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Christmas Care for the Caring

snuggleWonderful. Beautiful. Lovely.

Adjectives that caring folks often use. At Christmas time, everything is supposed to be extra wonderful, extra beautiful, and extra lovely.

Putting on a kind face when everything is not can take a heavy toll. We often hear our friends  talk about their suffering, but never really hear it.

So in the days leading up to the holiday, remember that the ones who never buckle under pressure, who always seem to hold everyone else together are human too.

It may be a text, email or phone call. Better yet, be there with a hug and a shoulder. Take a chance on someone who makes your heart go pitter-patter and snuggle up under the duvet for a movie or heart to heart.

Have another first kiss or a first, first kiss. Be their shining light on the darkest nights.

Sometimes it’s the caring ones, the bold ones, and the seemingly brave that have the most fragile of hearts.

Don’t forget that the caring ones among us need to be cared for too.

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Canadian NOT American

Surprisingly delicious and as addictive as any illegal drug.
Surprisingly delicious and as addictive as any illegal drug.

Chicken’N Waffles flavoured potato chips, two dollar and fifty cent wine, and state troopers who look like Smokey the Bear. What are; things you can only see in America.

As a tourist in the Caribbean and Europe, Canadians are sometimes confused with Americans. But not often, and not for long.

Living within an hour or so of the U.S. border, Canadians often like to make the trip south for a little break, and to shop.

We get a kick out of seeing alcohol on grocery store shelves, and an even bigger kick out of bringing a bottle or two of otherwise high-priced hooch across the border.

If you’re familiar with Michael Adams’ studies on the sociological differences between Canada and the U.S.A, which argues we are becoming more and more divergent when it comes to the values we espouse as nations, you will have some idea of the subtle differences that give these two North American countries decidedly distinct identities.

If you haven’t read the books, or thought much about it, let me give you my non-political, purely biased perspective.

U.S.A. vs Canada

1) Size matters in the U.S.  Meals are served on platter sized plates, drinks are served in gallon pail sized glasses, and the result is that the folks south of the border like their elastic waist bands way more than we do in the Great White North.

2) Food is a chemical and caloric shit-storm. If it’s palatable, it’s ok to eat. Welcome to the U.S.A.  Admittedly I did not seek out any ‘organic’ specialty stores, however, there were none visible during two days of driving to, through and around a major city.

3) The accent. First of all, in Canada, you’re out of luck in 99.9% of cases if you’re looking for grits. In the U.S., it’s pronounced ‘gree-its’, and they’re everywhere.

4) Americans love booze, but hate weed. Canada regulates booze like it’s crack-cocaine, and treats marijuana like it’s alcohol’s adorable little sister.

5) State troopers seem to have a permanent presence at convenience stores. They seem to be in a constant state of dehydration, lingering at the counter holding some giant beverage from the cooler. In Canada cops like coffee and donuts – they hang out at Tim Hortons.

6) American men all seem to have a hang-dog face and some terrible nasal condition which causes them to breath out of their half-open mouths. Canadian men are adorable, rugged lumberjacks underneath all of their please’s and thank you’s.

7) Brand names are big. If you don’t have at least one tagged on your body in the U.S., you’re an outcast. Canadians are slightly less attached to the thought of being walking billboards.

8) Salespeople in the U.S. are more aggressive, and smile while doing it. I’ve never seen so many over-the-hill women in heavy make-up and veneers this side of drag-night on Church Street as I did at the Macy’s cosmetic and fragrance counters.  I kept expecting the saleslady at  Estee Lauder to say, “All the better to eat you with my dear“.  She also happened to love every shade of lipstick I tried on, and held my chin firmly in her hands while applying it. Run. For. Your. Life.

9) Pizza. The US border cities definitely do it better. Crust that tastes like dough not cardboard, real cheese, and fresh herbs. Mom and pop shops always do pizza better.

10) Canadian highways, although aging and in a dismal state, are almost always more clean and maintained than U.S. interstates. “Tired”, was an adjective recently used to describe the infrastructure in New York state, and I would have to agree.

Each time a Canadian customs agent hands me back my passport and waves me through, I breath a deep sigh of relief. Canada is home, and I’m glad of it. Now, if we could just get our politicians to see the light…

 

 

 

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2014 – The Year You Did It

“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.” ~T.S. Eliot~
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”
~T.S. Eliot~

If all goes as planned (and it shall), I will be dancing the night away as this blog is being posted, ushering in the new year as I wish the remainder of the year to be; surrounded by friends, meeting new people, dancing and laughing. May the champagne ever be cold and ready for pouring….

I hope that this is the year you do it; graduate, fall in love, get the job you want, pay your bills, reclaim your health, let all the negative stuff go, allow yourself to be nurtured, take your dream vacation, check off a few items from your life-long-I-gotta-do-it-list, feel secure in your independence, move, go back to school, break-up, make-up, or whatever it is that you need to do.

Just commit to being the best version of you possible, and you can’t go wrong!

If you’re at home reading this during a more contemplative new years evening, may you know peace.

If you’re at home reading this on new year’s day, may you know that a big greasy breakfast and tomato juice almost always kill a hangover.

However you decided to ring in 2014, I wish you every happiness, good health, and an abundance of everything good that this new year has to offer.

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Christmas Rant: Part I

The War in the Vendée was a royalist uprising ...
The War in the Vendée was a royalist uprising that was suppressed by the republican forces in 1796 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, ‘Part I’. There may, indeed, be a ‘Part II’ , depending upon how stupid things get before the new year.

Last year the grand ‘we’,  declined to see the value in the Occupy Wall Street campaign, that was staggeringly avoided by major press agencies.

We let the dreadlocked-live-our-values-over-charged-for-our-mediocre-educations-and-under-employed youth, fight it out in the streets for the middle class. The middle class, who are losing their ever crippling grip on the edge of affluence as they march to the hypnotically convincing drum of ‘The Man’.

‘The Man’, yep, that pretty much almost sums it up. Consider two facts from Joseph E. Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality;

“The top 1% earned more than 65 percent of the total national income [in the United States], ” and, ” …the ratio of CEO annual compensation to that of the typical worker by 2010 was back to what it had been before the crisis, to 243 to 1“.

While the media reports on Miley’s junior-miss sized twerking patooty, in above-the-fold-full-colour-coverage, they give about half of that coverage to reports about unions being vilified (by the powers that be), as unfairly over-compensating workers.

It doesn’t take a PhD in maths to know that the statistics mentioned above impact the majority of folks in not only North America, but everywhere on the planet.

When we treat silver-spoon born Conrad Black as a real journalist, and Rob Ford as a misunderstood ‘average guy’, we’re wrong. Dead wrong. Rob Ford’s Escalade is worth 3x that of the average vehicle (a simple Honda Civic) owned by those living in the GTA, and his assets multiply to have net value in the millions.

Toronto has a mayor who openly flaunts the rules, degrades homosexuals, women and anyone else who thinks differently than him, and uses the excuse that the press is too rough on him to get away with it all. Actually, his big bully brother does the talking. The day I knew we’d lost all dignity as a nation was the one that showed Mr. Ford and his compadres dancing like  idiots in council chambers just days after having his mayoral power stripped from him.

Only someone with the wealth of Mr. Black has the gumption to whine about being incarcerated for being a liar and a cheat. Call it fraud, bad accounting, whatever…it’s lying and cheating at the cost of everyone else who shares the same planet.

The worst part is, we let it happen. Yes, read this slowly; we allow this to happen. Instead of rioting in the street, we go to work, pay our taxes, and our over-inflated power, cell phone and health care bills.

Let me get back to the subject of unions. We’ve seen unions vilified by the Conservative government and big business, so much so that we’ve bought into this anti-union perspective.

Unions may have been gauche in the booming 80’s, but today we live a different economic and social reality. The reality is that unions are needed now more than they were needed in the past thirty or forty years. For over thirty years, the average annual income of a full-time worker stagnated, while the profits at the top have multiplied at astonishing rates.

Young adults entering the workforce are under-employed at alarming rates. Not to mention everyone one else. The days of full-time jobs with benefits that sustain a comfortable lifestyle are over. Instead, we have the majority of people working at part-time or contract jobs, unable to sustain themselves, or have any measure of security.

Besides being unable to pay their bills, folks in jobs that are not secure suffer from more illness and social problems than ever before. Economic instability feeds fear, and that creates a downward spiraling quagmire of social issues; homelessness, addiction, abuse, crime, and all of the other wonderful side-effects of poverty.

The top 1%’s after tax income reached an average of $1.3 million in the United States in 2010. That of the bottom 20% only reached $17,000. No wonder big-business-journalism and politics doesn’t like unions. Unions distribute the wealth and offer job security.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are issues with unions too. Look at the billions of dollars of bailout money that went to Automakers with no conditions to streamline their production or offer more affordable, environmentally friendly products. Despite the obvious lazy-barnacles that infest unions (they also infest non-union environments at the same rate though), I’d rather live with unions to ensure more people with full-time jobs, than with what is happening now.

Canada and the U.S.,  live in a world of performing-party-politicking that leaves us without leaders in a wild-western-hemisphere black-hole of civilization.

If we leave the world up to those with no social conscience, and a taste for greed rather than loving-kindness, there will be many darker days to come, than this, the longest night of the year.

 

 

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Friends With Benefits – I Don’t Think So

The flags of Canada and the United States of A...
The flags of Canada and the United States of America, flying side-by-side outside PGE Park in Portland, Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Canada and the United States have flirted, used, abused, supported and stabbed one another in the back throughout the years.

We have a love/hate relationship. Americans like having neighbours who spell properly, and smile a lot.

Canadians like the sunny south and football. Perhaps we could also throw in the Rose Bowl parade, you know, just to make our American neighbours feel good.

It’s nice being neighbourly with the big guy on the block. Well, it used to be. The other global-guys are hitting their growth spurt, and the big guy isn’t so big any more. In fact, his fat-cat ways are catching  up, and, I hate to mention it, but he’s grown quite an economic disaster of a muffin-top.  A grand example of a sugar-daddy whose looks have slipped, and whose wallet isn’t fat enough.

This week, Diane Francis’s Merger of the Century was reviewed in the Toronto Star.  She argues, apparently pretty convincingly too, that should Canada and the United States jump the broom, both nations would stand to benefit.

To summarize, should this little marriage of two socially opposite neighbours happen, it would create an economy larger than the combined economic sway of China, Japan, France and Germany.

Francis describes our Canadian resources as, ‘mindboggling’. Trillions and trillions of dollars worth actually. I don’t think the average Canadian needs to read her book to understand just how rich we are. We may have to point out that our resources are in great, imminent danger of being destroyed by greedy BIG BUSINESS.  The very same big business that almost bankrupted North America in 2008. Yes, the very same big business that gobbled up the bail-out and learned absolutely nothing about innovation, or the fall-out of greed.

Beyond our  plethora of resources, Francis also sings the praises of our banking system, sophisticated social values, educations system (If ours is good, I shudder to think about the American system), and ‘law-abiding people’.

I would like to point out, that these are also precisely the reasons that intelligent Canadians would never wish to be more economically tangled with the United States than we are already obliged to be by virtue of our proximity.  Should a merger happen, it would leave the social, political and economic landscape of Canada a no-man’s land.

Much like the cover of the book that has our Canadian Maple Leaf gobbled up in the design of the famous stars and stripes, our social identity would be lost to the machine of capitalist greed, minus our so hard-won social system. In short, the big guy needs us now that the folly of his ways has seen the light of day.  The tough guy is looking to someone to clean up his mess.

Go ahead, take Francis’s argument for a ride, but be sure to read the other sides of the argument; Fire and Ice, and Death of the Liberal Class.  After all, you want a clear picture of just how very different our cultures are.

The reading may also inspire you to articulate our distinctly Canadian values in the face of the political shit-show that will surely be our next federal election.

Fracking? Pipelines? Bureaucratic Elitism? GMO farming and antibiotic infused livestock? Yes, we do have some rather overwhelming issues to tend to in our very own maple-syrup rich backyard, but we’d have a heck of a lot more problems if we get distracted by a  big, shiny, diamond engagement ring from the USA.

 

 

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What Were They Thinking

Boys Play with Toy Guns in Bagram, Afghanistan
Boys Play with Toy Guns in Bagram, Afghanistan (Photo credit: United Nations Photo)

Tonight, immediately after work, I travelled to my physicians office to refill the prescription that helps me put up with other people’s stupid shit. Seriously.

After a leisurely drive through city-rush-hour traffic, I dropped of the script and then I picked up the kiddo. We headed home to enjoy the first real day of spring. Pulling into our little piece of urban-heaven, I said, “Mmmm! Smell that! They just cut the grass.” The kiddo turned to me and smiled. Yes! Spring has finally arrived!

We scrambled to the kitchen and unpacked our lunches, tossed a load of laundry in the washer, and headed outside to scrub our Adirondack chairs and sweep the lonely patio. Our poor miniature parrot had to get in on the festivities, and after being manhandled in a crib sheet (yah, I’m not going to get into that), she is also enjoying the 24 degree (centigrade for my American pals) weather.

With the patio cleaned, dinner in the oven, laundry washing and the parrot out for the first time in months, my kiddo and I settled in to our ‘happy hour’ routine. I with a glass of wine and triple-cream-brie and he with a sandwich and glass of milk, settled in for a long spring-day chat.

Until I heard…”POP! POP!POP”

After my tumbler of wine, I was pretty relaxed. Until that racket started again.

Now, where I come from, it wasn’t uncommon for boys to carry BB Guns and shoot squirrels, or cats, or your bike tires. In the city it’s another story. For a minute, I thought my new neighbor was having a lot of trouble with his BBQ lighter, but it quickly became apparent that no BBQ that hadn’t exploded already ever sounded like that.

After a second rather insistent round of the loud popping, which, incidentally made my parrot crap, I decided to get up and see who the a-hole was disturbing the peace.

Ah yes. My neighbours. Wonderful…they’ve outfitted their teenage boys with play cap-guns. Do I even need to explain why this may not be the ideal leisure activity for young men immigrating to North American in the midst of violent religious-political upheaval in their own part of the world?

Thank you universe for delectable wines available for just under $12.95. Please make the noise stop. Please, please, please don’t make me go up there and give the parent’s of those poor kids a cap-gun enema.

We really need to vote for peace, social justice and common sense here in Canada before the courage-enabling LCBO and religious law meet on the battlefield.

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Human Rights NOT Women’s Rights

English: Pro-choice Español: Pro-elección
English: Pro-choice Español: Pro-elección (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah yes, it’s true, at a certain age, fewer and fewer things take us by surprise.  As I lie in bed watching the United States Vice-Presidential debate, I was gob-smacked that the question of a woman’s right to choose was asked.

I couldn’t have been more surprised than if my secret boyfriend Mr. Tatum crawled out from under my bed and pulled a Magic Mike routine.

What was so surprising for me is that we’re still having this debate at all. By virtue of the question being asked, women, including my fabulous self, are stripped of their autonomy. The right for a woman to choose what is best for herself and her body is a HUMAN right, not a feminist whim.

During the debate, Congressman Ryan had the first opportunity to respond, ending his two minutes with the  accusation that the pro-choice Democrats were in effect attacking the sacred religious institution of the Holy Catholic Church.  Vice-President Biden is a practicing Roman Catholic, and argued his point of towing the Democratic “Pro-Choice” line.   

My response (but what do I know, I’m only a woman), was; Holy religious crap! Are  you f-ing kidding me, who turned back the dial to 1950-freaking- two?  I cannot believe that this is still an issue that is acceptable for our political leaders to quibble about.

North Americans have sent troops off to fight for ‘freedom’ in the middle east, and we’re still trying to decide whether women have rights? Something is rotten in the state of democracy.

Secular politics are all that has saved North America from the debacle that is Middle-Eastern-Male-Ego-Drivin-Hidden-Behind-Bullshit-Self-Serving-Theological-Interpretation politics.

Ryan’s remark about attacking his religion was a bald-faced attempt at side-swiping the real issue. Or perhaps he really doesn’t understand what the real issue is.  The right for a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy is not an attack on any religion. It is a choice. It is a human right.

Choice does not take away from any religion or spiritual path. It is a choice. A Roman Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Atheist (etc., etc., etc.,) woman can choose what is right for her. Choose whether she is well enough supported within her faith group to raise a healthy child or not.  Choose whether she follows the interpretation of religious doctrine that either exalts her or dictates that she be nothing more than property. Choice is a human right.

This is not an argument for or against abortion. That argument is one for a woman to consider herself, or with her partner, or family. I believe to revert to that argument “for or against’, essentially strips women of fundamental human rights. The real argument is one about choice, and more than that, whether women are truly recognized as individuals with full autonomy.