Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The best mess.....

This time of year gets pretty messy...   The house gets turned upside down looking for paper or tape or tags from the stash; the kitchen cupboards get shuffled through checking on what's in storage and whether or not there is enough for this and that; the furniture gets moved around and the resulting messes that were unnoticed and forgotten add to the list of "things to do when I have time"... and then all the time is up and I'm left either too tired to do anything or I have to move onto things that HAVE to be done NOW!  Like WORK!  It's a totally new experience for me and it's still taking some getting used to.

I am still woefully disorganized this year.  Even taking many old customs out of my yearly equation I'm still amazed at how fast Christmas arrived!  I didn't write a letter to "all my friends and family" nor did I mail out 100  cards containing hand printed party invitations with seasonal stamps and embossed images...   there was no draping the front with lights nor did I connect power to the existing lights on the eaves of my home....  Instead of counting the days until December the 1st I was scrambling to learn my new job and memorizing codes instead of making lists....  and when December 1st came around I didn't keep track of the days but I did keep track of my hours at work (and there were a lot of them, many last minute and ALWAYS fun for me!)....

I did put up my tree, bake a few cookies and some Christmas cake, invited many friends to come and enjoy time and company here for Boxing day, and I am really looking forward to that!

But after all the rush in the last few weeks I have time to remember other times and other meals... and other family members who I am not celebrating with this year.

The last time I cooked a turkey for Christmas was on December 2009.  Newly separated and on my own for the day I had arranged with my Mom to bring dinner to her house.  I roasted a small turkey breast, made all the fixings, packed a lovely bottle of Port and brought the meal hot to her little home.  Together with my brother "R" we shared a meal, sipped our wine (Mom abstained, and I only had a little because I knew I would be driving home later) and shared our traditional carrot pudding, just the three of us.  It was a quiet and sweet memory.  And it was the last time I spent Christmas with my side of the family.

Since then I have been lucky enough to spend every Christmas with my kids...   opening gifts, sharing stories, playing games, scratching lottery tickets, enjoying the labours of other hands while I sit as a guest at table to share turkey dinner and copious desserts...   but there is no more Carrot Pudding on the menu because there are not enough people who eat it, and there is a phone number I can't call on Christmas morning to wish Mom "Merry Christmas!" any more.

Last night I worked my little job telling my customers " I will get you through as fast as I can because you have better things to be doing than standing here in the line up at Superstore on Christmas Eve.." and I smiled and took care of business until they had all gone home...   Then I wandered the store aisles putting away abandoned purchases until long after I was supposed to clock out...   and came home to a quiet home, some warm dinner, a sparkling tree, the log show on TV and the little dogs so happy to have me home.

My gifts were wrapped days ago.  There is enough glitter and tinsel to make anyone's eyes shine... there are piles and packages and wrapped-and-ribboned boxes waiting to be loaded into my little SUV so they can go to their destination and be opened and enjoyed....    and there was is a small red-headed tornado who will be ready to tear paper and laugh and run and eat too much and be the center of the Universe for a few more hours today, because our little "boy" is big enough to "get" that this is a big day.

So the torch has been passed, and life moves forward in a sweet way.  I appreciate so much more now than I did when all the hustle and the lists took over my life.  And if there had been a way to talk to my younger self I would have said "life it too short to take all your time preparing for a single moment"...   instead I would have counseled myself to enjoy every single moment and prepare yourself instead of your surroundings"....    it also makes me realize that all the stuff around me that at times seems anonymous stuff is actually MY stuff!  That's a pretty empowering feeling as well!  Because if I don't take control of my own stuff I'll be so out of control that life and all it's small moments will speed past me and I will still be sitting at home every night on a quiet evening, watching something simple on the television, puttering aimlessly, and there will be no voices except my own.

And even though I have finally learned to enjoy my alone time and my privacy there are still times when it would be so good to hear voices laughing, the noises of presents being torn open, the comforting familiarity of the music and the closeness...  watch the food disappearing from bowls and plates, hear the quiet enjoyment from satisfied and well fed family...   and to have to clean up the mess one more time ...   because the very best mess is the one that you create with love and joy, the torn papers, the dirty dishes, the ribbons stuffed down the sides of the couch...  furniture askew from being pulled closer to bring us all together...  and just being together.

And until the next time I will be cuddled quietly on my couch with several little doggie and kitty eyes watching me, a warm blanket, a fine cup of (decaffeinated) tea, perhaps a book on my lap or a movie on my television screen, and always a smile on my face... 

Merry Christmas... Happy New Year... and may all your messes be ones made with joy and love...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

how I spent my 13 hour vacation.....

September... my favorite time of the year.  The bluest skies, the sweetest days, the beginning of fall with the first leaves turning from green to gold ...  warm sun on your face, happy people enjoying the late summer, and warm dusks turning to cool evenings filled with stars.

What could be better?  WELL!

I got a message last week from "Ma Cousine" "K" from Rosemere and she asked what I would be doing on the 11th of September...   As luck would have it I had the entire day off, a full tank of gas, a good pair of runners and a need to break the routine my life has become and live in the moment for a little while.  It was her first - and perhaps her last - trip to Vancouver, so she was hoping we would finally get a chance to meet and talk in "real time" instead of over the internet.

We agreed to meet at her hotel; we exchanged private messages over Facebook, traded phone numbers, I got directions and messaged her to meet me in the White Spot on the ground floor.  I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before and tossed and turned in my bed until WELL after 4:30 in the morning, but still awoke at about 8 a.m. feeling like a kid on Christmas morning.  Up, showered, dressed, a quick morning phone call to my bestest friend "L", dogs fed, watered and sent out for their "business", pee pads down (JUST in case) and the SUV ready for the road.  I left in plenty of time not knowing if road construction would slow me down... and made it into town in RECORD time!

Did you know?  City parking meters don't take nickels any more?????  I ended up plunking a couple in before I realized, and had to plug the SOB with my "larger coins".  Had to laugh thinking how the meter collector would be filling up their pouches with dimes!  I literally skipped across the street and stepped into the restaurant, saying "for two, and my cousin will be joining me"...  with the biggest smile on my face.

And then, there she was!  Smiles, laughter, massive hugs and chatter, and ( really!) misty eyes on BOTH of us.  Chatter, catching up, ordering a quick breakfast (yes, I had dessert FIRST) we started on an impulsive itinerary  that would make for an incredible day, starting with a drive to Stanley Park!  I pointed out landmarks, gave a running commentary on some of the buildings and "K" took pictures out the SUV window to capture as much as she could.  We went past the Fairmont Vancouver and down Georgia street, taking the "long road" around the park... past Lost Lagoon, Coal Harbour, the Yacht Club, Rowing Club and the Naval Base "HMS Discovery, a quick glance at the Totem poles that have been moved from Prospect Point to the area of Brockton oval, taking the slowest pace, past the draft horses pulling wagons full of tourists, leap frogging with the scenic buses...   Brockton point was our first quick stop, and "K" photographed the shipping barges in the Burrard Inlet as they blew their horns travelling West, to stay at anchor in English Bay just offshore from Spanish Banks and Locarno Beach.

I was able to point out landmarks and works of art; statues of Lord Byron, Lord Stanley; the "Girl in a Wet Suit" just off the seawall near Lumberman's Arch; the hairpin turns climbing beside the Lions Gate Bridge Causeway; and the little overpass just before Prospect Point.  We parked, laughed some more, chatted about our children, our favorite snacks, the view, the size of the trees, and the two of us walked down the hill to stand on the overpass and photograph the bridge, the two sentinel lions watching the oncoming traffic with their cement faces impassive.  Back up the hill and into the gift shop to troll for the perfect postcards, and out to the actual Point for one of the most spectacular views in the world!

We resumed our "adventure", touring further down the hill and turning into the points of interest on the way; Prospect Point Picnic Area has been devastated by the storms of 2006 and will never be the same, but the Hollow Tree still stands and now we have a photo of the two of us, arms around one another, silly smiles, and genuine happiness on our faces.  Further down the road to Third Beach and past the Pauline Johnson memorial.  We again parked and bounced to the beach, walking over the sand to smell the ocean water, touch the seaweed washed up at the shoreline, pick through barnacles, mussel shells and clamshell fragments, overturning a couple of rocks (yes, I couldn't resist just ONE more time searching for little crabs!) then stopping to watch a cluster of seagulls before climbing the stairs.

Past the Teahouse, Ceperly Park and Lost Lagoon, I turned the SUV back onto the central road and parked in the Miniature Train lot, and the two of us walked to Stanley's Park Grill for lunch in the shade of the specimen trees on the patio.  "K" wanted photos of the Pavilion and I literally took time to smell the flowers and toss my last "lucky" penny into the pond surrounding a gunnera in a raised pot, watching a large dragonfly hover over the ripples then dart away, and making a "wish"...  we walked, still chattering and laughing, to the rose gardens with their last blooms fading.  Still fragrant, last clusters of petals still clinging, and both of us taking in the perfume of a last warm summer day with deep breaths... and tasting the rose's fragrance on our tongues.  A jog across the road, beneath the arbours, past the ginko, lilac, yew and close enough to the Vancouver Mounted Police stables to mix the smell of fresh horse manure with the roses.  Then back to the car and back into the city.

Down Georgia street once more, the black glass of the Toronto Dominion tower showing the reflection of the Fairmont Vancouver.  Further down the hill and into Gastown in a wide loop so "K" would be able to see the Gastown Steam Clock firsthand.  I remember when it was first installed back in 1977 and the trouble they had tuning the damn thing!  I looped past Harbour Center and took us East on Hastings to Main street and we poked into Chinatown, past the Dr. Sun Yat Sen gardens and turning back towards the mountains to take Hasting street all the way east... into my old neighbourhood and so into my childhood.

We took a left onto Renfrew where the skatepark at the old Hasting Exhibition grounds stands in place of the old buildings that were demolished years ago, to the juncture of Wall street and Renfrew... past new homes planted where I realized the offices for Western Gypsum and the overpass to Commissioner Road no longer exist.  I drove past the homes of childhood friends - and enemies - and stopped in front of a sign that said "Dusty Greenwell Park" to walk down and listen to the train on the rails and stand where the grain elevator stood when I was small.  Past the home I lived in until I was 12 with the rest of the family; the hawthorns in Burrard View Park looking sadly dead, the tree where my two best girlfriends and I hid and ate chips and candy nothing but a dead and still-standing skeleton, and the old "bad boys home" razed to create an off leash park for dogs and a gentle Hospice center in the midst of the park.  The tennis courts still stand, but the pool is completely dry, and I felt a passing sadness.

We drove back towards Dundas and went West to Commercial Drive... and I parked up near Gravely (with a damn PERFECT parallel parking job, I might add!) so we could stop for iced latte at Cafe Calabria and sit in the warm evening air until the sun was nearly down...  me talking non-stop with my glasses off my face when someone approached us to ask why did we pick there???  And it was an unexpected and wholly welcome Facebook "Friend"... and "L" I know you are one of my GREATEST fans! who called the "Tall Lady" to sip coffee and chatter with us...   and a stroll along both sides of the street, looking in the windows at shoes and glass bongs and second hand furniture... and getting the chance to chat with a gentleman about his lovely dog, a very large and very sweet Brindle Cane Corso who leaned against me while a petted her and made much of her....  and made me feel like a little kid again for just a moment.

Dinner took us to Nick's Spaghetti house for their wonderful pasta, followed by a single large slice of what I had assured "ma Cousine" was the PERFECT cheesecake, and TWO forks!  Then off on one of my "adventures"...  but eventually driving up Commercial and Victoria to 49th, down Main street and along 44th to Fraser so we could glance at the shops selling Saris and fabric in Little Punjabi town... and south, south, south... to Marine Drive, New Westminster past the Heritage Grill filled with people enjoying the live music and waving at the Paramount Gentleman's Club on our way, north ... North Road to Lougheed, all the while relating memories of childhood and family and past experiences, good, bad and indifferent; making wrong turns in the dark, getting lost and turning around down Fraser and back to Clark Drive... driving west and down Venables through Strathcona, the Georgia Viaduct past Rogers' Arena and BC Place Stadium with it's "crown" lit against the warm night sky... and finally turning into the drop off point back at the hotel, happy and regretful all at once, hugging one another, kissing each other's cheeks, waving madly... and then the drive home in a daze of holiday happiness, and already missing her company, her voice, her smile..

Home to small dogs, a warm shower, a cool bed; hungry cats and puppy "pee time", checking messages.. and glad.  So glad.  Glad for finding family, and for living in the moment for a day without worry.  For sharing common sorrows and common joys, for sharing stories and histories and personal secrets with one another.  And for connecting with another much loved person, even though we have been far apart in distance, realizing we have always been close to one another in caring.

A day of joy... an adventure...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Here comes the sun....

At last!  Sunshine!

Spring came late and will leave early, but the weather is finally good enough for me to work outside for extended periods!  I can sit outside in my bicycle shorts and my tank top, soaking up as much sunshine as possible, puttering and planning, and making sure the little "poop factories" are cleaned up after...

Six seasons of neglect on my part have taken a toll on my garden.  The back gates need to be rehung, the back stairs and the small landing needs replacing, the patio needs to be power washed (as does the entire exterior of the house, but I'm not looking at that just yet!), the holes in the lawn (yes, Penny still digs and now Coco has taken up the hobby!  Drats!) are getting filled over time with spent annual soil, ashes from my wood stove, composted leaves and whatever else I can find.  Not to mention that the lily pond needs to be (finally and completely) drained, with the lilies parceled up for those who would like some, the liner and original pond form sold for cash, and the hole (which has been there since 1999 when the retaining wall was built) finally filled with crushed up pool table slates, slabs of sod from the "old" rose garden and topped with crushed rock so I can use the broken slates left behind by the fleeing ex...  and smashing them with the sledgehammer to make them more portable will be a pleasure I may share with a person or two!

The wretched cherry trees are a flop with all the rain over the last few years...  dropping "immature" fruit and shriveled leaves daily.  It's a mess I just don't want to have next year, so they will be removed with my little chainsaw.  I have a "home" for the logs and they will be used to make dishware - since the wood is also organic the chips will be used to "smoke" barbequed cuts of meat by an aspiring young chef!

My sadly overgrown rose is blooming for the very last time, because when it finishes blooming next week I plan to rent myself a chipper and systematically cut and shred every damn branch!  It is covered with the most evil little thorns, overgrown and entwined in my favourite apple tree, making it difficult to even cut the lawn in that corner of the yard.  When that goes into the chipper I am also taking out any blackberry brambles as well as the thorny and fruitless plum tree in my blueberry patch.  I don't need the big, heavy machine so I will be able to drive into PoCo and wheel the smaller chipper up the ramp into the back of  "Big Blue" and get myself busy...  And when the chips are "done" I will be building a new and magnificent compost heap, and hopefully restarting my little patch of heaven where I grow the best chard and green beans ever!

This week I actually started the clean up, cutting the grass and removing the clippings, picking up the dog poop, triple bagging it (think "diaper genie" for containment and you get the drift) and tucking it into my trashcan on garbage night along with dead food from the fridge.  So it's actually gone!  The patio is slowly getting weeded, washed, cleared of furniture; Dad's old stove "ate" some greasy cardboard and a pile of old cherry wood until the coals glowed orange and the stack spat little cinders that resembled shooting stars.... and I sat in my chair, folding and tearing the cardboard into small pieces and basked in the warmth while the mosquito lantern kept the little bloodsuckers at bay... and my Penny slept at my feet, basking her doggy self at the same time.  My garden has already had friends enjoying it, little dogs over for playtime, laughter and wine, tales of travels and best of all my little Grandson playing on the patio bricks where his Mummy and his Uncles played over 20 years ago...  and it's good.

Like all jobs it needs to be done one thing at a time, in the order that makes everything go smoothly enough to keep myself rolling and keep interested in the process.  I have plans for the end of the month, so making sure my garden is "guest ready" is my priority... well, after laundry, and vacuuming, and cleaning the floors... and bathrooms... but all those mundane things can be done when the sun has gone down for the most part.  So, while the sun is out I will be letting myself soak it up like a sponge, recharging my solar battery, watching the little dogs run like maniacs with their buddy Sheldon the cat, and smiling ... a lot....  Oh, and if a friend or two drops by during the process I will take time to enjoy their company while I putter, because there is nothing nicer than having a friendly voice for company while the garden grows...  and while I heal a little more.  And I'll have a decaf no sugar and lots of cream, please!  Iced would be nice, too!

Monday, May 20, 2013

filling the holes......

I have been spending the last few months filling holes of many kinds and in many ways.  I have mentioned in the past the "hitting the wall and falling down the hole" is a good description of how depression hits me... well, I hit the proverbial wall and fell down the hole... and it was a very, very black one.

Depression sucks the life out of you.  It takes over everything and masks itself in many ways.  I don't always recognize it until I am very far gone; it doesn't happen suddenly, but slowly and stealthily.  This time it started with a loss of energy, followed by what seemed to be chronic pains that needed more and more ibuprophen (which can actually make depression worse) until even sleeping was difficult.  Crawling into my overheated waterbed and turning until the most painful muscles were against the most warmth helped.  But you still have to get up eventually because life has to keep going... whether it's work, or cleaning clothes, or taking care of my dogs I still needed to be functional, but it was minimal at best.  At it's worst I lay in bed most of the day, wearing polar fleece pajamas, wrapped in extra blankets, full of naproxin until my legs and arms bruised at the slightest pressure and was only motivated by my Daisy's latest litter of little pups...  making sure they were clean, fed, played with, socialized, and eventually sent to their forever homes with minimal fuss...  however, once they were gone I lost all the "care" I felt about just about everything.

My youngest son and his roommate gave "notice" on New Years' Eve, so I knew I had to repaint and refurbish the downstairs suite, but I just didn't care.  Finally, I went and spoke with my therapist - who is a very wise man, aside from having a great sense of humour - and I was placed on a new medication to bring me out of the depression.  So, on top of the Zopliclone for sleeping and the Citalopram for anxiety and depression I began to take Wellbutrin.  Side effects; loss of appetite (bonus, sign me up!  Lost 15 lbs pretty fast!), short term memory "fog" (oh crap, where in hell was I going with this?), large consumption of alcohol can cause seizures (no worries... ) and I had to take them in the morning or I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.  Also no coffee, tea, chocolate or caffeinated cola beverages, because caffeine consumption can cause anxiety to spiral and bring on manic episodes.

And that was the cruncher...  After being on them for about three weeks I had to head into the lawyer's office to prepare more documents for court and made the mistake of drinking tea... after all, it was my day off and what could happen?  But after three hours of picking apart the "stuff" I was going into a manic spiral.  I "found" the old me that I really don't like in those moments.  The angry person, who needs the world to know what is happening... so I medicated myself and tried to sleep... but at 3 a.m. I was still waking every 20 minutes.  I knew I needed to stay as calm as possible, because being angry and tense and full of adrenaline would have me burned out fast.

I was still shaking from the adrenaline two days later, and my daughter K went with me to court as my shield.  She is my champion and I cannot tell you how deeply grateful I am for it, because it would never be enough words in the world to express that.  And to add even more joy to that reunion she and her little family came to me a few days later and wanted to move into the suite her brother was vacating...  that moment, just that one moment, when I held her in my arms and squeezed tight while my body shook with emotion and love was worth all hard work I have done, even when I thought it could never heal those wounds, and I found some of the myriad holes in my heart were filled with a soft and fragile joy.  I wasn't even sure it was real for a long time... in my depressed state I feared that those moments I was looking forward to would be derailed by my own stupidity and foolishness.
However, there were other "holes" to fill as well... like the holes in the walls in the suite!  And again, foolish me, I "delved" into a single cola... sip and sip... until I was once again spiraling into mania, this time pulling an "all nighter" cleaning the suite and finishing paint.  If it hadn't been for my buddy G, who came over several times to paint and prep and work on the walls with me, I would NEVER have done as much as I did, and even then I didn't finish everything.  But the carpets were cleaned, the walls washed and painted, the floors scrubbed with tons of elbow grease... and dear gods and goddesses!  The grease behind that damn stove was enough to make me weep!

But somehow I still didn't think the medication was helping, so after being on it for just over a month I decided to stop taking it.  Within two weeks all the pains (which had been absent for the most part) were back, and I realized that my favorite cup of tea, my favorite cola, my favorite chocolate and my all time favorite Starbucks didn't taste as good as being pain free feels.  Depression and the pain that comes with it is an insidious bastard.  Like the dark spirits in recent movies it feeds on all the happiness in your soul and sucks it out of you.  I have heard many times you choose to be happy, but with depression there is a lot of short spurts of very hard won "happy" overshadowed by seemingly endless feelings of hopelessness, fear, tiredness and chronic pain.  So it was time to go back on the Wellbutrin, suffer through the caffeine withdrawal, find alternatives to "soothe" that part of me that missed my daily "cuppa" and wait until the pain faded enough so I could be functional.

So, at long last, I have found something that will fill the hole that I fall into when I get to the wall.  It's still a nasty dark hole, but it isn't so deep that I can't look up and see the stars...

And although I am a bit broke, since the weather is fine for a short while there are some holes I can fill that don't cost me anything but my time... like the holes of time I fill with all three of my children, my dear little grandson, and my very good friends, as well as the holes in the back lawn that my darling (bad little Shih Tzu) Penny has carved while digging for her "bouncy balls" in order that I may break an ankle or two for her doggy pleasure...  and like those small holes I will keep filling up the big one, building it into a strong foundation of "self" until I can "grow the lawn" over top so I never trip again.

So no more  Caffe Mocha, no more Vodka, no more Latte... and instead of Valium I have another tiny anxiety reducer for those really bad moments - and even after standing in front of a judge and swearing to tell the truth on the witness stand I didn't need them....  so it looks like, for the moment, I don't need to go anywhere but home...  where my heart is... and I say to myself and my little family... "Welcome Home"....