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Monday, December 6, 2010

A Meet 'n Greet With My Colon

[Warning:  the following is a description of unspeakable bodily functions that could really turn you off, so all of you males out there who have crushes on me...close your eyes...IJ]

SATURDAY A.M. - A couple of years ago my doctor suggested that since I was over 50, I should have a colonoscopy.  I didn't think much of it at the time and said "Sure," so she booked the appointment.  Or rather, she had my name put on the list, because in BC and most of the rest of Canada it takes a long time to get one of those, as well as many other procedures.  Not that I was in a hurry to have it!  The whole conversation pretty much slipped my mind after that, and I didn't think anything more of it.  But here it is, a full two years after the initial booking and I'm finally scheduled to go into the hospital tomorrow morning.  A Sunday morning 9am appointment, including everything that has to be done beforehand (ahem...the evacuation process, so to speak), is not my idea of a pleasant weekend, but there's no turning back now.

I should mention that between the time we booked the colonoscopy and now, there was a decision to change all colonoscopies to CT colonographies, a much less intrusive procedure.  If you don't know what a colonoscopy is, essentially it involves the insertion of a fiber optic camera into the anus, which then winds its way through your bowels on the hunt for polyps, which can be an early sign of colon cancer.  A friend of mine passed away several years ago from colon cancer at the age of 46, but the disease itself is curable if caught early.  A CT colonography is less invasive in that it is basically a CT scan of your colon, and only involves the insertion of carbon dioxide through a small tube inserted into the anus, to expand the colon, which makes it easier to view on the scan.  Either way, the patient has to spend a day and a half "cleansing".

I received a letter in the mail just over a month ago, describing the procedure, what to do ahead of time and where to go to have it done.  Last week, I went to a pharmacy to pick up a whole array of weird-sounding concoctions that were on my list.  Well, I looked around the aisles for awhile and couldn't for the life of me find any of them.  There happened to be three pharmacists working, one male and two females...I approached the desk and was REALLY hoping that I could catch the attention of one of the females, but sure enough, it was the male pharmacist who noticed me first.  As I started to stutter the names of the medications on my list, he quickly smiled and gave me a knowing look...in a flash he was under the desk rifling for a kit which contained some of what I needed.  Then he flew around an aisle or two and retrieved the remaining ingredients for me.  I'm sure, like a doctor or nurse, a pharmacist becomes immune to the barrage of embarrassing bodily procedures and functions that come to his attention on a daily basis.  But this was all new to me.

I've been lucky in my life to have never been in hospital for anything other than the birth of my two daughters.  To some degree, giving birth tends to be quite enough to get a person over any self-consciousness.  I mean, with everybody poking around down there, the whole thing is pretty much out of your hands, isn't it?   And you're in so much pain, you don't give a rat's ass what they think anymore.  Just get that thing outta there!!

When I was a kid, I was afraid of doctors...I think it had to do with my mother becoming ill and eventually dying of Hodgkin's disease. I think I somehow unconsciously associated her death with doctors and hospitals as if they were to blame, and I didn't really start seeing a doctor until I got pregnant with my first daughter.  After my two daughters were born, I pretty much went back to ignoring the whole doctor thing again, but then I really didn't need to go anyway.  And though I've been lucky when it comes to my health, I realize that as I get older, parts are going to break down, problems are going to surface, and a person just can't expect to be perfectly healthy forever.  If there is something I can do to prevent or detect a serious illness early, I'm up for it.  So in a few moments I begin the process of prepping for my Sunday morning CT colonography.  Wish me good luck!

MONDAY P.M.

I have had a CT colonography and have lived to tell the tale.  I really didn't feel like sitting here and blogging during the process about my every move, so to speak, but now that it's over I'll fill you in.

Saturday was not too bad at first.  I had to mix a concoction including the first cleanser and drink it along with some juice and about 4 or 5 glasses of water.  The instructions said that things would start "happening" within an hour, but it didn't hit me hard at all at first.  I figured, okay, this is not so bad.  However, as the day progressed and I had to swallow more muck, it got worse.  By the time I was to have my lovely dinner of hot broth, I was pretty much exhausted from running back and forth to the washroom.  That didn't change much during the night either, so by the next morning at 7am when I had to get up to take the last of my mucky mixtures...I was pretty much ready to get it done with.

I arrived at the hospital a little early which was lucky because they were able to take me in almost immediately.  So began the ritual of changing into the hospital gown, signing a form and having the procedure explained to me.  I was given an IV so that they could give me a medication that would relax the colon, which makes it easier to view.  This medication also raises your heart rate, blurs the vision and dries out your mouth, so it's serious stuff.  Then I was then taken into the room with the CT scanner, which looks like a giant donut on its side with a table going through it.  I was told to lie down on my side, and up the yin yang went the small tube that delivers the carbon dioxide.  As they were setting things up, the nurse told me that people actually experience quite a bit of  "discomfort" when they are filled up with the carbon dioxide.  Okay, what?  The red flag goes up when they use the word "discomfort".  Who are they kidding...it's going to hurt, right??

Well yeah!  It felt like a pretty serious case of gas...my stomach started to gurgle as the carbon dioxide went in, then I felt bloated as if I had just eaten a huge meal...and next came the pain.  I was told to roll over on my back and to raise my arms above my head to prepare for the first scan, which intensified the pain.  A weird, female computer voice said "Breathe in, breathe out.  Now hold it..."   I waited in agony as the scanner started spinning and moving slowly over me.  "Breathe normally."  Phew!

Once the first scan was done, they had me roll over on my stomach with my hands above my head again.  This position actually felt more comfortable, and they were moving quickly so my "discomfort" wouldn't go on any longer than necessary.  Finally, the scans were finished and out came the little tube and the carbon dioxide along with it.  What a relief that was.  In so many ways.

The final process was a quick check of my heart rate, which was still a little high.  Well, I wonder why!

The staff were very kind and explained everything they were doing, so I never once felt nervous (except maybe for that "discomfort" part!) and it was all over within about 20 minutes.  I did have to wait an extra ten minutes or so for my heart rate to be normal, but then it was back to the change area for me, out of the hospital gowns and back into my good ol' clothes.  Ah. 

All in all, the worst part was the day before as I was going through the cleansing part.  But to tell you the truth, the whole process really wasn't that bad at all, and I feel better having done it.  I hope any of you out there over the age of 50 might consider asking your doctor to book a CT colonography for you.  On the whole, it's a very small period of unpleasantness that could actually save your life.  As I mentioned earlier I had a friend pass away from colon cancer, and even though she was younger, by the time she knew she had it, it was pretty much over for her.  It doesn't have to be that way.

Okay, boys, you can open your eyes now :-)

IJ
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Love A Parade!

It's been a few years since I was in a parade for one reason or another, but last night I volunteered to give out candy canes along side the CHEK Television float and car in the Santa's Light Parade in downtown Victoria with my good friend Elaine.

I borrowed my daughter's big coat and dressed myself as warmly as possible.  The forecast called for a 60% chance of rain and it was going to be about 3 degrees, so I wanted to be good and ready.  Elaine picked me up in her car and we headed downtown, only to get caught up in a bottleneck of other cars about halfway there.  Of course, EVERYONE ELSE was also headed downtown.  Why hadn't we thought of that??  We finally found a way out and took a different route downtown, skirting past most of the traffic.

Then it was out of the car and a speedy walk past the huge crowds that were already gathered, down to the BC Museum where the parade began.  I was already in a sweat!  We wondered if we were going to make it on time, and just as we ran up to the float, which was basically a huge inflated camera perched on a semi truck, it began to roll.  We grabbed bags of candy, and started running again, stopping every now and then to hand out candy to the eager hands that were stretched out towards us. 

I'd look up and the truck was already half way down the block, so I'd run to catch up...then I'd throw my hand in the bag and grab a  handful of candy and stop to hand it out to more hands.  "Thank you!" I'd hear.  "Merry Christmas!"  A lot of the parents were telling their kids "Are you remembering to say thank you?"  Some kids were clever and held out their hats, where I could see that they'd already gotten a good supply of candy from the floats that were ahead of us.  "I got a blue one this time!"  I heard somebody excitedly say. 

Sometimes the candy would fall out of my hands into the street and kids would scramble to grab it.  One young guy said as I handed him a candy cane "Could I have one for my brother?"  I looked at him and realized he was just scamming me, but I started to hand him another one, and then a third one fell on the street.  He scrambled to grab it too.  "Is that for your other brother?"  I smiled at him.  He knew that I knew there were no brothers.

I would look for the kids that were shy and sitting back, and make sure to give them something.  Several times I ran into families where a parent would say "No candy, thank you."  One mother actually took the candy out of the kids' hand just after I put it there.  She handed it back to me.  I wondered about that.  Is a candy cane such a terrible thing?  How did that child feel about every other child around them getting candy and then being told to give it back?  It was an odd experience in what was otherwise a lot of fun.  I didn't have much time to ponder it, because the truck was far ahead again!

Big "kids" held out their hands too and I didn't refuse them either.  There were a couple of groups of Japanese students who didn't speak English but knew how to hold out their mittened hands, and I filled them up and ran on.  Sometimes the kids were 4 or 5 rows deep, so I took a handful of candy and yelled "Here it comes!", throwing it into the crowd.  Then I was off running again, throwing more candy, and more.  Every now and then I'd see Elaine, running behind me or ahead of me.  Once I yelled to her "Are we there yet?" and we laughed.  But not for long.

There were hundreds of more kids to toss candy to.  We darted and stopped and darted again as we continued to try and keep up with the CHEK float.  I had to grab another bag out of the back of the CHEK car when I ran out, and then I was back into the crowds again.  Candy canes, outstretched hands, "Thank you!", and off running again.

And then, suddenly and as quickly as it started, we were at the end of the parade route.  The line of crowds ended and I saw regular traffic at the intersection ahead.  The truck took off into the night and I turned to find Elaine.  We put the bags back in the car and said goodbye to everyone else who was handing out candy, and it was over.  I realized that I was soaking with sweat, my legs were like rubber from all of the running, and I was huffing and puffing and laughing all at once.  We began the walk back, in behind the crowds this time, and were able to just barely see some of the other floats in the part of the parade that was behind us.  At last there was a huge float with Santa on board, signaling the end of the parade and the beginning of the Christmas season, and the huge crowds began to disperse.

What a wild ride!  I love a parade :-).

IJ
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Listen!

Remember my earlier blog post about listening?  Well this TED video takes it to an even deeper and more scientific level.  If you have time, watch (and listen!):



Did he say musicians have bigger brains?? :-)
I knew that!

IJ

Snow Idiots

I am a snow idiot.  First of all, I love it, which amazes those I know who grew up with the stuff and can't stand it.  Second of all, I can't drive in it.  Third, I love to watch every other Victorian who loves it but who can't drive in it when it actually snows here.  Which isn't often.

Our house is on a hill.  You can't tell by the picture above, but it is a fairly steep hill.  And when we have a significant snow fall, it's inevitable that a number of snow idiots will come bombing along in their cars over the crest of the hill on the street in front of our house, only to realize that IT'S A HILL.  Then, stupidly, they hit their brakes.

I love it.  One after another, they go fishtailing down the hill.  I guess it isn't so funny for the people parked on the street when they get sideswiped for the umpteenth time by a snow idiot.  On the other hand, if they've lived on this street long enough, they should know better than to park their cars on it during a snow storm!

Today we're having our first snowfall in probably a couple of years.  My daughter and I have already been out on a walk in it.  But before we could leave the house, it took us forever to find the right clothes and boots.  We just don't NEED them very often so they get lost somewhere during the months and years of non-use.  This means we need at least an hour to get ready.  People on the prairies must laugh their heads off at us.  They wouldn't even bother going out unless absolutely necessary, whereas we can't wait to.

Oh yes, and then there are those westcoasters who use their umbrellas when it snows.  I'm sure this only a coastal phenomenon because, you see, we HAVE umbrellas.  And there's something falling from the sky, so why not use them?  I'm sure that makes for a few more laughs from those prairie types. 

When my daughter and I were finally scarved, gloved and toqued (that's a Canadian hat) so only our faces were exposed, we sauntered out and looked at everybody else who was out walking along, and we all smiled and laughed with each other.  I suggested to one elderly couple as we passed them that they should be wearing hats.  That's right, they were walking their dog in a snow storm with no hats on.  That's Victoria.  On some of the side streets we could see the tire tracks of the cars that had obviously skidded and hit the sidewalk...there were several of these along our route.  "Isn't this fun?" smiled another lady waiting at the bus stop.  We nodded and grinned.  As the bus came driving up, the driver didn't look like he was having much fun, though.

My daughter almost slipped twice.  I guess this is why people who are used to snow don't walk in it unless they absolutely have to.  You could kill yourself.   I laughed as I saw a fellow out shoveling the snow already.  It was only about a centimeter or two deep at that point, so why would he already be shoveling?  And what did I do when I got home?  Well, I shoveled the sidewalks of course.  Might as well get ahead of the game.

When I got inside, there was a phone message from a student.  She's originally from the prairies, so I would have thought that she could handle driving in this stuff.  "No," she said.  "It's all of those other people who DON'T know how to drive in this stuff who scare me."

Ah, the snow idiots, I thought to myself.  I'm guessing that most of my students will probably cancel today, so I'm planning on parking myself on the couch by the living room window to see if I can catch a few fishtails.

IJ

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Inevitable Fall

Dried and colored leaves on Ringstra├če in Vien...Image via WikipediaI've been aware of it for a couple of weeks now, but I avoid dealing with it like the plague.  And every day it gets worse, of course, because the winds whip up and more and more of those darn leaves come sauntering down, down, down.

So when I saw that it was a relatively wind-free and sunny day today, I finally put on the gardening clothes and the work boots, grabbed the rake and the smelly old tarp and proceeded to rake the back yard.

Is there supposed to be an art to it?  A technique?  I think I'm really smart at first and rake from the outside in to the centre of the yard, but it's never quite as neat and organized as I'd like it to be.  I huff and puff and a blister forms on my thumb where it meets the rake handle.  I switch hands, but I'm not really good at it left-handed, so I switch back again.  I stop and look back over what I've done.  Did that bunch of leaves just fall there like that, or did I just miss them?  Crap.  Back I go to re-rake that part of the lawn.  I re-rake a lot.

I used to laugh at guys who used leaf blowers.  Wimps, I thought.  Why do guys always have to use big, loud machines to do everything for them?  Lazy wimps.  So I scoffed at my husband when he brought one home one year.  It took two or three years before I finally broke down and tried it.  I had to doff the ear muffs and secure the strap over my shoulder and hold it just right before I was prepared to turn it on.  Wow!  If it's dry enough, a leaf blower works like a hot damn.  And I finally got it, why men like big, loud machines.

But I felt guilty using electricity to blow leaves, for pete's sake.  So I went back to doing it the hard way. In our city, the city workers come around once a year with one of those big trucks and suck up the leaves along the boulevards.  They encourage home owners to rake the leaves from their yards out to the boulevard so they can be included in the great suck.  That means finding a way to get the leaves from the back yard into the front.  We use the tarp method...pile the leaves up onto a big tarp and drag it from the front yard to the back.

I didn't have any help from my husband this time (something's wrong with my laptop, dear, I have to take it in and get it fixed...ha!), so it was up to me to do the job.  I huffed and I puffed and re-raked and scraped until I got half the pile onto the tarp.  I folded the sides of the tarp up over the pile so the leaves wouldn't escape and proceeded to haul it from the yard, around the van in the driveway, along the side of the house, all uphill, until I collapsed, out of breath on the boulevard.  Why is it that streams of cars drive by and people are always walking up the sidewalk when I'm at my dirtiest, sweat-soaked, wheezing self in the front yard?  It never fails.

One pile dumped, one more to go.  So I brought the tarp to the backyard again and scraped and huffed and re-raked some more and finally got the last little bunch of wet leaves onto the tarp.  I folding the sides of the tarp up, grabbed one end and stepped backwards, hauling it through the yard.  That's when I saw one leaf fall down from the maple tree on to the lawn that I had finished raking.  It landed upright with its stock in the grass...it had two holes that looked like eyes and one hole that looked like a mouth.

And it was laughing at me.

IJ
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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Middle Way

Stuck in the Middle with YouImage by furiousgeorge81 via FlickrThe term "middle way" often comes up in Buddhist teachings, reflecting a middle point between addiction to pleasure and addiction to pain. To take the middle way means finding the place between these two extremes, and it is not an easy discipline. An addiction to some kind of pleasure makes obvious sense...isn't that something we often find ourselves battling with? But addiction to pain, that isn't as obvious, but yes, probably even you have experienced feeling sorry for yourself, as I have.  That's an example of addiction to pain.

But the 'middle way' I want to talk about this time is not the Buddhist teaching, but something that has come up for me again and again over the last few years, and what was the theme of the recent Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, DC. If you haven't heard about it (you haven't?), comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally on the National Mall on October 30th, which drew by some estimates, more than 200,000 people. The rally was a half-serious response to other more recent rallies held by Glen Beck, a right-winger, and Al Sharpton, a left-winger, each who were trying to draw attention to their polarized political views.  Stewart and Colbert's rally was to draw attention to the fact that the squeaky wheels from both the political left and right are getting all of the media soundbites and that MOST of the population in the US are somewhere in the political middle with no one to speak for them.

I don't expect the political wing nuts on either side are going to shut up any time soon, but the rally restored some of my faith in the American public, at least.  Of course we have similar left/right arguments and loudmouths up here in Canada too, but we hear more of that from our southern neighbours and it seems to me (I could be wrong) that the extremes are so much more 'extremer' down there. Okay, I probably am wrong.  That happens a lot.

At any rate, I have my leanings too, but even I find that there are some embarrassingly squeaky wheels on what is supposedly my side of the political spectrum.  There's a point when I want to tell them "okay that's enough of that" simply because they're making fools of themselves and not furthering "our" cause.  What is terribly sad is that many things don't get accomplished or dealt with because the arguments on either side have become so polarized to the point of being paralyzed.  Important issues become branded as "right wing" or "left wing" and nothing gets accomplished.  I'm getting really sick of all of these arguments and in-your-face insults, all of the outrageous ranting and extremism, aren't you? Omigod have you seen some of the political advertising ahead of the U.S. primaries??  Unbelievable!

So just stop it!

There, I feel better.
And to sign off (a little pun there), I'm going to leave you a list of some of the signs that were at the rally.  They were perfect!

"If you keep shouting like that, you'll get big muscles all over your face."
"More beer, less (paranoid) nuts."
"Fear Fear Itself"
"Moderately Fired Up, Relatively Ready To Go"
"Frustrated
 Arizonans
Rejecting
 Tea"
"If your beliefs fit on a sign, think harder."
"Is this the line for Justin Bieber tickets?"
"Lion, tigers and Muslims, oh my!"
“I might disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure neither of us is going to hell.”
"Ruly mob."
"Civil is Sexy"
"Hitler is a Nazi"
"I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and all I got was this lousy sense of respect for other people's opinions." 

There you go.  Can't we just get along, people??
IJ


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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Old Friends Die Hard

I am looking for two people. You'd think with the internet and Facebook and all of these obvious ways to connect with people these days, that it would be easy. But I have looked exhaustively for several years and have had no luck.

Why do I want to find them? Well, for different reasons. One of them, Shirley Doherty, was my best buddy for a number of years when I was growing up in Richmond, BC. She and I were like sisters...I still have an old cassette tape of the two of us trying to do a radio show-like Nancy Drew series where we really didn't have a script, we just babbled on about whatever came to us at any given moment. I don't think the mystery ever got solved, it just meandered on into whatever thought came next.

Shirley and I slept in her old canvas tent in her back yard many times during the summers. We played board games, we "raised" kittens birthed by her cat Elsa, we talked for hours about all kinds of spacey stuff swinging on the swing set in her back yard. She lived right behind me, right over the fence that no longer exists, separating our two houses that no longer exist. Her mother didn't take to me. I was a "bad influence" on Shirley (what, ME a bad influence?) and I just couldn't do anything right in her eyes. But Shirley and I were two peas in a pod and loved to do everything together.

My middle name is Shirley and she once swore to me that her middle name was Irene. I still don't believe that's true, but you know friends will say whatever they need to, to create that kind of intimate connection that no one else in the world has. She was the one who shyly said "I'm sorry" to me through the fence the day after my mother died, and I saw her through her many struggles too. I know she eventually married someone named Ron and at one point lived in Delta, BC., but I have had no luck in finding her. Shirley nee Doherty, if you're out there anywhere, please say hello. We have another Nancy Drew mystery to solve. I'll be Nancy and you'll be George, and I'll throw the tape recorder on. Wouldn't it fun just to meet once again?

The other friend I am looking for is Angela Struve. Angela and I had a particular connection in Grade 5 at James Gilmore Elementary School in Richmond. You see, we were both in lust with the same teacher, Mr. Dumbauld.

I know. You're going to look at the spelling of that name and read DUM BALD. But it was pronounced DUE BALLED, and we thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. All of the girls in the school had a crush on him. He was the dramatic, flamboyant art teacher, along with being my home room teacher, and one time I actually convinced him to give me one of his drawings. I bugged him and bugged him (honestly, I would not have the hootspa today to do the same thing), and finally he gave in and gave me a sketch that he had drawn to promote a class field trip to see an opera "Rigoletto". He pulled me into a store room and handed it to me and made me swear that I'd never tell any of the other kids. I solemnly swore and rolled it up and quietly took it home that day after school.

My best friend Angie used to get in trouble a lot for talking in class. So the teacher would send her out to the hall as punishment, where she was supposed to sit and wait until she was allowed back into the classroom. Occasionally, the principal, Mr. Blinkhorn (yes, that was his real name) would come along, and if he saw a kid sitting out in the hall, he or she would inevitably get hauled into the principal's office to account for their classroom crime.

Well, my best friend Angie, she was smart. If she saw Mr. Blinkhorn coming, she'd pretend that she was going to the washroom, or for a drink of water. He'd walk by without incident and when he was out of sight, she'd sneak back to her spot outside the classroom, having escaped another nasty episode in his office.

I laughed my head off with Angie, she was the funniest kid I'd ever met. And we were horrified when we found out that the teacher of our lustful dreams, Mr. Dumbauld (that's DUE-BALLED) was going to leave the school the following year. So we decided that we were somehow going to convince him to stay. We put our knuckleheads together and decided that we should KISS HIM on his last day of school (photographing the evidence, of course), which would absolutely convince him that he could not possibly leave James Gilmore Elementary.

Our lust-fueled plan was in place. On the last day of school I brought my Brownie camera and we decided that we would corner Mr. Dumbauld in the parking lot where each of us would kiss him while the other would take a picture. I was to go first. I looked up at my beloved teacher and failed miserably...all I could manage was to shyly whimper "Good luck, Mr. Dumbauld" and shake his hand. I guess Angie took a picture, but I don't remember because I was too nervous. Angie, however, actually had the balls to make him bend down so she could kiss his cheek, whereupon I took a fumbled picture. For years, I had the photographic evidence...I can still see the picture...but it has long since disappeared. Our valiant efforts, however, did not convince our dear teacher to stay at Gilmore, and the next year he was gone.

The following September, Angie came to visit me one day, and was utterly horrified to see the framed Rigoletto drawing on my bedroom wall. "Why did YOU get one of Mr. Dumbauld's drawings and not me?" she railed, certainly convinced that we must have had a torrid affair behind her back. Actually, I have since decided that dear Mr. Dumbauld was probably gay. It wasn't the way he looked, but more his delighted proclamations that he wanted "to be a MOVIE STAR!!" that eventually got me to thinking. Not that it matters, but I guess he was much farther out of Angie's and my league than we could ever have imagined.

Angie and I got together once after graduating from high school. She met me for lunch at a restaurant near the Vancouver Public Library where I worked. I found out that she had married and become an accountant, but I forgot her married name and at this point it's been about 30 years since I've seen her so I pretty much forget anything she might have told me.

Angie, we've got some unbelievably funny memories to share. I wish I could find you to laugh with again. And I really didn't sleep with Mr. Dumbauld.

So do you, my readers, have anyone out there you wish you could find? I am certainly very grateful, as I am sure you are, for finding old friends over the years through social media websites like Facebook. But is there that certain someone out there who you have never been able to locate? I hope you find them...and I hope one day I can find Shirley and Angie.

Old friends like that die hard.

IJ

Nov 2012 Update - through a Facebook group that was set up for kids growing up in Richmond, BC, I finally found Shirley :-)  We have yet to get together, but as she said "We've waited this long, we can wait a few more weeks!"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Did You Do On Your Weekend?

Well, I cleaned two cars and cleaned the garage and put one car (my Mustang) away for the winter. Pretty typical weekend stuff.  But the father and son you're about to see did something completely different.

This takes the idea of a class science project to a  whole new level:



What an amazing thing to do with your child. I hope he takes the experience and teaches that same sense of adventure to his own children one day. It blends new technology with old-fashioned creative ingenuity. And imagine finding that HD camera and watching the footage for the first time, knowing that your experiment worked perfectly?

Happy weekend. I hope you enjoy the little trip to the edge of the earth's atmosphere :-).


IJ

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Baby, Baby, Baby, Ooooh...

NYC signing September 1,2009 Nintendo Store - NYCImage via WikipediaI knew the moment would eventually come.

"Mom...are you really listening to a Justin Bieber song?"  my daughter is yelling down the stairs.  I'm  cringing to myself.  "Yep."

One of my younger guitar students had asked for a Bieber song "for a friend" she said.  I'll eventually get it out of her whether or not it really was for a friend, but in the meantime I find myself listening through the song and working out the sophomoric lyrics and chords.  Not hard to do for a pop song these days.  There are usually about 4 chords and one phrase repeated over and over, along with some other inane lyrics that little girls swoon to.  I laugh at the occasional Facebook comments like "Dear God, please give back Bob Marley and we'll give you Justin Beiber".  It's inevitable that anything or anyone popular will create rolling eyes and sarcastic sighs from a large segment of the population.  But he's got a huge, bubblegum fan base and that's what counts to those marketers and record label execs.

The reason my eyes roll is this marketing madness that swirls around this kid.  How is it that a boy (what is he, 12??) is already releasing an autobiography?  What on earth could he possibly have to say?  How many pages is it?  Well, I guess you use more pages when you're writing in crayon.  Oh, make me stop.

The latest gimmick I read about is a new line of nail polish.  Justin Beiber nail polish.  OMG.  Yes, the kid can sing and he obviously has that "little girl magnet" quality.  But nail polish?  There have been a lot of jokes, internet pranks and falsehoods that have swirled around since Bieber's rise to fame, and you have to admit that the way he has been marketed, managed and merchandised since he was just a rising star on YouTube is nothing short of nuts.  It's no wonder people like to make fun of him.

Okay, so I should confess something before I go any further.  When I was 13 I developed a large crush on Donny Osmond.  I read every Teen Beat magazine I could get my chubby hands on and put posters of him on my bedroom wall.  I bought all his records and sang "Puppy Love" along with him at the top of my lungs, so I 'get' these little girls who have "Bieber Fever".  Donny Osmond somehow survived the 80's when his career took a nose dive and then he managed to reinvent himself enough to go on to other things.  Other teen idols don't do so well in between the healed acne and the grey hairs.  Whatever happened to David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman, Leif Garrett and Debbie Gibson?

Well, Bobby Sherman, for instance, is 67 years old now.  Yikes. And one day Justin Bieber, if he's lucky, will be 67 years old.  That's 51 years from now.  Yikes again.  By then, that Beatle-esque mop of hair of his will mostly be gone except some around the outskirts. He'll occasionally see a glint of recognition in the eyes of  the female semi-retired pharmacist at the local mall where he picks up his high blood pressure pills, but she won't quite be able to place him.   The den at his rancher in the gated community where he lives will be filled with memorabilia, a leather couch and not much else.  Grammy awards will gather dust beside framed photos of him with some strangely attired person named Lady GaGa, and oddly enough, there will be a bottle of nail polish sitting there that he can't quite remember the story behind.  He will rarely leave his house, a habit he got into after all those years of having to hide out from the fans.  There are no more calls from reporters, no photo sessions or concert dates anymore, except that Bar Mitzva that he promised his nephew he'd show up for.

Yeah, feeling better now.  Baby, baby, baby, ooooh, baby, baby....

(Update:  even the first Chilean miners that were successfully pulled from the mine were bombarded with offers by media and marketers before all of them had been safely rescued!!)
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Want To Be A Golden Girl

The Golden GirlsImage via Wikipedia
In the last few months I have been enjoying old episodes of The Golden Girls online.  There is a GoingGoldenAgain channel on YouTube which has most of all of the seasons.  But it doesn't matter if I've seen them before, I can watch them over and over.  When the series first broadcast on television in the late 80's, my daughters were just babies and I imagined that one day it would be wonderful living in a house full of old friends in my golden years.  Especially THOSE old friends.  These days, I'm realizing how close I am in age to them now.  How did THAT happen??  They were so ancient to me back then.

Well if I thought they were funny then, the jokes and stories are even funnier and more relevant now.  The writing is so quick and witty and, of course, the lines were delivered by some of the best in the business.  I can't decide which character I'd like to be most.  'Blanche', played by Rue McClanahan, was the resident sex pot and might be the obvious choice...who wouldn't want to have all those men on your date calendar?  I didn't get that concept when I was younger, but I sure do now.  I also love 'Dorothy', the character portrayed by Bea Arthur, because of her brains and brawn and that dead pan sarcasm delivered with such impeccable timing.  And Estelle Getty's 'Sophia' got away with saying whatever the hell she wanted because of her stroke.  Who wouldn't want that pleasure? 

And then there was 'Rose', played by the only surviving member of the cast, Betty White.  Who doesn't just adore Betty White?  Did you know that she actually has some Scandinavian blood, just like her ditzy, St. Olaf-born character?   The pseudo-Swedish phrases, the names of the St. Olaf residents and their food specialties make me laugh every time.  And those St. Olaf stories...how did she keep a straight face?  How did they all keep a straight face?  I would love to have been there to watch a live episode.

I'd like to be a mix of all of those wonderful characters.

I've been watching Betty White's recent re-emergence on television with absolute delight.  She's  88 years old and she still has amazing comic timing and enormous energy.  I joined the Facebook page that began to encourage Saturday Night Live to have her on as host and was astounded at the fact that she took part in pretty much every skit that night, with not one flub or sign of being tired.  Since then she's done TV ads and appearances on talk shows and award shows, always with that beautiful smile and wonderful sense of humour.  She is tireless and timeless.

Come to think of it, I'd like to be Betty White.
IJ
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tiger's Demise

Tiger Woods during a practice round at the MastersImage via WikipediaI watched a documentary on CBC's Fifth Estate the other evening called "Tiger Wood's Rise and Fall" by director Jacques Peretti.  I've seen other documentaries by this fellow, most notably one on Michael Jackson after his untimely death more than a year ago.  Peretti does have a pattern to the way he tells his stories which is compelling but maybe just a little bit tabloid.

He took us through Tiger's childhood where this kid was quite isolated and controlled by his father, a Vietnam veteran who was portrayed as fearless and full of himself and very much a womanizer.  The documentary creates an image of a young boy who had his life planned out for him even before he was born, and who never really had any other option...whether or not he wanted one.  He was kept out of the public eye when he started to play junior tournaments, protected and groomed and made to practice hours and hours on end.  At one point his only friend was a much older golf pro who was also interviewed for the documentary.

It almost felt as if Peretti was painting a portrait with his own colours, trying to create a reason for Tiger's behaviour, behaviour which was, to put it simply, just plain bad.  He was a well-groomed, gifted athlete who had, as it turned out, a seedy side.  A really seedy side, according to this documentary.  He traveled to and from tournaments with his large entourage, and in between gigs (and sometimes even during them) he would go to Vegas and sleep with countless prostitutes, sometimes all night and one after the other.

A great life, some of you guys might say :-).

But of course, Tiger was married and had children and eventually this secret seedy side was going to come to the surface as it did in a sudden and dramatic way back when he had the accident with his SUV.

I have a good friend who was a great admirer of Tiger until all of this happened.  She decided that she couldn't forgive him and would never again watch him play or root for him.  A lot of people felt that way, while others suggested that he should be forgiven because he is human, even though his public persona made him seem pretty much god-like.

If this documentary is true, then Tiger had a very bizarre upbringing.  But then, so did Michael Jackson.  And so do countless other "stars" and athletes and people in public life.  You can't help but think it must be the weirdest thing living the way they do.  But is this lifestyle because of who they are or because of who they are taught to be?  It must be strange to have everyone willing to do anything for you; a person could easily lose sight of reality and a true sense of one's self.  The Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans give us a kind of moral measuring stick to compare ourselves to, but is that really fair?  We don't live like that, we don't have more money than we know what to do with and a lifestyle that is nothing but parties, appearances, and perks.  It must be difficult sometimes for these people to know which way is up.

We, the public, are guilty of wanting to watch these train wrecks-in-the-making too.  We secretly envy their money and talents, while otherwise enjoying their eventual demise.  I watched those two documentaries with a kind of disgust, and yet I didn't turn them off either, did I?  I'm as guilty of gaping at these misunderstood misfits as they are of thinking they're above and beyond reproach.

Tiger's life will no doubt never be the same.  He'll probably find his legs and get his game back on par, pun intended :-), but most of us won't forget that he isn't the perfect spit-and-polish pro we once thought.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think he's a victim either, except maybe of our gawking stares.

And he sure can play.

IJ 
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Becoming A Caregiver

Older Elderly sister looking down - bangkokImage by Sailing "Footprints: Real to Reel" (Ronn ashore) via FlickrI stood at the door of the men's washroom in the specialists office yesterday, waiting for my Dad to come out.  We were there for his quarterly checkup, and Dad had to go to the washroom.  It's not that he can't go to the washroom by himself.  Actually, it IS that he can't go to the washroom by himself.  Not at the doctor's office.  Because every time he comes out the door, he gets lost.  The first time it happened, another man found him wandering down the stairs.  It scared the heck out of me.  So now, every time he has to go, I wait by the door so I can walk back to the waiting area with him.

Yesterday was like any other visit, except for the fact that I suddenly realized how I've become somewhat of a caregiver to my parents whenever I am there.  My father is in a care facility because he has Alzheimer's and my stepmother lives in a townhouse, blind as a bat with a bum heart, a pacemaker, recovering from two broken hips.  I travel over at least once a month to spend two or three days, to help out wherever it is needed.  My sister interacts with them more regularly and deals with more than I do because she lives closer. And between the two of us, we have become their support system.  They have friends who help out as well, but the main part of it is up to the two of us.

It speaks to that reversal of roles that happens once parents become elderly, and I guess the whole transition happened gradually.  But it started to change about six or seven years ago when my stepmother had to have open heart surgery and my father thought she was going to die.  I traveled to the mainland to provide support for my Dad during my stepmother's surgery and recovery.  He was confused about her condition, and that confusion eventually lead to the diagnosis of dementia, "probably" Alzheimer's.  My stepmother recovered from her heart surgery, but one thing after another kept happening;  first one broken hip, then the other, then a diagnosis of macular degeneration which slowly blinded her, then a pacemaker, then a hernia operation.  And my father's dementia was eventually accompanied by kidney disease and prostate cancer.

I found myself going over quite often at first, every two or three weeks as my stepmother recovered.  I kept thinking it was only temporary, but as they both began to struggle through their various physical ailments, I eventually came to realize that traveling there was just going to become part of my routine.  And so it has.

When my father came out of the washroom at the doctor's office and we sat down in the waiting area, I watched an elderly woman come out of the office and prepare herself to leave the building.  She sat down carefully, placing her cane beside her, and gingerly fingered her purse, looking for the zipper.  It took her awhile to find it, her fingers shaking slightly at the exertion, but when she did, it took her another while to feel and see what she was looking for.  It was a change purse, and she was likely trying to set aside change for the bus.  She had to count through the change several times to make sure she had it right.  Then she began the process of putting her change purse back where she could find it, and slowly zipped up her purse.  When that was finally done, she fumbled for her cane, and eventually was able to lift herself up out of the chair.  Then it was the slow, careful walk to the elevator.

I looked at her and marveled at how much this old woman was doing for herself, how even though it took her so much time and patience, she managed to get herself to and from an appointment in downtown Vancouver.  Who knows how far she had to come and how early in the morning she had to get herself going JUST to GET there.  In the last few years, watching my parents grow older and more dependent on us, I've found an appreciation for just how much work it takes to be old. I looked at the elderly lady again and saw myself some day.  I hope.

IJ
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Monday, September 13, 2010

A Rant About Stuff

The audio cassette greatly increased the distr...Image via WikipediaWith all the hoopla about Apple's latest iPhone problems, I've been thinking about things that get re-designed or "upgraded" and end up being less than satisfactory.  And what do we do with the old ones?  Okay, some of the stuff I'm going to talk about may not seem as fancy schmancy as the iPhone 4, but IT'S MY BLOG!  Dammit.  But I really did have to stifle a laugh when I saw the disaster that became the iPhone 4.  All of that hype, all of that excitement, and all it would do is drop calls.  Yeah, put all of your attention into the appearance and these things called "apps" and "oooh, it does this! and it does that!".  And forget that it's supposed to be a PHONE, you idiots.

First of all, why change something that works just fine the way it is?  I spent a long time looking for a bra the other day because all a person can find these days are these foam type cups that are supposed to "smooth" out the look of your bust, I guess.  But all they do for me is make me feel like I'm a massive, over-stuffed double D.  I hate them.  And since when are subtle traces of nipples on a person's top so disgusting or unappealing?  I mean, they're BREASTS for pete's sake.  They're supposed to have nipples!!  Personally, I believe that the truth is that young women simply want to look bigger.  Of course they do.  I guess I was exemplifying exactly that when as an 11-year-old, I got a bra from my Aunt in Denmark who had never seen me and didn't know I was flat as a pancake.  I put it on and stuffed it with Kleenex, like any girl would do, excited to have her first bra.  Two boys asked me if they could come to my house after school.  I guess it worked.

But I'm 53 now, for crying out loud.  I have no desire to lure anyone with the size of my boobs anymore.  It would be disturbing if someone wanted to come to my house after seeing me in one of those foamy bra things.  I'd be calling 9-1-1.

Well, after hours of searching I finally found what I was looking for at Sears.  The real slap in the face was that the bras that I ended up buying actually cost three times as much as those foam-stuffed things.  Hopefully they'll last three times as long.  Things are just not made to last anymore.

For awhile now we've been using a crappy old microwave that my husband inherited from work because our "new" one pooped out on us after only a couple of years.  The very first microwave we got was given to us as a wedding present 26 years ago.  It lasted almost 24 years.  Stoves and fridges and washers and dryers are lucky to last 10 years, if that, anymore. 

My father calls it "built in obsolescence".    And it makes sense, doesn't it?  Why would a company want to make ANYTHING that lasts 24 years?  That means it's going to take 24 years for them to get any more money out of you.  That goes for anything electronic.  In this case, it's not even that they can't make something as good as they used to.  It's that they don't want to.  And I won't even go into this madness for the next "great" technology that has taken over the universe.  Holy crap, how many 2- or 3-year-old cellphones are there out there lying around unused because their owners don't actually even care to use them for their expected (short) life spans, because the next iPhone has come along?  Sheesh!

Okay, I'm calmer now.

But where do we put all of this stuff when it stops working or suddenly doesn't suit us anymore?  For me, it's in the basement.  There are a couple of old TVs down there, a gazillion cassette tapes (nobody uses those anymore!), some old books of my Dad's, wires, boxes of boxes, two space heaters that barely lasted two years each, two fans, same thing, a dead coffeemaker, a couple of old computers and monitors, boxes of my daughter's stuff (hopefully they going to take it with them when they move out?), some of my brother's stuff, and the rest I can't remember because it's been so long since I've even looked through it all.  A few years ago, I convinced my husband to spend the money to hire one of those junk hauling companies to empty out the garage and some old stuff from the basement.  I was so relieved to get rid of it all.  And then, much to my horror, it seemed only months before the basement filled up again.  How did that happen?

Tomorrow I have to go to Richmond and pick up my mother's secretary/desk, a beautiful piece of furniture that I always loved because it was hers.  And I have no idea where I'm going to put it.   Years ago I fantasized about having that piece of furniture, and now it's just another (rather large) thing that I don't have room for.  I guess when I was younger, it was all about acquiring stuff.  You moved out and took your stuff with you, and when you could afford it, you bought more stuff to fill your place with.  And you dreamed about the "big" stuff like a car or a house, until you could at least afford a car loan or a mortgage.  And then you filled your new house with more stuff, until your kids came along and you had to move into a bigger house to be able to fit them and their stuff...

Okay, that's how it happens.

But I don't want all of these things anymore.  And having to deal with my parents' stuff because they are at the point where they can't take care of it and don't have room for it leaves me (and my siblings and many others I'm sure) with this enormous pile of someone else's stuff that I've never even wanted. I guess my parents didn't plan on being stuck with so many things either.  We don't realize when we're younger, that the things we think we want will eventually just become the things we have to find a way to get rid of.  I put that in bold so that when I read it again later, I will remember.

How did I get on this whole rant?  Oh yes, cellphones.  Well, the last several months I've been at the end of my contract with my cellphone company and had nothing but offers for the "newest" and "latest" new cellphone.  Complete with another 3-year contract of course.  My old cellphone works just fine, but like all other technology geeks I am tempted by these new offers.  Except, unlike younger geeks, every time I think about a new one, I can't think of what to do with my old one.  Nobody in my house wants it and it's such an old model that I know for sure it isn't going to become one of those "refurbished" ones.  This particular cell provider talks about recycling your old phone...but what do they really do with it?  I have hellish visions of poor people in third world countries working for next to nothing taking these electronic things apart and breathing in and handling horrible toxins from their components.

I call it my old cellphone, but is it really?  After three years, oddly enough it hasn't died on me.   Crap.

IJ
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Otherwise Ordinary Day

We're having a bunch of friends over this Saturday for a barbecue.  Not a big deal, and certainly not something I'd report here necessarily except for the date.  When I announced the date, one of my daughters asked if it was such a good idea to have a barbecue on Sept.11th.  It's certainly not that I am insensitive to that date being synonymous with such a horrible event, but sometimes I wish it had another name.  You know, like D-Day had a name.

But I guess we're kind of stuck with it, and Sept.11th or 9/11 will likely never just become an ordinary date in the foreseeable future.  So it shouldn't have come as a shock for us to hear that nutcase pastor Terry Jones is planning a burning of the Qur'an on Saturday...my first thought was that maybe someone should burn a few bibles on his lawn.  But that would be exactly the opposite of what really needs to be done.  He should be given no attention whatsoever.  He is simply ignorant.  Ignorance is more dangerous than hate;  if we weren't so stupid, we wouldn't hate at all.  If only we would take a moment to learn the facts and the truth;  Muslims didn't take down those towers, some misdirected, uninformed and ignorant people did.  And that's what Terry Jones and the 9/11 hijackers have in common.

I'm kidding myself.  The media (and remember, I am also indirectly a part of the media) loves this kind of stuff.  And the wackier, the better.  But you think that giving Terry Jones publicity is bad?  Here's another example of using that date as a way to get some attention.  Only this time, it's to sell a product.  And it's from France (Americans will just love that fact): 

Can you believe it?  This courier company is promoting the idea of learning to "anticipate", by building the twin towers shorter so the planes won't hit them.  Not only is it not funny, it's shocking.  This idea of tastelessly using real disastrous events like 9/11 to sell products has been branded "adploitation".  And, I'm sad to say, it's not the first ad agency using that date and/or exploiting those images.  Believe it or not the WWF was also presented with an ad by an agency in Brazil using manipulated 9/11-like images.  It was rejected, but the word got out and the WWF had to explain themselves.  The Moscow News had one too and it actually got past the approval process and into the public.

So there you are, the two extremes:  over-sensitive and not sensitive enough.  I hope in the next few years September 11th will become less of a target for adploitations and, at the same, not such a holy date that we can't plan barbecues.  But I'm not holding my breath.  That date is just never going to be the same.

IJ

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Monday, September 6, 2010

God or No?

NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking.Image via WikipediaI'm pretty sure Steven Hawking's publisher or promotions people were the ones who decided to promote his new book "Grand Designs" by proclaiming "God Did Not Create the Universe!"  I mean, if anything is going to get attention, especially in these times of religious warring (has there ever NOT been a religious war going on?), it's that phrase.

The predictable has happened...religious leaders are already up-in-arms (is that not an oxymoron?) fighting for headlines to dispute, refute and protest their outrage at any such notion.   And so it begins again, this age old "I am RIGHT and you are WRONG" argument.  Haven't we, as human beings, figured this out yet?  Just because I prefer the red shirt, doesn't mean you have to wear it too.

Years ago, I used to think that one day science might prove the existence of God in some way...maybe not the man in the beard God, sitting on some kind of throne or however you visualize it, but some evidence of a form of energy that was the beginning of our universe.  There is even something in physics called the Higgs boson, or the God Particle that is considered to be a singular elementary particle, possibly predating every other known particle.  What I visualized was a coming together of two very separate trains of thought, science and religion, eventually merging onto the same track.  Since then I have come to the conclusion that even if it was possible and there were people out there willing to explore this potential fusion in that way, it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.  Too many people are threatened by anything outside of their belief to listen to something different.  And too many others are hell bent (sorry for the pun) on convincing the rest of the world to believe what they do.  Religion, and ironically also the lack of it, is killing us all!

There are many, many people of different religions, and atheists and agnostics in the world who are perfectly willing to peacefully accept those of other religions or non-religious thought, with no feeling of threat to their own beliefs.  But we don't hear those stories because they aren't tabloid enough I guess.  I personally know Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists who would not for a moment attempt to convert me or anyone else around them.  And I know there are regular meetings between religious heads, and even organizations like the World Council of Religious Leaders, who are trying to mend fences and work together to end all of this religious conflict.  But their calls for peace are like whispers in a thunderstorm.

There's a point you reach when studying Buddhist teachings, when you realize that most people on this planet have as long a road to inner peace (never mind world peace) as you do.  Many have not even recognized their need for self examination yet, so how are we ever going to get "there"?  It's overwhelming.

So as much as I admire Steven Hawking's amazing knowledge and understanding of the workings of the universe, by reducing his book to a phrase that only adds fuel to an already blazing fire of disagreement, he is doing more to separate us than pull us together.  And that is truly a disappointment.


IJ

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take A Listening Walk

One of several versions of the painting "...Image via Wikipedia
For those of you who've waited with baited breath (not!), I guess it's been awhile since I last posted here.  My excuse is that it's summer and I have been out of my routine as well as out of the city for at least part of that time.  I drove my candy apple red Mustang convertible to Banff, Alberta.  Oh, yes, and I took my husband too :-).  It was quite the adventure, and certainly a good way to get to know a new car.  I'm tempted to write a whole blog post just on driving one of these days, but then again, maybe I shouldn't.  I couldn't believe some of the drivers I encountered, especially on the stretch between Penticton and Banff!  On the whole, however, it was a wonderful trip.

Instead I want to write about something I have been doing in the last few weeks as a way to counter some anxiety attacks I've been having.  This kind of anxiety is new to me...it seems to rise up suddenly out of nowhere and becomes very physical in nature with tightness in the chest and perspiration and an all around fearful feeling.  From what I have read about menopause, anxiety or panic attacks can often be a symptom.

The worst thing to do when you're having a panic attack or anxiety is to try to push it away.  In my Buddhist readings, I've often come across the idea that "aversion" or trying to push something away, is not the way to deal with anything, whether it's an emotional reaction or an uncomfortable situation.  What that often does is simply magnify the anxiety or discomfort instead of getting rid of it.  What you are taught to do, essentially, is to go through it, feel it fully and then let it go.  Anxiety is one of those things that can be made stronger and more powerful the more you panic about panicking!

So what I have been doing, not as a way to get rid of anxiety, but a way to train myself to be more in the moment, is to go on "listening walks".  Aside from watching where I am going (which is essential!), my whole attention is on listening, not to the thoughts going through my head, but to the physical sounds of the world around me as I'm walking.  The louder sounds are obviously easy to hear, but what I try to do is listen for the more distant sounds, like a faint hum of the city, or maybe a small plane in the distance, or voices a block or so away.  And as I hear each one, I identify them to myself.  A car door shutting, a baby crying, a crow squawking;  just like that.

It does take some practice, believe it or not, because the mind wants to work things out when the body is in motion.  It wants to plan or organize or evaluate all kinds of things, and it is so tempting to be drawn into those trains of thought.  So the idea, similar to meditation, is to gently bring your attention back to identifying sounds.

Now this may sound mundane and boring, but over time I have gotten better and better at keeping my attention on sounds, with the result being that I give myself almost a half-an-hour of complete calm.  Walking is good anyway, but doing this mental exercise makes it even more beneficial.  So if you're not into meditation, but you want to find a way to relax your brain...take a listening walk, and I promise you'll find a new sense of calm.

And I ALSO promise that I will be adding more posts more frequently in the next few months if you're willing to read 'em. :-)

IJ
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fairy Tales Can Come True

Well, there it is.

I would never have thought it, but because of an unexpected inheritance from my Uncle Ken, I was finally able to buy myself the convertible I've been coveting for so many years.  I kinda like to think Uncle Ken would be happy to know that I did something completely frivolous with part of the money I received from him.  He was a bit of an adventurer himself...loved boats and cars :-)

The story of my love affair with this car has been well documented in this blog, so I won't go into the history of it again, other than the fact that it was the summer of 2003 when I first rented one because it was either that or a big, burly Buick, which didn't fit me well at all.  It was a 2004 Mustang convertible that I ended up renting that year...and wouldn't you know?  The one I ended up buying is the same year.  Mine is a 40th Anniversary edition GT with a V8 engine, grey leather interior, and alloy wheels.

I've had it for about a week now and plan to take it on a cruise to the interior with my husband (I'm driving!) during the first week of August, just to give it a real road trip. 

Sigh. Thanks Uncle Ken...:-)
IJ

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

To Do or Not To Do

IJ at 17, playing in the backyard
When I was about 11 years old my best friend Kelly got a guitar and started taking lessons.  On one occasion I was at her house and she let me hold the guitar after she showed me something she had learned.  I immediately started playing what she showed me by ear...and that was the beginning of my love affair with the guitar.

I really wanted to play piano, but my parents told me that they couldn't afford to buy a piano, so eventually they bought me my own guitar.  I think it came from Sears (it was called Simpson Sears back then!) and was probably purchased for about $15-20.  But I loved it.  I didn't get any lessons, so I had to figure it out on my own.  Somebody showed me a quick way to play a couple of chords with one or two fingers, and I was on my way.

Of course, I couldn't play any of the songs I heard on the radio...most of them had more than the two or three chords in my musical vocabulary, so I just started making up my own songs.

As I found out over time, that story isn't all too unique;  a lot of songwriters seem to begin to write in the preteen and teen years.  I guess a combination of circumstances and all of those changes happening in our young bodies at that age bring out the creative stuff.  When I was 14 and trying to come to grips with my mother's death, songwriting was a way to cope.  I didn't write about her, I wrote about everything else...it was like an escape for me, and a way to channel all kinds of emotions that I had no idea how to deal with.  At first the songs were about things like my dog or my home (remember, I was just a kid!), but over time, a lot of songs predictably dealt with my teenage crushes and other exploits.  My songs followed my life. 

When I got married and started having children, the songs often reflected the day-to-day of being a mother and my view of the world at that point in time.  I got myself an 8-track recorder and began to record some of them.  My setup was pretty cheesy...I had my guitar and a little drum machine and a mini sampling keyboard to make some other sounds.  The girls were little then, so I would alternately run between my motherly duties, my work and my recording.  Over two years I worked at it, and finally had a cassette of my songs. 

I made four recordings in total, one cassette and three CDs, not a lot really, but at least I had 'em!  I did a lot of performing over the years at all kinds of events, coffee houses, festivals, whatever I could find.  Three or four years ago, I began the task of preparing a bunch of new songs to record when my writing abruptly stopped.  I didn't think much of it, every writer has their dry spells.  But this one was different because I didn't even have the gumption to sit down and write a thing.  Usually I would at least come up with a few lines of a melody, even if they didn't turn into anything.  But there was nothing.  Now that I look back, I think some of it had to do with the affects of peri-menopause...I couldn't keep my attention on anything for long and was FAR more frustrated with any attempts than I had ever been.  I was too pissed off, too muddled, impatient and far too hot to write!

Last summer I decided to at least start recording the songs that were pretty much ready.  But due to an enormously large "to do" list, I didn't get them finished.  I didn't get a lot done at all.  I don't think "to do" lists help you get much done in the long run.  But this summer, I have decided for myself that I need to get them finished, even if just to clear my plate and start anew.  I still have not written a thing, but my intention is to get these songs recorded and compiled and then I'll put them out there to the universe where they belong.  Kind of like releasing salmon fry.  They do or die.

My daughter and I came up with a name, and we're going to do the artwork together.  I'm not going to spend a gazzillion dollars on all of the things I did before;  I won't get it mass produced or hire a graphic artist.  I still have hundreds of the old CDs gathering dust in my basement!  No, this time, I'll do it simply and the only thing I'll put any extra money towards is releasing it on iTunes.

And then it will be done.
I'll let you know :-)

IJ

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Got Any Ideas?

Once upon a time many years ago, I worked at our local television station here in Victoria, CHEK TV.  I worked in the traffic department and occasionally I would fill in at the reception desk, direct people as they came into the station and answer the phone, as receptionists do.

Now a TV station tends to be a bit of a magnet for, shall we say, borderline lunatics.  Everybody's got a beef or an idea.  Beefs could be anything from an annoyed person complaining that their neighbour had knocked down a tree, to more serious complaints about local politicians or organizations.  The people with beefs would be directed to or given a contact number for the news department.  Other members of the public had ideas for television shows.  Most of them were under the impression that you could just walk in and introduce your idea and BANG!  The station would spend thousand of dollars to produce your amazing show.  The people with ideas would be directed to someone in the production department.

And then there were those who you just couldn't place.  For instance, one day when I was filling in at reception, a rather scraggly fellow with a bit of a scary look in his eyes came in and wanted, or should I say demanded, to talk to someone in the news department.  You see, he had a brilliant idea.  He had it written down and everything and he handed me a dirty, crumpled piece of paper that described it to a tee.  His idea was inspired by the fact that we needed to grow more food and feed more people in the poorest countries of the world.  It was easily solved, he said, if we took everyone's poop and shipped it to the Arabian desert where it could be cultivated into the sand to make the desert into arable land.

That was his idea.  He was pretty excited about it, and while I quietly wondered whether I should call the cops, he stood with his crumpled diagram and explained it all to me quite thoroughly.  I finally realized the only way I was going to please him was if I took his diagram and told him that I would immediately pass it on to the news department.  That seemed to satisfy him.
 
I can't remember what I did with the paper.  I think I showed it to a couple of people and maybe I did, in fact, pass it on to the news department.  But I'll never forget it.

Lately I find myself enjoying the Canadian version of "The Dragon's Den", a show where inventors and small business dynamos present their ideas to a panel of investors in the hopes of getting a little financial help to bring their ideas or inventions to the next level.  Of course, some of the inventions are bizarre, but many of them are very clever.

Since the devastating oil spill in the Gulf, literally thousands of people have come forward with lots of ideas as to how to clean up the 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil that continues to spew out from the pipe every day.  Just go to YouTube and you'll find lots of videos posted by companies who have ideas or products that they think can help.  Here's an example:




From what I understand, there have been thousands of potential solutions presented to BP, most of which have been at least considered.  Out of those thousands, a couple of hundred have been deemed viable, including Kevin Costner's "dream machines" or V20s, which are said to be capable of separating 210,000 gallons of oily water a day.  Costner has signed a contract with BP for 32 of the units.  But before the spill, he had been trying to employ the technology for 17 years, spending $20 million of his own money, only to be pretty much mired in red tape.

And why is this?  It seems like a brilliant idea, along with the one in the YouTube video above.  But we don't care about these kinds of inventions or technologies until we are in desperate need of them.  Forward-thinking people are not respected the way they used to be back when Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity.  Or maybe they weren't respected then either, and it's only in hindsight that we adorn inventive people with  any admiration.  Or maybe it's more about the technology itself.

When it comes to cell phones and software programs or anything computer-related, we have hundreds of companies chomping at the bit to come up with something new that the public will eagerly line up around the block to buy.  These companies spend millions and even billions of dollars on the next  big thing.  It's too bad that they aren't as anxious to put their money into inventions and ideas that could actually save lives.

Right now, we need the right "idea" people more than ever.  Not just to tackle this oil spill, but to find alternatives to oil dependency in the first place, and to solve so many other problems we have on this planet.  Governments need to put money into programs and schools to encourage younger people to become inventors, and come up with some great ideas to solve all kinds of problems. And big companies have to SMARTEN UP and realize there is a lot more good they could do with all that money.

We have to pay more attention to little guys who have big ideas.  Come to think of it, maybe that strange fellow who wandered into CHEK years ago to show me his idea for creating arable land wasn't so crazy after all.
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