Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's like we're regressing instead of progressing.

Oi people.

So, first off, it's been a while, hasn't it?  Yup. I've got no excuses, only a dearth of things I feel qualified to talk about, and blogging about the day-to-day is well.. Meh.

But every so often, a story catches my eye that is so mind-blowing in it's ridiculousness that I really have to wonder about humanity.

My source of ire stems from a story of an 8-year-old girl who was at a public pool with her parents, and in her excitement of "holy shit, SWIMMING!', threw her top off and jumped in.  Because 8-year-olds, they LOVE that shit.

The pool attendants told the parents to get a top on that kid, pronto, and the parents were all "Why?? To cover our child's likely non-existent breasts?" They were pretty pissed, and in my humble opinion, rightly so.  Because frankly, if the little boys are not required to wear a top, then it's kinda discriminatory for the girls to have to wear one, is it not?

You know how people always tell you not to read the comments on news stories? It's good advice. Because people are all kinds of awful.  You know how I know this?  I read the comments.  And the comments basically boil down to a few key pro-pool and pro-parent arguments:

Pro-Pool arguments:

- Rules are Rules!
- But, pedophiles!
- Also, more rules! and more pedophiles!
- Leftists, amiright??
- Girls are developing earlier and earlier these days, and also, pedophiles.

Pro-Parent arguments:

- It's been legal to be topless in public in Ontario for literally years.
- *most* boys and girls at that age are built pretty much the same
- The pedo argument is pretty much victim-blaming at its finest
- Boobs are boobs and not a Big Freaking Deal™.
- Also, she probably didn't even HAVE boobs, because eight-year-old.

The way I see it is this;  It's pretty damn disturbing that our culture has such a fucked-up relationship with breasts that we even flip the fuck out over the suggestion of a girl who DOES NOT EVEN HAVE BREASTS BUT OMG MIGHT SOME DAY enjoying the sun without a shirt or top, as the boys do.

Rules are rules, yes. But some rules are stupid and born of outdated ideals and morals that are not relevant in this day and age.  These rules need to be changed.

There have always been pedophiles lurking about. Pedophiles and sex offenders are not a new thing and they're not going to magically go away because your kid is wearing a shirt. A shirt is not a force-field, and a pedophile is not likely to strike at a public pool because the key word is public and most child sexual abuse tends to happen behind closed doors, not at public swimming pools.

And yes, suggesting that not wearing a shirt to a public pool will lead to a child being targeted by a pedophile is victim-blaming. Sorry, but really, not at all sorry.

The thing that gets me is not only this is a particularly US/Canada-centric attitude but relatively new! Not the weird breast-squeamishness, but putting this fear of breasts on children.  I remember being a kid, a scant 30ish years ago, and I remember seeing both little boys and girls on the beach without shirts on (myself included) and nobody batted an eyelash. In fact, some found it more bizarre that people would put their little girls in bikinis and other two piece bathing suits, due to the sexualization factor - making the suggestion of breasts where there were none.

So it seems that not only is our society incapable of looking at breasts in a non-sexualized manner (see almost EVERY debate about public breast-feeding), but people will actually freak the fuck out about potential breasts.

Are we actually getting more repressed? Sometimes it seems that way.


PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN! - SOURCE
P.S. There's a really fantastic image that I saw on Tumblr a while ago that I wanted to use here, but as per usual, I fail on the image search front, and SafeSearch (or alternately, the sheer wrongness of the internet at large) foils my efforts again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Girls and Defiance.

Meandering through the Book of Face, I came across a lovely photoset that was featured in an article a friend had 'liked'.


Mom's powerful photos of her daughters show 'Strong is the New Pretty'

Admittedly, there's some issues with the title, because of course some people are just going to read the header and not the article and assume that the point of the article is to bash all things traditionally girly.

Well, it's not.

The woman who took the photographs, Kate T. Parker, even says so much in the article. As a mom, she wanted to show her girls that they are ALSO beautiful, even if they are not-so-much into the girly-girly.

So, let's get that debate out of the way.

Girls (and women) are not obligated to be all frou-frou 24-7. Nor are women who do find joy in getting dolled up, or knitting, or kittens, or pink ribbons and acres of tulle and make-up somehow less-than women who like to play sports, or fix cars.

Additionally, strength and femininity are not mutually exclusive.  So let's shut that shit down right now.

What caught my eye was one comment in the article, in regards to these images:
They don't look strong. They look defiant. Defiant is not attractive in a child of either gender.

I felt I needed to call bullshit.  I posted the following in response:
Defiance is not a bad trait. There is something to be said for it. Defiance is the ability to stand up for yourself, and others. Girls are too often taught to be compliant.. To bend to the will of others. To be quiet, to be ladylike, to not make waves.

Defiance can be a beautiful thing. It is strength.
Defiance brings change. It allows people to stand up and declare "This is not the way things have to be!"

Defiance means being able to state your needs and not caving to pressure.

I have girls.  I want them to be able to say no.. to lovers who move too fast, to friends who encourage bad decisions, to bosses who treat them like shit.  Hell, even to me.  I'm not a perfect parent.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I need my kids to call me out when I'm wrong.

To be defiant.

(If you're reading this, that doesn't mean you're going win every argument, and yes you still have to do the dishes.  Just sayin')

Defiance is the ability to say 'No, I won't.' 

It's the ability to say 'CAN TOO!' and 'JUST WATCH ME.'

Defiance is beautiful.

Source: Kate T. Parker Photography

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Resolutions: Quarter One Report, Part 1 aka the Creative Stuff.

We're coming up to the end of March and as expected, after a couple weeks of lovely almost-springish weather, the temperature is taking a nosedive because Mother Nature likes to celebrate April Fools' Day early.

Back in January I wrote a post where I made some promises to myself for the New Year.  I thought it might be fun to revisit that post and see where I find myself at the end of Q1. 

(Yes, I work in a businessy-type-field so I use terms like Q1 and ROI and other bizness-speak sometimes)

Let's review, shall we?

1) Be More Active.  - I'm actually doing somewhat well with this.  I've been faithfully going to the Y three days a week and averaging about 16-20 pool lengths for each roughly 25 minute workout.  I'm having a hell of a time getting there earlier than 8am, which kind of puts a limit on how long I can work out, so I try to push myself for those 25 minutes.

I also returned to kick-boxing and have not missed a Monday workout thus far.  It's been a challenge.  I'm not going to lie, I'm probably about 30-40 lbs heavier than I was when I stopped going (a couple months before I got my diagnosis and I was feeling shitty all the time) so getting used to the way my body moves and what it can and can no longer do.

It's frustrating in many ways.  For instance, I've developed fat-girl ankles, which basically mean they don't hold up to high-impact (like skipping, running) like they used to.  They get sore and achy.  The first couple workouts my calves seized up, much like the did when I played with Reagan's basketball league.

Room for Improvement:  Nicer weather is coming, so I need to get my iPod or other digital music thingie loaded up and get out walking on my lunch breaks and/or after dinner.  Hiking season comes fast.

2) The Penis Table.  - I'm going to give myself a pass on this one.  It's winter and I lack facilities with the proper ventilation to adequately deal with stripper and paint fumes.

3) Blog More. - I started off kind of strong in the beginning on this one, but kind of dwindled, from 7 posts on this blog in January, down to 2 in March (not including this one).   I blame a cycle of 'Nothing going on, nothing to write about' mixed with 'too much going on, no time to write.'

The art blog had a similar decline in posts: 5 in January, 4 in February, and 3 in March.  The two roadblocks I'm having can be summed up by the following:
  • I'm only posting finished projects.  I currently have three projects on the go, plus at least two more I want to start.
  • I'm hesitant to post some of the older stuff, mainly because A) I've been doing a lot of fixes and re-dos, so I hold off posting older works in case I decide to rework them, and B) Some of the old stuff is kind of terrible and I'm frankly a little embarrassed.
Room for Improvement: I pretty much just gotta make more time, or make peace with one or both of these blogs getting a little neglected while I try to do other things.

4) Paint. Draw. Craft. - Bragging time, because I've been a goddamned VIKING in this area.  As I mentioned, I've got a number of projects on the go, and I've been getting a good 2-3 hours in some weeks of creative time.

I entered another painting in a local show, and was once again skunked, so that was a set-back, but I'm going to keep trying and also check out some shops that deal in local art.

5) Write. - To quote Jon Stewart: "I don’t have any specific plans, just a lotta ideas, a lotta things in my head."  I may or may not have some paragraphs and sentences saved in various files on my computers, that could one day blossom into something more substantial.

6) Make Music. - Yeah, I kind of let this one slide. I'm getting out of practice, no lie. I did make it to one open mic, the saturday afternoon one at the MCC.  It's a busy one, though, and you only get two songs per set, which seems like... well, you're just hitting your stride.  Three makes more sense.  One to warm up, a second one for redemption, and a third one to kick ass at.

7) Audition for Plays. - There were some auditions a few weeks ago.  I found out the morning of, so I missed it.  My kid is in a play, though.  Does that count?

Stay Tuned for Part 2...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Conversations with my kid: We both gotta get off of Tumblr edition

I'm standing in the kitchen, discussing the day's events with the Well Travelled One

T: Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!
Me: Are you... 'Shipping us?
T: Yeah, what?
Me: Don't 'ship us! You can't 'ship us! We're already 'shipped!
T: Ahh, then it's canon!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dream Recap: Travel Prep.

It's what I am guessing is a Friday. I am supposed to leave to go to the Dominican Republic with my friend Kaylee but there is so much to be done.  I sit at my computer trying to finish up last minute work stuff.  With each email I check off, I discover or remember one more thing left undone.  Finally, realized I have but scant minutes to pack and leave, I decide to say screw it, leave the stuff unfinished and silently hope I still have a job when I get back.

While I am packing I snap at the girls to clean their rooms up so we can go.  When they ask where we're going it occurs to me that I haven't actually told them I am going away.  When I tell them I am going to the Dominican without them they whine and complain and are ever so slow to move.

I bribe them with the opportunity to go to the store if they just hurry up.  This puts a bit of speed into their step, but not much.


As I am about to rush out the door, I remember "Oh shit! The tickets!" and search frantically for them.  I find them on the dresser, two boarding passes.  Once again at the door I am struck with the thought that I'm going to need stuff to read, LOTS of stuff to read, what with all that time on the beach.  Scrambling, I stuff a pile of books into my bag with no regards to the titles.

All this time I am reminding myself to text Kaylee "Happy Dominican Day!" when I get a spare second.  I get the girls in the car and we get down to Barrie where I make a stop at a store, as promised.  My sister and brother-in-law are there, with all their kids, in two cars.  My girls, without saying good-bye, jump into my brother-in-law's vehicle, who drives away without a hi, hello, how-are-you.

At the counter I tell Nicky how ridiculous my day has been and mentioned that the kids just up and took off with Frank without even saying good-bye to me, even though I'd be gone for a week.  Nicky says something along the lines of "Yeah, a while back I told them to stop hanging around this store all the time."

This confuses me, since we don't live in Barrie.


While I am paying for my purchases (having bought a royal eff-ton of Coffee Crisps and Reese Peanut Butter cups for the plane ride) I count out my change.  I ask the clerk if she will take a Canadian silver dollar but before she can answer it disintegrates in my hand.  The thought that I should text Kaylee starts nagging at me again, before I realize with horror that she was supposed to ride down to the airport with me and I am already half-way to the city, and it will be a full forty minutes back to go pick her up.

I decide I will just drive back to get her, but first I decide to untangle the giant pile of dangly earrings that have accumulated in my purse.  I gently pull each earring from the clump and sort each pair on the counter of the convenience store.  Just has a I have the last pair lined up, that's when I wake up.

SOURCE

Friday, February 27, 2015

Humility is for suckers.

I got called out yesterday morning by a friend I hadn't talked to for a while.  I fully deserved it.  It was in regards to a facebook post I had made for a recent post on the art blog.

He pointed out that I seem to preface every post with a negative comment about my work.

Fair enough.

Not having ingested enough coffee at the time, I thought this observation to be mainly in reference to the blog post itself, which being a post about one of my first painting attempts, I thought was critical but fair.

It hadn't occurred to me that on the Facebook post, I had included the words "Be prepared for terribleness."

Okay, that's pretty negative.

Although I created the art blog with the intent of sharing more of the stories behind my artwork, I also wanted it to be a place where I could examine and critique my own work:  where I've improved and where I'd like to see improvement.

But I'm not going to lie. I tear myself down, a lot.  I've been using self-deprecation as a defense mechanism for a ridiculously long time, and it's a tough habit to break.

I know there one major thing at play here: there is the desire to point out my own flaws before anyone else can.  It's as though if I don't let anyone see that I might actually be taking this somewhat seriously, then I don't have to live up to the expectation of being any good at it.  It's the thing that keeps me referring to myself as a dabbler, or a hobbyist, as opposed to an artist.  I feel like if I act like I take it too seriously, then I'm at risk at becoming the living embodiment of the insufferably pretentious art snob.  So I fall back on "Ha ha, I suck."

I've always felt rather mediocre at most of my endeavours.  Perhaps I've only ever been mediocre because I won't allow myself to immerse myself in anything enough to be more than 'just okay' because if I do, then there will be expectations.

And let's face it.  Pride is still considered, in many circles, to be a vanity, a sin.  Women especially are expected to downgrade their accomplishments, to deflect compliments with phrases like "Oh, you don't mean that," and "You're just saying that to be nice." 


It's bullshit. The idea that people should be humble, should not draw attention to their strengths, is a great way to keep people down, to keep them from realizing their full potential.  We don't know the things we are capable of if a fear of pride or appearing immodest drives us to downplay every single accomplishment we have.  We internalize the message that those things we learn and do and become good, great, or even experts at (outside, of course, of those things we do to earn money, because capitalism.. you are your job, in this system) don't matter, that they aren't a big deal.

You, my friends, are a big fucking deal.  If you tried something new today, that's a big deal.  If you did something today that you love and did it even the teensiest bit better than you did yesterday, that's a big deal.

From today, I am going to try to work extra hard not to be so self-deprecating when it comes to my art, my music, my writing or myself.  I am a big fucking deal.

SOURCE

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

So did go all that is good and pure in the world.

My heart is broken.

I caught wind through fellow blogger, Lance, that during last night's taping of The Daily Show, long-time host Jon Stewart let slip that he would be stepping down from his hosting duties.

I may have cried a little.  I am not ashamed.

When I saw the posted headline, I silently begged "Please be the Onion.  Please be the Onion," but the AV Club's post had already been edited to include an official announcement from Comedy Central.

SOURCE

This is disheartening news.  It may sound weird, since it's not entirely kid-friendly fare, but watching the Daily Show has become family time around here.

Yes, my kids rock current events at school.

And even though Jon Stewart may have outed the Easter Bunny, he's also opened up dialogues with my kids about war, prejudice, injustice, politics, racism, sexism (but surprisingly, not make-believe holiday creatures).  I recall Reagan laughing at a joke Stewart made a few months back that pointed out the irony in gun-rights advocates invoking Martin Luther King Jr. as an ally.

Granted, she may have just been laughing at the faces he was making, but a little part of me thought she may have gotten the joke. The kid is pretty smart.

Humour makes ideas and current events accessible.  And I think that has been part of the appeal of the Daily Show.

I have a few hopes here.  My first hope involves a long-time desire to see Jon Stewart enter politics, as I am sure many others have also hoped.  Then if he ran for president, Rick Mercer could come out and renounce that time he shilled for the government with those "One-Ton Challenge" commercials and returning to biting political commentary with a northern touch, and make a run for PM and in the end we'd have an entertaining-as-hell Canada-US alliance.

That's just an idea I've been throwing around since pretty much forever.

Second, since Comedy Central's official statement seemed to imply that Stewart's departure would not spell the end of the Daily Show, I really, sincerely hope that they make Jessica Williams the new host.  Not only is she my favourite correspondent out of the current cast, she's pretty badass, but as a WOC she'd be a refreshing change of pace from the current white-dude tsunami that is the late night talk-show circuit (Although I haven't forgotten you, Larry).

SOURCE

I guess we have a few more months to find out what's in store.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Stuff We Need a Word For, Part 1 (TMI warning for ICKY LADY STUFF)

"A pervasive fear or anxiety that you have forgotten to replace your tampon*, and as such, are slowly bleeding into your underpants."

Does anyone else get this, or just me?

You're sitting there and suddenly you flash back to your last trip to the bathroom.  You distinctly remember removing a tampon, but have no real recollection of putting a new one in.

Did I forget? Is it still sitting there, in its wrapper, on the back of the toilet? 

Am I the only one who has had this nagging doubt?

"Was it a bad idea to wear white today?" - SOURCE

I am loathe to admit this, but the reason I suffer this anxiety is that it's happened to me.  Twice in one day.  God only knows what had me so pre-occupied that day, but ever since I find myself, at least once every cycle, besieged by a need to run to the nearest washroom and do a quick string-check.

Everyone gets this once in a while, right?

Oh, just me?

Perfect.

*Feel free to substitute with pad or DivaCup or what have you.  But if you're having a problem with not knowing if you're actually wearing a pad, let me know what brand you're using, please, because it's probably the best pad ever.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

High School and the Fine Art of Giving No Fucks

It's amazing, you know?

It blows my mind sometimes, the way minor, yet arguably shitty, incidents and experiences can take you to a place you thought you'd left behind. Habits formed from self-preservation remain in play long after the threat has dissipated.

A 34-year-old mother of two, with a job and a mortgage and responsibilities can be reduced to an anxious, self-conscious adolescent in a matter of seconds, just from the sound of a giggling teenaged girl.

The high-schoolers have infiltrated the YMCA.  My mornings spent getting ready for work after my morning swim used to mean running into a few elderly women and occasionally one of my co-workers.  That was pretty much it.

But now there are high-schoolers. 

I hear their voices and laughter bouncing off the ceramic tile, muffled by the sound of the not-quite-hot-enough showers and my shoulders hunch up and my eyes, like magnets, are drawn to the ground.  I adjust my towel, just a little more tightly, as this body of mine, the one that not 20 minutes earlier had been gliding gracefully through the water now feels preposterous - all sagging, scarred, bumpy-fat flesh.  Taking up space.  Too much space.

"For the love of Gord.  You're 34 years old.  Woman the hell up already," I tell myself and sigh.  So many years gone by and I'm still affected.

I like to say that high school was a breeze, a lot of fun. 

(aside from grade nine.  aside from gym class.  aside from the girls who threatened me with violence because they thought I was "looking" at them.  in the change room.  I stopped looking up, ever.)

I tell people that high school was the time I ran out of fucks to give.  I learned to relax.  A little.  It was the time I tell people (and I tell myself)  that I learned to not care what people thought of me.

(I cared.  I just didn't let on.  It was safer if people thought they couldn't get to you.)

I practiced not giving a shit.  More accurately, I became practiced in the fine art of appearing to be all out of fucks to give. 

I learned to sneer at people, especially girls, I felt thought they were better than me.  Prettier, richer, more desirable.  The ones who had their shit together.  Brick by brick, I built walls of 'giving no fucks' to encase myself in and I told myself that they were nothing, of no consequence.

The most relatable character in this film, from my perspective. - SOURCE
My mother told me, "Hold your head high."

I held my head high.

But even now, hearing these voices echoing off tile, voices that exude the confidence of knowing the world is at your feet, sets my face to utter stoicism.  Instinctively, I still brace myself for mockery, setting my expression to one of utter neutrality, as I gauge the risk of making eye contact, or drawing attention to myself.

(go ahead.  Laugh at this fat, spotty, scarred body.  see if I care)

But of course, no one says anything.  Because this isn't high school, dammit.  I'm a 34 year old woman in the YMCA changeroom and I am about as incidental to these kids as any stranger on the street.





Sunday, January 18, 2015

Aunt Laura Wasn't Crazy, After All.

Nanny and Aunt Kay. They don't really pertain to this story, but I couldn't find the picture of them with Aunt Laura.
I used to labour under the impression that my maternal grandmother was one of three girls, mainly because I never really heard her speak of any of her siblings besides her sister Kay and her sister Laura.  It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I found out that Nanny had been one of upwards of around 8 children.

My great-grandparents had so many kids, it turns out, that the youngest had to be given up to foster care.

But, no, for years I thought it was just the three of them. To this day, the only other one of her siblings I remember meeting was Uncle Jack.  One day after class I decided to pay Nanny a visit and a quiet, somewhat unfriendly man opened the door, grunted, and let me in.  I had no idea who he was.

That was uncle Jack.

Aunt Kay and Aunt Laura are the ones I remember.  They're both gone now unfortunately.

I used to think Aunt Laura was insane.

She was married to a man named Gord Arnold.  He died when I was quite young, possibly before I was born.  I have no memory of him, but I knew who he was, and I knew he was dead.  But for years, during family visits, Aunt Laura would make comments about how she had "been talking to Gord the other day" and how "Gord had fixed the kitchen sink last week, it's about time," and so on and so forth.

I always thought it odd, that Aunt Laura talked to her dead husband.  I also thought it was very understanding, albeit a little creepy, that everyone in my family was totally okay with humouring her whenever her dead husband was mentioned in the present tense.

I'm going to be honest.  I'm not always quick on the draw.  There was a very important puzzle piece missing, one that pertained to the fact that Laura and Gord had about a million kids.

I found this out one day when Nanny was showing me the framed picture of her many, many nieces and nephews that she had received for her birthday that year.

"That's Annie and Donna, and there's Tim, and that's Gord..."

*light bulb*

As my mistake became all to clear to me, I dissolved into hysterical laughter.

"OF COURSE! OF COURSE!" I cried.  "AUNT LAURA ISN'T CRAZY! HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO NAIVE??"

I had never met my mother's cousin Gord.  Or if I did, I had no recollection.

Nanny was alarmed at my outburst, and through the tears streaming down my face, I explained that for years, I had thought that my insane Aunt Laura had been talking to her dead husband and that no one in the family had the heart to set the poor woman straight.

She had been talking about her son the whole time.

Years later, I told Aunt Laura of my ill-conceived notions about her mental health, and to my relief, she was more than a little amused.


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