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29 April 2007


Freshly cut bangs = happiness.

I need a little happiness, I need a little bang trim. Badly. My bangs have gotten to the point of no return. I am forced to sculpt, if you will, my bangs in place with my bare hands. With this method, my bangs will stay in place for a good hour. A minute past that hour, it collapses like a house of cards. Tomorrow, hopefully, I will get my bangs trimmed and then I'll stop growling at the mirror. Speaking of my hair, I think I can honestly say that I am officially sick of it.

Back in the day, when I had money to toss around carelessly on whatever I pleased, I had some pretty cool hair. And when it wasn't "cool", I was trying fun things with it regardless of the outcome. I guess it comes in handy to work in a salon, like I did back then. As well, I knew some pretty amazing people in the hair business. I had so much fun with my stylist back then. Not only did she do a fantastic job, she had a heart of gold. She was one of those people that you just had to smile with. She saw the beauty in a lot of things, in a lot of people. She always made me feel beautiful and it wasn't because she was an awesome stylist. It was more than just that. She simply was a beautiful person herself, inside and out, who got herself into a bit of mess that I cannot elaborate on.

I haven't really let people mess with my hair since her, other than my mom and a few others. Needless to say, my hair has done nothing exciting for a long time. It's long. It gets caught in things. It strangles me in my sleep. My bangs look fine when they are cut but the rest of it is just there.

I don't like depending and becoming attached to hair. I just want to chop it off without having second thoughts (it's easier to do so when your hair isn't long). I don't like to be caught in that cycle where you wonder and obsess on what-if-it-doesn't-look-good.

Anyway, in the grand scheme of things - this means nothing. It's just hair and I'm just complaining. I've let only about three people in my life cut my hair - my mom, my wonderful stylist, and the stylist at the salon I worked at. Truth is, I just don't trust anyone when it comes to hair.

I'm thinking about finding my old stylist when I go back home this summer. I sincerely hope life is treating her well again. I sincerely hope she is brimming with wonder and beauty again.

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14 April 2007

RIP June Callwood

Last weekend, I watched the last interview with June Callwood on CBC's The Hour. It was beautiful, touching - what a marvelous lady she was, full of grace and wit. If you want to watch the video of her, this is the LINK.

Last Updated: Saturday, April 14, 2007 | 10:28 AM ET
CBC Arts

June Callwood, the remarkable Canadian journalist, humanitarian and social activist, died early Saturday after a long fight with cancer. She was 82.

She was first diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2004, but refused treatment and continued to be active, most recently on the campaign to end child poverty, until a few months ago.

Callwood blazed trails for women's rights, gay rights and the rights of the underprivileged in a history of activism dating back to the 1960s.

The author of 30 books, she was also the founder of a breast-cancer support centre, Nellie's hostel for abused women, Jessie's centre for teenage mothers and the AIDS hospice Casey House.

"The Casey House community is deeply appreciative to the Frayne family for sharing their precious mother and wife with us for so many years," said Jaime Watt, chair of the hospice's board of directors, in a statement. "We send them our love and deepest condolences."

Callwood was a founding member of the Writers' Union of Canada, the Writers' Development Trust, Canadian PEN, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the president of a prostitutes' community organization and a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

A tireless campaigner who harangued politicians, wrote letters and organized lobby groups, Callwood fought poverty and injustice wherever she saw it.

"She was gentle to a fault ... She wasn't called Saint June for nothing," said friend and writer Sally Armstrong.

Always dressed chicly and known for driving a sporty car, Callwood approached social justice with a smile and joyful, optimistic demeanour. Even living with cancer didn't seem to get her down.

"As a companion, June is self-aware, witty, non-judgmental, sophisticated, informed, passionate, available and loyal — all those special qualities, leavened with her own brand of quirkiness and self-deprecating irony," friend Sylvia Fraser wrote in Toronto Life in March 2005.

Takes on journalism challenge

Born June 2, 1924, in Belle River, Ont., a French-speaking community near Windsor, Callwood remembered the deprivation of the Depression years and a father who left the family when she was 13.

She found her way into newspaper writing during the Second World War, initially at the Brantford Expositor and later at the Globe and Mail.

At the Globe, she met and married sportswriter Trent Frayne, and quit her job at age 20 when she had her first child.

She and Frayne had four children — Jill, Brant, Jennifer and Casey — losing the youngest, Casey, in 1982 in a motorcycle accident when he was 20.

After a period spent raising her children, Callwood began freelance writing, starting with a magazine piece on her flying instructor, a woman named Violet Millsted. She wrote for Chatelaine and Maclean's, tackling such subjects as the sexual abuse of children, birth control, test-tube babies and the battle of the sexes.

It was later, when her children were adolescent hippies, that Callwood began her social activism.

"What brought me on to it was during the '60s in Yorkville — that was my watershed," she said in an interview with CBC Radio.

A hippie at heart

Callwood said she was "entranced by the hippie movement," but noticed that when hippie kids from the Toronto suburbs went home there was an underclass of homeless, poor youth remaining in Yorkville.

"Everyone thought it was a middle-class kids' revolt. What was going underneath [was] that despair of thousands of teenagers who've never had anything and thought for one brief crazy moment that there was a place for them," she said.

Already a founding member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, she tried to get help and health care for the poor homeless youth, and saw doors slammed in their faces.

"That politicized me — that did it," she said. She founded a house, Yorkville Digger House, for them to live in.

In the summer of 1968, Callwood was arrested for protesting against police conduct in Yorkville. "I thought I was ruined," she recalled in an article in Saturday Night magazine.

"In my generation, you didn't get arrested unless you were an awful person. One year later, I was B'nai Brith Woman of the Year!"

Founded shelter, hostel for teens

A prominent voice against sexual violence and domestic abuse, she was founder of Nellie's Hostel for Women, a shelter for abused women in Toronto, serving as its first director in 1974. She also founded Jessie's Centre for pregnant teenagers.

She continued to write prolifically on feminist topics — penning Love, Hate, Fear and Anger (1964), Canadian Women and the Law (1974) and The Law Is Not for Women (1976).

Other books from this period include Emma: The True Story of Canada's Unlikely Spy, the story of a young Doukhobor woman from Saskatchewan convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and imprisoned in the late 1940s, and Twelve Weeks in Spring, about the last months of a friend named Margaret Fraser, who died at home with the help of a group of friends and volunteers.

"Someone in that group said to me that being with Margaret was like studying — we were boning up for our own deaths," she said in a 2004 interview with the Globe and Mail.

"It was a huge gift to us, in fact, because there's a great pleasure in providing palliative care, in surrendering your own ego totally in order to stay in tune with the person you're trying to help. You're not calling the shots for once. You're not doing anything except getting the ice cream."

Callwood's next big project was Casey House Hospice, for people dying of AIDS, which opened in 1988 at a time when there was little effective treatment for the disease.

Faced accusations of racism

With her direct, shoot-from-the-hip style, Callwood was described as better at founding organizations than at running them.

She was disparaged by public accusations of racism in the late 1980s, a period of extreme political correctness.

A conference she organized for the Canadian branch of PEN International was picketed by local black writers for excluding writers of colour, despite PEN's plan to bring in writers dedicated to freedom of speech from Ghana, South America and India.

The bad vibrations around the dispute spilled over into her term as a director of Nellie's, where an employee accused her of racism and the board boycotted a fundraiser it had asked her to organize.

There followed months of accusations in the press, with Callwood portrayed as an insensitive WASP, despite her years of activism and Métis background.

"Except for my son's death, nothing in life had hurt so much," she said in a Toronto Life article.

Callwood had two TV programs, In Touch on CBC (1975-78) and Callwood's National Treasures (Vision TV 1991-96), and also a column in the Globe and Mail that highlighted social issues.

She continued writing about AIDS in Jim: A Life With AIDS (1988) and Trail Without End: A Shocking Story of Women and Aids in 1995, the story of 20 women infected with the AIDS virus by the same lover. She also wrote Callwood's National Treasures, a book of portraits of great Canadians.

She has been an awards judge for Governor General's Literary Awards, National Newspaper Awards, 1976-83, and National Magazine Awards.

Callwood was made member of the Order of Canada in 1978 and officer in 1986, and has won numerous humanitarian awards and honorary university doctorates.

She points out that her effectiveness in leading change evolved from her energy and work, instead of privilege.

"I don't have power — I have influence," she said. "Power and privilege? It's an ability to help to change. My prominence is a trust."

A park in Toronto's Fort York neighbourhood has been named after her.

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10 April 2007

The Big White Cat with the Small White Head

I don't need to tell anyone that I am secretly a crazy old cat lady in training.

This afternoon, I peeked out the front door window to see my neighbor feeding her tabby cat (the one I recently blogged about) and the squirrel. Yes, they were sitting side by side. I never met her before - only her husband, who is a bit standoff-ish but generally a nice man. I heard from Zak that she is a nice older lady so I thought I would say hello and introduce myself. Heck, we've been neighbors since November afterall.

I had other motives though. I wanted to find out the name of her old tabby cat and what happened to her other cat that hasn't been seen outdoors in many months. I've been waiting to photograph this cat that I affectionately call "the big white cat with the small white head". Everytime I saw this cat, I'd get a chuckle. He'd be sitting outside on the balcony tied to the railing with a small string, while sitting on a small piece of cardboard. The tabby was free to roam...but no, the big white cat with the small white head clearly had special needs. We'd imagine that white cat with a white ruffly satin clown collar, just sitting there tied to a string on his small piece of cardboard while saying a humiliating "meow".

Unfortunately, I did not like what I heard. She told me that the (big) white cat (with the small white head) died. He was poisoned. He was on his string (sitting on his piece of cardboard, I imagine). He ate something. He went inside the apartment and died a short time after. This made me rather sad, I have to admit. For months, I have been waiting to photograph this silly looking (but adorable) cat. And now he's gone, died without a name. At least, he had love and a warm home to sleep and a lovely piece of cardboard to sit on.

I asked her what her tabby's name was. He has no name, she said, she did not know. She takes in stray cats and feeds them and, clearly, the tabby decided to live with her and husband. It made me smile - I have a neighbor with a good heart, which is a big change from my last neighbors who piled dog shit in front of our living room window and waist-deep garbage in our fire escape. She seems to feed all the stray cats, as well as the squirrels and pigeons. She seems like a sweet lady, even though sometimes there are about 20 pigeons on the balcony.

I like to believe the big white cat with the small white head died of natural causes, in his sleep where he was dreaming of eating fancy cat food out of foil packets or chasing a delicious bird. May his kitty-cat heaven be lined with cardboard. Godspeed, big white cat with the small white head, godspeed!

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