Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘little of this, a little of that’ edition

  • This week has been long and difficult. It relates back to the bullying/mobbing I went through in 2010/11. It is clear that I am still suffering the effects of PTSD. It makes me anxious and defensive. I am always on guard for an attack or snide remarks. There were a few of those yesterday but for the most part it was ok. I am really trying hard to understand that what motivates people to be mean to me has nothing to do with me and is much more a reflection of who they are and what is going on for them. I took the high road yesterday and chose to ignore the crap.
  • I am sure by now everyone has heard that cats are serial killers or mass murderers. Cats are predators who have always hunted. While cats may kill a large number of birds and rodents, larger predators like coyotes routinely kill cats. So many cats go missing if their families let them outside. The solution to all of this is for people to keep their cats indoors thereby keeping everyone safe.
  • And another rant – This week we have heard that we are not going to have enough university graduates to fill jobs in the next 7 years. What really got me was all the whining and sniveling from unemployed social sciences graduates about not getting a job and that it is the university’s responsibility to provide more focused career counselling and resume writing. Seriously people? You have completed a 4-year degree and you can’t figure out how to develop a resume? If you are going to a degree in sociology, anthropology, history or any other number of subjects you are not likely to work in the field you studied unless you are going to get a doctorate degree and stay in academia. I have a Master of Arts degree in history. It has been my job to sell my skills to potential employers. I need to convince them that they need someone who has critical thinking skills, analytical skills and that I can learn their business quickly.
  • I love Jesse. He is the sweetest dog ever! When I come home after a long day at work he is so happy to see me. His tail is going like crazy and he is talking to me loudly. Once he calms down he comes in for a head scratch. Then he presses his head into my legs as he gets his scritches. He has learned to give a ‘high-5’ with bow paws. He is so sweet!
  • We have turned a corner with Gracie. She is no longer as anxious as she used to be. We believe she did not receive very much attention during her life. She seemed so desperate for human attention. She still needs to be very close to her people. She has stopped obsessively chewing on herself. Her toilet training has also improved markedly over the last couple of weeks. She is a very happy girl who is always ready to play or relax for a long cuddle!
  • Something really great happened to me at work this week. One of our volunteers came out to me. She said she had never seen a lesbian who was out, with a partner and happy. Seeing open and me being out gave her assurance that she too could be honest about whom she is and come out. She made my day in so many ways. It was nice to know that my beliefs around being a role model for youth are realistic. We really can be part of the solution just by being visible.

Music my balm for life

When I was blogging daily in 2011, WordPress encouraged bloggers by sending out topics of the day. I found most of the topics to be banal or lacking in substance so I rarely used them.[1] I have stayed on the mailing list and the topics have improved. Today’s topic: discuss the role that music plays in your life, is very relevant to me. I have blogged many times about artists I love through the category: Music from The Swamp. Music plays a huge role in my life.

Since I can remember, I have always listened to music. As a young child my mother listened to Jim Croce, Three Dog Night and the Lettermen. The first pop song I remember engaging with was ‘Seasons in the Sun’ by Terry Jack.[2] I would sit with my radio waiting with anticipation for them to play it again. My older brother taught me how to call into the request line. I was probably 6 or 7 at the time. The next music that I can remember resonating with me was Queen’s ‘We will rock you’ and ‘We are the Champions.’ I would stay up late so I could hear those songs on the Top 10 countdown every night.

As I moved into my teenage years, my tastes became a little darker. I listened to Supertramp’s Crime of the Century constantly. The lyrics really resonated with me. The songs ‘School’ and ‘Hide in your Shell’ were my go to songs as an angst ridden teenager living in an abusive home. I would lie in my bed and cover my head as I listened to these songs over and over again. I also related to my parents’ music. Really, just about any music worked for me.

Music soothes and calms me. I pour all of my anxiety and frustration into singing along. I tend to like my music loud. As a teenager I used to think that by the time I was 40 I would no longer listen to loud music. In actuality, what happened was that at 40 I could afford a better sound system so now my loud music sounds good. Now I am pretty sure I am going to be the one in the retirement facility who gets noise complaints.

Music speaks to my soul in a deep and profound way. I always wanted to be a back up singer in a band. I don’t sing well enough to carry the tune myself but I sing harmony very well. And, if I couldn’t be in the band, I wanted to be a groupie. I still have these desires but I have come to the realization that I am a music consumer and as along as I can sing in my house or in my car, I am happy.

I think part of the reason I am feeling so much better is because I started listening to music at home in early 2012. When I started listening to music again, I did it for another reason.[3] I quickly realized what I had been missing. I have no idea why I stopped listening to music at home but the tunes were back on now! I had continued to listen to music in my car but that was not enough. Now if I plan to be in my office for more than a few minutes the dock gets fired up and the music comes on.

I really believe that had I not discovered the healing properties of music at a young age, I may well not be here. So much of who I am and how I have coped with life has been shaped by music. There is so much music out there that just reaches in and soothes my soul; it calms me down and it energizes me. I sometimes wonder if music is my way to connect with my emotions as I am a pretty linear person in my day-to-day life.

I have also been told I am a musical imperialist so this post will not be complete without a musical interlude.

I discovered Passenger after watching an episode of Elementary. Now, Passenger used to be a band but the band broke up and now it is just one guy: Mike Rosenberg. Most of his stuff is quiet and introspective with acoustic guitar. He does not have a perfect voice. His lyrics are brilliant. One of my favourite lines from a song called ‘A Month of Sundays’ is: “Black kettles and black pots seem to fight an awful lot, and make the kitchen the most uncomfortable of rooms. Empty words don’t mean an awful lot and for me that’s all you’ve got.”

Feather on the Clyde was the first Passenger song I heard:

Month of Sundays:

Now, I would love to hear from all 12 of my readers: What music gets you going? What role does it play in your life? I am also totally up for some recommendations!

[1] I may have even written a post mocking the topics…

[2] Currently it is on the list of CBC’s On the Coast worst song ever contenders.

[3] We had an extremely annoying, demanding and manipulative person who lived with us from September 2011 until January 2012. Loud music was a cue to her not to bug me. It worked. I am not proud of this childish behavior.

Jodie Foster and coming out

So Jodie Foster has finally, sort of, come out publicly. Sure there had been rumours for years and most of us who form part of the LGTB community knew she was a lesbian. Even as celebrities continued to come out, Jodie Foster still remained in the closet.[1] Foster cites her personal privacy as part of the reason she has never come out publicly. As far as she was concerned she had already come out to those around her and she was living an authentic life. One must ask the question why she should be expected to come out.

Many reasons exist for LGTB to come out publicly. The most important reason is for our youth. Role models are critical for young people. The more we stand up and say yes I am LGTB the more our youth see that being LGTB is not only a viable option but one that can actually make them happy. The more of us who stand up, the more visibility we have the less likely LGTB youth are to hate themselves.

Celebrities have even greater visibility; their role in society is magnified. This is why it is so important for them to acknowledge their sexual orientation. Trans celebrities are in a unique position to help youth and parents to understand what may be happening in their family.

As long as LGTB youth are killing themselves in large numbers we all share the responsibility to be role models.


[1] I heard it described as a ‘glass closet’ – basically everyone could see who she was even if she wasn’t going to come out.


Bright-eyed Tosh
Bright-eyed Tosh

Tosh came to us because her human had to go into a care facility due to dementia. She started her life out with her brother Mack. Collectively they were known as ‘MackandTosh.’ By all accounts he took those dogs everywhere; they were here his constant companions. Mack died a couple of years ago but Tosh soldiered on. It was not hard to tell that Tosh had been well loved and socialized. She lived in her father’s first retirement facility with some other small dogs and everyone loved her. Tosh ended up at one the daughter’s homes and she couldn’t[1] keep her. She never really gave me good reasons she couldn’t keep Tosh in spite of having other rescued dogs. As seniors go, Tosh was easy: she was continent, relatively healthy and content.

We have been adopting senior dogs for several years now. We have set up our house to deal with the issues of seniors so incontinence is not really a big deal. We make changes for our old ones whether it involves carrying them up and down the stairs so they can sleep with us or helping them outside to pee. We make sure they get all the really good food they want and that if they have pain issues or need other vet care they get it. We also fall in love with them – hard and quickly.

Here is the thing about the seniors: they are the hardest to rescue. You are talking about taking in other people’s dogs who are losing their home simply because they have become old and frail. Instead of keeping their senior companions, the animals who have been with them for, in most cases, years they choose to find a new home for them. If the animals are lucky they end up at SAINTS or at our house where they will be adored and looked after for the time they have left. Where having an accident doesn’t matter and there is always a warm, dry bed to lie in.

Seniors are the most rewarding to rescue. Invariably they are grateful and they give you everything they have to give. Even though Tosh didn’t know us, she looked up at us with her adoring, bright, wide eyes. She followed us around regardless of where we went. If she got stuck on the wrong side of a gate we certainly knew it. She would go outside to pee but we had better be right there to let her in or she would start her bark screaming.

I don’t understand how people can rehome their seniors. How can you just get rid of a dog you have loved for years? I couldn’t do it. I guess I have to be ok with the fact that I will never get it. Yet, I know, that we will continue to take on the seniors even though a little piece of our hearts go with them when they die.

We love you Tosh. You were a very, very good dog.

[1] Wouldn’t.

Stephen Harper is killing Canada

So, apparently, our federal government is using Chinese-made counterfeit parts in our military’s Hercules planes. They have known this since July and have done nothing about it. Even the US has issued warnings about grave consequences to pilots with these parts. Little things, you know, like navigational instruments going blank. I fucking hate the Stephen Harper government. Every day there is a new thing to hate about him and his minions.

Read the other instalments: here, here, here, and here.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘re-entry is hard’ edition

I always find going back to work after the Christmas holidays very difficult. It is just not long enough. Plus there is the spectre of a brand new year ahead that begins with my least favourite month of the year. It always seems to me that January is one long-ass month of misery. In no particular order here are updates from The Swamp:

  • I had a couple of other observations about our trip to Calgary. I was stunned to find out that I had to give personal information in order to purchase gravol at a pharmacy. Apparently they want to keep track of who is purchasing it. Is there a gravol intervention staged if one tries to buy too much?
  • Rental car companies do not put snow tires on their cars in Calgary. Seriously people, WTF is that about? It makes the fact that I didn’t get stuck or seriously injure us in a crash all the more shocking. I seriously have not lost my winter/snow driving skills.
  • We took in a new senior dog. She is a 16-year old Shih Tzu. She is a great dog. She sleeps a lot but when she is awake she is very engaged and charming. She certainly lets us know, in no uncertain terms when she is not happy with the state of her world. She loves food and snuggling. She has been getting around a lot better since we started her back on metacam. She is able to navigate our stairs in and out. She can go up the stairs to the bedroom but sometimes she just prefers to be carried and we oblige her. She is getting along with the other dogs and seems to have adjusted ok to such a big change. It is always tragic seniors lose their homes because their people have to go into care homes. Tosh was extremely well socialized and is very resilient. She set a land-speed record in terms of how quickly she settled into The Swamp.
Tosh and Piper
Tosh and Piper
  • Jesse is continuing to evolve. He is looking really good and has gained some muscle mass in his back legs. Now his ‘princess’ behaviours are emerging. He is one loud and vocal dog for sure. If he wants something he whines and carries on like he is going to die. The other day Deb heard him screaming downstairs and asked me if he was in distress or if we were playing. We were playing. He definitely loves the sound of his own voice!
  • He and Kiefer are battling out to see who can be the lowest dog in status in the house. Tosh and Zoe are really good at kicking them out of their big dog beds and making them sleep in the small ones. It really is quite hysterical to see those two trying to contort themselves into the much smaller space. Meanwhile, Tosh and Zoe are spread out on the big beds looking quite contented.
  • The new Port Mann Bridge has not gotten off to a good start. There were ice bombs after a storm and it turned into a skating rink when the temperatures dipped down below zero the other morning. Even though it has had problems it has already been successful in reducing congestion on Highway 1. This is a great boon to commuters and has already reduced my commute time. The bigger benefit though is to the economy. As a port city Vancouver has very high levels of truck traffic. Making it easier for them to move goods in and out of Vancouver. Lower levels of congestion will also be good for the environment.

Looking forward

This past year has actually been one of my best years in a very long time. I have never been one to make resolutions but I did come across something that appealed to me: coming up with 3 words that will guide your year. In 2012, I chose harmony, reduce and listen.

Harmony helped me too remember to take time to breathe and look after myself. In short, my goal was to become more harmonious with the world around me instead of trying to fight it all the time. This one paid off immeasurably. My anxiety levels have reduced greatly. I became a more patient leader instead of always just trying to get things done and seeing obstacles. Where this paid the biggest dividends though was in my health. I am feeling so much better than I did this time last year. My ulcerative colitis is relatively under control. My pain levels have decreased to the point that I no longer need daily morphine to cope. I have also focused on self-care. I take many opportunities throughout the day to do things that nurture me.

The word reduce helped me to focus on reducing all sorts of things in my life. Particularly this one was about consumption. I didn’t buy any new gadgets in 2012. I also reduced my consumption of processed foods to the point where the only things I eat that come from a factory are some cereal and bread occasionally. I believe this has also helped me to feel better. I have focused my diet on whole foods and making stuff at home. I am not perfect at this by any means but great strides have been made.

Listen was really important for me in 2012. Quite often I don’t listen to people and instead I rush ahead with a conclusion before I have even heard people out. This lead to a great deal of increased stress as I could be defensive and annoy other people. I am also starting to learn to be with people in the moment – even if that moment is a silent one. Giving people the space to express themselves has enriched my life in numerous ways.

On to 2013! Three words was so wildly successful for 2012 that I am doing it again this year. The words for 2013 are: harmony, systems and openness.

I have chosen harmony again as I think there is a lot more progress I can make. I also now see how I can roll reduce and listen into harmony. I love how it all interplayed. In fact, 2012’s words all focused on making my life more harmonious and enjoyable.

I have chosen systems because I would like to see more organization in my life. I spend far too much time not being productive because I am trying to remember what I have to do. It stresses me out when I lay in bed at night and my undone to-do list of the day rears its ugly head as I try to fall asleep. I have tried task management apps, lists, so many different things and I have not found a way to keep track of what I need to do. The main part of the problem is that I don’t actually look at my tracking system. I think I have devised a way that I may be able to fix this but it is too soon to tell! I also want to focus on other systems in my life like organization at home.

Openness is a word that grew out of my visit to another refugee service provider. One of their values was mutual transformation. For them, they see every interaction they have with another human being as an opportunity for mutual transformation. This idea speaks to me on so many levels. As I can only control myself[1], I cannot use this as one of my goals for the year. However, I can control me and I can be open to new people, knowledge and experiences. Some of the richest experiences in my life have come by me letting go and being open to the experience.

So that sums up my 2013 plans!


[1] See Harmony above.