NOT SAFE – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED…**

You will note there is no accompanying photo for this blog post. Discretion is the better part of, ummm, whatever.

A few days ago, something came over the Twitterverse that really caught my eye.

It was an article about how, yes, it’s wonderful that at least some men are getting the message about consent –

(okay, I know: there are men out there already commenting “But what about THE WIMMINS who don’t understand “No”????”.  Don’t. Just, don’t, because unless you are verifiably working on social justice issues like campaigning publicly for more resources for male victims of domestic violence, it’s pretty obvious you are just jumping in to derail here. This is not about any of that, anyway. Move on, dude.)

– but the crux of the article was that despite this, women are still having a lot of — how to put this delicately? — sub-par sex.  Essentially, they wind up consenting to bad sex.

Not violent sex. Not sex they don’t want to have.

They just wind up unfulfilled and feeling like the hype and the reality are still continents apart. They agree, and then get left out of the agreement.

The article pointed out that male orgasms are still the end-all and be-all for 50% of the participants in hetero sex acts.

That women’s pleasure is still thought of/treated as a “bonus”, a perk, an afterthought.

It stuck with me. It seemed sad, and slightly unbelievable, but there it was. College-age women are still not getting what they want out of this. They aren’t getting what they assumed would be inherent in that happy, enthusiastic “Hell, Yes”.

But I’m not college-age, and I’m not up on current dating practices, so I convened a small, private panel in Facebook Chat, composed of people that might actually know about this.

It was an interesting discussion, but, like Arlo Guthrie before me, that isn’t what I came here to talk about today*.

The thing is, near the end of the discussion, one of the male participants said, “Well, it’s not supposed to be a competition, is it? It’s not the Orgasm Olympics.”

And that was the exact moment when my brain took a gigantic leap sideways, because…

What if it was?

What if sexual pleasure was an Olympic event?

And for the next 24 hours, I wrestled with the concept.

I mean, there’s a lot to figure out.

Would this be team events, or individual competition?

Would the IOC want to separate the timed events from the endurance tests?

Would the scoring be like the scoring for gymnastics or figure skating, with a section for style/interpretation/artistic merit?

Would this finally allow women and men to compete in the same event at the same time?

(Or, as my brain asked: would they finally allow things like “mixed doubles”?)

Would we finally have a reason to outlaw both recreational drugs AND massage oils in sport?

 

Frankly, given that men keep on telling us that they are naturally competitive, it seems to me that the Orgasm Olympics are way overdue. It might be the only way to get the vast majority to take their partners’ pleasure seriously, and make it the reason for that consent to begin with.

And seriously: do we not “O” it to ourselves to make this happen?

 

* See “Alice’s Restaurant” if you find this statement incomprehensible:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m57gzA2JCcM

** UPDATE: Here’s another article that goes into a lot of detail about the socio-political side to the article that sparked the original post…

http://theweek.com/articles/749978/female-price-male-pleasure

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Medical “Miracles”

I want to talk to you all about universal health care.

This came across my feed:
http://time.com/2888403/u-s-health-care-ranked-worst-in-the-developed-world/

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Well, honestly, it’s Americans I want to talk to about it. Most of the rest of both the developed and developing world get it, even if they haven’t put the systems in place yet (but most of them are closer than you are, at least).

I know you’ve been sold a bill of goods about “socialized medicine”: the “death panels”, some faceless bureaucrat choosing your doctor, or some other faceless bureaucrat choosing where the doctor is allowed to practice, long wait times, surgical delays for months on end….I’ve heard all the scare stories you tell each other.

So I’m going to discuss – in detail – what has recently been happening to me.

After coming home to live in Canada after a longish while, I moved around quite a lot, and didn’t get around to finding a family doctor. But now I’m kind of settled a bit, and it began to dawn on me that this was something that at my age, I probably needed to attend to.

Almost as if by magic, I met a very nice MD who was just in the process of moving to Camrose and setting up practice. I really liked her: she was smart and funny, and her husband was relocating his brewery business here, which was why she was starting her medical career in a teeny Canadian city that is, as the polite description goes, “an hour and a half’s drive from anywhere you actually want to be.”

POINT ONE: She chose where to practice. Not only was she entirely free to decide what geographical location to practice in, but she had done sort of informal internships at both of the main clinics in town, to get a feel  for them before choosing which one to work at.

Note also that she was also free to set up a wholly independent office. The clinics just pool resources and specialties and equipment and so on, making them much more economical and efficient, both for the staff and the patients.

But I digress.

So we exchanged information and she told me to keep a look-out for the announcement in the local rag about which clinic she went with, and to sign on. It’s always good to do this right away, because good doctors get full patient loads really fast.

A month later, I saw the announcement, phoned the clinic and set up the “Meet and Greet”.

POINT TWO: you’ll notice that it was MY decision to choose her as my doctor. So far, not a single government or corporate person had had any knowledge of or interest in the process.

The “Meet and Greet” is important here, too: it’s a chance not only to get your medical history up to date, and get those baseline readings like height, weight, blood pressure, and so on, but it is also a chance for the doctor to give you an idea of what their approach to health is, and for you to see if you will feel comfortable having them as your physician.

No commitment – and even if you do commit, it’s not necessarily permanent. One friend of mine’s gone through three doctors since I’ve lived here, because he has a lot of challenges and needed a doctor who didn’t automatically decide all aches and pains are arthritis.

After we’d laughed about my weird and peripatetic life, and she’d told me about her graduation present (a trip to Australia, which she loved), we went over the important bits of business, she ordered a bunch of tests, and then I went off to the reception desk to schedule the next (real) appointment.

In amongst all this, a minor bit of elective surgery had been agreed on, and a consult with the clinic’s surgeon scheduled (because “No time like the present”).

 

The labs for the tests are not very far from my place, so I set up an appointment for those, and went along the next week for – I don’t know? Six things that they needed to do. Blood samples and that sort of thing. The government now knows about this, because I had to produce my Alberta Health card and some picture ID, so that my medical history is kept up to date and they don’t repeat unnecessary tests for no reason.

 

So today I went for the consult. It was scheduled for 10:20 am, but he was late (10:30), and he apologized.

“Some patients need longer explanations,” he said.

Imagine that? A doctor willing to take a little time to inform and reassure a patient. I wasn’t about to complain.

My stuff took no time at all. Although it is in a sense a cosmetic thing, he agreed that it had implications for my mental/emotional well-being if left untreated. There was paperwork to get through so they could schedule the day-surgery (probably happening next month), and then I was done.

 

What has any of this cost me?

Not one red cent.

 

Well, technically, I guess, it cost me the $5 or so that I have paid into via my taxes each year since I joined the workforce. That works out to about $600 or thereabouts in total.

And you might say that the surgical consult cost me $10 for the sushi lunch I decided to have because it was noon by the time I finished the paperwork and ran a couple of errands, so I decided to do that.

I think it was worth it.

And I think you’re worth it, too.

UPDATE: The surgery went just fine. It didn’t cost me one red cent, because it was a nice day and I walked home instead of taking a cab. I had to go back to the clinic so the doc could remove the stitches, and there will be a follow-up with the surgeon next month, to make sure everything is okay.

But no bills will come in the mail. Ever.

If not us…?

This first appeared as a FaceBook post. Bear with me. It’s important.

My “settler/colonizer” roots go deep in this country. Some of my family has been here since the late 17th century, part of those first boatloads of land-tied serfs brought to “New France”.

I need to say that up front: I am a product of colonization. It’s not something I need to be ashamed of (how could I be? I had no say in the matter) but neither is it something I can point to with “pride”. It is just a fact.

Some of my forebears were directly involved in the subjugation and genocide of the First Nations and Metis people they encountered.

Like my sentiments above, this is not up for discussion: it simply is another fact. It is not something I need to feel “guilty” about, but here there is a burden: I am responsible for this, in the sense that I have a duty to make reparations, and to go forward doing better than those who came before me.

That’s not onerous. That’s not some kind of cross to bear. It, too, is simply a fact, and “duty” should not be a dirty word. If I am a decent human, I take this on, voluntarily and without resentment, because it is not born of guilt.

But here’s the real internal nut that all of us with similar pasts must confront and crack open:

The “revelations” about what had been done/was continuing throughout my lifetime/is happening now – the residential schools, the indifference/blatant racism of law enforcement, the pretense of “listening” to First Nations voices while blithely ignoring the content of their words and actions to pursue some hazily defined “economic good” — these things should not be news to anyone.

Because we did know.

We did.

Our parents knew.

In the neighbourhood that I grew up in, we were strongly discouraged from playing the cowboys part of “Cowboys and Indians” (we did play the “Indians” part. None of us wanted to be cowboys) — because our parents knew.

And we, even as children, understood it instinctively. We could see even through the myths from Hollywood, how a way of life was being destroyed, and how the myth was being constructed. We might not have had the words to describe this…but we knew it for what it was.

I cannot be held guilty of atrocities that occurred under governments that adults elected while I was still below the age of consent.

But all of us must face these facts: we, as a group, chose our own self-interest over basic humanity towards others, we perpetuated (continue to perpetuate) these acts and attitudes, and it is our duty to end this.

If not us, then who?

If not now, then when?
Morgan Smith acknowledges that she lives on land belonging to
Métis/Tsuu T’ina Plains Cree
Treaty 6, 1876

 

Epicly Not Epic

Or “Why my books are the way they are”

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Recently, someone took me to task, telling me that my fantasy novels aren’t “really” epic fantasy.

This is because they are written as stand-alone stories, each dealing with a small piece of this world I created, and told from a very limited, first person singular point of view. The stories don’t involve a “Chosen One” (or perhaps they do…ymmv) and each one seems to resolve a less-than-world-threatening conundrum.

But wait! There’s more here than meets the eye.

The fact is, what I am doing is breaking the “epic” canon in a tiny, tiny way.

In most epic fantasy, the world is set out as an incontrovertible and static unity. Things are the way they are, and in a sense, there’s only one voice. There is, ultimately, only one way of perceiving the facts of the case. The religion, the values, the politics are uniform, and everyone on the “good side” adheres to those views – and the opposite side (the “bad guys”) stand against that view and that’s all there is.

There’s only one interpretation of the events. There’s only one way of seeing those events. While some characters might speak as if they don’t follow those views, the writer forces the reader into seeing that central vision as the only one that is “true”.

But that’s not how people really are, are they? Each one of us sees and feels and interprets the events based on everything in our lives that has gone before. How we were raised, every individual experience, what our lives consisted of before the proverbial trash hits the hurricane: those are the things that create each unique interpretation of what is happening, and how the world works.

And so my aim is to show that the prior living of life, not to mention the time and circumstances in which one grows up, colours one’s interpretation of events. My other aim is to show how events connect and pile up on each other, and can conspire to become a more earth-shattering, world-changing watershed moment that everything and everyone else is a part of.

So Caoimhe (in “Casting in Stone”) sees both the past and her own present very differently than Keridwen does. Even her interpretation of Dungarrow’s history is different from Keridwen’s: Caoimhe’s cynicism and her internal pain make her suspicious of what other people see as “goodness”, and her emotional armour against the world is the only thing she really relies on.

Keridwen, (the protagonist in “A Spell in the Country”) having grown up in security and love, sees the world as innately fair and just, and she has to come to terms with the fact that it may not be. She has more confidence in both herself and the world.

Both of them and their recollection of events they were part of are different views of a larger picture – a picture they can only see and interpret a portion of, and only in the way their character interacts and reflects their personal worldview.

Believe me: these “small stories” are part of a much greater whole, and it is *epic*: there are larger forces at work in this universe. This world is not static – what seems “good” in Caoimhe’s era might not hold true a generation or three later.

Plus stories do not end just because the time and place and viewpoints alter. Nothing is ever “finished”. All life is, at best, an ongoing endeavor, and the battle for equilibrium is always more of a “keeping the evil at bay for a little while” than a “we conquer ALL” proposition.

Real life is a work in progress. Thus it follows that all stories are, too.

And I really hope that readers will come along for the undeniably wild ride ahead.

 

Watch for “The Shades of Winter”   

A band of aging sea raiders set out on one last voyage of revenge, and get a whole lot more than they expected.   

– releasing March 30, 2018  on book vendor sites everywhere!

Resolutions

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We’ve all made them

We’ve all broken them.

We’ve all announced to everyone that We. Are. Not. Doing. That. Again.

And all of that is okay. We (well, most of us) never lose that ten pounds. We go five days without cigarettes, and then cave in and start up again. We forget to do that evening meditation, we let the dirty dishes pile up, we buy a gym membership and then just stop going by Valentine’s Day. We eat the donuts.

Whatever it is, the will to turn over a new leaf on January 1st is defeated by January 21st.

It’s probably because we pick the wrong problems to work on. We want the absolutes, the narrowly defined, the clearly impossible directives. It almost guarantees failure, because one slip-up dooms you.

So maybe we should word these promises differently.

Maybe they should come with caveats. Escape hatches that allow us to regroup and try again.

Maybe we should focus on more achievable goals.

 

Like: I will try to eat healthier, at least twice a week.

Like: I will try to move around more.

Like: I will do more window shopping and less actual buying.

Things that we can remember to do intermittently, in the hope that by not beating ourselves up, we can create better habits. Habits that will help us get to better places.

For me?

I’m going to try to be kinder. I’m going to try to be less judgmental, less critical of my own shortcomings as well as other people’s faults.

I’m going to try to do more for other people. To once a week maybe be unselfish and more giving.

 

And if I forget one week, I’m going to try to just forgive myself and start again next week.

 

We all need to begin with ourselves, or we won’t ever make this world better.  Hating our own bodies, our own minds – that’s no place to start changing the world.

I can do this. You can do this.  It’s not some hard-and-fast stricture: it’s a resolution to just try to be better, and if we fail one day to be less than perfect, remembering that tomorrow will be a new opportunity to be our best selves.

We can. We must. I’m really going to work at this, this year, and to hell with all the vanity-driven, shame-filled, external-gratification promises, because even when they work, we aren’t really much better off than we were before.

But, yeah – I’m going to lose that last ten pounds. This year, for sure.

The Turning of the Year

It’s written into us.

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Twenty thousand years of human history is laid down deep into our bones. We all feel it: that inchoate yearning for the darkness to end, for the return of light.

It doesn’t matter what name, or even if any name is attached. You can call it Navidad. You can call it Jul. You can call it Saturnalia. You can call it Tinsel-Time, for all the difference it would make.

What matters is that for millennia, humans in so many places around the world have, on these long nights, stopped, looked up at the sky, and hoped for a better tomorrow.

So last night I went along to Haven (an art therapy place here in Camrose) to join with a few others and meditate on the year that is passing, to recover, and to open my mind to the possibilities that the next circle around our star might bring.

Those of you who know me might be surprised.

I’m not much for the “woo”. I’m not much for labels or distinctions, or the idea that I can, as one small dust mote in a universe overflowing with dust motes, have the right (much less the ability) to overpower random chance.

But long ago, my dad warned me that Socrates was right. The unexamined life is not worth living. He taught me that at least once a year, it was a good idea to take stock, to look over what one had or had not accomplished, to note the ways in which one had done well, and the ways that one had fallen short, and to own all those things, so that one could move forward.

This is, for me, the real meaning of this season: a pause in the race we are all running. A moment to regroup, gather up your strength and your courage, and then go out and kick some ass.

Happy Solstice/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah/Winter’s Turning et cetera.

Be well, and happy, and strong.

Be kind. Be generous. Be the change we need.

Be human.

This world needs more of that.