Saturday, January 27, 2018

Passion and laundry racks

Life's been a bit tough lately.  And sometimes, at night, I sit there and really wonder what this thing called life is all about.  On the good days I know.  It's about learning and loving - finding out who you really are, loving the ones in your life, adding to the universal understanding of everything, and following one's passion to do that.  But on the really bad nights ... nope, can't find a reason for being here.  (Don't worry, I've never been suicidal - just despondent).

While I was lying in bed this morning, though, as almost always happens after a good night's sleep, I feel better.  The cat is on my chest and throat, licking the side of my face and chewing on my ear.  Snuffing into my ear in such a lovely, intimate way.  He trusts me.  He loves me.  He wants breakfast.  And life is okay.  In the morning it is okay.

So why am I here?  What is that passion that I need to follow?  I have a drive to find and maintain connections to the past.  Always have felt that way - ask one of my closest childhood friends - she got sick and tired of hearing about history.  She just wasn't interested.  But I was, so that is what I do, I connect to the past - mostly to try and understand the present.  And when I forget about that passion, something almost always smacks me across the head to remind me ... sometimes it's in the laundry room ...

This is just a clothes-drying rack.  It might look a little old fashioned.  If you looked really closely, you'd see some tape on a bottom rung.  Some form of fabric tape hat my mother or father possibly put on there because they used to use this.  And before that, I'm sure my grandmother used it.  But it was first used by my Great-Grandmother, Emily Chamberlaine.  She bought it in Armstrong at Shepherd's Hardware (as my father remembers - he remembers a lot of little details) - sometime after 1925, but I'm not sure when.  I know she bought it, because on the side, very faded now, written in pencil, is: "Sold Paid Mrs. Chamberlaine".

It's a little thing.  Just a very quick note written maybe 60-75 years ago to hold this item at a hardware store.  But it means the world to me.  And every time I pay attention, I am reminded of where I come from and what I'm doing here.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 Ratch Christmas letter

December 2017

Merry Christmas everyone

So another year flew by.  This past year included a LOT of travel, lots of work on our house and lots of developments on the work front for both Sandi and Noel.

Getting away from the snow early in 2017 was a great idea, so we all headed down to the desert north of Palm Springs to visit our good friends Steve and Sarah.  And guess what…it snowed.  WTF?  The snow didn’t last on the ground very long there (15 minutes once it stops), but the weather fronts we experienced also included some flash floods and scary moments.  We tried In N’Out Burger one day before visiting The Living Desert Zoo and Garden during a very cold downpour.  It was great to see Sarah and Steve and take in the sites along with a hike at Joshua Tree National Park.  After visiting them we drove down to San Juan Capistrano and then headed to Disneyland. 

San Juan Capistrano Mission.

The rest of the year included a lot of travel, including both Sandi and Noel going on trips with our Dads.  Sandi and Roy headed up to the Yukon to finally get Roy there after many aborted tries in the past.  While they got to Whitehorse and Dawson, the fires that they were experiencing at that time made things very hard due to Roy’s breathing problems.  Still they made the trip and had the experience - and memories to share.

Summertime brought around a road trip through the states for Noel, Daniel and Mel.  They whipped through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho and Washington and saw all points in-between.  Some stops included: Little Bighorn, Devil’s Tower, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore, Mammoth Hot Springs, the Buffalo Bill Cody Centre, Butte, etc.  It then ended off by seeing Willy Nelson and Kacey Musgraves in concert in Spokane.  Willy is old and it was more a pilgrimage than a music experience (especially for Daniel).

The year also included Daniel’s school trip for French Immersion to Quebec City and Montreal – Noel went along as the male chaperone and had a great time.  Amazing that they don’t really talk French in most of the places the group went – more Franglish than anything.  

Sandi had to stay home for that one, but then got to do Palm Springs and Disneyland again with her sister Heather in the fall.

When we got to stay at home we were able to take in some great entertainment.  Lots of local festivals,football games and concerts including Matchbox Twenty, Imagine Dragons and Jann Arden’s Christmas Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

This year also brought Daniel’s start in high school.  That brought some anxiety and things to work through, but Daniel is doing well in his grades and has made a bunch of new friends (while still having his French Immersion friends that he has been with since Kindergarten).

We did a lot of work on the house, some by choice, other not so much so.  While we did a great deal of painting (inside and out) and rebuilt the top of the front porch.  A massive hail storm meant replacing  18 window panes, getting a new roof for the house and garage and even repairs to the car.  Thank God for insurance.

On the work front Sandi has continued to work away on the build of the Royal Alberta Museum – a three-month job that has now stretched to three years of sometimes full time work.  That plus trying to work on her book and doing archaeological contracts made for some very busy times.  For Noel, 2017 brought the announcement of the payoff of ten years of work and lobbying – a $40 Million dollar expansion to the museum’s onsite collections storage in the guise of a huge publicly accessible collections facility.  Now they have to design, build and load the thing over the next five years – big project and then some.

In addition, after twelve years of working, Noel finally saw his efforts come to fruition with the Western Museums Association coming to Edmonton for their fall conference.  It saw over 500 delegates from the western states and provinces come to town to be entertained and educated. This year also brought the Reynolds-Alberta Museum’s 25th Anniversary, meaning a day of celebrations in September and visits from many former staff members, some of whom have not been back for over twenty years.  Although adjustments to the hierarchy have meant that Noel has taken on a larger role in the Ministry (than just his museum), 2018 will mean some great experiences, learning and projects to be involved with.

2018 will start off with a trip to Washington and Oregon for Sandi and Noel (Noel has to attend a meeting, but the rest should be fun).  Also hopefully the year can be a bit more of focus on home and garden for Sandi after many years grinding away on the Royal Alberta Museum build work (it ends in March). 

Oh yes, and Daniel will be getting his learner’s license sometime this year … (gulp!)

Love and Merry Christmas to you all,
Noel, Sandi, Daniel, Jack, and Rusty

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sexual Harassment and Assault

(disclaimer - I know a lot of men have suffered sexual abuse, but the vast majority are women, so I generalize here)

Every day brings new announcements - of which men are accused of sexual abuse and harassment.  They range from a kiss in a rehearsal and a picture of almost groping to the very worst - a man accused of undressing and seducing a 14-year-old.  What horrible behaviour.  How can men act this way.  OUTRAGE!!!  And we should be outraged.  This IS horrible behaviour.

None of this is new.  This is old news.  These are things that happened 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.  And they happen every day.  I doubt there is a single woman who hasn't actually dealt with some form of sexual harassment or prejudice - whether she was aware of it or not.  Some cases far worse and far more traumatizing than others.  But this is normalized behaviour in our society.  Normalized by men and women alike.

I've been fired for "histrionics" - or was it the fact that I broke up with my boss?  I was told by a professor that the knee showing through the tear in my jeans was appealing (I don't remember the exact terminology - "sexy" maybe).  A fellow graduate student when he first met me thought I was too bubbly and vacuous to ever finish my degree.  I actually wondered why another professor in our department hadn't hit on me - he had hit on a lot of other female students.  Was I not appealing enough? (that crazy way of thinking comes along with all of this).

I remember having sex in tears with one boyfriend of mine because he was drunk and just wouldn't let up - is that rape?  I said no, he just didn't listen.  One night with a different boyfriend I woke up in the middle of sex that I never agreed to.  Is that rape?

Wake up, people.  The problem is not the individuals that are (finally) being called out.  The problem is our society.  Men were moulded to be in positions of power - women were moulded to raise children and be at home - or at least take 2nd place behind men.  World War II saw a lot of women enter the workforce, and when the men came home, a lot of women didn't want to give that up.  So the American ideal was created (you know, the car, the house, the white picket fence, the housewife) in the 1950s to try to get women back into the home.

The Women's Liberation Movement could be seen as a reaction to that post-war push to put women back into the house.  The Movement started in the 1960s and 1970s.  Do the math - that's 50-60 years ago.  Women started fighting for equality in the workplace FIFTY to SIXTY years ago.  That fight for equality led to a passive-agressive push from men trying to maintain their power and control.  And what is a really effective way to control other people?  Through sex.

Women have been trying to advance in the workplace for a long time.  But to do this, they had to put up with men, who were in control of their jobs, and they had to put up with their advances.  OR THEY WOULD GET FIRED.  It so pisses me off when people ask why women are only now coming forward - because there is a mass movement, because there is support.  An individual going against the system is likely to lose - likely enough that it isn't worth risking a job.  But when dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of women come together to share their stories, it is harder to shout them down.

We have all known this to be a problem for decades. "Radical Feminists" were discounted and shamed because of their "radical-ness" - or because they were an easy target for the controlling population.

Need proof that this has been going on forever?  Popular culture is a great place to look.  Just off the top of my head, remember "9 to 5"?  A great movie and song from 1980?  37 years ago.  We knew it was a problem then.  The movie grossed $103.9 million dollars and is noted as the 20th highest grossing comedy (according to Wikipedia).

The outrage that I see on TV from pundits and talk show hosts makes me even more outraged - you've all known about this crap forever!  But you are acting like you haven't done it yourself, or experienced it in some fashion.  This is not new.  You should have been outraged years ago.  But everyone accepted it and put up with it enough that it kept going.

I say this fully knowing that it is true because I wasn't aware of it when I was younger.  I once sat arguing with a young man (when I was in my 20s) that I hadn't experienced any sexism in my schooling or in my life to that point.  I was wrong.  Really, really wrong.

Hopefully the tide is turning and people are now realizing that there is true inequality and misogyny endemic in our society.  That would be nice.  It would be nice to be starting a career right now and knowing that you didn't have to put up with such crap.

So women, tell your stories.  Share.  Let the world know exactly how unfair our culture has been to us.  Let's get this worked out so that perhaps, one day, we will all just be equal.

Just a note - not all men are misogynistic - I married a great guy who believes in equality and I couldn't have asked for a better partner in life.  So for the good guys out there - I'm not ragging on you - I'm raging on our society as a whole.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Racism from the point of view of White Privilege

Tina Fey did a brilliant piece on Summer Weekend Update this week.  You can find it here:

It was funny.  It was pointed.  It was brilliant satire.  And, of course, people are mad about it.

At the very end, she suggests ignoring racists.  Don't show up to protests.  And she is wrong, of course.  But it doesn't take away from the brilliance of what she was saying and the way she connected with my demographic:  the privileged, liberal White woman.

I feel helpless.  I feel hopeless.  Being Canadian, I have absolutely NO control over what happens in the United States.  I have no vote, I have no input.  But I am affected, because our white supremacists get a boost from yours, and our right-wing extremists, feed off of yours.  What happens in the United States ends up happening here.  We have our Obama right now.  I hope to hell we don't get a Trump.

I've seen a couple of things this week that bothered me.  The complaints about Tina Fey, and THIS article in Harper's Bazaar where a black woman tells all of us privileged whites how we have no clue and should just basically shut the fuck up (or perhaps she can educate us all):

This woman is taking the well-meaning tweets of famous people using their powerful voices to say that this is not the kind of America they want to live in, to say that they don't have the right to want to help because of the situations they were either born into or that they fought their way to gain.

Let's face it, she criticizes Ellen DeGeneres - a woman who is VERY aware of prejudice.  Who understands how a career can be threatened by being born a certain way (gay) and having no control over that - and having to hide from society because of it.

All of this hate and anger (including the anger that has arisen in me) is not going to help anyone.  If people of colour (or LGBTQ, or First Nations or any other minority - including women in general) don't accept the well-meaning support of people not in their social group, they are perpetuating intolerance, too.  If someone is trying to help you, accept it.  If they don't understand things the way you do, explain it to them.  Don't shove racism back in their face.  That won't help.  Don't be mad because of the life someone else has.  Make yours better - fight hard to get it.  That's life.  And please understand that some of us who now really do appreciate the privilege they live in, did not necessarily grow up that way - and might understand more than you think they do.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Anger - TABOO!

It amazes me.  Almost finished my 49th trip around the sun and I still come to really basic conclusions about life and myself on a regular basis.

Last night it was this:  "I am allowed to be mad.  And I don't have to check with other people to see if the situation warrants it".  I don't have to justify it.  I also don't have to express it, but I do have to process it.

We, as girls, are taught by our society (through our peers) that it is not nice to know a lot.  I have a reasonably high IQ - which may mean nothing, but it is the only standard measurement we have.  Mine stands hovering around 132 (just tried a free online one and it says 141 - but they are notoriously high).

When I was an elementary school student I was a bit of a know-it-all.  I've talked about this before.  I was kind of like Hermione Granger.  I knew stuff that other people didn't and I understood things more quickly.  And even when I was wrong, I still thought I was right.  This tends to piss people off.

So, in an attempt to have everyone (or at least some) people like me, I tried not to piss people off, and, in turn I tried to not get mad at them.  Because there's no faster way to get someone mad at you than to be mad at them.  But if I did get mad at someone, I tried not to.  I tried not to express it.  I tried not to be obnoxious.  I tried not to feel it.  And I would always try to get others' opinions on whether I was justified to be angry.  The only exception to this was my sister - she got the brunt of my pent-up anger.  Sorry, Sis!

I still do this.  If I get mad at someone, I want to know if the situation warrants it.  I ask other people.  I want to know if I'm reacting properly (also has something to do with misperceptions caused by depression and anxiety).  And I try to deny it - tending to believe that it is my mood disorder that is causing me to be angry, not the actual situation (which, sometimes, it is).

Well, you know what?  I do not need to ask other people if I'm allowed to feel angry.  I am.  It's a natural emotion and I'm allowed to experience it.  I'm allowed to process it.  I don't necessarily need to express it, but I need to allow it.

Almost 50 years on the planet and still learning - that's what this life shit is all about.

BTW - while I am writing this, flowers and a hug arrive at my door - an unspoken apology and forgiveness.  Life is always interesting.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Struggles with depression and medication

No one wants to be on medication.  No one with depression / anxiety issues wants to be on medication.  Without exception, everyone I've ever talked to about it has either put off getting on medication, avoided taking it altogether, or really struggled with the need to take pills.

I am included in this list.  When I am feeling well (due to the drugs) I try to lower my dose.  When I gain weight on them, I want to get off of them.  When I read articles like this one from Scientific American, I think that I shouldn't be taking them at all.

I've been taking Cipralex for a while now - a couple of years - maybe 3 or 4, I can't remember.  It works most of the time.  But like most of the drugs, I've ended up increasing my dose and I worry about having to continue increasing it until it no longer works.  I was taking one pill for a while, but then needed to increase it to 1 1/2.  But then I gained weight.  So in the summer, when things were brighter and easier, I went back down to 1 pill.  And I was fine.  As the sunlight decreased, the fall got colder, and I was feeling crappier, I increased it again to 1 1/2.  And then I noticed that the heart palpitations I had experienced 6 months earlier came back with the extra medication (an emergency room visit, 24-hour Holter monitor, and echocardiogram were required to test them out).  So I cut out the extra half pill a couple of weeks ago.

On Thursday, after freaking out at my husband and stressing my son from the argument that we had (which does not happen when I'm actually feeling well), and having a night of crying a few days before, I realized that I need the extra half pill.  But I can't live with the heart palpitations.  So I am likely going to have to change meds again.  Can't live with them, can't live without them.

The only time I've been able to go without medication in the last decade was about 2 1/2 years ago when I wasn't working.  I had a few months when work just didn't come in.  And I felt well.  But if I want to make money, I need to be on medication (no matter what Scientific American says).

Medication does not cure the problem.  It covers it up - much like taking an Aspirin covers up a headache.  SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) do not help your brain make more serotonin.  They don't fix anything - but they make life livable.  The only other way to make life livable would be to completely change my lifestyle - and that of my family.  And that might not even work.

My own opinion after dealing with this issue (it's always been around, and it is absolutely genetically predisposed) is that our Western culture exacerbates the problem.  Too much data input.  Not enough quiet and brain rest.  Inability to deal with quiet and brain rest.  TV, Internet.  Too much.

And our kids are going to have it worse.  As the parent of a 13-year-old boy, it is almost impossible to control the amount of input they have - especially when I am depressed and having a hard time dealing with anything at all.  So it keeps increasing and perpetuating itself.

The answer?  A great deal more self control and parenting control than I have at the moment.  So it's medication - making sure the meds are balanced, and then taking back control of the things that have gone out of control while not feeling well.  A constant tide of issues that you have to ride like a surfer.

Again, I am not writing this for anyone to feel sorry for me.  I really don't want that.  But I want people to know they are not alone, and of those who don't have the issues to possibly have more understanding for people they know who do.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Changing my View

Last night I vented.  I blogged out my anger and fear.  And then this landed on my Facebook feed (watch it, it's not that long and really listen to his words) - sorry tried to embed it by got something else, so check out the link:

I know a LOT of people find Russell Brand hard to take.  But just listen to him.  He is the wisest flawed human being I have heard lately.  

And this came into my vision as well:  

The lesson I gain from these two things is this:  We need to start taking care of each other.  We need to start loving each other.  We need to change the mindset of anger and hatred.  We need to figure out how to do that, and if we can do that, then the system will change.

All of the poor and disenfranchised need to feel better about things.  Trump isn't going to do that - but maybe the fact of Trump will motivate people for real, positive change. THAT I cannot control.  Neither can you.  What I can control is my mindset.

First off - and this sounds ridiculous, but it's not at all.  Pray for Trump.  Pray hard.  Pray that he gets influence from above to do the right things for everyone.  Pray that his focus on himself switches to actual concern for people who are in hard times.  Pray that the people he chooses as his advisors do positive things for the good of all.

Second - be active.  Do SOMETHING.  Support what you want to see in the world.  Send money to the causes that you view as important.  I personally contribute monthly to the Suzuki Foundation and  But the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and any number of other wonderful charities exist out there.  Put even a small amount of your money into a good cause to help other people.  

Suggestions welcome, but for any of you out there who are feeling helpless, I recommend getting involved in some fashion by volunteering in your community.  Share love.  Accept people who aren't like you.  There are hundreds and thousands of places that need help.  Local hospitals, animal shelters, libraries, food banks - get out there.  Meet other people.  Help the hopeless.  If each of us did just a little of this, it would make a difference.

But most importantly, set aside the anger.  Set aside the hate.  Choose to send positive energy into the world, not negative.  

I'm going to try.  I'm not perfect, and it is really easy to take the low road.  But I'm going to try to take the high road this time.  For the sake of my soul - for it shall whither under the oppression of hate.