Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I have a wonderful American wife(ish.)  We're not hitched because neither of us believe in idea; we are life partners raising amazing kids together.  Today, we celebrated American Thanksgiving in the style that, as we often wonder, makes us curious why reality TV producers aren't chasing us down for a contract.

We're both sick.  She with a nasty cold.  Me with a flu.

I locked myself out of the house on the first blizzard of our winter season and had to drive on very treacherous roads across our excessively sprawling city to retrieve one from one of the aforementioned wonderful kids at his school.  This, with two hungry kids in tow and a friend who I haven't seen in months.

On arriving home, one wonderful kid who is having some struggles right now bit the friend, who had kindly brought him some snacks to get him through the monumental car ride which coincided with the time he expects lunch.

Prior to locking myself out, I flushed my family ring (birthstones of ours and all our children, one of the few important material things to me,) down the toilet.  Of course, I realized too late.  After I'd locked myself out of the house.

I also had the far from pleasurable experience of sitting down at my computer to input orders for a fundraiser at our daughter's school, only to have a bed bug crawl out of an order form.  I do not think I can fully explain the panic or trauma of this.  I killed it.  And found another in the order.

And then of course, our increasingly conservative, deceptive, immoral government, via the most recent awful Premier, Jim Prentice announced he was thwarting a very important Motion brought to the Legislative Assembly to protect sexual minority and gender variant students in schools.  Of course, he didn't have details.  Just that instead of protecting vulnerable students he would make it possible for them to go to court if they are discriminated against.  Wait times on Human Rights Tribunals are currently over 2 years.  So IF someone has the strength to fight a legal battle AND the money to do so, s/he can. He'll add sexual orientation as a right to the Alberta Human Rights Act--SOMETHING THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE WHEN SEXUAL ORIENTATION WAS ADDED TO THE CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS IN 1998, a decision made based on a case that occurred IN ALBERTA. And Stephen Mandel, former mayor of my city, stood by his side in support, showing all he ever did when in mayoral office was offer lip service and try to gain votes through his Pride involvement.  All sickening.  All aimed at undoing the work of an MLA who actually cares about people, not about being a politician, and put months and more hours than can be counted into producing a Motion that would help some of our most vulnerable students.

But it's Thanksgiving and though I managed to have one not so positive as I may have liked, I have a lot to be thankful for.  And thankful I am.  I am thankful that I have a wife(ish) who loves and supports me.  I am thankful to have four great kids who are (biting aside) filling the world with a whole lot of positive.  I am thankful to have a friend who could forgive a child who bit her.  I am thankful for friends who work through difficult times with me and offer support.  I am grateful that I have potable tap water, a home to live in, two cats to cuddle, healthy, nutritious food to eat, and the opportunity to work for that MLA who never lets up, always keeps up the fight for what is right no matter what the Conservative throw her way.  I am grateful for so much privilege that I took for granted before I lived in the third world: the previously mentioned drinkable tap water, less pollution than so many places, and enough mental health to keep going in this world and keep trying to change the wrongs... for these and many other things I am thankful today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My babies need less pain.

Life in this house has been hard.  There are ongoing, troubling struggles facing our little guy.  Our daughter has been experiencing severe anxiety and more serious, traumatic moments.  She has been crying constantly, not sleeping, desperate for the love of someone who has left.
The world seems to throw more pain and injustice at my children at every turn.  These poor children are facing struggles, losses, and discriminations bigger than most adults ever do and neither has two digits in her/his age.
Bus accidents, emergency room trauma, schoolyard bullying, abandonment by loved ones... all in the space of 3 months.
Please, universe, let up on my little ones.  They are hurting.  This momma's heart is hurting to see them hurt but most of all they are hurting and that needs to stop.
Please send only caring, mindful people into their lives.  They need less of the hard stuff.  They really do.  Please.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How You Know When You Are Broken

If Amazing Grace is played on the bagpipes (religious or not, and I am not) and you do not cry, you are probably broken.  I assume I am, because, as a British-Canadian reared in Scottish heritage, years of Highland dancing, haggis, Robbie Burns day, and The Skye Boat Song,  I was hitherto physically unable to prevent fully involuntary tears at the very sound of a chanter blown.  Amazing Grace, though I have no religion whatsoever, has always made me cry, usually the sort of runny-nosed, body-shaking sobs that embarrass me beyond belief precisely because I do NOT believe.  But bagpipes are unique in their ability to pierce my heart and render me a soggy bag of saline, mucus, and sodden tissues.
This week, Amazing Grace on the bagpipes didn't touch me.  Didn't so much as make me flinch.  I had no reaction AT ALL.  In fact, I noted that prior to Amazing Grace, a Fling was played, and I was keen to dance, but didn't so much as smile at the thought of my dearest held Highland dance.  (Four or six step, I love the strength, solidity, and firmness of the dance, a show of both muscle and grace.)

Bagpipes ensure tears.  Bagpipes hold an emotional place in my body that resonates throughout.  Bagpipes are my retirement plan.  Learning them.  I bought a chanter in Edinburgh in 2003, readying for the day I would have time for lessons.  Readying to play and cry simultaneously.  Readying for those two opening notes every piper plays in preparation for a piece of music.  Am I so broken that I will never make it to that day?  I might be.

And yet the most mundane and ridiculous of things make me cry.  Birds flying.  I don't even like birds; in fact, I hate birds (I wish them no ill, but I can't stand them.)  Rice crackers too far back on the grocery store shelf for me to reach.  Banal, insidious pop songs on the radio tuned in hopes the rapidity and pep of the score will prevent Julius from shrieking as we drive.

When Britney Spears's "Oops, I Did It Again" leaves you wet-faced and tasting thick salt in your mouth, there is a problem folks.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Point Form Rants Because I Am Used Up

  • Aids to Daily Living gives me and Julius's OT a different story every time I talk to them.  Today, my assigned clerk told me she left a message for me saying Julius needed to be reassessed because she didn't know who she was talking to or what my issue was.  I asked if that was how things usually worked, calling people without knowing who they are talking to or what their issue is.  She then told me Julius had been cut off in June.  Then she said she transferred his vendor in July.  And she has no record of reassessment.  She emailed his OT yesterday and told her that Julius doesn't meet the criteria for the product he had previously been approved for.  More, this flurry of responses came after THREE months of leaving messages and not getting called back.
  • I went to my MLA's constituency office (that is, not the MLA I work for, but the one who, unfortunately, represents me) to ask for assistance in dealing with AADL because, well, the clerk can't keep a story straight and seems to be the reason Julius lost his funding.  I walked in to the constituency office and was immediately told no one could come in without an appointment; I was given a card and told I could call at 2pm to make an appointment (it was 11:15am at the time.)  I called and was told I could have an appointment to discuss my issue in the 2nd week of December.  I said I didn't need to discuss it, I just needed someone to contact the MLA Health Liaison to investigate the mishandling of my son's account/case.  This, I was told, required an appt and I could have one in the 2nd week of December.  
  • I do that exact job (among others) in the constituency office where I work.  I (and my colleagues) take walk-ins and deal with the issue asap, usually within an hour or two. If an appt is made, it is because a constituent has called for one, not because one is required, and it is within 24 hours.  My constituency office has a larger population than the constituency in which I live.

  • I have tried to book an electrician through Handyman Connection for weeks now.  They've cancelled twice and yesterday left me a voice mail proposing a visit on Saturday at 10am.  I didn't have time to respond yesterday (because we are busy helping people in that above mentioned constituency office in which I work) and this morning had a confirmation email for a 2pm appointment on Saturday.  I responded saying the number of errors/cancellations was adding up to no service, so I would look elsewhere.  The manager called asking me to reconsider because it was just human error and I should be more understanding.  4 times?! On my first attempt to use their service?!  I wasn't rude; I just said I was put off by it and would look elsewhere.  This call really irked me.

  • Last week I loaned an expensive piece of sensory equipment to a woman who thought she might like to buy it for her son (Julius doesn't use it, never has, it was like new-- very sad it was a failure for him but thought someone else could use it.)  She or someone in her house broke it, she had me pick it up as she refused to return it (the drive was too long?!) and then sent nasty emails for days about her family not being responsible for breaking it because her husband has Aspergers.  WTF?  Are you kidding me?!???

  • I had a dental appointment this morning.  I love my dentist but for some reason, while she had her hands in my mouth and I could not speak, she talked to me like I was a therapist at her utter despair about her son being diagnosed with autism.  Why do dentists talk to us when we cannot respond?  And why about something so personal (because she knows I have kids with autism-- but her employee, my dental assistant, does too...)?  And why so negative when she knows that is not at all how I view autism (because we've talked autism before with her hands in my mouth) and that I am insulted by the burden/tragedy/pity/Autism Speaks view of autism.

  • I have to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony tomorrow.  I am anti-war.  I am anti-Remembrance Day.  I am opposed to a day that commemorates dead soldiers but not dead civilians, not the people in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, not the interned Japanese-Canadians, not the Syrian civilians being bombed (sorry, Canada isn't bombing in Syria, they are contributing to the mission of securing our threatened freedom-- grrrr) and killed, not the Aboriginal people targeted by the government with smallpox, with residential schools, with and Indian Affairs Dept (racist name) that has enacted legislation to ensure Treaty status is extinct within 80 years.  No, Remembrance Day instead honours people who have signed up to kill.  When I was a child, it was the soldiers in the "never again" World Wars, now it's the soldiers in Afghanistan.  Maybe (MAYBE) if there was a National Statutory holiday marking the loss of victims of war and government genocide, those people who did not sign up for death camps, concentration camps, residential schools... then maybe I would be less horrified that we take a day to honour people whose job is to kill.  The glorification of war in this society sickens me.  When our country (and many other Western nations, the US, UK, much of Europe) solve their international problems with bombs, guns, and other violence, WHY are people surprised that people inside our countries respond to their own perceived injustices with violence?  It's sanctioned and condoned if the government does it; how can they think that doesn't send a message about how to respond to problems to their citizens?!?!!!

  • Julius is STILL having traumatic responses to his bus accident and subsequent time spent stranded on the bus but the bus company STILL refuses to release any information about what transpired.  I've engaged a lawyer who has sent THREE requests for information to the bus company and it's insurer and they haven't so much as acknowledged his letters.  My baby is hurting hard and they can't be bothered to provide information that could help me/his therapists help him.  I am so frustrated.

  • Alberta Health Services STILL has not responded to the complaint I submitted to Patient Relations in August regarding the Stollery ER's refusal (twice) to examine Julius, refusal to discuss sedatives to allow for examination, improper physical restraint despite my demand that they stop in the two unsuccessful attempts to examine him... four visits.  All hideous.

  • I am so distraught by the general state of the world.  Apathy of voters.  The hideous federal and provincial government.  Everything in this world that keeps failing my children.  The school system, the supposed support systems, family members...  

I am fed up.  And that is an entirely exhausted understatement.  There are a lot of swears in me today.

This is the opening paragraph from CBC' article about Remembrance Day:

It began as a visceral response to the terrible death toll of the First World War, but for Canadians, Remembrance Day has evolved into a tribute to all military dead and a celebration of the Canadian Forces in general.

And that, the celebration of a group of people assembled for the purpose of problem solving through violence, is precisely what disgusts me. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Play Out Apparel-- You Want These Underpants!

In August Jen and I had the amazing chance to visit with my most beloved cousin, who lives in London (the real one, for my Southern Ontario friends) in Boston because by a strange alignment of the stars, we happened to both be there at the same time.  Her friends in Boston hosted a fabulous BBQ and invited us, so I got to meet many of the people who've figured in her life that I've only heard of til now.  It was our first time seeing each other on this continent.  Very amazing.  Very wonderful.  And five years since I'd seen her previously (though we did stay in her house in London... she was abroad at the time.)
Among the truly fantastic people we met were Abby and Sylvie, a couple in New York, who just debuted their gender neutral underwear line at New York Lingerie Fashion Week.  It's queer, attractive, fun, and utterly wonderful (I have been reading Clarice Bean books to Imogen of late, so 'utterly' keeps popping up in my speech.)
You MUST check them out.  (I am not being paid for this.  I simply think they are awesome and deserve as much airtime and sharing as possible.)

You can find their product line at:

I supported their Kickstarter campaign to get the undies on stage at NYC Lingerie Fashion Week, so these stunning trunks will soon be covering my cheeks:

Perfect for my nerdish self.  Perfect for my bum that wants to be a work of art.  Seriously, check them out.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Weighing in on Jian Ghomeshi

Not a long post. I will say this.  I saw him take a girl too intoxicated to consent to his room. She spoke openly about having had sex with him the next day. Whether she considers it rape or not, being held up to walk is drunk to the extent that consent cannot be given.  More, he was not.

I talked to people about my disgust with him at the time.  I got "consenting adults" responses.  Too drunk to walk is too drunk to consent, by law, whether a barely adult girl is starstruck or not.

One incident witnessed two and a half years ago is hardly a conviction for all that is emerging in allegations now.  But it makes me prone to disbelieve his defence of his sexual activities being always consensual.  I suspect Ghomeshi doesn't actually know what consent looks like regardless of his Facebook post.

If any good can come of this, may it be that men in Canada, and men watching around the world, pay more attention to consent and why it matters.  If not because they care about women, at least because they want to avoid Jiangate scenarios.  Preferably because they care about and respect women though.

And of course, consent in all sexual relationships should be considered thoughtfully.  It's just that we know statistically that men are more likely to rape (i.e. not seek consent) women than are any other sexual coupling demographic.

I Jumped Off The Facebook and Twitter Bandwagons

About two weeks ago, maybe more, I'm not sure but almost certainly not as long ago as a month, I left Facebook and Twitter.  I was an early adopter of both.  I used both, Facebook more so, heavily.  Initially, my Facebook usage was about staying in touch with people "back home."  That was perhaps a year into Facebook, when critical mass had been hit such that I could reach a couple hundred people with a single status update.
Those were the days when Facebook provided the opening to any statement, "I am..." and we all dutifully filled in the blank.
So I posted photos of my daughter, eventually of my son (his birth being what my cousin dubbed The First Live Facebook Birth four days into 2008,) I accepted friend requests from people I hadn't seen since kindergarten and vice versa because that was how it all seemed to work.  Former teachers, forgotten childhood friends resurrected, distant fourth cousins... at one point my friend list was approaching 1000.
That's when I realized I needed to cull.  Just because I COULD locate the girl who was my "blood sister" (we pricked our fingers with a safety pin and then pressed them together, making our blood forever joined, though when I moved at the end of that grade 2 year I didn't see her again or miss her) I didn't NEED to pull her back into my life.  If our lives had gone different ways at 8 years old, it was probably for a reason, right?
But there were people who couldn't be culled.  Imagine the ripples of disconnecting from a family member?  (Yes, that didn't go well and I won't dredge up that tale here.)
From 2007 up until two weeks ago (or thereabouts,) I used social media to share, to complain, to celebrate, to jump onto a soapbox, to connect, to reach out, to find community... and I began to come to the realization that more of my life was being spent maintaining all that than actually living.  Probably hours a day (I didn't count, I'm guessing) went into quick check on timelines, quick updates, a photo upload here and there, a brief comment on someone's status.  But there was no actual engagement.  A sentence or two don't substitute for a multiple-paged letter to an old friend with whom I want to maintain contact.  The click of a 'like' button on a photo is not equivalent to a paragraph asking how the child in the photo is progressing with an issue about which I once knew.
Facebook had become for me too many people, too much information, too many things to follow, and a constant feeling of not being able to keep up with anyone.  Keep up with who?  A cousin I haven't seen in decades? People I've felt obligated to be 'friends' with for various reasons, friendship not one of them? Hours that might be spent writing some poems, a letter to my grandmother, letters to the old friends I DO want to be in touch with, essays, art... the list goes on.  I did not let it interfere with my children; Facebook and Twitter simply took up the majority of my time outside of work and parenting.  So it was interfering with my real world.  With time with my wife (rather than parallel Facebooking beside my wife.)  In short, it was a time suck.
Twitter was worse.  Twitter lead me down the road of comments to brief to convey meaningful thoughts and almost all with complete strangers, often twisting into arguments.  The "I can't go to sleep, someone on the internet is being stupid" joke was a sad reality of my time on Twitter.

None of this is to say that all interactions on those two social media platforms were bad.  Not at all.  I DID find community with other people who have autism and/or have children with autism; I DID get to share photos with many people genuinely interested with just one click.  I often heard about local or world news (real news, not celebrity births or sports scores) first on those platforms.  I often had good conversations with people who debated respectfully, people whose ideas I considered and which sometimes shifted my own in various ways.

That said, for me, the negative elements outweighed the positive.  Too much time.  Wading through photos of peoples' dinner to get to info about the meat of their lives.  Ignoring the racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic/transphobic/conservative and frankly, just plain stupid comments made by individuals I felt obligated to maintain as "friends." And the feeling that all of it was just cursory, just a skim of the lives of the individuals I want to engage with, the people I want in my life in a real way, not a single-sentence-about-weather way.

So I jumped.  I jumped right off the Facebook train and left the Twitterverse trailing the train.

In the days immediately following my departure, I felt lighter.
In the weeks that followed by departure, I realized that my thoughts had actually changed during the 8 years I spent using primarily Facebook with doses of twitter.  I noticed that my thoughts formed as if they had an audience beyond my head, as if they were all potential fodder for tweets or status updates.  In fact, my brain was parsing how I viewed the world in soundbites; if I had a complex thought, I automatically began the process of converting it to a shorter, simpler, more one-or-two-sentence sharable tidbit.  I say this in the past tense, but it is still happening.  I am disturbed by it.  I am trying to change it.  This blog is part of that attempt.

I haven't written at length, aside from in a professional context, in years now.  A paragraph felt like big writing two months ago.  So I'm trying to write more and write longer.  Here, on this blog but also in letters and my journal and in word processors, resurrecting long-abandonned stories, ideas, unwritten essays.

It will be a process.  This little engine needs grease and use, polish and attention, to re-establish herself.  Please be patient as I stumble through.  I've never gone through the process of recovering from socialmediaitis before.