Thursday, August 27, 2009

the last time I saw Daniel

(By my calculations, I am about three posts behind. I'm attempting some kind of sequence here - one more Michfest poem, a poem I wrote while I was camping - geez, what's with the poetry lately? But I'm going to post things slightly out of order, so that I can pay tribute to someone special....)

The last time I saw Daniel

The last time
I saw Daniel
he was
helping clear tables
conversing over cake slices.
His smile?
As always, bright
even though
laughter had
left his eyes.

The last time I saw Daniel
with dark-eyed
and that
leather coat
I admired so much,
he hugged me
in the church basement
and smelled
of unwashed male.
A clue.

The last time
I saw Daniel
I knew his recent history
heard of
his battles with
ease that
followed and
slowly killed
him, inch by

The last time
I saw Daniel
he said
he was tired
and he
told no jokes
that I recall.
He'd stopped painting,
gave up
the vestiges of
found a new
and he knows my
He said he was okay.

The last time
I saw Daniel
I dreamed an
open door
with bright sunlight
and peace.
He sat, content
and smiled.
Held his hands
open and
"I'm finally free."

(rip Daniel P. I hope that you've found the peace that eluded you through your lifetime. You will be missed!)

Sunday, August 23, 2009


This is where I'll be for the next four days. My girls and I are taking our annual trek to the Bruce Peninsula. I'll catch you all when I get home.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

honest scrap award

Lovely Margo has bestowed upon me the "honest scrap" award, and assured me that, really, there were no rules.

But I'm going to take a page out of her book and point you to a few of my favourite reads. I'm trying to stick to people who haven't had the award yet....Check them out!

a - Margo Moon is an amazing writer, and covers a lot of territory, from her beautiful and erotic fiction, to her own witty and timely political pieces.

I started reading Mon's blog more than a year ago. We were in almost exactly the same was so comforting to discover that there were other people out there, just like me, who were coming out at this age. She's had an incredible journey, and she just got out of the hospital, so she needs lots of love!

Maria writes beautiful pieces about her life with her partner and daughter. Her words are like a long drink of water after a walk through the desert. So refreshing, honest and satisfying.

Ang, because she has a beautiful soul, and an artist's eye.

Making Space is chronicling her own coming-out story (I really am trying to get away from saying mid-life because, whatever, my life is just beginning), and her blend of spiritual and personal discovery have me hooked!

For Margo, the Refocksa crew, and everyone else who reads, thank you! I don't feel so quite alone in the world when I find my way to your pages.

And now, some things about me...

I'm very ticklish

I sleep by candlelight every night.

I love thunderstorms and I'm fascinated by tornadoes, although I would never want to get too close to one...

I used to weigh 300 pounds. Most of you already know that...and although I've reached an ideal (for me) weight, I am sometimes still very uncomfortable with my appearance.

I am better at writing than I am at talking.

I love living alone, but I don't always like being alone.

I can't whistle. At all.

I believe in reincarnation. There are places I've been where I just "know" I've been there before.

I have two beautiful, smart and wonderful daughters. I don't know what I'd do without them.

I need to spend time outside every day or I start losing my mind. I take long walks to ground myself.

I have cried and laughed more in the past year than in the past ten.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I promised I'd give an update, but I'm having a really hard time putting my experiences into words. As most of you know, I'm rarely at a loss when it comes to written words - this is really the only way that I communicate effectively, except among my nearest and dearest.

I'm still trying to figure things out. It was amazing, euphoric, frightening and very lonely at times.

The music was incredible. For that reason alone, go if you get the chance.

But if you happen to be a socially backwards newbie to the lesbian world, you might want to bring someone with you. I'm glad I went, I don't know that I want to go alone next year. I met people there, I knew a few people who were there, and I'd met some people in the days prior to going. You'd think I wouldn't be alone unless I chose to be.

Some of the time I chose to be alone. Crowds are tough for me to navigate - social anxiety and milling crowds are not good companions. Sometimes I was alone because that's the way it was. A lot of the time, I found people to eat with, to watch concerts with, to walk those many long paths alongside...

Being alone forced me to think. Feeling safe reminded me of all the ways in which I do not feel safe here, in my city, within my family. I was warned that I might cry - and I did. It was mostly healthy. It was a release of all the crap I've been carrying around lately. It was sometimes me feeling sorry for myself. I'm good at that.

When I was in high school, I once had to go on a bus trip to a phys-ed related event. In order to get my phys-ed credit, I was required to attend at least one I picked some gymnastics meet or other in a nearby city. It was one of the longest days of my life - no matter how hard I tried to fit in, I just didn't. Somewhere in the middle of the day, I heard one girl say to another "It's kind of cute and kind of sad. She's just like a little puppy dog that keeps following you around and won't go away." I only recently began to realize how those words have haunted me. I don't want to be a follower. I don't want to be a loser who tags along after people because she can't make it on her own - and so often, that's exactly how I feel.

I know it's all in my head. And that I think too much.

I met some incredible people. And if they left fest thinking that I was anything less than grateful for their presence and their company, well, that was totally my fault. I've come a long way, but I haven't come far enough. Yet. I do things that terrify me so that I can stretch myself, so that I can prove that I can do things. Like go alone to concerts and bars, and music festivals. But I still find ways to keep myself at a distance, because I simultaneously long for and fear close connections.

I learned that I can write songs. I went to this kick-ass workshop...but I wrote one the day before fest. And two while I was there, to add to the three that I wrote in the last year that I have stashed away in my notebook somewhere, because I have this self-injurious ageism attitude - that tells me I'm too old to start writing songs. I'm learning to let go of that thinking - I have the writing ability and the music, so wouldn't it make sense???

Opening ceremonies were the most incredible experience. I cried. I was so overcome that I had to leave the concert for a little bit and walk around by myself - grounding, thinking that finally, there's a place in the world where I really fit in.

Sort of.

Did I meet women that I was attracted to? Yes.

And it was really hard to come home, even though I missed the kids and the dog, and sleeping in a real bed.

I have pictures, and I'll probably post a lot of them on facebook. I'll put a few up of the opening ceremonies on the blog, but if you want to add me as a facebook friend, you can find me via my email

I'll leave you with a rather longish poem I wrote the day before fest. And I'll post the other two that I wrote while I was there, in a separate post.

And I wrote a song for you. I'll share that when the dinosaur (my computer's new nickname) figures out how to upload video. For all of you, but especially for those of you, near and far, who are fighting for marriage equality.

(If you've made it this far, congratulations!)

I don't go for the cliquey types.
Never did
understand that exclusive
social mix where
you're in and
sorry, you're out.
If you had a minute
or two
or ten
I could tell you my story
the tall tale of a round
woman lost
and how I lost
that round mound.
Traded it for mostly
flat, slimmed down.
And how I didn't recognize
that face anymore, how
I didn't look anything
like I was
supposed to.
And I could give
you the rundown
on coming out at
in the middle,
tearing down those
like the fence around
my house
and my kids' lives.
And I find myself
with empty hands reaching
when the inner pull
is what I really need.

I could tell you about
after straddling two worlds
for one year
I've found that I fit
into neither
My parents, well
they don't want to
talk about it.
"He was too wrapped up in
his work" they comfort each other
and look at me
the pariah
I never thought
I'd be.
And my friends
oh lovely ones
how you've held me
up and dried
my angry tears
spitting rage but
after all, you have lives
and loves and families
that need you.

There's this code of silence
I can't shake
so I must break it
even when courage
fails me
even when
my Mennonite co-worker
"Wellesley is just not
ready for gay marriage"
while my five-year old
into her classroom and
"Girls can marry
other girls.
It's true.
My mom says so."

These thoughts never
leave me alone.
But I am alone often
because I
haven't quite figured
out how to
get from A to B.
Or should I say
A to A?
Some days I'm afraid
I never will.
What's natural for me,
good, right,
is reviled by some.
Accept me or
lose me, I should say.
But did you see how
I sat alone last night?
It could be like that all the time.
I know
I'm holding
too tight.
But I don't know
if falling
is worth the price.

(PS - I should mention that I am absolutely, positively not depressed right now. I'm a bit stuck in a rut, but not feeling hopeless. I'm just...thinking.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

what's wrong with this picture?

I've been remiss in my blogging and reading lately. It has something to do with summer finally arriving and wanting to be outside as much as I can. And I'm still mulling over Michfest - it was awesome and fantastic, but a lot of stuff came up for me while I was there that I'm still processing. More on that later.

Last Monday, a week ago, I was offered a new job. It happened on the same day that I learned my current job will not offer me more than 20 hours a week in September. I can't live on 20 hours a week, and I certainly can't do a half hour commute into Mennonite country for 20 hours a week. I wasn't worried - I'm not even sure if I mentioned it on the blog. I decided that the worst that could happen would be supply teaching for a while, until I found something permanent.

I've never had any trouble finding a job. I work with young children. I'm well qualified and I have seventeen years experience, which is almost unheard of here. Most people with my experience level are either supervising (been there, done that, hated it) or are working in some other field. Working with preschool age children has its inherent rewards, but financial compensations for the long hours, unpaid planning time and professional development requirements are few and far between.

You'd think that since we care for a most precious resource - children - that we would be adequately compensated for our work, that we would at least be able to achieve some level of financial independence. Some do - those lucky enough to land jobs in municipal centers or other places where child care workers are unionized. But the vast majority of us are working for less than what we need to live on independently - there is a legitimate pull between the needs of parents, who cannot always afford high child care fees, and the needs of child care workers.

My new job pays the same as my old one (I'll say it again - I would not be leaving the job I have now if they had full time for me) - which means that I can live comfortably where I am. That's a relief. And I don't need much. But the real difference between my new job and my old one is that for the first time in my adult life, I get....


Prescription drug, eye care, dental, disability, life insurance. I am 44 years old, and that's how long I had to wait to get a job with benefits. I should mention that as a Canadian, I'm fortunate from the get-go. I don't need the health insurance coverage that's needed in the States - we have universal health care. And while I earn enough to keep me in groceries and Chucks and the odd luxury here and there, I would be - I am - sorely compromised when it comes to things like paying for a dentist. Or for new glasses.


Here's the thing. I am fairly certain that over 99% of the workers in my field are women. Women are supposed to get married. Women don't need benefits because their husbands, the providers, will likely have benefits at their places of work. Early childhood educators make a satisfactory supplementary income, but woe betide the single woman who dares to work in my field and support herself and her children. A lot of ECEs that I know have two jobs, because one is not enough.

It's misogyny. Plain and simple. The provision of benefits is not a priority with many child care workplaces because women make up the workforce. I have a college diploma, a university degree, and seventeen years experience. I am expected to maintain my first aid and CPR, attend a minimum of eight hours of professional development a year outside of work hours, and I am a member of a professional body that ensure that I maintain the standards of good child care practice. And yet many organizations that are well-intentioned towards the children do not provide adequate wages or benefits for their employees. We can't afford it, they tell their employees.

Why not? Both for-profit and non-profit have the same answer - because providing higher wages and benefits would cause child care fees to rise...and parents may not be able to pay. The region I live in subsidizes the wages of child care workers at the rate of $2.50 to $3.00 per hour above what the centers pay - without that I don't know where I'd be, so to the region, I am grateful. What about those workers who don't even have that protection?

Well, they leave. Take jobs doing unskilled labour because chances are better with a larger workforce that benefits will be available. And that their wages and working hours will improve. Tim Horton's employees get benefits. And although I have worked in some amazing centers - with good philosophies, and a commitment to providing a high standard of care - they have all fallen short on the employee end of things. I've been chastised for calling in sick, and for calling in when my daughter is sick, even though the rules that we follow prohibit children who are sick from coming into care. (at previous workplaces, not the one I'm currently in - they are really awesome that way) I can't take time off unless there is someone to replace me - and there is not a steady stream of qualified supply teachers waiting to take casual work in child care.

So quality of care does suffer.

Is it any wonder that I can get a job at one of the best centers in the region by applying, being interviewed, and being offered a job in a single day? Believe it or not, I've gotten three jobs that way in the last ten years. I'm good at what I do. my references are flawless. People are leaving this profession in droves, good practitioners that have an affinity and love for children, simply because they cannot afford to stay.

So why do I stay? Well, I love the work. I may never make a dime with my writing, but writing feeds me creatively. Except for full-time writing, which ain't happening soon, I can't think of a better way to earn a living than to work with children. I get to hang out with little people. I get hugged a lot. I play with playdough and mix paint colours to my heart's content. When it's raining, I bring in my guitar and we play and sing, and dance. I am required to be outside for two hours a day in good weather - in every season. I could be stuck behind a desk, I might earn more money that way, but I would be a miserable and cranky human being at the end of the day.

So I've chosen to be here, for better or worse. But I also want to commit myself to better working conditions for people in my field. I wonder what I can do to change things, how i can work from the inside to advocate for better pay and working conditions for all of us. I know it's not easy from the other side, either. But what a difference having benefits will make in my life. I can take my kid to the dentist! It's such a small thing, isn't it? But it matters.

Monday, August 10, 2009

True North

(I wrote like a fiend while I was away....)

Oh how I love your bones.
Solid skeletal
formations beneath
hard muscle,
sinew, soft mounds fleshy.
every inch
of crumbling into me.
You take root deep
where the fire burns.
but constant energy.

And, oh,
how I love that
of hair, your
shading canopy
Let me bliss your beauty.
Let me roll myself in your flesh
let me
awaken to you.

The compass points to home.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

just one tidbit

I have to share...

I was in the restroom near Woodstock on the 401 (for those of us who are not Canadian, it's the main highway through SW Ontario) on my way home from Fest this afternoon. I left at noon, it was about 6:30 when I stopped to pee.

I left the bathroom and line up at Tim's for a coffee. Two girls with Michfest bracelets were standing in line. I said hello and waved at them, showing off my red bracelet.

One girl turns to the other and said..."See, I told you!"

And then to me: "I recognized your shoes when you were in the bathroom."

Seven days. Three thousand or so women. And they all looked at my feet.