Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Open Letter to People Who Think Fat=Undisciplined

So because I've been off living my life (aka, playing with my kids, keeping up with kids at placement and writing papers non-stop) this little thing passed me by

What's Your Excuse Mom via Jezebel

So basically, mom goes on a tirade as to why we don't all look like her after three kids and that people who are overweight are undisciplined. Now she's been banned from Facebook. I don't necessarily agree with the banning, let her say what she wants (however wrong) and let the chips lie where they fall.

But I'm sick to death of this tired old belief that fat people are lazy and undisciplined. I can wholeheartedly say that this is so patently untrue that is boggles my mind. Which right now is pretty exhausted after spending the day catching up on my neglected housework before doing a shift at a group home with 8 kids, 5 of them severely autistic and consequently getting good whack by one of them.

Darling, let me tell you something, I am not lazy. I am hard working and determined. However where my priorities lie are way different than yours. I'm sure you are a loving mother, so that much we have in common. And as a mother of three boys as well, I don't need to tell you the hard work I do. I have also had to negotiate a divorce and accommodate for the extra needs that has generated for my children. It basically means, giving them my all for the majority of time I have them. I took for granted the luxury of being on autopilot once in a while when I had them full time. That said, I'm sure we're both great moms.

Where we differ though, is that you put a lot of energy into your body looking a certain way. You can say it's because you're interested in being healthy, but I gotta say, I'm plenty healthy. I have made it so far through almost half the school year without so much as a sniffle. And let me tell you, working in a group home and staying healthy means I have the immune system of James Logan...aka Wolverine.

I'm a size 14-16. I'm healthy. I won't provide actual hardcore proof (lab reports and confidential stuff), so you'll have to take my word on that.

You see, outside of our commonality of family, I put a lot of energy into my education, my placement and of course my friends, whom I consider family. I have a 4.0 GPA. I'm very proud of that. It isn't easy to come home at night, play with your kids, cook dinner, do your chores and then write a paper. The other night I was up til midnight getting everything done, only to be up at 5:30 the next morning to get to school to do a group project related to fundraising.

My house while messy isn't a total disaster. I have help thank goodness, I don't know where I'd be without my angel helpers, but I do a lot of it too.

I have a placement, which means I spend a lot of time working with some seriously high needs kids. When coming home to a house of three young boys sounds like a relaxing vacation, you can get an idea of how much work this is. Not only am I dealing with complex neurological issues, I am also caring for these kids, showing them that I have a vested interest in them, When I'm not dealing with them, I'm working with kids who have had pretty rough lives and now live in a home with workers coming in and out. I am on, I am focused, I'm present and I am determined to show them that there are adults out there who care. This takes not only a lot of empathy and patience, but applied knowledge and skills and it's non-stop brain running action. I finally got to sit down 15 minutes before my shift ended to do paperwork.

I had a peer evaluation recently, in fact I've had several over the past few months and you know what? They were all great. The latest one I was near tears because my classmates had said such wonderfully kind things about me. And outside of the fact that my three little guys are awesome, this is something I am most proud about. I try to live my life so that people will remember how I made them feel, and for the most part, I want them to feel like I treated them well, that I'm caring, funny, supportive, respectful and hell, even nurturing (most of my class is 25 and under). Hearing that feedback really let me know I was on the right track. I can safely say that having gone through the weight loss, the plastic surgery, the high of reaching that target weight, none of that even begins to compare how good I feel when people tell me that I have treated them well. When you prejudge people based on how they look, you miss that boat, and for that, I do feel bad for you.

See and the crazy thing about that is that that takes discipline too. I get angry, I get annoyed, I want to tell people to stick their head where the sun doesn't shine VERY frequently. I can judge and write off people just as easily as the next person. I can look at a behaviour they are presenting and not take the time to look under that behaviour. But that's the easy route. Looking at someone who may come off as a grumpy, standoffish, arrogant and trying to see beyond that takes a lot of freaking work and discipline. Working as a co-parent takes a lot of freaking work and discipline. Getting a 4.0 takes a lot of freaking work and discipline. Are you getting the picture now?

We all have different lives, different goals, different experiences. While I love my flashy hair, my purses and increasingly eccentric style, forcing my body to be shaped the way you'd like it isn't a high priority for me.

It's not that fat people don't have discipline, its that many of us apply it differently. Yep, there are some fat people who abuse their bodies by putting junky food into it, just like there are some thin people who abuse their bodies by starving it, but just as I take the time and effort and DISCIPLINE to not judge a whole group of people based on their BMI, I would love it if others who claim I don't have any discipline to exercise theirs.

Many thanks!



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I'm glad I'm divorced

I had a moment today. I was sitting in my placement with my supervisor there and my college supervisor. They discussed key items about my placement and what I need to accomplish, then came the time my placement supervisor reviewed comments from the staff about my performance. I have been at this place two days a week since September. It's exhausting, dirty, and sometimes dangerous work. However its also challenging, dynamic and very fulfilling work as well. The reviews came in and they were glowing. My buttons were bursting as the old saying goes. 3, 4, 5 years ago, they would not have been because I was a different person.

2.5 years ago my husband left me. I had a 6 month old baby, two small children and just getting over some post partum depression. It was a huge shock and a deep blow. I had no clue how I'd survive, how my children would fare, how I'd ever trust someone with my heart or be happy again. I was pretty devastated, I didn't eat for a week, I dropped 10 pounds the first three weeks, 70 more that year. My family and my friends were very very worried about me. The first two months were more autopilot than anything, but slowly, I came out of the fog and started to rebuild.

As much as this was an accomplishment on my part, it would not have been possible without my friends and family. They pushed and prodded, they dragged me out of the house for silly nights, they supported and held me when I cried. They say the happiest people are grateful people, and for me, this is true. While I got to see a lot of negatives with people in this time, the love and generosity in people I experienced, changed my outlook forever and restored my faith.

Dragged out for a good time 2011

Move forward to today and I'm a different person than I was in my marriage. I'm outgoing, bubbly, positive, someone who will take risks and most importantly confident in a way I haven't been in a very long time. I feel like I've reconnected with the girl I was and am back on the path I was supposed to be on had I not gotten married.

I surrendered myself in the marriage, it ultimately might have contributed to its end, I can accept this. My confidence was my husband's, my decisions his, he was my saviour and his opinion of me meant worlds. I would never be the person who would travel to Cuba with just a couple of girlfriends or drive across a province on my own. I would have not gone back to school or chosen a career that consistently requires me to put myself out there. I would not be doing well in a group home with very high needs adolescent clients.

cuba 2013
Shortly following that fog lifting, I started to try new things. I took a few courses, traveled, exercised, dated. I was constantly surrounded and encouraged by a huge loving community all determined to see me succeed and thrived. I learned to have patience that I never before had, I learned to accept things I couldn't control and worked on myself instead.

Newfoundland 2011

I got a whole new relationship with my children. A deep and loving one. As much as I was picking myself up from the blow, they too were doing so and I witnessed first hand the resiliency among children and I learned how to support them in this. So far, so good, they seem happy, healthy and relatively normal, as normal as little boys get.
Somewhat normal 2013

I sat there today in that office and realized I have a wonderful life. I have love, hope, drive and fun. My needs are simple, my demands are simple. I have confidence in myself beyond what I ever had in my marriage. The reason being is because I survived divorce and lived to tell the tale. I've not only survived, but I've come out of it a better person, a happier person. When I go into a challenging situation, I know I can do it, and if I don't, I can rise from that failure, dust myself off and try again.

Right now a lot of my friends are going through separations, divorces and breakups. I'm not going to tell you its easy, its hell, for a good amount of time there will be plenty of significant challenges thrown at you. You will feel empty, lonely, hurt, sad, bitter, angry and spent. But every challenge you conquer you will gain insight about yourself, and what's more, you will gain power. Yes, you have another even bigger hill to climb, but this time your tank is a little fuller, you're more prepared and have a little more belief in yourself that you will get over it. My friends, you are all beautiful women, strong, stronger than you believe, and if that mousy little thing that used to be me got through this, you too will get through this and chances are, you'll be a far more powerful, sassy and strong version of you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

FAQ Scarborough

So I wasn't planning on writing a blog post today, but as usual, I read something and it pisses me off, prompting a blog post.

Today's candidate is Michael Bolen and his piece in the Huffington Post about my 'burb, Scarborough. Super generalization about Scarborough

Now I grew up in downtown Toronto for most of my life. I spent my preschool years in Scarborough, and then moved downtown, and moved back when I was in my 20s. I admit, it took some time to grow on me, and I being of small downtown mind just assumed that every white person on my street was a horrible bigot who would just as soon spit on me and that there were no people of colour, or same sex couples, or young people.

Holy wow, I was wrong big time. In the past 15 years I have lived and worked here, I have been humbled from my downtown assumptions and haughtiness by the mixed and wonderful and sometimes quirky community that makes up this great, but underrepresented region of Toronto.

So let me tell y'all a thing or two about Scarborough.

It is not a wasteland. There are people who live here, nice people, raising their nice families, working hard at their jobs (not always nice). Their kids go to school, they watch hockey (yes, us minorities), they visit friends and family and all in all try to make a good life for themselves. Yeah, I know, Scarberia. It's huge, we often get snow when downtown doesn't get any, there are huge tracts of forests in the middle of communities, but there are people here, lots of us!

There is culture. I loathe it when people say there is no culture in Scarborough, that it's just a bunch of big box stores. If you define culture by boutiques where you can buy a necklace hand crafted by some hermit who lives in a cave in Jordan, or a coffee shop that only sells coffee made by llama babies culture, then yes, that's pretty hard to find. What's easy to find is millions of stores, restaurants, events from a myriad of cultures. See, culture is not just a eurocentric thing, it doesn't look a certain way and it doesn't show up in only certain spaces. If you're willing to walk into a plaza and check out the stores, you'd be surprised.

I'm not dodging bullets. Very few of us are. Look at any crime map and you'll see the rates of crime are pretty similar to other areas of the city. Like Toronto, North York, Etobicoke etc. we have our areas which see more crime than their fair share, I grew up in such an area downtown and can go into a big explanation about socio-economics and crime, but that's best saved for a paper which I'll receive a grade for. Seriously, the biggest uproar my community has had in the past five years is some neighbour ratting everyone out for minute bylaw infractions. Not criminal, annoying yes, but not criminal.

We're not all right wing. My riding showed the most support for Rob Ford in the city. Want to know who our city councilor is? Glenn De Baermaker. Not exactly someone you'd call right wing. Again, why the juxtaposition? Because Glenn routinely listens to, and delivers and people thought Ford would do the same. The big issue? Yep, you guessed it, subways.

Don't get all huffy, this isn't the first time a mayor candidate zeroed in on a single issue and ran with it. Many campaigns rely on finding that hot button issue, picking a side, and hoping it resonates with the city. Why? Because voters aren't thinking about huge complex issues and problems and political allegiances. They think about their lives, their frustrations and what has or hasn't worked for them in the future. Now I didn't vote for Ford, however I can see and feel and understand the issue of not feeling heard by a lot of rich white people downtown, many of them purporting to be left wing. "Oh, I've ridden the subway a few times from Scarborough and back, it was fine" they say. Okay, try it every day, on top of a 40 minute bus ride to actually get to the subway. See how many delays there are. In my class, which is downtown, there is a definite trend every day, which end of the city will be late because of a train delay. Those who live in Etobicoke, or those in Scarborough.

These people trek into the city day in and out, frustrated and voicing their concerns, and they're dismissed by downtown city councilors and the mayor of the time. Rob Ford, the opportunistic guy he is, sees that, and boom! He has himself a campaign. People finally feeling like they're being heard, and to a degree they are, even if he's helping people with one hand and robbing them with the other. I'm not trying to portray suburbanites as stupid either. I'm just saying that voters across the board everywhere, don't usually look at the whole picture.

We're not all conservative. I mean in more of a social sense. My church was affirming, there are plenty of young female leaders here, and people are generally accepting, or they just don't really care about things like that, only if you're a nice person and good neighbour. Yes, there are people here who aren't as supportive of things like rights for LGBT communities, or who believe that only one religion is awesome, or that women have their place. Bolen blames this on immigrants and minorities. Newsflash, people like that are EVERYWHERE. I don't have too go far in my mom's downtown community to find a white guy who has no problems dropping the n-bomb everywhere. How many people in Rosedale or Cabbagetown are interested in having a homeless shelter in their vicinity? I grew up in Regent Park, it's surrounded by rich, mainly white communities. Trust me, there's plenty of bigotry to be had downtown. I'm writing this bloody post because of bigotry, and really, as I see it, a lot of it stemming from classism.

We're not all old. There is a good senior population who have lived here since the beginning of Scarborough (pretty much) but there is a tonne of young families. There is a tonne of youth. I know this because I work with children and youth.

We're not all white. Seriously I have to explain this? Have you even been to Scarborough in the past 20 years? Scarborough is one of the most diverse areas of the city. I know this surprises some people, but really, if you come and spend some meaningful time here (not just to try and win a seat in a by-election *cough* Giambrone *cough*) you would know that.

We're not all rich, nor are we all poor. There is a huge collection of incomes in Scarborough. We have our rich neighbourhoods, our poor ones, and a hell of a lot of mixed ones. I know movers and shakers who live here, I know awesome car mechanics who live here, in my neighbourhood. It's an eclectic mix, but that's a healthy sign.

We do have cars. I love my car, I love to drive. Most Scarberians love cars. Wanna know why? Because it's hell to get around here via TTC. I'm sure Etobicoke feels very much the same way. My youngest goes to a preschool which is about 10 minutes away via car. Via TTC, it would be an hour away, assuming no construction, no traffic snarls, no TTC issue. See why I love my car? People say we're crazy drivers, nope, I'm throwing Etobicoke under the bus for that prize...sorry, you're awesome in many other ways.

There also seems to be this pervasive belief that we don't have communities. We just tend to our lawns and go inside our homes and don't talk to our neighbours. This is bull. We have community gatherings, we talk to people in our neighbourhood, we watch kids grow up, and often move back when they are able to. I can't tell you how many people have moved back to my neighbourhood. Honestly, I feel a difference in people when I come back to Scarborough, maybe it's related to a lot of the cultures that live here, but things seem to go a little slower, a little more chill. On a nice summer day, it can take me an hour to walk around the block because you have to stop and talk to your neighbours.

We have good schools. They may not be RICH schools, but they are good. The things I consider a good school, is a good culture among the staff, a good culture respecting people and students, work is being accomplished and mainly, people are happy. I want teachers who are happy to be there, who love education. I want CYWs in my kids school who jump at any problem ready to go. I want a principal whom I can run into in the ICU and we can support each other through very difficult times (true story!). School should be a big part of the community. I brag about my kids school, shamelessly. My son's grade 3 teacher has already done some mind blowing stuff academically, but is also a CYW's dream in his classroom culture.

There's no good food. What??? What???! Anyone from Scarborough who knows their way around would just stare at you, or have you medically examined. Scarberians love to debate where's the best place to get a patty, oxtail, dim sum, doubles, coffee, cannolis, fish and chips. If you know how to find it, the food here is damn good, and the best thing is, they are little treasures that we keep to ourselves, unless you ask nicely, then we'll tell.We have farmers markets, we can drive for 20-30 minutes and just go to the farm ourselves.

There's nothing to do. Admittedly, if you're looking for a lot of nightlife, galas, clubs, things going on, downtown hubs, it's a tough sell. A lot of time, activities include going to the park, playground, talking with your neighbours, going on a hike, going fishing, going to the beach (yes, we have them too! And the sand is much softer.) Getting ice cream, going to the community centre etc. It's not a terribly flashy place to live. People mistake this for a lack of culture.

So there is modern day Scarborough in a nutshell. It's a long post, but it's a big place. I wouldn't have much to write if I were in a homogenous community. I'm not saying you have to love it, but I am saying to not lump us all in preconceptions because chances are, you're way off.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Coming to Terms with Your Fat

I had a conversation with my 7 year old last night. In the course of it, I told him that mommy was fat. He shrugged his shoulders and said so what. I explained to him that some people think fat people are ugly. He replied that those people were crazy and need to go back to kindergarten, it’s what is inside that counts. I bought him a puppy…okay, I didn’t buy him a puppy, we already have a St. Bernard, but I beamed inside, kissed him and told him that I thought he was a kind and wonderful little boy.
I’m a 34 year old mom of three boys, 5’5 and 200lbs. I identify as fat to my kids because I want them to see a face with the word fat and that face is going to be of the person who loves them dearly. Every time they’re directed to see fat as something awful, they’re going to see dear old mom, who as moms go, is a pretty cool person, or at least so I think.
As most women I struggle with body image issues, but more and more, I find myself accepting of my body. It’s strong, it’s healthy, it’s given me three beautiful children, it keeps a licking and keeps on ticking and I’m sometimes convinced I have Wolverine type healing powers.
I think it’s important to come to terms with my own body issues in order for my kids not to have them, but also to think twice before buying into fat shaming or a societal ideal of beauty. While they may not face the level of scrutiny of weight management that girls and women face-though the pressure is mounting for men, if many years from now they decide that girls don’t have cooties, it’s important for them to not only tolerate body diversity, but to accept and value it.
So I’ve made a list for myself to come to terms with my weight, which works more than not, hopefully some will see some wisdom in this list or be inspired to make an even better one.
1.       Find stuff you are good at.
I was in my class with my fellow students and we were discussing something which prompted some pretty nasty comments about fat girls and sexuality and apparently we have a hard time getting laid. It initially hurt my feelings, but after having my two cents and essentially putting those making fun of weight in their place, I remembered that I was one of the top students in that class. I’m damn good at school. I’m also good at writing, raising kids, doing my job, cooking, dog training, swimming and bouncing back from shitty situations.
2.       Find something physical you are good at.
This isn’t so much for exercise-though I will attest to it being a great anxiety killer, but to be connected with your body. Knowing what your body can do and working on building that skill set reminds you that there are reasons to love your body, it gives you confidence in it. Whether you go it alone, or take classes, try to find something you can do. Also, by all means, find size positive classes, trainers, teachers, role models etc.
3.       Find size positive friends.
No, the friendship doesn’t have to be focused strictly on being size positive, but don’t spend all your time with people who body hate their own or others bodies. I have friends who are great, but at least once a week the conversation turns to body hating and I tune out, walk away, find something else to do. I’m heavier than all of them and to hear them complain about how fat they are, doesn’t exactly put me in the right frame of mind for feeling confident in my body, because that kind of nonsense is as contagious as ebola. In another group of friends, we get together regularly and snack on all sorts of goodies, we rarely talk about weight loss and/or working out for the sake of getting thinner, it’s a safe place to just chill and enjoy company and something yummy.
4.       Same goes for your partner.
My previous partner always told me I was beautiful, but it was hard to believe when his head was turning at petite women and physical activity between us was minimal. My current partner says it and backs it up.  His actions towards me reinforces that he finds me very attractive physically and mentally. He never misses a moment to tell me that I’m beautiful or smart or funny or a pain in the ass. (I admit, that’s often, but it’s just me being cute).
5.       Find size positive media.
I’m not talking about finding a group of people who revere fat, and certainly not those people who fetishize it, but in terms of media, images we take in, messages we internalize. Reading Cosmo not only will kill your brain cells as fast as aspartame (get rid of that shit too, it’s really bad for you), but it doesn’t send the message that body diversity is normal. Nor is listening to female musicians who gripe about their size 2 body. My favourite musician is ripped, with what I noticed a mommy pouch we all seem to inherit after having kids. She makes no apologies for not buying into the traditional norm of what is being a woman and encourages others through her songs to look outside the box. Bonus points for swearing a lot too. But there is media out there, more and more size positive blogs, celebrities, models, clothing companies. Support them, write in, buy, tell them to keep it up, because lets be real, media affects us all, and we need to find stuff that represents us in all our glory.
6.       Find something you like about your body and play it up.
I’ll tell you one thing, I might be one of the heavier gals in my various groups, but I am the one with the best goddamned hair this side of Canada!  I can also wield these big brown eyes as well as any sweet puppy, kitten or whatever cute thing that makes your heart turn to mush and fall under my control.  It is important to like parts of your body until you love all of it. Find those parts, spoil them rotten, play them up and don’t you dare feel guilty about it.
7.       Focusing on the outward still, find the right clothes, shoes, purses.
With more and more stores catering to plus sized women, it’s getting easy to find some awesome clothes instead of wearing shapeless things or something matronly. Find the right dress, the right fit (something you feel comfortable in!), the right lingerie, the right shoes and a killer purse doesn’t hurt. Can you tell I’m a girly girl? If you’re not into that stuff, find something that makes you look good. Hell if it’s a Harley, more power to you.
8.       Back to the inside, do not tie negative baggage to your weight.
Have an ex that left you for a model? It would be pretty easy to tie that to you being too fat, instead of examining the deeper roots of your relationship breakdown, or that your ex is just a jerk. Have parents who would constantly harp on your weight? Fuck ‘em and their parenting fail. You are right here, right now. You need to find a way to let that shit go because more than cellulite and extra fat, that weighs you down. The key here is to feel good about yourself right? I’m not saying it’s easy, but find things to reinforce your awesomeness. Positive friends, doing a job well done, a good therapist, hobbies, whatever works for you, I’m not going to say yolo because that’s stupid, but we only have a limited time on this mortal coil, making a decision that you’re going to fight for yourself to be happy, is probably one of the best ones you will make.
9.       Accept compliments.
For some dumb reason women have been conditioned to downplay ourselves. If someone tells you, you did a good job on something, say thank you and internalize THAT. If someone says you look beautiful, say thank you. I can see my partner rolling his eyes at this one because I seriously need to work on that. Chances are, if enough people are saying it, it’s true, so quit second guessing. I promise, I’ll try to take me own advice on this one.
10.   Enjoy.
Think you’re too fat to go out dancing with your friends, flirting with people, having sexy time with your partner (or some random stranger if that floats your boat) or enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant or go to the gym, the park, a fall fair? WRONG! If your body can do it and you look at it objectively and think once you put away all that negative shit about your size, you’ll have a good time, then go for it. I went to a concert earlier this year wearing a cute pink dress that was sleeveless and came up just above the knee. I was with friends, at an awesome concert, having the time of my life, you better believe I was up dancing. And you know what? Nobody cared that the fat chick was dancing and singing. Everyone in that stadium was having a great time. And if anyone did care, sucks to be them wasting a great concert worrying about the fat chick dancing.
From early on in life, we are fed a very strict diet of what constitutes beauty, but with more and more people connecting via social media and the internet, we also live in an exciting time where people are challenging that. There is backlash to be sure, but it’s also empowering to read and write and hear and see fat positive people who aren’t apologetic for existing. Explore that, enjoy it, learn from it and let it bring out the strength in you.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All these little mixed babies

So a few weeks ago, there was a Cheerios commercial, said commercial portrayed a mixed race family, black dad, white mom, and cute little curly haired kid. Of course, this caused a lot of racist people to loose their shit and take to the Internet to share their special brand of unenlightened stupidness with the rest of the world. Smarter people then came back with their own campaigns to fight the hatred and show that it is possible to have happy mixed race families and all the racists should shut the hell up.

Agreed! As a mixed race person, I don't really like it when people hate on me and my interracial kin. That said, this whole brouhaha left me with an uneasy feeling. Not so much about the racists, they're always going to be around and it's old hat, but the whole romanticizing of biracial love and families  left me with my eyes rolling. But I couldn't for the life of me put my finger on the exact reason...that is, until I popped onto Facebook today and saw this.

Kate Gosselin Responds to Controversy Sparked by 'Asian Impression' Photo

Okay, so maybe it's old news, but it smacked me right on the head of why I was so annoyed with the biracial utopia family glurge going on.Now granted the whole Gosselin parents are morons in my books, as evidenced by this quote by Kate:

"It's normal to talk about and even 'exaggerate' the feature differences between family members of a biracial family as they are noticed by curious growing children within the family. These types of discoveries and at home discussions are a normal part of being a loving, accepting, biracial family and it does not make any of us prejudiced!"

And she went on to say that she is the last person to be called a racist.

Bullshit! PSA to Kate and anyone else in a biracial relationship, no matter whether you don't have any kids, have a few, have a clan, you can still indeed be racist. Imitating a gesture that has been used to hurt a group of people that your children belong to is not okay. My mom didn't run around in blackface to exagerrate our differences, surprisingly our differences can be discussed with our children without resorting to racist gestures, stereotypes, language.

This touches on why I felt so annoyed. There are too many people running around thinking that they get a "get out of jail for being a racist moron free" card simply because they have fallen in love, or fucked a person of a different race. This happens in circles of people where it is crudely illustrated such as Kate Gosselin, and it happens in circles where people consider themselves more progressive or enlightened.

I recall one time sitting with a biracial couple and the white male of the two went on to describe a Chinese tradition. It didn't sound quite right with me, and his wife gently and politely corrected him. Instead of thanking her for clarifying, he got upset. He didn't think it was okay for her to intervene. That he was trying to explain it and her correcting him was why he didn't want to learn about her culture. All I'm thinking is, how dare she politely correct him on HER cultural traditions. In fact, since I lack a filter sometimes, I may or may not have sarcastically said that.

Now don't get me wrong, I know so many biracial families that are doing it right. They respect one another's culture and do their best to bring their kids up in an enriched environment, while at the same time trying to shield them from morons who go apeshit bananas over a cereal commercial. I even know a family who adopted a child outside of their culture and they regularly expose him to cultural events. To those people, my hat is off. Kudos! As an biracial person, raising biracial kids I salute thee.

That said, there are way too many people who think that mixing races is a sign of some post racial harmony and they are automatically completely aware of racism and how it affects people. I once had a white woman, while talking about racism told me she knew how I felt because her little one was mixed. Um, okay, no. She then proceeded to tell me her ideas of how I should care for my hair and made a move to touch it! Now in her dealings with the black community, how she missed the pretty big fucking memo that touching our hair without explicit permission is a no-no is beyond me, but it illustrates the problem with some people who are in biracial relationships. 

And don't get me started on the exoticising of biracial children. If I had a penny for each time someone has told me that they wanted a mixed or "mulatto" or "half breed" child. Speaking as a former biracial child, despite my greatness, it is not due to the fact that I an a "half breed". I grew up confused, pressured to choose one side or another, discriminated against by members of my extended family, it's not always an easy thing growing up straddling different worlds. I'm not saying its the worst, but if that Cheerios commercial has taught us anything, is that there are a hell of a lot of people not willing to welcome us biracial people with open arms.

So let me say this. First of all, if you find yourself chasing a particular race because of some fetishization, knock it off, it's annoying and racist. Go take a cold shower or something and learn a thing or two about what you are chasing to see if it matches up with your beliefs...chances are, it won't.

Otherwise, if you find yourself in a relationship with a person of a different race, religion, culture, keep in mind that that doesn't automatically make you an authority of that culture, racism or some post-race utopia that doesn't exist simply because you have mated with someone a different skin tone. Be open to the fact that you can still be racist, if you're white have white skin privilege, and learn about race and racism so you don't end up doing something dressing up in black face or slanting your eyes. Understand that while some gestures or words may seem harmless, they have a long history of being used to harm people. Be prepared to be called on stuff if you're wrong. Learn, learn as much as you can, about traditions, history, religion and culture. If you raise a family, you are embarking on a journey that requires more learning and growth than it would if you were with someone of the same race/culture, so nurture and grow with your children and the realities they will face growing up in a binary world, straddling a very clearly marked line that according to many, should not be crossed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Letter to Mike Jeffries

So here's the news article that inspired this rant.

Dear Mike,

Hi, my name is Joy. I'm solidly a size 14, 16 depending on the maker. A week and a half ago, it came out that you mentioned that you don't want women, or girls my size wearing clothes. We're not cool, or pretty, or exclusive enough for your brand.

Well, really, lets just be honest, we're not thin enough for your brand. No fat people allowed. Got it. Lots of people have written letters shaming you (well deserved imo) but I'm not going to do that, I'm just going to point out that you're in fantasy land dude.

You equate being fat with being ugly, unpopular, uncool. Well I admit, I don't know a lot about pop culture and if you give me a choice of listening to Drake or Rihanna vs the 80's, the latter is going to win. That may be uncool in your books, but really, one persons cool is another persons boredom. See, I'd be bored to tears sitting, and talking about ones latest material object, or wine trip, or their latest name drop. I tried that life, it was never my cup of tea. I'd rather talk about social issues, or nerd culture, or get to the depths of someone's twisted humour.

In your world, this would probably have you thinking that I sit at home with fourteen cats, lots of knitting and very little friends. But I have to break it to you, I crochet, I only have two cats (and an awesome snake) and I have a lot of friends. Your next bet is that they're all pathetic losers, but you'd be wrong again. Many of them would probably be people you'd want in your brand, but guess what? They want nothing to do with you. Why? Because of a lovable uncool fat woman like me, and many other lovable uncool fat women like me.

You see, in one fell swoop, you've seriously limited yourself. You assumed that by making the cool kids all the more exclusive, that they'd be great with that, but you're selling a lot of your target market short. I have a lot of "cool" friends and they're appalled with you. They wouldn't touch your brand with a ten foot pole because they're not that shallow. They don't appreciate you dissing the rest of us great unwashed because if you had bothered to stoop so low, you'd find out that we're pretty awesome people. Those of us who are cool with the way we are, we don't put this pressure on people to squeeze into a tiny ideal of coolness. We don't require our friends to be a size 10 and under, and not surprisingly that garners a lot of friends and most importantly, the right type of friends.

I am lucky, I am blessed to have lots of great friends, they come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life. They value hard work, honesty and seeing beyond the superficial things in life. They are the type of customer you want because these are quality people, these are people I'd be proud to have to wear my brand, if I had one...I should!

So I'm writing to tell you that you missed the ball big time! Not only have you written off awesome people such as myself, but you have written off awesome people such as my friends who don't take kindly to your fat shaming. It's your loss man, and I'm just someone who works in the undervalued field of helping others in trouble, but it seems to me that it's a pretty dumb marketing move. I can't say I'll cry if your brand goes under, but since I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, I just thought I'd let you know how I feel and the impact you're having in my little end of the world. Which is to say that beyond this blog post, doesn't affect me much, but it will affect you, hopefully you'll be able to see beyond the dollar signs to understand how, but if not, I'll just have to live that this will teach you a hard lesson financially, and if that's the only way you'll learn from it, so bet it.

Otherwise, I wish you well, I wish you the types of quality people I have in my life in yours, you sure could use them.



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

*Ahem* Toronto Marlies *tap, tap, tap*

Yep, that was my annoyed mom voice and mom toe tapping. So I went to my first Marlies game, it was very pleasant. I'm a Toronto girl and I cheer for my Toronto teams, particularly hockey. Yeah, yeah, insert Leafs joke, I'm a special breed of loyal and crazy, I know.

Anyhow, everyone was in a great mood, the bathrooms didn't have a lineup 40 people deep, concessions were better priced, and they let me keep my caps for my water bottles. It is in the middle of God's nowhere so that's a minus, but for the most part I had a great time.

There is one issue though...cheerleaders. Hockey...Toronto...cheerleaders. They were called a dance troupe, but it's pretty clear they're cheerleaders. Dance troupes spend a lot of time practicing and perfecting and while this isn't a personal slam on these gals, there wasn't much to write home about when it came to their dancing. However, their short shorts, tank tops and sneakers in an area where most people didn't so much as take off their outdoor gear suggested something else together. Because really, if they were there for their dancing, they could have wore way warmer clothes and still would have had to work hard for a sweat. So what I'm saying first is that I don't like being sold a line, just call it what it is, cheerleading.

Secondly, I'm a hockey fan, I know many many many female hockey fans coast to coast of every sort. Can we not go somewhere where we're not reminded of the fact that the female body is constantly meant to be on display for some men stuck in puberty? I cannot think of any place more redonkulous to have women dancing around half clothed and not have it glaringly obvious that this is sexist than at a hockey arena where it is only a few degrees above freezing. I get that the majority of hockey fans in Canada are male, but come on, give us gals a little respect. We're more than puck bunnies and the purveyors of beer and snacks for our beloveds on Saturday nights. Go to my friend's blog Tales From a Hijabi Footballer, tell her the Habs suck and you'll get a good idea of how much us gals love hockey too and it would be nice to be respected when we put money into these franchises by having a place where it is about hockey, not T'N'A and hockey.

Next, how many times do I hear that hockey games are a great family tradition. I dunno about you guys, but I don't feel like bringing my boys to places where gals are freezing their asses off as they swing them around for some insane reason (I'm getting to that). I'm trying to teach my boys how to respect women, and that's very hard when I'm putting money into something that has women in itty bitty clothes, dancing around during some scraps of time in a freezing arena. That's not very respectful to me! My 7 year old asked me why they were dancing around and why weren't they dressed more warmly. I couldn't get into a proper age appropriate diatribe there, but will address it in the morning, in the meantime, I'm burning off steam here.

And you know what is the crazy thing? I watched these girls performing, you know how much attention they got? Zip! I saw another thing, the MC type people started getting a wave going during a break, and it died the moment the game started again. In fact, people were pissed because they were distracted by the wave for a half second and the other team scored. I've watched the strange and funny creature known as the Canadian male. They do like the female variety plenty, but if they're a hockey fan and watching an important game on the tube, or if they are at the game, the gods themselves are hard pressed to distract them, nevermind some gals dancing in itty bitty clothes in a freezing cold arena.

I do understand that there are countless spaces inside a game to squeeze in a little more commercialism in, entertainment in, and I don't have a lot of problem with that, but I do have a problem when it crosses a line of being funny and silly (mascots, dumb contests, even the kissing camera) to being superficial and yet another place where half naked women have to be slipped in, to make money.

So other than that, the night was great, but it's a shame that an otherwise great night was marred by something that really doesn't have a place in hockey, it doesn't have a place anywhere, but considering this is affecting me personally and like every other Canadian hockey fan, I feel I have a stake in hockey and the way games, and the games around the games are conducted.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

As "Mixies" go...

So I came across an article which seems to be burning its way through Toronto progressive facebook pages in my network anyhow, it's a Toronto Life article titled "Mixie Me" which is either a love it or hate it type of article by Nicholas Hunh-Brown. Judging by a lot of the comments, it seems hating is winning. I went into it looking for something to be offended by, but I couldn't.

Progressives are pissed off because he suggests that he hopes interracial mixing may have a role in reducing racism and makes some links to something that may point to that eleventy million years in the future. I couldn't see anywhere where he says "OMG! We're mixing, no more racism! Lets sing Ebony/Ivory and Kumbaya together!!!"

Conservatives are pissed off because again, another person who is non-white has the audacity to suggest, "Hey, simply being non-white gets me treated differently" Some dude asking him if the author has done anything productive with his life instead of playing identity politics. Um, commenter? Love it or hate it, the guy is writing for Toronto Life magazine and he seems to enjoy his life and job, so I'd say that's pretty productive.

Ultimately, the good thing, for better or worse, he's got people talking about race, which isn't easy in Canada because it's a topic people will go out of their way to ignore, unless to gloat about making a token friend or something like that. That and there are some interesting little interviews from kids on the topic, which I'm always interested in hearing about their experiences knowing my own. Much to my delight, I came across a kid I knew having attended the same Montessori as my boys. It would have been awesome if they got a picture with her brother, who has some seriously uniquely coloured hair and eyes. And why aren't the kids smiling? They're kids! They don't have to have the Dan Rather look on the topic that we adults do. They shouldn't look like they're about to testify at court. (Okay, petty complaint)

I'm a "mixie" I dunno, I don't like that term, I'm of mixed race. Growing up, my father insisted I was black, I didn't understand that, but granted, what 6 year old has a great grasp on colonial America and slavery, except that it was bad. My mother never really paid any mind. I didn't see another mixed race person in Toronto until I moved to Regent Park in the early 80's. When I moved there, I learned a shocking reality, I wasn't the only one of my kind, well me and Michael Jackson. All kidding aside about his issues with his skin, I was genuinely confused about his race as a kid.

So growing up, I dealt with the usual issues of hair misunderstandings with my mother, myself. I battled my father about me being mixed versus black. I battled off men, still do who fetishize me based on my races. I get to deal with people asking me where I'm REALLY from *eyeroll* or people ascertaining that I'm not really Canadian because I'm not white...stupid them, the non-whites in my family have been around for a hell of a lot longer than whites on this continent thankyouverymuch. I get to deal with the "Oh you're mixed, you're soooooo beautiful/smart/sexy/healthy" as if I wasn't so beautiful 12 seconds ago when they thought I was full blooded whatever the hell they thought I was. As a parent with mixed race children, but who are lighter skinned than me, I get to deal with questions about whether I'm their nanny (usually in areas like High Park, Rosedale, Yorkville, The Beach and the Annex). I get to deal with people wondering about my relationship and whether boyfriend is with me because he's into exoticization.

Biggest complaint, I have to choose sides all.the.freaking.time. There are few places where I can switch accents, colliquolisms, dances, foods, culture and still be accepted. When I'm with certain groups, I dare not break out into black slang and with other groups, I avoid talking about race and racism and how it affects me. When I'm in progressive circles, heaven forbid that I suggest being mixed allows me an interesting look at race and racism...heaven forbid any mixed race person does that. Because ultimately we're never going to have it as bad as this or that race, so we don't know what we're talking about. Or in conservative circles, again, we're told that we're not seen as someone with brown skin because we're just like them and they're colourblind. Um, okay. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't more pissed off at my progressive bretheren for shutting down the voices of mixed race authors, especially since we're supposed to be open to listening to different perspectives. HELLO??

What I think being mixed race has taught me more than anything is that life is not black or white. Yes, while I do identify as a deeply spiritual and deeply progressive person, some of the closest people to me in my life are conservatives in many ways, or atheists. People don't understand that. I travel in circles where I am only allowed to be one person or another. I favour circles where I can be both. While the devil's advocate can piss me off, so long as it's a respectful discourse, I can usually deal and walk away with a smile on my face and likely a new friend. What that has allowed me to do is to make many meaningful connections with a lot of great people.

Think about that, people making meaningful connections with other people because they don't want to be black or white. Because they have forced to be black or white, him or her, progressive or conservative and are sick to death of it. Why can't I be racially mixed, sometimes honouring my black American roots, sometimes honouring my Irish, sometimes honouring my Sioux roots? Why can't I passionately believe in being progressive on issues x, y, and z but think more conservatively on issues a and b? Why can't I think Paganism and Christiannity both have good points? It's not just limited to race, but everything! Why can't a mixed person have an interesting take on racism and dare hope that maybe the mixing of races in our homes and families and close communities can be the beginning of opening up discourse, hearts and minds? I'm sure it can be academiced (new word) to death, and while race theory and advanced thoughts need to be discussed, I'd bet my house that you're just as likely to get through to a closed mind with kind interactions through people as you are with tonnes of theory and there needs to be space in all forums for the recognition for that.

Sound Pollyanna-ish? Yeah probably, but I think throughout history, productive leaders have motivated people to do massive things through 1 of 2 means. Fear or a great deal of respect, and for that great deal of respect, there needs to be that connection whether someone is personally connected or not, they still feel that. And you rarely get a connection with good diverse groups of people by being black or white, but by recognizing that shades of grey isn't a poorly written book, it's life and we need to respect that from various angles, and especially when talking about race, race relations and moving forward.

So this my shout out to listening to people who live in between the binary, whether they have been forced to, or choose to, try to listen, that middle place is uncomfortable for many, but all in all, if we all inhabited it respectfully, I doubt that there would be much space left for those who choose to live or die in the black and white.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I love Pink

Well anyone who knows me, knows that I make no bones about the fact that I'm a girly girl and love the colour pink, red too, but in a household with three small boys a boyfriend, two male (albeit neutered) cats and even the freaking snake being male, pink is not only a colour preference, but it's a stand I have to make to keep something feminine in my home world of Joytopia!

However, I'm not here to discuss colour preferences, I'm here to be far more of a geek and discuss one of my favourite musicians by the same name P!nk. I'm sure hipsters, wannabe hipsters and indie folks are rolling their eyes, but too bad!

I started listening to her at least 10 years ago. I appreciated the fact that her songs looked within, but at the same time provided social commentary, a great energy and a unique sound for the time. I also admired that in the era of young women gyrating around in schoolgirl uniforms, she was presenting something counter to that in music and entertainment. Life marched on and I started having kids, which meant that my attention to pop culture pretty much took a nosedive. I heard songs here and there, but never really had much time to devote to anything outside of my kids and trying to survive...really, my soundtracks were Sharon, Lois and Bram, Raffi and the Backyardigans. Sad...well, secretly, I still enjoy them.

Anyhow, fast forward, or rewind to a couple of years back when my life went kaboom and I found myself single again after 17 years of partnership. Like many people, which created an entire genre of music, I started listening to the Blues and some Jazz. That got me through the initial period of lying on the floor, not wanting to get up and face reality bit. Then I started getting pissed, so I switched over to Adele, who was just becoming very popular at the time. Adele didn't last long for me, because while I was angry, it wasn't something I wanted to sustain me because its so negative. Then I ran across "So What" by P!nk. I remembered the song from a little bit ago, but decided to listen to it again, and WHOA! Totally made me feel freaking awesome and I remembered why I loved P!nk so much 10 years prior. Then I came across "Fucking Perfect" and literally cried the first time I heard it. I guess there are a few times in life when you hear a song you so badly need in life, and this was one of those moments. Thanks to itunes, I quickly downloaded every P!nk song I could get my hands on
I love that she can be self depreciating while still recognizing how awesome she can be. Canadians are nothing, if not self depreciating and proud and since she's from Michigan, we're pretty much countrywomen. I love the fact that she has no problems talking about social issues and it certainly helps that she falls on the right side of the coin in that regard. Love that she's been through breakups, is a mom, is a woman, is determined, wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth and an auto tune at her beck and call. If I had a daughter, I'd be plopping her down in front of a few videos, bad language and all as the pop culture role model. Even down to aesthetics, it's great to have someone with their own style, feminine and strong, quirky, pretty, masculine, everything. In the days of so much cookie cutter musicians it's really nice to have someone different.

I realize this sounds like a fan letter, too fucking bad, my blog, my rules! Did I mention that I love how much she swears, it's like it validates my own colourful language. Yeah....that's it, I swear because P!nk tells me to...*shifty eyes*. Anyhow, I will be expressing my fangirl love this coming Monday at the ACC with P!nk in concert and it's something I've been eagerly waiting for for 2 years. I splurged on tickets and cannot wait to join a billion other screaming fans listening to some awesome music by a talented artist who has carved out space in the mainstream to be different than what typically sells.

So I'm gushing, I'm appreciative, I'm excited and I have yet to be disappointed by a celebrity in over 10 years, which is saying something. Thank you P!nk for providing musical love for all this time and I cannot wait to finally see you in person.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How things affect me

It's funny, as time goes on at placement, the more people get to know me. I'm a pretty open book, so I've talked about my divorce. I remember when I was telling some people, they all were in shock. They then started treating me very kindly and gently, like I was in intensive care.

I don't usually see myself as a strong person, but seeing the reactions of people lately, I'm starting to see that I must be a little strong to get through something that is pretty shocking to various individuals. It's not just placement, but anywhere, everywhere.

Then they all look at me dumbfounded about why I'm so happy, so bubbly (it's part of my job for one) why I'm not in therapy big time (been there, done that). I don't think about it day to day, mostly, I think about how I'm going to get through the day intact and still have fun. My schedule is exhausting, but my school is fun, my placement is fun, my kids are super fun, my friends are fun and my boyfriend is fun. My main foe these days are lack of sleep and two year old's who want to get up at midnight for three hours to play.

Maybe getting to this point in my life where it is business as usual and my big concerns have nothing to do with painful events in my past is strength, though I prefer to call it progress. It's quickly closing in on two years since we split up, I like to reflect, and I can remember last year, reflecting, simply remembering the amount of pain it caused me would make me tear up, now as I look back, it's hard to remember that pain so vividly. Just like with a death, though I still miss those who have passed, I have a hard time recalling blow by blow the awful feeling it was at the time.

We talk a lot in school about the resiliency of the kids we work with, some of them just surviving, but how that is to be recognized. I don't think we as adults often look back on our own resiliency, which really ought to be examined if you work in social services (I'm looking at all you CYWs, PSWs, SWs) because its easier (and more credible) to convince our clients that they are strong and resilient and can overcome their challenges, if we are inspired by the own hurdles we've crossed. So this upcoming anniversary, I'm going to reflect on my hurdles, I'm going to honour them. And hopefully at the end of this process, I too will see the strength that everyone is telling me I possess.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dear Ontario Teachers

I'm a parent who lives in Toronto, my oldest attends a TDSB school, and I have two more ready to join the ranks. My final years of high school were spent in the Mike Harris years, so it brings back a lot of memories...mainly of a teenager happy to not go to school. I'm a pretty political person and I veer towards the left, but my post and feelings are not so much based on politics as it does my personal experience.

I want to say thank you. I'm not a teacher, but know many, and I know what goes on behind the scenes. I see the hundreds of dollars of your own money you put forth to enhance your classroom. I can clearly see all the extra hours you spend on creating activities for my kids, how anyone cannot is beyond me. Even without all the teacher friends, I can see this. I know you must have lives somewhere out there and how your families sacrifice their time with you so that you can build lesson plans, mark, submit reports etc. I know that those glorious summer vacations everyone harps about, are often cut short by training, and most teachers I know return to school a couple of weeks early to prepare. Consistently teachers are at school before the bell rings, and after as well.

My oldest was disappointed that he would not be getting some of the extra curricular activities, however he is still educated, the walls in his school are still decorated with wonderful projects and overall the kids are happy. I don't think anyone is enjoying the denial of extra curricular activies, teachers included. I know some of my teacher friends are quite frankly, bummed out because they look forward to those events, teams, clubs as much as the kids.

I recently got into a bit of a debate with another parent in the school yard. She went on and on about you're overpaid, she has no sympathy, you get oodles of time off. In the end, I had to agree to disagree because neither of us were letting go of any ground. I ended (because I like to have the last word) with telling them that I doubt they would be so willing to put in the hours you guys to your jobs. I doubt that many parents would, judging by how many are itching to send their two or three back to school after the Christmas break.

Detractors are all too ready to bring up the bad apples, and sure, there are some, there are bound to be, but it shouldn't take away from the work and good most of you do daily. In many cases, you provide that safe adult that child may not have. Even with my own kids, my oldest went into grade one shortly after his father moved out. Now while he was loved dearly at home and we did our best to make things as stable as possible, his home life was changing radically as he knew it, and his safe constant spot was his school. His teacher knew of the situation, and having been through it herself, accommodated that need. When assigning kids to classrooms for the next year, the school took care of that need as well, by placing him in the class of the teacher not going on parental leave to ensure that stability. I was about to ask, but it was taken care of before I did. I've worked with kids who have been abused, I'm training to work with a wider group of children, but many people do not see this role that you play. Many kids who don't have a male or female parent often get that need filled somewhat by a caring educator.

Their school is safe, it's approachable, I run into the staff constantly running my errands, they are a part of my community in addition to being responsible for not only the education, but the well being of my children for the bulk of their waking hours during the week.

I sometimes wonder how other people don't see this. Maybe they don't have teacher friends, or work in social services. Overall, it's easy to criticise looking from the outside in and that's not exclusive to this situation. I'm sure many of you have heard more than enough criticism. So I wanted to put it officially on the record, that I know your job is hard, I know how dedicated you are to it, and that I, as a parent, tax payer, member of your communities appreciate it and want to express my wholehearted gratitude.

And, for any English teachers reading this, I apologize for grammatical or punctuation errors, one thing that teachers have not instilled in me, was the willingness to proofread...yeah, I'm a rebel that way.

Many thanks!