Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mirror mirror on the wall...

At 4.30am today I was staring in the mirror trying to decide what to do. The mirror was not being helpful. I hate that. Going back to bed didn't seem like an option, it was hot and still and my pillow felt like a pincushion full of hot needles. So I tried the coffee and toast option, maybe I could just start the day a little early.

Coffee was nice but the pincushion effect was still there, even without the pillow. I won't even tell you what the mirror made me look like. Reluctantly I called the 811 public health nurse, which is really really not a useful thing to do, they only have one thing to say. Go to Emergency.

I am sure the government could save a lot of money replacing those live nurses who answer the phone with a simple recorded message (Go To Emergency), and then after a while people would stop calling and they could dispense with the phone line altogether.

Not only did she tell me to go to Emerge, she also said Do not eat (I had just made a bowl of strawberries and cereal) and Do not drive.

She asked, Is there anyone who can drive you? Anyone you can call?

I said, At 6.00am on a Saturday morning?

So $20 for a taxi to the hospital. At least, I thought, I'd be there early and beat the rush.

Silly me.

Wouldn't you know it the ambulances were very busy today, there was a nonstop stream of them all night and all morning, and ambulances ALWAYS have priority over walk-ins. The waiting room was relatively empty at 7.00am, but that meant nothing. And it was freezing! They had the air-conditioning cranked up something fierce. One of the nurses later told me that they are so busy they hardly notice, it's we folk sitting for hours on end in the waiting room that get to take notice. Thinking that it was going to be a hot day I didn't bother with a jacket, and so apparently did every other person in that waiting room.

Several of us chatted to while away the time and not wallow in our various pains. The woman next to me started by apologizing for being so grumpy, she was normally a very patient person. She had set out in the wee hours of the morning from her home town halfway down the Valley and arrived to the nearest hospital only to find the Emergency shut down. So she continued on up the Valley to the next hospital and arrived here at 4.00am. She thought that at least she'd be in and out at that hour. Hah. She had found a position she could sit in that was not too painful but daren't move from it. She had had surgery and was quite certain her incision was infected, and had been for quite a while. At her followup with the surgeon he said, Give it a bit more time. Last night was the last straw for her.

The next lady was in for a bee sting, a couple of days old and swelling steadily. She also had decided that she couldn't give it any more time. Another woman never spoke at all, we think she had some kind of migraine or such, she looked pretty terrible. As the morning progressed we watched the new people arrive, speculating on their triage position. It isn't in order of arrival, it's in order of how bad off you are, so the fact that you've been there since 4.00am means nothing if they think you're not as bad off as the little old guy clutching his chest at 9.30am.

I said to the lady with the incision, Couldn't you just tell them it is chest pain? I mean it was, kind of.

The waiting room filled up. The most crowded part was the waiting area for the Triage Nurse, they just kept coming and coming. We scrutinized everyone passing through that door to determine if they were better or worse off than we were.

At one point we were watching the little old guy tottering out of the car that was dropping him off, and the incision lady muttered, Please don't let him clutch his chest, please!

Then the little kids and their parents started arriving. One kid ran around until he found a light switch and started flashing the overhead lights. I wished he would find the thermostat and play with that. The nurse gave the incision lady a blanket because she was freezing and the bee sting lady a cushion and an icepack for her stung foot. She told us that there was a Non-Emergency Emergency Room, but it wouldn't open until 11.00am. So those of us who were low priority (basically all of us) might get some attention once they opened that.

I debated whether to just go home. I checked bus schedules and the local health clinic hours as an alternative to Emergency. My local health clinic is closed on Saturday (today) but open on Sunday; if I thought I could make it through one more night I might not feel quite so frustrated there. But the nurse pointed out that the clinic was closed on Saturdays and holidays, and Sunday being July 1st may or may not be considered a holiday. She said that the federal government considered Monday July 2nd as the official holiday, but whether the clinic agreed was anyone's guess. I might not get into the clinic till Tuesday, and did I really want to take that chance? Sigh...

I went around to the main door of the hospital looking for the cafeteria to buy something to eat: being cold and sick and hungry too was just over the top. Outdoors was pleasantly warm at 9.30am. I got a sticky sweet muffin and enough change in case I needed it for the bus.

At 10.20 the bus I might have taken home came and went, I stayed put. Good thing, for not 10 minutes later incision lady and I got called into the Non-Emergency Emergency Room, the first two in line for non-emergency emergency service. Yay! By 11.00am we had both been seen by the doc, she was given a bunch of antibiotics to take home with her and I was instructed to stay for an IV antibiotic. Another hour in the waiting room but at least I felt like I was doing something.

Nurse had a bit of a time inserting the IV needle, on the third try she threatened me, This is the last time.

She got it in and grinned, Apparently threats work with you.

I told her that come to think of it, the last time I had an IV the doc threatened me and it worked then too.

She said, You should have told me, I would have threatened you sooner!

Afterward she left the IV needle in my arm and wrapped it up in lots of gauze. I told her my dog was going to jump all over me when I got home so it needed to be really secure.

Anyway, what I have is periorbital cellulitis, and I have to go back two more times for IV antibiotics. The doc thinks it may have been caused by a mosquito bite on my temple.

My neighbour kindly came to pick me up at 12.30pm and offered to drive me back tomorrow since the injection is scheduled for 11.00am (when Non-Emergency Emergency reopens). Depending on how I feel tomorrow, I may just drive myself.

I don't know what happened to the bee sting lady, I hope she was well out of there before I was. A little girl with an earache was not so lucky, just as her turn to see the doc came up he got called away to an ambulance patient. She was still sitting in her Daddy's lap with tears streaming down her face when I left. Sometimes triage sucks.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Kindle and Active Hope

I have started loading books on my Kindle and attempting to read them. I have to say that the experience of reading a book on a Kindle is not the same---for me---as reading a paper book. I am trying to figure out why that is.

One thing is the background colour of the page: it's an off-white colour, a kind of grey. That does not seem to be modifiable. I did modify the text to a sans serif which so far is a bit of an improvement, but the greyness of the page gets to me, it's depressing.

Another thing is that I find reading on a Kindle limiting. I am the kind of person who just cannot read in a linear manner from start to finish. I always read the end of a mystery before the middle. Likewise for most books, fiction or otherwise. I like to skim. With nonfiction I like scanning the subheadings and illustrations in as I go along, I jump around. The Kindle is just not set up for that kind of reading, it is best suited for linear reading. I chafe at that.

Nevertheless I am really trying to get over it, I really am. I have put a few things on my Kindle that I really want to read, and am hoping that the enjoyment of those books will overcome my objections. I do see the advantages of a Kindle, particularly for travelling or for sitting in wait rooms. So I recently bought a couple of Kindle books that I want to read and cannot get through the library, or at least not in a timely manner, nor find cheap used copies on Amazon or elsewhere.

The first is Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're In Without Going Crazy, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012). I don't know much about Johnstone, but Macy is a longtime engaged Buddhist and activist that I admire. I have read a couple of books by her, including an autobiography and The Work that Reconnects. She deals with the depression and despair that many environmental and social justice activists feel over their apparent lack of success. Active Hope addresses these concerns. I am only a chapter or two into the book, and the Kindle does not really allow me to scan ahead, so the impressions I describe here are limited to what I have read so far.

We see the world today through lenses that are in part of our own invention and in part provided to us by our society and culture. We are so used to these lenses we do not even see them as such, we think we are seeing reality in the raw, the world as it "really" is. Macy and Johnstone say that there are three major prevalent stories that provide the lenses most of us are familiar with.

The first story is Business As Usual, that our society is on the right track and we can continue with business as usual. Most of our media provide and reinforce this story, most of our daily lives are based on the assumption that this story is reality. Our culture is inherently stable and good, there may be a few perturbances but nothing our politicians, economists and other experts can't handle. And while the experts deal with the big problems, we deal with the small ones, getting and keeping jobs, raising kids, maintaining a home, friends and community.

The second story is The Great Unraveling. Our economy is at risk, our politics are deteriorating, our environment is being degraded and destroyed, our climate is on track for major disaster, social justice atrocities abound, our access to cheap energy is disappearing, ...I am sure you can add to the list, you don't need me to provide the details. In short, we are doomed.

This story is also promoted in the media, although more so in the alternative media than in the mainstream. For those who are sounding the alarm on these issues, and/or attempting to fight them, despair and cynicism about our future is rampant. For many of us, this story is too grim to contemplate personally, so we resort to distraction or attempt to focus on the small delights of daily life as the only defense against this rather overwhelming general nastiness.

The third story gets little coverage in the media, it is not particularly newsworthy, it is so big that it is hard to get a good viewpoint on it. This story is what Macy and Johnstone refer to as The Great Turning.

As a species we have gone through a few major cultural shifts---revolutions as it were---and we are going through one now. The Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions are examples of previous shifts. The current shift might be called the Ecological Revolution, or perhaps the Sustainability Revolution. It is the transition from a doomed economy to a life-sustaining society. In its early stages, such a major transition appears to exist only on the fringes, but as it develops it spreads and becomes the new mainstream. We are on the cusp of something we have never seen before, a way for all of us to occupy this planet in peace and security, while preserving our natural world and promoting the highest social and spiritual values.

This third story sounds a bit airy-fairyish, but Macy and Johnstone provide evidence and arguments to support it as a valid view of reality. They suggest reading Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken as further support for this story.

Many people are already involved in this third story, you may be yourself. Macy and Johnstone list three major ways that people are involved or could become involved. They seem to have an affinity for things in threes. Possibly because it is the first number after two, which is the number of duality, either-or, black-and-white. The world may be considerably more complicated than either-or. Anyway, the three major ways they describe are Holding Actions, Life-sustaining Systems and Practices, and Shift in Consciousness.

Holding Actions aim to hold back and slow down the damage caused by Business as Usual. Protest movements, raising awareness of social injustice and environmental damage, caring for the victims and vulnerable, safeguarding communities against exploitation and war; these are the nature of holding actions. Saving the bits of society and culture worth hanging onto, saving as much of our beleaguered natural environment as we can. These actions are taking place at every level, from local actions against fracking, mountain-leveling, and protesting the closure of a local school, to international movements to curtail whaling or the building of bitumen pipelines or going after multinational corporations for environmental damages or corrupt practices harming vulnerable people. These are essential actions but they are not enough.

Life-sustaining Systems and Practices are the concrete building blocks of an alternative way of life. Many people, including entrepreneurs, corporations and even financial institutions, are working at creating positive alternatives to Business As Usual. If you look for it, the internet abounds in examples. Local farm markets, ecologically sound farming practices, research and investment in alternative energy, opportunities to become involved in alternative communities, colleges, ways of living and earning a living that are both satisfying and sustainable. These things are happening all over the world, and multiplying rapidly. They provide ways of being involved that are inspiring and give positive reinforcement to the activity. Small success stories abound, and provide inspiration for further action in those directions.

The Shift in Consciousness is about connection, compassion and caring. Macy and Johnstone cite the Apollo 8 spaceflight of December 1968 as a significant turning point in this shift, this was the mission that provided the first photos of the Earth as seen from the moon.

As astronaut Bill Anders said, We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.

It is only recently that we have come to see the world as limited, and all of us in the same boat. Everything is connected, you cannot mess with one small or distant part of the world without significant impact on all parts any more. This awareness is growing exponentially, and every new disaster of The Great Unraveling only serves to amplify and spread this new consciousness. The very fact that we lament environmental degradation, wartime atrocities, abuse of children/animals/women and a host of other evils is some indication of the Shift in Consciousness we are participating in. There is a growing understanding that we cannot survive at the expense of others, we are too connected, our fates too entwined.

Macy and Johnstone point out that for individuals involved in these dimensions of The Great Turning, failure and despair is a constant threat. Not all holding actions are successful, and successful actions are often only partially so. Nevertheless, in the long view and the "grand scheme of things", there is a kind of relentless progress. One action may be unsuccessful but the movement as a whole gains ground, regardless of failure or success.

And that's just the first chapter, as far as I've gotten so far. I'll let you know how it goes.

As one example though of that last idea, I was listening to Thomas Mulcair (new leader of the NDP, official leader of the Opposition) being interviewed on CBC's The Sunday Edition, and he was asked about Harper's recent success in ramming through the omnibus Bill C-38 this month. Mulcair's response was that the Conservatives wanted to put that bill through in secret, to not have everyone know how it would gut our environmental and social legislation, changing Canada for the worse in a huge way, all behind the scenes. The Opposition was successful in revealing the extent of the awfulness, it is no longer a secret. Yes, they did not have the numbers or the time to thwart this bill or even to amend it, but they did put it into the open for all to see. This is important, and not a total defeat or failure by any means. In every defeat there is something to take away for future action. It ain't over.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Peony Rule and a Host of other things

Last night I went to a friend's place to play Carcassonne, I took a couple of peony flowers from my garden with me. I don't have my peonies properly propped up and I am told that the Rule of Peonies is, don't let them touch the ground, cut them and bring them indoors. I have four blooms in my living room that smell up the whole house, I can't bring any more in or I will have to say "stink up" the whole house. I love flower scents, but I find them a bit overwhelming indoors, so I am happy to leave them outdoors. But I was informed by a friend of the Peony Rule, so I am trying to conform.

My friend won the game, a first for her. It was getting boring always winning and a bit of a change to get soundly trounced. My excuse is that it was well past my usual bedtime. I like Carcassonne, and I am not usually a fan of board games. But "the board" in Carcassonne is always different, and you never really know who wins until you count up the points at the end. My friend was sure that I had won yet again until we actually counted up all our points. She left me in the dust.

Hapi and I were in the Kentville Ravine yesterday morning, she had such a great time. We ran into a young yellow lab who wanted to romp with Hapi in the brook, and then later two more labs, a yellow and a chocolate, showed up to join the fun. It was a lab fest. The four dogs, Hapi as honourary lab, ran in circles in and out of the water and around our legs. There are fish in the brook, they stayed clear of all the doglegs.

Hapi and I go "fishing" almost every evening at the goldfish pond in the nearby woods. I think the fish see Hapi better than she sees them, at least they always manage to be on the opposite side of the pond from her. She can see them if they move suddenly close to the surface, but if they move slowly or sink to the bottom she has a hard time finding them.

There are a tonne of trout in the old Wolfville reservoir, and they seem to be quite tame. I stand in an opening in the trees near the bank and when one swims by, it pauses to look at me, often swimming in closer for a better look. Is someone feeding them? I've even seen them approach Hapi, although they think better of that soon enough.

On Tuesday I went into the city with a friend to have lunch with another friend who lives there. Our City Friend is in declining health, she moved to the city for medical care and does not know many people there. She lives a rather isolated life as she has mobility issues. If not for the phone she would be very isolated indeed.

We picked her up at her apartment building and drove to an upscale Italian restaurant well beyond the budget of the two of us from the country, and way too noisy to carry on conversation. But City Friend doesn't get out much and we could hardly say No to her request. So for two hours we yelled at each other across the table. Not quite two hours, the din did die down in the last half hour or so.

It was kind of funny, both of my friends are blind and I serve as their seeing eye dog and chauffeur, but I do not know the city that well so I have to ask directions from my blind companions. They rely on their memories to tell me where to go, and sometimes their memories do not quite match up with current realities of road repair, relocated businesses, newly created one way streets, disappeared parking lots. Plus I have a disability of my own, I cannot tell left from right. Shouting Turn Right! in my ear does little more than put me into a panic.

After our leisurely bank-breaking lunch I asked City Friend if she had had enough and she said Not, I asked if there was anything else she wanted to do and she had no suggestions.

I said, Then in that case I would like to go to the Lebanese Bakery to buy some pistachio halvah, and she quickly agreed that that would be fun.

The Lebanese Bakery is truly a lot of fun, so much to look at, so many things to sample, and the staff are very friendly and funny. One young man had a smile to die for, we vied with each other to make him laugh and smile some more.

We bought pistachio halvah and chocolate halvah, grenadine molasses, pita bread, Bulgarian sheep feta, I forget what kind of olives, several different kinds of some savoury pastry (fatayer?), and a small container of tabouli. The young man with the smile gave us samples of the different fetas, in the process managed to hit his funny bone and danced around for a few minutes shaking his arm and grinning painfully.

Afterward we crossed the street (I took the arms of my two blind friends and we strode across waving white canes at the cars) to the Mexican grocery store. The lady who runs that tiny shop is the personality opposite of the Lebanese Bakery people, she sits behind the counter looking very bored and impatient with her gringo customers.

We oohed and ahhed over the many kinds of mole and salsa, I don't know if she actually rolled her eyes but I imagine that she wanted to. A few purchases there and then we crossed back to our parked car with more cane waving at the cars.

By this time rush hour was beginning so our drive back to City Friend's apartment was slow and tortuous, due to traffic and to my unfamiliarity with the city and frequent panics (Turn Right! Turn Left! No you're going the wrong way!).

We had a half hour to kill before picking Country Friend's Husband up at his place of work, so we went to the Black Market. Hardly had I parked when I heard a thump and looked up to see a young skateboarder grinning down at me. He ran into our parked car! No harm done, his board hit the tire.

He skated off and we headed into Market. It's a throwback to hippie days, incense wafting out and bright coloured intricate paint designs all over. Inside creaking old wooden floors, and tonnes and tonnes of beads and multi-coloured skirts and silver jewelry. I don't know what the music was that was playing, but it was quite pleasant. I mused about making Country Friend's Husband walk over so we could stay a little longer.

Note to self, longer visit to the Black Market next time.

Country Friend bought a freshwater pearl mala (a kind of bracelet) and I contemplated genie pants made from a recycled sari.

After picking up Husband we stopped at Costco on the way out of the city, I bought dogfood and they bought pizzas and Clif bars. We were in and out in less than half an hour, the quickest visit to Costco I've ever been on.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Punitive and fearful

The last couple of weeks have been extremely stressful for me so I have not been inclined to post. Since the source of stress is ongoing I am faced with never posting again or somehow getting past the very strong link between stress and not writing here.

I am reluctant to go into the details, suffice to say it involves an encounter with "the Law" which leaves me rather depressed and pessimistic about what a society based on the Rule of Law is really all about.

The last time I went through this was to do with the Leaky Condo issue in Vancouver. Basically my attitude of being confident that how we run our society is Basically Good (if a Little Rough around the edges) turned to its opposite: "They" are out to get Me (you, me, all of us). I relate very much to the George Carlin video Ronni posted on her blog this past Saturday. I know it to be true in a very visceral way.

I spent four years dealing with that situation (the leaky condo) and the fallout from it. Including six months of fairly severe illness due directly to the situation (i.e., not stress-induced). When it was over, I felt I had learned a very hard lesson and just wanted to move on in life, walk away. I did. As a result it is not something I talk about much, I don't care to revive those awful days, months, years.

However. Life catches up with one, doesn't it?

The latest incident might appear relatively benign in comparison, that I am perhaps catastrophizing a minor misfortune. Having had one bad experience it is certainly an easy trap to fall into. And it may apply here, I am not sufficiently objective or distant from the experience to say.

I read the municipal by-law that applies, and it was quite frightening. I was assured that the by-law was not applied in the way that it is worded, but nevertheless the words are quite dire. I have spent the last couple of weeks "laying low" so to speak, and thinking about it. What will I do if...? What recourse do I have? Is there any way to fight this without making matters worse? I will tell you that I have no answers to any of those questions, hence the ongoing stress.

Here's the thing. The by-law is worded to instill fear and to be quite punitive in intent. It offers no recourse, no grounds or method for contesting, and in its worse case scenario, requires the killing of the subject without trial, warrant or even notification. Private property is not respected in this particular by-law. Police powers are invoked, without the need for consultation, notification, court warrant, anything at all.

It occurs to me that this is the mentality of the formulators of this by-law, fearful and punitive. And these are just ordinary people, this is just an ordinary by-law with its similarly worded counterpart in probably most jurisdictions in the country. We write our by-laws to be punitive and fearful. What does that say about our society, about us?

And that's all I have to say, because my answer to that last question is more negative than I care to repeat here.