Wednesday, December 25, 2019


All day yesterday I was thinking about Magic. I get all nostalgic for the Christmas of my childhood but usually not until Christmas Eve. The realities of the commercial celebration of Christmas drown out any thoughts or feelings about Magic, but on Christmas Eve things have settled down—relatively speaking—and it's a lot easier to let other thoughts in.

For many people—myself included—Christmas is a travesty. Some turn to Solstice celebrations as an alternative but I have never warmed up to that one, somehow celebrating the return of the sun at the beginning of winter just seems wrong. In this latitude we have several months of very long cold nights ahead of us before the return of the sun becomes noticeable. Winter in the Maritimes can be quite horrible, what with blizzards, power outages, and bitter winds. The return of the sun just seems like a nasty joke at this time of year. Maybe in March...

On Christmas Eve I remember how I felt about Christmas as a child. When you are really young and gullible you believe in Santa Claus bringing you the toys and gifts you long for, in the whole Nativity story with its angels and bright stars guiding wise men to the birth of a Holy Child. The Holy Child.

The Santa Claus story gets dropped first, at some point you realize it is just make-belief perpetrated by adults. You pretend you believe anyways because there are hoped-for gifts involved. But the Nativity story stays with you longer because even adults seem to believe in that one. And it is a magical event full of joy and wonder. 

The only other Christian Holy Day that comes anywhere close is Easter, but that is tinged with betrayal, horror and despair. Adults give you the story of the Easter Bunny to make up for all that but like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is exposed as a fraud pretty early. The gifts that the Easter Bunny brings pale in comparison to the gifts of Santa Claus. 

For me, Christmas and Easter are the only times that Magic becomes real, the bright and dark sides of Magic. I think of it as a whole other world that briefly touches our world of reality and cold hard facts at those times. So on Christmas Eve, I think about and feel the bright joyful side of Magic. It is close enough to touch. On Christmas Day it spins out and away, not to return until Good Friday in its darkest form of death and sadness, but Christmas Eve is a time of awe and deepfelt joy. 

Last night I kept going outside to listen for the harness bells of Santa's magical reindeer-drawn sleigh. As a child I convinced myself that I really could hear Santa's sleigh, so I continue to listen for that even in old age. I looked for Betelgeuse but it was a cloudy night and I didn't see it. I have heard that Betelgeuse has dimmed in preparation for going supernova and I would like to see that for myself.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Pre-Christmas newsletter...

It's been a good news/bad news kind of week, but I guess that's normal for this time of year. Going shopping for the necessaries is torturous due to all of the seasonal gift shoppers out and about. I have kept my own gift shopping minimal; in one short hour I went on Amazon to pick out five gifts—four for grandchildren and one for a distant terminally ill long time friend—and had them gift wrapped and shipped to various parts of the country. Sons and their wives will get Amazon gift certificates on the 24th. Easy-peasy if a little ethically compromised. I'd just as soon skip the whole thing but right now might not be the time for it. Maybe next year…

Hapi is cruising along uneventfully, her limp comes and goes. She has discovered garbage which I suspect is deliberately being left out for her, someone out there likes to see her snooping around their back yard and is encouraging her illicit activities (the garbage was not only not in a bin but carefully placed in what looks like a dogfood bowl!). Now that there is a bit of snow on the ground I can track her and managed to catch her in the act, so now she is locked into my back yard. The picture above is her looking morose about her captivity.

After years of sending unreciprocated Xmas cards I decided to give it up this year, and then two of my dogwalking buddies gave me cards at the Reservoir. Now I am considering rushing out to buy cards to give back. Who knew we would become a little community of card-exchanging friends?

The ponds are now at their most dangerous, covered in ice that looks thick enough to walk on but really is not. Hapi learned her lesson long ago and avoids ice-covered bodies of water like the plague, but many younger dogs don't know any better. Then dog owners attempt to rescue their dogs with the not unexpected results, soaking wet and freezing cold humans and dogs.

The park maintenance guys have been busy doing post-Dorion clean-up and over the past few weeks have come to know all the regular dogs. They stop their chipping machine when we walk by to chat and pet the dogs; the dogs have come to look forward to these little encounters. The other day one of the guys was asking after one dog in particular who they hadn't seen in a while and we realized that we hadn't either. The dog's health has been iffy lately so we wondered if something bad had happened. But that very same morning the dog showed up with his owner, who explained their absence as a happy event. They were off in PEI celebrating her 65th birthday.

The bad news is two-fold. One is finding out about the terminally ill friend mentioned previously. That was shocking. I have been debating going to see her (she lives on the opposite coast), but leaving Hapi behind is problematic and taking her with me is out of the question. So for now our relationship will be confined to the telephone.

The other is regular visits with B, who is in terrible shape. Can't move, can't breathe, can't sleep. All efforts to get her help have either failed, been put on hold due to the holiday season (!!!) or been sabotaged by B herself. It is so depressing and makes me so angry that I am almost beside myself after such visits. I fantasize about angry calls to various authorities but am afraid I will only make matters worse if I follow through on such fantasies. Three times in the past few weeks her son has called an ambulance to take her to Emerge because he can't move her himself. At $140 a pop it's an expensive proposition and they have no money. I said to him, well, they can't get blood from a turnip so keep those bills coming. Maybe someone will take notice of her if she becomes a regular ambulance user. He agrees.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December howls

Almost everyone I know around here was bleary-eyed with exhaustion yesterday, none of us could sleep with the wind howling through the night. After two days it finally died in the wee hours of this morning.

Can't speak for anyone else but I lay awake listening and imagining worst case scenarios with all that noise outside. Last night I did manage to go to sleep in confidence that the wind was slightly less howly.

The hot the cold the rain the snow, I can live with all that, but the wind, oh the wind...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Story tails

It was an unseasonably warm day, rain was forecast but was minimal. I turned off the heat pump and opened all the doors and windows to get some fresh air into the house, something that is in short supply in the wintertime. I puttered around getting some winterizing chores done. Then I noticed that Hapi was nowhere around and I had left the gate (and the front door) open. So I set out to find her. I headed in the direction that she had last been sighted a couple of weeks ago, a small row house complex up the street and across the field. There were a couple of older men loading junk into a pickup there. I asked one of them if he had seen a large grey wolf-like dog around.

"Oh, I've seen that dog, beautiful! But not today, sorry."

I was about to turn away and head in another direction but he asked for my phone number in case he did spot her. So I gave it to him. One thing led to another and in less than ten minutes we had exchanged the broad details of our past lives, our children, what it's like to live in this town. I'm guessing he was a few years younger than me, but not much. Another younger man with long black hair and tattoos all over bare arms (it was warm out!) came by and the older man asked him if he'd seen my dog. The young man said no he hadn't but he could text his wife to see if she'd seen her.

"That's okay, she only just got out, I'm pretty sure she's still close by," I said.

The young man nodded and continued on his way with a bag of garbage for the outdoor garbage bin.

I went back to chatting with the older man, now we were on to where our children lived and what they were doing there. Eventually though I had to call a halt to the conversation, I was expecting company and I should probably be at home when they arrived. Besides, I had left all the doors and windows open. As I left, the man said he wanted to know more about my son who had recently bought a house in town, he himself made his living as a landlord of over thirty units and was curious about someone just starting out on that career path.

"I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger, I'm not sure I would do it over again," he said.

When I got home Hapi was in the basement, sleeping. I think she was there all along.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Good advice

These days I am not taking a lot of photos, so pictures for my posts are going to be scarce.

Last night I ushered at the Jeremy Dutcher show. Wow. Powerful music. I'd never heard of him before, but last night was amazing. We ushers were invited to a reception for Dutcher after the show but I had already agreed to meet another usher at a local pub so I didn't go to the reception. Some nights the last thing I want to do is usher but I go anyway and sometimes it is really worth it. Dutcher and the previous show, Between Breaths, were spectacularly worth it.

Dutcher talked about his (and his parents') efforts to preserve their language, Wolastoqey (Maliseet). He said that there are only a hundred native speakers left now. He said that it was not just about the words lost but the unique worldview lost. Every language expresses a worldview, when you speak that language you participate in that worldview. When a language goes extinct, so does that worldview. I think this is true.

* * * * *

The usher that I met at the pub is francophone, from Montreal. At 77 years old she is one of the most beautiful women I have met. I love the sound of her voice and her laugh as well. Mostly I spent the evening just listening. Our server recognized her as someone who had participated in a panel on women aging in her sociology class. The server said she really appreciated my usher friend's advice. After the server took our order I asked my friend what her advice had been.

"I told them to get an education, it would set them free."

She said that living free is the most important thing; and maybe a university education these days doesn't get you as far as it used to, but it is still important enough to help young women be free in their lives. Apparently our server took that to heart.

* * * * *

I gave myself a good scare this week, really silly of me. It started out consulting Doctor Google about some signs (symptoms?) that Hapi was displaying. I came to the conclusion that she had Cushing's Disease. Among other things, one sign of this disease is increased appetite, so one day I let Hapi eat as much as she wanted to see just how far she would go. She used to be very picky about what, how much and when she ate but that seemed to be changing. So that day I just kept refilling her bowl to see how far she would go. She ate twice as much as usual. In my mind that kind of confirmed the Cushing's diagnosis. However the next day she didn't eat a single thing and she seemed to be in pain. All she really wanted to do was hide in the basement. So I made an appointment for Friday with the vet to discuss, by which time Hapi had recovered from her day of overeating.

The vet darn near laughed in my face. She waved the results of Hapi's recent bloodwork at me and said, "She's healthy! Old, but healthy!"

I got myself all worked up for nothing. Hapi might have Cushing's, but it's kind of irrelevant. The tests are expensive, there is no cure, and dogs can live for years with it. I'll try not to overfeed her again.

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


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:


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.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hapi tales

Right now I am dealing with a stabbing headache, a gum infection and a sore tongue (from accidentally biting it) all on the left side of my head. I'm thinking this is stress-related. Usually I get these kinds of ailments after the stress has been mostly relieved so I suppose this is good news, I'm out of the woods. But it is not pleasant.

We're seeing some daylight at the end of the tunnel for my friend B. Her son who lives with her will see an increase in income, over $250/month, which will go a long way toward alleviating their financial situation. There is potential for more in the long term as well. Also I made contact with the Continuing Care people in the provincial government and they are going to assess B's situation to see if there is anything they can do to help. Bottom line, she is not invisible anymore; there will be people aware of her circumstances and troubles who actually have the power to do something about it. There is a Seniors department in the government but I couldn't see anything there worth pursuing. Seems to be mostly about "positive aging" and keeping fit.

Hapi's fur yarn and the woollen tail sock
My dog Hapi has been losing the fur on her wonderful tail, there is now a four-inch strip of exposed bare skin near the tip (see photo at top). I've taken her to the vet a couple of times and the diagnosis and treatment has been not so useful. I joked with friends about making her a "tail sock" to cover her bare patch in the wintertime, and this week I got serious about knitting one up for her. I remembered that I have a ball of yarn that was spun from her own undercoat fur a few years ago so I thought it would match her tail fur. It is very soft. I made a test tail sock from sheep wool that is not so soft and before winter I will make the final one, assuming that her tail fur does not miraculously grow back before then.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

What is in a name? It turns out a lot

Taking flight
I am thinking about changing my name.

I was married, briefly, during the '70s. Back then I changed my surname (not knowing any better) to my husband's name, and changing it back to my "maiden name" after the divorce didn't seem worth the bother. So I have spent most of my adult life under an assumed name, or so Vital Statistics tells me. My married name is not a legal name, it is an assumed name.

My brothers and never-married sister all go by the family name (i.e., my father's family name) and so in my family of origin I am an anomaly, the only one not bearing the family name. My kids all have their father's surname, sort of. One has a different father but since I was still legally married at the time he had to be named after my husband who was not his father. Another legally changed his name when he got married to a double-barreled name. This blog is in my ex-husband's and my current surname. My parents and my ex-husband are all dead.

If I had my druthers I'd change my surname to my maternal grandmother's "maiden name", only because I happen to like the sound of it and I know something of its history. But I think changing one's surname to something other than one's own "maiden name" is a bit more expensive.

The other thing is that the given name that I commonly go by is my second name on my birth certificate, and I have always gone by that name even as a very small child. I don't know why that is but I never objected to it and still don't. However since computers became common it has been an ongoing source of irritation because virtually all government agencies insist on using my first given name. If I am sitting in a waiting room it is that first name that gets called out, not my more commonly used second name. Government ID seems to be mixed on the issue, some of it shows the first name, some both names, and some only the second name.

So I thought maybe I should just cave on the issue and go by my first name like almost everybody else does and just stop arguing with officials who insist on it. It will be weird having a new name but at least it will solve a few minor problems.

Into the wild blue...
I started looking up what is involved in changing a name and it turns out that it is really complicated, there is no one agency you can call to deal with it. First of all there is the provincial government, then the federal government, and then of course the municipal government. Each of these involve multiple departments that all must be dealt with separately. Finally there are the financial institutions and various commercial organizations that I have accounts with. I feel quite confident in guessing that it will be an endless task rooting out the last vestiges of my old (i.e., current) name. No wonder I didn't do it right away! But I was naive, I did not know that it would be that much harder now than it would have been three decades ago. Who would have thunk that computers would make things harder not easier?!? (sarcasm)

So why bother? I'm going to blame it on Dorian and Arthur. Arthur was a tropical storm during July 2015 and Dorian a hurricane of less than a couple of weeks ago. In both cases there was widespread damage to the entire province and power outages lasting a week or more. I was very lucky during Dorian to get my power back within 18 hours, extremely lucky actually. My home did sustain a little damage but nothing really devastating. Going without electricity, internet and phone for 18 hours is way different from going without for a week. During Arthur I was without power for 3-4 days I think and that was hard enough. It is a very isolating feeling to not have phone or internet. I did have a cell phone then but not a lot of data so I couldn't go on the internet, and after a couple of days the battery had died anyway and that was that.

None of my kids called me during or after Arthur or Dorian. My brothers did, but not my kids. They are very bad at keeping in touch quite frankly, and I am told that it is because they are men not women. I had the great misfortunate of not bearing a single daughter. I have tried to talk to my sons about the importance of keeping in touch but it just hasn't had an impact. One son cannot be reached by email, he has an email address but he does not read email there because he says there is too much junk mail there and for whatever reason he does not want to create a new email address. Text messages are okay but I have a hard time reducing what I want to say to text message size.

I understand that my two married sons have busy lives with jobs, wives and kids to be concerned about. I was not so great at keeping in touch with my parents when I was their age either. So I resent it and feel a little guilty about it too. But from where I am sitting it looks to me like my siblings are more concerned about me than my kids are, and the name change might be appropriate. An outward and visible sign of true allegiance, so to speak. I feel abandoned whether it is actually true or not, and I feel like I need to disown my family and go on without them (my kids, not my brothers). I am tired of dealing with the recurring disappointment and sense of abandonment.

It looks like a long term project and one that will take considerable planning to do everything in the right order. When it is done however, that will be the end of this blog. I will no longer be Mz Odell. I may start another blog in my new name, and if I do I will provide a link here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Life goes on, sort of

Pre-Dorian Avondale Sky Winery
Another windy rainy day but not a hurricane. There are still parts of the province, even parts of this town, that do not yet have power restored. My neighbour with the generator that I mentioned in my last post is still having to use that generator. The kayaking expedition that I was supposed to go on yesterday is probably cancelled, since the location is closed due to wind damage and some of the participants still do not have power so would have been unable to prepare food in advance and keep it cool. I haven't talked to any of them, I bowed out several weeks ago due to concerns about Hapi and her dogsitter.

On the good news front, the MLA's assistant finally called my friend B back and made a suggestion that might give her more income. Her son is following through on that. But her breathing is far worse. I thought it was because of the heat wave but we are into cooler weather now and she is, if anything, worse. She cannot finish a single sentence without gasping for breath.

I said, "You need oxygen."

She agreed but said, "You can't get oxygen if you don't have a doctor. A doctor has to refer you."

She's been on the doctor waitlist for a year now. Getting a doctor is along the lines of getting a pony for Christmas, assuming you want a pony. If your Daddy is rich then you have half a chance, but if not then forget it. I gather that the MLA's assistant is still working on that but it didn't sound like he was optimistic.

I went online later to confirm that she did in fact have to have a doctor in order to get oxygen. Close but not quite. The provincial health people say you have to have a "designated physician", and then give a link to a list of "designated physicians" in the province. There is one in a nearby town. So I will call their office and find out if they can do anything for her. If not then I may have to go to the MLA's office, even though they say I am not a nice person. I just think that not being able to breathe can't be good for her, it must be doing damage to other parts of her body if she's not getting enough oxygen.

There is a rent subsidy available to seniors but there is over a year's waitlist for it. And, unbelievably, she doesn't qualify. First of all they calculate how much you should pay in rent as 33% of your total income. In other jurusdictions it's 30%, but no matter. If your heat is included in the rent then they will include it in the subsidy, but if it isn't they don't. So taking her rent alone into account, they tell her that they would actually INCREASE her rent payment rather than subsidize her. If she moved into a place where the heat was included in the rent payment then she might qualify, but first of all she doesn't have any savings to pay for a move. Last time she moved she borrowed from one of those horrible high-interest "payday" loan companies, couldn't meet the exorbidant interest payments and ended up going bankrupt. She's terribly ashamed of that, she's never not paid her debts before.

And second of all she doesn't have the energy to pack up and move due to not being able to breathe. Her son could do a lot of it but it would be really hard to force her to sit still and not lift a finger to help. She likes to give Hapi dog treats, I buy them for her. But she insists on breaking them up into smaller pieces so that she can prolong the treat-giving process and the effort to cut the treats in half wipes her out. Nevertheless she insists on it, and someone would have to sit on her to force her not to help pack up for a move.

B's Seniors Club was on hiatus all summer but they started meeting again yesterday. B couldn't go. She has a walker but she can't get it up or down the stairs to the outside door of her building. She needs a ride and many of the people in the club either can't help her with the walker or they can't take it in their cars. There is one guy who can and will, but of course she doesn't want to call him every week about it. And even if the walker and the ride were taken care of, there's the small matter of not being able to breathe. And the requirement that everyone takes a turn at providing snacks for the whole group. No one else visits her, that Seniors Club and I are it for social life. So now it's just me. I'm not good at caregiving, I find this whole thing stressful and I just don't want the responsibility. But there's no one else to pass it off to.

The latest news is that the government health people think they will have the proper ratio of doctors and patients in a few years time. They are on course and making progress. I don't think they have any clue what "a few years time" means to someone like B.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Adventures with Dorian

By the light of a headlamp
Hurricane Dorian was here.

A day and a night of strong wind and heavy rain, the power went out just after supper time. Don't often see the world that dark. There was enough rain that the sump pump kicked in mid-afternoon but it stopped when the power went out. Note to self, get a generator to keep the sump pump going when it needs to.

On Sunday all was sunny and clear with a bit of a cool breeze. I went walking around town to see how things fared. No electricity anywhere, all the shops closed except one convenience store. I talked to the women who worked there, they got coffees from the Fire Department and kept the store open all day for anyone who could pay cash. I went to a friend's house and we walked through a ravine to the Reservoir with our dogs, we had to bushwack the trail because of so many downed trees. Between his bad hip and my bad knee it was kind of ludicrous, us clambering over and under and through the bushes. The dogs just traipsed on through, waiting for us up ahead on the trail. At the Reservoir it wasn't quite so bad, we ran into two groups of students having picnic breakfasts there.

On my way home I had to go around a tree blocking the road, another friend drove up and stopped to chat. I said how it was impossible to find coffee in this town and she said she had some, why didn't I come to her place. I had to take Hapi home first and then we drove to my friend C's place. I've known C a long time, we were both single parents back in the '80s in this town. She stayed, I left. Now she lives in a housing co-op for seniors. They have a generator, so in all the hallways are electric outlets powered by the generator. People were charging phones, running their fridges off long extension cords, and of course boiling water for coffee. C's apartment was small but really nice, she is very happy there. Even though the rent is very low she still has to work to afford to get by. We talked about that and I told her about my friend B, she told me about a mutual friend L who is also in dire straits. C has her health, she could probably get by without working if she didn't have a car, but the car is a lifeline for her.

Later C took me for a tour of the co-op. It consists of several buildings on a large campus, they have a vegetable garden and numerous flower gardens. In the main building is the Lounge (the common room) and two libraries, fiction and non-fiction. C is in charge of the libraries. There's a small gym, a craft room and a woodworking room. They have a rack of shared bicycles. When we stopped by the Lounge there were a bunch of people there, one of the residents had made a large pot of chicken soup and it was being shared. I had a little bit. There was a man visiting his Mom who lived there. He'd been evacuated out of his apartment building in Halifax because of Dorian. He recognized C, he went to school with C's son and used to come by their place all the time.

C was going to drive me home but something came up so I walked. Saw lots more trees down. Most of them were uprooted, the rain softened the ground and the wind whipped those trees right out. I saw one tree that was easily three feet in diameter on its side. I saw another tree that looked like it had been folded down. Lots of trucks and tree fellers out working, quite a few generators humming away. With the power down there was no reason to stay home so lots of people were out walking or driving around. I hear there's a shortage of gas now. A wheel bearing is out on my car so I don't want to drive it till it gets repaired. That was scheduled for tomorrow and with the power out I wasn't sure it was going to happen. But tonight I heard that the garage has power now and they're planning to fix my car tomorrow.

So 400,000 homes lost power all over the province, about 80% of the population. By Sunday night half those homes were back online and tonight well over 3/4 of them are back up. I'm on the same grid as the university and they were a high priority so I got my power back by noon on Sunday. People on the west side of town were next because there's a medical clinic and a bunch of nursing homes out that way. The east side was the last to get power.

Here's a funny thing. My brother on the west coast was diagnosed with liver cancer (not the funny thing) and he has been undergoing treatment, the second treatment was this past week and on Saturday during the hurricane I phoned him while I still had power. He was doing okay and was optimistic about his prospects. We talked about the hurricane and I told him about the online power outage map so he looked it up and saw how many places in this province were down. He watched the hurricane on, he could see it heading for Halifax (it made landfall about the time I lost power). On Sunday while I was at C's place I got a text from him saying that Acadia University had power, but he wasn't sure about my street. I texted back that I was going there to see. So I found out I had electric power from my brother on the west coast, that's the funny thing.

Today I went to the Reservoir and all the trees have been cleared off the trails. I met two friends, one with power and one without. the one without is in a building with an elevator that wasn't working. She's 93 so going up and down all the stairs to her 3rd floor condo can't have been easy. Plus her garage has an electric door so she had to find a tall man to open it for her manually. But she made it. She said she met a young person recently who asked if she could call her "a tough old bird" and she said she could. She was proud to be "a tough old bird".

In the afternoon I went to my needlework group that was meeting in a home that didn't have power but did have a generator. We all talked about our various states of electrification and how many trees we had down, et cetera. Our host told me about small generators you can buy just to run a sump pump (they have a sump pump too). One of the women in the group goes to the same church as my friend B so I spoke to her about B's situation. She told me she'd see what she could do, she was very concerned about B but hadn't seen or heard from her in a while.

"Why hasn't she asked us for help?"

"I don't know, she said something about the church being in trouble and she didn't want to disturb them."

Well they're going to try. Strictly speaking they're not supposed to because B lives outside their parish now, but it's a small church and everyone knows everyone and B has been a member there for a long time.

Monday, September 2, 2019

...We thought they'd never end...

Labour Day, one of the very few days of the year when everything is closed. I like it, it's like a moment out of time, time standing still.

We are into the very best time of year around here, a month or two of absolutely perfect weather. The unbearable heat of summer is done, the miserable cold of winter still in the future. And the gardens and farm markets bursting with tomatoes and corn and squashes and everything else. The students are back and celebrating the way students do, the streets are lively and sometimes too lively. This year the students in my neighbourhood seem not to be the "party hearty" types so we all get to sleep at night.

This is good for Hapi too. She can just barely handle the heat of summer, the cooler days are perking her up. I was supposed to take her to the groomer to get all her matted fur cleaned up but I totally forgot and now the next available appointment is a month away. She's going to be a terrible mess by then. Under normal circumstances it takes hours and hours to clean her up but now that she is old I am reluctant to put her through that. I told the groomer I just want "quick and dirty" and if that means she comes out still a matted mess then so be it.

She had a bad episode of diarrhea necessitating leaving the back door open at night so she could get out rather than do it in the kitchen, when that cleared up (yay rice and apples!) she then became incontinent. So she has decided not to sleep indoors at all. I miss her being by my bed but on the other hand I get to sleep through the night.

She is losing the fur on her tail, her once beautiful billowing flag. The vet checked her out and thought it was not a sign of something worse, she was otherwise healthy enough, and recommended trying melatonin. So we're doing that. I now sympathize with men going bald, I hate seeing her ratty tail.

Birthday gift, one of the tea towels I wove in the spring
Last Wednesday was a friend's 65th birthday. I've known L for 46 years, she was a teenager when I first met her. On Wednesday a bunch of us met at her sister-in-law's for a birthday lunch and then on Saturday her husband threw her a "surprise" birthday party at home. It wasn't really a surprise, when he phoned to invite me to the party L happened to be there and I had the phone on speaker (I usually do that automatically): so much for surprise. But he invited all of the old gang, all of us who have known L almost since she arrived in this province.

She arrived a year before I did, in 1972. There was only one other person at the surprise party who knew L longer than I did, M. He told a story from back in the day, a story that until this Saturday he had not told in its entirety. As L told me later, if M had told the truth about the incident before now she would have killed him. She always knew he wasn't telling the truth, fortunately she no longer wished to kill him for it. It was a good story, I'd never heard the whole story either, just his severely edited version of it. L and I rehashed the story on Sunday and we decided that even now he was not telling the whole truth, parts of the story just didn't ring true. Oh well, we all self-edit.

Now you're intensely curious as to what the story is, I'll just say that it involved drugs and the RCMP and hiding stuff behind L's back. In the end nobody got hurt and nobody went to jail, sort of an Alice's Restaurant tale. I guess that tale was M's birthday gift to L.

At one point in the party L's husband sat down beside me with their old photo albums and started turning the pages. Talk about Memory Lane!! Between the photo album and M's tale it was an evening spent in the past, almost half a century ago.

L's mother died when she was quite young and her father was no great shakes at parenting. So at 16 she took off with her boyfriend on his motorbike and on a whim they headed to Nova Scotia. Shortly after arriving here he was killed in a road accident, leaving L and another friend who travelled with them behind. They had found an abandoned house way back on the mountain, near some other hippies also squatting in an abandoned house. So she met some of the local freaks that way. There quickly grew up quite a community of young people, including some new arrivals from out west, the three guys who set up Trinity Farm ("the three guys"). My husband and I and our 2 kids arrived the following year, we had lived in a house with the three guys in Vancouver. We had parted ways for our own adventures, but for one reason and another we decided to follow the guys to Nova Scotia a year later. M was the cousin of one of the three guys and used to hang out at Trinity Farm, and so did L. My little family arrived at Trinity Farm on the Labour Day weekend of 1973.

When M told his story we weren't sure exactly when it happened, but piecing together the bits that each of us remembered from those days we decided that it was it was either the fall of 1974 or the early winter of '75. I was preoccupied with my own drama (family breakup) so I was only dimly aware of other people's dramas. Those were definitely the days, my friend.