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I forgot it was Friday, been a day behind all week!

1. Asserting myself on committees and reading my R.I.P. books are some of the things I’m most looking forward to in October.

2. Sometimes I wonder how I ended up here.

3. Mice are much scarier than spiders, and that’s why there is a saying, “never say never”!

4. When I’m down, I spend time cuddling with my dog.

5. Home is where you’ll find me most often.

6. A rainy day is good for curling up and reading a good book.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to visiting with my sister, BIL, and nephew, tomorrow my plans include a wine tasting at Bon’s and Sunday, I want to go shopping with my sis!

I totally stole this one from Fond of Snape, who posted it last week.  Go see her answers here;  they are totally worth checking out!

1. If I were a liquid I’d be… cool, crisp, and clean water.

2. If I were a sin I’d be… sloth.  Me on the couch with my laptop in front of the t.v… any questions?  🙂

3. If I were a gem/stone I’d be… a grey stone made smooth by the river constantly flowing over it.

4. If I were a metal I’d be… copper.  Just because I really like it!

5. If I were a tree I’d be… a redwood.  Standing tall against all the storms and winds, no matter how hard they try to blow me down.

6. If I were a flower I’d be…a wildflower, one of those bright and colourful flowers you stumble upon somewhere unexpected.

7. If I were weather I’d be… a cool breeze on a hot day.

8. If I were a color I’d be…lavender;  a bit mysterious, a bit emotional, soft and cool.

9. If I were a sound I’d be…the sound of rain drops falling on the roof at night.

10. If I were a lyric I’d be… “Reach down your hand in your pocket / Pull out some hope for me / It’s been a long day, always…” Matchbox 20, Long Day. I’ve been borrowing hope for quite a while…

11. If I were a scent I’d be… vanilla.  Homey, but a little bit sexy at the same time.  😉

12. If I were a piece of clothing I’d be… a long summery floral cotton dress.

13. If I were one of the 4 seasons I’d be… spring, because I’m on my way to a personal rebirth.

More Thursday Thirteens

An email from Writers’ Digest arrived earlier this week, to remind me that today is National Punctuation Day.  According to the website, today is:  “A celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotes, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.”

In order to help us properly celebrate the day, the website offers “punctuation products” including t-shirts, latte mugs, greeting cards, and wall posters for teachers.  (These are very droll;  check them out at your own risk.)

There are also, of course, resources on how to properly use the various forms of punctuation.  I think that these are very useful, and I know that many of the suggested books rest on the bookshelves of writers everywhere.  (So I’m not mocking this part.)

The Punctuation Playtime Program is a participatory workshop that will allow children to have fun while learning the proper use of punctuation.  This includes a “punctuation rap”, which is actually a pretty clever idea.  The sample activities that the creators of this “national day” have devised sound like they would be a nice change from dry old grammar lessons.

Jeff Rubin, the founder of National Punctuation Day, offers a tongue-in-cheek list of ways that we can celebrate today. First, he advises, sleep late.  What better way, I ask you, to start any day?  Some of the other activities he recommends are to stroll leisurely while noting merchant signs that are improperly punctuated, then to stop at those merchants to inform the owners of their punctuational errors.  Leave notes, he advises, if the owner is not there.

Rubin originally started National Punctuation Day as a way to get business and professional people to pay more attention to their punctuation.  After all, in a legal document, an improperly placed comma can cost millions.  Even in everyday writing, the placement of a punctuation mark can completely change the meaning of a sentence.  For example, compare, “Let’s eat, Mommy” to “Let’s eat Mommy”.  Or “Quality service and attention to detail” with “Quality, service, and attention to detail.”  Other examples can be found here.

My original idea with this post was to mock the very idea that there should be such a thing as National Punctuation Day.  But as I checked out the website and thought more about it, the more I realized that it’s a very creative and clever idea.  After all, understanding punctuation is important to both reading and writing, and our literacy rates in North America are nothing to be proud of.  (Of which to be proud, I mean.)

If proclaiming a day for punctuation helps our children (and us!) to learn how to use punctuation properly, then I’m all for it.  If nothing else, check out the photos of actual examples of poor grammar, like these:

And yes, I am a grammar nerd.  Word.

Stop telling me what’s wrong with all the other candidates.  Tell me what you will do, what you stand for.  For a change, let us vote for some party, rather than against all the others.

Pick out the most important item you have in your purse/wallet and tell me why it’s important to you.  This might sound funny, but it’s my chapstick.  I am prone to cold sores if my lips get too dry or if they are not protected from the sun.  And I get anxious if I don’t have any lip balm, chapstick, etc. with me!

What would you take from your house if you knew it would be flooded tomorrow?  Obviously, my dog.  Assuming that’s understood, I would probably take my laptop, my meds, my teddy bear, and my journal.

If you were stuck in a room for an hour with a chalk board, what would you draw on it?  I probably wouldn’t draw on it at all.  I’d probably pick a long word, maybe something like “postmodernism” or “antidisestablishmentarianism”, and see how many smaller words I could make up out of the letters.  (Cough, geek! cough cough)

Check out Fleur de Lisa’s Manic Monday site!

Friday night, I was watching the Documentary Channel.  (Yes, it is a wild and crazy life here at The Muse Asylum.)  I love the Documentary Channel;  I love documentaries;  I love “real” t.v.  (Also reality t.v., but that’s another post for another day.)

Ahem.  Anyway, I watched a film called Small Town Gay Bar, written and directed by Malcolm Ingram. Malcolm Ingram is a Canadian independent filmmaker, and Small Town Gay Bar is brilliant.  It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. And dammit, I think it should have won.  (Note:  I have not actually seen the movie that won the Grand Jury Prize that year;  God Grew Tired of Us is a documentary about three of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and is no doubt a fantastic film.  But I didn’t watch it Friday night, so go with it, already.)

Small Town Gay Bar is about being gay in the Deep South of the United States.  The film uses two Mississippi gay bars, Rumours and Crossroads/Different Seasons, to explore what it is like to be gay in a part of the world where staying in the closet can be a matter of survival.  As well, the film goes to Bay Minette, Alabama, which is the site of the brutal murder (and hate crime) of Scotty Joe Weaver.

The amazing truth shown in this film is that it can truly be a matter of life or death in rural, southern America to reveal that one is gay/lesbian.  (Or heaven forbid, bisexual, transsexual, or questioning.)  Scotty Joe Weaver was a young man of 18, who was beaten, strangled, stabbed many times, partially decapitated, and then doused with gasoline and set on fire.  All because of his sexual orientation.  Or rather, because of the intolerance and inhumanity of people who disagreed with that sexual orientation.

Ingram interviewed person after person, many of whom revealed that they could not reveal their sexual orientation out of fear.  And not just fear of being judged.  Also fear of losing their jobs, fear of being beaten, and even fear of being killed.  These are people who cannot be themselves, cannot openly be with the person they love, have to hide everything for fear of being the victim of violence.

Ingram also interviewed Fred Phelps, who is the poster person for intolerance, bigotry, hatred, oppression, ignorance, and a whole lot of other uncomplimentary words I could use.  He is some sort of pastor from Kansas who is on a mission to tell the world that we are all doomed to damnation because of homosexuality and society’s “acceptance” of it.  (I must put those ” ” around “acceptance”, because frankly, it’s news to me that the world has accepted being LGBTQ.  I’m sure that many of the LGBTQ community would also be surprised at this news.)

Phelps seems to have no purpose other than to terrorize anyone who is not anti-gay.  He and his followers picket everything from churches who allow members of the LGBTQ community to be part of their congregations, to military funerals, to the funeral of Scotty Joe Weaver.  (I know, I was floored that he and his group would picket a funeral of the victim of a hate crime, carrying signs reading, “God hates fags”.  Even given that he and his followers are raging bigots who have no clue about decency and humanity, let alone “Christian values”, I was shocked.)

Anyway, there is an interview with Phelps in the movie.  I swear that I flinched every time he spewed his vitriolic hatred, peppering his speech with “fag” as often as possible.  I very much believe that the language we use is an integral part of our respect for others, and I seriously almost changed the channel, due to his tide of verbal violence.  (I dislike even typing the word, because it is hateful.)  Phelps is every bit as awful as you can imagine.  And he is not the statistical outlier in Deep South opinion.  It’s no wonder that people fear for their lives.

I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked here with my own rant.  The film not only shows the attitude toward the LGBTQ community, it also shows the strength of that community.  Rumours and Crossroads (now Different Seasons) are two oases in a sea of hatred.  These bars are the only places where members of that community can fully be themselves without fearing retribution.  (Although the film also discusses other gay bars that used to exist, where the haters would sit outside and take down license tags and other fine things.)

Part of the reason that I am writing this post is that I live in a different world than this.  Definitely, there is a lot of homophobia in my neck of the woods.  There is even (what I hope is rare) explicit violence toward those who identify as LGBTQ (recently, a member of a local gay couple was assaulted because he and his partner were dancing together at a pub).  I certainly recall the days when I was in college and a person I will call Ted told me that he was afraid to reveal he was gay.  He was running for student government, and he felt he had to hide his sexual orientation not because he was worried he would lose the election, but because he was afraid of being harassed and even assaulted.  In the Loops, we’ve come quite a ways from that point (or at least I think we have).  Or perhaps the more accurate way to say it is that explicit homophobia is not as common;  I am certain that many good citizens are bigots in the privacy of their own lives.

But it is my impression that (generally) it is not a life-threatening event to announce that one is something other than heterosexual.  Many cities have thriving LGBTQ communities.  Heck, gay marriage is even legal in Canada.  So I was reminded (and needed to be) that this is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, because there are still places in North America where you can die because of who you love.

I know, how naive is that, having to be reminded of this.  Although I’m not LGBTQ (so I don’t really know what it’s like here to be LGBTQ), I think that we’re at least a couple of steps ahead of places like those shown in Small Town Gay Bar.  And thank God for that.

Please Note:  I was lazy today, which resulted in an abundance of Wikipedia links.  Sorry 'bout that.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Today is Puppy Mill Awareness Day.  I would ask you to please read this post, even though it is a hard subject to read about.

A puppy mill is usually defined as a breeding facility that produces puppies in large numbers. In my neck of the woods (the Interior of British Columbia), we often include backyard breeders and smaller-scale operations in the definition of a puppy mill. What I focus on is the treatment of the animals, rather than defining a puppy mill merely based on numbers of puppies bred.

So, for me, a puppy mill is a place where dogs are bred and some or all of the following are present:

  • lack of sanitation in the breeding facility;
  • overbreeding;
  • inbreeding;
  • poor quality food and inadequate shelter;
  • overcrowded cages or pens;
  • inability of the animals to express behaviours that are natural for those animals, and necessary to their well-being;
  • minimal vet care;
  • lack of human contact and socialization of puppies (and their mothers); and
  • focus on profit rather than on the welfare of individual dogs.

One of the reasons that I don’t like to focus on the total number of puppies produced is because the conditions in which the dogs and puppies live is to me far more important. I have seen many puppy mills where there are many adult dogs forced to live in space that is too small for that number of animals. Where cages are piled on top of each other in every available space.  Where the dogs live out in the open, without a roof over their heads.

Or where there is either a lack of food and/or water, or the quality of that food and water is deplorable. (And here I’m not necessarily talking about the food being of minimal quality in the way that many dog owners would judge. I am talking about food that has gotten wet and allowed to mold, or rotten human food given to the dogs, or dogs having to cannibalize other dogs who have died and not been removed from the area. And water that is dirty, nasty, or just not there at all.)

Where urine and feces are never cleaned up, just allowed to build up and rot. Where the breeding females are bred every time they come into heat, from their first heat onward. Until they are too worn out and no longer of value to the breeder. Where no one ever spends any time with the pups or the dogs, and they are not socialized to people or to situations. Where disease and genetic health problems are widespread, and veterinary care is lacking (often completely).

I know this is hard to think about. But if we don’t think about it, and make decisions based on facts and evidence, then we unwittingly support the practice and perpetuate it.

Where do puppy mill puppies end up? In pet stores. Even if they say that they don’t buy from puppy mills, those puppies are highly likely to have come from a situation of poor welfare and poor standards of care.

Where else? On the Internet. In the newspaper. From the breeder’s backyard. From the mill itself. And if you go to breeder, you will not likely see where the dogs and pups really live, or how they are really treated. And if you ask to see the parents of the pups, you have no way of knowing whether they truly are or not. It is a common practice for bad breeders to show you better cared for animals that the parents actually are.

If you want know more about puppy mills and what you can do about them, please go to the Puppy Mill Awareness Day site. The number one thing that you can do to stop these inhumane breeding practices is to adopt a dog or puppy from a shelter, or pound, or rescue group.

And please don’t think that all animals at shelters and pounds are “problem dogs”. Most of the dogs who wind up at an SPCA, humane society, or other shelter are there because:

  • the people who brought them there didn’t know the dog would get so big/need so much exercise/have so much hair;
  • they have developed allergies, or their children have;
  • they have a new baby;
  • and the number one reason that dogs are brought into shelters is that the people are moving and cannot find a place that allows dogs!

These dogs are there through no fault of their own. Many of them are “adolescent” dogs, who are full of energy and have no outlets for that energy. Many of them are not trained in even the basics of proper behaviour (like not jumping on people, or how to sit), and just need someone to spend a little time with them.

Dannan, my fabulous little dog, came into the SPCA as a stray.  He is smart as can be, loves to learn, is healthy, and has no behavioural issues.  He is also typical of the kind of dogs that are at shelters.

So please, think about where your dog has come from, and if you are getting another (or know someone who is getting a dog), please think about this issue!  For the love of dog, please think about it.

Up here in Canada, we too are in the midst of a federal election.  Thank goodness that our election campaigns only last a couple of months!

It’s amazing what a difference the interwebs can make:  There is a group on facebook that is organizing a vote-swapping campaign to make sure that the Conservatives (and Stephen Harper, our current Prime Minister) don’t get a majority government.  This group has 6,304 members, which says something.  I’m just not sure what, exactly, it does say.  Maybe I’ll have some idea (and some point) by the end of this post.

For anyone who doesn’t know much about Canadian politics, a quick primer.  (Warning:  Extremely boring paragraphs ahead.) We don’t vote for our Prime Minister the way Americans vote for the President.  We vote for a candidate in our local riding (an area that is represented by a Member of Parliament, our ruling body), everybody else does the same, and the party that wins the most “seats” in Parliament becomes the federal government.  The Prime Minister is the leader of that party.

Now, just because a party wins the most seats, doesn’t mean that a majority of Canadians voted for them.  For instance, right now the Conservative party is our government.  But they did not get 50%-plus-one of all the votes cast in the last federal election.

This gets a bit complicated to explain, and also very dull.  So, I’ll try to illustrate by example.

Suppose that in the Riding of the Loops, Candidate A gets 38% of the votes, Candidate B gets 31% of the votes, Candidate C gets 24%, and Candidate D gets the remaining 7%.  (Does that add up to 100%?  Ummm, good.)  Candidate A will be the one elected as a Member of Parliament, because he/she received more of the popular vote than any of the other candidates, even though 62% of the voters actually voted against Candidate A.  The winning candidate does not need a majority of the popular vote, just a higher percentage of votes than any other candidate.

Expand this across the country.  Many, if not most, ridings have at least three candidates running.  A candidate can, theoretically, win with 34% of the popular vote.  I haven’t done any research on this, but I feel comfortable with the assertion that very few ridings are actually won by candidates with at least 50% of the popular vote.

This leads to a very odd situation here in good ol’ Canada:  Party B may actually receive a majority of the popular vote, added up across the entire country, but because they came in second in the majority of local riding elections, they are not the government.  As long as Party A won the majority of ridings (and remember, they don’t need a majority of the popular vote in an individual riding to win that riding), they will form the government.

(Gah, this is turning into the most boring post ever.  I studied Poli Sci during my undergraduate degree, and one prof strongly encouraged me to go to graduate school so I could teach it someday.  I’m glad I didn’t, because explaining the Canadian political system is, to me, endlessly boring.  And, I would probably have to pay closer attention to what goes on.  Ick.  And, I don’t seem to be so good at it!)

Soooo, if Party A wins more than 50%-plus-one of the ridings (and therefore, seats in Parliament), then that party forms a “majority government”.  If party discipline holds (which it often does in Canada), then that party can pretty much have free rein.*

If Party A wins less than 50%-plus-one of the ridings, but still has more seats than any other party, then that makes a “minority government”.  The so-called ruling party requires the cooperation of other parties to do anything, because they have to get to the 50%-plus-one mark to pass any legislation.

Woah, I’m so bored myself that I think I’ve forgotten my point.  No doubt you are fast asleep, or checking out somebody else’s blog.

Yeah, my point is this:  the current government is a minority one, so lots of compromises with the other parties had to be made in order to get anything done.  And many Canadians (at least 6,304 of us) want to make sure that the Conservatives do not get a majority government this time.  I think they’re kind of conceding that the Conservatives will have a minority government, but at least then they have to compromise somewhat.

And because of our peculiar way of running elections, we have this vote-swapping phenomenon on facebook.  The idea is that:

…it allows voters in different ridings to swap votes to best ensure the Conservatives don’t win. Let’s say your preferred candidate has no chance to win your riding. You can swap that vote out with someone else in the group who will vote for your party in a riding where it has chances to win, while you’ll vote for the party that has the best chance to stop the Conservatives in your own riding.

So Jane in Riding ABC wants to vote for the Green Party, but the party has no chance of winning.  But the Liberal Party does have a chance of beating the Conservatives.  So Jane swaps votes with John, who lives in Riding XYZ.  In Riding XYZ, the Green Party could very well beat the Conservatives, so John’s preferred vote for the Liberals will be “thrown away”.  John casts a vote for the Greens, Jane casts a vote for the Liberals, the numbers are all supposed to work out so that each party’s percentage of the popular vote is the same as if everybody voted the way they wanted to in their own ridings, BUT the Conservatives are edged out because the votes have all been cast strategically in ridings that are expected to be close races.  And the Conservatives lose seats because we are all so strategical, and another minority government is born.

I don’t know if you follow all this.  I don’t know if I follow all this.  Check out the facebook page if you’re confused, and if you care whether you understand this.  Or, look at the CTV news story that indicates that Elections Canada has determined that vote-swapping is not illegal but still recommends against it:  first, because people might be misled by “someone acting under multiple or false identities to trick them into voting for a particular candidate”;  and second, because what if the person you swap with doesn’t follow through?  (Ed. note:  How would you even know?  And you can always trust a Canadian, lol.)

Quite a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.  (You didn’t ask me, but it’s my blog and apparently I wanted to write a long and extremely boring post today.)  But one thing that it does show is that Canadians are tired of feeling like their votes don’t count.  Tired of having governments that more Canadians actually voted against than voted for.  And dammit, if nobody else will do anything about it, facebook fans will!

Also, it shows that Canadians (at least 6,304 of us) really do believe that other Canadians are trustworthy.  Such a nice, Canadian, attitude!

*Except for things like changing the Constitution, and probably other stuff I can't think of right now, that require more than a simple majority of votes to do.  There is a complicated formula for constitutional change up here, but 50%-plus-one won't do it.  Trust me, you don't want to know.

I can’t believe it’s Friday already!  That means it’s time for:

1. There is no need to wonder;  the answer is within you.

2. Where in the heck did the week go?

3. Tuning out is all I managed to do.

4. Prospects for huge change in my life have been revealed.

5. Financial institutions should not be de-regulated is the message.

6. Simplicity and tranquility are two things I aspire to.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to my scary task being over, tomorrow my plans include eating fresh beets and Sunday, I want to have an inbox full of SPCA newsletter contributions!

To see what other folks have said, go here!

That’s one of my favourite Matchbox 20 songs.  Okay, I love all the Matchbox 20 songs.  And that song really has nothing to do with what I’m going to type.

Thanks to everyone who posted during the National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, and everyone who posted supportive things after my last therapy session.  I’m gradually catching up on things, but I might not reply to all the comments made last week.  I usually like to reply to all the comments I get, but that just might not happen.  Thanks to everyone, though, for reading and sharing.

So, Tuesday was a bummer of a day.  Therapy is hard work.  Sometimes, it really hurts.  Tuesday was one of those brutally painful days for me.  Neither The Counsellor nor I thought we’d end up where we did.  I didn’t even know that what we found was in there.  One of the things we learn about in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is core beliefs.  Here is one way to describe what a core belief is (from

Core beliefs are fundamental assumptions people have made that influence how they view the world and themselves. People get so used to thinking in these core ways that they stop noticing them or questioning them. Simply put, core beliefs are the unquestioned background themes that govern depressed people’s perceptions. For example, a depressed person might think “I am unlovable” or “I am inadequate and inferior” and because these beliefs are unquestioned, they are acted upon as though they are real and true.

So I found out that I had a core belief that I didn’t even suspect that I had.  I’m not going to go into it;  suffice it to say that it totally threw me for a loop.  A painful, icky loop.

However, the fact that it’s there explains a lot about my life to date.  And while I feel like I’ve poked a big monster in the eye with a stick, I’m going to keep working on it.  I know that it will probably really hurt and be really hard, but let me tell you this:  if I can change this core belief, then I can change my life.  Seriously and truly change my life.

The Counsellor is a very gentle and supportive guy, and he lets me call stop when we hit something I’m not ready to deal with.  It’s a safe place to work with him, and when I said that I didn’t want to go any further, he accepted that and we stopped.  He’d always told me that we’d work at my pace, and to let him know if I wasn’t ready, but I’d never tested that before.  I trusted him before, but it’s always nice to have trust proven when you’re dealing with bits and pieces of the mind and soul.

So I’m going back, and we’ll continue to explore this new bugaboo we’ve discovered.  At my pace, which might not be fast, but I will get there eventually.

Just wanted to let you all know that I’m back on my feet, and feeling positive again today.  Back to good.

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