Sunday, January 31, 2016

Distract Me!

Lately I feel the need for escapism.  There is (once again) uncertainty about the future of my job, and, because it's a family business, about my parents' well-being.  The stakes are high, and I don't have much, if any, influence on how things will turn out.  Therefore, the more time I can spend with my attention on pleasant diversions, the better for my sanity.

Fortunately, I am reading a delightful and engrossing 1200 page novel (actually a trilogy of books bound together under one cover) called The Josephine Bonaparte Collection.  It's historically accurate enough that I can assuage my need to feel productive when I read (I'm learning things!), the characters feel like friends and family to me, and the plot is gripping.  I would recommend it to almost anyone.

(My bookmark is currently resting on page 769.)

There's nothing like a good historical novel to remind one to put a #FirstWorldProblems tag on most of one's own worries.  How many things does this book make me feel grateful for?  Modern dentistry, motor cars, democracy, the fact that "bleeding" a patient is no longer considered a valid cure for any disease other than hemochromatosis... I could go on.

The movie Far From the Madding Crowd was on TV, so I gave it a chance to divert me for two hours.  I watched the whole thing, but in the end I agree with this reviewer, who stated that Carrie Mulligan's wardrobe was the most engaging aspect of the movie.  It was silly, soapy, and melodramatic, but I did enjoy viewing all of Bathsheba's frocks.

Next on my list of reliable cheerer-uppers is Imgur, a website that offers a constantly changing stream of cute/funny/awesome images.  Like this.  And this.  Sometimes the image itself is nothing to write home about, but the comments are comedy gold.  Warning: some content may be offensive to some viewers.

As always, the highlight of my week was Game Night.  This week was outstanding because our hostess cooked a Burns Supper in honour of Robbie Burns Day.  The haggis not piped in, however it was done up properly with 'neeps and tatties (no, autocorrect, not with needs and tattoos), and everything was yummy.

What have you been doing to keep the February blahs at bay?

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Thanks to everyone for your commiseration on my boss-dad problems.  I appreciate your sympathy!  My work has been especially upsetting this week, therefore I'm not going to write about it.


I visited Bubbe for the first time since she got home from the hospital.  It was great to see her looking quite like her pre-hospital self.  She was showered and dressed in an appropriate outfit to receive a guest.  I hadn't been sure if that would happen, so it was a relief.

She has lost some functionality, but I was pleased when she allowed me to make tea, set the table, and put cookies on a plate.  I wasn't sure how much tension there might be with me trying to help and her refusing assistance, as has been the pattern previously.  The only worrisome moment was when she tried to lift a heavy teapot full of freshly boiled water from the kitchen counter.  When she picked it up by the handle, it tipped forward and spilled some dangerously hot water from the spout.  She tried that move twice before she gave up and let me do it.  Fortunately no damage was done, but it was touch and go for a minute there.

We had tea and a chat, which was nice, except for the part where Bubbe brought up her hospital stay.  She remains convinced that she was tied to her bed by wires with little flashing lights on them.  I told her that I didn't remember seeing that when I visited, but she had an answer: the wires were hidden under the blankets.  Ah, yes, quite.  In her almost-100 years she has never had any reason to doubt her perceptions, so I guess she's not going to start now.

She wanted a bit of help with her computer, which is always coming up with new ways to vex her.  I went over to her desk and pulled out the chair... which had a green banana on it.

I blinked a couple of times.  Then I said:  "Bubbe, there's a banana on your chair."

"Oh, yes," she said, "I must have put it down there and forgotten about it."  Indeed!  That should be one of the top ten signs people should watch out for when it comes to dementia:
1. Not knowing what year it is;
2. Not knowing who the president of the USA is (counts even in Canada);
3. There is a banana on your chair.

Although I'm pretty sure that Bubbe is aware of who the president is, and the year, so she's still sane enough to live relatively unsupervised.

The computer issues fixed, I was permitted to wash the dishes and tidy up.  There was a bit of an issue with my trying to leave without yogurt.  My uncle had brought Bubbe a large box of single-serving yogurt cups, and she felt overwhelmed by the quantity.  She wanted me to take the yogurt home with me.  Except that I wasn't going home; I was going to take a walk to the closest train station, go all the way downtown, and then walk to my friends' house.  Then I was going to reverse the process to get home again.  I didn't want to be carrying around 5 pounds of yogurt all evening.

I eventually managed to extricate myself yogurtlessly.  Good old Bubbe.  One thing's for sure; there is nothing wrong with her willfulness.  4 months to go until that 100th birthday!  Woohoo!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Time to Retire

I work in a family business, at least to the extent that my step-dad is my boss.  (No one else I work with is related to me, although I have informally adopted some of my colleagues after so many years of paddling up poop creek together.)  It's a mixed blessing working with my step-dad, and lately it has gotten more difficult.

He's gettin' old.  He had a hip replacement that left him with one leg functionally shorter than the other, so he kind of shuffles when he walks and his balance isn't good.  I suspect that he doesn't sleep well because he is very dozy some days; he should probably be wearing a CPAP mask.  I have seen him in meetings barely able to keep his eyes open.  His memory is also not reliable anymore.

He's always been disorganized.  Dr. Spark's opinion is that he has ADD.  He lets his papers pile up on his desk until there is a mountain of random documents, and then he sweeps them all into a trash bag and starts from scratch again.  My mother got into the habit of going through his trash bin before disposing of it because he's thrown out Very Important Papers so many times.  She does her best, but she can't always keep up with his impulsive mass disposals.

He loses things.  He's the type who would lose his head if it weren't attached.  Cell phones, his laptop (fortunately it has always been returned to him), two or three wedding rings (he doesn't wear one any more because it got too expensive to keep replacing them), credit cards, his driver's license....  You name it, he has lost it.  Sometimes he finds the things again, like when he found his cell phone in a shoe under his bed after it had been missing for three days.  Most times, not.

Lately, all of these problems have gotten noticeably worse.  He's on time for 25% of meetings, late (moderately to extremely) for 25%, and completely forgets about the other 50%.  Sometimes we're able to get him participating via speakerphone, but it's nowhere as effective as being there in person.  When I book a meeting, I ask him verbally about the time.  Then I e-mail him.  Then I remind him a couple of days before, and usually the day before and/or the morning of.  Sometimes he still doesn't show up for those meetings.

He can't keep situations straight in his head.  If you explain a situation to him, he'll have forgotten at least half of what you said, if it was complicated, by the next day.  If you work out what the solution should be together, and then you have a meeting a few days later to pass along that information to other people, you'd better re-brief him before the meeting or he'll get it all mixed up.  Except for certain things which he obsesses about, and wants to solve RIGHT NOW or he can't have a moment's peace.  Even if it might be wiser to just wait.

The worst part of it is that he gets excited by new business ideas and wants to participate.  We still need his signature regularly, even though it's difficult to get the cheques/papers signed because he doesn't come in to the office on a regular schedule.  Work processes stall or go around in circles because he has dropped the ball or given conflicting instructions to different people at different times.  He's aware that his behaviour creates problems, at least intellectually, but he just can't bring himself to step back.

There is no conclusion to this.  He'll probably keep going, at a slight downhill angle, until it's totally impossible to carry on for one reason or another.  And that is reason number 3,047 why Spark gets stressed at work.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bike Show

I went to the North American International Motorcycle Supershow!  It was indeed a super show.  In case you don't know the rules of the game, click any photo to look at a high-res version.

There were old and antique-style bikes,

(Custom version.)

(1912 original version.)

new bikes, 

(Check out the speakers on the back of this one.)

big bikes,

(The arched bits are painted to look like badass snakes.)


little bikes,

(Aw, cute kiddie cycles.)


and this thing, which is legally a motorcycle on account of it has three wheels, but it costs almost 3 times as much as our car and looks an awful lot like a car to me.

A lot of the bikes there cost more than our car, actually.  I believe this explains the high average age of show attendees; young people just don't have enough money to afford a motorcycle habit.

Once you've got your kickin' wheels, you can intensify with a custom paint job.  If you're not sure about what to put on there, just go with skulls.  Lots and lots of skulls.  There were skeletons everywhere.

(Mnyeh... my precious skulls... get away from them!  *Hissssssss!*)

For variety, some saucy ladies:

Or if you really want to make a statement, a supernaturally wrathful bull:

*Angry mooing*

If you're hungry, you can pick up an order of fries that has apparently been cooked in engine oil.

(I heart the guy who posed for us here, and the guy at the cash who's looking at him like what are you doing.)

May as well round out the day with some headless dudes racing.  I guess this is a PSA for what can happen if you don't wear a helmet.

There you have it!  Motorcycle Supershow 2016 FTW!  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Being Good in 2016

2015 was a pretty good year.  In 2013 and 2014, Ken declared every day in December: "I just can't wait for this year to be over! Maybe next year will be better."  I didn't hear him say it even once this year.  That means we were okay!  Woohoo!  As for next year, let's take that as it comes, one day at a time.

Thanks for sharing my concern about Bubbe.  She's been released from the hospital and is back at home (an assisted living facility), with a few hours of caregiver assistance scheduled daily.  Her ailments are as controlled as they can be, and I'm sure that she's thrilled to be back in her own space. Hopefully this will help her mental state.

My New Year's Eve was fabulous.  I spent it at home, cozy in my PJs, far away from parties, crowds, confetti, and noisemaking devices.  Ken, being somewhat more social than I, attended our friends' annual party, which is basically an open house for everyone in their neighbourhood.  This includes peoples' kids, therefore much YELLING and RUNNING AROUND, and CHAOS.  Ken maintains that it was a great party and I would have hated it.  I believe him on both counts.

I don't have any resolutions for 2016, nor any ambitions, other than to do my best every day to be a good-natured and reassuring presence in the world.  I mean, of course I will continue to do all of the things that I feel are sensible, like eating vegetables and saving money.  But I feel that we have collectively created unrealistic standards of what it means to be a good human.  We would do quite well, some of us, if we could just be as good as a "good dog" or even a "good tree".

A good dog doesn't have to earn lots of money, or wear fancy clothes.  A good dog has to be friendly and loving; stay calm under stress; enjoy playing; and not be destructive.   That's it!  There is no dog Nobel prize and no great novel written by a dog.  That's okay.  All that the good dog has to do in order to make a huge, positive difference in the world is show up with an open heart.  If I can accomplish as much as a good dog on any given day, I feel satisfied with myself.

On days when it's too much to ask of myself to be a good dog, I try to be a good tree.  A tree has to do even less than a dog to contribute.  I mean, who doesn't love trees?  A tree is beautiful by its very presence.  It doesn't require interaction, or visible growth.  It can do its own thing at its own pace, and yet still contribute to the landscape.  Basically the tree has to hang in there through the winter and be present during the other seasons, and most of us, consider it a blessing to have it around.  When a tree is lost it is sadly missed.  Aren't all trees good trees by default?

So, when in doubt, sit, stay, and shake a paw.  Or just hang out and wait for spring; it's coming!