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.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Kijiji This, B*&%h

If you are looking to lose all faith in humanity, the quickest and most effective way (short of visiting a slaughterhouse, dropping yourself in the throes of war, or watching Gilmore Girl reruns) is to put an ad in Kijiji.

In my personal, yet somewhat vast experience, 90% of the citizens of Kijij-land are stark raving mad, sadistic torturers who take some crazy, warped pleasure in luring you into the satisfying delusion that they will actually show up at X o'clock to view whatever it is your are trying to unload, only to leave you waiting, sitting at home, wondering why the heck you ever put that ad up in the first place.
They are brain-numbing, time-killing morons. I now have more sympathy for my single friends who have tried internet dating...too much sifting required, life is way too short. Needles in haystacks have nothing on the Kijiji process.

Last night, a particular person who obviously has a Kijiji passport contacted me multiple times to be sure I would be home for the unloading of a working dishwasher, which was listed at the extraordinarily value price of $25. I arranged my day around this schedule, to be sure to accommodate, so the big deal could go down.

I even texted my friend, Patty who lives across the street because I would be home alone at that time of the Kijiji viewing. A while back, Patty, who seems to have a sense of humour far more warped then even myself has, on occasion, caused me to "laugh out loud" during the texting process. Needing a new furnace, but not happy about the outlay of money required, I texted her to ask if she needed a kidney. I was not prepared for her answer, as she wrote, "Yes, I might actually." Pause. "I had to sell one of mine last month."

Here is the most recent Kijiji texting conversation avec Patty:

Me: I have some guys coming to take our dishwasher from Kijiji and I'm home alone. They should be here in 30 minutes. Could you keep an eye out that I am not kidnapped.

Patty: Haha. Want Rob and me to stop by?

Me: I should be OK, thanks.


Me: Just if you notice me being dragged off flailing...

Patty: OK...keep your phone with you. Our secret code will be, "Help. I'm being kidnapped."

But, alas, all this cautionary set-up was for vain, as two minutes before the scheduled roundez-vous, a woman called to tell me she had lost her bank card.

I found this excuse to be like my upper body strength--a little weak. A lot weak actually, but who's measuring? However, this by far wasn't the lamest excuse I've heard. There was the guy who missed an appointment for a swing set he was to pick up for his mother (she wanted it for her grandkids). Silly sod didn't show, I called his mother to let her know. She had seemed so excited to get the set. She must have worked her motherly charm, as the son soon called to apologize. His highly unusual excuse--he had forgotten about the time change--daylight savings and all that. You may question my qualifying "highly unusual" for who among us hasn't gone, "Oh darn. I forgot about that time change" on the Sunday afternoon or God forbid, the Monday morning of "the change". In fact, my car clock is inaccurate 6 months out of every year. The unusualness of the excuse was the time change had been three weeks earlier. You think he would have noticed the time had changed by now. Kijij Citizen. That's all I can say.

Then there are those other Kijji-ites. You know the ones: the ones that incessantly, text and email, you to hold the item for you. Then, when they don't turn up, you sell it to someone else the next day. And, wouldn't you know it, they contact you two days later, expecting you to still have it. In fact, they are angry, sometimes swear and question your morality, religious affiliation, code of ethics and call you evil, or worse, a Progressive Conservative.

Although Kijiji is a rather new world, the mentality is not. Many moons ago, during the Stone Age (Pre-Kijiji-itis), I "sold" (as in gave away) a complete bathroom suite of tub, sink and toilet. Back in day we used something called "Classified Ads," a form of written communication where people looked in paper newspapers. A family came, loaded all the gear up in their truck, strapped it in tight, and just as they were about to leave announced that they didn't have any money on them and would go to the bank and return with the $30. Before anyone could say, "Bob's your uncle" or "Susie is your sister" or "Hammy is your hamster" they took off never to be seen again. The joke really was on them, though. If you ever go into a house with the ugliest hue of purple-puke toilet, sink and tub in a bathroom, call me, I'll show up to collect.

If you list an original, long-lost Picasso for $5, I can almost guarantee the person showing up at your door will ask if you would take $2.50 for it. However, if you put your five-year-old $70 Bosu Ball for $50, a woman in an Escalade will show up and not even blink as she hands over her crisp $50 bill (I know this to be fact because it happened to me. For real, peeps).

So, if you want to venture into Kijiji-land unarmed, I will impart to you the results of my extensive research. Here is a summary of my findings I like to call The Six Laws of Kijiji--the economic and social findings using the knowledge I gained in my University statistics class (the class I almost failed. Luckily the Prof graded on the curve. I don't know what that means, however, because as I said, I almost failed the class. But, it must be a good thing, because I got the credit.). So, here are my Kijiji Laws. If Newton can have laws, so can Heather...
  1. The lower the price of an item, the greater the likelihood the buyer will ask for a discount.
  2. The higher the frequency the potential buyer emails, texts or calls you is a clear social indicator that they are less likely to actually show up.
  3. There is an inverse relationship between the distance travelled to view the item and chances of the potential buyer actually purchasing the item.
  4. The more pictures, measurements, letters of authenticity, patina hue, etc, the potential buyers ask for, the lower the chances they will purchase.
  5. If something doesn't actually work, purchasers will pay more.
  6. If a person does not show up and you sell the item to someone else, even if it is days later, the original buyer who didn't show up will be mad at you.

There you have it! If you do decide to navigate the waters of Kijiji-land, you have been forewarned. As for me, I probably won't be spotted frequently in that country. Instead, I may be seen in Good Will Land or Salvation Armyville or even, on occasion at the hamlet of Re-Store.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How Many Marathon-Running Women Does it Take to Hang a Clock?

Three. I know because I was involved in such a task last night. It must also be noted that one of the women must be of Herculean cross-fit strength, able to flip tires and dead lift copious amount of weight (ahem* Karen). This is especially true if said clock comes from Urban Barn, is ginormous and weighs a gazillion pounds. Which, for the record, it did. Oh, there also needs to be an electric drill, a Home Depot card and enough knowledge (or charm to ask for assistance) to know what type of plugs to buy. And, finally, a young male doberman is required. He doesn't help in any way. He is there just for show and moral support.
I feel like there has been an incredible amount of changes in the last six months. I, and many around me, are in the midst of transitioning from one season to another in their lives. Some of my long-standing business relations have decided to pitch for another team, totally re-vamping my working career, and my body is not allowing me to run any more due to ligament injuries. My niece just had a new baby and my dear friend, Lyndsay, just celebrated her beautiful wedding! The only thing constant in life is change.
The clock was symbolic of a new season another friend was entering. The near-empty living room and missing furniture were paint strokes, colouring a new era that was about to begin. New memories, hopes and life needed to be created to fill the now empty space. Existing deep sadness coexisting with the hope and promise of future happiness; all in the same bundle of mixed and confused emotion.
The biggest challenge with the clock (besides trying to lift it; I have the upper body strength of gnat. Running does not require great amounts of arm strength) was figuring out how to get the drill bits in and out of the drill itself. It took every ounce I of restraint I possessed not to rip the drill from Karen's hands and press each and every fancy button in attempt to figure out how it worked. However, Karen had a different plan. She read the manual. Other than the one page IKEA picture-instructions, I don't think I've ever actually read a manual. It is quite an efficient way to figure something out. Who knew? Maybe that is why she works in management and IT and I, well, I simply don't.
Lyndsay kept a respectable and neutral distance between herself and the high-powered drilling device, careful not to interfere with Karen reading the instructions and me hovering, occasionally grabbing the drill rudely right from her hands to randomly press some buttons.
In the end, logic prevailed and Karen was up and running, power tool locked and loaded. From there on, it was very simple--if you don't count the requirement of Grade 10 geometry, a calculator, measuring, remeasuring, drilling, holding the clock up, gently getting it on the hooks. I am glad to announce the no dobermans were harmed in the hanging of the clock.
It looked fantastic! We all took turns pretending to walk in the front door and seeing the fantistical clock for the first time, “ahhing” and “cooing” in deep admiration. I sincerely hope that wasn't a large “thud” in the middle of the night...I wasn't going to wait around to find out.
Although anything but a celebration, there may or may not have been vegan pizza, kale chips, and some people may or may not have partaken in martinis of the chocolate persuasion, however, somehow, and I am not sure how, three women and a doberman ended up dancing around an empty living room.
I have to be honest, I don't like every change of season in my life. However, it did occur to me last night that I have little control over most of these changes and whether I embrace or resist them, the big, heavy clock of time keeps ticking. Sometimes the only--and best--thing we can truly do is to stop labelling the changes “good” or “bad”, eat vegan pizza, and simply dance into the new season of our lives.
Since originally penning this post over a year ago, David Bowie has passed. I guess he had the same sentiment. Let's Dance.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Go Ahead, Be a Fire-Breathing Dragon

I just came back from my grandson's kindergarten graduation (which was probably the cutest thing I've even witnessed in my 48 years). The halls leading tot he gym were decorated with self-portraits all baring the common phrase “When I grow up I want to be...”

There were carefully-crafted creations of veterinarians, doctors, teachers and the odd pie-in-the-sky, field-afar NHL hockey players. But no, not my grandson. No, when Logan grows up, he want to be...(wait for it)...a fire-breathing dragon. There it was, blazed on the wall in full-crayoned glory.

Of course. Why let a little thing like reality get in the way of a dream? I mean, imagine if Marconi, Edison, Tessler, Banting, or the Wright brothers had bothered with reality? If you told someone 200 years ago that we would have an International Space Station floating around the earth, they would think you were psychotic and totally off your "rocket."

A couple of weeks ago I ventured—more like slunk—into my doctor's office. Apparently I hadn't been there for a little while. We can't be sure exactly what “a little while” is in Heather-years as the office switched to an electronic system quite a while back, and apparently my name reveals a blank slate. Nostradamus was probably predicting the end of my doctor appointments, not the end of the world, because it was certainly pre-2012. In reality, probably closer to 2010.

My mission, if I chose to accept it, was to walk out of that office with a requisition for an MRI on my right knee. End of. That's all I wanted from this visit. Total. Easy. Simple. Singular.

Maybe due my poor medical-office attendance, fear that I may never show up again for another five to ten years, or the fact that when asked about my parents I may have casually mentioned some sort of crazy autoimmune arthritic attack and the words “breast cancer,” I suddenly had requisitions flying at me from every corner of the room. I was getting everything from mammograms to bone density tests to blood work for lupus. My head was literally spinning.

“I see you aren't up to date on your whopping cough, tetanus, and....”

I didn't catch the third horrific disease.

He continued, “How do you feel about vaccinations?”

I think the question made him nervous. He didn't give me pause to answer. I think he was envisioning me as a staunch Jenny McCarthy follower. I may have mentioned plant-based diet earlier in the appointment. I mean, I looked the part of one of those. So, before I could pontificate on my philosophical and social outlook with regards to the topic of vaccination, the nurse was locked, loaded and administering me the needle. There is no doubt she certainly would be the last one standing in the Wild West.

Then came the real moment of panic. He mentioned the S-word. That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, so to speak. “When was the last time you had a smear?”

I don't know if it was because I was holding my freshly-jabbed arm so tightly or if the look of overwhelming fright on my face was, well, frightening or if my attempt to joke, “I've booked my 10-year physical for November. Can it wait until then?” tugged at his sense of decency, he took pity on me and stopped the madness. The S-word would be saved for another day. Flippantly, on the way out I asked if I could get my vitamin D levels checked. It was added to the blood work. I had been reading a lot about ideal levels for optimal health and was curious where I was on the spectrum. I was outside running a little bit with my daughter and occasionally supplementing, so being deficient in the sunshine vitamin was completely outside the realm of reality.

He also ordered the MRI for my right knee. In fact, I didn't even have to hint at it. It was his idea. Usually I go the doctor with a pre-determined outcome in my mind. But, today, he beat me to the punchline. He twisted my leg a certain way, I yelped and he may or may not have used the words “meniscus,” “knee,” and “replacement” in the same sentence. Actually, it's probably a fact that he used those three words in the same sentence. What's really in question is whether or not I heard them.

Probably not, because since our lovely get-together, I've run a race with my daughter and went on a beautiful trail run with Karen and Lyndsay last weekend. I can't remember the last time the three of us all ran together, but we need to do it more often.

It is therapeutic, rejuvenating and cleansing—even if performed without the luxury of knee cartilage. My doctor did mention that I have superior knee tendons by the way. Just saying. I do have something to brag about.

We're all dealing with “stuff”--family, work, loss. And, it is so nice to leave a piece of the pain behind on the run. With the information age, I'm finding it more and more difficult to find joy, and I don't see how in reality, the world's problems can be fixed: war, killing in the name of religion, racial inequality, shooting people in church, throwing baby chicks into a grinder, cruelly slaughtering pigs, caging calfs, cutting down rainforests for beef, destroying the planet, removing the oil from the earth, global warming, pesticides, herbicides, genetically modifying our food without our say, Bill C-51. People not seeing the irony of having a BBQ (of pork hotdogs) to raise money to save the lives of cats in a shelter? How bizarre, kill the pig to save the cat? Religion, racism, sexism—speciesm. This current reality is madness. Total madness. I'm told this is how it is. An intervention, Godly or human, seems necessary to alter this reality. I don't want to hear—no, I don't want to accept—this current reality as our future reality.

* * *

There is hope. I got a few of my medical test results back. And, so far, touch wood, the only problem is I am terribly deficient in Vitamin D. 

I rest my case. Reality isn't always as it appears and it can change.

So go ahead, be a fire-breathing dragon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Showing Up

My Grandson's mind works a little differently. This is in no way a bad thing, except when it comes to eating a varied and wholesome diet. His ability to eat things is hyper-dependent upon texture, colours and packaging—well beyond just a four-year-old's discerning pallet—and his mother has his diagnosis and tax credit to prove it.

So, when my daughter was advised to get a multi-vitamin with iron in it, the two went for some mother-son shopping. Unfortunately, the only vitamins with iron are hard and my grandson is used to gummies. This was a challenge of epic proportion. So, his mom did what every good, determined parent does. She bribed him. With his long-coveted favourite car toy.

Although not there, this is what I imagine the conversation going like:

“Do you want this car?”
“Yes.” answered emphatically.
“Okay. I can get you this car but you will have to eat one of these tonight and every night. Do you understand?”
“Do you want the car?”
“Yes.” said with increased earnestness.
“Okay, if you want Mommy to get you this car, then you will have to have one of these every night.” pointing at the vitamins.
Blank stare.
“If you want the car, you will have to have a vitamin every night. Okay?”
Long pause, “Can I think about it?”

Last week, while taking some garbage into the garage (the dimly-lit garage I might add because after considerable nagging the light bulbs were still not changed), I slipped on the second step down. Glad it wasn't caught on tape, because I doubt it was my most graceful moment. I heard the smashing of glass and felt the stretching and twisting of my right foot and hip.

Now, you should know that four adults, two children, three dogs and a cat live in my house. I made quite a noise. You would think someone or something might consider popping by to see what all the ruckus was about. And, to be fair, my daughter was at work so she remains in my good books. I did hear a voice yell in the distance but no one came running: no queries of “are you alright?” or loud Lassie-like barks from our Australian Shepard. No, nothing.

Well, not quite. My cat came running. Without any undue drama (well maybe just a little), I could have been lying there unconscious, bleeding with broken appendages and the only one to show up was my cat. A house cat. An 8 lb house cat. An 8 lb, barely audible house cat. I mean, what could she do? She couldn't bark incessantly until the neighbours came running. It isn't like she had an opposable thumb so she could call 911—like a HUMAN--maybe even one living in this house. At first blush, it appeared that the least qualified being in the entire household showed up. And, I love her for it. It's tuna all-round for the next three months. At least she could curl up on my head and purr as I fought for my life.

Apparently I am a somewhat resilient closer-to-50-than-40 year-old and had no serious damage at all. I've been interested in returning to running again and we've signed up for a half-marathon. On the last “long” run—and I use the word “long” loosely if you think 7 km is long—I struggled. I gasped for breath, ran slower than I could walk up minor inclines and took frequent breaks. I'm slow, I'm weak and struggling. I'm no longer qualified—but I showed up.

No longer asking “Can I think about it?”, I need to realize the victory, at least for a while, is going to be simply showing up. And, the funny thing is, if you keep showing up over time, you become qualified. I hope that eventually, one day, I won't feel as slow, or quite so weak, or like I'm about to have a coronary on a tiny run.

My cat, Echo, appeared to be the least qualified to help me face-down in the garage, however she packs a lot of genius in that little skull of hers. She can get you to follow her when she wants her bowl filled and I've seen her put a 50 lb dog in its place. She knows the second I put my favourite blanket on a chair and no matter where she is in the house, will come and defile it with her hair and presence. And, she can locate and kill a mouse without any front claws.

A few years ago she had a large kidney stone. For a cat who faithfully uses her little box, I thought her communication skills were exceptional when she jumped into our white bathtub to show the stark contrast of the blood in her urine against the porcelain background. She's never done it since. Quite clever.

So outer appearances are deceiving. No matter how incompetent you feel, giving it the old college try is better than not trying at all. Right now I feel I'm “just a cat”, however, maybe one day and it won't be soon (trust me) I'll feel like a Cheetah—at least in my own mind!