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Solstice Cycle

June 21, 2017

Long stems lie in the grass as dead soldiers in battle. Tiny moths flutter gamely away from my roaring machine of whirling death while toads scramble madly in too tall grass.

Too tall for whom? And why?

The clover huddles low, sweet clumps of flowers shorn away and when the bees come they will go hungry. Smiling daisies are slaughtered before they can bring their light to the world and unacceptable weeds are ripped from the earth.

Bright paintbrushes that dot the forest floor are safe from me behind a wall of slender birches but the closer I get the more I am warned away by slender sisters with probing mouths. They will take my blood as I take theirs.

It is right, if not completely fair for I am far larger than they. Still, I am driven off by their persistence and am secretly grateful. Later, after rain and sun and moon, I will return. And so will they.

Pride Month is HERE

June 9, 2017

Pride week questionnaire, stolen from a friend.

Sexuality: I'm bi; I am attracted to people from both (main?) genders. This doesn't change because I'm married to a man, it just makes things more fun.

Pronouns: She/her.

Gender identity: Cisgender, which means I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth.

Relationship status: Gleefully, ridiculously, happily, married.

Celebrity crush: Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Queen Latifah.

Crush: I tend to be affectionate and crush-like towards friends I'm closest too. Noone has complained.

Best Friend: Other than Ryan? That'd be Erin, who's known me since junior kindergarten.

When you came out? Sometime in late highschool. My first serious girl crush was an exchange student from Berlin named Stephanie. We were in the concert band together and I just thought she was such a wonderful person. She wasn't interested in me that way, but we wrote letters back and forth for a few years. Unfortunately have lost touch, even with Facebook.

I'm still not all the way out of the closet with most of my family, as I don't feel like I'd get 100% support. My parents are fairly conservative and while I love my inlaws to death, they are too in some ways. I don't want to hear how I need to pick a team, or have them worrying I'll up and leave my family some day for a hot lady friend.

HI FAMILY IF YOU'RE READING THIS! You probably already guessed it but didn't say anything, but hi! I'm bisexual!

First person you came out to: Myself. It was a long slow realization that liking girls AND boys from an early age was Weird and I Should Not Mention It, so I passed it off as kids being kids and just being curious about Adult Things. Eventually I said to myself: Self, you like girls. They are sparkly and beautiful, amazing people. Also, you like guys. They are warm and solid, amazing people. This is OK.

First gf/bf: Ryan was my first boyfriend, awaaaaaay back in grade 7. He was the shyest, sweetest guy. Still is, though he's not shy, he's an introvert. I still have the little valentine he gave me when he asked me out.

First heart break: My first BIG heartbreak came from an asshole named Mike. I found out through friends that he was cheating on me and he confirmed it the next time we spoke on the phone. I cried so hard and I kinda still despise him to this day.

Ever had a crush on a straight person? Um yes? Lots of times. I even married one!

Fallen for a friend? Yes.

Cool straight friend: Erin is damn cool.

Best LGBTQ+ friend: I've known Will since way back in highschool and we've been good friends a long time.

Person that made you doubt your sexuality: Once I realized what bisexuality is I latched onto the term wholeheartedly. Noone has been able to shake that.

Are you proud of your sexuality?: Yes? That's a weird way of putting it. It's not an accomplishment. It's not like I woke up and said to myself "I'm going to train myself really hard and become bi!" like I did for my running. That was something I'm still proud of. I'm just me. I'm fairly out and open about it, but it's not like it comes up very much. Being married to a man gives me straight passing privilege like whoa and erases my bisexuality. That's not something I'm proud of.

Are you comfortable with your sexuality? Definitely. What's not to like? I get the best of both worlds, 100%.

Describe yourself: Eco-feminist hippie Pagan, smasher of the patriarchy, protector of the innocent and helpless.

LGBTQ+ hero: Queen Latifah.

  Favourite part of being LGBTQ+?: Aaaaall the rainbow things.

Series Review: The Cousins O'Dwyer

May 16, 2017

Lately, instead of my usual heavy fantasy fare, I've been picking up light romances or fantasy romances to read. Jacqueline Carey's Agent of Hel trilogy was fun, and I go back and reread Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books because I like the characters so much. Ephemera is alright too and has a very interesting world concept. Another trilogy I go back to over and over again is Nora Robert's Key series; three women have to find a trio of magical keys to save three young souls from a power hungry god. Along the way they forge friendships, build a business and find true love (of course). My other fave series by her is The Three Sisters trilogy; both series have magic in common, though in Three Sisters the story literally centers around three women who are the reincarnation of three witches who have to fight an ancient evil sorcerer. There are a lot of rhyming phrases and white light references, very New-Age. In the Key books the three women have no magic of their own but their very humanity is their greatest strength as they battle their ancient evil sorcerer-god. Seeing a pattern?

The latest series I picked up is named after the three main characters, the Cousins O'Dwyer. Set in County Mayo, Ireland, I fell in love with the rich descriptions of the rolling green hills, lush forests, babbling rivers and local history. There are enough Irish phrases thrown in to know she did some research on the area, plus actual dialect, to make it feel real; that's important as the more truth to your fiction, the better your fiction! As usual we have a trio of important characters; Branna, Iona and Connor, each who must overcome their own challenges and find love in each book. All three are descended from the original Dark Witch of Mayo and are witches in their own right, and of course they're fighting an evil sorcerer from long ago that battled the first Dark Witch. If not for the setting this would read almost exactly like the Three Sisters trilogy, right down to a snarly fourth witch, a man to boot, who loves the selfless, most powerful and wise witch, Branna.Three Sisters has that exact dynamic too, except his power comes from a Selkie heritage and not the evil sorcerer they're fighting against.

Despite the charm of Ireland I was bored with this series, only finishing it to see if there was some kind of twist or surprise ending; there wasn't. There are long stretches where nothing happens and then the bad guy attacks in some way, and someone gets hurt and it's oh, family! Yes we trust you! We're a circle! Don't be a fecking idjit! And then nothing. happens. Like, an entire year goes through the series and it just doesn't work. In the Key trilogy there is a time-table that has to be met; each woman only has one phase of the moon to try and find her key or else all is lost. That urgency is sorely lacking in Cousins O'Dwyer; if they fail to kill ... Wow. I can't even remember the villain's name, he is so forgettable. I'll just call him McWolf; if they fail to kill him it's the end of all the cursing and such anyway as Branna will have no children to carry on the curse, or eventually the Three will come again and get another chance.

Of course they defeat him, discovering along the way that SPOILERS McWolf made a deal with a demon in order to get his powers, so all they need to do is separate the two and kill each. In order to do that they need a name but until the last damn page, they don't have it. It's unclear who or what gives the name of this dreaded demon to Finbar Burke, our broody love interest to Branna, but I just about pitched my book across the livingroom when he named the creature; Cernunnos.

Are you kidding me, Nora Roberts? In a trilogy set in Ireland, steeped in New-Agey magikal tropes, you throw the name of a revered God out as belonging to an ancient evil demon? It's like she went to Wikipedia, picked a Celtic deity based on a cool name, and threw it in last minute. "I gotta wrap this up, so many more mediocre books to write! So little time! Maybe the next trilogy with three magical people, probably ladies, I write I'll set  in Australia! Exotic!" I'll admit I'm biased because I am a Pagan, and it hurts me to see the name of a God thrown carelessly about. Someone who doesn't know anything about Celtic Paganism will either think it's totally made up, or worse, associate it with evil the next time they hear it.

So Cousins O'Dwyer is a pale shadow of The Three Sisters, and doesn't even compare at all to the Key Trilogy in depth of story telling. It's literally a retelling of The Three Sisters set in Ireland instead of somewhere on the North East coast of the United States. It's tame, even in the sexy parts, and I'll be trading it in at the local bookshop as soon as I can get there. It's taking up valuable space on my shelf.

2/5 stars and Ireland itself gets one of those stars just for being so damn pretty.

Fear

May 12, 2017

There is a pillar of stone in the middle of a deep, gurgling swamp. On top of the pillar is a small fire, some food, a basket for collecting rain water, and a tent. The food never quite runs out, the fire never fully extinguishes. Rain always comes, eventually. Atop the pillar she watches the seasons pass, charts the stars in their courses, observes the alligators and piranhas down in the muck live their lives, and some nights when the moon is dark she sees a glimmer of something in the far distance. There is something beyond the swamp's borders, something more than a pillar of stone, food, water and shelter. She has tried to reach it many times. 

It always happens the same way; she will feel brave, prepared both mentally and physically. She has a Plan to avoid the alligators and piranhas. This time will be different. This time she will succeed, moving forward bearing the marks of previous journeys; bite marks, scratch scars, and those inside where she wakes at night. In the past she had been rescued by others passing by, people with nice boats who returned her to the pillar, healed her wounds, then left on their own journey. Rescue comes when she can no longer fight off the creatures of the swamp, when she is bleeding from a hundred wounds and is ready to lay down and drown, when the stench of it, the deep sucking mud has pulled the strength right out of her bones. 

The stars pass overhead many times, shifting slowly in their eternal dance with the sun and moon. The food never quite runs out. The rain always comes eventually. The shimmer on the horizon continues to beckon in the night but she sits with her back to it and instead gazes into the fire. Here she is warm and safe.

This is a Story All About How

April 4, 2017

My life got twist, turned upside down. Let me take a minute, just sit right there! And I'll tell you how I came to have over $55,000 in defaulted student loans.

Once upon a time, back in 2003, I graduated highschool with honours. I received a small entrance grant to attend my local university where I began a 4 year BA in English in order to eventually go to teacher's college. This grant, plus money I had saved up myself and a bit from my parents, paid for my first year of school. The following year I moved out of their home, got an apartment with Ryan, and started receiving from the Ontario Student Assistance Program aka OSAP. Part of the loans are federal money, part of it is provincial but generally it's just known as OSAP. I ended up taking a year off mid-program, then another year as Gabe came along where I didn't receive any government funds as I wasn't in school. I graduated with my BA in the spring of 2009, the first person in my family to graduate from university. Yay!

Off I went to teacher's college in Thunder Bay where I crashed and burned hard at the end of my first semester, but that's a story for another day. That one semester added nearly $10,000 to my loans thanks to living away from home, travel costs, tuition and books. I ended up back at the local university doing a certificate program, from which I graduated in 2011. We moved to British Columbia for 2 years, then back to the Soo for 3 and were homeless and broke for 2 of those years, and now we're in Sudbury, always chasing better jobs for something resembling financial security. Following me around has been $55,000 in slowly growing (they're not interest free) student debt.

This past fall the federal Liberal government announced changes to the OSAP program that would allow students wanting to go to post-secondary education a break; more grants instead of loans, and maybe even free tuition if you were low enough income. That's fantastic and much needed for sure. Unfortunately, a part of those changes of who is low income enough or not affected my repayment assistance plan, making me ineligible, after nearly 6 years of paying $0.00 a month (because POOR) for that $0.00 payment. Suddenly I was 9 months behind and owing $1100 and change. How did THAT happen? Here's where it gets really fun:

We moved to Sudbury in April of last year. I applied, as I usually do every 6 months, for my repayment assistance, in May. I knew I was getting close to the end of my available months but wasn't sure *how* close. I sent off my online application and waited for the letter that would say I was approved for my $0.00 monthly payment. It never came. Canada Student Loans, the folks who run OSAP, started calling and let me know they still hadn't received anything so I submitted again online. They didn't get it. Now I'm 2 months behind. So I ask them to mail me a paper application, which I also didn't receive. Three months behind. Finally get the paper copy, fill it all out, mail it in with pay stubs for me and Ryan. Now I'm four months behind and starting to panic a little but Canada Student Loans reassures me that when my repayment is approved it will be back dated 6 months and I can immediately reapply for my final 6 months of assistance at which point, if I'm still poor (which I can practically guarantee them I will be) I'll be able to start Phase 2. Yay! Phase 2 is a little known thing about student loans; if after 5 years (60 months) you're still unable to repay your student loans, the government starts helping you out. You pay whatever you can of the asked amount, and the government kicks in the rest. Eventually your loan is paid off and you can become a functional member of adult society. WIN.

By this time it's mid-September, and one of the pay stubs that Ryan has submitted with my paperwork is his final one from EasyHome. He was no-fault fired and given severance pay. We included a letter explaining that his September pay is NOT a normal one and does not in any way indicate what was his normal income, and oh yeah, HE WAS FIRED and going forward had $0 coming in for gods knew how long. Also, did you know Canada Student Loans only cares about your GROSS income, not your net? And they don't ask about household expenses? They don't care how much daycare is, or your rent or hydro bill, or groceries or anything. They just want a percentage of your gross monthly income each month and apparently think that you can get blood from a stone.

LONG story short, my repayment assistance of $0.00 was not approved. They wanted over $400 a month, back dated to the spring, up front, ASAP, thanks to Ryan's severance pay and the federal changes in November. I don't have that kind of money, and no-one I know does either. If I could get them the money they'd continue working with me and maybe I could start Phase 2 of repayment assistance. My only other option was to appeal, which I did. I sent in a year's worth of pay stubs for each of us, and another letter explaining his firing and our life expenses. In mid-March my appeal was rejected, after which they sent my loans back to the government. Now the Ontario Ministry of Finance wants $11,000 up front before they'll even talk to me about making minimum monthly payments of $1000.00, and the federal folks want $545 a month, starting May 30th. It was supposed to be $900 but I talked them down somewhat. If I couldn't make $400 a month way back when, what on earth makes them think I can do $1500 now? And forget about Phase 2. That's completely gone.

Expenses  
Rent  $   1,500.00
Groceries  $       600.00
Utilities  $       350.00
Internet  $       130.00
Childcare  $       224.00
Phones  $       300.00
OSAP  $       104.00
CIBC  $       100.00
Car  $       418.40
Insurance  $       285.00
Gas  $       120.00
Repayment  $       520.00
Total  $   4,651.40

So right now I'm trying to think of ways to raise $11,000 before the Ontario Ministry of Finance starts garnishing my wages; Stripping? Prostitution? Sell a kidney? I can't become a surrogate because my uterus is broken. Egg donation is legal in Canada but complicated and time consuming with no guarantee of solid financial return (unlike in the States where I could get good money for all these eggs I'm not using.) I suppose I could go to the competition, like MoneyMart, and get a large loan (since the banks wont touch me w my bad credit), use that to pay off some of what I owe, then just pay MoneyMart back at a much higher interest rate for the rest of my life, plus pay the rest of my student debt. Somehow. Ha. Ha.

At this rate I will never have any savings for emergencies, buy a house, send my kids to post-secondary education, save for retirement, or do all of those other Adult Things that help our economy. My university degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on, and going to school is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

Some nice people have suggested I start a crowdfunding thing like Patreon or GoFundMe. It's a thought.

 

Anyone have $13,000 I can borrow?

March 30, 2017

I just can't even.

#studentloans

LoZ: Breath of the Wild First Impressions

March 4, 2017

Yesterday was Nintendo Switch launch day and with it came the latest installment in the Legend of Zelda series for both the Switch AND the Wii U. I picked up my U copy, had dinner and put it on. Then waited 15 minutes while it updated. I couldn't believe it! Having to wait for an update on Launch Day kinda ruined the flow and excitement of starting a new game. 

Finally it was ready and I got to play through the intro scenes I've seen online: Link waking up in a tank of water, listening to Zelda's voice. I went outside into the HUGE new world and explored. It really is a gorgeous game and the controls are pretty smooth. I picked up various weapons right away, some food items, fought a few bokoblins and even died a couple of times. Falling HURTS. Being cold HURTS. Auto-saving is great.

I have to work later today so I'm turning the game over to Gabe and Ryan and discovered you can only have one save file at a time. What kind of bullshit is this?! I paid around $100 for a game that only one person can play at a time? Every other Zelda game since the SNES has been able to have multiple files. Hell, even Hyrule Warriors has multiple save files. I don't want to share my file with the family; we'll all miss out on exploring on our own and discovering the game, Ryan especially. DISAPPOINTED.

Graphics: 5/5

Story so far: 4/5

Controls: 4/5

Technical difficulties: 1/5

 

Life Update part eleventy two

February 21, 2017

Hello friends! Not dead, just busy. Lots of fun things have been happening around here lately so let me get you up to speed:

  • Gabe has been working hard all month on a YUGE elections campaign project for school. He hands it in today and I'm SO NERVOUS. He's put a good effort into it, with a lot of guidance and prodding from Ryan and I, so if he gets a bad mark we're all going to be devastated. But, if nothing else, it's given us an important insight into how Gabe's brain works, and doesn't. He has such a hard time with getting his ideas out of his head onto paper in full sentences and paragraphs. He does much better with lists. Technically he's met all the requirements of the project so he wont fail, but I just have no idea how well or how bad he'll do.
  • We spent the long Family Day weekend in the Soo visiting family and we had a BLAST. Saturday was spent with my side of the family at my mom's. We went sledding, had a massive snowball fight, built forts in the backyard for another snowball fight and topped off the day with a delicious spaghetti dinner. The next day we went for a swim in the afternoon with my mom, inlaws, sister in law, her kids and mine, and I was able to enjoy an outdoor hot tub for the first time. Dinner was at Casey's then home to relax. Monday was the Bushplane Museum and despite a half hour wait to get in the door because Family Day, we had a good time. We drove home Sunday night and sang along to our family road trip song, We Will Rock you/We Are the Champions.
  • Earlier this month I cemented a friendship with a lady I know a couple of different ways; during a snow day Erin came by to pick up the kids and I and bring us to the indoor play place. Unfortunately I hadn't shoveled the driveway and her mini-van got stuck. No amount of pushing was helping and even after we shoveled out a bunch of snow we needed rescue from a couple of Eastlink guys who happened to come by. Despite her almost running me over (putting the car in park before you get out is important!) I think our friendship was cemented with all the laughs.
  • Still waiting to get things resolved with National Student Loans. Still waiting for Ryan's paperwork to be finished with the Ministry of Transportation so he can get his special license for work.

Electoral Reform: Graphs and Percentages

February 6, 2017

Late last week our Prime Minister broke one of his biggest election promises; that the Liberals would not be moving forward with electoral reform. I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed. The first past the post system we currently have isn't any good when we have more than 2 parties running for election. Some might argue that, seeing as how the Conservatives and the Liberals have been the only parties to ever form government, we DO only have 2 real parties, but they'd be missing the point.

One of the reasons the Liberals decided against election reform was most of the Canadians who answered their survey at MyDemocracy.ca said they were 'somewhat or mostly satisfied' with how our government currently works. They cited at 67% rating, which was a combination of the somewhats at 50% and the verys at 17%. Using that logic, I say that we should definitely move forward on electoral reform, and here's why:

70% of Canadians polled said they wanted several parties to govern and be responsible for decision making. Figure 3.1.3

That right there? Shows how much and how differently Canadians want this country run. We want our parties to work together to create a better Canada. We're tired of one party, who only won maybe 35-40% of the vote, to have 100% of the power and make 100% of the decisions.

This answer was reflected again, somewhat differently, a little later in the survey, when 62% of those surveyed said they wanted several parties to work together, even if it takes longer for things to get done. Figure 3.4.1

The next question discovered that 68% of Canadians said a party with a majority should have to compromise with other parties, even if it means changing some of it's priorities. The follwing question again gave a 70/30 split in favour of having multiple governing parties that agree. Fig 3.4.3

The Liberal Party was handed a clear mandate and they threw it away. Justin Trudeau had a chance to cement his legacy and stand up as one of Canada's greatest Prime Ministers but he and his party balked, probably hoping to get reelected in 2019 with a comfy majority. I doubt it. People will remember this enormous broken promise and vote accordingly.

Meanwhile, the NDP have jumped on this opportunity and are promoting electoral reform strongly in their ridings and with their candidates. I can only hope that with with Trump in power in the states, and the ass-backwards way that he came to power, Canadians wake up and make positive changes to that these kinds of absurd power-grabs stop happening.

A Woman's Place is in the Resistance

January 25, 2017

How much things can change in just a week! Since Trump's inauguration on Friday, America has been going downhill far more rapidly than I ever thought possible. How is it that one man can undo so much of what was achieved in the last 8 years?

To comfort myself I repeat an old teaching: The world only spins forward. The long arc of history shows our progression and looking back we'll see what's to come, the next four years, as a blot of ink on another-wise bright page of progress. We've accomplished so much in the last 100 years it's stunning, and one Cheeto-Skinned fascist can't undo it all. Millions of people came together on Saturday for the Women's March to say NO to what's come before and YES to a better world for themselves and their children's children's children.

I say yes to compassion, love and empathy for all people, but I embrace Punch a Nazi Day because punching a Nazi is always in self-defense-just make sure they're an actual Nazi, not just someone you don't disagree with.

I say yes to slowing, stopping and if possible, reversing climate change. It's not an alternative fact that the world is getting hotter, the oceans more acidic, the seas rising. We must stop it or another mass extinction is on the horizon.

I say yes to healthcare for all, clean water and air for all, housing and food for all. We could do this already but some of us are greedy. We need to mobilize and fix the systems, build our own gardens, plant our own trees. It's clear that the governments, in the pocket of the corporations, wont be helping.

Act locally and think globally.

Resist.

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