Saturday, December 31, 2011


This is my year. I claim it, I revel in it, and I will embrace all the change, chaos, love, joy and creativity it brings. Peace, love, blessings.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

and her response...

From the aforementioned DJ...this note arrived in my inbox the morning after I sent the email. I am just late in relaying the message....

Anna...I have been waiting for this email since 846am...ever since it came out of my mouth.
You indeed did nail it...a little slip up...and for that I am truely sorry...I will keep myself in check in future. I know words are cutting and haunting....and I have a responsiblilty to use them to be as kind to eachother as we can.

Anna...thanks for keeping me in check...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

(I am really pleased with this response. First of all, she responded. She realized as soon as I did that she spoke in error. And she will probably think twice before she speaks, next time around. We can change the world positively and peacefully. I truly believe this)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

an open letter to a morning show dj

Hi xxx (when I sent the letter, I used her real name...)

I was listening to your morning show on my drive to work. I don't always tune in to your show, but the music and the lighthearted banter usually starts my day on a positive note.

Today was a little different. During your "relationship advice" segment, you were discussing how to keep romance alive in a long-term relationship, and you mentioned that date nights were a fun idea. And then you said "I know it sounds really gay and cheesy and all that...."

I am sure that your use of the word "gay" was an honest slip-up. I don't believe you intended to offend anyone in your audience. However, there are a lot of people listening to your show, including young children, who may unconsciously mimic what you say on-air. Because it sounds cool. Because if they hear it on the radio, it might be okay to say it to their friends.

When my eight-year old goes to school, she has to remind her friends that when they make fun of gay people, they are making fun of her mom. Her friends don't understand the true nature of what they're saying. When I went to school, kids used phrases like "that's so gay" all the time. They didn't understand the implication; that by using those phrases, they are implying that there's something wrong with being gay. Kids learn what is acceptable and what is not from the adults around them. Other adults also take their cues from conversations that they hear on-air, at the workplace at bus stations and in other places. When we pay attention to what we say, we can send a strong message: any words or phrases that transmit bias are not okay.

I want my child to feel safe at school. And while I don't believe that you intended to cause harm when you spoke this morning, I felt, for one tiny second, like there was something wrong with me. It brought me back to the days when I was a child in school, facing down the bullies who somehow, somewhere learned that it was okay to call other people names.

Ironically, one day last November, you were at my daughter's school, painting fingernails to celebrate "wear pink day," which is an event devoted to building tolerance among students. You might have even painted her nails. She's just a normal kid, who shouldn't have to worry about what people think of her mom.

I hope that in the future you choose your words a bit more carefully. Lives in this province have been lost because being different, being gay, is not okay.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

deflecting the reality of poverty

I've been thinking a lot about poverty lately. Specifically about food security issues in North America. With countries as vast and wealthy as the United States and Canada, how can it be that men, women and children still go hungry? But they do. My first spark of outrage came from the following quote by  US presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, as he proposed to drastically reduce funding for the food stamp program:

If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?

In other words, overweight people are healthy.  And the implication is also there - poor people do not take care of themselves. It's not about the affordability of nutritious food versus processed, packaged junk. Instead, Santorum confuses his audience by drawing an inaccurate correlation.

On my side of the border, the northern side, similar misinformation may be leading people to believe that there is no hunger problem, indeed there is no poverty problem in Ontario at all.

This article,
written by Margaret Wente and published in the Toronto Globe and Mail on December 10th 2011, is a fascinating look at how reality can be obscured with a few wordy twists.She uses statistics on  the availability of home appliances and technology to convince readers that the issues of poverty in this country are overstated. Wente airily dismisses the tragedy of Attawapiskat and the increasing number of food bank visits with a wave of her virtual hand. Of course, it's a shame that such pockets of poverty exist, she implies, but look at how the bottom 20 percent of the population are truly living:

" In Ontario, for example, 65 per cent of the bottom fifth of families by income have air conditioning. Seventy per cent have DVD players, 65 per cent have cable TV, 56 per cent have home computers and 98.9 per cent have colour TVs. (Thirty years ago, even the most affluent families had few, if any, of these things.)This steady rise in material well-being helps explains why the Occupy movement didn’t catch on as many people expected it to. On the whole, average people think their lives are pretty good. “They don’t feel the moral outrage that radiates from the more passionate egalitarian quarters of society,” writes Prof. Cowen."

What does she mean by the bottom fifth? She doesn't actually explain.

(And is someone in the bottom fifth an "average person?" I  believe I am an average person. I don't own my own home, I have some debt, a full time job, a car, and I am able to feed and clothe myself more than adequately...who is the average person? )

According to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, the median market income for households in Ontario with 2 or more persons was $67,500 in 2009. The Low Income Cut-Off for that same year was $25,414. 1.6 million people in Ontario live below that measure, out of a population of 13 000 000. I have no way of determining if Wente is referring to people who have income levels below that amount or not. But here is some useful information courtesy of a 2009 OAFB report:

  • 374,000 people in Ontario visited a food bank at least once in 2009. This represents about 2.9% of the population.
  • 6.5% of Ontarians were on social assistance in 2009
  • The average after-tax  monthly income of a person visiting a food bank was $1,321.
  • the average weekly food expenditure for those visitors was 70.99 per household, or 26.86 per person.
  • on average, food bank users spend 65% of their money on shelter and utilities
  • only 52.2% of food bank users live in households where everyone has a warm winter coat
  • 35.9% of users are under 16 years of age, 33% are new Canadians, and 51% are without necessary health care.
  • the child poverty rate in Ontario in 2009 was 15.2%
Something doesn't measure up with Wente's calculations. How are all these people, part of the bottom fifth, even remotely able to afford DVD players, colour TV's and home computers, let alone access to cable and internet. Oh, those 99% whiners, wanting to change the system when the affluence of our nation is available to even the lowest of the low!

I'm leaving statistics behind and getting personal.

22 years ago I was a single parent on welfare. And guess what! I had a colour TV. I even acquired a car before my daughter reached her first birthday. And there was no welfare fraud involved.

The television was a cast-off, given to me by my parents. The car, a 1981 Chevette, was acquired for less than 500 dollars from my brother so that I could transport myself to college and my child to day care without spending hours per day on the bus.

I admit, my first computer was harder to come by. I had to wait until my daughter was 10, and my teenage sister spent a year out of the country before I had a computer, or internet at home, even though I had been employed full time for several years by then.

So, did anyone ask those in the bottom fifth of income earners how those televisions, air conditioners and home computers  were acquired? Did they head off to the nearest electronics store and buy the newest plasma, or flat-screen TV? Did they pick up a bargain at Future Shop?

If they did, I'm guessing that credit,  Kijiji, home leasing programs, or a strict savings regimen could account for those purchases. But since nobody bothered to ask the real questions, I'm going to hazard a guess that many of those luxurious DVD players and televisions could have been acquired from a local thrift store.

The one behind my house sells them. You can get a TV for 35 bucks. It won't have a flat screen, but it;s guaranteed to work. Better yet, on any given garbage day, such items are free for the taking. Heck, there's even a TV up for grabs at my place, that I can't give away.

You see, while members of the bottom fifth - or more accurately the bottom tenth - are struggling to pay for food and rent with the same paycheque without going hungry or being evicted, the upper eighty percent - or forty percent - or twenty percent (I really am speculating as I have no reliable stats) of income earners are consuming and discarding their material goods at an alarming rate. We want the biggest and the brightest, we have the lines of credit that allow us to purchase the biggest and the brightest.  We are told that to keep our economy humming, we need to keep buying things. And so we leave our cast-off goods at the side of the road, knowing that someone will come along and pick them up. Failing that, we cart our old computers off to the thrift store, to avoid paying the hefty electronics disposal fee that most landfills impose.

Someone will want it. And so while homes are filling up with all those electronic goods, as if by magic, children in this province are still going hungry.

The article does make a point. We are better off than we were one hundred years ago, but does not satisfactorily explain why. We, in Canada have social welfare programs, as inadequate as they are, that offer income support to those who cannot work. Education is Ontario is mandatory to age 18. We have access to universal health care. There are government regulations in place that fortify certain food items with essential nutrients such as iron and Vitamin D, so that malnutrition has been greatly reduced.

Those programs came about as a result of government legislation. Intervention at the highest level, because people who cared about the most vulnerable in society were able to use their voices and create change in this country.  Sadly, there will always be misinformation, media articles that mislead or obfuscate the truth. But there is hope, in the form of social protest, because those who are marginalized and vulnerable, more than ever, need people to speak with them, and for them, in order to create a better future. Poverty has not been eradicated in this province. And while many of us live in luxury, especially when we compare ourselves to people in developing nations,  a 6.5% poverty rate, is too high.

We can do better.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6 1989

It was a day like any other.

It couldn't have been. I was twenty-four, and had an eight day old baby. I was staying with my mom and dad, sleeping in their rec room, with the bassinet close by my bed. I was probably nursing in front of the television during the six o'clock news.

Fourteen women were murdered, and ten women were injured  that day at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. They were killed by Marc Lepine, targeted because they were studying or associated with engineering, females in non-traditional roles. Many of those women were my age.

Twenty-two years have passed since then, but I remember:

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student
I never knew them personally. I don't know their names, specifically, or their families, or what their dreams and aspirations. But I do know that they did not have the opportunities that I did. Their lives were cut short because they were women, because they didn't fit one man's idea of how women should present themselves in society. Their passions, their talents and aspirations, their intelligence, all snuffed out because of hatred. Misogyny. A society where women have been granted rights and freedoms, but still not equal on so many levels. Do you doubt this? Do you think that in the 21st century, we have reached a place where we can finally rest on our laurels?

Well,  this is Canada,  and on federal and some provincial levels, funding for the office of the Status of Women has been cut. Apparently, we have achieved our status. Shelters that protect women are chronically underfunded. Women are still paid less than men, and are under-represented in business and politics. Women who raise children on their own are at a greater risk for poverty because the programs that give them income, housing, access to education and job search support do not adequately provide for those who are most vulnerable. favourite....our  federal Conservative government recently voted to abolish the long gun registry, citing that it was costly to maintain, and punitive to farmers and hunters. The push for this legislation began when fourteen women were murdered in Montreal. Women in isolated, rural areas are at risk for violence - at the hands of partners and spouses who will no longer be required to register their weapons. Most police forces, and many provinces wish to retain the regsitry. The government is refusing to even provide the information that would allow provinces to set up their own registries.

Here's the thing. People will tell you that the women who were killed on December 6 have been immortalized by the feminist movement to push a left-wing agenda, that we have co-opted their names and their memories for the sake of promoting feminism, gun control and  abortion rights. That we no longer need to remember.

But we do. In Canada, the United States and many countries around the world, women are killed, violently, every day. Because they are women. Because they are perceived as being less valuable, as being the chattels of their fathers, brothers and husbands. They are denied basic human rights. They are told, on a regular basis that they should not have control of their own bodies. We have moved backwards, not forwards. The Montreal massacre was not the last time that women were murdered because of their gender. It should have been.

It should never have happened in the first place.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


It's been so long since I've come to this space.

It's not a lack of writing or inspiration that keeps me away. In fact, it's the opposite. I have several notebooks filled - with my hand-scripted morning pages, story ideas, narratives and even song lyrics. It's the need for pen and paper that keeps me away, coupled with a very busy summer season.

I began my blogging life with so many questions, so many unanswered desires. it was truly a quest to discover who I am. While I have a better idea, I also know that self-discovery is a lifelong journey. I am still learning. May I continue to learn.

But where I was once wracked with agony and loneliness, life has changed for me. The winter sun is just rising above the trees that frame the creek bank near my house, and shines warmly through my kitchen window. I am still in the same place, my daughter is watching TV in the next room, and my love is asleep upstairs. My love is awake in my heart.

There is much more to be said. But as my personal struggles have eased, as I've come to a new understanding of who I am, and what place I want to hold in the world, I find myself unable to hold back from expressing the things that matter. All the things that matter.

Equality and human rights are foremost, alongside a deep and abiding love for this planet. I want to share with you some of the changes I have made, some of the plans I have to get right with the earth, get right with my is so full right now. I feel like there is so much to do, and I fear leaving some of the important bits undone.

For several months now, I've been planning to move - well, eventually I will move to a new physical home, but that will take time, money and planning. My next move will be to a new virtual space, with the same name and a slightly different location. It will be very easy to find me, because I will leave traces of myself everywhere. I waited too long in the shadows, longer than I should have (to paraphrase a musical line that resonates with me), and I don't intend to recede. What I need to do, more than ever, is face the sunlight, live my truth, and love with an open heart. For some, an open heart comes easily. For me, there is hard work in opening myself to all the love and energy that surrounds me. I am grateful, so grateful that life has led me here.