Saturday, September 28, 2013

On Being Catty

Smokey adored his baby kitten from the minute we came in the door with him. As the young Hobbes grew from his roly-poly kitten stage to his all-teeth-and-claws stage we watched poor patient Smokey ambushed, attacked, jumped on, bitten, chewed, swatted and clawed. Hobbes would pounce on Smokey, grab a mouthful of Smokey's three-inch long hair and yank it out. Smokey would yelp, cry, roll the baby over and rough him up but always with a soft mouth, a sheathed claw.

Hobbes got bigger and Smokey began to hide from the little monster. Knowing we keep the bathroom door closed to protect the shower curtain from the kitten-monkey Smokey would ask to go in the bathroom, where he would jump on the bath bench and sleep away the afternoon in peace.
Smokey and his daddy

Play became rougher and Smokey began to hiss whenever the kitten came near. We began to worry that we'd made a mistake. Smokey is huge, but so so patient, he's so quiet, so laid-back. Hobbes is aggressive, a feline pit bull, he takes what he wants, he's ready to attack if you try to pick him up. All of us are pounced on, bitten and scratched. He's defiant when told to stop doing something, whether it's chewing an electrical cord or scratching the sofa.

We look at each other and worry that Hobbes will be the dominant cat, that he will make Smokey's life hell, or that we will have an on-going war from now on, a power struggle. We've had that before and it's no fun as two cats duke it out every night over who is king of the household and who rides in the sidecar.

By this point Hobbes was stinking of testosterone, but I was not eager to rush him to the vet. We'd had two kittens neutered at six months and it was too young. Their systems hadn't developed fully yet, and one had bladder problems all his life, and at age 15 had to have life-or-death emergency surgery to reroute his urinary tract. He suffered such pain. He'd been too young when neutered, even though our vet said they were ready.

This time we decided we would put up with the stink until Hobbes turned nine months and we knew he was old enough. After the surgery it took a good two weeks for the testosterone to clear out of Li'l Stinky. They were both subdued for a few days after the vet's visit. I suspect the vaccines made them a little out of sorts, and while you'd think the surgery would have slowed Hobbes down it did not.

After three or four days the fighting started again, but not as vigorously as before. Now more like the earlier kitten play, no one was being cornered and attacked like before. But guess what? The laid-back Smokey quickly exerted dominance over the young upstart. He does have a 10 pound weight advantage in a fight, but there hasn't been much fighting. Smokey held Hobbes down a couple of times and walloped him with his fists, chewed on him a bit, not enough to scratch him, or break the skin, threw him off the tallest platform of the cat-tree, which is six feet tall, and Hobbes said, "Okay, okay, I get it, you're the boss."

It's subtle. Hobbes waits until Smokey finishes eating. If Hobbes is lying on the bed or in daddy's chair, Smokey says, "Get down, that's my place." A few minutes later Hobbes will slip back and lie beside Smokey, and that's okay. Smokey will make room, snuggle up, and put an arm around Hobbes, but Smokey takes the best place, the first place.

Hobbes no longer bites and scratches. Smokey has apparently read him the rule book. When we say, "Don't scratch the sofa," he stops. He's a good boy now.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Never Do this...

Grannymar had one of those ten question memes on her blog and I never do those but as yesterday's post was about 10 tons of depressing, I decided it wouldn't ache me to lighten up dudette!

Her ten questions were:

  1. Your day so far, tell us about it in no more than ten words.
    Woke, ached, coffee, brekkie, pills, called pharmacy, called dr's office.
  2. Who is your Hero?
    Helen Keller, overcame being blind and deaf and didn't give in to self-pity.
  3. Describe yellow.
    Ox-eye daisy
  4. I’d walk a mile for ________.
    The ability to walk a mile.
  5. Close your eyes, open a dictionary, and point to a word. Does your word mean anything special to you?

    I don't even own a paper dictionary anymore, grabbed the closest book, closed eyes, opened it, put finger on word. Word is nothing.

    Does it mean anything special to me?
    Well, it's a start.
  6. A song you can’t escape.
    Dave Carter's When I go See: All your diamond tears will rise up
  7. In five years, will it matter?
    Probably not, but every every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character ...
  8. On a Wednesday, what is your routine?
    I do not live a routine life.
  9. For dinner tonight, what would you like to eat?
    Greek salad
  10. Who was the last person you spoke to?
    My husband, who managed to fall out of bed last night and wedge his head between the nightstand and his garbage can. Since he can't simply get up off the floor we had to work to get him turned around, and maneuver him to the end of the bed so I could help him lift himself onto the bed. This is hard work when you're laughing as hard as we were. Having few working leg muscles is the pits. That old commercial, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" it's a reality around here, for both of us. Thankfully he's unhurt except for a bruised and cut up forehead.

Feel free to carry on, keep the meme going. Answer these questions, or the ten posted on The Other Side of Sixty

Thursday, September 26, 2013

In Memory of Dr. Donald Low

Be utterly humble
And you will maintain your inner peace.
Be at one with all living things which,
Having arisen and flourished,
Return to the stillness they came from,
Like a healthy and vigorous plant
Falling back to its root in winter.
Quiet acceptance of this return
Is criticized by some as "fatalism".
But fatalism is an acceptance of mortality,
And to accept mortality is to face life with open eyes.
To deny mortality is to face death blindfolded.


Dr. Donald Low was the microbiologist in chief at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor at the University of Toronto. Canadians first became acquainted with him during his updates to the public during the SARS outbreak in 2003, which eventually killed 44 people in Canada and nearly 800 worldwide. 

Since that time he has been the voice and heart of public health in Canada. He was a warm, caring man who represented the very best of his profession. He died September 18 of a malignant brain tumor, and the week before his death made this impassioned plea for the right to die with dignity.

Medicine looks at death as the enemy, and so it should in people who are still capable of enjoying life, or to whom life, even a life of suffering, holds meaning. But death is not the enemy when your body fails you and your only experience is helplessness, dependence and pain. Then death can be a blessed release, a "falling back on the root" for a winter's season.

It's time we cast aside the argument that allowing terminally ill patients to choose to die with dignity creates a "slippery slope" which will create death squads that descend on the disabled and elderly. If the law is written properly the request would have to come from the patient, be submitted formally a number of times to a hospital committee and an interview conducted to make certain there's no coercion involved. And if death with dignity is denied based on the premise that only God can take life - well, if you carry that argument to its logical conclusion, no country which imposes that restriction on death-with-dignity would go to war.  and that is certainly not practiced.

Dr. Low died in the arms of his wife, blind, deaf and paralyzed. The death he feared. We're kinder to our pets.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What I do for love

Right off the bat I admit that, having said my wedding vows 48+ years ago I do not remember them word for word. Or even vaguely. I have no idea what I promised to do at the time, though I'm pretty certain there were no references to operating a backhoe or running a sawmill.

Like many a naive and innocent young couple before us we arrived at the marriage ceremony having neither experienced the much maligned joy of fornication. In today's parlance, that would probably mark us as a couple of deviants, but it didn't dampen (no pun intended) the joys of the honeymoon.

But having detoured slightly, back to the vows; we were married in a decidedly unromantic judge's office in the Cook County Courthouse. If you have ever seen "Blues Brothers" this is the destination Jake and Elwood were hell-bent on reaching in the film, and the one the platoon of National Guardsmen rappelled down the face of, shouting "hut! hut! hut! hut!"

I'm wandering like a lost cocker spaniel. The judge probably asked if I'd love, honour and obey, I'm sure he mentioned forsaking all others. It was a two-minute ceremony. He couldn't have said much, though he had a smile on him like a light bulb. Maybe he had a crystal ball on his desk that showed we would mesh like two gears in a fine Swiss clock, and he just wound and set the clock to run for years of happiness. 

But the groom has a few physical problems, as does the bride. They have added to the complexity of their lives, but not complicated the  relationship itself.  This is not to say the problems have not required some degree of sacrifice, especially on my part. 

He has a severe case of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) which is aggravated by food dyes, certain preservatives. We try to eat low on the totem pole. He also has celiac disease so can't eat anything with wheat, rye, or any grain containing gluten. So I've pretty much given up baking.

But his RLS flared up badly recently, and we couldn't figure out why. We weren't eating anything different… except… he wanted some chocolate and being the loving and indulgent wife that I am I bought a package of small peanut butter cups. He is not a man to ration what is good. He had eaten all but two of a 12 pack within hours. I had to howl indignantly that I wanted some to rescue the last two.

Next shopping trip, some two weeks later, I bought another package, and threatened violence if he ate my half. So he ate his half immediately and jumped around like a spider on a hot plate for several nights after.

We have come to the conclusion that peanut butter cups irritate his RLS. This is truly a tragic situation for me, as I now have to sacrifice myself and protect his health by eating all the peanut butter cups that jump (or fall) into my shopping cart. But it's what you do for love. It's an implied marital obligation. Even if the judge didn't come right out and say it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Home to Call My Own

Over at Ronni Bennett's blog Time Goes By, she has a special subsection called The Elder Storytelling Place. Each weekday she posts a story written by someone 50 or older. There's a fair amount of poetry, stories ranging from the gut-wrenching to the screamingly funny, and everything you can think of between.

I've written several stories for Ronni's blog and one published a few days ago was one I'd written some years ago, but reworked to fit into Ronni's 750 word limit. If you are motivated you can read it here.

A paragraph's summary will suffice for those who care not to read the entire story. In it I describe how, in the depths of the Great Depression, my young father found a job which paid $1.25 a day, and on that supported a family of nine. They lived in a 12 x 12 tent with a wooden floor, and though it was not easy, they had their daily baths, and mother washed, starched and ironed their one change of clothes every morning without benefit of running water or electricity. Two #3 washtubs, a wooden stove made from an oil drum, and two "sad" irons, which were heated by sitting them on the stove top were her tools. The ironing board was a plank laid between two chair backs.

They were part of a huge virtual city of tents like theirs which stretched along the Sabine River and beyond, because when the oil boom hit the little town of Kilgore Texas, the population exploded from 200 to 10,000 within weeks. There were no rental accommodations to be had, even if the men working the wooden derricks could have afforded them.  Tent cities are not tolerated these days.  Many working poor couch-surf or sleep in their cars, families of four and five and the family dog huddled together on -30 nights, praying no one notices them parked at the end of a street, or in an alley.

We are in what is euphemistically referred to as a great "housing correction". There are no absence of buyers for the houses in the $750,000 - $16,000,000 range. One house listed at $16,000,000 here in Calgary sold within 24 hours of coming on the market recently.

What we don't have are houses that cost $40,000 - $50,000. Houses that the disabled, or minimum wage worker can afford. Building permits are $50,000 plus here, before you ever put shovel in ground. You have to give Calgary credit for its goal of eliminating homelessness in 10 years. They looked at the cost of supporting a person who uses a shelter, or lives on the street, and realized it's far more cost-effective to house people first, and bring stability to their lives than it is to rescue them again and again.

But what they haven't addressed, and are pointedly ignoring, is the need for homes for the thousands of minimum wage workers who are forced to spend 80% of their wages on rent, and as a result must depend on the Food Bank for food, and charities for clothing and for the gift their child gets at Christmas.

If a person works they ought to have the dignity of being able to afford shelter, clothing and food security. Our government resists raising the minimum wage insisting it is only a temporary launching pad to the high-paying jobs just going begging. Our government is willfully both blind and stupid.

No one wants shanty towns, but developers have encouraged ridiculous building restrictions. Under pressure from developers city councils have enacted building codes that say houses have to be big and rooms have to be this many sq feet. But developers conveniently lay aside these restrictions when they can make huge profits building tiny condos. Condos of 250-300 sq ft are extremely common here and in many parts of the world. But these are generally upscale, and in the $200,000 range, leave no room for a kitchen garden, playspace for children, and (believe me) do not encourage any sense of belonging to a community.

When I was a girl small houses were common. My earliest memory is from the age of eight months, being held in my father's arms, watching two men put shingles on the roof of our new two room house on Howard St. in Duncan Oklahoma. That little house had a front section divided into living room on the right and kitchen on the left. A door in the middle led to the bedroom. Off the bedroom was the bathroom, which had a shower, but no tub. It probably had 250 sq ft. It housed my mother, father, myself, and my elderly grandmother, who slept on a sofa bed in the living room. My most vivid memories are of the sun coming through the kitchen window onto the table and the beautiful black and white tile floors. I remember laughter.

We had what seemed like a huge back yard to a toddler. Mother planted a vegetable garden there. There were thousands of similar houses in small towns across the south. A small porch or stoop, windows on all four walls for cross-ventilation in the hot, humid summers. No one builds houses like that any more.  In 1950 the average family size was five and the average home was 800 sq ft. Now the average family size is less than two and the average house size exceeds 2000 sq ft.

We need to come to our senses and realize that the dignity of home ownership, the ability to raise a garden and keep a few chickens for eggs, could make a world of economic difference to the thousands who simply need a niche to get started. This could be accomplished through non-profit housing cooperatives designed to serve low income earners.

One design plan for a "Pocket Neighbourhood"
Homes do not need to be large, elaborate, expensive or elegant to be attractive or enjoyable to live in. Tony and I, with our large cat Salvadore, lived in a 119 sq ft travel trailer for a year and half, one of the most joyful periods of my life. Small homes, when well-designed can function as well as a larger one.

When placed in a "Pocket Neighbourhood" as described by Ross Chapin (link below) there is garden space, both private and in a centralized gardening area, there's space for outdoor play. A central hall is sometimes included with a kitchen, laundry facilities, a place for community activities like potlucks, meetings, perhaps recycling and a free-cycling areas.

Each of the small homes pictured on this page costs from $25,000 - $35,000 in materials to build. Like Habitat for Humanity, in a project like this homeowners should be required to put in considerable sweat equity, to reduce the cost of building and to create personal investment and pride in what their work has created. And there should be a provision placed so that when resold, prices stay at the same price ratio as when they were built, to discourage profiteering and keep these homes available to low-income families.  

A house needs to be well-built, insulated and environmentally sound, made of durable materials which are easy to keep clean, and accessible to the working poor, and this would make it possible, but it would mean that the city would need to work with the developer and reduce their development and permit costs.

One thing is for certain, when there's no home in the realtor's list selling for under $400,000 we need to give our collective heads, and our hearts, a shake.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September Song and Otro Día

It's the 17th of the month, the day loan repayments are calculated and deposited in KIVA lenders accounts, to be re-loaned or withdrawn. This month as usual we chose to loan the repayments which have come in, but we were a bit short after making two loans last month. I added $13.00 to the amount we received back and immediately made a $25.00 loan to members of Pro Mujer Bolivia (For Bolivian Women). This is loan # 52 for us in the four years since we became KIVA lenders, and it's been a source of immense pleasure to share our pensioner's mite with hard-working business people around the world.

The "Otro Día" ("Another Day") borrower's group is beginning its third cycle with the Pro Mujer Bolivia (For Bolivian Women) as part of the Alto Lima regional hub. This group is made up of nine members and is run by a board of directors, of which María is the president.

The members' businesses are varied. Some sell fruit, or salchipapas (fried potatoes with hot dogs - I can testify that this combination is unexpectedly delcious), one sells computers, one sews layettes for newborns, one sells runners (i.e. tennis shoes) and one does carpentry work. What a busy, hard-working bunch of women!

This loan will benefit all these small business owners. The group's leader, María joined Pro Mujer six years ago by invitation from one of the institution's promoters, who visited her at home. Maria sells fruit from a market stall which she inherited when her grandmother died. The stall and the business were her grandmother's and María carried on that business.

She will use her loan to increase her working capital by buying fruit wholesale at the larger markets. She will later sell this fruit from her stall. Her business allows her to generate an income to help support her family, as she is married with two children.

When asked what she likes best about Pro Mujer, she says that she likes the access to health workshops and the ability to borrow money to improve her business.

If you would like to try KIVA out for free, click this link, and you'll be given a $25.00 credit to lend to any of the hundreds of applicants waiting to be given a chance to improve their lives and the lives of their families through access to something you and I take for granted - credit.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Collateral damage and a war of fear

Yesterday on Facebook my friend posted a photo with a caption that said, "Guns don't protect freedom, speech does that."

And as expected, words began to fly. One woman argued that when "our enemies" invade she has to have guns to protect herself. In light of the fact that no "enemy" is likely to invade the US with a "boots on the ground" army, it seems to me that Americans pay an extremely high price for this kind of paranoia.

In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that between 2000-2005 on average, one child died every three days in a firearms accident. If you extrapolate those figures to 2013, that's 1,582 little children, collateral damage of a war against an "enemy" which is not there and may never come.

But gun proponents are right in one argument. It's not the gun, it's the society. Gun-related death rates in the US are eight times higher than they are in countries that are economically and politically similar to it; however, all of these countries have more secure social networks, which is an important key to a non-violent population.

In 2009 UN statistics record 3.0 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in the US; for comparison, gun homicides in Switzerland were 0.52 per 100,000 even though they rank third in the world for highest number of guns per citizen. The difference - the Swiss follow the national motto of "One for all and all for one". They take care of their citizens.

And in response the woman said; "..while you are still trying to figure out who our enemies are it will be too late to say Gee, I sure wish I had a gun! Duh! If we get invaded by one of our enemies you won't have to worry about all those social problems we have . You are going to be worrying about saving your own a_s. If you want to live in a socialistic country keep thinking the way you are."

And because I live in a country which is a social democracy I said, "Thanks, I already live in one and love it."

But all this was prelude to point. I look at the US and see so much fear, so much paranoia, and as a result so much violence and hate.

There seemed a chance in the 60s and early 70s to create an equal opportunity America, a land of peace and plenty. But that opportunity was co-opted in the most vicious and cold-bloodied manner possible, by politicians, corporations and institutions determined:

  1. to keep the Black man "in his place",
  2. to continue to exploit the labour of people of colour, whether Native-born or immigrant worker
  3. to break the power of the working class by outsourcing their jobs to Third-World countries
  4. to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, while benefiting from the infrastructure and services built and supplied by tax-paying citizens
  5. to turn Americans against each other, with a special focus on hating and fearing the poor, and revering the cult of wealth and celebrity
  6. instill a deep mistrust in "the government", while politicians exploit trust by focusing on divisive issues.
  7. arm those who have bought into the paranoia that their fellow Americans are "the enemy". I have heard some of these people say the US Military may be "the enemy" they have to fight, which shows how far their paranoia (and their delusions) have progressed. For one thing they may have forgotten that old saying, "Never bring an M-16 to a armoured tank division invasion supported by drones".

Once this hoax that "we have seen the enemy and it is our own government" has been accomplished a corporate takeover of the government is possible. Politicians owned by big insurance, big oil, big industry, big pharmaceuticals, big money can essentially stage a coup d'etat without ever raising a weapon.

The election of Barack Obama was a Godsend to these interests. The presence of this calm, intelligent, thoughtful but often visibly frustrated Black man in the White House was a lightening rod that brought out every fear-mongering, paranoid in Washington, with the agenda of bringing the American government to its knees. And his presence made it so easy to do so with the millions of Americans brought to the brink of madness by the struggle to survive, anxiety and despair.

And many, like this unfortunate woman, are more terrified of feeding a hungry child or 90-year-old widow than they would be of finding a grizzly bear on the doorstep because feeding the hungry or tending the sick have been reframed as "socialist" acts rather than Christian or compassionate ones, and they are ready to shoot to kill the "socialist".

I struggle with this every time we turn on the news. Another mass shooting today. I had to turn it off. I couldn't kill another human being. I can't even kill a spider, or an ant. And even the act of carrying an ant outside. Where is its place, its own hill? If I place it wrongly it will be enslaved, or attacked. I worry about ants. And this huge burden of fear in a country which was at one time a beacon of hope for the entire world, it sends me reeling. I feel it deeply, as a wound in my heart.

Let all beings be happy! Weak or strong, of high, middle or low estate,
Small or great, visible or invisible, near or far away,
Alive or still to be born — may they all be perfectly happy!
Let nobody lie to anybody or despise any single being anywhere.
May nobody wish harm to any single creature, out of anger or hatred!
Let us cherish all creatures, as a mother her only child!
May our compassionate thoughts fill the whole world, above, below, across, –
Without limit; a boundless goodwill toward the whole world,
Unrestricted, free of hatred and enmity! (Sutta Nipata 118)

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Satisfied Mind

Boy, do I ever love the music of Bryan Bowers, who is the acknowledged virtuoso of the auto-harp, and knows how to make love to a song as well.

This is but one of the thoughtful songs he signs.

How many times
Have you heard someone say,
If I had his money
I'd do things my way?

How little they know
It's so hard to find
One rich man in ten
With a satisfied mind

Once he had money
Fortune and fame
Oh he had everything
He had a start in life's game

Oh, but one day it happened
He lost every dime
Now he's richer by far
With a satisfied mind

Money can't buy back
Your youth when you're old
Or a friend when you're lonely
Or a heart that's grown cold

And the wealthiest person
Is a pauper at times
Compared to the man
With a satisfied mind

Now when my life is over
And my time has run out
All my friends and my loved ones
I'll leave them no doubt

Ah the one thing for certain
When it comes my time
I'll leave this old world
With a satisfied mind.

I'll leave this old world
With a satisfied mind


I slept from 9:30 Wednesday night until 11:00 Thursday morning and woke feeling like I'd been run down by a large truck. But you have to love it. After eight days of feeling like a speed bump in a school zone, suddenly, for no reason apparent to me, about 2:00 yesterday afternoon my concrete blanket of fatigue dropped away and I felt perfectly fine.

I quickly drew up a grocery list and headed for the nearby Sobeys. Just in the nick of time, as we were looking at a dwindling supply of fruit.

As expected I put my neck out lifting sacks of food from cart to car and car to granny cart, but my lovely friend Diane came along as I finished loading the granny cart and she took it away from me and pulled it to my door. Nonetheless I sat here reading into the wee hours because my throbbing migraine would not allow me to lie down. Finally an extra pain pill did the trick and at 3:00 am I trundled off to bed and slept as well as anyone who is adored by two loving and somewhat jealous cats will permit.

Of course there's nothing wrong with being smooched awake at 4:00 am and again at 5:00, but by 6:00 am I'd had my fill of whiskery kisses and tuna breath. I got up, took my pill, went to the bathroom, fed both of the lover boys, then shut the bedroom door and slipped back into bed with a lover who knows it's rarely productive of much lovin' to awaken me in the night.

Surprisingly I was awake and quite chipper at 8:30. A quick review of systems didn't reveal anything amiss, I guess I have just caught up on a year's worth of sleep this last week and was ready to get up, even though I'd shopped yesterday. Who'd a thunk it?

When we moved in here we had a lot of help, and things got stacked willy-nilly in the closets. Face it the place is poorly designed to store those things any functioning family needs, like a toolbox, a couple of fileboxes for warranties, legal papers, etc. I have a genealogy filebox, there's a shredder, there's a wheelchair and a walker, cat carriers, linens, and I've already told you that at 5' nothing I can reach only the lowest shelf in the kitchen cupboards.

So I've been sweeping around, vacuuming around, falling over all these bits and pieces forever, and I was sick and tired of it. WalMart had a sale on sturdy open shelving so I bought two sets, a 22" long set and a 30" set - several weeks ago. I hadn't had the energy to put them together or worse, move the stuff from where they are going and then move stuff into them. The shelves are plastic and certainly not pretty but I'll go to Home Despot and get some sliders and cut to size panel or foamcore doors. I have some lovely wallpaper left over from papering the Beach House, and I think I have just enough left to cover sliding doors to cover the contents of the shelves. Tidy and even pretty. If I don't have enough paper I certainly have paint.

But HURRAH! Today I feel good AGAIN! The 30" one is going on the right side of the bed in our room, the 22" on the left. We have bedside tables which go between the shelves and the bed. I emptied the spot on my side of the room, which housed the wheelchair, a kitchen chair, some pool noodles (for stretching my back), a cubby for shoes, a cat carrier, a file box, a shredder and some misc. bits and bobs.

The shelves went together in five minutes and I had them filled just as quickly. [edit: Husband says I have taken great journalistic license. While the shelves went together in 10-15 minutes the organizational mayhem of filling said shelves took the rest of the afternoon. And to think I worked for a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper as a pup. Truth is relative, or maybe what's true is that time is relative.] Nothing left sitting on the floor. We moved the chest of drawers from Tony's side of the bed to mine, putting it against the wall. Then we assembled the 22" shelves and put in the little boxes he uses to organize his medications, and some other boxes.

Now that the front closet is empty the wheelchair and walker both fit in easily. The shoe cubby is also there, along with the box of gloves and toques.

Very nice Flip-Flop of a day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to understand someone with chronic pain

And I might add this also applies to someone with a chronic illness. It's easy enough to support someone through a broken leg or recovery from an appendectomy, but when someone has to deal with chronic illness day after friggin' day, year in and year out it's more difficult to understand.

This link is to a great Wiki-How called "How to Understand someone with chronic pain" but substitute "Chronic illness" for chronic pain (the two are usually interchangeable, or compounded) and it's just as useful. It's a quick read, and it's useful knowledge.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Be a Good Girl!

Blogger Ronni Bennett tackles the myriad aspects of growing old in her blog Time Goes By. Today her subject is the annoyance elders feel at being spoken to by strangers as if they are either close family members, lovers or worse, toddlers, in her post The Dangers of Elderspeak.

So I was trying to remember if I have ever been annoyed by this "Elderspeak" and I can't recall that I have. Women in the shops here call everyone "dear" and "luv", not just the old folks.

I have been outraged at being treated as if I were stupid by physicians (and a few nurses) in doctors' offices and hospital ERs. But this started in my 20s, so it's not "just" an elder thing for medical professionals to treat patients as if they were children. I actually get more respect now that I am older than I did as a 30-year-old. Though the geneticist I saw recently introduced himself by his first name he leaned back a bit in his chair and said, somewhat suspiciously, "You seem to know a lot of medical terminology," once we were deep in conversation. (Am I supposed to play dumb for them? I've had this disorder since birth. I'm 68 years old fer cryin' out loud. I would be stupid if I hadn't learned something about it by now!)

But thinking about forms of address sent me musing on the past, as thinking often does these days. I was raised in the American South and in the 40s and 50s children were called "Sugar" by the women in the family, and were mostly ignored by the menfolk, until you were old enough to take fishing and shootin' if you were a boy and old enough to guard the virtue of, if you were a girl.

If you were lucky you had a Papaw and a Memaw on one side and a Granny and Pa on the other. I had one "Grandma", all the others having taken flight long before my birth.

Darhlin' was the common term of address between adult family members, unless you referred to them by their relationship, and this often came with some hint of disapproval, as in, "Oh, you know Bruhtha. He likes himself a fast car and a fast woman."

The grocer and the doctor called you Mrs. or Mr. unless you went duck hunting together and then it was first name basis. I don't think my Mama went duck hunting with my pediatrician, as he called her Mrs. He wasn't just a hunter, he was also an unskilled taxidermist who stuffed and mounted many of the unfortunate creatures who strayed into the path of a bullet from one of his many firearms. He called me "Little Lady" and his office made me anxious.

I can well imagine that his wife wouldn't tolerate his handiwork in her living room, so his office was where he displayed his hobby. As a result his office was a House of Horrors to this five-year-old "Little Lady", nervously waiting her turn to see the doctor; an eagle caught mid-bomb-dive was suspended from the ceiling where it rotated endlessly, glass cases crowded the chairs into the centre of the room. A frowsy raccoon family trundled along on a log, a porcupine gnawed a stick, a moth-eaten possum hung from a branch, a lop-sided bobcat snarled and raised a threatening paw, a mountain goat and other various heads and racks of antlers poked through the walls.

The exam room was worse, the cracked and peeling black leather table and instrument cabinets were wedged between glass cases of coiled snakes, a pair of long-eared Texas jackrabbits, a dozen different kinds of misshapen ducks and a giant wild tom turkey with mis-set eyes, perpetually looking both right and left.

I suppose the boys enjoyed it, but it raised a terror in me so I always cried when Mother said I had to go see the doctor, not from fear of him, but from that dead zoo of his. I'd sit there snuffling and shaking and Mother would give my arm a jerk and hiss, "Stop that sniveling and be a good girl!"

As you can see my childhood was crowded with incident. And being so busy and all remembering the good times I haven't had time to work up a head of steam about being called "dear" or "sweetie" by a total stranger at the market. But I swear the first one to tell me to "be a good girl" in a medical setting is getting their face ripped off.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Go for the Gold!

My regular Sunday web chat with the younger of our two sons consisted primarily of comparing how exhausted we each are. He is in the middle of a busy conference schedule, and worked from 6:30 am Thursday until noon Friday without a break for a proper meal or any sleep, and well, I have written at length of the Herculean labours of trolleying two cats to the vets and back this week, from which I am still in the process of recovering.

I think it was when when I said if sleeping were an Olympic sport I could sleep for Canada that the idea was born. Why not an Olympics for people like us, the dead-on-your-feet business man, the totally exhausted new mother, the beer-bellied and the old lady tottering along on her cane? In other words, Why not an:

Indolence Olympics

Sports might include;

In the Sleep Category:

Power Napping, Long Duration Delta Wave, Synchronized Snoring, Yawn Tennis, Sleep Cycling, Snooze, and Curling Up.

In the Couch Potato Category:

Channel Surfing, Most Miles Put on the Rocking Chair (timed event), Biggest Bladder Marathon, and Someone Poke Him and See if He's Still Alive.

There will also be a Procrastination Event, though anyone who shows up for it before all the medals have been awarded and the arena has been swept will be automatically disqualified.

Friday, September 06, 2013

If this is Friday I slept through Thursday

Getting up at 7:15 on Wednesday morning to haul two cats to the vets, plus a 20 minute side trip to the grocery store is a couple of hours burned out of a day for most people.

I ain't most people. Hobbes is recovering faster from his surgery than I am. Though I'm normally a night-owl I went to bed at 8:30 pm Wednesday and slept until 11:20 yesterday morning. At 3:00 yesterday afternoon I crawled onto the sofa and slept until 7:00, and last night I was in bed at 11:00 and slept until 10:00 this morning.

Actually I'm not completely certain I'm awake now. I had a cup of coffee but it's noon and I still haven't eaten or had the first handful of the meds I take to stay mobile. (I'm not certain they are working as advertised!)

I'm the closest thing you can get to a zombie without the gore and hankering for brains. And I don't have the energy to hold my arms out in front of me like that, or walk stiff-legged. Are there geriatric mummies who sort of shuffle along bent over, bleary-eyed, mumbling to themselves?

Let's face it, there's not much "go" in my reserve tank, and it takes me several hours to warm up to any productive activity. Which is exactly the reason I insist on afternoon appointments for everything. My body has a schedule, which I am not a party to, and it does not allow for substitutions, disruptions, or changes in itinerary.

On the bright side, the polecat/tomcat smell is down by 90% in here, or maybe I'm just too exhausted to smell it, but I think it's down. And maybe Hobbes is just subdued still from the surgery, though he is jumping around like always and had a fierce playing session with Smokey last night, but he's not as aggressive with those needle-like teeth and claws.

I am yawning as if I hadn't slept in a month. I am going to stumble out to the kitchen and find something I can eat without doing anything to it first, take some pills and maybe have a nap. Yeah, a nap sounds really good.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Poor Mistreated Kitties + Edit

Our kitties are having a very unpleasant day. It began when we stuffed them into cat carriers and loaded them into the car at almost the crack of dawn, headed for a 9:00 am appointment at the vet's. Well, it was 8:30 am, so almost the crack of dawn, as far as I'm concerned.

Hobbes the baby cat, who is now nine months old and has developed an extremely pungent and musky tom-cat smell, had never been in a carrier and was curious and happy to explore the inside of the one we'd bought for him a few weeks back. But they'd been out of larger carriers, and we had borrowed a neighbour's carrier for Smokey.

Smokey the claustrophobe, was not as appreciative as he could have been. He wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with this "borrowed" (or any) carrier. Getting him inside it was like trying to wrestle a grizzly through a key hole. His intentions to remain *uncarrriered* were very clear. It took one of us to shove him bodily in, while the other peeled his claws off the edges of the door one at the time, then slammed and locked the door.

We put the carriers on the trolley, after all, five pounds of carrier plus 29 pounds of cat is a load too far for either of us. Tony is broken on the right side, his broken collarbone never did fuse back together. It healed in two disconnected pieces, which hampers his ability to pick up any amount of weight, or lift his arm above shoulder height.

The cats sang protest songs worthy of any Civil Rights march as we wheeled out of the parking lot. We were about halfway to the vet's office when Smokey gave a blood-curdling yell of indignation and burst through the door of the carrier. Cat 1 Carrier 0. He sat in the back seat and glared while Tony tried to coax him into his lap. When Tony tried to reach for him he climbed into the hatch.

We reached the clinic and now what are we to do? It is on a very heavily travelled street. Trucks and cars whip past at an alarming speed. If we open a door and he makes a break and runs into traffic we are down a cat.

With his carrier between me and the door I reached in and grabbed Hobbes in his carrier, and shut the door. Tony stayed in the car with Smokey. I took Hobbes in and explained my situation. Loose cat, carrier door broken, ai yi yi.

The receptionist went to the back and brought out a large carrier of the same type we'd bought for Hobbes. Metal door and latch, not plastic. By the time I got back to the car Tony had lured Smokey into his lap, and by some miracle we managed to get him into the carrier and latch the door. Carrier on trolley, and in we go.

Once out of his carrier and on the exam table Hobbes has to inspect the computer wiring, but then that's his job/hobby at home too. Chief wire inspector/taster. He's too ADHD to sit still for much petting and is not interested in being examined thanks. He wanted *down* so he could explore. As soon as the exam was finished he was whisked away for his surgical prep.

The first thing Smokey did when I let him out of the carrier was look for Hobbes. But he was easily distracted. As long as the vet and her two interns were feeling him up he was in Heaven. He didn't even appear to notice the needles though he yelped when he was micro-chipped, and he managed to spit one of the worm pills out the first time. The monster weighs 19 pounds. We were told he needs to lose four pounds to be at his ideal weight. So there's the goal.

We loaded him up and brought him home in the vet's carrier, where he flopped down on the floor and panted like a dog. He was so stressed out. But a little bit of tuna calmed him down and now he's sleeping off his "nightmare".

The vet's office just called (11:10) to say Hobbes is awake and doing fine, and I can pick him up at 3:00. I'm wondering how long it takes for the musk to resolve? I hope it's quick. It's pretty eye-watering in here.

I'm sure if you asked either of them today I'd get a pretty dismal score on the "On a 1 to 10 scale how does your Mama score?" test, but overall they've got a pretty good set of parents.

4:00 pm Addition

I know I will be useless tomorrow, and the day after, and food stores are running low, so we decided we'd make a quick grocery trip, then stop at Taco Bell and pick up comfort/junk food for dinner and be at the vet's to pick up Hobbes at 3:00. It was sweater weather when we went in at 8:30, what we didn't count on was that the temperature had climbed to 30 C (86 F) in the hours between 9:00-1:45. The store was almost deserted and my shopping went very quickly. It was only 2:15 when I finished. Uncomfortable about leaving meat, dairy and produce in a boiling hot car for that length of time I suggested I simply drop Tony home, he could put away the food and I'd get Hobbes alone. After all there was only the one cat to deal with this time.

Fine idea, except Tony had not brought his keys with him. I wound my car key off my ring and gave him my security door key and unit key. Off he went. I went to Taco Bell and arrived at the vet 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

I paid the (substantial) bill and the Tech sat down and talked me through a long list of do-nots. As in: Do not put the cat on the bed where he might fall off. Do allow him to drink a little water but do not feed him for 12 hours as he may be nauseated. Do not let him lick the incision. (Oh, I do hope the vet told him that, kids never listen to their mothers!) Do not be alarmed that he has a shaved patch on his leg, that is where the IV went in. Finally, she goes back and brings him out.

He sees me and screams like he's having his left leg removed with a rusty hacksaw. "Mama, you'll never GUESS what they DID TO ME!!!" The Tech says the bottom of the carrier fell out and he got away from them, they had to catch him, so you have to wrap your arms around the carrier and hold it together. I can't do it. The Tech carries him to the car for me.

But when I get home I can't get in, because I have no key, and I couldn't carry the flipping carrier if I had the key. I drag out my cell and call my husband, who is sound asleep upstairs. It rings about 10 times before he answers. He brings keys and the trolley for the carrier.

Once Hobbes is inside he's like a wind-up toy that will not wind down. He jumps on *everything*, table, stove, cabinets, chairs, over and over again. You can't catch him. He won't be held. He's hyper-doodle-dandied up on drugs and apparently enjoying the trip. He's running and jumping and panting and occasionally throwing a leg in the air and licking where his little boy balls used to be. The bitter orange flavour they put on the incision to make him not lick it is apparently his favorite sauce.

Smokey is irritated by all this running and jumping and panting and decides he's going to beat the crap out of this perpetual motion cat-thing which smells of antiseptic, so I have to hover like a police helicopter to keep the peace. After an hour Hobbes goes to his dish, eats a full meal, climbs into the carrier and goes to sleep. Smokey crawls into Tony's chair and goes to sleep. Tony's been asleep for an hour already. I fall half-dead in my chair.

Do not call. We may not get up until next Tuesday.