Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Rising from the ashes of a flaming bag of poop.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

When I was told I was pregnant, I thought I would be more excited. I thought I'd be ecstatic. After 5 years of desperately trying to get pregnant, struggling mentally and financially with the reality of medically assisted reproduction, I thought my joy would be overwhelming and my relief would be an instant lightening to my crushed psyche.

Instead, as I lay on a hospital gurney, drifting in and out of consciousness, I struggled to breathe. I was not lightened, I was being crushed by the accumulated fluid in my abdominal cavity. I am not a big person, but in the course of a week, my body had retained 35lbs of 'water'. The doctors and nurses reassured me that my pregnancy likely wasn't at risk, but we needed to act to protect my overtaxed liver and kidneys. IV fluids, albumin infusions, pain management, fluid drainage, twice daily blood tests. Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome is a rare side effect of In-Vitro Fertilization. Severe OHSS is even more rare. The biggest risk to the pregnancy was that in order to save my life, they would need to abort. So, no, I was not blissed out. I was not excited. I was drugged and pin cushioned and scared. In my mind, I was already failing as a mother. But then one day, maybe day 5 in the hospital, I peed. And I had some toast. And I turned a corner. A day later, I got to go home. A month after that, I got to see a little bean growing inside me that they told me was my baby, and I was finally excited.
The little bean.

The rest of the pregnancy was pretty even sailing. Because of the urgency of my file at work, I had very little down time for lingering thoughts. I slept and I worked (and I flew with my giant swollen ankles to my next hotel/meeting and did the same again).

A new stressor did surface however, one that should not have been present in my life. We stretched ourselves financially to pay for IVF. And of course while I was undergoing the pin cushioning of hormone injections and blood tests, is when our roof failed and we had to replace it. Money was tight, my husband's company was struggling and he was moved to part-time. But I have a great job, that I mostly love and I'm very proud of. It's not my romantically hatched dream job, but based in this reality, it is one I am deeply suited to and one that has a meaningful and lasting impact. Like any other place of employment, we sometimes struggle with corporate culture, public perception and workforce morale. 2012-13 was a particularly tough stretch. But never have I ever questioned my employer's ability to pay my salary. I have never felt unfairly compensated for the work that I do. I know that I could make a higher wage doing the same work elsewhere. I know that the people across the meeting room make twice what I do. But I like where I sit, and I like representing the people of Canada. So why then was the CBC reporting that a new pay system was jeopardizing a very simple premise of the employer/employee relationship, namely I do the work, and you pay me?

As I grew rounder with my little bean, it became clear to me that things were problematic. People were not being paid. The people responsible for keeping our boarders safe, rescuing lost hikers in National Parks, patrolling our waters, serving our country, filling out forms to ensure others get paid, were not being paid. And most unnerving for me, as someone suddenly being underpaid due to system error, new mothers on maternity leave were not being paid.

As my delivery date neared, there was no resolution to the issue. I was placed in a purgatory-like cue: fill out a form, send to generic email address, hope it is read, phone 'service' line, speak to someone who has no authority to help you, get told to fill out a form and send to generic email address. Repeat. Hear nothing. Approach departmental HR. Get told that since you are being paid, even if the amount is incorrect and much less than your regular salary that you are not eligible for emergency assistance unless you are not being paid at all...unless you are on leave, in which case you are not eligible for assistance even if you are not being paid. WTF.

I have been in my current position for over seven years, before that, I was in a different job. I was being paid at a salary level from 9 years prior. The impact of such a drastic change in salary combined with the above noted financial strain required us to seek assistance from the bank. Luckily we were able to set up a line of credit before I gave birth and stopped being paid all together.

It turns out that my ability (or lack there of) to get pregnant was not an indicator of my body's ability to give birth. Sullivan and I came through the process without any difficulty, and as he lay on my chest and his tiny fingers wrapped around mine, I fell deeply and completely in love.
Our first moments.

But bliss doesn't last long in a physically, mentally and hormonally taxed body of a new mother. Going in, I knew that because I already suffer from depression and generalized anxiety that I would be at an increased risk for post partum depression. What I could not of foretold was that months of sleep deprivation, the dark days of winter, fluctuating hormones and the weekly commute to my MPs office to beg them to do something, would cause me to spiral downward. Silent sobbing while I nursed my son. Not one hand from my employer, my MP, my government, outstretched. It took six months and the intervention of my Minister's Office for my employer to front me an emergency loan, and another month of top of that before my EI and maternity leave kicked in. It was still not correct. Still based on a salary from 9 years ago. Mortgage payments deferred, loan payments missed, final notice, past due. On the phone explaining the issue, asking for a break, trying to distract a six month old who wants to play with the funny box mommy always has on her ear. The first six months of my son's life, the son I yearned for, and went through a process that almost broke me to have, instead of absorbing every moment with him, I was fighting, arguing, begging, on the phone, on the web. Hopeless. Sick. Angry.

Seriously, I just want to stare into this little face.
And now my maternity leave is over. I am back to work. I am still being paid my salary from 9 years ago, and now I have to pay for childcare for the privilege of working for an employer that treats me like this. So now we are back to the past dues and final notices. In the meantime, in my spare time, I'll go through a year and a half of my past bills, bank statements, loan forms and spend hours trying to figure out what all this has cost us. Just as soon as I catch my 13 month old son. And after I do the laundry and cook dinner and vacuum up crushed Cheerios and do the laundry and storytime and bathtime and laundry (seriously, how is there so much laundry?). Oh, and try to sleep. And work. Thanks. I'll get right on that. And from what I can see online, I can claim interest and NSF charges, but how about my credit score? Who is going to fix that? How about giving me my time back?

All this to say, Mr. Trudeau, I know that Phoenix was a bag of dog poop that the former government left on your doorstep, and I know that a number of high ranking bureaucrats recommended going ahead and implementing the system, lighting that damn bag on fire. And in trying to put the fire out, well, the poop went everywhere. But you need to clean it up. I'm never getting that time back. My finances are in the toilet. Now fix it. Last year, all I asked for for Christmas was to be paid. That didn't work out so well, so I'm asking again. Let me have a merry Christmas. Let me enjoy the lights dancing on my little monkey's face. Let me enjoy these toddling days before the terrible twos. Let me have my life back.

Monday, 2 November 2015


Just a quick note. Mostly a rant. I travel a lot. I'm that annoying person that gets seated before you and gets to check luggage for free. Because travel doesn't suck any less for me, I'm not going anywhere fun and I have to do it all the time, these tiny perks make my life in airports bearable. I'm also not a very big person. I take very little of the available space on the earth (or in the sky). And since I can check my bag for free, I'm not taking up any of the precious overhead bin space. My footprint is small. So, can we talk about why yours is so large? You and I purchased the same amount of space. I am small enough and compact enough that I should really have a buffer. I get that you're taller and weigh more, but dude, that doesn't afford you the right to my foot space and to exclusive use of the middle armrest. It also doesn't mean that you, because of what I can only assume is your pendulous penis and ball sack, get to press your leg against mine, nor that every time you move your upper body that you get to Gordie Howe me in the boob or what have you. I'm very sorry that you have a confined space, and congratulations on your enormous organ, but, here's the thing, what if I was a guy? A guy of equal size? I see it all the time, two big guys sitting beside each other. It's as if each has leprosy, the desperation each uses to make sure there is never any touching, never any encroachment. WHY can't I be afforded that similar...disgust? Maybe I should stop showing before flights. Maybe I should let my dental hygiene slide a little. Or maybe I should make a scene, or even a gentle reminder of personal space instead of just ranting here on my phone...but the thing is, I can be on upwards of 4 flights a day. I do not have the energy to correct your bad manners and the bad manners of every single well endowed person that sits beside me. It's been six years of this. I'll see if I can submit it as an agenda item for the next general meeting of your Enormous Dick Society. I bet there's four feet of space between each chair.

Same goes to you jabby mcjabberson sitting behind me. Have you really never had a smart phone? You don't know how touch, I reiterate: TOUCH, screens works? This, this is why I use my express check-in lane and the lounge. We all sit up there and drink, buffering ourselves to this nonsense.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

An Unremarkable Spring - yes I know it's the fall

I’ve fallen very behind on my posts. I have a few in the wings for the next while, but instead of trying to catch-up, we’ll just erase the spring, shall we?  It wasn’t terribly notable.  I travelled quite a bit, a garden was put in, but because spring took its sweet time arriving, and was so late and so damp, it was a less than stellar year. The yard is normally terrorized by unruly cucumber plants bent on world domination, but this year, almost half my plants drowned and the rest remained demoralised even after a turn in the weather. My tomatoes eventually flowered and fruited, but we will head into the first frost with green tomatoes and no Greek salads.

Emancipation Day
I did a read a few books, but honestly, only a few were particularly memorable. I know we knocked off Emancipation Day for bookclub. I remember being underwhelmed and though interested in the history presented about race relations in post WWII Windsor/Detroit, I found the supporting characters mundane and the main characters unsympathetic.  I also read The Girl on the Train at the behest of every newsstand kiosk, blog, best sellers list etc.  Honestly, the book was hard to escape it was/is so much the rage, but, the thing is, I could have cared less about the horrible people contained within the book and the misery they caused each other. Sure, you can never truly know another person, but good grief, that is an unbelievable level of manipulation and spineless addled-mindedness. Sure, maybe the two attract one another, but I felt only relief when the book was over.  Maybe I am too na├»ve, but there is no way I could accept the premise of this novel, let alone that such direly stupid people could function as contributing members of our society.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane: A NovelOn the more positive side, I also furthered my Neil Gaiman experience by reading the classic American Gods (4*) and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (4.5*). Both are gorgeous reads, full of mind popping visuals and truly immersive worlds. I also had the pleasure of reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance.  It was delightful as I feel Aziz himself is; quirky, cute, but holding substance. I didn’t find the results of the research particularly earthshattering, but the fact that he undertook the research was fairly remarkable.  What I know for sure is that I am grateful that I am not part of the Tinder revolution. I found LavaLife hard enough on the ego/self-confidence. A swipe? Icky.

A God In RuinsWith A God in Ruins, I was devastated that Teddy fathered such a reprehensible off-spring. My heart broke for him, and for me since Life After Life was as near a perfect story as could have hoped for. I know (no, really, I am full of a very deep understanding) that there are gross people in the world. I guess I just don’t care to read about the undeservingly entitled and unpleasant people in the world of fiction. I see too many of them in the grocery store and on the bus. Of course, we all have our stories, we all became the person we are today due to a series of defining moments of our lives. And we all have our own unique hardwiring which dictates how we will experience and allow those moments to shape us.  I guess my own wiring and defining moments harden me from accepting those moments as unredeemable.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

March Bookshelf

Wow. I was completely convinced that I had already written this blog post until I got into a discussion this afternoon with a work colleague about a letter we were writing. My colleague wanted to use the phrase 'spectacular wilderness' in the letter, but I have a thing about the word wilderness, especially in the context of a National Park. I had planned on quoting from this blog post to explain my position on the word, but then realized that said post did not yet exist in finished form, just in pencil scratches in my notebook. So...

Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage My interest in Boundless was piqued by a review I read in the Globe and Mail last September. At the time, we were in a Franklin Frenzy!! The announcement that after 170 odd years of the Franklin Expedition being 'lost', the Erebus had been 'found'. Don't get me wrong, from an archeological 'discovery' perspective - pretty huge (full disclosure, I studied archaeology in university, so I am in no way throwing shade at the field of study). But from the government's sovereignty perspective, claims to the North - strong and free - perspective, from an announce-able perspective: GRAND. Yes, I am cynical, because the thing about archaeological 'discoveries' is that they are a lot like anything else in the purview of white men and Western culture: someone not from that culture knew. Someone was a guide. Someone had a story. While it may be big news and all new to those guided and those that listened to the stories, it was not for the guide and the storyteller. I am often horrified by the continued under valuing of Aboriginal culture. It is a remarkably absurd hangover from our colonial past. How can we discover something that was already known?

Likewise, what is wilderness? In western culture, wilderness is bad, it is wild, untamed, it is the place of the deep dark forest where the big bad wolf waits to gobble-up wayward girls.

Merriam-Webster defines Wilderness as:

But there are no true equivalents in many other languages. In fact, when many 'wildernesses' were being 'discovered' there were all manner of human beings inhabiting the tract or region. In Ucluelet, where I grew up, there are dense forests, stunning mountains, raging rivers and the thunderous ocean. Many non-aboriginal members of the community would refer to this area as 'wilderness', but the Nuu-chah-nulth word for the same area is "nisma" which would translate to our land.

Winter covers these topics with the tone of a lyrical storyteller. She is a witness to the experiences of those around her, and she eloquently captures her own conflicted feelings about the western values with which she was raised and the utter respect for the values and knowledge of her Inuit traveling companions, the interest and awe of following in Franklin's doomed footsteps and the utter absurdity of the reverence western culture holds for foolhardy exploits of a long dead white guy.

I highly recommend: for the lovers of Emily Carr and Margaret Laurence

Love At First Stitch: Demystifying DressmakingI love Tilly's blog, Tilly and the Buttons, and was excited when Mollie Makes reported that she would be releasing her first book. It doesn't disappoint.  Beautifully executed, the book is bright and colourful and as easy going as its author seems to be.  She has some wonderful tips for beginners, easy to follow patterns and straight-forward projects that can easily be modified with personal touches and whimsical fabrics.  If you're thinking of trying to build some of your own unique wardrobe staples, this would be a nice addition to your craft room. 

Neverwhere: Author's Preferred TextWhen I was in high school, I read a book by Deepak Chopra called The Return of Merlin. The premise is that many of the mentally ill homeless in our cities are actually members of King Arthur’s court, displaced in time and utterly confused by the displacement. The Fisher King had a similar theme, though, ultimately (SPOILERS) mental illness was the root cause of the delusion, not time travel. In Nevermind, the homeless and the lost fall through the cracks of London above into the dangerous and slightly out of phase London below. London below is filled with monsters and mystery, fiefdoms and courts, hardship and magic. Because it is out of phase with the topside world, topsiders only experience these monsters and mysteries as shadows and easily ignorable people and movement.

The Doctor (so many things in our lives are relatable to Doctor Who, if you try) has repeatedly told us all that there are reasons we are afraid of shadows (hello vashta nerada), what's under our bed (um, yay) and that thing you can't quite see out of the corner of your eye. But though fear may be a superpower, living afraid is no place to be for the long term, and Gaiman makes the case for sometimes being lost, sometimes being forgotten and sometimes being a hero in your own story.


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Thank you for being a friend

And if you threw a party, and invited everyone you knew, you would see the homemade gift would be from me and the card attached would be appropriate to the occasion, but not homemade as I have too many interests already.

For better or for worse, I have been trying to make most of my gifts over the last year.  It certainly was a crafty Christmas.  If you nail the homemade gift, there is nothing more personal or treasured.  Of course, if you goof, there is nothing more awkward (and nonreturnable).  So, you've been warned.  One day, you may be gifted with an awkward and nonreturnable craft project that I slaved over and thought you would love.  And my earnest little face will shine as you stare at it in horror wondering what in God's name I was thinking.  And you will feel obliged to dig it out of the deep recesses of your closet to display it when you know I'm coming over, to avoid crushing my delicate soul.  But, hopefully, I'll knock it out of the park.

Christmas, birthdays, babies, weddings, housewarming are all fair game to my crafty gifts.  I've had a number of projects on the go, including:

My favourite recipes on cards and hand embellished tea towels for weddings;
Homemade preserves, teacup candles and aprons for housewarming/hostess gifts;
Quilts, sweaters and hats for babies:
Rainbow Quilt and log cabin pillow
And a little girl being carried away to dreamland

For birthdays, it really depends on the person.  For instance, I made my niece a little frock and crochet collar that looks equally adorable on the hanger, hung as it is meant to be worn, and on her with the collar worn as a crown, because, well, because.

My favourite of late has been an attempt at cross-stitch.  This is my first real foray into the thready arts since a mother's day project at Girl Guides.  I don't even remember if that was particularly successful, as I hated stitching (and given the number of badges I had, you would have thought I had gotten somewhat used to it - not so humble brag).  I preferred my crafts executable with a hot glue gun.
Picture it, Ucluelet, 1992.  We didn't have a lot in the way of TV signals making it to us.  One of the only consistent TV stations that we had was the CBC.  And, for whatever bizarre reason, despite being below the 49th, we only had access to CBC North.  This meant that we had nightly news that was based in Yellowknife and was often in one of the Aboriginal languages of the North.  However, everyday after school, my girlfriends and I would rush home for one particular program - The Golden Girls.  It was awesome, and it was in English.  Long before there was Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha, there was Dorothy, Rose, Sophia and Blanche.  Oh, we loved them so.  In particular, my friend Z was taken with them. 

Inspire your prayers
One day, I was on the twitter and someone posted a set of prayer candles emblazoned with these remarkable women.  I immediately started an Etsy search, but alas, they had sold out.  I was now convinced, like a sign from St Estelle Getty herself, that I needed to make a gift by hand.
I've been thinking of starting to explore embroidery for some time.  I love the look of a little bit of embellishment on the corners of napkins, little flowers on pretty dresses, and the woolly tattoos that Dottie Angel has been busily adding to her thrifted finds.  However, as I have explored elsewhere, I don't really have a ton of patience and my hand stitching always starts off ragged, becomes great and ends rushed.  But whilst searching out gifts for Z, I came across a cross-stitch pattern for the Florida quartet, and I knew I had to give it a whirl.  It took time, and I got annoyed (and stabbed) but in the end, I think it turned out magnificently.  And while I'm in no rush to get there, I do look forward to being a subversive senior, running amok with my besties.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Depression Lies

The little beast sits on your chest and pretends to be your friend, looking out for you, nourishing you, but it is in fact feeding you lie after lie.  It has an answer for every rebuttal because it does not need to live in the world of fact.  At first, it feeds you what you need, a little soul pablum, and then it feeds you what you think you need, a little mind candy.  But soon enough, it's dosing you with poison.
No one cares about your stupid crafts.
No one reads these posts.
Your voice isn't worth listening to.
You're not a good writer, so why are you even bothering?
And you listen.  And you stop.  Ideas come, but you don't act because it likely wasn't a good idea anyway.  Maybe, you tell yourself, when I feel more like writing and feel more brilliant, I'll get back to writing.  Spoiler alert >>>>>
With depression, you never feel like it.  IF you feel at all, it's certainly not a get up and go kind of feeling.  It's certainly not a, hey, let's open up and expose our vulnerability kind of feeling.  It's actually easier not to feel at all.  Bottle that shit up, lock it down, stick a smile on your face, laugh at every joke.  But it's not in the eyes, if you really look, it doesn't reach the eyes.  Maybe that's why I still don't have crow's feet.
This winter was a tough one.  There was no reprieve.  It was relentless and ugly.  I had a bad fall, and I'm still recovering from the resultant injury, still in pretty constant pain.  The world has seemed to be a particularly gross place this winter/spring too.  Perhaps I'm just feeling it more, the world's psychic pain is hitting me harder at the moment.  But the gross people, and the gross things they are doing and those gross things being justified and excused away by other, sometimes grosser people. 
And in some ways, being someone with mental health issues is harder, the stigma larger, even though as a society we're trying to talk about it more and normalise it.  But then you have folks blaming mental health issues for acts of terror and murder, and how does that make talking about it easier and safer?
Anyway, I don't feel like writing.  I don't have any answers or solutions to gross.  I'm not looking for any external validation, because as I've said, the beast doesn't work in fact.  I am however, going to write because we all must be warriors against the gross.  We have to fight the exhaustion and the despair.  We have to push back against the cynicism and anger and find the love and the patience to continue to fight.
Say no to gross.
And say yes to summer, finally.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Menu Monday - BC Travel

It's been a busy chunk of time for me.  This is a large country and I am on my third trip across it is 3 weeks.  No matter how good the meetings are, how comfy the hotel bed, travel is exhausting.
Can't beat the view in the lounge at Long Beach Lodge.
My last trip took me back to my old stomping grounds in BC.  The westcoast is a culinary playground.  Adventurous, quick to adopt new ideas, tastes, flavours and sitting in a confluence of cultures.  To top it off, Vancouver (and surrounding areas) are blessed by earthly riches and the bounty of the sea.  The sum of which is a foodie's dream.
Tuesday - Hotel Georgia Lounge for a roasted baby beet salad.  For dinner, before heading to the Canucks game, Omission Ale and halibut tacos.
Wednesday - Proved more food for the sole (new shoes!! Fluevog) than for the tummy.  I opted to grab some gluten free bars and fresh fruit from the local organic grocery on the shopping go.
Thursday - A beautiful spring afternoon spent on south Granville St at the delightful Heirloom.  I had the soup of the day (carrot and ginger) and Kale Caesar.  Best caesar ever.  My girlfriend and I then walked across the Granville St bridge and had a flute of sparkles on the patio of the Vancouver Art Gallery before I headed to my second Canucks game.  See, it's that paragraph right there that makes me miss Vancouver.
Friday - I flew to Vancouver Island via Harbour Air and rented a car to drive over to Ucluelet to visit my sister and her family.  I made a stop in Qualicum to visit my grandparents and then drove my favourite drive through to Ucluelet.  It was perfect: clear roads, no slowpokes, a little bit of torrential rain and the smell of life pumping through the air exchange.  My sister and I ended up having a bite out at Hanks.  And odd little spot, which was a bookstore for years, a few more windows would certainly perk things up a little.  However, the BBQ was very tasty.  I had the Pork Cheeks and they modified my plate to accommodate the gluten free/dairy free.  I had a hankering (get it!?) for some gooey, fall apart meet after all my clean living in Vancouver.
This would have been Jeff heaven. 
Instead, I took a little heaven home to him.
Saturday - My sis and I had a girls day, and headed up to Tofino for the afternoon.  Interspersed with shopping and manicures (and a lot of gabbing) we managed a couple of stops.  One was at Wolf in the Fog where I had the soup of the day (a coconut, chickpea curry) and Heather had the amazing looking Albacore Tuna Melt.  We then headed to the Tofino Brewing Co.  Having abandoned Jeff in Halifax with the wiener dogs, I want to pick him up a souvenir.  One tee-shirt, one pint glass and three of their beers carefully wrapped within my checked luggage:  Coffee Porter, Kelp Stout and Hoppin' Cretin.  We then did a quick dash to the Long Beach Lodge for a glass of wine over looking the surfers, and then a pop back in to town for dinner at Shelter.  It was absolutely pissing rain by this point, but we sat on the covered patio with the propane heaters and a couple of fleece blankets.  It was awesome.  Both Heather and I opted for the mussels and frites (they have a dedicated fries fryer); I went with bacon, Heather with Thai coconut curry.

Sunday - After reluctantly pulling myself away from my nieces and nephew, I drove back to Naniamo, after a visit with my great aunt.  I flew back to Vancouver and checked myself into my stellar hotel room at the Pan Pacific.  I opted to use Hotwire, a roll of the dice, but with all of the nice hotels in the city, I figured my odds of lucking out were pretty high.  I was so right.  Not only did I get a great deal, but the front desk upgraded me further.  I had planned on meeting some girlfriends for a beverage, but instead ran out to the liquor store so we could seat in peace and look out over a truly great view.  Hotwire - roll the dice!

Safe and delicious travels to all!
Panoramic windows overlooking Burrard Inlet and the Coast Mountains. 
A delightful snack of edamame, cucumber avocado roll and sesame crusted tuna.