Rock of aging

What a drag it is getting old
("Mother's Little Helper" by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards)

Mick and Keef probably know a bit more about that now than they did when they wrote the song. I'm not as old as they are, but I'm not that far behind. I know a bit more about getting old than I once did. And yep, it sucks. But as my former therapist says, it's better than the alternative.

Given my age, I really have very little to complain about. I'm generally healthy. I don't have any debilitating conditions. I am not suffering. My life is quite good.

Still, all is not copasetic. I have a problem: tendonitis. Tennis elbow, to be exact, although I don't play tennis. I realize that sounds minor. But remember one thing: I am a guitarist.

Playing guitar and tendonitis in the elbow do not mix. Neither do tendonitis and hauling your own gear.

I had it first in my right elbow. I blamed excessive mousing for that, because I have had repetitive strain injuries in that arm in the past. I ignored it, and it has pretty much gone away (although not entirely). But curiously, the left elbow really kicked in a few weeks ago, pretty much out of nowhere. Can't blame mouse use for that. My massage therapist says it's from playing guitar. And here I was joking with someone that, given how little I practise and play, I couldn't possibly injure myself!

Maybe I need to play more, not less. Like doing exercise. But once you get an injury, often you have to stop doing what you need or want to be doing or else it won't heal. I do tend to ignore minor complaints like this and hope they will just go away over time, as seems to have happened with my right elbow. But the left feels pretty bad—the elbow as well as muscles above and below. Just doing something like pulling a plug that sticks out of an electrical socket hurts, and I can feel the lack of strength in my hand and arm while doing it.

Lisa's Hotcakes rehearsed last night. I didn't have any problem playing a set's worth of material. But it's a little scary. It's not like I make my living from playing guitar, as in making money to live off. But "living" is more than money. For me, living and playing guitar kind of go together. I've been playing since I was 15 years old. Not being able to play would be devastating for me.

And we have a gig coming up on September 8, and only a little over a month later a recording session booked. Somehow this has to get better without my doing what I probably ought to do to help it.

Sweetie, inveterate interweb searcher, found some good stretches. The massage therapist gave me her advice, mostly involving ice packs. I will do what I have to do.

So anyway, that's why I can't help you move. Sorry!


Winter is coming

How does a woman enamoured of light and airy summer frocks deal with the onset of autumn and winter, also known as the rainy season? By shopping, of course! My cool and cold weather wardrobe is seriously depleted. Really! It comes from loving summer dresses more than the kinds of things you need to keep warm. So fall/winter shopping is a necessity. I have a high school class reunion to go to in October!

This past weekend, Sweetie and I were in Seattle. On Sunday, a friend wanted to meet for brunch and then go shopping. I said I was always interested in local designers, and quite passionate about sustainable fabrics. I told her that when I found both, that was the jackpot. Well, she found the jackpot.

The shop is called Horseshoe. The local designer is called Prairie Underground. Horseshoe carries that label along with several others. I looked through dresses and tops, and I kept seeing "Viscose" and "Tencel" and other sustainable fabrics. Woo hoo! It was such a pleasure to see cute designs made from fabrics I wouldn't feel bad about wearing. I tried on a gathered grey dress, but even with the gather it was too straight for my curve-less body. I tried on a silk wrap dress just because I could. If I had felt like dropping a couple hundred and change, it was really a very nice dress. I bought a dark green long-sleeved top ("Bellatrix" from Three Dots), my first actual fall purchase. It was too flattering and went too well with my peach skirt (and probably others) to resist.

Horseshoe also carries Butter London nail lacquer, which I have not seen in Canada. Butter sells products that are "3 free"—no formaldehyde, no toluene, and no DBP (dibutyl phthalate), all of which are toxic. I bought a purplish shade called Queen Vic for winter use.

The shop is on a street where a Sunday farmers market is held. A huge market. I thought the Trout Lake Farmers Market was pretty big, but this one seemed bigger. Lots of beautiful organic food! And off to the side was a craft market with some particularly nice jewellery and accessories.

I told you that shoes are the weakest link in my quest to support sustainble garment manufacturing. I'm afraid I made a stop at DSW. I needed some new ankle boots, and I found some nice ones from BCBG for about half off.

I've probably also mentioned that boots are one of the things that get me through the bleak midwinter. Boots, tights, cute dresses, and nice top-skirt combinations, maybe even tunic and leggings, although I don't do that as often these days. I needn't despair that summer is gone! There are actually a lot more options in winter.

And watch out! Thanks to Bed Bath & Beyond, I have become dangerous. I now have a door- or wall-mount shoe rack that holds 36 pair of shoes! More than I own! At this point, anyway. You know what they say about nature abhoring a vacuum, and I think empty shoe spaces might count as that.


Everybody talks about it

Those were the days, my friend
After several weeks of uncharacteristic heat wave, the weather here has turned cooler. Daily high temperatures are actually around the 30-year average ("normal") for this time of year, but there's more cloud and less sun as well, and now even a threat of rain. Autumn looms. Northern summers don't last long, even here in Lotusland.

I have a friend who lives with chronic illness. Hot weather makes life very difficult for her. She had a terrible time during the heat wave. I have another friend who lives with chronic pain. The heat wave was paradise for her. The cooler temperatures that make friend #1 so happy cause friend #2 serious distress. Before too long, for the sake of her health, friend #2 and her husband will be moving far away from friends and family to a tropical climate.

I grew up in New England, with New England winters. They were just a part of life. I don't remember any particular distress during winter. Indeed like most kids, I loved when it snowed. We lived near a slope high and long enough to have good sledding runs. I learned to ice skate when I was five years old. Later, I learned to ski (sort of).

There were a lot of reasons for me to leave Boston. Winter certainly was one of them. The older I got, the less I liked snow, and the less I could stand cold weather. The Blizzard of '78 was fun because it was so extreme, but in general I lost my taste for real winter.

I traded winter snow for winter rain. I moved here during a particularly nice August, so I was lulled into complacency. But winter was not far away. It took me a few years to get used to the rain and damp and grey and gloom and even shorter winter daylight hours than in Boston, but I did. I was just happy that it usually didn't snow and usually didn't get too cold. If I wanted snow, I could always go hiking in the North Shore mountains.

Still, even Vancouver winters are no picnic for me. I don't have chronic illness or chronic pain, but in many ways I do much less well in winter, or the rainy season as I call it, than in summer (dry season). I have a mild case of psoriasis, and my skin is always much healthier in warm weather than in cool. I don't often get really sick, but I breathe less well during winter. I don't think I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but when a long winter turns into a cool, gloomy spring and summer threatens never to arrive, I go a little bonkers. Last summer, when July didn't start until August, was awful for me. I was ecstatic this summer to have some real, sustained warmth, which we hadn't had for several years. I felt so much better. Lying on a beach in the hot sun, which I did a few times this summer, gives me a strong sense of well-being.

Clearly, when it comes to weather, I line up much more with friend #2 than friend #1. So why don't I move to a warmer climate?

Good question. Sweetie and I have been tempted, believe me. Our physical and psychological well-being improve greatly every time we go to Hawaii. I remember taking off for Maui with both of us feeling stuffy and ill, and then after a day or two in Hawaii realizing that those feelings had gone away as soon as we has landed. Hawaii has a climate that seems to work for both of us.

If only we could get our beloved Prime Minister to annex our favourite islands! The fact that they are in the United States gives us serious pause. Only to live there, though, not to vacation there.

As well, even though I have been in Vancouver only for 18 years, and Sweetie for 15, we have real ties here. Our families are far away, but we have lots of "family" here—people we care about, people who care about us. This place is home.

There is also the matter of our being urban rats. We have no desire to leave it all and live in the country. We'd be bored to tears. We enjoy being away from the city for periods of time, but we're not country people. Cities have so much to offer, at least to us. And I'm probably right where I want to be with regard to career. It was the film industry that brought me here, but it might be the fashion business—especially of the local and sustainable variety—that keeps me here.

Still, nothing is set in stone. A few more nasty winters, a few more lingering wet springs, and any more missing summers might make us rethink our future. There are indications that climate change in these parts might not manifest itself as warming. We might become even more of a temperate rain forest than we are already. Which makes Hawaii look awfully good, and it's almost not in the US, right? Y'all could come visit anytime!


Liberal gadfly

I spend two weeks writing and re-writing a long post about feminism and political correctitude. I go to Feministe, late, to contribute it to Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday. And lo and behold, someone has contributed a link to a SelectSmart quiz about what kind of feminist you are. So, being a sucker for quizzes, I follow the link and take the quiz. According to the quiz, I am 100 percent liberal feminist, 78 percent socialist feminist, 50 percent radical feminist, and zero percent anti-feminist.

It's only a SelectSmart quiz, of course, but those are done pretty well. For each statement, you choose to agree, disagree, or express no preference. And for each answer, there is a slider to let you rate how important the statement and your answer are.

I am unsurprised that I am totally a liberal feminist. After all, I just wrote that post defending free enterprise (though not the current incarnation of capitalism), and I know I'm not in sync with some of the tenets of feminism as expressed by some of the sites I read. I am happy to be in the company of Betty Friedan and Jessica Valenti, and perhaps somewhat less happy that the list of liberal feminists includes Naomi Wolfe, given her recent writings.

I am also not surprised that socialist feminist rated as high for me as it did. I'm not a socialist, but I'm definitely a social democrat. I am Canadian, after all! Even the current Conservative government, which I did not vote for, has so far left the fundamentals of Canadian social democracy alone (although I still don't trust them). I fully support our social safety net (which needs mending) and universal health care. Even though I favour free enterprise, I do not favour "unbridled capitalism." In Canada, some services are provided by Crown Corporations, publicly owned. Despite some complaints about the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, I think it is far superior to private insurers. And Canada Post continues to do a great job, despite a decline in mail volume, and it has not put itself into default as the United States Postal Service has.

There are probably a few reasons why I come up even 50 percent radical feminist. I do question whether certain sexual practices should be considered feminist rather than neutral. I'm unsure how I feel about pornography. And I see that misogyny is a systemic problem.

I'm glad that SelectSmart finds nothing anti-feminist about me, and I did my best to be honest with my answers. So I guess even though I'm not always onside with the prevailing views of some of the sites I read, I am still a good feminist.

Perhaps there needs to be another category of feminist: the feminist gadfly. I'm not sure if I quite qualify for this label. I don't think I know enough to ask the right uncomfortable questions. I might stumble upon them from time to time,  but often I will just stumble. But I think of someone like Camille Paglia. She toes no one's line, yet I think her feminist cred is intact. The late Helen Gurley Brown might also qualify.

I still think that liberal, socialist, radical, and even gadfly feminists share core beliefs that allow us to stay united against anti-feminist and misogynistic forces. We might not agree on everything. We might attack the problem in different ways. But I think we agree on what the problem is, that it must be fought, and that we will all do what we can to make things better.


Mere feminism

Feminism has been around for long enough to have developed quite a few branches and sects and different ways of seeing the movement. Thankfully, I have not yet seen a "nae true feminist" fallacy. I hope it's not actually out there and I just missed it. Which brings to mind one of my favourite jokes, about a visitor to a small Scottish island who tells his guide how impressed he is that there are three churches on the island, to which the guide replies, "Ay, there used to be two, but they merged."

I was a Christian once. I was and still am interested in the history of the Christian churches, and of religion in general. Nothing like studying religion to keep one at arm's length from it. Christianity has been around for much longer than the feminist movement, roughly 2,000 years. There are more flavours of Christianity than you can count. All claim to be valid ways of practising the faith, and many if not most disagree with the others. The writer C. S. Lewis proposed something called "mere Christianity," a kind of stripped-down essence of the faith, in a book of the same name. He wanted to get away from the in-fighting over things he thought did not matter.

Might there be such a thing as mere feminism? Can a person be somewhat politically correct and still be a feminist?

As I have written before, I cannot even imagine myself not supporting the full equality of women with men. Working to create a world in which the only "archy" is not patriarchy or kierarchy but rather "human-archy" is the only thing that makes sense to me. All of this encompasses things like equal pay for equal work but goes beyond. It's good to strike at the branches, but it's the roots that need attention. Oppression of women anywhere in the world is not just a fundamental injustice; it has been demonstrated over and over again that it holds us all back, men as well as women. Men cling to their power to the detriment of all.

And yet (you knew there would be an "and yet") after all these years, feminism has accumulated cultural baggage, at least some of which I can't accept. And I don't feel that my acceptance is a requirement for me to be a feminist. I consider certain aspects of feminism, or at least of some people's conception of feminism, to be outside "mere feminism."

Das Kapital

For instance, I have read so much that links patriarchy with capitalism, and there are many who want to destroy both, and indeed who consider it impossible to get rid of patriarchy without getting rid of capitalism. And yet I am neither a socialist nor an anarchist. I am not a supporter of the kind of system that passes for capitalism these days, but I firmly support free enterprise. The drive to create, to sell, to buy, to bargain, to exchange, and for all to profit from the activity created is fundamentally human. Sharing is also fundamental, but so is pride in individual accomplishment.

Socialism is an inhuman (or perhaps non-human) system, which is why it has never worked. Englightened systems incorporate aspects of socialism into social democracy, to be sure, but always in balance. There must be economic security, but not without economic freedom. If there is no danger of failure, there is no possibility of success, and worse, no striving toward success.

Enterprise is good for women. It might not look that way from a western university, but it does on the ground. Women in developing countries have no desire to be equally poor. They want to create, to grow, to sell, and to accumulate wealth for themselves and for their families.

It is certainly the role of feminist economists to point out the gender (and intersectional) biases in the current system. But it is important to promote reforms that help women, not hinder them. We know the bathwater is dirty, but if we throw out the baby too, then the dirty bathwater is gone, but so is the baby.

Sex, please

There is also the disagreement among feminists about being "sex positive." Some women's groups focus on getting women out of the sex trade. Others consider that at least some women engage in sex work by choice and that there is no degradation in making good money out of the trade. Some groups consider all pornography to be degrading to women. Others celebrate pornography and even create what they consider to be feminist porn. Some consider being the "s" in "D/s" to be compatable with being feminist. Others look askance at such a relationship.

I dislike the implication that "sex positive" is "pro-everything-sexual-no-questions-allowed." I consider myself to be quite sex positive and yet I personally am pretty much kink-less. I'm totally into letting consenting adults do whatever gets them off. But I do wonder sometimes if certain relationships are as healthy as the participants claim they are. I'm unsure about sex work and porn. Again, far be it from me to interfere with someone's free choice, but I also think there are at least some women who would be better off away from such environments. I also think that not everyone who thinks she's making a free choice really is. And some free choices are still poor choices.

I'm also rather annoyed that the hard-fought distinction between sex and gender that was a hallmark of feminism seems to be getting muddled again. I do think that biology plays a role in the fact that the majority of men are to some degree stereotypically masculine and the majority of women are to some extent stereotypically feminine. But that does not mean that feminine equals female or masculine equals male. It's one thing to realize that your body isn't the right one. It's quite another to dislike the gender role that people tend to expect, and the two should not be confused. People should be free to express gender however they wish without reifying gender expression into something that it is not.

The party line

I tend to question everything. For me, nothing is dogma, nothing is taken on faith. Everything must be tested, and if it's true, it will be all the stronger for having been tested. But often I avoid asking questions, at least in certain forums, because I'm afraid I will be breaking an unwritten rule or two. I know how to have passionate but civilized discussions without any ad hominems. I also agree that writing can be offensive without the writer intending to be offensive. But I also find that if we walk on eggshells to avoid possibly offending anyone, nothing will be said. I understand that people need to be safe and feel safe. But the world is not a safe place, and we can't make it safer by retreating into a fuzzy blanket. We should deal with issues head on. Sometimes, we will break some eggshells.

I don't know if there's room in feminism for politically incorrect feminists. I hope so, not for my sake but for the sake of the movement. We have come so far within the last few decades, but at this point we are facing a serious backlash. The Republican war on women's health care is only one symptom of a much larger problem, a problem that include far too many women both saying they are not feminists and eschewing the values of feminism.

I hold true to those values, which I think we need now more than ever. I think it's vital that we resist and overcome the backlash. I see feminists concerning themselves with the problems women face worldwide, and think that's absolutely necessary. Equal pay for equal work among educated white women in western countries is only one small aspect of what we fight for. Given what women still face after all this time, I really think that we can't afford not to leave aside some of our differences and fight together.

I might have offended someone with this post. Sometimes when I do so, I realize there are things I have to learn better. Sometimes, I say what I mean and mean what I say with no apologies. I hope I have the wisdom to know the difference.


There's a fine, fine line

As a Wiccan-of-a-sort, I follow the changing seasons and the cycles of the moon. Lunar cycles especially give me little two-week chunks of time to keep track of, as the moon first waxes to full than wanes to new. Having a dose of attention deficit, I find thinking of two weeks at a time to be helpful. If I'm ever asked in a job interview where I see myself in five years, I'll have to make something up.

I don't really think my own life waxes and wanes with the moon. Or do I? As scientifically minded as I am, sometimes I wonder about that. Last Tuesday night, I had a wonderful celebration of Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh, the early harvest celebration. The following night, I celebrated the full moon and the goddess and gave thanks for the previous two weeks.

Since then, as the moon entered its waning period, I seem to have stumbled a few times. I pressed "send" when I should not have (although that turned out OK because the recipient is a wonderful person). I'm not very happy with yesterday's blog post. Not one of my best efforts—a bit muddled and perhaps off the mark, one of those "working through things" posts. I had a kind of partial Pride weekend, a somewhat lonely Pride weekend. I wish I had done a few things differently (regrets are deadly). On the other hand, I'm quite happy with a song I wrote on Saturday. When my insides are collapsing, maybe I should stick to writing songs, not blog posts.

But here I am anyway. I know it's not the waning moon. But it's kind of amazing how brain chemicals can shift so quickly, how quickly I can cross the fine line. How does that happen? Why does it happen? Is it my fault? Is it something I can't help? Is it both? I have so much good in my life, so much going for me, that I feel guilty for feeling bad, as though I shouldn't be allowed to feel this way. I know it's not severe. I know I'll come through it soon. But I don't like it while it's with me.

I have things to do today. I'm going to have to force myself to get off this chair and start doing them and and not to go back to bed, which is where I really want to be. The sun is shining brightly again today, but my brain seems to be a waning moon.


The B word

It's Pride Weekend in Vancouver. We don't do it during the usual Stonewall remembrance week because very often the weather is crappy at that time of year (as it was this year—Seattle barely had a window for a rain-free parade). But August long weekend is usually glorious, and this is one of those weekends. Sunny and hot!

There are a couple of official events and several parties of various kinds. One of the official events is the Vancouver Dyke March and Festival, which took place yesterday. There's a march from McSpadden Park on Victoria Drive up Commercial Drive to Grandview Park, where booths are set up and several bands and other acts provide the entertainment. This year, for the first time, there was a beer garden! I don't know if everyone approves, but it's a good way to raise money for the festival. And this year with this heat, the timing couldn't have been better.

The other main event is the Pride Parade in the West End of Vancouver. It's huge and glorious and crazy and wonderful. It draws enormous crowds. I have watched, and I have also marched when I volunteered at Qmunity (formerly The Centre). Both are quite an experience, although I have had more fun marching than watching. I like to participate.

This year, I went to the festival part of the Dyke March and Festival. That was to see friends' bands play as much as anything. The atmosphere was fun, and I appreciated the beer garden. I skipped the parade, although it would have been fun to see Sweetie with cat ears and tail (she volunteers at Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue, which was participating in the parade). I haven't been to a parade since I stopped volunteering with Qmunity. Today, instead, I went to the beach and did a bit of sun worshipping (not a good idea, but I'm addicted).

A lot has been written about how LGBT includes the "B." It's all well and good to say so, but sometimes it's hard for me to feel included. That might be just me. But even though I imagined going to the parade wearing a T-shirt that said "Bisexuals HAVE decided," there is a bit of "neither fish nor fowl" about being the B in the equation.

(A note on that "undecided" trope. People's sexual orientation is what it is because that's what their body tells them. It's not a matter of decision. It's a matter of hormones and attraction and pheromones and who makes your heart leap. Some people seem intent on keeping their identity "pure." I get to be pleasantly surprised.)

I fit in with my heterosexual friends, who are not just tolerant but genuinely accepting people. But of course heterosexuals, being the majority, are not a "tribe." You don't have to be a tribe when the world reflects your orientation. I have a lot of lesbian friends, and I fit in pretty well with them, to some extent because many of them are also musicians. We have that in common. They are also accepting and inclusive. But I don't always feel like a member in good standing of the tribe. And I'm not always sure if the tribe is really my home.

I envy those with such a strong identification. The tribe really is like family. My own family are far away, either geographically or emotionally or both, so I could use a "chosen family." And I do have friends, good friends whom I love and whose friendship I cherish. But I don't have a hang-out. I don't have a group. And thus I have mixed feelings about Pride events. I'm proud of who I am. But it's not fun for a social person like me to feel isolated.

It's still a good weekend. I really enjoyed the music yesterday. I totally enjoyed the beach. I've loving the summer weather. And tomorrow is a holiday here! I'm sure I'll figure out this belonging thing at some point. I may be too old for after-hours parties, but hopefully not too old to learn to let things flow.