Sunday, 30 March 2008

Monday Mission - Political Ad

Ecuse me, Ma'am, I wonder if I could have a minute of your time. I represent Cheshire Raccoon, who's a candidate for Chief Garbage collector in our fine town, in the upcoming election. I wonder if I could interest you in putting up a lawn sign for Chessie -- he's just such a perfect choice for the job. He's against bungee cords and metal pails, he encourages you to leave your recycle unwashed, he's never seen a green plastic bag he couldn't shred in seconds. He's a great old guy, he reall................
OUCH! You could have let me get my tail out of the door before you slammed it. The nerve of some people.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Talking about Photography

I've been a camera nut for most of my life; as an indulged child I got a camera when I was about eight, a Kodak Brownie, and started a life long love affair with the medium. As a young mother I got an SLR and took lessons on how to use it (one set all the light and speed parameters by hand, using a light meter, in those days) and did a lot of black and white photography. I used that camera, and later a pocket SLR, until the first of the digital cameras was cheap enough for me to afford – maybe 1996. I've since progressed through a series of digitals and am presently contemplating yet another upgrade. But I've never been much better than adequate at framing and subject matter. If you want to see photography that sings, look at or Lawyer Mama, to name just two out of many. What I wanted to do, however, I have done. I've recorded. If the house caught on fire, I would run for my photos first.

This makes me a poor subject for photo autobiography, in many ways. When you are behind the camera, you are not in the picture, doing whatever, for the record. The YD commented on my previous post that she would have liked to have seen more action shots. Problem is, I was usually taking them. I have some, but not a representative sample.

Anyway, what I took from Mad's challenge was that she was looking for a record of physical changes and of mood. That's how she did it herself. I am about to go hopping around to see how other people handled it and I'm looking forward to that. What I did was try to pick out one shot per decade, for the adult series. It amused me greatly that a disproportionate number of them came from weddings I've attended. And I could have put more shots like that in. Other photos of me are often from celebrations of various sorts from Christmas dinner to family reunions. Very few are a record of what I have been doing. There is a third category, where I am the foreground of scenery from a trip, but I don't have a lot of those because mostly I am carrying the camera.

I've been scanning a lot of the old photographs lately, to preserve them and to put them in order. I had a huge number taken from birth to three years old because my father was overseas in the Navy and the photographs were for him. (The shot where I have my three year old back turned to the camera was not shyness but rebellion; I was fed up with being photographed. Later I became a camera ham.) When my mother took photographs, she usually posed all her subjects in a nice neat row, or static against a skyline or tree, but they are still a great record.

I could do a dandy photo biography on my kids, however. I went for action whenever I could. From time to time you see a 'here comes Mom with the camera again' resignation on their faces, but mostly they were patient with me. Also, they did a lot of photogenic things. The most characteristic photo of me would have shown me with my nose buried in a book. Although when I think about it, there is not a single photograph of me reading that I know about. How strange.

Thanks for the comments, too. It was a fun exercise, even though I should have had a bigger picture allowance than the rest of you because I am so much older. I am giving myself one extra here – Mary G in her most characteristic pose but one.

Ten Photo Autobiography

This challenge came from Mad at Under the Mad Hat.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Festive Meals

I'm not a cook. Oh, I can put together a decent meal, but I don't enjoy baking or fussy preparation. For company meals I rely on getting the best ingredients I can afford and cooking them simply and carefully. I still recall with both annoyance and amusement deciding to look up and fuss with a meatless dish when the daughter of some neighbours became vegetarian. I found a fairly simple stuffed red pepper recipe, sweated over it but got it to turn out and presented it to the teenager, only to have her announce that she did not like red peppers, only green ones. The next time her family came to dinner I made sure to have lots of salad and bread and vegetables on the table -- 'But what's for me?' she whined. Her mother gave her The Look, which meant that I did not have to do so.

My husband says that for me gourmet cooking is a new prepackaged mix. True enough to be funny. True enough that I find it most surprising that both my daughters have turned out to be excellent and creative cooks. The YD, especially, is amazing. She invited the family for Easter Dinner, got a recipe for rack of lamb out of a magazine -- one which involved a cooked breading and making the Frenched rack stand up 'guard of honour' style -- and produced a perfect result. First time. She does this fairly often, zooming off to the grocery store with cookbook in hand and pulling it off. I would no more try that than I would enroll in the astronaut program. She also served crème Brule at her Easter dinner party, using her father's propane torch to do the Brule part. It was marvelous.

The ED taught me to use a wok some years ago, and I really rely on my microwave for vegetables and sauces, but other than that I cook a lot like my mother and grandmother cooked (plus mixes; pie crust mix, for one). At Chez G we still eat stuff like meatloaf and Apple Crumble and pork chops with gravy, all either my mother's or JG's mother's recipes. My festive meals often involve roasting something. I am terrified to cook shellfish.

JG's maternal grandfather was a baker and his mother learned the art of cake decoration. My mother always made boiled frosting, which rarely turned out, but Mrs. G produced birthday cakes that were works of art. She once arrived here with such a cake when my parents were also visiting, on the ED's birthday. Not expecting her to have brought a cake, my mother and I had laboured together to produce a sad lumpy specimen which had to have one side propped up with a cookie, a failing which the frosting signally failed to disguise. When Mrs. G swept in and produced her masterpiece, we hid our sugary glob in the back of the pantry and did not bring it out until the other cake was crumbs and memory.

However, my inadequate cakes are now only a memory because I have mastered the art of light, spreadable icing which will disguise almost anything. And, yes, I will share it with you. In honour of the maple syrup season, which has not started yet this year due to the whole county being in a snowed up deep freeze. You see, this recipe takes real maple syrup. No substitute works as well. You need: 6 tablespoons of butter and 6 of maple syrup. Warm to slightly above room temperature and cream them together. Gradually add 2 cups icing sugar. Ice cake while frosting is still a bit warm and chill the iced cake to set it. This frosting will work for piping and lettering too. If you colour it, add another tablespoon of icing sugar. It's sugar and fat content are, um, high.

I learned this out of necessity as Little Stuff has a nut allergy and all festive cakes have to be home made. But it works consistently for me and, believe me, that's amazing. All I have to worry about is getting it onto the table without dropping it or setting Little Stuff on fire.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

When the Roof Caves In

Our barn had a close call today. We call it a barn, but in fact it is a storey and a half triple size garage, with a drive shed attached at one side and a shed roof annex on the other. The drive shed and the main building have roof lines that intersect, forming a ninety degree angle. With all the snow we have had, JG was worried about the snow build up in that angle and had asked the YD to come out from the city today and clear the worst of the snow from it. She was due to arrive in the early afternoon and JG went out to get the ladder set up, asking me to bring shovels and such from the house.

When I got to the barn with the shovels, JG was in a right state. He had opened the main sliding doors on the big building and found that the support beams in the whole front half of the building had broken. The roof was in imminent danger of caving in. I tore back to the house and grabbed the phone and started phoning neighbours to ask for shovellers. By the greatest stretch of good luck, one neighbour arrived for a visit just as I was phoning. He took one look a the situation and whipped up the ladder, dress shoes and Sunday clothes and all, and started shoveling. I got our car out and went to his place to collect his boots and work clothes and his teenaged son and daughter, both strong agile kids, to help. A third son, who works in construction, turned up just as I was leaving and so he came too. I got back to find yet another neighbour pitching in and as I delivered the load of workers, the YD turned up.

A swarm of shovellers clambered onto the roof and started to dig in. The snow was set and stiff, as today was cold -- below freezing all day, in fact. Our ingenious neighbour quickly grabbed a saw and started sawing the snow into huge blocks which could then be rolled, gravity aiding, to the edge of the roof and dumped off. The kids set to clearing the annex roof and the main team sawed, shoved and heaved. When one set of neighbours had to leave for Easter dinner, the main part of the roof was pretty clear. The rest of the crew worked for about another hour, and the buildings are now safe.

Here are some shots of the event. I'm not sure the scale really shows in them, but it is a lot of roof and a lot of snow. By the end of the exercise the shovellers were able to walk off the roof and down the pile of snow blocks that had accumulated. And JG and I were extremely grateful and thankful to have such friends when we were in need.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Blue Funk Day

There's a reason I picked this for my online image. Not only does it look like me, a lot, but also it symbolizes for me what I want this blog to be.
I stomped around the house yesterday in a senseless rage at fate, the weather, my poor husband and anything else that got in my way. I stomped on sluggish flies, slammed drawers and, to put not too fine a point on it, sulked. It was that kind of day, I was tired and bored and had a pile of things to do that I did not want to do and nothing to do that I did want to do except write a post for my blog. But, I thought to myself, I cannot write a post while I am in this terrible mood because the YD reads my blog and the YD is an activist; if she reads about this she is going to get on the phone and try to Do Something about it, and so I can't talk about it.

Well, this went on for a bit, as I wrote bits of invective about anything and everything in my head, and then I thought…."Wait a minute!"
All my life I have perceived it as my role to be the constant cheerful person, especially to my mother. I could write to her about anything, anything except that I was in a miserable mood, because if she thought I was down, or sad, or upset, she would inevitably try to Do Something about it, or at the very least fret about not being able to Do Something. (Did you follow me around the last curve? Sorry!) Anyway, I hardly ever mentioned times when I was less than cheerful. But when I started this blog, the idea was that I could write about whatever was on my mind, bad or good. And here I find that just because the YD will read it, I am censoring. Again. I do not think this is a good thing. No.

(YD, if you are reading this, do not pick up the phone. This is my bad mood, and I intend to enjoy it fully.)

And so, here is the manifesto. I, Mary G, resolve that I am going to portray what I really am like in this blog. I will not try to be better than I am. I will not do the constant cheerful thing. The censoring will be limited to other people, whose concerns are private to them. I will not self censor. I will not write around things to avoid upsetting anyone. Not here. And if someone who knows who I am tries to Do Something about it, she is toast.

Now, can I keep this resolution for five seconds straight? We will see.

All this leads to a question I want to ask. The self censoring topic has been bounced around in MommyBlog land as long as I have been reading in it. Julie at Using My Words tackled it not long ago; it has been a topic on BlogRhet. People have talked from time to time about topics they avoid, about how they deal with controversy, about how they handle references to family and friends. But I have a specific curiosity. And it is this. If your family and friends read your blog, how conscious are you of how they will react to what you write? If you find yourself self censoring, what do you do about it? How much does it change your blog personality?

My answer would be: I wrote the blog anonymously for some time. I censored, but only to protect the inncent. Then I let my daughters and several friends in on it. Since I did so, I fear that I am becoming less …. real, for lack of a better word, less three dimensional, less forthright. I don't know if this is reflected in my posts, but if anyone who is a regular reader has seen a difference, I would love to know what you think.

Two further things.

1. I have written about my blue funk as if it were funny. Today it is. Yesterday it wasn't.

2. Advice from the crone: when you plan your retirement home, make sure it has two good, comfy beds in it. In different rooms.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Requiem for a Way of Life

Painted Maypole asked for an obituary for today's Monday Mission. It's a bit skewed, maybe, but here's my take on it.

When I was a little girl, no older than you are, my grandmother used to call me 'Little Stuff'. My mother and I used to go and visit her and my grandfather, driving in our own car, over 100 kilometres to get there and as much to get back, just for the afternoon. My mother's car was one of the first electric ones -- almost everyone else drove cars with gasoline or diesel engines like the ones you saw in the Museum of the Twentieth Century last month. My mother's car was grey and everyone used to laugh because it didn't make any noise when she started it. Well, because the gas and diesel motors made a big noise when you turned them on, like RRRRRrr.

I liked to visit my grandmother because she had a little swimming pool in her basement. It wasn't very big, not like the big pools that you've seen in pictures, but it was really warm because it was inside and the water was heated with electricity. And it had a thing like a boat propeller in the front, with a grill over it, and when she turned it on the water would move fast and she could swim in one place. I loved that pool so much! My grandma would make the water go fast and I would sail down the pool with a floatie and my grandma and I would laugh a lot. And it was always warm. Just think, there was so much electric power that my grandparents could use it like that.

You'll learn in school when you're older about how using all that electricity was a bad thing, and how it made the air dirty and how the gasoline and diesel engines in the cars were bad and used up all the fuel, so now we are more careful and we don't use too much. But when people used all that fuel all the time, things were different than they are now. Just think, we had strawberries all year round. They grew them in different places and big airplanes --not like the balloon air cars -- that could go very fast, well, those airplanes brought food from different places all around the world, all the time. Fruit you don't know about now, like kiwis, and meat from a place on the other side of the world called New Zealand, and pears from Israel on the other side of the ocean. A long, long way. We had blueberries all the time, too. I loved blueberries. My grandpa used to eat the squishy ones for me, like I do for you. Only we bought them at the store. In the winter.

I went in an airplane when I was your age and we went all the way from here to Vancouver on the other side of Canada, for a month, because your grandma and grandpa had work to do there. Just for a month. And we got there in just a few hours on the plane. We don't have that kind of plane any more because it took too much fuel to run it and it made the air dirty.

Well, you know what happened because the air got too dirty. The weather got really bad and there were floods and people drowned. Whole cities went under water, or part of them did. And the weather got warmer, too. There was snow all winter, when I was your age, lots of it, and it was white all the time. One winter there was so much snow that the piles were up to the second story windows in the house where I lived and the snow completely blocked my grandma's garage door, where she kept her car, and my mother had to dig it out for her. And I climbed on the snow piles and slid all the way down.

Are you finished your snack. Good. We can go outside now and you can help me in the garden. Only you have to be careful to just pull up what I tell you. We need the weeds to come out and the vegetables to stay or grandma won't have any soup next winter. Okay? Why am I crying? I'm really not. Just remembering, and the sun got in my eyes for a minute, okay? It was very wasteful, that world, and my grandma was bad to use all that electricity, but I really loved that pool.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Joy of Clothes

Lately I have been scanning and cleaning up old photographs. I have a huge, huge pile of them -- my mother took a lot of photos of me and got reprints done for both my grandmothers. I now have all three sets of prints. And so I am sorting, throwing away duplicates and retouching as I go, balancing the light, taking out the dust and scratches, trying to put dates and places on record. And as I do this, I am reminiscing a lot and thinking about the differences between how I was dressed and trained as a little girl in the forties and fifties and how Little Suff is being brought up.

Here's a pair of photos that are telling. I always had a Sunday Best outfit. It was called that. I wore it to church. I got a new outfit for Easter, with a coat and hat if Easter came early or just the dress if it fell later in the spring. In the photo on the right, Easter was late and I have a straw hat and smocked dress, the later having been made by my mother. I was five or six, I think, which would make the year '47 or '48.. In the snap on the left I was, perhaps, eleven, so 1953. Since I was older, I had graduated to a suit for church, also made by my mother. I remember the hat vividly. It was woven fabric, slippery, and had a horrible habit of slipping forward over my nose if I bent my head. You will note the socks and with the Mary Jane strap shoes. More about socks later. When I wore these clothes, my behaviour was supposed to match. I had to sit like a little lady (exact quote!), not run and, most important, stay clean and neat. Not my favourite things to do.

My mother made almost all of my clothes, in fact, until I started high school. Including my winter coats and leggings. The proper thing for little girls to wear in winter with their coats was long white woolen stockings, held up by a garter belt. I rebelled. No way was I wearing those stockings. They itched and the garters popped off and they wrinkled. My mother, who had also suffered with similar stockings, relented and made me pull up trousers or leggings to wear with my coats. I was the envy of all my friends. I also had a snow suit, also wool and made by my mother, knit when I was very small and sewn as I got older. This outfit was for playing only -- skating or making snow forts. It was not worn otherwise, any more than the dungarees that I was allowed to play in could be worn away from home. If we were even going to buy groceries, I wore a skirt and my coat and leggings. And my mother changed her dress, put on her second best coat and hat (best was for Church) and gloves.
In the photo above, I am five (1947) and have just graduated from hats with itchy chin straps. That's my Easter hat with just an elastic. On the right it's 1951 and I am nine. I loved this coat because of the hood. It was fawn coloured wool and the velveteen trim and leggings were dark brown. For once, I am not mugging for the camera, either.

In summer I wore cotton dresses. When I was eight my parents bought a summer cottage and at the cottage I was allowed to wear shorts (!). My mother made the halter top (she had one that matched). But the shorts were purchased! On my feet are cotton and rubber 'sand shoes' which I had to wear unless I was actually swimming. I am, perhaps, ten in the shorts and top shot and eight in the other. The dress I am wearing on the right was my summer Brownie costume, that I wore to go to Brownie camp. It was pale green and had a matching hat which was fastened on with a bobby pin. The accessory is my aunt's cat, whom I adored. My mother thought that the regulation fabric she had to use to make the dress was shoddy.
Definitely not shoddy was my red velvet Christmas dress. It was real silk velvet, not velveteen, and had, as you can see, a lace collar which detached. I adored that dress and didn't even mind the 'don't get dirty' injunctions that came with it, as any spots I got on it had to be cleaned off with naptha and then the dress didn't smell so nice.

What's the point of all this narcissisism? Well, not a lot really, except to say, horray for rip stop nylon and Goretex and permapress and cotton knit and velcro and a world in which a Little Stuff can wear tough play clothes when she wants to and girly, whirly skirts when she wants to and wool stockings and garter belts are in museums.
Where I will someday join them. In my pantsuit and wind jacket, I hope. And without a hat.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Guest Post -- Monday Mission

Hey, you up there with the snow making machine, will you cut it out already! I've had as much as I can handle. In fact, my handle is all over sweaty hand marks because Mary G got too hot this afternoon and took her mittens off. Snow shovels are not supposed to have sweaty handles. It's getting ridiculous. Dig, dig, dig, morning, noon and night.

This afternoon I got scraped and thumped on the garage apron and had to lift over a foot of snow. That stuff is heavy, eh? This is after the tractor was supposed to have cleared it out. Yesterday it was decks and porches. And more decks. And more porches. Then I had to make a trail from the house to the barn (and that's a loooong way, baby!) so that JG could get the tractor started.

You want to see what I have to put up with? There I am, just after she finally put me down, this afternoon. I tell you, this is no job for wimps. See those big piles of white stuff. I put 'em there, by cracky.

But 54 centimetres (foot and a half, about) is too dern much. I can't take it any more! I'm leaving for Florida, or maybe Arizona. Yeah, Arizona would be good. Catch you later... much later. There's more white stuff due tomorrow night.

Note from MG -- some of those piles were made with a front end loader. This guy is not the most truthful mouth on the block.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Bloggy Birthdays

N at justmakingitupasigo is much better the last few days. She is sitting up and feeding herself, albeit very slowly, and, says her husband, is very much herself. He told her about all of the messages the blogging world sent and she is touched and pleased. I hope it won't be too long before she can get on line herself and rejoin us. She's not out of the woods yet, but the trees are thinning.

Today is the first anniversary of my very first post -- Them's My Sentiments is one year old today. I had planned on writing a thoughtful post about everything I have learned about the mommyblogging world, about your generosity to newbies, your warmth, your caring for one another, about the sheer fun it is to swim in this sea. I made notes; I started off several times. However, it is now late at night and the anniversary post is still not written. Maybe tomorrow after I shovel a foot and a half of snow off the decks. Again. I don't know how deep this fall actually is, as the wind is now sculpting it into impossible drifts and the power has flickered several times. But I have shoveled the front porch off twice today, it has disappeared again, and the piles around the porch are higher than my head. Again, after JG took them down with the snowblower. Twice.

The man is muttering about figuring out how he can get onto the tractor tomorrow and clear snow -- this two weeks after a complete knee replacement surgery. If he tries, I am going to hide the keys. Or hide all his coats. Or maybe both. I think he is kidding. I hope. We have a good neighbour who will come and dig us out sometime tomorrow, and even if the power goes, I have two wood stoves, a generator, plenty of food cooked and lots of good friends close by. One of them barreled through the drifts this evening to find out if we were all right. My real neighbours are as wonderful as my on line community.

So, before a tree falls on the hydro lines, what I want to do is to say thank you. Thank you to the people who welcomed a newbie in, gave her instructions on how to do the basics and encouraged her fledgling attempts with warmth and praise. Thanks also to the hard working folk who do the award thing every month, who devise the Monday Missions and Hump Day Hmms that allow me to exercise my rusty writing and make me think. Thanks to those of you who urged me on to confront the rude sales clerk and followed the story. Thanks to those of you whose humour and grace brighten my days, whose gorgeous photographs and art work are things I look forward to seeing and appreciating, to the BlogRhet group and to those of you who turn up to read what I write. Love you!

Thanks also to my daughters, who let me write about them and about my granddaughter. I'm so glad you're cool about this.

Here's me -- in all my wrinkly glory. But it isn't the photo that's me; it's what I write that tells you who I am.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

We got 20 cm of snow today. This is an antidote.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Some Notes on Pain

I have had a mushed disc in my spine since I was 21, the result of a badly executed layout dive from an untested diving board. I have a cartilage tear in my left knee, the result of playing basketball and consistently stopping on my left foot, swiveling on my left foot, etc. Both these injuries are now the sites of osteoarthritis, as are other less abused joints, and I hurt a little bit, most of the time. Usually I don't notice it; it's just background noise. Climbing stairs carrying a load (Little Stuff, who is not so little any more), too much hiking on uneven ground, wearing even a two inch heel, sleeping on too hard a surface, all these things bring the soreness to my attention. I love hot tubs; once in water, I don't hurt at all.

This kind of thing does not translate into 'pain' for me; pain is what happens when you put the iron down on your hand, stub your toe against a wood block and break it, or have to get your system restarted after having a baby. Pain is what motivated JG to go and get his knee joint replaced; pain that was severe enough at times that he could not walk around Canadian Tire, pain that would cause the knee to buckle on him at unexpected moments. Pain is what he has now, with the newly repaired joint. Pain when he tries to turn over in bed, more and greater pain when he does the exercises to flex the joint, even greater pain when he has to navigate stairs. We are assured that this pain will go away, after a while. But my heart aches for him as he works through it.

The pain and his determination remind me of our elder daughter. She was a gymnast in high school and in University, competing in the inter University League. She loved gymnastics. She did very well indeed. She loved the competition, also. In her last year as a University competitor she fractured a bone in her foot a short time before the Canada wide finals. There was no question of her dropping out; the foot was taped, her coach monitored it for further injury, and she went ahead. I still remember how she looked as she did her 'flying' dismount from the high bar, a dismount that has to be landed on both feet, firmly. A 'solid' landing, they call it. She knew that the landing would be agony but down she went, solidly, onto the injured foot. For herself, for her team, she just accepted the pain and mastered it, her face a serene mask.

In hospital, they ask you to rate pain on a one to ten scale. I find that a very difficult task. In relation to what? I suppose they intend that 0 is no pain, but what is ten? Do you include duration? Area? Is ten the point where your will gives way and you start to scream? I have a clear memory of telling a nurse, 24 hours or so into giving birth to the ED, that I did not know how much more of it I could take. But of course, labour is not something you can opt out of. I finally got an epidural, about eight hours after the comment. The whole experience did not amuse me. When I got pregnant again, I found (this was 1966) a book written about the Lamaze method of breathing in labour. I memorized large chunks and managed the YD's birth with no pain blocks. The book was called 'Thank you, Doctor Lamaze', a sentiment that I echo. But to put it on a one to ten scale? I have no idea.

That's physical pain -- the ordinary kind, not chronic, severe pain which I suspect is debilitating in a different way. Mental pain, I believe, is different. It can fill your mind and your world, sap your will, destroy your capacity for joy. Mental pain and fatigue are a lethal combination. When my mother was dying, I remember losing control of how I behaved -- having the world 'grey out' is the only way I can describe it. I was angry with my family, who were trying their best to help me, I was angry with the well meaning staff of the hospital who were advising me to pull back and give myself a rest, I was most of all angry with myself for not coping, not being competent, not being able to fix things. It took me a long time to come back from that grey world, a long time and a lot of help.

Given a choice, I would take labour and childbirth over mental pain, anytime.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Hello? Hello? -- Monday Mission

Painted Mapole's Monday Mission is to write a post in the form of a voicmail. Please drop in to her site and see who has done it this week. It's a lot of fun, and I urge you to join in!

Hello, I'd like to speak to your City section editor. He's in a meeting? Fine, give me his voice mail if you would, please.

Mr. Jones, my name is Mary G and I am one of your subscription readers. I'm calling to complain about the quality of the writing in your paper. Specifically I would like to complain about the use of 'meet up with', when 'meet' would do, the inability of your writers to distinguish between 'lie' and 'lay', the misuse of commas to separate a noun in apposition, and the erroneous use of 'it's' instead of 'its' for the possessive. I know that you get the youngest, beginning writers and that you are pushed for time to correct them, but if I see much more of this nonsense, I will cancel my subscription. I also know you know what I am talking about. Remember your Grade 10 grammar class? If you don't, I do. And I've still got the text book, if you want to borrow it.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Large flakes of fluffy snow are falling outside my window. The sky is bright, however, and the temperature is mild. If this is the March lion, it is a fairly tame one. One of my neighbours has declared that this snow presages an early spring. I do hope she is right, as we are all heartily sick of winter in eastern Ontario. It came early and it has dumped close to a record fall of snow on us since November. I can't wait to put the shovels away.

I am also feeling springlike, joyful in fact, because N of just making it up as I go is awake and aware, off the ventilator and talking. Such good news! She still has a source of infection that the medical team has not found yet, and is catastrophically weak, but she's fighting hard. Here's part of what her husband had to say:

In order to prepare to remove N from the ventilator, they needed to give her two units of blood. This is in addition to the unit she received last week and the blood products that she received in the early days in ICU in order to keep her alive. A very small percentage of people donate blood on a regular basis. But I can attest first hand how important it is to the people who need it. I am a regular blood donor and I promise you that it is an extremely easy mitzvah (good deed).

In more medical news, JG is up on two canes and doing his road work, including stairs. If things go as planned, he will be home on Monday. The YD is on shift today at the hospital, making sure he is doing his exercises and generally behaving himself. Had she not chosen another career, the YG would have made an excellent drill sergeant; I, for instance, have been ordered home to rest today, in no uncertain terms. I do love her, a lot!

I've been reading, with great interest, some of the Hump Day Hmm postings on assertiveness. It certainly is something you need in the hospital. As I chased down nurses to get JG's overdue painkillers, watched residents who are incapable of listening, waited for physiotherapists who did not arrive and inspected meals that were less than inspiring, I really wished I had more of it. The surgical ward where JG has spent the week is horribly noisy, the rooms are so cramped that there is no place to put anything down except on the bed or on the windowsills on top of the heating vents, there is little continuity in the nursing care and the staff is stretched to capacity. Although a couple of his nurses were excellent, some of his physiotherapists were careless and out of their depth. There does not seem to be any system -- the hospital is at capacity and beds are not available where and when they ought to be. A patient without an advocate may fall into the cracks.

This is really a sad state of affairs. I am pretty sure most of the blame rests with hospital management and the scarcity of beds, which is a provincial responsibility. Our provincial government has lately set up a new level of medical management, called a Local Health Integration Network, which divides the province into compartments in which all levels of care are supposed to be managed efficiently. Our Community Health Centre out here in the hinterland has already encountered problems with these LHIN's, as we straddle the boundary between two of them. The LHIN we are not in has been trying to put all of its Mental Health Support Projects into one management, which would make the chart look really efficient, but which would also tear the MHSP that we manage in half. It's a pity they aren't tackling some of the hospital problems instead of trying to look good.

I would love to make each and every LHIN Board member spend a week on a surgical floor with their leg tied to the bed. And the Hospital Board members, ditto. Things might change for the better after they were let out.