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!

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.

 

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.

A Karen by any other name…

I don’t know which is more annoying, having some unknown man tell me to “relax” because I disagree with him or having him call me a “Karen” for the same reason. I mean both, ultimately, are dismissive. In one I’m simply too uptight to understand why he’s saying what he’s saying and in the other… well it’s the exact same thing.

When Karen originally started, it was used to describe a certain type of women who often dressed and styled themselves similarly and put their wants and needs above everyone else. If Karen wanted pomegranates in July, she didn’t care that they weren’t available. It didn’t matter that’s not when they grow. She wanted pomegranates! Get her a manager NOW!!!

Everyone, at least everyone who’s worked in retail, has met at least one Karen. I’m not sure why the name Karen was picked. Maybe someone thought of it as an average white woman’s name? I don’t know. If that’s the case they should have gone with Jennifer, Lisa, or Sarah (with or without the h). Goodness knows I could toss a stick in any direction and hit someone with one of those names. Not so much with Karen.

But Karen is slowly migrating from ridiculing the people who think they’re perfect and deserve more than everyone else to taunting any woman who disagrees with you. And I’m finding that it’s mainly men doing the taunting (feel free to tell me if you’re having different experiences). Take last week for example. A woman in a local group I belong to asked where she could find veggie burgers in town. Of course Random Man had to jump in to tell her that veggie burgers are terrible for you and worth looking into before she kept thinking it was a healthier alternative.

read the commentsWait, what? There’s so many kinds of veggie burgers, from cheap, frozen no name burgers to freshly made organic ones, you can’t just make a blanket statement like that. But more importantly she didn’t ask for nutritional advice! She simply wanted to know where she could pop in to grab a burger. So I replied, “I really don’t think she asked” and got back, “Relax Karen. Just trying to help.” And when I told him they fit just fine into a healthy diet, his response was, “Apparently you have done zero research and have no real input so please just choose not to comment in the future rather than look like a Karen who’s just trying to pick an internet fight.” Because the only thing I love more than being called Karen or getting told to relax is being told to be quiet and not worry my pretty little head about matters I don’t understand. Ironically enough I have researched multiple veggie burgers over the years and had answered the OPs question with several options for veggie burgers in the area so the only one who hadn’t provided any real input was him. A couple of women jumped in to support me and he was less than enthusiastic, complaining mainly about their lack of intellect because obviously if they disagreed with him they couldn’t be that bright.

Which meanders me over to my next thought. Why is there no similar name for men? It’s not just women who rant at cashiers. I had one customer who was so positive that the Tim Hortons I worked at must have an adjoining Wendy’s, even after I said we didn’t, that he went around the corner to look for it not once, not twice, but three times. Or the guy who threatened to take a lady outside for a fist fight over a spot in line. I used my Mom Voice™ to stop that one but seriously! And, on an even scarier note, I’ve dealt with a male customer before while my quite pregnant assistant manager hid around the corner plus I came into work one morning to find out another man had actually split one of our countertops in half pounding on it in a fit of rage. If I remembered correctly, he wanted the baker to give him all the baked goods for free and the baker couldn’t. It’s against the rules and there are cameras, she’d get fired if she did. So he smashed the counter and went home empty handed instead of waiting an hour and pulling a completely sealed, clear plastic bag out of the dumpster, full of all the goodies he’d wanted. I think those are worse than whinging about an expired coupon. So mush over, Karen, maybe Bradley should have his turn in the sun. And every man who calls a woman Karen, simply for disagreeing with him, automatically becomes a Bradley.

I know exactly who should be the first Bradley. Random Man! Because you deserve it!

The road to hell…

The road to hell…

blog post blurred photo(All quotes, unless stated otherwise, are written by Sarah Plake)

A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday. Okay, that part isn’t new or newsworthy, it’s why that matters. Someone on a Kansas City News Facebook page shared an anti-transgender meme that featured her then nine year old child. Even now her child is, just that, a child. She thought about ignoring it but, well, this is her baby. So she called in reinforcements. That’s where I came in.

I very rarely enter the comment section. I joke that’s where the trolls live but, in reality that’s pretty close to the truth. My first foray into the comments years ago was a shock and a half. I’d expected it to be the online version of The Letter to the Editor. Heavily moderated and edited for brevity. What I found was the online version of a drunken college party but with worse grammar. But I do make exceptions on wading in there for friends.

I found the offending comment right away and my friend’s request to please remove her daughter’s photo, stressing that she was just a child. I took this photo hours later, obviously he didn’t care. And that’s why his name has not been edited out of the image. I’ve edited the girl and I’ve removed everyone else’s names. I even removed my friend’s profile picture. But him? Pfft. If he can’t be bothered to remove a child’s photo off the internet, so be it.

blog post retortThe comment was on an article regarding transgender youths and medical procedures regarding them plus transgender athletes. It quickly became obvious that pretty much nobody had a frigging clue what the hell they were talking about. I mean here’s a quote about the bills being proposed in Missouri and Kansas.

“Kansas House Bill 2210 and Missouri House Bill 33 would make it a crime for doctors to perform any gender-reassignment services, procedures or surgeries for transgender children under 18, which includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy.”

Puberty blockers for pete’s sake. They’ve been used for decades to treat precocious puberty. You know, like when a five year old girl starts getting her period or an eight year old boy grows a beard? They are not new or experimental or dangerous or permanent. There is no reason to stop them. Absolutely none.

A Republican, of course, introduced the bill in Kansas to protect children because, in his words, “I don’t think a child would ever think about something like that if their parents or others around them weren’t telling them that they can choose to be the opposite gender. I think this is something that’s just being forced on kids.”

Meanwhile his co-sponsor is only opposed to children being “surgically altered”. She goes on to say that “if a child has a tendency or curiosity, or there is a ‘fad’ to be gay, the child [needs] a parent who is open to conversation with the school, [their] pediatric physician and then an experienced child therapist to work with the child before permanent decisions are made.”

Really? Really??? I mean totally ignoring the whole bizarre “fad to be gay” thing, what did she think happened? Sadly the reality is she doesn’t have a clue. I bet she’s never spoken to a single trans adult or the parent of a trans child let alone a trans child. Neither of them have reached out to a paediatrician or any other doctor who works with transgender youths. I mean that’s all just patently obviously. No one who’d done any amount of research would think children are being “surgically altered”.

blog post commentAnd they’re not the only ones. The more I read, the more I find there’s a whole swathe of people who claim to be fighting against kids transitioning on their behalf. They can’t believe a trans child would know their gender at seven years old; someone must be forcing them to think they’re transgender. Meanwhile they’re just as likely to say that of course their five year old son picked the blue ball, he knows he’s a boy. It’s only the trans kids who don’t know their gender. The cis kids not only are allowed to know it but they have their noses rubbed in it (gender reveal parties anyone?).

And multiple people, like the co-signer, are there wailing about the six and seven year olds getting surgery and how it’s abuse and it needs to be stopped immediately! Umm… it never started to begin with. I have no idea where they come up with this idea but there’s always someone new who’s positive a kindergarten student is going in for gender confirmation surgery.

And the people who just want to be “reasonable” and let trans kids minds have a chance to mature before starting any kind of treatment. Kids and teens change their minds so often and they shouldn’t be allowed to make such life altering decisions at such a young age.

Wait… what??? Teens can join the military and see live action. They can get their driver’s license and take control of a several tonne vehicle which could easily kill themself and/or the people around them. They can take out a massive loan for post secondary education, one that will take decades to pay off, and one which they could end up taking out on a program they ultimately don’t like. They can get married. They can have a baby (or more). They can have a tattoo and/or piercing in a variety of places. They can have sex, which, depending on the person they’re with and the STI they have, can be very life altering. Where the fuck are these people at recruitment centres with their signs reading “Getting blown up is a life altering decision”? Why aren’t they protesting student loans? Especially in the States where they can’t be forgiven no matter what circumstances you’re in. Why aren’t they fighting against child brides? But, no, it’s only against trans people.

I just read a tweet by someone who goes by the name Tamra Bonvillain, which reads, “Not allowing trans teens to go on blockers/hormones is also an irreversible choice”. This is absolutely true and absolutely never mentioned in these bills or in conservative discussions regarding transgender youths. These people are saying they’re trying their hardest to protect the poor innocent children and teens but have never spoken to a single transgender youth. They’ve never thought of the ramifications of their actions. Why not? Maybe it’s because they’re not trying to protect transgender children. They don’t want to believe trans children even exist. They don’t like trans people. They don’t accept trans people. They think of trans people as being horrible and abominations of nature. And there’s no way innocent children could be any of that.

So they claim it’s adults causing it and try to legislate them out of existence. If they’re not having name changes in the classroom, or using the correct washroom, or playing on their proper team… those people don’t have to think about trans children at all. They get total ignorant bliss. Unless they have to notice because a child simply won’t just go away and then it gets ugly. I read one story a year or so ago where a child, a literal prepubescent child, wanted to use the girls washroom. Parents of her classmates got together and she was called such things as “it”, “the thing”, and “half baked maggot”. Fathers were bragging about how it was going to be their son who beat her up. Parents. Of children her own age. How could they tuck their children in at night, kiss their foreheads, and marvel at how young and precious they were while literally referring to another child that same age as insect larva? It just doesn’t make sense.

Or, well it does. They don’t like trans people. They don’t know anyone who’s trans and they don’t want to know anyone who’s trans. Children are innocent and therefore can’t be trans, someone must be forcing them. Unless they prove they really are trans and then it’s fair game to call them a maggot and share their picture in a meme that mocks them. And, well, the kids get ignored until they’re adult and can’t be legislated out of existence anymore. And then they’re mocked and harrassed for looking different and not fitting into gender norms, like they picked the wrong puberty on purpose. And so on and so forth and I’m sick of it and furious.

Friends talk and share stories about health care woes. Of having to teach even the good doctors how to treat them. Of being called “it” and “he-she” by medical professionals. Of having doctors simply refuse to treat them. Of a man who died of ovarian cancer after a three year struggle to find a doctor willing to treat him. A woman hemorrhaging from her leg who was made to walk downstairs to an ambulance, while the attendants mocked her, because they didn’t want to touch her enough to help her onto a stretcher. I even found my own psychiatric intake papers from 2016, shortly after I broke up with my then fiance, stating I had a “recent breakup with a ‘boyfriend’, who was actually a transgender female to male”. She went on to state that the relationship “was perceived to be romantic in nature”. I really doubt she’d have written any of that if Lenny had been a cis male. The psychiatrist literally recoiled when she found out.

For the love of all we hold holy and/or dear can we not just listen to other people, care for other people, and accept other people? Can we stop trying to make decisions for people without finding out what they want and actually need first. Can we accept people as, you know, people instead of othering them in a derogatory fashion? And… this should be complete and utter common sense here… can we please not take the picture(s) of children, make derogatory memes about them, and spread them around the world wide web? It doesn’t cost us a single thing to be kind.

A cat and mouse tale…

If you want to know what kind of day I’m having, I can tell you. It’s a “which cat pooped in the food bowl?” kind of day. Although to be fair I think it was more of an Olympic kitty litter kick kind of incident and not an actual squat over the dish. The end result is the same though.

It pales in comparison to my experiences exactly two weeks ago.

Angel sleeping on my bed filteredFirst I saw my grandson on Saturday and shortly after got a gazillion scrapbooking kits (where a gazillion equals six). The next day was Valentine’s Day my cat Angel’s 15th birthday which is obviously very important and required plenty of attention, yummy food, and her favourite stuffed catnip carrot. I didn’t get much done on the computer that day. And finally Monday rolled around and I decided to devote the day to scrapbooking. The kits were already downloaded and sorted into the right folders and albums (I’m just a little organized) and all I needed to do was save my pictures from Google to My Photos then I was good to go.

Except the mouse. just. stopped. Right there in the middle of the screen.

Okay, that was irritating. Obviously the battery must have died, the downside of having a wireless mouse. So I got a freshly charged battery and nothing. Tried Ctrl-Alt-Del and tabbed my way to the shut down menu then the computer restarted with a frozen mouse. Moved the dongle to several different ports and… nothing. I even pulled the second mouse out of the closet (it was a set of two) and that one didn’t work either. At this point I was getting worried and so I called Colin.

His first suggestion was to try remote desktop which, luckily he’d already installed on my computer so I had no problems added it to my phone. I must say that trying to repair a computer by controlling the cursor via a tiny phone screen and one finger ranks just above getting a root canal.

*thinks for a moment*

Marginally

I tried for hours, both with and without Colin, before giving up. I uninstalled that damn mouse so many times!!! Colin wished that I could try with a wired mouse but I didn’t have one and didn’t have any money to go buy one so that was out. His only solution was for me to buy an SSD drive and then he’d coach me, via video chat, on how to transfer all my files over and then format my hard drive. You can imagine my enthusiasm.

Then I remembered my friend has an older computer and, sure enough she had a wired mouse and it worked!!! So we traded mice because my mouse worked just fine on her laptop. And, because of anxiety, it took me two days before I attempted to finish downloading those pictures and over a week before I could bring myself to complete this post. But there hasn’t been a single hint of trouble from the computer since we traded mice and I (thankfully) haven’t needed to buy a new drive of any sort.

And I still don’t know who the Olympic poop flinger is although, if I had to play money, I’d place my bet on Smudge. Then, a couple of days before the flinging incident, I had to give Blackie Boo a bath. She thought I was trying my hardest to drown her which made bath time very enthusiastic with lots of extra bath toys in the water like the pot scrubbie and the dish soap and very nearly a small vase of artificial flowers. Poor kitty. I picked her up to put her on my bed and she started flailing like it was bath time round two. She seems over it now, hopefully, or well maybe I should keep checking my slippers before I wear them for just a little longer. Just in case.

Above: Angel on her birthday
Below: Angel’s birthday layout (because that’s not extra at all). It’s the first layout I made after the computer started working again.
 
Angel's 15th birthday