Friday, October 24, 2014

Re-visiting the past

My daughter has been asking me questions about her childhood. She wants to know how I remember her. She wants more information about the day-cares she was in.

Talking to her, and those memories, have evoked many feelings in me. Feelings of shame, anger, anxiety, and worry.

I still remember the first day I left her with a care-giver. She was crying, and reaching out for me as I had to walk away. It was heart-wrenching. She was four.

As I had to walk away. And in that statement I look back and wonder - did I have to?

I did, at the time, I was struggling with depression, and I was not happy. Not happy as a stay home mom once the children were in school.

And working did help me. It did help me fight the depression.

At least for a while.

And I thought, at the time, that was better for my children. Better for them to have a mom with better mental health. To have a mom that wasn't always going to bed with a migraine, or crying, or hiding in the basement. That is what I thought. It was better for them.

But in that day-care situation, which was a mom at home with her own children and a couple of others like my daughter, there was a boy that bullied my daughter.

And in the pre-school, at the same time, she was being bullied by a few children.

Twenty years ago I thought that this was how it was. This is what children have to negotiate.

I did put my foot down with the school when they wanted to place her in Kindergarten with those same children. I insisted she be in another kindergarten or I would pull her from the school. I did win that battle.

It was little consolation.

That summer my day-care giver had to suddenly leave for six weeks because of a family emergency. She suggested another mother at our school. I took both my children there.

It was a night-mare.

She had two very aggressive dogs, which she kept crated when the kids were there. Towards the end of our time with her, one of the dogs bite off her finger. When I dropped the kids off one morning she answered with her hand bandaged and obviously on heavy pain medication.

I left my children there.

I. Left. My. Children. There.

I didn't feel I had a choice. I was a computer programmer on a deadline.

What was I thinking?

Clearly, I wasn't.

This same house had a swimming pool. My son told me one day that when he and his sister were in the pool the care-giver went into the house and left them unguarded in the pool Another girl, who bullied my daughter, pushed my daughter under the water and held her there.

When I heard this I called the care-giver and insisted that the children NEVER be in the pool without her being there. Still, I continued to take them there.

I didn't feel I had a choice.

Finally the time came to an end, and they returned to the previous situation. However, later that year I was again left without care for my children.

A previous teacher at the school was able to take them.

Her son bullied my daughter, one day holding her hand in a pot of hot soup.

Her husband had a bad temper.

And then my daughter also talked about a friend down the street where she would often go and play. This friend had two older brothers that used to 'tease' and 'bully' the girls.

And then school began, and my daughter was in a class with a myriad of bullies. We struggled, we met with parents, we met with the teacher.

Finally, finally after grade six, we left. We left because my daughter insisted that she wasn't going back.

She was smarter than I was. By tons.

At home? At home I fed them well, loved them, kept them safe from too much television, kept them away from the malls during the Christmas hype.

But still, shit happened. It happened under the watch of others. It happened and I didn't know, or if I did know, I tried to work with it, to change it.

I feel so responsible and ashamed.

My husband reminded me that under my mother's watch, a stay-at-home mom, there was bullying between my siblings.

It doesn't make me feel better.

To my thirty-seven year old self I want to say I understand and I know you did the best you could at the time. I also want to say "What were you thinking?"

To my twenty-five year old daughter I want to say how sorry I am for all of it. For all of the times I should have acted sooner and didn't.

To my twenty-nine year old son I want to say that I should have spent more time with you, drawing at the kitchen table, or talking to you, instead of hiding in the basement when I first got home from work. You were only two, and I should have been there.

I should have been there. I should have been more vigilant.

But I wasn't.

And I have to live with that.

Yes, it is important for me to re-visit the past.

But, I don't have to live there.

Not anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Depression - mine and others

Depression is a deceptive liar. Depression convinces you that you are worthless, and your actions, past and present are not what they should have been.

Depression convinces you that you had no good intentions, only selfish ones.

Depression whispers in your ear that the world is against you. Depression convinces you that you are your own worst enemy. And it insists that you are alone.

But it does it subtly.

It does it by taking away the joy in your life. By filling your life with boredom, and hopelessness. It does it by shutting all the doors and windows, pulling down the blinds, shutting the curtains and leaving you in darkness. By leaving you alone.

It doesn't matter that there are many people around you, who profess they love you, who do kind things for you. All that matters is that nothing matters.

Don't tell a depressed person to go for a walk, to eat something, to cheer up, to look at the bright side. I have said all of those things, and I have had all of those things said to me and, at that moment in time, it doesn't help. In fact, it hurts.

It hurts because intellectually you know all of those things will help but you don't have the where-with-all to do any of them.

Sometimes depression will lift on its own, and if you have lived, like I have, for your whole adult life with depression you start to recognized the cycle and trust that the you will cycle out of it. Eventually.

For some people, like myself, medication helps. Not a lot of medication, but a small daily dose. If you know someone like that, like me - don't judge. The judging of SSRIs and other anti-depression medication by those who do not suffer is such a difficult thing.

It makes those of us on medication not want to be honest about our need for it, it makes us try to get off of it (to horrible results), it makes us be less then our authentic selves.

People with depression need to be authentic. Because often those who aren't, those who hide it, those who try to deny it, those who don't talk about it end up making a difficult and devastating decision.

I young man I knew, only a little, killed himself last month. I didn't know he struggled with depression. People who knew him better than I didn't know he struggled with depression. We. Didn't. Know.

Maybe he didn't know.

But if you are reading this, and you feel helpless, joyless, stuck, that life is pointless, then hard as it may be to do, go and talk to someone: a doctor you trust, a friend, a family member, someone.

Someone cares.

Depression will tell you that no-one cares.

Depression lies.

I know.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Look what I have!

This is my mother's Singer sewing machine, vintage 1951.(Well actually this is the bentwood box it came in, but keep reading.)
I learned to sew on this machine, and thanks to my niece, as of Monday, it now belongs to me! A perfect Thanksgiving present.

I made jumpers, skirts, dresses, and even my high school graduation dress. I remember as if it were yesterday laying out patterns on my family's dining room table. I can still see the material of my first jumper.

Sewing was something my mother and I shared. She taught me to put in an invisible zipper, how to turn a cuff and a collar, how to line a dress.

She sewed everything on this machine. Curtains, drapes, suits, dresses, t-shirts. Everything. I think she even sewed a bathing suit once.

This machine only sews in one direction.
There is no back-stitch, no zig-zag feature, no multiple threads.

It goes forward.

That's it.

It is called a portable machine, but it weighs a ton! (ok, really 31.5 pounds, but still!)

It is beautiful.

And now it is mine.

This means I now own three sewing machines.

The one my mom gave me when I graduated from high-school - Baycrest circa 1973

My aunt's that I inherited: White circa 1948

And now this one.

She doesn't quite run right. I think the belt needs replacing, and she needs a good cleaning and oiling.

She is a keeper, all the same.

It was love at first sight.

NB: I discovered moments ago that I have the box with all the bobbins and the zipper foot that goes with this machine. It had been in my possession all these years. Now I have the machine to go with it.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The 'c' word

I went to the hematologist today to discuss my blood work. I have my blood counts done every six months because eleven years ago I was diagnosed with CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia). At the time of my diagnosis my white counts where three times normal, over the past few years they have been back into the normal range.

Then eighteen months ago a new count was added to my blood work and it was not in the normal range. My GP didn't seem concerned, but I wanted to check in with the specialist anyways. Then in May my lymphocyte count was a little elevated.

I arrived for my appointment and he looked quite bewildered as to why I was there. He said looking at my blood work he would not consider me a CLL patient. He said, "we don't like to use the word cure, but looking at this report there is no indication of the disease."

He also admitted that all my files and tests that he had on me were in storage somewhere. No worries, I brought all my tests with me to the appointment (I am anal that way).

He was noticeably shocked when I told him he had diagnosed me in 2003.

2003, he queried?

2003, I replied.

2003, he asked again?

"Verified by a bone marrow biopsy". I stated.

Well, he said, we don't even consider treatment until your counts are in the 100s. (Mine is, like, seven.)

I asked what would explain my counts going down when the whole modus operandi of the disease is that your white cells never die. He could't explain it. But cautioned me not to look a gift horse in the mouth. (Who? Me?)

And the other count that was a little high? They changed the 'normal' range. It use to be high was over 5, then over 4, now it is over 3.5. (Mine is 3.6).

He also said to ignore the count that was new. "I have been trying to get them to take that off the tests. It means nothing."


Good to know our tax dollars are being spent running tests that doctors don't actually want to see or know about.
And weird they (the ubiquitous they) can change the normal range somewhat arbitrarily like that.

But, still, good news all around.

I am off his patient list. Just as well, he has the bedside manner of a gnat. (not to mention he doesn't know where my files are).

I still should go for blood tests every six months, (because that won't hurt, he said). Hah! He doesn't know my very sad and sordid relationship with needles.

So he doesn't want to see me anymore. Unless something changes.

And he won't use the 'c' word because of the genetic markers I have.

But he never said anything about not using the r word.

So I am.

Out loud.



I said it out loud.

It must be true.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mustard Pickles

I have my Grandmother's pickle crock,

and my son encouraged me to make her famous mustard pickles this year. My aunt taught me, my sister and my daughter how to make them about fifteen years ago.

I should have paid better attention.

I bought all the ingredients, and then shuddered at what I had talked myself into.

I finally began - skinning nine cups of pearl onions. Thank goodness for the internet for directions, but still I was overwhelmed with whether or not I was doing it right. According to the internet you just boil them, plunge them into ice water, cut off the end and then the onion slides right out of the skin. Not so much. Maybe I needed more ice. Maybe I needed to channel my aunt.

My dear husband, sensing my overwhelm no doubt, offered to help with the prep and in a very short time he had cut up two large heads of cauliflower while I finished the onions and chopped up the celery and cucumber.

Her recipe said one part salt to nine parts water for the brine, but of course no hint as to how big the parts should be to fill the crock. I grabbed a quart mason jar and used that. The angels must have been watching over me because it worked perfectly filling the crock just over half full of brine. By the time all the ingredients were added they came just to the top of the crock.

Then the next day I awoke to eleven pint jars, one quart jar, two half-pint jars, my canning pot and the recipe stuck to the fridge. The recipe is written in my dear Aunt Georgina's handwriting. I knew she was there with me, but still it was daunting.

Clearly this needed coffee and breakfast before the sauce could be made, and the jars could be sterilized.
Two cups of coffee later, I was ready to go.

So out came the canner and I sterilized the jars (without burning myself), while mixing the mustard paste, and boiling the vinegar.

I boiled the veggies for five minutes in the brine, fretting the whole time that they tasted too salty. I checked the internet to try to get the proportion of salt to water for brine but it only confused me more.

I heard my aunt's laugh.

I reminded myself to "trust the recipe", and I berated myself more than once for not paying better attention all those years ago when my sister and daughter and I gathered in my aunt's kitchen to make pickles for the last time before Alzheimer's stole her away from us in the horrible way that disease steals loved ones from loved ones.

I mixed the mustard paste into the boiling vinegar, working diligently to get the lumps out. To no avail. Then I thought about my wand mixer, and laughing at the thought of what my grandmother would say, I whisked those lumps away in seconds. New age meets traditional method!

So into the jars the mixture went, wiping the edges before placing the seals and lids on. Two batches of hot water processing, with only one oops as one of the seals failed and water leaked into the top of the jar.

I put the hot jars on the counter on top of a tea towel as my aunt had shown me and quite quickly the lids started to ping.

I remember as a young girl sitting in her living room, after a day of canning, listening to the jar lids ping and counting them off one by one.

I felt her presence as I listened and counted.

Twelve jars pinged! Two jars didn't, and they are in the fridge. Well, technically only one jar is in the fridge because my husband and I took one jar on our camping trip.

I woke up from a nap today with him exclaiming how great the pickles tasted.

Not too salty? I asked fretfully.

Not too salty, he replied emphatically. I love his enthusiasm.

I was happy. Happy for the jar in the fridge at home. Happy for the twelve jars on the counter at home. Happy for the one in my hand.

They tasted great as a side to my tuna sandwich, and they will taste great with tonight's moose stew. My husband thinks they taste great by the forkful out of the jar.

Thanks, Auntie Georgie.
Let's do this again, next year.
And maybe pickled onions too.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New traditions

Thanksgiving Weekend is upon us. This will be the first Thanksgiving in years and years and years that there won't be a big noisy family dinner.

Instead I have bought all the ingredients to make my Auntie Georgie's mustard pickles on either the Friday or the Monday, and my husband and I have booked a waterfront campsite for saturday and sunday night.

We might bake a salmon for our Thanksgiving dinner, or we might just roast chorizo over the fire.

I am looking forward to the simplicity of it. I am taking my knitting and a couple of good books. I just checked the weather report and it calls for rain, but I like camping in the rain.

As I have said before in this blog, when I was diagnosed with chronic leukemia my husband asked me what I wanted to do.

"I want to camp in our camper, hearing the rain on the roof."

That was 11 years ago. There have been lots of camping trips, and many with rain on the roof.

It never gets old.

There have been many changes in the last few years. My nest is truly empty, and for the first time in a long time I feel like it is going to be ok.

I can learn things still, and enjoy the company of new and old friends. I can take the time to take care of myself, and I am beginning to say what I want, and not feel I have to do things because others want me to.

My 59th birthday is fast approaching. I will be in my 60th year.

I think it is going to be just fine.

This is what 59 looks like. New traditions and all.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Organizing my stash

Bet that title got your attention, didn't it? You and the RCMP.

But of course my knitting and spinning compadres weren't fooled for a moment. For you not-in-the-know-non-knitter-types I will explain.

My stash is all the yarn and fibre I have accumulated over years and years of knitting. Some is leftover from projects completed. Some of it is gifts or hand-me-downs I have acquired, and much was purchased just because it was so pretty and smooshy (yes, that is a word) and I couldn't resist. (The word or the yarn).

My stash is actually quite organized: the cotton is all in one drawer, the roving in another, all the yarn of the same weight is more-or-less in the same place...but here is the thing.

Even though I have ALL my yarn in a database - colour, yardage, weight, fibre content - I have no pictures of it and I am a very visual learner (as they say in Education 101).

So today, on this overcast, soon to be rainy, day I am going to photograph ALL my stash and add those pictures to the database on Ravelry. (If you don't know what Ravelry is and you are a knitter, crocheter, spinner, or weaver then you need to Google that right now). If you don't know what Ravelry is and you are none of those things, well, never mind.

So once those pictures are in the database, and I want to make a pair or socks (want...HAH, NEED) or a shawl then I can peruse my photograph-enhanced database and viola - easier decision making.

Or, I can just look at the pretty pictures from time to time.

Knitting friends of mine call this yarn porn.

Oh my, porn and stash in the same post.

The RCMP should be here is know time.

I had better vacuum.