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

{sarah reads: GRAMA CAN’T BREATHE, SHE MUST BE SCARED.}

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.

April 2, 2014

Writing Instead of Eating

This is probably best explained with screencaps. I’ve been tracking my calories since seeing the dietitian with My Fitness Pal, which is both a website and an app and it was the one she recommended. I’d also used it before. Basically I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me. Look, this is a typical day:

This was the next day…

This was yesterday…

I am scared. I think Blake is sorta mad at me even though he knows I can’t help it, but more out of concern though than really being mad. He says he’s not mad. I don’t know if I believe that. This morning he made me scrambled eggs about half an hour before I was finished working and I just couldn’t eat them. I took like, 4 bites and I cried basically the whole time they were in my mouth because I didn’t want them there. They made me feel sick and I just did not want that texture in my mouth. I was/am shaking with hunger and so so tired, but everything I think of to eat just sets off my gag reflex and whatever the reflex is in your stomach that makes you feel sick. Wtf, right? And then I felt sick and cried for the rest of my shift because I am fucking terrified. I don’t want to be sick again. I don’t want there to be another thing wrong with me. I do not want to see any doctors other than the ones I see now. I do not want any more tests unless they tell me they think I have cancer or something which they won’t because obviously I don’t but obviously something’s not right and I don’t know if it’s physical, psychological or both. I honestly have no earthly idea.

It went like this:

– Spring-fall 2011. Got sick/feeding tube etc, got down to about 97 lbs.

– Started slowly gaining weight despite barfing up like, everything, thanks to Ensure and Isopure Plus and my doctor saying if all I wanted to eat was McCrap, that was fine by her because my hair was falling out. Got up to about 115 lbs. Felt good at that weight.

– Summer 2012, a year after getting sick, I have my big surgery to close my wound and remove my gall bladder, which was all fucked up and gross and full of stones apparently.

– Felt okay after surgery, this was probably partially due to the fact that my primary painkiller apres-surgery was cannabis.

– In the fall I went to Squam at around 115 lbs and lost 3 lbs despite eating a LOT and every single day because the food was actually really really good. Can’t even tell you what I had there though, shoulda written it down.

– Apres-Squam for some reason I just felt good. I was off most of my “sick” meds, my period came back and I was eating enough that by July 2013, so within about a year, I was 150 lbs.

Then it all went to shit and I don’t really know know why. One day I had a really bad pancreatic attack and then another and then another and I think maybe my pancreas is just maybe damaged enough now that this shit is an issue. And that scares the ever loving shit out of me. You only get one pancreas. I had a really hard fucking time with having a blood transfusion, can you imagine what a nightmare it would be to need a pancreas transplant? I’d be so stressed out by someone else’s body part in me that my body would probably just reject it anyway. I don’t even know how successful that kind of transplant is anyway. Probably not very since the pancreas is so goddamn fragile. Or at least mine apparently is.

Anyway, we have watermelon and suddenly that seems like a good idea and the second I get hungry for something, I do my best to eat it because it’s always a fleeting thing. I promise I’ll make a more positive post soon. It’s (sort of) spring!

January 9, 2014

Just like the white winged dove…

One of the most terrible things about throwing up for days on end is the severe chapped lips you get from the acid in the green bile that is the result of pancreatitis. It hurts, man, and until today it looked awful. Blistex Lip Medex in the little blue pot has been my best friend. I really wish we could figure out what caused this attack but there just wasn’t anything. I think one day I might have accidentally taken 2 extra Wellbutrin (because I thought they fell out of my medicine container, so I went and got 2 more and took them and then wondered if I was wrong in the first place and had really taken them and just forgot because that is totally something I would do) but I really can’t see that causing an attack, I’ve been taking low doses of it for years and if my shrink told me to up my dosage in the mornings by 2 I wouldn’t question it and would just do it. At the same time, I went for a kidney test the one time where I had to drink radioactive dye and they injected radioactive stuff into me and that caused a full blown hospitalized kinda pancreatic attack, so who fucking knows?

And I know what you may be thinking, what about pot? Ah yes, what about pot…I was too sick to smoke pot. The act of being vertical, conscious and breathing air induced vomiting, there was no way I could smoke pot…not until I could. Like I had to let the whole thing pass enough until I could be vertical, conscious and breathing air all at the same time for a little while without throwing up before I could fire up the bong and feel better, which is exactly what happened. I had crackers and cheese for dinner and have been having crackers and cheese for snacks every day since, but adding something new to the plate every time. Right now I’m up to 2 kinds of cheese, 3 kinds of crackers (one is multigrain), strawberries and gherkins (which don’t count as a vegetable, I KNOW MOM) and chocolate milk, although I’m kinda getting sick of that and I’m thinking I might be ready for an actual meal today but hell if I know what. As per usual. (Although typing that gave me a twinge of the ickies so maybe I’ll stick with crackers and cheese one more day.)

Monday was supposed to be my first day without kids or Blake in the house since December 20th, but the kids had a snow day and Blake stayed home in case I had to go to the hospital. Then on Tuesday he had to stay home too because our whole area was under a million tonnes of snow. (And the kids had a snow day. Madison had a snow day yesterday but Wes didn’t.) Sometime within that period, between being barfy and comatose and today, I worked on my Zazzle shop. Specifically my “Mary Jane” line of products which are prints of this painting, which I did for my Secret Satan this year:

There are all kinds of things in that section of the shop with that painting on them from greeting cards to post prints to keychains to buttons and stickers. For some reason Zazzle’s been acting up and the “Mary Jane” section will only show up for me if I’m logged in, yet the products show up under other categories so if you’re reading this and clicking links and they’re not working, that would be why. Just go to my Zazzle shop and click on the categories to the left to see what I’ve made. I think this candy tin is cool, personally. I’m also in the process of making notebooks out of all of my paintings.

And since I apparently can’t stop talking about weed enough today, I just got the call from Peace Naturals to tell me that my paperwork has all been verified and I can can a purchase pharmaceutical grade cannabis from them whenever I’m ready. So I asked the lady on the phone a couple of things. The first thing was if I could order online and she said that part of their site wasn’t functional yet so I could only order by phone. The second thing was therefore, could Blake order for me? She asked me if I’d put him down on my paperwork so I said, if that were an option I’m betting I totally did! So she looked and I did and now Blake can place an order on the phone with them. And the third thing I asked was how would I know what to order? Like where is their menu or catalogue? And she was like, make an account on our site and you can see so after I got off the phone with her I did and could, which they must have done something on their end, like manually entered my name into a database or something, because when I tried that before, they said an agent would be contacting me within 24 hours which is why I didn’t do it before (I contacted them a different way and was already in touch with an agent when I saw that so I canceled the request) but whatever it worked and I could see what they had to offer and honestly I’m pretty impressed. All strains are $6/gram, not sure if shipping is included (it is for one of their competitors), and they have a couple of low THC/high CBD strains for those whose conditions and circumstances require that and then the THC goes up from there to 19.4%. I didn’t count the total strains but from 15.27%-19.4% there were 7 or 8, so I’d guess they have at least twice that. I have to do more research to know what to buy (like, actually read the descriptions for starters) and how much I can buy at one time.

This is probably more exciting for me than for anyone else and I don’t think I want to become one of those people who does nothing but talk about weed all the time (unless I get paid to), but it is definitely in my top 5 favourite interests at the moment, especially with what’s happening in the US and Uruguay and even this new medical system that we have in Canada. I read a lot about Peace Naturals before choosing them over my other 2 options and they’re local. The farm is 16 minutes from my house. Know how I know this? Because when we were on our way home back from Barrie Saturday morning, I looked up their address on my phone and we decided to take a detour just to see the farm. It doesn’t look like anything but a farm. The only thing about it is that, as Blake pointed out, it was the only one that didn’t have snow on the roofs of their barns. So we gawked and set the GPS for home. Which took us 16 minutes. Anyway, my point is that I picked the home team. It’s a company I believe in. So far, anyway. So let’s hope they’re not dickweeds since I plan to document at least my first dealings with them, if not more. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll try to not be annoying about it.

On Sunday night through Tuesday we had a big storm and super cold temperatures and all I have to say is, thank god for neighbours with snowblowers because we got like, 2 & a half feet of snow in some places! Our area got killed by this storm, to the point where some areas are still digging out today. I was reading a news item last night before bed about how on one of the county roads near us, dozens of people got stranded in whiteout conditions and people on snowmobiles and OPP snowmobiles saved some of them, while others found help and shelter in neighbouring houses. They took them all to the firehall for the night  and the next day, the OPP and people with snowblowers and tow trucks dug out everyone’s cars that were literally over the top with snow and towed them to the firehall. What a mess! I’m glad everyone’s back at home/school now.

I was just gonna start posting about the fact that the winter blues have a hold of me pretty terribly but this is a positive post so I think I’m gonna leave it that way. Plus, as I typed “I’m glad everyone’s back at home/school now”, Wes walked in so…so much for today. Ah well. There’s always tomorrow.

February 26, 2013

Bam Super Nature Goddamn

It’s super sunny outside right now and I’m listening to music on “11” and aside from the fact that it’s a work meeting day, today’s been pretty great so far. Granted, I’ve only been up (after going back to bed after work) for an hour, but during that hour, I’ve been discussing Doctor Who on Facebook with my friend Ana who has just started watching the reboot (and she’s in luuuuuurve) and her friends. It’s been my experience that life is always good when Whovians gather and geek out. :o)

So was there no new Girls on Sunday night because of the Oscars or has it just not been added to my cable’s OnDemand service? I couldn’t record it because our DVR wouldn’t let me record Girls and Walking Dead AND watch the Oscars so I had to stop recording Girls. Complications! We watched Walking Dead yesterday after Zero Dark Thirty (which I didn’t like, I thought it was pretty boring) and Blake told me how things go down in the comic and then the kids bought me the first Walking Dead compendium from Amazon. So yay! Maybe by Mother’s Day I’ll have it finished and they can buy me the 2nd one. But then what do I do after that? Do I wait it out for the 3rd compendium to come out because I’m completist* like that or do I buy the individual comics to read (then buy the 3rd compendium) or do I buy the trades and just buy those from then on out? Fucking marketing, man! Taking all my damn money!

I still have all the Buffy comics to read too, I still haven’t gotten around to that. Truth be told, I don’t really like comics but I did really like Buffy and was curious to see how the story continued so I’ve been collecting the Buffy trades as they come out. I think I’m up to date, anyway, I’m not entirely sure. I’m not exactly at home in a comic shop.

Yesterday was errand day. First we had to go to Staples to get Madison a binder. Let me tell you what this fucking kid of mine did with that binder. We got her a black one with a clear pocketed cover because she didn’t specify what colour to get and she didn’t like the pink one we got her at the beginning of the school year, which I’m currently using for CBT, so we figured this was the best way to go. Well this morning she shows me her binder to show me what she did with the cover and it was covered in Get Fuzzy comics. I asked her where she got the comics with a sinking feeling in my stomach because I know she didn’t use the printer last night, which, by the way, is also a scanner, and she tells me she cut up her Get Fuzzy books. BOOKS. Not comics. Trades. Anthologies. BOOKS. I just about fell over and she couldn’t figure out what the big deal was and I’m freaking out because YOU DO NOT JUST CUT UP AND RUIN GODDAMN FUCKING BOOKS FOR YOUR STUPID GODDAMN BINDER!!! If she’d have used her brain for 30 seconds and asked one of us how she could do this, we could have shown her how to use the scanner and she could have essentially used the printer to colour photocopy the comics she wanted to use on her binder. It’s not rocket science. I thought “do not ruin books” was just common sense. Anyway, when I woke up this morning, she’d left the binder on my desk, probably because she set it there while tying her shoes and then forgot it. I mean, they’re her books, she can do whatever she wants with them in the end, I just have a reverence for books that apparently I haven’t screamed about in this house enough. But now she knows and as long as she lives in this house, she will never do that again. And when she lives in her own house and maybe decides to do something idiotic like that again, she’ll know better than to tell me about it.

So that’s my story about Madison, books and a binder.

At Staples I got 3 packs of these wicked Bic “Velocity Gel” pens that I fell in love with when we did back to school shopping in the fall but we only got one pack of them and I’d never seen them anywhere else and I’ve lost 2 of them so when I saw them I was like, “gimme”. So I’m now the proud owner of 12 new awesome pens. I used to only use Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V7 fine pens, which I still like, but the gel pens are so much more gratifying to write with. Plus they’re clicky pens so that’s a bonus too. I checked to see if they had the glitter Sharpies because I figured if they did, they’d be cheaper there than at Michael’s but they only had the metallic ones and I already like the fine ones by Pilot that I get at Curry’s for signing my paintings so I have no interest in the Sharpie ones.

Then we went to the mall to go to Black’s which is the camera store where I bought my camera and where Blake used to be a manager before he made the move to TELUS. Our old camera bag was this awesome Roots sling bag that only held your camera and some accessories but not enough room to fit another lens I don’t think and since I was acquiring some new lenses, I invested in my camera backpack. However my camera backpack is a bit too heavy for daily use so I wanted something lighter ad we have torn our house apart looking for the Roots bag but we just cannot find it and cannot figure out where the hell it would have gone. So I was looking for a bag to replace that one so I could bring my camera with me when we go places. Blake gets a 25% discount on bags at Black’s which is why we went there first and his old co-worker, who is now a manager I think, but whose name I forget, showed me this sling bag that was slightly bigger than I was going for but she showed me how you could sort of turn it around on your body to get the camera out and change lenses easily and we were like “how much is that?” and she checked and it was I think $79 + tax. That was a little more than I wanted to spend, even with Blake’s discount but she was like, “lemme check the sale price” and it turned out to be $31! $36 with tax! What a bargain! So we got that one and I’m very pleased with my purchase. And now I think her name might be Lynn. I’ll have to check with Blake. Anyway, totally awesome bag that I’m going to start using regularly.

After Black’s we thought about getting food at the food court at the mall but it was only 11:30am and I didn’t feel like eating beef teriyaki or poutine at 11:30am so we decided to go to the Starbucks that’s inside the Chapters in the south end to get drinks and treats until lunch time because Blake hadn’t had breakfast (I had my leftover pizza from the night before for breakfast so I was pretty much good). I wanted to go to Chapters to get the Rolling Stone magazine with the cover story on Lena Dunham so we were going there anyway. I got a vanilla bean frappuccino and I always mean to tell them no whip because I think their whipped cream is oily and nasty and leaves a residue in my mouth but I always forget and I know that’s a total first world problem but it happens every single time. I also got a marshmallow dream square and Blake got some type of coffee drink and a blueberry square. Chapters had the Rolling Stone I wanted but I couldn’t leave the store without checking out the best sellers and “books in the media” sections and I was thinking about getting one but honestly, I had like, 4 of the books in that section sitting, unread, on shelves at my house so I needed another book like I needed another hole in my head and I just left there with the Rolling Stone that is still sitting on my desk unread. I’ll get around to it…

Leaving Chapters, we went to Best Buy so Blake could look at monitors. He bought me a really nice monitor for my birthday and he needed one too because he was using a laptop screen and a monitor with a blue stripe down the middle of it that he inherited from his mother so since he just got his bonus, I told him he should get one. So that’s what he did. He also got himself an electric razor that works wet or dry and I got what I thought was an OtterBox that fit my phone.

Before I end the Best Buy paragraph, lemme tell you why I never leave the house. When I was in the cell phone section looking at cases, there was this creepy guy who totally looked like a serial killer who said hi to me and smiled. I thought he was just some creepy guy so I sort of mumbled hi back and gave him a look like, “don’t fucking talk to me creepazoid” and continued looking at the cell phone cases. When I found the OtterBox and another one that fit my phone, I grabbed both and went to show Blake and when I came back to the cell phone section to put the other case back and I realized, because the guy was sitting behind a desk, that he was an EMPLOYEE but because he was wearing a dark blue polar fleece zipped up sweater (that I later realized all the employees were wearing) I just thought he was some creep and I felt like such a douche because I was a total bitch to him thinking he was just some creepy dude trying to talk to me. Best Buy employees should be wearing fucking nametags and they should be wearing blue and yellow uniforms, dammit! Then shit like this wouldn’t happen!

Anyway, after Best Buy, we went back to the north end of the city to go to the mall food court where I got beef teriyaki and Blake got green Thai tofu curry, which I tried and hated. After we ate. I asked him to put my OtterBox on my phone and it didn’t fit. Upon further inspection, it turned out I grabbed one for a Note when I have the Note II. The OtterBox was $55.99 + tax and we were still in Barrie so back to Best Buy we went and Blake exchanged the OtterBox for the other case I had been looking at and he put it on in the store to make sure it fit and it did and all was good.

On the way back to Best Buy I kinda had a meltdown in the car. On our way to the mall from Best Buy, we saw an accident and I saw someone being put into an ambulance. Over the last little while, memories of coding and almost dying and being brought back to life and them trying to put in a central line in my neck before transporting me to St. Mike’s and the look on Blake’s face and then my time at St. Mike’s has been coming back to me and mostly I’ve been able to block it out but seeing the ambulance and stretcher yesterday really messed with me.  I haven’t been able to shake it.

So that happened.

After going to Best Buy to exchange the phone cases, we went home and Blake set up his new monitor while I did internet stuff, I think, and then he came in my office and I ate the rest of my teriyaki and marshmallow dream square while we watched Zero Dark Thirty, then Walking Dead, then there was an hour before I had to go to bed so I just fucked around online and then went to bed. And that’s pretty much the end of my yesterday and the end of this post.

I’ll leave you with pictures of my goofball pets that I took the other night. Peace oot.

(*Spellcheck wants to change that to “completest” which is a completely different word with a completely different meaning, so I added this non-word to my dictionary.)

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.

I DO NOT WANT SHITTY LIVE FOOTAGE OR YOUR CRAPPY ACOUSTIC COVERS OF GOOD SONGS. YOU SUCK AND ARE THE BANE OF MY BLIPPING EXISTENCE.

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

Camwhorin’.

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.)

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.

Well.

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.)

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