Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I have been AWOL’ edition

  • I have neglected blog over the last couple of weeks. Sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging. It has been a difficult and trying time.
  • One of my oldest friends committed suicide 2 weeks ago. I had known her since 1995. We met at work and hit it off. Outwardly, she was one of the most positive, dynamic women I have ever known. She had a way of seeing the positive in everything. She was outgoing and gregarious. Her passion was helping other people. I was one of the last people she spoke to on the day she died. Her thoughts were torturing her; making her feel paranoid, scared and alone. Mental illness runs in her family. She hated everything to do with mental illness and she would never admit it was affecting her as well. She made a plan with me to see her doctor, take a leave from work and see a counselor. She never indicated that she was suicidal. And here is the thing about suicide; it is those who don’t talk about it who are the most at risk. Suicide is an intensely selfish act. It leaves a trail of destruction a mile wide and deep. So many people have been affected by her death, especially her close family members. Her death impacted me a great deal as we had been in close contact for the week leading up to her suicide. Emotionally[1], I feel responsible. I wish I had the courage to name what I saw going on and insist she seek medical help. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, probably not knowing my friend. I know what I will do differently going forward though – I will not be afraid to say what feel is going on for someone. Maybe some lesson or good can come from this, as that is all there is now.
  • Zoe – had a dental and lost 6 more teeth. She is doing really well since. She is now on Lasix for pulmonary edema. She has no heart issues, which is strange according to the vet. She also is clear of cancer and her blood work was great. She has also lost almost a pound!
  • Ruby[2] is also doing very well. She is also on Lasix for pulmonary edema with no cardiac issues. As former breeding dogs, we think both Zoe and Ruby lived in horrible conditions, which did damage to their lungs. She is so funny when she thinks a tasty treat is going to be involved. She hops around and looks at us so intensely. She cracks me up!
  • Piper has lost 2 pounds of the 4 pounds she needed to lose to improve her breathing after the surgery. We can see the difference already. She pants far less when it is hot out now.
  • We have finally decided to get our water pressure fixed. We have never had good water pressure here at The Swamp.[3] The theory right now is that the pipes bringing the water in are galvanized steel that has been corroding for a long time narrowing the amount of water that can come in. I have noticed about a 15% decrease in water pressure this year.


[1] I don’t deal well with emotions as anyone who knows me can attest.

[2] AKA Tuber

[3] Which is somewhat ironic…

Christmas Holidays

I am lucky to have time off between Christmas and New Years. I am not actually back to work until January 5. I have really enjoyed my time off and here is a rundown of what I have been doing and things I am grateful for:

1. Carrots – I have re-discovered carrots. For years we have been buying those little pre-formed carrots thinking they were baby carrots. I have now been disabused of this notion. We were at a friend’s place for dinner for a couple of months ago and there were carrots in the meal. They were the best carrots I have ever tasted. They were not mealy and watery. Instead they were soft and had an incredible flavour. I thought it was a one-off. Then we had carrots with a roast here about 6 weeks ago. I did not make it. And there were carrots…glorious, soft, rich carrots. I had seconds but only carrots. I made a roast last night and bought carrots and they were fantastic. I thought I did not like carrots – I was wrong. There will be many more carrots in 2009!
2. Nuts – I ate about 6 Ferrero Rochers with the hazelnuts in the middle. I loved them. Sadly, my colon did not. I am generally feeling very good these days. Many of the colitis symptoms are gone. However, colitis is still there and my colon has not healed. Six hazel nuts are enough to send me into a flare, which is not as bad as it has been, is still damned painful. The other thing that happens is that my anxiety about being sick gets triggered. My doctor says this is normal. I was really very, very sick just a year ago and I should not be surprised that I would react this way.
3. Comfort movies – with nothing to watch on the PVR I have resorted to watching comfort movies. Thus far I have watched The Hours, Meet the Fockers and Miss Congeniality. I love Sandra Bullock! I have also watched the entire second season of Big Love and half of season 1 of Millennium. I used to love that show!
4. I find crocheting very relaxing. I have not crocheted for years. My mother cajoled me into picking up my hook again and I am so glad she did! It gives me something to do and I can make some pretty awesome pieces! Now, if I can just convince Piper that she does not need to cover me and all my crochet cotton in pug hair life would be great!
5. I am appreciating my partner very much these days. We have had a major incident but we seem to be working through it and I think we will get past it and come out stronger the other side. This one will take a lot of work and a willingness to assume good intentions and forgiveness will also figure prominently. It seems to me that many people throw relationships away when there are difficulties – that is not our style. We work and work hard. We have been together 10 years and we are in it for the long haul.
6. New appliances – We decided to buy new appliances this year instead of Christmas gifts. I will never forgo exchanging gifts with my partner again. All of the fun was gone from Christmas. However, the new appliances ROCK! I never thought appliances could enhance your life but oh my! The new fridge has the freezer on the bottom. I thought I would hate this but it is great. Most of the stuff you use every day is now at eye level and you can find things without being bent over for a long time – this is very important when dealing with chronic pain. The freezer on the bottom has lovely roll out shelves for stuff and a big, deep basket. It is amazing. The new stove has a glass top which I love! It heats up quickly. It is a bit of a pain to keep clean (and seems to be bringing out Deb’s OCD) but it is very nice to cook on. It has the little area called the ‘warming zone’ where you can just keep stuff warm. The oven is self-cleaning. We opted not to get convection as we were not convinced we would use it and we have convection on our toaster oven. The new dishwasher is much larger inside and it has fold down racks and special baskets for knives and large utensils.
7. Old Friends – 2008 has been a year of seeing people I have known for more than 20 years. My friend Lydia and her daughter from Toronto came out to visit when I was really sick. My friend Lynn has moved in while she is looking for work and finding a place to buy here after moving from Ontario. I am also in touch with my best friend, Joe, from Calgary on a regular basis. Old friends are great; they know where you have been and see where you are now. I also don’t have a really good memory for things that happened in the past so my old friends remind me of things I have forgotten.
8. Cauliflower and cheese sauce – I think I make the best cheese sauce ever! We got a new steamer basket with our new pots and we had steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce for Christmas dinner. I have since had an entire meal of just cauliflower and cheese sauce!
9. The dogs – Our dogs are great. There is nothing quite like getting a snuggle with the pug for a long time while watching TV. I kiss her head and rub her ears and she moans and groans and snuggles in a little closer. It is very healing. The human race does not deserve the devotion dogs give to us. Then of course there is the funny stuff. We are often treated to the daily oral sex show where Piper will lay, in the middle of the floor, on her back and wait for some other dog to ‘service’ her. She does not wait long! It is hysterical. We lost our beloved Mabel in 2008 which really sucked but seeing as she came here to die in Feb of 2007 we were lucky to have her as long as we did. Our other seniors are doing well and Molly will be 20 tomorrow – which is very old for any dog and she is showing no signs of slowing down.
10. I am so grateful for my new job! It is exactly where I want to be – an Executive Director of a small not for profit. I am learning so much about leadership and creating a positive and respectful work environment. It is challenging, I am learning new skills and building on existing ones. It is meaningful work which is so important for me. Best of all it is flexible – it allows me the flexibility I need to look after my health.

All things considered 2008 has not been as bad a year as I had initially thought. It started off horrifically for me with a 2-week hospitalization for colitis and several months to recover. I was laid off from my former employer after my job description was re-jigged to such a point that I could not possibly do it. In hindsight, it was a very good thing as it gave me another couple of months to recover and I did land on my feet with a job I wanted and more money.

I don’t believe in making resolutions at the beginning of the new year. Instead I try to make small adjustments throughout the year when I see that something needs changing. So far, I am planning to reduce my dependence on Starbucks lattes. I have purchased a small coffee pot for work and good coffee. I like my coffee very strong so it is not fair for me to commandeer the work coffee pot. I am sure I will get the odd latte as well.

I hope 2009 is a great year!