Thursday, November 28, 2019

My knee versus Hapi

What ElizabethAnn saw on a recent trip to the big city

My knee gave out last week. I have a longterm issue with my left knee, stemming from an injury in 1975 now turned arthritic. During the summer the pain gradually increased but I ignored it, figuring it would go away on its own. Not so. Last week it became almost intolerable climbing stairs and then driving my car. Since my car has a standard transmission and clutch and the problem is in my left knee, that proved to be an unfortunate combination. These days they don't make standard transmissions any more but my car is old. I know I have to replace it but was hoping to keep it going at least as long as I have Hapi because it accommodates her quite nicely.

Now it's a race to the finish, my knee versus Hapi. A couple of months ago I would have said my knee was going to last much longer but Hapi has perked up so much with the onset of cold weather that I think she will outlast my knee. With a knee brace and some knee exercises and a slight adjustment of the seat in my car I can get by. I've signed up for physiotherapy as well. We have a free physio clinic in town but of course there is a waitlist for that. I spoke to one of the physiotherapists there and she thought I had a good chance of getting in before Christmas.

One of my dog walking friends at the Reservoir cautioned me against getting knee surgery. She has had numerous surgeries on her knees and back and says that in retrospect she never would have had the knee surgeries; it was a downhill run right from the get-go. The back surgeries are another story, although they were high risk she felt she had no alternative if she wanted to save her mobility for a few more years.

My friend B was checked into the hospital last week by her doctor (good news: B has a doctor now!!). She can't breathe and I guess he was quite horrified by her condition. I went to visit her in the hospital in the next town over and was amazed at her improvement. They had her on an oxygen tank and she was her old self again. Not exactly mobile but in good spirits and joking about everything. I think the nurses were quite enjoying her rough good humour. However she was quite bored and the hospital charged almost fifty dollars a week for watching TV, which is B's main activity during the day. She doesn't read, she rarely knits and she was in a room by herself. So after a few days she checked herself out.

Her son came to drive her home and her breathing problem immediately resumed. I came to visit her a few days later and she was in a far worse mood than she had been before the hospital stay: depressed, angry, spiteful, self-pitying. I commented on how being able to breathe while in the hospital had enormously improved her mood, her son seemed relieved that someone besides himself was telling her that.

B said that she couldn't get an oxygen tank at home until she was assessed and that they wanted to keep her in the hospital for another four days to do the assessment, but she refused to do that because it was too boring. She had been given a bunch of forms by the Housing Authority to get her doctor to sign but he would only sign one of them. She showed me the forms he refused to sign and frankly, I can't say that I blame him. In order to jump the housing waitlist queue she has to prove that she is in dire need and although it is plain as day to anyone familiar with her situation that that is the case, the form is so bureaucratic and convoluted that the doctor would be forced to sign his name to things that he could not prove.

I can certainly understand B's mood in the face of her ill health and all the barriers to getting help, the problem is that she is lashing out at the people who are trying to help her and that is not furthering her cause. But I'd be mad and spiteful in her shoes too.

Another friend suggested that perhaps B would be better off in a nursing home. I am now inclined to agree, but as near as I can tell the process of getting her into one is almost as bad as getting her into decent subsidized housing. Never mind that she will fight tooth and nail against being consigned to a nursing home.

This is all taking a toll on me, I feel quite helpless to do anything for her and visiting her when she is in such a foul mood is not fun at all. Besides her son, I am the only person who sets foot in her apartment, and the main purpose of the visit is for B to feed treats to Hapi. They adore each other. I am thinking that my next visit will be at a time of day when her son is not around and I am going to have a hard talk with her about hospitals and nursing homes. She is very hard on her son but inclined to be gentle with me since I am her only friend now, so I might be able to get through to her if he is not around.

On the positive side of the ledger, I have been invited for Christmas dinner with a bunch of fun people, and am considering joining a committee to bring another refugee family to town. This committee has already successfully settled four Syrian families and is looking to take on a fifth. Apparently there are a million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey and the Turkish government is looking to send them all back to Syria as soon as their push to end the Syrian war is done. Many Syrians are desperate to get out of Turkey before that happens, they do not think their chances of survival in a war-torn Syria are great. I think that for all our problems one of the big pluses of living in this country is our attitude towards refugees and immigrants. It would be nice to be actively involved in that.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sleep

Hapi at the Reservoir after the snow
The cold snap we are having fueled an energy burst in Hapi, she is enjoying the weather a lot. She still limps but it doesn't seem to bother her, we are doing a lot more walking than I thought she was capable of.

I had an appointment with my doctor this week, I was hoping to convince her to give me a prescription for sleeping pills. Not that I want to be on sleeping pills but I don't know what else to do, I've tried everything else. It took six weeks to get the appointment, and then the day prior to the appointment the clinic called me to say the doctor was sick and would I mind rescheduling with a substitute doctor the same day. I didn't know whether that was a good thing or a bad thing but I sure wasn't going to say no.

The substitute doctor was a locum, a young woman who does not have her own practice but just substitutes for other doctors as necessary. She scheduled extra time because she didn't know any of the patients she would be seeing, and it became immediately obvious that she had done her homework. She knew why I was there, my medical history and recent bloodwork results, and was very engaging. I quite enjoyed the meeting with her and she was very informative and helpful.

I asked a question about my hearing. I know it is going and I am trying to put off hearing aids as long as possible. I can hear better if I can clear my Eustachian tubes, but the one on the left is difficult to clear. She said she had the same problem and had been told she should blow balloons. She had never tried it but hoped that I would so she could find out if it really works. She said I could also try decongestants but they don't work well on Eustachian tubes and the side effects are not good.

In the end she gave me the prescription for sleeping pills, saying that my regular doctor was probably going to kill her for that but she wasn't going to be around then so I will have to deal with that in three months time. She also told me that my bloodwork was fine, and not only that but she said that it was reasonable to expect that it would stay that way more or less indefinitely. She saw no warning signs of impending trouble. Of course all that can change on a dime but it's nice to know that for now everything is fine.

Interestingly, doctors (in this province anyway) are being strongly advised not to prescribe sleeping pills to seniors. There is currently no recommended treatment for chronic or longterm insomnia with the exception of cognitive behaviour therapy, which is essentially not available due to lack of certified therapists. But provincial Pharmacare for seniors subsidizes sleeping pills at the highest strengths available (formerly they only subsidized lower strengths). I guess the right hand does not talk to the left hand. Not only did I get my prescription but it cost me less than ten dollars for a three month supply, which is a lot cheaper than any over-the-counter medication.

I spent some time on the internet following up on some of the stuff the locum had referred to. I found an interesting article about a sleep clinic in the UK that apparently is very successful and popular, with a years-long wait list of patients. They do cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and apparently have a 50% cure rate, with around 80% of patients experiencing significant improvement. That means half of patients who come to this clinic are not cured, and 20% see little or no improvement. The head doctor of the clinic is rightly proud of their record, nevertheless he says that doctors should be prescribing sleep medication because chronic insomnia is a severe malady and there are simply not enough therapists to provide CBT-I for everyone who needs it.

Also, not everyone responds to CBT-I. I have read that seniors are less likely to see significant improvement because of age-related changes, although some studies seem to show that seniors are especially benefitted by CBT-I. I tried to do it on my own last winter and had some success, but could not break through a limit of six hours a night. Months of six hours a night left me exhausted. Non-prescription medications—including herbal remedies and cannabis—have been unreliable, ineffective, and/or left me groggy during the day. My one experience of sleeping pills for about one month of daily use a couple of years ago was effective, reliable and did not leave me groggy during the day. But they were hell getting off of when the supply ran out.

I haven't used my new pills yet. The bottle sits in my bedside table drawer, a kind of talisman against sleeplessness.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Super powers and other odds and ends

You know how some people talk about having a super power? I just realized today that I have one too. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of control over it, it just pops up spontaneously, usually in the middle of the night. Kind of inconvenient but at least it makes being sleepless a little more entertaining. So the super power is a kind of laser-like clarity on any issue I choose to focus it on. When it is happening I think of questions that I have been puzzling over and then shine my laser light on it. Instant clarity! Sometimes I might be wondering what makes someone I know tick, I just shine this light on them and then I know. It is non-judgmental, there is no right or wrong about it or emotional content, just it is what it is.

Last night it kicked in and I focussed it on some emotional stuff I've been dealing with lately. Nothing like lack of sleep to leave you off-balance emotionally. The whole issue was laid out clear as day. What it was I was feeling, where it came from, how I was misdirecting it, what I needed to do about it. I played around with it for awhile, directed it towards some other things on my mind to see if I could get more answers, and then it went away and I went back to sleep. It's a weird super power. But it definitely gave me some clarity.


My new birth certificate finally arrived. It's very odd looking, everyone I have shown it to agrees with me on that. It is so thin and light (I think it is made of the same plastic that they make dollar bills from now) that I almost threw it out with the envelope it came in. I was expecting a little plasticized card and there was none in the envelope. First I pulled out a blank sheet of paper and stared at it, then I looked into the envelope and thought I saw some writing inside the envelope. Sure enough there was this really thin piece of plastic in there that was my birth certifcate. I went to the bank to change my name on my account, the teller said she was born in another country and had never seen a birth certificate like that. Then I went to another bank to change my name on my credit card and the teller there pulled out her own New Brunswick birth certificate which was a conventional plasticized card. I still have to go back to Service Canada to get my SIN name changed.

I harvested my second crop of peas, my pathetic squash crop, and a couple of turnips. I have two rows of snow peas, I pulled up one row but left the other row in place. It dawned on me that snow peas might be aptly named. So I am leaving the second row out to see what it will do in the snow. I took most of the peas off the plants and left some of the smaller ones in place. The plants are very green and still flowering vigourously. The pea pods are still growing. I still have beets, kale and turnips in the garden and a few onions that hadn't sprouted when I harvested their cohorts. Now they are providing me with green onions. I like beets but I like beet greens better, so mostly I grow beets to get the greens. Also, I found what appears to be a single oakleaf lettuce plant growing in my garden. I did not plant it, I don't know where it came from.

I changed out the rope that I hang my birdfeeder on in preparation for putting the feeder out soon. The old rope was frayed and brittle and broke a couple of times last winter so it's time for a new one. The board I put peanut butter on was mouldy because I left it out all summer so I will have to replace that too.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

What Crows Know

The other day I was walking to the Reservoir with my dog and we stopped to chat with a woman I know who lives on the road to the park. She is a bit older than me and lives in the cutest little blue cottage set in a garden lot with a screen of trees and shrubs along the roadway for privacy. In the good weather she is often out in her yard with her cat, who happens to like Hapi. Hapi has come to know who I am friends with along our route and she always wants me to stop there and chat with them, regardless of whether their cats are friendly or not.

Anyway the woman was in her yard and I crossed the road to chat. She told me she has been watching the crows and their reactions to different people walking by. Apparently they have been dive bombing some passers-by.

"Really? They don't dive bomb me!" I said.

"Of course not," she said, "They know you because of your dog, and they know me because of my cane, but it is interesting to watch how they react to people they don't know."

That took me aback. They know me?

"Well of course they know you! You have that big gray dog!"

I know that crows are smart and it is interesting to watch them go about their business, but it did not occur to me that it was a two-way street. When I left my friend's yard to continue on to the Reservoir I was thinking about the crows. What exactly do they know about me? For sure they know where I live, and they must recognize my car. But mostly I am on foot around town so they know my comings and goings, they know something of my daily routine.

Do they talk about me?

When I hear them cawing as we walk by, are they saying, "Here they come, there they go"?

The crows must know quite a few people around town, I can't be the only identifiable person to them. Do they keep track of relationships, who knows who and what they do together?

Or maybe they are completely uninterested in me, it's my dog they are keen to watch. The day that Hapi took so long to get out of bed I saw a crow standing in my driveway near the back door where Hapi usually emerges first thing in the morning.

It was pecking at the ground, as if pretending that it was there hunting for food when really it was wondering what had happened that the dog was not outside yet.

My smarty pants kid

My youngest son wants to buy a house here. He doesn't want to live here, he just wants it for rental income. I've been going out with a real estate agent off and on for a year or more to look at possibilities. He's got a condo out west that he is selling to buy the house. The condo sale has been a torturous affair but it now looks like it might actually happen. So I went out yet again looking at houses and I found one. I really liked the look of it, it is in a good neighbourhood and within my son's budget. The price is reasonable for the current state of the housing market here.

My son was not enamoured with it, he thought it was too "suburban" for his taste. He sent me links to houses that he thought were more to his liking. I pointed out to him that while the houses he liked would probably be nice places for him to live, they were not really suitable as income property. He thought he could get a twofer, something that he could make money off of and also enjoy living in himself some day. I said I didn't think that was really possible unless he came down here himself to do the house hunting. It's one thing for me to choose an income property for him, quite another for me to choose a place he might like to live in.

So I think he is reconciled to this house. In any case he made an offer and it was accepted, we did the home inspection and I made the deposit on the house. Until he closes the sale of the condo he has no money. Let's hope the condo sale goes smoothly.

The weekend before the home inspection my son found another place for sale that he wanted me to look at. It was well beyond his budget, I think he was just getting jittery about the house. I think I talked him out of it, then felt jittery myself that I might be pushing him in a direction he did not want to go. But I think he is okay with it. We chatted last night after I paid the deposit and he told me of his plans for the future. It's all very ambitious and I really hope it works for him. We talked about him coming for a visit to see Hapi, who used to be his dog. I said travel in the winter is a bit dicey here, he should either come right away or later in the spring, but I didn't know if Hapi would still be around in the spring. Some days she's full of beans, other days I think she's just barely hanging in.

I mentioned to him a book I was reading. I said it contained a lot of philosophical references which I was not expecting and were kind of over my head. He asked who the author was and I couldn't remember, then I looked at the book and told him the author's name.

"Oh that guy is garbage, don't read it," he says.

"What do you mean, why is he garbage?"

My son starts in on how the author has off-the-wall theories about ethics, but this book I am reading I don't think is about ethics. Although I could be wrong on that, I'm only on the first chapter.

"Well I think I'm going to read it anyway, I'll let you know what I think when I'm done," I said.

He told me once that I was the smartest person he knows (aw shucks!) but he's pretty smart himself. I'm kind of proud of him.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The sorry month of November

High tide in the harbour
Hapi has her good days and her bad days, today was a bad day.

Yesterday at the Reservoir she took off on her own into the woods and was gone for almost twenty minutes. She came back looking quite proud of herself but very shortly started limping. By the time we got to the parking lot she was limping pretty badly and another dog walker offered to drive us home.

During the night she was licking her paw and in the morning she had no desire to get out of bed. She didn't seem ill, she just didn't want to get up. Around 11am (with the time change that would have been the equivalent of noon) I made her get up. I decided that even though she was limping very badly now it would still be a good idea to go to the Reservoir. I drove this time. She limped slowly down the road to the ponds. We met several dogs along the way and she was happy to greet them all. Three dogs were leaving the Reservoir and she looked like she really wanted to go with them but I coaxed her down to the pond. She went in the water and just stood there. Some more dogs arrived and she got out of the water to greet them too. Then I took her home. I think that even though she was in pain she still appreciated the little bit of social time she had there. She spent the rest of the day in her doghouse. I hope she is a little better tomorrow.

I'm not in great shape either. Sleep has become elusive and after multiple nights of insufficient sleep I am tired all the time and quite lacking in energy for anything. Even reading has become difficult, a couple of pages and I'm done. It's depressing. I have pretty much exhausted all the various remedies and relaxation techniques out there and am wondering how I am supposed to function. Hapi and I are a sorry pair right now.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Name Change

Elizabeth Ann, by Ernest H. Shepard
Well I knew this was going to be tedious and full of red tape, and so far that is true.

I called the CRA office first thing in the morning, within minutes of their opening, and already there was at least a 20 minute wait time on hold. I called my bank: no answer. I went out for a walk with the dog. I called the bank again: no answer. I called CPP/OAS and waited a very short time before someone answered. They were quick and courteous and they had all the information at their fingertips, they even knew what my birth name was without me telling them. Apparently some government departments do talk to other government departments. I called the bank: no answer. I called the CRA office and the wait time was now over 40 minutes.

I had an early lunch and drove to the Access Nova Scotia office where I thought I would get my driver's licence and health card changed. Turns out I could only do the driver's licence, I have to phone the health insurance people. But I also got my vehicle registration done and a new photo taken for the driver's licence which they said would be in the mail. In the car in the parking lot I called the health insurance people and they gave me an email address to send them a copy of my birth certificate and my new health card would be in the mail. Next on the list was Service Canada to change my name with the SIN people.

I am pretty sure the CPP lady got my birth name from the SIN office so this should have been pretty easy. At Service Canada they said they just needed my birth certificate, which I had. However, when they ran it through their computer it didn't work. Apparently there is supposed to be a number on my certificate that they can use in the computer. My certificate was issued in 1967 and it is a photostat. Being over fifty years old it is a little worse for wear but still legible. There are a few numbers on it, one typed and three handwritten. None of them are the number the people at Service Canada needed. I was told to get a new birth certificate, they couldn't change my SIN name until I did. Hard to believe since they already have my birth name on record, but that's what I was told.

I went to the bank, the one where they never answered the phone. Stood in line for a very long time only to be told that they required photo ID to change my name. Until the new driver's licence arrives I have no photo ID in my new name. I said something unpleasant about the fact that they don't answer the phone so I had to make a useless trip into their office. But clearly there have been so many staff cutbacks that there is no one available to answer the phone while there are customers lined up waiting for service.

So, I had previously looked into getting a new certificate and in the province where I was born they require a guarantor of a specific occupation (they give a list of acceptable occupations) who has known me for at least two years. I decided to ask the Mayor of my town. Strictly speaking he probably hasn't known me for two years but we did have a very friendly conversation at the Reservoir last summer so I thought he might do it. He has definitely known my dog for more than two years, so why not? I drove back to town and caught the Mayor just before he headed into a meeting. He said he'd do it, I just needed his permission and his work address so it didn't take much effort on his part. Unless they phone him of course. The town clerk was sorry to hear I was changing my name, she said she would have a hard time getting used to the new name. I told her she could call me whatever she wanted. Then I asked her how I change my name on my property and she gave me a phone number to call.

Since I was downtown anyway I got my name changed on my library card. Easy peasy, the library doesn't care what I call myself and has no requirement for proof of identity. I should have come armed with something fanciful, maybe Purple Dragon Lady, but I was unprepared and just gave her my birth name.

I went home and called the CRA, still over 40 minutes wait time. I put my phone on the charger with the speaker on and got Hapi's supper ready. Then I got my supper ready. 75 minutes later I got through to a live person. It all went smoothly and less than 10 minutes later it was done. So I thought I'd try one more bank, an online bank. Also easy. They just wanted my email address so they could send me a special message that included a signature card to fill in. In return they wanted a scan of my birth certificate. I had my supper and then replied to the online bank. For some reason my response was refused, I got a message saying that it did not comply with official protocol. Oh well, I would deal with that in the morning.

Today I did a bunch more phone calls and managed to get the online bank problem fixed (turns out it was an error on their side) and changed my name in two other places. I called another online bank who required a document with my new name and my SIN number. They said a T4 or an NOA would do. Had to ask what an NOA was (Notice of Assessment). I explained that the earliest I could get a T4 with my new name on it would be late February and the NOA never comes before July, so that was going to be a bit of a wait. Kind of crazy. I explained how the SIN change was delayed because of my ancient birth certificate. Maybe when I finally get the new birth certificate and take it back to Service Canada I can get them to issue me some kind of document with my birth name and SIN number (and address) on it. Probably too much to ask.

There are a few more places I can probably change my name but for the rest I have to wait until I have my new driver's licence and my new birth certificate. Slowly but surely it is happening. 

Here is a little poem about my new name, courtesy of A.A. Milne:

Explained

Elizabeth Ann
Said to her Nan:
"Please would you tell me how God began?
Somebody must have made Him. So
Who could it be, 'cos I want to know?"
And Nurse said, "Well!"
And Ann said, "Well?
I know you know and I wish you'd tell."
And Nurse took pins from her mouth, and said,
"Now then, darling, it's time for bed."

Elizabeth Ann
Had a wonderful plan:
She would run round the world until she found a man
Who knew exactly how God began.

She got up early, she dressed, and ran
Trying to find an Important Man.
She ran to London and knocked at the door
Of the Lord High Doodelum's coach-and-four.
The Lord High Doodelum lay in bed,
"Please, sir (if there's anyone in),
However-and-ever did God begin?"

But out of the window, large and red,
Came the Lord High Coachman's face instead.
And the Lord High Coachman laughed and said:
"Well, what put that in your quaint little head?"

Elizabeth Ann went home again
And took from the ottoman Jennifer Jane.
"Jenniferjane," said Elizabeth Ann,
"Tell me at once how God began."
And Jane, who didn't much care for speaking,
Replied in her usual way by squeaking.

What did it mean? Well, to be quite candid,
I don't know, but Elizabeth Ann did.
Elizabeth Ann said softly: "Oh!
Thank you, Jennifer, now I know."

(from Now We Are Six, by A.A. Milne, decorations by Ernest H. Shepard)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A peek behind the curtain

Yesterday I scrutineered at a local election voting poll and learned a thing or two about the messy side of democracy.

Scrutineering is a volunteer job, actually working the polls is a pretty well-paid job. Election workers put in very long hours, we scrutineers only show up at the end to observe. Some political parties have their scrutineers at the polls for the entire day and they do what is called "vote pulling". They have lists of people who have said they will vote for that particular party during door-to-door canvassing and they make sure those people actually show up to vote. The Green Party does not do that, they just observe the counting, and I was the official Green Party scrutineer for a nearby voting station. There were three polls there and I was assigned to one of them but I also got numbers for the other two before leaving.

So, I was amazed at how chaotic and confusing the whole process was. The doors of the poll were locked at 8.30pm, no one could enter or leave until the process was finished. Earlier in the day a Green Party representative had dropped by my place to "train" me. Basically, don't touch the ballots, do what you're told, and keep track of what is going on. Also no communication with the outside world until you leave. The poll workers had all kinds of binders and instruction manuals and envelopes and forms to fill in. The instruction manual was easily as big as an income tax manual, except they had to read and follow all of the instructions, not just the ones they thought applied to their particular circumstances. They had all been "trained", but judging by what I saw, I think they all got different versions of the training.

I had been told that if all goes well it would take maybe 45 minutes. I left after 2.5 hours and the poll workers were still there working when I left. I was barely functional at that point, I had not slept well the night before, been wakened by a strange nightmare and had a busy day doing other stuff, so by 11pm I was a zombie. Good thing there were no other cars on the road as I drove to the Green Party party.

Turns out they don't start counting the minute the doors close, there are a whole bunch of steps to be done before actual counting begins and a bunch of things that have to be reconciled. They did not reconcile. I think the big debate was, do we carry on with the count or do we spend a bunch of time trying to reconcile something we have no idea of how to reconcile? Apparently the manual had no answer to that question.

One of the three polls was very small, only 50 actual votes to count, and it reconciled and was counted in a speedy manner. Those poll workers got to leave early. The poll with the worst problem was of course the one with the most votes to count. The one I was assigned to was in the middle. We scrutineers were all sitting at a table away from the workers but one of the scrutineers had some experience doing this and he said we should go sit at our poll. It was interesting but I imagine it just put more pressure on the workers having us three "observing" them.

Finally our poll workers decided to go ahead with the count. The box of paper ballots was difficult to open and while there was plenty of paperwork and envelopes and pens and stuff, no box cutter was provided. So we "observed" the poll workers struggling to open the damn thing. Then finally the poll clerk got it open and started pulling out ballots one by one. She unfolded it, displayed the ballot to all of us scrutineers and the other poll worker, and called out the name on the ballot that got the vote. It was like something right out of "Survivor". She placed the ballot on top of the envelope designated for that particular candidate. She did this for all hundred-odd ballots.

Two of us scrutineers recorded the vote, the third scrutineer who was more experienced did nothing. He knew he could get the final tally at the end and as long as at least one of us besides the poll worker was recording this, he didn't have to do anything. Sneaky bstrd, lol. At this particular poll there had been a discrepancy of one before the actual count started, and a discrepancy of one after the count. I think the decision was made that an extra name had been crossed off the voting list that shouldn't have been—human error—but no real damage done since the differences between the counts for each candidate were well over one vote. They just had to record that as the possible reason why the numbers did not reconcile.

The poll clerk recounted all the ballots after she had read them all out to confirm the numbers. Then they were all packaged up and more paperwork done as per the manual. Meanwhile we scrutineers moved on to the last and biggest poll which was in progress. Since we were coming in the middle of the count we couldn't really confirm the numbers and since this poll already had problems with reconciliation it was not surprising that it did not come out right. But again the difference was only by one vote and the totals for each candidate differed by a lot more than one vote. I was so tired I just copied down the numbers the poll worker had recorded and left, knowing that the numbers I had were possibly out by one vote but not really caring at that point. The poll workers had to continue to recount and confirm the discrepancy and come up with an explanation for it.

All I can say is, if a simple First-Past-The-Post count is that chaotic, moving to some kind of Proportional Representation type of vote will be a horror show. We won't know for days what the final result is! But I do like that it is all done manually and on paper, and we are all just a bunch of amateurs trying to make it work.

Afterward I drove to the party and turned in my records to our candidate. We all knew she wasn't going to win, not even close, but still I could see the disappointment on her face. She had to call the winning candidate to concede and she was putting it off, her husband was urging her to get it over with. We watched the election results on TV and discussed our experiences and thoughts on the matter. I particularly liked Megan Leslie's comments on the results (on CBC), I thought she was spot on. *

The winning candidate in my riding was a Liberal, and I'd heard him at the all-candidates meeting and thought he was good enough. I also thought that the final result—a Liberal minority government—was the best possible result. Someone at the dog park this morning cynically said that although the Conservatives are dead against Proportional Representation, she bet they wished they had it now since they got the majority of the popular vote.

We now have three Green Party members and one of them is here in the Maritimes. That is fabulous news. We are coming for you.


* [Megan said, look at the map, it says it all. It was all done up in colours representing five different political parties and looked like an abstract painting. She said we are a very divided country with lots of regional differences and although we were promised proportional representation and then denied it, we gave it to the politicians anyway. The voters have spoken and they have forced cooperation on the politicians like it or not. Deal with it.]

Friday, October 18, 2019

Who am I


I've been researching what is necessary to change my name. I went looking for my birth certificate, marriage certificate and final divorce decree and could not find them. After a couple of days of hunting I found the divorce decree and then quite by accident found the marriage certificate, but the birth certificate eluded me. I went online to find out how to get a new copy. I was born in Ontario and it turns out that they are so fearful of fraud that they make it exceedingly difficult. Among other things I need a Guarantor, someone of a specific occupation or government position that has known me for two years. And I had to have all sorts of data about my parents on hand, stuff that I know was on the lost certificate so I certainly didn't bother writing it down elsewhere. For a while there I felt stymied. But again, quite by accident, I found the birth certificate tucked into a little folder intended for my SIN card. It is a photostat of the original record of my birth and I think I first got it when I was a teenager so it is quite old and well worn. I probably should get one of those plasticized cards, but at least there's no rush on that now, having found the original.

The other thing I found out is that in order to change my name on my passport I have to buy a brand new one, and that's not cheap. I only renewed my passport a few months ago and it is supposed to last me for 10 years, so at the time I thought it was worth the cost. I couldn't put it off because I was already at the deadline for being able to renew instead of starting a whole new application, which would have required a few extra steps. But now, in order to change my name, I have to do the whole new application anyway. Wish I'd thought about the name change thing a few months ago, I could have saved myself a bit of money. Since I have no immediate plans to travel I'll just put off the passport thing. Everything else is tedious but doable.

Thinking about all this has opened up a whole new line of enquiry, who am I anyway? It's been interesting.

When I was 21 several friends and I rented a house together in downtown Toronto, near Kensington Market. For a while we were putting up draft dodgers who needed a place to stay, until we ran into a couple who were drug-addicted thieves, then we gave it up as not worth it. But before the thieves we had one fellow who was very grateful for our help and gave us ten tabs of acid as a thank you gift. We planned our use of those ten tabs very carefully. Our first trip started in our tiny backyard on a warm summer day.

We each ate one tab and waited on a blanket spread on the grass for whatever was going to happen. At one point someone brought some oranges out and distributed them. I remember breaking mine open and it was the most absorbing experience. At a certain point it seemed like I was inside the orange experiencing all of its orangeness and being in total awe of this little orange globe. Looking around and seeing the grass move in amazing geometric patterns around us. It was quite wonderful. In the midst of all that wonder and beauty I had the thought, "I belong here."

It was no small thought, it was a revelation. Until that moment I was unaware of how much I believed that I didn't belong, I didn't fit in, I wasn't right. That other people knew what they were doing but I did not, I felt I was in constant catch-up mode and all the while trying to hide that fact. I didn't really know what I was doing and didn't really belong here and I was a kind of impostor. Now in a flash I knew that just wasn't true, I absolutely belonged and I was absolutely a rightful part of the whole universe.

That moment has been a touchstone for me ever since. All I have to do is think of oranges and it washes over me. So when I think about who I am, I know I can just invent it, I can be anything. Of course the realistic me sets all sorts of limits on that, but still it is something to keep in mind. I am currently thinking about how much of my life is defined by assumptions, and how many of those assumptions I can let go.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Big Muddy


Today was exciting, not in a good way, but at least it ended well.

I went shopping in the next town over, where all the big box stores and malls are. Picked up a couple of things at a couple of big stores while Hapi waited in the car. When I was done I thought I'd take her for a walk on the trail by the Cornwallis River, a big muddy tidal river that empties into the Minas Basin near my town. The river is serpentine and when the trail came near the river I could see that the tide was coming in. On one side of the river you could see the water flowing outward and on the other side it was flowing inward.

At a certain point the trail is too close to the river, they have had to shore up the trail side of the river with boulders. I stopped there to watch the water before turning back the way we came. Hapi took the opportunity to go into the water and float around for a bit. I took a couple of photos of her there. I called her out of the river to head home and she started coming, but she couldn't get out of the water. The mud was very thick and she was having a tough time getting her footing. A woman walking by on the trail stopped to ask if the dog was okay. I said she was not okay, she couldn't get out of the river.


"Do you want me to call 911?" she asked.

"No," I said, "I'll give her a little longer to try to get out, and I have a phone so I can call if I have to."

The woman watched for a few moments and then continued on. I urged Hapi to get out, all the while looking for another spot along the shore that might be easier. Tried calling her to a spot that looked less steep but she didn't want to go back into the river. A couple of times she almost made it but the rocks below the tideline were covered in a couple of inches of slippery mud and she just couldn't get a grip. She was already tired when she went in and now she was exhausted. She gave up and just stood there in the mud and water shivering and whimpering a bit. I called 911.

The woman who answered took the details and she said she could see exactly where I was from my cell phone signal. I also gave her a description of the spot. She said the police would be along shortly and I should call her back if my dog was able to get out on its own. I waited. In the distance I saw the white police car coming, but he had to stop a couple of times to open gates on the trail. Finally he pulled up and jumped out of the car.

"Does he have a collar? Does he bite?"

"Yes" and "No."

The cop immediately ran down over the boulders to where Hapi was and grabbed her collar and pulled her up. He had to pull her half way up the rocks because she couldn't get her footing, partly because it was steep and slippery and partly because she was exhausted. They both arrived back on the trail wet and muddy.

"Where's your car? I'll drive you there," he said.

If it were just me I would have said I could walk but I didn't think Hapi could.

"Are you sure? She's covered in mud!"

He just looked down at his feet which were caked in mud almost to his knees.

He opened the back door to let her in but she wouldn't go. I went around to the other side and opened the other door and Hapi followed me and tried to get in. I had to lift her in, she really couldn't do it. Now we were all covered in mud.

"Good thing I'm planning to do a laundry," I said.

He said, "Just a moment, I have to call off the Fire Department who are waiting down the road in case I couldn't get her."

He made the call and I told him where I left my car and we drove there. I told him that I was a little embarrassed to call 911 for my dog since she was not a human person.

"Hey! My dog is my person! Next time, you call!" he said.

He then suggested I take Hapi to the Pet Valu store where they have a big tub to wash a dog in for $10.

"Good idea!" I said, "I've been there before but I wouldn't have thought of it."

He dropped us off at my car and took some information, my name and address and age. I'd already given that info to the 911 lady, I guess he just wanted to make sure he had rescued the right dog. I went straight to the Pet Valu and washed off as much of the mud as I could. Hapi wasn't happy but all the store staff came to watch and admire what a beautiful dog she was.

When Hapi finally got out of the river the tide was already in by almost a foot and still coming. I suppose if we had waited long enough it would have floated her up over the mud to where she could get a grip on the rocks, but by that time she would have been half dead of exhaustion and probably still wouldn't have been able to get out. I might have been able to grab her but it was a good 20 minute walk back to the car and she wouldn't have been able to do it. I couldn't get my car onto the trail because of the gates. I probably should have let the woman who stopped earlier call 911 but at the time I thought you weren't supposed to do that for just a dog and I still thought Hapi could get out on her own.

Not exactly what I had planned for the day!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

It's a Wonderful Day (Not)


Dear Diary:

Well, that's what this feels like, almost private although obviously not. Anyway, my house guest just left with her daughter an hour ago.

She was kind of the perfect house guest: good fun, good company and not really needing to be entertained since she had her own agenda here and the use of her daughter's car. She lived in the area for about a year a couple of years ago and met a lot of people that she wanted to catch up with. Her prime reason for being in this province was to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter S who is at school in Halifax, but that left her with lots of time to visit friends in the Valley. For me it was just the right mix of busyness and downtime while she visited with other friends.

Last night S came up from the City to participate in the Valley Thanksgiving Marathon; she stayed here overnight and got up early this morning for the race. Since S was not feeling well she only did 5K (there were options for 5K, 10K, a half-Marathon and a full Marathon) and then after she cleaned up we all went out for breakfast at a local restaurant.

I asked S what she was studying and she said she was working on her Master's in Nutrition. I asked what her thesis topic was and she said it was about senior women and communal meals. That sounded intriguing so she explained to me that it was a chance for her to combine her studies in nutrition with feminist theory. That older women have usually spent a half a lifetime or more caring for and feeding other people but at the ends of their lives are often deeply marginalized and forgotten by society and even their own families (tell me about it!). So she was looking at how senior women come together to care for one another and specifically how they share food. She said it was a very satisfying topic and an easy one to apply feminist ideas to. I was quite admiring. At least there are a few young people who take notice of that sort of thing.

Prior to breakfast I took Hapi for her walk at the Reservoir and met up with my friend P who is 86 and her dog Maddie. I was in a kind of angry mood so I ranted at her about being ignored by my family on this Thanksgiving weekend. They all make the duty-bound calls at Christmas and my birthday, and occasionally show their faces in my province. But the two big family-related holidays of the year are Thanksgiving and Christmas and not once have any of them called me on Thanksgiving. Everyone I know has some family nearby so they are all busy this weekend celebrating. One of my sons told me that he didn't believe in Hallmark holidays so they never call on Mother's Day because that is such a phoney thing to do. Of course, if you are often talking to or spending time with your mother then you have every right to criticize it as a phoney Hallmark holiday.

Anyway, I ranted. P sympathized as she had similar feelings, although she does have family living nearby and they are planning to get together this weekend. Then we saw Teddy. Teddy is a toy poodle belonging to A (93 years old), so we knew she could not be far behind.

P said, "Let's see if she tells us what a wonderful day it is."

That is A's trademark: she always tells you what a wonderful day it is, no matter what. So when she appeared we waited for her to tell us that. Instead she told us about the wonderful opera she had seen the night before at the cinema. She couldn't remember the name of it but she said it was one of the well-known ones and it was absolutely wonderful. P tried to prompt her to comment on the weather or the state of the day but A wasn't biting, she was totally enthralled with the opera. Since we were headed in opposite directions around the ponds we knew we would meet up with her again and by that time she would no doubt remember the name of the opera. Sure enough, we did and it was Turandot.

Then we jokingly told her we were expecting her to tell us what a wonderful day it was and she said, "Well at least it is not raining."

P and I laughed and laughed. First time A has admitted that the day might not be so wonderful. When you're feeling utterly crappy, it's nice to have a good laugh with old friends.

The picture above: I loaned my house guest a set of keys and she promptly lost them. The key fob is made from my dog's fur and some green wool so it has sentimental value, even though it is quite dirty now. We tried to figure out where she might have left them and I started phoning around. Sure enough, someone turned them in and I was able to retrieve them. I took the photo to text to my friend who was then in Halifax, to let her know she was off the hook on that.