Sunday, May 27, 2012

Let Me Eat Cake

Anyone who's been following this blog knows that one year ago I stopped eating wheat due to an allergic reaction.  I whined plenty about it.  My mother doesn't eat wheat either, so eventually I accepted it, as one must when something runs in the family.

Later I thought about it a little more.  My mom's been on and off wheat throughout her life, depending on how much stress she's been going through.  Years have gone by when she's been able to tolerate it without obvious problems.  Then something stressful will happen, and she'll be off it again.  I wondered if I might be able to tolerate it again at some point.

So I tried.  Very carefully.  The first thing I did was to gently, fearfully, lick a cracker.  Then I broke out in a cold sweat, worried that I might react.

I was fine.

The next step was to eat a crumb.  I use the word "crumb" only because it was not possible for me to isolate one single molecule of wheat from a cookie.  This crumb was so small that it was almost invisible.  Smaller than a grain of sand.  I swallowed it with trepidation.  And I was fine.

I moved up to a crumb equal in size to a grain of sand.  Then a crumb big enough to chew.  Then an actual bite.  A quarter of a pretzel.  A half.  A whole.  Two. Four.  Eight.  No problem.  I can eat wheat!

I still feel kind of anxious around wheat.  I did all this experimenting stretched over the past two months, always timing my doses carefully to make sure I'd be at home, and not alone, if a reaction hit.  This weekend was the first time I ate wheat outside of my own house.  An eggroll - man it was good!  And yesterday I ate chocolate cake for the first time in a whole year.  I can't even tell you how fantastic it tasted.

I don't know how long it will last, but I swear I'll never take wheat for granted again.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Mile Wide and Twice as Deep

People can be really mean.

Everyone gets into a mean mood once in a a while, but some people are fundamentally mean.  They may know how to keep themselves in check so that they can operate in polite society, but they can only go so long before their fundamental meanness slips out.

I have a business relationship with a man who has a mean streak a mile wide.  The whole mile wasn't revealed to me all at once.  At first he seemed like a clever guy with a critical turn of mind and a gift for sarcasm.  As he got to know me better and felt more at home with me, he started sharing more of his opinions.

He thinks this person is stupid.  That one is fat.  A third - who knows what she does all day?  Probably sits at her desk playing solitaire instead of working.  And how about that guy - the ugly one?  Lucky for him that he married his high school sweetheart, because no one would date him.

These pronouncements are usually followed by an evil cackle.  The mean guy obviously gets a charge of delight from putting other people down.

He's even been mean to me.

Sometimes I wear crazy socks to work.  The rest of my outfit is all placid and beige and whatnot, but hidden under my trousers and over-the-ankle boots I might be wearing canary yellow, or rainbow stripes, or socks with birds all over them.  One time when I was seated with my legs crossed, my pants rode up enough to reveal a sliver of crazy sock.  The mean guy saw, and laughed at me.  Not with me.  At me.

He raised one eyebrow, smirked, said something like "Really?  You wear kids' socks?"  At that moment all I said was "Well, life is serious enough, don't you think?  I like to liven it up a little."  He sneered.  But we were about to start a business meeting, and I didn't care all that much at that moment what he thought about my socks, so that was the end of it.

But after the fact, when I had a chance to think it through again, I got pretty ticked off.  I don't know why he feels entitled to be The Judge of Everyone, or The Determiner of Sock Age Appropriateness, but it's a bunch of b.s.  Next time he says something mean, I'm calling him on it.  I'm just going to say, "Wow, that's really mean."  I don't know what will happen, but if I can get him to think twice before opening that sour mouth, I'll call it a victory.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ten Things

Look at that!  I have received an award, thanks to the generosity of Tracy at Pull Up a Toadstool.  :-)

The rules say to pass it along to six people, however since I have such a small and dedicated group of commenters, I am leaving it open to any of you to accept this award and continue passing it along.  You all deserve it!

The rules also say that I'm supposed to come up with a list of ten facts about myself that are not widely known.  This I shall endeavour to do.  It's going to be tough, because I've spilled almost every detail about my life on this blog at some point.  Here goes:

1)  As a baby, I was an early reader, but a late walker.

2)  It saddens me considerably that I cannot wear most shades of yellow.  Yellow makes me look blotchy and ill.  Too bad, because it's such a pretty colour.

3)  When I was four years old I had a dream that I still remember.  In it, the creatures from "Where the Wild Things Are" kidnapped me from my daycare nap room.  They were planning on eating me for dinner.  They sat me on their kitchen counter while they prepared a salad.  I guess even scary monsters need their veggies.  (N.B. The salad was blue.)

4)  My middle name was supposed to be "Alexandra", but my grandmother complained to my mother that this would make my full name too long.  "Such a big name for such a little girl!" she said.  So my mother shortened my middle name to Ann.  I wish she hadn't.  I would have loved to have a long, romantic name like a character from a Russian novel.

5)  I can lean forward and put the palms of my hands flat on the floor without bending my knees.

6)  I have trouble opening bottles and jars. Recently I was so frustrated and thirsty that I came this close to asking a random young man on the subway to open a bottle of apple juice for me.  Fortunately, with a lot of red-faced straining and hand pain, I managed to get it open myself.

7)  [Squeamish alert: skip this one if you have a weak stomach.]  I have a scar on my right leg from when I was six years old.  I was running up a flight of stairs after a friend, when she knocked a framed piece of artwork off the wall.  The piece hit the stairs and shattered.  A chunk of glass flew into my leg.  My mother took me to the doctor but refused to let him give me stitches, as she felt the process would be traumatizing, so the remaining scar is relatively large.  It doesn't bother me much.  I don't bare my legs above the knee anyway.

8)  I used to walk with an exaggerated turn-out like Charlie Chaplin.  I wore orthotics for four years in my early 20's to correct my gait.

9)  I have really great teeth.  They're straight, strong, and never give me any trouble.

10)  I love to write, but I haven't been inspired to write fiction since I was a teenager.  Sometimes I wonder if I should try my hand at a very short story, and see what happens.  But there's so much interesting real stuff happening all the time, and it takes precedence.

Alright kidoodles!  Grab the challenge and run with it!  It's all yours.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Photos of photos

I took photos of the photos of my zaidy after the unveiling last weekend.  This one is stuck to my buby's fridge.  Here he is, her handsome prince:

When he was a very young man, he served as a airplane mechanic and test pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force.  Isn't he handsome in his uniform?  At 6'3" he was quite an impressive fellow. 

Here he is with my buby.  I believe she was a bridesmaid at the wedding of one of her 4 sisters.  My mother says that if buby has remembered the date correctly, she is pregnant with my mother in this photo.

Then I found this picture of my mother's youngest sister in 1960.  What is a nice, Jewish girl doing on a mall Santa's knee?  It's a mystery to me.  Maybe she was hoping that Santa doesn't descriminate.  He could pop down the chimney and leave some gifts for her under the hanukiah.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Thanks to everyone to read my last post sympathetically.  I needed to get all that irritation at my mom out of my system, and I did.  I now have a clear heart for her.  I feel ready to stand by her on Sunday at her father's unveiling.

This will be my first visit to my zaidy's grave.  You'll recall that I wasn't well enough to attend his funeral in September.  I'm not sure how it will strike me, the impact of seeing his headstone.  I feel that I can picture the scene without undue distress.  I'm pretty sure that I've accepted his death.  But you never know.  At least, I never know.  These days I'm prone to being blindsided by onslaughts of emotion that appear to come out of nowhere.  I am praying for strength and resilience.

This morning I lay in bed, trying to picture what it was like for my buby, the night that he died.  There is a story she tells over and over again about the events surrounding his death.  But she leaves so much out.

She says "The paramedics were so quick!  They were there in four minutes."  But she doesn't say what she did during those four minutes, which must have felt like four years.  Did she remember to unlock the front door, and then go sit with my zaidy and hold his hand?  Did she hover by the front window?  Did she talk to my zaidy's slumped, unbreathing body, telling him help was on the way?  Or did she pray silently, single words in a mental whisper or shout:  Help!  Hurry!  No!  Please!

Did she cry, or did she detach and stay unnaturally calm?  (Knowing her, probably the latter.)

Who did she call first?

Did my mother hear the news from my buby directly, or did one of her younger sisters call her?  What was she doing when the phone rang?  Did she feel faint when she heard what was happening?  What thoughts ran through her head as she dropped everything and drove to the hospital?

I know none of these things.

I try to picture my zaidy's lifeless body.  I'm glad that I had the chance to sit with my other zaidy's body after he died.  His was my first close-up-and-personal dead person.  I was privileged to witness the stillness, the absence of him.  His eyelids weren't completely closed.  Those turned-off eyes were the deadest part of him, by far.

I picture my mother's father's eyes, turned off like that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


A few months ago I wrote that my relationship with my mother had been transformed.  As most of you know, I went through some very dark times last summer and into the fall.  At that time, despite the fact that she had just moved to a new house and lost her father (my grandfather), my mother was totally there for me.  She didn't freak out.  She didn't make it all about her.  She was simply a solid, dependable, loving presence in my life.  I didn't know that she had it in her.

I thought: this is amazing!  For once, my mom is caring for me the way I always wished she would.  I guess she's learned a thing or two over the past few years.  Hey, better late than never.

I was humbled and grateful for the chance to connect with my mother in a new and healthy way.  I thought this transformation was for good.

I'm very disappointed to discover that the change didn't stick.  In fact, it was just a continuation of my mother's old pattern of only really being there for me when I'm completely incapacitated.   When I was young I remember her taking really good care of me when I was sick, very scared, or very sad.  At times when I was absolutely helpless, she would put her arms around me and make everything okay.

At any other time, not so much.  Unless I'm literally collapsed in tears, or lying prone on a bed with a thermometer sticking out of my mouth, she likes to lean on me.  She complains to me.  She asks me for advice.  She wants my help with figuring out the controls to her new clothes dryer because apparently I'm better than her at reading instructions.  If there's a conflict between her and my step-dad, she tries to get me on her side.  More often than not I feel like I'm the parent.

Credit where credit is due: she has improved since I was a kid.  I do see her making a conscious effort to respect me as a person in my own right, rather than as an actor to be manipulated in her own personal drama.  Sometimes she manages this.  Sometimes she doesn't.

I noticed her slipping back into her old behaviours during the last two family gatherings.  When my step-dad knocked over a bottle of water at the dinner table, I could see her trying to catch my eye.  She wanted me to smirk and roll my eyes with her, like, "Geez, you can't take him anywhere!"  Granted, she's right - you can't take him anywhere.  He's clumsy and absentminded, and he's bound to trip and/or spill things and/or say something well-meaning but inappropriate at every social occasion.  It can be frustrating.  But I'm not willing to play this petty game of taking sides in the ongoing saga of parent vs. parent.  It's not fair of her to ask me to do that.  I'm her child no matter how old I get, not her buddy, or her therapist, or her life coach.  It feels really icky to get pressured by her to take on those roles.

Mostly what I feel right now is disappointed.  "Better late than never" turned out to be an illusion.  It could be worse, obviously - at least she manages to be there for me when I'm bottoming out, which is better than nothing.  That's her trying her best, so I guess I'm going to have to find a way to accept it.