Saturday, October 16, 2010

Adventures in Canine Joy

It has been a long, long time since I had a moment to add anything here.  My thoughts have been on the back burner while career and our big move have taken the front position in all things.

Three weeks before our big move we adopted a dog from the SPCA.  This dog, this canine ambassador for the SPCA is a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a condundrum.

We have the joy of being the adoptive family for a white German Shepherd that we have named Gunner.  He is approximately 4 years old.  He is a devout follower of the Red Ball religion. He has very clearly been loved at some point in his past because he came to us resplendent with "sit", "up" and "lie down" skills as well as a strong desire to retrieve and bring us the toy.  He's "too big", "too long" and the wrong colour to be a "good" German Shepherd if you read anything online.  I say phooey.

He's whip smart, I'll tell you that!  He escaped his crate on Thursday.  I came home, unlocked the door, opened it and was greeted with doggy nose and a full tail salute.  I have no idea how long he'd been free in the house but not a thing was out of place.  Nothing was chewed.  All was well...

Gunner isn't great with other dogs unless he's off-leash.  His hackles come up and he starts to hyperventilate.  I don't understand it, but that's how he is.  We have lots of dog politeness and socialization to work on but honestly, he's a joy.

I don't know if its us who are giving Gunner joy or the other way around...frankly I think it goes both ways.

We are eternally grateful to Charlotte at the Vancouver SPCA for choosing us as Gunner's adoptive family.

We love you Charlotte!!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hallalujah - Moved by Olympic Spirit

I have been moved.

In a completely unexpected and unforseen turn of events, I broke down and watched the opening ceremonies to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

I have many conflicting thoughts and feelings about the cost of the games relative to the economic crisis much of the world is in and how many people have had to go without in order to make the games possible.

Its no secret that I resent the ownership of the games by corporate sponsors who have little to do with sport and much to do with product positioning.

That being said, I was moved.

I was moved by the place of importance the four host First Nations of B.C. took in welcoming the world's athletes to the games.  I was moved with the inclusion of representatives of Canada's First Nations covering the north, east, west and plains peoples and Metis.  It made me deeply proud to see First Nations art and imagery integrated into ceremonies in which they too took part - that the art and imagery wasn't just used because it would sell. 

I was moved when orcas slipped through the pacific ocean and spouted  right across the surface...

My heart swelled with pride and recognition when the poet Shane Koyczan recited his poem "We Are More".  He spoke thoughts and words right out of the hearts of millions of Canadians.  He got a rousing applause for "please and thank you" as well as "zed".  He hit the nail right on the Canadian pride head.

I had tears in my eyes when the Georgian team walked solemnly in to BC Place Stadium to a warm standing ovation, without Nodar, black arm bands and sadness all over their faces.  I was touched when he was honoured by Jacques Rogge before the official speeches and I was solemn when the minute of silence in Nodar Kumaritashvili's memory was marked.  In a building filled with 60,000 people and flags at half-mast, you could have heard a pin drop.

But when KD Lang stepped up on her platform and began her stirring, heart-calming rendition of "Hallallujah" written by Canadian song writer and artist, Leaonard Cohen, I just had to stop and watch.  She sang the heart right into that song.  The song came across as a prayer for Nodar AND a prayer for peace.  The simplicity of the setting for her barefoot performance made the song all the more poignant.  There was nothing to distract us from hearing every word.  She plucked at our heart's chords with a cheshire smile, a white suit, candle light and a voice that just curled around you and held you tight.

Romeo Dallaire, that amazing man with such a heavy soul walked in bearing the Olympic flag.  That was a "YES" moment.  That man deserves so much and he has done so much in the name of Canada.  

In the end, the opening ceremonies were moving.  They moved me for so many reasons, and I never saw it coming.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Is a Number a Value or A Symbol?

I have a friend...a friend I met through work, but we both work in the long term care industry.

My friend is afraid of a number. She's afraid of the number 30.

My friend is currently 28 years old and the mere IDEA of being 30 hypnotizes her with unparalleled fear.

To me, age is a number. Its a relatively arbitrary number. In Western culture we measure 1 year as one earth cycle around the sun. But in other cultures, time and age are measured differently.

I don't know what is so scary about the number 30.

I suspect it is not the age itself that is frightening the birthday cake out of my friend, but what it represents.

To me, 30 means leaving childhood behind and embracing adulthood. 30 is a rite of passage that is hard earned through enduring high school hell, first jobs, failed attempts at real relationships and learning to expect better.

I think 30 is the point at which you don't just learn to expect better, its the point at which you GO GET BETTER. You make it happen.

As a Gerontologist, I look at age from a different perspective. I look at age as a chronological marker of time and also as a subjective experience. I know lots of people, including myself, who "don't feel their age".

So my question is this: Is a number a value or a symbol? Is 30 a numerical time marker or is it a symbol.

If its one or the other or maybe even a combination of the two, why is 30 frightening?

30 has "empowering" written all over it in my books...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

I find myself in a bit of a conundrum.

I have finished my M.A. in Gerontology and need to find work in my career field.

To be more specific, I need to find work related to my education, in my field AND work that contributes to, enhances and furthers my career path. As much as I appreciate having a job, I can't live as an admin assistant forever.

The problem is that I have been in school, busting my brain for several years. During those years I didn't gain any real experience in the working side of my field, save that gained during my 300 hours interning with the Provincial Government.

That internship seems now, to count for very little and the job market is more than a little depressed.

I feel like leaving to find opportunity and betterment anywhere but here. Yet I'm not alone. Any decision I make to stay or to leave must be made with consideration for my partner and his family as well as for mine.

Finding career opportunities for myself may be detrimental to my partner and visa versa.

I could go to Kamloops where he has a job opportunity, but I don't know if there will be anything there for a Gerontologist.

I could leave for Ottawa where careers for Gerontologists in public health are more fruitful, but there could be nothing for him.

We could move to Vancouver Island, be bound by the Ferries and perhaps neither one of us will find work.

Part of my conundrum is the lack of awareness in both private industry and in health care, as to how to utilize Gerontologists who are not nurses. It seems that the entire LTC industry is built around licensing and policy that has nurses at the core of practice.

Gerontologists aren't all nurses, its true. I most certainly am not. Part of the barrier I'm running into, is the lack of awareness that Gerontology is the scientific study of the biological, psychological and social aging process over the ENTIRE LIFESPAN. Take a gander at the diversity of research being conducted at the Simon Fraser University Gerontology Research Centre here.

Knowledge of aging and the aging process, healthy aging practices and age friendly planning is not only applicable to older adults! Aging happens to every human being from the moment they are born. One does not have to be a nurse to have a positive impact on the aging experience and quality of residents in long term care or living independently in the community.

Gerontology and gerontologists can contribute to ANY environment in which there are goals to enable people to be healthy, live well, die well, support themselves and maintain their independence and achieve quality of life not just quantity of years.

This applies to policy development, community planning, city planning, care facility and hospital design and planning, activity and recreation planning and health programming both at the community level and the home or facility level.

Where does aging happen? All over the world, wherever people live, all day long, every day.

So, my dilemma is - Do I stay or do I go?

Attention world: Gerontologist At Large.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adventures in the Salty Deep End of French Cooking


We have been making our way through Laura Calder's French Food at Home cook book. So far, only victories.

That is, until last night.

Last night we decided to jump into the salty deep end of French cooking; by this I mean, dabbling in anchovies.

Whoa, whoa, whoa...I know...anchovies are not to be treated lightly. Anchovies are fishies that are either the source of gastronomic love or hate.

We were feeling adventurous and still riding high on our recent cooking and baking victory euphoria.

We decided to make Calder's version of Passaladiere, a southern French pizza style bread baked with an onion reduction, tomato slices, black olives and a lattice of anchovies.

Jump in, throw off the bow lines, sail away!!!

So we did. The passaladiere came out of the oven a veritable joy to the senses. It was visually stunning, smelled amazing, the crust was so pleasingly toasty and crunchy....mmmmmmm.

Then the first bite..............


Salt. Salty salinity. So much salt. If you can get brain freeze due to salt content then that's what I had.

I ate two slices. My partner took one for the team and ate four slices. I love him. He loves me, and told me it tasted good. I marvelled at his tongue's tenacity in the wake of the saline rush.

This morning, I bought a used version of the Larousse Gastronomique. Within its multitude of pages, under A, I found a reference to anchovies - my new, fishy enemies. Deep within that reference to the hated fishies was a notation regarding "De-salted anchovies".



De-salted fishies.

A complete revelation. Anchovies may be in the deep, salty dark end of French cooking but there IS a lifeboat!

The lifeboat is filled with milk.

Merely soak the dreaded anchovies in milk for an hour to release the salt and proceed as normal.

Thanks to Larousse, anchovies have been saved from the back of the black book of banned food items.

Unfortunately, Laura Calder failed to include this little nugget of anchovy parlance in her recipe for Passaladiere.

If it were up to Calder, we would have written off those deadly salty little bastards for ever.

Because of Larousse, I may once again, dive into the briny deep.


I'm not sure.

I may just drink milk instead.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Power of Humanity Compels You...

I can't tell anyone what to do.

I also can't do much myself.

What I can do is donate to the Canadian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders online in order to help fund supplies and aid to the impoverished and devastated nation of Haiti.

I'm a hands-on, lets fix it now kind of person. Since I can't get my hands on and I can't fix it right now, the best I can do is send money...

I hope the power of humanity compels you to do the same.

Please visit the Canadian Red Cross site here and Medicins sans Frontieres Canada's online donation page for their emergency fund: here to make your contribution to the international aid efforts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Music + Aging = Powerful Healing

If you have not had the immensely moving pleasure of watching "Young At Heart", an independent Fox Searchlight film about a senior's chorus in M.A., then you need to make it a priority.

This chorus is filled with humour, kindness, wisdom and wild rebellion. It is awe-inspiring and heart-stopping.

Every day I come across ageism and people who underestimate the power of and value of, older adults.

To each of you who commits ageism I say, watch this film. I DARE you not to change your mind about aging and the older adult.

Click on the title of this blog post to watch Fred Knittle cover "Fix You" in tribute to chorus members who had passed away. I dare you not to shed a tear.

Fix You Lyrics
Original Artist: Coldplay
Sung by: Fred Knittle in Young@heart

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above earth or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream, down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face and I...

Tears stream, down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face and I...

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.

Hypertension is Not Just an Older Man's Game

Yesterday, listed an article about the connection between hypertension and the onset of dementia in 1,403 older women (65+) based on the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS)published in the December 2009 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

Results indicated that women who, on entry to the WHIMS trial, had elevated blood pressure had significantly higher amounts of white matter lesions in their brains, when they underwent MRIs at follow up, eight years later.

The study co-author, Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller suggests that women should maintain their blood pressure at normal levels, thereby also reducing their associated risk of dementia.

Once again, body weight, stress, hypertension and lifestyle congregate. Much of what happens in older age is NOT BECAUSE of chronological age, but because of lifestyle.

Take note...your quality of life in older age is dependent upon your lifestyle NOW.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I <3 Science

I'm a nerd. I love science. Carl Sagan was one of my childhood heroes.

I do not believe that a "God" or "Gods" created our Universe or that I was built in one of their images.

I believe I am the product of 3000 million years of planetary evolution.

I find the Universe, Evolution and Human Origins and behaviours even more exciting and even more worthy of wonder and delight BECAUSE of all the unlikely little molecular and chemical accidents that had to happen in order for our lives to have happened.

Thank you Carl, for telling me about the "billions and billions of stars"...

Thank you David Attenborough, for explaining the world to us all...

Thank you Jane Goodall for showing us how close we are to our evolutionary cousins, the Chimpanzees and for showing us our humanity through their behaviours.

I heart science.

Thank you to Melodysheep for making this sciency music video :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sexy Seniors

I wonder every day, how and why it is the norm to expect people to age OUT of their sexuality?

Why is the idea of an older adult who is sexually active and INTERESTED in sex, still a taboo?

As a society we increasingly accept images that use younger and younger girls and boys in sexualized costuming and body stylings to sell us dreams and products. If you doubt this, just consider the new, sexy stylings of the Strawberry Shortcake doll and Bratz dolls here

The idea of older adults who live in a care facility seems even more abhorrent and I don't understand why. People who live in care facilities have been adults for most of their lives and many of them have lived with a partner or spouse for most of their lives as well. Many of the women have been widowed and many of the surviving men who live in care, are alive and well in the sexuality department.

I understand the dilemma that arises (no pun intended) when sexual interest emanates from someone with a dementia because this raises the issue of CONSENT.

But life in a care facility aside, why can't seniors be sexy?

Part of what makes humans so social, is the need for touch. Without touch human beings fail to thrive as was shown by landmark studies by Harlow in the 1950's (link to studies). Why would a human being stop needing to be touched merely because they have reached some chronological milestone, retired, become widowed or moved into a care facility?

I say that older adults need touch - and by this I mean CARING, loving touch, not care giveing touch which comes with ADL's or toileting. I say that if an older adult can find pleasure and joys in touch with a partner, then age should be of no concern.

I say sexuality is the right of every person and the right to enjoy one's own body or that of another, willing partner, should not be taken away or be shunned because of wrinkles, gray hair, poor mobility or poor vision.

I say, embrace the sexy senior. Why? Because that's life and that's living. The future seniors, those in the Baby Boomer generation, will not accept being robbed of their personhood OR their sexuality the way it is expected and accepted of seniors today.

Be prepared to see more of the sexy senior because the Baby Boomer generation will be bringing their sexual revolution into the senior era of the future...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Note To Self

Never, under any circumstances, go to work on a MONDAY following a string of stat Christmas and New Years holidays, without a cup of hot, steaming coffee in-hand.

Never, ever, walk out the door leaving the travel mug full of the elixir of the Gods, sitting on the counter.

Never walk caffienless in the front door of a complex care facility and hope to make it through the day...

I think I may have to go to sleep with the bag of coffee beans strapped to my forearm.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Riding The Wheel of Time

Once again, the great wheel of time comes round and we start where we finished.

This New Year's Day, I stood on the beach in Tsawwassen, scanning the water watching for anyone who struggled either in or out of the Polar Bear Swim. A swim in two degree water, four foot chop and a falling tide with heavy winds is one helluva way to ring in the new year.

But what of the tradition behind the swim? Why do so many of us look at the start of a new calendar year and feel the need to cleanse ourselves? To purge ourselves and emerge anew in the face of another ride on the wheel of time?

For me, leaving 365 days of struggle and strife, near-misses and near-victories, mini-failures and total "what-was-I-thinking"'s is a rite of passage. To walk open-eyed into New Year's Day carrying the baggage of the last ride around the sun, would be tantamount to wearing cement ballet shoes to my dance recital. Thus, I walk open-eyed into the water, cleanse and purge myself of the weight of the last ride around the sun, and emerge hopeful for the victories and joys that the next ride has coming.

Time is relative. So are victories and failures.

A happy, prosperous, full of joy, love and goodness New Year to Everyone.

Carpe Annum!