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12.12.13

A study at Boston University found that women left college with less confidence than when they went in, whereas, men left with more confidence.

In college, I was complaining about being unable to find a writing internship when a classmate told me I should be a waitress. He said I was pretty enough to be one.

It didn't occur to me to be insulted. Instead, I listened to him.

Feminism is about transitioning from child to adult, without developing an idea that you are less capable. It's about keeping the childhood ambition to be anything you want to be, long after you've grown breasts.

Boston University, I'm very disappointed with your findings, but i'm not surprised.






20.7.13

What it's really like to have a pot-bellied pig as a pet.





It's summer in Ramsay and I'm on the front porch reading when a little girl and her dad walk by. They get a few steps past the house when I hear “A pig lives in that house”. “Is that right?” her sceptical dad responds. “Yep”.

That is right. 
A pig does live in this house.
My house. 
Like a dog? 
Yes, sort of like a dog but different. 
Why did you get one?

I wish I could answer that. It might be because I saw one on a leash as kid, or because I love their cute little faces, or maybe just because I wanted to be different.


It all started at the wise old age of 24 when I googled "How to keep a pot-bellied pig as a pet". The articles were very helpful, and painted an easy life with a smart, obedient and charming pet. Filled with confidence in my pet-parent ability, I did what anyone would do; I drove to an exotic animal auction in Olds, Alberta with Georgia and bid on a baby pig while my boyfriend waited in the car.
The baby pot-bellied pigs were grunting, groaning, and screaming. I ignored their 200 lb counterparts in the next stall, telling myself they were a different breed. We had never been to a farm auction before, but we got a number and sat in the risers with everyone else. The pigs were ushered out, so cute, and any hesitation I once possessed, went out the window. Georgia knew. She raised our number, and no one else bid against us, so in a split second pig #7 was ours for $40.00.

In the waiting stall were 12 little pigs with numbers glued on their sides running around biting eachother. Unsure of how to get my little # 7 pig out  I asked the closest teenager in farm clothes for help. He found a box, hopped in the stall and picked up #7; the scream was unlike anything I'd ever heard before.


                           

As I approached the car with my pig in a box, Ryan put out his cigarette and shook his head.
"You didn't".
The pig was very frightened and immediately went to the bathroom. We ditched the poo box in the parking lot and I held him in my arms the whole way home.




Weird facts no one ever tells you about pigs:


  • Pigs eat smells. Mickey chomps at the air when something smells good or bad.  
  • They can run super fast, like videogame fast. See here. 
  • Not only do they snort, they also bark (when displeased) and wolf (when scared or running).
  • Pig penises are shaped like corkscrews and dart into the ground at a furious terrifying rate.
  • They can chews gum like a human. Mickey once chewed a piece for 45 minutes without swallowing. 
  • They enjoy food like a human would; as Chris once said: "he would like a chip, but he would prefer a chip with dip".
Mickey settled in nicely at the house, with a little bed, a litterbox and a whole main floor to discover. I went to bed that night and had nightmare after nightmare about the reality of what i'd done.

When you ask Google how to have a potbellied  pig as a pet it says something like:

Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs were introduced to Canada in the early 80s as household pets. Smarter than dogs and very clean, pot-bellied pigs are unique pets with special needs, that with the right care can live a very happy life indoors.

I would like to re-write that according to my experience.

What the internet tells you:

1. Pigs are very intelligent. More intelligent than dogs even.

Intelligent enough to know that sitting inside for a few hours a day, or even a backyard enclosure is not stimulating enough. Boredom sets in, as does mischief. Mischief involves: pulling up every little fibre on the carpet, knocking all the cushions off the couch, chewing on the table leg or pulling plaster off the wall. If you think having an inside pig is crazy (it is), you can make him a nice home in the backyard. I did, but it also wasn't perfect. He got out, no matter what fence I put up, he is that smart. Expect to spend your evenings searching surrounding properties for your pig and wondering what you have gotten yourself into.

2. Pigs can be litter box trained.

They can be litter box trained quite easily, on the first day as a matter of fact. However, they EAT cat litter like it's going out of style. You must use special pine litter and put it in a giant litter box (a child's plastic pool works well) to accommodate the size of your growing pig. They also like to drag all the pine shavings all over the room, and into their clean blankets where they sleep, which makes the entire room an embarrassing mess.  Pig owners quickly realize their pigs must learn to go outside like all other animals.

3. Pigs are generally clean animals and odourless because they don't sweat.

Their bodies are clean but their snouts are always covered in mud, leaves, or yogurt. Everything in your house at snout level will soon be covered in that as well. Your pants and your guests pants will get 'pig faced' by the dirty snout, and you will also become accustomed to a pigs' not so odourless gas.

4. Pigs are easily trainable.

Your pig will learn quickly where to go to the bathroom and how to do tricks because they are very food motivated. Some pigs play toy pianos, dunk basketballs, jump through hoops, ride skateboards. Other pigs open the fridge, open the cupboards, knock over garbage cans, run away with purses, tear up books, eat make-up,  and shake tables until everything on it comes crashing down.

5. Pot-bellied pigs stay small.

Small compared to a 1000 lb hog, but not small enough to pick up, or put in a car, or do anything you can do with a dog or a cat. Pigs become housebound very easily at anywhere from 80-200 lbs. Micro-mini and teacup are new terms being thrown around, but are not a proper representation of their size. All potbellied pigs will get larger than you'd ever expect, about the size of a dog, but 3x as heavy.

6. Pigs make good friends for dogs.

Pigs are a dogs natural enemy, and if they are left alone together, they will eventually fight. There have been many instances of dogs killing pot-bellied pigs in family homes.

7. You can put him on a leash, take him for walks, dress him up and take him to parties.

If you spoil a pig he knows you're the weakest link. Eventually, he becomes aggressive, territorial, and demands to get his way at all times. This will cause attacks, biting of both you and strangers, and an inability to trust your pig with other people. He is not the cutest guest at a party.

8. Pot-bellied pigs are social animals.

This is why they need other pigs to live with. Then they can create a hierarchy within their pig company rather than within your family. If the pig starts to think he is one of the family, he will decide to move his way up the ranks, by picking on the weakest link. Many families have one family member the pig decides to attack to show dominance. Pigs need to realize that their human family is not their pig family, and that can only be done by keeping them with other pigs.

I encourage anyone who loves pigs to visit RASTA Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Calgary - a by-donation-only charity (Rasta Website ). After rescuing over 50 former house pigs, some 'teacup designer' pigs (that grew to be over 100 lbs),  RASTA is no longer able to rescue anymore. There is nowhere left for these guys to go.

I am very sad to say that these wonderful animals are being abandoned on a regular basis due to this misinformation. Everything they do is natural for them to do. So the destruction and problems caused are not their fault, rather ours, for trying to convince ourselves they are something they are not.


I had Mickey for 5 years, which, in retrospect, was 2 years too long. I knew he was not in the right environment for a long time, it just took a couple years to find the proper forever home for him. This spring I drove Mickey up to Wetaskewin Alberta to live as a permanent resident at FARRM/Potbelly Pig Rehoming Network where he is living happily outdoors, with many pig friends, and a woman who devotes her life to helping these guys.

So I guess all I ask of you, the reader, is that the next time someone tells you: “I hear they  make great pets” -  is to share with them the thing about the corkscrew penises and the whole eating walls thing.

5.7.13

Alberta Love

Canmore, Calgary, High River and everywhere in between was flooded out on June 20-21st by the Elbow and Bow rivers. 

Thursday 9:00 AM – The city goes to work, happy it’s almost the weekend. It’s raining.

Thursday 11:00 AM – The rain is heavy and the city declares a state of emergency.

Thursday 11:30AM – Calgarians are skeptical. 

Thursday 3:00PM –The neighbourhood of Deer Run is being told to evacuate. How strange. 

Thursday 5:00PM – We all go home and turn on the news and realize just how much the rivers may flood from the rain. Many more neighbourhoods are being told to evacuate. Evacuate to where?

Offers on facebook begin, and it sounds like a good time.





Thursday 7:00PM – “Maybe we won’t have to go to work tomorrow.”  The selfish hope of many who don’t realize the extent of the situation (including me).



Thursday 9:00PM - Will we have to evacuate? What about Mickey? I guess all we can do is go to bed, wait and see. If we get woken up by a policeman at our door, then we'll have to go.

Between 3pm and 9pm 100,000 people evacuate from their homes. With only 1500 in community centre shelters, Mayor Nenshi asks 'Where did everyone else go?' Why, with friends ofcourse! Calgarians are helping eachother out. Unfortunately, the reality for some, is seen below.



Friday: Reality sets in. 
We don't have to evacuate, but our neighbourhood is an island so we aren't going anywhere.

Friday AM:  Evacuated areas - all of downtown - is covered in water. Anyone who refused to evacuate is now stuck. Nobody is going to work, for awhile.



Entire familiar neighbourhoods under water, photos of restaurants we know are being shared online.


Embarrassment: A lot of early skeptical Facebook statuses get taken down by embarrassed friends. A lot of people who did not leave are calling friends and trudging into the water, abandoning their underwater vehicles and getting out.


Disbelief: Stay in was the main piece of advice, but of course, everyone was out, taking photos, talking to one another. People just couldn't believe it.



Denial: I heard one story of a bar that had a huge lineup for the Sled Island music festival and they were determined to open. While on hold with the city to get the power back on, the bar owner calls his staff to make sure they’re coming in. Certain neighbourhoods that had become islands overnight, where staff lived, could not leave unless by helicopter, yet they still could not convey this to bar owner who was in utter denial. He was forced to, like the rest of us, just deal with it. A few hours later, Sled Island was officially cancelled.

Misinformation: Somewhere in social media land, it was shared that Calgary water was tainted and a boil water advisory is in effect. This misinformation was spread through social media faster than light. The media, the mayor, and the city spent the next 7 days dismissing this claim. Not before everyone who was supposed to stay home raced to every grocery store and bought out all the water.


The Stampede grounds were covered. 
"Stampede is in less than 2 weeks, will it go on?"
"The Saddledome is flooded up 6, no 8, no 10 rows!"


Pride: What followed was a little bit of pride for our city. Everyone seemed to step up. Emergency workers, city workers, emergency planners, and of course our mayor Naheed Nenshi worked tirelessly for the first week and continue to even now.


Waiting:  Then, we all just waited for the river to go down. Emergency workers, city workers, healthcare workers, and the media were the only ones I knew that still went to work. The rest were forced to wait for the water to go down and stay off the roads.

Twitter was on fire with people trying to get Nenshi to take a nap. #napfornenshi was a big hit and he finally took a nap on Saturday.

. 

Coming together:  Everywhere we looked people were coming together.  Sled Island turned into Flood Island and took place in non-flooded communities at peoples houses. Donations were pouring in and had to be stopped in some places. Ramsay was dubbed Ramsay Island and neighbours were heading to the community centre for free barbecues. Suddenly there were free barbecues all over town.





Nenshi announced Stampede would go on and Come Hell or High Water, a slogan created by a Calgarian on Twitter, became the new Stampede campaign for 2013.


The wait was over: The water went down and people in the flood zone returned home, overwhelmed. Those without power and no damage to their home continued staying with friends, although they could now go home and get some essentials they may have left behind.




Work: Everyone began the inevitable cleanup with 4 days of pent up energy and frustration to put into it. Overwhelming and terribly upsetting for the victims, but seemingly fun to get down and dirty for the volunteers as they instagram and hashtag all their muddy rain boot photos. 




Getting back to normal: Ramsay Island was no longer as of yesterday. The bridges opened and we were part of the city again. With that, comes many people still driving downtown to work, despite dozens of damaged bridges. The streets are a mess.


   Heroes emerge:



Enmax restores power to many communities working day and night. Some people wondered why isn't our power still on since all the waters gone?

We were told the Enmax station was under water too.

Ranting begins: Everyone started to complain.
·         If you don't have to drive, then don't.
·         If you can snoop and take photos of our demolished basements, why don’t you get off your bike and help?
·         Alberta deserves this after all they’ve contributed to climate change with the oil sands. 
·         Hey Toronto, do you even know that there is a giant flood in one of the biggest cities in Canada? Stop talking about Rob Ford for once.

A Bump: A CP rail bridge is carrying a train car full of diesel East, when the rail bridge collapses.The city blames CP Rail, CP Rail stands by their inspection of all bridges, and the train is rescued and bridge closed off.


It is now day 7.  This does not represent what High River went through and I am deeply saddened and worried about the state of their residents and homes. Their clean-up is just beginning.

But what a week that was.

11.6.13

September, 2006, Calgary




It was my idea to park the van beside A Bar Named Sue while Georgia slept after narrowly escaping the Nigerian Landlords I met in the Laundromat who wanted to be our boyfriends. The idea was to go into a bar, have a drink and find a place to sleep. A Bar Named Sue seemed like the right place. Georgia's mom warned us about doing that, but A Bar Named Sue is cute and we found Soren who likes the Gilmore Girls enough to have the whole first season on DVD. So there.

Now we live at Soren's (he's the best), I'm a Brewster's employee, and a birthday party host for Annabelle's Attic. The events leading up to that job were another story. (What brought you to Calgary)

I hopped in the van the morning after A Bar Named Sue, with only 30 minutes to get to the job interview that was taking place at a Pizza Hut buffet in the North East. 

Our van


The job was hosting children's birthday parties for a company called Anabelle's Attic (not for Pizza Hut, which I had to explain to Georgia repeatedly). So obviously I phoned Clayton in Ontario to get me the address of the Pizza Hut from my email while I drove recklessly through unfamiliar Calgary highways named Crowchild and Bow Trail. I explained the whole ordeal to Clayton, and he moaned with hungover sleepy pain. While Clayton and I waited impatiently for Georgia's computer to turn on, he told me about getting drunk the night before, calling his boss a cunt, and getting kicked in the leg for it. He was planning on apologizing later that day. Finally the computer did it's thing, and Clayton read me the address of the Pizza Hut. I finally arrived, and met 2 lovely girls whose biggest worry wasn't that I was 30 minutes late, but that they were hungry so they started eating pizza without me. The interview went really well, I had some pizza and I got the job. Both jobs were actually immediately mine, which isn't bad for a homeless girl.

At 3:30 am this morning, I walked into a busy diner where I had to wait to be seated. I followed a hipster waiter with slick hair and black framed glasses to one of the only booths left, as the place was packed. Did I mention it was 3:30 in the morning?

I ate a cheeseburger and fries and my company had breakfast. It's brilliant. Gerry's 24 hour restaurant, but everyone here just calls it 'used to be the Husky'.

And now here I am in Tuscany (Calgary suburbs have names to make it seem like you're somewhere else). Hundreds of rooftops cover the hills, and you can only be led to the houses by one singular highway exit. There doesn't seem to be any stores or even sign of life here. This is the last day of September and it is sunny and warm. There is no one to share it with. I hope everyone is lounging in a park somewhere or walking along 17th Ave., but I have a feeling they're not. I feel like they're all around me. All the streets are named different forms of Tuscany. Like Tuscan way, Tuscard view, or Tusselwood Dr. They're nonsense. When you turn down every street, it's a dead end, and you just have to turn back around. That's gotta mean something. I don't think there's a pay phone for miles. Anyway, the reason I'm here, in Tuscany, waiting to go to a Hawaii Luai for Jenna's 5th birthday, in Calgary, Alberta, is because I think I'm still drunk from the Blue Skies Folk Festival, where we decided to go on this trip.

Now it's October in Calgary. Thanksgiving didn't amount to much, but I got a sample of pumpkin pie from a grocery store.

It snowed yesterday. There were lots of people in our house when I woke up to snow. It was nice. You know what else is nice? Having a house. Soren's was fun, like a sleepover, but our own house is the best. There's an attic with lots of treasures. Georgia and I have identical bedrooms, both empty except for a makeshift bed of blankets. Georgia's door has a hole in the middle you can peak through. 

Our view

But thanks to Whitey we now have art, records, a stereo, vodka in the freezer, and a framed photo of him. Also a bike, a hula hoop, and 4 chairs. Sometimes the two cats from downstairs come up. 


12.5.13

Audacity

The first time I heard the word, it was being used to describe me. It was a woman next to me on a Greyhound, as I showed her our Peterborough Newsletter 'Crab Basket'. I thought it was a compliment. I hoped it was a compliment. I learned its meaning.

Oh shit, I thought.
I have a lot of that.


9.5.13

Ramsay Newsletter




  In 2005 Ryan Fox and I lived happily in Bridgeland, next to a nice Italian family. One day, out of the blue, our landlords informed us that our beautiful green bungalow was being torn down to make way for two large grey houses. Our house was almost 100 years old and had a laundry chute from the bedroom closet to the top of the washing machine, so, pretty handy.

*(
I made a short film in that house, that turned into a shorter film, and then not really a film at all. You can watch it here if you wish: Super 8 Film.)

In any case, it was a travesty for us, but an opportunity for them. Rental houses can be difficult to find in Calgary and moving in the winter sucks, so we were a little worried.

A few weeks later I came across a nice top floor in Ramsay for rent. "Where's Ramsay?" I asked Ryan. “Ooh, let’s move there, I love Ramsay!” That weekend we set out on a big old walk across the river to take a look.

Across the Langevin bridge, through East Village, and past Fort Calgary we entered Ramsay on 8 street. I remember it feeling like Mount Pleasant, a village just outside of Peterborough where Georgia's mom lives.

As we approached the house for rent, the excitement grew. It felt like we were being let in on this little secret, and I LOVE secrets. Suffice to say, within the week, we were Ramsay residents.

Our new house was on Maggie street, a super cute one-way with homes on one side and backyards on the other. It was named after Mayor Wesley Orr’s daughter (back when you could just do that). We had the whole top floor, and lied to our landlords saying our 3rd roommate was just Ryan's sister visiting, but it was actually Angela, our 3rd roommate. Before long Angela had convinced the neighbour to let us use his hot tub, but just as quickly he took it away because she brought a boy over. To this day she claims it was worth it.

We had backyard fires and all of our apartment friends would come over and talk about how much they loved our house and our neighbourhood.  Then they’d try to trick us into letting them move in.

Before long we had our first enemy on Maggie street; a grumpy old homeowner who hated renters. We called him the mayor of Maggie St., and he knew everything that was going on. He told me that one day his dog will eat our cats (never happened). Our landlords said he tried to convince them to live in the house themselves, because renters are evil, but in the end, evil prevailed, and we remained.

In an unanticipated turn of events, I acquired a pot-bellied pig. My first night with him was full of terrible nightmares about what I’d done.  I woke up with the realization that there was no way I could pull it off in that house. The thought of leaving Ramsay was upsetting, but by a strange coincidence, a house on 8 street was listed for rent and 'big dogs' were allowed. It was brilliant.

Angela was in Las Vegas when we decided to move, so she came home to: "Surprise! We got a pig! And we're moving!" Luckily, she adapts well.

Our camper van out front wouldn’t start, so everyday I'd go to work and give Ryan the impossible task of getting the Talivan moved to the new house on 8 street. One day I came home from work and the Talivan was sitting happily in the back alley of our new house; Ryan standing proudly next to it.

He told me the story of Geoff steering the broken vehicle in neutral, while Ryan pushed it from behind with our little red Mazda, haphazardly across 8 street and into the alley where it remained. It eventually became a glamorous summer vacation home for our two cats, Bill and Maroo. 
                               


This new Ramsay house, even better than the first, came with even more friends sneaking around and trying to move in without us noticing (Two succeeded but were promptly given eviction letters by me, with deadlines like today at 4pm).

Stupid Kellen jumped off the shed and broke the picnic table, and Ken broke a window with a frisbee at our housewarming, but in the end, it didn't change the fact that we lived in the best house ever.

At one point we had mice, and the black and white grocer supplied us with a barrage of mouse traps. If I remember correctly, it was around Christmas time and while half of us were decorating the tree, the other half were trying to make the mouse traps work.

Years later around Christmas time, our black cat Maroo went missing. Maroo was a very valued member of our family. I bombarded the neighbourhood with posters but there was no sign of him. We got a phone call from a few blocks down, and held our breath all the way there. Balanced on the fence beside a house covered in a fantastic Christmas light display (garnering a lot of attention) was a black cat that looked just like Maroo; then he turned around. Sadly, it wasn’t him.

"Thanks neighbour, but that's not him. Nice Christmas light display."

A few days later we found him; he died of a heart problem in our very own house. He is now sleeping buried in the backyard. RIP Maroo.

I found my red bike with a 'For Sale' sign on it, strung up on a fence a bit farther into Ramsay (by the big white head). I paid $75 for it, and get compliments on it to this day.

I usually really enjoy talking to Brian at the bus stop or on the bus asking me where the bus's go, but sometimes I'm not in the mood.

Our house turned 100 this year, and I am proud of that, even though it's not really our house. And although we don't have a laundry chute, there are little notes written in cupboards and closets like 'Changed the oil in the Chevrolet, May '71'.

One summer morning, coming in through my open bedroom window was the most beautiful rendition of 'At Last' by Etta James. It was so perfect. I later learned it was my neighbour practicing for a wedding.
Another set of neighbours spent Christmas Eve yelling at each other to get a life while two huskies ran up and down the street. That was a fun year.

It has been 7 years since I first walked into Ramsay, and so much has changed. My family then, barely resembles my family now. Maroo left us, and Ryan passed away in that time as well. It was sudden, very sad, and he is very missed.

Mickey the pig has moved onto greener pastures (literally; a farm in the country) where he’ll be much happier.


Neighbours have changed, but Ramsay’s the same, and I like that. So, thank-you Ramsay, for everything that you are.