Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ode to my hatred of gardening

i hate gardening

Oh, how I hate you, Garden.

You lure me with your promise of food and stress relief.
You speak to the blood of my farming ancestors
and stir up memories of abilities once used.

You fool me with picturesque images.
Of over-sized hats and flowered gloves
and simple salads made with love and sunlight.

The reality is much less romantic.
It is the presence of dirt that cannot be removed
and mosquito bites I cannot reach to scratch.

It is of aggressive and ever-present weeds.
They cannot be thwarted nor can they be tamed
and often are larger than the plants they accompany.

O, Garden, you are a menace.
After weeks of producing little, you develop overnight
with amounts that cannot be handled by one woman.

You grow with ferociousness that shows your true nature.
You do not want to feed, but overcome
and take back the earth from civilization.

Harvest comes quickly and needs constant vigilance.
Those with employment cannot manage
and require days of rest to be abandoned for labour.

I curse you, dear Garden, and all your fruits.
I loathe the carrots that will not be plucked easily
and the onions that grow 4 feet tall with no bulb.

I despise your zucchini the size of small dogs.
The spinach that flowers too quickly to be picked
and lettuce that overwhelms the bed.

One cannot eat this much salad!
I have grievously injured myself on a carrot
and my back aches from wrestling with beets.

There is nothing I love about you, Garden.
I loathe you with the hatred of a thousand suns
and expect I will do it again next season.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Monty's grand adventure: The great escape

It was Monty's 11th birthday on May the 29th. I thought, in celebration of this troublemaker, I would tell the story of Monty's grand adventure.

dog escape adventure
Letting freedom wash over him

In October this past year, Monty went for a sleepover. When The Guy and I have the privilege of travelling the globe, Monty sleeps over at our friend's place. He has been there many times. She even used to watch him as a brand new puppy, so she has been his "other mom" for years now.

We dropped Monty off at his home-away-from-home with our friend's lovely housemate (who has also cared for dear Mont in the past.) We left with full confidence that all would be well and Monty would behave.

Spoiler alert: Montel did not behave.

The Guy and I jumped on a plane and headed on our way. We were going to Hawaii for the first time and we were pretty thrilled. I had just resigned from a position causing me a great deal of stress and The Guy was happy to be getting me somewhere I wasn't crazy. Also, beach.

Many layovers later, we were about to board the plane for our 7 hour oceanic flight when I got a message.

Monty had gone missing.

dog, run, escape, adventure

I talked to his caregiver who told me that Monty, a dog who has literally NEVER run away, had snuck out under the fence gate and made a break for it. She had tried to lure him back to the yard, but he'd had a taste of freedom and he liked it. 

Now Monty has never been an active dog. He likes his walks, but after about 20 minutes, he just wants his couch and a long nap. He does not even like being outdoors that much. 

He's a bit of a princess.

But now that he was on the road like the wild animal he descended from, he was going to enjoy it. 

While his sitter first chased him down the street and then frantically called everyone on our emergency list, Monty made his first of many stops. The reason we know where he went is because sightings of this little black dog were posted all over FaceBook.

missing dog found
This face was everywhere online.

He headed south until he reached the hospital grounds. This was only a few blocks away, but was directly across a very busy street. Being that I've seen Monty scared by a plastic bag rustling, I'm not sure how he managed to cross with that much traffic and still remain functional.

Monty then veered left toward the new stadium build. I figure he knew his dad is a huge Rider fan, so he should visit the site to make sure it was all going well. He said hello to a few construction workers, but when they tried to pick him up, he ran away.

He crossed another busy road to go to the Aquatic centre and visit a few people in the parking lot there. However, we all know that Monty is not a fan of water, so he carried on like the Littlest Hobo.

From there, he crossed a railway track and another major road. This time Monty hit up the Dairy Queen knowing that is his mom's favourite spot. He also knows that the drive-through is where food comes from, so I imagine he thought a treat might be in his future.

Finally, Monty was getting tired. He had travelled just over 1.3km in just over 2 hours. For a little dog, that was a long way.

He walked south a few more blocks (across yet another busy street) and stopped in the middle of an intersection. He blocked traffic from moving and appeared to be pretty freaked out.

A kind woman, who once had dogs of her own, stopped her car and approached him. She didn't try to grab him, but instead said one of his favourite sentences, "Do you want to go for a car ride?"

He did.
Road trip.
Did you say "car ride"?

Now keep in mind, none of us knew this is what happened. We were on a flight to Hawaii frantically checking FB every few hours for updates. We had friends, family, coworkers, and even kind strangers searching for our dopey mutt into the wee hours.

We were fearful of him alone in the dark and thankful for unseasonably warm weather.

It was a long night.

The next morning, I had a message from our vets office. The emergency numbers on Monty's collar were only during office hours, so the kind lady had kept Monty overnight. I called her and made arrangements for our friend to pick him up and take him home.

The lady told me she had given Monty some toast with peanut butter and then he crawled into bed with her. She paused.

"That was weird," she said.

dog bed my bed
This is my spot now. Sleep on the couch.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My first attempt at designing a knitting pattern

I bought a new dress awhile ago and looked everywhere for a little shrug to go with it. The dress is a super cute striped dress with an Empire waist. I need a sweater with it just for comfort sake but all I had were regular sweaters that hit mid-hip. Super cute in my regular life, but not so much in fancy life.

I searched for a shrug that would work, but couldn't find anything in the colours I wanted. I'm a knitter, so I thought "I'll just make one!" I looked for yarn I thought would work and ordered.

When it arrived, I loved it and thought that it would be close enough to work. I couldn't find any pattern that fit exactly what I needed, so I thought "I'll just make one!"

tardis notebook doctor who
I even used my fancy Tardis notebook!

I drew up what was in my imagination of the perfect little shrug and then looked for ideas on how to bring it into life.

I should be stopped.

I went to the magical internet, and found a lovely site with all the math needed to make the sweater I wanted. I wrote all the instructions down (for posterity) and then set about measuring myself and doing math.

tardis notebook doctor who
The one spelling correction still bothers me

There was a lot of cursing and crying. That was just while I did the math!!

Once it was all ready, I went to town. I started it hoping I would be able to wear it while we were in Hawaii (that was November). However, I never thought about the fact I was using a 3.75mm needle (that's pretty small for non-knitter-folk) and it would end up being over 200 stitches per row.

So, after I threw a fit and didn't want to look at it for a few months, I picked it up again. I had 4 days of meetings to go to and figured I should have something to do so I didn't fall asleep.

I finished it in record time.

teal knitted shrug knitting raglan pattern
Pretty, pretty.

There was just one small problem.

It didn't fit.

It was okay right up until the band under my boobs.

You know, the most important part. The part that holds everything in place and makes sure the sweater does not end up under my armpits.

That band. Right there.

So, I ripped it out.

I had a co-worker once who banned me from knitting in front of her because she could not bear to see me work for 4 hours and then rip it all out to the beginning. I thought of her as I ripped out over 700 stitches.

I redid the math of measurements and stitches and all that noise and started over. I decreased the sweater band down to what I thought was a perfect size.

I finished it. I put the buttons on it. I thought I had it.

I know better.

It didn't fit.

So, rather than cry and burn the entire thing, I calmly set it down on a chair for a few days. I thought about it, grabbed some sewing elastic I had on hand and set myself down to tack it on.


It is all complete now and I can wear it.

It just doesn't match the dress.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

What is your why? Striving for purpose

I have no "why". I discovered this when I was working on an assignment for a leadership challenge. When asked "why" I do the things I do, I have no answer.

The shoulder shrug I normally give doesn't count.

I mean, even the question "Why do I get out of bed?" is tough to answer.  Usually, it is because I have to pee or eat. Sometimes, it is because the dog has to pee or eat.

I'm not a complicated woman.

Who am I?

Despite being so much clearer about who I am than I was in my 20s, I find that (on the fine edge of the end of my 30s) I am still not entirely sure. I am more comfortable in my own skin, but when asked to describe myself I still stand dumbfounded and mute.

I read the book What color is your parachute? by Dick Bolles and, though I'm not looking for work, he had a lot of good ideas for self-inventory. I completed his "Who am I" challenge where you write that question on the top of 10 pieces of paper and answer one word on each page. You then describe why that one word describes you and organize the pages in order of importance to you.

I imagine I can do this exercise 35 times and come up with that many answers, but it helped me get a handle on who I am right now.

what colour is your parachute passion planner who i am
Nearly 40 and just learning who I really am

Disconnecting and reconnecting

After I stepped down from my supervisory role at work, I had a time of real disconnect. (I may still be having it, it seems.) I had been so focused on my work, my office, training new staff, encouraging long-term staff, the negative politics, the injustice, the lack of communication, and the every day ups and downs that I needed to step back for my own physical and mental health.

But I found that, after taking that step back and disconnecting from my over-involvement, I was and am a little lost. I finally had time to knit cool things and read trashy books, but I was adrift on an ocean of "What now?"

So what, now what?

Anyone who knows me knows I have been a little crazy about my Passion Planner for the last few months. If you don't know what a passion planner is, it is like a big day planner, but it encourages you to have goals and be mindful of your time. (Go there and look at them. I heart them so much.)

The main task they have you complete before you start your planner is to map out your passions.
If you could have anything you want, be anything you want, do anything you want, what would you do?

My first attempt at "passion" for my life consisted of chores I thought I should get done before I died. I wish I had saved it to show you. My friends and I teasingly called it my "Meh" map.

It took me a few months of no responsibilities and no direction to be able to answer those questions with any semblance of enthusiasm. 

Passion plan roadmap
Second attempt at a roadmap

I have a better idea where I would like to see my life go, but I don't know if that is the path I will take. I tend to live my life in a way that is accidentally better than I had intended and I kind of like it that way.

I will go where I think I will do the most good and I will see what the world has in store for me. If I have a goal or two that I accomplish along the way? I'm cool with that. I've been so focused on accomplishing things that I have forgotten to experience them. My goal now is to find a balance in that.

My why

I am still not sure how to answer this question. This is part of my learning process where I have to delve deeper into the motivations behind my basic answers.

My go-to answer for why I do the things I do is this: I want to help people.

However, this can be flawed in itself. For me, when those closest to me are in turmoil, my world feels out of whack, so I go out of my way to fix that turmoil and thus settle my life. I am learning that my "helping" in the way that works best for me is sometimes unneeded and unwanted. 

I know people who are not helpers don't necessarily understand that. They firmly believe that helpers are heroes and benevolent.

Sometimes I am, sure. But sometimes, not.

As long as I am aware of that contradiction and balance my motivation with what is helpful for those I can help, I can usually amend my why to be "to help people be the best version of themselves -- whatever that means to them."

My daily reasons

But, to answer the question "why do I get out of bed?" I really don't have to search very hard.  My real why is in the form of a lanky German and a small furry creature. I am glad to be part of my little family. 

man and dog
These two are my why

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spirit, self-care, and reunited friends - my grateful list

While working on being present in my life, I have been much more aware of the things around me and the things that make my life special. It has been imperative for me to acknowledge those things, how they influence my life, and how I feel about them.

March has been an encouraging month. Here are just a sample of why:

The farewell tour of Spirit of the West

When Spirit of the West announced their farewell tour, it was on the heels of the news that their lead singer/guitar player had early onset Alzheimer's and he would no longer be able to tour. Having listened to this band for over 30 years and having seen them a handful of times, it was important to all of us to go bid them goodbye.

Spirit of the West final tour
Spirit of the West - final tour

The concert was beautiful, heartbreaking, and a testament to true friendship. To watch the members of the band rally around their friend, to guide him when he needed it, to encourage him, to step in when he couldn't quite get there, and to cry for him while he sang, it was an incredibly moving sight.

When they sang Not Just a Train (you can see the video here), as a way to say goodbye, I admit I cried. 

Best friends, best spouses

At the end of the month, The Guy and I celebrated the anniversary of our first date. I continue to be grateful every day that I have this incredible man in my life. 

best friends best marriages
9 years together!

Self-Care and my Passion Planner

When I ordered my Passion Planner for this year, I knew it would be a great help with productivity and reaching my full potential. I have been extremely pleased with my planner and am thrilled to see how many others are finding such joy and help from it. 

In cooperation with my counsellor, the planner is helping me remember what is important to me and what I need to do to ensure I don't forget those things. Now, I can clearly see if I'm ignoring my husband, my dog, or my friends. Most importantly, it has helped me to remember to take care of myself. 

Passion Planner self care
Self-care plan
I know that this coming month is going to be crazy, so my focus is on the things that keep me sane, keep me balanced, and keep me productive. I need to make sure I'm practicing these skills so I am on my game.

Monty's new dog tags

Since Monty took a little vacation from his babysitters in October (full story to be told soon, I'm sure), I've been a little more paranoid about how to make sure he can be returned to us if he decides he needs his freedom again. 

identification tags for dogs
Monty's new tags

This month, I decided to spring for a new tag with his name and both our phone numbers. It won't help for the next time we're in Vancouver airport boarding our plan for Hawaii, but it will be a bit easier.

Senior dogs

Monty's mom, Maddy is now 15 years and reaching the end of her time with us. This Easter, I got to spend some time with her again.  She was a great dog for me when I needed her and she has had a great life with my SiL who has cared for her for the last 7 or so years. I am thankful for this spunky little dog and we will be heartbroken when she goes. 

senior dogs
Maddy - the senior dogs

No matter what, this face will bring memories of unending games of fetch, stolen chap stick, and foraging for beans in the garden. 

Reunited: renewed friendships

March has been a great month for friends. A great friend from the states came up to visit me. It had been years since we were together and it was like we'd never been apart. 

I had a coffee date with another friend and we realized her child who had been new born the last time I saw her was now almost 2 years old. Again, we had an exciting conversation that gave me so much to think about afterward I cannot wait to do it again.

We then had another couple from the states come up for a quick stop and, though it was short, it was so good to see them.

These are my favourite types of friends. Friends who challenge me and encourage me and who pick up right where we left off in the conversation regardless if it has been days or years.

Monty too was reunited with his bestie.

Best friends reunited.
Lil E and Monty reunited

In December, my cousin and her family bought their own home. We have been so excited for them to have their first real home, but we definitely have noticed their absence. None so much as Monty, who spent weeks staring into their empty suite with sadness and confusion. 

We went to visit one day and he and Lil E spent ages running the basement, hopping on and off things, playing fetch and tag and colouring. Finally, we were able to slow them down for a brief moment of lunch and TV. Monty slept for 2 full days once we got home.


I am so thankful for these experiences. Though not every day was a great day, it has made for a great life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The best friends make the best marriages

March 29th -- 9 years ago today, I nervously waited in a local coffee shop to meet a guy I had been chatting with for a few weeks. He had a great sense of humour online, but I was worried that I would be so awkward in our first meeting that things wouldn't go well.

Instead, this incredibly tall man came into my view with a giant grin on his face and we talked like we had been friends for years.

2007 12 Wade and Bron
I believe I was a tad infatuated. (Dec 2007. We were so young!)

That was what I was struck by those first months. Not just the excitement of a new relationship, but that we developed a strong friendship so quickly. I didn't want to live a life without his friendship in it. That's how I knew he was it for me.

We have built a life on that friendship. Inside jokes and quick wit, grandiose plans and down to earth futures. We have laughed hard, cried hard, fought hard, and worked hard. (Him more than me on that working thing.)

I think we have become better people because of each other and we continue to challenge each other to the best versions of ourselves.

Best friends make the best marriages
On our way to The Hip concert. (2015)

Here is to another 9 years and another after that and after that. I am grateful for the richness The Guy has brought into my life. He has been beside me through everything and has met it all with patience and quick wit.

You can't ask for more.


We went back into that coffee shop a few months ago and I ordered my usual "the largest hot chocolate with the most whipped cream". He turned to me and said "You've been ordering that the exact same way since the moment I met you."

I hadn't noticed, but he did.

You gotta love that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Depression, pain, and the lies they tell.

Before I stopped writing almost two years ago, I wrote a small piece that I never published. I thought, on the second anniversary of the day my body betrayed me, I would show you where I've been.
I am absent.
I am woefully and deeply lacking. I am empty and echoing. I have nothing to offer you.
In the past, I have talked about depression but I have never delved into the cavernous emptiness that houses depression in a person's mind.  Well, not any person, I don't know your body.
Mix depression and chronic pain and you have another ball game altogether. That is where I have been for 6 months or so. That is what I have to talk about.
So here it goes.

I never finished the post. That's where I was. I didn't have it in me. All I had was pain and depression.

Pain, depression, and the lies they tell
My life felt black and white

Two years ago, I was cocky and assumed that every dumb thing I put my body through would be okay. Sure, I had aches and pains here and there, but it always bounced back. I lifted things I shouldn't, carried too much at a time, hauled children all over the place, and did nothing to make sure my body could handle it.

Then, I got injured at work. I turned too far one way while the rest of me stayed the other way. WCB claim went in and my life for the next year was doctor's appointments, pain, and still going to work because I was stupid stubborn.

Pain controlled my life for almost 2 years.

I could not sit for more than 15 minutes, stand for more than 10, lay down for more than 45. I had to prop myself on pillows to gain any sort of relief. Ice and heat became my best friends. I went to physio and chiro each twice a week. Massage helped, but WCB will only pay for 5 sessions and I ran out of money in my health benefits within 2 months.

I couldn't lift anything over 10lbs. I couldn't even pick up my dog. Or my purse!

After 6 months, I was still in pain and not getting better. I started into tertiary physio treatments -- intensive treatments on a daily basis which included an exercise routine. 3 hours a day plus working 10 hours. No one suggested I stop working even though I wasn't getting better. Finally, in my second week, they took me off work so I could concentrate on getting better.

I got a lot stronger during this time. 9 weeks of working out 3 hours a day meant I was developing muscles I hadn't seen since I was 20. I had abs and shoulders. (Sadly, having to return to work means I got lazy and no longer have this. Boo!)

But the pain was still there. I mean, it went from an 8.5 to a 6, but it was still way higher than it was supposed to be. I finished the program with all the professionals confused about why I had pain. Not once did anyone suggest any medications stronger than ibuprofen.

I pushed for more tests to find out why I was still hurting, but apart from repeated X-rays (which they all admitted would show them nothing) I got nothing. No MRI, no CT scan, no trust that something was going on.

I was miserable.

I couldn't go out with friends for longer than an hour because I could hardly walk if we'd been sitting for any length of time. I didn't want to leave the house because I knew I would be in pain and not have any fun. I had to cart around a back pillow with me anywhere I went just so I could sit for 45 minutes even though I knew I shouldn't be.

This is where the depression came in. I started to hide from my life because the pain was always present. The more I hid, the more depressed I became. The more depressed I was, the more I hurt.

Turn, turn, turn.

Added to this we moved into our new house during this time. I couldn't help with the move because of my weight lifting limitations. We didn't have a usable bedroom for 3 months after we moved in, so we were sleeping on an air mattress. There was more stress than I knew what to do with and I made sure everyone around me felt it.

I got to a basic level of functioning. I returned to work because I could finally lift 50 lbs (the weight of a baby in a car seat) and could pull and push while crouching (trying to get a toddler ready to leave). I took a heating pad to work (thank God for my mother-in-law who suggested this life saver) and that is how I spent most of my evenings.

I moved on as best I could.

18 months later, I got an appointment with a rheumatologist to discuss my pain levels, how to control them, and what might be the cause. She was furious no one had thought to give me anti-inflammatories during the last year and a half and immediately prescribed them. She advised that, if they worked, it was likely I had a spot of arthritis in my spine that had been brought on by the injury. If they didn't, it was likely I had chronic pain that would need to be handled in another way.

They worked.

light at the end of the tunnel
My world is in colour. I can't forget that.

I had forgotten what it was like to not be in pain. You get so used to it. Your mind tells you this is all there is and you get mired down in the weight of knowing this is your new life. You move trying to avoid more pain and, as such, insulate yourself from so many things. If you try and reach out beyond your limitations, your body suffers.

It's a horrible way to live.

Since December, I have had pain free days. Not just days, but weeks!! It was heady. The Guy noticed a change in both my behaviour and my mood. I felt great. It was like I had been given a new lease on life! I could make it through an entire set of shifts at work and not need two days to recuperate. I was on fire.

I might have gotten a little too crazy, because I immediately forgot to follow up with my chiro and massage and threw my back out two months later, but it was such a wonderful reprieve.

What it taught me is that my mind had lied to me. Yes, I have to live my life a little differently now than I did before. I have to be careful and listen to my body and acknowledge it's fragile. I still have aches and pains -- some worse, some better -- but those do not define my life.

Even in pain, there were things I could do that made it better. Yoga was a life saver for me. Pacing myself was another. I had to learn to be kind to myself and patient with what I could and could not do. I had to be thankful for things that I had and am and hold dear to me.

Because pain could come back.

But if it does, I am ready for it. It is not the boss of me.

Not any more.