You've come to right place if you're looking for some good stories, reliable recipes, interesting photos (if ever I figure out how to use my new camera), household tips, book recommendations, advice and discussion on everything from aquariums to zabaglione, and you'd like to read about the world according to me.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I'll Be Home in 2 Days, Mom

Photo: I posted this photo above on Twitter a few days ago. I amuses me to no end. My husband told me, "DO NOT PLANT CROCUSES IN THE LAWN." I've never been very good at doing what I'm told. I won't spend further time on the photo since today's post is so long.


In February of 2008 I had a hysterectomy. For the sake of brevity I'm going to start this story with my checking in to the hospital. I wasn't really nervous. I was only going to be in the hospital for a couple of days, and my mom had flown up from Florida to make lots of chicken soup for when I got home. My best friend, Wendy, was in charge of everything at home--my mom, my dogs, etc. So I really didn't have a care in the world.

I had a lot of discussions with my surgeon about the operation. He preferred to do a laparoscopic procedure because he thought his patients did better and recovered faster. He couldn't do it vaginally because of an odd tilt to my uterus. I asked him how many he had done laparoscopically--lots--and what the risk of complication was--less than 1%.

So I was happily wheeled into surgery and drifted off to sleep peacefully. The next thing I remember was lying in a bed in a hospital room with my surgeon leaning over the bed. Also at the bedside was my friend, Wendy, and my mother.

Surgeon, "We had a problem in the operating room."

I just looked at him. I understood what he was saying--sort of--but couldn't figure out how to speak.

Surgeon, "You're going to be okay, but I accidentally cut into your bowel. I had to call in another surgeon and you were on the table for 4 hours. We did a bowel resection. I feel terrible about it, but you're going to be okay."

I just nodded that I understood. I reached down to feel if I had a colostomy bag.

"No, you don't have a colostomy," he said reading my thoughts.

Let me stop here and say that I am not mad at my surgeon, and I feel really lucky. These are all the reasons I feel lucky: I believe that I had a great surgeon who had a bad day. I have learned since that he called in another surgeon immediately when he saw what he had done, and the best general surgeon at that hospital was on call that day and on the surgical floor. I didn't have to have a colostomy--which is not uncommon with a perforated bowel. He recognized right away that he had perforated the bowel. People can get very sick and die if it's not noticed immediately that the bowel is perforated. He owned up to it right away. He didn't act like it was nothing or was someone else's fault. He was sick about it and visited me several times per day throughout my hospital stay. I got excellent care in the hospital. That may be in part because they were worried about who was going to get sued and in part because of general embarrassment over the situation. I don't care what the reasons were; I was just happy to have more specialists in and out of my room every day than Carter has Little Pills. While the experience was not pleasurable, I felt lucky then and still do now. So let me tell you about some of the funny parts.

My boyfriend (now husband) was living in Vancouver and I was in Calgary. Wendy kept in touch with him.

Wendy: "I'm going to get you a phone. He wants you to have a phone."

Me: "I don't want a phone."

Wendy: "He wants you to have a phone."

Me: "I don't need a fucking phone. If he wants to talk to me, tell him to bring his sorry ass to Calgary."

Wendy: "I'm getting you a phone."

I hardly used that phone at all and thought it was absurd to have it. What he never understood was that unless both me and the phone were in perfect positions I couldn't REACH THE PHONE or GET TO THE PHONE before it stopped ringing. If I was in the bathroom--a 20 minute trek by itself--forget about the phone. I could have been 2 feet away and the phone might as well have been in China. If you're in the hospital for anything serious, DON'T GET A PHONE.

I had a giant incision--they open you in a hurry in an emergency--and felt crummy. I wasn't allowed any food or drink by mouth for several days--normal practice with intestinal surgery. My favorite part was the little button I could push for morphine. Any hospital guests that got on my nerves, click click, and they disappeared behind a fog. Click click. I miss that click click.

Dealing with nurses was hilarious.

Nurse: "We're going to get you up and around today. You'll feel SO MUCH BETTER after you're moving around."

Me: "I don't want to."

Nurse: "Oh yes, SO MUCH BETTER."

Me: "I'm not going to feel better. I'm going to faint. I'm not ready."

She gets me out of bed, and then I faint.

Nurse: "Well, I guess you weren't ready."

Me: "I told you so."

Every day I had a parade of people in my room all day: specialists, doctors, residents, and med students. The script was always the same.

Doctor: "How are we today?"

Me, "We're great. Never better."

Doctor: "Can I see your incision?"

Me, "Sure." with gown already waving in the breeze.

Doctor: "How's your pain?"

Me, "Pain is fine. But I feel like shit. Here, let me save you some time. No I haven't had a bowel movement; I haven't passed gas; I haven't had anything to eat or drink and I still feel like shit."

Doctor: "Well I think you're doing great!"

Me, "I'm glad somebody thinks so."

Here's a conversation I had with my college-age daughter on the phone:

Rachel, "Hey Mom, how's it going?"

Me, "Oh pretty good, honey, don't worry."

Rachel, "What do you do all day there?"

Me, [chuckling], "I look out the window. I sleep a lot. I throw up every 8 hours when they hang a new bag of a certain medicine that makes me sick."

Rachel, "Don't you get bored?"

Me, "No honey, I don't get bored. I don't feel well. I'm in a hospital."

Rachel, "Have you met any good peeps? Have you made any friends?"

Me, "No honey, I haven't made any friends."

Rachel, "Is there anyone you could play scrabble with?"

And so on.

The day before I was released, I got a new roommate. This was an older woman who was not the sharpest tool in the shed. The curtain remained closed between us. Conversation between her and her nurse:

Nurse, "Have you been on heart medication for long?"

Her, "I think so. Maybe. Maybe not."

Nurse, "What's the name of the heart medication your doctor gave you?"

Her, "It starts with a D or an R or a P."

You can't make this shit up. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. There were other things that are harder to recreate. Suffice it to say that humor can be found anywhere--if you are open to it. This post is quite long enough; I had better stop now. I hope you enjoyed it.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dumbest Things I've Ever Done: #1

About 15 years ago I once accidentally ate some dishwasher detergent. How can that be, you may be asking yourself? How can a grown woman (at age 32) accidentally eat detergent? Well it's kind of a long story but I'll try to condense it.

When my kids were little I had some hard plastic straws that I used to put in the dishwasher occasionally. You also need to know that I like to drink chocolate milk. But I only drink chocolate milk with the Nestle's Quik at the bottom of the glass and the milk on top. Then I drink it with a straw and slurp the chocolate last. My son thinks he invented this method of drinking chocolate milk, but I was doing it 20 years before he was born--but I digress.

So I prepared my glass of milk, pulled a straw out of the dishwasher, and started sucking. The sucking was really difficult and I couldn't figure out why. So I sucked and sucked and sucked and finally some hard crunchy stuff came out of it. It didn't taste like chocolate, but I figured maybe the Quik is a little stale or old or HOLY SHIT IT'S NOT QUIK IT'S DISHWASHER DETERGENT.

You know how it feels when you're instantly panic stricken? The blood rushes to your head and you're hyper alert? "Well," I thought, "I'm going to die. Not only do I have 2 little kids asleep upstairs, but I'm alone down here...what do I do?"

So I called Poison Control. Naturally I had that number handy because I'm SO CAREFUL ABOUT EVERYTHING. This is how the conversation went:

"Hello, Poison Control"

"Hi, I need some help. I just accidentally ate some dishwasher detergent. I don't know what to do."

"How old are you?"


Long silence....."32?"

"Look it's a long story, just tell me what to do! I have 2 little kids asleep upstairs!"

"Alright, hold on while I talk to a doctor."

On hold......

New voice now: "Ok, Miss, how much did you consume?"

"About a teaspoon."

"How much do you weigh?"

"As much as a Tyrannosaurus Rex."

"OK [chuckling] then that's not bad. Drink a couple of liters of water over the next couple of hours. Don't take any aspirin for at least a week. You'll be fine."

So I hung up, drank my water, and spent the rest of the night awake, peeing and coming down from my adrenalin high. Feeling thankful, grateful, glad to be alive, humiliated, ashamed, guilty, and happy all rolled into one. Now I know how people can accidentally get poisoned--even grown-ups. Believe me, it's not as hard as you might think--especially if you're an idiot.

I initially intended to tell several of "my dumbest things" in this post; but there are so many to choose from! So I've decided to break them up and publish them one at a time. Enjoy.

Epilogue: In most cities, if you call 9-1-1 they can patch you through to Poison Control. But it's a good idea to BE PREPARED, and keep a list in a handy place of important numbers including friends/family to call in case of an emergency. Make sure everyone in the family knows where this list is.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Know What The Squirrels Did Last Summer

Today I'd like tell you about the animals here where I live outside of Vancouver. First, I should explain that my husband and I had a long-distance courtship for 2 years before we married this past May. I moved into my husband's house in British Columbia last October from Calgary, Alberta.

Last summer my husband, Flabio, returned home after a week with me to find that in his absence, squirrels had gotten in the house and been unable to find their way out. While looking for a way out, they chewed up the inside window frames around every single window in the house. That's about 50 windows. Flabio was not pleased. Flabio was apoplectic.

Squirrels are everywhere here. I don't like them because they like to dig up my tulip bulbs, and that pisses me off. And there's an imbecile in the neighborhood who feeds them peanuts all year round which just attracts all of them within 1000 miles. One day Flabio found a squirrel in his home office. Despite leaving windows wide open, he was unable to convince the squirrel to leave and had to put a stop to him with a 7-iron. He also took out some bricks in the fireplace--oh well. About a month ago there was a squirrel in the laundry room. I had the flu and was unwilling to help catch him while I had a fever and was in my nightgown, so we had to call Flabio's business partner to come over and help catch him. They did--eventually.

After weeks of coaxing ("I don't need no stinkin' help"), Flabio finally hired some pest control people to consult on how to keep squirrels out. The pest control guy found a dead rat in the attic. Wonderful. Alberta's claim to fame has always been that the province doesn't have any rats. Alberta's Absolute Zero winter climate is looking pretty attractive right now.

One night while I was visiting Flabio, our little female French Bulldog, Paris, was barking and barking at the window to the backyard. Paris is skittish and barks easily at noises, so we didn't think much of it. It as a windy gloomy night, and we figured it was the wind. The next day when we went out back we were saddened to see that the wind had taken down a 50-year-old apple tree. That was until we looked more closely and saw that it wasn't the wind at all; a beaver had chewed down the tree.

Our house backs onto a green space, and I guess there are beavers down there. Flabio called the municipality, and they sent someone looking like Daniel Boone to trap the beaver. "I think I got the beaver in trouble," he told me. I mean, look, we're animal lovers, and Flabio will catch spiders, for pity's sake, to release them unharmed, but we can't have beavers cutting down all our trees--and I guess the city feels the same way. I have to admit I did get a lot of mileage out of telling people "Flabio has some serious beaver problems," or "Flabio had a beaver attack the last time I was out there" and watching how people reacted.

We also have raccoons. The photo above was taken last week. If you sit on our front porch around sunset, you see raccoons walking across the front yard into the neighbor's yard every night. I don't know where they're going, but they have a mission. The photo I took was taken one mild morning when I was sitting out front with my laptop. This guy walked right by me, 3 feet away. By the time I ran in to get the camera he had scaled our giant Cedar tree out front.

I just want to comment here that yes, that photo is a little overexposed and not the best focus or composition. Let me tell you it's not easy to hold a camera above your head into the sun and try to take a photo of an animal moving around on a branch. I have a whole new respect for action/sports photographers.

Back to the raccoons. Raccoons are everywhere here. They're at home here and don't scare easily. We only worry because of our dogs, especially Paris who thinks every creature is her long lost best friend.

So I tell these stories because one day someone is going to want to remake Alfred Hitchock's The Birds, and I hope they will consider filming it here in our house. The filmmakers would have lots of animals to choose from to star: squirrels, raccoons, beavers, take your pick.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

5 Guidelines to Help Your Kids Survive Divorce

There are so many topics I would like to cover in this blog that I find it difficult to choose one when I sit down to write. Today I'd like to talk about how to spare your children in an ugly divorce. But before I get to that, I'd like to show you the photo above from my new Camera.

The photos are improving now that I've read the manual. Now what's wrong with this picture? I'm actually about the worst person to ask because I'm really bad at noticing fine details that might be amiss, but I'll tell you what I see and don't see. Feel free to leave me a comment if you'd like to add anything. The photo is a little dark or underexposed. My problem is that I LIKE dark subjects, so I'm not sure how dark is too dark. The background is not the best, and the focus is not even across the front of the flower. By that I mean that depth of field is very small in a close-up like this, so I should have been looking down more evenly on the flower so the petals weren't so unevenly focused.


And now on to divorce. I've been thinking about this a lot lately since I currently have 2 different friends with children going through bitter divorces. First let me say that I am married for the 3rd time. Yes, nothing to brag about, but it is what it is. My 2 children are from my first marriage. They were 6 and 3 when their father and I separated and they are 23 and 20 now. So they survived 2 divorces (and I was the primary care-giving parent) and guess what! They're okay. They aren't perfect, and neither am I, but for the most part they are happy, well-adjusted, nice, smart, funny, athletic, and otherwise productive members of society. And I'm not the only one who says so. People who have otherwise no use for me have told me that I have the nicest kids they've ever met. I tell you this because this is why I have the right and authority to have an opinion on this subject. But I'm not making the following shit up. If you don't believe me, then here are some articles to read that will say the same thing: The Mayo Clinic, University of Missouri, The Child Trauma Institute, and WebMD.

So here are my guidelines to helping your kids survive the trauma of divorce and go on to thrive:

1. Do not trash the other parent in front of the child. EVER. Children have the right to love the other parent. No matter what you think or what the other parent did to you or even if the other parent is Jeffrey Dahmer, do not speak ill of him/her in front of the kids.

Why not? It makes the child feel frightened and pushed to pick sides, feel abandoned and unloved, ashamed of loving the other parent ANYWAY, and scared of the attendant instability.

2. Do not give your child lurid details about the marriage or the divorce. Do not talk to them about sex, money, or any other adult things. And I mean NEVER. Even in their 20's kids don't want or need to hear that--even if they say they do.

Why not? It's not their business. A kid's business is to go to school, play and have friends. Period. They have no business being involved in the ugly details of divorce. Your child should not be your best friend or confidant. That's called enmeshment, and it's not healthy for you or your child [this stuff is not light reading, I warn you].

3. Reassure the child that he/she is loved, that it's not his/her fault, and that he/she can't fix it.

Why? Because these are the things that children are preoccupied with and need to be told over and over and over and over. I'm talking for YEARS.

4. Handle questions and outbursts in an empathetic manner. "But what if the kid tells me the parent is a this or that or something else?"

It doesn't matter. You just put on a blank empathetic look. Say things like "I feel your pain." "I'm so sorry you feel that way." "I know your mother/father loves you." Do not say things like, "yeah, well I always did think he was a cocksucker/moron/imbecile/son-of-a-bitch/whore/thief" etc. etc. etc. Do not be drawn in or manipulated into saying things you shouldn't.

Why? See #1 and #2.

5. Give your children the minimum information they need to understand what's happening to them in language they can understand. But you say, 'why not tell the child "the truth"?' "I want them to know the truth." "The other parent is filling their heads with lies."

Why? Because your truth is not the child's truth. Children have to learn themselves what to believe. Don't fill their heads with crap. They will come to resent you for it. It will not draw you closer--it will drive a wedge between you and your children.

That's it. It's that simple. Some of this may not come naturally to you, but you can learn to handle things this way. And even if the "other" parent is not doing these things at all or not doing them well, do it anyway. Try to remember who is the parent and who is the child, and act accordingly and responsibly. It's the only chance you have to save your children.

This is free advice and you are free to disregard it--at your children's peril.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Choosing My First dSLR

I'm shopping for a new camera. It's going to be my first dSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. I have 2 "point-and-shoot" digital cameras, and I'm ready to graduate to a dSLR. Flabio, of course, thinks this is weird. Our conversation a few minutes ago went like this:

"But you have a camera."

"I know but it's a camera for idiots. You point it and press the button."

"Oh, you mean you're gonna stand there now for half an hour pressing buttons while everyone gets pissed off saying take the picture for Christ's sake!"

Yeah, that's what I'm going to do. I'm not an artist, but I think I could be good at photography. P/S camera #1, a Panasonic Lumix, is my favorite but it's lost in 15,000 pounds of boxes while Flabio and I get ready to move. As of this writing, almost all of the photos on this website were taken with that camera #1. So I recently bought a 2nd one, Canon SX120 IS, that I don't know how to use very well yet--and don't like too much. The photo above is a picture that I took last night with new camera #2. Not a very good photo, but I don't know the menus yet. Yes, thank you, I realize the exposure isn't right. Part of the problem is that this camera didn't come with a manual. I have to download it and print it. So I just printed the 150 pages, and now I can learn how this one works.

Both p/s cameras that I have allow for some manual manipulation, and I've read a bunch of books on the subject, so I think I'm ready. Or if I can borrow from a piano dealer friend of mine, the two criteria for buying a dSLR (or a piano) are 1) I want one and 2) I can afford it. The rest is commentary.

Since my way of doing things is to do lots of homework before making a decision like which one to buy, I've been frequenting two online forums for camera discussion Dpreview and Digital Photography School. Both forums are populated by people who know their stuff and you can ask tons of questions and read tons of articles.

One thing I've learned is that you're better off spending the money on the "glass" or lenses than the camera body, so I've already decided to get a bottom of the line entry-level dSLR, but get really good lenses. Then when I move up to a more expensive body, I'll already have great glass. Which brand? Well, that's a tough one. Canon and Nikon have roughly 80% of the dSLR market. I flirted briefly with going with Sony or Olympus, as some may argue that you get more camera for the same money. However, once you start buying dSLR cameras and lenses you are kind of marrying a brand, and it becomes a much tougher decision at a later date to change brands. So since I don't like the feel of a Canon camera, Nikon it is.

I'm preparing a spreadsheet of desirable lenses compiled and cross-referenced from articles by Ken Rockwell, Tim Stanley, Thom Hogan, and others. If anyone would like a copy of it, email me. March 7 is my birthday, and I want to be able to tell Flabio what I want; so if you'll excuse me, I have to get to work on my spreadsheet.

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