#Bill10


ewoks defeat empire tweetIt’s been an interesting week. Unless you happened to be sitting in the Alberta legislature and then it was – to quote Thomas Lukaszuk, MLA for Edmonton Castle Downs, a “week from hell”.

This trip to the hellmouth came courtesy of our new Premier’s attempt to slay a vexing dragon that has menaced conservatives in both his party, the Progressive-Conservatives, and their rivals and opposition, the Wildrose Party.

Both parties have problems with a small religious and socially conservative driven base, continually seeking assurances that Alberta will stay as rooted in the 1960’s on certain social issues as is possible given the fact that it’s now the 21st century.

There are a number of things that send this base into a frenzy but two things in particular give them panic attacks.

The first is the fear that as parents they won’t have control over every aspect of their children’s education. Specifically (though probably not exclusively) anything pertaining to sex.

What passes for sexual education, generally, has me shaking my head most of the time and grateful for the fact that I have been instructing my daughter in the basics since she first noted the concept of gender and the differences between them.

The misinformation and bias I’ve observed in teachers, and in the provincial curriculum, is fodder for another day (and frankly, was something I ran into frequently when I taught in the United States too), but I have countered it with fact and honest, even-handed discussions. I am not too worried that some random teacher’s poor delivery method is going to ruin my child.

But there is a subset of Albertan parents who are determined to keep facts from their children even if they have to keep facts from my child to achieve this end.

And that is where Bill10 enters our story.

But please indulge a little back story.

The province of Alberta has a long history of not being keen about granting rights to LGBTQs in most instances and about same-sex marriage in particular. While the rest of the provinces came to the realization that legally it was simply impossible to deny this basic right, Alberta’s premier, Ralph Klein, pitched a fit.

However, Canada became the fourth country in the world to recognize that access to marriage was a right for all in 2005.

This would be the end of the story but for the fact that Alberta’s socially conservative still grumble (despite the fact that the world hasn’t cracked in half and the four horsemen aren’t roaming the earth in the wake of civil marriage) and not so subtly find ways to make their displeasure known.

One of the ways was to not allow sexual orientation to be named explicitly in the Alberta Bill of Rights Act (which as an aside is the province’s way of reminding Canada that they never did like Pierre Trudeau or his Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and to eventually grant the wish of a minority of parents in Alberta by allowing them to demand notification from teachers every single time that sexual orientation came up in the classroom.

The first thing is just mean-spirited and sore loser-ish. It can’t be explained any other way.

But the second was simple control-freak paranoia based on the outdated idea that people are taught to be lesbian or gay or transgender or bisexual or queer.

Speaking as someone who spent two decades teaching junior and senior high, let me reassure everyone that no one taught your son or daughter his/her sexual orientation. They showed up at the door pre-programmed.

Not once was I ever surprised to learn, years after I taught someone in grade seven, that he or she was gay. Not. Once. Because I knew it even if it took them a few more years to figure it out.

So, Bill10.

The Alberta Liberal Party tried, unsuccessfully, to fix the aforementioned issues. Valiant attempts. But as they had been all but crushed as a viable opposition party in the province, these attempts failed.

Recently though a Liberal MLA named Laurie Blakemen tried again with a private member’s bill, Bill202.

It was simplicity itself. Corrected the injustice and laid to rest the idiocy and could be summed up in three sentences. How can you not love legislation that you don’t need a lawyer to interpret for you to actually understand it?

Blakemen presented her private member’s bill. People liked it. There was much rejoicing!

bill202

And then Premier Prentice decided he wanted to be the one who presented a bill that righted wrongs (’cause that’s how he rolls) because rejoicing isn’t okay unless the PC’s are facilitating it.

Bill 202 went through a first reading. The government responded with “yeah, but we have a bill of our own, which will do all of these things and probably fly and shoot rainbows out its bum too and we will tell you all about it … just as soon as we write it down.”

Premier Prentice then disappeared in a puff of smoke like Cinderella’s godmother because more important work pertaining to pipelines and bitumen was waiting for him in Quebec, and so his faithful front-line minions were left to write and present the new and improved bill to the legislature.

Which they did.

And everyone went “meh?”

Because Bill10 was not really new – it borrowed heavily from Bill202, so much so that if the legislature was a university and MLAs were students words like plagiarism might have been tossed about and people would be failing and possibly even expelled.

So they tried again.

And everyone went “wtf?!”

contrast 202 and 10

Bill 10 had gone from a bad pirating effort to quasi-apartheid aimed squarely at LGBTQ children, who just wanted to be allowed to form GSA’s (gay straight alliance clubs) in their schools so they could cope with the normal transition stuff that teens face in a safe place, free from bullying and full of warmth, understanding, and friendship.

Why, when it’s usually the most tired refrain in the political universe, was no one “thinking of the children?”

But the PC government dug in even as some of their own – brave and eloquent souls like Thomas Lukaszuk and Doug Griffiths – stood up and said, “this isn’t right”.

The tiny undermanned opposition parties (for a welcome change) banded together in an impressive showing of rebuttal and take down and common sense.

And the small but semi-vigilant Alberta media and social media had the opposition’s back. Publishing news articles, op-ed and tweeting like frenzied Shakespearian chorus.

Citizens took to the airwaves. They petitioned. They shared heart-rending personal stories about the isolation and discrimination.

Truly it was the Evil Empire versus the plucky Ewoks. If by “evil” you mean “misguided and misinformed” and by “plucky” you mean “relentlessly mocking”.

And Ewoks, in case anyone has forgotten, are wee, furry fluffballs that chitter like Alvin and the Chipmunks. And they have wicked sharp teeth.

While the rest of Canada – as it usually does unless it is wagging fingers about climate change that their first world lifestyles apparently don’t contribute to at all – ignored Alberta, Albertans stood up and said, “Um, no. We are not a gaggle of inbred hillbillies. Bill10 simply isn’t right. Scrap it and come up with something better. Maybe like Bill202.”

When Canada finally did notice, it was over.

At the height of civilian dissension, Premier Prentice tersely told the media (in Ontario) that “Rights are not absolute.”

Yes, he did.

Not exactly the words most citizens dream of hearing from the mouth of the guy who basically rules over them with virtually no checks on his authority.

But upon returning to the legislature – just in time to fire up the Christmas decor – Prentice had regained his sanity, re-girded his political loins and shelved Bill10.

What’s next? Maybe nothing. Shelved bills have a habit of disappearing into the bowels of government like the Ark of the Covenant in a US military warehouse. But maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the socially progressive in the Alberta legislature and Alberta politics in general. Perhaps that day has finally arrived.

Regardless, the real issue is still unresolved. Our kids can’t start GSAs in many of the rural schools or in any of the Catholic ones. There is still bullying and marginalization during a time in their lives when just growing up – physically, emotionally and academically – is hard enough work.

We are failing our kids and by “we”, I mean all of us.

Two weeks have been wasted by adults more interested in political points than in doing their damn jobs. When does this end? Who is going to man up and take the first step towards making things right?

Do You Know Who You Are?


Someone asked me that tonight on Twitter. It’s a fair question if you don’t know me because, while I have a fairly consistent set of core values, I am not easily categorized in everyday terms.

I think he was annoyed that, despite my following Green people and sometimes tweeting green causes and issues, I am not green enough to not question things that don’t make sense or don’t match up.
But I am not any more liberal than I am conservative. I am not green because of my pragmatism or a socialist because I was raised by Depression Era parents. I subscribe to no particular worldview because there is validity to be found everywhere – if you keep an open mind and you can’t do that when you’ve picked a side. I learned that in Catholic school.

Yeah, I know.

I don’t believe in a god or gods, but I don’t discount the probable reality of a purpose driven universe and the immortality of that some of us call a “soul”.

I think religions have done more harm than good but don’t think people who practice a creed are necessarily bad or deluded.

I am a progressive though I don’t belong to the cult of “progress”. Science fiction will not save us.

And  I do believe in being accountable; earning your own way as much as possible is good for you and that a lot more issues than people realize are nothing more than distractions to keep us from paying attention to what is really important.

The economy, for example, is a distraction. Or at least all the hyperbolic rhetoric and mock warfare and shell-game math that gets tossed at us by the main stream (and off the beaten path) media, politicians and activists.

Justin Trudeau (infamously and to his likely dismay now) once said that “the economy/budget will take care of itself” or something close to it.

His opponents far and wide mocked and continue to mock such “naiveté”, but he is really not that wrong.

Budgeting has to be done. By everyone. Households, businesses and governments. But it is a lot less quantum physics than you think.

And for the most part that which is the free market – from which economies and government budgets are birthed – does take care of itself as it is largely outside the influence of even those who try to influence or manipulate it.

It grows, contracts and collapses and staggers back to its feet again. Driven a tiny bit by us but it’s mainly dependent on the fact that humans have needs and those needs are met via consumption.

We consume therefore we must work and have a system for bartering.

It’s kind of simple.

Even if everything imploded tomorrow morning with the bell on Wall Street (as likely a place as any), we’d still need things. We’d still have skills to ply. The economy would just flex to accommodate the new reality.

Whatever. Most talk of the jabbering about the economy and budgets is nonsense. Political parties can’t grow economies anymore than they can save jobs that are naturally migrating to newer, cheaper emerging countries. Politicians are impotent forces in terms of doing much good on a large-scale. They can (and have) managed to muck up a lot of things though. Leafing through any history book can tell you that.

But they’ve done great things, you will argue.

I will grant you that, but mostly by accident or as a by-product of something that was probably self-serving and turned out better than anyone could have dreamed.

So do I know who I am?

Do you know who you are?

You’ll give me a list of things you believe in. Groups you belong to. Things and people you love. Tell me about your causes – passionately, I am sure. Assure me that you aren’t a whole host of things.

The way you dress, wear your hair, your markings and piercings, taste in music, food, books and movies/tv will all scream something that probably isn’t you at all.

And in the end, you still won’t come close to telling me anything about the real you.

People’s natures can only be known through real time experiences. Whether that’s via intense conversation or adventures or just hanging out (and yes, it can be virtual).

But getting to know someone is intentional and time consuming.

Unlike my Twitter or Facebook feed, or even this blog.

If who we really are was so easily divined, people would get along better and the world wouldn’t teeter on so many brinks and we wouldn’t be worrying about economies or climate change to the extent that many of us are at actual or virtual war with so many others.

I just finished Justin Trudeau’s “memoir*” and the only thing I know for sure is that he held back. I still have no idea who the man really is but he probably isn’t the anti-Christ and Canada will survive him just like it’s surviving Harper or would survive Mulcair or May.

Look, just because I find this or that news article worthy of sharing or commenting on and just because in your eyes my thought pattern seems contradictory doesn’t mean I don’t know what I am doing or where I would like to go or have forgotten where I have been.

That which is me has survived more ups, downs, and twisty turns than you know or I could ever blog about.

My favorite Father of Confederation is Thomas D’arcy McGee.

He was born in Ireland. A gifted writer and a silver-tongued little devil who began his career at the tender age of barely 18 when he left Ireland for the United States to preach to the immigrant masses about freeing their homeland from British occupation.

He was an activist who eventually became a full-fledged terrorist and wound up in Canada solely because he needed a job and couldn’t go home to Ireland where an arrest warrant and deportation to Australia awaited him.

He ran the gamut from near apostasy to fundamentalist Catholic.

He was an alcoholic and a born again teetotaler.

An Anglo – Quebecker, he worked with McDonald to birth a united Canada and ended his life dreaming of a multicultural society of Canadians.

He died at the hands of a terrorist organization he once believed in with all his soul. They killed him because he knew their vision threatened his Canada.

Along the way, he changed his mind and rhetoric and ways so many times that his critics’ most consistent argument against him was that he never seemed to know what it was he stood for.

But he always did. In the moment and going forward, he knew who he was. He was, like everyone else, a work in progress.

His progress lead him on quite a journey. Mostly because he had an open mind (though he lacked the interest in ever admitting he’d changed it or had been wrong about anything ever).

I am not who I was thirty, or even ten, years ago. I won’t be of the same mind always as I go forward.

That which is me is always me, and it’s only for the privileged few to know. But who I am in this life changes as I learn and grow, as it should, and when I am in a growth spurt – as I am – is not the best time to try to pin me down.

I am just rambling, you think.

No. I’m thinking. On paper. If you’d been paying attention, you’d have figured that out about me already.

And you should try that sometime. You might learn something.

 

*Memoirs should be saved until one is old enough that one no longer worries about the fall out of being frank and having opinions about one’s one life and experiences. Just my opinion, mind you.

Remembrance Day


Until 9/11 the day known as Veteran’s Day in the United States, where I was born and raised, was just a day. Nothing particularly elaborate or widespread.

You knew it was a federal holiday by the absence of mail and the dutiful coverage by the media of ceremonies here and there.

Politicians, of course, pandered.

But really, it was not a big deal.

The attack on the Twin Towers in NYC changed that a little bit but it was still hit and miss regardless of the impression given by the media down there.

When I came to Canada, I discovered the true origins of this day*, and the fact that in some countries around the world – Canada being one of them – Remembrance Day’s meaning is kinda like the Grinch’s observation about Christmas – “maybe, perhaps, means a little bit more”.

Life doesn’t come to a complete stop for Remembrance Day in Canada. In fact, it’s not even a statutory federal holiday. But it’s important.

Not because – as some people (politicians especially) would like us to believe – the fallen soldiers of our too numerous wars died defending “freedom”.

They didn’t.

Soldiers die because politicians fail.

They fail to negotiate, compromise and find equitable resolutions to vexing problems. They fail to think in terms of years and decades out as opposed to between now and the next election. They fail to understand that war’s human cost is seldom worth whatever short-term solution was gained. And finally, they fail to do what they were actually elected to do, safe-guard our freedoms themselves through their words and deeds.

Every time a soldier dies, somewhere a politician’s karma gets deservedly more muddy.

Remembrance Day is important because we remember how awful war is by recalling the bright futures that never were. The young men and women who didn’t come home to family and friends. The waste. The horror. The destruction. The fact that freedom wasn’t democratically defended and promoted but was used like a blunt instrument on the landscape, lives, hopes and dreams of people we don’t know. Whose strangeness to us made it “okay” to destroy their homes and kill their children.

And we should remember these things. It’s a painful and humbling reminder that we haven’t got it all figured out. That we are works in progress, and at times, our progress hasn’t been for the greater good but for greed, power and the right of the conqueror to force his will on the unwilling.

My father and my uncles fought in World War II and in Korea. It changed them, or so I am told. I only knew the men forged by war not the men they were prior to war. I recognize what a great loss that was to me and for them.

I wear my poppy in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day like many, many others. I observe the day as do most of the people I know.

But I don’t think the day was ever meant to be about honouring as much as it was meant to be about remembering what was lost. Who was lost. And why we shouldn’t let war be the habit it has become.

 

*It’s amazing what you can learn about history when you leave the United States, where history is told in a way that is good for Americans and shorter on fact than a Texas social studies curriculum guide.

Why Can’t I Quit You?


I watch the doings in the House of Commons. Question Period. Debates. Members addressing green chairs.  Even when I don’t watch, I follow the pundits on Twitter who live tweet the House and the various committees and press conferences. It’s a good way to stay informed. To know what the government and our representatives – and no, they are not one in the same – are up to.House of Commons

Often they are up to nothing. That is to say, they have work to do, but they err on the side of doing as little as humanly possible for as long as possible. Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view and who the government of the moment is.

The government of the past eight years has been the Conservative Party of Canada. Not to be confused with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, which exists now only at provincial levels. The Conservatives lead by Stephen Harper are not progressive and find the whole notion of Canada as progressive and terminally left leaning (which it is) something that should be slowly, carefully and methodically excised. If they could euthanize the idea of the common good, they wouldn’t blink while doing it.

So, naturally, when I decided to get my politics back on, I didn’t go with the sitting government.

At first, I scoped out the Greens. Not because I have any natural affinity for them but simply because I could. They exist here as a real political party. In fact, had I the option of exploring the Bloc Quebecois (which only exists in Quebec), I would have checked them out too because I like to be as contrary to the status quo as I am legally allowed.

But the Greens were a no go, sadly, I  cannot lack enough sense to truly buy in. Greens are not practical enough for me and yes, I do believe that one can be progressive and practical at the same time. Greens, however, don’t. Or at least they appear not to and when you try to point out the contradictions between their first world lifestyles and their politics – well, that’s a conversation that has nowhere to go.

Liberals or the New Democratic Party (NDP) then.

And I watched them both in the lead up to 2011.

The NDP emerged, for the first time, as the Official Opposition and the Liberals faced a catastrophic collapse that left them with a mere 34 seats in the House of Commons.

Neither was a surprise.

The NDP had a very charismatic leader, who has since died, and the Liberals were being lead by a Canadian academic who’d spent the vast majority of his adult life living outside of Canada. In fact, he currently teaches at Harvard. More American than I ever was.

I pondered the NDP for a nano-second following their ascent, but I am an Albertan – and my father’s daughter. I simply cannot embrace in your face socialism, or even take it seriously as a good idea, because it hinges on the misguided notion that people will always, or mostly, default to their better instincts and act accordingly, which just isn’t true.

People can and are usually decent, but not when it comes to the common good. This, I think, is because it is difficult for humans to really work up a “give a fuck” about anyone they don’t know.

You will argue with that that this isn’t so.

Look at all the concern for the Gazans when Israel was bombing the crap out of them.

And Israel is still containing the people of Gaza in their open air prison, systematically knocking down their cell blocks one neighborhood at a time. Children are still in danger. Where are the headlines? The tweets? The outpouring of concern? Outrage? Anything?

It’s no surprise. No matter how immediate the various medias make the disasters and tragedies of others seem, inevitably the pull of the reality around us – filled with the family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who make up our real worlds – will be what matters most to us.

Still don’t believe me?

How’s Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine going? It wasn’t that long ago when Putin – not Hamas or now ISIL – was the Big Bad.

What about those poor Central America children pouring across the US’s southern border?

Ebola ravage West Africa?

All horrors have their moment but the moment passes once we get tired of tweeting and liking and the MSM has found a new story to boost the ratings up again once we’ve tired of the current calamity.

Liberals then.

Their Americanized (the kiss of death in Canadian politics) leader fell on his “sword” and resigned after the party’s implosion on 2011.

Just an interesting aside. Here, losing by a big margin means party leadership will be changing hands. It’s a given. You simply cannot lose big and stay on as the leader of your party. Bad form.

The Liberals had an interim leader and then a short leadership race.

Aside again. Most races are short. Even an election takes weeks as opposed to the marathon of months and years that it takes in the United States.

A new leader emerged. Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau’s father was the late Pierre Trudeau who was also once the leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister from 1968 til the early 80’s.

Justin was born while his father was in office, which in Canada doesn’t translate into an inevitable career in politics with dynastic aspirations, but in his case, it has.

Political dynasties, however, make Canadians itchy. After all, we have a Queen and a royal family. We are not keen to crown another or several others.

As I mentioned in my post the other day, I spent some time sizing up Mr. Trudeau. I found him … not blatantly insincere nor idealistically offensive, and he appeared to have some common sense.

He was a teacher. I liked that. Though he didn’t teach very long, which made him a bit suspect and worse, being a Member of Parliament is the only job he’s held for more than a few years. It stunk a bit of Barack Obama, a bad sign.

But he was not Stephen Harper, which is probably the most appealing thing about him. His chief good quality. Followed up with that fact that he seems genuinely committed to staying away from the mud pits of politicking, and since I hate partisan politics and all that goes along with it – I was game.

Canadians are fed up with Harper and Canadians (I love this about them) make it a habit to hand over the keys of 24 Sussex (the Prime Minister’s official residence in Ottawa) to someone new on a regular basis. Prime Minister’s and their parties are like litter boxes in that they should be dumped out regularly to prevent … stinky-ousity.

I joined the Liberal Party a year ago.

I volunteered. I sit/sat on our riding’s executive board for the Liberal Party. I helped with the social media.

Today, I am quitting

It wasn’t one thing. It was a lot of one things.

It was the wishy-washy stance on Gaza over the summer. The lack of detailed policy on just about everything. The infatuation with Barack Obama (and yes, I put up with that from the get go, and you all know me. I loathe Obama and everything he stands for and to hold my nose while his campaign team riff-raff infiltrated and advised Trudeau and his people was difficult. I held me tongue a lot. Yes. Me.)

But this last weekend as the “should we join the new Iraqi war coalition or not” thing began to play out and Trudeau’s tepid performance – and good gawd was it a performance – drove it home for me that I can’t stay a Liberal.

Not officially.

I am still more liberal than not. I absolutely object to the idea that not being socially backward or religiously bent disqualifies me from being practical, fiscally responsible and generally and firmly planted in the realm of common sense. You don’t have to espouse conservatism in order to lay claim to wit.

But, I am simply not a sheep, and I’d have to be a really blind one to stay a member of the party.

Today I followed the debate in the House of Commons on the NDP’s proposed amendment to the Conservative’s Iraq motion.

The Conservatives spouted nonsense mostly, though Laurie Hawn seemed a less ideologically driven yes-man than Pierre Pollivere, who will rot in the lowest level of hell if there turns out to be one.

The NDP, mostly made sense, if moving in a perpetual circular motion in the hopes that others will eventually hop on the merry-go-round with you makes sense.

The Liberals seemed to have left their C team on the floor. I won’t critique them any farther than that.

The vote – on the amendment  – as Canadian participation in the US’s latest mistake in Iraq is a forgone conclusion – will be tomorrow.

The Liberals have withheld their approval, as have the NDP, but I will go out on a limb and say that they will vote with the Conservatives on the overall mission and with the NDP on their amendment, which will probably lose because the Conservatives won’t support it because they don’t have to.They hold the majority of the votes.

And off we will go to Iraq to fight the “war on terror”.

A decade-ish ago when George W. Bush first uttered that mangled bit of English, did you think it would still be hanging about like a stray cat?

Even if Trudeau hangs onto his dignity and votes against the Iraqi action (and I don’t think he will), I am still done.

Because where was our fearless leader today during the debate?

He was attending one of Hillary Clinton’s Canadian book tour stops at Canada 2020.

Seriously. He was.

Took his wife. He gets a point for that.

But much as I loved Clinton back, back in the day. She sold out when she took the job with Obama. She’s tainted and willingly so.

A woman does what a woman has to do to get ahead in a man’s world, but doesn’t mean I have to respect her for it.

Saddens me. Once upon a time, I would have voted for Clinton, but that was when I was an American and younger.

I am a Canadian now. Older. Wiser. And nobody’s sheep.

I’m Back


Has it really been a year and a half?

 Ottawa earlier this year

Ottawa earlier this year

Good Lord.

Though I am certain no one will notice, and might care less if they do, I am going to blog again. However, I am done with the subject matter of yore. I have no more to say about any of it.

I am going to write about now.

Now in Canada, Alberta, the world at large  – should I fancy to – and any other delightfully off-beat thing that catches my attention.

So, to catch up those dear readers, who might have graciously allowed me to gather dust on their feeds, I am a Canadian.  All of 13 days.

Unsurprisingly, I feel exactly the same, which confirms my suspicion that I was clearly born the wrong nationality.

I am a Liberal.

Okay, that’s not a surprise, but what is new is that I joined the Liberal Party of Canada.

They give you cards. To carry. Red ones. Numbered. Seriously.

And I here I thought the phrase “card carrying liberal” was just some random saying.

I joined the party not quite a year ago after spending several months following its new leader, Justin Trudeau.

It hasn’t been easy.

The last time I belonged to a political party officially was in the very early 90’s though it could easily have been the late 80’s. I am not certain when the state of Iowa began allowing people to register as Independents. I dumped the Democrats as soon as that option became available and have militantly shunned allegiance since.

Belonging is a trap not a privilege, and it strips you of your right to think for yourself. Slowly and those who belong would argue that this isn’t the case, but it does.

However, Trudeau … didn’t make me roll my eyes … or question his sincerity, but I will say that I have little doubt that he is being slowly assimilated and one day, he will be a full on politician, indistinguishable from the rest. On that day, my little red card will join other memorabilia in the scrapbook labeled “things I did once but am over now – no judging”.

How do I know Trudeau is doomed? Because he isn’t Superman. In fact, he is a little bit on the scrawny side, and despite his ability to take an actual punch, everyone has their kryptonite. There are no messiahs out there just waiting for a chance to save the world. If six years with Barack Obama for a president taught me anything, it taught me that. But, Parliament Hill (the seat of the Canadian government in Ottawa, Ontario) is like the Overlook Hotel. In the battle for your soul, it will win if you overstay within its walls.

I think most overstay.

Although it has not been steadily downhill with Trudeau since he allowed himself to be shorn like Samson, I have come close to cutting up my pretty red card on several occasions.

Most recently the party’s gleefully opportunistic suddenly flip on the Israel and Gaza issue sent me into a “seriously!!” rant that only my husband got to enjoy, which set me to pondering a return to blogging that lasted the summer and here I am.

Meanwhile …

Life is life. I draw and paint now. I re-learned to crochet. I teach yoga with an ease that astounds me though I don’t know why. Teaching is like breathing. Try as I might, I cannot quit it.

Rob is Rob. Wise and wonderful.

The children continue to be themselves in ways that delight, exasperate and make me proud.

I nearly have a novel finished.

No, for reals.

A political thriller.  A kind of Jack Reacher meets the West Wing. With some romance. A bromance. And, of course, terrorists. How could there not be? Only in Canada. Alberta, mostly.

When I am ready for a few beta readers, I will let you know. January-ish, I am thinking.

Oh, and I re-started my Twitter account.

Yeah, I know. Twitter is ruled by the vapid and intelligent interaction is often meme’d an ugly death, but I have found the Alberta politically minded to be more discussion leaning and tolerant of diversity than those I ran with in the States. There are a few mean girls (aren’t there always?)and a whole lot of bleating sheep, but that’s to be expected in a public space. And while the Canadian pundits are a bit full of themselves, they occasionally crawl down from their towers to engage with the serfs, which is something that doesn’t happen in the southland at all.

And that’s it.

Dating While Widowed: Yours and Mine and Adult Kids


The latest post at Abel Keogh’s Running Forward Widower Wednesday talks about pre-nups, wills and adult kids who can’t wrap their minds around the idea that their parents’ “wealth” belongs to their parents and not them.

I ran across this a lot at Ye Olde Widow board. People who were fine with idea of remarriage but adamant that their late spouse’s hard-earned this or that would never, ever, ever benefit in any way, shape or form the next spouse or, goddess in heaven forbid, his/her worthless children. A whole lot of assumption but basically stemming from the odd notion that what your late spouse might have left you in the form of life insurance, marital home or other valuables is somehow still his or hers.

When you die, you don’t take it with you. Not even in spirit. What happens, or is accumulated on earth, stays on earth. Furthermore, it becomes the property of someone else, who is now free to do whatever the hell they want with it. And trust me, they will. I have seldom witnessed someone inherit from a parent or grandparent and not piss the money away like trailer trash with a PowerBall jackpot.

As my late husband lay in the intensive care before being moved to hospice, his mother sent her best friend to query me about life insurance. How much? I was asked. And because I was completely stunned that anyone would ask such a question at such a time, I told her. Absolutely nothing.

It wasn’t until much later – after mother-in-law absconded with money from the memorial that was meant to help cover the expense of it – that I realized the inquiry about life insurance was about calculating her cut.

You would be amazed – or maybe not – by the people who truly believe that inheritance is a given and have their hands out sometimes way in advance of your death.

A sizable proportion of adult children are like this. They see their parents and grandparents as some sort of long-range saving plan. A way to pay off the mortgage, plump up retirement plans or just have a wad of cash to fritter away on vacations and material crap.

Second marriages make these kinds of people – nervous. They have visions of “their” inheritances being used frivolously by step-parents for outrageous things like … eating or paying the property tax and keeping a roof over their elderly heads.

So, the topic today is when you remarry, do you have a financial plan in place to make sure that in the event of your death your new spouse doesn’t end up homeless while your kids vacation in Tahiti?

Yeah, yeah. Their mommy or daddy would have wanted you to put your new spouse at the mercy of your greedy kids because after all, she or he worked themselves to death for the money that was left to you.

Except that they didn’t.

They took out that life insurance or built up the retirement plan to take care of you. You. Not your grown up kids, who you should have been taught well enough to be able to pay their own bills, save for their own retirement and goodies. You.

Money we inherit is no longer anyone’s money but ours.

Yes, we have an obligation to use it for the benefit of our minor children and to see that our very young adult children find a good footing in life, but at some point our kids get old. Really old. Sometimes as old as we were when we were widowed in the first place. They are adults who mostly ignore our advice in favor of what works best for them, and they build their own adult lives with their own spouses and their own kids. And if we did a good job raising them, they really shouldn’t be running to us with their hands out – ever.

But there are emergencies, you cry.

Yes, I would agree, but inheritance doesn’t fall into that category. Inheritance is a form of expectation based upon nothing more than the notion that because you sired or birthed them, they are entitled to some sort of monetary reward triggered by your death.

It’s wonderful when we can leave our kids, or grandkids, a little something, or even a lot of something, but we should shy far away from leading them to expect this from us. Or from giving them the impression that it is their due. It’s not owed to them because they merely exist.

Plenty of perfectly wonderful parents spend every last dime before they die. On themselves even! And sometimes they need that money because they get sick or have other pressing expenses.

Some parents and grandparents even leave their “fortunes” to charity or endowments or to people that aren’t even blood relations!

NOTHING good comes from adult children who’ve been led to believe that the money daddy left you is also theirs. Zero good. Refrain mightily from going there because even if you don’t remarry, it’s going to be a big ugly thorn in your side when you hit a certain age, and they start counting chickens they think you are overspending. You don’t ever want your 50 year old child questioning your need to take a trip or buy a new pair of boots or go out to lunch every Tuesday with your friends because it’s eating up the money you should be saving to leave him/her.

I am not exaggerating. Countless seniors live with harpy adult children who view all things mom/dad as eventually their things.

The best way to avoid tantrums from adult kids if you should decide to remarry is to not have even given your children cause to believe they have the right to question you on the subject of remarriage and to never have intimated that they are somehow entitled to an inheritance.

But if you haven’t done either, there is still hope. You can tell them now.

You should also make sure that you and your future spouse have thoroughly discussed all matters money. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you want your wills to look like in terms of what goes to whom and how you each plan to care for the other in the event of incapacitating illness and death. If there are assets or minor children that need special considerations, discuss and plan for that too.

Communication, as I have said before, is key. KEY.

Don’t be that elderly woman who is living in a house owned by her step-children who are just waiting for her to die so they can sell it.

Conversely, don’t be that old man whose late wife’s jewelry ended up in the hands of his second wife’s daughter-in-law because it wasn’t specified in the will that it should go to his granddaughter.

If it ‘s important then it is important enough to discuss and plan for IN WRITING and preferably with the assistance of a lawyer.

But just in case you can’t let go of the idea that procreation has saddled you with the task of scrimping, saving and leaving something to your grown up kids so they can enjoy a better retirement than you will, there are options like life insurance policies and trusts.

However, if you remarry, your primary concern should be your spouse. Leaving him or her to simply fend for themselves in their advancing years is so cold and harsh that it amazes me that people who would do this even find someone to marry again at all. What self-respecting person signs willingly to be accused of being a gold-digger and ends up on cat food and public assistance so their step-children can one day  indulge themselves on eBay?

Let’s sum up.

Money matters. Children do have the right to heirlooms. Second wives and husbands shouldn’t be at the financial mercy of step-kids when you are gone.

Talk, talk and talk some more about this before remarrying. Don’t include your kids! It’s not their business. Better yet, avoid raising your kids to feel entitled to enrich themselves via your death.

And finally. consult a financial planner or estate planner or lawyer or anyone who can walk you through the realities of what your new spouse will need by way of assets when you die. You might be surprised to find out that what you thought about money and second marriages and death isn’t at all what reality is.

Dating While Widowed: Hand Me Down No-No’s


English: Screenshot from the original 1958 the...

From the original 1958 theatrical trailer for the film Vertigo Frame taken from (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Normally, I ignore Dear Prudence when it comes to her advice to widowed who are in new relationships. Although she married a widower years and years ago, she’s often of the mindset that her husband’s widower experience, and her having navigated dating and marrying him, is a shared one, and that she “gets it”.

You can’t be or understand widowed vicariously. It doesn’t matter how up close the view.

Today, however, I noted a letter from a newly dating widower, who wondered if it was okay to give his late wife’s vibrator to his new girlfriend. It was an expensive, top of the line model that they’d barely had time to enjoy prior to the wife’s death.

Prudie said “no” and added an “ick” sentiment to her reasoning and I agree totally.

Which brings me to my point for the day, you can certainly bestow the material goods of your late spouse on friends, relatives and children – as long as said goods aren’t sex toys or other intimate in nature possessions – but when it comes to new significant others, just don’t.

While I know of cases where new girlfriends have been offered, and accepted, jewelry, clothing and even footwear, most new loves will be puzzled, hurt or even slightly repulsed by the idea of such “re-gifting”.

It’s difficult enough to deal with objects that are simply too vital or expensive to be replaced. For example, beds and other furniture or cookware and dishes. No one expects a widowed person to replace shared everyday items before they begin dating again or cohabitation with a new love. That’s not only impractical but it’s going way overboard with the idea of starting over.

But being sensible has its limits. I would never have offered my late husband’s clothing to Rob. And not just because their styles were quite different or that they are different sizes and body types.

It would have been “creepy” as my ten-year old daughter would say.

Hitchcock’s Vertigo centered on the attempts of a man to recreate his dead love’s appearance and mannerism via his new, look-alike love interest. The movie culminates in an incredibly disturbing intimacy scene that makes it clear this new woman is merely a stand in for the dead one.

Dressing up your new friend in clothing worn by your late spouse or making your Friday night dinner date at the restaurant you and late spouse loved – is kind of like that. An attempt to recapture someone and something that’s over and gone.

You should be careful with anything that is essentially a “rerun” for you. Vacation spots. Gifts that are things you would have given your late spouse. Pet names. If it is something you shared with them, be careful when sharing it again. A new love is expecting, and deserves, a space of his/her own in your heart and in the laying of a new relationship foundation.

I’ve read about women whose widowers think honeymooning or romantic get-aways at places shared with the late wife are great ideas and who become petulant when their new loves feel second best when they find out about the locations previous encounters. While a woman can be understanding about the mattress on your once shared bed, she isn’t going to be as thrilled about sharing a romantic locale. Beds are a practical matter. Romance is a matter of being creative, thoughtful and taking your new love’s feelings into account.

Not long after we married, we had a garage sale to try to clear out some of the clutter that the joining of two, very grown, adults can make. There was a box of Rob’s late wife’s clothing that needed to be sorted. He wasn’t keen but was willing to let me do it. And it was easier for me because I had no context to place the clothes in.

But before I started, Rob made an off-hand comment about my taking anything I fancied for myself.

Even if she and I had been the same size, and she wasn’t his dead wife, I still would have declined, but I also felt the need to point out that my wearing her clothing was a creepy factor beyond which I was comfortable and wouldn’t it bother him to see me in her clothes?

He conceded the point and didn’t offer me anything of hers again. Though I will admit that while I have kept and used many household items, and have no issue with them, I have always simply chucked others – even if they were perfectly usable – when I felt inclined. If my step-daughters didn’t want them and I preferred not to use them … out they went. It’s been enough for me to live in her house and integrate myself into her community. I didn’t need to keep everything simply because it might seem silly to replace them. I needed to establish myself as the lady of the house. Things that were mine alone were important to that process.

And it is a matter of comfort, so being willing to ask and have discussions with those you date or establish serious relationships with is a must. What might bother one person could be perfectly acceptable to someone else. Just remember to allow the other person their own feelings and don’t expect these feelings to mirror your own or that with a little pressure, you can persuade them to see things your way.That’s just selfish. While you might think you’d be fine living in a house that  your love shared with someone else, your new love doesn’t have to feel the same way and you should respect their feelings.

But getting back to sex toys- sex anything really – just don’t go there. Well sanitized or not, there are privacy issues where the late spouse is concerned and sharing items and details from intimate moments is, my opinion, not only disrespectful to the new love but to your late spouse as well.

A new relationship, if it is to work, should have as much “just us” to it as possible. Even if that means giving up your favorite vacation retreat or buying a new bedroom set. It certainly means springing for a new vibrator in any case.