Yoga breathing for depression

I’ve long suffered from depression. I was first diagnosed with it at age three. When I have a depression attack it’s as though someone is crushing my spirit. I get a headache and my thoughts becomes dark. I can only see my faults and failings, I second-guess myself and others and I become hypersensitive to rejection and to feeling left out. My thinking gets fuzzy and unclear and I have to push myself to accomplish anything.

It’s been said an episode of depression is akin to being “in the jaws of the black dogs.” I like the analogy that depressed thoughts are weeds in the garden of your brain and its cognition and you have to be vigilant about weeding them out because the distorted thoughts will otherwise take over. The idea that you can remove the weeds is comforting because during a depression attack I feel powerless and overwhelmed.

Something that is helping me right now is yoga breathing. I worked with a yoga teacher for several weeks and she taught me to focus on my breath and count breaths. She also loaned me a terrific book, Yoga for Depression by Amy Weintraub. Even if I don’t perform all the yoga poses I could, focusing on breathing, especially slow and deep breathing, seems to make a difference. It’s as though I’m breathing the depression right out of me.



Handing back the Empress best bet for community project?

This is a lesson for me. I usually put my articles through a final fact check and I usually report an event just after it happened. Didn’t do it for this blog post and I misunderstood some of what was said. An asterisk appears at the end of the corrected text. Corrections and clarifications come thanks to Paul Scriver, president of the Empress Cultural Centre, who posted a comment below.


empress centre t-shirts and pamphletsI’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while. On Nov. 8 the board of the Empress Cultural Centre Corporation held an info session about the project. This board is the latest regrouping of citizens trying to revive the old Cinema V/Empress Theatre building in NDG. The first citizen’s group to receive a mandate from the city to transform the building into a cultural centre started in 1999.

Many NDG folks especially remember the Cinema V as a movie theatre that closed in the late 1980s. In 1992 the abandoned building suffered a fire. Later its roof leaked, causing structural damage inside. Right now most of the building  is not usable but one section was renovated and opened for office space and meetings.

The building’s facasde has an Egyptian motif and the revitalization project has suffered so many problems it’s as though it’s under a mummy’s curse. No matter how close people get to moving the project forward, it just never seems to happen.

On Aug. 15 this latest group trying to resurrect the building lost its mandate from the city when the CDN-NDG borough council voted to open redevelopment of the building up to tenders.

But even though it lost the mandate, the Empress Cultural Centre plans to bid for the project anyway. Right now there are only two contenders – the Empress Cultural Centre group and the media-shy Cinema NDG.  “We don’t have clear guidelines and in fact the city can’t release the guidelines until it takes possession of the building.,” said Empress Cultural Centre board president Paul Scriver, adding that his group is open to working with Cinema NDG on finally reviving the old theatre.

Not surprisingly, after spending over a year trying to get the project off the ground the Empress board is frustrated. But they’re not as angry about the situation as you might expect. Instead, they appear to be embracing the challenge and are not out of the game yet.

Revealed at  the meeting:

    • The Empress Cultural Centre board has decided to hand the building back to the city.* Clarification: Nov. 20, 2011. “The main point about this is that we are doing it because we see that allowing the process to go forward meets our mandate and that to us, and the community, it does not matter that we develop the building or another party, what matters is that the building is redeveloped so that it can be used by the community,”says Paul Scriver (see comment below). It won’t be taking legal action against the city, even though it says it has an ownership agreement and a legal case. “We’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing in terms of  the advantage of the community is to allow the city take the building back,” said Scriver. “This will give us the opportunity to just focus on developing the project, which is the main work we’re doing right now and will take some of the pressures that we have to try to raise funds to fix the building…off of our backs. But we really do think it’s in the interest of the community at large to let the process go forward.” Scriver said he personally feels “if it’s an advantage to Michael Applebaum  in the next election so be it, as long as the building just gets done. The Empress board position is “we can’t be fighting the city on one side and working with them on the the other,” explained  Scriver.
    • No condos on the horizon. According to Peter McQueen, city councillor for Montreal’s NDG district, CDN-NDG borough mayor Michael Applebaum is now demonstrating political will to realize a cultural centre. “I was at the council and at that Aug. 15 meeting Mayor Applebaum was more explicit than ever that he would do it. You heard ‘would’ and ‘will’ do it. He was clear,” said McQueen. “He said several times it will be a cultural project with public money and it will be done.” This is big news considering Applebaum is on record as saying not a drop of public money would be used for the project. “Our understanding from when we came in was there would be zero public money from the borough, there would be no public money from the province and there would be no public money probably from the federal government,” said Scriver.
    • It will cost more to demolish the building than it would to rebuild it. Scriver said according to Pierre Lemieux  of Trizard “the cost of demolishing it would be too expensive and that it made more financial sense to look at ways of redeveloping the site without demolishing the existing structure.”
    • The city is earmarking $228,000 in remaining monies for the building’s repair and maintenance *
    • The group plans to be out of the space by the first week of December. Instead of leaving artifacts in the building, they have an offer from Meldrum the Mover to keep artifacts such as the Cinema V signs in storage. “We’re not guaranteed they will be preserved. So we’re letting the city know in writing that we’re taking those things.”
    • The Chamber Music Festival of Montreal* has its office in the only section of the building that currently is renovated and usable.The board told festival organizers they would not be able to accommodate them once the Empress Cultural Centre vacated the building. Update Nov. 20, 2011: the Chamber of Music Festival of Montreal has found new office space.
  • It’s unclear whether the city will ever repay the Empress Cultural Centre Corp., a charitable organization, the $13,000 it spent on repairing the building’s chimney*. Clarification Nov. 20, 2011: Scriver says that “since the city has announced it will be spending the $228,000 earmarked for the Empress to maintain and repair the building once we leave (this is money that we had asked for and were told we would not receive it), we thought it would be fair of the administration to repay the $13,000 we paid to them.”
  • Community outreach so far has included surveys of neighbouring residents and the wider community, who, for the most part, appear to support turning the Empress building into a cultural centre.

The bid:

  • The project proposal the Empress Cultural Centre board put together in a little over a year includes a private/public partnership to redevelop the building. “Our feeling on that is we have a good team, we have a good idea and we wanted to move forward,” said Scriver. The board considers the borough’s Aug. 15 decision a setback for developing the building, Scriver said.  “We have one of the most effective developers in the city ready to go and we’re ready to do the necessary work to begin and this is going to set us back again.”
  • The board made a deal with developers Phil O’Brien and his son Anthony O’Brien  to fix up the rest of the building and rent out space to culture and community-minded tenants.
  • “We would have kind of a commercial condo, ” said Scriver, not in terms of living space but in terms of ownership in the actual building. A new legal framework would involve business owners buying a partially developed or fully developed space from the developer and then being able in perpetuity to
    empress cultural centre board president Paul Scriver
    Paul Scriver explains project

    take that space and use it and profit from it as long as they could, Scriver sad. “The conditions for selling the building would be only to a like-minded entity which supports culture in this building,” he said. “It would have to be something that really did the community a service and which provided real value to the rest of the businesses here.”

  • One idea tossed around was to a Robin des bois or Au O Noir-type community non profit restaurant at the base of the building, something non-profit with a social function that focuses on local food and could work with non-profit food security organizations, said board member Jason Hughes.
  • Once the building is redeveloped, someone else would take over running it since the board has no plans to be in the property management business, Scriver said.

A new cultural sector for NDG?

  • The city of Montreal is designating different areas in neighbourhoods as quartiers culturels. Hughes says a city commission  considers NDG Park a quartier culturel and is suggesting building a performance stage in the park and kiosks serving food and refreshments! Someone else at the meeting wondered if the park chalet would be converted so that refreshments would be served out of the chalet.* The area around the park – located directly across the street from the Empress building – has cafes and restaurants aplenty.
  • Hughes is trying to get the Empress, along with nearby cafes designated as part of NDG’s designated quartier culturel.
Jason Hughes
Jason Hughes addresses attendees
inside of LT's Grill

Portuguese chicken restaurant victim of Quebec tax rules?

Today on the bus I overheard a woman saying she was heading for a job interview because her last job as a waitress at a Portuguese chicken restaurant in Montreal West has abruptly ended.

The alleged reason? The Quebec government is forcing the restaurant to shell out $3,000 for a new cash register that complies with as a fine for not complying with Revenu Québec standards (In a CTV Montreal report about another restaurant, the fine was $2,500 and device cost $21,000). To prevent tax fraud, restaurants around the province have been ordered to replace old cash registers with registers that produce bills using a sales recording module. the Montreal Gazette does a good job of explaining the hows and whys of the government rules here.

The woman I overheard said the restaurant was in the space previously occupied by a bistro. I checked and there is/was a restaurant called LT’S Grill. Its Facebook page proudly proclaims that the restaurant prides itself on its “flavorful charcoal rotiserie (sic) chicken which is always fresh off the grill.”

I phoned LT’S Grill today and there was no answer, nor any voicemail. Reportedly there is a sign on the restaurant’s door declaring the business closed.

I just phoned a restaurant neighbour of theirs, Burger de Ville, and the person who answered confirmed LT’s Grill is closed.

Black squirrel

I don’t know what’s going on but lately I keep seeing black squirrels around Montreal.

Growing up here every squirrel I ever saw was grey. Black squirrels were common in Ottawa, where I moved for university. But not here. We may wear black but squirrels here are supposed to be grey!

I snapped these photos on Tuesday. The little guy was fast and it was hard to get a good photo.

NDG black squirrel in tree
NDG black squirrel  on lawn

My dying garden

A few weeks ago (Oct. 19, to be precise), I visited my City of Montreal community garden plot to get it ready for winter.

I had procrastinated for so long the garden was choked with weeds. The city rules are strict – no weeds in garden beds or in the alleys between gardeners’ plots. The herbs were overgrown and crowding one another. Grass had made its way into the beds.

I was tired of weeding. I had planned earlier in the year to use “lasagna gardening” (sheet mulching) for the whole garden bed but never got around to it. It offers a way to stop the weeds while improving the soil at the same time. And it’s a no-dig method, very appealing to anyone with back problems.

The idea is you cover the entire garden bed with newspaper or cardboard or butcher-type paper. The paper needs to be clean (cleanish) and thick enough you can layer it over the soil or even put it over grass and weeds.  I used piles of newspaper, cardboard boxes and plain brown “landscaping” paper that came with packages ordered from Lee Valley Tools. Usually you wet the paper first (I didn’t because the soil was already wet). Then you add layers of gardening materials. I used shredded paper, store-bought soil with compost mixed in, peat moss and coconut mulch. Over the winter the worms and the microorganisms will break down the layers and blend them together. By next spring I should have a garden bed that needs no digging out or tilling. I’ll be able to plant right away. The paper at the bottom should keep the weeds at bay for a little while anyway.

As you can see in the photo, it takes quite a bit of material to cover everything. In the end, I covered the soil to the best of my ability but some newspaper still poked out. From my experience I know it’s going to disappear.

On Sunday (Oct. 30) I went back to see how the garden was doing, harvest some herbs and say goodbye till next year. The marigolds are withering, the lemongrass plant dried out, the herbs frostbitten. But you can’t see the newspaper so much anymore.