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November 28, 2010

Cuban Dreams into Reality

A beautiful bouquet of vibrant flowers to my dear friend Colleen for the kick off of her trip to Cuba.

I have never known anyone to wait so long to take a trip somewhere she's been wanting to go for almost as long as I've known her and today is the big day.

It makes me smile every time I think of her finally being there.

She flew out Friday night and is in Havana as I write this.

Here's where she'll be going.

November 24, 2010

Otter Not Be Winter Yet

 Oh just another pesky human taking my photo. It's so been there, done that.
 Are you still here?
 Alright. Honestly. You can leave any time now.

When my power first went out on Saturday morning I went for a little walk down the road to the Fernwood Coffee shop because they had power. And coffee. And a cinnamon bun. And company.  But, first I had to make a quick trip to the end of my favorite dock and as I was walking I saw four otters pop their heads out of the water. This one, curiouser and curiouser, kept popping up to take a peek at me. I think he looked a little perturbed by the cold, especially in that first photo above. Have a bad hair day buddy? Or maybe it was the sight of me standing on his dock.
There's something thrilling about seeing an otter up close. The only time I've ever seen them is at the Aquarium in Stanley Park. You know, that cute picture where they're floating on their backs and holding each others paws?

November 23, 2010

Power Outage and Decadence

 It feels lately like I'm in some hurricane of discombobulation where I'm accomplishing absolutely nothing. Goal setting? What's that? I must set some new goals. Must write them down. Must prioritize. Must get off Facebook. Stop frittering away on Twitter.

 Between focusing on elderly father's health and updates. Working at part time job. Searching for a new full-time job. Trying to think of new query ideas, I appear to be going nowhere fast. I'm starting to act like a real Salt Springer. Pretty soon I'll start wandering aimlessly with a coffee in my hand or worse yet, sitting on the steps of T.J. Beans just staring into space, or god forbid, I'll take up folk singing and convince the editor of the local paper to write some inane story about how nobody wants to support me when I'm standing outside sounding like every other amateur folk singer who has ever lived on the planet in this millenium.

When I heard there might be snow, pre-weekend, I went and  bought a small roast to see if I could still manage to cook such a thing. I figured if it snowed a lot and I was holed up like a crazy bacheloress hermit crab, I wanted to eat well, watch good movies, have lots of books and magazines, and at least one good bottle of red wine. I wasn't counting on one thing: Power outage. No woodburning stove. Are you kidding me?

So, I packed it all up and headed over to the luxury hotel more recently nicknamed The Shambles by its infamous owner Pauline.

It's true, her main cottage might be chock a block full to the rafters of two households worth of furniture given  the impending completion of the new cottage that is taking longer to build than the pyramids did.

We holed up with Maggie and Griffin "the beast" and we ate roast beef dinners, drank good red wine, watched movies, ate popcorn, talked about men and Salt Spring and work and getting old and dying, about buying a flat in France next to a bakery and tried to compile a silly list of everything you'd really needed to know about Salt Spring before you move here that nobody ever tells you.
She loaned me a nightie and let me wear her furry pink floor-length robe. She heated up the heating pad and I crawled into the big, beautiful bed in the loft with the old fashioned quilts.

Before that I made sure all the cuckoo clocks stopped their incessant ticking and turned off the lights and sunk into the heaven of a Beauty rest, the mattress and yes, a description of the luxurious sleep I had.

I awoke to golden light streaming through the windows. The snow on the evergreens was crisp through the skylight. I could hear her in the kitchen below speaking to the dogs as she made the coffee and I was aware at every moment that it's one of those memories that I'll tuck safely and fondly away to go back to with love when I need to.

November 16, 2010

Stop Believing the Lies You Tell Yourself about Yourself

I've been reading this book called Change your Brain, Change Your life written in 1999 by Daniel G. Amen, an American M.D. who runs the Amen Clinic for Behavioural Medicine.  He specializes in using Brain SPECT imaging for a wide variety of Neuropsychiatric issues including depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.

SPECT stands for single photon emission computed tomography. It is a nuclear medicine study that uses radioisotopes as tracking devices to look at living brain tissue and highlight areas of the brain that then provide clues about behaviour.

To really oversimplify, the resultant picture of your living brain can provide a lot of information about why you may be reacting, functioning, feeling the way you are and then using checklists and knowledge about medications or supplements, Dr. Amen can help change your behaviour by using the visuals of the scan to provide clues about what - physically - might be going on to manifest as a mental health issue.

Why am I telling you this? I was thinking about the book today at work when I overheard someone talk about the fact that they had recently learned that they didn't have to believe everything they told themself about themself, especially the negative stuff.

They realized that instead of believing that they were incredibly high strung or nervous or moody, they could simply give themselves permission to take a break from the stories they had been telling themselves for years, especially when those stories weren't necessarily true anymore and were rooted in childhood messages that may have been misinterpreted or re-interpreted.

They talked about taking on the persona of a dear friend whose behaviour was at the opposite end of the spectrum from their own and they could then step out of themselves and pretend to be that person when it made sense to do so, when they saw themselves falling into patterns that kept them from moving forward.

I'm not too sure about that part. I can't just step out of myself and become, let's say, Jerry Seinfeld or Goldie Hawn or Queen Elizabeth but I really liked what she was saying about stopping, not reacting, examining the messages that we tell ourselves and reinventing ourselves closer to the truth of who we are now. 

It's not as if I hadn't heard this before - the reality of challenging our thoughts, rather than accepting them outright - but something about the excitement of this person speaking about something she'd recently discovered that worked for her was what caught my attention.

Is there something you have been telling yourself forever that when you truly examine it, isn't really true. Do you have the objectivity to see it and then can you challenge it by proving yourself wrong?

Interesting thought to consider. At least I think so.

November 08, 2010

I'll take a gracious actor over a grumpy poet any day

 Water under the bridge at Duck Creek
On Friday night I went to Mahon Hall to see the play, Tuesdays with Morrie, acted by the 90-year-old Antony Holland as Morrie Swartz.

Holland, founded Langara's Studio 58 Theatre program many years ago and a lifetime of experience and natural talent means he can hold a room's wrapt attention, grab a corner of every heart and twist at the tender places you're protecting too much until the tears will roll. And, they did.

He lives on Gabriola Island where he founded the Gabriola Island Theatre Centre. The Mitch Albom character was acted by Antonio Gradanti, also of Gabriola. The warmth and the wisdom eminating from the stage as the relationship between these two unfolded gave the audience an all-encompassing bear hug and held on tight. For me, it was one of those performances that I'll keep in memory and pull out when I need to remind myself that I'm not the only one who's making their way in a world that's being less than kind at any given moment.

Sunday at ArtSpring, George Sipos, ArtSpring's ever enthusiastic director, managed to get two writers to make a detour from Victoria. He hosted a literary event as he is known to do from time to time. Yesterday we got to hear from Don Domanski and Alissa York. Domanski is a Governor General  award winning poet (2007) and York is the young author who had the misfortune of being paired with him on a short tour of the West Coast. She didn't say that. I'm saying it for her.

No doubt about it, the guy is a fantastic poet. I mean, hey, he did win the Governor General Award for Poetry in 2007. The award he hasn't a hope in hell of winning is Mr. Congeniality even though his white beard and his ample girth makes him look a little like Santa.

Maybe it's just me but if you're on tour to share your work, you might want to feign some minor interest. I looked at him and after observing his behaviour in response to questions, I thought to myself: "Santa Claus gone wrong."  And, of course, the much younger Ms. York did her best to compensate for his curmudgeonly way of being. Why do women do that?

As I was sitting there listening to him I couldn't help but think to myself, if I ever become a Governor General award winning writer or poet (when a miracle akin to the virgin birth happens), I will remember that when I go to read, I am there to entertain and I will interact with my audience reminding myself of what the word - audience - actually means. That without an audience, there's no point so smarten up Domanski.

I almost felt like laughing out loud because although his poetry was beautiful, the tone of his voice and the way he read was just so cliche. Is it not possible to be excited about one's poetry or do we have to pretend that we're at a funeral? I can't stand it. It reminded me why I often can't stomach poetry readings. They're so pompously over the top self-important and maudlin. GOOD GRIEF Charlie Brown!

I want to hear and immerse myself in your poems but I want more. I want some background. I want to  know why. I want to know what was happening and how it came to be. I want to be entertained. I want some context to the words that you have made beautiful.  Maybe that's wrong. Maybe it's like asking Leonardo DaVinci to explain himself or Gaugin. I don't care. I want some understanding by a wordsmith that I'm there, as an audience member, to feel and to know more when I leave then when I arrived and to have you acknowledge me, with some semblence of respect, as an audience member that matters.  Otherwise, stay home in your dirty bathrobe in front of your laptop with your cold coffee and your couch growing furry with dog hair.

The lovely Ms. York read some interesting passages from her book, Fauna, and someone from the audience asked if there were more animal stories being written lately or was it just her impression. Ms. York, politely tried to answer as best she could. Mr. Domanski just looked with almost disdain and said in a very agitated  and dismissive manner, " I don't know". He left off the "and I don't give a shit". That must have taken considerable restraint on his part. 

I managed to wash it all down with some good Malbec at dinner made by my personal chef and dear friend Linda James.  Tom and I devoured strawberry shortcake for dessert to sweeten the bad taste in my mouth left by Mr. Domanski. 

November 02, 2010

Don't be "Circling the Drain"

Yesterday, as I was walking out of Surrey Memorial Hospital, I jumped in my car to head for the ferry and I turned on CBC radio. It was pretty interesting timing. The show White Coat, Black Art with Dr. Brian Goldman was on. The episode was called When Your Life is Circling the Drain.

If you're in a hospital, and you overhear a health care person saying this about you, apparently you're in deep du du - or you soon will be. It's a horrible term. Apparently, it's the slang for about to die as in "Holy shit, he's circlin' the drain."

Somehow the reality of this little problem (that as humans we each have a limited life span) has not been an internalized part of my father's attention. Until the last month, or maybe even the last couple of months, he's never considered himself old because he's always been healthy, able bodied, of quick mind. That makes sense but  it doesn't change the realities of aging. At 92, he says there's "lots of people older than him".

Now, it's probably a really good thing to never consider yourself old. Except, when you're ill and you're 92 and things are going wrong. Then, it might be better to start to think about what it all means and how you'd like your end of life to unfold. But, hey, that's just me.  I tend to be too much of a realist for my own good.

The thing is, navigating "the end of life" requires an amazing level of communication skills. And, men and women from "that generation" are not known for their amazing communication skills when it comes to the really important, emotional stuff.

When you're having to be there for an elderly parent, the unspoken stuff doesn't go away. Like, for example, when you see family members tending to the unwell one in hospitals what you don't see is the family dynamics. End of life duties don't take into consideration that the child who may end up having to do most of the caregiving because of proximity may have been treated badly and unlovingly by the parent. Is that fair?

Is it fair that unlike in the movies, people don't tend to change at the end of their lives. If they weren't able to say anything of emotional significance or acknowledgement during your life, they don't suddenly become Carl Rogers.  It's not a Hollywood movie. Deborah Winger and Shirley McLean are not in the building.  Unresolved resentments only multiply when caregiving is added to the obligations.

What I really dislike about the entire hospital system is that there seems to be so little place for meaningful communication. Visitors and patients become like shuffling zombies. What the patient really needs is not magazines or bananas, they need someone to bring some open ended questions that might initiate some meaningful dialogue. 

What the family needs is a much easier way to get information without feeling like they've just accomplished something major when the doctor is actually able to "be caught" and can then spend less than 5 minutes explaining what's going on. What other business can you think of would you be getting paid to do something so important and never have time to explain to your clients, the details, unless they happen to "catch" you?

It's insulting that after being able to navigate life for 92 years, some doctors still don't see the crucial necessity of dealing with their patient directly. I couldn't help but notice that the doctor told me to come out into the hallway to answer my questions when in fact, he was talking about a patient who is mentally able. What's with that?  It leaves me having to return to my father's bedside to reinterpret the news about all the tests and what might be coming down the pipe. Isn't that his job?

It's all very stressful and sobering and navigating "the system" and trying to communicate "the bigger picture" of what certain decisions will mean requires a level of functioning that needs so much energy at a time when your energy is being consumed by everything else that's going on. 

In short, it sucks and it makes you feel a little bit like you're circling the drain of overwhelmingness yourself.