bogey & ruby

bogey & ruby

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Disappearing Pillow

I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and when i crawled back into bed i couldn't for the life of me find the pillow that i keep between my legs (thanks to 30 plus years of teaching other people how to avoid back injury, i hurt mine doing hills on my treadmill). I could feel it when i patted the top of my layers of blankets and sense the weight of it on my body but it had magically blended into the top sheet. Eventually, in my semi-conscious state, i realized that i had crawled under the mattress pad getting back into bed, the direct result of violent menopausal tossing and turning: turn right and toss covers off to better expose boiling head body to ceiling fan, turn left once inevitable chill sets in and frantically grab sheets and blankets where they have been thrown, uncovering shih tzus and Ian where they lay sleeping under the avalanche.
Pat Flewwelling, you were in my dreams last night, your bathroom renovation hyperboled into a world tour with nothing but silk in your backpack and travel blog entry after travel blog entry leaving me green with envy and flushed with hot flashes.

New Year's At Our House

After a wonderful time ringing in the New Year at the Mariposa Café (we didn't quite make it to midnight), Ian and I threw out our old sheets and put on some brand new bedding to go with my sacred cow throw pillow from India, one of my favourite Christmas gifts ever, from my sister-in-law.

The shih tzus are off to a sparkling start too with clean bums after an emergency visit to the groomer's today. Shit happens, folks. Sometimes it sticks, other times it hangs, and it pretty much always stinks.

As of today, we have eight weeks less a day to plan our wedding and i am hoping I can fit into something other than a table cloth by then. It's always such a challenge trying to eat every last chocolate in the house by December 31st. I keep finding more. Maybe I can finish it by December 31st, 2017.

This is the third wedding dress i've bought (only been married once though, it's a long story) and it definitely isn't white. In fact it's red, but only because I can't wear orange or lime green like some lucky people.

I brought my mother shopping with me because I am no longer agile enough to get the dresses past the first major obstacle, my head, never mind the second, my bosom. After we purchased the dress, my mother, forgetting who she was talking to, suggested I keep looking around. Um, no. Not unless it's the tableware department.

In other news, I asked Ian what he's planning to wear that day.

"I don't know. Probably black."

Now why didn't I think of that?

Peace and love, dear friends. Take care of yourselves and don't neglect your village. You never know when you might need help getting a dress over your head. <3
LC's salted caramels. It took three episodes of The Munsters to finish them.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lessons From The Road


  1. That extra bagel they give you when you order a dozen is meant to be eaten in your car on the way home. But what does it mean when you order a dozen and you get exactly a dozen?  Is it a bad omen? Should I eat one in the car anyway?
  2. There is no way to overtake someone in a senior's residence without startling them. You may as well slow down and avoid causing a cardiac event.
  3.  It is getting more and more difficult to see over my steering wheel when driving up and down hills and turning corners. The older I get, the bigger my blind spot. On the bright side, I haven't jumped a curb in over a week.
  4. A man referred to as "The Butcher" is head chef at a local senior's residence.
  5. I can have a whole phone conversation with a client, without understanding a single word they say, then chart about it after.
  6. Being a visual person, I would suck at blindness. Being a visual person, clutter is simultaneously a source of great comfort and distress. 
  7. Whereas women under 65 apologize profusely once they realize I am not actually pregnant, women over 65 insist they know better and that I must be wrong.
  8. I need to set the coffee grinder at Akhavan to medium if I want to avoid making Turkish coffee. If I insist on drinking Turkish coffee, I must stop by my Armenian client and say, "No, thank you.", when they offer me some.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

High School

The timing was perfect : Gami shih tzu squatting by the side of the road just as the school bus, at least ten minutes behind schedule, turned the corner to pass us. First day jitters for everyone, I guess.

There was no waving or blowing of kisses at the bus as there had been the first day of kindergarten, no mad dash to the school to make sure our kids found their teachers once they got off the bus, and no first day photographs because he's too cool for school now and I didn't want to make things worse by insisting.

And earlier on, there had been no tears from my boy even though my heart was in my throat. Just a mini meltdown over shoelaces, which we had practiced last week, but that's fair-weather dyspraxia for you, nobody's friend when you're stressed. A last minute, "I'm really nervous, mom.", in his new man-child voice was the opening for a hug. "Want me to walk the dogs around the block? I won't say or do anything." "Okay.", he conceded.

And then I let him go, just like that.

If you're a parent, you know exactly what that feels like.

Taking the long way around through the park, I bumped into a woman i know casually, walking her dog. When she asked how I was, I told her I was nervous about my son's first day of high school. She nodded knowingly. "I've gone through it three times.", she said. "And my daughter is starting CEGEP this year." "So he'll be fine, right?" She said he would be even though she can't possibly know that, but blind reassurance is the only way to assuage a neurotic parent's worst fears.  

I continued walking until he was within sight. There were lots of kids at the bus stop as I watched from far away, mostly boys and one girl. A lone dad stood next to his daughter at the end of the line. I don't blame him one bit. Everyone stood apart from everyone else. There was no talking, no eye contact. High school culture.

Sean glanced up momentarily, saw me, then looked down. There was no acknowledgement as per our agreement.

After the bus passed, I lingered outside for a long time. Dogs and walks can be so therapeutic.

Then back at the house, I sat on the steps of the mud room, opened my throat wide and bawled my eyes out. A small percentage of that release was pure relief that the first day was over, at least my part in it. Most of it though was my heart breaking in two.

I've heard all sorts of platitudes from people telling me things will be fine, that I'm worrying for nothing. I really hope that's true. But I work in a job where shit happens all the time. Nobody asks for it or deserves it but it happens anyway. We cope by not entertaining the possibility that it could happen to us so when it does happen we get sideswiped, feel bewildered and come completely undone. Quite frankly, I like to come prepared for a party like that.

If it were up to my son, he'd be perfectly fine. He's a great kid, empathetic and bright, with lots of resilience and many strategies to fall back on. That's how he made it so far, along with the help of our village.

It's the system I don't trust. We've had terrible experiences in the past and I'm afraid those still haunt me. Not to mention the mean kids who make high school unnecessarily torturous for so many. The insidious bullying and exclusionary tactics that take their toll in the form of deeply wounded psyches in brains that aren't fully formed yet, or worse when we hear about kids as young as thirteen taking their own lives. This shit really happens. I know people who've lost children. I've lost people.

Ian says it's an awkward stage for all teens, an awful but necessary rite of passage that rudely spits them out into so-called adult autonomy once they've paid exorbitant fees for a really scary roller coaster ride. I can't help but feel that this generation has to deal with so much more than we did though. There simply doesn't seem to be an off switch or volume button to tone down all the pressure they're under. At least that's my take on it from where I stand next to the ripples.

By the time I finish writing this and posting it, my boy will be almost home. It's only a half day today so there will be plenty of time to debrief, decompress and eat comfort food.

Hope to see you all on the other side of things, intact, in five years time.

Namaste

P.S. If you have a boy, please watch this movie available on Netflix : The Mask You Live In.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fifteen Positive Things In One Day

Fifteen Positive Things In One Day


(From an old Facebook post that popped up in today's memories. It felt good to read it.)
July 17, 2014 at 9:12pm
I was nominated by Erin Mooney to post 3 positive things for 5 days and to pick 3 people to join in the fun. I decided to disobey this directive and post 15 positive things in one day. Please forgive me. As for the people I have tagged, I have my reasons but feel free to untag yourselves if you'd rather not. And if I left anyone out who would like to participate, please join in.

1) Almost being born on an elephant has its advantages. It can be a great ice breaker for one, it provides a unique vantage point in life, and it relays the message that it's okay to be different. We all have a story to tell and mine happens to start here.

2) I had no idea my parents had a mixed-race marriage and spoke with funny accents or even that we were all immigrants, until it was pointed out to me sometime in grade school by some kids in the neighbourhood. They called my dad a Paki and said we should all go home. For a long time, I felt shame and tried to change things. I started calling them mom and dad instead of mama and papa and made my younger siblings do the same. I corrected my dad's mispronunciation of certain words. One by one, I visited all the Christian churches within walking distance of my house and asked if I could join. Essentially, I tried hard to assimilate. What's so positive about this? Well, the search for a sense of belonging and community eventually brought me back full circle, with a renewed appreciation for the courage my parents had in marrying. Not belonging to one community or another forces one to forge meaningful connections in other ways. It allows one to straddle the fence and empathize with both sides of the debate, be it cultural, religious or political. It's been a rich life so far, filled with an insight I might never have known had I not lived the immigrant experience.

3) I am not always mindful but I know how to be and when I am, the world stops spinning out of control and I am exactly where I am supposed to be in time, with no regrets, no aspirations and no illusions of grandeur. It is a gift to keep rediscovering that the present, that presence, is all that matters.

4) I can have my cake and not eat it today, or tomorrow or even the next day. It can wait. I can wait. There is no hurry.

5) I am relieved to have passions without talent. Once you come to terms with the disappointment of being mediocre, the pressure is off and you can enjoy yourself. Talentless passions have made me strive and work hard and improve by taking the slow scenic route. I am grateful to all the talented people who allowed me to ride on their coat tails over the years.

6) I love my dysfunctional family. They tell the best fart jokes at the dinner table. My parents spoil me on a regular basis, give me doggie bags weekly, and go clothes shopping on my behalf whenever I complain about my four day wardrobe-rotation. I am so lucky to still have them.

7) It is a very good thing that life didn't turn out the way I planned. It has prepared me for impermanence. I do not believe things happen for a reason. They just happen. We only get to choose what to do next for a brief period and then the plan changes again. Fighting this idea only makes it harder to cope. At least that's what I have found.

8) When I die, I want my obituary to say that I'm dead. The last thing I want people thinking is that I passed, floated or slipped away peacefully. And no bridge crossing or seeing lights either. When I go, I'm going to be royally pissed, especially if I don't have a say in the matter. I try to be authentic in life, I'd like to be in death too.

9) There is life after divorce, and love. My ex-husband saved me at a very difficult time in my life. Together, we saved several cats and dogs and made a beautiful boy. It worked for a while and when it wasn't working anymore, I realized I had to save myself. I hope he will forgive me someday. I am so happy he has found love again. I found love too, not the kind that rescues, but rather, one that nurtures.

10) I have the most amazing colleagues, mostly women, but some guys too. They make the world a better place and I get to help them. I absolutely love working with them, even though I never go to any of the lunches. I consider many of them, if not all, to be friends for life.

11) Somehow, I have managed to maintain numerous friendships without ever answering my phone, by avoiding social gatherings like the plague, and promoting my introversion whenever the opportunity arises. Don't be be fooled by my antisocial behaviour. I love you all and thank you for your understanding.

12) As a single mother, social media has allowed me to remain connected to my network and even extend it. I have met some amazing new friends as a result, not only virtually but in person too. I know there are some negative aspects to it but I am grateful to be able to keep in touch with so many people in such an efficient manner. I try not to be mundane or crass. I appreciate those who take the time to comment, like, or even lurk without leaving a trace. :)

13) The best thing that ever happened to me was getting fired by McDonalds. There, I said it. It taught me about indignity and labour rights, about the importance of work ethic and validation. Luckily, I got a much better job after that as a nurses aide. I loved the work. I leapt out of bed in the morning and looked forward to each and every shift. That job overlapped with my physiotherapy training and influenced how I practice in my chosen field. As much as I gripe some days, as sad as it can be a lot of the time, my work is extremely rewarding. These days, however, I only try to save those who want to be saved. And it's not even saving, really. More like accompanying them on their journey. Resistance is not so futile after all. If they allow it, I help steer the boat, but always into the wind. They think I'm healing them, but it's really the other way around.

14) During my pregnancy, I anticipated a blue-eyed boy who would excel at hockey and learn to play violin using the Suzuki method. Instead, I got a brown-eyed boy holding a rolled up piece of paper with Plan B written on it and nothing else. The paper is still blank so we take life slowly and deal with each challenge as it presents itself, surrounding ourselves with lots of good people. My son has taught me all about grief, from the time I thought I would never have children, to almost losing him early in the pregnancy, to right now. He doesn't know this, of course. He lives his life joyfully and works really, really hard at stuff, and loves me even when I'm being a bad mother. I often long for a break from all this single-parenting but when he's not around, I miss him terribly. He has been my greatest life lesson.

15) Love found me at age fifty and stuck around, even though I resisted at first. I don't know what he sees in me but he brings forth such good things with so much ease, I can't help but believe and love back with all my heart. I hope he stays for a long, long time.

Namaste

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Respiratory Distress

911

I have a client in respiratory distress.

I'll put you through to Urgence Santé.

What is the nature of your emergency?

My client is having difficulty breathing due to a lot of secretions. She has ALS.

Pardon?

She has ALS. It's a progressive neurological disease. She can't cough up the secretions and she can't swallow. We're trying to suction her but she's in distress.

Is she conscious?

Yes.

Can she speak?

No. But that's because of the ALS. Her muscles are paralyzed.

We're sending first responders and an ambulance. Do you have a defibrillator on hand?

No, we're in her house.

Does she have asthma?

No, she has ALS. Her respiratory muscles are weakened.

Okay, stay on the line until the ambulance gets there. Don't give her anything to eat or drink.

She's on a feeding tube right now. We'll detach it.

Ten minutes later, a big fire truck pulled up in front and three firemen entered the house and asked the same routine questions as the dispatcher. They meant well but seriously, nobody knows what the fuck ALS is beyond the ice bucket challenge. Same questions with the ambulance technicians but at least they were well-equipped with monitors and oxygen and wheels to transport the patient to hospital.

This all happened yesterday morning, on a day my boss happened to be tagging along on my visits. I'd already warned her this last visit would be emotionally intense but I didn't bank on it being an emergency situation.

It was very, very scary for all of us, but especially terrifying for the client who was absolutely frantic and unable to communicate with us except through panicked eyes as she tried again and again to clear her airway. Any sound coming from her throat was a good sign, even if it was only a deep guttural moan, as it meant she had an airway. But it was on and off because her tears kept gushing and then there'd be even more secretions to clear.

Kudos to everyone present for remaining calm: the worker who took care of the suctioning, the client's husband who sat next to her and held her hand as we waited for help to arrive, my boss for her compassion under the circumstances and all the emergency personnel who showed up and did their best.

If this had happened in a hospital setting, we would have called a code and more than enough qualified people would have shown up "stat" to assess and treat the situation. Eventually there'd be a shift change, then another, and yet another. Home care isn't like that because a lot of times, there's just you and a cell phone. When your shift ends at 4:00 pm, it doesn't mean the clients are okay or that you can flick off a switch in your head and stop worrying about the ones who are more fragile and at risk.

My boss said I handled it well, that I remained calm. But inside I was freaking out. All I wanted to do was bawl. Not because it was an emergency situation and I was scared shitless, but because my client was suffering intensely and there was nothing we could do to help her breathe.

Not surprisingly, I couldn't sleep last night. My client's tears haunt me. The last thing I said to her was that she would be okay, that the hospital would provide relief and help her breathe easier. But as I said those words, in the back of my mind, I hoped they were true.

Because ALS is so much more than the ice bucket challenge.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Floating

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

― Wendell Berry

Last Friday, I was doing passive range of motion exercises with an ALS client, who can still walk but can't talk or hug her grandchildren anymore, when she started to choke on some saliva. Alarmed, I lowered her arm and sat on the bed facing the bath chair where she sat, and waited. When her airway finally cleared and she could breathe again, she lifted her eyes to meet mine and the tears spilled over. 

That brief exchange, the look of absolute despair and suffering in her eyes, was my undoing. While there is nothing wrong with being emotionally present when a client is in distress, it is completely discomfiting when your own reserve crumbles, the pressure of a carefully preserved, protective wall pushing water from sternum to throat, unstoppable as it threatens to erupt in a paroxysm of gulping sobs and snot bubbles.

The above vignette has haunted me all week, through distractions, tasks, and small pleasures. It underlies my days and each time it bubbles to the surface, my throat tightens, my eyes well up and my voice falters once again.

To healthcare workers, caregivers, helpers who empathize for extended periods of time week after month after year, this imbalance/blurring of boundaries/loss of footing is a red flag. Call it compassion fatigue or burn out, the signs and symptoms are real and the cost to one's well being can be devastating and in some cases, permanent.

If you've been experiencing some difficulties yourself, you may consider taking your own inventory. You can take a self test here.

How do I cope? I cling to the moments of grace and humour that, surprisingly, considering the sadness of my job, are ever present in my work week. These are the melodies that emerge from the cracks in the dam (to paraphrase Leonard Cohen's famous quote), and from Wendell Berry's impeded stream. These moments validate, energize, and carry me when I get stuck.

But only so far.

The truth is, what I'd really like to do right now is float for a while. No turbulent waters, no pain and suffering to ease. A little rest stop before continuing my work.

Isn't that the normal thing to do on a journey when you're tired from traveling?

Namasté.