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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….

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.

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.

 

Donny Osmond

Donny Osmond

When I was about six or seven, I had such a crush on Donny Osmond. Every Sunday night I’d sit in front of the television and watch the “Donny and Marie Show” and swoon over my favorite star in purple socks. Oh how desperately I wanted purple socks. I never got them, though. Every time he crooned “Puppy Love” I knew I’d marry him. Not even my father, an avid sports fan, could turn the channel during this time. Donny Osmand took precedence over everything. Even hockey.

Then he got married and that ended my love affair. My true love would never do that to me.

When I was about 10 or so, Shaun Cassidy made an appearance. THIS was my true love. Every Sunday night I watched “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries”. I even joined the “Shaun Cassidy Fan Club”. To this day I still have stock photos that club sent me of Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson. I treasure them as a vital part of growing up. Shaun Cassidy is still a very handsome man to this day.

Shaun Cassidy

Shaun Cassidy

As a young girl, those crushes taught me something very important about myself. They taught me that it’s okay to have these feelings and what I wanted in a partner. I looked to these two idols as opposed to Leif Garrett or Scott Baio because of how they were portrayed in the media. Donny Osmond and Shaun Cassidy were the good boys. They were seen as having good morals and ideals. That was very attractive to me. I also thought they were the most talented singers around, but that’s another story.

The point is, we’ve all had our Shaun Cassidys and Donny Osmands. New Kids on the Block, David Cassidy, Backstreet Boys, and so many more have played the role in our childhoods as heartthrobs. Justin Bieber is just the latest and I don’t deny him that. Like other heartthrobs, he’ll eventually fade into a beloved memory of someone’s first crush.

So I don’t play the “bash Bieber” game. It’s pointless to try to destroy a precious part of someone’s childhood and it’s unfair. I see it all across the Internet, Bieber bashing. Honestly, sometimes I think those who dislike him follow his career more closely than those who like him. It makes no sense to me.

However, when I came across a headline about Bieber proclaiming he was “Inuit or Indian or something,” I became outraged.

I am Metis. My heritage can be traced back to a time when a Cree woman married one of my ancestors. Since that time, my ancestors have happily married Metis women (all my Metis heritage comes from the men in my family line marrying Metis women) and passed down a very rich heritage to me. Being Metis means more than an interview opportunity to promote myself as vaguely belonging to a particular culture.

The blatant racist undertones of his remarks disgusted me. He is 18 years old. He knows better.

I’d love to take the time to explain to Mr. Bieber that the Inuit people are a completely different culture than the First Nations people. They have their own languages and traditions separate from the First Nations. The Metis people are a culture in their own right with their own traditions and heritage. Take the time to understand that, Mr. Bieber, before you go spouting off nonsense that just makes you look like an idiot.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber

Whether we like it or not, Bieber represents Canada. When he spouts off this nonsense, it makes it seem like Canadian youth are uneducated, racist idiots. I am surprised more people weren’t outraged by this off the cuff comment. I’m not even going to address the fact that he is dismissive towards three distinct cultures within Canadian society.

He then states that the only reason this is important to him is because he gets free gas has got to be the most telling remark of all. He cares nothing for the culture he’s not even sure he’s a part of. He gets free gas. Really? Apparently Bieber isn’t making enough money where he can afford his own gas. He has to tap into a culture that he cares nothing about to get gas.

Grow up, Mr. Bieber. You are representing Canada here and doing a very poor job. You owe an apology to Canadians.

Recently I wrote a blog about a woman who was murdered in Afghanistan called, “One Death Too Many“. I was angry and upset that I had so few people actually reading it. I went back and reread it, thinking perhaps the writing was bad or the content was somehow lacking. It wasn’t. It was a good story. I commented on this situation to a writer friend who told me that if my sex stories drew such attention, perhaps I should only write on that, give the audience what they want. I came away from that conversation sad and disillusioned.

I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to writing. I don’t do “target writing” which is setting a goal for yourself and reaching it every day such as a certain word or page count. I don’t really have set times when I write so sometimes I will be writing for 10 or 12 hours a day and other days I can barely get myself to concentrate for two. I’m undisciplined and don’t even own a dictionary (there are far too many online for me to justify spending money or wasting the paper so I can own a book). I actually <GASP!> use the spell and grammar checker on word. Grammar’s my weak point so I use it to see if I’m overusing passive sentences again. Yes, I’m in love with the passive. Damn thing is like a stalker and I keep feeding into the obsession. It’s a cycle we’re both trying to break.

The one thing I have refused to compromise on is the story. Early in my career I had the opportunity to work with an editor who was old old school. He was crotchety, as editors often are, but he knew his stuff and he taught me some very valuable things including my current “three-time” style. I will write a raw piece, edit it once, rewrite, edit twice, rewrite and it goes off. This man told me that if you can’t fix the story in that time you had to cross it off as a loss or give it to someone else. I’ve handed many pieces to fellow writers because I had trouble getting a handle on the story. I don’t mind. They’ve done the same for me.

Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice I ever got from this man was never compromise the story. He let me know there’s a lot of play you can do within a story to keep an editor happy, but never, never, never compromise the heart of a story. A good editor will understand that and I’ve worked with some great editors in the past. Those words of wisdom have been my signpost ever since I heard them.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. Whether it’s a greeting card, an instructional manual, War and Peace or a journalism piece. You find that heart of the story and help it grow. That’s the writer’s job. That’s it. The writer does not bow to magazine editors, corporate managers, government bodies or even the audience. The writer is the story’s slave. That’s it. The only obligation a writer has is to the story. Sorry, readers, but you come further down on my list of importance.

That’s not to say my audience isn’t taken into consideration. However, that comes during the editing process and even then I won’t sacrifice something in the story in order to placate my audience. If I think the story is better served by a graphic description of something then it goes in. If you’re too delicate a reader to read it, well, there’s a lot on the Internet to read.

Too many times I see magazines and newspapers bowing to the advertiser’s dollar. I have only written one piece I’m ashamed of and it was a piece to sell some shoes that I clearly saw had some very fundamental design flaws. Years later, it came out that others saw those same flaws and those shoes don’t sell so well now but I did write an article singing their praises when I didn’t believe in them. That’s something I’ll never do again. Here’s some advice I will give readers that I didn’t find out until much later in my career; you can walk away from any story you like. The editor may not be happy with you, but you have a choice; write something you’re ashamed of  or don’t.

I’ve been told I shouldn’t write certain articles as they might make someone look bad. For example, I’ve worked for the Government of Alberta and I remain highly critical of them. It’s bad form, old chap, to criticize your former employer. Too bad. Suck it up, princess. The Government of Alberta is a big enough of a grinding machine to be able to field a bit of criticism.

The advice I was given by my fellow writer, to write what the audience wants, seems sound at first. However, I’m doing a disservice to my readers if all I do is placate them. I believe people come and read me not because they agree or disagree but because they want to hear what I have to say. To water that down in order to increase my readership is an insult to my readers and myself.

Being a writer is the most important thing in my life. I know that means I’m a slave to the story and I need to do what’s necessary to help it grow. It’s tempting to write what’s popular. That pays. A writer is often poor and if a magazine says “just tweak this” or “just take this out” it seems a small thing to do. There are times when changing something or taking out things don’t compromise to the story. Then there are times when you need to stand your ground. If you have a reputation for bringing the best story possible, an editor will trust your instincts on it. That’s an editor you want to work with.

It’s said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I say the road to mediocrity is paved with writers trying to be popular. wherever that editor who taught me so much is, I hope he’s looking on and knows how valuable his knowledge was to me.

A woman is dead.

Everyone should cry out in horror and shame and mourn her death. Who was she? Was she a world leader like Margaret Thatcher? No. A religious figure like Mother Theresa, then? Not at all. A celebrity like Bette Davis? No. Who was she, then?

I don’t know, but I cry for her.

She was just a mother and wife. Maybe she had brothers and sisters. How many children? I don’t know. But her death is immortalized on this video. You can see her crouching in the background. Just a grey spot on the ground while men mill around her. The guns fire and she drops. The men show no more emotion than if they’d just killed a hyena. Less, probably. They’re probably late for lunch.

So what did she do? She must have killed her children. No. She poisoned her husband. Not at all. She must have stolen another woman’s child. Not even close.

She is accused of committing adultery. Accused. She wasn’t even found guilty of adultery. Only accused.

This is what happens when ANYONE feels the need to control another being’s sexuality so much that the mere accusation of wrongdoing merits death. This wasn’t about her. This was about the MEN of the Taliban. This was about their lack of manhood. Their lack of understanding, appreciation and respect for what their own god, Allah, created.

I am not Muslim. I am Wiccan, but I can have respect and understanding for another’s faith. Islam is a wonderful religion and full of rich traditions and stories. As a writer, I have found my writings have been enriched by reading the religious texts of various faiths. I highly recommend it.

The Taliban are not true Muslims. They are a small extremist group much in the same way that Jim Jones’s People’s Church was an extremist version of Christianity. What the Taliban do disgusts me.

Three women in burkas standing on a streetcorner

Three women in burkas standing on a street corner

Publically, the Taliban has stated that they instituted changes for women in the attempt to protect their dignity. Women are banned from working except in health care, going outside their home unless they are covered from head to toe in a burka. As well, girls were not allowed an education until the Taliban finally relented and allowed girls under 12 to get an education.

It’s fairly common for women to be beaten, raped and tortured for something as simple as being  uncovered. Ladies, imagine having to wear your bedsheet all day long while shopping or taking the kids to the park. This is one very psychotic, very fringe element preserving women’s dignity. Thank whoever you pray to that these nutballs didn’t get ahold of the idea of female circumcision (which I will talk about another time).

Men, can you imagine your wife going to the store. A man on the street sees her and lusts after her. The man goes to the local “authority” and tells them she committed adultery. The Taliban come and get her and shoot her. You come home from work and your wife is dead.

Reports say that things are improving in Afghanistan for people all around. However, there are still problems in the small towns and outlying areas. Let me state this again VERY CLEARLY; the Taliban are not Muslim. They are an extremist group and should not been seen as the standard for Muslim practice.

Let me tell you what I’ve seen of the Islamic tradition. If you walk into a shop owned by Muslims and say, “Salaam,” they will smile broadly and greet you back warmly. They cannot welcome you enough. I don’t recommend drinking the coffee, though. That stuff is enough to keep you awake for a week. My Muslim friends answer all my questions happily even though some of them are pretty silly (for example, “what is the Islamic stance on life on other planets?” A debate that lasted several hours). Most Muslims, men and women, are educated, well-spoken, polite people. They have a great deal of respect for others and even welcome an old witch like me to their mosques (so long as I don’t cast any spells which I’m good with). The food is good, if spicy (I’m allergic to peppers) and the company is wonderful. I even knew a Muslim family that took in their friend’s child for a period when the friend was unable to look after her due to health reasons. The child was loved and cherished by all and regards that family as her second family.

Muslims are good people.

The Taliban are just power-hungry psychopaths who feel the need to control everyone.

Our troops went to Afghanistan to help make things better. It couldn’t have been easy and I, for one, thank them for their work. They faced conditions most of us will only see in the movies and, even then, have difficulty imagining. If you know of someone who went to the Middle East. Thank them and give them a hug.

Some day our children’s children will look back in horror in the same way we now look at Auschwitz and say, “how could you do that?” It is my dream that they will never hear about a nameless, faceless woman crouching in the grey dirt being shot to death for something she’s only accused of doing. Some day these horrors will be a thing of the past.

Until then,

a woman is dead.

Let’s talk about sex. It’s a subject everyone has an opinion on from the 15-year-old virgin to the 82-year-old grandmother.

I’ve been noticing a trend in Hollywood lately; every time there’s a bad guy, he’s got some sexual deviance that has turned him into a serial killer. That’s not good PR for those of us who have sexual deviances and enjoy them. By Hollywood standards, I should have half a dozen bodies in the yard by now.

So let’s list off my kinks, shall we? I’m a libertine which means pretty much anything goes anyways. I really have a thing for breasts (female breasts. I still can’t wrap my head around moobs). I’m a switch which, in bdsm terms, means I can either be dominant or submissive (depending on my mood). I have a desire to have a threesome with two men and have already had a threesome involving one man and two women (actually, a few times). I have toys such as vibrators, a glass dildo, scarves (for bondage and blindfolds) and a riding crop. Whee!

All too often I see people giggling behind their hands when the topic of sex comes up like adolescents and it confuses me. Why? Sex is a natural part of being alive and it’s time we stopped treating it like it’s something dirty or taboo. Let me tell you, sometimes the best sex is very dirty. Let’s get one thing out in the open. Sex is rarely about procreation. We are human and, as such, we are social creatures and everything we do is to re-emphasize that social contact. From work to hobbies to having sex is all about reinforcing our position within a social network. Now, stop giggling behind your hand and get a few myths out of the way.

  • Men are only interested in sex with other men if they’re bi or gay. WRONG!!! This may seem at odds with what you understand, but sometimes straight men are curious about sex with other men. I know of men who have sex with other men as an indulgence. One guy told me that men give the best blowjobs. He loved blowjobs so when he found a guy who liked doing them he didn’t feel any need to turn that down. Men have a penis and know very well how their’s works but it is normal and natural to see if another guy’s works the same way. Read the rest of this entry »
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