Monday, May 21, 2018

Dear Fear

I felt like I had life by the horns. I felt accomplished, strong, confident, complete.

That doesn't matter when life has other plans, and things get thrown askew; off the path you've beaten.

Sometimes hurt finds new places, down deep in the heart and into your soul, that you never knew existed; that burning, aching pain that takes your legs out from underneath you and can never be reined in or understood.

Life doesn't care about your plan. It doesn't care about finding the things you've always wanted and finally feeling right. It doesn't care about waking up at 5 am, the sunrise creeping over the window sill, and realizing nothing has been more perfect than now.

It tests your strength, tries to take away the things you've worked hardest for, the things that have become most important to you and are a part of you now, woven into your fabric. It strips your interior out.

And, at the end of it all, you're left with nothing but a blank piece of paper and a pen to try and draw a map to get you back. Trying to navigate out is futile when it was realized a long time ago there is no road that goes back.

Instead, you just spend the whole time trying to pinpoint what went wrong, what you did, said. Why you've lost the most important thing.

Why.

They say it will get better.

Just give it time.

I don't think anything truly gets better. "Better" is a subjective place created by those with good intentions and cold comfort. We just try to patch up the gaping wounds that are left and we develop coping mechanisms to try and safeguard what is left.

And we grieve.

Hard, deep, guttural grief that shakes the foundations and comes from those deep places where "Better" is not even a concept.

It's a stark realization that things can change quickly when you're caught up in the hope and promise of it all, confident and colour blind. You can get caught in everything moving forward and feeling like all you've worked for is finally there in front of you. Then, one shift of the ground and you're sinking.

Fall down seven times, get up eight.

And try to go forward without the pieces left behind, when things were truly better and the old adage of hard work paying off seemed like reality.

Someone told me yesterday, "Grief is just love with no place to go."

And that is the most perfect analogy.

"Dear fear,
How did I get here?
How do I let go?
When you are all I have known.
So long,
Dear fear..."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What are we at, B'ys?

Oh, Newfoundland, you sure are beautiful aesthetically.

Your rugged coastlines, vibrant and teeming waters, rolling hills that are unmatched anywhere, and colourful saltbox houses that stand out the minute one flies over your landscape - breathtaking.

It really is too bad that you are the Regina George of the world, dressed to the nines but hideous and ugly on the inside; driven only by desires to never be happy and to eat your own.

It sure has been a month. Hell, it has been an existence in this province.

It did not take long after clips of Anthony Bourdain's Newfoundland episode of Parts Unknown started to leak that the ugliness leaked out simultaneously.

"HE CALLED US NEWFIES!"
"HE DIDN'T PRONOUNCE NEWFOUNDLAND CORRECTLY!"
"WHY ARE THERE QUEBECERS IN THE EPISODE?"
"LOUD NOISES!!!11!!!1!"

(We have an unhealthy obsession with blaming everything on our French neighbours and, ironically, raging at them for claiming a distinct culture...)

Bourdain issued an apology. Of course, that also drew scorn and more rage.

We seem to thrive on being enraged.

On the heels of a month where the small town of Springdale made international news for refusing a *gasp* rainbow crosswalk to be painted in their town (on the request of high school students - CHILDREN - who simply wanted a symbol of inclusion), maybe we should tuck away our outrage and try to be grateful for a little positive exposure?

Following a month where our own legislature has been thrown into a whirlwind of controversy over bullying and harassment complaints, where our own elected representatives have continued to shoot themselves in the foot, how about we stop doing the same?

And this morning, media are all over the small town of Middle Arm where children were yanked from a class because they were being taught *gasp* acceptance of their LGBTQ+ peers and learning that maybe, just maybe, they would be accepted themselves.

If any message illustrates perfectly just how important that class is in our communities, it is a tweet from @DavidMaherNL this morning:

"I didn’t come out as gay in my rural high school.
I saw how the few openly gay kids were treated. “Fag” was the go-to insult. I saw the gay kids get bullied “why would I want to be ridiculed like that?”
I would have given anything for someone to tell me being myself was okay."

B'ys.

What are we at?

I wish I could say the mentality of entitlement, of outrage, of the often hatred-driven agenda is a new one.

Back in 1993 when our new high school was built, and we were all excited at the prospects of a new identity for our sports teams, we held a contest. We needed a mascot. Okay b'ys, I grew up around the bay. It was an obvious choice that the Looney Toons character who adorned the mudflaps on every second car was a choice - we picked Taz. Our new high school team would be named the DC Devils.

RAGE!
SATANISM!
YOU'RE ALL GOING TO HELL!

We had to change the name to the DC Destroyers. I'm still surprised nobody raged about "condoning destruction and violence" then.

When a friend of mine died by suicide in high school, his bandmates gathered around and sang his favourite song under their breath as their best friend went into the ground.

THEY MUST BE CHANTING!
SATANISTS!
DEVIL WORSHIP!
WILL SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN??!!!????

And this from one small town.

So, spare me if I say I find it hard to believe we are making any ground after some of the instances that have come to light recently.

You might read those examples and see a common strain of religion, but I will not dwell or debate on that. Religion is never to blame, it is the interpretation and how it becomes a crutch for hatred and agendas.

We are a culture of entitlement, of back-biting, of covetousness, and we are malicious.

Those on the outside see experiences like those portrayed on Parts Unknown and see the beauty. Broadway goers see the happy, welcoming people dancing and singing across a stage, labels of the happiest and most welcoming people on earth - and I cannot help but think we are some good at putting on a show to the outside.

Come visit!

Come in and have a cup of tea, dear, and watch the gannets diving over the clothes blowing on the line. You'd better not be gay, though, and please pronounce everything correctly - from Quirpon to Rose Blanche - lest we piss in your cup and then write an enraged Facebook post about it.

Come for the icebergs, stay for the bigotry.

And I don't know how we change it.

This embedded hatred, masked self-loathing, and inability to see outside ourselves needs a makeover, and not one to make it more aesthetically pleasing. If there's any old adage Newfoundland solidifies it's that "you can put lipstick on a pig..."

We have the unhealthiest population - ravaged with substance abuse, obesity and disease - but don't dare point that out.

Our economy is trash, young and not-so-old people alike, families, seniors, all struggle to get by, and we fight still for basic decencies like pay equity, a livable wage, respectful workplaces - but she's some pretty here.

We have the highest rates of domestic violence in the country, but we brush it under the rug still, and calls for change fall on deaf ears.

We are a culture driven on self interest and selfishness, but nobody wants to accept that.

Nobody wants to own it.

I'm still shocked that our legislature voted itself out of existence (albeit temporarily) in 1933. That might have been the last time a group of Newfoundlanders got together and said,

"B'ys, we're screwed and maybe we need to fix it."

It might not hurt if we stopped for a moment now, took a good, long look in the mirror. If we read the comments, look around, see what we are and the true problems that fester like an infection under the surface, we might not like what we see.

We might then have a desire for change.

But, until we stop feeding the trolls, until Facebook and news article comments sections stop being breeding grounds for hatred and loathing, and until we stop being in denial about it all, I'm not sure anyone is willing to take that look at themselves.

We need to be better, folks. We need to put the wheels in motion to break the cycles, and we need to say, not type or pretend, that we are better than this.

If we are going to rage and type scathing reviews over the use of the word "Newfie," maybe we need to stop the behaviours that paint us as a punchline; maybe, just maybe, we need to be more concerned with what is under the surface than looking pretty.

I love my home, but Newfoundland is an ugly place sometimes.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Botwood.

We played our hearts out this weekend.

It has been a heavy week and the hockey world is hurting. Looking around the arena on Saturday, there were jerseys with name plates that said, "Humboldt," "Broncos," and stickers that displayed the logo representing 16 of our own lost. We tried to do our part.


Half of us arrived on Friday, full of nerves and excitement. The beer helped. We sang, we laughed, we watched the Pens lose (and I swore a lot). It was a wonderful place full of energy that I, and we all, needed. And I looked around a lot, once again realizing how special teams are.

On Saturday we headed to the arena, a little hungover and riding a bag of nerves. We laced our skates, sat in anticipation; we hooted, hollered and ramped up what we needed for what we figured was our hardest game to come.



I somehow opened the scoring. We beat St. John's 2-1. We were on wheels and the team played unreal. We played hard and we played tough.

We drank beer, we celebrated, and we laced up again for Bishop's. We trounced them 5-0. Quigs was a wall.

We headed back, all tired and saying it would be an early night. 23 beer later I decided on one more as we harassed teammates in bed, knocked on doors, had singalongs and laughed until our stomachs hurt.

And I wouldn't have traded how tired I was the next morning for the world.



We went out against GFW, a little hungover, a lot tired, and got bounced. We didn't know if we would make the championship but it was likely. We went back, drank some more and waited.

And then we were in.

I don't think we could have played harder than we did in that game. We played against friends, women we've played with and against all year, and we played like dogs.

1-0.
2-0.
2-1.
3-1.
3-2.
4-2.
And in the last two minutes, 4-3.

Denise was yelling. I put my forehead on the boards and couldn't watch. We stacked the line and as the clock wound down we realized we were going to do this.

And we did.

There were yells and cheers, laughs and tackling. And in that moment I remembered what it was like to be a part of a winning team who was all guts and heart. We had won.

There were many laughs.

"Drunk again, Leeanne?"
"Me too, mudder."

"This is Alexa. Go the fuck to bed."

"B'ys...we hates to tell you...Botwood is back there 20 minutes..."

"Dwan?"
"What?"
"Go fuck yourself."

And my stomach still hurts from laughing.

I think that win meant a little extra this weekend. It was a weekend of friendship, of hard work, of fighting, of memories.

3 wins.
1 championship.
41 beer and 1 hurting liver.
381 more days until Botwood 2019.

And we did it for you, boys. We made sure to lay sticks at the memorial on the highway.


It's been 20 years since I last laced up my hockey skates. Back then I never dreamed I would be a part of such an awesome group of women, make friendships solidified in our love for the game and a good time. Hockey was something that was not achievable for girls and we sat by, watching the boys play, watching our dads, and wishing the game was more inclusive.

Now, girls all across the province lace their skates up and know that some day they too can spend weekends with their friends, playing the game they love, and making memories that will last a lifetime (even when you're 36 years old).

And I needed it. I am forever grateful that Laing messaged me on Twitter this year and invited me to a skate up the shore.

The Southern Shore Breakers kicked ass. And I could never have wished to be a part of a better team of women. Let's get back there and win it again, girls. Let's show them what we're made of.

And let's never take one minute for granted because, in an instant, you never know how quickly life can change.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Humboldt.

Humboldt, Saskachewan is roughly the size of Marystown.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The tragic April 6th accident that has now claimed the lives of 16 of those on board the team bus has reverberated throughout the hockey world, and communities. Actually, ripples of the tragedy can be felt across the globe.

If you've grown up in a small town, this tragedy probably hits your heart a little harder. Those team busses and team trips were luxuries. Each year you looked forward to invitationals, regionals, provincials - you never really had much opportunity to get out of your town.

Those trips were where you made some of your best memories. You sang, tormented the chaperones and coaches, and fed off each other's energy as you headed to some other small town to play your hearts out. Nerves would be rampant but nobody admitted it.

I recall Steve Brooks threatening to pitch a few of us out of the van if we didn't stop singing Dennis Leary's "Asshole" on repeat, getting banished from Botwood for getting on a huge team drunk after getting blown out the whole tournament, mooning cars from the back of the bus as we headed home from Avondale, and Matthew getting a bad cold and bombing the next day because we had held his face in a snow bank in a game of Truth or Dare.

We still tell the stories when we see each other, 20 years later.

A lot of time is spent on those busses when you're a team. Teams are like little families, and your teammates are some of your best friends.

Imagine, in one second, losing 16 members of your little family.

When the plane carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl went down in 2011 the hockey world grieved. The hockey world is a close community, you know - one that spans across teams, leagues, towns, provinces, countries and continents.

Humboldt feels different.

A lot of us have grown up in a Humboldt. A lot of us have been those young people on that bus with the world laid out ahead of you, though nothing in the world feels more important at that moment than the win.

Small town boys with big dreams, playoffs looming, hopes and visions of sitting on a bus in the Show some day, undoubtedly.

I'm proud to be a member of the hockey community. I've thought a lot about my own teams this week. I play with some wonderful, spirited, fun-loving, hockey-loving folks who I wouldn't trade for the world. I've become a part of a few teams this year. I'm thankful for each one, and for the support, friendship and camaraderie each one has brought.

And I can't imagine losing half of them in one fell swoop.

This weekend our Southern Shore Breakers senior women's team will load our gear into our rigs, hit the highway and head to Botwood (I should probably check and see if they're going to let me in after that ban I got when I was 17 for the hotel party and the bathtub full of booze). We'll play our hearts out, drink a lot of beer, laugh until everything hurts, and make memories and stories to carry in to next year.

And you never know how quickly all of that could change in an instant. Appreciate every moment. "Go Breakers!" And Go Broncos.












Monday, April 2, 2018

Protecting the Owner-Operator: Breaking Free of Company Control

My blog tends to teeter from the personal to the professional. Those who know me know that my professional life is embedded deeply in who I am.

The following is an article I wrote and was published in The Union Forum, Issue No. 02 - Spring 2018. Bill C-68 is important to not only Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and Atlantic Canadians but to all Canadians. For this reason, I felt like sharing.

Protecting the Owner-Operator: Breaking Free of Company Control

On February 6, 2018 Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Dominic Leblanc, announced changes to Canada’s Fisheries Act. For fish harvesters, their families, fisheries organizations and coastal communities, February 6 was an emotional day, one that many waited on with bated breath for decades.

I cannot recall the first time I heard the term “trust agreement.” I try to pinpoint it as it was a pivotal moment that shaped me and my future academic and career paths. When the dirty little tool called the “trust agreement,” or “controlling agreement,” entered into our fisheries, it was a point in time that retooled the mechanisms of an industry once built firmly on kinship and survival.

I grew up in Spillar’s Cove, a rural town outside the historic fishing community of Bonavista. Bonavista was the original “company town” in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery. When then-Minister of Fisheries (or, “Minister of Fishermen,” as he often stated) Romeo LeBlanc introduced limited entry licensing and the policies of Owner Operator and Fleet Separation in 1979, five licenses were grandfathered and permitted to remain property of now-defunct Fishery Products International.

The names of these vessels exist still in policy documents – Margaret R, Random Buster, Silver Jubilee, Rose Venture, and the name I often sat as a child and repeated over the VHF radio in our little dining room, waiting for a response from my father – “Edwin Charles, do you read, over.”

The fishery was family to me. My grandfathers, father, uncles all made their livings from the sea; my grandmother, mother, aunts all worked in the fish plant.

The dichotomy of the independent harvester and the company boat was evident. While company control had not yet turned into the monster we are now faced with, the pieces were there; the creation of a class structure within the social fabric of our little coastal town. The result was a class of hardworking people who live an industry that runs through our veins as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, yet often produced nothing more than a reduced paycheck and a suit of oil clothes.

As I grew up, our fishery changed. As value increased, there were forces under the surface, from deep corporate pockets, that were morphing the relations within our industry and within our towns.
Trust agreements began to rear their ugly heads in the 1990s, as our fisheries shifted to rely on more lucrative shellfish like snow crab and northern shrimp[1].

I remember standing on the wharf in Old Perlican in 2005, an excited 23 year old Masters student. I wanted to explore the dynamic of trust agreements in a community other than my own, I wanted to speak to harvesters about their experiences, and I wanted to produce work that would open up the discussion on these contracts with the devil.

As I sat at the table of the only harvester who had agreed to speak to me, it was then and only then that the true control exhibited by a trust agreement became clear. Like Fight Club, the first rule of a trust agreement is, “Do not talk about a trust agreement.”

In 2007, then-Minister of Fisheries Loyola Hearn, announced that there would be a 7 year period for harvesters in trust agreements to get out; in 2014, the efforts had consisted of nothing more than high priced lawyers finding more ways to open loopholes.

Since, the deep pockets of corporations have meant more licenses have been stripped from the hands of young harvesters who long to sail on the Atlantic. Plants continue to outbid those who try to better their enterprise and have driven the price of licenses far beyond the reach of the harvester. As a result, the autonomy of the independent harvester is overshadowed by corporations making decisions on when one sails, who crews a vessel; while watching money roll into their bank accounts without regard for those on the decks who bring the wealth to shores.

Trust agreements and corporate control beat down and strip what we, as resilient Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, have survived on for generations – hard work, preservation of our marine resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods in our coastal communities for the future.

When Minister Dominic LeBlanc stated and restated his commitment to enshrining Owner Operator, Fleet Separation and PIIFCAF in legislation, a ripple of hope could be felt throughout coastal communities. The corporate lobby came out swinging, seeing their deathgrip on the fishery loosening, and finally being told that value would no longer be funneled from our coastal communities and into banks on Bay Street. No more.

The five grandfathered vessels from Bonavista are more than names immortalized in fishing policy; they served to be harbingers of decades of erosion of identity and the social fabric of entire communities. The circumvention of these policies have had an effect far beyond the simple ownership of licenses and the concentration of wealth into corporate coffers.

To hear Minister LeBlanc’s announcement has been equally as surreal, emotional, and the result of decades of activism and dedication from those who hold the fishery dear to their hearts.


Bonavista Harbour in winter
Photo credit: Tony Seaward Photography



[1] Trust agreements separate the beneficial interest of a fishing license from the title. Most often, these agreements are between a fish processing company and a harvester. While the company maintains control of the license and takes a hefty percentage of the profits, the harvester fishes for a share. These agreements vary in terms but one thing is constant: the harvester is a labourer, the company the employer who exploits.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Misery.




Not every blog is thought provoking or contains much substance.

Sometimes the most productive days are ones with your favourite songs, quiet, and planning.

And sometimes you just need to share those songs and your favourite shows to make sure others know how awesome they are. Here you go.

"Step right up
Get yourself wrecked
Come on whisper my name
I mean since it's so late
A thousand miles away
I'll be creeping down your spine
And making you wait, wait and wait

And I hope you find a handsome young man
Who can love you like I, baby, just like I can
Who will take you out dancing, while you waited me out
Making good use of the blues you found

Go on light it up
Let your hair down
You deserve the wee hours and the shivers downtown
Because I'm waking up
You're stumbling home
What, you think I forget
I remember each and every lonesome night lone

And I hope you find a handsome young man
Who can love you like I, baby, just like I can
Who will take you out dancing, as you waited me out
Making good use of the blues you found
Making misery so proud

And if I saw this much blood
If it was all on your hands
If the pills in my system came to call you up again
Would you buy me a drink, to calm down
Would you buy me a drink right now?

And I hope you find a handsome young man
Who can love you like I, baby, just like I can
Who will take you out dancing, while you waited me out
Making good use of the blues you found

And I hope you find a handsome young man
Who can love you like I, baby, just like I can
Who will take you out dancing, while you waited me out
Making good use of the blues you found
Making good use of the blues you found
Making good use of the blues in you now
Making misery so proud
Making misery so proud
Making misery so proud
While you waited me out."

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Motherhood Paradox

I have a question, hive:

Why do we still shame and question childless women?

We've come a long way, baby, but while some things have become more acceptable in our festering cesspool of a society, the notion that a woman is childless still draws ire and judgement. As Amy Sohnn has pointed out, "These days, it is no longer taboo to be gay or unmarried, but if you don’t want (or don't have, for whatever reason) kids, everyone looks down on you."

Explain yourself immediately, young/old lady!

This week there have been many discussions around the tables, in rooms, about where we have been, have come, and where we will go as women. The surge of positivity and energy I have felt coming out of this year's International Women's Day has been like no other. I feel hopeful that it will only intensify and that women are mobilizing, uniting, and are ready for a fight like no other time in our generation.

We do, however, still try to fit in boxes, and society still pressures us to fit the molds that have been created for women for centuries. As I sat at a table this week, discussing our lives with a group of powerful women, many were discussing parenthood, all with children of varying ages. As I looked around, only two of us were childless.

And then the statement came: "I don't know why you don't have kids!"

I do. And it's none of your business. I am not, as some might suspect, a Succubus who feeds on the souls of children, nor do I hate the little people created by the women whose wombs lack tumbleweeds (like mine must have!)

Motherhood is a loaded question for many. Those who drop the bombs are often unaware that many women feel death by a thousand cuts every time our value and purpose as women are put on display simply because we have not given birth.

Our (in)voluntary decisions often come with feelings of being betrayed by our own bodies, by the puzzle pieces not falling into place when and how they should, or we simply make the choice to not be mothers.

And this is okay.

The judgement, however, as well as the side eye and pity-laced facial expressions all seem to amplify as a woman, and her god-forsaken, barren womb age.

The minute you say you are childless, the reaction is often textbook. We get bombarded with questions by those who come at us with the firepower of a thousand suns. It is best described as Suzanne Condie Lambert said: "Think Transylvanian peasants with torches. Or “Dr. Phil” audiences when the topic is “Sassy 14-Year-Olds Who Think They’re Smarter Than You.”

"You don't know what you're missing out on!"
"Your biological clock is ticking."
"It seems selfish!"
"Who will take care of you when you're old?" (Because all of those folks in nursing homes are childless! Who knew?)

"What is wrong with you/her?"

There is moral outrage targeted at those of us who have not ticked off this very necessary and obligatory piece of a woman's uterine to-do list. Indeed, "Over 200 introductory psychology students at a large U.S. Midwestern university agree: People who don’t have children are not only miserable, but deserving of our moral outrage. That is the result of a new study that found that deliberately not breeding makes you look like a bad person who lives a purposeless life devoid of real joy. Bonus finding: Men and women without kids were equally despised, proving that there is no gender limit to our disgust toward those who do not procreate as directed in the handbook Being a Correct Adult" (Moore, The Real Reason why Society Hates You if You Don’t Have Kids, 2017).

Imagine! Here we are, living our lives and not knowing we are miserable, unfulfilled in our lot and being smug assholes.

News flash: your judgement is best packed away in the boxes you feel we should fit in, the ones who set out the guidelines and necessary characteristics of how to be a purposeful woman in this world.

Many of us do not choose to be childless - our bodies and/or life circumstances decided that for us - and many of us do choose to be. Neither is anyone's business. The questions, the judgement, the guilt most often evoke a response in ourselves where we do, indeed, question if we have failed and measure our worth on the yardsticks placed by those who tell us what our roles as women should be.

Stop.

Childless women have a myriad of reasons why we have not procreated - health, careers, fears, or simply not wanting to be mothers. We owe no one our reasons, and we deserve to not have our reasons and worth questioned.

We are still role models.
We still carve paths for little girls to ensure the world is a better place.
We become the volunteers, the voices, the aunts, the cousins, the friends, the women who have decided that while our bodies might not give birth to the girls we aim to make a better world for we still have responsibilities. We can still make this world a better place.

While many mean no harm when asking a woman's reasons for not bearing children, we all need to be conscious of what a loaded question it can be - and simply realize that no woman is obligated to be a biological mother. This does not, in any capacity, lessen our power or our place in this world.

And, as Radhika Vaz pointed out in Unladylike: A Memoir, “How come when a woman says she wants a baby no one ever asks ‘why?”