Wednesday, October 29, 2008


This post is dedicated to Syb and her unexplained love of stories relating to narcotics.

Unfortunately, every once in a while a patient steals a pad of blank prescription sheets, and decides to write themselves a generous allowance of narcotic medications.

I'm not sure if it's a national or a provincial protocol, but here the pharmacies call and double-check all narcotics prescriptions with the referring doctor's office before filling them. That's how we catch the forgeries.

A few years ago, we got a call from a pharmacy stating that a patient had dropped off a script, supposedly signed by one of our doctors. Needless to say, it was a fake. The pharmacist called the cops. The doctor whose signature had been forged stayed in touch with the police to find out how they would deal with this patient.

The patient was due back at the store shortly to pick up his pills. The pharmacist didn't want the police to confront the patient inside the store, in order to prevent disturbing the other customers. The police felt it would be best for their case if the patient actually paid for the prescription before they apprehended him, otherwise they would have a hard time proving his guilt. But how could the pharmacist fill the prescription and allow the patient to leave the store with a bottle full of pills if the prescription was a forgery?

The pharmacist had a brilliant solution. Use an opaque pill bottle, and fill it with Smarties. That way the bottle wouldn't sound suspiciously empty when handled.

It all went off without a hitch. The forger paid for his bottle of "Percoset" and swaggered confidently out the door, only to be apprehended by the authorities.

I hope the pharmacist put special dosage instructions on the medication label: "Take as needed. Eat the red ones last."

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Suitcase of Memories

As far as I knew, I had moved completely out of my mom's house 14 years ago.  My mom has recently been insistent that I should take some time to clean my stuff out of the closet of my old bedroom.  I was all "what stuff?"

Finally she got me to go up into the closet, on a stepladder, dust cloth in hand.  On the very highest shelves, I did find archaeological evidence of my past life.  

A cassette-tape Sony Walkman.  Contact lens solution that expired in 1993.  The shoes I wore to my high school prom.  A straw hat with a lacy ribbon, very Pretty In Pink.

And then, the box.  Just a plain, cardboard box.  I lifted the lid.  Little did I know it was booby trapped.  A time bomb!  It went off in my face, and just like that I was back in high school.

It was everything my ex-husband had ever given me, from the sweet little cartoons he passed to me in grade nine geography class to portraits of me he'd drawn in his college Illustration course.  Two corsages, almost unrecognizable, crumbled to dust except for the shiny, elastic wristbands.  A candy necklace in an advance state of decay.  

I had also hung on to cards, doodles, and notes from other high school friends.  There were countless sheets of 8.5" x 11" paper covered with caricatures and notations from long-forgotten in-jokes.  There was a greeting card from a classmate called Richard, who invented his own system of spelling somewhat similar to LOLspeak, signed, as was his habit, "Wrych".

In high school I was a high-strung girl: by turns moody, neurotic, ecstatic, flirtatious, terrified, smitten, shy, and hungry for love.  When I was down, the whole world closed in.  When I was up, I flew straight for the sun.  The shoebox was like an urn, containing the ashes of my brightest-burning moments.

I must have kept everything ever signed To Spark, Love [Boyfriend].  It was very odd to find those sentiments, so heartfelt, addressed to me by two men who are both now married to other women.  One of them is a good friend still.  Ken and I visit him, his wife, and their one-year-old son at their home, which they are renovating.  It was so odd to be reminded of our teenage, nuclear-force love.  I was 15.  He was 17.  I thought he was so mature and worldly.  It just goes to show how everything is relative.

I didn't have time to sort through everything in the box.  There was more on the shelf.  More dusty old crap.  Crazy glue that had sat so long it wasn't crazy anymore.  My income tax statements from back in the day when being a summer camp counsellor was my only taxable income.  Reams of complicated sheet music, which I can't believe I ever managed to play on my long-gone violin.

The box is still sitting at my mom's house, waiting for me to sit down with it and go deeper.  I'm looking forward to finding more treasures, but also slightly dreading the emotional roller-coaster that might be triggered, depending on what I find.  We shall see.  In any case, I'm sure glad that I saved my mementos.  My sister might want the never-used neon-pink and neon-green shoelaces.  By next year, I bet they'll be totally back in style.

First one to identify the song that my post title comes from gets a gold star.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two Day Break

I need to get away more.  I just had way too much fun on a work-related getaway, and I didn't even go out of town.

I signed up for an educational seminar.  My cheap boss didn't want to pay the tuition, but my generous boss approved the expense.  

(The two of them balance each other out.  If Cheap Boss had his way we'd all be working for minimum wage in a cave.  If Generous Boss had his way we'd all be out of a job because he'd bankrupt the business via over-generosity.  I appreciate both perspectives, but when push comes to shove I'm glad that Generous Boss is the senior partner.)

I was happy enough simply to be attending.  However, the seminar was being held in a hotel out by the airport, which is a fair drive from my home.  Keep in mind that I don't drive, so I figured I'd have to sit in the back of a cab for hours over the two days as we went to and from the hotel, battling rush hour traffic.

I mentioned in passing to Generous Boss how tough it is to stay awake during a lecture after waking up 1.5 hours earlier to get there on time.  You know how it is.  They dim the lights to put up a PowerPoint presentation... there's the soothing, white-noise hum of the conference room fans...  and then your head starts to nod and your eyeballs roll back zombie-style.  Zzzzzz...

Generous Boss, true to form, immediately advised me to take a room in the hotel where the seminar was being held.  He wasn't worried about the cost.  He wanted to make sure I was rested and ready to maximize my education.  See why I will never leave this job, even though it makes me crazy?

So I booked a room.  I can't even remember the last time I used my suitcases for anything other than packing for a move.  Maybe eight years ago, when I went to Ottawa for a few weeks to teach, in my old career as an I.T. trainer.  Fun times.  Anyway, I did manage to locate my suitcase, in the cold-storage nook where all the spiders live.  I pulled out the suitcase, then waited a few minutes for all the spiders I'd disturbed to scuttle back to their dark corners.

(I keep the suitcase wrapped in plastic to prevent critters from stowing away on my trips.)

I was TOTALLY EXCITED to check into my hotel room.  King Size Bed!  Nine Fluffy Pillows to recline upon!  in front of the Flat Screen TV!  OK, so I have a bigger flat screen TV at home.  Still, it's not In My Bedroom!  

I got to my room pretty late on the night before the seminar.  Too late to get in much lounging before lights-out.  My plan for night #2 was to flop back onto the bed, on my nest of Nine Fluffy Pillows, order Ridiculously Expensive Room Service, and spend five hours or so watching TV, in Complete Control of the Remote!

I did have some trouble sleeping.  At first I struggled to organize a liveable temperature by way of an unfamiliar thermostat, and then once that was sorted I was rather distracted by the Enormous Jets going 


directly over my head at three minute intervals.  I swear, some of them weren't going to make it to the landing strip.  I wanted to yell at the pilots:

"You're coming in too low, man!  Pull up!  For the love of God, pull up!"

Eventually, sleep prevailed, and fortunately no planes crashed into my room in the wee hours of the night.

The next day, the seminar started, and it just so happened that one of the women at the round table where I was seated was a natural social organizer.  So much for my plan for night #2.  Neither of the two books I brought with me ever made it out of my suitcase during my stay, either.  The good people at my table (six of us in all) became the equivalent of my cabin at summer sleepover camp.

We went for lunch together.  We went for drinks together.  We went for dinner together.  We talked late into the night.  We ignored the [Canadian] election almost entirely.  (I voted in the advance polls.)  By the time the two days were over, I felt like I'd known them all for months at least.  One woman in particular spilled out most of her life story over all-you-can-eat ribs at Tony Romano's restaurant.  The ribs were frickin' amazing, but they didn't even come close to this woman's stories.  She was truly inspiring.

Night #2 I tumbled into my nest of fluffy pillows with earplugs firmly embedded and the thermostat set to a happy medium between chilly and stuffy.  I think I would have had a perfect sleep, had my dinner not been so salty.  I woke up every 90 minutes or so with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and drank huge volumes of water to quench my monstrous thirst.  Finally, after draining the hotel's water tanks singlehandedly, I slept.

I even learned some good stuff at the seminar.  The facilitator was a dynamic young guy with a sense of humour and a knack for engaging his audience.  I am now slightly wiser in the ways of De-escalating Potentially Violent Situations.  

Throughout each day the hotel staff would slip quietly into the conference room to provide us with a steady stream of beverages and snacks.  There was coffee waiting by 8:45 am, muffins and tea arrived at 10:30, and at 2:30 there was cold pop or juice and big, gourmet cookies.  I don't think I have ever been so spoiled or well-fed at a seminar.  

Before 2:30 pm on the last day, the facilitator mischievously instructed us all to applaud when the afternoon snack was delivered.  A well-groomed young man slipped in discreetly, almost tip-toeing behind the facilitator so as not to interrupt.  A couple of people yelled out "Yay, cookies!" and then the room burst into a rousing and prolonged round of applause.  The hotel employee didn't quite know what to do.  He got bashful, but it was all in good fun.

In the end, I was sad that the two days were over.  I packed up my stuff, and said goodbye to my hotel room wistfully.  I even got a little emotional parting from all my cabin-buddies.

But I'm super-glad to be back at home with my sweetie, and it'll be wonderful to sleep in my own bed tonight, without airplanes flying through the room or a mouthful of salt overload.  One pillow will be quite enough for me.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ups and Downs

I've felt buffeted by life this week.   Last weekend I got thrown off course, and since then I haven't been able to get back on track.  I'm getting there, but slowly.

I saw my step-dad on Saturday.  As most of you will already know, he left my mom in January.  Since then, he's been commuting between Toronto, where he's lived for the past 30+ years, and California, the home of his new girlfriend.  He's been spending a lot more time down there than up here.

When he first moved out, he told me that he was planning to keep a small home here.  He wanted to spend winters mostly down south, but live in Toronto during the summer.  I expected that he would be in the market for a condo, and had already given him the contact information for my real estate agent.

This summer came and went, and he didn't get around to looking for a place in Toronto.  However, I thought he was just putting it off, waiting for the divorce settlement to be finalized so that he knew what kind of price he could afford.

Ken and I have been packing up his stuff at my mom's house for him, as he's been too busy travelling to attend to it himself, and my mom wants it out a.s.a.p.  I mentioned to him that I could arrange for a self-storage facility to house the boxes until he got his living situation ironed out.  

"Oh," he said, "you may as well just ship them all down to [girlfriend]'s place.  Just pick whichever courier can send them cheapest by ground."

That's how I found out that he's not planning on living here anymore.  He's moving in with her for keeps.  He'll be in Toronto on business for one week out of every month, during which time he'll be so busy that I'll be lucky if I get to spend any time with him.

Even though I might not have seen him much more if he was technically living here, it was still a blow.  I mean, he's the dad I grew up with.  And he's moving across the continent.  In fact, he's already effectively moved away; it's just a matter of shipping his stuff to him.  And he never even talked about it with me, let alone trying to break it to me gently.  When the realization hit, it was like a punch in the heart.  I didn't sleep much that night.

That's the downs.  What are the ups?

I have faith to carry me through.  Previously, the kind of sleepless night I spent last Saturday would have been a miserable eternity of emotional torture.  I could get myself into a state of mind where merely existing was unbearable.  Prayer makes a world of difference.  I didn't feel alone, or hopeless, or desperate, just very sad.  I knew I had to feel the feelings until I was done, and then I'd be OK again.  And that's what happened.

I have people who care about me.  Since I've connected with God's love, I've been much more able to accept love from everyone else.  I used to describe myself as an emotional anorexic, able to sit in front of an all-you-can eat love buffet with my lips pressed together, starving to death.  The most well-meaning people could not get through to me once I put up my walls.

Now when I need love, I go and get it.  A dear friend let me bend her ear on Tuesday night, pouring out my story over sushi.  My adorable sister joined me last night for dinner, lighting up my heart with her smile.  Ken has been amazing, caring for me with devotion.  And the best part is that I can actually take in the love, and be sustained by it.

I will always remember 2008 as the year I turned from an introvert into an extrovert.  If you'd known me all my loner life, you'd know just how amazing that transformation is.   Not to insult introverts in general.  My introversion wasn't a product of my inborn personality, but came about as a result of hurts and fear.  I feel like I'm finally getting a chance to be the me I was always meant to be, and I'm completely grateful.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I can haz purspktiv?

I've had a healthy year. This blog will be one year old on October 24, and the last week or so was the first time I've had to deal with a significant health issue since I started writing publicly.

And, wow. I'm grateful for the mirror this blog has been for me this week. I reacted to the news of my anemia pretty much the same way I've always reacted to health challenges, but I've never been brought face-to-face with the extent to which I over-react.

Did you notice the shrill note of panic between the lines of my last post? The tone of OMG AAAAAAAAUUGGGHHH! in my Twitter/Tweets? I wrote half a post yesterday and then deleted it. No matter how I worded my thoughts, they came out sounding like I had Caps Lock on, plus a lot of this !!!!!!1!!1111!!!!!!!!

I had to sit back and ask myself: WTF?

It's just an iron deficiency. At least 10% of women have the same concern. Why am I reacting like I'm going into chemotherapy? Actually, I'm not going to address that question on this blog, because the tedium of all the navel-gazing required might actually cause some of you readers to lapse into a coma.

All you need to know is: sometimes I can be neurotic.

I don't much like myself when I'm in my neurotic mode. My anxieties run away with me, and it's tough to get enough control to pull back and take a moment to think. However, this time I got a grip much more quickly because I wrote down my thoughts and then re-read them, asking myself "what would other people think?"

The first couple of days when I took Palafer, I honestly felt that it gave me weird side effects. I felt heavy all over, then achey, as though I were coming down with the flu. This lasted from ten minutes after I took the dose until two hours later, when it started to wear off. I don't know if this was a "real" effect and now I've adapted, or if it was a psychosomatic symptom that cleared up once I got my head back on again, but this morning I took my dose and I was fine.

A couple of times I thought I felt some aching creeping in, but I didn't panic, thought strong, positive thoughts, and shortly I was feeling fine again.

Whichever way, there's definitely an element of mind over matter at work. I'm glad I got a handle on that sooner rather than later. Thank you Blog, for giving me the perspective I needed!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Agony and the Irony

One year ago, my doctor advised me to start taking an iron supplement. I've been dutifully swallowing 18 mg of iron per day ever since. I thought I was doing alright, especially since I noticed an increase in my energy after I started taking the supplement.

But this year, my blood tests still came back showing low iron. I had the following phone conversation with my doctor's receptionist:

Her: "The doctor wants you to take more iron."

Me: "How much more?" (Thinking: I'm already taking the recommended daily allowance. Maybe he wants to up it by a few milligrams in case I'm not absorbing it all?)

Her: "300 mg per day."

Me (eyes bugging out): "Say again?"

Her: "He wants you to take a liquid iron supplement called Palafer. Take it in the morning on an empty stomach, and then a glass of orange juice to remove the taste."

Sounds like a rousing start to the day! There's nothing to jar one to wakefulness like a mouthful of disgusting medicine before breakfast.

Me: "So it's really 300 mg every day?"

Yes, it really is. That's a LOT of freaking iron. I worry because I know from working in health food stores: It's not difficult to accumulate toxic levels of iron, and the consequences aren't pretty.

Here are some of the early symptoms of iron overdose:

- diarrhea (may contain blood)
- nausea
- stomach pain or cramping (sharp)
- severe vomiting (may contain blood)

So you can understand why I'd really, really like to avoid taking too much iron.

I did a little more digging online and found some helpful instructions on how to take iron. Like, I should take it with vitamins A, B, and C which increase absorbtion. But not with zinc or vitamin E because those would inhibit absorbtion. Unfortunately, my vitamins and minerals are all mixed up inside one multivitamin capsule which I take with my dinner, so no help there.

Speaking of dinner, should I take the iron on a full or empty stomach? Both. Either. Damned if I do and damned if I don't. If I take it on an empty stomach I may experience indigestion, heartburn, and nausea. If I take it with food, I'll be lowering the amount of iron I absorb by 50%. Yay!

Additionally, my doctor's office advised me to take the dose first thing in the morning, whereas the product packaging advises me to take it just before bed. Never before has the proper way of consuming a supplement been so confusing!

I'm always afraid of side effects, because if there is a side effect to be had from something, I will have it. I can't take decongestants because the (pseudo-)ephedrine makes my heart race. I can't take a sleeping pill because my limbs will all go to pins and needles. Sulfa drugs (a type of antibiotics) nearly killed me one time. Even simple Advil burns holes in my guts.

At the very least, I can expect this nasty iron juice to dye my teeth grey. (I'm told that brushing with baking soda can remedy that, thank goodness.) I'm just hoping to avoid the worst of the stomach cramps (sharp), or severe vomiting (with blood - see above). Alright, so I'm overdramatizing just a tad, but I'm really not happy about this situation!

I could ignore my doctor, but honestly I wouldn't mind having more energy than I do. If there's a chance that I can get more of a spring in my step by complying with the doctor's orders, then it's worth a try.

I'm going to crack open the bottle on Saturday morning, and see what happens. Then I'll go back in a few weeks when I've consumed it all (assuming I can tolerate it - not everyone can) and see what the bloodwork says.

You can be sure that I'll be updating Twitter, so you can all find out exactly how vile it tastes, etc.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Ten years ago, I worked in a warehouse, taking calls on the order desk.  One of my co-workers was a furry, four-legged fellow: a pit bull named Gumbo.

Gumbo was the colour of the Grand Canyon.  Kind of a rocky, orangey-yellowy brick colour.  His eyes were the same shade as his coat, so, when he held still, he looked like he was carved from stone.  His pelt was smooth as silk.  I liked to put my hands on either side of his head, on his jaw muscles, big as grapefruits, bulging under his stoney little eyes.

Mostly, Gumbo was just like any dog.  

The hallways in the warehouse building were covered with stucco.  Each morning, Gumbo would bolt from the elevator and press his side up against the white wall.  He'd walk all the way to the office leaning on that wall, getting himself a nice stritchy-scratch along the way.  After he'd been showing up for a month or so, a shiny deposit of  dog-pelt oil became visible, building up along the wall just above the level of my knees.  It didn't seem to concern his owner.

He liked to have his noggin rubbed.  He demonstrated quite an astonishing understanding of spoken English.  He napped in a corner on the hardwood floor.

But sometimes the pit bull in Gumbo came out.

I used to go across the street to a greasy spoon diner on chilly mornings to get a hot, Western sandwich.  It came on that kind of thick-sliced white bread that has almost no crust, cut diagonally, and wrapped tightly in silver paper.  When I got that sandwich back to my desk and opened the wrappings, banners of fragrant steam would unfurl into the air.  They'd stretch across the warehouse to wherever Gumbo happened to be impersonating an obelisk, and tickle the underside of his nose with savoury, tempting fingers.

Gumbo's ears would tent up.  Then he'd arise, shake himself off, and follow the beckoning smell back to the source: me.  I'd be into the second bite, with my mouth full, when I'd catch sight of him from the corner of my eye.  The growling would start, low in his throat.  I'd think of those enourmous jaw muscles, how they fit in the palms of my hands when he was calm, and how they could probably take my head off with one chomp if he got angry.

I did feel scared, but I didn't let it show.  I stood up to my full height, and said in a loud, deep voice: "Gumbo, NO!"  Lucky for me, he accepted my authority.  He'd duck his head down and unhappily skulk away.

I liked Gumbo, but I never entirely trusted him.  I knew that his obedience was conditional.  I'm still on the fence when it comes to pit bulls.  I believe they are to be appreciated with care and discernment, like handling a loaded gun.  You just never know.