29 September 2017

On Leadership & Revivals.

Hello faithful readers of five!  I just want to warn you that immabout to get political here, which is a departure from my usual style of writing about important topics such as DILF's (which BTW, I totally need to revise that series). Disclaimer (just in case five new people read this): I'm not a long time entrenched member of conservative parties in Alberta, although I've been a member of the PCAA since 2014, and was grand-fathered into the UCP. I'm not overly politically active as far as conventions and local party level, although my armchair rants on Twitter make me an expert at all things Alberta Politics are generally well received. I'm also not a sophisticated person blogger.

Last night, I attended my first political debate ever. It was for the leadership race of the newly formed United Conservative Party. I even dressed up for the event sporting a snazzy blue and white maxi-dress that resembled the logo (sadly, peri-menopause hot flashes combined with lion frizz hair made me look like a flush & frizzy blob last night). Not really having any connections & being a general nobody, I demurely walked down the hallway. I thought it wise to pick up a few campaign buttons to blend in the crowd, like camouflage. What I didn't realize is that I would choose to sit what became the Jason Kenney fan club section, the one campaign I didn't have a button for. D'oh! I initially sat alone, and that stayed that way throughout the debate with nobody approaching me to chat (although maybe wearing the Jean and Schweitzer buttons in the Kenney ghetto wasn't the way to make friends.)

My goal wasn't so much to hear about policy. Policy minutiae bores me.
Me listening to policy.
My goal was to observe each candidate and decide who had the qualities to unite the two silos that have emerged in the party, reach out to those who don't live an breathe this stuff, and have the ability to adapt their decision-making to the circumstances before them. Real talk: policy and stances are good, but if one was to win the leadership & general election, they have to be able to deal with what is before them in the circumstances around them.

My observations of each candidate:

Doug Schweitzer

The good:  Presentation wise, Doug was clearly the most comfortable in public speaking in a way that doesn't scream polished politician. His hand gestures were natural. He was Obama-esque in the way he presented himself. His thoughts on social issues, particularly GSA's, is exactly correct. Let's face it, we don't live in a world where All in The Family is the hot new show, and where AM GOLD & American Bandstand are the only ways to hear music. Doug best represents that shift in many ways when it comes to conservatism and social issues.

I also want to point out that while he didn't necessarily win the applause-o-meter race, when he spoke on social issues and GSA's and youth, there were a lot of heads nodding in agreement in the Kenney section, and indeed the whole room. That was something you wouldn't observe if you were simply tuning in online.

The not-so-good: For all the progressive stances on social issues, he is incredibly rigid to small "c" fiscal theories. He's even more a hard-assed fiscal conservative then the other guys in the room, which kind of surprised me and challenged my notion of him. I think this rigidity lends itself to the feeling that he wouldn't be flexible on issues where leadership demands the flexibility, even if the ideas are worthy of consideration. In many ways, he kind of reminds me of a laid-back version of Derek Fildebrandt. (Disclaimer: unlike many, I actually like Derek personally and this isn't a slag on him). Derek Fildebrandt is a Libertarian, and I'm not sure he would ever stray from that theory. To the same extent, I can't see Doug straying from the fiscal theory he ascribes to.

Jason Kenney

The good: Maybe I went in with pre-conceived notions about him built up by his opponents, but when it came to presentation, I found him...dare I say it...warm? Friendly? He clearly is a career politician and it shows. He knows how to work a crowd, say the things they want to hear, and is not short of sound bites and platitudes. He comes off as by far the most knowledgeable about pretty much every situation. He lives and breathes politics and that came off clearly. There were some points where I actually agreed with him, and I kept waiting for the rapture to happen in shock of those feelings.

The not-so-good: He's a career politician and it shows, to the point where I felt at most times that he wasn't authentic. Does he even know who he himself is beyond the script? I felt like with the other candidates, I understood who they were and where they came from. With Jason I felt like we got to know who he wants us to know about him. Does he have any depth beyond being a politico 24/7?  The *closest* I got to feeling like I knew him on a personal level was when he talked about his father's death. It was at that point when I sat up and really noticed him. For all this talk about him being a populist and a Ralph Klein 2.0, he isn't Ralph in the least. Love him or hate him, Ralph brought a genuine "one of us" authenticity that I don't think Jason has the capability of bringing or being. He could unite the party, but I'm not sure he could win the election without coming out with dirty hands (that could damage the party irrevocably, especially if he lost).

Jeff Callaway

The good:
Umm. Uhhhh. Ummmm. He has an occasional good idea every now and then? Maybe?

The not-so-good: At one point, I tweeted: "Is Jeff Callaway drunk? He sounds like he had a liquid lunch. Campaign Crooner." I was 98% sure he had a few too many pre-debate wines. I mean, never mind his pompous attitude and smarmy responses. Never mind his outright dick comments towards Brian Jean (which garnered boos from even some in the Kenney ghetto where I sat). Does he need an intervention for alcoholism? He stood there with his hand in his pocket (weird!) and even on occasion winked at people in the crowd. He looked like Dean Martin at a Celebrity Roast. Judging by the faint applause in the crowd, he's a pretender. Hell, even Jason Kenney at one point gave him a "dude, WTF" glance.

Look, I get it. I used to work in the investment industry, and brokers need a bit of chutzpah and smarmy charm to win clients and sell products. I was surrounded by no shortage of Jeff Callaways' in my career. But he had ZERO leadership qualities to run a party. Less then zero.

Brian Jean

 The good: I genuinely felt he was sincere. I genuinely felt he was authentic. He was calm. I genuinely felt he would be the type of leader who would be firm but flexible and compassionate. He won the night in many ways, sans the trendy soundbites. He definitely improved upon the debate in Calgary, where I felt watching in online that he was wooden and too composed. He's not a natural politician, but he seems to more open to the real struggles someone like me faces then the theoretical model of how Alberta should look under

The not-so-good: I'm not sure if this big debate style format really works for him as well as smaller town halls and meet-and-greets. I've seen videos of those and he is far more natural and in his element. But in large debates, he at times comes across wooden and robotic. Is that a bad thing? I don't know. But in a format where people like Kenney & Notley shine, he would have to really stretch out of his comfort zone to match them on a consistent basis.  And of the four, judging by the atmosphere in the Kenney ghetto I sat in, will he be able to unify the party? Maybe, maybe not. But his style I think would appeal to general Albertans more to win a general election without damaging the party.

Final Observations

What surprised me was how much energy was in the room. Online, I sit there in my pj's in total indifference. At the actual debate, even on topics I didn't care about, I was clapping like I was at a revival. I get why people go to these things. And quite honestly, I think everyone should go to at least once. The topics take on different layers when you are in the audience, feeding off of other people's responses and reactions.

I don't think the broad stroke policy differences were really that vast, but at the same time, there were distinct differences in the finer details.

It's clear that the two front-runners are Brian Jean and Jason Kenney. You can tell by the reaction in the room. I thought the reactions to both candidates were fairly split, despite what media reports say. The both come with pros & cons, but I think the decision for members will come down to what the end game is for them personally.

Myself, because I was focusing on leadership qualities more than policy, I walked away feeling like Brian Jean was my guy. It's a gut feeling sometimes. (Edited to add: I feel he can appeal to the grassroots, where as Jason will only appeal to a patch of grass that can buy better fertilizer). Y'all can make your own decision.

In post-debate conversations with a few friends I met up, what became clear is that people are ready to move on and start talking party policy and getting ready for the general election, regardless of who wins. I walked away with the feeling that despite the differences, most of the membership will put aside their differences and rally behind whoever wins, even if they have to plug their nose to do so.

The best parts of the evening was meeting some quality people I knew online and forming friendships...finding out that despite how others portray their ideological opponents, most in the crowd were down-to-earth and nice people who don't look or act any different then my friends on the left...that politics can be fun and exciting...that it's OK to agree and disagree on policy even in your own party...and that it's important to get involved.

I hope to see more progress on social issues, despite the want by the leadership candidates to avoid addressing them head on, even if the feeling by some that the views of the party about these issues are unfair. Maybe so, but some are. Deal with it.

If you've made it this far without nodding off, congrats! I hope I provided a different perspective on things, one that isn't burdened by the baggage of long-standing grievances or tribalism perspectives.

I welcome your comments (but will delete anybody who acts like a dick. My blog, my rules).

4 May 2017

A Right Royal Rumour

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II & HRH Prince Philip
Source: Buckingham Palace/The Royal Family
Hello faithful readers of five,

It's been way too long since I last blogged, but I'm back!  If any topic was going to drag me back into blogging, you know it was going to about the Royal Family, right?

A curious incident happened last night. News broke on Twitter, initially from a news organization in New Zealand, that royal household staff from as far away as Sandringham, Windsor, and Balmoral Castle had been notified to attend an "emergency 3 am meeting" at Buckingham Palace by Lord Chamberlain (Senior Officer of the Royal Household) and Sir Christopher Geidt (Her Majesty's Private Secretary). Further, there was to be an "important announcement" at 8 a.m.

Immediately, the rumour machine took off. I read everything from the death of Prince Philip to Prince Charles, to abdication rumours, to simply making plans for palace renovations. The one that seemed take hold was the death of Prince Philip. 

In fairness, life is not infinite, so assuming someone at the age of 95 passed away isn't that far out of the realm of possibility. There were tweets by citizens that the flag above Buckingham Palace was at half-mast and that the death was reported on British radio. Furthermore, articles were shared about the royal protocol for announcing the death of Prince Philip that seemed to lend a little credibility to idea. 

Now as a royal enthusiast, it was interesting to see my dueling feeds. On the one hand, I had friends who barely follow the royals that were suddenly very interested in what was happening, and were assuming the worst. The feed that interested me the most though was that of my fellow royal enthusiasts & bloggers, especially those more experienced in royalty & protocol. Of my friends, they were the most skeptical, most open to other news, and were (rightly so) questioning the inconsistencies of the news with the protocols we have come to expect from The Royal Family in England and other countries. Needless to say, like the Queen, they were not amused. 

The Queen is not amused.
Source: Rollingstone.com

In the end, the news was that Prince Philip was retiring from active duty this August at the age of 96. Still big news in the realm of British Royal news and among the fandom, but safe to say not the news that most people were expecting. The joke was on us, right?

"Well that joke went rather splendidly. Ha!"
Source: Daily Mail

Of course, among the fandom and in retrospect, there were obvious signs that the news of the death of Prince Philip wasn't true. Royal news is bound very heavily in tradition & protocol, even in this instant social media era. Here are some pro-tips when contemplating royal rumours:
  1. Investigate the source: this story broke by a rag outlet in New Zealand. That alone should have been a huge red flag. When it comes to the British Royal Family, if rumours are not reported first by British newspapers, back away slowly.
  2. Investigate how the news is being released: any official news on the British Royal Family comes from either Buckingham Palace (on behalf of the Queen & Prince Philip), Clarence House (on behalf Charles & Camilla), or Kensington Palace (on behalf of William, Catherine, &= Harry). Furthermore, if the BBC hasn't announced it, then don't assume it to be true until they do.
  3. Understand the nature of rumours on social media: Twitter or Facebook is usually the fastest source, but it's not always the most accurate. Also note that just because a journalist sources Twitter, that doesn't mean it's correct. Without independent verification directly from the source or a credible person, assume the organization are a bunch of lazy twits.
  4. Look to credible royal social media accounts first: generally speaking, when it comes to royal news, the best people to believe are the Royal twitter accounts, followed by former staff members turned analysts, followed by official royal reporters, followed by experience royal bloggers. They have the expertise and experience of discerning news, understanding protocol, and spotting inconsistencies vs. some egg account with 6 followers or some guy who never posts about royalty. Good people to follow are Peter Hunt, Dickie Arbiter and Victoria Arbiter.
  5. Question anything that is reported as true without links or specific details: example is "...as reported on British radio." Well that is rather vague, isn't it? What specific station? What time? By Whom? Is there a link?  "French media is reporting..."  Who is their source? Link?
  6. Does the story itself seem unusual or have flaws? One weird aspect of this was "3 am emergency meeting" part. While it's not unusual for staff to be called to Buckingham Palace for a meeting, would that call take place at 3 am, even in death? Is it necessary for staff to be there prior to the release of news, when the head of the other households can just as easily transmit that information to the staff?  These questions alone (along with other inconsistencies) is enough to warrant a pause in reaction.

  7. Understanding Protocols, Traditions, & Customs is mighty handy: Much ado was made about the 8 am release of news, and the "lowering of the flag to half-mast." But understanding protocol will help you understand why the former is not unusual, but the latter would be extremely unusual. Media announcements about news or itineraries tends to take place early in the morning anyways as a matter of course. Yes, there are exceptions where  a release outside of that time would be warranted (such as a death of a foreign leader or a major tragedy), but those are exceptions, not the norms.

    However, the lowering of the Sovereign's flag (a.k.a The Royal Standard) to half-mast would have been mighty unusual, as in non-existent. Why? Because the Royal Standard never lowers to half-mast, even in death of the particular monarch itself, because the Sovereign never dies as succession is immediate upon death.

    If you *did* see a flag at half-mast, like with Princess Diana's death, it's because the Queen was not in residence, and thus the Union Jack was flown. Read this good article for more info.

    As the Royal Standard is flown in the palace where the monarch is currently residing, as she was last night, the royal fandom knew that to be a bunch of hooey.
So I hope I was able to clear shed some light & impart some knowledge on how to receive royal rumours in the future. Most importantly, I wish Her Majesty and His Royal Highness happiness and health. Long may she reign! 

4 September 2015

My Diet Plan: Stop Joining Diet Plans.

Dieting sucks.

I've blogged before about my diet struggles. It seems like I have tried every "plan" from Weight Watchers (repeatedly) to Jenny Craig to The Biggest Loser to diet pills. I've probably spent around $5000 (and that may be a conservative estimate) into these programs, especially Weight Watchers.

Am I any skinnier? No.  But more importantly, am I any healthier? No.

I had my girlfriends over the other week. Everyone was talking, myself included, about how we are at our heaviest. In particular, most expressed how difficult it was to stick to a "program" and that it felt at times like a waste of money.  Despite that, the general indication was that most would re-join a program they have repeatedly failed on before because "anything was better than nothing."

But is that true?  (Note: the next comments aren't meant to be critical of their choices. Whatever works for them. I'm just speaking from my own history & experience).

It got me thinking to my own diet history. Despite all that I have spent, that I am at my heaviest weight. Shouldn't I know better? Haven't I learnt enough?

Two days ago, I came to a conclusion: dieting isn't hard. The programs I've spent money on are. Here are some basic mistakes of most of the diet programs:

1) Being overly complicated in calculating food intake without a real understanding of the nutritional value of the food.

An example is a Weight Watcher point.  The basic of a point is that it is calculated by some formula (that they don't tell you) of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber.  The lower the point, the better the food. Right?

Not necessarily.  Sometimes, the unhealthier product was the same points or less than the healthier option.  Coke can be lower in points that milk. How is that a great choice?

More importantly, other things on the food label, that aren't counted, matter. Like sugar. Like sodium. All critical to good health.

Which leads me to my next point...

2) Living a well-balanced life means that nutrition & health matters too. Food choices should not compromise health. 

The premise of Jenny Craig is that the meals are prepared for you to perfect portion and calorie servings.  But think about this: every single meal is pre-processed food. Which means every single meal exceeds the recommended sodium intake.  What the fresh hell?

Weight Watchers is no different.  Some lower-point food has extremely high levels of sugar or sodium.

Your food choices shouldn't hurt you folks.

3) Lack of emphasis on exercise.

Common to most programs I have been on is that exercise is an after-thought. Sure, they encourage you to move more, but there is no comprehensive plan for that.

And in the case of Weight Watchers, the idea that you have the option of trading "activity points" for "exercise points" is ludicrous for long-term success.

Here's the deal.  Exercise for weight-loss doesn't have as big of an impact if what you are learning is that you can justify food for it.  And the reality check is that most people under-estimate how much exercise they put in compared to the food they exchange it with.

Exercise for the purposes of weight loss should be in addition to eating less/healthier, not in exchange of.

But exercise should also be more heavily encouraged because it has far greater benefits in terms of health (like increasing energy, lung capacity, muscle-building, flexibility, etc...).

4) Lack of structure when it comes to meal plans. 

Sure, there is no shortage of recipes. Or suggestions on how to space your meals and snacks.  Or even what to have.

But meal planning involves more than just what you are eating. It's also how much you eat and how the choices sustain you until the next meal.

I will repeat this: food's only purpose is to fuel you to get through the day.  So while it seems a good idea to have a piece of fruit and yogurt only in the morning, is that going to be enough? Not likely.

5) Next to no emotional counselling.

One thing I did like about Weight Watchers was their group sessions. Good ideas came from those group sessions.

But the thing is, having "tips" is not the same as understanding the emotional reasons behind your food choices. These programs don't require you to peel back the layers to understand why you make the choices you do. Or what emotion you are feeding.

The tips, while good for managing your environment, only go so far.

While I have gleaned some good "tips" over the years (and my suggestions will reflect some of them), I've decided to give up "diet programs" and just start exercising some common sense. To not complicate matters. To take charge of myself and save my money.

Here's the basic common sense of dieting approach that I will be taking:

1) Food is meant to fuel your body, not comfort or meet some emotional need.

2) Eat a balanced diet that includes things that grow in the ground, and things that eat the stuff that grows in the ground.

3) Limit foods that aren't as good, but not to feel guilty for the occasional indulgence

4) Keep my meals simple.  Food has enough great taste that I don't need to add high-calorie loaded things to complicate things.  Use basic ingredients. Limit salt & sugar as often as possible, and definitely don't add them to meals unless absolutely necessary.

5) Move more in an deliberate way. Move more in a way that recognises my limitations (knees) but doesn't make excuses for them.  Plan activity at least 5 out of the 7 days for at least 30 minutes a day.

6) Before I reach for a food, pause and ask why. Am I hungry? Or am I feeding another hunger that doesn't require food?

7) Have a general plan for what I will have each meal, every week.  Have some go-to meals for breakfast & lunch that can be quickly prepared and consumed (given that I only have a 1/2 hour to consume each meal).  For dinner, have a plan for every day in that week, factoring in things like work schedules (husband), events, etc... and then plan accordingly.

8) Ensure that every meal includes at least 3 of the 4 food groups, and that every snack includes 2 of the 4.  For every meal & snack, a fruit &/or vegetable must be one component.  All three main meals must include at least 1/2 to 1 full protein.

9) Use the plate method of 1/2 plate being fruit or veg, 1/4 being protein, 1/4 being carb.

10) Weigh & measure my portions until I have a better sense of a reasonable portion. Routinely re-measure to ensure I am not "over-portioning."

11) Have a plan for eating out. Portion out half the entree and only consume the other portion if truly hungry. Otherwise, pack it up for lunch.  For my drink, fishbowl my water and tell them to add a variety of bar condiments (i.e., cherries, orange/lime/lemon wedges).

12) Find a way to track in a way that is achievable, such as an app, or blogging, or a scribbler.

13) While at the end of the day, it's calories in calories out, ensure the calories are more beneficial than not.

14) Stop drinking coffee altogether (especially the frapifattys) and move towards tea with honey.




18) Accept the limitations of my body (health) but keep working everyday to overcome them.

19) Relax. Don't let the weight loss effort consume my life.  Find a hobby/distraction to provide balance.

20) Keep your eye on the end goal, but mark the accomplishments along the way.

Have any other great advice? Leave them in the comments.


15 May 2015

The Road That Will Be Less Travelled

Source: Parks Canada, Elk Island National Park, pc.gc.ca.

Growing up, I didn't travel very much or very far. My trips were limited to mostly places in Alberta (like Jasper, Banff, Calgary, Crowsnest Pass) and BC (Sparwood to see family). Beautiful places but close to home. Affordable.

When I reached of age where I could make my own travel decisions - and had the funds to do so - I ventured out. My first couple of trips were bus tours so that I could pack the most into a trip in an affordable & safe fashion. Along with my friend Joanne, we went to places like New York City, Washington DC, Savannah, St. Augustine, Orlando, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and places in-between.

When I met the man who was to be my husband, we traveled one, maybe two times a year to Las Vegas. Last year, we did an epic one month road trip from Edmonton to Las Vegas, then over to Anaheim (and Disneyland), then up the Pacific Coast Highway with stops in places like Monterey, San Francisco & Port Angeles.

I have always made travel a priority, but this year, my priorities have had to shift.  My husband & I would love to continue to travel as we have. But we are trying to have a baby. We also want to retire early. While we are fortunate in that we have no major expenses, our goals mean that we have had revise how we travel.

This year, my husband & I made a difficult but correct decision to put off major travel plans.  The many places we want to see are being pushed back for the time being.

They say you should live your life to the fullest so you have no regrets. But the reality is that sometimes, you have to balance your regrets & your dreams. I would regret making travel a bigger priority than having a child or being able to retire early.

We haven't completely abandoned travelling though. We decided to stick to local areas where we could see something in one day (or overnight at the most). Just like in my youth, we will stick around this beautiful province.

On tap for this summer includes:

  • A trip to Elk Island National Park.  I've never actually been there before, so I am quite excited. Plus it's relatively close to home, so we can do this in a day.
  • A picnic at Ma-Me-O Beach in Pigeon Lake and at Wabamun Lake.
  • Little road trips here and there that are within driving distance, stopping to see sites and having a picnic. 
We are also considering places like Drumheller, the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the Ponoka Stampede, any type of festival or event in a nearby town, the Reynolds Museum, etc. I am extremely lucky to live in a beautiful province like Alberta with all the scenery & travel options

When it comes to travel, I seemingly have come full circle with my youth.

14 May 2015

The things left unsaid.

Yesterday has no reason to end the way it did.

I woke up in a generally good mood. I had a productive work day and finished my tasks. I went to my new weekly fitness class and left a little bit stronger (even if the legs had the shakes).  My husband & I had an enjoyable dinner with great conversation.

By all accounts, my day was actually pretty good.

And then I uttered something to my husband at the worst possible time. I created hurt. It came from a place of hurt. I uttered it from a feeling of frustration. It was motivated by wanting to shift the burden & guilt to someone who was already carrying his share.

I could have very easily chosen not to be mean. I could have very easily chose to be understanding.

I could have left things unsaid.

But the infertility struggle comes with many emotions. Sometimes the emotions are ugly and can't be hidden.

I made a promise that I wouldn't go "crazy" on this infertility journey. That whatever shall be shall be. Most importantly, I promised it wouldn't interfere with the loving relationship I have with my amazing husband.

Yesterday, it interfered. Yesterday, all the isolation and guilt and anger and frustration and sadness came out in a few sentences. The wound was swift. The wound was deep.

It was unfair of me. It was mean. It was cruel. And now I must repair the damage I caused.

I can blame the drugs I am on, certainly. I can blame my inability to just confront people with my concerns. I am not a people pleaser, but I am also not a feather ruffler. In the past, when I have said something (usually coming from the same place as this time), it's created hurt and misunderstanding.

My choices always seem to come down to either remain silent, or say something & risk misunderstanding, anger, & hurt. I haven't figured out yet how not to do that.

Lesson is that sometimes, things are simply better left unsaid.

*Update: Love means saying you are sorry. And I did.  Love means forgiveness. And he did. xo*

11 February 2015

Catching up on stuff: A post on strength & fragility.

Hello faithful readers of five,

I know. I haven't written anything here for a while. I've had a thousand great thoughts in my head, but no will to actually articulate anything. I'll do better.

The last few months have been particularly difficult - more so for the people around me than myself particularly.  But it has been draining, this thing called worry. It has been challenging, this thing called stress. It has been a test in fortitude, this thing called emotions. It has been an experience, this thing called helplessness.

To recap:

  • On December 12th, my best friend's mom died. A woman I have known and loved for over half my life is gone. My sadness pales in comparison to Jo's, but it's still a devastating loss. Not only is a loss in the sense that your friend's parents are yours too, but it's a reminder of the fragility of your own parents. 
  • Speaking of Jo, her son (and my godson) was admitted to the Stollery Children's hospital twice. He's slowly getting better. But it's scary because they are so vulnerable. Oh, and Joanne was sick with bronchitis.  I feel helpless in that I want to be there for her, but there is so little I can do. 
  • Closer to home, my husband was sicker than a dog with some sort of viral infection. This after I came off my own bout of the flu.
  • My own health issues. I swear, I turned 35 a few years back and it's been downhill health wise since. A reminder that I need to nurture my body. Because the way you treat your body will catch up to you. 
  • In my immediate family, someone is facing a mental health battle with depression and suicidal thoughts/attempts. He was hospitalized in the mental health and we thought he was getting better. He seemed fine. Now he's back there.
  • An online acquaintance lost her son to suicide.
  • Not being anymore closer to having a baby than I was that year. The fertility care system in Alberta is less than adequate. (Although there is a ray of hope coming up. Maybe).
  • Dealing with a spiritual/faith drought. It happens to me more frequently than I care to admit.
  • The general flipping world right now.
  • All while dealing with the general stresses of every day life. 
So much worry, stress, emotion and helplessness in a short period of time. Sigh. 

The quest for 2015 will be trying to find a way to find strength in the things that bring me down. How to rise above and be the person needed for those who suffer. How to deal with my own fragility. How to keep optimistic when it seems like there is not much to be optimistic about. 

I will return to one goal though: blog more. Having an outlet is a good thing. Maybe. LOL.

28 March 2014

To Alberta's Political Parties: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

There is a lyric in Janet Jackson's song, What Have You Done For Me Lately, that I think sums up my current thinking on Alberta politics:

Used to be a time you would pamper me
Used to brag about it all the time
Your friends seem to think that you're so peachy keen
But my friends say neglect is on your mind...
Whose right?

What have you done for me lately?
Ooh ooh ooh yah!
What have you done for me lately?
Ooh ooh ooh yah!

Today, after originally reported by local blogger Kikkiplanet (a.k.a. Kathleen Smith) TWO WEEKS AGO, news of plans (although not confirmed to be implemented or finalised) to add a personal suite by & for Alison Redford (a.k.a. Alberta's former Premier) was released by Charles Rusnell of the CBC.

I GET IT.....WE ALL GET IT.  Another scandal about Premier Redford treated Alberta's wallet like her own...blah blah blah.  I got it the first 75 news reports released over the last two weeks years, ad nausea.  The fact that old news is being reported by lazy reporters who don't seem to do their job unless Kathleen stokes a fire up their ass is both amusing, and a sad commentary on journalism in this province.  But that is neither here nor there. 

Each political party in many ways resembles the first part of the lyric above.  As a voter, I've been enticed by many parties with their sexy promises, polished looks, and careless whispers of sweet policy caressing my ears.  Each party has a loyal group of partisan friends, saying how the other parties are up to no good and their party is peachy keen. 

But what I want to know from all political parties is what have you done for me lately?  It's not enough for me to simply say "elect us because the 'other' is <insert disparaging comment here>."  I want to know what you are going to do.  I want to know what your plans are for the future.  

I am not really interested in looking to the past.  As someone with a history degree, I am always cautious to judge the events of the past, without looking at the context of when a decision was made.  I also realize that sometimes it takes years to see the full realization of decision or action take, even the controversial ones. 

These are the things I want to hear from political parties in Alberta (that I am not hearing now):
  • "Who cares what the other parties are doing? Here is what we are doing."
  • "Here is our plan for what we think would would work."
  • "Here are our expense reports, so you can judge for yourself prior to the election if we are trustworthy."
  • "Here is how we would do this specific situation differently."
  • "We can't promise that our promises can be implemented, but we will try."
  • "We trust you, the voter, to make an informed choice."
Do not assume that a scandal is all it will take for me to vote for the "other."  With so many voices whispering in my ear, telling me who is right and who is wrong, my vote will be made in the silence of my own thoughts and observations, based on sound policy and bold vision.

21 March 2014

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: An Alberta Tale

There is an old song by the group 'Stealers Wheels' that pretty much sums up the reality of politics for moderates (like myself) in Alberta. Here is a small part of the lyric of Stuck In The Middle With You:

It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

This week in Alberta, Premier Alison Redford was forced out resigned after two-years at the helm. Now granted, much of this was brought on by herself. For a woman who is probably the smartest person we have elected to the throne as Premier, she sure had an optics problem. There is no easy way to justify some of the decisions she made, in either spending, how she conducted herself, or who she surrounded herself. It's sad really, because she did do some good things - most notably taking an aggressive stance to fix the post-boom/Klein-era cuts that created a major infrastructure deficit. But it was clear she needed to go. You can't have the perception of the air of entitlement, even if other leaders in this country are just as bad or worse. If she (or us for that matter) walks away with one lesson, it's to make sure you have an effective crisis management strategy. 

Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're a self made (wo)man,
And your friend, they all come crawlin',
Slap you on the back and say, 

Now some might say that maybe the problem is with the Progressive Conservative of Alberta Party. They are a dinosaur party that has run it's course after 43 years of uncontested rule. Hogwash. They were elected for 43+ years because they effectively adjusted their strategy of governing to match the prevailing wind currents. When we needed growth, they provided growth. When we needed fiscal restraint, they provided fiscal restraint. And so the cycle goes. 

A good party of any persuasion is a better one if they adjust their policies to match the reality, even if it goes against ideology. A tough pill to swallow, but all the leaders of all the parties in Alberta know that. To promise they won't adjust their ideology to the situation is complete bullshit. An NDP government can't install socialist programs when the price of dinosaur farts goes down. The WRP can't push an assertive socialist ideology in a province as diverse as ours. All any party can do is move the province a little to the right and a little to the left....by mere millimetres. 

If the PC's loses the Wildrose, it better be because the WRP offered a better solution, not because they were simply the "best alternative." But the proof will be in the policy pudding. The "pin-the-tail-on-Alison" game is over. 2016 is a long way off, and they better make the best of that short window. 

So what is the problem you ask?

The problem with Alberta is that you have clowns to the left, and jokers to the right. 

Somewhere along the way in this province, you had politicians, both in government and opposition, who thought it was cool to pit people against each other. It wasn't obvious at first. It starts with passing legislation or spending decisions that pits urban vs. rural communities against each other. It's the 15-second sound bites that paint one side or one party or one person as "evil" and the other "good."  It's making broad generalisations that we are all Martha's and Henry's, when in fact, few of us can relate to the lifestyle of said characters. 

It's parties letting their base get nasty with the other side, on their behalf, and not intervening to tell them to tone it down. Or even worse, egging them on. Then the very next day, doing "selfies" with the "enemy", smiles and wine all around. 

It's people, rightly or wrongly, defining what it means to be a big or little "C" Conservative or a big or little "L" liberal. It's people who pick on each other because they aren't their brand of "C" or "L." 

It's people using social media or the actual media to promote their own profiles/beliefs/agenda's, but then take no responsibility because they are merely "engaged citizens", regardless of how accurate their allegations are. 

What baffles me is about the whole Redford affair is that the expense records have been posted for many, many, many, months. I knew about them. One lazy Saturday in the summer, I stumbled across many of those records. But I had nothing to benefit from exposing them? First off, I didn't know the context of the trip. Did the ends justify the means? Secondly, it's not my job to do the footwork for the media in this province. Third, what are my expectations for a leader or an associate-level staff. Is it reasonable to expect someone of that calibre to stay at the Hotel 8 or eat at McDonald's, or fly economy?

I don't have the answers to that, because I didn't know enough about the context. I sure as hell wasn't going to put my reputation on the line on allegations without context.

So here we are, once again facing a leadership contest. Perhaps what is needed is a citizen expectation review.

In the meantime, as a moderate, I'm just going to sit back and watch. And think. And come to my own decision. Because I have clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right and:

I'm stuck in the middle with you.

11 February 2014

Thoughts on the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

Hello faithful readers of five,

The Olympics are here. I being a big fan of Olympic am naturally in my element. I have some random thoughts about a variety of issues pertaining to these games so thought I would just toss them in the cosmos and let them land where they land
  • I think the games so far have been enjoyable to watch. Despite all the controversy pertaining from everything to Russia hosting, to the LBGTQ issues, to the cost, they have been quite enjoyable. Nothing like sports being that great equaliser. At the end of the day, that is what the Olympics are all about.
  • Canada in particular is doing well. While that should be natural given we are a winter country, that hasn't always been the case. Nice to see that the results of the Own The Podium policies (devoting money towards Olympic preparation) is finally paying off in results. 
  • I have been digging the biathlon and cross-country skiing events this time around. I think I want to look into taking up either (or both) as a sport. I need a winter activity anyways, and everyone I have talked to about this loves cross-country skiing. 
    This would be my response after skiing too.
  • My royal appreciation nerdiness is coming out strong. How cute is King Wilhelm and Queen Maxima from the Netherlands? 
    Wax & Max
  • I can't help but feel sorry for my American friends. I caught a little bit of NBC's coverage of the Olympics. Simply bad. 
  • Speaking of NBC, and journalism in general, I can't help but wonder if there is residual Cold-War bias in how Russia is being portrayed. Now granted, some of the conditions as far as infrastructure is probably bad. But just the way Russia is being portrayed, you would think they were attending a boxing match between Rocky and Ivan Drago.
  • Part of the reason why I am drawn to these games is because of family ties to the area. My grandpa's ancestors come from the Black Sea area. In a twist-of-fate, my third cousin, Chris Robanske, is competing in these games. It's like coming full circle.
  • I have been enjoying spending time with my husband watching the games. Has made the post-NFL-football period less of a letdown. LOL.
  • I've been giving a lot of thought about various levels of governments in Alberta flying the Rainbow Pride flag (as a show of solidarity for gay athletes/protest against Vladimir Putin's archaic laws). My first instinct was to think "doesn't the Canadian Flag represent all of us?"  I had no problems with flying the rainbow flag to be honest. I originally found it sad that the Maple Leaf (or the Stars and Stripes, or Union Jack, or whatever national flag) isn't perceived to represent all of us...and if that is the case, then that speaks more volumes about "us" than Russia. But then I got to thinking. When we see a rainbow, it encompasses the whole world. A rainbow doesn't recognise borders or the reality of what is going down on the ground. A rainbow can be appreciated by anyone from all walks of life. A rainbow, in many ways, is the heart of what it means to be inclusive. I've heard arguments like "well why not fly the flag for _______ group who are also oppressed in Russia?". In reality, the rainbow flag represents inclusion, fairness and diversity for all citizens of this world, regardless of race, gender or sexuality. Although the rainbow flag is specifically represented by one group, the message of the flag represents us all. 

  • How nice was the ballet and classical music at the Opening Ceremonies? It was a nice change of pace from other ceremonies...and quite beautiful. 
  • This warmed my heart today. A Russian cross-country athlete broke his ski. A Canadian coach came to the rescue and gave him a ski so he could continue the race. How Canadian. (Click here to see video). 

Well that's it for now. I may blog some more as stories develop. Have fun watching the Olympics! (Assuming you haven't boycotted them or something. Then if that is the case, have fun watching repeats of Real Housewives of Mother Russia...or whatever!).

6 February 2014

Paint by Number

Hello faithful readers of five, 

There has been much ado on social media about the finale of The Biggest Loser: Season 15. The winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost 155 pounds and went from 260 lbs to 105 lbs, which was almost a 60% loss. Her BMI based on her supposed height of 5'4" puts her either "underweight" or just on the cusp, depending on what chart you read. (Some have her at 16, 17' or 18). 

People on social media have gone crazy, saying she is "anorexic" (and from some posts, that is being kind). Sites like Diets in Review have raised alarm bells by saying things like: 

@DietsInReview: Rachel’s 60 Percent Weight Loss is Nothing to Celebrate; Biggest Loser Should be Ashamed http://t.co/QFwbIlzxYk << What did you think? #BL15 

While some good arguments are being raised in general about the show and their methods, I think we need to stop criticizing Rachel. Repeat after me: 

                                                 People are not only numbers. 

                                    People are not defined by arbitrary numbers.

First off, we are not medical professionals. Even those who claim to be, they are not her medical professional. We have no idea what her health is like.

Secondly, a BMI chart is not the best indicator of...welll...anything really. It is a guideline (one that has been arbitrarily redefined over the years and varies in different countries). It doesn't factor in bone or frame structure.

By that chart, I should be in the hospital right now with a blown artery, oozing fat out of my nostrils. My husband is technically quite a bit "underweight" (more so than Rachel) and has no health issues related to his weight. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, society needs to stop valuing people only by the number they represent on the scale. When some competitors "only" reached weight losses of 25-35%, people were critical for "not doing enough with the opportunity they were given." When they started, they were criticized for "letting themselves go." 

You truly cannot win at any level of weight by arbitrary standards of society. It seems that the only acceptable weight of someone else is what society deems they are comfortable with. If you are too thin (naturally or by diet) or too fat (naturally or by diet) and they are uncomfortable, it's not ok. 

My post isn't ignoring the very real issues of anorexia or obesity. I am not sweeping the very issue of disorders under the rug. But let's be clear that this is a competitor on a reality TV show that was given the best medical & professional supervision on this journey. She may very well have done something like hot sauana or detoxing for the weigh-in for one or two days prior to the final weigh-in, which was not indicative of her efforts prior too (which she claimed she ate 1600 calories a day in the weeks leading). 

So enough with the shaming. Put down the pitchforks and focus on the fact that a beautiful determined person is exactly that - a person, not a number.