Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Putting your money where your mouth is.

Well, fuck.

Another day, another senseless act of violence, another show of meaningless 'solidarity' by changing a facebook picture, all the while ignoring the terrible things that happen to people around the world, people who look less like you.

Yup.  It's good to be home.

Since the events in Paris this week, a mosque in Peterborough was deliberately set fire.  A woman near Toronto was punched in the stomach, the hijab ripped from her head while she was called a fucking terrorist and told to go back where she came from.

People disgust me, yo.

It's exhausting, explaining to people, so-called Christians, people who supposedly worship a man who decried pointing out the splinter in another's eye while ignoring the beam in your own, that all terrorists are not muslims and all muslims are not terrorists.

But I'm privileged in that if I don't feel like speaking up, I don't have to.

I'm tired of trying to explain that the refugees fleeing Syria are NOT the threat.. they're running from the same threat.

And I will fucking scream if one more person talks about 'taking care of our own first' while doing fuck-all to actually help the homeless and the mentally ill.

Homeless people need help. Yes.  No shit.

The mentally ill need help.  Again, no big revelation there.

Refugees need help. 

None of these things need to cancel the others out.  If we have problems with mental health access and homelessness, it's not because of a piddling number of what... 25,000 refugees? That is 0.07% of this country's entire population.  Not even an entire tenth of a percent. 

That's one town.  One rather small town.

The mentally ill and the homeless aren't going to suffer because we accept a small town's worth of refugees.  They're suffering because of multiple governments that had already forsaken them several times over, governments supported by people who ignore the homeless and shit on people who have to rely on government assistance, but trot them out as an argument for having to 'take care of our own'.

The people complaining don't actually care about the homeless.  One person in a thread said that "The money has to come from somewhere."

Yes, it does.  Probably taxes.  I'm okay with that.  I'm willing to pay taxes if it means homeless people, mentally ill people, and refugees all get help they need (btw, there's overlap in these groups, in case you didn't know).  Fuck yeah.  Sign me up.

If you actually care about homeless people, then I hope you're speaking up just as loudly when MP's and MPP's and municipal politicians are giving themselves raises every year.  I hope you're fighting for better access to affordable and emergency housing.  I hope you're donating to food banks more than just at Christmas and Thanksgiving.  I hope you're fighting for legislation that prevents discrimination against people with mental illness or people with criminal records*, things that often lead to people being unable to support themselves.

But don't trot out the homeless to support your bigotry by saying "We need to take care of our own." 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nope, Not Feeling It.

I'll be totally honest.

I've kind of been thinking of taking a long-term hiatus from this blog. Blogging has been a good outlet for me for 10 or more years but lately, I'm not feeling it.  I still have a lot of opinions on a lot of things, but sometimes I just feel to damn lazy to back my opinions up with facts.  The kids are getting older, and they read and stuff now, so my ability to blog about them and their cute little foibles is becoming limited, because as they get older, they have more to expect in privacy.

Blogging has changed as well. I don't see the same kind of communities of commenters as I once did, and now it kind of feels like screaming into the void.

But, I suppose, I like having the outlet here. I like thinking that someone out there cares what I have to say.

Today marked the two year anniversary of my surgery, and I'm kind of bitter-sweet about it.

I don't miss my colon much.

I'm glad to still be alive, and functioning at about 90-95% of what would have once been considered normal.

I'm fat as fuck again, but I'm mostly okay with it.  Buying pants is bullshit, though.

I'm anxious a lot.  I get scared as hell sometimes.

Maybe I'll keep writing, and just stop promoting it. Maybe I could just make this a place to scream into the void.

There's a common theme amongst cancer survivors.. a lot of talk of Living Life To The Fullest™and Making Every Day Count™. It makes me angry, because it's such a privileged position to take.  I mean, it's a nice life, if you can afford it.

I still have kids to feed, a (ever-so-slowly crumbling) roof to keep over our heads, and a car to keep on the road.

Living Life To Your Fullest™sounds pretty good on paper, but the vision of quitting your day job and following your dreams is only realistic when it's built on three things: Money, Time, and Energy.

Once I had Time, and Energy, but no Money.

Now I find I have little Money, little Time, and only so much Energy to go around.

So, I get angry.  Once upon a time, I looked at where I was and said "It's cool, I've got my whole life ahead of me."

Now, I'm not so sure. I may not have another 10 years. I may have another 50.

Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully.

And here I stagnate, wanting to Live My Dreams™ and Make Every Day Count™, but there are mouths to feed and bills to pay and at the end of the day, I am lucky if I have the time and energy to type a few words, pick up a guitar or a paintbrush, or even stay awake through a full episode of Breaking Bad.

LottoMax couldn't come soon enough.

Are you there, Void? It's me, Andrea.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

It's been almost two years (less about a week and a bit) since I got the news that I had cancer in my ascending colon. After surgery, six weeks off work and a much longer period of both physical and mental recovery, I'm now approaching two years cancer free (as of November 1st).

I was lucky, in that colon cancer, if caught early, is pretty easy to treat.  Mine was caught very early, stage one.

Others are not so lucky.

September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day.  Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lungs, caused by exposure to asbestos, otherwise known as that stuff that people used to put in houses for insulation, until people found out that it was all kinds of terrible for you.

Although asbestos use has been drastically reduced over the years, (Canada's last two mines closed in 2011) it's still legal for use in both the U.S. and Canada, and even if people aren't actively using it as much (however, they still are, which is mind-boggling and scary), it's still all over the place, in older homes and buildings. 

Hell, two years ago, when the sewer backed up into the basement and the line had to be dug up, one of the original pipes was made of asbestos, and got left in our yard over the winter.  I had to keep calling to get it removed, because I'd be damned if either myself or the Well-Travelled One were going to touch that thing with a ten-foot pole.

Mesothelioma is one of the major side effects of asbestos exposure, and it's outcome is general devastating.. Victims are usually given less than a year to live.

If you want to find out more, visit www.mesothelioma.com

Sunday, September 6, 2015

This is a friendly reminder.

You deserve a day to yourself.

A day where you sleep in.

A day where you get up early, before everyone else, and enjoy the silence.

A day where the dishes don't get done.

A day where you don't wear pants.  A day where you don't wear anything at all.

A day where you play video games for six hours.

A day where you lounge in the bathtub until the water gets cold and you start to nod off, narrowly avoiding dropping your book into the water.

A day where you burn a tank of gas without a destination in mind.

A day where you don't leave the house.

A day where the kids have cereal for dinner.

A day where you eat off paper plates.

A day where you don't see or talk to people.

A day where you say "Sorry, I have other plans," even if those plans are playing videogames in your underwear.

A day where you turn off your phone.

A day where you turn a blind eye to dust bunnies, and circles on the coffee table.

A day where you don't beat yourself up for not living life to its fullest if all you want to do that day is marathon episodes Orphan Black.

You deserve a day off.

(Sometimes I need this reminder. I hope you find it helpful, too.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Three Times #KidsintheHall Helped Me Through Shitty Stuff

1) Hotel LaRut

I was married, once. At 20, I was probably not ready to be married. My erstwhile ex-husband was definitely not ready to be married. All in all, marriage was a mistake.  I got a couple of pretty amazing kids out of the deal, so it ain't all bad, though.

I usually don't like to use identifiers here, because privacy, but this joke may not make a lot of sense if you don't know his name was Tony.

After we split up, whenever I was down and listless and complaining and crying, my best friend would put on a fake French accent and ask "What's wrong, my Michelle?" (Full disclosure: My name is not Michelle.  But you probably already knew that).

At this point I would slowly start to smile, and put on my own fake french accent..

"Oh, Silvee.. I can't help thinking about Tony..."

2) But Do You Love *Me*

I dated a dude once.  A dude, who although he professed to like an awful lot of things about me, always came back to how he just didn't quite feel *that way* about me.  Me, being the sucker I was, let him come back into my life numerous times, only to have the same conversation again, until I finally had to say "Enough!"

I'm not so sure this was one of those times where laughter is the actually the best medicine but those nights of drinking wine straight from the bottle while sobbing "I'm an icky, icky tree!" sure helped me work through some stuff.


3) The Cause of Cancer

Shitty things happen in life. Sometimes terrible, horrible things happen to good people.  Or, at the very least, to well-meaning people.

But, I digress.

When horrible things happen, sometimes it is comforting to have some kind of faith that everything happens for a reason.

We call those reasons 'Scapegoats'.

So when I was diagnosed with Stage 1 colon cancer, I had the perfect scapegoat in Bruce McCulloch. It helped that Bruce was always my least favourite Kid, so in a twisted part of my mind, it made sense that in his vengeance, out of spite for being my least favorite, that he would maliciously grow a tumour in my colon.

Dave's right. He doesn't even sound sorry.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why Should Some Kid Get a Medal for "Just Showing Up?"


"Why," you ask, "should a kid get an award for just showing up?"

Because sometimes just showing up takes a lot of guts.  Sometimes gearing yourself up for the possibility of defeat takes everything in you.

Speaking as someone who was a shy, fat, uncoordinated child who heard my share of moaning and groaning from my classmates when my name was called during Phys. Ed, just showing up can be fraught.

Speaking also as someone who deals with anxiety, as many people do, putting yourself into new situations is some scary shit, for children and adults alike.

In Grade 8, I made the decision to try out for the school's volleyball team. I tell you, it took every ounce of courage for me to go into that gym.

I went and I tried my hardest. Not even halfway through the tryouts I could feel tears of frustration welling up in my eyes, with every ball that I instinctively ducked instead of passed.  My face went red with the effort of trying not to cry.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't make the team.  I don't think I was even remotely close because I was really, really, bad at volleyball.  I also kind of hated it.  But I wanted to be involved in something.

I felt like a spectacular failure, and it was many years before I tried out or participated in anything remotely competitive again.

I kind of wish, at that time, that someone had given me something to acknowledge that even though I sucked, I tried, which was more than some had done.  That my effort was worth something.  That just showing up, when I was so afraid of falling and failing, that THAT was worth something in and of itself.


I get that kids need to learn how to win and lose graciously.

Taking scores out of games so there are no 'winners' or 'losers' doesn't help kids. Kids need to learn that sometimes they are going to win, and sometimes they are going to lose and regardless, they need to not be an ass about it.

However, hyper-competitiveness doesn't help kids, either.  Over-emphasizing the value of winning over all other things teaches that if you can't be the best, don't even try.

There is value in effort.  There is value in trying, and fucking up.  There is value in just kind of being okay at something.  There is value in trying.

And I think that's worth recognizing.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Alcohol, consent, double-standards and why I wouldn't want to be THAT judge.

Oi. The Book of Face is a frustrating place sometimes.

I've been agonizing over whether to respond to shitty things I see on Facebook or just to take a deep breath and exercise my 'hide-button' finger when I see egregious shit being posted by people I otherwise love and respect.

It's a tough call, sometimes.  Do I risk being piled on or alienating people by playing the role of feminist (or anti-racist, or pro-LGBT, or otherwise anti-oppression) killjoy? Or do I quietly keep scrolling and secretly hate myself a little as I click the 'hide' button?

It's hard.

Someone I especially love and respect posted this image* the other day:

I agonized over whether to comment on this, to the point that I had a bit of an anxiety attack and ended up deactivating my account for a few days.

But here goes:

Yes, loved one.  Neither party in this particular infographic could legally consent.

I'll be quite honest, I would hate like hell to be the judge or jury in the rather unlikely event that the charges went to trial, because that person would be in the uncomfortable position of calling someone a rapist,or calling someone else a liar (and also, possibly, a rapist as well).

I say unlikely, because a very small percentage of rape cases actually go to trial.  Most charges are dropped or dismissed due to lack of evidence.  This case here would be a prime candidate to get dropped, mainly because of the he said/she said position and the fact that they were both drinking.  Many a rape survivor has heard the chorus of "If they didn't want it, why did they go with/drink with/get in a car with/flirt with/building a fucking sand castle with them?"  Seriously, anything to discredit the charges.

Don't believe me? Not only did over 40 women come out against Bill Cosby, he is also on tape admitting to purchasing Quaaludes to incapacitate women for the purposes of having sex with them.  And people will STILL perform mental gymnastics of Olympic Gold proportions to discredit the victims and give Cosby the benefit of the doubt. FORTY.

In a similar vein, Jake is also in a terrible position, were he to try and press charges.  He's be assumed to have consented based on the fact he's a dude.  Because male victims of rape only count when it's in prison. It sucks.  People DO need to get over the idea that women are incapable of raping men, whether through force, coercion, or incapacitation. 

Anyone (male, female, nonbinary folk) who is drunk cannot consent to sex.

It's pretty simple.  Don't have sex with people who have been drinking if you don't want to be accused of rape.  People will argue that "So what, if my partner has a glass of wine, I shouldn't have sex with them?"

Don't be silly.

Having a glass of wine is not the same as being drunk. That being said, some people can drink until the cows come home and be a clear as bell.  There are also situations (medications, not having eaten enough that day) that can cause one drink to hit someone like a ton of bricks.

If you know for sure your partner is totally into it and fully consenting - ie. they are tearing your clothes off and is maybe only one drink in; maybe you have been in a relationship for years - and you know they are not operating under the influence of outside substances, then knock yourself out!

Consent! A fun, sexy time for all!
If you are unsure the person you are with is able to fully consent, maybe don't have sex with them.

If they *seem* fine, but you know they've killed a case of beer or a bottle of wine or a 26er that day, maybe don't have sex with them.  Hell, if you're NOT sure they DIDN'T kill a 26er, or a case of beer or a magnum of wine, maybe don't have sex with them.

If the person you are with is exhibiting any behaviour that might suggest that they are not totally into having sex with you - for example, freezing up, zoning out, making weird whimpering noises, expressing doubt ("Maybe we shouldn't.. this isn't a good idea.."), even seeming bored or distracted, use your words and say something to the effect of "Are you okay with this? We can do something else."  Give them a safe out, and if they don't take it, then proceed.  If you're still not sure they're into it, maybe don't have sex with them.

If you fear that the person you are about to have otherwise consensual sex with might turn around and accuse you of rape, then maybe don't have sex with them.

If you fear that the person you are with is going to mock you, or call you a pussy, or a cock-tease or otherwise disrespect your "No," then they are a boundary-disrespecting douchebag and maybe don't have sex with them.

You'll notice that I'm using a lot of gender-neutral terms here.  A lot of "they" and "them".  That's because these are rules that should apply to ANYONE.  No one is entitled to the sexual use of anyone else's body, male, female, genderfluid, or otherwise.

Note to my ladies:  We are also capable of victimizing men. I cannot emphasize this enough.  Please remember that. Climbing on a passed-out dude and going for a ride, that's rape.  Threatening, coercing, until you get your way... same deal.  We need to hold ourselves to a standard of consent as well.

So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and yes, my dear loved one, that is how equality should work.  We're working on it.  In the meantime, make sure the consent you get (and the consent you give) is sober, un-coerced, and enthusiastic and things will probably be okay.

* I do want to add that the initial ad that the meme is predicated on is a problem, in the fact that it only states that Josie couldn't consent, not that neither of them could. This denies agency to women while simultaneously perpetuating the stereotype that men are always good to go, anywhere, anytime.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

And then, all at once my head exploded - or - The tale of the world's tiniest violin, which I shall now play for these poor forsaken souls

Is it me, or does this article sound like the weirdest kind of humble-brag?

Somebody gave this woman a platform to tell a heart-wrenching (I think that's what she was going for) sob story about how she and her husband, through meticulous planning and what sounds like a fuck-load of privilege, achieved everything they ever wanted -- two kids, some dogs, yearly vacations, and shit-damn, even a riding lawn-mower for the beautiful yard that surrounds their dream home -- but somehow, it wasn't enough.

You're basically Ross. And Ross is the worst.

(Image: Three panels of Chandler and Joey. Captions read "Oh, no. Two women love me. They're both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet's too small for my 50's and my diamond shoes are too tight!")
Because now they want another kid, but the cost of another kid would disrupt their perfect economic equilibrium and send them spiralling into the void of "possibly having to downsize to a less than spectacular dream home and maybe pushing a lawnmower instead of riding it" debilitating, abject poverty in order to soothe the literal ache in her well-planned out uterus.

Don't you understand.. they might have to sell the time-share!

Holy shit.  Cry me a damn river.

If I sound bitter, it's because yeah, I am. Because I, too, scrimped and saved and bought thrift store clothes and made a down payment on what was not my dream home, but simply a home, and even I can recognize how damned lucky I am that I have a roof over my head to call my own, even if said roof and attached walls have seemingly been cobbled together with high hopes, salvaged materials and sheer what-the-fuckery.

This article made me angry on a visceral level.

It is quite likely the most obnoxious thing I've ever read.

I almost wonder if we're not being trolled on a grand scale, because really, can someone really lack this much self-awareness, to not realize that there are people who cannot have children at all (instead of merely having to make a choice between a kid and a time-share).  Does she not realize the vast numbers of people who lack even a clean, dry place to lay their heads at night?

Does she think these people just didn't plan well enough?

Imagine, living off of canned food for a whole year? Buying consignment clothing?  What sacrifice! 

The idea of someone marvelling over eating canned food when there are people who are happy to, you know, eat food, makes me think of this guy. (Image: Old man chained to a wall. Caption reads "Wot I wouldn't give to be spat at in the face!")

Don't get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong - morally wrong - with working hard and planning your life out to a tee.  I'm also not going to judge people who get hit on the metaphorical head with their biological clock.  It happens, and plans change.  Wouldn't it be lovely if we all got a national platform to air our grievances when life doesn't *quite* work out how we expected.

Material or maternal, don't martyr yourself over choosing your luxury home over another mouth to feed like it's some massive sacrifice.

Shit or get off the pot, and just be glad you have a pot to piss in.

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.

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

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