The History of the #boozytweetup

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If you follow me, you notice that every couple of months the hashtag #boozytweetup appears. The tag was born in October 2010. I had been actively engaging local Halifax tweeters for close to a year with mindless, sometimes funny, sometimes interesting tweets. I was playing with the medium and in turn, connecting with some really interesting, funny, thoughtful human beings. I have to throw credit out to @cr8tiveCandy for my evolution on twitter.  When I met her in 2009 I had a dormant twitter account and she said “follow me – I follow all the local people”. It was true! Thanks Char.

Fast forward to the fall of 2010. My marriage was nearing it’s inevitable end. My friends were our friends and I didn’t want them picking sides or even asking questions  I just needed a night out with some beer and some laughs. I thought what’s the worst that can happen? So I tweeted it. The tweet would’ve looked something like this:

I’m going for beers. want to come for laughs? 4:30 Friday at Durty Nelly’s. #boozytweetup

I’d never been to a tweetup. I didn’t know who or what to expect. I got a lot of questions. What is a boozy tweetup? Where do I sign up? That’s when I  made some rules about the boozytweetup.

1 – it’s a tweet up. With booze. 

2- you do not have to partake in the booze but it will be held where booze is readily available

3 – everyone is welcome

4 – there is no sign-up, no registration. I don’t know who’s coming ahead of time. All I know is I will be there.

Nearing 4:30 on that first Friday, I slid onto a barstool and ordered a beer and waited. I was prepared to sit alone all night and just drink. Three sips in and @monochromegod appeared and mocked my beer choice and we fell into the same easy banter we’d had online. After that, a steady stream of tweeters appeared. We moved from the bar to a table. Then we added on more tables. I met @miss_close that night and we laughed for hours that night and on many nights in the past 2+ years. In fact, I met a lot of folks that night who’ve become some of my closest friends.

The night ended with dancing at a club I’d never heard of (I’m not a club-goer, and it was the G Lounge, I think). Someone one reminisced it was a private party we’d crashed. I really don’t know. 

What I do know is that I had an incredible time meeting new people, drinking beer, and laughing that night. And it’s been repeated at #boozytweetups over and over again.

My last official #boozytweetup is going to be this Friday, March 15 @TheFoggyGoggle – be there any time after 5:30. 

After this I hope someone else will adopt the hashtag and keep the good times rolling on. I may bravely try this once I find a Vancouver twitter following, but I truly think this is a Halifax thing. It’s the unique combination of a town small enough you’ll know someone, big enough you won’t know everyone, and without any puritanical hangups about bonding over booze. 

See you Friday?

Oh, and please RT.

a parenting rant

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Dear Parents,

What are you really afraid of? Today I walked my son 3 blocks to a birthday party. The only reason I went was because I didn’t know the parents at all and needed to know what time to expect him home. Otherwise, I’d have sent him alone. Yes, you read that right, alone.

My son is 9 and 3/4. He walks the dog alone in our neighbourhood some days. He and his friends ride bikes, scooters, cross streets, and build forts in the greenbelt. It’s not a gated community. In fact, I’d say my area is working class. There is a big chunk of rental homes in the middle of the area, a low-income housing co-op, and one street that I fondly call the vortex of evil. There’s a well known small-time drug trade that happens somewhere in there. But all around that thriving business are more families and more children. We have a well-used playground in the area and a lot of well kept modest homes with families who’ve been here several decades and families new to the area. It’s a pretty good mix for this city.

One of the big reasons we live in this area is the abundance of side walks, houses, and kids. To me, that’s the perfect storm for a reasonably safe neighbourhood. It is exactly the place where our kids should be out playing and exploring. And yet today I witnessed the look of horror as I told the party host to send my kid home alone when the party ends. My kid is mature, trustworthy, and won’t just wander off somewhere else. He’s walking home through a neighbourhood full of people he knows from school and who we just see around on a day to day basis. He’ll cross one street. The same one he crosses any time he goes out. He’s been doing this for 2 years.

Why should I be afraid? Why are you?

Are you afraid of the guy who exposed himself to my kid and a few of his friends one day? A grown man dropped trou and gave a waggle. The kids banded together, ran into the house and told an adult. No one was traumatized or scarred for life by it. In fact, it told us what a good job we’d done teaching our kids to look out for themselves and for their friends, because they made a series of good choices of how to react to the situation.

Are you afraid of the teenager who knocked my kid down once and stole a bag of chips he was carrying? My kid isn’t afraid of him. In fact, my kid isn’t afraid of people in general, even though he’s had these two experiences because he gets that he’s had thousands of encounters with hundreds of people and out of all of them, he’s had 2 mildly negative experiences. Know what else? He knows he can handle it.

Here’s the thing: one day your kid won’t have you around. And they may be an adult by then. And something will happen, they might freeze and it  might traumatize them. Because if they live in the bubble now, the real world will scare the crap out of them.

It’s so easy to recount all the bad things that have happened, but in truth, they are overshadowed by all the good we choose to ignore. I want my kid out there experiencing all of it so he can learn to cope, manage and deal with it all. I don’t wish harm on him. In fact, most of the time I want to wrap my arms around him and hold him close and not let anyone even breathe near him. I get that feeling. I get it 10 fold. But I would be neglecting my duty as a parent to teach him how to navigate this world if I did that.

Instead, I arm him with knowledge, stoke him with confidence, set him out in the world and let myself fret and worry quietly knowing that what I’m most afraid of are things that are so unlikely to happen.  Children are not abducted from my neighbourhood every day. In fact, I’m not sure it’s ever happened. And that “well wouldn’t you feel horrible if it happened to your child!” mentality is foolish. I worry about my kid getting injured in soccer (likely), being a victim in a car accident while we’re driving (likely), and getting tooth decay (all too likely).  Being shot at (highly unlikely), abducted (highly unlikely), or mobbed by an unruly band of gypsies (highly unlikely) are not the things to truly worry about.  If we look at things from an actual perspective of risk, we realize we put our kids in harms way all the time because we’re lazy and then worry about the things that are so unlikely to happen, they’re not much worth thinking about.

I think the first way to get over this fear is to get out there ourselves. Go for a walk in your own neighbourhood. Realize that it’s probably a pretty safe place to be.  Talk to your neighbours. You don’t have to like them, but if you know them a little, they tend to be a little less scary and it helps you identify who to truly avoid. And then take your kids out there with you. Teach them to navigate the world around them.

You can do it in baby steps to make it happen. We used to frequent a local bakery for coffee and treats. My kid was familar with the staff there and the layout of the store. One day when he was about 6, I parked out front, gave him $5 and told him to go buy bread. He went in alone, found the bread, took it to the counter, paid, got his change, said thank-you and came out.  It was a tiny store, I was just outside of a glass window and could see the whole thing. HE WAS STOKED. His confidence soared after that little transaction.  Now when we are out running errands, he’ll ask to go to a store alone while I pick some things up, and I let him. He has navigated big parking lots, big box stores, and gotten information from sales clerks when he’s needed it. The world just doesn’t overwhelm him.

Don’t make the world out to be bigger than it is. Your kids can navigate it too and none of you need to live in fear.

Too ugly to be your mama

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Here’ a lesson I wasn’t planning on teaching my son: your mom isn’t pretty enough to be seen with you.

It’s the lesson I’m teaching though. Allison Tate wrote this blog in the HuffPo about how she avoids being in photos with her kids because she doesn’t think she looks good enough. What her kids are getting is a historical document (photo) that captures the wrong memory.

I do it too. I’ve bought into this whole digital-photo-make-me-look-pretty stuff. I take strategic photos that limit me to 2 chins and a headless body where the light makes it look like I have cheek bones. I want my son to have a record of a mother who wasn’t really his. I don’t secretly hope that one day he’ll just forget that he has a big lumpy mom with the occassional good day. I want him to remember all of me.  Remember that other blog I wrote about wanting people to know me?  Well, here I am. Warts n all.

I’m not the cute, fit, golf-pant wearing mom who belongs on a magazine cover. I’m also not some stunning fashion plate or that easy-breezy beautiful cover girl. I’m just a woman in a slightly abused body who avoids having it documented. In my mind’s eye, I look heaps better. And I have hope that with time and effort, I will look somewhat better. But here’s the rub: I don’t think my kid really cares. I think that when he looks back on his childhood, he’ll want to have memories of his mom, not a photoshopped image of what his mom could’ve looked like.

Hey kid – I’m sorry I don’t get in more photos with you. I’ll do better.

Spoil sports

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I am part of the problem.

I thought about writing this prior to the election but I wondered if it would just make me sound cynical and jaded and not really have an impact on the eight voters who might read this blog. None the less, I’m here to say my piece after the fact.

Elections are not about making voting easier for people. It’s about getting voters to understand how influential they truly are.

The highest voter turnout in a Canadian Federal Election happened in 1867. 73.1% of eligible voters cast a ballot for leadership for this country. Of course the only eligible voters were white males. They felt represented by the other white males who were running for political office, so they got out and had their say to make sure it was the right white male who ended up where they wanted him to be.

So here we are in 2012, where all Canadian citizens aged 18 or older who’ve resided in the municipality for the last 90 consecutive days could cast a ballot for the people who represent them at the closest level of government. The people who are here to determine how our community and our neighbourhoods will be funded, policed, and shaped were voted in by a mere 37% of eligible voters.

Does this mean 63% don’t give a shit? It wasn’t because voting isn’t accessible. For the first time ever there were 12 days in which to cast a ballot from the comfort of your bed via the telephone or internet. People in hospital, with limited mobility, or who just don’t like getting out cast their ballots in that time frame. And then, if you didn’t trust the e-vote system or are like me and like the event of voting, you had 11 hours on a Saturday to get to a polling station located somewhere in your neighbourhood, to cast your ballot.

The process of voting was accessible, convenient, and relatively easy.  This isn’t the obstacle to voter turnout.

I watched and listened as friends and acquaintances griped that none of the candidates represented the change they want for their city. Very few of those same people called, emailed, or visited their candidates and put their concerns on their agendas. The candidates for mayor in this election were very accessible – they all had listed phone numbers, email addresses, and websites. They were out at every public event and debated more times than I can recall. There was ample time to listen, learn, and choose.

Even after weighing all the options, some people still didn’t find a suitable candidate for mayor, council or school board. And this is what gets me. They chose to not vote. This is throwing your vote away. Did you know that you can make a vote of protest? You can vote and say “none of these are who I want. None of these people represent me.”  It is called spoiling your ballot. Electronically, it was an option presented to you after all the candidates names, you could choose to decline to vote (your vote would not be counted) or spoil your ballot (your vote would be counted).  Your voice matters when you need to say “you’re not good enough”.

And that seems to be the top reason why people tell me they didn’t vote (totally unofficial anecdata collected from listening to people gripe about the election). It’s not that they don’t care about tax rates, transportation, crime, development, and the long term vision of our city. It’s that they didn’t feel represented. But the only way to actually let someone know, is to vote! Voting matters, every single time.

If you don’t feel represented by the current elected officials, don’t fret. Instead, get up in their faces. Challenge them to represent you.  Keep making your ideas, opinions, and desires known to them. Pay attention to what happens at the council meetings. Stay connected to what is going on and when you don’t like it – speak up!  Don’t bitch at me, bitch at the people who can do something about it. And on that same note, when they get something right – tell them!  Drop an email that says “way to go – I support that!” because that tells them when they are on the right track too.

You may not have voted this time, but you can still have a voice. And next time? Next time, please vote. Vote for the candidate that represents you best. Vote to say none of them represent you. Whatever it is, speak up and say something.

The obstacle to voter turnout isn’t the ease for voting. When we care about an issue, we’re willing to stand up and fight for it for as long as it takes. The obstacle is having candidates that we feel truly represent us so that we can get fired up and passionate and feel compelled to get them into office so they can work on our behalf. For that, I think more of us would be willing to pick up the phone and cast our ballot during a commercial break.

 

 

Celebrating alone

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I am thankful for people willing to open their homes, their tables, and their traditions to those who have no where else to go. However getting a last-minute invitation to someone else’s family dinner on a holiday can feel like the equivalent of being a third-wheel on a date: everyone means well but it can be awkward and uncomfortable. Please forgive me when I decline. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer, it’s just that sometimes, it’s ok to be alone.

This is not my first holiday alone. Nor am I alone in my aloneness. Thousands of people will spend Thanksgiving alone this weekend. Many will feel the pang of not having someone to expect them for dinner and not having a place where they feel they belong.  Yet the truth of Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners is that few are the idealistic experiences of fun-loving football games in the yard and picture-perfect tables laden with photo-ready dishes to enjoy. We have these ideals presented to us, mostly in part so we’ll buy things to create this image, and then we use them to judge our worthiness. It’s a terrible cycle to get caught up in.

I love to cook for people. I’ve hosted Thanksgiving dinners with a mish-mash of friends and families gathered around. It’s not that it is always a bad thing. But many of us have come to understand that a holiday without that experience isn’t less of a holiday. This year, there is still so much for me to be thankful for.

-        My health. This might be the biggest cliché but ask anyone who’s health is a little below par or worse what they would give to wake up feeling healthy and able to fully engage every day without pain or restriction.

-        My son. He will be dining with his Dad and his dad’s family on Monday. I’m so happy he has that experience and he looks forward to it. For two weeks I’ve heard about his love of his Grandmother’s pumpkin pie. He is open with his enthusiasm and joy for the things he loves, he’s affectionate, kind, funny, curious, smart, and completely himself. My life is richer because of him.

-        My people. My people include everyone from my nearest and dearest to those who have reached out selflessly in these past few months to offer their support, their cheerleading, and their networks. It’s starting to pay off. The tides are slowly changing and there are glimmers of good things going on again in my life. The support of others is so crucial in my life and I’m extremely grateful for all of it.

While I may not be overeating a giant feast this weekend or avoiding an argument with a crazy uncle or reliving memories over a bottle of wine, I will be giving thanks. I will be alone, but I will not be lonely. It’s possible I may drink too much wine.

I did relive some fun memories of holidays past when I read this tweet. I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to @ChrisFHFX, his son, and the guests he brings together. And if you know someone declined the invitation, don’t be offended. They may have just felt a little out of place and found it easier to give thanks on their own.

@ChrisFHFX Just sent an open invitation to all my Facebook friends who might be alone to join my son and I for Thanksgiving dinner

Love more. It’s ok.

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Not sure if she should say I Love You to someone, I said this to a friend:
Saying I love you doesn’t commit you to anything. It’s an expression of a feeling. It doesn’t mean you owe him a lifetime or even tomorrow. Everyone should know when they are loved and everyone should share when they love someone – even if it is fleeting and for a moment. No one ever laid on their death bed and said I wish I loved less and told fewer people. Be vulnerable. You’ll be ok. I promise.

 

Inspired by Facebook. I bet no one ever says that.

 

Note to self

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This is not inspired by a tweet. And it’s more personal than I ever intended to post here. But…well… here it is.

Monday September 17 will mark the 20th anniversary of my mom’s death. 20 years. Next year is the tipping point where it will be half my lifetime.

I’ve been thinking about marking this passage of time. Some like to release balloons and say a prayer, others lay flowers or make a donation. None of that resonates with me. I like to write. I thought about telling people about my mother – writing an email or a post for my blog. That’s when I was reminded of how little I knew her. No one really knew her, I don’t think. She was somewhat reclusive – sometimes by choice and sometimes because my dad encouraged her to stay in. It was a protective measure in a lot of ways.

I decided I am going to use this anniversary as a reminder. Note to self: keep letting people into my life.

At present, I am at the point where I want to close the doors and the curtains and hide until I fix everything that is wrong in my life. And I want to do it alone. I don’t want to ask for anyone’s help. But I think that had my mother had help, she would have known herself better, likely had a better quality of life, and the rest of us would have gotten to know her too.

I don’t want to be unknown. Not to my family, not to my friends.

There is a part of me that hopes that my time spent connecting to people and letting them know me will also allow them know a little bit of my mom. For as different as I remember being from my mom, I’m still a product of her parenting and she has influenced who I am.

And a little side note for all of you who struggle with your relationships with your mothers… I spent a lot of time working out the pain and guilt and frustration and sadness and anger I carried after she died and the most important thing I did was set aside my relationship to her and just looked at a woman. And in that, I found a heaping ton of compassion for her. It’s tough to do, but try it some time. You might be amazed.

I am Trudi Goels Evans, youngest daughter of Winna V. Goels (b. March 13, 1938; d. September 17, 1992).