Category Archives: Poverty

A New Front?

Having an open mind does not mean your brain will leak out.

But an open mind does mean that new ideas and information can get in. A fate that apparently terrifies many, including it would seem Abbotsford’s mayor and council, to the point their seal their minds shut. For this group changing their minds involves a rearranging of their prejudices and the myths they operate under.

Continue reading A New Front?

The Saga Motors on -The Door Drops II.

I got home on Saturday and as I was putting things [keys etc] in their proper place so I could find them Sunday [provided the Universe didn’t translocate them overnight] I found my cell phone was not in its holster. Panic time as I sped out to the car to see if I dropped the phone in the car; no cell phone and I rushed back inside, with visions of having dropped my cell phone somewhere in the Real Canadian Superstore.

I invoked the 5 minute rule [timeout if I have not found what I am looking for within 5 minutes] picked up L. E. Modesitt’s new book Antiagon Fire, read and relaxed. Going to get some water I spotted the cell phone lying in plain sight on the floor by the door. Better yet it had not been stepped on in my rush to check the car.



Sundays are a day of respite, of reflection and recharging spent at home doing…..whatever I am moved to do. For some reason this Sunday I felt the need [was nagged by the need?] to take the binder with WIP [Words in Progress] and a MP3 player and go get a coffee, listen to music and get some of the words on the four items currently in progress out of my head onto paper. Plus give some thought to items for The James Commentary.

Getting dressed, rounding up my WIP binder and music I head out to the car to search out coffee, listen to music and write. The 5 year old across the street tells me my car door has been open all night. In the panic of looking for my cell phone I failed to take my time and make sure the door was shut. Sigh, I leave the car unlocked all night and in the morning………it is still there to haunt me.

Getting into the car I employ the Breckenridge Emergency Ingress/Egress Method to close the driver’s door, make sure to fasten the seatbelt [having to use the rope to close the door has changed my rhythm and I have started to drive off without the seatbelt on several times], insert and turn the key and get a rude click-click-click. With the clicking the first thought is the need to replace the starter – AARRGGHH!!.

I lean back to take a deep breath and see the dome light is looking a little pale and decide that if I am lucky the door was open enough to have the dome light on all night and all I need is a boost.

As I get out of the car I decide to go with a positive attitude and tell myself it was lucky I decided to go out or I would have found myself scrambling on Monday to get the car running in time to make it to work.

The Universe’s reply to this positive attitude was for an insect I didn’t see, to bite/sting me; a bite/sting that burned with a distracting level of pain for over an hour.

Among the ‘protection when the Universe is toying with me’ or ‘out of sync with the flow’ crisis intervention accouterments in the car is jumper cables. Which was handy as the friend I called for a boost didn’t have jumper cables. The cables were hooked up, the jump she was given and – voila – car starts with no hesitation.

Being short on gas I decided to drive by my friend Tom’s place to borrow his battery charger, since it does a much better job of Battery recovery, and to [wisely] borrow his floor jack as well since I need to change out the small spare tire, a tire that is clearly marked “Temporary Use Only”.

Returning home I gather and lay out the items I will need – the two extra Thunderbird tires sitting on my porch, tire iron, pliers, screwdriver and Tom’s floor jack.

As I am about to start the 5 year old from across the street comes out to ‘help’ me. Fortunately his family was going to see a movie. Unfortunately they didn’t leave until he had ‘helped’ with 3 of the 4 tires.

Yes, I could have chased him away or screamed at him when he once again got to close to the car when it was jacked up. But he needs to know how to change a tire and perhaps will benefit from hearing about gravity, heavy objects jacked up and the propensity heavy objects like cars have for falling. Besides, raising a child is a community responsibility.

Four tires because I needed to put the two Thunderbird tires on the back, using a back tire to replace the spare. I know, that is only three but the passenger side front tire had noticeably more wear than the rear tire I had replaced with a Thunderbird tire. With the driver side front tire delaminating as I was starting onto the Mission Bridge I am feeling cautious.

Cautious to the point of removing the front tire and replacing it with the rear tire, even though the rear tire had a slow leak. Why tempt fate over the possible need to change the front tire if the leak worsens? Especially the way things are going with me and the car.

Lifting Tom’s heavy floor jack into and out of the trunk may have been a chore, but the advantages of using a floor jack to change all four tires made the effort a wise decision.

Fortune also favoured me in having put the extension cord, when last it was used [to power the battery charger to charge the battery the last time a car problem had resulted in a dead battery] in one of the two rational places to put an extension. This fortunate turn of fate, putting the extension cord away in a rational location, at least made powering up the battery charger straight forward.

Of course as I sit here putting the finishing touches on this latest instalment in the ongoing saga of me and The Cougar I can feel in my muscles and joints that I am going to pay a price for changing those four tires tomorrow and probably for an additional day or two. Did I mention I had to reach into the back seat of the Cougar and pull out the folding stool because I needed a rest break (or two)?

Oh to be five again – but only if I get to keep lessons learned and wisdom gained.

This brings the tale of the Cougar up to Now.

Leaving me without a great deal more to say except – HELP, I need to find a replacement before something not easily repaired grounds the Cougar – and me – or before they come to take me away Ha-ha, Ho-ho, Hee-hee-haa-haa to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time…….

‘Public’ facilities not very public accessible

I ran into an acquaintance I had not seen in a while who, knowing how I feel about City council’s priorities and behaviours, felt I would provide a sympathetic ear to his need to vent.

Both he and his wife work and even though they are frugal it is difficult to make ends meet these days – a struggle an ever increasing number of Canadians and Abbotsford citizens share.

The fees the City of Abbotsford charges for the use of its athletic fields has pushed the cost of playing soccer (and other sports) to the level that, while they might be able scrimp enough to pay for one child, paying for two kids is not possible. Leaving, in fairness, none of the kids playing soccer.

I pointed out that council needed as many dollars as possible to pay the multi-million dollar subsidies for council’s ego/vanity projects – the ASEC and Abbotsford’s professional hockey team – and their subsidizing the purchase of a professional hockey team for a group of well connected citizens.

His reply involved several anatomically challenging, if not out and out impossible, suggestions. When he inquired as to how one qualifies for City subsidies to purchase a professional hockey team I had to inform him that since the makeup of the ‘ownership group’ was deemed knowledge to important (to damning?) to let the taxpayers (the people footing the bills for all the multi-million dollar subsidies) know, there was no way to know the relationship between councillors and the Heat ownership.

Sadly he is not the only person I know who has children that cannot participate in sports because of the cost Abbotsford charges to use its fields. Growing numbers of young people are being denied participation in sports activities because their families cannot afford the fees.

Ironic is it not? The airwaves are full of government advertisements about the fact children need 60 minutes of physical activity a day to be healthy and the City of Abbotsford is making it impossible for growing numbers of children to participate in physical exercise.

Personally, I think that a City’s priority should be the participation of young people in sports and activities. If we are going to give multi-million dollars subsidies to sports facilities it should be facilities for the young and other citizens – not for professional athletes and certainly not to subsidize the purchase of a professional hockey team by well connected citizens.

But then I also think that the purpose of public recreation facilities is to provide an affordable place for citizens to exercise. Unlike the current council which uses public facilities as another source of funds to subsidize (to the tune of several millions of dollars per year) a facility for professional athletes to use and to provide multi-million dollars yearly subsidies for the purchase of the professional hockey team.

Council talks about the need for amenities to attract new citizens to Abbotsford and to encourage young people to remain in Abbotsford rather than moving elsewhere. Yet the fee’s council charges for the use of amenities are prohibitive.

There is no difference between having no amenities and having amenities nobody can afford to use or can afford to use only infrequently.

That is why in Abbotsford, in the good old days before this spendthrift council, a monthly or yearly membership for the use of city facilities was the lowest (or among the lowest) in the city.

These days, under this spendthrift council, the prices at city facilities are the highest (or among the highest) and fewer and fewer families and citizens can afford to use city facilities.

I have been, until now, a pass holder and regular user of city pools to swim. I have watched as those I had shared the city facilities with over the years became members of private facilities (as I would have if one of them had an appropriately sized pool) – because membership at a private facilities is many $$$$$ less.

I have lost count of how often I have been told by other citizens and families how extremely limited their ability to use ‘public’ amenities have become because of admission costs.

In other cities, the city facilities ensure the general public access to regular exercise and the private facilities are the haunts of the better off who can afford higher fees.

In Abbotsford it is the private facilities that best ensure the general public’s access to exercise, while the city facilities are the haunts of those who can afford the fees at city facilities.

But then in other cities, city facilities are to serve the needs of citizens and not the need of council to pay for its ego/vanity projects.

I Beg to Differ

Reading the column “Does Jonathon Van Maren Speak For The Faith Community” there are several points I must disagree with Mr Archer on.

Foremost is the fact that whatever Van Maren and his acolytes may be, they are clearly and undeniably NOT Christians. They cannot even be said to be christians.

Van Maren and his acolytes are like those who claim or are said to be christians, who harangue people with their raving diatribes about the need to keep Christ in Christmas when they should be focused on getting Christ into Christian, into themselves, into their behaviours, into their lives and into their souls, their essence.

Van Maren quotes from the bible and evokes God as the authorities for his pernicious teachings, malignant ideology and repugnant behaviours. While that may allow him to claim to be a Biblian or a Goddian it has nothing to do with being Christian.

Being Christian requires one to base how one lives on the teachings of Christ, a reality that most of those who like to label themselves Christians forget or more likely ignore or live in denial of.

Why “… forget or more likely ignore or live in denial of”? Christ taught not just through his words but through his actions, the way he lived his life. He did not judge, or hate, was about forgiveness – no matter what the trespass – about sharing with those in need [and not simply the crumbs left after one had all the luxuries and toys one wants), he was not about things and possessions but people’s needs, about loving thy enemies, about not throwing the first stone, about loving thy brothers (fellow man) as thyself, about doing unto others as you would have done unto you.

In other words: struggling to live the teachings, the actions, the life of Christ requires a great deal of those who seek to be Christians. It is far, far easier to call yourself christian than it is to be Christian.

Mr Archer questioned why the leaders of the Christian community are silent on Van Maren and his acolytes. The answer is that those he refers to as the leaders of the Christian community no more practice and live as a follower of Christ (and thus are no more Christian) than do the preponderance of those who lay claim to being Christian.

Which is undoubtedly why Ghandi observed: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Christianity exists only where it is practiced. Tao of James

Mr Archers second major error was in calling Van Maren and his acolytes bullies. They are not bullies who bullied. They are thugs who assaulted – traumatized – children with pornography (obscene [abominable; disgusting; repulsive, depraved ] drawings, photographs, or the like). Thugs whose actions make them child abusers.

Recall that child abuse includes the emotional mistreatment of children. So any act or series of acts of commission that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child is child abuse. These acts can occur in schools or communities the child interacts with.

The images Van Maren assaulted and caused harm to the students with were more traumatic and potentially damaging than simply exposing himself to the children would have been.

Worse, Van Maren and his acolytes committed this act of assaulting the students minds for their own self gratification. The only purpose for placing their pornography where children would be assaulted by the pornography was to attract attention to and for themselves. The kind of ‘look at me’ attention grabbing behaviour one would expect from the 5 and 6 year olds Van Maren and acolytes assaulted with their pornography attention grabbing display.

Van Maren and those who helped him perpetrate his harmful and abusive treatment of the children should be charged with child abuse and have their names placed on the appropriate local, provincial and national registries of Child Molesters.

Perfectly Rational, Totally Irrational

Having been a Chartered Accountant the financial, planning, management and leadership skills and abilities, together with experience, gained over a quarter century on this career path have proven useful in a broad array of areas and ways.

It does however, come with a few drawbacks I never would have anticipated having to deal with.

My income is fixed, has been fixed at the same level for the last 5+ years; my living and working expenses are few, straight forward and over the years have been creeping or leaping upward – a reality all Canadians are having to deal with. Have you checked the prices of yachts lately?

As a matter of mental wellness I have avoided putting pen to paper to draw up a budget. This decision is not about being in denial after all:

Reality does not care what you want to be true, it does not care what you believe to be true. Reality simply is. Tao of James

It is a decision about dealing with the reality I live with – depression, anxiety, panic and a propensity as an adult child of alcoholism for self sabotage.

Unfortunately with the fixed nature of revenue (income), the few expenses left after years of paring away expenses (haircuts, clothing, food, etc) and the fixed nature of many of the remaining expenses (insurance, phone, internet) budgeting and cash flow statements/analysis are so simple I can do them in my head.

Or more accurately I cannot NOT do budgets and cash flows in my head and so the train wreck that is the financial reality of my future is a constant and unavoidable awareness in my head. The slippage for phone and internet bills already has me slipping a few days later in paying them every month, with the point in time when I reach the point the services are terminated because I am too far behind inexorably moving nearer and nearer.

I watch the numbers unwind as more expenses must be shed until the point where revenue is sufficient to pay only the rent and I become in effect a prisoner in my home, unable to go anywhere except by walking. Which as a result of physical limitations and the pain that results from these limitations, places a maximum distance on travel of 100 – 200 meters.

Of course without food or the ability to obtain food the ability to pay the rent (at least as long as it does not go up) is rather moot. You can live homeless, you do not survive long foodless.

The inability to NOT have this awareness of budget and cash flow and the approaching ‘economic collapse’ and its (without a significant change in personal financial reality) inevitability has demanded and occupied space in the continuous awareness area of my mind.

I seem, at least for now, unable to put this awareness aside and focus on getting on with life.

Instead I find myself wanting to get out from under the stress, wishing that my ‘stuff’ was in storage and I could ‘solve’ the approaching time when economic reality exerts its negative consequences on my life by moving out from under the looming crash and into my car.

Circumstances had me living in my car before so there is no fear of the unknown, I know what needs to be done to survive living in your car. Indeed services added since I was last living in my car make living in your car simpler and more doable today.

In a way living in your car simplifies your life because you have to focus on doing what you need to in order to survive.

At some point either a rent increase or the need for food will force me out of my home and either into my car or onto the street.

There is a great deal to be said for choosing when, rather than waiting until there is no choice (based on the experience of having reached that no choice point).

Ironically a move to the car improves cash flow as one loses the $375 rent portion of revenue but gains the cash difference between the $375 and actual rent paid.

One of the real advantages for me of having a fixed address is internet access, an access that will in the near future be lost as it is the next item on the chopping block of financial expenditure reductions necessity. Which means internet access must be obtained at the library and the major incentive for struggling to preserve having a ‘home’ ceases to exist.

When the only use made of home becomes as the place one sleeps, is the money spent on gas to drive ‘home’ and the money spend on a ‘home’ that could be available for keeping the car in shape and running or to meet emergencies, a wise use of extremely limited financial resources?

Consider as well that I have no land line phone service. My only phone is a cell phone which is not only mobile (a service seeming designed for those with non fixed address) but provides email and messaging.

There are other points one can cite in support of choosing to join the growing community of people in Abbotsford whose automobile has become, among its other attributes, their home arguably a perfectly rational choice.

Yet friends, mental health professionals and others maintain that even thinking about abandoning my home, moving into and living in my car is totally irrational thinking.

Which is what I would be telling someone else if they were thinking of surrendering and moving into their car. That they needed to keep working and plugging away at things and see what develops or happens to change their financial circumstances (employment etc).

But watching the numbers and the future unroll in my mind makes the struggle with depression, anxiety and the urge to panic an ongoing, daily battle complicated by an ongoing struggle not to give into an act of self sabotage.

Living with mental illness and the quest for mental wellness is enough of a challenge on its own.

I really don’t need the additional headaches and stress that come with constant awareness of the budget and cash flow realities and the inevitable negative consequences of this financial future.

At times the urge to panic, to escape is overwhelming – no matter how irrational those actions would be.

I really wish……but then……

Reality does not care what you want to be true, it does not care what you believe to be true. Reality simply is. Tao of James

Some days, to many days, running down the middle of the road trying to pull my hair out and screaming Arrrggggghhhhhh seems so appealing – and so rationally irrational.

The Whole Tooth

Finally, I remembered!

I had been trying to remember since late August to contact the Dental Clinic at the Abbotsford Food Bank to make an appointment to have a small cavity taken care of before I have another tooth deteriorate to the point it needs to be extracted.

Poverty is hard on teeth. Bad teeth not only cause severe appearance problems, they also have health consequences; health consequences that can be life threatening and require hospitalization.

Before you dismiss ‘severe appearance problems’ consider the cost to both society and a gentleman I met while he was attending the Triangle Resources program. He had worked hard at getting sober and remaining sober and was going to Triangle in preparation for finding a job. His teeth were in such terrible condition that when he spoke, but especially when he smiled (which he did fairly often then), … his teeth were so ugly it was off putting.
Looking for a place to rent, looking for a job, his teeth gave the people he was meeting a terrible impression and he kept getting No – until his spirit was wounded to the point he slipped back into drug use and homelessness.

I have known those whose teeth worsen to the point they abscess and cause a blood infection. Those to whom this happens end up in hospital on IV antibiotics to fight the infection, some are so bad they need dental surgery.

One of the sick ironies of the income assistance system is that it easier to get help to get all your teeth pulled and dentures than it is to get access to dental care.

Suddenly finding yourself homeless and witnessing the pain and problems, the carnage, bad teeth cause … well you live in dread of having any dental problems – and if you did have dental problems you lived in pain until the problem reached the point of a health problem requiring hospitalization.
At least I lived in dread of having any dental problems.

Dread – until the dental clinic at the food bank opened and poverty stopped being a barrier to dental care.

I remember thinking ‘that is a good idea’ when Dave told me they would soon open a dental clinic at the Food Bank and to let people know. When an old filling caused a tooth to break my thinking about the dental clinic changed to ‘great idea, something desperately needed in this community, cannot open soon enough’. Funny the effect need can have on one’s opinion of something.

Fortunately the dentist was able to clean up and save that tooth.

I was not so fortunate with the next tooth to break around an old filling. There was no way to save the tooth and it had to be extracted. The extraction itself was not nearly as traumatic as the mental trauma of no longer having “all my teeth”. On the positive side was the fact I avoided a lot of pain, infection, illness and a hospital visit.

While they were taking X-rays of my teeth as part of evaluating what to do about the broken tooth they found one of my wisdom teeth was rotten and in need of extraction; they also found a small cavity in another tooth.

I agreed to come in on a Saturday so that dental students out from UBC could get some hands on, real world experience as a way for me to pay forward the care being given my teeth.

LOL – and real world experience they did get. That wisdom tooth had been in my mouth for decades and it did not want to leave. The upside was that they had administered the long lasting anaesthetic (and a goodly amount as well); the downside was watching as heavy steel tool after tool went into my mouth – and came out bloody, listening to the conversation/coaching on the best way to break the tooth into quarters, watching (feeling) the strain as they struggled to wrestle the first piece out.

Blackly humorous was watching/eavesdropping as the local dentist explained to the student about not prescribing pain medication to the clinics clientele (many of who have addiction problems). Hey, after over an hour in that chair … you either found the humour in the situation or wallow in feeling sorry for yourself.

The really fortunate thing is that the freezing lasted long enough to get home and get several doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen before the freezing wore off.

During the summer I had the opportunity to get a second teeth cleaning. It was a long time in the chair and I (shudder) found myself wondering how long it would have been if there had not been a first cleaning (itself a long session).

Humans are strange. The threat of cavities and losing teeth lacked the motivational power that the thought of having to face a dental hygienist with teeth made dirtier because I did not honour their work by looking after my teeth. Thus motivated I brush daily and floss several times a week.

And as I brush/floss I wonder how many others are taking good care of their teeth because a dental hygienist donated their time to clean those teeth?

Since that cleaning in August and being told to book an appointment to have the small cavity taken care of while it is still a small cavity, I have been trying to remember to get in touch with the clinic on Monday. Monday since this is the one day a week the scheduler who books the appointments is in the office.

In a Duh! moment as I was entering the dental appointment into my phone’s calendar I realized that in order to have remembered to make an appointment in a more timely manner I should have put making an appointment into the phone’s calendar – sort of an appointment to make an appointment.

The fortunate thing for me on a personal basis is that I should be able to have this cavity taken care of before it costs me another tooth.

On the unfortunate side of things is that the dental professionals do not get to see the effect their time and skills has on the patients of the dental clinic.

Such as the gentleman speaking about how wonderful it was to eat without pain for the first time in years. Or those who were looking forward to getting dentures now that their dental issues had been addressed and they could get dentures. Or see how happy/proud they are when they get dentures and not only are they able to eat and chew more than soups and other soft foods but see, every time they look in a mirror, the improvement dentures make to their appearance.

The dental professionals don’t have people coming up to them, giving them a big smile, pointing to their teeth and saying ‘check this out’ after having (for many if not all) the first visit of their lives with a dental hygienist to clean their teeth. The dentists and hygienists don’t see the increase in people brushing their teeth or asking for toothpaste and/or a toothbrush so they can brush their teeth. See the effect on demeanour and self esteem that having more presentable teeth brings about.

They donate their time and do all this work but don’t get to hear their patients talking to each other about how great it is to have had a dental problem taken care of or to have had their teeth cleaned. Nor do they see their patients telling others with dental problems that they have to go to the dental clinic where, not only will their dental problems be taken care of but they will be treated like ‘real human beings.’

They donate their time and do all this work – and really don’t get a appreciation of the effect their efforts have on those who, without the donation of time and skills by this group of dental professionals, would be unable to get the dental care so badly needed. Nor do the professionals get a true understanding of how much their work is appreciated by their patients.

In speaking of those whose work at the dental clinic has such and effect on people’s lives I would be most remiss if I did not speak of Lala, Keeper of the Sanatorium, whose skill and knowledge keeps the clinic, with its diverse cast of dental professionals and patients functioning.

On behalf of all the patients I offer thanks for 2010 and wish all a Happy and Prosperous (and Skillful) 2011.