Archive for January, 2011

Saturday January 29th 2011 was the Manulife Walk for Memories in Toronto. This walk is held annually to raise funds for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. The Alzeimer Society seeks to alleviate the personal and social consequences of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and to promote research in the field. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dimentia that is incurable, degenerative, and ultimately terminal. Therefore, research is of the utmost importance.

The Walk for Memories drew in about 1200 walkers: families, friends, volunteers, and even a few politicians, like Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford, as well as liberals Donna Cansfield and Michael Ignatieff. In total, the 2011 Walk raised an incredible $592,000! My family fundraised $2165 of that total, which I am so very proud of!

The event was well organized, created a lot of energy in the crowd, and was very touching and sentimental as well. The Wall of Memories allowed walkers to post pictures of, comments to, and stories about loved ones who had passed away from Alzheimers disease. It was a lovely way to honour and remember those who we have lost.



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A roasting turkey
Hot outta the oven homemade cookies
Fresh cut grass

These are just a few of my favourite smells. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to smell them for years now. I’ve lost my sense of smell. I wouldn’t say it’s completely gone, but on a good day, I’d say my sense of smell is maybe working only about 10% of what it should be at.

I started losing my sense of smell probably during highschool. I cannot say for certain because it was such a slow, gradual process that I barely noticed. On top of this, I have asthma and an allergy to dust, so I’ve always been ‘nasally challenged’. My friends know they can always count on me to be carrying Kleenex, and it is a rare occassion to hang out with me and NOT witness me blowing my nose.

And so, in June 2009, I went under the knife and had surgery to remove nasal polyps that had formed in my sinuses. I figured that once the polyps were removed, my congestion wouldn’t be as bad, and my smell would return. Nope. I could definitely breathe much easier, but when I asked my ENT specialist about my sense of smell, he basically shrugged his shoulders.

Last week I went to the Comprehensive Health Recovery Centre, and had osteopathy and accupressure massage. This week I had more accupressure as well as accupuncture. So far there hasn’t been any noticeable change in my sense of smell, but my breathing and lungs are doing surprizingly well. I think that because my sense of smell has been gone and blocked for SO long, it will take time for these therapies to create noticeable change. But I’m staying hopeful!

I was also doing some research on the nose, our sense of smell, and its relation to memory. Here are a few interesting tidbits:

“We all experience surprise flashbacks, brought on by the power of smell. An unexpected aroma can transport us back in time with amazing effect. The bog, or the scent of coconut oil on the beach, for example. More than any other tricks of our imagination, such as a voice, picture, place or story, our sense of smell seems to be the greatest emotional link with past experiences. Take the sweet smell of freshly mown grass: all some of us need to do, in order to be drinking bottled tea in the middle of a hay-field, is to close our eyes. When my children brought home white chalk from school, they also brought my first teacher, Mrs McCormack, into our kitchen. A whiff of Johnston Baby Powder, reminds me of my own children as babies… Smell is the only one of our senses which is wired directly to the brain and odours are very powerful stimuli. As soon as an aroma hits your nasal membranes, it immediately impacts on your brain. A smell – call it a scent or aroma, has the greatest ability to recall emotional memory. The power of smelling is probably the most underrated of all our senses. Even what we taste has more to do with smell. We talk about our taste-buds and palate, but in actual fact, 75% of what we perceive as taste, comes from our sense of smell. Have you noticed that when you have a cold, your food doesn’t taste as good? This has nothing to do with taste, but the fact that the function of smell is impaired. Smell arouses our appetite, elicits deep seated memories, kindles sexual desires, and warns us of danger – such as the smell of something burning, as well as constantly sending bits and pieces of useful information to the brain. Of course our sense of smell has to deal with offensive or repugnant smells as well. We shan’t dwell on these too long, but sewage, vomit, rotten fish or eggs spring to mind in passing. Any of you who may have upset a skunk (no, the other one, Alannah!) will go to great length to avoid one in future.There is some evidence that pleasant odours, such as vanilla or lavender, will reduce stress in the workplace, and even lead to increased productivity. The study of the effects of odours on behaviour is called, aromachology. This science is relatively new, but the healing powers of aromatherapy date back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians. The term “aromatherapy”, was coined in the 1920’s, by a French chemist called Rene Maurice Gattefosse, to describe the practice of using essential oils, taken from plants, flowers, roots, seeds etc., and used in healing. Gattefosse conducted experiments with wounded soldiers during WW1 and deduced that the aromas benefited the soldiers by imparting a psychological and physical feeling of well being.”


“We’re talking about the harmonious mixing and matching of potentially hundreds of individual aroma chemicals,” Papas said. “Composers have their musical notes, and we actually use what are called ‘fragrance notes’ that unfold over time to the nose like stanzas of a symphony to the ear.”


“Pa­pas said that few peo­ple are aware of the all-pervasive na­ture of smells. Scents are a part of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence from the time peo­ple awake in the morn­ing to the time they fall asleep at night. Child­hood mem­o­ries stay with peo­ple through­out life. And smells can have a pow­er­ful in­flu­ence on hu­man emo­tions.

“Fra­grances can make peo­ple feel good,” said Pa­pas, who is vi­ce president-executive per­fum­er at Gi­vau­dan Fra­grances Cor­pora­t­ion, in East Hano­ver, N.J. He spe­cial­izes in de­vel­op­ing fra­grances for eve­ry­day prod­ucts, in­clud­ing laun­dry prod­ucts, scented oils and can­dles, room sprays, and house­hold clean­ers. 

“Fra­grances are part of what has been called ‘nasal nos­tal­gia’, bring­ing back long-forgotten mem­o­ries of pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ences for peo­ple to en­joy once again,” he added. “We strive to con­nect with an emo­tion that makes the con­sum­er feel good and could be per­haps a lit­tle nos­tal­gic.”

Pa­pas cites as in­spira­t­ion the computer-animated film Ra­ta­touille, which is about a rat, Remy, who dreams of be­com­ing a gour­met chef. In one scene, Remy im­presses a prom­i­nent food crit­ic with a del­i­cate, but plain, meal that evokes fond mem­o­ries of his child­hood.

“It was a very sim­ple meal, but it dealt with emo­tion,” Pa­pas said. “It’s the same with fra­grance. A suc­cess­ful fra­grance, much like a fa­vor­ite mov­ie, food, or song, must cre­ate such a strong con­nection with the con­sum­er. It is im­por­tant for fra­grance de­sign­ers to try to trans­port cus­tomers to an­oth­er, per­haps bet­ter, place or time.” “

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Love always, Jim

It is a long-standing tradition for my Mum, Grandma, and Aunt, to write one another poems for their wedding anniversaries. Without a doubt, they have touched on every topic you could imagine, from being the ultimate animal-lover, to aging and deafness, to the sillyness and joy in raising children and of course the always popular and fun toilet or dirty humour.

They’ve written some truly great poems over the years, but this one is particularly touching. My Mum just wrote this one for my grandparents would-be 55th wedding anniversary, and I asked her if I could share it here on my blog. Here it is:

Dear Betty,

Pity we fell short of 55 years,
Sorry my death brought forth your tears.
Remember the good times and the bad,
It gives balance to the years we had.

Look out for the kids like we always did,
No matter how old; to us they’re still kids.
Watch the grandkids mature and find their way,
You’ve lots of love and wisdom to send and say.

I’ve always loved you; I know you knew,
Even when disease kept me from telling you.
One day, God willing, we’ll be together, a pair.
Til then, my love, keep strong, live well and don’t despair.

Love always,

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A great man lost

Dear Grampy,

You left us yesterday. Rather, your body finally gave way to the ailments you had been struggling with for some time now. Because the Grampy I knew and loved had actually been missing for some time. The problem with Alzheimer’s is that I can’t pin-point the moment that you had forgotten me, the moment that you no longer understood you were a beloved grandfather. I’ve gotta say that Alzheimer’s disease is a real motherfucker. Although it left your body with us, your mind and spirit were gone.

But we are left with memories of you and your life. Both good and bad ones. But mostly good ones. Reminicing last night and today with mum&dad and Grammy, I learned a few stories I hadn’t heard before. Like how it is that your two daughters are so easily able to get in touch with their foul-mouthed-selves. In your younger days, you were a pro at firing off curse words to your fellow drivers. So pro in fact, that your little girl Nancy, exclaimed quite proudly during one of many car trips: “Jesus Christ Dad, 3 buses!” I heard about your adventures in plumbing, where every other word was ‘fuck’ or ‘goddamn’. Oh, and the time that you caught the biggest fish ever, and after having Nancy snap several picture of you with your glorious catch, discovered a few days later there was in fact no film in the camera. Oh the times you had!

And what about my memories? I will always remember you as a giant. I looked up to you both physically, and as a role model. You embodied so many admirable qualities: you worked hard to support and care for your family, you cherished the times spent with family and friends, you never took life too seriously, and you made your voice and opinions heard. You always told me to pursue my dreams, it was important not to lose sight of what you wanted to get out of life. You taught me to drive. Your booming laugh was always so contagious. And we could always, always count on our favourite lines at family gatherings: you calling Grammy, “little girl”; always asking “Is it free?” when invited for dinner or offered desserts; and asking me if I was being good and staying out of trouble. Let’s not forget about those phonecalls that would start with “Hi Rach, it’s your stupid grandfather calling for more computer help”. All these memories and words I will hold with me.

This week was difficult. It was emotionally draining and physically exhausting. I had tried to get myself to start my yoga this week, but every morning I woke up I could not for the life of me motivate myself to go. Until this morning, after you were gone. Truthfully, I think I was scared to leave the house and miss the call. And so when I finally made it to hot yoga, it was a cathartic experience for sure. I found myself crying a little during a couple postures and knew my body was releasing the grief and the tension I had been holding in all week. Grief and tension that me and my family had all been feeling.

You are gone now, and it’s still hard to grasp. I feel as though I am still waiting to see you walk through the front door with your bright red coat, and your big grin. Family get-togethers will not be the same without you. But rest assured, your memory will live on when we talk about you, and use your classic one-liners.

Love you Gramps,


Jim Driscoll, May 30 1931 - January 6 2011

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The Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton launched a new campaign in November 2010. Me, being crazy-busy with school and placement and life, kept forgetting to spread the word on its brilliance. So here it is…

The typical sexual assault awareness campaigns we see specifically target potential victims: women. These campaigns focus on preventative measures women should use for their own safety. Women are told to restrict and modify their behaviour: always stay with a friend, never put your drink down, stay in safe spaces, etc. But what message is still being implied in these campaigns? The message is: “If you neglect one of these ‘rules’, and happen to be sexually assaulted or raped, of course it is not your fault, BUT . . . Maybe if you had just stayed with your friend, this wouldn’t have happened”. And there it is. BLAME. Victim-blaming and shaming.

So why do I love this new campaign so much? It shifts responsibility onto potential offenders. Because, aren’t the offenders the ones who make the choice to violate someone? The length of a woman’s skirt, in fact, has no actual effect on the decision of a man to rape a woman.

I therefore tip my hat to you Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton!

Check out their posters:

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Considering I’ve got my brand-spanking new Canon camera to play with this year, I thought I’d do a quick go-through of 10 of my favourite photographs I took in 2010 (in no particular order).

1. During a stay at the heavenly Ste Anne’s Spa in Cobourg, Mum and I went on a hike and visited with these lovely horses.

2. Celebrating a 15-year friendship with one of my nearest and dearest, we took a weekend trip to the small town of Elora, Ontario in May. This painting was displayed in the town’s movie theatre.

3. Still in Elora, we happened upon a door shop. Seemed very hobbit-like to me.

4. Touring the Elora gorge we found a group of Quaker women enjoying the afternoon.

5. Strike a pose. The Elora gorge.

6. Entering Old City Hall during Doors Open Toronto.

7. A trip to beautiful British Columbia with mum in October. Photo taken in Butchart Gardens, in the Sunken Garden.

8. Still at Butchart Gardens.

9. A lovely shell found during a hiking excursion to China Beach.

10. My favourite photograph of the trip!

Here’s to more fabulous photos for 2011!

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