Happy Canada Day from your grouchy neighbourhood cripple

I really do hope you’re having an excellent day, regardless if you celebrate Canada Day or not. It’s Saturday and that’s a nice day so have a wonderful one if you can.

As for myself, I’m grouchy and grumpy, because I’m broken. Again.

I’m up visiting my mom in Powell River and I was really hoping we could go to the special Canada Day farmers’ market today (an hour longer than usual!) and maybe hit up some celebrations elsewhere. Just, you know — go out, have fun, see people, enjoy the summer weather.

INSTEAD, I am basically kind of stuck at home. I could conceivably go out but it’d be a bad idea I think. I threw out my back this week, which when you have a spinal injury is a lot worse than just mechanical back problems. How did I throw it out? FUCK IF I KNOW.

Honestly, no idea, and it was probably nothing. I think I just moved wrong.

So now I’m in agony, though the number has gone down from a 10 on the first day to hovering at about a 5/6. (That is, according to my own scale of pain measuring, which…well, I have chronic pain, which means I basically live life at a 3 or 4 for other people. So when I say I’m at a 5/6 for me, that means an 8/9 for people who don’t have chronic pain. It’s really amazing what you can get used to when there’s no help for it.)

I have been grouchy and depressed since this happened and there has been much crying. There’s no really safe bed for me up here (mom’s mattresses are too soft, which didn’t used to bother me but now it does) so I slept in a chair last night. Sitting is painful, standing is painful, walking is painful, and I absolutely cannot lie down or I am fucked completely.

It sucks. Spinal injuries suck. There’s no two ways about it. And I’ll continue to have this life where I’m okay until suddenly, I’m not. FOR NO FUCKING REASON. Because there’s no logic to it. Backs just stop working, and especially when your discs are trying to flee the vertebrae.

We’ve been discussing options. I have somewhat of a plan; a lot of it is just nagging doctors until I get some help. First I really want to see if I can get a referral to a spinal decompression place so MSP will pay for it. They’ll be reluctant I’m sure but here’s the thing: the ~3500 for the non-invasive 8-week program of decompressing my spine that *might* give me back a good chunk of my function will actually cost them less than my other option, which is surgery.

I really don’t want surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary, but we are getting to the point of “I need to fix this or I’m looking at a short, agony-filled life”. So if that means going under and getting my fucking discs taken out and my vertebra fused together, well, that’s what that means.

But yeah, I’d like to do decompression first.

So right now it’s Canada Day and instead of going out and doing something fun I am sitting at my mom’s place and praying that I’m well enough to go home by the time I was planning on it so I can go see my doctor in Vancouver and ask about getting a referral to the spinal decomp place so MSP will cover it.

And if I can’t get that….I don’t know. I have this vague thought of trying to raise the money for it somehow, but I don’t know how to do that, to be honest.

Anyway. I’m going to try to write today, because it’s Camp Nanowrimo this month, and I’d really like to make my goals even if my back is being a complete jackass about it. At least I’m better than I was two days ago; that’s something.

Wish me luck!

Loonily yours,
Katje

O British Columbia, to you I raise my glass of conium maculatum.

I voted yesterday.

It was the provincial election. I registered weeks ago, changing my address online, in preparation for this day. I was even going to advance vote last week, but I didn’t get a chance to make it to the polling station before I headed away from my town for the weekend. So I decided to do it on the day itself. I mean, the polling stations are open for 12 hours, and voting takes ten minutes.

Voting is the easiest thing to do in Canada. When I took Nate on Saturday to advance vote, he was in and out in under 2 minutes. I was done in 8, and only because I stood and deliberated over candidates. You can register right there at the polling station if you need to. They accept a wide range of things as ID. You can even have someone vouch for you.

You get a sticker for voting. A little round thing that says “I voted!”

An Elections BC "I voted" sticker on a weekly planner that says "Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake"

Unfortunately I had no cupcakes. I certainly could have used one yesterday.

They must have a lot of leftover stickers after each election.

Voter turnout was 48%. BC elected a Liberal majority.

For those of you who don’t know much about Canadian parties, the BC Liberals are actually way more conservative than the federal liberal party. Voting Liberal in BC is basically the same as voting Conservative.

When I turned 18, I was excited about voting. I ran voter registration drives, I worked hard to get people to the polls, I constantly reminded friends to vote. To get out and participate in democracy.

Often, after election day friends would say they “forgot” to vote if I asked them if they’d made it to the polling station. They’d spent the day on the beach instead. Or whatever.

Voting wasn’t easy in the States during the 2004 election. I spent over 2 hours at the polling station, waiting for them to say yes, I could actually vote, yes, this was the right station for me. They spent a long time on hold with the authorities, whoever they are. This wasn’t uncommon. There were a lot of problems for those of us who registered Democrat.

When I moved back to Canada I was pleasantly surprised with how easy voting was. “Wow,” I thought. “This is great. I bet Canadians are far more invested in democracy. Voting here is so easy.”

They’re not.

I was always a person who took joy in the political process. Things suck and many politicians are liars and often it’s hard to feel like you’re making any real difference. Regardless, I took joy in participating in democracy. In voting, in being an activist, in speaking out, in dissent. In making my voice heard.

I felt like this since 1993, when mom and dad took me to Ottawa to cheer Kim Campbell, their friend from law school and my god-mother, on as she ran for Prime Minister. I still have my pink “Kim” baseball cap somewhere. I felt like this when I accepted my award from the ACLU for being an activist in high school. I felt like this when I marched in peace demonstrations, when I spoke out, spoke up about what mattered to me. I felt like this every time I did anything that was participation in a democratic society.

Key word: felt.

Yesterday as I walked out of the polling booth I didn’t feel suffused by the same lighthearted joy that usually took me over after I voted, or after the results of an election went the way I hoped. I felt despondency and despair; I felt hollow. The joy was gone. All I felt was that I’d done my democratic duty, and I could go home and sleep now — because who cared? What did it matter anyway?

I was a rarity to feel joy in democracy. I knew that. And I think knowing that killed my joy.

I didn’t even need to check the results as they came in, or voter turnout, to feel this way. When I did finally check them, they didn’t help, save a small fist-pump at seeing that the Powell River riding finally went NDP. The results only cemented the despair, the despondency. So did the inevitable arguments about “vote splitting”. Not only did I already feel shitty about something that used to bring me joy, but now I got to listen to people who are supposedly on the same ideological, political page as me, call me a waste of space and everything that’s wrong with the world because I dared to vote with my conscience, with my heart, with my principles. Because I stood there in the polling station, not wanting to select either of the two options I’d settled on: one would be me voting against my heart, and the other would subject me to arguments with my fiancé and other people I care about as they tell me I made the wrong choice.

Because I voted Green.

When in my riding it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. If all the people who voted Green in the Coquitlam-Burke Mountain riding had voted NDP instead, the Liberals would still have taken the riding. With over 1400 votes!

I understand where the argument comes from. NDP and Green parties are really similar. I have voted NDP before — generally in ridings where the race is more neck in neck between NDP and the more conservative party. I will vote NDP again if I live in a riding where, again, the race is neck in neck. In Nate’s riding the difference was a few hundred votes; if I’d been living there I would have voted NDP.

And I am of the opinion that in those few ridings where the race is so tight, maybe for a few years the Green Party shouldn’t run candidates there. Solidify the party via other ridings; gain strength that way. Work with the NDP for now. There are not many ridings where things are so tight. It wouldn’t be a massive sacrifice, and in the long run it may strengthen the party more. Hell, it might even lead to an NDP majority and a Green minority, which would be fucking awesome.

But I am tired of hearing from people who voted NDP that it is all my fault that the Liberals won a majority. Because I voted Green in a riding where it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. I am tired of hearing about the “problem of vote splitting” and I’m tired of seeing it being laid at the feet of the voters.

I voted with my conscience. That is my right as a citizen of a democratic society.

If you want to get angry about this election, if you want to get angry about the majority that was elected, go ahead. But don’t focus your anger at the people who feel the same, who didn’t want a Liberal majority any more than you did. Why not get angry about the low voter turnout? Over half the province didn’t vote yesterday or during advance voting. Over HALF the eligible voter population. Don’t you think some of the responsibility rests at their feet?

Or how about the people who voted but didn’t bother to educate themselves before casting their ballots? Don’t think that’s a straw man. They exist. I’ve met them. (And tried to educate them, obviously — but if I’ve met a few, there are surely more out there.) People who think the BC Liberals are the same as the Federal Liberals (they’re not). People who think the Liberals are still the Official Opposition to the Conservative majority (they’re not; the NDP is now).

It’s ridiculously common that people either refuse to educate themselves about different platforms before they go and cast their ballots (“I’ll select Liberal, because I’m assuming the Liberals up here are the same as US Liberals!”) or that educating themselves is so daunting they refuse to vote in the first place.

Don’t even get me started on “But none of the candidates are aligned with my values!” If that’s the case, you still have an option that’s participatory: you show up at the polling station and you refuse your ballot. When they hand it to you, you hand it right back. You say you’re refusing your ballot because none of the candidates are worth voting for, or whatever. All you have to say is you’re refusing your ballot.

That is what you do if you feel that you can’t vote for anyone in your riding. Do you know why you do this? Because they have to record refused ballots separately from all other ballots. If you spoil your ballot as an act of protest, it just gets lumped in with all the other spoiled ballots, intentional or otherwise. Refused ballots are counted separately.

And if more people actually took the time to register to vote and then go refuse their ballot instead of avoiding the polling stations or spoiling their ballots in protest, then the PTB might actually, I don’t know, sit up and take notice that the populace isn’t happy.

You know what doesn’t tell them that? Low voter turnout. Low voter turnout tells them that people are happy with the current power structures, with the current policies. And things continue the way they’re going.

Instead, people refuse to participate in democracy. I don’t mean just getting out and voting, though that is the very least you can do. I mean educating yourself before you vote. If you’re reading this I assume you have the internet. It’s a good starting place to learn about the different parties, the platforms, the issues. It’s also a good place to learn about effective protest of voting, as I outlined in the paragraphs above.

If you already are politically minded and you know about the issues and the platforms…you can participate by educating other people. By dissenting, speaking out against the government when they do things you disagree with. These are things you can do as a citizen of a democratic country.

Our forebears fought hard to be allowed to have a voice in government. They fought against dictatorships, they fought against sexism, they fought against racism.

Now, just a few short decades after aboriginal people in Canada are allowed to vote (yeah, try and figure that one out — their country in the first place, but they weren’t allowed to have any say in it for the longest time. Hooray for colonialism!), we have some of the lowest voter turnouts in history. We have an apathetic populace that would rather spit on the memory of people who fought and died for our right to cast our ballots, to make our voices heard, than get out of the house or work and get to the polling station to spend three minutes checking a box on a piece of paper and putting it in a box full of other votes.

No wonder I no longer feel any joy in the political process. The apathy of my fellow countryfolk is an anchor chained to my neck, dragging me down and drowning me.

So, my fellow British Columbians, how about a toast? I raise my glass, full of a bitter Socratic draught.

Here’s to democracy.

Canada, your outrage is severely misplaced

Liberal swearing ahead. Moreso than usual.

Recently our esteemed government saw fit to reward Justin Bieber with a Diamond Jubilee Medal. Canada is outraged at this.

The outrage seems to be of two camps: one, that Bieber received such an important medal. The medal is actually a large joke, but hey, Canadians are nothing if not uninformed. Two, what Bieber chose to wear when he met the Prime Minister. It seems many Canadians feel that Bieber should have respected the PM more when he met him.

Dear fellow Canadians, I would like to share two pieces of information with you. Bear with me; they may be revelatory and shocking.

1. Our PM doesn’t deserve any respect, because he’s a fucking asshole, so who the hell cares what the fuck Bieber wore? Shit, if I had to meet the PM I’d probably…ok, I’d probably refuse, because I hate him that much and am not actually sure that I’d be able to contain my hate and not beat him with a rotten salmon, or something, but if I were to meet the PM and couldn’t avoid it, I would not give two shits about my appearance. You’d see me in a bathrobe and curlers. I don’t even own curlers. I’d go and buy them just to show Harper how little respect I have for him.

and

2. If you’re going to be outraged about the “wrong people” receiving the QDJM, THIS IS THE WRONG STORY BY WHICH TO SET YOUR SIGHTS.

I have heard more outrage over Bieber getting a QDJM than over the anti-abortion fucknozzles receiving QDJMs. There are so many things wrong with that, I don’t even know where to fucking begin.

Canada, you are still drunk. Goddammit give me your keys.

Canada, you are drunk. Give me your keys.

From the “Oh Gods, Canada, Stop Failing At Everything” files.

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, or the QDJM, has been given to women who are in jail for injunctions at abortion clinics. These people are anti-choicers, and they get a medal.

From the article (bolding mine):

“Unlike the justice minister, Vellacott was unable to award these medals to the victims of crime, because these baby victims are dead, so instead the award to those ‘heroines of humanity’ Mary Wagner and Linda Gibbons who are trying to protect defenceless, voiceless human beings in the womb from butchery and death, and trying to let vulnerable women know that there are other options and support and adoption possibilities,” Vellacott said in his statement. “It’s what you would expect in a caring compassionate society.”

Vellacott continued, “It’s a pretty upside down world when we honour abortionists like Henry Morgentaler for killing over 5,000 babies and imprison precious women, like Mary Wagner and Linda Gibbons, who try to save babies from such savagery. They are the real heroes of humanity!”

Excuse me while I vomit. Caring and compassion are, apparently, not for the uterus-bearing people who have to deal with the business of getting pregnant. Caring and compassion are reserved for collections of cells living parasitically in our bodies. Or for people who believe we shouldn’t be given a choice.

Of course, the QDJM is largely a joke anyway. The people who get it don’t deserve it, and the people who deserve it are turned down. All in the name of honoring the Queen — well, tell me, Your Majesty, how do you feel about your medal being given to people who don’t believe you should have control over your own body? I think, were I in your position, I’d be pretty mad.

At this point I think the Conservative Party should win Canada’s Worst Driver. Forever. They are driving drunk and running this country into the ground and various trees.

Practicing gratefulness, because life is AWESOME

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, for those of us in cold, snowy sunny Canada, it is Thanksgiving weekend. We have it in October instead of November. There’s a very good reason for that. If we tried to harvest anything in November, we would starve.

(Mind you, the timing of harvest festivals is sort of a moot point in a world where we can have mangoes from other countries flown to us year-round, but tradition dictates that Thanksgiving falls in October in Canada. Who am I to argue with tradition? Usually the first in line.)

Usually I spend this weekend with my boyfriend’s family, but today they’re having dinner over at his brother-in-law’s place, and they’re meeting his BIL’s parents. For the first time. Apparently BIL’s parents are…a bit more conservative than the rest of the family, so I will not be joining them. It was decided that my boyfriend was all the unorthodox they could take for this visit. Next year, I’ll be able to come.

I am actually okay with this. (Technically it’s our anniversary, too, but as we don’t really have a firm date for when the relationship “began” I’ve decided, unilaterally, that we shall have an Anniversary Week, from the 8th to the 16th of October. And we shall celebrate every day. He’s not totally on board yet, but give it time. I’ll wear him down.) Despite Thanksgiving being one of my favourite holidays now that I have a family again, I’m okay with not actually celebrating it this year.

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M312 Defeated; Canadian Uterus-Bearers Breathe Sigh of Relief and Release Death-Grip on Pitchforks

Well, I’m sure many did. I personally never release my death-grip on my pitchfork — I am always ready to storm the establishment or run anti-choice assholes through in a manner similar to Vlad the Impaler’s.

Yes, Motion 312 was defeated in Parliament on Wednesday. M312, for you United Statesians who have no idea what I’m talking about, was a motion that wanted to redefine fetuses as people. In layman’s terms, it would have criminalized abortion. It was brought forth by the Conservative Stephen Woodworth. Yay! Yet another old white cis man telling women and genderqueer uterus-bearers what they can do with their bodies! This never gets old.

203 people voted nay on M312 and 91 voted yea — four of them Liberals, and the rest Conservative (we are not surprised there). I’m happy to report that the MP for my riding voted against it, even though he’s Conservative and historically known to be anti-choice. Still, I find it upsetting that almost a hundred of our elected officials think voting for such a motion is acceptable. I find it a disgrace that it was even brought forth in the first place.

Worst of all? Rona Ambrose voted yea on M312.

Rona Ambrose is the Minister of State for the Status of Women.

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Lost in Coquitlamfield with a drunk GPS

I just got back from driving my mom to the airport. She’s headed for Nicaragua for a month on a business trip. Okay, so there’s some personal time in there too. It’s a month-long trip to Nicaragua; she’d be crazy not to.

I should say, mom drove to the airport, and I took her car back home. This is because time was of the essence while going there and she’s more used to Vancouver streets and so knew her way to the airport, whereas I’d be flailing and shouting “AH WHERE ARE WE” every five minutes.

I just moved to Coquitlam, and while I’ve been visiting my boyfriend in Delta for two years and driving while over here, it’s never been much more than “ferry to boyfriend’s, boyfriend’s to apartment in Coquitlam, Coquitlam to boyfriend’s, boyfriend’s to ferry, sometimes Coquitlam to ferry…”. The bulk of my driving experience remains in the past places I’ve lived since I was 15: Hawaii, Powell River, and Nanaimo. Oh, and the route from San Diego to Vancouver, BC, but let’s face it — so long as you avoid cities driving on the I-5 is pretty damn straightforward. (Mind you, I did drive in L.A. itself — that trip was when I was still learning to drive. But I digress.)

There are a lot of places in Vancouver and the GVRD that I know. Vaguely. If I end up there, I’ll say “OH, I know where we are!” and then a minute or two later be completely lost again. Or if you asked me about the Front St. and Begbie St. intersection in New West, I can picture it perfectly in my head. Or the Wise Hall on Adanac St. Or Granville Island and Fountain Way. Scott Road and Nordel Way. My friends’ house and driveway in Serial Killer-ville Cloverdale.  But ask me how to get from point A to point B? Hahahahahahah I don’t have a fucking clue.

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Canadian Politics, and how they’re confusing

It should be said that I still don’t really understand politics.

I’m political, and I have a strong sense of justice for people, non-human animals, and the earth — but the mechanics of how governments work baffle me.

Especially coming from living in the States for 10 years and learning all about their really weird system to having to re-learn Canada’s weirder system.

And Canada’s political system is confusing, especially when I’m trying to hold onto facts about the U.S.’s that are slipping away more and more with each passing year.

Don’t believe me? Read this Wiki article about last year’s federal election, which was historic: the Liberals stopped being the Official Opposition and the NDP (New Democratic Party) took their place, the Bloc Quebecois broke, and a Green Party candidate, Elizabeth May, won a seat. These are all firsts.

What the fuck does half of that mean? you ask me, perusing the Wiki article and feeling your brain implode.

Hey, don’t look at me. I’m still trying to figure this shit out. And I am a political person at core — this is something I really care about.

So is it any surprise that the 2011 federal election had only a 61.1 percent voter turnout? And that the Conservative party won with only 39 percent of the vote?

Our politics are confusing, and what’s worse, Canadians seem to have real trouble getting fired up over anything besides hockey. Yeah, we have Occupy, and the Casserole protests, and we protested against the G20 police brutality, and we’re fighting like hell against Enbridge — but these protests represent a minority of Canadians. Quite obviously, because if it were the majority who was so fired up about things, we’d have had better voter turnout and may have defeated Harper.

We tend to live with our heads in the sand. (Or tundra; whatever.) We believe that our country’s the greatest, so why should we change anything? Life is good. We got beer, and hockey, eh? What else matters?

Part of me gets really angry with my fellow Canadians’ apathetic attitude — these things matter, dammit, and our country is going down the tubes. (Has been since ‘first contact’, or when the genocide began. To be completely honest, here.)

But then the other part of me feels I can’t say anything — because I don’t understand what’s going on half the time. I rely on friends and family to give me Cliff’s Notes, because otherwise I just get really confused and depressed and feel stupid, which is never good for self-esteem.

And I am so, so tired. There are so many battles to fight that I lose track, and then get confused by how things supposedly work in this country (more like grind along towards destruction) and have to stop fighting for a while.

All in all, being an activist became a lot more complicated when I moved back home. The burn-out is pretty much constant, now.

Recycling and Compost and How They’re Important, or something, not sure what the message is here, really

I would be more inclined to participate in my city’s compost and recycling curbside pickup programs if they made it easier.

I know, that sounds like so much White Whine, but consider:

  • There is no direct way from my yard to the front curb. All entry to my house is in the alleyway. So anything I want picked up at the curb I must walk all the way around. We have asked them if we can put stuff out at the end of the alleyway, which would just create one more pickup for them which is right next to another pickup, but they have refused our request. It would be too complicated! Another stop, right in between two current ones? MIND IS BLOWN.
  • The yellow recycling bags are the holy godsdamned grail and they get stolen pretty often — especially if you don’t get out there right away to grab the empty one, which I don’t, because long walk and spoons.
  • Also someone stole my green bin previously, and at another point in time someone stole the lid to our garbage can. I’m of the opinion that this keeps happening because the garbage dudes just fling these things friggin haphazardly into the ditch when they’re done instead of setting them down nicely in front of the house, like I do. This sends the message that these things do not belong to any one house, and therefore are free for the taking. Or I just live in a bad neighborhood no, it’s the city’s fault, I’m sure of it. Dear garbage-and-etc-people-of-undetermined-gender-but-I’m-assuming-you-are-dudebros-just-because: if you’re going to fling ’em about then fling them over my fence so I don’t have to walk three miles to retrieve them.Would that be so hard? Really?
  • The schedule is some sort of complicated vodou ritual and in order to understand it I must pay offerings to the lwa. Which on principle I have nothing against, being polytheist and fairly eclectic and free of white-lighter-fluff-bunny morality, but come on — three Irish deities and most of the Hellenic pantheon is all I can handle. Give a tired Witch a break here.

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Tales from the Fat Side: Coldstone’s Cold Shoulder

Mmmm Coldstone

A Coldstone’s by itself. (Photo credit: Michael D. Dunn)

Today a friend and I decided to go to Tim Horton’s for some Coldstone’s ice cream. I was really happy when Coldstone’s came up here from the States, as it had been a favourite of mine when I lived in Hawaii. The fact that it’s in Tim Horton’s means it’s easier to convince my boyfriend to go and get it, so win-win.

There are several Timmy-Coldstone’s in Vancouver and the GVRD, but only one in Nanaimo. (There’s also one in Duncan, which is a 100-km round trip. Not happening.) There are other, cheaper ice cream places in Nanaimo, any of which we could have gone to — but we wanted Coldstone’s. It’s special. And it was a really hot day. Also we make no apologies for wanting whatever the fuck we want and eating it too — in public, even.

Here is the point where I tell you something you already know: I’m fat. So is my friend. And while we are both feisty, fat, awesome individuals, we still struggle with self-esteem issues. Because we have spent our entire lives being told that we are inhuman, horrible disgusting blobs that should kill ourselves for allowing ourselves to be so fat and offensive to the eyes of society. How dare we breathe your air and take up all your space with our fat! How dare we have big bellies! How dare we eat ice cream or junkfood — this is, of course, no problem if you’re skinny and it’s all you eat, because obviously thinness is the only measure of health. No, because we are already fat we should eat nothing but salad and watercress and wear nothing but sackcloth and ashes.

So, let’s start from that. We’re fat, and we’re awesome people and we deserve to be treated like human beings. Regardless of our fatness or awesomeness. We’re human.

We’ve gone to this Coldstone’s before. Almost every time we go, we stand there for a long time before someone serves us.

Today we stood there for 10 minutes. There were several people walking around behind the counter, and it wasn’t terribly busy. Each person ignored us.

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