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Monday, 15 July 2013

Life Begins at 42...in August...42 is Always the Answer

What is it about the number 42? According to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it is the ultimate answer to life, the universe...and everything. Based on Arthur Dent's suppositions, along with the lyrics of Bob Dylan, it could be the number of roads a man (or woman in this case) must walk down. Of course, in the case of a woman, most of them don't actually want to be called a man, but being called a woman will suffice. Then there are the mathematical questions, such as, "What is six times seven, or three times fourteen?"

In my case the number 42 seems to apply to restarting my life. Finally. So, what's the big deal you ask? Well, I'm 42 years old now, and I'm finally off to see a new family doctor. This was my third referral, on top of multiple personal efforts to find a new family doctor. Now I've got an appointment!! The huge shortage of family doctors in this country (thank you, United States, for that one) is the biggest downfall of the health care system here. They all migrated south amid promises of better pay and less paperwork (yeah, right - less paperwork in a doctor's office - those were some gullible physicians), and so some of the best-trained doctors in the world are now ex-patriots - who stand a far greater chance of being sued for malpractice. (We're not quite so litigious up here.)

Now that I've latched onto a new doctor in the city in which I currently reside - it took me less than a year, which is better than what some people face, believe it or not - I'm probably going to fly through the rest of my stuff. There are a lot more specialists than there are family doctors, and they're happy to get new patients...as long as you have a referral from your general practitioner. Aargh! Well, the hurdle has been leapt, despite my physical inability to leap hurdles at the moment - I have to use my hands to drag my leg over a motorcycle seat these days, but not for long!

I'm so tremendously excited, amidst being scared to death of the actual surgical stuff - the anesthesia, not the surgery part. I mean, sure, they'll most likely be dislocating my legs to pull my hips out of their sockets, which would make anyone squeamish, not to mention scraping out the torn tissue and reshaping the joint. Fun stuff. However, I plan to be completely unconscious for that. I believe general anesthesia is optional, but as much as I fear the anesthesia, there is just no way I'm up for feeling my whole body jerk while they literally yank out my leg. Ugh! (Gives new meaning to the term pulling my leg, doesn't it?) I'd be heaving so fast I'd knock the anesthetist into a wall with my projectile vomiting. There's only so much mutilation I can take when I'm awake for it. This coming from a woman who has no problem viewing autopsy videos. Go figure.

So...my own version of the Hokey Pokey:

They'll yank my left leg out,
Then put it right back in.
I'll recover for a while,
but then they'll do it all again.

Yanking my right leg out,
just to put it back in.
Living life is what it's all about!

I'm not much of a poet, I don't think, but, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do." Pig in a poke...hokey pokey. Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon, and bacon comes from pigs. Yes, I have the most bizarre thought processes, I know. I like to think it makes me interesting. Well, I find myself interesting anyway, but then I tend to be a bit egocentric. It's probably a flaw that I should work on in order to become a better person...but I won't! Writers need to be egocentric, particularly if they want to promote their own work.

So, I will choose my writing over my humanity, I guess. I've been doing that lately anyway. I've veered away from writing non-fiction. I'll be getting back to it, but it won't be the same as a lot of what I was publishing before. I decided fairly recently that I've gone severely off-course with it. My main intent has always been to write fiction. I like writing articles, but I was getting too deep into a world that was looking more and more like a very dark pit of despair. I've pulled back for a bit of re-tooling, so to speak. I'm sure I'll still have plenty to say about certain issues, but it will be said with my own voice rather than the voice of the extremists. I will speak on the things that make me personally angry, and not the things I feel I should be upset about yet I'm really not.

I've avoided working on my book for some time, as well as writing erotica. Part of it has been the level of pain I experience on a daily basis. It makes it difficult to get into the writing zone I need to occupy with my fiction. It's not just my hip joints that's the problem there. I have flare-ups of occipital neuralgia (massive pain on both sides of my head). In my case it's nerve damage (along the occipital nerves) that was caused by coughing brought on by an allergy to a feather pillow. The coughing was really bad, and basically caused the same kind of damage people experience with whiplash when they get into car accidents.

I need to go for an MRI - yes, on my head as well as my neck - feel free to make all the jokes you want there. Once they're certain there are no other issues (ha ha), all they have to do is permanently deaden the occipital nerves. I will never have that blinding pain in my head again. Every time I get a cold and start coughing, I'm hit with massive pain in my head. It's the kind of pain that will actually make me throw up, similar to what happens with a migraine - except that migraine medications didn't work on me, and they ended up giving me IV morphine instead.

Once my hips and my head are taken care of, I might even get my wrist surgery done. It would certainly be nice to have myself repaired and back to my fully-functioning self again. I feel like I've aged twenty years in the last five, though. It's going to take time to get back into shape, but after living so long in physical misery, and having absolutely no life, I'm looking forward to taking on the challenge again.

One of the best parts about having a doctor again, will be getting on the proper pain medication finally. My last doctor was far too happy to prescribe narcotics for me, which is the last thing I want. I'm going to request gabapentin, which is a neuropathic pain reliever. I was on it for a couple of weeks once, and it was amazingly effective for me. I actually had my life back during that time. I was getting things done that I'd been putting off. I wasn't taking the narcotics (and the anti-nauseants I had to take because of the narcotics), which meant I had brain function again. My pain was severely limited, too. I still had some, but nothing like my usual level.

The thing about pain that most people will (hopefully) never understand, is that it will ruin your life. Think about what it's like for you while you're in pain. Do you feel like getting up to cook dinner? Do you really want to go out with your friends and hang out in public places while you're hurting? Probably not. Now stop and think for a minute what that would be like if you lived with it every single second of your life. I'm not talking about mild pain that we can tune out, either. Living with chronic, intense pain, means that you spend every second of your life not wanting to do the things that make up a normal life. You never want to get out of bed, or your chair, to cook a meal. You never want to talk to people and carry on conversations. You never want to be out in public.

I mean, if you spend your life on the verge of whimpering or even sobbing, most of us get to a point where we don't want to keep sharing our misery with others. We're all too well aware that nobody wants to hear us complain every minute of every day, about how much pain we're always in. So, unless we're completely lacking in awareness regarding our effect on others, we eventually stop whining about it. It doesn't mean the misery has gone away. It just means no one else is hearing about it. Resentment can build up, in part because of having to keep our mouths shut, but also in part because everyone else seems to be doing so much better than we are. They get to live a full life that those of us suffering from chronic pain can only dream of.

Pain also changes who we are, personality-wise. We're no longer carefree individuals. We stop socializing. We get inordinately cranky. There are major psychological ramifications to chronic pain that are almost never discussed. Now, in my case with my issues being long-term yet still temporary, I have to wonder if those negative changes are permanent. I've done my best to look into the future and tell myself that it'll eventually stop, and that one day I will be able to live again, but I know I've changed. Will I be able to get back some of my old self once the pain is no longer a part of my daily life? Will I want to get that person back at all? After all, everything we live through marks us in one way or another. I feel I'm a better person than I was five years ago, and the obstacles I've overcome have everything to do with who I am now.

Well, it hardly matters, since life will move forward. I'm certainly not going to stop my progress because of a few philosophical questions. I don't consider myself any kind of philosopher, and have little patience with it. I'm just an egocentric rambler. I ponder the things that have a direct impact on my life, and the things that matter to me. Kind of like the number 42. It might be the ultimate answer, but we still haven't figured out the ultimate question, now have we? Personally I liked the bowl of petunias. Having read the books I had to laugh when the answer was revealed as to why it said, "Not again," as it was plummeting to the planet's surface. Life really is quite strange, no matter which one you're living, or what dimension your existence happens to be in.

The ultimate question is probably different for everyone. In my case I think the question is, "When will my life begin?" The answer? 42.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

To Flirt or Not to Flirt

Flirting is a bizarre factor in the dating ritual. Not only does everyone respond to flirting differently, but we all tend to mean something different by doing it. I had one recent incident, which I've already mentioned in a previous blog, where a guy took the mildest of flirting to mean that I was going to have sex with him. Considering he'd been the one who was doing the actual flirting, I was unsurprisingly surprised by this. I could have understood if I had been the one trying to 'charm' him, but I wasn't. I was having a simple conversation, or so I thought. That's probably a really bizarre example, but it does illustrate intent and meaning in a very obvious way.

Now, I'm the type of person who does not flirt with a bunch of people. If I'm flirted with by someone who is not the current object of my affections or attention I will respond very mildly, and then steer the conversation to safer shores. I'm pretty rigid about it. Partially because I'm uncomfortable with it, and that has a lot to do with my childhood I'm sure. I'm rather finicky about physical contact with people, too. The only person I want to touch with any consistency is someone I might want to have a sexual relationship with. Beyond that the words, "You're violating my territorial bubble," want to pop out of my mouth when someone tries to be affectionate with me. I know people who like to hug. I'm not one of them. I have some good friends I will hug if I see them for the first time in years, and then there's my daughter. We hug on birthdays and Mother's Day, and for the rest of the year we stay in our own bubbles. I raised her with lots of hugs, but she grew up like me anyway.

I've known many people who will flirt with almost anyone, and it's all fun and games until someone gets poked in the ego - then it's a sport. Unless both people flirting are the type to flirt unashamedly, without  it meaning anything, someone is probably taking it seriously. Now, if you flirt with everyone, you're certainly going to end up flirting with a few that do take it seriously, and while it may be unintentional, it can still be hurtful. Or in the case of someone who just wants to get laid, it can be a tad disappointing. On a more serious note, people can get raped that way. It shouldn't be that way, but it is what it is. Some people refuse to take no for an answer, particularly if they feel they've been led on (whether they were or not, it hardly matters - no means no). That's obviously a part of my reluctance to flirt with anyone I'm not planning to sleep with. Also, I don't want anyone led on emotionally, either. I don't like hurting anyone's feelings.

Now, when it comes to the dating pool, and you're casting in your line to catch another fish that is supposedly so plentiful in number, there's a bit of a conundrum there. If you choose to flirt with someone, you run the risk of them thinking you're ready to hop into bed at the drop of a zipper. Now, decent people are not going to make that assumption, because relationships should evolve to that point when they're ready to go there, but in the dating pool there are no guarantees you're going to run into decent people. In my experience I've run into a number of men who, when flirted with, are pushing for the next step, which is apparently video masturbation.

I'm confused. Maybe I'm old, but I don't remember video masturbation ever being a part of normal dating rituals, particularly in the initial rounds or win, lose, or draw. To me that kind of thing is best left for a time when you've been carrying on a regular sex life with someone for a while, and maybe you want to spice things up a bit. I could understand phone sex, perhaps, particularly if you're far away from a prospective partner and have yet to do the deed in person, and the frustration is building because you do have a connection. I don't know about anyone else, but the first time someone actually sees me naked, I want it to be in person, and vice versa. There is just something utterly unromantic about watching someone play with themselves on camera. In fact, I would go so far as to call it private porn - again, something best left for a time when you actually need some extra zip beneath the zipper.

Chatting with one person I was asked if I would be willing to show off my assets (so to speak) on a webcam. A question which was met with an assertive, "No!" For two very simple reasons. First, that's just bloody rude! Second, webcam feeds get hijacked and recorded by way of viruses. I don't exactly want my 'assets' out there for the viewing public to ponder in whatever fashion they feel is necessary. I don't do anything on my webcam that wouldn't be fit for public consumption - okay maybe my 'assets' could be considered fit for it, but that doesn't mean I want them out there, fit or not. I don't say anything on webcam that would be something I wouldn't want repeated, either. However, if you read this blog you already know there isn't a lot that I won't talk about publicly.

Back to the dating pool. So, the flip-side of flirting with someone, and running the risk of video masturbation requests, is not flirting. One would assume that's pretty safe. Yeah, it sure can be. So, where's the problem? Well, the risk in not flirting is the assumption from someone that you're simply not interested, and that there's no connection. You can carry on a two-hour conversation with someone, agreeing on everything from politics to religion, yet be told that there's no connection. I've had it happen. In fact, I was talking to my ex about that, and his response was, "How would he know?" That's exactly my point. It's similar to that whole 'friendzone' bullshit thing. I've had friends turn into lovers, and lovers turn into friends. There are no limitations just because someone is currently a friend. The kind of relationship I'd want with someone, I'd want it to start with those long conversations. From the mental connection sometimes all it takes is a simple touch, or even a look, and the whole game changes.

I guess, though, that if someone thinks the zing needs to be there within the first heartbeat, it tells me they haven't done a great deal of self-reflection. The zing is a lot more complicated than that. Sure, there's lust at first sight, for both men and women, but it disappears really fast if the personality isn't there to support it - unless of course the person feeling it is really shallow and they're only looking at the six-pack abs, or whatever it is that attracts them visually.

I have to say, I'll always be attracted to intelligence, and a person's looks mean next to nothing to me. I'm also attracted to emotional connection, and the way someone treats me. A gentle hand touching my face, or fingers running through my hair, are far more sensual to me than pectorals. If I feel cherished, I'll be a lot more likely to respond physically, just as I will if I'm mentally stimulated. You could call me a sapiophile, or say that I'm sapiosexual. Admittedly, it's not just intelligence that does it for me, since I'm not turned on by intelligent women. Women don't do a thing for me in that respect. Looks may not mean anything, but the various parts are somewhat important to me.

So, I guess I've answered my own question, really. Or, at least I have when it comes to my own choices. I'll flirt when I'm damn good and ready to do so, and not a minute before. If someone is really that interested in me, they'll stick around for the little bit of time it takes for us to get to know each other well enough that I feel comfortable showcasing all the goodies. If they're not that interested in me, what the hell would I want them for anyway? No one who has any pride or self-respect would be willing to keep chasing after someone who doesn't return their interest. I might actually have a little too much of both traits.

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Sad, Anniverary-Type Day

Stimpy's DeMille Shot
Today marks exactly three months, (also exactly thirteen weeks,) since I lost Stimpy. At noon today my reminder went off on my BlackBerry so that I could take the time to mourn as I do almost every week. I think about him, talk to him, and look at pictures of him. And cry, of course. There's no getting around that part. It's cathartic. Losing him was, and is, so painful for me, that the only way I can handle it is to purposely give myself that focused period of mourning. I spent almost every moment with Stimpy, while he was alive and with me, so there's a huge emptiness in my life now that he's gone. I have Pepper, who helps me through it, but that will never negate the loss of Stimpy.

When I say I spent almost every moment with him, I mean it. I don't leave the house a lot. I had to go out to Edmonton a few years ago, and I was gone for a week. It nearly killed me. When I was still running my business, I was running it from home, and if Stimpy was awake I was playing with him, or just paying attention to him. I think there was a part of me that just knew I wouldn't have him for very long. He always seemed so delicate to me, and for the only time in my life I can honestly say that I completely cherished him and never once took him for granted. We do that with loved ones all the time, not thinking about the fact that we might not have them tomorrow. I didn't do that with him. It's something that comforts me a great deal, but it doesn't make me miss him any less.

One mental picture and sensation that sticks in my mind is the Stimpy nose-bump. I'd be holding him in my arms, much like people hold human infants, and if my face was near his he would bump my nose with his. I remember so well the feel of his tiny, cold, wet nose touching mine, as he looked straight into my eyes. That was him telling me he loved me. I've mentioned this before, but he did it on the day he died, too. As weak as he was, he had a little accident and his backside got a bit messy. I knew he was going to go soon, so I debated whether or not to give him a bath, or just wipe it up as best I could. Well, I gave him a half-bath which seemed to liven him up a little bit, and was holding him in a towel in my arms. He leaned up to me and gave me not just one, but two, nose bumps. It was breaking my heart, but I knew then he was leaving me.

An hour later, Stimpy started to make noises from his bed. I picked him up again, knowing he had to be uncomfortable at this point. Thankfully, as hard as it was to lose him, he wasn't in pain for long. I knew he had to go. I would never have wanted his suffering to be prolonged. At the same time I'm still so angry that nothing could be done to help him. Cancer is a terrible thing, whether it's in humans or animals. In Stimpy's case he had tumours in both kidneys, as well as his pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is deadly, particularly if you can't provide treatment. I would have taken him for chemotherapy, no matter what it cost, had that been a viable option. It provides only an 11% survival rate, however, and in Stimpy's case it wouldn't have been that much even, as chemo adversely affects the kidneys. His were already double the normal size. The chemo would most likely have just killed him outright. Putting him through the torture of chemo wouldn't have been worth it.

Once we finally knew what was really wrong with him, after well over a year of vet appointments and tests, the vet put him on prednisone. It gave him back a decent life for about three weeks, and I'm so grateful to have been given that time. He was playing again, and actually pretending to bite us during playtime. He was his old self again. We knew it couldn't last, but we were thankful he had those last weeks of happiness.

My heart still breaks every damn day. I still talk to him and miss him all the time, but I don't really focus on it emotionally or deeply, except for when I have my reminders set. I mean, I'd never forget about him in general, but I set the reminders so the time doesn't pass unknowingly. We all have our grieving rituals, and this is mine. Part of me still doesn't know what what to do without him, but I guess I'm already doing it. After three months I still picture him around the apartment.

Pepper now does all these weird little things that make him look identical to Stimpy, and they were actually nothing alike, personality-wise. Stimpy was gentle and Pepper is a total scamp. He likes to nip at my feet and scoot away backwards while making a laughing sound, and I'd swear that he is actually laughing, too. Even his expression, with his mouth open and his head wagging back and forth, looks like he laughing. It's a really good thing he's such a funny little brat, because I need that in my life right now. He was making me laugh the same day that Stimpy died, and he's been doing it every day since. There's just something special about that happy mischief.

Having given two ferrets a forever-home, as it's called, I will be rescuing more as soon as possible. Once I'm assured that vet bills will be covered okay, I'll be off to the closest ferret shelter - it's in Mississauga. I'm going to ask them to give me the one(s) that are most desperately in need of a new home. I already know I'm going to love them, no matter what their personalities or difficulties, so there's no need to be picky. I don't care what colour they are, or if they're deaf or blind - they're getting a home. It's not just for my sake, or even theirs, but for Pepper's as well. He's a ferret that needs companionship. He's sleeping too much these days, and I can't play like a ferret can. I do spend time playing with him every day, and my daughter does, too, but it's not the same as a furry friend. Stimpy was perfectly content as a single ferret, but Pepper isn't. He's actually curling up and sleeping with the cats now, and he's being a lot nicer to them when he tries to play with them. He needs another ferret, though, and so do we.

I'm sure a lot of people would say what I actually need is a social life, if I'm this fixated on my ferrets. I'm working on it, believe it or not. I've actually got plans to go out tonight, even if it's just for coffee. I'll be around human adults. My ex has finally moved into the other bedroom, but he's still managing to be The Invisible Man, so we don't spend a lot of time chatting. My daughter is on her computer as much as I am, which is saying something, so we don't spend much time chatting either. Tonight I'll be talking to a real, live human, possibly for hours. Considering the fact that I have a cold, and I'm not used to talking that much these days, we'll see how long my voice holds up.

I did finally manage to do a load of laundry last night, so at least I'm not going out in my pajamas - or naked, as that would be so much worse...for everyone. I learned an irritating fact about the dryers in this building, however. One has an 'out of order' sign on it, and the other one doesn't work at all. Interesting. I only did one load, so at least I was able to hang everything up right away to dry. I've got my clothes picked out for tonight. All that remains is to shower and do something with this cold so that I don't look like a total zombie. I might actually have to resort to make-up. *shudder*

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Rock-Making, Wrist-Breaking, Penis Envy and a Disappearing Roommate

Apparently I took up the temporary hobby of rock-making yesterday. I would advise not keeping garlic bread under the broiler for twenty minutes. Yeah, I did that. That was me. I got distracted by a conversation with my daughter and then I started smelling the smoke. On the plus side I couldn't smell the overdue cat litter (I got around to that today). On the minus side, food wasted. Charred food is a carcinogen, and I'm just not adding to my risks for cancer when it's not like I'm going to enjoy the taste of it anyway.

That's the one thing about my cooking that isn't so great. I have a very limited attention span, and I'm impatient. I actually stand in front of the microwave telling it to hurry up. Again, yeah, I do that. That's me. I'm one of those people. Of course, I yell at other drivers while I'm driving, too. They can't hear me, but it's a way of venting. People think road rage is a bad thing, but I think the unheard screaming is helpful. Nobody knows, you get out your frustrations, and you're not a physical danger to anyone.

In my case I'm more of a physical danger to myself than to anyone else. A few years ago I unknowingly cracked a bone in my wrist. I didn't remember doing it, and had it for months before I finally went to see why my wrist hurt. They gave me a rigid brace for it while it was healing, but then it didn't heal properly, and then there was a ganglion cyst involved. They removed the synovial fluid with a large-bore syringe (not comfortable by any means, but livable) and injected cortisone with the same needle. It didn't help and I developed a weird rash from the cortisone - took a few months to disappear. I went to a specialist who recommended surgery as an option, but I chose to ignore him and get on with my life. I was more concerned about my other issues, and even now they're still taking precedence.

Be that as it may, I was playing with my ferret, Pepper, last night, and just happened to move my hand in the wrong direction. It really hurt, but I didn't think a lot of it. I'm kind of used to pain, and most of my old injuries will give me a reminder every now and again, so I basically ignored it and figured it would go away. It hasn't. It looks like I might be up for some additional surgery. The orthopedic surgeons are going to make a fortune off of me. They've already removed my tailbone. Now they've got two hip surgeries and a potential wrist surgery.

None of this kind of stuff is going to be helpful when it comes to having any sort of dating life, of course. I've got so much crap going on that I don't even know where to fit everything anymore. I'm certainly not opposed to dating anymore. It's just that the more things you have wrong with you, and the older you get, the less bloody likely you are to even meet someone who's interested, much less someone who is remotely compatible. For one thing, I'm a feminist. My dating pool is limited strictly to men who will not treat women like they're worth less than men. For another, I'm an equal rights advocate, whether it comes to race, religion, or sexual orientation, so this leaves bigots of any sort right out of the loop. On top of that, I love animals, so any guy who doesn't isn't getting anywhere near me...or my ferret.

Of course, there are the ones who are afraid of strong women, who think that all feminists suffer from 'penis envy'. (Yes, I used scare quotes - get over it.) Here's a free bit of advice for those men. Most women have zero interest in having dangly things wobbling between their legs, and women who are interested in men in a sexual way are usually only interested when they're not dangling - lesbians I would think have zero interest altogether. The closest a feminist comes to having penis envy, is the envy we feel at the ease with which a Caucasian penis will open a door. Again, yeah, I did that. That was me who said that. Beyond that, though, what is there to envy? That's an extremely vulnerable piece of equipment down there. Not only is it vulnerable to injury, such as you would get from a kick to the crotch, but it's also very vulnerable to laughter. It doesn't stand up well to that - see what I did there?

Granted, if my ex is going to be living here, that may make dating even more difficult, because who is really going to understand that? Especially at first when you're getting to know someone, and they have no idea what the real situation might be. Of course, I think he's been here all of 24 hours in the last week, so I'm not sure it's even going to be an issue. I haven't seen him in days. I've talked to him, so he's still alive, but he just has some of his stuff here right now. According to him he's still planning to live here, though. We're apparently sharing the apartment with The Invisible Man. Best roommate ever.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Canadian Tornado's Take on Canada Day


Canadian Flag - Wikimedia Commons

National animal: Beaver (A rodent - which goes to show our very real need for a sense of humour.)
National tree: Maple, duh
No national birds or flowers, although each province has them (The Canada Goose and Loon are right up there, again showing our need for a sense of humour - one denoting a silly creature, and the other denoting a crazy one.)
Official Languages: French and English
Population: 35,198,503 (2012 - estimated, but it makes me wonder why they felt they had to include the 3 at the end of an estimation.)
Districts: 10 provinces and 3 territories

I love my country. I could probably leave it at that, but I'm not going to. I'm going to talk about my country, and why I love it. Sure, I'll talk about the things I hate about it, too - if Canadians are anything, we tend toward an outlook of fairness and self-deprecation. And according to That Canadian Guy, the comedian Glen Foster, if we get mad enough we're gonna sit right down and write a letter. Yup. Apparently we have a firm attachment to the notion that the pen is mightier than the sword. Not that we're opposed to taking up a sword apparently, should the occasion warrant. The first murder in Vancouver this year was committed by sword. No, that's not a joke. A 19-year-old man died - was nearly decapitated, in fact - so I'm not going to stoop to making jokes about it. Being Canadian, and having the impulse to joke about damn near everything, however, does make it tempting.

Today is Canada Day, in case you weren't aware and the blog title didn't give you a clue. July 1st every year we celebrate it, and for my American friends who don't know, it's a lot like your Independence Day. We do the fireworks thing all weekend, have barbecues and special events lined up out the wazoo - a technical term. We have festivals and parties, you name it.

It was originally called Dominion Day, until 1982, which I had totally forgotten about until I started doing my little bit of research to write this part. I grew up while it was still being called that, and it totally slipped my mind! Must be my age catching up with me. Canada Day doesn't celebrate independence, though. It actually celebrates unity. There were three parts to my country before they were united under one country within the British Empire. On July 1st, 1867, the "British North America Act, 1867" was enacted, which is now called something else, too. We call it the "Constitution Act, 1867" instead.

It occurs to me that it's not particularly surprising no one outside Canada has any clue about our history. We keep changing the names of everything! Admittedly, American media is often ego-centric, so the American population tends to know almost nothing about us. I would hazard a guess that 99% of them do not know the name of our Prime Minister. Now, before anyone gets mad at me, I'm just as bad about other countries. I know Barack Obama is POTUS, and I know Nelson Mandela was President of South Africa. I know Elizabeth II is the Queen, and Tony Blair was PM of Britain, as was Margaret Thatcher (enemy of feminists everywhere), and that's the extent of my knowledge regarding leaders of other countries. Well, I know some of the titles of the leaders in other countries, such as whether they're led by royal families or by a president or prime minister. Beyond that I'm pretty much lost.

Back to Canada, however. Today's our day to shine. We're led by an idiot. Let's just clear that up right now. Our Prime Minister's name is Stephen Harper, and he has to be the biggest moron we've ever had in power. Oh, if only we had a term limit in Canada the way there is in the United States. He'd be gone automatically in two years. Instead, we just might be stuck with him until he keels over. He's done nothing but try to trample on the rights of people in my country. He stomps on women's rights, the rights of the Native population, you name it. And, well, he's just stupid and embarrassing. I can only hope no one associates my entire country with him, because we'll all look like idiots if they do.

So, why is he still in power? Good question. Here's the first reason: You see, we have more than two major options in Canada when it comes time to vote. There are actually three main parties, and then a whole slew of smaller ones. The party that gets the most votes, even if they don't pass the 50% mark, is the party that gets into power. Well, Harper is a part of the Conservative party. The Conservatives have a die-hard fan base, so to speak, of about 35% of the population. Divide 100% by three, and you only get 33-1/3%, so mathematically speaking we're screwed. That's not to say another party can't kick their butts with 65%. They could, but it will probably be the Liberal party, and I'm not into them either. They suck. They're a bunch of common criminals, which is a nice segue to the other reason Harper's still in power.

Reason number two: He's a  crook. Yup. I'll say it again, with emphasis. He's an out-and-outer, a criminal, a con artist, and a crook. There was a huge stink about it, but it appears nothing was done. You see, there was this robo-calling fiasco where voters were sent to the wrong locations in order to vote. No, I'm not kidding. They used auto-dialers to give people the wrong address for the voting locations. Nice, huh? Ah, the wonders of the technological age. They've pulled similar stuff in America, but not of this magnitude. Yet, he's still sitting on the high horse, waiting to have rocks thrown at him until he falls off. Do I sound bitter? I sure hope so. I tried hard to convey the spirit of that.

Enough about the dweeb in power. We have other dweebs spreading the word about Canada that are apparently off their nut, too. People like Justin Bieber who thinks our national dish is spaghetti and milk. Wut? Um, pasta comes from China originally, and gooping the sauce onto it is an Italian thing. Don't ask me about the milk, because I'm pretty sure milk exists all over the world. No, if we had to say we've got a national dish, it would be something like poutine (pronounced pooh-teen, but it tastes way better than it sounds). Maybe beaver tails (it's a pastry, not the tail of a rodent) seeing as Obama is so fond of them and actually had them brought in for the big party when he was sworn in for his second term, but I'd hate to choose something based on the opinion of an outsider - no matter how famous he is.

Enough about the bad stuff, though. Now we get to the good stuff. A recent article in Huffington Post listed the top ten nations, by reputation, in the world. Canada topped the list. *rah rah* A few months ago Yahoo! Finance had a piece about Canadians being the most educated citizens in the world. The funny thing is, Canadians are generally, myself not included, the least likely to toot their own horns. All the information about how wonderful we are up here in the Great White North seems to come from outside sources.

We've had marriage equality for 8 years. We have abortion available, and paid for by provincial healthcare - the only exceptions to that having to do with availability of clinics, and Quebec apparently being the only province that doesn't do third trimester abortion because they don't have a doctor that will do them. They're actually trying to bring in a doctor specifically because there are occasionally reasons for an emergency third-trimester abortion. PEI has no facilities, apparently, so people have to go out-of-province to get one.

We have pretty damn good labour laws, too. Every province is slightly difference, but pretty similar. We also have the federally regulated industries, such as inter-province transportation companies and the like. Employers are required to pay vacation pay and termination pay if they terminate without proper notice. We have the added benefit of basically a year's paid parental leave. It's 50 weeks, and then you've got your minimum two weeks' vacation in there. The leave can be shared by both parents, male or female, gay or straight.

This is all on top of our healthcare. Now as much as I might complain about not being able to find a family doctor, I will find one. If I can't, and there's an immediate need to see someone, we have clinics and hospitals everywhere. Besides, if we didn't have healthcare I'd be screwed right now, and not in any pleasant way. I'd never have been able to have my tailbone removed, and would still be incapable of sitting in a chair. I wouldn't have been able to afford the MRI on my hip and multiple ECGs and the EMG tests I've had to have done, or even the x-rays. At this point I wouldn't even know what was wrong with me, because there is no way I could afford to go to a doctor in the first place. It's not a perfect system, but then nothing ever is.

As I mentioned to a friend yesterday, when I grew up no one was patriotic in my country. My grandmother wore a pin of the Canadian flag, and was unusual for doing so. She stuck one on my coat and it embarrassed me. It wasn't until I heard a story from a family member about how well he was treated abroad when people found out he was Canadian, and how badly he was treated when they thought he was American, that I realized there was something to be proud of. Maybe it wasn't cooler to be an American. Maybe being Canadian was a truly awesome thing. It's sad that it took an outside opinion for that to happen, but as I said we tend to be a self-deprecating bunch.

That being said, my fellow Canadians also tend to be extremely funny. Self-deprecation is a part of that, but we simply find humour in so many things. It may be why I don't take things too seriously that people say to me, and can handle criticism pretty well. I may not like it, but then who does? We've got some great artists out there in general, that many people have no idea are Canadian. I knew about William Shatner, but I didn't realize until fairly recently that James Doohan (Scottie of Star Trek) was also Canadian. Gene Roddenberry was a truly inclusive man. George Takei made a comment a few months ago about him being his personal hero because he not only believed that an Asian could drive, but that he could even pilot a starship. He's a funny man, that George Takei, even if he isn't Canadian.

Many, many films are being made up here now. I mean, it's hard to beat the landscape - well, New Zealand has that covered (think Lord of the Rings), but we're pretty damn decent. There's so much variation in our weather and the type of land we have. We have deserts with rattlesnakes in southern Alberta, prairies through Manitoba and Saskatchewan and part of Alberta. We've got the Rocky Mountains slicing between Alberta and BC, as well as the mountains and extremely hilly terrain of Quebec and Ontario. We've got oceans on both sides, but of extremely different natures - tempestuous in the maritime provinces, and far more temperate in BC where we have the surfing and wind-sailing crowd. Then we have arctic tundra up in the Northwest Territories, Yukon Territories, and Nunavut.

I love my country. It's beautiful, even if we do sport some idiots. It's just not possible to have a population of around 35 million people and not have at least some of them come up wanting, so we have to abide the occasional ones. So, come on up and check us out...if you're not an idiot. Oh, and we have beer! Lots and lots of beer.