Saturday, December 15, 2012

Today I am all out of patience.

Today I am out of patience.  Outwardly, I look okay.  Normal.  I'm going to go, do some christmas shopping with a friend, have dinner with The Well-Travelled One and go about my business, while inside I kick and scream and throw a toddler-tantrum at the sheer un-fucking-fairness of it all.

There's so much anger inside me right now.

I'm angry that, as a friend of mine pointed out, we don't show the same level of remorse and shirt-wrending heartache when we hear of children across the ocean being killed daily by bombs and artillery.  Over there are also parents who woke up one morning, kissed their child that morning only to mourn them by day's end.  We call them collateral damage and hush people who dare to mention little brown children dying when clusterbombs are dropped on school yards because we need to support the troops.

I'm angry at the people who are suggesting that the way to prevent gun deaths is with more guns, rather than less, as though arming teachers couldn't have possibly ended in more bloodshed.  I'm angry when people say that this is not the time to talk about gun control, when people are dying.   This is the perfect time.

People say that he would have found another way.  Perhaps a bomb, perhaps stabbing like the guy in China that stabbed 22 school children.  Do you know how many of those children died?

None.

Fucking ZEE-ROH.

So don't tell me now is not the time to talk gun control.  This is the perfect time. Don't tell me less access to guns wouldn't have made a difference.   Today 22 parents in China are thanking their lucky stars instead of mourning their lost babies.

I am angry at people jumping to the obvious conclusion that this man must have been 'mentally ill'.  Is it a possibility?  Yes.  But not all mentally ill people are violent and not all violent people are mentally ill. To assume so does a huge injustice to the non-violent mentally ill.  It is not up to me or you to diagnose.

I am angry at the idea that this could have been prevented by allowing God back into our schools.  We kept Him out.  We refused to let people pray.  (We refused to force people to pray, actually).

I want no part of any God who would let little children die because we do not worship as he sees fit.

I have been told, in dark moments, that God has a Plan.  Was this part of it?  Cold comfort to the families who are living a nightmare today.   I have been told on numerous occasions that he is both omnipotent and loving.   If he couldn't have saved those children because he isn't "allowed" in schools, then he is not omnipotent.  If he wouldn't, then he is not loving.

An omnipotent, loving god would have stopped Adam Lanza before he ever reached the school into which he was not 'allowed'.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hug your babies tight.

This morning in Ontario there were parents grumbling and inconvenienced because they couldn't send their children to school due to the one-day teacher's strike.

Today, in Connecticut there are parents who will wish, possibly for the rest of their lives, that they had never sent their children to school this morning.  They will go over and over what they could have done differently.


No one should have to consider the possibility that when they send their little ones to school, that they might never come home.


Some will thank God or whatever forces of the universe they put their faith in for the fever, or the stomach bug or even the case of head lice that may have kept their child home today.

I can't even imagine what possesses a grown man to open fire on a building full of children.

It boggles the mind.

No child should ever have to see their teacher, principal and peers gunned down before their eyes.  No child should have to live with that memory.

The teachers who were on duty, some of them will live with the memory and guilt, guilt that they should not have to bear, from being unable to save the children.

It feels like there should be some kind of metaphor here, but I have nothing. It's just as well.  Enough people will use this event to political ends as it is.  I don't want to add to it.

I don't want to speculate on this guys mental and emotional state.  I don't want to talk about guns.

I just want to hold my babies.


In regards to today's teacher's strike.

I've been meaning to say a few things on this, aside from the few comments on teacher-bashing Facebook posts that I've been seeing.

The work-to-rule thing sucks for the kids.  I know that, and I totally get it.  No after-school clubs, no extracurriculars, no field trips - it sucks for them.  I'm not about to deny that.

The one-day strike happening today.  It sucks for parents.  One of the functions of public schools is cheap daycare, along with the education of our children.  I sit in a position of privilege here, I realize that.  Between an ex-husband that is generally available and willing to take his kids; a boyfriend also willing to hang with my kids and a job that, worse come to worse, will let me stay home for a day to watch them myself, I'm not going to be horribly affected by this action.  That's a privilege and I recognize it.  Many parents are not in such a lucky position.  I get that too.  I'm glad for their sake that this is only a one day action.

Teachers work damn hard.  I've watch my sister go through the rigors of constant training and upgrading skills (the courses which are paid out of pocket).  Lesson planning and grading that goes well into the nights and weekends.  I barely see her between the months of September and June, she's so busy.

I entrust my kids to their teachers care for 5-6 hours a day.  Damn right I want them paid and compensated well.  It's not greed, it's what they have coming to them.  I've read time and time again that they are doing wrong by the children by holding out and taking job action.  No one has pointed a finger  at the school boards and government who also continue to hold out on negotiations.  No one seems to be up in arms about school board trustees with six figure salaries.  It's the teachers because "That's my tax money!"

If my kids teachers are well compensated, that means they're going to be happier and more satisfied with their job.  Which means my kids get a better education.  I'm okay with my taxes going towards that.

Source
Frankly, everybody deserves to be well compensated for their jobs.  Not just teachers.  Labour organizations and unions have helped people with that in various sectors.  Other sectors, such as the retail and service sector are starting to organize.  Read up on your labor history.  If you have eight-hour days, or paid sick leave or vacation time or benefits, that's the result of the work of labour organizations.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gender Essentialism in Your Stocking This Christmas

This showed up on my Pinterest feed yesterday:

Source
It's a list of stocking stuffer ideas for Christmas, by age.  I groaned inwardly when I saw that it was divided into a list for boys and one for girls.  Then I got a little optimistic when I saw that the first half-dozen or so items on the list were identical.  Play dough, art supplies, bubbles, stickers.. I can totally get behind this list.

And then as I continued to scroll down, my heart dropped with an almost audible sitcom trombone chorus - You know the one... wah wah waah waaaaah. About six or seven lines down, we get to the inevitable.  Cars and action figures for boys, dolls and jewellery for girls.

*sigh*

Can we step out of our boxes for a minute and consider the fact that some little girls just might enjoy playing with cars?  Or maybe there are little boys that enjoy playing with dolls?

I know many people will jump up with "But My Daughter LIKES dolls! My Son Likes Trucks! They wouldn't WANT to play with trucks/dolls!"  That's awesome.  Really, it is.

Your kid is not EVERY kid.

How many kids out there aren't getting what they would really like for Christmas because lists like these reinforce gender stereotypes that dictate what toys are appropriate for what gender? I'm not even going to get into the assumption of a gender binary here, because people tend to lose their shit when faced with the suggestion that a kid may be anything more than all-boy or all-girl.

What I wonder is why the creator of this image couldn't have amalgamated these items into one list and done away with the unnecessary gendering of sunglasses, jewellery, Nerf Guns and Barrels of Monkeys?

Speaking as a former little girls I, for one, LOVED Barrel of Monkeys.  It was a goddamned barrel of FUN.

UPDATE: So last night I posted a comment on the blog where this image originally came from asking, very diplomatically, why split the list into boys/girls, since parents clearly would already know whether their kids were into dolls or trucks, regardless of gender.  I wish I had taken a screen cap, because I went back to see if there was a response and my comment has been deleted.  I followed up, although I doubt my response will garner a response.

There's also a disclaimer at the top of the blog now asking not to leave harsh comments regarding the splitting of the lists into boys/girls.  That may or may not have been there before I commented.  I hadn't really paid attention, so if it was already there, my bad.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Exploiting Victims in the Name of Activism

So, as we already know, Chris Brown is a giant, girlfriend-beating douchecanoe.  Chris Brown the rapper, not Chris Brown that guy that used to work with my sister.  That guy was pretty cool and to the best of my knowledge, never beat anyone with an umbrella.

No, I definitely mean this guy. - Jeff R. Bottari/Getty Images
So, some folks in Sweden decided to protest one of Brown's concerts and in said protest, decided to put up a huge billboard and posters featuring the visage of then-and-possibly-now girlfriend, Rhianna, shortly post-assault.  You know the one, where he beat the shit out of her.

I am not okay with this.

Don't get me wrong.  My issue with these billboards has nothing to do with any desire to see Brown NOT punished to the further extent of the law by the court of public opinion.  I would love nothing more than for him to be forever known not as Chris Brown, Musician but Chris Brown, Giant Girlfriend-Beating douchecanoe.

Seriously, fuck that guy.

I love the fact that people are putting stickers on his CD's reminding people that this guy beat the shit out of a woman and maybe we shouldn't give him our money.  I'd love to see people do similar to Guns N Roses CDs, or Roman Polanski films or DVD boxed sets of Three and a Half Men.  (Axl Rose was accused of beating two exes, Roman Polanski drugged and raped an underaged girl and Charlie Sheen is.. well, Charlie Sheen).   Sing it from the rooftops.  "THIS GUY BEATS WOMEN."  Blow-horn that shit, seriously.

Can we do that without exploiting the victim?  That is my main issue with this postering effort. Given the fact that it appears that Brown and Rihanna are kind of off-again, on-again, I'd be willing to bet that she has not given any permission for her image to be used in such a way.  This is not a publicity photo from a magazine spread.  It's a picture taken in the wake of a horrific assault, when Rhianna, as a subject, was in a vulnerable position.  It's a haunting reminder of what he did to her, but is not for us, as the public, to consume.

As I said, I do not think Chris Brown deserves anything less than to have his name forever associated with being that guy who beat his girlfriend with, ironically enough, an umbrella and then was known to throw hissy fits when the media refused to just 'get over it'.  But in such cases, the victim's right to privacy should be respected, without being exploited as a poster child for a cause.  It reminds me of The World According to Garp and the Ellen Jamesians, who alienated Ellen James by making her a martyr and, through their movement, refusing to let her move past her own assault.

The use of Rhianna's battered face as a reminder of Brown's wrong-doing feels exploitative to me.  I feel like the people who created these posters were more interested in vilifying an abuser (which, on it's own is not a bad thing) than protecting the victim from further harm.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election is over, put on your big-boy pants and deal with it.

Specifically, I am addressing one Mr. Donald Trump, who went on a Twitter-rage rampage last night.

Caption: You, my sweet angel face are being a fucking hater.
Special thanks to Azia and this blog for this image.  It's my favourite thing in the world right now.  If anyone knows the original source, please let me know so I can give proper attribution.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wherein an era comes to a close, and customer service flies out the window.

So annoyed right about now.

I went to pick up the girls only to be informed that the youngest's indoor shoes, which I bought not more than two months ago, were broken and in need of replacing.  It seemed a good idea to take them back to Zellers and ask for a refund because in no universe should a pair of children's runners fall apart after two lousy months.   She never even wore them outside.

Zellers used to offer a "Kidurable" guarantee on all of their children's wear.  If they wore it out before they outgrew it, then they'd replace it.  Since I still had the receipt, I figured piece of cake.

Yeah, except that not too long ago, Zellers got bought out by Target and now all the locations are either in the process of becoming Target or, if you live in an area that is economically depressed and already has a Walmart such as we do, being liquidated and closed down.  One of the first steps was saying "effyoo" to the Kidurable guarantee.

No, wait it gets better.

So because the shoes are no longer guaranteed I have only the option of exchanging them for a new pair.  Which would be awesome, if there were more than, oh say, two pairs in the kids size available.  And two of those pairs cost about twice as much as the original pair.  We had the foresight to re-measure her feet, thankfully her feet had grown and she was up a size so this brought us up to three or four possible pairs.  That's if you count the ones in the boys section as well.  Yeah, it's safe to say they're pretty picked over in their shoe selection.

So let's recap shall we?
  1. The cheap-assed shoes that lasted a mere month beyond the 30 day return period can only be exchanged.  No money back, even though logic would dictate that if I bought a shitty pair of shoes somewhere which fell apart after two months, I'd want to take my money elsewhere, perhaps somewhere the shoe selection was less shoddy and craptacular on-the-whole.
  2. Had I not been able to find a suitable replacement, I'd have been stuck with the original broken pair.
  3. I not only have to go through the whole pain in the ass that is children's shoe shopping a second time, I have to pay extra for the privilege since no shoes are available in the original price range.
  4. Because of the exchange-only policy and the lousy fucking 'We're liquidating and oh yeah it's winter' selection of running shoes I am limited to the same shitty line of shoes.
  5. This means that in two or three months time, I'm almost inevitably going to be in the exact same boat only this time Zellers will either be in total liquidation so my exchange-only selection will be even MORE limited and shitty or the whole damn store will be gone and I'll be completely shit out of luck.
So, thanks for nothing Zellers.  If not for the bitter taste this incident has left in my mouth, I'd almost be sad to see you go.  At least your demise blessed us with this:




Oh and then in all but perhaps karmically unrelated incident I proceeded to dump the contents of the green bin on the kitchen floor.  Which was awesome.

So, how is your night?



Friday, November 2, 2012

Shoppers Drug Mart Agrees to Hold Off on Christmas Music, People Predictably Lose Their Shit, Act Like Total Assholes.

Holy crap, you guys.  A store actually listened to a customer complaint.  A CHAIN store, even.  And then, everything went to hell.  Because we can't have nice things.

I picked this up via fellow blogger Tom Megginson, who writes  at The Ethical Adman

So, I guess someone complained about Shoppers Drug Mart playing Christmas music in their stores the freaking day after Halloween and shockingly the store chain said, via their Facebook page "Okay, cool, we'll hold off"


Predictably, people are freaking out about political correctedness gone apeshit and the so-called "War On Christmas."

The store chain has stated that this is not a permanent ban -  they're just holding off citing that many people thought it was too soon.  There are a lot of Canadians who are pushing to have people and establishments hold off on putting up Christmas decorations and playing music until after November 11th, so as not to take attention away from Remembrance Day.

Can I reiterate?  NOT A PERMANENT BAN.

Holy shit, people.  I'm the first one to say that when I start hearing Christmas carols in stores when there are still dead babies on my lawn, it kind of takes some of the magic out of the season.  Give us a chance to breathe before throwing the general public into another harried holiday season.  I personally like a little chance to get excited about Christmas before I move onto being stressed as fuck about it.  So kudos to Shoppers Drug Mart for this move, says I.  If you can do something about your bloody make-up counters and their proximity to the front door, then we'll be on a roll.

Anyway, to no one's surprise, the thread has devolved into the ultimate game of War-on-Christmas bingo, complete with racist, go-back-where-you-came-from anti-immigrant sentiment.   Check out Tom's post for some of the worst offenders.  I'm thinking of getting a big old bottle of something alcoholic tonight and reading through the epic thread that has already reached over 3600 comments in the last three hours.

If you wanna take part, just take a drink everyone someone invokes the following:

  • Allusion to people being 'too politically correct'
  • References to a War on Christmas
  • Telling non-christians to go back where they came from and ignoring the fact plenty of non-christians are born here.  Including the millions that lived here before Christians ever showed up.
  • Anti-muslim comments
  • Complaints about not being able to say "Merry Christmas" 
  • References to "Holiday Trees"
  • Putting the Christ back into Christmas
  • The Grinch or Scrooge
Something tells me I'm going to be feeling rough tomorrow.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Parenting Win plus Other Things.

Oh Hallowe'en.  Just because I've been slow on the uptake as far as preparations go, doesn't mean I don't love you as much as I always have.

I usually take this holiday pretty seriously.  My kids take the brunt of it.  The oldest one mostly just humours me but the youngest has taken my enthusiasm for blood and creepiness and run with it.  I dropped her off at a Halloween party at her friend's place today.  At the door we were greeted by a Little Red Riding Hood, and a cute little skeleton and an adorable cowgirl.

And then there's my kid, looking, very much of her own accord, like something coughed up from the very bowels of hell.  Gray, pasty skin, scraggly black hair and blood dripping from her eyes.

I'm so proud.

**********************************************

Back in 2004, I took a road trip to Fort Frances, Ontario which is roughly a 20-hour drive away from where I live.  On the way, I stopped for the night and slept in the back of my car in the back of a Ford dealership outside of Wawa, Ontario.  In the cramped backseat of my 1992 Ford Tempo, I had dreams of my children turning into werewolves.

As of yesterday, a good chunk of that dealership has been washed away with a stretch of the Trans-Canada highway.  It no longer exists.

Yeah.. I was parked right around there.  - Source
I'm thinking that's a metaphor for something, but I don't know what.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Months later, reflecting on an unexpected text message

So, here I am making an honest-to-Gord attempt to be a good blogger with more than one post in a week.  Bear with me as there are bound to be errors since typing on the iPad is a royal pain.  I can't complain too much as the computer is an option.  However the idea of lying in a warm bed to blog was a lot more appealing than sitting at a computer desk.

Better company, too.

Anyway, I've been thinking the last few days about an occurrence that took place back around my birthday.  I had wanted to write about it but I guess I hadn't quite parsed out on my feelings on the whole thing.

I got a text, out of nowhere, from a friend I hadn't spoken to in almost two years.  She had been my best friend for 18 years.  We had a falling-out and well.. Things were said.  Feelings were hurt and then nothing more was said.  That was it.  We weren't friends anymore.
"They say friends don't destroy one another
What do they know about friends?"
 So back in August, I was having a quiet evening with The Guy On The Other Side of The Bed when my cell buzzed.   My stomach had dropped when I read the name and my heart started racing.  I felt vaguely nauseated, nervous, and tears came to my eyes as they are prone to whenever... well... whenever.  The message said only "Hey."  I had never deleted her from my phone, so her name came up immediately.  I thought of a reply that I felt would accurately convey my shock at hearing for her after almost two years.

"Um, hi?"

What ensued was pretty much history's shortest, most awkward small-talk text conversation.  Part of me wanted to engage more, but at that point I was wary.  I couldn't fathom why, after so much time, was she trying to reach me, especially when i had made a couple of attempts to reach out over the past few years with no response or acknowledgement.  When I ran out of small talk, I simply stopped replying.

I found out later from my mother that my dad had run into her at the store.  She was in town with her family, and he suggested she call me.  I guess it's harder for someone to hang up on a text?  I guess if it were me I'd be hesitant to pick up the phone, as well, not knowing what reaction would be waiting on the other end.  I'd considered calling, but I think I was still angry and still felt as though I was owed an apology.  I'm sure she may have felt the same way.  I don't know, I can only speculate.  Truth is, I still miss her but I am still hurt about the way things went down.

I'm still not entirely sure how I feel, at any rate.  I don't regret my part in it, only that my timing could have been better.  I sleep well at night, knowing I've done things on my own terms and at my own pace, in a way I've felt was best for myself and my children.  I don't apologize for these things, or for having times that were difficult to navigate.

I have friends, dear friends and The Guy On The Other Side of The Bed and family, all whom get that I am not perfect, far from it and for that I am eternally grateful.   I guess it still gets to me sometimes.
Such is life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekend Update... but sadly, not the one with Tina Fey or Norm MacDonald even.

This will be a much shorter post than I had originally anticipated as I have roughly five minutes to throw a quick post up while I finish my coffee before I have to head into the bathroom, pretty myself up a bit and head out for another FUN-filled week at work.

Friday night, after getting the Sunday newsletters to bed, I went for a quick drink with my fellow co-workers.  Fun, and something that should be done more often I think.  Couldn't stick around long as I had a previous engagement to go thrift-store shopping with one of my best friends.  I scavenged for parts to my halloween costume, which came to me through Pinterest at the last second and managed to pick up a winter jacket and some curtains for my front window so I can stop flashing the neighbours.  As per usual, K and I ended up reducing ourself to giggling fits to the amusement of the Goodwill staff with our running commentary regarding some of the more... um... 'unique' and 'vintage' finds.

For dinner we went to a nearby East Side Mario's where my menu had gunk on it and our waiter threw coasters at us and hovered while we tried to decide.  It was disconcerting, this manner.  He was not an incompetent waiter.. all our order arrived in a timely manner and as requested.  But so aggressive! It was like he was waitering AT us.  Not the most impressive restaurant experience I've had.

Saturday was a day of coffee and cuddles and relaxing and not getting much of anything done.  Wouldn't have done it any other way.  That night I travelled to Toronto with Tess to Toronto to see the Mountain Goats in concert.  I have written previously my love for this band so you know this was very exciting for me.

See the excitement? My phone is shit and I don't have a working camera right now, so this is what you get for pictures.
The show was not disappointing (aside from the fact that the Phoenix is sorely lacking in seating of any kind so my legs were not happy the next day).  John Darnielle - with whom I got to meet and speak briefly - comes across on stage as someone who not only is happy with what he does, but genuinely excited... like 'Holy shit I can't believe I get to do this for a living' excited when he performs.

They played a number of newer songs, along with older tracks that I recognized as well.  J.D. also manages to engage the audience, telling stories and interacting and improvising.  There were a few tunes I got the impression had been made up on the spot.  If that's the case... wow.  Just wow.  Amazing.

The night ended with 'No Children' which, anyone who goes to Open Mike night knows, is probably my favorite tune of theirs.  An excellent choice for the end of night sing-along.

Oh dear.  I've gone way past my time limit.  Gotta go throw my face on.

Tootles, all.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I've been reading again.

So back when I was in school, I bought and/or procured a shit-load of books, mostly those that had been mentioned in class, with the intention of reading them.  The snag was that while in school, I never had time read anything other than the required texts for my classes.  Once I graduated, my brain went into sleep mode and I wanted nothing more than to immerse myself in comic books, suspense thrillers and Harry Potter.

I was burnt out.

I also starting blogging and reading blogs a lot more in this time so my reading materials mostly consisted of other blogs and my books got sorely neglected.  So five years later I'm getting back into reading some of those more 'meaty' books I picked up in school.

I just finished "The Road To Wigan Pier" and I was struck by how a book that was published over 80 years ago holds relevant in many ways today.  Some of the parallels I found between his descriptions of the unemployed in Britain in the 1930s and prevailing attitudes toward the unemployed and working poor at the time similar to some of the misconceptions the Occupy movement attempted to address this past year.  Namely the idea that the unemployed don't want to work.  Both Orwell and the Occupy movement pointed out that most unemployed are willing to work, were the the work there and available at a living wage.

The book comes from a very pro-Socialism standpoint.  His thesis seems to be that unless a lot of people embrace socialism very soon, the only alternative will be Fascism which, to paraphrase, is basically Socialism without any of the good stuff.  He points out a few reasons that people at the time were hesitant to consider it, despite agreeing with many of the ideals.  One argument, that could easily applied to today and the tendency of lower-middle class to accept the fallacy of trickle-down economics, is that the class-conciousness of the time meant that people who, by upbringing, considered themselves 'middle-class' (described by Orwell as 'those who pronouce their aitches') were being pushed into the working class by way of economics.   One who was raised to think of themselves as a higher class than the working class may, out of fear of 'losing their place', be apt to align themselves with systems that benefit the rich, than systems that are actually more likely to be in their own best interests.

The other issue Orwell brings up is the tendency to avoid Socialism out of a desire not to align oneself with the prevailing ideal of what it means to be a "Socialist".  The caricature of the pistachio-shirted, sandalled, stuffy, boring, intellectual type is similar to the image of the man-hating, hairy-legged butch lesbian who will scream at someone who holds doors that causes many people to say "Yeah, I believe men and women should have the same rights, but I'm not a feminist..."  

(For the record, I fully identify as a feminist, but I am still grateful when someone holds a door for me.. why?  BECAUSE IT'S A NICE THING TO DO, NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE.)

Long story short, I found this book a hell of a lot more interesting than I had originally thought I would.  The descriptions of the daily lives of the British coal miners and the living conditions of the unemployed of the working poor at the time made me look around at all I have and thank Gord for what I have.  The later parts of the book where he describes the machine age and its effects on the human population had me nodding in agreement, as many of the passages could easily have been written today.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Morning.

Sitting in the silence of the mid-morning with a coffee and the sunlight streaming through the living room windows and the cat purring contentedly on the easy chair I feel completely and totally at peace.

There is a roof overhead and food in my pantry.  My children are happy and healthy and I am well-loved.   At 32, I've come to terms with my body and made amends with my past and look, hopefully and enthusiastically to the future, while I savor the present and for this moment, I am home.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Days are just Packed.

Whoa.  Neglectful much?

In my own defense, it's been nothing but go-go-go for the last 2-3 weeks.  I've officially been a homeowner for two weeks now.  When I first took possession of what would come to be known as The Funhouse (a previous, unpublished blog post was tentatively titled "From the Dollhouse to the Funhouse) due to the various DIY/WTF home improvements, I experienced some initial buyers remorse as the Well-Travelled One and I walked through, cataloguing every bit of chipped paint, every crack and every misguided wiring job.

Overwhelmed by the seemingly daunting tasks ahead, I had sank down on the stairs and sobbed in terror.  Holy fuck, I am NOT ready to be a grown-up.  He had out his arm around me and reassured me that it was all going to work out fine - the problems were all small and far from insurmountable - and continued to reassure me for the next week as we made numerous trips from The Dollhouse to The Funhouse and back, loading the car with boxes each time so no trip would go wasted.

I lived part-time in Home Depot, Rona and Canadian Tire.  I cried tears of frustration when attempts to paint the eldest child's room was thwarted by the previous owner's shitty, half-assed paint job and then sucked it up and moved on.

I suffered a few minor coronary episodes shopping around for carpeting for the girls' rooms, one being in the basement with a concrete floor and one having been previously "carpeted" with an overly large, untrimmed area rug that had not been trimmed to size and which had a school of Goldfish crackers living under where the bed had been.  We had a run-in with a carpet saleswoman who not once, but twice, used ethnic slurs in her sales pitch, you know the one - the one about a certain religious group and haggling.  Rhymes with getting "Schmoooooed".  For fun, when we left, I wished the lady "Shalom!" and junked their quote, which was too expensive even if I did want to do business with bigots.

Saturday it poured down rain and all the mildew and dust from packing the house up had nestled its way into my sinus and bronchial cavities so I was good and miserable and not quite sure if I was going to have movers, but with much help from friends all ended up working out well, if a little soggy.

Going back to work, I had loads to catch up on and I'm still, this week, trying to empty out the inbox. Unpacking has gone much better, the place is slowly but surely coming together with a lot of help from the well-travelled One, who has been a lifesaver, to be honest.  My misgivings upon taking possession have all but dissipated and I find it feeling more and more like home, everyday.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Conversations with my kid: I need a sarcasm sign edition.

This is a conversation I have more often than I'd like to admit.

Me: Good job cleaning the living room for me.
R:  I'm sorry, I was trying to find something.
.... Pause....
Me: No.  Good job.  Really.  I'm not being sarcastic.
R: oh.  It's hard to tell, sometimes.
Me: I know *sigh*

Monday, August 20, 2012

Packing, purging, moving and other things less pleasant than a golf shoe to the face.

So, I may have recently mentioned that I bought a house.  Did I mention that? I might have mentioned that.  I only keep mentioning it in an effort to actually convince myself it's true.

The downside to buying a house (aside from mortgage payments, house insurance, lawyers fees and having to do your own repairs without being able to legally call your landlord/dad to do the them... I mean, if I ask I'm sure he'd help, but after this move he's no longer legally obligated to it) is, unless you're planning to rent (which comes with it's own set of issues I won't pretend to understand or care about) then the purchase of a home usually entails MOVING.  Which, although I'm only moving 15 minutes away and not across the country, is generally a giant pain in the ass.

Ever see those movies/tv shows where someone moves out of a place and they move out with ONE BOX?

I laugh when I see that bullshit.  Laugh in a bitter, ironic sort of way.  I have never had a move that has required less than a full truckload and several car loads.   What kind of bizarre ascetic existence do these people live that all their shit fits into ONE BOX?

When my late former mother-in-law passed, she was without a will.  My ex and I, who was the last child at home, were pretty much tasked with dealing with whatever was left after his myriad brothers and sisters had gathered their belongings from the matriarchal home.   Which was a lot.  Most went to storage and when we were finally ready to move into our first apartment, we were pretty much fully furnished.  Over subsequent moves we would try to purge some of our stuff... We had so much stuff.   When we were expecting our oldest we moved to a single room in Barrie, so we had to get rid of a LOT.  When things didn't work out there and we came back to my parents place, tails between respective legs, there was even less.

In my adult life, moving has always been mostly disastrous.  Moves with the ex-hub were disorganized at best, with frantic calls to friends-with-trucks the night before we were due to leave.  After we split, moving became a hassle for different reasons.  I seemed to always end up in hospital when I was supposed to move.  After ex-hub and I split, I had to move out of the apartment we were in, since although I was carrying it on my own, I was also pregnant and knew I wouldn't be able to afford it once I went on maternity leave.   So when my sister and I moved in together, the moving date ended up falling on the same date I was in the hospital giving birth.  Less than two years later, the stress of the house fire and having to suddenly move again caused a flare-up in my colitis that landed me in hospital again.  Which meant my family was tasked with moving me, again.

The last move, into the dollhouse here, was the most successful, if you gauge success as not being hospitalized and having both parents still talking to you at the end of the move to be the definition of success.

Before the move comes the purging.  I have a hard time throwing things away.  I think I'm closer to a pack-rat than a hoarder, although there was a time that my insistence on keeping a box full of broken cuckoo clocks for possible craft use may have said something different.   My aversion to throwing things away is borne of a) sentimentality, b) guilt, c) stinginess and d) a distinct distaste for landfills.

A) sentimentality. It's over rated.  This move, I finally threw out most of my wedding shit.  FINALLY.  I kept some for years thinking that the girls might like to have it... But really, what kid wants souvenirs of their parents wedding that eventually crashed and burned before they were even old enough to remember?  There are still pictures and stories.  That will have to be good enough for them.

B) Guilt.  Holy shit do I have a love-hate with school work.  I hate that the schools send home every last piece of it and that I feel like the worlds worst mother if I throw out any of it.  I love keeping the artwork and creative writing... But everything else? I KNOW my kids can spell.  I KNOW they can do basic math.  I don't need every last scrap of evidence to that effect.  But I go to throw that stuff out and I feel like I might as well give up my mom card.   I even tried to throw out my OWN school work that my mother kept and passed down to me and I couldn't do it.  I felt like I was slapping 6-year-old Andrea In. The. Face.

C) I'm cheap.  I don't buy things just to toss them or give them away later.

D) I hate the idea of throwing things into landfills. I once held on to four broken DVD players and three broken VCRS for well over two years because..Gah, LANDFILLS. Organizations like FreeCycle have helped, as has discovering the electronics disposal and scrap metal donation bins. Our local one have been seeing a lot of action.

Well, I'm off to packs a few more boxes. Time to pack the bookshelf. Last move I had over seven boxes of books. It'll be interesting to see how many I have now. It will also be fun to see the book shelves work them back into their original, non-bowed shape.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My boyfriend scares me sometimes.

This post is a short preamble to the longer post with pictures that I have planned, that i may or may not get around to writing, of our adventures in the Bruce Peninsula.  Now that Blogger's iPad page has an actual editor, I may get around to posting more.  Also, it's my birthday today, so feel free to fawn accordingly in the comments.

So, this weekend The Guy For Whom I Have Not Come Up With A Good Blog Alias™ who for the purposes of this post, I shall refer to as My Navigator and I took a trip up to Tobermory, Ontario.  One of the stops was to the Bruce Caves, just outside of Wiarton, Ontario.  This conversation happened.

Approximately 1.5 hours before getting to Wiarton, we're looking at the map.  Navigator claims he has never been to these caves before. I'm a little skeptical, since he is one who has Been Many Places, but he insists so I believe him.
Navigator:  So, we have to turn onto Grey Road 1, but since it's in town, it'll probably be called something different.  I dunno, something like "Frank Street".
Me:  It'd be funny if it was actually called Frank Street.
1.5 hours later, we are in Wiarton, driving around getting gas, food and Tim Hortons coffee.  We turn onto a side street.  It's Frank Street.
Me: Whoa, there actually is a Frank street here.
Navigator: weird.
Me:  Heh.  I wonder if that's the road we have to take? That'd be freaky.
We go get coffee and he goes to check the directions to Grey Road one.  He gets back in the car.
Navigator: Okay, so we have to take a right out of the parking lot and another right at the lights. 
So, following his instructions, I take a right out of the parking lot, and a right at the lights.  The street we turn onto, which we have been told is Grey Road 1, looks familiar.
Navigator:  Look.
Me:  Holy shit.  Frank Street? 

Navigator: yup.

Me:  *blinks*  You're fucking scary.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

With Respect to Messers Barker, Hoppus and Delonge, I Guess this really is growing up.

Anyone born after 1995 is probably not going to get that title, but oh well. Such is Life.

So, I bought a house. *applause*

Yup. Bought a house, and I take possession at the end of next month. I'm just now getting excited about it, mostly because I'm lost in a haze of "Holy mother of Gord, what the hell have I gotten myself into?" and "Sweet merciful Jebus, what all do I have to do?"

I don't do large purchases well, and this is the largest purchase I've ever made. The day my Real Estate agent texted me to let me know the offer had been accepted, I called my mom and cried, because truth be told, I was scared shitless.

(okay, I still am. Writing about this, even, I could pee a little. That might be the coffee, though.)

So, now I have a month of cleaning, organizing, purging and packing ahead of me. But in the end? My own property, my own home, my own BATHTUB (omg, three years with only a shower, you cannot begin to imagine...) my kids each with their own space, not piled one on top of the other. Amazing. It's been a long time coming and yeah, I have to give myself some credit for doing all this on a single income.

Go me!

Today is the Warrior Dash and I am at home doing laundry and organizing the shed (and blogging, apparently) because the illness I was fighting earlier this week ended up being a rather nasty chest infection that still has not entirely gone away. Huge disappointment, you bet. But considering I can't run across my living room without getting winded right now, a giant obstacle race was probably not in my best interest.

I'm still guest blogging over at Feministe this week. There's a pretty good debate going on regarding scent free workplaces right now, and an earlier post about delaying sexual activity in kids got picked up by The Lady Garden, so although it was not without criticism, that's still pretty cool in my books.

oh, and I got tweeted by the Good Lovelies when I wrote to them to ask permission to reprint their lyrics for this post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sounds Legit...

Okay, I think I may have almost made a telemarketer cry. I honestly, shit-you-not, just had this conversation. We'll call her Lisa.
Me: Hello?
Lisa: Hello, Mrs. Howe?
Me: Formerly, yes.
Lisa: oh, I'm sorry. I'm calling from Pristine Solutions. A few months ago you took a survey with us and we're happy to let you know that you've won a free gift with a value of $150.00
Me: okay.
Lisa: We just need to confirm your address and that you'll be home to receive your gift and answer a few questions. You still live at {redacted}, correct?
Me: For the time being, yes (that's for another post)
Lisa: Okay, someone will be by tonight around 8'clock, does that work for you?
Me: Are they going to try and get me to buy stuff?
Lisa: No, you're not under any obligation.
Me: But are they going to get me to buy stuff?
Lisa: No, we wouldn't want you to buy anything you didn't want or need.
Me: That's not what I asked. I asked if anyone is going to try and get me to buy stuff. Not being obligated to buy stuff isn't the same as not being asked to buy stuff.
Lisa: No, they're just going to ask your opinion.
Me (still skeptical): Okaaaay. So what do I get?
Lisa: It's a gift certificate valued at $150 dollars.
Me: Cool. For what?
Lisa: A business or service in your area.
Me: What kind of business or service?
Lisa: it could be any kind.
Me: You mean I get to pick what I get?
Lisa: No, you get a gift certificate.
Me: A gift certificate for what?
Lisa: $150 from a business or service in your area
Me: Yeah, but which business?
Lisa: You live in (redacted), correct?
Me: Yeah
Lisa: So, it would be a business or service near there.
Me: Yeah, but is it for a restaurant or a hairstylist or welding services? (yeah, Tess, I thought of you)
Lisa: No, it's a gift certificate. I don't understand what you're asking here.
Me: Well, I just want to know what I get for it. If you don't know, you can admit it. It's okay.
Lisa: No, it's a gift certificate. (She's clearly getting flustered, at this point. I'm starting chuckle)
Me: But a certificate for what?
Lisa: $150 for a business or service in your area. I.. I don't know what you want me to tell you.
Me: If you don't know what it's for, it's okay. You can admit it.
Lisa: Well, I don't have it, they have it. It can change from day to day.
Me: so it's a gift certificate but you don't know what for because it's always changing.
Lisa: It's not always changing.
Me: But you don't know what it is. It's okay. You can say it.
Lisa (sighing defeatedly): No.
Me: That wasn't so hard now?
So far, no one has shown. A few years ago, I received a gift of three night's hotel stay in one of about 12 different major tourist cities. Airfare wasn't included so I never ended up using it. But at the time, all I had to do was sit through a vacuum demonstration. Now, I have seen some of the demos that my parents sat through when I was kid, and I tell ya, vacuum sales men can be Wiley and vicious motherfuckers. This guy, however, was the coolest. He comes in, introduces himself, and just before he launches into his spiel he pauses (let's call him Ted)
Ted: Okay, level with me. Do you have ANY interest in buying anything from me?
Me: Honestly?
Ted: Yeah.
Me: Not. A. Chance.
Ted: I'll tell you what. I get paid regardless of whether you buy something or not, so let's not waste each other's time. Here's your gift certificate, have a lovely evening.
After that, I almost wanted to buy a vacuum. Here's to you, Awesome Ted, wherever you may be.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I guess this is as good a time to get sick as any.

Waaaaaugh. *hack, koff*

I'm sick.

Can grown-ups get croup? Because this is what it feels like. Croupy. At any rate, I started feeling off Friday morning when I woke up all phlegmmy and though to myself, "Hmm. Funny, I don't remember taking up smoking again."

By Friday evening I was hacking and getting chills so I doped myself up good and tried to get as much sleep as I could in hopes of being in half decent shape to attend my Nanny's 80th birthday party the following day. I struggled through that, eschewing hugs and handshakes, feeling fairly awkward as I greeted family members from a distance and tried to avoid breathing on people as much as humanly possible.

In all, I'm glad I went, as my extended family is a fun, rather nutty, bunch and it was well worth it to see the surprise on Nan's face when a few of her oldest friends made he trek. She had been expecting only my mom, my uncle and his family, and my sister and I. My kids were supposed to be with their dad camping but when I found they would be camping about 15 minutes from Nanny's house, I arranged to borrow the girls for a few hours.

I held out for a few hours but around dinner time I was fading fast, so we said our goodbyes and I dropped the girls with their dad and went home to sleep.

And Sleep.

And watch a movie, and sleep some more. I may have coughed and moaned and sweat a lot in their. With the kids gone, and The Guy For Whom I Have Not Come Up With Good Blog Alias™ away working, there thankfully hasn't been much to do but sleep and hack and cough and moan and sweat.

Well, there's one other thing; my realtor came over today with papers for me to sign. I've put an offer in on a house. I just have to wait and see if they accept it.

Talking about pants-shittingly exciting/scary.

Speaking of pants-shittingly scary, next weekend I'm running in the warrior Dash. I sincerely hope this cold/croup/creeping death I have doesn't take too much out of me before then.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Daniel Tosh is not being censored.

A day late, a buck short, I know.  This is all old news by now.  Whatevs, brah.

But I couldn't let this one pass.

Daniel Tosh, the so-called 'comedian' that I fully admit I hadn't really known of or paid any attention until this week, got called out at one of his shows for saying rape jokes are funny.

For the record, they're not.

He responded by making what have has been interpreted by some as a not-so-veiled threat and by others as a joke.  I'm kind of in the threat camp on this one.
After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”
I've laughed at some pretty wrong and fucked up stuff in my time, and this didn't even make me giggle a bit. Not even in that "omigod-i-so-shouldn't-be-laughing-at-this-I'm-a-bad-person-and-obviously-going-to-hell" way.

So as it happens, this girls post has gone viral and a bunch of people have called Tosh an asshole, and a bunch of people have come to his defence, claiming free speech etc etc.

People, I cannot stress this enough.

Criticism is not Censorship.
Saying "Don't be an asshole," is not Censorship.

Saying "This thing you said, it's shitty and hurts people" is not Censorship.

Criticism is not Censorship.

Saying "I'm not coming to your performances or watching your show any more, you rape-apologizing, unfunny assbag." is not censorship.

Telling sponsors and advertisers "Hey, I'm going to stop using your services or buying your products if you keep giving money to this rape-apologizing, unfunny assbag," is not censorship.

Bringing attention to the actions of an unfunny, rape-apologizing assbags through various medium and suggesting that "Hey, maybe supporting unfunny rape-apologizing assbags is bullshit really fucking hurtful and erases victims and perpetuates a culture where rape is normalized and acceptable and seen as a joke," is not censorship.

Criticism is not Censorship.


To the best of my knowledge, no one is advocating jailing, deporting or otherwise sanctioning Daniel Tosh.  Governing bodies have not stepped in and taken away his show.  If I'm wrong, then yes, that is censorship.

But the same people who are saying that we are taking away Daniel Tosh's right to be an asshole free speech are silencing the victims, or potential victims who are trying to say "Hey, that shit is not funny."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

700km, an Off-Roading PT Cruiser and the Faint Sound of Banjos, part 3 (the not-so-dramatic conclusion)

Part One

Part Two

So it looks like this, the third part in my "What I Did A Few Weeks Ago" trilogy will likely be the shortest of the series, as my memory is getting increasingly fuzzy. But, hey, I don't want to leave anyone hanging. In other news, holy crap! TWO posts in one week. How about that??

So Sunday we woke up by the faint light of the sun rising over the blueberry stand across the highway, groggy and stiff from trying to stay comfortable in the back of the Cruiser. Not an easy feat, as he's not one to be scrunched up to sleep and although i generally tend to curl up in the fetal position to sleep, I was trying to remain somewhat conscious of not kicking or hitting the poor man in my sleep. Which I am told, I have a tendency to do.  Sleeping me is quite violent.

This is possibly the shittiest sunrise picture ever taken.  I took this one.
Watching the condensation slowly evaporate, we had a pre-breakfast breakfast of coffee from the Tim Hortons in whose parking lot we spent the night and glorious sweet chelsea buns from the bakery in Bancroft we had visited the previous day. Finishing up, I got tired of watching condensation evaporate (because yes, that IS as boring as it sounds) and rather unsuccessfully tried to dry it up with my t-shirt.

Pre-Breakfast Breakfast.  Tim Hortons, I want some royalties for this.
After getting on the road, our first stop for the Morning was at Cordova Falls, which is just outside of the little mining town of Cordova Mines. Cordova Falls, to date, has probably been the least Impressive of our waterfall hunting excursions, but that may be a result of it being both a dammed (as opposed to damned) waterfall and it being later in the season. I will say I was impressed seeing the pennstock for the dam. Impressed that it had not burst, as this old wooden contraption looked about 60years old and was sprouting leaks all over, some of which had been lovingly and not-at-all-half-assedly patched up with various bits of wood, some of which were jammed right into the leaky spots.

That's Reassuring.
Once we had fully explored the Upper and Middle Falls, we decided to skip the Lower Falls and head to town to see if we could actually locate THE Cordova mine. The town of Cordova Mines, Ontario is a fairly small one, almost a ghost town now. We knew the mine had to be about 4km from the dam we had just visited, as that was what the sign at the dam had told us.

If you can't trust a historical plaque, who can you trust?

One trail that we found almost took us all the way there, we discovered upon checking the maps at home. It started out near a small community hall, the type with a park and picnic benches and tables under shady trees, the type of place one could envision town picnics being held generations before. We braved the path as far as Petey would take us, at one point traversing a ground level river crossing. But beyond this we found a heavy gate with a variety of "No Tresspassing" signs. Later we would find out that what we were looking for was just on the other side.

Those aren't puddles.. that's the river creeping across the path.
...Just in case you didn't believe me.
Giving up on finding the mine, we headed to Peterborough for Actual-Breakfast and to see the Peterborough lift locks.  I can't remember all the ins and outs of how these locks actually work.. it has something to do with water displacement is all I recall.  I'm going to let the wonder that is Wikipedia fill all the dirty details in for you and just say that they were impressive and cool to watch.. we got there just as the first boat of the day was crossing.

See? Impressive.
Breakfast was had at one of GFWIHNCUWAGBA's (okay, acronyms clearly aren't an option here) favoured establishments.  Good potatoes, good eggs.. toast was a little too dark, bacon too crispy.  Good coffee and I got to find out just what in the hell 'Beaver Balls' were.

Turns out, they're basically like Beaver Tails (which I think may be known to people in other countries as Elephant Ears) but in ball form.  The More You Know.  At least they aren't some bizarre Fear-Factor inspired delicacy.  Although I still say that eating bull testicles would have been child's play had Joe Rogan just battered and deep-fried them.

However, I digress.

This was my first ever visit to Peterborough (with the possible exception of visiting my grandfather in hospital shortly before his passing, but that may have been Bancroft hospital) so he took me on a bit of a tour around the downtown and through some of the riverfront parks.  Having been up since about 6am we had made fantastic time to get to Peterborough, look around and still have time to visit my Nanny on the way home.  We got hit with the rain about 40 minutes before Nanny's house, after a weekend of otherwise lovely weather.  So that was lucky.

**************************************

In other news, I'm making a concerted effort to post more.  I've missed it.  I kind of put myself on hiatus writing at Different Paths, Same Destinations when I ran out of fucks to give in regards to my weight-loss efforts. I get the feeling I'm not the only one on a break.  Hopefully the other girls will come back and start posting again.  But we all have lives, and busy ones at that.

My posts here will probably focusing on my day-to-day stuff for the next little bit as I will be saving some of my social-issues ranty type stuff for a two-week guest blogging stint at Feministe (*geekyfangirlsquee*).

Say it with me, Sally Field.  "THEY LIKE ME!"
I'm ridiculously honored to have been asked to submit.  Like, stupidly so.  Like being asked to the cool girls house for a sleepover.  Except I get to write a lot.  So look for my posts over there during the last two weeks of July.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

700km, an off-roading PT Cruiser and the faint sound of banjos part 2 (NOW WITH PICTURES!)

Wow. I'm really sucking out at this regular-blogging thing. Looking at part two of my mini-road trip post and it's been two weeks already.

I've been trying like hell to get some stuff done today and it's just not happening so I figure I'll blog a bit and completely unapologetic in my utter laziness today and then stress later when I don't have shit for time to get stuff done.

Sound like a plan? Thought so.

So after leaving Musky Bay, we got back in the car and headed for Egan Chute, which is a collection of falls in an inactive provincial park surrounded with old mines and quarries.

The area is known for a wide array of mineral deposits and the Rock Jamboree is a big thing every year. Funnily enough, tourist sites encourage rock collectors to the area but The parks department really really don't want you to do that, because of the eventual degradation of the area from people chipping away at the cliffs and caves and whatnot. It's not cool.

Oh, here's the road we had to go down to get to the chute.  Original 100 series highway.. this is proof positive that 'Paved Road' and 'Sketchy as Fuck Road' are not mutually exclusive.

"Do you hear banjos? I hear banjos."
I had made previous allusions to my vague fear of heights. I can stand at the top of the CN Tower and look straight down withougt blinking an eye, but I'm not so hot with climbing.. Especially climbing DOWN stuff. So Guy For Whom I Have Not Come Up With A Good Blog Alias™ got to be witness to me having a full on panic attack trying to scale down a loose dirt path with a steep drop on one side after stupidly trying to follow after he says "I'm going down here, you don't have to follow me.".

Because, you know, I'm a sport.

Harrowing, but totally worth it.  This is me getting my heart rate back to normal.
Got down eventually, with much whimpering and crying and shaking. Thankfully, the scenery was well worth my sheer terror and the climb back up after looking around was much easier an quicker. At the end of the chute was a pond and a small sandy beach so I was inclined to get the kit off and go for a swim. It was glorious, although I decided to come in when it was pointed out that the current was still strong enough to carry me off my path. The sand in the water was flecked with bits of what may have been fools gold but it sparkled amazingly when you stirred up the dirt.

Glittery.
We made a few attempts to locate some of the old mines in the area, but since we were losing light and the bugs were coming out (after I pulled about six dead deer flies from my hair) it was time to press on and find somewhere to sleep for the night. Somewhere came in the form of a Tim Horton's parking lot in Madoc. We had originally stopped for coffee in Kaladar but the only coffee we found was a gas station Country Style with a self serve carafe that looked a safe bet to have been sitting there since morning. So on to Madoc we went, drinking coffee and discussing the best part of the parking lot set Petey for for the night while we slept in the back, unnoticed by passers-by.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

700km, an off-roading PT Cruiser and the faint sound of banjos., part 1

Greetings, y'all.

So computator seems to be pooched again, which means I am back to blogging via iPad. Which is ALL SORTS OF FUN what with the typing by touchscreen, having to manually enter all HTML formatting and complete inability to add pictures unless I go into work early and upload pictures after the fact.

Have I mentioned the meddefluerking auto-correct? ALL SORTS OF FUN

So the lack of pictures means this post about weekend road trip that Guy For Whom I Have Not Come Up With A Good Blog Alias™ (yeah, about that.. I really should come up with something because that takes way too long to type) embarked upon is going to be a "use your imagination" type thing.

at least until I can add some pictures.

Basically, the agenda consisted of leaving early morning with a tank of gas, a tent and a cooler of road-snacks and heading east towards the haliburton highlands, exploring various trails and towns, and looping back next day with a stop in Peterborough for breakfast. Easy peasy. The tent was actually a backup plan since the actual plan was to sleep in the car, something I've found convenient on past long trips. I'm pretty sure he might have preferred the ground.

(aside from a stop in Orillia for groceries and gas) our first stop was Bancroft, a town I spent a lot of time in as a kid when my maternal grandparents had there house there. I had two goals here.. Buy Chelsea Buns from the local bakery, because ohmigord YUM, and seek out the Musky Bay Resort, a seasonal trailer camp that had been owned by my aunt Shirley and Uncle Stan years ago, and where I would spend two weeks with my grandparents every summer, fishing and boating and hanging out with my cousin Jaime, the only cousin my age I ever got to see with any regularity. The campground had been sold years ago, after Stan passed away. We had looked the place up and between some sketchy satellite imagery and my own fuzzy memories were able to find the place, not without overshooting the entrance at least once. I wandered in and introduced myself to a lovely Eastern European woman named Yvonna, one of the new owners who had just recently taken over. I got the impression that the previous owner had let the place go quite a bit. The grass grew wild around a number of empty trailers and around the main house. The store where Stan and Shirley sold bait and penny candy was empty. But here and there were signs of improvement... Two new docks sat at the shoreline, and Yvonna showed where they were renovating the three old rental cabins that sat at the shore adding bathrooms where previously there was only one communal shower/toilet for all three cabins.

As we walked, i pointed out where my grandparents trailer sat and where we held horseshoe tournaments and family reunions at the front of the main building. As bittersweet as it was to see the place in a state of disrepair, I felt a good deal of gratitude towards this quiet polite woman and her family for keeping the place open, and their efforts in reviving it. It's funny though. Musky Bay had the distinction of being one of the last old-fashioned, mom-and-pop run family campgrounds and as much as it pained me to see the place deteriorated, it would have pained me as much, if not more, to see it turned into some kind of posh yuppie resort.

at any rate, I thanked Yvonna for showing me around and pledge to return and see how they were coming along with the place. We got back into the car and headed back toward Bancroft and onto our next destination, Egan Chutes Provincial Park.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My own childhood bullying tale - or - I'm not fucked up because of how my parents raised me, but how other parents raised theirs.

Today I felt like crying.

No, no.  I'm okay.  Nothing to worry about.  Just feeling bittersweet.  Accent on the bitter, I guess?  

It started with a Facebook group.  *shakes fist in Mark Zuckerberg's general direction*  A group called I GREW UP IN AURORA.

I did, you know.  Grow up in Aurora, I mean.  Aurora, Ontario.  Some of those closest to me may be familiar with the sneer of derision that usually comes with mention of the place.

I'm not actually a member of this group (update: I totally lied.  I am).  My mom is, because she did too. Grow up there.  That may be too simplistic.  I think my mom merely lived there.  It'd be safe to say her actual growing up was done in the neighbouring town of Newmarket, which according to the stories of adolescence I have been regaled with over the years, was a far more rad place than it's neighbour to the south.

A friend of mine who lived in the area for roughly the same period of time (although we didn't meet until years and years later) once remarked that in Aurora, you'd drive down streets where people had paid tens of thousands of dollars on landscaping, only to find nothing but junk inside.

At the time it seemed an apt metaphor.

Gosh, I sound pretty bitter, don't I?  Why all the hate, you may ask?

Interesting question, that.  I'll get to that.

So yeah, because the Mighty Zuck seems to think everyone needs to see everything that everyone does, I caught a link through this group to a photoblog which had, amongst its many posts, photos of the school I attended from grade 1 to 3, which was shut down a few short years back.

It's a tremendous and beautiful building, having first served as a high school (where my grandfather attended) and later used as a primary school for grades 1 through 6.

Seeing the photos was a bit of a head-trip.  I, myself, have not stepped foot inside in over 20 years.  When they closed Wells Street, there was an open house to commemorate it's 100 year history.  The few photos in this woman's blog brought forth a rush of emotion - first, the visceral reaction I generally get when presented with classical architecture.  I'll be the first to admit, I have a bit of an obsession with older buildings.

Second was a flood of memories of the relatively brief but formative time I attended Wells Street Public School.

I was a painfully shy, and oddly intelligent child.  A little awkward, a little chubby.  More interested in the planets and ocean creatures than Barbies and My Little Ponies.  Eager to please, eager for others to like me.  A prime target for bullies.

Third grade was when the two 'popular' girls in my class decided that that year was the year I would have no friends, no fun, no joy whatsoever.  They began to taunt me, promising friendship then ripping it away, with mocking laughter and cruel, cutting, remarks.  They made it well known to all that I was social poison.  Not only would they not be my friend, but anyone who did befriend me would also be outcast.

Two of my best friends would whisper when no one was looking that yes, they were still my friend, even if they put up the act of shunning me as well.

I could hardly blame them.  I had already saw the devastation these two popular girls had wreaked in my own world.  I couldn't let that happen to my friends as well.   My third friend managed to escape the social stigma of being my friend simply by benefit of being a boy.  The threat of expulsion to loser-land was lost on the boys in my class... they were just happy to join in on the fun.

In the evenings, I would cry inexplicably.  I was always crying.  My parents would ask how my day was, what was wrong.  In a quiet voice I'd insist that my day was fine.  Nothing happened.  I was okay.  In tears, but okay.  My sister knew what was going on.. She wrote me letters from the exchange house in Germany where she was staying that winter, telling me she loved me and making empty but appreciated threats to beat the 'little bitches'.  My parents continued to wonder why I was upset all the time but refused to open up to them.

I guess that has just never been my way.

I have no recollection, perhaps I've blocked it out, but I've been told that it got to the point where I was skipping school.  This was how my parents found out about these girls and how they had been tormenting me for most of the school year.  The one girl lived down the street from us, with her grandparents and her mother who was single and worked full-time, relatively unheard of in 1980's Aurora.  Her mother was devastated and truly remorseful that her daughter was capable of treating another kid this way, and blamed herself.  The other child's mother, who had attended high school with my own mother, simply sneered.  She had taught her daughter to be tough.. it wasn't her problem if I was "such a fucking wimp."

I see these pictures of the school and I remember not just its immense empty halls, but I remember walking them, sad, and scared and angry.  The staircase in the second photo from the bottom is the same staircase where I would sit after being sent in the hall.   Heeding the advice of "ignore it and it will go away", I would close my ears to the whispered taunts until finally I would lash out in anger and frustration, only to be scolded and sent to the hall for causing a disturbance.  I'd sit out there and cry and wait until I was sure my face was no longer red and my breathing had returned to normal.

Even then, I had a tendency towards 'The Ugly Cry'.  Oh, look.  There it goes again.

I was lucky enough to change schools the next year after being screened for the region's gifted program.  My problems didn't end there, by any means, but they subsided for a good while.  However, by the time we moved from Aurora to the Midland area, I was good and ready to get the fuck out of there.  I never really felt like I belonged there.  I don't think my family did either.

You know, a lot of this seems trivial in retrospect.  So what?  Everybody had bullshit to deal with as a kid.  But it kind of fucked with me for a long time.  For years I had a difficult time making friend without falling prey to the suspicion that I was being taken for a fool, that I was being set up as part of some grand, Carrie-esque prank and I'd be the girl covered in pig-blood, only instead of wreaking my vengeance all I would be able to do is cry and hate myself a little.  I missed out on what could have been some wonderful friendships because I couldn't bring myself to trust.  That said, I'm thankful for the few long-standing friendships was able to forge over the years.

I'm not going to lie, I've let these memories color my memories of Aurora with a very dark brush.  I think sometimes that I would still like to go back.  To fight my way down Yonge Street where everything is so built up now that you can no longer tell there was ever any bordering area between Newmarket and Aurora.  I'd like to park at my uncle's house (which was the house where we lived) and walk the neighbourhood as I did when I was a kid - my parents were the free-range kid type.

There are still places I have fond memories of..

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

UPDATED: And somehow, when I wasn't looking, I became a grown-up?

I'm a little nervous, I have to admit.  This being a grown-up stuff is nerve-wracking.

Last week I called my brother-in-laws 'mortgage guy' because the time is drawing near where I may not have this little dollhouse any longer.  It was something I've known was coming for some time, a couple of years even, but even so has managed to sneak up on me.

For the last few years I have been paying down chunks of debt and socking away money in hopes to better my financial situation.  I was feeling pretty confident.  I had paid down my line of credit, my credit cards and had, through coincidence or divine intervention, managed to divest myself of a $300+ a month car payment and have my insurance payments lowered in the process.  All I had left in the way of debt was my student loan payments.

I don't have a full down payment saved but nonetheless I was reasonably sure that I had a good shot at something modest, in the 150K range.

So I called the mortgage guy and after going through my stuff he informed me that although I'm currently on interest relief for my student loans, he'd have to report what I'd be expected to pay once that relief runs out.  Which is in the ballpark of what I'd be paying monthly for a mortgage.  Hence the continuing applications for interest relief.

What did this mean for me?  Basically that if he could even get me approved, it wouldn't be for anything substantial and I'd probably not be able to afford anything that didn't include the word 'Mobile' in the description.

Needless to say, I was pretty devastated.  There was a possibility that I could have my loan payments changed so that they were less but that would involve going off interest relief and having thus having to pay every month.  So theoretically I'd be more able to afford a house, but realistically I'd be less able to afford it, because my imaginary $600 + payments would change into very real $250 payments that I would have to make, instead of paying what I can, when I can as I am doing now.  The other downside of this would be that I would probably be paying my loan for the rest of my natural life.

The other option was getting a co-signer, which is not only hard to come by, but at least if the mortgage is in my name only then I'm the only one that gets fucked if I default.

That day I cried a lot at work and in the evening Guy For Whom I Have Not Come Up With A Blog Alias™ helped cheer me up by engaging me in some black humour as we scoured MLS for houses 'in my price range' across Canada.  Or more specifically, in the $25,000 and under price range.

It's amusing reading the descriptions and lack thereof of some of the more run-down properties that people are trying to unload.  At this point, you know the agents have just given up trying and in some cases, such as this beauty in Thunder Bay (which could be yours for just under $10K), you get the idea that the agents aren't so much trying to entice potential buyers as warn them.  Descriptions ranged from your typical "Handyman's Special! Needs TLC!" to "Value is in the land, not the building!" and my personal favorite This-Realtor-Has-Just-Given-Up line -- "It Is What It Is!"

We also discussed the possibility of moving this gorgeous little church from Alberta to Ontario.. I could potentially buy it outright with my down payment money.   I'd just need to transport it and find some land to plop it down on.  Sounds easy enough, right?

Anyone got a truck, a couple of police convoys and a shit-load of bungee cords?

With a clearer head I decided I would speak directly to my bank, having been a loyal customer for the last 15+ years, while never asking for so much as an overdraft.  I came out of the meeting feeling more optimistic, mainly because being a bank and not a broker, they CAN take my interest relief into consideration, so my application will be based on what I am paying now, not what I may theoretically be paying in six months.  This is a good thing, potentially.  It will be a few days before I hear back from the bank though.

So now, now I play the waiting game.

"Waiting game sucks.  Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos." - Source
UPDATE:  A) I got the pre-approval! Whoo-Hoo!  I can start house-hunting!
B) The link to the Thunder Bay house is dead.  This could possibly mean that it *gasp* actually sold, in which case, I want a cut.  But I think it's more likely that the place got washed away in the midst of all the flooding.  Thoughts are going out to anyone, including my former in-laws, that are in the area.  Hope you all are safe.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Conversations with my sister's kid: defining masculity

My sister has a giant Newfoundland dog.  Giant puppy, actually.  So all the playful exuberance of a puppy in a package roughly the size of a mastodon.  The kids, I'm sure, love her, but it's pretty safe to say the novelty has worn off.

R: I think when I get my own place I'm going to get a cat, just so I won't be lonely.

R: That's not too gay is it?

*facepalm* (He's a teenager, so I try to have patience, but really?)

Me: No, I'm pretty sure having sex with men makes a guy gay, not owning a cat.  Besides, who cares?  Are you worried your masculinity is going to be called into question if you live with a cat?

R: Yes, kind of.

Me:  Just make sure to give it a really hyper-masculine name.. like Machine Gun Larry.  Even if it's a girl.

R (in suavest manner a 16-yr-old can muster): "Hi.. this is my cat, Machine Gun Larry." 


In other news, I'm totally making plans for the imaginary cat that my nephew doesn't even own yet.



Monday, May 21, 2012

Birthdays and Blog Awards

My oldest turns 11 tomorrow.  She also leaves for an over-nighter with her school tomorrow, so it's a little odd that on her actual, honest-to-Gord birthday I'm only going to see her for an hour or so, most of which will likely be spent kicking both her and her sister's butts into gear, as the little one also has a school trip tomorrow.  Not a day one wants to be late for the bell.

A few months ago T approached me about a show on YTV called The Next Star which, to the best of my knowledge is in the Idolesque vein of reality shows, except for the 15-and-under crowd.  That's pretty much all I know about it, except that I think the gay kid from Degrassi hosts it.  Toronto auditions happened to be the same weekend that we'd be doing her birthday stuff.  She begged me to take her to audition so I told her that in lieu of a birthday party this year, she could pick a friend and I would take them and Reegs down to the city for the day so she could try out, and then we'd go out for dinner.  That would be her birthday celebration.

I ran into a roadblock when I couldn't get photo ID for T, which was required.  Unless you get a passport, there's not a lot of photo ID options for an 11-year-old around here.  Ontario Health Cards only have a picture above a certain age, because kids change so damn fast that by the next doctor's appointment they probably look nothing like the picture on the card.

So we just pretend they all look like pretty flowers instead.  (Instead of their picture, you get a picture of a white trillium instead.  I Google-image-searched the hell out of variations of 'Kids OHIP card' and 'Children's Ontario Health Card' but all I could find were adult versions so if you're outside of Ontario, you're just going to have to take my word for it, as I'm not about to post my OWN kid's OHIP card on here.  Don't be silly.)

Also, no elementary schools around here have actual Student Cards.  That's just for high school kids.

So I told her this but assured her that we were going to go and that I would try to argue my way out of the photo ID thing.  I considered lying and telling the registration people that I had ordered a passport but that it had yet to arrive in the mail.

It was all kind of moot because I didn't foresee that we would actually miss the registration deadline, seeing as I had searched their site for a registration deadline and didn't see one so I had figured they were on all day.  We had left later than anticipated (the goal was to leave the house by 8, we got out around 9:30) and by the time we got to Yorkdale mall and caught the subway down to Front Street, it was almost noon, and the people at the Convention Center told us that registration closed at 9:30 that morning.  T was a little upset so we found a quiet area so she could have a moment, and so I could figure out for a contingency plan, which came in the form of a bus tour around the city.

Truth be told, the family rate for the bus tour was kind of pricey and at first I had said no, but got to thinking about it and went back and haggled with the guy, explaining that A) the Family rate included two adults and I was only one and that I had travelled with these kids only to have my daughter gravely disappointed ON HER BIRTHDAY NO LESS (not ENTIRELY untrue.. it was her birthday celebration day) and got about 20-25% off the price of the Family pass.  The bus tour included a boat tour of the Toronto Harbour, so once we got to the Harbourfront, we wandered around looking for drinks as my kids were ill-dressed for a day in the sun that was supposed to be spent waiting around the air-conditioned Metro Convention Center.  I got ripped off by a pop machine that stiffed me roughly four bucks from a $10 bill.  Once we had killed enough time we got on the boat for our tour, which turned out to be a relaxing half-hour journey around the Toronto Islands.

The Toronto Skyline from my side of the boat.
After returning to shore, the two older girls wanted to go on a paddle boat ride.  Reegs and I went and checked out a free museum nearby, The Power Plant, while they waiting in line but sadly the museum didn't offer much.  Call me a Philistine if you will, but sometimes I think 'Contemporary Art' is a fancy-shmancy term for "Weird, and kind of sparse."  It took about 15 minutes to go through the whole thing.  We took longer in the bathroom. At least I didn't pay to get in, so that's something.

After the paddle boats we headed back to the subway as it was getting too late to hop back on the bus (kind of rendering the bus thing not worth the money... although the kid we saw that kept declaring with tiny fist pumped "I. LOVE. THE BIG RED BUS!" over and over again to his parent's chagrin kind of made it worth it).  This was all three girls first time riding the subway and was an interesting and slightly nerve-wracking experience.  I guess having walls zoom by a mere inch from your window combined with the sound of steel on steel can be scary for any first timer.

We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, which seemed like a good idea for a kids birthday.. kind of somewhere in between fast-food kid-mecca and grown-up sit-down dinner.  We ordered one ginormous dessert and between the four of us we still couldn't get through the gobs of brownies and ice cream and whipped cream.

Driving home from the city in the summer on a Sunday is definitely a great thing about living in Cottage Country.. you're almost always guaranteed to be facing the heaviest traffic on your way home, breezing along the Northbound lanes of the 400 while the city folks sit in bumper to bumper traffic on the Southbound.

All in all it was a great day and the thing that was especially nice was that all three girls were very well behaved and appreciative.  T and I have been butting heads quite a bit lately as she has entered into a typically self-centered pre-adolescent stage.. it's like pre-teens kind of regress to that toddler-stage where they don't actually realize that other people are people and may have needs and wants that don't revolve around and instantly gratify their own.  But even with the disappointment upon our arrival to the City, there was no whining, no fighting with her sister, no complaining and no pushing for more, more, more.  It was refreshing and I made sure to let her know that.. I enjoy doing things for them, but I like it even more when I know they appreciate it.

So tomorrow my baby girl turns 11.  Time doesn't ever go backwards, does it?  Not even for a minute.

************************************
So in other news, I've now been awarded three times for the Liebster Award so I'm thinking I better get off my ass and thank the folks who've passed it on to me:



So thanks bunches to:

Crystal at Ideally Speaking, a socially active mom and closet comic geek which is how we initially got talking at work way back in the day.

Vanessa at Five Things About Nothing Important whose blog I really need to check out more 

Heidi Millerick at Eight Days A Week, who I've also been lax in checking out.

I may get around to passing this on, but I think for now, I'll just say that if it's in my blog roll over there ---> then it's probably worth taking a peek at.  I know others worth reading but I just don't link as they keep a lower profile.

Yeah, it's a total cop-out, I know.


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