Wednesday, March 24, 2010
.... going to Queen's Park
.... this journey has taken me to places I never imagined both emotionally and physically - I just never thought in my wildest dreams it would take me to Queen's Park in the role of activist ....
Sunday 21st March
Today I will find myself heading out to the Lamplighter Inn on Wellington Road in the afternoon for a rally sponsored by ONA (ontario nursing association) in response to the firing of the front-line nurses. I meet up with Megan and Janice outside the Renaissance room accompanied by my wonderful husband. This is a letter writing petition signing event open to the public with our most honorable Mpp's invited to speak. Deb Matthews does not show up and we are clearly disappointed by her absence..... I am not surprised, but still disappointed. It really amounts to no accountability at all when you ignore the people you were elected to represent. The stories are amazing and heartening from nurses, a Dr. Sexton and patients. There are those that have produced petitions that have been signed in their areas and there are form letters signed by attendees and labelled for the various MPP's. Chris Bentley and Khalil Ramal are present and give their responses to the gathering as most expected - we will look into this...... and we will wait.
Tuesday 23rd March
I present the Wellspring staff with the barbie I have made a headscarf for and gown which will be auctioned off for one of their fund raisers. They are ecstatic and with the help of Wanda, our facilitator, she paints shoes on the Barbie and we attached mini jewels :) It is the least I can do for everything that they have been doing for us.
My legs, knees and hips still hurt and walking is an effort. I am out of breath most days if I am moving too fast. The swelling is ridiculous.... I have had to put my edema sleeve on this week and pray this too goes down. My underarm hurts when I raise my arm and the water in the shower felt like it was burning the skin that had been radiated. Funny how it is only slightly pinker than the skin around it. I must be careful.
I spoke on the phone with Andrea Horwath's office yesterday afternoon and indicated to them that I would go to Queen's Park in order to get our issues heard about heath care cuts if that's what it would take to be heard and was surprised and excited to find an email inviting me out to Queen's Park for Wednesday while she brought up the subject in the legislature. I was about to go on an adventure but had no clue as to how I would get there and if anyone would want to join me. When I called around, Diane offered to accompany me and I was simply thrilled!!
Our train trip began in the evening and we managed to arrive in Toronto around 10:15 p.m tired but Ok. After a nightcap at the bar downstairs, we headed up to our shared quarters. The tall buildings and the lights brought back memories of a time when I worked for the CBC in Toronto in the early 90's after my 4th semester in the Technology program at Fanshawe. I am not sleeping well these days, but then who does when their legs pain them so much and the hot flashes come and go. Diane is intelligent and her baby blue eyes sparkle with glee as we are getting ready to head downstairs to breakfast after getting ready. She smiles when she sees me without my headscarf on and lets me know that her hair actually looks better than mine. Grinning, we both leave for breakfast after making arrangements to meet with Jill and her daughter Megan.
It is time to head out to Queen's Park and we are within walking distance from our hotel. I do not want to take a cab and insist on stretching the legs which will take three blocks to work the stiffness out of the calves and knees - I have given up on the hips. It is the most spectacular day with not a cloud in the sky and a slight breeze as we try to figure out the best way to get to the front walk of Queen's Park which hosts an odd inverted Y sidewalk with both ends terminating at the curbs but with no crosswalk. We find this a very unfriendly and unwelcome layout to a public building. Besides the safety factor of having to negotiate across three lanes of traffic without the assistance of traffic lights, there are the fancy sports cars kicking it up on the clear and bright morning. The tulips and daffodils planted in the beds on either side of the walkway are sending up their green spikes to catch the warm spring rays and the grass is showing some green as we gather at a bench waiting for others to meet with us. Introductions are made and the names escape me as we stand on the steps and have our pictures taken for posterity. My spirits are up and hopeful that this lovely beginning is an omen of good fortune. We make our way in and up to security for our passes which are printed out. We are not allowed to take any items with us so Jesse meets us and collects our coats and our purses to be locked up while we are guests in the building. We are to be in the gallery on the lower floor but these are all taken up and we can hear the legislature starting the session after about 5 minutes of tolling bells. It starts at 10:30 but the time slips by as we all have to make our way to the basement to receive new passes for the general public gallery. It is set up with the steepest stairs and the head begins to swim as the ache in my knees suggest the descent is greater than comfort will allow. I am about to witness for the first time a seat overlooking the Liberal caucus and right dead ahead of me is Deb Matthews. There was a moment when she looked up after Andrea Howarth began her question and passed her hand upward when mentioning my name and our eyes locked. At that distance, you are aware of each other but expressions are hard to read. The behaviors of the MPP's during the question period is unreal - fully grown, apparently well healed and educated people behaving like insolent children... some were clearly turning their backs to the opposition member speaking and others heckled and became so noisy that Mr. Speaker had to silence them a number of times. I am assured that this is normal and that it can get worse and usually does. Well, there are the ones who are leafing randomly through paperwork, talking on their bluetooth and leaving midway through this performance to go out or to the other side of the room. Young pages run around delivering ice water on silver trays and paper notes from one member to another or from regions unknown....... enough to just really piss you off!!!! To think, this takes place every morning from 10:30 to 11:30 and afternoon four days a weeks as they have their constituency offices located all over Ontario. As one member put it 'no wonder this is question period, no one ever gives an answer'. After all this ruckus in the caucus, they depart only to take part in a media scrum.... what could they possibly say after paying such rapt attention to the matters at hand??
I am waiting at the top of the stairs behind Andrea as she answers media question about the healthcare issues she has brought up. Her interviewer begins to move away and then returns quickly when I wave at Paul Bliss from CP24 - he used to work at my work and he doesn't recognize me but starts the interview which went well until he asked me what the nurses meant to me in my journey.... then the tears started. Diane and Jill took each one of my arms and steadied me when I swayed. Then the media all came over and question after question, I finally got to leave when Diane and Andrea walked me down the stairs. I apologized for crying - embarrassed for the emotions that took on a life of their own. I was met downstairs by a photographer for a local Toronto paper who wanted to take pictures outside which we did and then a call from Julie at /A\ Toronto to meet in front of the building for yet another interview. Andrea and her staff wished us well and thanked us for our participation as we headed out the door to wait in the spring air for Julie to come and do her story. Julie and camera man Simon showed up - really terrific duo whose kindness was evident in the way they spoke to us. Tired and needing to walk out the stiffness, Julie, Laurence (not sure exactly his position) and myself made our way out to lunch to meet up with Diane. One more interview request as we made our way back to the hotel. Andrea Piunno met up with us just outside our hotel for CP24. Nice gal, used to work with /A\ at one time. Diane, Jill and I head out to the train station in a cab... I have run out of energy and am feeling the fatigue pulling at every muscle.
The train ride back was wonderful... time to wind down and relax and a chance to get to know each other. I am inspired and feel a connection to this charismatic and down to earth gal. I look forward to future meetings....... we laugh and chat. This journey has brought me many wonderful moments and this is definitely one of the best.
I had taken the time on the way to the hotel earlier to purchase t-shirts for the kids and a hand-written Toronto post card telling them of my visit. Each one was as different as my children and written with love. They were thrilled with the small tokens. Max got a shot glass.... he's not a spoon collector kind of guy.
Thursday 24th March
Fielding phone calls and emails today.... interviewed by AM980, Cp24 and Rogers. Today is the budget day and was not surprised by the typical platform of look how great we are and here are the things that are more important to us.... and not necessarily reflect that of the people. Healthcare received an increase of 1.5% which is no raging hell but it is still better than the anticipated and feared 0%. Now let's see what they do about the layoff notices and hope to see them revoked in favor of the administration taking a pay cut/freeze in following the nurses pay freeze. Accountability and responsibility is what needs to happen here.
I am exhausted and my legs are impossibly swollen. My nurse has come and checked me out and has indicated that I need to keep my feet up.... no worries, got that one covered as I am fielding phones while at home today.
I went out to meet William's welding teacher later this afternoon and was impressed with William's abilities to MIG weld. Great job! His instructor commends him on his work ethic and personality but like me, does not like his lateness... after all, he now has a part time job at a local pizza place. He indicates to me that he is proud of my activism and offered his help anytime I need it. I am getting that quite a bit today and am proud of the people who are helping out.
With that, it is time for bed. Night night....
I am finally getting some much needed sleep and though my bones ache in my legs and the muscles burn when I stretch them, I am still low energy but trying every day to walk - after all, the weight will just continue to go on me without getting up and going. I tried to get some work done this weekend but the fatigue still pulls at me.... one day at a time.