Is It an Emergency?

I don't usually copy my weekly newsletter into my blog, but this week is different from most weeks, and my email provider doesn't make copies available for linking. To give you the full newsletter experience, I copied the text in full, including the links at the end. To get my emails every Friday, sign up here.


I smelled gas this morning when I was walking the dog. It was around the same place in the next block over that I thought I'd smelled it last week, but had dismissed it as a false alarm.

I walked back and forth a few times, trying to figure out if my mind was playing tricks on me. I couldn't figure out where it might be coming from, but I smelled it. I did.

Too big a risk, I forced myself to accept. Too big a risk.

So I phoned the city's non-emergency line, just in case they have a way to check in on things like this that doesn't rely on emergency services. They don't. They told me to call 9-1-1.

Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, even though I had the blessing of the city, I still hesitated for a beat. What if it's nothing? What if I'll have wasted the fire department's time? What if my neighbours feel put out?

Stop. Make the call.

I made the call.

It was the right thing to do. Even if I was mistaken, even if I felt uncomfortable that I wasn't certain. I did the right thing.

I got a concussion once. I was in college.

It was my first year, I think, and there was an upperclassman who liked to flirt with me. I didn't reciprocate, but he was harmless.

He was the first (of, astonishingly, several) college men who would, at one point in conversation or another, interrupt to tell me, “Your eyes are green!”

No shit, Sherlock.

I didn't date much in college.

One day I was walking through the common area of my floor in the dorm, and he was walking by in the other direction. He asked for a hug. I said no.

He demanded a hug. I told him I had somewhere to be. He was in my way.

He said aw, c'mon.

I was like fuck it. Fine.

He swung me around during this hug, and lost his balance. We both went over, him on top. The back of my head smacked the floor and I literally saw stars.

I didn't get to wherever it was I was headed.

I left the dorm in a neck brace, strapped to a backboard.

I've been thinking a lot about that stupid hug these last few weeks. And about the hug a guy at camp forced on me when I was in high school, which I met with a swift and well-aimed kick to his genitals.

I've been thinking about what's benign and what's malignant. What's acceptable and what must be met with even uncomfortable intervention.

What's normal and what's not normal. And what shouldn't be normal.

We're in charge.

We're the only ones who can force ourselves to do the right, often very uncomfortable thing.

To use our words to assert ourselves. And if our words fail, to use our feet.

To suspect that something's not right, and to do something about it even if we're not sure.

We can convince ourselves sometimes that life can be convenient, but this past week became a stark reminder that convenience is an illusion.

Let us all accept the inconvenience, for failing to is simply unacceptable. Let us get our hands dirty in the mess.

It's the only hope we have of ever cleaning it up.


Is It an Emergency?

In my haze of grief and dismay this week, I finally finished my new ebook. It's a compilation of all the emails I sent to you in 2014, including all the links. That year was a big one for me, and many of the seeds of my whole creative life were planted during those months. Grab a copy now on Amazon or in my online shop!

(Patrons at the $5 and $10+ levels, you should have already heard from me with your download or discount. Let me know if you didn't get the info!)

Try This Once:

I'm having a hard timing coming up with the fun this week, my friends. I'm going to skip this one, and get myself into better shape to bring it hardcore next week.

Items of Note:

If you enjoy the newsletter, forward it to a friend, and support it over on Patreon!

Is it an emergency?

Supporting Refugees and Combating Bigotry

CTF interview quote

Last week I stumbled upon a campaign to distribute donated baby carriers amongst asylum-seekers in Greece, organized by a California-based organization called Carry the Future. I've had our old baby carrier hanging unused in our closet for three years, and when I looked into the work the group is doing, I did something I don't ordinarily do and jumped on their bandwagon. Usually, it's best not to send in-kind donations during a crisis, but rather to donate money to a reputable organization. In this case, these in-kind donations are fulfilling an immediate need, and CTF is delivering the carriers themselves, in person, on the ground to refugees traveling with babies and toddlers as they arrive by boat in southern Greece.

There are well over 3,000 volunteers now organizing local donation drives around the world and helping CTF to do this very valuable work. If you're in the Vancouver area, here's how you can donate a used or new carrier and get involved with the local donation drive.

I was on the radio this morning along with the PR director of CTF, and we had a very long conversation with the host, not only about the great work CTF is doing, but also about the challenging responses many Americans and Canadians are having to our countries' commitments to receive refugees into our communities. Usually radio interviews are about three minutes long; this one lasts nearly twenty. So click here and listen to it as if it's a podcast, or catch the part I'm proudest of starting at 14:30 minutes in.

Action + Craft is a newsletter about the intersection of art, craft and activism. Click here to learn more.

The Gay Sweater

It's been a long time since an act of craftivism has thoroughly gripped me. Check out The Gay Sweater, made from the donated hair of over a hundred gay people. As the group that made it says on their website:

The Gay Sweater project teaches us that words like ‘gay’ shouldn’t be used to describe anything negative. Please help the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity in continuing initiatives like these that work to eliminate bullying, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination in schools and youth communities.

After you watch this video, be sure to click on the one about why they made the sweater. Oh, and watch the one featuring the knitters, too, which looks to have been filmed at the awesome yarn store Lettuce Knit in Toronto.

[Hat tip to Lelainia Lloyd, who tweeted me about this.]

Monday Morning Mind Dump

I feel like this is the first week of the rest of my life. Funny how I only vaguely realized that the book tour took up so much space in my brain for pretty much all of 2014, eh? I mean, I could articulate that fact at any time during the last ten months, but it still didn't fully set in until this morning, when I was all, “Whoa. I've got some wide open space before me. This is awesome.”

As I wrote in my newsletter on Friday, “wide open space” does not = nothing to do. I returned home from my travels with pages of notes on ideas both new and old, only one of which is related to the idea for my next book. Over the next few weeks, I'll experience a mighty shake-down, the result of which will be an ability to focus on the most immediately viable of all the ideas.

Anyway. Home. I'm over the jet lag that kept me down last week. My kid has recovered from the most intense parental absence he'd yet endured. And I'm thinking about all sorts of things I want to tell you, some of which I want to get out into the world before I dive into the week. Here goes:

  • I did a podcast interview with Elise Blaha Cripe, and she was so much fun to talk to that I wish we'd had a chance to sit down in person together for approximately nine hours. Alas, here's our half-hour chat.
  • Some blogger love for Make It Mighty Ugly from Poppytalk and Shalagh Hogan (who wrote about our book-tour event at the Smithsonian [more from me about that soon!]), and Rose City Reader is reading from the perspective of her creative experience at work in her law practice (I hope she follows up on that!).
  • I've ordered books and bookplates, and assuming I can get a shop up and running in the next week, I should be able to send signed books and stickers out in time for holiday gift-giving. Stay tuned! (Twitter, Instagram and my newsletter are probably the best ways to stay up-to-date.)
  • I Skyped into a Michigan library's Mighty Ugly workshop on Saturday morning, and it was a ton of fun.

  • Throughout Make It Mighty Ugly, I refer to my love of the CBC Radio show Q, hosted until yesterday by Jian Ghomeshi. Yesterday, the CBC fired Ghomeshi, and the story involves some very serious allegations against him, related to physical and sexual abuse. I reserve judgment until verifiable facts are available, but I will say this: when the Toronto Star described his accusers as “educated and employed”, they made this a story about our collective inclination not to believe women when they say they've been abused. This is the best analysis I've read about this whole thing. In a larger feminist context including Gamergate, I hope we do some serious, fair, public discussing of how some men treat women who speak up.

Ok, that's it for now. I have things to edit, other things to write, soap to make, emails to send, and news media to obsessively check. Have a great start to your week!

A Quiet House. Also, Fuck Cancer.

Since yesterday evening, I've been the sole occupant of my house. The beasts went away for the weekend and I have been sleeping, crocheting, and watching the entire first season of The Newsroom[1. Oh, so awesome. Annoyingly unprofessional with women who are annoyingly prone to hysteria, but so, so smart about the news. So very smart about the news].

Tomorrow morning, when for the second day in a row I may wake up after 7AM, my parents and my brother will be participating in the annual fundraiser they help organize for pancreatic-cancer research. I'll be very grateful for my quiet, therapeutic weekend, but I'll miss them terribly.

A Quiet House. Also, Fuck Cancer.

My dad with Owen, in April. They spent a lot of time looking out that window for birds. It was adorable.

Did I tell you last winter that my dad had cancer? It's possible I didn't. I've been in a haze of chaos for the last few months, and my memory's pretty shot. This weekend is the beginning of forcing my life back into some semblance of normalcy. But this post isn't about my shit.

This post is about the malignant tumour my dad had removed from his kidney last February.

Know what was weird? That time my gadget-freak dad phoned me to ask how to change a setting on his iPod.

Seeing my dad several weeks after he recovered from complications from kidney surgery? That wasn't weird. That was alarming. He weighed less than he had since I was a baby. His voice was weak. He looked old, and not only because he'd taken to wearing his reading glasses on a chain around his neck.

Know what was awesome? Seeing him a few months after that, back to his old self.

I learned last winter that kidney cancer, like the pancreatic cancer that runs in my family, is often found too late to treat. Like two years ago, when my dad had part of his pancreas removed after early screenings discovered precancerous activity, those same screenings indicated a mass on his kidney.

The screenings he undergoes, in addition to possibly saving his live twice now, are also a part of research into familial pancreatic cancer. The aim of these studies, in part, is to develop less invasive, far more affordable screenings for this disease that currently has only a 5% five-year survival rate.

So every year we raise funds to support this research. The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research funnels 100% of funds to research because their operating costs are paid for by the Cablevision company.

So if you've been touched unkindly by pancreatic cancer or if you love someone who has, please consider donating.

I'll be with my family in spirit tomorrow, and I sure hope this coming year my dad will be a fully healthy participant in what will hopefully prove to be momentous research for every human, everywhere.