Tuesday May 03 , 2016

Category: Sooey Says

This Child of Ours

One of my favourite people that I’ll never meet now because he’s dead was Dr. Robert Buckman. He was so sane, so rational, so reassuring. And he had that kind of integrity you could count on to know when to resist compromise when compromise was the problem and not the solution.

Compromise is a tricky word, isn’t it.

And of course I’m talking about what I knew of him publicly, in terms of his informed opinion on TVO. And there was this thing that he said once that made all the difference to me, which was that, not only can we NOT visualize away cancer, but to claim that we can suggests that people who have cancer are to blame for it. You know, because if you can visualize it away you must have visualized it there in the first place.

And this, to Dr. Buckman, was so wrong-headed, this claim that we can visualize away cancer, that he addressed it publicly, pretty much calling out its proponents as immoral and unethical. Because either they knew better or they didn’t know enough and so had no business claiming any insight into healthcare, particularly cancer, the hypochondriac’s main preoccupation.

And this is a little bit of a different topic, but not really, because I recently meditated for the first time and it struck me later that if my co-worker hadn’t had a timer app that she downloaded to her smart phone there’s no way I could have meditated. I mean, think about it. Could you really sit there and focus on a mantra if you didn’t know that a discreet little buddhist bell would ding after ten minutes.

I still haven’t downloaded the app, of course, which is why I’m blogging this and not meditating, something I’ve only done the once because I don’t trust my blond companion to be paying enough attention to tell me when my meditating time is up.

That is to say I trust him not to deliberately leave me meditating quietly for hours on end. I think. No. You’re right. I shouldn’t trust him even for that. But it wouldn’t be deliberate deliberate. It would be, “Oh she seems to be happy enough. And I’m happy enough. I’ll just leave her meditating.”

So fortunately, I read an article that came to me via the internet (the internet having helped me diagnosis everybody I know with SOMETHING) and it said that enlightenment through meditation is bullshit. That there is no living in the moment, there’s just living. And that doing shit is the best way to get outside of your own head. Like, doing shit for yourself by doing shit for others, practical shit, which means using energy to engage with other people for the purpose of helping, not yogi posing and chanting a word.

None of which is to say I wouldn’t rather meditate, I’m just telling you what I read on the internet.

But back to what I’m really on about, which isn’t a what but a who, the couple out west whose two year old son died of meningitis under their care and the care of others, people who put their faith in whatever isn’t pharmacological medicine because they believe that pharmacological medicine is always the problem and never the solution.

And it’s not the same at all, but it’s not completely apples and oranges, either, but there are lots of parents who believe that of public education, too, that it’s the problem, not the solution, and so they educate their children at home themselves or in special privately owned and run buildings. And that’s their right, we’ve collectively decided, although we’re not about to subsidize them while they do it. And even if we have a leaning that way most of us just do the usual thing and send our kids to public school.

I was one of those parents who kind of wanted to home school, but my ex was one of those parents who didn’t trust parents who kind of wanted to home school, and so we sent them to the school across the street from our house because, to be fair to him, we bought the house we did for that very reason.

Also, it had an express bus to his workplace. Later the school would close, the bus route would be canceled and our marriage would end, but so it goes, and in the meantime our kids went to public school and got edjumacated.

The thing of it is, I had my kids at a very pregnancy-centric time and at a time when a lot of political talk was about childcare, but childcare centres, which were the bomb, as we wouldn’t say even now but I read that expression the other day and had to use it. Anyway, when I said at work that I was going to stay home to raise this baby and the next ones after her, my decision was met with a lot of amused looks and advice to take my maternity leave like a normal person and wait and see before making any definitive statements about not coming back to work.

But I was determined to copy my sister-in-law, who is a completely different person from me in almost every way, a science professor and certified work horse, to my aspiring barrista and ne’erdowell starer outter of windows, and so I stayed at home cooking from scratch and sewing clothes and recognizing too late that I was a social being who had become very dependent on a non-social being for adult company. And I had a very difficult time for a few years there when non-social became anti-social.

What’s annoying, when I look back on it, is that at the time we were going to a family doctor who was adding to our problems because he was a dangerous quack. And he was a dangerous quack who referred patients to another dangerous quack for mental health help. That one finally ended up charged with a series of sexual assaults against his patients, which had nothing to do with us, but at least I knew why all those alarm bells were going off in my head all the time. And when I went to the woman who’s our doctor now (yes, our) and told her why I was leaving the first dangerous quack, she said, yes, he shouldn’t be practicing medicine, report him.

And so I did. And later I learned that a couple of other women in my immediate circle had, too. And nothing came of it because, of course, a doctor has to do heinous things, not just be a dangerous quack, to lose his license to practice, doesn’t he.

He was also a drug pusher who would pull packets out of his pocket and say “try these”, in between bouts railing against the NDP government of Bob Rae. His office was plastered with signs warning his patients of this and that because of the government. He wasn’t a Conservative so much as an angry and paranoid nut who hated Feminists and socialists and government regulations telling him what to do with regard to his profession, even though he was wholly dependent on it for payment.

So back to when I gave birth to my first. I was in labour and it had been a long one and everybody was tired and finally my doctor, thank gosh, was able to flag down a departing for the day anaesthesiologist and he begrudgingly agreed to administer an epideural after delivering a cranky lecture to me about how if I ended up paralyzed it wasn’t his fault. And if I hadn’t been so desperate I would have grabbed the needle and shoved it up his ass, he was that much of a prick, but I was desperate and so I had the epideural and the baby and all was well.

But before I had the epideural I confessed to my doctor that I didn’t want to have one because I thought I should be able to give birth naturally. And I remember she was confused by the “naturally” because, as far as she was concerned, having an epideural was giving birth naturally. So I explained about the Chinese women squatting in the fields to give birth and she looked confused and said something about chewing opium leaves and I said something about maybe doing that and she said, no, an epideural is better.

And it stayed with me, that experience of being in so much pain that I really had a hard time believing it was going to be possible for me to give birth, to not feeling any pain at all and pushing a baby out and there she was. Awesome. And what a relief, too, to have her whisked away for this and that before being returned all spic and span. And then the toe-curling experience of breast-feeding her, which may be natural but geez louise, ouch baby.

Later, I would even have births to compare with that one, experiences that taught me to trust in modern medicine, and then I would have experiences with my kids that taught me to trust in modern medicine again. Because even that angry and paranoid nut doctor had alleviated pains with medications and cured infections with antibiotics.

And there it is, but for the grace of, go we, because meningitis is a very difficult diagnosis to make, which is why two year olds and teenagers die of it, because the diagnosis is made too late. And it extra terrifies parents who know they have a tendency to avoid seeking medical care in favour of waiting for the immune system to kick in and knock out whatever we think is ailing our child, because in the back of our mind is the possibility that what’s ailing our child is bacterial and not viral.

Now, years ago I wrote a column for the Ottawa Citizen making fun of doctors for complaining about the over-prescribing of antibiotics because, well, it isn’t patients writing out those prescriptions, is it. And I haven’t been following the issue too closely except that when my grandmother died of that super-bug thing that circulates through hospitals every now and again, there was a bit of outrage from some family members.

She was 95.

And when one of my kids had a horrendous strep throat thing going on and was in incredible pain and at that teen age that just scares the shit out of you as a parent that yours will be the one who dies of it, I did practically grab a doctor’s prescription pad and write out one for steroids because he’d suggested it as an option (along with stronger antibiotics because the ones she was on weren’t working).

And this was a first timer kid on antibiotics, too.

So thank you, parents who know better than doctors, for bullying them into writing unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics. And shame on you, doctors, for not standing up to them and saying, no, because parents aren’t doctors, unless they are, but even then they shouldn’t trust themselves to doctor their own kids.

Objectivity matters.

Anyway, I guess my point is, that at the same time as parents want control over their kids, and there’s a very strong political force threaded through our society that pushes this as a right, parental control, having come through to the other side I really do believe that our collective wisdom as a society has to be given more weight than is currently the case. Because we have come a long way and it does take a village to raise a child and public services like healthcare and education are good things.

Good and thoughtful people put their heads together and decided that a long time ago and they were right and what’s come since is a lot of individual rights and freedoms hogwash that should be wiped out, like smallpox once was.

Instead we’ve allowed a bunch of angry and paranoid nuts not just a soapbox, we’ve allowed them to run our governments (the anti-government Harper Government of the past decade comes to mine) and it hardly seems fair to punish the parents who had the misfortune to lose a child over misguided beliefs, even as the grieving father lashes out on Facebook about government trying to take over parental rights, now.

And here’s where I confess to my own failing as a parent (among many), in that I didn’t have my daughters vaccinated against HPV when they had the chance because I didn’t trust “the system”. I didn’t trust my own government, with all the medical opinion at the time, including our family doctor, the good one, to be right about this vaccine being a good thing. And yet I was not like that about any other vaccines, my sister-in-law having taken it upon herself way back when to explain the science of vaccines to me, which is something I hope we are doing in schools now to vaccinate future parents against the paranoia of the anti-vaccine brigade.

No, it was politics that got in the way of science. I had an uncharacteristic, for me, bout of paranoia towards my government and the company promoting the vaccine. And I had a lot of back-up in my paranoia. But I was convinced that I was doing the best thing for my daughters. No, worse than that, I thought I was saving them from possible harm by not having them vaccinated against HPV.

I thought I knew what was better, medically, for my daughters than their doctor does and that’s just nuts and that’s why we need to say no to parental rights and freedoms over their children’s health and education more often than we do.

Because mother and father don’t know best about the health and education of their children. Their doctors and teachers do.

And so they should have doctors and teachers who aren’t their parents.

That’s not a conspiracy against the rights and freedoms of parents, it’s a good thing.







Life can turn on a dime. That’s something my mother used to say. It can come down to free will that it does, but mostly it comes down to that’s-just-how-it-is. And the older I get the less daylight I see between free will and that’s-just-how-it-is.

It was well known to me that my mother was always referencing her widowhood, not our fatherlessness, but that’s-just-how-it-was, back in the day. Adults mattered. Kids didn’t. But we were a dime a dozen, weren’t we, a baby boom, and few of us fit for working in the fields, admit it. We watched tv every chance we got, hung out being useless teenagers.

Later I found myself trapped at a party in the middle of nowhere rolling joints for a couple of Hell’s Angels.

Don’t tell my mother. She was in Stratford that weekend and I was supposed to be at home looking for a job. Miraculously, I got a job mere minutes before her car turned in the driveway. Playground… guard?

Although the playground was in a high school gym. I’d get there on my bike and kids, little kids, would be waiting patiently for S. to arrive, too, and let us in. Then F. and N. would show up, and later N.’s groupies, teen girls who spent all summer trying to get his attention.

He was ridiculously good-looking. Alas, quite oblivious to the girls in ever decreasing amounts of clothing, regardless of the temperature. F., on the other hand, had the time of his life, trying to win them over.

It was a little bit Saturday Night Fever for me. West end. Very Italian. But it was the same for S. Later we ran into F. at the Vic and he snubbed us.

He, snubbed us. Oh my. No, F. You have your shirt undone to your waist and are wearing a gold chain around your neck and we’re pretty sure your hair is not naturally curly, not like that. You’ve got a perm.

Cripes, he’s lucky we didn’t both fuck him silly to show how no way does he snub us at the Vic.

I think S. got drunk one night and maybe she showed him a thing or two but she wouldn’t admit it to me even if she did.

There’s a letting go that has to happen, I think, somewhere along the way of life or we take on the free will of others and the that’s-just-how-it-is for ourselves and turn it into big old bag of guilt that we haul around in our innards while time changes everyone and everything around us.

Then one day, if we’re lucky, we realize, hey, time changed me, too, and why am I hauling around all this guilt? What the hell did I do that everybody else hasn’t done millennia before me that I think I’m so responsible for every goddamned thing that’s happened to everyone lucky enough to know me?

Ego, isn’t it. Guilty people have bigger than average egos. We should be on disability, not left to try harder so we can be better than everybody else trying hard out there.

Okay. That’s it. I am NOT making a special trip back to Venezuela to apologize to Ramon for advancing him airfare to come to Canada when he didn’t know any more than I did that he couldn’t fly one way. And also that his family needed a car.

My co-worker was part of the 60s scoop at the same time when I was getting perfect attendance in kindergarten in spite of a daily effort to get out of going to school. He honestly seems to have no idea but he’ll tell me stories of his early years and I go home traumatized with guilt on behalf of an entire country. And I hear him on the phone with his son and he’s so responsible it practically kills me.

I have periodic meltdowns with mine that move us forward. We’re getting there. And by we I really mean me because I want to be a person again.

Parenthood is tiresome after a while. There. I said it.

Seriously, who knew? Not me. Or, you know. Yeah. That’s right. I almost said that, too.

But yes, every day I tried to get out of going to school. I got a reputation as a hypochondriac, and I was, totally, but I also just really liked being at home. I had the afternoon shift at kindergarten and the twins next door had the morning shift and so I ended up going with T. up the street, who was sketchy at best.

I can still remember the two of us playing in our sandbox. This was before school age and we were making roads for my brother’s army trucks to travel on in the sand when T. decided to hit me in the temple with the stick we were using. The blood gushed down my face and I ran crying into the house where my grandmother was at the ready with that horrid stinking dishrag she kept handy at all times. She yelled at T. to go home and at me to stop crying and then she wiped off the blood and put a band-aid on my cut.

It looked worse than it was but I’ll never forget how nonchalant she was about my bloodied brains possibly gushing out of my head.

She was like that with Cindy’s kittens disappearing one by one down at the farm where she would go every summer, too. It killed us.

“Where’s Tommy?!”

“Oh that owl got him I guess.”

Later, I was playing in the driveway by myself, using the stick, now weapon, to draw roads in the gravel for my brother’s army trucks to travel on, when I saw T.’s mother marching down the street with a teddy bear I’d left at her house days earlier. And as I sat there in the gravel she hurled the teddy bear at me from the sidewalk, her cigarette hanging off the side of her mouth, and told me to stay away from T., that I was no longer welcome in her house, and so on and so forth and more of the same etc etc.

And I remember feeling scared and guilty (I had probably said something to set T. off, who regularly recited “sticks and stones may break your bones but words will always hurt you” because he was a prodigy that way) but also, I don’t know, the way she didn’t actually come on our driveway but stood on the sidewalk, engaging with me, a four-year-old, and not my grandmother, I learned something about the thin line between free will and that’s-just-how-it-is, that what looks like free will isn’t necessarily, because life is very intricate.

Did a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico mean that I wouldn’t score bowls of Cap’n Crunch anymore at T.’s house.

Maybe. T. could certainly make it seem likely.

But memory is a tricky thing, too, isn’t it. How often do we go back to the scene of it all and realize it doesn’t look anything like how we remember it.

Memory fairies, I blame the memory fairies. And butterfly wings.

At various times I resented my mother for never going to bat for me like that, she only ever left our house through the side door to get in her car and go somewhere adult, but that wasn’t really fair of me, either. She always took my side, she just never did anything about whatever perceived injustice against my person I was relaying to her.

And I can assure you, there was a litany of them. I can’t really remember her reaction that time, but she probably told me not to play with T. anymore and to stay away from T.’s mother, that T.’s older brother E. was a terrible bully and to stay away from him, too.

She couldn’t abide T. But she wasn’t really into kids. We were a world away from her world, even though she was a teacher, which we always found hilarious, her real kids.

It’s okay, don’t panic, as soon as she figured out she could, she got out of the classroom and into the library.

But before all that she would have had her own experiences with T.’s mother because she was just another homemaker on our street with kids the same ages as other homemakers and a husband who went to work all day.

And T.’s mother would have had her own experiences with mine. And my father, too, about whom in later years she would say to me, “He was a lovely man, but he couldn’t hammer a nail into a board”.

And she hugged me, as she would sometimes do, and although I didn’t trust it, because you never knew what was coming next with her, I welcomed it, being enveloped in all that simmering emotion and then released again into the land of reason.

Not hot/cold, warm/cool.

I was surprised to realize that of course she had known him, that she would have lived through the time with my parents when they had the diagnosis of terminal cancer, when life turned on that dime.

Many years later her life would turn on a dime when T.’s older brother E., who became a really nice kid, all the parents remarked on it, that when he got streamed into the technical high school it was like he’d been born again, this time as a really nice kid, was killed on the highway helping out a friend who had car trouble.

They were living down the line then, running a fishing lodge, living the life they’d probably been meant to live all that time they’d been in a war-time house up the street from ours, that wasn’t a war-time house, not in that sense, and it was so unfair that there was nothing for it but that’s just how it is.


Feminazis All ‘Round

Just kidding.

I don’t know where Michelle Rempel stands on the right of female citizens to terminate their own pregnancies. That’s pretty much my line in the sand. Either you support universally funded safe and legal access to abortion services or you’re not a Feminist.

Of course, I guess that makes Stephen Harper a Feminist, doesn’t it, because he supported universally funded safe and legal access to abortion services, didn’t he.

Hey, now there’s something I never thought to blog when he was prime minister, and yet, it’s true, isn’t it. He had every opportunity to re-criminalize abortion in Canada but he didn’t do it.

Meanwhile, he and his Conservative Party enacted all kinds of legislation that has since been struck down by the Supreme Court for being unjust in one way or another, so it’s not like he was shy about going for it.

Well, gosh. And there was Justin Trudeau jumping out in front of both him and Thomas Mulcair as if he was Feminist of the Year, announcing that candidates for the Liberal Party must be pro-choice or forget about getting the nomination unless you already had it in a re-run.

I was surprised that a political party leader would go out on that particular limb, but to his credit, he did. I wonder how true it ended up being.

And, you know, Stephen Harper never struck me as the kind of man who was okay with sexual harassment, either. I mean, he was clearly disturbed by the sexual harassment to death of Rehtaeh Parsons, wasn’t he, making a point of meeting with her parents and then using the opportunity it afforded to promote his view of victims’ rights.

I’m not criticizing him for that, although I don’t agree that victims have rights or should have rights, I’m just acknowledging that he believes they do and should, enough that he and his Conservative Party enacted a whole piece of legislation for victims of crime. And I think it’s fair to say that the impetus for that (very problematic) legislation has to do with redress for male violence, particularly, against society.

It’s just that it all got kind of overshadowed by the finger pointing away from their own old stock Canadian backyard to the backyards of others, didn’t it. They were too often pretending that violence against women was something only men outside the white male Conservative fold perpetuated.

So I guess it’s good that Michelle Rempel has written a column about sexual harassment on the Hill, although Megan Leslie pointed all this stuff out back when Justin Trudeau was booting a couple of male members from the Liberal Party, which didn’t have a lot of members to spare, based on allegations of sexual assault from a couple of female members of the New Democratic Party, which did.

And if I recall correctly, there was nary a peep from the Conservative Party, but, you know, to be fair, that kind of struck me as a sound political policy of just keeping one’s head down while the bullets are flying.

Which brings me back to this deal that has been brokered by our government to supply a kingdom – a kingdom ffs – notorious for its violence against women, with weapons, and the increasingly bizarre assertions by Dion, Trudeau, and now Chystia Freeland, that it has nothing to do with them, that it’s all to do with the other guys.

And oh, Canada’s reputation. So mine and yours. You know, because it’s 2015.




Hey You, White Lady, Shut Up!

I mostly stay out of the racist sexism arguments on social media because they’re such minefields that it’s too easy to make a misstep and be blown up.

And then as you lay there in bloody bits of no longer humanness be pecked away at and regurgitated until you’re not even fuel for the aggrieved righteousness of others anymore.

I think it’s called intersectionality, but I’m so not involved that I don’t actually know for sure that it is. You know what I’m talking about, though, right?

So having blippity blabbed all the above I follow an Egyptian activist for women’s rights on Twitter and today she kind of took it on, the whole racist sexism thing, so I retweeted her comment with my own:

Conservative men always point fingers away from their own society violence against women to accuse other societies of worse.

I could have just left it at Conservatives but I’m deliberately snubbing Conservative women for being traitors to our gender because they’re such enabling suck-ups to their moronic halves.

Just kidding. As usual I made the tweet in a hurry and then it was retweeted a grabillion times so I couldn’t very well go back and make it better, could I.

Anyway, my point is it was retweeted by the Egyptian activist I follow and lots of people after her so it was very gratifying, you rock, Sooey Says!

I know, I know, but I love that it’s just a click of a button to be involved with someone who’s actually doing something about what a shit world this is for so many people because men are such dumbfuck shitheads that they think more rights for more people somehow equals fewer rights for them.

You said it, Barbie: “Math is hard.”

For men.

But wait, that wasn’t actually my point, the one back there, my point is that I realized I’d been holding back from getting involved in racist sexism (ok, ok, intersectionality) arguments because my experience has been of sexism, not racism, and so not racist sexism. And I know how annoyed I get when men weigh in with #notallmen distractions or #fatherknowsbest testimonials or #letmetellyouwhyyouarewrong lectures after I’ve commented about my experience living in a very sexist society.

And yes, racist, but that’s not my experience to speak to, not directly.

But still, for all that, we’re all people, aren’t we. So more rights for some of us, which means recognizing a sexist and racist imbalance, equals more rights for all of us. And since it’s a sure bet that women everywhere are second class citizens to men, well, I’ll let you do the math.



Working Woman

If I’m honest, and why write otherwise, I really enjoy my commute to work. It’s because I read on the bus. And there are so many good books on offer these days. I just finished one called “The Bees” and the entire time I was reading it I felt like I was in the hive. Now I’m reading a book called “In the Fold”.

I judged it by its cover and took it out of the library. Otherwise I’d still be there trying to decide which one of the thousands of great books I wanted to check out for this week’s read.

It takes me about a week of commuting to finish a book. And I’ve stopped doing crosswords at night in bed and read a different book than the one I’m reading on the commute. It’s funny, but I’ve never enjoyed reading as much as I do now.

A wild woman I met on one of the camping trips I took has a book out called “Heyday”. It’s on hold by several people now but I could have checked it out about a month ago. And Leah McLaren has one out that I’ll give a go.

My own efforts continue apace. One day, rabbit, one day. My problem is probably one you’ve noticed with my writing here, in that I have trouble picking a topic and sticking with it. I don’t know how common it is, the need to get it all out in one go, but it’s definitely not conducive to finishing whatever it is because there’s always more stuff one can drag in to go on about.

Today I did a thing I’ve never done before and asked for more work to do. Normally what I do is beaver away until I’ve whittled the work down to nothing and then just keep a low profile until the job ends or we all die or something. It’s weird. Other people don’t do that, they say things like, “Oh I have to be busy or I can’t stand it.”

Today I realized I’m one of those people, I just had no idea I was one of those people. I thought I was one of those people who liked having nothing to do at work. But I’m totally not. And when I said “I need more work to do” I kind of couldn’t believe it was coming out of my mouth but there it was.

It was incredibly liberating. I had no idea. And now everyone’s been tasked with thinking up work for me to do over the weekend. Oh, and when I said “I need more work to do” the fellow who sits sort of across the hall from me and sees me all day said “Why didn’t you say something? I have tons of stuff I can give you.”

People felt really bad that I’d been suffering in silent boredom. They’d feel even worse if they knew what a bustling bee I am at home, cooking, cleaning, decorating, undecorating, redecorating. I mean, the reason I like my commute so much is because I have no excuse not to read.

Which brings me back to “The Bees” and telling my boss today that “I need more work to do”, six words I never thought I’d say in the workplace. (At home I never run out of work to do and I’m never bored. I even put off sleep to work.)

I realized after dinner, which was a solid effort at Caribbean takeout style rotis, a little labour intensive after a day at the office but well worth it, that “The Bees” must have gotten to me, the collective effort to keep the hive healthy, and the satisfaction Flora derives from taking on work she wasn’t born to do, especially foraging, which takes her out of the hive and into the world beyond.

Whether it’s the effect of “The Bees” or not I feel less apart, more a part these days.

And work. Bring it. More please.

I can’t imagine now why I didn’t speak up forty years ago.