Okay, how did I end up as a political activist? Well, I was actually going somewhere else. I was having my “out” day, which no, isn’t were I tell everyone I pass, “Hey, by the way, I’m a LESBIAN!” but where I try to do a few things in my wheelchair now that the weather is cool.
But before that, I did a few postcards which brings me to two points. First, if you liked the Puricura stickers I got from Japan, now you no longer need to go to Japan to send them BACK to me of you! Yup, thanks to the internet and Puricute you can simply upload a picture and then do the puricura experience in your own home – and have your own set of blinged up pictures to cut and add as stickers to postcards. They cost $2.99 for a sheet of heavy photo paper with sticker to peel (same price as Japan) and FREE shipping in the US, and as little as .60 for international shipping. So, drop by the site as you can send a puracute picture of you by email too (for free for those without cash! I was sent one by Devi, and I pass on the love!). I am planning on buying some, maybe our kissing in the woods picture? And what other pictures?
And also, a lot of people have said, “Look, I know how much sending me postcards and that costs, you don’t have to do that anymore.” Which is all the people I love and look forward to sending postcard to. Hey, I get something out of this too, which is making something I know you will enjoy (and filling it with little jokes!). Please do not, out of kindness, deny me the thing that I love to do; yes, change the numbers, reorder the priorities but don’t ask me to leave my friends without post. Is 78 or 55 in less than two days too many? Yes. But is 25 over a week? Let’s see. How do I turn off caring? How do I turn off wanting to make a difference? Please don’t punish me by denying me one of the things I DO like to do (send postcards to y’all).
So, on Monday, I had already finished up three postcards and went down to the post office and bought stamps for them down at the village post office at the bottom of the hill. After returning my DVD, I had a sort of “OMG moment when someone told me what the Canadian Dollar was at. For 90 days it had been at par and I was used to it being between 93 and 95 cents US. Since I buy my postcards and stuff online it is mostly US dollars on ebay and community sales of people selling off things. So with the Dollar falling against the yen, prices had gone up, with the Canadian Dollar falling against the US….. Well in two week the dollar fell from the 90’s to 77 cents to the dollar. A US dollar is now 1.30 or more. Canada has a surplus budget, we are sound but we are next to a country who is having a fire sale (like selling oil at half the price; and selling off BLUE CHIP stocks like apple, which dropped…..because obviously Xmas has been cancelled and no one will EVER want an iphone or ipod?). That was bad, I can’t source stuff from the US until our dollar goes back up to 85 to 88 at least. What suddenly hit me was that the deal we had for our oxygen concentrator was with…..A US FIRM. We would have bought it already except we were waiting to see if blue cross would cover a US firm. Well, now it is a mute point, the next highest quote is Canadian and $700 more.
So I sat there on the grass in my wheelchair and tried to stop from crying for about twenty minutes. Because I felt like all the people who have tried to get me to Seattle (we HAVE the money for Seattle), were going to want their money back if we talked about ‘a few more weeks’ and how could I blame them. And right now, with my fingers already turning purple by the sidewalk, and the idea of having to find ANOTHER $700 (on the bright side, now that is only like $500 US), it just seemed so impossible that I could never even take another weekend trip much less the medical trip I needed.
I told myself, "Suck it up, Buttercup!" after a bit and continued. Up that hill as I was going to go to XXX to help make a little gift in order to send out.
Okay, let’s just talk about this sort of open secret, which is that I send out little gift packets every week if I can. Now some weeks that is two packets (or none if I am very sick) and some weeks that is twenty. The problem is that with the Grand Mals and memory loss, I don’t know who I send to in the past. Plus I send things to people who sort of come into my view as 'that would be good for XX!". I am not playing favorites if you haven’t gotten anything because I give gifts based on who I think of and if you haven’t gotten anything, it is because I haven’t found the right gift for you. That’s it. Nothing personal. If you comment on here, you will almost certainly get a gift at some point. If you send me an gift and it isn’t like hate mail or something which has to be confiscated by Homeland Security, you will get most likely get a gift (If Linda remembers to write down it was sent!).
However, remember – I have a brain that is swiss cheese, boomed many times and also for several weeks I got Nada (as in Zip), and for other weeks Linda didn’t keep a list. If Linda doesn’t keep a list, I don’t KNOW who sent the gift. So I can’t even EMAIL you a thank you. So besides the “postcard project” there is the “surprise gift” project, which you can’t really sign up for, because I don’t know what I am going to send until it is sent! Sometimes however, I put pictures of things I have to give as gifts on the blog (for example the Native Art Print – and everyone who said, “Wow, that is really neat!” got at least a native art sticker on their next postcard…because I wrote their name down! Another time I put up something and no one said….ANYTHING. So I still have that because I don’t know who would be the perfect home for it!).
So right now I have gotten some stuff and I need to have a store do XXX to them before I can sent them as gifts and I was headed there (I try to get things that are unique, irreplaceable, match the person but also within my ‘mad money’ budget; sometimes I go overboard - gee, Elizabeth go overboard? Is that possible?). Along the way I passed what used to be a “For Lease” sign but was now the sign of Rob Reid For Mayor. They had made a sort of ad hoc ramp going to a two ton door and I grunted my way in to find people stuffing envelopes of Rob Reid for Mayor and info packets. The thing is that Wayne Hallohan who was running for Fairfield City Council spot gave me Rob Reid’s Brochure last week and I knew I knew that face. Pieta Van Dyke who is apparently already elected to represent James Bay was there also (in front of Pic a Flic handing HER leaflet).
Well, when you are a person of energy fluctuations like me, you go when you have energy, so I asked to speak to Rob. They said he would be back, I said I could wait and wheeled around and saw Pieta stuffing envelopes. Her face said she recognized me but wasn’t that excited.
I told her I had been working on the bullet points Wayne had asked for and I said that number one, considering the population of James Bay and Fairfield over 65 was to get more blue badge parking spots. I mentioned that Thrifty’s Foods of James Bay, where my grandfather shopped till his mid 80’s is half full of Cars with Blue Badges and has…two spots. She replied a bit grumpy that the parking lot was private property.
I said, that may be, but since Thrifty’s Foods makes such a big advertising issue about hiring the disabled (developmentally challenged from a particular program only!), I am sure the owner, a local, would understand the implications of pointing out that while he might HIRE people with disabilities, those who have them can’t SHOP at his store.
Then we got onto housing that had passed the counsel, how the new condo development NEXT to my parents place was to have 20 low income apartments and the council reduced that to TWO. Peita said quite firmly that those ‘cost the developer’ and it was complicated and implied I should be happy with the two instead of the twenty that the previous city bylaw required. I said, “With a half million dollar condos, 18 condo’s means 9 million dollars, I really don’t think it was that complicated, when you have a choice of nine million or making affordable housing."
The entire room, which included it turned out Rob’s adopted mother was listening to our discussion avidly.
So I brought up the new Homeless building, I said, “Do you know how they are making that homeless building?” And everyone was “no, no” (Peita was silent). I said, ‘they are destroying 14 disabled housing.’
Pieta burst out, “But all those people have been relocated!”
I turned and said quite vehemently, “No they haven’t! I have the same care workers they do, and right now the ONLY facility to get care workers which is wheelchair accessible for people my age is the building between the needle exchange (several hundred people shooting up) and the police station. I was told ‘You don’t want to live there!’” I turned to Pieta, “Do YOU want to live there!?”
She didn’t reply (which sort of WAS a reply!) but said, that well, the people who were moved out would get a chance to apply to get back into the building (which will house the 50 homeless considered the ‘worst cases to house’).
I told her and everyone that I went to the ONLY Respite in Victoria available to someone my age with a disability, the Percy Respite and that there was homeless housing above that and three to four times a day the fire alarm went off, because of smoking or a fire starting in the rooms above us. I said for someone with a medical condition, or the need for sleep, that is a serious problem but otherwise who WANTS to live a building where the fire alarm goes off several times a day? I turned to City Counselor Pieta and said, ‘do you?’
She didn’t respond (again, an answer of a sort!) so I finished by saying that my original idea when I heard it, since these were homes of people LIKE ME, was to have ALL of the city counselor’s homes RAZED, build housing for homeless THERE and THEN, offer to take the city counselor’s name to live back in their house again. How would that be enjoyed I asked? Pieta found she had something to do which took her not only away from me but out of the building.
Quite honestly, my feeling was that since James Bay is made up of people who are vulnerable and dependant, and if she isn’t ready to ask the owner of thrifty’s food much less the city counsel to add more blue badge parking spots, I will have to see if I can run against her.
I stayed on because the best way to know a candidate is to know the people who surround them. I offered to stuff envelopes and they were very surprised and I said, hey, I talked to Rob (which I did about putting in legislation about accessibility in new buildings and when current ones are modified: “You know…like your two stores…” But I got the feeling I was just another ‘special interest’ person to him) and that since I took up his time, I might as well give back. So I met his adopted mother and the other people and found out things. 1) Almost all were seniors and 2) all were runners. Indeed they had the same attitude as my grandparents, that if you eat right and keep fit, you can be 80 and do marathons. Thus, people who use walkers are losers.
I told them I did lesbian advocacy before when I was in the UK. And one woman asked if I know this man who played Jazz in a wheelchair. I refrained from saying that no, much like blacks or gays, all wheelies don’t know each other (I had previously made the point that I was a RUNNER, I had done many marathons, which sort of amazed them and I said, “A lot of people just see the chair but, I wasn’t born with it stuck to my butt!”). She said that he was such a “nice” advocate and pointed out “nice” things like how when disables go they usually have ‘Able bodied People” with them (I could tell she managed to refrain from shortening that to “people” v. disabled), and since how the people WITH them spend the money, it is good to have disabled.
As you can imagine, I responded tactfully. I asked, “How much do you think you spent in disposable income this year?” She “um’d” for 30 seconds but couldn’t come up with a number. The whole room was listening intently. I said, “I spent $40,000!” There was a collective gasp.
I said, “I got this Wheelchair from Motion Specialties,” (there was a voice, “I know them”) I continued, “a Victoria business, $5,500. A Bed, $4000+, Walker, bench, bars, arm rests, and I am going next week for a fitting for another chair for $20,000.” I let that sink in for a minute and then finished, “So tell me, who makes more of an economic impact on Victoria, me….or a tourist?”
While they were digesting that, I said, “You may not see them, but there are a lot of us, and we all spend; and spend it here in Victoria. For example hundreds to thousands people having meals delivered, meals on wheels is $7 for lunch $9 for dinner: anyone here spend $15 a day on food, every day?” No one did.
I said, “Know how you can’t go down the street without seeing someone in a scooter on the sidewalk.” They all nodded (there are so many seniors that scooters are an every block occurrence), “Those START at $4,000.” I said.
“My goodness,” one of the core volunteers said, “I had no idea!”
So we talked on but I think I made more of an impact talking with the people when then candidate was out of the room than talking to him in, like talking with his adopted mother (who gave me a cookie), he came back, surprised to see me there. I headed off to XXX to get the things done. It was an hour stuffing envelopes and taking the pulse of the people around the candidate. Is this what community activism is about? I dunno, new to me! Maybe I helped them understand a little more that we, the disabled, in Victoria have little choice and are seen as just money machines to be sucked dry. Maybe not.
The only other major change I am trying get the candidate to stop doing is putting “disabled” between, homeless and drug users or addicts and street workers as in ‘I plan on addressing many of the issues of the overlooked like those with severe untreated mental illnesses and disabled’ (Rob), or ‘the issues of homeless, the needle exchange, disabled, drug addicts and the sex trade.’ It seems we are never between the Business owners association and the woman’s business council, odd that?
Last night I went to badminton and you know how I say that all people become advocates eventually? Well, to make it very short (as I have been very ill tonight, which is why this posted at 2:30 am), when we started playing Badminton on Saturdays there was a foursome who wouldn’t play with us: Cheryl and I. As us wheelies would bring down their game. Well, I played with one of the guys from that foursome last night and we won but while playing he told me his friend had an accident and was a high functioning para now (low L-injury) and was out of rehab and looking to get active. He wanted to know about the boxing I did. I introduced him to Liz, my volunteer from Recreation Integration and talked about wheelchair bikes and racing chairs. Less than a year ago, this guy refused to play with me, now he wants to know how his friend can BE like me. I guess that whole TAB: Temporarily abled bodied is a bit more realistic than we anticipate. And that I say, we all become advocates eventually.
I won two games, and was in a good grove. On the way home, after 9:00 pm, I hear scrabbling like a squirrel but heavier. I saw a Raccoon climbing up the tree I was passing, I stopped and looked at the tree opposite and three feet away a small raccoon stared back at me, the mask, the little eyes. I looked for peanuts under my chair so I apologized and moved on, when I saw two more run across the empty street. Linda had seen a family here over 2 years ago, but I never had. It made me happy that I finally did. And last week, while driving back through the same area a brown barn owl, like one I had seen in a tree near where the Raccoons were two years ago flew in the sunset in front of our van. It has been a good few weeks; from Rhinos to the local native population: squirrels, raccoons, owls and whales (now if I could only see a cougar!).
I don’t know if I will have the energy to go to a “candidates gathering” but I definitely want to press home to whomever becomes mayor or city council that if they are not going to be the defense for the vulnerable then I will ensure they wear the name of shame. Of course I will probably say it SLIGHTLY different than that. But then, knowing me, I might not! As I said to Rob Ried, “Right now, Victoria is a city which is in Federal Violation of discrimination based on disabilities, and if you win, you inherit that. I just thought you should know.” (See my tact, I didn’t mention my appeal to the Federal Government to declare martial law and take over the city as part of a city under “civic and populance crisis”).