Sunday, October 26, 2008

Energizer Bunny

A few day ago I was at my lowest, in a real funk because of a real problem at work. But I tackled it differently this time, giving myself only a few days to lick my wounds before I reached out for help. It was such a relief to talk about the problem, as I was encouraged and I know I will not be alone in dealing with it.

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

Feeling Better Today

I've had a swim, a think, and a little talk with the people that can help me out of my funk. We're not out of the woods yet, but I do have a plan.

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.
The tangle picture is compliments of a fellow blogger, So Sue You Can Sew!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Ramblings

I am freebasing today, writing whatever comes to my head. I have no theme, no campaign, no agenda. Just me. Does this happen every year at this time, when the cares of the world and work crash down on my well-laid ambitions? I know I have a habit of hiding away from my friends, becoming a "virtual" hermit for months on end.

I sense I am leading up to one of those times now.

Can I fight my own nature? Should I? A trainer told me that it is OK to retreat for a while. But not long. So if I were to take that advice, I should go off and do my deep think..quickly..then come back. That makes sense. I don't want to retreat just for the sake of getting away. The problem is to be faced...after I've regrouped.

I can hear the wind howling out my darkened window, and the crisp flap of the tarp covering our beloved deck. That deck is raised to a work of art in our eyes (mine and my hubby's), as it is the first construction project we've done together. It was three days of hard sweat to build it. And six hundred screws. I developed a new respect for hubby's brute strength. And I think he is mildly amazed that the whole thing came together. After all, my notes were scribbled on three grubby index cards, the measurements checked and rechecked.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've often wondered what a person from the third world would think of some of our television shows. I don't always have to guess. My girlfriend from Uganda was horrified when she first came to this country by what she saw on the screen. And not for what you might think. We get hung up on nudity and sexuality. But what bothered her was the gratituous violence. After all, she'd seen enough of the real thing to never want to see it again...let alone glorify it. A commentator on Access television gave me insight on how we have given ourselves permission to see horrible things done to one another. Make the villain very, very evil. Have him harm innocents on screen. For the rest of the movie, we are given permission to cheer his and his associates' destruction. In the most horrible way.

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

It just makes the world a little less cruel...

The chicadees were waiting for me this morning. They were close enough for me to see their plump grey forms hopping up the bush. It pays to be reliable, especially when little creatures are depending on you.

I got a follow-up e-mail from someone else interested in Homeless Connect, and she twigged me to a YouTube clip on the San Franciso campaign. It looks as wonderful as it sounds. The line that really stood out for me on the video was from a volunteer who said, "It just makes the world a little less cruel." Another volunteer noted that these are the same people we pass on the street every day without acknowledging, yet in the connect atmosphere they are "just like everyone else." Isn't that what it is all about, to bring humanity in to every interaction?

On a separate note, I just finished another delightful novel from Alexander McCall Smith. He's the only author whose books I can't wait to come to paperback. I'm beginning to collect an impressive series of hard bound books about the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency", set in Botswana. But this man does a lot more than write delightful detective novels. He is also an expert in the field of bioethics, serving on many national and international bodies. A BBC biography writes of McCall Smith, "If his day job presents its own philosophical complexities and dilemmas, McCall Smith's writing offers an escape to a place that celebrates moral certainty, warmth and compassion. The author considers it "legitimate to write about virtue" and The Detective Agency series, in particular, shows "qualities that are found all over Botswana. People don't go in for distance and insincerity"."

Legitimate to write about virtue. What a delightful turn of phrase. Is it not also legitimate to campaign for virtue and decency, even in a jaded world?
Update from Elise, on Facebook: "Anyways, I heard really good things from my co-workers about that event (Homeless Connect). They all thought it was very successful. The event expected 1000 people but over 1500 showed up! "

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Tipping Point to Peace

On September 24, the Edmonton Journal told a good-news story of city counsellor who helped turn around escalating teen violence in the community of Mill Woods, "Road to justice in Mill Woods takes a splendid turn". City counsellor Amarjeet Sohi brought together the parents and the police to talk and come up with solutions. Most impressive is how the escalating violence has been brought to an abrupt end, and struggling parents were brought together for assistance and mutual help.

I think this is an impressive example of, not only of great leadership on the part of Counsellor Sohi, but of the principles of the tipping point as described in Gladwell's book. Not only was an epidemic of violence stopped in it's tracks, but a new positive epidemic of support and helps was generated for a community.

I think the incident also points out that we can't objectify violent teens as a problem of "those people". The problem could erupt anywhere, in our own households, if the conditions are there. Parents everywhere take note, and get help if you need it.

We mustn't justify violence as a natural progression in a growing, struggling city. Find the root of the problem and be as bold as Sohi to take action.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Connecting with the Homeless

I just heard about a program to help the homeless connect to services in the community. Edmonton is hosting a "Homeless Connect" campaign today. Dozens of services will be under one roof at the Shaw Conference centre. The homeless can get a hair cut, clothing, social services, and even photo ID if they need it. Launched by San Franciso in 2004, this approach is recognized in the United States as a national best practice.

The concept is intriguing, and I suspect far less frustrating for the homeless than roving from office to office. Transportation is an issue for street people as well. An errand that would take an urbanite an hour to complete in their car could take a street person two days to fulfill.

I'd love to hear how it went. Were there enough volunteers to help? Were there lineups?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Visiting Dad

Dad called for a surprise visit at lunch. He's in town for tests. He rolls his eyes for giving his new wife new things to worry about. His lung function is rated something like "extreme" which means they have an upper time limit. "Five or ten years", dad says.

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

The Sub-Waiting Room

Yesterday I endured the most dreaded of waiting rooms - the hospital outpatient clinic. This time it is my eyes. As I was just diagnosed diabetic, my diligent doctor has sent me over for some baseline pictures of my eye. I don't know what it is about touching the eye, but I find it more intimate, more terrifying than the dentist's. What comes to mind is a picture of Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four where his eyes are peeled open. He has no way to close them. ~shivers~. But I haven't found the image that haunts me. Anyways, hubby came along as I was not to take myself home after the tests. The drops they would put in my eyes would leave my pupils dilated with very limited vision.

But for all my horrors, the photographs and the exam were fairly painless. The professional staff, also, were pleasant and helpful.

Where I encountered reception hell was in the waiting rooms. There were at least four of them in this eye clinic, a wing in a much larger hospital.
The signage to the first rest stop was fairly straightforward. This first receptionist directed me "to the very end of the hall" and "to the right".
Like all government buildings, the place was forested with signage and instructions. "Put paperwork in this basket", "Emergency Intake". and a hand drawn, "This is not the end of the hall". I got to the end where I faced the mildly terrifying "Emergency Intake" and a darkened room. "To the right" was a small area marked "Sub-Waiting Room", a pleasant elderly lady, and nobody else. To the left was a small receptionist counter with another one of this ubiquitous baskets. Uncertain, I went back to a more substantial waiting room. And stared at the "This is not the end of the hall" sign again. I helpfully called out, "Is this the end of the hall?" And got a helpful reply, "keep going." Back at the empty counter on the left. A woman appears and takes me in hand. I'm on my way.

Nearly as distressing was getting there, as there is construction going on. The entrance was positively hostile to people on foot. The sidewalk I usually take was blocked off. The emergency entrance had a blaring sign, "No access to day clinic". Hubby and I looked at each other for a moment and decided we would have to walk the block away from the hospital to gain access to the main doors.
There's a narrow ramp that takes street traffic to these doors. There is no side walk. As we hesitated at the base of the ramp, allowing several cars to rush past, I looked one more time to see if there might be an easier way to get in. There were several access doors below and to the side, but they had that same forbidding look that the emergency entrance had. I had a gut feeling those doors would not gain me entrance. So up the ramp we went. My memory told me the eye clinic was just to the right of the front entrance, but the large directory overwhelmed. Do I look under Opthamology, Eye Clinic, what? I couldn't see it alphabetically, so I bothered the main receptionist. Thankfully, the clinic had not moved in the six years since I was there last, she pointed me in the direction I thought I must go. And there it was, just past the main directory, a huge sign, "Eye Clinic".
Thinking about all those hallways, signs, doors, and waiting rooms, I wonder if the eye clinic suffers from being cobbled in to a large hospital wing with a minimum of renovation. Not that I'm a huge fan of renovation, considering the trouble we had even getting in there.
What is it with hospital sub-waiting rooms? What spot of efficiency is hoped to be gained? Is it to keep the professional from having to walk a hundred steps a day to locate their patient? The result is that every day newcomers are treading unfamiliar halls and unfamiliar signage. It is unsettling.