Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Honesty's policy: when to know when to shut up

Before you speak

I have been known to speak my mind. More often than that, I've been known to speak what everyone else was thinking but no one felt was appropriate to say.

I quite regularly hear "Tell us how you really feel!"

Today is Honesty Day. It was created by a man who worked with politicians as a counter-balance to April Fools Day. No one really acknowledges the day nationally, but there it is. A celebration of honesty in people.

I can often be too honest. And not in a good way.

That's why I looked up the saying by Shirdi Sai Baba who must have been thinking of me when he asked this question.
Before you speak ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve upon the silence?
I have yet to convince myself not everything I think should also come spewing out of my mouth. I even love a good silence, but not when I have something witty to say.

So, in honour of Honesty Day, I'm going to try and remember what Shirdi said. I might even remember to apply it.

I have a feeling if we all followed this statement, there would be a lot more quiet in the world.

Especially from me!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dogs on a plane - how Vicki travelled cross-country

Dogs in window 1
Montel and the women (Madison and Vicki)
Before I got married in 2009, I had to go from 3 dogs down to 1. Somehow, this occurred all within a week. I'm still not sure how it worked out.

This is the story of taking one dog, Vicki, on a plane ride. Vicki has since moved from my house to my sister, Ky, to my Grandma, and finally has settled in with my uncle.  She is no less trouble.

I prepared the best I could. I bought a travel carrier. I went to the vet and got medication to help calm Vicki during the flight and make her sleep as much as possible. I assured myself I could do this.

Vicki loved the airport. There were new sites and sounds and people to adore her and children to growl at. Everyone oohed and aahed over her. She was in her glory. She sniffed and snorted, growled and wagged. Finally, she got a bit dopey and settled down.

Of course, our plane was late and her drugs wore off before we even got on the plane.

At the boarding call for our first flight, I tried to get Vicki into the carrier I had purchased.

I had tried once before to put her in so she would be prepared for the trip. She hated it, so I decided not to traumatize her until the plane ride. So -- smart person that I am -- I am standing in the middle of the airport trying to shove a dog into a small bag.

At first I thought I could coax her.

Not so much.

Then I shoved. She put her little paws on either side of the carrier and strained for all she was worth.

Another passenger took pity on me and helped. I put Vicki's leash on her and threaded it through the bag. The lady pulled the leash as I shoved Vicki's bum.

Finally, I just tipped the carrier on one end and dumped Vicki in there. She was not happy with me, but it worked.

There is a time and place for finesse and patience. That wasn't the time for either.

We made it onto the plane with little problem. I thought "This will be a piece of cake." Then they started the engines.

Vicki peed.

She then tried to scratch her way to freedom through the mesh of the bag. By the time we took off, she had three good holes made in the bag. I spent the entire flight bent over at the waist with my hand in the bag alternately soothing her and pushing her paws away from doing any more damage.

This is when the man in front of me decided to lean his chair back all the way.

We stopped in Edmonton for 30 mins. I took Vicki out of the carrier for a bit and then went through the same process to get her back in. I gave her another dose of meds (praying I wouldn't overdose her) and went back on the same plane we had just left.

Once again, takeoff scared 3 years off Vicki's life. But she did marginally better for that trip.

Vicki flyaway hair
Vicki with "fly away" hair

The lady sitting next to me realized I had a dog with me and took the carrier onto the seat beside her. She then unzipped it and spent the rest of the flight giving Vicki kisses and saying "I wish I had known you were giving her away!! I would have taken her."

Um, lady... we just met.

The crew gave us a little bit of grief for having Vicki out, so I put her back on the floor and the lady spent the rest of the flight in the same position I had been in for the first flight.

While we were in the air, they announced we were going to have yet another stop over. They felt they did not need to tell us this prior to the flight as most of us wouldn't be getting off the plane. So, my little flight with my jumpy dog turned from one stop to 3!! Had I known I would not have picked that flight.

The third flight was a lot less problematic. A guy who looked just like David Crosby sat next to me and made small talk while Vicki slept. The meds had finally kicked in and she was stoned as a hippy. We made jokes she needed Doritos.

Finally, we landed for the last time. Vicki was alive and the carrier was all in one piece.

Also, we determined that the dog can pee at least three times in the carrier without it smelling until after you take the dog out. This is important information.

Victoria 292
Vicki a little dopey
(pic by Ky)

Vicki's eyes finally cleared from the meds about 7 hours later. She settled into her new home and seemed to enjoy it. However, the cat from upstairs came to visit (at the window) and Vicki made her unhappiness known. She spent the next few hours on cat watch and shaking.

After a couple of months, my sister's landlord asked that Vicki go live somewhere else. Her decision to bark for hours and hours while Ky wasn't home, made for an interesting soundtrack to their life.  She went to live with my Grandmother and made the next 3 years a joy for all the old ladies in the complex.

Grandma and Vicki ready for Grey Cup!
Grandma and Vicki 2013 Grey Cup

Vicki now lives with my Uncle and is spoiled rotten (yet never better behaving). She goes on sleepovers with Grandma every once in awhile at the care home and looks foreword to her half of everything Grandma eats.

I will never take a dog on a plane again.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A muddy adventure

The hits, they just keep on coming.

I am out in the boonies this week doing interviews for my contract work. I am interviewing elders, chiefs, staff, community, and kids to add some substance to the data and copious amounts of paper I have slogged through.

I went out yesterday to have a couple of hours with the kids and elders. In the span of 3 hours, I had moose meat, watched a young teen skin a muskrat and singe a duck, learned how to dry the skin of an animal, and learned a few Cree words which I have since forgotten.

It was an exiting day considering it took me an extra hour to get there.

A very city girl trying to navigate back roads is rarely a good thing. I missed my first turn and ended up taking the back way in over a bridge that I was well aware was unsafe for human passage. On the other side of the bridge was a deep mud pit.

Once I did arrive at my destination, I told the ladies there "I put it in 4 wheel drive, prayed out loud, and gunned it!"

It worked then, but it didn't work today.

Once again, I got lost. Well, less lost and more misdirected. In fact, I know exactly where I am, but not how to get out.

Rather than returning to the motel of serial killers from my last visit, I made a longer detour into Prince Albert and stayed with a lovely woman who did not mind my last minute drop in.

She's very gracious.

This morning, I got on the road with plenty of time and headed out.  About 20km out of the city, I saw a road I recognized the name of that went straight to the place I wanted to be. How fortuitous! I turned on to it and about 15 ft in, recognized it was nothing but mud.  It was a road. Even a government maintained road, but it was a MUD road.

See? That's mud not road.

I tried to turn around. I had 4 wheel drive after all.  I could do anything.


Some fancy manoeuvring later, I was facing the other direction, looking at the high way I wanted to be on, and feeling on top of the world.  I was congratulating my little jeep on doing a good job and was thankful it had not gotten worse.

Why do I think things like that? It got worse.

The view out my right window

Suddenly, my back wheels slid in the mud. And ever so slowly, I started to lose control. Inch by minuscule inch, all in slow motion, my back tires slid into the ditch as it gave way. I thought if I could make my front end go in the same direction I could drive along the ditch a bit until I could get better footing.

I am very stupid optimistic.

Now I sit.  Slightly tilty, facing the highway so closely I can read the stop sign. I called the tow truck, but they cannot get out here due to the mud. He has agreed to come out and get a farmer he knows to come rescue me with a tractor.

The highway is right there.  RIGHT THERE.

I will pay through my nose for the service, but at least I will get out.  Eventually.

I hope.

For now, I wait. I wait and I hope the mud stays where it is so I don't fall into the slough that is less than a foot away from me. I have a plan of action if that happens, but I'm not wearing the right shoes for this so I really hope it doesn't.

Contract work is very exciting, I have to say.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Well, I wanted a change

In January, I wrote about my word for the year: change. I'd had a rough fall which had been preceded by a tough couple of years. I needed something to be different and I decided it was going to be me.

Well, I asked for it.

This angel knew I was asking for it

Things at work have changed for the better for the most part.

I am loving my new assignment and really feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.  I am a little overwhelmed at times and am putting in a lot of hours, but for the most part, I think I could be good at it.  There are still a lot of things there that need to change, but I'm more positive than I have been in a long time there.

I am excited to go to work again.

The contract work is a lot tougher than I thought. I can do it, but am at times overwhelmed by the incredible amount of data I need to go through and somehow shape into a cohesive, concise, and helpful evaluation. I head back out to the community this week for two days of festivities, interviews, and more information.  It's due in June and I am going to be pulling a few all nighters.

My dad says that our family only finds inspiration in looming deadlines.  He's not wrong.

The house is getting closer and closer every day. It cannot come soon enough for me, but I am trying to be patient. Things beyond anyone's control keep cropping up and just when I think we will have a date to move in, it becomes less concrete.  I have gone from being frustrated at the delays to thinking it's the nicest house I will NEVER EVER GET TO LIVE IN.

Left: upstairs cupboards in the evening
Right; basement cupboards in the afternoon 
The basement kitchen is almost ready to go, but the upstairs counter tops are coming much later. That's what I get for upgrading. If I'd gone with laminate, it would be ready by now.

It is going to be so pretty. It's worth it all.

Or so I repeat, in a mantra, to myself.

I am still going to yoga a couple of times a week. I find it so necessary. It gives me time to centre and realign myself. I need a focused time to unfocus myself. I have a huge crush on one of my instructors and want to be best friends with another. I am still a little out of place with the Lulu lunch crowd, but I don't even care.

(pic taken in Havana)
I need a moment when I'm not overwhelmed by the volume of all that I have going on.

I guess that's the thing about change that I didn't think about.

Change is an action.

Change is exhausting and overwhelming and exciting. It takes over and demands your attention. Life will be different and it's making damn sure you recognize that fact. It means to make or transform and neither of those things are passive.

So, despite truly loving my leisure time, I'm finding I'm moving more often than not. I still need quiet times so I don't burn out, but I have things going on.

When I'm not totally freaking out, it's a great feeling.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Late night thankful

It's sad when I consider 11pm late night but it is and I'm old.

I'm on the road for 2 nights leaving The Guy and Monty home alone. I miss them already. 

1. I came home to find The Guy had purchased the painting I had my eye on at Winners. I almost cried. It's so pretty. 

It's also huge!! I love love love it. 

2. I am so thankful for our health care system and Workers Comp. My back still has it's days (like Sunday when I cried at the futility of being broken) but it's healing with the help of my chiropractor, my massage therapist, my physiotherapist, my other chiropractor, and I don't pay for any of it. 

3. I am thankful that, despite Ukraine's continued upheaval, my family is safe. I'm so glad I got to visit before this all happened. I pray for my family's continued safety and for peace in Ukraine. 

4. I am thankful that our house is nearing completion. The cupboards are in and crews are working through the weekend so we can be in as soon as possible. It feels like "six weeks from never" might be sooner than we think. 

Our kitchen with cupboards. Countertops are coming soon too. 

5. I am thankful to be snug in bed at Easter church camp knowing my friends are all just down the hall. Even being here for 2 nights is enough to make me grateful. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Into the cage with you. Or, why my dog hates me.

My dog and I have the same back injury. I've heard of dogs becoming like their owners, but this is ridiculous.

I guess technically it's not the SAME, but it equates to the same thing. We can't do anything and we hurt all over.

Monty has an inflamed disc in his mid back just under his shoulder blades.  The vet is sure it's mostly old age, irritated by his constant running and jumping. I'm not discounting the time he jumped out of the jeep window when we were pulling up to the house.

That is the last time I drive with the window open.

Monty was prescribed anti-inflamatories and bed rest. Bed rest. No running, jumping, stairs, walks, or playing vigourously.

Morning cuddles with my puppy. #100happydays
Mopey little puppy
Have you ever tried to put a dog on bed rest?

Yeah. It doesn't work.

We started picking Monty up to put him on the couch.  He would jump down, grab a bone, and jump back up. Put him on the bed? Same thing. If we got the bone for him first, he would jump up before we could get to him.  He would avoid our attempts to carry him and run like the wind towards the other side of whatever we were trying to put him on.

He thinks it's funny.  I only think it's funny when he does it to The Guy.

In a desperate attempt to keep him still while we are out, we had to buy a kennel. Monty was raised for a few years by my father who didn't like kennels. When he got to me, he was so terrified of them, he wouldn't go near them. We have purchased and sold two kennels in Monty's life time trying to get him to use one.

This is number three.

cage of torture and sadness
- with MY blanket so he's comfy

We bribe him with treats and he has twice almost gone in on his own when it was time.  Accidentally he went in while looking for treats that had been left behind.  I say accidentally because when he realized where he was, he panicked and got out as fast as he could.

When he is in there, he meets it with hopelessness and distain. He sits and stares at us with accusing eyes as we get ready to leave the house. He ignores the treats we give him and sighs heavily. He's a drama queen, my boy.

Upon our return, he whimpers and cries. He jumps and wags his tail so hard it makes music on the metal sides. He turns himself inside out to show us how much he appreciates us letting him out of the device that obviously tortures him while we are gone.

I can only assume, it is electrified.

Today was a week since this started. We went on our first walk (5 whole minutes) since he started showing signs he was in pain. I hope it's helping because we move into the new house in two weeks and there are A LOT of stairs there.

Monty will be happier there if we don't have to carry him.

But, we're keeping the cage.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The return of Thankful Thursday: Big Al, Stella, and siblings

After a hiatus last week, I wasn't sure I was going to be up for being thankful today. However, a lot of things made me smile today, so I thought I would share it.
  1. My Dad and Tanya took a trip to see my sister, Lyn, and did all the touristy things while looking all touristy. I adore this picture of them.

    Big Ben Al and Tanya
    Tanya with Big Al at Big Ben

  2. For a glorious hour tonight, I had a kitten. I named her Stella because she's lived a hard life, but is still beautiful.  She has gone to visit the vet and get her ear mites and stuff all checked out before she goes into foster care. ** edited: I just heard she will likely be fostered by a good friend of mine! I get to visit her all the time!!!!!

    Stella, the rescue cat

    The Guy texted me after he saw my many pictures of her on Facebook with one line "No, you can't keep her."  He's mean.
  3. It is national sibling day. I'm pretty lucky to have a crazy bunch of siblings. Even though we are all over the world, we rock.

    Me and my bro - matching red velour
    Precious little sisters are SOOO big

  4. Yoga has been life changing. I go a few minutes early and get myself calmed and relaxed. I sit in the quiet and warmth thankful for where I am. It helps me calm in the chaos that is everything else.  

  5. I am thankful for my coworkers and my husband. When I am at my worst, they support me anyway.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ten years ago today

Ten years ago today, I was sleeping on the floor of the sunroom at the hospital. It was the last day. We had been preparing for over a month and today would be that day.

You never realize how long it can take a person to die.

My mother was admitted to the palliative ward two days after her birthday. She had fought Stage 4 uterine cancer for 2 full years, but that Sunday in March it became apparent, she had done all she could.  She stayed in the hospital for 32 days.

Today was the last day.

Sunset (8)

The nurses and other staff at Palliative were also her coworkers and friends of over a decade, so they moved us into the sunroom for Mom's final moments. Mom raised the funds to get the room built; it was her dream that saw it come to fruition, so was fitting she leave us in the room that she planned for others' comfort.

She didn't look like the mom I knew. The mom with fuzzy hair and brilliant eyes. The mom with strong will, quick wit, and caring heart. If I close my eyes, I can see her as the mom I knew who never changed despite any hairstyle, weight gain/loss, or denture removal.

If I close my eyes, I can see her on that last day. Battle scarred and war weary. I hate that image, but it's important.

Ten years ago, I leaned down for the last time, told her I loved her and to say hi to her cousin and my dog when she got to heaven. I wasn't scared for her.

I was scared for us.

Ten years has gone by since I lost my best friend and hero. I cannot say I regret experiencing the loss. I cannot say I wish it had never happened. Amazing things have come in the last decade that could not have happened without it.

When you lose your centre, you have to realign.

My family reached a level of independence (and yet, inter-dependence) we had never had before. My family began to spread out to explore what was beyond the borders of the "home" that no longer existed. My father and siblings each found amazing lives in far off places.

Personally, I learned to look outside my immediate family for support and friendship. I grew up. I don't believe The Guy and I would have the relationship we do if I remained the woman I was while my mother was alive. I don't know if that makes sense.

I relied on her so heavily, I believe our relationship could have been a bond insurmountable to anyone else.

Losing my mother to cancer has allowed me to be a support to others. It allowed me to bond with a client who lost his mother and was struggling. It allowed me to be present when friends saw their parent through cancer treatment. It has allowed me to be there when my other best friend died suddenly and unfairly. It allows me to be around for her children and show them there is hope and life despite the shit-tacular-ness of the present.

Somedays, I am still struck with grief. I am saddened she never saw my first house. She never met my insane dog that brought me back into the real world. She never met The Guy or saw us get married. She will miss all the big events I wanted her to be present for.

I think often we grieve the potential - the future - that could have been.

I would give anything to have my mother back, but I am thankful for all she gave me while she was alive and everything I have learned since.

Hope you're having a good time, Mom. Say hi to Grandpa, Auntie Carolyn, Uncle Lorne, and Dezi. Miss you.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Foyer plans - so many options, no coherent ideas

Though it seems ages away, we are only about 4 or 5 weeks away from moving in to our new house. Walls are primed, plumbing ready, electrical putting in the lights and switches this week. I'm getting antsy and weary and weepy -- partially because it's been so long, it's now so close, and it will still be a long time yet.

As the time comes, I realize how much I have yet to do, how much crap we have, and how much more we need once we get in the house.

I've been thinking more and more about what I want to do with the front entry. Or, foyer, as it is known. For those who do not know, it's called FOY-yay. Not foy-YER. It's French.

So anyway, our front entry is enormous. It is the common entry area for both the main living suite upstairs and the rental suite downstairs. If you look at the drawing below, you will see the basic layout.
Front door (left) Garage door (right)

Now, we already have a bench. The Guy bought it when we were still living in the other house. I haven't seen it in about 9 months, so I have no idea what it looks like any more. If its ugly, we will return it and I have an old bench I will recover, so either way, we have it under control.

Above the bench, I plan to put a mirror.
Mirror from Lowe's
In front of the door, I want to put a large area rug. This will be to catch dirt and pull the room together.  These are the two rugs I like, but neither will look good with the picture I want to put over top of the closet on the 5 foot ledge that is there.

I have a phenomenal painting my Dad brought back from Ukraine one of his first trips there. Long before he got married and ended up settling there. It is a watercolour nature scene of a tree and is in a wooden frame that leans towards being burgundy in colour. I have no picture of this picture at all. 

So, in retrospect, neither of these rugs will really suit it at all.

Do you see my dilemma?

On the wall behind the main door (so directly across from the bench) I want to put this show cabinet. I have become the crazy person who likes everything to be neat and orderly and put away.  (Side note: What has this marriage done to me????) The idea is that The Guy and I will share this with the tenants downstairs so that winter boots or 45 pairs of flip flops are left by the front door (I'm totally talking about me with the flip flops) and yet we will all have access to the shoes we need.
Ikea STALL shoe cabinet
My conundrum aside from the rug choice is the picture choices. There are 5 spots that could be places for paintings, photos, knick knacks, statues, etc. The ledge over the closet (centred green swirl) I wanted to put the painting from Ukraine, two large vases, and a statue of two people entwined.

Over the shoe cabinet, I plan to do something like a small photo gallery.
Do not judge my Paint art gallery.
 The trouble will be the GIANT empty space further along that same wall.  The ceilings are about 10 feet give or take. The space in the top left green swirl is about 4 feet wide. Over the stairs going down  (not swirled) is another 3 foot space where I plan to put some sort of saying in sticky letters.

Going along the wall heading upstairs (top right green swirl) is room for 3 or 4 photos "walking" up along the stairs.  There is NOTHING BUT WALL SPACE in this foyer.


So, I am calling upon the designers, the artists, the nosey, the opinionated to share with me their thoughts. I don't want to overwhelm the space. I don't want it to be so busy no one can stand to be there.  However, I also don't want it so empty it looks like an entryway to an apartment building.

And yet, if it meant I could move in tomorrow, I would paint it all orange and hang whips on the walls.