Monday, 27 April 2015

Time to say goodbye

My heart is heavy as I write this post, it's the one I've been dreading for several months.  After watching Cameron carefully for a while, and making it through a particularly rough night on Saturday, I've decided it's time to let him go.  He has lost a lot of weight, appears to be in a moderate amount of pain, and his appetite has dipped to a point where it is difficult to get him to eat enough wet food to take his medication.  I've also hit my breaking point, where it's become too much to come home to such a sick animal everyday after being stressed out at work all day (did I mention I lost my shit in a staff meeting last week?  Yeah.  Super professional.).  It's time to make that difficult phone call to the vet to make arrangements to have him put to sleep before things get out of control.  It's going to be the hardest phone call I've ever made.

I won't regale you with endless stories of why my cat is the bestest cat in the universe (I've probably already done that), but I do want to share one reason why I love Cameron so much.  I've gone through two major depressive episodes in my life.  The second was the worse of the two and took place when I was 24.  I didn't know how bad my situation was at the time, but it's quite clear in hindsight that I should have gotten help far sooner than I did.  I went to bed after my final recital at school and basically didn't get up for 2 months.  I stopped eating, skipped rehearsals, lessons, and classes, and spent most of my time hating myself for no apparent reason.  I also had a few scary nights where I felt like I wasn't present in my own body; I floated around my tiny basement apartment, watching my physical self from across the room.  During one of these episodes, I took all my painkillers and allergy pills out of their bottles, laying them out on the bathroom counter in an organized manner.  I looked at them calmly, trying to decide if they would be enough to kill me if I took them all at the same time.  Should I get more?  The pharmacy was just around the corner, and the liquor store was down the street.  I could get more pills and something to wash it all down.  I was considering all of this carefully when Cameron wandered into the bathroom.  I had adopted him the year before from a local animal shelter.  I brought him home with the intention of taking care of him as best I could; he deserved to have a great life.  It occurred to me that if I checked out, I wouldn't be doing what I pledged to do when I signed those adoption papers.  He needed me.  Clearly, I needed him too.  I put the pills away, and we went to bed.  I made an appointment with my family doctor soon after and started the slow climb out of that dark hole.

Cameron has been in the right place at the right time on a number of occasions, but that was his most important save.  He has no idea how vital his presence has been in my life.  I'll miss him so much but am grateful to have shared part of my life with such a lovely animal.  He really is the bestest cat.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Bunnies, Madonna, and some other stuff

I love Easter weekend.  Not only is there chocolate (Creme Eggs were on sale at the drugstore today...) but I get more time off work than I do at Christmas.  And the weather is nice.  It's good, I enjoy it even though I have no real connection to the holiday itself in terms of spirituality or tradition.  Cameron enjoys it too: we had no fewer than 12 cuddles yesterday.  It was one of those days that I would have liked to put him in a Snugli so I could get a bit more done while we were being affectionate.

In a weird but somewhat characteristic move, I managed to schedule a music discussion night at the library right after Easter that could be considered ill-timed or timely, depending on who you ask.  We'll be listening to and discussing Madonna's 1989 album, "Like a Prayer," on Wednesday evening.  You remember that one: it really stirred the pot, thanks to its tantalizing mix of religion and promiscuity.  Who could forget those burning crosses?  We were all going to go to hell for watching that video (although all I really noticed as a young person was that Madonna had really fabulous hair in that video)!  I didn't schedule this music club subject to fall after a heavy Christian holiday on purpose, but I find it amusing nonetheless.  I've been pushing a regular library patron/Gallery committee member to come to a discussion night, as he kept saying he'd show up one of these months.  He was delighted to hear we'd be doing Madonna and then told me I should dress up for the evening as Madge did in her video for "Dress You Up."  I'll leave it up to you to decide if it suits me, watch here.  I could certainly dance like that.  ;)

I do my first presentation at a library conference in just over a month and started to put it together today.  I was immediately reminded of all the presentations I did in library school...ugh.  I'm in a much better place mentally now than I was during that whole mess, thankfully.  I should be just fine getting up and talking in front of people, though I suspect the difference between library school and professional conferences is that people might actually be listening at the conferences.  Hmmmm.  I'll plan accordingly.

So, I got myself a new doctor and went in for a physical last week, like the diligent person I am (usually).  It was all going tickety-boo until she read my lab report and told me I might have kidney stones.  Um, excse me?  I'm one of those people who has, in the past, taken her complaints of pain and discomfort and weirdness to the doctor, only to be told that there is nothing wrong.  Blood tests, CT scans, and ultrasounds never show anything even though I hurt, so to be told that a test came back funky (too much calcium floating around in my body) was a bit mind blowing.  I've had some pain under my ribs on one side and in my lower back, but decided to ignore it because there isn't ever anything physically wrong with me.  I suspect that if there is a problem, it stems from not dealing with some sort of uncomfortable emotion, rather than a crappy lifestyle choice, so I only have myself to blame for not taking the advice that I give so many other people.  I will not stuff down my emotions, I will not stuff down my emotions, I will not stuff down my emotions.  I am, however, enjoying not stuffing down spinach right now (doctor's orders).  I'll have more answers in a few weeks.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

It's over! Maybe...

I'm knocking on wood furiously as I type this, but it appears that winter may be over in Saskatoon.  I'll be the first to admit that the 14 day forecast is generally bullshit so I'll keep my excitement contained. Plus I know that winter was pretty outrageous for other areas of the country and that people living in those parts, including members of my family, are still getting things under control.  I took advantage of the warm temperature and ran by the river yesterday for the first time in six months and it was great.  Wet and muddy, but nothing beats fresh air and trees and animals.  (Did I mention the rabbits here are bloody huge?  My god, I saw one behind the hospital yesterday and mistook it for a small dog.  Before I moved here someone warned me that the road kill is different in the Prairies...I totally get it.)  I'm sore today, which demonstrates just how much work the treadmill does for a runner, but my battery is recharged.  Just a few days of warmth goes a long way, though I realize that winter may come back for one last blast before it's gone for good.

After a couple months of subversive cross stitch, I've had my fill for now.  Sassy sayings and I are by no means over, but I want a new challenge.  I had a dream this week that I had crocheted a thing.  I couldn't quite tell what it was, but it was definitely crochet.  I took this as a push in a particular direction, so yesterday I picked up a learn to crochet kit and a couple of skeins of yarn.  I'm told that this craft is not rocket science, but I've never found it easy to weave yarn into something and have it look pretty.  I should probably take a lesson from the book "Make It Mighty Ugly" and just get comfortable with the fact that whatever I make will probably not look like the photo in the guidebook.  YouTube is definitely going to save me on this venture as well, because I'm already cross eyed from looking at the diagrams in the instructions.  Stay tuned for pictures of deformed granny squares and abstract pot holders.

In related news: my Mighty Ugly Workshop at the library takes place in about a month.  Should be enlightening, I hope people come out for it.  If you'd like to fly in for the weekend to attend, let me know.  ;)

An update on Cameron now, as I know he has many loving fans across the country.  He's looking pretty rough: losing weight, his fur is less shiny, and that lump on the side of his face is a bit bigger.  He is in good spirits, however, complete with a keen radar for treats.  He thinks that any bag in the kitchen is a treat bag and will demand his fair share (and then some).  He appreciates wet food as often as he can get it, too.  I took a couple of extra days off this week and we had lots of cuddles, which suits both of us just fine.  Cameron isn't quite over either.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

It's not you, it's me. Really.

Ever had one of those weeks when the universe kept smacking you across the head with something?  I had one of those.  Confession time!

I went to BodyTalk just over a week ago (Google it if you want to know what it is...I can't explain it, but will tell you that I'm quite certain that it saved my life), and the topics of self-expression and speaking one's truth came up.  Since my appointment, the concept of the Highly Sensitive Person (you can Google that too) kept coming at me from different directions.  I've known for a while that I fit into that box, but I keep trying to pretend that I don't.  In a nutshell, I get overwhelmed by too much sensory input.  I can't handle crowds, too much noise, strong scents, violent TV/movies, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  I feel what other people feel, picking up uncomfortable emotions easily.  I often end up in bed with the duvet pulled over my head to recover from too much of everything. This week, however, was a wake-up call for being comfortable with who I am.  I almost lost it at the Y on Tuesday night because the cardio room was packed full of people; just being close to a whack of strangers freaked me out.  Then my headphones broke and I had to replace them immediately because listening to music (and blocking out everything else around me) is the only way I can cope with being on public transit and going to the grocery store.  Finally, I went to the symphony last night with a few people from work and essentially lost the ability to function.  The concert wasn't sold out, but I was so thrown off by being in a crowd that I could hardly speak and I adopted my favourite coping mechanism of staring off into space like a bunny caught in the headlights.  Worse yet, the conductor was schmoozing after the concert and approached our group.  Everyone else talked to him in a graceful manner; I mumbled something about it being nice while trying to quell the urge to run out the door. *face palm*  I went home, banged my head against the wall a couple of times,  berated myself for being ridiculously awkward, and went to bed.  (Feeling marginally better this morning.)  All this makes me think that it's time to stop thinking that I'll outgrow all of this.  I turn 39 next week, if I haven't left it behind by now I don't think I ever will.  Time to embrace the sensitivity and see it as a gift rather than an ailment that needs to be cured.

I think my biggest concern with this HSP thing is worrying that I'll offend people.  So here's my disclaimer: if you ask me to go out somewhere or do something and I say no, please don't take it personally.  It just means that I know I can't handle it and would rather stay away from the situation rather than risk losing my shit in front of the whole world.  What's going on inside me is not necessarily reflected on the outside.  It's not you, it's me.  :)

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Dirty words

There will be a number of dirty words in this post.  Prepare yourself.  Maybe grab a beer or something.


I'll start with my least favourite dirty word.  My beloved tabby, Cameron, probably has the Big C.  He developed a large lump near his jaw a few months ago and it didn't respond to antibiotics, so my vet is assuming he has cancer.  In order to get a diagnosis, Cameron would have to have a biopsy to remove the tumour.  This means general anaesthetic and a big old scary trip to the vet school at U of S.  He's old (if he were a human, he'd be about 85 years old) and has an existing health problem, so the surgery may actually cause more harm.  It would also be outrageously expensive and my intuition tells me that my money would be better spent on spoiling my boy in the time we have left together.  I'm so glad the vet told me that it's okay for me to decide not to have the surgery, which helps immensely with guilt.  I wasn't surprised by all of this but it's still stressful and sad.  This cat has seen me through a lot and offers a level of unconditional love that continues to give me a boost everyday.  I will miss him so much when he's not here to greet me when I get home from work.  So now I'm in a new phase of pet ownership, where I have to monitor Cameron's quality of life on an ongoing basis and prepare to decide when it's time to let him go.  Right now he's comfortable and happy.  His kidneys and thyroid are in good shape, and he's still eating.  No problems with his appetite at all, although he's lost weight in the last year.  Every time I walk into the kitchen he's right behind me, surveying the dry food situation and demanding treats.


This isn't really a dirty word for me, but it is for other people.  I've decided to give up on dairy and eggs.  Dairy is not agreeing with me and I've had a love/hate relationship with eggs for a while.  I've been eating vegan a good deal of my time as a vegetarian, so it's not a huge deal and isn't anything new.  I even hesitate to use the word "vegan" but we're all hell-bent on labelling diets, so if people ask from now on this is the word I will use.  What I really want to emphasize here is that if I go out for dinner with you or have a meal in your home, I don't want to make what I eat/don't eat a big fat hairy deal.  If I eat something with cheese or eggs in it, no one is going to die.  I'm not going to projectile vomit or spit it out across the table or have a hissy fit in the restaurant.  I accidentally ate chicken back in the fall at a library social thingie, and I chalked it up as a "shit happens" kind of situation.  That said, I also appreciate it when people don't look at my food like it's landed on the plate from outer space.  It's just plants.  I eat what makes me feel best, and you do the same.  I'm sure there are more interesting things to focus on anyway. 


I took my flute in for a check up a couple of weeks ago.  It came back feeling much better...the keys close at the same time!  I don't know what happened to it, but half the instrument was in really bad shape.  The repair guy said he wasn't sure how I was getting sound in the low register because nothing was sealing properly.  He worked his magic and all is well again.  Now I can't blame the instrument for any problems that I encounter, which means if I want to get back into good playing shape I'm going to have to stop messing around and start playing my scales again.  All those annoying technical exercises I did for years and years really did help; all the music I play is made up of scales, arpeggios, etc. and if I don't practice them everything falls apart quickly.  I once had a lesson with a flute player who said that any problem (ANY PROBLEM) in a piece of music could be solved with a technical exercise, and I believe him.  Not all musicians agree with me, but I know myself well enough to realize that I need to haul out the daily exercises again if I have any hope of getting back to where I was a few years ago.  I need to find my tuner too...that's another dirty word.  *shudder*

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

I hate January

There.  I said it.  I actually say it almost daily, and it has little to do with this post, but getting it down in writing is always a good thing.  This winter isn't nearly as bad as last year: it's much warmer here in Saskatoon and my anxiety level has dropped dramatically.  I feel more settled and can function after 8pm most days.  We're in for a thaw tomorrow, which means I should also be able to avoid the intense cravings for meat I had last year around this time.  (True story.  Take me out for a beer sometime and I can tell you all about it.)

Anyway, I've been making stuff and it's been much easier/less scary/more fun than I thought it would be.  It's the same old story: the anticipation of creating is a good deal more frightening and uncomfortable than the actual act of getting it done.  And though I've given myself permission for my makes to be ugly, most have been quite pretty.  Here is my hand cut snowflake made out of a page from Vogue magazine...

If you look closely, you can see super twit Kim Kardashian in there.  I specifically chose pages from the Kim and Kanye article to cut up, as I can't think of two people more deserving of being shredded.  Three of my snowflake creations now hang in the door way to my kitchen.  How stylish.

I also wrote haiku with random words people selected for me.  If I ask you to give me a word, you now know what I'm on about (other than being annoying).

Frigid river walk
Cauterized my aching heart 
Deadened senses drift


Scarborough subway
"Boondoggle" say the critics
Too late?  We shall see

My favourite makes so far are these rude cross stitches...

I have no words.  They make me giggle every time I walk by them.  And I haven't even framed them yet. 

I took a big, brave step and sent my flute into the local instrument repair shop to get a check up.  The last time I did this I spent an outrageous amount of money getting it adjusted, oiled, cleaned, and having some pads replaced, then I got it home and it felt exactly the same as it did before I took it in.  (Did I mention I even drove the damn thing to Toronto to have it serviced?  Seriously.  It was practically a suicide mission on the 401.)  I'm hoping for better results this time out.  My Powell deserves better, you know?  Another big step was contacting something called the Galliard Foundation here in Saskatoon to ask to perform in one of their upcoming Classical Variety Night concerts.  The next one is in February, which is too soon for me to get up in front of an audience, but I'll be playing in the spring edition.  I'm ditching the Baroque music and picking up a few French pieces from the late 19th and early 20th century.  I always felt most satisfied with my playing when I performed Faure, Gaubert, etc., so it's a fitting way to get back into it.

Other miscellaneous tidbits from my life (you can stop reading now if you don't care to hear about the boring stuff)...  1. My building had two break and enters in the past week, yet the property management company seems a bit reluctant to, you know, make the building more secure by fixing the locks on the front and back doors (their suggestion: make sure you have insurance!).  I pity whoever breaks in here, because they'll find I live a pretty basic existence.  If they want a crappy food processor, I'm their woman.  Hopefully it doesn't come to that.  2. I'm on the brink of giving up dairy as my body is throwing out signals that it really can't deal with it anymore.  I took a break from it for a couple of weeks, then felt like complete shit for three days after eating cheese pizza.  I'm sure I'll get over the loss, eventually.  3. Librarian-ing is still fabulous.  There's always lots to do, problems to solve, programs to plan, and bizarre things going on.  I love my job.  4. The fur children are doing well for a couple of oldies.  I can't believe Cameron will be 17 in March.  He still has that funny bump near his jaw and I've been putting off taking him back to the vet as I'm always convinced the next visit will be the one when the vet tells me he's living on borrowed time.  I know...bad cat mom.  I'll call tomorrow to see what we can do to (hopefully) fix him up.  Cleo is her usual princess self.  I've decided she only really wants me to get out of bed in the morning so she can have the whole bed to herself, not so she can enjoy my company over a cup of tea.  Bitch.

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015: Make it ugly

What am I doing with this blog?  I've been lazy about posting, as I feel that my life isn't all that exciting to write about.  And there are many days when I feel like I never want to touch a computer ever again (thank you, work email!).  It started out as a way of keeping people in the loop about my move to Saskatoon, but when the initial upheaval subsided and I got the job I really wanted, it seemed boring to give a run down of my week all the time. 

I'm coming out of a weird place.  There was a lot of change in a very short period of time, and it messed me up.  If I told you I was okay in the past three years, it was probably a lie.  I spent most of last winter paying for the time I went on autopilot, which perhaps wasn't the healthiest thing I could have done to deal with library school, job interviews, the move west, and other stressful, sad things.  However, it got me from there to here and I'm still alive, so I suppose that time I spent with tunnel vision did what I needed it to do.  I guess that's what happens when your survival instinct kicks in.  My creativity took a beating during that time and through the past year of retreat and recovery.  I haven't made much of anything, except the stuff I 'make' at work.  I miss it a lot.  I'm envious of my coworkers who go out and make music regularly, or write, or sew, or whatever.  I've been encouraged to make stuff, but I ran away from it for whatever reason.  I just wasn't ready to create again.  Then I starting reading this book...

It's called "Make It Mighty Ugly: Exercises & Advice for Getting Creative Even When it Ain't Pretty" by Kim Piper Werker.  I ordered this for Fine Arts because it seemed quirky and down-to-earth.  I'm reading it because I thought there was library program potential in it (turns out the author thinks so too, as she has an entire section on her website devoted to librarians who want to run the Mighty Ugly workshop), but now I'm into it because I think it will give me the kick up the backside I need to start making stuff again.  I've been feeling out of sorts: digestive upheaval, my skin is breaking out (but only on the left side of my face...WTF?), and I'm having an insanely hard time getting a decent night's sleep.  (Seriously, if I could get seven evenings of excellent sleep in a row I would be able to die happy.)  This kind of thing happens when I'm shifting from one place to another, and though it's uncomfortable, it's generally a sign that I'm moving forward.  And right now is the time to move forward creatively.  I'm going with the suggestion in the third section of the book: make something (anything) for at least 15 minutes a day.  This is where the blog comes in...I can create daily, and share weekly.  There are lots of blogs and websites out there that chronicle people's journeys through creativity, and I hate to follow the crowd, but it makes sense to do this at the moment.  It goes back to the Seven of Wands.  To me, that tarot card is all about feeling the fear about doing something and carrying on despite those uncomfortable feelings. It's what got me where I am today, and it's the right time to channel that energy into bite-size creative goals (rather than huge, life-changing goals, which is exhausting...I'm done with that for now).

So off I go, making stuff no matter how ugly or disastrous it may be.  I haven't decided exactly what to make each day, probably a mish mash of things, but I've already started.  This week I got out my flute and made Bach.  It wasn't great, as evidenced by the number of times I called poor J.S. a bastard.  I've never had a good relationship with Baroque music and despite the fact that I'm learning pieces that are at a grade level far below what I'm capable of playing, it's still a challenge.  And I forced myself to play in a manner that exposes all my tonal deficiencies, which was even more painful.  But then I hauled out a concerto by Quantz that I learned almost twenty years ago and was delighted to discover it's still under my fingers.  So I'm not a lost cause after all.  Onward.