29 July, 2015

The End of the Line?

Have I said too much? There's nothing more I can think of to say to you...
But all you have to do is look at me to know that every word is true.
--Tim Rice, "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" (from Evita)

Over fifteen hundred posts. Well over a million words. Over eleven years. The idea well is running dry.

Barring some major life or world event, there will be no post here for the foreseeable future.

I want to thank everyone who has been along for the ride. I'm very grateful to have had such discerning and supportive readers. Love to each and every one of you.


26 July, 2015


Just back from what felt like a flying visit Up North. Capitalization, as always, intended.

I haven't been up there in a year, which is entirely too long. First there was the job search--and looking for a job is a full time job--and then there was, well, the job. No holidays 'til I've been there a year, and I'm working extra shifts to boot.

Eva hasn't been up there in entirely too longer.  In her case it was Georgia-Peach nailing her down. We loved our Peach to, ah, peaches, but she was a handful even at home.

And Tux...Tux hasn't been to Daddy's Daddy's house in almost nine years. For most of that he was being a big brother to the Peach. Now, approaching the other end of a long and happy life, Tux once again found himself going for a long, long CAR-RIDE.

We left right after a rough night shift, and we realized at precisely the point at which it was too late to turn around that we had forgotten Tux's leash. This didn't worry me as much as it might have: Tux is a border collie/Lab mix and he's stayed in his yard even when Daddy inadvertently left the gate open and swore up and down he'd never tell a living soul that he did it and so now he's writing it instead.

I tried to sleep in the car, and even succeeded for about half an hour or so. Which honestly surprised me. My bed doesn't move: I don't normally sleep in things that do. Not to mention it was as bright as a sunny day, it being, you know, a sunny day and all.

And so we arrived at Rose Point on the Magnetawan River. My dad had a house built here more than twenty years ago and I still have a case of house-envy every time I see it. When I say the house is "on" the river, I mean it: run hard enough through the living room window, oriented just so, and you'll hit water, especially when the river is as high as it is this year.

Here's the view from the deck, looking downriver:

And here's the view from the dock, looking upriver:

...but my favourite view is right across the river:

You'll notice it's a bit...dark. That's because it's 5:40 in the morning in these pics. Even when I'm not on a night shift schedule,  I make a point of getting up before the sun and gazing at the Crown land across the river. There is absolutely no sign of humanity's existence over there. It's all too easy to lose yourself in a  ten thousand year old daydream, drifting over the flat calm, listening to the wind soughing through the trees, floating along with the loon...

...drifted off there. Dad's dock is my happy place, the place I invoke when I'm meditating, a pocket of calm in a chaotic world.

Here, let's shed some light on the subject, and maybe add some human interest.

There's Eva flanked by Ken Breadner père et fils. And below is my  Aunt Dawna and Barry:

So wonderful to see you both. Thank you for taking time to catch us when there wasn't much time to catch us.

There's Jessie chewing on Tux's pencil.

Tux was a VERY GOOD BOY for the whole trip. Didn't go off the property, got along just fine with Jessie (and Laddie who lives next door)...and couldn't figure out why passing boats should be barked at.

Eva, having a tubby

Ken, deep in The Lies of Locke Lamora, with Tux doing his best to reduce the local bug population (he even managed to "GET THE BUG' a few times...)

I did my best to stay up...my best wasn't good enough. I ended up taking long afternoon naps both days and sleeping parts of the nights. It sucks that I was coming off the last of seven straight night shifts, with (at least) four more of them now...thank you, Dad and Heather, for being so understanding.

And for spoiling us rotten. Marinated slabs of pork one night, absolutely delectable prime rib the next, mashed potatoes both nights...yumtacular.

I even got to see my dad's friend Monty Flindall, the man my brother was named for...haven't seen him since our Destin, FL trip in 2007. Now that was a flying visit.

We left at 6:00 yesterday morning and were home by 10. Back to life, back to reality...

Thank you so much, Dad and Hez, for everything. It won't be another year that passes, okay?

--with love from Macaw and Lady Macaw

22 July, 2015

Ashley Madison

NOTE TO READERS: I apologize for the paucity of blog topics lately. I had a long blog written about INSIDE OUT, the movie, and deleted it when I realized that there are better and much more succinct reviews out there by the dozens. Go see it. Twice. It's that good. 

Then I had a blog written about work, and it crossed some lines. (No worries, I enjoy my job and I'm doing well there, but there are some things, as there are in any job, which make me want to scream. I vented, then realized publishing my vent might be a colossal mistake, so I deleted that too.)

Now we have Ashley Madison.com being hacked, and it shoved forward a post I was going to make next month. I PROMISE that whatever the next blog is about, it won't be love and relationships, okay?


Thirty-seven million would-be adulterers.

One in five residents of Ottawa.

I wonder if they're clenching just a little right now.

I want to get this right out front where nobody can miss it. I DO NOT SUPPORT CHEATING.  Ever. No matter what. Are you not getting enough sex? Are you not getting the right kind of sex? Are you bored and looking for an adventure? Here are your options:

1) SUCK IT UP. Lots of people do this, you can too. Communicate: if that doesn't get you anywhere (and sometimes it doesn't ), consider just dealing with it. You can still have your fantasies, and some fantasies (trust me) shouldn't be realities.

2) BREAK IT UP. Then again, some fantasies should be. But do your spouse a favour before you act on a fantasy: remove him or her from the harm that acting on it WILL do.

3) BRING IT UP. Hey, if your relationship is strong, you're not going to invoke divorce by asking. You never know, your spouse might actually say sure. Even if not, it might jump-start the serious discussion you need to have if you're actually considering cheating. If you can't casually bring up the possibility, my contention is that your relationship isn't as strong as you think it is.  More on this in a second.

4) FUCK IT UP and cheat. He/she will find out--all it takes is one little argument with your fling and you're sunk. And if you cheat, I'm not at all sorry to say, you are a jerk who deserves everything that will happen when your partner does find out.

Now, the disclosure that Ashley Madison.com--a site whose whole purpose is infidelity--has thirty seven millions members suggests to me that there are a hell of a lot of people who only pay lip service to monogamy. Again, I am not defending adultery. However, there is no denying it happens. A lot. Given that fact, it might be worth talking about ethical alternatives.


It's a given that people who cheat are unhappy in their relationships. Like most unexamined "givens", this one is not necessarily correct. Up to three quarters of cheating husbands said they did not have "lots of marital problems" prior to their affair in one study; more than half said they were happy with their wives. Here's something similar about cheating women: 67% claim to be happily married, and NOT ONE had any desire to leave her husband.

For both genders (and both genders cheat roughly as often) the primary reasons for infidelity are the same: sexual dissatisfaction, emotional dissatisfaction, or just plain boredom. It's important to note that many people in otherwise happy marriages are sexually dissatisfied. Emotional dissatisfaction is harder to square (to me) with happiness in a marriage, but far from impossible: there are, after all, more than enough people who lack the tools to give their partners emotional validation...which doesn't mean they don't love those partners, or that they aren't loved in return.  And boredom is--let's face it--near universal.

These are excuses, not reasons, to cheat. There is no justification for deceiving your partner. (Am I making myself clear, here?) See my four options, above...and let's zero in on #3. If you are one of those cheaters, or would-be cheaters, who is happily partnered, that's the one you want.

I've had a couple of people ask me, in the wake of the polyamory-themed posts I've been putting out, how exactly to get into this. One of them has been cheated on and another is thinking about cheating, and I warned both of them that polyamory is virtually impossible if you're coming into it without complete trust in your partner.

Despite the popular misconception that polyamory is a license to cheat, really, the only thing polyamory and cheating have in common is the presence of an 'extra' partner or partners. Polyamory is fundamentally about trust and communication, and cheating undermines both, often fatally. (Again: many people cheat because it's less scary than talking about their relationship...sad, really, because 'talking about your relationship' should be the default position.)  Basically, before you can transition from cheating to polyamory, you must own up to the affair--no shifting the blame, no "if you were more ____, I wouldn't have done this" (that's the mark of an unhappy cheater that should have chosen option 2). No relationship was ever saved by adding people to it. 

If you're one of those "happy cheaters"...odds are pretty good you won't be so happy when your mate finds out. And if you claim to be polyamorous in your defence, I will find you and strangle you. If you have already cheated, in other words, it is almost certainly too late.

If you are thinking you might be cut out for ethical non-monogamy. the first thing to do is to figure out what sort best suits you. There are several different kinds. Most of the varieties cited here I'd call variants of polyamory, but there's also swinging and the catch-all 'open relationship' that tend to center primarily on sex. If you're craving sexual variety in an otherwise strong relationship, that might be your best option. If it's (additional) emotional validation you're looking for, that's more the polyamory end of the spectrum. And I would caution you: loving more than one person is easy. Most people can do it. What's harder, for most, is allowing their partners the same. Mono/poly relationships do exist and can work...but it takes a truly extraordinary amount of effort on both parts. The monogamist has to come to terms with a whole different mode of thinking; the polyamorist has to make even more of an effort than usual to bridge what can be a yawning chasm of emotional expectations.

Step 2 is step 3 up there: bring it up with your partner. If you can't do this, I'm sorry to say, but your options are restricted to sucking it up or breaking it up. Ethical non-monogamy and especially polyamory involves lots and lots of honest communication. Much of it, ideally, should take place before additional partners enter the picture. Eva and I discussed this, on and off, for almost fifteen years before we finally jumped. Not saying it takes anything like that long, but you have to build your relationship up good and strong.
Of course, this is assuming your partner is amenable. Many won't be, and than you're back to sucking it up or breaking it up. But if the door is open a crack, you're looking at lots and lots more communication before you do anything. You need to talk out various scenarios to get a handle on what makes you jealous and how you might process your jealousy (because unless you are some sort of superhuman, you will feel it).

The single best resource for open relationships of any kind is a book called Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino. I used to correspond with Taormino through the USENET newsgroup alt.polyamory back in the early nineties. Her book is an excellent primer on the different kids of ethical non-monogamy, what's involved in each, and how to start out.

An alternative is The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt. This leans a little bit more poly, but at the same time it's as if it's written by your earth motherly aunt: highly entertaining. I was personally put off by a rather evangelical tone, but if you can get past that there's a lot of good advice in here.

And of course there's More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. A link to their website is in my sidebar and has been since about thirty seconds after I finished their book. It's truly a goldmine of practical relationship-building and it's the only polyamory-themed book I've read that I believe monogamous people would get a lot out of.

Those two steps will keep you going for quite awhile. I'm at keneva1@sympatico.ca...feel free to email me if you have any questions. You will find me sympathetic, wise (I hope) and highly discreet.

I'll tell you this: nobody's going to hack me.

21 July, 2015

Have I been doing it wrong?

Why not accept the conditionality of love? Why not adopt an idea of love where it's historic and contingent and evolves with another, based on the things the person does and what they are? Because, if love really is unconditional, if it isn't going to depend upon and respond to the person, then the person isn't doing anything to grow, nurture, cultivate, earn, or flow into your love. The only thing that person is is a target for the love, a recipient for you to love. It might seem wholesome and good to love someone this way, but since they really don't have anything to do with how the love unfolds, then it's really all about you and how you feel.
 If someone can do nothing to earn a love, they soon come to disregard its worth. Cheap grace doesn't make sinners into saints. But if love is something we earn and shape and cut and nip and grow, then we see its worth and the reward from our efforts. I guess I'm saying maybe "unconditional" isn't always the best form of love. It might not even be worth the cost.
Redditor 'polusplanchnos, having read my last post and one other

Well, that hit me where I live.

All my life I've heard that unconditional love is a divine and not a human trait. All my life I've heard, and come to hold, it as an ideal. All my adult life I've tried to emulate it as best I could.

I'm not there yet. Not even close, really: unconditional love, as far as I'm concerned, is what Jesus was alleged to have said on the cross. I'm no longer religious, in large part because I can't bring myself to believe in an "unconditionally loving"God Who judges, let alone condemns, let alone damns for eternity. But forgiving people who are killing you...that's love without condition.

But I'm trying. I'm perfectly okay with unrequited love: love as much as I do, as strongly as I do,  and you kind of have to be. What still hurts -- a lot -- is when that love is reciprocated in some measure, and then withdrawn. It leaves me questioning everything, wondering where the truth lies. (Give me truths and don't spare the harshness: I'd much rather hear bitter truths that shred my soul than candy-coated lies.)

What stung the most in the above message was "it's really all about you".  I don't mind telling you I had a little panic attack reading that the first time. It brought my past back in all its sour glory: a past in which everything was All About Me. I hurt people back then, acting childishly, kidding myself into thinking I was "living in the moment" and doing anything but. If everything I've resolved to do since is actually more of the same...

It's possible...probable...that I haven't defined my terms properly.

The older I get, the more I recognize that people are loveable, and the more loveable people I recognize. But it occurs to me that I need to put some qualifiers on 'unconditional' here: it does not mean indiscriminate. I don't love everybody...there are quite a few people I viscerally dislike. It's actually qualities or traits that I love, as I have said many times here: the physical is unimportant, within reason.
Those qualities: empathy and compassion; honesty; intelligence; humour; inner strength. Those are common qualities, but all of them together are relatively rare. I keep finding people, though, that have those qualities in spades. And so I love them. In whatever capacity is allowed. No more...but no less, either.

Of course it's more rewarding when that love is returned. Given a choice, that's the choice I'd make, every time. But I don't have that choice.No matter how much I love you, I can't make you love me, and wouldn't if I could. Possession isn't love, and neither is coercion.

Is there anything you have to do to earn my love? Yes, actually, there is. Be you. That doesn't mean be the you I fell in love with, because people grow and change. It means be who you are: a loveable human being full of empathy, compassion, honesty, intelligence, humour and inner strength.

And bear in mind that sometimes your empathy and compassion will fail you; sometimes you may be economical with the truth (studies have shown people tell an average of between ten and twelve lies a day); sometimes you'll do stupid things, sometimes you'll have no humour in your world at all; and sometimes, oh sometimes you'll feel weak. We're human: we fall down, we can struggle to get up again. I WILL LOVE YOU ANYWAY.

There's a category error here, I think. Contrary to popular belief, love is NOT "shaped and cut and nipped and grown". The expression of that love may go through all of those changes--but the love itself is a constant. If I wanted to get all spiritual on you, I'd say it was the background hum of the universe. Since I don't want to do that, I'll just say that everyone I've ever loved, I still love. Sometimes, in the interests of love, it's been necessary to sever ties. But as I said above, possession is not love. Whether you look through a microscope or a telescope, you're going to see marvels.

Do you know everyone you ever swore you'd love for life?
I don't know them anymore
I know their names, I'd recognize them on the street 
and I don't love them
--Barenaked Ladies, "Maybe Katie"

Just another lyric that doesn't reflect love as I know and understand it...

18 July, 2015

'conceal, don't feel'

for a single day
tie your dominant hand
behind your back
you can't use it
you can't miss it
you can't even remember it is there

and live your life as normal
do not complain
they will not understand
they are all one handed after all

at the end of that day
you will know
my every day.

i forget myself
and unshackle that hand
flex it
and use it

the freedom is
i can lift great weights
carry huge burdens
build cathedrals
i can do
what i was born to do

for a time

it is always noticed
that i have an extra hand
freak they see
freak they say
freak i feel

various punishments are proposed
exile behind great walls
amputation with rusty saws
and worse

in the end
out of self preservation
and shame
i tie my dominant hand
behind my back

and move on

15 July, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Eva and Mark

This post will take you through the looking glass.

Well, I kinda figure quite a few of my posts do: I'm not normal, as you've surely figured out by now. But even so, it's not every day you run across a blog post from a husband wishing his beloved wife and her boyfriend a happy anniversary.

Here's one.

As much as I would like to simply wish Eva and Mark a great day and a better year ahead and leave it at that--you know, the way you do with any couple celebrating an anniversary--a post like this regrettably has to have a whole lot of me in it. I hope there comes a day when that's not true...it'll be around the time that Hallmark starts selling cards for metamours.  But for right now, my newer readers (and probably more than a few of my older ones as well) are trying to wrap their heads around what they're reading here...and likely thinking some pretty uncharitable thoughts in the process.

It's okay. I've had my manhood questioned, vigorously, all over the place over the past year. Often with disgusted, derogatory and degrading terms, words infected with so much hatred they would paralyze me if I bothered to really hear them. People hate what they don't understand. I get it.

I, however, understand what all three of us are doing, here. That's kind of the point of polyamory. There are no secrets, no sneaking around, no deceptions.

Which isn't to say I know everything about Eva and Mark. Actually, I don't know very much at all. I know enough to know that Mark is good for her and she is good for him; that both of them are strengthened in each other's presence; that they love each other. You can say the same things about Eva and Ken, of course...which is why, in the end, those things are all I really need to know.

Naive? I should feel threatened? Think of this from Mark's point of view. Eva and I have sixteen years of history. I live with her, he doesn't. I am fully integrated into her life in a way that he is not. I could, in theory, suddenly demand they never see each other again. Not that I'd ever do such a thing, ever...but I could.

Who should feel threatened, again?

The answer, of course, is neither of us. The whole notion that the existence of one relationship threatens another is a holdover from monogamous, scarcity-minded thinking. Oh. I suppose it's within the realm of the possible that, years down the road, relationships may be re-jigged somehow...but don''t hold your breath. None of us have plans along that line, nor will we if and when other partners join the mix on one side or the other.

But Ken, what if they...?

Doesn't really matter what follows the ellipsis there...they've probably done it. I'm still here, Eva's still here, Eva and I are still here. Oh, I will admit to some but what if they thinking at the outset...when there was still only an us and before there was a they.  I wrote it all out in a document I entitled 'The Only Way Out Is Through' and the act of writing it helped me understand that in many ways there would not be a they, only a bigger us.

Note that evolution in my thought came before Mark did and long before I even began to consider what a bigger us would look like. (That's a lifelong consideration when you walk this road.)  It didn't settle entirely smoothly into place...it's kind of a wholesale change of brain, and there have been and will continue to be growing pains. At first I was prone to the

But Ken, what if he's a better ______ than you are?

jitters. Once my hindbrain shut up about those, I was able to sit back and actually look at that question and how stupid it is. What if, indeed. It goes without saying he's better than me at any number of things. Just as I'm better than him at any number of other things. Did I, or did I not, just get finished writing a blog about my disdain for competition? In reality, there is no "better". There is only different.

So how is Mark different?

He's a retired massage therapist, very deeply spiritual. Where my spirituality is cerebral and idealistic, his is tactile and grounded in realism. He has a hard-earned patina of world-weariness that matches Eva's in many ways. He's had an interesting life, full of higher highs and lower lows than I have experienced. He's very close to his brother; I don't have one.

It's not really worth it to dwell on differences, as far as I'm concerned. Mark and I are also similar in many respects: we're both compassionate, empathic, intelligent and deep people who highly value the genuine. A dear friend of mine paid me the ultimate compliment a few months back when she said "there's no room for plastic in your world". I believe the same is true of Mark. None of this should be a surprise:  Most people are attracted to a set of qualities. The more of those qualities you can find in your life, the better. That sentence is probably the strongest endorsement for polyamory I can come up with. Well, that and "too good not to share". Which is how I feel about Eva, and how she feels about me.

Hell, Mark and I are broadly similar physically.

It's not hard to respect the guy. It's not hard to value somebody who values Eva so highly. It's especially not hard to admire his consideration as he embarks on his first poly experience. He's been very careful not to appear to be treading on me in any way. In the end, I can't not care for anyone who cares for Eva, or whom Eva cares for herself.

This is, incidentally, my second. Poly experience, I mean. I haven't spoken much about the first one, which I would file emphatically in the "learning" drawer. That's for another day. I'm learning through this one, too. Difference being this time we're all on the same page.

It's a balancing act, right? No they, a bigger us. One of the guiding principles behind successful polyamory is allowing each relationship to find its own level. In order to do this, speaking specifically to our situation, it is important for me to ensure Mark has a say...just as it's important that he ensures I do, and just as both of us must consider Eva. There's the same give-and-take that there is in successfully monogamy, just split among more people. Is it complicated? Sometimes, yeah. But so long as you keep the One Commandment of Relationships, it's not really as complicated as you might think.

You know what the One Commandment of Relationships is, right? THOU SHALT NOT BE A DICK?

Now, people are probably wondering what each of us gets out of this arrangement. More to the point, what I get out of it...I mean, it's pretty clear what Eva gets, and reasonably clear what Mark gets, but me? I have no other partners of my own, not to the extent Eva does. So what's in it for me? I'll tell you.

I don't have to be all things for her. I never did, of course. But now I don't have to feel guilty for refusing to pretend. (There's no plastic in my world, remember?) I'll leave "things" to your imagination, though to be honest many of them are quite pedestrian. Our tastes in movies and television barely overlap. She cycles through interests like a disco ball, some of which I share, some of which I don't. Again, I neither have to pretend nor feel bad for not trying to.

I don't have to have husband mode on high 24/7. That looks beastly, sitting there bald-faced. I love my wife dearly, as should be obvious: just as much as you love your spouse. If you're honest with yourself, though, I bet you'll get the appeal of being able to power down at intervals, again without actually depriving your beloved of anything.

I get Mark's perspective. That's important, no matter what it covers. Mark sees Eva with different eyes, and he has different, valuable ways of seeing the world.

And of course, I have the opportunity to reach out and love someone, or someones, who could use my love...this isn't a triangle; a fourth line has yet to be drawn, is all. In the meantime, I get to improve my communication, my processing of emotions, and my compersion. In short, it's making me a better husband and a better person.

So thank you, Eva and Mark. Happy anniversary. May you have a lovely day, and a better year.

13 July, 2015


This statement is increasingly indicative of my overall life's philosophy.  And it's one big reason why I don't feel like I belong in most settings.

Our entire civilization is predicated on the notion that if there are winners, there must be losers. This is so axiomatic that it goes unquestioned and usually unnoticed. It's just the way it is.  The winners bask in glory; the losers pick themselves out of the dust and try harder next time. At least in theory. In reality, the losers often simply give up, especially if the losing is constant.

To our credit, we've begun to notice this. We've tried to do something about it, by making everyone winners: the gold medal for showing up. We've stopped keeping score (officially) in kids' games. Some schools have even stopped giving out marks. Which is ridiculous. The world outside your precious snowflake's bubble is harsh and unforgiving, and it's full of competition. Sooner or later, no matter how much you try to shelter him, your child will burst forth in that world, full of self-confidence with an ego polished to a glossy sheen...and fall flat on his face and shatter.

Human beings have an amazing ability to respond to problems in precisely the wrong way. Either we double down on the behaviour which caused the problem (the monkey trap) or we  misdiagnose the problem entirely. In this case, we've taken the latter approach with the biggest problem our world faces, and we've done it with everything.


is competition. Or rather, the worldview that encourages competition. For everything. For money. For resources. For some notion of supremacy.

For love..

Money Makes The World Go Round. Lip service is paid to the ideas that "the best things are free" and that "money does not buy happiness", but at heart, most people don't believe this. If they did, the world would be a different place.

A study has shown that at $75,000 a year, people are about as happy as they're ever going to get. (It's worth noting that there were two separate happiness scales used in this study: "day to day contentment" (which is self-referential), and "life assessment", which gauges your life in relation to the lives of your friends and neighbours. We just can't avoid competition, it seems, as poorly as it serves us. What matter that someone is richer than you? There will always be someone richer than you, not to mention many, many people a very great deal poorer.

That day-to-day contentment is my definition of happiness. And in terms of day-to-day contentment,  $75,000 is the optimal number. Income beyond that is superfluous, and a great deal of income beyond that is often destructive. (The lives of the .001% are empty and lonely in most cases, as hard as that may be for the rest of us to believe.)

I'm not going to suggest that everybody on earth should be $75,000 a year and no more. I am going to suggest that nobody should make less.

This is preposterous, isn't it? It's like I'm some sort of communist utopian pinko radical...I mean, the only way to bring about this vision is to take money from people who have earned it (like hedge fund managers and CEOs of failing corporations) and just outright give it to lazy good-for-nothing...

...human beings.

What price a human life? I think seventy five grand is chump change, really, no matter what life we're talking about. Take care of the basics, which seventy five grand does, and people are free to pursue their dreams without having to devote their every waking moment to the exigencies of day to day existence. Imagine what people would be able to accomplish if they could devote themselves to accomplishing things beyond keeping a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.  Think of the world we could create.

And it's not as if you couldn't earn more if you wanted to. God knows there's enough of it. The banks print trillions out of thin air, after all.

There are a few billion people on this planet for whom seventy five grand is riches beyond dreams or avarice. Strangely (to our Western sensibilities), many of these people would consider themselves happy...on both scales. But let's set the threshold at $75K anyways. Again, it's not like that much money doesn't exist.

I know, this is anathema to everything our society holds as accepted wisdom. People have to deserve money. They have to earn it. If you just give people money, they'll spend it on trivial stuff, right?

Probably wrong, in many if not most cases. But even if not...so what? It's not your money. You've got your own money. Why do you care what other people spend their money on?

Now you're going to tell me that the prices of everything will just shoot through the roof. Well, yeah. It's patently obvious that you can't just snap your fingers and poof! all seven billion people earn $75K a year. For one thing, there aren't enough goods and services for the legions of formerly destitute people to consume and use...not at any price. Something like this would have to be phased in very gradually. And so it is phasing itself in even as we speak. Just not in the way you might think.

This globalized made-in-China-costs-less-than-made-down-the-road craziness is an anomaly in human history, made possible by burning up a few million years of stored sunlight at an absolutely ferocious rate.  I firmly believe that we are seeing the last cheap oil we'll ever see right now: within two or three years, if not sooner, I predict we'll be back to where the price was before the plunge...and in ten to fifteen years, oil will likely be scaling new heights in price.  The reasons for my prediction are beyond the scope of this blog. Suffice it to say that it takes more and more energy to extract oil. In 1850, the equivalent of one barrel of oil's worth of energy inputted yielded you somewhere between 80 and 150 barrels of oil. Latest figures are between thirty and forty barrels returned and they are declining every year. Long before the energy return/energy invested ratio reaches one to one, oil will cease to be economical, which means it will cease to be a meaningful presence in our world. I'll be safely dead by that time and so will you, dear reader...but your grandkids might not be and their grandkids almost certainly won't be.

This sounds like a depressing sidetrack. It's neither. I believe that a huge simplification of...well, everything...is just starting to get underway. It's going to be chaotic at times. More than chaotic, really: people very much like to preserve the status quo, especially when they're the ones whose quos involve a high status. Unfortunately (for them), they're not going to have a choice. Natural laws are a bitch.

What I'm saying is that as time goes on, we're all going to be earning less and less in real dollars. That seventy five grand is going to be utterly meaningless, eventually...and people will be a lot happier for it. Maybe, just maybe, we'll get through the coming storms with a new vision of how the world ought to be. I'd like to think the words "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH" will actually get to meaning something.

There is enough, you know. There's enough money to hand out $75K to everyone on earth--and enough real wealth to actually back that up. There's enough food. Nobody should be going hungry on this planet. There is enough water.

There is definitely enough love. If you take the competition out of it, there's more than enough love.

12 July, 2015


"Women's faults are many,
Men have only two:
Everything they say...
and everything they do."
--Anonymous, that most prolific and profound of poets

There are a bevy of columnists at The Globe and Mail whose work I make a point of reading every week. The best of them, interestingly, are women: Tabatha Southey, Elizabeth Renzetti...and Margaret Wente.

Wente is a polarizing figure. She went (ha-ha) through a little plagiarism scandal three years ago, when she stole a sentence from an Ottawa Citizen column; her employer disciplined her, but kept her on staff. I for one am grateful. Her politics are miles and miles away from mine and many of her columns leave me slack-jawed with blood boiling, But I'm not one to live in an echo chamber and how else can I buttress my own beliefs without exposing them to opposition?

I was going to do a blog on "mansplaining"--wow, Chrome's spell-check doesn't even flag that word anymore--and was trying to find a hook to hang its hat on when I opened up the paper to find this column. Voilà. Hat hook located.

I got accused of 'mansplaining' last night when I offered my perspective on something, and it rankled me: the term seems to have so much hatred imbued in it Welp, my knee jerked. Best never to answer a woman's question ever again. I didn't write that, though. Instead I apologized for any offense I may have caused. What can I say, I might be a man, but I'm Canadian.

It seems to me that accusing someone of 'mansplaining' is the quickest way to shut a conversation down. Testosterone not allowed here. It reminds me of the feminization that ran rampant both on and off campus when I was in university. One feminist group wanted to rename the History Department ("Herstory")...this was the same group that said 'chairperson' wasn't gender-neutral because a 'son' is male. Shortly after I ran screaming from that fiasco, I found the 'Womyn's Music" section of an HMV in Toronto: what? are men not supposed to listen to this stuff?

Maybe I internalized too much of that kind of twaddle and that's why my penis eventually retracted. Because Wente's column proves I'm actually Kendra.

MEN GET TO THE POINT, she says, and usually I don't. Eva has a little wheels-are-spinning-on-black-ice gesture to let me know to quit my babbling and actually say something meaningful. (Of course, if she flat-out asks me to start a conversation, my mind goes instantly blank. Random conversation-starters bubble up: no, we just talked about that last week...nope, she doesn't give two shits about that...nope, even I'm bored by this topic and I haven't even brought it up...) But if by some miracle my tongue does start flapping, it flaps at both ends.
And asking people out for lunch or what have you? I'm even more terrified of looking pushy than Wente claims woman are.


Uh, yeah we do. Or at least I do. I try not to, but they're like acid sometimes. I'm better than I was, mind you. I used to assume that anyone who hurt me meant to do it. Eventually I realized it was maybe more productive to view myself as overly sensitive, and work on that. Now I can usually tell when the slight isn't intentional. The ones that are, though...they burn for a year or longer.


Nope. I tend to externalize my successes. My failures are mine alone.

But seriously. If I succeed at something, I had help and support to do it. Nobody's out there sabotaging my failures. This is one of many so-called "manly" traits that disgust me.


...which is why I'm a published writer who has accomplished every life's goal he's set for himself.

That's sarcasm, by the way.

It's true that I am not a multi-tasker. But I'm also neither focused nor persistent. My focus drifts all over the place, and especially with mechanical tasks, I will throw in the towel before it's even been handed to me.


I've met one person -- a woman -- who is undeniably less assertive than I am. Everybody else, of either gender, I'l fall right in behind. It's not that I'm weak, I don't think. It's a byproduct of a lack of focus and discipline. I just...don't...care overmuch. I'm easily pleased, and not much for confrontation. Assertive? Not me.


Whew. Maybe I am a man, after all.

07 July, 2015


I would like to thank those people who have come forward with unqualified love and support for Eva and I in the wake of my last blog. Several folks have disclosed that they, too, suffer from mental illness and are medicated for it. It means a lot to both of us that we are not alone. Of course we knew that, but there is always a difference between knowing and experiencing.

Not everyone has been supportive, alas: there are people who don't believe in mental illness, or don't believe Eva lives with it, or that her situation is anything to be concerned about. That's fine: we expected that too. In the end, Eva chooses -- wisely, I think -- to heed the advice of the many qualified professionals treating her, complemented, and yes, at times superseded by her own knowledge of her own mind and body.

Answers to a few questions we have fielded:

1) There is no injectable version of the drug she takes, or anything similar. It would be great if there were, but there isn't.

2) Eva is taking dangerous levels of her drugs because of the malabsorption effect of the surgery. And this too much is not enough any more. She is strongly leaning towards discontinuing the medication...which is itself dangerous. Eva has already suffered discontinuation syndrome when her body stopped accepting her drug, and trust me, it wasn't pretty. Going off of it entirely is a frightening prospect. She has been told it may involve lengthy hospitalization in her case. But the alternative -- taking more than triple the recommended dosage and still not getting the proper effect -- is untenable.

It's not withdrawal in the sense of, say, kicking heroin: her drug is not addictive. It has to do with changes in brain chemistry. And in the case of her medication, missing a single dose can and does cause serious problems. Tapering very gradually is the only way to do this...and bear in mind again that as far as her body is concerned, she's not getting enough as it is right now. She's getting all the side effects you would expect with a near overdose, and very little of the actual "front" effects!

3) Would she have had the bariatric surgery if she had known this would be the end result? It's difficult to say at this point. You can't minimize -- ha ha -- the 200 or so pounds she has lost, the amazing amount of energy she gained (and will hopefully get again), the not having to take any insulin (after having been on a pretty high dose of that)...and numerous other positive effects. I shudder to think what her arthritis would be doing if she were still Eva-squared. She might be wheelchair-bound at this point.
So there are positives, lots of them, even still. And we choose to view this...situation...with her drugs as not a result, but a process. As I said when this first started to show..."it will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, it's not yet the end".

4) We will be careful. And we know, and appreciate more than you know, that there are many people who have our backs. Thank you to all of you. We love you so much.

Ken and Eva.

02 July, 2015

Please read this.

Note to my readers: this post is several WEEKS in the writing. More effort has gone into this than any other post I have written in ten plus years, by far. You can trust that every word herein has been thoroughly vetted and put in place with the fullest of intentions; that every feeling expressed here has has been fully examined and found authentic; and that every statement is as true as it can be under the circumstances.  
If you know me, if you care about me--if you know Eva, even if only as an abstraction, and care about her on any level--I implore you to read this post. 


There is so much we don't understand about the human mind and the mechanisms and maladies behind its malfunction. And it seems to be human nature to fear what we do not understand. That fear--which might helpfully be abbreviated "False Evidence Appearing Real"--is not helpful, particularly when it ends up being directed at a suffering human being. Trust me, he is dealing with more than enough fear of his own. Coping with the effects of yours on top of his own may be impossible.

Many people have lamented that mental illness is contextualized completely differently from physical ailments.
The fresh hell of it is, the comic above only scratches the surface of the stigma against mental illness, and how that stigma manifests, even from medical professionals who should know better.

Let's consider my beloved wife, Eva, who is mentally ill.

Not many people suspect that, I'd wager. Fewer still know it for a certainty. That's because learning someone is mentally ill in any way often changes formerly friendly attitudes into distant and even hostile ones. You learn to be exceptionally careful in whom you confide a truth like that. You're putting your life in their hands.

When it comes to Eva, until very, very recently, nobody could have imagined she's been living with mental illness for much of her adult life. She has always been the epitome of competence, even when her confidence sagged. In its proper state, her mind is quite simply the most functional and elegant  I have ever encountered: supremely analytical, highly compassionate and respectful of other points of view, able to entertain multiple conflicting accounts and synthesize them into a coherent consensus. It's a mind I am in awe of, no less because it requires medication to function properly.

I am not the only one to feel this way. Eva has repeatedly climbed ladders, earned multiple professional designations, proven herself in every position she has been in over her life...all the while creating deep, lasting friendships and -- always and forever -- learning new things each and every day. There may be people who dislike my wife -- I can't imagine why -- but I believe everybody who knows her respects her.

Now here I am, her loving husband of fifteen years, coming forward with a revelation that could cost her a great deal of that respect.  Why?

Because circumstances have revealed her illness all by themselves. Because that revelation is causing, for the first time in her afflicted life, serious disrespect and disruption. Because the injustice behind that is heaping pain on what is already a very painful existence for her and -- at a remove, to be sure -- for me. Because the situation she finds herself in, through absolutely no fault of her own, needs recognition. Because there are thousands...no, millions...of people walking around with similar problems in their presents or futures: people you know, people you respect, people you love dearly...and they, too, deserve to keep every last bit of that admiration, respect, and love. Indeed, people with mental illnesses deserve more of all three, in my considered opinion. If I don't come forward and explain some of the whys and wherefores behind what has appeared to be a precipitous and unexplainable decline in my wife's functional abilities, people will draw conclusions of their own. Wrong conclusions, hurtful conclusions, conclusions even more wrong and hurtful than the truth.


Eva has been medicated for mental illness longer than I have known her. The nature of medications and mental illness both has necessitated occasional changes in dose and kind of medication, but medications themselves have been a constant.

She had bariatric surgery in November 2013, and for quite some time, for reasons nobody understands, she appeared to dodge many of the horrid side effects that plague bariatric patients. The weight melted off--very close to 200 pounds at this point--and until a few short months ago she was doing well. Better than well.

I talked about the decline in this post and my standard line has been that Eva's had trouble absorbing her medications, bariatric and otherwise, and "the otherwise is causing problems".

I didn't really understand what I was writing then. I still don't fully understand it now. But here's what I do understand: because of the malabsorption which is a permanent aftereffect of the surgery, she must take a considerably higher dose of her medications for them to have the same effect they used to. And her body does not know what to do with the excess.
The solution seems simple, doesn't it? Just go off the offending medication. Ah, if only life were that easy. There are two problems with that scenario. The first is that the medication in question--which again has been extremely effective in treating her disorder--is very powerful and would require lengthy hospitalization to discontinue. Which she would gladly undergo, except...that effective medication would simply have to be replaced by another, almost certainly less effective medication, which would be required in the same or even a higher dose, causing the same or even worse side effects. The other alternative is wean herself off the medication and live more intimately with her disorder...which needless to say has severe consequences of its own.

This is, needless to say, frustrating as hell. The drug she is on is now...NOW...contraindicated for the operation: if you are taking it, you can't have bariatric surgery because of precisely this outcome. They knew it was a concern, as evidenced by the verbal *and* written communication with our GP to ascertain that yes, Eva was on this drug and yes, she was stable.


This is where I lose my mind just a little bit. WHAT THE %^&* DOES EVA'S STABILITY *BEFORE* THE OPERATION HAVE TO DO WITH ANY &*(ING THING AT ALL?! Given that, you know, *after* the operation they're going to HAVE to destabilize her by making her take three times as much medication?!

I'm not a litigious person, but there are times I just scream lawsuit. Eva's more sanguine--about this aspect, at least. Trial and error, she says, and sucks to be her, she was part of the error.

What has her up in arms is the "aftercare" supposedly provided by the bariatric clinic. We were happy this existed, on paper, before the operation: appointments liberally scattered through five years. It turns out that their chief--perhaps only--concern post-surgery is about the patient's weight. Anything else, including what Eva is now afflicted with, seems to be considered "not a direct result" of the surgery and thus not important. They're making an exception and allowing Eva to see a psychiatrist who is only supposed to be available to pre-op patients. They're letting Eva see this psychiatrist for ONE HOUR.

Oh, yeah, that'll help.

Meanwhile, Eva has severe osteoarthritis in both knees. This, like her mental illness, has been diagnosed. But now, suddenly, while the arthritis is still there, the pain in her knees is "actually" all in her head, according to a doctor I formerly respected who diagnosed her knees and who has been treating her mental illness for nearly our entire married life. It's all a result of depression, you see.

Depression is not what is afflicting Eva at the moment: I'd stake my watch and warrant on it. She is of course discouraged by and despairing of this turn of events, and upset that they are keeping her from her productive life. But actual, clinical depression, such as I have observed in others--one loved one who attempted suicide right in front of me springs vividly to mind--that's not what is affecting Eva, and certainly not Eva's knee. That a medical doctor, who diagnosed the arthritis, should spend a great deal of time talking to my wife as if she were a child, telling her "there's no logical reason" why she should possibly be feeling pain in her knee, ergo it's all in her head--" you know, I lack medical credentials. But my bullshit meter is quite finely tuned, and its klaxons are sounding.

To be clear: we are not denying Eva is mentally ill. How could we? She has been medicated for mental illness for years, and it took her bariatric surgery throwing those medications hopelessly out of alignment for her illness to really become noticeable to most people.  What we are objecting -- strenuously -- to is the implication that, now that her illness is out in the open, it accounts for anything and everything ELSE that''s wrong with her.

And then there are the difficulties beyond dealing with mental illness and physical ailments, that 'the system' insists on heaping on those already suffering. There is the little matter of money: Eva's short-term disability will run out in a month and there is a yawning chasm of a waiting period until long-term disability kicks in. Two months of just my income.

Thank goodness I got a job when I did, or you wouldn't be reading this right now.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this waiting period is supposed to be. It appears to exist merely to ensure you are financially disabled, too. And while I get that people are supposed to have several months of salary put aside to deal with contingencies like this, reality for us--and for many others, I am quite sure--is that contingency funds either never existed or, as in our case, have been used up by other complications and crises.
We considered renting out a room in our house. We could do that, but there's no point: any money we make doing so will be clawed back dollar for dollar. Gotta keep the disabled poor.

In case anyone feels the way several doctors do about Eva and suicidal impulses--let me reiterate that she is not clinically depressed--she is NOT suicidal. At all. She also is not getting worse any more. She seems to have stabilized...which is good. But consider: when you're taking three and four times the recommended dose of medications, you are in uncharted waters. and who knows what lurks in them.


All of of this, all of this post to say three words.


Thank you for reading.