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Sunday, 31 March 2013

It Was Only Just a Dream, but Hard to Let Go

One of the lessons I've learned in life is that we have a hard time letting go of things, not because we're attached to the specific thing we need to let go of, but because we're attached to the dreams we associate with it. Maybe that doesn't make any sense, so I'll clarify what I mean. (Of course, if I didn't this blog post would be awfully short, which would be totally unlike me!)

There are very few things I actually give up on in my life. Most things just get put by the wayside until such time as I can pick up where I left off, and it's usually because I've simply got too many other things on my plate. However, when it comes to anything having to do with people and relationships you simply can't do that. They don't wait around for you to 'get back to them' usually. Well, some do, but that's usually a sign of obsession or desperation, so it's probably not a good thing.

When it comes to those human relationships, though, as hard as they can be to walk away from, it's usually not the relationship itself that people are afraid to leave behind. In fact, if you're considering walking away it's because the relationship is something you want to let go of. What makes it hard is the dream you might have had about what it could have, or should have, been. The dream where you get happily ever after, of course. This doesn't apply only to romantic relationships. I have friends I had a very hard time walking away from because we used to joke around about how we'd end up sitting on a porch together as a couple of old ladies. We'd be the crotchety kind of old ladies, of course, like that comic strip character, Maxine.

Of course, romance plays a part - how could it not? I've been married three times. (Yes, three, get over it. I had to.) I know what it's like to fall in love and get married, or even to sometimes fall in love and not get married, and having a problem letting go when it was all over. No, I'm not holding onto anyone from my past - that's not what I'm talking about at all. I'm talking more about making the decision while you're still in the situation.

The reason this is in my head right now is that a friend of mine is going through this sort of struggle right now. It's a high school sweetheart kind of thing, with a reconciliation thrown in to add to the twist. When you're a teenager the dream is heightened even further. At that age you're so susceptible to the romance of it all. You want true love and happily-ever-after. You want to be swept off your feet. Okay, well maybe you never really stop wanting those things to some extent, but you certainly stop expecting them once you've gone through the things that I have. Hell, I'll probably be surprised if anyone ever calls me their girlfriend again, never mind the happily-ever-after stuff.

Now, imagine you're with someone you've always considered to be your soul-mate. That's a dream in and of itself, and if the relationship gets bad you start to feel disillusioned. You've been betrayed by your dreams. Not that my friend's situation is exactly this way. I only brought it up as an example of why my head is in that place. Now, as human beings we struggle to find hope in things usually. So, our hope that we weren't misled tends to keep the dream alive for far longer than it should be sometimes.

It works the same way when we're looking at new relationships, too. We see the potential in someone, so we have a dream based on their potential, rather than the reality. Eventually we see the reality of the person, unless we willfully blind ourselves to the truth. The rose-coloured glasses come off, and we're faced with a decision - do we choose to love the person for who they really are, do we pretend they're who we think they are, or do we walk away because they're not who we thought they were? In all cases it's a matter of holding onto a dream, or simply letting it go, whether you retain the relationship or not.

From my experience it's best to rip off the rose-coloured glasses, and make the decision based on the reality of the person. If we can let go of a dream about a person, we just might find that the reality is far better for us than the dream itself. When it comes to the ending of a relationship you've had for a long time, though, the dream of growing old with someone (and knowing that they have your back) is not an easy dream to let slip through your fingers. You keep hoping you can get it back. You convince yourself over and over that it's worth fighting for, and sometimes it is. Sometimes you can get past the hard parts and hold onto the dream of forever.

The dream of what could be has always been what's kept me holding on when it was time to let go. There is a certain comfort in even being able to have that dream, that hope. You can look at your future as something that might very well be great. When you take away the dreams and the hopes, what is there to look forward to? Then again, I still find it better to deal with reality, no matter how enticing the dream might be. I prefer to know the truth of a situation, and I'm usually pretty good at determining what that truth it. It doesn't make it any easier to walk away sometimes, but it lets you know that you have to.

The last time I had to let go of a dream it was pretty devastating for me, because I felt like all my hope was gone. These days I know it hasn't, but it took me a long time to get there. I can let go of dreams and still know that there's hope for new ones, different ones. I've also discovered that I actually want the dreams, no matter how they turn out. I've discovered that I'm looking for something more for my life than what I thought I was, and I'm not willing to settle for less. I guess that means I'm not actually able to let go of that particular dream, after all - I'm just changing where I'm going with it!

*In case you were wondering, the title of this blog post partially comes from the song "Just a Dream" by Nelly. It keeps getting stuck in my head.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

7 Reasons I Disagree with Red Equality-Flag Critics

On Facebook I changed my profile picture to the red & pink equal sign, and I've been getting some flack for doing so. I have people telling me I'm only doing it because it's the trend, or 'groupthink' as a couple of people put it. I've had people criticize it because they think it's meaningless and doesn't help anyone or change anything - that it's armchair activism at its most useless. I've had people ask me if I don't have something better to do, or more 'worthy' causes to fight. Here are seven arguments I pose for my having done so, in response to their statements and questions.

1) I believe in marriage equality. I particularly don't believe religion has any place in legislation in any country that has legally defined freedom of religion. I believe if one person is allowed to get married, then all people should be allowed to get married (assuming the second person in the marriage is consenting to it, of course). I believe very strongly in equality on every level. Not just between genders and races and sexual orientations. I believe in animal rights, too. I believe every living creature has certain rights that come to them just by the mere fact of their existence on this planet.

2) I got the idea for my profile picture from George Takei. Most of you will know who he is, but I'll expound upon the subject for the ones who might not. He played Sulu in Star Trek (The Original Series). He came out many years ago, and has been married to his husband, Brad, for some time. I "like" his page on Facebook, because he's a damn funny guy who posts really funny things. The original equality symbol on Mr. Takei's page was with the blue background and the yellow equal sign. He had provided a link to the Human Rights page that originally provided it, and has been using it for some time. However, they had a new symbol up - one that no one else was using just yet. Theirs was red with the pink equal sign. Why the change? For love of course. The debates on marriage equality all come down to love.

3) Despite constant criticism from people, I have refused to change my profile picture to suit them. If I were of a 'groupthink' mentality I wouldn't have changed my profile picture in the first place, and I would have caved to the pressure to change it back by now. I have been an outspoken supporter for gay rights since I was sixteen years old. I'm now forty-one. If you can't do the math, let me help you - that's twenty-five years that I've been supporting the LGBT community, which is long before there ever was an official LGBT community to support. (At least in my neck of the woods there wasn't.) I went against every single person in my life, based on my beliefs that everyone is equal. Family, friends, you name it. I didn't follow the crowd, I bucked it. I'll be damned if I'll let anyone say I'm some damn sheep when I think of all the years I stood up for people and had no one around to stand up with me.

4) I strongly believe that LGBT people need to see support in the community, whether it's on Facebook or IRL (in real life). How many suicides does it take for people to reach out and say, "I'm with you. There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with you wanting to marry the person you love." I've read countless 'thank-you' messages from the LGBT community, going out to the public, for their support. You can't tell me that changing the profile picture didn't do anything for them. When you're feeling depressed and think that no one cares about your situation, what does it do for you to see that someone is there for you and supports you? When you feel hopeless, like nothing will ever change, how does it feel to know that there are millions of people lining up to say, "That's not true at all. We're here for you."

5) Armchair activism gets a bad rap, because a lot of things that people do from the comfort of their own homes amounts to nothing. They have zero impact and only do it because it makes them feel good about themselves to proudly proclaim they wore a certain colour that day 'in support' of something, or whatever it was they happened to do. So, yes, I can understand why some people would feel that changing a profile picture amounts to about the same thing. However, there is actually plenty that is real and tangible that can be done from an armchair, provided you have a computer in front of you and the brains to look for alternative means to help. In my case there's a fair bit that I do from the comfort of my armchair. Things that anyone could do, and that would make a big impact if more people were actually doing them:
  • Writing articles. This I do for a wide variety of sites and e-zines now. I write about causes I believe in, and since I've had literally thousands of readers of my work, that means I've had thousands of opportunities to create awareness in others.
  • Signing petitions. There are a few websites that host official petitions that get sent to the appropriate places. Change.org is one of them, but there are others. In most cases it doesn't matter what country you're from. A lot of the issues are worldwide, and they need you to sign.
  • Donating money. Any idiot can create a PayPal account and donate money to the causes they believe in. I've been doing it for years.
  • Engaging people in conversation. Again, something anyone should be able to do, particularly with the buffer of the internet. There is much less fear when it comes to engaging total strangers in conversation. I've used the internet to educate people on everything from LGBT rights to feminism to proper cat nutrition and proper ferret care. I'm not just talking about doing it through articles or on my blog. I'm talking about one-on-one conversations on Facebook or Twitter, or e-mailing.
  • Running an online business. Until I became too disabled to work long hours, this is something that I was doing. I used my business for the good of the community in multiple ways. I used pages on my website to promote awareness, I linked to other websites that were helping, I sold products that were safe and beneficial, I donated profits in both Canada and the United States, and I made my products available to charitable organizations at cost so that they could sell the items themselves and reap the financial benefits directly for their organizations. I spoke with literally hundreds of people all over the world, organizing them to manufacture and distribute these same products.
  • Running an online charitable organization. All of the above, except being registered as a charity or non-profit. I didn't bother registering. All of my profits were going to charity, so I already had all the tax breaks. Part of that has to do with being in Canada and the way our tax system works. If you believe in something, though, there are ways of making it work both ways. For me it was easier to operate as a business and have full control over what was going on. In Canada you need other people overseeing a charity or non-profit, and I didn't need other hands dipping into the till. As far as I was concerned it would only complicate things and possibly result in less money going to charity.
  • Doing online volunteer work, which can include anything from designing logos for non-profits to printing flyers and writing brochures.
  • Researching and learning about your causes. The more you know about them, the better you'll be able to pass that information on to others, and the better you'll be able to stand up to the people that might disagree with you. Arm yourself with facts and realism, not supposition. If none of your arguments are based on reality, you'll only be doing your cause more harm than good.
  • Sharing your personal experiences with others so that they don't feel alone.
  • Talking to someone who might be depressed or suicidal.
6) Are there more urgent things that need attention? Possibly. Here's what I think regarding my own participation, however. Activism is a responsibility. Activism takes work and honesty. If I can't participate in a cause with full knowledge (or at least what I believe to be full knowledge) I don't think it's responsible of me to do so. Someone I have become acquainted with recently is very emotionally invested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has ancestral roots in Palestine. Now, as much as I might feel Palestinians are being very badly mistreated, and that what is going on there is something of a horror show, that's an opinion that is based on an absolute minimum of information. Basically, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, in other words. I don't like talking when I know nothing about the subject matter. In order to become active in such an important fight, I would need to become much more aware of everything that's going on there. My personal thoughts don't mean a hell of a lot if they're not based on facts.

7) I consider LGBT marriage inequality to be something akin to a gateway crime when it comes to human rights. If these rights are not fought for, we open ourselves up to losing other rights. Women are still fighting against sexism, and new bills are being introduced every day to gain control over women. If it's okay to subjugate LGBT people, and it's okay to subjugate women, we've lost major ground for human rights. Minority races are still fighting for equality, too. When is it okay to cede ground on these issues? When is it safe to do so? I don't think it's ever safe. What's happening with Israelis and Palestinians, from my limited understanding of the situation, is very much the same fight. Human rights are being trampled on. People are dying. People in the LGBT community are dying. Women are dying. Minorities are dying. Palestinians and Israelis are dying. All because human rights are not being respected.

You're not being asked to change your profile picture on Facebook if you don't want to - just don't criticize me for changing mine. Nobody is telling anyone that they have to believe in gay marriage for themselves. No one is forcing a woman to marry another woman, or a man to marry another man. The debate is about "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Remember those words? You should. They're part of the United States Declaration of Independence. Even here in Canada we know those words and what they mean.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Electronic Kinks and Woes

I think I'm doing pretty well with my computer woes this time, except for the fact that my DVD drive is being uncooperative. It's been faulty for a long time, though, not burning things properly. I would bet it has something to do with it having Light Scribe. I have never actually used the feature, and doubt I ever will. It has to be one of the dumbest things I've encountered, and this is coming from someone who can be very anal-retentive about organizational stuff, business-wise. I mean, sure, if I buy the very expensive discs that can actually be etched with the label this feature allows you to do, maybe it'll look okay. However, it only does grey-scale, and there are plenty of printable discs and disc printers out there that do colour. The discs are a heck of a lot cheaper, too, from what I've seen. Or, I could use a Sharpie and print directly on a regular disc for no extra charge. Instead I've got a useless feature that's most likely interfering with the capabilities of the drive's regular functionality.

This is typical of a lot of things we buy, though, isn't it? We demand all these high-end features, and we want them combined into a single unit. Like the printer/scanner/fax machines that are available. I bought one years ago, and about a week after I bought it the stupid thing went berserk. The lights started flashing all over the place and not a single feature worked on it. I took it back, got my money back, and decided to separate my components. It was at that point I realized a single machine for everything would mean that if one part went, I was also going to be out all the other features. So, I have a fax machine, a scanner, and a printer. If one dies I still have the others to fall back on.

I remember seeing cars when I was a kid that had the motorized headlights. I thought they were so cool. Then my grandmother said, "It's just one more thing to break." That's when I started noticing all the cars with those lights that had one light up and one light down. I didn't much like my grandmother as a person, but she was still a smart woman, and she was right about that. The fancier we get with our features, and the more we shove into a single component, the more likely it is to break on us.

Since the incident with the malfunctioning multifunction machine, I've made it a practice to avoid such things. When I picked out my laptop I was annoyed that I couldn't get one without a webcam already in it. Call me paranoid, but I don't need some twit hijacking my computer with a virus and turning on my webcam when I don't know it's on. Sure, when I turn it on legitimately there's a bright blue light that says it's on, but if someone has the hacking skills to turn it on remotely, I figure maybe there's something they can do to disable the light.

Admittedly, I don't see why anyone would want to watch me banging away at my keyboard, when they can watch free porn where someone's actually banging away at another human being. I'm probably safe. I spend my time pounding on alpha-numeric keys, which just isn't all that titillating to the general public. There might be a fetishist or two that would find my manual technique stimulating, but somehow that just doesn't bother me all that much. As long as they're not seeing me naked, I really don't care, and since I'm generally fully dressed when I write, that's not much of a concern. I say 'generally' because there has been the odd time when I've been in a towel or my underwear, although calling myself 'fully dressed' might be a stretch, too. My pajamas are normal attire for me, but unless I have reason to entertain someone in my pajamas they're not particularly sexy. I save the lingerie for a good reason.

I'm probably completely wrong about the whole multifunction thing, though, when I stop to consider everything I do with a computer. They truly are multifunction, and mine is almost entirely my sole source of entertainment. Movies, music, writing, reading, gaming, activism, you name it. Then there's Facebook, of course, where I get to look at memes all day if I want to - some of which really do have me laughing my ass off.

It's the same with cellphones and smartphones nowadays. You can't buy one that doesn't have a camera, a video camera, a voice recorder, a clock, or an mp3 player in it. They just don't make them, I guess. Most of them come with way more features than that, and the nearly-unlimited additional options afforded by the apps community. My BlackBerry can be used for writing and reading books, e-mailing, texting, scheduling functions, games, etc. There isn't much it can't do, or that I can't do with it. I can even take payments from people with it.

When this high level of functionality came out on the newer devices I was understandably resistant to the idea, considering my previous experiences with multifunction items. For the most part everything has worked out okay, although I do have some complaints about the Wi-Fi on my BlackBerry. It's an older one that everyone seems to have had an issue with, but now that I have a new router it seems to pick up the signal at least. Maybe I'll manage to connect the silly thing one day...as soon as I figure out how to input an acceptance code into the router. It's not like there's a keypad on the stupid thing, so I guess I'll have to go in through my computer, but since it's a D-Link (yes, I know, a piece of crap - it was cheap) the usual IP address doesn't work for accessing it. I probably have to put the stupid installation disc back in.

There are so many things I have to get moving on, especially with my computer. However, work also prevails. I have at least three articles I need to write tonight, possibly four, so things are a bit swamped for me at the moment. I really want to get my music files organized, too, before I actually open up Media Player, because I want it to be fully organized. I'm probably living in a fantasy world, but I can at least try. Maybe the headache won't get too bad. Then again, I have nearly 30 GB of music. It could take years. Especially at the rate at which I move when it comes to personal organization. To give you an idea regarding my rate of speed there, most of my stuff is still packed in boxes from when my daughter and I moved into this apartment in September. Seven months ago...

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Offline for a Couple of Days

I'm reformatting my computer, and will be offline for a couple of days. To the best of my knowledge there is no fear of me being targeted for an assassination attempt, so none of you need worry that there's anything actually wrong. Well, beyond a possible need to throw my laptop off the balcony, anyway. I haven't made enough enemies for that, yet, although I anticipate the likelihood of that in the near future. After all, when I open my mouth offensive things tend to fly out. My work is getting more exposure these days, so I'm bound to piss off someone who doesn't like what I have to say. Good times...

Anyway, I just thought I'd post this notice so no one started to worry. I'm way overdue for my usual computer maintenance, and it's easier just to wipe everything than it is to mess around and try to fix all the little problems. As much of a pain as it is to reload all the programs and set everything up the way I like it again, it's also refreshing. While my computer is doing its thing in its various stages, I'll be getting my house in order (literally, not figuratively - the place is as disorganized as it gets right now, and it's driving me batty because I have no idea where anything is).

You're all likely busy what with this being Easter weekend and all, so have a great holiday. I'll see you back here in a few days! For those who have my cell number, I can be reached on that should my presence be so sorely missed. Ha!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Parenting on The Kovacs Perspective

After a two-day break from blogging, I'm back to announce the details of tonight's episode on The Kovacs Perspective with host +Steve Kovacs. The theme for our broadcast is Parenting, and both of the issues we'll be covering with our guests tonight are of paramount importance. If you have kids, I can pretty much guarantee that you're going to be vitally interested in at least one of the segments, and probably both. Be sure to watch the live broadcast, on tonight at 9 PM eastern time. The get to the show itself, click here. That link will take you directly to the broadcast as it comes from WTOE.

Our first guest is Craig Wiener, who has an educational doctorate and is a licensed psychologist, and is the author of the book, "Parenting Your Child with ADHD: A No-nonsense Guide for Nurturing Self-reliance and Cooperation." He's going to be talking about dealing with an all-too-common issue facing parents of young children today. ADHD is something that has had a personal impact on me, as well as on my daughter, so I'm very interested to hear what he has to say on the subject.

One of the topics our guest will be addressing, is how to treat ADHD without resorting to the use of medication. For myself, being attention deficit was something I had to learn to live with as a child, and this was long before there was even an available diagnosis. Hyperactivity was the closest they came to any knowledge of it, and Ritalin wasn't something that was commonly used until the 1990s. I have to say I'm grateful for that. If I'd been put on medication I'd never have learned how to exist without it.

When my daughter was diagnosed ADHD, I refused medication. As far as I was concerned, it wasn't safe. There weren't enough long-term studies done on the effects of the drug, and for all I knew she could have ended up having children with six legs, or cancer of the hippocampus. It wasn't something I was willing to risk when it came to the person that meant more to me than life itself. Instead I chose to teach her how to process information differently. I knew from personal experience that we had to try alternate ways of thinking.

When I saw the guest request for Craig Wiener, I was thrilled with the idea that someone - a professional no less - had chosen a different route. He's a psychologist who isn't just handing off the problem to a medical doctor for a prescription. So, if you're the kind of parent that I was as my daughter was growing up, you're going to be very interested in everything this man has to say.

Our second guest, Jennifer Hancock, is the author of a book on a very timely subject called, "The Bully Vaccine," and she's going to be on to discuss the skills parents need to teach their children so that they can deal effectively with the bullies in their lives. She's got a great program going called The Bully Vaccine Project, that teaches these skills. I know what it was like to be picked on in school, and I'm sure many of my readers do, too. It's such a common problem, and it always has been.

The big issue about bullying these days, however, is that it seems the problem is getting so much more serious. Young children are killing themselves as a result of being bullied. Particularly in cases of LGBT youth. Suicide should never even be in the realm of thought for children, yet the pain from bullying is so intense that they consider death a viable option. They go to school, terrified of what the day will bring, and they come home physically beat-up and emotionally scarred. At night, when they're tucked in bed, supposedly trying to sleep, they cry as silently as possible so their parents don't know how bad things really are.

This is not the way a child should be living. Bullying has to be dealt with, and it has to be dealt with effectively. Even if you don't think your children are being bullied, you could be wrong. They could be hiding it from you. Maybe they don't want you to think they're weak for 'letting themselves' get beat up. Maybe they think you have enough to worry about, without their problems adding to the list. Or, maybe, just maybe, you happen to be the parent of a child who is doing the bullying. If you are, how would you know?

If your child is a bully, do you really want that for them? They will often carry that guilt through the rest of their lives. They bully to regain power they feel they don't have for some reason, so if your child is a bully it's probably not because they're a bad kid. They could be going through something else you know nothing about, and it'll be something serious that you really need to deal with to prevent further damage.

As I said, this is going to be a powerful show, and if you're a parent you really shouldn't miss it. With Ritalin prescriptions and bullying on the rise, something needs to be done, and that something - as always - starts at home with the parents. We can complain all we want about the way society is these days, and how education funding cuts are affecting our children, but if you don't take the time to be a parent, all the educational help in the world isn't going to make any difference.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Fundraiser Footage - Most Fun I've Had in Years!

As promised in last night's post, (where I provide some further detail on the goings-on I show here,) I've got some great stuff to show you from the fundraiser for the Cannon Street fire in Hamilton, Ontario. Admittedly, my BlackBerry doesn't do video or audio as well as I'd like, so I'll have to invest in a decent camera if I'm going to start offering multimedia stuff on my blog. For now, though, it will give you a good idea how much fun we were having.

A quick note about these videos, though - I asked every one of the bands & performers if it was okay to post these here. In the future I'll have to print off some business cards to give to them, so they know where to go to view their stuff if I cover other events like this. Thankfully they all know about the event page on Facebook, so they can easily find them that way.


Voodoo Ray - Segment One

 Voodoo Ray Still

Alfie Smith

 Alfie Smith Still


Strange Cargo - My apologies to the gentleman originally playing the harmonica with these guys, because I didn't get his name, and he also played earlier with Charly Chiarelli. Feel free to comment below with his name so I can post it.

 Strange Cargo Still


Strange Cargo Featuring Charly Chiarelli


Voodoo Ray - Segment Two (By the way, the "Oh, shit!" you hear at the end is me.)


Charly Chiarelli Featuring Big Phat Band Members and Chris Holton

 Charlie Chiarelli Still (he's on the left). My apologies to the guitarist, as I did not get his name - if anyone knows his name, please leave a comment and I will update this blog posting.


Big Phat Featuring Chris Holton on Guitar

 Band Members of Big Phat, including Guest Chris Holton Playing Guitar on the Left

Big Phat's Energetic Front-Man

 Very Bad Picture that I Enhanced as Much as Possible
(It was almost completely black, so you have to admit I did what could be done here.) This is Voodoo Ray with $5 bills stapled to his chest. My daughter is responsible for the one on the left (technically on the right side of his body). I have to admit I raised a blood-thirsty little girl, who's not actually a little girl anymore.

My immense apologies for anyone whose names I might have misspelled, and anyone whose names I do not yet have for this posting. I wasn't originally intending to record or photograph anything that happened at the fundraiser, not knowing what a treat I was in for. It occurred to me after I watched the first performance of Charly Chiarelli that I was missing out on a big opportunity for myself and my followers. I didn't have a pen to write anything down even! Thankfully I did have my trusty BlackBerry, or none of this would be here.

Okay, I hope you all enjoy the taste of last night's entertainment. It's not the same as being there, of course, but next time you'll know better than to miss out on something like this. You just never know who is going to show up, and what crazy stunts they're going to pull - or let you pull on them!

Daughter Staples Performer, I'm Getting Inked Again

Yes. Yes she did. My daughter is a sadist. She stapled a five-dollar bill to a performer named Voodoo Ray. It was for charity, and she was feeling charitable I guess. Is there such as thing as charitable sadism? I took a picture, but it's going to need major enhancement for anyone to be able to see anything at all in that shot, and we ran out of five-dollar bills, so we couldn't just keep stapling the poor guy to get a good shot.

You're probably wondering what the hell I'm talking about, aren't you? Well, the reason I'm late posting this blog, which should technically have been posted yesterday, is because my daughter and I went to a fundraiser for the Cannon Street fire in Hamilton, Ontario. We got home from the fundraiser just after midnight, and I have to say we had a freakin' blast. My blast came partially from the three beers I imbibed, but by the time we left the buzz was all gone and I was still having a great time.

We were late arriving to the fundraiser, so we missed out on Joe Towers and Getting Strange, but I was breathing like I had broken glass in my throat and lungs so I wasn't even sure I was going to make it there. We got our door-prize tickets, bought three tickets for the 50/50 draw and three raffle tickets. Between our main tickets and our draw tickets, we spent $35, and I have to say it was the best $35 I've ever spent in my life! The entertainment was amazing, there was tons of food, and we came away with so many prizes I think we tripled our 'investment' in the tickets. I'll tell you all about that in a minute. I'm leading up to it.

Before I get any further into the details, I'll tell you now that I got video of all the performers, as well as stills. I have editing and clean-up to do on them, and first I have to see if they're worth posting. I'm not at all certain of the quality of the video or audio. If they're at all accurate in portraying what I saw tonight (technically last night now), you're in for a major treat. I got permission from every one of the acts to post the video here on this blog. It's exclusive LIVE footage, and there was some serious talent on that stage! Every person I spoke to after their performance was extremely warm and friendly, too, so a big round of applause goes out to them for that as well.

Basically what I'm telling you is that I'll have videos and pictures in tomorrow's blog posting that will be worth you coming back to check it out! Charly Chiarelli is the best harmonica player I've heard in my entire life. I kid you not! He's played around the world, and after hearing him that isn't a big surprise. He's originally from Hamilton, but has resided in Kingston for the last six years, and came back to Hamilton specifically to do this fundraiser. Amazing musician with a heart of gold. It honestly never occurred to me that I could be impressed by the harmonica. I was so wrong.

I'd managed to grab a beer by this point, and boy was I thrilled to see they had a beer licence. The three drinks I had over the course of the evening were the first I've had in about a year, so I can't begin to tell you how great they tasted to me. +Molson Canadian, all the way!

Voodoo Ray performed the first half of his act, which surprised the hell out of me. He set up a table and my first thought, accompanied by eye-rolling, was that I was about to see a magician. Nope. I was about to see a man torment himself. No, just because I'm a feminist does not mean I enjoy seeing a man in pain - I didn't say I don't enjoy it; just that it's not because I'm a feminist. At least I enjoyed the hell out of it when it was done by Voodoo Ray. Things like eating broken glass and worms were the least of it. After this he went around offering to let people to staple currency to his torso. My daughter, the aforementioned sadist, jumped at the chance. I handed her a five and headed back for my second beer once I'd taken a picture of her cruelty for posterity.

Alfie Smith was up next, and the two performers in that group were high-calibre musicians as well. Bluesy, using a slide, very nice string music. Some serious talent in that duo. Great voice, too. What a joy to watch and listen! Their whole set seemed to go off without a hitch, and I enjoyed them tremendously. The lead singer mentioned that he'd been through a similar situation with a house fire, so it was easy to see why he empathized so strongly with the survivors the fundraiser was staged for.

I think it was around the time they ended their set that I headed off for my final beer. It was then that they called out the number for the door prize. My daughter won it! Three DVDs, a whole bunch of junk food, and a t-shirt from Grim City Slinger Tattoo Studio. One of the movies happened to be a Ryan Reynolds flick, and man can that body...er...guy act.

Anyhoo! I was also thinking about the fact that I really wanted to win one of the raffle prizes I'd put tickets into for gift certificates for a couple of tattoo places, so as happy as I was to see the t-shirt, I was looking for some real ink. My daughter was hoping to win the basket that had the DVD for RED in it - the one with Bruce Willis and Karl Urban (both hotties my daughter and I agree wholeheartedly on, along with the Canadian Mr. Reynolds). They hadn't started the raffle prizes yet, though.

I think this is the time Strange Cargo came on, and despite the first and third numbers having a seeming issue with the tuning of one of the instruments, the rest of the set was great, one song of which you'll see in the video (assuming it turned out well enough to upload here). You'll also see them perform for a bit with Charly Chiarelli, and I could be wrong but I think they were performing 'junk' (jazz-funk fusion). I'm not well-versed in it, so I could be way off base there, but it was really cool.

They began the raffle prizes, but only went through a few at first. Voodoo Ray came on to do the second half of his performance, and all I can say is, "Oh. My. God!" From what I could tell, and he did say this was the case, everything he did was real, with the exception of one thing at the end of the performance. He pulled a funny at the end, but I'll let you see that for yourself when I post the video. All I'm going to tell you is that the latter half of his act involved a bed of nails, broken glass, and a very big sledge hammer. Among other things. Big ouch!

Charly Chiarelli popped on the stage to do a quick number, and ended up doing a second one with the band members of Big Phat chiming in. Totally impromptu, with an amazing sound. The lead singer for Big Phat was doing sound checks and getting ready for their main performance, so the band filled the time with Charly, and it was so worth it.

Big Phat turned out to be a Big Phat something, with a high-energy singer leading the way. Their regular guitarist was out with pneumonia, and so they had a gentleman named Chris Holton filling in, and he was a major treat there! I kept hearing everyone talk about how great he was, and I had to concur. I was already impressed by the way he'd been jamming with Charly Chiarelli, but when he really started to play it was like...wait for it...music to my ears! All puns aside, he was great, and so was Big Phat.

Justin Graves, along with everyone else involved in the organization of the event, finally got down to the serious business of drawing the winning tickets for the raffle prizes. The first tattoo prize went to someone else, but the second certificate, which was for $50 for a place called Rock Star Ink here in Hamilton, was won by none other than...drum roll please...ME! I'm finally getting my second tattoo (it's only taken me about 15 years since I had the first one done, which was when I said I couldn't wait to get my next one - apparently I could wait, because I did).

I've already picked out the tattoo. Stimpy (he's one of my ferrets in case you don't regularly read my blog) is going to have his itty bitty footprints permanently inked into my skin, just like those little paw prints are permanently etched into my heart. I'll get Pepper's paw prints done a bit later (my other ferret), unless I can get both done at the same time. I guess it's a good thing ferrets have such tiny feet! The tattoos will be small. Some people do their pets' faces, but they don't always turn out so well, and I can't bear the thought of their faces being distorted at all. Besides, I still have their little faces to look at, and the real thing is better. The joy in their expressions, and the way they chatter and laugh when they're playing, aren't usually things that can even be captured in a photograph, much less a tattoo.

Well, back to the fundraiser. My daughter's friend actually won the gift basket my daughter was hoping to win, but the great thing about friends is when they tell you that you can have the DVD you wanted so badly. Two of the videos my daughter got in her basket were ones she wasn't interested in, so she traded with her friend instead. On top of that we somehow ended up with a couple bottles of Canadian-made, Uncle Nathan's Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, and a really nice glass dish, etched with an iris. Seeing as my daughter was just recently lamenting that we needed a place to store laundry money, this was a score. Oh, and the previously mentioned gift basket was actually a huge mixing-type bowl that exactly matched the set we already had at home! Total win there.

I have to say, I can't remember the last time I had so much fun, and we came away from the experience so much richer in every way - not just in raffle and door prizes. I got to meet some of the people I've been talking to online. People who helped to organize the event, and people who took in the survivors of the fire right from the scene. I got to meet my daughter's other friends who were survivors of the fire, and a friend she knew from Burlington. It was a strange coincidence that her friend from Burlington was also friends with one of the people my daughter became friends with through a random set of circumstances. It'll be interesting to watch the patterns emerge that tell the tale of how and why this all occurred.

For obvious reasons, they're still trying to raise funds for this cause, so if you're able to donate, please click on either of the links above. Both blog postings have all the information needed for anyone to donate money to the trust account, including the out-of-country donors. Please be generous. This was basically a rooming house. One person died in the fire, and the remaining eleven people lost every single thing they owned except what they were wearing on their backs at the time.

They've been given all the physical donations they can handle at this point, such as clothing and furniture. They don't have room for anything else. It's money they need now. They need first and last month's rent for new places to live, and then they may need security deposits for utility bills. Beyond that they're going to need the thousands of dollars' worth of crap that every household needs. If you've never literally lost every single thing, it's very easy to forget how expensive all those little things turn out to be when you add them up. Stupid things like brooms and plungers, can openers and mixing bowls. You get a vague idea if you're ever involved in a divorce where the other person takes pretty much everything, but usually you still have ice cube trays and the odd spatula.

The problem is, those things are so hard to track when it comes to donations anyway. The list would be huge! It's just a hell of a lot easier for everyone involved if people can donate some funds rather than the physical items. Every one of these people is looking for a fresh start now, and they need your help to do it. Thanks so much - from myself, from my daughter whose friends were hit by this tragedy, and from everyone who has been trying so hard to raise funds for these people who are now homeless. They have places to sleep for the time being, yes, but they no longer have homes.

Friday, 22 March 2013

My Shoes Don't Stink - Well, Now They Do!

As I sat here, pondering the possibilities for my blog posting today, I watched with increasing humour as my ferret tried to steal my shoe. This is nothing unusual for a ferret. They steal everything...and without a whit of remorse. They do it blatantly, in front of everyone in the room, and with swagger. Quite literally when it comes to the swagger part. Their waddling walk is only one of a million things that makes them so funny to watch. If they're not doing their humpity-backed run, they're waddling with a side-to-side butt-swish.

Now, back to Pepper's shoe fetish. All ferrets seem to love shoes. Shoes of all types are intriguing to them, as there seems to be an element of tunnel-like fun, with slight odds of a magic portal to be explored. Sandals still present a great deal of opportunity, however, in the form of something akin to a dead animal that they can grab hold of and shake the crap out of. Ferrets, being the highly intelligent creatures that they are, also lay claim to a vivid imagination apparently. Even Stimpy, who has two types of cancer that he's rebelliously fighting, wanders first to the shoes, making his never-ending attempts to climb through them.

Pepper's interest borders on mania. He runs away with the shoes and put them wherever he happens to think 'away' is at that moment. He has his hoarding corners. One of which happens to be the cats' litter box. This is not a thrilling new development for me, despite the laughter it triggers whenever I find my shoes in the aforementioned shit-crate. Being the mostly lucky person that I am, I don't have smelly feet. I have rather nice ones, actually. Not having smelly feet means my shoes don't stink. At least, they don't to humans. To a ferret, however, I'm sure there's a whole other olfactory perspective.

Pepper seems to be obsessed solely (no pun intended) with my cross-trainers. I wear them all the time when I go outside, even in winter, so none of my other shoes can compare when it comes to the bouquet of aromas my little boy seems to find so intriguing. Besides, I keep the really sexy footwear out of reach of the 'sharp, nasty teeth' of the 'killer' ferret.

Now, when I say I was laughing as he 'tried' to steal my shoe, that's because I've blocked off the dining room and kitchen for the most part. You see, I needed office space where I can have my stuff and work, and not worry that anyone is messing up my mess of stuff. It's still a disaster, but at least I know where everything is and it's not getting shifted around as it awaits the highly anticipated implementation of my grand organizational scheme.

There is a small gap that the ferrets can get through, but the cats can't, and I step over the one area that's short enough in order to get in and out. The reason for this is simple. My one cat whines and cries constantly, and then proceeds to walk through the wires attached to my laptop...over and over again...often disconnecting the power adapter. To say that he drives me nuts is an understatement of massive proportions. To say that the step of banning him from my office space might save his life one day is not an exaggeration, either. If I allowed him access to keep doing it, I might break my personal vow not to harm animals.

So, Pepper and Stimpy can get in and out of the space, but the gap is not big enough for my shoe. That should give you some idea of the ridiculousness of the picture, seeing as the shoe is wider than my ferret. I have small feet, a size six usually, so the shoes aren't quite as long as my ferrets, and being cross-trainers they're relatively light, but it's still funny as hell to watch them bang off the floor as Pepper humpity-backs his way down the hall...to the litter box.

Now, of course, I have temporarily circumvented Pepper's attempts to store my shoes in said compartment. I say temporarily, because sooner or later he will remember that he's physically capable of moving the barricades I have placed in his path. They're heavy - one is the sewing machine inside its case, and another is a box full of electronics - but he's very, very strong. He'll actually brace his feet against the base of the stove and use his back to push the items over as far as his short little legs will allow. Once he does that, my shoes are doomed once again.

I suppose I could put the shoes away in the hall closet, but that would destroy my best source of entertainment. Besides, ferrets need to be mentally challenged to have a fulfilling life, and watching them problem-solve is absolutely fascinating. They will push things into position so that they can get on top of other things that they're not supposed to be on, uncaring that the efforts will most likely result in an unintended suicide attempt. You have to watch them constantly. The smaller they are, the more danger they can find themselves embroiled in.

When it comes to playtime for ferrets, shoes in the litter box are the lesser of almost all evils, so I let him have his fun. Stimpy spends a lot of his time curled up on my lap these days, but when he plays I want him to have the toys he loves best...shoes. Well, that and tunnels. We just bought a cheap little stick vacuum that came in a long, narrow box, so that's getting added to the cardboard playhouse I'm constantly renovating for them. Just a couple of entrance and exit holes, and they'll think I've built them a brand new toy. I'm out of packing tape for their housing project, though, so it's back to the shoes for now.

Well, crap. I think Pepper outsmarted me once again. I somehow managed to forget that the ferrets have their own 'potty' in a corner of my office space. Time to rescue my shoe...again...

Give or Guilt, Which Shall it Be Today?

I think it was last weekend that a kid approached me, asking for bus fare. At first I said I didn't have it. It was an automatic response. For one thing, we've been so broke for such a long time that I'm not used to having money in my pocket. When I realized I did actually have some change I called him back and gave him the two dollars. He wasn't asking for that much since tickets for kids are less than that, but it was all I had.

I saw this kid later, on the same bus, and he had traveled all the way across the city just like I had, and I was so glad I'd given him the money.

Tonight my daughter and I went grocery shopping. When we went out to the bus stop a gentleman a fair bit older than me (I'm 41) asked if one of us has a ticket or transfer. Again I automatically said no, and he thanked us politely and kept walking. By the time I realized I actually could spare a ticket because we had managed to keep our shopping trip short enough to ride home on the transfer, he was long gone. It was too late to change my mind. I stood there, beating myself up over it. The guy wasn't asking for drugs or cash. It was cold and he was looking for a ride home.

So, writing this is penance for me in a way. I spoke before thinking, and despite knowing that he probably got home just fine, I feel an apology is in order. I understand that I can't save the world, and he's not necessarily my responsibility, but I feel I have failed him as well as myself. I'm sorry I didn't give him the ticket or a couple of bucks. I'm sorry I spoke without thinking. I'm sorry enough that I'm going to make an effort to think first in the future, before responding to a request for help. All I want is to help people with the life I've been given, so I need to be open to doing so.

It's hard sometimes, to tell whether you're doing more harm than good, when it comes to helping a stranger on the street. If someone is begging for money, are you throwing it into a bottomless pit of drug abuse, or are you giving them something that will keep them from starving that day. Where is the line, and how do we know? Or, do we simply give and let them make the decision whether or not to use it for actual necessities?

Thankfully I live in a place that doesn't normally get that cold. Even if he had to walk to the other side of Hamilton, he wouldn't have frozen to death. Next time, though, I absolutely have to force myself to think before I answer. I'll be a lot less tormented about it later, that's for sure.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Literal Pain of Caring

Caring hurts. On every possible level. It hurts to care about what's happening in the world, and it hurts to care about individual people. Caring makes you vulnerable, on every possible level. If you love someone they have infinite power to hurt you. Not just by being hurtful, but by opening you up to the risk of losing them one day. People die, people leave, people take their hearts back. When you care about someone their opinion matters to you, so when they express an opinion that's negative in any way, it's painful.

Today, however, I'm not thinking of that kind of pain really. I'm thinking more about caring in a general sense. Today I wrote an article for SearchWarp about the recent developments in rape culture. You can read it here if you wish, but I'm not going to go on my usual rant here in my blog because I've said as much as I can stand saying at this point.

This is where the pain comes in. I care a great deal about women's rights, which would seem logical since I'm a woman, although not all women agree with my stance. Caring this much comes at a price, and despite the fact that I willingly pay it, sometimes it's a lot to handle. I have to say it's a very good thing I have a high pain tolerance. I'm not talking about the emotional pain, or the rage I feel every time I see yet another woman get raped. I don't mean the livid anger that comes when I read the words, "She was asking for it," or some disgusting derivative.

The pain I'm talking about is the actual physical manifestation of all of these emotions coalescing in my body. I already deal with more physical pain every day than what I experienced during childbirth. Now on top of that I'm experiencing pain in every part of my body, which also has the effect of exacerbating the pain I already had.

After spending so many hours being angry, it finally occurs to me that I've been physically tense this whole time. My shoulders are in knots, my back, my neck, even my arms and legs. I have the worst possible headache that now seems to have triggered an episode of my occipital neuralgia, which is massive nerve pain caused by nerve damage. It's also called C2 neuralgia. I can't crack my neck to ease it, either - it's too tense.

Once pain signals get going, they're very hard to turn off again. This isn't metaphorical, it's an anatomical thing. The pain centres of the brain are a pain in the ass quite frankly. Preventive steps are more effective than treatment after-the-fact.

Anyway, the point is, I've managed to tie myself in knots over the issues I've been researching. The issues are extremely upsetting, and do not bode well for humanity if something isn't done to change things. Seeing as I'm one of the people who care enough to step up and try, I do what I'm able to do. I can't fight every single battle, or win every war. I will not see enough change in my lifetime to satisfy me. I will never actually know about all of the injustices in the world. Frankly, it would probably kill me if I did. Still, I do what I can.

I care about everything, and really can't help myself. I'd be far more miserable if I knew I wasn't doing anything about it, though, so I keep doing. It would hurt me far more to look at myself in the mirror and feel like I was a useless excuse for a human being because I wasn't at least trying to change things. I'm damned if I do, but I'm even more damned if I don't.

People tell me I have to relax and calm down, lighten up and chill out. Oddly, the more people say it, the less likely it is to happen. Not just from sheer stubbornness, but also from the confirmation that there is yet another person that I have to make up for in this world. It's one more person that's not fighting, and who places the burden on the ones that do. The more apathy there is, the more passion is needed to counteract it.

Writing is a way to vent some of the anger and frustration, but sometimes, when a topic is simply too important and too painful, it's not longer venting the anger, it's fueling it. Writing a piece about rape culture certainly had that effect on me. My consolation there is that it probably makes my writing a lot better when it's written passionately. Maybe that might make a difference to someone and make a small change in the way they view the problem.

Seeing as I'm no longer taking any kind of pain medication, and don't even have any, my only solution is to try to get some sleep at this point. Sleep deprivation makes it worse, too. I can only hope that now that I've spent the last couple of days spewing my vituperative hatred for rapists and their enablers, and yapping about some of my fears yesterday, maybe my head is cleared out enough that I can sleep more than four hours.

Whatever the case, I have to try, so I bid you adieu for the day and run off to my cave to slide into the arms of Morpheus. Maybe he has a cure for what ails me today.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

I'd Rather Offend With Intent, but Stress Prevails

I'm pretty sure I've been pissing off a lot of people lately, despite a complete lack of intent. Well, that's not entirely accurate as there are people I've intentionally been trying to piss off, but that's mostly related to my opinions on socio-political matters. I couldn't care less how those people feel about me, so I won't bother getting into that right now.

No, it's the people closer to me who I seem to be offending lately, and I'm not sure exactly which part of everything offensive that I've probably said, that was the real trigger. I've been in a harsh and impatient mood lately, a lot of which has to do with a lack of sleep, so I've been completely lacking in sensitivity. I've also been very angry about what's been going on in the world lately, and I'm sure that has contributed to some extent.

Here's the thing. I'm being myself, but probably the worst version of myself, these days. I'm upset by the notion that I might have lost something that I thought I had, but then maybe never really had in the first place. I'm angry with myself for a life I have little control over. I'm cranky from lack of sleep. I feel like I'm being paranoid about a lot of things at times, but then I wonder if it's really paranoia or if it's truth. I live in a constant state of confusion regarding intent and meaning, and it isn't a single person that I'm feeling this way about, it's almost everyone.

What this tells me is that it's me. It's my problem. I'm causing the issues and the crappy level of communication. I'm reading things into things, or not reading the signals. I'm missing all of the subtleties I should be catching - the nuances if you will. Hell, I can't even read all of the words printed on a piece of paper these days, let alone the subtle signals from people I'm not even talking to face to face. Sleep deprivation is catching up with me, and I'm starting to lose brain cells. Soon there will be hallucinations. I know this road too well.

Hopefully I can avoid this by spewing a few things that are bothering me, but that I didn't think were an issue. I was just talking to a friend the other day about not being able to sleep, and if I remember the conversation correctly I said I wasn't even stressed out. The deeper I get into the mental miasma of sleeplessness, however, the more my subconscious kicks in and starts to taunt me with all the little things I've been repressing.

For obvious reasons, my ferret having cancer is a stressful thing for me, yet on the surface things have been great because he hasn't been getting the nausea lately. He's been aware and moving around more, with his regular personality showing through once again. I'm grateful, truly grateful, for this time of good quality of life that I've got with him. The dark part of me knows it can't last, and sits there, waiting to kick me in the heart every time Stimpy makes me smile. If he does something cute and funny I'll laugh and enjoy it, and then there's the thought, "Enjoy it while you can." That sounds almost motivational, doesn't it? Instead it's a sinister imp of hatred, reminding me that I am going to lose him soon.

I have to give Stimpy medication twice a day to maintain his current state of relatively good health, and I certainly don't begrudge him the little bit of time that takes. It does add a level of difficulty when it comes to me getting some sleep, however. You'd think twelve hours in between doses would be enough for me, but it seems like every time I get a bit drowsy it's only about an hour away from the time I have to give him his prednisone. So I stay awake. I can't afford to miss any doses. The vet's office said to be consistent with it, so I am. I want every spare minute I can get with him. By the time I give him his meds, though, I'm usually wide awake again.

In addition to Stimpy's medical issues, I have my own. I have been trying for months to find a doctor, and now that I have a referral for one that I'm supposed to be seeing in the next couple of days, there are some problems that go along with it. First, their office lost the bloody paperwork. Second, I faxed my copy to them and was then told he was on vacation and they couldn't book me in until he was back, as he does same-day appointments. I thought that would be great. However, when I called yesterday to book that appointment I was told they couldn't find the paperwork and would have to call me back. Now I have to assume they're going to be calling right about the time I've just managed to fall asleep. That's the way it always works for me.

The big issue with the medical stuff, though, is that I'm scared. I've got some major surgery coming up, and the actual slicing and dicing isn't what's terrifying me. They're most likely going to have to dislocate my hip in order to repair the damage inside the joint, and even thought I get a little bit squeamish at the thought, that isn't what worries me either. No, what makes me want to say, "Screw that!" is the anaesthesia. I've had bad reactions to general anaesthesia in the past. Out of three surgeries I've had two bad reactions, and two out of three really is bad in my books.

I have to go through this surgery twice. First they'll do one hip, and then it'll be the other. My terror gets drawn out quite nicely because of the fact that having both hips operated on at the same time just isn't all that feasible unless I want to remain in a hospital bed during my entire recovery time. It would mean one less instance of anaesthesia, but being in the hospital for weeks is just not an option. I've got too much to do. God, I'd lose my mind if I had to lie there doing nothing. From everything I've read, the full recovery can be anywhere from six weeks to six months. I'd be even more of a blithering idiot than I am now with the lack of sleep.

Of course, they'll have me on some great drugs for a while. My last surgery I was on a healthy mix of OxyContin with self-administered morphine. Oh, what fun! Oh, and an anti-nauseant because I have that little sensitivity-to-narcotics problem. The drugs for the aftermath are worrisome, too. I spent years on narcotics - literally years - and I finally turfed them so I could avoid zombification. Now I know that drugs will be a necessity for some time, but I hope to hell it isn't going to be for as long as the full recovery period. Even six weeks is unacceptable there. As I said, I've got too many things to do.

There are going to be times over the next few months, that I know I'm going to be feeling really alone. As much help as my daughter is when it comes to things around the house, it isn't fair for me to put my fears off on her. She knows I fear anaesthesia, because she overheard me talking to a friend the last time about making preparations in case something happened on the table. My fear is a justified one, based on my reaction to it in the past, so I was trying to do the right thing. I made sure my life insurance was in order, and that she was listed as my beneficiary so that she'd get money right away, rather than it having to go through probate. I told her what would be the smartest things for her to do with the money, and all that wonderfully morbid stuff. I scared the shit out of her, basically.

Now that she knows what she needs to know, I won't be discussing it with her again. She does not need to hear that crap from her mother. So, I bury it. I must be interring it pretty deeply, though, because I didn't even realize it was bothering me this much until I stopped sleeping properly for a few weeks. Now the random thoughts are creeping in to poke at my psyche. The sinister imp of hatred is back to tell me I'm not going to make it through, and in fact it likes to say that I'll make it through the first one only to be disposed of in the second match-up, just to taunt me with the possibility that I might get through it.

It's amazing the load of crap the brain likes to shovel on your morning corn flakes, isn't it? Really stupid shit that wouldn't even cause a blip in your life if you were thinking straight, but that effectively destroys all your confidence by attacking when you're sleep-deprived.

So, in a roundabout way this is meant as an apology to those I've hurt or offended unintentionally over the past few weeks, if I have indeed done so and it's not the sinister imp of hatred whispering lies to my id. Still, it can't hurt to really let everyone know how messed up I am, can it? You might as well all know the true horrors of the inner working of my brain. Of course, if I'm a little too messed up for your liking, and you wish to excuse yourself from my life, you can go straight to hell anyway - now that, folks, is offending with intent.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Pondering Pink Lakes - Pardon the Pun

At times my politics may seem somewhat harsh to people, and honestly I make no apologies about that. If I don't agree with something I'm not going to say that I do. I've got a brain, I've seen and experienced a lot in my life, and I've formed an opinion based on those two factors. However, what I do sometimes forget is that there are things in this world that go beyond a cause I believe in, no matter how important I think those beliefs are.

What goes beyond equal rights and humanitarian causes for me? Well, the world, not to put too fine a point on it. I see lots of very interesting things almost all the time, and that's partially because I find a lot of things interesting, but sometimes I see something that blows me away a little bit because it never occurred to me that such a thing existed.

One of those amazing things, or perhaps I should say 'eight' of those amazing things, are pink lakes. Yes, they really exist. If you're as fascinated by the idea as I am, you can check out some details here on a site called +THE WORLD GEOGRAPHY. I've actually researched them. They really exist. The link I've provided goes to this site which is referenced as a source by Wikipedia, although they cite additional sources for their information, as well.

The thing is, these lakes are really pink. They aren't just a vague shade of something. In some cases they look like a body of Pepto-Bismol, rather than a body of water. Bright, bubble-gum pink. If you think about all the lakes you've ever seen, in their varying shades of blues, greens and occasional muddy-browns, the last thing we would expect to see is a pink one. Pink isn't thought to be an earth-tone. Pink is the colour of varying flora, but not water, in our everyday lives.

Imagine, though, how strange the world would seem to us if we lived beside a pink lake all our lives. Let's say you've never traveled far enough to see another body of water. In Australia there is more than one pink lake, so there's also the possibility that you did, in fact, see another body of water, but it was also pink. If someone told you there was an ocean out there somewhere, and didn't happen to mention to you that it looked blue, what colour would you assume it was?

One truly intriguing thing about at least one of the pink lakes is that the water itself is actually pink, even when it's removed from the lake. When we grab a jar of water from most lakes, or from the ocean, it looks colourless to us. In the case of the pink lake in Western Australia, called Lake Hillier, the water remains a rosy pink.

There's one in Canada, in the mountains in British Columbia, so I never even have to travel outside my country to visit one of these lakes if I choose not to. Seeing as I haven't been outside my country since I was a child, that isn't as far-fetched as it may seem. I'm not big on those ridiculously stressful vacations that people take to 'get away from it all' where it takes them a week to recover once they get home. Those are the same vacations where people get sick because they have no immunity to the viruses that are floating around in the new area - yes, it really is true that people are more likely to get sick from going on vacation than they are from staying home. Ask +Dr. Oz about that one.

Oddly, I discovered an interesting little factoid when researching pink salt today. I was wondering if a certain type of it might come from a pink lake, seeing as many of these lakes are loaded with salt. Hey, it was a theory - an incorrect one, but a theory nonetheless. I'm not referring to curing salt when I say pink salt, by the way. That's different stuff.

What I discovered when researching salt was that the salt substitutes that are made for people on low sodium diets are usually made with potassium chloride. Not only is this a bad idea to ingest when you're on certain types of medication, but I also know from previous research that it's one of the chemicals that are used for lethal injections. Potassium can be very deadly. Another interesting tidbit I discovered was that sea salt isn't any lower in sodium than table salt, so there isn't any point in being pretentious about using sea salt in your cooking rather than the regular stuff.

Man, it's amazing what you can learn about the world when you just let yourself wander from one topic to the next, not having any particular reason to go anywhere. Recently on Facebook there was a joke going around that I shared with my friends that said, "3 out of 4 voices in my head want to go the sleep. The other one is wondering if penguins have knees." Well, I guess it's time for me to do some research on penguins, because I don't think I'll be able to sleep now until I find out!

Apparently they do, which means it's my bedtime...

Sunday, 17 March 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green With Nothing but Socks!

I'm not Catholic, as I'm sure anyone who reads my blog is aware. I am 25% Irish, however, so St. Patrick's Day is kind of a deal for me. It's sentimentality for the green grasses of Eire, a land I've seen only in pictures (including satellite imagery) and movies. The truly sad thing is, I have nothing green to wear but a pair of socks - very, very old socks. I'm not wearing them. Instead I have white ones, with light blue toes and heels & a strip of sparkly stuff around the blue. Stop laughing. They're cute. I have cute feet. Without the socks they're sexy feet.

I actually look good in emerald green. I should have tons of it in my closet, but I don't. Mostly it's either black, or really strong colours like tons of red. I think I have every shade of red imaginable in my closet, from pinky colours to crimson and Chinese red, to raspberry and burgundy. Purple is in there in abundance, which isn't surprising because of the red part of it. I have a little bit of blue, and some yellow and brown, but no stinkin' GREEN. Just that lone, pathetic pair of socks that I haven't even bothered to put on. What kind of Irish person does that make me I ask you?

I won't even get into the religious angle. I'm neither of the religions that the Irish fought such bloody wars over. I'm not a drinker, either. Although I like beer quite a bit, I've never had it in green either.

I do like to dance. I know how to play a fair number of instruments, too. Music is definitely one of the things I've inherited, although it's not exclusively the province of the Irish by any means. I don't know how to dance a jig or any of that fancy Michael Flatly, "Lord of the Dance" stuff, otherwise known as Irish stepdancing. Instead I stick with belly dancing, hip-hop and its various permutations. Hey - whatever blows up your kilt!

I'm also a writer of all sorts of types of writing, so obviously the story-telling has trickled down through the ages. I write this blog - duh - and I write articles for a couple of websites. Those are all non-fiction pieces. However, I've always felt my fiction was my best work. I have very little of that available right now for public consumption - just an erotica story in four chapters available here. I will be adding another one to the site soon, although I'm not certain where it's going just yet. It's starting out as erotica, perhaps, but there may be a more romantic element to it. My writing seems to control me, and not the other way around.

Appearance-wise I've got the pale skin of the Irish, but not the 'creamy' complexion. I have a small, slightly turned-up nose that I'm inordinately fond of, despite a couple of cracks/breaks (once from a long-bomb - football - and once from a door). I don't have red hair, unless I'm in the mood for it of course. I don't really have freckles, either. I've got mostly green eyes (classified as hazel), although the fact that they're a rainbow of shades might be even more appropriate. There's definitely gold at the base there. Well, hell, there goes that ego again. Or...maybe it's Blarney!

Well, whatever your mix of ancestry, and however they managed to put themselves together for you and your family, I hope you all have a Happy St. Patrick's Day, filled with happy blarney, and lots of responses to the shirt you're no doubt wearing that says, "Kiss me, I'm Irish."

I Need a Sexuality Cheat Sheet

As much as I like to think of myself as a believer and practitioner of full equality, I just learned a valuable lesson. My editor at Feminspire schooled me a bit on transgender relationships, etc. Gently, of course. The article she just edited of mine was more than a little exclusionary. The fact is, I make absolutely no judgments when it comes to people and their sexuality or gender identity, but I'm at a loss when it comes to all of the variations the world is currently faced with.

My editor used the term cisgender, which I had never even heard of and had to look up on Wikipedia. Basically cisgender means a person's self-perception of their gender matches their sex. So, if a person who is physically a woman actually feels like a woman, that's cisgender.

It wasn't until a couple of days ago that I heard the term pansexual either. I saw omnisexual at the same time and that term was actually used in what I thought of as humourous context in the movie Three to Tango. I hope people who are actually omnisexual weren't offended by it, because I love that movie.

Quite frankly I'm stymied by the number of variations in sexual and gender identity. I'm what would be termed heterosexual cisgender I guess (I think?) but I honestly feel for anyone who has to explain their identity to others in this world because it can't be easy. To be truly politically correct we have to allow people to define their own reality. This is true with respect to race and religion, as well. Inuits do not like to be called Eskimo, and considering the fact that the term has no meaning I can understand why. How anyone started using it is beyond me.

Many people get tired of political correctness, but the fact is there should be a level of respect for all people. Is there supposed to be a line that says you have to respect women, but you don't need to respect a Native American? Should we respect people who are gay, but not those who are transsexual? That's hardly the fair way to go about things, is it? We don't demean people for being straight  - that I'm aware of - so how do we demean someone who isn't?

If we accept homosexuality, we have to accept all forms of sexuality, and I honestly believe we have to accept homosexuality. If you want to brag about living in a free country, all the citizens in that country need to be free, not just you because you happen to be a heterosexual or white or male. Women have to be accepted. Homosexuals have to be accepted. Hermaphrodites have to be accepted. People of every colour have to be accepted. There can be no line whatsoever. A country is not free if the majority of its citizens are persecuted just for being themselves.

Since I'm now writing a weekly piece for a website that prides itself on being non-exclusionary, I have no choice but to brush up on politically correct terms. It's more than that, though. I'm ashamed that I don't already know these things and what they mean. I understand that there's no way I can know of all the inequities in the world. I can't know how bad things are for every person in every country and every culture. It's not possible. However, I do try. As a human being who values other human beings, even when I don't spend a lot of time with them, I feel I should do everything in my power to know the people who inhabit this world.

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Crazy Lady Downstairs - Part 2!

This afternoon we had an attempted B&E in our apartment. Yes, this afternoon. Let me just say that dementia is a terrible thing. The elderly woman living in the apartment below us seems to have forgotten how a stairwell works, and continued on to the top floor of our building, rather than the second floor where she lives.

My daughter heard someone trying to open the door to our apartment - they were trying to turn the knob, not trying to pick the lock. Thankfully we keep our doors locked, (including the balcony as there was a serial killer who climbed balconies not too far from here). She went over & looked through the peephole. When she saw who it was she opened the door, knowing there wasn't any threat. That might have been a mistaken assumption, actually, since this woman is obviously bat-shit crazy.

As soon as my daughter opened the door, the woman tried to barge past her. She shoved her, not once but twice. My daughter had her adequately-shod foot wedged behind the door, however, so the straining efforts of a frail, 90-pound crazy person just weren't enough to dislodge her from said position.

For obvious reasons my daughter was a little put off by this behaviour and told her to go away. Rather than meekly disappearing, the woman tried to argue with her in another language. My daughter continued trying to explain the situation to no avail, saying, "You don't live here! You live downstairs!"

Side note - doesn't Citizenship and Immigration Canada require that people learn either French or English in order to become citizens of this country? Is that not part of the requirements? Then again, she's obviously off her nut and may have forgotten how.

Finally the woman looked up, noticed the number on the door, and realized that there was something very wrong with her argument. She bobbed her head up and down a few times, apologizing profusely - apparently in English - and disappeared. Hopefully this time she only went down one flight and didn't find it necessary to try to break into the apartment on the first floor, seeing as they're a bunch of drinkers on the weekends.

Now, you would think someone would realize something is very wrong when someone else opens what you think is your front door - whatever state the dementia has reached. Of course, I have no way of knowing how intelligent she might have been before she was afflicted, so anything is possible. Apparently she was perfectly fine with the thought of a stranger opening her door. All she wanted was to go inside. Makes me wonder how many people she sees in her apartment every day...and how many of them are actually real.

Age and dementia happen. I try to be understanding, but it's probably not my best role. I've had bad experiences with people who allowed themselves to slide into that. It had nothing to do with Alzheimer's. They simply stopped using their brains around the age of thirty, and assumed that they'd be able to hold onto their intellectual capacity. Yeah, not quite the reality. Use it or lose it goes double when it comes to your brain.

For the most part, people who choose to stimulate their brains will continue to have solid use of said brains throughout their lives. Those who choose to zone out in front of television sets will have solid use of their salivary glands. The only way to keep your brain working is by using it, and you can actually make yourself smarter by doing brand new things. The more you force your brain to work, the better it gets at working.

I'm sympathetic to mental deterioration if it's from a legitimate cause. Lack of use is not one of those things, and sadly there are a lot of women out there from that generation who are ending up like that. They were told to shut up, spread their legs, push out kids, cook dinner and clean the house. Not always in quite that order, but close enough. As much as it might have been difficult for woman of that generation to stand up for themselves and their brains, however, that was no excuse. Many, many women chose a different path, and all women could have done the same. If they took the easy road, again, no sympathy from me.

Now, you can say that women from my generation have it easy in comparison. In many ways you'd be right. However, if you take a look at the statistics for violence against women you'll see that things really aren't much better. Women are still being raped to death in alarming numbers, beaten by abusive partners until eventually they're killed by the men who are supposed to love them, getting acid thrown in their faces because someone is mad their marriage proposal was not accepted, and having their genitals mutilated by rusty and dull instruments.

As an outspoken feminist I see the risks of the words I write and speak. I know what it's like to have a man come after me with violence in his heart and a sense of entitlement and ownership when it comes to me. I am intimately aware of what a man can do to a woman when his masculinity is threatened. I know what it's like to be raped just because someone thought they could. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference to me. I will stand up - for my brain, for my body, for my life and for my rights.

So, if I'm not being sensitive enough, there's a reason for it. The fact is, it's a little scary to have a demented woman barge through your door in the middle of the afternoon. If she's that bad, it seems to me that she's most likely incapable of caring for herself properly. She should be in an assisted-living facility where they don't allow her to have access to items that can burn down buildings. My lack of sensitivity doesn't mean I think she should be tossed out on the street by any means. I really do think she needs care, but I'll be damned if I'm the one that provides it on a personal level. I want my peace and quiet. I don't mind my taxes going for that kind of thing, though.

In The Crazy Lady Downstairs (it would be part one, but I had no idea there would ever be a part two one day) I talked about another woman who was a danger to herself and others. Very odd situation there. Thankfully she's moving very soon into an apartment building that provides a bit of supervision for the seniors. All's well that starts weird, I guess.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Amazing Show Last Night on The Kovacs Perspective!

I have to say, I was thrilled with the guests we had on The Kovacs Perspective last night - thanks to me of course. We had a couple of really intelligent people who knew a thing or two about peace and what we really need in order to get it. Their approaches were very different, rather like approaching things from opposite ends of the spectrum. As usual, +Steve Kovacs did a great job with the guests, and had them talking about some very key points.

Our first guest +Douglas Noll, approached things from a top-down angle, giving us some great insight into not only our brain chemistry, but also into how things should be working on a diplomatic level. His explanation of the fight or flight response with regard to social confrontation was of particular interest to me. According to him we respond to social threats the same way we respond to physical threats, which makes a great deal of sense if you think about it. After all, when someone starts saying nasty things to us, we all start responding physically.

From a personal perspective, I know very well I have that response. It's a feeling I really don't like, and I equate it with the feeling I get with near-misses when I'm driving. Our guest also mentioned the fact that negotiation requires getting people into the same room, talking. Keeping people apart only exacerbates the problem, and he's right about that. He talks about a political situation that blew up when it shouldn't have, and many people died because of this failure.

Our second guest, Dr. Frank Romano, has a boots-on-the-ground approach that also seems very effective. He talks about sitting around the dinner table with people of multiple faiths, having them get to know one another. Again we hear that it's vital to get people talking, face-to-face. It doesn't matter if they're enemies. It's absolutely vital that people start seeing one another as human beings rather than as 'the enemy' they fear and hate.

A point the good doctor makes, however, is that it isn't enough to just sit around in the kitchen, breaking bread, as wonderful as that might be. It's only the beginning. He believes shared projects are the way to go when it comes to getting people to work and live in harmony. Building an inter-faith, international school is one of the projects he mentions, but there are others. When people really start investing in co-existing, it makes a world of difference. He isn't naive about the length of time this approach is going to take, either.

The things is, we need people working from both ends. It will do no good for mediators to go in and negotiate truces if the people who are living in that part of the world hate one another. The reverse is true as well. It doesn't do any good for the people to share understanding and acceptance if their leaders are still attacking one another. If we ever want peace in this world, it needs to be an effort made by more than one group of people, and we need to take a multi-pronged approach.

In case you missed this incredible show, we will have the vodcast available by tomorrow night or Saturday morning. It will be available here at that time.