Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The real question is what CAN she eat.

You, my loyal readers, may recall that shortly after I started this blog, my daughter Katie wound up in the emergency room because of excrooooociating pain. [You may remember the post because it was just a wee tad bit on the melodramatic side. And I played around with font sizes as I'd seen in some other blogs. Annoying really. Sorry 'bout that.]

Anyway, she was never given a good explanation for what was wrong, largely because the urine and blood test results came back benign: no blood, no proteins. They didn't do any follow-up, like ultrasound or colonoscopy. Since then, Katie continued to have minor flare-ups and was trying to weed out which foods caused her trouble, starting with the "gall bladder diet."

Once we moved back to Ottawa, we got the ball rolling to find out what the heck was up. By this time, she had ruled out so many foods that I swear she was living on rice, peas, fruit, fish and soy milk.

Finally, she saw a medical doctor who also practices holistic medicine. (Not covered by our provincial health insurance.) She sent various samples away. The results came back today, and were quite surprising.

Katie is intolerant to:
  • egg white
  • gliadin
  • gluten
  • wheat
UPDATE: she is also intolerant to dairy. Not sure how I missed that one!

and sensitive to:
  • egg yolk
  • rye
  • kidney beans
  • mushrooms
Intolerant means she just doesn't have the enzymes to digest these foods. Sensitive means she does have the enzymes, but still isn't processing them right, but should only eat them maybe twice a week or so. Fortunately, she doesn't have any actual allergies (e.g., a histamine response), so we don't have to worry about her dropping dead from eating any of these things.

She'll just be in great pain and probably farting up a storm and hogging the bathroom.

We consider this good news, because at least now we know what we're dealing with. And Katie is happy because she can go back to eating dark chocolate, coffee and hash browns. But no lasagne or doughnuts.

The interesting thing is that when she was a toddler we thought she had a wheat "allergy" and eliminated all wheat products from her (and our) diet for about a year. She was accidentally given some wheat when she was about three, and didn't have a reaction, so we thought she'd gotten over it. It didn't occur to us that the "reaction" might take a while to build up.

So, in some ways we're back where we started, but at least we now have a really clear idea of what we're dealing with.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weirdo Magnet

I used to call my husband, Steve, a "weirdo magnet." If a homeless person stepped onto the bus, he would strike up a conversation with Stephen. If we sat down in a Tim Hortons, someone with odd tics and a tendency to stare would sit beside us and - again - strike up a conversation. These things really happened.

And Steve didn't mind them in the least. Meanwhile, I would be plotting courteous ways to end the interaction. "Welp. Time to pick up the thing," I would say while looking at Steve meaningfully.

Feeling sorry for a homeless man whom he passed every day, but not wanting to give money that might go to drugs or alcohol, Steve started giving the fellow a piece of fruit from his lunch. Eventually, he learned the man's name: Peter. And that Peter preferred softer food as his teeth were in bad shape. So Steve started making an extra sandwich every morning and bringing it for Peter.

I've known other people who give panhandlers breakfast bars, but I've never known one of them to learn the street person's name.

But it's not really about weirdos. It's something about Stephen.

When we lived in Alabama, Steve got to know one of the tellers at our small bank. She and I were pregnant at the same time, so he shared my stories with her, and hers with me until, finally, she and I connected and became friends. I went to her house, and she and her husband came to our house for dinner.

He got to know one of the servers at our local coffee shop well enough that she chatted with him about her narcolepsy and need for Ritalin. He knows the office custodial staff by first name. He knows people well enough to know that one's child committed suicide, or another's son is disabled.

How many people do you know who get to know "acquaintances" that well?

What I think is that, while the rest of us avert our gaze or suddenly become engrossed in our work, Steve actually sees these people, sees them as individuals, as worthy of his attention and time. It is a gift, a reflection of God in him, that he accepts people without ... I'm having a hard time finding the word. I was going to say, "without judgment," but that isn't true because he is an astute observer of human nature.

It's more that he doesn't consider himself better - or more worthy - than others. People respond to that.

This afternoon, I read Brene Brown's blog about "basic dignity." In it, she writes,
When we treat people as objects, we dehumanize them. We do something really terrible to their souls and to our own.

Martin Buber, an Austrian-born philosopher, wrote about the differences between an "I-it" relationship and an "I-you" relationship. An "I-it" relationship is basically what we create when we are in transactions with people whom we treat like objects - people who are simply there to serve us or complete a task.

I-you relationships are characterized by human connection and empathy.
That describes Stephen's relationships.

There is a verse in the Bible that reads, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

I suspect that it's pretty hard to entertain angels if you don't even see them. Or if, like me, you're busy seeing them as weirdos.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Feet, cake, and a clean desk.


Today was my first day of work. I did not, however, wear either of the two pairs of shoes purchased for the occasion. Why? Because it rained today and I had failed to water-protect the new shoes, so they stayed home, safe and dry in my closet.

Instead I wore my hawt pleather boots.

They only have 3-inch heels, but my feet are only size six, so that incline is pretty steep. I figure it's the same angle that a 6-inch heel would be on a size eight foot. (Platforms don't count.)

And these feet are very out of practice.

And I took the bus.

And I had to dash out and redirect Emily at 4:00, and then walk to meet her again at 5:00.

As Stephen would say: "Wah! Wah! Wah!
Do we need to call the WAH-mbulance?"
Yah. He's real sympathetic like that. On the bright side, my hair did NOT disgrace me, at least not until the 4:00 dash.


And, even better, there was CAKE - and not just any grocery-store cake, but a swiss-chocolate-mousse layer cake. It was divine. The narcissist in me wishes I could say the cake was in honour of my first day at work, but it wasn't. One of the other employees had just become a father, so we celebrated.

Can I just say that I am very glad that he and his wife procreated? Keep up the good work.

Clean Desk

This is the first place I've worked that has a written clean-desk policy. And it's kind of awesome. The place looks really spiffy. Of course, I haven't been there long enough to accumulate the many tons of paper that will surely come my way, but it is certainly good motivation for me to start a good habit.


Aside from that, the first day was much as you'd expect: meeting lots of new people (whose names I will promptly forget), lots of reading and plenty of "drinking from a firehose" (as Stephen describes the sensation of trying to absorb gallons of new information in a very short amount of time).

Heading back to the hose tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In the Driver's Seat

I'm a nervous passenger, and it drives Stephen crazy. I try, really I do, to keep the gasps and yelps and nagging within reasonable limits, but sometimes I just can't help myself.

It really comes to a head in two locations we've encountered so far:
  1. Switchbacks on mountain passes - and there are PLENTY of those in Colorado! In winter, they are generously sprinkled with icy patches.
  2. Crazy high-speed traffic in L.A.
What can I say? I just hate that feeling that you're going to fall off the edge of the planet or occupy the same physical space as another vehicle. And it just FRUSTRATES ME to no end that there are no brakes on the passenger side of our cars.

You'd think, since I'm so here-let-me-tell-you-how-to-drive, that I'd be a pretty decent driver myself. Well, while it's true that I haven't had any insurance claims in decades, I have had a few mishaps.

Most of them in my own driveway. How pathetic is that?

I once ran over a metal post while backing up the long driveway at our cottage. It pierced a small hole in the trunk. At the time, I was trying to avoid running over my friend, so I think that was a fair trade-off. [Never mind that I was never closer than 10 feet from her.]

I once backed out of our garage while the car's hatchback was wide open. You'd be surprised how loud a noise a hatch makes when it strikes a garage door. You'd be even more surprised to see that neither was damaged.

I once broke a water spigot off the wall of our house while trying to maneuver - again, backing up - around another car in our driveway. Astonishingly, the car was not damaged at all, but my ego was damaged as my friend watched me do it; she generously attributed my poor skill to "pregnancy brain."

But my favourite most memorable happened shortly after we moved to Colorado. While driving into our garage, I marvelled at how incredibly tidy and well organized the space was: canoe paddles in their rack, storage bins in custom-built shelves, gardening supplies tidied away. It was a little moment of OCD bliss until I heard the crunch and grind of the side of our van scraping along the garage opening.

As I backed out of the garage, I knew that this was going to be an expensive screw-up, and it was. (For his part, Steve would've been happy to drive around indefinitely with a smashed-in door and missing side mirror, but I found it too humiliating.)

So, while I am very good at getting from point A to point B, it is safe to say that valet parking was invented for people like me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Case of the Missing Shoes

Thirty-five pairs of footwear;
thirty of them are (were) mine.
  Remember that inventory photo I took of my many, many shoes? Well, most of those shoes made their way here to Ottawa - in matching pairs, even - and have been stowed on shelves. However, five pairs of those shoes have vanished without a trace. I dug through every bag, nook and cranny, every pile of hastily stacked crap that had been pulled out of packing boxes. Sadly, this tale does not end as happily as our previous mystery. The shoes. Are. Gone.

Shockingly, the FBI does not seem to be responding appropriately to the seriousness of this situation: I am within hours [about 40, in fact] of starting a new job, where I am expected to wear something other than crocs and sandals (it being fall, after all), and I have a single pair of work-suitable shoes!

Now, some of you [men] may think that I would be able to find suitable footwear amongst the remaining 25 pairs of shoes. You [men] would be wrong. [There were indeed two pairs of dark-brown flat loafers; one pair has been donated.] There is only one pair of dark-brown pumps in that pile. One pair of tan pumps. They both happen to be numbered among the missing, and both happen to be essential elements of my fall wardrobe.

So I had to go shopping. [Grin.] I've been on a "clothing diet" since I quit my previous job, so it was kind of a kick to be on a fashion mission. And I got lucky. Look, cute new shoes:
Now that I look at them side by side,
they do bear a certain likeness to each other.

This whole shoe thing has reminded me of the first book I ever read on my very own, when I was five years old. It was a book of poetry, and one of the poems was about shoes. I clearly remember the photo that accompanied the poem, and it was rather like the inventory photo at the top of this post. It may explain my fixation with shoes. Blame it on budding literacy.
In any case, I'm hopeful that the lost shoes have gone to the same place as our missing area rugs (which never did turn up), and that they are enjoying a second life with someone who really needs them.

P.S. Here's a snapshot of what our weekend was like:

This is what Sunday afternoons are about.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Case of the Missing Mice

One of the things we discovered as we moved out of our Colorado house was a large stash of catnip-filled mice (Elly's favourite toys) hidden under the fridge. Evidently Elly had "chased" them there. We were please to rediscover these fake rodents as they have given Elly many hours of pleasure.

Once we got things under control here, we gave her back her mice. This was a mistake for two reasons:
  1. They are not attractive and are annoyingly underfoot.
  2. Elly likes to "hunt" them at night and deliver them proudly to the base of the stairs, where she then meows loudly to get our attention in the wee hours.
We suffered through a few days of this and, somehow without our really noticing it, the random mice and midnight meowing ceased. I thought nothing of it. Elly still had her other mice - not as cute, not catnip-filled. About once a week we'd find one of these lesser mice placed ceremoniously at the base of the stairs.

Then Emily lost her bus pass and, in the process of looking EVERYWHERE for it, checked under the bench in the front hall. This is the bench.
See that little gap under the bench?
Emily ended up pulling out a whole passel of little mice! Thirteen and a half in all. Yes, Elly, even with her lack of teeth, manages to bite these little plaster mice in half! Here are some of the mice.

Yes, they are VERY dust-covered.
Which illustrates WHY I need a cleaning service!

So we gave Elly back her mice. And was she happy? I'd say so ...

And it seems she is determined to put them all back under the bench. Maybe for her Christmas present, we'll clean under the bench again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Dance!

Yippee! I start next Wednesday as Communications Manager at a high-tech organization with its headquarters here in Ottawa.
In a previous post, I mentioned that I had been offered a short-term ("casual") government position in the health sector, and that paperwork was already under way for that job. So I called them today to let them know that I would, regrettably, not be taking that job. I offered them the name of a friend who happens to be an excellent communicator and works as a contractor/consultant, and who might be able to help them out with some of their projects. Unfortunately, I had to do all that in voicemail, and they haven't called back yet.

The job I've accepted is the one described as Job 2 in my previous post. It looks like a demanding job, with plenty of satisfying challenges for me and even some travel opportunities (I'll be in Toronto on November 24 and 25). And the fact that I can start almost immediately is perfect as well. I've missed having my own income and all the extras that it brings for the family. Not to mention how it will take the axe to the pool costs. Oh, and have you noticed how close we are to Christmas?

So I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief this afternoon.

And you'll never guess how I plan to celebrate when I get my first paycheck.

Cleaning services. Yup. I hate cleaning floors and bathrooms, but even more than that, I hate dirty floors and toothpaste-scummed sinks and mirrors and revolting toilets. When I am unemployed, I do the work myself of course, but when I have the income, I am only too happy to let someone else do the job.

So - happy dance!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reverting to Smoke Signals and Charcoal Scratches on Cave Walls

Cave drawings at Lascaux, France. Source
 I'm thinking of giving up this whole technology thing. Well, not seriously, evidently, because I am, at this very moment, writing a blog post.

If we are Facebook friends, then you already know that I've suffered a technological crash and burn recently. My two-year-old laptop's LCD screen suffered a catastrophic failure and gave me the white screen of death. Yup: white screen. I had no idea such a thing existed until it happened to me.

[Allow me to point out that that is a hardware error, so really it is not a case of my using "weird keystrokes" or otherwise abusing the machine. Unless you count slamming it shut in frustration when trying to navigate a government website. But EVERYONE does that! I DO NOT have anger-management issues!]

This is only the latest in a seemingly unending string of disasters with laptops (and the occasional desktop or Kindle). Frankly, I've lost count, and I really don't want to look up my notes to find out what my current status is.

Anyway, I've been using Steve's netbook, but we got a scare yesterday when it wouldn't boot for me, which is why I have a new laptop today.

You might think that, by now, I'd be used to the process of integrating a new computer, but let me tell you, I am SICK OF IT!

Registering this, that and the other thing, customizing applications, restoring backed-up files, activating my antivirus/spyware program without having to pay through the nose for a second license, getting used to the slightly different keyboard layout [this one has a "\" or « key where the Shift key should be] and a new operating system.

And Microsoft Outlook NEVER works with Outlook Connector. All it will show me is my oldest Inbox message ... from last May!

And this new bilingual keyboard won't allow me to switch to English - Canada. And now my quotation mark has vanished! Where the hell are my quotation marks!É Aaaah! And my question mark! ^^ And my square brackets! (And I have my keyboard set to English - US.)

*Breathe in... Exhaaaaaale... Breathe in... Exhaaaaaale.*
*Take a glug of wine.*

Those asterisks will have to take the place of square brackets AND less-than or greater-than symbols.

[Aha! The square bracket has been restored to me! ? And the question mark! And the /! And the quotation mark: "!

[Breathe in... Exhaaaaaale... Breathe in... Exhaaaaaale.]

And, wait. Outlook has awakened and restored unto me the wealth of e-mails which I had entrusted to its care. [Angels sing, harp music swells.]

On that optimistic note [Yippeee! I've got e-mail!], I will spare you the saga of my accidentally purchasing a laptop without a CD/DVD drive (only discovered AFTER I had restored all of my files, of course), and of forgetting my receipt when I went to exchange it. Well, I guess I didn't really spare you, I just sort of condensed it.

For his part, Stephen has already deleted my user account on his little netbook. Couldn't do so fast enough, it seems. The fact that he allowed me to use it for seven entire days just shows you how very much he loves me.

I leave you on that note, while I go to do battle with that monolithic beast that goes by the name of Norton.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crumbling Teeth

Last week I had another one of my crumbling-teeth dreams. Maybe it was triggered by Hallowe'en coming up, but I hate this recurring dream! In it, usually the edge of one of my molars breaks, which has happened to me in real life. Then, next thing I know, all my (oddly enough, perfectly white) teeth are falling apart to the gum line like hollow eggshells and I'm spitting out chunks of white enamel.

The only other person I've heard of with this particular dream is Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half . [But do you think I could find the post where she actually writes about it? Noooo. But I know it's there. I found it during my marathon session of reading every. single. one. of her posts immediately after being introduced to her blog. I came very close to repeating that endeavour today.]

As I've mentioned before, I was not a very diligent brusher of teeth when I was a child. I don't think I was as bad as Jessica Simpson who famously boasted that she never (or rarely) brushes her teeth. [I can look down my nose at her, because at least I've changed my ways since growing up.]

But when I was a snotty-nosed kid, the ol' toothbrush had a longer lifespan than Methuselah, 'cause it was rarely ever used. And I don't know when our city started putting fluoride in its tap water, which according to Dr. Peter Cooney, Health Canada’s chief dental officer in 2008, "helps to reduce tooth decay by 20-40 per cent in kids and teens and by 27 per cent in adults." [I tried to research that online, but couldn't find any date. What I DID find is that the policy of fluoridating water is quite controversial these days. I had no idea.]

Frankly, I thought it was part of normal aging in our family to:
  • Get fat
  • Need glasses
  • Wear dentures
Both my parents removed their teeth (at least some of them) at night and placed them in glasses of water with Polident. I just thought that was inevitable, so I didn't worry about it.

Sure, my oral situation was yucky -- my friends used to ask me if my teeth didn't feel gritty. They didn't because the plaque was so thick, it actually felt smooth. [I KNOW:  ew ew ew ew ew!] You'd think that that shaming question would motivate me to get with the program, and it did, for a week or so, but old habits die hard. I don't think I really started any dental hygiene until I was dating. For obvious reasons.

For most of my childhood, we had no dental insurance, so my teeth just rotted in my mouth. Quite literally. Oddly, I don't remember any toothaches or discomfort.

When my dad finally did get a job with dental benefits, I had a series of interminable dental appointments to fill cavernous holes in my teeth. During one such noise-and-stink-filled appointment, one of the dental staff came into the opertory and glanced at all the little pots of amalgam on the dentist's tray.

"Is that all for her?!" she marvelled. Yah. It was.

I imagine the poor dentist shook his head at the condition of my teeth.

Not surprisingly, the whole thing left me with a serious loathing for the dentist's office and a greater appreciation for oral hygiene. I am fortunate to still have all my original teeth, albeit with a few crowns.

But what about the recurring dream? According to BellaOnline's "dreams editor," [Now, there's a job title!] these dreams (nightmares!) are fairly common and may have nothing or everything to do with my actual teeth. Not so helpful.

In the meantime, my kids have benefited from my own childhood dental disaster. I've been enough of a tooth-brushing Nazi that, though they each have had cavities, they have been minor "pits" for the most part. And I don't think any of them have the same anxiety associated with dentists as I have. So there's your silver lining. [Pardon the pun.]

One final interesting tidbit: my older sister actually became a dentist.

Oh. Whatever you do, do NOT Google images for crumbling teeth. Unless you're trying to diet or motivate yourself to quit smoking. Instead, Google Jessica Simpson brushing teeth, and have a good laugh.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A bird in the hand?

Well folks, the bills have started pouring in, and Christmas is mere weeks away, so I figure it's about time I got serious about looking for a job.

Of course, there was the miserable job/not-job fiasco of September, but nothing substantial since then.

Well, as these things often happen, I got a nibble on a line I had put out several weeks earlier, at the same time as I got a call to interview for another interesting position. Here's the scoop:
Job 1:
  • Term position (maternity leave until March 2011), but Public Service of Canada
  • Adequate salary range
  • Could work with a former (well respected) colleague
  • Health sector, which I LOVE
Job 2:
  • Permanent position, but private industry
  • Adequate salary range (lower than the former position, but some overlap)
  • Smaller organization, so possibly more autonomy
  • Tech sector, for which I have excellent qualifications
So here's the problem: Job 1 has already offered me the job, and their HR department has started the paperwork. So, unlike the job/not-job fiasco, this is looking like a sure thing. The interview for Job 2 isn't until Friday. While there is no guarantee that I will be offered Job 2 after the interview, I am fairly confident that I will be, based on the job description's match to my resume, and my experience with past interviews. (Even despite hair disasters.)

I'm looking at this from two perspectives:
1) What is the Right Thing to Do?
2) If all else were equal, which job do I really want?

I think the Right Thing to Do is to put the brakes on Job 2, since I've already given verbal acceptance to Job 1. If I hadn't been burned in the job/not-job fiasco, I probably wouldn't even be debating this. (Though I have to remind myself that, in that fiasco, I had not been formally offered the job.) I'd just tell Job 2 that I've already accepted another position.

Which job do I really want? Job 2 looks like the more interesting and challenging position; Job 2 1 (typo!) looks like I might be a kind of "float" or filler, which could spell "dead end." Though Job 1 is a term position, once I have my foot in the door, I'm pretty sure I would be able to find something else -- even at a higher level -- in the public service.

What would YOU do? Is it unethical for me to be courting Job 2 while I proceed with the paperwork for Job 1?

Gosh, this feels like dating: is it wrong to date two guys if no one has declared exclusivity? Or is this situation more like continuing dating while I've got a ring on my finger?

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