Thursday, July 31, 2008

My new glasses are in!

Yep, my glasses came in a whole day early :) I'm really happy with them; they are comfortable and I find it easy to look through them. I still think they look good on me although it's a different style than I've been wearing; they have a darker top than bottom and they're a bit more rectangular. The colours are similar to my old glasses. I also found out that fixing my old glasses won't cost very much so I'm going ahead and doing that, too. Since it won't cost much I'll be able to have a more recent backup pair of glasses. My eyes are -9.25 now and the latest backup I had is around -8 or so.

I rode my bike to and from the glasses place - I should have known that the wind was against me coming back uphill when I could hardly pedal fast enough getting there. It's the first time I've been out on the bike this season and I hope to be able to go out riding some more.

We're heading up to Ottawa this weekend to visit with some friends there. We leave tomorrow afternoon and expect to be back on Monday sometime. I don't expect to be posting while we're gone, so I hope that everyone has a good long weekend.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No more stitches!

My family doctor took my stitches out today and I look WAY more normal now :) Part of the scab has also fallen off and I think the long cut (which was more superficial) won't scar too much. I'm crossing my fingers about that, anyways :)

My doctor said that I definitely had a concussion but that I'm ok now and that I shouldn't experience any long-lasting effects. The side effects I had - dizziness, headaches, and nausea - were normal. He also said that I didn't need an xray or anything and that nothing should show up on next year's bone scan. Whew!

Tonight we went to a friend's place for game night and played Power Grid. Some say that playing this marks us as hard-core German board game players because there's a lot of strategy involved in it... which might be true. There are some elements of chance but much of the player success is determined by strategy on several levels with auctions, commodities markets, and building networks. I'd definitely play this game again as it's quite fun, but I wouldn't play it on a night when I was tired.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Seeing the doctor tomorrow

I'm seeing my family doctor tomorrow to get my stitches out. Yay! The bottom two have closed up the shorter cut and the top one doesn't appear to be doing anything to the longer cut. The longer cut is looking pretty good. My head is feeling better - I've hardly been dizzy at all lately and I don't have much in the way of headaches. I would like to talk to my doctor about whether I need any follow-up treatment because I think I had a concussion.

I heard from my optometrist's office and my new glasses will most likely be in by Friday :) They also said that they could set my current lenses into new frames (well, a new version of my frames) so that I have a backup pair of glasses. I suppose that's a good idea, but I'm able to see out of these glasses as-is and I don't think I'd wear a second pair. I love new glasses because it's fun to wear new frames :) If I fixed the old ones then it would be a waste of money if I didn't wear them.... but they'd be old and less fun, so I wouldn't want to wear them as much. Still, I'll think about it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A new way of grading for me

We saw The Dark Knight today. It was quite good although I don't think I'd see it twice in the theater (as I've heard some people are doing). Heath Ledger does a fine, crazy Joker and the movie itself is compelling. I'd recommend that you see it if you haven't yet.

I have pretty well finished grading and altering this pattern and I'm going to be making it next. I have some bias-printed pink/red gingham and we found some red for the collar today. I think it's going to be awesome when it's done - at least, I hope so :)

When I finish this one, I have another pattern that I want to prepare because I've already decided which fabrics to use. The pattern is similar to the other one (which is fine, because I think that the silhouette is fairly flattering on me): it's a sheath dress with princess lines and flap pockets at the hips with a large collar. I'm going to use some black on cream alphabet fabric for the body and black for the collar, flaps, and on the princess seams. It'll also be awesome, I think.

I'm still learning how vintage patterns fit me and how to change them so each project is a bit of an experiment. I was just grading the patterns up but that doesn't really work. Even if the pattern is exactly my size - and some are - my proportions are quite different than bodies used to be. Yes, I'm short, but people were shorter back then. Also, ease amounts were quite different than they are today and I like a little bit less ease, except at the waist, where I like a bit more. So what ends up happening is that I can't just increase the pattern by x amount everywhere; another way of putting it is I can't just grade the pattern. Instead, I have a slightly different approach to making the pattern fit.

First, I have to measure the pattern bust, waist, and hips to see how much to add to each to get the measurements + ease that I want. The amount to add is usually different for each of these primary points. So I do that, and then I have to make the neck to the high bust area (or, the neck to the top of the shoulder blades in the back) narrower. I almost always re-position and shorten the bust darts a bit - I don't have the cone-shaped breasts that they had then, and their bust darts are almost always too far apart for my taste. That usually takes care of the circumference measurements, although if the pattern is very fitted through the waist and hip I'll make sure that I've increased the high hip area a bit.

With the circumference measurements done, I check the vertical measurements. First I measure the pattern bodice front and back and compare that to my measurements. I decrease the entire front bodice by the difference in measurements, if there is any - sometimes there isn't. Sometimes I even have to increase the measurements, if the original pattern is very different from my size. If the change is small, I make it between the underarm and waist, and if it's large I do 1/3 of it above the underarm and 2/3 below it. I remove about 1/2" at the center back bodice waist for my swayback and take the rest of the vertical difference out as for the front bodice.

After that I just have to change the skirt length. I've been shortening the patterns from their original mid-calf length (a singularly unflattering skirt length for almost everyone) to around the knee, so I've got to take out that as well as the usual amount to shorten for my height. To make these changes, I do a combination of just chopping off some of the length at the bottom and folding out the difference. Because I'm short, it's better if I chop at least part of a full skirt at the bottom so that the bottom skirt circumference isn't too big. If the bottom skirt circumference is anything over about 80" or so and I'm using cotton, the skirt will be too big. With straight skirts it doesn't matter where the length comes off, but I have to make sure that walking vents/pleats are long enough when I'm done.

By this time I'm usually tired of making pattern changes, but I'm not done yet: I actually pin-fit the pattern. Yes, I tape the darts shut (and clip them if I have to) and pin the seams together on the seam allowance. Then I tape the waist center front and back to my center front and back and try to tape the front and back neck to the appropriate places. This is by no means perfect but it shows when I've got WAY too much ease somewhere. It also shows if I've retained the original pattern proportions after all of my changes.

Then I get to sew!

BTW, I have done one version of the walk-away dress and I'm mostly happy with it but I didn't take enough out of the center front and back so I'm going to play with the pattern a bit. Also, I want to re-shape some curves. I have some great fabric and binding for this next attempt, too :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Getting better

My head is finally starting to feel better. The two lower stitches seem to have closed up that part quite effectively, and the upper stitch is... there. We're not sure that it's closing anything :) The rest of the wound seems to be healing up pretty well with me leaving it open to the air. I hope that it doesn't scar very badly. I have some pretty ugly scars and I wouldn't something that ugly on my face.

I was doing some research and I think that I probably did have a concussion. Some of the articles I read said that a person didn't have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Seeing stars is enough. Not that there's anything they can do about that, really.Up until yesterday I had some dizziness and trouble reading (the words on the page were moving around when I tried to pin them down). I've also had some headaches. I've been fine today but I'll still talk to my doctor about it.

Today we went and found a new pair of glasses for me. I'd been waiting until I could just put a bandage over the wound (so that I didn't get stuff on their glasses or hurt myself) before shopping for frames. I'm hoping that the glasses will be in by Friday; the lenses come from Montreal and how soon I get them depends on whether they have my prescription in stock. I think I'll be quite happy with the new pair as we both liked the look of them quite a lot.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sleep and more sleep with a side of pain

Since Tuesday evening, I've slept a lot - about 23 hours straight through to yesterday evening followed by about 5 hours being awake, and another 12 hours of sleeping. I've no idea whether I'm tired because of the Pamidronate or the wound but I'm tired.

My wound is still huge. I had it covered up to sleep last night and have had it uncovered for about four hours now and it looks kind of strange. The whole area around it (from my hairline above the right eyebrow to my upper teeth on that side) is bruised and throbbing. I did some pattern work this afternoon and every time I bent over it ached even more. Part of the area looks like it's not in the stitches and it's not really looking like a scab - I don't know what it is, but it looks kind of weird. If it still looks like that or worse tomorrow I'll go to a walk-in clinic or something as I'm worried that it might be getting infected.

I haven't tried the new skin stuff yet because the wound is so long, wide, and painful; if it was shorter and narrower I'd give it a go but I think it should be open for now. I haven't been checked for a concussion but I wish they'd done that. They didn't because I didn't black out when I hit my head. I did see "stars", though, which has never happened before. I do sort of worry that I've bruised or cracked the skullbone. I see my family doctor on Tuesday morning to get the stitches removed, and I'll talk to him then about the possibility of having done something to the bone.

I will be very happy once this is all healed and I'm not tired from the Pamidronate and I get to live a normal life :)

UPDATE: The wound is looking better; I guess I can't leave it covered up for a long time. Whew!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pamidronate day

I had my Pamidronate today and so far, it doesn't seem to have knocked me out like in other months. Maybe that's because I already slept almost around the clock - I was only awake for about 5 hours yesterday.

My injury seems to be healing ok. I had the nurse check it and she said that it looked fine and that it could use being aired more. I tried airing it this afternoon and I got a woogly back every time my hand brushed it. Silly me :) I hope this doesn't scar too bad - the long one is over 1" long and the shorter one is maybe 1/2" or 3/4" long.

I remember the accident from 1991 very well... I'd biked to work to pick up my cheque. On my way back, I was clearing an intersection when a woman (76 years old, speaking only German) stepped in front of me. My brow hit her forehead, slicing open an artery, and the bike and I took her groceries and went flying..... and then skidding down the road. The lady and I rode in the ambulance together and were fixed up. I went back to get my bike and rode it home as I couldn't think of anything else to do. When I finally got home, my mom was waiting anxiously for me because I was so late. My bike didn't even work that well going home because it was all out of alignment so I'm sure that she heard my bike as well.

My mom came out and gave me a big hug and I knew that she was worried about me and that she loved me. She was upset that I hadn't called but being in shock I didn't think about doing that - honestly, I would have if I'd thought about it, but as Ian will tell you I don't always think of the best thing to do. I was glad to be home. Later that night I went out with some friends as I thought I was ok - my head felt fine and we didn't give my road rash a second look. My dad found the small article in the paper about my accident the next morning (this is very much the kind of thing my dad did), and that evening I went on a first date with a man I ended up seeing for 3 years. Did that man like my bruised look? Or did he like the fact that I acted normally in spite of the bruises? Hmmmmm.

In any case, that accident marked the start of a very bad 5 years. I wonder if things would have been the same if it hadn't happened? I'm determined that things will go much better than that over the next five years. I like that things are going pretty well, overall, and I'd like things to stay that way.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home at last

We made it home safe and sound. Aside from being a bit late to the airport, the traveling was uneventful.

I'm still very tired from the travel or the injury or something. I think that my body crashed pretty hard after the adrenalin rush from the fall and stitches. The injured area feels ok, at least.

As a result of this adventure, I highly recommend travel insurance if you're traveling out of country. I can't imagine how much it would have cost to go into the emergency room and to receive a tetanus shot plus three stitches but I'm glad that I don't have to pay it.

The world was a blur

The juggling festival is just about over and we'll be home tomorrow. We've had a pretty good time watching the juggling shows and stuff. There is some controversy over the judging for some of the competitions; they've implemented a new scoring system and I think that some of the judges had a significantly pro-American bias and scored that way. Some American performers scored higher than the Taiwanese or Japanese performers and to me (and others), they had a better performance overall. The trouble was that it was a non-American-style performance. In any case, some people are questioning the results.

We'd planned to go to the Lexington cemetery this morning before it got really hot out. As we were walking there, though, I tripped on the sidewalk. I was holding my coffee in one hand and my purse in the other and I'd looked back to read a sign when I tripped. I took three steps trying to save myself but then I went down. The temple of my glasses broke and cut me above my right eye. Sigh.

For the first time, I understand what people mean when they talk about seeing stars because I saw them for quite a while. I felt better after I sat down for a while and we were able to walk back to the hotel. I ended up going to a local hospital to get some stitches put in (there are three) and we were able to fix up my glasses so that I can wear them, at least. The world was very fuzzy for a while.

The injury was pretty scary and I know that Ian was worried. I'm glad that we had travel insurance as we don't have to pay for the hospital visit. The weirdest thing was that almost exactly 17 years ago today, in July, 1991 I had an accident on my bike which gave me the first scar on my right eyebrow. I'd like to live at least 17 more years but I hope that I don't have to get yet another scar over there. I have enough, thank you. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Made it to Lexington

We made it! We're in sunny Lexington, KY for the juggling festival. This is horse country, it seems - as we flew in we could see all of the ringed horse fields. The flights were pretty uneventful. We flew in from KW through Detroit and were the first plane (of 19 passengers) to go through immigration. It's very strange being just a few people in a hall designed for hundreds but I was just as happy to get through quickly.

While Ian juggled I spent some time wandering around downtown, where we're staying. I went to this fabric and variety store that is run by this woman who couldn't be less than 70, sitting in her chair watching the tv. The place was filled with fabric bolts and boxes and trim and stuff. She said that she had a lot of dress fabrics for sale but that they were all in boxes and so if I didn't know what I was looking for, well, she couldn't really help me. Which was fine with me as I just wanted to poke around anyways - I didn't expect to buy anything from her. She did have a fantastic selection of trims and laces, though!

We went to the festival opening show this evening, which was pretty good, and now we're waiting for the late-night Renegade show to start. It was posted to start at midnight but then someone said that it was oging to start at 11pm.... but it hasn't started yet. Hopefully it'll be worth staying up to see it.

Tomorrow I plan to go to a fabric store and mall - the mall is apparently the biggest in Kentucky. I'll take the bus as the center is only a few minutes from the hotel and it only costs $1 :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leaving tomorrow

Early tomorrow morning, we're leaving for our vacation. Did I spend the day doing anything useful? No :) I worked on that dress. I'm completely finished except for sewing in the buttons and I'm quite pleased with the result. I had to make some modifications and I think it fits pretty well now. The hardest part of making the dress was sewing all of that seam binding. I hadn't really worked with it before and it took a little while for me to figure out how to make sure that it didn't torque.

The hardest part of sewing the seam binding was sewing it over the button tab extensions at the waist. It's quite a sharp curve and I didn't want to have to pleat the seam binding. I figured out that I have to streeetch the seam binding over the curve, and I also ended up basting the stretched outside curve in place as well as the inside curve. I'm really proud of the final result. No pictures yet but I hope to have some up soon :)

I am bringing my laptop with me on vacation but I don't think our room itself will have internet access; the nearby convention center has it for free and I'll probably use that. This means that I might not post every day or possibly at all. We'll be back Sunday afternoon and I'll definitely post then.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A bellydance workshop

I went to a workshop today on American Tribal Style (ATS) bellydancing. It's a new style of dance that's only been around for about 20 years or so and which borrows from several dance disciplines including bellydance and flamenco.

Conceptually, ATS is really cool because there's a limited number of moves, each with varying extra layers that can be added. A unique "key" move is associated with each move/layer combination. There is a "leader" at the front left on stage and that person indicates with these key moves which move is coming up next. This way, it looks like the troupe is moving as one, but really it's a completely improvised dance each time. The leader changes throughout the dance as well so everyone in the troupe gets a chance to lead.

It's a very interesting dance and one I'd love to study. The guy (yes, the instructor was a guy and yes, that's unusual for bellydance) will be giving ATS classes on Wednesdays in September. It would be awesome to take the class but I'm a bit worried about my lower back.

My goodness, I must be getting old. I have aches! And pains! I have degeneration in my lower back, possibly from when I first started paddling, that can hurt when I'm dancing if I'm not very, very careful with my posture. The posture used in ATS is different than that used in regular bellydance, with the arms at shoulder height or above the head and the chest held up and out with the shoulders slightly back and new. Keeping my back long during this new posture was tricky.

So I'll see how much my back hurts tomorrow and if it doesn't hurt too much, then I'll think about taking the class either in the fall or some other time.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Working on a walk-away dress

I decided that I wanted to try and finish this walk-away dress before we leave on Tuesday (you might remember that I prefer this one over the Butterick one). The pattern grading was a little tricky for this pattern because instead of having front and back pieces, each of the three pieces is the front and back combined. The back bodice, for example, wraps around the front and so has to be graded on the front, too. Similarly, the front panel wraps partially around to the back and the back parts have to be graded, too. And the overskirt piece is for the front and back (there's a seam at center back and it's open at the front).

I think (well, I hope) that I've figured out how much I need to shorten the vintage patterns. I've also realized that my shoulders are narrow in comparison to the rest of my torso - at least at my current weight and in vintage patterns. It isn't just that the length of my shoulders is short, which is what I thought was going on, but I was also finding that the neckline was gaping a lot in the front and back.

I actually pin-fit the front panel and back bodice to me before I cut it out so I hope I have actually got things right. I'm using a fabric with a bit of stretch so a small problem won't show. We'll see how this pattern comes out. Once I get the pieces together I have to bind all of the edges and if there are any problems I can probably piece something together :) I did think about putting some pockets in the front overskir but I won't do that for this version.... maybe next time :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Not enough sleep, or too much, or something

Wow, is my sleep schedule ever messed up! I didn't get to sleep last night until about 6am this morning. Of course that means that I slept until about 3pm this afternoon. Sigh. I assume that this is because I got too much sleep the other day - remember when I slept until the afternoon?

It used to be that I could sleep in until mid-afternoon several days in a row and still feel like I wasn't getting enough sleep. How things have changed, huh? I think I'll be basically back on track tonight and then we'll see what happens over the weekend and while we're away next week.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kind of a normal day

I got to see some friends this evening that I hadn't seen in a while. Well, I'd seen one of them recently but the other one has been crazy busy lately. It was good to catch up over dessert.

I got home to Ian working on my bike. The chain was rubbing on the back deraullier in most gears and he was working on fixing it. Unfortunately, one of the critical bolts was stripped and another one had clearly snapped some time before. I know that he'd wished that it could have been fixed up today, but we'll have to take it in. I've no idea how those bolts could have been messed up in the first place, although I did buy the bike from a guy who was closing his shop in a few months. Maybe he'd stopped caring at that point. I did get a good four summers out of it, though.

I'm still finding myself missing Lotus. My grief is getting all mixed up between Lotus and my dad; I guess my body just feels grief as a rock in my stomach and my head assigns it to whichever being I'm thinking about. Sometimes it's Lotus, sometimes my Dad, and sometimes my other friends that have died. I have been kind of staying away from one of my lists because too many people I know are dying.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Many, many hours of sleep

Grief does funny things to a person. The fact that I was so tired yesterday - I hadn't slept well the night before and I didn't have a nap - plus the fact that Lotus is gone meant that I slept the day away. Yes, the tranquilizers I took might have had something to do with it, but I'm glad that I slept so long. My body and mind obviously needed it.

I got my big batch of patterns in today. The person threw in 5 extra patterns! They're in pretty good shape, too, and one of them is my size. I'm pretty thrilled with the selection. There are three patterns that have envelopes that are falling apart but the pattern pieces are ok. There are also a couple of muu muu patterns that I'm not going to make up :)

I need to find a way to store patterns. Given that they're paper, I'm thinking that they should be stored in an acid-free environment. I'll have to look into how to do this best.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Lotus the beautiful dog

Lotus died today.

Lotus was Ian's parent's little shih-tzu. I met her about a month after I started seeing Ian when she was about 6 years old. She was still puppy-like and clearly a dominant dog even though she was just small. She loved to play with her toys and her ball (especially her ball!). She was loved and pampered by Ian's parents and lived a very comfortable life.

When Ian's dad had appointments, I often got to look after Lotus. I loved it! After everyone left, I would sing a little song about how she and I were a family together for the day and she seemed to like it. We'd play sometimes, or else she would sit on my lap. She also knew that I was good for almost unlimited cookies :)

Lately she hadn't been feeling well; her behaviour had changed a bit and over the last few days she'd stopped eating. She wasn't able to walk very well, either, and it was clear that the end was coming soon. Today was the day :(

I loved Lotus so very much and I miss her terribly. I wouldn't have thought that I would cry and grieve so hard for a dog that wasn't mine, but that's what's happening. I thought of her as part of my family (or rather I think Lotus thought of me as part of her family :) I can barely describe how much my heart aches for all of us who loved Lotus and for Lotus herself. I've cried an ocean of tears already and I think there's an ocean more waiting to be released.

Goodbye, little Lotus. I hope you are happy and content wherever you are.

Lotus April 2, 1994 - July 8, 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pattern treasures

What an awesome pattern! It's from 1956; I bought it a little while ago and it arrived today. When I first saw it I swooned over its darts, front placket, and collar. I love its "wiggle dress" shape with the princess lines and little bit of flounce in the back. I can't wait to trace this out and alter it for me.

One of the reasons that I love vintage patterns so much is that they come from times past. They offer a glimpse into the lives of other people in that time. I love the idea that someone carefully chose the pattern and made it up and then kept it. I love the smell of the old paper. I treasure any writing on the pattern as it's a peek into the mind of the seamstress who made it up.

The pattern above was very carefully cut out. The seamstress cut some seams out with pinking shears because I suppose she knew that she was going to finish those seams that way. I never thought of cutting the pattern out with pinking shears; I've only ever pinked the seams afterwards. The seamstress must have been a bit tall as she had to lengthen it above the waist. To do that, she very neatly slashed the pattern along the printed lines and ruler provided and taped newspaper to the slashed edges.

Yes, this pattern includes strips of newspaper from 1956! What a treasure! I wonder who this woman was and whether she liked the dress she made. Did she get compliments? Did she look as sexy in it as the picture? Did she feel pretty in it? When did she wear it? I very much hope she loved the dress as she clearly put a lot of work into cutting it out. I'm honoured to have this pattern and hope to make it with the same love and care that its first owner did.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


We saw Wall-E today. What an awesome movie!!!! I loved it very much (and may have laughed harder in some parts than anyone in the audience) and I highly recommend it for everyone. Even kids. There were a number of small children there, and even the 2-year-old that stood up grabbing the seat in front of him stayed (mostly) quiet throughout. It's a really good movie that can keep a child that young quiet, even though for the first bunch there's next to no dialogue! So go and see this one :)

I was highly entertained by this movie and at the same time, I felt that the movie really made a strong comment on the conspicuous consumption and disposability in our society. I don't want to give too much away but, as you probably know, in the movie the entire planet is covered in garbage and humans go into space so that the planet can be cleaned up. Think about that for a second: the entire planet is covered in garbage?!?!

Ok, so we're not quite covered in garbage but we do have a lot of it! Toronto is currently trucking garbage to a Michigan landfill - 74 truckloads a day, on average, in the first half of 2007. So, umm, how is this good? It gets the garbage out of Toronto but it increases pollution and it doesn't reduce the total amount of garbage on the planet. Unfortunately, as long as there is garbage, it has to be dealt with. And more unfortunately, it seems that we live in a consumerist age where we can just go out and buy things. Does consumerism lead to more garbage? I wish it didn't, but I think it does. After all, we have to get rid of the packaging of the items we purchase.... and if we're buying just to have new stuff, what happens to the old stuff? At least some of it will be thrown away.

I know that many people are working hard to recycle and compost and to reduce the garbage they produce. I wish that manufacturers were taking as much responsibility for reducing waste in the products they make. As an example, they could use less packaging. Why enclose a plastic bottle in a boxboard box? Why are DVDs that are already in plastic cases additionally completely enclosed in plastic wrap? Why do headphones come in that awful ginormous plastic packaging? All this extra packaging isn't needed, really, and is just garbage. I also wish retailers would help and re-use some of their display packaging. Just the other day, I bought some undergarments and they shoved the items including their plastic hangars into the plastic bags. Why would they do this instead of keeping and re-using the hangars?

I think I could go on like this for quite a long time, so I'll stop here. It's getting close to bedtime and if I keep on ranting like this I won't be able to get to sleep.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

So much sewing, so little time

I'm almost finished a second vintage dress and I'm thrilled with it. I decided to put a full lining in this one (although I'm still putting facings around the neck because the lining doesn't stabilize the neck enough). Mainly, I put the lining in because the fabric showed the seams too much and the lining prevents that to some extent. I have to finish the facing, tack down the lining to critical points, and hem it.

We're going away the week after next to the IJA convention (juggling in Lexington, KY - this should be fun!) and I want to have all of the things I'm working on ready for that. I'd like to make at least one more dress before we go - hopefully that'll work out :) I have enough fabrics and patterns that I can make almost anything I could want to :)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Moving people around

I happened to pick up The Atlantic yesterday and have so far made it through only one article. It's about the shifting crime areas in the US and some of the causes behind that. Apparently in the last 10 years or so, the highest crime areas went from being in the projects (lowest-income housing) to being all over the place alone routes out of the projects. Coincidentally enough, the projects started being dismantled about 10 years ago and the highest crime rate areas are matching the areas in which the people from the projects wind up.

I found this article and its conclusions disquieting for a number of reasons. My first reaction was, "oh my god, the poorest people bring the violence with them." As the article went on, it explained that it had been decided that the projects would be demolished and that the people who lived there would move. They would pay 25% of their rent and the government would top up the rent, to a point, and because they were in these better neighbourhoods, these people would lift themselves out of their poverty.

I didn't mention anything about new infrastructure or education or medical clinics because those weren't provided. These people were basically thrown out of their community (and it was torn down, so they couldn't go back) with no support or anything. How appalling is that? When I realized this I started thrumming with emotion. Every time I think about this I feel the same way.

The article truthfully points out that "truly escaping poverty seems to require a will as strong as a spy's: you have to disappear to a strange land, forget where you came from, and ignore the suspicions of everyone around you." We had very little money when I was growing up and I think it's fair to say that we were at the lower end of the class spectrum, which is where most people in poverty are situated. I don't know if we were as poor as those that lived in the projects

Over the years I've managed to situate myself in the middle to upper part of the middle class, and it was much like that quote said. Not that I ever left my family behind (at least, I hope I didn't!). Things are done differently in each of the classes: it's not just the clothes, or the toys, or the education, or the mannerisms; it's the things you talk about. Like My Fair Lady's Eliza when she goes to the Ascot - sure, she looks the part, but she's not talking about the right things and it's obvious that she doesn't fit in.

So if all that is true, how could people just lift themselves out of the class their poverty puts them in? Some people who really want out will make it because they'll work really hard to do it. But they have to have the energy and the opportunity to get out. Moving out of the projects might not be enough.

The article talked about a "'weathering effect', the wearing-down that happens as a lifetime of baggage accumulates." For whatever reason, poverty brings baggage - the baggage of kids and their obligations, of working long hours, of not being really happy, of not having a lot of money for extras. Someone with a lot of baggage might not have the energy to lift themselves out of their current situation, and to them, moving is just more baggage.

For the drug dealers, gang members, and other criminal people, well, what else do they know? If they're not being given any other opportunities - if they're asked to leave the projects and they're put in these other neighbourhoods - what else are they going to do? And once a critical mass of their associates move in to the neighbourhood, it'll be just like old times.

Sigh. I'm disheartened by the decisions that these cities made in moving these people out of their neighbourhoods. Yes, the projects were awful, but you can't move people away from their neighbourhood without giving them some support. And how could they have expected all these people to change?

I don't know what they can do about this now. I wish it hadn't happened in the first place, that they'd thought a little more closely about what it was they were doing and asking.

On another note, today is my and Ian's anniversary: we've been together for eight years now. How time passes!!! Happy Anniversary, Ian :)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

To celebrate our country's birthday, we went to the University of Waterloo festivities and watched their fireworks. It was fun although we had to kill a bit of time once we staked out our spot - the event draws a lot of crowds and we picked our spot over an hour before the fireworks started.

I started the holiday by listening to scratching in the wall beside the fridge. Sigh. When we moved in, it was clear that they'd sprayed insulating foam into a crack from the storage outside into the wall beside the fridge. Now there appears to be a small opening near one of the boards there and we are definitely hearing scratching. We checked the roof above the storage area and it looks weird, too.... like some little animal was checking things out there. It's too early in the season for mice, so it's probably one of the cute chipmunks that live in our backyard. How can something so cute be such a pain?