Thursday, August 18, 2016

That Night in Toronto - August 12, 2016

This was originally posted on my Facebook on August 13, 2016.

Have you ever had that feeling of being part of something infinitely bigger than yourself?

I felt that last night.

We’re an odd country, in that we have such a relatively small population, spread out over such a large area. It can lead to a sort of disconnect with our fellow citizens.

Last night’s Tragically Hip concert left me with a lot of feelings. This is a last hurrah (for me) for a band that I have loved from my early teens. I became aware of them around the time that I discovered MuchMusic, and spent hours taping recording videos to VHS, painstakingly pausing and unpausing to edit out the commentary and commercials.

“At The Hundreth Meridian” was the weird, wonderful video that first caught my eye. When I started looking into this band more, I realized I already knew them, without actually knowing them (if that makes sense). I found myself singing along, knowing words to songs that I wasn’t aware I had even heard before.

But yeah. The show. It was both awe-inspiring and exceedingly difficult to watch. The giant screens that magnify the band for the audience members relegated to the nosebleed sections show a lot of detail, including a man who was putting in a lot of effort, but was straining. I wish I could say there was the same frenetic energy of say, 10 years ago, but goddamn, he sure tried, and for most of the show, it was close. But to watch as someone who has known illness, it was exhausting.

I’m eternally grateful to the band for this tour. People can be exceptionally possessive and entitled when it comes to the artists they adore. So I want to make sure I am clear about this. They didn’t have to do a final tour. But I am so, so glad they did. I am so thankful that everyone that has loved this band got a chance to say goodbye. I’m glad the band got a chance to say goodbye as well.

But my goodness.. How difficult must this be? How difficult must it be for a man who probably knows he is dying, to go on every other night and put on the best show he can, to make that effort to live up to the reputation as a showman he’s been cultivating for the last 30 years, while knowing that it’s taking that much more energy, that much more strain, that some of the notes are that much harder to hit.

How heartbreaking is this for Robby, Gord S, Paul, and Johnny, who have been together since high school, without a single change in lineup, to know that this will for all intents and purposes, be the last tour they all do as a group. How hard must it be for them to be on stage knowing that this is for all intents and purposes it and nothing will be the same, all the while knowing and watching while they lose a childhood friend.

I was amazed that they played a 2 hour show, with two encores.

I was inspired by the way, near the end of the show, Gord stood on stage and to thunderous applause that lasted five minutes or more, looked out over the audience and just also seemed both sad, awed, grateful, and generally moved to tears. That’s when I started to cry, thinking that this must be the scene that they’ve been greeted by every other night for the last week and a bit. And it’s bloody brilliant.

The last few weeks, since the band announced Gord’s cancer diagnosis, have had surreal media coverage. It’s been a weird kind of retrospective but also like a living obituary. This tour must have been kind of like attending your own wake. Which is morbid, but also really amazing. I’m glad that the band and Gord especially, gets to see just what they have meant to so many people.

I am glad I got to be there last night. I’m glad I got to share it with some of the most important people in my life, along with thousands of strangers who, for a few hours, were my fellow mourners but also my friends.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I am uncomfortable when not about me?

It really saddens me how angry people will get when the government tries to give a leg up to anyone that is not them.

Government wants to let a relative small number of refugees into the country so they can escape war and terror (and seriously.. 25,000 is the size of a town. A small town, at that.)

Nope, can't do that. We have to take care of our own. We have homeless people here that need the resources.

Okay. Well, we're going to raise welfare benefits so that a single person gets about 40 dollars more a month. 

Can't have that's because welfare people are just lazy moochers.  Why can't they just get a job??

Okay. Well we're going to increase tuition grants for low income people. That should help people get educated so they can get a job.

Well, that's not fair. I had to pay for MY education.  Why do kids these days not have to bust their ass to get through school like I did? Besides, education should be free for everyone.

Sigh.  Okay, what if we just start giving everybody an income. Of course we'll just start with low income people, because logically, low-income people would need it right? But essentially, everyone would have an income.

No, no. We can't just give people money.  People need to work for money (says someone whose spouse's income allows them to stay home with their kids).

We've got a working class who thinks they're middle class, who look on the poor and the working poor and blame them for taking their money when corporations are sucking at the government tit at levels that exponentially surpass any single mother and her kids.

I'd rather have my tax money go to people who are struggling, than to people who are already making two or three times what I make per annum.  I guess some people just prefer to say fuck you, I want mine to whoever is not them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

And then the waiter stabbed me with a steak knife.

Once upon a time (and by once upon a time, I mean this past November) I went on a cruise with my kids and about 200 family members.

Okay, 20 family members, but sometimes it seemed like more.

On one of the last nights of the trip, my girls and I decided to go, just the three of us, to one of the boat's sit-down restaurants.

By the way, that thing about putting on 15 lbs on a cruise?  Totally not a myth. There's like, never-ending buffets.  Constant eating.  The only thing that ensured that my pants still fit at the end of the trip was walking my ass roughly 5000 km back and forth across the boat over the course of the week trying to meet up and keep up with our ridiculously large group.

But I digress.

We went to the restaurant where we were waited on by a lovely, genial man who had the misfortune of being saddled with a trio of hyperactive doofuses who should probably never be allowed in public ever (that'd be us). 

A lovely, genial waiter who stabbed me with a steak knife.

As he was clearing away our plates, one of the knifes was sitting precariously on the edge of a plate and brushed my arm in passing, serrated side out.

The waiter hurriedly brushed my arm and apologized.

My oldest, misinterpreting the gesture leaned over and whispered "Mom, was he making a pass at you??"

"No!" I whispered back, checking my upper arm for signs of blood. "He got me. With the knife."

The both blinked at me.

"The waiting friggin' stabbed me with the steak knife!"

This sent the girls, who had been laughing like hyenas throughout our meal (Not gonna lie, I was feeling pretty punchy myself) into renewed fits of hysterics, because having your mother get stabbed by a steak knife is fucking hilarious.

When he came back to the table he was much more quiet and subdued. I, for some reason attributed it to the fact that we were being so loud and boisterous, and for a moment felt bad that  he probably thought we were laughing at him.

In retrospect, he was probably feeling really shitty about stabbing me.  Also, probably worried, since that's the kind of thing I guess usually gets waiters fired.

All in all, it wasn't that bad, since I wasn't bleeding or anything.

Since we weren't carrying much cash, since most gratuities and costs were covered or billed to the room, I felt bad I couldn't tip him, thinking, again that we were terrible patrons laughing at this poor dude who was trying to do his job.

But then again, he did stab me, with a steak knife.  So, maybe I don't feel so bad, after all. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Self-Defence vs. Empathy.. Wait, Can't We Have Both?

I've seen a few people posting this image lately on the Book of the Face:

Caption reads: We will never get rid of bullying. We should teach kids how to stand up for themselves instead of wearing pink ribbons and passing anti-bullying laws to create a society of victims.
"We will never get rid of bullying."

Well, that seems defeatist. Like, I get that there are always going to be people who are generally assholes and who are going to give others a hard time because some people just love to power-trip, but on the whole, I think most people are generally okay people, and if we all try a bit harder to be okay people and not be assholes, we can probably not obliterate bullying, but at least mitigate some of the damage.

"We should teach kids how to stand up for themselves..."

Yup, okay. Totally with you there. It's super-duper important to be able to stand up for oneself, whether it's setting personal boundaries and enforcing them or holding one's own in an actual physical confrontation.

"...instead of wearing pink ribbons..."

Interesting. Not sure where breast cancer awareness comes into play here.

"...and passing anti-bullying laws..."

Technically, I can kind of stand behind this sentiment, because we shouldn't actually need anti-bullying laws, because there are already laws against assault, laws against harassment, laws against stalking, laws against uttering threats etc etc.

"... to create a society of victims."


... and, you lost me.

I mean, why does this have to be an either/or situation? What is wrong with teaching kids to defend themselves, to enforce personal boundaries and stick up for themselves, while still teaching them to be empathetic and how to be kind to others. 

I won't begin to deny the effectiveness that a good, hearty punch in the face can have in getting some asshole kid to leave you alone. Gord knows, just being able to put on an act of being able to fuck someone up got me out of a few jams, even if I was secretly pissing myself in fear of having my bluff called.

But why can't we teach kids to defend themselves, while at the same time taking steps to make sure they won't have to by teaching kids to just be fucking nicer to each other?

I think the problem with a lot of current anti-bullying rhetoric is that it's lazy. "Bullying" is such a weird, vague term that it becomes this abstract concept, a boogeyman. Educators and other child care professionals, as well as parents, rush to label any act of aggression as bullying. Anything done by any kid that makes someone else feel bad is bullying.

Bullying is much more insidious. Bullying is repeated, systematic, physical and/or psychological violence.

It has roots in sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, etc.

It is assault. It is stalking. It is the threat of being personally violated.  It is the threat of having your reputation torn to pieces.

It is being told, over and over, that you are worthless, ugly, that nobody likes you and that you should probably just die already.

A kid that pushes another kid and tells them to fuck off because he had a shitty day is not a bully.  They may be reasonably called an asshole, because let's face it, kids can be assholes, but kid-assholery tends to stem from an egocentric tendency to forget that other people are a thing and that other people having feelings and their own shit to deal with is a thing too. 

The difference falls between the active desire to victimize others, and negligence in making an effort to not victimize others.

Current anti-bullying rhetoric does have a horrible tendency to label all aggressive behaviour as "bullying".  There is also a tendency to label the kid and not the behaviour, and a kid that gets labelled a bully tends to hold onto that label. 

I sometimes wish it were more socially acceptable to swear around kids because I feel like being able to say "Jimmy, when you pull Susie's hair, you're being a real asshole," might be an effective deterrent without the same long-term effects of being labelled a bully.

The answer is also not unending positivity and making sure everyone is friends.  Kids, just like adults, are not going to like everybody they meet, and part of standing up for yourself is the ability to set boundaries. It's easier to "just walk away" from an asshole kid if your teacher isn't forcing you to play nice together.  Kids need to be able to enforce their own boundaries.  They also need to be allowed to experience negative emotions, while learning appropriate ways to express those emotions (i.e. don't be an asshole about it).

A quick anectdote:  The street I lived on had a lot of kids within my age range. My best friend lived next door to me, and another girl our age lived a few doors down.  This other girl, was a real, honest-to-gord asshole, as far as eight-year-olds go, and she in particular liked to give us both a hard time.  In fact, she was one of the two girls responsible for the worst year of my childhood.

My friend's mother had told her that she had to be friends with other kids and (through my friends interpretation) that she wasn't allowed to 'hate' other kids.  This kid knew about this rule and would hold it over our heads whenever we would tell her to go away because she was being an asshole and we didn't want to play with her.  She'd threaten to tell my friends mom that we weren't letting her play with us.

(It never occurred to me until over 25 years later that MY mom had no such rule and that I was perfectly within my rights to tell her to fuck right off).

This is a very small example of simplistic ideals made it easier for this little shit to victimize both my friend and I, because we were not able to effectively enforce our own boundaries.

I just wish we could teach kids not to be assholes.

Don't want to play with Johnny? Cool. You don't have to, but don't be an asshole about it. 

Johnny doesn't want to play with you? That sucks, and you're probably sad, and its okay to be sad, but just because you're sad that doesn't mean that Johnny's a bully, it means that you have to find someone else to play with. 

Johnny says that he's going to make sure no one else plays with you ever?  Well, now we have a problem, because Johnny's being an asshole.

I've kind of gone on a tangent here, but I guess what I'm meaning to say is that there is plenty of room to teach kids the following:

- You are allowed to defend yourself.
- You are allowed to assert yourself and enforce boundaries.
- You need to be kind and empathetic towards others.
- You are allowed to have bad days and bad thoughts and bad moods.
- Other people are allowed to have bad days and bad thoughts and bad moods.
- You are allowed to not like some people. You do not have to be friends with everyone, even if they are the nicest, kindest people in the world.
- Other people are allowed to not like you. It does not make you a bad person.  Even if you're an amazing person, nobody is obligated to like you.
- You still have to be fucking nice to people, even if the level of "nice" you can muster consists only of not punching them in the face or not telling them to die in a fire.
- Whenever possible, don't be an asshole.

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

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.


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