Tuesday, February 25

Swiss Cheese Memory

I'm sure I blogged about this at the time, possibly just in passing, but my mothers cousin's husband had a stroke about 18 months ago now.  Sounds like a pretty distant relation, doesn't it?  And yet, in the way of families, I've always felt closer to him and his wife than my aunts and uncles.  Let's call them, oh Don and Ann

My mom and her cousin were close as kids and young adults.  Their grandparents often took them places together (a weekend trip to Ottawa for example), they were bridesmaids for each other.  My parents met about 3 weeks prior to Don and Ann's wedding, Mom brought Dad to the church for the wedding rehearsal and then the minister told my Dad to pay attention because he was next, Dad promptly turned red as a tomato.  Maybe the minister saw something because Dad did propose a month or so later.  But life gets busy with kids and I really don't remember spending a whole lot of time at their house as a kid.  I knew them from family events, but we didn't get together for play dates that I recall.  So the closeness isn't from spending more time with them than my aunts and uncles.

Still, when I was with them, it felt more like puzzle pieces falling together than with my aunts and uncles, a very genuine feeling of being comfortable.  Their daughter and I are like peas and carrots, birthdays weeks apart.  She's autistic and even when we were 11 years old, I liked being around her.  It is fascinating to see how her mind connects seemingly unique songs, phrases and toys/props.  But believe me, if you look, there is a reason she's quoting "The Music Man" or singing Lollipop at that particular moment.  

When I was working on my masters, I helped Don with his PhD.  He did survey based research that required statistical analysis and he didn't know his way around a computer or stats at all.  I think if it was my own research I would have run to the hills scared that it was beyond my skills, but somehow I helped him through it.  His wife was teasing that I was probably under the table at his defense whispering the answers to him.  

In exchange, Don would buy me a very late lunch and part of lunch would be a pint of beer.  But of course if two people are having a pint, it's not that much more to have a pitcher of beer...  Don would be driving home so I would get more of the pitcher than he did. I think I was drunk by 5pm every time we worked on his research.  In the end, I found out I liked dark beers and Indian food, and I gained a friend.  When my 6 year university relationship was ending and I felt lost, alone and hurt, I called him a couple of times when I was an absolute wreck.  He was a friend when I needed it.

So when Don had this stroke, I felt a fear unlike what I've felt for other relatives.  When my grandparents died, I felt they were old and had a good life.  I was sad to lose them and struggled with grief, but not afraid.  But Don is a friend, he feels closer to my age than my parents (which made his 70th birthday party a bit strange).  The other scary part of a stroke is that you don't know what's going to be left behind.  Strokes can be debilitating even for survivors, this was not a small stroke like my grandfather had and recovered from.

A year ago at Christmas, so a few months after the stroke, they had an anniversary party at the hospital.  It was helpful to have familiar people around him and it was great to see improvement from his initial days after the stroke, but it still wasn't... Don.  At the family brunch two weeks ago, he was there and I could see a little bit of the old Don.  But with so many people, and names not being a strong point, it was encouraging but I was still feeling out where the edge of his improvement was.

Wednesday night he phoned us (my favourite moment, I said hello and he said "I do know you!" - keep in mind, he phoned me, but I get it, he was pleased he had the right voice and face and name connected).  After the family brunch, Mr. Lina sent him some links for his movies (Don's background is in film, he's be so supportive and provides very specific feedback) but Don couldn't make them work.  We arranged to come over to watch them together, it's more fun that way anyhow.  

Last night we went to their house and it was lovely.  Don has a Swiss cheese memory - he remembers a pub that he and I went to for lunch 14 years ago, but still can't quite picture what my parents look like.  He could talk film with Mr. Lina - both from a film making perspective about layering sounds and the more hands on work involved with actual film stock.  There is some repetition to topics, or revisiting points because he needs the reminder or more context.  But his humour is sharp, he's building new memories and it was fun to talk about shared times.  Since Ann wasn't there for research days, it's often a new story for her too.  I can see him taking threads of stories and weaving a context for some of the memories he has.  One research day, he wanted to go to a restaurant in a nearby small town where he grew up.  The restaurant was sadly closed that day, but we drove around town and he pointed out his childhood home and told me that his high school principal lived down the street - he couldn't skip school if he wanted to!  And Don chimed in with the principals name.  

Those post-grad years weren't the best times in my life, maybe not the worst but I was pretty confused on a relationship level, scholastic level, what the hell am I doing with my life level...  It wasn't spiralling in the right direction and one insecurity built on the next.  Those times with Don were really good memories for me.  Helping him was good for me, made me feel more confident in what I knew.  He was a friend when I needed it and it was good to see that friend back last night.

Wednesday, February 19

Randomly, on a Wednesday

In an effort to post more, I will write today.  But let's take it easy on me, eh?  Time for a list...

  • I would rather not be at work today.  Nor yesterday really.  
  • Not quite sure if that's more about me or my client at the moment.
  • I used 8 cm of snow (a little over 3") and traffic reports of accidents on a highway that is slow moving in the best of days as a reason to work from home.
  • As much as this winter seems to go on forever, I like the work from home snow days.
  • I did get laughed at (by email) from my Quebec team mates.  
  • Rightfully so.
  • Shovelling snow is good exercise so long as you pace yourself and stretch a bit.  Given that I don't like exercising much, I'm not sure why I like shovelling snow but I suppose there is some accomplishment that goes with it.
  • Something is going on with my hormones. 
  • My breasts are confused enough to make me take a pregnancy test and while I was quite sure of the results, it was better than letting my head go to crazy places and second guessing if I should have that caffeinated beverage or glass of wine or shovel snow.
  • Side question - How can spell checker have decaffeinated but not caffeinated?  
  • My period better show up soon.
  • Oh right, Valentine's Day.  Mr. Lina took pictures of our food but I think they are still on the camera.  It was all very tasty.
  • We made so much food between our Venezuelan meal and Chili Night, I didn't have to cook anything more exotic than eggs and toast the whole Family Day weekend.
  • I put the registration form for PRIDE training in the mail yesterday.  This is the 27 hours of parenting lessons we have to take to adopt.
  • We went snow shoeing on Monday.
  • I forgot how hot I get.
  • I bundled up for the cold weather (although at -9C, it wasn't all that cold I suppose) and end up pulling my hood down, taking my mitts off, and unzipping half my coat (leaving it snapped at the neck and zipped at the bottom).  
  • And to think I put warmer mitts in the backpack in case my hand knit ones weren't warm enough.
  • It wasn't as bad as the year we decided to try a trail that was longer than we thought (Beaver Dam at Hilton Falls for local readers) and our snow shoes were pretty new.  3 hours of snow shoeing later, there was steam coming off our heads.
  • I took our little camera but forgot to take pictures.
  • I don't think like a photographer, it never occurs to me to take pictures.
  • Mr. Lina dyed his hair black on the weekend.  
  • Some dripped on the carpet (fortunately this is the semi-permanent kind of dye), which made us clear crap out of the hallways upstairs and use the carpet cleaner we borrowed from my parents in August.
  • August.  
  • We are never leaving our house, are we?
  • I know we hosted oh 25 or so people and 10 entries to the Chili Cook Off, but outside of that we spent the weekend together.
  • It was lovely.  
  • One of my friends came with her 3 month old baby.  I couldn't see her when she was pregnant, but babies are cute. 
  • She does think like a photographer so I can share a picture of that, although I've blocked his face for privacy.  There was a smile under there.
  • Mr. Lina continued his streak of being the baby whisperer.  Feedback the next day is that whatever Mr. Lina did (blowing in his face I think?) became is "favourite" thing.
  • Someone walked around the office offering pieces of cake, I asked what the occasion was and there wasn't one.  
  • Random cake to go with a random post.
  • It has led to quite the sugar rush, I believe it was red velvet with cream cheese icing.
  • No sewing lately, I have picked away at cleaning/packing my sewing room.  
  • I did darn my slippers.  I purchased hand knit slippers oh.. 4 years ago maybe and wore holes in both slippers.  Sunday I finally got around to darning the bottom so they are wearable again.
Okay, that's long enough.  I hope it is vaguely amusing.  I have to get back into the swing of things and publish more of what I write.

Friday, February 14


Happy Valentine's Day!  I really despise the commercialism of Valentine's Day but it sure is nice to recognize people you care about.  Mr. Lina and I have a tradition of picking a culture/location and making a meal together on the theme.  This year we're leveraging my future SIL and having a Venezuelan meal.  We're relying pretty heavily on this Venezuelan food blog, I'll let you know how it goes.  Right now all I can say is that the black beans are soaking.

Did you happen to see the Star Wars fashions at Falling Through Your Clothes?  I think it's pretty awesome, and if you liked that, I have a Valentine or two for you.

Maybe you liked the Luke dress better.

No?  Maybe you like the dark side better, look at the drape on that cape.

Oh but Funnygrrl said she liked C-3P0 best.

Full credit to for these great Photoshop Phriday images.

Wednesday, February 12

Bad times make the good times better

Nothy left this comment in my last post, "bad times make the good times better". That is a concept that Mr. Lina and I have been talking about. But let me give you some context of our conversations.

We're pretty avid watchers of "The Critter Room". Foster Dad John (FDJ) fosters cats (and lately kittens) and he has a web cam showing the room so you can see most of the antics they get up to all day. Considering we are both allergic to cats and Mr. Lina adores cats, I thought this would be good for him. It seems to be backfiring but that's a story for another day.

Most of his foster families are a stray cat who is found pregnant, she has her kittens at the shelter and then they go to FDJ. Sometimes it takes a little while to gain the trust of the mama cat but she's usually pretty happy when she figures out that her kittens are safe and there is food available. The last two litters have been a little different.

From Critter Room Facebook Page
The "Artificial Intelligence" fosters were GlaDOS and her son Hal. Another cat had a HUGE litter of kittens 5 days after Hal was born and it was decided that maybe GlaDOS could take care of a couple of them so it was easier on the other mama cat. Apparently GlaDOS went over to Holly, Jarvis and Eddie, sniffed them a bit and sort of said "oh that's where you went to" and brought them over to Hal. She was a very good mama cat and she's now adopted with Holly.

So there were some conversations about adoption and how sweet it was to see GlaDOS not caring if they were her kittens or not, these were little guys who needed a Mom.

Foster Dad John (FDJ) had a long break without kittens. It was kind of driving Mr. Lina a little crazy but most of the kittens from his litters have Facebook pages so we still got our kitten fix seeing how everyone was adapting to their new families.

GlaDOS and Holly have a Facebook page.
With this litter, the Pixar kittens (Dory, Sully and Dash), it's the first time since we started watching that they weren't tiny little kittens. Dory and her boys were found under a barn, she's a bit more feral than other mama cats that we've seen and she was REALLY skittish. The boys were already 8 weeks old, about the age we usually see them adopted. Dory was rarely seen on camera the first few days, she ran from FDJ and would come out briefly for food. When she was fixed at the shelter, they docked her ear because they weren't sure if she would be adoptable and the docked ear indicates she's been spayed. FDJ had to put a screen shot up of Dory so we'd know who to look for.

Dory in the middle, Dash left corner, Sully sleeping on the catcave. Link
Not only was she not sure about FDJ, she was also pushing her kittens away from her - what good feral mama cats do when her milk has dried up and it's time to move on. She would hiss at the kittens and sometimes swat if they came close to her. It was hard to see and the kittens were pretty confused.

But with patience, and slowly trusting that the room was safe, food was always available, she's really blossomed. She loves rubs from FDJ, runs to the door when she hears him. It's very sweet. Yesterday she even rolled onto her back to get some belly rubs. She plays with her kittens now that she knows they don't have to leave. FDJ figures she probably had a home, she responds to human things like rubbing fingers, but she probably spent the last two years on her own.

Such progress
So going back to Nothy... Bad times make the good times better. We've had a few moments that made us a little leaky with Dory. Seeing the first time she rubbed up against John, or when she forgot to be afraid and briefly showed her belly for the first time. Each of these things if done by other mama cats would be cute but not remarkable. With Dory, it means so much more.

If all goes well, the kittens will be adopted on Feb 22nd. They have been deemed a bonded pair and won't be separated. Dory would not do well with all the noise and confusion at a PetSmart for an adoption event. Instead, FDJ is going to personally take her to her family and show them how to win her over.

One aspect of adoption I struggle with is drawing up the list of what I want. I wouldn't do this if the child was biologically mine. I'd take what I was given by genetics. But with adoption, we need to decide on ages and challenges we can deal with and those that we can't. I struggle with finding the limit because my heart wants any children, but there are physical and developmental issues that would mean I'm not the right mom for that child. Mr. Lina struggles from having confidence in his own parenting that he could rise up to the challenges. His list limits where mine extends too far.

But he found himself thinking about adopting Dory (not really as she lives in Washington State). He thought he could find the love to overcome her challenges and be patient with her and how rewarding a head boop would be from a cat that had been so skittish.

And then he thought, if I could for a cat, why not for a child? I know there are miles of differences between a cat who could happily live in the corner of a bedroom and a child that needs to interact with the world, but it's facilitated a few conversations. Conversations that can be kind of scary.