Day 40

We are home now. It was a long driving day yesterday. Lots to tell everyone about the trip but I am really sick right now, so not today. We had a great time as did the dogs. Here’s today’s pic. Back to the grind:



Oh and it snowed.



Things I love about Autumn

It is no secret that autumn is the favourite season for most of us here at the Swamp – both human and canine. So here in no particular order is my list of things I love about autumn:

  1. It is no longer hot nor is it cold yet. The temperature is usually just right that you can wear a light jacket.
  2. It is cool enough to wear scarves and hats – my new found fashion accessories.
  3. Our bed is hard when I get into it. We have a memory foam bed that gets very soft in the summer. When we have the door open in our bedroom the bed is actually so cold it is hard. I like this feeling.
  4. The pillows are colder when I flip them over.
  5. The dogs can go out and run and not get overheated and pant for hours.
  6. We can turn off the A/C and rely on cold air from outside to sleep comfortably.
  7. Having our outside bedroom door open all night means I get to see the mountains in the morning. This makes me very happy.
  8. I can use a heating pad all night without getting over heated.
  9. I adore Thanksgiving. I love making the turkey. It is my favourite statutory holiday. It is about celebrating things that are important to us without the baggage of the holiday season.

10. I love snuggling down into the bed with all the blankets pull tight around me.

11. I love the feeling of warm socks and shoes.

12. I love looking at the hordes of birds that land on the fences and telephone wires.

13. I love the hunkering down feeling I get as we move away from light foods to more comfort foods like homemade soup.

14. I love the colours. The trees here turn such lovely, brilliant colours. Every piece of vegetation is beautiful as it dies.

15. I no longer feel oppressed by the weather.

What about all of you? What are your favourite things about the changing of the season?

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘heat is killing me’ edition

  • It is no secret that I hate the summer. And make no mistake that summer has arrived at the swamp. It is always hotter in the valley than it is in Vancouver. The dogs don’t do well in the heat either. Kiefer has been laying in the living room panting for most of the day. Sienna has been laying on her back on the couch trying to cool off.
  • Today I was finally able to hand everything off to an interim ED at work. I can finally now stop checking email. Now, on to the work of getting better so I can go back stronger and better.
  • Speaking of health today was a bad, bad, day. The heat exacerbates my ulcerative colitis. I am not really sure why this happens. I have never tolerated the heat well. I can remember the numerous hiking and backpacking trips as a kid and I would be sick in the sun. Now as an adult, I can opt to mostly stay out of the heat. Fatigue is something else that adversely affects my disease. Not having to get up and commute into Vancouver everyday has made a big difference. I am already experiencing less fatigue. Being able to continue to get the rest I need will help me to improve. I really hope my pain levels will decrease over the rest of the summer as some days it is really high. Today has been really painful. I have had to run to the bathroom about 4 times with incredibly painful spasms and cramps.
  • Our pond is doing far more than providing much needed drainage in the Swamp. We are hosting at least one bullfrog and, if reported sightings are correct, a snake. All spring our pond was a landing zone for ducks but no one ever took up residence. It is nice to know that solving our problem has contributed to the local ecosystem!

Summer Weather

It is no secret that I hate summer. I can’t stand the heat and it makes me sicker than I already am. There is something that happens to those of us with autoimmune diseases that does not allow us to tolerate the heat. I can overheat in about 5 minutes. Other times, the heat makes me nauseous.

Here at the Swamp we have multiple air conditioners so, for the most part, suffering is optional. Most years, by the middle of July we are running all the air conditioners just trying to keep somewhat cool. In our bedroom we have an air conditioner, a ceiling fan and a turbo fan all going to keep us cool while we sleep. I use earplugs at night but Deb assures me that it sounds like a wind tunnel once my CPAP machine is added to the mix.

This summer, so far, has been a treat for me. We have only had 1 or 2 days that went above 25 degrees. It has been mostly overcast and rainy. It looks like it will continue for the next several days. Summer is something I have to endure, so the longer we go without the baking heat the closer to Autumn we get!

Why I hate Spring Rain

We live in a rain forest here on the left coast of North America. And it rains. It rains a lot. It rains for months at a time in the winter. It also rains in the spring. Spring rain is quite different from winter rain and I can’t stand spring rain

In the winter it rains. Unless there is a ‘pineapple express’ in town, it just lightly rains. You need your windshield wipers, maybe a hat or an umbrella, but generally, you don’t get soaked. Sometimes it mists where it just seems like a light rainy coating is covering you and everything outside but again you can stay relatively dry.

Spring rain is wet. It seems to come down in buckets. Windshield wipers need to go at full speed and still you can’t see. Then it starts and stops. So it pours and then we are lulled into a fall sense of complacency. Then, it pours again. Personally, I would much rather have winter rain if it must rain.

At least we are not in Calgary, where it snowed, yet again!

Five Minutes

Five minutes is a recurring theme when I try to make changes in my life. I know myself well  and I know that if I try to make wholesale, black and white changes it does not work for me. When I decided to quit smoking my intention was to ‘try’ and not really commit to never smoking again. In fact, I carried cigarettes around with me for 2 weeks and told myself if the craving was still this bad in five minutes I could have one. Well, the craving was never that bad in five minutes and to this day I have never had a drag of a cigarette. The day that I had my last cigarette was April 21, 1991. It has been a very long stretch of ‘five minutes.’ I don’t have urges to smoke anymore. I am no longer addicted to nicotine and I can’t stand the smell of it as it gives me a headache now. The weird thing is that I smoke in my dreams. At least once a week I have a dream where I am smoking. It is hard to fathom how powerful an addiction smoking is for some people.

I am going to meander a bit but I need to do that in order to get to the place I want to go. When we were children my mother married a man who liked to hike and cross-country ski. We had never been active as kids except that it was the seventies and everyone played outside all day and all evening. We rode bikes, I had a pogo stick and we played a lot of hide and seek. Enter my step-father. At first he would just take my mother backpacking. They would be gone for long stretches of time and we kids had to stay with my grandmother (I will leave this hell for another post…). Then they decided that we should come backpacking with them. I was horrified. We had always camped and gone fishing but we were in a trailer. I knew that I hated the sun, got sick in it and I was paranoid about stinging insects.

Our first trip was to a place called ‘Egypt Lakes.’ It is in behind the Sunshine mountain ski resort. So, the first thing we had to do was climb the ski hill. It was raining and at 8 years old I was carrying 35 pounds. My step-father decided how much each of us would carry based on our weight and I was heavy. My sister only carried 15 pounds. I was not a happy camper to say the least. I was also pigeon-toed as a kid and the hiking boots I was in did not have the corrective soles on the bottom. This trip was 8 miles of up and down hills and over mountain passes – 2 of them to be exact. The rain was torrential and I hated every fucking minute of it. To me it was hell. As I got progressively tired my feet got in my way and I spent most of the last 2 miles going 1, 2, 3 splat as I tripped myself. Instead of getting encouragement I got told to get up. After a while I was told that if I fell one more time I would be spanked. I knew he meant it. So I cried. What other coping skills does an 8 year old have?

These backpacking trips carried on for years. We walked about 200 miles a summer. Part of the goal was that they would put me on a diet and force me to walk all summer with increasing amounts of weight on my back. In the heat. While everybody else got M&Ms and cashews for energy, I got water because, according to my stepdad, I was packing around enough energy already. He would say these things in front of other adults. Sometimes the people with us would give me a look that let me know they were horrified by his treatment of me. Then there were the times I fell behind. I could not keep up with everyone and there were times I was scared out of my wits because there would be a fork in the path and no one would wait to tell me where to go. These trips were all done in the backcountry where there were wild animals and I was afraid I had been abandoned. Invariably, he would come back for me with a willow switch in his hand and hit the backs of my legs all the way up the trail. I did the only thing I knew how to do – which was to cry. I would have heat stroke, I would be exhausted and I would be hypervigilant for stinging insects. Oh and I hated to get dirty.

One particular trip stands out for being especially horrible. We were doing the Contintental Divide that started in Jaspar. We spent a lot of time in the open under the beating sun at quite high altitudes. We were going along and I stepped into what I thought was a mud puddle. It wasn’t a puddle it was a sinkhole and I had to be pulled out. I was wearing heavy duty canvas pants and they were caked with mud. He made me rinse them out (I was in my underwear) and he strapped them to the back of my pack so they would dry. We didn’t stop though – I had to walk in my underwear. I was completely humiliated.

So where is this all going you ask? Well I have given all of this background information as a way to explain why I hate to walk. I hate to hike. I hate the heat. I have not been able to get past this in over 30 years. I think these experiences were truly traumatizing. I always suffer in the summer because I am hot and I think it takes me back to those days. My anxiety is way out of whack again and I need to find a solution.

I have known for a long time that I needed to do something about getting some exercise. I have chronic pain and anxiety and physical activity or at least improving my level of physical fitness is imperative. I am not prepared to restrict food as I already have so many restrictions on what I can eat due to the gastroplasty I had in 1997 and now my colitis. Some foods don’t go down and others make me very sick.  After thinking about my options I decided to get a treadmill. It is something I can use indoors and not have to worry about getting overheated because I can put the air conditioner on.

Here is where five minutes comes into play. I know that I can do just about anything for 5 minutes. My commitment to myself is to try and do 5 minutes everyday. I know that there are going to be days where I just can’t bear to do it. Yesterday was one of those days. I was exhausted and over-heated and probably I would have been sick today if I had forced it. But I managed to do it every day for 7 days and I have done it for today. I have already noticed some benefits in my daily life.

After writing this I can see now where a lot of the issues I have with anxiety, abandonment and control have come from. Being forced to do something I detested as a child has made me very stubborn and a need to have control in my life. My fear of abandonment knows no bounds – it is constantly there. Summer and the heat brings up a lot of this for me and I don’t think I have ever realized before how much those summer backpacking and hiking trips had affected me. Oh and then there are the cross-country skiing trips…another day.

“Today” – is the day!!!

Deb jokes that there are only 2 days a year where I am happy with the weather. Today is one of those days. This morning it was a very pleasant 15 degrees celcius in Maple Ridge. It was warm enough to drive with my big sunroof open all the way to work. It was neither too hot nor too cold and the sun was just right! Sigh…

Hello February!

I am so happy January is over. I hate January. Here, in no particular order, are the reasons I hate January:

1. January begins the long period of no statutory holidays (for most of Canada) until Good Friday. This is completely unacceptable. Now before everyone tells me there is a stat in January, I know that but it is the first day and then there is this long drought.

2. It is cold, dark and wet. This January has also been very snowy. We still have freaking snow out here from the big dump in December. Plus we got some more for good measure.

3. The days are very short. I spend far too much time driving in the dark and the rain. Anyone who battles the MaryHill Bypass every day will know what I am talking about.

4. January is one long-ass month. It seems to go on and on and on. This one was not so bad given that I was very busy but I usually spend most of January wishing the time would go by faster.

5. Our backyard is usually a swamp and our septic system reeks because there is no where for the water to go. This year has not been so bad as the swamp has been frozen.

6. The pug hates the rain. I usually spend way too much time trying to get her to pee. Thankfully, she is now sleeping with someone else and I don’t have to stand outside in the rain with her for long periods right now.

7. Another reason to hate January is that I am cold all the time. I have to layer and bundle up and that gets obnoxious. I am wearing wool socks and insulated shoes and my feet are still cold some times.

It is still winter here on the wet coast in February but hope is on the horizon. By the end of the month, the crocuses will be blooming. Then it will be March and things will start to get a little warmer and a little drier and then the cherry blossoms come…aaahh, the cherry blossoms, my favourite time of year!