Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kitties for keeps

I will never understand people who don't love animals. Some animals don't lend themselves to love, granted, like reptiles or insects, for example. (Ha! As I was writing this, Sprinkles hopped on my keyboard and deleted my last sentence.) But mammals are inherently loveable. They bond to other mammals and that's endearing as heck. (Speaking of endearing, Sprinkles is now playing with Bea's tail.)

The Dude and I have now put in five weeks with our kittens. They were shy, introverted and skittish. They've really blossomed into sweet kitties who now eat, sleep and play in front of us. They'll now allow us to hold and pet them. They have recently begun to seek out love. That's my favourite part.

It's been an effort. We've essentially been taming them. We've been making them our kittens. They now know and trust us. And now no one in the world loves them like we do. It's not just the cuddles and the hilarity of watching your pets' antics. It's the relationship. It's such a simple one of caretaker and benefactor, but it's rewarding and satisfying. The goal of cat ownership is to make the cat as happy as possible.

Dogs need to know their place in the order of things. Rabbits need security and routine. Parrots need companionship.

Cats need worship. The more you spoil your cat, the better cat you'll have. The more it'll seek you out, rub against your legs, jump on your lap, sleep with you at night. I like that about them. You can't spoil a dog too much or the dog will spoil you (mostly your furniture). You can't spoil a child or you'll create a monster. But any urge you may have to indulge or pamper another living creature can be channelled into a cat and will create a more loving and affectionate kitty. In fact, the less you spoil your cat, the less your cat will want to do with you.

I have a nurture instinct. I want kids, and I don't believe in spoiling children. But the free-for-all in fussing over my kittens is very satisfying. And I'll admit it, it's also a way of having dependent and loving little creatures to care for in the absence of having my own kids. But even after I do have them, my kitties will have their place. When you devote this much time and energy into creating love, it's for keeps.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Aunt Jendra

I'm going to be an aunt. My brother is expecting a child with his ex-girlfriend. Or perhaps she's current. I'm not sure. But he's going to be a father, and regardless of his romantic situation, I'm emotionally invested in my first niece or nephew. How could I not be? My only brother is expecting his first child.

And it's so wild. I mean, this guy, my brother, is perpetually a teenager in my mind. He's always seemed so much younger than me. I think it's an older sibling thing. The Dude's older brothers are always calling to check up on him, probably because they feel the same way. It's hard to see your little brother as a grown man sometimes.

And now it's really hitting home. And I obviously have concerns. I mean, any unplanned pregnancy in a relationship that's not solid to a young couple is going to need some help. And I don't live in their city, which sucks. I don't want to be a twice-a-year aunt. I don't think I'll have much choice in the matter living three hours away, but knowing my brother could use some family support and not being there for him really bums me out.

The baby is due in September. They told everyone early. Most people wait till the first trimester is over in case of a miscarriage, which is a possibility early on. But I guess they were pretty excited and excited people like to share their news.

This is a big year for him and me. I'm getting married, he's becoming a father. This is grown-up stuff. My mom would be having a field day. Too bad she won't be there to be a grandma. This child would have hit the jackpot with my mother as his or her grammy.

I know I've been having some sorrow over my mom not being here for my wedding planning. It really hurts sometimes. I wonder how Jamie is going to feel about his mom not being there to meet his child or support him along the way. Probably he's feeling the loss.

2011 is turning out to be quite the year. And it's only February.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Dude and the Stone

When it rains, it pours. And this includes medical problems. The Dude had to go to emergency last night from a kidney stone, not that long after I wrote my last post. What a day.

He woke from a nap on the couch and complained of cramping. We figured it was gas, but it never got better. He started pacing and eventually moaning. Eventually I got the feeling it was a kidney stone. I've been down that road before. But that's another story for another time.

So we cabbed it to Toronto Western, and he's beside me, panting, groaning and trying in vain to find a comfortable way to sit, a totally fruitless effort. I can't think of a worse pain than a kidney stone. I've heard women say it's worse than childbirth.

Now, what really angered me is he told the triage nurse his pain was about a 9 or 10 out of 10. He still had to wait an hour in the waiting room. They were extra busy that night for some reason, but to allow someone to suffer without pain medication is beyond me. I'd never seen nor experienced anything like it. Even if you have to wait for tests and a doctor, they'll usually treat your pain.

He was huddled over me, shaking and moaning and after hearing about three people called ahead of him, people who were not in obvious suffering or distress, I had to call out that he needed help now. I was really upset. It was hard because I was still worried about aunt Debby and now my fiance was whimpering beside me telling me he couldn't take anymore.

And I knew exactly how bad it felt. It's like this unceasing clenching, wrenching, tearing, shooting pain that can make you feel like you're dying.

10 minutes after I made my fuss, someone came and took him and he was medicated. It was about this time I realized I had not brought a book. If you're going to spend an hour in the waiting room and only get tended to if you flag someone down, that doesn't bode well for how the rest of your visit is going to go.

Long story short, we were there four hours. Got home around 1:30 a.m. Dude had a kidney stone. If only you could go to the hospital, get pumped with morphine and then go home and quietly prepare yourself to pass something unnatural.

The whole thing, though, really showed me the importance of speaking up. It's really disheartening to see that a person can suffer, visibly suffer in front of dozens of people, including medical staff, and that nothing will be done unless you get pushy about it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Aunts and Uncles

I found out today that my aunt had a heart attack. I have many aunts. This aunt is my godmother. I last saw her at her daughter's wedding in Mexico. She survived the heart attack, is back at home and is on bed rest for months. She's also in Vancouver, which means I can't see her.

My cousin called me this morning and we had a long talk about it. I work today, but that was shot after getting this news. I just couldn't concentrate. I did about half my work before external sources took over, and through the power and folly that is technology I was prevented from getting anything further done, removing my responsibility in the matter. Normally tech problems frustrate me. Today they were a god send.

I miss my family. Knowing that my aunt is sick and that I can't see her is difficult. If she were in my hometown, I'd be making arrangements to get back for a few days to see what I could do for her. I'm used to being several hours away from everyone, so it's easy to ignore the fact Vancouver is so far away. I push that away in my mind, and let it out when I know I'm close to seeing them all again. I get excited and almost giddy with anticipation.

She's only 60 years old, which is young, but at the same time disturbingly old since she's perpetually about 50 in my mind. My own mother would be 61 this past January. Hard to comprehend.

My uncle in my hometown had cancer removed from his colon recently. He's in the hospital, fighting off a complication from the surgery. This uncle is the one I stay with when I visit back home. My aunt is my blood relative and the two of them were like surrogate parents after my dad gave up on me. He quite literally decided to move to a place where there would be no room for me in his home while I was in college, so that when I came back for the summer I had nowhere to go. My aunt and uncle opened their home and never closed it.

So now these two people, this aunt and this uncle are experienced medical problems, the kind that come about from age, yes, but they're still young. And they're people I love and value, people who have taken me in like their own child when I needed it, and after my mother passed and my father took me in and threw me out at whim, I needed it a lot.

Sometimes getting older is painful because of the fact other people are getting older, too. Sometimes I wish I could freeze people in time. I'm choosing optimism right now. But unfortunately, I can't unknow what I've learned about the unfairness of life. And that'll keep me up tonight, and tomorrow night, and probably for many nights after that.

Madam Food

2:00 in the a.m. and all is well. Not in my fuzzy mind, which seems incapable of keeping to a normal schedule, but that's old hat by now.

Sometimes I just simply don't feel like an adult. I do most of the time in various mundane ways. I pay my rent and bills, I work, I clean. But when it comes to groceries, the Dude and I have some issues. We just kind of stopped buying food in bulk and started buying ingredients for meals as needed.

Now, this means I'm not snacking during the day, which is good because working at home and available goodies are the perfect storm for chub. But it also means that our fridge is sad. You know when a fridge is empty looking with the odd leftover, some condiments and a carton of cream for coffee? That's our fridge. It looks like a foul bachelor who hasn't got his shit together lives in our apartment based on the contents of our fridge.

Does anyone else do that? Let all of their food run out? When we lived near Fiesta Farms we'd haul ass once every two weeks and buy $120 of groceries and make a ton of meals. The food was local, fresh and inexpensive. Since we moved we're just not inclined to trek to Fiesta nor do we wish to promise our firstborn for older American-grown food from the closer Loblaws.

I miss being a kid. I'd go into the kitchen, grab food and eat it. Done. I think planning for meals and grocery shopping is one of my least favourite adulty things I have to do.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

All in the family

I kind of can't believe how fast things are moving, how time is zooming by already. Mid February already. I was floored by how fast New Years had come and I'm getting glimpses at just how much longer I have to be in my 20s. Barely any time left at all.

The Dude turned 30 a couple days ago. We had a nice party for him at The Ballroom downtown, a new bowling alley that plays classic rock and has a sweet lounge upstairs. Oh, and by classic rock, I mean what is now classic rock: the music of my teenage years in the '90s.

I looked around and saw people my own age, maybe less a couple years, maybe more by a few years. Everyone was singing along to the music and I had flashes of dancing with my friends at school dances in grades 8 through 12. Oh, and for the record, I'm shite at bowling. But my memory for my teenage years is spectacular, more than it ought to be for my own happiness' sake maybe, but at least I remember lyrics, too.

I don't overly care much about music in general. I mean, I'm a human being so I do enjoy it, but it doesn't really meet my emotional artistic needs quite the way movies, books, visual art and even TV do. But I do enjoy a blast from the past, and music is a big way people of a shared generation connect with each other when they're going through adolescence.

The music at the bowling alley reminded me I needed to think about a DJ for the wedding. I am signed up at a couple wedding websites to help me keep track of what I need to be doing so I don't screw myself in the planning process.

The Dude and I have a cake consultation tomorrow, and now a DJ consultation this Saturday. I'm kind of jazzed about both. The cake means, well, cake. And cake is awesome. Nothing in life can't be improved with a little cake. And the DJ is something I'm getting excited about. I'm thinking of all the fun music we can plan to hear, the kind that makes you dance, the kind everyone knows and sings along to, the sort that is universally enjoyed and shared.

Still, in spite of the fact I enjoy the whole process, and even though I don't have to check in with anyone and can just do what I want, a part of me is bummed. This is usually a time when a woman's family comes together and gets involved. But my mom is gone, as are both my grandmas, and my godmother is across the country now, along with my closest female cousin. All my other aunts live at least three hours away.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself, exactly. I see the good things. I just can't help but mourn what I'm missing. I'm missing family who will share my joy with me and be a part of my process. I don't consider everything I've done since my engagement as being of ceremonial importance the way some women do ("But it's my last dress fitting! You have to come!"), but a little familial companionship would be comforting.

Maybe we should have thrown a small engagement party in our hometown, just because we see so little of our families in person and it would have been a way to have that family experience during our engagement. Our parents won't meet either. I'm estranged from my only living parent, so what's the point?

I suppose what I'm feeling is simply that: the lack of family in this whole milestone. I'm feeling like that lone chopstick. I do know they all care. I know they'll show up, offer good wishes and congratulations and be happy for us. I also know the only thing I'm really missing is my mom and in her absence I have no stand-ins to lean on. This is one of the times I acutely feel my motherlessness. The hole she leaves can't be filled by even the rest of your family. Such is life.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More hibernation

I keep skipping dance. I just can't bear to go out into the damn cold. I used to not have a choice. I have strong and vivid recollections of waiting for the bus in grade 8, -15 C, my jeans freezing stiff against my numb legs and the contents of my nose crystallizing.

I remember in my early 20s tromping out into a blizzard to do a friend a favour, wading through slush and then walking home. I used to help my mom shovel the driveway after it snowed a foot and a half. The Canadian winters were no match for me, mostly because I had no way out of it.

And so here we are. I'm 28 and I've become a total wiener. And also I now have kittens for company, and their antics and adorableness are hard to leave. I find myself taking kitten breaks from work to go play and give them treats.

As far as wedding planning goes, we've hammered out a real budget, not just the loose idea we had months ago. And I've come to the realization I need to hire a planner. Not a full-on planner, but someone who will keep the day organized, stay on top of deliveries (Like the cake) set up my shazam at the venue and pack things up (Like leftover cake) and deliver them back to me.

I think if I had my family here in the city with me, or if my mom were living, or my dad were reliable, I'd be able to ask for a few favours. My brother is good guy, too, but he's not the sort of person who replies to emails, so I don't know that I can make requests of him. Three out of four of my bridal party are out of town, too. And while I stand by my choices and I know I've picked the right people, it's the sinking knowledge that you're kinda on your own in the city that makes you take a step back and admit you need to hire some assistance.

Well, not entirely alone. I have some dear friends who are local and there for me and enjoy crafts, and I know my out of town friends will do what they can. But there's only so much you can ask a friend to do, if you want them to enjoy your wedding too. So nuts to saving money in this arena.

I feel a little boring lately, like I don't have as much to say. I'll wager it's because I'm hibernating. No one here except us bears.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Daycare

Before I get into what I've been thinking about today, of course I must talk about the kittens. We're giving them another medication now. Oh yes. One or both has a parasite and so they need a week of meds via syringe. Two syringes each, actually. What could be better for trust building than holding up your new kittens by the scruff and forcing nasty liquid down their throats?

We do this at meal time, which I make them wait for so they'll be plenty hungry and won't run off while there's still food. *Sigh* But what else can we do? But I'm super glad we got them, because maybe another adoptive owner wouldn't be so concerned about health or so diligent in their care.

Sprinkles started cuddling my legs last night and Beatrice is no longer running from me and lets me hold her a little. So things are looking up.

Now about my topic of interest today. I've been working on a lot of educational videos and today I was doing one that made me think about this daycare I went to. This place left a bad impression on me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was mostly a very useful life experience. I only stayed there a year or two too long. And when objectively considering the facilities, I can understand now why my mom kept us there so long.

I started going to this place when I was 3. It was right beside my school (Yes, I entered kindergarten at 3. December birthday and such.) and so I'd get dropped off, walk there in the afternoon and then return after school. It was a structured place with about 20 kids, two age grouped rooms and about four staff, including a cook.

It used to be an old school. The principal's office was turned into a kitchen, the handicap bathroom turned into a unisex bathroom where the small children kept their toothbrushes and facecloths, the girl's one-toilet closet became unisex and the boy's bathroom was kept for older boys because of the urinals. The room closest to the entrance was for the kids in grade one and up, and the second room near the exit was for kindergartners and younger.

Each room had a sink, the Big Kids room was also an office of sorts, a couple long folding tables, two large hollow cubes, board games, some books, a black board, paper and markers and gimp and other such arty materials.

The Little Kids room was more exciting. In front was a low shelf of monthly rotating toys, and a collection of blocks. To the back right was the kitchen with costumes, to your left of the entrance was a corner with a felt wall screen and books, and in the far diagonal corner was the sink and crafting station. There were four or five tables with chairs for lunch and snacks.

Outside was a small fenced-in playground and outside the fence was a small barn of trikes, balls, shovels and pails, wagons and other things. Behind the playground was a basketball court. To the left of the building was a baseball diamond.

This was a very stringent place. Everyone knew the rules. The adults told them to you, but mostly the other kids made sure you remembered. One child saying "yes" and forgetting to say "Yes, please" would hold up everyone else getting their lunch. The staff would stand there and keep asking, "Yes, what?" and the other kids would hiss, "Please! Say 'please'!"

Every kid had to have their own bottle of sunscreen. So in the summer it would take 10 minutes for everyone to get slathered, older kids helping younger kids to get everyone moving. We were a 10-minute walk through a long field to a campground, which was owned by the parents of a staff member. So the Big Kids would walk to the campground's pool and swim for free. That pool is where the older kids taught me how to swim.

Behind the building there were raspberry patches. So the Big Kids would also harvest several plastic margarine containers full of berries and bring them back for everyone.

All of the girls made jewellery out of the gimp and threads and sold them at the school and brought the money back to the daycare and pooled it together. The owner used the money to buy us more crafts. The big cheese of this daycare, being a hardass, decided that since none of the boys helped make or sell, this special box of crafts were only for the girls. The boys complained but still never got involved.

As I got older, I started standing out among the kids. I'm pretty sure I held the record for lengthiest attendance at this place. 3 years old till 10 1/2. I was in grade 6 when I was taken out. Again, December birthday. Mix in a single parent and being the oldest and that's how you wind up in daycare in grade 6. I kept things interesting as best I could. One day I gathered the Big Kid girls and we made a circus day where we put on a gymnastics and clown show and painted faces.

It was around grade 5 I started to resent it. My classmates were starting to take notice I went to daycare after school and I was embarrassed. The girls closest in age to me were in grade 2. I got to be the cool (in comparison) older kid with them, but it's a lot more fun being the younger party in that sort of friendship. I remember those girls to this day and have fond memories, but at the time I was willing to say adios so I could be more like my classmates.

By the time grade 6 rolled around, I was not just a Big Kid, I was The Big Kid. About four grade 1 girls wanted me to draw them a princess every day. So I would. Four original princesses, every day, five days a week, about 80 a month. Then I would read a book I'd have selected from the library. Then we'd have to go outside and I'd play with the grade 1 girls by pulling them around in a wagon. Around this time, even being a kid myself, I really started learning a lot about relating to children. For awhile younger kids were my main companions for several consecutive hours on a daily basis.

Before I turned 11, my mom pulled me out of the daycare and changed her hours so that we could take the bus and that when we got home we'd only be alone a half hour. She saved money on childcare and gas, and I gained my dignity.

For years I could only remember the bad things. I remembered how snotty I thought the staff could be, how they would sometimes squirt us with water guns in the summer, how they were hard and authoritarian about the rules, which lent no understand to individual circumstances. I remembered childish injustices, some of which I fought personally and came out victorious (The younger kids would let me speak for everyone).

Five years after the fact I was called to babysit a girl who was one of the princess group. She had saved my drawings until her dad had thrown them out. She had me draw new ones and told me none of her other princess group friends believed I was her babysitter. So I had to draw more princesses and sign autographs. I'll probably never be called upon again to give an autograph, now that I think of it.

When I was in grade 7, my school was 400 people large, and could only handle 200. Another school was built and half of us left. The daycare lost most of their clientele. I've seen it in the years since. The playground was torn down, the barn was gone. And maybe because I was just older, but it almost seemed to have gotten smaller. And sadder.

And that made me sad. Even though I fought for years to leave that place and never looked back, even though I no longer live in that city, I still feel a small sense of loss. I suppose it's just a desire for some continuity and that the things I experienced weren't a blip in time. Maybe because I still say "Yes please" and "No thank you" at the dinner table and it's because of the daycare. Maybe because I can to this day draw an original princess in under five minutes. Maybe because I know where my ease with children comes from.

Memory is a funny thing. Don't know why it took me so long to understand what that place did for me.