Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Reflections on the comments section

 A few weeks ago, I submitted a piece on provincial outsourcing policies to an editor.  She responded in a way that made it unclear if she was going to buy that piece.  Instead, she asked something like, 

"Honestly, I'd be more interested in hearing from you in terms of your observations on COVID-19 and anecdotes from the world you are living right now."  

I responded with this piece which an editor bought quickly. It went live over the weekend.  I received multiple private notes and thank you comments from women. Meanwhile, the comments sections of the CBC article (and its facebook repost) were roughly the equivalent of dumpster fires, in another friend's words.

 Multiple surveys and media reports have shown the employment/career issues with the pandemic when it comes to inequality in women's lives. I saw no reason to rehash that. Instead, I provided anecdoctal evidence of the pandemic's effects on women's careers--anecdotes from my life and 5 or so other women's lives (I described them vaguely and with composite vignettes, to preserve their anonymity).  These stories "from the front lines" weren't good enough for individuals who wanted to comment on all aspects of women's personal lives, bodies, marital and reproductive choices.

Nobody commented on my professional work credentials or education -nothing about book publications or degrees, but rather on my reproductive choices and personal blog posts! There were questions on why I'd bothered with graduate education (My undergrad advisors at Cornell thought I should?! It helped me teach at community colleges and universities in the past?) and rude comments about the rug I wove for Sadie's water bowl. It's sort of amazing what people feel emboldened to say online.

This is one reason why I like to write more on ideas/policy...but until then, I need to write what sells, and what I know.  It's not always the most intellectual stuff.  My articles on knitting, canning, baking, etc. sometimes sell faster than more academic or political critiques. People ask more about my children  than about my work...and all this is a sign of how women's work is valued in our society. (This isn't really a measure of my skills, it's about society's priorities for women.)

I'm going to keep posting here about my writing life as well as my 'home/making/creative life.' For me, they aren't really separate professional/personal spheres right now.  (I loved getting comments on the blog when folks used to leave notes!  It was a great way to build bridges.)

Many writers don't ever read the comments on their articles. I hold out hope that the feedback would be on topic and relevant so I read them. (...Although it often feels like self-flagellation.) Then I take a moment to remember something.  If these folks wrote opinion pieces and submitted them rather than filling up the comments section, they could also share their experiences and ideas.  Better yet, I think about the rug I made, or more generally, the work of my hands. I wonder if they are all capable of making rugs by hand when they need them. If not, there's no room to belittle others for their labours.

We can all talk about ideas and agree to disagree in a civil way.  Commenting negatively on people's bodies and choices doesn't push your views, ideas or agenda forward. It casts a shadow--but it's not a reflection of my work.  It reflects on the commenter's character..not mine. 

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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

September happenings

We're slammed with produce in Manitoba in August.  In July, it's a little berry jam warm up, but then by the beginning of September, there may even be frost.  So, this year has been something of a canning frenzy.  I've been canning for sharing, so my shelves are full now.  Some of it is mundane: apple sauce, chutney, cucumber pickles...and some is a surprise.  My kids found these (extremely long in the tooth) okra in a neighbourhood schoolyard garden.  They'd never seen okra before! (haha, I have eaten so much okra during my time in Kentucky and North Carolina...) So, I quickly shoved it into a jar and soon we'll try some refrigerator pickles. 
Meanwhile, I continue to write at night and whenever I can fit it in.  Here's an opinion piece I wrote for the CBC-Manitoba website.
It's fair to say that Manitoba's back to school options have left me very stressed.  We have been offered a "go back to school in person with some safety protocols" or a "withdraw your children and homeschool them."  This isn't a fair choice--we pay for our children's public education and kids with challenges can only get special needs support in school here.  It's hard to find privately and expensive.  There's no remote schooling option.  While I used to teach and hold a Master's in Education, I know when I do not have the training to meet some of my kids' needs.  So, today we sent them back.  I've been doing a lot of cooking to comfort myself.

Stuffed grape leaves from a friend's grape arbor... and pie.  Lots of apple pie from apples we picked at a neighbour's house.

Also, the hundred year old house next door has been demolished and there is excavation taking place for a new house.  There was no architectural salvage done, the shaking has been affecting our house, and the noise and motion have worn me out.  This photo taken from our dining room window is cock-eyed, but it sort of represents how I feel.  (Yes, that digger was 18" from the window.  Maybe 2 feet.  No kidding.)  This just makes me sad.
It's noisy and dusty and dangerous to sit around outside...but this is what Sadie the dog was doing before the demolition hit.  It has made me realize how much the out of doors helped us all this summer...and now who knows how long we'll be unable to use our yard again.
In an attempt to brighten up the inside, I wove this rag mat for Sadie's water bowl.  Making things makes me feel better....and keeps the stress level down.  Perhaps that's why I've been canning, knitting, weaving, baking and more...at this frenetic pace.
Stay well!  Happy and healthy new year to all who are getting ready to celebrate 5781!

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Saturday, August 08, 2020

It's been too long

While I've been away, making--doing a lot of making, it seems... blogger's gone and changed my ancient interface.  So I am going to throw up a lot of photos here, give you some quick updates, and hope it all comes out ok on the interwebs.  

It's been my habit recently to update everybody about what's been published lately.  Alas, between managing twins home for the summer (without camp, as we thought social distancing would be too hard) and the state of things during a pandemic, I haven't gotten to write or sell much.  Here's a link to my column over at the Jewish Independent, my only steady gig right now.
To keep myself sane, I'm fitting in sewing, spinning, knitting, and more.  I'm washing fleece and canning dilly beans, raspberry jam, gooseberry golden raspberry....you name it, we're considering making it.  Fancy desserts and all sorts of other projects, some with kid help,... and some despite it!

Every weekday morning, I help my kids do some learning.  We're in a reading group together.  We practice cursive, typing, math, and do some art and design.  We've done science, some sewing, and a variety of other stuff.  It keeps their brains busy and hopefully means they aren't falling too far behind...sometimes it's fun.  Sometimes, there is a lot of yelling.
We've gone on berry picking outings (social distancing is easy on farms!) and once to Delta Beach (it's big and was pretty empty).  We go to the wading pool right when it opens in the morning, and leave as soon as it gets crowded.  We play in the sprinkler, pick cucumbers from our small garden, and focus on keeping things close to home.

We make strawberry trifle, plum apple rustic tart, or whatever else I throw together really fast...
I do a lot of spinning in bits of time while kids do two pages of cursive, a page of math problems, or practice measuring parts of the furniture....whatever today's effort may be.
I have ended up with two new free fleeces lately, one Suffolk and one Texel/crossbred.  The effort to wash these as resulted in the rediscovery of several, much older fleeces that also need to be washed.  It seems that since 2010, when I got pregnant with twins, I've accumulated some wool...and haven't done a great job keeping up in processing it.  So, you know, I think I have at least three more fleeces in the queue and I hope the warm weather lasts that long!  It is a lot easier to dry a fleece quickly outside than in the basement!
I'm baking challah.  I do a batch nearly every week and share a loaf with some good friends who are both over 80.  The professor and the kids bike over there, drop off a loaf, and have a socially distanced chat in the yard every Friday.  It's a good routine.
A new "McStrippit" sweater design is in progress.  I also have a mitten design waiting to be written up.  That said, since Ravelry has rolled out its new reformat, I've been somewhat involved in discussions around accessibility and how to make my designs available elsewhere.  Why?

Seizures and migraines are no joke...and people with vision impairment are also struggling with the new design.  I spent the first several months of this year reformatting about a third of my patterns to be accessible for those with low vision needs.  Now?  Many of those people can't access the site easily, even with the toggle switch to 'Classic' Rav.  Their screen readers don't work on the new site.  It's hard to navigate even with all sorts of 'fixes.'  It's been weeks now, and it's been made much worse for many with disabilities--it's not a good look for Rav.  I used to be such a fan of the site.

I've witnessed someone having a seizure....and my dad had migraines as a young man.  I know how debilitating this is.  I take this seriously.  So, I'm still knitting, but I'm not pushing out designs at quite the rate that I used to.  My designs are all also available on Lovecrafts.com.   If you're having problems and need me to email you a Low Vision Accessible pattern, please let me know.  I'm happy to help.
In the meanwhile, spending lots of time in the sunshine or dappled shade of our yard is a curative.  The world is out of control these days....so I'm making jam...cause if you want the best jam?  You've got to make  your own...

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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Sally the dog, 2005-2020

Sally, our gorgeous Pointer Lab mix (we think), died yesterday afternoon. She was 15.5 years old (at least) and was suffering from kidney failure. She was uncomfortable and not eating or drinking anymore-it was time. She was at the vet to be examined, but when we arrived, she wagged her tail and let us know—she was still ready to leave right away. (She hated the vet!)
Sally was alert, loyal and the perfect nanny. Although our twins arrived when she was 6, she adopted them right away. She told us about every dirty diaper and kept everybody from falling off beds or couches. She chewed up anything sharp or plastic (toy) she found on the floor, and left it for me on the bed to show she was ever vigilant, keeping her small humans safe. Sally was born in Kentucky (we think), we adopted her at about a year old, and she became a Manitoban. No day was too cold for a walk, and she kept us all on schedule. RIP to a truly special dog.

This is mostly a repost from my Instagram account.) I do have more things to post in a long format here, but we've been nursing a sick old dog, keeping a young dog busy, and home schooling/keeping twins busy.  It's been hard to find time to write cogent posts about much of anything.  Stay well.

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Treading water

I wrote this on Instagram a few days ago:
I am propelled by #coffee lately. Such important #protest and scary virus news in the world...but I am still #homeschooling, cooking a lot and managing kids and dogs. Even managing our household is a lot right now. I am lucky and safe but still very tired...

But I wanted to update the blog.  And I wanted to tell you about our garden, which is growing so well just now.  (much farther along than this one photo we took a few weeks ago...)  I also wanted to offer up a couple links to articles that have run recently.  This ran in the Vancouver Jewish Independent:
Rabbinic planting advice
This second link is not really about Shabbat specifically, more about how to keep ourselves and our old dog eating and alive and propel everybody forward during this hard time:
Jewish surety in Shabbat ritual

There have been a lot of afternoons like this one though, where our world has been small, we played in the yard, and focused on how grateful we are for what we have.  It's more than enough.

For those who have followed me a while, you may know that I've written about social justice issues for a long time, too.  Here are a couple links on that...one from this blog in January, 2019.  Sadly, none of the injustices taking place are new.  It's been happening for a long time.

An instagram post about how justice is long overdue.

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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Canadian companies retool for pandemic, why not climate change?

Here's an opinion piece that came out this weekend on the CBC-Manitoba website.
Pandemic proves companies can change in an emergency-so what about that climate crisis?
True confessions:  I actually wrote this at the end of February.  I didn't write this in response to the pandemic.  However, the news was changing so fast at that time, nobody had room to run it.  I was supposed to check back in at the end of March. Well, we all know what happened by then...I was at home, home schooling and so was everyone else.  I forgot all about this piece.

I reread it at the beginning of May...and changed about three sentences. (that's about all I have time for, right now!)  It seemed more likely than ever that Canadians could make fast change if the political will was strong enough...so I resubmitted and it went live this morning.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

May stories

It's been such a long time since I posted here...because I've been swamped with real life stuff.  Homeschooling, job issues, and a death in the family in NYC --not the virus but she died alone in the hospital because of it--awful.  
I decided to  show this last month mostly in pictures...with one article link.  Thanks to the Vancouver Jewish Independent, I still get to write a column every so often!  This one is about how three big world religions find common ideas to discuss and help us get through during these challenging days. 
In our province, our PC (Progressive Conservative) premier, Brian Pallister, has decided that this would be a good time to cut the budgets of Manitoba's universities and also to cut public sector jobs.  
According to every economist and all the business leaders and columnists in the media, this will create an even more depressed provincial economy...think of Herbert Hoover in the US for a reference point. 
 However, our premier keeps pushing this.  It will definitely affect our household--our biology professor--and since my work is uneven or nonexistent these days, it feels very personal.  We made signs and went in our car to a couple social distance "honkathons" at the Legislature Building.  Here are the signs.

We've been doing school at home.  Kids built a 'bonfire' for Lag B'omer...and played outside, of course.  (This would be jousting with pool noodles, on hobby horses, if you have not seen this particular version of the game before.)  We also had hotdogs and I had to bake buns for them.  Cause it would not be a day outside without them...

I've been knitting whenever I can, mostly to maintain my sanity...and I finished the next Woolly sweater for the kid who is growing a lot but still really wants to wear a sweater with sheep on it.

There were some pretty great Mother's Day cards.

The professor took boys on a lot of bike rides, which gave me time to do crazy stuff like work and have an hour by myself.  (Hahah, not kidding.  One hour!!)
I've baked a lot of bread. Our local bakery is closed, we shop about once a week, and these people in my household are like locusts!  You'll note here that now I have to cool the bread on a rack on top of the refrigerator.  When Sadie the dog stole and ate an entire loaf of bread (anyhow, that's what we think happened, although she may have shared some with Sally, hard to say?)---well, I got creative.

It's been a long month...but I hope you'll still come back and check in and I'll find time to write more...
  Stay well!  Wash your hands!  Take care.

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