Anything I write that has to do with writing will be in From Pico's Pen, my author's blog. Everything that doesn't fit any of the sites I write on will be here. This is my practice. I could have kept it private and farmed out the good stuff but I found my readers like too much of it to do that. It isn't a diary because there are things I keep to myself but you can learn a great deal about me from the randomness you will find here.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

First Flight In Thirty Years – Lessons Learned

Last week my mother was admitted to hospital and since she is a frail 89 years old, things didn't look very positive. My sister contacted me and said that mom wanted to see me and one of my brothers if it were her time. I'm too broke to afford airfare so my family pitched in and set up a whirlwind visit for me. I am deeply grateful to all those who made that happen.

This all happened on one of my days off which was good, but it doesn't mean I wasn't busy. That morning I tore the roof off my mini woodshop and using materials I've scavenged, put a proper roof on it. Just after finishing was when my sister called.

I had time to shave, wash my hair, change clothes, pack a quick bag and eat. By that time all the flight info came through and Francine got to bring me to the airport in Moncton.

1) That brings me to my first lesson on flying: Don't wear steel-toed work boots. I had planned to switch to me work shoes before leaving the van, but I forgot. Yes, I set off the metal detector and after removing everything else remotely metal, set it off again. Temporarily baffled I looked down to think and noticed my work boots on my feet. I padded through the detector with no problems after that.
2) Lesson two became evident well into the flight. Go to the bathroom before you get on the plane and if at all possible hold it till you get off. That bathroom was so physically small I was almost unable to use it with the door closed. I accidentally kicked the door several times trying to find a comfortable position. My knees were okay, but there really wasn't a place for my size thirteen feet. Yes, I bounced my head off all the low places on the ceiling between my seat and the washroom.
3) If there is any chance that you will need to fly somewhere any time in your life, don't watch Air Crash Investigation episodes on Youtube. I experienced the worst air turbulence ever on the way home. If someone said we suddenly lost several hundred feet of elevation on our way out of Toronto, I would have believed them. Shortly after that the pilot warned us that it would be rough all the way to Ottawa. It got better after that. I'm sure God was laughing his head off. In Ottawa, I worried when I saw how small the next plane was, that would take me back to Moncton.
4) I'd make a terrible airline pilot. The weather cleared before getting to Moncton and the view for me was spectacular. We got enough fuel? Never mind the flight plan. There something way over there in the distance and I want to have a closer look.

I appreciate my niece Stacy for picking me up at the airport, navigating through Toronto and entertaining me at the same time. I'm not used to that many people or cars. After all my current hometown has a hand-painted welcome sign that says population 20.

My sister Minnie who took the time to set this all up, giving me the opportunity to spend some time with both my parents and then driving me to my brother's place.

Hank and Katie for providing me with a bed, breakfast, a ride back to the airport and good conversation along the way. The coffee and donut were nice too.

A big thank you to everyone else involved that I wasn't told about. Swinging all that on such short noticed was a feat beyond me and my means. It was so nice to be able to spend some time with mom and dad.

Saturday, 7 November 2015


This is officially my most unfavorite word and I'm seeing it everywhere. Some people dislike the word moist. I happen to hate the word cloying. Who decided this word has to be in every new piece of fiction I read?

What I think happened is that some bright light at a NaNoWriMo group event decided everyone should use the word cloying in a sentence while working on their manuscript. If you've ever been to one of these write-ins, you'll understand what I mean. After accomplishing the task, everybody forgot to edit it out of their finished manuscripts. For some reason publishing house editors must have been reluctant to interfere with creativity and now this stupid word has been foisted on the whole world.

There has been some interest in having me as a NaNoWriMo group leader in Sackville. If I had the time, I might even consider it, however, I would never challenge my group to use that word. I'd choose something like egregious. Now that's a word I like. I can even use it in a sentence: Please stop the egregious overuse of the word cloying in descriptive writing. (Better yet, don't use it at all).

Free Government Housing in Canada is a MYTH!

Rant time! I keep seeing posts on Facebook saying that people are upset that a minimum wage hike to fifteen dollars per hour is disqualifying them from free housing. I know the source is American, but this is being enthusiastically shared by my Canadian friends. I don't know how the system works in the USA but I have been in the Canadian system and this is not how things work.

This rant is for everybody who has never had to live in the Canadian government housing system. Government housing is subsidized it is NOT free for those living in it. It costs 30% of whatever your gross income is, be that welfare, employment insurance or wages. Since the program was created the costs of food and transportation have skyrocketed. When the program was created 30% was comfortable, now it is far from it. I don't know how many provinces do this but in New Brunswick they add a charge for heating so we effectively were paying 35%.

Our experience shows that the “free housing” experience gets worse than that. You don't get any discount for getting sick and missing work for a few days. I worked my butt off in the call centre I was working in and earned a couple of nice big bonuses. When my rent was calculated, the housing system based their calculations on my wages with bonuses. That might sound fair, but I got those bonuses only the first month of the year. Their math pretended I got that every month. By their calculations they didn't take 30% of my bonuses, they took all of it and then more. My new rent was 50% of my income. I appealed the decision and was denied. I went to our political representative and was told that it was more important for us to pay our government subsidized housing rent than it was to eat. Otherwise, we'd end up living on the street (this is not an exaggerated paraphrase). We borrowed money to put electricity in our hunt camp did some other upgrades and moved back to the place where we'd been forced to leave two years earlier.

Social services in Canada has consistently advised every time we pointed out that we didn't have a humanly possible to follow budget, to ask for money from family/friends or borrow it from any credit cards we might have.

While living in government housing, I got to talk to other young families. They are all stuck in the same hopeless battle. If they aren't getting help from somewhere, they cheat the system by working under the table. The system is badly in need of an overhaul. I'm all for punishing cheaters, but you have to give the people who aren't cheating a chance. Please only punish the egregious cheaters not the poor single mom earning an extra thirty bucks babysitting each week so that her kids can have enough to eat.

If my readers don't get anything else out of this, stop believing this free housing fairy tale. It doesn't exist in Canada the way you think it does.