The Food of My People

"What are we having for supper?" Ezra asked.

"This Easter, we're having the food of my people," I answered.

He cocked his head and replied, "What people?"

Good question, I thought. His white side is your average Eastern European and Anglo-French mutt; his African side a mix of Baganda and south African tribes. The food of Ben's people (according to Ben) is matoke (plaintain mash), ugale (maize flour porridge), and roasted meat. When we consider what "our" food is, we usually think of the food we grew up with, usually the food our mother's prepared for special occasions, or indeed, every day. Though I wouldn't necessarily want to say a box of Kraft Dinner, boiled weiners and steamed frozen peas was the food of my people, it basically is: the great Canadian all-purpose, emergency family dinner of the rushed mid-week parent. And my children love it. And when they grow up, they'll know it as the food they ate as children: comfort food.

Layer this with the food for special occasions; my mother often spoke of our heritage as "Russian Germans", locating us on a map and talking about the few specialty foods her own mother made, which were very few. My grandmother largely dealt in canned goods; liverwurst sandwiches, canned salmon and canned peas creamed and on toast. So, "identity food" for my mother, was her own revival of heritage; her own invention of self. 

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Housetraining a puppy brings up a lot of the same complicated crap that comes up when raising children, in case you've never done either. Feelings of doubt and the inevitable failure of attempts at manipulation; spousal arguments over rules and best practices. How to raise a puppy is as fraught a minefield as parenting. 

And yesterday was not a good day. You see, I yelled at her when I caught her peeing in the house. I slipped up a bit; frustrated, and remembering that childhood dog had responded well being yelled at mid-stream, I screamed at her and put her outside. 

And then she proceeded to pee everywhere I wasn't cause I freaked her right out. So, our outdoor excreting stats went from 85% outside to 50% outside really quickly. And my period started the same day, so I was caught in a cycle of angry/sad weeping and renewed determination. I went to Reddit for support — a platform I'd never used before but recalled a couple writers referencing — and found some comforting information that supported the humane society page on house training a puppy. Also, the schadenfreude of reading other people's dog issues helped me feel better. 

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Genki des!


I really don't know how to commit to this thing anymore. I'll guess I'll start with that, as though I have to formally recognize that I've been terrible at keep this up. It's a tedious opening at this point, as I open with it every time. Ha! Maybe it'll be my spring thing? Pop up every year when I'm not teaching or when the vagaries of teaching composition don't kill my will to write myself? I make no promises.

I am still bouncing my recipe project around. I may dive into that again soon, but in a less ambitious way. I got caught up in a lot of research and theory, which was great, but then the pressure of it all derailed me and I procrastinated by enrolling my sons in a summer soccer league. But I digress; let's acknowledge the reality of April 14, 2020, for a moment, just for posterity: we are all AT HOME, social distancing. All the public stuff is cancelled. Who'd have imagined that?!

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me 2009


I decided last year, using the advice of inimitable Oprah, Rob Bell (An Anatomy of Restlessness) and a few insightful colleagues to: "be Mandy" and "to fulfill my life's purpose", and to listen to spirit, to be an historian (again). This has been a long time coming. For a while I didn't call myself that, trying so hard as I was to be good at teaching college students; that is, what I am PAID to do (and love to do, too). And as happens when you help support three boys that eat like garbage compactors and outgrow clothes faster than puppies outgrow teeth, you focus on the stuff dat pays da bills. History and PhDs and original research don't really do that. 

So, I've been futzing around for the past year trying to figure out what to do. Most people my age are becoming managers, others furthering their education. And still others, quitting their jobs to become yoga instructors. All valid. So I looked; I tried a few different doors, you might say. Some doors creaked open and then rather dramatically, slammed shut; some by me and some by others. I didn't get a management job. I was looking into doctoral programs, which I still want to do... but right now is not the time for an intense commitment. I knew I wanted to research my own projects. And then I was nudged (pushed?) by a colleague into a position with the local museum and archives board in Lac La Biche, an involvement I now, unexpectedly, LOVE. It's a board I'm not always trying to get out of, whowould'veimagined? And so it finally felt right that I should be an historian again. 

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Genki des!

another tree. just what we needed!

I’ve been pushing for a fresh tree for years.


We have an artificial tree, pre-lit, that we inherited from my parents, after they couldn’t be bothered to put it up anymore, that we now haul out and assemble about a month before the big day. I’ve got the assembly system down to a science. I don’t even forget to put the skirt on before I put the tree in the base anymore, which is a triumph of epic proportions.

Most of the lights on the old girl are burned out, and I have to add extra strands; I add extra because I like extra, too. It’s BRIGHT. I am a coloured light person; white I typically only use for dim light in my yoga room. Frankly, I prefer the hokey comfort of the multicoloured lights, and I love all the mismatched ornaments, many that I’ve received from my aunt, a former Hallmark store manager, over the years.

Tree is up! It’s all Christmas carols, sugar cookies, eggnog and Irish cream for the next month! Woot woot!

I have ornaments I made with my mother when I was six or seven or something — clear plastic beads placed in a metal frame, baked in the oven and strung on a piece of silk string — and, I have ornaments made by my own children. And I wouldn’t for a moment think to relegate them to a “kid’s tree” in favour of some cookie-cutter matchy-matchy character-less catalog creation. I don’t like perfect, and I am peculiarly judgmental, as you can tell, about people who do whole new colour schemes for their trees every other year. Just ugh. Ugh. But, ya know, do your thing, if that’s your wasteful, boring thing.

We put up the good ol’ faker up in the main basement TV room a few weeks ago, but I wanted the smell of pine in my living room, and I didn’t want to have to use Glade pine-scent candles like I did last year, and so the conversation with my husband, who never wants to do anything more than enough, went something like this.

Me: I think I want a smallish tree upstairs in the sitting room. Just in the corner. Nothing big.
Ben: Well. Where you gonna get it?
Me: Britton’s has some. I just don’t have a tree stand.
Ben: Bah, you don’t need to buy a tree stand. Use a bucket. Rocks.
Me: Rocks from where?
Ben: I’ve got something. And weights.
[Argument about tree stand and whether indoor trees need water omitted.]
Me: Well, okay, I’ll take Taylor with me to get a tree.
Ben: How much you gonna spend on this?
Me: I don’t know. However much I have to spend on this.
Ben: *sigh*
Me: Well, there’s always the trees in the back yard. Or front yard. They’re all going to get cut down sooner or later. Might as well have a purpose for it if we do.
Ben: Really? Which one?
Me: There’s that one on the back corner of the deck, it’s still smallish. [I go look] Yeah, it’s okay.
Ben: *Sigh* just go buy one.
Me: Okaaaay.

Two hours later, he gets back from church and Taylor and I have returned from our shopping trip with a bunch of candy canes, egg nog, and a giant ornamental Santa he's been nagging me about for weeks. They didn’t have a tree stand, and I didn’t feel like taking my chances. He sees me and Tate laying on the couch, watching Home Alone 2, and says, “Where’s the tree?”

I tell him there weren’t any stands.

He runs up stairs and changes out his church fancies for jeans and tee shirt, comes back and says, “You sure? The one on the back corner?”

Me: Uhhhhh. Yeah?

Ben stomps outside with his winter coat on, work boots, a saw and safety glasses and cuts it down and drags it through the sliding doors.

It’s too tall, so he saws off another foot of tree. In the middle of my sitting room. This is not what I had in mind, but I keep my mouth shut. In fact, I’m grinning so hard I think my face will break. It’s hysterical, actually. The Husband Who Never Wants to Do Anything just did something interesting. He cut a fucking tree down and hauled it directly into the middle of my sitting room.

Still grinning, I held the tree upright, guarding my face from the branches while he ran for a bucket — an old super-size of muscle-gainer protein mix container — and weights from his dumb bell set, along with a few paving stones.

My kids were playing a game on the computer while all this was going on. I was all, “Are you guys watching this???” This is memories, dammit.

They were not. Taylor sort of looked up and crooked a smile, not at all sure how this was going to turn out. And once it dawned on the others, all they could ask was, “Are there any bugs on that?”

There was spot or two of bird shit but no bugs. I didn’t say that though. I hauled the white lights out of my yoga room, grabbed all the gold and red ornaments off the “usual” tree, and tossed them on the glorious monstrosity in the corner of the sitting room. No, it doesn’t quite fit there, does it? Behold, the Lwanga’s first REAL Christmas tree.


No, we know. It started to fall down only once. I caught it. I held it up by branch while balancing on the corner of the couch I was standing on while more weights were brought upstairs.

It was wonderful. And if my husband could actually grasp how blissful he made me by doing this, he’d understand how action like this would lead to other kinds of action. Bedroom action. Nudge, nudge… wink, wink.
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Dear Ezra, age eight

You are eight years old. You are boisterous and thoughtful and sensitive and competitive all at the same time. And there are many days where you have the same worried expression on your face that you did when you were just four months old. Contemplating. Weary. Concerned from birth about this strange planet you’ve landed on. These traits make you a wonderful little boy and will turn you in a wonderful citizen of this planet.

You still worry like your mother. That is, your worry eats at you in some way; your apprehension keeps you up at night. I’ve recently instituted massage night, a night where I rub your legs and shoulders and arms with oil, to help you sort out how to relax. I’m working on teaching you meditation and relaxation; I’m hoping if I get to you young, maybe you won’t be as tense a teenager as I was. That said, you are not afraid to be yourself. If you don’t like something, you say so. You can set a boundary like no other child I’ve seen. It almost makes the fact that you can hardly choke down a cooked carrot somewhat tolerable. You like a plan, no surprises. Heaven forbid someone changes the rules or makes a joke at the wrong time. Your sense of humour is odd. I love it. You can rarely smile at being teased. (Neither can I.)

In the mornings, when you run out of the bed room, I can tell your pitter patter on the hall floor. It’s like one foot is skipping and the other is sliding along for the ride while you tie your robe and rub your eyes all at the same time. If I’m in the kitchen, you come for a hug and I say “good morning!”, and rub your back to bring you all-the-way awake. Then you just as quickly turn and thump down the stairs to the basement to watch cartoons or whatever soccer games you’ve recorded. Daddy tells you to record all the good games, and you’re very diligent at sorting out the schedule and making sure they’re set up.

This year, you’ll play on the U12 league team. You’re only 8. You played U10 in the spring, skipping the second year of U8, and now it seems you’ll motor on and play with your brother. This should be interesting. Will you clash? Will you find a new level of brotherhood? Will something happen in this year you’ll both look back on in your 30s to make you remember how important you are to each other? God, I hope it’s a good year in soccer. Frick, you take it all so seriously.

A day in Edmonton with my dude before his birthday 🎉

Your current life plan includes moving to Spain to work, so you can gain citizenship, and play for their National team or Real Madrid or Barcelona, whichever comes first. No shit. When people ask you what you want to do when you grow up, this is your answer. You’re going to move to Europe to play professional soccer. I try not to mock you when you relay this to people, cause what the hell, it could happen! But it’s hard not to. Also, I try to convince you that by the time you’re 18, the Canadian national team won’t be sooooo bad, but I cannot convince you. They suck, and you know it, and you’re not going to settle.

For your birthday this year, I took you to Edmonton, just you and I. We went to Eurosport, where you chose a jersey for your brother. Then, on to West Edmonton Mall, where you patiently allowed me to shop for winter boots, let me get distracted by a few clothing stores, until we got to the soccer jersey cart outside Winners, where I bought you the Messi jersey you’ve been eyeing for a year. You were going to buy it for yourself, but I bought it for you instead, letting you save all that money you stored up for the occasion. You were happy. You love to keep your money. I encouraged you to ride the motorized stuffed animals: nope, you wouldn’t. I asked if you wanted the waiters to sing: not really. The only requests you made were for a photo in front of the Lamborghini in the mall and for supper.

Highlights! Ezra's birthday trip to WEM.

For supper, you wanted Montanas, and on the way there, you agreed that if the line was too long, it’d be fine to go to Dairy Queen. The line was short, and you got to order ribs. The mash potatoes came with skins in it, which put you off, but this time, you didn’t complain. While we waited, I taught you how to play Hangman. We chose words from the kids’ menu. I was surprised you didn't know this game already. You explained, "well, we aren't allowed violent death stuff at school." Hangman is violent?! Right. I don't like toy guns. I've banned violent video games at my house. But hangman violent? Yeesh. I had no idea teaching kids how to spell under pressure was violent. Sigh. You loved learning that new risqué game; your eyes lit up and you giggled and you glowed under the focussed attention. We had a wonderful time, and I loved getting to know you better, a thing that doesn’t always happen in the everyday run of life.

I’m looking forward to year eight, little dude, and getting to know you more each year.

All my love,
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Genki des!

hot dog turkey day

There are some foods I refuse to prepare exactly how my mom did.

My cookies are not the size of side plates. My pancakes are not the size of the pan they’re cooked in.

My spaghetti is a lightly salted al dente and not the over-boiled, salty clump my mother poured a glass jar of Ragu sauce on. The sauce I prefer comes in a tin. Or I make it myself, something my mother never did.

There are some foods I prepare exactly how my mother did.

I put tin foil under my chicken drumsticks, under my cookies, under my everything that goes into a hot oven.

My muffins get paper cupped. My grilled cheese happens with Kraft slices and tomato soup with 1/3 milk. Creamy is good.

I peel my potatoes with a knife. A peeler is just…insufficient. And when they’re boiled, they get whipped with butter and milk until their fluffy and creamy and don’t need any seasoning at the table at all. My mothers were mashed with milk, lumpy and dry, waiting for a pat or three of butter on each plate.

But we did agree on tinned cranberry jelly, dumped in one lump out of the tin and into the bowl, placed on its side and sliced for presentation. It just wouldn’t be a turkey day on the prairies without it.

And I boil my wieners in a pot on the stove top like she did; I like to do it until they split, but this makes my children uncomfortable. It’s probably phallic in a way their young minds are not ready to fully comprehend, so I don’t push it. So, like today, I poke most of the wieners out of the water with fork before they puff and split and place them in the buns while a remaining wiener or two sits in the still-hot water, splitting.

There are particular hot dog topping combinations my mother enjoyed. Cheese Whiz and relish. Mustard and pickles. Cheese slices and ketchup. Today, I put my split wiener on a bun and topped it with a cheese slice before warming it a few seconds in the microwave. Once melty, I spread sweet relish over the top and bit into it. The cheese burned my mouth and the relish cooled it.

And tomorrow I will make her turkey dressing. I’ve tried others; when she was alive, and it was my turn to host the dinner, I’d make a sausage and apple dressing. But it was never the same as hers, and we always missed it. For the past couple years, I’ve stuck to hers, sometimes adding bit of orange zest or real sage, but never enough to obscure her simple recipe.

Same with her gravy — when she was alive, I’d never make real gravy unless she was there to coach me through it. It wasn’t until she left, and I had no choice, that I gathered the fortitude to do it myself. I make the gravy the same way; it’s the only reliable way to get a smooth sauce, no lumps.

On turkey days, when I’m piling the dressing into her big green bowl or spooning the grease off the top of the turkey juices, I think of her the most. I miss her the most. And I eat her food and feel full and loved, like she hasn’t been gone long at all and never will be.
Train Sleeper

things women say

The closer I get to forty, the more pissed off I am. So, it's been hard to write happy pleasing things here.

I’m more pissed off at the stupidity of humans in the world, in general, but I’m pretty pissed off specifically as well. Today, I woke up with three conversations in my head. One of them, I'll save for another day. The other two are essentially the same conversation, so I'll purge them at the same time.

Over the past four years, women have said things to me that have stuck in my head. They stuck, in part, because I’ve been pondering the validity of the statements, and in part because I don’t even think these women really understood the implications of what they were saying.

These are not stupid women; in fact, I’m fairly certain, they are all lovely, intelligent people, but social conditioning has made them say things. THINGS. Normally, my writer-self would have a bird about the non-specificity of this word and replace it, but I suspect it works here because the statements in discussion are indeed objects. Objects with some weight.

The first thing.

“Yeah, I’m working. I needed to get out the house.”

Statements like this are just... LOVELY. Because, well, she could be home all bored and lonely, but instead she’s decided to fill her day time with putzing files around an office for pin money… in 2017. Pin money in two thousand and seventeen. Way to minimize! She was clearly a hardworking member of an office team. Why trivialize your work by making it into a hobby for which you get paid?

I guess if you grown up in a neighbourhood as evangelical as mine (as ours), you’re bound to internalize the notion that the only true occupation for women in a family is as their role as wife and mother, and all other jobs must be minimized in deference to the importance of family. Right.

I don’t work for pin money. I work to support my family, as do billions of other women who work. What offends me most about this statement, interestingly enough, is what it implies about men’s work. Imagine if a man said this? I don’t know many men are working just to “get out of the house”.

It’s mostly middle class white women who are the only ones with enough privilege to say shit like this, by the way. They’re the only ones who work “for fun”, and the work many do is largely self-indulgent; that is, it’s “for me” and “so I can get out of the house” or “use my creativity”, and so they sell knitting or start blogs (ha!) or work as a file clerk during school hours instead of run the county garbage truck. How many men are lucky enough to do this?

These women choose work that fits into a life at home with kids or jobs that are WORTH being away from their families. I get it; I’m living that privilege myself. The demands of three children and my privilege have made it so. Noticeably, my work, when I discuss it, is not trivialized by me, but by others who can’t imagine this mother of three could possibly hold any kind of serious job. Their surprise is palpable. And how many times have I been told, “You have three children, working full-time is too much take on”? Maybe 20 times. WORDS MY HUSBAND HAS NEVER HEARD.

Most women I know that are “following their dreams” are doing so because their partners are actively supporting them. In a world like this, how is women’s work ever going to get the respect it deserves? When are men gong to the have the particular occupational freedom women get by virtue of their lady parts? (The vice versa of this has been in discussion since the 60s, so I’ll just assume you get that without me pointing it out.)

And besides this, if you’re working for fun in an economy as bad as the one we’re in, you best get your ass home and let a person who actively needs a job have yours. (I say that just cause I feel like sounding like a pompous right-wing conservative.)

Speaking of home… Thing 2.

“I’m not returning to my job after my maternity leave. My husband and I are lucky enough that I don’t have to work.”

I read this in a Facebook post and pretty much shit a brick. Who the fuck says this in 2017? Poorer women stay home with their children more often than rich, so this is not a choice of economics, but one of desire. She obviously felt being home with her kid was more important to her than going to work, so be honest for fuck sakes. Say it. Say, “I want to be home with my kids. I don’t want that job any more.” But here she went, announcing her privilege like a public service announcement, treating a job like earning pin money.

The saddest part of all this is that these women needed to feel like they had to justify their choices, because women’s choices have become public choices, and men’s are not. Men don’t feel the need to justify their private choices in public, and so they don’t. (Unless, I suspect, they have chosen to stay home with their kids while their wives work, effectively regendering themselves. But that’s a post for another day.)

Stop sayings these things. These things have more weight than we can imagine.

Just stop. Stop defending your life choices in a Facebook post. Stop using “I needed to get out of the house” as a defensive manoeuvre when no manoeuvre is necessary. Stop using men to follow your dreams without affording them the same choice. Women’s choices, whether they are about our bodies or our work, are as private as men's, and it is time to stop justifying them against what our communities expect of us.
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Genki des!


Telus has not yet fixed my land line. It has been shitty for the entire time we’ve lived in this house, so for the better part of four years, we’ve had an annoying intermittent crackle and fizz on all our incoming and outgoing calls. But we have it because OVERSEAS CALLING.

When I was ten, I spent the better part of my evening on the phone with my friends. I knew their phone numbers by heart… in fact, I still know them (7544, 2233…). I guess if you dial a number enough at an impressionable age, it imprints. I bet when I’m 90, I’ll still know these numbers and try to dial them from time to time.

My sons are different.

No shit, you might be saying to yourself, boys are different. I don’t think any of us expects them to spend hours on the phone gabbing to their buddies.

But, the world is different now, too. And it has taken me some time to pinpoint the difference.

The heart of the problem is this: My eldest son asks me to text his friends’ moms for playdates.

Let me repeat that with some added detail.

My 10-year-old son has such limited phone skills that he struggles to figure out dialling. He lacks the confidence to ask his friends for their phone numbers because he’s become so reliant on his mother to arrange everything for him through her cell phone that he no longer thinks he can contact people on his own. He is functionally illiterate in phone calling, for fuck sakes. And maybe a touch lazy.

So, he asks me to text the moms. And then he asks me if they've gotten back to me. And what did they say. And can we do this? That? The other thing? And did they get back to you yet? How about now? And "I want to go over there so can you invite me over to that kid's house?" Sheesh.

Then a few months ago, Ezra’s friend’s mom texted me, saying her son wanted to Facetime with Ezra and could we arrange a time…?

It took me a moment to process that. I had to formulate a response.

Most people would just reply, “sure!” and get on with it, but since I’d already noted the aforementioned illiteracy in the tween, I figured I should attempt to correct it with the middle kid. (Oh, that first kid gets the shit parenting every time, eh?)

How did I reply?

“Ezra doesn’t have his own cellphone yet, but [your son] can call him on the land line at [phone number]. I’m sure he’d love to talk to him!”

Because you know what? This damn cell phone is MY damn cell phone. It is not a family phone. It has personal, individual stuff in it that is not always for children. This whole concept of cellphones being family phones might be fine for some people: you might be comfortable letting an 8-year-old walk off with to their bedrooms with a device they can surf porn on, that has access to all your personal and business contacts, but I am not. Aside from that, I am not letting my child “have” my phone before he can understand the concept of dialling an individual’s phone number.

As I child, would I be comfortable dialling my friend’s mom’s cell phone? Even if she treated it like a family phone?

Oh. Hell. No. But, admittedly, I’m shy and introverted and calling is difficult for me.

An introvert parent, I would awkwardly set up playdates for my non-verbal toddlers and small children semi-willingly. (Can’t we all just stay home?) Texting people I don’t know is not my forte. Okay, I hate it. Befriending other kids’ parents in order to have their numbers makes me anxious.

Now, I realize that I have a very extroverted, social tween that nags me constantly for playdates and trips and events, and everything in between, and this might be unique to my situation. But, when I ask him to get phone numbers for his friends, he comes home saying his friends’ replied: “My mom says just to text her.” I’m sorry, but this unacceptable for 10-year-olds.

It’s creating a barrier for young kids. It helps keep them from creating deep, ongoing social connections. How do you get a BFF if you don’t have enough contact outside school? I do not need to facilitate every single contact my child has. I no longer need to arrange playdates for my tween. He can call, he can arrange, and he can let me know what the plan is. I need awareness that he’s not calling pedophiles, but I don’t need to monitor his Every. Single. Social. Contact. I am not his social secretary.

I’ve started asking my kids’ friends’ moms for their land line numbers, so that Andrew can call when he wants to, and amidst looks of confusion, I usually end up having to explain my existential exhaustion at arranging playdates for tweens that can do it their own damn selves.

And they usually cough up a number, and sometimes two, and in that case, we have to note the custody arrangement between the parents, so that the kid can figure out which fucking number he needs to dial to get to his friend. Sweet Jesus this is complicated.

And no, I don’t think kids need their own personal cellphones. Ugh.

And, I get the lack of desire for a landline (I’ve been waiting a month now for Telus to just fucking fix it), but can people have a phone number that isn’t personal; that isn’t a phone in a parent’s pocket, vibrating at their workplace on a no-school Friday? Whether it’s cell or land is moot, really, just bring back the house phone!

And on that note, has Ezra’s friend ever called?

No, he has not. Not ever.

And that I’ll just contribute to general assholery.
Genki des!


I took my three sons for lunch.

Before we headed out, I was on Facebook. There’s a lot on there like that these days. About you know what. You know who. He-who-shall-not-be-named.

Myself, I’m still in shock, I think. I’m thinking a lot of things. I’m reading a lot of articles. I’m listening to a lot of podcasts. I’m considering. I’m learning. That is, I’m doing all the things Trump supporters never did. Maybe that’s where us “Libtards” get it wrong; we think about things.

I hate that word. I heard or read it first about a year ago, and I cannot think of any word that so encapsulates the WASP fear of educated people more than that one.

A slur for handicapped people mixed up with a word for someone who’s values tend to be progressive and inclusive. Huh.

Anti-intellectualism at it’s finest.

I understand protesting elitism (one stupid reason Trump supporters give for supporting him… Ummm, Trump is pretty fucking elite), but I don’t understand being opposed to people who take on the challenge of thinking for living.  Apparently, the work of academics isn’t “useful” enough for the Firsters (you know, the Canada First, Britain First, America First, ultranationalist KKK crowd in the world today – the fascists of the current century). Never mind, handfuls of academics saw Trump coming (Moore, The Simpsons, Mitchell, and many others.) I myself did not think Clinton would win, but I hoped she would anyway. I had a niggling feeling. It seemed on par with the polarization in the world today (Brexit!) that he should win, but I thought the American population was a lot savvier than to elect a person whose very being was at odds with basic morality even they wanted to protest vote.

Ahhh, protest. I think many conservative white people have lost sight of the idea of marching in peaceful protest. Other movements have taken over that medium these days: Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, LBGTQ+. Alas, White people marching is almost old fashioned; in their view, it’s what “those whiny minorities that hate the government and all us white people” do. If white conservatives can’t march, I can see why they’d see voting as protest.  It is easier to vote than to organize a rally against elitism (like thos Occupy Wall Street protesters). Certainly, voting is for lazy revolutionaries. Electing a trained pig also makes it easier to punish “Libtards”, the thinkers.

I grew up in a house that didn’t value academics. I was told by my mother that they’d pay for my university education if I was doing something like dentistry, which was useful, but not an Arts degree. And, for that matter, why didn’t I learn to do gel nails, so I could do that to pay my tuition? My mother tried to push that one on me.

I mean, have you met me? I can’t stand that shit. I can hardly wear nail polish. And why would I want to put my hands in someone else’s mouth to scrape their teeth? Ewww.

Perhaps my mother’s comments were more an excuse not to pay when they couldn’t pay anyway, but it still made me feel hated.  I was bold enough to follow my own interests at my own expense (quite literally). I followed my passion, and I am not a millionaire. Admin Assistants at my college make more than I do per year, and I teach people –  that should tell you something about the state of Alberta (the Texas of the North) and their treatment of educated professionals right now. And they even just hired a salesman in a management position where he doesn’t actually manage anyone. Yup. They did. Do I have anything against the salesman? No. Do I have something against the infrastructure that created the desire to appoint him? You bet. People struggle with this differentiation, and certainly, I struggle with it myself in moments of self pity.

I am not elite. Intellectual and elite rarely go hand-in-hand. I’m not quite sure I’d call myself an intellectual either (I’m not quite in that class of thinker!); I readily admit what I do not know, though. I sat in a restaurant the other day and overheard a group of businessmen discussing forecasts and revenue and percentages and reports, and I had no fucking clue, and OHMYGODHOWBORING.

Can we all just admit that we don’t know everything, and that maybe that’s okay?

And if you don’t want to think about this stuff for yourself, why not let someone else do that? Why be against intellectuals? They’re doing what you don’t want to do. I read research articles and think about stuff, so you don’t have to, just like others are sticking their fingers in other peoples’ mouths and putting gel nails on women who like that shit, so I don’t have to. This how society works. And there are people who are offended by this?

And really, thinking and talking aren’t that difficult. My ten-year-old can do it. He did it at lunch the other day.

After I got my sad ass off Facebook, we went to Subway, where individualized pizza subs rule my children’s hearts, and where I can get a Diet Pepsi with cherry syrup (which fucking rocks).

It was Remembrance Day.

No, I didn’t take them to a ceremony.  My ritual for Remembrance Day is to start our day with a reading of Stuart Maclean’s short story, “Remembrance”, which makes me cry every time, and as I cry, I make breakfast for my boys.

I remember.

But I don’t show this in the traditional public manner, I guess.

Instead, I take my sons for lunch and we talk about war and soldiers. They get the gist of Remembrance Day from school. They know the basics, and for the younger two, that’s enough.

Andrew, though, is keener. And I’m careful with this boy. If you know him, you know why.

So, today we sat in the only “good” booth at Subway, and I asked them if they thought they’d want to be a soldier.

They were unanimous in their no.

I asked them, “Why not? Soldiers do all kinds of jobs in the world. Some of it’s pretty neat.”

Ezra, I believe, said, “Because soldiers go out there and die, and I do NOT want to die.”

I said, “Good answer. Mom would be sad if you were a soldier.” Like the salesman, I have nothing against the very important job that soldiers and the military have in the world; I object to the systems and reasons (or lack thereof) that govern their activities. This is yet another dichotomy some people have a hard time holding together in their brains.

Indeed, I am not even a small “n” nationalist; even the Olympic games disturbs me. I cheer for my country (I have patriotism), but my heart is not really in it. Mix patriotism and youths in uniform and my skin crawls.

I don’t think I’m alone in this; I suspect many a historian feels the same. There’s only so many times you can teach 20th century wars before the sight of a young man in uniform no longer invites oohs and aahs and inspires only the urge to vomit. As I scrolled through Facebook today, I noticed a mom posted a picture of her son, an Air Cadet, marching in the Remembrance Day parade, saying, “I’m just so PROUD!”

Proud. I am not this mother. My teenager’s ability to march like a soldier in a uniform while holding a rifle will never inspire me to pride. Ever. I will never laud a man’s ability to hold a gun, to march in a straight line to drum tempo. These are not skills. An Air Cadet has not yet sacrificed for the country. That is false pride, especially in teens, who have no concept of war, and are moved by other’s feelings of nationalism. Fuck that shit.

Andrew chimed in and added two things to the conversation, “It might be neat to just grab a gun and go take care of bad people, but there aren’t any wars right now, anyway.”



Holy shit. I forget that they don’t read a newsfeed. They think war happened 60 years ago. They think a war not in their own backyard isn’t a war. Fuck a duck.

I gathered myself.

“Actually,” I said, “There are a few wars going on right now. Oh, and soldiers don’t just grab guns and go take care of bad people until the government tells them to. When you’re a soldier, you fight who the government tells you to fight.”

The two younger boys had nothing but stares. And, oh, there are wars? I am a terrible mother. Yes, there are wars in the world, children. (It’s fine, they went to bed tonight. They’re not worried.)

“Oh,” said Andrew, “you mean like ISIS.”

“Yes, like the war in Syria.” I explained the war in Syria. I explained the roots of ISIS’s growth (American involvement in the Middle East), and Putin’s involvement with President Assad.

He said, “Is that why people keeping talking about Putin and Trump?”


He said, “I thought ISIS was terrorists.”

“They are,” I said, “but the reason they’re attacking and trying to take control of Syria is for political power. They want the US to get out of their region, too.” I simplified.

“But they’re bombing their own people,” he said.

“Yes, and that’s not unusual,” I said, “in most wars, innocent people get bombed, too. The people on the news – the Syrians, they’re all running away from the bombing. There’s millions of them, bud.”

The look on his face told me he had no idea innocent civilians died in wars. It is not only soldiers that die.

“So, Trump wants to go in and bomb ISIS more? The people will all be out of the way by then, right?”

“Uh, I dunno, Drew, some people stay – they don’t want to leave everything they have behind.”


“What about you, though, if Alberta was being bombed, would you go or stay?” I asked.

“I’d go.”

“Where?” I continued.

“I dunno. Ottawa!” (He’s very proud of the fact that he’s memorized all the Canadians cities, and he loves the word Ottawa.)

“What if Ottawa said there were too many Albertans there, and they’d already allowed enough brown-skinned Albertans in, so we weren’t allowed, what then?”

“I’d go to Saskatoon.” Huh, I think. I keep at him.

“What if the same thing happened in Saskatoon?” Ezra piped up, then, and said he’d get a gun and shoot them. He’s pretty militant for a seven-year-old. (I think he was trying to make a joke out of a serious conversation, though his comment is certainly gives pause for thought.)

Andrew just shrugged. “Well,” I said, “that’s what is happening around the world right now. There are so many Syrians looking for places to go. They want to be at home, but they have no place to go. In Canada, we are taking some of them, but there are so many.”

“Americans are worried about Syrians, right? That’s why they elected Trump? Are they taking Syrians?” he said.

“Yes, partly, and they don’t want to take many,” I answered.

“Well, that doesn’t make any sense. If the US started all those problems over there, messing it all up, they should be helping and taking in Syrians,” he said.

Fuck. I hadn’t even thought of that myself.

God, I love this child. He’s smarter than 60,072,551 Americans (not counting the non-voting adults). He followed the logic better than most adults of voting age in the US. There is hope.

I saw my cousin had posted a “Canadians For Trump” meme circulated by Canada First, and I paused for a long while. This is entirely in keeping with what I know of him; he once posted a tirade against the Occupational Therapist who had assessed his son and given him feedback on how to help him improve his little dude’s gross motor skills. His tirade only proved how little respect he had for anyone with education who thought they could teach him something; it was a “waste of his time… and don’t teachers have anything better to do?” he'd said. It’s doubtful he understood this person’s job, and it’s pretty clear he had no real idea what she wanted him to do with the kid. He’s also a big fat white guy who thinks he doesn’t get enough respect for the jobs he has to take to make ends meet. If you want to complete the image, he also married a lovely Asian woman. Stereotype, anyone? So the story fits; Fragile White Man Feels Dumb (Again).

Speaking of Firsters, Kellie Leitch, a Conservative politician, recently said she’d like to bring Trump’s message to Canada; she’s the one (if you’ve been reading your newsfeed) who wants to make immigrants take a values test.

When I first heard that, I didn’t think it was a bad idea. I thought, “Hmmmm. You know, there’s a lot of new people coming in to Canada. I don’t want an influx of traditional, conservative anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ people coming in. Many Muslims think like that. Maybe this is a good idea.”

But then I thought about it. I was thinking.

The first thing I thought was: Well, most people in the world understand what Canada is and the values we hold, if they don’t want to come here, they’ll likely choose a different country (refugee or not).

The second thing I thought was: How the fucking hell would the government decide what “Canadian Values” are? My values are probably not Kelly Leitch’s values, and I don’t want anyone like that daft idiot keeping out the good progressive ones because the assessor is, for example, a fucking homophobe.

See that? I THOUGHT about it. And I thought it was bad fucking idea.

Just like I think the Liberal Government’s bringing in only Syrian families (not single unaccompanied men) is a bad fucking idea.

(No, I don’t agree with Trudeau on everything. 18 months of maternity leave? Who the fuck needs 18 months? Lord no. Give it to families if you want, but I think, frankly, there’s better shit to do for middle class families, thanks.)

If Canada only takes families and other countries follow suit, then there’s going to be a huge population of young Muslim men who will remain in the Middle East, rejected by the West, as well as poor and dispossessed, and ripe for recruitment into any number of terrorist organizations. This is going to make the problem much worse in the long term. There needs to be a better plan for adapting young men. (Marry them to young single Canadian women in the North, maybe? That was a joke, maybe.)

Arguments against immigration are always interesting. History and research has proven time and again that first generation immigrants often fail to fully integrate; however, their children have few problems identifying and becoming Canadian – this isn’t new. For example, my great grandparents spoke only German my mother’s entire childhood. Historically, people cleave to enclaves of similar nationality – it’s comforting. I stayed in my bubble in Japan for almost two years, and I learned little Japanese (having no intention of staying long term). Ghettoization is a real problem in the West; I get it. In Europe, especially, but also in Canadian cities.

Integration is a slow process, but instead of fighting to keep immigrants out, fight to get them good programs. Good programs cost money; educated people who are willing to work with immigrants can’t work for free. Find solutions to the problem of ghettoization. Once working, their taxes will more than pay it back.

Electing misogynist demagogues and keeping desperate people out is not the answer. Ideas – new ideas from people who study these problems – from the intellectuals, can provide answers to these problems more permanently than walls and guns. Will every idea work? No. But the point is to try.

So, this “Libtard” is going to keep listening and reading and learning and thinking. And teaching, too.
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