, but when you step back and take a look a it, I mean… really look at it, it sure is beautiful. I know that on the other side of Lake Winnipeg is land, but when you’re looking out across the lake, it’s like as if it goes on forever and doesn’t end. Such a beautiful province to explore.

This little excursion is exactly what the doctor ordered, and I’m so glad I was afforded the opportunity to do so. I’ll definitely be going back next year.

Here are a few pictures I snapped, for your viewing pleasure.

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Stages

Last week we were dealt a difficult blow when a very close family friend, who’ve I’ve been calling my aunt since I could talk, passed away with a short and difficult battle with cancer. When she told us of her diagnosis in late June, we were shocked. Here was this vivacious woman who did everything she could to stay healthy, was diagnosed with stage 4 inoperable liver cancer. It was like a knife was slammed into our hearts. In November, we said goodbye to her mother who passed of lung cancer and two years ago, she buried her sister who passed from stage 4 breast cancer. In no way was this cancer hereditary (she was adopted).

While I cannot believe that she is gone, this ordeal and my grief makes me think of the Kübler-Ross Model – 5 Stages of Grief. I first learned about Elizabeth and her models when I was in high school. Our English teacher introduced it in a discussion on death and Euthanasia (we had open topic discussions every class), we even had to write a small essay on it. I was intrigued by what she had to say because from as early as I can remember, I didn’t have issues with people dying, especially from horrible diseases. Why would I want them to stay, for my selfish reasons, and suffer any longer (with the exception to one death in the family). I didn’t even really cry when my grandparents passed away. Sure I was heartbroken and sad, and to this day I miss them dearly, but dealing and accepting with the death of a loved one was never an issue.

Kübler-Ross’ Model for the 5 Stages of Grief is as follows:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

At first I was in denial. I denied that it was cancer and possibly something else. It was so fast, with no signs or symptoms until a few weeks ago… I have never heard of cancer taking someone this fast. I completely jumped over anger. I’m not an angry person (only when backed into a corner), so this stage did not apply. After denial I went straight into bargaining. I’m not a spiritual person, but I did ask God if he could take away all the bad and evil people and spare her life. I guess this was selfishness talking, but I was really thinking of her grandkids… they loved their grandma so much, and the thought of them losing her tore my heart into tiny pieces. After a few days of talking to myself, I finally decided I had to accept this. There was nothing that I could do, nor could the doctors. I could not cure or heal her of cancer, and no how hard I begged… her life would not be spared.

But what about depression? Depression is a strange little thing. It acts in weird ways. Depression came last. For a few days after her death, I was depressed. On the second day I had to get myself off the couch and into non-grungy clothes and get out…. even if it was to visit the grocery store. I have to admit. I’m not sure if I could even classify it as depression, more like, sadness. One of my favourite people in the whole-wide world is now gone, and I will never be able to talk to her again.

The funny thing is, that when I was planning the huge Christmas dinner last year something told me I had to do it. It was like this force came over me because someone/something told me that someone was not going to be with us next year and that I had to make this the best Christmas ever. I had mixed feelings. I wanted to do it, but then again… if I had this feeling of impending loss, if maybe not doing it would prevent it, then maybe I shouldn’t. But I did anyway. And I’m glad I did. I was able to create this amazing memory of her and of all of us celebrating Christmas together, cramped in our little living room and sharing in good memories of Christmases past.

Cancer is a nasty bitch, which we all wished never existed. I’m tired of going to funerals of loved ones who have passed from this horrible disease. I’m tired of young lives being taken, people being taken from their prime.

Goodbye auntie, I will miss you terribly. I hope that wherever you may be, that you are no longer in pain and are having a good time with your sister and mom. Say hello to my grandparents for me.

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Serenity

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The last few days my family has been dealing with some heartbreaking news, so on Saturday I had to go somewhere to have a mind break. I went to my favourite park in the city, a place my mom brought me all the time when I was a baby, and spent a bit with the ducks, geese & a magazine.

The ducks that are at this park are pretty tame, so they walk right up to you (see above photo). I love talking to the ducks/geese and I’m sure they love talking to me too. I had a nice little break, just sitting on a bench and watching nature swim on by on a cool summer day.

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Have car, will travel

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I’ll say it over and over again  – road trips are my freedom. There’s nothing like the open road in front of you and scenery as far as the eye can behold. I just love it.

On June 30, with my sister in tow, we left home and hit the open road… destination, Minneapolis. It was quite the smooth sailing! The traffic on the main highway leading to North Dakota, from Winnipeg, was non-existent. I knew with the following day being Canada Day, it was important to hit the road early in the morning (5:30) so we could avoid traffic. Check! The US border was empty and passing through customs was a breeze; traffic from there to Fargo was also pretty awesome. We made it to Fargo at 10:30. Stopped for gas an an early lunch at Subway, after that we headed back onto the road to Minneapolis!

Traffic from Fargo to Minneapolis was okay. Of course you contend with construction each summer, but it wasn’t bad. However, once we reached Clearwater… holy delay, batman! We were stopped on I-94 for a good 15 minutes because of construction. But that was okay, we made it to Minneapolis in record time. We arrived on our cousin’s doorstep at 2:30… the earliest I’ve ever arrived in Minneapolis!

After unloading and relaxing for a bit, we headed off on adventure to a cute little Russian bakery/deli to order a cake for our cousin’s oldest boy – his birthday is on July 4. Then after that sister and I went to Mall of America to dine at Bubba Gump… a tradition!

The highlight of our trip was when the lovely folks at the Minnesota Twins moved our seats. My sister has a medical condition where she cannot sit in direct sunlight, and silly me, our seats that I purchased were in the direct sun. They moved us to fantastic seats, in the shade, at third base. We were so thankful for their generosity.

It was a fun vacation… we spent 8 days in Minneapolis, cutting short of our planned two week vacation (sister injured her foot three weeks earlier, thought it was a sprain; come home to find her toe is dislocated!). Not sure if I’ll return in August, even though I really want to… we’ll see how the rest of the summer goes!

For now, I’ll leave you with some photos I snapped.

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First day (of three) at Mall of America. Holy sale, Bath & Body Works!

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Sonic. A very necessary stop when in the Twin Cities.

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Celebrity sighting at Mall of America – Ross Matthews!

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Log Chute shenanigans, celebrating Canada Day in America!

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Ahhh, to be a Polar Bear on a hot day! – Como Zoo

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Another necessary stop – Fuddruckers. Can we talk about that wicked soda machine?!

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A must on the list – take in a Twins game.

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Traditional baseball game fare – hot dogs & Killebrew Root Beer.

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July 4th fireworks display, on July 3.

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Birthday cake!!!

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My first 4th of July fireworks display. Downtown St. Paul.

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My first Trader Joe’s experience! LOVED IT!

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Ninja hiding skills!

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Holy monsoon, Batman! Caught in the storm on our way home.