July 2, 2014

Blake ate the misshapen fortune cookie.

Not sure I’m capable of a full post. Like. With paragraphs. I may just delete this line entirely.

I thought I was okay and then I saw this (which is awesome and I will read later, but you should read NOW…this post is a bummer and can totally wait) and it was like someone sucked all the air out of the room and I couldn’t breathe.

At least she waited until she probably knew I was done working or maybe she just waited as long as she  could, but this morning I got the first dated e-mail.

You can tell how serious or important something is by whether or not my mother’s dating the e-mails in the subject line.

Grandma. July 2 2014

Not unlike the e-mails people got 3 years ago this summer, “Sarah. July 2 2011”, events to which I had already been thinking about very recently, and as I figure I will for probably the rest of my life:

big sudden decline
grama (except she spells it right)’s been on oxygen since Thursday
increasingly more oxygen
now triple


palliative care asap
ps. no internet at grama’s. you may not hear from me until tomorrow.

Sarah pulls up her grama panties, e-mails back something pithy and decides priority 1 is that I e-mail work, tell them, again, that this time, for real this time, it’s gonna happen. I will need time off. I will e-mail with more info as I have it, here’s my schedule, thanks in advance. Luckily I am friends with everyone I work with, on some level anyway, and I’m not too terribly worried about work because I don’t think people have funerals on Saturdays and what are the odds she’ll die on my worst day? (Pretty good, actually, if the history of our relationship is any indication but it was work and I included our boss so I didn’t wanna get slap happy and umb out of shock or whatever, as I may be doing right now.) Time off no questions asked only happens for death and Xmas. I know my bosses would work my shifts if necessary. Both of them.

I am totally completely babbling but see? I’m wearing my grama panties. Work. The responsibility. The money. Priority 1. God I could throw up. I may throw up. The day is young and I am severely undermedicated. I’m betting my mom e-mailed her work/money/responsiblitiesthatarenotmygrama people before she e-mailed me, Blake and my brother. (Or she was wise enough not to take anything on in the first place.) We all have it, whatever it is. It’s AWFUL! No, scratch that, this is one form of crazy my brother was spared. My brother probably e-mailed her with “whatever you need, just tell me, I’ll be there” and like, wanting to be in the trenches and I guess I said that too, sort of, but my response may have included a colon, lowercase o and right parenthesis in succession. I also know for a fact that I am mentally incapable of going to palliative care and I don’t think anyone in the world would hold that against me. Or anyone who remotely mattered, anyway.

I got that far in my thoughts this morning before I had to stop. I thought about taking all my shit outside and working on my garden painting, y’know, IN my ditchweed butterfly wildflower keep off the fucking lawn garden as planned, or as I had planned all morning until I got that e-mail, but suddenly the rain expected at 1pm just had me making idle chatter with a friend who wanted to talk about weed (obviously) while I watched this awesomely shitty Lifetime series that is now on Netflix called Witches of East End and I had just finished the series 1 finale, knowing full well that season 2 was not on Netflix, and may not even exist so I had to come online to know, did it get cancelled? Because it was just SO awesomely shitty that I couldn’t imagine/really hoped there would be a season 2. I got as far as “set to premiere on July 6, 2014” on the Wikipedia page, stopped reading because I literally want to know nothing, and flipped to Facebook because okay, TV is over, now what?

oh. hi there “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire“.

welcome, sheer fucking panic because I didn’t even think of clothes.

And then I came here because I couldn’t even get past the first paragraph of the article before having my worst panic attack in recent history.

I am good for one day of public viewing, unless it’s okay to wear the same thing multiple days in a row or it’s okay to wear white/off-white. (Is it?)
Madison will need clothes. As long as it doesn’t rain, we can work around her Docs.
Wes will need clothes from the ground up.
Blake would prefer no clothes, but has a few suits to choose mix/match/dowhateverboysdo from.
He will need shoes, an expense he’s needed for a while that I keep telling him to get that now he can’t put off. Although my grama might, if overhearing my inner debate as to whether or not he can get away with his orthopedic sandals, say, “oh! I don’t need it, I don’t need it”, because that is absolutely the very thing , when last I saw her, she would say. Ball’s in his court on that one. I’m wearing Docs.

Just texted my brother to make sure he has a suit. He’s a grown man, I probably don’t have to ask him this. Too late. Can’t take it back.

John & Chris are good.

That is all my people.

Everyone else can find their own canoe.

May 22, 2013


Being sick changed me forever. I’m scarred. I have a bulging belly because they couldn’t fit all my guts back where they were supposed to go. It changed my face. It aged me. I can’t explain what it’s like to have to fight for your life from within your own mind because that’s what it felt like when I was in the coma. I never heard a word about the possibility of me dying. I don’t remember them asking me if I wanted to sign the “do not resuscitate” order which Blake was terrified I’d sign (I didn’t). I knew I was in big trouble though. I had a breathing tube. I remember the breathing tube. I remember the feeding tube.

I was reading about the hunger strike that’s happening at Guantanamo Bay (which you should read about too because it’s pretty crazy) where they’re force feeding the striking prisoners by strapping them to a chair 2 or 3 times a day and forcing a feeding tube up their nose and down into their stomach and they’re force feeding them. I ripped out my feeding tube at least twice that I remember. The first time was when I first woke up from the coma and was freaking out because I didn’t know where I was or what was happening and I accidentally pulled the tube out. And it really fucking hurt. Burned. Made my eyes water. And then they had to put it back in and that hurt even more and it made me gag and cry and even pray (I’m an atheist so I don’t understand that one either). The second time they had me on so many drugs that I was hallucinating and I hallucinated a monkey came and pulled out the feeding tube and then bit my nose. And they had to put the tube back through my nose, down my throat and into my stomach and I cried some more. When my mom and Blake came to visit that day I had the feeding tube taped into my nose with a band aid and they asked me what happened so I told them a monkey bit it. A Telus monkey. Y’know, to be precise.

When they feed you through a feeding tube, they literally stand on a stool with a funnel and pour liquid and what sounded/felt like crushed up pills and it’s cold. Then the crushed up pills or whatever would get stuck on the tube so they’d be squeezing it to try and make the clog smaller and feeding me was this awful half hour production 3+ times a day that I hated and really frustrated the nurses.

Lately stuff like that is coming back to me. I’d forgotten most of it. My shrink says my mind would only let me remember if I could handle it and I am handling it but it’s difficult.

So that’s pretty much constantly on my mind.

I can’t paint because there’s no room in here to make anything new and Blake wants to put most of my stuff in storage so we have a better shot at selling our house (my entire office is pretty much clutter to the naked eye, but to the trained eye, it is perfectly organized). Putting my stuff in storage is really fucking with me. Part of the reason I don’t leave the house is because I can’t take all my stuff with me. I carry a huge bag full of all kinds of essentials whenever I leave the house because you never know what you might need. But like, putting my art stuff in storage….what if I get inspired to paint? I guess I won’t put my sketchbook in storage. At least then I won’t lose the ideas completely, just the motivation.

I’m terrified of moving. I just got used to living here and now we have to go somewhere else. Well, we don’t “have” to but our house is too small for the 7 of us, if you include the pets. I need a room alone just for my books that are on shelves everywhere, piled two or three books deep.

The school system in this county is abysmal. I bet half the graduates of Elmvale’s high school don’t even know what that word means and I’m not saying that to be mean, I’m saying that to be truthful. I know I talked about this “somewhere” but I forget if it was on Facebook or Live Journal or Camwhores but Wes is in grade 4 and he’s never been asked to read a book. He’s never done a book report. They don’t read in class. Honestly I don’t even know what they do. Madison’s in grade 9. Just this year she was asked to read To Kill a Mockingbird (which she loved) and to choose a book for her independent study unit. She chose The Bloggess’ book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (which she also loved but was horrified when I said she should e-mail Jenny and tell her). So in 11 years of schooling, Madison’s been assigned to read 2 books. Don’t you think that’s a little fucked up? They ask them to do all kinds of creative writing but how can you write WELL if you don’t also read? There’s more, but basically the two schools in this town work in tandem to create McEmployees and we want better for our kids. The high school they’d be going to where we want to move is pretty good.

I’m nervous about living in the same town as my mom. I love my mom and my mom loves me but she doesn’t understand me or my life. She doesn’t understand that I don’t answer the phone most of the time even when I know who it is. She doesn’t understand that sometimes, because of the chemicals in my brain, I go for weeks without seeing anyone but my immediate family. I hate surprises. I don’t answer the door unless I know who it is in advance so surprises are not a good thing. I can just see my mom trying to “fix” me and then getting mad at me when her efforts fail, like it’s something I can control. She sort of understands that I have a disease but she doesn’t understand the disease or in my case, the cluster of disease and disorder.

I’m just learning how to leave the house by myself. I’m just learning how to drive again. Moving means starting all over. I’m also scared about losing my shrink. I really love my shrink. We’ll be moving outside of her area so I’ll have to find another one and I’m scared I won’t be able to find one as brilliant as her. I don’t think there’s a fancy mental health centre near where we’re moving. Not like the one near us now. The next biggest town I can think of in that area is bigger than Midland so their mental health centre won’t be as small and personal with all the resources I have now. Of course this is all assumption but my mental health centre is the gold standard and I am absolutely terrified of having to start over. This could literally set me back years. The good news is that I can probably go back to my old family doctor, the bad news is that he’ll probably be retiring soon.

Also my doctor here, the hospital here, the pharmacy here; they all know me. They know why (usually) I’m at the hospital. The pharmacy talks to my doctors more than I do. Getting a pharmacy to request a new rx of hydromorph contin via FAX to a doctor who’s only met me maybe 10 times but my chart’s pretty thorough because I *say* I’m having a pancreatic attack (which I was and do, but I could just as easily be a drug seeker) is next to unheard of. That’s MORPHINE! So I dunno what I’m going to have to do to get all our ducks in a row for the care and maintenance of me. And I’m scared.

I’m also scared our dogs will get out of a strange yard they don’t know and we don’t know and get hit by a car or lost because they don’t know where they live. I’m not so much worried about Lucky in this respect because of that time….ugh I’ll just tell the story again for any new people. My shrink when I first met her, suggested I get a “support animal” to help me get out of the house more. A dog I could walk and I could train to sense when I was about to have a panic attack etc etc etc mental health support animals are a real thing. So I sell a painting for $250 which was exactly enough, almost to the penny, to get Lucky from the SPCA with all of his shots up to date and neutered. The only issue with him was that he had/has anxiety separation but since I’m home all day, that shouldn’t be so much of a problem.

So we got him on a Saturday and that Monday I walked him to the grocery store, tied him up outside on the cart corral and went inside to buy him Milkbones. So I did. And when I came out he was gone, he’d slipped his collar. So I freak out completely, call Blake, Blake says he’s on his way home. I’m having an absolute meltdown but what choice did I have so I started walking home and calling Lucky the whole way. I get to just before our driveway and something catches my eye. I see Lucky looking at me from BEHIND our gate to the backyard. Not only did he run home, but he got into the yard and to this day we still don’t know how he did that.

So I’m not so much worried about Lucky getting lost if they don’t go very far, I’m worried about them getting separated because they’re both very curious and Lucky will follow Hoover but not the other way around so then both of might get lost without even each other. :o(

And as much as I loathe the school system here, it really makes me sad that we’ll be splitting Wes up from the girl he’s claimed since Junior Kindergarten that he was going to marry.

I really really don’t want to move, I don’t want the hassle, the disruption, the chaos, the bullshit, but we really really really have to.

So that’s what’s on my mind. Being sick. The ramifications of being sick and practically kissing death. Moving. I see my shrink tomorrow I think.

PS. At the beginning of this month I passed the 2 year milestone of being a non-smoker.

PPS. I kinda hit another milestone at the beginning of this month. It was a nice evening and Brian said it was good for sitting on porches and playing guitars. So Blake and I went to Brian’s house and Brian said to Blake, “where’s your guitar?” and Blake, not thinking he was serious, didn’t bring his. So I stayed and sat on Brian’s porch while Blake went home to get him guitar. This is a milestone in that I have not been alone with another person who I’m not related to in a VERY long time. I have a fear of one-on-one interaction with just about everyone who’s never been to my house. And there’s still certain people who have been to my house who I wouldn’t want to be alone with. I won’t even be alone with my own support worker or shrink. But Brian is just so non-threatening that it was pretty much a non-issue. I don’t think I could like, go out for lunch with Brian by myself at this point but I was alone with him for about 10 minutes and nothing bad happened so that was good. Here’s a video from that night. Sorry about the vertical video, that’s just how my phone does it:

October 30, 2012

I Suck At This

Last night was photography class.

We spent most of the class going through everyone’s assignment pictures, of which there were many. Looking at not to fantastic snapshots for an hour and 45 minutes is not my idea of fun at all. Also I was in a shitty mood but I’ll get to that later. Then after we looked at everyone’s pictures (and some people brought USB sticks that were full of ALL the pictures they had or something and we were just supposed to randomly pick which ones to look at) we did a “lab” about movement where Andre put a wine glass in a sink and made the faucet flow into and out of it like a fountain and then he pointed a spotlight on it and told us to take pics of it at various shutter speeds and ISOs. I didn’t actually do the lab or I’d show you pics. It was in a small room with a lot of eager people and the energy just made me way too nervous. I got the point of the lab though, the faster your shutter speed, the better your ability to “freeze” action. (Duh.) The higher your ISO, the faster your shutter speed can be.

This week’s assignment I’m not sure I can even do because half of it offends my eyeballs greatly:

Choose two subjects to express movement as follows:
(You may shoot one subject twice if you prefer)

1. Shoot it so that the movement is “frozen”.
2. Shoot it at a slow enough speed to express movement through blur.

Do not use flash for this exercise.
Pay attention to camera movement – is it part of your picture idea or do you want to keep it steady?

– steady camera, moving subject
– steady subject moving camera (it’s art, man!”
– moving subject and camera – as in panning (moving your camera to keep up with a moving subject and usually blurring the background)

Remember to keep the Tips (from last week) in mind, especially the first four.
Bring images to class so that we can share and critique.

High shutter speeds, 1/250 sec. and up, tend to stop motion of both the subject and the camera (camera shake). The effect is greatest with wide angle lenses (wide zoom position) and least with telephoto lenses. It takes a higher shutter speed to keep the camera steady when using long telephoto lenses (zooming way in). 

A tripod is invaluable for keeping the camera steady at slow shutter speeds (under 1/60 sec.) or any time you are doing critical/precision work.

It’s #2 I have an issue with. Why would I want to show anyone a blurry photo on purpose? I delete those! Because they’re crap! Where is the value in doing that on purpose?

Also something I realize the more pictures of Andre’s (our teacher’s) I see is that he’s got the technical knowledge and he knows all the rules and I do have things to learn from him in that respect but he just doesn’t take the best pictures. Out of the hundred or so pictures of his he’s shown us, I would only judge maybe 10 of them “good” and maybe three of them “better than average”.  I just expect better from a “professional photographer” who teaches photography. But Blake says there’s two parts to photography, the technical know-how and “the vision” and the vision is harder to teach and learn and some people never get it. I think Andre flukes into it sometimes but not enough to say he’s got the package deal if you get what I mean. And I don’t mean this to be mean or cruel and maybe he’s not showing us his best pics, I have no idea, I’m just basing this on the things he’s shown us so far. I’m not sure if Alex feels the same way, we haven’t talked about it. And maybe I’ll take this all back the more he shows us.  Maybe I’m not even qualified to judge.

Oh and he lets his camera rest on its lens because he doesn’t take the tripod mount thing off the bottom of it so it droops forward and Blake always freaks on me for letting my camera do that because it’s bad for the lens.

I’m thinking of taking back the tripod we bought at Black’s. It was just a $50 one and Andre says those ones are too flimsy for some cameras and probably not a good idea with my heavier, longer lenses. He says I’m “taking my camera into my hands” if I use it. I haven’t used it yet so it can go back and then maybe I can save up for a better one at Henry’s or something. Andre suggests Manfrotto and he says never buy a tripod under $100 no matter what brand. :o/

So the reason I wasn’t in the best mood last night was two-fold. First, dinner wasn’t ready in time to eat before class so I ate a small bowl of Lipton chicken noodle soup with crackers in the car on the way to class. I hadn’t eaten anything else since about 8am. I was starving. I’d also forgotten my pills, which I have to take right before class so mid-class, my brain was pinging all the fuck over the place. And the cherry on top? MY ESTRANGED BROTHER wrote on the wall of my Facebook fan page wanting me to contact him which has traditionally meant he wants something.

When we got home after class, there was another message from him asking if I’d send him a friend request so we could chat through Facebook messages because he doesn’t have a computer, only his phone. So I sent him a friends request and we exchanged a few messages on Facebook and then I went to bed. I messaged him again this morning but so far there’s been no reply. He does not know I almost died last summer. My mom never told him. He says he wanted to talk to me and come see me (not knowing I was or had been sick) and my mom wouldn’t let him. So I asked my mom about that and she said, “Trust me when I tell you, You were in no place where hearing from him would have been good for you. That kind of life sucking, negative energy had to be kept away from your healing. That simple.” Fair enough. If that’s how he was being, and let’s face it that’s how he’s pretty much always been, then she was right to do it it that way.

I’m just not sure how I’ll be able to tell him the whole story and have him actually understand and believe how dire things were. That kind of trauma is so far out of his scope that I’m not sure I’ll be able to and that’s just going to frustrate me.

And now he’s online so I’d better post this and start explaining…

October 24, 2012

Blip.fm Pisses Me Off. Also Halloween.

So I’m on Blip.fm, as are a lot of my friends such as Ronny and Alex, whose taste in music I respect. I also have something like 150 followers, which is pretty cool, but what pisses me off is that when I search for songs on Blip, I get all these FUCKING videos of live performances and covers by lame people and never the official video even though I know for a fact it’s on YouTube which is where Blip pulls from. And forget actual MP3s, you can never find those. So wtf? I think Blip is a good platform but its search algorithms are fucked up or something and it pisses me right off because I can never find what I’m looking for. And it’s extra obnoxious when I know for a fucking FACT that the official video is on YouTube and when I search for the exact title of the video on YouTube on Blip, it doesn’t come up. GRRRRRRRR.


So today is Wednesday (duh), which means there is only 2 days left for me to get my shit together in preparation for Friday. Friday is going to be busy and I hate busy days. I am a firm believer in the fact that you cannot do more than 2 stressful things in one day and on Friday I have 3 stressful things.

1. Dentist appointment. I broke a tooth Monday night eating ketchup chips, which SUCKS, because I’m pretty sure they’re going to have to do a root canal and that takes an hour and a half. They’re just looking at it on Friday to come up with a plan of attack so that means probably next week will be the root canal. JOY. (Our insurance doesn’t cover laughing gas, how fucking dumb is that? $100 out of pocket for that. Send PayPal to Sunny@SunnyCrittenden.com! Just kidding. Sort of.)

2. Shrink appointment. Need to talk to her about a change in meds. I think I need to take 2 loxapine at night to get to sleep at a decent time because 1 doesn’t seem to cut it. I’ve been getting phantom anxiety for the last 3 weeks and I think it has to do with all the construction happening on front of our house. I know that sounds ridiculous but I’m a fragile flower man, and that shit is grating on my nerves something fierce. I’ve been taking 2 clonazepam (klonopin) in the afternoons, especially on days I have work meetings, when I’m only supposed to be maybe taking 1 during the day if needed and one at night before bed. I have to tell her I’m terrified of my caseworker. Speaking of him, Blake called him yesterday but as far as I know he hasn’t called back. Yikes. I also think I need to borrow a lightbox because S.A.D. is kicking my ass. I have all these things written down so I won’t forget when I get there. I also think maybe I need to be either put on a higher dose of gabapentin/welbutrin or a new anti-depressant altogether. I refuse to take anything where weight gain could be a remote possibility. Been there, done that, took almost dying and being on a fucking feeding tube to lose the weight. I also think maybe I should talk to her about getting a therapist. I almost died and I have this total disconnect to it. Everyone keeps telling me how I’m some kind of miracle, how I shouldn’t be here etc etc etc and I’m like, “yeah man, wanna see my scar?” I’m so detached from it and people keep telling me that’s not normal. I just want to move on, it happened, it’s in the past, I barely experienced it because I was in a medically induced coma so I don’t know how people expect me to be in regards to it. My mom and Blake and my kids? They experienced it. I just see it as, I was really sick and now I’m not. I’m off all the drugs related to my illness (aside from pancreatic enzymes and the cholesterol meds) and my period has come back so I’m a-okay right? What’s there to process? But people keep telling me that I’m repressing  or something, that I shouldn’t be this detached from it. That maybe I’m still in shock. But I don’t think so.

I mean, just as an example…when I was 14 and pretty brutally raped by a stranger behind the bleachers at a park in the town I grew up in I was obviously distressed afterward. I didn’t go to the police and I only told my Aunt Heather, who I had been staying with at the time, about it. Afterward I made a doctor’s appointment myself and had the necessary tests done to make sure I wasn’t pregnant or full of STDs (neither, thank god, I was tested for HIV for a year & a half after the fact). My doctor was the only person in the world who knew what happened. And why I’m telling you this is because I was completely detached from the event. I still am. I talk about it in a clinical way and I did even then. After the man left me laying in the dirt – but not before kicking me and telling me to get up and spitting on me when I wouldn’t move – I waited for him to leave and then I got up, dusted myself off, wiped his fluids from between my legs with my ripped panties which I then threw in a nearby garbage can after I pulled my shorts back up and walked back to my Aunt’s apartment. I cried of course, but only for about the 10 minutes it took me to walk from the park back to her apartment. When I got back to her apartment, there was a note saying that she was at the coffee shop, so I took a bath and cleaned myself up (the man had almost broken my nose and I had blood beneath it, this was also the loss of my virginity and there was blood all down my upper thighs), then I went BACK to the park to look for my Aunt’s fucking dog which I was walking in the park at 3am to begin with. I was more distressed that my Aunt would be mad at me for losing her dog (a rottweiler, what a good protector eh? didn’t come running while I was screaming) than at what had happened to me.

I just figured, even at 14, that the cops would never do anything since I didn’t know who the man was and it was dark so I could barely tell you what he looked like aside from the size of him. He was obviously drunk (this was during Strawberry Festival when the town sets up a “beer garden” in the parking lot beside the park – last call is 2am, you do the math) and because it was Strawberry Festival, it could have been anyone. Calling the cops would just get me in trouble for being at the park at 3am to begin with and my parents would blame my Aunt for it and I wouldn’t be able to go to her house anymore. And at that time, she was pretty much my lifeline, the closest thing to a mother I had. And what would calling the cops accomplish anyway? Nothing but trouble. So I clinically decided that I had to put on my big girl panties and accept that this bad thing had happened, that it was over now, that I had to make sure I was still healthy and – and this may sound so so so stupid but keep in mind I was 14 – I figured, regarding my virginity, “well, I guess that’s out of the way”. Sex was no longer a mystery.

Maybe it’s because I was molested when I was a little kid. Repeatedly. Or maybe it’s because I was basically homeless at the time and a lot of bad things had already happened and that this was just “one more thing” I should have seen coming, I dunno. I mean, keep in ind that a year later I would be legally emancipated from my parents and living on my own, I was, at that age, an adult for all intents and purposes.

Anyway, my point is that I never suffered the usual things victims of brutal rape suffer after the fact. There was no PTSD. No residual after effects. (I did think it was my fault though for being out at 3am and vulnerable, I asked for it, and I would think that until about 2 years ago when I saw this spoken word piece by Staceyann Chin. Here’s the pertinent part, but you should watch the whole piece because it’s awesome. She’s awesome. Anyway, it being my fault was just a fact I accepted. Not something I felt bad about.) When I later told my two best friends what had happened to me, because they were both bragging about their boyfriends and how they would lose their virginities before me because I didn’t have a boyfriend and I got fed up at the novelty of virginity since I had lost mine so willy nilly and against my will, mine didn’t have “value”, why should theirs? They both called me a liar. They based this on the fact that I didn’t cry when I told them the story. They said I made it up. I didn’t act like a rape victim, therefore I couldn’t have been one. I bet they think I’m lying about it to this day for that very reason and they wouldn’t be the only people to think this of me because I don’t “act like a rape victim”.

But I just think this is how I deal with traumatic events. My life has been so fucked up and disjointed that I just expect bad things to happen because they always do. Getting sick and almost dying is just “one more thing”, just as being raped (that time) was. If I got bent out of shape over every bad thing that ever happened to me, I probably wouldn’t have survived as long as I have. My life is downhill and full of moguls. Always has been, probably always will be. I accepted this fact – and it is a fact – at a very young age. Probably about the time I learned that my older cousin, whom I was in love with, wasn’t touching me in my secret places because he loved me back and we couldn’t be alone together anymore.

So I don’t think it’s abnormal at all for me to have come out of being THAT sick and meeting my mortality up close and personal-like to have just gotten over it and moved on. It’s just “one more thing” that’s happened in a really eventful life. If anything, the way I see things right now is that the Universe – that’s with a capital “U” – owes me a peaceful life from here on out. And that’s what I fully expect. I mean, I almost died, I had 15 months of pure and utter sickness hell, I lost my job, my hair fell out, I got down to 98 lbs, I had to have the world’s most painful surgery, what the fuck else could happen to me? The only thing I can think of is a car accident where I’m disfigured or made handicapped in some way, so I’m somewhat expecting that, but I’ve also been to Hug Nation enough times to start believing in pronoia, the psychological philosophy that the Universe is conspiring in your favour. Positive thinking brings positive results, right?

Boy did I stray off topic. What do you think? Do you think I’m processing being sick/almost dying in a healthy way or do you think my disconnect is abnormal and I need a therapist?

3. On Friday at the MacLaren Art Centre where Alex and I are taking our photography class, they’re having a “Halloween Coffee House” where you pay $2 admission and there is: local youth entertainment (our photography teacher’s son’s band is playing), a costume contest, interactive art activities, food and coffee and our photography teacher said we should come because there will be lots of people there who won’t mind their pictures being taken. Wes will get a chance to test out his ninja costume and maybe Madison can go as a beauty queen with her sparkly grad dress and Fall Fair Ambassador sash. I’m just gonna wear normal clothes and my marabou horns. Dunno what Blake might do. Probably nothing. Alex said if we go then she’ll come too. She’ll probably be Harry Potter again since she has the costume. This counts as a stressful thing because it’s a stressful thing that will require copious amounts of Ativan. In fact I needed two Ativan just to write this paragraph.

So that’s my Friday. And because I’m mentally ill, it will take from now until then (and pharmaceuticals) to prepare for it.

Speaking of pharmaceuticals, I started taking ALPHA  BRAIN on Tuesday, which is a nootropic. A side effect of my psych meds is that I have the memory of a goldfish. Blake and I can have entire conversations that I won’t remember the next day and this leads to constant conflict because I know/think people take advantage of my bad memory by saying they told me things when they really didn’t. Madison definitely takes advantage of it. I have suspicions that other people have/do too. ALPHA BRAIN is supposed to help with that. It’s expensive though. $35 + shipping per bottle for 30 pills and you’re supposed to take 1 or 2 a day. I’m starting with 1 because I just bought the one bottle to try. If it works, I’ll gladly pay for it, but I don’t know if 30 days is enough time for it to work. I’m not sure how the stuff works, like if it needs to build up in your system or what.  Anyway, this memory problem really really bothers me so I hope the stuff works as advertised.  I’m also going to talk to my shrink about an actual, proven pharmaceutical solution, like maybe an amphetamine of some sort like Adderal or something. I’m on several habit forming drugs and I take them responsibly so I don’t think I would abuse speed. My only concern with that is a side effect is possible psychosis even at therapeutic doses, but I just read all about amphetamines on Wikipedia and they would help my concentration, which I need, they could help improve my memory, which I desperately need, they would help my performance at work at 4am, which I could really use and overall my life is so grey right now and blah and boring that maybe amphetamines would help me create again. Anyway, it’s worth exploring.

And that’s what I’ve got in me for today. Now I’m going to go eat ketchup chips for breakfast and read Sookie Stackhouse.

October 17, 2012


Me today:

Me a year ago:

I am officially off all non-psych meds, with the exception of my two cholesterol meds. (The pancreas and gallbladder help deal with cholesterol so they want mine super low.) Aside from some nerve damage in my belly and the weird feeling of the mesh and of course the giant scar and chronic pancreatitis for the rest of my life, my period came back which means I’m a-okay.

October 12, 2012

Everything’s Coming Up Millhouse!

So yesterday was a work meeting day. We have meetings with our support staff on Skype once a week just to touch base, talk about issues and learn new things. But they’re also where we sort of get reamed out and told we’re going to get replaced by robots sometimes so all of us pretty much start freaking out right before one is about to happen and yesterday, due to an incident during my Saturday shift, I was pretty positive that not only was I going to get yelled at in front of all my co-workers causing me to cry, I was pretty sure I was going to get fired.

Well that didn’t happen. In fact the opposite of that happened, our main boss just took at as a learning opportunity and it was a really good meeting. We even brought up the fact that we were all scared of him and he said he would do his best to be less scary in the future and that we should all see these meetings as positive things.

So that was good. When it was over I sobbed like a baby with relief because I had been a ball of stress since Saturday, absolutely convinced that this was it and knowing that you have no chance in hell of ever getting another job, well, the stakes are high. But yeah, I didn’t get fired, so yay!

After the meeting, there was a call on the phone, which I of course, ignored, but I watched the number disappear on call display and then the “message waiting” thing came on so I checked the message. My photography class was fucking CANCELLED because not enough people signed up! Son of a bitch!

BUT! I happened to know of another one in Barrie and the MacLaren Art Centre which was on Mondays, so I told Blake about it and he said yes, so I signed up for that one, e-mailed Alex to tell her about it so she could maybe sign up too, and after I got the e-mail confirmations that I’d signed up and paid, I got an e-mail that said, and I quote:

Dear Sunny Crittenden,

 Congratulations! Your work has been selected to hang in the Touched By Fire art show and sale being held on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at Coopers Fine Art Gallery in Toronto. Your work was chosen from 419 entries by a jury of professionals in the field.

So I guess I’m doing that again and this makes me really wonder if I’m done painting or not….I’ve been pretty dead set against in since Squam because I’m completely uninspired but so many people like my work (they just don’t buy it, even when it’s on sale) so I keep thinking maybe I should stick with it. I’m honestly still completely undecided and it’s not like there’s a rush or anything, or that I have any ideas. But I do have all these supplies….

But that’s not even the BEST THING that happened yesterday! You’ll never guess who showed up! Are you ready? AUNT FLOW. For the first time in 15 months, my body is finally healthy enough to fucking menstruate! I’m not having massive cramps, which doesn’t surprise me since the endo’s been dormant over a year, and I know that’s only temporary, but I’ll take it for now. Right now it’s just that brownish spotting you get at the beginning but I’m hoping for full bleed in a couple of days so I can truly feel normal again. It felt good putting “light spotting” in my menstruation calendar app this morning.

AND I woke up to an e-mail from Alex this morning saying that she’s going to sign up for the photography class too and that Ronny’s day off IS Mondays and since Blake’s going to be hanging around Barrie to pick me up from class, he might as well hang out with Ronny during that time, so yay!

Anyway, I’ve decided I’m going to finish watching Downton Abbey, listen to last night’s debate since it repeats at noon and I went to bed early last night and play the Sims all day for no other reason but that I’m done working for the day and I can.

Blake’s working from home today and I’m going to maybe try and convince him he wants to go on the trail with me during his lunch hour. Doot doot.

Oh and Katie wants me to update my “I Almost Died” page with an update about my corrective surgery, which I should probably do too. But I think today’s just going to be a “download day” for the most part. No output. (Unless Blake really will go on the trail with me.)

October 9, 2012


I’m sitting here crying, literally, because I’m also literally sitting here, watching the clock, waiting for 4pm when the kids come home so I have someone to talk to. Because I’m lonely. I mean, I have friends & all, but I don’t have any friends here. And now that Ronny works nights and Alex doesn’t drive, we never see them anymore. The rest of our friends live in Toronto.

And moving is not the solution. If we moved I would be further away from Alex and not much closer to our Toronto friends if you consider the fact that I get off work at 8am and have absolutely nothing in my life to do until I got to bed at 9:30pm.

TV holds zero interest for me. We’ve been watching Dowton Abbey and that’s okay, I guess, but it’s a “Blake & Sunny show” because I don’t want to watch it alone. I have a REALLY hard time watching TV because it seems like such a waste of time unless it’s something that I’m super into and I feel like it enriches my life like Community or Doctor Who or even Walking Dead (which starts in 6 days btw – no idea if Ronny & Alex can come watch it with us as is our tradition of 2 seasons). Actually come to think of it,, those are the only 3 shows that even matter. SNL is a staple since I get off work at 11pm on Saturdays but if someone lame is hosting (and I stopped caring about the musical guests years ago when all these fucking stupid hipster bands with beards started popping up and sounding the same and the host always announces them like they’re some revered classical pianist worthy of worship – give me a fucking break)…anyway if someone lame is hosting, I’ll just go to bed. We record it but it’s Saturday Night Live. It seems to be missing the entire point if you watch it Sunday morning and all the best skits will be on YouTube the next day and if they’re any good they’ll make it to Facebook and I’ll see it then. We only record it in case we have to start watching late for some reason, like if we have Doctor Who to watch since Blake and Madison wait for me to get off work so we can all watch that together.

Anyway, my DVR right now is literally *all* Oprah’s Next Chapter (honestly, I’m just so sick of Oprah, especially because she asks the dumbest questions; she used to be such a good interviewer, now she’s just boring), the last two episodes of Doctor Who that I want to rewatch but again, I don’t like watching them alone, and about 30 episodes of Toddler’s & Tiaras which I usually save to watch with Madison but since I stopped painting pretty girls, because I was sick and tired of painting pretty girls, I stopped having the desire to watch pretty little girls on TV. Plus, honestly, I think the show’s gone downhill. It’s just way too over the top and I think the psycho moms are acting extra psychotic just to get their kids on the show or to win pageants or to be the next Honey Boo Boo (which was a terrible show; Madison & I watched the first episode and were like, “wtf is this shit?” and then I deleted them all from the DVR and made it stop recording them).

So TV’s out. So are movies for the most part because I can’t JUST watch a movie. It’s so very fucking difficult for me to just watch a movie at home. I can watch a movie at the theatre, that’s a life enriching experience. Plus you get popcorn. But movies at home are hard, especially if I’ve seen them before because I don’t paint pretty girls anymore and I don’t have anything to DO while watching. Except to sit there and watch which seems like a pure and utter waste of valuable time.

Not that sitting here crying and being codependent on your kids is productive either but I can’t help that. I’ve been saying it a lot because people seem to have forgotten but I am a sick person. I am not well. My body may be healed/healing (I say “healing” because I still haven’t had a period in 15 months so until that happens everything is NOT kosher inside me) but my mind is getting sicker by the day the greyer the sky gets and the more leaves fall from the trees in front of the house. Fall is the absolute worst season. Everything is dying. Not to be dramatic or emo or whatnot but I just feel it. I know for a fact that it’s the change in the light and I should really ask my shrink if I can borrow an S.A.D. light from the mental health centre, which I will probably do when I see her on the 26th, but that’s a therapy that happens over time and I’m pretty fucking dead inside these days. I stopped using the flower essence sprays because I’ve had a headache for the past 2 weeks that won’t go away and the only 2 things that are different is that I’ve been weaning off the hydromorph (yesterday was my last one) and I’ve been using the sprays. I’ve been 3 days off the sprays and 1 day off the hydromorph and my head is still killing me. I take 3 extra strength Ibuprofen a day and about 12 Tylenol 1s but nothing helps. Crying certainly doesn’t help, when I was little and I would cry, my mom would ask if the crying was really helping and the answer was always “no”, but I have little control over that. If I could change one thing about myself instantly, it would be to not cry at every. little. fucking. thing. I think cognitive behavioural therapy is supposed to help with that but I’m not there yet.

Want to know something super sad? So I bought this camera backpack and it cost me $125. It was becoming stupid to carry around both the camera bag and my purse so I wanted the backpack so I could combine the two, especially since Charlie had bought me two new lenses and it had compartments for them (plus a compartment up top for all my “purse junk”). Yesterday Blake helped me put all the camera stuff in it in its various compartments and then I emptied my purse of all its junk and organized it all and it’s been sitting on my desk ever since, right side up because it has a flat bottom, with my geocaching patch and my 1 inch buttons and Hello Kitty zipper pull and my customized Flip camera in the mesh side pouch, along with my flower essence serums and it’s all packed up and ready to go but…go where? I *can’t* go anywhere!

I wanted to go somewhere all day. I wanted to go on the trail by my house and take pictures with my new lens but there are scary construction workers in front of my house for one and for two there’s probably rapists on the trail at noon on a Tuesday or maybe just a person walking there dog which – not to minimize rape because I’ve been raped, repeatedly and I know how that feels – is pretty on par in my hierarchy of terrible things at the moment BECAUSE if I ran into either one type of person and they interacted with me in the way that those kinds of people would interact, it would freak me right the fuck out and it would probably be months until I left my house alone again. Can you understand that? In my imagination someone forcibly holding me down and putting their dick in my vagina (or worse) would be just as terrible as if someone walking their dog stopped to chat with me on the trail. I probably wouldn’t react the same way at the time (can you imagine?) but both instances would equally make me not want to go there ever again. It’s not right, it’s not rational and again, I can’t help it because I AM SICK. That’s why I want to bring the dogs with me bu they won’t listen to me off leash (they’ll listen to Blake) unless I have Milkbones maybe but we don’t have any and I can’t walk both of them at the same time and I can’t walk Hoover at all because he pulls. (I realize it’s my job to train them how I want them to be but I’m only one person in this house of 4,  I’m definitely the weakest link and I just don’t know how. Plus I’m kind of lazy and training a dog is also training yourself and that’s work. That would mean going on the trail every single day and risking them taking off, which would be my worst nightmare. And I can’t take pictures of things and hold a leash at the same time and i just can’t go on the trail to be on the trail, I have to be doing something, which is why I bought the camera in the first place.)

And I also literally think that the trail – even in a town of just 2000 people in the middle of the day – is probably full of rapists and thugs. At the VERY least, the construction workers would be staring at me, if only because they now know everyone on our street but they don’t know me and maybe one of them would talk to me and I wouldn’t know what to say back so they would think I’m an asshole and I would think about them thinking I was an asshole the whole way down the trail and I would start to cry and then I’d be scared to go home because I wouldn’t be able to STOP crying and I wouldn’t want the construction workers staring at some weird lady crying up and down the street.

But back to the backpack for a second. It’s big. It’s really big. And I’m really not big and I’m scared and self conscious that I’ll look weird or people will think I’m weird for carrying around this gigantic backpack around with me all the time. But I can’t have it both ways. I can’t move all my purse junk back to my purse all the time if I just want to carry my purse and the smaller camera bag with just the camera and whatever lens happens to be on it. Why do I have to carry around all 3 lenses all the time? So I just can’t win with this backpack but we already took the tags off it so I can’t take it back. And I did that on purpose actually, because it IS what I need, even if I don’t necessarily want what’s good for me.

So I have this backpack all packed up and I had from 8am-present to go on the trail and take pictures, which is what I wanted to do all day, but instead I pretty much literally sat and stared at the wall. Refreshed Facebook about a million times. Tried to find that supersonic bungee jumping thing on TV (not successful) but settled on an episode of The Office I hadn’t seen before and that half hour was about all I could stand for TV. I could barely sit through it it felt like such a waste of life, being a rerun. And now it’s 4pm, I can hear Wes in the driveway talking to a friend and making plans to hang out with the neighbour kid and Madison’s going to be home any minute. I’m mad at Madison so I don’t want to hang out with her until after she’s read the post I made this morning about her selfishness, which she’ll do as soon as she gets home because as selfish as she can sometimes be, she does read my site pretty religiously, if only to see what I’m saying about her but also because she’s an extra pair of eyes in my constant sanity checks. (I have to have Blake read everything I post because I just don’t trust myself to be healthy minded when I write things ever since I was literally psychotic on the internet and thought I was communicating with god.) Anyway, she’ll read the post and will do one of two things: she’ll either be mad at me back and not talk to me (which is fine) or she’ll feel bad and come talk to me (which is also fine) but either way I’m going to lose the light to be able to take pictures on the trail at a time when I could, theoretically, have one or both of the kids come with me.

And Blake’s not even going to get out of work, in the city, until 6pm so we’re fending for ourselves for dinner tonight. Then he’s going to Lush to get Wes Lemony Flutter for his cracked feet and me Veganese because I’m out. Then he’s stopping at a pharmacy to get Tylenol 1s because I’m down to my emergency purse supply of them and that’s bad news when you’ve had a constant headache for 2 weeks and you’re coming off major narcotics. Then, possibly, he may stop at a grocery store to buy Milkbones but I told him that’s not super important when IT’S SUPPOSED TO RAIN THE WHOLE REST OF THE WEEK so if I wanted to take pictures in the trail, today’s the only day for a very long time.

And yeah, I’m supposed to be doing immersion therapy and yeah, forcing myself to go on the trail today would have been immersion therapy but it’s too big of a step and there are no small steps in between my house and there, especially not with construction workers in front of my house all the way to the park ( where the trail starts) all the fucking time. My caseworker scares the ever-loving fuck out of me and I have a card in my purse with his name and phone number on it but I can’t bring myself to call because I just don’t like him and I don’t think there’s anyone else. And truthfully, he’s probably the best option BECAUSE he scares the shit out of me and I don’t think I can bowl him over with irrational, possibly bullshit excuses as I’m prone to do and I did to my other caseworker until she finally gave up on me. Like I said, I see my shrink on the 26th and I don’t know what to ask her about this. Like if I should ask for a new worker and run the risk of them being a push-over or if I should stick with the one I have even though he scares me. And why does he scare me? Because he asks you a question and then you answer and then he keeps on staring at you for like, 15 seconds more like he’s expecting you to say something else, but not really because he’s just boring a fucking hole through your forehead for no reason. Maybe he’s thinking, I dunno, but staring is one of my major “things” so this man is barely tolerable. (And yes, I’ve only met him once. His only two redeeming qualities are that he’ll probably legitimately get mad at me if I don’t do what he says to do and also that he’s willing to work with me via e-mail in some capacity. So I should probably stick with him. But then the problem is actually physically calling him, which I can’t do because I don’t know what to say so I’ll probably ask Blake to do it but he won’t know what to say either. Maybe my shrink can do it. But maybe not because that would be enabling. I dunno. I dunno. I dunno.)

And now Madison’s home and she’s being snobby to me so I’m assuming she either read my post at school or someone told her about it (it happens; there’s this annoying kid named Daniel who apparently announces to the class every morning what I blogged about the day before – hi Daniel, you’re an asshole!) or maybe she’s just being snobby because that’s how she is. If she didn’t read my post today at school then she’s surely reading it now.

My cousin about an hour ago asked me on Twitter, “whatever happened to that colouring book you were making?” and that’s a very good question. I told her I lost interest, which is true, but I lost interest because of rejection. I knew I would work super hard on it and if I ever actually completed it (which, let’s face it, would be a first) no one would actually buy it. In my experience, people say they’ll buy things but then they never do. “Oh if you paint X, I’d for sure buy it!”” so I paint “X” and it rots in my Etsy shop for a year. A $20 colouring book that I’d sell maybe 20 copies of, tops, just isn’t worth my time for all the work I’d put into it. The paper dolls idea was another one that I liked but it would be the same. Plus I’m just honestly sick to death of pretty girls. I’m sick of making them, I’m sick of seeing them. Pretty soon I’m going to take everything off my walls and down from my Etsy shop and make a bonfire in the backyard I’m so sick of them.

Although that thought makes me cry so maybe that’s not true. :o(

I just don’t know what to do. I’ve said that a lot in my life and yeah, I’ve got first world problems coming out my ass here but I live in the first world so these are my problems dammit. I thought that after I got better life would be different, that everything would start over and I would have a brand new life because “life’s too short to…” sit there and cry, not leave the house, not try new things. But it’s just turning out to be more of the same from before I got sick, the only thing that’s changed is that I work less hours (partially because I have to work less hours to save my sanity, partially because that’s all the hours available; I don’t think working more is the answer to my problems, I’m pretty sure that would just make things worse unless I had to work more hours to keep my job) so I have more time on my hands to do nothing.

And yeah, I worked in Lightroom for most of the morning. I re-edited all of Madison’s grad pics for printing and my friend Sondra challenged me to correct a photo of her that she just took this morning. Challenge accepted. Here’s her before pic:

Here’s her after:

I think I made her look artificially young, to be perfectly honest, but I also think I’m getting better at retouching.
It also takes a good friend to volunteer to let you Photoshop them silly.

So I guess I was semi-productive today and I listened to really loud music all morning and was generally having a good time. I even Blipped a time or two. But then I ran out of pictures to play with and the light inside our house sucks so taking pictures in here is pretty much impossible and I’ve already taken pictures of the dogs in the backyard and the kitchen and the kids weren’t home, and neither was Blake and I couldn’t leave the house and I don’t know how to use the remote for the camera plus I look like a bag of shit today so self-portraits were out of the question…I literally did nothing but cry and reload Facebook from about 1pm-present. I read half a chapter of the newest Sookie Stackhouse but even that felt like a waste of time, especially because Charlaine Harris is actually becoming a WORSE writer as the series goes on and she starts getting more colloquial  but in a totally overdone Louisiana hick way so all the characters sound stupid and then she “borrows” characters from the show or pieces of them and renames them and they’re all really obvious and it should be the other way around, with the show borrowing from HER, so if I can’t get through this book, which has been a real chore and I’m only on chapter 3, then I won’t be buying any more of them. I thought about having a bath but even that seemed like a waste of time. I knew that if I ran the bath water, I’d just sit in there and cry so I might as well cry and be clothed at the same time. Crying in the bath tub is just super pathetic and I couldn’t bring myself to risk it. I usually read in the bath and I have a million things to read but no interest in anything. I just have a serious case of ennui, I think. So very little holds my interest. The only thing I care about right now is photography and it’s the absolute worst season for it. Have I mentioned how much I loathe fall? The only good thing about it is Thanksgiving but I gave that up this year to go to Militiagan because I thought a change of scenery and people would be good for me. Not that I don’t love all the people we saw, but the only really good part of the trip for me was seeing Blake’s Aunt Pat, who I absolutely adore. And I was so fucking mad at myself because I forgot the camera bag when we went to visit her. Blake’s mom even called out to us before we left while we were getting in the car that we’d left behind a backpack but because she called it a backpack I thought she meant my actual backpack which just contained my hoodie and the connection that she meant the camera bag which I DID mean to bring didn’t connect. I really would have liked to have gotten some pictures of Wes and Pat so I could have printed one and sent it to her for Xmas. That was my only goal for the trip besides successfully working somewhere other than home and I totally and utterly failed. This is another reason why the camera backpack is a good idea for me. It has Ativan in it which I won’t leave the house without.

Anyway, I think that’s all the pathetic juice I’ve got in me. Madison wants to take pictures on the trail (actually taking pics was her idea, the trail was mine) and she’s choosing not to read the post I made about her this morning after I told her what it was about (or maybe she’ll read it later because I really want her to, I really need her to see, in writing, how selfish she’s been lately so she’ll understand) and she said she’d make her and Wes frozen fries and corn for dinner and me spaghetti so we’re good. And now I’m going to go take a crap, gather the kids (Wes is next door) and hit the trail before the light dies completely.

Sorry for making you read this.

PS. i still haven’t even started my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project. I don’t even know where it is. :o/ Another thing I could do but I have zero interest in. It’s not just ennui, I’m pretty sure it’s also depression.

PPS. Madison has decided that we’ve lost the light and she’d rather talk about the post I made about her this morning. Fair enough, but this is just going to turn into the exact same scenario tomorrow when I don’t even have pictures to edit to keep myself occupied.

September 26, 2012

Like a Boss.

So I guess after work today I’m teaching myself Lightroom through the book The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby at the suggestion of Rose who says that they use this man’s books in her college. I normally get the Visual Quickstart Guides for things like this but the one for Lightroom was pretty sparse and this one came recommended so despite the fact that it was $52 + tax, I decided I should get it. I also got the new Sookie Stackhouse book because I need something brainless to do in my spare time.

I am beyond stressed out these days.  I don’t feel like I’ve relaxed since coming back from Squam between writing mammoth posts every day, taking and editing pics and of course working my job. My days have just been way too full and I need to slooooow down, so all I’m going to do this week is learn Lightroom and read a trashy vampire novel.

Yesterday I had a terrible/wonderful dream that I was a teenager and I was on a class trip to Paris with Madison and for some reason we were getting a ride to somewhere in a pick up truck with these two girls who ran an empanada (sp?) stand in the middle of nowhere. In the back of the pick up truck, like in the bed, I put my wallet and my point & shoot camera and left it there with the gate open while these girls drove like maniacs through winding roads. When we got to our destination, my wallet and camera were obviously gone. They’d flown out the back of the truck.

When we got back to the hotel, our teachers were freaking out because I didn’t have any money and all my ID was gone in a foreign country. I still had my passport in my bag so I could get home though so it wasn’t a total disaster.

At the hotel, since I couldn’t go anywhere, the teachers started playing this game with the students that Madison always plays with her friends called “Truth or Truth” which is Truth or Dare, without the dares. Then suddenly Madison and I were in England and there was this guy in a van and suddenly it was the 70s and he was broadcasting a live stream on the internet of punk music and videos and he had a girl hanging from the roof of his van suspended by chains and duct tape. She was like his co-host.

And then I woke up and decided that this meant I should try and do a weekly video feature on my site. What do you think? It wouldn’t be of me, it would be of either Blake or Madison or Wes. I’d give them a topic and just let them go for maybe 10 minutes. Help me think of topics!

And that was basically my whole morning yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon I had a staff meeting and then I had my final appointment with Dr. Hanrahan. That went fine, there were no issues, really, to discuss or anything so we were outta there in about 15 minutes. I had her look at this crazy mole on my right boob which she is going to remove in December. I asked her about the mesh inside me and what it was made of but she gave me some pretty vague answers. She did say it was made of new material so unlike old meshes it wouldn’t get hard and need replacing. So that’s good. Apparently it’s called a “cook mesh”, so I’ll have to look that up later. She also said that if I don’t have a period in 6 months to see my family doctor and to request that I see a gyno. She said if I wanted to (which I don’t) that I could do sit ups now and give myself a 6-pack and I’m 100% cleared for yoga so we’re going to look into that. Blake does “hot yoga” now but that sounds like my idea of pure and utter hell so I don’t want to do that. (In fact, he goes to the same studio as Dr. Hanrahan.) We’re going to see about doing classes with our old yoga teacher who isn’t teaching classes out of her home anymore because she moved, but she is teaching at some yoga studios other places that Blake’s going to look into.

Oh! Something else we did yesterday is that we went to Henry’s and I got a camera BACKPACK so I don;t have to carry around my laptop bag/purse AND the camera bag! It was pretty expensive and I had to put it on Visa but it’s going to save me a lot of grief. This afternoon I’m going to put the camera in it and put my buttons on it to customize it and throw some of my extra junk in it. I’m very pleased with my purchase. (I got this one. It has a maple leaf on it for international travels!)

Anyway, all I need is one or both of the lenses on my wishlist and I think I’m pretty set for camera gear. The only thing I’d want to add is a macro lens, but they’re really expensive and I can’t find a good one on Amazon.

I want to know how you take a picture like the one above. It’s a dragonfly with dew on it. So did the photographer like, sit in a march all night and then take this picture in the morning and if so, how? Like with what kind of equipment?

Anyway, inquiring minds want to know.

36 minutes left of work, then I need a nap. We were up late last night having the marital relations and I am soooooo tired.

September 24, 2012

What!? I’m Social! (ist.)

I could potentially get flamed to hell and back for this post but I’m going to go for it anyway. I’ve been thinking about this kinda thing a lot lately as our neighbours to the South (that’s you, USA) gear up for an election and there is a lot of talk about social programs being either good or bad and this whole kerfuffle about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes or receive government benefits in some way. Or both.


Y’know how people in the US are all proud of being a patriot? Well I’m a patriot too. I really really love my country. I think I love my country more than just about anyone I know. I have a giant Canadian flag as the only decoration in my office. And why shouldn’t I love my country? My country has been totally good to me my whole entire life and I feel like I owe a debt to it for all that I’ve received.

So let’s talk about all that I’ve received and then I’ll talk about this debt I feel I owe and how I feel I can repay it. And how I think my country will be totally cool with that (but maybe not *all* the people will be, to them I say I’m sorry…I guess…)

I won’t get into it now, but in 1994 (age 15) I went before a judge and was legally emancipated from my parents. I was allowed, by the government, to live on my own, pay my own bills and go to school. And during this time, I collected what was known at the time as “student welfare”. I received $525/month and I rented a room from my boyfriend’s father for $400/month, meals and phone use included (but not long distance). With the money that was left, I had to pay for school supplies, clothes, cigarettes, Coca-Cola and tampons. Anything outside of that, such as outings with friends, was completely out of the question. To supplement my income, I worked at the local veterinarian’s clinic after school and made approximately $50/week. My boyfriend, a high school drop-out, worked nights at a gas station and helped me out financially as well (y’know, since I was living in his parents’ house & all).

It’s a SUPER long, irrelevant story but I was kicked out of high school 3 years in a row, so I only collected student welfare during the times I was in school, which was approximately from September-January all of those years. (Plus they would give me benefits through each summer. To supplement during the summer, I helped deliver mail for Canada Post. I had to get up at 5:30am and Jane and I were on the road by 6am. She paid me $20/day and bought me breakfast when we were done most days.)

In May of 1998 I gave birth to Madison. (There are two surgeries in between this time that were paid for by the government and then 3 more several years later, also free of charge.) Her biological father had beaten, raped, threatened infanticide, and kidnapped me once when I tried to flee his abuse but in October, two weeks before Halloween, I threw him out. I’ve told the story before but i’ll tell it again because he was truly a really bad guy: he was holding Madison, who started crying and his response was to slap her in her face and say “stop that!” to which I replied by taking Madison, putting her in her crib and BEATING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF HIM WITH A CROWBAR, putting him in the hospital for a night with a broken nose, a fractured cheek and cracked ribs. Am I proud of this? You’re fucking right I am. I was charged with some things but the cops were pretty much on my side once I told them the whole story and they dropped the charges. Madison’s sperm donor knew better than to press charges himself because at that point I think he knew I meant business and that I’d do it again. You do not fuck with my kid. Period.

While throwing him out was a life decision I would never regret, it left me in a pretty tight spot. I was uneducated (I do not have a high school diploma), unskilled except in the ways of the internet which wasn’t all that valuable in a small town in 1998, and I had an infant. I could get a babysitter and a job but that would barely cover childcare costs let alone rent. And I wouldn’t have the opportunity to bond with my child, which, if I had a real job at the time, I’d still be on maternity leave for that very reason, something my country and my government obviously values.

There was another problem. Madison’s sperm donor left me approximately $10, 000 Canadian dollars in debt due to outstanding bills he had put in my name. I didn’t even have a bank account! And here I was, with winter on its way in a drafty apartment above my mom’s wallpaper store that had expensive electric baseboard heaters and the cut off letters were already coming in because he had failed to pay the bill for several months. And that’s just one example.

My mom gave me $20 to open a bank account and made me promise that for my whole life, I would always always always have at least $20 in the bank, a promise which I’ve kept ever since, and then I walked (because I didn’t have a car), with Madison in her $12 Wal*Mart umbrella stroller, all the way to the welfare office and pleaded my case.

Which as it turns out I didn’t even have to do.

I wish I could remember my caseworker’s name, but unfortunately I do not. Technically they were supposed to make me take Madison’s sperm donor to court for child support but I told them we had made an agreement that I wouldn’t pursue support if he just never came into our lives again. My caseworker was completely sympathetic and not only did she approve me for welfare, but she gave me the information I needed for “legal aid” (which is a totally separate branch of the government, I *think*; I had to go to another town and another office) and through them the sperm donor and I went to court and a judge awarded me sole custody and he didn’t have to pay support. I didn’t pay a dime for my lawyer.

If I recall correctly, my welfare was about $950 and I also got “baby bonus” (which is actually called “Child Tax Credit”) which I think was about $200 and as far as I know, all Canadians get this unless they make too much money. Yes, my government pays you for having babies.

There were also special allowances sometimes, like for winter clothes for your child, first and last month’s rent on apartments (which I only utilized once), money for used appliances if you needed them when you first moved into a new apartment etc.

Legally I was allowed to stay on welfare until Madison was 6 and in school. Because I had a child, I was not required to do what all other welfare recipients had to, which was prove that they’d been out looking for jobs by getting would-be employers to sign a form every time they filled out an application somewhere. According to my government, I already had a full-time job and that was being Madison’s mother.

So I got approximately $1150 per month and my rent was $550 right off the top which was taken directly out of my cheque and given to my landlord, who also happened to be my own grandfather. Out of the $600 that was left, I had to pay my hydro bill, both past and present, which in the winter got up to $350 PER MONTH plus Madison was a formula baby and that shit was like, $20 a can. I forget how long a can lasted but it was expensive. (Maybe some of the other mamas out there can do the math.) I also had all these debts to pay that my ex had put in my name, such as TWO SEPARATE  phone bills (one for about $1500 and another for about $1,000, if I recall correctly), not to mention my own, which he hadn’t been paying (around $800 at the time), and Bell was also threatening to cut me off. The only things I could (barely) afford for myself were cigarettes (which they actually had an allowance for at the time – even I think that’s excessive, personally, as a non-smoker now) and internet (Compuserve: $20/month), which contained my only real friends at the time. (Who also helped me out financially when I was in tight spots, a trend that would continue until present day, obviously.)

I was on welfare for a year and a half and during that time, I took advantage of the resources available to me, such as free “upgrading” at the local community college where they taught me some of the skills I missed out on by not going to high school, such as how to properly format an essay (which, obviously, I promptly threw out the window, but, y’know, they taught me that). While I went to school, welfare gave me extra money to hire a babysitter for Madison, who also happened to be her paternal grandmother, who is mentally ill and on disability. (More social programs, wheee!)

Through the college, I learned that I wanted to be a copywriter when I grew up and got my shit together and they helped me prepare. Welfare gave me the money to take a 10-week copywriting course at Centennial College in Toronto and my step-dad drove me every week.  (Oh, also because laundromats cost money, which I didn’t have, I would do my laundry at his house on Sundays and as any mother of a baby will tell you, there is a LOT of laundry to do at that age. He would also make me dinner before driving me home. He was a moody man and ultimately one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met, but sometimes incredibly kind.)

After I had taken the copywriting course and thought ‘”for sure” I wanted to be a copywriter, my caseworker helped me fill out the college application for Centennial’s Creative Advertising program and then when I was accepted (yay me!), she helped me both make the move to a new apartment (above my grandmother’s furniture store, closer to the city) and apply for OSAP, which is the province’s student loans program. At the time, if I understood correctly, which I totally may not have, I had two loans: one was from a bank and the government basically co-signed for it, saying that if I defaulted, they would either pay for it or cover the interest (I honestly forget) and then the other loan was from the government directly. They gave me enough to buy a car to get to school, tuition, gas, food, rent and all other living expenses. If I recall correctly, they gave me approximately $12,000-$15,000/year, paid out per semester. I also received bursaries from the government, a scholarship (both paid toward my tuition and/or loans, not cash) for doing well and I still got baby bonus.

OSAP was good and I mostly had enough to live on, although my grama (shhhh) did tell me during my 2nd year in school that as long as I was in school, I didn’t have to pay rent anymore even though I claimed it on both my OSAP forms and my taxes. What can I say? I needed the money! Tuition was about $2,000 per semester, rent was $800/month, my car cost $3500 (my mom helped me with part of it) and was a total gas pig (1990 Beretta completely covered in Hot Topic bumper stickers) and it broke down all the time so I constantly had “car bills” but luckily Madison’s preschool was subsidized by the government and if I recall correctly again, it was supposed to be about $250-300 per WEEK because she was full-time, but I only paid about $100. Thank you, government!

My “luxuries” during this period was that I still smoked (ugh, my poor body) and I often went to the bar with my friends during the week where I didn’t drink but I did have breakfast there pretty much every day I went to school because they had all-day breakfast and it was good and right down the street from our school. I think that cost about $6/day for bacon & eggs. (I did do the whole Scratching post “panty girl” thing during this period and I drank and partied a lot and went on tour with them, but either the band paid for my drinks or horny guys did, so I rarely paid for alcohol out of pocket. Also Nicole (lead singer/good friend) usually covered my gas for shows that were far away.)

I was 21-22, went to school full-time, had a semi-job with Scratching Post and was the mother of a toddler. Life was pretty crazy! Also during this time, I discovered credit cards and used them a lot to survive because admittedly, I’m horrible with money and didn’t know how to budget my bi-annual OSAP payments and also admittedly, I bought a lot of stupid shit, like a $150 pair of Docs* or a $150 winter coat from Le Chateau**, which seems excessive when you’re living on a shoestring budget, because I would have like, $5,000 in the bank and when you’re that age (at least for me, I guess) it feels like a lot of money and that you could never spend that much, that it would never run out. But it did, eventually.

I dropped out of school after 2 years (of 3) for about a million reasons but for the sake of people reading this who haven’t been reading my blog posts for the past 12 years, I’ll give you some of them:

#1: My program did NOT have an online component of any kind because they were sorely behind the times. Sure they taught us how to build a website in fucking DREAMWEAVER, but I’d been building my own site for a few years by that point and I wanted to learn how to write ad copy for the internet. They didn’t teach me that and had no plans to teach me that so I didn’t feel it was worth it to continue to pay them to learn things I already knew or could learn by reading books, of which I have a thousand on advertising alone and had already read them all.

#2: I discovered, the easy way, that I would never have a career in advertising because of school. My program often demanded 60 hour work weeks to simulate what life at an ad agency would be like. It was incredibly stressful and one day I sort of took stock of my life and realized that if I had a career at a traditional ad agency, I could never be the kind of parent I wanted to be. I mean, I had Madison on purpose, for a reason, and she was my top priority in my life. I didn’t have her to stick her in daycare for the rest of her formative years.

#3: I was scared, plain & simple, of the city and driving to the heart of the city every day and working in an office and parking and having an adult social life and the whole works. Obviously I know now that all of this is due to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I didn’t know that at the time and again, as fun as school was, I didn’t see the point of going further into debt to learn about a career I’d never have.

Those are the big reasons I dropped out of school, but there are many more for why I didn’t get into advertising, some more valid than others. After dropping out of school, I still had a little bit of OSAP funds left over and did the odd freelance job and I’d already met Blake (my husband for those who have no idea who we are) and the rest is pretty much history in that regard. I stayed home with Madison while pregnant with Wes and then when Wes was born, I stayed home with both of them,  because again, I could never earn enough to pay for daycare and bills and being a stay-at-home mom was important to us. During this time, Blake worked as a pizza delivery guy under the table and made something like $2.25/hour plus tips.

Before I go any further into the future, let me tell you about the birth of my children, which was free of charge thanks to Ontario Health Insurance Program or OHIP, as it’s known here, our province’s universal healthcare. I had both of my kids in the same hospital, of my choosing, because they had a birth centre and they didn’t automatically stick you with an IV the second you walked in. They also didn’t do elective epidurals at all and c-sections were only done in true emergencies. They didn’t induce unless absolutely necessary and when all was said and done, their philosophy was “breast is best” and they would jump through hoops to ensure your child had the perfect latch before you left by way of – free of charge – lactation consultants. During the births of both my of my children, I chose not to have any drugs (but I did have laughing gas with Wes but more so I could try getting high (legally and safely) than anything else, to be perfectly honest) BUT I had full access to a birthing Jacuzzi (which I didn’t use) and if my kids hadn’t both been born on weekends, I was eligible to have a fucking massage therapist rub my back while labouring. Oh and every bit of my prenatal care was also free. The only thing we had to pay for ourselves were prenatal vitamins and antibiotics when I had a flaming kidney infection while pregnant with Wes because prescriptions aren’t covered by the province unless you qualify for the Trillium program which we didn’t think to try for (but we would have qualified). In our province, drugs are paid for by your employer insurance, if you have a job that offers it (and not all do, I’m not sure of the rules regarding that since I’m still on my first job and I’m technically a subcontractor for an American company so I wouldn’t get benefits anyway).

Back to my timeline: Once Blake became a legal alien and got his job working at Black’s (a photo processing store, basically, they also sell cameras etc), the government came knocking to collect on my student loans but we didn’t have enough money to pay them so the government was like, “hey, that’s cool, we’ll just pay the interest on them for you until you can, okay?” and everything was fine. We did this for YEARS.

In 2006 I had my psychotic break and was hospitalized (free of charge! except Blake’s insurance had to pay the $50 for the ambulance because that’s not covered) and a year later, I decided to be proactive about my mental health because I was scared to death of it happening again, so I went to my family doctor (who I chose, also free of charge) and he referred me to something called WENDAT, which either means something or stands for something and it’s now called something else, but it was the mental health centre I’ve been going to ever since, where my brilliant shrink works out of, who I also see free of charge as often as I’d like or she deems necessary. This was where I was diagnosed with bipolar I, generalized anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. If we couldn’t afford my psych meds, they would pay for them, but we have insurance so we opt to do that and pay the difference ourselves (about $200/month). They offered a 10-week Metabolic Clinic group therapy thing which I utilized after one of my psych meds caused me to gain 60 lbs in 3 months. They also offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group classes, which I plan on taking soon, and they offer all kinds of other services and classes as well. One of the ones I noticed on the bulletin board the last time I was there was a class on how to start budgeting for Xmas. And yeah, the government pays for that. Furthermore, they’ve already given me one caseworker to help me with my agoraphobia but I didn’t click with her so now they’ve given me another (who I don’t like so far, but I’m going to give him a fair shot). And get this! Okay I live 30 minutes away from the mental health centre and if I can’t get there, like if Blake couldn’t work from home on a day I had an appointment and I was mentally healthy enough to do it, they would send a taxi to bring me there and back, all on the government’s dime.

I don’t qualify for disability because Blake makes too much money, but something we discovered when we filed our taxes last year is that the government will pay us retroactively somehow for the years I was unable to work due to menta illness and that figure, if I qualify (and we’re pretty sure I do) is enough for a downpayment on a new house. Oh and my student loans? Forgiven and paid off by the government because up until recently, I was too mentally ill to have a job and pay them off myself.  (I got my full-time job in 2010 and then I got sick (that part’s coming up) and now I work for the same company part-time, partly because that’s all the hours they could give me and partly because my mental faculties cannot handle a full-time job. My shrink doesn’t really think I should work at all, but I like my job and I like having money so I think not having my job would be very bad for me. But I digress.)

My final story has to do with getting sick and almost dying the summer of 2011 due to pancreatitis. The whole, long story is here, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version if you’re just tuning in:

I woke up with massive pain in my stomach one morning, June 23rd, and I thought I was dying. Madison called 911 and I was driven, puking and crying in pain, to the hospital in Midland which is 30 minutes from our house. I was there for a few days, which I don’t remember, where they pretty much starved me (as is the treatment for pancreatitis) and tried to keep me comfortable since I was in screaming pain but one night, for reasons still unknown to everyone, my systems just fucking failed and I almost died. I coded for I don’t know how long. They called Blake in the middle of the night to come to the hospital and while it was unspoken at the time, we now know that he was called in to say goodbye because they didn’t think I was going to make it through the night.

Not being able to keep me alive, they sent me by ambulance (they almost airlifted me, I was in that bad of condition) to the intensive care unit at St. Michael’s hospital in downtown Toronto, which is the “oh shit” hospital where people either go to die or to recover in miraculous ways. Luckily for me, it was the latter, despite the fact that I almost died a few times there and only had a 30% chance of surviving. I was on dialysis for 8 hours a day for 2 of the 4 weeks I was there because my kidneys mysteriously failed and then started back up again. I received multiple blood transfusions. They put me in an experimental bed that vibrated. I had a feeding tube in my nose that bypassed my stomach entirely, as is the treatment for pancreatitis. I was intibated.

Fortunately I remember next to nothing from my time at St. Mike’s, but my point in being there is that I received numerous life-saving treatments completely free of charge, thanks to my government. If I were in the US, this scenario would have (at best) put us in debt that would take us a lifetime to crawl out of or (at worst) I would have died because we couldn’t have paid for most of the treatments I received.

But that was only the first month of my 14 month ordeal. It gets better.

After I stabilized at St. Mike’s, they shipped me, via ambulance again, to the ICU at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, which is the city 30 minutes from my house. I would remain there for another month and during that time, among other things, I would receive physiotherapy to re-learn how to walk because after so long in a bed with my body deteriorating, my muscles became weak and I just couldn’t do it.

When I came home last September, I was using a walker to (barely) get around. (The government didn’t pay for that. We rented one. We also rented a shower chair.) I had an expensive vac dressing – oh yeah, at St. Mike’s they had to cut me open down my middle from just below my ribs to right above my pubic hair to drain fluid that was building up in my system and distressing my lungs and vital organs which resulted in a gigantic open wound – which required changing every other day and Blake wasn’t qualified to do it, so the government paid for me to have homecare nurses come and do it and they also paid for the supplies. I was only discharged from their care 3 weeks ago.

This giant wound was called a “massive ventral hernia” because they had to cut through my stomach muscles and this resulted in my guts wandering away from where they were supposed to be and I looked like I was 8 months pregnant. This required fixing. It wasn’t life threatening mind you, and I had to wait a year for the surgery because I had what are called large “pseudocysts” filled with fluid on my pancreas that either a specialized doctor had to drain laproscopically (which is dangerous and we waited a long time for him to become available and he never was) or my body had to absorb on its own.

During this year, I had to go to the emergency room many many times due to “pancreatic attacks” where something would trigger my now incredibly sensitive pancreas to flip out and cause crazy amounts of pain, only controllable by LOTS of morphine and a clear fluids only diet until things calmed down. Of course all of these hospital visits and care were totally free of charge, even though almost every time I was there, I’d have to have a CAT scan ($$$, but free of charge!) to make sure things were okay in there.

In July I was finally cleared for surgery and the brilliant Dr. Hanrahan, along with Drs. Ward and Maxwell, performed both the repair of the massive ventral hernia and the removal of my gallbladder which was apparently all black and green and full of stones, which caused the pancreatitis in the first place.  Dr. Hanrahan is a reconstructive surgeon specializing in breast reconstruction after a woman’s had breast cancer and she is very expensive. She’s also one of the best and I was lucky enough to live near her practice and hospital.  Like I said, my surgery was not life-saving and it was technically elective, but the government paid for it anyway. Why? Because in THIS country we care about quality of life!

And of course after my surgery, I still had a homecare nurse taking care of my incision, removing my staples when it was time and also removing the drains I had in my abdomen. Like I said, I was discharged 3 weeks ago which means that I had an entire year of homecare nurses coming to my house every other morning to take care of me, paid for by my government at $50 per visit plus supplies. One sheet of silver for my wound was $50 and my wound required one per dressing change, just as an example.

And that’s the end of my story, really. I’ve received assistance from social programs – if you include free healthcare – my entire life. For half of my life, I received more than most and for the longest time I felt guilty about that but y’know what? My mom paid taxes to make that possible. So did my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins – everyone in my family who loves me and who, themselves, have never received benefits outside of healthcare. And I firmly believe that all of my scenarios are exactly why these programs exist. These were not hand OUTS, they were and are hands UP so I could have the quality of life and family that the Canadian government considers essential for all of its citizens. And that debt to society I talked about in the beginning? Well, I feel like I’m paying it right now, culturally, with every key I press and every stroke of my paintbrush or every picture I take. I am an artist and believe it or not, that counts for something in this country. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have all of the programs and grants we do in this country to support the arts and our culture. Google, there are hundreds of them!  I may be small potatoes in the grand scheme of things now, but over my lifetime – since I have no plans, EVER, to stop writing and painting and taking pictures and posting them on my website – I think my work will become valuable in some way. I feel like I’m contributing to society this way, as small as my contribution may be. My efforts are just as valid as any big name blog site or magazine and maybe even as valid as some of the books other Canadians birth into the world. My oeuvre is pretty vast at this point and it’s only going to grow. I may be completely unrecognized as a valuable cultural commodity at this point in my life but I firmly believe it won’t always be this way. And I couldn’t do what I do now without my government holding my hand through the hardest times of my life.

If those programs didn’t exist, what would have happened to me? It’s not far-fetched at all to envision a future of Madison being taken away by the Children’s Aid (another valuable government program!), because I couldn’t care for her, Blake and Wes never being a part of my life or even existing and eventual homelessness when you consider that mental illness is the #1 cause of that very thing which is precisely why the government throws so much money at mental health programs. We may not realize it or even recognize it all the time, but our entire healthcare system, all of those billions of dollars in taxes, are largely focused on preventative medicine and that’s a very good thing for both our citizens and our country itself! I’ve tried explaining to my American friends how different it is growing up with this being a priority and never having to choose between healthcare and other necessities but unless you live it, you can’t truly understand.

Oh! I totally forgot! One more story:

For most of our marriage, Blake has had a shaved head and when he became a legal alien he was granted an OHIP card automatically. One day he noticed a mole on the side of his head that didn’t look very good, so he went to the doctor (of our choosing, never thinking twice about it because in Canada, why would you?) and the doctor agreed that it looked a little funky so this doctor removed it. No big deal. I think he had two stitches. I’m gonna say it again: this was completely free of charge.

Maybe a year or two later, Blake noticed that the mole was growing back so he went to the doctor again (a different doctor this time because one had just opened a practice in our town) and the doctor said “oh shit” and referred him to a surgeon who removed it again and sent it to a lab to have it analyzed. It was determined that this mole was indeed pre-cancerous and if left on its own it would have developed into a melanoma.

If Blake was still in the US, this would have been a very different scenario. First of all, he never would have gone to the doctor in the first place because he would have had to pay for the visit in some way and when you have to decide between healthcare and food or even concert tickets at that age, you’re not going to choose healthcare. And Blake’s a cheap bastard so I can guarantee that this would have been the scenario. Plus, you think “it’s just a mole” and not all that important when you have to pay for your doctor’s visits but in Canada where it’s free, you go “just in case” because why wouldn’t you?

So the mole would have turned into a melanoma due to lack of preventative measures and THEN he’d go to a doctor who would either say that yes, it’s fixable or no, you’re fucked. Either way, it would result in a huge bill because of tests and the doctor’s fees and treatment. And that would put Blake into debt that he probably wouldn’t have been able to pay off. (Although realistically Blake is qualified for jobs that would have had health insurance, but they don’t pay for everything and they try to get out of paying for things all the time so really, who knows what would have happened.)  And then he might have died.

Now I know that there are all kinds of stories out there about Canadians having to deal with long wait times for treatments and doctor shortages and both of those things are real. I’m not going to deny that. But it’s not the norm. Most people receive excellent healthcare, both preventative and otherwise and I’m going to say that NO Canadian ever thinks twice about going to the doctor as necessary. In fact, this is somewhat of a problem in that we have, for example,  paranoid mothers taking their kids to emergency rooms for the common cold and people calling 911 for non-emergencies and that causes a strain on our hospitals and healthcare system in general. Really, we should have a nation-wide ad campaign that discourages this activity because if those kinds of scenarios happened less often, perhaps we wouldn’t have Canadians dying due to long wait times for treatments for things like cancer. I mean, yeah, sometimes Canadians who can afford to hop the border for treatment because they have to. But what you don’t hear about is that in a lot of those cases, the Canadian government will pay for part of or maybe even the entire bill. Also? If I got sick in a foreign country, our government may pay for my treatment depending on the scenario. A lot of times they’ll arrange and pay for the person to be flown home for treatment. Because of things like this I truly believe that our government values its citizens and considers our lives precious and does the best that it can.

Our healthcare system has flaws and some people think it’s not sustainable and some people even think that we should have two-tiered levels of care or the option to also have private insurance but I don’t know about things like that. All I know is what I know and that is my government thinks I’m worthwhile, that no matter what kind of shit I get myself into or falls my way, I will be okay. Because I always have been. In another country, like the US, I don’t believe that would be the case.

I’m not a huge fan of our prime minister or his government and while I say that, I also have to admit that his governance has not affected me personally in any way that I can think of and despite not sharing his views on a lot of things, I still believe that he respects our country and what it stands for, as far as domestic issues. I’m a terrible citizen in that I don’t really follow Canadian politics as much as I do American (and lots of Canadians are in the same boat due to our media’s ridiculous coverage of it, plus in my case literally 95% of my Facebook friends are American and that’s mostly where I get my news) and I’ve voted for the same party my entire adult life despite what’s actually happening in this country because they believe what they believe and they have visions of the same Canada as I do.  They don’t have a snowball’s chance in Florida that they’ll ever actually have a prime minister in the next 20 or 30 years, but I’m optimistic about their chances after that. And hey, they have a minority government right now for, I think, the first time ever, so that’s progress.

But I digress again…this country’s been good to me and I’m the reason social programs are important. And if you’re American and you’re not convinced, take a look at this article about your fellow Americans living in cars and subsisting on $4/day. They are part of the 47% of Americans Mitt Romney doesn’t give two fucks about, let alone one. He doesn’t care about their votes and he doesn’t care about their lives at all not to even mention their quality of life And that’s a big fucking deal, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe it’s just because I’m Canadian where that does matter or maybe it’s just because I’m not an asshole. How can you have a president who doesn’t care about almost half of your country? I realize that’s been said over and over again in the media but I figure it’s worth asking again.

Balancing a country’s budget is extremely important but not when the scenario is to have so many of your citizens sick and dying in the streets, dumpster diving to feed their families with no way out. That’s what the government is for as far as I’m concerned; it’s there to take care of the people and guarantee them a certain accepted level of quality of life so they, in turn, can be productive members of society. Your citizens should have value. They’re not just numbers at the polls!

Or maybe I’m mistaken in regards to the “American dream”. That’s entirely possible since I’m on the outside looking in. I just thought the government was there to help people achieve said dream and make America worthy of its good reputation. I don’t understand how the US can fight these foreign wars to bring democracy to countries that didn’t previously have it and then they completely trash democracy in its own backyard by having one party’s, of a two-party system, only goal to be displacing the incumbent whose only flaw, as far as I can tell, it not shutting down Guantanamo Bay as he promised. And again, I’m sitting on the outside and I’m not getting the same media as my American friends, but this is what I’m seeing. I mean, what has Obama really done wrong that Mitt Romney would do right? The man IS the fucking “American dream” for god’s sake!  Who better to lead and represent your country to the rest of the world?

Anyway, this post wasn’t supposed to be about the American election necessarily so I guess I’ll get off that topic. I can’t say anything that an American couldn’t say better. I just wanted to illustrate, in my own way, why social programs are important and why I feel so fortunate to have been born in this country where as a citizen, I’m valued for more than just my taxable income and my vote.

Flame on!

(*In my defense, those Docs were my winter boots and are STILL my winter boots because I still have them and they are pretty much in mint condition because I actually take care of my shit. **That winter coat I bought 12 years ago? STILL my winter coat. I haven’t bought one since. I’ve needed a new winter coat for at least 5 years because mine has thin lining and is ripped, but the money’s never been there. Blake needs one too because his winter coat is a black hoodie, in CANADA, but we just don’t have the funds.)

September 20, 2012

Pages and Paint

Friday at Squam was not so great.

Breakfast was fine, bacon, sausage and ice cream, of course, then off to Sap House for Pages and Paint with Sarah Ahearn Bellemare which was a mixed media class and it was this class that ultimately made me give up on mixed media painting.

The first thing we did was go to the dock where it was warm in the sun, as opposed to cold in the cabin (even with a fire) and Sarah showed us her sketchbooks which were all full of little bits of things that inspired her. I really liked looking at her sketchbooks because they were a lot like some of mine, although I don’t really put so much “stuff” in mine, as I do planning paintings.

Sarah is the one with the sunglasses.

Then we had all this free time to do…I don’t even know what we were supposed to do… Belinda and I just shot the shit with this other girl named Heather who I think was from Kentucky, in the cabin, mostly about the rampant racism in Kentucky and Indiana where each of them was from.

 So everyone gets back to Sap House for our class and Sarah shows us all of her supplies and she shows us that she has 4 jars of Golden heavy body acrylics: red, yellow, blue and white. That’s right, she expected us to mix our own colours. I just don’t have time for that crap, personally, so I was glad that I’d brought my own paint, especially with the exercise she made us do later…So she’s telling us about mixing paint and how the primary colours will make every colour you would need (which is a filthy lie, as Bel pointed out; go ahead and try to make magenta or neon yellow with primary colours!) and she asked the class what colour she should mix…and someone yelled out “PINK!” and I’m like, “are you fucking serious?” (but I didn’t say that out loud) because HELLO, YOU MIX FUCKING RED AND WHITE – *EVERYONE* knows that! You learn that in kindergarten! Even Sarah was like “uh, okay…!” when that colour was requested and that’s when I knew this class was not for me.

Then we had lunch, which I have no idea what it was. Let me get this out of the way so I can stop saying “I forget” what we ate, here’s what I remember (and what Bel and my mom remembers too) as far as meals at Squam:

Breakfast was the same every day: Scrambled eggs, french toast, bacon, sausage, homefries, waffles, cereal, real maple syrup (from VT, which tastes different from CDN maple syrup, my mom says), cinnamon buns (which were amazing), muffins, yogurt, soft boiled eggs, oatmeal and I think that’s all.

Other meals: chicken breasts, salmon fillets, gourmet macaroni and cheese (twice, two different kinds, both absolutely delicious!), rice and beans (ew), salsa (ew), veggie burritos (ew), cheese pizza (twice, pretty good!), spaghetti (I didn’t have this but my mom said it was good), various soups (the vegetable soup I had was good but I think they tricked me into eating zucchini), all the salad you can eat, roast beef (phenomenal), chicken paninis, cold meats (for sandwiches), asparagus, carrots…I can’t even think of the other stuff. I know there was more because I ate a LOT and I’m picky as hell so I know there was more than this but I just can’t remember.

One night we had a catered dinner at a different dining hall and that meal was grilled chicken breast, macaroni and cheese and I don’t know what else because that’s all I ate. For dessert they gave us apple crumble with ice cream, which I didn’t eat because I think ice cream on apple crumble is gross and it’s not like you can eat around it, it’s all melted into it and it makes it mushy and cold and just blech. I understand that other people like it though so I’m glad it made them happy!

Another day we had catered lunch in our cabin (and we had appetizers in our cabin at one point but I forget what they were because I don’t think I had any). That consisted of all these gross corn and bean salads and corn chowder (which Belinda said was good, I’m semi-allergic to corn so I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole) so I just ate cookies and brownies instead. Then we had a group picture of all the Squammies.

Anyway…back to Friday….so we had lunch, that was pretty uneventful except for the fact that my mom was doing a class called “Story Scarf” where you made like, a quilted (sewn?) scarf with history and she was pretty excited about it. I’ll post pics of her scarf in this entry, DON’T YOU WORRY!

After lunch Bel and I went back to Sap House and Sarah showed the class how to do image transfers with clear contact paper and laser photocopies, which I already knew how to do and so did Belinda so that was nothing new, but I guess that was the “take away” from the class. And I guess…mixing pink…

So after she showed us that technique, she gave us each 3 small (4×4 inch maybe?) gesso boards. Now, when I read the materials list when I signed up, I saw gesso boards on the list and thought like…GESSO BOARDS. The kind I buy are 12×12 inches so I was thinking they’d be about the same size, especially since we were only supposed to get 2 of them with a kit fee of $12. So that was a disappointment, but whatever, I can try working small, no big deal. So she gives us these gesso boards (think a thin piece of wood sanded down and painted white, for lack of a lengthy description) and for the first one she says we’re going to play a game. And I’m thinking, “oh lord” because I hate shit like that. I didn’t even know what it was going to be but just the fact that she called it a “game” made me hate it immediately. In fact, she even said that when she’d taught this class before at Squam, during the game, someone yelled out “I HATE YOU!” and believe me, I understand the urge.

The game consisted of her giving us each a prompt, such as “paint with your eyes closed” (that was my first prompt) or “mix 3 colours that you love and use them in your painting” and then she played music and gave us 2 MINUTES to do whatever was on the card. Then when the 2 minutes were up, we passed the prompt to the left and we received the person on the right’s prompt and then we’d have 2 minutes to do that. We did this for 30 goddamn minutes and it was absolute torture. How the FUCK are you expected to  mix 3 colours, let alone ones you “love”, from primary colours, that you have to go get on your palette from the supplies table as well, in TWO MINUTES? Know what I did for that prompt? I took the colours already on my palette and added white to them all. BAM! New colours. Fuck loving them. One of the prompts wanted me to use rub-on letters on my piece but how was I supposed to do that on wet paint, especially when using “vintage” letters that didn’t really work? I managed to get a “F U C K” on my piece but it took me about 4 minutes of trial and error to do so.

What I created during this game was an utter piece of garbage that was a complete waste of time and art supplies. Because there were collage elements in it (horrible ones!), it’s not even like I could paint over it. I’d have to wait for it to dry and then sand them shit out of it and I just don’t care for a $2 piece of gesso board. As far as I was concerned, it should have been added to the wood pile for incineration but Belinda said she’d recycle it so I gave it to her.

When Sarah was going around the room and asking us what we wanted to accomplish in the class, my answer was that I have a tendency to see my art supplies as “precious” and I need to get over that…well, that exercise was like art immersion therapy in that respect and I really didn’t appreciate it. It was fucking stressful and I wanted to cry when it was all over.

When the torture finally ended, Sarah went around the room again so we could show what we made and I didn’t want to show mine because it was a piece of garbage. She asked what I thought of the game and I said, “you really don’t want to know” and she said, “no, I really do” so I said, “are you sure?” and she said “yes” so I told her pretty much exactly what I wrote here and told the class that all I could get out of the rub-on letters was “FUCK”, to which they all laughed, but I said that that word pretty much encompassed how I felt about Sarah’s game. She thanked me for my honesty and then she told us that we would then be able to do whatever we wanted with our 2 other gesso boards.

Well I sat there and stared at mine for a while. Then I tweeted for a bit (as some of you know!). I just wasn’t feeling it. I mean, first of all, I don’t, I can’t, use photographs of other people in my work because I think that’s so hokey and fake because it’s not like I know these people and in a way I feel it’s sort of exploitative of dead people I don’t even know. So when I told Sarah this, she suggested I use some of her clip art instead, which was a fucking joke because it was all really stupid stuff. I told her I just wasn’t feeling it and that I was okay sitting there and talking to people on Twitter. She told me that she wanted me to do something creative instead and I argued that Twitter WAS creative, it’s writing for fuck sakes! It’s a challenge expressing how ridiculous it is that I paid this woman $12 to learn how to mix pink in 140 characters! So she asked me if there was anywhere else I would prefer to be and I said, “no, would you prefer I be somewhere else?” and she said “no, but I want you to be doing something artful” or something like that and she was all angry-faced, so I was like, “FINE” and I made the dumbest piece of art I think I’ve ever created out of her SCRAPS.

Because see, not only were the supplies she brought HER scraps of bullshit, but we were the second class so everything had already been picked through or cut up the day before and that pissed me off. In the materials list, we were promised an abundance of all these materials when in reality the pickings were pretty slim and completely uninspiring. I get inspired by materials and this scrap pile just wasn’t doing it for me so like I said, I made the biggest piece of shit I have ever created. I did 5 image transfers. Well, first I painted my gesso board red and light turquoise and then I put a clip art hand holding a poker hand of cards in the middle and then the suits of cards in the corners and called it a day. It was hideous and stupid. Oh and that’s another thing, I hate that method of image transferring because then you’ve got PLASTIC in your piece and that just gives me the willies something fierce. It’s like eating salad in the winter. *shudder*

I didn’t do anything with my other gesso board, I just put it in my box of art supplies and brought it home. Maybe Wes or Madison will do something with it one day. *shrug*

I gave my piece of crap masterpiece to Belinda to recycle and then Sarah went around the room and asked everyone how they felt about what they created and their pieces were passed around. When she came to me I was just like, “no”, so she went on to the next person.

Earlier in the day I had given her my copy of her book, Painted Pages: Fueling creativity With Sketchbooks & Mixed Media to sign even though I confessed that I was only on page 38 because I just haven’t had time to read it yet (but I’m working on it!) and this is what she wrote: “For Sunny: wonderful to meet you at Squam! Keep painting, keep creating + keep on making your glitter girls! I hope my book will inspire. xox Sarah

Now here’s the thing: I *hated* this class. But I didn’t hate Sarah. I think she’s a good teacher. I think she’s talented like crazy. (I really do love her work, which is why I have her book. I just don’t want to replicate it!) I completely respected Sarah as a teacher (or at least I tried to), it’s just that her class was not for me.

The next day, we actually ran into each other on the way to dinner and we had a little chat and she introduced me to her daughter and there was just a mutual respect there. No hard feelings on either side whatsoever.

That evening, before dinner, there were hors d’oeuvres (fuck yeah, I spelled that right!) served on our cabin’s porch and when I was outside with my mom, we ran into Elizabeth, the “creatress” of Squam, the lady in charge, and she asked me how my day was so I was honest with her about Pages and Paint and she explained that that class was a beginner class and if she’d have known my experience level, she never would have put me in that class. I told her that it was my own fault because that was my first choice, in fact I got both of my first choices, and that Spirit Sessions with Thea completely made up for it because that class and meeting her totally made my Squam experience.  I did mention that maybe putting like, experience levels on class descriptions might be a good idea. My mom told Elizabeth that she loved her class, Story Scarves, with Maya Donenfeld, so that was a plus and made Elizabeth happy.

Here’s my mom with her story scarf:

That material on the bottom that sort of looks like tie-dye? My brother and I made that out of Crayola Fabric Crayons (which I cannot find ANYWHERE!) over 20 years ago. There’s a better picture of my mom wearing the scarf on Maya’s blog, which you can see here. And speaking of Maya, at the art fair (which will be in another post) my mom got her to sign my copy of the book, Creative Pilgrimage: An Exploration of Artful Gatherings & Discovery of Innovative Art Techniques by Jenny Doh, in which she’s featured. She wrote, “Sunny – May creativity always be at your side! Love, Maya“.

After the appetizers, we went to the dining hall and had a delicious dinner of I don’t even know what and then I have absolutely no idea what we did until bedtime. There were no events or anything so I think we probably just sat around the fire in our cabin and talked to people. Maybe that was the night we stayed up late talking to Judy, a super nice retired blind person’s aid lady who needed a serious dose of creativity to nourish herself and replenish from the psychic vampires in her life. She goes to both the spring and fall sessions of Squam and her husband has no idea what she does there. Like, she said that a friend had stopped by while she was at Squam and her husband said something like, “Judy’s out quilting or something,” and it’s like…Squam is so much more than that! And I can’t even imagine having a husband who is so detached from my life as to think something like that, let alone say it out loud. I felt really bad for her. She seemed really lonely and unfulfilled. :o( I’m glad she has the ability to go to Squam though as she obviously needs and deserves that kind of environment.

I can’t remember all I’ve written about Squam so far so forgive me if I’ve already said this: One night my mom was talking to Jeanie, one of the 2 rich, old, grumpy drunk ladies (who were kind of awesome) and Jeanie mentioned that she probably wouldn’t come to Squam again (or at least I think this is what my mom said she said) because she was tired of hearing everyone’s story, that she couldn’t carry all of them around with her. And it’s true, everyone at Squam has a story, every single one of us is on a journey or a quest of some sort and it was for that exact reason I didn’t tell a single soul about my past 14 months. The only people I told about my agoraphobia and mental health issues was Thea because I had to and Elizabeth knew but I’m not sure how. Maybe because she was roommates with Thea. I just didn’t want my story to like, trump anyone else’s if that makes sense. Plus I’m sort of sick of telling it. It’s over. I have one more doctor’s appointment on the 25th and then I’m done. I’m not even going to have my “3rd nipple” removed because I’m so sick of doctors and I just don’t care.

Yesterday I added the event “Overcame Massive Ventral Hernia” to my Facebook timeline and I put the date as yesterday because as of yesterday I was done with it. I feel fine, aside from some lingering nighttime/morning pain. But my mom commented that at this time last year, I was using a walker to get to the bathroom, I had a vac dressing and had to carry around a suction machine with me everywhere I went. I had a puke bowl near me at all times because I couldn’t keep any food down. I got down to 100 lbs. My hair started falling out. That was a year ago! And now? I’m fucking THRIVING! I’m a healthy 125 lbs. I haven’t thrown up in a couple of months. I haven’t had a pancreatic attack since July 1st. I’m getting on with my life. I’ve bounced back. I’m a goddamn, motherfucking MIRACLE! And I’m doing my best to celebrate that!

And that is LITERALLY all I have to say about  that, unless someone asks.

So the big thing about Pages and Paint that I realized is that I think I’m done painting, at least for now. The well is completely dry. I am completely uninspired. I am really sick of painting my girls, but while I say that, I’ve come to realize that my girls are now how I draw girls, it’s just natural to me, so that’s a forever thing, but I’ve put my canvases away and today I’m going to clear off my desk of all paint and put it all in my Squam bucket/container to be used at a later date, but my brushes will still probably stay on my desk. I’ll probably paint again at some point but for right now I think I’m going to concentrate on writing and photography. I mean, those just seem much more natural to me. I blog every day, I post pictures pretty much every day. It just makes sense to do my best to hone those two skills as they’ve been the most useful and consistent throughout most of my life.  I used to write my own bedtime stories (with the help of my mom) before I could write because the ones on my bookshelf were inadequate. I was a born writer. Even if all I do is blog. (Which is probably all I *will* do, but who knows?)

I now know that an art class is not for me. I just can’t do it and it makes me angry to be told what to do in any capacity when it comes to art. However, I’m taking that photography class in October, thanks to Charlie, who, despite our constant arguments on all things political, supports me in everything I do, no questions asked and I am forever grateful for his friendship for that reason and many more. After that photography class, I think I’d like to take a writing class. I can’t take one until the spring semester though because I can’t ask Blake to take me to too many things after work and I can’t have too many late  nights or I won’t be able to get up for work the next morning. The photography class goes until 9:30pm and is an hour away and I have to get up at 4am the next day which is going to suck, but I think it’s going to be worth it. I have no idea what kind of writing class I want to take. There aren’t too many (any?) offered at the local college and I’m not sure where else to look. I don’t even know what I want in a writing class to be perfectly honest. I think maybe I just want the “push” of having to do an assignment and the experience of having to read my bullshit in front of strangers because I think that would probably be good for me. Back in my pre-married life, I was actually an excellent public speaker and I was really good at presentations, so I know I have it in me.

Like I said a couple of days ago though, I think with writing I just have to be more selective in how I describe things. How I write now is just kinda…I sorta puke everything onto the keyboard as it comes out of my head, but I think maybe I should teach myself (or re-learn) to go slower, to actually craft my sentences better. It’s just that the only thing I really write is blog posts and I see that kind of writing differently than say, fiction. My attempts at fiction have all been better described, better crafted. Not everything was “awesome”.

I think if I find a way to do Squam next year with Blake, I’m definitely going to try one of the writing classes.

And with that, I’m going to go start working on my Saturday @ Squam post because it’ll be less rambly and probably a better read than this piece of garbage. Stay put!

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