What really matters…

It was an older apartment, old enough that the kitchen sink was shallow and rectangular with separate hot and cold taps. Old enough to have a clawfoot bathtub. For some unknown reason the landlord had built a wooden box around the tub, so the beautiful sides and legs were hidden. There was a little door near the end so he could reach the shut off valve and a good sized gap near the top.

The previous tenants were disgusting. The landlord was just finishing cleaning up the last of the mess when my ex and I viewed the unit. I was shocked. The garbage was expected considering his warning of messiness, the spray paint all over the spare bedroom’s walls a little less so, that someone had slept in that narrow, windowless, lightless crawlspace was a wow moment. But we moved in and I enjoyed the huge dark wooden baseboards and trim and all the windows (just not, you know, in the crawlspace). There was one fly in the ointment, that previously mentioned gap behind the tub.

Every time I sat on the toilet, I looked directly into that gap and it was gross. The previous tenants must have used that gap as target practice with their garbage, it was full of a variety of crap, and my skin crawled just thinking of it in my apartment. And I continued to think, “those previous tenants were disgusting!” Every single time.

Then one day I’d finished scrubbing the whole bathroom, except for that disgusting cesspool in the gap above the tub. I muttered my usual, “those previous tenants were disgusting!” then the thought struck me. Those tenants were gone. Completely gone. They no longer cared about the apartment (if they ever did) and they certainly weren’t coming back to pick up after themselves. They. Were. Gone. It was now my place and my mess. It didn’t matter who made the mess, all that mattered was who would clean it up. It was time for me to take a deep breath, put on some rubber gloves, and make myself a pretty view. It was awful, I hated it, but then it was done and I had an empty and basically clean area to look at.

I think that’s something we all forget on a personal, regional, and global scale. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who made the mess, we have to roll up our sleeves and get busy with the solution. It doesn’t matter if you were involved originally. It doesn’t matter if you’re completely blameless. Just try to make things better. You can’t go wrong with making things right.

So many times I’ve heard the phrases “It’s not my mess”, “It’s not my problem”, or “Why should I clean up after them?” and I’m going to lay it out to you. Life is not your Mom doling out candies, making sure everyone gets the same amount. It is not fair. That’s why there’s people like Jeff Bezos building himself a rocket just so he could enter space for a minute and say he did so. And why there’s babies in such poor households they are skin and bones, literally starving to death. Fair would be a hell of a lot more equal.

I’m not saying to do all your coworker’s duties or 100% of the housework (I mean unless you’re single, cat’s really suck at washing the dishes). You have to be fair to you too. But picking up garbage on a nature hike? Yes. Putting that shopping cart into the corral on the way into the store? Go for it. Not your job but who else is going to do it.

be the changeYou can even step it up a bit. I was in line at the grocery store with an elderly woman ahead of me. Her face fell when she saw the price and she slowly began handing items over to the cashier. A bag of cookies, a tin of tea, a packet of soft jelly candies… they were all nice, little treats for the evening or for if a grandchild arrived. When she was done she had nothing special left, she didn’t have enough gift cards to cover any of them. So I bought them and made sure she knew they were there and were hers (in case she tried to return them or walked away without them).

Volunteering is a wonderful option as well. My parents have been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for years and my Mom volunteers for the local senior centre when there isn’t a pandemic. I’m not currently volunteering but I do donate blood regularly, which is greatly needed. If you’re worried about medication just bring your list in. I’m on a fuckton of medication and they’re all approved. The worst thing that’ll happen is they’ll turn you down and they’re kind about that (I’ve been anaemic enough times to know that).

We’re all on this wild, spinning ride called the Earth together and if we keep working together we’ll make it through just fine (with time enough to throw our arms up in the air and shout woo-hoo). If we all keep saying “not my mess” then turning our backs on the problem(s), we’re going to end up chin deep in waste and sinking while still trying to point fingers. I’d prefer the less smelly one.

And onto a totally different subject, Lara and Smudge have their own Instagram account. If you search for lara_and_smudge you will find them!

Another year older and hopefully wiser…

Last year was the big year, the big five-oh, and I had it all planned. A mother-daughter-sister visit to Ste. Anne’s Spa with my Mom and sister. I poured over their website, checking out every room and cottage available to our number of guests, searching for the perfect accommodations for us. My favourites were saved in a file on my computer, all ready to be shared when it was close enough for us to book. And then covid hit… and stayed. My birthday was lots of fun but I don’t think anyone could say that eating takeout pizza in my kitchen (with family) in any way compares to eating a freshly prepared gourmet meal on a beautiful patio, also with family.

my beach selfieThis year was different. My parents left in early July to visit my other sister, halfway across the country and I gave up on the mega planning. My napkins and candle were from last year and plans were made on a whim. And it was fantastic! I started out with an exercise class (that wasn’t the fantastic part) and then a video call with my parents so they could see me open their present to me. Then I visited friends who lived near my old building, the friends I sing karaoke with. We went to a nearby Dollarama and I found three fall items that I spent all last fall looking for and didn’t succeed. They’re going to look so good in September. They’re so not getting put out now. By that point it was time to head home and I got back just in time to have another friend over for dinner followed by an evening trip to the beach. Plus a video call with Colin. Plus my sister and her boys came over for dinner two evenings later. It’s been busy but a good busy and it was so nice to see everyone.

I thought I would have things more figured out by my 50’s than I do but here I am still chanting “righty-tighty lefty-loosey” when I need to loosen a screw and singing the alphabet song whenever I have to remember where a letter goes. I spent half a cab ride wondering why the driver kept going left when his little robotic directing device was telling him to go right… only to realized I’d mixed up my directions (again). Left and right are very nebulous to me. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, although I have changed my mind about being a garbage man.

One thing I have figured out is I need to take better care of my mental health. Years ago I told the man who called me from Canadian Pension Plan – Disability that it felt like something had broken inside my brain and I didn’t think it was ever going back together. I still feel that way. I’ve made strides in so many ways and I’m sure I’ll make more but I need a nap every day because I’m drained by early afternoon. Lately I’ve been too tired to even eat lunch. And my memory is… wait… what were we talking about? Oh yeah, I saw the cutest brown bunny on my walk last week.

So I’m in several online groups, which would be in-person if it wasn’t for covid, and I talk to Colin several times a day. I hang out with at least one friend a day too. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy starts in just over a week and I’ve got my kitties for lots of snuggles and attention. So many positive things.

Evelyn the cypressOne thing I have been doing is decorating my apartment so that it feels more comfortable and homey to me. It’s a lot easier to relax and feel calm in a place you feel safe and at ease, right? I’ve worked a lot on my bedroom and the living room and now I’ve been working on my kitchen, with the help of a Homesense gift card from my parents. I didn’t like the top of the cabinets, it was way too bare. I had one little tin of yellow and orange flowers at the end closest to the stove, I bought them from Dollarama last year. But they simply emphasized how empty the rest of the space was. I took an hour long bus ride to the nearest Homesense and found the perfect pot for my mini cypress Evelyn. I didn’t, however, find the rectangular planters I’d been hoping for. They did have fake marble pots similar to the ones on my table, so I grabbed two of those. Now I needed something long to place in the middle space. I got to the end of the aisle and noticed white and burlap and then the word “kitchen”. It was a big, rectangular framed wall art and just the right size and shape. Basically it was eminently suitable. I took a quick look at the rest of their art but there was nothing else remotely similar. So I bought it and stood precariously on the counter to hang it up. I’m telling you, 51 years old and climbing onto a counter don’t go together well. But I got down, cleaned up, and took a good look and, wouldn’t you know it, I absolutely love that picture. It just ties together the whole room. I might change up the greenery someday but for right now it’s just perfect.

And now I’m going to pull on my super soft nightie from my Mom, give Oreo some scritches under his neck and behind his ears, grab my phone and my favourite peanut butter cups, give Evelyn the cypress a good sniff (because she smells so good), and play my favourite phone game. Because that’s what life is, it’s all about the little things. The big things might be flashy but the little things are the meat of our lives and they’re what counts.

I hope you have a quiet, comfortable, and peaceful evening wherever you are (and if you have a pet, give them a skritch for me).

kitchen with Pooh mitts

The art of saying goodbye…

silly OreoHis mother was a barn cat, brought to our building to have her kittens. Then he and his littermates were placed in a cardboard box labeled “Free Kittens” and brought downstairs to the lobby. I knew nothing about this until after the fact, it was my neighbour and former friend who informed me that she’d got the last kitten, one who looked just like Angel except he had a black nose.

The former friend picked him up on a whim and, three months later, gave him to us because she no longer wanted three cats. Of course she blamed her father at the time but I watched her abandon four more pets in a couple more years and, well, she can’t blame him for everything. And, yes, that’s why we’re no longer friends.

But I digress. Oreo became ours then, still a kitten but an older kitten. We quickly realized he’s a complete and utter clown who routinely sleeps on his back with all four paws in the air. He’s also known for his tongue bleps, those times when a cat’s tongue sticks out and stays out. He’ll even fall asleep on his back with a tongue blep so his tongue is falling towards his nose.

When Oreo was a young cat he was an excellent mouser, something I likely would never have known if our neighbour wasn’t as bad at containing his live snake food as Oreo was good at catching it. We lived on the third floor of a highrise so they weren’t just wandering in on their own. These days though, he’s nearly fourteen. I have the feeling that if a mouse ran past, he’d look at it and go back to sleep if he a) even woke up or b) could see it. He’s passed that task on to Smudge and Lara, who will likely never see a mouse in their lives.

Oreo has always been the “good child”. Good natured, even tempered, friendly with everyone. Angel hisses at the other cats when they get too close, Blackie needs careful monitoring and CBD oil because she’ll wet in corners, Lara grabs your hand when she wants to get petted… and often forgets to retract her claws, and Smudge likes hiding and jumping on Angel to get a reaction. Oreo does none of that. He just sleeps cute, licks compulsively when his back is scratched, and purrs like a motor when it’s feeding time. Oreo loves his food. So, unfortunately, Oreo gets a bit overlooked. It’s easier to see the others when they’re Right In My Face. Which is why the last time he saw a vet was when he got neutered at 6 months old. He turns fourteen on September 15th.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about the Iams Checkup Challenge. It was open to Canadian residents until July 31, 2021. You went out and bought $40+ of Iams food in one go before taxes (they had a list of qualifying products) and kept the receipt. Then you took your pet to the vet for a checkup and kept that receipt too. Finally you went onto their website and uploaded a picture of both receipts. They reimbursed you up to $150 before taxes. Finally! This was Oreo’s chance to see the vet… and the first time out of the apartment (other than moving) in thirteen years.

He 110% did not like leaving the apartment and started yowling before we even reached the elevators. We live beside the elevators. Luckily for both of us, the vet office is directly across the street. Due to covid I couldn’t go inside. Instead I called into the office and then the vet called me back so I could voice any concerns and then they brought Oreo in.

I mentioned the lump on his side but also that it had been there for several years and never changed shape. Then I decided I might as well tell her about the other lump too, the one I figured was probably a pimple of some sort or maybe a small boil. The location bugged me, a nipple seemed like an odd spot for a pimple to form.

They scooped up Oreo and went inside, leaving me on the sidewalk without even a chair. At least it wasn’t raining (there was a 90% of rain). And then the phone rang. That lump on his nipple… it wasn’t any sort of pimple. It was a tumour with a 90% to 95% chance of being aggressively malignant. There’s no such thing as easily treatable or relatively easily treatable breast cancer. All the nipples on that side are connected so the vet can’t simply remove the lump, she’d have to remove that whole side. And, since it’s highly aggressive, there’s a good chance it’s already in his lungs and/or lymph nodes so he’d need a chest x-ray first. No point in doing hugely invasive surgery if his lungs are riddled with tumours.

She’s talking and all I could think was “what’s the cost?”. And I don’t just mean financially, although that is a definite concern. What is the cost to Oreo? We adopted Oreo in 2008 and he didn’t leave the apartment again (other than getting neutered) until 2012 and that was to go into a carrier, into a car, and then out of the carrier into the new apartment. And then again in 2020 with the same routine. He doesn’t know the outside world. He doesn’t like the outside world. Blackie and the twins will sometimes venture into the hallway outside our apartment. Oreo and Angel don’t even try. Oreo would be miserable with multiple vet visits and terrified by staying at the hospital… especially in pain and attached to things. And it’s not permanent, he’s got a 50% of it coming back in a year even with the treatment.

He’s not a kitten, he’s an old cat. Her next news was that his gums are bad and he’s lost most of his teeth. Her final news was that he has cataracts but still seems to be able to see. I’ll keep the furniture where it is, just in case. I have a mini trampoline (a rebounder if you’re fancy) at the foot of my bed and my senior kittens use it as a step up. Blackie uses it just fine. Angel uses it during the day but she’s sore by bedtime and needs to be lifted up from the trampoline. Oreo? He doesn’t even make it into my room. He just cries from wherever he is then I lift him and carry him to the bed. No point in leaving his poor bones on a hard floor. Maybe if he was as young as the twins and bounding around the apartment I’d have a harder decision but he’s not. I’m not going to fight, and pay a fortune, to have him “cured” so he can get carried from the kitchen into the bedroom because his joints hurt to much to walk. The phrase “pick your battles” comes to mind. Sometimes you just have to walk away, even if it hurts.

To be truthful, I want him to continue on being Oreo forever. Bumbling through life forever cheerful, being a total goofball but being real… genuine. It’s not often that pure goodness comes into your life. It has for me and I don’t want it to go. But that’s the art of saying goodbye. Everything comes to an end. There’d be no room for beginnings if nothing ever ended.

And so I watch Oreo, sprawled across the cat mat under the table. His eyes are bright as he waits in anticipation for a head scratch and a scratch under the chin. Later, before I go to bed, he’ll sit beside the stove and yowl until the other cats join him and I relent and sprinkle cat treats on the floor. And, at some point when my room is dark, I’ll climb out from under the covers to carry Oreo to bed. His life will have happiness, peace, and routine until it’s time to say goodbye and may I have the art to know when that time is.

Why I’m not yeeting my phone…

People are so anti-social, they say. They’re always on their phones, they say. There’s no social interaction, they say. The claims go on that children are never outside… never at the park. They’re glued to their tablets. And I just listen and laugh.

reading newspapers on the busFirst off, people have always been anti-social. This isn’t anything new. Before portable electronics, people read books and newspapers (as you can see from the picture) or simply looked out the window or pretended to sleep. All technology did was make it a lot easier. No more holding out pages of your newspaper and awkwardly trying to flip and fold them. No more trying to keep track of stops with your eyes closed.

Second off, I’m outside on a regular basis and I can tell you where the kids are. They’re riding bikes, going to the park, and hanging out in little groups trying to look cool (as it it’s ever been cool to stand on dead grass by a sewer grate at the edge of the park). And as covid restrictions relax, more and more of them are on sports teams, horseback riding, taking swimming lessons, and doing gymnastics. None of which require electronics of any sort. And third, electronics like phones and tablets are tools. My bank has no brick and mortar locations so I use my phone and computer for all my banking. Much of my life is organized through email, which I view, again, through my phone and computer. I listen to music with both of them as well and video chat with Colin on my phone and tablet. I was reading books on my phone but have switched over to my tablet because it’s annoying having the phone ring in the middle of a page. I use my tablet for multiple groups and classes throughout the week. And my favourite decorating game is on the phone and I use it to destress. I use the map function when I’m out with my parents, I use the camera on a daily basis. My phone gets used as an alarm clock, a calculator, a dictionary, and an encyclopedia and I could still go on with more functions. Why would I tuck all that away when I use many of those features regularly? Besides, it’s hard to take a cute bunny photo when my phone’s two floors up in a locked apartment.

Same goes with Facebook. I have close family on there plus extended family. I get to see garden shots and sunsets. Last week I got to see my uncle and aunt’s dog fetch them the morning paper and then deliver the paper to their neighbour. They live on the other side of the world in Australia. How on earth would I have seen that without Facebook? Email has size restrictions and it’s not like they can snail mail a video. I mentioned video chatting with Colin, that’s through Facebook video chat. I also use that to sing karaoke with friends. We used to sing in person but covid happened. I chat with friends in different countries via messenger and talk with people who have similar interests in groups. Where else could I find an LGBTQIA2S Doctor Who group? I’ve watched, through pictures, friends’ children grow from toddlers into teens getting their driver’s licenses. I’ve seen friends marry, divorce, and remarry. I’ve watched two friends raise their families only to start all over again with new little ones (I’m pretty sure my uterus just tried to jump out the window and run into oncoming traffic at that thought). It is a platform to connect with people around the globe.

They talk about people staring passive and mindlessly at the screen, as if both the screen and their minds were equally blank. Do these people not own devices? Trust me, I’m not staring mindlessly at my bank account. I might be a tad baffled but my mind’s not blank. Same as when I’m checking my phone bill or going through my email. And even if someone is passively watching a show on their phone or tablet, so what? I bet 99% of the complainers think nothing of settling down in front of the tv. That’s not exactly active entertainment. Those laugh tracks shudders.

I don’t mind if someone wants to step away from their phone, computer, tablet, or Facebook for a while. I just wish people would be honest. If you’re having problems texting all the time, even at social events, sticking the phone away is a good idea. Same as if you can’t stop online gambling. If you find yourself refreshing Facebook’s news feed just one more time… at 3am (again) or dinner’s been pushed from five to seven because you can’t stop commenting on posts then hibernating or closing your account is great. But don’t blame everyone else. What does it matter if “society’s addicted to social media” if you only go on it for 15 minutes a day? Does it matter if you think everyone’s “staring mindlessly at their phones” if you only use it for making phone calls and taking the occasional picture? Don’t claim to be an individual yet make your decisions based off what you think others are doing.

And I’m going to listen to YouTube on my phone until I finish my chores then play my favourite phone game. And on Tuesday I’m going to Bon Echo Provincial Park with my parents for a family day and you can be sure my camera (with it’s trusty camera) is going to be there too. Technology is here whether we like it or not. We need to find ways to fit it into our lives instead of hiding from it.

 

A second covid birthday…

Colin's birthday cupcakeIt’s Colin’s 24th birthday today. I’m not sure how he feels about that age but I’m feeling pretty damn old! For once the stars aligned and the extreme part of our lockdown ended yesterday, which meant my parents and I could drive into the countryside and visit Colin today. Yesterday I got all the bits and pieces of his present tucked away in a gift bag, baked a batch of vegan chocolate cupcakes, and checked my email umpteen dozen times. I’d ordered Colin a Doctor Who t-shirt which has been slowly meandering up from California. It made it through customs on the 10th at 9:41pm and was processed at the “local distribution centre” according to the email, but that had been the last I’d heard. Actually that’s still the last I’ve heard, I had to setting for showing Colin a picture on my phone after he’d opened the rest of his gifts then I assured him that just meant we’d need to make another trip to bring the shirt to him.

Colin and his cardWe lucked out and today was gorgeous. Sunny and quite warm. We sat on Colin’s patio and looked at his little garden with it’s lavender and some sort of succulent (and a bunch of grass which had gone to seed because Colin thought it was awesome). And we ate burgers from A&W… and fries… and my chocolate cupcakes (I made sure to bring plenty of extras for him). He loved all his goodies from me and his morning glory from his grandparents, and was thrilled to pieces with his Super Mario game from them. I’m sure he was playing it before we fully backed out of the driveway. He sent me a photo of the game screen pretty quickly!

Once the lunch, present opening, and cupcakes were done we all were getting more than a little wilted. There was no shade anywhere in the big yard, all the trees seemed to be casting shade elsewhere, and the cupcakes were melting. The cupcakes were an easy fix, Colin brought them inside to the air conditioning. We, however, were not. No one other than staff or clients were allowed in the building, not even to use the washroom. Speaking of which, it’s an hour’s drive home and I have a bladder roughly the size of a walnut. If we could go inside and sit in the air conditioning on his couch and nip into his bathroom that would be one thing, but we couldn’t so we really needed to go. We took a quick look at one of the two ponds on the property, which is seriously right beside his patio. No wonder I can hear the frogs croaking during phone calls! And then we went back to the driveway.

I don’t think I will ever, could ever, get used to covid goodbyes. I should have wrapped my arms around him and squeezed as hard as I could, said “I love you” by his ear, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He should have kissed my forehead, patted the top of my head, and called me his “pocket sized Mom”. Instead, we stood six feet apart, waved, and said goodbye, pausing awkwardly before heading towards the car and the house.

It might have been different than usual but I am so glad I got to see my birthday boy today. I can’t wait to see him again soon!

Colin and I by the pond1

Love the sinner…

pride giftMy favourite phone game gave a Pride gift this week to everyone who played, all you needed to do was click on their pretty rainbow bedecked box to receive it. It was a lovely gift, full of money, gold, and a few star coins. One of the players thanked the game in the game’s Facebook group, stating that her daughter was a member of the LGBTQIA2S community, and that’s when a whole lot of nastiness welled over and oozed out. A bunch of people stated they’d refused the gift entirely. Some were disgusted because the game was getting political. “They’ve never celebrated anything else on here before” was a phrase I read several times. I’ve only been playing since March but so far I’ve seen gifts and promotions for Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, and Mother’s Day. Earth Day had an even bigger gift than Pride. And, of course, there was much talk of sin, how “good parents” don’t celebrate their child’s perversions, the rainbow is for God not pride, and comments about how same sex relationships had nothing to do with love, all of which got repeated again and again. Then, in the midst of it all, came someone, who probably felt she was the voice of reason, saying, “We don’t have anything against you, after all love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Love the sinner, hate the sin. It sounds like such an innocent phrase, especially to the one who’s saying it. So benign, it even starts out with the word “love”. How could anything that’s mean, cruel, or arrogant start with love? I’ve heard so many people use this phrase then follow it up with “everyone’s a sinner”, or “I’m a sinner too”, or “we all sin differently”. Sometimes they even use all three. And they’re completely and utterly missing the point. Like if the point’s right here they’re in another town, on the far side of that town, looking in the opposite direction. That far off the mark.

If you say to the average Christian, “love is patient”, most will know it’s from a Bible verse, many can recite it by heart, and almost as many had it, in one form or another, at their wedding. It’s pretty popular. Love is patient and kind and several other honest and good traits. That’s wonderful, I’m happy for you, but you can’t talk about how kind, honest, and endless your love is in one breath and call mine a sin with another. I fell in love with Lenny when he was non binary and had a short relationship with Lily a couple of years later. Neither relationship was sinful, nor were they comparable to stealing, or vandalizing, or any of the other so-called petty crimes people use as an example. The people who use this phrase always use a petty crime as an example, like they’re emphasizing they don’t think the LGBTQIA2S community is as bad as murder. We’re more like Bad Light™. Let me make myself more than clear. If I ever fall in love again… if I ever have a relationship again… it will not be comparable to you slipping a t-shirt into your oversized purse at Walmart and hoping the camera didn’t spot you. If your love is patient and kind then mine is too. Slip that into your world view.

I find there’s a certain mindset that runs along with this “love the sinner” view. It’s a very Jesus-centric mindset but it’s set around a certain white, golden haired Jesus who 100% never existed. This is no brown, bearded man denouncing wealth, chilling with the prostitutes, and washing the feet of the outcast. White Jesus™ is actively involved in their lives and constantly blessing them (hence the prominent “blessed” signs in their homes). Gavin wouldn’t have got that home run in Little League without him and it wasn’t those hours of studying that got Sarah her A in chemistry. Jesus took the wheel and snagged that one for her. I saw the handle of one of the other players (in the above mentioned game) this morning and it was Designing for Jesus. Really? Really??? I don’t know about you but I’m willing to bet that a 2000 year old middle-eastern man probably wouldn’t care that some woman from the US matched mossy suede upholstery with a $2190 joy pillow in a game. But I’m willing to bet that every little thing in her life is centred around him. The irony, when it comes to both White Jesus™ and the “love the sinner” phrase is that both have nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, “love the sinner” is a misquote of Gandhi. It doesn’t even have to do with Christianity.

Sometimes it’s so much more valuable to take a look from the other person’s perspective. Instead of brushing off someone’s hurt and irritation at your words with the platitude “everyone sins”, try thinking of how you’d feel if multiple someone’s judged your relationship as wrong, immoral, and sinful. Or they commiserated by saying they’d screwed up and done something wrong too, as if them cheating on their taxes was the same as your deep, strong love for your spouse. Instead of “love the sinner” how about just plain “love”.

Right now I’m watching a friend fall head over heels in love. It was a chance meeting and has been quite a romantic courtship; he’s giving enough info to keep the group of us feeling “in the know” without sharing any salacious details. They’ve been thoughtful, sweet, kind, conscientious, and genuine to each other. I’m looking forward to watching their relationship thrive. They’re also a male couple and the epitome of that “love is patient and kind” verse. Their love is not a sin. Love is love.

Love is love.

Planning a long distance covid birthday…

I have always planned the kids’ birthdays well in advance and this was still true for Colin’s upcoming 24th birthday. I found a handful of neat things I knew he’d like but was stuck for a main item to put in the gift bag. No biggie, I knew I’d find one soon. And then the lockdown hit, complete with it’s essentials ban. In previous lockdowns I could browse through stores like Walmart and Dollarama but, in this one, I couldn’t browse anywhere! I began to panic then reminded myself the ban lifted at the beginning of June so I’d still have time. Then the ban got extended until two days after Colin’s birthday. I have ordered him something online and it’s on it’s way. According to the website, it’s heading towards a “DHL ecommerce distribution centre” and has been since May 28th. Deep breath… deep breath… it’ll get here when it gets here. Everything else is tucked away in my room.

And whatever’s left is up in the air. Will we be able to go up and visit him once the lockdown’s been lifted? I know we won’t be able to go inside (thanks to covid I’ve only seen his apartment via zoom and photos) but could we stay in the front yard or sit on his patio? It would be nice to see his patio. If we can physically go there I can whip up a batch of cupcakes (so much easier to serve on a lawn than cake) but will they let someone deliver cupcakes from a local bakery if we’re stuck at home an hour away and can’t be with him? There’s no point in even asking until I get a bit more information. And so I wait. And think maybe I should start pinpointing out which bakeries are even near his country home and which bake cupcakes soon. I looked a little earlier, long enough to know not to bother asking about cakes as everyone is all about the theme cakes and I don’t have a theme cake budget. I have a plain, no sprinkles, chocolate cupcake budget. Luckily that’s Colin’s favourite.

present timeI wish so much that things were back to normal (whatever that is) and that in 1 1/2 weeks Colin would be showing up here all set to play with the cats and camp out in the living room. That I could take him in the backyard and show him where the rabbits live and take him on my neighbourhood walk by the creek and show him the duck pond (with a crane, swans, and geese), the tiny waterfall, and the farm. We’d take the bus to visit all the family and stuff ourselves with burgers and fries. And he’d sit at my kitchen table, pulling out item after item with excitement, eager to see what was next until all that was left was remnants of tissue paper and the bottom of the bag. Then we’d watch Doctor Who, or go visit my friend, or stuff ourselves silly with cupcakes, but we’d have fun at the very least.

Hopefully we can do some semblance of this next year for his 25th birthday but for now we’ll just have to piece the days together as best we can and make this his best covid birthday yet!

Just the essentials…

I understand why the lockdown occurred. Covid-19 rates skyrocketed in Ontario and hospitals were scrambling. Children’s wards were closing, with children being shunted sometimes hundreds of kilometres away to the nearest Sick Kids, while adults took their place so the adult wards could be turned into covid wards. Nurses who had worked with infants for several decades were suddenly caring for eighty year olds and space was running out. Something had to be done.

But this is what happens when a province elects someone solely because they’re collectively mad and the person in question is “not a politician”. They voted in Dumb from the “Dumb and Dumber” team of Ford brothers and got this result.

In the beginning Ford closed all the playgrounds across the province then, faced with the uproar of millions of parents, quickly opened them again within the first 24 hours. He also gave the police carte blanche to stop any car or pedestrian at will and ask them where they were from and where they were going. Police departments immediately posted notices saying they were not following this permission and that one fizzled as well. It was the non-essentials ban that stuck.

The theory is simple. If you’re only buying the basics then you’ll be in and out quicker and have less time to spread or catch covid. But what are essentials? Obviously food, baby supplies like diapers, toiletries, kitchen stuff (garbage bags, tin foil, saran wrap, and wipes), and pet supplies. Oh, and with summer approaching, gardening supplies. But what else? Nothing according to Ford.

Blackie started taking pain medication a few days after the lockdown started. She gets one pill divided in two for morning and afternoon, which means I need to put her afternoon food in a storage container in the fridge until 4pm. The only problem is my storage containers are narrow and deep. I could just go to Dollarama for a couple more but storage containers, which are designed to keep your food fresh and ready to use, aren’t essential. Neither are clothes, which means there’s going to be some naked kiddos in the next few weeks when they go to try on last summer’s clothes and absolutely nothing fits. You can buy a can of soup but you can’t buy the can opener to open it nor the pot to cook it in (I guess if you were born rich and have kitchen staff you wouldn’t even think of kitchen “essentials”). You can buy as many chocolate bars as your heart desires (and wallet allows) but you can’t buy a candle to soothe your soul. No sun hats, no sunglasses, no books. Mental health experts are extolling us to invest in ourselves to lift our moods. Try out different crafts… pamper with scented candles… decorate with pretty artificial flowers. All non-essential. All not available. Ford’s health experts said to make sure people had access to safe outdoor activities – so he closed the provincial parks. They suggested he reopened them. They’re still closed.

lockdown clothesThis is a ban that excessively impacts the poor. We talk about curbside pick up and online shopping as if that were available to everyone but it’s not. There are many people who don’t have a computer. Many who have a cell phone but have a cheap company with unreliable service. Or have a very small data plan that runs out before the middle of the month. Or have no data at all and they’re only online at McDonalds or Tim Hortons or any other place with free wifi. And there are still people who don’t even own a cell phone. I don’t have a car so curbside pick up isn’t an option (although I can manage to grab an item at Pet Valu) but I can order online. But what about the people who can’t do either? Someone commented recently on Facebook that The Children’s Place was excellent for buying children’s clothes online and I’m sure it is. But, honestly, someone who’s shopping the discount rack at Walmart is not going to be able to afford The Children’s Place. The rich go on Amazon or Wayfair or The Children’s Place or Bata or Indigo while the poor look at barricades and strips of plastic. There’s only one group truly being affected by the ban and none of Doug Ford’s friends are in it.

No, wait, there’s two groups. There are also the people working behind the counter and dealing with all the people who just want a pair of socks, or a spatula, or birthday candles for their four year old. I’m sure all those people really wanted those items and had really big feelings about them but the staff are not the ones who set up the ban, nor are the they ones enforcing the rules. Not even the manager, Karen. I’ve heard of people not just screaming at the staff but screaming at them, throwing money, and taking the damn spatula on their way out. What are the staff going to do with the money? They can’t even enter the spatula into the cash register. You’re mad at Doug Ford, remember? Not 21 year old Sarah who’s saving up for college. She doesn’t even know him.

The ban was supposed to be finished on the 28th and has been extended to June 2nd. I truly hope it’s over then and I can browse the kitchenware aisle and decor aisle in peace and pick up a 24th birthday card for Colin. Covid cases are dropping and people are lining up to get vaccinated. I got mine exactly four weeks ago and most of my family are done as well. Only two weeks and two days to go (not that I’m counting or anything). Hopefully we can get our clothes, books, spatulas, and birthday cards in peace. Hopefully the covid rates keep dropping. And hopefully we vote Ford out next June. Maybe, in the meantime, someone can make him a picture book detailing what things are essential to us ordinary folk just in case.

The conjoined twins of transphobia…

Feminism started with a rallying cry. We were not walking vaginas and breasts, we were not merely a womb for future children or a pretty face. We were people with intelligent minds, thoughts, opinions, dreams, and knowledge. Our value lay inside our heads and not in our physical attributes. Then TERFS came along and busily started trying to change all that with their insistence that we are vaginas and breasts, thank you very much, and what’s inside our brains isn’t nearly as important as that. TERF is an acronym that stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, although I’m more than a little dubious of the last two words. It’s also an acronym they chose for themselves although they’re trying to distance themselves from it now, probably because most people tend to treat the word about the same as they would stepping on a dead slug in bare feet (for those of you in British Columbia or someplace warm, think of a slug that’s a lot smaller than your first thought). TERF brings about that “eww I stepped in something” feeling.

TERF editedTERFS use all sorts of language to try and prove their point. Biological male (or female), natural woman, natal woman… anything to drive a wedge. They won’t say trans woman, they’ll say “biological male who’s pretending to be a woman” because that’s not wordy at all (on top of being inaccurate). They’ll mock trans people, making crude comments about tucking and asking how someone could pretend to be female with “male parts” like that. The picture I’ve shared (left) is because I responded to a comment on a Pink News article. The TERF in question went to my profile, messaged me, and immediately blocked me. That’s another thing about them, they’re rude and they can’t grasp the concept that cis women might actually be arguing on behalf of trans people (trans women in this case). Speaking of cis, those are three little letters that TERFS cannot handle. They say things like “we don’t have an adjective” and they’re “natural” women (like trans people are what? robots?). They act like it’s a slur, some claim it’s being forced by “the patriarchy”. The patriarchy looks suspiciously like the rest of feminism.

In a way I feel bad for TERFS. They’re like scared kids who have heard some boogeyman stories and now they’re heading for the bathroom with a flashlight and a fervent hope the the boogeyman doesn’t jump out of the shadows. But that’s where my sympathy ends because they’re grown women who know how to turn on the damn metaphorical light. They can read articles and posts by trans people detailing their experiences. They can even find speeches and stories on YouTube. They don’t have to sit in ignorance. Plus every thread I’ve read has had people explain, often in detail, what the TERF was wrong about and even things they could do to improve. Examples, statistics, the history of trans people, the fact they exist around the world, the list of information is extensive and ultimately ignored. They’d rather sit in the dark than accept a candle.

super straightThe second conjoined twin goes by the name “super straight”. Their claim is that everyone has a sexual orientation and that orientation is just a preference. So straight women are only attracted to men. Straight men are only attracted to women. Pansexuals are attracted to all genders. Asexuals are attracted to cake. But basically it’s innate and out of the person’s control. They go one step farther and claim they are only attracted to cis people. Hence the super, they’re not just straight they’re super straight. Well they’re not. It simply doesn’t hold water. I mean how do they know who’s trans? Okay, some trans people don’t pass as cis and the buffoons would know then but plenty do pass. And that goes even in the *cough* bedroom. I read somewhere that gynecologists have a hard time telling a trans woman’s nether region after bottom surgery from a cis woman. Granted I’m sure this wasn’t an extensive exam because the cervix is a thing but super straight dude isn’t going to be looking for the cervix either (pro tip: none of you go looking for the cervix either, because it would so not be comfortable). So basically, if he met a cis passing trans woman who’s had gender affirmation surgery, there’s no way in hell he’d know unless she told him and he’d be attracted right up until then. That’s not a preference, that’s prejudice (and bigotry to boot). It runs right along with the people claiming their attraction to their own race is only a preference, like racism isn’t a thing.

Maybe we should set the super straight guys up with the TERFS. They have all the same talking points about trans people so the conversations would flow. And we could move them all to that island the homophobes always want to maroon gay people on. And then we could ignore them. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Positive reinforcement isn’t positive…

plus signI play a game called Redecor on my phone. It’s a fun and relaxing game. They post colourless rooms and you need to “colour them in” with various materials such as fabrics, tiles, and wood. Then everyone is organized into groups of ten, we all can vote for which room we like the best (two at a time), and finally the top three people win prizes and we move onto the next room. Simple right?

Not so simple. I was fine with decorating the rooms and love choosing the colours and the materials (I’m absolutely in love with the Caribbean upholstery and the Peacock sequin cushions). It’s great hanging out in the Facebook groups too. And a friend of mine (the one I sing karaoke with) plays it too so that’s great. No, it was the easy peasy room judging that left me doing my breathing exercises and reassuring myself and I couldn’t figure out why.

First I’ll quickly explain how the judging works. You click on the judging and are shunted into two options. The first has you judge five sets of one current room (10 rooms in all). You see two rooms, no identifying information, and then you choose. Once you choose you see the same rooms but with the people’s screen names, the level they’ve completed this season, and their current score (out of five). The second has you judge ten sets of ten “design duel” rooms (so 20 in all). Everything else is the same except you see their score by percentage. Also, after you vote you get a prize, kind of a “thank you for voting” thing. It’s usually $75 for for first option and $150 for the second but I find you can get quite a bit more between 8 and 9pm. That being said, there’s nothing overtly scary about the judging. No punishments, you can’t vote “wrong”, it’s just a game. And I like flipping through and seeing all the pictures, at least until my chest starts tightening and it gets hard to breathe.

I think I inadvertently loosened something recently. I’m in a Storytelling group run by a mental health organization and, while my story about explaining non binary to Colin was well liked, everyone else dealt with big issues that had big feelings. So I thought that maybe I could talk about my early school years. I don’t know why. I’ve blocked most of those memories away then deadbolted them shut. But I thought… maybe??? And I remembered myself standing on a stout pipe that stuck out of the school, watching all the other kids playing together and wondering how they decided to be friends. Then I picked out one girl who looked friendly and a bit like me and went over to ask her… in front of her friends… and I mentioned that I thought we looked alike. I just remember the stunned disbelief and the laughter. I don’t remember what was said but it was enough to send me slinking back to the pipe. Enough that the next time I made friends with someone at that school, it was a tree.

But that memory was enough. I was sitting at the kitchen table late this morning and flipped the game over to judging. Soon the panic began to build but, this time, I could hear myself instead of just staticky panic.

C’mon Kath, you need to pick right. You need to pick the right one or else they’re going to take your reward away.

And, as soon as the word “reward” hit, I knew exactly what was going on. The reward is why positive reinforcement is supposed to be so good. There’s no punishment, you’re simply rewarding for good behaviour. Really? You ask a child who was promised a chocolate bar if they washed the dishes then missed a dish and didn’t get the chocolate bar if that’s a reward or a punishment. The child knows about the reward, it’s not a magical surprise that happens later, so if they don’t get it they know that too.

I find myself trying to pick the right rooms so I’m voting with everyone else so I don’t get stuck voting the wrong way. There isn’t a right way or wrong way in the game. And I’m often stymied by the lack of rules. People say beige and one pattern is the way to go and then someone will make a room with three bright colours and just as many patterns and get a great score. Then I end up blindly guessing until I recollect myself and assure myself that it’s alright to pick the room I like, that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

When I was a little girl I had undiagnosed autism, ADD, and dyscalculia. My coordination was horrible. I struggled to hold a pencil. I was also incredibly bright, talkative, and wrote well enough that the teachers were passing my stories around in the lunchroom because they were so cute and enjoyable. Basically I was a mixed bag and needed help. I also needed someone to realize I was trying and not dawdling around and daydreaming on purpose and my numbers didn’t drift because I was lazy. All kids want to do well and please the adults around them, if it’s not happening, we need to sort it out. I don’t know how, I just know that positive reinforcement isn’t the way.

The adults around me were trying to teach me but the way they were trying wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting it. That, to them, meant I wasn’t trying hard enough (note they never wondered about their own teaching skills). So, since I must know the subject since I’d been taught it enough, I was given assignments with positive reinforcements to encourage me. And what do you do when you know you have to answer like everyone else but have no idea what to do? When you have to answer no matter what? You guess of course. And I was left panicked because if I didn’t guess correctly I was going to lose my reward, through absolutely no fault of my own, even though I was trying to the best of my ability, because the adults around me couldn’t find a different way to teach me.

Forty-three years later and it’s still strong enough to trigger anxiety attacks. Don’t tell me positive reinforcement is positive.