The search for happy

I am part of a book club that I've never read any books for or been to any meetings about. I was eager at first, but I didn't enjoy or finish the first book chosen, a book of short stories by famed actor BJ Novak, I found his tone condescending. There was a snowstorm the day of the meeting so I didn't go to it in the end and I ate all the cupcakes I'd prepared for it, myself.

The latest book chosen is one about a "Search for happiness". That's not the exact title, but something along those lines. I put it on hold from the library, and 3 weeks later was told to pick it up. I just got it, and I guess I already missed the meeting for this one, and there's a new book on the go. I guess I'm too disorganized for a book club, or it wasn't meant to be.

Either way, I decided to start reading this book anyway.
But I take issue with books with these titles, and I can't explain why.
So I went into it thinking I wouldn't like it, and so I don't like it. I find it annoying.

Today, I may have figured out why.
I clicked on a CBC article about a UN camp of refugees that are being slaughtered house by house.

A pursuit of happiness, spending time reading a book about finding happiness, while living in an advantaged world feels ridiculous.

Perhaps I have a unique perspective, because I once lost the person I loved more than anything. And so I know there will be more to come, a lifetime of loss of loved ones, that's how this place works.

But not everyone my age has yet felt the pain of losing a loved one, suffered through an illness, gone through a divorce, had a miscarriage. So the search for meaning in this life is still in vain, the search for more than just day-to-day mediocrity. So a book on happiness is nothing more than an attempt to gain some spiritual ground. And that's okay.

But I learned very quickly after losing my love, that my pain is not unique, only a part of being alive. It's shared with every other living animal on the planet, making pain inevitable - and perhaps something that should be embraced. Pain gives you perspective, so you can practice appreciation.


The South Country Fair

It was one stupid weekend.

He wouldn’t talk to me on the morning I left, because he suddenly wanted to go, but now it was too late. Bye! I yelled to his torso through the open car window.

I wandered through the hippies, reacquainting myself with this alternate reality. Barefooted, bare-bodied youth.

The first night was uneventful, so we drank and smoked and put up a tarp, ruining my car in the process. It was no Frog Fest but it was fun and it was dry. Our more prepared neighbor kept asking if we wanted more rope, which we didn’t.
The following morning we wandered through Fort Mcleod, and returned to the festival to discover Nanton friends drinking Pilsners and having songs dedicated to them. They had artist bracelets on because they were Lance’s woofers. We watched Tin & The Toad.

DN played after them. I swooned at his way with words. I’d never seen anything like him, except for that one time.

I was introduced to Kris, as Georgia was handing him beers from our cooler. “The artists’ catering doesn’t open till 4 and he’s on at 3:45.” He later guilted the co-ordinator into bringing him beer on stage at 4 in a box. How many do you need, 5? 10. They were a circus band.
I lost Georgia that night, but made friends with the rope-offering neighbours and drank wine. Georgia was sleeping in a hammock under the stage the whole time. 5 people slept in our tiny tent that night. I think the tentless ones had plans of parties and falling in love, but it didn’t happen, so 5 loveless adults slept together.  

We went to Fort McLeod and had an awesome breakfast. My gravy was on a pineapple ring and our waitress was only 15.

People started leaving the afternoon of the 2nd day. We weren’t ready and we’d been drinking pilsners since breakfast so I threatened to get a motel room. We packed up, laid around the motel, and showered our dirty little bodies.  

As it turns out, the artist party was that night, and some of us had artist bracelets. I was on the lookout for DN but he was being hogged by all the boys. How adored he must be. A sad looking guy drove by me in a van and asked sort of defeatedly if I wanted a hamburger. On his passenger seat was a dozen A&W hamburgers. It was the best hamburger I’d ever had.

I guess I spotted DN in the corner of the artist tent and offered him a bite of my hamburger. I barely remember this but he later told me this was when he became intrigued. 

Georgia showed up a few hours later with a wicked sunburn wearing a white motel towel as a coat, and called it her festival outfit. She brought Palm Bays and everyone danced and danced.

We left the next day. It was one stupid weekend.


Avoiding Pregnancy as a Modern Female Mammal

As a Canadian, I am grateful for our health care system but also concerned about what's happening in America. What sticks with me the most are the comments on these articles by well-meaning men, who want to chime in but have no leg to stand on.

You know the ones. They don't speak to the availability and affordability of birth control, they speak to the hot issue. The abortion issue. They are pro-choice usually, they want to be open-minded, allowing a woman to choose, but they do not want a woman to "use it as birth control". They have a limit of how many a woman should or shouldn't have had before they cross this man's imaginary line of right or wrong.

This is absurd. A woman does not simply look at her options for birth control and make a conscious decision that an incredibly painful and invasive procedure is what will work best for her life. This is a complicated issue with many other factors at play, namely, accessibility and affordability of birth control.

Today I will attempt to share my personal experience with birth control by disclosing some personal information, without disclosing too much personal information. My audience? Those well-meaning men that want to discuss the issue. Possibly the same ones that at 17 years old would run into my college clinic with their friends, grab a handful of condoms and run out laughing their asses off - while me and the other girls sat waiting to see the doctor to have our prescription filled.

I'll start at the beginning. What did they call it in high school gym class? Being sexually active?
I was late to the game. 19 years old, so 14 years ago.

14 years of sexual activity. Always the serial monogamist, I have had a steady partner for 13 of those 14 years. In trying to pinpoint how many times the deed has been done, I have to go with assumptions. 52 weeks in a year, 728 if we say once a week. 1456 times if twice a week, during the good years. Let's say the number is somewhere in there. 1100 seems realistic.

14 years.
1100 times
1098 times I didn't get pregnant
728 months
5110 days of taking a pill.
5110 days with synthetic hormones in my system.

The last number isn't right, because I went off the pill 3 times. Each time because it was affecting my psychological well-being. The first time I went off the pill was the worst. It was when I was 20 and in college, and I had a complete mental breakdown. Crying all the time, racing thoughts, an inability to concentrate on anything, very dark thoughts. The school nurse watched me for 3 months, and said it's a side effect that will likely go away in time but I couldn't handle it and went off it. When I went back to it, they put me on a different kind, saying it may help with the side effects.
I went off again at the age of 28 and then again at 32, again for personal reasons related to my psychological well-being. I started the pill in 2003, and in 2016 the first major study linking the pill to depression in women was released. You can read about it here: Birth Control Study

The pill is not available on pharmacy shelves. Why? I'll never understand. A pill you need to take everyday requires a prescription. My experience has been that a doctor will only give you a prescription for a maximum of 6 months of refills. When your 6 months is up you have to schedule another appointment to go in, get a physical and/or a pap, then get another prescription. By keeping you on this short leash, they know you'll need another prescription within the year, this ensures you are coming in and getting pap tests annually.

(Pap test - The Papanicolaou test is a method of cervical screening used to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix (opening of the uterus or womb).

14 years
28-40 doctor visits (sometimes I could only snag a 3 month prescription with walk-in doctors so more like 40 doctor visits)
28-40 prescription refills
728 months of refills
8-12 pap tests

I only got a family doctor a couple years ago, before that I visited my college clinic, my childhood doctor, walk-in clinics, hospital sexual health centres, anywhere that I could score those little pills. The sexual health centre would give you samples for free if you were lucky and struggling for cash. Thankfully doctor visits in Canada are covered by universal health care. How can American women possibly afford this? Ah, yes, Planned Parenthood. The branches that are still open, anyway.

Health care is free here in Canada, but the pill itself costs anywhere from $15 to $30/month. In college I paid a subsidy of $15. The brand name version is $30, but since then I have always gotten the 'no-name' version for $20.

728 months
$14,560 the cost of the pill in 14 years.
4 - years I've had work coverage to pay for it.
$10,400 the amount I paid for it before I had coverage
0 - times a partner has offered to help with the cost.

I've always worked hard, kept a good job, but sometimes there was no money. Some months you're in between jobs, moving cities, just trying to get by. Some months, I risked it more than I should have, tried to remember to use backup protection instead. I have friends that sometimes can't afford to put minutes on their phone, so I often wonder if they're going without.

Now I'm 33 years old, with another 15 years to go before my body starts considering retiring my baby-making factory. Another 15 years of this shit.

So there's my experience; one white woman in a first world country with universal health care.

This issue is far more complicated than what I've written about today and far more complicated than simply uttering the words choice or life. Remember to ask the right questions. Is there access to birth control everywhere? In the rural communities, as well as the cities? Is it affordable? When the answer is no, we are not supporting women. Ask the women in your life what their experience has been, learn what it means to live with your choices, your decisions, from your teenage years up to your adult years. Be less political, and more human.


I wish I was a hacker on days like today.

I’d like to replace the articles in the local newspapers in the towns, counties and city’s of those states that voted for him with my own writing.

I’d like to use his words in describing women, and replace them with their own daughters’ names. I’d like to use his words in describing nationalities he doesn’t like, and replace them with their own ancestors nationality. Make it personal – because nothing else has worked.

I feel helpless.
I feel suspicious of every person I see on the street, as people are not who I thought they were.

But I must remember not to make enemies in my head, because most people are good, and most people on this side are on the same side.
But it still makes me feel sick.
For the girls down there. 

I can vow to not visit for the next 4 years. I can delete facebook and twitter and live peacefully with my head in the sand until Christmas or longer. I can put on a big pot of coffee, settle in at work, and watch videos of Obama being the best. And I can write letters to my American friends that say hello, I love you, come visit. 



Before I knew I had to quit drinking, I decided a good way to level out all the hangover anxiety was to take antidepressants. My roommate was a total trainwreck, and he took them, so what could possibly go wrong?
I knew it was cheating.
I knew it was a distraction from the real problem.
I knew my boyfriend wouldn't go along with it so I didn't tell him.
My doctor would have never gone for it either (she's super smart and invested in my well-being). But thankfully she was away on maternity leave and her replacement didn't bat an eye at my request.
Within three hours of taking my first pill (an SSRI) I was in love.
A new drug.
It muted all the bad things.
Like the commercials on the car radio, the urge to go check on my hair and makeup every 2 hours at work, the rage at the guy who cut me off on the way to work. I didn't have a care in the world.
My insecurities went out the window. How could they fit all that confidence in one teeny tiny pill?
I started saying hi to people in the hallway, without fretting. I started going to lunches with all the guys at work, eating drinking and chatting without any sort of anxiety about what I'd say or do. It was easy. Finally.
Is this what it feels like to be them? Easy and sort of boring? We can talk about nothing really, and still have a great time?
But once I was alone, at home, I wouldn't know what to do. My dirty house no longer gave me anxiety, so I stopped cleaning it. I would just sit there, for hours. Shitty television didn't bother me anymore, so I started watching that. Salads were inedible now, so I started eating only macaroni  and cheese.
Fuck working out.
I gained 10 lbs.
Drinking on these pills was amazing. Like I was 20 again. But I'd black out after 3 or 4. So I had to be careful.
In the end, I could feel years and years of my life going down this muted sort of cloudy track and it worried me. So I came clean to him. And he insisted I didn't need them, and he was right. I reluctantly said goodbye to the teeny tiny pill of fake confidence.
The radio commercials were intolerable immediately.
My anxiety came back, but with it, the feeling of caring about things. I think small amounts of anxiety are good for us. Our mental health should always be handled properly by a professional and dealt with accordingly, but in my case, it was small, and linked to drinking more than anything.
It's been about a year.
And now I'm sober.
It turns out that was what I needed to do all along.


A reflection on grief

..and then I go back further and think about how it felt when Ryan simply was not coming back. Not ever. My bed was empty and it was a fact that would never change. And people think- I couldn't do it.! But the question is, what do you do, then. As a human your reaction is to scream and shake and cry. But what I know, and this is more real than the other stuff, is that there comes a time when you get tired. And you are no longer crying, but just sitting there, in the silence. Exhausted and empty. Of everything. And it's in that moment that you realize that you are not the first person, nor the last person to lose. And that moment you are feeling is as real As being born and dying, and is common to all people.
And that's when you can sleep.
And you do that over and over again for as long as it takes until the storm quiets and the distraction sets in.


Why don’t we ever talk about the Johns?

Prostitution is everywhere.

When I first moved to Calgary, I answered an ad offering a room for rent on Kijiji. The room was in a penthouse apartment by 17th ave, and my friend and I could live in it in exchange for 'light housekeeping'.

This is where we met Dennis. Dennis had tan hands from fake tanning and liked slushies from Mac's that made his mouth turn blue. He's not the kind of pimp you see in the movies. But he was a pimp.

Dennis wasn't offering a room for rent in exchange for light housekeeping after all. We spent two nights in the room then decided it would be best if we exited the entire situation.  Dennis didn't frighten me, although maybe he should have. He was too stupid.

What frightened me upon learning of this world were the Johns.
The nameless, faceless men who use the services with complete disregard for the countless victims.

“The main users of women in prostitution are regular men who are in regular marriages, study in regular educational programs, and have regular jobs, some of whom are entrusted with upholding the very laws that they violate. In other words, studies indicate that prostitute-users in general are not marginalized men, unlike the women they use and abuse.”((Janice G. Raymond, 2004, Prostitution on Demand: Legalizing the Buyers as Sexual Consumers, Violence Against Women,

Soon after meeting Dennis, I saw in the newspaper an initiative in the city to catch 'johns'. If you were found soliciting prostitution your car would be towed for a week, thus disrupting your life, and forcing you to explain yourself.

Interesting idea.
I have no idea if it still happens.

I have no idea what happens to Johns because no one ever talks about them.

When a little girl went missing a few months ago, along with her mother, the whole city was inconsolable. It was later revealed that she had been working as an escort and the pimp was responsible for the murder.

Again, I wondered, why aren’t we talking about the John’s?

The name alone, is suspicious. A John. A man that could be anyone. Your brother, your father, your co-worker, your neighbour, your friend.

Well I'm not buying it.
I want the John's revealed for what they are. 


Comedy club etiquette

I recently watched Michael Richards on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I adore him, long before Kramer he was Stanley Spadowski in UHF and Fejos in Transylvannia 6-5000, a comedic genius.

He mentioned the "incident" from 2006 and it took me a minute to realize what he was referring to. One quick google search and I remember the headline "Michael Richards racist rant".


I hate hecklers.
Comedians are such fickle creatures, and there's nothing on this planet worse then a heckler. Not even a moment of racist slurs. 

Then I remembered I wrote an article after leaving the comedy club I worked at for a year, about how to behave at a comedy club, cause I was so fed up with the whole scene. The experience was surprisingly, an eye-opening study on human behaviour. 

Here it is:

"So you got bad service at a comedy club...." 

Having just left my position managing an anonymous club in an anonymous city, I feel I could provide you with some insight into why you received bad service at the comedy club, knowing nothing about you, the club, or the service.

To start, let me explain what a comedy club isn't. It's not a restaurant. It's not a theatre production. It's not a movie, or a rock concert. It's an entirely different beast and should be treated as such.

Restaurants are open all day and evening, with a revolving door of guests. Often there's a rush at lunch and dinner, but it's generally a staggered event. You get seated where they put you, sometimes you can suggest a table you'd prefer. A server comes around once you're seated and serves you food and drink. A restaurant is a perfect place to have a great conversation with your party.

At a theatre you line up to get in, maybe line up to get a drink and can even pre-pay to get a drink at intermission, a great system to avoid line-ups. Then you enter the theatre and sit in your assigned seats without tables, located based on your date of purchase or the ticket price. Talking during the show is generally frowned upon.

At a movie theatre you line up to get in, line up to get popcorn, and take your table-less seat wherever you like based on how early you arrived. Talking during the movie is frowned upon.

At a big concert you line up to get in, line up to get some snacks and a drink, then take your seat located based on your date of purchase or how much you were willing to spend on said ticket. Applauding and shouting and talking is generally permitted, usually encouraged.

The Comedy Club

The club is only open for the shows; one or two shows a night (an early show and a late show).

The guests line up at the door, then the doors open and anywhere from 10-300 people enter the club at one time where they're seated at a table. Being seated at a table doesn't automatically mean you are now in a restaurant. This is because 300 people just came in.

Comedy Clubs have pre-arranged seating plans based on the time the ticket was purchased. 

However, 75% of the time, the guest tries to TELL you where they want to sit. An attempt to sit them at the stage, and there's an outcry.

"I don't want to be heckled!"

"You mean you don't want the comedian to talk to you?"


"Ok, well then you'll have to sit back here"

"That's too far away! I won't be able to see!"

"It all sounds the same - from everywhere in the room"

"I want to sit right HERE"

"I'm sorry, you can't sit there."

"Why not?"

"Well, you bought your tickets yesterday and the person whose sitting there bought his 3 months ago. "

 Angry customer – bad customer service – bad review.

Depending on the size of the crowd this seating can sometimes take awhile (see: 300 people all walked in at once). Especially since so many people want to negotiate their spot.

Getting served can often take a little longer then a restaurant for these reasons.

"Where's my server?"

"Everyone just came in at once, she'll be over as soon as she can."

*eye roll* Angry customer – bad review.

The show begins, ideally, after everyone sitting has a drink in front of them.

The comics go up and they try their best to make you laugh. They judge you, the audience. If you're laughing a lot, they're validated. If you're not they're shitting their pants and planning ways to kill themselves later. If they sense you're uptight, they may try to shock you with an anal joke. If you're being rude and on your phone, they may make you part of their act.

Here's the number rule for a comedy club.

THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW - *try telling this to a group of people who have been drinking and have forgotten there's even a show on

THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW -* The people talking never realize they're being disruptive but everyone else in the room has

THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW  - *Often when a staff member tells you to stop talking, there has already been numerous complaints from other customers.

This otherwise simple rule is actually quite difficult to explain to people in the room. They do not understand - they are at a table, with their friends, surrounded by food and drink, and it's dark. It's just like every other bar they've ever been in and not being able to talk seems absurb.

But this is because they have forgotten. They are not in a bar, or a restaurant. They are in a comedy club. When you talk, you are missing vital parts to jokes, so you're not only ruining it for yourself, you're ruining it for the person you are talking to. If everyone were to talk it would drown out the comic entirely.

So I will say it one more time. THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW.

Sometimes people like to have a few drinks before the show cause it's their big night out. Telling a drunk person they're not allowed to talk is almost always going to end in disaster. Kicking out a disruptive guest can also ruin an otherwise good show and make a comic very angry.

Actually, there's a more important rule then not talking. The more important rule is: DO NOT TALK TO THE COMEDIAN.

Do not try to add your two cents to a joke, do not tell him/her you liked his/her joke, do not tell him/her he/she's not funny (a popular one), do not talk to him. I don't think I should have to explain this any further because if you've gotten this far in my post, then you care enough to know.

Last call happens before the show is over, so the servers have time to get around to everyone. It goes like this: last call, payments, clean the room, reset the room, reseat the room, next show.

Payments sometimes take some time because everyone wants to pay with a card, and split a bill, and do all the things that have become the norm in a restaurant. The people with cash throw their money on the table and walk out.

After the bills are paid some guests sit around in their chairs chatting and drinking, unaware that there's another show coming in, despite being told by the MC.

Once the final stragglers leave, the staff do an impressive sweep of the room in record time and do it all over again.

So what did you get out of this, what rules can you follow when going to a comedy club? I made you a list.

How to be a good customer at a comedy club.

1. Sit where they seat you, and say thank-you.
2. Remember it may take up to 15 minutes before you get your first drink. Just pretend you're waiting in line while you sit comfortably. Maybe take the time to chat with your party as you won't be able to later.
3. Watch the show. Laugh. Or don't. It's up to you. Just don't talk or use your phone or interrupt the comedian.
4. Pay the bill with cash, thank your server, shake the comics hand and thank him then exit the room.

As for Michael Richards, I believe the group he yelled at came in late, ordered drinks loudly, then yelled at him that he wasn't funny. And he was sick and tired of the whole charade.