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.

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.



Monday, March 28, 2016

Reckoning


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

Measurements

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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Two Out Of Three ...

Coffee cream reality check:

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you, I need you
But-there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you
Now don't be sad
'Cause two out of three ain't bad
Now don't be sad
'Cause two out of three ain't bad.

(Meatloaf ... which we're allowed, by the way)

20/30 = 2/3

Two thirds done. Ten days to go. Yeesh. Ten days is obviously a lot longer than ten minutes left on my run. At the ten minute mark, I would be furiously scrolling through my iPod looking for songs to keep me going. Maybe negotiating some sort of reward for making it to the end, like a latte ...

Not that this is going to be over in ten minutes or ten days for that matter. It's a lifestyle.

Two out of three ain't bad, three out of three completes (me).

Coffee cream, I love you.





Thursday, March 17, 2016

Hey Nineteen

"Hey Nineteen
No we can't dine together
No we can't eat at all
Please take me along
When you slide on down (the scale)."

I thoroughly dislike the number nineteen and was going to skip an update today but what the hey nineteen.

Ian says there is less of me to hug these days but my theory is he can get a little closer to me now that he's lost weight.

There are lots of advantages to losing weight. Things like spooning versus stacking; being able to see for yourself when your toenails need cutting rather than waiting until you draw blood from your partner; retrieving your low-rise panties from the back of the underwear drawer even though you can't fit in your low-rise jeans yet; and going a whole week without anyone asking when your baby's due.

As for the food, we have been 100% faithful to the whole30 plan. If we can do it, you can do it.

Hey nineteen.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Top Of The Hill

Hullabaloo, day fifteen and half way though. The scream for cream has subsided to a whimper and will hopefully settle there until reintroduction. Insert wistful sigh right about now.

The benefits, at least for me, are emerging slower than the Spring thaw, not quite as stubborn as molasses. A little less bloat, improved gastrointestinal function, clarity of thought at least twice a day, and a rib-spotting earlier this morning.

Ian's data is more scientific: 10lbs lighter (after breakfast and wearing fleece penguin pyjama bottoms, the kind that weigh at least a kilo or two) and an inch and a half less around the middle. I am thrilled to be losing weight vicariously though him. It almost feels as though I've lost weight too.

Almost, not quite.

One thing I have noticed so far is that I cannot skip a meal. No way José. I got into trouble yesterday after eating a late lunch then heading into town to watch a play that Ian's daughter was in.

Right before, we stopped by the Plâteau to pick up some ordered prints from lovely street photographer Mikaël Theimer, who, by the way, has offered to take our "after" photo, then dropped by the Starbucks near the theatre to gulp down some black coffee.

Chugging his café allongé, Ian munched on the organic almonds and dates he brought along but I desisted because almonds make my teeth hurt and dates remind me of large, legless cockroaches. I simply cannot eat anything that looks like it was once alive: no pleading eyes begging for mercy, no hands and feet waving good-bye, and no insect shaped food with or without appendages. The only exception to the latter rule would be rainbow-coloured, fruit flavoured insects made with 100% sugar and food colouring.

Getting back to the play, it totally rocked but by the time I left the theatre I was weak at the knees. Not far from the ground, I know, but still wobbly. Snatching the snack bag from Ian, I closed my eyes and pretended I was eating date squares. It helped briefly but was no replacement for a solid meal. And eating something substantial at midnight wasn't really an option.

Thank goodness for the clocks moving forward. It was the perfect excuse to get up for an earlier breakfast.

Lesson learned. To be fair, two weeks ago sugar ruled. Now I am forced to respond to my body's needs.

I probably won't post about our Whole30 adventure as often from here on in, that is, unless my nine subscribers clamour for more which is highly unlikely considering how slim and trim they all are.

See you on the other side of the hill!

Checking up on an old friend.

A hilarious scene from Alkestis, performed by second year theatre students at Dawson.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Thirteen

Day thirteen. Prime number, Fibonacci number, compound number, lucky number, evil number. 

To my mother's dismay, I once chose a wedding date on the 13th only to watch the groom drive away in my car a few weeks before and never come back. 

There is not much to say about this day as it cannot be reduced to anything more optimistic than itself out of thirty. It is two days short of the half-way mark.

We have run out of food. Whole30 food. 

Black coffee isn't so bad this morning.

Thirteen shall be my mantra today. Om shanti thirteen ....




Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Day 10

Ian just lost his pants walking from the living room to the kitchen. I guess it's better than losing an eye or his lunch.

I suggested he buy some high-rise boxers real soon so that he doesn't give the kids at school an eyeful as he whittles his way down to a smaller size of black jeans. I specify black because since the 90s, he is referred to as the other man in black.

Speaking of lunch, I forgot mine (in its spanking new microwave-safe container bought expressly for transport) at home the past two days in a row. Nothing like salivating through an entire session with your eleven o'clock, in anticipation of chicken curry and root vegetables back at the office, only to find two mandarins, some stale walnuts and a fork in your lunch box.

One thing I've realized since returning to work this week is that I have not been working for the week-end all these years but rather for the cream in my coffee. If there is anything worse than black coffee first thing in the morning at home, it is black coffee first thing in the morning at the office. The pleasure centre in my brain is very confused and has directed my right arm to swing the fridge door open as my left arm reaches for the 10% cream every single morning since we started the whole30. And every time I take a sip of my cream-less coffee, it screams in agony. I am in need of some serious neuroplasticity right about now!

Not surprisingly, I have decided that the first food I will reintroduce after the thirty days is up is cream. And if I'm okay with cream, I can live without the rest.

On a positive note, my concentration is improved. I can finish writing a progress note without getting distracted and am less sleepy during history-taking. I remember what I got up to get when I get up to get something and am taking less bathroom breaks (possibly because I can't bear to finish that black coffee).

Oh, and there is a parallel challenge going on between me and the boys at the office. They've decided to get healthy too before bathing suit season and set some fitness goals of their own. Being scientists, we decided the best outcome measure is waist size. And when I say waist size, I really mean the circumference of our bellies. Thankfully, I have the smallest measurement from the get-go but not by much. We will take another measurement in exactly a month, then at two months and so on.

A third of the way through, folks. Catch you later!



Sunday, March 6, 2016

Day Seven (And A Half)


We are a quarter of the way through this plan. There is hope and it is light at the end of a very tight tunnel. We are looking forward to good health and skinny jeans.

Okay, maybe not skinny, boot cut would be fine too as long as they are blue, have a snap and don't expand to accommodate middle-age spread/muffin tops/cake tiers/pot bellies.

Ian weighed himself yesterday and has already dropped six pounds. He's feeling better and more energetic. I am not tempted to step on the scale because I purposefully didn't weigh-in on day one.

Unfortunately, I am lagging behind when it comes to energy levels, something the plan warns may happen if your body is used to relying on sugar as fuel. I also have to eat more often than Ian, in the form of nutritious snacks. This can be quite distracting as I am used to ignoring those signals in order to save myself for chocolate.

We've filled the week with activities that we enjoy: music, books, movies, and creativity. We also managed to cope with evenings out, declining the delicious food we usually enjoy at our beloved Mariposa Café and opting instead for Perrier and tisanes.

This coming week will present a new challenge as we are back to work. Not so much avoiding the forbidden food as planning ahead so that we have enough to eat for the day.

I absolutely loathe meal prep and cooking so I am grateful to Ian for doing the good majority if not all of it. My fridge has never been so full. My kitchen, never so messy. Oh well, It was about time I put it to use.

Finally, although I didn't step on the scale or take a dreadful down-to-my-skivvies selfie under fluorescent lights, I do have a before picture of us taken by street photographer Mikaël Theimer on the first day of our plan.

Tum to tum, voilà!





You can read about days one and four here and here.

See you in a few days!


                             

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Day Four


Thirty is a number I know all too well from my runs. On those days when it feels like an uphill trudge all the way, I like to divide my run into increments, partly as motivation, mostly as a distraction to get me through it. It is effective if not very mindful. My treadmill celebrates my progress in percentages of ten but that isn't enough for me. I divide the thirty minutes by thirty : one thirtieth; two thirtieths or one fifteenth; five minutes is one sixth of the way through followed immediately by one fifth at six minutes; seven and a half minutes is one quarter; and ten minutes is one third. Sometimes it's so bad, I'll divide a minute into sixty and count.

You get the picture. I do the math.

I'm coping with this whole30 plan pretty much the same way. Yesterday, we were at the ten percent mark. But day five is tomorrow and that means we are a sixth of the way through. Woo hoo!

The book explains what we should expect by use of a timeline. Day 2 to 3 is the hangover phase : "The amount of suck you experience in this phase is directly proportional to the amount of junk you consumed before you began the program. Especially if you consumed it consistently."

Uh-oh.

I am clearly still in the hangover phase, headachy and foggy, my Hobbit body mourning the sudden removal of sugar as a source of energy, my mind adrift as it can no longer count on chocolate as a reward for getting through the day. Apart from these feelings of malaise, I am also having to adjust to actual hunger pangs, something quite foreign to me, as I almost always eat according to cravings. This is especially surprising because I am eating way more in terms of volume of food, three meals instead of my usual one meal plus snacks.

For the most part, this plan has been easy to follow. Today's big challenge was not licking the peanut butter off my fingers after making toast for Sean. And I still miss my usual coffee concoction. Ask Ian how many times I've reached for the cream since we've started this thing only to shout, "Arghh, no cream!"

Something is definitely shifting, even after only four days. My tummy is less bloated and this morning I could actually see my eyes without having to move things aside. Ian is feeling a difference too and having less side-effects than me.

Holy moly, in two days we will be a fifth of the way through!

The countdown continues ...


Apple slices and almond butter for a snack. And black coffee. :(

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Day One

My partner and I started the mother of all diets today: the Whole30.

Back in 2007, I cashed in some retirement funds, invested in a good quality treadmill, and changed my eating habits. My motivation at the time was to avoid a strong family history of diabetes. Having entered motherhood at age forty-one, I did not want to be an unnecessary burden to my son later in life, at least not if I could avoid it. Eighteen months later, I had lost a total of 45 lbs.

Fast forward nine years and one divorce later and half of that weight is back on.

There may be a million excuses as to why it has crept back on, but the main reason for getting it off, again, is my health. Any aesthetic benefit will simply be an added bonus. (Oh, to wear jeans without spandex again!)

This challenge is 30 days long and the rules are clear in terms of what we can and cannot eat. There are some foods in my diet that are making me sick (and tired) and I need to first eliminate them before introducing them back, slowly, in order to determine which one(s) is/are the culprit. I'm pretty sure that sugar is at the top of the list. Nothing is too sweet for me ... I am sadly, pathetically, totally addicted.

Lucky me, my sweetie has agreed to do this with me. He's the chef extraordinaire and I am on clean-up duty. Our fridge is chock full of fruits and vegetables and we are taking advantage of Spring break to get a handle on this major lifestyle change. The most positive thing about doing this together is the moral support we will give each other, particularly on those days when we are tempted to throw in the towel.

The focus here is not so much weight loss as it is health gains. I so want to feel better. For this reason I did not weigh in this morning. Nor did I take any measurements or selfies. Have you ever felt great on a particular day only to weigh yourself and see a much higher number than expected? Ugh. I'd rather not focus on the numbers.

The first day is almost done and so far so good. The most difficult challenges? Drinking my coffee black this morning instead of putting a little coffee in my cream, and not having something sugary to look forward to at the end of the day. Sigh ...

As a nutritionist friend/colleague once advised me: "Sharon, you're going to have to find something else in life that makes you happy."

The next thirty days will be as much a mental challenge/learning curve as physical. Right now I am taking it one day at a time with some strategic non-food rewards thrown in, like playing music with my sweetie, reading a good book, writing, and photography.

See you at the next check-in.


Thai coconut soup



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dream

I dreamt about my friend Mike two nights ago. He still had his legs and was playing electric guitar, although he never played an instrument when he was alive. I could hear the music loud and clear, yet I listened to him in a detached way, as if he were far away instead of right in front of me. Other people appeared in my dream that night but he was the only one who came to mind when I woke up, with a thud, feeling cheated because there was no fog, no doubt, that he was dead, and anything I did to ease that heaviness just made it worse. So I threw off the covers and lay there, under the ceiling fan, eyes open, until it eased, and I could breathe again.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Boy Blue Valentine

Ian and I met as thumbnails in the summer of 2012 through a random Facebook encounter. My profile picture at the time was a vintage shot of me holding my ex-husband's telecaster. Ian's only comment was "nice tele" to which I replied, "Thanks, it doesn't live here anymore." We met in person six months later at a comedy venue, another chance encounter, and Ian's first words then were, "You're not that short."  Real time Ian was a lot less scary than virtual Ian, and back then, a lot less hairy too.

I don't believe things happen for a reason. When relationships end, when dreams die, we are left reeling. We feel pain and we grieve. We carry the people we used to be and the people we used to love with us like layers of clothing. They are part of us like chapters in a story. I wish I could say that love has nice neat borders but it doesn't. It overlaps. Its fuzzy lines bleed from endings to beginnings and back again. Taking responsibility for this doesn't help so much as acknowledging that what once worked is no longer working and that some things in life cannot be fixed.

I met Ian at a time when my pain was easing but his was only beginning. Recognizing this made me very cautious. Zero to sixty is a great song title but in practice, can make one's stomach lurch and one's head spin.

Thank goodness for friends who knew better.

Soon after we met, Ian recorded an original song called Be Myself which he sent to me via a YouTube link. It wasn't so much a love song as it was an I'm okay, you're okay, you wear your crocs, I'll wear Birkenstocks, thank you for being a friend tribute. Bemused, I showed it to my friend Leslie who watched it with tears in her eyes and said, "Sharon, this is it. This is it."

Several months later, while visiting Ottawa for a few days, I received a note from our friend Richard writing on Ian's behalf.

3/5/13
Dear Sharon. Ian has come over for dinner. We've had a great time and a bit too much alcohol. Just want to let you know that Ian is one of the most authentic and honest people on the planet and he adores you. He's sleeping here tonight so don't worry about him driving home.

Ian also wrote to me that night. Here is his wine and limoncello-inspired poetry:

3/5, 11:14pm
Forlorn. Rich is playing guitar for me and I am forlorn. ****, Sharon. Forlorn. You know what that means !!!!!!?!?!?!!

3/5, 11:24pm
Take me home you silly girl. Take me home you silly girl. Take me home you silly girl. Take me home you silly girl.
'Cause I'm still in love with you!

3/6, 1:25am
i am on the couch. stupid and silly. we played galway girl 30 times. i am a bit bent, as you can imagine. i feel. i feel. i can feel what you do to me. you, you glorious altruistic beauty. you shrugging godess! my love for you astounds. knows no bounds.

Seduction by lemon liqueur. How could I possibly resist? But I did hold off a little longer even when friends told me they'd never seen me happier. It felt too good to be true and I told Ian as much In response, he wrote this poem, my favourite to this day.

The Other Shoe

The other shoe
doesn't have to drop
I placed both shoes
next to yours
Quietly when we met.
So as not to disturb
The perfect peace
Of being with you.

In the book "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life", by Karen Armstrong, there is a chapter called, How Little We Know, and in it the author refers to the French Philosopher, Simone Weil, who used to say that love was the sudden realization that somebody else absolutely exists. I like this notion because it is so much more forgiving then other definitions we tend to use. Less like an arrow through the heart and more like the dawn rising or a fog lifting, making everything that was once dark, perfectly outlined.

The great thing about milestone birthdays is the opportunity we get to take stock of our lives. I'm not considering twenty or thirty to be milestone birthdays because usually at that age, a life lived is far ahead of us. Beyond forty however invites reflection and brings with it an acute awareness that the sands of time are running out. With that awareness comes less ambition and more mindful living. If we haven't already arrived at this point, we are at least closer on our journey to getting there. And the realization that we aren't going to live another forty, fifty, sixty years begs the question: how do we spend the precious time we have left?

What I call living an authentic life, Ian refers to as truth and beauty. Choosing an authentic life doesn't mean opting for an easier one. It tests our integrity in the face of expectations. It risks disappointing the people we love. It sometimes feels like stepping off a cliff, hurtling towards the unknown. It is both frightening and liberating. Hey, in my experience, plan A almost never works out so might we well get familiar with the rest of the alphabet.

So here's what I know about Ian so far, apart from the fact that he's the real dude and he rocks long hair and we should all abide.

Ian's gift is his capacity for deep and meaningful connections with people. His openness and vulnerability to share and to receive what is heartfelt is what makes him a loyal and supportive friend. His ability to hone passion for music in the absence of traditional talent is what makes him a great teacher, and as a result, there are many birds singing (in harmony) in the woods. On a personal note, it has encouraged me to play music again after a long hiatus, and sing out (egad), without fear of judgement. 

We have a tendency to measure our accomplishments using numerical values: productivity, material accumulation, items crossed off a to-do list, number of likes on a Facebook post, number of albums sold, etc, and in the process forget that what really counts when living an authentic life is not so much what we have or what we do, but rather, who we are.

Truth and beauty reflects truth and beauty. It attracts truth and beauty. It brings out the best in all of us and provides us with a safe place to just be. Be ourselves. The only thing that really matters in this life is the difference we make in other people's lives and the our contribution to the village around us. What we pass on when it's time to leave this world is our one true legacy. It's what's truly earned while the rest is simply inheritance.

I look around the room and see Ian's community and feel privileged to be a part of it. So many new and dear friends. It is a community of teachers and artists and supporters of artists and contributors and brilliant people who shine on.

I know Ian is feeling the pressure of turning sixty, the need to increase his output, get all his songs out there à la Willie Nelson. But let me share what I observed in the making of his last cd. It was like exhaling after holding his breath for so long. That the best moments in the making of the album were the little things. The laughs with George, the thrill of working with awesome local musicians, editing with Danny, the blast we all had in the making of Don't: both song and video, and feeling profoundly moved by feedback received from the listeners who connected with the songs on a really intimate level or as Ian would say: they just get it. Let Willie Nelson continue to inspire you with his great volume of music but know that you have already arrived and anything you produce from this point on will be enough.

Ian, our younger selves would never have hooked up. We would have looked right past one another. Our fifties showed us the way and we have lived a lifetime of love in a few short years. My Boy Blue Valentine, sixty is simple. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. 

<3





Saturday, January 16, 2016

Off Leash

I came across this old post from three years ago and decided to save it here. I remember that walk vividly. We don't get nearly enough walks these days and I feel really guilty about it.


Decided to be mindful during my Sami walk just now and avoid the usual direct line between points A and B. We started off by leaps and bounds, zig zags and wig wags, all the way to the park, with the wind hurrying us along and Sami turning around periodically to make sure I was keeping up. We scaled the snowbank blocking the entrance to the path, lost and regained our footing, slid to the bottom, fell into snow craters left by big feet, and jumped into others on purpose. We surged ahead on the smooth parts, paused to sniff the air for friends and left our mark so they'd know we had waited.  Noses down, we investigated EVERYTHING, unearthing relics from last summer, eating leftover leaves and twigs from fall and washing it all down with crunchy January snow.  We chased scaredy squirrels and barked at anyone who would listen, "Hey, are you there? We're over here!". We raced up the hill, caught our breath at the top and coasted down the other side, hesitating ever so slightly at the fork in the path at the bottom before turning right. The snowbank loomed ahead but this time we got stuck on its icy steepness and had to be carried over. The wind from the South met us on the other side making us balk at the thought of going home. That is until we remembered cookies waiting. Flipping a rude finger at points A and B, we sprinted as fast as we could, arriving happy and spent and ready for whatever was next. And that was our Sami walk today.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dr. Phibes Rises Again

The waiting room was moderately filled with enough empty seats to allow for winter coats and purses placed strategically so that no one else would sit too close.

I made the tactical error of sitting next to an innocuous-looking woman who was soon joined by her husband. He plonked himself down on the other side of her with a combination of breathy wheeze and whistling fart. I wish I could say that was the end of it but it wasn't. The throat-clearing/sucking noises he was making from somewhere deep in his airways made me suspect he had a tracheostomy but I resisted swinging my head around to check. Knowing there was a medical reason for the sounds would have made me feel empathy for him and I needed a better distraction than that under the circumstances. Instead, I imagined Vincent Price as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, who ate from a hole in one side of his neck and communicated via a phonograph connected to a hole on the other side. Dr. Phibes was well-nourished enough to summon the ten plagues of Egypt to kill a bunch of medical personnel that he blamed for his wife's death.

Thankfully, the rest of the room was less scary and divided in two sections: irate colonoscopy clients on the left, and on the right, nervous colposcopy ladies trying to gauge the timing of their last bathroom break before their names were called.

After about an hour, I was given shelter from the wind and ushered into another holding area where the timing of the bathroom break became even more crucial. I found it odd when the nurse gave me a Johnny gown but told me to keep my boots on. I opted instead for argyl socks, blue booties, and black tee shirt to accessorize the gown. Fashion over function, or the other way around? 

There were three other women ahead of me. The first one to emerge was very young and looked a little shell-shocked. I'd heard the doctor ask her many times in a loud, booming voice if she was okay. I reasoned that she was probably too young to have experienced labour, the mother of all pain scales. The next woman to exit was almost cheerful as she announced, "Suivant, next!". I took a deep breath and caught her eye as she was putting on her coat. We exchanged a knowing smile. Bet she'd delivered a baby or two.

Suffice to say, and without the gory details, when my turn came, it was a lot worse than I had anticipated. God awful, in fact. The doctor had no bedside manner and asked me all sorts of questions I couldn't answer. I wanted to shout, "I don't know, my doctor died two weeks ago!", but instead I bit my lip and held my breath and tried not to cry. 

Some medical people try to make a connection, explain things, reassure. This one didn't do any of that. In fact, he might as well have talked to me with a phonograph sticking out of his neck. Yup, Dr. Phibes Rises Again. I missed my doctor so much right then, his calm and his kindness, his humanity. 

The nurse knew I wasn't okay. She saw the tears in my eyes. I wanted to cry on her shoulder but I didn't want to make a scene in front of the other ladies in the waiting room. "I miss Dr. Bray.", I whispered. She nodded sympathetically.

Did I mention how much I love nurses? Dr Phibes, not so much.





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

February Muse

Random February: an old post written 2015-2-24

George Harrison is my favourite Beatle and tomorrow would have been his 72nd birthday. A few days before he died, I was in a jewelry shop in India, playing Here Comes the Sun on an old acoustic guitar I found lying around, while my dad haggled over some ruby earrings for my mother. To my delight, a young shop clerk recognized it and shouted out, "George Harrison!". Miss you, George. All things must pass.

Recently, I overheard two attractive seniors in their early 70s, in the lobby of an apartment building I was visiting, making plans for a coffee date later that day. Both were beaming as they parted ways and so was I. Love is that contagious.

A few days before I turned 52, two different store clerks, on two separate occasions, called me "miss", which prompted me to postpone getting my roots done for at least another week.

I have eaten three out of the four corners of my birthday cake so far. Woke up feeling blobby and vowed to start my diet today, but instead I am eating the fourth and final corner.

There were a lot of bad smells at work today. Some of them were mysterious such as the lingering B.O. in the stairwell way too early in the day, and the insidious onset of what smelled like vinegar (though definitely not the balsamic kind), or Elmer's glue, or maybe something dying (like our health care system), in the office. Is it possible for three people to share the same olfactory hallucination? Then there were the obvious smells like the bad one coming from the bathroom stall. Not that there is anything wrong with it. We all make those smells. But I always thought the rule was multiple flushes and wait until everyone leaves before exiting your stall. If, God forbid, someone does come in before you've had time to skulk out, deny it was you by pulling a face and pointing a finger at someone else. The last thing you want to do is flaunt all the bathroom rules by starting a conversation with a colleague who is clearly trying to breathe through her mouth.

I know it's time to take a break from everything when I start writing posts about bad smells. It's also time to take a breather when I have to fight the urge to bring my crying towel along with me to visits with clients instead of hope. Three more days until Spring break. Funny name for it this year, under present weather conditions.

Ah well, Here Comes the Sun, peeps.

Peace and love.

Namaste.




Saturday, January 2, 2016

Homage

My gynecologist died unexpectedly on December 30th. It's always a shock to suddenly lose someone you know, someone who was integral part of your life even if you had to make an appointment to see him, someone who took care of you for thirty odd years and was supposed to live forever.

The last time I saw him was December 17th. I'd drop by the office to pick up a referral slip and waved to him as he sat behind his cluttered desk.

The last time I spoke to him was a week earlier when he called my house at 7:45 am and in a cheerful voice, asked me to call him back as soon as I got the message.

"That was fast.", he said, when I finally got through. It wasn't likely to be good news. I'd had a Pap smear in July, choosing to have it processed through the public system. He'd warned me it would take about five months. I wrote everything down: suspicion of precancerous cells, biopsy, colposcopy booked for January 14th, follow-up three months later. "You can even go back to work afterwards." As if.

During my medical this past July, he'd asked about my son. I told him he was the best son I could ever ask for, and how grateful I was for him. When I was thirty-nine, he'd referred me to Dr. Biljan, a fertility expert. After complications following the first attempt at pregnancy, I'd decided to try one last time. My miracle boy, Sean, was born on February 9th, 2004 by emergency Caesarian. I can't tell you how relieved I was that Dr. Bray was the attending surgeon that night.

In August 2007, Dr. Biljan died of ALS at the age of 49. Another shock. Calculating back, I realized he must have already been diagnosed when I consulted him a year or so after Sean's birth, with the hope of having a second child.

These two doctors brought so much new life into the world, it's hard to imagine they've left it.

I've thought about Dr. Bray a lot over the past couple of days, ever since I heard the news. There has been a public outpouring of grief from his patients; there are so many of us. He was that rare kind of doctor, a specialist who knew the little details of your life and remembered to ask about them. He took the time to explain, to follow-up, to call you personally at 7:45 am to give you results you probably didn't want to hear, but if you had to hear them, better it come from his calm and reassuring voice.

I am so very sad for his family at this time, and for Julie, his longtime secretary. I'm also sad for what we have lost as a community: he was a fierce advocate for women's health and more recently, campaigned for our boys to have free access to the HPV vaccine.

Dr. Bray took care of me for much of my adult life. He brought my son safely into the world. And now he's gone. With that loss, a little more of my faith in the medical system erodes. It is my medical system too, one that I work in and from time to time rely on. I have seen it fail from the inside out on too many occasions to trust that all the dots will be connected after my colposcopy.

As my friend LC put it, "A woman's relationship with her gynecologist is a long term and intimate relationship." As far as I'm concerned, Dr. Bray is irreplaceable. And that's the heaviness of death, isn't it? The inconsolable part that stays with us forever.


R.I.P.


       Sean and Gerry, post C-section.