Saturday, June 16, 2012

I am CRAZY about Picasso

I am truly crazy about Picasso. The bug really got to me a few years ago, and I've been enjoying the ride ever since. I have gone from seeing my first real Picasso in a gallery (the Met), to having seen several entire musuems dedicated to his work. I've gone from my first book about Picasso to a shelf-full. It's all for fun (I'm no scholar), but I figured I might as well start sharing what I'm learning...

Friday, June 08, 2012

Caregiving, Listening to Rain and Emily Carr

Wow, how strange it is to see my blog sitting idle so long, so few posts....

As much as I think I want to write about my current journey, that of caregiving my sweet mom, I find that when I write, its just so personal, and it doesn't feel really fair to her, or my siblings, or extended family. I am writing, sometimes, but when I reflect on what I have written, it seems to be when I am overwhelmed or oozing depression - or a combination - and the only real insight is for me. So, have posted less than I'd thought about what I'd intended to post....

Well, I managed to fall asleep writing that... and woke to the sound of rain ... and it is night, best take the chance to sleep while I can...

Pics in this post in tribute to the exciting news about Emily Carr this week....

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guest Post: Maui

Maui the cat catching the final rays of the day


That's what Maui typed when he walked across my keyboard...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Really random reflections

This is me down by the ocean, half a block from where I live. That's the marina in the wee town of Sidney where I live, in the background. The pathway down to the water is called Memory Lane...
... and this is what it looks like when you get down to the end of the lane. Nice steps down to a big rock. Not so easy to climb down the rocks anymore, but there are many little seaside spots where one can walk on the beach nearby. I should do more trips to the water, as I do love it. My sister (who is here maybe half-time helping me with mom) is really good at getting out to our wee slivers of nature. An inspiration for me..
Now for a picture of my niece who was here to visit her G'ma recently. She and I weant out the day she got here, and it was nice to share a beer in a pub :-)
The big event around here has been mom's birthday... she turned 90 in February! She seems surprised, somehow... and is also really rolling with the punches. She figures now that she is 90 she can do or have pretty well whatever she wants. lol. Wasn't sure what that meant. But I did ask her if she wanted to go skydiving or something... and I got a resounding "NO!!", so I think we're good.
Mom's birthday from my sister was her presence! We laughed about that one... but sissy had timed her arrival to be on the big day, and it was grand.
Mom has been very busy lately, participating in two wonderful day programs each week: Mount Newton Centre (where she gets a bath in a huge fancy tub with jets!) and the Vet's Health Centre at the Lodge at Broadmead the Vet's Health Centre at the Lodge at Broadmead - where she found this book when we went for our preview visit. For a lady who loves books and loves birds, this was a real wow experience!
It's nice to see mom busy, and with so much going on, that she can't remember everything she's done to tell me. These programs started for her in January and February, and her world is so much better now. She is getting great socialization, which she revels in, and exercises, and live music, and time with her contemporaries - along with great care.
I can tell you that it was a l-o-n-g wait wait for these health care services for seniors to kick in. We got help right away after mom's fall last summer in terms of home health care workers, and respite breaks (at Piercy Respite Hotel), but the waits for the other services were sooooo long. August to January is long time to wait if you are elderly... it felt like an eternity to her. Well, it's all good now, she is in.
It was a long haul for me too. Now that she is participating in these programs, I get small stretches of respite a few days a week - which is really helping. I am at my best for her when I am grounded and rested.... I know this. People tell you to take care of yourself. Got it. But it's hard to do when you are sinking and can barely get your head above water. That's what it felt like at times last fall. I do have good support - through the Family Caregivers Support Network, our VIHA Case Worker and Vetrans Affairs - but it's still a process to find balance.
In short, there were some periods last fall that really sucked. Big time. Survived though. Now on the other side. But it does scare you a little: figuring not only that you have a breaking point, but finding out exactly what it is - and what it feels like. Sheesh. Holy shit. Overwhelming. Sinking. All that.... Now that I am on the other side I am grateful, but I am very aware and careful not to go back there again.
So, of course it was hard for mom too: she not only had the long wait for extra services, but I know I wasn't the best I could be for her when I was depressed. And that has to have impacted her. As I learned more through some courses I took on caregiving, and dementia, there are ways to 'protect' her from that, and I do that now. Not to say it was really bad for her, it wasn't, but she'd feel it if I wasn't quite as chipper as usual, or was too tired to take her out for a drive, that kind of thing, mostly. yada yada yada... I think I'll stop trying to explain all that.
Anyways, spring is virtually here!!!
With some good respite, and lots of help from my sister, I'm feeling a lot more human these days.
Now for some random reflections:
  • I am reading again. Can't believe I stopped, guess I didn't have the attention span. Plus I have a crackberry, which diverts one...
  • Currently reading The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato - set in Florence, in Botticelli's time - very good, though so far a lot of people have been murdered (!)
  • Also reading The Stone Boudoir by Theresa Maggio - non-fiction travel writing set in Sicily - I'm loving how it is written... and I seem to be have Sicily on the mind lately... would love to visit
  • So... I've been thinking more about future travel.... Not sure where that will be, but it's got me pretty interested in a whole range of things right now, including: Sicily, Crete, Budapest, Croatia, Istanbul... and swooning for some great art museums right here in North America....
  • Let's see, what else...
  • They renovated a cute wee house behind mom's here into a monstrosity that I am sure will block the sun at some point of the year; she formerly had a very private backyard... now there is a wall of stucco beyond and above her trees; kinda sad, and I'm sure it will reduce the property value... Yuk! But rolling with the punches there too, as they are neighbors mom has had a good relationship with, and there's no sense crying over split milk...
  • I spill milk quite often, when feeding the cat, but so far, I haven't cried. Neither has he. hee hee!
  • I splurged and got cable and a TV in my bedroom here... can't believe it took me this long... it's very nice to have, but I am equally pleased that I seem to have gotten over any past tv addiction, as I don't seem all that interested...
  • I wish my iTouch's battery could go longer than an hour without melting down
  • Not really doing my art these days. Still doodling, most days, but the studio collects dust and I am no longer trying to sell stuff. May do so again, but all that fell off the radar when the caregiving amped up this fall.... I am happy to let that be for now, but I might get the Etsy thing going again. Not going to sweat that tho...
  • I have pretty well decided that when the next phase of my life comes around, I'll settle in Victoria, rather than returning to Vancouver...
  • The sun is shining, the blossoms are out, it snowed for 5 minutes this morning, and there is opera playing...
  • And with that, I'll finish up this batch of reflections.
Hoping I might update more often, but we'll see. Happy spring!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Not So Random Reflections

Another picture taken on my birthday in Vancouver: soothing Passion Fruit tea at the corner of Denman and Davie, sitting in a sunbeam...

What a difference a few hours make, or a few days, or just a different lens on the world, or having given my head a few good shakes.... or feeling the effects of taking care of myself...

Today mom is off doing her own thing, leaving me at home, alone, for, what, I think the first time in almost a year - aside of when I've been on a week long respite break. Today, I got four hours, maybe it will extend to five, but it feels like an eternity to one who gets my energy from being alone with no agenda. She should be home anytime now, but I feel so wonderfully restored.

After 30 years or so of living alone, I never would have thought that just four hours to myself could possibly be enough to restore - I would have thought I'd needed at least a day, if not two. But things are different, and I am learning to cherish little breaks. Like sunbeams.

It could be that I had a good base coming into today -- after my decent respite break and mini-vacation in Vancouver last week, or mom's less-than-usual-degree-of-emotional-turmoil return from Piercy Respite Hotel on Monday, or the body work I had done last week, or a change in a medication - who knows... but that base probably helped.

It probably also helped that I was able to see the preciousness of my time today. As much as I wanted to sleep, I resisted the temptation. I put on a pot of coffee and went out to my art studio -- that I've barely set a foot into since mom's fall in the summer - and had my breakfast there, reading an art book, then doing a little collage/doodle art myself. A lovely sunny day here, so it actually got hot being there too long. Then took a relaxing shower, put on some soothing music (Hennie Bekker - haven't listened to that for a long time!), and doodled - and, yes, dozed, a little.

Pleasantly surprised to feel refreshed and restored. I forgot what this feels like. And it feels good.

I'm almost hesistant to say that, I don't want to count my chickens before they are hatched, but, hell, it's worth celebrating! I honestly don't think I have felt this good since last summer. That could be selective memory, but who cares. It feels new, and a relief.

I have work to do today, but intentionally postponed it until after mom is home - so I'd have my me time for me - after all, it's supposed to be respite! I'll dig into that shortly, but wanted to capture this moment, this feeling. To cherish it. To celebrate it. And, yes, to remember it, because there will, I'm sure, be many more moments of feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope or think straight. I think they come with the territory these days. But something about today WORKED. Hallaleujah!

Mom is at a day program at Mount Newton. They pick her up here in the morning, she gets a bus ride with other attendees - then spends 4 hours on site at their facility. They start off with tea/coffee and muffins in a big sunroom, then move to an activity room that feels more like a living room for chair exercises and, if they are lucky, some live music. Lunch is a hot meal cooked from scratch on-site; those that are still capable are invited to take part in the meal preparation. After lunch is a changing program: perhaps a speaker, or games, or something like that. Then back on the bus at around 2:00 and another ride and hopefully some interesting places to see as they drive her group back home. It's a good program: they have a careworker on the bus, as well as a driver who has a care training. I am relaxed knowing that she is in good hands.

Oh, somewhere in there, probably the morning, mom gets her turn in the bath. It's quite a wonderful contraption they have - I can't wait to hear how much she liked the jets - and how happy she will be having had a real bath for the first time in ages. Since her summer fall, she's had just bird baths in bed, and showers during her stays at Piercy, that's it. The little old bathroom here is too small and dangerous for her to use....


Well, my precious cargo has arrived home. Mom is squeaky clean, smiling and chattering on about having had a really good day. And she is looking forward to going back again next week. So, success all around.

Now it's time for me to move onto my work for today, but glad I captured this moment and feeling. With grace, it shall return over and over again.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fifty Three

A little message found in the sand at English Bay Beach yesterday. Seemed made for me.

A quiet birthday, but just what I needed. Here in Vancouver on a respite/vacation break, staying at a friend's apartment in the West End while she is away travelling. Same building as my sister Carol lived in 30+ years ago, same suite layout, oddly comforting. Yesterday I went out for breakfast, walked by the ocean, had a nice tea, did some healthy things for me - then came home for a nice evening at 'home'. My best friend Kelly came over to visit. We ordered in Greek Food and enjoyed a bunch of wine and gabbed away the night.... Not as exciting as 51 up the Eiffel Tower, or 50 in the Big Apple, but perfect for me right now.

Looking forward to a new year. The last one was a wee bit rough, or perhaps I should say had a few rough patches, but it's all a process.

Last night these words fell out of my mouth, and I've been doodling around them, and want to capture them here:
Some people need roots... I need wings.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Library Respite

Tonight is another respite break, and I am at the local library with my sister. She is looking at books, and I am settled into a study nook with my laptop. I originally thought I might work - that's what I did the last time we were here on a similar break - but I feel like I have done enough on that front today, so an opportunity to blog.

After an hour or two, we will go and grab something to eat. This is amusing, as Patti gets a full meal, and I get, well, mush. Might be pasta tonight. One night it was mashed potatoes. Always with some soup. What's a girl to do?

I had dental surgery 8 days ago. I was playing up the 'dental surgery' bit to play a sympathy card, but I really thought it was no big deal. Wrong! I had 2 teeth extracted, and it hurt like hell afterwards. Then, despite being totally "good" (no booze, no red bull, liquids only then soft foods, and all the rinsing stuff...), it got infected. Sigh. So now I have antibiotics on top of the Tylenol 3s. As you might guess, I have been a bit of a zombie, lots of sleep, dozing off at inopportune times, and such. Yesterday I went for the gusto and spent pretty well the entire day sleeping. Made quite a difference. But long from being over the hump.

Interesting, I wrote for a whole 5 or 10 minutes without it being about mom. I'd say that's healthy. So, rather than rock that healthy boat, perhaps I'll not focus there....

I am looking forward to a great respite break later this month when I go to Vancouver and stay at a friend's apartment in the West End while she is away. Heaven.!! I don't care if all I do is sleep.... but I do hope I get out for some nice long walks. Hopefully I can drink by then (!) and can chill and have some good eats. May do nothing, may do something, will make zero plans. This IS my vacation. And boy, do I need it! [A note to my Vancouver friends: I don't expect to use this visit for socializing, so don't be offended.]

So, if I don't talk about mom, and I don't talk about respite, what do I talk about? Aside of dental pain and mushy foods, that is?

Honestly, I can't remember.

Maybe work?

I am doing two things. Can't recall if I have blogged on them before.

One is a short term contract for 4 months. I am a junior member of a 12 person team putting together 70+ elearning modules for a provincial government initiative. Interesting to have a side role, rather than being in the thick of things, but it fits me perfectly at this time. I have committed to the equivalent of 2 days a week as a minimum, and I do more when I can. I can only do this because my sister has come to help with my mom. And I enjoying it more than I thought! I'm am not really a government girl, but with the role I have carved out for myself, its working out fine. And the team is great! Only occasionally get together for face-to-face meetings; we do a daily scrum by phone and Live Meeting and the rest of my work is remote. Although I am not using it directly, I have been exposed to Articulate (I like it), have fallen in love with Dropbox, and am learning the ins and outs of Sharepoint. It's been good for me to dust off some of my skills, and spend time working with current tools. Yada yada yada....

That one is good for my brain, and my pocket book, and making local connections - but I love that it is for a finite period.

My other gig is the one that I am most excited about: since September I have been a travel researcher for First thing everyone asks is the story of the name, so you can read about it here. I work for the two brothers described in the story. And I LOVE IT! I started out at 10 hours a week, now up to 15 hours a week. And I am loving a steady ongoing gig that I can do anytime of night or day. It fits me like a glove! I also Tweet for them, which I enjoy tremendously. BTW, you can follow us there @ihatetaxis. Lots of cool stuff is in the hopper and it is great to be working on such a small team, as my voice, and my work, makes a difference.

It's funny, it's a way in which I am still traveling, or traveling again, without getting out of my pjs. I have learned so much about so many places by not only updating airport ground transport information, but by researching and writing about layover options. And by tweeting about travel related stuff. I'm a bit of a planespotter, so being hooked into airports is also kind of cool. If I think of places I've "touched" just this week, my 'journeys' have touched on Sicily (Mt. Etna was spewing this week!), Berlin (new airport coming!), Iceland, Dublin.... Other recent places have included Dominican Republic, Rome, Hamburg, Geneva, Hawaii, South Africa, Washington DC, Dallas Fort Worth, Winnipeg (new airport!)... and so much more.

OK, enough for now. bye bye

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year Reflections

Reflecting tonight on a few of the more memorable New Year's Eves in my life, not all good - in fact it was the memory of one particularly bad NYE that got me reflecting back - but it's all in the fabric of my life...

OK, out with it... let's start with the grim one. I was young. From my vantage point now I'd say veerrry young. That would be about 20 or 21. I had a boyfriend of a couple years that I was in the process of breaking up with. Correction: he was in the process of breaking up with me. We were living together, and the decision had been made a week or so before NYE, but I hadn't moved out yet. And we were "friends". Or so we thought. He was always a very kind soul but I guess so wrapped up in his own stuff about the breakup (or 'her' - the girl he had fallen in love with, that was at the root of me being asked to move out), that his thoughtlessness that night took me by surprise. He had made the arrangements for the night, so I put no attention to the evening, until we were ready to leave the house - and he grabbed a bottle of rum and said "this is what I am taking to drink tonight. What are you taking?" Of course, I didn't know that I should need to be thinking ahead on that count. And that was back in the days when you couldn't just go pick something up without planning ahead (liquor stores closed early on such nights, and were so busy you actully had to line up outside for hours [!]), so essentially I was left with nothing, aside of whatever I might be able to find in the cupboard. It was just so thoughtless, and it was a bad omen for the evening ahead. I had already said that I didn't want to go out for New Year's, considering the situation, but he said he still wanted to take me out (I guess he felt guilty about breaking up with me? and his new gf had plans?), so I acquiesed (sp?). My memories are actually very vague about it now, but I remember it being a night from hell. Being at some party and him kind of leaving me all alone for long stretches, ignorning me (or so it felt), and me just feeling totally awkward and uncomfortable. I just wanted it to be over. But it was something to just endure. And, there was no easy way to leave and get home. So it did need to be endured. And I was Miserable. I was broken hearted, felt unloved, definitely felt jilted, and the whole situation was just laid out in front of me: everything had come to this. And it sucked. I never was much of a drama queen, but that night probably did bring out the bits I did have: I was probably pouting and putting off some pretty 'woe is me' vibes. I am slightly amused now to think of it, but feel a bit sad for the younger me. And am also curious as to what he remembers from that night.

The "good" thing from that night was that I declared I hated New Year's parties, avoided them, and started creating new rituals for myself. Not that declaring all NYE parties bad was a good thing, but the movement to new rituals was a positive evolution for me. I must say I am still not all that fond of NYE parties, but they don't fill me with dread anymore.

Now, what other memories do I have?

I remember the year my sister Carol came and stayed with me in Victoria one New Year's. I was living in a lovely little attic apartment in a renovated heritage house, with a wood stove, skylights and a wee balcony with an ocean view. It had all these multilayered floors, and I had candles scattered about. We stayed in. I don't think she'd ever done that before! lol. It was quiet, but we had little rituals at midnight, wrote lists and resolutions, burned them, saved the ashes - and ate little treats. All stuff I had done alone for years since the NYE from Hell, and was sharing for the first time. Seemed very grand to be sharing it with someone else - and shockingly quiet for her (she kept talking like it was a novelty, I don't think she'd ever not partied).

Also in the low points category was the New Year's Day -- so not the night, but the day after -- where I had memories of some very painful stuff from my childhood come back to me for the first time. I was so shocked and confused. I remember the day because I went out walking in the morning, and there wasn't a soul around. So began a whole new chapter of my life that I have done a lot of work around, but have not written publicly about. But I do associate it with NYE.

In the bittersweet arena, there was the year Carol was in palliative care at St Paul's Hospital, and my sister Patti and I smuggled in champagne and snacks. We took over a wee room used for families and the chaplain - the irony wasn't lost on us - and chatted away the night like girlfriends. No, like sisters, sharing a 'normal' New Year's Evening. It was special. It makes my heart catch, as it must have been her last one....

Had a few memorable New Year's with a close close friend, her sister and brother-in-law. We'd gather at her place, and eat and drink and laugh and argue. I am not an arguer, but there were plenty of amusing moments with one of the trio of people I was drinking with wouldn't stop talking long enough to hear another persective so the only way to get a word in edgewise was to argue one's point. Probably doesn't sound amusing to read, but it is amusing to reflect back on. We also had a lot of fun. It was a ritual that got set aside when one of us diverted to a relationship, but still have surprisingly fond memories.

A definite highlight was 2 years ago in Athens, Greece which I wrote about here. Fantabulous!!!!

If you read that, you'll know why I was out trying to find a pomegrante (sp?) today....

Well, it's about time to clang pots and pans is up, watching Dick Clark (still alive!)... so will wrap this up. I am sure I have a few more memories that will come to me, and may add to this later.

But for now, let me say: