Monday, January 31, 2011


First of all, the water level in the Sea Monkeys tank was falling (as it always does, due to evaporation) so I added some more spring water (as I always do, as per the instructions that came with the tank) and all the peewees died.

So sad.  So disappointing.

Then I had an attack of gastritis.  It doesn't sound that bad, does it?  Like, just a fancy word for a tummy ache.  But oh, it is so much more.  It lasts for days.  I ran a fever.  My stomach blimped out like the Hindenburg and refused to digest anything without hours of drama.  The pain wrapped around into my back, and into my soul.  INTO MY SOUL, I TELL YOU.

The last time I had gastritis was when I was still taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen/Advil, Tylenol/acetaminophen, and their friends).  I recognize the distinct, nauseating symptoms.  This time I blame Palafer, my iron supplement.  It's a known major irritant to the g.i. tract.  I was tolerating it well for a couple of years, but recently it's been getting dicey.  The same way that the NSAIDs stopped agreeing with me, gradually.  I'd get some tummy trouble, stop the iron until I felt better, start the iron again, feel bad again after a few days, etc.  And then pow!

Gastritis can be serious.  You can actually get bleeding holes burned into the lining of your stomach.  Which would be ironic, considering that that would defeat the purpose of taking iron in the first place.  Hey, did you see that?  IRONIC!  Because Palafer is iron!  That must be how the term "irony" developed in the first place.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My Sea Monkey colony was doomed.  After all the eggs had hatched, there were two females and six males.  Over the next two months I found a new little corpse in the tank every couple of weeks until I had four left: all males.  That was it, then.  They were on palliative care until the last little shrimp gave up the ghost and floated to the bottom of the tank.  I was not looking forward to that sad day.

Of course I abandonned the idea of letting my co-worker adopt the tank.  You can't expect someone else to take over a doomed project voluntarily.  I made my peace with the cycle of life, and tried to take care of the little guys as best I could so that their last days would be happy.

When I found the males "hugging", I thought they'd gone gay out of desperation.  I suppose one or two of them could have been gay all along, although I'd never seen that behaviour when the girls were still around.  Good thing my house is LGBT positive.  They may as well have some fun.

Yesterday, after bubbling the tank (they need their daily dose of oxygen), I did a head count.  I've been checking every few days to measure the progress towards Total Extinction.  I noticed something unusual about one of the Sea Monkeys.  It looked as if he had sprouted ovaries overnight.  What the...?

Then, as I squinted into the tank, I noticed something even more amazing.  Peewees!  Lots of them!  Translucent little squiggles no bigger than a comma, motoring purposefully around the tank.  The previous two females were mated plenty, believe me, but there were never any babies.  No new Sea Monkeys had shown up since the initial packet of dried eggs was dissolved into the tank.  Now, it's a Sea Monkey Miracle!  The colony is saved!

I checked online and found two conflicting sources of information.  There are online references to a few scientific papers that seem to indicate that shrimps can be hermaphroditic.  Did my new momma start out as a boy?  The official Sea Monkeys website makes no mention of this possibility.  The Sea Monkeys fan website states that it's a fallacy - boys who turn into girls were girls all along; they were just late bloomers.

If she was a late bloomer, she was awfully late - a full two months behind her sisters.  In the Sea Monkey life span, that's like 7 human years.  But, I guess it's possible.

I'll never know exactly what happened, but I don't mind.  I'm just happy that my tank is filled with cute, healthy peewees.  I'm no longer tempted to give the colony away.  I guess I'm attached to them after all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Bank

Overall, I am fairly satisfied with my bank.  I've been banking with them since I was 12, and I have only occasionally felt the need to call shenanigans.  Recently, one of those occasions came up.

I was just sitting down to dinner when my bank called to see if I was interested in increasing the limit on my line of credit.  I have this line of credit that I've never used, and I guess they want to tempt me to start borrowing so that they can squeeze some interest payments out of me.  I thought about it and decided that it wouldn't hurt to have a higher limit, just in case of an emergency, so I said let's go ahead.

Most of the process was accomplished during the initial phone call.  I answered a seemingly endless list of financial questions as my dinner congealed.  Finally I was told that the application was complete but for my signature.  I had to stop in at my local branch to sign a paper and that would be that.

I made an appointment for 7:00 pm on the following Thursday.  I arrived at the bank at 6:57 pm.  I checked in with a teller and was told to wait.  She came back a minute later and apologized that the investment adviser (from here on, "the i.a.") had just taken in a walk-in client and that she'd be with me in a few minutes.  There was no one else who could serve me.  So I had to wait for fifteen minutes, despite being on time for my appointment.  I was seriously annoyed.  Sitting around in a bank is boring and irritating, especially after a long day of work when I just wanted to go home and change into my comfy fleece pj's.  Not to mention that I rushed to get there on time. 

Finally the i.a. asked me to come into her office.  She apologized for the wait.  I didn't say so, but that apology was a day late and a dollar short.  Obviously she didn't care if she made me wait, or she wouldn't have made me wait.  Fine.  Whatevskers.  Let's just sign the papers and get this over with.

I was all ready to sign on the dotted line and walk out of there.  But not so fast.   She wanted to ask me some questions.  Some of these questions sounded very familiar.  After three or four, I said "I do believe I spent 45 minutes on the phone last week anwering all these questions.  Are you telling me that the call centre guy didn't record my answers or send them to you?  Because I'm not going through all that again."

Oh, well, just wait a minute, they might be here somewhere... *clickity click click*  After browsing around on her computer systems for long enough that I got lost in another train of thought, she found all the information that I had provided.  Way to be prepared for our meeting, lady.   Could you not have done that before I got here?  Was it really that hard to find the information?  How long have you been doing this job anyway?  Of course I didn't say any of that stuff.  I just wanted to get things done and get the heck out of there.

Finally she printed out a lot of papers with a lot of small print and asked me to sign them all.  I don't like to sign anything without reading it, and these things were like five pages long each of tiny print, all in confusing legalese.  I forced myself to focus on them.  It was horrible.  Nothing puts me in a bad mood like trying to figure out obscure legal clauses that might have been put there to trick me into agreeing to something I didn't mean to agree to.

I read them, or at least skimmed them to my satisfaction, and signed.  All done!  Except.  Nope.  I had been told that I had to bring proof of income, which I did.  My two most recent pay stubs.  Which apparently wasn't proof enough.  She wanted a copy of my last year's T4 (a Canadian tax form which states your pre-tax income).  Just send it to me, she said, and then everything will be finalized, honest and for true. 

So, I went home, and that weekend I set time aside to find my 2009 T4.  Which of course I could not find.  I couldn't find my 2009 tax package at all.  It wasn't in the storage locker with the other tax papers.  I searched high and low.  Then my husband searched high and low.  No luck.  It wasted a lot of time and we were both frustrated.  Obviously that wasn't the bank's fault.  Somehow I had managed to lose these important papers, which was vexing.

(Here is how well my brain is working lately.  Yesterday morning, I woke up, got out a glass for my orange juice and a bowl for my cereal, and put them on the counter.  Then I took the orange juice out of the fridge and poured it into the bowl.  I think I'm going stupid or something.  I drank the juice out of the bowl.  It was a demoralizing way to start the day.)

Anyway, after we gave up the search, I wrote an e-mail to the i.a. along these lines:

"I'm sorry to report that I cannot locate my 2009 T4.  However, as you have access to all the information in my checking account since 1984, I suggest that you simply take a look in there.  My employer, X, has been direct-depositing my pay into that account since 2002.  You can get much more detailed and accurate information about my income from looking at this year's direct deposits than by looking at last year's T4.  I hope this will be sufficient."

Guess what?  Turns out it was sufficient!  I got my credit line increase.  Which means that she never needed the T4 in the first place!  It was all a wild goose chase, making me jump through hoops because I can't guess why!  We wasted time and energy searching through our storage locker, which is cold and dim and in the nasty-smelling basement, for no good reason!  Right now, I hate my bank.

Oh, and by the way, I found my 2009 tax package.  It was in the folder with all my current tax stuff, stuck in there in such a way that it was indistinguishable from all of this year's paperwork.  I guess I never got around to bringing it down to the storage locker.  Well, that's not as bad as drinking orange juice out of a cereal bowl.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mall Walkabout

On Saturday I spent the afternoon walking around Vaughan Mills mall because I wanted to buy a new pair of tall boots.  I purchased the boots, and then on Sunday afternoon I spent the afternoon walking around Yorkdale mall because it was -10 C and therefore too cold to go walking anywhere outdoors.  I joined the ranks of the mall-walkers, the likes of which JPT is always cursing.  Frankly, I believe that 90% or more of the mall population at Yorkdale throughout the entire year is there just for the walking.  It's mostly parents with little kids who need to get them out of the house and yet protect them from cold/heat/snow/rain/UV radiation.

Vaughan Mills mall was surprisingly quiet on Saturday.  It's usually packed every weekend.  I guess people have finally run out of shopping steam after early Christmas shopping, regular Christmas shopping, last-minute-Christmas shopping, and the Boxing Day/Week/Month sales.  Either that or they ran out of money.

The mall was running a Circus Day program.  At the food court, after partaking of a plate of limp and tasteless Teriyaki noodles, Ken and I were treated to a performance by a young lady in a spangled body-suit who climbed up a pair of bright blue silk sheets and then proceeded to twirl around upside down and do the splits 40 feet up in the air.  There was a guy on extra-tall stilts wandering the halls, alternately juggling and playing a red ukelele.  (It would have been pretty darn impressive if he could do both at the same time!)  His extra-long stilting pants had white sweat-salt stains around the buttocks.  Surely those things can fit into a standard washing machine.  We also saw a young fellow doing balloon scuptures.  He made a surprisingly convincing balloon Elmo.

My goal was to find a pair of knee-high black snowboots.  Because I get around on foot most of the time, I keep several pairs of boots to deal with the different levels of winter.  There are my insulated hiking boots, which do the trick in late fall and early spring when there's a sprinkling of snow on the ground.  When slush starts to accumulate on the road I move up to the calf-height, rubber-bottomed boots:

The highest boot level is occupied by boots to be worn during or after a blizzard, when pushing through knee-high snowbanks will probably be required.  The last pair I had was cheap, and they got a bad case of stinky-foot-stink.  Unacceptable!  I replaced them with these:

According to the propaganda they allow one's feet to "breathe", thus preventing stinky-boot problems.  They weren't on sale, which is slightly irritating, because EVERYTHING else in the mall was marked down at 70% off, but hey, you have to pay for quality.

All I have to say about Yorkdale, today's mallwalk destination, is: it was a mess.  The 70% sales were on there too, and every store was filled with bargain-hunters, picking over piles of stuff and leaving total chaos in their wake.  Shoe stores were a jumble.  Clothing stores were worse.  They would have had to double their staff to keep up with the destruction.  And for some reason Sears was a disgusting mess even though absolutely no one was actually shopping in there.  It was as if a stampeding army had been through earlier, tossing sweaters like salad, dropping marked-down scarves and gloves on the floor, and no one had made the slightest effort to tidy up.

I didn't buy anything at Yorkdale except a bottle of water and a lip balm from the Body Shop because their coconut lip balm is simply the best.  For tidiness, entertainment, and overall satisfaction, Vaughan Mills wins the Better Mall prize this weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

False Alarm

Yesterday, at work, the fire alarm bells rang for 2 hours.  Argh.

As the official fire warden, I am responsible for every detail of fire safety within our unit, however I do not have the ability to turn the bells off.  Needless to say, all and sundry made their way to my office to complain about the noise.  What I wanted to say (or yell, since no one could hear each other at a normal speaking volume):




What I did say was that I had no control over the bells and I wasn't enjoying them any more than anyone else.

A brief lesson on sprinkler systems:

The sprinklers are capped with wax.  If a fire melts the wax and releases a flow of water, the water pressure in the system drops.  The fire alarm is wired into the sprinkler system such that any drop in water pressure triggers the fire alarm.  Therefore, if there are renovations in your building, and the sprinkler guy has to drain a section of the sprinkler system, the bells will automatically start ringing.  If the building management has elected to schedule this work in the middle of the day without warning anyone, you will assume that there could be a fire and everyone in your workplace will start flipping out.  And even once you determine that it's a false alarm, if no one on the premises can figure out how to turn the alarm off, it will continue to ring, and ring, and ring, and ring, and ring...

I was told by building management that a technician from the alarm company was on his way to turn the alarm off.  Where was he coming from?  They dunno.  When would he arrive?  *shrug*  Keeping in mind that a giant snowstorm had just passed over the city, bringing traffic to a standstill to the point where some of our employees spent 2 hours getting 1/5 of the way to work, and then gave up, turned around, and went back home, it seemed likely that the alarm guy wouldn't show up for hours.


God help us.

When I looked up an hour later to see an unfamiliar man standing in my office doorway, I was hopeful.  When he asked me "WHERE'S YOUR ALARM PANEL?" I almost threw my arms around him.

If the circumstances had been better suited to conversation, I might have mentioned how surprised I was that he got there so quickly, and asked about where he had been when the call came in, or about how traffic was doing.  Instead all I said was "YOU'RE MY NEW BEST FRIEND!" and took him back to our electrical room.

After looking around in the panels with a flashlight and a ladder, he said he couldn't find anything, so I brought him around to the building's main electrical room.  We had to go for a 5-minute walk around the outside of the building in the freezing cold to get there.  He had no coat, boots, hat or gloves, but I figured that was his bad.  It's his job to do this stuff, so he'd have to suck it up.

In the main electrical room, we found the alarm console, but he wasn't familiar with the model.  He called his colleague to get instructions.  In the end I was the one who spotted the Reset button, tucked under swing-away panel.  He pressed it and then we called back to my office to confirm that the bells were off.  They were.  Hallelujah!

At that point he turned to me and said "Isn't it a good thing that I just happened to be dropping by to give [so-and-so] his Christmas gift?"

Who in the what now?

A brief exchange ensued, in which I learned that he was not The Official Alarm Guy I was expecting.  That guy was probably still stuck in dead-stop traffic on the 407.  This guy was a client.  A client who just happened to know a thing or two about alarm systems and had volunteered to be of help if he could.  His friend wasn't at "head office", but was just a friend who also worked in the industry.

A client, whom I had invited into our staff only areas (confidentiality issues OMG!).  Whom I had invited to climb up a ladder (what if he had fallen OMG!).  Whom I had casually lead out into the snow and freezing wind despite his lack of proper winter clothing (what if he catches a cold OMGWTFBBQ!).

Well, too late now!  And: the bells were off!  Nothing beats that.

The client seemed unworried by the whole operation.  He had willingly volunteered after all.  And now, even though it's probably technically illegal or at least highly inadvisable for me to fiddle with that panel myself, I KNOW HOW TO TURN THE BELLS OFF!

All was well.  As an epilogue, we had to listen to the bells ring for another 40 minutes at the end of the day while the sprinkler system re-filled.  When they stopped, we all cheered.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Lovely Day for a Funeral

I have written previously about my friend Val, the bingo queen.  In April 2010 my post stated that her mother, suffering from cancer, "could go any day."   Well, she fought that cancer tooth and nail for 8 more months, until she finally passed away last week at the age of 61.  I never met her, but from what I heard she had a will of steel, and was as stubborn as the day is long.  Just like Val; no surprise there.

Today we attended the memorial service.  It was one of the few sunny days Toronto has seen this winter.  Sunlight filled the cemetery's visitor's centre with a reassuring glow.  The building was modern and spacious, with off-white walls and pale, natural finishes: wood, blond stones, lush ferns in large ceramic pots.

So many people showed up that extra chairs were added, but in the end some folks had to stand at the back.  It was good to see so much support for the family.  As we filed into the room, I saw that everyone was slowly moving past a receiving line: all the principal mourners lined up by their seats at the front.  Just as we entered, a middle-aged man in a black suit greeted us casually.  We introduced ourselves but he did not identify himself.  I was pretty sure he was a family member of some description.

Up at the front I met Val's sister and her husband, and her younger brother.  I wondered where her dad was.  That is, until we had already been seated for a while, watching the rest of the crowd file in, and I saw that man in the black suit move to his rightful place at the end of the receiving line, next to his son.  He was the only one to whom I had no chance to say "I'm sorry for your loss."

Judging from what Val had said of him while her mother's illness was ongoing, I wasn't surprised, only saddened.  Her dad was having a tough time dealing with the loss of his wife from the time it was clear that she wouldn't survive.  Apparently he refused to talk to her about her impending death.  He didn't want to be in that receiving line.  He didn't cry during the service, only sat in stony silence.  It was a shame to see him locked up like that.  I guess his grief is too large to admit.  He's got a long, hard road ahead.

The service was truly beautiful.  The MC, a United Church minister, a woman, said all the right things. Bereaved family members (and one friend), including Val, delivered sincere and heart-breaking eulogies bravely, fighting tears.  There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

I can't imagine saying a final goodbye to my mother, or to Ken.  But chances are, it'll happen.  I hope I can be as courageous as the people I saw today, speaking their hearts with conviction.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fist Shake

Screw you, depression!  Seriously and for real.  I give you The Finger, and now you may leave.

You think I don't see you skulking around the corners of my mind?  Nice try.  I'm smarter and stronger than you, and you can't sneak up on me that easily.

You're boldest in the wintertime, when the days are short.  As soon as the sun sets you creep closer and closer, trying to weasel your way in.  I stamp and curse and kick you out every time.  The solstice is already past, you know.  You're already weakening.

If you have an ounce of decency, you won't take advantage of the fact that I'm going to a funeral on Sunday.  A friend's mother died a horrifying, slow, gruesome death.  It's not going to be a cakewalk.  If you have no decency, I'll trust that my faith will keep you at bay.  So don't bother trying.  And again, screw you, times a hundred.


I saw a V of Canada geese flying southbound over Toronto this morning.  Um, guys?  Isn't it a little late to be starting your migration?  I hope they make it.  If they do, by the time they land in Florida (or wherever their 5-star goose resorts are) it'll be time to turn around and fly back again.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


My step-dad is healing from his hip replacement surgery by leaps and bounds.

Maybe that's the wrong turn of phrase.  He's healing by shuffles and groans.  Yesterday the OT herded him into a stairwell and made him go up and down stairs. Fun times.  It's worth it, though.  He feels a little stronger every day.

His pain is under control.  Unfortunately, there is another side effect that is causing him intense frustration: chronic hiccups.

No one can say why, although this has been known to happen to patients who have undergone major surgery: he has been hiccuping almost non-stop for three days, with no end in sight.

My mom, who specializes in pessimism, is gravely concerned.  When we visited him after he'd been hiccuping for 24 hours, she folded her arms and her face got deadly serious.  She stuck out her jaw and regarded me soberly from under frowny eyebrows.

"He looks tired," she said in a stage whisper, as though we weren't standing inches from his bedside.  "Look at those dark circles under his eyes!"

"Yes, well, he has had major surgery.  People tend to look tired," I said.

My step-dad assured us that the hiccups do come and go.  They let up when he's relaxing or sleeping, but come back with a vengeance whenever he's active or talking.

"24 hours!  It's too long.  Did you tell the nurse?  Did you tell the doctor?"

There was one plot on Grey's Anatomy in which a character died from hiccups (at least indirectly), but I don't look there for sound medical facts.  My mom looked like she was seriously considering reviewing his funeral plans and making sure the undertaker was on call because Oy!  He won't stop hiccuping!  Emergency!

That's my mom.  He's in the hospital, surrounded by medical professionals, and all the highest tech equipment the Ontario government can afford... he couldn't be safer!  It's not even as though we live across the street from the closest emergency room - he's already admitted and in a bed!  When he leaves he'll have round-the-clock Personal Support Workers to tend to his every need for weeks.  This is probably the most managed, supervised, safe environment he's ever inhabited.  And still, my mother panics, because that's her thing.  She always panics.

It wears on my patience.  Can you tell?  I would be much happier to let her cry on my shoulder if she'd occasionally look on the bright side and celebrate: Surgery with no complications!  Fast healing!  Pain under control!  Could we not smile for five minutes before the next dramatic scene?  *sigh*  In this mood, love her though I do, very much, I could complain about her all day.  (But I won't.)

So, hiccups.  Today I got to listen in (via speakerphone) on a conversation between my step-dad and one of the professionals who works in his business.  The professional is not an employee per se, but does need to respect the business owners' wishes.  My step-dad had a disagreement with this fellow, and was dispensing what he refers to as "a reprimand".  He took as stern a tone as he could manage.

"Now look here," [when I was a kid I always knew I was in trouble when he started a speech with 'Now look here'] "we have HIC! discussed this and HYYYN! it's clear that HUP! we cannot accommodate you HN! HIP! HUP! anymore."

[silence while the other guy talks]

"I don't see HYNN! why you HIC! insist NN! HEHN! UP! UP! [pause while he catches his breath, and then burps] BBBLLRRRP, excuse me, upon ignoring HM! our previous HUP! damn these hiccups!  HUP! HUP! [...pause...] HNN! agreement.  Dammit!"

I've got to say, it's pretty tough to come across as a Scary Authority Figure when you're caught in an endless hiccuping fit.  I had a hard time keeping a straight face.  Good thing the guy on the other end of the line couldn't see me - or maybe he was laughing behind his hand too.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Big Fix

On Thursday my step-dad went to see an orthopaedic surgeon about his crumbling hip.  The surgeon and my step-dad used to work together, so it wasn't just a consultation, it was a reunion of old buddies.

Dr. O. "This looks pretty bad.  You're going to need a full hip replacement."

Step-dad "I've been in excruciating pain."

Dr. O. "When would you like to have the surgery done?"

Step-dad "Today, if that's possible."

Dr. O. "No problem, I'll just add you to the end of my list."

And that was that.  Instead of suffering the normal pace of Canadian public health care, which requires waiting for 3 - 4 months or more to have tests and surgery, he was whisked away for the procedure that very afternoon.  He barely had time to call and inform my mom and I before they wheeled him to the O.R.  It helps to be well-connected.

As soon as we heard that the procedure was complete, Ken and I picked up my mom and went to the hospital.  Not only was my step-dad awake and smiling widely at the sight of us, he looked better than he had in months.  He'd had the procedure done without general anesthetic, so he wasn't dopey.  Instead, they gave him an epidural.  He couldn't feel anything from his waist down.  It was the first time he'd been pain-free since July, and he was thrilled.

(I don't know about you, but I don't think I'd want to be even slightly awake if I had to undergo orthopaedic surgery.  I mean, (squeamish alert - skip to the next paragraph if you're a fainter), there must have been power tools in use.  Drills, saws, the smell of bone dust...  He's a fearless one, my step-dad.  It didn't bother him one bit.)

He's been healing by leaps and bounds ever since.  The nurses have been encouraging him to take a few steps with a walker, and he says that he can feel himself gaining strength.  He got a little overzealous last night while he was still doped up on pain medication.  Reaching for something he couldn't quite get, he decided to get out of bed without supervision.  Predictably, he fell down and bonked his noggin on the floor.  Fortunately a) there were people in the room visiting another patient, so they summoned a nurse immediately and b) the only injury was a slight bruise on his head and a dose of humiliation.  When we went to see him this afternoon every nurse who came in the room scolded him again for good measure, and reminded him to stay in bed.  Troublemaker.

He says the hospital food's not bad, but he's trying to stick to a low-carb diet.  Therefore, we're bringing him fat-free yogurt and cottage cheese; chocolate bars; single-serving tins of flavoured tuna fish; and little tins of V-8.  His stash of speciality food is tucked into bed with him because there's really nowhere else to store it.  He eats a whole tub of cottage cheese every day, so it doesn't have a chance to spoil.

The biggest challenge was obtaining the correct chocolate bar.  He told my mom he wanted a Crunch bar, which he described as "the one with popcorn in it".  He was talking about Nestle Crunch, which in fact contains puffed rice.  My mom, not being familiar with chocolate bars at all, went out and bought him Crunchie bars, which are made of sponge toffee.  She almost bought Crispy Crunch, (with the weird flakey peanut stuff) but thought the better of it at the last minute.  I don't blame her for being confused by all these different "crunchy" candy bars, none of which bear the slightest resemblance to one another in terms of composition.  Step-dad didn't get his preferred chocolate at today's visit, as the Crunch bar is not easy to find, but on the way home we found some at an independently run variety store, so he'll be stocked up tomorrow.

Anyway, despite his tendency for shenanigans (such as falling on his head) I'm not worried about him.  He's well-cared for by the nurses, and during visiting hours he has an entourage worthy of a king, fetching him everything he could possibly want, providing sympathy and conversation.  He'll probably be discharged on Tuesday.  As for his ongoing care, it has yet to be determined, but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it.  Ken has taken some time off from freelance work, so fortunately he's available for step-dad-sitting and errands.  Of course my mom will do whatever she has to do.  And I'll do what I can, although I know that what he's counting on me to do is not to hover by his bedside, but to represent him at the family business and keep everything running smoothly.  I can handle that.