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To be, or not to be

To study Shakespeare or not to study Shakespeare: can we just not?

During the marital combining of the book collection, I had a Norton and the Mr. had a Broadview copy of collected works of Shakespeare, and neither of us would budge, so we ended up keeping both. I’m not sure why entirely, because I flat out don’t like Shakespeare.

My book came from the most torturous university class I ever had, a summer school Shakespeare course.  I had to read a new play every two or three days for the whole month of July. Despite a well-meaning professor trying to walk us through the Bard’s genius, the plays never came alive.

In a first-year English class I studied Taming of the Shrew and the professor convinced us that it wasn’t misogynistic at all, that it was actually very winking and clever and Katherine was in on the joke.

Maybe? Who knows. Even Shakespeare scholars don’t know much. Is there even any definitive proof he wrote all those plays? And besides are plays even meant to be read in the first place?

It’s also a real slog for students to learn iambic pentameter, putting stressed and unstressed marks over all those syllables, trying to understand the convoluted plots, and identifying all the poetic devices, while deciphering ancient wordplay.

It’s  additionally unsettling that women kill themselves all the time in Shakespeare plays and that there is so much gloom and doom. Aside from the questionable treatment of women in many of these plays, it’s also a heartbreaking and real problem when students start to hate English class and consider it an obstacle to their future. I’ve worked with kids whose grades in math and the sciences are in the 90s but are freaking out that their English grade will drag down their average and limit their university prospects.

There is beauty in the language of Shakespeare, and universal themes in his stories, but maybe we could limit the intake to some sonnets, studying one or two plays, one unit on Elizabethan England, or perhaps a  field trip to Stratford.

Some school boards have made waves by discontinuing the tradition of teaching Shakespeare. Will more follow?  Yes please!

 

Reflection: I love you Mom

Four years ago, I wrote the blog post below celebrating my mother, when she was almost taken from me:

It’s unfortunate that we never truly know how much a loved one means to us until we’re faced with the risk of losing them. I of course love my mother beyond words, but it wasn’t until a few days ago while driving home from work and I received a text from my  dad that read “Call me A.S.A.P on my cell or at home” that the reasons I love her flashed through my mind. My blood ran cold. First of all, my father is a hard working man who would not be at home at 4:30 p.m. on a Monday afternoon. He works until 8 on Mondays. Secondly, he rarely texts and never asks to be contacted on his cell. He only ever uses it for outgoing calls. I knew something was wrong.

I parked in my condo’s parking garage, raced to the elevator forgetting half of my belongings in my car trying to get to an area that had full phone service.  I took a deep breath while attempting to push the negative from my mind, then dialed.

“Jess”, he said as soon as he picked up, “You’ve got to book that flight. That one Mom talked to you about last night. The deal ends today and she wanted me to remind you.”

“OK” I replied, feeling a bit relieved that this was all he was calling about, but something in the back of my mind told me there was more. See my mom is an angel who does everything to help others before even giving a thought to herself. If she wanted me to book that flight and was able to call she would have called me herself.

“You have to do it, Jess,” he said again. “Mom’s in intensive care. She’s very sick.” My heart felt like it had been ripped out. I couldn’t understand. I had just talked to her the night before. She was fine aside from what sounded like a chest cold. “The Doctors say they are hopeful they can reverse it. She’s gonna be fine but she needs our prayers.”

Naturally I crumbled.  My dad said, “Don’t do this. She’s going to get through this. You go book that flight.”

“Tell her I love her,” I said through heaving sobs while moments spent hearing her over Skype the night before when she told me how proud she was of me, replayed in my mind. All I wanted was to be next to her. Her, the woman who does for others before she ever gives a second thought about herself. All those reasons that I love her beyond words began flooding my mind and I became completely undone at the thought of a world and a life without her in it.

 Dad said to book the flight for my trip home  to Ottawa at Christmas and say prayers. I did. But the feelings bouncing around my core, like electricity attempting to escape with no outlet, drove me nutty all night. I felt completely helpless, not knowing the true scenario and what sort of chances she had of recovering. I got the feeling that my dad was in a bit of shock and perhaps was doing his best not to divulge full details to avoid me becoming frantic. I later found out both were true.

Had my doting father, also a wonderful and loving husband, not had his late start day that morning, my mother would have died. An extreme and vicious case of pneumonia that went septic, poisoning her blood and threatening her vital organs, almost took her from us. But she’s a fighter. She pulled through.

My mom, is such an incredible woman  in so many ways and is an amazing support to me and my brothers. She steadies me,  knocks sense into me with her wise advice,  encourages me in all that I do, and motivates me to be the best woman I can be while reminding me that there truly are no limits.  My mother is a wonderful and talented person with a beautiful soul and the most giving nature. I only hope that one day I’ll be half the woman she is.

I always reflect on Mother’s Day. I give thanks to my mother for all of the ways she brightens my life. This year, more than any other, when I say “I love you Mom” it will be more than an acknowledgement of her success in fulfilling the role of mother to perfection, it will be a reminder to me that without her in my life, there would be a gaping void in my heart and soul.

She’s getting a bit stronger every day, and I have complete faith that she will be back to her cheerful self in no time. She’s receiving wonderful care while in hospital and the doctors and nurses have been unbelievable to both her and my father throughout this hardship.

****

She pulled through, but this experience and horrendous ordeal reminds me about how lucky I am to have my parents. It’s easy to forget the impact family and loved ones have and to take for granted the place they hold in your heart, when so consumed with the busy day-to-day. I vow to remember and appreciate every day, not just on Mother’s and Father’s Day.

Woman of the Week: Li Koo

There need to be more women in politics.  Li Koo is one woman in Toronto working hard to change this reality and level the playing field. She is in the running to be the Toronto-Danforth’s next MPP. When I met Li, I immediately was drawn in by her charisma, humour and warmth. She shook my hand and chatted  with me as if we were old pals and I felt comfortable to ask for an interview right away.

Li explained what first drew her to politics, stating that experience is what shapes us, and adding that she has known from a young age that it’s “not a level playing field, even in a great province like Ontario.” She shared how her parents arrived in Canada with only $8 in their pocket and that “they worked twice as hard as everyone else around them to get half as far.” Admitting that she was once an underdog, Koo now vows to make a positive change through politics by creating a more “open, inclusive and fairer society.”

“Fighting for positive change that will make other people’s lives better is what this is all about for me,” she said.

 Politicians by times seem out of reach and disconnected from the public they are representingThis is not the case with Li. She admits that the best part of campaigning as a candidate is knocking on doors of people in her community and learning about the issues of most importance to them. Li even admits that she wishes she had the superpower of time travel to help her meet more people from her community, ahead of election day.

“It’s incredible what we learn by listening to our neighbours,” she said. Li was raised to be conscientious to others around her and to give a voice to those who may not have the benefit of a platform. Her parents instilled a strong work ethic in her and taught Li to always hold the door open for others and assist in anyway she can.

She is clearly quite close to her family and wishes that more time with loved ones could come along with achieving her goals. “I’m so fortunate to have such a supportive partner and such strong support from my extended family and friends. I could not do this without them. “

As a young Chinese mother, Li has faced roadblocks. She admits that women have made strides and shifted workplace cultures, but  adds that barriers are still there, keeping women from getting ahead.

“We need to shift what qualities are valued in our workplaces to create spaces that are creative, collaborative and kind. And most importantly – fair,” she stated.

Li recognizes that women often let competition get in the way, and that this needs to be replaced with collaboration and kindness, reminding that “together we stand, divided we fall.”

Despite her success so far, Li has experienced challenges in both her personal and professional life. She shared these and about how she moves forward and pushes past them daily.

“I’m a woman, I’m Chinese, I’m gay, I’m a parent. I’m a new candidate. As a result of this, I’ve never taken anything for granted and have always worked hard to overcome many systemic barriers. I also recognize that the sacrifices my parents made and the education and experiences that I have gained is a privilege that I hold now and it’s my duty to pay it forward to my community.”

She says Joan of Arc and Hua Mulan are two women in history who inspire her.  Her own fighting spirit is reminiscent of these figures’ strength that saw both women rise up courageously for their ideals and values.

The MeToo movement has swept across North America, uniting women on the issue of harassment. Every woman has experienced a #MeToo moment and Li shared that each of her own moments are a reminder and a “wake-up call” that change must happen in the workplace and beyond, to make ours a nation that is safer for girls who are growing up. Li reminds that Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have given full support to the movement

She is a person for the people and may soon be a Member of Parliament. For more about Li Koo, visit hello@LiKoo.ca .

Ontario election: Gloves are off!

The gloves are off in Ontario politics. Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath seemed to be a joint force while individually taking aim at Conservative leader Doug Ford  this week as the three leaders participated in a heated debate.

 

Horvath and Wynne both warned the public about what a Ford provincial government would result in. Horvath questioned Ford about his promises and how he plans to cut taxes and to be transparent, like former Conservative leaders.

“The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris — they were very upfront about what their cuts are going to look like,” Horwath said.

“Why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?”

To this Ford simply stated that he was on the side of the taxpayers, also vowing to not be the cause of any layoffs if elected.

Horvath went on to describe a decision made between her rivals, Ford and Wynne, is like choosing between “bad” and “worse,” insistent on showing why she Is the best choice out of the three”

“She will now be the centre of interest “CBC reports the words of Geneviève Tellier, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa. “Even if you didn’t think you wanted to vote for her, you’re more likely to pay more attention to her now.”

The consensus from political enthusiasts was that Doug Ford played the election debate safe yet raised eyebrows when he stated he would not support safe injection sites.

 Wynne shared her expertise on policy and her intentions to put them to use. She spoke about “inclusionary zoning” and were in a sparring match with Ford over affordable housing for young people.

Each candidate, all in the running for the provincial election on June 7th, revealed how they plan to win the election.

The provincial election debate kicks of the on Wednesday, despite the feeling that it began weeks ago, due to candidates speaking regularly to the media about their party platforms and intentions. All contenders are solid competition and it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the election unfolds.

Love at first flight

Dating in Toronto is a bit rough. It seems that no one wants to commit and all of the dating apps and social media platforms only exacerbate the issue because there are endless distractions right in front of everyone at all times.

I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak over the past few years. A man I’m enjoying spending time with and who seems to be interested one minute, ghosts me for weeks, only to get in touch again, acting as if contact was constant. To him I say “Seriously? Adios. I know your game.”

After a decade enduring this repetitive dating game in Toronto, I found myself being driven to the airport in Ottawa by my father, who I confided in. He told me to be honest with myself about what I want and the perfect guy will come along.

As if fated, I boarded a WestJet flight back to Toronto and that perfect guy was assigned the seat directly next to me.  We connected immediately, and are now inseparable. At the time Cody was employed in Alberta but was born and raised in Nova Scotia.  Only two months into knowing one another, this man who captured my heart, moved to Toronto to be with me.

From day 1 I knew Cody was different from the men I had previously dated. I never expected such maturity and to feel so safe, especially because he is a few years younger than me. He had impressed me from the beginning and hasn’t stopped impressing.

One day, after Cody had made me a fantastic meal, (as he does every evening), we were enjoying wine in the kitchen when he tore a loose thread from my sweater and proceeded to wrap it around my ring finger, while asking me to marry him. I giggled, almost as a defense mechanism because I wanted it to be real, but also felt it could just be a joke. I said yes but laughed it off and we headed out for the evening, never to mention the moment again.

Until one day while watching an episode of The New Girl, Cody turned to me and said, “Really though, wanna marry me?” I could see he was serious. I smiled as he took a ring from my other finger and proposed with it. I said yes again and he suggested we go looking for a ring.

No rings were purchased, but talk of our engagement continued. My parents came to town the next weekend, and Cody shared that he wanted to be respectful and ask my dad for approval before putting a ring on my finger. While I was working, my dad went to our condo to get it appraised. Cody was there and shared his intentions, then later told me how my father came close to tears and expressed how rare it is for men these days to want commitment and be so respectful. My dad obviously gave his blessing and welcomed Cody to the family.

I arrived home later that day to my favourite meal- tacos and red wine-  Cody was ready with the ring to ask the question again, this time, with the ring I chose.  There is so much to be said for a man like him, a man who has totally demolished my negative perceptions.

I feel as though I have hit the jackpot but am trying to make sense of why some young men like Cody are so inherently good to women and others feed into my previous perception of males. Is it how he was raised? Possibly. Did I simply meet him at that “time to settle down”  turning point in his life? Is it because he’s a small town boy?

One thing that makes a huge difference in how he and I connect in comparison to my past boyfriends is that Cody could not care less about social media. He is not steadily checking his Facebook- he had 89 unchecked notifications on his phone yesterday- He often even gently takes my phone when he sees I’m using it too much, and instead  pulls me in to cuddle. He is always looking to truly connect with me and in a world where we are racing around distantly “connecting” on apps and gadgets, the real in-person closeness is what many are missing. I’m thrilled I’ve finally found it.

 

Mood Lighting-Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell Inspires

After recently indulging in some dim sum on Dundas street I took a spring stroll and headed towards the 401 Richmond Building. Located next to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the refurbished industrial building houses galleries and studios. There I encountered Open Studio, an artist run center dedicated to the making and promotion of contemporary fine art prints. To my surprise, I was unable to resist going in and visiting Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s latest show Mood Lighting, which was exhibited in its gallery space from March 23rd to April 21st.

Like a moth to a flame, the luscious, sparkling colors, beckoned me. There, I found silk-screened and subsequently hand painted prints that have such a lush quality I was immediately drawn into their low-lit world.

As I entered the gallery space, the first thing that caught my attention was a wall entirely covered with a  chocolate brown, honeycomb patterned paper where a large work was hung  Dinan-Mitchell is conscious of the environment where her works are shown,  and often exhibits her single-edition prints as part of installations that include other objects and elaborate decors. Here, in the gallery’s white cube, Dinan-Mitchell broke the dynamic of the clinical gallery space by presenting a central piece, Blinded Falcon (2018)

The dramatic inclusion of a gallery wall covered in a dark tapestry contributes to enhancing the chiaroscuro lighting effect Dinan-Mitchell explores in her prints. Contrary to her previous pieces, I find she has chosen to depict her subjects in high contrasts. Her use of lighting recalls the work of later 18th-century English painter Joseph Wright of Derby.

Like Wright, who depicted technological innovations of the day lighting up their surrounding subjects, Dinan-Mitchell’s light sources are also evidently man-made. In her works,  find a whole slew of varying types of lamps, bulbs and spot lights, that act as luminous origins lighting their surroundings.  When these electrical devices are considered alongside the skulls she includes, such as in Feathers and Flora (2018), these are no longer engines of artificial lighting but instead like signs warning of man’s destruction of nature.

At first the works appear deceptively decorative, due to their ornamental arrangements,  but the amalgams of symbols and art historical references play off each other. I could not escape the allusion to Dutch vanitas paintings. 

Like Golden Age Dutch still life painters, Dinan-Mitchell has a similar visual vocabulary that also includes skulls, fruits, birds, flowers and symbols of time passing, as in Pink Petals (2017). And, like these Dutch masters, Dinan-Mitchell also makes use of symbols to emphasize life’s ephemeral quality. There is a juxtaposition of the objects  that allude to man’s intervention in the natural order of things.

Typically, Dutch still life paintings portray objects arranged on a table in a manner that each is seen and credibly placed.  Dinan-Mitchell similarly brings together elements that intertwine with one another in her artwork in order to compose a new ornamental structure.

An oasis of calm, serenity and quiet awe, I greatly enjoyed my time at Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s Mood Lighting at Open Studio. 

 

 

Sidewalk Labs to improve Toronto living

Toronto is a great city and I am happy to have called it my home for over a decade. But there are flaws that have me thinking about moving to the suburbs and even to the Hamilton region. Mainly this has to do with the astronomical cost of living , and the unavoidable congestion on roadways and delays experienced on transit.  But even a move to the suburbs would mean a more expensive and time-consuming commute to central Toronto for work.

I dwell on the thought of moving for a moment, and I remind myself why I love Toronto so much- the culture, the activity and the people.

Organizations are stepping in to attempt to better our great city. Sidewalk Labs is a Google-affiliated high-tech company, which is pushing to develop a technological hub on Queen’s Quay. The Manhattan-based firm that specializes in urban innovation, seeks to use its technology to include sensors that will collect and analyze data. This will then be used to  assist with solving problems in Toronto — such as high housing costs, road safety and safety of citizens as well as other issues that go along with urban living.

This all sounds beneficial, but worries have arisen over how the data collected will be used. On the heels of the Cambridge Analytica case, which saw a privacy breach on 600,000 Canadians and over 80 million Facebook users, this is a growing concern. Questions as to whether the U.S. government will have access to private data were also posed.

Sidewalk Labs won a Waterfront Toronto contest last October to develop a live-and-work neighbourhood on 12 acres of land that stretches from Queens Quay to Parliament Street. The firm released a “summery report” on Wednesday.

In the report, residents said their wish is for any data collected to be “transparent and consensual.”

If the Sidewalk Toronto project is fully approved, it will be partially paid for by Canadian taxpayers through a public-private partnership. Any councillors who know insider details about the project have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

The pitch made by Sidewalk Labs last fall was quite attractive- proposing the neighbourhood would serve as “a hub for innovation-related companies and entrepreneurs,” while offering residents more opportunities to “live, work, learn and play.”

While some developers are concerned the benefits that may result if the plan is executed in a transparent  and effective way could be massive for the city.

Toronto transit on track, RER/SmartTrack MOU signed

Toronto Transit is finally set for expansion after years of city and provincial officials mulling over the best course of action. For transit users like myself, this is a fantastic day.

Mayor John Tory successfully passed a revised version of his SmartTrack plan—which was initially proposed during his 2014 campaign. Today, Premier Kathleen Wynne joined Mayor Tory at the GO Transit Willowbrook Maintenance Facility in Toronto to formally sign a SmartTrack Memorandum of Understanding that would give the go-ahead for the revised RER/SmartTrack plan.

Mayor Tory spoke today on the issue:

“Today is good news for SmartTrack and Toronto residents. Today’s SmartTrack MOU signing between the City and the Province is a significant milestone in the life of the project. SmartTrack will provide real relief for transit riders and because it uses existing surface rail lines that relief will come much faster than any other project we are building. The City is committed to getting on with building SmartTrack, the Relief Line and every other priority transit project.”

This is a major milestone and this collaboration and expansion means that integrated GO Regional Express Rail and SmartTrack project will add six new stations within the city while also making the system more affordable and convenient for trips in Toronto.

Premier Wynne also announced that the 2018 fiscal plan for the province will allow for the next steps in major projects like the Relief Line Subway, the Yonge North Subway Extension and the Waterfront LRT to move forward.

The MOU outlines that Toronto will fund the construction of the 6 new GO/SmartTrack stations, which are set to be completed by 2025. The stations are as follows: Finch-Kennedy and Lawrence-Kennedy on the Stouffville corridor; Gerrard-Carlaw and East Harbour on the Stouffville/Lakeshore East corridor; and King-Liberty and St. Clair-Old Weston on the Kitchener corridor.

Trips within the city of Toronto are set to cost only $3 per trip when commuters use a PRESTO card—a major perk.

Premier Wynne shared her own thoughts on the MOU signing for the SmartTrack plan:

“The days of waiting years between big transit projects are over. We are building a record amount of infrastructure, and we are not stopping. Under our plan, the province is putting up its share for priority transit projects, such as the Relief Line Subway, the Yonge North Subway Extension and the Waterfront LRT. The SmartTrack MOU we signed shows that we are serious about building tomorrow’s transit solutions today.”

Building this new rapid transit system is not only directly helpful to those needing to get from point A to point B swiftly, but is also welcome in a time of economic change, making travel around this costly city, more affordable for all.

Omissions from investigation into Steve Paikin

Today as I reflect back over the past several months, I know that  eventually the truth will come out on Steve Paikin, and more women will step forward with their own horrible experiences. The #MeToo movement has proven that there is strength in numbers. 

My ordeal with Steve Paikin is the perfect example of what happens to women who speak out on powerful media personalities. I was warned by many PR experts not to take part in an investigation that was controlled and paid for by TVO – who have a vested interest in protecting him as he brings in a large part of the donations that fund them. I was also warned that the the scope of the investigation could change and eliminate evidence that could damage Mr. Paikin.

And the PR experts were right. The investigator eliminated much of the testimony from other women, explaining that TVO would not allow her to investigate anyone but me.  The investigator refused to acknowledge another affair between Paikin and the wife of a friend. Or that I had stepped forward to try to stop the affair and save their marriage.  The husband was willing to give his testimony to the investigator, but his wifes status in the community required a confidentiality agreement that TVO and Mr. Paikin refused to sign. 

My case also had some pretty concrete evidence the biggest being an email I received from my assistant who had attended the lunch with me and witnessed the sexual harassment.  The email relays very clearly the events that happened – from how we had hoped to get on his show to his aggressive request that I sleep with him, to my belief that exposing him would hurt me. Yet the investigator seemed to think I had coerced my assistant into writing an email that would have hurt me politically.  She conveniently refused to give it any weight in her overall decision – something my lawyer believed a judge would never do because factual evidence is much more reliable than the memory of a witness who can be paid off. My lawyer even had the date, time and IP address of the email authenticated by an outside validation company.

Then there was The FacebookTranscript with EA   prior to writing my article. I had messaged my former assistant to check on a few facts and learn about his recollection of Mr. Paikins actions.

The questions I messaged to my EA were the same questions any investigative journalist would ask when piecing together an article. I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t inaccurately added anything to my recollection.

Going into the investigation I thought that I was luckier than many women because I actually had a witness – my assistant – who had heard everything Paikin had said to me. He had served as my aid during the formal campaign period, but also during the informal wind down stage of the campaign. His role was to attend events, meetings and canvass beside me. It was not a position for a meek individual.  He had to be strong enough to face very opinionated people, and he could hold his own quite well in policy discussions. He prided himself in being a strong feminist. This is why his decision to back-peddle on his testimony and on what he had written quite emphatically in 2010 as well as in his facebook messages to me this year was so devastating.  I tried to figure out why he would deny what he had witnessed and subsequently written about the incident.  I wondered what could have happened to make him give up his integrity.  I can’t believe that he was simply intimidated by Paikin’s pompous blog, and started to wonder if TVO might have paid him off. 


That TVO and Mr. Paikin took my complaint to the public after I specifically indicated I wanted it to be kept private, is a tactic that has proven effective for protecting powerful men, but one that most corporations would not condone. Sexual impropriety investigations must be kept private to protect witnesses and encourage others to come forward. Instead, TVO allowed Mr. Paikin to come out loud and threatening over social media.  I wasn’t protected but shamed. The shaming was so extreme that it made conditions unsafe for other witnesses to step forward. TVO, is an agency of the Ontario government and their handling of my private complaint, was disgraceful. CEO, Lisa De Wilde did not follow protocol, and employees might have perceived that stepping forward on Mr Paikin would lead to their own public shaming. They completely disregarded the protocol set out by leading corporations across Canada.  

During the investigation we had a witness who was, at one time, an intern at TVO, she was told by another employee that Mr. Paikin did this all the time. The employee refused to come forward, which isn’t surprising given the public shaming TVO allowed Paikin to put me through.  

Another witness who worked at TVO for 3 years wrote an email to me:
“Good on you girl for exposing Paikin. He has previous encounters and is known for that type of behaviour — and it’s been well known at TVO for years. I wrote: “ Thanks – the hate is pretty rough. Did you work at TVO?
Yes I did, for three years. Can’t really go into it in depth. It’s not worth my life being disrupted.”

None of the evidence above was entered into the investigators report – it’s almost as if she didn’t want the public knowing about the witnesses who were afraid of being publicly shamed.   There are hundreds of articles written about how sexual predators  bully people into silence.  They are often charismatic, they surround themselves with supporters. And they often groom their families, friends and co-workers into believing in their image.   “Even people who know them well cannot conceive that they are capable of exploiting others sexually. Such predators are masters of deceit,” states Psychology Today.

I remember how vicious the press were over my claims that Mayor Ford was on cocaine, and the ridicule I received for even suggesting the Mayor had substance abuse problems. I remember how Newstalk 1010 gave entire shows over to discrediting me. I remember how they all went silent when the truth came out. He needed help, and their lack of impartiality delayed that help.

Once again the clickbait media have circled around Mr. Paikin declaring him the saintliest man there ever was on television. Once again they ignore the signs, they avoid the hard investigative work, and they attack the messenger. When the truth comes out,  I know they’ll slink away again hoping nobody remembers how they victim shamed and blamed me for stepping forward. I will remember. I hope you do too.

Mr Paiken: You allege that I defamed you. I did nothing of the sort. I specifically told you I wanted this out of the public eye, and instead you blew it up into a spectacle. You could have just chosen to admit you made a mistake. You could have decided to tell the truth and do better going forward for the sake of every woman you know.  But you chose to lie and that lie will cause all sorts of calamities that only you and the god of abstract justice will understand.

London Calling

Over a decade ago I packed up my things at my childhood home and moved to London, U.K.  It was a sudden decision and one that my family-especially my parents- were surprised by. Up until that point I had always lived in Ottawa and never thought I’d leave. I had a happy childhood and a great group of friends, but after finishing my post-secondary education, relationships changed and I was looking for adventure.

Newly out of teacher’s college, I found opportunities were scarce in Ontario, but the U.K. was looking for new teachers. So I jumped at the opportunity, signed a contract and boarded a plane within three weeks to the city I would call home for 8 months.

Those 8 months were the most challenging and exciting of my life. I was enthralled with British culture up until heading there, mainly because of my mother and her love for British dramas and the royal family. I had fond memories of a childhood visit and at 24, I felt like I was once again a wide-eyed child, but this time could appreciate it fully. The busy city streets and vibrant red double-decker buses, the vintage-style cabs lined up at Charing Cross Station, the cobblestone streets and quirky fashion, and sights like the London Eye and the Thames, all fascinated me on my first journey through the core of the city.

The central portion of London proper had an entirely different vibe than the area that I ended up finding a flat-share in. It did not take long for the novelty and excitement to ware off and for me to get saturated in the day-to-day responsibilities. I lived with two Londoners in Hither Green- at the time, a “dodgy area,” as they say there. I taught in an even dodgier area on an estate in Abbeywood.

The novelty of being in a city I had grown up fascinated by quickly fizzled, and days swiftly passed. I enjoyed a romantic relationship with a homegrown Brit, finally became used to the food and cultural differences, and became comfortable in my role as a nursery teacher.

That’s not to say the transition wasn’t rocky. I experienced severe homesickness and talked to my parents daily for the first month, caught a terrible flu that I just couldn’t shake for well over that same month, was mugged twice-once at gun point – and hated not having my usual drip coffee to sip every morning before work.

The 8 months came and went and I was asked to stay on at the school for another year. I initially said yes, but then retracted. I realized that I had experienced all of London 20 times over and a number of the other British regions– – Cornwall was my favourite.

But with that trip to Cornwall came the starting point to the end of my relationship. My partner at the time was so immersed in his own life and family, and proved to not be very interested in mine. My father offered to fly him to Toronto for my brother’s wedding, and when he said no, I knew that the relationship would not work. The distance from my family made me appreciate them all even more, and if my boyfriend at the time couldn’t, it was time to go home, just as I had planned all along.

Eleven years later, whenever I am asked about the most interesting experience of my life, or the one that made the biggest impact, I always think back to those days in London. I was once a quiet and meek woman, nervous to go shopping at the mall on my own. That experience caused me to cross the pond solo to take on a city that is 10 times the size of Ottawa. Naturally, my next move was to Toronto.