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Somewhere In Between, Not Necessarily The Middle


Hey – remember that time I did that crazy mid-life, corner-turning, dream-chasing 180 degree career shift into what I hoped could be a shiny new creative beginning in TV writing land? You’ve probably been wondering how it’s going.

The short answer is, I had a look behind that particular curtain and decided it wasn’t for me. It’s not that I saw anything so shockingly unexpected but I realized full immersion was not the way to go for me. I mean, just because I know how sausage is made doesn’t mean I want to make a career of extruding ground meat into sheep intestines.

So I quietly slid that curtain back into place and came home to the public service.

It’s funny because people at work still come up to me, (and we’re talking more than a year since I’ve been back – and TWO years since I left in the first place) and will be like, “hey, did you go somewhere? I heard you did a thing.” Which, on one hand, is pretty humbling because apparently my presence/absence is barely noticeable. But on the other hand, it’s also somewhat comforting because even though I sometimes feel like ending the experiment and coming home was a failure, when I talk about it, people don’t say “well, I see you couldn’t make that work.” I mean, maybe they think it a little but they say things like “it’s amazing that you did that” and “I want to hear about that” and even, a couple of times, “that inspired me to try a thing, too.”

And in addition to being preeeetttyyyy inspirational to others, trying out this radical thing broke my ideas about what was possible for me. That’s what happens whenever we try new, big, hard things. However they work out, they bring your sense of possibility to a nearer horizon, one that is within your reach. My shift to a full time TV career didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped but that’s not the point. I tried it out, and learned a metric shit tonne (that’s like a regular tonne, only related to emotional growth) and I came back a better, smarter, more committed, clearer human being. I’m a better public servant. I’m a way better writer. I did a hard thing. I can do other hard things. I can write and publish and learn things. I can be brave and make art and be happy.

And you can too.

Try it.

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RIP Marla. I hardly knew ya.

So last week I had a bellyache for a few days. Not too bad. It started on Sunday and I took the ferry to Victoria on Monday morning, went to work Monday and Tuesday. Went out to dinner. The usual. I mean, sure, there was a relentless, throbbing pain in my gut that kept me up all night and wouldn’t subside no matter how much Advil I pounded but, you know, other than that I felt okay.

Still, on Wednesday I thought maybe I should hit the clinic, just in case. I saw the doctor right away and he poked around and ruled some things out (my wife was def relieved to hear I’m not pregnant). Then he said, if it walks like appendicitis, and talks like appendicitis, we treat it like appendicitis, and sent me to emerg. The doctor in emerg said basically the same thing. So in very short order they took blood and sent me for a CT scan, and I started planning a funny blog post about detonating hot organs.

Some observations:

  1. Suspected appendicitis is almost as good as trouble breathing as far as getting priority in emerg goes. Apparently, if one of your organs looks like it’s trying to explode and kill you, they try to deal with that right way.
  2. Nevertheless, there will be some waiting and the waiting room in emerg in October is cold AF. If you have to go to there, wear a big, warm sweater that will fit over the backless gown because…
  3. When they say they’re giving you a blanket to wrap up in while you wait, it’s a trick. They’re going to call a “sheet” a “blanket” but, trust me, it’s not a blanket, and you’ll see right through them (and it).
  4. When you have the classic presentation of appendicitis, and then you don’t have appendicitis, this will be a surprise.

The doctor was all “good news, you don’t have appendicitis. It’s a large, degenerating uterine fibroid.” And I was like okaaayyy, because it was, frankly, a little disappointing. It still hurt like hell but instead of a blog post about exploding organs (which is an awesome first blog post after nearly a year of ignoring your blog and, let’s face it, writes itself) I was stuck with a common gynecological condition that was only noteworthy because it was angrily resolving itself. That’s not funny.

Or is it?

More observations:

  1. If you mention that your degenerating uterine fibroid has a liquid centre, or better yet, refer to it as a liquefying tumour, people will snicker and grimace.
  2. If you describe the size of your liquefying tumour using fruit (say, an apple. Yes, you heard me, the doctor said it was the size of AN APPLE), people will snicker, grimace and be impressed.
  3. If you name your cantaloupe-sized, liquefying tumour Marla in a nod to Fight Club, people will laugh out loud no matter how many times you bring it up, and you don’t have to do the dishes.

After a week of taking drugs and not doing the dishes, watermelon-sized Marla’s shrunk down to (I’m ballparking here) something like cumquat. At least, I’m no longer aware of her presence in any way and I feel like that’s working out for both of us. Do I miss her? No. Did I learn a valuable life lesson from her? Also no. But I did break my blog fast with her, and bring benign gynecological tumour humour to the people, and that’s something.

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Make Hate Uncomfortable Again

I’ve been glued to it all night like we all have and now I’m heartsick.  I just opened up my computer. I don’t know what I want to write, but I know I want it to kick the shit out of the patriarchy. Because that’s what’s going on here. Anyone who thinks this isn’t about misogyny is wrong. It is. Half of the American electorate would rather see a hateful, racist, misogynistic sociopath who is not just temperamentally unfit for the job but wholly without qualification have the most powerful position in the world than see a woman have it. A woman who is qualified, experienced, calm, intelligent, thoughtful. But they don’t didn’t vote for her because she’s not “likeable” enough. She’s not nice enough. She might have done something not 100% that one time, so she’s out.

Like many Canadians, I’m feeling a great deal of anxiety and a tremendous sadness about this.

But what I’m not feeling is superior.

Because let’s just be clear that we are not above it here in Canada. We aren’t above it. We have an acronym for missing and murdered indigenous women in this country. MMIW. It’s so common we don’t want to be bothered saying the whole thing all the time. Sit with that for a minute. Rampant rape culture is a daily threat to women on our university campuses and elsewhere. We have barely moved the needle on the wage gap in 20 years. In 2013, Huffington Post ran this headline: Canada’s Gender Gap In Politics, Income Equality Will Take Hundreds Of Years To Close: Report. HUNDREDS OF YEARS. There’s literally zero reason to believe that’s not still true.

Now Trump next door. This is not a drill. It is not a joke. This is extremely serious. Trump legitimizes hate and prejudice and that cannot be allowed to go on without challenge.

So, then, what?

We’re not better, but we could be. It feels both radical and trite, maybe because it is. Get up and love everyone. Make safe spaces. Take no crap. Fuck the patriarchy at every single opportunity you have. Be the reason people question what they think. Work as hard as Hillary Clinton worked these last two years.

Make hate uncomfortable again. We can do it, if we try.

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When your midlife crisis is going on longer than you expected.

When your throat hurts and your head hurts (and your feet stink and you don’t love Jesus).

When you start to think maybe moving to smaller town, or a bigger town, or a mission in South America, or Las Vegas would be the thing.

When you want to grow your own food but end up buying packaged salad because you can’t even get off your ass to wash lettuce and who are you kidding?

When you forget what it was you were doing (and not, like, when you walked into the kitchen that time but more, like, when you planned your massive life change that time).

When tired is no longer something you bother to mention because when was the last time you weren’t?

When the guy cutting your hair asks if you colour it yourself and you shame-spiral for a minute because you do then you remember you can buy three bottles of wine with the money you save covering your own grey, then you shame-spiral for a sec about that then don’t because you’re a grown-up and mmmm wine and who gives a shit anyway?

When you think you’re being hilarious but secretly hope your friends aren’t organizing the intervention because you really do mention wine a lot.

When you should have been more patient, more compassionate, more giving, more mature, and less needy but it’s too late now and, anyway, everyone turned out fine.

When you look at pictures of you and your siblings and realize you’re older now than your mother was then and it’s so complicated you cry a little.

When the leaves come out even though the trees look mostly dead and you cry a little.

When you’re feeling a little emotional, apparently.

When you’ve been ignoring your blog until it starts to feel burdensome and you think you have to explain and make excuses but decide not to be so fucking apologetic and just say what’s going on and hope others will, too.

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It’s all fun and games until someone’s middle aged

Some of you know I’ve recently ditched a perfectly good stable career to try to break into TV and film and you may be wondering how that whole thing’s going. Well, it’s been a while now, and I think I can say with confidence that I’m having a midlife crisis.

I did what anyone does when a crisis of any kind – existential, midlife, laundry – hits, I googled “Am I having a (fill in the blank) crisis?” and discovered that yes, I almost certainly am. But I also discovered that so is basically every other person I know. According to the internet, signs of a contemporary midlife crisis include: dyeing your grey, trying to get more exercise, taking vitamins, giving to charity, learning an instrument, and over-indulging in alcohol resulting in longer/worse hangovers. That completely describes me, except for the bit about hangovers, and that’s just pure genetics; (it’s like the women in my family have two livers or something. A true gift).

So, the good news is, having a contemporary midlife crisis (otherwise known as hitting your 40s and making an effort to get enough fruits and veggies) isn’t a problem. The bad news is, my personal midlife crisis seems to be more of a period piece. I quit my job, ditched the kids in another city and moved into a tiny condo in a real swinging new neighbourhood. I had a cocktail before I left the office the other day. And it was a whisky sour. It’s not so much I’m trying to recapture my past as I am trying to recapture the past. Except for the relentless womanizing, I think I might be turning into Don Draper, circa 1965.

And you know what? It’s been fantastic. I mean, a mid-afternoon whisky sour with colleagues in the office kitchen? Come on! That shit’s glorious.

But I have to tell you: it’s also been brutally hard.

I miss my kids like I’d miss my hands if I left them behind. A new job in a new industry is great, of course, but it’s also completely overwhelming. I miss feeling competent at work. On good days, I am excited to learn. On bad days – and there have been many – I am consumed by self-doubt and a longing for the familiar. I have been certain of my failure. I have cried.

So, what’s a puffy, anxious, middle aged girl-Don-Drapper to do? Well, I’m trying to eat better, and get more – oh wait. We covered that. Never mind.

I could give up. I tried that, briefly, the other day. But I still need to make an actual living, so that didn’t work out. I figure I’ll just keep going. Not sure where, but forward movement, no stopping. Like a tired, middle-aged shark doing what I have to do.

Whiskey sour, anyone?


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Obituary: Stephen Harper: January 23, 2006 – October 19, 2015

Stephen Harper, celebrated focus of the national “Anyone But Harper” political campaign, is gone, after a lengthy illness.

Known by many as “The Worst PM in History” or, simply, “The PM”, Steve will be remembered for his many accomplishments including the robust erosion of Canada’s international reputation, the complete fabrication of the niqab issue, and the creativity of his budget management.

As a leader, Steve was known for his utter disregard for Canada’s legal system. When working to preserve racial and gender inequality, Steve rarely let impediments such as Supreme Court of Canada or existing statutes influence his actions. He was passionate about democracy and took great pains to ensure Canada’s electoral system was preserved from the damaging involvement of the general public as much as possible.

His legacy will include his lasting impact on the world of science, especially health research. He will be remembered for his work with those suffering from mental health and addictions, including, perhaps most notably, the Ford family. Always certain of the right path, Steve supported ongoing stigmatization and limited treatment options. He was unwavering in his dismissal of harm reduction.

Steve was passionate about the environment; through policy and funding decisions, he guaranteed national park land was free to exist without undo interference by site managers, heritage interpreters, conservationists and other scientists. At the same time, he ensured key mineral rights and other natural resources were vested safely in the hands of trusted private sector friends.

But it is not only Steve’s many actions that characterize his public life. Steve’s tenacious adherence to inaction when faced with hundreds of missing and murdered women is truly remarkable, and sets him apart as a world leader.

Prior to today’s fatal outcome, Steve survived near-death experiences in 2006 and 2008. He is survived by a limited number of conservative family members, and old stock Canadians. Celebrations of Steve’s passing will be held around the country tonight and over the coming days.


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Does This Wife Make Me Look Lesbian?

As Ireland votes on marriage equality, and on the heels of my own wedding anniversary, I was wanting to write a post about how queer and fabulous my life in suburbia is, but, honestly, if it wasn’t for my wife, you probably wouldn’t even know I was gay. The only even vaguely gay thing I did today was kiss her. And it wasn’t even a big wet frenchie or anything. Just a peck on the cheek on her way out the door.

It kind of begs the question – if it’s just about trying to make sure someone gets the garbage to the curb (she did) and power struggling about who holds the remote (also her) –  what’s the big deal about marriage equality, anyway?

A while ago we had a terrible/great dining experience. The restaurant was somewhere you go for the patio and view. It’s known for putting out solidly mediocre food, and, this time anyway, they were putting out mediocre service too. The kitchen was sssslllllooooowwww (that’s like slow but a lot more) and by only 7pm, they had run out of three of the dishes on their eight dish menu.

Our waiter, oh let’s call him Paul, was hustling but still we sat with dirty dishes for 20 minutes and the coffee we ordered with dessert was stone cold. At the end of the meal, Paul, who, let’s be  honest, was having a much worse evening than us, took not just the creamer off our table to give to the couple to our right but also GRABBED THE COFFEE SPOON OFF OUR TABLE AT THE SAME TIME and gave that them that as well. Terry and I exchanged a startled, did-that-really-just-happen??? look and bolted. Really, Paul? Cold coffee is one thing but cutlery going from table to table? That is not OK.

However, Paul, my sweaty, overwhelmed friend, I forgive your multitude of server sins because you assumed the two women holding hands, bickering, and eating off each other’s plates were a couple, and – without double checking first –gave us one cheque.

You’re thinking and??

One of the most unconsciously heterosexist assumptions we routinely confront is: “Will this be together?” at the conclusion of a restaurant meal. It happens to us a lot. A LOT. Sometimes, when the kids were little, we’d be in a restaurant all together and the server would ask us “Would you like me to split the cheque?” and I’d think really? How? How would you split this? These three children (all clearly siblings), these two women (both obviously parenting); how would you split it?

What I’m asking is: Why does splitting us up make more sense than considering us a family?

Lots of (straight, mainstream) people, think it’s an overreaction to take offense at this. We ask everyone that, a server claimed once. But I call bullshit on that. If a woman and a man are eating together in a restaurant, it is the rare server who will ask if they want separate cheques, and anyway, if that does happen, it doesn’t matter because THE WHOLE ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD recognizes they’re a couple. Their relationship is not invisible. It is recognized and validated and legitimized, unequivocally and repeatedly.

My first-glance-queer-factor rating depends who you ask. OK, it doesn’t really. The truth is that I pass for straight, and mostly people I meet assume I am. They assume I’m straight, they assume my wife and I are friends, and they assume my family isn’t a real family.  I know they’re wrong, but having to constantly remind yourself of your own validity gets, well, a little tiring.

Which takes me back to the original question: what is the big deal with marriage equality, anyway? Getting married changed everything and changed nothing. Would we still be together and raising kids and getting asked about separate cheques if we weren’t married? I’m sure we would. But we deserved the right to choose marriage when we wanted it because our relationship has as much validity as any straight couple’s.

And when that right is enshrined in law, it’s not just me and my wife that say so.

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Mother Bears and Poetry

Three summers ago, when the kids are teenagers, Terry and I decide to take a summer vacation without them. The oldest stays home to take care of the house and the dogs; we drop the younger two off to go to camp on an island off the north shore of Vancouver. It’s an unusual trip – without kids or a clear itinerary. We just go for it.

We start out in Whistler, and spend the night. Driving out of the village the next day, with Terry in mid-sentence, I say look at that bear! because there she is, right beside the car, walking down the street. She’s loose limbed, and muscular, big and black with rich brown on her muzzle like a giant Doberman. It’s no big deal, really (we’re in Whistler, after all, and you can take bear watching tours on the chair lifts) but she makes me catch my breath. So close, there’s no mistaking her strength and power, her utter lack of domesticity.

That evening, at a campsite half a province away, we see a cub in the forest, a half grown teenager, that makes us think nervously about mother bears. We stop the car and tell the park ranger. She listens and looks intently toward the bank of trees we point to. She says she’s jealous; other people have reported the cub as well, all week, but she has yet to see him. Do we need firewood? We do, and buy a bundle. We find her reaction comfortingly casual. l open a bottle of wine and poke the campfire and think about bears and how my own mother bear looms close: there’s no cell phone service where we are, and 300 miles away, my son walks home alone to an empty house, and the other two kids are doing god-knows-what at camp. I imagine scenarios of accident and threat. I hear the peaceful settling of the forest and smell wood smoke. I get a notebook and try to capture it all. I am at once happy and aware of the tissue thin fragility of my happiness. There are so many ways to be devastated. I want to be exactly where I am. Equally, I want to go jump in the car and race back to them.

Later, I dream I am standing at the side of a highway with Allie and Seamus, the two who are away at camp. I am letting them cross by themselves, frogger-style, dashing forward, stopping, running sideways and back. I stand on the shoulder of the road and let them; my predominant feelings are self-doubt and fear. I wake up with heartburn and take an antacid. Allowing children to grow up and away disagrees with me.

My kids came to me the way many people’s do: sort of by accident and before I knew any better. They will be gone before I know it. They almost are. Still, I choose not to race back but to stay at a snapping campfire and risk their growing independence. I choose the happiness of now and not the worry. I choose sitting at the picnic table with  my notebook, trying to write it down. I wish I was a poet. These are poetry days, poetry thoughts and feelings – bears, children, wilderness, wine, isolation, connection, fear, fire. All I have is this blunt instrument, so long-winded and imprecise.

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Calm your shit, Alberta.

Like the rest of Canada, last night, I watched with interest as my neighbours to the east voted in an NDP majority in Alberta, after an eternity of conservative government. At this time, I want to urge calm. An NDP government is neither:

  1. the returning Christ Jesus, coming with benevolent left-wing salvation for you all, nor
  2. a commie devil incarnate, here to make you line up for industrial grade toilet paper.

After all, if the world’s political spectrum runs from 1 to 100, Canada’s political spectrum runs approximately a 1% spread, so let’s just try to have some perspective. In a global context, instead of a government that’s a tiny bit slightly right of middle, you now have one that’s slightly left. The end is not nigh, nor is nirvana. Let’s be real.

But there is something encouraging about the election result and that is that people were willing to make a change at all. A record number of women elected, a record number of minorities, and a new political party – I believe these are inherently good things: women and minorities because their voices matter and they deserve and need representation at tables of power. A change of government is a good thing because it shift the political agenda that underpins social and public policy. Unless there is change from time to time that agenda becomes entrenched, and we start to mistake it for objective truth.

Still, change is hard. Old ideas, perspectives and policies will be lost, others will take their place, and these will be, on all sides, beneficial, negative, neutral for individuals, communities, and the province as a whole. Regardless of whether you’re celebrating a win or grieving a loss right now, being human beings, we will quickly begin to emphasize the negative. The easiest thing now is to criticize a new government, or sit back and wait for it to start serving you. Don’t.

Dry your tears (of joy or devastation, I don’t judge) and do your part. It won’t be easy, but it will be OK.


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Why hello there…

Welcome! I want to thank both of you for stopping by the blog. I know your time is valuable. Here are some things I will write about when I finally get my shit together and properly launch this blog instead of obsessing about what to put in the first post:

  • my fabulous, queer, suburban life (what? Fabulous? Queer? Suburban? Do I contradict myself? Well, then I contradict myself…)
  • writing (that’s fucking Whitman, if you don’t know. Classy, eh?)
  • women (in the news, in music, in writing, on the bus etc)
  • things that are awesome
  • things that are shitty

So you can see it’s going to be a real roller coaster. Come back soon for more.

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