September 28, 2012

PURE ENERGY! JOY JUICE! INNER PEACE!

So remember when I told you about Squam and I said my photography teacher, Thea, who is an amazing person that I love to death, sprayed us all with flower essences? Well, I realize that aromatherapy is an unproven pseudoscience, but I swear on my children’s lives that when Thea sprayed me with Pure Energy, Joy Juice and Inner Peace I felt amazing after feeling worthless, scared, sleepy (because of my morning meds), uncreative (which apparently isn’t a word and I used to have a great word that meant this but now I can’t find it by googling – dammit! Edit: “prosaic” is the word I was looking for!), nervous, anxious, unsure, shy  etc etc etc and basically just feeling like crap that morning. I went from a crying mess to feeling calm, peaceful, inspired, enthusiastic, energetic and ready to learn. Part of that as Thea herself, probably most of it, but I’m convinced that the flower essence mists helped tremendously.

Aromatherapy may be unproven, but I think it works for me, so I ordered my own Pure Energy, Joy Juice and Inner Peace from Lotus Wei, which just arrived this morning and I was so excited I immediately sprayed myself and Madison and Blake with Joy Juice and Wes with Inner Peace! Then later, as I started to get tired from being up since 4am, instead of having a nap I sprayed myself with Pure Energy and I’m super awake and ready to kick Lightroom’s ass! (I’ve been trying to learn it for the last 3 days and I’m finally – FINALLY! – at the part in the book where we actually get to tweak the photos. My only beef with the book – well actually I have a few but this is my biggest one – is that he uses keyboard shortcuts exclusively that I’ll never remember because there are so many of them. I really wish he’d also tell you where to click and stuff instead.)

As a bonus for saying in the comments on my Lotus Wei order that I learned about the mists from Thea, they threw in 3 “serums” worth $35 each of the same names as the sprays I ordered absolutely free! The mists you spray directly onto your face and the serums you use basically as a perfume. I haven’t used the serums yet but they look like they’re oils. I think I’m going to keep them in my purse because the vials are pretty small (10ml).

When I got the e-mail that they were giving me the serums for free, I replied back and told the lady my story about my mental health issues and how that manifested at Squam and how the mists really helped me and she gave me a coupon code for 10% off my next order! How nice is that? (And also good marketing obviously, but I think it’s mostly just them being nice.)

There were also 3 stickers that came with my order. One is pink and says “SPREAD GOOD ENERGY”, another is blue and says “INNER PEACE IS POWER” and the third one said something about recognizing your impact but I gave it to Blake and I don’t know where he put it and he’s not here so I can’t tell you exactly what it says. I put the other 2 on my laptop. :o)

Wes just left for a sleepover at his friend Tommy’s house and before he left, I sprayed him with some Joy Juice because that kid could use a little extra joy. Remember when he used to say all these positive things and I’d post his quotes all the time? Well now, at the tender age of 9, he’s like, pretty jaded a lot of the time. He never takes risks, he never challenges the status quo and when we do, he thinks we’re weird and wishes we were “normal” (although come to think of it, Madison was the same way at that age so maybe it’s just a phase) and the only fun he ever has is playing video games (all of which he’s played for a million hours at this point and now he’s playing the same ones again because we don’t have any new ones) and when we go geocaching, which hasn’t be very much lately. Plus there’s that whole depression thing which was an issue last year but which hasn’t seemed to have carried over into this year yet, thankfully. He’s generally liking grade 4 so far and seems to come home in a good mood (he’s especially enjoying French, which he thought he’d hate) but for the most part, he’s sort of a Debbie Downer who doesn’t join in with our family reindeer games. I love him to death, but he kid really needs to relearn his sense of wonder and his ability to see the joy in every day life. I’m not sure how to help him do that. I started the whole gratitude journal with him last year but over the summer we forgot about it and had other things to deal with, but I’m thinking maybe we need to start doing it again to maybe try and change his perspective on life.

Anyway…all in all I’m pretty pleased with my purchase of flower essences and the whole family is too. They were expensive, being distilled essences and organic, but considering how much we pay for pharmaceuticals, I figure this is just another mental health expense but one I can share with the whole family. They suggest spraying yourself or using the serums 5x a day but I don’t think I’ll use them that much, just when I feel I need them. That way they’ll last longer.

In my next order, I’m going to get Quiet Mind and Inspired Action. Quiet Mind dissolves tension, quiets the mind and helps you sleep soundly, so I’d use this one before bed. Inspired Action says “get it done; stay motivated, clear & decisive” so I’d use that one to help me get myself prepared for leaving the house. Joy Juice says “more laughter, joy, playfulness & fun”; Inner Peace says “feel relaxed, calm, confident & comfortable with yourself”. Pure Energy says “energize, revitalize, protect from others’ stress”.  The only one I don’t have a use for is Infinite Love which says “enhance or attract love; be kind to yourself”. Actually, maybe I could use it for the last part…I’m not very nice to myself. :o/Maybe it would be good for low self-esteem days? I dunno. It’s last on my list anyway.

I figured I should stick to the ones I knew worked for me for my first order since the mists are so expensive but now that they’re here and I feel AMAZING I’m pretty definite that I’m going to get the rest of them and use them for as long as I can afford to. (Which I can’t….at all…..but I’m sacrificing restaurant/fast food/junk food and cheap DVDs from Clover (the Korean variety store) to get them.)

And that’s really all I have to say. Obviously I recommend them highly and I dunno, maybe if you tell them that I told you about them, they might give you some kind of deal. (Although I doubt I’m that influential, but maybe!)

Now I’m going to eat Kraft Dinner with Madison for lunch, who is camped out in my office playing Harvest Moon because her Gamecube controller finally came and today is a PA Day and then I’m going to get back to learning how to use Lightroom. Despite it being completely foreign to me I actually think I might like it better than Photoshop. You can do more things with it and it’s super customizable. I just have to get the hang of it.

So that’s it. Peace oot!

(This is me feeling peaceful. :o))

September 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

“If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.” Albert Einstein

(I understand the Rule of Thirds when someone shows me a picture that follows it with the grid over top but I can’t see the grid in my head so I can’t take pictures using the Rule of Thirds on purpose and I KNOW someone is going to ask me to, like in the class I’m taking in October, and it’s going to make me cry. :o( )

Posted at 3:21 pm in: Fall , Photography , Quotes
September 26, 2012

Photo Ideas

While my files convert to DNG files, I’ve been writing down ideas for pics I would like to see or try to take, eventually…some ideas are harder to do than others both because they’re just plain harder and I don’t have the stuff to do it or I just plain old don’t have the lady balls to get it done. Here’s what I have so far, if anyone has any other ideas, lemme know (and yes, I realize some of these are pretty obvious):

~ Me & the dogs with the remote (where? kitchen? best light. living room couch? best background. office futon? best dog colours.) Not candids, frameable portraits!

~ Madison on a warm, sunny day maybe in Feb/March in the snow, in a fur-lined sweater. Blue sky, rosy cheeks.

~Sunny day, family, beach in *winter*.

~ Stormy day, beach in *fall*, family.

~ Geocaching in the woods in fall when the leaves have turned. Mostly Wes. Candids.

~ Spring/summer, the kids on the trail to Bishop Park. Candids.

~ Beach day in the summer. Family. Me too but I dunno how we’d do that without the camera getting stolen and us looking like assholes in front of everyone. :o/ Tiny Beaches may be better for this. Maybe Balm Beach. Candids and portraits.

~ DOGS w/Blake on the beach, running. Dunno what this one would look like or how it would be possible since dogs aren’t allowed on the beach. Also need an empty beach.

~ Madison in flowy, white Free People slip in the field (or *A* field) in the summer w/jeans & sandals. For god’s sake child, don’t cut your hair!

~ Pics of the outside and inside of Dino’s in Midland.

~ OF COURSE, one day, if I ever get brave enough, pics of women’s underwear and shoes beneath the doors in public bathrooms. I am obsessed with this idea and one day it will happen.

~ Alex & Ronny @ the waterfront in Barrie.

~ Alex & Ronny in the woods in fall, when the leaves have changed.

~ Group photo session of our family, Alex & Ronny, Deanna & Charlie aka “the gang”. Dunno where yet but this needs to happen.

~ Kids @ Bishop Park having a picnic. Madison in a dress, possibly the white one I wore to our anniversary if I can get her to stfu and wear the fucking thing and Wes in …I dunno yet. Will need to buy or borrow a picnic basket. May need mom’s help with food/plate styling.

~ Kids in the BACK field on a grey day in the fall. Super desolate. Dunno what to make them wear yet. Probably dressy clothes. Maybe Blake too. Downside to this is wind. But maybe that could be good?

~ My cousin Haylie and her horse Sierra in her new horsey home next year that backs onto 3 conservation areas. The issue here would be getting me there because I think it’s about 2 & a half hours away. BUT their new house has a pool for the kids and a hot tub for my Blake (Haylie’s boyfriend is also named Blake and is the same age as my Blake, so this could get confusing) so he’d definitely drive us all there for the shoot. Honestly now that Haylie and I have talked about it, I think I’m the most excited for this one. I really hope to have one of the lenses on my wishlist by then though.

And that’s all I have so far. What would YOU like to see?

PS. Does anyone know of a blog I linked a REALLY REALLY long time ago, like probably over 5 or 6 years ago, of a girl who had just started taking pictures herself, but who took pictures of horses and flowing water (long exposure) in Iceland? I’ve been googling all afternoon and can’t find who I’m thinking of. She also had a little boy and took really nice portraits of him. He’d probably be a little older than Wes by now.

Like a Boss.

So I guess after work today I’m teaching myself Lightroom through the book The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby at the suggestion of Rose who says that they use this man’s books in her college. I normally get the Visual Quickstart Guides for things like this but the one for Lightroom was pretty sparse and this one came recommended so despite the fact that it was $52 + tax, I decided I should get it. I also got the new Sookie Stackhouse book because I need something brainless to do in my spare time.

I am beyond stressed out these days.  I don’t feel like I’ve relaxed since coming back from Squam between writing mammoth posts every day, taking and editing pics and of course working my job. My days have just been way too full and I need to slooooow down, so all I’m going to do this week is learn Lightroom and read a trashy vampire novel.

Yesterday I had a terrible/wonderful dream that I was a teenager and I was on a class trip to Paris with Madison and for some reason we were getting a ride to somewhere in a pick up truck with these two girls who ran an empanada (sp?) stand in the middle of nowhere. In the back of the pick up truck, like in the bed, I put my wallet and my point & shoot camera and left it there with the gate open while these girls drove like maniacs through winding roads. When we got to our destination, my wallet and camera were obviously gone. They’d flown out the back of the truck.

When we got back to the hotel, our teachers were freaking out because I didn’t have any money and all my ID was gone in a foreign country. I still had my passport in my bag so I could get home though so it wasn’t a total disaster.

At the hotel, since I couldn’t go anywhere, the teachers started playing this game with the students that Madison always plays with her friends called “Truth or Truth” which is Truth or Dare, without the dares. Then suddenly Madison and I were in England and there was this guy in a van and suddenly it was the 70s and he was broadcasting a live stream on the internet of punk music and videos and he had a girl hanging from the roof of his van suspended by chains and duct tape. She was like his co-host.

And then I woke up and decided that this meant I should try and do a weekly video feature on my site. What do you think? It wouldn’t be of me, it would be of either Blake or Madison or Wes. I’d give them a topic and just let them go for maybe 10 minutes. Help me think of topics!

And that was basically my whole morning yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon I had a staff meeting and then I had my final appointment with Dr. Hanrahan. That went fine, there were no issues, really, to discuss or anything so we were outta there in about 15 minutes. I had her look at this crazy mole on my right boob which she is going to remove in December. I asked her about the mesh inside me and what it was made of but she gave me some pretty vague answers. She did say it was made of new material so unlike old meshes it wouldn’t get hard and need replacing. So that’s good. Apparently it’s called a “cook mesh”, so I’ll have to look that up later. She also said that if I don’t have a period in 6 months to see my family doctor and to request that I see a gyno. She said if I wanted to (which I don’t) that I could do sit ups now and give myself a 6-pack and I’m 100% cleared for yoga so we’re going to look into that. Blake does “hot yoga” now but that sounds like my idea of pure and utter hell so I don’t want to do that. (In fact, he goes to the same studio as Dr. Hanrahan.) We’re going to see about doing classes with our old yoga teacher who isn’t teaching classes out of her home anymore because she moved, but she is teaching at some yoga studios other places that Blake’s going to look into.

Oh! Something else we did yesterday is that we went to Henry’s and I got a camera BACKPACK so I don;t have to carry around my laptop bag/purse AND the camera bag! It was pretty expensive and I had to put it on Visa but it’s going to save me a lot of grief. This afternoon I’m going to put the camera in it and put my buttons on it to customize it and throw some of my extra junk in it. I’m very pleased with my purchase. (I got this one. It has a maple leaf on it for international travels!)

Anyway, all I need is one or both of the lenses on my wishlist and I think I’m pretty set for camera gear. The only thing I’d want to add is a macro lens, but they’re really expensive and I can’t find a good one on Amazon.

I want to know how you take a picture like the one above. It’s a dragonfly with dew on it. So did the photographer like, sit in a march all night and then take this picture in the morning and if so, how? Like with what kind of equipment?

Anyway, inquiring minds want to know.

36 minutes left of work, then I need a nap. We were up late last night having the marital relations and I am soooooo tired.

September 25, 2012

Check this out!!!!

The band is called “Fucked Up” and the album is called “David Comes To Life”. Here are the lyrics:

Sun rises above the factory but the rays don’t make it to the street. 
Through the gates come the employees, beaten down and dragging their feet. 
A group of lefties hand out pamphlets to the workers coming in.
For two people on the pavement, life will never be the same again. 
When she placed it in his hand, people must have seen the sparks. 
Neither understands what just happened to their hearts. 
“Another morning in this place has ripped me out of my dream.” 
Realizing life’s a waste as the whistle lets off steam. 
One thing about it all is nothing’s ever going to change. 
It’s like our progress has just stalled and everyday is the same.

“She placed it in my hand.” Co-workers must have seen the sparks. 
“I couldn’t understand what just happened to my heart.” 
“Hello, my name is David, your name is Veronica, let’s be together, let’s fall in love. Hello, my name is David, your name is Veronica – let’s be together, until the stars go out.” 
All we need is for something to give, the dam bursts open, we suddenly live. 

“The boot off my throat, life is returning, the boot off my throat, let’s all emote.” 

“Dawn breaks across this town and a new dawn breaks for me.
I couldn’t take the pains of the underclass, trying to smile through gritted teeth. 
We must now all join up and throw off the shackles of shame. 
United we can’t be defeated, they shall hear us proclaim. 
I placed it in his hand. Comrades must have seen the sparks. 
I couldn’t understand what happened to my heart.”

 
Hello, your name is David, I am Veronica, let’s be together, until the water swallows us.
Hello, you must be David, I am Veronica – let’s be together, until we’re all finally crushed.” 

All we need is for something to give, the dam bursts open, we suddenly live. 
“The boot off my throat, life is returning, the boot off my throat, let’s all emote.”

I love it I love it I love it! I got goosebumps!!! Downloading the album now! (Oh and of COURSE they’re from Toronto!) My friend Mike always shows me the best music. He’s the same guy who introduced me to Grimes.

Posted at 1:00 pm in: Canada , Fucked Up , Grimes , Music , videos , youtube
September 24, 2012

What!? I’m Social! (ist.)

I could potentially get flamed to hell and back for this post but I’m going to go for it anyway. I’ve been thinking about this kinda thing a lot lately as our neighbours to the South (that’s you, USA) gear up for an election and there is a lot of talk about social programs being either good or bad and this whole kerfuffle about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes or receive government benefits in some way. Or both.

Well.

Y’know how people in the US are all proud of being a patriot? Well I’m a patriot too. I really really love my country. I think I love my country more than just about anyone I know. I have a giant Canadian flag as the only decoration in my office. And why shouldn’t I love my country? My country has been totally good to me my whole entire life and I feel like I owe a debt to it for all that I’ve received.

So let’s talk about all that I’ve received and then I’ll talk about this debt I feel I owe and how I feel I can repay it. And how I think my country will be totally cool with that (but maybe not *all* the people will be, to them I say I’m sorry…I guess…)

I won’t get into it now, but in 1994 (age 15) I went before a judge and was legally emancipated from my parents. I was allowed, by the government, to live on my own, pay my own bills and go to school. And during this time, I collected what was known at the time as “student welfare”. I received $525/month and I rented a room from my boyfriend’s father for $400/month, meals and phone use included (but not long distance). With the money that was left, I had to pay for school supplies, clothes, cigarettes, Coca-Cola and tampons. Anything outside of that, such as outings with friends, was completely out of the question. To supplement my income, I worked at the local veterinarian’s clinic after school and made approximately $50/week. My boyfriend, a high school drop-out, worked nights at a gas station and helped me out financially as well (y’know, since I was living in his parents’ house & all).

It’s a SUPER long, irrelevant story but I was kicked out of high school 3 years in a row, so I only collected student welfare during the times I was in school, which was approximately from September-January all of those years. (Plus they would give me benefits through each summer. To supplement during the summer, I helped deliver mail for Canada Post. I had to get up at 5:30am and Jane and I were on the road by 6am. She paid me $20/day and bought me breakfast when we were done most days.)

In May of 1998 I gave birth to Madison. (There are two surgeries in between this time that were paid for by the government and then 3 more several years later, also free of charge.) Her biological father had beaten, raped, threatened infanticide, and kidnapped me once when I tried to flee his abuse but in October, two weeks before Halloween, I threw him out. I’ve told the story before but i’ll tell it again because he was truly a really bad guy: he was holding Madison, who started crying and his response was to slap her in her face and say “stop that!” to which I replied by taking Madison, putting her in her crib and BEATING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF HIM WITH A CROWBAR, putting him in the hospital for a night with a broken nose, a fractured cheek and cracked ribs. Am I proud of this? You’re fucking right I am. I was charged with some things but the cops were pretty much on my side once I told them the whole story and they dropped the charges. Madison’s sperm donor knew better than to press charges himself because at that point I think he knew I meant business and that I’d do it again. You do not fuck with my kid. Period.

While throwing him out was a life decision I would never regret, it left me in a pretty tight spot. I was uneducated (I do not have a high school diploma), unskilled except in the ways of the internet which wasn’t all that valuable in a small town in 1998, and I had an infant. I could get a babysitter and a job but that would barely cover childcare costs let alone rent. And I wouldn’t have the opportunity to bond with my child, which, if I had a real job at the time, I’d still be on maternity leave for that very reason, something my country and my government obviously values.

There was another problem. Madison’s sperm donor left me approximately $10, 000 Canadian dollars in debt due to outstanding bills he had put in my name. I didn’t even have a bank account! And here I was, with winter on its way in a drafty apartment above my mom’s wallpaper store that had expensive electric baseboard heaters and the cut off letters were already coming in because he had failed to pay the bill for several months. And that’s just one example.

My mom gave me $20 to open a bank account and made me promise that for my whole life, I would always always always have at least $20 in the bank, a promise which I’ve kept ever since, and then I walked (because I didn’t have a car), with Madison in her $12 Wal*Mart umbrella stroller, all the way to the welfare office and pleaded my case.

Which as it turns out I didn’t even have to do.

I wish I could remember my caseworker’s name, but unfortunately I do not. Technically they were supposed to make me take Madison’s sperm donor to court for child support but I told them we had made an agreement that I wouldn’t pursue support if he just never came into our lives again. My caseworker was completely sympathetic and not only did she approve me for welfare, but she gave me the information I needed for “legal aid” (which is a totally separate branch of the government, I *think*; I had to go to another town and another office) and through them the sperm donor and I went to court and a judge awarded me sole custody and he didn’t have to pay support. I didn’t pay a dime for my lawyer.

If I recall correctly, my welfare was about $950 and I also got “baby bonus” (which is actually called “Child Tax Credit”) which I think was about $200 and as far as I know, all Canadians get this unless they make too much money. Yes, my government pays you for having babies.

There were also special allowances sometimes, like for winter clothes for your child, first and last month’s rent on apartments (which I only utilized once), money for used appliances if you needed them when you first moved into a new apartment etc.

Legally I was allowed to stay on welfare until Madison was 6 and in school. Because I had a child, I was not required to do what all other welfare recipients had to, which was prove that they’d been out looking for jobs by getting would-be employers to sign a form every time they filled out an application somewhere. According to my government, I already had a full-time job and that was being Madison’s mother.

So I got approximately $1150 per month and my rent was $550 right off the top which was taken directly out of my cheque and given to my landlord, who also happened to be my own grandfather. Out of the $600 that was left, I had to pay my hydro bill, both past and present, which in the winter got up to $350 PER MONTH plus Madison was a formula baby and that shit was like, $20 a can. I forget how long a can lasted but it was expensive. (Maybe some of the other mamas out there can do the math.) I also had all these debts to pay that my ex had put in my name, such as TWO SEPARATE  phone bills (one for about $1500 and another for about $1,000, if I recall correctly), not to mention my own, which he hadn’t been paying (around $800 at the time), and Bell was also threatening to cut me off. The only things I could (barely) afford for myself were cigarettes (which they actually had an allowance for at the time – even I think that’s excessive, personally, as a non-smoker now) and internet (Compuserve: $20/month), which contained my only real friends at the time. (Who also helped me out financially when I was in tight spots, a trend that would continue until present day, obviously.)

I was on welfare for a year and a half and during that time, I took advantage of the resources available to me, such as free “upgrading” at the local community college where they taught me some of the skills I missed out on by not going to high school, such as how to properly format an essay (which, obviously, I promptly threw out the window, but, y’know, they taught me that). While I went to school, welfare gave me extra money to hire a babysitter for Madison, who also happened to be her paternal grandmother, who is mentally ill and on disability. (More social programs, wheee!)

Through the college, I learned that I wanted to be a copywriter when I grew up and got my shit together and they helped me prepare. Welfare gave me the money to take a 10-week copywriting course at Centennial College in Toronto and my step-dad drove me every week.  (Oh, also because laundromats cost money, which I didn’t have, I would do my laundry at his house on Sundays and as any mother of a baby will tell you, there is a LOT of laundry to do at that age. He would also make me dinner before driving me home. He was a moody man and ultimately one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met, but sometimes incredibly kind.)

After I had taken the copywriting course and thought ‘”for sure” I wanted to be a copywriter, my caseworker helped me fill out the college application for Centennial’s Creative Advertising program and then when I was accepted (yay me!), she helped me both make the move to a new apartment (above my grandmother’s furniture store, closer to the city) and apply for OSAP, which is the province’s student loans program. At the time, if I understood correctly, which I totally may not have, I had two loans: one was from a bank and the government basically co-signed for it, saying that if I defaulted, they would either pay for it or cover the interest (I honestly forget) and then the other loan was from the government directly. They gave me enough to buy a car to get to school, tuition, gas, food, rent and all other living expenses. If I recall correctly, they gave me approximately $12,000-$15,000/year, paid out per semester. I also received bursaries from the government, a scholarship (both paid toward my tuition and/or loans, not cash) for doing well and I still got baby bonus.

OSAP was good and I mostly had enough to live on, although my grama (shhhh) did tell me during my 2nd year in school that as long as I was in school, I didn’t have to pay rent anymore even though I claimed it on both my OSAP forms and my taxes. What can I say? I needed the money! Tuition was about $2,000 per semester, rent was $800/month, my car cost $3500 (my mom helped me with part of it) and was a total gas pig (1990 Beretta completely covered in Hot Topic bumper stickers) and it broke down all the time so I constantly had “car bills” but luckily Madison’s preschool was subsidized by the government and if I recall correctly again, it was supposed to be about $250-300 per WEEK because she was full-time, but I only paid about $100. Thank you, government!

My “luxuries” during this period was that I still smoked (ugh, my poor body) and I often went to the bar with my friends during the week where I didn’t drink but I did have breakfast there pretty much every day I went to school because they had all-day breakfast and it was good and right down the street from our school. I think that cost about $6/day for bacon & eggs. (I did do the whole Scratching post “panty girl” thing during this period and I drank and partied a lot and went on tour with them, but either the band paid for my drinks or horny guys did, so I rarely paid for alcohol out of pocket. Also Nicole (lead singer/good friend) usually covered my gas for shows that were far away.)

I was 21-22, went to school full-time, had a semi-job with Scratching Post and was the mother of a toddler. Life was pretty crazy! Also during this time, I discovered credit cards and used them a lot to survive because admittedly, I’m horrible with money and didn’t know how to budget my bi-annual OSAP payments and also admittedly, I bought a lot of stupid shit, like a $150 pair of Docs* or a $150 winter coat from Le Chateau**, which seems excessive when you’re living on a shoestring budget, because I would have like, $5,000 in the bank and when you’re that age (at least for me, I guess) it feels like a lot of money and that you could never spend that much, that it would never run out. But it did, eventually.

I dropped out of school after 2 years (of 3) for about a million reasons but for the sake of people reading this who haven’t been reading my blog posts for the past 12 years, I’ll give you some of them:

#1: My program did NOT have an online component of any kind because they were sorely behind the times. Sure they taught us how to build a website in fucking DREAMWEAVER, but I’d been building my own site for a few years by that point and I wanted to learn how to write ad copy for the internet. They didn’t teach me that and had no plans to teach me that so I didn’t feel it was worth it to continue to pay them to learn things I already knew or could learn by reading books, of which I have a thousand on advertising alone and had already read them all.

#2: I discovered, the easy way, that I would never have a career in advertising because of school. My program often demanded 60 hour work weeks to simulate what life at an ad agency would be like. It was incredibly stressful and one day I sort of took stock of my life and realized that if I had a career at a traditional ad agency, I could never be the kind of parent I wanted to be. I mean, I had Madison on purpose, for a reason, and she was my top priority in my life. I didn’t have her to stick her in daycare for the rest of her formative years.

#3: I was scared, plain & simple, of the city and driving to the heart of the city every day and working in an office and parking and having an adult social life and the whole works. Obviously I know now that all of this is due to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I didn’t know that at the time and again, as fun as school was, I didn’t see the point of going further into debt to learn about a career I’d never have.

Those are the big reasons I dropped out of school, but there are many more for why I didn’t get into advertising, some more valid than others. After dropping out of school, I still had a little bit of OSAP funds left over and did the odd freelance job and I’d already met Blake (my husband for those who have no idea who we are) and the rest is pretty much history in that regard. I stayed home with Madison while pregnant with Wes and then when Wes was born, I stayed home with both of them,  because again, I could never earn enough to pay for daycare and bills and being a stay-at-home mom was important to us. During this time, Blake worked as a pizza delivery guy under the table and made something like $2.25/hour plus tips.

Before I go any further into the future, let me tell you about the birth of my children, which was free of charge thanks to Ontario Health Insurance Program or OHIP, as it’s known here, our province’s universal healthcare. I had both of my kids in the same hospital, of my choosing, because they had a birth centre and they didn’t automatically stick you with an IV the second you walked in. They also didn’t do elective epidurals at all and c-sections were only done in true emergencies. They didn’t induce unless absolutely necessary and when all was said and done, their philosophy was “breast is best” and they would jump through hoops to ensure your child had the perfect latch before you left by way of – free of charge – lactation consultants. During the births of both my of my children, I chose not to have any drugs (but I did have laughing gas with Wes but more so I could try getting high (legally and safely) than anything else, to be perfectly honest) BUT I had full access to a birthing Jacuzzi (which I didn’t use) and if my kids hadn’t both been born on weekends, I was eligible to have a fucking massage therapist rub my back while labouring. Oh and every bit of my prenatal care was also free. The only thing we had to pay for ourselves were prenatal vitamins and antibiotics when I had a flaming kidney infection while pregnant with Wes because prescriptions aren’t covered by the province unless you qualify for the Trillium program which we didn’t think to try for (but we would have qualified). In our province, drugs are paid for by your employer insurance, if you have a job that offers it (and not all do, I’m not sure of the rules regarding that since I’m still on my first job and I’m technically a subcontractor for an American company so I wouldn’t get benefits anyway).

Back to my timeline: Once Blake became a legal alien and got his job working at Black’s (a photo processing store, basically, they also sell cameras etc), the government came knocking to collect on my student loans but we didn’t have enough money to pay them so the government was like, “hey, that’s cool, we’ll just pay the interest on them for you until you can, okay?” and everything was fine. We did this for YEARS.

In 2006 I had my psychotic break and was hospitalized (free of charge! except Blake’s insurance had to pay the $50 for the ambulance because that’s not covered) and a year later, I decided to be proactive about my mental health because I was scared to death of it happening again, so I went to my family doctor (who I chose, also free of charge) and he referred me to something called WENDAT, which either means something or stands for something and it’s now called something else, but it was the mental health centre I’ve been going to ever since, where my brilliant shrink works out of, who I also see free of charge as often as I’d like or she deems necessary. This was where I was diagnosed with bipolar I, generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. If we couldn’t afford my psych meds, they would pay for them, but we have insurance so we opt to do that and pay the difference ourselves (about $200/month). They offered a 10-week Metabolic Clinic group therapy thing which I utilized after one of my psych meds caused me to gain 60 lbs in 3 months. They also offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group classes, which I plan on taking soon, and they offer all kinds of other services and classes as well. One of the ones I noticed on the bulletin board the last time I was there was a class on how to start budgeting for Xmas. And yeah, the government pays for that. Furthermore, they’ve already given me one caseworker to help me with my agoraphobia but I didn’t click with her so now they’ve given me another (who I don’t like so far, but I’m going to give him a fair shot). And get this! Okay I live 30 minutes away from the mental health centre and if I can’t get there, like if Blake couldn’t work from home on a day I had an appointment and I was mentally healthy enough to do it, they would send a taxi to bring me there and back, all on the government’s dime.

I don’t qualify for disability because Blake makes too much money, but something we discovered when we filed our taxes last year is that the government will pay us retroactively somehow for the years I was unable to work due to menta illness and that figure, if I qualify (and we’re pretty sure I do) is enough for a downpayment on a new house. Oh and my student loans? Forgiven and paid off by the government because up until recently, I was too mentally ill to have a job and pay them off myself.  (I got my full-time job in 2010 and then I got sick (that part’s coming up) and now I work for the same company part-time, partly because that’s all the hours they could give me and partly because my mental faculties cannot handle a full-time job. My shrink doesn’t really think I should work at all, but I like my job and I like having money so I think not having my job would be very bad for me. But I digress.)

My final story has to do with getting sick and almost dying the summer of 2011 due to pancreatitis. The whole, long story is here, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version if you’re just tuning in:

I woke up with massive pain in my stomach one morning, June 23rd, and I thought I was dying. Madison called 911 and I was driven, puking and crying in pain, to the hospital in Midland which is 30 minutes from our house. I was there for a few days, which I don’t remember, where they pretty much starved me (as is the treatment for pancreatitis) and tried to keep me comfortable since I was in screaming pain but one night, for reasons still unknown to everyone, my systems just fucking failed and I almost died. I coded for I don’t know how long. They called Blake in the middle of the night to come to the hospital and while it was unspoken at the time, we now know that he was called in to say goodbye because they didn’t think I was going to make it through the night.

Not being able to keep me alive, they sent me by ambulance (they almost airlifted me, I was in that bad of condition) to the intensive care unit at St. Michael’s hospital in downtown Toronto, which is the “oh shit” hospital where people either go to die or to recover in miraculous ways. Luckily for me, it was the latter, despite the fact that I almost died a few times there and only had a 30% chance of surviving. I was on dialysis for 8 hours a day for 2 of the 4 weeks I was there because my kidneys mysteriously failed and then started back up again. I received multiple blood transfusions. They put me in an experimental bed that vibrated. I had a feeding tube in my nose that bypassed my stomach entirely, as is the treatment for pancreatitis. I was intibated.

Fortunately I remember next to nothing from my time at St. Mike’s, but my point in being there is that I received numerous life-saving treatments completely free of charge, thanks to my government. If I were in the US, this scenario would have (at best) put us in debt that would take us a lifetime to crawl out of or (at worst) I would have died because we couldn’t have paid for most of the treatments I received.

But that was only the first month of my 14 month ordeal. It gets better.

After I stabilized at St. Mike’s, they shipped me, via ambulance again, to the ICU at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, which is the city 30 minutes from my house. I would remain there for another month and during that time, among other things, I would receive physiotherapy to re-learn how to walk because after so long in a bed with my body deteriorating, my muscles became weak and I just couldn’t do it.

When I came home last September, I was using a walker to (barely) get around. (The government didn’t pay for that. We rented one. We also rented a shower chair.) I had an expensive vac dressing – oh yeah, at St. Mike’s they had to cut me open down my middle from just below my ribs to right above my pubic hair to drain fluid that was building up in my system and distressing my lungs and vital organs which resulted in a gigantic open wound – which required changing every other day and Blake wasn’t qualified to do it, so the government paid for me to have homecare nurses come and do it and they also paid for the supplies. I was only discharged from their care 3 weeks ago.

This giant wound was called a “massive ventral hernia” because they had to cut through my stomach muscles and this resulted in my guts wandering away from where they were supposed to be and I looked like I was 8 months pregnant. This required fixing. It wasn’t life threatening mind you, and I had to wait a year for the surgery because I had what are called large “pseudocysts” filled with fluid on my pancreas that either a specialized doctor had to drain laproscopically (which is dangerous and we waited a long time for him to become available and he never was) or my body had to absorb on its own.

During this year, I had to go to the emergency room many many times due to “pancreatic attacks” where something would trigger my now incredibly sensitive pancreas to flip out and cause crazy amounts of pain, only controllable by LOTS of morphine and a clear fluids only diet until things calmed down. Of course all of these hospital visits and care were totally free of charge, even though almost every time I was there, I’d have to have a CAT scan ($$$, but free of charge!) to make sure things were okay in there.

In July I was finally cleared for surgery and the brilliant Dr. Hanrahan, along with Drs. Ward and Maxwell, performed both the repair of the massive ventral hernia and the removal of my gallbladder which was apparently all black and green and full of stones, which caused the pancreatitis in the first place.  Dr. Hanrahan is a reconstructive surgeon specializing in breast reconstruction after a woman’s had breast cancer and she is very expensive. She’s also one of the best and I was lucky enough to live near her practice and hospital.  Like I said, my surgery was not life-saving and it was technically elective, but the government paid for it anyway. Why? Because in THIS country we care about quality of life!

And of course after my surgery, I still had a homecare nurse taking care of my incision, removing my staples when it was time and also removing the drains I had in my abdomen. Like I said, I was discharged 3 weeks ago which means that I had an entire year of homecare nurses coming to my house every other morning to take care of me, paid for by my government at $50 per visit plus supplies. One sheet of silver for my wound was $50 and my wound required one per dressing change, just as an example.

And that’s the end of my story, really. I’ve received assistance from social programs – if you include free healthcare – my entire life. For half of my life, I received more than most and for the longest time I felt guilty about that but y’know what? My mom paid taxes to make that possible. So did my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins – everyone in my family who loves me and who, themselves, have never received benefits outside of healthcare. And I firmly believe that all of my scenarios are exactly why these programs exist. These were not hand OUTS, they were and are hands UP so I could have the quality of life and family that the Canadian government considers essential for all of its citizens. And that debt to society I talked about in the beginning? Well, I feel like I’m paying it right now, culturally, with every key I press and every stroke of my paintbrush or every picture I take. I am an artist and believe it or not, that counts for something in this country. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have all of the programs and grants we do in this country to support the arts and our culture. Google, there are hundreds of them!  I may be small potatoes in the grand scheme of things now, but over my lifetime – since I have no plans, EVER, to stop writing and painting and taking pictures and posting them on my website – I think my work will become valuable in some way. I feel like I’m contributing to society this way, as small as my contribution may be. My efforts are just as valid as any big name blog site or magazine and maybe even as valid as some of the books other Canadians birth into the world. My oeuvre is pretty vast at this point and it’s only going to grow. I may be completely unrecognized as a valuable cultural commodity at this point in my life but I firmly believe it won’t always be this way. And I couldn’t do what I do now without my government holding my hand through the hardest times of my life.

If those programs didn’t exist, what would have happened to me? It’s not far-fetched at all to envision a future of Madison being taken away by the Children’s Aid (another valuable government program!), because I couldn’t care for her, Blake and Wes never being a part of my life or even existing and eventual homelessness when you consider that mental illness is the #1 cause of that very thing which is precisely why the government throws so much money at mental health programs. We may not realize it or even recognize it all the time, but our entire healthcare system, all of those billions of dollars in taxes, are largely focused on preventative medicine and that’s a very good thing for both our citizens and our country itself! I’ve tried explaining to my American friends how different it is growing up with this being a priority and never having to choose between healthcare and other necessities but unless you live it, you can’t truly understand.

Oh! I totally forgot! One more story:

For most of our marriage, Blake has had a shaved head and when he became a legal alien he was granted an OHIP card automatically. One day he noticed a mole on the side of his head that didn’t look very good, so he went to the doctor (of our choosing, never thinking twice about it because in Canada, why would you?) and the doctor agreed that it looked a little funky so this doctor removed it. No big deal. I think he had two stitches. I’m gonna say it again: this was completely free of charge.

Maybe a year or two later, Blake noticed that the mole was growing back so he went to the doctor again (a different doctor this time because one had just opened a practice in our town) and the doctor said “oh shit” and referred him to a surgeon who removed it again and sent it to a lab to have it analyzed. It was determined that this mole was indeed pre-cancerous and if left on its own it would have developed into a melanoma.

If Blake was still in the US, this would have been a very different scenario. First of all, he never would have gone to the doctor in the first place because he would have had to pay for the visit in some way and when you have to decide between healthcare and food or even concert tickets at that age, you’re not going to choose healthcare. And Blake’s a cheap bastard so I can guarantee that this would have been the scenario. Plus, you think “it’s just a mole” and not all that important when you have to pay for your doctor’s visits but in Canada where it’s free, you go “just in case” because why wouldn’t you?

So the mole would have turned into a melanoma due to lack of preventative measures and THEN he’d go to a doctor who would either say that yes, it’s fixable or no, you’re fucked. Either way, it would result in a huge bill because of tests and the doctor’s fees and treatment. And that would put Blake into debt that he probably wouldn’t have been able to pay off. (Although realistically Blake is qualified for jobs that would have had health insurance, but they don’t pay for everything and they try to get out of paying for things all the time so really, who knows what would have happened.)  And then he might have died.

Now I know that there are all kinds of stories out there about Canadians having to deal with long wait times for treatments and doctor shortages and both of those things are real. I’m not going to deny that. But it’s not the norm. Most people receive excellent healthcare, both preventative and otherwise and I’m going to say that NO Canadian ever thinks twice about going to the doctor as necessary. In fact, this is somewhat of a problem in that we have, for example,  paranoid mothers taking their kids to emergency rooms for the common cold and people calling 911 for non-emergencies and that causes a strain on our hospitals and healthcare system in general. Really, we should have a nation-wide ad campaign that discourages this activity because if those kinds of scenarios happened less often, perhaps we wouldn’t have Canadians dying due to long wait times for treatments for things like cancer. I mean, yeah, sometimes Canadians who can afford to hop the border for treatment because they have to. But what you don’t hear about is that in a lot of those cases, the Canadian government will pay for part of or maybe even the entire bill. Also? If I got sick in a foreign country, our government may pay for my treatment depending on the scenario. A lot of times they’ll arrange and pay for the person to be flown home for treatment. Because of things like this I truly believe that our government values its citizens and considers our lives precious and does the best that it can.

Our healthcare system has flaws and some people think it’s not sustainable and some people even think that we should have two-tiered levels of care or the option to also have private insurance but I don’t know about things like that. All I know is what I know and that is my government thinks I’m worthwhile, that no matter what kind of shit I get myself into or falls my way, I will be okay. Because I always have been. In another country, like the US, I don’t believe that would be the case.

I’m not a huge fan of our prime minister or his government and while I say that, I also have to admit that his governance has not affected me personally in any way that I can think of and despite not sharing his views on a lot of things, I still believe that he respects our country and what it stands for, as far as domestic issues. I’m a terrible citizen in that I don’t really follow Canadian politics as much as I do American (and lots of Canadians are in the same boat due to our media’s ridiculous coverage of it, plus in my case literally 95% of my Facebook friends are American and that’s mostly where I get my news) and I’ve voted for the same party my entire adult life despite what’s actually happening in this country because they believe what they believe and they have visions of the same Canada as I do.  They don’t have a snowball’s chance in Florida that they’ll ever actually have a prime minister in the next 20 or 30 years, but I’m optimistic about their chances after that. And hey, they have a minority government right now for, I think, the first time ever, so that’s progress.

But I digress again…this country’s been good to me and I’m the reason social programs are important. And if you’re American and you’re not convinced, take a look at this article about your fellow Americans living in cars and subsisting on $4/day. They are part of the 47% of Americans Mitt Romney doesn’t give two fucks about, let alone one. He doesn’t care about their votes and he doesn’t care about their lives at all not to even mention their quality of life And that’s a big fucking deal, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s just because I’m Canadian where that does matter or maybe it’s just because I’m not an asshole. How can you have a president who doesn’t care about almost half of your country? I realize that’s been said over and over again in the media but I figure it’s worth asking again.

Balancing a country’s budget is extremely important but not when the scenario is to have so many of your citizens sick and dying in the streets, dumpster diving to feed their families with no way out. That’s what the government is for as far as I’m concerned; it’s there to take care of the people and guarantee them a certain accepted level of quality of life so they, in turn, can be productive members of society. Your citizens should have value. They’re not just numbers at the polls!

Or maybe I’m mistaken in regards to the “American dream”. That’s entirely possible since I’m on the outside looking in. I just thought the government was there to help people achieve said dream and make America worthy of its good reputation. I don’t understand how the US can fight these foreign wars to bring democracy to countries that didn’t previously have it and then they completely trash democracy in its own backyard by having one party’s, of a two-party system, only goal to be displacing the incumbent whose only flaw, as far as I can tell, it not shutting down Guantanamo Bay as he promised. And again, I’m sitting on the outside and I’m not getting the same media as my American friends, but this is what I’m seeing. I mean, what has Obama really done wrong that Mitt Romney would do right? The man IS the fucking “American dream” for god’s sake!  Who better to lead and represent your country to the rest of the world?

Anyway, this post wasn’t supposed to be about the American election necessarily so I guess I’ll get off that topic. I can’t say anything that an American couldn’t say better. I just wanted to illustrate, in my own way, why social programs are important and why I feel so fortunate to have been born in this country where as a citizen, I’m valued for more than just my taxable income and my vote.

Flame on!

(*In my defense, those Docs were my winter boots and are STILL my winter boots because I still have them and they are pretty much in mint condition because I actually take care of my shit. **That winter coat I bought 12 years ago? STILL my winter coat. I haven’t bought one since. I’ve needed a new winter coat for at least 5 years because mine has thin lining and is ripped, but the money’s never been there. Blake needs one too because his winter coat is a black hoodie, in CANADA, but we just don’t have the funds.)

Creamy Smooth.

Yesterday afternoon at about 4pm, the sun finally came out so I was like “HEY FAMILY! LET US GO TAKE PICTURES ON THE BEACH!”

So they all got in Sunny-approved costumes (except for Wes and that goddamned orange hat that he absolutely loves -whatever, it’s Wes) and off we went.

And about half way there, it started raining. A LOT.

So we were like, “fuck!” but it looked sunny toward the actual beach so we kept going.

Well it wasn’t sunny, not at all, and it was fucking cold, so this is the only usable picture I got, but I told them we’d be coming back before the winter:

I think it’s a totaly mediocre picture but I love the people in it so it stays and will be printed. PRINTED, I SAY!

Then we drove home and saw this, which was pretty cool:

It actually went over our whole town, both sides, but with my lens that shot’s completely impossible to get and the rainbow was fading by the time we got home anyway. I would have been cool to get a shot of the rainbow over our house.

So that was yesterday.

September 23, 2012

Sick of Us Yet?

This morning we went out to the trail and the field by our house because with the construction, that’s really the only outdoor space to take pictures and well…we took pictures. Or at least I did. Blake and Madison just posed. And listened to me bitch & moan that things weren’t working out as intended and “I dunno, just do something!” because I’m a horrible director. They did an outstanding job though and the results were okay.

I shot RAW for the first time and then Blake got me a converter because my camera doesn’t shoot actual RAW files, it shoots these stupid Canon files that my version of Photoshop won’t open, so the converter converts them to DNG files which are Photoshops stupid proprietary files equivalent to RAW. Got all that? It confused the hell out of me at first but now I think I get it and now that I see the control you have when shooting and editing RAW files, I think I’m in lurve.

Blake also showed me how to use the burn and dodge tools and I hope it’s not too obvious that I used the hell out of at least the burn tool to make clouds as dark as they really were when we were out there but they showed up almost white in the final product. I have a polarizing filter but Blake forgot to tell me to use it and I guess that would have helped with the sky. I think I would have preferred to use that than the burn tool. I get using Photoshop but I would prefer to use it as little as humanly possible. It still feels like cheating to me. (Blake and I argued about this in bed until 2:20am last night. I finally gave up and said I’d learn Photoshop stuff today.)

So yeah, this is what I’ve done all day. First we shot pics, then Blake made fresh ravioli (not from scratch though, but fresh) with awful sauce that I didn’t like and we will never buy again even if it’s on sale, then I edited pics and Blake showed me Photoshop stuff, then I had an english muffin with butter and the strawberry jam I bought at that veggie stand in NH which was just “okay”, then I got final approval on the pics from Madison which I then posted on Facebook and now I’m posting them here. Got all that?

We’re going to watch Doctor Who at 6pm, then I have to work from 7pm-11pm (which sucks, but whatever), then I have tomorrow off and the only “people” who are going to be around are the pets so maybe I’ll try taking pictures of them. Or maybe I’ll just fuck around on the internet. I haven’t decided yet. I hate “wasting” days off by being unproductive so I have to think of something.

Anyway, here are the pics. Lemme know what you think. Do they look over processed to you? I can’t decide.

This is probably the least processed of the bunch.
Mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing & didn’t want to over process.
Then I decided I didn’t care.

Sweater’s mine (my favourite sweater, actually), Docs are hers, skirt is mine (brand new, never worn by me yet) and she dyed her hair yesterday all by herself. It’s hard to tell in this pic but she has pink chunks at the front and purple at the back.

Gonna print this one & frame.

This is my favourite of the bunch.
I think Madison looks like a superhero.
I tried to crop Blake out but I couldn’t do that and keep the constraints printable.

Now that I’m looking at this one again, I don’t think I like it.

THE END.

As an aside, does anyone know anything about spam comments? Because mine are actually starting to concern me. Here are some examples:

But yeah Many thanks for taking the time to chat about this, I consider strongly about it and in actuality like learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your website with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.” – on the post We’re Home!

This is without doubt a site that people need to get behind. The problem is, no one wants to do a huge deal of reading and not have something else to stimulate the mind. This is the internet, after all. Maybe if you added a video or two to emphasise your point. Ill stick around, FOR SURE. But, I dont know if others will.” – also on the post We’re Home!

This article is fantastic! I really relate to the viewpoints you make. I plan to revisit your article so I can further process this information.” – on the post I AM UNTANGLED.

It is rare for me to discover something on the cyberspace that is as entertaining and fascinating as what youve got here. Your page is sweet, your graphics are outstanding, and whats more, you use reference that are relevant to what you are talking about. Youre definitely one in a million, great job!” – also on We’re Home!

So what the fuck right? Don’t these sound like legit comments to you? But here’s the thing, they all have these crazy e-mail addresses and they link to URLs that sound pretty spammy. So do these people hand-write comments and link to spam URLs? Because they seem fairly applicable to the posts they’re on. This has been happening for a long time now and I’m scared I’m marking legit comments as spam. Does anyone know anything about this kinda stuff?

Okay, now I think I’m going to convince Blake and the kids to go to the beach to take more pictures since the sun just came out and I want to try that polarizing filter.

Anxiety Cat

This is me to a tee.
Thanks, Kim.

September 22, 2012

I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!

I just signed up for Thea Coughlin’s online workshop “Intuitive Lens” through Squam’s website!
Space is limited so if you’re interested (and you should be!) you should sign up soon!

 How can I be depressed this fall and winter when I have “Creative Photography” to look forward to in October-November and “Intuitive Lens” in January? THIS IS GOING TO BE FUCKING AMAZING!!!! I am so excited I can barely contain myself!!!! I cannot say enough good things about Thea, she is an amazing person and an amazing teacher and I feel honoured to even know her. If you have a DSLR and you’re not sure what to do with it, TAKE. THIS. CLASS.

Posted at 1:15 pm in: Art , Creativity , Photography , Squam , winter

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