Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Very Bubbe Christmas

May I presume that we all survived Christmas?  There were no casualties as a results of over-eating, over-drinking, or over-exposure to Michael BublĂ©?  

Excellent.  Well done, everybody.  I hope that your Christmas week fell somewhere in the range between fantastic and bearable, as close to fantastic as possible.  My week was good - generously filled with all the essentials of the season: friends, family, and food.  All my plans have gone well, and my gifts have been well-received.

The only thing that is not 100% is my Bubbe.  The so-called indomitable lady is not doing well.  Congestive heart failure has sapped her energy and landed her in hospital, as of last week.  Also, we (the family and her doctors) are not quite sure why, but she's gone a little loco in the coconut, just recently.  It could be the medications she's on; it could be oxygen deprivation; it could be her age finally catching up with her (99 and a half years is a long time to hang on to all of one's marbles); it could be the stress of being stuck in the hospital; or most likely it's all of the above.  Anyway, she has better days and worse days, but when I visited her on a worse day she said some pretty kooky stuff.

For example, she thought that the clock in her room was literally controlling her physical movements, and that she had to match the positioning of her hands to angle of the hands on the clock, or "they would apply a little discomfort.  Not pain, but just enough discomfort to make you have to move your hands."  So... hmm.  That's pretty weird.

She has been telling all of her family members for years that she does NOT want to be dependent.  She does NOT want to become a vegetable in a wheelchair.  She wants a nice, clean death, the kind where you put yourself to bed one night in your own home and then just peacefully slip away in your sleep.  Sure, who doesn't want that?  No one wants to be a shadow of one's former self, stuck in a hospital, connected to various tubes and machines, becoming paranoid and delusional and helpless to halt the process.

So, you know, it's difficult to watch.  We all knew that we'd have to lose her someday, but that doesn't make it any easier  It's anyone's guess how much longer she'll live, and at this point we're not necessarily hoping for a lot longer.  She's in God's hands now, as she always was, of course, although she would never see it that way.  

Despite feeling a bit uncelebrational on account of Bubbe's situation, I have done my best to drown my sorrows in roast beef with mashed potatoes, chocolate cake and pecan pie.  We celebrated December birthdays and watched the movie Elf.  So there it is.  Christmas was successfully accomplished.  Next: New Year's Eve.  Best wishes to everyone for 2016! xo

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Goose is Getting Fat

I haven't been able to drum up much enthusiasm for Christmas this year.

I don't mind winter.  I can put on a parka and tolerate waiting for the bus during a snowstorm.  I accept that it's not optional, so may as well make the best of it, right?  But Christmas... couldn't we have it every other year?

11 months in between the onslaughts of seasonal pop music, themed advertising, and consumerism masquerading as genuine sentiment is not enough, IMHO.  Frankly, the only thing that I look forward to every year at Christmas is my friend's homemade candy cane brownies.  They taste just as good as they look.  Better, even.

(Photo credit to my deliciously skilled friend.)

(By the way, I should mention that credit for the photos in my previous post, about Pandemic Legacy, goes to The Internet.  They were all stolen, because I don't have access to the game at home, and do you think my friends were going to let me spend time setting up a photo shoot while they waited when we could actually be playing the game?  Ha ha ha ha no.)

Conspicuous absence of a graceful segue....

Once upon a time, around a year ago, I accidentally killed Big Leaf.  Big Leaf was exactly what it sounds like, a big leaf.  I have a houseplant, species unknown or forgotten, that produces large leaves and the occasional bright red flower.  One leaf eventually grew so large that I felt it kind of developed its own personality.  I used to say Hey and high-five it when I walked past.  Then, one day, when I was doing some routine pruning in my window garden, I accidentally snapped Big Leaf's stem.  I felt so bad.

However, in time the plant produced a successor.  Meet the new Big Leaf.

It's not quite as big as the old Big Leaf... yet.  It's getting there.  I am already starting to bond with it.  You can bet I'll be more careful with this one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


I have to rush off now to play Pandemic Legacy, because my friends and I are addicted to this crazy board game and we are playing it with all of our available free time.

If you've never heard of it, firstly, congratulations on being less of a geek than me.

It's based on plain old Pandemic, which looks like this:

That's a map of the world, with major cities marked as potential sites for outbreaks of disease.  The diseases are represented by cute little plastic cubes.  The rules are many and complex, but basically your job is to work together with the other players to cure all the diseases and save the world.  That's the neat thing about it; everyone plays together against the game, instead of competing against each other.

That doesn't mean that it's a peaceful, friendly game.  There is plenty of arguing about strategy.  Every move is potentially debatable, and often is.  Sometimes the arguing starts before the game even officially begins.  That's okay.  That's what makes it interesting.

Anyway, plain old Pandemic is fun, but the game makers kicked it up a notch with Pandemic Legacy.  It's a game set that comes with stickers, which you use to permanently alter the board or various cards after each game:

That's right!  Each game you play alters the scenario for the next game.  There's even a story that you work through as time goes by, printed in tantalizing little bits on these cards:

Sometimes the cards instruct you to open "secret dossiers":

(These have important information written on the reverse side, but they are hidden because SPOILER ALERT.)

Or even mysterious, numbered boxes:

I could tell you what's inside some of these boxes, but then I'd have to kill you.

Anyway, it's all very exciting, and no one wants to miss any of the action or revelations.  So when a text message invitation arrived inviting Ken and I to an unplanned gaming session this afternoon, we did not hesitate to accept.  

Have a great day, and watch out for coloured cubes; they might be contagious.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Things I Am Not Afraid Of

To be honest, I have been a bit anxious of late.  The things that I am afraid of have been taking up more space in my mind than usual.  For example:

  • Doctor visits, injections, and medical tests.  I got my flu shot two weeks ago, and then as soon as I got over the side effects from that (fever, aches, fatigue), one week ago, at an annual exam, I got my decennial tetanus vaccine update. My left arm has been continuously sore for two weeks, and has taken to asking me in a quiet voice "Don't you love me anymore?"  I still have to schedule, among other things, a fasting blood test, and my first ever mammogram.  At least a) it's not a prostate inspection, which would be even less pleasant, and b) I am apparently not yet ancient enough to require my first colonoscopy, so yay!
  • Subway train panic.  When I am under stress, my ability to cope with being in an underground tunnel diminishes.  Initially, I only start to sweat when the train stops in the tunnel, even for a few seconds.  Over time, that increases to an adrenaline burst any time the train even slows down to a suspiciously lackadaisical pace.  
  • Mistrust of elevators.  I have gone through phases when I would be willing to walk up many stories in quite unpleasant stairwells in order to avoid getting into an elevator.  I am not at that level now, however on a recent visit to my eye doctor I had the misfortune of riding on the freight elevator, which, for some reason, was the one cab which came for me at the time.  It was banged up inside and poorly lit like a Hollywood torture chamber.  I did get in and ride up to the sixth floor, but not without a fair bit of trepidation.
Things came to a head this week when a friend and colleague of mine returned to work after a surgical procedure.  She stopped in my office to chat, and launched into a description of what she had gone through during her recovery process.  She was only moderately graphic, and I'm usually not too bothered by descriptions of medical stuff, but because she's someone I care about I identified just a little too strongly with her experiences and ended up almost fainting.  She said "You should have stopped me!"  and I said "But people I care about are going to have surgeries and I have to learn to deal with it!"  Then I sat on the floor with an ice pack on the back of my neck for a quarter hour, feeling annoyed with myself.

Therefore, for the sake of my self-confidence, let us consider the list of things which I am not afraid of, as follows:

Spiders.  I have no problem sharing space with a moderate number of spiders.  They are playing for my team. They eat the bad bugs.  I don't consider this to be remarkable; after all, this is Toronto.  We are comfortably outside the range of black widow and brown recluse spiders.  The only tarantulas I ever meet are in pet stores or the zoo.  

This doesn't stop many people I know from freaking out about spiders.  At work I am on call to handle eight-legged visitors.  I'll pick up the spider on a piece of cardboard and escort it outside.  One time, when I didn't have any paper handy, I thought I would just scoot the spider into my palm to carry it out the door, but the arachnophobes watching me wouldn't allow it.  They were very insistent that touching the spider would be dangerous.  I humoured them because I was outnumbered.

Heights.  I mean, regular, change-a-lightbulb heights.  I'm not about to sign up for the CN Tower Edge Walk or anything.  But it's surprising to me how many people will absolutely refuse to climb a perfectly stable step-ladder.  In fact, they don't even want to watch me climb a perfectly stable step-ladder.  This came up when the guy who used to change the light bulbs at my work got a new job.  I thought that surely someone else would volunteer to take his place, but it seems that most of the people I work with are genuinely terrified of the idea.  

I ended up doing a bunch of lightbulb-changing myself.  We do have a handyman, but he's not always in the neighbourhood, and sometimes it seems easier to just haul out the 8-foot ladder and take care of business myself rather than try to reach him on the phone and arrange for him to come in.  One of my colleagues got weak in the knees when he came around a corner and saw me up by the ceiling fiddling with a pot light fixture. Others want to "hold the ladder steady" for me, although it's rock solid without any help.  The triangle is the most stable shape in engineering!  But apparently I am a heroic figure for being willing to climb up there.

Public speaking.  Yes, I do get a bit self-conscious.  Maybe I have a flutter of adrenaline when I first stand up to speak.  But it's not the crippling anxiety that so many people face.  It was Seinfeld who said that at a funeral, most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.  I've never given a eulogy, which would be particularly difficult because of the gravity of the situation, but other types of speeches aren't too bad.

So there you go.  I'm not a totally weak-sauce lily-livered coward.  What feats of bravery can you boast of?