Day 13

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s death. In the last 3 years there have been periods of ups and down. This is not surprising as my relationship with her was always abusive and fraught with danger. I never knew when she would say something cruel and cutting. Sometimes she could be nice but nothing ever came without a price. My mother decimated my self-esteem pretty much right up until the day she died. I realized that many of my less desirable qualities actually stem from how I was raised.

From the time I can remember, my mother told me I was fat. I look back of pictures, expecting to see this huge child, and I don’t. I was a pretty normal-sized kid. At 8 years old I am taken to weight watchers by my mother and my grandmother. I follow their diet and I gain weight. The brain trust (mother and grandmother) decide I should eat less food than the child and youth diet so they put me on the women’s diet. I still gain weight. They decide I am cheating and from that moment on, they never believe anything I say, especially about my weights. Spending my life not being believed at even the most basic level turned me into someone who would explain, make excuses, rationalize even when there was no need. I have suffered so much anxiety from believing that people are suspicious of me for no good reason. This has also turned me into a people pleaser. I stayed in a job for 5 years where I was consistently treated very badly and didn’t leave even when I could see the affects it was having on my health.

I have also realized that my life probably wouldn’t have been much different if I had been brought up by my birth mother. She was likely no more equipped to raise children than my adoptive mother. Coming to that realization has really helped me to accept that my birth mother will never be who I needed her to be. I needed her to rescue me from the hell that was my childhood.

Ok, on to today’s picture:



Observations about Calgary

I was born in Calgary. I lived her up until I was about 18 when I left to do Katimavik. I came back when I was about 22 and went to school. I was away for a year at Queen’s doing my Master of Arts degree. I finally left again when I was 34 for Vancouver. I have never looked back since. I love living in Metro Vancouver.[1] All of the things I disliked about Calgary seem to be so much more magnified 13 years later:

  • I find Calgary very American. Not a big surprise as it is built by oil. This city has grown so much and it really seems to be expansion for the sake of expansion. It is Manifest Destiny run amok. There are so many new ‘communities’ everywhere and very little infrastructure. Almost every strip mall is packed all the time. The traffic situation is out of control from what I can see.
  • Consumption is so much more visible here than in Metro Vancouver. The trucks are bigger and louder. With no Air Care[2], I have seen so many vehicles spewing toxic sludge. The one thing I have noticed is that there are certainly fewer dump trucks, which does make me happy.
  • Believe it or not, drivers here are more aggressive in Calgary than Vancouver. I commute 45 minutes each way for work so I spent a lot of time on the highway. And while we have our fair share of assholes, it is nothing like what I have seen here.
  • I am very surprised at the lack of health care infrastructure here. It seems like the system here cannot keep up with demand. I am not sure if it is mismanagement or a true lack of resources flowing in. Given the amount of money brought in by the tar sands you would think the government could at least afford a decent health care system. My mother is always complaining about being able to access doctors and other health services.
  • I was reminded how much I hate how they name the streets in developments. We used to live in Oakridge and every street was Oak something. It makes it really hard to find addresses. Along with this goes the penchant for everything looking the same. My mother lives in an area where you can’t even plant flowers if you want to because all the landscaping has to look the same. She can’t even have a fence put up for the dog.

I get that Calgary is not all bad. Some of my most favourite people live here. However, there is zero chance that I will ever move back here.

[1] Given that I found my biological parents in Vancouver just this year, I wonder how powerful the call of geography can be. From the time I learned about Vancouver, I always wanted to live there.

[2] I am not an Air Care fan but it does keep some of the worst polluting vehicles off the road.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘hello blog, I have missed you’ edition


It seems like life took over in July and things happened. Here are the updates:


  • Ruby went missing from the dikes in Maple Ridge on July 18th. We believe a wild animal took her as there has literally been no sign of her at all. We had Al from PetSearchers come with his bloodhound and the dog could not pick up her scent. Deb searched frantically for hours the day she went missing. She was in the water up to her chest and the rocks chewed her feet up. I think it will take months for them to heal. Al also waded the river and could not find any sign of her. We know of about 15 people who came down the next day to look for her. The brush down there is so heavy an animal could have been completely camouflaged and grab her. She is old and deaf and wouldn’t have heard anything coming. We have not given up. I am still checking the SPCA and Craigslist.
  • The only good thing that came out of Ruby going missing was that we helped to reunite another dog with its people. We were told about a dirty Shih Tzu at a mill. Deb went to look and discovered it was an apricot poodle. I posted an ad on Craigslist and the dog’s owners responded. It was their dog and they have since been reunited. One thing I learned through all of this is that most people cannot tell the difference between breeds.
  • My mother came to visit last weekend. It is interesting that when she is around us she seems to become helpless. I forgot to set up her coffee one morning and instead of making a pot herself she heated up the coffee from the day before. We have exactly the same coffee maker so it is not like she didn’t know how to do it. If something had to be put in the garbage she would either give it to one of us or put it on the lid of the can.
  • The other thing that struck me while my mother was here is her obsession with smoking. She spent most of her time outside, with her oxygen on, smoking and puffing ventolin. We went to the Fish House for dinner[1], as she loves Stanley Park. We were enjoying a lovely drive through the park and she kept asking when we were going to stop so she could have a cigarette. I was stressed as I had no idea how to get to the Fish House[2] and we were late for our reservation. Finally, I said to her: “I will not make you go into the restaurant for dinner without having a cigarette.’ Then, as soon as she was done eating she wanted to go. No chance for anyone to linger after dinner and maybe have dessert because she had to smoke. She has lost even more weight and if she gets pneumonia I think that will be the end.
  • Today, I am feeling so grateful for the dogs we have had in our lives. They have loved us unconditionally and taught us so much.

[1] It was absolutely horrible.

[2] I eventually had to go down a one-way street the wrong way.

The Good, the bad and the ugly – Radium 2012

I tried to write this yesterday but I couldn’t put a cogent sentence together to save my life!

The Good

Podollan Inn – Salmon Arm

We have stayed at this hotel before. It is awesome for people with dogs. They have some rooms that have direct outdoor access, which is fabulous for getting the dogs out to pee.[1] Plus the floors are ceramic tiles so no worrying if there are accidents. We also had a fully fenced little patio area. The Podollan was also extremely understanding about the mudslide. They agreed to hold our room and not charge us if we had to cancel at the last minute.

RCMP/CVSE in Golden

Every available piece of road was blocked with trucks. They were on the side streets and the parking lots.

We arrived in Golden on Wednesday evening and couldn’t get through because of the mudslide. At first we thought we might go the long way but that was also blocked by a washed out road and some precarious inland ferries. So we waited it out. We were pretty much at the front of the line to get out of Golden. This was a great place to be as we could get up to the minute information if we wanted. I found the CVSE, RCMP and the flaggers to be extremely polite and helpful – as long as people were nice to them. At one point they started letting trucks through to the weigh scales – except for one trucker who had hassled them the day before. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the last one to get out of Dodge!

At the road block in Golden waiting to go


We went out for dinner with some very old friends in Calgary. We had an excellent time even though we waited 1.5 hours for a table![2] It was nice to have lots of time to sit and chat and reconnect. We also had some interesting discussion about the false intimacy that can be generated by Facebook.[3]

Piper and Sawyer

What can we say about these 2 dogs? They were amazing. They spent over 12 hours in the car on Thursday and didn’t complain at all. I have never seen dogs behave this well. They are rock stars! Sawyer also had a great time with my sister’s new puppy. After about 2 days he was looking for some Gigi repellant!

Mountain Restaurant – Lake Louise

I had the best freaking burger ever at this restaurant! If you are ever in Lake Louise go there and have the Mountain Burger. Oh my god!

The Bad

Park Inn in Golden

By the time I started to find a hotel in Golden[4] all the good ones were gone. We ended up at a no tell motel with dog breeders beside us. They smoked a lot of pot, which I confused for the smell of cat pee. I spent the night there with a tiny bit of sheet for warmth and Sawyer up my ass. It was fun!

This was the chair in our room. We didn’t move it. Sawyer like it there.

Smitty’s in Golden

We had breakfast there on Thursday morning. Our server was great. Her name was Fiona[5] and she was very helpful. She was the one who told us the long way was blocked. The food however was atrocious. The bacon was inedible. The pancakes tasted like chemicals and were underdone. Even the dogs wouldn’t eat some of the bacon.


My mother has developed this helplessness thing. She seemed to do nothing for herself and asked in this little voice for people to do things for her. She was relentless. It almost seemed like she was waiting for any of us to sit down just to ask us to get up and do something for her. My sister had to not only contend with her but her husband doing basically the same thing. We are really starting to understand why she is losing her mind.

The Ugly

Mother again

Watching my mother smoke with oxygen on was horrible. Even one of her friends/helpers made her take the oxygen off. I am not sure why she is doing this but it is most disturbing and dangerous! Even though she wears it all the time and has a saturation of 95 she still says she feels crappy. She also does not breathe through her nose so I am not even sure she is getting any benefit from the oxygen. When I drove her home from Radium she would go minutes at a time without breathing through her nose.

[1] Not that I ever have to do this…Deb always does.

[2] It was our fault because we were late for our reservation.

[3] A subject of an upcoming blog no doubt.

[4] We were in Lake Louise.

[5] We like Fionas after watching Shameless!


Every year I am deluded into thinking Christmas will be better this year with my family. If we can just find that perfect gift or cook the perfect meal everything will flow smoothly. Yet every year I am disappointed. Sometimes we can point to a certain incident where someone drank too much or was out of control.

Everyone seems to hold it together until dinner. This year we thought everything would be fine as my sister was not going to be here for dinner (for my regular readers you will remember that my sister completely destroyed dinner last year with her temper tantrum. So it was my mother who flew off complaining that I did not brown the chicken and that it looked horrible. She then refused to eat any except a tiny piece off the wing.

Those of you who have ever been to dinner at our house will know that I cook a mean roast chicken dinner. My chickens are always good. And the chicken last night was no exception. We can always point to reasons why something happen. After 46 years, I am not sure the excuses matter to me anymore.

The ironic thing about all of this is that my mother always wants a ‘Norman Rockwell’ christmas. It has never happened and it never will. This makes me very sad for her. She has never learned to roll with life. Everything and everyone must do exactly as she wants, when she wants but she never tells us what this is. Instead she leaves us to guess and get it wrong.

The Raw-Feeding Debate

My mother has decided that she would like another dog. Her previous dog passed away a couple of weeks ago due to old age. As she asked, we found her a young female Maltese. We have since had her to the vet for shots and a spay. Almost immediately a discussion ensued about what to feed little Maya the Princess. My mother’s initial response was that she was not going to feed Maya raw no matter what,

Being at Casa de Shihtzustaff, Maya has been raw. She loves it. There was no way we could get her to eat her crap, extruded kibble when raw is on the menu here. Then my mother decided to pick up a book on Maltese dogs. Apparently it opens with ‘your puppy was not born in a cornfield.’ I love this book already! She is happily coming along the road to raw feeding. I told her that she could buy frozen, ground raw that is just as easy to feed as canned food.

As I am learning more about raw feeding I am even more convinced about the appropriateness of raw feeding. I recently saw the video below about how dogs who are fed kibble are in a slight state of dehydration for their entire lives. One can only imagine the stress that would place on a pet’s body. While meat is 70% moisture, dry food is just 12%. Dry food also places an extra burden on a pet’s digestive system as it must pull water to reconstitute the food to make it bioavailable. Because the food is dehydrated and extruded at a very high temperature almost all of the nutritional value is completely gone.

I have sent my mother the video. I hope it cements her decision to feed little Maya the Princess raw food!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the “I hate traffic” edition

  • Being back to work has been mostly ok. I have managed the week, including an early training day. But the traffic has been outrageous. I have fought it both ways except this morning. It appeared to be the rain that caused people to forget how to drive. Never mind, it is just Metro Vancouver drivers for which there is really no explanation.
  • Speaking of Metro Vancouver, they have voted to ban smoking in all public parks. They tried to do this about 6 months a go at which time they decided it was not necessary. I am not really sure what has changed to cause them to bring it forth again. I don’t spend a lot of time in parks. But I have friends who have children and I bet they are happy to hear that smoking will be banned. The new law will come into effect in January 2012.
  • So we have been hearing this very strange noise over the last couple of months. At first I ignored it thinking it was something to do with the neighbours. But it has been getting louder and louder. So then we started thinking perhaps we had a pump for our city water. I didn’t really think this was possible but who knows what goes on at the Swamp. I finally remembered to call the plumber today. He thinks it is something called a water hammer. Apparently this part reduces the pressure from the city water source before it comes into the house. While it is not an electrical part, it can vibrate loudly when it needs to be replaced.
  • My poor mother. She really can’t win. Today a bus scraped up the entire side of her car. She then had to chase down the bus, as the driver didn’t know he had swung wide and scraped her vehicle. Quite a stressful day for a 75-year old woman!
  • My ulcerative colitis has been behaving quite well over the last couple of weeks. I have had virtually no breakthrough pain whatsoever. However, I have been dealing with an incredible amount of joint and muscle pain. My shoulders and arms have been seriously painful at times. My knees have been in the rotation as well. Yesterday my jaw started to hurt. It was so painful last night I am not sure how I was able to sleep. Today, I can’t seem to make my back teeth meet on the right side. I can’t win.

Dispatches from the East Kootenays – the ‘miracles can exist’ edition

  • Well we did an early birthday party for my sister yesterday. She was thrilled. She said to me this morning that the party made her feel very special after she had been so mean to me. I just about fell over.
  • We had a great dinner last night. Most of it was from locally sourced MR food. We had Hopcott tenderloin steak that we brought frozen in the cooler and Chilliwack corn that was fabulous. My mother had balked at me bringing the steak saying that she had M&M filets wrapped in bacon. Well once you have had a Hopcott steak there is no going back to M&M’s subpar beef. I am not quite sure how they kill a filet mignon but they manage. I am guessing most people like them because they are slightly better than the blade steak you buy at the grocery store. I managed to BBQ them perfectly medium rare for everyone. We had nice baking potatoes with bacon bits, sour cream, cheese and green onions. Deb also picked up a nice cake for her.
  • I think my brother-in-law has Stockholm Syndrome. He commented that my mother wasn’t so bad now that he has gotten to know her personality. Well, considering it has been 10 years – he is a slow learner! Yesterday he was quite sick because he basically had sugar for breakfast. He is an insulin dependent type 2 diabetic. This morning I made him a protein breakfast, which seemed to work much better for him.
  • I have convinced yet another person to try the NeilMed Sinus Rinse bottle. George[1] seems to have a lot of problems with his nasal passages. He does live with a smoker which I am sure does not help the situation.
  • Speaking of George, I have never seen anyone take so many naps. He napped twice yesterday afternoon and told me he couldn’t sleep last night because he was overtired!! He is not very self-aware. Even after brunch today, he went back to bed for a bit.
  • Tonight we are going to Helna’s for dinner. It is the only restaurant in Radium where you are not likely to get food poisoning. It is mostly a schnitzel restaurant. It is quite good but I can’t eat the large portions they serve. I just checked the menu and they even have a veggie section for Deb!

[1] My brother-in-law.