Friday, February 26, 2010

Random February

This may possibly be TMI, but I'm pretty excited. My gums have been bleeding and no, that's not why I'm excited, it’s actually quite annoying (and alarming). In the past, a few days worth of diligent flossing has taken care of this issue, but it appears I've finally reached the point of being immunosuppressed where I'm having trouble dealing with the bacteria in my mouth. However! My dentist to the rescue. He prescribed Perio-Gard, told me to rinse with it twice a day for a month and whereas I can honestly say that this tastes nasty - and I do mean really, really nasty - it pretty much worked instantaneously. The first day, my gums felt all tingly for hours, as if something was really working at them and they’ve felt all tight and perky since (I can't wait for the person who thinks they're going to find porn from a Google search involving the word 'perky' to find this paragraph). Today's health tip.

In the news: and they say there is no more need for feminism, part 247. As well, I just read an article the other day in which doctors call for warnings on certain types of foods that can present a choking risk to small children, in particular calling for a redesign of the hotdog. Good point and all that, but the line that made me laugh for a really long time is the following “… children are much more likely to put food in their mouths than a toy.” No, really?

A totally wonderful clock and with no reasonable segue whatsoever Trevor contributes the Canadiana of this post in honor of the Olympics: Tom Brokaw explains Canada to Americans and milk in bags. Also Stephen Hawkins in Lego, an article about the Diagram Prize celebrating odd book titles (my favourite is Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes) and I think I need to mention the following is from The Onion, Denmark introduces harrowing new tourism ads. I howled. Scandinavian humour - be warned.

John/TinkPapa sent me this link to some really funny readerboards and LynnM contributed interactive birdsong (particularly helpful for those of us who are in the depth of winter and haven't heard a bird singing for months), a wonderful essay on deliberately seeking out boredom and a tutorial on how to report the news.

In the past month, David has been a constant source of entertainment - I don't know how finds these links, but I'm glad he does. A pictoral explanation of why people pirate movies, Ringo in a drop of water, a NSFW follow-up to last month’s explanation of the differences of the Scandinavian countries and the T-shirt war.

Getting aquatic, take a look at the blob fish, also called the world's most miserable looking marine animal, a fascinating piece about how the impoundment of water affects the earth’s spin and a great story called Three Men in a Boat.

Breathtaking pictures of two European fire festivals, how the gunfights in Westerns can teach us about world peace, a meta post (you have no idea how meta) and remember when I was looking for a wife? I'm not the only one. And lastly, a real treat. An Esquire article about Roger Ebert - in depth, beautifully written and containing a quote from Ebert that is a most wonderful way of summing up a life philosophy: "we must try to contribute joy to the world." If only more people thought like that…

Monday, February 22, 2010

This is News?

This one started building in early December. Christmas shopping was in the air, it was cold enough that you could see your breath as you walked down the street and Tiger Woods had been caught with his pants down. Well, more specifically, with his car plowed into a tree, which led to a much more salacious situation of which we have all heard more than enough. I mostly ignored the thing about Tiger until the day I clicked by the Toronto Star to see a bright yellow banner, with a "Breaking News" red line at top.

Had a world leader been assassinated? Had there been a natural disaster? Nope. I was so mad, I saved a copy to my hard drive, thinking I would rant about it later:

WTF? Tiger Woods making a statement about his personal life now qualifies for this level of media response? Are you kidding me?? How on earth is this news, never mind urgent, breaking news? Anyway, I rented to a few friends, the moment passed and although the irritation remained, muttering in the background of my mind every time another headline blared about Mr. Woods’ personal life, I mostly got on with my life. Until these last few days following his sort of public apology and that's when I boiled over again.

I've ranted on before about the how I don't believe what public figures do in their private lives is any of my business. More specifically, I don't think that a politician’s extramarital affair affect his/her ability to do their job, unless they have campaigned or frequently speak about a philosophy of the sanctity of family values. Still, I may be able to see how some could believe it relevant to said politician’s moral integrity (although I'm pretty sure I could talk them around to my point of view, but that may be my megalomania showing). However, Tiger Woods plays golf. He makes his living because he swings around a stick and hits a little white ball really well. How on earth does he owe anyone but his wife an apology?

And I know people out there consider him a "role model", although I fail to see how he can be a role model in any respect outside of people who enjoy golf. I saw a comment on a news story where someone summed up this prurient public response to any remotely famous person transgressing in their private life: "we have questions. We deserve answers". No, my friend, you do not! You have no relationship with this man beyond being a fan of what he does at work. Being a fan of what he does for a living does not entitle you in any way whatsoever to an explanation for what he does when he is not working. Regardless of whether he plays golf, acts or is elected to the government (with aforementioned family values-related exception), no one but a spouse is "entitled" to any sort of explanation or apology when marital vows are broken. I don't care who he sleeps with or what colour underwear he prefers (I will never get this latter item out of my head and I resent it deeply), I only care about his ability to play golf. Well, I actually don't, as I don't follow the game, but you know what I mean…

What is it with this requirement for public figures to be saintly? I remember once reading that everybody in the White House press corps knew about JFK and a certain was it an intern? Actress? Who cares, the point is that none of them said or wrote anything about it, because it wasn't relevant to his ability to do the job. Why has the line between work and private life blurred so much in the past 40 years that we, the unwashed masses, actually feel entitled to an apology when someone like Tiger Woods cheats on his wife? I can't possibly be the only person who thinks there's something wrong with this picture.

Can I?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love Tinks

The Tinks came to visit on Valentine's Day, a balm for sadness.

Morgan is increasingly demonstrating the perfect storm of what happens when you mix a radio announcer with an Andersen woman: the talking never stops.

The kids are learning at lightning speeds, going through workbooks and having a blast

Janne/TinkMama helps Liam with the tricky pencil gripping thing

Liam and John/TinkPapa work their way through a book - Liam's getting really good at reading.

Fuzzy? Sure. But I love the action...

When you've been family long enough, the twin thing just happens

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The War on Us

This week on MyRACentral, I rant:

"When prescribed and used correctly,
one quarter of one percent of people taking opioids become addicted. In some state, you can get arrested if your opioids are not in their original prescription containers (nevermind that such containers may be hard to open for people living with chronic pain). And if you somehow manage to find a doctor who's willing to prescribe "the big drugs", you may be required to sign rigid treatment agreements that can ban you from receiving opioids for life if you make the slightest mistake in taking your medication."

You can read the rest

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Mojo

She came to me a sunny day in February, 13 years ago, a small ball of energy, curiosity and attitude, at three months old, so small and with so much hair and whiskers, she looked like an explosion of fur. Wearing the black mask and mantle, she looked like she’d been dipped in white paint, had freckles of black on her stomach and her toes and a black smudge on her nose, as if she’d gotten too close to the chimney. Her coat was silky, the softest thing I’ve ever felt and the thought that I’ll never touch her again makes my heart hurt with tears.

I had dozens and dozens of names for her, variations of her name - Mo, Moj, Mo Po, descriptors like Princess Paws when she was pawing at me to hurry up with food or trying to get me to share my dinner, Yelly McYells-A-Lot (again, food-related), Princess Poopypants (did I tell you about the colitis?), the Psycho Cat from hell (nail cut), Mojo the Wondercat, Her Royal Catness, my Miss Cat and my pretty girl. She was my mother’s grandcat, my sister’s niece, Michele called her Duchess and I’d taken to calling her David’s stepcat.

Because of the RA, I was never able to pick Mojo up, make her do things, so our relationship was a negotiation of equals (who am I kidding – I was her minion). We talked things out (and I usually did what she commanded), she had different sounds for different needs, another batch for when she was just chatting and her purr was the rumble of a much bigger cat (hence the nickname Rumblestiltskin). Mojo never saw or felt harshness from me and despite her attitude, was the gentlest cat – even when she swiped at Barb to try to intimidate her into giving up on the meds, the claws were always retracted. She talked big, but was a complete softie.

From the first, she took up a lot of room - she was never a subtle cat. Mojo knew how to make her wishes clear, even through posture, sitting at me loud enough that it could be heard through walls – when I “heard” her in the kitchen, I’d investigate and there she’d be. Sitting at me. For a while, I thought it might be habit – I’m in the kitchen, naturally she’d perk up - but when I meditated at night, sometimes, I’d sense her and when opening my eyes, see her sitting by my feet, wanting a brush.

She had rituals, many, many rituals. I joke that to me, if you do it twice, it’s tradition, but with Mojo, you did it once and if she liked it, it was tradition. She had a very definite ritual with my mother that must be followed to the letter, sweet and funny games she played with each of my attendants, each one different, had another ritual with Dave the Wheelchair Repair Guy and grumbled at Barb when we gave her meds, but throughout this past, hard month, it became clear that she loved Barb, too.

Sometimes, I thought she was part dog, the way she went to the door when there were noises in the hallway, my little guard cat protecting her domain. She loved me fiercely, was my shadow - when I was out of my wheelchair, she was in it, when I went out, she’d sit by the fan in the livingroom, looking at me with big, reproachful eyes (you’re going to have fun without me??) and often still be there, in the exact same position when I came home 30, 40 minutes later – that is, if she wasn’t right at the door the instant it opened, waiting to inspect the hallway. When I went to bed, she’d finish her rounds, checking the territory, then come to the bedroom – for something so light, she had a surprisingly heavy step, so I’d hear her approach - and jump on my bed with a soft thump. We’d hold hands for a while and I’d run my knuckles over her cheekbones and she’d purr, transported, and give my hand a wash. She’d wake me up in the middle of the night for a cuddle, either by a soft paw tap on my cheek or, if that didn’t work, by sitting on my chest and she’d come to get me for a brush when she wanted one, regardless of what I was doing and naturally, I dropped everything and we’d commune.

Mojo was magic and not just for me. She converted many of my attendants who don’t like cats, but loved Mojo, purely by being herself and insisting that they be her friend. She’d run to greet everyone at the door, ask for pats and if people were tardy in offering worship, loudly inform them that now was the time, her friendliness and loving nature winning over everyone. Her job was to be cute and she was good at it.

I've mentioned before that were Mojo a car, she’d be a lemon – I’ve spent a lot of money on her health (tip: get pet insurance), time and again some really excellent vets brought her back, made her better, helped her. The past month has been hard and although we tried to get ahead of the problems, tried to give her ease, it moved fast. From mid-January, in only 3 weeks, something claimed her bladder, drained her health, melted off her weight and dimmed the light in her eyes, less and less the brightest green. I had time to wrap my head around it, but not to wrap my heart around it, the fact that her time was measured first in months, then weeks and then, let’s send her home from the hospital and see what the weekend brings.

At first, it was OK and then, quickly, it was not. We tried our best, we tried everything, but this time, there was nothing left to try. This time, there was only love left and it was time to give her peace. On Saturday, her vet, Jean-Sebastien Palerme and her favourite tech, Eric, came to my home and Mojo and I said goodbye to each other. She died in my arms, my hands and my mother’s stroking her, words of love in her ears to the last. It was a lovely and gentle end, everything she deserved.

I want to thank everyone at The Animal Clinic for all they’ve done for my wee, opinionated cat in the past 13 years and everyone at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic and specialists Drs. Kevin Finora, Dawn Martin and Brendan Ringwood, who tried so hard to give her more time, better time. And especially Eric the Cat Whisperer, who taught my darling girl that people in scrubs can be trusted and who was there at the end, making this last needle easier for her.

Mojo was my child substitute, my companion, my familiar. She was my girl, my darling, my sweetness. She was part of everything I did, day and night, for 13 years. I miss her more than I can say.

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Encounter with Inanity

I collect them. Moments of the inanity, stupidity and general idiocy exhibited by the able-bodied around a wheelchair. They happen quite frequently. Examples: the ubiquitous “do you have a license for that thing?” (oh, ha-ha – so very funny. And I’ve only heard it 500 times before so yes, still hilarious!) and then there’s an acquaintance of mine who always kicks my times. Always. The only thing keeping me from kicking his shins in return is that it’d probably hurt my foot.

And just this week, I got another one.

I’d just come home from shopping and was driving in loops on the red runner in the lobby to get my tires dry. A woman enters the building, the aura of brisk cheeriness about her exuding community nurse. And she says “that looks like a comfy ride!”.


I smile wanly, at a loss for words. I am always at a loss for words during these moments, the smart quip coming to me well after it’s passed. So I tell her the truth, that I’m drying my tires and all the way up in the elevator, she natters on about the comfy ride, clearly caught in a loop of what she believes to be a clever comment. I am Canadian, grew up in Denmark and therefore constitutionally and culturally too nice to say what’s in my mind:

“Oh, yeah! It’s like a La-Z-Boy with wheels! It’s such a perk for us cripples – you oughta get one yourself!”

Monday, February 08, 2010

Book Review: The Hunger Games

For a while now, I've had my eye on The Hunger Games, a sci-fi YA book by Suzanne Collins. Read some reviews that made it sound promising, but other books had jumped the queue until a few months ago, when I finally took the plunge. Still, it took a while to get to it, but it was definitely worth the wait.

It is the future, the US has become a dyspeptic dictatorship called Panem, divided into 12 territories circling out from The Capitol somewhere on the west coast. There was a rebellion, a failed one and a 13th territory is now never heard of (obliterated, perhaps?). To keep the populace in check, reminding them what happens when you rebel, each year, two children over the age of 12 from each territory are selected as tributes and sent into The Hunger Games. In arenas built in a large area of land, each year designed differently, sometimes forests and plains, sometimes a desert, once arctic, but that was no fun because everybody froze to death. And the "fun" of these Games is for everyone to watch - because watching is mandatory - the kids kill each other until only one is left. The winner gets luxury housing for the rest of their lives, money and food enough to feed themselves and their families and this can be very important, especially in the outer territories where poverty is rampant.

Katniss Everdeen lives in the 12th Territory (formerly known as the Appalachians), which supplies The Capitol with coal and is desperately poor. Before his death, Katniss’ father taught her to hunt and she’s been keeping her small family – mother and younger sister - alive. When the time come for the selection for the year’s Hunger Games, Katniss’ younger sister is selected and Karniss volunteers to take her place. Together with Peeta, the other tribute from the 12th Territory and Haymitch, a past winner from Territory 12 who is now forced to coach each year’s tributes, she goes to The Capitol for her makeover and to play in the Games. Once there, Katniss and Peeta are positioned as young, starcrossed lovers, a strategy that can help them in the game as the audience votes on who receives "favours", items that can help you survive in the Games.

Characterization is interesting in this book - Katniss is very focused on winning and calculating, constantly on top of strategy, which can seem cold, yet she is still very easy to like and to root for. Peeta represents the contestant who won't give up his humanity to win and together, they make an interesting pair. The Games themselves are brutal, the action nailbiting, making you think about just how much you're willing to consider entertainment. It also made me realize how many rules Collins breaks by making sacrificial tributes out of children and then - and I think I can say this without ruining anything - refusing to save even the most appealing of them. The Games continue ticking along the way they always do and tribute after tribute dies, some of them quite horribly, which contributes to the sense of shock. Because that just doesn't happen in art, be it film or literature - you don't kill children, certainly not this many, this up close and for quite this reason. It brings the cruelty of this world home to you, making you understand just how far this new society has come in its callousness and although you would like to think that it is very different from ours, there are enough parts of this that ring bells to make you think and cringe a little.

We've seen the plot before (The Running Man (Special Edition), for instance) and the boy-meets-girl idea has been put in some similarly extreme situations before, as well. Yet, the combination of plot, action and characterization had me gripped. I had such a hard time putting this one down and when I did, I spent a lot of time thinking about wanting to pick it back up again (which can be rather distracting while you're trying to work) The good news is that it was the first of a trilogy and I've already bought the second one, Catching Fire - the last book is scheduled to be published at the end of August, 2010. So far, I'm saving it for a special occasion with the anticipatory delight I normally reserve for a new Amelia Peabody mystery. I highly recommend you get this one as soon as possible, but get the regular book - the narrator of the audiobook had a tendency to get in the way of the story.

As I was thinking of writing this review, I realized that two of the best books I've read in the last six months or so have been in the YA genre. Shiver, for instance and now The Hunger Games. That's not to say that the other books I've read aren't good, but these two twisted the story in such a way that it seemed new and by their storytelling talent, both authors pull you into the story, making it real, immediate and compelling, in completely different ways and both are near the top of my favourites of the books I've read in the past year.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Of Two Minds

Jeff Probst has a new show called Live for the Moment, which according to his blog post on the Entertainment Weekly website "tells the story of someone who has experienced a life-changing event that inspired them to change how they live their life". The show sends "them on a series of adventures which offer major thrills and life lessons in how to live a bigger, better life". The first show was about a husband and father who had been diagnosed with ALS and other shows mentioned in a blog involve someone who survived a plane crash and a former athlete who has been paralyzed.

Despite dreading the execution of the show which seems to lean heavily on that old stereotype of trotting out the ill and disabled to inspire others who aren't ill or disabled, I decided to watch it, not just because I think Probst is pretty and does a pretty decent interview, but to give it a chance. In the first show, we meet Roger Childs and his family - Roger was diagnosed with ALS three years ago, given 3-5 years to live and he, his wife and two sons are doing their best to focus on life, getting as much out of every minute as they can. Roger has always been fascinated by space and in the first adventure, they get a private tour of the Kennedy Space Center by Buzz Aldrin and watch a space shuttle launch. In his other adventures, Roger flies in a fighter jet, goes heli-skiing with an old college roommate who made a big difference in his life (and challenges how much he can physically do by skiing down a powdery black diamond run) and at the end, meets a crowd of all his family, friends and acquaintances. College roommate has created a fund for research into ALS and Roger’s sisters have created a trust fund for the kids so they can get a college degree (Roger's father made this announcement, crying his way through it). Pardon the detail, but I think it's important.

And I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, this experience was clearly profound and moving for the family, creating some tremendous memories not just for Roger, but also for his wife and sons. As well, although I cried often (because I'm a sap), Roger and his wife were only caught tearing up once or twice, which is a definite improvement over other such programs which really milk the tears of the subjects under scrutiny. The emphasis was on excitement and when Roger and his wife were talking about his condition and what it meant, there was a sense of dignity, leaving the deep, private grief fairly private. I think this reflected the way these people live their life, focusing on celebrating, not on grieving and sadness, even though there is obviously sadness lurking deep underneath and the fact that the show respected this, not poking and prodding and wallowing in their tears as so many others do (Oprah, I'm looking at you) do… well, I respect that. I’ve read the note from Roger on the CBS website and it's obvious how much this experience meant to him and his family.

On the other hand, two out of three planned shows involve the sick and disabled offering up inspirational tales of how catastrophic events in your life can change the way you live. It reminded me of a post I once wrote called Pluck in response to a review of Strong at the Broken Places (great book, go get it) stating that "the public want to hear from people who overcome the challenges of illness" and it hits that place in me that reacts strongly to the whoring out of people with disabilities to make others to reflect on their lives, happy that it hadn't happened to them, but still all "inspired". And while we’re at it, let's really milk it for the tears, placing the person whose life is being dissected on a pedestal as Inspiring, while we all wallow in a sea of tears about how sad it is and how moving it is that the poor cripple gets to have a family, fly in a fighter jet and you know how it goes. We've all seen these programs. And frankly, they doesn't do any of us any favors and make me kind of queasy.

But then there's the added wrinkle. I’ve experienced one of those life-changing moments and have since embarked on a journey of changing who I was into who I’ve always wanted to be, learning to focus on the beauty in the middle things, on finding joy and... I write about it. I write about quite a bit, because when you have your entire paradigm shift, it's not only good material, but it's also an ever-evolving point of view and thinking about it is sort of interesting. I don't do it to be Inspiring and Brave, but I don’t get to choose how it’s received and besides, I'm okay with it making people think (cry and wallow, not so much). So am I a hypocrite? Does it matter where you get your inspiration to live life more fully, to not wait with doing things that are important, to stop getting lost in the busy and the irrelevant and instead focus on what makes your life meaningful and worth living?

I remain of two minds, remembering the joy in the faces of Roger and his family at the exciting experiences they shared, but more importantly, the feeling of connection, love and support that poured from family and friends. They're going to need that and it's a good thing. The show gave them that, the show gave two little boys incredible memories that will always be with them and how can that be bad? Yet… the part where millions of us sat in living rooms all over North America, consuming this program as entertainment and crying because of the Sad and the Inspiring makes me squirm. Maybe it's that some of these moments, the ones where there were crying and family, quiet, mutual inspiration and promises made to take care of kids who were going to lose their dad were to me so very private that it felt like tragedy porn to have the close-up intrude.

All I know is that I’ll watch it again if it makes it back to the air. I think I need to see more before I make up my mind.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Love that Gets Us Through

Musing about love in my latest MyRACentral post:

"Love is all you need.

- The Beatles

Comfort. It can be hard to come by in the times when pain has invaded your body, occupying it like a foreign army. It can make you feel excruciatingly alone, because pain is, at its root, something you cannot share. You can talk about it, you can describe it, but you cannot link to another's sensory system to show them what it feels like, share every exquisite jab and jolt and thus, you are alone in the midst of swollen, aching joints."

You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Cure

To celebrate the Feast of St. Brigid or Imbolc, the Fifth Annual Blogger (Silent) Poetry Reading is happening all over.

Last week, Nairn Galvin left a poem in the comment box on my Grief post and it's so beautiful and so right that I'm reposting it here (Nairn - if you have a blog, please put the link in the comments, as the shite Echo system won't do it automaticlaly). It's even more right because some people say that today's poetry reading is in honour of the Celtic goodess Brighid, goddess of creativity and healing. This poem is healing and it needs to be out there.

The Cure

We think we get over things.
We don’t get over things.
Or say, we get over the measles
but not a broken heart.
We need to make that distinction.
The things that become part of our experience
Never become less a part of our experience.
How can I say it?

The way to get over a life is to die,
Short of that, you move with it,
let the pain be pain,
not in the hope that it will vanish
but in the faith that it will fit in,
find its place in the shape of things,
and be then not any less pain
but true to form.
Because anything natural has an
inherent shape and will flow towards it.
And a life is as natural as a leaf.
That’s what we’re looking for:
not the end of a thing
but the shape of it.

Wisdom is seeing the shape of your life without
obliterating, getting over, a
single instant of it.

Albert Huffstickler (1927-2002), from “Wanda” Walking Wounded

Are you posting poetry today? Please leave a link in the comments.