International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.

I would like to say “Thank-You” to the powers-that-be who sanctioned March 8 as the day to bring my exclusive club of “women” to the forefront of everybody’s minds today. I feel honoured.

For those of you who are not too familiar with my group – the group that is being commemorated today – let me have the privilege of introducing you. It’s only fair that you understand some things about this little group of mine…

  • We are called “women”, a name that has a connotation of kinship with “men”.  Both women and men make up the whole of “humanity”, the most populous (insects aside), and some say the most intelligent, species on Earth.
  • Women have been mandated with the physical task of co-procreating, carrying and giving birth to “new” humans in order to carry-on the existence of our species.
  • Studies have shown that women are as industrious and intelligent as their male counterparts. Some studies would argue that we have a higher pain threshold, are more nurturing and sensitive, and have a much better sense of direction than men.
  • There have been no scientific studies to prove that women are “less” human than their male counterparts, despite popular belief.  However, women have historically – and presently in many parts of the world – been treated as if they are an inferior sub-species of humanity.
  • Despite oppression which many suffer in the forms of physical, sexual, mental, and economical abuse, there are many women who have contributed to society. Many women have been able to raise healthy, content, contributing members of society – and some without the influence of the more superior “men”; some women have made huge strides in the arenas of sports, science, art, industry, and all of the sub-categories of each; and there are some women who have even been considered “equal” with men, securing equal-pay for equal-work, and respect for contributing intellectually to the betterment of society.

So to have an annual day set aside just for us, on behalf of women everywhere, again I say thank you for remembering us today.

Maybe someday we can have a “Humankind Day” so that we can remember the strides and plight of that group once a year.

“Give me a break!”

Advertisements

An Exasperated Mother

THE BACKSTORY

My son became a legal adult last summer. Yep. He turned 18 just before he entered his last year of high-school. So that means I have a dependent child (still a student) living under my roof (which I love) and living by our rules (which he does). It also means that I have a fiercely independent new adult flexing his “I’m an adult now” muscles at us at every corner, and this week he sucker-punched me right in the face with those muscles.

As a show of good faith in his ability to be responsibile, and wanting him to have a safe, reliable vehicle, my husband and I offered to sell our very nice 2008 Chrysler 300 to our son at a discounted price. The deal (which he graciously and enthusiastically accepted) was to pay a certain amount every paycheck (he works after school each day) until the car was paid off – about 18 months of payments. It’s been six months to date, and there have been several times that I have had to front him money until payday just to make sure he had gas in his car. I figured he is still learning to budget, and even though I complained about it each time he asked, I loaned him the few dollars and tacked it onto his “bill”.

After Christmas, he bagan his final semester in high school. He had enough credits to be able to move any remaining classes to mornings, so he could start working full-time at his job, starting earlier each day. Well,this semester has been the beginning of my nightmare as a mother.

THE PHONE CALL

I’m in Florida right now on a self-imposed writing retreat – nothing special, just spending time at my Dad’s putting all of my focus into honing my craft. This was to be three weeks set aside for me to clear my head of all the daily distractions and get my head into my writing. I wasn’t off the plane for three hours before getting a call from my husband saying that my son was at a car dealership working out a deal to purchase a much newer, much more expensive, and much faster 2014 Ford Mustang. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach and it’s been there ever since. Did I mention that I came to sunny Florida from the notoriously cold and snowy Alberta, Canada? A Mustang? In the middle of winter in Alberta? OMG!

MY ARGUMENT

I immediately got on the phone with my son and explained to him ALL of the very valid, logical, reasonable arguments as to why he should NOT buy a vehicle. In a nutshell, here they are:

  • – You already have a very nice, cool-looking vehicle.
  • – You only have another year of payments and it will be completely paid off.
  • – Muscle cars are not reliable vehicles in the snow.
  • – You’re still a new driver. Your insurance is high enough on the 300. It’s going to be rediculous on a Mustang.
  • – You still owe us money on the 300. You won’t be able to manage payments for two vehicles.
  • – You also have insurance, phone, martial arts and gas expenses every month. You won’t be able to afford a hamburger by the time your bills are paid. Oh, and don’t think you’re going to be living scott-free in our basement for the next six years while you pay off a Mustang. Room and board will be added to that list of expenses once you’re done school.
  • – The Mustang doesn’t include new winter tires. If you drive this car in the winter without winter tires, and you happen to have an accident, I don’t think your insurance will cover you. Winter tires are now mandatory. You don’t have enough money set aside for winter tires, do you?
  • – The economy in Alberta is expected to take a dive because we are an “oil” province. What if you happen to get laid off? You won’t be able to make payments and the car will be repossessed and you’ll have no transportation.

All valid arguments, correct? Of course!

You would think that would be the end of the story, right? You are so wrong…

HIS ARGUMENT

–  “I’m an adult now, and I thought about this carefully. I know I can afford it. I want to be independent and prove I can do this on my own. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the car I already have, I just want to be a mature, responsibly, independent adult and do this myself. You raised me to be that way.”

He also said he will be getting enough cash back on the trade in to pay us the remainder of what he owes us for the 300, so he’ll only have one (larger) monthly car payment.

Oh, and that winter tire problem…not a problem at all. He’s putting some cinder-blocks in the trunk to give the seasonal tires more traction.

This blog post could be about a mother who is so proud of the way she raised her children to be independent, focused, and determined young adults (all of which my son is, obviously). But, no – it’s about a mother who is furious and frustrated by the stupidity, selfishness and stubbornness being displayed by her child, who is trying desperately to disguise these qualities as something great “she instilled in him”.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

My son ignored all of our arguments and advice. He made the deal with the devi…um…salesman. Car salesmen, by the way, do not have the heart of a mother when they are selling a dangerous vehicle to a brand new driver who just started receiving a full-time income in an unsure economy. Car salesmen will not lose sleep everynight knowing that the person to whom they just sold said vehicle has just tied a two-tonne financial noose around his neck. Car salesmen do not love the young man to whom they sold this vehicle so much so that they are knowingly going to be, once again, unfriended on Facebook for pulling a “d-bag move” by posting this blog post on Facebook for all to see. But this car salesman isn’t my son’s mother, who loves her son more than life itself. I know he’ll hate me. I’ll no longer be considered a friend. His real friends will be riding in the passenger seats of his new car. I’ll now just be a mean mom. But if that means doing everything in my power to ensure my son makes the best decisions for his overall well-being, then that’s the chance I must take. Just call me “Mean Mom”, I guess.

I considered not posting this to my Facebook page, but I want there to be NO misunderstandings about this when everyone notices my son driving around in his new car…I did NOT condone the purchase, and I DID do everything in my power to dis-sway him from getting it. I don’t want his decision to reflect on me…as an indifferent, uncaring mother.

That said, I hope to God he proves me wrong. Now that the deal is done, I have no choice but to keep my fingers crossed and to hope with cautious optimism that my son can get through the next six years “proving me wrong”. I will gladly eat my words if that can be the case.

Convicted Canadian WordPress Blogger Publically Tortured Outside Red Deer Provincial Court

*Kelly Olsen, WordPress blogger and mother of three, received the first instalment of her cruel and unusual punishment this morning outside of Red Deer Provincial Court, where a judge had sentenced her in July, 2012 to 10 years imprisonment, $300,000, and 10 finger dislocations for writing about her thoughts on organized religion, Canadian foreign policy, and implying that the Catholic Pope is a cult object.

As her husband and children watched on, shouting words of love and support, an RCMP officer escorted a shackled and handcufffed Olsen to a platform that was set up to face the estimated six hundred people who gathered to witness her public shaming and torture.

An officer of the court then read the following: “Kelly Olsen, as part of your sentence to the crimes of which you have been convicted, it is my duty to dislocate all joints in each finger on both hands, to be carried out one finger at a time, each week, at this time and at this location for 10 weeks.”

He then removed Olsen’s handcuffs, placed her right hand in his, and proceeded to dislocate each joint of her index finger with swift and purposeful movements. Olsen screamed in agony with each of the three dislocations and fell to her knees in apparent agony. One of her sons could be heard saying “Stay strong, Mom” through the crowd of cheering onlookers.

Olsen was then pulled to her feet, re-handcuffed, and escorted back into the building.*

Of course, this is a fake headline and story. I am Kelly Olsen. I am healthy and well, sitting with my family in my comfortable home, afforded with the luxury and freedom to write as I choose. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about being arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced for criticizing a particular religion or my government (at least, for the time being).

But you knew that, reading this rediculous story. That would never happen.

Well, it did and is happening. A fellow blogger and journalist just received 50 flogs with a cane this past Friday in a display of public shaming and torture, while his fellow citizens chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) and whistled and clapped when the flogging ended.

This was the first installment of the cruel punishment Raif Badawi will receive – another 50 lashes next Friday, and every Friday after that until he has received 1000 lashes. Badawi will also serve 10 years imprisonment, as well as having to pay a fine of 1 million Saudi Riyals, equivalent to approximately $266,000US.

Badawi’s crime? Running a website devoted to free speech… for insulting Islam.

Reports say that the chances of Badawi surviving all 20 weeks of flogging are slim. This young man is going to possibly die a horrible death for creating a forum of discussion about religion.

Is that sinking in? He created an opportunity for people to voice their feelings and opinions about what is going on around us. NEWS! CURRENT EVENTS! But because these current events involve fundamentalist terrorism, and that these terrorists claim Islam as their religion, then his website was condemned as being a forum to criticize Islam. So black and white, isn’t it?

Our western governments are shaking their fingers at Saudi Arabia and criticizing this punishment as a violation of human rights, but don’t expect to see too much action from these governments to demand a stop to it. Think about where most of the worlds oil comes from.

It’s up to us ordinary citizens of the world to speak out against this autrocity against free speech and human rights. Do it, and do it now before you, my fellow WordPress bloggers, are also punished for speaking freely.

To read Aljazeera’s latest article, click the following link…

Saudi blogger flogged for ‘insulting Islam’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera Englishhttp://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/01/saudi-arabia-blogger-flogged-insulting-islam-20151911120952108.html

Cold and Indifferent vs. Wise and Exasperated

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I am, on my worst days (or best, depending on perspective), a social recluse who has no desire to be around anybody. I cherish solitude and introspection on those days and use this time to recharge my social batteries.

On the upswing, I love to be around a small circle of friends and family where humour is appreciated and laughter is the only noise that sets off the decibel meter.

I read a book many years ago that I feel was meant specifically just for me. It was called “The Highly Sensitive Person” (I can’t remember the author). I learned that about 10% of the population are highly sensitive to noise, crowds, chaos, etc. I am one of those. I get very agitated and overwhelmed in large crowds (unless people are organized into seats and aren’t moving around about me), and loud chaotic noise such as music I don’t like or people yelling, screaming, and talking over each other (I even have to wear earplugs at concerts; I only attend concerts of people whose music I LOVE).

At my age, I embrace my quirky need for solitude, peace and quiet. And I find the older I get, the more sensitive I am getting. Many people misconstrue this trait in me as indifference and coldness. Yes, I do have a low tolerance for unnecessary drama and I avoid situations where I am put in the middle of people’s recurring problems, but it’s not because I don’t care…it’s because, after weighing the situation, I realize that there is nothing I can offer to their situation that can benefit them.

I understand this about myself – I am emotionally incapable of taking on someone’s problems as my own, meaning that I feel it is sometimes best if I remove myself from situations where it is evident that the owner of the problems are the only one’s who can resolve them. If I take on their emotional burdens, it unfairly affects my husband and children, because I am immersed in something that doesn’t belong in my home. I sometimes get so riled up and excited about “fixing” something that doesn’t belong to me, that I become tunnel-visioned until that problem is resolved. Just recently, I was presented with a situation where I wanted to fix the whole problem by myself and make everything right because I love the owner of the problem. I thought about it and now know that all I can do is offer encouragement and support, and back away.

Any of my past friends and family will tell you that I was someone who was always willing to offer any help I could give and always had words of advice. I’m no psychologist or doctor, but I know that it often helps to get perspective from someone who isn’t caught up in situations, and I could often offer that perspective. That was me years ago. These days, I avoid, avoid, avoid. Not because I don’t care, but because I do…about my own emotional health, and about the peace and sanctity of my home and those in it.

I’m not indifferent. If there are problems that are presented to me where I can give a hug, a kind word, some encouragement and support, then bring it on. I just try to limit how many people I keep in my immediate circle so I can limit the amount of drama and problems that come with them. If that’s wrong, then I apologize. It’s just that some people seem to have a propensity for unnecessary drama and tend to invite ridiculousness into their lives to keep their minds occupied. It’s this I am trying to avoid. This is different from unfortunate, unwarranted, uninvited problems and situations that suddenly seem to appear that puts a wrench into someone’s life. This is different from people who don’t normally thrive on drama and chaos. This is different from people who don’t have an incessant need to know and take on every detail of other people’s life problems. These are what make me exasperated. It is experience with these people that make me wise.

Life will always bombard each of us with problems and unfortunate situations. It is up to us to choose our battles wisely and not turn everything into drama. It is up to us to understand that there is only so much we can do and to not feel guilty for giving people the space and time they need to work things out on their own. It is up to us to offer love, friendship, and support to help them through.

7 Things I Learned On Family Vacation

Today is the last day of our family vacation in Florida. My family consists of one husband, one biological son (age 18 – a legal drinking adult in my province), a stepson (age 17), and a stepdaughter (age 10). We are visiting my mother-in-law (a widow who just purchased property for the winters in Florida but who lives with my family in the summertime), and my father and his girlfriend, who have been snowbirds in Florida for a few years.

We split up my family between these two homes to accommodate us all easier – my husband and his two children with his mother, and me and my son with my dad and his girlfriend. They live 20 minutes apart, but we have two vehicles and get us all together each day.

It is an 8 day vacation, that really feels more like two weeks…which is great when you are on vacation in a hot climate.

As I contemplate my last days here, and knowing I haven’t blogged in a while, the thing that is on my mind the most is the learning experience all of this has been.

Here are the 7 things I’ve learned while on this vacation…

7. The damp Florida heat really is good for my Rheumatoid Arthritis and my energy levels. Living in a place that sees -30 degree temperatures during winter and is 3500 feet above see level really takes it’s toll on a girl like me.

6. The people in the USA are very nice people, especially in the service industry. Jobs are so plentyful in Alberta where we live, that they are taken for granted so much so that it is often diffucult to get a smile or “have a nice day” from anyone working there. It’s so refreshing to be appreciated as a customer. Some places we shopped at treated us like superstars.

5. Huge theme parks are highly overrated. We went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure this week. Tickets cost $96US each, meals were average of $15US each, and everything else that you could possibly need was extra, such as waterproof ponchos, people-dryers, photos with comic heros, etc. The average wait for rides was at least 1 hour. To purchase Express Passes for all of us would have cost an extra $50, and that was after 4pm. We spent the WHOLE day and evening there and the most rides any of us took was 6. It was fun, and we appreciated that fact that we got to go but…we’ve been there now, and done that – but couldn’t afford the T-shirts.

4. Interests and personalities are most definitely inherited genes. My husband’s two children LOVE being in the water, whether it’s in a pool, at the beach, or on some crazy water ride at a theme park. So does my husband. My son would rather sit on the sidelines basking in the sun (or in his case, texting his friends back home). Same with me. I don’t like being in the water. It takes me too long to do my hair, and I have a phobia of pool germs.

3. Family is so very valuable. My husband and I lost parents in the last few years – I lost my mother on Christmas Day four years ago, and my husband lost his father three years ago on December 29. The deaths of our parents have really helped us to appreciate and cherish our surviving parents so much more since. Yes, we all have our quirks and idiosyncrosies that are, at times, unpallatable, but that’s okay…they keep each of us interesting and unique. I’ve also learned regarding family, that we can only do so much to help in certain situations. One family member wasn’t able to join us and he had a really crappy Christmas this year. We wish things were different for him. We love him and want good things for him but sometimes we just can’t help.

2. We have some pretty great kids. Yes, they don’t clean up after themselves enough. Yes, they love to annoy and torment their mother. Yes, they give dirty looks when you ask them to do something. Yes, they smell sweaty and their breath stinks a little too much at times. Yes, they are on their phones way too much. Yes, they make gluttens of themselves with unhealthy junk food. And yes, it’s pretty hard to get the mattresses of their backs in the mornings. But, they are respectful, involved, well-behaved, polite, happy, well-adjusted individuals who have great personalities and senses of humour. I really love being around them (when they aren’t tormenting me) and cherish them because they are growing up way too fast.

1. My husband and I have separate bedrooms at home. We have for our entire married life. We have a difficult time sleeping together because of our different bedtimes, sleeping patterns, snoring, restless leg syndrome, and my RA. But being in different houses while on vacation is not the same. I miss him terribly. Even though I see him everyday, I miss sharing our lazy mornings together…having our coffee, surfing the net, getting the news, hugging each time we walk by each other. Being away from him this week has reinforced the fact that he is the ONLY person I can and want to spend the rest of my nights and mornings with. Even if they are in separate bedrooms.

Rape “Culture” or Rape “Ignorance”?

The phrase is beng used everywhere of late, and it is maddening. “Rape Culture” is a phrase that was coined by feminists in the 1970’s, used as an all-encompassing definition of the way society tends to blame the victims of everything from sexual harassment to violent rape. I can’t get away from that phrase these days. I don’t find it “cultured” when you cannot turn on a news program without hearing stories of victims coming out of the woodwork accusing everyone from teenage college students to “untouchable”, respected public figures. I find it “uncultured” when the vast majority of victims refuse to speak of their experiences, let alone come forward, and hold their accused perpetrators accountable, not because I find them cowardly (I am one of those “in the closet” victims), but because of the almost certain negative ramifications they will face once they do come forward.

Let’s call it what it is…it’s “rape ignorance”. When victims are perceived as the criminals, it’s time for society to give it’s head a shake and smarten up. One sickening example of the pervasive ignorance that is infiltrating this mindset is the interview the author of “Marry Smart”, Susan Patton (also known as “Princeton Mom”) had with CNN’s Carol Costello. Patton was asked to give her opinion of “rape culture”, specifically as it relates to college campuses. The results were an absolute train wreck, however I did smile smuggly as I watched this so-called authority (whoever thought of booking this farce of an author needs to be severely reprimanded) go down in flames.

Almost right of the bat, Patton compared rape to sex when she said “the conversation about sex is a bit difficult”! What? Rape and sex are NOT synonymous, Susan Patton. The conversation was about RAPE.

She asked Carol why these women just don’t “get up and leave”. Again, WHAT? Patton was referring to women who were in situations with people they know, but, as Carol reminded her, MOST rapes happen between people who are familiar with each other. On the same note, Patton suggested that it’s up to the victims to be responsible for their own safety in this way…”I’m suggesting that women be smart for themselves, remain sober enough to extricate themselves from a situation that’s headed in a direction they’re not comfortable with,” she said. Finishing with the qualifier,  but “I’m not blaming victims”, however. Really? Aren’t you?

If you want to be entertained and maddened at the same time, go ahead, watch the interview here.

Regarding Mr. Bill Cosby, I understand that one is to be considered innocent until proven guilty, but in this case, the law will not allow the opportunity for him to be proven anything, due to the US’s Statute of Limitations for rape. All these women can do is summon the courage to come forward in the face of intense scrutiny from the court of public opinion (the number is in the double-digits and climbing), have their lives and credibility examined under a microscope, and hope to make some kind of positive impact on the obvious “rape ignorance” that is surrounding them.

Celebrating Mom

My mother, Dolores, would have been 67 today. She died after a horrible battle with pancreatic cancer, early on Christmas morning in 2010. I debated as to weather I would write this tribute post to her on the anniversary of her death, or today on her birthday. It didn’t take me long to decide. Today is all about her birth – and her life.

She had just turned 21 the day after I was born (my birthday was yesterday). It would have been an honor to share a birthday with her, but Mom didn’t like to share much. I remember when I was growing up that she loved to fry up canned mushrooms in butter, but she never shared them. That was HER luxury to herself. And she loved cheese. Homemade stove-top mac & cheese with canned tomatoes was a favorite of hers. She would painstakenly grate a huge block of cheddar cheese that then sat on a plate on the counter until the noodles were cooked. I knew I was taking my life into my hands whenever I’d sneak a pinch of grated cheese and stuff it into my cheeks behind her back. It’s funny now that I too, as a mother, forbid my family from stealing cheese off the plate when I make the same dish.

Mom was a slim, petite, attractive young woman when I was a young girl. She had this shimmery, silver halter-style formal dress she wore out now and then, topped off by her clear acrylic, silver strappy high-heels (they reminded me of adult glass slippers). I would watch her get ready in her bedroom and would wish that one day I would grow up to be as pretty as my mother.

Scan 11

Until she shattered a knee-cap later in life, Mom lived in high heels. I would always make fun of the shape of her feet that naturally took on the shape of high heels. I’d often try to bend them into a straight position. She’s squeal in pain and slap me on the head. “That hurts, Kelly!” and we would both crack up laughing.

Mom hated rodents, especially rats. Anything of the rodent family was a big, fat “rat” to her, including a pet hamster I had when I was 16 years old. I lied to her in order to even have the hamster in the house, saying it was a school science project. I convinced her it was only temporary, so I didn’t bother with asking to buy an appropriate cage and thought a cardbord box would suffice until she got used to having it in the house. I ended up in hospital for a week one time. I got a phone call from Mom while still in hospital and to say she was in a panic is an understatement: “KELLY! THE DAMN RAT GOT OUT AND IT’S RUNNING AROUND THE HOUSE!”. “Well, find something to capture it, Mom, and put it back in the box. Please!” “I’M NOT GONNA TOUCH THAT FU@%ING THING! I’M STANDING ON THE COUCH AND I’M NOT GETTING DOWN UNTIL I KNOW THAT THING IS DEAD!” Needless to say, I never seen the hamster again.

She wasn’t fond of cats, either, and apparently hated fleas even more. When I was 8, my first real pet was a cat named Sunshine. Sunshine managed to pick up fleas. Mom was bitten one too many times and convinced me that we were taking Sunshine to the vets for flea treatment. On the way, while I witnessed from the back seat, mom opened the door and tossed Sunshine out onto the sidewalk while we were stopped at a light. “Oops! Sunshine jumped out of my arms, Kelly”. I watched Sunshine dodge gingerly off into the sunset, on what I later realized was a Sunday afternoon (when the vets were closed).

Mom was far from perfect but she really did the best she could. Despite the trauma as a child, I can now look back fondly as an adult and laugh at how rediculous and silly she was. Just a few years before she died, Mom lived with me and my family. She smoked all of her life and would stand on our front covered stoop and have a cigarette. One day she came in from outside looking very puzzled and said to my husband and me, “The strangest thing is happening outside…It’s raining, but only on half of the walk-way!” I replied with, “I guess rain has to start and end somewhere”, knowing that the sprinkler was going on the front lawn. Brad and I still laugh at that one.

But the thing that still makes me smile when ever I drive past is this story: On our way to Calgary from Red Deer one day, we drove past a huge concrete structure on the side of the road. Mom said, “Kelly, what is that place?” “A grain silo,” I replied. “Hmmm”, she said.

One our way back to Red Deer we passed by once again. “Kelly. Are you sure that’s an insane assylum?” I looked at her and nearly spit when I broke out in laughter so hard I almost pee’d myself. She actually heard “INSANE ASSYLUM”, when I said “GRAIN SILO”. She must have wondered for hours about all those crazy people locked down in that horrible concrete, windowless, building.

But that was Mom. She was incredibly funny and naive. Her family was her whole life. She adored her grandchildren, accepting and loving her step-grandchildren as blood. Children loved to be around her because Mom had a gift of letting go, having fun, and becoming a child herself when she was around young people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Her nieces and nephews cherished my mother, many times appreciating her more than I did. Hindsight is a gift sometimes. When she was living, I found too many occasions to criticize her, and not enough occasions to wrap my arms around her and tell her how much I loved and appreciated her. Oh to be able to do that now. All I can do, however, is write words to express how much I love and miss her and pray she understands that now.

Delores 29

Happy birthday, Mom. XOXO