Saturday, June 10, 2017

Remembering the Right Combination to Unlock Joy

My ability to swim is only slightly surpassed by my ability to text, which is marginally better than my ability to twitter on the tweeting machine—and unfortunately I perform those tasks so well, I am qualified to run for president.

In fact, last week, after Tammy and I popped in to visit our friend Natalie, my texting skills were brought to light. Half the time my fingers hit the wrong buttons, half the time the autocorrect has a different agenda, and the other half of the time I have the keyboard set to French. Is that too many halves? Oh well, you get my drift.

A couple of months ago, while exploring the metropolis of Meaford, I found myself very hungry, standing in front of the local coffee shop at 3:02 p.m., face streaming with tears, because, apparently, in Meaford, coffee shops shut at 3:00 p.m. What? You bunch of country bumpkins. Does no one drink coffee past 3?

I texted Natalie for advice:

Me: Did u knew the coffae ship in Meaford class at 3? What kand if town is tis???

Nat: Huh? Lol

Me: John id doing soins check for tonught si I an windering aimlessly

Nat: You need to get your blood sugars up before you text Lol!

Me: OMH, Yeis.

Nat: Do you need an ambulance girl?

Me: haha. I just fawnd anuther café. Catering place. It us culled Kitchen.

Nat: Simple enough. Are they going to feed you so that you can text in English?

Me: Hahah…I hop sow lol

Confeve that convo…

So, given this history, it is no surprise, when shortly after Tammy and I left Natalie’s house, I texted: “We need u. We need a leash” that she assumed I was up to my hypoglycemic texting tricks again. However, in reality, Tammy and I had found a loose dog, wandering the streets. The little, sweet dog appeared to be confused and we were corralling her in hopes of keeping her safe. Natalie’s reply: LoL!! Oh Heather. Get some sugar in your body!

Me: Nope lol
This obviously isn’t going to plan. Trying to clarify the confusing situation, I try again.

Me: Dooug

Nat: Yes: Lol! I’m Peron laughing

Peron laughing? Who’s hypoglycemic now, Natalie?

Me: Huh?

Nat: Oooops! Peeing

I still don’t have a leash. Finally Natalie hangs her head out the window and we clear up my texting fiasco, and Natalie and her son Adam come outside with a leash. She kindly takes the dog to the local vet and luckily thirteen-year-old Bebe was microchipped and is returned to her rightful owner.

As mentioned, my swimming skills are probably even worse. However, with a torn ACL and 25% of my meniscus gone in my right knee (knowledge courtesy of MRI and incessant Sarah McLachlan music in my earphones) I need some type of physical activity. That and the fact that it seems no matter what I do, I keep gaining weight.

So, Lyndsay and I plan on going swimming together. Now, there is something you should know. Lyndsay and I have the combined organizational skills of a six-month-old. In fact, I identify her car not by the license plate, but by looking in the back seat. If it looks like the residence of three homeless people, I know I have the right vehicle. Even the most populous back alleys of Mumbai can’t rival the interior of her car--a scene straight from of Slum Dog Millionaire. I remember looking in once to see one high heel shoe, countless Tim Horton cups, a half-eaten bagel, a macramĂ© project and possibly a dead body (I can’t be sure).

Given this information, it is no surprise that the following text thread starts:

Lyndsay: How are you feeling about swimming? Still able to? I have to find my stuff.

Me: I have to find my stuff too.

No shocker there. It's only the morning of the planned event and neither of us has bothered to locate any of our swimming gear.

Lyndsay: OK. Great

Me: I have found everything except swimsuit and lock.

Which is only half true. I had found two locks, both locked permanently to my swim bag because I can’t remember the combinations.

Lyndsay: Ok…I need find my goggles and lock.

(two minutes later)

Me; Found suit.

Lyndsay: Found lock.. Just need goggles. I’m very excited. I have to spend some time primping first.

Me: I found two pairs of goggles now.

(two-minute pause)

Lyndsay: I think we should swim more regularly to keep up on grooming habits and gentle reminders of what it feels like to squeeze yourself into sausage casing.

I am laughing pretty hard right now, but that isn’t the punchline.

Lyndsay: My suit is so tight it’s correcting my posture….

On the way to the pool, I go out to the dollar store to find a replacement lock...(s). Knowing that this predicament occurs every time I stop swimming for over a week, I pick up one, no two, what that heck, four locks. They are only $2 each.

I get home and put on my suit, but it seems to have altered. It has been over a year, what could possibly change? It appears that the elastic in the bit that is supposed to snuggly cover my bottom has given up, completely lost its will to live. There is a full inch of slack between the material and my backside causing the suit to naturally ride up in a sort of permanent wedgy position. It is incredibly uncomfortable and awkward for me, but not nearly as much as it is for anyone who has to witness the scene.

Upon arrival to the pool Lyndsay and I chat about the beautiful day:

“It is so nice out today. We could have swam in the lake," Lyndsay mentions.

“Yeah, that way we wouldn’t have to ingest all that toxic chlorine. We could drink the oil from the boats and the refuse from the city’s water treatment plant instead.” I cheerfully chirp.

“Yeah, except here we are in a controlled environment that when we start to drown, we are more likely to be rescued.”

“True dat.” And with off into the pool we go.

I like swimming because it seems like it should be the quickest route to Michelle Obama shoulders. I love her shoulders. I would give anything to wear one of those tops with cut out arms and look like her. I tried on one of those tops once, and I looked less like Michelle Obama and more like Buddhist prayer flags flapping at Mount Everest Base Camp.

Slow and steady--well maybe just slow (after all, it is called front crawl)--we traverse the pool, back and forth like pensioners walking laps around the perimeter of our long-term care facility in our zoom-a-frames. And, it feels…good. Moving meditation. That is what I miss most about running: the space between the moments when you float, suspended. There are no worries of miscommunication or bathing suits that have failed us or the craziness of the world. Instead I simply focus on one arm in front of the other. And since I am such a bad swimming, I really MUST focus solely on this movement…or I will drown. Literally. I am serious. I swim like a rock. The stakes are kind of high: lift arm, don’t drown, pull arm through water, don’t drown, breathe, don’t drown, repeat.

After the peaceful swim, we somehow find ourselves at Starbucks. How does that happen? I enjoy chatting and catching up and think, why don’t I make more time for these types of moments, moments of laughing and peace, moments for ME? Instead I often choose to drown in my daily challenges instead of taking those moments to just be and enjoy life's simple joys. Sigh. This is one padlock I want to try to remember the combination to!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It’s time for AA – Autism Anonymous NO LONGER!

I ran today. More on that later…


Hello, my name is Heather and my grandson is autistic--and I couldn’t be prouder. I am not proud just because he is my grandson.  I am not proud despite the fact he is autistic. I am not proud because he is high functioning. I am proud he is autistic. End of. It’s pretty, darn cool.

Autism isn’t a disease, disability or something you cure. I get annoyed when people want to “fix” this fascinating, wonderful, diverse and incredible way of thinking. Imagine how history would be altered if Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Nicola Tesla, or Mozart were “cured” of their autistic traits?

L is hands down my favourite grandson (so far). He is sensitive, analytical, literal, and advanced beyond imagination. He will cry as he recounts going on holiday a year ago as he remembers what it felt like to miss the very dog he holds in his arms. He knows everything about Minecraft and French fries, routine and technology. He is amazing and incidentally has the best sense of direction and humour of any kid I have ever met—ever!

I have told this story many times, however I am telling it again, (deal with it). When he was three, L got a hold of my phone. He went to the app store, purchased a racing game (with my credit card), downloaded it, loaded it and played it, all while I was trying to figure out how to change the TV input from satellite to the DVD.
These minds deserve celebrating.
However, today, while trolling, I read a post by a friend (well, former friend) on Facebook who is a nurse who I believe has her Masters and possibly even a Ph.D. and who at one point was a nursing instructor in an accredited Ontario College. It showed a picture of a man, maybe in his early 20s sitting in a crouched position sucking his thumb. The caption read: Yes. As a matter of fact that is a grown man, at the ariport in the fetal position, sucking his thumb…Nice shoes though.

It got worse, with the ever-continuing comments:

 thought children eventually grew out of that

 true, but he wasn’t wearing diapers

maybe he was

smiley face.

NOT COOL. To me, he was obviously on the ASD spectrum (and it was obvious to many others who commented after I did)

I am assuming no malice was intended, I mean I have in fact been guilty of smiling at a “People of Walmart” photo or two…But, come on. YOU ARE A NURSE!

Sometimes when I get offended on Facebook, I simply disengage, but if it is something to do with cats, GMOs or autism, I simply lose my poop, and throw-up my opinions all over the internet. Can’t help myself. Today was no exception. However, I was polite (somewhat):

Devil’s advocate—could be ASD, could be stimming. I look at people differently now after having some experience with this.

I thought I showed exceptional restraint, right?

Last year, my grandson wasn’t able to attend an upcoming birthday party. A parent of another child was asking my daughter if L was going to this particular party. My daughter answered, “No.” The other parent’s response was devastating, “I’m not letting so-and-so go either. I won’t let him go that house. The older brother is autistic.”


When my daughter recounted the story, I was dumbfounded and asked what she said and she said, “Nothing.” She didn’t know what to say. I can tell you it was a good thing I wasn’t there. I don’t think I would have given a flying…monkeys (you know that isn’t the actual word I am thinking) and probably would have casually mentioned that L was autistic also…just to see the expression on her face.

I am starting to think we need to be proud and loud! No more keeping things quiet. Let’s celebrate and nurture the scientific and artistic minds that belong to those with autism. Let’s say “No” to Autism Anonymous.


Back to the running part…I haven’t been faithful with my runs, but I was so worked up, I actually wanted to run off some steam. And, to be honest, my faith in humanity has faltered in connection with a recent political development south of the border. I am also working on editing a book about how to deal with emotions, and apparently I am supposed to feel them and let flow through me instead of hang onto them. The only way anything was going to flow through me today was if I ran.

It went well until the final 200 meters from the house. I think I experienced what others refer to as a panic attack. My windpipe just closed up without warning or reason. I couldn’t breathe and I was gasping uncontrollably….and it wasn’t due to the speed of my running, trust me.

Then the concepts taught by one of my friends (and positive coach), Louise Aspden came to mind. This is totally my interpretation—but she advocates just trying to get to a slightly more positive place than where you are at the moment. You don’t have to leap straight to rainbows and unicorns all at once, just try to see something a little better and brighter by applying gratitude. I looked at the beautiful fall trees, stopped (obviously) until the panic attack subsided and breathed in the smell of the warm, fresh air and realized it felt really good to have run. There, just a little better.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. Wow, many people paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and I cannot truly comprehend the magnitude of their valour. Really, I can’t. But, I am thankful. What a gift—and I don’t want to waste it.

It’s a new world and I believe a new type of warrior needs to be born—a warrior of love, compassion, and hope. A warrior who quietly but politely speaks up and says, “Not cool.” A warrior who does not accept traditional weaknesses as imperfections but as celebrations of humanity. A warrior who uplifts and exhalts rather than tears down. A warrior who cares for the elderly, the children, the poor, the vulnerable--even if that means not sneaking that picture in the airport. We’re all in the same trench, people! Wake up.

It’s time to be anonymous no longer.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Defying Logic

I think my cat is building a nuclear bomb in the basement. Little did I know when I affectionately (and inappropriately) named her “Lambe,” I was creating a study in ironic names. I think she is the secret spirit-offspring of Evel Kenievel and Albert Einstein, mixed in with a dash of Winehouse melancholy. I am not yet sure if she is simply a daredevil or perpetually suicidal. It’s hard to say. To put it in context, my dearly departed cat, Echo, is Mother Teresa compared to Lambe (and I once affectionately referred to Echo as the Spawn of Satan).

Yesterday she successfully pooped out a 10-foot length of yarn. The thing is, I keep my yarn behind locked doors now. So, the only logical conclusion is that she is able to teleport items through solid walls. It wouldn’t surprise me. She is quite smart. She could easily have an advanced degree in physics. All the previous pets, if cast in the wild would be lucky to last a day. I believe this one would not only have no problem, but she would organize a colony, get voted in as leader of the feline mafia, and take over the world.

If Lamb is underneath the bed, it sounds like a construction road-works zone. I have no idea what she is doing (and probably never will), but I am pretty certain it is bad. When I stealthily plummet my head to the floor, all noise ceases immediately, and she innocently stares at me with those big yellow-green eyes as if saying. “What’s up?” My fear, of course, is she is secretly burrowing holes in the structural integrity of the bed, and one day I will get in and it will collapse—a fate much worse for her than me, by the way.

At the age of 8 weeks, Lambe almost died by running through the spindles in the hall, only to fall 9 feet to the hardwood floor below. Luckily she survived. Since then she has climbed walls, climbed curtains, climbed people, jumped in the toilet, jumped out of the toilet, jumped in the bathtub (whilst I was still in it), got herself stuck behind a dresser, got her head stuck in the spindles of the chair, got herself accidentally locked into the front porch, thrown up yarn and unidentifiable fluorescent green and red spongy squares, climbed on my desk and pulled out all the push pins and papers on my office cork board using her mouth (all of my papers are now pinned to the very top quarter of my bulletin board, right next to the ceiling), and of course, the most recent yarn-poo incident. I am not even going to list the electrical cord, fan, blinds, shoelace, rug, plug, cardboard and zipper incidents, as they are too plentiful for a single blog.

She might be the only cat who has her own bedroom. Not because we want to separate her from us. We have it for her own safety when we go out. There are no plugs, no cords, or blinds. At one point, I padded the floor (for real), but she started dismantling it.

It’s not necessarily logical (unless you are a cat person), but I love her to pieces. I love the way she gently pats my face, or chirps at the window, her loud purr when I bring out her favourite blanket, and her crazy, entertaining personality. Some things cannot be explained by logic.

This summer, I watched only one aspect of the Olympics, and that was the men’s marathon. This wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in any other sports, but because I accidentally turned on the TV at that moment. I love watching distance runners, especially professional marathon athletes. Maybe it’s the pure beauty, or maybe it is because it took me twice as long to cover the same distance.

The outstanding athlete who won the marathon was Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, but to me, the more interesting story was the American bronze-medalist, Galen Rupp. Why, you may ask? Well, he hasn’t been a marathon runner before…as in ever. He is a middle-distance 10,000-metre kind of guy. In fact, he had never competed in a marathon until the Olympic Marathon Trials on February 13, 2016. So, when he flew across that finish line in Rio, it was only his second marathon! That is pretty incredible.

During a post-race interview, in a wave of inspiration, Rupp quoted and gave credit to his parents, Mahatma Gandhi, Coach Alberta Salazar  an Adam Sander’s movie, because isn’t that who all American’s admire? As I sat there, stunned, I transitioned from laughter at the absurdity of it, to nodding my head in agreement. Wait, he might be onto something here!

The movie in question is Happy Gilmore, a film in which the main character wants desperately to be a hockey player, but discovers he in fact is a much better golfer. Galen was using this strangely Yoda-esque analogy to express how thankful he was to be open to trying something other than his usual middle-distance. Instead of him choosing his path, his path chose him. He always thought of himself as a 10,000 racer all these years, where in fact, he might really be a marathon runner.

This got me thinking. Since the discovery of a torn meniscus and ACL in my right leg, maybe I need to uncover something other than my former marathon training as my “thing.”
So after giving this concept some serious consideration, it appears the next logical goal is quite obvious—I should become a triathlete. It makes complete sense--other than the swimming, biking--and now with my knee--running parts...

Up until last year I didn’t know how to swim at all. Thanks to my friend, Lyndsay, and lots of hours on YouTube, I can now traverse across the 25-meter expanse of a pool-lap sans drowning. (We did try swimming in Lake Simcoe last summer, but again, that deserves its own entry…) And, I don’t own a road bike. In fact, the technician who tuned up my antique mountain bike who, incidentally is at least a third the age of the bike itself, told me they now actually make shocks for bikes. Who knew? It certainly is a brave, new world.

This decision defies logic. Like my cat or Galen Rupp switching from middle to long-distance running, some things just don’t make sense. So, why do it?

Well, I have discovered that when you accomplish something you believe is on the edge of impossible for you, it provides a sense of wonder and discovery that is difficult to articulate.

So, I guess it is time to make a declaration and put a plan together. I am going to “Try-a-Tri” next summer. Pretty sure there will be lots of mishaps to write about along the way! For the first time in over a year, I have to go plug in that Garmin.

Cheers to defying logic. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Story of an ECHO

The Story of an ECHO, ECHO, echo, echo, echo

echo · n. repeat: resound

I only have had two cats that I would truly call my own: Caledore and Echo. I inherited Caledore when we moved into a house where the owners moved out, however the cat didn't get the memo or managed to miss the closing date. Regardless, she decided that moving was not in her life-plan, and she hung around. I inherited the second one, Echo, when Candice moved away, but Echo did not. Life is sometimes a series of repeats.

Echo was a cat purchased purely out of guilt and desperation. My daughter Candice and I were living together in a little rented town home--just the two of us. Caledore had passed, leaving my favourite red head in quite a funk. I also wanted Candice to get a part time job. So, using the best and most cutting-edge parenting techniques, I did the upstanding thing--I bribed her: you get a job and I'll let you have a cat.

It worked. Candice got a job, and I found myself at the rescue section of Petsmart looking at all the cats. I really liked the look of a Tabby/Calico cross that was quite petite and pretty. Her name was Callie. We liked the cat but not the name.

When asked about her "story" the kind volunteer shared some information.

"This cat had been rescued and brought to the OSPCA, but was then scheduled to be taken to the headquarters in Newmarket to be destroyed."

(Probably because of her cheery disposition, no doubt)

"Furry Friends literally rescued her from the van."

"She was adopted out last week. However, she was returned the next day."

(Probably because of her cheery disposition, no doubt)

"Why?" I asked.

The volunteer had the avoidance tactics of a seasoned politician. She smiled her most charming smile and put on the best used-car saleperson voice known to mankind, "Someone in the family was...uhhh...allergic to cats."

There was a slight wince. I should have clued in, but love is blind--and apparently deaf and stupid because I believed her.


$99 and they would get her fixed to seal the deal.

When we brought her home from the operation she was quiet and lovely. Candice re-named her Echo, after the Greek nymph who first loved Narcissus, but then was loved by Pan. She spent her days sitting on Candice's bed quietly and greeting me at the door when I got home from work. She was an angel.

Until...the day I took her to the vet’s office. I was in the middle of describing what a terrific rescue she was when she morphed into the spawn of Satan. All claws, hiss and fur. I ended up being escorted out of the office as the veterinary staff began donning hazmat gear as if preparing for a nuclear holocaust.  They literally bagged Echo so only her head was sticking out, making her innocuous enough without the use of her legs or claws to administer her injections. (Probably due to her cheery disposition, no doubt).

I will never forget when Candice spent hours on a biology project about polar bears. She created this lovely presentation on bristol board that included inkjet pictures of polar bears. Unfortunately, Echo loved the taste of ink. And, due to the fact that polar bears don't require a lot of ink because they are basically white, their faces were the only appealing part to Echo. Candice woke up to a project that featured pictures of faceless polar bears. I had to write a note to the teacher explaining that the cat licked the homework, something I never imagined having to do.

The bribing incident with my daughter had made sense until it dawned on me that she might move out and go to college that fall. Candice was accepted into the vet tech program in Haileybury, hours north of Barrie, however Echo did not pass the entrance exam.

At this point I lived completely alone and worked from home in solitude. Well, I wasn't completely alone. There was always an Echo. I would take breaks and have discussions with her, or we would literally run around the house together. She slept by my knees at night and watched me work by day. She was always "there."

When Candice came back home during a break, it was apparent that Echo (from her cheery disposition, no doubt) was no longer Candice's cat. The shift had taken place, and there was no turning back. Candice acquired her own feline companion up north, which she named Pan, because in Greek mythology, you wouldn't have an Echo without a Pan.

Echo and I moved to a basement apartment together, then into my very first (and only) home that I owned all by myself.

Finally came the big move, when Echo was no longer the only child. She had to adjust to being part of the blended family of two border-collie/Australian Shepherd dogs. 

A couple of years in she became sick. However, she knew how to communicate. Always using her litter box, she changed it up and decided to show me her distress by peeing blood against the white bathtub. Upon another hazardous visit to the vet (because of her cheery disposition, no doubt), it was discovered she had stones. But, true to her name, Echo wasn't going to stop the repetition of survival. Instead, we were able to dissolve the stones.

Echo knew when Hank was sick and stayed by his side until the very end. When we brought back a collar without a dog, she edged towards it, and when within three feet of it, jumped back on all fours. I've never seen anything like it. She somehow knew.

She and Kanoock looked for a new normal. And for 3 days they fought. But, as history repeats itself, she was once again about to adjust and they became good friends.

Recently, she became sick and I took her in yesterday to be "put down." She (due to her sunny disposition, no doubt) wanted nothing to do with this procedure. She was 15 years old and hadn't eaten for nearly 5 days. She was a mere 5.5 lbs instead of her once 11 lbs. She had an 8 cm tumour crowding her organs and pressing up against her stomach. True to form, even though sedated first, she managed to growl through the whole process.

I thought that would be the tough bit, and once that was over, I would be fine. I seriously had no idea how wrong I would be.

You see Pan, the Greek god of the wild, loved Echo, who had a beautiful voice, so much that when he couldn't be with her, he put Panic into the shepherds who tore her apart and scattered her EVERYWHERE. Now, whenever you hear an echo today, you are hearing a bit of her scattered self.

That's the issue I didn't account for. Echo is EVERYWHERE: on the chair where she slept, in the boxes I use for work, by the water dish, sleeping by the fireplace, the comforting presence that was with me all those years I lived alone. And, I miss that assurance.

She certainly used up her nine lives:
  1. The OSPCA rescue
  2. Furry Friends rescue
  3. Returned adoption
  4. Our adoption
  5. Candice leaving
  6. The de-clawing incident (due to her cheery disposition, no doubt--and the dismantling of my face)
  7. Stones
  8. The treadmill incident
  9. Losing Hank

There is another version of the Greek myth, however. In this story Pan and Echo have two children: Lambe and Lynx. I am already hoping that sometime in the future there will be opportunity for this pattern to once again resound.

I have blogged about Echo quite a bit. Two entries in particular in 2011 deal extensively with her--January 21 and August 28 (if you want to look back and read a couple of funny stories about my feline). I'd like to leave you with an illustration of Echo created by Jon Larter, a Welsh artist...and a poem I wrote January 21, 2011:

There once was a flying feline from Barrie
Whose treadmill experience was hairy
The poor little cat
Almost went splat
And now of the treadmill, she’s wary.

Many people called her the name of a female dog (which shall not be repeated in this family blog--because of her cheery disposition, no doubt) more often than they called her Echo. However, she was perfect for me. And that's all that matters.

Times are shifting. My office has been clean for 2 months now and there is a much different echo in the house--the echo that comes from emptiness. I guess it is time to find my new normal.