Immigration


Garage sale

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Spent some time purging drawers and closets in anticipation of the hamlet-wide garage sale later this summer.

Dee has outgrown nearly everything, which caught me off guard because normally I shop for her every other year. She’s put on exactly zero pounds but shot up an inch-ish or better. It’s all legs. Devilish hard to fit the child’s waist. Girls’ clothing these days are vanity sized and reflect the chunkier body types that have resulted from our processed food/low-level of energy lifestyles. Dee is not the shortest kid in her class anymore, but she’s got a Scarlett O’Hara waist compared to nearly all of her peers. Tiny waist and coltish legs spells difficulty in sizing her, so just about every pair of pants I got her back in late February are now floodies and still a tad too big around her waist. Hobbit-legged and thick-middled, the girl ain’t.

I rummaged and purged my own rather meager collection of apparel myself, sticking slavishly to the rule that “if it hasn’t been worn in a year, its history”. I continue to pride myself on the fact that every article of clothing I own could be neatly packed into a large Rubbermaid tote should the need arise.

All this pro-activeness called to mind the agony of purging and packing for the move to Canada before Rob and I married back in June of 2007. In fact four years ago yesterday, we left Des Moines behind.

I sometimes miss the idea of that house.  The openness and space. Some of what we’ve done in our recent renovations replicates it in a way, but we are far from done and even farther from achieving liberation from boxes of packed away stuff that is never thought of much less in danger of every being used again.

Over lunch today, Rob ruefully expressed what he called his “buyer’s remorse” about the renovation project that never ends. Selling and buying new, however, was never an option. Real estate around here is overpriced and much of the newer stuff is poorly constructed. For a little bit of debt, we can create spaces in our existing home that will more than suit as opposed to taking on the monumental debt of a brand new mortgage for what amounts to overvalued real estate on a prairie that is downwind of various petrochemical plants. It’s somewhat of a no brainer.

It’s doesn’t make the process less cumbersome or tiring.

The last time I purged a house, it was slash and burn. Goodwill, friends and friends/relatives of friends benefited tremendously from my zeal to simply lighten my load. I gave away more than I sold and simply threw away everything else. And with only the occasional exception (it would have been nice to have kept that Pampered Chef pizza cutter because the one I have now bites in comparison), I haven’t missed anything.

That’s the thing about stuff that most people can’t wrap their minds around – it honestly won’t be missed once you are able to pry your fingers loose of it. In all likelihood, you will never waste another thought on it again.

I toy with the idea of just getting a waste-bin  delivered and just have a chuckfest. But, of course, I won’t. A lot of what constitutes clutter isn’t mine, and though I am convinced that it would be years – if ever – that anyone would ask after the departed items, I respect the fact that what I deem useless and spent embodies something important for others.

Accumulation of stuff seems to be a condition of life – unless one is a monk of some kind. Renunciates are what they are called in yoga. Renunciates eschew things in an effort to seek the balance between living in a physical world without placing too much attachment on it while Householders do the opposite while still being expected to rise above it all. I think the latter is the more difficult. Having fewer things, as I have learned, spoils a person. The more room I acquire the less I want to fill it up. The more stuff one has, the harder it is to decide what’s necessary and the greater the likelihood that one won’t recognize the tribble like nature of stuff. Stuff breeds because it feeds want.

Too much stuff blinds us as well because it fairly demands that we attach value – monetary and emotional – to it, making it harder to get rid of and easier to let pile up in one way or another.

I suspect I will spend the better part of the rest of my life waging a quiet war of attrition with clutter and accumulation. Most days I am zen about that but today it’s raining and cold and my hair is frizzy. Not that this has any bearing, mind you, and I have just been thinking  – again – about how to lighten Rob’s load without any success. Maybe banana bread and cookies? At least that’s not permanent clutter.


The Emperor's new clothes

Image by Al_HikesAZ via Flickr

Why? Because they don’t like the truth either.

Especially when it challenges their assumptions, illusions, delusions or the outdated and/or unsustainable fantasy lands they prefer over reality.

Take health care for example.

No, really, health care.

Among the many things I am envied for now that I am a “Canadian” is the fact that we have a quasi-universal system whereas my nearest, dearest and somewhat acquainted with in the U.S. are at the mercy of a hodge-podge of plans and coverage that rest largely on one’s ability to have a really good job or be old enough to have finally grabbed the golden Medicare ring.

But it’s not for all its universality and it’s not equitable really because each province is free to fund or not a long list of health care perks to which they can attach user fees – though they tend to be ridiculously modest in light of what the average American pays per month for similar coverage.

The system is also insanely expensive. According to recent numbers if Canadian Medicare was a business, it would be among the largest corporations in the world.  Based on 2009 revenues, it earned$183.1 billion which would earn it the number three spot on Fortune 500’s list between Exxon Mobil and Chevron. It would also be the talk of Wall Street for its poor business practices, and the fact that despite raking in revenue, it’s expenses still manage to eat up most of its “profits”. If it were a business, no investor in his/her right mind would touch it.

Canadians are used to hearing that their much-loved system is in deep do-do. So used to it that their defense mechanisms are well-honed and anyone who dares to point out the Emperor Healthcare is wearing a hospital gown with a decidedly exposed rear end is likely to be shamed at best or called out as Republican in Maple-leaf clothing.

I wrote a post for Care2 the other day – at the urging of my editor – citing a very well-known (if you bother to read the news) fact about how the current conservative government is quietly hanging their share of Medicare funding out on the line in hopes, it seems, that no one will notice what they are doing until it’s too late.

Judging from the roasting I personally received from the Canadian commenters, it would appear that the Harper government‘s stealth abandonment of its obligations is going well. NO ONE believed me. And this in spite of the fact that I linked to the article – chock full of facts – that showed I was correct.

The post I wrote focused mainly on the funding issues and the fact that Canada’s much-cherished system has some issues. Some of them big. And some of them getting bigger.

What did everyone zero in on?

Well, that I am an American. More than a few of the comments seemed to think I was living in the States and writing fiction about Canada’s health care for the Tea Party.

They also didn’t like that I wasn’t enamoured of my health care and called my personal experiences (and I didn’t even share the horrific ones) out as lies. Bald-faced and in the service of Rush Limbaugh.

Shudder.

Which bring me back to this posts title.

People are idiots. And they are rude and they can’t read very well. But mostly, they don’t want to hear truth unless it is their version of it.

The truth is that Canadian healthcare is okay when compared to the nothing  that exists in the States. But there are countries in the world – more than a handful really – that have much, much better, cheaper and more user-friendly systems.

Canadians spend a lot of money for rather average care and for service that would probably get a person fired if they worked at McDonald’s.

I hesitated to share my own experiences because I am met with enough stern looks from people I actually know when I do. It’s always “you should be more grateful”, but why? Just because illness doesn’t have the same capacity to destroy my life as it did down south (though it’s not venom free), I don’t understand being grateful for a system that knows it can be better and refuses because it would be more work than resting on its big fat superior smugness.

And here’s the thing that really eats at me, Canadians are just as complacent as those in the U.S. who have insurance are because they don’t want to be inconvenienced by reform that would make the system better for those forced to deal with it the most (elderly and chronically ill) and those who aren’t lucky enough to have supplemental insurance through an employer. Because they exist like the Ignorance and Want under Christmas Present’s velvety petticoats but they don’t show Canada in the rosy coloured glow that allows folks here to look down their noses at America.

Lefties? Righties? I am beginning to think the world would be better off without either group. Perhaps those of us in the middle could work on getting something real accomplished if they weren’t mucking things up with their hysteria.


At least that’s the advice the Huffington Post’s Ryan McCarthy had forreaders yesterday because while the United States is mired in the economic equivalent of the Biggest Loser, Canada put on a hefty 93,200 jobs last month.

And our housing prices do nothing but rise!

Plus we have free universal health care, gay people can legally marry and unicorns roam wild on the prairies.

Okay, maybe we don’t have unicorns.

Maybe.

But the rest? True. Except that health care is not really free when the tax rate is put under the microscope, Canadians could care less about marriage in general as the majority live in common-law relationships for the most part, housing prices are so outrageous that the average person can’t afford home ownership and all those jobs? Service sector. Think Wal-Mart greeters and working the drive thru at Timmie’s*

I emigrated to Canada just a tad over three years ago. I met a Canadian on the Internet. We fell in love. The U.S. had way more archaic immigration rules and he had the better paying job anyway, so I moved north.

Since then, I have heard nothing from my liberal left-behind friends but how lucky I am to have escaped the imploding American Dream for Canadian Utopia.

And Canada is great. Don’t misunderstand me. I love it here. But in many ways, it’s no different from the U.S.

The government is conservative and more interested in business interests than people. Money is the driving factor behind public policy. Education is being savaged when it’s not just overlooked or neglected. Health care hangs on by its teeth but only because the average Canadian would riot in the streets if the provincial governments did away with it, so they nickel and dime it to death in the hopes that people aren’t really paying attention (they aren’t). Our housing is ridiculously over-priced and long overdue for a sharp correction.

Even though some Canadians like to promote the idea that Canada is the anti-America, the reality is that Canada is much more like America than it realizes.

It’s just lucky. For now.

Luck. That’s all that separates us from being you.

People here in Alberta, where I am, live dangerously on the idea that the oil in the sands will last forever and that the damage done by the foreign companies exploiting our resources won’t leave us with polluted fields and undrinkable water.

The spice oil must flow, eh?

My husband just rolled his eyes at the thought of Americans sneaking across the thousands of miles of largely unprotected border like Mexicans in Arizona.

Canada has a points system immigration system which basically has no use for anyone over the age of 42 who can’t speak English and/or French and isn’t skilled and/or a college graduate.

I actually squeaked under the wire on the points thing but fortunately marrying a Canadian meant I was able to get into a completely different immigration line – one that was no less tedious, incomprehensible and arbitrarily humiliating – but it was faster.

But I still can’t find work in my field – education – because the government has slashed funding and there are no teaching jobs to be found just about anywhere a person would want to live and work or anywhere they would die first before considering.

So I write for a blog that pays me peanuts and is, ironically, based out of California, and I teach yoga – not exactly Fortune 500 paying gigs.

Yes, there are jobs. Canadian Tire (think Kmart) is perpetually hiring as is the local Wal-Mart. You can wait tables just about anywhere and the 7-11 in town can never keep night managers. Hotels need housekeepers and if you are really a go-getter, you can probably hobble together two or three part time jobs which will just about pay the outrageous rents with enough left over to eat, pay utilities and cloth yourself. Just yourself. Try not to marry and especially don’t breed because daycare is scarce to non-existent and quite expensive.

But … you love Canada … right?

Yep, I do. But I am not average. I wasn’t an average American either. I live in the upper edges of the middle class. I am skilled and have two university degrees. My husband is an engineer in a field where more of them are retiring than entering.

And I didn’t come here for any reason other than being in love and wanting to spend my life with a guy who happened to be Canadian.

I know some people would regard that as something akin to winning the lottery, but life can be livable anywhere as long as your expectations are aligned with your reality and you don’t make the mistake of believing that salvation lies outside yourself.

*Tim Horton’s. Think fast food but waaaaay better than anything in the States. Seriously.