Friday, January 18, 2019

On hibernation and courting

I have not been sleeping well the past week or so and as a result I have been getting to the dog park late. Not that that is a hardship, but it does mean I miss meeting up with some of my dogwalking friends. When that happens Hapi and I go off on some of the mountain bike trails which we both love. In the winter time there are no bikes to contend with, just the silence of the trees.

This morning that was what we did, and we followed some of the more remote trails this time. As we were arriving back at the parking lot one of the regular dog walkers showed up, she said she deliberately came late in hopes of meeting me since she was aware that my regular schedule was awry. So Hapi and I did one more round of the ponds with P and her dog Maddie.

It is a truly gorgeous day. Very cold, but sunny and windless with only a thin layer of snow on the ground. There is quite a bit of ice under the snow so one does need one's ice grippers, and those of us who frequent the dog park have determined the best grippers around and we all wear them (Lee Valley Icers).

Anyway I was talking about my sleep issues, mostly caused by a series of minor painful inflammations. Seemingly unrelated, but when they happen one after the other one does wonder if there might be a connection. I was saying that it might be a response to stress. Not that my life is stressful or that there is anything serious going on, but still. Even minor stress can be stressful.

P says, "You know, most mammals hibernate at this time of year. Perhaps you should hibernate."

Ahhh. My sentiment exactly. I just want to hibernate, say 'à tout à l'heure!' to the world. I want to run away from all social responsibilities. Spend a week or two in my jammies.

I also ran into A who was born the same year as my mother and shows up in all weathers no matter what with her cute little Teddy. In her bright red ski jacket with a fake fur trimmed hood, her ski poles and dark sunglasses she looks like a well-dressed Arctic explorer. And M with her big old Owie who is the doggy version of Eeyore. So I wasn't the only late walker. There are ice skate marks on the big pond. Even though the snow has not been cleared the ice is thick and the snow is thin. And the ravens are just going crazy.

I don't know what is happening with the ravens, maybe courting? There was always a pair of them at the park, with their nest by the parking lot. Last summer they successfully raised quite a brood of youngsters and now there are at least half a dozen of them. They are unusually loud and engaged in producing strange sounds, I heard one today that sounded like it was trying to sing.

The other thing they are doing is tearing off the growing tips of pine branches. Some parts of the trails are quite littered with the small pine branch tips. I watched one raven ripping off a branch tip, it did not appear to be eating it, just tearing it off and dropping it on the ground.

The singing raven was clearly directing its efforts at a raven in a nearby tree; when a couple of other ravens flew by it immediately reverted to regular raven caws. I think it was telling the passers-by to mind their own beeswax.

Haven't seen our two resident eagles lately, they are most likely participating in the annual Eagle Watch.

Back in the '70s and early '80s there were hardly any bald eagles here. Then one farmer got the idea to try to bring them back; he collected farm animal carcasses from his neighbours and put them out in a field to attract the few eagles remaining. Farmers all up and down the Valley heard about his efforts and were happy to contribute dead animals. It didn't happen right away but within a couple of decades he was hugely successful. Today we have a tonne of eagles. That farmer is long gone and large animal carcasses are no longer put out for the eagles, but the local chicken farmers do put their dead birds out, especially at this time of year. Facebook and Instagram are full of eagle photos from the Eagle Watch right now. So our resident eagles are temporarily away feasting, while the ravens stir up a ruckus in their absence.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Off to a grumpy start, with flowers

Last summer I planted some nasturtiums in my garden but I did it late and they sprouted but not much else. So in the fall I dug them up and potted them to bring indoors. Now I have nasturtium flowers in the window.

My writing group has been trying to come up with meeting guidelines. We meet once a week to read what we've been working on and then reviewing/critiquing what we are listening to. There are plenty of examples online of such guidelines and various people in the group have sent copies around for our edification. Recently, someone thought we should finalize a set of guidelines for our group, that we could follow and also present to new members. So one set of guidelines was printed and distributed to the group shortly before Christmas, and about the same time it was decided (by the same person after discussion with a few of us) that we should close our group to new members.

At our annual Christmas get together a few people confided that actually, they didn't agree with that decision or with how some of the guidelines were worded, but did not feel in a position to object. I raised this at our next regular meeting, there was a discussion of the guideline document and the issue of closed membership, and an edited version of the guidelines was passed around via email for discussion. At our meeting last week some minor changes were made and the document generally accepted. Also, membership was officially reopened.

Through the process I changed my opinion from being fully in support of the guidelines to not wanting guidelines at all. I am in a minority of one, no one else supports my view. My viewpoint is, the fewer rules the better, we should only require rules for specific ongoing issues. While this document is intended to be only guidelines, nevertheless I have heard several people refer to them as the Rules and I think it's a slippery slope between guidelines and rules. I think that a solution to a particular problem often creates new problems while solving the original problem and one ought to be very careful in trying to solve a problem with a 'Rule'.

I asked the question, what is the problem we are trying to solve here and was told that it was twofold: too many people showing up for a meeting and thus limiting the time for reading and critiquing for each person, and some new members being disruptive due to no clear guidelines on how to comport themselves.

My view is, any new members who have been disruptive have moved on pretty quickly, they decided for themselves that they did not fit into our group, so why do we need rules for them? Also, we have been operating for a number of years without guidelines, why do we need them now? The behaviours deemed disruptive were arriving late and receiving cell phone calls during the meeting. The lateness issue was discussed at length, and while some people are bothered by it, others feel that occasional lateness can't be helped when travelling some distance to get to the meeting especially in the wintertime.

The obvious solution to me is just common sense: if you arrive late you may not have a chance to read if there are a bunch of people who arrived ahead of you. I also pointed out that we don't advertise and new members come by invitation only, so the inviter can fill the new member in on our current protocol in a brief conversation not requiring a written document (avoid lateness and turn off your phone or take your phone calls out of the room).

The discussion got a little heated and someone accused me of changing my mind from being fully supportive of the guidelines to fully opposed. I freely admitted that yes, I had changed my mind. Is that a problem?

Last night I was at a surprise birthday party for a friend and got into a conversation with another friend about "vision statements". She told me how she had wanted to join a particular local community group and was encouraged to do so, but when she was told that the next meeting of this group was devoted to coming up with a Vision Statement, she immediately decided this group was not for her. Having spent a career in various offices where Vision Statements were hammered out, she had concluded that they were a total waste of time and were of no use at all for busy groups just trying to get a job done.

I agreed with her heartily, the few times I have been involved in such exercises the discussion inevitably devolved into hair-splitting, and in order to achieve consensus the end result was a bland inanity. I have to say that that is my opinion of guidelines and rules as well. Such discussions are rarely useful and often result in creating new problems in place of the old ones.

I am starting off the new year being a grumpy iconoclast. Where will it end?

For a chuckle, here's a sign posted at my mechanic's garage:

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas prequal

The picture above is a handmade Christmas card by a talented friend. She vastly under estimates her own talent, insisting that her daughters are far more talented. They have obviously inherited her artistic talent but their style is very different from hers. She makes things simple, they make things more elaborate.

Busy pre-Christmas season. Three potluck dinners in one week. I actually find potlucks stressful, I never know what to make and am nervous that I will burn or otherwise make the food unappetizing or inedible. This year I bought two Christmas fruitcakes which I managed to stetch out over two of the potlucks, and baked an extra loaf of bread (I normally bake all my own bread, one of the few things I can make without mishap!). When a couple of people heard that I made sourdough bread, they requested a bit of sourdough starter so I made that too. I figure I got off light.

Christmas Day dinner will be at a neighbour's place, my contribution will be cheese and crackers, and broccoli. How hard can that be? Not, I hope. Someone else requested some starter and offered a kombucha scobie in exchange, I'm not sure how I feel about that. One more thing to keep alive! Ah well.

Then on Boxing Day a friend is having a bunch of people over because her son and daughter who live in other provinces will be here. A cause for celebration. She told me that her husband recently switched to non-alcoholic beer and they buy it at Superstore. She said it was very close to real beer, so I bought a 6-pack to try it. Especially over the holiday season when the law is out in force to catch inebriated drivers, I thought a nice non-alcoholic beer to take to parties would be good.

Finally, on the first Sunday of the New Year, another neighbour is having a single women's New Year celebration. She lives walking distance from me so I will leave the non-alcoholic beer at home and take something a little more fortified.

By the time all those dinners, parties and celebrations are done I will be more than ready to be a recluse for a while. It seems that I can only handle so much socializing before I just want to hide away from humanity.

This picture is of a Christmas gift from my eldest son. It depicts a lake in Ontario, Balsam Lake to be exact. As a child I spent all of my summers there. My parents retired and lived there until my father's death. My mother sold the house, she said it was too difficult to consider how to split it between four offspring, only one of whom remained in the province. Too bad. We each ended up inheriting the equivalent of a quarter share; the cash was nice but I miss the lake. Now I can put it on my wall.

There is one tiny island missing from this picture, the creator of the plaque said it was too difficult to include it. Here is an old photo of that island (Ant Island). It's that little black outline on the horizon between the two trees. I used to be able to swim there and back, it was the test you had to pass if you wanted to take a canoe out by yourself.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Death of a young man

I went to a funeral yesterday. Left the house at noon, didn't get back home again until almost 5pm, so it essentially took up the whole of my day.

I picked up a friend who can't drive and we went early because we knew that half the town would be there and we hoped to get seats. It was the funeral for a young man who committed suicide, his family is very well known and connected in this town. I have known the family for over 40 years, and the young man helped me build a fence around my backyard in anticipation of Hapi's arrival in 2011. My friend's kids went to school with this man, he was part of a large 'gang' of kids who hung out together in those days.

He struggled with depression for most of his adult life. He was somebody who appeared to have everything going for him: attractive, talented, well-liked and at the centre of a good group of fun-loving kids. Also part of a loving family with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles around. But for whatever reason it wasn't enough.

I know two things about depression. One is, your brain lies to you. And the more it lies the more you isolate yourself from the people who can point out the lies. The other is, it's worse when you're young. Emotional experience is more intense and you don't have the acquired knowledge of life experience to deal with it.

The funeral was well done I thought. It was held in his parents' church, there was a slide show of photos and a display of some of his art and musical instruments. The hymns were good. That's saying a lot, I don't usually like hymns, to put it mildly. A Catholic priest who had befriended the young man gave the eulogy, his brother and a former girlfriend spoke of their experiences with him, and another friend sang 'Somewhere over the rainbow'. At the end they played a recording of the young man singing a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. No dry eyes, but a few chuckles over some of the stories, particularly as told by his brother.

His mother is the musical director of that church and all of the family is musically gifted. A few young people attended but around here most young people have to move away to find work, so a lot of parents of the kids who hung out together attended on their kids' behalf. Many more went to support the family of the young man. My kids weren't part of that gang, they were an older cohort, so I went because of my relationship to the family and because of my brief relationship with the young man who helped to build my fence.

It snowed heavily. I could barely get back up the hill to my home afterward. Yet another winter wonderland. The ducks really are gone now, the ponds are fully frozen. After dark the sky cleared and I watched Orion rising with Hapi. I love that she likes to just sit and watch the world. She even got me out of bed so she could go out and look at the snow one more time.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ducks of winter

The ducks came back! They just couldn't stay away!

We've had snow and high winds and bitter bitter cold. A local Facebook friend posted a memory from last November: she was mowing her lawn exactly a year ago! Yesterday I dug out my warmest parka and folded out the furry hood to make a protective tunnel for my face and it was still bitter cold.

But the ducks came back. I'd post a photo but it was so cold my cell phone camera refused to function. The big pond is completely frozen and the little pond is half frozen so the ducks, masses of them, are huddled in the small area of open water. They try to stay as close to the shore as possible, but when Hapi and I walk by they head out away from us, quacking complaints about having to move.

The three blue jays keeping all the little birds away from my bird feeder had to give it up because the snow covered all the nearby branches where they were perching. So the little guys, the goldfinches and chickadees, one lone sparrow, a nuthatch and three cardinals, have been mobbing the feeder. The cardinals are very shy, they try to stay well out of view but in a bright red coat that's hard to do.

The female cardinal is easy to pick out, she's more brown than red. I was surprised to be able to distinguish the two males, one is bright red and the other more of a pinky-coral colour. I'm told their plumage gets darker as they mature so the coral cardinal must be a youngster.

I went snowshoeing on Wednesday with my walking-cycling group. We walked around a golf course in the fresh powdery snow. The first day of snow was heavy and wet but then it got cold and the second day of snow was powdery. Two people didn't have snowshoes so we walked single file to create a trail they could walk on easily. Hapi set out joyfully across the snow to explore the wide expanse of the golf course 'greens', but she soon tired of slogging through deep snow and joined our single file expedition with the snowshoeless couple. She's not a puppy anymore.

We saw deer tracks which Hapi investigated very thoroughly, and strange tracks on a frozen pond. We tried to guess what made them. We think it might have been a pair of creatures, perhaps otters, sliding on the soft ice. Hapi had the good sense not to investigate.

Today is Black Friday, I bought bird seed on sale. Feeding the economy, the birds and my soul.

Monday, November 19, 2018

November winter

Looks like winter is coming a little early this year. Snow in the air, ice on the ground, and temperatures low enough to prevent thawing.

Last week the wind blew so hard that my woodpile fell over. Had to restack it in the cold wind because the snow was coming and I wanted it back in place before that. But stacking in the wind meant it got thoroughly tested for stability, I am pretty sure it isn't going to fall over again.

November ducks of a previous year
I was at the reservoir early this morning and saw the last of the ducks leaving. Normally they wouldn't leave until well into December, but already one pond has frozen over and ice is forming in the other pond. Yesterday there were hundreds of ducks there, this morning there were maybe a couple dozen and by the time I left there were none. They were leaving in groups of 5 or more, heading down to the river I think. If we have a huge warm spell they might come back, but I doubt it. It was so nice to listen to them quacking in the morning, but now they're gone and I will miss them.

I did get my bird feeder up though so I can enjoy the chickadees and blue jays and finches and such. Today three jays staked out the feeder and chased off every bird that tried to approach. The chickadees waited them out and eventually the jays grew tired of the game and left. Then there was a flurry of finches at the feeder and juncoes and a mourning dove on the ground below.

I will miss the ducks though.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Across the divide of time

I thought I had a dentist appointment this afternoon but I got the day wrong, it's tomorrow. Which gave me a whole extra two hours this afternoon, better than a time change!

Yesterday was my grandson's birthday, and the family tradition is for me to Skype or Facetime in for the singing of Happy Birthday and the cutting of the cake. T, my grandson, had requested a cheesecake for the occasion. He is now 17 years old. What was remarkable from my perspective was that he initiated the Facetime call with me. While everyone else in his family was getting ready for the 'main event', T made conversation with me.

He asked, "So what are you working on today?"

This was so unexpected I didn't know how to answer. I sat there trying to remember what I had done that day, and since it was actually a busy day there was lots to remember. I finally came up with: "I made salsa."

He was impressed that I made salsa, he said he didn't know that you could make it yourself. I asked him what he worked on today and he said he was rehearsing Twelfth Night, for which he had scored a main role. Then he picked up a small child and showed him to me on camera. He told me that it was cousin with a name I can't remember or even pronounce if I could remember it. Told his cousin to say 'Hi' to me, which he did. Then swung the camera around to show me another cousin, a slightly older child, and finally his younger brother P.

What impressed me about the conversation is that he asked me what I was doing that day. Never in all the conversations I have had via phone, Skype, Facetime or even in person have any of my kids expressed any interest in knowing what I was doing. Occasionally I will mention something but it falls into the conversation like a rock into a black hole, never to reappear or be acknowledged.

Earlier that day at the dogpark I was chatting with a fellow old lady dog walker and mentioned a conversation with another older woman who had been quite ill this summer and whose husband is paralyzed and keeps her very busy looking after him. Her illness made the summer extremely stressful and she complained that none of her kids stepped up to help. When I repeated this story to my dog walking friend she chipped in with her own stories of offspring neglect. How the youngsters don't seem to appreciate the difficulties of older age (my friend is 85, the other woman I spoke of, 80) and blithely expect one to carry on unaided. So far my own experience is similar although not quite as extreme.

At the dogpark
I complained that my kids want me to listen to them talk about their lives but seem totally uniniterested in what might be going on in my life. My friend countered that she remembered having that same attitude towards her own parents. That they must be endlessly fascinated by the lives of their children and couldn't possibly have anything to say for themselves that might be of interest. I said I knew what she meant and that 'what goes around comes around'.

So when my grandson actually asked what I did today, I was struck speechless.

Towards the end of the call he suggested that I download a particular game that we could play over the internet, he thought it would be fun to have a 'gaming granny' that he could play with. After the call I looked up the game he suggested and it was a popular shoot-em-up last-man-standing-wins kind of game. Much as I would like to have the interaction with the grandson, I don't know if I can bring myself to play that particular game.

The difficulties of navigating intergenerational communication…

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A death in the family

I think I might be getting better. I am still sick, but not as sick as maybe a week ago. It's very gradual. I am hoping that in a couple more weeks I'll be out of the woods with this. A retired geneticist friend of mine thinks maybe I have a virus that hides in the body somewhere and every once in a while comes out and wreaks havoc. I think she's probably right.

Because my energy level is so low and I have to budget my activity, my social life has taken a back seat to things I need to get done around my place. Like harvesting the garden, stacking firewood, mowing the lawn, walking the dog. I always have a to do list, I can only cross off so much. But enough about me.

My son's dog died on Friday. The dog had tumours growing around his trachea, eventually he would asphyxiate. My son was trying to decide what to do. The vet had suggested surgery but my son didn't feel he could afford it, and anyway (as I pointed out), there was no guarantee they wouldn't just return again. He didn't know when he should pull the plug. Avoiding suffering was his main concern.

Some friends said, "Oh, you'll just know."

I said that wasn't always the case, it can be very difficult making that decision. We had a long phone call about it and at the end he thanked me for being able to have that conversation. I think he just needed a sounding board for all the conflicted feelings he had about it.

A couple days later he posted on Facebook about the dog's last day. The whole family took him out for a walk and then went to the vet's office. I think it was as good a way to handle it as possible.

I was fond of the dog, I feel sad that he died. He was a good family dog, he loved everyone in the household. He was always very happy to see me when I came to visit, but perhaps not so keen on my dog (who did not behave well when the two first met).

My son's youngest son has been hardest hit by this death, I don't think he has any memories of their previously dog-free home.

Friday, September 28, 2018

A lovely summer and a not so lovely fall

I had a good summer. Quiet summer. I stayed home, I grew a garden, I walked my dog at the Reservoir almost every day. Usually there are two houses full of fairly noisy students next door to me and across the street, but this summer one house was empty because it is up for sale and the other house was empty because the owner wanted to do some cleanup (students are hard on the houses they live in). So it really was quiet. I know this will probably not be the case next summer so I thought this was a chance to enjoy it. It was, I did.

The first week in September I and four friends kayak-camped in Kejimkujik Park. We had near perfect weather and a very good time. There was one cold and windy day, we hunkered down for most of that day but the rest was perfect sunny warm weather. We arrived back at Jake's Landing tired but happy around 5.00pm on the last day. After emptying our kayaks and packing everything into three cars we went to a nearby restaurant for supper before heading home. I had left Hapi with a dogsitter and while she was happy to see me she was not frantic; the dogsitter had clearly taken good care of her.

I expected to be tired afterwards, we've been doing this trip annually for many years and the older I get the more tired I am at the end of it. I had one full day to get everything dried out and packed away before a day of rain hit. That was okay, everything went according to plan. But on the third day, when I expected to be more or less recovered, I was completely felled. Spent most of the day in bed, had a frozen soup for supper, went back to bed. Pretty sure I had a fever but my thermometer was broken so I could only go by how I felt.

It's been two weeks since then. I am not better. The fever was shortlived but the fatigue and brain fog have settled in for a good long stay. I am pretty sure this is ME/CFS. I had it at least once before, in 2000/2001, so I know what if feels like. Of course it is one of those things that only get diagnosed by process of elimination (not this, not that, not the other thing) and most protocols state that you have to have it for at least 6 months before it's official (one website said because it's the only disease that causes symptoms to last that long, but they didn't say what other diseases cause those symptoms for less than 6 months).

The first time I had it, it did only last 6 months and I thought I was cured. My doctor was sceptical and urged me to be extremely careful about resuming a normal level of activity. I thought I was careful. Every time I came down with something that caused a fever (usually a 'flu) I'd panic, but was always relieved that it really was 'just the flu'.

I think I might have had a relapse in 2011, but I can't be sure, and I don't know how long it lasted. At the time I did not have a GP, I went to an after-hours clinic and the doctor on duty ordered blood tests. She gave me a copy of the results which were all normal so there was no follow-up. I still have that copy and that's all the evidence I have that anything happened then. I remember the doctor and the blood work but nothing else. My blog makes no mention of it.

I don't know if this is a relapse or a totally new instance. I tried looking up CFS relapse, but there's nothing out there to suggest a 10 or 18 year remission between episodes. The first episode did not last more than 6 months so technically, it was not ME/CFS (although my doctor was certain that it was). I have not seen a doctor this time around. My doctor now is a half hour drive on the highway away and I don't trust myself to drive that far. I don't know whether he is willing to believe that ME/CFS exists or not, whether he will take me seriously or not. It seems like a long way to go to find out he is not. Maybe times have changed, maybe it's no longer a question but it certainly was back in 2000.

In 2000 someone recommended that I see a homeopath, which I did. Since I had something that I could barely get a diagnosis for and there was certainly no treatment for, I wasn't going to quibble about whether homeopathy works or not. Anyway this guy prescribed a bunch of stuff, I saw him several times and on the last visit he pronounced me cured. At the time I certainly didn't feel cured but apparently he was right. Normal life resumed, at first gingerly but after a year or so I got used to being normal again. Slightly less energetic, a lot more cautious, but well within the range of normal.

So I was thinking about seeing a homeopath again, there's one in town who is recommended by those who have been to her. But I visited her website and there was a form she wants you to fill in before your first appointment and just reading the form was daunting. I don't think I have the energy or the brainpower to do it, any more than to drive on the highway to see the doctor.

In the morning I get out of bed and dressed so I can take Hapi for her walk. The rest of the day I force myself to not go back to bed. All I can think about though is how nice it would be to sleep. Then at night I finally go to bed and I'm still thinking how nice it would be to sleep. All night long. Sometimes I actually do sleep.

Crap crap crap.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tuesday September 15, 1998 - BC

New Westminster - sunny and warm.

There was a little lake at the rest stop I had pulled off at the night before, I woke to see ducks there. Very peaceful and pretty. I stopped in the Osoyoos - Summerland area for groceries at one of the many well-stocked fruit stands. Then I stopped for lunch at the Hope Slide, a huge landslide just outside of Hope on the eastern end of the Fraser Valley. Then it was straight on to home, stopping only for gas in Abbotsford. On arriving in New Westminster I went uptown to arrange for a phone to be installed at my condo, then home to a nice clean empty apartment. Yohan plopped down in the entrance way and I don't think he moved for two hours. I on the other hand spent the rest of the day unpacking the truck. What a mess!

And so ended my four-month journey across the country and back. The only territory I failed to visit was Nunavut.

When I arrived home there was a letter from Laurene saying that I should call them right away as Ray had been diagnosed with lung cancer (again) and this time it was terminal. The breathing problems he'd been having in northern BC and the Yukon were the first signs of it, they had had to cut their trip short when Ray was airlifted back to Victoria. I managed to see him one last time at their home in Victoria.

Yohan was old (16 years) and not well, I knew before I set out on this trip that it would be his last. He died the following December. The vet thought he might have pancreatic cancer; that may have been why his liver was swollen when I took him to the Copper River clinic in Whitehorse. Josh eventually turned up. The police in Castlegar did track him down but they did not tell me his whereabouts, just simply that he was alive and well. Sam spent the full nine (eight?) months with Katimavik before returning home, he spent three months each in Quebec, Newfoundland and Ontario.

And that's the end of my travel tale.