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When We Lose Our Neighbours

greed economyI’ve lived here four and a half months, and said hello to exactly three neighbours. It’s amounted to a total time commitment of under 10 whole minutes. 600 seconds.

Earlier this week a news story broke about a house fire and the resulting fatalities. A single mother and two children living in a multi-family house died.  The house is  suspected to have been scraping under the radar of housing regulations, as most affordable housing does.

A neighbour was interviewed saying that he lived ‘nine-steps-away’, but had never met the family. Just nine steps.

And therein lies the problem. We no longer have a sense of community. We are no longer neighbourly. We no longer have the energy or resources to care for others.  We no longer have the inclination to take the time to build relationships with other people. Our world is losing its humanity in the great race to keep the economic machine rolling.

eat cake

Recently the raise in Ontario’s minimum wage has people divided over the benefits and drawbacks. Primarily the arguments are about the ability of businesses to ‘catch up’ and make profits. What is lacking in the conversation is what has been happening to the most vulnerable people in our communities for a very long time; decreased access to safe housing, health care, and the resulting social maladies. What is also lacking is a discussion regarding the  ridiculous wealth acquired by those who say they cannot afford to pay a fair, living wage.

The short-sighted argue that by raising minimum wage, the vulnerable will become jobless, and their situation worse. And they’re right. Unchecked greed will make all of it worse. Protesting for and protecting the vulnerable can only create a stronger community. It’s what neighbours do. It creates community. It prevents bad things from getting worse.

The word neighbour seems to be going the way of the word chesterfield. Perhaps we’re unwittingly becoming more like our neighbours to the south than we’d like to think.

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NaNoWriMo – My First Time

writersclockI’ve been writing, and chiding myself for not writing enough for what seems like a life time.

Often my blogs are a ritual of sorts before I get down to the real business of writing my novel.

My poor novel.

It’s been neglected for a couple of years now, and it’s time I either gave it wings, or set it free to find someone else to write the story. I am a believer in the vision of creativity that Elizabeth Gilbert explains in Big Magic ; Either use it or lose it, and I’m on the very precipice of losing it.

Already there is a movie in the theatres called, Mother. That’s the main character of my novel, and just a couple weeks ago I met a dog named Clover…another character in my novel.

The universe is sending me signs that it’s time to write or drop my pen. So, I’ve decided I must make a serious commitment to my writing.

This is the year I commit to NaNoWriMo. This is the year the rest of the things that tug on my shirt tails for attention get a swat.  This is the year that I re-establish myself as a regular at a local coffee shop and get lost in my own little world of characters and creativity.

…and all that I can think is…YAY!!!

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The Niqab Debate; A Feminist Canadian Perspective

maninchapsI’ve debated whether or not to write this post.

Let me be clear, the Niqab is a political, social and emotional hot button, and our Canadian Conservative spin-doctors hit the nail on the head when they reeled in this red herring.

This is and is not a political issue. It is because it addresses the clusterf^@k that happens when church and state mix. It is not because we should be focused on the complete erosion of democracy that has been achieved by the Conservative government.

I am by no means a social conservative. I am, however, amongst other fabulous and wonderful things, a feminist.

As a woman, the idea that any faith or culture requires a woman to hide her body reinforces the grand debate about the inequality between women and men.

It’s all bullshit folks. Women, men, and everyone who lives in the spectrum between these binary ideas of gender, deserve to be treated equally according to their achievements, gifts and status as a human being.

This morning, sipping my coffee, I read a social media post, (read it folks- it makes a great point, the twitter handle is @manwhohasitall ), which emphasized how screwed up our culture is when it comes to assigning value to typical gender roles.

The title of the article was; If we gave fathers the same nonsensical advice we give working mothers. Here are a few of the more ridiculous quotes;

TODAY’S DEBATE: Is fatherhood the end for career men?

RISE & SHINE FRAZZLED DADS! Wife & kids asleep? Now is the time to declutter cupboard under the sink & snack on your open pores. ‘Me time’.

Working husband & father? Feeling overwhelmed? YOUR FAULT. Drink more water, get up earlier & dress in your ‘wow’ colours.

Now that we have established the double-standard that still exists for working women, let me dive right in to Canadian politics and culture.

People flee to this country because it has a reputation for being nice, for offering equal opportunity, and not allowing our citizens to slit one another’s throats in the street because of basic human rights such as gender, religion, or ability differences.

You know why that exists folks? Because we separate religion from politics.

Given that the history of the niqab as religious versus cultural choice is debatable, let me hit you with a feminist, Canadian, patriotic perspective; women are sick and damn-tired of being told what to do. As Canadians, we’re sick and damn-tired of people from other countries coming here and telling us that they want the same religious-cultural government that they fled from.

If your argument is that not being allowed to wear the niqab is a religious right, perhaps you can cover your face and symbolically demean women in another country. I would never dream of travelling to Saudia Arabia, wearing a bikini and whining about being persecuted for wearing it. It just doesn’t happen.

I wouldn’t mind if all heterosexual men were mandated to wear ass-showing chaps so I could size up my next pony-ride, but I doubt that’s ever going to happen. Because it’s sexist and demeaning.

I agree with Naheed Nenshi’s latest article in the Globe and Mail which talks about Canada being a country of hope. I do not agree with starting down a slippery slope of mixing church and state via the not-so-subtle misogynistic tradition of devaluing the feminine in the name of religion, a la Niqab.

Don’t give me the ridiculous argument about Hallowe’en or Newfie Mummers. It’s not the same and you know it. You know why?  Because females and males participate equally in both. Because no one shows up at airport security, in a courtroom, or in any other situation with their face hidden. It’s a slap in the face of every woman who has ever had to fight to vote, be legally considered a person, been paid less than a man for the same job, the list goes on and on.

Yes, mandating an uncovered face would be telling women what to do, and men too. It’s also telling citizens that we are all accountable for our actions, that hiding behind religion or cultural traditions which symbolically treat women as the property of men will not be tolerated.

Like it or not, allowing the niqab to be worn in public flies in the face of women’s rights in North America. We have worked damn hard to achieve the reduced level of inequality that we have now.

Misogyny cannot hide behind a veil. Instead, that veil screams to North American women that it is alive and well.

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Lundi Monday



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Why Sex-Ed Belongs in Our Schools

knowledge-is-power-quote-22It’s true.

Religion has always been at best, a path on the road to spiritual awakening which encourages empathy, ethical living, and love. At it’s worst, it’s a bastardized tool wielded by the hands of power-hungry lunatics.

Spirituality belongs in school because we are all spiritual beings in human bodies. Religion belongs at home because of the long history of being used to gain power and dominate other human beings. It continues to be a  mess of misunderstood translation, twisted  cultural laws, and most importantly, something that you have the freedom to teach your children or not. At home.

Last night on the news two protestors on the sex-doesn’t-belong in school-side spoke to a reporter about their religious rights, and that it’s a parent’s job to teach kids about sex at home. First of all, if you wish to live by religious law, move. That’s right, go to a country that honours religious law unlike Canada’s secular law. It is because Canada enforces secular law that everyone is, on the surface, offered equal rights.

No? You don’t want to move to a country filled with fanatics willing to slit your throat in the street?  You don’t want to be a woman covered and bound as property to her father or husband? Then sit down and have a good think darling.

You see, sex education from a woman’s point of view is healthy. I must agree that  despite teaching about biology and the mechanics of it all, institutional education  lacks the more subtle, but just as important aspects of emotional intelligence, sexual ethics, and personal morals and values. Those things are indeed a parent’s job to discuss.

What I find very sad for both men and women is that culture within religion often perpetuates myths that can cause physical harm and psychological trauma. Most people who adhere to fundamentalist translation of holy scripture in any religious tradition value a woman’s virginity. What they don’t preach well to those young girls are the risks, health concerns and precautions to take when their protective male counterparts convince them that blow jobs and anal sex aren’t really sex. What they don’t preach well to boys  are the same things. They don’t have the knowledge to seek help when they are raped, molested or infected.

Consent? What is that when one gender is the property of another? And ‘God’ forbid there may be more than two genders. Gasp!

Regardless of gender and religion, every person in this country is entitled to knowledge and resources when it comes to a whole picture of health. That includes sexual health. Chances are you’ll have more experience with sexuality than with  calculus during your years of mature adulthood.

Chances are the irate, red-faced fathers on the news would go into convulsions explaining the transgressions of the flesh that their children face. The same goes for their mothers. Memory is a slippery trickster, remember, it was less than a hundred years ago that women were considered persons and successfully fought for the right to vote right here in the true north strong and free.

God does not belong in school. Spirituality does. Education does. If you are God-fearing, religious, or otherwise follow a moral code, it is your duty to help your children experience the beauty of spiritual living, including the real meaning of sexual desire, intimacy and relationships.

If you really care, may I suggest adjusting your priorities instead of talking smack. Instead of bowing down to the almighty dollar, be home to share a meal around the table. Spend time with your kids and get to know their friends. Teach your sons and daughters about personal respect, compassion and leadership.

Knowledge is power, especially for young women who still live in a world where rape and the onus for birth control weighs solely on their shoulders. Now, could that be the reason that men of certain religious and cultural traditions poo-poo public education, because it gives women power? Why yes, I think we have the winning answer right there darlings.

Knowing the risks and reality of sex does not take away from religious life. It never has and it never will. It only takes away power from power-hungry leaders and the weak.

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How to Be Creative

magicalcreativityStop.

Just stop doing what you habitually do.

Easier said than done, isn’t it darlings?

It’s a pretty difficult, if not nearly impossible thing to actually do.

When you must work instead of daydream to pay the bills, creativity can be awfully hard to coax out from inside your cluttered, cog-work-brain.

Just this week, some poor, unsuspecting, arrogant fellow managed to make me angry. Not annoyed at-you-angry, no, none of that. I mean, the kind of angry that finds my soul flipping his soul the mother-of-all birds.

It made me realize that I had allowed this spiritual niblet to make me angry, and, darlings, we can’t be having that. We are ladies of spirit and dignity. We stand for what is good and right and we must be reckoned with.

moments of decisionWhen we find ourselves bowing down to some imaginary regime, we must always take a clear stand of independence, and trust me darlings, that’s exactly what I did.

The key is to recognize that it is imaginary. We have made it so in our minds. Which means we can un-make it.

The trick is to actually recognize that you’ve been had. You need to be aware of the fact that you have a choice when your temper flares, or tears fall, or your heart goes pitter-patter.

Upon becoming aware, you need to step away and find some peace. You throw open the doors of your silly old brain and call out for some clarity.

Clarity is the capacity to recognize and distinguish the unlimited variety of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and appearances that continually emerge in the mind. It is also called luminosity. Without clarity, we wouldn’t be able to recognize or identify any aspect of our experience. ~Shambala Sun, Nov. 2014, Adapted from Tsoknyi Rinpoche with Eric Swanson, from Open Heart, Open Mind: A Guide to Inner Transformation~

Sometimes the best way to slough off the dead skin of mundane-musts and come to some semblance of clarity is eek out some solitude and try one of these;

1) Take a highway drive and sing at the top of your lungs to whichever music lifts your mood.

2) Long, hot baths. Candles, music, and your beverage of choice.

3) A full day of nothing. No plans. No going out or coming back in. Just staying put, in your own home, with no distractions.

4) A visit to an art gallery with no agenda; no particular exhibit you must see, no timed exhibitions and a notebook to write the thoughts inspired by someone else’s expression of the human spirit.

5) Writing. Write it out. Write what you think and feel.

6) Reading. Read something you wrote five years ago, yesterday, anything. If you don’t write, read the biography of someone you admire. It’s often reassuring to know that most people who do great things in the world were often told they had it all wrong.

7) Look at the stars. Just bundle up for the weather and look up at the clear, night sky. It will make you realize just how vast the possibilities are.

8) Get yourself to the ocean. There’s nothing better to soothe aching wounds than to get lost in an endless vista of rolling sea.

wellQuite a few of us do not have the luxury of escape, but we all have the luxury of limitless minds. Seeking stillness and replenishment of our human spirit is what provides depth for our creative wells.

Chances are if you feel lost, empty, meaningless, you have let your well run dry.

Wishing you the cleansing rain of clarity to saturate your creative spirit.