Ice Cream Pumpkin Pie (AKA the only recipe blog I will ever write)

About 15 years ago my mom made a special ice cream pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. This dish was delectable: graham cracker crust; vanilla ice cream; creamy, spicy pumpkin filling. Heavenly.14628149_10155521796564657_1637372832_n

The recipe must have come from one of those Kraft monthly recipe leaflets and since then we have never found the original recipe again. Years went by without this pie from heaven and I suppose we forgot about it. At some point, like a flash of flavor lightning, we remembered the ice cream pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any recipes for this particular, albeit super easy, form. Most of the recipes I’ve found online have been to make pumpkin ice cream and to craft a pie in that way.

Accordingly, for my first and likely last recipe blog, I give to you, my Ice Cream Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 24 graham crackers or 1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1/3 C butter, melted
  • 2 C vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, softened
  • 1 can pumpkin (either with or without spices, you can add accordingly to taste)
  • 500 mL whipping cream of choice
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, clove to taste
  • vanilla to taste

Instructions

  1. Measure out your ice cream in a bowl and set aside. You may like to use more than 2 cups depending on your tastes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350. Crush up your graham crackers or measure the 1 1/2 cups of  graham crumbs. Add the 3 T sugar and the melted butter. Combine and press into greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake ten minutes.
  3. Add your ice cream to your crust. Smooth out. Place in freezer to chill. The ice cream will need to be completely hard again before your can add the next layer so allow plenty of time to freeze.
  4. Whip up your whipped cream. (I didn’t use the full 500 mL, although you may like to do so depending on your tastes.)
  5. Blend your pumpkin with the whipped cream and your cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (and whatever other pumpkin spices you like), and vanilla to taste. I prefer a spicier, pumpkin-ier flavour so I use less whipped cream than you may like.
  6. Ensure your ice cream layer has frozen and then add your pumpkin mixture on top. Allow several hours to freeze before serving. Before cutting, remove from freezer for about 15 minutes to allow easier cutting.

Enjoy!

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My Sideways Bed: Part 2: My New Duet Partner

So my Boyfriend (“B”) and I decided to move in together about a year ago. We found a perfect house with lots of character and in a really great location. What happiness! I will call this house First House.

Then we decided that we wanted to save money and we somehow convinced his parents to let their grownass child and his grownass girlfriend move into their house. This is our story.cute-house-clipart-cute_orange_two_story_house

Part 2

B’s parents adopted a rescue dog from Labrador last year. I will call him T. T is an entirely beautiful pup. He has silky fur and a fluffy tail and a big smiley face. His eyes even have perfect black outlines as if he had gone to the doggy salon and had eyeliner applied by a doggy makeup professional.

T is also kind of a jerk. He doesn’t try to be but that doesn’t change that yesterday when I was vacuuming in the bathroom (I couldn’t find the Swiffer…whatever) when I turned my back for a moment he managed to get into the garbage can after which he delicately scattered tissues all over the house where I had just finished vacuuming.

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A very handsome guy indeed!

And he thinks everything is food. Your toys aren’t food. Grass isn’t food. The cream that I just put on my legs isn’t food. Only your food is Food.

And he doesn’t play fetch which is maddening because that game is SO LITTLE EFFORT FOR SUCH CONSISTENT REWARD. He only plays keepaway and I am not going into the garden with you and chasing you for 20 minutes. I’m not.

He’s not a jerk like Joffrey he’s more of a jerk like Draco who is really just a harmless minionfollowing mom and dad’s orders and is going to cry at the end of the series instead of following through. You know…he’s kind of just an innocent do do.

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A little bit of a dingleberry all the same.

But regardless, T has his good qualities like being an excellent walking companion, making me feel very loved, and barking at intruders who could be murderers or thieves or bearded men.

I am getting ready for a recital of opera and art song in July. So, when we moved into B’s parents’ house, we put my keyboard in the living room. B’s parents were off on a grand adventure in Europe so keeping the keyboard in the open and practicing there seemed like a great idea. So, the living room became my Practice Room.

I have a regular practice schedule of a first practice in the morning before work and a second round at lunch or in the evening. Not long after moving in, B was gone and I decided it was a perfect time to practice. I gathered my books and meandered into the Practice Room and started doing lip buzzing to gently warm up my vocal chords. You know what I’m talking about – that sound like you’re driving a dinky car.

From there, I started doing ascending and descending fourths. Just a nice, calm way to get the vocal chords and the mind ready to work.

Then, I turned to the octave and the fourth, so that if you start singing from middle C, you end up at the F an octave above that.

The Practice Room was getting progressively noisier and louder. T was staring at me like I was either a terrifying bearded man or a precious queen from heaven. He cocked his head and then let out…a Howl.

Now, I mentioned above that T is from Labrador and allegedly he has a bit of wolf in him. In case there was ever a question of whether that was true, I think I can definitely answer that yes. This is true. T is actually a wolf hiding in a beautiful, German shepherd looking dog body.

T’s Howl was not like normal dogs howls. This Howl was equal parts enormous and despondent. This Howl was like a trumpeting series of thunder crashes announcing the End of Days.

I stopped for a minute thinking oh maybe he just wanted one go at it. He stopped. I picked back up. He Howled depressing, reverberating Howls. I went over and comforted him,”oh don’t worry T, here let me pet you, please shut up, I’ll give you a belly rub and a treat”.

I was not really in a position to not be practicing at this point. The recital was rapidly approaching and if I was going to get both sessions in that day, it had to happen here. And now.

I know! I think to myself. I’ll put T Outdoors.

I mean…which sweet dog doesn’t love regular outdoors, let alone T’s Outdoors? T’s Outdoors has a little pond at the end, a vast area to play and jump, and lots of room to do whatever T does when we aren’t trying and failing to teach him fetch. Outdoors is best.

I got T Outdoors. I closed the door, and with a self satisfied smile headed back to the Practice Room.

I picked up where I left off and things were going pretty good. The voice was moving,  it was open and spinning and…

Howl.

T was Outdoors far from the Practice Room and somehow all he can do is Howl. From the neighbour’s point of view, you have this poor beautiful dog outside Howling bloody murder in the backyard for 30 whole minutes. And don’t be mistaken – the Howling isn’t cute. The Howling sounds like T was tortured, maimed, or forced to spend time with a bearded man and is crying for help.

I carried on because WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place where I could either stop and let T and the Howling win, or I could push on through. I did. I pushed on through.

From the sounds of things, while I sang the extremely dramatic and loud coloratura and high Cs from Meyerbeer’s “Nobles Seignuers, Salut” while T was in the back yard outdoing my efforts by Howling the Queen of the Night’s high Fs.

I worked on Carmen’s “Habanera” and while I came down through the smooth chromatic lines I heard the sound of the Howls, like T was being chased by a White Walker.

I moved into the simplicity of some Poulenc art song and T is like “HONESTLY EFF THIS BORING NONSENSE” and Howled like the diva he is disappointed that I am not.

So outside B’s parents’ house was the sounds of a dog Howling like a maniac who is trying to escape a hostage situation and inside B’s parents’ house was the sounds of a crazy woman singing opera like WHAT I CAN’T HEAR YOU and inside my body I was tense and thinking – on repeat – my hobby is so relaxing and so fulfilling and I have made all the right decisions in life,  my hobby is so relaxing and so fulfilling and I have made all the right decisions in life,  my hobby is so relaxing and so fulfilling and I have made all the right decisions in life, my hobby is…

Part 3: The Need Arises for Me to Barbeque is coming soon.

My Sideways Bed: Part 1: My Bed is Literally Sideways

cute-house-clipart-cute_orange_two_story_houseSo my Boyfriend (“B”) and I decided to move in together about a year ago. We found a perfect house with lots of character and in a really great location. What happiness! I will call this house First House.

Then we decided that we wanted to save money and we somehow convinced his parents to let their grownass child and his grownass girlfriend move into their house. This is our story.

Part 1

We emptied our house by first selling a bunch of stuff on Kijiji because who doesn’t want someone else’s crap? Our experience has been that all people want all the crap so things have been going pretty good with respect to B’s semi-entrepreneurial, buy-and-sell spirit.  After we had sold a number of things we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Downsizing! Shaking off the cobwebs of First House! Onward and upward into the land of Hardly Any Financial Obligations!

Apparently it did not really matter that B had made such efforts with his Kijiji side job because by the time we actually moved from First House to B’s parents’ house, we were surrounded by Stuff. I don’t know what exactly the Stuff is, but there is a lot of stuff in our Stuff.

Our Stuff was all put into the Basement. The Basement is a normal basement, with a normal amount of room available when people think that their grown-ass children are going to carry on in their grown-assery. They didn’t know we were going to come knocking on their door begging for cheap rent, weeping about the weight of my student loans and the nervous breakdown I was going to have unless I found a way to save some money.

So our Stuff is in the Basement. In the left-hand side of the Basement are two twin beds. B and I thought the best thing to do would be to push the beds together to make one Big Bed. The beds were pushed together and lo and behold they’re not quite the same height. This is ok. The Big Bed was formed and all was well in the Basement where we had the Big Bed and our Stuff.

Part of our Stuff that I forgot about is all my Clothes, and I just want to say right here on the record: screw you, Emily. Screw you and your materialistic ways. All those shirts you thought were so pretty during law school are actually just stupid. I sat on the Big Bed on Day 1 and I was surrounded by our Stuff and my Clothes, which predominantly comprises roughly 316 shirts.

We had decided the best thing to do was wash all our laundry before moving to B’s parents’ house. But we apparently also decided not to fold it in advance because it would be better to have all the clothes separate and wrinkly so that when we got to B’s parents’ house we could fold it all because that is the best housewarming gift of all. Folding 316 shirts.

Before we started with the folding we thought, let’s put the mattress on the slightly uneven Big Bed. We have a really great mattress and what makes it even better is the memory foam! A piece of heavenly green super foam that was prepared by God and sent to earth. I just knew that with the powers of the mattress and the memory foam combined, the slightly uneven Big Bed would be just fine. Better than fine. Perfect.

Together we struggled, B and me – bendy from yoga but apparently overall just completely weak – awkwardly to get the mattress onto Big Bed. We accidentally put the mattress on sideways and we were laughed, like oh how silly! It needs to go the other way!

Off the mattress came, with B and bendy, but pathetic, me, clumsily maneuvering the thing. We turned it to put the mattress on the right way and…the bottom end was hanging out over the end of Big Bed’s footboard. The mattress did not fit. No amount of manipulation worked, no amount of pushing and pressing and praying worked. The mattress did not fit.

We turned the mattress and placed it in between the headboard and the footboard of the Big Bed so that  our bodies would lie parallel to the headboard and the footboard and our heads would be on the slightly higher part and our feet would be on the slightly lower part and to the left is an empty space of box spring we call “No Mans’ Land” where one can put a cup of water or some folded laundry if one needs to do so.

So I sat on the Big Bed, feet resting in No Mans’ Land surrounded by my 316 shirts all of which needed folding, Interstellar playing in the background because it’s my favourite movie and it calms me. I looked around the Basement, glancing at our Stuff which was just everywhere and thought to myself, as I folded yet another of my stupid shirts, “I think I’m a crazy person having a lucid moment”.

Stay tuned. Part 2: A New Duet Partner will be here soon.

 

Ghomeshi who? Marie Henein is the realest star here

I think Marie Henein is absolutely inspirational.

In the first year of law school, we learned about legal ethics. We learned about representing clients to the best of our abilities, about keeping our clients’ secrets, and about refusing no client who comes to you because that person may be unattractive or because you don’t like their case. Of course, many lawyers don’t commit to that last one and people will pass up potential clients for various reasons, pointing the person in the direction of another lawyer who might do the same thing.

The real twist for me was in the discussions of not wanting to represent a client because they are contrary to what your personal ethics might be: alleged murderers, fraudsters, sexual assaulters, rapists.

That was the hard one for me. How can a good person represent the rapist? And, more particularly, how can a woman represent a rapist? 

I’ve had some time to grow since then which brings me to saying that I think Marie Henein is an absolute inspiration.

I read the live blog of the Jian Ghomeshi trial with the same fervour that I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. At first, I recall having that knee-jerk reaction I had in first year of law school – “I can’t believe she’s asking questions about how they actually felt about Ghomeshi”, rhyming off statistics about how so few women go forward and how this practice will only hurt that statistic. I was fixated on the previously judicially-affirmed fact that a victim’s relationship with her abuser is not to be considered relevant in whether the crime was committed. I was angry that Henein had the audacity to not stand beside her fellow women, with all of the rape culture issues still alive and well, and to the complete contrary, put them on trial.

But frankly, Henein did her job. She did her job within the complete confines of her legal ethics  – and of her oath -of representing a client, no matter how unattractive, to the very best of her abilities. The quandary has arisen whether the Crown didn’t do his job quite so well. I’m not a Crown and I neglected to take criminal procedure during law school, so I won’t opine on that note. Regardless, no matter what you might say about the process as it exists, Henein was far from a villain. She’s a champion.

Henein is unabashed in her commitment to her career. She is dedicated to women in an otherwise male-dominated profession, predominantly hiring women at her firm where her name is the first in the partnership of Henein Hutchinson.

When she won the Laura Legge Award which “recognizes women lawyers from Ontario who have exemplified leadership within the profession”, Henein didn’t stand up and say “thank you”, she barraged on about the sad state of this profession for women. She questioned why we still hear the domestic attributes of astounding women when they are in front of us for their professional exceptionalities. Instead of being small, shiny, stoically appreciative she said this:

I wonder whether we keep sending the very same message that was sent in 1924-this is no place for women. Maybe all that we have really done is figured out a little nicer way of saying it. I fear that we have paved the golden path for their exit-with compassion and yes accommodation but not enough effort to inspire, to lead, to encourage, to remind our young women- that yes you have an important contribution to make and we, this profession, needs you. And even more, we will give you the opportunity to shine.

The Toronto Star wrote that once, when asked how to do it all with children at home, Henein replied, to the effect, that the children will be okay. Just do the work. I admit I rejoiced in this because my experience has been that matters of childrearing and balancing work with home have had the main stage of conversations about challenges for women.

Henein is no different from the next criminal lawyer except that in her refusal to be smaller or sweeter or less aggressive, she has become exceptional. Reading about Henein has fuelled a feminist fire in me these last three weeks. I have approached everything channeling this force that she is, reminding myself that contrary to the submissions we might have heard, the greatness that my female colleagues and I might achieve won’t be achieved because of feminine curves and won’t be lessened because of our too-soft edges. We don’t need to wear the uniform – the makeup, the hair, the heels – to be successful. We don’t need to be the perfect parent, because with love the children probably will be alright. We don’t need to apologize for being brash when we should be blushing.

No matter what I think about the law of sexual assault in this country, I praise Henein for her refusal to depart from her ethics, from her skill, from her knowledge and ability. In her closing argument, Henein noted that her argument was not that the complainants – a word I hate – had relationships with Ghomeshi which vitiated or mitigated any harm that they could have suffered. She clarified this is not her position. Her position, like any good defence position, was that the inconsistencies paint a different story than the one they first told.

We may not like the verdict of this trial, but the verdict on Marie Henein is, for me: exceptional. She is an exceptional woman in a world where we are forced into boxes and forced to be littler, shinier, quieter. Henein has inspired me like I have never been inspired in this industry. That’s the final verdict for me.

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You can read Henein’s entire speech when she received the Laura Legge here.

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Kevin O’Leary not really bad guy; terrible human persona just a ploy [Satire]

January 19, 2016

Found shuddering in an alley way in Toronto, potential Conservative Party of Canada leader nominee, Kevin O’Leary cried that “it’s gone on too far.”

“This persona of keeping assholes in check through my character of a completely emotionally vapid dingus is too much. Every day I hear replays of the things I’ve said and I can’t take it anymore”, O’Leary cried while he handed a homeless man a Tim Horton’s gift card loaded with $250 CAD (approximately $14 USD).

“When they hired me originally to basically be the “bad cop”, I thought ‘well hey, this ain’t so bad, think of all the good it will do when I’m so obviously and feverishly despised‘” he said while looking at the sky with a day-dream like expression. “But somehow, people didn’t just universally hate me. Some people liked me and agreed with me. And it became a money-maker, my bullshit financial advice and commentary. They wouldn’t let me stop, they wouldn’t let me stop…”

O’Leary’s expression gave way to pain and sadness.

“Did you hear what I said about the 1%’s wealth equaling the collective wealth of the poorest 3.5 BILLION? Did you even hear it?” he whimpered while cameras looked on. “I said it was”, pausing a  moment to vomit a little in his mouth, “inspiring”.

O’Leary edged towards a man wearing hardly enough clothing for such a cold winter day and removed his own  faux-down filled parka, covering the poor man with it. A single tear rolled down his big, round, red cheek as he could be heard muttering, “I can afford another, I can afford another”.

“I never asked for any of this,” O’Leary said to wide-eyed, dumb-struck, flabbergasted reporters. “I just wanted to be a regular guy with a regular functioning range of emotions, and now here I am – Canada’s Donald Trump.”

“Some people have to be employees,” he cried suddenly, before collapsing into a puddle of embarrassment and regret on the street.

At time of print, ambulances were seen hurrying to the scene.

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Poor, broken heart Kev (source: National Post)

And then I learned some very important lessons: 2015

For the last few years I have endeavoured to write posts about things that I learned in the previous year at this time of year. So, what to write?

This year has been a lot of learning. I quit my first job this year which was an event that was built up with a lot of hype and a lot of hope.

I have always been a person who approached things with what is probably too much thought and attention, fixated on all the good bits and even more fixated on the bad bits. The bad bits have had the ability to effectively control my mind, spinning me into deep, dark places where I didn’t know how to emerge again or how to fix things…until a seemingly miraculous reawakening happens from which I return to my “normal self” where I am the cheerful, chatty girl.

This year I took notice of that. This year, the big question I consistently asked myself was about other people. In particular, I asked myself how people remain, seemingly, hopeful and happy despite the absolute, utter bullshit happening around them?

I read a book about the Dalai Lama earlier this year. It was chosen because the Dalai Lama’s story reads like hocus pocus and believe me when I say I die for a bit of magical story telling. So, I chose to read this book about the Dalai Lama when I wanted to read a book about meditation and its roots.

Maybe that’s when the question first actually struck me, because how in the hell does the Dalai Lama hold himself out as a “professional laugher” while the country with which he has been tasked with protecting has been in a state of conflict so severe that he has been living in exile since 1959? He has said

I have been confronted with difficult circumstances throughout the course of my life, and my country is going through a critical period. But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious.

The utter honestly and simplicity of that statement was enough to stop me. Whether you are able to believe in reincarnation and the divinity of the Dalai Lama or not, he ultimately is simply a human, with human feelings and a human disposition. With my human feelings and human disposition, I have been capable of near paralysis when I wondered whether or not my sister’s boyfriend truly liked me or whether the people at my former job would hate me or talk smack about me over board room drinks. And so, I set out to learn how, in all of my innate cheerfulness, I can be so devastated by the simplest and most unimportant notions, while there are humans on the Earth who coin themselves “professional laughers” amid violent, suppressive, anti-religion oppression. In the first 20 years of the conflict, 1.2 million Tibetans died. The Dalai Lama was 24 years old at the time of his exile. He is now 80 years old, and he remains in exile. And yet, he is a professional laugher.

So, how then, am I so capable of sadness? This was the question I tried to learn the answer to in 2015.

I practiced yoga: poses and meditation. In the poses, I was often distracted. In meditation, I was full-on hateful, comparing my inability to clear my mind of all but the present in-breath and out-breath to my inability in all other areas of my life. I relived breakups, educational failures, lost friendships, family members with whom I was no longer close, and my assumed failings as a professional. I would leave meditation feeling so angry and small that I eventually stopped going.

A teacher later recommended I try out a few different books on meditation. I did. I tried them. And I went back to meditation to actively practice what I read. And today, I am a work in progress.

I have learned that as this girl, this human that I am, I will inevitably have the luxury of feeling. And I can either dwell in my feelings, or I can experience them for all that they are – in their bright, acceptable brilliance, or in their negative, hopeless sadness. When I dwell in either, I don’t actually get to experience the beauty of right now. And there is lot there – in right now – which is worth experiencing.

I have learned that nothing is stable, but rather that inherent in life is an instability that is part of life, and if I lean in to all of that instability without requiring happiness or joy or any particular emotion, I will experience the moments, those infuriating or maybe really beautiful moments, of instability, and then I will be living, awakening to right now.

I have learned that in all of life’s instability, if we place too much expectation in how much better things could be, we will get clouded and be unable to see that right where we are is the perfect moment. It’s life and it’s simple. It might be funny or painful. But whatever it is, it won’t last forever. And so, I have learned that a lack of expectation, that a hopelessness is grounding, because it is right here that is perfect. It is the perfect moment right here.

I have learned that all of my thoughts are just thoughts – the good and the bad, the joyful and the depressing. They are all equal, part of my humanness and part of what makes this moment the moment, the perfect moment. So, when I try to fall asleep at night, or try to meditate when I’m unfocussed, as my thoughts arise I notice them all equally – because they are all equal, none bad, none particularly good, all just a part of my human experience.

So, when I sit at my desk at the office, frustrated (as people become while sitting at their desks at the office), I try and pull of all of this in, because it is not just that I have learned a few techniques for meditation. Rather, I have learned about life – through a certain lens.

When I read the news over morning coffee and eggs, and I come across a devastating story about a Canadian pastor who has been sentenced to life with hard labour in North Korea, or scroll Facebook to see the heartbreaking status updates about intolerance of refugees, I try to recall that in our humanness, we will all make mistakes. Then, I try to recall that the grief and sadness caused by those mistakes is not outweighed by the amazing story of human capacity and ability in the 26-year old man who lived for six months alone on a remote lake in the North West Territories or the story about a couple who gave up their dream wedding to pay for a Syrian refugee family to resettle in Canada.

You see, what I learned this year was that in our humanness we will all do bad or good, and we will all feel amazing or like bottom feeders, but that through those things there is an ability to remain on this middle, balancing point where we accept the inherent instability of life, of the other people around us, and of our ever-changing human emotions and, just the same, we can recognize that the same is true for all of those people who are around us.

If someone who has had to bury the very people he was tasked with protecting can be a professional laugher, maybe so can I. The beauty is in the breakdown, or when things fall apart, or in the very destruction and recapitulation of yourself. That’s what I learned this year.

Staying silent no longer: all of these lives matter

Recall the proverbial wisdom that certain things should never be discussed at the dinner – politics, religion, money. At some point, although we may conduct ourselves conscientiously at the dinner table, when social media entered our lives we went absolutely socially insane.

Following the horrific shootings and bombings in Paris on Friday night, those opposed to Justin Trudeau’s pledge to bring in 25,000 on an accelerated basis have had the flames of their firy opinions stoked. Opinions that one would never say in polite company are typed with a fury of typos and mis – or no – information. Opinions that are based on fear, but not certainly not based on law, swirl in the abyss of what at least reads as the self-satisfaction that not all people are deserving of the same things. Some people are just refugees and if we have to wait for passports, why shouldn’t they?

I admit that I cannot explain to you why I care. I make a negative inference when I see status updates and tweets that are premised in selfishness and negativity. I assume the remarks aren’t made with a full arsenal of research and courses but rather a flash-in-the-pan emotional reaction to something. So I don’t know why I care – except that I suppose it hurts me to think that on this issue of broad human rights – where the stakes are truly life or death – people would rather stay in a cocoon of warmth and ignorance. I worry about these opinions being passed on to little children who will only learn of cruelness and selfishness when it is taught to them. I worry about the opinions passing along to representatives in the House of Commons and having the process delayed – because every delay means actual lives are ended. Lives and lights put out in a war torn world.

To take a moment to be personal, I open up to you that I am doing my best to learn about and to practice ahimsa, or the practice of non-violence. Teachers and authors have informed my view of this. Non-violence includes the obvious things like not harming, killing, stealing or lying to people, and it additionally includes not being aggressive with ourselves and instead being loving and compassionate with ourselves and all people.

So, as the Facebook posts trickled through my news feed, I tried to act in a non-aggressive way. I was compelled to author furious responses citing international law obligations and the actual definition of a refugee. I refrained. I was dying to tell the intolerant, fear-mongering big shots that they had no idea what they were talking about. I refrained, thinking this is the best way for me to practice non-violence.

However, a line from favourite song of mine by rapper and host of Q, Shad K, kept replaying in my mind – over and over:

We only feel better when we feel like we’re better than
Clever men and our violence
Silence is when we shoot from the lip too quiet
Then we talk non-violence and stay silent when it suits
Really, it’s all violence at the root

Should I really say nothing? Am I doing more violence by staying silent, not trying to be mean, not trying to rock the boat?

I conclude it must be more harmful for me to talk non-violence but stay silent when it suits.

Here are some facts about refugees.

Refugees are not really “immigrants” in the way we typically understand that word. We can perceive of immigrants as people who apply to come and live in a place like Canada and satisfy a series of requirements in order to be permitted to live and work here. Refugees occupy an entirely different category of eligibility. A person is a “refugee” or an “asylum seeker” when they meet the definition set out by the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. A refugee is someone who

“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

Allowing refugees to land in Canada is factually entirely different than getting a passport. When you get a passport your objective is to travel in various countries. When you claim asylum, your goal is to escape the persecution that would otherwise mean you will very likely be killed.

In Canada, up until this change in government, legislation was often drafted that had the effect of violating Canada’s international obligations of non-refoulement: to not return an asylum seeker to the land from which they flee.

The Government of Canada has a process through which refugees are screened. You can read about it here and here.

Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives certain rights to everyone, including the right to religion, liberty and security of the person. That is the Canada that we talk about. Whether you like it or not, at law, Canada has established itself as a country that believes there everyone deserves certain basic rights. This is the Canada where we will host and protect asylum seekers.

I have read about people who are scared for their children who will have to grow up in a world where we accept refugees who might be terrorists, or where we help refugees but we do not ensure the homeless are off the streets. Ossie Michelin recently wrote that:

“This is not an either or scenario, it’s not a competition and there is no pot of money that can either go to the homeless or to refugees. We have the means and the ability to help these refugees, just as we have the means and abilities to help the homeless and the needy in our own home. There is no reason why we can’t help both.”

He’s right. There is room for all. Literally. The population density in Canada is 4 people per square kilometer. There are literally kilometers and kilometers and kilometers in which these people can live. And I’m willing to bet out of the 25,000 we will find people who have amazing skills – skills like medicine, engineering, teaching, carpentry, music. And gratitude. I’m willing to place my money on the fact that the asylum seekers given refuge in Canada will be ebbing with gratitude. With a desire to contribute.

Law is made up. It is effectively all a fiction. But regardless of that, it is a fiction which we have ascribed certain values to. Law and policy does not become real by virtue of fears or assumptions. In law, “nothing becomes a fact until [the trier of fact] finds it to be so.”

So, with that in mind, the irrational fears about refugees being terrorists: not based on fact. The absurd argument that we shouldn’t provide refuge for asylum seekers while we still have homeless people: not based on fact. The overarching panic and disdain of that which is different: not based on fact. And mostly, the worry that your children are growing up in a terrible world, where our left-wing government is just handing terrorists the keys to the kingdom: not based on fact.

What is a fact is that there are asylum seekers out there and they are dying every single damn day.

Hellish fact, that one. A fact that we are in a position to change. A fact that our government has said we will contribute to changing. Now that’s a good fact.

I’m not sure what happened to the etiquette that we grew up with, where we don’t talk about politics, or money, or religion at the table. I’m not sure how it came to pass that while we don’t do that, we care to scream our close-minded and cruel feelings by way of status update to 800 of our closest friends. I’m not sure. But as long as we’re doing it, here is my two-cents. I’m not staying silent when it suits.

Adorable Children Celebrating Halloween Disappoint Thousands of Adults Everywhere (Satire)

In a time where obesity and greed are being heavily combatted from a younger and younger age, Halloween was a dismal failure again this year.

On average, over-eager halloween participants received 10 trick-or-treaters this year, by all accounts an absolutely pitiful turnout.

One local resident, riddled with so much disappointment from the previous year that she was “forced to do whatever it takes to get trick-or-treaters”, put up signage around the neighbourhood that was designed to be enticing to children or parents who had basic reading skills.

Clear. Simple. Inefficient.

Clear. Simple. Inefficient.

Miley, age 24, received an absolutely appalling four trick-or-treaters this year.

“It’s as if they don’t know why they’re in costume. It’s like they don’t even know the historical origins of this holiday. Do they know it’s Halloween?” she cried, while breaking into a Halloween-themed version of Band Aid’s popular 1984 classic.

Local lawyer, Tom “The Bomb” Dooley, admitted that he now prefers to leave home during trick-or-treating hours because “honestly I just can’t stand the let-down anymore. Every year I buy all the best treats – king sized bars, tins of Pepsi, I’ve even thrown my business cards in kids’ bags where there are signs of impending divorce on the child’s face – and the numbers have gotten smaller each year. So now I just leave and when I come back I imagine there were all kinds of kids at the door – and they’re the ones who are disappointed. I recommend it. It’s sort of cathartic, in a way…”

Young, up-and-coming professional Michael Ryan consulted his also young, up-and-coming neighbourhood’s Facebook page in preparation for Saturday night. Upon reading he could expect anywhere from 200-300 trick or treaters, Ryan spent no less than $60.00 Canadian ($45.85 USD) to buy miniature chocolate bars for the hordes and hordes of children he was expecting.

“I got 30. 30. I got through 1/5th of the candy I bought because kids these days only take one at a time or some of them even say “no thank-you, we’re not allowed to eat processed sugar” and just leave”, Ryan said.

“I’m going to try and return these to Walmart”, he said gesturing to the hundreds of chocolate bars in bowls in his porch. “If they don’t take them I’m suing the neighbourhood association. And if that doesn’t work because there are no quantifiable damages then I’m going to start a class action against all of the children of Halloween for ruining my Halloween again this year”.

When asked whether he had a lawyer, Ryan said “I heard The Bomb has quit family law for a career in the fast lane as a class actions lawyer, so I think there shouldn’t be any problem with representation.”

When aked whether Ryan had a viable cause of action against the children of Halloween, The Bomb answered in the negative.

“However, suing the parents of the children of Halloween is where the real money’s at. Emotional distress is all the rage at the courts these days, and consistent disappointing behaviour that leads to chronic disappointment, maybe even adult obesity when all those disappointed adults eat their pain, sadness and disappointment away with hundreds of infant-sized chocolate bars… Listen, we’re talking about a real winner of a case here.”

At time of press, the parents of the children of Halloween could be found feeling pleased with themselves at book club where they were already planning their assault on Christmas.

Our vote is our being able to try and make a difference – what a beautiful thing

Tomorrow is the election. I wanted to write something because, well, frankly, writing is just what I love to do and thrive on doing. But what?

I know the election coverage has been overwhelming. I went from reading every article to reading only the headlines and considering myself informed.

I was at my first term at St. Mary’s University when I got to cast a ballot in a federal election for the first time. I remember that after the vote had been tallied in my Halifax electoral district, and I had made my decision for someone who wasn’t the the winner, someone said something to the effect of “oh that’s too bad that your vote didn’t count”.

That odd statement has become normal and recurring in this election as people discuss strategic voting and the desire to have electoral reform, to move away from a first-past-the-post system to proportional representation, or some other perceived-as-fairer voting system. My Facebook and Twitter is strewn with discussions of whether strategic voting actually makes sense, and that strategic voting is offensive in its missing-of-the-point of our Charter-enshrined right to vote.

The most amazing thing about this is this absolutely high-level discussion of voting theory. We’ve gone from absolute voter apathy to a fury of intellectual conversations.

I was feeling very impassioned about the election. The long list of ways in which the Conservative Party has wasted money in drafting ideological and flawed legislation has infuriated me endlessly. When I attempt to balance this waste of money with the assertion that their Party platform is first and foremost to “Protect Our Economy” I always wind up at an impasse. The two just don’t seem to mix.

I was feeling very impassioned by the negative campaigning, disgusted with the ripping apart of one another. I was feeling impassioned by the various candidates who were quickly relived of their duties in the wake of stories of urinating in coffee cups and spreading homophobic nonsense. I was impassioned by the manipulation of the photo of a drowned Syrian refugee, whose tragic, senseless death brought a wave of misinformation.

But now, on the eve of the election, I am, as my father consistently advises me, trying to keep things on the level. As I watch the high-end conversations about voting theory and neoliberalism unfold in the most unlikely of places, I am moved in a calmer way. The litany of Facebook profile pictures strewn with the message that “I Will Vote Oct 19th”; the 3.6 million people who voted in the early polls: these things matter.

There are a lot of things I wanted in this election. I wanted a focus placed on human rights and the environment. I find it challenging to be incensed by a personal tax break when I know there are aboriginal families who will never know what happened to their daughter. I can’t ignore the environment so that we as a country may make a quick buck at the expense of saddling my little niece and nephew’s children with a boatload of problems that we could have avoided. It’s just not me.

And so, those were the things I really had my mind wrapped around.

But today, as I reflect on voter turnout and discussions of voting theory, I am mostly grateful that as a human family we have come together to be incensed and motivated to vote, to participate, to have a say. Somewhere, I think a really brilliantly minded man is pleased with this.

And so, in the last few hours of this government as it currently stands, I cling on to Jack Layton’s theory that “Politics matters. Ideas matter. Democracy matters, because all of us need to be able to make a difference”. 

His was the view I think best encapsulates what I believe. More importantly, I believe we have all shown this to be true in our feverish dedication to voting and discussing why voting matters. What matters most is not who will form the government, nor who will draft what new legislation on my dime or yours, nor who will give us a tax break. What matters most is that we care; that we participate in making a difference. My vote wasn’t wasted when I was 18 years old. My vote was me being able to make a difference.

jack8

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“Land You Love” should make us all proud – no matter your political stripe

In an excerpt from the book Stephen Harper by John Ibbitson, the author writes “[W]hen Harper is really angry at you, he’s very calm. He looks you straight in the eye and tells you how you’ve failed him, and if you are a faithful follower, you simply want to die. The state beyond that is even worse. He simply cuts you out. He doesn’t speak to you, doesn’t reply to your messages, freezes you out of meetings. At this point, you should be pursuing a new career opportunity.”

Although this remark may seem biased in a certain direction, when read in its entirety, the article is outrightly neutral; a seemingly balanced analysis of the man that is our Prime Minister. The article begins with “He is a lion in autumn, weaker than in his prime, but still a force of nature. He faces his fifth, and perhaps final, test as national leader. But in a way, the result won’t matter. Whether Stephen Harper wins or loses the general election of October 19 is moot. He has already reshaped Canada. And Canada will not easily be changed back.”

This is inevitably true, and while not a glowing appraisal of the man, it certainly hits the point on the head.

In the last few days (at the time of writing, Vimeo stated it was 5 days ago) Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde released a song entitled “Land You Love”. The song is a plea to citizens to “Please visit VOTETOGETHER.CA and vote to avoid another tragic Harper government”, with lyrics containting a plethora of the sadder truths from the last decade of Conservative rule: the missing and murdered aboriginal women who are “forsaken, forgotten and lost” and the Harper Government’s insistence on omnibus bills where issues are “hid in their bills, pushed through and hushed up”.

The song features 12 Canadian musicians, with layered guitars, piano, and shakers, singing together and creating a big, folksy sound like you might expect to hear at a house party. The voices are inviting with all the many lines to sing and harmonies you can take. The video is fun to watch, with a split screen and gimmicks involving guitars and sparkles.

However accessible and appealing the song may be, though, I suggest to you that the real beauty in the song is not in the music, the video, or even in the lyrics alone.

The deepest nuance of the piece is not in the use of darkness and light to represent despair that can become hope. It’s not in the cross-screen sharing of guitars between guitarists Adam Hogan and Brandon Scott showing the interconnectedness of the east and the west. It’s not even in the catchy motive or the words that make up the chorus, which, between the two, make you to just need to sing along.

No, the deepest beauty in the song is the bridge between the artists’ craft and their deep appreciation and respect for their rights. Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde sing this song despite a history of Stephen Harper wreaking havoc on the lives of those who speak out against him. They engage in their right to freedom of expression irrespective of any consequences that should fall if the Conservatives are reelected.

And with a history of Harper’s blame and disregard for the arts, it certainly appears to be a risk they did indeed run. Consider people like Federal scientist, Tony Turner, who was “put on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation for creating a politically charged protest song about ousting Conservative Leader Stephen Harper”. Consider the cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Company – cuts which were accompanied by Harper’s assertion that the company’s ratings were floundering. The CEO of the CBC-Radio Canada, Hubert Lacroix, has publicly stated this is untrue and that “I’m going to tell you it’s not because of our ratings that we have a problem at CBC-Radio Canada”.

So amongst this backdrop, where artists have every right to think they might be the next on the chopping block for Harper, to hear “Land You Love” is moving. In the very execution of their plea, they show us what it means to have a right of freedom of expression. They show us what it means to speak up for what they believe in. 

They show us how important so many of their rights are: the freedom of conscience; the freedom of thought, belief and opinion; and the freedom to vote. No matter your political stripe, I don’t know how you can say that Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blond are, in this moment, anything other than absurdly, wonderfully, pride-inducingly Canadian.

Source: exclaim.ca

Source: exclaim.ca