CHRISTINE'S BLOG

Welcome! I love to write, and I love sharing what I write with my readers. I vary my style as much as I can-posting events, creative non-fiction, prose and poetry and the occasional video. Enjoy!

Miigwetch

Christine

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Short Story- Memories Of Things Left Unsaid


Memories of Things Left Unsaid
By Christine Smith (McFarlane)
          The thin blue comforter that covers me is thrown every which way, as I try to get comfortable. My glasses are to the left of me, sitting  haphazardly on my night table. One hand clasps the bright red heart pillow I made in memory of a friend, and my other hand hangs over the edge of my bed.

           I've been laying here for what seems like hours but logically it has only been about fifteen to twenty minutes. I don't fall asleep like I used to. I'm not sure why, but these days it seems like my mind just doesn't want to rest when its supposed to.

My heart is thumping. KA BOOM....KA BOOM.....KA BOOM. Its erratic rhythm makes me think my heart is going to explode out of my chest. What a mess that would be, I think to myself. I whisper to myself "Calm down, Christine, calm down."  
              I want sleep to overtake me so I try to take a deep breath inwards. I feel my chest move inwards and then out. A big WHOOSH of air comes out of my dry parched mouth. As I let my breath in and out, for added measure I try counting

1...2....3....4....
I giggle as I think about the old wives' tale of counting sheep. Who in their right mind would want to count sheep when they're trying to sleep? I ask myself. The very image of a sheep jumping around my head makes me dissolve into a fit of giggles. After a few minutes, I will myself to calm down. After all, if I don't get some sleep, it will mean two nights without sleep. I've heard that after so many hours without sleep, you could get delirious. 
Moving ever so slightly, I feel my nightgown bunch up around my hips.With one hand I pull my nightgown down again over my knees, and turn to grab the four pillows that lay under my head. I fluff them up as much as I can and finally settle. As my body goes still, my eyes close. I can hear myself breathe deeper and deeper, until finally I don't hear anything at all. At first everything is black and then I start to dream.
I'm still in bed, but I'm not alone in this dream; I feel a presence, and hear the ever so slightly scraping of a chair, and someone sitting down beside my bed. I'm not frightened though, I've felt presences from the spirit world before, and I know that most spirits are gentle and just want to check in with their loved ones. My eyes open ever so slightly, but I have to squint because without my glasses, I'm as blind as a bat.
I make out a blurry image of a guy wearing beige coloured dress pants, and a light coloured long sleeve shirt. He is sitting in a black plastic chair that I thought I had thrown away in my building's garbage months ago. He looks so relaxed. His left leg is crossed over his right leg, and he's not wearing any shoes. I just see plain white socks. Socks that are so bright, you would think they came from the Tide detergent commercials on television. His hands are clasped together in his lap, as I see him looking at me. There is a certain sense of calm that permeates from this guy's presence and though his face is obscured in shadows, I know who it is and I smile.
It is my friend Chris, who passed away ten years ago. I feel my blankets dropping away from me as I sit up. I shiver for a second, as a cold draft from my bedroom window hits me. I want to pull my sheets back up around me but instead I wrestle my legs free. I swing my legs over the edge of my bed. I'm sitting there contemplating what to say when all of a sudden Chris leans over and gently grabs my hand. His hand is a welcome touch and it makes me feel secure. It's a security I haven't felt since he passed away. Torrents of words come flying out of my mouth
"Chris? What are you doing here?" "How come you're dressed like that?
"I remember at your funeral, you didn't have these clothes on, your mom dressed you in pyjamas! "How are you?" "Where have you been? You don't visit me like you used to," I say.
"Christine... Christine..." Chris says quietly
"shhh! It's okay; it's okay. I came to see you so that I could tell you something."
I look at Chris for a couple of seconds and shake my head.
"Well!" I say indignantly "This is a fine time to come and see me, I'm trying to sleep, and I don't exactly look my best!"
"This is the only time I can come, Christine." Chris says back.
"That's not true!" I say. "You can come visit me anytime you want!"
"You know, Chris I dreamt that you didn't really die, that you just went away, just like other people in my life have. Where have you been?" I ask again.

"Why did you go away?" I whine. I feel tears forming in my eyes and feel their slow descent down upon my face. I want to pull my hand away from Chris' but I don't. It's comforting to feel his hands again, to feel his skin upon mine. It brings back memories of when we laid together on his bed, and watched the tv shows he liked, or the time we were trying to figure out our relationship and whether or not we would just be friends or be together.

I remember his hands upon my skin, caressing me, and me telling him "Oh my god, this is going to drive me crazy!" and his reply back
"It's supposed to."

I remember his breath on my cheek, right before he would lean over to give me a kiss. I missed his touch, his presence and his company because in the brief time that we knew each other, we had spent every day together. It was nothing for me to just stay over, even after we decided to just stay friends. Sleeping beside him gave me comfort. After he was gone, I was so alone.

The sadness I feel is overwhelming and the tears start falling rapidly. I don't do anything to wipe them away because I've always been told that tears are healing. But even after all this time, the sadness still bothers me and so do the tears.
"What did you come to tell me Chris?" I whisper.
I'm not sure why I am whispering when there is no one else around to hear our conversation.
"Are you coming back? Will I be able to see you again?" I ask
"Christine, I can't come back, you know that." Chris says, tilting his head ever so slightly to the right.
I look down at his hands holding my hand and whisper, “Yeah I know, but I wish you had never left".
"Do you know how much I miss you? Miss your company and hanging out?" I ask him.

He lets me babble for a couple of minutes but then I hear him clear his throat. It's a low growling kind of sound. I see his Adam's apple move ever so slightly, and then he speaks
"Christine, this isn't easy, but I came to tell you that it's time for you to let go."
"Why?" I ask, even though I know deep down inside there is truth behind what Chris is going to tell me. It's been ten years, and I haven't been romantically interested in anyone since he passed away.
"I'm afraid," I say quietly.
"I know, I know" Chris replies
"But ten years is a long time, and you need to move on. I need to move on but I can't if you are still hanging onto me here in this world."
"But Chris, there's so many memories of things left unsaid,"
"You left before I could tell you the things I really wanted you to know," and
"I can't move on until I tell you."
  
 A tear drops down upon our hands that are clasped together. Chris looks down at the tear that has fallen, but doesn't wipe it away. For a few seconds, we are just sitting there silently. Just like we used to when we would hang out at his apartment.
"I miss you so much, Chris"
"I know you do, Christine," Chris says back to me.

"I never got to tell you how much I really loved you, or how being with you made me feel so secure," I continue in a low voice.
"I knew Christine, I knew," Chris says back to me
"Did you know that I loved you, and that its not something that will go away?" I ask him.
"Yes, I knew you loved me, and that you still do. We were the best of friends, and though there were things left unsaid, I think it was understood." Chris replies.
"Not telling you that I loved you is something I have always regretted," I say.
"Christine, I know, and I know now by having this conversation with you," Chris says.
Chris caresses my hand slightly, and says
"It's time for me to go now. I want you to know that I will always be here, I'll never truly go away but it's time for you to find other love, and to let go."
"I want you to be free, to feel happiness again, and know that there are others out there that are just as capable of loving you like I did."
I feel Chris' grip on my hands start to lessen, and as I say
"Please, please don't go, I'm not ready."
I see Chris mouth the words "Yes you are, yes you are."

Chris' hands slip from mine, and I see him stand up. He looks at me for a couple more seconds, and turns to walk away. I want to yell after him "Please stay," but the words don't come. The chair is gone from the side of my bed. I want there to be an image of a heart in its place on the floor, but there isn't.
I wake up feeling sad, but I get my day started and head out my door. The memory lingers in the back of my head.

Weekly Events


Events

Tuesday, May 27, 2014, WorkinCulture is pleased to present an evening workshop, led by Heather Young, entitled "Don't Run Away from Running Your Own Business: The Five Financial Fundamentals." The workshop is presented in partnership with Artscape Launchpad and is part of the Business Skills for Growth Series. It will be held at Artscape's newly renovated Youngplace, at 180 Shaw Street, just north of Queen. We are also proud to have this workshop sponsored by  CIMA (Canadian Independent Music Association) and MROC (Musicians' Rights Organization Canada).

Where:  Artscape Youngplace
                180 Shaw Street, Room 106

When:   Tuesday, May 27, 2014
                6:30p.m. - 9:00p.m.
                *Networking break, with delicious snacks

Cost:           $25 (pay by credit card at eventbrite)

To register and pay, please visit-    http://artscapefinance.eventbrite.ca

Wednesday May 28, 2014-6pm- National Aboriginal Council of Midwives and The Native Youth Sexual Health Network invite you to a community celebration! We are pleased to welcome you to a reception to celebrate the launching of the Aboriginal Midwifery Toolkit, a new resource developed by the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives to help develop Aboriginal midwifery services in Aboriginal communities.
@ the Toronto Birth Centre, 525 Dundas St. East
http://www.aboriginalmidwives.ca/toolkit

Please RSVP to Valerie at: vperrault@canadianmidwives.org

Light refreshments will be served - all are welcome!


May 29, 2014- 2014-3-7pm- Aboriginal Studies Alumni Gathering. Free and open to all current and past ABS students. Turtle Lounge, 2nd Floor North Borden Building, 563 Spadina Avenue. Rsvp to aboriginal.studies@utoronto.ca





May 29, 2014-6pm-Unist'ot'en Camp and the Showdown With Chevron: How Can Toronto Be in Solidarity @ Friends House, 60 Lowther Avenue 6pm Video Updates 7pm Solidarity Discussion
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Special Guest Speaker - Giibwanisi, Bear Clan, Anishinabek nation, founder Oshkimaadzig Unity Camp.
join with allies in Toronto to hear about the latest developments in the showdown with Chevron, what is being planned in response, and how we can be in solidarity from here in Toronto.



Thursday May 29, 2014- Doors Open at 8pm-Show Begins at 9pm-Red Ride 4Way Tour Toronto featuring Cris Derkson and Kristi Lane Sinclair with Laura Ortman @ the Great Hall 1087 Queen Street West. Tickets $15, door only. For more information please visit redridetour.com


Monday, May 19, 2014

Event Postings

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Events:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014-6-9pm- Book Launch- In partnership with Inanna Publications, Beit Zatoun is proud to celebrate the launch of Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space, and Resistance in Toronto!

Min Fami is an anthology that cradles the thoughts of Arab feminists, articulated through personal critical narratives, academic essays, poetry, short stories, and visual art.

Book editors Ghadeer Malek and Ghaida Moussa along with contributors from the book will read and discuss issues covered in the book.

Snacks and Refreshment will be available!

Come out to enjoy of night of poetry, reading, and provocative discussions!

@Beit Zatoun
612 Markham St, Toronto, ON M6G 2L8, Canada

Wednesday May 21, 2014-8pm-#Endhatelaws Fundraiser This is an inaugural kick-off to raise funds needed for the #ENDhatelaws campaign. Come join us for an evening of performances by Lucas Silveira from The Clicks, Troy Jackson, Amy Kate, Light Fires, Ryan G. Hinds, ManChyna and Nari . Stay tuned for more artist announcements coming soon.

We will also be having a silent auction with amazing prizes for you to bid on including a painting by artist Marcel Dzama, a package from Inside Out LGBT Film Festival, autographed vinyl records and much more.

Doors at 7, show at 8! Suggested donation between $10-$20.

**Please contact us if you have an item or a service that you'd like to donate!

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#ENDhatelaws is a new coalition of activists, journalists, educators, artists, lawyers and students in partnership with the Canadian HIV AIDS Legal Network and Ryerson University. We are building a national movement to fight the homophobia and transphobia that is creating fear for many LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) people across the globe.

Saturday May 24, 2014-5:30pm-9:00pm- Violence No More @ the Native Canadian Centre-Join No More Silence Families of Sisters in Spirit and The Native Youth Sexual Health Network to discuss community based responses to violence with Sarah Hunt and Maryanne Pearce and others to be announced soon!

Join us in community to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and on the path of decolonization towards a world free of global oppression!
http://nationsrising.org/it-starts-with-us/


Saturday May 24, 2014-8pm- KAPWA COLLECTIVE co-presents Grace Nono. Grace Nono tickets are going fast, so get yours early to avoid disappointment!
Come see us from 2-5 pm for storytelling, spoken word and musical performances to celebrate all the caregivers in our lives!

Thursday May 29, 2014- Doors Open at 8pm-Show Begins at 9pm-Red Ride 4Way Tour Toronto featuring Cris Derkson and Kristi Lane Sinclair with Laura Ortman @ the Great Hall 1087 Queen Street West. Tickets $15, door only. For more information please visit http://www. redridetour.com



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tools for Dealing With Racism


Tools For Dealing With Racism:
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Racism, what is it? Racism is defined as “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Encountering racism is something we have all have faced in one way or another. It can happen anywhere, your school, your workplace, a store, or between groups of friends etc. Someone can spew hate towards you, make fun of you in some way or another, and it leaves you angry, upset, even fuming and feeling hurt. You shake your head when it happens, and you wonder, “Did I do something? What did I do wrong?”

You may think that it is something you have done or said, but in all likelihood, it is not something that you have done. It is in what the other individual believes and is saying to themselves and then projecting it onto you. They say hateful things because they have been taught that from someone in their own lives or have witnessed it and think its alright to put someone else down because of their race and what they think it represents. It makes them, as an individual, feel strong.

You know in your heart, that racism is wrong, and you can either let the words or actions of this racist person knock you down or you can ask yourself  “what can I do to combat racism?”  Sometimes it can take one incident of racism to make you act, or it can take a few incidents before you act, but the important thing is-you make the move to stop it from happening.

First, when we encounter racism or discrimination, it is easy to turn the other person’s words or actions inward and blame ourselves, especially when it attacks our character, our family or our community. But if you stop and think for a second, this reaction is something the person spewing the hate wants to see. You cannot give them this satisfaction because if you do, then this person wins. Easier said than done right? Believe me, I used to think the same.

So what do you do then? If we think that we cannot change things, that some situations in life are beyond us and that we must leave it to others to fight, we do what we do best- let people (usually with hidden interests) manipulate our emotions and we react.
If someone insults you or ridicules you, your faith, your race, or whatever, don’t react-respond. Reacting is what the other individual wants from you. By refusing to react, you are making a stand. Use skills that will disarm the other person-be patient, use humor, try to understand why they are thinking the way they are, speak up when you come across something that is blatantly racist, but speak calmly.  If you cannot do it verbally, walk away from the situation until you have cooled off and then address what you felt was wrong, or do it in writing.
Racism is difficult and hard to deal with. We often ignore or laugh off slurs because we do not want to create a scene, but what we can do is calmly question the belief that is being projected onto us and take the opportunity to initiate a discussion-a calm discussion!
To fight against racism individually, you can be a role model to others, treat everyone fairly and with respect – the exact same way you would want to be treated. On a community level, you can go to friends who are not involved in the racism, to your Elders, or an adult you trust, and ask them to help you create a community dialogue.  This can be done through awareness programs, volunteering, using social media in a respectful way, or once again writing about it.
Last but not least, the most important lesson for you to learn about dealing with racism or discrimination is, “You are not alone”. It may feel like you are, but really you are not. Do not be afraid to go to someone you trust. Tell them what is happening to you, and do not be afraid to say “I need help in dealing with this.”
To admit that you need help with someone/something does not mean you are weak. In fact, you are showing a strength that not many people can appreciate. Change begins with you.

(Previously published in New Tribe Magazine 2013 )

Monday, May 12, 2014

Weekly Events

Events:
  
Wednesday May 14, 2014-1pm- National Day of Resistance in Ottawa, Ontario
Concerning First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNCFNEA)
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
Contraband Tobacco Act: taxation on-reserve

If you can't make it to Ottawa please try to coordinate your own event at your nearest Service Canada Building.

Wednesday May 14, 2014- 1:30pm-5pm-Indigenous Music of Non:wa (NOW) Workshop with Grammy Nominated Musician and Educator Dawn Avery. 209 Victoria (Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital) Toronto. Proceeds are part of the 2nd annual fundraiser in support to Well Living House; action research centre for Indigenous infant, child and family health.
Workshop tickets are only $125.00 OR $200.00 includes
workshop and Spirit Moon event and performance that
evening from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.

Wednesday May 14, 2014-6-8pm-Full Moon Ceremony w/ Grandmother Pauline Shirt @ the Native Canadian Centre. This Ceremony was performed by Anishinaabe Women/Grandmothers and is a women’s ceremony. This knowledge has been passed down through generations and acknowledges our role as women and the responsibility we have with the water. This ceremony is open to all women of nations and cultures. Please bring your skirt, water and tobacco.

Location: Talking Room & Sacred Fire For more information contact the Cultural Department 416-964-9087 X308.





Wednesday May 14, 2014- 6:30pm-2nd Annual Fundraiser for Spirit Moon-Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute 30 Bond Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1W8

Support an action research centre for Indigenous infant, child and family health. Join counsel of Grandparents' member Jan Kahehti:io Longboat as she shares full moon ceremony teachings. Digital stories screening of cutting edge scientific innovation in Indigenous knowlege translation research and practice. Share in the vision of Well Living House: to see every Indigenous infant born into a context that promotes health and wellbeing. Evening will be hosted by celebrated actor, MD and deputy health officer for Aboriginal Health in BC, Dr Evan Adams. Special performance will be given by Grammy nominated Cellist, Composer and Educator, Dawn Avery


Wednesday May 14, 2014-12:30pm OLI-Outside Looking In (Matinee Performance for Youth and School Groups) Want to bring a group of youth to our performance in May?
Our matinee is for youth and their chaperones (ages 4-18) Come and cheer on our OLI performers as they perform the latest dance moves!
Tickets available at www.olishow.com

Thursday May 15, 2014-7pm- Old & Young and Reckless Together + the Gala
@ Dancemakers Centre for Creation, 9 Trinity Street, Studio 314
Gala Tickets: $50* (w/ $25 charitable tax receipt)
*includes admission to the Thursday OYRT show

OLD & YOUNG AND RECKLESS TOGETHER
May 15-17, 8pm
@ Dancemakers Centre for Creation, 9 Trinity Street, Studio 313
Tickets: $25 / $22 CADA, student, senior *regular priced tickets are also available on May 15th
To purchase your tickets:
Call: 416.504.6429 x.30
Online: www.moonhorsedance.com and click "Older & Reckless Buy Tickets"

Saturday May 24, 2014-5:30pm-9:00pm- Violence No More @ the Native Canadian Centre-Join No More Silence Families of Sisters in Spirit and The Native Youth Sexual Health Network to discuss community based responses to violence with Sarah Hunt and Maryanne Pearce and others to be announced soon!

Join us in community to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and on the path of decolonization towards a world free of global oppression!
http://nationsrising.org/it-starts-with-us/

Thanks to the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto for supporting our application to the New College Initiatives Fund and the Principal's Initiative Fund!

Big thanks to the Groundswell fund for your support!


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Story- Aging Out of the Foster Care System


Aging Out Of the Foster Care System

“You have two weeks to find an apartment and you won’t have to worry about being with us (the Children’s Aid) anymore”
(Words said to me by a CAS worker)

I was sitting in a cold hard plastic chair off to the side of my social worker’s desk at the Children’s Aid Society. I had been called in earlier, and I had taken the city bus to the CAS office because my social worker, Lynn had called and said

“ You need to come to the office. I have some concerns that I need to speak with you about.”

I didn’t really want to go. The social worker I had had been growing more and more distant from me. I felt that she was almost disgusted with how I was doing at my new residence- the Independent Living residence that I had moved into upon leaving my foster home in the county. She didn’t tell me, that the worker from the residence was going to be there for the meeting also.

I remember walking down a dreary hallway, my eyes kind of squinting as they tried to adjust to a dull yellowish light. As I walked slowly down this hallway, I felt a certain sense of apprehension, which was making my heart pump extra hard, and my palms were feeling sweaty because I didn’t know what I was being called in for. My hands were clenched into fists. As I walked, I nervously began to clutch each finger and cracked my knuckles. The pop..pop..pop… sound of my knuckles cracking was almost soothing to me, but I wasn’t really sure why. There was a cacophony of voices from other offices that hit my ears, as I walked down the hallway to my worker’s office.

I walked for maybe a minute or two, and then I stopped in front of her door. I heard two voices behind that closed door, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I felt my chest contract as I took a deep breath and knocked.  The wood of the door resounding as my knuckles hit the door.

There was silence for a couple of minutes, and I heard footsteps. Lynn opened the door, looked at me for a couple of seconds and then said

“Come on in Christine,” as she turned and walked back to her desk.

As I followed Lynn into her office, I noticed the worker Laura, from the residence sitting there before Lynn’s desk. I remember gulping and feeling my heart go
KA THUMP……KA THUMP…. KA THUMP…

I sat down, wincing as the bones in my butt hit the cold unyielding chair. Lynn and Laura were sitting across from me.  Right away, I could tell that this meeting wasn’t going to be a good. The tension in the air was as thick as knives, and the worker Laura wouldn’t look my way, and neither would Lynn.

I looked past Lynn’s shoulder, and out the huge window behind her. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and every once in awhile I could hear the sound of car engines go by. Her office was not far from the parking lot, and a busy thoroughfare.

I had been back living in Windsor at this residence for about six months, maybe longer, maybe less, my memory isn’t too clear about this time because of all the turmoil I was going through. The house I lived in was a fair sized brown and cream coloured house. It was located in the city I had spent my first 11 years in.

The house had been bought by the Roman Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Essex County and was being used as a home for teenagers who were preparing to leave the CAS in the next year or so. It was a fair sized house. One staff member lived there full time, along with three other girls.  While staying at the house, we were supposed to learn how to cook for ourselves, clean, and budget the allowances we got each week or month.

I remember, when I first heard that I was going back to my hometown to live, I was living in my third and final foster home and I had been excited. My foster parents at the time lived out in the county, about an hour’s drive away in Kingsville, Ontario. I was going to be graduating from grade 12, and heading to college to study Journalism-Print.  I was excited because I thought that living almost on my own would mean more freedom from the parental guidance of my foster home, and that I could reestablish a relationship with my adoptive father, and my biological sister.

I hadn’t seen them in years, and I had the illusion that reconnecting with my adoptive father would mean that I would finally have a father again, and get reacquainted with my sister. The turmoil that ensued proved to be more problematic than I ever dreamed.

It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate my foster parents; my foster parents had been great. They took me in when no one else would, and they tried to guide me as best as they could, even though I became ill with anorexia nervosa.  I know I gave them quite a workout in learning how to deal with that and the behaviors my illness caused.  I don’ t think they knew exactly why I had gotten ill.

I didn’t tell them the turmoil I felt inside about being one of two foster kids in their small town or what I endured in my classes because I rarely spoke of what happened to me when I came home from school. I wish I had told them. They didn’t know that I was teased mercilessly at school for being so quiet, or that in the last four months of what should have been my happiest moment-graduating from grade 8- certain kids made comments that intensified my already insecure sense of self. I remember one incident where I was sitting at my desk in my classroom with my books in front of me, and off in my own world when a fellow classmate walked by and snidely remarked

“Look at you! You’re so fat, you can’t fit into your desk.”

The desks were small, and I fit into them fine, but the comment devastated me. The girl who made the comment was the type of girl I wanted to be like. She was pretty, popular, thin and a straight A student. I was the new kid who came into the class halfway through the school year. I stood out from everyone because I was the new kid. The other issue was that I was brown skinned, the only First Nations kid, in a sea of white faces, in a primarily white school and town.

In retrospect, I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings I was experiencing, so it turned into something that I later came to understand as being something I knew I could control-my intake of food. It began with cutting back foods that I normally enjoyed-no more peanut butter and bread, no more chips and ice cream, and definitely not any fried foods. I said good-bye to a lot of foods, without really understanding why.

My foster parents were perplexed at what I was doing. I remember when my foster mom nonchalantly asked me during a conversation we were having on the deck in their backyard

“What’s wrong Christine? And

“Why aren’t you eating?” and my response

“I have to watch what I take in.”

When I was asked

“Why?”

I could not give a clear explanation. All rationale had begun to slip from my mind. I started making lists of foods that I couldn’t touch. I wrote them in my journal every night. The list kept getting bigger and bigger, until it became a list that I absolutely had to live by. Crazy rules popped into my head, like not eating any foods that were mixed together, eating anything with sauces on them, no condiments were allowed, only having diet pop if I was going to drink any pop at all, no milk and definitely no desserts.

Keeping my list straight in my head was taxing and often had me spinning. If I went off my list, I blamed myself for loss of self control and punished myself even harder, by taking in less calories than I had taken in the meal before, or going up to the washroom and purging everything that I had taken in-whether that was through making myself vomit, or taking a bottle of Milk of Magnesia and swallowing that. I even dipped into water pills and laxatives if I could find them.

I didn’t know how to voice the pain I felt from what I was experiencing at school or the behaviors I was engaging in through my eating disorder. Anorexia consumed me for the remainder of my stay in my foster home. I went from a relatively quiet yet healthy kid to someone who became more withdrawn, moody, and a shadow of my former self. I no longer laughed or smiled with ease, essentially my spirit disappeared.

After leaving my foster home upon graduation of high school, I thought that things would get better for me. I foolishly believed that in some form or another, independence was the answer to the troubles that plagued me. I was wrong. Instead of feeling free, I became more trapped and more despondent.

With my mental health faltering, I quickly began a routine of being in and out of the hospital. If it wasn’t for slashing at my arms, taking excessive pills, my visits to the hospital also became about my lack of eating and the various treatments I had to undergo.

So, there I was sitting in my social worker’s office, and before them, they had bottles of medication that they had taken from my room. I don’t recall how many bottles were there, maybe four or five, maybe more. They had opened the bottles, and had spilled the pills out onto the desk that lay between them. They started counting

“1……2……3……4….5……6….” and as they counted, they looked up at me to see if I was watching.

“Do you really have to do that?” I yelled.

I remember sitting in that chair, my face flushing with anger, my arms crossed over my chest and slightly rocking myself back and forth, back and forth. I was shivering too. It could have been from the fact that I hadn’t eaten anything or it could have been the anxiety I felt, as they sat there doing what I thought was them “colluding against me.”

The pills they were counting included my antidepressants, Tylenol, anti-anxiety meds, and laxatives. I had stockpiled them in my drawer at the Independent living home.  As they continued to count out loud, 1…..2….3….4… I grew more and more infuriated until finally the anger that was brewing inside me burst.

All of a sudden, I just lost it, and started yelling at the top of my lungs. The words tumbled out in a torrent,

“I hate you Lynn! I hate the Children’s Aid, I hate the house I’m living in, and I wish you both would just leave me alone. “

Looking at me with reproach, Lynn calmly said,

“Christine, you need to calm down.”

“I’m not going to calm down” I yelled back “I’m sick of you guys!”

After about five minutes, I felt spent from my outburst, and I slouched back into my chair, glowering at Lynn and Laura. A couple of minutes later, Lynn said the words

“Christine, you have two weeks to find an apartment and then you won’t have to worry about being with us (the Children’s Aid) anymore

I shook my head to see if I heard her correctly. When Lynn repeated it one more time,

“Christine, you have two weeks to find an apartment, and then you won’t have to worry about being with us (the Children’s Aid) anymore.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I looked at her with shock. After a couple of seconds I said

“Fine!”

I left my CAS worker’s office a few minutes later. The two of them were still counting my pills, as I slammed the office door behind me. I remember walking back down that hallway at a breakneck speed. Tears that I had been holding inside burst forth, and I ran out of the building oblivious to anything around me. I remember I didn’t head straight back to the group home right away. I wandered around and around, and didn’t care where I was or what people thought as I furiously wiped away at the tears that just didn’t want to stop.

I don’t recall how long I wandered around, it was probably a couple of hours but eventually the sun started to go down, it was getting chillier outside and it was growing darker by the second. I finally headed back to the group home, where I went directly to my room, closed the door and collapsed on top of my bed. I fell into a fitful sleep, not knowing what the next day would bring.

A day or two later, I began the search for an apartment.  At seventeen years old, I didn’t know what to look for. I poured over newspaper advertisements and probably called a handful of places. In between that, I began to pack up my meager belongings- a stuffed animal here and there, my pillow, my clothes, some books and paper, my music cassettes and ghetto blaster, and small television. Apprehension at what lay ahead of me was always on my mind. Not long after that, I found an apartment.

The apartment I found was down the street from the group home I had lived in with the Children’s Aid. It was a bachelor apartment that went for a little over two hundred and fifty dollars, and I paid for it with social assistance. It had a big main room, a fair sized bathroom with an old fashioned tub, and a small kitchen. The apartment was situated off the parking lot of an unsavory bar, and the apartment itself had little guests that I had never encountered before- cockroaches.

The first time I saw a cockroach in my apartment was when I was in my kitchen, trying to make some soup. I had a ladle in my hand and I was preparing to stir my soup when I happened to glance up at the shelf above my head. I saw two little antennas and beady little eyes looking at me.

“AAHH!” I screeched, and I wondered
“Has this bloody cockroach been there all this time staring at me?”

I lost my appetite quickly, and left the soup sitting on the stove.  I walked out of the kitchen and went and sat on my bed. I remember feeling disgusted that my life had come to this- living in a cockroach-infested apartment, and noisy neighbors who were always yelling and fighting, and throwing things around. I remember the fear I felt every time I would hear the resounding thump of something hitting up against my wall, and I often lay in my bed trembling and thinking that not only something bad was going to happen to my neighbors but something bad was going to happen to me too.

Thinking something was going to happen to my neighbors wasn’t far fetched. In fact, after living there for a year, and giving my notice to my landlord, it wasn’t long after I moved out that I heard there had been a murder in the apartment building I had just left. It was the very neighbors I had heard yelling and fighting. The man had killed his partner in a domestic assault.

Life on my own was definitely a test that I wasn’t prepared for. At 17 years old, you’re still a kid, whether you care to believe it or not. You tend to think that you can take on the world and everyone and everything in it. I didn’t realize that by essentially getting kicked out of the Children’s Aid, I would effectively be on my own and that I would have to learn things such as furnishing my own place, cooking, paying rent and paying bills. I had to be responsible for myself, whereas before I had always had someone watching out for me. I was still a huge child at heart, and I was thrust into a world that no one could have prepared me for.

Amongst the many things that happened to me upon my leaving my foster home, was my adoptive father coming back into my life, and my sister I had not seen since I was 10 years old came back into my life too.  Though I loved that my sister was back in my life, it was very difficult for me to have my adoptive father back in my life. The pain that I had been sheltered from came back when I saw him again, and I took it out in the only way I knew how at that time, by hurting myself.

Being away from the friends I had made and away from the only foster parents who had given me a sense of stability was also difficult to say the least. My mental health began to falter even more after I began living on my own. Before I had left my foster home, I had been suffering from an eating disorder, and my eating disorder became even worse as I tried to adjust to my new living situation. I went through extremely intense anger and a lot of self-destruction. Issues that had been festering inside of me for years began to haunt me once more.

I used to blame the foster care system and the Children’s Aid Society for being booted out and made to live on my own, after all I was sent back to the child welfare system at the age of ten when my adoption by a non-native family failed. At ten years old, I went from having parents to no one other than the workers that worked in the group home I was sent to-Maryvale, and then after leaving Maryvale, my foster parents in three different foster homes.

Can you imagine the struggle when you have no family or a support system to fall back on, and you have to learn how to pay rent, buy your own groceries and manage your own expenses? I look back now and ask myself “how did I do it?” When I think of that question it stirs up a gamut of emotions. I go from feeling anger and sadness and I ask myself “would I want anyone else to go through what I did just because they old enough to be out of the child welfare system?”

Going from a place of support and having people around you to almost nothing is difficult. It tests your very being. I can’t go back to change the things that happened when I left the foster care system, but I wish that at the time there had been more programs in place, that could have helped me to make the transition from being in care, to being on my own, or at the most that I had listened to those who tried to advise me back then about what could happen, and how I could have dealt with the issues that popped up for me.

Under the current system, when young people in foster care turn 21, they have the rug pulled out from under them and they must sink or swim. Yes, a rug was pulled out from me but I also played a role in having that rug pulled out from under me. If I had known any better, which I can admit at the age of 17, I didn’t. I know that I would not have chosen to be kicked out of the Independent Living group Home I had been in, I would have tried to accept any help that may have been offered to me and I wouldn’t have chosen to be reliant upon social assistance.

Not all foster kids choose what happens to them, when they leave the system. I certainly didn’t. Because of some life experiences, some kids need more support than others, and they may need it for longer. In my case, after several years of relying on a toxic family member for periodic help, floundering on my own, going into debt, and struggling to learn how to budget on my own, I was put under the care of a trustee. Though being under a trustee was difficult to deal with at first, I must admit it has helped me the most.

Aging out of the foster care system or getting kicked out of the child welfare system is a difficult transition. Transitioning from foster care to being on your own is hard, but support systems are needed.  Support systems like programs that can better prepare you for life on your own can be instrumental in your success later on in life.

I can’t take back the years I spent floundering but I do thank the various workers out in the mental health and social work field who took the time to teach me the things they did even when I had my back up in anger and defiance and didn’t want to listen. The knowledge that they passed on has helped in ways they could never know, and I was fortunate that I was a foster kid who was able to turn her life around.

Monday, May 5, 2014

EVENTS


Events:

Monday May 5, 2014-5pm Canadian Roots- Stories Beyond Borders! (Youth 14-23 years of age)

FREE FOOD AND SCREENINGS OF SHORT FILMS on Monday May 5th. Come celebrate spring with Canadian Roots Exchange, and find out how you can participat
in our digital storytelling project and upcoming cultural exchanges!!

@ the Faculty of Social Work (attached to the Tim Hortons)

246 Bloor Street West - 7th Floor, RM 712 (St. George Station exit Bedford
Road)

To register please email:
toronto@canadianroots.ca

Wednesday May 7, 2014-5:30pm-7:30pm- Toronto Indigenous Student Writer’s Collective Official Launch@ Ryerson University 350 Victoria Sreet POD 250


Friday May 9, 2014- Aboriginal Engagement Sessions: Child Care Access Roundtable Discussion




Wednesday May 14, 2014- 1:30pm-5pm-Indigenous Music of Non:wa (NOW) Workshop with Grammy Nominated Musician and Educator Dawn Avery. 209 Victoria (Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital) Toronto. Proceeds are part of the 2nd annual fundraiser in support to Well Living House; action research centre for Indigenous infant, child and family health.
Workshop tickets are only $125.00 OR $200.00 includes
workshop and Spirit Moon event and performance that
evening from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.


Wednesday May 14, 2014- 6:30pm-2nd Annual Fundraiser for Spirit Moon-Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute 30 Bond Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1W8

Support an action research centre for Indigenous infant, child and family health. Join counsel of Grandparents' member Jan Kahehti:io Longboat as she shares full moon ceremony teachings. Digital stories screening of cutting edge scientific innovation in Indigenous knowlege translation research and practice. Share in the vision of Well Living House: to see every Indigenous infant born into a context that promotes health and wellbeing. Evening will be hosted by celebrated actor, MD and deputy health officer for Aboriginal Health in BC, Dr Evan Adams. Special performance will be given by Grammy nominated Cellist, Composer and Educator, Dawn Avery

Saturday May 24, 2014-5:30pm-9:00pm- Violence No More @ the Native Canadian Centre-Join No More Silence Families of Sisters in Spirit and The Native Youth Sexual Health Network to discuss community based responses to violence with Sarah Hunt and Maryanne Pearce and others to be announced soon!

Join us in community to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and on the path of decolonization towards a world free of global oppression!
http://nationsrising.org/it-starts-with-us/

Thanks to the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto for supporting our application to the New College Initiatives Fund and the Principal's Initiative Fund!

Big thanks to the Groundswell fund for your support
!

Sunday May 11, 2014-2pm-5pm- Labour + Love: A Celebration of Caregivers @Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham Street. Tickets available at www.mayworks.ca
$5-10 PWYC admission, no one turned away at the door.

Labour + LOVE is a celebration of Caregivers featuring storytelling, spoken word, and musical performances.

Kwentong Bayan in collaboration with CCESO (Caregiver Connections) will present stories from their comic book combined with live illustrations and audio soundscapes.

Special guests include Mahlikah Awe:ri, Lishai, Haniely Pableo, PANTAYO, Zak’isha Brown & Randell Adjei.