daily resolutions

I am not a New Year’s resolution maker. I’ve always felt it set me up for failure.

Instead, I’ve always been a promise maker.

I promise to not eat those empty calories. I promise to get more exercise. I promise to get more sleep.

If I commit to something for other people, I am guaranteed to show up. But for myself, well, I do not have a great track record in the keeping promises to myself department. So that too was a failure waiting to happen.

Going back to university was a big learning curve around not having destinations, but journeys. So, I’ve changed tactics and gone big and gone small.

I am setting big journeys with daily resolutions.

I want to make writing a priority. That’s the journey.

The steps along the way include a writing course and a weekly work space meet up. The daily resolution is scheduling in the time.

I want to have fewer celiac episodes. That’s the (life long) journey.

The steps along the way include taking the diet right back to the basics. The daily resolution is journalling everything I eat, looking for clues. 

In 56 years, I’ve learned a thing or two. And one is that tomorrow is another day. A day where the journey continues and you can begin again. 

rereading my life

I recently drove across Canada and the Western States and had the chance to stop by the home of Margaret Laurence in Manitoba. I have a big place in my heart for Laurence’s book, The Diviners.

The book was my first ‘grown up’ novel. I had devoured every children’s book in our home by 1974, the year The Diviners was published. I had read dozens of modern and classic plays that were in anthologies on our bookshelves, and I had been permanently scarred by Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask (my mother’s idea of a coffee table book). If not scarred, definitely confused.

I had literally worn the cover off both Charlotte’s Web and Harriet the Spy. My best friend for many years was the dog next door; I believed she understood all the secrets I told her, and that she and the squirrels and birds spoke to each other, like the animals in Charlotte’s Web.

I began carrying a notebook around after reading Harriet the Spy for the first time. Like many characters in the book, I was considered an oddball and overly opinionated. (I was an oddball and I was more than a little talkative, if I’m honest.) I often spent time in my childhood ostracized, much like Harriet; for real or perceived slights, for being part of the only single parent family in my school, for not having cool jeans, for having bangs, for not having bangs, for just about everything.

I had no heroic ‘return to the fold’ moment as Harriet did, but I always held out hope that this time the apology would be the golden ticket.

Books and my imagination were always my refuge.

I do not recall where I found The Diviners. I’m going to guess it was the library I visited weekly.

An excerpt from The Canadian Encyclopedia explains the novel this way:

The Diviners (1974), the fifth and final book-length fiction in Margaret Laurence’s celebrated Manawaka series, is the story of Morag Gunn, a Manitoba prairie-born novelist and single mother, whose life and works loosely resemble Margaret Laurence’s own.

This is truly not much of an explanation for book like this. Laurence appeared to write simply yet on further examination, it is with significant complexity that she tells the story of Morag Gunn. Morag’s parents die and she goes to live with family friends. The man of the family, Christie, is a scavenger who runs the town dump. The woman, Prin, short for Princess, rarely leaves her home for a variety of reasons both expressed and unknown; Prin seems unable to interact with the world. When Morag goes to school she is immediately made to feel different, less than enough. Her dress is wrong and the other children let her know.

Oh Morag. I remember so well going to school one day in a touristy, tacky Hawaiian skirt. How it came to be in our home, I don’t recall, but I distinctly remember that my sister told me not to wear it, but I didn’t listen – I never did when I had put my mind to something.

I thought the skirt was the most beautiful thing in the world.

Apparently I was wrong.

I was told in clear (mean, horrible, demeaning) terms that my idea of beauty was a joke. I left school at recess to go home (apparently yard supervision was not what it is today!).

I didn’t have Morag’s gumption and ability to put everyone in their place. I began policing what I wore and often wore the same thing over and over rather than try something new and risk a negative reaction.

When Morag was around adults, they also let her know that she was an outsider and their pity embarrassed Morag.

After getting in trouble in school one time – for talking too much, no doubt, I was sent to the principal’s office. As I sat there, the principal discussed my home life with the vice principal and a few teachers. It was the first time I realized that people pitied me and my siblings. I thought my life was pretty great at home. It was later that, like Morag, I became aware of how unusual my life was and I could become embarrassed by the circumstance.

At one point, Christie is driving Morag on his scavenger wagon and they come across some youths who Morag knows. Christie reacts to them in a way that mortified Morag and she wishes he would just be quiet.

My mother was a local television and radio personality and she went on air more than a few times talking about things that I wished other people didn’t have to know. I was proud of my mom, but I could have crawled under a rock more than once.

Morag would understand. Once again, literature had provided me with a kindred spirit.

There was a lot of controversy around Laurence’s portrayal of a single mother. Morag, although married at the time she gets pregnant, is not carrying her husband’s baby. Rather, she has an affair with a man who had been her first love (and lover) as a young woman. It’s actually a stretch to call the conception of their baby an affair: they sleep together one night and then part ways. Morag is clearly using the man Skinner, to end her marriage, although she does have a deep affection for him. Throughout the novel, the baby’s father returns to Morag and her daughter’s life.

There was a lot said about the ‘salty’ language Laurence used as well, but the underlying criticism likely was that the father of Morag’s daughter was a Metis man. Racism against Metis and other First Nations was running above and below the surface throughout ‘polite’ Canadian culture then as it does now.

Lisa Moore, in a Globe and Mail piece written in 2003 about The Diviners sums up what I think I truly love about Morag: she is unbearably vulnerable, and instantly strong, a queer alchemy Laurence works throughout.” 

Moore points out something I had not considered – the honest portrayal Laurence gives of Morag’s aging and the new set of vulnerabilities inherent in that time in a woman’s life. Morag is frank about the pitfalls of aging including loneliness, and speaks to her daughter, Pique, about jealousy for what is gone from Morag’s life but is so vibrant and active in Pique’s.

Rereading The Diviners at this moment in my life, just like the first time, has been like going home: sitting in a place where you are welcomed, accepted and understood.

Ontario politics: nothing to be smug about

I remember when the US election results from 2016 came out. So many Canadians were walking around all smug and confident that we would never elect a public official like Trump.

Wake up and smell your double double folks – Doug Ford has delivered a smack down to that smugness in the form of severe and crushing blows to marginalized and vulnerable citizens. There are a boatload of negative actions engaged in by the Conservatives since taking power which will affect the average Ontarian as well.

Some say much of the vengeance is emanating from Dean French, Ford’s Chief of Staff. The source doesn’t matter; the outcome does.

So let’s look at the slashing the Conservatives have dealt to the social fabric of Ontario:

  • rent Control for new builds – cause there’s not a rental crisis in major cities right?
  • elimination of Bill 148, the bill which gave wage protections for workers, specifically part-time workers; this bill included a minimum wage hike
  • withdrawing the pilot project for basic income
  • stopped the opening of safe-injections sites
  • eliminated the Child and Youth Commissioner (who monitors and investigates abuse with the welfare system)
  • dropped the plan to spend $100 million for repairing schools – the actual physical buildings
  • repealed the 2015 Health curriculum
  • stopped the sessions for the rewriting of Indigenous education curriculum – counterintuitive to the Reconciliation process – updates were a significant recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • slashed the size of Toronto city council – reducing the levels of representation for the province’s largest city
  • eliminated the Environment Commissioner who makes sure the Province abides by environmental laws
  • scrapped the Cap and Trade program
  • ended the Green Ontario Fund
  • ended the Drive Clean program for emission testing
  • fired Molly Shoichet, Ontario’s Chief Scientist
  • cut the French Language Commissioner – along with scrapping a proposed French language university
  • withdrew funding for three satellite campuses for Ontario universities (Ryerson, Sheridan and Laurier/Conestoga College)
  • narrowed the program offering free prescriptions for children and adults under 25
  • pulled support for federal refugee resettlements
  • has delayed work around the police oversight law

But hey, you can buy beer for a buck and have open access to pot.

There is some confusion about exactly what happened yesterday regarding a resolution around gender identity. Originally news sources said the resolution passed; in fact, the resolution is being put forward for debate.

Either way, it sucks. To propose to debate the inclusion of gender identity in any way, shape or form IN 2018 is appalling.

The resolution says gender identity theory is “A highly controversial, unscientific ‘liberal ideology’; and, as such, that an Ontario PC Government will remove the teaching and promotion of ‘gender identity theory’ from Ontario schools and its curriculum.” 

Good grief, it’s like Trump is a ghostwriter for the Ontario PC party.

The Ford government is taking Ontario in a very scary direction and Andrew Sheer is attempting the same thing on a much bigger scale.

So, yes, what happened, is happening, will continue to happen in the States – negativity, intolerance, hatred, polarizing views – can and is happening here.

Peace on earth seems a rather tall order for Christmas this year.

From here to there: the medium fast way to Vancouver

After driving from Toronto to Vancouver (via Montana, Idaho, and Washington state), I can safely say – again – this land is amazing.

So many people – myself included – have been to many places around the world without fully exploring our own country. I have been to every province – some multiple times – but I have not been to the north. I have not visited even one territory.

I also don’t know the real history of this land. I’m trying to remedy that.

I want to say I will never drive that cross-country drive again; I said the same thing 35 years ago when we moved from Calgary to Toronto. Once across the prairies seemed like enough. But, I somehow did it again and enjoyed it.

Mostly. Not the snow. Or the cracked windshield.

But other than that, I’d say it was a success.

Good company helps; my best friend Maureen (Mo), who had been my constant companion on road trips with my children when hubby was unavailable, came along for this latest ride. She brought show tunes and was keeper of the TripTik. She’s comfortable with long silences and my tendency towards getting hangry.

She also swore there was a field of cow statues somewhere on the prairies, but that’s a whole other story.

The trip started with taking a photo with me and the car that was heading for its new West Coast home. Then I headed to the Beaches/Beach area of Toronto where Mo lives and it didn’t take long to be reminded: Ontario is SO BIG.IMG_7152.jpgMississauga, Ontario: traditional land of the Anishinabewaki and Huron-Wendat and Haudenosauneega Confederacy. 

The first night was spent in Sault Ste. Marie at one of the many really nice hotel/motels we stayed in. Simple, clean accommodation – that’s all I care about. I forgot my water bottle after the first night so we stopped in a place called Pancake Bay. Inside a little store attached to this wood carving shop there were water bottles and bait, and all things hunting and fishing.IMG_7195Pancake Bay, Ontario: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.  

The tourist complex also had a bathroom – my teeny tiny bladder often was the motivator for our stops throughout the day. Mo, on the other hand, is like my daughter: she can go all day without a series of bathroom breaks.

Often the bathrooms were, well, basic.IMG_7224.jpgThunder Bay, Ontario: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.  

It took us two days to get from Toronto to Thunder Bay. Not full-out driving, but about eight hours per day. Although it was late September, there was a significant chill in the air, and it frequently poured rain, but we did pop out once in a while for shots of the incredible skies and water.nbg6HRBgSA6G9Di9MpgThunder Bay: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.  

You cannot go to Thunder Bay without stopping by the Terry Fox Memorial. It’s not exactly at the spot that Fox’s run ended but the memorial is very well done and it is in a beauty of a location.IMG_7217.jpgIMG_7221.jpgThunder Bay: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.

After Thunder Bay, we still had more Ontario to go, but it was a gorgeous day to start. IMG_7231.jpgMachin, Ontario: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki.

Once you hit the Manitoba border two things happen: the roads get very rough and the land gets FLAT. IMG_7237.jpgSte. Anne, Manitoba: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

We stayed in Winnipeg for the night, shortly after passing through the longitudinal centre of Canada. Yup, it’s a thing. I didn’t get a photo, but really, it’s a thing.

An unexpected treat in Manitoba, Neepawa to be exact, was seeing the home of Margaret Laurence. Laurence is a bit of a hero of mine. Her book, The Diviners, was the first non-children’s book I read – I literally graduated from Harriet the Spy to The Diviners. Laurence made me fall in love with complicated characters and stories.IMG_7265.jpgNeepawa, Manitoba: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

Saskatchewan held its own surprises in the form of SNOW.IMG_7276.jpgOrkney, Saskatchewan: traditional land of the Metis and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

This is not the snow at its heaviest; at that point I was calling hubby and asking him to check the weather radar to see if we needed to pull over.

Side note: we had chosen our driving route based on a couple of factors. Firstly, we wanted to stay in Canada as much as possible. Secondly, we wanted to visit family in both Edmonton and Calgary. Lastly, and the biggest wrinkle, we had to avoid driving through BC other than the Lower Mainland because it is required that you have snow tires as of October 1st on BC highways. Theoretically, the snow tires for this car were already in Vancouver (and they weren’t but that too is another story).

So, on this day in Saskatchewan, we were driving with all season tires and the cars approaching us were very heavily covered with snow. Hence the call to the hubby to ask how long this snow was likely to last. Funny enough, he said 20 minutes at most and it was about 17 (I mean really, who was watching the road while I was watching the clock?).

It was slushy and slippery and gross. But then, it wasn’t. It was just dry, flat highways. IMG_7283.jpgPrairie Rose, Saskatchewan: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

The next day, after a night in Saskatoon (and some pretty good sushi), we headed out to more flat landscapes and GRAIN ELEVATORS!IMG_7292.jpgLashburn, Saskatchewan: traditional land of the Metis and Cree and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

We tried to capture provincial border signs whenever possible. Just because that’s what you do.IMG_7268.jpgManitoba/Saskatchewan border: traditional land of the Metis and Anishinabewaki and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

But when you travel a more northern route between Saskatchewan and Alberta, you go through Lloydminster and you simply cross over a street with a large marker. Some time later you see the Welcome to Alberta sign. It’s one of those quirky things of the prairies.IMG_7293.jpgLloydminster, Saskatchewan/Alberta: traditional land of the Metis and Cree and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

Along with big Ukrainian Easter Eggs (pysanka).IMG_7294.jpgVegreville, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux)

One of the BEST sites while travelling came shortly before we arrived at my sister’s home. Elk Island is a National Park east of Sherwood Park and Edmonton. Elk Island is home to a lot of wildlife and has the highest concentration of hoofed animals but the coolest – in my opinion – are the bison. There are currently more bison in the park than there were in all of North America in the late 1800s. There was a concerted effort on the part of Parks Canada to increase the bison population. The area was first created to protect Elk, hence the name.

Thanks to Wikipedia and the Elk Island Parks Canada site for info. IMG_7299.jpgIMG_7306.jpgElk Island, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree

When Mo and I were at the site, there was such a noise coming from the bison. I tried to capture it but instead, I caught Mo and I discussing how they sounded like snoring (a bit of theme for our trip!).

Elk Island, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree

A few days later, I headed to Elk Island again with my daughter (who had flown to Edmonton to meet us) and my sister. It was a beautiful day and it made me super happy to have two of my favourite women hanging out. IMG_7325.jpgIMG_7328.jpgIMG_7300.jpgElk Island, Alberta: traditional land of the Plains Cree and Métis and Cree

After a few days of rest and relaxation at my sister’s home – where it felt like we were in a luxury hotel – and visits with my mom, we headed south to Calgary for a lunch with my sister by choice and my niece and then into Montana.

Calgary had a huge amount of snow, but the roads were clear for the day. We woke up the next morning in Browning, Montana. The two lane highway with a very high speed limit was pretty empty and the scenery was amazing. IMG_7355 2.jpgIMG_7362.jpgBrowning, Montana: traditional land of the Métis and Niitsítapi (ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ, Blackfoot) and
Ktunaxa

The day was spent rushing along through Montana and – blink! we pretty much missed Idaho. We landed in Spokane for the night. It was Mo’s birthday and I had found a restaurant where the chef also had celiac. Not that I wish that on anyone, but it meant we were assured ‘safe for us’ and delicious food. It was amazing.  IMG_7372.jpgIMG_7373.jpgSpokane, Washington: traditional land of the Spokane and Pend d’Oreille and Ktunaxa 

I’ll be honest – my mouth is watering remember the delicious meal.

Our last morning was a sign of the day to come – clouds and mist. It poured rain most of the day. We crossed the border and things cleared up and we admittedly cheered. We were happy to be near the end, even though it had been a great trip. IMG_7242.jpgAfter the windshield was fixed and the paperwork to transfer the car complete, I flew back home. I love Vancouver so much (and especially my favourite newlyweds!) and if I didn’t have a job to go back to, I probably would have stayed a while. IMG_7394.jpgVancouver, British Columbia: traditional land of the Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilwətaɁɬ) and Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw and S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm

Leaving my daughter is never fun, but this time there was a bonus the day after I got back: my son moved home from Boston after living and working there for five years. My hubby had taken a road trip to pick him up and similar to five years earlier, I was on the West Coast with my daughter and hubby and my son were moving him to a new job. IMG_7413.jpgMississauga, Ontario: traditional land of the Anishinabewaki and Huron-Wendat and Haudenosauneega Confederacy. 

Yes, this land is pretty amazing.

Acknowledging that it has a history and a meaning to it that is not what we have been taught and believe is something that needs to change.

If you wonder about the real history of where you live and travel, I have found this website useful as a starting point.

Podcast mood: my view of the world will never be the same and that’s a good thing

I recently began commuting using only public transit or my own two feet. This means that I have plenty of time to have my mind broadened and my heart broken by podcasts.

Podcasts are the way in which I am learning more about the world, the real world that I have known nothing about because of who I am, how I look, and the fact that I have been afforded good fortune that has surrounded me throughout the vast majority of my life.

I recently listened to the description of the brutal death of Helen Betty Osborne on the podcast Someone Knows SomethingI stood at the GO bus terminal, looking at the sky, and cried.

Why? Why did her story have to be this way?

Helen Betty Osborne was a young woman from Norway House, Manitoba. She had been sent to residential school; she later attended an “integrated” high school (Indigenous and non-Indigenous students) where she faced considerable racism. One of the people who harassed her eventually killed her.

Helen Betty is one of countless murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada.

Listen to her story.

Another CBC podcast, Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleoexplains the story of Cleo Nicotine Semaganis who was taken from her family during the Sixties Scoop.

Listen to her story.

These stories, these lives, these women and girls – they deserved more. They deserved better. They deserved people beyond their own communities taking a stand and demanding change.

I had a prof once say that the story of anthropology ruins everything – you can’t unhear or unlearn what it brings to your life and your mind. That’s how I feel about these podcasts.

The real question is how do the families go on, continuing to fight for justice in a system that seems to be more interested in denial of culpability than seeking the truth?

I live with these stories for moments while listening to them. These women, their families – it’s a life sentence.

Another podcast, Out in the Open, recently talked about what it means to be an ally.

When the #metoo movement had a major resurgence last year, my daughter reached out and told me “I hear you”. It meant so much to me – I felt supported and loved and heard. It was more than enough. It was everything.

That’s why I have made a commitment to, as much as humanly possible, listen to women’s stories. Many stories end in tragedy, in lives cut short by people who cared nothing for the potential of women’s lives. Even when the story does not result in a woman’s death, too many result in a woman’s future – and that of her family – being negatively impacted.

I have struggled with understanding what being an ally means in the context of other situations though. Is it enough to send money, donate items, walk in a protest? Is that being an ally?

Is it when I call out people for their actions and remarks?

All those mean I care. But is that enough? If I can’t help to affect change what good am I? Am I doing this to alleviate my guilt? Have I asked what it is I can do or am I imposing my version of help on someone else?

There was a line in the Out in the Open show about how as an ally you can walk away – I can support someone’s cause but I can choose to take a break. I don’t have the lived experience of being from a marginalized group – of being a person of colour – of being LBGTQ – of being homeless – of being disabled.

I don’t get it.

On the Out in the Open show, Feminista Jones shared her perspective of what real support looks like – not doing something to get a pat on the back or that feel good moment – but being a ‘co-conspirator’, someone who “just does the work with the communities they are trying to help” without trying to tell those communities how to do it, or be recognized for doing it. Someone willing to work to break down the systems which oppress – even if those systems are ones in which you benefit from yourself.

What I do get is this: hearing those lived experiences expressed on podcasts or in books or on Twitter – I am confronted by my ignorance of people’s lives and their day-to-day (moment to moment) realities, challenges and heartaches.

And sometimes I do hit stop. I can walk away and not have to deal with the harshness.

That is truly where my privilege resides.

 

Memories and moments

My friendship with Lois was borne out of a working relationship. It turned into a lifelong “pick up where we left off” kind of thing that nourished me and continues to influence me even though she’s gone.

In 1985, I needed to move from working for an accounting firm, one where I had my first ‘real’ job. When my brand new hubby was going back to university in 1983, that firm offered me the chance to move across Canada and have a job waiting when I arrived.

After a couple years in Toronto, though, I wanted to make more money and definitely wanted to stop the repetition of typing boring letters and tax returns.

I got a job in HR at a real estate developer and began doing boring, repetitive tasks there.

But it didn’t matter because that’s where I met Lois.

At Halloween, I delivered benefit cheques on rollerskates. We wrote farewell speeches in prose and I was performing them like Ginger from Gilligan’s Island (google her, my young friends). When I heard from my family, I would regale her with tales of what my nephew Steven had said on the phone, and she would share the funny anecdotes of her family get togethers.

We laughed. And at times, we cried. She more than once told me, “you know men aren’t mind readers, right?”

I was so lucky because she set the standard for work friendships early in my life and that bar was very high.

After leaving that job, because well, boring is boring, I stayed friends with Lois who also left for bigger and better things. We visited her and her wonderful hubby, Jack, wherever they were living on the West Coast: first southern California and then to Vancouver Island.

We wrote and called and later on moved to email. Not often. But enough.

At the start of 2014, neither of us knew it would be her last year. She wrote hopeful letters about meeting us in Vancouver on a visit.

And then, in late summer and early fall, she realized where she was headed and what her future meant: palliative care and the end of her life.

Sadly, she knew that not everyone was there with her.

I am pretty much ready to go whenever my time comes but I don’t think Jack is there yet. I’ll have to work on that with him.  It is hard to watch him watch me deteriorate.

Shortly before she passed away, after receiving a piece of art I thought she’d like, Lois wrote to me:

As for your letter – I sobbed.  I feel so much the same about you and over the years with getting busy with the other “important” things in life, I wasn’t sure we still had such a bond. The heart doesn’t forget and I certainly haven’t forgotten the wonderful person you are. Yes, I feel loved and  I love you too.  I still think of so many things that we talked about.  I still tell Jack “I’m sweating, Auntie Paula” even though he has no idea anymore what I’m talking about. I still think of you and I writing limericks or something like that for “Ginger” and killing ourselves laughing.

A few days later, Lois sent me an early birthday gift, an incredible necklace from one of her many trips. I thanked her and her response, her final email to me, was typical Lois.

Hi Paula,

I knew you (and Ginger) would appreciate the gift.  I am really grateful for your friendship and I know you are keeping me close to your heart – I can feel it!

You may have already received a response to this email but I am getting a few problems (probably user induced) so I can’t always tell if I have responded or not.

Love and hugs,

Lois

Sadly, two weeks later, I received an email from a very heartbroken Jack.

Hi Paula:

Just to let you know that Lois passed away peacefully on Oct 28 at 10:30 pm  She had been in Victoria Hospice for 5 days and kept her sense of humour until the very end. I will miss her terribly.  I was a very lucky man to have her for my wife as she was such a wonderful lady.

Jack

That she was. A very wonderful lady.

Lois loved Celine Dion’s Because you loved me; I can see why.

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

I learned so much from Lois, in her life, and with her death.

Hold people close. Love them hard. And tell them how they have changed your life.

And do all those things often.

Miss you. Love you. Thank you.

Just shut up

trigger warning: this blog post contains discussions and links to articles about sexual assault and harassment cases which may be triggering.

******

I have a #metoo story. I recently wrote a piece about it and entered it into a writing contest, and those two acts – the writing, the putting it out into the world – somehow alleviated 150% of my burden. The piece never got any traction in the contest and I don’t care if it ever sees the light of day. It remains my truth and yet it’s no longer rattling around inside of me.

It’s the best thing I’ve ever written because it healed so much hurt.

I share this to be clear that I am not opposed to sharing of stories and experiences. Saying the words has helped me to heal. I get it.

I do, though, have a problem when certain stories are privileged over others and especially when space is given to men to cry foul and demand pity for the backlash of their inappropriate and damaging behaviours when that same space has been denied – and continues to be denied – to scores of women.

******

Back in September, someone posted on Facebook I’m not reading Jian’s trash and neither should you.

That was the first I had heard about Ghomeshi in months. And I thought, oh, damn, no. He didn’t.

But he did.

There was a part of me that thought, take that Facebook advice.

And then, there was the part of me that knew that it was going to be talked about on CBC and on the GO train and everywhere I was going to be and that I wanted my anger to be firsthand.

So, I read it.

Probably fifty times while reading the “woe is me, I’m the butt of a hashtag” article, I screamed, you self centred ass, shut up. 

******

The New York Review of Books, which put out Ghomeshi’s piece, fired the editor who made the decision to run it (or he was forced to resign). Recently the Review posted a piece with over 35 letters from readers, including two of Ghomeshi’s victims cause yeah, they had to read his narcissistic, self-serving pile of crap too.

Those two women were asked for comments on the piece before they knew it existed.

Sexual abuse: the gift that just keeps on giving.

(Four letters were in support of Ghomeshi’s article – and well, again, shut up.)

******

Harper’s Magazine published a piece by John Hockenberry called Exile. In the memoir Hockenberry wrote about accusations of sexual harassment against him brought forward by many of his female coworkers.

Hockenberry goes on much longer than Ghomeshi, but the end result is the same: my behaviour (which I have a good explanation for, and here it is) has ruined my life, but I am not to blame. I have daughters (which makes a difference how?). You’re all making way too much of this. I deserve pity not scorn. 

Hockenberry calls his actions “lapses in judgment”.

just shut up

******

On CBC recently, I heard a clip from an interview between Anna Maria Tremonti of The Current and Rick MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine. I found the entire interview online and had a listen. (The interview begins around 11:15.) The publisher was defending his decision to publish the Hockenberry piece to Tremonti. Throughout the nine minute exchange, MacArthur sounds, as Tremonti points out, flippant. He says, your readers need to know that Hockenberry is a paraplegic and so he couldn’t and didn’t do anything criminal and his life is ruined and he’s not Harvey Weinstein and he never touched anyone cause he couldn’t and Harper’s has done a lot about sexual harassment (one firing, nine years ago)….wah wah wah.

do you hear yourself? just shut up

*****

I get it: some people are thinking the #metoo movement has gone too far and they feel that people who are accused are having their lives blown up and they have to adjust and make changes and live with the consequences of their “lapses in judgment”. (It appears the appropriate way to rectify this in the States is to confirm a Supreme Court judge accused of rape.)

Apparently I need to state the obvious: those men’s victims have had their lives blown up, have by and large not been heard or believed but instead vilified and threatened further, were made to follow vastly different paths than pre-abuse, had to survive the crushing weight of the breaking of trust in their lives, live with the consequences and the fallout from the moment that someone’s “judgment lapsed”.

Jian and John, you made a choice, they did not.

Talk to me in 45 years or so; that’s how long I’ve lived with the consequences of my abuser’s actions.

Until then just shut up. 

******

If you harass, assault, abuse, or otherwise harm a person sexually, and you compound those horrific acts by being a person who has higher status to that person, you are harming them, physically, emotionally, mentally; you are breaking their trust and shattering their world.

That’s why this is a big deal.

And yes, John and Rick, legally, there is a difference between raping someone and a sexualized comment. But for the victim, each act has consequences that are unique to them and no two people’s trauma or aftermath is the same. No trauma is acceptable trauma.

So, if you want to argue that these men’s lives have been ruined, I have to say

I don’t care.

They were ruined before all this – they came to their victims hugely flawed, sick humans. And they have zero interest in taking responsibility.

******

There are so many #metoo stories and for a few days last fall, I had to take a break from reading and hearing them all. It was like my own memories were trapping me and I couldn’t turn around without bumping into them again and again. I found it hard to breathe.

Then, I returned to the techniques of compartmentalizing I learned in therapy and found my feet again. I read and listened to victims because I knew that, like me, people were finally finding strength and community and some lessening of that tightness in our chest. They had waited for someone to hear them and believe them.

KEEP TALKING. I HEAR YOU. I BELIEVE YOU.

******

The space that #metoo opened cannot close; there are too many victims, too many survivors and yes, too many perpetrators. It has been a long, long, LONG time coming.

There is no place for these men to write and call for a pity party until every single person who has been victimized gets their due.

And I’m pretty sure that’ll be a while.

Until then, John and Jian, JUST. SHUT. UP.

******

photo credit: the feature photo is from the instagram account of Calm, a meditation app (a major contributor to my mental health and well being, and a refuge from the ongoing storm). 

Aging (also known as really getting to know yourself)

Upfront admission: I am not full on embracing my wrinkles or the parts of me which are not “defying gravity”.

I’m not shying away from them or considering plastic surgery but “embracing” implies a fondness that I’m not feeling.

I don’t love the creaky feeling when I stand after a long sit.

I am, though, over worrying about my upper arm flub.

Okay, that’s maybe an exaggeration. With a ‘mother of the bride’ event or two recently, I was slightly worried. But in the moment, it definitely was not even a passing thought.

It’s everything else that has happened in the past few years that I’m really intrigued by.

The chutzpah that comes when you have enough perspective to know what is important and consequently what it means to speak your mind. Kindly (mostly).

I don’t have time for fake or toxic relationships or superficial chats at parties while your conversational partner is looking past you to see who is more interesting.

Generally, I am over pleasing others. As I said to hubby recently, I still like to be liked but I can’t keep throwing rocks (or allow others to) at my self-esteem.

Weirdly, there are still a lot of growing pains when you get older. Not the physical but the mental.

Like rethinking and reorganizing your perspective. So many things I was brought up to believe and lived by in the past were either off base or outright wrong. The volumes of misinformation I was led to and did believe – well it’s taking my whole midlife to rethink.

And that’s okay.

Perhaps the biggest – and the one which leads to all other fundamental changes – is the view I’ve had of myself.

That one flaw or bad choice (or several) does not undo or truly define you.

That speaking my truth – really loudly – actually can set you free. You just might have to speak it more than once and to the right person: yourself.

I wrote my truth and submitted it to a writing contest. I was so proud of that piece.

I didn’t make the long list. Maybe didn’t even make it past the first hurdle.

But I wrote it.

And it is good.

Because it’s mine. My story, my life.

It hurt like hell.

And healed like sunshine.

 

Hello old friend

It’s been too long.

It’s been a busy few months.

It’s been a busy life.

Weddings, vacations, jobs and other new jobs.

Cottage repairs.

No complaints.

And now, as a new year – as in a new school year – begins, I am in the midst of sorting through lives.

My mother in law is downsizing and many things are being filtered through our home. She is a holdover from the days where you always picked up a brochure wherever you went and you took two in case you lost one.

Also, we recently had a film crew take over our home and one of the many outcomes – besides a cool experience and meeting some exceptional young film makers – was that my basement got turned upside down.

And that’s a good thing.

In one day, two film people moved the 27 years of accumulated STUFF (cause junk is too harsh a word) that we had in two of the many rooms in our basement. They moved it into another already STUFF filled room.

When the crew was putting the house back together, we asked them to not refill the basement rooms. We asked them to leave it all.

So now, I am trying to take a critical eye to every single thing.

Why is it that I have enough paper plates to feed a small army? Or literally enough push pins to create a push pin Mona Lisa?

Life has a funny way of being told in material accumulation and man, we have had some kind of BIG life.

It’s easy to know that you don’t need hundreds of cork board push pins.

But what’s harder to decide is about the hundreds of masterpieces my children created over the years; I gotta say – they were a prolific pair.

The handmade birthday cards, sure. Easy choice (keep).

It’s funny, though. It’s those little doodles that Laura did in a notebook I kept in the car. I remember the day when it was finally not about Barney (keep).

The drawings where Kyle made heads HUGE and hands coming out of those heads – I remember talking through why heads are big (“cause they’re the most important part”) even thought it was 27 or so years ago (keep).

We live in the digital world and so I can, and will, digitize much of it.

There are some outfits that were in a box, alongside a box of crib bedding. Those all have a new home in a cedar lined trunk. Little runners and dance shoes and Sesame Street dishes somehow made it in as well.

For now, I am looking at things like roller blades and tote bags, wrapping paper and grapevine wreaths.

There are people who can use these things that have sat for years and years (and years).

And the childhood treasures, well, they will have to wait for another day.

 

Time to get LOUD

June 7, 2018 is the date for Ontario’s provincial election.

It is time for front line education workers to be heard. We have a lot to contribute to the conversation and we should be recognized for our contributions to the education of the most vulnerable individuals in the education system:

  • Students with mental health issues/concerns/diagnosis
  • First time students (kindergarten, new to the Boards)
  • Students with physical/cognitive disabilities, identified and non-identified
  • Students whose life circumstances place them in a precarious status for learning
  • Students who lash out and harm/injure/permanently disable their educators

That last point is critical – violence in schools has been bubbling to the top of media feeds since last fall. There’s been a lot of finger pointing – bad parenting, bad children, bad educational assistants/teachers, bad programs (specifically integrated classrooms).

I disagree with those in the media and public playing the blame game.

Parents, especially those of children with individualized learning or life skill needs, are by and large doing the best they can.

Students who act out in a violent manner are frequently doing so in response to being in an environment that does not meet their needs.

EAs and teachers are swamped with requirements of the curriculum and the immediacy of the needs of their students. They work incredibly hard within a system that is not conducive to special education success.

Integrated classrooms are in the sights of people looking to deflect blame but the undercurrent is that the educators and special needs students within the programs are the real cause.

The deflection of focus onto these various actors in the education sector takes away from an important issue for this election – inadequate funding for programs and supports that are supposed to meet the education and social development needs of students with individualized learning requirements.

The Ontario government has imposed negotiating frameworks which have made the public believe educators only care about their salaries.

Money is how society values people. So, yes, educators want to be adequately compensated for their work. We will never stop fighting for that.

This election though is not a negotiation. The focus will be about speaking up for students and their learning conditions – which happen to be educators’ working conditions.

Students deserve the supports they need to be successful meeting their unique goals:

  • enough front line staff to support their learning
  • staff with enough time to observe each student with individual needs in a variety of environments
  • physical resources and staff with enough time to take those observations forward to create programs that work for each student and each environment they move through in the day.

Right now, educators are spread so thin – educational assistants with 3, 4, or 5 students who are in multiple classes – meaning they cannot consistently provide the breadth and depth of support students need.

There are many teachers with multiple special education students without any other resource people within their classroom to support and enrich the environment.

Schools have limited access to social workers, speech and language or other specialists.

It is time to get LOUD, to demand that any politician looking to be elected talk to people on the front lines. It is time to demand that those politicians take up the cause of students who are paying too steep a price for insufficient resources in education.

It is time to get LOUD about the consequences for educators – the violence and the injuries – which are a symptom of the current model for special education systems and the lack of adequate funding.

My vote will only be given to someone who takes the time to learn about the realities of life in special education from the people doing the work every day.

Be heard.