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.

Not my world

I really dislike coming to my mother’s. There are the obvious reasons – the ones I talk about all the time. But there is more to it than that. When I am here I miss my world. Here everything is shallow beyond belief. My mother and sister had a conversation about the size of their asses for over 20 minutes the other day. They push my buttons by bringing up all of their right-wing political views. I am learning to be quiet. They don’t have the education to understand the complexities of political discourse. They just simply repeat what the Harpie says. They can’t stop and think about why it is a bad thing that we are bombing Libya. As far as my mother is concerned if NATO says we do it and we need new fighter jets to continue bombing Middle Eastern countries then that is what we do. I get so frustrated. Then they laugh when I don’t participate.

I am not used to being laughed at. In my world people treat me with respect (as much as possible) because I treat them with respect. I try my best to be a kind, thoughtful person. I never want to hurt anyone else. Yet here the goal is to hurt or insult me. My mother was on me again about my weight. She keeps saying ‘calories in, calories out.’ However, with PCOS and ZERO hormones it is not that simple. I eat less than she does and she still blames me. I am so very tired of this game.

The purpose of this visit was to attend a meeting about how she wants to structure our inheritance into trusts. She had been acting all coy that she didn’t know what the meeting was about but I had figured it out. I was much more in my element during a professional business meeting. The people in this meeting treated me exactly like I am used to in my world. They asked questions about what I did for work and they kept telling me that my questions were excellent. My mother did well in the meeting because she has been in business. My sister, on the other hand, was a fish out of water. I am sure the nuances went over her head.

Last, there is my physical comfort. The furniture in the main part of my mother’s house is horrid. The TV is positioned so only one person can see it. She does not like to sit downstairs where the big TV and comfier furniture lives. The shower for the guests is in a very deep bathtub, which means I have to be careful, getting in and out. Then there is the smoke. The god-forsaken fucking smoke that is killing her quickly. She won’t stop. She knows how badly it affects Deb and me. We can’t breathe. We wake up with seared lungs even though we are on another floor. I really don’t understand why she can’t just put on the patch for a couple of days. The smoke is insidious and really represents what is completely wrong here.

I want to come home. Thankfully we fly out tomorrow and then we are attending an event as soon as we get off the plane. We miss our dogs. She wants us to move back here but she has no idea what she is asking us to give up. We have friends and a life in the lower mainland. I like where we live. I love my job. Both of us need medical care and we have no idea how we would find it here in Alberta. The medical system in AB is much more clogged than the BC system. Plus we are both ‘complicated’ patients so it will be difficult to find a doctor that would take us on. I still have friends in Calgary and it would be nice to be here so see them more often.

The other reason I don’t see a move here is that I don’t think there is any point. I think my mother is close to giving up and once her will is re-done she will be finished. I think she will make it through the summer but I don’t anticipate she will make it through next winter. It is simply just too hard for her. Her oxygen saturation levels were in the 70s at the COPD doctor’s appointment the other day. She does not want an oxygen machine in the house as she doesn’t want tubes on the floor. She will take aesthetics over health. She is also not going to quit smoking. Even though she says she doesn’t like it and it tastes bad she simply cannot quit. This is sad as she is severely shortening her life with this decision. Then again, I think she has given up completely and wants to go.

Being here is so difficult for me on many levels. It triggers me and sends me back to my childhood where I felt completely disempowered. I walked on eggshells lest I set off either my mother or my sister. I prefer my world and I can’t wait until I can get back to it.

Happy Long Weekend – for Me!!!

I worked at home today after sleeping until noon. I was able to finally get the grant I have been trying finish done. It has been a very hectic, eventful week. I did learn some interesting things that will definitely help me as I go forward. My stress level is finally going down.

I am going on a cruise with my mother to Alaska in June. I have always wanted to go on a cruise and she really can’t travel without assistance anymore. We have never spent this amount of time together. I am sure it will go well. She will be ok as I don’t go off the deep end like my sister does. Apparently, my sister, who is a saint right now in my mother’s view, has brought up all the Christmas decorations and bought her groceries. Maybe she is calmer now. Who knows?

I am hoping to play Civilization V all weekend. I have it downloaded on my main computer but I am still trying to get it on my laptop so I have it in the living room.

Clearly this blog entry is going nowhere. I will stop now.

Conversation with my Mother…

When I was talking to my mother last night about her smoking some cigarettes again I had asked her some really pertinent questions. She stated that she thought it would give her comfort, relax her and make her feel better. Of course, the cigarettes did none of these things for her. So we began to talk about other things that give her comfort. Then she said that my sister suggested she go on a cruise. I then said that I would love to go on a cruise. Here is the transcription of the conversation after:

(my mother’s questions were delivered in rapid-fire)
Mom: You would go on a cruise?
Me: Yes, I have always wanted to go on a cruise.
Mom: Where do you want to go?
Me: I would love to go to Alaska.
Mom: Do you want to go through the Panama Canal?
Me: I will have to see how much this would cost.
Mom: I will pay. When do you want to go? June is best for Alaska.

She then wanted to hang up. No doubt she is planning our cruise as we speak.


The visit with my mother is over. I am sure I will be reflecting on things over the next couple of days. I will sleep better tonight. Deb is taking her to the airport tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.

The Spin

I am finding it interesting listening to my mother spin the incident that happened just over a week ago. Initially, she was completely on my side realizing that my sister was completely irrational. A couple of days later she decided that it was not my sister’s uncontrollable rage that was the issue. Instead she was going to demand an explanation about the fact that she did not shower, nor brush her teeth or hair for 3 days. While I agree these are important issues which are certainly symptomatic of deeper problems, it is her rage that needs to be addressed. I have made a suggestion that my mother call Kathy’s doctor to alert her but she believes she can’t.

As the days have progressed I have listened to my mother blame all sorts of other things like:
– There were too many dogs
– We slept too late.
– I worked.
– Kathy was upset because Deb and I celebrate our anniversaries and valentine’s day
– It was George’s fault (my sister’s husband) because he expects Kathy to do everything for him.*
– Kathy doesn’t like her hair.**

I find myself continuing to re-frame this for my mother. In my mind the problem is an untreated mental health issue. In my understanding of mental health issues I believe she has untreated bi-polar disorder. This has been exacerbated by the zyban she was put on because she wanted to quit smoking (which my mother also things was one of the many ‘reasons.’ She has also started drinking again. My sister had stopped drinking and had actually been doing much better. Alcoholism runs deep in my adoptive family. My sister also has a serious gambling addiction. My mother recognizes that Kathy is much better when she goes to the casino.

All things said my sister is sick and is still acting like she is five years old. Unfortunately for me the assault has brought up every little thing about my childhood to the fore front. The re-traumatization has now been made worse with information my mother gave me tonight. Apparently she was in the next room and heard what was going on. She said she was afraid to intervene.

Most of the abuse I suffered as a child was from my brother. My mother was powerless to stop it. She was not there when it happened. The stuff with my sister was different. She was younger and she was mean. From age 7 on, I was responsible for making sure the house was clean and for cooking dinner every night for my mother. My sister made things much harder. There were many fights. Too many fights to count. My sister would attack me and if I fought back I got in trouble because I was older, bigger (read fatter) and I should know better. I was stuck in an untenable situation. I couldn’t fight back and I still had to endure attacks. Things escalated the older we got to the point of knives being thrown at me by her.

Right now I am angry. I am especially pissed off now that I know that my mother could have stepped in and didn’t. But I guess I should not expect that she could change her behaviour anymore than my sister can. I cannot believe and I am really pissed off that at 45 this has been foisted on me. I have done my work. I have done my time and I have chosen to live in a different way. I thought I had my boundaries in place and could trust that I would not be subjected to an assault. Really, we are all adults why can’t everyone behave like one?

Many people have asked why I don’t just refuse to see my family anymore. After much thought I have come to the realization that it is not within my value system to do this. I am loyal. There are situations where I will and have removed people from my life. I did refuse to have contact with my older brother. The rest of the family followed suit.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be seeing my counsellor. I need to deal with the flashbacks – which I will do by keeping busy and concentrating on things. I also need to figure out some strategies for dealing with the revisionist historians in my family – especially my mother.

*This whole situation is rather scary. While it is true he is reliant on her she also reinforces his child-like behaviour. She uses baby voices (when she is not yelling at him and insulting him). The man spent 30 years as a college professor in criminology, he was well-known and respected by members of the criminal elite (I am not saying that is a good thing) – all in all, not a stupid man.
**She has coloured it black and, according to my mother, once you go black you can’t go back. I told my mother that is easy to fix – use temporary black dye that washes out until her hair grows out.

Prep Day

I have my colonoscopy and gastroscopy tomorrow at 12:30. I am doing the prep today which, borders on hell once it gets started. I will spare you all the details but needless to say it will be my own tiny slice of hell. Thankfully I have lots of drugs to make it through the day. Deb is going to go and get me a 7-up and lemon aid slurpee if she can find them. My life sucks today.

I will spare you all the gory details. Suffice it to say I will have more than enough time to read the new Mac magazine that arrived on Friday. Plus I have 3 back issues of the Walrus to read to. I should be set. I will then whine, whinge and generally feel sorry for myself. I will categorize this behaviour as self-care as I sit with a heating pad and try to relax.

I did remember to call my Mother for Mother’s day. She has been a bit nicer since she got sick and quit smoking. I am not expecting this to hold as I know her very well and leopards don’t change their spots. Apparently my sister is also going to quit smoking. I hope this all goes ok or Deb and I will be in the middle of a conflict that would scare suicide bombers. Seriously folks, this is not an exaggeration. Those 2 can fight like no other 2 people I know. If you don’t keep your head down they lock on to you and there is no getting away from them.


My mother’s latest health scare has convinced her of the need to quit smoking. She landed in the hospital last week with pneumonia and unable to breathe. My mother is deathly afraid of needles and the thought of being in a hospital literally scares the shit out of her. Right now, the experience is very fresh. They needed to put an IV into her hand and they had a hard time doing it. Apparently it took 3 tries before it was done. She is now looking at her hand, which is all bruised and her resolve is strong.

I worry for her though because she is setting up quitting smoking as an all or nothing proposition. I am not sure that will work for her. If she believes she fails if she has one cigarette it will be very easy for her to start again. After all, if in her mind she thinks she has failed it will be very easy for her to just keep on smoking. Instead I am trying to encourage her to think of it in a different way and to be forgiving to herself if she slips.

She is leaning on my a fair bit through this process as I successfully quit smoking on April 21, 1991. I have never slipped and I did it cold turkey. I worry that my mother thinks that because I was able to do it she should as well. Right now she is on the patch which, is great for her. I think one of the things that has kept me from smoking again is the memory of how much it hurt for that first 3 days. It was hell. All I can remember is eating sunflower seeds like a crazy woman for several days. I kept cigarettes with me for a couple of weeks just in case I couldn’t hack it. I gave myself permission to have a cigarette if it was still as bad in 5 minutes. I basically quit smoking 5 minutes at a time. It worked for me.

I am not so sure it will work for my mother. I was addicted to smoking without a doubt. I had smoked for 12 years and making sure that I had enough cigarettes at all time had become a focus for me. I think my mother (and sister) are addicted at a much deeper level. They smoke constantly. My mother was smoking at least a pack and a half per day. She smokes no matter how she feels.

I am going to support now matter what happens. I will encourage to keep going and if she slips I will help her get up, dust herself off and start again. Stay strong mom!

Odds and Sods

Time for one those update like posts full of information (possibly TMI). Here goes:

  • My mother is in the hospital. She has been told she has emphysema. Without an external source of oxygen she cannot get to a 100% sat level. I suspect they may discharge her with oxygen. Her pneumonia is resolved now but her breathing is not much better. She has decided to quit smoking, Hands down, that will be the hardest thing she has ever done.
  • I have been a devoted nurse-maid to Zoe for the last couple of days*. We have to make sure that her drainage sites stay open. This involves several hot compresses after which, I put hydrogen peroxide on the drainage sites and let it sit for a while. Then there is lot of massaging and trying to move the accumulated fluid out. Zoe is an amazing dog. She rarely complains about any of this routine. We could not ask for anything more.
  • My ulcerative colitis has been quite bad lately. I am in a full-on flare. Lots of pain, blood and nausea lately. Plus we seem to have added a new symptom – my inability on some days to keep food down.
  • Our house is so changed without Gemma Joy here. No one runs at me full-bore and launches for a cuddle. No dog could cuddle the way Gemmie could. She would launch – which, if you were not paying attention you could get hurt as she weighed over 20 pounds. She loved her belly rubs too. As much as we all miss her, I do have to say that it is better for the other dogs. The stress level has been reduced greatly. The gates are all open now so everyone has free range of the house most of the time. The only times they are closed now is when dogs are eating. When the gates were closed, inevitably there was someone who did not want to be where they were. Not naming any names but her name starts with a ‘C’ and ends with an ‘O.’ (photo below) She has an ability to make everyone crazy by scratching and digging at whatever is in her way.
She has perseverance!
  • Logitech Remote – We bought a remote that I can program to watch TV or watch a DVD or watch Apple TV. All of these things have multiple things that need to happen. For example, to watch tv the following things need to happen: the TV needs to be turned on, the PVR box needs to be on and he TV needs to be set to HDMI1. They say it will take about 30 minutes to set it up. Bull crap I say! We spent the first 30 minutes trying to read the model numbers on all of the devices! Then in the middle of trying to program it yesterday the Logitech site went down. Finally after getting it all up the ‘skip’ button didn’t work for the PVR. For anyone who has a PVR box knows that all powerful skip button that takes you past all of the commercials. The instructions almost made it worse when I was trying to figure it out. Finally I put 2 different pieces together and got it figured out. I have no idea how someone who is not a techie could figure it out. I guess they would be paying the Geek Squad to program it.
  • I am off this week. I love to have a week off at Easter. I can usually combine the statutory holidays with my flex day then I only need 3 days to get a week off. It works well!
  • Another Zoe update – she is well today. Her and Sawyer are playing right now. It is too cute for words. Sawyer is too cute for words.

*With pleasure I must add. We completely adore that little shihthead!