A Glowing Bride – Scottish Steampunk with an Avatar Twist

A Glowing Bride – Scottish Steampunk with an Avatar Twist

The more that happens in my life worth writing about, the less time I have to write about it. I know I’ve been totally quiet on all the political stuff, lately, and frankly it’s because I’m disgusted with the whole thing. Instead I focused on personal stuff, which has kind of been necessary. You see, aside from getting involved with a new man last spring, we’ve got huge plans for ourselves and our relationship. Nothing other people aren’t doing, but enough that it keeps us really busy. I’ve already talked about the fertility thing, and how we’re going to a clinic. (Which, by the way, is going to cost us a fortune. Around $10,000 to $15,000 to harvest my eggs in a single batch. So, that’s on hold until we have that kind of money. Apparently it’s at least as expensive to do it in Canada, as it is in the US, if not more so.)

So, just to be different, my then-boyfriend-now-fiancé and I proposed to one another. We both got engagement rings, too. His is so big he’ll have to put it on his right hand when we get to the ‘I do’ part, and I may have to do the same since I’ve got short fingers. Two rings on the same finger looks weird on me. Still I love my ring so much. It was supposed to be my wedding ring, but it got here before the one that’s supposed to be my engagement ring, so we said to hell with it. We each have amethyst and silver in one of our rings, and rose gold and emerald in the other. I happen to be allergic to nickel, so I can’t wear white or yellow gold, but I’m fine with rose gold and pure metals. The emeralds have to do with the fact that we happened to be only a few blocks apart, down Emerald Street in Hamilton, when we met. Yet we had no idea we were even in the same country when we really started talking. Of course, it turned out we’d spoken long before then, because we’re part of the same political groups on Facebook.

Well, now the big stuff to deal with is a wedding day, hopefully on our anniversary, but the sad fact remains that we both have other entanglements to get out of, and my fiancé happens to be embroiled in something pretty nasty. I won’t discuss that publicly, since it wouldn’t be respectful of other people’s privacy, but suffice it to say it prevents us setting a firm date.

However, we do have plans. Big plans. We already think we know where we’re doing it. They’re heritage buildings that they rent out for arts and culture events. It’s really inexpensive to rent the place for almost two weeks, so we’re going to have something like an art festival in the days surrounding the wedding. I was originally thinking of doing a writing seminar only, but then I realized we could really make the whole thing a lot of fun for everyone. I mean, if people come in from the US and different parts of Canada, I wanted it to be worth it for them. When my fiancé said we should have a ceremony, he was mostly thinking of us writing our own vows, and didn’t realize that for me to have people at the wedding, they would have to be people from way out of town. I know very few local people. Four maybe, and that’s including my ex and his girlfriend.

From the possibility of a writing seminar, it expanded into various crafts and such. I was thinking a Victorian photo shoot would go along well with a portion of the theme of our wedding, since Steampunk is very much of the Victorian flavour. I also thought it would be good to do proper photo shoots for authors, who will need good headshots for their writing careers. I’ll probably hire a make-up artist and hair-stylist to make it all look great. I’ll have to have discussions with the various professionals to find out what they’ll charge for a day, or for individuals, especially since it will be a group deal, and then any member of the public can pay for either the seminar by itself, or the seminar with the photo shoot. I thought a mug-painting day would be good, too, where wedding guests can do two mugs – one for us as their wedding gift (instead of them trying to figure out what to give us, which is silly at our ages), and one for themselves. A painting class, flower arranging perhaps, where guests can do two arrangements if they like (one for the wedding, and one for themselves).

My dress is going to be very unique, though. I’ll say that much. I’m planning to have parts of it glow. My fiancé and I were/are planning to make our own top hats, but I’m debating on an elven circlet or something. At the moment I don’t have the time to deal with any of it, but I’m letting the ideas simmer. We’ll have LED lights and electroluminescent stuff. An arbour will likely be present, because who doesn’t want to get married under an archway??

We’re going to have a blast, whatever we do, and so I’ll be posting all about it here as we do it. You’ll get pictures, of course. And speaking of which, here’s our engagement ring shot!

Our Engagement

You can also partially see the lovely lightning bolt-shaped scar I have from my attempt to imitate Harry Potter. Okay, so I tripped and fell into a plate of eggs, the plate broke and severed a nerve, and then I had to have surgery on it to repair the nerve – yay me! Do I do good work or what?

I’m definitely happy to be having all this fun with wedding stuff, despite being too busy dealing with a dead laptop (a story for another time involving juice, that I’m just not ready to talk about yet), and trying to get a book written, while trying to get the podcast show back on track. The thing is, what really makes me happy is being so thoroughly loved, and being with someone I love just as thoroughly. We complement one another in so many ways. I’m ridiculously, madly, head-over-heels in love with him, and I have no doubt he feels exactly the same. It took until we hit our mid-life to find one another, but we finally did. None of this other stuff would matter without that, and I’m not at all stressed about dealing with that stuff either. It’s not stressful when you know it’s just something you’ll have a blast with.

So many people go through life looking for the wrong things. They want someone to rescue them, or someone who has money. In truth, what we need is to be with someone where it wouldn’t matter if we were living on the street. I know very well that I could sit snuggled up next to him on a sidewalk, and wouldn’t even care. I don’t have to have money or a house. I don’t need cars. I didn’t have to have fancy jewelry, though it’s nice we were able to give one other rings that we both liked and picked out for ourselves. I just needed to know I was accepted for exactly who I am, and that we could sit down and talk to one another for hours on end. The chemistry doesn’t hurt either! I’m just so blissfully content, and I have a hard time explaining how very right everything feels now.

Oh, and the Scottish part of all this? My baby wears a kilt in his family tartan…and he wears it very well! 😉

A Change of Life, Just Not That One

I’ll admit that I had become completely cynical about my chances of finding the right person to share my life with. I was considering getting back into the dating world, but I was also planning to wait until after the third book in my trilogy was published. After all, I didn’t feel like I had the time to spend on vetting all the candidates one tends to find on online dating sites. So, I hadn’t bothered to create a profile anywhere.

Funnily enough it turned out that I’d already met the man of my dreams, and it was more than a year ago now. We had political interests in common, so we were both members of a certain Facebook group. We’re also both actual members of the Green Party, so that was a weird kind of synchronicity, among other things. With all our commonalities, however, we were more than a little surprised to find out we not only lived in the same city, but we were only a few blocks apart. Go figure.

Just when you think life isn’t going to give you the one thing you’ve always looked really hard for, it can suddenly seem like it’s throwing you a surprise party with all the perfect gifts.

When I was awake and aware I never felt lonely, but I knew that some part of me was. I used to have these dreams where I would be held by a specific man, who made me feel truly loved. I’d wake up feeling so ridiculously content, and I would close my eyes at different points throughout the day to hold onto that feeling, picturing it in my mind. Nearly four months ago I finally discovered what that felt like in real life. All previous relationships paled in comparison, and I realized that if I’d truly know what this felt like, I would never have settled for what I had before. I would have known the real deal.

Nobody is perfect, but sometimes you find someone who is absolutely perfect for who you are. They fit with you somehow. All the things that you’re insecure about, and that you’ve been told are fatal flaws, suddenly they’re things that are cherished by another person. Don’t get me wrong – we weren’t all sunshine and roses about who we were, pretending to be something different. We were both almost brutally honest about ourselves. I was pretty enthusiastic about telling him I swore like a drunken sailor, cracked every joint in my body, and the only thing domestic about my habits is the fact that I’m potty-trained.

For his part, when we started private messaging, he bluntly asked me if I was single, and said he needed to know because he was certainly happy to be friends with me, but he would be sitting there wondering the whole time if I was available. It made me smile, I can tell ya. And it was a first for me. After all, we met on Facebook rather than a dating site. On a dating site you’re assuming the person you’re talking to is single (though there are plenty who are trolling for a side piece, too). I’d never had a guy have the courage to be so blunt about his interest in me on there. Of course, he was pretty blunt about a lot of other things, too, like wanting to talk to me, see me, kiss me, you name it. And he had the confidence and courage to follow through on it. He still does, and it’s something I find endlessly fascinating and attractive about him. Especially since a lot of guys seem pretty intimidated by me.

Of course, explosive chemistry helps. I’m not giving details, but I will say that time stands still when he kisses me. There’s a Zen-like calm that comes over me when we’re together. I’ve only been truly mad at him once, and from what I can tell I was being stupid. However, all he had to do was touch me and I was lost (as was the anger, though I tried to fight that). There’s a magic in it, and I’ve never felt it before. Any time in the past when I’ve been mad at a guy, they’ve been mad at me, too, and so the last thing they were interested in was making me feel better. Yet, my boyfriend has got to be the most selfless person I’ve ever known. He can (and does) feel empathy even toward a person who should be his most bitter enemy. I’ve seen examples of it time and time again. Honestly, we need more people like him in the world. He just truly cares about people. He talks to them on the street, homeless or otherwise, he buys strange kids a meal, he stops to help people who have been involved in car accidents, he’s politically involved, and he stands up for women online when men start acting like misogynistic jerks.

He’s also the best father I’ve ever seen. He’s been involved in his child’s life from the moment of birth, and even against adversity he’s made sure he remained a major part of his child’s life. It makes me wish I was ten years younger so I could easily have a couple of kids with him. Not that it’s impossible even now, of course, but the odds are against it.

We’ve both had our share of bad luck and bad choices when it came to past relationships, so you would think we’d be a lot more leery of moving forward with things, but we were pretty much living together within a week or two of starting to date. People thought we didn’t know each other, even though we did. In truth I’ve never known anyone so well in my life. My own experiences kept my eyes open, and not just for suspicious behaviour, but also for the evidence that backed up everything I was being told. Fate stepped in, over and over, to show me that he was everything he said he was. My one instance of anger with him was all the more stupid because I’ve been given constant proof of his character. Yeah, I felt like an idiot…and well I should.

Have we talked about taking things to the next level? Well, in an oblique sort of way. Neither of us are against the idea of getting married. I just have one caveat there. It’s gotta be a ‘hell, yeah’ kind of thing on his part. I mean, it would definitely be a ‘hell, yeah’ for me, but I won’t do it if he doesn’t feel like that, too. After all, I was told in a previous relationship that I’d dragged the guy into it (despite him being the one to propose). It was a month after the wedding, and that was the end of our marriage in that very moment. For me, anyway. I never felt the same way after that, even though I tried to keep going. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I couldn’t even bring myself to care enough to fight with him after that. I became rigidly logical and cold-hearted whenever he tried to fight with me. It was painful enough for me then, but if I had to go through that with my current guy I don’t know if I’d survive that kind of heartbreak. He isn’t the kind of guy who would say something like that, but without the ‘hell, yeah’ part of the deal, he might as well be feeling it.

Still, he feels more like a husband to me than any man from my past, with or without the marriage certificate. When I talk about him, or even think about him, I have to actively stop myself from calling him that. I’d have to say it’s because we work so well together in everything we do. You know those things you try to do with someone that usually lead to fighting? Like hanging wallpaper, fixing things, etc. Well, we can do those things and just be happy to be together. We have fun with it, because we always have fun together, and we genuinely like each other. We enjoy talking about pretty much anything – though he’s admittedly a bit attention-deficit, so I find myself repeating things, but then I have to ask people to do the same with my hearing being so crappy.

Probably the funniest part of all of this is how we started out being so logical about love. We both agreed that it took about two years to really get to know someone, and until then you couldn’t truly say you loved them. Then I told him on our first date that he was going to fall madly in love with me. Go figure. Of course, my barometer for knowing if I love someone is a pretty morbid one. I try to imagine how I would feel if they died, and whether or not it would devastate me. Within the week I told him he’d smashed my barometer. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

So, you see, there’s a reason I’ve gotten so far behind on blog posts and other writing projects. I don’t blame him, of course. He’s perfectly willing to give me the space I need to get my writing done. I just haven’t been able to tear myself away from him. A first for me. I’ve always managed to work and do what was necessary before. Thankfully I’d already published book two of my trilogy when we started getting all crazy in love. I had a bit of breathing space. Or should I be calling it ‘breathless’ space, because that’s how he leaves me.

It took me until I was 44 years old to find the man that was right for me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, and not just with my choices. I’ve also made mistakes with my behaviour within those choices. I know very well that I had my share of the blame to shoulder, and I needed to learn from all that in order to be where I am right now. It’s tempting to wish we could have met ten or twenty years ago, where we could have saved ourselves the heartache we’ve both been through, but that might have been a disaster for us. We needed to be who we are right now, in order for things to work as well as they do. I needed a certain maturation. Our experiences form us, and there’s no regretting those experiences when they brought us to this point. We each have offspring we might never have had, and we would never have wanted to miss out on them.

I guess the point is this. No matter how crappy things can seem, they can change in a heartbeat. I learned that lesson a long time ago, and it’s something I keep trying to share with people who are going through hard times. I almost gave up on finding someone I could be happy with. I’d thought about dating, but I had no faith I’d find anyone who would put up with my foibles, much less someone I was willing to tolerate. And I certainly held no hope I’d find the exact person who was everything I ever needed and wanted. He feels the same. I can only hope he keeps feeling that way, and hope is no longer in short supply for me. Of course, it helped that my ferrets were all over him like he was wearing a meat suit, and he likes doing dishes.

The best part? I feel more free with him than I ever felt when I was single.

Giving Myself a New Gift (or Three) Every Year

Change and movement are a part of life. Every year around my birthday I start to look at how things are at that moment, what I managed to accomplish in the last year, and what I’d like to accomplish by my next birthday. There’s been a lot of changes this last year, moving being one of the best ones. We’re in a place we really like now, and that makes a huge difference in how much I want people in my personal space. I’m no longer ashamed of where I live. I’m thrilled to be able to make plans about what furniture and other decor to buy, and where to put everything. I have an interest in having nice things again, where before I just looked around and shrugged, saying, “What the hell difference would it make? It’ll still look like a $#!thole.”

It was a psychological ‘giving up’ caused by depressing surroundings, and it really is amazing how much better I feel as a human being these days. I realize I haven’t been writing, but I don’t have a comfortable writing space set up with a chair and desk. At the moment I’m sitting on the edge of a mattress that’s sitting on the floor. My laptop is propped up with a large stack of reference books. I’m hunched over in an amazingly uncomfortable position just so I can bang out a few words to my regular readers. Well, that and I’m sort of organizing my thoughts for the year to come.

That being said, I need to get back on topic. Last year I became even more politically involved, particularly in my own country. I actually became an official member of a political party. I donated $25 I think, and I have a 3-year membership with the Green Party. I could have gone with the NDP, actually, but there are things that are annoying me about them. Still, either party is better than the Progressive Conservatives (or PC party) or the Liberal party. Both of those are in the pockets of big oil and all that jazz, and they both voted for Keystone XL. The only ones to vote against it were NDP and an Independent. I’m really hoping we can get rid of Harper in the next federal election, because he’s destroyed a lot of Canada – physically destroyed it, I mean.

The third gift I gave myself last year, though it wasn’t really under my control so much, was finally getting in to see the right orthopedic surgeon. Nothing has been done as yet, except to book me for a group of doctors that will be giving me a whole bunch of ultrasound-guided injections of long-acting local anesthesia. That won’t happen until after my birthday, so I can’t count pain relief for last year, but I can count the progress toward healing.

This coming year I’m looking at my last year before I hit 45. That’s kind of a milestone birthday, I think. So this next year I’m going to give myself some really important gifts for that birthday. The first is related to the last one I mentioned for last year. I’m going ahead with the treatment that will discover the extent of my injuries, and exactly where the worst of the pain is coming from. I want to be able to jump out of bed in the morning, rather than rolling cautiously, straightening each part of my body slowly so that I can finally stand up. The first couple of steps I take are pretty painful. I want that way of life gone this year. Maybe the doctors won’t be able to schedule my repairs fast enough for my next birthday, because it sounds like there’s a lot to be done. However, there’s something else I can do to help that along.

This leads me to my next gift to myself, and that simply physical fitness. Knowing that the vast majority of my pain will be treated, despite it being only a mask of the real problems, I’m confident I can start to move around a lot more. I’ll have to start out cautiously, because I’ve basically been in a chair or a bed for the last few years. It’s hard to exercise when it’s excruciating, but even more so when you’re told you’re not supposed to because it will cause more damage. In fact, I’ve been told a lot of crap from doctors that never told me there were ways around my various issues. I have a problem with my knees that could have been fixed with simple exercises, and I only found that out a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that my disc problems in my back can be healed, but I was told by another orthopedic surgeon that my back was permanently screwed.

In other words, I’m taking what the doctors tell me with a grain of salt, I’m doing my own research, and I’m going to start moving my body more and more throughout the year. Yoga, resistance/weight-training, and aerobic activity. I’m going to start recording my results, and maybe I’ll share them here, too. It depends on how I feel about it once I get going. I’m not sharing half-naked before & after pictures, don’t worry. I’ll spare everyone that much. I might do some fully-dressed, though. We’ll see. Whatever the case may be, I’ll be in a lot better shape by my next birthday, and I’m doing it the right way – as a lifestyle change, not a binge program. The last thing I need is more injuries, or to stop doing it because it’s just too drastic. I need to have fun with it. Thankfully I like the activities I’ve chosen, and they’re well-rounded with regard to a fitness program. Flexibility, strength and endurance, which are all things we need to live a full life.

I’m also setting up my home so that I have a nice working and living environment, so I can get back to serious and consistent writing again, in addition to my other work. I want to be able to put in the time on everything and feel productive again. In my head I’m almost always working, because I do love the things I do. However, translating that to actually getting the work done is a different story. Not being in so much pain will help a great deal there, too. Not only because pain is distracting and exhausting and makes me want to curl up in the fetal position, but because I take so many pills to counteract the pain that my brain just can’t stick with things long enough to accomplish anything. You wouldn’t believe how many blog posts and articles I’ve started and stalled out on halfway through. Once I stop working on a piece it ends up being deleted. I never go back to finish it off. I either rewrite the whole thing or just dump it entirely.

Cautiously I say, too, that this year I want to finish and publish at least one book. Even if it’s an anthology I edit where I’ve only written one or two short stories, and there are stories from other writers in it. It’s past time for me to get my fiction work out there. I’m also considering writing a small book on rape recovery. Never mind the fact that I’ve got the makings of more than one series of books. There’s my demon series and the serial killer one. I’ve got lots of notes, and the basic outlines for story arcs throughout, so I think they’ll be great if I ever have a comfortable place to sit and get some real writing done. I know…excuses, excuses…

I look forward to every single year of my life. I don’t celebrate birthdays with any brouhaha, because it’s just not the way I roll. I’d rather sit at home doing exactly the same things I’d be doing on any other day. The exception is that we usually have a special meal, with cake or pie after, and then my daughter and I watch a bunch of movies. That won’t be possible this year. My daughter is working 12-hours shifts on weird rotations, so she has to sleep the entire time she’s home. Not to mention the fact that she wasn’t getting any shifts at all for a while there. We barely have the rent money now, so we won’t be buying steaks & cakes. That’s okay, too. I don’t mind being broke so long as we have the essentials and we’re not short on the rent. We won’t starve and the landlord is getting paid.

Maybe I’ll watch some movies on my own, but more likely I’ll play games on my computer or work toward this year’s goals.I still have to finish my starting routine for working out, and determine my level of progression, but I have fun planning that kind of thing. I can get bogged down in the details and find myself distracted, but as long as I cover the first few weeks I can always plan the next steps when I get to them.

Of course, I also continued my education last year, and that’s ongoing. I went through the MIT course on programming with Python, and I’m enrolled in Linux and calculus courses at the moment. I think there’s a chemistry course in there somewhere, too, but it hasn’t started yet. I plan to delve into CSS and Java, among other things. For me, I think the best part of living life is learning whatever I can latch my brain onto. We become so much more by educating ourselves, opening our horizons. Every course I take brings in new perspectives on life, no matter what the topic. I see just a slightly different slant, and that’s such a huge benefit – not only to me, but to my readers as well. I can offer so much more to everyone around me if I keep becoming more than what I am now.

I remember many years ago reading in a book about a married couple whose philosophy was that we are not human beings, but rather we’re human becomings, and for me that was a crystallizing moment. I understood right then that that was the person I need to be (or become, if you will). So, every year I get just a little bit closer to the person I’m supposed to grow into. Maybe I’ll make it there, and maybe I won’t, but it would be a real shame if I didn’t even try. Alas, no matter how many years are between this one and the one on my birth certificate, I don’t think I’ll ever really grow up, which makes me smile just thinking about it.

Powerful While Powerless, and a Refreshing Start

Let me get right down to the nitty-gritty. We finally got ourselves moved out of our old apartment. We also had some interesting times without electricity for the last 10 days we were there. It’s not the first time I’ve done without power, and I’m stubborn when it comes to paying a bill where I think I’m getting ripped off. Living in an apartment it’s very easy for people to patch into other people’s power lines. All you need is a little detector for electrical lines and a drill. For some reason, despite the fact that we weren’t using space heaters for those months, our usage was twice as high as it had been the previous year when we were using space heaters. I told the woman at the utility company this, and she simply didn’t care. Told us we had to pay well over $300 if we wanted to retain our service for the last ten days we’d be there. I told them to stuff it. Stealing utilities of any kind in this country is actually a very big offense, so you would think they’d be a little more interested, but they weren’t. Too much bother for them when they could simply demand their money from us.

We actually had the money to pay the bill. That wasn’t the point. The point was that someone was stealing from us and I wasn’t going to pay for it. Instead we bought some batteries for our LED lantern, and got a couple more LED lights. It being close to summer, we had a fair bit of daylight anyway, and at night we played board games or UNO. We had a lot of fun, and bought a bunch of ravioli to eat cold. We could have had other stuff, but we happen to like cold ravioli.

Right before our power was shut off our microwave blew, so this weekend we’re getting a new one. My daughter was cleaning it and may have sprayed the vinegar-water through the vent holes. Normally we put a cup of vinegar-water in it and turn it on to clean it, and it works miracles, but this time it started smoking and sparking and I told her to stick it in the pile going into the garbage.

We got rid of a lot of our stuff. There were various pests in that building and we had no interest in bringing any of them with us. Besides, my dresser and bed were already destroyed by water damage when the roof of the building leaked. Mildew had destroyed half my clothes in my closet, too. And this is the landlord that had the nerve to try to get $2,600 from us for damage to the floor. That didn’t work out so well for them. Thankfully they were nice enough to allow us to stay on a couple extra months when I injured my knee so badly I couldn’t get down the stairs.

As luck would have it, though, that delay from my injury was a blessing. Not that I enjoyed the pain or anything, but the delay is how we ended up finding a really great apartment. We went to look at two that day, and we figured from the address that the first one would be a dump and the second would be decent enough. It turned out that the first one was amazing. We were really surprised by it. We still went to see the other place, but I called the guy from the first place right after our second viewing and told him we wanted the place. The rent was higher, but all utilities are included and we also have central air. We no longer have to throw in a window unit. Yippee. In fact, we gave that window unit away by sticking a sign on it and putting it in the hallway of the old building. It was gone in less than 24 hours.

We’re still really thrilled with the new place. Every floor is tile. My bedroom has a ten-foot ceiling, which echoes like mad right now, but once I get a painting or two on the wall, and buy the area rug I want, it should be awesome. I’m going back to having a queen-size bed again in a couple of weeks. The room is huge, in addition to the high ceiling, so I now need furniture to fill it up. Thankfully the landlords left a wardrobe, a couple of bookshelves, a nice table and chairs, curtains on all the windows except one, and a couple of area rugs. The urgent stuff is no longer an issue.

We haven’t unpacked fully, yet, but we’ve unpacked more here than we did at the old place in nearly 3 years. Hopefully we’ll get everything done this weekend, as we’ll have been here two weeks by Sunday. We’re actually going to hire a friend of my daughter to come in and clean at least once a month. My daughter’s back at work with hours that are a crazy mix of continental days and nights, so she needs her time off to adjust between shifts, and I’m just not capable of cleaning a whole house anymore. We’ve been keeping up with the animals rather religiously, however. The ferrets are doing well with their puppy pads, and the cat was never a problem with her litter box. Apparently the people who lived here before wouldn’t change their cat’s litter, and so the landlord warned us ahead of time that we needed to keep everything really clean, especially since they’d never seen a ferret before. They haven’t had any complaints thus far, so hopefully we’re doing okay with that.

For the first time in about four years, we have a decent place to live. Actually, it’s closer to seven years. The place was clean when we moved in. It smells and feels clean, and it’s done up pretty nicely. I’ll be pleased to have people come over and visit, instead of being ashamed of it. It’s a huge change in mindset for me, and a great step toward regaining happiness in my life.

Another positive is that I finally got in to the orthopedic surgeon. He’s sending me to a group of doctors that will administer long-acting anesthetic injections, guided by ultrasound. I’ve got about four different problems with my hip joints, apparently, and so they want to deal with the pain first. Once the pain is eased, I can fix one of the problems myself – lack of exercise. It won’t matter anymore that I may be causing further damage by walking around, because it won’t hurt and they’re going to fix it at some point. My muscles have been atrophying for some time now, including the stabilizer muscles, so I’m looking forward to being able to exercise again. I miss it.

I still won’t be able to do my belly dancing until they fix the issue with my joints locking up, because my legs simply won’t do what the need to do right now, but maybe I can do a limited amount. Dancing is something I miss more than anything. I’ve been dancing in one form or another since I was a small child, and to have that taken from me is painful. I can wiggle my hips on the dance floor at a club or something, but I can’t do anything that requires real skill.

I go for the shots on July 3rd, so we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime I’m catching up on my reading and getting comfortable in our new home. We have office space now, which is awesome. I just can’t really use it yet. I need a proper desk and office chair. I bought an office chair from Staples a while back, but it doesn’t tilt back far enough so it’s uncomfortable for me. I do have a table I can use, but no chairs that will really work with it. Then I have to set up something for sound-proofing, or at least noise-reduction. I’m doing the intros for all the shows now, and I do other voiceover stuff, so I want to be able to record quality audio. I’ve done the last two in my bedroom, and the echo was pretty bad. I can get rid of some of it, but it’s better to not have it in the first place.

So I finally have peace in my life again. The stress of hearing people yelling in the hallway, swearing, coming in drunk in the middle of the night and carrying on loud conversations with other neighbours, people smoking in the hall so it surges into our apartment, and who-has-the-loudest-stereo competitions late at night – those are all things I do not need in my life. I despised living there, and the tension built up so much that I’m still letting go of it now. Situational depression, even when the situation is gone, doesn’t just magically disappear. Your behaviour becomes habitual in response, so those habits have to be broken. I cringe when I hear noises, still. Our only neighbours in the building are our landlords, and they live upstairs so we hear their dog barking and their voices when they talk loudly, so it trips the switch a little, but once I realized that was their natural speech pattern I was fine with it. I just hate people fighting. Drama is not something I seek out in life.

Now that a large number of problems have either been solved, or are about to be, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can make of my life once again. Giddyup!

Lying on My Back Isn’t as Fun as it Should Be, but I Still Feel Great!

Apparently I need to learn how to walk again. It’s become my arch-nemesis. I used to be an athlete, and I never injured myself as badly as I have just walking. A few weeks ago I slipped and did a number on my knee, but it’s not the first time I’ve caused major damage when I should be safe from myself.

This, of course, is the reason I haven’t been around lately. I’ve barely been on Facebook, and that only because I finally bought a new smartphone. I hate typing on the damn thing, because a touchscreen keyboard really sucks. I prefer actual keys so I know what I’m pressing. Still, it’s a temporary phone until I can afford the BlackBerry I really want. I had to cave and get a cheap Sony phone to tide me over, but at least my daughter will like it for the PlayStation aspect when I turn it over to her.

I’m finally back in a chair, instead of lying on my back for all the wrong reasons. I had to have my knee propped up, and was on crutches until a little over a week ago. Even now I’m really careful about what I do with that leg. Twisting it, or letting it go into the locked position, is something I avoid at all costs. Life doesn’t stop because you’ve got a funky pin, however, so I’ve got no choice to get moving on things.

Speaking of moving, the landlord was sympathetic enough to let us stay another month because there was no way I could move like that. Now we’re struggling to find an apartment, but a lot of that has to do with me hating that kind of thing. I have to force myself to spend just one day making all the calls I need to make. I’ve got a great list of places to call, at least. Technology is awesome. You don’t even have to go anywhere to see what a place looks like. You can weed out the ones that are completely unsuitable. Some sites have walk-through videos which are even better than pictures.

So, hopefully in less than two weeks we can get our butts into a better apartment. I don’t even want to talk about why this apartment is so terrible. It’s embarrassing. Let’s just say we’ve made friends with the mice, but there are other friendships we’re not willing to consider.

The great thing is, I’ve suddenly started feeling really good again. I had to rebook a specialist appointment because I couldn’t get down the stairs of my building, but on May 14th I finally see one of the best surgeons in Canada. I have hope in sight. My life is just over the horizon. I’ve tried to live as much as I can in my current situation, and keep my spirits up, but it’s not easy when you feel like everything wonderful has been taken from you. Now I feel like everything wonderful will be mine again, and the appreciation and anticipation are enough to get me off my butt to move my life forward again.

I haven’t been myself for a very long time. Now I’m gulping down the air and my mind is bursting with everything I’m going to do. There are things I’ve been doing already. I didn’t just lie down and die or anything. I mean, I was writing, I’ve been producing The Kovacs Perspective for more than two years now and taking it in a new direction with my partner, and I’ve been planning my future and looking forward to a time when I would be pain- and drug-free. When I say drugs, I’m talking about prescription and over-the-counter, not illicit. Not that I’m pure there, but it’s been many years since I delved into that goodie bag. A lot of people smoke pot to help with pain, but it has never helped my pain and I hated the way I felt on it so I don’t bother with it.

It’s kind of like the air is fresh, even when it’s not. I’m gulping down a mouthful of freedom I guess. I’ve been feeling trapped in my life, even knowing it was temporary. Knowing the cage door is about to open is a heady experience.

Whatever you do in life, appreciate every advantage you might have. If you can walk, be thankful for where your legs can take you. If you can hear, be thankful for the music that can fill up your life and the voices of loved ones. If you can see, relish the beauty of the world, whether it’s by reading an amazing book or watching a sunset over the water. No matter what has happened to you, what you may have lost, remember the things you still have. That’s the only thing that’s kept me going the last few years, having to wait to regain the full use of my body and mental faculties (which have been dimmed by the medication needed to handle the pain). Well, my ferrets have been a huge help, too, so I can’t forget them. They make me laugh when nothing else is funny.

One of the hardest things to deal with when encumbered by something that restricts your life, and especially something that causes chronic pain, is the emotional toll it takes. Most people suffer situational depression, and I’m no exception there. The problem is, if you tell your healthcare provider what you’re feeling the first thing they want to do is stick you on anti-depressants. I’d like to know how the hell they think that’s going to help. I mean, situational depression is not a chemical imbalance, so treating it with chemicals will do what, exactly? It’s just going to screw with your own brain chemistry and add a chemical imbalance you didn’t have before.

That was a lesson I learned when my ex started going through all that with his physical condition. It was severe, painful, caused irreversible damage to his body, and he was understandably miserable. Suddenly the doctor assumed he was going to attempt suicide, and then they took away the pain meds he needs so badly, which of course only made him more miserable. I mean, really! Talk about a stupid way to handle it. Getting rid of the pain is the only solution that works, not allowing a patient to suffer unnecessary pain.

So I never mentioned the frustration, despair, etc. I’ve got a lot of emotion locked up inside me now, waiting to be let out. I intend to use it to propel me forward. Back into the life that was delayed for so long. I’ve still got a bit of waiting to do, but I’m already cutting back on the pain killers. I can stand pain for a while, just not long-term when it starts driving me crazy, and as soon as my injuries are repaired I want to be able to get back to my life. I don’t want to have to wean myself off the drugs then, because that would only delay me further. The drugs I take affect my ability to think clearly, and to me that’s almost as intolerable as the pain. I have an affection for my strange little brain, so I’d like to get back in touch with it as soon as possible. My concentration has been shot, and there have been some projects I’ve put on the back burner because I just can’t deal with the steep learning curve right now. I’ve got new software to learn, and courses to take.

Still, I can only be grateful and appreciative that there’s an end to the misery in sight for me. There are too many people out there who know they’re stuck in their situations for the rest of their lives. They’re forced to make the best of it and fight off the inevitable depression. I think I could cope with almost anything except permanent pain, though I’ve dealt with pain most of my life so maybe I could cope with that, too. I just don’t want to have to, and it looks like I’m going to be one of the lucky ones. Plenty of reason to smile and feel good about the future opening up before me.

Oh, The Thinks I Can Think!

I’ve been taking a break from social media for a little while now. I can only handle name-calling and anger for so long at a stretch before I burn out. Then I start turning nasty, myself. As Nietzsche said, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” I was becoming a certain kind of monster, and was well aware of it. The first thing I did was cut the people out of my life that showed such a marked tendency toward viciousness, and then I stopped subjecting others to my own bad behaviour. I’m well aware that once you start in with the name-calling, you’ve just as good as admitted that you’ve lost the argument. Name-calling is the sign of a person who no longer has reason backing them up. It’s not necessarily true that the name-caller is always wrong, but by that point you’ve crossed over the line from debate into mudslinging, and the argument isn’t going anywhere but down.

So, I’ve made only brief appearances on Facebook, in some cases to thank the people who have come on to tell me they’ve got my back, and in some cases for tentative forays into humour. I’ve avoided commenting on anything that hovers around the edges of serious discourse. And you know what? I’m a hell of a lot happier, I think. I’m also catching up on a few things. Not finding news items to blog or write articles about has actually turned my brain back toward my real passion in writing – fiction. At first I started organizing some of my notes, and then as I was pulling notes into my OneNote folder for that particular novel, something strange happened. I opened the document for the book in order to glance over it. Then I read what I had written. That’s when I started to write!

At first I was just doing a bit of minor revising; phrasing I didn’t like that I decided to alter. I got to the end of what I’d already written, realized I’d stopped writing without finishing the chapter, and there I was…suddenly adding another thousand words.

Almost as interesting to me was the fact that I actually started considering doing some fiction work yesterday – short stories to be added to my website. Of course, I opened up the back-up pages of my website to see where I could put in a short-story section, only to realize that my website isn’t properly set up for it. Instead I wound up meandering around online and adding WordPress to a section of my site (that isn’t really publicly available yet, but probably will be at some point), so that I could move my blogging over to it. This is what attention-deficit disorder gets you. You start out doing one thing, realize there’s something else you need to do and wander off to do that, and in the middle of that you notice there’s something else that needs to be done, so you work on that for a little bit. Nothing ever seems to get finished.

Thankfully I’ve curbed my ADD when I’m doing stuff for other people (usually), so I’m able to accomplish things and meet deadlines in a professional sense, but when there’s no obligation or time frame that has to be adhered to it’s not surprising I lapse more often than not. I get stuff done for the show, because there’s a weekly deadline. In fact, I rather surprised myself and got ahead of schedule there. That helps, because I’m not even thinking about the show now. It’s not niggling at the back of my mind, distracting me from enjoying other activities. In fact, we’ve got some pretty amazing shows under our belts now. Our last one was an interview with a retired colonel who used to work at the Pentagon. He talks about the current situation with IS and the Islamic extremists, and really knows his stuff. If you want to have listen, go our our Podcast page. It’s well worth your time. I learned a lot, myself. The Twitter memorial account for Charlie Hebdo actually retweeted our show, if that tells you anything.

Knowing that we’re going to be moving probably helps, too. We’ve hated this place since we moved into it, and looking back I know that’s why I could never bring myself to unpack completely. We stayed more than two years, and that’s more an indicator of my laziness than the fact that I didn’t unpack the boxes. I’ve been so unhappy living in this hole, surrounded by people who are content to live at the bottom of society, and who spend their money on alcohol so they can pretend they’re having a good time. I don’t eschew the odd evening of intoxication, but they happen pretty rarely for me. Once every couple of years maybe. For many who live in my building, every weekend is a party. Knowing I was living in a slum didn’t exactly make me want to get up and dance every morning, and my natural disinclination toward domestic activities was exaggerated – in other words I became even more of a slob than I’m comfortable with, which is a saying a lot.

We may be buying a house, which will be further cause for celebration should things go according to plan. There are a couple of 3-bedroom houses (with two bathrooms) we’re interested in, and having a third bedroom means having decent work space. I can set my desk up properly again, close the door, and really concentrate on my writing. Since I’m not in the midst of any sort of romantic entanglement, it also means I won’t have any worries about anyone interrupting me, or getting pissy with me because I’m more interested in working than watching TV. My daughter respects my need to be left alone while I write – probably because she doesn’t like being bugged either.

While many people fantasize about falling in love, I daydream about setting up the perfect office and being left alone for days at a stretch. In fact, that’s actually how my tailbone got destroyed. I worked for more than 24 hours in a row once, sitting in a really cheap steno chair and only getting up to venture to the bathroom and grab a sandwich. When I finished the draft of the book I was working on it took me about fifteen minutes just to stand up. It was never right after that, and kept getting worse until I finally had to have it removed about four years ago. It had a major curvature to it that even I could see from the x-rays was far from normal.

Part of me has been pondering getting back to my fiction work for a while now. Yet somehow I’ve been thinking I would wait until we had moved and I didn’t have those external distractions. Instead I’ve already gone back to it. I think all I really needed was to get away from the kind of writing I find so aggravating. Aggravating not only because it isn’t the kind I want to be doing, and also because of the subject matter being more than a little controversial, so I ended up with trolls here and there. There are still some serious topics I’d like to dig into at some point, but they’re major pieces that will require a lot of work and monetary compensation. They’re also the kind of work that will take me away from fiction in a big way, and now that I’ve finally gone back to it I don’t want to leave again for a while. In fact, when I started this blog I wasn’t planning to do much other than just chat with people and get my thoughts ‘on paper’ so to speak. Much like a journal, except that it’s public. I certainly didn’t intend to spend the next couple of years writing for various online publications about so many controversial topics.

Life is funny like that, isn’t it? As much as I feel like I’ve accomplished as a writer over the last 30 months or so, it was very different from what I had planned to do. I don’t consider it to have been a waste in any way – just the opposite in fact – but certainly it was a completely different path from what I intended. I read an article a year or so ago about how many words a writer had to write before they were ready. I don’t think it was even the author’s idea, but rather they were talking about someone else’s notion of the amount of practice it took to be a good writer. Apparently a million is the magic number. Yup. A million words. Now, maybe that seems like a lot to some people, and especially to those who don’t normally write, but a regular novel is around 100,000 words. Anything less than about 60,000 words is more like a novella. The average article is anywhere from 500 to 1,500 words, usually, depending on the depth of the subject matter. I once wrote an article that I believe was over 5,000 words, but then it was on the aftermath of rape – not something to be taken lightly, and there was a lot that needed to be said. A blurb just wasn’t going to cut it.

However, just taking the average length and multiplying it by the number of articles and blog postings I’ve written (well over 300), I’ve actually got about half a million words floating around out there online. Never mind what I’ve written that hasn’t been made public. I’ve finished one full novel, of about 120,000 words, that I’ve rewritten a couple of times. (It’s a book I never intend to publish, since it was a romance I wrote when I was young and full of silly ideas like that.) Then there’s the work I’ve done on other books that I have not finished. Then there was the half of a book that I wrote as a teenager, and I was writing fiction stories starting at the age of twelve. Being 43 years old now, I’m pretty sure I hit the million mark some time ago, in addition to having ‘matured’ 32 years. Yes, I used scare quotes, but that’s because I don’t really consider myself to be very mature. I spend far too much time playing computer games for anyone to call me mature. I don’t care how grey my hair is. [Funnily enough my daughter was just saying I might be able to pull off a Jamie Lee Curtis with my hair, and I was more than a little flattered by that (no she’s not prone to flattery – the opposite if anything). I respect any woman, particularly in Hollywood, who ages proudly.]

Maybe now I’m ready. I’m looking forward to it at any rate, and it’s been a while since I really got into something I was working on. I can feel my focus coming back. Again it’s an area where I didn’t plan to do any writing, since it’s within the fantasy genre I would say, but at least it’s within the realm of fiction. I started plotting out this book a year ago, doing research on any relevant historical topics, but since it’s about demons and other mythical beings I can really have fun with it and make it what I want. The fact that everything can be made up is both the joy and the challenge of fantasy writing. J.K. Rowling probably had a blast writing the Harry Potter books, but with everything that you make up you have to be sure you keep track of it. That same thought occurred to me when reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings again. You can make up an entirely new planet if you want to, but then you’re starting completely from scratch. You can’t take anything for granted, not even the invention of the wheel.

If I really got serious with my current effort, I could have the first draft written within a month. Since it’s intended to be the beginning of a series, however, I won’t be finished even then. It’s going to be a smaller book than the ones I’ll be writing for my serial killer series, so hopefully I can bite the bullet and just get the thing done already. Okay, I’m off again to do what I do best – daydream and make things up as I go along. I’ll be around, though, and will keep everyone posted on my progress. I’ll talk to y’all very soon!

The Only Rights We Have Are the Ones We Fight For

Oftentimes in life, just showing up to a fight is enough to end it. Thus was the case with my most recent battle a couple of days ago. My landlord attempted to take me to court to get me to pay for renovations they were doing. Yes, that is totally unfair, as well as completely illegal, but if I hadn’t gone to court I’d have been charged more than $2,600 in absentia. They tried to lie and say we’d damaged a floor that had been in the building since it had been built. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will say that the guy who did our walk-through when we were looking at the place said they would fix the floor before we moved in. They didn’t, but that tells you the damage was pre-existing.

The end result was that as soon as they saw we had shown up to court (they saw our names on the sign-in sheet) they decided they would be willing to go through a mediator rather than the adjudicator. Fancy that! We presented numerous pictures showing the water damage in the apartment that could only be pre-existing, and entirely out of the realm of our control. The roof had leaked for a long time, there’s a wall in which there’s a leaking pipe, and there is so much mold and mildew that I can no longer use my bedroom. By strange coincidence they were no longer interested in pursuing damages. Happily this mediation gave us the opportunity to bring up their numerous illegal activities without actually reporting them, but they took them a little more seriously at least. It also gave us the opportunity to let them know we’d happily be vacating the premises at the end of March. Yay!

Things became remarkably friendly during these proceedings, considering how nasty they tried to be. They talked about what great tenants we were, because we were quiet and always paid our rent. I guess they figured we were so nice that we would happily roll over and pay for them to replace the floor in our apartment. Right. The funny thing is, they truly have no clue how absolutely nasty I could have been. I could have forced them into bankruptcy had I chosen to make my complaints known with the appropriate legal parties. If I had chosen to be vindictive, the city would have come in and shut the place down. They would have been charged many thousands of dollars just to be able to continue as landlords.

Instead, I simply stopped them from screwing me over. If they had chosen to keep on with their case, I would have pulled out all the stops, of course, if for no other reason than to show the true state of their general character. Their blatant dishonesty would have been more than enough to have my case thrown out. As it is, that’s what the end result was here, and they were forced to swallow the application fee of $170 for filing against us. They’ve also told us they’re going to provide us with a good reference, etc. I don’t care if they’re doing it to placate us, as long as they don’t screw up our reputation as tenants. Here they tend to keep a record, and it becomes really difficult to find a place to live if you’ve been a bad tenant – similar to having a bad credit rating.

It just goes to show, though, how far some people will go to get you to pay their bills for them, and how little you sometimes have to do to stand up for yourself. Just because there are laws that exist to protect us, does not mean we won’t be taken unfair advantage of. Every time we do not force people in power to abide by the laws, the more likely they are to run roughshod over us. Landlords seem to be some of the worst, because so many of them are owner-operators, basically, uneducated in the terms under which they are allowed to continue said operations. They seem to think that because they buy a piece of property they automatically have the right to rent it out in any manner they choose. They don’t, and the courts can remove their privileges as landlords. They can also be heavily fined and find themselves stripped of their property if it turns out to be unfit for residential use.

There are people in this world who have a gigantic sense of entitlement. They’ve somehow come to believe themselves above the law, or simply better than others around them. They feel like they deserve better treatment than that which they afford others. You find it a lot in wealthier people, who have never had to live through difficult times. People who inherit their wealth in particular, such as the Walton family brats who now run the Walmart empire, and the Koch brothers who now run Koch Industries. They didn’t build their businesses themselves. They just suck every last ounce of profits out of them with no consideration for what they’re doing to others. They simply do not care, and the government lets them get away with it.

Things aren’t a whole lot better in Canada, but all companies are forced to comply with much higher minimum wages, and there’s a lot more protection for employees up here. Yet, somehow, Canada has been listed as the number one country to do business in. A less complicated tax code helps. We have very little local interference in business, too, so businesses generally only have to deal with provincial and federal legislation, and they do not contradict each other in any case I’ve ever seen, because the contradictions have already been dealt with very simply. If the business runs across provincial lines, such as transportation, it’s governed federally. If not, it’s usually governed provincially.

Very few of our laws are municipal or regional. Sometimes they’re managed by regional departments, but the laws are still provincial. I had American friends be confused about how little concern I showed for the mayor of Toronto being a crack-head, but truthfully there is almost no power in being the mayor of a city here. He could have done something stupid like have a garbage truck dumped onto someone’s car, maybe, or change parking legislation, but that’s about it. It wasn’t until it came out that (allegedly) he was abusive to his wife, I even looked twice at him. As far as I (and most other Canadians) are concerned, scandals aren’t really something we pay much attention to in politics. Drugs aren’t legal here, but a lot of people think they should be, so people think nothing of offering to share a joint with their neighbours. My own mother smokes a fair bit of the stuff, which I find funny because I can’t stand it. I don’t mean that I judge anyone who does it. I just mean I don’t like what it does to me, so I don’t smoke it myself.

Over the last few decades, sadly, many people in North America have given up on the idea of fighting for their own rights. We had a big lull where we thought things weren’t perfect, but it wasn’t worth getting worked up about, but now we’re seeing the harsh reality that crept up on us during our political slumber. In Canada our environment is being destroyed. The entire province of Alberta is a disgusting mess. Yes, people still live there, particularly since there are a ton of high-paying jobs, but it really isn’t a healthy place. There are so many toxic spills in Canada, that they’re almost uncountable. Close to 2,000 per year for the last 37 years. About 6 per day.

In the US, there are so many problems that may be unresolvable. The education system was attacked and dismantled a long time ago, so it becomes a struggle just to make people understand that there is a problem, much less what to do about it. George Carlin did a far better job of explaining it than I can here, but it boils down to a system of government wanting a population that is easily controlled. I’m hoping the people in both our countries wake up to the reality, and that we can come up with a solution before it’s too late. However, so many just shrug their shoulders and say, “What’s the point? There isn’t anything we can do about it anyway.”

Of course, that’s exactly what they want you to think. And by “they” I mean the giant corporations that are profiting off our ignorance and inertia. The government itself wouldn’t be a problem if big businesses weren’t there to hand over the cash. In the US it’s even legal to bribe your senators and congressional members. It’s called lobbying. They have to be a lot more circumspect in Canada, but they still manage to a lesser degree. If people are led to believe that nothing they do will make a difference, they simply won’t try. If they don’t try, it just makes it easier for their rights to be stripped, even if those rights are protected by law.

Every time we allow someone to step on us, we contribute to the larger issue. In fact, there’s a butterfly effect. I’ll use my own example to illustrate what I mean. Let’s say I hadn’t fought my landlord on this, and they got my money to pay for their renovations. There’s no way they would have stopped with me. They would have found it a very easy way to renovate the whole building, and would be encouraged to try it with everyone, knowing that it was unlikely anyone would try to stop them. Every single person in this building (about 30 apartments) would most likely have been taught that they’re just going to be screwed over for the rest of their lives. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I don’t think it’s too far off the mark. The people who live here are mostly uneducated, and they’re all poor. Nobody would live in this building if they were bringing in a decent income. In my case my daughter makes minimum wage, and I’m on disability. Even still, we’re moving on to better things. I’ve never lived in a place this disgusting in my life, and I don’t intend to stick around.

Back to my point, however. So, you have a building with 30 families, all being taught that they have no power and no rights, because none of them here will likely have read the Residential Tenancies Act. In fact, most tenants never read even excerpts from it. I’m an exception, apparently. I like to learn new things, and I like to know what my rights are. My landlord is far from unique when it comes to bending and breaking the law. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a landlord that wasn’t breaking the law in some fashion or other. Most of them violate entry laws, most violate anti-smoking legislation, most don’t pay interest on deposits, and most do not maintain their buildings mechanically or health-wise in accordance with the law. When tenants don’t fight back against them, they simply continue doing business in the way that brings them as much profit as possible.

Our homes are the places where we spend most of our lives, usually. At the very least we usually sleep in them. To have our rights taken from us in our own homes is very meaningful. This mentality invades all other parts of our lives. When you stop to think about the fact that most employers also violate the rights of their employees, there are very few ways in which citizens are not being stepped on. It becomes a constant, daily thing. Again, so few actually read about employment legislation, so they don’t even know that their employers are supposed to provide them with a copy of the Employment Standards Act in order to educate them on their rights. When employees don’t know that, they don’t ask. They don’t know where to go to get the information, because they aren’t researchers by nature.

Even thinking about the ways we’re always being taken advantage of is exhausting. There are just so many battles to be fought. I haven’t worked for anyone other than myself for a long time, and even then I worked in payroll and human resources, so I was the one making sure the employees were not having their rights stripped. My employers weren’t thrilled, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to be a party to it. These were people that were paying themselves a million-dollar bonus at Christmas, but they didn’t want to pay two hours of overtime to an employee. This attitude is typical, and I’ve never worked for an employer who wasn’t like that. I’m sure there are some nice employers and landlords out there, but like most people I haven’t been lucky enough to run into them. In many cases landlords and employers don’t even know they’re doing anything wrong, but it’s their legal obligation to know these things, so I feel no sympathy for their plight. If you’re going to hire people, or rent property to people, then do your due diligence.

At work and at home we’re getting screwed over constantly, and then there are all the other things that are coming down on us. Our lands are being stripped and destroyed, the environment is becoming toxic, and in twenty years there’s a good chance we’re not even going to have breathable air unless something is done immediately. There will be continuous changes to what we can do in our leisure time, simply because there will be places we’ll no longer be able to go. People are discriminated against for their gender, race (theirs or their spouse’s), religion, and sexual orientation.

This is why every single one of us has to stop in their tracks and say, “Enough already!” We have to stop this on a daily basis. We have to fight against it. We have to share information with one another about what can be done. We stand to lose every one of our rights without a single battle being fought, simply because we don’t want to deal with confrontation. I’m well aware that confrontation sucks. I absolutely hate confrontations. I hate drama and fighting. I don’t watch reality TV, and that’s one of the biggest reasons. I don’t mind sports like UFC and boxing, because there are rules and they’re not based on personal issues. It’s about technique and skill in the ring.

When it comes to fighting ‘city hall’ as they say, it’s different. The results matter. They have an impact on your life, so it’s scary to fight against someone. I guarantee, however, that if you don’t fight, the results will be far worse than if you do. If I hadn’t shown up in court the other day, they would have ruled that I owed the money, and I would have been charged for the filing fee as well. I would have been stuck owing almost $3,000 for something that wasn’t even my debt. Not showing up for a fight is basically considered tacit consent. Courts will almost always rule against the party that isn’t there. You simply must refute the claims of those that would take advantage of you. If you don’t, your neighbour is going to be the next one footing the bill.

If it’s your boss taking advantage of you, your co-workers are likely getting the same treatment. I actually had a friend go to work for a company that had screwed me over in the past, and they did even worse to her. I helped her fight it, and she won, but she would likely have never been put in that position if I’d fought them when I had the chance years earlier. An employer that’s forcibly reminded by the courts that what they’re doing is illegal, will think twice about doing it again. An employer that is never challenged will keep doing the same things, and will likely get progressively worse. In some cases they never learn, but as long as people keep fighting, then there’s a good chance the company will end up getting shut down and the employees will be awarded what they’re owed.

It’s always worse in lean times when there are few jobs and few places to live. People are afraid of losing their jobs and apartments, because they know it’s going to be tough to find another one. That fear is what keeps us all down. We fight when we know we’ve got the upper hand, or we fight when we know things can’t get any worse. The common person rarely has the upper hand, though, and if we’re in a position where we know things can’t get worse, that’s a terrible place to be. It’s easier to give up then.

I’m of two minds when it comes to unions. I know they’ve served a purpose, but I also know the unions aren’t exactly the benevolent organizations they pretend to be. In some cases they simply clog up the works and take hard-earned money from their members for doing absolutely nothing. Their existence, however, is a benefit in that they’re a constant threat to the employer. I’m well aware that it was union efforts that organized the workers and they were responsible for getting us our shorter work weeks (and many other benefits), so we certainly need to show our gratitude there. However, I’ve also worked for a company where I have been harmed by their presence. It’s a sort of catch-22. All in all, though, I do think they’re needed, if for no other reason than the silent threat factor. Any company that has a union in place is well aware that they’re being constantly and closely monitored, and not just by a single individual. They aren’t faced with only one employee that knows their rights, but every employee that has an ironclad contract. That can make a big difference with a crappy employer.

Organized protest is always what leads any social change. A single person can be responsible for a great deal, and usually that’s because they’ve managed to gather together a group of like-minded individuals. The shouts of a group become loud enough that the governing bodies can’t tune them out. The public starts hearing their voices, and they often add their own then. Social change happens because the majority of people want it, and they force the legislators to acknowledge that it’s what the public wants. Government is supposed to work for the people, but it doesn’t unless the people force it to. Government simply goes on doing whatever it’s doing, often being bought and paid for by big business, unless the citizens put their collective feet down.

The other part of understanding social change, is that we have to realize it starts small, and it starts locally. If we want change, we start with our neighbourhood, because it’s really not that hard to get a few hundred people together. Then we can move on to our city. Once we have our cities back, we can deal with state or provincial government. After all, if every major city has changed, the province or state no longer has a choice, really. Once each state or province has changed, that changes the whole country. It’s not that hard to remove the corrupt government officials if we band together and decide we don’t want them. We hired them, and we can fire them.

All of this begins with showing up. Until we show up for the fight, we will be walked on. Once we show up, we can plead our case. Enough people together, fighting for the same rights, and you’ve got big change. It may not be changes to the law, because the laws might already be on the books. They just have to be enforced, and if you don’t fight for your own rights, then who do you think is supposed to do it for you?

A House Full of Love and Laughter Again

Scooter (left) and Pepper (right)

There was a big hole in my life. It didn’t appear because I was without a romantic partner. It appeared when I lost one of my ferrets over a year ago. It was a devastating loss to me, and I still get really choked up when I think about Stimpy. There was a serious void in my life, though, and part of me was maybe conscious of it, but not fully. I didn’t realize how badly that void needed to be filled. Not until last Tuesday, when we were lucky enough to be given care of a ferret in need of a new home. I don’t usually like it when people give up their pets, but there are rare exceptions when it’s necessary, and this was one time when the family really had no choice. She also made sure he went to a home where he would be loved, and she’s been texting me regularly to ask how he’s doing.

The new fur baby is named Scooter. We had actually changed the names of both of our other ferrets, but this time we have no intention of doing so. The name is appropriate to a ferret, and quite adorable, so he will remain Scooter, Scootie, Scooter-Bug, et al. (That last bit is [et alia abbreviated] Latin for ‘and others’ in the neuter plural – deal with it spell-check! Man, I hate those red squiggles when I know I’m right!!) Stimpy was originally Stewart, or Stewie, and Pepper was originally Miss Licks – his name definitely had to be changed, since his former ‘owners’ didn’t realize that was not a belly button. Ferrets are incredibly smart – supposedly more so than cats or dogs – so a name change is no big deal for them, but it’s nice to be able to keep the name they’re accustomed to.

It amazes me to see the difference between a single-ferret household, and one with two of the little trouble-makers. For one thing, it really is at least double the fun, if not more. They get far more excited and play more, and there are two to watch. They don’t always sleep at the same time, so I can get my fix more regularly. For another, it really is double the love. I fall in love with ferrets at an alarmingly fast rate, and Scooter had my heart in his amazingly dexterous paws before they’d even touched me. To put the capper on it, he loves giving kisses. There’s nothing more adorable than a ferret who licks the tip of your nose with that tiny little tongue. Well, he’s not really picky. He licks the rest of my face, too, and fingers and toes. Thankfully bad breath isn’t common with ferrets.

The great thing about ferrets is that they can go pretty much anywhere, so even if we go on vacation we can easily bring them with us. There are places where they have been banned, such as California and Hawaii, and I’m not sure about New York City now. They were talking about lifting the ban, but I’m not sure if that’s been approved, and if it has, whether or not it’s actually been passed into law. I’m sure there are counties throughout the US where they’re not permitted, but I doubt it will be an issue. I do plan to take a road trip as soon as I get around to buying another car, but when you’re just passing through it’s not usually an issue. Especially when an animal is in a proper carrier. (I never travel with animals in a vehicle that aren’t in carriers or don’t have their own seat belts like they have for dogs.)

If an animal has been vaccinated for rabies and distemper, and has passed border scrutiny, most cops aren’t going to give you a hard time, even assuming they bother to stop you. Granted, me having Canadian plates might concern them. After all, we Canadians are known for our potent hydroponic bud. Ironically, despite how much of it is grown in other provinces, it’s British Columbia that’s know for propagation, so the Ontario plates may not be concerning to them.

As for ferrets going across the border from Canada to the US, however, the CDC states that there aren’t any specific requirements. Not even for dogs or cats. It’s apparently only airlines that bother with that sort of thing. Since I plan to have my boys fully up-to-date on their shots, though, it’s not a worry for me either way. Funnily enough, it will cost me $30 to bring one of my boys back home and $5 for the other – Canada’s far stricter immigration laws in effect, I guess. The great thing is, ferrets are classified as domestic pets all across Canada, so there’s nowhere in the country where I have to worry about them being banned. They’re actually listed very specifically with dogs and cats, which tells me that the Canadian government at least is recognizing that they’re the third most popular pet in North America. Yes, they really are. Of course, that’s likely because the average ferret owner has seven of the adorable little buggers. Most people don’t have seven cats or dogs.

I started out writing this, lying on my bed as I am now, but suddenly I have a Scooter-Bug sleeping on my chest. He’s been there for a while, and doesn’t seem to mind how loudly I type (I got some teasing complaints earlier on Skype from my friend and business partner – I started out as a competitive pianist and using an electric typewriter, so I really bang on my keyboard – if I don’t I make too many mistakes). The point being that Stimpy used to sleep like that. It was very comforting, and I’ve really missed it. Pepper doesn’t like to be touched by humans when he sleeps, except when I comfort him during a bad dream. Then he wakes up to run right back to his bed – the only animal I’ve ever known (ferret or otherwise) to be so tired he has to literally run to bed.

For the first few days Scooter was pretty quiet, though he did like to wrestle with our hands and was playfully nippy (just mouthing, not actually hurting). Now he’s starting to romp and do a little weasel war dancing (if you’ve never seen that, I suggest typing that into the search box on YouTube, because it’s hilarious and how they express their joy and playfulness), plus he’s dooking, which is the sound ferrets make that is very different for each ferret. Scooter and Pepper haven’t quite found their balance yet, so they circle one another, dooking, wrestling without biting, and chasing each other, but once they start sleeping in the same bed they’ll be bosom buddies for the rest of their lives.

We were already planning to get another ferret, but it suddenly became more urgent when Pepper started showing signs of boredom and depression. After all, people just aren’t as much fun as another ferret. He got plenty of love and attention – more than he really wanted from people – but it wasn’t the same as having a fur buddy. He tried to befriend our last remaining cat, but she kept rejecting him (she doesn’t even like other cats really). He would flop on the floor and sigh dejectedly – yes, ferrets really do sigh like that.

Within a few days we were trying to make arrangements with the nearest ferret shelter, which would have cost us a lot of money. Not only did we need to get a special blood test done to ensure our current ferret didn’t have a deadly disease called Aleutian Disease Virus, usually referred to as ADV, but we would have been paying for anesthetic to knock him out to get the blood sample, renting a vehicle to get to the other city, and then paying adoption and membership fees on top of all that. Still, even with a total of around $420, we were willing to do it. I just can’t bring myself to contribute to the breeding mill and pet store cycle. For Pepper’s sake, if there were no ferrets available at the shelter and none in the classifieds, I would have relented.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that getting another ferret would fill up my life and heart this much. I’m crazy about the little critters to begin with, and the loss of one is more painful than I can even begin to describe, but I’m willing to deal with that loss. They’re worth it.

Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness, Just Less Misery

Until my daughter found a job again, we were living very close to the edge. Thankfully neither of us has any bad habits that take up what little money we were bringing in. We don’t smoke, drink, or do any illicit drugs. However, not having money meant we couldn’t do anything beyond pay bills and buy food. We were okay, but it’s not the best existence in the world. The thing is, if you’re lucky you can shut off all impulses to spend, and in my case anyway, I became even more introverted than usual.

It wasn’t until we started having  decent money coming into the household again, that I slowly broke out of that shell I was in. It’s funny, but the smallest things can make such a huge impact in a person’s life. In my case, it was when we went out and spent money on stuff for organizing the bathroom. We had nowhere to store anything except a small medicine chest, and that bathroom is very tiny. So we bought an overjohn (one of those cabinets that go over your toilet, hence the word ‘john’ being included), a toilet paper holder, a proper garbage can with a pedal-operated lid, hooks for the door, a shower organizer, and a new shower head. It turns out that it was money very well spent, because it was inspiring to me.

You see, suddenly one room in our house was no longer hopeless. It felt nice to go in there and see those things. Everything we bought had a nice bronze finish, which really spruces things up, and now we had places to actually store the things we needed to have in the bathroom. Well, wouldn’t you know it, I just had to keep going on other things. Like magic, poof, I reorganized my bedroom so that I was finally able to get some writing done again. Now I’m starting to take on other areas of the apartment. My daughter already has her own bedroom set up properly, so that’s another room that isn’t a disaster area.

Admittedly, my lack of domestic inclinations has a great deal to do with the fact that the rest of the apartment looks like a bomb went off. We do not do any living in our living room, so it’s become something of a dump site for everything we don’t put into our bedrooms. I’m at the point, however, where having a couple of rooms looking nice has been pushing me to get everything else looking that much better. No room in my home will ever be perfect, simply because I just don’t care about perfection. I want to live in my home, not photograph it for the cover of a magazine.

Still, I actually went to the extreme step of washing some dishes this evening. My daughter is at work, and when she comes home and notices what I’ve done, I’ll have to be ready to perform CPR. Too bad I don’t have a defibrillator, because the shock will be great, and there’s a very real risk of heart attack. I abhor doing dishes as a rule. Sticking my hands in dirty dishwater actually makes me want to gag. The idea of soggy bits of food floating around and touching me is almost more than I can bear. I think the issue stems from my stint as a dishwasher in a restaurant, back in the day when people could smoke in them. Just imagine the nasty mess in the bus-pans. Unfinished drinks with their ice cubes floating around, mixing with ashes and cigarette butts, pieces of steak, particles of eggs and pancakes. Quite literally a miasma of gross. I was sixteen years old then, and it probably scarred me for life. Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to be dishwashers!

I’m very content being in my bedroom these days. I no longer look around with the faint urge to clean where I end up saying, “F*ck it,” because it’s just too much bloody work, and then going back to whatever game I was playing. I look around with a sense of satisfaction and comfort. My ferret still digs in his food dish and spills it on the floor, so I’m bound to have a mess of some sort, but that’s how it is with any kind of pet. Thankfully he doesn’t shed a lot of fur. He has his newspapers to make his other messes, and that makes them a cinch to clean up.

It blows my mind what effect a little bit of money can have on a person’s life. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just enough to get a ball rolling. Inertia takes care of the rest. Curiously, I’m still in the midst of doing even more dishes. I should really get back to those, and then start tracking down that defibrillator. eBay probably has some for sale.

When Life Hinges on Chairs and Toner Cartridges

I didn’t fall into a black hole, though it might seem that I must have done. I wasn’t despairing about my current circumstances, or feeling depressed. The closest to that was exhaustion. You see, my life apparently hinges on a properly situated chair, and obtaining toner cartridges. Most of the delays I face at the moment are because I’m unable to print. Sound ridiculous? Let me explain. You see, Revenue Canada owes me a lot of money from back taxes. In order to file my returns I need to print the forms that need to be filled out. I can’t do them and submit electronically because I’m too far behind on them and can’t create a log-in, so they all have to be done in hard copy.

So, I ordered toner cartridges for a really good price from eBay, and idiotically forgot to change my address on there, so they got shipped to my old address in another city. It’s a huge rigamarole for me to get there, but my ex went to pick up his mail and got the cartridges after they’d been sitting there for weeks. I finally was able to arranged for my daughter to pick them up from him, since she works very close to where my ex is living now. Well, he was late getting home and they missed one another, which means waiting even longer to get them.

You may wonder why the money is so necessary. Well, I need to get a car. I need one very badly. I have to be able to get to doctor’s appointments all over the place, and I need to be able to run errands. My injuries are such that I’m not even supposed to be walking, yet it’s a 30-minute walk for me to get to my family doctor – never mind the specialist I see in another city. Buses are a huge hassle, especially when you need to walk several blocks to make connections, or they don’t travel where you need to go.

Another reason I need money, especially after yesterday where we had three blackouts, is because my computer is dying a slow and painful death. Well, painful for me anyway. It becomes agony for an impatient person to have to wait for a laptop to chug along and do something that should have been accomplished in a microsecond. My poor laptop has been subjected to a fair bit of stress. A lightning strike dinged my LAN cable input, so I have to use wireless now. The blackouts have messed up my sound through my speakers, and they killed one of the connections that involve my battery charging – so if my laptop is accidentally unplugged, or the power goes out, it just shuts off. I have no battery backup. Never mind the fact that it’s about 6 years old now, and you might as well brand it an antique. Computers this old are laughable.

A new computer means being able to do my own online show, too. I’ve got big plans for it. Check out the Aberrant Rain page on my personal website if you’re curious as to what it’s all about. For that matter check out my website in general, and don’t forget to bookmark it! You can find the home page at www.rainstickland.com. Welcome to my strange little corner of the world.

So, you see, I haven’t been entirely unproductive. I just haven’t been doing any writing really. I did write one piece for a new website I’m contributing to, called The Simple Keys. It’s a piece I’m rather proud of actually, and something I’ve been meaning to write about for some time. It’s called, “Don’t Just Survive…Thrive! Rape and Abuse Don’t Have to Destroy Your Life.” It’s subject matter that’s pretty important to me on a very personal level, and I’m very open about what I’ve gone through simply because I want to give hope to someone else who may not have healed from their own experiences.

The biggest reason I haven’t been writing is because I haven’t had a proper chair set up with my desk to be able to sit up and write. My laptop has been on my night stand so that I could lie in bed to use it. It’s not laziness that has me in bed, in case you’re not familiar with my previous blog postings. It’s injuries. I’ve got major damage to my hip joints that will require four separate surgeries within the next eight years. Good times.

I spend a fair bit of my time heavily medicated, which is another reason for my writing hiatus. I have to switch things around all the time because some drugs lose their effectiveness, while others cause damage to my liver. Thankfully the liver is an organ that heals itself if it stops getting pounded by something. I’m on a good drug now that’s non-narcotic. It’s a neuropathic pain reliever. It helps with the pain in my nervous system, dulling the pain signals that go to my brain. It doesn’t get rid of it entirely, but it makes my life a hell of a lot more comfortable.

I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to contribute to my blog all the time anymore, though I will certainly try to add to it far more regularly than I have been – which has been not at all for about three months now. Some people wondered if it was the presence of a new man in my life, but it wasn’t that. He’s very encouraging when it comes to my work. He’s not possessive of my time, or threatened if I’m focusing on other things. Besides, he’s well aware that I’m crazy about him, so insecurity will not have a foothold there.

Finally I have managed to get my old chair set up in my bedroom in such a way that I can write properly again. I’m in as comfortable of a position as possible, though it may take some getting used to. The last few weeks have been a bit of a horror show for me when it comes to pain, and we had a cold snap that made it even worse. It was hardly encouraging to my writing. I was getting ideas for a number of pieces, but just wasn’t able to bang them out on the keyboard. Well, hopefully I have resolved that issue and will be back in fighting form. At least for a while.

To be honest, I’ve been feeling somewhat discouraged about my current physical situation. You see, I finally got to see an orthopedic surgeon, but it turned out he no longer does surgery at all, and he never did hips. He didn’t even know of any other specialists that do. Most of the orthopedic surgeons he knew worked on shoulder injuries. Well, he is in a wealthier city, and those wealthy people do need to be able to play their golf games. I, on the other hand, live in an economically depressed city, seeing as I’m somewhat economically depressed myself at the moment. Apparently there are some world-class surgeons here who work on hip injuries. Yippee…except that it may take a year for me to get in to see them, and then be put onto a waiting list just for my first surgery. We’ll have to see what happens there.

When you’re fighting to get proper care, you’re in constant pain and living on drugs, and you can’t get around to your appointments without a great deal of struggle, after a while you just get tired. I’ll bust my butt for months to get somewhere, make a little headway, and just get worn out from it all. Then I just kind of give up for a while. I simply can’t keep fighting. I don’t think anyone can fight all the time. Especially when you get one piece of discouraging news after another. I got excited when I finally got in to see a specialist about my hips, and it was a huge let-down to find out he couldn’t help me at all. Not only that, but after some research and finding out it was going to take many more months just to get in to see someone who could help me, I just had to take a break from it to some extent.

I think I’m back for another round of struggle, though. I’m not entirely certain, but it seems as though I’m starting to get a few things done again. I did manage to make my bedroom conducive to working and writing, which was a huge deal for me. It isn’t easy to do housework of any kind when all you want to do is curl into a fetal position and moan, never mind moving furniture around. Still, it had to be done if I was ever going to get moving with my life. Maybe after this I’ll be in a lot of pain again for a while. Who knows? At least I’ve got things set up for myself, though.

I used to write a blog posting every single day. I liked having that outlet, I guess. It wasn’t just about personal stuff either. I wrote a lot of opinion pieces on various political and social issues. I don’t want to be one of those people that are screaming about things all the time, though. I need to be more positive. Are there things that need changing in the world? Sure there are. Are there things that piss me off? Absolutely. The problem is, yelling about it just makes everyone mad. Yelling at someone for it doesn’t change any minds. I decided a long time ago to approach things from a different angle, so when I write pieces now I’m going to try to write about what I think the solution is, or just outline possibilities. I have no problem with detailing the issues I’d like to see resolved, and spreading out the bits and pieces of them so that we can all look at an issue from various angles. I think that would be a much better approach than just getting upset and making everyone else either upset or defensive.

Nobody knows what the future holds, of course, so I can’t say for certain where I’ll go with my work, or even where I’m going with this blog, but I’ll certainly be writing a lot more in the near future. One thing I should note, however, is that I intend to do a lot of fiction writing. That means I need to be in a slightly different frame of mind. My postings on here will likely reflect that. I’ll be doing research on subjects that pertain to the new book series I’ve started, which means my curiosity will compel me to delve far deeper into a topic than I need to, as well as meandering onto other topics that pop into my head. I’ll be sure to find out a whole bunch of weird and interesting facts that I just have to share with everyone.

My new fiction series is going to be about demons, but in a new and intriguing way. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m starting to get a little bit tired of seeing the scads of books and movies in the vampire genre. Sure, I would love to stop aging and be immortal, but it’s not bloody likely (pardon the pun), so I think we probably all want to move on to something else for a while. Anyone who reads fiction probably isn’t looking for a lot of realism, but the same subject does get tiresome after a while.

Okay, now that I’ve updated everyone, and gotten back in touch with my writing identity, I think I need to rest up for a bit. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, and everything I’ve been doing to get ready for it has tuckered me out! Back to playing games for a while tonight, and then I’m going to sleep. I hope everyone is doing well, and that life has been treating you kindly so far in the new year.