All is (Not) Lost

 I had a revelation on a recent trip out of town. I’d lost my way and had turned into the parking lot of a convenience store to calm myself down. First, I asked myself why I want to cry when this happens? Why does it feel so devastating? I’m not in danger, I always have water in the car, and a lunch for long highway drives. What’s the big deal?

Sitting there in the car, I finally figured it out. When I was a child, I hated getting into trouble. In school, struggling with math that involved more than one set of brackets made me panic. I still remember how anxious I felt, which only created more difficulty. When I’m traveling, even to places I’ve been to once or twice before, I often feel like I’m living in a different world. As if the buildings and roads rearrange themselves every night. But on my trip to Calgary, I finally solved the puzzle. 

In the movie, Elf, Will Farrell tells children how he got from the North Pole. 

When I’m going somewhere, I can’t always trust my GPS, so I speak to myself in an ‘Elf’ voice. For example, driving from Route 90 to Osborne Village, I say things like, “Past the big Co-op gas station and the large temple with the golden domes, and then the defunct biscuit factory! I’m addressing the child in me, because that’s who gets upset whenever I’m lost. 

But I’m not sure how to navigate all the changes in the world. I don’t think using a gentle voice will help me get over the recent reversal of Roe vs. Wade in the USA. As a Canadian, why is it my problem? Because I’m a woman. This is every woman’s problem. The saying, ‘women hold up half the sky’ is only partially true. In many places in the world, women hold up far more than half. And yet, rights for women are shrinking. The irony of it is that my people–Christians–are the ones most responsible. I attend a mainline church but consider myself a born-again Christian. And I can’t figure out how people (especially women) think this gives them the right to dictate what half the planet should and shouldn’t do with their bodies. 

I’m particularly irked by organizations like Focus on the Family, because here’s the thing. They want you to have that baby, but they’re not going to help you raise it. When my children were young, they had advice such as this: ‘When your child reaches 18 months of age, cut a switch from a tree and whip their legs with it when they misbehave.’ Seriously. But these people have worked to make abortion almost impossible to get in many US states. Yet the US is the only developed country in the world where infant mortality is rising. And it’s not from abortion. An interesting fact is that countries that provide free birth control have the lowest abortion rates, and others like the US and Pakistan, have the highest. 

Other troubling things going on with our neighbor, besides the war on women, is the war on children. Gun restrictions are loosening even more, in spite of the large number of gun related deaths. Since 1982 only 3 of the 184 mass shootings have been carried out by women. Doesn’t this say something about the nature of women? Yet we’ve been penalized regarding our rights since Adam first pointed to Eve and said, ‘She made me do it.’ 

Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas wants to pass a bill preventing gay marriages. The state of Tennessee had a bill proposal in April suggesting common law marriage be considered between a man and woman only, and wanting to erase age restrictions for the couple. Want to marry off your nine year old daughter? Move to Tennessee. 

When I got married, our phone bill had to be in my husband’s name. Same with our bank accounts. Clarence never entered a bank except to sign mortgage papers, and never paid a bill in his life, because he hated doing that. I did it. In 2012 I was booking our flights to Mexico and he had to give his permission over the phone, because he was the primary card holder. I wasn’t allowed access to the points without his permission. We fixed that, but it was unsettling at the time.

People wonder how on earth Justin Trudeau is still in power in Canada. He’s often misguided, certainly annoying and barely takes his left foot from his mouth before sticking in the right one. But here’s my best guess. His environmental protections are laughable, but they’re better than Conservative candidate Pierre Poilievre’s, who threatens to remove all environmental protections, if he wins.  That means that if Jason Kenney were to return to power in Alberta, he could blow the tops off the rocky mountains to mine coal like he wanted to do a year ago. Justin Trudeau is still in power because he supports the rights of women. It’s not fair to compare the Conservatives to the Republicans, but there is a powerful arm of the party that wants to do away with abortion in Canada. They’re also the ones who want to ban books like the Handmaid’s Tale.

Margaret Atwood’s book  seemed so far fetched when I read it back in the eighties. Not anymore. First they come for your womb, and then watch the rest of your rights fall away. But here’s an idea. What if only women got to vote on issues concerning women?  What if women were the ones in charge? Setting aside those on the rabid right, there’d be less violence and more common sense. I know that women were part of the truck Convoy to Ottawa in February, but they were definitely in the minority. Boo-hooing because the rest of the country wouldn’t pretend that Covid wasn’t real isn’t the same as trying to raise a child you can’t afford and didn’t want in the first place. The thing is, I don’t know men who operate like this. My husband, our friends, none of them have this sense of entitlement. So to these other men I say, try being a woman in Saudi Arabia before 2018 when they were finally allowed to drive. Scratch that. Try being a woman in the US, trapped in an unwanted pregnancy. That’ll teach you what a lack of freedom really looks like.

All is not lost. Not while people with compassion and common sense still have a vote. So, fellas, time to man up and raise your voice son behalf of women. It takes courage, but not as much as it takes for a young teenager giving birth to her grandfather’s baby. Yep, that’s allowed under the new abortion ban, too. It’s time for women to get angry and support our sisters in the USA. The need to support American women living with this tyranny is too important to ignore. If we do, then we might be next. And there’s no self talk that will help me find my way out of that mess.

What’s That, Musk? Tell Me What’s aHappenin’!

 Can you tell this blog post is about Elon? (Does the title tell you I watched Jesus Christ Superstar over Easter?) As a northern Canadian with strong feelings about the very rich, and the even richer, I think Elon has too much money. Don’t get me wrong (don’tcha get me wrong, now) (yes, more JC) There’s nothing wrong with being mildly rich. But waking up as the wealthiest person on the planet? I can only imagine how that would feel. I hope I’d be horrifed. You don’t get there by being Mr./Ms. Nice Guy.

Aside from a much humbler financial status, Elon and I have some things in common. I’m not on the autism spectrum (although I can’t take loud noises or weird smells) but I know what it’s like to be low on the teenage status pole. And while his family was financially comfortable, and though he might have been a cute kid, I can’t imagine he was all that popular on the junior high dance floor. Some of us weren’t  cool back then. Some of us had no idea at all how to be number one in that world. (Or number 10.) And some of us were terrible at Dodge Ball. 

You are miles smarter than me, Elon. Your geek factor is a tad higher, too. But I get how it feels to be the odd person in the room. In spite of your success, you might feel you still have something to prove. But that doesn’t mean you should take over Twitter. I wouldn’t have thought much about it if you hadn’t openly supported the truckers taking over Ottawa in February. You’re not Canadian. You don’t get a say. Yes, you believe in free speech, but does that mean anyone can make up anything and we all should just nod our heads in agreement? No! Does that mean that when a few thousand people want to overthrow the government, you have the right to say, hell ya? I don’t think so. 

Instead of spending 44 Billion Dollars on a social platform where people tweet their opinions, why don’t you do some good with your money? You could start by saving the planet from the rest of us. You could support programs for the poor in the US and around the world. You want to be king? That’s the way to do it. 

I’m not a huge Twitter fan. It’s such a frenetic world that by the time I realize I agree with someone, I’m the 10,000th person to hit the heart button, or reply, ‘I agree!’ I wish you’d decided to lead the world in a great direction instead of spending your money on this. Does your mother approve? Wouldn’t she rather you take care of people instead? Maybe she doesn’t care. Or she’s not around anymore. If not, I’m sorry. 

While you’re planning to open Twitter up to every wacko opinion, you know what occupies President Biden? I picture him kneeling by his bed at night praying for Donald Trump to die first. 

“Just let him die, God. Let the Republicans go back to normal. Like the days when half of them understood science. Let Marjorie Taylor Greene decide to retire instead of screaming, ‘Let the dimwits inherit the earth!’ 

And while I’m on this rant, I want someone to kill that fu**er Putin. (Yes, that’s my prayer. But so far, God has refused to be my hitman.) You know what the president of Ukraine is praying for? ‘Please, let us still have a country in 2023. And ask the world to get off its ass and help us.’

Buying Twitter feels like an Austin Power move. You want to hold the world hostage for One Million Dollars! Sorry…44 billion dollars. You’ll show them, all right. You know what would be really great? Buying the Amazon Rain forest and protecting it forever. You built the Tesla…you must care about lowering carbon on planet Earth. I bet you could purchase the Congo Rain forest, too. 

Imagine being the person who saves the planet. You’d have the status of a saint. Instead, buying Twitter puts you in the company of Rupert Murdoch. Are you a Fox news guy? Will you hire Tucker Carlson to be your wingman on Twitter? 

Be a hero. Do something great with all that money. Help educate people around the world, or invest it in finding a cure for every kind of cancer. If you decide to do that, you might even get your own musical. So, don’t be like Rupert. Be like Jesus. You don’t have to lay down and die for us. You just have to change your heart. 

(For more left-wing rancor, follow me on Twitter.) 

(Ha ha.)

Deliver Us From Evil – A Bystander’s Guide to a Better World

Nobody wants to be the victim of evil deeds. (Unless you’re in a certain kind of club and you’re reeeeeaaally looking forward to it.) Most of us don’t want to be evil, but it might be possible to wander into evil territory without being aware of it. It’s like being lost in a forest and instead of paying attention to the stars, or the sun, or even the signs saying, ‘This Way Out’ we dig our heels in and go our own way. It’s good to be independent, to make your own decisions. But we don’t all have the same skill set. We can’t all be wise in the same ways, or know everything there is to know about keeping the world, or even ourselves safe. So, here is a checklist of things to consider when making decisions that affect everyone.

1. Believe an expert over yourself. Though I’m inclined at two AM to consult Dr. Google about a strange pain in my chest/foot/abdomen/head (yes, I’ve googled all of the above) I finally succumb to common sense and make a doctor appointment. I may have a better diet and exercise program than my doctor, but I don’t know if I’ve got an ulcer, a blocked artery, or if the pain in my stomach is all in my head. My doctor will test for it. She has the equipment and she knows the right people. This applies to all experts. Climate scientists, (real ones with degrees and everything) journalists (the ones with training, not the guys in their yard or their trucks who will give you their opinion on everything from Covid to the war on Ukraine.) If you see a fake backdrop and the ‘anchor’ says, ‘Over to you, Dave,’ and Dave is waiting in his pickup to give you the ‘real news,’ think again. Dave might be your guy who can build you a new garage, or fix your plumbing issues, or repair your colon (but only if he’s a surgeon.) He’s not the right person to tell you the straight up truth about the world. 

2. If you can’t find main stream media (people who’ve studied journalism) to back up your views, and you find yourself searching the ‘alternate web,’ realize this. You and a number of your acquaintances have not made discoveries that the rest of the world is blind to; you’ve not stumbled on hidden truths about conspiracies in the government, unless you’re talking about North Korea. But even then, they make no bones about where they stand. Governments are filled with blabbermouths, just like the rest of the population. They cannot keep any of the following secrets: Aliens are living among us, Bill Gates is microchipping everyone, big Pharma is the new, evil empire. Am I always a fan of the pharmaceutical world? No. But we’d all be dying in our forties and fifties, or even as children, if we didn’t have the medicine we need.

3. The good old days were not so great. Yes, baby boomers loved their childhoods for many good reasons. Lots of freedom, tons of people your age in the neighborhood, plentiful jobs, cheap schooling and affordable housing. But women were harrassed as a matter of course at work, at school, and while out walking. Many people had to hide who they were, because getting called ‘Dyke, ‘ ‘Fairy’ or worse was the result of being brave and coming out. And that ended in a beating or even death for quite a few people. Racism was accepted. Indigenous people, immigrants, anyone who looked or dressed differently was name called on a regular basis or put into re-education schools, so while the rest of us were living large, they were stuck in a dystopian world of pain and hopelessness. For many of us, the world feels harder than when we were kids. But that’s because we were living in la la land. Most of us were learning not to litter. That was the extent of our concern for the environment. How many of us noticed the missing indigenous children in our schools? Not me.

4. Stop villifying politicians. We don’t agree with the men and women we didn’t vote for, but the vast majority are doing their best. Nobody is perfect, and while you may not agree with their policies or their views on how to make the world a better place, give them a tiny bit of credit. I’m not talking about the politicians living in crazy town: Donald Trump, (for obvious reasons) Marjorie Taylor Greene (guns don’t kill people…murderers kill people) Kim Jong Un, leader for life in North Korea. And Putin. (If you believe that Ukraine is attacking Russia, and Putin is innocent, please check back to number 1.)

5. Think about your heroes. What would they be doing today? How would they be helping make the world a better place? You know you’ve fallen short  (unless they’re Stalin or Hitler) if you’re one of the reasons medical staff are not encouraged to wear their uniforms out of the hospital.  To be a person willing to berate or attack someone trying to save lives is not heroic. (If this is you, re-read 1.)

6. We’re all in this together, but climate change is hardest on those who’ve done the least to cause it. People of Somalia and Sudan are in a serious drought caused by rising CO2 levels. I drive a car that needs oil and gas, so I get that we still need the stuff. But encourage your government rep to be investing in alternative energies. Solar energy is 100% cheaper than it was in the mid-seventies. If we fund creative people, they just might save us from ourselves.

7. Know that everyone is undergoing hardships you and I know nothing about. If we practice peacefulness and forgiveness, maybe the favour will be returned. If we want a better world, we need to bring kindness to our relationships with each other. Let’s be more than bystanders–let’s deliver each other from evil. (Except for the ones on the way to that club. Let them have their good time.)

Cast Away

 I was at the gym right before the pandemic hit, knowing but not understanding how my friends, family and activities would disappear from my life. I started going on cold, snowy walks every day.  I had to force myself to get dressed in the morning, but didn’t always succeed. I was still writing, but my only excitement was a weekly trip to Walmart, Pharmasave or the grocery store. That first Friday at the Co-op felt a bit dystopian. I’d never seen so many people shopping at once. The lines went to the back of the store, and while resisting the lure of the toilet paper isle, I still spent $275 on groceries for one. There was a general feeling of helplessness and fear about the future.  

While researchers scrambled to find vaccines, the rest of us searched for our friends online. Zooming replaced hot vacations. We watched television like it was a new Olympic sport and we were all going for gold. But nothing could sooth the pain of isolation or replace the joy of coffee with friends, dinners out, parties and hugs. You can’t understand the power of hugs until they’re gone. I thought I’d make the best use of time by practicing the piano and writing all day. Nope. For the first time in my life, I experienced real depression. When the second anniversary of my husband’s death came around on March 28th, I was mad at him all day for not being there. But mostly, like everyone else in the world, I was sad. When the summer of 2020 arrived, I sat on my deck and had a drink with my neighbors who sat on their side of the fence. We were giddy with the relief of seeing someone else.

Two years later, I’m a seasoned survivor. Like Tom Hanks in the movie, ‘Cast Away’ when he learns to make fire and catch fish, except he starts out pudgy and ends up lean. (I went the other way.) I didn’t have a volleyball named Wilson, just a stuffie called Mrs. Bunny, who got a lot of cuddling. I got used to long days alone when I wasn’t snowshoeing and skiing. I read a lot of books, and as time went by, I felt less like this:

And more like this:

We are all much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. And the takeaway from the pandemic has been huge. I am more grateful than ever for for small things, like the way the clerks at the stores–the only folks I saw for weeks on end–started to feel like friends. People are friendlier in general (if you’re not online) and whatever stand you’ve taken on vaccinations, we all understand what it means to miss other people. When I traveled this past Christmas, I was taken aback by how patient people were with the chaos at the airport. We’ve all learned to be grateful for what we had in the past, and what we’ll have again when this is all over. Barring any crazy variants, life as we knew it will return. I think that might call for a party. Or at least a celebratory drink over the fence.

Oh, for the Love of Kale

Not everyone loves kale. I know this because there are memes everywhere making fun of it. ‘She probably loves kale,’ is not a compliment. But I started growing it in my garden at least ten years ago and the sheer volume of our harvest made me feel like a winner. I try to eat it every second day from November to April. It’s my talisman, like the posies people in the 14th century carried in hopes of warding off the plague. 

With its deep green color and magical elixir of anti-oxidants, I tend to view as a kind of body armor. If I’ve encouraged you to try it, remember to massage it well before cooking. I also whisper sweet nothings when placing it in the pan, believing it adds to the tenderizing process. (This step is optional.) I like it with eggs, alongside pizza and chicken, and occasionally, by itself. Sauté gently in some olive oil, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Yum!’

There’s a downside to being a kale eater. The reason I don’t order it in a restaurant, (not that it’s a hot commodity in most places) is it sticks to my teeth. After a meal, I look like a zombie who’s fed off the Jolly Green Giant. 

The person who never had this problem was my husband, Clarence. In spite of occasionally wearing clothes that gave him a not homeless, just exploring the look, vibe, the man was a dainty eater. I am not. It’s gotten worse since I started living alone. Not that I eat with my fingers or anything (I totally do…I love eating with my fingers) but I’ve always been a lot messier than him. 

Sometimes he’d look at me halfway through dinner and say, ‘would you like a facecloth?’

‘No, I’m good!’ I’d reply cheerfully, spaghetti sauce coating my cheeks. I’ve turned into my dad. “Bill,” my mom would bark. “Wipe your chin!” She believed the rough whiskers on his face made it hard for him to feel. But I take after dad, and I think my face must be numb most of the time. 

This is why I don’t enjoy eating out. I’m a very poky eater, and I have to go reeeeeeaaaaaallllly slow if I’m not going to look like I dumped my plate down my shirt. It’s not that I’m a slob. I’m just clumsy. Which is also why I break a lot of glassware. 

Anyway, back to kale. I love it. I will always eat it. Just don’t ask me to use a fork unless I’m at your house.  

One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus

There was no toke involved in this story. But the principle is still there, I promise. It begins with an idea I got one day, to order an electrolysis machine that would take care of all my hair related needs. I pictured myself lying on the sofa with a large strip of something electrical taped to my leg, while the machine forever removed the need for a razor or chemicals. I’d paid quite a bit for it, but figured that once I was done, I could lend it to my friends. Excitedly, I took the pieces out of the box, impressed by the smallness of the machine and the multitude of parts. It was when I started reading the instructions that I realized I’d made a mistake. ‘Make sure the client holds the stabilizing rod firmly in hand or has tucked it securely beneath her thigh, to avoid electrocution.” 

When I ordered it, the company had said the machine was made for professional use. I thought they were bragging. But indeed, the machine was meant for a spa, or for those experienced at keeping people alive when applying electrical jolts. I sent it back and I’m happy to say I got a full refund. 

My next purchase was sleep related. I’d been waking in the middle of the night with a bit of anxiety, sitting bolt upright with my heart pounding after some crazy dream or other. I don’t like sleeping pills or even night time antihistamines. They have a way of backfiring in ways I won’t get into now. But marijuana that’s approved by Health Canada seemed like just the ticket. I got hold of Flin Flon’s famous Mr. W. and went over to check out his store. He had everything you could imagine possible in the world of marijuana related items. “I want candy,” I said. “Sleep candy.” He looked deeply into my eyes like he was gazing into my soul. “You need something that will cheer you up before bed. What about this delicious caramel made with all natural ingredients? But remember to only use half.” 

I went home prepared for the night ahead, cut the sucker in two and ate it by 8 pm. Apparently, edibles need to be devoured two hours before you actually need them. By nine o’clock I was staggering slightly as I walked around the house. My balance was that of someone who’d had about five straight shots of tequila. By ten o’clock, I could barely climb into bed. It took me a while because I was drying a few dishes and their importance had magnified to such an extent that I was in raptures. “This pot lid is the Dalai lama of all pot lids,” I remember whispering to myself. I was full of deep thoughts that took place in very slow motion. Then I got the giggles. Everything struck me as funny. I was laughing wildly at something that probably wasn’t funny at all, when suddenly, the room seemed to close in on me and I started feeling like I couldn’t breath. And then shadowy shapes started approaching my bed. 

“Not the zombies from the Walking Dead!” I cried. “Oh sweet Jesus, I’m having a really bad trip!” I wanted to call one of my sisters for help, but 

a) didn’t want a lecture 

b) didn’t want to wake anyone up (forgetting that it was only ten PM.) 

It took a few hours for that part to wear off and for me to settle into a restless sleep. I woke the next morning still completely stoned. But my lesson was learned. I am not a half-caramel-marijuana-filled-candy kind of person. I am a tiny sliver cut carefully off the end, person. The bigger lesson of the whole thing? Always check my cockamamy schemes with others first. I can be impulsive, and my dear departed husband is no longer the voice of reason in my life. Perhaps I’ll ask myself some questions before I embark on the next big thing. Like, will this kill me? Will I want it to? The good news is, once or twice a month, I will have a very good sleep. As for the hair problem, I’m so over it. 

In honor of an old blog, ‘Fifty Shades of Cheese’ and my friend, John Scott, who found me this song, here it is in its full, 1971 glory.

Where Are the Normal Pants?

While shopping for pants one day, I was reminded of the clothes worn in a new Korean show on Netflix. Their styles are always a year or two ahead of us, but to my dismay, this Winner’s store seemed to be embracing the same look in women’s pants. Wide legged, calf length and stretchy, they’re an ‘AH, YES!’ to a 95 lb. 5’6″ Korean woman, and a nightmare to a short white female.

‘Where are all the normal pants?’ I asked a harried employee. ‘This is it,’ she said, sounding at the end of her rope. She was tall and elegant, and the clothes I surveyed would fit her perfectly. I suddenly realized that all the clunky white sneakers I’d complained about last year were a foreshadowing of the return to the nineties silhouette. High waisted pants with front pleats and a baggy flair. Loose, deconstructed shirts. For someone short and currently flirting with Covid-isolation-induced chubbiness, a certain amount of tailoring is called for. Would I like to wear these comfortable clothes? Yes, I would. Will I? Since I have pictures of myself from the nineties when I was much thinner and still looked ridiculous in them, no, I won’t. 

It’s not that I don’t care about fashion. It’s that I hate it. In spite of my fascination with shows like Project Runway, where designers sew weirdly attractive items for 6 ft. 90 lb. women, I’ve never liked picking out clothes. If I had my way, we’d all wear sacks in a variety of colours, both men and women. High heels would be against the law, (I’ve never been a stronger feminist than when I watch a TV FBI agent teetering around on spike heels.) As I’ve said before, I’d also love a country wide mandate on wearing jumpsuits in a variety of colours. No one would be allowed a belt, either, since I don’t have much of a waist and hate to be reminded of it.

People fed up with the growing divisiveness in politics might fantasize about living in a section of the country where everyone agrees with them and there is unity for all. I fantasize about living in a world where no one cares what they wear. But now I have an addendum. Wear what you want, as long as its not baggy, nineties style clothes. (Do you remember men’s suits, back then? All the guys looked like they were wearing their dad’s clothes. Women’s suit jackets weren’t much better.) So, to sum up: pick attractive jumpsuits or sacks. I can go either way. I just can’t go back to the nineties.


 I was buying nuts in Baba’s today when two thoughts intruded. The first was a bit of an aha moment. Is this why I’ve been gaining weight? I like to believe that Covid Belly Syndrome results from the Bug slipping past me, its sickly breath not landing directly but touching close enough to leave me with extra pounds. ‘Here’s some flab’ it whispers as it rushes by. I know this is a complete fabrication of my isolated ‘can’t take much more’ brain. But since I don’t want to claim responsibility, I think I’ll stick with it. 

The second thought was a bit more worrisome. Am I becoming a nut hoarder? I still have a few cups left of slivered almonds and pecans. Why feel compelled to buy more? Again, I blame Covid. If the stores were to close suddenly, I would not worry about running out of toilet paper or boxes of macaroni. I would grieve the loss of such an efficient protein. 

And then another thought occurred. Am I becoming a nut? Have I eaten so many that the analogy, ‘nuttier than a pecan’ has gained some truth? Probably. But if so, I’m not alone. As hostile and indifferent as the world could be before this pandemic descended, there’s never been a wider divide between people on the left and the right, politically. We are all, on both sides, feeling very misunderstood.

Sometimes a hostile thought will wake me in the middle of the night, gripping my brain until I shout, ‘Stop!’ (I highly recommend rebuking your more disturbing nighttime ideas in this fashion. In order to keep crazy in its place, you have to act a little…well. It’s easier if you sleep alone. Although one episode with a light sleeper lying beside you might be good for a laugh.)

We might not be as entrenched in our beliefs as our US counterparts. But the issue with masks and vaccinations is much the same. When I get together with vaccinated friends, we often descend into bitter conversations. ‘Why won’t they get the shot and help the world?’ I’m sure its the same with people who are unvaccinated. ‘Why can’t they leave us alone? Let us make our own decisions? And let us shop without masks and gather in large groups, because we know we’ll be okay?’

Most people who are not vaccinated are simply afraid. I’m not sure why, because they obviously have friends and family who’ve survived both shots, even those of us who felt a bit ill after our second one. But the unvaccinated all seem to know someone who didn’t survive. This might be a person they’ve only heard about through the anti-vaccine grapevine, but it obviously feels true to them.

I haven’t met an unvaccinated person who claimed to be as persecuted as Jews during WWII, or the Indigenous people dragged off to residential schools. But they’re out there. To those people, I say this. Unless you’ve been pulled from your mother’s arms, and starved and bullied for years, or lived in a concentration camp until your body resembled a walking skeleton, and had all your possessions taken by neighbors and the police, then no. You can’t make that comparison. I’m sure it feels unfair that there are things you can no longer do, especially in Manitoba. You can’t attend movies, most restaurants, sporting events held inside. This does not make you Rosa Parks, who courageously stood up to white people and insisted on her rights. You are simply too afraid to get vaccinated, and for that reason, I feel bad for you.

Covid is testing everyone. It’s not going to be over this month, or this year. New variants are making their way toward us and all we can do is protect ourselves the best we can. And protect you. I have unvaccinated people in my extended family, people I love. People I want to see grow old. And I understand why many of you are feeling hostile, because frankly, we all are. 

Let’s practice a little forgiveness. Let’s draw on a small bit of common sense and be kind to one another. One of the reasons some of us are sitting bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night, shouting ‘Stop!’ to our own thoughts, is because we miss people. I’m seeing more of them now, but it’s not the same. I want to walk down the street, mask-less, and wave to people. Smile at them. Know who they are. (That’s a tough one for me. It was hard for me to remember faces before everyone started wearing masks.) Let’s acknowledge that we’re not our best selves right now. And let’s acknowledge what we have together as a society, and pray we don’t destroy it. As my daughter Hilary likes to say, let’s not allow Covid to pull us under. Let’s be stronger than that. There will come a day when it will be over. My prayer is that you’ll all be alive and well for the celebrations.

Brain Dead

When I was a child, I ate porridge for breakfast during the winter. It was such a traditional meal that it took years for me to connect my vacant stare, occasional drooling and noxious gas problems with such a wholesome, heart friendly grain. I’m sure my teachers didn’t realize that that the neutron bomb in the classroom was set off by the small girl in the front row who often had trouble paying attention. 

Many years later, I had to give up wheat, oats and other fun grains. If you could make something light and wonderful with it, my stomach said, I don’t think so. The side benefit of the sacrifice was having a clear head. I hadn’t realized the power of brain fog until it disappeared along with bread and porridge. Lately, I haven’t been doing too badly with small amounts of both. Perhaps I’ve served my time, or maybe the Creator has decided that sixteen years of denial is enough. 

When juggling an allergy, it’s impossible to keep all the balls in the air at once. The questions I’m supposed to ask myself are these:

1. Will my stomach feel nauseous and/or bloat like I’m about to give birth?

2. Does my skin look like I live in the Sahara desert?

3. Will I be able to walk and chew gum at the same time?

4. Should I try to pretend that hives are mosquito bites?

Apparently, I am very comfortable living in denial. Which is a river on the same continent as the Sahara. 

When my kids traveled home a few weeks ago, I decided to bake them some granola bars. I’m constantly fussing over their diets, even though they’re grown ups and in charge of themselves. But God knows we were eating enough potato and corn chips to feed a village. I figured we could all use a healthy snack. To my delight, the oats didn’t seem to bother my stomach at all. As the weeks went by, I had more than a few pieces every day, including today. My day of reckoning. 

After countless  bags of chips, some drinking and much Olympics viewing, my company went home. I stared at my neglected yard and went to find my gardening outfit, including a pair of ancient dress pants with comfy, worn out Lycra. I couldn’t find them anywhere. 

I sat down on the bed, puzzled. That’s when I realized I was already wearing them. I had put them on twenty minutes before. Oh no, I thought. Clasping my hands together like an overwrought opera singer, I headed for the bathroom. 

When I’m upset, I like to gargle. The strong Listerine flavors seem to calm me down. I reached into the cupboard and grabbed my blue bottle of mouthwash. After a mere five seconds, it became clear to me that I’d grabbed the nail polish remover (in my defense, same size bottle, identical colour) and spent the next few minutes spitting and rinsing. (And then, yes, gargling. If ever there was a time…) 

Struggling to rub two brain cells together, I finally made a connection regarding my serious lack of focus. It was the oats. ‘Aha!’ I yelled, feeling powerful and relieved, like Dr. Frankenstein when he finally brings his monster to life. ‘I have brain fog!’ I shouted. (Shouting while alone in my house is a regular activity of mine.) 

Knowing the truth was such a relief. Because the alternative was not going to be pleasant. And now I wouldn’t have to lie to my kids about having trouble finding my way home from the store. There’d be no episodes of spotting my phone in the fridge (that’s oatmeal behavior) or searching for glasses perched on my head. No. Because as soon as I’m finished this last container of granola bars, I will cease and desist. And then I will talk like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.  

“The sum of the square root of two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the third side.” 

But not really. I’ve never been very good at math. Although I really rocked the slide rule in the tenth grade. Which is amazing when you consider I was still eating oats. 

You Light the Fire, (I’ll Take Cover)

 I had an old fashioned marriage. My husband did all the guy things and I did the traditional female stuff, partly because he was raised in a certain way.  At one of our extended family gatherings, he got up to do dishes and his dad said, “Sit down, son, there’s women here for that.” I left the moment of truth telling to Clarence and his dishcloth-wearing brothers in law. 

On a particular evening, (after fourteen years of marriage) he was heading out to play hockey with his team, the Bears, and he wondered why I had never washed his equipment. Let me be clear. I dated hockey players (You couldn’t help it…they were everywhere) but I was not one, nor were any of my family members. As far as I was concerned, Clarence wore skates, shoulder and knee pads, and a jersey. His stuff was always stored in the garage or laundry room and I paid it no attention. As he pulled his things out of the bag, they all seemed to retain his body shape. The tee shirt was so stiff, you could have used it as a weapon. As for the jock strap and towel, well. Let’s just say we bought him some new things. ‘You could have told me,’ I said. ‘I would have washed them for you.’ 

“Some of the guys were starting to complain,” he said soberly, holding the solidified clothing. We had a laugh and let it go.

I say all this to tell you the following. I never manned the barbeque until Clarence died, (note the gender expressed here) since it has always frightened me. I know the basics, but once the automatic ignition button stopped working, I only used it when my youngest daughter, Mari, was in town. ‘You light the fire and I’ll take cover,’ I said more than once. We both wished for matches that were at least 18 inches long. When she moved away, that was the end of barbequed food for me. 

The last person to use it was my son in law, Bob. I told him it wasn’t working and he said, gazing at it with the kind of look you’d give a dead zombie, “I think it just needs a good cleaning.” This was a bit like my lack of experience with hockey equipment. I thought barbeques self cleaned every time you fired them up. 

Since I’m planning on cooking for family today, I decided to give it a scrubbing. But first I had to examine it. Even rudimentary technologies like barbeques puzzle me, placing me in the ‘always a caveman, never an engineer,’ category of human. I mean, I read books about scientific things, but they don’t say anything about how barbeques work, probably assuming that most people read the instructions. Ours were long gone.

As I took it apart, I could see that the bottom was filled with ashes similar to horror movie remains, along with broken metal parts lying forlornly along the bottom. Wearing my white pants and a nice top (as my mother would say, you’re just like your father. You never change your clothes for the dirty work) I scraped out the ashes and filled a bucket with hot soapy water  to wash the thing down. After ruining my kitchen scrubbing brush and floor brush, the grill didn’t look too bad. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, either. 

There were several potential reasons for this. 

A. I have a hard time telling if the gas cannister is empty. (I need to buy a gas monitoring thingy.)

B. Maybe I’ve hooked it up wrong. 

My neighbor Gerry paid a visit and we discovered I’d turned the knob the wrong way on the tank. In my defense, I wasn’t wearing reading glasses. However dinner turns out and even if the bottom of the barbeque doesn’t fall out, I know I’ll be buying a new one very soon. And a gas monitoring thingy.