All Hands on Deck

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November 9, 2017

One of the fantastic things about my job is the opportunity to work for and with youth. When you get a group of engaged youth into a room together amazing things can happen.

After a full day of engagement this week, we had a performer come in, one Cody Coyote. Cody is a young Indigenous man who has taken the hardships of his own childhood and youth and turned it into music, and when he performs he breaks between songs to talk about the hard things we all face.

During his performance for us, he asked a room full of young people to raise their hand if they had a friend who had committed suicide.

A lot of hands went up. Way more hands than I was prepared for.

I am not shy about admitting that I was suicidal as a teen, but I never got to the place of attempting. Cody did, and he talks openly about it. I know of one friend from high school who didn’t make it to 34 and I don’t know why. I saw her not long before she died and we talked about what was going on, and what was happening next in our lives. It was the same strange way we would run into each other every now and again. Every time I think about her, I don’t understand.

And all of these hands went up.

I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. I know that I was in that place once. I know that it took a lot of work to get out. I know that it took a lot of work to believe that I should try to get out of it.

All of these kids raising their hands who think that maybe they could have said or done something, will wonder why all their lives. Maybe never realizing that there is no why. Not really. And if you haven’t been there, you just feel like someone left behind who could have said something or done something, no matter how many people tell you you’re wrong.

All you can do is be a friend, all a friend can do is be there, all an adult can do is listen. All we can do together is try. Build a community and try.

Clocked

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November 8, 2017

I was inching my way along, trying to do NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo and also helping to organize one of the biggest events of the year at work, and I missed a day.

It is very frustrating to feel that there is no time, when you know that when you have taken on more you have always made the time.

The good news is that I got to spend two days being completely worn out with a group of amazing young people, amazing presenters and in one of my all-time favourite places. I got to see a bunch of male MPs put on bright pink heels as a message against violence against women.

And I got to come home and hang with my kiddo and get her to read to me at the end of the day.

One Thing To Hold On To

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November 7, 2017

I was listening to What’s the T? – The Rupaul podcast, which I regularly enjoy in addition to my viewings of Drag Race recently. It was an older episode, but Michelle Visage was talking about taking her daughter to see Hamilton.

Her daughter ended up sobbing her way through the show because she has been going through a deep depression and Hamilton was her one thing – that thing that kept her going.

And I remember that one thing.

One thing that you hold on to a little too tight because it matters to you and nothing else does and it’s keeping you alive.

I think if you’ve been depresses and you’ve had suicidal thoughts you’ve felt that pull to that one thing. For me it’s been hockey, it’s been specific bands and specific albums. It’s been the musical Wicked.

When I was in high schools I told myself I wouldn’t die until I saw the Ottawa 67’s win the Memorial Cup, and by the time I did I was okay again.

When I was living in Northern Ontario I saw Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth perform on the Tonys and I told myself I had to see that show. And I took myself to Toronto for it.

When I was unemployed and living in Saskatchewan away from my new husband I listened to Keane’s Under the Iron Sea on repeat.

I don’t know why I always found that one thing, but I know to search for it. And I can tell others to search for it. One thing is not hard to find. When you can’t get excited about anything, you can find one thing.

Where Are All The Women?

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November 6, 2017

I had a conversation a few weeks ago about women in politics. The conversation was started by a very smart woman, she runs her own business, she’s engaged in the community, and she happened to hear how few women are involved in American politics. She was surprised, and that low number made her question how few women might be involved in Canadian politics. The answer in the federal parliament is 26 per cent at the moment, which is the highest it has ever been.

She started asking questions about why women don’t get involved as much, and I engaged, because I have read about the issue, and discuss it in classes, and, in fact, took an entire class about women in politics in North America.

And then on Saturday I spent the day with women who are interested in maybe, possibly getting more involved and listened to some presenters who are very, very involved in politics. And then on Sunday, the City of Montreal elected its first ever female male in its 375 year history.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about women in politics.

I know that women have to be asked, usually more than once, to run. I know that when women run, they have just as much of a chance of winning as men do. I know that having women in a legislature, in committee and in cabinet makes politics different, and different is better in this case.

My wish is that more women would think more about politics, talk to each other more about politics and care more about politics, because virtually everything is political.

 

The Reader

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November 6, 2017

For the past few years I have sent a goal for myself – to read 50 books between January and December. I didn’t make it in 2015 or 2016, but I also didn’t include all the readings I was doing for school in those two years. But this week I finished by 50th book of 2017.

Not only have I read 50 books this year, but I have read books of poetry, graphic novels, books of essays, fiction and non-fiction. I have read books written by black women about being a black woman in this world. I have read books written by fat women about being fat in this world. I have read about history that I have never known. I read a funny book about Apartheid for goodness sake.

I have read books that came highly recommended and still exceeded expectations. I found new favourite authors. (I will be buying anything and everything else Amanda Lovelace writes, poetry or otherwise).

And I still have more than a month left to read some more. And a big ol’ pile of books to choose from.

So many books, and I want to dive into them all. I’m excited about reading again. I can stand in front of my shelf and look at my books and decide how I feel. This year I felt like re-reading some of my favourites, I felt like reading nitty gritty paperbacks, I felt like learning more about my country from different viewpoints.

(And I will be reading all the Richard Wagamese that exists, because sadly he passed away this year).

It is a struggle, because as much as I try to get through the books that have been in my to-read pile people still keep writing new ones.

Joiner

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November 5, 2017

I have joined the parent council at my kid’s school. This is not something I ever expected myself to do, but then she went to a coop preschool and I got the taste for knowing her teachers and what was going on in her day to day life.

When she started kindergarten we just put her on the bus and sent her off and when we picked her up all we knew about her school day is what she remembered to tell us.

During her JK and SK years I was in school myself and while I thought of going to council meetings, I often had a class or assignments that prevented me from getting there. Last year was hectic in so many other ways. This year I’m working from home, my kid is getting older, and I want to know what’s going on there. I want to know the teachers, I want to be part of the community more than just donating for bake sales.

So when a position came up I went for it, and now I have meetings at the school and more knowledge about other classes, I know more parents and the principal, new to our school last year.

What’s kind of cool about it all – beyond just feeling more involved in my kid’s life – is that the kid is excited about me doing this. She’s

glad that I’m going to her school and working with her principal. I think it makes her feel important too. She know we care, but also likes it when we demonstrate how much.

She still doesn’t get that she’s the most important thing in my universe.

If a happy and healthy kid comes from a good community and a healthy school environment, just tell me where to sign up.

You get through it together, or don’t

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November 4, 2017

We just had our tenth wedding anniversary. Last night 27 Dresses was on TV and I watched it. Today I picked out a documentary on Netflix, 112 Weddings, by a man who acted as videographer at all these weddings and went back to talk to the people years later about marriage – the reality vs. the wedding.

All of this, along with a Facebook post shared widely about what love really means have sent my thoughts whirling.

My parents split up when I was three years old, and when I was in elementary school it felt like many of my friends parents were getting divorced. Where in kindergarten there were only two of us who came from broken homes, that number kept growing. My godparents got divorced when I was in high school. When my aunt and uncle split I was in my 20s, and I sort of came to the conclusion that all marriages have an expiry date.

There was clearly something special about marriages in my grandparents time. Those marriages seemed to last – my mother’s parents were together over 50 years and the marriage ended only when my grandmother died. My grandfather has kept her picture on his wall ever since. From what I could see he adored her.

But as I got older I started to realize that a lot of people divorce for good reasons, but a lot of people seem to take marriage a lot less seriously than maybe they should. As a child of divorce, it was never a joke to me.

Marriage is not easy, nor am I an easy person, but I did not step into this lightly.

While I am not very good at romance and expressions of love, I am okay at expressions of fondness. While I wonder sometimes whether Joe could be happier without me, I never wonder what my life would be like without him. I know. I am terrified that one day I will have to deal with losing Joe without having Joe to lean on and I’m not sure how I’ll face it.

We are similar in a lot of ways, but also yin and yang when we need to be.

In the documentary there was talk about soulmates. I don’t know about soulmates. I know that there are people in my life I have let go and those I have clung to. I cling to Joe. When there was a fleeting moment of wondering if I should just go for it and invite him over, I made that call. Sometimes I let myself see me through his eyes, and when I do things happen – like I become a mother – and then I can’t imagine life any other way.

Listen and Learn

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November 2, 2017

I have taken to listening to podcast that teach me about cultures different than my own.

I’ve loved podcasts for a long time, and they’re a great place to learn. I listen to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, which keeps me informed on the news of the week. I used to listen to This American Life, which offered a bit of storytelling. I listen to No Such Thing As A Fish, which teaches me completely useless facts. I’ve listened to a few true crime podcasts, because they’re fascinating, and landed on Casefile as my favourite.

And then somewhere I heard about a podcast called Another Round, hosted by two young black women who talk about race and feminism and intersectional feminism in ways that I know I need to hear. What I love most about Another Round is the interviews they do and the people they’ve introduced me to who I now follow on Twitter (like Joy Ann Reid and Stacy-Marie Ismael) that teach me more.

They also introduced me to a podcast that I have just recently starting listening to – binge-listening in fact. It’s called The Nod, and it is incredibly entertaining. I have already told two people about what I learned in the Whole Hog episode, and shared the Cowboy of the West Village episode on social media because why shouldn’t everyone learn about an awesome woman with a great story who was an LGBTQ activist?

Now that I’m working from home, I don’t get a lot of time to listen to podcasts, but I’m making time for The Nod, and soon I’m going to add UnCivil and See Something, Say Something to my subscription list. Cause if I’m stuck in traffic, I might as well take the opportunity to learn something about people who have a right to be better understood by people who look like me.

 

Post Halloween Blues

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November 2, 2017

We had a hiccup today. Halloween went swimmingly, the whole family had fun and I made the night for three kids who didn’t think anyone would get their costumes (One Cousin Itt and Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin). The kid even got to bed basically on time and fell asleep quickly after all the excitement (and a small amount of sugar).

It was a different story this morning though. I had trouble waking up and the kid had a lot of trouble waking up. When there was some confusion about timing and getting dressed she lost it. We still made it to the bus stop on time, and as the bus came around the corner she turned right around to me and yelled, her faced full of tears, “I just can’t!” before wrapping her arms around me.

I waved the bus driver off and took her home to pick up a few pieces. I gave her the rules for the day and went to work while she did some homework, some word games and played with her Globe.

I told her that I had an errand to run for work and she would have to come with me. And so she did, without complaint, even though the Legion still had a life-sized Michael Myers figure from their Halloween party out and she didn’t want to go near it, or take her eyes off it in case it started moving.

Then I knew that she needed new winter boots, so we stopped on the way home to find some while stores still have her size in stock. And that’s when I made a decision.

We were going to play a little hooky.

There is a new little spa on the way home and they have something called a mini manicure. We were going to treat ourselves. Because it was that kind of day. Because I kept thinking it was almost the weekend, but in reality it’s only Wednesday. Because I have been irked lately.

Because my nails were getting too long.

Because a girl just needs time with her mama sometimes.

The Political and The Self

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October 31, 2017

I read a snippet of a column this morning written by a well-known, and apparently still widely read, Globe and Mail columnist. This snippet was from a column about public perception of Jason Kenney, former federal minister and newly elected leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta.

The UCP. Reminiscent of the CRAP. (The Conservative Reform Alliance Party).

In this snippet – as I will say again, I have not read the whole column, nor will I click to – the columnist states that people don’t like Jason Kenney because – and I quote from the snippet:

“Mostly it’s because he is a middle-aged, slightly pudgy white man who is also a devout (Catholic) Christian with deeply held personal beliefs. In other words, he belongs to the most reviled demographic in Canada. Many people simply don’t accept that he can keep his personal beliefs out of politics.”

Now, there are, in fact, middle-aged slightly pudgy white men that I am quite fond of, and I know devout Catholics who are able to be quite lovable, but it’s the last part of this statement that I find the most confusing.

Why would you want to elect a politician who would keep their personal beliefs out of their politics?

We build our politics based on our personal beliefs. The people who can separate the two are the ones who freak me out a little. Even believing that your beliefs shouldn’t be laws that everyone has to follow is a personal belief.

For example, I am of the belief that information is power and that children in Alberta should receive sex education that gives them usable facts. I am of the belief that a parent has the right to know that their child is gay, bi, trans or whatever if an only if that child feels safe giving them that information – because it is their information to bestow.

I believe that being what Kenney and his ilk call politically correct means treating people with respect they deserve and avoiding racist, sexist and homophobic language.

You know, treat people like human beings with feelings.

And I believe that teaching actual Canadian history – including the bad stuff – instead of sanitizing it is the right way to go, because not repeating history etcetera etcetera.

But just because I disagree with some of Kenney’s beliefs doesn’t mean I want him to try to separate himself from them when he governs. Not only do I not think that’s possible, I think it’s the opposite of what government should be. I want politicians who are driven by their beliefs, and I want Jason Kenney to not govern at all.

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