Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Yes, Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus. And His Name Is Michael AutismSanta Miller

At one point in time, not so long ago,  people with autism and their families were quite isolated. Now, through the magic of the internet The Autism Community has been formed. it's a MASSIVE community. Just type 'autism' in the search engine of Facebook to see what I mean. We support each other, commiserate and celebrate. And OCCASIONALLY someone finds a way to go that one step beyond.


This is the story of Michael Miller, Autism Santa

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Make the Season Bright, 10 Tips For Visitors To An Autism Household During The Holidays

 The Jolly Old Elf knows. 
He gets letters every year from Autism Households asking for just a few simple things. 
Like acceptance. 
He also knows that life in an Autism Household can be extremely stressful at the best of times. Throw in the holidays, and well, things can implode. 
So Santa asked me to talk with my fellow Autism Mamas and Dadas and compile a list of tips for those who love us, and want to make things easier by coming to US during the holidays, but don't know how to do it successfully.

Autism Mamas and Dadas are a close knit community, easy to rally. 

And well, when Santa asks you to do something, you do it! 

So here's the list!!!


This may seem like a no-brainer, but its HUGE!! Autistic people thrive in structured environments. But when the 'out of the ordinary' happens, it can cause terrible anxiety. So popping in is a no-no. Please call ahead so that the family KNOWS you're coming

#2- ASK

Ask if the autistic person is sensitive to sound, should you speak quietly. Are they sensitive to touch? Is it better to give them a big bear hug or to just gently touch their hand? Find out the best way to interact with the person with Autism. That way, when you meet, you WILL interact, making it a much more pleasant visit for everyone


Its the holidays, if you are planning on bringing gifts, ASK what the autistic person enjoys! Can you bring something that will break the ice? I know a young man who will love you immediately if you walk in with a can of Sprite. He doesn't drink it, just collects them. But you have a friend for life if you show up with that can. Maybe you can bring some treats or food for a meal. Ask, find out what is needed, and wanted


These often differ in an autism household, out of necessity. Perhaps doors are locked to keep people in (wandering is a common problem in autism households), if that's the case, make SURE you lock the door behind you. 


And make it clear that if the parents feel that their child is overwhelmed that they can let you know and you can cut the visit short, even if its only been five minutes since you arrived


Sometimes very strange things happen in Autism Households. Like kids suddenly taking all their clothes off, or sudden loud noises, or internal thoughts being voiced out loud, or someone insisting they want to take your shoes off and play with your socks. Who knows. But understand, we see these behaviours everyday. They are not odd to us, in fact, we often find the humour in them. And so should you


really. just don't


for an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes our children can become overwhelmed, and may need a lot help decompressing.  Sometimes that decompressing is necessarily provided separately from the group. And sometimes the care that is needed comes up unexpectedly. So expect it. Bring a book and keep yourself busy. It will make our lives a lot easier to know you understand, and can wait patiently while we tend to our children.


Even someone who is non-verbal should be spoken to, not spoken at, or spoken of. Just because they communicate in a language you do not understand does not mean they do not understand you.


You would not be invited, or your invitation for a visit accepted, if you weren't special. By accepting you into our home, we are letting you know we TRUST you. We trust that you will treat our child with love and respect, and you are important enough to us for us to want to share our family life with you. We don't do that for any old Tom Dick or Harriett. So remember that you are not there to visit us out of pity, or to give us a break (we'd love a break, its what all parents dream of, but not when you're visiting!). You are there because you are special to us, and we believe you will see just how special our child is too.

Any more tips? Post them in the comments below!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Friday, 15 November 2013

Take Off, Eh!

Handsome man pointed out (and I'm here on in claiming it as my idea) the OBVIOUS (once its pointed out) connection between Rob&Doug Ford and Bob&Doug McKenzie.  My sincerest apologies to great Canadian icons Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis for making the connection, but their alter egos are frighteningly similar to the bumbling brothers that hold a tight grasp on our fair Toronto. The McKenzie/Ford brothers share a look, intellect, behaviour and the incomprehensible ability to hang onto their niche DESPITE their actions. Both sets are dim witted and have NO IDEA just how inept they are. The difference between them is that the McKenzie Brothers never hurt a single sole, they had fun, and made us all a little happier. Quite the opposite with our elected siblings from hell. Rob&Doug Ford are the ANTI-McKenzie Brothers. They, Rob especially, are on a path to complete disaster, dare I say it, even nihilation. A path of destruction accompanies their descent, and Rob Ford's very PHYSICAL survival is doubtful. The enablers surround, as so often happens with a person with power (Michael Jackson comes immediately to mind) and personality disorder is becoming a more likely explanation day after day. As I type this city council is taking steps to remove Mayor Ford's power. Yet they cannot remove HIM. And its doubtful he'll step down. Rob has said he is getting medical assistance, but come on, there's no way you can get ADEQUATE help unless you dedicate yourself to it FULL TIME. The greatest hope the City has, and Rob&Doug themselves, is that with the seeping away of Rob's powers, the clingers-on and enablers will fade away and stop assisting this suicide. Perhaps then he will step down and get real help. Rob- and Doug- our fair city has excellent care via The Centre For Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Be an example rather than a joke. Step down. Get Help.

Feel free to comment below- hoser jokes welcome, 'cause if we don't laugh at this situation, we'll cry!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Guardian Angels, Warrior Moms

Eric and I at Cherry Beach, Toronto

Recently I dropped Eric off at a Saturday Social Skills program for adults with autism run by Kerry's Place Autism Services, an exceptional organization in Toronto. We were the first to arrive.  Eric, as usual, was having a difficult time separating from me. My granddaughter was with us, so she and Eric ran around the coach house that the program is housed in. She was having a ball, and Eric knew I couldn't leave without Sammy, so he was fairly calm while exploring. I settled in, knowing it would be a good 10 minutes before I'd be able to leave. I was chatting with program staff when in walked the next participant- whom I recognized right away. A young man probably about 10 years older than Eric. He lives on my street with his mother, who walked in immediately behind him. The young man settled fairly quickly so I was able to talk to the mom. Something I'd been wanting to do for nearly 2 decades. You see, I could never forget her.  She had had a profound impact on me, and made a huge difference for my son. The interaction had been brief, and I was sure she wouldn't recall it, or us. But I needed to thank her. So while Sammy and Eric explored the house I told her and the staff the story of that day, nearly 20 years ago.

Friday, 8 November 2013

When All Else Fails, Jump On The Bed

Photo Courtesy of Wayne Pollard

Life can be stressful.


As the glow of summer fades away, replaced by the dying leaves and grey skies of autumn, its easy to feel grey yourself. Hibernate. Cut off the cold and damp of the season. 

But fall isn't truly dreary. Or depressing. 
Its a beautiful, colourful world, inside AND out. 

Stay with me as I recount a tale of autumn, stress and joy,  from just last week.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This Hallowe'en, Think before you shun. 
That "TOO OLD TO TRICK OR TREAT" teen or adult may be Autistic

Monday, 28 October 2013

Autism and Wandering. A Mother's nightmare. Inspired by the Search for Avonte

Avonte Oquendo is an autistic 14 year old. Non- verbal, and with limited personal care skills, he wandered away from his school thee weeks ago. Walked out of a classroom filled with teachers and aides who all knew of his wandering tendencies, and past a security guard at the school door. The family's greatest hope right now is that Avonte was taken, The alternative is too horrible for them to comprehend.

Wandering is all to common a phenomenon amongst autistic individuals. It can be a misnomer too. Most do not wander. They bolt. with no warning, no rhyme or reason. It is the most challenging aspect of autism. I know. Because my son is a wanderer.

We Be-Leaf

Yes, in my home, we're a bit hockey-mad. Each year we await the new season and cheer on our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. Several years before Eric, my severely autistic son, was able to say Mommy, he could say 'Go Leafs Go'. We make a habit of wearing home jerseys for home games, and away jerseys to watch away games. We pop popcorn and huddle together to scream, cry, cheer and jeer. But it is so much more.

The Littlest Teacher

Along with my sons, I am now also raising my three year old granddaughter. I had thought I wasn't up to the task of starting over, the task of raising a small child, but I was soon shown differently. Because it isn't a task. Its not a chore. Raising a child is a journey filled with love and learning. 

The Unexpected Journey- Cory's Story

The Unexpected Journey- Cory's Story


When you have children with special needs you tend to seek out those going through the same challenges your own family is experiencing. Even if you're lucky enough to have a supportive extended family, you still crave the company of those who KNOW the life. Those you can vent to, and provide support to in return. Facebook has its faults, but one of the things it does well, very well, is allow communities to come together. I 'met' Cory through one of those communities. 
This is her story, in her own words

Friday, 25 October 2013

A Year to Remember

Autumn, a time of reflection

The last few years have been fraught with challenges. But with challenge comes growth. So even though the last year has been difficult, its been one to look back on and honour. 

My eldest son Chris has spent the last year in a relationship with a wonderful young woman and has embarked on his own personal journey. He is coming to terms with having Aspergers, understanding his own challenges while refusing to use the label as an excuse. Returning to school, getting his diploma, and now making plans for a post secondary education, he is on his way to becoming the man he's always wanted to be. His perseverance through his struggles is an inspiration. Chris has worked hard at becoming a good father, good partner, and at simply bettering himself. He has finally realized he is a pretty exceptional young man and is taking life head on!

Last year at this time my middle son Eric was coming home from yet another hospital stay. Eric is 20 years old, and autistic. For the last couple of years he's been in crisis. This is common in young autistic adults, but that doesn't make it easier, nor does it mean services to help them are readily available. Eric cannot guide his own care, nor advocate for himself, so I have been forging my way through this new frontier, doing the best I can to make sure my baby has what he needs. Over the last year he has made some tremendous gains ( a few pitfalls along the way, but we're still moving forward). Eric is discovering his ability to say 'No'. While this is very challenging for me (Eric is 200lbs+), it is comforting to know that as he nears the time when he will live elsewhere, cared for someone other than myself, that Eric will be able to voice his objections to things that are unpleasant to him. Every parent of a child with special needs, but in particular those who are non-verbal, fears what will happen to our children when we are not there to look after them. So this step in Eric's development is a huge relief for me. He's not quite as vulnerable anymore.

My youngest son Mark has started his second year of high school and has just encountered his first life road block. A gifted young man, academically as well as athletically, charming and well rounded, he has never had to WORK at succeeding, at anything. He is now finding for the first time in  his life he he has to study for tests, and he has to learn study and homework habits. I went through this myself in High School. Mark and I have a very close relationship. He opened up about his struggles and together we are working on changing things. Not many 16 year olds confide in their Moms, or listen to them either, so I know just how lucky I am, and I know he'll get back on track and make the life he dreams of for himself.

I have also grown. I have embarked on a new phase in my life, doing the things I have always wanted , but was afraid to attempt. Like writing. I've had to scale back my work because of Eric's high needs, but that allowed me the luxury of being able to sit in front of the keyboard. Watching other people in my life overcome their own personal hurdles to expand their differing horizons motivated me. Battling for my son reminded me I am a very strong woman, who can make it through just about anything. So I bit the bullet and started writing. I haven't been happier.

We have a lot of struggles ahead as Eric enters into the very incomplete world of adult services for people with special needs. But we'll make it through. We'll grow some more as a family and as individuals from those challenges. Life is a journey. Sometimes bumpy but always interesting. It sure has been a year to remember!

Now, onwards and upwards!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving each year gives me pause. I remember and I am truly thankful.  

  Not because that is what you are SUPPOSED to do, rather because it is the anniversary of a very traumatic event. 

Don't get me wrong. This is not a depressing time for me. Or a depressing story. What my boys and I went through  was horrible, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, not even my ex-husband, but my life changed dramatically because of what happened, and those changes are things I am so thankful for and would never want to give up. 

Let me take you back to Thanksgiving 2007

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Autism is a Pain in the Aspergers

Autism is a Pain in the Aspergerstm

Chris with his Kazoo

Eric and Chris

IF you read my blog you know that my adult son Eric has severe Autism. What you may NOT know, is that my eldest son Christopher is also on the spectrum. Chris has a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. When my boys were small, there were only two places to go for information, Geneva Centre for Autism and Autism Ontario. Help wasn't readily available back then, but the information was crucial, especially at a time when Autism was a word most people did not know. Autism Ontario and GCA helped guide me on my way to training as a therapist to help my boys


So when I heard about Autism is a Pain in the Aspergers , a variety show being held at Hughs Room (as you know by now, one of my fave venues) with proceeds going to Autism Ontario's Building Brighter Futures Fund , I knew I had to go, AND take Chris with me! 
But when I saw the lineup I died and went to heaven!    
Canadian Comedic Royalty, a YouTube sensation, and musicians I regularly grab tickets to see! 
Going to this event was a no-brainer, we just had to go!      

What I didn't expect was the emotion that would flood over me throughout the evening.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

My Monkey. My Eric. Special and Needed

My Baby
Twenty year ago today I gave birth to my second child. From the very first moment, life with my Eric was to be different than anything I had ever known. Three ultrasounds had said HE was a girl. Nope. My labour with my oldest son had been text book. With Eric it was completely different and I had to be treated for shock. Eric slept straight through the first 12 hours of his life. That would be the last time he would sleep longer than a few hours at a time, ever. He didn't cry. Not a single tiny 'wah', until he was 6 months old. Then every other week or so he would cry for hours and hours straight, as if in extreme pain. No doctor could find a reason. Despite that,  he was an incredible baby. and I felt blessed. So quiet. So easy. He was fussy around people, but if I held him, or he was allowed to play on his own, he`d be content for hours. A beautiful baby with cascades of blonde ringlets and massive mahogany eyes, I was approached often about putting him in pictures. Eric crawled early, walked at 9 months,  he was physically very advanced. But he still wasn't making sounds. At 9 months I spoke to my family doctor. He set up appointment after appointment with specialist after specialist for years to come. He knew that if I thought something was not quite right, than it wasn't. I took Eric for hearing assessments and psychological assessments blood tests and MRIs but I often felt we were being brushed off. 
Finally at just over 3 years old, Eric was diagnosed with autism. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Paths We Travel

 High Park and the Paths We Travel

One of the few things every human being has in common is their exposure to stress. It comes in different forms and levels for all of us, but nonetheless we all feel its effects. Physically or mentally stress left unchecked takes its toll so we each must find our own ways of handling and minimizing it. Live music, and the arts in general, work like magic for me, but are not available 24/7. And stress knows no time-line. So recently I started to re-visit an old childhood hangout of mine. High Park.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Through our greatest trials we discover ourselves

I chose to believe that evil cannot simply beget evil

I originally wrote this as a 'facebook note' on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. With very minor editing I am re-posting it here because the thoughts, feelings and sentiments remain the same. 

We all have the images of that horrible day ingrained in our memories, thus I have chosen not to provide pictures or links. 

Instead, all I ask of you is to please open your mind to your own memories and feelings of that time and perhaps you will discover how your own life has changed for the better. 

Perhaps even discover your own awakening. 

Good triumphs

I invite you to join me on the  journey back through my personal awakening and discovery brought about by the horrors of that time. 


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Toronto's Croft St, an Ode to Street Art

One of the very first LEGAL pieces of Street Art

Two years ago, my son Eric was rushed to the hospital. He was in acute care for two weeks. I went to visit him twice a day. To alleviate my own anxiety before and after each visit I would go for an hour long walk. On one of those walks, I discovered Croft Street.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Open response to "Pissed Off Mother"

Dear Pissed Off Mother,

I'm afraid your rant was pointless. You are not the first to tell any of us that our children are loud, annoying, in need of discipline, disgusting, wastes of space that should never have been born. Nor, unfortunately, will you be the last. Mental and Developmental Health are the last bastions of acceptable discrimination. Some people, like yourself, chose to be blatant, and I'm sure you'll receive an entire planets worth of backlash. But most discriminate in ways they don't even acknowledge themselves. Every time someone says "That joke is so retarded", they are proving that it is ACCEPTABLE to discriminate against those who have the least ability to fight back. Would you substitute the N-word for the R-word? NEVER. You'd know that was unacceptable ( well for you, Pissed Off Mother at least not acceptable in public). It is without thought that you pull your child aside in daycare so they don't "catch it", whispering softly "its ok baby, its ok" to your child (who has NO clue WHAT you are worried about) while simultaneously preaching to your neighbours how Johnny plays with a boy with autism at school, Johnny is so wonderful. 

Johnny IS wonderful. 

SO are OUR children. 

YouTube Self-Discovery

I logged onto YouTube today, for the first time in Who Knows When
Well it turns out my 20 year old son, severely autistic, unable to care for himself, has apparently hacked in.
For the last two years

It shouldn't surprise me. 
About 6 months ago everyone in my contacts list received an email saying:
" Eric good boy. Eric get presents. Eric get Mickey Mouse toy, Ford C600 model kit"
Eric is unable to bathe himself adequately , cannot speak beyond an 18 month old level or understand danger, but he sure knows his way around a computer! 

My son's skills are all over the spectrum, pun intended! 

ANYWAY, when I logged on, I noticed I had a "watch later" and "favourites" tab. I had never noticed this before, but SOMEONE (guess who) must have, because I had entries logged for the past 2 years. Remember, my severely autistic son  had "favourited" these videos, but for the last 2 years anybody looking would naturally assume I had done so. 
I decided to watch them myself, and see why "I" would single them out.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Lets Go To The Ex.....Oh Baby!

My eldest son and my nephew on the traditional first ride each year at The Ex, The Polar Express

Warrior's Day Parade
Every year, since long before I was born, the Pollard family has  gone to the Warrior's Day parade at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE or The Ex for short). The parade has been an annual event at The Ex since the 1920's. My father was a veteran of the second world war, so it was natural to attend, something nobody thought about, we just DID. In the early years the parade snaked along city streets then through the fair, ending inside Exhibition Stadium culminating in a mass pipe band finale. Alas, the stadium is long gone, as are too many of the vets who once packed the parade, and the parade route. The number of veterans still able to march is dwindling, but the respect and love shown to them is as strong as ever. And rightfully so.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Somehow, Some Way, We Find Each Other

If you know me, or have been following this blog, you will know that my adult son Eric is autistic. He has progressed a million miles beyond the prognosis doctors gave him as a 3 year old, but he his still profoundly challenged. He will never live on his own, always need care and in recent years has developed anxiety disorders that make life very difficult at times. He is also very loving, and extremely loveable. I call him my divining rod, but rather than pointing out water, he exposes just who is, and who isn't, a truly GOOD person. Life with Eric is filled with daily miracles. He keeps innocence alive in my home. That being said- it definitely is not easy. Eric has developed severe agoraphobia and separation anxiety. In contradiction to his fear of leaving the house, he is also a 'wanderer' , he may take off at any given moment with no sense of danger, no safety awareness and limited verbal skills. Lets just say he keeps me on my toes.

Bruce Cassidy and his amazing band at Hugh's Room

You constantly need a full energy tank in my home and I've discovered that I need a regular break to keep my tank filled. My respite of choice is live music. This past Thursday a wonderful show was happening at Hugh's Room , part of The inaugural World Music Festival being staged by Jazz FM 91.1. It was South Africa night and the Bruce Cassidy Band was holding a tribute to Hugh Masekela. I couldn't wait!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Donald Quan, Musideum, and Healing Through Music

Donald Quan and his beautiful family

During the summer of 2010 I discovered an amazing, and at the time not very well known, music venue, Musideum. Donald Quan's gorgeous inspiration brought to life.

"MUSIDEUM is a magical room where music always passes from performer to audience with zero hindrance….as ripples and vibrations pass through water, music passes through the air and the soul with musical instruments being the means. Musideum is a place where music is always shared with all that are willing to receive."

If you've been lucky enough to catch a performance at Musideum you are sure to have met Donald. His infectious glee introducing any act leaves you addicted. From that point on you can never get enough of Donald and his beloved Musideum. When I began Days of Whine and Rosé I KNEW I would have to write about him. So I started to do some research. Donald is an accomplished musician and composer who has numerous awards and nominations to his credit. In 2008 Donald, noticing a lack of places to pick up world instruments, not centred on the musician, but on the instruments themselves, opened Musideum.

A warm rich environment of aged wood and exposed brick is filled to the rafters with instruments of every sort, a truly zen-like atmosphere pervades. You can't help but feel at peace as you walk through the doors. Eventually Donald started to open his doors to musicians seeking a more intimate venue, forever beautifully changing the Toronto music scene. But as I continued my research, I came across stories that blew me away. I easily came to a decision. This story would not be about Musideum per se, it would be about Donald.

Most of who I am is a creator

Donald Quan

In August of 2009, Donald was playing keys for the Derek Miller band at the Kitchener Blues Festival. He felt his heart beat erratically. Then it stopped. Donald collapsed onstage. He was clinically dead for 17 minutes. Donald had suffered a heart arrythmia, a condition brought about by the gruelling physical and emotional stress endured as a touring musician (similar to a marathon runner). Unlike most who experience this extreme medical condition, Donald survived. His wife pregnant with twins and a world of music yet to explore, Donald was not about to give up. He was placed in a medically induced coma to enable his physical healing, but he suffered damage to his brain tantamount to a massive stroke. As a young child I watched as my once vibrant grandmother was taken away from us by the effects of a decade long battle with stroke after stroke. She fiercely battled back each time, in any way she could, until her body was too tired to fight any longer. That personal war she waged to heal her brain was always an inspiration. It takes incredible internal reserves, excellent care and a fair bit of luck to recover from a stroke. I guess thats why I have such unflinching admiration for those who win the battle, like Donald Quan.

With the help of The Toronto Rehab  Donald learned to walk and talk again, learned to balance his books, take the ttc, and all the basic life skills you need. But Donald isn't defined by his life skills. Creativity and music are at the core of Donald's being. As incredible as his practitioners were, that was a part of him they could not heal, and Donald would never feel whole without it. There was no way Donald could resume the life of a touring musician without his skills, he had to get them back. There were bills to pay and a creative need that couldn't be suppressed. Doctors warned Donald that the stress of touring was likely to cause another attack, and he may not be as lucky the second time. There are no rehab facilities that help you recover your musical talent so the clinicians tried desperately to get Donald to accept his physically and creatively restrained lifestyle. Luckily for us, Donald, a classic A-type personality would not take the lack of medical resources as an excuse to NOT heal this most precious part of himself, he'd find a way.

Prior to Donalds brush with death, being an actively touring musician, he had others running the day to day operations of Musideum. The problem with having a vision is rarely do others share it. The brilliance of Musideum, without his regular input, had fallen to the wayside. This was something that weighed heavily on Donald, but with his hectic schedule there was no other option. AFTER his brush with death, Donald was inspired. He'd "prove to the naysayers, challenge myself and make Musideum, and myself, BETTER than before!" Donald fought to bring back his technical skill, but what better way to rehabilitate his ESSENCE, his musical talent and creativity, then by taking Musideum back into his own hands, bringing the true vision to life.

Musideum is located in an historic building at 401 Richmond, one of the most successful re-imaginings of what had been dilapidated urban factory space anywhere. People come regularly from countries around the world to study the creative and financial success that is 401 Richmond. Donald had a long history there, one of the very first tenants in the building. "I'm going to show MYSELF I can hold these concerts". But how? Musicians do not have vacation time, get paid sick leave or qualify for EI. His finances had dropped to practically ZERO. HOW could he keep Musideum running, with no touring income to pay the bills all while rehabilitating his talent? As I'm sure you've figured out by now, Donald is a pretty exceptional person, and very easy to love. When Donald came to the decision he would unfortunately have to close Musideum, 401 Richmond would have none of it. His fellow tenants and management  did all they could to help him to re-establish himself, and Donald didn't disappoint them, or US! 

As a lifelong composer and musician, Donald had always been troubled by the treatment artists received while touring. Venues that were inadequate from a technical standpoint, booking agents who treat the talent as less than human, etc etc. He was determined to make Musideum into an artists' paradise, thereby allowing true creativity to thrive and be SHARED. Musicians and artists of all genres are treated with respect at Musideum. From a technical standpoint, the place is incredible, better than most studios. Donald works with the artists, but never hinders them. All of the artists I've spoken with have said the phrase they hear most often from Donald is "This place is here for you as much as for me". He provides studio time, advice and a venue to artists who put as much into their own careers as he puts into his. He has incredible respect for artists committed to their work. To date since opening the re-visioned Musideum after his collapse on stage, Donald has been host to over 450 performances. Shows are booked 3 months in advance, and as a frequent audience member I can tell you performances sell out quickly. Donald's stress levels, now that he is actively involved in Musideum, have dropped to practically nil and he is happier than ever before. Able to be with his family and fulfil his creative needs all while operating a successful business. A business that brings wonder and joy into the lives of so many. Artists adore him!

"I have have had the pleasure of performing and recording a XMas concert at Musiduem and it was magical. Also, Donald was beyond gracious when hosting a Benefit concert for former Ten Feet Tall owners: Carin and Andy. He is a lovely soul with a deep respect for musicians and their struggle to survive in a world that depreciates artists. He is a music encyclopedia and a giant talent himself. He IS the real deal. " Pat Murray
"I've had the distinct pleasure of performing at Musideum upon several occasions. From the excellent piano to the ambiance of the space to the music audiences that Donald attracts, it is an experience that I cherish."  Rita di Ghent 

Always a giver, and inspired by his friend Talia Wooldridge who was there before, during and after the crisis, Donald is now sharing the power of music through Music Can Heal. An incredible collective of musicians who provide soothing spiritual music at the bedside of critically or terminally ill people.

Near death and extreme brain damage can't keep Donald from being the compassionate talented man he is. All it did was enable him to reset the dial to zero and create the life he was meant to lead.

On July 23, 2013, Donald Quan announced to the world that he had repaired his brain to almost 99% of where he was prior to the attack. He has recovered his musical talent and composition skills. No, not just 'recovered', he has progressed creatively far beyond his pre-arrythmia days. As a thank you to Toronto Rehab, Donald composed and recorded an album, appropriately titled "17 minutes of Silence ", a musical expression of his new found lease on life. The CD is due for re-release early in 2014, but you  can get a taste of Donald's musical brilliance here


Donald, the journey of discovery I took while researching and writing this post is one I shall never forget. It has been my GREAT honour to share your story

Friday, 19 July 2013

Creativity takes Courage

My Handsome Man is an exceptional pianist. As a teen he even made a living as a musician, but it wasn't the career path deigned for him. Instead he entered into the forefront of the IT field. It is very difficult for someone so musical to suppress that part of themselves, but he thrived in IT. He has produced other people's musical and creative works over the years and has played in some rocking hobby bands but nothing to the extent he craved. Recently he decided to hire a wonderful local musician to teach him jazz piano and is throwing himself into it heart and soul (or should I say Body and Soul?). He has dabbled in other projects over the years, but the fact he chose as an adult to dive into something creative he's always wanted to explore really inspired me. In fact, it was the catalyst to me starting this blog. I have wanted to write the book so many people have asked me to write for many years now, but have quite frankly been intimidated. Handsome Man making his musical dreams come true inspired me to do the same with my own artistic craving. This may not be a book, but it is a fabulous venue to recount my tales, my very own creative outlet and I must admit I'm loving this journalistic journey.
Handsome Man is not the only person in my life whose choice to explore their creative side has inspired me. Below are the stories of two wonderful and very different people whom I respect, admire and in terms of chasing my dream, try to emulate. I hope you'll learn to love them as much as I have!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

We Be Jammin'

3 amazing women bringing open jams to a venue near you!

This Jazz Brat loves live music and I have found the best place to go for some jazz or funk is ANYWHERE there is an open jam session. Three of the best (and very different) jams in the city are all hosted by extraordinary women with wonderful tales to tell, and conveniently all on different days! I was able to get out to all three this past week and I'm still grinning ear to ear.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Daddy's Girl

 Daddy as a young man at Fisherman's Bay

A few weeks from now will mark the 24th anniversary of my father's death. Remembering losing him is still so painfully raw that I usually chose to remember only his life not his death. But in the last few years I have come to understand his death was as much a part of his wonderful affect on me as his life and parenting.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

OMG its OMD, and my discovery of musical diversity through Blondie

Handsome Man, knowing Once an 80's girl, Always an 80's girl, surprised me a while back with tix to see Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD ) at Danforth Music Hall next week. 

I am so excited! But be forewarned, its made me nostalgic!

My parents were children of the 1920s and 30s, Jazz was their Pop music. While I was growing up, Dad was always humming or whistling some Duke Ellington tune or quoting Lady Day, and Mom was always tapping her toes to something on the radio.I'm the youngest of 9 children, and my brothers and sisters are much older than I am. They came of age in the late 50s and 60s, so their music, Beatles, Stones, Cars, Yes permeated my infancy and childhood. The 80s is when I discovered music that was mine. With the foundation of my parents and siblings music I was able to be open to anything and everything musically, and discovered myself as well as my musical taste in that much-maligned decade.

TD Jazz Fest 2013 and how amazing Jazz can be tainted by Age-ism

Fear Not The Sneer

One of the truly wonderful things about living in T-Dot is the abundance of festivals during the summer months. Go away for a weekend and you're sure to miss something incredible. The last week of June (June 20th-29th) was the ever increasingly amazing TD Jazz Fest. Major headliners like Smokey Robinson paired with Martha and the Vandellas (FREE CONCERT!), to Willie Nelson,Steve Martin and Nikki Yanovsky, fabulous well known local talent such as Ori Dagen , Mike Murley, Danny MarksNorman Marshall Villeneuve along with amazing out of towners and up and coming locals made for a fabulous run. Montreal, I have incredible memories of The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal but look out- you may be de-throned as King of the Canadian Jazz Festivals in the near future!

The Disney Lady

I'm a single mom of adult children having forms of autism, and have custody of my 3 year old granddaughter, so not surprisingly I was assessed earlier this year as having stress levels on par with a front line soldier. It was suggested I find ways to reduce my stress (HA!). I am very lucky to have an extraordinary man in my life ( from here-on-in named 'Handsome Man' in all blog posts ). He invited me down to Sarasota Florida for a week of R&R. This sounded too good to be true, and it nearly was. My 19 year old, 200+lb son Eric is severely autistic, and he has been in and out of crisis for the last 2 years. This means Eric's anxiety levels have been so high that he would go several days without sleep, has been hospitalized twice, developed agoraphobia and separation anxiety, and when overwhelmed, could become extremely violent. Although his anxiety was being managed, I was not sure I'd be able to take advantage of the wonderful battery recharger called a 'vacation'.

Monday, 8 July 2013

JazzFm Jazz Safari

I have never had a lot of money to throw around, but that 1/16 of me that is Scottish knows how to use the  little I have to the most advantage. My children never go without, I've learned to make incredible gourmet meals from nothing (regular quote from Handsome Man 'Really? I had all these ingredients in MY fridge?' ), I find a way to enjoy music and the arts without breaking the budget, and I find a way to SUPPORT the arts that in their way support me. 

Autism Moms Unite at The Iron Bridge Inn!

One of the overnight stops on the drive home from Florida with My Handsome Man was Mercer PA. A wonderful town. Our hotel was well appointed, but we thought we`d try a local restaurant for dinner. The concierge had some great recommendations and we settled on Iron Bridge Inn, located oddly enough beside a beautiful Iron Bridge spanning a quaint little river. We found a wonderful booth, completely surrounded by warm oak, almost as if we were in our own separate dining room. Its was kitcshy and romantic all at the same time. Our waitress arrived with our menus, and took our drink orders. I as usual had wine (hence days of Whine and Rosè!), while handsome man ordered the best named beer EVER!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Many times over the years I`ve been told I should write a book about my life,
but I can't see myself doing that.
Then someone suggested a Blog.That DOES seem like me, so here I am!!!! 
Some days I will talk about music, others autism and yes, some days I'll rant, but for the most part you will hopefully end up with a smile on your face after you've visited  
Days Of Whine and Rosè