Saturday, February 29, 2020

Icy trails, part two

I followed some of the mystery trails in the woods that I mentioned in my previous post, and I am thinking that they are red squirrel trails. Red squirrels look like chipmunks without the stripey markings. What I noticed was that the trails come close to large tree trunks in many places and if these are squirrel trails then that makes sense, the squirrel can get off the trail quickly if it suspects trouble. And when I was following one particular trail there was one squirrel screaming at me from high in a tree and another watching me from a fallen tree that disappeared when I got too close. Actually, it was probably Hapi they were watching and screaming at.

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A couple of nights ago I watched two movies, Three Identical Strangers and Edie

Three Identical Strangers is a documentary about triplets who were separated after birth and adopted out to three different families; accidentally discovering each other at the age of 19. The movie starts out quite joyfully as the three boys ecstatically discover and connect with each other. But it gets darker as the adoptive parents and an independent investigator look into how this could have happened. As it turns out, the boys were deliberately separated as part of a secret experiment, a "twin study". 

I must say that I always wondered when twin studies were cited as evidence for the heritability of certain human traits or nature vs nurture debates, how did twins get separated in the first place? Accidentally? On purpose? For good reason? This documentary makes it clear that in this particular case it was deliberately done for the sake of someone's research. Of course it raises huge ethical issues about such research, and I won't be able to read about twin studies ever again without being rather disgusted by the implications. In the film a pair of separated female twins were interviewed after they reunited. The interviewer commented that this was like a Disney movie and one of the twins said, Yeah but darker.

An aunt of one of the boys commented throughout the film about her reactions to the revelations that ensued; I thought her comments were insightful and wise. At the end she says—on the subject of nature versus nurture—that she thought that good parenting could overcome anything. One of the issues raised in this film is that not everybody is so lucky to have "good parenting". Sometimes who the parent is and who the child is due to genetics or whatever is at odds, and sometimes it is irreconcilable.

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Edie is a story about an old woman determined to climb a mountain in Scotland. She is probably in her late 70s or 80s and quite frail, not at all an athletic kind of person. Her husband has just died and her daughter has packed her off to an old folks home of some sort. She rebels and sets off to climb this mountain, but is poorly equiped for the venture. She literally bumps into a young man who then becomes involved—initially against his will—in helping her to achieve her goal. The film ends with the two of them on the peak of the mountain. 

There's a lot of drone footage that is quite dizzying and if you have any kind of fear of heights you might want to close your eyes for some of that. My reaction to the ending was that I am quite certain that climbing down is a lot harder than climbing up and if she had so much difficulty getting up there I sure hope she got airlifted out because I could not see her surviving the descent even with the help of the young man.

What got to me about the story was that I could relate to a lot of her back story. Essentially she had spent an adult lifetime caring for a disabled husband and a child and having to forego a lot of stuff she would have liked to have done while she still could. When the husband died she was set free but was now so old that the adventures she longed for were out of the question. Years of caring for others when she would really have rather not, turned her bitter and grumpy. She treated the people who were trying to help her quite abruptly and unappreciatively, not that there were a lot of people trying to help her.

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Now in my 70s I look back on an adult lifetime of raising boys by myself and taking care of old dogs and, briefly, a parent. There was maybe a 12-year gap when I had no children, dogs or parents to be responsible for. Right now I am caring for my second old dog. Both my parents died in their 70s and although I am assured that my parents' age at death has little bearing on how long I have left to live, it doesn't feel like that. I feel like I maybe have five good years left, not a lot.

It is winter and while there is not a lot of snow there sure is a lot of ice. Finding places I can let Hapi off the leash is hard, all the trails are icy and she must be on leash on sidewalks. Being old she likes to stop and sniff every tree, every snow bank, every fire hydrant; and since her sense of smell is somewhat diminished by age, she takes a very long time for each sniff. So when she is on leash we plod from tree to hydrant to snow drift and stop at each one for a minute or more; it is not exactly a lot of fun. Not to mention the picking-up-your-dog's-poop bylaw. At least when we are on the trails I can let her off leash and not have to stop and wait every time she wants to sniff something.

I relate to Edie's anguish at her life having been a total waste of time. At one point she tells the young man to take a lesson from her, don't do what she did. But I figure there is little chance of that, our culture presses women into caretaking far more than men. When I was young I dearly wanted to be a boy. Although I did not know the details, I was pretty sure that living in our world as a girl or a woman did not nearly provide the opportunities available to boys and men. My mother did encourage me to think about going to university, mostly as a hedge against poverty as a married woman. She herself had had the opportunity to go to university but she gave it up to get married and I suspect that she regretted that decision very much. But I was young and keen to be free of all restrictions, including those imposed by schooling and pursuing an education, so I did not follow her encouragement until much later in life.

"Love what you do and do what you love. Don't listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life. " ~Ray Bradbury

I find this quote (from the whiskey river blog, Feb. 28) annoying. Sure, follow your heart and do what you love and don't pay any attention to all those naysayers. But if you are a woman that means don't get married, don't have kids and don't take on the care of your own parents when they get old because all those things will stand in the way of doing what you love, unless of course caretaking is what you love. Our culture pays lip service to the idea of finding what you love and pursuing it, but it all hinges on someone else doing the caretaking and there are precious few men doing that. It's woman's work.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Icy trails

Came across a bit of a mystery in the woods this past week. Hapi and I go for an afternoon walk in the nearby woods, where there are multiple circular trails joined together, crossing local roads in three different places. In one area I came across what looked like a new trail, except it is only about 4" wide. It winds around through the forest, under overturned trees and up and down the hill slope. I can't follow it all the way because in places there is less than a foot of headspace above the trail.

I have encountered this trail in several places so I don't know if it is all one trail or several trails. It looks almost like a frozen rivulet but it doesn't follow the natural slope of the land. In one area there were a couple of burrow openings, but not directly onto the trail. It has a bit of a textured pattern from many paw prints, but none stand out enough to identify the creature or creatures using this trail.

It has been cold and icy this past week, I have not seen the regular dog walkers at the Reservoir because the trails there are treacherously icy and the dogs don't really like it. This coming week is supposed to be a good deal warmer, so maybe the ice will retreat a bit.

B told me on my last visit that she has been discharged from the hospital and is now just waiting for a nursing home bed. I thought she already had one but that turns out to be either not true or old news. Anyway, her son F dropped by today and told me that they reversed the discharge because she is getting worse, but no one has told her that. Her organs are starting to shut down and I said to F that it could be just a matter of weeks now. F said that she was so stubborn that he thought she would hang in there a good deal longer than that, but he thinks it unlikely that there is a nursing home in her future.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Sunny days

Snow family enjoying the Reservoir
Hapi's "gut reset" is working like a minor miracle. Not only is she producing lovely little hard turds but she seems to be energized by the relief from her former formless plops. What can I say, this is revolutionary for me and possibly for her too. Now I just have to figure out how to keep her on this diet without breaking the bank. I'm following a couple of leads, but the holiday on Monday kind of puts a crimp on things.

I called one shop that might carry a cheaper version of this diet but they seemed so out of touch that they didn't even know Monday was a holiday here ("Heritage Day"). I drove over to the shop and it was being "womanned" by a kid who was totally new to the job and didn't know anything. She tried to phone the owner but no answer, she even knocked on the owner's door but still no answer. Apparently the owner was taking an afternoon nap and the young woman did not want to disturb her. Oh well, I'll try again Monday. Or maybe Tuesday if they decide to close on the holiday.

In spite of being extremely cold (well, for around here) the weather is quite nice. The ice on the trails is nicely covered by hard-packed snow—but not too much snow—and the sky is sunny and mostly clear. I went to my writing group meeting after what seems like months of absence, I haven't written anything but it was nice to reconnect and listen to other people's stories.

I think my life is slowly shifting towards normalcy: physiotherapy almost over, visits with B in the hospital down to a dull roar, and Hapi's health seeming to improve. I have even developed a bit of a thick skin in listening to B's complaints, I can walk away at the end without carrying it with me.

Summer reminder

Thursday, February 13, 2020


I'm in a bit of a slump these days, I'm guessing too much screen time. Just don't seem to be able to tear myself away. Tried turning off the internet access but that doesn't last long, within minutes I come up with some question that I need an answer to which only the internet can provide. Maybe it's the weather, or the reduced social life due to not-so-healthy dog. I don't know. Just feel slumpy.

Hapi has always had "loose stool", AKA diarrhea. She had it when she lived with my son and she has had it all the time she has lived with me. For the most part I just put up with it although I did try various dietary treatments over the years. Nothing worked. So now that she is old the diarrhea has gotten way worse and I finally reached a breaking point and called the vet's office. Turns out they have a nutrition expert, and she recommended a "gut reset" involving a week of probiotics and an expensive veterinary dogfood. This morning I went in to the office to pick up the gut reset food at a hefty $80 for one week. Wow.

From there I went to the Reservoir where Hapi and I walked with D and her dog and I told her the gut reset story. She said, Been there done that, six years ago. For her dog it was an instant cure (the dog had projectile diarrhea! I can't even imagine that!), but they could never take the dog off the diet. She advised me where to go to get the food at a lower price. Still expensive but not $80/week-expensive.

Hapi got her first gut reset meal today and she seems to tolerate it. I looked at the ingredients and was quite appalled. Just about every "bad" dogfood ingredient I've ever read about is there, front and centre. But feeding her "good" dogfood hasn't worked so far, I may as well try the "bad" stuff. I looked up the dogfood on the internet and sure enough the technical reviews point all that out and don't seem that impressed, but the customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive. One reviewer said that their dog did great on it and there were no digestive issues because there was nothing there to digest.

I called a couple of old friends on the west coast a couple of weeks ago and left messages. The 4-hour time difference makes it hard to schedule but both friends have now called me back. One has a terminal lung disease and is fading fast, the other is fine but she relayed that a mutual friend is also not well (also terminal, but not for a while). Argh! But I had good conversations with both of them. The healthy friend called me today just as I was peering into a squirrel's nest that D pointed out to me at the Reservoir. The squirrel was higher in the tree screaming disapproval and then my phone chimed in.

There were three of us that used to hang out together (along with a couple of spouses): me, J-one and J-two. J-one and I used to joke about J-two being such a Pollyanna, she always saw the good in everything to the point of naivety. It was J-two who called me today and we had quite a wonderful conversation about the state of the world and various personal events. I take back all that stuff about Pollyanna naivety, she is one of the wisest people I know. Her spouse has Parkinson's and she is tasked with caregiving. She said it's like caring for a toddler and she was never good at that with real toddlers, so she is constantly working on strategies for staying sane. Recently I have been feeling that way about Hapi so I was agreeing with her vigourously. After we hung up I remembered that she had recently travelled to Mexico sans-spouse but I completely forgot to ask her about that trip. Next time.

I told J-two that as long as I have Hapi I won't be travelling but some time after that I would like to visit out west again. She said that she and J-one could provide accommodations for a week each (I sure hope J-one agrees with that!) so there's two weeks covered right there. I have two other friends that I'm fairly sure would consider a week each if the timing was right so I think it could be good. I would love to do a train trip...

Friday, February 7, 2020

Magical Mystery! just down the road...

From CBC News website on Thursday February 6:
And from the Wolfville Reservoir Ponds blog (see link on right side of this page):

"Thursday, 6 February 2020

Large Pond (whose name might be "Darlene")

We recommend against skating until the current weather 
system has passed.  Local ice enthusiasts might wish to 
assemble Saturday in Guy Fawkes or Salvador Dali masks to 
reassess tactics and hopefully free the track and rink from 
their crusty new overlord.  Once conditions allow, Mayor 
Cantwell, honourable members of Wolfville Town Council, and 
their robustly-taxed flock are (UNOFFICIALLY) invited to 
skate (AT THEIR OWN RISK) on this ghost of town water 
committees past, maintained on a skate-lace budget.

Small Pond

Deep and unstable; do not use!"

I might just have to go skating, despite back problems!

Ice storm overnight has left everything encased in ice, including my car. Unfortunately I cannot open the doors when they are icy so I just have to wait for warm temperatures again. Physiotherapy appointment this morning has unfortunately not been cancelled but just about everything else has.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Messy Side of Life

On the Causeway
The other day I was making a squash soup. The instructions called for running an immersion blender in it which I did, but the blender has these really stupid buttons that are hard to push and you have to keep pushing on one of them to keep the blender running. Because it's hard to even find the button never mind keep pressing it steadily while stirring the soup with it, it stops and starts erratically. At one point I lost control of the damn thing and it whipped out of the soup, spewing squash all over the kitchen. That thing is now in the trash.

Hapi has been having off and on diarrhea for the past month or so, she made a mess in the basement one night so I cut off her access to all but a small corner of the basement.

Hapi's bedroom
She didn't like that so she took to sleeping outside at night which was fine by me. So on Monday, I spent the afternoon at my needlework group and she spent the time sleeping in her doghouse. During her sleep she pooped in the doghouse. It must have woken her up so she got out of the doghouse and continued pooping all over the deck. That's what I came home to. Between squash soup all over the kitchen and dog poop all over the deck (and inside the doghouse and all through the thick fur on her backside) I don't know which is worse, maybe the poop. Thank the lord for washing machines! And rubber gloves and hot soapy water.

Anyway I decided I'd better consult her veterinarian, and I was fearing the worst. But that night I thought I'd check with Dr. Google first and lo and behold, diarrhea is a side effect of the anti-inflammatory she has been on for the past eight months. So I am taking her off the meds. She fasted all that day, she got a couple of small meals but no meds the next day, and I didn't call the vet. We'll see if Dr Google is onto something. And I found another immersion blender and ordered it, the reviews sound good and the pictures show the buttons looking much more manageable than the ones on the blender I just trashed.

My mechanic inspected my car because I said it was making a noise I didn't like. It took him an hour but he thinks he found the cause, a strut mount. He says it will be expensive to fix. I said, maybe it's time to retire this car and he agreed. But I don't want to buy another car while Hapi is still with me, and he said he could probably nurse the car along for however long we're talking about. He put some kind of goop on the strut mount to slow its deterioration down. What a good boy!