bogey & ruby

bogey & ruby

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.


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.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Respiratory Distress


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.


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?


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


“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?


Monday, March 28, 2016


Woke up
Got out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup ...

Not quite. There was no combing this nest. And before I went downstairs I stripped naked in the bathroom to weigh myself for the first time in about four months.

High expectations often yield disappointment. According to what I thought I weighed before we started the whole30, my net loss was 2lbs. Of course, I may have lost more if I weighed more to start with that's something we'll never know and that is a moot point anyway. This eating plan was about healing and health. At least that's what I'm telling myself right now.

The Whole30 bible prepares you for this possible outcome and has  a list of potential benefits other than weight loss as a reminder that good health is so much more than the number on the scale. Here are a few of mine:

The cravings have all gone, at least the physiological ones.

I don't think about food or eating until my body tells me I'm hungry.

I am now able to eat most fruits and vegetables without gastrointestinal distress (my gut is healing but still rejects onions).

I am way more focused/efficient and have ticked off a lot of items on my to-do list since starting.

I have been able to read four books and am on my fifth right now, not to mention there are no chocolatey fingerprints on the pages.

My right shoulder is way less painful and I am able to sleep on that side for longer periods.

I have more energy though not that much more because sleep is still lacking.

am less irritable ... I think.

Ian woke up a little after me and is down 14lbs and feeling much better overall. We discussed our strategy for day 31 and the plan is to continue with the whole30 and reintroduce some of the foods we haven't been allowed up to now but slowly.

For me, cream is the only thing I'm truly missing. I will delight in adding it to my coffee tomorrow and gauge how I feel the following day or two. Fingers crossed that lactose isn't a problem. The only other item I may indulge in here and there is a glass of wine.

No sugar. For now. Maybe for much longer. It is too powerful, enslaving my body and my mind. It has no nutritional value and the temporary high it provides costs too much in terms of quality of life.

What have I learned after 30 whole days? That I can do this long term. That my body can heal if I feed it the nutrients it needs to function and eliminate what is making it sick. That diet is but one aspect, albeit an important one, to good health with stress management being the other major one, at least for me, and something I need to tackle next.

Speaking of stress management, I got on the treadmill today (walk for two minutes, run for one) for the first time since my back and hip flared up. Fingers crossed that Dr. André doesn't have to undo the damage and that I can continue.

The biggest challenge ahead will be letting go of the number stuck in my head. It's not what you weigh but how you feel that matters most, right?  Well, I'm feeling better and I aim to continue feeling this way.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on feeling healthy if you'd like to share. Has our Whole30 journey made you take stock of your own diet/lifestyle?

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Last week as I was measuring a client's range of motion, the number ninety-five kept appearing. I wondered if it meant something beyond that the client was clearly doing her exercises. Perhaps I was biased towards that number, unconsciously pushing the limits of the goniometer, or holding back, in order to get the number I wanted.

What's in a number anyway? According to Wikipedia, a number is a mathematical object used to count, measure and label. Subjectively and/or objectively, it has meaning, it has significance, it has value.

For example, a boy I knew briefly in my 20s used to boast nine inches. I vaguely recall checking my meter stick to see what nine inches meant stretched out on a flat surface and being unimpressed. Gross anatomy does that to you as does working with clients who wear johnny gowns all day. Both experiences are great equalizers. To be on the safe side, I studiously avoided accidental glances at his crotch, being unsure if he meant nine inches at rest or during exercise. I was, however, obsessed with proving he had lied about his height. (I could sniff out these white lies having fudged my weight, both out loud and in my head, for a lifetime, all thanks to the magical expanding power of yoga pants. Not only does spandex lift and separate, it also, to this day, keeps my delusions nicely supported.) I'd observe him standing under my hanging plant or reaching into a cupboard and gauge the space between the top of his head and some random reference point then take out that same meter stick once he was gone to validate my suspicions. Sure enough, he was at least two inches shorter than he claimed.

Another man-boy I knew in my 20s confided in me one day that he thought his doody bird was too thin. (Doody bird is an endearing term I learned from my dearly-departed ex-mother-in-law.) How the heck does one even measure that? And for that matter, what do the stats say? While he was distraught over thickness, I was more turned off by the raw spinach that was perpetually stuck between his teeth (I know it was raw because he used to munch on it straight from the bag) not to mention that he drank his tea with two Tetley tea bags seeping in the mug for way past the recommended time, without adding milk.

Then there was Tom, a blind date who neglected to tell me he was 250 lbs overweight, then proceeded to berate my "shallowness" and harass me in a very scary way when I told him there wasn't going to be a second date. That decision had way more to do with his sneaky non-disclosure and subsequent expertise at manipulating his size to guilt you into dating him than the fact that he was hefty, liked Alf and embalmed bodies for a living. This was back in the days before the internet and online dating when there was no way to screen potential dates by lurking/stalking/googling.

All this to say that we sometimes allow measurements to define us, hold us back, keep us stuck, feed our insecurities/obsessions/egos, etc. It's not as if they're going to provide my measurements at time of death the way they do for birth announcements. "We are sad to announce the death of our dear Hobbit friend, weighing in at 110 lbs (yeah, sure) and having shrunk to 4'6" in later years due to bad posture, not enough calcium in her diet and lack of high impact exercise."

In other words, the number that matters to you is not likely to be a major preoccupation with the next person unless you point it out all the time, put it on your business card or write regular blog posts about it. And even then, they're likely to be fixated on their own special number.

Which brings me to the fact that it is day 26 of our Whole30 challenge. If you do the math, we are 13/15th's of the way through. Considering the fact that I did not weigh myself at the beginning, I am surprised to discover myself being overly concerned about what the scale will say on day 30. I have an idea what I want it to read but considering I lie about my weight in my head anyway, does it really matter what it says? Wasn't the initial goal to get healthy versus weighing less. I'm definitely healthier though my sleep hasn't improved and my left hand is still numb and my hair is still galactic and my bloody yoga pants still fit.

One of the absolute pleasures of this eating plan is that there is no measuring, no counting, no weighing of food, unless of course you are following a specific recipe. I can't tell you what a relief this is to someone like me who is obsessive about the bevel mark when measuring yet quite adept at rounding off pounds to the lowest tenth when stepping on the scale.

Stay tuned for Monday's wrap-up when we take stock of the past four weeks, weigh-in ( or not) and plan for reintroduction.

My trusty tape measure.