Friday, August 10, 2012

I Like Dreamin'....

"Sweet dreams are made of this..." - Eurythmics 

Well, the all bird rock band was up and at’em again this morning, (See past post “You’re Getting Sleepy…Not”) but at least I was already awake this time. And I slept well, (a rarity these days) and with no weird dreams. Although, I can’t curse those weird dreams, as they have given me a few story ideas.

When I was a child, there was a house at the end of our street in which resided two sisters who seemed to be as old as Methuselah (at least in my child mind). They had a hedged-in back yard that you couldn’t see into, with the marsh beyond. And no one was ever around, so to me it seemed mysterious. I dreamt, one night, of pushing through the hedge and into the backyard, and as I did, stepped into a magical world of yesteryear. I’ve often thought of writing a children’s story about it, but, now it seems a little “Harry Potter”-ish. (Damn you J. K. Rowling)

As a teen, I had a recurring dream in which the sky turned orange, and aliens with two hearts and six fingers on each hand came down to Earth and took me away to their beautiful planet where everyone was happy and there was world peace. (I guess I was full of teen angst.) All I wanted was world and every beauty pageant contestant…ever.

Most of my dreams tend to be on the strange side, but I’ve gotten pretty good at analyzing them. Of course the above mentioned all bird rock band was just a rude wake-up call while trying to sleep in, the hedge was childish curiosity, and the aliens abduction, a combination of a bad day and love of sci-fi.

There are, also, the silly little snippet dreams, like the one I had about slurping soup. Plain, vegetable-less, bland broth. “Pray tell, what could that mean”,  you ask? You didn’t ask? Oh, well, I’ll tell you anyway. What better for a troubled tummy than some soup?

And the one where my brother is rolling a boulder down the stairs at me. We were kids and I was sick at the time. I was too weak to move, and he was teasing me to death. (Of course, he was trying to kill me)

Then there was the one where I went to tour this heritage home. The main floor was normal, but when I got upstairs, it was one big room filled with appliances. They were laid off as the walls of rooms, and people were wandering though them choosing which they liked best. They all looked the same to me. Only a handful of us were taken to the basement. It was dark and we crouched down against the wall.  The guide told us to be very quiet, and as we crouched there, very still, a raspy voice called my name. The guide took me to the source, and I found that it was an old woman with white, cataract-covered eyes. The woman read my mind and said I was the one. The guide explained that this was an important person who needed a new guardian and that I had been chosen….Okay that one was a bit too bizarre for me to analyze.

I sometimes think there is something terribly messed up in my brain, but I’d be lost without the weirdness. I guess the moral of my long, drawn-out story is, a good night’s sleep is something that is needed and wanted, but, "There's gold in them thar dreams!"

I like dreaming.

Friday, August 3, 2012


"While there's life, there's hope." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

To the quiet child who gets overlooked, because she’s not assertive enough.

To the girl who fears God, because she was led to believe that He will punish her for any little mistake.

To the young lady who walks with her head down because she feels unworthy to meet the gaze of others.

To the student whose heart pounds and brow sweats in fear of being asked a question in class, not because she does not know the answer, but because everyone would be looking at her.

To the teen that is afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and evoking laughter from her peers.

To the youth, who tries to smile when adults say, “You’re just shy”, making it sound like it is not a big deal.

To the adult who has anxiety attacks before work because her low self-esteem and insecurities have followed her from childhood.

You are fortunate. Your quiet, sensitive nature has presented you the opportunity to observe, absorb and empathize with your world.

You may not be the one to command attention, but you can study those around you, discover their strengths and weaknesses, and understand that all are human, with their pride and their doubts.

You are capable of deducing what is fair and what is not. That not everything you are told is truth and that following your own truth is what will lead to happiness.

You have the capacity to see the diversity of mankind, to empathize, and realize that everyone is worthy, including you.

You can force yourself to be strong enough to accept that others do want to hear what you have to say.

You have the ability to understand that not all ideas are the best ideas, but that your input is just as valuable as any other.

You know that you have your challenges, and so does everyone else. There are no perfect people. We all need help from time to time, and that is a good thing. It keeps us humble. It keeps us connected.

Most importantly, you are capable of forgiving yourself for your perceived flaws, and understanding that perception is relative. Your flaws, as well as your talents, make you who you are.

You are unique. Special.  Valuable. Loved. The world is different because you are in it...because I am in it.

Our possibilities are endless.

This post is part of a Hope relay. As we celebrate the Olympics, Melanie Crutchfield had the fabulous idea to pass the torch of “Hope” around the blogging community. The idea being that she has asked some fabulous folks to write about Hope, and then we ask some more fabulous folks to write about Hope and before you know it, Hope is spreading around the blogging community! Melanie is going to compile all of the posts she can at the end of the Olympics and host her own version of the closing ceremonies.
I invite any and all of you to write on the topic of Hope, but I am officially passing the baton of Hope to my followers. I hope that you will each choose to write your own stories of Hope, because I gather a lot of Hope from all of you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cats Rule!

Cats rule and dogs drool. At least that’s what I’ve heard. Although some dog owners might be quick to point out that not all dogs drool, cat owners – at least those not deluding themselves – will confirm the accuracy of the feline sovereignty. My cat, Cleo, was named to honor Queen Cleopatra and the ancient Egyptians’ fondness for cats. I have since come to realize that, subconsciously, I must have named her Cleo because she was a queen and would soon be ruling my Queendom. 

As long as I can remember there have been pets in my life.  As a child our family unit always included a dog. Some of my fondest memories revolve around a black and white, wire-haired, fox terrier named Bingo. She was my friend and confidant. She was someone I could always count on to be there – her leash left her little choice – and I knew my secrets were always safe with her. I swore that when I grew up I would have a house full of dogs. So, why then, as an adult, has my humble abode been lacking in the canine department? Want made me choose cats over dogs?
I got my first cat shortly after I got my first apartment. I was young and liked my freedom and I figured that if I got a cat, for the most part, it could take care of itself. I could be sure that, if I didn’t get home at a decent hour, I wouldn’t have to worry about the poor thing busting to get out to relieve itself, whereas, a dog would have to be walked at regular intervals during the day. Who had time for that? The bottom line is that I thought cats were less of a hassle. Ah, but my logic was flawed. It only appeared that way on the surface.
When you first get a pet, be it puppy or kitten, you fall all over yourself to cater to that cute little ball of fur. Puppies require a lot of attention in the beginning. They have to be housebroken and trained, which takes up much of your time, but after that has been accomplished a routine is easily established. It’s just a matter of being there to keep the schedule.
Kittens on the other hand already know how to use the litter box by the time you get them home. I concluded, therefore, that that meant cats were less of a hassle and, being a workingwoman, I appreciated the simplicity. As far as training is concerned, don’t hold your breath, it will never happen. Okay, there are no absolutes. Some cats can be trained…to a degree. Cleo would stay off the kitchen table and counter, and she would sit on her hind legs and beg for treats. But more often than not you’re the one going the extra mile to please her. Actually, training is possible. The problem is that you are the one being trained. Her Royal Highness soon has her minion right where she wants.
In my opinion, some part of your personality is revealed by your choice of pet. First, let’s take a look at dogs. Dogs are loyal. Dogs are man’s best friend. There are few things more welcoming than a wagging tail. Dogs will sit, heel, fetch, and come when you call.  The dog owner is looking to lead, to teach, to be alpha. As long as the dog does as it’s told the dog owner feels a sense of pride and accomplishment at his skilful instruction. Even if some dogs are not so quick to learn the dog owner can still feel superior for the mere fact that the dog is just an animal and can’t be blamed for not immediately comprehending. And even if you have the most learning challenged dog, it is still dependent on its master and perhaps this fulfills the dog owner’s nurturing side. No matter how much the dog understands, its love is unconditional and that is very appealing.
As for cat owners, I believe they must have low self-esteem. How else would you explain why they put up with the feline attitude? Cat’s demand to be fed and don’t let up until they get what they want. They are affectionate, but on their terms. You are expected to read their minds and know exactly what they want. “Do you want to play with the string? Does your litter box need cleaning?” The later being the least favorite of Her Majesty’s bidding, and the former being the most degrading. Nothing looks sillier than a grown person dragging a string around the house begging the animal to “Get the string!” when the cat has completely lost interest. . And they rarely acknowledge you when you call. If this were a relationship, the advice columnists would tell you to drop this person like a hot potato.
More complicated are the people who own both dogs and cats. Do they have duel personalities, domineering and submissive? Okay, maybe I’m just blowing smoke. But no matter which pet is your preference, there is no denying the hold they have on us. They become a part of our family and we accept and love them, regardless of their temperaments and quirks. Of course it’s a good thing they were designed, by God or nature to be cute, otherwise they might never have been domesticated.
I had better let you go now, as I’m sure Fido needs to go out, and Her Royal Highness is waiting impatiently to be fed. Ah, pets…they all rule.
*In memory of my furry friend. R.I.P. Cleo.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

You Are Getting Sleeeeeeepy . . . Not!

“To sleep, perchance to dream . . . .” – William Shakespeare

I realize that the above Shakespearian quote refers to death, (a subject for my next post) but today I’d like to talk about sleep; or the lack, thereof.

I am the type of person who needs her sleep. Sure, I can go a couple of days with very little sleep, but eventually it catches up with me. I’m not the quickest hare in the race to begin with, so when sleep deprivation gets thrown in, I don’t need a tortoise to act all superior toward and believe I’ve got it all under control when I don't, because I know I never had control in the first place. (And first place, co-incidentally, is the place the tortoise came in during the race, if I remember the Aesop’s fable correctly.) See what just happened? This just goes to show you how sleep deprivation affects me. I'm so easily distracted. One minute I’m talking about sleep, and the next I’m talking about Aesop’s fables, not to mention Shakespeare. (Speaking of which, I wonder if Shakespeare ever called himself will. i. am, like the guy from The Black Eyed Peas? But I digress . . . again.

I tried to sleep in this morning, but all I did was lie there listening to the birds, whom I normally love to listen to, screeching - in what was obviously their newly formed rock band designed to purposely keep me awake - outside my bedroom window.  I yelled for the cat to see if she would jump in the window and scare them away, but she was already there, apparently enjoying the concert. I think I muttered something about her being useless and warned her not to jump in front of me when I got up, because, in my drowsy condition, my feet and my head were not simpatico, and she might find herself between a foot and a floor place.

It’s not like I don’t try to sleep at night, but menopause can be a selfish bitch who wants all of your attention. First she makes you so hot that you not only pull all the blankets off, but you wish you could pull your skin off as well. Then you get cold and have to find all the blankets again. (And the wool socks you pulled off that are hiding somewhere at the bottom of the bed.) Meanwhile you look at the clock thinking, “If I could just fall asleep now, I could still get four hours of sleep before the birds form their rock band." (Actually, I had no idea about the rock band at this point, I just wanted some sleep before the sun came up.) And then you listen to the birds warm-up act; which, of course, is your husband snoring. Sweet dreams are not made of this.

I don’t know if I’m making any sense at all. I only hope I do later this afternoon when I go to work. If not, it should make for an interesting evening. I just hope I don’t ramble on about bird rock bands (although “The Birds” were an awesome band) or will. i. am. Shakespeare.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's On Your Mind?

Most people take it for granted that they will get up in the morning, shower, eat breakfast and take on the day. But what if you couldn’t get out of bed? Not because of any physical limitation, but because you just couldn’t force yourself into believing that it was worth it. Or, what if you managed to get up, but it takes you three hours to get ready to go anywhere because your brain forces you to perform rituals over and over again. It’s hard for most “normal” people to understand what it’s like to suffer from mental illness, but millions of people endure this kind of challenge every day of their lives.
One in five Canadians will, at some point in their lives, suffer from a form of mental illness. That means that you or someone you know, a friend or a family member is or will be affected.

Unfortunately, the stigma attached to mental illness keeps many of those suffering from seeking help, even though mental illness is a real illness just like any other medical condition. If a loved one had diabetes you wouldn’t tell them that it’s all in their head and to get over it, you would take them to a clinic where they would be taught how to cope with the condition and, if necessary, get medication. The same needs to be done for those with mental illness.

There are many forms of mental illness, but the one with which I am most familiar is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). When you have a chronic illness in your family you become more familiar with it than most. Many people, when they hear the term OCD, think of a germaphobe who washes his hands constantly, but It is not as simple as that. Hand washing is only one of the compulsions with which the OCD sufferer may or may not be involved, there are many others which may include opening and closing doors, or turning on and off lights. Whatever it may be, the compulsion to repeat a specific action a certain number of times is preceded by persistent, unwanted, obsessive thoughts that trigger anxiety, leading to the compulsion. And it is not a matter of telling the OCD sufferer that it’s silly and to just stop it, they already know that it is illogical, but imbalances in their brain chemistry forces them to do it - imagine a skipping record.
At particularly tough times, when the OCD seems to be winning, the depression is enough to keep a person in bed all day. Concentration on everyday activities, when these other thoughts run through their mind all day, is not an easy thing. And the guilt of not being able to do the things expected of them negatively affects their self-worth. It is easy to see how it can make someone feel helpless and overwhelmingly sad and tired. Even thoughts of suicide are a possibility without help. But it can be treated. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication can help to control the symptoms, but rarely does it go away. It is not a cure, it is ongoing treatment and like insulin to the diabetic, it gives them the chance at a rewarding, happy life.
One of the major obstacles in the life of a person with mental illness is prejudice. We live in a society where many do not understand it, and ignorance of anything can lead to fear and ridicule. Placing a stigma on those with mental illness is no different than racism, homophobia or sexism. Once society understands that it is a legitimate illness, perspectives will change; as Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better.”
So, tomorrow morning, when you are out taking on the day, remember that not all disabilities can be seen and compassion toward everyone will go a long way.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Of St. Patrick, Leprechauns, And The Wearing O’ The Green: An Irish Tale.

Okay, so I don’t know how tall St. Patrick was, but I’m sure he wasn’t a leprechaun. As a priest, he probably didn’t look very green, unless he had a bad stomach bug. And he wasn’t even born in Ireland. So what’s the story?
St. Patrick was born in England and at the age of sixteen he was captured, made a slave and forced to work as a herdsman in Ireland. Six years later he supposedly “heard a voice”  telling him to run away, so he did. And so, back to England he went. A few years later he became a bishop and heard another voice telling him to go back to Ireland so, of course, he did. He converted many pagans, including noble and royal women, to Christianity, convincing them to become nuns. It’s interesting to note that in those early days of Christianity it was a bit easier to become a saint. In the first century not every saint was canonized by the pope. All you had to do was be considered very holy and, as in St. Patrick case, have your local diocese do the canonization. He has never been formally canonized by any pope. 
 Probably the most well known legend of St. Patrick is the one where he drove the snakes out of Ireland, but I question this story, as there are still plenty of lawyers slithering about. (Sorry, but mention snakes, and a lawyer joke is bound to surface.) The truth is Ireland never had snakes to begin with. Some believe this may have been symbolic, as the Druids donned serpent tattoos on their arms.
Another legend is about how Patrick taught the pagans about Christianity by using a shamrock’s leaves to represent the holy trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the stem as the one God. This is from where the expression “The wearing o’ the green" comes. Shamrocks are worn on lapels during the feast of St. Patrick.
So this covers St. Patrick and how he came to be in Ireland, and the wearing of green...but leprechauns?  Leprechauns are fairy shoemakers with magical powers who hide their money in pots of gold at the ends of rainbows and love to dance.
“Because of their love of dancing they (the Fae) will constantly need shoes.” – William Butler Yeats
 How do leprechauns fit in to the St. Patrick scenario? The fact is they don’t.
All Christian holidays have fused the secular with the non-secular, and in modern times, St. Patrick’s Day has come to represent pride in the Irish culture in general. Now all things Irish are celebrated. So, kiss the Blarney stone if you want to be a silver-tongued devil, drink your green beer, and wear your “kiss me I’m Irish” button. All are welcome, even the leprechauns…if you can find them. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
 “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back…” –Irish Blessing

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lessons For My Daughter

Mothers teach their daughters how to become young women by example. There are simple things like teaching them to braid their hair or tie their shoelaces, but there are other lessons that are more complex than elementary hygiene and safety. I am not an expert on how to live the perfect life, (If there is such a thing.) but as I have aged, my experiences and observations of others have taught me that there are behaviors capable of leading you in the direction to becoming a happy, compassionate person. So, to my daughter I would say the following.

You are an intelligent young woman. Do not “dumb yourself down”, or compromise your values to fit in with the crowd. Caving-in to others’ opinions just because they are popular shows a lack of respect for yourself. Examine all sides before deciding what is right for you. Knowledge is empowering and individuality makes you more interesting.

Do not let others define you or determine your capabilities.  Only you know your own heart and strength.

You are beautiful for who you are. Don’t let a societal version of beauty make you question your value. Everyone is different and is exquisite in their own way.

We are all human, and as such, make mistakes. It is a sign of character to admit when you are wrong. Saying I’m sorry can bring healing and a sense of peace.

Love is something you give, not demand. You cannot force someone to love you. Do not expect someone else to make you happy, that is something you have to do for yourself. Sharing your happiness with someone else is a bonus.

Most importantly, it is never too late to follow your passion. Life gives us obstacles. You just need to learn to jump higher.

*Thursday, March 8, 2012, International Women's Day.*

Monday, March 5, 2012


"And now for something completely different..."

Look at her just sitting there. The inborn arrogance emanates from her delicate, up-turned face. Her contempt should not surprise me, as I encounter it daily. She would claim no responsibility for what had just occurred. Why should she? In all her years, guilt and accountability have been alien experiences.

She glances down at the chaos laid out at her feet before returning her attention to me. Her gaze reveals neither remorse, nor compassion for the injured party; instead, it conveys annoyance. A familiar twitch suggests that impatience has permeated her entire body. Today, as always, the responsibility would be laid entirely upon my shoulders.

I begin to consider the possibility that the fault is mine. After nearly sixteen years in her service I should have anticipated what could happen. She didn’t plan this, and when all is cleaned up, no resentment toward me would linger. It is only a perceived arrogance which I feel. In actuality, she is helpless and dependant upon me for her basic needs. How could I blame her? She had no way of knowing that her actions would cause me pain.

As I massage my twisted ankle, I regard the situation in a softer light. I will have to sweep the broom underneath the fridge, as some of her cat food had slid under during the spill. I answer her insistent meow.

“Yes Cleo, I will get your food in the dish this time…as long as you stay out from under my feet!”

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hey! Don't you Point That Arrow At Me!

“Little arrows in your clothing, little arrows in your hair,
When you’re in love you find those little arrows everywhere…” – Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood

Valentine"s Day is a strange holiday.

Whose idea was it to use the image of an arrow going through a heart to symbolize love? Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t that kill you? It’s hard to get romantic when you’re dead. Maybe the romantic part comes when, gasping your last breath, you confess your undying love. “I’ve…always (cough, cough) loved you. (Gasp, croak) I have a theory that Cupid was actually a serial killer who hired a good PR agent to change his image.

In Roman Mythology Cupid is a god, but not in a “Hugh Jackman is built like a Roman god.” kind of way. Cupid is a short, chubby little guy, more like a young Danny Devito. They say Cupid is the Roman god of desire and erotic love. No dinner and a movie with him, it’s straight to business.

Now, the valentine heart in no way resembles the actual cardiac muscle, so from where did this symbol originate? One theory is that in the seventh century BCE, the seedpods of a now extinct plant were used as an ancient form of birth control, and these seedpods were in the shape of – you guessed it – the valentine. Another theory is that the shape of the valentine can be related to various sexual parts of the human anatomy, sort of simplistic porn, if you will. And with the arrow being the sign of the male, the symbolism of the arrow through the heart is self explanatory.

So, who was St. Valentine…or were the Saints named Valentine? That is a good question, as the only thing known for sure is that more than one priest named Valentine was canonized in the early centuries. One popular story is that a Roman priest named Valentine refused to renounce his faith and was executed. That doesn't sound very romantic to me. In fact, none of these ancient stories seem to have anything to do with romantic love. 

The first written incidence of St. Valentine being connected to romantic love is in a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, “Parlement Of Foules” (1382)

"For this was Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."

He made it up. Or as the character of Chaucer in the movie, “A Knight’s Tale” said, “…I give the truth scope.”

 And in 1797, the first “mechanical valentines” were printed for those young men with no head for poetry. In other words, fake sentiment was now being mass produced.

Where does eating chocolates enter into this?  Delicious, yes, but is that the only reason they are given on Valentine’s Day? Perhaps it is because chocolate has been rumoured to cause a change in brain chemistry, producing feelings similar to that of love, giving the suitor an advantage. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant, as this tale fits with the rest of the Valentine fiction.

So, what does all this mean? Valentine’s Day, which currently is thought of as a day to express feelings of admiration, friendship and love, had a less that innocent or romantic beginning. If I combine elements from each of these tales, this is what I conclude. Valentine’s Day is a day to commemorate the life of a stranger, characterized by women taking birth control, reading assembly line sentiment, while eating mood altering sweets from a pornographic box, hoping to get skewered by a portly, little horn-dog.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A New Reign

“The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen!”

Cleo was my cat. Or more accurately, I was her person, for she ruled the roost. I was heartbroken when she died and, for the longest time, out of the corner of my eye, I would think I saw her walking past, or lying on the chair. I even swear I felt her jump up on the bed one night. And when I came home from work I expected to have her greet me at the door, as she always had. In our first house she even climbed on the kitchen chair next to the back door and put her paw on the door handle as if to open it for me, or for whomever she heard coming up the stairs. She was smart, just like her person. I still miss her.

After two years of having a feline free household, the time finally felt right to introduce a new cat into our family unit….Okay, my daughter, Stephanie, wanted to get a new cat, I still felt guilty about attempting to replace Cleo. How could I betray her memory like that? Then I rationalized that I wouldn’t be betraying her because it would not be my cat, it would be Stephanie’s cat, and off to the SPCA we went.

I told Stephanie I did not want her to get one that looked like Cleo, as that would be too weird.  She agreed, so no tiger striped cats. We walked into the kitten area and what do we find, but a tiger-striped kitten. Nope, couldn't do it. That was fine, as Stephanie did not want a young kitten, instead she wanted one slightly older that had already been spayed or neutered, so into the back, adult room we went. (Hmmm, that didn’t sound quite right.) We looked at the older cats.

There is no happier or sadder place than the SPCA. You are immediately surrounded by these loving, playful, beautiful creatures who only want to be cuddled, petted and played with, but you know, even though you want to take them all, that there is only room for one of them in your home. If I had the means, I would have taken three or four with me. (Can you say crazy cat lady?)

I would have had a terrible time choosing which furball to take home, but luckily that was my daughter’s call, and it seemed to be no contest. As soon as we reached Samara’s cage, that was it. She took to the grey and white, long-haired beauty right away. I tried talking up other cats - cats with short fur - but she was set on Samara, so I prepared myself for the inevitable layer of white fur soon to be covering my floors.

We picked Samara up two days later, and took her straight to the vet for a check-up, and in the examining room, waiting for the vet, we let her out and she jumped up on Stephanie’s lap, something Cleo would never have done. During the 15-20 min drive home she purred and played with Stephanie through the carrier’s lattice-like door. Cleo would have nervously meowed/yowled from the time the car started until she was in the house. Once home she let us pick her up and cuddle her. Cleo would have struggled to be put on the floor. This cat was definitely not Cleo.

I have to say, I have also taken to Samara. She is a sweetheart, very loving and playful. I have slipped and called her Cleo once or ten times, but I think I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there is room in my life for another animal. The Cleo reign is over. The age of Samara has begun…until Stephanie moves out and takes her…if I let her. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stephanie's Story: In The Beginning...

 "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... 
- Charles Dickens

Twenty-four years ago today was one of the best…and worst days of my life.
On the afternoon of January 27th, 1988 I waddled into the hospital, excited about the imminent arrival of my second child. I was admitted, examined, my doctor was called, and I paced the hallway, anxiously awaiting the use the hospital’s new birthing chair.

My labour had been progressing well and I even felt less stressed than with my first baby, as I now knew what to expect…or so I thought. When my labour pains became more intense and closer together I was taken to a bed to reassess my progress and upon examination was told that my baby was in distress. I became a bit concerned as the nurse placed an oxygen mask over my face and told me I would be prepped for the OR to have a C-section. Unfortunately, before the OR could be set up my labour had progressed to the point where surgery was no longer an option. So with no epidural, sucking back pure oxygen, they wheeled me into the delivery room in full labour. I became even more concerned when my husband was informed he was not to come in with me.

The pain was intense and it seemed to go on forever. This was different from my last delivery, things just didn’t seem right. There came a point when all I knew was darkness and pain, as I squeezed my eyes tightly and let out screams that were heard down hall. The situation was getting desperate, as the doctor pulled with the forceps, two nurses pushed on my abdomen, and I pushed with all my might. All along the doctor had been yelling, “Push, push!” when the nurse finally snapped back, “She is pushing!” Sometime after that was when I decided I was too tired and in too much pain to continue, and that I had had enough. No more. A wonderful calm came over me at that moment and the only word I can use to describe the feeling I had is blissful. What happened next I will leave out of this recounting as it is an experience I have related to very few people, but after that I summoned all the strength I had left and gave one last push. The doctor realized this would be it, so just before my final push, he reached in and fractured my daughter’s collarbone and enabled me to finally bring her into this world.

The first words out of my doctor’s mouth were, “Oh my God.” Not the kind of thing you’re waiting to hear upon the birth of your child. My mind was whirling. What was wrong with my baby? Was it a monster? Did it have two heads? They surrounded her and started working on her. I had to ask if it was a boy or a girl, and I heard the nurse quietly said, “Should I tell her?” And the doctor answered. “It’s a girl.” and that was it.  

I had a daughter, but I had yet to see her, or hear her cry. A man, whom I later found out was the pediatrician, burst through the doors and hurried over to my daughter. Since finding out I had a daughter I had yet to shed a tear, or scream or even speak. I was aware of everything, but felt nothing. I was in shock. They finally whisked my daughter away, and my doctor returned to finish up with me.

When they finally wheeled me out of the delivery room, they stopped in front of the nursery window for me to take a look at her. I couldn’t see much. She was in an incubator in the back with wires and tubes sticking out everywhere. I did notice that she seemed to fill the incubator. That’s when I learned that she weighed 12lbs. 4 ozs and was 25in long. She was classified as an infant giant. I said, “Her name is Stephanie.” I wanted to make sure she had a name…in case something should happen.

I finally got a good look at her when the paramedics wheeled her incubator down to my room just before taking her to the children’s hospital. She looked like a three month old. No spindly arms and legs for her. She was plump and double chinned, and they still were unsure what was wrong with her.

Five days later, after having tests and fear of infection was no longer a worry, the doctor released me from the hospital and I was finally able to go to the city to see my daughter and finally touch her for the first time.

It was discovered that she had Islet Cell Hyperplasia, or Diffuse Nesidioblastosis. In short she was producing too much insulin and her blood sugar level was almost non-existent. They didn’t have a treatment, as it was a rare condition, so they treated her with a blood pressure medication which had a side effect of raising blood sugar levels…but not enough. So they added cornstarch to her formula. As you can imagine, this filled her up rather quickly and she began to refuse to eat. An NG tube was put through her nose and down into her stomach and  gavage feeding was necessary. Eventually, this course of action, with its side effects, proved to be less than ideal and surgery was the final option. 

Her first surgery at two months removed 95 percent of her pancreas. I had gone home to be with my son for a few days, relieved that the surgery had worked, but when I walked back into her room a couple of days later, my heart sank as I saw the bottle of blood pressure medication back on her night stand - her blood sugar levels had dropped too low once again. Her second surgery at three months removed all but a sliver of the remaining pancreas, and even that small amount allowed her to function without insulin needles for sixteen months.

It was nerve wracking bringing her home at three month old, worrying about blood sugar levels. I had to test her blood every four hours, which seemed rather cruel as she was sleeping through the night by then. I think it bothered me more than her, as she slept through most of the night testings.

To look at her now, it is hard to remember what a sick little girl she had been. The only physical signs of her medical condition are her insulin pump and the large scar across her upper abdomen. The large scar down her spine is a story for another day – another birthday adventure.

So, happy birthday to my beautiful, brilliant, baby girl – sorry, young woman. Thank God she is a stubborn, tough cookie who has been around to brighten my life for the past 24 years. I love you Stephanie.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm Ba-ack!

Whether or not you write well, write bravely.” - BILL STOUT

For the small handful of people who follow (or used to follow) my blog, I would like to apologize for my absence for the past few months. I could give you the excuses as to why I’ve been away, but instead I will just jump back in and endeavor to do my best to regale you with stories of my exciting life, and impart to you my unlimited wisdom - word of the day, “sarcasm”, as I remain extremely average in daily life as well as in intelligence. My only hope of holding your attention lies in the way in which my strange and warped brain processes and transmits ideas through my fingertips and onto the computer keyboard. Whether you prefer reading the light, silly fluff that resides in 90 percent of my mind, or the deep, passionate revelations that sometimes force themselves to the surface, I will try to bring something entertaining to future posts. I may even bring up controversial subjects which might get me into trouble - although I may have to visit the wizard to find enough courage for that kind of post. But then, if only a handful of people read this how many could I really piss off, five, six? So what the hell, maybe one day.... As American broadcast journalist Bill Stout once said, “whether or not you write well, write bravely.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Dreamer, you know you are a dreamer
Well can you put your hands in your head, oh no! 
- Supertramp

I have always been a dreamer. Not in the good way where you set a goal and work to achieve it, instead I dream of scenarios and dialogue. Maybe being a shy awkward child, uncomfortable in social situations, led me to this way of giving closure to conversations I sat through quietly -all the while dying to give my input - afraid to look foolish with a stupid question or unpopular opinion. In hindsight I always thought, “That’s what I should have said.” Or, “Why didn’t I tell them they were wrong, and why?”  This internal dialogue lead me to wonder, “What would happen if person ‘A’ and person ‘B’ had a conversation, what would they say, and where would this take place. “ When I was younger I started writing some of these ‘stories’ down. I would get so far, and then ask my sister to read them and tell me what she thought. Eventually she refused to read them because I would never finish any. She said she didn’t want to get into the story and then not know how it ended. What? It’s simple. All she had to do was use her imagination to finish them off. Anyone can do that…or so I thought. I’ve since discovered that not everyone lives as much in their head as me.

 I have had people tell me that they don’t know how I come up with the plots and interactions between characters that I use in my scripts. Some will say, “I could never do anything like that!” and that seems so strange to hear, as I automatically think if I can do it, anyone can. I’m no great talent. The plays I write are the equivalent of a silly half hour sit-com pilot wannabe, but I must admit, nothing feels better than hearing that first laugh as the audience ‘gets’ that first joke.

I suppose it’s not the complete truth when I say I have no dreams in “the good way”. I am attempting to broaden my writing range.  My big dream is in the works. It’s a novel, of course. Whether anyone besides me ever reads it is another story, but I will be satisfied just to finish. And if I do finish, you should write one, too. After all, I’ve heard that everyone has a novel in them and if I can do it, so can you. Right?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In My Hometown

Last week someone started a Facebook page about being from my hometown. My sister added me to the page and…wow! I had a hundred emails in no time. The first day there were about 700 posts, including a few from me.

A lot of memories were triggered, things I and hundreds of others had not thought about in twenty, thirty or more years. It diverged from the original posts - recalling places, old buildings that had been torn down, businesses no longer in existence or that had grown and moved - to include personal remembrances of school days, childhood friends and the mischief that sometimes resulted in those times. The posts have slowed down since the first day, but it is still a very active page.

Although I wasn’t born in this town, and when young, lived just across the bridge in the neighbouring community, most of my fondest…and worst memories can be found strewn across both sides of that river, so, therefore, I do consider it to be my hometown. Others who had grown up just outside of town have also joined this page and many of us have shared the same or similar experiences. In fact, I’m sure people from all over would be able to relate to a few of them; playing baseball or football in the back field, skating in the winter, milkshakes at the pharmacy or five and dime store, picking berries. People are not as different as they sometimes believe.

I look back to my childhood and am fascinated to recall how rivalries were born and then torn down. When I was in elementary school, our rival school was only a few blocks away and I clearly remember us calling them “Central School bums!” Once junior high bound, we found ourselves sharing a bus ride to school with these new friends, and we started calling the “townies” the bums. But, of course, junior high lead to the high school in town, so…it only goes to show that the more you get to know others, the more you can see the similarities.

Before I go, I would like to regale you with one last memory that popped into my head after reading some of those posts.

One summer the neighbourhood boys built a tree house in this huge, old, maple in the field behind our house. It sat about ten feet up into the tree, and was only accessible by the short pieces of scrap lumber nailed up the side of the trunk  One day while my cousin, Duane, was climbing down he lost his footing, but instead of falling to the ground, he slid, holding on to the trunk (scraping his arms legs and hands terribly I’m sure) and landed softly on the ground.  Shawn, who lived across the street from me had witnessed this unusual descent, and quite excitedly exclaimed, “Man! That was cool! Do it again and I’ll give you ten bucks!” Ah, the innocence of youth.

Billy Joel. Another wonderful piece of my youth. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Day In A Life

It’s a gorgeous, hot Sunday, the kind that lends itself to, what else, a trip to the beach.

A call from my sister-in-law Wendi, and plans are laid.  With sunscreen and bathing suits on, cooler and Barbeque packed, in no time we are on our way. My husband Mark, daughter Stephie, Stephie’s boyfriend, Jesse, and I meet up with Wendi and her son Lucas near the Bible Hill overpass to begin our trip to –my favorite - Melmerby Beach.

The worst part of the trip is the drive. When you’re hot, and anxious to immerse yourself in the refreshing, invigorating, salty waves, it seems too long, but definitely worth the wait.

Finding a spot on the sand for our blankets is the next task; as close to the water as possible, without blocking other’s view. Unfold with the wind, and down to spread perfectly. A little sand over the corners and the wind is not a problem.

I’m not a sunbather, so sandals, hat and sunglasses off, and into the water I go.  Brrrr. But the best way to get used to it is dive right in…so I do. Brisk! But it doesn’t take long to get used to it, and the waves are beautiful and bouncy. I swim out a bit, and then flip over onto my back. Ahhh, it feels like home as the water flows over and around me - I’m sure I must have been a dolphin or an otter in a previous life. I look around and see only a handful of people in the water. I can’t understand why anyone would come to the beach and never get into the water. That’s my whole reason to be here. I catch a few waves and body surf in, but most of them are the bouncy kind, and that’s alright, I’m just happy to be here.

I decide to get out of the water for awhile, as the rest of the members of my crew were already drying on the blankets. I reapply my sunscreen, cover up, don my hat and sunglasses and take pictures as Lucas and Jesse dig a hole, then proceed to bury Lucas up to his shoulders in sand. The sand is wet and heavy, so Lucas has to struggle to make his way out, but he does, and now it’s time for another dip.

Not everyone likes to stay in the water as long as me, so in the end, I’m out here by myself, loving the water and drifting with the waves. I finally decide it’s time to get out, as my hands are starting to get a little stiff from the cold, so I look to the shore for sight of our blanket. Um….After swimming out and drifting sideways, and finding myself somewhat blind without my glasses, I don’t recognize any familiar shapes on the beach. So, I climb onto the shore and walk uncomfortably close to various beach goers in search of my family. Meanwhile, they are watching me, slightly amused, as I wander, lost, across the sand, reminiscent of my parking lot car searches at the mall – I’m so glad I offer such amusement. I finally spot Stephie’s pink hat, and she waves. They all chuckle as I take my seat on the blanket.

After one last swim we decide to move on up to Powell’s Point Park for our barbeque picnic. Hot dogs and salad followed by a stroll through the woods, down to the water to take in the view, a few pictures and then we’re on our way.

We drop Jesse at the Highland Mall before heading home. I turn, and through the haze, I see the wind turbines atop Mount Thom, slowly turning - I guess it’s too hot for even the turbines to rush.

We wave to Wendi and Lucas as they take the off ramp to Bible Hill, and we continue home. I feel tired, but it’s a good tired.

Today was a great day.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Whole Lot Of Nothing

Even if you have nothing to write, write and say so – Cicero

There are a number of things I could be doing right now, but here I sit in front of my computer, wasting time. Not that sitting in front of my computer is always a waste of time, but I feel I should be doing something productive, like working on my next play or doing research for my future Pulitzer Prize winning novel (he he), or even looking for a job. But here I sit, wondering what to do on this gorgeous summer’s day.

I thought about going to the beach – I can’t believe I haven’t been swimming yet this year – and I even tried on my bathing suit. Yikes! Time to buy a new one, those extra pounds I’ve gained over the past year have me nearly spilling out!

The lawn could use a mowing, but you shouldn’t mow in the middle of a hot day…and besides, if I wait long enough, maybe Mark or Stephie will do it. Doubtful.

There’s always laundry, but that’s just it…there’s ALWAYS laundry. One more day won’t make a difference, it will still be waiting.

It’s too hot to bake, so that’s out. But strawberry shortcake sounds really good right now. Maybe a trip to the store to get the ingredients is what I’ll do. But wait, if I’m getting in the car anyway…. Ah, hell, who am I trying to kid? I’ve already got my sunscreen on, the only real question is, which beach?

*I wrote this yesterday, the water was beautiful. Today it was freaking freezing! But, of course, I went in anyway. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Saturday I attended my cousin’s funeral. It’s hard to really put into words how I was feeling. Of course I was sad, but it was more than that. I was tremendously sad for his family and that his life had been cut short, but was relieved for him that his long, hard journey was over. I was proud of the way he had kept such an upbeat attitude and lived life to the fullest,  joking right up to his last day. And happy that he had insisted that 
everyone give him a hug before they left his hospital room.

As we were heading to the funeral home, I was hoping I would be able to hold it together until the service, and when I met up with some of my other relatives, I thought I was okay. On the table, beside the urn were placed some of my cousin’s favorite things including family pictures, a banana, Bits and bites, his cigarettes, a container of his favorite ice cream and a Tim Horton’s coffee cup, the original contents of the latter two replace with flowers ; that was him. It made me and the others smile. I noticed my cousin’s older brother, with whom I had gone to school, and went over to give him a hug.  At first I thought I would be fine, but then I started to feel the sting in my eyes and I was afraid I was about to cry and that I would set him off, as well. I decided that seeing the rest of my cousin’s family, especially my Aunt, before the service would not be a good idea, as I was afraid I wouldn’t just cry, but completely break down, and they didn’t need that. So I sat down, ashamed for not being as strong as the grieving family, and tried to keep my mind on other things for the next half hour.

I knew my cousin was a very well liked person, but it was touching to see every seat taken, every room, including the hallway of the funeral home filled. I saw people I hadn’t seen in years. A testament to how many lives he had touched.

Part of his eulogy reflected on his sense of humour. He was one of the funniest people I have ever met and you never left him without laughing or smiling at least once. A joke was made about his interest in real estate, and not to worry about getting a place in heaven, as he probably bought forty acres as soon as he got there.

His medical struggles followed him most of his forty-five years, but most of us outsiders never saw it get him down. His strength and humour kept him going as well as his optimism and his girls. He was and is an inspiration. A bright light has definitely gone out. He will be truly missed. I lift my cup of “Timmy’s” to you. Cheers!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Dad

When I was small, I would watch my father march on parade and a feeling of pride would bring a smile to my face. (Yes, I was an army brat.) He looked so smart and handsome in his freshly pressed uniform, and I thought he was the biggest, strongest man in the world; our protector. And I never felt safer in a car than when my father was driving – and that was back in the day when seat belts were something you tucked into the back of the seat and ignored. It was his arm shooting out across the front of me that was meant to keep me from going through the windshield in the event of a quick stop, and I had no doubt that it would.

Later, after my father left the service and got a job in his old home town, I used to love going shopping with him and my mother and sister.  It was a highlight of my week. My younger sister would hold Mum’s hand and I would hold Dad’s hand. He always seemed to know everyone we passed and would stop to say hello. I thought my dad was the most popular man in the world. It never occurred to me that it was payday and everyone from work was stocking up on groceries.

My dad is a tenacious man, a characteristic my daughter has adopted, and rarely waivers from his position on things, which made for some interesting…debates when my siblings and I were young. No matter how much evidence we gave, he was adamant that he was right. I learned that people sometimes have to agree to disagree, and that's okay.
 Although he had problems with his own father in his younger years, the father I know was a wonderful son up until my grandparents deaths. My father is not an emotional man and the only time that I ever remember seeing him cry was the day of my grandmother’s funeral. 

My father was never one to waste time once he made up his mind about something. And he never dawdles.  Family vacation were quick trips;  more of a long drive than anything. I remember one year driving the Cabot Trail in one day. I guess I developed my love of summer road trips from Dad.

As an adult, I came to understand, as all children eventually do, that my father was not perfect and not invincible. A few years ago, my father had a bad year and endured three surgeries. I remember seeing him lying week and helpless in that hospital bed and it really threw me, as I had always thought of my father as strong. I finally saw him as a fragile mortal human, but I also realized that his real strength is not in his physical body, but in his love for his family.

If I could give one defining characteristic of my father, I would have to say that he is dedicated to his family. My father worked hard all of his life to help raise us five kids and we all know that he would still do anything for us.

I have been blessed to have my father for many years and, if fate allows, many more to come. I can see my father in some of the things I do or say, as well as in my siblings’ demeanors. I guess that is a testament to his influence in our lives; his legacy.

I hope my father realizes how much he is truly appreciated by his entire family.

We love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Good Fight

After my family and I left our prairie home and moved to the east coast, my mother took me, my brother and sister to meet our Aunt, Uncle and their children. Playing in the yard with our five cousins were a few of the neighbourhood kids and I felt very nervous and overwhelmed to be meeting so many new people. Three months later we moved on to their street and I became good friends with the twin girls, who were the oldest of the five. We all went to the same school and Sunday school. After church, sometimes, my aunt and uncle would take me with them to my cousins’ other grandparents’ house for a homemade beans and brown bread lunch. (I can clearly recall the trophy room with animal heads on the walls and skins on the floor.) And in the summer, I would spend a few days at their cottage. They were always fun to be around and made me feel like I was one of the family.

As we grew-up, we formed other friendships and saw less and less of each other. Now that we are adults, we rarely see each other unless we just happen to run into each other, or at family functions.

Recently we’ve been seeing each other at the hospital as the youngest in their family is in palliative care. He has not had an easy life, as an accident in childhood damaged his kidneys and in the last three and a half decades he has endured at least 40 surgeries, years of dialysis and two kidney transplants. I believe his positive attitude, joke-cracking personality and two daughters are what have kept him going all these years. So it seems very unfair that it is cancer that’s got hold of him, now. I find it very hard to write…he’s dying, as it makes it feel real, but it is the truth.

They are a wonderful, close-knit family and have had to be strong for a very long time and I wish them love and even more strength, as my uncle will be facing his second round with melanoma… they have discovered two spots on his lung. Sometimes life hands you more than your fair share of challenges. All you can do is try to be strong fight the good fight.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Skin Deep

Most women do things that they believe will enhance their personal beauty. Even I have been known to hide my grey hair under a “Nice ‘N Easy” medium cool brown. And “Cover Girl” has taken more than a few of my hard earned dollars over the years. But do you know when to say when? Would you risk your life in the name beauty?

In our society, there are girls and women of all ages who believe the only way to feel accepted is to look like the women on magazine covers and on television, and will starve themselves in an attempt to attain an unrealistic, supermodel physique, regardless of the fact that their body type does not lend itself to the leggy, boy hipped, ultra thin style. In the past few years, eating disorders, such as anorexia, have become a serious problem among girls. People recognize the dangers accompanying the practice of such unhealthy behaviour, and I believe most people, (besides those in denial about their situation) upon seeing a friend or loved one heading down this path, would try to convince them that what they are doing is dangerous, and try to make them realize that if they don’t stop the behaviour, it could kill them.

That is the same reason why I try to convince people not to tan. Trying to look like Snooki from "Jersey Shore" is unhealthy, dangerous and if you don’t stop the behaviour, it could kill you!

When I was young I would tan believing it was good for me - that “healthy” glow – until I developed malignant melanoma. The irony does not escape me. Unfortunately, the cause and effects of skin cancer don’t seem to be fully understood by the general public.  I know some people who believe all that is required to rid yourself of melanoma is to have a tiny mole cut off and that is the end of it; just a little cosmetic surgery, no big deal.  They are shocked to see the large scar I brandish on the back of my right thigh, and to hear the stories I tell of others fighting for their lives against this disease.

Skin cancer is now the most common cancer in the world with melanoma being the most deadly form. Exposure to UV radiation, such as the sun and tanning beds increases your risk of developing skin cancer. Other risk factors include repeat sunburns in childhood, having fair skin, fair hair, many moles, and a family history of melanoma. I have dark hair, few moles and no family history, therefore, the major risk factor in my case was UV radiation from the sun.
It frustrates me that there seems to be a lack of knowledge about skin cancer among the general public, but more frustrating than the lack of knowledge is the apathy of those who do know - or those with feelings of invincibility - who continue to tan. Perhaps, in some cases, it is an addiction, as I have seen people with that almost orange, leathery look from multiple tanning bed sessions that is definitely not attractive, but more often they just don't seem to care.

Whenever I hear someone mention spending the afternoon outside specifically to get a tan, or see a Facebook status announcing a tanning bed appointment, it makes me cringe. Experience has shown me what the result of this behavior can be, but it is hard to convince others to change their mindset, even when the proof is staring them in the face. You are more likely to convince people to stop tanning by telling them it will cause pre-mature aging than by telling them it will cause cancer. It’s sad to see vanity trump health. And it is so disheartening to see this apathy when you know that, with a few precaution - use broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 and re-apply every two hours, wear a hat, sunglasses and cover up. Try to avoid being in the sun between 10 am and 4 pm - that skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.

Even more unsettling to me is to see a child with severe sunburn. What are people thinking? Even if, for some uninformed reason, you think that tanning is not skin damage, why would you subject your child to the pain of sunburn when sunscreens are available in most every store?

Maybe it’s the lack of PR that has people in the dark…so to speak. The Skin Cancer Foundation doesn’t have anything like the instant recognition of the Breast Cancer Foundation’s pink ribbon, or the Lung Cancer Foundation’s graphic cigarette packages. Slip, slop, slap, seek and slide in okay, but most kids associate it with sunburn rather than skin cancer. What The Skin Cancer Foundation needs is something tangible...a mascot. Perhaps a sunglasses clad rodent named Melly the Mole to teach children the dangers of the sun....maybe not. But if we catch children young enough, perhaps instead of the steady increase of melanoma cases happening now, the incidence will start to decrease.

I know there are those of you who will continue to tan and that is your choice, but with any type of gambling, remember, you take your chances. The truth is that tanning is nothing more than skin damage and a dangerous perception of beauty. Now that you are informed, don’t let the cause and effect of societal peer pressure turn you into a cancer statistic.