Brave Face

A few nights ago, I watched a movie on Netflix called I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. It didn’t have anything to do with current events, but the title has stuck with me. That’s not to say that I have any designs on leaving this world, that’s not what I mean in any capacity, so please don’t worry about that. It’s just that increasingly over the last couple of years, the place that I’ve always called home, has felt less and less like the home I’ve always loved.

Feeling out of place isn’t something that’s new to me, though. I’ve written in the past about struggles with not fitting in with my peers at some points in my life, but this is different. I feel…displaced. Like I fundamentally don’t belong anymore. My province, and my hometown seem to be so opposite to how my values and beliefs line up, and my frustration is at an all time high. And now, I have reasons to believe that I’m not even the person that I thought I was.

I’m finding myself saying and doing things I shouldn’t. I used to be able to control myself better, and keep my snark in check when I needed to. I have no excuses for the way I’ve conducted myself lately, and I’m not going to make any. Something came out of me recently that I’m not proud of. At all. We all have our people, our safe spaces, and I violated that space without thinking it through completely. And it bit me, and I deserved it. I haven’t thought about much else since. I don’t even have the words to express how sorry I am, and how bad I feel. I’m taking responsibility for my actions, because that’s what an adult should do.

I came to an epiphany of sorts recently, too. Until the pandemic hit, I was a worker bee. For a lot of years, I worked and worked and worked some more. Sometimes working 11 hours a day, sometimes two jobs. I filled my time with work, and not a whole lot else. At the time, I didn’t even realize what I was doing. I worked until I literally made myself sick at one time, I was severely anemic and exhausted. I wasn’t taking care of myself, and it showed. I was doing 8 or 9 nail clients a day, no lunch, no breaks. I’d start at 9am, and work until 7 or 8pm straight through, without stopping. It was like I was just this zombie on auto-pilot, a drone hunched over a desk, chained to a daily grind.

I’ve always been someone who would rather deal with what’s going on with everyone around me, rather than what’s happening with me. I’ve always known that could be to my own detriment, but I pushed things down, stuffed them away, because it was easier than facing them head on. Now that in the last year I’ve had a lot of extra time on my hands, it’s forced a lot of that to the surface where I haven’t had a choice but to look at it. It’s been staring me right in the face, a mental game of chicken.

How it’s felt for years, is like I’ve been a caged animal internally. But now? Now, due to this pandemic, I’m also literally feeling like a caged animal. Feral. Is that why my teeth are bared, and my claws are coming out more often? It’s my best guess. It still excuses nothing. All of these demons that I haven’t faced, they’ll eat me alive if I don’t find some way through them. I’ve spent so much time pretending to be fine, that for a long time I may have convinced myself that I was. I know that it hasn’t been fair to the people that love me. We’ve had our hands full for so long with another family member, that I never wanted to take the focus off of that. At the end of the day, I’ve always managed to power through, and keep going.

I once had a conversation with my cousin’s wife. We were discussing said family member, and some things going on. I mentioned that I had all the same issues, just not to the same degree, and that they manifest a little differently in me. She was shocked, and told me that of all the people she knew, she saw me as one of the most “together”. I told her that when it comes to me, I always like to use the duck analogy. She hadn’t heard this analogy before, so I explained. “Say you see a duck swimming out on a pond. What you see on the surface is just a calm duck, moving along. But under the water, it’s legs and feet are kicking like mad to swim.”

I can’t help but feel that the more time goes by, the harder I’m having to kick. I have no one to blame but myself for that, and for pushing things down as long as I have. How I’m going to navigate what I need to, I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’ve been in counseling at different points in my life, and I’m going to look at going back. One of the things I need to find my way through, though…I’m not sure there really is a way through it completely. The reason being that it’s not just about me, it also affects someone I love very much. And it’s not just my story to tell.

One day, I hope to be able to tell it. I can’t be sure that will happen, because it will mean some painful and difficult conversations. It also means that all that kicking may finally be on the surface of the water, and there’s others that could get splashed in the process. My instinct to this point was to always protect the people around me, keep some glass walls around me so that no one caught the aftermath. In this case, forget the duck. We’re talking full on Shamu out of the water, and my loved ones are in the splash zone. I’ve got some work to do on my own before any of it could possibly happen. I just hope I have the strength to do it.

No matter what happens now, I’ll continue to put one foot in front of the other. I always do. For my family, for the people that love me, I know I have to. And that’s always in the back of my mind. Everything I do, is for them. Brave face, game on.

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

My grandpa brought baseball to our town. Cold Lake certainly isn’t a big city now, but it was a tiny little town in the 50’s. When my dad was 4, he brought a man named Tom Murphy to play on his team, the Cold Lake Cardinals. He was from San Francisco, and he was a good ball player. He couldn’t have possibly known then, who this man would become to our family over the decades to come. He came to play ball, and then, he just stayed. For a long time. Eventually he moved back to the Bay area, but he lived and worked in Cold Lake for many years, and we considered him family.

He was a friend to my grandparents, a sort of uncle and friend to my dad and his siblings. Eventually he became my brother’s Godfather. My brother and I both played ball when we were young, and he’d come for dinner and hit balls to us in the back yard. He’d attempt to take us to church on the odd Sunday, after our mom had tried and failed to get us to keep going. He’d bribe us with breakfast out, waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. It still didn’t work out for either one of us, but he had to try.

Tom was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. He was goofy, but sharp. Always quick with a joke, making us laugh constantly. Sometimes, he’d come to our house to do laundry. One afternoon when I was in high school, I come home to see his car parked outside. I go into the house, and I walk into our living room to see him lying on the floor. Sheer panic took over me, and I started calling his name. “Tom. Tom? TOM!” And I’m really starting to freak out. “TOM!!!” and finally “What?!” I started breathing again, and I walk over and help him up. “I thought you were dead!” And he says to me “I’m not dead, I’m just lazy!” He had fallen asleep on the couch while doing his laundry, fallen off the couch during the course of his nap, and was too damn lazy to get back up on the couch and just continued his nap on the floor.

He has a niece in San Francisco, who came to visit when I was in grade 10, and stayed with us at our house. As a gift for graduation, my parents sent me to visit her and her mom on my own at 17 for ten days. The first time I’d ever traveled by myself. They took me to do some amazing things on that trip. Pier 39, the Museum of Modern Art, Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz, shopping in Sausalito. I saw my last movie at a drive-in there, and by God wasn’t it Pulp Fiction. My mom was not impressed with me that I came home with rolls and rolls of film, and had all of one picture that I was actually in, but five pictures of places where the Zodiac Killer dumped bodies. Priorities.

One day, they took me to the zoo. It was an impressive facility, as zoos go. I had lagged behind in an area for a minute, and my family friends had gone on ahead of me at one point. We were in the big cat exhibit, and there was an area I was walking through that was a boardwalk that had two high fences on either side, and trees among the fences. They were doing some work within the exhibit at that time, but people were still allowed through. I was walking along the boardwalk alone, when I heard rustling above me in the trees. I looked up, to see a beautiful black panther starting down at me. With nothing in between us. I froze, terrified. Before I knew it, though, a park employee came out of nowhere, and shot it with a tranquilizer. They explained to us after, that someone had forgotten to put some of the chain netting back in one area, and they’d lost this cat. Well, it found me, anyway. We got our admission refunded, and free t-shirts. It’s still a very surreal thing when I think about it, that it actually happened.

I’ve also spent family vacations in the Bay area. Even as an adult, when Tom moved back after spending many years in Cold Lake. Now I’m lucky that I not only love my family, but I genuinely like them as people, and what this means is that in our travels come some funny stories. The last trip we took out to California, we flew out through Vancouver. My mother makes no secret out of the fact that she does not like to fly. The running joke with her is that she used take drugs to fly, now she flies to take drugs. And it’s true, she has to take sedatives, she’s that scared. She’s got it down to a science now.

Our layover this time was around lunchtime, and we had a couple of hours to kill in the airport, and where our gate was there was a food court like you see often. The boys went in several different directions, and my mom and I decided to get Chinese food and a coffee from Starbucks, and we’d all meet back near our gate to eat together. We got all our food and such, and my mom is ambulatory and everything, but a tad loopy from the drugs. We’re all eating and quiet for a couple of minutes, and out of the blue she says “this is the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.” My dad was sitting across from me, and we look at each other, and I kind of look at him and then turn to my mom and go “Oh really?” and she goes “Yup, best Chinese food ever.” And I’m laughing to myself, because believe me when I say that food was mediocre at best. I’d equate it to mall Chinese food, and it was fine, but it was nowhere near the best ever. I moved across the aisle to tell my dad this and we chuckled together. We got on our connection, and got to San Francisco later that afternoon.

That evening, Tom came to meet us at our hotel for dinner. We order, and my mom got some crab cakes as an appetizer. She’s eating them, and says “My God, these crab cakes are so good” and my dad says “As good as the best Chinese food you ever had?” And I start laughing. Mom says to him “What Chinese food?” and then I interject. “The Chinese food from the airport at lunch.” And she says to me “I didn’t have any Chinese food today.” And I’m laughing harder now. So I tell her about the layover, how we got the Chinese food and how she said it was the best she’d ever had, and how it truly wasn’t that great. She had no recollection of the food, or the layover, because of the sedatives, and then was choked she couldn’t even remember this food she’d praised so much.

The next day on that trip, we didn’t really have anything planned. I was craving pancakes, and the husband and I drove to a nearby Denny’s to get lunch. We got inside and got seated, the waitress poured us some coffee, and came to tell us a minute later that the power was going to be out for a few minutes due to some outside work, and either we could wait the few minutes, or drink the coffee we’d gotten on the house and head out if we wanted. We decided to wait. But several minutes later she came back to tell us that it was going to take longer than expected, and alas, no pancakes for me. There was a Taco Bell right across the street, so we just decided to grab something there. It’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made, because I ended up with violent food poisoning on vacation, and lost nearly three days on that trip. Well played Taco Bell, lesson learned.

We drove out to Pebble Beach to check things out. I can’t say that I’ve seen many golf courses, but it was beautiful. My dad, who rarely complains about anything, was furious it costed $10 just to drive onto the grounds. We walked around a bit, and I had to wrangle my parents off of a green before they got hit by flying golf balls. My brother, ever the classy one, peed in some bushes because he didn’t know if he was allowed to go in the clubhouse if he wasn’t a member. I stood ready with my phone, and snapped a picture of him coming out of them. I’m a great sister.

We drove out to Half Moon Bay, where there’s a restaurant called Sam’s Chowder House, which my dad kept insisting on calling “Sam’s Crab Shack” (“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” was his classic response every time I corrected him) which the Today Show had featured their Lobster Roll in the top 5 sandwiches in the US. Well I had it, and let me tell you, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Where that restaurant is situated is nothing short of breathtaking, as well.

We went to watch the Giants play, because baseball is in our blood. I’m not one to watch it on TV, but I do like to go to a game. It’s cool that you can see water from the park, we could right from our seats. The Giants lost that game, but it was still nice to be at a game there. We went to Alcatraz on that trip, too. We’d already been, but the husband had never gone, and it’s still a cool thing to do anyway. That day I still wasn’t feeling very well, but we’d booked the tickets with my credit card in advance, so if I wasn’t there with my card, then no one was going. So off I went, on a boat, stomach churning. I swear I must have actually looked green. I eventually parked my ass on a bench and just said “I’ll be here” and contemplated lying down on it until my family was done. Eventually, my brother came barreling down the ramp from where you head up to the prison itself. He doesn’t know I know this, but my mom later told me they were up there, and he kept saying “Should she be down there by herself? Someone should check on her.” And so he did.

A drive out to San Jose had us take a visit to the Winchester House, which was something I really wanted to see. If you’re not familiar with the story, Sarah Winchester was the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune. She lost everyone she loved, and thought she was cursed. A spiritualist in Boston told her that vengeful spirits taken by the family’s rifles were taking their revenge on her, and that she needed to move to the east and buy a house. He instructed that she needed to maintain constant construction on that house to keep the spirits away. The house she bought was worked on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from 1866, until she died in 1922. There are 160 rooms, and within it there are staircases that lead to nowhere, doors that just have walls behind them, and gorgeous stained glass pieces in areas that get no sun. Things that make no sense, supposedly to confuse any spirits that come calling, to chase them away. You can’t take pictures inside, but I remember intricate flooring, trim, and ceiling treatments, unlike people had ever seen in those days.

This trip was close to mother’s day, and as a treat, I booked my mom and I a spa day at the Fairmont Mission Inn in Sonoma. We took a day trip out there, the men went wine tasting while we got spoiled. The fact that it’s an old Mission to start with is very cool, and the architecture itself is beautiful. There’s terracotta flooring and ceiling tiles, and it has that hacienda type feel. But it’s also built on a natural spring, and before your services they have you do a bathing ritual in their whirlpools, which is the spring water brought up from the ground. Between all of that, and the quality of the services, it was a fabulous day.

One of the services I booked for us was called a Vanilla Float. It was a full body scrub, and whatever a “float” was, which I had no idea what to expect. When I walked into that room, there was a chair, and a giant rectangle covered in a sheet, which almost resembled a coffin. She asked me if I was claustrophobic at all. I said no, but I was suddenly slightly frightened. She had me lie on top of the sheet on this rectangle, which just felt like a piece of furniture once I got up on it. She scrubbed me from head to toe with this amazing vanilla scented body scrub, and wrapped me up in the sheet. Then I could see under the sheet was another blanket she wrapped me in. She walked around to the other side of the table, hit a button, and WHOOSH I sunk into the table! Inside, it was like a waterbed, where I was suspended, floating there in water, but I wasn’t wet. Once I figured out what had happened, I completely relaxed. My head was still above at the one end, as were my feet. She then gave me a head massage, and I was in complete heaven. It was, hands down, the coolest spa service I’ve ever had done to date.

It feels like travel may never happen again right now. And I miss traveling with my family, especially. San Francisco is always going to have a special place in my heart thanks to Tom. He was so special to our family, and the time we spent there is a reminder of what he was to us. Family isn’t always blood, sometimes people come along in life that choose to be there, and they become your family. I’m lucky enough to have a family that I want to spend time with, but I’m so grateful to have friends that are like my family, too. I don’t take any one of them for granted, not for one second. Tom is passed away now, and I’ve tragically lost friends along the way. You really never do know what life is going to throw at you. Hold your people close to you, and make sure to tell them you love them. Tomorrow is never a guarantee, and we need to stick together now more than ever. Much love.

Pink Shirt Day

A couple of posts ago, I told a story about a girl who invited me to her house on the day of her birthday party, only to tell me in front of twenty kids that I wasn’t actually invited and to turn around and go home. We were in grade 6. And really, that was only the beginning. What followed were four years of hell on earth. Until the end of grade 9, I was bullied mercilessly. I just wanted to crawl under a rock and stay there forever. I was withdrawn, anti-social. I did have a few friends, but we kept to ourselves and didn’t want attention drawn to us.

I didn’t make sense to the popular kids. I grew up what I guess you could call “well-off”. In a small town, I had the right clothes, what people would have considered the right last name. This is all what I see now, looking back. I never cared about any of that. I never wanted for anything, that I know. But I also come from people who worked hard, and raised my brother and I to treat others with respect no matter who you are. I learned early on, that not everyone is like that.

The kids that were popular, they wanted you to suck up to them. They wanted you to need to be one of them. And I had no desire for any of that, if it meant I had to be like they were. I wasn’t selling my soul to them just to fit in. If fitting in meant that I had to beat others down, I wanted no part of it. Because I already knew how it felt, and I couldn’t bear the thought of doing that to someone else. I paid for it. Oh, how I paid for it. They didn’t understand my choice to be a wallflower, instead of begging for a spot with the in crowd.

There were others, though, who got it worse than I did. And there were times that I put myself in harm’s way, knowing what was going to happen. There was a girl who was new to town in grade 9. In a small town like ours, that’s a rough go to start with, when most of us had known each other since we were little. And she was a different girl, eccentric. Came to school in high heels, wore strange clothes compared to us. And truth be told, she had quite frizzy red hair. She was just different than the rest of us, and of course, immediately became a target. I felt horrible for her. I was one of the only ones who was pleasant to her, and she was a nice girl.

One day, I had forgotten something in my classroom, and I went back in to see that she was sitting at a desk writing. One of the boys in my class was standing behind her, holding a bottle of White Out over her head, waiting for it to pour in her hair. With her hair being thick and frizzy, it would have taken a few seconds for her to even know it was there…and I was suitably horrified. I ran over and knocked the bottle out of his hand, and it spilled on the floor. She was startled, she hadn’t even known he was standing there. He was angry at me for ruining his prank, and I was angry at him for even wanting to do it in the first place. He looked me dead in the eye and said “You’ll regret that.”

When the teacher came in later when class started, neither she or I fessed up to how the White Out got on the carpet. After school that day, that boy followed behind me while I walked home and yelled insults at me the whole way. All because I didn’t let him pour White Out in an unsuspecting girl’s hair. What on earth would possess him to even want to do that, I still have no idea. To me, it wouldn’t have been funny. Even at fourteen. All I could think of was how she would even get it out, and how it was going to make her feel. If I had to go back and do it again, I would knock that bottle out of his hand ten out of ten times. It was the right thing to do.

The walk home that day wasn’t fun. It was only a block, thank God. But I didn’t let him see me cry. I kept my head up, and walked straight ahead, pretending I didn’t hear him while he called after me. I walked in the door of my house, closed it behind me, crumpled to the floor, and cried. My brother, who would have been 11 at the time, came to the entry because he heard me crying. He looked scared, not knowing what to do. He just came and sat on the floor next to me. A few minutes went by, and I stopped crying. And he said “Can we have a snack now?” and I just nodded at him, and we got up and went to the kitchen. I doubt he remembers that. But I always will.

Here’s the thing about that day, though. Once I got home, I was home. I’d escaped. There was no social media to check, no texts. Sure, it was still on my mind, but at the very least at home it was just me and my family. The people that loved me, knew me, wanted the best for me. It’s such a different world we’re living in now, where as soon as kids are exposed to the online world, they’re connected to each other constantly. There’s no break from contact. Even though I don’t have any children of my own, there are many in my life. And I hear and see the things that happen.

I’m reminded of stories like Amanda Todd, a girl from Port Coquitlam, BC. She was cyber-bullied after a photo of her flashing was circulated, to the point that it drove her to drugs and alcohol, and ultimately led her to suicide. She was fifteen years old. I’ll link an article at the end of this post if you’re not familiar with the story, but heartbreaking doesn’t begin to cover it. The pain that bullying caused her, and in turn what the outcome caused her family is nothing short of agonizing. Even when she was at home, there was no escaping. It’s just different now. Parents, if you’re reading this, be vigilant. Know what your children are doing online. Limit their phone and screen time at night, even as teenagers. It may save their life.

Days like today, Pink Shirt Day, matter. Absolutely. But if we’re not all conscious of how we’re treating people on a day to day basis, then we’ve already lost. The bullying I went through when I was young had lasting effects on me, I can’t say that it didn’t. It’s like when you throw a rock into water, that initial splash is the worst of it, but the ripple effect goes on…sometimes infinitely. The disturbance of that water, it changes you. In some ways it can even change you for the better. It strengthened my resolve. It solidified my view of right and wrong. And these are things that I apply to my everyday life.

The pain felt unbearable at the time, but I was lucky enough to have family support, people who loved me no matter what. This isn’t always the case for everyone, and that breaks my heart. I’m also going to post a link to the Kids Help Phone charity. Resources for our children who don’t have support at home are invaluable, and it’s a cause that’s important to me. Times are hard right now, though, and I get that, too. The pandemic has caused us all stresses that we couldn’t have expected on top of our already stressful lives. I think it exacerbates everything, and just makes it all the more important to make days like today, and mental health focuses for all of us a priority.

If you’re still with me, thank you for taking the time today. Much love, and be sure to take care of yourselves, and each other.

Kids Help Phone | Charity Profile | Donate Online | Canadahelps

The Story of Amanda Todd | The New Yorker

Change, Pandemic Nonsense, and other surprises

I’m feeling well beyond cooped up these days. And while I’m certainly not homicidal, I’m having a hard time not going all Jack Torrance from The Shining.

All work and no play makes Tara a dull girl.

Alright, so that’s a bit dramatic. Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King aren’t writing my life story right now, but since the beginning of this pandemic, it’s seemed like this B horror movie of sorts where I’ve just waited for this virus to mutate into some kind of zombie apocalypse. Which would at least make it a little more interesting to watch from my isolation. Sounds harsh, right? Well that’s where I’m at now, so how do you think I feel? My imagination gets the better of me sometimes, and let me tell you, she’s vivid.

What I have to remind myself of is the fact that I’m not the only one going through this. We’re all in it. Even if you’re not a believer, this has affected you, whether you want to admit it or not. The places we can go, the things we can do. There’s no denying it. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is insanely long, and sometimes feels incredibly dark in the meantime. That’s to be expected, I suppose. I don’t enjoy feeling on edge, somehow restless and exhausted at the same time. It doesn’t jive in my head, and that bothers me.

Bothersome as it might be, it’s led me to make some changes. Partially because of how I feel overall, and I think partially because of all the things that are out of my control right now. Control is a funny thing. I think when there’s a lot in my life that I can’t control, I look for things that I can, and latch on to that. So I decided to make some dietary changes. Again, a lot of my reasoning is just that I want to feel better, because I wasn’t making great choices for a while. But it’s also almost a distraction, something to focus on while other things are just lemmings going over a cliff.

Something else I’ve been able to focus on recently, I was asked to be a guest on a podcast. Music for the Quarantined Soul. The idea is essentially like a desert island game. Beforehand, you choose five albums. The ones that if you had to pick, are the ones you’d be stuck with in quarantine. Music is in my blood, so this was right up my alley. But let me tell you, I agonized over this decision for days. We were set to record last night, and I was actually really nervous about it. What if I sounded silly? What if it turned out they were sorry they asked me? It turned out to be a blast, they were really nice, funny guys, and we had a good time. They really do their research on your choices, which I loved. I won’t tell what they were just yet, since I’ll be posting the podcast once it’s edited and ready, so stay tuned for that if you’re interested. They’ve even asked me to make another appearance with a bit of a twist, so I’ll keep you in the loop about that as well!

There’s also been some discord within my extended family that’s been worrying me a lot recently. I can’t talk a whole lot about it, but it’s weighing on me heavily. When someone you love is hurting or in pain, and there’s nothing you can do to take it away, to fix it…well, there’s not a lot of feelings that are worse. Helpless feels exactly how it sounds. You’re powerless to amend their situation, and as someone who generally puts the people I love before myself, this is especially hard for me to sit back and watch. I want to trust that they’re going to make the right decisions, and see things for what they truly are. I’m not sure that’s how this is going to play out, but I’ll be here either way.

Speaking of family, I did get a nice surprise this week. In the summer, my brother got this pageboy style hat from Chapel Hats in Calgary, and I fell in love with it. He promised he’d get me one like it, but didn’t want to buy me exactly the same one. Fast forward to Christmas, and in my stocking he’d given me a cute black and white plaid hat from Walmart that I thought was just fine, but he wasn’t happy with this purchase. “I’ll find a better one” he kept saying. “It’s not that good.” I didn’t see the issue, I thought it was plenty cute. He thought it was too cheap looking, and just didn’t like it. Well, in the mail this week came this grey velour pageboy hat. It’s perfect. It’s so perfect, I can’t even put it into words, which is saying a lot. My brother is a guy of very few words, and doesn’t show affection like most do. But the fact that this hat he’d got at Christmas wasn’t up to his standard was going to bother him until he found something he thought was ‘right’. He and I, we get each other in this weird way, we always have.

This reminds me of a time when we were just kids, and my mom took us shopping for Christmas one year. She’d given us each $20, and with that we were to buy something for each other, and both of our parents. This was back before the GST was even a thing, so that’s telling you how long ago it was. My brother was maybe 5, so I would have been about 8. That year, Pound Puppies were a big thing. And now that I’m going back to this, the name of those poor creatures is questionable, but I digress. There was one in particular I wanted so badly. She was this cute little white puppy with a red bow on her head. My mom took us to shop at this variety store in town, and this Pound Puppy was there. One of them. Price tag? $17.99. We had $20, no budging. I was focused on what I was going to get for my family, and he did his thing. Well, Christmas came, and sure enough, he’d gotten me that puppy because he knew how much I wanted it. He’d scoured the store endlessly, and had bought my mom and dad each $0.99 Oilers stickers for Christmas, so that he could get us all something, and not go over his spending limit. My mom has kept those stickers to this day, because they didn’t care what we got them, it was just so sweet that he spent so much of his money on me, to get me what I wanted so badly.

This works both ways, though. Whatever it is that he really wants for his birthday or Christmas, I have to get it for him. He lives a pretty simple life, and doesn’t ask for much. And I find these random things that he ends up ridiculously attached to. He’s a die hard Oilers fan, and has been since birth. And he likes things that are different, not what everyone else has. A few years ago I managed to find an Oilers hoodie that was St. Patrick’s Day themed. It’s that shamrock green, front and center, you can’t miss it. The logo is embossed on the front and you can barely see it, but it’s there. It’s out there, and it’s different, but it’s one of the things I’ve seen him wear the most over the last several years. That makes me happy.

Overall right now, I know that things could be a whole lot worse, and I’m really alright with that. I just need to keep my perspective, and look forward. And in the meantime, I never know what little surprises might come about to brighten my days here and there. People can do that, if you let them. If you’re still with me, I hope you’re taking care of yourselves, and each other. Much love.

#Twittersucks

Attention: Harsh truths ahead.

That’s right, I said it. Sometimes Twitter just sucks. You think it sometimes, don’t deny it. It can be a cess pool full of toxicity, negativity, and let’s face it, general douchebaggery. That doesn’t take away the positive things that I get from it all the time, but lately things have just gotten to me. I’m sure people being cooped up for so long isn’t helping anything in the least. We’re all going stir crazy, and some of the outlets we use to blow off steam aren’t as readily available as they usually are. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I think because of this we’re all a bit more on edge than usual. That’s normal. What’s not normal, are some of the behaviors I still see within the Twitterverse.

The Negative Attention Seeker

For the life of me, I cannot understand this tactic. You know the type, the person who’s out for shock value, and doesn’t care how they go about it. My problem with this type, is that they’ll sometimes try to drag others down in the process, just to achieve some kind of notoriety. What they seem to forget, is that it makes them look petty and spiteful, for what appears to be no good reason. There’s always a reason for everything, though. We’re all battling demons, whether we’re showing our cards or not. Obviously I have no psych degree to back me up here, but if you’re deflecting negative energy out into the world about other people, there’s definitely something going on internally. Kind of the idea “hey, don’t look too deep at what I’ve got going on, but look at this trainwreck over here.” Is it easier to point at other people, than to deal with our own shit? Absolutely it is. But you can only avoid your own demons and deflect so long, before you’re going to have to face whatever it is you’re really dealing with.

The Twitter Police

I can’t even put into words how sick to death I am of people who think they can police others that they don’t even know. For example, a few nights ago during a hockey game, one of my close friends was using some colorful language. That is 100% her right to do so on Twitter. And I’m not into hockey, but game night Twitter with my friends is fun for me in a totally different way than it is for them, because I get to watch from the sidelines win or lose. On this particular night, though, a guy who doesn’t even follow her took it upon himself to lecture her about her language, and even brought up professionalism. Which, if that’s how you choose to choose to conduct yourself, that’s completely fine. But when you’ve chosen to put yourself out on a platform that also has something called “Titty Tuesday”, you’ve really got to pick your battles. Is he seeing pictures of boobs and commenting “put those away, would you?” I’m guessing not.

Just today, this very image below got me policed. And yes, it was edited. Anyone who watched yesterday’s inauguration would have been able to tell you that Kamala Harris’s grey portion was actually purple as well. But it’s been a running joke that The Simpsons has been predicting the future, and all things considered, this is still pretty coincidental. I think what bothers me the most, is that more often than not, it’s always people who don’t follow you or know you at all who want to make you look ‘wrong’. I ended up amending the tweet to say that I did know that the photo was edited, because two people I’ve never seen before chose to point out that her suit was solid purple. Yeah, I know. Just like the millions of other people who saw her during the inauguration yesterday could tell you. This was just for fun, God forbid.

My Opinion is the Only One

Nope. I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but this just isn’t true. I’m passionate about music. It’s probably my favorite thing in life. But here’s the thing. When it comes to music, my philosophy is that I like what I like, and you like what you like, and that’s fine. Sure, there’s genres that I don’t understand, and artists that I really don’t know how they got anywhere based on their level of talent. I don’t make any rules, because to me there are no rules. But Chad from Toronto thinks I’m absolutely in the wrong for not liking Rush. No, I’m not wrong. I just have a different opinion. I can respect the music, respect the musicians, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it because you say I do. The fact of the matter is, Geddy Lee’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me. And I know that not everyone is going to dig what I like, and they’re not wrong for that, either. I’ve also been trying to like pesto and sushi for years, to no avail. In the words of George Costanza on pesto: “Why do I think I’ll like it? I keep tryin’ to like it!” I can’t do it. If you want to, well that’s just more for you, now isn’t it? When it comes down to it, the world would be a really boring place if we were all exactly the same.

The Devil’s Advocate

I won’t lie to you, sometimes I get sucked in by this monster of a being. The worst part is that I know what they’re doing, and I still get sucked in. A difference of opinion with music is one thing, but there are some issues that I do believe come down to a wrong or right scenario. Racism in any form is wrong. Cupcakes are right. You get the idea. There’s that one character, though, that knows just how to push that button…and I’m set off. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does I can easily lose a couple of hours to nonsense. I hate myself a little bit for it, because I know everything that I say falls on deaf ears. But my convictions are strong, and I fight for what I believe is right. So sometimes, I let anger or frustration guide me with this type of person, and I lose two hours of my life I’m not getting back. Will it happen again? Yes. Yes it will. Common sense, be damned.

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

This one is the trickiest, because they’re always the hardest to figure out. They’re good at what they do. It could be that girl that seems super sweet, but has a hidden agenda. Maybe it’s a guy that you’re friends with, but you’ve got them figured all wrong. It’s always someone you think is one thing, but they turn out to be something else entirely. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty good judge of character, but I do get it wrong. It never feels good, no matter what the situation might be. The example I’ll use here, is a guy I was friends with for a time. I chose to cut him off, and I’ll tell you why. One night while chatting, he’d been drinking some. He was well aware that I’m married, and this was a platonic friendship. This night, he made a comment about how between me and another close female friend of his, he wanted to see which one of us he could get topless pictures out of. Joke or not, I made it very clear that it certainly wasn’t going to be me, and I really didn’t appreciate the comment. I gave it some slack because he’d been drinking and going through some things, and in hindsight I really shouldn’t have. But I did. A little time went by, and some things ended up happening outside of me with some other people, I won’t go into details. But a comment was made again about pictures. The way that I ended up feeling, was more objectified than like a friend. I just think I’m worth more than that, and can offer more to a person in a friendship, than how that friendship was making me feel at that time. I did cut him off without an explanation. I could have handled that better. But at first, he came off more of “I’ll be a ride or die” and that’s not how I felt in the end. No matter the nature of a relationship, you have to be able to trust that person on the other side, or there’s not much to go on. At this stage in my life, I have to trust my instincts. I’ve come across more wolves since, and it shakes you every time. It makes you question yourself, your instincts, and the decisions you’re making about who you choose to keep in your life. I know now, that I need to be really, really careful, and trust my gut.

With all of this said, the positive still far outweighs the negative that I get from Twitter, no question. I understand that I’m not going to vibe with everyone I come across, and vice versa. And that some people won’t always turn out to be what you thought they were. That’s disappointing, and it’s disheartening. It might even shake my faith a little, and even worse, make me question myself. But if I chose not to let anyone at all in, I also wouldn’t have made the truly amazing connections that I have made thanks to Twitter, either. And that would be a damn shame.

The Way That Music Molds Us

Here’s a little tidbit about me: If I don’t have music playing, I have a song in my head all the time. All. The. Time. From the minute I wake up, until I go to sleep, there is a song playing in my head, constantly. It’s not always the same song, quite the contrary. It changes often. Sometimes there’s a reason for the song that’s in my head, and sometimes there isn’t. There are actually medical reasons that this can happen. One of them is a type of hearing loss, called musical ear syndrome, but I know that’s not me because I’ve been this way my whole life, and have yet to lose my hearing. Another reason can be mental illness, like schizophrenia. Which, whether you choose to believe me or not, I do not have. It can also be a form of OCD, which…well, that one is entirely possible. But for some people, it’s just a side effect of musicality. A little from column A, a little from column B.

When I was young, I took piano lessons. My mom taught Royal Conservatory, but she didn’t think it a good idea for her to teach me. What could possibly go wrong there, right? But my aunt, her sister, was also a piano teacher. So she taught me instead. Reading music never made sense to me, though. It just wasn’t something I could grasp, I don’t know why. But after my weekly lesson, I’d go home and pluck my way through my songs, and by the next week, I’d know them. It wasn’t until months later that my aunt realized that I wasn’t looking at my music books, I was always looking at my hands. So she asked me about the method, if it was working. When I told her what I was doing, she did some research, and soon after she started teaching me a whole different method of piano called Suzuki. It’s all based on learning by ear, and listening to tapes. From there, I picked things up so much faster. I wish I’d stuck with it longer than I did, as playing by ear is a skill not everyone has. I have regrets about that. I may pick it up again one day.

Some of my earliest memories are of music being in our house. My mom listening to Toto, Bread or The Beatles. My dad singing, all the time. He still does to this day. And if he doesn’t know the lyrics, he makes up his own. Some pretty creative ones, I might add. For the longest time I thought American Pie was a song he was making up words to. What the hell is a levee? At age 4, I had no idea. When I was little, his favorite was Meatloaf. I know every word to Bat Out of Hell, not because I want to, but by osmosis. For dad and I, though, it was ABBA. That was our thing. Our 8-track was lemon yellow. As a kid, I remember thinking my grandma was the coolest, because she had a Tiffany vinyl album. Years later, when I was more than grown, she’d leave me random voice mails, with things like “Bon Jovi is on Jay Leno tonight, just thought you’d want to know” because she knew they’re my favorite band. Everyone in my life knows how much music has been a part of my life. Even people on my social media tag me in music posts all the time, and I love that.

What I’m most fascinated by when it comes to music, though, is the way it connects us to very specific things. Whether it’s a person, a place, a time. Picture this: you’re in your car, a song comes on. You’re immediately transported to a moment in your life because of that song. Sound familiar? It happens to me all the time. And it’s one of the things that I love most about music now, at this stage of my life. Don’t worry, I’m going to give you some examples.

I’m 19, living in Edmonton. Heartbreak city, population me. A guy from home had jerked me around for over a year, and it was finally done. I was upset, and my friend Don calls, and asks me to come over. We’ll hang out so I can just chill and forget about things for a while. I was his only female friend, and it’s clear he had zero idea what to do for me to make me feel better. We’re sitting on his couch watching TV, when out of nowhere he starts to sing Superman’s Dead by Our Lady Peace. “Ow, a-woooo, ow, a-woooo”…and it’s bad. It’s so bad on purpose. Wounded coyote bad. For a few seconds we just stare at each other, because I’m slightly thrown, as this came out of nowhere. And then, I burst out laughing. He followed suit, and somehow everything was right in the world again. Of course now, Superman’s Dead will always be the wounded coyote of songs.

A high school dance, grade 11. I’m 16, and so crazy about a boy I can’t even see straight. It was funny, when I first met him I really didn’t like him. He was a basketball star, tall and perfect, but seemed aloof and standoffish. I was wrong about that. We had a lot of the same friends, though, and ended up in a lot of the same places, and we became really good friends, and then…well. The rest writes itself. A bunch of us went to one dance together that year, and he kept saying “save me a dance later” and I just said “yeah, yeah, come find me” not really thinking much about it, until he came to collect. Of all the songs that night, he chose November Rain by Guns N’ Roses. All 8 minutes and 57 seconds. I remember exactly how it happened. I was talking with two of my friends, and he came up behind me, and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and he said “are you ready?” and looking up at him, all I could do was nod. He held his hand out, and I took it. We never were a couple. I messed it up in typical 16 year old fashion, because I didn’t realize he liked me, too. But that song will forever remind me of him.

July 15th, 2010. Commonwealth stadium. Kid Rock opened for Bon Jovi. We had tickets in the 8th row. I knew for that venue they were amazing, but when we got there, we were in something called “the pit”. My friend Kim and her husband had tickets in there as well, and we spent some time with them. There was a catwalk that enclosed the first bunch of rows, and Kid Rock and Bon Jovi used that during the show. Inside the pit, we were allowed to move around pretty freely. When Bon Jovi played Bed of Roses, Jon came around on the catwalk by himself. I was close to the edge of it, standing alone. He came around slowly, singing as he went. My heart was beating out of my chest. Just to give you some back story here, Jon Bon Jovi has been my hero since I was 8 years old, and I’ve been in complete awe of him ever since, so this was a big deal for me. As he’s getting closer, and I’m watching, I’m starting to shake. The catwalk was about eye level for me, and as he gets to me, he’s looking right at me, flashing his pearly whites and smiling. But me? I’m a deer in headlights, and I can’t move. But that’s when I hear Kim yell from behind me “touch him, stupid!” and I finally snap out of it, and I move a little closer to the catwalk, and reach up. He grabs my hand, still singing and smiling at me. I can’t describe the elation of that moment. Will he remember it? Never. I’ve been to 6 Bon Jovi shows, and I’ve actually had even better seats. I’ve touched him again since, but that moment, that was the one I’ll remember most clearly. Bed of Roses isn’t my favorite song of theirs, but it will hold a special place in my heart thanks to that moment. I took a picture right after it happened that I’ll attach at the bottom of this post, and you’ll see how blurry it is, because that’s how much I was shaking.

1995/1996. My best friend Anne’s ex-boyfriend played rugby. We’d go to all the games to watch, but really it was more for us to spend time together. We’d pick up food from a drive-thru, and hang out in her car and listen to music during the game. We went through phases, but there were three albums that stand out to me during that time. Hole, Live Through This. Better Than Ezra, Deluxe. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill. We played the shit out of those three albums. There are so many songs that we loved, so many bands and singers that we were into over the years, but those three were the ones that were our jam. I lost her to cancer four years ago last month. We’d been friends since we were 16, and music was one of the things we really bonded over. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her, and often it’s because of a song I hear, or one that’s popped into my head randomly. She was so funny and smart, and had the most amazing laugh you’ve ever heard. If there’s one song, though…the one that’s her song, it would be Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. She had gorgeous brown eyes, and it’s such a sweet, happy song. It’s just the way I remember her.

I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be music in my life. I love what it does for me too much. It comforts any melancholy. The right song can instantly bring on a more upbeat mood. It can mend a broken heart. It can make you dance, or cry, or rock out. To me, there’s really nothing else that can do the range of things for me that music can. And that, my friends, is a truly beautiful thing.

The Complicated Works of Female Relationships

Confession: for as far back as I can remember, other women and girls have intimidated me. At least to a point. It started early in school, the girls that played games with friendship, they were your friend one day, and not the next. On purpose. Boys are just different. And it transcends into adulthood with men. When I was an adult, I was at a party one night, and two guys I knew came in late. They’re both bloodied, and I was one of the only sober ones. I rushed to them to check them over, see what happened. They’d gotten into a fight. I asked who they’d been fighting with, and they looked at each other sheepishly. And I said “Who??” and one of them says “We were fighting with each other.” I shook my head at them both, assessing their injuries, while they’re now laughing together as I’m left bewildered. Boys will be boys.

Rewind to grade six. The most popular girl in my class (I’ll call her Alice) was having a birthday, and she brought invitations to her birthday party to hand out at school. I didn’t get one, and I was crushed. A few days went by, and I’d just resigned myself that I wasn’t going. It wasn’t going to be the end of the world. Then, the day of the party came. Alice called me, and told me to come over at a specific time. I was ecstatic, I’d gotten an invite after all. I got my mom to take me out to get a present. When the time came, I put on my cutest outfit, and walked the few blocks to Alice’s house. Her mom answered the door, and told me that everyone was in the back yard, and I could just go around. I walked around back, went through the gate into the yard, where Alice was jumping on her trampoline with a couple of people, and there were probably 15 kids there for her party. She stopped jumping when she saw me, and proceeded to tell me that she’d called me over there to tell me that I was not invited to her party, and to go home. Devastation doesn’t even cover it. I cried the whole walk home.

That was the day. It was that day, that I figured out that I had no desire to be popular, if it meant being like that. But Alice expected me to react differently. She thought that I would suck up, that I would react like one of her other minions, and beg to be let in. But there was something in me, something that just couldn’t allow me to need to fit in, to be part of that crowd. And for the next few years, I paid dearly for that. Because here’s the thing about the popular kids-they see you as weird if you don’t want to be one of them. If selling myself out to them meant that I had to make other people feel bad? I wanted no part of it. And there were even times I purposely put myself in harm’s way, because I knew someone else was going to get it that much worse. I can’t lie, it’s left invisible scars on me. But if I had to go back and do it all over again, I would make the same choices, because it was the right thing to do.

When I got to high school, I made a lot of new friends. In my town at the time, three junior high schools merged into one, and I was finally exposed to people I hadn’t known since I was five. I went from this quiet wallflower of a kid, to a girl with a tight-knit circle, and some friends peppered throughout every group in the giant lunch room. Looking back on it now, it was kind of surreal how much I changed in such a short period of time. Don’t get me wrong, I was beyond terrified at first. But as the real me started to come out more and more, I realized there were others I could relate to. And the close friends I made in those years, are some of the friends I still have to this day, almost 30 years later.

A prime example, though, is how I became friends with my bff to this day. We were in a class together in our first year of high school. In that class, our teacher had seated us alphabetically. She was on one side of the room, me on the other. I had three other girls around me, and I was getting to know them. One of these girls had a boyfriend who had another class with my now best friend, and he was telling his girlfriend that my bestie was flirting with him in this class. Through my own observations, I knew that she already had a boyfriend of her own, and I couldn’t tell you for sure why, but I wasn’t buying this story. But these other girls decided they were going to write her a note, and tell her to lay off this girl’s boyfriend. I piped up, saying maybe they should just ask her if it was true. But, deaf ears, you know? They write the note, and they give it to her. Her locker was only a few down from mine, and after class I see her with this note, crying. I finish up at my own locker, and I walk over. I tell her that even though I sit near those girls, that I didn’t have anything to do with the note, and I need her to know that. I think what they did was wrong, and I don’t even think that she did what this dumb boy said she did anyway. We’ve been best friends for 28 years now, and I was right. It turned out that boy was asking her out, and she said no. But those other girls swarmed like a pack of hyenas, without knowing the full story.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out. And I’m still not sure I’ll ever fully understand it, because the logic doesn’t entirely add up to me. Over the years what I’ve come to see, is that what happens, is these girls get this sense of power from tearing another girl down. And momentarily, it makes them feel better about themselves. It only lasts so long, of course, because we’re all battling our own demons all the time. Tear one down, feel better for a time, however brief, and move on to the next. Don’t go along with the pack? Then you’re the next target. It’s a vicious cycle, and I truly do mean vicious. And the truly unfortunate part is that it tends to carry over into adulthood, if it’s what you did when you were young. Why is it, that men and boys can literally fight with each other, and laugh about it half an hour later? Maybe they’re just not overthinking it the way that we do. Us girls, we can hold grudges like nobody’s business, and that’s probably not a good thing. It uses up energy we need for other things, like multitasking and trying to keep up with the drama on The Bachelor.

Because of the way a lot of girls and women can be, I’ve always been wary. I’ve never been one to trust people easily anyway, so forging close relationships of any kind hasn’t been my forte. And I admit that. For the longest time, I still had the same friends I’ve had since I was 15 or even younger. Many of my close friends have been male, and that’s worked well for me. There are people who say it can’t be done, but I’m living proof that it very well can. I consider my friends the family that I’ve chosen in life. There have been some that came and went along the way, as people do. Some by my choice, some by theirs I’m sure. What it’s come down to for me at this stage in my life, is that I want to keep people around me that will put in the same amount of themselves into cultivating whatever we have that I will.

2020 brought some new people into my life through the beauty of the cess pool that is Twitter, believe it or not. A pandemic can do weird, wonderful things if you let it. It’s brought me some new male friends, and I’m so grateful for that. But it’s brought me some women…I mean, I’ve been blessed to have a few incredibly amazing girls that have grown up with me, and know me inside out. I have been so very lucky, this much I know. So to have a whole other group of strong, beautiful, funny, supportive, badass women come along to make my life brighter in a time we were all going to need it so much…it’s been the most mind-blowing gift a pandemic could have given me, honestly. The bunch of us were chatting last night, and one of the girls used the term “virtual hand-holding”, and that summed things up so perfectly. It’s as much as we can do right now, and it’s enough to get through. Even in the dark, there is light.

Coming back to the whole cultivating idea I mentioned before, what do I mean by that? It’s not complicated. We don’t need to talk every day. We don’t even need to talk to each other every month. My friends have become scattered over the years, moved away, lived life. Two of my closest friends I lost in my 30’s, and it shattered me, never to be the same again. A piece of my heart went with each of them, and that’s ok with me. Those pieces were meant for them from the start, I know that now. But what that taught me above all else, is that the people I’ll keep in my life, are the ones that I like to call “middle of the night friends”. Those are the friends that no matter how much time can go by, I can call them in the middle of the night, and I know that they’ll be there. It might not be a literal thing, but you get my point.

It’s funny, though. My little pod of Twitter women, we’re very positive and supportive of each other, rather publicly. And while there are many who love it, we do get some eye rolling and the odd snarky comment here and there. My response tends to be snarky in return, how dare we love on each other so much? We should take our positivity elsewhere, obviously. All I know, is that I would much rather build other women up, than tear them down in some backward attempt to make myself feel better. In the end, it gives me no joy to make someone feel worse than I do, anyway. It’s all about perspective.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that we as women don’t need to see other women as being so threatening all the time. I don’t want to go all ‘kumbaya’ on you all or anything, but it’s so much easier to embrace each other with an open heart and be supportive. That’s really all there is to it. Are we all going to get along all the time? Of course not. I get that. But, if you’re looking in the mirror at any point and wondering why you’re caught up with hyenas? It might be time to take a second look. It’s never too late.

#TwitterChatter: Part 2-How it Relates to Women, and the Men in Our Lives

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that took a look behind the veil of what we as women go through, not only in the real world, but how that’s now translated to our experience online. It sparked so much great conversation in the comments on Twitter, and the dialogue that came out of it was amazing. Truly. But here’s the thing. What came out of that post that surprised me most of all, was the number of my male friends that came to me saying “we had no idea this was happening.”

One night a few days after that post, I was on the phone with a friend I’ve known for the better part of 30 years. And he said “I read your blog post, I can’t believe that stuff happens!” He’d talked to his wife about it, and she confirmed things that I’d said. I had conversations with several of my other friends, and my own husband, about things that happen to us as women in life, and online. What this proves to me, is that many of us as women are choosing to surround ourselves with the men that just aren’t like this. They’re not the ones sending creepy messages, unsolicited pictures, and making inappropriate comments. Let alone the atrocious things that happen in real life. So really, where does this leave us now?

One of the conversations with a friend, lead to a discussion on bringing in his point of view. And let me tell you, I loved the idea. He was apprehensive, unsure of himself and what he had to say because he’d never done anything like this before. I wasn’t concerned because for one thing, he gave me free reign to edit if need be. But that’s not what I want to do here. I want the unfiltered opinion of a male counterpart, and how they see this side of this issue, because I think it’s that important. He’s asked to remain anonymous for this, and I respect that. It’s about the content, and to show both sides of a social issue that I think deserves the attention. So, without further ado…

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How it relates to Women, when it comes to Men

On December 10th of 2020, @Homegrowngirl2 published another of her well written blogs called “How it Relates to Women”. Having always read what she’s written, and since I’ve gotten to know her a little throughout Covid times, I was looking forward to diving in. It began with, “If you’ve ever wondered what’s talked about amongst women behind the scenes…” and I mean, what guy hasn’t? This is a mystery that has boggled us for centuries! We need to know! 

I won’t rehash her words as she is more than capable of speaking for herself and she did eloquently in the post. When I read them I thought a lot about what she said and having a few Covid cocktails, I reached out to her directly to say if she ever wanted to hear a male’s perspective on what she said, I would like to have a chance, under her creative control of course. This is her blog and I wholeheartedly respect how she feels and what she has to say. And that is the point of all of this after all isn’t it?

As I read her stories of being grabbed in bars and of course “unsolicited penis pics (upps)”, it brought me back to my first time hearing those stories, which unfortunately was not too long ago. My significant other gave me the low down of her history of being basically assaulted in bars and of course upps. I sat in horror as she talked about walking through a bar and having guys touch her breast or grabbed by the “pu**y” as someone we know so bluntly described it. As I sat there gobsmacked, I thought, who are these guys and why do they think they have the right to do something like this? She shared story after story of it not only happening to her but pretty much every woman she knew! My God, I felt so naïve to think this stuff can’t really be happening, can it? I have never forgotten that conversation. The one thing that always stuck in my mind though, is why am I now only finding out about this? Why are men like me, outside of the perpetrators of these actions for the most part, unaware it is happening and is a constant in the lives of the women around us? The answer of course to me is simple really, I don’t feel they thought they ever had the platform or power to say anything. In a world where this abuse (and it is abuse) seems to be so prevalent, I can imagine it’s hard not to think such things as “What’s the point?” or “What difference will it make?” 

I applaud @Homegrowngirl2 for relaying her experiences, which many don’t, so now it’s up to us from the male side, to continue that discussion. Sure, the guys all want to say, well I am not one of them! I have never done anything like that! And I believe you probably haven’t. But that’s not enough anymore. We say we want to be allies and stand by them, but we too often just end up just standing by. There is a long way to go to stop “upps”, the random requests for pictures of feet or asking if someone needs a sugar daddy. But we definitely have to start somewhere, and now! Let’s start small and see how far we get. 

There are so many opportunities that we face daily where we can show support. A couple of things I want to hone in on are when you see the phrases “She’s just overreacting! Typical emotional woman” or “It was just a joke! Jesus don’t take it personally!”. I can admit, I’ve said those things in the past, and I regret them. It was my own ignorance and lack of understanding. My privilege as a man that allowed me to act in a misogynistic way. But to use a favourite quote from my better half, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” There’s no time like the present.

Let’s talk about the term Microaggressions. For those of you who don’t know, it refers to “common, everyday slights and comments that relate to various intersections of one’s identity such as gender, sex, race, ethnicity, and age, among other aspects. They are thought to spring from unconsciously held prejudices and beliefs which may be demonstrated consciously or unconsciously through daily verbal interactions.” Basically, see the above phrases. Ask yourself guys, how often in the run of a day do you hear them in person and read them on a social media platform? When you hear or read them, do you nod in agreement or do you stand idly by? These are the opportunities that we are faced with on an almost daily basis to show you’re an ally and stand up. It doesn’t have to be confrontational, just make the point. Guys overreact constantly to shit people say, we never have to think twice about being stereotyped for it.

I was at a conference a few years ago which centered around privilege and inclusion and during one of the sessions, a very well known expert in the field was asked a question on microaggressions and I will never forget her response. I remember it to this day. When asked what she thought about microaggressions, she first laughed and then said something to the effect of…”What a dumb term. They are only micro to the person saying it. To the person receiving it, it’s just aggressive.” I think it sums it up perfectly. 

With that in mind, I want to use this forum to give a perfect example of what we are talking about here. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last couple of weeks, and the more I did the more it bothered me. I didn’t say anything at the time but in the spirit of this blog, I am now. Beginning in the middle of December, a local Twitter guy started a series of year end awards Twitter polls. The vast majority of these centred on denigrating local women with a fairly large Twitter profile that are active and involved in many various conversations. The polls included such garbage as, “Who plays the victim most?”, “The Karen award for being opinionated?” and probably the worst “Who is the worst mom?” Can you imagine what kind of person would look at someone’s twitter feed and read it, never meet them or know them, and put them in a poll for being a terrible mom? And to read the comments from some about the people taking themselves too seriously and to lighten up! Sound familiar? Well there is nothing remotely funny about any of that. It might be funny to you, but I can guarantee there was nothing funny about it to those people who were singled out for your entertainment. This is not better than sending a upps or assaulting a woman in a bar because you feel like you’re entitled to do so. You’re the joke. If you don’t like that, then lighten up! You’re a guy, you should have thicker skin than that! 

As @Homegrowngirl2 said to sum up her article, it’s not only women who need to stick together and call out this behavior more often, the men who want to be allies need to do that too. It’s not enough anymore to just stand by naïvely and cringe when it happens, or laugh along so you don’t stand out. Stand up and support. Don’t speak for them, encourage them to speak. Amplify their voices. We have been speaking for them long enough. 

I am not going to put my name/Twitter handle on this article. Not because I’m not afraid to stand behind what I have said. I don’t want to be seen as doing this to gain followers, attract attention, or to curry favor with anyone. It’s about these women, our friends. They have their own voices and opinions and theirs counts more on this topic than mine.

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There you have it. A male perspective on how he sees what I’ve talked about, and how he feels about what men could and should be doing in these situations. What I need to drive home, though, is that my part, our part as women isn’t infallible. We need to be more vocal about what’s happening to us. If we’re not, who will be? We can’t expect anything to change, without calling out the behavior. And to the men reading this, these things do happen out in the open, make no mistake. I will make a counterpoint here-we don’t need you to speak for us, per se. But if you see an inappropriate comment made to one of us, don’t hesitate to say “hey man, that’s not cool.” That’s really all it takes. Because somehow, it sounds different coming from you.

I’m going to address these polls my friend mentioned, and then you’ll never see me talk about it again. Because it doesn’t warrant any more attention than it’s already gotten. Which, spoiler alert! It’s a faceless account. All I have to say about them, is that they say more about the person making them, than the people in the polls they’re attempting to smear. That’s it, and that’s all.

Social media should be a positive experience for people. That’s what I believe. But just like anything else, it’s got it’s negatives. That doesn’t mean we can’t all try to make it just a little bit better not just for ourselves, but the people we choose to interact with.

Since this is my first post of 2021, here’s my pledge. I promise to do what I can to make my experience, and the experience of those I care about and interact with on social media and in general, that much better in this coming year. And just maybe…you can do the same. Much love, and happy new year to all of you reading this.


Another Year in Review

On this day, the 30th of December, 2020, I think it goes without saying that I’m sounding redundant at this point in telling you that this year has been the strangest in our lifetime to date. In many ways, it’s also been the most difficult. Living in the Upside Down that is a global pandemic, no average person could have seen this coming. It’s nothing short of a B horror movie in the making. And just today, a friend came across a picture that showed snake-infested sea foam on a beach in Australia, which is close enough to a zombie apocalypse for me, thanks. Did you see that coming, either? I sure as hell didn’t. Murder hornets are a distant memory, old news. Here’s what’s come out of this year for me, and in general, if you haven’t been following along before now.

The amount of civil unrest and political division in first world countries is shocking to me. And I honestly wonder how deeply rooted this problem is now, because we’re just more aware of it. What I mean by that, is our constant exposure to media, and how that affects what we see, and when we see it. We’ve got everything we need to know at our fingertips, immediately. This was not always the case. And from what I can recall, rewind 20 years, and people just didn’t talk about where their views laid the way that they do now. We also didn’t have the platforms to do so, either. But with all the progression in technology, are we progressing in other ways? I’m not sure that we are.

In March of 1991, Rodney King was the victim of police brutality. His message then? “Can we all get along?” On May 25th of this year, a police officer in Minneapolis put his knee into the neck of George Floyd in the street, until he died. While people pleaded from the sidewalk that he couldn’t breathe, in 8 minutes and 46 seconds of video. 29 years. 29 years in between. While our technological advancements are truly incredible, our human progression is lacking. And while our news comes to us quicker than ever, our opinions seem to come even faster. Our news feeds on social media can’t keep up to the thoughts we have, before we have them. What I’ve come to learn from this, is to do my research, and to check my sources, before I speak on an issue. And this year it’s been as important as ever to do this.

Division has been prevalent in so many things this year, though. The pandemic included. People want to talk about liberties and freedoms, and throw words like ‘oppression’ around like confetti. Look, I’m not hear to preach to anyone. I have my beliefs, as everyone does. But I’m a believer in science, and I’m fully aware of how privileged my life is. If it comes down to the simple task of attaching two pieces of elastic around my ears to cover my face, and that means I can better protect myself and others? Then that’s what I’m going to do, because it’s on the advice of people I know damn well are smarter than I am. It just isn’t that hard to do. It seems completely asinine to me, to try to pull some kind of tantrum of “you can’t tell me what to do!” and resist, when people are getting sick and dying from a global virus. And as Forrest Gump said, that’s all I have to say about that.

Staying with division here for a minute, watching US politics from the Great White North is what I’d liken to a game show, where the host is hopped up on Whoppers, and almost looks like that plastic version of the BK mascot. And it’s time to play the feud. The Republican family has shown up with their AK-47’s, unmasked, ready to play. The Democrat family are masked, nervously hitting their buzzers and want to go home, where they’re supposed to be in the first place. The host may be on his way out, but we all know he’s burning everything to the ground before he goes. Right now it’s one big Oprah party, where he’s just yelling “YOU GET A PARDON, AND YOU GET A PARDON!” I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but if in four years he runs again, God help us all. Can Obama come back? That’d be swell.

This year also brought us a Tiger King on Netflix, obsessed with a woman he thought killed her husband and fed him to giant cats. He became so obsessed it landed him in jail. A British Prince and his actress wife shockingly stepped back from the royal family. Tragically we lost Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter accident. Wildfires ravaged the west coast. Joe Biden snagged a nomination, and chose Kamala Harris as his running mate-to then finally claim victory over Trump and Pence in November after plenty of shenanigans. I got to see my man LeBron bring home another championship for the Lakers. We also sadly lost the Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, to colon cancer. It seemed no one was invincible, virus or no virus. Even aside from a pandemic, this year was full of surprises.

Switching gears now, I want to talk more about how this year has affected me personally, and how I’ve seen this year affect the people around me. I’ve witnessed so much struggle, and hardship among my friends and family, and within myself as well. No one has come out of this year unscathed. What I’ve also come to see, is how willing people are to open themselves up to others. To talk about their own inner turmoil, and how that relates to everyone else. When people open up and talk about these things, a beautiful thing happens. It reminds you that you’re not alone in this. We’re all going through things, and times are just hard. There’s no other way to put it. Even though there is so much that might divide us, there’s still much we have in common. We forget that sometimes, that at the core we’re all still human. And maybe we need that reminder sometimes, to take a step back, and look objectively at the people we’re interacting with, like them or not.

With this strife and pandemonium, I refuse to forget the things that are good. The people I have in my life are amazing. My family, and my friends, who support me and love me even when I’m not always easy to love…I could not be luckier, and I’m so grateful for each and every one of you. As difficult as life may get sometimes, I have people around me to lean on, and that is invaluable. Thank you, for everything you all do for me. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

One of the most positive things to come out of this year, kind of hinges on me opening up more. Not just to the people close to me, but in general. What that’s done for me, is expose me creatively in a way I never expected. And I mean that in the best possible way. I’m not generally very good at being vulnerable, but this year has been extremely productive for me. I’ve had some projects come to fruition that I’m really proud of, and it’s fascinating to me. I can only hope that 2021 will crack me open just a little bit more, and something else just might spill out. That’s what I’m envisioning, more creative spilling in my future to come. So if you’re still with me, hang on tight. Who knows what might be around the corner.

As cuckoo bananas as 2020 has been, I’m choosing to see the light. As much dark as there’s been, there’s no telling what 2021 could look like. I won’t succumb to the idea that next year will be worse. I do believe that better things are ahead, because if I didn’t, I just might go quietly mad. Besides, I’d rather go mad kicking and screaming. Wouldn’t you? 😉

#TwitterChatter: How it Relates to Women

If you’ve ever wondered what’s talked about amongst women behind the scenes of a social media platform, I’m about to let you behind the curtain. And we discuss it often, because it happens a lot, that we get harassed by men on social media. Long before social media came along though, the tactics were much different. So I’ll start closer to the beginning, where I really began to see how some men had this idea that they could say and do whatever they wanted, and somehow think it just might work.

I live and have always lived in a town that has a military base. And for many years, we had an annual exercise called Maple Flag, where for six weeks a year, thousands of men from other countries would come here to train in two week intervals. Hordes of them. Most of them American, but some from Europe, Asia, etc. Until I turned 18, my mom did a good job of shielding me during that time of year. But the year I was legal, I learned quickly why she’d been concerned.

My friends and I spent a lot of time in our local bar, partially because there wasn’t much else to do here, but also because one of our best friends was the manager. So we went out a lot. But during Maple Flag, if you’re female, and you go out, these men think you’re out for a different reason. They don’t know that you’re still sitting in that same bar every weekend otherwise. The positive was that we generally had males with us, too-not that that necessarily stopped any of them. And that first year, I was seeing someone, anyway. But there was one guy, one guy who took a particular liking to me that first year. And he was one that was around for the full six weeks, setup and tear down crew. So I saw him out a lot. And just to give you a visual? If Beaker from The Muppets were human, he would have been this guy, I swear.

One night, a bunch of us were out, and my boyfriend wasn’t with me. I was dancing with my friend Dan, who was one of my best friends from high school, and all of us were friends and knew each other, so this was no big deal. We’re walking back to our table, and Dan and I are talking, and this guy grabs my arm, hard. He yells at me “I know that’s not your boyfriend!” And I’m looking at him, and I’m instantly enraged. But before I can even say anything, Dan reaches over my shoulder, and pops him one in the face for grabbing me. And this guy just crumbles, and is almost in tears, when Dan didn’t actually hit him that hard. And I start laughing. The bouncer comes over, who we knew. He grabs this guy, to throw him out, and he’s resisting. “Why do I have to go, he hit me!” and the bouncer says “Do you think I didn’t see you grab her first? Get outta here.” So he hauls him out. And all I could think was, did he think that this was somehow going to gain points with me? That grabbing and yelling at some girl he didn’t even know, was going to get her to gain interest? I just didn’t understand, at all.

While this is the kind of thing that has happened in reality, with social medial the game has been flipped on it’s head. And as women, we never know when it will happen, or how. I myself haven’t been sent one, but I’ve heard many, many stories of the legendary unsolicited male part picture. Just random, out-of-the-blue-in-your-inbox penis pictures. Once, a couple of months ago, there was even a Saturday morning that it came about that a guy posted one right to his timeline. And ok-if you’re following accounts that are NSFW, full of naughty stuff, that’s one thing. But this was just a regular guy, who posted his penis next to his morning coffee, and then tweeted it. WHY? What is the end game here? If I’m logging into Twitter on a regular day, this is not what I should have to be exposed to, when that’s not the content I’m looking for.

Moving along, next we’ll cover the guys that send the weird messages. And to any men reading this, if you want to get a woman’s attention, sending random weird comments, questions, or requests, is not the way to go. I cannot stress this enough. I’m also going to point out, you may not want to automatically assume that we’re single in the first place, if it doesn’t mention it either way on our pages. Some of us are just private that way. I’ve had a request for pictures of my feet, with the promise of being made his girlfriend if they were good. As if I had no say in it, apparently. Another sent me a message that said “Is that a ring in your lip, or are you just happy to see me?” Uh. What does that even mean? I ignore them, but sometimes it takes everything in me not to respond and just outright ask if they think this is actually going to work.

Recently a good friend of mine did an interview for CBC remotely from her home about the transition to online learning from a classroom setting. And honestly, I can’t rave enough about her as it is, but she truly did crush it. She’s highly intelligent and articulate, and she’s beautiful. She’s also happily married. After the interview aired, though, a man tracked down her work e-mail address, and began e-mailing her. In the middle of the night. With links and attachments. She never opened any of them, but it got to the point she had to have her IT department block his e-mail address for her.

One of the things that fascinates me most in all of this, is that these men are everywhere. They’re out in the world, like you and me. They have friends, they have family. And I often wonder, do the people in their lives have any idea that this is what they’re like behind the scenes? These aren’t always faceless accounts, with no information. A good portion are, sure, but not always. The tides may be turning, the more we keep talking about it.

Within my close circle of women on Twitter, we’re very supportive of each other. We look out for one another. We’re a tight bunch, and we’ve got some other ladies that are in the mix as well. We work hard to be positive examples of what women can be like. Not only in the way that we are toward each other, as important as I think that is. We would much rather build each other up, than tear each other, or anyone else down in some attempt to make ourselves feel better. It’s not just that. We’re also starting to call out this behavior more often. Because we need to, not just for our own sanity, but because it just isn’t ok. We shouldn’t be ok with it, and no time like the present to be standing up not just for ourselves, but each other in the process.

What I also cannot stress enough, is that I know with my whole heart, that this is not all men. I am, and have been truly blessed with some incredible men in my life. Men who are kind, thoughtful, respectful, generous, and considerate. The kind of men who will protect and stand up for all the women in their lives. I’m going to take some liberty here, and speak on behalf of the women I know, and to these amazing men, thank you. Thank you for being exactly who you are. Thank you, and we see you.