Monday, 21 November 2011

Becoming an Activist

On the weekend I joined a couple hundred people and marched the streets in protest of Shale Gas, an industry which I believe will bring New Brunswick very little economic gain at a much higher cost to our quality of life, our communities, and our environment.

On the residential streets people inside houses would look out at us from behind curtains, interested in the collective action, drawn to the noise and chanting.  Outside, pedestrians would stop and watch us pass. I wondered at the line, imaginary and profound, between me, marching and chanting, actively trying to change the direction of government policy, and those who stood and watched.  Where does that line begin and end?
Certainly two years ago, ten years ago, I would be one of the bystanders.  So what has changed?

It might have something to do with experiencing first-hand the failure of bureaucratic systems.  For example, the informal administrative policies at the University I used to work for no longer valued me as an employee when I returned to work after a maternity leave, and instead promoted in small and large ways the man hired to replace me.  For years after I had to watch as he benefited from a framework that sidelined me. 
Some of the people in the houses, and on the sidewalks who stand and watch us pass, would like to join us.  Some are afraid of displeasing others, of how they will be judged. The vast majority though, likely think it has nothing to do with them; they are not aware of how often and how massively the systems in place are failing: they haven’t been sick, so haven't experience the healthcare mess; they are men or childless women, so haven’t experienced workplace sexism; they don't know about lax government policies such as those that have allowed the use chemicals like bisphenal- A to line the cans of tomatoes, causing infertility and other health problems (

Change will need a collective action by those who are already marching and those who currently stand by.  Though they are, or think they are being served by the status quo, it is becoming increasingly apparent to the population at large that many of the assumptions they live with are untrue, that many policies support industry before people, govenment before citizens, that current systems are not only unequal but self-serving. And this needs to change.

In the end a system that promotes one employee at the expense of another, or a system that favours the oil and gas company at the expense of the citizen, his/her water, and landscape, as current government policies do – is a system that leaves us all poorer.

I believe this article is relevant to the discussion here:

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sanctuary for Imaginative Play

As I hang curtains suspended from door way to door way to block my writing space off from the rest of the room I am struck by how well into my adulthood I am still creating forts for myself.  My after school children will quite often decide to have their lunch or snack under the kitchen table, creating a make believe circus or jungle or something equally imaginative while they eat. So, I know this urge to make a temporary make-believe cover is inherent, yet the shelter is not intended to keep out rain, or wind – my curtains are quite sheer, so the effect isn’t even to keep out prying eyes.  But the drapes do provide a sense of refuge and privacy, a sanctuary for imaginative play.

How often do we ignore the need for such a space?  Classrooms are not generally equipped to foster forts.  Once outside though children naturally congregate in small groups inside the ring of rocks, under the trees overhang, beside the giant tree trunk, and even under the manmade play structure.  As human beings we crave that sense of sanctuary – our space to be imaginative.
And when we grow older we are loathe to leave our houses – our asylum from the world, where we have spent a lifetime creating a refuge from reality.  It is no wonder seniors carted off to hospitals where nurses and doctors come in and out at all hours, where bathrooms are shared, where people cannot maintain a shield to protect them, it is no wonder they die in droves.  Where is the refuge for the old and ill and frail?  Because the need to take imaginative shelter is in each of us.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Doing All Right

Okay.  I didn't take the paper route.  When you are heading towards something that is right for you, that you are passionate about, you will drive three hours to hear a friend sing a song you wrote and then arrive home long after midnight. You will hop on a bus for one or two days, live in a tent, take cold showers for two weeks.  You will move any obstacle, find any solution you need.

When  you drag your feet, hum and haw, second guess yourself, then you are likely not headed in the right direction. The second I sent my "not gonna do it" email, my husband came out of his office to tell me he had recieved an email about an exciting job opportunity of his own. Hmmm.  Interesting timing.

So our financial problems are not fixed, but you know as far as problems go they are not so bad: we are not dying, we are not getting a divorce, we are not without loving friends and family.  We are doing all right.

Yesterday my life was in ruin
Now today I know what I'm doing
Got a feeling I should be doing all right
Doing all right

Where will I be this time tomorrow?
Jumped in joy or sinking in sorrow
Anyway I should be doing all right
Doing all right

Should be waiting for the sun
Looking round to find the words to say
Should be waiting for the skies to clear
There ain't time in all the world

Should be waiting for the sun
And anyway I've got to hide away

Yesterday my life was in ruin
Now today God knows what I'm doing
Anyway I should be doing all right
Doing all right

Doing all right

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Earning A Little More of Everything...

So our finances are at a direly dastardly low point and I had a few opportunities this week to increase my monthly earnings. My decision of which to pursue brought me closer to an understanding of who I want to be. 

One opportunity was to take on the full time care of an 18 month old three days a week. The other was to take on a paper route.  The childcare paid ½ to 2/3 more.  Thinking from a purely financial lens would steer me to the three days of childcare.  But that didn’t sit right with me.  And what is this time out on the fringe except an opportunity to create a lifestyle that is right for me?  I would gain financially, but I would lose three mornings a week, time I set aside for reading, writing, and thinking.
On the other hand the paper route would bring me closer to two goals: make a little more money, and take a ½ hr walk every day.  Did you know a person can reduce their risk of most cancers and boost their health simply by adding a half hour walk to their daily routine?  So from a wider lens that takes into account benefits of time, and benefits of a healthy lifestyle, the paper route wins hands down.  It means getting up a little earlier 6 days a week, but I win there too: this weekend is the time change, so when I get up at 6 this week, it will be like getting up at 7 last week, which means I am actually sleeping in a ½ hour more!

At least I hope that is how it works. I'm going to walk the route tomorrow and make a final decision after that.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Homemade Halloween

Last night was Halloween. For children and parents this means an evening walking the streets in their neighbourhoods, little ghosts and goblins knocking on neighbour's doors and getting a bag full of candy. Now for my five year old son, let me tell you, this is heaven. For me, not so much.

When I was a child my pillowcase would hold rice crispy squares, popcorn balls, and dreaded homemade candied apples. There was a bonfire in the backyard, and my Mom handed out her homemade cookies. Then there was the year we had to start looking through the bags and throwing out anything home made from someone we didn't know.

And who do we know in our neighbourhoods today? When I was under ten our family knew most of the families that made up our block, we knew which houses to stay away from, and which houses we could go to if our bike tire went flat. I am often surprised in my new neighbourhood that people who have lived here for five or ten years say they don't really know many of the neighbours.
I mentioned to the few people I know that I would like to create a homemade Halloween.  There was a lukewarm reception. People are busy. They don’t bake from scratch anymore. And why bother, because who would accept a home baked treat – is it safe? That’s a good question to put to everything in my sons Halloween bag this year: sugar, chemicals, additives, food colouring, milk ingredients. What is all this crap anyway? And it comes wrapped in some kind of plastic - which is made of what?

So when I did have an encouraging neighbour agree to hand out something homemade, my son and I were happy to walk the block to her house; I'd rather take my chances with the butter, flour, sugar concoctions my neighbours cook up than what a factory puts together. Change is hard, but it has to start somewhere. For us, we started with one neighbour and added one jar of Dill Pickles to the mix. And let me tell you, my son is pretty excited about Pickles too.