Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I'm a lifelong Trekkie. I partly blame my mom. She would not tolerate rivals, and Star Trek rivalled her for my attentions. So she planned dinner to start ten minutes before the finale. Ten minutes to six. She would trot up to the television and turn it off, "Dinner's ready." I'd thought for many years that it was terribly inconvenient that television programming did not accommodate people's dinner schedules. It only dawned on me many years later that mom planned dinner hour on purpose to mess with my schedule. All those missing finales, they left their mark. I'm never sure when I watch a re-run if I've seen the whole thing through. So I set myself down, even today, to revel in the pleasure of a finished story.
The paper-back sections of the public library similarly leave me with trailing ends. I admit, I'm trolling the science fiction section. Especially in SF, it seems, authors get themselves a series going. It must be a great deal of work manufacturing entire worlds and civilizations. It is a terrible waste to use it all up on one book. So we have ourselves our trilogies and our tetralogies and our heptalogies. Anyways, back to our problem in the paper-back section of our public libraries. Typically they contain fairly current novels. Which means they have perhaps the third volume but not the first or the second. I am thrust in to the middle of the story without context. Or worse, I am fully involved in my hero's tale with no way of knowing how it ends. To this day I'll pick up any Asimov novel I come across, just in case it might be one I've missed. I'm sure I've read Foundation dozens of times, fearing it's one of my missed books.
How does all this talk of trailing ends have to do with life and blogs? Now that I'm halfway through my earthly toil, it seems to me that life itself is a story with trailing ends. Often I've thought of writing of what I've learned about parenting, courage, success...but the lack of a satisfactory conclusion has held me back. My children are a work in progress. I'm a work in progress. I cannot say that one way or another guarantees satisfaction or an end to problems. Problems are interwoven in to the fabric of our life. They mess up the edges of our lives, leaving trailing bits of undone business around. Perhaps that tension of an unsatisfactory conclusion drives us forward to do better, to give another try. Let us hope that is the way to respond to life's trickeries.
It does no good to throw the book to the ground (or toss our relationships to the side) because they do not satisfy.
Thanks to sammystuff for her lovely wool picture. http://sammystuff.blogspot.com/
Friday, December 19, 2008
A sight I could have done without is robot Santa at Wal-mart.
He sent me automatic greetings every few seconds, as I stood at the door, bundled up with my purchases, waiting for hubby to pick me up. Anyways, there's this robot santa standing above the seasonal racks. On schedule, he makes some spastic moves and mumbles something Christmas-ey. Thankfully, he is drowned out by the buzz and clatter of the shoppers. But we had those few creepy moments together as I waited for my ride.
Whatever was Walmart thinking?
I watched a documentary on Mall Santas last night, very well done. Here's a fine review. The director, Mike Sheerin , gives us to peek in to the lives of three Mall Santas who take their job very seriously. There's an exchange of kindness; all three men get something special from the lives they touch. A surprising flip side is the barrenness of their personal lives. When Christmas is all over, Santa is forgotten. I'm of a mind to pass on my thanks to these heroes of the human touch....on Boxing Day.
Meeting Santa is all about humanness and warmth. A benevolent stranger cares about me and wants to know how I am doing, what I most wish for. You can't get that touch from a machine. I'm all for technology when it helps. Sure, automate the check-out experience. I'd be happy to do that chore myself. But Santa can't be automated. He's a living, breathing symbol of care.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I figure it's the unique combination of our strengths and neuroses that led us to where we are today. We both love the small town life, but live in the big city. I figured, if the mountain won't come to Mohamed, well.... So I added a few small town habits. We stop and talk to passers-by. I drop off cookies for newcomers, or to commemorate an everyday fence-burning, or maybe just for no reason at all. After all, I love to bake with my granddaughter but I cannot eat. Why not give the love away?
Hubby asks everyone what they are up to, aggressively interested in their day. He's not faking it. He really wants to know. After all, people and their lives are loads more interesting than television. He also has a sharp eye for makes and models of cars. We know, for instance, when our single neighbour has switched boyfriends, by noting the change in make and model of car in her visitor's spot. We figure when our young couple is visiting family out of town, when their spot is vacant for a few days.
Me, I want to extend our social network for our own sake. Since we are in a religiously mixed marriage, it's tough to find couples in our relative congregations who will socialize. So I constantly search out new prospects in our neighbourhood. These extended friendships also help to remind my hubby that regular people, religious or not, are just plain fine folk.
Building our own small town around us has it's perks. We've lent and borrowed sugar. Sympathetic neighbours have pooled their collective intelligence to help us break in to our own home. I've traded perrenials around the complex so I now have a blazing variety of flowers in my garden. We've helped our neighbours apply as foster parents and get their mortgage witnessed, and they've helped us get our passports.
Helping each other fill out those necessary applications have been a wake-up call for the young couples in our neighbourhood. In the busy-ness of building their lives and their little family, they suddenly realize their network of friends is very, very small. What does it say about our modern, isolating lifestyle that the best candidates to vouch for them are the....nosy neighbours?
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Our famous Canadian cold is finally scheduled to arrive, so made sure the feeder is full.
I wonder if a few strategically placed moth-balls might convince him to nest somewhere else. Where does one buy moth-balls these days?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
- Edmonton is the restaurant capital of Canada
- We use only ten percent of our brain
- Boil a frog slowly enough and it won't jump out of the pot
What's the harm in spreading myth? I've spent a good deal of time teaching myself to think clearly and make decisions based on fact. It's so easy for people to get duped by a good sounding story, to be swept along by hormones, feeling, or instinct. People who base their decisions on anything other than reason may not really be in charge of their life at all. They could become victims of a con-man or a cause. I proud that am not taken by telemarketers or by any salesman for that matter. I am my own woman, not a puppet.
Even so, once in a while I get caught. But I'm getting smarter. If you haven't found it yet, snopes is a great place to check out if a story is fact or fiction. Please, please use snopes before you forward an e-mail rumor. You will be doing every shared server on the planet a big favor. And you will save yourself my annoyance.
Well, my most recent myth to die, which I have shared unknowingly for years, is that Edmonton is the restaurant capital of Canada. I've since discovered that most cities make this claim. It's not based on fact, but civic pride. The only google reference to Edmonton's claim I found in an Edmonton article. It just goes to show, if a tidbit is shared often enough, it gains a life of it's own. Share it enough, and people might just think it's fact.
So which city can honestly boast that they are the restaurant capital of Canada? Montreal. There are over 5,000 restaurants in the metro island area. All the more reason to go for a visit, don't you think?
We only use ten percent of our brain. Myth. My Witness husband uses this false factoid to bolster his claim that human beings were meant to live for thousands of years. He gains great satisfaction from the hope that his poor brain can finally be used to it's full potential, if only it were given enough time. How the brain really works is a fascinating read. Two books I highly recommend are "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker and "The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force" by Jeffrey M. Schwartz. From those readings, I may have to give up another myth that the mind stores all information fed it from birth. That false mind model suggests that we could remember everything if we could just learn to access a vast unconscious. It turns out rather that the brain constantly renews itself, reinforcing pathways that are referenced often, and dropping others. In other words, you can lose it if you don't use it.
Now. About the boiled frog. Myth. This myth died hard. After all, the imagery works so well. I still use it to make the point that we are to be vigilant always and not to ignore incremental change. Always check - where are we heading? I've used the boiled frog analogy to explain how Jehovah's Witness recruiters slowly introduce a bible student to their beliefs. I've seen this in action many times as a new study is first warmly welcomed to a meeting in his jeans and t-shirt.
- The next meeting he's wearing a jacket over the jeans.
- The t-shirt is the next to go, replaced with a crisp open-necked dress shirt.
- The jeans are replaced with suit pants.
- And finally, the tie. No decent Witness male attends a meeting without a tie. At this stage, the study leader my offer to lend one of his. Just to make sure the poor fellow fits in.
So which one of these myths are true? Not a one. I played a rather nasty word game to prime you to find some truth in my three myths. It's not there. Word games can be tricky. Here's a final example to make you think. An author writes a highly successful fiction novel. In his preface, he suggests that the entire story is "true", but the facts must be hidden in fiction because sinister forces don't want the "truth" to come out. But the plain answer is that the entire novel is fiction. Half-truths rumor and myth are woven together in to a great story. It's a fantastic story, but it is not true.
I am horrified to find that many people were duped by that single false statement in his preface. There's entire discussion groups dedicated to the story he wove. The story? The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. A pox on that one sentence that sent a subset of the internet world on chasing a myth. History is muddied enough without a creative author kicking more muddle in to the mess.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Anyways, I am influencing the next generation. And what a challenge that turns out to be. This particular little group struggles with worship. For some, at least, it is a challenge to wiggle and weasel out of the chore. It's not a chore, it's a joy. But that's our own tug-of-war, and we'll keep working on it. After all, I am very, very determined.
Where I see eyes lighting up and esteem growing is in the short minutes of play before the structured program. This little group, besides abhoring worship, has taken to skipping (or jump rope). I've seen the shyest approach the rope ever more confidently from week to week. Even the youngest have surprised their parents by skipping a few times.
So I am wondering how I can leverage this interest, and how I can honor their choice. My google tour launches me in to a fascinating culture. Jump rope is a game of the streets. Any child can learn it, and very little equipment is required.
Perhaps I will simply expose my little group to the possibilities, and we'll take it from there. We can start with some jump rope rhymes and I can show them some championship video. I have friends in Wisconsin, close to the self-proclaimed jump rope capital of the world. I could get some bumper stickers and other items. After all, when it comes to jump rope, my little group is leading me.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
In a way, that joy of building castles in the air is still with me. I'm a Manager in a busy government office with a large complement of staff and a big budget. My day is filled with meetings, decisions, approvals, and people, people, people. I am an acknowledged expert in my field and people pay attention to what I have to say. When I listen to a new plan or policy, I build a structure in my mind on what it will look like. Are there flaws or obstacles that will hinder us? How can we fix it?
The most fascinating structures of all for me, these days, is complex group interactions. How do we coax a group of people in to a new way of doing things? Can we help them overcome their own barriers? How do we get the best out of our people?
When I started out, I started at the bottom as a records clerk. This job found me when I was very low, and I worked my way up. How did I end up at the bottom? I became pregnant as a teen. The father, who I stayed with for three long years, was abusive. He rarely worked. We lived in a dirty hovel. When I left him, I was a shattered human being. But I was also a young mother of two small children. I did not have the luxury to give up. I had two futures in my hands. So I went to work. And learned and grew along the way with my children.
My children grounded me. No longer a passive dreamer, I went out and built a future for us. I gained some callouses and some smarts along the way. I was no longer a flat and plastic suburbia child. I had depth of character and new insights on how people are; both the dark and the bright. I chose to shine. So, ironically, my checquered past gave me the decent foundation to become a decent writer.
I've been published - once - a cute little anecdote about my son for a magazine. But most of the time my work has been turned down by publishers.
I've learned that rejection is part and parcel of the writer's trade. I've also learned that writing is a higly solitary activity that comes with rare praise. But the creating, if I remember that. The joy of building my castles in the air, that is mine to enjoy and share.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Here's a dumpster diver in Calgary. http://shaneonabike.wordpress.com/2007/01/10/checkin-out-of-dumpster-divers-anonymous/
And here's a meetup site looking for local dumpster divers. http://dumpsterdiving.meetup.com/cities/ca/ab/edmonton/
There's a cachet to this sort of activity. After all, there's evidence of excess everywhere. For some people, it can become a mission to reduce that environmental load. Kind of like a modern Robin Hood and his merry men. They get to know the disposal cycles of the stores and where the best "takes" can be found. My son casually mentioned, for instance, the great finds of pre-packaged and expired sandwiches he was able to pick up behind a local convenience store. The "grazers" held a lot of appeal for my son, as he has a very strong miserly streak (I recently broke him from picking up cigarette butts when he's out walking with me). For him at least, the activity also had a side benefit of saving enough money to re-invest in drugs.
Which is the grimmer side of the grazer culture. It tends to pick up people who, for whatever reason, are not fully engaged with society. They could be suffering from untreated illness or addiction. They can literally drop off the grid. Living on the streets in Edmonton is doubly hard because winters can kill.
I won't comment either way on the wisdom of the grazer lifestyle, but I am worried that it's a quiet subtext in our society that no-one is talking about.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So it got me to thinking what I would share in my own "last lecture". It would most definitely start with "do not be afraid", and would include things about boundaries (respecting yourself) and barriers (removing them), about hummaness and inclusion, about believing and trusting yourself, about decency. Find your community, and work hard to make it yours. How to measure the quality of the information you find. How to measure the quality of your own beliefs, and to question. Be a leader worth following, and see how the world changes around you. Why it is worthwhile to fight for a better world.
P.S. I thought of two more. Integrity, the big lesson from my father, and self-discipline. How to get it and keep it and demolish the whole guilt cycle.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Whereas some people need to be stimulated by their environment, "entertain me", it seems that I prefer to entertain myself.
It is my salvation, I think, to look outside myself, to stay engaged with those around me, to include them in my sphere of interest. When I get outside myself, I am good. Too much navel gazing and I become self-absorbed and fearful. After all, if any one of us look too closely, we are going to find some damaging flaws. (OMG! Fix it, fix it!) But the fix is not inside, it is out there.
With people. Dust and all.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I don't know if my iPod and cell phone socks will take off, but it seems that they should be really cool. I do check with really cool people like my granddaughter and my neice just to be sure. My daughter scoffed at my idea until she saw a woman with a cell phone sock on the train. She, also, had balked at the cost of the iPod sock and opted to make her own...out of a real sock.
Anyways, that's how I kept my hands busy. When I am dieting, I am overwhelmed with frenetic energy, searching for an outlet. It is my hungry cells looking for their ambrosia? What will it take to get them to open up?
Friday, November 14, 2008
We are always hearing of people who are around seeking after the Truth. I have never seen a (permanent) specimen. I think he has never lived. But I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were (permanent) Seekers after the Truth. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment- until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the Truth. That was the end of the search. The man spent the rest of his hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather.- "What is Man?"
I take an anti-inflammatory, and go to bed early. Hubby, bless his soul, notices, and puts a temporary halt to his endless teasing. He even offers to call the dentist at seven the next morning. I must look really, really bad. It turns out they are not open at seven but rather, open at ten in the morning! I take another anti-inflammatory, and soldier on to work. Taking a break halfway through the morning meeting, I make the call at ten sharp. And then another call at one minute past ten. Thankfully, the receptionist picks up on the second call.
I find out that dentists, or rather their loyal receptionists, can hold you hostage, too.
She asks if I can come in at three. "But I have meetings this afternoon. Can I make it later?"
"Our next opening is the following Wednesday."
I make it for three. Again, hubby refrains from teasing and picks me up promptly from the train station. I must sound really, really bad. The dentist checks me over, taps my teeth, shaves down the offending tooth, and confirms that I will likely need a root canal. He prescribes an anti-inflammatory and some antibiotic in the meantime. As I rise from the chair, I have to pause for a moment as I am washed over with an intense wave of pain. A tsunami wave that overruns all my senses and leaves me reeling.
The dentist quickly decides to do some emergency work. I sit back in the chair. I am given a happy face ball to squeeze the life out of. The dentist chatters about his "day of pain". It seems that everyone that came in that day needed help in the worst way. Sure enough, when he drills in he finds a dead tooth, just starting to abcess. He cleans it out and puts on a temporary filling. I am now on antibiotics and yet another anti-inflammatory.
But here I sit the morning after, and I am surprisingly pain-free. I was held hostage, but the ransom wasn't too expensive. I simply had to put a hold on my regulated day to take care of some necessary things. Now, to find the money for the root canal.
Oh, P.S. I've borrowed the picture from a fellow blogger, Willie Walsh:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Here's another great group, working at breaking down the barriers, and re-integrating some of our disenfranchised back in to the community.
The organization is Youth Restorative Action Project (YRAP), and is peer-run. Think about it. Committess of teens telling teens how to straighten out.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I'm afraid of losing my history.
Thank God she added the second part, diarizing. I can honestly say that I do. Though I don't know how much is spent on introspection. I also fear that too much navel-gazing will make me self-centred and neurotic.
But more about forgetting, which is what the instructor suggested I explore a little further. It's not like alzheimers runs in the family, but my mind my most valued asset. Just like a pretty woman fears losing her looks, I fear losing my mind. I spend so much time with ideas, will I forget my children's names? Where have we lived? What have we done? So I keep the utility bills from twenty years' back.
Yes, it's probably time to clean out the attic. And the basement. And the cobwebs in my own mind.
I have a feeling that instructor is going to have an amazing course. She asked me to make sure to introduce myself at the class.
Monday, November 10, 2008
What is my favorite place in my home? Hard to say. I guess you could pick where I spend the most time. But that might be for convenience and comfort, not real joy. Of, course, most time is spent in the bedroom. We have made it comfortable. It has satiny soft microfibre sheets, deep mauroon window curtains, and a flat screen television on the wall. The room is comfortable.
I would have to say it is my kitchen. My kitchen is where I can most easily create. Oddly enough, it was the purchase of a simple recipe cover that changed the way I approach my kitchen. It inspires me to put up the most recent recipe to try, and prompts me in the evening, when I would most comfortably retire to that cosy bedroom, to make something instead.
So I went to the library. One of the books I picked up is "Mercator: The Man Wo Mapped The Planet" by Nicholas Crane.
The book gives a rich description of life and society of the 1500's. The story is extensive, too, because like so few of his time, Mercator lived to be over eighty years old. What strikes me is that a bad winter or a poor harvest could send the people in to a spiral of poverty and starvation so very, very quickly. I am at the part of the story where Mercator is in his fifties. He has just lost a grandson, his daughter, and one of his sons to the plague. His contemporaries are passing from kidney stones, an accidental splinter of jousting pole to the brain, gout, stroke, and heart attack. Familiar to our times, the series of disasters and political events have many convinced that armageddon is at hand. All the signs are abundant.
So, as my earlier readings of medieval times have led me, people are no different today. We react the same way to dire events. There is love, dignity, fear, and prejudice in abundance.
What is different today is the strength of our administration, civilization, health care, and the devising of social safety nets. Can you imagine today, when a financial crisis looms, that we be faced with lines of migrants leaving our city, emaciated, munching on grasses and barks to stave off death?
Not that we take the needs of the poor for granted. Oh, no. But we have come a long way. There are ways to prepare for social crises. We've learned something from our histories. Like Joseph of old, our leaders should store up during the seven fat years of abundance, for what may lay ahead.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
(Added November 13, 2008 - well, I'm fresh back from diabetic training and it turns out I was only half right. The nurse told me the culprit was FAT. Fat gets processed the slowest, so it will stay in my system, being broken down and stored, for over 24 hours. The list of food "good guys" gets shorter and shorter....)
This morning, I wake up to one of my worst morning numbers, 8.0 mmol/l. What did I do differently? Hubby and I indulged in a large pizza with bread sticks last evening. I ate the equivalent of five servings of bread in a single sitting.
The numbers don't lie. Bread kills. Me.
I mustn't give up carbohydrates altogether, of course. The stir fry was nearly all carbohydrates, too. But they were at their most complex. There was nothing complex about that pizza. I can all the toppings I want, it is still a very, very simple answer to my cravings (fat, salt, and bread).
It is obvious there is more work to be done in our family to change our eating habits and our preferences. I have an image of me in a monk's cowl, sitting down to a plain meal of vegetables and barley or perhaps a little soup, parsimonious in my sips, withering to a shadow of my former self, a veritable living prune...
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Watching the sparrows out my window, I learn something of a sparrow's worries. I've given them a gift, a steady supply of seed to help them through the winter. But they approach the feeder cautiously. Over the past month, they have quietly made their way to the feeder, and quietly left. They don't approach it directly, either. First, they land in the upper branches of my cedar, then in the cool, green dark, they hop ever closer to the goal. Even as they eat they are cautious, taking a quick look around before they crack a seed.
Why such caution? Because others are watching as well. We now have cat-visitors to my yard. More than once I've caught a strange cat sitting in our basement wheel well, intent on that feeder, so temptingly close above.
"What is the price of five sparrows? A couple pennies? Yet God does not forget a single one of them". - Luke 12:6.
I am sure God is not tracking them with the same intensity as a cat. And with another motive altogether. Why does God care about the sparrow?
Note also, the sparrow does not throw caution to the wind, even if God is watching.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
These latest changes in the way I deal with problems are part of a bigger change in perspective, spurred by a little coaching from my boss. The simple idea is that we can get stuck because of small irritants or barriers that drain us of energy and keep us from moving on. Spurred on by her example, I tackled some of those personal energy-drainers in my life. Shortly after that I got a good doctor, and shortly after that I was diagnosed with diabetes.
You'd think that would be bad news, but it's something that's been hanging over my head for years. With a solid diagnosis, there are solid programs I can get join to make a change in my life. Seven weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers. I've lost over seven pounds since I joined. Last week we joined the YMCA, and I've gone over to swim at lunch time. The difference in my energy levels and my mobility, well, they are life-changing. I am bouncing around like the energizer bunny.
This got confirmed yesterday as I chatted up my weekend students at NAIT. I had casually mentioned throughout the course, by example, my experience as an Income Tax volunteer, my time as a Condo Board member, a discussion board moderator, an artist, my knitting, the joys of being a grandma and a Sunday School teacher. All of this besides being a very busy manager for my corporation, where my days are crammed with meetings. Someone asked when I sleep?
Well, that's another issue altogether, as madame menopause imposes her own disruption to my schedule. I am up very early most days, involuntarily. But I do sleep deep and long every night.
And I do manage my crowded schedule very well. I tell my colleagues at work that I manage by being "freakishly organized". I credit my years as a single parent on how to use each moment to the fullest. Before the days of PDA's and Blackberries, I kept a Day Timer to keep track of all my appointments. I live by my calendar. My latest innovations include the dreaded To-Do list, and a Tickler file. At home, we keep a "Punch List" on the white board for errands that need to be done around the home. I am in charge of my toys, by the way, they don't control me. I spent several days turning off all the buzzers on my Blackberry, for instance. By comparison to my days as a single mother, my simple life these days with a calm man at my side, my evenings mostly filled with family and entertainment, feels like plenty of time to do a few more things.
I'm thinking, with my renewed energy from the weight loss, I will be a bouncy, bouncy lady. Perhaps my weight gain and my eating was a way to self-medicate a tendency towards hyperactivity. But I don't remember such energy since I was a six year old child. After that, I mostly hid in books. I think I must have been hiding for a very, very long time.
Friday, October 24, 2008
In the meantime, I untangle a ball of wool. Funny, how an embedded twist of cord can jam up the whole works. The trick of untangling is not to push too hard. Shake it up, let it fall naturally where it may. Then pull gently until you find a knot of resistance. Massage the knot and coax it apart. Take a good look to see where the twist went wrong. Then flip, untwist, make it straight again. Quick, roll it in to the ball where it belongs. Tell the cord, see? This is how you were always meant to be. I could never use you to make a scarf or hat until we got straightened out. Before, I'd take a stitch and stop. Stitch and stop. Never seeing progress, hardly going forward at all. Now we can stitch along in no time. Just you see what we can do together!
Then shake the tangle again. No yanking. No forcing. Patience, patience.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
But I didn't mean to talk about violence today. What I wonder about these days are the shows that help us deal with our excesses. I think of shows "Clean Sweep" and "The Biggest Loser" that helps people shed their excess. Whether it be a household out of control, or a body out of control. What would such a pile of goods look like to people outside of our bubble of prosperity? Our problems must appear vacuous, silly. But they are real. We do really struggle to pare down.
Perhaps a leaner society would be a happier society. I'm thinking of planting a victory garden this coming spring, in commemoration of our survivor past.
As a closing note, have you ever seen Time's photo series, "What the World Eats"? Well worth a visit.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
I saw shades of myself as we talked, because he and I were more interested in the advances in technology, and the relative efficiency of the office. Or perhaps those things are a little easier to talk about. Dad was impressed with the speed they got him through his tests. In for a CAT scan at nine, they promised he could see his specialist by ten. And they did. Dad credits the speed to the small office with a few people managing several tasks. The same lady who gave him his wrist band reviewed his chart and fast-tracked him to the front of the line. Dad says he sat in the waiting room only a minute. It was obvious the counter staff knew the doctor who was ordering the tests, and knew what they had to do. Dad was similarly impressed that his doctor had all the test results in front of him when they talked.
It was a lot easier talking to dad this time. I've lost some of my old defensiveness, and he seems to have mellowed a bit. Or perhaps he's always been mellow and I've finally stopped striving to meet some imagined standard. He still worries about me, drilled me about the state of my home, my children, my work. It's all good, really. Very good.
Dad will do just fine, too. We compared notes on the "ideal" diet and the trials of reducing salt. Funny, how much more I taste the food now.
It's like, Naomi taught me to see the blue. Now dad's example is teaching me to savor. Every berry bursting it's own gift as I eat my oatmeal and milk.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Her first job is to get you to where you are going, and she does that very well. She is alert and aware of all the clients in her space and what they are waiting there for. Of the half-dozen services offered at this location, there was only one line, waiting to pay insurance. She helpfully redirected one client, "Don't worry, that line is not for you; travel is around the corner." Another time a case worker called a name with no response. Nicole checked with the couple at the display, and sure enough, they were the ones waiting to be called.
It was also obvious that she's a warm person who really likes people. We got talking because she noticed I was crocheting a "kickin'" scarf. She asked lots of questions. Nicolle is also plugged in to one of those cordless phones, so it was a little disconcerting to sort out who she was talking to. I suspect our new generation will get better at filtering out their freind's eatherial conversations. Anyways, we soon had a lively conversation going, interspersed with her helpful redirections for newcomers.
She tells a great story about her father in law, who lives in a tiny town in Sasktachewan. Somehow we got on the topic of drunk driving and how wrong it is. I mentioned that smart alcoholics drink close to home so they can get home afterwards without hurting anyone. Which is where her father in law comes in. He taught his pig to take him to the bar and back! They had a few old pigs on the property, over five hundred pounds. He would climb on the back of the pig and say "Bar", and the pig would walk to the bar. He'd tell the pig to "Stay" and he would stay. When the drinking night was over, he'd come out, flop on top of his pig and say "Home", and old pig would take him home.
Pig stories and all, Nicolle is an outstanding example of how a receptionist, who loves her job and loves people, can make a world of difference for new people coming through the door.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I see her bright future. More and more her network of friends and mentors will take over, and I will recede as one of the centres of her life to a friendly morning star. I will always be in her constellation, always watching and cheering her on, but I will no longer be the centre.
When I called the displayed number back (which varied from her call-back number by one digit, by the way), I was put in to holding hell for about twenty minutes. I didn't dare hang up, because the pleasant automated voice reminded me of the dreaded consequences. I'd lose my place in the queue. So as my husband shouted conversational inanities at me over a Tim Horton's lunch, I listened in succession to health tips, elevator music, and dire warnings not to hang up. I offered to let my husband listen in to the helpful tips, but he declined.
The second failure was an automated message that came on every five minutes or so, advising me that they were experiencing a high number of calls and if I wished, I could "press one" to leave a message. After ten minutes, I gave that "1" a try. It doesn't work! So then I was stuck. Do I hang up and risk a longer wait in the future? I grimly stuck it out.
The receptionist at the general health line was unhelpful. She asked what the appointment was for. When I said I did not know, she told me I would have to wait for the lady to call me back again. (The horror of hours of hold flooded my imagination). In desperation, I mentioned that my doctor was hooking me up for diabetes training. Could this possibly be why they are calling? "Well then, I'll forward your call to Diabetes booking. If I lose the call, here's the number." I made her repeat it two times. She said it too fast to write or memorize.
What was doubly unfortunate is the receptionist bothered to explain how difficult it is to locate the right department, now that they have gone through a major reorganization. She detailed that for me, just in case I was unaware. Like that prig of a psychiatrist years ago, I got the sense she was trying to pull me in to her political reality.
It's not my fight, lady. I want out of hold hell, and I'd pretty please like to set up that appointment.
The woman who originally called me was delighted to hear from me. She was so pleasant and efficient I forgot to tell her that her original voice mail was unclear. But we got through the necessaries and I am booked for my appointment. It was disconcerting that the closest clinics for the Northeast are far West and Central.
Now I am envisioning several "mystery shopper" forms that people could complete to describe their own experience. I'd need one for waiting rooms, queues, and for automated phone systems.
Friday, September 19, 2008
It was not a good time. My son was a very depressed pre-teen. I dreaded the possibility that he was developing schizophrenia. It runs in the family, you see. Children's Services had started to get involved, and one of their first priorities was to assess his potential for suicide. Perfectly understandable. They wouldn't want to be held liable for a death while under their care. So they asked us to visit the above-named clinic to get assessed. So far so good.
The clinic was fairly new at the time, and the waiting room was clean and modern, the colors soothing. My son and I were both given a long survey to complete where we were to check off all our fears and phobias. In my enthusiasm, I was probably more honest than I needed to be. Just because I skeedadle up the basement stairs at night because of the boogeyman who lives under there, doesn't mean I am a less capable adult. I've even been able to go up the stairs s-l-o-w-l-y, heart in my throat, daring the boogeyman to grab my ankles. I can override my overactive imagination with a dose of common sense.
I am absolutely fearless, on the other hand, when it comes to spiders, snakes, mice, wasps, bees, and all sorts of wiggly things. I'm just as likely to take hold of it to get a good look. My hubby has caught on to this facility, and has put me to good use, asking me calmly to "get rid of it" while he trembles like a schoolgirl.
Anyways, back to the "walk in clinic" intake process. My son and I fill out the forms and wait, patiently. We finally get to see the doctor, and he explains the presence of several interns as this is a teaching hospital. So far so good.
He tells me that he would not be doing an assessment, as my son was already scheduled to visit a premier child psychologist in the city. I got the sense the man did not want to provide a conflicting diagnosis. I get upset. I'd been asked to attend this clinic on the best advice of Children's Services. I don't want my son do die of suicide either. "So you tell me you will do nothing for me? That the forms in the waiting room, our hour wait, was for nothing?"
He tells me that Children's Services should not be using their service as some sort of clearing house. "I see." Near tears, I clammed up and left.
That experience left me with a burning conviction that conflicting agencies should never use the people coming through their door to make a point. What did that clinician expect me to do? Write my MLA? "Know for next time", if there ever were a next time? I was a mother in crisis, very near the breaking point myself. I needed help from the experts I was referred to. I did not need to be dragged in to a turf war.
It also made me wonder which sector of the mental health community that clinic intended to care for. Signs in the waiting room and notes on the application forms made it clear that they were not set up for crisis care or serious chronic mental illnesses. I tried to imagine my mother, while in full-blown manic phase, voluntarily attending weekly sessions at this pleasant clinic. They were also obviously not there to assist Children's Services in providing on-the-spot assessment of a client's risk for self harm. So who is left? The chronically depressed and the narcicissts? People with spider phobias?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The place is set up for profit. The architecture, the furnishings are all sleek and modern. Glass walls and chocolate walls sweep around in sleek curves, with little cubes to show off the merchandise. The cute little reception chairs were ordered in a perfect row. Instead of a coffee table, cushions. The fabric was worn in a spot and I couldn't help wonder, "Gosh, that fabric is going to be hard to match."
Anyways, the receptionist was pleasant enough. We had to lean close to talk. All those hard surfaces, and the space echoed with loud chatter. I asked her if it was like this all the time. "It comes and goes. Sometimes it is real quiet. When there's lots of people like now, yes, it is hard to hear." I make a mental note, "Put in some soft wall coverings." To the technician puffing air on to my eye, I complain about the absence of magazines. "Oh, but we have the big screen for that." What do you know. I completely missed the big screen on the wall, playing endless loops of instructional video on... you know what... the eye.
I'm not sure I am keen on all these instructional videos showing up all over the place. The Edmonton courthouse has the same thing. But I must say the courthouse video lady gives very practical advice. Advice that a live clerk of the court must repeat dozens of times a day. Most people (we hope) don't go to court that often. There's no way we could pick up all we need to know to keep ourselves straight, in the right place, and out of trouble in the short time we are there. I am grateful for the courthouse video lady. Though the courthouse is not so nearly as sleek and polished as that eyeglass store.
Should a public building pay as much attention to it's intake? What impression is it trying to build? Rather than prosperous, modern, and professional, what image is the intake office attempting to portray? Is it calm and efficiency? Or is it like the courthouse; authority and order? How does joe taxpayer feel about money being spent on a sleek and polished intake gallery?
The mental health clinic had patient artwork on the wall, which was very good. There was a great deal of random clutter, however, including the inevitable collection of ratty notices. Those notices, I swear, don't have nine lives. They are immortal. No-one ever reviews them or dares to take them down.