Monday, December 31, 2007

A Winter Eden

This seems a day made for introspection, though, for all that, it's a day like any other. The marking of the ending of the old and the beginning of the "new" year is strictly an arbitrary one.

I remember at age five being allowed to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve. My father carried me outside under a star-shimmered sky and I leaned back in his arms and looked up, waiting for the stars to shower down on us and new ones to blaze into being. Waiting for the NEW to begin. I was greatly disappointed when there was no starfall, no great sheets of light and colour. Like many things in my life "New Year" was nothing like I'd imagined.

Over the years I've learned that imagination often trumps experience, except in love. That has stood the test, better than I could ever have imagined.

The day is drawing to a close, as the sun falls behind the near mountains early shortly after 2:00 pm on these short winter days.

A feather-hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o'clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life's while to wake and sport.
A Winter Eden ~ Robert Frost

Like any year, this one has been filled with it's share of anxiety and grief. Two good friends passed away this year. We have struggled at times with pain, weariness and uncertainty, but there was a great deal of joy, laughter and plain contentment as well. Life is a bit like a crazy quilt. The pieces are stitched as they fall, and somehow a cohesive pattern emerges in the end.

We pray for peace in this troubled world, and know our prayers will go unanswered until peace comes to every heart, for peace cannot be accomplished through violence, or achieved until we cherish our fellow man enough to lay down our weapons and speak heart to heart.

For all of you, peace in this coming year, in your deepest heart.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sugar Cat

I don't think Salvador was as impressed by Christmas as I was. He was diagnosed Monday morning with feline diabetes. He didn't act sick, but in the last three or four days he'd begun to drink a great deal more water than usual, and he was filling the litter box with... well, what cats fill litter boxes with. There were puddles.

Ian helped me take Sal to the vet Monday morning, where a test showed his blood glucose level to be 26.6 m/mol. While his glucose level may have been elevated by the stress of the car ride and the vet's exam, "normal" is 3.5 - 6.5 m/mol. While he was at the vets having more tests Ian and I went to the pharmacy and bought testing supplies, needles and insulin.

For the first three days of treatment we have to monitor his blood glucose levels very carefully. This means a blood test every four hours from morning until bedtime. In a cat the blood is obtained by pricking the outer edge of the ear with a lance. The drop of blood is then drawn up the test strip by capillary action and in a few seconds you have a reading.

His readings were all pretty much the same all day yesterday, 17.00 - 18.00, but down significantly from Monday. This afternoon he had the "best" reading since we started monitoring, 15.3. The insulin we're giving him is a slow-acting form, and I had read that it would take a couple of days before the blood sugar started to drop appreciably. Hopefully it is starting to take effect.

He does not appreciate being poked though and who could blame him? I am so incompetent. I poke him, and it's too shallow, so he doesn't bleed enough to test. I have to poke him again, and again, and again... Or I poke him too hard and blood goes everywhere.

He's fed up with my clumsiness and no wonder, but I am amazed that he's already learned that I am going to poke his ear with a sharp object and then milk it for blood. He gets this resigned face on, like, "My Mama has flipped her lid, but whaddya do? She's still my Mama." He's cuddling me as soon as it's done, so he's learned that while it's unpleasant it's not diabolically painful. He pays no attention to the insulin injections. The needles these days are tiny, not much bigger than a hair. They are coated with silicone to slide in easily, and they are very sharp.

Hopefully I'll get better at it because monitoring is vital to effective management. The cat we had when the boys were small was a huge FAT creature (30 lbs). His name was Buddha John Three Fish. Buddha because he really was a Great Soul. How do you say a cat is "spiritual" without sounding like a freak? But this guy was. But he was also hungry, which is how he got the John Three Fish part of his name. He ate Ian's pet turtle, named John, and the three goldfish we bought and put in a fishbowl on the mantel.

He was a huge cat, but so very patient and gentle. Once he was outside and somehow had an encounter with a cholla cactus. This kind of cactus has barbed spines, the ends of the spines are like fishhooks. He came inside and up to me and said, "Meowff". I reached to pet his head and found him loaded with spines. Some had gone through his tongue and nailed it to the roof of his mouth, some had gone into his nose. Some were around his eyes. Many went through his cheeks. Most animals would have been wild with pain. But here he was, quietly asking for some help.

I got needlenose pliers and a pair of nail scissors. I'd cut the protruding end off of a spine, so it could collapse, and then I'd yank it out. He whimpered, but he never raised a paw to scratch me, never growled, never hissed. I took 112 spines out of him, and afterwards he curled up in my arms and purred. He was a wonderful cat.

He developed diabetes when he was nine. He did well, but it was harder to manage diabetes in those days. There were no blood glucose meters. I relied on dip sticks that you had to poke into the pee stream. (HE thought I had gone a little strange when I started following him to the litter box and poking a strip of paper under his tinkle!) But I rotated injections sites for his insulin, and he kept track of where the next shot should go, and would jump up on the counter and present the appropriate site every morning before breakfast. In those days we gave insulin once a day, now they've learned it's better to give a smaller dose twice a day.

The things we do for our beloved four-leggers.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Maybe he said, "It's a little bit more."

Remember the Grinch who stole all the Christmas trimmings from the Whos down in Whoville? And that Christmas still came for the Who, without trees and thingjanglers, snoosnufflers and bozankers?

Well, for the first time in my entire life, I didn't put up a Christmas tree, didn't string any lights, wrap a single present, though I bought a few small tokens for friends and family. I didn't bake cookies, or lay in five pounds of candy. Look at our house and you'd think if was January 11th or March 4th, neither of which have any significance whatsoever to us.

Our only Christmas activity was the communal dinner in the clubhouse, for which I made gluten-free dressing (to eat with the turkey), candied yams, and corn. You gotta eat, no matter what.

But you know what? It was a lovely Christmas. It really doesn't come from a store. I looked out the window this morning at a brief moment of sunshine shining on the snow-covered mountains, admired the hoar frost which had formed during the night, and was delighted to see a small flock of juncos (aka snowbirds) at the feeder. So far I'd only seen one, and I was beginning to wonder what had happened to the flock that was here last winter.

It was a wonderful Christmas. We are well-fed, warm, dry and love each other's company. What better gift is there?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tinpalace II

Tinpalace II arrived yesterday morning, and is now residing in the storage lot down the road. If it weren't December we'd happily move into it tomorrow.

Allow me to elaborate! "She" is 32 feet long, and very nice. Very bright inside, much more than I'd expected from the pictures.

The upholstery is teal with a grey pattern. The carpet is teal, the vinyl floor in the kitchen and entry is white.

The kitchen is in front, with a large fridge, an apt-size stove, double sinks and counter room! Whoopee! The cupboards in the kitchen are showing a little wear to the finish, but I intend to paint them anyway. This is really the only place in the trailer which has visible wear.

There's a real sofa, and a very comfy rocking chair. Sal will love it. He loves to be rocked, just like a baby, but we've had no rocking chair.

There's a tub, not quite as large as the tub in a house but big enough for me. There's a built-in shower chair for Tony. There's a very large closet, with drawers underneath. One of the three sections of the closet will accommodate a combo washer/dryer unit. Nice big medicine chest, storage everywhere.

There's some work to be done before we can move into it in the spring. There are minor repairs needed (light covers missing, taps to replace), and we want to buy a new mattress. We were assured that all mechanicals were working, so we will hope they are. Can't really check them out without firing up all the systems and we can't do that until it stops freezing.

All that said, I am just a little pleased. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Toronto's Smallest House For Sale

Just to prove that I am not the only crazy person in the world.

Exhibit A:

Toronto's smallest house. Just under 300 square feet on a lot 7.25 feet (2.2 metres) wide and 113.67 feet (34.6 metres) long. Asking price $179,000. Here's the front of the house, neatly sandwiched between two large homes. It's been completely redone inside, which must have taken about three days. Like the hardwood floors. Easy to keep and oh so classy, but the decor is totally bland. I guess that's a good thing, as the new owner can do what they like. Some colour and pattern would liven things up a bit.

Here are two views of the Living room. The first is taken standing in the kitchen door looking towards the front of the house.

And from the front door, the living room looking towards the back of the house.

It's not apparent on these photos but there is a skylight running almost the entire width of the building on the right side. This makes the interior very bright and cheerful. One would hope it is not overlooked by the neighbour's windows.

Into the kitchen. There's a full-sized apt stove, and what appears to be a single sink. The camera angle must hide the refrigerator. Hopefully it is not just a bar fridge. A bar fridge would be fine for one person, for fruit and yogurt. Or it would be okay for the European style shopper, who makes a daily trek to the grocer's. There are two of us and I have to shop every third or fourth day, because our bar fridge is a bit shy on freezer space. (A bag of vegetables fills it.)

Note the washer and dryer - there's a practical streak lying deep within the designer of this dollhouse. A washer/dryer combo would have taken half the room and left the upper space for storage. You have to keep the soap somewhere!

The bedroom, with a murphy bed which folds out of the way when not in use. Best be very organized and the kind of person who can live out of a suitcase and eats 75% of your meals out.

Actually the floor space could probably have been better utilized, as I'll bet we have more storage in our 157 sq ft travel trailer and the new trailer (at about 250 sq ft) has five times the apparent storage in this wee house, plus a queen-sized bed which doesn't have to be hauled up and down every night.

And to complete the package, a small patio area out back where one can presumably house a guest in a pup tent.

It may be small but it proves that small isn't necessarily squalid. It's snug and very cute, though I think it would prove a challenge to live in for anyone other than a Zen monk. Believe it or not, this is too small for me, not because of the size, but because of the design.

And for those who are wondering, the new trailer's arrival is delayed by a day, so assuming we aren't completely buried in the white stuff which is falling from the sky, we should have good (or bad) news for our readers tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Like Waiting for Santa!

Okay, so you know I have been pining for a couple of amenities the Tinpalace, as magical as she is, does not offer.

1) A bathtub.... I just don't love a shower in the same way that I love a soak. Mama wants a bathtub.

2) A washer and dryer.... since Tony broke his leg we've had to hire help to get our laundry done. It's wonderful to have the help, but expensive.

I will not mention being desperately desirous of more cupboard, counter and fridge/freezer space. Why would I? I have 14" of counter space, 4.4 cubic feet of fridge/freezer space and three 24" square shelves of kitchen storage. Now, what cook in her right mind could complain of that? Certainly not I! But I wouldn't shoot anyone who offered me more in the way of kitchen.

Plus, we really need to be closer to the Regional Hospital in Penticton. It's only a 70 km trip, but my arms are not up to driving 70 kms in a day anymore. We have to rely on hired drivers or friends to get us to medical appts, which is quite inconvenient.

The cluster of cottages idea seems a bit long-range for the moment and I'm really becoming fixated on the idea of a bathtub. This means we've been shopping. Since we don't want an apartment or a big mobile home and we like the community of an RV Park we thought - RV Park!

We first shopped for what is called a "Park Model" - There are two types, one type is 12' wide, has a peaked roof and looks much like a small house. The second type is 8' wide, and is shaped like a trailer. Some of these have "slides", alcove-like sections which push out and widen the room. Both types have 50 amp power and are at least 36' long.

On investigation we found that it is very difficult to find a spot to put a park model. Very few RV parks have 50 amp power hookups. Most parks which offer permanent sites lease or sell the lots. There are no such lots available in the Penticton area.

So we started looking for a newer, larger, "travel" trailer, i.e. one with 30 amp power service. We found one available permanent spot in Summerland, which is a small town just north of Penticton.

Now the fun part. We think we have found Tinpalace II. It's a 32' long, 1995 trailer with a nice big tub, a wonderfully spacious kitchen by my new standards, i.e. double sinks, fridge/freezer as large as one in a house, a 24" stove, and 10 feet of counter space! A place for a washer/dryer! Cupboards, many cupboards! Closets!!

The Oh, geez, is Santa actually going to come or not factor comes from the fact that we haven't actually seen this trailer yet, except in a series of photographs. As anyone who has seen a Hollywood "Star" in person can attest, photographs can hide a multitude of flaws. But the present owner will bring the trailer from the Kootenays (over a couple of hundred miles of mountain roads) next Tuesday. We will take the tour and check it out. If it is as described, we will pay the man the money. Internet shopping goes ballistic!

Sadly, moving into all that space will have to wait. Moving is more complex than it appears when you are not as spry or energetic as you once were. Sweet little Tinpalace is nested very tightly in this site. She has her lovely winter wooden skirting on, the water and sewer lines are wrapped in heat cables and insulation. The new trailer is too long to fit into this wee site, so we will store it until spring, and then move to Summerland.

Tinpalace will be put up for sale, hopefully to be loved as much by a new owner as we have loved her. After all this time we have finally achieved that blissful state of no leaks, and all systems go - in fact mostly all systems new with the addition of a new furnace last week! We'll never get out of it what we put into it but by the time we move we will have lived in it for 18 months, so we have no complaints. I will miss the big window above my bunk which allows me to lie and look up at the stars before I go to sleep. But the memory of all the shooting stars I've seen in the past year and a half will stay with me for a long time.

I am busy spinning decorating and color schemes for Tinpalace II. I think I have it all worked out, but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Stealing Trucks Won't Be My New Hobby!

Our helper comes at noon on Thursdays. She does the laundry and runs errands and such. So Thursday we had the laundry all ready to go when she called about 9:00 am to say her little boy was ill and she couldn't come.

We decided we'd do the alternate - We had to go to town to get our flu shots anyway so it was not too much out of the way to take the laundry in, leave it to be washed and folded and pick it up later. So we loaded it into the truck.

It's been cold and the truck hadn't been started in several days so it made a couple of complaining noises about being neglected. The battery doesn't charge much during my short runs to town. Occasionally I will run it up the highway a few miles and back, just to charge the battery.

When we got to the laundry we decided we'd leave the truck running for the four or five minutes it would take us inside, just to charge the battery. So we locked the doors with the engine running. Now you are thinking - they must have forgotten that they need the keys to unlock the truck - but we had the second set with us, so no problem there.

We did our laundry deal and came out. Tony clicked his remote and no joy. He clicked again. We shook it and begged it and then thought, "Dummies! Just open the door with the key!" We quickly discovered that the keys we have don't fit the door lock! Oh great. Now we have a locked, running truck and no way to get into it.

Our truck has a canopy. The back window of the cab and the front window of the canopy both slide open, but are far too small for Tony to get through, so I climbed into the truck bed and crawled on my belly like a snake over boxes of books, lawn furniture, umbrellas, bird seed, and misc. flotsam. The windows were both snowed in and frozen into position. I wedged a handle (broom, umbrella?) into the canopy window and forced it part way open. Did the same with the cab window. An opening maybe 14" square.

Tried to climb in with one leg first, but I didn't have room to fold over. (i.e. read this as "biggus buttus") Tried with both feet first, couldn't get flat enough ("too much roundus").

I finally scrabbled around until I was facing the windows and dove through head first. I pushed the console forward, got my shoulders through one at a time, wedged my upper half through the keyhole-sized space and into the cab.

There for a minute I thought I might be permanently stuck top half in the cab and bottom half in the canopy. Tony reassured me by reminding me that the ambulance station is right across the street. Some reassurance. I can see it now. Emergency measures might have included cutting off my clothes, greasing me down with a pound of Tenderflake Lard, and a great deal of pushing and shoving. Some enterprising citizen would have called CNN. I'd have made the 11:00 news, under the headline, "Elderly Woman Caught in Compromising Position While Breaking Into Truck". (Why is it that you are called "Elderly" by the media once you hit 50?)

It was something like -7 with a brisk wind and I was wringing wet under my layers. I had to sit and chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for a bit to to kill the will to kill the FORD by bashing in the dashboard. I unlocked the passenger door and let my shivering husband inside. We tested his clicker once we got to the mall, and it snapped the locks locked and unlocked as cheerfully as a cricket's chirp. Then I just wanted to bash the clicker. Or perhaps smack the guy who replaced the doors after the previous owner's deer mishap, and didn't rekey them! (We'd never tried the keys before - who knew they didn't fit?)

I said to Tony that afterwards this would be something we'd laugh about. Later I discovered that the truck had gotten in a few licks I'd been unaware of at the time. I have bruises from shoulder to shin-bone. Nothing major, just quarter-sized blue patches dotted wherever the truck took exception to my intrusion. It put up a pretty good fight! I'll wait to laugh till the bruises fade.

I don't think stealing trucks is my calling in life. I'll take up giving myself root canals instead.