yellow flower, blue wall

Monday, April 08, 2013


I got on blogger the other night and wrote an entire post, then realized that it wasn't even close to what I had intended to blog about. So that post is sitting in the queue until I decide if I even want to post it. This is the post that I originally intended to write.

My sister uploaded old family pictures to flickr a while ago.

This picture is from the Christmas of 1963, the year Alison was born. Mum in this picture would have been in her mid 40s? I think. She looks much younger than that. So thin and frail. She would have developed arthritis a couple of years previous to this picture, so she had probably been sick off and on for a while. That's me hovering in the background; I would have been 8, and Alison of course is the baby grabbing for something. All still in our nightgowns, opening presents on Christmas morning.

The picture reminds me of another picture, the iconic picture of a woman and her kids that some photographer snapped during the depression.  (The story behind that photograph is an interesting one.) There's just something similar about the composition and the faces, and how careworn both mothers look. But, you know, look how strong they both look, too.

Friday, March 22, 2013


A million light years ago, back in 1977, I was living in a house with some other young people, Thorsdattar, Bianca and Kate, and other people that I won't get into describing right now, although there are some good stories from that era to be told. We also had a cat. I have no memory as to where the cat came from; quite possibly it was a stray that Kate had taken in. Kate in particular had an affinity for cats. Some years later she had two black toms that she called Manachem and Anwar after the Isreali and the Egyptian Nobel prize winners. On the other hand, I know it wasn't Thorsdattar who brought the cat into the house; nowadays I think she tolerates cats, but in those days she was quite outspoken about what useless animals they were and how she hated cats -- and the colour purple. How do you hate a colour? But I digress.

Anyway, the cat was a little black fluffy female and did what unspayed female cats inevitably do, and I was a young naive female, and also did what many young naive females do, so we were both pregnant at the same time. I would sleep on the couch in the living room in the sun, and the cat would stretch out on my belly and sleep too.

However, the cat was too young for babies and when her time came, the kittens got stuck in her too small birth canal. Kate took her to the vet, who would have operated to save the mother (probably not the kittens, I don't remember) but we were all poor students (except me, who was a poor welfare mother) who couldn't afford vet bills, so poor Kate had to have the cat put down instead. Later someone (possibly Thorsdattar) asked her (possibly indignantly) why she would think that we should have spent that sort of money (I think the bill would have been over a hundred dollars, astronomical in those days) for a cat. To which Kate said something like, "Well I just thought we should stand by our cat."

(Years later, thinking about this episode, I think that if I had been more superstitious, I would have been a bit unnerved about it as it was just before I gave birth myself. In those days I was brash and heedless with the best of them and very proudly not superstitious. Nowadays the obsessive compulsive part of my brain is often quite superstitious, while the objective, snotty part of my brain sneers at such nonsense. This is some kind of a metaphor for the human race, I'm sure.)

But I grew up on a farm where, as I tried to explain to Novel the other day, cats were a dime a dozen and if one turned out to be defective, there were several more kittens growing up to take its place. This was when we were discussing Roadkill's latest bout of illness. He has just spent about a week barfing up everything he has eaten, right out of his $1800 mouth and all over the couch and the hardwood floor and everywhere. Soooo, back to vet and a bunch of expensive tests later and she can't figure it out  -- his teeth are fine, apparently -- and the only thing she can come up with is that he is possibly reacting to the ($80 / bag) cat food which we feed him so that his feline urological syndrome won't flare up again, soooo, switch him to a different kind of very expensive cat food.

But I think probably Kate was right all those years ago, and if you're going to have a cat, you should stand by it.
This is the cat in question, giving Novel a suspicious look out of one eye.

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It's only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and
Have you any dreams you'd like to sell
Dreams of Loneliness like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering 
What you had, And what you lost
And what you had, oh what you lost

--Fleetwood Mac, Dreams

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

my week in fb status updates and tweets

March 12, 2013
One of the things I got for Christmas was this one-line-a-day diary -- I saw it in a store and demanded of Ro that he get it for me. I mostly just craved it because it reminded me of a small aqua one that I got for Christmas in 1965; they both have padded plastic covers, and gilt edged pages. I can't remember who gave the little one to me -- possibly the parents. I didn't record in that one much, although it does have entries for what I remember of significant events from that year -- the day my paternal grandfather died, and a couple of lines about the first time I ever spoke on a phone --  my sister called home from university in Winnipeg to say she couldn't stand going to school there and wanted to drop out. We didn't have a phone at the time, so she phoned the school and since I was the only child then in attendance (I believe my brother had dropped out by then), I got called down to the office to take the call, and I was so bewildered by the whole event that I had no memory afterwards of what she had said. But luckily I did remember that she called, and told Mum and Dad, and Dad drove into Ardmore (Beaver Dam?) to call her, to find out what she wanted. I would have been ten -- the same age as Rachel is now. That was the first time I'd ever seen a phone, I'm thinking -- I don't remember that any of our other friends or neighbours had one. When we moved to Lloyd two years later we got a phone on a party line. I remember very occasionally overhearing things on the line, and the deep and abiding suspicion that the parents had that some of our neighbours habitually eavesdropped on us, and how sometimes someone would call a neighbour late at night, and no one would answer and it would ring on forever, sometimes an hour or more.

Anyway, I have been keeping the new diary more or less consistently (sometimes I miss a few days and can't remember anything significant that happened, but for the most part I have an entry for every day since Jan 1). This has inspired me to try to be more pithy (and a little more prolific) in my diarizing on Facebook and Twitter.


Feb 28
Retweeted: In my ideal world, the ex-Pope will now give an inspiring TED talk about quitting your day job.

Mar 7
Ever try to write a story with a character whose gender is not immediately announced? WHY CAN YOU NOT ACCOMMODATE THIS, ENGLISH LANGUAGE?

Mar 8
Really need to spend a week or so on a nice beach somewhere.


Mar 8
Many are the similarities between the theories of the evpsychs and the beliefs of the MRAs. 

Mar 11
You could change yourself to fit someone else's preconceived ideas of who you should be -- and they still wouldn't see you as you are.

Mar 12
Damn it, cat! I just washed that floor. Do you HAVE to barf on it?

I keep feeling like I have left something at home today but it is probably just my mind that I forgotten.

That sinking feeling when you see there are 25 new pinterest pins in the time it has taken you to get to the bottom of your feed...

All the dirty blondes playing blue eyed soul,
You won't hear our songs on your radio...

--Joel Plaskett, Through & Through & Through

Monday, January 28, 2013

smoke and mirrors

When I wrote that last post, I had every intention of posting further thoughts on the topic of nursing. But as usual I got busy and never got back to it.

Today I have:
worked for 7 1/2 hours.
made breakfast, lunch and supper for both me and for Novel, then lunch for both of us for tomorrow.
wrote (at work).
drew (at work).
did dishes,
scooped the cat box,
finished and folded a load of laundry,
went to the store for a few groceries, renewed my bus pass, picked up cash, picked up my meds
read a buttload of stuff on the internet.

I'm not bragging -- much -- I just wanted to write everything down, to see if I had accomplished as much as I thought I had. Why can't I get that much done every day?

You're a fraud and you know it
But it's too good to throw it all away
Anyone would do the same
You've got 'em going
And you're careful not to show it
Sometimes you even fool yourself a bit It's like magic
But it's always been a smoke and mirrors game
Anyone would do the same

--Goyte, Smoke and Mirrors

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I must've missed that gene

Lately I have been participating, (in a Jungian archetypal sort of way), in that ancient human occupation of nursing. That concept -- caring for another human being so that they survive an ailment rather than falling victim to sepsis, bugs or blood loss -- must have shaped our human nature as surely as did the discovery of fire. I have never seen any studies of the sociology of nursing but I imagine there are some out there, and I'm sure that many disciplines interpret nursing through the lens of western culture as a feminine pursuit closely allied with motherhood.

It wouldn't be difficult to come up with an evpsych explanation of why nursing showed up as a behaviour in the human race: women "evolved" a gene for taking care of men, because it meant a "provider" would stick around longer (and possibly even feed the kids).

"I hate nursing," I confided in Vagabond Queen when she was here.

"Do you think that is because of Mum?" asked VQ earnestly.

"No, I said. "I think it is because no sane person likes to nurse."

It does bring back the memories, though.

Oh, this is sure stirring up some ghosts for me.
She said there's one thing you've to learn is not be afraid of it.
I said no, I like it, I like it, it's good.
She said, you like it now, you'll learn to love it later.

--Robbie Robertson, Crazy River

Thursday, November 29, 2012

interactive intelligence

Some days I use every Denby cup in the house each for a different beverage. From this I think we can deduce that for all my bitching, my life is really just fine, fine right now.

I really feel that I should update this blog, but for days on end I will have no real desire to, then when I get to it, too much has happened to encapsulate in a blog post. So I throw up my hands in despair and go and do something else. Or I start a post and by the time I get to finishing it things have change (like with this post).

We sold the other house, for a decent price, sale has gone through, money is in the bank. Novel has taken it much better than I thought he would -- I thought he would be a little mopey about moving from the house he grew up in, but he really likes this house and neighbourhood, so that helps. This house still has a lot of this and that needing doing, which I guess we will get to as time and money permits.

After all the dust has settled at work, it looks as though I will be getting my weekends back in January.  The third person working at the kiosk, a young woman who has been there since summer, is going to be going to school in Jan, so she wants to work just weekends. I don't want to talk about it too much in case it gets jinxed, but Napoleon has stated that this will be happening.

I don't think I've mentioned this on here, but you know who Napoleon reminds me of? That guy I used to work with, that I referred to on here as the Vizier, the dude who stole money from the company, got fired and committed suicide. Napoleon has that same bluff, cheerful, what my parents referred to as hale-fellow-well-met air -- and the same two-facedness.


So, some months ago, I had an idea for Christmas presents for my family that I thought was quite brilliant. Pulling off the idea required work and skill and creativity and thrifting -- ingredients for a perfect gift, in other words. I planned it all out, from making a prototype to make sure it was feasible, to the finished product. I had lots of time to work on it; I came up with the original idea in August.

I've gotten so far as the prototype, which shows that the plan is feasible and the finished product likely will be sufficiently tasteful.

But I've been procrastinating like mad on the whole thing, and now we're down to less than a month till Christmas. And there's this nasty little voice in the back of my head that keeps suggesting that there is really no point in finishing it, because I don't have the skill to carry it off, and people won't like the end results, so really what's the point?

Shut up, little voice.

Aaaand, the cat. The $2,000 cat.

For some time -- since I moved him, Cissy and myself into Novel's house, I think -- he will go through spells of having coughing fits, sometimes throwing  up, but mostly not. It has never really impaired his appetite and after a while he gets over it.  I thought he had asthma. But a few weeks ago, he went through one of these spells that was worse than usual, so I took him to the vet. And the vet examined him, and couldn't find anything much except she said he had really bad teeth, and gave me an estimate for dental work, including anaesthesia which ranged from $600 to $1000. So, I wasn't anxious to spend that kind of money on a cat, and anyway we hadn't sold the house at that point, and money was kind of tight. So I took him home, and right away he got better. His eating was fine, the coughing was gone. I put him on a diet, since that of course was the first thing the vet said -- "Your cat is fat. Better put him on a diet." Standard for any cat I have ever taken to the vet. But this time we did what she said, cut him down to 1/2 a cup of food a day, 1/4 in the morning and 1/4 in the evening. He dealt with it better than I expected, and like I say, he was much better, lost weight and had more energy.

This lasted about month, then all of a sudden the coughing was back, much worse than it had been and he was throwing up and absolutely not eating. And I was, of course, oh shit. So, I took him back to the vet, but at the same time, I was trying to figure out what was different between the last time I'd had him in there, and this time, and interlude when he'd been relatively healthy. The only difference I came up with was litter; we always use the cheapest scoopable stuff, but during the month between sick spells we were using a slightly more name brand brand of litter. So I googled it and found this link, which certainly suggests that the clumping litter could be the source of his troubles. It gets into their respiratory and digestive systems and clumps.

But the vet of course was convinced that it was his teeth that were causing the trouble ("They are incredibly painful, that would be why he hasn't been eating," she said several times, without explaining why usually his appetite is fine and also how she knew the teeth were incredibly painful). So I scheduled him for his dental work. Last Tuesday I took him in yet again (at this point his vet bills were already around $300) for to get his mouth fixed. Halfway through the afternoon the vet called me (on my cell; I was at another appointment) to say that his teeth were way worse than she had thought and it was going to cost more like $1800. I'm thinking, well, you kind of have me over a barrel here, don't you, what am I going to say? Oh, nevermind, I can't afford it, just put the cat down will you? Or for that matter just leave the teeth in his head? Yeah, no, not going to work.

So my cat has many fewer teeth than he used to, and a better appetite than ever before and my Visa is also looking well fed, although my bank account is anemic. In the interval between the two first vet visits he lost a kilo, (although he was sick for about a week of that time, so that factors in) and I got his fur combed out, so he is like a whole new cat. A brand new expensive obnoxious-as-ever cat.

Also, this is the same vet that diagnosed Cissy as having fatty deposits which turned out to be cancer, and I know diagnosing animal problems is way harder than diagnosing people problems, and look how hard that is, but still. She certainly hasn't distinguished herself in respect to treating my pets.

When your pile is on the wane
You don't complain of robbery.
Run away, don't bother me.
What's the use of worrying?
What's the use of anything?

-- Paul McCartney and Wings, Mrs. Vanderbilt

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I sit down here to describe the things going on at work, but I can't go into too great detail about the job, because that could get me in a lot of trouble if my employers ever came across this blog.

But I told you last time about how I was losing my weekends and the changes to my hours; the end result is that I am simultaneously working crappier hours (weekends, weeknights until 10:30), and fewer hours (going from a 70 hour week to a 63 hour week). Also I will be working with the supervisor, Napoleon, whom I already despise, just on basis of the limited interaction we've had so far.

My workload has pretty much doubled in the past few months, due to structural changes in the way the parking lot in which I labour is set up. Then I found out that our workload is going to roughly double again in the next couple of weeks. My work is essentially that of a cashier, taking people's parking tickets, taking their money, letting them out of the lot. It isn't a terrible job, per se, at least physically, but it can be quite draining to talk to someone and process their issues every 30 seconds for hours on end.

But the thing of it is, we don't get breaks. In the booming province of a first world country, that has had labour laws for decades now, you might think that anyone working a 7 hour shift might get regular meal breaks, or at least potty breaks, but no. The place is absolutely set up so that there is no one to relieve us, so any breaks we take are stolen between cars arriving at the kiosk window. (A quick perusal of the Labour Standards Act shows that it is quite legal not to give employees meal breaks if everyone agrees that it is fine fine not to do so, but then the employee must be allowed to eat on the job. I haven't read it word for word, but I can't see any mention of potty breaks, but I assume they legally have to let us have them.) I am rarely away from the kiosk for more than 5 minutes at a time. Eating is done at the desk, between cars, which, as noon is part of the busiest time of day, makes it quite a challenge to actually have a meal sometimes. Ludicrously, one of the topics of conversation at that customer service workshop that I went to on Sunday was how we are not supposed to eat in public when in uniform, not supposed to let the customer see us eat, but because we have no choice but to eat in the kiosk we are at least supposed to hide the food whenever a customer drives up to our window. And that's how it is right now. When things get busier in the next couple of weeks, it will be impossible to even get away for a pee. Because you can't walk away from the kiosk when someone is driving up to it; they invariably take that personally. Oh, yes, and the gate by the kiosk is so (badly) designed that if someone gets to the head of the line by the kiosk without a method of payment that person cannot get out of the way, so you get a big bottleneck with a line of highly dissatisfied customers behind the first person. So if I go away for 5 minutes, chances are I will come back to a line up of angry people who just want to get out of the darned parking lot and go home (and who's to blame them?) but who have been unable to do so because I was away from my post.


Yah, that workshop on Sunday was just as upbeat and annoying as you might think. I won't say it was totally useless, it's always a good thing to let the peons know how they are supposed to treat their betters, I mean, how a service employee should treat the customer so that the customer feels valued. But a lot of time was spent condescendingly explaining to us how most people are good decent people who just want to go about their day, and how it doesn't matter what the issue is, we should be able to just solve it, damn it, without delay. I agree that probably 95% of people are good, decent people, even pleasant to deal with. But how to deal with the other 5%, who are dishonest, rude, jackasses was never addressed. In fact, it was never acknowledged that that 5% even exists.

All of which got me thinking. Wouldn't it be just a funny old world if employees were treated the way that it is believed that customers should be treated? You know, if instead of assuming that all employees are lazy, stupid and dishonest, it was assumed that 95% of them are good decent people, deserving of respect, and that if they have a problem, then employers should try their hardest to solve that problem without making the employee's life worse. If workshops were given, and executives had to give up their Sundays, to learn how to properly treat employees.

Wouldn't that be strange?

Save my soul from evil, Lord
And heal this soldier's heart
I'll trust in you to keep me Lord,
I'm done with Bonaparte.

--Mark Knopfler, Done With Bonaparte