April 26, 2010

diggin’ it

Posted in shit happening, Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:40 pm by ben

This is the second time I have been on my computer in almost three weeks.  I didn’t think it was possible for me to go this long but apparently it is and I didn’t spontaneously combust or go into DT’s.  My iphone is to blame.  I can check emails and such instantly on there so actually having to deal with dial-up again has become work.  3G has ruined me for all other forms of internet.  The only thing I can’t do (easily) on my phone is blog.  I could do it but I’d lose my mind typing a real post on such a tiny keyboard and my sanity (such as it is) is worth more than that… slightly more.  It’s not like I really have a lot to say anyway, as soon you too will note.

I’ve been gardening and yardworking like a fiend.  I am over the moon that I actually have something to work with this year.  We got a load of manure from a neighbor and I spent two days sifting it through a screen to break up the lumps and remove the rocks and sticks.  Sticks and stones won’t break my bones but wholly fuck is it backbreaking and wrist-cramping to filter them out of shit.  My dad helped me build an 8’x16’ raised bed for veggies and it’s awesome but the tough part about building any garden in this area is finding dirt to fill it.  We live in the Rocky mountains and they are indeed rocky.  There is no topsoil here, just a layer of dust that blows across the rocks.  A little birdie told me that she knew of a fellow who had some peat moss for sale and it turns out this guy is friends with my parents so I had them put in a call for some goods.  For 100$ we got a dump truck load of the most beautiful peat delivered to my back yard!  Sweet!!  I doubt anyone gets as excited about shit and dirt as I do.

So the giant new garden is full, turned and ready but I have to wait another couple weeks until we stop dipping into the negatives overnight to plant or all of my seedlings will freeze.  The seedlings that I planted in February!!  Most of them are full-on plants at this point.  My living room has become a greenhouse with over 200 plants that are eager to hit the outdoors so that they may go forth and be fruitful… or veggie-ful.  I have three different kinds of tomatoes which is funny because I am not particularly crazy about tomatoes.  There are peppers, pumpkins, three varieties of squash, gourds (I am a gourdener!) and a bunch of flowers.  I don’t usually grow flowers from seed but I swore I would not be buying annuals this year which means I had to start them myself.

I have this thing about annuals.  For those not in the gardening know, annuals are the flowers that have to be planted every year (annually!),  as opposed to perennials which return year after year making them a far wiser investment.  Annuals are lovely and showy and smell good but they remind me of strippers.  I’m like the guy who goes into the strip joint (garden center) to just have a look at all of the pretty things.  I swear I won’t spend any money on something that will only give me a small window of pleasure but once I am there I find myself shelling out for lapdance after lapdance and shoving 20’s into g-strings.  I can’t help myself, it’s a sickness!  By the time I leave I’m broke and feeling the pang of regret that I didn’t invest in a girlfriend (perennial) that would give me years of happiness instead of that sexy bitch with the big blossoms.

Wow, can I stretch a metaphor!?

The asparagus that I planted last year is popping up and it is so sweet and tender straight from the garden that it will never make it to the table.  It makes a lovely snack right out of the dirt!  My strawberries however did not fare so well over the winter.  Most of the plants are dead so I am looking to replace them.  The jury is still out on the blueberries, they don’t seem to be dead but they aren’t doing anything either… comatose maybe?  And I did some research to find out what went wrong with my raspberries last year and I think that they didn’t produce because I didn’t water them enough.  I am rectifying that this year… now I’ll probably drown the suckers.

Three weeks away from the computer and this is the best I have.  Sad for you.  ‘Specially the non-gardeners who are subjected to these filthy ramblings of a dirty girl.

We did build a fire pit in the back yard, that is exciting!  We’ve had the bricks for six years so it was well past time to put them together.  It looks a little like a well.  Actually it looks a lot like a well, maybe I will make a “Timmy” to put at the bottom of it.  We went to the lake (which is little more than mud at the moment) last weekend and kicked off camping season a month early.  It was a bit chilly but I got to rest my body and spend some time in “the library” by the fire, reading.  I am half way through Stephen King’s Under The Dome.  I am having a hard time putting it down so it must be good.  He rarely disappoints me.  Anyway before we came home from camping we stopped at a slate pile and picked up some of the flatter rocks to put around the “well” as a kind of rock patio.  It is going to take some hard work to get it all leveled and set in sand but it will hopefully look less like something baby Jessica could get stuck in by the time we’re done.

In other news, we may be the last people in the damn country to do so but we are finally getting our passports.  No plan (or money) to go anywhere yet but hopefully someday and when the finances become available we want to be ready.  It’s not all that complicated but it’s certainly a pain in the ass, I didn’t know what to put for hair color, I don’t even know what my natural hair color is anymore!

I think that’s it.  I hope nobody has cardiac arrested from all of the excitement.

One little story before I go.

Nana is still kicking and just when we think she’s checking out, she springs back.  They play a weekly Bingo game in the home where she lives and usually she is too out of it to play but last week she sat in on the game.  She stamped her card as the numbers were drawn and excitedly she shouted “Bingo!”

The lady across from her said, “No dear, you stamped a number that wasn’t called, you don’t have a Bingo.”

To which my Nana replied, “Fuck you!”

She might be losing her shit (literally) but bless the woman for being able to hold her expletives.


April 6, 2010

points of view

Posted in shit happening tagged , , , at 9:20 pm by ben

I try to be the kind of person who looks at everything from as many perspectives as I can.  I make every attempt to see where a person comes from and what their motives are before I make any kind of judgment.  I was not always this way.  Age, experience and the past week have enlightened me a little.

My brother Bob, his wife Candy and their three teenage kids were here last week.  This is the first time they have been here since I made peace with him three years ago (after several years of not speaking) so that they would come out for my dad’s 60th birthday party.  This was the first time they have ever stayed to visit for longer than a few hours… ever.  I was beyond shocked when Candy (who I have always had issues and a barely cordial relationship with) called me to say they wanted to come spend spring break here to visit us and my parents for the week.  I was too surprised to even question why they were coming.

Candy puts us all on guard.  She has a history with my family that is something we always felt was barely shy of evil.  She has hurt us.  I could reel off many instances where she appeared to go out of her way to damage us and our relationship with Bob but at this point that would serve no purpose and I really want to get to the good stuff.  It is enough to say that she puts our hairs on end and makes us wary of her every move as if she might attack at any moment.

The visiting was all quite superficial on the first day. Most of the chatter surrounded the kids and funny anecdotes.  Since we see them so rarely it was easy to keep conversation light.  It wasn’t until the evening of day two that things changed.  I invited the kids down to play Wii after dinner and my brother and sil came along to hang out.  Once we started talking the floodgates flew open.

Candy had been preparing for the conversation, I could tell, since she spilled her guts about a few things.  She said she was very shy and never felt like we liked her so she kept her distance.  We saw someone who didn’t talk to us, didn’t seem to want to fit in to the family and appeared to look down on us in general.  She said she had been hearing from my brother what a nightmare all of our family gatherings were so that put her on edge before she even arrived.  I still haven’t figured out why Bob had such issues with the family (everyone thinks he’s Mr. Wonderful) but again perspective comes into play.  Bob saw things differently than the rest of us.  He was uncomfortable in those situations as a kid and they grew in his mind and festered and became more and more unbearable as he got older.  Candy picked up on it, reflected it, and it made her an outsider.

That was where it started.

Bob also admits to having serious middle child syndrome.  He saw me and our youngest brother get everything we wanted (material and otherwise) while he felt slighted and even blinded to what he received.  He had many misconceptions about what we were given.  He didn’t know I paid for my first car and that our brother’s trip to Europe was earned through fundraising etc. etc.  His memory is selective, like he stored the bad stuff and forgot the good stuff.  Once we talked about it for a while he began to see that maybe not all of what he remembered was accurate and it opened him up for some forgiveness.  To me, Bob was the one who got away with everything and Chris (the baby) was spoiled rotten.  Chris knows he was the golden child and Bob admits he was a shithead of a kid and that I got the worst of mom’s hand… and her vicious tongue.

My mother has often tells the story of why she stopped working.  I was 11, Bob was 9 and the baby was a year old.  My dad worked away from home during most of our younger years and he was rarely around on weeknights.  I would go home after school and have to watch the boys and prepare dinner while my mom worked evenings at a diner.  I was a very responsible kid and I took my “job” very seriously, plus I feared the hand of mom so I tried hard not to fuck up or giver her any reason at all to find fault with my efforts.  Bob hated Chris.  He was jealous.  For eight years he was the spoiled mommy’s boy and he lost that title to this mini interloper.  Most of my time babysitting was spent playing referee as Bob tormented his younger brother endlessly.  Chris told me recently that he used to keep a tally on a calendar of the days when Bob didn’t make him cry.  He said there weren’t very many.  Sad.

One afternoon, while mother was working and I was fixing dinner,  Chris found his way (crawled) into my parents bedroom and ate a bottle of baby aspirin.  When I went to check on him he was still playing with the open (and empty) container.  I called mom and she came home and took Chris to the hospital where they pumped his stomach.  He was ok, no harm done and nobody was more relieved than me.  My mom still refers to this as “The day Brenda tried to kill Christopher.” And since I was so irresponsible she had to quit her job.

As Bob and I were talking this incident came up as one of those things our mother wouldn’t let go of, he began to get teary.  It has only been the last few years that I have wondered how the baby got the lid off of that pill bottle.  I assumed that it had not been on tight or that he managed to chew it off somehow.  “I gave him the pills.” Bob admitted.  “I didn’t know you got blamed for it.”

I didn’t even know how to react.  I didn’t ask him if he was trying to kill our brother or what his agenda was… mostly because I didn’t want to know.  He thought he should confess to mom.  I said “No.  She wouldn’t understand.  She would be hurt, angry and bitter and it’d put a whole new wedge in the family.  The only reason to tell her would be to exonerate me and to cleanse your conscience.  I know the truth, I wasn’t irresponsible (she should never have left a child in charge of children to start with!!) and your confession to me is enough.”

“But she will always blame you.”

“She does anyway.  I can take it, I have for thirty years.”

I had a lot of revelations that night and I hope this is a new beginning for us.  Mom and Bob had a talk after I helped her to see where they were coming from and explained the whole perspective and perception phenomena to her.  She (as well as the rest of us) is at least making an effort to see beyond her own blinders and that is a start.  I want Bob and his family to be as to the rest of us as we are to each other.  It means a lot to me to be part of his kids’ lives, to be a real aunt to them.  I feel like at least some of the weight of the past has been lifted and although there were a lot of bridges burned in the past I am hopeful that we’ve managed to look beyond the gap and build a footing or two for some new ones.

Memory is all about perception.  People can have the exact same experience yet see and recall it completely differently.  The best we can do is try to find some common ground and look beyond our own understanding and acknowledge that nobody is right and nobody is wrong and accept history for what it is.  We can’t change the past so it’s better to look forward and  make a better future.

March 13, 2010

fair trade

Posted in shit happening tagged , , at 5:30 pm by ben

“Life isn’t fair and nobody promised it would be.”

My therapist had me write this on a post-it and put it on my bathroom mirror.  This was about sixteen years ago, I am not currently in therapy although I could probably use it now more than ever.  Or maybe I just want some psychotropic drugs, to take the edge off.

I kid!  Mostly.

A friend of mine recently asked me if I really thought I needed therapy.  I told her I have more issues than National Geographic… although my tits are higher than most of the women in that magazine.  I can’t flip my boobs over my shoulders FTW!

My life (particularly my childhood) has been riddled with injustice.  It wasn’t fair that my brother was allowed to stay up ‘til nine, when I was his age I had to go to bed at eight thirty!  It wasn’t fair that my mom made popcorn when she thought we were asleep so she wouldn’t have to share.  It wasn’t fair that my parents gave my brother his first car and I had to pay for mine.  It wasn’t fair that I looked after my teeth and still had cavities while my lazy sibling never brushed or flossed and always had perfect check-ups.  There is no worse feeling for a kid than to know you’ve done the work and someone else gets the accolades (rubber balls or stickers as it were).  His picture went on the wall with fanfare, I got the “tsk” of  shame and an appointment for yet another filling.

Through my teens it didn’t get any better.  It wasn’t fair that the boy I liked preferred my best friend.  It wasn’t fair that other kids could eat all the junk food they wanted and never gain an ounce while I was on the eternal diet.

I could go on but I don’t want you all sobbing on your computers and getting tears in the circuitry and electrocuting yourselves.

Now just because I found so much inequality through my life doesn’t mean I kvetch about it.  I’m not a whiner by nature but I am a rememberer.  I might forgive, but I never forget.  I bitch about stuff on here and my friends have heard it on ocasion but generally I try not to be that person.  I know women who are all about the negative, “Oh woe is me, everything sucks and I am so hard done by.” Eat a bullet if it’s that bad.

I am callous.

Not really.  In person I would be kind.  In text it’s easier to be bitchy.

So where am I going with all of this?  I have no fucking idea.  Sometimes these things take on a life of their own and I get led astray.

My cousin/business partner Trixie, her husband, their kids and her parents are all in California for the month of March.  My own parents are headed to Vegas for two weeks and then to California to spend a few days with the family.  It’s not enough that I get left behind, I also get swamped at work (looking after her clients) plus I get dead Nana duty.

My mom had the papers drawn up last week.  If my grandmother dies while they are gone I have to deal with her remains.  Now it’s not like I have to perform an autopsy or do her hair and make-up or anything, I just have to deal with the cremation and her ashes until everyone is home and we can do some sort of memorial (she doesn’t want a funeral).  It’s already been decided that they won’t cut their vacation short if Nana kicks it.  There is no point.  She won’t be going anywhere.

What are the odds?

Better than me winning the lottery.

Grandma has Dementia/Alzheimer’s and there is nothing left on her cracker but a trail where the cheese slid off.  She is on a swift decline, most days she is completely out of it.  She doesn’t recognize anyone and she’s all but stopped talking, unless she wants hot chocolate, she is obsessed with hot chocolate.  But, in fairness maybe it’s not obsession as much as she forgets she’s had one (or six) already that day.  She has had two mini strokes and she is now incontinent.  For her sake I hope it ends soon.  There is no dignity in shitting your pants and not knowing if you’re Arthur or Martha.  We put our pets down when they are old or ill.  We spare them the pain and indignity, why can’t we do the same for people.  My grandmother would be mortified if she knew she’d go this route.  She was far too classy to go out this way.  That is the epitome of unfair.

So, while everyone else is funning and sunning, I will do what needs to be done here whatever that entails because no matter how unfair the situation is for me, it’s so much worse for my grandmother.  When it’s my turn I hope that with a little help from Karma someone will be there for me, and that there will be a better way to go.

I am writing a new affirmation for my mirror.  “Suck it up Princess, life is hard… the alternative is worse.”

March 3, 2010

true patriot love

Posted in shit happening tagged , , , at 4:28 am by ben

The patriotism is running high here in the great not-so-white north.   From sea to shining sea we are celebrating.  We love our country and without being gauche or in your face we’ve become a nation of red and white wearing, flag wavers.  I’m really digging it.

Canada tends to be a bit like the wallflower at a high school dance.  She is content to watch others in the spotlight, she applauds the prom queen without malice or petty jealousy and she’s pretty happy to be at the party even if her dance card isn’t full.  (“Dance card” is me showing my age… not that I am quite old enough to have ever had one.) When she does dance, she doesn’t need a partner (or she can choose one of the same sex) and she bops to her own beat even if it’s not quite as popular as what the other kids are doing.  These Olympics have made her the belle of the ball, it’s given her a little taste of the limelight and I think she likes it.

The furor is over the 2010 Winter Olympics.  We had high hopes of finally winning a gold medal on home soil and instead we broke the record for the most gold medals ever won in a winter Olympics.  This is huge for Canada, though in all sincerity we’re the kind of people who take pride in effort as well as achievements.  Our athletes and all of the people involved with the games did us proud.  It’s not just about winning, we’re not the type to brag (most of us anyway) but finally we are more than just a cold weather joke.  We’ve shown the world that we have what it takes to win and throw a wicked shindig.

It’s been said that we have no culture, that because we are a melting pot we don’t really know who we are.  I disagree.  We know exactly who we are, we are everyone from everywhere.  This is why we are tolerant.  This is why we don’t discriminate.  We aren’t a melting pot, we are multicultural and there is a difference.  Melting pot infers that we all must blend into one.  The only people who have been here forever are the First Nations, the rest of us came from somewhere else.  It would be hypocritical to expect immigrants to become us when we’re not exactly living in teepees and eating pemmican ourselves.  What makes us special is that in this country blending is not necessary, we don’t just appreciate individuality we embrace it.  From one end of this land to the other are entire communities and communities within communities celebrating their culture.  Vancouver has the largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco, the east coast is a bizarre and wonderful Celtic mix and there are little Italy’s, India’s, Poland’s, Ukraine’s etc. all over the place and my own town was founded by Swiss guides.  Our culture, our heritage is that of the immigrant.  We all strive to give our children a better life than we had, we share with our neighbors and help them out whenever they need a hand whether it’s building a barn or rebuilding Haiti.  We preach and practice compassion and a “live and let live” philosophy.  I am proud to live in a country where my freedom really means something, where my voice is heard and no religion or religious ideology (or idiocy) is forced down my throat.  I can choose my faith as I can choose to have an abortion, marry another woman and smoke weed… all at the same time if I want!

What ties us all together?  It’s a shared experience in a land where we can live free of persecution, full of hope and opportunity.

We believe that health care is a right not a privilege.  Our system (like our country and indeed those of us in it) is not without flaws but we’ll keep working on it until we get it right.  We are of hardy stock up here, perseverance is something we’ve gotten pretty good at.

Something is different in this country today, we might be walking a little taller, we might even be strutting a little, and dammit, we should be!  We rocked it, on and off the podium.  I think Canadians have always been proud of who and what we are, this whole Olympic thing just gives us a reason to shout it out.

February 16, 2010

herculean efforts

Posted in shit happening tagged , , at 5:06 am by ben

I have always been somewhat anti-Olympics.  For as long as I can remember (and at my age it’s a miracle that I can recall anything) there has been arbitrary and unfair judging, the professional vs amateur debate, bribery allegations, corruption and scandals within the IOC and numerous inconsistencies in the games themselves.  The IOC is not accountable for it’s actions and without accountability there is no justice.  If there is no fair play in the biggest competition in the world how can we expect kids to behave on the playgrounds?

My biggest beef with the Olympics is the amount of money spent on the event.  In our current financial situation we should be reserving our resources for healthcare, infrastructure (beyond the lower mainland) education and the betterment of or country in general.  The dough that’s been divvied for these games could have done some really positive things for this country.  Some would argue that hosting the Olympics are positive and that they offer us the opportunity to showcase Canada and to let the world know who we are and what we’re about.  That all sounds lovely and kumbaya and shit but I am pretty certain that the entire planet is already well aware that Canada is peaceful, gentle and polite and the only thing harsh about us is our winters… although this year ironically is quite the exception to that rule.

As of the beginning of February, the total cost of the Games, including all the improvements for the region is estimated to be about $6 billion.  About 580 million was allocated from the taxpayer budget (in a country of 33 million people) and I am not convinced that we’ll see a return but I know we’ll feel the deficit.  Projected revenues to the city and province are expected to be in the range of $10 billion.  Whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen.  It’s a big risk.

Was all of this spending necessary?  I think not.  The Torch relay, for example, that was intended to get the country fired up (pun intended) about the event began in Victoria and spent five days on Vancouver Island before flying to the Yukon, crossed the northern region of the country to the Atlantic coast, then proceeded west through the provinces to arrive in Vancouver for the opening ceremony.  The relay lasted 106 days and covered 45,000 km, it passed through 1,000 communities and grand celebrations were held in 200 towns and cities.  The cost of the entire trip was $30 million, with two thirds of this funded by the federal government.

The torch traveled to within 50 km of every town in the country.  Sounds nice, yes?  Necessary?  Not so much.  I will admit that when it arrived in my village we attended the event as did the majority of our populace.  It was undoubtedly the greatest turnout this town has seen for anything.  It was exciting and full of fanfare and entertainment and I couldn’t help but get sucked into the mob induced enthusiasm.  That said and upon closer scrutiny it was really little more than a smokescreen so we wouldn’t notice the real spending and an advertising opportunity for the corporate sponsors.  Maybe I am just a negative Nelly, maybe the relay did bring the country together.  If my cynicism is unjustified it wouldn’t be the first time but I couldn’t help but feel we’d been sold some colas and some banking and snowed (pun intended again) on this whole Olympic deal.

Further on the financial note I also think that some countries have taken to buying and building Olympic athletes and the purity of the sports are marred by the fact that those who can afford it get better training/coaches/facilities etc. than the countries who simply don’t have the funds.  I find it ironic that what began as a pure competition where buff, naked, young, naked men ran naked and tossed things has now become a penis measuring contest and everybody wears clothes.  And it’s all done in the name of bragging rights because a gold medal and a buck (or four at Starbucks) will buy you a cup of coffee… and for the athlete a longshot at the front of a Wheaties box.

All of my issues aside I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night.  At first I did so with the intent to mock and belittle the extravaganza but I became so engrossed and impressed that the urge to scoff left me completely.  Well, almost completely, I did think what they did to our anthem was ridiculous, I can’t stand Nelly Furtaco and I don’t think she belonged on that stage and the whole Foxy Cleopatra opera chick singing the Olympic hymn was just odd.

I have watched other Olympic ceremonies and maybe I am biased but I think this was by far the most impressive and way beyond spectacular.  Certainly it would be tough to beat the show in Beijing but at 10% of the cost I still count us as the win.  I was awed by the pageantry, impressed with the use of technology (both simple and complex) and goosebumps rose on my flesh as the whales appeared to cross the floor of the stadium.  I rolled my eyes when the poet was introduced and then had to wipe tears from them as he spoke.  Shane Koyczan captured Canada in words as eloquently as anyone could, he took our national pride to a whole new level.  So brilliant.  If you haven’t hear/seen it I highly suggest you check it out on YouTube or read the transcript.  Koyczan really does define Canada as much as one can define a country that is so diverse.

I was blown away that we had the talent and the capability to pull off something of this magnitude.  Of course there was the glitch when the forth pillar of the indoor torch stubbornly refused to rise.  Shit happens.  They made it work.  That is also the Canadian way, we deal and move on, no point crying over faulty mechanics and the inability to get it up.

Something happened after the ceremony, something I didn’t expect at all.  I got a dose of Olympic fever and now I can’t get enough of the games.  I’ve watched all of the coverage from NBC as well as the Canadian reports and I actually find myself cheering aloud… they’re 500 miles away but they hear me.  I am watching sports that I couldn’t give two shits about a week ago and I am doubly excited to see the ones I had some interest in already.  The figure skating is always worth watching no matter who wins the medals.  The other is curling, I love curling.  I know to the untrained eye it’s about as exciting as watching people throw rocks on ice but the game is far more intricate and skillful than it appears… and it helps that I am in love with the third from the Canadian team.  John Morris is my boyfriend, he just doesn’t know it yet.

I fully expect to see the Kevin Martin team take the gold.  I also guarantee that I won’t miss a single game.  If ever there was a time that we should revert to the purity of the original games that had the men competing naked, this would be it.  Then again there is that cold weather shrinkage factor to consider.  I guess the tight black pants will suffice after all.

If there is anything I would like non-Canadians to take away from watching my country, my province, I would hope they see that we truly are kind and generous hosts, that we rejoice in the effort not just the win and that there are far worse ways to be defined than as polite.

I also hope the world finally realizes we don’t live in igloos.

February 2, 2010

bloody hell

Posted in shit happening at 5:12 pm by ben

I had to work on Saturday.  I don’t usually go anywhere near town on weekends but this client was on her way to Mexico on Sunday and she wanted her hair ripped out at the last possible minute.  When I got home I was greeted by the dog and the husband with kisses and tail wagging… respectively.  Though the dog does give kisses, my husband wags something other than his tail when he is happy to see me.

*Side note, he said to me the other morning “I’m just going to put my penis right here and if it happens to go in your vagina, that’s ok.”

I went into my bathroom, got changed, rinsed a facecloth and started to wash my face and my nose started bleeding like a sonofabitch.  I swear I didn’t even pick it!  I am not ashamed to admit that I have done a little nasal excavation on occasion but on that day all I was doing was washing my face.  I wrapped the cloth around my nose and squeezed the nostrils and sat down on my bed.  Twenty minutes later His Highness came in wondering why I was taking so long to get changed.  He gently pulled back the cloth to see if the bleeding had stopped and was greeted with a gush.  I made it to the sink but in seconds my bathroom looked like a scene from a horror movie.  It took an hour and a half for the blood to stop pouring.

My husband wanted me to go to the hospital but I refused.  This same thing happened to me about seven years ago and after several hours of blood loss my dad finally drove me to town (my husband was at work) where they tried everything to make it stop and eventually put a balloon up my nose and inflated it to put pressure on the inside to stop the bleeding.  I had to leave it in for 24 hours with this pump thing hanging out of my face.  It was a nightmare.  I was in no hurry to return for the same treatment.

I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night, I was afraid to breathe wrong and start it up again and my face was sore and felt bruised from all of the pressure.

Sunday morning we went out to the lake for a picnic and some sledding.  I didn’t really feel up to it but we had already committed.  We had a fantastic day, we built a fire, had a picnic and played in the snow.  I even got my arse on a saucer and slid down the hill.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard and felt so young.  It also made me anxious to be camping again.  I don’t think it’ll be too long before we clean up the cabin and start spending the occasional night out there.

When we got home my feet were chilled so I got in the tub to warm up.  Bad move.

The bleeding started again.

You know those movies where someone kills themselves or gets slashed in the bathtub?  That’s how I looked.  I cupped my hands under the flow and ran for the shower, leaving a bloody trail behind me and yet another bathroom crime scene.  I rinsed off as best I could (the sparkles from my bubblebath) and had my husband hold a cloth to my nose so I could towel myself and my hair.  More blood all over the bathroom again after my dear sweet husband already cleaned it up twice.  I sat on the bed and pinched my nose for another twenty minutes and still the blood poured out… or worse, down my throat.  I learned that I would make a terrible vampire, the taste of blood doesn’t do a damn thing for me.

“I’m taking you to the hospital!” he insisted.

I didn’t fight him this time.

We learned that the best way to get priority treatment at the emergency room is by bleeding all over their floors.  While my husband dealt with the paperwork a nurse brought me some kind of super maxi pad as I had soaked the towel I had brought to town.  It turns out that their industrial absorbents are not so absorbent.  My blood spilled over the pad and spattered the tile.  Nice.

They hustled me into the procedure room and the doc saw me immediately.  Hemorrhaging from the face is an express ticket to the front of the line.  He put a new compress on my nose and had me hold it while he started an IV.  He wanted to get some fluid into me, stat!  He soaked some gauze in liquid cocaine (to shrink the vessels, not get high… unfortunately) and jammed it up my nostrils, packing them so tight that my poor nose was stretched to the point I feared it would never return to it’s original shape.

It took about an hour for the blood to stop.  How do I know this?  Because since it could no longer come out my nose and it was running down my throat.  Gross.  They sent me home with the packing up my nose and told me to return the next day at noon to have the gauze removed.

I spent 18 hours unable to breathe through my nose and I will never take breathing for granted again.  When I did return to the hospital the doc took the gauze out and the bleeding started again so he quickly cauterized it  There is no pain quite like a hot stick being jammed up your nose.  I don’t know why torturers mess around with electric currents and pulling out fingernails when nothing could possibly cause more pain than searing nasal invasion.  The tears poured involuntarily from my eyes and I wiggled my toes like crazy in an attempt to divert my focus from the pain.  The cautery worked and the bleeding finally stopped.

Dr. Tan (I was disappointed to discover his first name is not Sun) sent me home with instructions to take it easy for a couple days, no picking, no blowing, no tea, no soup, no booze, no hot baths or showers, no exercise and no excitement.  I did finally get some sleep last night and I feel much better this morning as I drink my pee-warm coffee.   I am thrilled to report that my nostrils have returned to their proper size and only a slight headache and some minor crusty discomfort remains.  I think I’m going to live… for a while at least.

January 29, 2010

buzz words

Posted in shit happening at 4:12 am by ben

I’ve been in high gear since 5am and now after a twelve hour round-trip to take the kid to the airport (yes, we live in bumfuck nowhere, three hours from the nearest city) and eighty seven cups of coffee to keep me awake on said trip I am wired as hell.  I might not sleep until March.

Yes, my son finally got a job!  In fact he got two jobs on the same day.  Isn’t that the way it goes?!  First your money then your clothes.  He had 45 minutes to decide which job he wanted.  The first one was in Oakville, Onterrible working for a pharmaceutical company.  Woo hoo!!  I was so excited and immediately inquiring about free samples.  Turns out they make enema bags, vaginal moisturizer and other non-fun-medicinal crap that I have no use for… yet.  The other offer came from a professor at Waterloo (the university he attends) who is doing contact lens research.  The enema bag company paid more but finding a place in Oakville and transportation to and from work looked complicated so he went with the other.

The job is not what he was hoping for but everything else about it just worked.  He can live there now until May 2011 when he graduates.  There will be no more moving around and hauling and storing his crap, his next move will be for a real job as a real engineer hopefully making REAL money!  My husband’s brother and his wife live in Waterloo so they offered to have him stay with them until he finds something more permanent.  I am sure they would let him live with them for the duration but I would never put that on my kid.  My brother in law is the cheapest (he won’t eat out without a coupon), rudest pain in the ass I have ever met.  He’s a lawyer (‘nuff said?) and he argues about everything, and with everyone.  This is the man who made his three year old son cry while playing Candyland!  The wife and kid are awesome and they love my son (AJ refers to my husband as “my cousin’s dad”) but my kid understandably doesn’t want to impose and he doesn’t want to have to worry about them and their feelings if he stays out late or doesn’t come home at all.  It’s just better if he gets his own place.

We had a little time when we got to the city before we had to be at the airport so we stopped at Safeway and picked up some fruit and veg and snacks for Dee and Katie and took them up to the hospital.  I think it might very well have been the best money I ever spent.  She was so happy to see us and incredibly touched and grateful for the food.  Katie just finished her latest round of chemo and she’s in pretty rough shape.  She is quarantined so the nurse sat with her for a few minutes while Dee came out to see us.  She looks tired and more than a little ragged and worn.  It kills me that she has to go through this, and alone.  I wish there was more that I could do.  I just did what I do best, medicate with food… myself and everyone else 😛

My other cousin Trixie had some daughter drama of her own on Monday.  Kayla is 14 and this is her first year of high school.  She was walking to school and when she got to an intersection she paused as a van pulled up to the stop sign.  She saw the driver turn to look at her so, thinking he had seen her, she proceeded to cross the street.  The driver had not seen her at all, he was looking for traffic and not pedestrians, he looked the other direction and when nothing was coming he hit the gas and went straight through the intersection.  He said he heard something but figured someone left something on the hood of the van (?!) and he was across the street before a lady screamed and flagged him down.  He hit and dragged Kayla completely through the intersection.

The lady saw it happen and was horrified.  They had to back the van up so that Kayla could get out.  Fortunately it was only her coat that was pinned under the tire.  Her hand prints were on the bumper where she grasped and struggled and scrambled to hang on lest she be completely run over.  My stomach  is in my throat even writing about it.  She could have been killed.  Her nickname is “Lucky” and she earned the monicker that day.  She was scraped and bruised and her jacket and jeans were shredded but she is ok.  I couldn’t hug her long enough when I went to see her.  She doesn’t remember the actual impact (also fortunately) and she can’t figure out why everyone is making such a fuss.  She was even embarrassed by the attention of the police and the ambulance attendants and kept telling them she had to get to school, she didn’t want to be late!  I love that child so much I can’t even bear to think about how bad it could have been.

I tried to do a little retail therapy this afternoon but even retail wasn’t therapeutic.  I am getting used to sending my kid away but it never gets easier to see him go.  I called him “Yoko” this morning because he broke up the (Rock) band and now I need to find a new drummer.  Damn kid, how dare he leave me yet again?!  I didn’t find any clothes or shoes but I did get a little excited when I stopped for a few groceries on my way out of the city and the store had a big gardening display.  It’s been so nice here, most of January has been right around or above freezing.  We still have a bit of snow but nowhere near what we usually do this time of year and it actually smells like spring.  I can’t wait to see dirt.   In fact I bought some so I can get an early start on some plants in the house.  My husband loves that I turn the living room into a greenhouse in February.  I tell him if he’d build me a real greenhouse I would leave all of the dirt outside.  That’s when he stops bitching.

This post is all over the place.  No wonder when my brain feels like it’s full of bees and I’m so jittery that I’m sure if I drank some milk I’d shit butter.  I wonder if wine would mellow me out.  Hmm, it’s worth a shot… or five.

January 18, 2010

family matters

Posted in shit happening at 11:44 pm by ben

My cousin Dee gave birth to baby Katie in September of 2008.  Dee is 38 years old and was already the mother of two (14 and 11) from her first marriage.  The guy she is with now, Jay, is several years younger and they wanted desperately to have a child together.  After three miscarriages Katie was born.  They were so relieved that after such difficulty carrying to term that Katie was a healthy baby… or so they thought.

Late last spring Dee brought Katie and the older kids out to the lake and it was then that I noticed something was amiss.  Katie’s head lolled to one side.  When I asked Dee what was up with her she told me the baby was just being shy but as I watched her through the day it became increasingly clear that this was not the case at all.  A few days later Dee took her baby girl to the doctor because she was listless and kind of out of it.  The doc knew immediately that there was something very wrong and sent them to Children’s hospital in Calgary where they discovered that the child had, not one, but two brain tumors.

They operated immediately on Katie and were able to remove one of the lumps but the other was too close to the sight and speech area of her brain so they opted to try to shrink it with chemo before attempting its removal.  After six months of chemotherapy the MRI showed that the tumor had not shrunk at all and there was another one.  Just before Christmas they operated and successfully removed the second tumor to find that it was not cancerous as the first had been.  The oncologists in Calgary had never seen such a thing so they contacted the Mayo clinic to figure out their next course of action.  They sent Dee and Katie home for the holidays, this was the first time either of them had seen home in over six months.

We went out to see them between Christmas and New Year’s but with so many people around Dee and I didn’t have much opportunity to really talk.  What she did tell us was appalling.

The hospital is brand new, it’s a state of the art facility, the best of the best of everything… or so they claim.  I can’t comment on how well the doctors are doing their jobs but I can say I am completely disgusted with the nurses and the kitchen.

On three separate occasions the nurses have tried to give Katie the incorrect medication.  Dee has had to become somewhat of an expert on the drugs her daughter is being given, she learned this the hard way after a nurse arrived at the room in the middle of the night and tried to put something in the IV that was meant for the kid in the next room.  Dee called the woman on it and when the nurse checked the syringe she realized the drug was indeed ordered for someone else.  What would have happened to Katie if the drug had been administered?  What would have happened to the other kid?

The other two times were similar situations but Dee has begun to question every ‘professional’ who comes near her child.  Dee pays pretty close attention and she knows what her daughter receives and how often it’s administered.  Recently she asked about an unusual amount that was about to be given to Katie.  The nurse read the vial, then she read the chart and said “Oops, you’re right.”

Are you fucking kidding me??!

The most recent incident came with the start of the current course of chemo.  The nurse put in the IV and walked out of the room.  Not seconds later Dee noticed blood running up the IV line.  She called the nurse who returned to the room with an “Oh, I forgot to turn it on.”

Really?  Seriously??  You forgot to turn the IV on?  No biggie.  Well I wonder how small a deal that would be if it was YOUR infant in the damn bed!

Dee has lost weight.  She has always been thin but now she is too thin.  I asked her if she was looking after herself, eating properly etc.  She said she tries her best to take care of herself because the only nutrition Katie is getting at the moment is from breast milk so she knows how important it is for her to get proper nutrition.  “It’s impossible to eat properly in that hospital though.”  She told us, “The food is all garbage, hot dogs, Alphagetti, Kraft Dinner, etc.  All packaged food, not a fresh fruit or vegetable to be found in the place.”

I was dumbfounded.

When she asked about the food they claim that they want kids to be served food they’ll eat because they need the calories.  I call bullshit.  Most parents don’t feed their children all of that processed crap anymore.  Certainly there is no reason why they couldn’t have the occasional junk food meal but according to Dee everything they serve is fried, nuked or out of a can.

“No fresh fruit or veg on the trays at all??!”  I asked again, astounded.

“Nope, the best the offer is applesauce from a can.”

How are kids supposed to heal and recover if they aren’t getting the nutrients they need?  I can understand wanting to get calories into them to make them stronger but fuck me with a fork  there are far better ways to get calories than from frozen fish sticks and potato chips!  These are empty calories at best and there are no alternatives.  Dee herself is forced to eat these meals (and pay extra for the privilege) or she goes without eating at all.  She can’t leave the hospital since Katie is in such a fragile state that the most benign germ could kill her, so she has to eat the trash on a tray or starve… herself and her baby.

I cannot even wrap my mind around a medical facility that doesn’t serve healthy, balanced meals… to kids as well as their parents.  How do they get away with this?  I am willing to bet that money has a lot to do with it, that they think it’s cheaper to scoop slop than hire a real dietician and real cooks to make real food.  I am livid about this.  There is no justification as far as I am concerned.  I told Dee that if it was me and my kid in that hospital I’d be losing my shit over all of it.

“No,” she said.  “When it’s your kid in there all you have the energy to fight for is her.”

I hugged her and apologized.

Katie’s prognosis does not look good.  This current round of chemo is a nasty beast.  Most chemo flushes through the system and is expelled in urine or feces.  This chemo comes out of the skin.  During the course of the treatment (48 hours a pop) Katie has to be bathed ever four hours.  It’s tough enough to have to deal with the other effects of the chemotherapy without this added strain on Dee.  Katie can’t walk or talk, she’s only 16 months old and all of the messing with her brain has slowed her development so she is also unable to sit on her own.  Dee carries her constantly, the woman will soon have the biceps of a bodybuilder.  She is exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally and she is frustrated with the uncertainty of the whole situation.  Her older children are living without much supervision, Jay doesn’t know how to cope so he spends most of his time working (or high) and all she can do is cherish every precious moment with her baby girl because she doesn’t know how many more she will get.

Dee and Katie came out to visit us before they went back to the city and I asked her how she ‘s handling the overwhelmingness of it all and she said, “I can’t look into the future because I don’t know how much future I have with her, all I can do is give her everything I have right now.  Katie and I snuggle a lot, we giggle and sing and tell stories and give lots and lots of hugs and kisses.  We take one day at a time and we’re grateful for every single one.”

Enough said.

July 15, 2009

rest in peace

Posted in shit happening at 2:26 am by ben

To say it has been a rough couple of weeks would be a grave understatement… pun intended.  

My husband’s brother Karl returned to Ontario on Saturday July 4th leaving us alone with their dying mother.  We spent all day every day by her bedside, leaving only to grab a quick meal and to sleep when Sal came in to spend the night shift with her.  The nurses brought in a cozy recliner for him to nap as he was able and he often awoke covered with a blanket that they had placed on him in the night.  They offered him a cot but he wanted to be able to get to her quickly if she woke or needed anything so he refused the bed.  It was sweet to see him so devoted.  He was able to get a little sleep during the day knowing we were with his beloved Katy.

My mother does therapeutic touch.  We have always referred to it as “voodoo” and I’ve never been much of a believer.  I prefer to mock that which I do not understand.  My MIL believed in it however and often when she was unwell or recovering from something or another my mom would stop in and give her a treatment… which consists of a transfer of healing energy without actual physical touch.  Yes it’s odd but I look at it the same as I see chicken soup for a cold, it might not help but it can’t hurt.

Saturday evening my parents came to the hospital to see Katy, mom did a little voodoo and left the room crying.  I went outside to see if she was ok and she told me that my MIL was ready to die but someone was holding her back.  “Sal?” I assumed.  

“I’m not sure but I think it might be Ken.” she said.

When I returned to the room I sat next to my husband and took his hand and said “Honey, are you ready to let her go?”

“No.” his voice was small and pained.

“You know she is not coming back from this right?  You know that there is no miracle and no chance that she will survive this?”

“I know.”

“Then tell her it’s ok to go.  Promise her that we will take care of Sal and each other.  Let her know that she will find peace where she is going and that her god is waiting for her.  There is nothing left for her in this world and it is unfair of us to keep her.  I don’t want to lose her either but it is not about us, letting her go is the kindest thing you can do for her.”

I left the room to let him take some time with her.

When I returned he was kissing her goodbye.  I did the same and told her I loved her, knowing at that point that it would be for the last time.

The phone rang at 6:00 the next morning.  She was gone.

Two minutes later the phone rang again, it was Karl letting us know he was home.  My husband had to tell him not to bother unpacking.

We got to the hospital by 6:30, Sal was by her side, still holding her hand.  We spent a few minutes with her before they took her body downstairs and then we all went over to their house to start making phone calls.  

Monday we met with the funeral director and since my husband and Sal were both pretty out of it most of the decision making was left to me.  We kept everything fairly simple, cremation (her ashes will eventually be buried with Sal), a service at her church and a tea courtesy of the Legion Ladies Auxiliary (she was a member).  Still there was a lot to do, paperwork, choosing a guestbook and an urn, deciding on the little funeral flier thing… I spent hours going through photos to find just the right ones and I happened to know who her favorite poet was so I had to find something suitable from her too.  We spent the entire day on the details and I even borrowed a large electronic photo frame from my aunt and I scanned and loaded tons of pictures of Katy on it for the tea.  It turned out to be a really nice touch.  We also placed bread, salt and water on the table with her ashes and the flowers.  The trio is a Doukhobor tradition (custom?) that signifies “Toil and peaceful life.”  I think she would have appreciated that.

Tuesday we cleaned our house from top to bottom and I cooked the world’s largest lasagna.  It is imperative that I am the consummate hostess even in stressful times.

Wednesday night my Boy, Karl, his wife May and their son and Earl all arrived together from Onterrible.  

Thursday was the funeral.  It was also our (uncelebrated) 21st anniversary.  The service was lovely albeit a bit churchy (imagine that!).  I laughed when the pastor said that Katy wanted him to talk about Jesus during her funeral.  The brothers rolled their eyes thinking it was just the clergyman’s way of throwing a little religion into things.  I told them I wouldn’t be surprised at all if their mother had actually said that just so her boys would be force fed a dose of God since they were a captive audience.

There were so many tears.  I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone in the church and I couldn’t look at her photo.  And then my mother started singing.  Not just her, that would have been really weird.  My MIL’s favorite hymn was Just a Closer Walk With Thee and as the congregation began to sing I immediately distinguished my mom’s larger than life voice.  I leaned over to my son and whispered “Can you hear grandma?”  He started to giggle.  I started to giggle.  Fortunately we were in the front row so everyone else thought we were sobbing.  I think Katy would have gotten a kick out of it too so I can’t feel too bad about it, besides, it felt good to break the tension.

Friday was family day, we hung out here, visited and looked at old pictures.  My husband had the biggest glasses in the world when he was a teenager, Karl had a perm that made him look like Alex Trebek and Earl had the shortest short shorts ever… with his mullet.  Whenever I need a laugh I now know where to look.  I even scanned their nightmare fashions onto my computer so that even if they destroyed the originals I still had a copy.  Fun is fun ’til we’re looking at photos of me!

On Saturday the clan went home leaving us with a too-quiet house and more flower arrangements than we know what to do with… and no leftover lasagna, obviously it was a hit.

I was going to write a tribute to Katy but I can’t, at least not yet.  I wrote her obituary and it took all I had just to do that.  I think I did right by her, and her sons.  I hope I made her proud and showed her what she meant to me.  She is in my living room, between Buddha and the gargoyles.  It’s still hard to believe that in such a short time this woman, this mother, this true Christian, this kind, generous, honest, gentle, charitable, reliable, humble person has been reduced to eight pounds of ash in a cherry wood box.  I hope there is a god and that she is with him, she deserves that much at least.

As for us, we’re alright.  We miss her but they tell us it gets easier.  Beyond that we are simply exhausted.  Drained.  Sad.  

July 3, 2009


Posted in shit happening tagged at 4:05 pm by ben

She’s not going to make it.  I want to stay positive and when I am with her or Sal or my husband I work hard to keep my chin and their spirits up.  Inside though I know that this is progressing way too swiftly to be anything but bad.

It was supposed to be a simple laparoscopic ‘kidneyectomy’.  Katy (my mother-in-law) just had a small lump and it was to be a quick and easy surgery, the doc didn’t even think she’d need more than a day or two in the hospital.  That was just six weeks ago and now everything has changed.

Two weeks after that first visit to the surgeon Katy returned for some more tests which showed that the single tumor was now three.  In two weeks it tripled.  My warning bells went off, why didn’t the doctor’s?  It’s going to be very easy for us to be angry with the docs at this point, to us it feels like they dragged their heels but realistically it has only been six weeks.  We only have one patient to worry about and sadly they have so many more.  We get it, we’re just not happy about it.

It took some time for the surgeon to talk to the oncologist about what treatment route would be best and last Wednesday they finally got their shit together and she was scheduled for her pre-op assessment.  She collapsed in the waiting room.  

She was admitted to the hospital immediately and every day the news gets worse.  Her heart is all fucky so they have her on something for that as well as blood thinners.  Surgery at this point would kill her so they have to get her strong enough and her heart rate under control first.  She was taken off her pain meds and went into withdrawal… if it wasn’t so sad it would have been funny to hear the doctor tell my husband that his mother had the DT’s.

When we got to her room for the first time I sat down beside her, she grabbed my hands and started sobbing, “Brenda, I am so scared.”  I choked back my own tears and assured her that everything would be ok (I even believed it then) and that we just had to be patient but it would all be just fine.  My husband had to leave the room several times.  He is her baby and they’ve always kinda stuck together.  It’s killing him to see her this way.  Katy is a shell of herself, she has lost a lot of weight, she is pale and her usually bright and smiley eyes have become vacant.

We were still hoping for the best but the news this afternoon didn’t come with a side of hope.  They did a chest X-ray to find out why her breathing is so laboured and they found more spots.  The doc said she couldn’t say anything for certain until radiology filed their report but she is quite certain what those spots mean.  A death sentence.

I wrote the first part of this post on Monday.  On Tuesday they sent her for a CT scan and they discovered that the cancer has invaded a bloodstream and is now into her lungs and beyond and they have told us she only has a matter of days, to give her a week or two would be overly optimistic.

Now we wait for her to die.

My husband’s brother Karl flew out from Ontario, he’s a lawyer and thinks everyone is beneath him and he’s more than a little bit of a douche but I think it helps my husband to have him here.  It relieves a bit of the burden and pressure that he’s been under to be able to share it.  I am relieved that The Boy is not here.  As much as we would love to have him home right now, I am glad he won’t see his Baba this way.  She would not want him to remember her in a hospital bed.  If he can’t come home for the funeral, we’ll do a private family memorial when he does come home in August.

I want to do right by her.  I want to make sure everyone else does right by her too, she deserves so much more and nothing less.  All we can do is keep her as comfortable as possible.  She doesn’t seem to be in any real pain but they have her on a slow morphine drip to keep her calm.  She hasn’t spoken (coherently) in two days but she is restless and agitated and she is developing some nasty bedsores.  

I am dealing with all of my fears of death, dying and hospitals.  I do my best to keep her mouth from drying out by swabbing it with lemon sticks and giving her sips of water or juice when she can take it.  I hold her hand and talk or read to her even though I am sure she doesn’t hear me, I keep a cool cloth on her brow and repeatedly put vaseline on her parched lips.  There was a time not too long ago when doing these things was not only foreign but also unimaginable and frightening to me.  I don’t normally deal well with any of this, it freaks me out, but she means so much to me that my own hangups have ceased to matter.  

My husband sits beside her bed, his arms folded on the bars and his chin resting on them, he watches her intently looking like a little boy, forlorn, waiting for his mommy to wake up.  

It kills me.

I hate this.

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