Monday, August 26, 2019

Dog treats and other stuff

There is some movement around the plight of my friend from the previous post (we'll call her B), but it's early days yet. My dog lady friend contacted her Famous Filmmaker Daughter who replied that she'd talk to someone she knows about the situation. One of her films was about child poverty and featured a local social worker; my dog lady friend thought she might be helpful dealing with poverty of older people. Haven't heard back from the MLA's office, but don't really expect to right away. Maybe later. I just delivered some groceries from me and my neighbour; another friend said she'd put something together later so she's not swamped with food right away. The heat in B's apartment is overwhelming and B can hardly breathe. She speaks between gasps.

One of B's unfortunate habits is to badmouth other poor people. Mostly people I happen to know, I think it just wouldn't be as appealing to her to talk about people I don't know. Anyway it's mostly stuff about poor people gaming the system. Which I have no doubt goes on, but when you consider the gaming of the system by poor people up against the gaming of the system by not-so-poor people, it's pathetic. I really wish she wouldn't do that, but I understand that it comes with the territory. Being poor is dreadfully hard on you in so many ways. But it is hard to listen to and I came away feeling exhausted.

Hapi is always excited to see B, she knows she's going to be fed treats. When I arrived we had to put away the perishable groceries and Hapi just went bananas. She expected her treat to be Item Number One on the agenda. Eventually we sat down and she got her treat, tiny bits of dessicated liver. I offer her these things and she turns up her nose, but when B does it's the highlight of her day.

Hapi has had a bout of diarrhea. Not unusual with her but unpleasant when she has indoor accidents in the middle of the night. I started out withholding food for a day or so but she objected pretty strenuously to that. One of my dog lady buddies recommended rice and applesauce for her, another friend said cooked egg. So I mixed up a concoction of rice, cooked apple and scrambled egg and gave it to her two days in a row.  It was an apple left over from a bag of apples I bought last winter that I chopped up and nuked. I don't know what they did to that poor apple but it wasn't shrivelled or bruised or anything. Had to be a year old. Hapi scoffed it up like candy and OMG, I have never seen such hard little turds come out of her back end in all the time I've had her! It's a miracle!! I probably can't keep her on that diet forever but I sure would like to!!!

Can a malamute survive on rice and apples?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Subject line: Disappointed

Here is what I wrote:

Dear [MLA for my riding],

Wednesday morning I was talking to some ladies who were telling me how helpful you were in finding solutions to problems of constituents. They urged me to contact you for help. Since the help I was seeking was not for me but for a friend, I passed this information on and my friend called you. She is an old woman with serious health issues and no doctor, and poor as well. She cannot afford to pay her bills and buy groceries any more. She raised a family and worked hard all her life. Her father made her quit school when she turned 16 so she was never able to complete high school, consequently the jobs she has had were not well paid. She was okay as long as her husband was alive but he got Alzheimer's and died. 

My friend's bills have mounted to a level she can no longer afford. In desperation she went to the food bank. She is only allowed to go once every 6 weeks and what they gave her was: 3 potatoes, 3 apples, 2 stalks of celery, a small bag of carrots, a few cans of soup, some bread rolls, a few tea bags and a package of frozen hamburger which turned out to be rotten when it thawed. For 2 people for 6 weeks (her disabled son lives with her). After paying all her bills she has $6.00 left for groceries for the month. Not just this month but every month. She has tried the housing authority but they told her there is a 2.5 year waitlist for subsidy. She has her name on the 811 waitlist for a doctor but they say it's up to the government and they have nothing for her. She has diabetes, COPD, acid reflux, arthritis, a pacemaker, high blood pressure and lives with constant pain. She needs a walker just to get around her tiny basement apartment. Nova Scotia Power told her the reason her electric bill is so high is because of the baseboard heaters she uses in the winter time (with the thermostat set at 15C … 15C!!!) and the fans she uses in the summer because it is so hot that she can't breathe (COPD).

I talked to my doctor, hoping to get her to take my friend as a patient. She said she couldn't do it. I am reasonably healthy so I offered to give up my place with this doctor to my friend but the doctor refused, said it couldn't be done unless she was a family relation. Told me I should call my MLA.

I told my friend to call your office and she did. She got your assistant who professed to be sympathetic but told her there was nothing to be done, she should try the churches. Then he hung up on her. She tried calling back, left a message, but no one returned the call. 

Clearly I was wrong to advise her to call you, and clearly my lady friends were wrong about your willingness to help. I am sorry that I caused my friend to fall deeper into despair, one more door slammed in her face.

I am appalled at your callousness, appalled at this government's willingness to let old women lose their homes and ability to feed themselves. I am not a Liberal, but before my friend called your office I thought to myself that if you could help her then I would change my vote. Unfortunately for her but fortunately for me, that won't be necessary. You have lived down to my expectations. 

You have connections and you know people, so you are in a better position to help my friend than I am. I can buy her a few groceries sometimes but she won't accept them from me. Do you know what it feels like to watch someone's health deteriorate dangerously all because of their living conditions and stress, and not be able to do anything about it? Probably not. 

Don't bother replying to this email message for I really am not in a mood for listening to excuses and pretenses at sympathy. If you are willing to help my friend then I'm sure your assistant took her name and phone number when she called so that you can act on it. I think that you need to get out more and understand what some of your constituents have to live with thanks to this government's lack of care for the most vulnerable.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I first ran it by one of my dog walking buddies because I was afraid I might come across too angry (ya think?) and thereby make the situation even worse. My buddy said: No No, Mr MLA needs to hear your anger! Then I called my friend in trouble to get her permission and she gave it right away. So I hit Send.

Ten minutes later my friend phoned to say that our MLA's assistant had just called her (after numerous messages left unanswered by my friend). Said he hadn't hung up on her, they just got disconnected. Said I was not a nice person and was trying to get him in trouble with his boss (Mr MLA). And where did I live, anyway? My friend professed ignorance, didn't know where I lived, somewhere in the county she guessed. 

But in spite of me not being a very nice person and getting the facts all wrong he was going to look into the situation and try to help my friend. And a few minutes after that call I got an email from the MLA's office politely telling me that they would look into the situation, and have a nice day. I replied: Thank you.

Well, if he accomplishes anything of assistance for my friend, then I guess that means I am on the hook to vote Liberal in the next provincial election.

That sucks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


The other night I had this dream: I was talking to my old thesis supervisor (I did an MSc thesis in the '80s) and he was saying I should go back to school and do a PhD in systematics. He was quite convincing, named a specific university to do the doctorate at and said it would cost me hardly anything. I knew he was well-known in his field and that if I wanted to do it he could get me into the program he was promoting. I seriously considered it, remembered how much I had enjoyed doing that kind of research back in the day. Then I woke up.

I was still quite swayed by the idea but I also remembered that this guy was long dead, he couldn't get me into anything. I'd have to do it all by myself. After getting up and making coffee I got onto the internet and poked around. It all came back to me: how difficult it would be to get into a program I would like to do, how much it would cost, and how much stamina and energy it would take to do it. I also remembered that I had been down this garden path several times before and had reached the same conclusion: not doable. So why have this dream?

I told the dream to one of my dogwalking friends, a woman in her mid-80s.

"Sounds like you're trying to figure out what to do with your life," was her judgement.

She said that most of her life could be divvied up into Ten Year Plans, she spent roughly ten years on different projects that took up all her time and energy at the time. She said that the past ten years she'd spent on leisure activities: going to concerts and the theatre, hanging with friends. She wouldn't mind doing something a little more meaningful but felt that she just didn't have the energy for it any more.

"But you're still young, you could do it," she said.

I laughed. This must be why I hang out with people so much older than me, they think I'm young.

I told her that I wondered how my life would have turned out if I hadn't had kids, that I kind of regretted that. She said she felt that way too, or rather, she wished she had waited to have kids until she was fully formed, had had a chance to "find herself".

"But you know, in those days that's what you did, get married and have kids."

And besides, by the standards of the day she actually waited longer than her friends to start down that road, she was all of 22 when her first kid was born.

I was 23 when my first was born, and I wasn't "fully formed" by a long shot. Five years of marriage and then twenty of single parentdom. Now my kids and grandkids live in other provinces, I see one or two of them for a couple of days a year. They call on Christmas and birthdays. I thought I could have a relationship with one or more of the grandkids but at this point I think that ship has sailed. It just seems like a lot of time, energy and sacrifice went into that project with very little to show for it.

I think of all the things I could have done instead, and then I wonder if I would have, or if instead I would have squandered all that free time and energy because that's what we do when we think we have all the time in the world.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Lions and tigers and bears oh my, or, how my son went to sea

I took my son and grandson to the airport yesterday, we made a day trip out of it by going into Halifax a little early and strolling the waterfront to see the International Buskers Festival. My son tells me it is one of the best in the world. We stopped to watch a couple of performers, my grandson requested a balloon creation of a dragon from a ten foot tall man in a red suit and top hat (he was on stilts I think), and we had potstickers, egg rolls and naan rolls at the Farmers Market.

We happened to see the HMCS Sackville moored at a dock with a big sign saying it was free to tour ("by donation"). It is a decommissioned corvette veteran of three wars. My son said it was similar to a ship he served on when he was in the naval reserves. So we went on board and my son gave us the tour. He explained in detail how everything worked, showed us the sailors quarters, the engine room, the helm, the guns and a host of other things. Since my son was the helmsman on his ship when he was on board (in the reserves he did "contracts" of four weeks or so out at sea) he was able to explain in great detail how it all worked. Everything was mechanical, almost no electronics or electrical components at all. They communicated with each other via bells and speaking tubes.

He told us that they did duty in four hour shifts and the shift from 12AM to 4AM was known as "mids". When he was on mids he would sleep leaning on the wheel. The compass ticked whenever it changed direction by a degree, the ticking woke him up and he would adjust the course of the ship. He said he was very good at it and every time he went to sea they always put him on the helm. He sailed up and down the east coast of North America from Labrador to the Caribbean. He said he felt privileged to have had that experience.

In this ship the sleeping quarters and the mess were the same rooms. There were racks for hanging hammocks from the ceiling and below the racks were tables and benches for meals. The hammocks were very narrow and each rack held four hammocks in a space of about six feet in width. Pretty tight! My son said that on his ship they had bunks not hammocks, and the bunks were in a separate room from the mess. But it was still pretty crowded.

Before that we spent some time in Prince Edward Island at a cottage that belongs to my son's inlaws, near a beach. The whole area is mosquito infested, you pretty much had to stay indoors or be thoroughly bug-doped-up to go outside. At the beach were deer fly. The water was warm and the beach quite shallow for a long way with a series of sandbars that you could swim to. Some people sat on the beach in the sun and never went in the water. I quickly found out why: if you went in the water and came out covered in salt, the deer fly zeroed in on you. It was impossible to sit still once you got wet, the deer fly saw to that.

I took Hapi there with me and she quite enjoyed the beach. She went out as deep as she could while still keeping her feet on the bottom, then wandered up and down the beach to check out all the people and kids in the water. She kept a close eye on me and when I went out in the deep water she tried to follow. She did actually swim a bit but mostly she walked on her front legs and dogpaddled her rear legs. The kids at the beach quite enjoyed her.

After a few days of that I was thoroughly insect-bitten and just wanted to go home. Hapi does not travel well and she was glad to go home too. We spent a couple of hours cleaning up the cottage before leaving, one of the owners arrived the day after we left and was impressed at how clean and tidy we left the place. Back in Nova Scotia we mostly just hung out. My son is training for a marathon in the fall so he did some running, we took Hapi to the Reservoir every day and on one day we went to the zoo. It is a really nice zoo, just the right size for an hour or two of walking around looking at the creatures without burning out on too much zoo.

It is a private zoo, run mainly by one family who live on the premises. All the animals have names and little placards saying when they were born and how long they have been with the zoo. Every year they sell off some of their animals. Last year when I went they were selling guinea pigs and pygmy ponies, this year it is piglets. The llamas are in a large pen that you can walk into and pet them. Last year they let the peacocks run free but this year they are penned; someone said it was probably because they were losing them to local coyotes.

There's a resident bald eagle who is injured and can only hop-fly. There used to be two bears now there is only one; the jaguar, siberian tiger and half a dozen lions were all sleeping. One lion slept on his back with his legs in the air! Lots of gibbons and macaques, fallow deer and goats, and one very noisy cockatoo. Of course there was a corn feed dispenser for hand feeding various creatures whose pens clustered around the dispensers. Two huge pythons slept entwined with each other in the reptile house.

Today is my first day of getting caught up on chores and whatnot since the boys left yesterday. Pulled up all my garlic, picked and froze a bunch of green beans, pulled up all the pea stalks and weeded, weeded, weeded. Cleaned out the shed in readiness for stacking the firewood which is currently piled in the driveway. With cold and wet in May and June and then a heat wave for most of July, the garden is not doing so well. Two packets of basil seeds planted and none survived, cucumbers barely surviving, peas so-so and half the potato plants look ill. The blueberries did not do as well as last year and I've been lazy about picking them so the birds are doing it for me. The birds also planted sunflowers all over the yard and they are not doing well but they are flowering. The daylilies are happy though.

Now that the garlic is done I'm thinking about planting carrots and a fall crop of peas. My beans take a breather and then produce a second crop later in the summer. I used to replant them but I don't think I will this year. The tomatoes reseed themselves, I just transplant all the ones I like into one garden bed and pull up the rest as weeds. My strawberry bed has had the biscuit and hardly any of them came up this year, however tomatoes have taken over the strawberry bed so I just let them be.