Sunday, July 28, 2013

How Do You Know You're Canadian?

We were biding time at our annual Canada Day gathering while two of the husbands, one gay, one straight, cooked up a 15-course South-Asian/East-Asian feast.  Some of us were teachers, so we felt compelled to prepare a group activity to keep everyone from running amuck.  We decided to write Canada Day questions on slips of paper and put the questions in a bag.  At various points in the meal, guests would pick a question out of the bag and answer it or offer it to the group for discussion.

1.           What reminds you that you are Canadian?
2.           When you are out of the country, what do you miss most about Canada?
3.           What do you wish –– for Canada?
4.           What movie, literary work, or art piece is most Canadian for you?
5.            If you went to grade school in Canada, what were you taught about being Canadian?
6.           What single word would you use to describe Canada
7.           What is your earliest awareness that you are Canadian?
8.           What is the most Canadian moment of your life?
9.           Canadians are not known for their nationalism. How grateful are you for that?
10.        Decide who gets the next Order of Canada.

So between the dim sum and the dal, we asked questions.  The group included Canadians by choice, 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians, and de facto Canadians – landed, long-time, non-citizen residents.  The answers were unique and personal, but for question #2, we all missed Coffee Crisp chocolate bars when out of the country.  One member of the group carried ketchup chips with her when visiting the US.  Another happily reported that he no longer had to bring his own Clamato to the US to make bloody Caesars.  Americans finally seemed to get it about Clamato.

11.        If you could be any hyphenated Canadian, what would you be?
12.        If I were to say, “That smells Canadian,” what would it smell like?
13.        You are driving outside your home province.  You turn the radio dial, searching for the CBC.  You immediately know when you’ve found it.  What clues you in?
14.        Is there a story your parents or grandparents tell you that feels very Canadian?
15.        Where would you put “Canadian” on your list of self-description words?  (In other words, how important is “Canadian” to your sense of identity?)
16.       What do you feel you have in common with other Canadians?
17.        Is there a specific Canadian landscape that moved you, shocked you, or shaped your life?
18.        How are you connected to the land?
19.       Dead or alive, real or fictional, who is the most fiercely Canadian person you know?
         (Note: This person need not actually be Canadian.)
20.       How are you quietly (or noisily) nationalistic?

Many of us had crossed the country.  To question #17, the landscape question, we talked in awe of driving through the vast empty prairies, looking for whales off the Cape Breton shores, and camping in Clayoquot Sound during the 1993 “Battle in the Forest.”  I spoke of my wide-eyed speechlessness upon finding an alpine lake atop Mount Garibaldi – after climbing 3000 feet up a nine-kilometre trail.  (Using a mix of metric and imperial measures in my description felt very Canadian.)

In discussing our quiet nationalism, we felt grateful to be in Canada.  We believed that Canadians shared a concern for others around the world and for the planet, although most of us expressed anger at a government who pulled out of Kyoto, denied the impact of the tar sands on climate change, and perhaps didn’t even recognize that climate change existed.
We shook the bag and answered more questions with sentimentality, irreverence, and an occasional raised eyebrow.

21.        Canada is considered bilingual, bicultural, and bisexual. Which are you?
22.        You are going to get a Canadian tattoo. What is on the tattoo and where on your body would you put it?
23.        Canadians are defined as people who have sex in canoes. How would you define Canadians?
24.        Trudeau said, “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” What are the top three things that DO have a place in the Canadian bedroom?
25.        If you could sprinkle Canada dust anywhere in the world, where would you sprinkle it? What would happen?
26.        We sing “O Canada,” proclaiming that “We stand on guard for thee.”  How do you stand on guard for Canada?
27.        You’ve been asked to augment the Canadian Studies curriculum. What book, film, art work, or field trip would you insist on including?
28.        You’ve just won the Miss Canada contest. Give us your thank-you speech which might include how you will represent Canada.
29.        Preston Manning started the Reform Party to focus on Western values. If you could start a new party in Canada, what would you call it and what would it stand for?
30.        Sing a song that feels Canadian. We’ll sing along.
We sang, Mon pays, ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver,” but we could only remember the first line.  We sang “The Black Fly Song,” “Farewell to Nova Scotia,” and “Four Strong Winds” as the sun fell into a Canadian lake and night spread over the pink and orange sky.                                                     

Monday, July 15, 2013

Should I Lend My Boyfriend Money? Part 2

Besides robots, who reads blogs?

Robots troll my blog.  They spam my blog for the same reasons they spam email:  to spread malware, mine email addresses, or get me to visit commercial websites.  At least 10% of my loyal readers are robots.  Most of the other strangers who accidentally find my blog are people who worry about lending money.  My blog statistics show that at least 10 people a day from all over the world, find their way to my blog by typing phrases like these into Google:
  • lend money to boyfriend
  • should I lend my boyfriend money
  • boyfriend borrows money from me
  • boyfriend keeps asking for money
  • do you lend your partner money
  • have you lent money to your friends with benefits
  • is it okay to lend my boyfriend money
  • boyfriend borrowing money
  • feel uncomfortable giving boyfriend money
  • boyfriends that ask for money
I posted the blog "Should I Lend My Boyfriend Money" almost two years ago, but it was fluff.  When I saw how many people were seeking answers to that question, I made some specific suggestions about what to say; however, I find the whole issue unsettling.

Money-lending has always been a delicate issue, but it's particularly delicate when your romantic partner (male or female) wants your money.  Why?  What's up?  Why are they asking Google?  Why are you 100% willing to have sex with your boyfriend (or girlfriend), but feel uncomfortable about lending the love object money?

Obviously (to me) when people ask Google the money question, it's not so much about money as it is about confidence, courage, and commitment.

Let me get back to sex for a moment.
  • The only math involved in sex is 1 + 1
  • You are hungry for sex.
  • It is potentially more collaborative.  
  • There is mutual give and take.  
  • You feel cherished and appreciated.
On the other hand,
  • Lending money will involve lots of math, mostly subtraction.
  • You are not usually hungry for lending money.
  • It is collaborative when you both spend money on shared goals, not when your partner borrows it for his own goals.
  • Lending money is only give on your part and take on the other person's.
  • You might feel briefly appreciated.  You also might feel a little dirty.
So let's reframe "Should I lend my boyfriend money?" in terms of the real questions being asked:

Do I have CONFIDENCE in this relationship?
Do I have confidence in my own worth?
Do I have confidence in my own instincts and judgement?  Will my loan genuinely get this person through a temporary bad patch, or am I setting up a long relationship of dependency?

Do I have the COURAGE to risk being dumped or resented over the money question?
Do I have the courage to have dreams and save my money so I can pursue my dreams?
Do I have the courage to stand up for myself?
Do I have the courage to ask for a shared vision of our lives together?

And finally, are the two of us equally COMMITTED to this relationship or
     am I mostly committed to doing anything necessary to avoid facing my core loneliness?

If you know in your heart that lending him money will only prop up your illusion of a relationship for one more week, until he asks again, find a way to say no.  Some suggestions are here.

Harsh, maybe, and there are many exceptions to the picture presented above - but if you are one of the hundreds of people who found your way to this blog by Googling "Should I Lend My Boyfriend Money?" -- then this one's for you.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What Should I Believe? (Part 3)

Subtitle:  Should I Believe What I Read on the Internet?

Of course not.  This shouldn't even be a question.  We even make up our own memories

Yet if we find a compelling fiction that many people want to be true, it will be repeated over and over again.

I once read online that 80% of Americans think goals are a good idea, but fewer than 4% of that group have goals and write them down.  I will soon be doing a workshop called Goalsetting: The Dark Side, so I went in search of that statistic.

I didn't find it, but I did find this:

"According to a study conducted by Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, 
  • 80 percent of Americans say they don’t have goals.
  • Another 16 percent do have goals, but they don’t write them down.
  • Less than 4 percent write down their goals, and 
  • Less than 1 percent review them regularly.  This small percentage of Americans earn nine times more, over the course of their lifetimes, than those who don’t set goals."

I found reference to this study over and over again.  However, I couldn't find the actual study anywhere.  I did find Dave Kohl and wrote him last last night:

Dear Dr. Kohl,

As I’m sure you know, a David Kohl from Virginia Tech is all over the internet regarding some research into goalsetting.  The articles all say that David Kohl conducted a goalsetting study with remarkable findings.  I did find several speeches by you to agricultural groups in which you mention the importance of setting goals, but I can’t find the study anywhere.  Does such a study exist?

To the credit of his office, they wrote me back this morning:

Thanks for your e-mail. The goal-setting research is based primarily on anecdotal evidence gathered over the years. Some of the points have been attributed to a Yale study that has been widely quoted by many, but which we found recently cannot be confirmed by Yale.

Dr. Kohl's office gave me this link to Yale.  Here is the information there:

Question & Answer
Question:Where can I find the Yale study from 1953 about goal-setting?
Answer:It has been determined that no "goals study" of the Class of 1953 actually occurred. In recent years, we have received a number of requests for information on a reported study based on a survey administered to the Class of 1953 in their senior year and a follow-up study conducted ten years later. This study has been described as how one's goals at graduation related to success and annual incomes achieved during the period. The secretary of the Class of 1953, who had served in that capacity for many years, did not know of the study, nor did any of the fellow class members he questioned. In addition, a number of Yale administrators were consulted and the records of various offices were examined in an effort to document the reported study. There was no relevant record, nor did anyone recall the purported study of the Class of 1953, or any other class.

So we are left with "anecdotal evidence gathered over the years."  People who think goals are a good idea love the statistics.  I do. 

Dr. Kohl -- whose own office denied the reliability of the statistics -- loves those statistics and continues to repeat the results of the "study."  A blogger attended Dr. Kohl's lecture  at a New Century Farmer conference on July 10, 2012 (Note: exactly one year ago today) and wrote this:
"Then, he [David Kohl] talked about the importance of setting goals. He said that 80 percent of all people have no goals, 16 percent have mental goals (those that are not written down), and the remaining 4 percent have goals that are written down. The 16 percent who have mental goals will encounter profits three times higher than those without goals. The elite 4 percent with goals written down will make nine times more than those without goals. He encouraged us all to set our own goals in order to become successful."
Goal-setting leads to $$.  Maybe it does -- and wouldn't it be nice to think so.  It makes it easier to blame the victims of systemic inequality.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

That Giant Hole in the Backyard - Is It Yours?

Late in my first marriage, my husband began to dig a hole in the backyard.  When friends came over to chat or party, he soon had them digging too.

The swing set kept moving further and further back.  By the time I blasted my way out of the sand trap of my marriage, the hole must have been at least 12-feet wide, 16-feet long, and 9-feet deep.  I should have surrounded it with rope and danger signs.  

I left.  Then he left.  The hole stayed.  Eventually I was able to move back into my house and start anew.

One night - a knock on the door:

     "That hole in the yard - is it yours?"

---  Was I breaking the law?  Will I be arrested?  I'll admit nothing.

     "I live around the corner," the friendly man said.  "My yard backs onto your yard.  I noticed the hole out there and I was wondering if you needed it for anything."

---  A graveyard?  A bomb shelter?

     "No, not especially."
     "I ripped up my old driveway to build a new one.  I need to get rid of a lot of gravel, asphalt, and soil.  Could I dump it in your hole?  I could take the fence down and just push everything into the hole with my tractor."

Once again, the universe stepped up to the plate.


I said, “Stop smashing glass!!”
He said, “I’m angry.  What do you want me to do?”
“When you’re angry,”  I said, “go dig a hole.”

So he began to dig          and dig          and dig.

He told the neighbours he was digging a fishpond –
then          a well              a pool          a crater
digging until he forgot why he was digging
digging and digging till the hole filled the yard

“Don’t fall in,”
I told our daughter as she made her way to the back
where the swings still stood
amid the mounds of stone and soil
excavation of madness
archeology of pain


He came home all excited from work one day
with a 20-foot I-beam
Three friends pulled it off his truck
Carried it to the back, laid it next to the hole –
“This’ll come in handy,” he said.  “It’ll hold up a ceiling.
I can build a garage.  You don’t find these every day,
that’s for sure.”


I never understood the I-beam or why we needed one,
but there it was in the yard:
The giant, yearning I-beam
and the vast, empty hole
side by side -- 
my marriage.

Years went by and the hole became a garden.  I sold the I-beam for $100.