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Archive for the ‘DEAR READERS’ Category

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Three years ago today, my sister-in-law snapped this picture of my husband and me. Despite having been through a very difficult two weeks, I looked perfectly healthy. But this could have been the last photo ever taken of me. Three hours later, I would have have a heart attack commonly called the Widowmaker, given that name because 90% of people who have it don’t survive.

When this picture was taken, I had no pain, but was already sweating profusely. I was clammy. Two hours later, I had what I thought was heartburn. I took antacids but it only grew worse. Lying down to sleep made it worse. I got up, still thinking it was heartburn, and ate a few crackers. I tried sleeping again but by then the pain in my chest was like a vise. I asked my husband to call an ambulance.

They arrived within minutes. By that time, I was feeling pain in my left shoulder, jaw, and arm, but my back was also in spasm, and I was sure that it was the main source of my problem. When the paramedics arrived, I was writhing in back pain and they began trying to work out the knot. It was only while in the ambulance that they suspected I was having a heart attack. And of course tests at the hospital confirmed that.

Three days later, I was stabilized and they performed an angiogram to check for blockages. Later, the nurses told me that they almost took bets among themselves as to whether or not I would need a stent. The doctor doing the procedure thought not. He was mistaken.

My LAD, the artery feeding two-thirds of my heart, was 95% blocked. I looked perfectly healthy and up to the week before, I had no idea that a problem existed. Neither did my GP.

LADIES, NEVER ASSUME THAT YOUR SYMPTOMS ARE INSIGNIFICANT, especially if they’re coming at the end of a particularly stressful period in your life.

(Women’s symptoms are often atypical. Some only experience fatigue (a month earlier, I’d nearly passed out while driving on the highway after a particularly stressful day at the hospital). Sometimes, women only experience discomfort in their back, usually between their shoulder blades).

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Those of you who only know me through this blog might be wondering where I’ve been. Truthfully, I’ve been nowhere. I’ve not fallen into the vast cyberspace hole where neurotics, failed writers and disenchanted romantics go to brood. After a few years of obsession with my own misery, I am, quite simply, learning to think outside my own space again. I am like someone who’s come out of a coma. The wonders and woes of the world seem new to me again, and like the finest brew, they need time to percolate.

In a world where we are often pressured to make instant observations and judgements, I am allowing myself the luxury of time. I won’t take much longer. I promise.

 

 

 

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STILL BREATHING

For those who’ve wondered what’s going on, life is very changed, but I am still living it. You will hear from me this week, I promise. It can’t wait any longer than that. I have so much in my head that needs to be written. Spontaneous combustion is a possibility if I don’t let some of it flow out and onto the paper.

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After my last post, I did a lot of thinking. I’ve learned some important lessons. This is what I came up with.

1. Never post an opinion piece in the wee hours of the morning.

2. If you’re putting your opinions out there, you’d better be ready for the fallout.

3. Read, revise, read, revise. One wrong word choice can completely alter the way your piece is perceived.

4. Timing is everything.

5. Realize that many will mistakenly think you’re writing about them, even though you’re not. One event might trigger you to reflect on a bigger picture, but they won’t know that. For example, you might see a mother reprimand her child in a store. Later, you think about similar situations taken to the extreme, and you write about the verbal abuse of children. You aren’t writing about the mother, but her actions caused an idea to snowball in your head.

6. Words are power. They can build up or break down. Exercise caution.

7. On the other hand, making people stop and think about something is worth the risk of making them a little uncomfortable.

8. If I worry all day because I suspect I’ve inadvertently hurt a friend, then perhaps it wasn’t worth writing.

9. Without passion, writing falls flat. Sometimes, we must draw on personal experiences for that passion, no matter how difficult that is.

10. Even the best journalists can recall times when something they’ve written got them in hot water. It might even be said that you can’t be good if you don’t occasionally take people out of their comfort zone. Rosie DiManno at the Toronto Star immediately comes to mind. If I’ve crossed a line, then at least I’m in good company.

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I’ve been distracted by life issues for a while now: my husband’s latest (and hopefully last) foray into reno work; our house back on the market; a friend’s lengthy illness; the crash of my PC’s hard drive and the demise of my laptop; personal health issues; my husband’s ankle surgery in the very week we listed our house, and the start of his new job while still on crutches. Have I said enough? It’s all combined to make life crazy and exhausting.

I’ve wanted to write – I really have. In fact, every time an idea would hit me, I’d save its title here in my drafts. But that’s as far as it went. Every time I’ve sat down with the intention of writing, some other obligation would pull me away, and once again, my muse would be shoved to last place.. Not fair at all, but that’s life sometimes.

I’m h-o-p-i-n-g that things are going to get a little easier soon and I’ll return to writing regular entries, but for now, just know I’m not completely MIA – I’ve just been kidnapped for a while by life’s more “pressing” issues.

Stay posted…..and enjoy spring!

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An online video of my interview with Mark Kelley is available here: http://www.cbc.ca/connect/2010/01/work-wanted.html

I enjoyed the experience very much. The actual interview was shorter than expected because one prior to mine took off in a whole different direction, and Mark couldn’t cut the person off. I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of live television. lol

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Yesterday’s Stats Canada report wasn’t good, so “Connect with Mark Kelley” has decided to do a show on the job situation. They’ve called me to come in for a live interview tonight. It can be seen on CBC News Network, between 7 and 9 PM Eastern time.

I should be on between 7:15 and 8:00 PM EST.

If it’s cancelled again, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, assume I’m on.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year to my readers! May this year bring you good health, renewed hope, peace, fulfillment and prosperity!

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I thought that once I began my retrospective account of our fall from financial grace, I’d want to go full-tilt.

It didn’t work out that way.

Having a house on the real estate market has a way of sapping the energy out of you. It’s the constant cleaning. Everything must be perfectly presentable, ready for inspection at short notice. I’d start to write, then notice a dust bunny floating near the furnace vent. Out would come the vacuum, and then I’d ask myself what the point was in putting it away after just one room? I’d do the entire house, top to bottom, even if it was just done twelve hours earlier. The thing is, if you looked closely, the floors needed it. Makes me realize that the carpets we removed earlier this year must have caught a ton of stash in its fibres.

Two cats and a dog have a way of carting around mess too. Little muddy cat paw prints on the stairs; my shih tzu’s faceprints left on the living room floor after his meal. He wipes one side of his face, then the other. If only I could train him to use a towel.

Bottom line then is that I’ve been crazy busy – and my husband has been too, with renovation jobs cropping up here and there. Of course it’s still not been like a permanent job – when each contract finishes, that old familiar panic starts to surface a little again- but it’s still been a godsend for us. We are seeing a glimmer of light shining through all those dark clouds that seemed permanently overhead in the spring.

Which is why, I guess, I left the idea of recounting how we got to “this place” in our lives. Suddenly, I just couldn’t talk about it anymore. The “why’s and “what-for’s” no longer seemed as important as “where do we go from here?” On one particular night, soon after I’d broken my wrist and was feeling pretty down and out, my sister-in-law said to me “This situation is not your fault. Stop blaming yourself. It’s not your fault.” She said it over and over again until I finally started to cry. Such relief, and even though we did make some bad decisions, sometimes the bad decision simply being “no” decision, it felt like she’d given me permission to forgive myself. The thing is, guilt and self-disgust over mistakes you make are self-destructive. You can’t move forward when you feel like that.

I finally feel like we can, baby-step by baby-step.

We’ve been lucky. We’ve had terrific support from family and friends. Their constant encouragement, job leads, “conveniently-timed” renovation jobs, even loans in some cases, have helped us maintain our equilibrium.

One other bright light came into our lives this year. He is a black and white shih tzu, about four years old, and he’s our good news story. I used to say that down the road, I’d like to get a puppy. How was I to know that one day, literally down a country road, we’d find him? It was late May, and we were heading north to look at a house that was for sale. A van sped by, going south. We crested the hill from where the van had just come, and there, in the middle of the road, was this little black shih tzu: wet and scared, and without a collar. We slowed right down, and he circled the car, barking as if to ask for help. I didn’t hesitate even a second. “Let him come in,” I said. I wrapped him in an old towel to keep him dry and he fell asleep in my arms.

We put a sign up saying we’d found him. For days, I hunted through local newspapers and drove country roads looking for signs that someone was missing him. Nothing. We took him to the vet to look for a microchip or tattoo. Nothing. And then it occurred to us that the van we saw speeding past must have dropped the dog off, because anyone going by at that moment would have slowed down for fear of hitting him, jus as we had We claimed him as our own and named him Cadeau, which in French, means “gift.” He was our gift.

They say pets lower blood pressure. I have never owned a dog, but I can attest to his healing powers. He makes us laugh again. He makes us get outside and walk. He is a creature to love, something to think about other than our troubles. He’s been heaven-sent and right now, I can’t imagine being without him.

That’s life today, but there is a bit more to add. On November 20, I submitted an essay to the Facts and Arguments column in Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail. I wrote it to draw attention to the difficulties of unemployment in your fifties. Originally, the essay had a slightly more political tone, because at the point of writing, I’d just read that Ontario didn’t have the “Targeted Initiatives for Older Workers” programme that most other provinces had. That made me angry. If anyone needed help, wouldn’t it be Ontarians, considering the huge losses in the auto sector?

The people at the Globe asked me to make the essay more personal, and they published it yesterday, December 30. It’s titled “Unemployed, 59, and Trying to Stay Afloat.” You can read it online in the “Globe Life” section. In the past forty-eight hours, it has generated 170 comments (not all pleasant, of course) and been forwarded 54 times. I’ve received emails from all kinds of people with similar stories, but also from people wanting to help through possible employment opportunities. Today, I was contacted by the producer of CBC’s “Connect. with Mark Kelly” about doing an interview next week. Initially, I had misgivings – after finally getting to the point where I don’t feel like such a victim, I don’t want to look like I’m seeking sympathy on national television. I’ve thought over and over about whether to do it, going through every possible scenario. Something good could come from it, and if writing the essay empowered me, this might do even more. I just don’t want it to seem like a pity party for poor me – and certainly not for my husband, who I respect so much for his personal strength, integrity and work ethic. He’s my hero, and I don’t want him to come across as anything less than that.

We shall see. I’ll make my decision next week.

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1805Experts in human behaviour theorize that when you’re depressed or your life is “out of sorts,” you become more accident prone. I’m beginning to think that they’re right.

After finally getting our house on the market, I looked forward to writing about our “fall from financial grace” under the category “A HOLE IN OUR PARACHUTE.” Then on Thursday night, after a busy, stress-filled day, guilt set in. I realized that while my husband had taken Cadeau out twice a day for washroom breaks, I hadn’t actually walked our little shih tzu in three or four days. Despite being well past dusk, I took him outside. At the end of our driveway, I looked left then right, deciding which way to go. I chose left, not my usual direction on our country road. It was the wrong decision. On my return, with the sky now black and no streetlights to show the way, my left foot caught a rut in the ground’s surface. I twisted my ankle, stumbled forward and fell over onto my right knee, right hand, and the right side of my face.

I knew it was bad – my teeth smashed together and I was sure one had broken (I was wrong). I was also certain I’d broken my cheekbone and my left foot. Two cars went by and didn’t stop to help me. Finally, I got myself up and limped home, crying all the way – not with the pain of it as much as the fear of what I’d done.

Bottom line: bruising and swelling of my foot and right knee, a black eye; cracked ribs high on my right side, a swollen, bruised cheekbone…and to top it all off, a broken right wrist that may still require surgery.

Needless to say, I’m pretty miserable. I’m not used to relying on someone else at the best of times, but asking hubby to blow-dry my hair so I don’t look like Janis Joplin, and dealing with the fact that even finished, I’m still Janis Joplin with a slight hair relaxer is, well….driving me nuts. I feel like a spoiled baby, but sometimes, after dealing with all kinds of serious drama in your life, it’s the silly last thing that happens that puts you over the edge (hence the straw and camel’s back expression).

Anyway, readers, this has put a serious dent in my typing abilities, so for a week or so, I’ll need to stay away from the keyboard. It’s too much to hunt and peck with my left hand, when it’s also still recovering from a break back in December.

And yes, a bone density test is on my to-do list for this week. *wink*

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