Friday, December 23, 2011

Cutting ties....

It's been a hell of a year.  After a long and difficult time I have to look back at what I accomplished over the last while, where I am, how I've grown and where I need to keep improving.  Too many days I have felt like I was walking drunk; feeling unstable, my head swimming, slow to make decisions, uncomprehending what moment I was in... tired, a little dreamy, sometimes with long reaching and lasting affects...  The low times were just that;  no movement, no change, no life in me and no effect on me.  Other times meant I was risking things I shouldn't, spending too much, eating too much or not enough, spreading my energies too far and not finishing things I started...  sharp and focused, obsessive, energized, manic... not good...  Both cycles have been going full tilt for a while.  In spite of the cyclical patterns my brain fires in I have still managed to keep my job (a first for me in what has been a pattern of long standing), I have still gotten myself up every day, the dogs are still fed, watered, cleaned up after, the cats are healthy and happy, and I continue to take my medication - although the dosage has been increased for a couple of months now.  The toughest part has been letting go.  Letting go without trying to take the baggage up again is hard.  Leaving little bits of it on the side of the road as I travel hasn't cut the ties enough to keep me moving forward.

In my latest call to one of my best friends "T" talked me through to another level of understanding by letting me answer my own questions.  I realize that at the very earliest times in my life, when I was very small and first realized the universe held no boundaries, that my greatest fear has been being anchorless  and becoming lost in the chaos of that universe.  Instead of learning to put up boundaries for myself I allowed all and sundry to invade my emotional space.  I let myself become tied to people who didn't have my best interests at heart; the selfish, the self serving, the bullies, predators and those with so little self esteem they "needed" someone else to push, take from, bully, prey upon and belittle.  I emulated the worst of those traits and learned to reflect back what others felt to hide who I was from them and from myself, mirroring their traits to blend in with the rest of the herd, not show I was vulnerable.  But that made me more vulnerable instead of less...

I have begun the internal visualization of physically cutting the bonds to the terrors from my past.  I have felt for a long time that my "heart" has been wrapped with a long, tough tentacle that anchored me to those terrors, and it has taken some deep searching,  looking at the darkest parts of myself - those parts of me I never wanted to examine too closely or allow to come into my direct field of view - and bring them from the peripheral to center stage,cringing in horror at what I have been.   There has been a huge disconnect in my interface with the real world and the human condition. Uncaring, unthinking, unguided... sheeplike in following someone else's ideas to avoid making hard and healthy choices for myself.  Selfish and childish, blindly believing lies because it was easier than believing those I loved would lie to me, and so I lied to the ones I loved most and to myself as well.

The time for being something I wasn't for someone else is over...  So I have taken that scarred and gnarled "chain" that encircles the core of me and snares me in my own lies and begun to mentally "slice" through it to set myself free.  I "see" myself grasping the tough tissue that invades my "body" and cutting viciously to remove the thing from my emotional center.  In my innermost and most basic core I worry that unless I extract every cell of that "chain" it will grow back and ensnare me again like a cancer. I use whatever my mind can create to accomplish removing the poisonous link; sharp knives, razors, scissors, cutting through something that resembles the thick sinews or the tough cartilage in the bones of a large piece of meat, trying to extract all of it without destroying the core of me in the process, finally digging deeply with my own fingers to tear it from my "flesh".... and I feel those distant and unwanted ties dissipating, thinning like candle smoke from a glowing wick.

I still dream that I confront those "ties" and scream at them... why they couldn't be there when I needed them, when my children needed them after all the times I had been there when they or their children needed me... but I know those conversations are useless because they would never happen in real life, and even if I did speak those words, those I spoke to would only lie to me again and blame me for their own failures, or turn a deaf ear so they couldn't see those dark parts of themselves, or tell other people and themselves that I was just a crazy liar to discredit me and deflect their shame onto me again.  A futile and unneeded waste of energy at this point, because just as it was a year ago it is still today; not my lesson to teach, not my responsibility to rescue...

The thing is, like a baboon that throws it's own feces when angry, the only ones who smell are the ones throwing the dirt.  I just  stay far enough away to be out of range and let things be.  So let them toss their "rotten eggs" at me to no effect.  The only people who's opinion matters to me now are those who have been with me on the "rough ride" and who stuck around long enough to see it through.  Even though I haven't completely cut the bond I am close enough that I can feel myself beginning to drift, but it's not away into uncharted chaos.  I'm finally starting on my life journey and steering away from the harbour I thought was home.  I can bring all the important things with me; self esteem, self awareness, calm, balance, love... and leave the rest.  I don't have to be anchorless, I just have to untie myself from the port and head back out to ride out the rest of the storm.  And rather than worry about being broken by crashing against the dock I'll breath the fresh air and feel the joy of racing ahead of the wind...  and let the baboons fill their pants back on shore.

As of today I am lucky enough to have all my children back in my arms, knowing in myself how much I love them.  And today, as I held my daughter in my arms and hugged her tight I kissed her cheek and told her how much I loved her, and how much I miss my Mom... and how happy my Mom would be.  Soon my child will hold her own child in her arms and he will fall in love for the "first time"... and if I'm very, very lucky I will have a chance to witness the miracle that happens when he falls in love with her.  And I hope in my heart of hearts that the darkness will end with me... 

So here's a toast to you who have ridden out the storm with me, to those who I pass on my travels, to those I love, and those I have truly left behind... a pomegranate cider to celebrate Yuletide.  Next time I may need a cafe mocha valium vodka latte to go... but not this time......

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nothing like a plasma fire.....

It's December and my thoughts are streaming ahead to Christmas.  I'm listening to the "log" show and mulling my thoughts instead of wine.  I have gifts stashed away for the ones I love, plans to pick up special purchases over the next few days, thoughts in my brain about having friends over for my annual Christmas party...  The lights are ready to be flung over the shrubs out front; red for the crab apple tree, magenta for the little azalea I planted when it was small, green into the kiwi bushes and yellow for the quince tree... there are strings of blue to put around my front door once the swags of artificial fir have been stapled into place again, and I can hardly wait to put up the wreath in it's place to welcome guests to my door.

Today I purchased enough butter to make my Christmas cakes, a few cookies, perhaps some almond danish...  just enough to eat and some to share.  There are cute plastic zippy bags with Christmas gift tags on the front so you can write "to" and "from" on them, load them with goodies and pass them to friends and coworkers...  I have enough wrapping paper to outfit Santa for the season, tags and bags and tape and ribbons...  and canning jars to make Christmas pudding in, too.   I'm looking at making something large and green from boughs in my garden to place on my front porch and welcome those who visit.  I have the perfect planter in the back garden to use for it, and lots of time over the next couple of days to gather my greenery....

I love all the greenery associated with Yuletide;  fresh cut Fraser firs from a farm... oh, my....   fir boughs and ivy masses, holly sprigs and mistletoe.   Of all of them I love the holly the most.  I tried to plant holly near my front door when I first moved here over 20 years ago, but with one thing and another the plants were left dry for too long and not planted soon enough, so they died.   When the children were small I picked fresh holly with the neighbours permission and I placed it around the front door.  At the end of the season I tossed the dried sprigs under the azalea beside the  door and left them there until clean up in the spring.  And now, hidden underneath in the shelter of the big azalea shrub are a dozen small holly bushes.  Even though I have masses of ivy growing in my back garden it's the holly by my door that cheers me the most.  Holly with shiny, dark green leaves that are sharp with the prickles that make them a deterrent to small hands. I have been given to understand that growing holly is finicky.  It doesn't transplant well, grows very slowly, and needs to be cross pollinated to bear fruit - most holly purchased at the garden center has been grafted with a male branch to be sure and produce those bright red berries everyone expects.  I was always told that holly planted by your door wards trouble and brings luck.  After all that has gone on and all that was removed from my garden in the last few years I'm delighted and intrigued by the discovery I made this summer. So I have little miracle holly bushes;  such a pleasure.

I'm getting ready for another series of "firsts" this Christmas;  first time without my Mom to call or invite or tell my joys to; first time with my son back in the house, but living separately as an adult; first time since I was divorced - first time to make a turkey to share on Christmas day and ask those I love to partake...  Tonight I have made some plans for the next few days; where to shop, what to mix, when to make things, who to invite here...  and while I'm making my lists and checking them more than twice the "log" show is crackling on my 50 inch plasma screen in 720p....  no smoke, no smell, just the quiet sound of resin pockets bursting in surround sound.  I'm thinking about mulled wine, but in the meantime I'd really like a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go...  and add a stick of cinnamon ....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making quilts...

I have always loved to sew.  My Mother put a threaded needle into my little hands when I was only two, and I remember my Aunt "B" showing me how to tie a knot into the end of the thread for the first time.  My stitches were long and crooked, but I was very proud of my first "seams".  My only problem was the thread was too short, so when I got to the edge of the cloth piece I was "making" into a blanket the sewing line puckered up and gathered the material into a bit of a bunch.  I was not pleased with the result - which says a lot when you remember how small I was.

When I was only four my Mother started to allow me to begin using the old Ford de Luxe sewing machine; a neat old electric model that had an external motor with a rubber belt on the flywheel.  She would tell me to sew "along the lines" on the lined writing paper sheets from old school notebooks, no thread, an old needle, and nimble little fingers needing something to keep me out of trouble as she chased after my toddler baby brother and awaited the birth of my youngest sister!

Mom created  the most amazing things with that machine in quick order; Hallowe'en costumes from what ever she had on hand, like burlap sacks for buckskin; coat-hanger wire to add "ribs" to a vampire cape; lace or other beautiful fabrics made over from adult sized dresses to pint sized ones for us; seams let out or taken in for a better fit.  I learned mostly that you can do what you want with fabric and you are the best judge as to whether or not you reach your goal. I would sew clothes for friends, make costumes for parties, coats for the pets, Barbie dresses... whatever I decided was good.  Then I discovered patchwork.

I realized very quickly that it was something I loved!  I actually used high school Geometry lessons in the real world to create the angles and lines that would morph into something more like art than home economics.  I made simple quilts at first for my first nieces and nephews; a puffy flannel cloud with stitched trapunto faces, little gingham triangles in soft colours, fun fabrics with ruffled borders.  I planned beautiful scrap quilts and laid them on flannel sheets to roll up and save until I had a place to work with enough room, and wished for a little more time while the kids grew... I saved fabrics, planned on teaching classes, kept notes on patterns, colour pallets, even began hoarding lengths of cotton - now known to most quilters as a "stash" - and realized my delight in looking at the colour, feeling the weight of the quality cottons, testing the thicknesses on the flannels, and understanding that I am a "Fabric Addict", a "Textile Hoarder" or a "Quilt Whore"... and laughing about it.   I volunteered to teach hand sewing to grade schoolers, helped preschoolers make patches for baby quilts when their teachers were taking leave to raise their own newborns, created many quilts to raise funds for class trips and class projects, learning to better my techniques and trust my instincts on colour and form.

And then I stopped.  When my world fell apart and my life lost it's flavour I had no desire to create.  The fabrics were whittled down and put away, stored for "later"...

So when a friend explained in the Fall of 2010 that they were looking for donations to raise funds for charity I offered to crawl out of my hole and make them a quilt.  I worked for over a month, immersing myself in the colours of the fabric at the waning of Summer and the first few days of fall.  I stacked reds, russets, oranges, yellows, greens...  cream and deep indigo...  and began to feel alive again.  I completed the project as planned, sewing right up to the deadline, and it was offered on silent auction - my best work to date.  I loved every little square, every stitch, every line and colour.  And my friend told me to "make quilts" to bring me out of my darkness... "make quilts"...

I have revived my love of the creative process again.  I have been asked on more than one occasion for commissioned work, but so far I have stuck to gifts and charity.  At this moment, when I am again being dragged back into the mess and drama by a discontented "ex" I am taking time to keep my joy alive by creating something that will make a difference to another human being; matching "twin" squares for an international pair of quilts to raise awareness and help raise funds to combat ovarian cancer.  After that I will concentrate on quilts for our "littlest" recipients...  there are several new little "stars" in my Universe that I want to be able to fold up in a blanket of love...  and thanks to friends I have rediscovered my "love" to be able to create. 

So I'll be cutting and sewing for a day or two... and in the meantime I'd like a cafe mocha vodka valium latte to go... just don't spill it on the quilt!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Learning the hard way....

My lawn is cut, Hallowe'en is over and I have taken all the candy and given it away - some to friends, some to family, and the remaining sack full went to the Foodbank this afternoon during my round of errands.  I have new leashes for my dogs, a new jerry can for the lawnmower, and a new direction for myself.

Go ahead.... laugh....  I moved back into the upstairs.

This time I moved most of it on my own, one box or bag or bin at a time, up and down the stairs every day, over two weeks, until my back refused to lift or my knees refused to climb.  With a little help from my son "J", his buddy "C" and my nephew "P" I got all the important stuff into place; the waterbed (ah... scooshy bed is back...), the couches, cupboards, freezer, dining table, filing cabinet and heavy carved dresser;  everything else I either rolled up, muscled up or dragged up.  I am sore, sweaty, my hands ache, I have bruises in stripes on my arms and shoulders, my knees are complaining, and I'm happy - almost elated really - and down about 10 lbs.!  It took two weeks, and I still have to clean up the carpets and floors in the suite, but the pets have resettled nicely, and I have the rooms organized to my personal satisfaction! 

I now have a studio!  The fabrics for my quilts have shelves to be displayed on and windowed cupboard doors to keep the cat off!  I have open shelf units for my boxes of thread, a wall to hang my flannel workboard all the time, a window for light, and the photos of my most loved children, nieces and nephews to look at whenever my mind wanders from task.  There is a spot for works in progress, niches for upcoming projects, and closed storage bins for my seasonal crafts - notably the Ukrainian Pysanky I love to create in the spring every year.  There is even a special place for the last remaining instruments I decided to keep and play, with their portfolios of music beside them, and my vocalize and Arie Antiche for those moments when I feel joyful and want to sing.

The computer is put away in it's own office where it will not be a constant distraction!  The files and budget papers, lists of assets and expenses, legal documentation, orders, consents, in short the "paper monster" has finally been tamed and caged.  I spend a little time writing or catching up, checking email, playing "poke" on facebook with friends, and then I walk out and close the door.  No longer my only companion.  I spend my best time now taking care of my home and garden, pulling a few weeds, making sure the trash is sorted and gone, running my little robot vacuum and smiling.

The kitchen has come back to life; butter chicken fragrant with fresh chopped cilantro; slow cooked oatmeal thickened with ground flax meal;  scallop and bacon chowder with saffron in the broth; grilled cheese sandwiches loaded with warmed, shaved honey ham; there is shortbread dough in the freezer, candied fruit marinating in brandy; a whole shelf with my wonderful wine collection; there was even a  party on Hallowe'en where little kids ate hot dogs with me and watched "Hocus Pocus"...  in short, I have my life back. 

I never realized that I was the one who just handed bits of my life to anyone who asked. Those who did take it didn't value it. It wasn't theirs to take, nor was I obliged to give it to them. I find I have become a little more cynical, no longer trusting blindly as I realize now the only person who I should ever truly trust is myself.  I have been screwed over more than once in the last couple of years, taken advantage of, learned to see other people in a more realistic way, and I have to say I am no longer QUITE the naive person I was at the beginning of the journey, but I still need the advice of good friends to keep me from screwing myself up again!

So now it's time to live with fulfillment, enjoy each task and complete each task in order, take on new projects, achieve in new ways, and remember to let Karma take care of the rest; I don't need to get even.  Because living well really IS the best revenge... and I'll have a cafe mocha vodka valium latte to go... please...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Walking with ghosts...

I recently called my younger brother "R" and we discussed a number of things that were on my mind.  He suggested I "go back in time" so to speak, and walk through some of the places and memories from before my relationship with the "ex".  It seemed like a simple enough idea, although having been with said "ex" from the age of 15 there were not a lot of places or people untouched by his presence or interaction.  So on a marginally sunny day  I booked a dogsitter for the hellraisers and filled my gastank.  It is the first day of September, and the PNE is open!

Ah, the PNE...  a place that holds so many memories that some of them were only about me and those I love.  I recalled watching my brothers skate at the forum, in awe while my oldest brother drove the Zamboni.  Falling on the ice or running into the boards HARD!  Hot chocolate at the concession on a cold day.  The Marketplace, where just about any type of TV or Online hyped up merchandise can be had for much more than a song... where Aunt Margie's Fudge sits close to the (newly discovered) roasted almond booth - and the espresso glazed warm toasted almonds were worth the price...  I almost felt saintly buying toasted nuts instead of "those little donuts"...  Food, food, food!  Hunky Bills, Curry in a Hurry, gelato, pizza, pasta, fried chicken, burgers, hot dogs, Jamaican and Japanese and Whale Tails....  deep fried Mars Bars...  and an entire row of rib kitchens having a "cook off" to see who would come up in front on the "best ribs at the fair"...  Roving performers that knocked my socks off - a group of 8 very young drummers playing marching band rhythms interwoven with pop culture lines... and dancing while they pounded until the drum sticks shattered in their hands... and Dal Richards' Orchestra playing sweet mellow tunes my parents danced to in a misty Vancouver afternoon.

I  got a tarot card reader to throw the cards for me... nothing new there, just the usual; the Tower (another cluster fuck), 8 of wands (carrying a load of emotional baggage with the end just out of sight), Judgement (exactly) 7 of swords (mourning), with the Empress for new life, the Emperor for strong leadership... and I've turned those cards over and over myself, but it was good to have another opinion...  after all, it's about the interpretation more than anything.  Had Frontier Photo shoot my portrait - I think this is the 5th one for me!  Photographed a few places that once meant something; the spot the "ex" actually proposed, the bandstand, a huge pile of shipping containers stacked alternately with cars... and it reminded me of my brother and his lego with the Hot Wheels,

I watched the Superdogs in the Coliseum, bypassed the prize home, crawled through all the barns to smell the clean hay and watch tiny chickens hatch.  I walked into the Hastings Park Racetrack for the first time on my own and realized that I had been there almost 50 years before... standing at the side, watching the horses being walked from their stalls to show to the crowd before their warm up... only now I was tall enough to see over the fence where before I barely came halfway up!  I felt insecure and alone the entire time.  I started going through the art displays and discovered an homage to the dockworkers of the Port of Vancouver... and my heart came up into my throat and I felt an overwhelming wave of grief come over me.  There, hanging on a hook near the back was a coverall just like the ones Dad used to wear, and there was a tattered little chair set beside an empty cable spool, used as a table...  I could almost smell the grimy oil, the welding solder, the burnt cotton smell from the pinholes that pocked his clothes...  and I missed him with all my heart in that instant.  It made me realize that I have been travelling with the ghosts of my past all around me.  My Dad, my Mom, my past relationship, friends and loved ones who have moved on or passed on... but my memories are just that.

Having felt for a long time that my Mom is with me always is a comfort, but there are times when I wish I could turn to look over my shoulder and see her there.  It's an urge that is unsatisfied, an ache that has no comfort, and I wonder how other people deal with it.  She would have loved the music, the joy, the enthusiasm and the life in those young performers.  And the Dad I remembered was the one who held my little hand, dapper in his nice shirt with his hair all brushed neatly as he stood with me to watch the thoroughbreds walk past.  The Dad who always won a prize at the sledgehammer game... because he was Superman to me.

Just before I left, just for old time's sake, I bought tickets to "win a house, win a car..."  and filled out my name and phone number.  I may as well have dumped them into the trash, as I have never, and will never, win anything from the Fair.  But I have some new memories to link up to the old ones I had hiding in some old drawers in the far cupboard with the pig races and the pigeons.  Maybe that is the "reset" my internal clock needed.  Something to bridge me from the past to the future without having to carry all the heavy, painful stuff all the time to get there.  And I'm sad, and a little melancholy.  But I'm also feeling a little hope.  And I believe that living in a world without hope is the saddest thing of all.

So it's time for me and my ghosts to go our own ways.  They have a lot of travelling to do to catch up to where they should be, and I have a lot of uncovered ground to bring me to where I need to be.  I will just have to do it without their company and make some new models of the best way to make my life the way a life can be lived.  I need a cunning plan... and in the meantime I'll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go, please...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Crawling out of the hole...

There are lots of signs of depression and anxiety.  You cycle up and risk things you shouldn't - spending too much, eating too much, lottery tickets, bad choices, drinking, stressing over things you don't need to.  But you never realize you've fallen down the hole until you are looking up from the bottom.

For me, the constant sleeping is my biggest and most telling sign. I love to sleep; when I sleep I am as brave and strong and smart as I wish I could be.  I can travel, work, drive, go out, interact, and even gamble risk free.  I can face down my problems and keep them from overwhelming me.  The dreams lull me into such a false sense of reality that sometimes I'm briefly unsure whether the conversation I had in my dream was real or not.  But while I am sleeping the real world and all the daily things I leave while I'm living in my dreams build up almost to flood proportions, and I find myself stuck in a swamp when I wake because the dams are overflowing.

The most common tell tale sign for me is the half finished projects.  Staying focused and keeping to a goal has always been difficult for me.  Sometimes, guilt and shame keep me from moving forward when I feel I have failed.  But the person I fail the most when that happens is myself.  It has taken me a long time to realize that I am the only person to measure my performance against.  I am the only person I have been making promises to, and when I don't follow through I am the ultimate loser.  And when all those half finished goals sit gathering dust I am trapped in my own chaos again.   The view from down in the hole is pretty limited, and climbing out is aggravating.

Kicking myself in the ass and reminding myself is getting to be a more frequent occurrence.  "You promised yourself you would do this... so do it!  It's not for someone else! It's for yourself"!  And I drag myself out of where ever I have holed up, gather the bits and pieces and get things done.  One step at a time, one nut or bolt, one hole drilled, one bag of garbage out in the bin, one more picture hung on the wall...  One more thing to make my nest my own.  Yes, my own.  For the first time my space isn't in someone else's place, my clothes didn't belong to someone else because I purchased them with my own money for myself, my things are mine and mine alone.  My time is mine, my skills are mine, my choices are made by me and hopefully for me!  Perhaps that has been what I was missing in all the equations...  the realization that it really is mine!  For good or bad,  I am the only one who can choose, and when I let other people push me out because I am afraid, they will take what is mine, use what is mine, use up what is mine... and I don't want that to happen any more.

So now I get to stake a claim on "MINE"... it isn't silver or gold, coal or uranium... potash or diamonds... but I will keep "MINE" and use "MINE" and enjoy "MINE" and do what I need to take care of "MINE"...  No more squatters in my brain, time to show myself more healthy boundaries.

Oh, and I'll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go, please...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Little dogs and fever dreams....

I have tonsillitis.  I'm 53 and laid up with a childhood ailment that used to have the Dr. making a housecall to prescribe some bad tasting medicine and have me on a "chicken soup and gruel" diet as a little kid.  I think the toxic headache is the worst part.  Oddly enough, my throat isn't that sore, but my pathetic tonsils are twice their normal size, pitted with nasty spots, and there is nasty stuff oozing somewhere in the back!  UGH!  I wonder how long I've been cooking this tasty bug, and how much it has affected me over the last couple of weeks.  I'm stuffed full of Penicillin, loaded with Ibuprophen.  The aftertaste of the medicine has me remembering why some parents give their kids chocolate; to remove that taste from your mouth!  I have lost my appetite and sleep probably three hours out of every 6 in the day...  on the "plus" side, I've lost 5 lbs.... on the "minus" side, the house is a disaster zone.  I still have to drag my sorry butt into work, but I only have short shifts so I have been managing.  I have actually brought home Popsicles, ice cream and juice.  I actually miss gruel....

The fever dreams are the worst; mostly confronting all those people who I have felt wouldn't listen to me over the last couple of years.  When they say they are my friend, tell me in a conversational way that they will pick me up from work if I need them, take me out for a coffee, see me another time I look them straight in the eye in my dreams and tell them firmly that "we are not and will never be friends". But I have noticed that when I speak with them in my fever dreams I'm no longer screaming.  All the anger seems to be fading at last, and that is a comfort.

There is one constant in all of this, though.  Every time I lay my head down there is a small, furry dog nudging my hand and comforting me.  Every time I wake there are little button eyes looking at me, and a small doggy voice questions me so softly.... "arf"... The dogs stay close all the time.  Penny lays at my feet wherever I am - laying in bed, working at finding something simple to eat in the kitchen, sitting at my computer desk.  She sleeps quietly at the foot of my bed at night, coming for a hug and a tummy rub whenever I pat the spot beside me to call her.  Daisy lays in the middle of the bed, tight to my side.  When I lay with one arm tucked under my head facing the wall she is there at my back.  And Folly stays where he can see me, with his head on my shoulder, sighing in his sleep when he closes his eyes.  I realize that at this very moment of my life they are my greatest comfort.  Although I miss the companionship and conversation that comes with a good relationship I would not give them up for someone else.  We are a package deal.  I realize that the likelihood of me finding someone who will put up with my quirks as well as my three little ragamuffins (and my three cats) is slim to none, but at this point it isn't such a big deal.  I am coming to terms with the thought of living alone.  I know with the dogs I will never really be lonely.  I just need a little more balance in my day to day life.

I'm looking forward to finally seeing some summer... although I have to say all the rain we have had this year seems like another fever dream.  I want to pull weeds, pick fruit, open the windows and have the warm wind blow out all the funk.  I want to open my heart and let the warm wind blow out all the dust that I've gathered.  And I remember the words of the Dalai Lama... "when your life turns to dust, vacuum..." 

So it's time to take another orange pill, another yellow pill, another blue pill, another white pill... climb into bed and sleep until it's time to take another pill.... to recover slowly and beat this stinking, festering, rotten bug into submission.  Needless to say, once I have recovered enough I will be cleaning the whole place with a little bit of "javex" on every surface....  stupid tonsils... I hate you....

In the meantime I would like a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go, please....  with a side of chocolate...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Running through the mine field...

My therapist - who actually gets a chuckle out of the fact that I mention him occasionally - recently talked over my latest "funk" with me.  My personal drive has been on "stall" for a while and I was concerned that perhaps my medication needed fine tuning.  He gave me a really good analogy for what has been going on.... "for the last two years you have been running through a mine field, and now there are no more mines and you don't have another focus.  This is the time in your life when you just have to be selfish, and only think about this moment and what comes after it.  When you think about what has happened before and focus on those other people who have betrayed you, you feel stuck in that moment and you can't move forward..."  Stuck in that moment...

I had a vision in my head of the coyote, running madly down the road until the road curved ahead and he was left running over thin air until he literally hit the wall and fell down the hole.  I can't remember how many times I have felt just like that; feet peddling over empty air until I hit a hard stop and gravity brought me all the way down again.  Living that way is very selfish and self serving.  There is no room for another person when your life is a constant race through the mines.  Not a partner, not friends, not family, especially not children!  Unfortunately, the world of the internet with the "social pages", "internet chat rooms", "email", "IMs" etc. does nothing to foster real time human contact and as far as I can tell it only prolongs the run through the minefield.

Some people are surrounded with those emotional mines.  Trying to get close, to find out their true and authentic selves, leaves you stepping gingerly and expecting to hit an explosion at the least pressure.  You walk a limited and precarious path.  You live with tunnel vision, trying unsuccessfully to navigate through the pitted landscape of your relationship with them.  You see a flawed vision of yourself reflected back from them, and you truly do become "stuck".  It was only when I made a difficult and very conscious decision to finally "let it go" that I was able to move at all!  Suddenly, without any fanfare, without any real change in the world, without asking any permission or expecting any acceptance, the mines were gone.  Just... gone....  and it makes me wonder "who's mines were they:  mine or theirs'"?  I can only own my own mistakes, and I know a lot of them were ones I planted and armed.  But not all of them.  When I look back at those people and see from a distance how their worlds continue I see other people stuck in the minefields, surrounded by hidden bombs and stepping gingerly.  So I know not all of them were mine to own and that is okay.

And now I have to look at "what would I equate as being selfish?"...  The answer was really quite simple.  My "self" has to come first.  It isn't about stuff or luxuries or outer trappings... it is just taking care of myself before I did anything else, and I realized I have not put myself first in a real and concrete way for a very long time.  As simple as showering because it eases my muscles, cleaning my teeth as many times as I feel like, giving myself more than a casual thought about clean sheets, clean floors, clean dishes...  having the moxy to get off the computer and react with the outside world.  Taking vitamins, using the medications I have for my skin condition, keeping the promises I make to myself and for myself.  And really, if I can't keep promises to myself how on earth will I be able to keep them to the people I care about?  If I don't take care of myself in a healthy way, how in the world will I be able to take care of someone or something else when I need to?

It's really easy to give lip service to making yourself better without actually making the real changes.  Was that comment you made just a "wishful thought" of what you want the world to think you are doing? The internet lets you hide, you can tell the world what you're doing, but are you really doing it? Does your "mouth write cheques that your ass can't cash"?  In my opinion, those are the weakest and most self serving promises... I promise to be better without changing... I promise to make a difference without the act that makes things different....  I will promise and give lip service to being a better person, and then I will forget that I ever made that promise... and the only person you betray is yourself.  It takes real strength and real courage to follow through on those promises, to make those changes.  And the only validation you get at the end of the day is the change in your soul.  THAT is the only change that really matters.

So I'm going to take my killer headache to bed.  I have a busy week coming up, and I fully intend to spend it very, very selfishly.  In the meantime, I'll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go, please.....

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The twilight zone....

I have always scoffed a little at people who weren't able to deal with the Vancouver weather.  I used to say "I have my Vancouver Hairstyle... looks the same wet or dry"...  One of my biggest - and perhaps most arrogant - jokes has always been... "how do you tell a tourist in Vancouver?  They're the one using the umbrella".... well, it seems these days the joke is on me!

The constant and almost unrelieved cloud cover day after day is depressing, and living in the basement of my home without much in the way of daylight has become a problem.  It seems to me that the best weather days have been when I am inside at work looking outside at the mountains.  Although I firmly believe that my "office" has the best view in the lower mainland, I would still prefer to be outside rather than shut in!  I even went so far as to plan a hike last week on my day off, only to have my stroll in the woods marked with drizzle - lovely drizzle, but still turns my "Vancouver Hairstyle" into a giant, frizzy dandelion puff....  so much for the "looks the same wet or dry..."  And my aging and out of shape muscles are not coping well with the unseasonal cool temperatures, making me feel stiff and sore even BEFORE my hike or my stroll to the Starbarks with the pack.  Thank goodness I finally had my fireplace installed so I can turn on "summer" in my living room and warm my muscles until they don't feel that ache any more.

I used to have nightmares about this kind of weather... still do, in fact.  Usually they are of the "end of the world Apocalypse" variety, where I am unable to see distant objects or landmarks because of unrelenting fog or thick, grey cloud cover.  That constant twilight, where my personal anxiety overrides common sense.  Sometimes I would dream I had abandoned my children, or was unable to find them.  Sometimes I would dream I was suddenly and inexplicably alone in the world, having to fend for myself using only bare resources and traveling long distances.  The most prevailing feeling in those dreams was always hopelessness;  inability or ineffectuality when attempting to change something.  There are moments when those very private and deep feelings begin, just briefly, to affect my mood to the point that I feel them even when waking.  Yes, there are times when I feel that I have abandoned and so lost my children.  Yes, I find myself alone in the world and having to fend for myself.  There are times when I feel hopeless, ineffectual, unable to make changes, even unable to plan ahead for myself.

I have basically forgotten what it's like to have focus and to prioritize.  Nobody to blame but me!  That is the moment when sanity returns - sometimes only briefly - and I remember the good advice of my dear friend "S"....  "SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP"!  Because NO ONE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL INFERIOR WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION!  When you give all your power away and wallow in self pity you do NOTHING to help yourself, and no one is going to do it for you.  So it's time to reforge that Titanium spine I worked so hard to make into a masterpiece, time to put on the steel gauntlets inside my velvet gloves, time to pull my resources and my spirit and my pride and my drive back together and plaster that smile I use as my shield and my armour on my face and keep going!  Time to start... one thing at a time!  No distractions, no excuses, and most especially NO WALLOWING IN SELF PITY!.... Good grief!  You'd think things were tough????   Right now in my life I'm probably in the best place I have ever been, and I'm using old behaviours in a new situation and making things worse!

So now I begin the new mantra;  My life is not about my past;  My life is not yet about my future;  my life in the present is all I have right now and there is NO ONE who has the right to screw it up - including me - unless I LET THEM!....  So I have decided that keeping a warm and well lit place in the "twilight zone" that the lower mainland has become will be my first priority.  A warm fire, a warm cup of tea, making each item I own either find a permanent place or removing it before it begins to own me!  Because like it or not I'm going to have to make good on all the things I have made promises about... and my first promise has been to myself and how I WILL make my life a better one than I have ever had.

Oh, and if the rain continues I guess I'll be swimming in a cooler pool than I would like, but it's still my freaking pool!  In the meantime, I'll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go, please....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Karma is a bitch....

We all want justice.  There are things that have happened in our lives that demand it; things we have done that trigger it; an unkind word, a lack of empathy, an emotional manipulation;  we lie, we steal, we cheat, we do petty things.  Sometimes we do dangerous or illegal or truly immoral things - those things others call sins.  Our actions cause hurt - physical or emotional or financial - to others, and those things earn us the retribution that follows.  Other times we lift others up, we stand our ground when the odds are against us, we draw a line in the sand and say to others "this far and no further" because it is the right thing to do.  And in those moments we become something better.

With the riots in Vancouver and the backlash from social media I have come to learn something about Karma.  No matter what you do, no matter what you think, no matter what you say, in the end we all earn our Karma and it comes at us when we aren't expecting it.  Good or bad, in the end it catches up with us.  It doesn't matter how we justify our actions, or ask for forgiveness.  It doesn't matter if we try to atone after the condemnation that falls down when the truth is found out.  "Time makes the truth fall out of the trees...", and I have seen how quickly that can happen when there are dozens, hundreds, or thousands of eyes watching.  But when there is no one watching, when we do things that write on our souls in the privacy of our thoughts we still earn what comes.  No matter how we deny it, no matter how we dodge or continue to live the lies, it comes. Yes, Karma is a bitch, and she is always watching.

I am learning to live with the positive thought that I earn what I give. What I do will always have consequences, so I will at least do no harm and at best do some good.  It's a nice thought... it takes a lot of effort to change what I was into what I want to be from this time forward.  If I give help, I will earn help when I truly need it.  If I give kindness and thoughtfulness, I will see it in others.  I think calming thoughts to let go of my fears for myself and those I love, and feel more serene.  I acknowledge my faults, knowing that what I see I can change, and I work to change them!  I show those who want me to fail my smiles and laughter.  I show my indifference to those who lie about me, and as a consequence their lies colour them and don't touch me.  And the best thing is I don't have to prove to anyone that I am better or nicer or kinder... because the only person it really affects is me.

So now Karma is starting to deliver things I never expected; justice.  Not just for me, but for all those who have been affected by what has happened.  And what I have been telling myself for a long time is this;  Justice is like a summer peach - no matter how much you watch, no matter how much you wish, no matter how hungry you are for it, it still takes time to ripen on it's own; and when it finally falls into your hands it is so sweet...   After a very long winter and a hard spring, summer is finally arriving for me, and there are a bushel of peaches!

So welcome, Karma!  I'll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go, please!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Washing it away....

It's been a full year now since I began to live solo.  In that time I have learned a bit more about who I am and what I am capable of.  I have learned to trouble shoot my internet connections without resorting to dragging my sons into the mess, hooked up my own cable, reset my phone several times, figured out what will get eaten out of the fridge so I don't "throw money away" on garbage day, discovered the most efficient cleaner for my (sometimes regretted) carpets, moved furniture on my own.  I have taken care of some of the things on my "to do" list that have been waiting for months or even years.  Doing those things makes me realize that the validation I was looking for really had to come from myself. 

Just regular mundane stuff, but in the past it was stuff I always seemed to need permission to do for myself.  I remember trying to clean up at my parents' house and clear the clutter only to be held back by a voice telling me "no, you can't touch that.... I want it to stay there"....  and I know that I still hear that voice sometimes, and I have also been that voice to others.  I hung onto things I had no need for, stored things that I could never use, saved things that weren't mine because I felt I didn't have permission to throw them away. 

Just giving myself permission to take a small vacation on my own - without anyone else to accompany me, without someone waiting for me at either end to connect with,  and without any concrete plans while I was gone - was a huge step.  When I came back I discovered that my waterbed (leaking and beyond repair, and emptied before I left) wasn't going to be in stock for another week, my carpet had gotten soaked, the rain outside made everything humid and on top of it all someone had been using fish fertilizer outside my open window, so my room smelled like old garbage and salmon!  Oddly enough there was no panic.  Just slogging through the steps and accepting my own pace until I was able to fix the problem.  No anxiety; no drama; no worry; no one standing over my shoulder watching, and no one making promises I had to wait on to fix it.  It was very revealing.  Even with such a crazy mess to return to, I still felt calm, centered and at peace. 

Sometimes in the middle of my hard earned calm there will come something that breaks my peace;  some poke or jab, or just some memory that washes over me and brings me back to the "old" me.  In those moments of panic I have learned to reach into myself, open up and dump it out like dirty mop water.  I can almost see the sludge pour out of my center, full of clumps and smelling of old dirt and rottenness.  I picture it flowing out of me and visualize my core washing clean with fresh water, rinsed until it is open and clear again.  And I feel calm again, smiling again, able to walk through whatever I must to get where I want to go.   I refuse to drown myself in someone elses' mess, and I refuse to take part in old drama.  I have finally discovered exactly what was meant when I was told I needed to put up boundaries;  this far, and no farther.

I bought my self a wall plaque for my computer room.... "I'll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go please..." and in those moments when I start to take my situation too seriously and feel a little bit sorry for myself I look at it and laugh.  The pity party is just about over, and I am learning more and more to plan for my future, live in my present, remember the parts of my past that bring me a smile, and just let the rest go.  When I look in the mirror now I see the same eyes that looked back at me 30 years ago;  calm and centered, kind, gentle and young.   I can hang on to what I need, pass on the rest, and live the best way that I can.

I have finally repaired that mountain bike that my Dad gave me all those years ago, just in time for Fathers' Day.  I will be putting on my new pink helmet and taking it out for a spin next weekend, and taking some time to remember him.  Time for new adventures, new friends, new places...  and peaceful times.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom's lilacs....

My Mom always loved lilacs.  She loved the colour purple, the smell in early spring and the way the plant grew.  I remember when I was about 9 years old she planted a small bush in our back yard on Slocan street.  She wasn't much of a gardener, and didn't have much in the way of flowers growing (although she always loved flowers in all colours or kinds) so her venture into a long term perennial was out of her usual hobbies.  The fact that we ended up moving a few years later meant she never saw the first blooms or got to smell the sweet perfume. 

Funny thing is, when I turned 16 my old best friend came to see me and took me for a drive in her car.  The two of us went down to the old house and found the lilac still growing in the garden.  Being cocky teenagers we asked the guy working on the house if we could "take it" and he said yes!  Out came a shovel from "J"s parents place, and we got digging.  Not only did we transplant the lilac, but we also scammed the rosebush from the front yard as well!  We drove back laughing to the house, dug a big hole in the front yard and plunked the lilac into it... 

What I didn't know was that Dad HATED the smell of lilacs!  In his younger days he had worked briefly at a funeral home, and the lilac smell always reminded him of dead people!  Needless to say, although Mom was pleased to no end, Dad was not thrilled!  That tenacious plant continued to grow and spread and bloom, much to Dad's disgust, no matter how it was treated!  I would hack it back when I did the gardening, shaping it and pruning the height and learning about how it grew.  I always loved it.  After I moved away from home I would come back to visit, and the lilac was still in the front yard, bigger than ever.  It always bloomed for my birthday, and I would cut bunches of the blooms to bring back to my apartment, and later to my house, even though I knew they would wilt quickly... but the smell was irresistible to me.

In 1994 my Dad had had enough and wanted to tear the lilac out of the yard.  I asked if I could take it and my parents were happy to let me!  My husband and I dug as best we could, wrapped a chain around the root system and pulled it out with the van!  It barely fit into the back of the vehilce, and we tied red flags onto the branches that stuck out the back for the drive home from Vancouver to Maple Ridge.  I gleefully followed in my mini van with the kids, and when we arrived back at our place my husband loaded the root system onto a dolly and wheeled it into the yard.  We stood it in place, piled dirt on it, and watered it.  Lilacs are tough.  That old bush took root and thrived!  And I had lilacs in my garden...

Every spring since then I would call Mom near Mother's day and tell her "the lilacs are almost in bloom"....  and she would ask me to cut some for her and bring them so she could smell the perfume.  After Dad passed and Mom moved into her little "granny apartment" I would make a drive to her place with flowers... sometimes the lilacs, sometimes just whatever I had in the garden... and later not so much.  I would still call near Mother's day to tell her the lilacs were blooming, and I'm glad to say that last year I did bring her some.  But this year as the lilacs bloom she isn't there to call.  The tiny buds are hard and closed, deep purple and waiting for the warmth of spring to open into paler blossoms with that sweet, sweet scent....  it's nearly my birthday... but Mom is gone.  And as I sit in my apartment missing her I realize that it wasn't so much the lilacs she wanted me to bring;  it was just me.  The lilacs were just an excuse, as if she didn't know how to tell me she missed me and wanted my company.  And I'm sorry that I didn't take more time to spend with her. 

So this year on my birthday I'm taking some time away.  My first vacation as a single woman, because I will be divorced on that day, too.  My birthday becomes my "rebirth day", and I will take time to grieve the passing of a chapter in my life while giving myself the opportunity to get away from the chaos and the clutter and take a breath.  It has been a tough road.  Sometimes I have gone off the path and slogged through a lot of mud to get ahead.  But I know, this spring, there will be lilacs in the garden again.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom.... I'm taking care of the lilacs....

Monday, April 25, 2011

The office cat....

I have another cat.  My penchant for taking care of strays - the one I held down quite ruthlessly for years - has finally been allowed out and I was privileged to "rescue" a small treasure for my very own.  It was just luck that had my niece "E" sending me a message as a last ditch to find a home for her little cat, Bella.  After a couple of messages back and forth, "E" and her roommate stopped by with a frightened little kitty in a cat carrier.  I tucked her into the bathroom on her own and shut the door.

Before the end of the night "Bella Meow" had decided that the cabinet under the sink was a good place to hide, so she opened the cupboard and crawled in behind the epsom salts and the paper cups.  It was two days before I was sure she had eaten something or had any water, and she was terrified of the other cats, the dogs, loud noises, the carpet cleaner, or anything else that seemed different I suppose.  The rotten dogs decided to gang up on her and would bark aggressively until I picked each one up and presented them - butt first - to Bella's face!  A couple of sniffs later and I had peace of a sort for a little while, but had to repeat THAT fairly often!  Daisy was always submissive, and still tries to steal Bella's canned food.  Folly barks like a lunatic, but when Penny gets into the mix, WATCH OUT!  Full dog assault corps have cornered the cat again!

After two weeks of Bella in the bathroom, adding one cat at a time for company and so they could sort out the pecking order, I decided the dogs would have to bunk with me at night to allow Bella to venture out on her own.  I had been told Bella was an "outside" cat and she had "accidents" so I made sure the catbox was clean and hoped for the best.

Bella made a decision to move into my craproom/office on the first night the bathroom door was left open.  She has been in here ever since.  There has not been a single accident on the carpet, although one of the dogs and evil Xena have made messes since then!  Thank goodness for my new carpet cleaner!  The room smells like freshly opened cat food, occasional happy kitty farts, and computer paper.  Nothing else.  She hasn't had a problem living inside, and I am proud of her.  I decided to install a cat door in the office window, with the "kitty tree" underneath it as a jumping up point.  Although it has not been installed yet I have everything here now to get that job done.  I just need to clear the stuff to make room!

Having to change the use of the room has finally given me a chance to think outside the box for the rest of my living space.  The closet next to the bathroom (which had been housing cleaning supplies and pet stuff) has been taken over by the portable countertop dishwasher on a rolling caddy.  The cleaning supplies store underneath it and my towels and TP fit in the two remaining shelves above it.  The power cord and the water lines fit neatly around the door frame and I can still use my kitchen sink while the dishwasher is operating.  It also stores the dirty (rinsed) dishes between washings!  With the "kitty tree" and pet supplies moving into the "office" it leaves more room for me!  I am seriously thinking about removing the cat box from the bathroom as well so I have one less mess in there!  If I can get all three cats to use the cat door instead of the cat box my place will be a much fresher one!

I like sitting in my soft leather chair in the evening, tooling around on facebook or checking messages... Bella comes over and cuddles up in my lap or watches me from the pile of comforters folded on the dresser... she stays here in the office with the baby gate in place, always out of sight of the dogs.  Her water is fresh, she gets a can of food to herself once in a while, and sometimes I hear the contented "crunchcrunchcrunch" of her nibbling the kibble she likes.  It's a "win/win" as far as both of us are concerned.  I have another warm body to love, and she has a safe place to be.  And really, isn't that what we all want?  A safe place to just be?

Having so many pets makes me feel a little like the "crazy cat lady" sometimes.  But I can't help feeling lifted when they offer me their trust.  I'm looking forward to a summer of having active cats and dogs sharing space with me, trusting me to care for them, and having the peace that comes with knowing where I am in the world.  I'm right here.  And as far as I'm concerned it feels just right!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stuck in a pile again....

Well, the next level of moving has finally happened.  I had to get myself out of my storage locker and found myself with my "pants down" having put things off waiting for something else to happen.  It's funny how old patterns are so hard to break!  Oddly enough, I managed to drag all my important things out of the storage unit, lug them to my mini van, drag them home, and started loading them into what is now dubbed the "crap room" with grandiose plans to organize, prioritize, junk out, sort out and make everything fit.  Well, it fits... just barely!  At the last moment it was a mad dash, loading the last items of Christmas lights and ornaments, refitting the back seat into the van, and tying the Ikea chairs onto the roof rack so I could take the lock off the door and drive home the two blocks to the house.  I'm sort of proud to say I did it all by myself!

It was just dumb luck that had me moving shelving and tools into the proper storage to make room.  There was barely an area to place the still-packed tea pots and future projects.  I have all my quilting stuff neatly stacked in one area, but everything else got rushed into place. 

I moved the computer from the living room into the smaller bedroom.  All the paper files are moved into the room, but the filing cabinet is still empty!  I have a designated "office" area now, but I have a little problem in that my Penny (the 12 lb. Shih Tzu) has decided that her half-chewed "bouncy balls" MUST be rolled under the filing cabinet so I can retrieve them for her... and the little "rhouw... rhouw...." as she tries to get my attention is cute at first, but starts to wear on my nerves like a toddler who asks "why????"....   That's when I take a deep breath, find her toy and toss it into the other room... sometimes over and over... until she finds something else to do.  I'm happy to say that the rage that used to fill me and I once allowed to control me is ... not there...  and it feels strange.

I really think it's funny - not "haha" funny - that I am learning patience now when I really needed to have it so many years before.  There is lots of time to reflect on where I am, and I realize that I am doing in the middle of my adult years what should have been done in the beginning;  finding that center of myself, learning the difference between giving and taking, and understanding that it's not about the kindness and grace you receive from others so much as the kindness and grace you show.  I'm learning to let things go, and that's hard sometimes.  It gets easier as the pain fades and the rage subsides.  The medication helps, and I know that I will need to keep taking it to keep the anxiety and rage from ever taking hold again. And I also understand that part of the chaos around me was really just a reflection of my inner clutter.  Too much going on and no way to slow it down and keep it from spilling over.  Life is not so technicolour... now it's just simple and has enough going on to show the small beauties one at a time, instead of overwhelming my senses in a constant stream.   Think of a mixer turned on too high, with too much pudding in a small bowl!  Of course everything gets spattered with goo!  And that was me!  Too much, too high speed, too small of a container...

So is this what it feels like to be "ordinary"?  This quiet, peaceful time?  Simple pleasures, like a clean floor under my bare feet, fresh air, folded laundry, and a lack of the constant jangle of sound from electronic gadgets?  A bowl of soup, a bran muffin, a call from a friend so I can laugh with someone?  Working and coming home to play with little dogs, buying something if I can use it and have room for it... and not worrying any more about the next day or next week or next drama...  I love being able to say "not mine to rescue, not my lesson to teach"...  and really letting it just... go...

And now I need to contain this clutter that slows me down and get myself "unstuck" from waiting.  The waiting is finally over, and I can really start to move forward for the first time in my life;  unhampered by those who wanted what they didn't deserve, unslowed by those who would have taken what wasn't theirs, unstoppable, unsinkable...  but no longer unhappy.  Like I said, the chaos around me is just a reflection of the clutter within me.  Since I'm the only one who can take charge and straighten this up, then I think it's high time I started... one pile at a time.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A question of shoes.....

For those of you who have gotten to know me better over the last couple of years, you know of my new found delight in purchasing shoes!  I was recently asked.."what's with women and shoes, anyway?".. it got me thinking.  So, what's with women and shoes, and more importantly for me, what's with ME and shoes these days?  Women and shoes; it's a purely psychological thing. Shoes is one of those fashion statements that can change the way you seem to the world, as well as change the way you think about yourself.

A small woman puts on a pair of heels; depending on the ratio of angle between the heel and the toe (women with a smaller size get a dramatic difference with a lower heel) you look 10 to 15 lbs. slimmer! That's a bonus on it's own! The way you walk in heels changes your stride. Leading "heel/toe, heel/toe" makes your body undulate, and when you lead with your chest when you walk it is very attractive to the opposite sex, as it conveys the primal idea that you are an "alpha" female. Stiletto heels force the upper thighs to tighten to keep your body in balance, lifting the "derriere" and making it look higher - there fore more youthful and therefore a better mate (again, body language overrides the conscious brain!).

One of my favorite movies is the British Film "Kinky Boots", and a lot of what I have come to realize about the subject is paraphrasing some of the ideas there.  You can tell a lot about a person by their shoes.  Shoes have character, and they convey what you think about yourself to the world.  Think of a young woman wearing Doc Martins.  Now picture someone wearing Christian Loubouton!  More than expensive jewelery, expensive shoes make a statement about how you feel about yourself. And face it, shoes have connotations; think of the term "the girl in the comfortable shoes", "sensible shoes", "old lady shoes",  "stripper shoes", "office shoes", "baby shoes", "ass kickers", "CFMs", or just simply "heels".  Each one of those titles carries a thought in your brain about "who" the person who wears them really is!  And think about a woman wearing a well tailored grey skirt suit... then add a classy pair of Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blaniks in red and it changes how you look at her! It especially changes how her peers look at her!  It's like that big fat diamond ring that makes a statement about a woman's status to her peers.

From personal experience, well made, butter soft leather beats cheap and cheerful shoes by a mile - mostly because they look good AND they are functional! When you slide into that Italian leather and feel the material wrap around your arch like it was made for you there is NO going back!  We are and can be very vain creatures, and lets face it; Cinderella was most little girl's "favorite" fairy tale!

So many of us have been in "Mom" mode for so long we forget the power of shoes.  Some shoes we wear make us feel worthwhile and rich.  Some allow us to feel strong.  And some just allow us to feel beautiful.  If a shoe reflects all those feelings for me, I'm sold!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Timmies triage....

In the grand scheme of things I never expected to have those "15 minutes of fame" to deal with.  I expected my life to continue on in much the same vein as it has most of my life;  occasional drama, highs and lows, normal and everyday stuff or perhaps the excitement of some special occurrence.  But sometimes you get caught in a moment you never expected; you end up riding the current and being swept along with nothing to go on and only being able to take one fast paced step after another, literally running in place without seeing what is next just to keep your head above water or be drowned.

On February 28, 2011 it was only the luck of the draw that sent my Mom into the hospital.  She had called the ambulance to take her to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.  The dizziness she was experiencing made her feel so helpless but she still managed to make the call and have them come to get her.  With the help of her niece - my cousin, Lois - the attendants loaded her onto her "granny transport" rolling walker and took her down the elevator to wait in the lobby for the stretcher.  When I got the call that she was in the emergency I flew of the house as fast as I could (leaving my debit card, cash, phone charger and snacks at home) to find her waiting, still on the same stretcher, with the ambulance attendants keeping her spirits as high as they could, flattering her, smiling at her, comforting her and never leaving her side.  Unable to even supply her with a proper pillow, her head was supported by two flannel sheets tucked into a pillow case. My brother and I had to hold up a sheet to give her privacy while they quickly helped her change into a gown, inserted the IV needle and brought her a warmed blanket.  The four of us took turns,  held the bag when she vomited, wiped her chin, held her hand, joked with her and tried to keep her comfortable until the medication nurse brought her a dose of anti nausea medication and something to calm her and help her relax.

With no where else to keep her and the emergency filled to overcrowding (I heard later there were rumours of 100 or more travelling through the emergency that night) the personnel running the shifts was quick enough to make a snap decision to take what they thought were less critical patients and place them in more quiet surroundings;  the Tim Horton's coffee shop located in the Hospital lobby.  I heard the nurses and staff worried about funding cuts, talking about placing patients in otherwise unstaffed areas because they needed care - referred to as "ghost wards" - rather than give them no care at all.  I heard them talking about working hard and having to work harder without the staffing needed to supply all the areas needed, and talked to them about the problem of "burn out" with the overload.  It was frightening. 

The Tim Hortons was quiet, and mom slept in a drug induced doze, snoring gently. I was glad she could get some peace but truly troubled.  The cold bled off the windows and I draped her coat over her feet to keep her from chilling too much.  I started taking pictures of the situation with my mobile phone, even recorded a short video to make a point, but was not able to upload the video and allow others access to the shots.  I did post the photos on my facebook page, and one of the other family members for another patient went outside to speak to television reporters on the conditions our caregivers are forced to work in.

It seemed I was there for a significant amount of time, but after a while they moved my little Mommy from the cold of the Timmies back into a bay in the admitting area;  still in emergency and still among the traffic, but quieter than it was closer to the nurses' station. and she and I sat together with me pulling her blankets around her shoulders, wiping her face, comforting her when she was fretful and letting her know that people were sending good wishes and thinking about her.  She was truly thrilled by each well wish and giggled over the mentioning of friends and family she has loved for so long.  As the medication wore off she began vomiting again and I called the attendant to help her while I held the basin and spoke to her gently.  In the wee, small hours of the night they gave her a dose of different medication to calm her and keep her from being sick again.  This time it was successful.  But by 6:30 when the Tim Horton's opened for business again I had seen myself - front and center - in stills taken by other patients on the Timmies' Triage ward running in a news segment on the televison in the emergency room.  "Dbl Dbl Trouble for RCH"...  Well, the damn place was shut that night and we couldn't even get a coffee!  Mom and I waited until 9 am, with her becoming more worn out as the hours past, until they finally prepped her for a CT scan, and I pointed out to them that one side of her face was "droopy".  After that the situation was handled a little more seriously and the staff reacted in a way that showed they were concerned for the prognosis.  I went to the lobby to make some calls and inform my family of the state things were in (my poor cell phone had died from lack of power the night before, and my car was under lock and key in a blockaded lot across the street), then managed to move my car to another spot and headed back in to continue waiting.  Mom was returned to the Trauma room on the emergency ward - the 4th spot in less than 12 hours - where we waited for the Dr. to give us the news;  it was not good.  Stroke with atypical symptoms (hence the diagnosis that she suffered from the flu), looking at waiting on a swallowing assesment, a chest xray and stabilizing her.  The staff wanted me to go home.  I was told the "cavalry" was being mobilized, and there would be people to spell me off, so I went home to grab a few hours sleep, take care of my dogs, feed myself, send out information to those that needed it, field phone calls, and prepare to do it all over again.

Back to the hospital I went, this time carrying my debit card, a recharged phone (no charger), change in my wallet, and parked in a different lot - after calling in work to say I wasn't coming to close the store tonight  I arrived to find... no one.  Mom was sitting in another bed (the 5th spot in her stay and right next to the noisey nursing station) and on a new oxygen set up.  The phlem she was coughing up had thickened and darkend, and was very difficult to move.  I talked with the staff who made changed that should have made her more comfortable, but she began struggling and trying to remove the mask, saying she couldn't breath.  And then she stopped.  She drifted into a semi coma and made no further complaints, just a few incoherent comments.

I suspect she had another stroke at that point.  Even though the chest xray showed no infection her lungs had been compromised and were shutting down.  The staff did everything in their power to help her, but in the end the last thing they could help with was to give her morphine for the pain and to take away that feeling that she was drowning.  She stopped fighting the machines, stopped fighting to breathe, and as they wheeled her down to what would be her 6th and final spot in the hospital she breathed shallower and shallower until she wasn't breathing any more at all.  I held her in my arms, kissed her, and as I stroked her arms my brain recognized the shape of my own hands in hers, the lenght of my forearms and the size of the muscle structure,  the height of my cheekbones and the depth of my eye sockets in her face.  I am my Mother's daughter.  And I'm just as stubborn, just as pragmatic, just as strong, and just as weary of the unneeded drama that affects my life from the outside.  Come by it honestly, and have no intention of changing it at this time in my life.

The damn story has gone viral on the internet now... it's all over the world and so it should be.  Our government has allowed the infrastructure that supports our medical system to come perilously close to collapsing.  The only problem is, every time I hear them on the news, every time I see my Mother's smiling face on the TV, every time I catch a glimpse of myself in a still shot I am back in the Timmies Triage waiting for them to take care of my Mother.... but they can't anymore, because she's gone.  And I cry.  And cry....

I know that my role in this is to remember, so remember I will.  I need to make sure this NEVER happens to someone else.  Spread the word.  I didn't want this particular 15 minutes of fame and I would give it back to hold my Mom in my arms one more time.  But you don't get a do-over very often, and I don't think there would have been any other outcome, but I would have wanted her to have the dignity she was denied, the comfort they were unable to give, and had a diagnosis sooner through quicker care so she could have had those last moments with more of the family.

More than anything, I would like the world to remember; one day this may be you....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oh.... how I wish you were here......

There comes a time in everyone's life when they have to step up.  The natural progression of aging; first babies, toddlers, school kids, teenagers... if we're lucky; spouses, parents... grandparents.  We all take a step ahead, and bring what we learn with us.  In the rush and joy we forget that the progression has an end, and eventually those that were ahead of us in the ladder have disappeared.  So, when we get to the front of the line it's time to reflect on a lot of things until the final step into the unknown.

Last night, on the 1st of March just before midnight, my first love made that final step into forever;  my Mother, Gloria Rossalind Knowlan, at age 86.

On the afternoon the day before she suffered a sudden and serious stroke.  When the call came to let me know where she was (at that time her condition was unknown) I quickly grabbed my things and drove to the hospital.  It was simply time to step up.  For the next 15 hours I rarely left her side, holding her hand, comforting her, passing her tissues when she coughed, waiting (yes, even in the infamous "Tim Horton's" ward in RCH) for tests and time to pass.  We spoke of so many things when she wanted to talk;  how much she loved us - her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren - special friends, fun times, things she taught me over the years;  we talked quietly between her struggles to rest.  She wanted Pink Floyd played at her memorial service and we talked about her favorite music. Mostly I dozed in the chair beside her bed and let her know she was not alone.

When she was finally taken for a CT scan on the morning of the 1st we were unsure of the prognosis, but I saw marks of the seriousness of her condition in the laxness on one side of her face and steeled myself for what was to come.  When the Dr. finally had a consult with me following the test the result was pure and simple;  there was a serious stroke in her cerebellum; it had not been the first one; she was going to be stabilized and best case scenario was she would stay as she was or heal;  worst case scenario was further strokes, compromised respiratory system or heart problems.  They told me that sleep was my best option and I checked with family and informed them that in my opinion the situation meant we all needed to step up and change how we were dealing with this.  I was hopeful someone else would care for her while I took care of my own responsibilites, phoned in sick at work, slept a few hours, cleaned up and returned... this time with a different parking spot, change in my wallet, a fully recharged phone, and the hope that TONIGHT Tim Horton's was serving tea....

My siblings had taken care of a lot of the important stuff;  Mom was still in the emergency by herself after insisting she wanted "no visitors" and that she was just tired.  She sent my other siblings off to their lives and didn't want a fuss.  My brother and sister had gone to clean her apartment and ease her worry over her personal space.  My brother came by with a care package with personal items as I attempted to keep her as comfortable in bed as possible, but a little after 10 pm there was a marked change.  She told me she was sad that we were all having to do these things for her now, so I reminded her that she did that and more for us when we were small; stayed by our sides, stroked our hair, held our hands, wiped our faces, and look at how lucky she was that now we were here to do it for her.  I reminded her that her life was very, very rich, and that we were the gold that made it so.  That comforted her and she giggled a little.  But she was drifting away, not so lucid anymore, her breath becoming harder, fretful and struggling for air.  The staff made her as comfortable as they could and I asked that they call my family and tell them of her condition.  I knew it was close to the end.

One more time to feed the meter, and back I went to wait.  I helped the staff gather her belongings and whispered in her ear that the family was coming, hang on just a little longer, but the morphine they gave her for her pain and comfort allowed her to slip away like a firefly, creeping softly from the ground and rising for the first time.  I watched the husk of her earthly body wind down quietly like an old fashioned toy, and I held her close and kissed her as she took those last soft breaths.  And she healed me.  Softly, quietly, and without a lot of fuss or drama, she taught me her last lesson.  I'm strong enough to take care of myself.  I'm strong enough to do the right thing.  I'm strong enough to take the tough stuff on and I don't have to claim the world, I just get to claim my role in it.  And for one last time I had her all to myself.

That is the gold I get to share now.  Like a chocolate coin, it's shiny on the outside and sweet in the middle, and it tastes better when you share it.  And when you share a lot of them you have other people share theirs with you.  That is what makes life so very rich and so very sweet.

I always tell people that your immortality lives on in the memories other people have of you.  Mom, to me you will always be immortal and I will treasure every precious moment of your life.  And although I do have a lot of regrets I am at peace in that this time I have none.  I will keep being honest and straightforward with my family and friends, and I will live my life more the way she did; quietly and softly, with compassion and humour, and keep my childlike wonder, until I too go forward. I will continue to do the right thing even when no one else wants me to be right.   I'm a bit stubborn that way, but for all of you who really knew Gloria you also know I come by that trait honestly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Learning to say goodbye....

Raising puppies is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done;  it's a lot of hard work, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of cleaning and scrubbing, worrying and watching.  From the moment they birth, wet and tiny in my hands as I cut the cord that connects them to their Mothers, to the moment they go out the door in the arms of the special someone who will love them "forever" they are an enormous joy.

I love everything about them,  their little cries like seagulls when they first find their voices, the times they suckle on my fingertips and the end of my nose, watching them learn to play with toys, and of course the smell of puppy breath.  This last time was chaotic and crazy having two litters at once, but there is not a single moment I would take back in it.  Each puppy is special, individual, unique, and much loved.  I have fussed over them and fed them with a spoon, watched them toddle through their first steps, and who could forget the photo montages with puppies tucked into a Santa hat?  Holding a warm puppy in my arms while I sat alone on Christmas just enjoying the fact that I wasn't really alone with them there.

I'm not the only one who has benefited, though.  Daisy - who behaved like a shelter dog from the moment I fell in love and brought her home as a "timing out puppy" from the pet store - has become a more stable and balanced dog after going through the process of being with the first litters of puppies and then becoming a Mother herself.  Surprisingly, she is quieter, less prone to be jealous, eager to play and interact with my remaining dogs.  Now, when I tell her to "sit" for her treat there is no panic that the other dogs may get her share, just calm acceptance that she will get her turn when she behaves, and I'm glad for her.  She has a bounce to her step and has even welcomed the occasional guest that pops by. 

As each puppy left and went to their new families I felt a small part of my heart go with them;  Kaya Lou, Painter, Patches, Coco, Prince, Bodie, Katinka, Mercedes, Molly and Dexter eventually found their forever homes after weeks of posting ads, flashing photographs, spreading word of mouth and taking texts and phone calls.  Only one - Pixie - has yet to find her "forever home".  And in the process of finding those perfect matches for each puppy I realized that the right person always comes for a puppy;  no matter how much you worry, post, fuss, panic, no matter how many calls you take at odd hours, no matter the stretch of time, each puppy has someone out there who is waiting for them.   You know instantly when that love bonds the right person to the puppy that will be theirs.   And although I do love my little puppies and feel responsible for them I still have to let them go and be with the ones who make a choice to take them home.

It made me realize something about myself.  No matter how much I fuss and worry, no matter how long I am alone and single, when the time is right - and not until then - there will be someone out there for me.  That is the hardest part at the moment as I make the final arrangements to end my 36 year relationship with my Divorce.  And I have to remember that although what I had wasn't real I always thought it was, and grieving for a dream is still grieving.  It may be a long time until I get past this part of the process.  In the meantime I am learning to say goodbye and still embrace the love that I shared.  Puppies are good at teaching that.  I cry a little as each one leaves, but puppies have no regrets.  They are, quite simply, a joy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spring cleaning.... or not....

Ah... the first breath of spring on the West Coast, and my thoughts turn to the garden.  Left untended for much too long, it has taken on a life of it's own over the last two winters, and requires MASSIVE taming!  With the thawing of the lily pond I know it's time to get on with it, and a plan is really required to get everything done on schedule, but as I've said " the best laid plans....", and the roly-poly hamsters (aka. Penny's latest puppies) have decided the yard it their "it" spot.

After checking to make sure the fences are still in place and there are no escape routes for creatures that weigh less than three pounds I dug myself into it.  My first big job was, of course, removing all the trash and the recycling from the move.  Two very smelly trips in my van loaded to the nines to the transfer station, one very loaded trip with a trailer to recycling, and then just the sweep up.... still took a week.  I included cleaning the "damper" in the steel stove my Dad built, changing the stove pipe, and piling up some hardwood cuttings for burning.  Well, the patio area is covered with dirt, puppy poop, doggie poop, sawdust (from various house improvement projects), the hose has kinked over on itself and will need to be replaced, and I still need to wash everything down as best I can.  I continue to find piles of junk in corners, and to top it off my evil cat, Xena, still thinks the living room rug is a good place for a catbox so I  keep her captive in the bathroom at night and throw her outside in the day time.  However, I am on my second "Rug Doctor" rental... on the first clear day we've had in ages... and it's my day off... and I don't get to put it off as the puppies have "interviews" this week and I certainly don't want THAT smell to put people off.

So, now I am trying vainly to forge ahead on cleaning while the day slips further away;  I have misplaced my car keys, torn my finger nails, had a puppy "sneak" into the bathtub to raid the catbox and proceed to "barf" the ill gotten goods onto my bedroom carpet; the Rug Doctor is already late for returning so I'll call them and let them know I have it for another day; there is a load of laundry in the washer, one in the dryer, one on the floor ready to load, and about three on the dining table awaiting sorting and folding, only I haven't figured out where to put the kitchen linen yet and I'm out of drawer space; my African Violets got dumped and now they need repotting; and the gift I so cleverly purchased months ago for my best friend's birthday is probably in the storage locker, and as stated before I have misplaced my keys so you can guess where the key for THAT lock is....  Chaos once more...  I sense a pattern here.

I still dream sometimes that I am in my old bedroom, or coming home to my house with my family, that everything is where I left it the last time;  the gift is sitting in the spare bedroom in the dresser drawer; my favorite painting hangs on the wall over my bed; the linen fits in the drawer in the kitchen; the bathtub is wonderfully deep and none of the dogs want to jump in...   Funny thing is I'm more fit, more trim, more emotionally balanced, more energetic, and yet I keep myself stuck with lists I'm not staying on track with.  I have  called my daughter more times in the last week than I did in the previous two months; spent more time with my sons as well; cooked myself more meals and spent less time sleeping.  I haven't napped for days and I don't really feel like I need one.  But life is completely different in a way that keeps me off balance.  I have to keep moving forward so I won't fall flat on my face.  I think the real difference is that one thing in me has finally changed;  I actually care about things because at last the fight is over; the most important of the paperwork has finally been signed and  I get to go on with my life.  I can really make something new without feeling as if I am rudderless.  From here on in if I fail - and I expect I will a time or two - it is on my own merit.  If it doesn't get done it's because I didn't do it!  The acceptance of that has made me feel immeasurably younger and I'm ready to take on the next step.... I just have to remember "you can only do one thing at a time, so do it well and ON time, because waiting for someone else to do it for you will make you fail EVERY time..."

So for now it's back to feeling Spring course through my veins, wake up my spirit and put a smile on my face.  I'll be cleaning my carpets tonight and taking care of all those other things in an orderly and TIMELY fashion...  Perhaps a walk to the storage locker will clear my head and give my doggies a nice break.  Who knows;  I may even unearth that gift... I may remember where I put it during my exposure to fresh air and sunshine.... but first I have to find my keys..........

Friday, January 21, 2011

Moving on.... and moving....

Moving sucks.  You heard me!  I haven't moved in over 20 years and thought the preamble of removing all the stuff from the downstairs before the renovation equaled "moving"... boy, was I ever wrong.

And then, of course, there are the puppies;  cute little balls of fur, total distractions, I would be packing up dishware and suddenly I have to pick them up, or quiet them down, or send the big dogs out for a pee break, or feed them, or clean up the mess... and so on.  Photographs to post on the internet, trying to manhandle boxes and trunks past them without disrupting their "cage", trying to not wake them up late at night so the neighbours weren't disturbed...  and fielding calls and emails, reposting ads, making sure the people who take them home are the kind of people I want them to be with.

I thought I was being so prepared and so clever by renting a storage locker to hold my stuff in before the big day, and happily packed and sorted my things, starting with all the Christmas decorations and crafting supplies, taking them down the block to the storage facility and stacking them neatly.  I could even stack those big rough totes, one on top of the other, all the way to the ceiling!  That fantasy didn't last long.  Two hours to load the car - up and down the stairs, packing the vehicle, making sure I was down before 10 pm to unload... and it only took 10 minutes to unload each trip.  There was ample space - or so I thought.  I even removed and stored the back seat from the mini van so I could take more in each load.  But I forgot to factor in the fact that I'm not 30 anymore.. not even 40 anymore... and that I still have to work 5 days a week, so even if the car is loaded up I may not get to the facility until after shift!  

Filling boxes too full meant they were too heavy for me to carry, and lack of sleep gave me a bad case of "mush for brains", I lost the tape gun somewhere and kept forgetting what I was doing and getting distracted by a larger mess or a bigger list, so I was reduced to using clear plastic bags for all my clothes and linens and tossing them into the back of the locker on top of whatever would hold them, making a final mad dash down the block on the Friday night with my neighbour following closely behind, both vehicles filled as full as we could with small items of furniture, and stacking them like Tetris pieces into what can only be described as a disorganized mish mash of home items.  Organization out the window, time to panic!  On the final day I was running on four hours sleep and hadn't even made a DENT in the upstairs living spaces, but the storage locker is STILL filled to the ceiling in places as I write the a week later with boxes, bags, containers, chairs, baskets, shelves and even my Ikea coffee table.

Thanks to the help of my young tenants and their friends and family - for which I am truly and endlessly grateful - all the "stuff" was removed from the entire house and switched, with help from my oldest son and one of his friends on top of it!  Thank you, Steve; and thank you, Kai;  I forgot how much work this is.  My son, his buddy and I enjoyed a lovely dinner of "take away Chinese food" together while the electronics were hooked up so I could watch my TV, surf the internet, or plug in a movie.

So here I am, in my new living space, up to my neck in unpacked "stuff"; sorting, removing, putting away what I will keep, boxing what I don't need, can't use and don't have room for.  Some for charity, some for family, some for the trash.  I'm in my first REAL apartment, on my own for the very first time, with my own things around me, and in a place with just enough room for me, the stuff I really need, and my little animals.  I have finally moved away from "home".  No longer living in my father's house, no longer living in my husband's house, now I start fresh.   I still have to clean the carpets, wash the floors, organize my closet, decide where to put the cleaning supplies, the bathroom things and the toilet paper, but I have my lovely water bed, I have my computer (the true necessity of modern life), I have a little peace and a nice place to park my car in my own driveway.  I'm still at the same address and I still have the same phone number, but I am proud to say I am living in a space that I actually created with my own hands, my own ideas and my own time.  I love it.  And I love knowing that I can do what needs to be done to get by.

Now... just have to wait for my hands to stop hurting and the bruises to fade.  Should take another week or so....  Did I say moving sucks?