November 26, 2011

Trifecta Challenge: To Betray

This is my entry in response to the challenge at Trifecta, for the word, Betray, according to the third definition provided by Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary.

3: to fail or desert especially in time of need

Today an American friend and I are having a Facebook discussion about a socialised medical health system -- to ensure basic health to all citizens of a society. As shocking as it is for me to imagine living in a modern democratic country that doesn't provide basic medical care for its citizenry, it appears even more baffling to my friend:

“The right-wing propaganda machine has done a good job of painting disaster if the government takes over health care. Of course, they don't talk about what private for-profit health care does to people. The most frustrating part is those who firmly believe that a fair, government-administrated healthcare system with access for everyone is some commie plot that will bring them down and give them poor medicine. They have been thoroughly propagandized into working against their own interests.”

She goes further: “I also suspect people never see themselves in the picture ... as needy or the underdog. They don't see that while they may identify with the privileged, they are in fact the serfs to the privileged.”

It got me to thinking about how fiercely so many people in both Canada and the United States are defending the right to make money over all other rights, even if that particular right protects the people stripping everyone else of basic human rights: shelter, potable water, nourishment and a decent education. I know these members of our societies have accepted the right of the (rare) individual to unbridled wealth over all other rights because a majority continue to cast their votes in this direction.

I believe such people betray their own children by voting into power those who protect only the wealthiest and most powerful of the country.

This conversation has led me to consider history and better understand the blindness of those Germans in the rise of the Nazi regime who, rather than protect their friends and neighbours from madness, looked the other way and slipped into accepting an unthinkable aberration as status quo.

November 19, 2011

Triggering disaster

333 words for the Trifecta Writing Challenge, because I like to write to the word. Next week's challenge? Saying the same thing in 33 words (and using another prompt). (cue maniacal laughter).


“Pour yourself a drink, consider using a pseudonym, and write,” writes my friend the writing coach on my Facebook wall, after I moaned about the work involved in dredging up less than Pollyanna-esque memories of my grandparents. I had signed up reluctantly for her class at her encouragement, despite the fact I barely slept, I was already so overcommitted.

Personal memoir, while an interesting possibility for someone who’s failed so spectacularly as I to live a life with any rhyme or reason, is also dangerous. A veritable minefield, I think, especially now that I am knee deep in possibilities at the halfway mark of the session.

This week is photos, using photos to jar memories. Not that hard.

I look desperately at the pictures, staring hard to find the strands, to make the connections. The whiskey, peaty and sharp, burns the edge of my windpipe as I strain to find that hook.

Suddenly a few photos stand out, but not for the reasons I expect. Still, I have the answer to this week's task. The figure in the photos is my father as a young man. These images prod me toward my keyboard.

My dad. My playful, silly dad wearing one of his many masks to belie the turmoil that lies directly below the surface.

I comprehend I have no choice but to do this work, to reach into my forbidden past, to summon my inner therapist to help me figure out exactly where I’m at with regards to my father before it is too late. It’s just, well, it's just that I don’t want to. Right now I want to imagine I do not have the time to do the work, to cope with the feelings guaranteed to come with examining the masquerade I called my childhood. At the same time, I fear the march of time will leave me with unavoidable regret.

I understand anew that it’s time to figure out how to exist without harbouring the need to exist.


November 10, 2011

Kids who give: the panacea to chronic worry?

My friend's nephew is raising funds to support clean water projects in India and that got me to thinking. How is it that we raise kids with a better awareness of the world they live in, of bigger problems than not having a DS, of giving as well as receiving.

My niece and nephew had lemonade stands for their younger days and donated the money to local charities. I believe they have also participated in one of those foster parenting programs that create a connection, a narrative really, so that people can picture where their money goes.

My biggest worry is creating worriers. See what I did there? You see, worrying runs in our family. And not the kind that is constructive. I remember, way back in the 80s, when North Korea shot down a South Korean passenger jet and I was certain that nuclear war would ensue. Um, I was at summer camp, for peat's sake. And I became hysterical. I was 15 or 16, had sponsored the no-nukes club at my school (because I could draw a mean poster of a nuclear cloud, sad truth be told). We never got up to much else and the club disintegrated very rapidly for lack of substance but I was left to worry.

I think that kids -- and all of us, in fact -- really groove on the tangible. I am pretty sure that my friend's nephew was not only informed about how the people to whom he is dedicating his birthday gifts, but also given information to which he could relate: I'm thinking that bottle of water he is using as a prop did not come from India, but rather some lake near his home.

If I tell my kids that there are kids in Canada (true story) that don't have clean water to drink, it means nothing to them except that they have reason to worry about some kids somewhere. If I take the time to find ways to demonstrate how this would be to live through, it becomes as clear as clean water. They get it.

Joules and her family have obviously awoken and/or supported the empathy thing in this child. I imagine this kid weighing the facts: What would it be like to drink cloudy water from my local lake, water that would make my stomach ache?, and then to need to make the connection to what he can do to make a difference.

I want this for my kids, this ability to mobilize. I don't just want them to think, Oh those poor people, and move on with a little less bounce in their step. I slip into that feeling: this world is so big, there are so many problems, what can I do, *shrug*. It is not a nice feeling.

We've been having "fiver" parties since my eldest turned 5, influenced by a friend's doing it before us. My kids sometimes choose to participate in this type of party, and sometimes they don't. I like the balance they are finding.

A "fiver" party invites party-goers to bring two five dollar bills in lieu of a gift to the party. One bill goes into an envelope for the child to use to buy a toy of their choosing, and the other bill goes into an envelope to go to a charity of the child's choice. Net results are that the child chooses something they've wanted or would use, the parents spend less on a birthday gift than they otherwise would and don't have to make a trip to the toy store and the child starts thinking about the needs of others in their community, be that within their neighbourhood, city, country or world.

My kids have chosen very local charities, but I don't think I've done a great job yet of educating them of ways to find a cause to which they can relate. I guess my work is cut out for me.

For now, not only am I going to pull out my credit card and donate my friend's nephew, in an effort to fan the flames of his enthusiasm, I am also going to help my kids find charities or causes that bring them some connection, something they to which they can relate and get behind. I hope by doing this, I will enable my kids to do more and worry less.

November 4, 2011

A wee little word challenge

I want all the words. Listed here.

All the words from childhood that made you giggle, that you couldn't use for one reason or another. I want them here.

You see, I just remembered another one. Dink.

I would never have said this word when I was a kid. My friend called her dad that, mostly behind his back. I couldn't. I could barely stand hearing it but I would never, ever actually say it. I still won't.

But I can say the c word, no problem. (That may come as a shock to many of you, I hope you won't leave as a result of this news. My use of the word is political, and something I would happily explain on another day.) Funny thing is? I can't type it. Not here, not there, not anywhere. I mean I can, but I wouldn't. It is simply too harsh, too divisive. It causes too many to cringe, even the connotation of it.

And here, though I promised I wouldn't, here I will tell you why I use it, selectively, in company that would understand. Because suddenly, as I type this, I know why I can only type dink, but not actually slide it across my vocal folds.

Mostly? The words we use for the female anatomy are hateful and hated. The c word is one of these. As is douche (which some of you know makes me cringe and throw up a little in my mouth) and ... oh, bugger.

No. Not bugger. Fortunately women can never be that (without tools).

But I just realised that I'm totally procrastinating another project that I was to deliver at midnight. I'll develop this idea a bit more in the days to come. Maybe leaving something for another day will make me write here more than sporadically.

That's the thing about deadlines. It's amazing how much other stuff one finishes when one has something one is supposed to be producing.

But back to the original thought. It's a funny thing about writing, isn't it? It allows us to "say" things we can't put into the vibrations that are sound. Maybe that's why so many people, and not just those who long considered themselves to be "writers", are blogging, FBing, writing shit down.

In the meanwhile? Whilst I push out the work I have to produce now? Moar words please. I want them all.

November 1, 2011

writing prompts

Way back in the day, when I was at theatre school, *uh huh. I am a failed struggling starving aspiring actor. In my own set of unique dramas. And I went to school for it.

I used to think with horror, but secretly: What if I don't make it. I don't want to be one of those people who goes to theatre school and then becomes a teacher, sheepish about not "making it". And here I get to say, Ah, the arrogance of youth. Because I am that person, and I love it. I am not measured by myself in the inches that are auditions that I've gone on, shows I have landed, rejection letters. And if I am judged by others, I know that rotten headspace that I too once occupied and I can feel the joy of not being there anymore.

I create now for myself. I make cakes, costumes, and drama. I splice other people's words together to (hopefully) make them better without destroying their voice and message. I also string my own words together, mostly as missives but sometimes too as publications. I'm even starting to enjoy that process.

I draw without angst, sing without reservation and dance without shame. (One of those three statements is a lie but *shrug* whatever.)

I parent with a creativity and an openness that I never expected of myself. I suck at it sometimes and I find my way to a quick forgiveness for my pedestrian faults, turning to solutions rather than self retributions.

I was recently asked by a friend to take her writers' workshop. This idea, rather than scaring the bejayzus out of me as it should, has brought me toward the lightness of possibilities. We are writing about family, and trust me, I will need to uncover some serious bravery for this task. But it is already fun because I get that it can be so.

At the same time, it is a task, an exercise. Something I can accomplish by which to hold up and measure my progress in life. And I am so much more primed for the act of taking prompts and playing within the process than I ever was when I was at school. The lessons I learned then I employ fiercely now, and without regret for what might have been, if I had have known then what I know now.

Another friend, one who's writing leaves me crumpled on the floor in awe and laughter and tears, is mounting her own writer's challenge in the form of a weekly writer's challenge. What can I say. I am up for it and ready to play the game.

Play. Another lesson I learned back in the day, another post for another day.

But enough for now, I have homework to complete. Come and join me in this game of words and threes and thrills. For joining me will be celebrating. I am able to do this today because I went to theatre school, back in the day. That fear? of not making it? was unfounded.


This life of joining into creative endeavours without fear and at my own pleasure clearly indicates to me I have made it.