Please Leave Me Alone Unicef

How do I write this blog without coming off as a complete jerk?  This is basically a rant about donor fatigue.  I hadn’t realized June was hit-up-everyone-on-earth month for starving children, uneducated children, children needing Bible studies, mother’s against drunk drivers, mother’s against pedophiles, mother’s against pedophilic drunk drivers, people with cancer, people with MS, people with diabetes, 15 people with an incredibly rare disorder that no one can pronounce,  a foundation that gives free books to poor people, a foundation that gives free shelter to poor people, a foundation that gives free food to poor people, a foundation that gives free manicures and pedicures to poor people.  This month I’ve had four fundraising drives come to my door, three robocalls, not to mention the cashier at the Safeway, the Co-op and Old Navy that asked in front of the attentive ears of people lined up behind me if I wanted to donate.  I felt like an asshole every time I said no.   At this point, I’ve begrudgingly accepted my fate as the lady-who-won’t-donate-to-save-poor-orphans-in-a-country-no-one-has-heard-of-until-it-hit-the-news-last-month.

I do donate.  Not the hearty 10% of our income stipulated by tithe.  We opted to insert money into the kids’ RESP (registered education savings plan) because we don’t want our kids to be a charity case when a Bachelor’s degree costs $1,000,000 in the future.  Also, I bought a really comfy swinging basket chair that someone in India weaved together.  We send a few thousand a year to whatever charity tugs our heart strings or to the fundraising page of one of our family, friends or coworkers that could totally afford to donate their fundraising goal but are blackmailing themselves into running, walking or biking to their ideal weight.   I, infrequently volunteer in my community or for an organization whenever I am called to do so but I volunteer full time raising my children.  Yes, I volunteer.  No one is forced into being a parent – just ask deadbeat moms and dads.  My priorities don’t play well on social media.  LinkedIn tells me future employers more readily hire people who list their volunteerism or ’causes.’  Polishing your brand entails a sheen of non-profit or at least a few stretched contributions in that direction.  Hell, I can play that game too.  I volunteered at Habitat for Humanity for one whole day painting a play house they were auctioning off back in 2002.  I guess that means I now volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.  Who’s going to check attendance?

I’m tired of the barrage.  I can’t approach a street corner without some idealistic twenty year old giving me their most toothy grin and expounding on the virtues of goats or water wells or microloans in third world countries.  I can’t go to the grocery store without the cashier plugging for the corporation’s charity of the month.  Even purchasing a $20 soccer ball I am asked by the cashier to fund youth sports for the disadvantaged. Do I give 10% of my purchase price?  20%?  That would be  a lame $4.  Or do I give them $20 because that seems like a half decent donation amount.  That means my soccer ball just cost me $40.  If I keep this up, I won’t be able to afford the new swimsuit I so desperately need.  Should I forget swimming altogether (cause saggy swimsuits with no elastic support are so not cool – you know who you are) so I can give some poor disadvantaged youth the $80 instead?  I’ll get fat and unhealthy but at least I’ll have given some kid the chance to run around in a shiny new jersey instead of running around in a cotton shirt.   Hell, I can’t even get drunk anymore without a guilt trip.  All the outings with friends seem to involve charity balls or a fundraising event that someone scored free tickets.  No one scores free tickets to a fundraiser.  They are handed out like candy and you arrive to not dinner but hors d’oeuvres that run out in the first ten minutes and then you’re paying $15 for a glass of boxed red.  They get everyone liquored up on empty stomachs and suddenly you’re bidding $500 on a Fitbit.  The next morning you feel dirty and used except you didn’t get laid just f**ked.

Having school age children opens up a whole universe of fundraising activities.  They send leaflet after leaflet asking to please sign up for  meat orders, chocolate orders, Christmas plant orders, spring plant orders, coupon books (which I forget to use), book orders, frozen cookie dough orders and any other business scheme that relies entirely on school fundraisers to turn a profit.  I would happily write the school a check that would be equitable to all the money I spend on fundraisers our family is socially pressured to commit.  We’d unfortunately cut out the middle man economy which I suspect employs thousands of people.  When I lost my job and I was attending career transition meetings with similarly forlorn people, the coaches kept telling us uplifting stories of people who had found their true calling in the non profit sector.  I kept thinking it was strange there was a large employment sector for non-profits.  I’m still trying to find a job in the pillage-the-earth for-profit oil and gas industry so I guess I’m the fool.

Now what?  Well, if you’d kindly donate to my blog I can sustain myself on Oreo cookies and Cheetos so I can continue to write these pithy and astute essays.  You can feel oh so good knowing you helped support a starving writer or at least a writer starving for unhealthy snacks.  Or, I can just forego the snacks.  It’s up to you.






I Am Nine Years Old*

I just had the January 2017 National Geographic delivered to my house.  It is a special issue on “Gender Revolution” which examines our entrenched and evolving biases towards males and females.  Page 30 is titled “I Am Nine Years Old: Children Across the World Tell Us How Gender Affects Their Lives.” A cultural cross section of nine year olds from 80 households across 4 continents are asked seven questions pertaining to gender because “Children at this age are unquestionably taking account of their own possibilities-and the limits gender places on them.”  I was intrigued by the questionnaire because my son turned nine on December 12.  He can be a soulful little kid sometimes so this morning after he made us pancakes (I woke up to him whispering a question of how much flour and baking powder is needed and after I jotted down the recipe he measured, mixed and fried up the pancakes) I asked if it would be okay to ask him seven questions.  Here are the seven questions posed in National Geographic and my son’s answers:

1)What’s the best thing about being a boy?

70% of the time boys are more athletic than girls.  We’re very athletic.

2)What’s the worst thing about being a boy?

People make fun of us if we wear girly clothes like dresses, lip gloss, nail polish.

3)How might your life be different if you were a girl instead of a boy?

I wouldn’t be made fun of for girly stuff like dresses, nail polish, lip gloss or dolls.

4)What do you want to be when you grow up?

An engineer or geologist because I like learning about minerals and the value of gems.  An engineer because I like building stuff and creating stuff.

5)What is something that makes you sad?

Grumpy and harsh parents. People bullying me – but it also makes me very angry.

(Me in my head:  Ouch.)

6)What makes you happy?

Family is number one.

(Me in my head:  Thank God.  I haven’t messed you up too much yet.)

7)If you could change something in your life or in the world, what would it be?

Better care of the environment.  Invent new stuff that will keep the environment clean like electric cars, solar panels, electric scooters or bikes.  Keep people from using that stuff in spray cans that wrecks the atmosphere.

Just for fun I decided to ask my three and a half year old the same questions.

1)What’s the best thing about being a girl?

Sliding on a crazy slide.

2)What’s the worst thing about being a girl?

Going on a creepy slide with ghosts and zombies.

3)How might your life be different if you were a boy instead of a girl?

I would be grown up.

4)What do you want to be when you grow up?

A princess.

5)What is something that makes you sad?


(Double Ouch. I sense a theme here.)

6)What makes you happy?

Happy parents.

(Okay.  I get it.)

7)If you could change something in your life or in the world, what would it be?

I could change into a butterfly.

After these insightful answers from my nine and 3 1/2 year old I’m led to believe they will buffer society’s expectations only as well as the padding of love and support I and their Dad offer them.  My daughter believes ghosts and zombies won’t torment her specifically because she’s a girl.  Rather, they are scary for girls and boys alike because childhood, whatever setting or context, is a shared experience.  Parents will passively or assertively influence the choices that are offered whether it be dolls, guns, domesticity or education because we’re not perfect specimens of parental nurturing.  We are constantly taking the temperature of gender equality and pushing our offspring to categorize themselves in the roles on offer-preferably highest in the hierarchy.

When my son went to daycare, I was blown away by the partitioning of interests among the majority of boys and girls.  Up until that point, I thought gender neutrality was possible.  I was wrong.  The girls liked dolls and playing house and the boys spent inordinate amounts of time vrooming.  They occasionally dabbled in other spheres:  my son would play the baby when the girls played house.  He sometimes wore dresses and frequently wore my Mardi Gras beads and gaudy faux diamond bracelets.  Eventually, the three year old girls asserted only girls could wear jewellery.  The boys didn’t care and I could point out several male rappers that blinged while they swaggered.  It seemed there was a gender partition of interests but tastes were imposed.  Unlike the body paint and finery of men in tribal cultures, many men and boys have few options to add striking color to their mundane palette.  No wonder mossy oak camouflage is so popular among white males in patriarchal communities.  Is the camouflage nature of their fashion an unconscious nod to their stylistic suppression?

My parents told me and my sister we were amazing when we forgot and we forgot frequently from the ages of 13-23. We were reminded enough to make us believe that we were capable of anything.  I’m not a perfect parent and I’m sure I’ll stumble along to get it right just like my parents did but I’m also pretty sure my kids will never doubt I and their Dad are their biggest fans.  The balance will be found in recognizing and supporting their gender differences while giving them freedom to explore and find comfort in whomever they need to be.







Ladybug Monster

There once was a very dangerous monster.  He would eat ladybugs all day long – chomp, slurp, gulp, chomp, slurp, gulp.  The more he ate, the more his slimy skin would deepen to red and the darker the black dots would become over every lump and scale on his body.  He did this because he desired to be beautiful and from the land of monsters from which he came, all the monsters fought and preened and bragged to be best among their kind.  There were monsters of hazy blue and grey like the Blue Jay birds upon which they feasted.  Other monsters of shocking yellow crunched the heads of sunflowers all day long.  Yet a third kind had the strongly contrasted orange and white stripes like the Clownfish they hunted among the coral reefs.  Despite their beautiful markings they were a nasty bunch for vanity had rotted their hearts.  They lay waste to the flowers, birds, insects, trees, reptiles, fishes and animals in pursuit of their beautiful colors but nothing could distract from their hideous heads and fearsome bodies.  Two fleshy tentacles dangled on either side of a gap of sharp teeth.  Their eyes were like pools of black oil.  Their fingers were long and pointed and a large hump protruded from their backs.  A lizard like tail dragged behind them and yet they walked on two legs like a man.  The only thing that made each one distinct were their colored patterns.

The Ladybug monster was perhaps the most dangerous because children are very fond of ladybugs.  They are the first and the best of all things that children discover in their backyards and forest.  They are harmless, very pretty and children make a great game of finding them.  They embody the joy of innocents and for that reason, the evil monster gained strength in destroying them.

Now what happens when a little girl loves wearing her ladybug dress?  For there was such a girl.  She was three and a half years old and every day she wore a lovely dress of red with large black dots all over.  The two antennae made up the two straps that curled over her shoulders and the eyes blinked out from the top of her round little tummy.  Her Mom was sure to wash it every night so it would be fresh for her daughter the next day and magically, the dress never faded or tore.

One day, during the first days of autumn when the warm sun glistens on the first yellowing leaves, the little girl was in her backyard playing.  Sure enough, she found a ladybug on the underside of a newly fallen leaf.  She picked it up and began to sweetly talk to the little bug.  She was deep in conversation with her new friend when a low growl could be heard behind the tree.  The little girl looked up to see the Ladybug monster.  At first her eyes were confused by what she saw for the pattern of red and black was so overwhelming to her eyes that she did not see his snarling teeth, long claws or the tail that swished and disturbed the fallen leaves.  The Ladybug monster, for his part, failed to see the little girl swathed inside the garb of a ladybug.  What he did see was a very large and very tasty ladybug and he cackled inside himself thinking what an amazing transformation awaited his foul body once he consumed it.

The little girl finally adjusted her eyes and was so terrified by the Ladybug monster that she was mute, unable to scream for help.  The Ladybug monster approached and opened his jaws wide.

It was at this moment, in the very same tree that had expelled the leaf from which the little girl had found her ladybug friend, that a crow rested upon a branch.  He was an unusually big crow and among his very large family he was the blackest, the shiniest, and the bravest.  He glanced down and was shocked to see a peculiar looking monster about to eat a little girl.  With only a moment to spare before the beast was about to close his teeth around her, the crow let out a tremendous “CAW, CAW, CAW.”

Have you ever heard a crow?  It is quite a startling sound.  To some ears, it is a low and menacing sound.   Which is probably why in all scary movies, just before something really bad happens, you hear a crow cawing.  This time, however,  it stopped the Ladybug monster right in his tracks.  In fact, it did something very remarkable.  The monster started to shrink.  The change was very small at first but the crow kept on cawing.  With every burst of sound from the crow, the monster shrank even more and soon the monster was only as high as the girl’s shoulders. The thing about the CAW of this particular crow was that it came from the growly depths of a very brave bird.   He was known among all the flying creatures to peck at hungry cats that threatened to catch and eat the sparrows, robins or baby birds newly hatched.  He once snatched a baby squirrel away from an eagle just as it was about to be carried away for dinner.  He gently laid it down on a branch and it scurried home.   Monsters thrive on others’ fear and so bravery is the surest way to weaken them.  Bravery can take many forms: telling the truth under threat of harm or embarrassment, protecting the weak, or simply making enough noise so the monsters know they cannot scare you.  Because monsters are only dangerous if we let them scare us.

The loud cawing from the crow managed to wake the girl from her fright and she realized the crow was helping her with his mighty voice.  Here’s a handy fact: besides being friends with ladybugs, the girl happened to be fantastic at bird calls.  In addition to learning how to sound like a chickadee or a prairie grouse, her mother had taught her how to sound like a crow.  Every time they would see a group of crows cawing to each other, they would join in, cawing and calling out to the others.  The crows would caw back and this would go on for several minutes until they flew off.  The other handy thing about the little girl was besides being good and kind, she was also terrifically brave.  No tree was too high to climb, no slide too fast to go down and no swing too tall that she wouldn’t sweep upwards as high as she could.  Her parents feared for broken bones or a fractured skull, but magically like the dress, she was never harmed or even suffered a tiny scratch.

The little girl added her own cawing to that of the big black crow in the tree and soon the noise shrank the Ladybug monster to no bigger than a tiny bug.  In fact, if you squinted your eyes, the red and black dotted monster looked like a ladybug.  The girl picked up the monster and the crow flew down from his branch to land at her feet.  The girl bent down and with an outstretched hand offered the Ladybug monster to the crow.  The crow gave a happy sound, picked up the little red and black morsel and swallowed him in one gulp.

Since that day, ladybugs have been free to roam without fear.  The little girl grew up to be a world famous bird photographer and so it was quite useful she was talented at mimicking bird calls and also an expert tree climber.  She could often be found perched on the highest limbs of trees calling to rare birds that would happily flit over to her for their photo op.  The crow became a great warrior; he flew around the world, cawing and shrinking and eating all those nasty monsters.   It turned out despite their slimy skin and ugly features they were very tasty, so the crow lived a long, contented life on a diet of monsters until no more existed.  From that time forward the plants, insects, birds and animals lived happily in peace.

Postscript:  My sister asked me to write about the Trump win to formulate into words what my family and friends were feeling.  I came up with this story.  I suppose in times that evoke fear or apprehension or just unknowing, we must amalgamate our thoughts into stories if not to protect us from reprisal but to also simplify our understanding of events.  I have no idea how Trump will perform as president, all I know is that “history doesn’t forget, people do.”  So we wait to see if the people of the United States have repeated the mistakes of the past.

Hillary vs Trump

I can’t belief I’m writing this post.  It seems a ridiculous topic because everyone and their dog has weighed in on this political drama.  I’m not even sure what either party is stumping anymore.  Full disclosure: I’m Canadian.  We have boring politics.  We voted out our last prime minister because he became too cloak and dagger with his policy decisions.  We voted in Trudeau because a) he’s handsome (yes, really) b)incredibly idealistic and c)naively optimistic; everything a prime minister needs to be righteous.  We love righteousness with a dollop of humble pie.  That is where American and Canadians are fundamentally different: we conceal contempt in favor of a begrudging handshake because we hate being the moral underdog.   Americans express contempt by right of moral authority.  Which one is the hypocrite?   It doesn’t really matter.   This post isn’t about the best approach to being heard.  It is about women in politics.  YES!  A feminist rant.  Please brace yourselves.

Here is the backstory.  My daughter and I have being going for about a year to playgroup hosted by a Baptist church as part of their community outreach.  I’m not Baptist.  I’m not Christian.  Or Muslim.  Or Jewish.  I grew up on First Nations reserves and I would say I’m closest to being an animist: the belief that all living things have a spirit and that we must peacefully coexist with Mother Earth through an acceptance of our humble place in its inspiring dynamics.   I go to the playgroup because they have excellent coffee, lots of snacks for the kids and parents and the conversation is good.  I’ve never hidden these facts and they know I won’t be attending  bible studies  anytime soon.   Every week the playgroup is hosted by the church coordinator, a lovely woman in her 50s that is always generous with her hugs and has an easy smile.   I’ve never had reason to be wary of her opinion or judgement.

Two days ago, a mother wanted to kick up a quick conversation by asking me if I’d watched the second televised debate between Hillary and Trump.  No, I hadn’t.  I stated:  I have no desire to watch Trump speak; he does not speak with meaning or purpose but only with vitriol.   The mother concurred and thought he was possibly crazy.  The church coordinator piped up:  no one should vote for Hillary; she cannot be trusted.  Which meant:  the Americans should vote for Trump.   I said a few more things on the subject, well aware the church coordinator was not speaking due to her disagreement with my favored choice for president.  I left the room to finish packing away some toys, thinking no more of it.  When I returned a few minutes later,  I entered upon the last utterance to the mother:  no woman should be a world leader.   The church coordinator immediately changed the topic upon my reentry into the room and thanked me (twice) for my help.  A classic Canadian moment.  Bleh.

If I had to describe the line drawn in the sand between Hillary and Trump, I would say it is the demarcation of two perceived crimes:  a husband’s adultery and the triumph of a woman scorned.  If ever there was a reason to elevate a woman’s transgressions to the crimes of her husband, I naively calculated Hillary’s post coital loyalty to her husband to be cancelled out by Trump’s own philandering.    How wrong I was.   It seems that adultery is a crime that doles out justice on a sliding scale; men may be forgiven but a woman is bonded in perpetuity to her own foolishness, either as victim or wrongdoer.

Hillary can and should be a world leader.  She is smart and politically savvy and tough as nails.  She does not succumb to outbursts of emotion under extreme verbal assault and doesn’t flinch from over inflated threats.  She is a class act.  It is ironic that her adversary is unable to exhibit the same restraint and whose histrionics undermine his legitimacy to pass judgement on women.  I’m only disappointed that other women would attempt to do the same.  In 2016, the disparity in moral indignation towards men and women for equal crimes is hard to behold.  As a good feminist or maybe just an idealist, I’ll have my champagne ready on election night.  Good luck Hillary and may your good fortune sweep forth the winds of change.  It seems the moral righteousness of men and women, American and Canadian alike, could use a good dusting.