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My grandfather would probably scoff, loudly, if I even insinuated that he is a feminist. That’s not the world he grew up in. He went to university, got married and took care of his family. He still does. He spent his life doing what a man is supposed to do.

But without my grandfather in my life, things would have been very different for me, and I wouldn’t have become the strong independent woman that I am. I would be a completely different person, I think. If I hadn’t been so sure of being on my own and taking care of myself, I wouldn’t have the marriage that I have today. I wouldn’t have the daughter that I have today – I would be someone totally different, and so would she.

My grandfather would never call himself a feminist, but he prepared me for the world. He spent my childhood teaching me how to build and repair things. He taught me how to drive, and while he was doing that he also taught me how to change a tire, so I would never be stranded.

When I moved away for school he gave me a gift – my own tool box, fully stocked with tools I might needs to take care of my apartment. My hammer has my initials carved into it.

Perhaps most importantly, he continued to not only support me, but tell me how proud he was of me, through every misstep.

He wasn’t raising me to be a feminist, he was raising me to be a competent adult. I just became a feminist along the way.

I seem to have moved from finding my first grey hair to rapidly going grey over the past year or two.

I was excited to find my first grey hair – or white, really, though it’s hard to tell against my medium brown. It felt like something concrete to demonstrate my adulthood. Like people can’t necessarily see my decade-old marriage or my little girl, the house we own together, my degrees and job experience. But a person can see the grey at my temples and judge that I have a bit of life experience.

But now that the greys are coming swiftly, and I know that I likely won’t dye it away, I am concerned about not recognizing myself.

I have always had dark hair. Even when it lightened up a bit over summers it was dark. When I was in my 20s I had a habit of dying it an even darker brown (and got many a compliment). Once I dyed it purple, but never bleached it beforehand.

I have never, ever seen myself with light hair and I seem to be going the way of my Tutu (mother’s mother) and turning not just grey but bright white.

I find it so strange. I’m not particularly afraid of dying, but I am afraid of what aging will do to me. Will I get cancer like several members of my family, will I get Alzheimers and will they have a good treatment for it by that time, will I have a massive heart attack one day like my father.

I’ve done a few 5k races over the past couple of years – I’m doing another on Sunday – and I have found that when it gets really tough, when my hips hurt and it’s hot and my feet are cement, then my brain starts thinking more about what I’m doing to it and why, and my brain answers: I will not age like my mother. I will not. Age has not been kind to her, though in a lot of ways life just hasn’t been kind. But there are health issues that I’m dealing with right now that I do not want to be dealing with in half a lifetime. If I make it that far.

I know people who relish each and every sign of aging, because it means they are still here. Lord knows the thought of missing any little bit of my daughter’s life hurts my heart.

I’m not afraid of getting old, but realizing how fast life moves gives me pause. I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of missing out.

I have a bullet journal that is not as grand as those kinds of bullet journal you see on Pinterest. It houses lists and calendars. I try and fail to keep track of things, like how many books I read each month. The one thing I have been consistently using is my task list.

This is very similar to something that I used to good effect back in my undergrad days, planning for a wedding and working two jobs. I had a sheet for every day, with all the tasks I wanted to get done, and each task had its own little check box.

I love checking things off a list, don’t you?

Things on my list these days include flossing my teeth, taking my meds, getting some exercise. And one thing that I added for September – writing 500 words every day.

Every great writer, it seems, gives hopeful writers that same advice – write every day for a set period of time, a set number of pages. Write first thing in the morning. Exercise your writing muscles. Now, I don’t write first thing in the morning because I tend to sleep until my daughter wakes me up, and then I have to get dressed and get her on the bus and by the time I get back I boot up my computer and get to work – like, work I get paid for, not writing work. Although I do get the opportunity to write at work, which is lovely.

But the writing we’re talking about – the morning pages – that’s writing from your imagination, letting your pen flow. Not trying to use the language of your audience to ensure they receive your message as intended.

There have been times in my life when I have managed to write every day. I’ve done NaNoWriMo four times now, I’ve done NaBloPoMo twice. In high school you’d be hard pressed to find me without a notebook full of thoughts (and hockey scores…)

But my mind is so occupied with so many other things these days, I find it hard to sit and create. I find that when what I’d love most is to write fiction the way I used to be able to write fiction, I tend towards stream of consciousness and self-analysis. Which is good for my mental state, but not great for my dream of writing the great Canadian novel.

Last week I bought myself some new pens and some notepad – white paper, lined, 8.5 x 11. I wondered if writing longhand would be just what I needed. I used to write entire short stories on legal pads – and then had to type them up to hand them in. I still have some of that writing, I think. My notebooks full of doodles, text and hockey scores now fill a file drawer in my office closet. I thumb through them sometimes, remembering that girl and her talent.

That talent, of course, was mine. It’s in there. People have told me so. I just need to write it out. Shake the brain up a bit. Just write until it flows, like it has before.

I will be doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I may do NaBloPoMo too, just to make sure I’m getting all my words in. Writing begets more writing. I have an idea – or an inkling of an idea. I have a character, I just need him to further introduce himself, and tell me where he intends to lead me.

I had a bit of a flashback yesterday at the mailbox.

I took the dog over, as is our routine, and pulled out two envelopes, including my ballot for the NDP leadership this year. In truth, I didn’t think I would be voting this year, but a membership that I had thought was expired turned out to be current, and now I have decisions to make.

What receiving this brought back was the last leadership race – when I was not a member, did not campaign for anyone, but knew that whoever the membership chose would be my new boss. Whoever won would make my office their own, bring in their own people. Things were heading for a change, and all this after one of the hardest years at work I had ever had.

And when I weighed the pros and cons, I decided my time on the hill was done for now. There was a period of time when I felt as though the work we were doing was worth leaving my daughter every day, and then suddenly it wasn’t. I don’t know if there will ever be another leader I would dedicate myself to in that way. Working in politics take time, energy, passion, and dedication. It can tear you up and spit you our and you won’t ever really understand what happened.

And still I wonder if I could ever go back, because there is nothing else like it. The right time, the right leader, the right cause. There is nothing like walking up to Centre Block knowing that you’re doing something every day that may make a difference in the lives of those around you. To be around people you might disagree with, but you know they care as much as you do, and are giving up just as much as you to be there.

I don’t know where this race will lead, but I know a lot of good people will keep doing great work.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am still in love with many of the things from my childhood. I saw something on Twitter tonight that said a little something to me about the things that I learned as a child, watching television and movies – Paul Williams posted his support for DREAMers. Paul Williams, the man who wrote Rainbow Connection for Kermit the Frog.

Now, Kermit and his Sesame Street buddies have been a huge influence on me. I learned more than just ABCs and how to count to ten in Spanish from those muppets. Some would say I got a lot of my sense of humour from Ernie. I get my enunciation from Grover Monster. (#TeamGrover #JustSayNoToElmo)

This isn’t the first time children’s entertainment has played into politics. Everyone should know the quote from Fred Rogers, the one we see whenever bad things shake us:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

It dawned on me today that I want to be the adult that Mr. Dressup knew I could be. The adult Children’s Television Network raised me to be. My hope is the same as Jim Henson’s was, before he left us too soon:
When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.
 And what’s great about these things is not only that I can still lose myself in them, but that I can also share them with my child, so she grows up knowing to be the helper.

When I was a kid and I had a room with three painted walls and one wall covered in wallpaper I asked to change the colour all the time. I think that room was, at times, yellow, blue, purple, peach, pink, all with different wallpaper to match. For one birthday I got to choose my own wall-to-wall carpeting and I picked a gorgeous raspberry one that I’ve never forgotten.

We moved out of that house when I was 12.

In the next house, I kept changing paint colours – now often doing the painting myself – and the room was big enough that I could move my furniture around. My mother decided to get rid of a love seat, I took it and put it in my room. I arranged my bed, desk, bookshelves any which way they would fit. Most often this rearranging would happen late at night when I had a test I was supposed to be studying for.

When I got my first apartment upon moving out for college it came furnished. The one time I tried to rearrange the sparse furniture, I found that the owners hadn’t actually painted behind the bed, so it wasn’t going anywhere. They took a lot of shortcuts, those landlords.

In my next apartment, one big room in a converted garage furnished by me, I again tried all the arrangements I could think of – though I was really only living with a futon that served as couch and bed, a desk that housed my giant computer, a dresser and a TV stand.

When I moved in with Joe – and finally out of my mother’s house forever – we had a small apartment, a lot of hand-me-down furniture and not much money, and then we moved to a bigger place, and then inherited more furniture as my mom down-sized. And then we moved to a slightly smaller place, and then a bigger place because we found ourselves in need of a room for a baby.

All of these places were rentals. We did almost no decorating of our own.

And then came our house. This house that is ours, and will be for the foreseeable future. When we moved in there was one room that was obviously my mother’s room, as she was moving in with us. There was one room that was obviously the master bedroom – with a master suite that contains my dream tub. There was one room that we painted right away to be our daughter’s room. (A lovely yellow called Tigger’s Tummy, the name being part of the reason I picked it).

We bought new furniture that was our very own, we brought along some old favourites, and suddenly had a space we could decorate as we wished.

In the five years we’ve been here we have slowly painted different rooms, we have put up pictures we love, we inherited a grand dining room table that my grandfather built for my parents.

Last year my mother moved out and her room became office space – particularly useful since I now work full time from home – and I have made the space my own. I have bookshelves packed, toy shelves, two walls covered in pictures and inspiration, a fully stocked supply closet.

This year we built a deck and created a new, wonderful space for ourselves in the backyard, and the kid and I took some time to create a nice garden in the front too.

This weekend, in preparation for the coming school year, and the coming increase in the kid’s schoolwork that I am anticipating, we changed it up again. We added a little desk and shelves just for her in our office, so we can work together when she gets home from school, we painted her room like we promised we would if she kept it tidy through the month of August (which she mostly did).

Labour Day Monday this year is about tidying up, getting things all in order, making our space more ours again.

Out with the old.

 

 

I celebrate the leap from one year to the next in January, but the real ‘new year’ for me has always started with back to school. It’s a change in seasons, back to cozy sweaters, and it’s time to clean out, clear out and shop for new supplies.

There is little more that I need right now than a return to routine – wake up, get ready for the day, make sure the kid is fed and dressed, get her on the bus and get to work.

When she was little and I wasn’t employed full time, I love the summers we got to spend together. We could get up and go, whatever we felt like doing on a given day. It was fabulous and we made wonderful memories. We made some wonderful memories this summer too. But now I’m ready.

We are taking this long weekend to do some work on the house – some long overdue. We painted the kid’s room, reorganized it and purged some of her stuff, though she did a very good job of that with her toys a few months ago.

I went through my closet and am finally getting rid of some clothes that I love but will just never wear – and some clothes that don’t fit me now that I don’t want to hang on to ‘just in case’ any more. I don’t want ‘thin’ clothes taking up space. I don’t want clothes that, while very pretty, don’t suit my style. I don’t need to try to be someone else.

I wear jeans and gold Converse. Sue me.

I’ve cleaned three bathrooms in two days, built new furniture so we all have work spaces in the office, I’ve been hanging up new pictures of great memories from this summer.

I’m also taking personal inventory to get set for the fall – I reset my bullet journal (again), I started a list where I will keep all my work experience as I remember it. Because I’m really bad at remembering it.

It’s September. Let’s dive in.

On August 22, 2011, I lost a boss and a mentor. Someone I could look to and say yes, this is what Canada needs right now.

Last week we did a tour of Parliament to show off the best of Ottawa to a visiting niece. As we stood in the hallway outside the House of Commons chamber, Joe turned to me and ‘this is where they had Jack lying in state.’

I knew this, of course. I have seen pictures of colleagues mourning there, and videos. But I was not there. Shortly after Jack died I went to Regina to visit family. The trip had been planned, the tickets purchased. I missed the lying in state, I didn’t go to the funeral with my friends and colleagues. I didn’t get the communal mourning. I will never stop regretting this, even as I know I made the best choice. I should have been a part of it. This dedication to a man who was so important to me.

Of course, my life is now, at least partially, dedicated to this man. To what he taught me, what he made me believe and what he stood for.

What would he say now? What would he think of where we stand?

He left us with advice, at least. He believed in us enough to share with us that Canada can be a better, fairer, more equal country. I believe it. I am hopeful, but I am not optimistic. I am loving, but also filled with hate.

I am fearful. I am tired.

We are now fighting battles that we have fought before. That some have been fighting constantly, for generations.

I want my daughter to never have to battle for her own rights and the rights of her friends. She is being taught that she is not above anyone else, that she was born lucky being white, Canadian, middle class, but she does not deserve to have an easier life just because of this luck. That she will sometimes have to speak up for her friends, get uncomfortable. The because of who she is and where she was born she has a duty to listen, to amplify others, to stand up.

But I can’t begin to explain to her what’s happening out there. We tried to explain racists to her, and she knows that they don’t make any sense. She knows that LGBTQ people are just people who should have the same rights as other people.

I am doing as much as I can for my daughter. But then there is the boy in her class who tells her she can’t play with the train because it’s not for girls. There is the girl at the park who says two women can’t get married – which is factually incorrect as well as being wrong. She knows. But they don’t know.

I watch television and see people say they don’t hate anyone and call for racial “purity” in the same sentence. They tell immigrants to go home while standing on stolen land. They don’t want to hear any different. They pray to a Jesus that they clearly don’t understand. And they are teaching their children.

How do you reach those people, Jack? Those people  just want to believe anyone who tells them they are superior, while ruining their lives at the same time. How do you educate those who don’t want to be educated and how do you reach the next generation when intolerance prevents it?

How do you keep believing that, overall, people are inherently good?

That is the lesson I wish you had left us, because six years later it’s more of a struggle than you might have ever thought possible.

I haven’t had the will to post recently because there is too much going on. I have started multiple posts and been unable to finish them. I have been trying to spend time lifting up the voices of the people we really need to hear from right now – those whose experiences are perhaps the most important right now.

I have chosen to amplify voices that can say what needs to be said better than I can, like Harry Leslie Smith, Denise Balkissoon, Shaun King, Joy Ann Reid

We have actual, modern day Nazis marching in the streets. People who claim to speak for the white race and proclaim that they don’t hate anyone, they just want what’s best for their children. Meanwhile, I had to sit down and tell my daughter that there are people in the world who hate other people for no real reason. And I had to remind myself of the privilege of being able to have that conversation on my own schedule.

I was born privileged in so many ways, and so was my daughter. We are white, middle class, Canadian, urban. We do not have to be afraid where we live. We have the privilege of being able to escape from the horrors that we see on the news every night. We have the privilege of turning away. But I can’t.

The fact is that these racists are almost fascinating – the denial that they’re Nazis, even while surrounding by Nazi paraphernalia, denying that they hate anyone while referring to the black woman interviewing them as a “mongrel.” The misuse of religion, biology, language and whatever else they need to distort to justify themselves. These people who will stay in their little, miseducated bubble, thank you very much.

You’d think it would be exhausting to hate that much, but I have a feeling that many of them are too stupid to realize. And one of them is the President of the United States.

I mourn for the ignorance I had before the past few years, the last election, when I thought racism was only alive in small pockets. But really, I should think of all the times I thought to myself that there was no one something was going to go the way it eventually did – the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, Ferguson, the election itself.

When the election results came in I felt a little bit of what it’s like to be so hated as a woman that people would vote for this fool. And that’s not even close to what it feels like to be black every day in America. Or Muslim. Or an immigrant. LGBTQ.

I fear this from my neighbours. The vile ignorance, the willful misunderstanding. I fear that my bubble is about to be burst and we will see these people in Canada more than before. These people who have never cared about the facts about Indigenous peoples and the land they’re living on. These people who didn’t care what the actual facts were about how citizenship ceremonies are conducted, they just want to see Muslim women controlled their way.

These people who would refuse desperate refugees for fear of terrorism, all while ignoring the fact that most terrorist acts on this continent are committed by white men with a history of domestic abuse.

Those people who are more numerous than I care to face.

I raise my voice, I add it to the chorus. It is wrong, it is ignorant, it is shameful and I will not allow it. Never again.

I took the puppy to get his haircut today, and before I dropped him off I took him on a bit of a walk around a park, down a path, because we were a bit early. I’m trying to take him for more walks. He’s getting old and he deserves it, and I deserve that time too.

As I was walking I was thinking, as one is wont to do when in quiet nature. I thought to myself ‘why don’t I do more of this?’ Why don’t I walk more often. Why don’t I walk for longer. It gives me the opportunity to think, to breathe. And I answered myself too – I’m scared.

I’m scared of getting hurt, I’m scared of over-heating. I’m scared of looking incapable, of making things worse. I’m scared of how I look to people.

And that’s just stupid. I thought I was over that. When I was a new mom and I caught myself singing to my little girl to keep her entertained in the grocery story I though I was over getting embarrassed by what other people might thing. I am more important, and what I demonstrate to her is more important.

I even try to act completely calm around all types of spiders and insects.

And so, if I am in control, how do I continue to let myself be ruled by these beliefs about myself and what I am capable of, even though I know that the only way to change anything is to go ahead and do the things?

Why do I let my brain get in the way? And why do I let me have the same fight with myself over and over again. Perhaps more importantly, how do I slough off this thinking and move forward, accepting fear as part of the journey and walking through it?

I can accomplish.

I know that I can, especially when I have to. I just need to convince me of that.

 

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