11.19.2018

the move west: day one: sauga to sudbury

This is it! Our last day in Mississauga.

Saturday morning I picked up the car from Canadian Tire -- our first set of snow tires! Then I spent the day driving around doing errands. I was super lucky to have dinner with two good friends who couldn't make it to the pub night. I've been binging on pho and dim sum... knowing this is something I'll miss in our small town.

Yesterday, Sunday, I picked up my brother at the airport; he took the redeye in from Oregon via L.A. A few hours later, we dropped Allan at the GO bus for his last day of work in Toronto, then M and I went to pick up the truck. It's the largest U-Haul there is -- we can only make one trip! Then I spent the day packing.

(Over the last two weeks, we hired two friends to pack the apartment. Allan did some, especially the jungle that is his office, but was mostly overloaded by errands and chores. Last week he said he couldn't wait to go to work -- to relax.)

Several people have very kindly asked how Diego is doing amid the boxes and bubble wrap. We're so lucky: he's super chill. We've had dogs who would be depressed or anxious about all the commotion, but not the Big Boy. Wherever you plop down his bed, that's his new place to sleep. Any friendly human to drool on and get attention from, that's his new best friend.

A word about M. My brother is eight years older than me. Yesterday -- after spending the night in airports and on planes, through two flights and three time zones -- he never stopped moving. The man is retired, and still, no one can keep up with him. He claims he has slowed down, but I see no evidence to back that up.

We never did get that smoked salmon in Sydney. The current obsession is getting gas at Costco -- in Barrie. To be fair, this gas is $0.20/litre cheaper than what's around here, and $0.10 cheaper than anything in the Barrie area. And Barrie is on the way.

Me, I'd fill up at the nearest Petro Canada to earn points. Plus, full fairness disclosure: I am obsessed with points. M is not the only obsessive at the party. But hey, if Costco gas is the thing to do, then Costco it is. As long as we reach our dog-friendly motel every night, I'll just go with it.

Now it's Monday morning. I made a big pot of coffee, and I'm hoping for an hour of calm and quiet before the chaos begins. The crew we've hired to load the truck are supposed to arrive at 9:00 a.m. If all goes well, tonight we'll be in Sudbury.

Thanks for coming along!

11.17.2018

in which i say goodbye to cupe 1989 and mississauga library

Many friends and co-workers have said they'll check this blog for updates on our drive west, our new town, my new work. Welcome and a disclaimer: when I travel, wmtc becomes a travel journal, full of details that I want to remember but are probably super boring to anyone else. You've been warned.

For the past few weeks, every night that I wasn't working, I've been out with friends. Not exactly my usual schedule! But hey, I'll have more than enough time to do nothing on the road trip. It was wonderful to see people.

I've also found that, no longer being local president, I have so much more energy for socializing. I'm realizing -- not for the first time, of course -- that the union leadership position is a lot more than the hours you put in (although there's plenty of that). It's the responsibility, the mental weight, that takes the toll. It was an amazing experience, absolutely one of the most meaningful experiences of my life -- but I'm glad it's over.

Two nights ago, we gathered at Failte, the pub near my (former) library, to celebrate and say farewell. Spectacular bad timing: it was also the first snow in our area, early for the GTA, and it hit just in time for the evening commute. A lot of people bailed on the party, and I was so disappointed that I nearly called it off, texting various people to see if they were still planning to attend. (Two years of apartment life without wmtc parties: I was out of practice! There are always a ton of last minute cancellations and "we'll try"s that turn into "no"s.)

Most of my union team was able to be there, and good friends and comrades from Toronto, and dearest friends drove down from London. Some 1989 members stopped by; I also invited a handful of managers who I respect and have enjoyed working with. The (new) (post-strike) Library Director and two senior managers came and stayed for quite a bit.

We were out late, plus the usual post-party hang out, so I was thoroughly exhausted and hung over for my last day of work. More goodbyes, a wonderful, frank, wide-ranging talk with my manager, and one last stint on-desk. Then I packed up my office, turned in my staff badge, and slipped out to the parking garage.

My most recent position in Mississauga Library has been great. I was a senior supervisor, part librarian and part administrator, responsible for keeping the department running smoothly. I loved it. I fully expected to stay in the position for at least another year, and experience it without the added time and responsibility of union leadership. Fortunately I'm moving into substantially the same position in VIRL.

For the last few weeks I've been receiving emails from members thanking me for my work with the union. The words I keep seeing are strength, dedication, and passion. That's been beautiful and incredibly gratifying. But I've also gotten thank yous from junior staff about a positive work environment -- and that is equally gratifying.

When I started my new position, the department was mired in negativity. Gossip, infighting, and backstabbing were the norm. Staff was treated completely inequitably, with a well-stroked in-group played against a dumping ground of overworked outsiders. People were burnt out and disgusted, and the ways they dealt with those feelings only created more negativity. Attitudes sucked, with good reason.

I knew that every one of my co-workers cared about the library and wanted us to succeed. I knew that potential was there, but it was buried under a huge pile of crap. My manager and I set out to turn it around. I worked hard to create a work environment where people felt supported and valued. Hearing my co-workers' reflections this week showed me I succeeded.

There was one person in particular who I was hoping to hear from. They had had a particularly rough time -- mountains of work dumped on them with no consultation -- hell, barely an acknowledgement -- and no time or space to develop the parts of their job they liked best. As a result, this person had withdrawn from the team.

I made it my mission to turn that around, gradually re-distributing workload, giving them more agency, and acknowledging their contributions -- which are considerable, both in quantity and quality. My manager and I both had a sense that this person was much happier at work now. But I did wonder. Was I interpreting this change accurately? When a person is private and doesn't disclose much, you never really know.

Before leaving for the day, this person stopped by my office. "You made a real difference here," they said. "You and [manager] made this a great place to work again."

Honestly, that meant as much to me as every union member who thanked me for my representation.

11.15.2018

fact: it is really hard to leave friends and comrades

This is the tough part. And it's really tough.

Friends, union sisters and brothers, the activist network. Saying goodbye.

Leaving this place, Mississauga, is easy and exciting. Leaving a job that I love is a bit sad, but my new position awaits, and sounds like an upgrade. Leaving the Mississauga Library System, hurrah. On to a new and (probably) better system.

Leaving friends... really hard. So hard that I wonder why I'm doing this, even though I know the answers.

There's nothing for it, really. Sure, there is Facebook and various technologies to keep in touch. There are future vacations when we might make a reason to see each other. And new connections and communities await. Yep, I know all that. Not asking for advice here. Just stating a fact: leaving people you love sucks.

11.11.2018

a rare bout of nostalgia: remembering our move to canada

August 30, 2005: wmtc
Packing up the apartment and getting ready for the road trip brings back bittersweet memories.

In the spring and summer of 2005, we were in our final preparation for moving to Canada. All at once, an amazing writing opportunity dropped in my lap, we found a house to rent, and our dog Buster became extremely ill.

We made a one-day roundtrip trip to Port Credit (Mississauga) via Buffalo on the first day of what would become a new round of Saving Buster. (Since that cold and rainy night in Washington Heights when I found him on the street, near death, our lives were all about Saving Buster.) This time, it was months before we got a proper diagnosis. He got sicker and sicker, practically fading away before our eyes.

As my deadline loomed, I was writing full-time Monday through Friday, and working my day-job, two 12-hour days, all weekend.

It wasn't long before we realized Buster needed a specialist, which meant taking a subway to a Zipcar, driving the car back home, then driving all the way downtown. Multiple appointments, incredibly time-consuming -- but we saved his life. After that, he was on high doses of prednisone, which means very frequent trips outside, and he couldn't be alone for more than an hour or so.

This is a dog who already has two chronic conditions, requiring all kinds of meds. I had a spreadsheet with all the different instructions -- this on an empty stomach, this with food, these drops in both eyes twice a day, these drops in one eye once a day -- etc.

Allan hired the movers and did 100% of the packing while I churned out the words. It was the most pressure I have ever felt, before or since. But we did it. Allan got us moved. I met my deadline and got paid -- which let us not work for more than a month after moving. I was determined that Buster would make it to Canada with us, and he did.

Ten weeks later, while we were living in Port Credit, one of Buster's conditions suddenly worsened, and we had to let him go. Packing and moving makes me think of that.

It also reminds me of that day, a bit more than 13 years ago, when our dreams and our plans and our hard work and our luck all came together, and we physically moved to Canada. Coming out of the immigration building with my stamped papers, holding my arms high in victory, crying with joy and relief, Allan and I hugging and whooping. We did it.

Finding that post -- the drive north -- I scrolled through the wmtc category immigrating and moving. For a long time I marked the anniversary of moving to Canada -- six months, one year, two years, three years, four years, five years.

Then there are the "becoming a Canadian citizen" posts -- which also reminds me that this blog was, for a time, monitored by the federal government.

Then the anniversary posts end. In 2015, on our 10th anniversary of moving to Canada, we moved from our last rental house into our current apartment. I noted the day but didn't make a special post.

Through my library work, I've learned that, in general, one is an immigrant for a year, and a newcomer for five years. Living in a chosen country for more than five years, most people feel acculturated and no longer think of themselves as newcomers. This was true for me.

11.09.2018

11.11

11 anti-war books, parts 1 and 2.

11 anti-war songs.

Robert Fisk: "...Heaven be thanked that the soldiers cannot return to discover how their sacrifice has been turned into fashion appendage."

Why no red poppy, why no white poppy:
It's that time of year again, the week when no one dares show their face on Canadian television, or indeed in any public place in Canada, without a red poppy symbol dutifully stuck on their lapel. What was once (supposedly) a remembrance of the horrors of war drifted first into a celebration of war and finally into obligatory, reflexive display.

Many of my friends are wearing a white poppy today, and I wish them good luck with their campaign. I myself have no wish to display a physical comment on a symbol that is meaningless to me. It would feel like wearing a Star of David to show that I am not Christian.

There is only one symbol that can express my feelings about the war dead - the Canadians, the Americans, the Germans, the Japanese, the Vietnamese, the Guatemalans, the Africans, the Native Americans, the Iraqis, all my fellow human creatures - and the wounded, and the ruined, and the heartbroken, and the shattered witnesses - the millions of lives wasted - for conquest, for profit, for nationalism, for ideology, for imperialism, for nothing. That is the peace symbol I wear every day. And much importantly, inside, in my heart of hearts, there is my core belief that war is evil and we must oppose it.
Honour the dead by working for peace.

10.31.2018

something you can do with your shock and outrage: support military resistance to u.s. concentration camps

As the outrages pour out of the US daily, or seemingly hourly, good people's shock and horror are often accompanied by feelings of frustration and helplessness.

Far too many well-intentioned organizations are lining up around the midterm elections, as if the answer lies only at the ballot box. Many people are organizing locally to support rallies, demonstrations, letter writing, and the like. Still, the frustration is palpable -- and understandable. These actions, although important, feel so insufficient. The current US government shows no sign of respecting the rule of law or popular opinion, and certainly not morality.

One concrete action we can take to resist the Trump agenda is to support military resistance. Whenever and wherever fascist governments have perpetrated crimes against individuals and against humanity, they have been enabled by the loyalty of the militaries at their commands.

"We were just following orders." This was the answer famously given by Nazi officers on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg, Germany after World War II. The civilized world rejected that answer, and the Nuremberg Principles were created to enshrine that rejection in international law.

Unfortunately -- the most unfortunate thing in the world -- most military personnel the world over do not resist. But some do. And those courageous soldiers are fighting on the frontline for peace and justice.

Military resistance is the most direct blow to the outrages perpetrated by immoral governments the world over. Resistance is a lonely road, and one that comes at a very high price. Ask Chelsea Manning. Ask Kim Rivera, who -- deported by the Canadian government -- gave birth to her youngest child in a military jail.

War resisters need financial support, and they need moral and emotional support. And other soldiers need to know that resistance is possible. As with any groupthink, it's easier to speak out when others have gone before you.

Courage to Resist, which supports the brave and principled soldiers who refuse or resist illegal orders, has launched a new campaign: Do Not Collaborate
This summer, what might have been the defining low point of previous administrations, was simply the outrage of the moment: A plan to have the military host massive concentration camps of upward of 200,000 immigrant detainees across the United States, as we reported to you in July.

These camps do not appear to be going up as quickly nor on such a massive scale as first announced (quite possibly due to the resistance on many levels), but they do appear to be moving forward. On the Texas border at Tornillo Port of Entry, a tent city that first detained a couple hundred children a few months ago will hold nearly 4,000 kids by the end of the year.

Few people actually join the military to travel to distant lands to kill people. Fewer still join to help run concentration camps. Under both US and international law, military personnel have a moral and legal obligation to refuse to comply with any order that involves collaboration with these camps, but unfortunately few are aware of this fact.

That’s why we need your help. Together, we’re going to launch a strategically targeted communications project to reach service members across the country with this message:

These camps are illegal and immoral.

You have a responsibility to refuse and expose these orders.

Direct military resistance is powerful.


Our initial goal is to raise $20,000 to spend approximately one penny per member of the US military with this challenge. Of course, we believe that service members deserve two cents worth of encouragement if we can raise $40,000!

Just the idea of these massive military-hosted immigrant detention camps brings back memories of the forced relocation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Many of us thought something like that could never happen again, and yet, here we are. Along with everything else you can do to resist this affront to humanity, please support our challenge to military personnel to refuse these illegal orders. Your tax-deductible donation of $50 or $100 will make a huge difference.

Click here to learn more, or to donate to the Do Not Collaborate campaign.

10.29.2018

thank you 2018 red sox! #unstoppable

108-54
   3-1
   4-1
   4-1
   119 wins

It was a magical season. Red Sox owner John Henry said it himself: "This is the greatest Red Sox team ever."

In 2007, I dubbed the championship -- and the team -- inevitable. It stuck, and became the theme of our gamethreads. Last night I asked, "If 2007 was inevitable, what was 2018? What's the one word?"

That word was unstoppable.

My #YearOfTheMookie didn't extend to the World Series. In this round, there were so many unlikely heroes. Steve Pearce won the series MVP award, but my money was on David Price. He was brilliant. As was Chris Sale.

And no one was more brilliant than rookie manager Alex Cora, who pushed all the right buttons to creatively manage his mix-and-match pitching staff. Cora's first act as Red Sox manager was to fly relief supplies to Puerto Rico -- "my island," as he calls it. Last night while receiving congratulations, he asked if he could bring the trophy to that island. Millions of people heard him ask, how can they say no?




Thanks to Joy of Sox for the pics. Many more such beautiful (and a few amusing) photos here.