EDWISE 

EDITOR AND EDUCATION CONSULTANT

The Cooperative Way

The cooperative movement encourages and assists the formation of worker co-ops. Advocates and their organizations lobby for legislation to require companies to first offer their employees to buy their firms before they invite other interests to do it. Such legislation exists in some states such as the UK and some within the United States of America. Some employers prefer to do this, for they respect their workers and their work and do not want to cause them harm. They may believe that their businesses would be in better hands were the employees to take them over rather than strangers and people who are not so familiar with them. 


Where there are allowances for workers to take over the ownership of enterprises, rules and a lending system are in place. The government provides low interest loans and a framework and training for workers' collectives to be able to run companies themselves. In some cases, workers can make arrangements and find funds on their own. There are organizations within the cooperative movement who can educate and facilitate such takeovers.


The cooperative movement does not challenge or object to trade unions; there need not be a conflict. Some unions support workers' co-ops, for they see them as allies and the co-ops, if unions are friendly, see the unions as allies. Collective agreements can offer ideas for the terms of a cooperative arrangement that guarantees and protects the workers rights and safe and reasonable working conditions. However, a worker-owned business would not need a union. Worker's unions are established as a defense against exploitation by owners as all owners of private enterprises profit from the labour of their workers and they do so by keeping wages down and trimming overhead costs by withholding resources and measures that would make workplaces safer, healthier and more comfortable. Private owners certainly do not want to give over the decision-making to workers--no way! They have management to impose restrictions such as time limits and methods. Workers are always pushing back to improve their earnings and conditions.


A cooperative is far more democratic. Workers within it, whether it is a fast food enterprise or a factory, meet and have an equal say in how the work is done. This arrangement is far different from the typical employment where the owner and his representatives command the workers, dictating everything they do at work, from when and how long to use the toilets and take meals to procedures and reporting. Contemporary workplaces may adopt a friendlier management style that shows signs of more respect and appears to consult employees, but you know that the employees' say doesn't count for much; it is still dangerous for them to say anything as their words can be used against them in the end. While there can be all sorts of personalities and ideas present in a cooperative workplace, the relationship of the employees to it and their work is fundamentally different. People simply cannot be abused much since their is no owner exploiting them and everyone who works there has an equal status. True, there can be variations in salary levels considering varying education or training and experience levels, and a bonus system can be implemented as an incentive or reward. 


The cooperative workplace has potential to develop a communal environment wherein workers get to know each other, socialize and assist each other with the problems and demands of life even outside work. In fact, there is a societal vision and philosophy around the worker-owned-and-run cooperative enterprise. It is a vision of a cooperative and caring society with a profound democracy. It is a new kind of communism, a society empowering the people at the base without a government functioning as a centralized decision-making order overseeing and commanding the society. Government has a role in providing services and resources and setting regulations and laws. However, it is one with proper representation of the people, not business owners that dominate and drive and bribe the government to do their bidding to make life richer and more comfortable for them alone. No, it would be a government with proportional representation, perhaps with regional and national election candidates coming from councils filled with nominated and elected workers from the cooperatives and other mass organizations.


There is also a vision of new kind of international relations based on cooperation and aimed at avoiding and settling conflicts through negotiations that would not allow war to break out. the United Nations Organizations would have to be rebuilt and refitted to serve these aims.


An model of a cooperative world has been drawn up by the "All things Cooperative" division of "Democracy @ Work". Here is a link to a video about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-T0XOA5hI0





Life Without Community

Without the communal experiences that common people set up for themselves, life is harder and colder. Without the social and recreational organizations, ceremonial practices, neighbourhoods in action, nonprofit organizations and various associations in which relationships  and support networks, what is there? 


Workers do not have control over their workplaces, so communal experiences cannot be counted on there. Except for recognitions of birthdays, the Christmas party and occasional lunches together, if the they are lucky, employees must perform prescribed tasks on a given schedule and be subject to monitoring. Atmospheres and management styles can vary, but generally employees grab what chance they can to enjoy the coworker relationships but beat it home, happier to escape the confines of oversight and regime in an enterprise directed by others who reap the most rewards. 


School does not always provide relief, either. Private schools are generally business or religious settings run according to a corporate model with its quantifiable assessments and goals. In many countries, public school is an institution regulated and prescribed by government, and are often large. From upper elementary ("middle school" to some) through secondary school, the ambiance cools down and the focus on scores is sobering. After years of neoliberal austerity measures, too, there is nothing much in the budget to provide extra-curricular and cultural experiences. Even if there are student clubs and a student council, the object is career driven, with the ambitious eager to scratch notches on their resumes. Teachers and concerned observers complain how schools, reformed and relaxed somewhat in the 60s, have become like factories. 


At least any school is a place where friendships are made. The local elementary school might be the only locus of communal activity. The degree of communalism depends on the location of the schools. Some school boards that ascribe to a more humanist approach, especially as concerns the youngest of the student populations. Parents are involved. There could be exchanges and special days. Teachers can assess a student's wellbeing, family life and outlook and try to intervene with one sort of support or another. Volunteers from the community could be in the classrooms and hallways. Also, the school can be used for community meetings such as political campaigning and election polling. There may be continuing education classes run in the evenings and on weekends. 


Without much else in the way of community networks and activities, children and parents rely a lot on the school for social nourishment and growth. this could be why it is reported that many youngsters and teens suffered a lot during COVID lockdowns. Most people were cut off from communal experiences and community life. If both parents were absent from the home to earn their livelihoods or very preoccupied earning money from the home, even family life was inadequate. Families with more resources, of course, could manage better. It was the poorest who suffered most.


Without other communal offerings, people hang around shopping malls and parks. They may get to know others who work at or otherwise frequent those places. They may make and meet friends there. However, there is not much in the way program and structure. It's every person for her/himself. 


People who either start associations and get something going or pay membership dues and join some existing thing are much better off. Their lives are richer and more fulfilling. They should support people's associations and organize them to build society in a positive way.

Recreational Clubs

Recreational clubs are communal to one degree or another. I belong to several, as I like casual sports for fitness, culture, interest and social activity. They are all communal in that they are groups that share space to do things together using common resources. 

     For example, my ukulele club meets in a regular club house and plays together following a leading musician. We participants donate a few bucks at each session to support this leader. Members get to the session on his/her own means. We drink and chat together as well. There are no other meetings of this group other than practice/ play times. 

     My hiking club is another example of a common group experience. It is a couple of degrees more communal than the uke club. We have to register, pay a nominal membership fee each year and follow designated hike leaders who plan each hike. There is a publicly accessible website that bears a calendar, information on each scheduled hike,  and reports on past hikes. Our annual fees pay for it and liability insurance, nothing else. There is a car pooling system for transportation to each location of hikes; passengers pay a set amount to the driver to cover fuel each time they are driven to a hike. The trip leader ensures that there are a few photos taken of the location and participants of each hike, which will be posted along with that leader's brief report on the hike. While hiking, we get to know one another. We bring our own lunches, though. There is only one social event each year: the annual barbecue at a favorite lakeside place. Someone lends a barbecue or two and everyone who goes is supposed to bring a little food to share. However, the picnickers bring their own items to barbecue. There is minimal cost to participants and no cost to the club for this event. The province regulates and oversees all organized sports in the province, so this club must follow the provincial regulations and the insurer's stipulations. The city carries information on the club and provides a few gifts to distribute to club members on the day of the annual social.

     The most communal of all the recreational and cultural clubs I belong to is the lawn bowling club. This is a traditional English sport that traditionally serves older people. A whole community thus revolves around the local lawn bowling club. Although the provincial government sets the standards, the city provides a subsidy and the property including the equipment shed and clubhouse. Therefore, city staff clean the washrooms inside the clubhouse and manage the flower beds inside compound regularly. However, members do everything else themselves; it is a member-run organization, with members paying an annual fee to cover insurance, maintenance, outdoor equipment and kitchen and game room supplies. Besides the annual membership fee, we each pay a couple of dollars each time we play a game so that we provide additional funds for snacks, the maintenance of the green and seasonal prizes. Members can drop in any time to present themselves for games on bowling game nights three times a week and one bowling morning session once a week. There are competitions against nearby clubs at least twice a bowling season. The club also runs a croquet evening. There is always social time after games, which volunteers from among the membership organize to set up tables, prepare and serve food and clean up. Volunteers take care of grounds and run the games. In fact, this club is a full-fledged nonprofit society with an executive body. There is one official coach to train members and apply the rules. We follow international rules and techniques established ages ago in England. Though the club keeps some spare equipment, members have to acquire their bowling kits each containing four uniquely marked bowls and paraphernalia. 

      As such a developed tradition, community lawn bowling clubs provide vital opportunities for socializing. Seniors benefit tremendously and enjoy it for the outdoor setting, the company, the mild activity and thrill of the game. Older people can play this despite some physical restrictions and weaknesses as they age. People join as of their late 40s; they typically are people who enjoy sports but who have had some kind of long term injury or ailment, or are just looking for another way to relax outdoors on spare evenings. Many are longtime members who play until they are no longer able at a very advanced age. In fact, club archives with photos are kept and memorial plaques for the most active members are displayed.

      The social schedule of the season offers a lot, from the monthly barbecues to the holiday bowling lunches and the season opening and closing banquets. Participants bring their own lunches to the holiday games and salads and such to share at barbecues, when individuals bring their own items to cook on the grill. The opening and closing events are ticketed meals, but surplus club wealth is used to provide gifts beyond the raffles tickets that are offered at each banquet. 

     The bowling season is only three-and-a-half months long, but the club remains open all year round. There is one card, one darts and one carpet bowling session each week so that members can stay active and engaged with this community. Surplus funds from the summer season provide small snacks. People can buy beverages at each season; a volunteer keeps it stocked up.

    The games organizers keep stats of everyone's performance in all the clubs games, from bowling to darts, so that the persons with the highest scores and most wins can be identified and rewarded a little monetarily from time to time. 

    You can see that the lawn bowling is a full communal experience. It grows a community who do many activities, physical and social, together regularly in a communal space. Lasting friendships form. The membership develops to a more intimate level than other types of recreational clubs. Things are planned to be fair and inclusive.


Humans Helping Humans

I am reflecting on the memorial banquet I just attended. Friends, family and extended family came to share memories and catch up. Now I'm thinking how much such an event is a communal experience. First I consider who and what makes up a family. Then I consider how people rally around someone in need.

In the case of this gathering, close friends and extended family were quite a mix and acquainted in a variety of interesting ways. Of course, there was immediate biological relatives and relatives by marriage. In addition, there were several cases of close friends and family established by volunteer child raising. Here is an example. One man had been in a relationship with a drug addict who continued to help to raise her child well after breaking up with the girlfriend. That child is now a young man who attended the honouring of his quasi-uncle with his wife. Another man brought his biological daughter and grandchildren, as well as a teen-age adopted daughter whom he and his late wife met as foster parents when she was an infant; they looked after that girl for a few years and opted to adopt her after the natural mother, another drug addicted, passed away.             There was a young child at the dinner; she was there under the informal guardianship of her mother's friends, the mother being absent and unable to take care of her. These are all examples of stretching the perimeters of family to

take care of people where there is no obligation by birth or law; people help because they care.

     After the meal and the planned proceedings, informal chat gave rise to a few exchanges about different types of services and individual preferences. One issue is notification of the passing. One person may have a larger or different sort of network than another. How and who to notify? What is the responsibility? I got to thinking that various people well acquainted with the deceased through work or other organized activities and by proximity. If any of them learn of the passing, chances are that someone among them will respond on their own initiative and hold some sort of event to acknowledge it. Take community and leftist social and grassroots political activists, for example. It is normal for fellow activists, perhaps organization leaders or volunteers, to arrange something apart from what the immediate family or close friends do; the activity could be a letter to the family, a public message, a small gathering or a larger service. Work or recreational/ social club mates might react similarly.

     Then I got to thinking that there are a lot of situations of people helping people. Disasters are obvious examples. People will open their doors, provide food and supplies, donate money, etc. On the other hand, there is a lot of talk about how the population will respond to severe economic conditions as stagflation strangles economic life and a deep recession unfolds in the USA and Canada. I hear many expressions of fear. The gun promoters and survivalist convey great fear about their neighbours who they surmise will run rampage thieving and killing to stay alive ,so stocking up on guns, ammo and necessities and preparing to defend themselves or perish is recommended. I, though, believe in human kindness and concern. I think that many able people will organize to take care of each other and try to repair the crisis.

     Think about it. Who runs shelters, kitchens, mobile street services, and outreach and counseling? Who sets up charities and nonprofit or self-help organizations? Average people step forward to work hard finding resources, making public appeals, researching and sharing information, obtaining qualifications, getting funds, and so forth, and they are often volunteers.

COMMUNAL LIVING


Sorry for the lengthy absence. I do not like this blog format and input process, for one thing. For another, I did not have another theme except peace; I cover peace at my Just Peace Committee page on Facebook and my justpeace.blog (Wordpress) as well as in an internal newsletter for the International League of Peoples Struggles (peoplesstruggles.org), which is the Commission 4 publication called "Peace 4 the People". I also write statements for ILPS Commission 4 and Just Peace Committee, internationally and locally, respectively.

     In my activism for peace, we confront imperialism (domination, exploitation and plunder to make astronomical wealth for the few) that is the main source of various forms of violence and oppression. The long term goal is to build an alternative to monopoly capitalist imperialism, which concerned people involved generally call socialism. There are different types of socialism which are mainly state control of land and production and state laws and programs to provide social benefits and protection to the masses. Communist parties have been able to rule and institute vast state socialism through revolution and through electoral campaigns and reforms. We can think of Cuba and Venezuela as examples of one and the other. From the 1930s through the 1970s, US and Europe-based capitalism made compromises to socialize some industry, provide social programs, build infrastructure for working people, and so on. Capitalism's weaknesses, though, could not be avoided: wars, periodic slowdowns, debt and currency crises. The neoliberal approach of the 1980s to 2020 ruined that project by dismantling it and privatizing and deregulating everything. Politically aware intellectuals and working folk are talking about socialism again and decrying "the imperialist system" and all its violence and ills.

     Therefore, I have been thinking about socialism. Capitalism is not working out; it is in total crisis, at least US-based monopoly capitalism is. The crisis is economic (stagflation, approaching recession, debt), social (rising suicide, alienation, displacement, bigotry, disruptive and dysfunctional family life), education (rising illiteracy, lack of supports), health (insufficient public care for all, rising mortality and morbidity, mental health and opioids), unemployment or underemployment, housing (quality and affordability with rising homelessness). I don't have to tell you.

     If more people continue to get politically active and join protests, they can only be effective when they join forces, share info and materials and ideas, collaborate and make demands for change together. All the movements have to come together as one to confront imperialism. It has to have a grassroots, worker and poor people base.

     What alternative and how can we get there? Through collective action and discussion, forms of organization come into being: cooperative enterprises, committees, shelters and workspaces, bartering and sharing arrangements, social and recreational clubs, nonprofit enterprises and charities, popular non-corporate media, art projects, education and skills training programs, worker-owned factories and so on. Oh, you have heard of at least some of these? Yes! They already exist. You probably realise that they are each a product of local struggle. You probably know that they could not be accomplished by a single person, but rather had to be by a collective. When victorious, such endeavours result in people/ worker/ community-run, autonomous collectives that serve the people somehow. The struggle may have required and won state funding and legislation, so that many such collectives are state supported. It is this collective, popular action and organization that interests me, for I see it as the foundation for a whole new society that cares about and operates for and by the people. I envision a governance of representatives from among the communities and collectives that does not own and control projects and enterprises and programs but is designed to facilitate and support them.

     The socialism built in the Soviet Union and elsewhere has largely been systems of state ownership, control and direction of production and community life. I am not knocking what has been achieved. Clearly, the people fought and worked hard for it and benefited from it for a few decades. It is the top-heavy, top-down system that is vulnerable to corruption. Economic critics of capitalism have also reviewed former socialist states and come to accept that, to date, they adopted a capitalist production and distribution model, though wealth and production was not in private hands. State-owned enterprises used the monetary, price and wage system and accumulated wealth, which was to be redistributed into investments in infrastructure, homes, services, culture, and factories aimed at continuous expansion. In other words, they borrowed the capitalist model and changed some of the language. True, there were local committees and trade union and party locals from among whom representatives to the massive regional and state assemblies were regularly and properly elected. However, democracy was at risk and the state vulnerable to corruption as long as the economy and management were centralized. Too much power in too few hands.

     Today, new models of socialism are being discussed. Many prize communal life and governance. I want to think about this approach.

The next steps will be to look at examples of communal life around me. You probably have not held communism high, but that ideal is alive and well around the world as people continue to form and run various types of collectives. You likely belong to one or support one. I will discuss how much each case is "communal".

Communal living is my new thread to be discussed in the next few weeks, if not months. Stay tuned.

Blog

Just Peace-Indigenous Rights

Posted on January 15, 2019 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (38)
The development of pipelines for transporting petroleum and natural gas have been stirring up relations with indigenous communities for decades. There are struggles over two pipelines in my region, British Columbia/ unceded lands of Coast Salish Territories. One is the expansion of the Transmountain pipeline and marine terminal to send bitumen from the Alberta tarsands to the Port of Vancouver and the other is the addition of a gas pipeline from the Peace River region of Northeast B.C. to the Port of Kitimat.

The first of these two struggles has been lead by coastal leaders of Coast Salish communities and nations and it garnered not a small amount of support from the general public. So strong has this anti-pipeline movement been that the US-based corporation 's major shareholders got discouraged and sold the project to the federal government of Canada, much to the chagrin of many people in Canada. The project is now suspended as a judge ruled that the National Energy Board must re-evaluate the prospects allowing full consultation to affected indigenous communities. 

Farther north, however, pipeline construction is proceding. An encampment of indigenous people lead by hereditary chiefs long established in expectation of this construction, protests escalated determinedly. National police stopped the blockade of the construction roadway and raided the protest camp, which triggered a hot reaction from observers across the country. Preparation to lay pipe is proceeding while the Union of BC (hereditary) Chiefs talks with authorities and other interests involved, including indigenous groups who hope to benefit by the installation of the gas pipeline.

The conflict among indigenous peoples is a result of the chaffing co-existence of two systems of indigenous governance, traditional or hereditary and bands set up and authorized by the Canadian government through the Indian Act legislation. Many bands tend to be opportunist and corrupt, and contradict traditional and evolving indigenous values and aims just as labor unions often transgress traditional labour values and aims.

Who to side with? What is the just position on pipelines?

In the case of the Peace to Kitimat line, the issue is very clear. That is because the plan is to lay the pipeline through land already decided by law to be semi-autonomous, We'tswe'ten territory. This was the first land claim to be won in Canada. The question of rights and authority over this territory was settled in the 90s. Yes, the federal government has some authority over the indigenous territory, but land use questions are supposed to be up to the We'tswe'ten leadership. That is, the territory in question is no longer considered "Crown land" governed by regional and federal state authorities of Canada. The Canadian government is staunchly asserting authority over the question of pipeline construction, in a drastic violation of the prior legal arrangements and its overtly stated policy and programs of acknowledgement of indigenous rights and peaceful reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

I am siding with the indigenous people who oppose the construction of the pipeline in defense of We'tswe'ten rights and authority and indigenous rights in general. I am opposing pipelines and the fossil fuel industries in general because of their destructive approaches and impacts to people and nature. 

It is time to switch from mass dependency on fossil fuels to more sustainable sources, anyway. It is time to modify the capitalist way of life which over-consumes and over-produces, puts less consideration to people and the environment than to profits and generates vast amounts of waste.

Just Peace-Review of 2018

Posted on January 1, 2019 at 3:24 PM Comments comments (33)
Time to sum up the year, I guess. I did review my short- and long-term goals in the fall, finding myself mostly on track and arriving at the decisions I had wanted to make by then. I have made some adjustments to the goals regarding financial planning.

I am feeling good—refreshed after a break and very positive from assessing my present situation.

Christmas Holiday

First, let me talk about my holiday. I took the plunge, splurged and did a Mayan Riviera resort stay. My first time in Mexico and on an all-inclusive holiday package at a big resort. It was wonderful and worth it, even though I traveled solo. Just shy of a week away, it was a nice break that did the trick however short. I swam every day, lazed around by the beach or snoozed in my room, enjoyed the food and hospitality. I watched the live shows a couple of evenings and worked out at the spa gym a couple of times.

It felt great to be able to have a holiday at Christmas and to experience Christmas in a different way.

Probably the most worthwhile thing I did on this holiday was to take a day-long, guided excursion inland to see Mayan ruins. I had always wanted to visit a Mayan pyramid. There I was under the sun on the day of Winter Solstice at the pyramid of Chichen Ixta witnessing a Mayan procession and soaking in the history, art and spirituality of the place.

En route, we stopped to marvel at some high-quality, local handicrafts. We also paused to view a Spanish church made from stones of the Mayan structures. I witnessed Mayan youths performing indigenous dances, games, songs and prayers. We also took time out to explore and swim in an underground lake (“cenote”). What’s more, I had the chance to chat with some travel companions and listen to their extraordinary stories along the way. In addition, I relished the unanticipated sights of wildlife around the resort—birds of prey, other birds such as magpies and pelicans, small mammals including coatis (“tercones”) and a raccoon, deer, lizards and butterflies.

It was super special to be there at the time of Winter Solstice. I am sure I felt the power and beauty of the occasion. At least, the view from the quiet beach under the clear sky lit by the light of the full moon over the Caribbean Sea was perfection itself. It felt exhilarating to be there. This is the moment when I felt my spirits lift and the tensions and worries built up over the past months dissipate. The exposure to the moonlight and the good waters of the region acted like a balm. I was re-energized. A great way to conclude a year.

Decisions this year.

This past fall, I had pledged to myself to make some decisions regarding financing, livelihood, living arrangements, retirement and more. Here are some reflections on most of these decisions.

-I concluded that it is best to continue renting at least for about three more years because of the housing benefits for seniors that I can now access. That means I have opted not to try to buy a place, for now. Therefore, I am making improvements to my apartment with enhanced décor and proper furniture to replace makeshift set-ups. I am reorganizing things and making use of storage space that has just come available. That is, I am settling in here for a long haul.

-As for my livelihood, I have decided to rely on teaching employment no longer. I am instead making more progress with self-employment: writing projects, private tutoring, official testing. More work seems to be coming to me. For instance, a private institute contacted me today to set up an interview. If we go through with the job, I’ll have two or three shifts (12-16 hours a week) tutoring children. Also, a prospective student contacted me directly, circumventing the tutoring agency, to schedule French lessons four hours a week. To add, I recently had a couple of short projects reviewing English translations. Finally, I am maintaining a role as an official speaking examiner for some hours of testing most weeks. The hourly rate for most of this work is fairly high. I have been getting some unemployment benefits due to my previous months of employment with the academic English programs. Perhaps I’ll have enough income from other sources to do without it in January. I am feeling relieved to have more self-employment. It was my plan to depend more on self-employment after returning from teaching in Korea two years ago, it is apparently panning out.

-Finances. What to do with the retirement savings so far accumulated? My nest egg was release from some investment programs this past fall. I was avoiding using that money for living and luxury/ leisure expenses until I decided about buying a home. Now that I have decided not to buy a home, I have decided to make some of it available for travel every year and for living comforts such as the furniture. I think I may end up arranging something like an annuity so that the savings can go towards what they were intended, which is supporting my retirement life. I am so relieved to have resolved this question, for I was beginning to feel very constrained practicing frugality and continuing to endure makeshift arrangements such as the sleeping mat I’ve used for a year and a half, the shabby lighting here, and the sagging work table that’s been in the dining alcove. My place is more comfortable and pleasant now.

Summing up the year.

My life progressed. It generally moved in a positive direction.

I received blows, of course. The worst was being thrown out summarily in the middle of a new sessional instructor contract. I blame it on the unreasonable fear and negative imagination of people in charge at least of the program I was working in, as well as poor institutional communication and management. That was hard to live through.

There was also the ongoing strain of unfair and erroneous federal tax assessments. The assessments have been demanding a large payment, including interest and penalties. It is difficult fighting this anonymous bureaucracy in the series of blunders and misunderstandings and oversights about my financial situation. Gradually, it is getting sorted out, after a ministerial inquiry, meetings with a bank financial advisor, and numerous letters. The strain is easing.
Despite these problems, I have been able to keep income flowing in. Self-employment activities are increasing, without me making huge efforts to solicit the business. Though recent experience has turned off the desire to rely mostly on employment in teaching, I still have teaching prospects. I am meeting a children’s after-school ESL institute later this week. I am also meeting a new private student this week. Finally, there is a new writing project. If I complete a book that another ghost writer started, and books are sold, I am to receive a percentage of the sales revenue. It is an important book connected to my just peace activism as it is based on research and experiences of an activist seeking reforms to nuclear power plants and nuclear accident evacuation procedures in the US.

Furthermore, I am settling into this rental apartment, having made a decision about planning my retirement and using my retirement funds. This is a relief, as I now feel grounded in a place and position in life. Though I am not yet declaring myself retired and applying for senior’s pension benefits, I am enjoying some other kinds of senior’s benefits, which offer some relief.
Finally, I ended the year with a warming, distracting and relaxing vacation outside the country, getting away from it all, and also fit in some celebrating with co-workers and relatives. There was a fine Christmas party paid by the English testing company in late December, and I hosted a nice dinner party for family yesterday. If I want, I can attend a friend’s house party to welcome in 2019 tonight.

Things are looking and feeling good for me just as 2019 is launched.

Just Peace - stuff

Posted on December 7, 2018 at 9:18 PM Comments comments (278)
I'm not a big consumer. Never bought into the buying mentality. Have not contributed much to the economy in that regard. I have done a lot of work all my life, and a lot of it study or communications or research and activism for no pay.

It nevertheless seems that material objects come my way and adhere to my little universe just as much as to anyone else's. I am blessed that I have received many useful things as gifts and that I have come across useful second had items one way or another.

One way has been through the generations before me in my clan. That is how I have come to possess a number of things that are decades old, even older than I. I have things from my grandparents and my father's second wife (whose stuff got confused with those of my mother's as her memory fade).

So I have many companions in many forms hanging around my household, like the electric mixer that my Grandma bought in 60's. She used it a lot and so I have I and it still runs like a charm. I have her waffle iron and pressure cooker, which I have used only a few times. Her iron skillet, on the other hand, is an indispensable tool in my daily life. Then there are the old odd pieces of crockery, partial tea and dinner sets, and many dessert bowls and plates, fruit/ salad bowls and vases, many with lovely designs. There are souvenirs of my grandparents' hometowns, which are special little treasure that I am fond of and display as decorations. 

I still have Grandma's Kenmore sewing machine. It's been a long while since I have plugged it in and taken it for a spin, but it came in very handy for mending things, making simple items such as cushion covers and curtains, and stitching together costumes.



Yes, I have rejected the gender identity as a consumer of kitchen appliances and the latest gadgets; I have never even owned a blender never mind a microwave oven. TV's were foisted on me until the first time I bought one for myself when away abroad and the second time when I returned from abroad last year. I only have a mini vacuum-cleaner, rather than a full-sized one.

I have kept a small coffee maker that a sister-in-law bought me. I like having a toaster. I have refrained from buying an electric kettle for this apartment, though it's high time I obtained one, considering the poor shape that the pot I use for boiling water several times a day is in.

I enjoy my aunt's paintings and prints that my grandmothers kept hung on their living room walls.

When I have invested in an object, I hang on to it. Moving to and from continents in recent years made me realize how foolish holding on to as much as I have is. It is just stuff. Usually, the thing-- folders full of some passionately researched topic in the old days, some box of trinkets, stationery or art supplies, sewing aides, grooming aids or silly ornaments--sits in bags and boxes in the closet for years until it fades and gets musty and the container is falling apart and I finally give it up.

I have clothing and accessories that is up to 5 decades old--stuff that was my mother's or that people gave her--a sundress, lace knit pullover, tank top, coat. I wear them at least a few times every year and get compliments. Besides those articles, I buy second-hand clothing; already purchased as "vintage" by me, I extend the lives of many such pieces by more decades. I have some such stuff I bought in the 90s; still get compliments about them, too. 

I have a "boom box" which I have never let boom but enjoyed as a music and radio player for many years. Still using it, with a portable CD player hooked up to it. Still have cassettes from the eighties, CDs from the 90s.

There will soon come a time when I'll have to unload more of this stuff. I gradually have since I put much of it in storage to prepare for life in Korea over a decade ago, and when I sorted through it after I emptied the storage container. There are still shelves and boxes full of it. 

Just Peace -approaching 62

Posted on December 3, 2018 at 4:48 PM Comments comments (11)
This website has not been very reliable lately; I have not been able to post some days because of interruptions and malfunctions on this site and it was slow to open up the blog today. Sorry about that.

Today I have the luxury of an unexpected day off and I am glad for I really need it. I have been busy with political and social activities and work.

At last, here we are. Nine days until my next birthday--time to put in my reflections over the past year, review and reset goals and look forward to more precious time on this Earth.

I consider myself by and large fortunate overall and in this particular period of my life, despite setbacks. I was dismissed from a contract working for a local international college as a Sessional Instructor, for example, yet it seems like it was for the best because self-employment is coming to me. I am enjoying working part-time for good hourly and piece rates. I am also enjoying some state support for loss of employment and to subsidize my housing rent.

Though I feel a bit pooped out today, my health has generally been good and my mind has generally held to its optimistic vision.

Attempts at dating through online services have not worked out and I am still flying solo, but I like my 1-bedroom apartment and my work, overall. The entertainment budget might be small but I get out and about somehow or other--potluck dinners, singing, café meet-ups, a little shopping, gym and so on. I see neighbours and shop workers enough in the area enough to stop and chat. The bros keep in touch.

I am still growing, having new experiences. I see prospects to look forward to on the horizon.

Let's take a look at some of my goals set in recent years and compare with actual outcomes and turns of events.

10-year goals:

-own a home. Well, I still have land as an investment. However, it looks as though buying a home probably does not make sense under the circumstances. Prices are still high here, for one thing, For another, senior's benefits including housing assistance, there is no longer an incentive to buy. To much work and worry, and it might be difficult to keep up maintenance and costs beyond a mortgage. Not worth it considering my funds, neither for living or letting.

-financial development. I am working and I continue to look for other sources of income. Learning about benefits and breaks for seniors and the self-employed.

-health on track. Have resolved some irritating issues. Making adjustments to the conditions of the aging body.

-self-employment: making progress. Right now earning a good portion of my monthly income through self-employment as writer, editor, teacher and examiner, pretty much as I had planned. 

-writing. It is happening. Not doing any creative writing, but able to bring in a little income through professional writing and editing.

-professional development: I now have a certificate for giving and rating international speaking tests. I am using my 2016 training in editing. I have had some training in working with children.

-social. Keeping up friends, making new ones. Keeping up with family. Went to a reunion and cousins are in touch now. Political friendships deepening. No romance for me, though. Finally, I can say that I am teaching (tutoring) a broader range of subjects, including writing and literature, French and ESL.

-travel. Prospects were looking dim for a bit, but new opportunities are opening up. I decided to take a beach vacation this winter in order to counter the blues and chose a place in Mexico. I have the chance to fulfill a life-long dream of visiting Mayan ruins soon! Also, vacation home-swapping opportunities are on the horizon, with invitations to two locations in Mediterranean Europe. I want to go to a political conference in East Asia in June, then travel for pleasure. I'll be able to catch up with activist friends in Asia and fulfill a long-held dream of returning to the Mediterranean coast where I stayed in my youth, and exploring regions in Italy, France and Spain more for a couple of weeks. I'll be able to stay for free since people will be using my place here during my absence.

-political activism. I keep trucking. Struck up the "Just Peace Committee". Though participation is minimal, I have been able to carry out a few small events with help from participants, and have written some materials.

5-year goals

-Home. AS stated, buying a home is not on the table at this time.
-professional development, self-employment going forward.
-Financially, things are positive, though the threat of a big tax debt has been looming. I have been fighting to cancel that debt and there have been some favourable developments in that struggle. Furthermore, I am now enjoying the provincial housing subsidy. I am considering taking one of my senior's pensions within a few months while I develop plans for financial security beyond 65. I am pretty much decided to carry on self-employment through my sixties. I take advantage of senior's discounts here and there.
-writing. I am a paid writer. Producing materials for income and political commentary. No creative stuff, though this blog is alive. The national writers grant system having changed, I am no longer qualified to apply, though I will check into it again later.
-health. I had personal training twice a week for twelve weeks, which really helped, and I still go to the gym, though a bit irregularly. There are exercises I can do at home. I resumed bike-riding around the city and went as far East as Coquitlam Centre and as far West as Commercial Drive in East Vancouver last summer. 
-social. Some deepening friendships, especially with activists and a few neighbours. No dating. Good rapport with relatives and have been enjoying very pleasant get-togethers with bros and others. 
-travel. I hadn't planned on much travel for this period, but I will take the short beach resort holiday around Christmas. I am planning a trip for political work over a few days plus a couple of weeks of travel for pleasure next summer. This means seeing some travel wishes come true, which I had not been expecting!

1-year plan
-As some invested money was freed up last week, I had a decision to make about its use. I am neither buying home/ property or a car. I will bundle it up in short-term saving plan and review the situation in about two years from now. I am not selling the little parcel of land just yet, as selling prices are lowish.
-retirement. I am thinking of taking the CPP (employment pension) benefit in 2019. I am not working enough to be able to increase contributions great enough to cause a substantial increase in the benefit rate by 65, so I may as well save the contributions and take the benefit early to help me as of next year. I will no longer seek fulltime teaching, but I'll remain open to part-time teaching in addition to some work at home. Working even part-time at home should qualify me for some tax deductions.
-writing. Being a member of the editing and writers association was not so beneficial, after all, so I dropped out. Am getting paid gigs for writing, editing and consulting, regardless. I determined it was not worthwhile to continue professional training in editing, so I have not taken any more editing courses. As stated above, federal writers' grants are no longer accessible.
-employment. I get teaching gigs here and there, but I don't think I will rely on full-time teaching any more. I am therefore semi-retired from teaching. I'll rely more on self-employment, in various roles providing various services including tutorials. Speaking examinations, ghost writing, translation editing, tutoring are all contractual gigs which are classified as self-employment. Right now, I have enough income to afford a holiday, pay off the cards and save a bit. Let's hope things remain that good for awhile.
-social. No more online dating. Not good experiences. Just seeking friendships, building on existing ones and enjoying my independence. Getting out a little, though it would be nice to take in a concert or show with some compatible companion now and then.






Just Peace-November

Posted on November 17, 2018 at 11:21 PM Comments comments (16)
November begins the reflective year-end time for me. My birthday in mid-December is approaching and soon after that the conclusion of the calendar year. It is a reflective period for me--a time to assess what I have been doing and where I'm heading. I am gearing up to do that and review and reset my goals.

In this part of the world, the weather gets dark, cold and rainy in November. It can be downright gloomy. Like other people, I usually feel blue in November.

The autumn and winter of this region is not like the rainy seasons of the tropics or deserts; rather, heavy rain commences and goes on and on for weeks. Wind storms may rev up during them, too. Also, the day light shrinks. Sunset begins just after four in the afternoon these days, to give you an idea of the darkness. People turn on the lights inside their homes and workplaces during the day.

No wonder the number of deaths and the rate of illness increase in November in the northern hemisphere far above the Tropic of Cancer. Indeed, the season prompts thoughts of death and the dead. Many countries have special ceremonies and traditions to visit graves, remember and honour the ancestors in North America and Europe. There are many articles, radio discussions and TV programs about them. Moreover, we have Hallowe'en, France its Mummers processions and Mexico has the Day of the Dead. It is the time to honour the victims of war and pay homage to soldiers and civilians killed in wars.

One has to brace oneself and get ready to fight off the gloom. One has to be prepared. One has to take vitamin D supplements, schedule exercise and social activities, plan some fine meals so as not to sink into a mire of despair. It's a time when people here start thinking of flying away to somewhere warm and sunny. Several people I know have already begun winter vacationing, actually.

As for me this autumn, the blues came early and they hit me hard. Seriously. By the start of November, I was steeped in sadness. Tears threatened all day long. I was starting to think I should see a doctor about it.

Probably, the recent news of the death of a friend overseas affected me. Also, November is a time when both my parents, in different years, passed away. Perhaps a recent family gathering evoked sadness related to them and other family tragedies. Plus, this Remembrance Day, on the anniversary of the World War One Armistice, was a much bigger deal because it was the 100th anniversary and I was involved in an activity recalling it.

But the dark clouds lifted from my life and light shone through after a couple of weeks. I feel fine now, despite the rains and darkness outside. 

When I think back over the past year, I am amazed at how peaceful I have felt most of the time, despite a couple of big setbacks. I remember moments when I was home and waves of serenity engulfed me. I felt perfectly in tune and content on several occasions. 

It is good to have reached a point in life when many issues have been resolved and a person knows what is going on inside them, who they are and what they want. That in itself is a great accomplishment, I think. 

There are signs that I am on the right path, despite moments of doubt and confusion and times when things do not appear to be working out. Look at my work situation, for instance. Employment teaching has not worked out recently, but I am engaged in some self-employment and I have some income support. One of my income-generating activities is a bit of paid writing. The company contract writers to research and write short assignments for clients. From the lists of jobs I've seen, I have chosen a couple of projects writing about psychology lately. I thus find myself writing about narcissistic mothers and their daughters this week. I have become more conscious of my own mother's symptoms of narcissism and the effects on me while writing this work. It was serendipitous. Interesting that I ended up writing about this topic on the anniversary of her death, November 16! When I realized the connection with my life, I thought it might get me down to be writing on this subject, but it has not. I feel fine and I am able to write about it and reflect on my own experiences calmly. I am at peace with all the stuff around my experience with my mother. 

I feel there is a lesson in this situation. I am supposed to be thinking about these things, perhaps.

I will say more about my progress and begin the year's assessment soon. Stay tuned.

By the way, I have booked my own little sunny holiday for Christmas. Trying to let myself enjoy it. Fending off guilt and second thoughts.


Just Peace-unjust employer

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 11:14 PM Comments comments (76)
Employer, a private, profit-making college selling courses to international students, told me to get out and never come back today. No reason given. No warnings prior to this day.

Sounds like an employer one should not work for, right?

Alexander College on Kingsway in Burnaby and W. Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

I never felt good and this action on the part of the employer is a good show of its attitude. I was not planning on accepting any further contracts with them.

But to kick you to the curb just before midterms?---never heard of such a thing!

To begin with, very little support and acknowledgment. Some women in admin positions came across as hostile as well as snooty.

There is too much management and supervision of everything. "Feedback" was two impromptu meetings giving very negative comments, and not all very relevant never mind fair or reasonable in third week, leaving me bruised and cold. No positive feedback except they had no issue to make of my teaching. In fact one neophyte super said, super impertinently, you are a fabulous teacher and all the students really like you.

The gossip mill ran overtime. The feedback made shocking direct claims about my character and offensive innuendo--nothing about my work performance but attacks on my character. "We want a team player." What was my team? Apparently, I was to give all to a team to which I clearly did not belong.

I felt it. If they wonder why I wasn't smiling with them much and why I bristled a couple of times, they should know. I did not feel welcome or supported.

They ditched me in time to avoid paying me severance. This must be why they were doing feedback so early after I started. Once over the 3-month mark, harder to let someone go and more expensive.

Just Peace - tax letter

Posted on September 23, 2018 at 5:22 PM Comments comments (32)
Appalling assessment by Canadian tax authority trying to take a chunk of my retirement savings. I was not aware they could do this; in fact, a bank's personnel told me I could save money in Canada this way without taxation while I was an officially categorized resident abroad. I am a Canadian citizen and I went abroad to work specifically to save for retirement.

Copy of a letter of appeal for tax relief


I am again writing to seek tax relief from amounts owing on a series of TFSA Notice of Assessments received since August, 2018, but covering TFSA accounts contributions from mid-July 2011 to 2016. I was a self-declared non-resident of Canada for taxation purposes as I was living and working abroad during that time. I had no other income besides my foreign employment income from teaching English abroad. As I returned to live and work in Canada in January, 2017, I have declared myself as a resident of Canada for taxation purposes.

 

I have challenged the above-mentioned charges and all the penalties and interest added, which amounts to around $19,000, through a Ministerial Inquiry. That Inquiry found that the law allows the assessed amounts, however cruel the law may be.

 

The TFSA assessment authorities are demanding I pay more than I contributed to my TFSA savings account—a substantial chunk of my life savings. The main purpose of going abroad to work was to be able to save funds for the future, namely my retirement years, and now, despite all the self-discipline, work and hardship to save those funds, the Government of Canada wants to take it away.

 

Let me highlight the unfairness of the tax rate applied to the TFSA contributions: up to 12% of the total amounts held in such an account per year (1% a month). Nobody else but mobsters or kidnappers would demand so much from a victim.

 

I had no idea I could or would be taxed. I clearly told the bank financial officers that I was a non-resident when I started the Royal Bank TFSA, but they told me then and again later that I would not be taxed. I shall write to RBC to complain.

 

While abroad, my foreign employment earnings did not reach much more than 30,000CD per year. After my return to Canada in 2017, I have been working part-time. My taxable income for 2017 was …(low). On August 2, 2018, I was dismissed from the part-time job I had from November 2017 till then. I resumed steady but part-time employment (26 hours a week) only three weeks ago, on September 4. I have had to struggle to find a little additional income through self-employment to cover all living expenses. I hope I can resume saving money, as I am fast approaching the age of 62 and I must prepare for my years as an elder.

 
I am a single, self-supporting woman with no dependents. My rent was increased from $875 to $910 last July. I pay $163 a month for TV and internet,, $200 to $300 for groceries and household supplies. 

…(My rent is high enough and my monthly income low enough that I am applying for a government housing subsidy.)


As you could imagine from my profile, I have had to depend on the use of credit cards. I currently owe around $2,000 to credit card companies. I have not been able to avoid charging some expenses to these cards each month, so there is always somewhere from $500 to $1500 owing on each card for the value of purchases plus high interest.

 

Due to income constraints, I am lacking some common household and personal supplies. I will need to acquire more in the near future.

 

In the light of all these factors, I request full relief. Certainly, the late penalties and interest are unfounded.

 

Had CRA notified me of its earliest TFSA assessment right after the processing of the 2011 tax return, I would have an opportunity to pull funds out of the TFSA accounts and stop contributing to them. As things went, however, I had no knowledge that the contributions would be taxed. Who would imagine that a “tax-free” account is not tax-free, especially when bank officers suppose it is tax-free and the CRA does not make citizens aware that non-residents are taxed on TFSA contributions? It is not fair or appropriate that I should pay such large amounts in tax, penalties and interest.

 
END


Just Peace - letter to friends

Posted on September 16, 2018 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (14)
Tonight I am posting a copy of a letter I just wrote to overseas friends and colleagues. I taught English in Korea for 10 years, returning to Canada early last year.

Hello, you all!

This is Barbara from BUFS in Busan, Korea who returned to Canada after December, 2016. This is a long letter for any of you interested in catching up or curious.

I have been thinking about my time and friends in Korea a lot lately, so I am writing. I just went through all my Gmail addresses and used the ones I could remember. I guess some addresses are outdated and I don't know where all of you have gotten to, though I have chatted with a few of you in recent months.

I now live comfortably near the university where I graduated just outside Vancouver. I'm still working in English education. 

It was not a shock to return here, but it took some adjustment. It went well socially as I reconnected to family and friends. 

Employment was more difficult. At first, there was very little response to my job applications. I was doing some tutoring and substitute teaching, including work tutoring kids at a Reading Town in 2017. Then I had a regular teaching schedule at a new start-up program. There were so few students and such a limited program that it was super boring. Finally, it failed. I was happy to be dismissed. 

I thought I was going to need to rely on self-employment, so I searched for private students and started some ghost-writing projects, etc. Just today,  I finished some training for certification in conducting IELTS Speaking exams. The writing is a bit low-paid but interesting and kind of fun because we write on a wide range of topics--I added chapters to a booklet on starting a trucking business and I wrote a booklet on accelerated learning, for example. I'll take the IELTS Speaking Examiner certification test in a few days. That can give me a few hours of examinations a month, mainly on Saturdays.

In August, however, employers started paying me more attention and replying to my applications. I just got hired at a well established international college. Actually, I had offers at two of them and accepted the best one. I do not teach language, though; I teach study skills (English for Academic Purposes) as a university preparation program, but it is still part-time. My title is Sessional Instructor on a contract salary. I have 15 hours of classes, 3 hours 5 days a week. In addition, I am a tutor in the college's Writing and Learning Centre for 11 hours a week. 

Having been hired at the last moment, getting started and learning the ropes has been challenging. What's more, this institution is ridiculously bureaucratic and deeply committed to operating without teaching admin staff by means of every electronic management and communications system it can. I have passcodes for several online systems, locks and copiers, which are all hard to keep track of. We use two class management systems for grading and online communications with students, and the MS Office 365 program for internal communications and shared files. I feel scattered.

 I am a nomad because there is no instructors' office or department office. My base is a small student locker, except I am allowed a few hours at a shared tutoring desk. There is no lunch room, so I can be found munching on a sandwich in a corner like a rodent here and there before my mid-day class starts. Teachers get to share a few cramped desks in the photocopy rooms, where there is a tiny fridge and where the copiers are so overused that they are always breaking down. Also, I work at both of the College's campuses. I commute from one to the other each day, compelling me to commute 3 times a day every day for work.

One of the campuses is situated where I spend a lot of my childhood, stirring up lots of memories.

This college is growing; established in 2006, it now has 2500 students at both locations. Tomorrow I'll start teaching in a newly built classroom in a space that used to be a gay men's nightclub.  Most students are Chinese and Indian from the Punjab. The number of students from India is surging at present. We have a few Korean students. They come for the academic orientation and for key subject courses so they can transfer to universities, subjects including economics, sociology, English literature, math, etc. The first choice in Canada is Toronto where the numbers of international students are highest.

Korean restaurants are all around the Vancouver area; I can pop into a modern cafe and feel like I never left Korea! There are plenty of Korean students and business people around. I'm quickly losing the little Korean I had learned, though.

I am connected to the ex-expat English teacher community. My colleagues in my academic English section have all spent long years abroad teaching. So have all the classmates I met in the IELTS training course.  I feel quite at home among them. That's why I have been reminiscing about life in Korea. 

A lot of people here are concerned about peace in Korea. I have joined a group that takes a petition around the metro area to talk to people about supporting the peace process in Korea.

Vancouver is one of the most expensive areas to live in all North America. Housing, gasoline, food and many services are over-priced. There are some improvements all the same. Transit is improving and it is cheaper now than 12 years ago because the fare system changed. Electricity is still relatively cheap. Prices of organic and some imported food are decreasing. Some commercial services are lower in price now, such as gym memberships. Internet and mobile phone services are in the high price range, though there are deals and some competitive options. There has been some relief regarding government services, in that medical plan premiums are lower and unemployment insurance and pension benefits are calculated differently and to the advantage of recipients. As well, there is so much public pressure on housing that more rentals and social housing are being built.

Apart from the high cost of living, I am very happy to be enjoying familiar territory in a vibrant and scenic environment with lots going on. Now I have a decent job, I would be able to afford getting out more, except that I don't have so much free time now!

It's nice to think that some of you may have made it this far into my letter. Feel free to send me a line here if you care to.

Ciao!

Just Peace - full time work

Posted on September 8, 2018 at 3:58 PM Comments comments (7)
I started full-time work as a Sessional Instructor and writing tutor at a local international college. As with any new situation, there has been a lot to learn in the past couple weeks, so it can feel stressful. This particular job is particularly complicated with a lot of information and procedures to adopt.

To begin with, the work is kind of administrative heavy, using all the electronic communications technology it can. That means that there are countless files is disparate places filed in variously named folders. Also, the teaching staff must handle a lot of administrative tasks ourselves because we lack administrative support personnel\ One has to learn lots of procedures and rules. There are many numerical access codes and many systems to log into with different passwords. The institution is using two of my email addresses, so I am receiving messages in different mailboxes daily. Moreover, we lack space. The downtown location is overcrowded. Expansion is underway but the construction is behind schedule, so we have an agreement to use space in a neighboring college about two blocks away. After learning the ropes at that place, we'll soon have to adapt to a new space. I will have classroom space and a tutoring desk over there. I hope there will be proper staff room and eating area; there is not at this time. There is no adequate location for sitting down to have lunch. I have to eat on campus since my class starts at noon. After traveling to work then preparing for the day, I need to eat something before a class period of three hours. The way it is now, I carry a lot of stuff around with me all day and I have to eat quickly in the hallway. The food has to be cold and simple to do that. Fortunately, I can say that I can use a small locker. That is my base, as ridiculous as it is. Not to mention the various errands required to get started: buying teaching supplies, having a hair cut, food management and so on. To add, I have been going to a business support center to get copies printed because the teaching staff's main photocopier was in such high demand that I could not access it, and was broken down from overwork whenever it was free. I spent $35 last week on copies! 

This chaos adds to the stress of starting a new job at a new place of employment with new co-workers.  I feel scattered because space and work materials are scattered, which makes me feel stressed. I like to be well centered. I am used to having my own office area.

As my last job was slow and only part-time, I have to admit that I am not used to the pace. It has dawned on me that I have not had full-time much in my life.  True, I had full-time teaching contracts on salary for 10 years in Korea, but teaching hours were scheduled for 15 to 22 class periods a week, and preparation time generally took 5 to 15 hours a week, varying from week to week. I think the last time I worked in a full time job in Canada was in 2005 when I was a research assistant. I could work on my own and arrange my own timetable, mind you. though. Hours were cut after six months, though, due to a lack of project funding. Prior to that, I think I had full-time work for another six-month stint some five years earlier, in 1999. I was on a contract at a federal public service office. Before then, I remember a full-time, federal service employment for two years into 1990.

Yeah, I'd rather work less as long as I had a full-time salary. Who wouldn't?

I'll have to pick up my socks and get organized to keep up with the new scenario.

Just Peace -late transformation

Posted on September 3, 2018 at 3:39 PM Comments comments (6)
My brother and his wife were dinner guests at my place last night. We had a nice time. My sister-in-law can get quite negative and be difficult to please but the dinner went well. Actually, her attitude and disposition has changed for the better lately.

They are a little older than I. They have both been officially labeled as mentally disabled for most of their lives, and therefore unemployed and on low income.. It's a shame because they are very sociable and have generally good character. My brother was ambitious and into many things, working hard to save money and accomplish a lot. She was a daycare worker and had a family as a young woman. They both eventually accepted their situations and understood their diseases, but have maintained some bad eating habits and never excerised, so they also endure some physical ailments now. My brother has had diabetes for a long time but he is not careful about his sugar intake and his blood sugar count is often too high sometimes these days. Also, he tends to eat too much.

They both experience intense fear and anxiety every day; is expressed more as outright fear but she has often displayed intense anger when anxious, but she has been improving greatly in recent times. Her demeanour is brighter, anxiety reduced and willingness to engage in life increased. It is a relief to all. 

I think the turning point was a near-death experience about three years ago. A dedicated hypochondriac before, she visited hospitals so frequently that she caught a super-bug, which was very debilitating. She had good reason to get to the emergency ward in that period. She had a close call one week but came out of it. I wonder if she had some opportunity for counseling during that time because she began to turn herself around. Anyway, she evidently reflected a lot and vocalized questions about various causes for mental illness and her life's circumstances. She does not want to hang around hospitals. Feigning or exaggerating illness used to be a way to seek attention; she doesn't seem to need as much attention. I think that, besides better appreciating some vulnerabilities and disadvantages in her early life that were factors, she realizes that her behavior and outlook have been self-defeating. Now it appears that she is regretful she squandered so much potential and time in life before and held herself back.

It is simultaneously wonderful and sad that someone should experience an awakening like that. It's great that she has more energy and will to take life on and is more open to living and trying new activities. It is heartening to see someone growing and feeling better. However, it is sad that she and her husband are so constrained by low income and have little means. Of course, their learning has been hampered by the illness, problematic responses by family and associates and the kind of emotional baggage that accompanies someone with long term disability. The illness still defines them and gets in the way. Both of them, she especially, are more aware of how it gets in the way.

Dependent on a housing subsidy, financial assistance and supportive services, they are trapped in a bureaucracy. There is always tension between their view of themselves and their wishes and those of the state's institutions. Also, they are always reminded that they are lacking something or not as well equipped as most other people apparently are. (The incidence of mental health issues is very high in the US and Canada.) In fact, funding and services for the mentally ill has dwindled over the past two decades.

However, the present regional government has been increasing social funding and raising rates for social benefits, which my brother and his partner have been enjoying. Just a couple of hundred of dollars more each month can make a huge difference to the very poor. 

Also, we can happily report that federal government pension benefit rates have gone up and the calculating of benefits owing has been improved, resulting in a higher monthly disability cheque for my brother. 

It takes strength to face society and get out there for someone in their kind of situation. Fortunately, there are lots of caring people who offer ideas and material support. The family pitches in if they are aware of something lacking that they can supply or something damaged that they can fix. However, they cover up some problems.

Here's an example. Though another sibling had bought them a great new bed they liked, I got the sense that they were not using it. After several months, it finally dawned on me that it was probably too high to climb onto. I surprised them by getting step stools for each side of the bed and now they sleep in it. 

Sometimes their solution to an issue is not really the most practical. For instance, they were not opening the patio sliding glass door because it was loose and they worried that the pet cats would escape through it. They did mention this problem frequently, appealing to the building management and another sibling. No remedy for years. They endured an enclosed, small apartment on the hottest of days, trying to get relief from fans. (The ceiling fan has not been working for a long time, and the management is taking a very lonnngg time to fix or replace it.) Finally, I ordered a local company to custom make a pet-proof screen and it was installed a few weeks ago. BIG RELIEF, of course!

There are magic moments. They are expresions of sensitivity and compassion from concerns people who notice a difficult situation. For example, the screen company never charged me! Without pronouncing that they did not intend to charge me, they simply never got my payment information and never sent my brother a bill. Amazing! It was a job valued at about $270 CD plus tax!