The cancel culture…

Cis white vegans are the worst!

Some might say I shouldn’t take it seriously but it’s hard not to when every. single. word. is aimed at a part of you. It’s even harder when it comes from a friend, someone who knows I fall under each of those categories. I responded with, “Umm gee thanks. Stereotype much?” then got back a series of rapid fire responses, sent so fast that I received them all at once, explaining it was exactly one person they were mad at and that one person was racist and I “obviously” agreed with her so must be racist too so they’d be happy to yeet me off their page (phew). I’d already been unfriended before I even read the last comment and they never even found out if I agreed with her or not.

The very next day, another friend wrote a post that said, in part, that white women are white first and then women. I took it literally, thought it meant we were born white first then female, and jokingly replied that I was pretty sure both happened at conception. I went on to agree that white women have far more privileges than black women. That was taken to be white supremacy (if it helps I think that having black skin and being a woman also both happen at conception). The friend proceeded to unfriend me and then message me to have me explain what I’d posted. I believe that’s called putting the cart before the horse. They haven’t replied since. They had been Facebook friends with me for years, followed my posts, and knew what the content of my post and my views were like, enough to know this was out of character for me (remember they did message me to ask why I said what I did), yet they still unfriended me because they didn’t like how I phrased one reply in five years.

internet and real youThe hard part is this isn’t the first time I’ve fallen into a situation like this. I’m finding an increasing and uncomfortable amount of inflexibility these days, especially in younger adults. For some reason people seem to feel as if their friends need to have all the same beliefs and opinions as them and, if you differ, you must be wrong and out you go; you’re yeeted to the curb like yesterday’s garbage. Often it’s incredibly fast, the person’s made up their mind and decided you need to go before finding out what you even meant. Heck, like I said above, both friends removed me before I even had a chance to speak. Why? Where is the friendship in that? Friendship involves mutual respect and understanding, it’s not hair trigger and walking on eggshells in case you say something wrong. You’re supposed to look for common ground and mutual interests, not nitpick over minor details and search for reasons to uncheck the friend box.

I know there are times you have to get rid of a friend. I had an online friend several years ago, then I posted a benign, “Axial tilt is the reason for the season” meme and she became frothing at the mouth mad and devolved into a series of incredibly racist comments. There was no misunderstanding, she made it extremely clear. She might as well have worn a t-shirt saying “I’m racist and I’m proud of it”. The friendship ended immediately with no regrets. Another was an IRL friend I knew from a couple of community groups. We got along fine until she realized who my ex was… and I realized she was a friend of his. Even that would have been fine except she suddenly decided that I a) had to realize what an incredibly great guy he is and b) needed to get back together with him immediately even though we haven’t been together in twenty years. I told her several times that he had been emotionally and financially abusive to me and had treated both myself and my two kids terribly for years and that I didn’t want to get back with him or even speak about him. She ignored my wishes and continued to badger me on reconciling with her “great guy”. By that time we weren’t living near each other so I simply blocked her. Again no regrets. But this is different.

These days it’s like there’s a socially acceptable checklist of words and phrases to use and say, a culturally acceptable clique of White people and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) who decide what’s correct.  I see it time and time again where someone’s trying their best and has the best of intentions but gets lambasted because it wasn’t done or said exactly how things are getting done right now. No room for recognizing good intentions (remembering these are good intentions that caused no harm), no honest constructive criticism, just how dare you!!! I’ve seen people post on multiple occasions, “Is it safe to ask this here? I really want to know but don’t want to get yelled at…” And, yes, I know that BIPOC people have been dealing with crap for years but it’s not right for anyone to feel like that no matter who they are.

Back around nine years ago I joined a forum called Regretsy and made friends with a poster who used neopronouns. I had never, ever known anyone who used anything other than him or her, it was completely new to me. I asked a bunch of questions, got answers, then settled down with a sheet of paper and a few practise sentences. I worked hard to make sure I got those pronouns right. If he (the pronouns have changed) got mad at my initial fumbling questions, well I wouldn’t be transphobic but I’d be a lot more cautious and wary. I definitely would have been hesitant to ask any similar questions to anyone and there’s a lot that I wouldn’t have learned, a lot which Colin needed me to learn.

We pride ourselves, or at least we used to pride ourselves, on our compassion and on our understanding that we’re all equal. Equal rights… equal love… equity… we were trying to make the world kinder and a whole lot more fair. But more and more I’m seeing a “throw the whole man out” attitude. That person has “problematic” views? Just don’t speak to them anymore. Doesn’t matter if they’re your grandmother or a close family friend, they’re garbage now. Yeet them out with the trash.

When Colin changed his pronouns back in, umm, I think sometime around 2014, my parents couldn’t grasp it at all and refused to use them. They refused again when he changed his name to Emma for a year-ish and switched to she/her. By today’s standards he shouldn’t be speaking to them, ignoring the fact that they still loved him dearly and spent time with him and that he wanted to keep them in his life. Life isn’t black and white. They weren’t simply “problematic”. They’re his much loved grandparents. Not everyone has to (or should be) tossed to the curb like yesterday’s paper.

Another issue with this black and white, that person doesn’t count because they’re problematic/racist/transphobic thinking is people forget the person is still, just that, a person. You can disagree 125% with someone’s views and opinions and still recognize their basic humanity. I read an article today from British Columbia where a Native Canadian reserve has a covid-19 outbreak and the surrounding area has had a racist outbreak. Okay, I get it, racism is horrible but racists are not literal trash (like the garbage you put at the curb). They are still people. Debate them if you want (I do), explain why they’re wrong (I do this too), but back off before it gets personal. One person that was interviewed was one of the racists, who now realizes he was wrong, which is great except people were wishing death on his children (like multiple people) and he’s ended up suicidal. We’re supposed to be the good guys here. We’re not supposed to be driving people to the point of killing themselves. And we’re certainly not supposed to be hoping that innocent children die of covid to teach a stranger a lesson.

The thing is, sometimes people won’t agree with you 95% of the time. Or even 80% or 75%. That doesn’t make them bad people. It just makes them not you, and that’s okay. People are allowed to be different. And, as long as they’re causing no harm, it’s fine to live and let live. Not every opinion needs to be a battleground. Not every view has to be an “agree with me or you’re yeeted” perspective. Sometimes it’s fine to just discuss the things you have in common and back off on the other stuff. So your aunt thinks aliens built Stonehenge and that Elvis is still alive. Alrighty then, moving right along. You disagree over politics… okay, unless they’re raging asstwats and/or racist, maybe just take a deep breath and change the subject when T-Rumplestiltskin rears his ugly head. It doesn’t make them Satan’s cousin.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I want to leave this world a better place than when I arrived. Standing up for human rights is amazing but if we end up so narrow sighted that we ignore the simple fact that we’re all human, we’re not going to accomplish anything. Take the time to listen.

Doing acts of self-kindness…

I’d planned on going out earlier except I was exhausted after lunch, the kind of exhaustion that muddles words and drags down your eyelids, so I lay down for an hour. I needed to go to Walmart to pick up my printed scrapbooking pages and a 32 can carton of wet cat food; Walmart’s a half hour away by foot. I also needed to stop off at Dollarama which is on the way. I looked at the time and realized it was going to be dinnertime by the time I walked over, shopped, and walked home. Then I thought about “future me”. Would she rather I left right now, leaving her to tackle everything when she was cold, tired, and hungry or would she rather I did some prep work while I was fresh from a nap and ready to go? The answer seemed obvious. When I headed out, all that was left to do was chop the veggies and the actual cooking. I’d even put water in the pasta pot and premeasured the penne.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “future me” lately. It’s the one resolution that’s really stuck. It’s one huge way to treat myself kindly and with respect and it’s making life run so much more smoothly as well. I can’t do anything for “past me” except think kindly of her and assure her that she did the best she could but I can do a lot for “future me”. It’s so easy to procrastinate and put everything imaginable off until later but, when you get right down to it, you’re still going to be the same person. It’s not like you’re going to wake up tomorrow and say, “Oh wow! I love day old crusty dishes!” So I stop and ask myself if “future me” is going to handle the situation any better than “present me”. The vast majority of the time the answer is no. Sometimes it’s yes and I leave “future me” to handle it while I take Tylenol and head off to bed.

Love yourself firstIt’s just plain nice to treat myself. To prep breakfast at night so all I have to do is put the oatmilk in the microwave and pop the already cut english muffin in the toaster. To look into the kitchen area as I turn off the lights and see clean counters and an empty sink. To realize that everything for my zoom class is all ready and waiting for me at the table. It not only feels good but it’s making life run a hell of a lot smoother too. Not much makes your day run smoother than always being a step or two ahead of yourself. And, like I said, a clean kitchen. Damn, that’s a good feeling!

I find that New Year’s resolutions tend to last about a week before I discard them and go back to normal but I definitely think I picked a winner this time around. I highly recommend giving it a try. Feel free to let me know how it goes!

Finding joy…

There is a country store both my Mom and I like to visit. It truly is a country store, surrounded by farms. They’re easily spotted by the white chicken pickup truck parked on a large mound, complete with a giant egg in the back. There’s an old tractor resting beside the gravel parking lot for the kids to play on and the porch always has decor for sale. Inside is utter chaos. The front contains shelves and bins of food topped by decor (and a cafe to the side) while the back contains so very much decor… and some bins of food and a clothing area. It is a veritable labyrinth filled with everything from cute magnets to wooden baskets. Amidst all this is always a lit birch tree. I am drawn to it every time we shop there then repelled by the seventy dollar price tag. Each time I tell myself “next visit” but that next visit with money and determination never occurs.

Then there’s Marshalls, a store both Colin and I love. They get so many beautiful items and, at Christmas, also have lit birch trees. I check the Boxing Day sales every year but haven’t had any luck. They sell out before I get there. I bought a small silver battery operated tree for my bedside table but that’s just not the same.

This year is different. Sadly Marshalls and Winners are closed due to lockdown; really sadly because I have gift cards for them. They don’t have an online store either. Amazon’s trees were okay but they didn’t qualify for free shipping (even over $35) and the shipping was $22. But Chapters… now that was a different story. Their tree was 33% off and the shipping was only $10. My finances could handle it, the bills were paid, so I clicked the order button and waited until today when it arrived.

my viewI can’t think of much else to get for this tiny apartment. My walls are decorated, I have my furniture, I have my tree ♥, and I’m good for decor. The tree was, as they put it, the icing on the cake. Now I get to focus on filling my life with the less tangible things. Writing in here, chatting with friends, reading, petting the cats, talking to family, cooking yummy food (really… I made the most delicious carrot orange ginger soup tonight and added fresh dill to it). That’s one of my, well I’d call it a resolution but it’s more of a suggestion to myself. It basically sums up to being patient with myself and treating myself with kindness and grace. I do that with everyone else so why don’t I do it with me?

The birch tree is one of those kindnesses. It’s been years coming and years postponed. It might just be a material thing but it’s something that brings me joy and leaves a smile on my face. And on a gloomy day in January, that’s worth a lot.

Changes…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It started drizzling and just didn’t let up. Meanwhile the temperature hovered around the freezing point. I made sure we had several big bottles of water, put spaghetti sauce in the crockpot (thanks Facebook memories for reminding me), and checked our flashlights and candles. Colin, who’s usually planning worst case scenarios for every storm, was scornful.

“Nothing’s going to happen Mom,” he muttered… more than once.

And he was right, kind of. Nothing happened to us at all. Our lights didn’t even flicker. But our block was the only one with power for at least an eight block radius; a tiny dab of light in a sea of black. And, during all that drizzle and wondering what was going to happen, I began to write.

I had thought about writing a blog for a while at that point. I knew Colin was questioning his sexual orientation and gender presentation but everything I could find was about children, there was nothing talking about raising a gender creative teen. That definitely was a niche that needed filling.

I got busy and set up the whole blog then wrote the first post, all without telling Colin. At first he did not want me to write the blog at all then I read him the post and he immediately changed his mind. He thought the blog sounded good but no face shots and no real names. We used artfully posed shots and pseudonyms for years.

And now it’s been seven years exactly. I can’t believe how much has changed since then. We’d only been living in North Oshawa for a year when I started. Now I’m living east of Oshawa and Colin’s north of Toronto… and we have been for almost a year. Colin was in grade 10 and he’s been out of high school with his “certificate of completion” for several years now. I was working at Tim Hortons but then became suicidal and crashed in 2016. I’ve since been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, severe anxiety, autism, ADD, and agoraphobia. I’m on disability. Colin went from being gender non-binary to female for two years. Then he found out he’d lose his fertility on hormones (and we couldn’t afford a sperm bank) so he went back to being male. Well as male as you can be when you only detransitioned for fertility reasons. And I’ve since discovered that I’m asexual and this close to being aromantic by being demiromantic. I’m finding I’m way more interested in women than men but that could simply be because I only have female friends at the moment.

Colin and I croppedWe’re heading into the 8th year of the blog. Instead of being a working single Mom I’m a disabled Granny. My visits with Colin are via Facebook video chats and are as pleasantly mundane as could be. I’ve seen his freshly shoveled deck and watched him scramble eggs. This year I’m hoping to focus more on helping me thrive… or at the very least to stop rating 7 and 8 out of 10 on the depression and anxiety scales. Small attainable goals. I’m sure I’ll succeed.

I won’t be writing again until after Christmas so I’d like to take this time to hope you have the best holiday ever, whether it’s in the past or yet to come, and that 2021 is peaceful, kind, and joyous!

Self help coming out my ears…

The first time I saw a therapist was in college. She was a nice lady and I felt so bad for her because all I did was sob through each session, I couldn’t manage to say anything. She suggested Prozac, in fact she might have been qualified enough to prescribe it, it’s been a long time since I saw her. But my Mom worked at the drug store and the pharmacist terrified her with the side effects. It was another decade before I took that medication.

Years later my marriage was rapidly dissolving. My ex haughtily informed me that I was being too hasty and he wanted to try counselling. Except he didn’t want to look and he’d only go if it was free. So I asked my doctor about that and about counselling for myself only to be told that both were expensive and free would be years… probably close to a decade. I left feeling defeated about the counselling for me and relieved I could guilt-free yeet my husband out of the apartment. No way was I putting up with ten more years of his bullshit!

It was again another decade before I found out about free therapy in my neighbourhood and I called immediately. I went on my own then I went jointly with my daughter and then Colin went on his own. Sadly there was a cap on the number of sessions we could take but it was definitely a help. Since then I’ve had another short term therapist who was really kind and friendly. Unfortunately he wanted me to carry a clipboard with me everywhere I went and fill out an 8.5×11 inch chart during every anxiety and panic attack. Because there’s nothing I want to do more when I feel like I’m going to die than fill out a chart! Needless to say my clipboard stays at home. Then I got a therapist, a friendly elderly man who immediately became severely ill and is on indefinite sick leave.

This would have ordinarily left me at loose ends but, thanks to covid (and I’m floored to say that), I’m doing fine. Because of covid there are zoom classes available from every organization and I signed up to every single one I could find. Which means that I joined four 1 1/2 hour long self-help classes this fall. This is on top of the three zoom exercises classes a week I’m already taking. And all the self-help classes had reading and homework.

It definitely wasn’t easy. My memory is awful so I’d forget which instructor said what plus three of the four classes were very similar, two of them even had “self compassion” in the name. I have noticed a difference in how I treat myself though. I treat myself kinder, forgive myself easier. I try to grant myself patience, especially during those times when I’m in a whirlwind of panic, positive I’ve screwed up everything… even though absolutely. nothing. is. going. on.

Would I ever do it again? I’d say no, it was too busy except… I saw the information for the winter groups and quite a few of them sound interesting. I’m going to have to take a closer look and make a few calls on Monday.

so many groups

Best laid plans…

Anyone searching for Facebook Notes tips, they’re a few paragraphs down

tardis ornament bokehI woke this morning to a cat nibbling on my fingers. That’s not out of the ordinary, not with Lara in the apartment. She’s a lovely cat, just lacking a bit with social skills (with cats too). I wasn’t in a rush so I stayed in my cosy nightgown while I brushed my teeth and fed the cats and chatted with my Mom and made my breakfast. I’d just settled down at the computer when I decided to open my email and see if there was an update on my Amazon order. It wasn’t due until Tuesday but sometimes they come a bit early… like now when the package was two towns away… clicks refresh… and out for delivery.

This was 10am and I had plans to go shopping with a friend of mine in the late morning to early afternoon (we were kind of winging it). Obviously that needed to be delayed. But how long could it take? And so I waited… and waited… and waited… while my parcel information just sat there doing nothing.

At 3:30pm I’d long since changed my plans to shopping tomorrow instead and cancelled our afternoon walk. But I had three very ripe bananas in my fruit bowl and a good banana bread recipe in my Facebook notes. I got out one bowl and the loaf pan then decided to call up the recipe before going any further. Notes has gotten harder to find recently so I went to my profile page and down to my about section then started scrolling… and it wasn’t there. I checked again and again, still nothing. I searched all over my page on both my tablet and computer and it just. wasn’t. there. A Facebook search called up a group of people who like notes and some notes apps but not my specific notes. And I wanted those notes. My Nana’s buttercream frosting recipe was in there and she died in 2003 so it’s not like I can ask her to rewrite it. My favourite pancake recipe which the long forgotten site removed. My hot and sour soup recipe which was modified from a product recipe. They’re irreplaceable.

Finally I did a Google search and struck paydirt. After a few false starts I found this link which lets you click on “my notes”. I was overjoyed until I realized I could only read the first couple of lines; the “see more” link wasn’t working. There’s a save option but that really only worked two or three times. But if you click on “comment” it will open up the link so you can see the whole post.

My first attempt at saving was to directly copy and paste to OpenOffice. This led to a weirdly formatted document chock full of lines. So I opened WordPress and pasted in there, thus removing the formatting, then copied and pasted into Open Office. I had to add the correct formatting but at least it was legible.

It was over an hour later by the time I got all the recipes copied to my computer and I no longer wanted to bake anything. Actually I no longer wanted to even cook anything, which is why I had half an English muffin for dinner tonight. Mmm… dinner of champions!

And, while I was eating my dinner, I was messaging another friend and telling her that my package wasn’t here yet but they still had another hour left in their estimate. I flipped over to the parcel information just in time to see the page update to “delivered”. And there it was on my doormat, much too late for me to do anything today.

But tomorrow’s another day, the stores will still be there, the trail ready to be walked, the bananas waiting to be smushed. And maybe I’ll have helped someone retrieve their Facebook notes… helped save a memory. As for now, my tardis ornament is safely on the tree, I have a stack of scrapbooking pages waiting and new photo sleeves to place them in, and I’m all ready to relax.

Remembrance…

remembrance day poppyEvery once in a while, when the stars align in exactly the wrong way, a war occurs. Of course it’s not that simple, nothing ever is. But it happens. And farmer’s fields and peaceful valleys and streams where children splashed and swam and quiet hamlets get ploughed into mud, trenches, and barbed wire.

Often, by then it’s too late to do anything else. There are marginalized citizens, either by religion or race, being (as Colin says) genocided. Often they’re pleading for intervention and yet… the ones who call the war are never the ones in battle. They’re never the ones who lie crying for their Mom while their life bleeds away and their guts mix with the mud. They don’t have to worry if the skinny teenager standing on the road ahead is innocent or covered in bombs and ready to kill them all. The ones in charge sleep in a comfortable bed every night and dine on a hot, well cooked meal every evening. The war they unleashed is an abstract in a place far away from their lives.

I remember being taught about World War I and the cavalry division. Cavalry had always played a huge role in the British Army so the commanders naturally placed them front and centre in the battlefield. Front and centre against tanks and machine guns. The cavalry didn’t stand a chance. The commanders soon realized this as the death toll climbed but they continued following the same plans because it had always worked before (against other calvary). Of course it wasn’t them or their children dying, it was the calvary and the foot soldiers so they continued.

The most frustrating part is every war starts out with a need for all parties to sit down and negotiate a treaty. They refuse and convince thousands of their people to die, ostensibly for their freedom. Eventually those same parties all sit down and negotiate a treaty… the exact same one they needed to negotiate before all those deaths. When you get right down to it, every single war is a needless war. They all boil down to one or more parties simply refusing to negotiate or refusing to negotiate fairly.

I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who. The Doctor, the main character, was a soldier in a huge, fictional war called the Time War and he gave a speech that I think is eminently suitable. I’ll pare out the parts that are specifically related to the show:

Ah. Ah, right. And when this war is over, when you have a homeland, what do you think it’s going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you’re very close to getting what you want. What’s it going to be like? Well? Oh, you don’t actually know, do you? Because, like every other tantruming child in history, you don’t actually know what you want. So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and when it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one? Maybe you will win! But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keeps turning. So, come on. Break the cycle.

Because it’s not a game. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk!

Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!

No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch! In other words “lest we forget”.

And so we were silent for two minutes yesterday in remembrance of World War I and II… and all the other wars. Silent so we wouldn’t forget. Silent because never again. And yet wars under a myriad of names are being waged all across this world. There are Muslims in concentration camps in China and children dying in camps in the United States. There’s an outright attack on the LGBTQ community happening through eastern Europe and Africa with Poland even declaring a third of the country LGBT free… as if every queer LGBTQ man, woman, and child is going to suddenly vanish. The Middle East is a hotbed of violence and, as always, everyone has their fingers poking in making it a hundred times worse.

We are all born the same way, birthed from a womb, whether it happens in a dirt floored hut or the private ward of a luxury hospital. We are all born innocent and ready to love and be loved. Everything else comes later. We’re born loving and taught to hate. If only there was a way we could teach all the children around the world to treat each other kindly, to accept each other’s differences, to listen and try to understand instead of resolving conflicts with fists, to hug consensually. It would make such a huge difference. Imagine those children as adults, having grown up learning fairness, kindness, and equity. Maybe someday it will happen but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

The wrong side of history…

Daddy Harold2

My grandfather

When I was a little girl, I loved hearing family stories and my grandparents loved telling them to me.

I heard all about how my great-great grandfather, who had itchy feet, travelled along the coast of Africa, trying to decide whether to stay there and mine before he settled on the coal mines in Nanaimo, British Columbia. And how his wife had to pack everything on her own and travel with two small girls, including taking a three week ocean trip where she needed to bring all their food and water as none was provided. They were simply given a space on the deck. Damn, I hope it didn’t rain!

And I heard about my great-grandmother who, by all accounts was a dour and serious woman, and how one morning everyone left to go fishing for the day and she got the notion to see if she was as flexible as she’d been as a teen. So she grabbed her ankles and hoisted them behind her head. She managed but wasn’t flexible enough to get them back down again. The family came home expecting to smell dinner and found her contorted, in the dark, on the kitchen floor.

Or the family favourite, which got trotted out every time the old song Grandfather Clock was sung around the campfire. A grandfather clock was bought when my grandfather was born, one he still had while I was growing up, and it worked beautifully right until he left to fight in WW2. Then it stopped completely. When the news came that the war was over and he was well and coming home his grandmother marched over to it, yelled, “Harold’s coming home you daft thing! Start working!” and gave it a good whack. It immediately began to work.

But my favourite story was when my great-great grandfather ploughed over an Indian.

My great-great grandparents came through the United States and what was then known as Indian Territory or Unclaimed Territory (even though it was patently obvious it had been claimed) to finally settle in Creston Valley in the foothills of British Columbia’s mountains. They were the first white settlers in that valley and they soon built their house and got to readying the ground for potatoes. And that was when the aforementioned event occured. My great-great grandfather was out ploughing the field when a young Native man crept up and tried to attack. All my great-great grandfather had to defend himself with was a plough. He was horrified as soon as he saw the young man bleeding on the ground and carried him into the house to nurse him back to health. The young man declared him to be his blood brother and my great-great grandparents began spending time in the Native village and learned their language. When it came time for my great-great grandmother to go to the hospital to deliver her astonishingly huge baby, she was taken, by canoe, to the ferry. My Mom remembers her grandmother speaking the Native language and her attempts at being taught. But she was only taught a few words before her grandmother passed away. Still, she remembered going to the Native reserve with her Dad to play with the kids while her Dad talked to the adults.

I knew the words reserve and reservation but I had no idea what they meant. To me they were just a different kind of housing, like some people live in subdivisions, some live in townhouse complexes, and some live in apartment buildings.

We learned about Native people in school. The different tribes throughout Canada, the homes they built, the food they ate, and whether they travelled by the seasons or stayed put. Nothing later than pre-colonial days, which left me feeling like Natives were pretty much extinct.

Then we went on a trip across Canada (one of several). My parents stopped off to visit one of my Dad’s friends and he had daughters around the same age as my next oldest sister and I. So we were given movie and popcorn money and sent off to enjoy the show. I went off with plenty of excitement, new people to talk to, and a movie to watch. This was going to be fun. Then the oldest girl opened her mouth and started ranting about Natives, or Indians as she called them. They were all drunks and lazy and stupid and worthless. They just hung around town causing trouble and hoping to get enough change for another drink. She ranted on and on while my sisters and I stared at each other in surprise. Nothing had set her off… nothing we’d said… nothing around us. It was bewildering and more than a bit creepy. Later on we told our parents what happened and my Mom looked sad. She explained that Native people didn’t have a history with alcohol so hadn’t built up any sort of tolerance and were more likely to be addicted. Later I realized that was only a small portion of the truth.

There is a picture tucked away in one of my Mom’s albums of my uncles dressed up for Hallowe’en. I can’t remember if they were both Indians or if one was an Indian and the other a cowboy. But my Nana was able to go to a store and buy a pattern to make that “costume”. Meanwhile actual Native children couldn’t wear their own clothes or speak their own language. I was taught Native history and Native youths weren’t learning it.

Technically it all started with Christopher Columbus getting lost and smacking into South America then going back and telling Europe about all the “free lands full of riches” he’d found but I’m going to start with our first prime minister. John A. MacDonald was a quick witted man. He also was a binge drinker who would drink himself senseless, with understandable reasons, namely the deaths of his wife and infant son and daughter. He also set up the framework for the biggest horror in Canadian history, residential schools. To quote:

“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.” 1879

To give you an idea of how callous the government was, they knew that around 50% of the Native children would die of disease and flat out didn’t care. As long as the remaining students were taught to be as white as possible, they would consider the schools to be a success.

At the best, the schools were boarding schools which taught English and other lessons. At worst the schools took physical, emotional, and sexual abuse to nightmarish levels, starting with being torn from family and carted to school in handcuffs at the age of three. In both scenarios the children were deposited back at home in their late teens with no memory of their language or culture and as strangers to their families. Many were suffering from severe trauma; if the abuse was nightmarish to read about then imagine how it would be for the child. And this went on for several generations. Genetics plays its part in alcoholism but several generations of systematic child abuse also plays a huge role.

Then there’s broken promises. Treaties for made for land (aka reservations) and those reservations were created. But, for the most part, they weren’t in good locations. They were in areas with soil too thin to grow crops, poor hunting, and more north than the natives had been. Those areas are remote with limited access to urban areas. The homes are in ill repair and often too small (and it’s not like there’s a Beaver Lumber around the corner to fix them up), the plumbing is out of date, the water is frequently unuseable, plus there’s little to do and the teens commit suicide at a horrific rate. But, you know, promises… some day in the future things will get better.

Right now there’s trouble in the Maritimes. Many years ago, back in the 1760’s, a treaty was drawn which allowed the Mi’kmaq to fish out of season (May to November). This was to permit them to fish for themselves and make a “moderate livelihood”. Now there’s a huge disagreement over what that means with Native fishermen saying it means they have the right to fish enough to earn a small amount, enough to support their families and have a bit left over, and the non-Native fishermen arguing that it means to fish for only what you need to survive. I, of course, went immediately to the dictionary which states:

Moderate (adjective): average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.

I’m going to have to go with the Natives here, average in amount does not sound like hand to mouth sustenance.

Meanwhile utter chaos and violence has broken loose with fishermen destroying Native lobster pounds (huts which contain circulating fresh water to hold live lobsters) and setting fire to buildings. Non-Natives claim the Natives are going to fish the lobster to extinction even though the experts say that isn’t the case. Meanwhile the RCMP are, for the most part, standing back and watching the violence. Probably not a huge surprise considering they were created specifically to clear Natives out of the prairies but disappointing nonetheless. And government at all levels is lamenting that something needs to be done… all the while hoping it’s someone else’s responsibility.

And I just keep hoping that someone in power will shape up, accept some responsibility, and try to sort these issues out because we really screwed up and it’s time to make amends.

Living in a Dollarama world…

Years ago, if someone asked me to think of a dollar store, my mind went to a dimly lit room with shelves stocked full of crap. Plastic dolls that vaguely resembled Barbie (if the lights were bad and you squinted enough). Ones with arms and legs that didn’t move and heads that popped off. Plastic wrapped note sets with pens that didn’t work and pads barely wide enough to write a single word. Plastic cars with wheels that fell off. And gaudy ceramic vases; I’m pretty sure the vases simply moved from one dollar store to the next as one store closed and another opened. I certainly never saw anyone buy one. Then I entered Dollarama.

I can’t remember why I was at that end of town. I just remember I had too much time to hang around the bus stop and not enough time to go anywhere… but there was a new dollar store right there. Right where Biway used to be. I walked in and WOW! It was bright and clean, an actual store instead of a hole in the wall. The first aisle held gift bags, nice ones at that, and real toys. I wandered up and down the aisles, keeping track of the time, and promising myself I’d go back. I definitely went back, I ended up working there.

Many years have passed since then. Dollarama’s spread a lot and improved even more. Of course their price has increased as well from a buck (or less) to $4 (or less) but I think the quality makes it worthwhile. I’ve found things that were regularly double, triple, or even quadruple the price in other stores. Same brand… same packaging. Recently Dollarama was selling RO tablet holders which were shaped like wooden bread boards. They retailed for $45, Dollarama sold them for $4. Sadly I never found any.

I raised my kids as a single Mom and never had much money. There were so many birthdays and holidays that simply wouldn’t have happened if Dollarama wasn’t there. But the events all happened with happy kids and fond memories. Dinkie cars, toy Spiderman, art sets, stuffed dolls, figurines, articulated wooden snakes… they were all loved and played with.

These days I’m in my empty nest but I’m also living off disability so money’s still tight. Luckily I found a Facebook group called Dollarama Hauls and Finds. The group is amazing. People post about the purchases they’ve made, items they’ve found, and what they’ve done with said purchases. Many include photos. My favourites are when someone goes around the store taking photos then shares forty pictures. It’s like window shopping without leaving my room.

new kitchen artI use the group to sort out what items I really want to buy, either for myself or to put away as a gift. It’s helped a lot because I know exactly where to look when I go shopping and there’s been a few items I would have missed if I hadn’t actively been searching there. The downside is there’s gorgeous items I’ve missed out on, like the aforementioned tablet holder, that I never would have known about otherwise. But I have found incredible things. Watercolour canvases, funky pop art, wooden word art, artificial succulents in clay pots, ships in glass bottles, Cuisinart wooden knife blocks… the list is extensive. My home would be almost barren if it wasn’t for Dollarama.

And tomorrow I’ll be off to another Dollarama because one thing the group has sucked me into is barnwood stickers. They are being stuck everywhere on any flat surface and I have an ugly front door to cover.

No such thing as a Special Interest…

I found LEDsColin was young when he came to me, still in elementary school.

“I just understand computers,” he earnestly explained. “I speak their language.”

And it certainly seemed like he did. He began practicing on every electronic device he could find. There were a few failures but there were also plenty of successes. Before we moved into separate apartments he built me a computer from the ground up, the one I’m currently using. And he’s built quite a few of his own. Computers are his love… his dream… his hobby… his passion… his drive… and his future. The voice of the computer is his muse. And, to professionals, it’s his special interest.

That phrase is one of the most demeaning phrases I know. It turns far reaching knowledge and skill into nothing more than a weird autistic parlour trick. It diminishes it down to child’s play, akin to a tea party with your dollies or rolling around on the floor with toy cars.

You could find two people, both equally well versed in Egyptology. One neurotypical and the other autistic. The first would be considered an amateur historian and respected for their knowledge while the second would be treated like a toy poodle dancing on its hind legs for treats.

“That’s interesting about Hatshepsut. Now why don’t you go get a snack.”

I read an article a few months ago about a teacher who loved chess. It was his favourite game and he was quite good at it too. He started up a chess club for the students and helped them learn how to play too. The other teachers were not only impressed with his skill but with how well he could get the children involved and understanding the concepts behind the game. He changed schools the following year. Same position… same type of class… and he started a chess club there as well. But this school knew he was autistic. Suddenly his skills and talents meant nothing, seen more akin to a parrot singing words for crackers than a human working with a gift.

I’ve written (and self published) two novels so far. I love writing. I love finding just that exact right turn of phrase. I love when suddenly everything clicks and the words just start pouring out. But I’m pragmatic and realize that much of the time is spent staring at the screen or my keyboard while I try to think of a bridge between paragraphs or how to phrase what comes next. It’s certainly not easy and sometimes it isn’t even enjoyable, but it’s worth it. If someone told me that was my special interest it would a) make me feel like I’d been writing a story on primary school paper with one of those fat red pencils and b) absolutely infuriate me.

If my years of writing is a special interest then every other writer out there should be considered to have a special interest too. If Colin’s interest and skills with computers is a special interest then every single computer repair person out there has a special interest. It needs to work both ways. We are all people, we all have goals, skills, and talents. We all have interests. Let’s drop the insulting special and move on. We’ll undoubtedly learn something.