I had a medical appointment this week with a specialist – a respirologist, who is trying to decide whether I ever had the asthma that I was diagnosed with as a child. The appointment took me through the neighbourhood I grew up in. A neighbourhood I love dearly and highly recommend growing up in.
We had a little house that I loved, with raspberry coloured carpeting that I got to pick out for my birthday. We had a play house in the backyard, and a deck on the back and a porch on the front. My dad lived around the corner and his attic was all ours. So was the garage, mostly. Down the street was a park, a public pool (indoor) and a public skating rink. A few blocks from that was my elementary school.
We live in a lovely neighbourhood now, with great neighbours, but one thing I miss dearly is having a corner store. We had a corner store that we called George’s, because we knew the owner, George, and his family.
I could walk to the corner store if we needed anything, and there was the pizza place kitty corner to that. My best friend lived 10 minutes away, my sister’s best friend was closer. We had a dead end around a corner that we used to ride our bikes. We had a bit of green space down the block with a hill that seemed huge when we sledded in the winter and looks absolutely tiny now.
And if you crossed the road from that green space you found the bike paths along the canal.
We spend all our time on bikes, riding around the neighbourhood, going down past the canal. We played in the park, we swam in the pool, we spent as much time outside and around the neighbourhood as we could, with our friends.
I drove up part of the alley we used to use to walk to school. I drove past my dad’s house and our old house (the one I loved so dearly, the one we moved out of when I was 12). I drove past the corner store, which changed ownership in the 90s and now has a sandwich shop inside where they used to stock VHS rentals. (My sister and I rented Clue every chance we got, and High Spirits, starring Steve Guttenberg, Peter O’Toole, Darryl Hannah and an unknown named Liam Neeson. I don’t think that one would stand the test of time).
I drove down the main street, where almost all the stores have changed. The video store we frequented burned down a few years ago and the sign is still there, the windows boarded up. The old movie theatre is still there, saved by local investors a few years ago, now next to a Shoppers Drug Mart instead of a parking lot.
The library is still there, it has a new name. My elementary school is still there, but it got a renovation after I left. There is still a good chance that when I go into that old neighbourhood I will see the parents of my childhood friends and classmates.
When Joe and I started dating I walked him through that neighbourhood, where I was still living at the time, in my mother’s house, and he laughed at me as I told my memories of virtually every block and landmark. The church where I went to preschool, the house where my teacher lived, the park where I stepped on broken glass – the newspaper box that my grandmother had to sit me down on so she could rest while she was carrying me home after I stepped on glass at the park.
It’s funny but wonderful to have all these memories packed in to one place that I can go back and tour. This place where all my people were.
My town, it’s right there, always available to me. Always changing, but never completely changed.
In last week’s federal budget, the government announced intentions to give new parents the option of extending their leave to 18 months instead of the 12 months most are now eligible for under EI rules. (With the same conditions applying).
At first I had a good reaction to this change. Assuming that parents would still be able to split parental live, it would give both a good amount of time with a new baby and more time to find childcare. It would also help with one issue that I discovered when we were looking for childcare at the 12-month mark – Childcare spots for babies under 18 months are few and far between, and also tend to be more expensive than when your child is over 18 months.
I’ve said before that we were very lucky with the childcare we found. My daughter bonded with her caregiver right away, the cost was reasonable for our area, and the location worked for my husband to drop our daughter off and pick her up. I was also thrilled to get back to work after 12 months of being at home with my daughter, even though I loved the time we spent and adventures we got to have. Still, if my husband had been in a place to take part of the leave, I think it would have been fantastic for us as a family.
Diving further into this new policy, you start to see problems. Mainly, that if a parent opts for 18 months of leave they have to subsist on 33 per cent of their salary for that time. Now, some families will be able to do that, and some really, really won’t. I was very lucky to have my maternity benefits topped up by my employer, which meant that while I was off, I was still getting 90 per cent of what I earned – Except the deductions weren’t being taken off, which caused a high tax bill the next year that I wish someone had warned me about.
Presumably if EI is paying 33 per cent instead of 55 per cent the employer won’t be topping up to 90, that would be a huge cost outlay for them, as well as having to employ a maternity replacement for 18 months, which could cause additional problems. (My union contract stated that anyone employment for more than 12 months automatically became full time, permanent, which is actually how I ended up as permanent employee. I don’t know what trouble, if any, an 18 month leave would cause, but it’s something they would have to prepare for).
So, problem number one is the 18 month option isn’t really an option for everyone, only those that can afford it.
Problem number two is part of the bigger problem this government promised to solve – A lack of affordable childcare across this country.
As I said, we were very lucky to find childcare at a reasonable rate. That rate was $43 a day, or about $1,200 a month (roughly equivalent to one of my paycheques every month). In some regions (hi Toronto!), childcare costs much more. Much, much more.
The Liberal Party was elected on many promises, one of which was:
We will meet with provinces, territories, and Indigenous communities to begin work on a new National Early Learning and Child Care Framework, to deliver affordable, high-quality, flexible, and fully inclusive child care for Canadian families. This work will begin in the first 100 days of a Liberal government and will be funded through our investments in social infrastructure.
The 2016/17 budget includes $7 billion over 10 years, starting in 2017 with $500 million, with details of how this money will be used to be revealed later this year. It should be noted here that the Liberals are already in the second year of a four-year mandate, and that 10 years of spending takes us past both the 2019 election and the 2023 election. All of the provinces and territories also have to be involved in the planning, and over the next year they will all also go through multiple elections.
All of these moving parts may not be able to give us the national framework that was promised or the childcare that young Canadian families need.
There was a sea change last week. I felt it coming on. I felt it. I felt good.
I took a step back. I spent some time being quiet. I checked things off my lists. I went out and saw friends and talked about things that matter to me. I wrote. I did art. I did work on the projects I have to work on. I cleaned. I did some cooking. I got dressed up and felt great. I reminded myself that there are people out there who like me, and I like them. I laughed. I played board games with my kid. I took her on an adventure.
The weather was iffy this week – one day freezing, the next day gorgeous, and then we had snow, rain and sleet all at once. Even so, I took an opportunity to sit in the sun with my coffee and my dog. Just sit and feel the warmth and the breeze.
Something about this week made me feel good about myself. Something made me optimistic and happy.
I want a job. I want work, I want a salary and the opportunity to use my skills daily. But right now I have opportunity. I’m learning. I’m building on the skills I already have. I have time, I’m using it.
Moving on and moving up.
Periodically I enjoy a list of the things that are filling up my bucket at the moment. Here are a few right now:
Intellectually I know that not everyone in the country cares as much as I do about what’s happening in Ottawa and on Parliament Hill. I know a lot of people don’t understand it as much as I do.
But in practice I have a really hard time acknowledging the fact that there are some people who don’t care at all.
Like, at all.
Statistically speaking this number is a lot higher than I’m willing to admit. These are people that I just do not understand.
I never felt like I grew up particularly immersed in politics, but the fact is that I grew up in the capital, not far from downtown. Both my parents worked on Parliament Hill, both were engaged. As a child my mother took us to Question Period once, we talked about politics around the house, we read and watched the news, we knew what was going on.
It never once occurred to me that what was happening at the federal level wasn’t important. This government creates laws that are implemented across the country, they collect taxes to run federal programs, they help coordinate between the provinces. The invest throughout Canada. With our money.
As hard as I try, I just can’t quite wrap my head around those people.
The people that can’t name their local MP and maybe not even the Prime Minister or their province’s Premier. The people who never pay any attention to the national news.
To me news is a major part of life. Watching events happen, reading about them afterwards, listening to analysis. Knowing and trying to understand. It’s fundamental.
For some reason recently I have been dwelling on that girl I was in high school. It might be a mid-life crisis, though I’m 36 now and had a quarter-life crisis at 23, so that math doesn’t work *at all.*
I have been thinking about the girl I was in high school and wondering how different things would be if all the strength I have now was in her. Except I know that I became who I am now because I went through all those years and experienced the things I did, reacted to them the way I did.
She was trying to balance herself – she wanted to be seen as pretty and nice and smart, but also invisible. She was terrified of the future and growing up. She bought into the old trope that she wasn’t good enough to ever be in a relationship. She felt wrong.
She struggled between trying to dress so that she would get noticed and trying to dress so she would feel good. Hell, I did that until a few of years ago when I realized my perfect work uniform was khakis, white shirt, sweater vest, Converse sneakers.
Yes, Converse sneakers. Good enough for my wedding, good enough for any other event.
I don’t have to try to wear dresses and skirts in winter. I don’t have to push myself to wear heels just because other women enjoy it. I don’t have to spend time in the morning doing my hair and makeup when I sweat all the work away by the time I get where I’m going.
I’m fine. I found this dude who loves me despite my terrible sense of humour. And I have a dog and a kid who both think I’m great, and they are excellent judges of character. Though she did go through a Barney phase.
I’m going through this thing right now that feels like history repeating itself. I go to school, I do well, I feel good about myself coming out of it, and I apply for jobs without getting any. It happened after college, it happened after my BA, it’s happening now despite experience, expertise and a Masters degree, plus great references.
I’m getting tired of being optimistic, and then everything being hard all over again.
In the past five years I’ve dealt with quitting my job while buying a house, going back to school while being a mother and trying to earn an income, starting a Masters program and working an election campaign. I’ve had pneumonia, bronchitis. I lost myself all of a sudden, no warning. I worked a stressful job while dealing with my grandfather’s failing health.
And I wonder if it’s just always going to be this hard from now on.
Sometimes I feel like I wasted my time in high school. I was struggling inside my head and I didn’t allow myself to be young, really. Now I feel like maybe I wasted the easy times. That I spent too much time worrying about things I can’t even remember now and failed to build myself for this part of life where real decisions and bills and hard questions are coming at you every day.
But at the same time, so much of this life I would never have wanted to miss. Because now I can relish a bit in the me I am. That I’ve done so much, been a part of so many things.
And here I stand, still.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the Niki Ashton campaign last week when a meme was posted on her Twitter account (whether that came from her or someone on her team, I don’t know). The meme used Beyoncé lyrics to demonstrate Ashton’s goals for the party – that it should move to the left, to the left.
She was accused of cultural appropriation. She then apologized and deleted the tweet. (Or her campaign did, if you prefer).
This I understand. To be accused of something like cultural appropriation, akin to racism, the first reaction should be apologetic, with an attempt to understand the mistake. But what I don’t understand here is the mistake.
I have vague understandings of cultural appropriation – Don’t wear things that actually mean things in a culture and its history when you don’t understand them and have no right to them. Don’t wear a warrior’s head dress when you haven’t earned it. Be inspired by these things, but do not take them as your own.
What I fail to see is how lyrics written by Beyoncé, Ne-Yo and two Norwegians in a song about kicking a man out of her house for disrespecting her is a defining part of black culture.
Another misunderstanding came when someone on Facebook asked whether white people should be allowed to wear moccasins or mukluks. While I understand the desire for white people to understand the how and why these things are made (which is pretty interesting and a beautiful art, by the way). But if you ban white people from wearing these things, are you helping a peoples history, or harming the craftspeople who are making them to earn a living?
Further, what do we gain from blocking white people access to great black artists like Beyoncé? The woman is the voice of a generation, a strong feminist.
Speaking as a white women (a place of privilege that I acknowledge), I understand the benefits of listening to other cultures, and I hope that my own heritage doesn’t become an issue in my desire to interact with black artists – or those of any other culture. What better way to reach understanding than by listening?
Reading the further tweets of Black Lives Matter Vancouver, their argument, when they weren’t calling it cultural appropriation, was sound:
Show us you are fighting for us. Don’t use people from other backgrounds as a prop and then ignore them when it matters. Totally fair. To label it cultural appropriation in the first place got the group the attention they may have sought by doing so, but it is also a war cry that turns a lot of people away from the left.
Ashton’s apology was widely mocked by the right – those who point out that the left can never get anything done it is so busy falling over itself to be politically correct. This is a problem, this desire to be absolute open to everyone at all times and never hurt anyone’s feelings.
The desire to not cause hurt should not be a detriment, but in the world of President Trump and a right wing that often doesn’t give a damn about anyone if it’s not in their own best interests it makes success a battle.
It will be interesting to see how Ashton’s campaign continues through the leadership vote. She is not my choice, but she certainly will add something to the race.
We spent part of the March break at Montebello, which was my idea. I took the kid there once before and we rather enjoyed ourselves, and I thought it a great place to get away, but not too far away.
Turns out Montebello is quite popular during March break, and they appreciate the business so much that they plan activities around the break week. I knew we would spend time at the pool, and probably in the games room and the bounce house they set up, and I hoped to hang out fire-side for a while (which we did, with board games and tasty drinks and snacks). I didn’t plan on the skating, curling or dog sled ride.
Enough activity that we could do it all again next year and not get bored. And even add things on like skiing or snowshoeing, because they’ve got all the stuff there for you to borrow. And even invite other families members to join us, because the place is big and there’s stuff for everyone. Even my mom who would probably sit by the fire and read.
And also partake of the spa.
In fact, we did all of the above on our one full day there. And also had a delicious breakfast and dinner.
Breakfast buffet: Maple crepes. No more needs to be said on the subject.
And not only was it a lovely getaway just the three of us, and not only was it relaxing, and not only was it fun and activity-filled enough for the little one… I also got the opportunity to remind myself of a few things I love.
I love being outdoors. I went for a bit of a walk and felt the cold air and smelled the campfires and took a bit of care. I am perfectly able to exercise. We went swimming twice, and walked around and took part in activities and I was fine. Tired, but in the best way. Tired because I had done things with my body.
That I do enjoy spending time with my kid – with my family – and interacting and having a bit of fun.
This is not a sponsored post for Montebello, but we did have a wonderful time, I do recommend it, and if they want to sponsor a stay in the future I would be totally on board with that. Just FYI.
We spent the first few days of March break out at Chateau Montebello – I will probably write more about that later. There were many activities, some regular and some special for spring break. (Ha. Spring. We had 20+ cm of snow in our driveway when we got back).
We were only there for one full day, but we packed it full, starting with a great breakfast followed by hanging out with my kid and some sled dogs.
It was a lot of fun. First watching the dogs who clearly loved the run – they barked and howled when they weren’t running and rolled in the snow when they were done. We snuggled in to the sled and off they went, following two other sleds, merrily on their way.
It was an odd experience. A man behind us and seven dogs, pulling us along. Nothing we could do but trust the man, trust the dogs and enjoy the ride. Bumps and all. (And there were bumps, we got air at some point).
The kid laughed the whole way – unbelievable giggles the whole way – except for when she screamed with delight. When that happened the man behind us couldn’t help but laugh too.
And I sat back, trusting we would stay on the trail, stay safely away from trees, land softly. Trusting the dogs, and laughing along.
Many moons ago when I was a kid I had a horrible rash on my arms. The doctor gave me a special lotion but it was so itchy all the time, and I was experiencing constant colds. My GP sent me to an allergist.
I have never forgotten sitting in the exam room with hives growing on my arm, waiting for the doctor to tell me which allergens they were linked to. I wasn’t allowed to scratch, I could not think of anything else.
I have never forgotten being forced to blow into a tube that was attached to a computer. The nurse stood beside me telling me to ‘keep blowing’ even when I had nothing left. I hated every moment.
A couple of years ago I noticed both my allergies and my asthma getting worse. The asthma had all but disappeared when I was a teenager, only to rear its ugly head again in my 30s – made worse by cold air, which we have in abundance here in Ottawa.
So my doctor gave me a prescription for an inhaler, and then another one after I got a bit of pneumonia and then bronchitis. And then a prescription for an antihistamine when the over-the-counter version just wasn’t cutting it any more, and then a referral to an allergist.
While I am anxiously anticipating the two hours of sitting, waiting for the hives and not allowed to scratch, the worse part so far has been the ban on meds for 48 hours prior.
Itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itchy, irritated skin. All the things the commercials tell you. I’ve been waiting a year for this appointment, and the revelation that I had to go without meds for 48 hours nearly made me cancel.
But if they find out I’m allergic to my puppy, I’m just going to have to live with it. That’s my boy.