A full body picture of me

A full figure picture of me

I read a blog today by Leigh Patrick called “What a Straight White Man Knows About Strong Women”. In the blog Patrick talks about the strong women of his family. It is this interaction with a few emotionally and psychologically strong women that Patrick assumes he understands feminism. In a Twitter battle where he first accuses me of saying that all men are potential rapists and later calls me an idiot and a psycho, I get the full brunt of his “understanding”. But someone somewhere is missing the point.

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over from other people. It goes like this; person A has met or lived with a woman who is strong and intelligent. This leads person A into the false sense that this experience leads them to have an understanding of what women are like/go through in their lives. The idea being that because the woman or women in their lives were strong that means that all women are strong or have a well of strength to draw upon. After all, this one or few women did it, why can’t they all be like that?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if women and girls around the world were able to draw upon such a well of strength on command? Shouldn’t we all be able to share in this strength? It’s been proven that it can be done. Why not?

Let’s start with circumstances. I’m privileged to live in Canada, a country that embraces diversity and supports those who cannot support themselves. As a Metis woman, I draw upon a culture that has a rich heritage from my Metis side and embody that stubborn Scots blood that runs so thickly through my veins. Yet I realize my privilege and I still struggle with anxiety daily. I see the problems women around me have that are not of their own doing.

I can honestly say I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl who gets shot for posting a video on YouTube explaining why she wants to go to school. Yet, Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes. I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl in Nigeria, ripped away from her home and family simply because she had the audacity to go to school. My heart bleeds for them. I have never been a five year old girl enduring a genital mutilation without anesthetic where my labia is ripped away all in the belief that it will ensure my virginity will remain intact. I have never miscarried five times as a result of beatings administered by a man who kidnapped me and held me as a slave in his basement. Nor have I been a woman who has survived giving birth to a child in that basement amid terror and pain. I am lucky.

The person who has known the strong woman doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a curvy woman and to feel the fear she feels just going outside. He doesn’t hear the whispers or see the stares as she walks down the street. They don’t know what it is to be a young woman dressed in a short skirt on a spring day to get leered at and have guys assume she’s a slut simply because of what she wears. Those strong women don’t look in a mirror and hate what they see because the media says they aren’t perfect. They don’t spent three to four hours on makeup trying to hide the flaws that only they see. Flaws that are beautiful like the brush strokes on a painting.

I’ve heard people rip apart female celebrities because of what they were wearing to an event. Call into question their very existence because of a few snips of fabric. I’m tempted to tell the celebrities to start going naked and see how that fixes the critics’ little red wagon. If a woman like Angelina Jolie is torn down because of a dress, how much better can I fare when wearing shorts from Walmart?

I see women endure abuse, abuse themselves, hurt themselves, hate themselves, injure and kill themselves all because of the pain they hold inside. A woman who is a saint, a mother, a nanny, a caregiver, a grandmother is held in esteem and may be forgiven those mistakes and flaws they have made of themselves. A slut, a whore, a cunt, a bitch, a vixen, a succubus can never be forgiven. She must be ridiculed and beaten down for the error of believing her sexuality, her being is her own. She must be transformed into the Virgin Mary so society can feel safe around her. She must have a husband, although a wife is allowable in some circumstances, to keep her from straying away from her path and becoming a danger to all around her. She must never alter her gender, her genetic code defines her. We do not talk about those unfortunate few who have an XY gene but pretend they are female.

So many women have lost their voices and do not wish to or cannot speak out. They hide in terror at being less than perfect and mutilate their every flaw or imperfection. If I could say one thing to those women it would be this; please show those flaws. They are beautiful. Those scars, those pains, those small things that make you who you are. Please paint them so I can see them. Please be proud of them. They are your flowers. They are your voice. They are you and they are beautiful.

I understand, Mr. Patrick, that you’ve had a few strong women in your life and I applaud them. Most of us, though, aren’t that strong. We’re scared and afraid of the ridicule and scorn we face daily. So we’d appreciate it if, until you’ve experienced some of that, if you’d kindly keep your opinions to yourself. We’ve had enough opinions of who we should be in our lives. We really don’t need another.

Good morning #Edmonton! #Halloween is fast approaching. Are you ready? Come read my blog. http://www.stluked.wordpress.com

I have been an anti-bullying advocate for years. Long before anti-bullying became cool and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. As a victim of bullying, I don’t like to see it happen to others. As an advocate, I’m frustrated.

I hear a lot of talk from agencies and governments about how bullying needs to be stopped. Yet, when it comes to taking any real action towards stopping bullying, all I get is hot air. It’s all talk. No one wants to take action against those who feel they have the right to push others around. I’m not sure why they do it. Power? Amusement? I honestly don’t get it.

Back in my early 20s I took a course through Grant MacEwan. It was called “Public Relations and Advertising”. I learned one thing there; people are cutthroat and I didn’t have the balls for it. After only one semester I dropped out. I realized I was far too nice and wasn’t able to undercut my fellow students. I’m still that way. I’ve often turned down writing jobs only to recommend a friend I know is better suited for it than me. Other writers have looked at me like you would a retarded puppy when they hear that, but it’s the way I am. I know my writing. I know what I can do and I know when I’m not going to produce the best product. Clients appreciate it and trust me with future projects. I’ve always felt it’s a better way to work.

Today, however, I realized that I’m a minority. I already have Non-Verbal Learning disorder, which makes communicating with others difficult. I don’t read non-verbal cues and, so, miss out on much of what’s being said. Imagine being dumped in a small fishing village somewhere in China with nothing but the clothes on your back. That’s a little what it’s like for me.

This became clear when I was out shopping today and looking for a new plug for my kitchen sink. I went into Home Depot and could not get anyone to help me. Frustrated, I went to the customer service and got, what I later learned, some bad advice. Frustrated, I mentioned that I didn’t like waiting for 10 minutes for someone to come and help me. The girl looked me in the face and said in absolute sincerity, “you know, if you’re negative, then negative things happen to you. You should be positive.” I was stunned.

I consider myself a nice person. I try to see something pretty in everyone I look at and try to compliment people when I can. Very often I’ll lend a hand to a stranger when it’s needed and I try not to be cranky too much. I don’t always succeed at that last one, but I do try. When the woman made that comment, she made an assumption; I’m a negative person and it was up to her to show me the error of my ways.

As I was leaving I said, “I am a nice person. I could have been here yelling and making you feel bad, but I recognize my frustration and that you are not the source of it. So I come here politely and tell you the problem. However, all being nice got me was you telling me what a negative person I was. Thank you.”

I felt angry at this woman, this stranger, making such an assumption. It stayed with me like a bad lover and I didn’t nearly enjoy the day as much as I might have wanted to. The lesson I learned was being nice only gives people permission to treat you however they like. Yet I go on being nice.

So it is that I’m often the target of bullying. Like Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory”, I don’t understand much of human interaction but I do try to follow the rules only to find that the rules are arbitrary. So it is that I’m the weird kid who has trouble understanding why the joke that everyone else laughs at is funny. Often the joke is about me. However, I’ve learned that I don’t have to put up with bullying. I don’t have to put up with it, but there’s no one out there who will help me stop it.

I was working for About Staffing when an assignment went bad. It happens and details don’t matter. However, I’d reinjured my knee and was thinking about going to Worker’s Compensation Board for help. About Staffing decided not to use me because of what happened with the job. That happens. I was angry, but I couldn’t dwell on it. As the day wore on, though, my knee got steadily worse and I made the decision to go to WCB. Later that day I got a phone call from the agent from About Staffing screaming at me that he was going to call the other agencies in Edmonton and tell them not to use me. He also claimed that my phone call had been recorded, a crime in Canada (you cannot record calls without informing the party they’re being recorded, first). I was stunned and felt abused.

Here’s where I found out the uselessness of Canada’s bullying laws. First I went to a lawyer. They felt sympathy for me, but nothing more. All he’d done was issue threats. Until he acted on them, they couldn’t do anything. So I contacted ACSESS, the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services, is a governing body that acts as a watchdog for behavior with employment agencies. I put myself on the line and issued a formal complaint. The verdict? I got a letter that stated, “we do not find any breach of the ACSESS Code of Ethics and Standards and this file is now considered closed.” Since the agency didn’t actually DO anything they’re not to blame for anything.

I cried.

According to our country and those we rely on to protect us, it’s not bullying until something is physically done. People can scream, threaten and say all the nasty things they like. They can beat you down verbally and make you feel horrible.

Suck it up.

No one will help you. You can plead with people to help you. You can get angry and feel as helpless as you like.

Shut up.

There is not a law or governing body that will come to your aid.

How do you move forward from that? How do you keep going when it happens again and again? I’m not 8 years old and getting taunted at school. I’m a grown woman who simply doesn’t understand people being bullied by people who are supposed to be colleagues.

I’m a nice person. I don’t want to be bullied any longer. So if you read this and you’ve been bullied at work, please share it on your Facebook or Twitter. Maybe if enough people read this the powers that be will realize that words do hurt. Threats do make a difference. Maybe we can convince someone out there to stand up and stop this.

Today I’m going to be productive.

First, up at 8:00 am. Then a good healthy breakfast.

Okay… up at the crack of 10:00 am or so… let’s see… are chocolate chip cookies healthy? No? Okay, well milk is so that’s healthy.

Now, time to sit at the computer and write. Oh damn. Those cookies are sitting on the counter. They look absolutely delicious. Well, it’s not like I actually had breakfast. A couple more won’t hurt. Besides, I’m drinking milk with them. That’s good, right? Just three. No more than three.

Okay. The computer. Being productive here. Oops. Bathroom break. Look in the mirror. Damn. I need a shower. Well, no time like the present.

It’s noon? How did that happen? Okay. I got some good old mac ‘n cheese here. That’s quick and easy. Gosh I love mac ‘n cheese. Always makes me feel like I’m five years old again.

Back to the computer to open the latest story I’m working on. Wait. I have email I have to check. Oh look, my friend posted this funny thing on Facebook. I have to share that. Now, say something witty about it. Witty… witty… Got it! Ha! What’s this story on Yahoo? Oh my! I have to comment on that. So many people notice me when I make comments on these stories.

The story. Where the hell was I going with this story? Damn. Five pages in and I’ll have to rewrite the last two. Maybe I can salvage them. No… My brain must have been gnawed on by ferrets when I wrote this. Go back and rewrite. Wait. Text coming in. My friends all love me. They know how hard I work. Ha! My friend is having a rough day at work. I’ll text her something funny to make her smile. She needs that.

Television. I need some noise in the background. I’ll turn on one of those daytime talk shows. They always make me feel better about my life. Damn, girl! You’re 14 years old! Why are you having sex with a 26 year old? Stop that.

Story. Right.

How did it get to be 4:00pm? I need to start thinking about supper. Damn. I promised my friend I’d go to that movie tonight. Maybe I can convince them to buy supper. I hate cooking. I still have a couple of hours before they get here.

Spend the next 2 hours furiously writing.

10:00pm and back from movie and the dinner. Gosh my friends treat me well. I should try to pound out a couple of pages before bed. Oh look! More emails! I have to catch up with what’s happening on Lolcats. Oh and look at what’s on Ugliest Tattoos. Jesus. That guy looks like he wound up on the bad side of an argument with a stapler. Oh, more Facebook updates. Yes, I support that, so I’ll give it a like. Story. Right.

Okay, let’s open the story and see where I’m at. What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that? Can I claim aliens abducted me and forced me to write that? No. I’d like the probing too much. Okay. Let’s just go from where we left off. Who’s we? Do I have someone inside my head? No. Just a cast of thousands. I call them characters. Hee hee.

Write until 3:00am.

Damn that felt good. I need food. I’ll grab a quick snack. I’ve really got to get rid of these cookies. Just two… or three…. four sounds good. Milk. Milk is good for me. Helps you sleep, too. Not warm milk, though. Cold. Ice cold milk. Warm milk is just gross unless it’s chocolate milk.

Okay. Off to bed. Oh wait. I want to check that FML app I’ve got. Some of those are hilarious. Oh, and I’ve got to play my game. Got to make sure my vampire kicks some ass. Okay. Now to sleep.

I’ll get up at 8:00am and have a nice healthy breakfast….

I’m not a person who’s comfortable with kids. Pregnancy freaks me out (think “Alien”) and I often wonder why it’s illegal to leash and muzzle kids.

I have a friend who has a 4 year old daughter that is, by turns, wonderful, pretty, terrorizing, amazing, petulant, emotional, awe-inspiring and odd. I try to be the good “aunt” even though I’m just a family friend. Usually this means spoiling her rotten until she starts being cranky and demanding and then I hand her back to dad. I love her, just not that much. Dad usually sighs with resignation, knowing that I’m never going to stop spoiling her.

However, Dad and I talk A LOT about what is and isn’t acceptable. There are simply some limits to what he’s willing to allow her to do and I follow Dad’s lead. He’s the one that donated his genetics to this little person, so; ultimately, she’s his responsibility.

It’s at this point that I have to say there’s nothing inherently wrong with children. They have far too much energy and imagination for my liking; a combination which, in my own experience, does not end well. However, there’s nothing wrong with them. It’s the parents I have problems with.

It’s true, kids freak me out. My friend’s four-year old aside, I have no idea what to do with them other than open a factory and have them sew sneakers. Apparently that idea is not politically correct, as fun as it may sound. I’ve been told that you’re supposed to play with them and teach them. The games I know are not suitable for children and may get me jail time with a spot on “Dateline” if I try. Equally, the things I try to teach them may sound good to me, make parents cranky.

I don’t know what it is; maybe the minute you extend your genetic material beyond your body it saps all your common sense but parents are fundamentally dumb to me. Not all of them, just most. For example, I read a story on Yahoo about a 5’10”, 220 lb former football player who was beaten up by a 50lb 6 year old. This doesn’t surprise me. Adults can’t beat up children. I imagine this child, who has a history of escalating violence, probably got in a few well-placed kicks and did some real damage. Meanwhile, this man probably did his best to defend himself without actually touching the child. After all, if the man, a gym teacher, had smacked the boy across the bottom or held him down, the parents would be screaming murder.

So, a 6 year old takes out a grown man’s knee and the parents are saying, “not my boy.” I have heard this refrain far too often from parents. Their child is a good boy or girl and would never do that… Really? Okay, then who is that in the playground pushing the other kids into the dirt? Not your kid? Looks like your kid. Oh. I see, he’s only playing. Then why is that little girl crying?

The parents who often cry this “not my child” refrain have a backup battle cry that goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. If you are a parent, you made the choice to fling your genetic material into the world, not me. Raise your own children. This villager is busy doing adult things.

Here’s the problem with the village scenario; these parents want me and the other villagers to raise their Johnny or Suzy. However, let said villagers discipline Johnny or Suzy and we lose our jobs, our reputations or even our freedoms. Try giving your neighbour’s out of control brat a smack on the rear and see how fast Child Protective Services shows up on your doorstep.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in favour of abusing or hitting. However, discipline can be something as simple as saying “no” or sitting the child down for a time out away from the other kids for a few minutes. However, let one of us villagers try that and let me know how it works out for you.

Parents, stop burying your head in the sand and admit that maybe your kid is a brat who is out of control the moment you leave the room. Further, if you want other people to be responsible for your child when you’re not around, then give them the ability to stop them when they get out of control. Teachers are so helpless now that they get fired if they give a student a zero when they don’t do the work, such as the case for Edmonton, Alberta teacher, Lynden Dorval. Daycare providers aren’t even allowed to do a time out without parents screaming abuse. I have children in my neighbourhood who regularly use a large construction machine as a jungle gym. Yet, when I tell them to stop, the parents complain to the site managers about me. Forget that there is a park not two blocks away and the machine is dangerous. That’s their little precious (said in my best Gollum voice).

I’ll make a deal with all the parents out there. You take responsibility for your child and I won’t try to parent your child. This means;

  1. You actually spend time with them. Time does not include sitting them in front of a computer game or video and expecting them to be entertained. This means talking, listening, playing, reading, helping and taking time out to be with them in a meaningful way.
  2. If I tell you that your child is doing something wrong, take me seriously. I am not complaining for the sake of complaining and I get no pleasure in getting your child in trouble.
  3. Teach your child respect. This means respect for themselves, others and property. I don’t expect them to bow when they meet me (though that’d be fun), but I don’t want them spitting on me, either. Just the same respect you’d show any stranger on the street.
  4. Let your child know that self-reliance is a good thing. If the park is two blocks away, there’s no reason they can’t go there for a couple of hours. If you worry about them, give them a cell phone and teach them how to dial you and 911. Give them some freedom so they understand how to stand on their own feet in the future. The rest of us villagers have to work with them when they’re adults and can’t make a decision for themselves because they never  got to stand on their own growing up. I currently work with a 20 year old who is nearly impossible to train. She simply can’t think for herself.
  5. Take responsibility for the things you teach your child. If you smoke and drink all day long and wait for your welfare check to come in, don’t blame me when your child begins smoking and drinking. The little buggers are wonderful mirrors of those they love the most.
  6. Understand that your child does not live in a bubble and they are going to get exposed to ideas and beliefs different from your own. Do not expect your child to never see a boob or hear about the Islamic religion. They will be exposed to other religions, sex and sexuality, racism, feminism and a lot of other ideas. Deal with it.

So the next time someone comes to you and says your child is doing or saying something, take a moment to believe them. You may love your child and think they are the next world genius. We don’t. If you’re not going to listen to those people who you entrust your child’s care to, then raise them yourselves. This villager is tired of being helpless and having to take your child’s abuse.

Do crazy people know they’re crazy?

The answer is; yes. We do.

I’ve been asked this questions many times and the answer is always the same. Those of us who have been diagnosed or, in my case, misdiagnosed with a mental illness know that the things we say or do are not the kinds of things that normal people say or do. People Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) know that flicking the light on and off a dozen times is unique to them. However, there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop the crazy. It’s an itch that absolutely has to be scratched or the world will come to a screeching halt and everything will go flying into space and explode.

I recently explained it to a friend this way; there are two halves to my brain. One half is a mature, well-developed, intelligent, logical, thinking person. This half makes good decisions and interacts with people well. This half is well-liked and is a good conversationalist. The other half is a temperamental three-year old. This half throws temper tantrums, holds its breath, kicks, screams, shows up at my bedside at 3am with a butcher knife and laughs demoniacally. This half demands attention, is extremely insecure and highly unbalanced. Usually I’m able to beat this half into submission and lock it in a closet. However, the little brat has a key and gets out when I’m least expecting it. It’s then I find boiled bunnies and such. This half scares the hell out of me sometimes, but so long as I can toss it in the closet and ignore it, I’m fine.

My friends all understand this part of me and help me get the little bastard back in its place. It’s a little like living with Damien sometimes. This is my life and I’m learning to live it. I know this part will make its appearance during times of stress so I try to keep my stress to a minimum.

It’s because I understand my own brain so well and how it works that crazy people don’t really bother me. They’re content to play in that section of their head that best interacts with the world. Sometimes you can get some really interesting ideas from crazy people like sitting on a park bench and singing, off-key, at the top of your lungs. It’s a lot of fun and if you do it in the summer, people will give you money.

No. Crazy people don’t really bother me. Normal people, on the other hand, freak me out.

Technically, my sister is a normal people. She scares me. She lives in one of those architecturally controlled neighbourhoods where every third house is the same one. It’s a boxy little neighbourhood with boxy little houses and boxy little people driving boxy little cars leading boxy little lives. How on earth do people live there and not get the urge to spray paint graffiti on the neighbour’s cat? The only saving grace to this place is a small pond where ducks and other birds make their nests in spring and winter. Of course, mosquitoes love the place, too, but the ducks are really cute. Needless to say, the three or four hours a week I’m forced to spend in this area on the pretense of family dinner are enough to scare the crap out of me.

Another thing that bothers me that normal people do is displaying pregnant bellies. Apparently there are men out there who are sexually attracted to pregnant women. Why? Leave them alone. That’s how they got like that in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that other women are willing to have babies. If it were dependant on people like me, the human race would die out. Quickly. I’m one of the few women (I know a couple of others) who look at pregnant women and think “Alien”. Sorry, but the thought of something alive inside me just gives me the heebie jeebies. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask that you cover that thing up. I’m not asking for burqas, here but please don’t don the string bikinis. Okay, if you’re pregnant and want to wear a burqa, I’m good with that.

Oh and let’s talk about normal women and their ideas on relationships. If you remember the book “The Rules” and the messed up advice it gave you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I figure I have to be crazy because I just don’t have the time or energy to invest in the games that many normal women play.

I went with my friend to see the movie “Ted” and had a great time but it made me angry. The lead female character, Lori Collins (Mila Kunis) decides that John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) needs to grow up and get rid of Ted. Wait a minute. In the movie she’s been in this relationship with this man for four years!! She knew about Ted the minute she met him. She’s been around the bear for four freaking years!! Now, all of a sudden, she wants him to get rid of that part of his life that helps define who he is? I was angry.

According to my friend, it’s normal for their women to want them to “grow up”. Okay. I get that. Adults take responsibility and move forward in their lives. That’s fine. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a fundamental relationship in this man’s life that has helped to define him as a person. My friend says that women do this all the time. They fall in love with a guy, the bad boy for example, and then try to change him. Why? Then, when they change the guy to what they want, they get bored and dump them or, worse yet, marry them. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I’m not in a committed relationship now.

Normal people engage in all kinds of dramas and bullshit that really doesn’t need to happen. Office politics is a wonderful example of this. People butting their noses into other people’s business where it doesn’t belong. How about those play groups where parents bring their kids to socialize them to other humans (I think that’s the purpose of them)? I’ve heard of this parent or that parent talking crap about others in the group and creating drama. It goes on all the time. Here’s some advice from the Krazy Korner; STOP IT. If it doesn’t concern you, if it isn’t harmful or detrimental, then just shut up.

I’ve come to the conclusion that normal people are weird. Crazy I get. The elves have invited you to their tea party and that’s why you’re dancing down the main street downtown. Heck, I’ll even join in and dance with you for a bit. We can ignore all the normal people who laugh at us and drink elven tea and dance.

Recently I published a blog outlining my experiences in the Grant MacEwan Professional Writing program. The blog was less than glowing and I received many responses I expected. One person claimed I was whining and I was doing the program a disservice. Another person claimed I had my aggression dialed up to 11 on a scale of 10”. I honestly expected those responses and they give me a certain amount of pride.

However, there were some people who read the blog and saw it for what it was; one woman talking about 2 years of abuse and bullying by fellow students. These people, whom I am proud to claim as friends, contacted me and expressed sympathy and shock over my treatment. These were the same people who tried to comfort me during my school year and often tried to help put a stop to this abuse. They are true writers destined for great things.

I know some people were upset with my blog. That doesn’t concern me. I learned long ago that a writer cannot be concerned with what others think about their opinions. A writer tells the truth and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. It’s what gets us into so much trouble and if you aren’t prepared for that, you’re not prepared to be a writer.

What surprised me about the negative responses I received was not the vitriol, but the fact that they blamed me for my situation. I need to say here that those people who supported me and showed their sympathy for me are not the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about those people who called me a whiner or complained that I didn’t try hard enough.

If you saw someone push someone down on the ground, you wouldn’t turn to the person on their ass and say, “well, if you hadn’t been standing there, you wouldn’t have gotten pushed. It’s really your own fault, you know.” Well, if you’re an asshole you might.

The people who hated my blog expressed one common opinion; it wasn’t their fault so it had to be mine. They never said or did anything bad to me so why was I blaming them? No, according to them they were innocent so the problem had to be me. I was a whiner. I was aggressive. I was negative. In one response the excuse was my social shyness.

So, let me get this right, I was bullied to the point where I had to receive counseling and I had to bring a complaint against an instructor (which I later retracted after I was put in a new class) but that was all my own fault. I woke up shaking most mornings from anxiety and fear but that was my own fault. I considered going back on anti-anxiety meds (thank you to those friends who talked me out of it) but that was my own fault.

 

I should be clear here; I will not take responsibility for someone being an asshole to me.

These people who responded to my blog claimed I was being unfair. They didn’t say or do anything to me. One said she’d been nice to me, how could I claim she was a bully? I was being horrible to them by making them responsible for what a few people did.

No I’m not.

When you become a writer you have an obligation to make your voice heard. That’s being a writer. That’s in the very nature of every single writer in existence. Being a writer means putting your voice out into the world. What in the world do you think a writer is?

This was a program designed to train writers. Writers don’t have the luxury of hiding their head in the sand. So how can I hold them responsible for the actions of their fellow students? Easy. They did nothing.

To those students I say this;

If you saw bullying happening and did nothing, you’re guilty. If you heard of bullying happening and said nothing, you’re guilty. If you knew your friends were bullying and said nothing, you’re guilty. If you knew it was happening around you and you did nothing, you’re guilty. If you suspected it was happening and didn’t stop it, you’re guilty. If you never tried to help the person being bullied, you’re guilty.

It is no longer acceptable to hide behind “I did nothing.” That’s the point. You did nothing. Therefore, you are just as much a bully as the abuser. If you’re a writer and did or said nothing, then that makes you worse than the abuser. You’re a coward and have no business being a writer.

Every single person has a responsibility to stop abuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent abusing a child, a child abusing a parent, spousal abuse, kids bullying each other, a teacher bullying a student or any other type of bullying or abuse. There is one very effective weapon we have against this kind of behaviour; our voices.

When one person speaks against abuse and bullying, it empowers the victim. If you see it or know of it or hear it happening, say something. If not to the bully, then say something to someone in authority; a teacher, a parent, a priest, anyone. Make it known that it’s happening. Don’t blame the victim and tell them it’s their own fault.

Speak out even if you only whisper.

Perhaps the first voice is a whisper, but enough whispers can be as loud as thunder.

A green forest that looks magickal

Magickal Place

Writing sets me free.

I wrote my first story at the age of six. No, I don’t still have it. My sister read it and made fun of it so, in a flurry of tears, I threw it away. I still have the same reaction with some editors, but I no longer throw things away.

Still, I was only six years old when I tried to create my own world. It was a simple story, a whole three pages long. Written in my childish printing, it talked about a princess with a special horse-friend who helped her escape the castle. Okay, so the story had some holes. What castle? Why did she need to escape? I don’t know. Didn’t know then. Still, I remember that feeling I had while I was writing it. I was just learning my letters, so I took great care to print carefully. I sat and wrote that story all afternoon. When it was done, I put it on my bed so I could show it to my dad later. I never did show it to him.

I remember the feeling I had when I read it after it was finished. There was a feeling in my tummy. Not butterflies, not exactly. Dragonflies. I wasn’t nervous. How could my own story make me nervous? I’m still stumped when writers are nervous about showing their work. Either it’s good or it isn’t. If it isn’t, you go back and make it good.

Those dragonflies in my tummy, though, flitted around with a purpose. I was excited. Even as I read it I wondered what adventures the princess and the horse would have. Sometimes I still do. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about seeing my words on the paper. Something…

This was my first contact with magick.

Magick, unlike magic, is real. It’s all around and it’s a part of everyone and everything. I was six when I first saw it for what it was.

Magick.

I suppose that’s why I cried when my sister made fun of it. How could she not see the magick of it? Then I got scared. Maybe my dad wouldn’t see the magick, either. I tore it up and threw it away. I remember that incident and it still brings tears to my eyes.

Since then, I’ve learned a few things. My parents understood the magick of the story better than most editors I’ve met in my life. My mother had a grade 8 education and my father had only a grade 6. My father read the newspaper from front to back every day and my family always watched the news, followed by “MASH”. My mother had a talent for weaving a story for an audience and kept me and my friends entranced for hours. My father loved old movies, John Wayne being his favorite, and always took time to explain the parts I didn’t understand. If I have a love of storytelling now, it’s because of them. On my father’s side I get my Metis and Scots heritage, both rich in the art of telling a story. From my mother’s side I get the Irish and English. Let’s face it, the Irish love a good story, a good drink and a good fuck. Not necessarily in that order.

School was always a problem for me. I loved to read and loved to learn. Still do. I simply didn’t see the point of having someone natter information at me. I never took notes and rarely paid attention. Yet, when I got to go out searching for leaves in October for an art project or go to the blackboard to do some math, I came alive. I didn’t care if I got it wrong. This was getting my hands dirty and I learned. Otherwise I was the student the teacher complained wasn’t working to potential or didn’t play well with others. Truth is, I didn’t work to their potential and I still don’t play well with others. I don’t see a problem with that.

In junior high, I found a teacher who loved the story as much as I did. I can still remember sitting in his class, on the edge of my seat waiting to see what Ivan the Terrible would do next or how the Mayans built their wonderous calendar. He was a rare teacher. His name was Mr. Keroustache. He told us his story and it was horrible and beautiful.

Mr. Keroustache grew up in the Ukraine at the time of Lenin. Lenin wasn’t such a nice guy and Mr. Keroustache’s family died on their farm. Except his sister who died later. He left the farm at a very young age and went to Moscow. I’m unsure if he lived in an orphanage or something, but he did live in Moscow. In Moscow, he later achieved a doctorate in Russian History and was a top gymnast in Russia. At one time he won a gold medal. I’m unsure if he won his country’s competition or if he went to the Olympics. However, Mr. Keroustache and his friends were unhappy with their home. They wanted more. In the middle of winter, they took off across country to defect to Europe. At one point they had to run across a field, him and his two friends. There were watchtowers with gunners in them. One of his friends was shot and Mr. Keroustache never stopped running. He never found out what happened to his friend.

Eventually he came to Canada to teach children what he knew. We had such a treasure and never learned its true value.

Now I’m all grown up and suffer from bouts of anxiety, shyness, am plagued with diabetes and obesity. Within the story I leave all that behind. I take all the treasures I’ve found along the way and build a world I can escape to for a while. Some of those treasures are sharp and cut and others heal and nurture me. That goes into the magick.

The true magick lies in the story’s ability to take me to a place where I’m free. Then the magick grows and becomes something else when someone else reads the story and is transported to the same place and they see different things. The story touches and connects all those who read it.

To those skeptics who say magick doesn’t exist, I say bah. Go read.

Hello everyone. Sorry about the delay in posts, but something is brewing, I promise. I need to just take a little while to wait for it to finish cooking. Promise it’s delicious and when it’s finished, I’ll share with all of you.

It’s time the truth came out.

I have decided I’ve lived with this long enough and it’s time someone told the truth.

I got shafted.

Let’s start at the beginning. I spent 10 years of my life caring for my parents until the death of my father. At that time I tried to revive my writing career but was failing phenomenally. I’m not the most disciplined writer sometimes and no one’s interested in hiring a writer whose glories are all in the past. So, I screwed up my courage and went back to school. I had two choices; return to the University of Alberta and get a Master’s degree or even obtain a degree in business communications or go to Grant MacEwan’s Professional Writing course. I’d been hearing about the PROW program for years and believed it would do what it said, get me contacts within the writing industry.

As the knight in the Indiana Jones movie said, “she chose poorly.” (Well, he actually says “he”, but then I’m not a he so I’ve happily changed it.)

I have very fond memories of my time at U of A. I made friends there I’m still friends today. I use every single thing I learned there, both in and out of the classroom, in my writing. I was an English Literature major and a Religious Studies minor. I even recommend writers, new and established, read religious texts to help improve their writing. I could have gone here.

Instead I chose the PROW program. What I didn’t know at the time I enrolled was the program was in the process of being shut down. Many of the classes I wanted were phased out by the time I arrived. I didn’t find out about the program shutting down until a full semester into my program. By that time it was far too late to leave the program. Nice.

There are still the contacts, though, right? Wrong. Many of the instructors I had (with an exception or two) had severe ego problems. These were not people I wanted to keep as contacts, professional or otherwise. One instructor had a habit of telling us, in detail, about the problems in their life. This included details about their marriage, family and even hopes and dreams. This may sound cold, but I don’t care if you and your partner (husband, wife, pet toy) aren’t talking. Teach me. Another instructor constantly told the students they weren’t ready for “real” writing experience yet. In the writing world, this means publishing. When asked when we would be ready, the instructor said “we would know.” How’s that for a vague answer. So, this instructor kept a constant barrage of pushing us down so they could feel better about themselves. I received a warning from the school for doing an assessment for class on the magazine, “Playboy” because of the nudity. Oh, just to let you know, there were pictures of naked women all over the halls. That was art, I was told. “Playboy” was smut. Really? Depicting beautiful, naked women in exquisite poses is smut? In depth, forward-thinking articles about current events is smut? Right.

These were the contacts I was supposed to rely on in order to move my career forward.

These people could barely keep their own egos out of the way of their teaching. Instead of encouraging, I heard a lot of double-talk. “Yes, go ahead and send in your article/story/whatever but I don’t think they’ll take it. You’re not ready yet.” Then get me ready! Even when I graduated I was hearing this nonsense. However, that, while annoying, I can ignore. What happened in my second year sent me straight to counselling.

The first incident I’ll talk about is about person X. X had some psychological issues, but having come from that track already in my life I tried to be understanding. This person was very animated, which made me nervous, but I tried to be patient. We were grouped together for a project and things seemed to be going well enough.

I don’t know if X was having a bad day or if X just needed the attention. When we met for a weekly meeting to see the progression of our various parts, I asked to present my stuff first as I had to go and pick up my mother (who has Alzheimer’s) for her weekly night out. There are few things that come before my writing and my mother is one of them. I started to present my stuff and suddenly X was standing up, hitting the projection screen with her hand and screaming at me about Russian dolls. This was a website project on revenants (undead). I had no clue what was going on. Humiliated, I left my stuff on the table and quietly walked out. Once outside, I burst into tears and went into the office. I’d had enough. I was quitting the class. After the program head’s assistant calmed me down a bit, I went to get my mother and talked to my best friend about what happened. Then I truly calmed down.

The instructor of the class allowed me to do my project on my own instead of grouping me with someone else. That was acceptable. Here’s what wasn’t. Every single other person in that group saw what happened. When the instructor asked them about it, not one person stood up for me and said, “yes, it was over the top.” No one. See, X was such a manic personality, that she was doing all the organizing and would spend up to 16 hours a day doing the project. The others just had to sit back and watch the A-grade roll in. They hung me out to dry for a grade.

The next incident involved the same instructor who was teaching a different class. Again, I was grouped with some people and thought things would be fine. They really weren’t. In order to hand in a copy that was coherent and clean, I needed at least a week for editing purposes. My group members had no problem handing things in a half an hour before they were due. One half hour to edit a 100 page document. Not happening. I lost marks because of them. When I told the instructor what was going on, she simply said that I needed to work around it. No help given at all. I was ready to quit school over that one.

The last incident involved an instructor I once had great respect for. Other people complained, but I thought they were wonderful. Until I asked a question. Now, I’ve lectured at the University of Alberta for 10 years as a guest lecturer. People will ask all kinds of questions. There’s no malice, just curiosity. Let me give you some history on this instructor. This married instructor, the prior year, had intimate relations with a student who was in his class at the time. That’s not a problem. Goes on at the U of A all the time. However, this instructor and student then published a paper online justifying their affair.

You can hear the brakes screeching on this one, can’t you.

I won’t link the paper because I have no desire to name this instructor publically. I’m sure my fellow students from Grant MacEwan will know who I mean, but that doesn’t matter. It was a very public event. The paper was poorly written and was so self-serving as to work against the authors. It was a case of “methinks she doth protest too much”. In other words, they knew what they were doing was wrong but they did it anyways. They’re adults. They can take responsiblity for their own actions, thank you very much.

I had no idea about any of this. I had an assignment in which the instructions were poorly given (I was not the only person who suffered a low grade because they misunderstood the assignment). I protested my grade, as was my right, and said I hated the assignment. I did. I’m allowed to say that. Over the next 10 or so emails, I was berated and left to believe I was a horrible person and student. This instructor made it very clear in the first class that if they didn’t like you, you would fail. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to warrant this instructor’s wrath, but I wasn’t going to fail on account of their ego. Back to the office where their solution was to put me in the online course. Fantastic. I felt like I was punished for what my instructor did. It still makes me cry to think about it.

If it hadn’t been for the school counsellor I would have slipped some pills long before. I was that much on edge constantly. My fellow students noticed and avoided me. I don’t blame them. You can’t hang around with someone who’s liable to burst into tears at any moment. At this point in my writing I have to point out I’m crying so much it’s hard to see the screen. Yes, it still hurts that much.

My plan upon graduation was to find a position doing technical writing for a software firm (I really enjoy that stuff). Or maybe work doing tech writing for an oilfield or engineering firm. Instead, I was broken and battered from my time at Grant MacEwan and the firms saw it. I readjusted my vision for myself and am now working temporary in various positions while I sell my writing.

What has been the effect of all of this? Sadly, I want very little to do with my fellow writers. The only thing Grant MacEwan taught me is that writers are people whose own lack of belief in themselves makes them hurt those they should be helping. I know, logically, this is actually the exception, but it is a lesson I learned very well from Grant MacEwan.

I wish I’d gone to the University of Alberta.

September 2014
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