About Me

My photo
What I am: Complicated. A mom. A wife. A thinker. A seeker. A 'musician'. One of the volunteer executive directors of a niche music festival. An administrative business owner who set up shop in a senior's condo. Oh the stories!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Tracy takes the Fruitcake...

Joe Morgan

A really weird thing happened to me today.  After all these years, I never thought I’d see the day.  I ate fruitcake…and I liked it.  I haven’t tried it since I was a kid and thereafter would not go near the stuff.  It was packed full of awful things, like raisins, currents and those big hunks of odd green and red cherries.  And candied peel.  Ew.  Why would you candy something you’re supposed to throw away?   

After all the time I spent bitterly complaining about the Christmas gift that never goes away, I am horrified to have to eat my words… along with another slice of fruitcake…because it’s not that bad!  I must be getting old.  Soon, hot water will be my beverage of choice.  “No thanks, no eggnog for me, just some hot water if you have.”

Come to think of it, Christmas was a time where we ate weird things in my family, and I looked forward to most of them.  Now I said most of them.  Mincemeat and tomato aspic were and still are off limits. (Seriously?  Tomato jello??  Do NOT eat that, whatever you do.  It’s a trick.) 

Our traditions were somewhat unique as well.  Maybe it comes from being half French and half Ukrainian, I’m not sure, but when Christmas Eve rolled around there was stuff on the table that my friends never talked about having.  It would start with snacks like smoked oysters, and pickled herring  but then…thrill of thrills, we’d get to open the BOXED CHOCOLATES!!  Could there be anything more exciting than being one of the first to choose from the Pot of Gold?  Usually you’d find the box a week after Christmas with one or two lone orange creams rattling around inside. You knew they were orange creams for sure because someone had poked the bottoms to check.  Even in the throes of post-holiday sugar withdrawal, no one would be desperate enough to eat them.  Just like the dish of Satin Mix hard candies that my grandma would have on her counter til Easter.

Christmas Eve supper was in keeping with our version of the French tradition of Le Réveillon.  Along with the tourtiere, there was usually a stew of pork hocks, yes feet. Throw in a few perogies and cabbage rolls and the Ukrainian side was balanced out. We were so stuffed that we had good reason to refuse dessert (fruitcake). 

Midnight mass was the epicentre of our Christmas celebration, as we always sang in the choir.  But because we would basically be up all night, our parents made us have a nap in the evening.  A nap. Imagine. There was no time more exciting than Christmas Eve in our house.  It was the day I’d waited for all year.  I had diligently circled all the items I couldn’t live without from the dog-eared pages of the Sears Christmas Wish Book and there they (maybe) were! Right there under the tree!  Would it be Walking Wendy (creepy doll)?  Lite Brite?  A chemistry set?  Aunts, uncles and cousins were everywhere, there were sugary treats in every corner of the house and they wanted me to what???  Have a nap?!!  

Well, Christmas has changed since we were kids, and has most certainly changed for us this year.  For the first time in my life, I will not be celebrating Christmas at my childhood home, but in my own home.  We will be with family and we will create new traditions.  It’s still all about food and the people you love, isn’t it? What more can we ask for?  

Whatever belief or creed you hold, whatever religion you observe, I would like to wish you joy in the season.  I think we all share a common belief that in whatever way we celebrate, we are celebrating hope.  For me, Christmas is not complete until my eyes fill with tears as I hear the opening strains of ‘O Holy Night'.  This song, to me, is one of the most beautiful ever composed.
  Fall on your knees
 O hear the angel voices
O night, divine
O night, o night divine.
Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

I honestly don't know where the time has gone.  It is December for God's Sake!!  As some of you know, I have chosen not to renew my contract at Senioritaville and have hung out my own shingle as Office180 running administrative contracts out of my home office.  Yes, that's my dreadfully boring side.  I love being at home talking to myself all the live-long day.  It suits me just fine.  I do miss my seniors though; they gave me no end of amusement and they were genuinely sad to see me go.  Christmas time was especially fun but there's only so many boxes of chocolates covered cherries I can re-gift, you know what I'm saying? 

I'll be going back for the Christmas dinner, which is always great.  I hope no one breaks a hip this year as we try to be the first table to dash to the microphone to sing, We Three Kings so we're chosen as first to go in the buffet lineup.

So I've got some transition time to get a few things done.  Turns out there's more than a few things I have put off.  I had to make a list of the lists I had to make.

There are things I tend to avoid, mostly invasive things like dentists, optometrists and the basement storage room.  I also had to call my doctor's office to renew a prescription, and the receptionist made a huge deal out of the fact that I hadn't had a physical for over a year and a half. Oops.  Well it's not like you come out of those things going, "Wow, that was fun!  Can't wait to do it again. Let's pencil me in for the next one right now, shall we?" 

The whole approach to checking your complete physical health has not changed a bit in the last 25 years.  Pee in a cup and pass it through the little door of shame, get your arm squeezed off by the blood pressure thing and get your finger poked even though you just had what felt like half your blood volume removed to check for everything from soup to nuts: 

 "Finger, please."
"Oh, but I just did full bloodwork earlier this...OW!!"
"Ok, dear, you'll have to remove all your clothes, but use this paper napkin to keep yourself warm and comfortable during the interminable wait.  The doctor will be here shortly."   
We all know what shortly means.

I wait and wait and grow more anxious as the minutes tick by.  It is clear to me that the reason the doctor is not coming in is that he has a medical team reviewing my chart.  They are trying to find a way to tell me I have Ebola, the only case ever discovered in North America.  Or hantavirus due to the mouse poop I swept up in the shed this summer at the lake (I knew it!).  I immediately begin planning my dramatic farewell vacation but can't concentrate on the details because I'm freezing. How many Airmiles will it take to get me to the equator?

Finally, desperate to take my mind off the impending news, I reach over to grab the only magazine in the place, Canadian Cycling, and there is a knock on the door.  There is also an audible rip as my paper napkin has reached it's maximum stretch. I guess I won't be consulting the Gift Guide for every Cyclist on my list after all.

"So Mrs......"
"Yes!  Lalonde.  So today we're doing a ...."
"Physical." (The fact that I am wearing a sheet made of kleenex instead of my long johns should be an indicator.)
"Yes! Physical.  Ok, just lie back on the table here and relax."
"Relax.  Of course, I've been relaxing this whole time.  Very relaxing in here. Not sterile at all... I love what you've done with the throat swabs."   

Turns out that all is well and only thing wrong is that I'm low on Vitamin D.  You know what that means!  A prescription for getting the hell out of Siberia.  Take me to the sun, Baby!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

On Parking Lots and Ticket Slots

So it seems we have turned the usual corner here in Saskatchewan.  Our futile complaints about the early winter have given way to grudging acceptance and after much reluctance we’ve all adjusted to the terrible winter driving conditions.  I’m quite proud of the fact that I screeched in before the Snow Deadline and had winter tires put on.  Now the sensible Mom-car is even more sensible in its new winter kicks.  I can confidently resume my job as a reluctant Taxi Driver whose territory is "All over Hell's Half Acre". 

Speaking of driving (endlessly), it would seem that everywhere I need to go lately is outfitted with a parking lot.  Hospitals, malls, airports, you name it, they all have that one thing in common: The dreaded automated ticket machine at the exit. 
The concept is simple.  Pay for your ticket at the machine inside before you leave (after said machine spits it out the first 8 times. “Stripe down, you idiot!”), and out you go.  Yeah right…Who made these machines? The people laughing their heads off, that’s who.  It is clear once you pull up to these little beasts that it is not simply a case of opening your window and placing the ticket in the little slot.  N-O.  I’ve found that it always shakes down the same way:

First, with your foot on the brake, you try to reach over and insert the ticket but the evil machine is too far away. So then you must sigh heavily and remove your seatbelt.  Of course, you still can’t reach it.  You must then swear loudly, put your car in park and try it again.  Fail.  You now must kneel with one knee on the window ledge placing your opposite foot on the chest of your passenger in order to gain enough leverage to manoeuver the ticket into the slot.  Dazed and confused by the whole process, you then need to gather the presence of mind to get back into driving position so you can gun it to make it under the very temporarily raised arm. 
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of trying to leave the Saskatoon Airport parking lot; good luck to you, my friend. The machine is about half a city block back from the arm.  I suggest blasting the soundtrack to Top Gun on your car stereo and flooring it.

I know what you’re saying, ‘Why don’t you just go to the kiosk?’  Some people have the luxury of driving up to the kiosk and dealing with an actual human being, not the parking machine from hell.  These people are special, they have something called Cash.  Cash is coin and paper currency; something I have not seen since my children began attending elementary school.  All the Cash in the house from that moment on went to things called Book Orders and Hot Lunch Days and Teacher’s Gifts. 

Mrs. Neat-as-a-Pin has Cash and always seems to be in front of me in the lineup to leave the parking lot.  She shares a laugh with the kiosk attendant as he raises the arm for her.  She is in no hurry.  She has no melting ice cream or sullen teenagers in her back seat. No, she refastens her seatbelt, zips her wallet closed, has a sip of Evian and re-applies her lipstick.  Only then does she put the car in gear and drive under the arm.  No fear has she of the arm coming down on the roof of her Buick.  No sir.  She has All the Time in the World to exit.

Alas, I should be grateful that I still have the kids with me in the car.  Soon, I will give them the rest of my Cash, they will buy their own cars, and I will have All the Time in the World too.  I don’t look forward to that…Drive safe everyone!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Post-Halloween SuperHeroes

Another Halloween has come and gone.  I am at a stage in my life where my kids execute their own costumes and make their own plans for collecting pillowcases full of dental bills.  This year, I had time to sit back and enjoy the costumes both at my front door and on Facebook.  Other than the crazy current fascination with zombies, the classics, like the Super Heroes, are always out there.

I was at the hospital with my Mom and we were enjoying some of the young people who came in all dressed up to show their family members.  This brought so much enjoyment to the whole ward!  At a certain point, I had a very unique perspective.  When I looked down one hallway there were two people in my line of vision, a little boy dressed as Superman and a nurse, dressed as, well...a nurse.  It was only later that it occurred to me who the real super hero was in that hallway.

If you were lucky enough to grow up as I did, in an environment where everyone was relatively healthy, it was hard to have a real understanding of what exactly caregivers did. Nurses were tidy women who wore pointy hats (they weren't even hats, really, more like origami...how did they keep them on??) who always seemed to want to take your temperature.   Later on in my experience, nurses were people who handed you squalling newborns and tried to help you understand that yes, you have to take this bundle home, and yes, you will be fine!

A Physiotherapist was someone who treated athletes with bad shoulders, and an Occupational Therapist was, well, to be honest I'm not even sure what I thought OTs did.  They sounded to me like people who came into your workplace, took away your office chair, and tried to get you to sit on one of those ridiculous giant exercise balls instead. (For the record, I think this is a terrible idea. No offence to the dear OTs but imagine how much coffee would be spilled if everyone did this??)  And of course, rehab, well that was something that Steven Tyler did.

In my recent experience, I have discovered a brand new legion of super heroes:  Rehabilitation Unit therapists and caregivers.  I can barely manage to put into words what these people do every day and the difference they make in so many lives.  It is difficult to imagine a sudden life changing event that leaves you unable to walk or unable to make any number of the regular movements that get you through each day.  Equally difficult to imagine is slowly being able to recover those abilities.  It does indeed feel hopeless at first, but in the last two months I have had a front row seat as I watched people progress from a bed to a wheelchair, to a walker and often to more independence than they believed possible.  I have heard people begin to speak after weeks of silence.

The nurses, therapists and their support staff become family. They always greet their patients by name and are constantly teaching, guiding, supporting and cheering on every success, no matter how small.  They hand out hope like we hand out Halloween treats.  There is no 30 second television commercial that can convey how hard they work and how important that work is.  

To the men and women of the 7th Floor Rehabilitation Unit at Saskatoon City Hospital, Thank you.  When someone asks you what you do for a living, please do not say, “I am a nurse,” or “I am a therapist.”  Tell them what you really do. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Try a little kindness...

A recent column published in the Saskatoon Express:

 You may have noticed that I've been away from my writing desk for a while.  Well, it is with encouragement from a lovely lady who reads my column, and our wonderful editor, Cam, that I’m back in the saddle. (It’s more of a standard gas-lift office chair, really.)

See, I fancy myself a writer of funny stories but, simply put, life just hasn't been funny for my family lately.  My wonderful mother, who I often reference in my writing, has suffered a devastating stroke.  We are quite a close-knit family and we are doing what families do; gathering, coping, loving and healing.  My Mom is one tough cookie and is determined to recover.

I shouldn't be surprised by her determination.  She knows of adversity. She is the daughter of a proud family who took a huge chance on this country called Canada.  Her parents came to Saskatchewan from Ukraine under circumstances that are unimaginable to me. Consequently, education became the biggest priority for their family and most of them went on to become teachers.

 Mom received her teaching certification at Teacher's College, and began her career in some very isolated one-room school houses.  She spoke about the 'Winter of the Blue Snow' where the huge snow drifts made it impossible to go anywhere.  She persevered, raised a family of five children and became an integral part of her small community.  In the early '80s, she decided she wanted to attend the University of Saskatchewan to obtain her full education degree.  She did just that and in the span of her career, made education a memorable experience for a whole bunch of Grade 3 kids from Leoville, Saskatchewan.

Above all, my mother is a woman who extends kindness and a smile to everyone she knows.  That kindness Mom has shared so generously throughout her life is coming back to her in so many ways.  More ways than I could have ever imagined. 
One example of many I have experienced was one particular day at work.  I'd received numerous well wishes for my mother and my whole family.  One dear lady came into my office, laid a card on my desk, said very few words and left.  I looked down at the card and it was addressed to "Tracy's Mom", a lady she had never even met.  What generosity of heart... It was a brilliant reminder to me that the smallest choices we make, specifically when we choose acts of kindness over indifference, create a positive ripple that is without measure. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that all of these small acts of kindness contribute to her strength and her recovery.

It's not as though this whole experience is without its funny moments... for example, a few weeks ago I was doing some left-handed writing exercises with Mom.  I gave her the pencil and encouraged her to just write any word that came to her.  She shrugged and wrote, "churk".  Well, we simultaneously dissolved into a fit of giggles at this wonderfully nonsensical word.  It was clear to both of us that she intended to write ‘church’, but it felt so great to laugh!  I've learned that the ability to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake is invaluable to moving forward.  
They say laughter is the best medicine, and I hope we are prescribed a lot more from here on!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Hey there readers.

People are starting to ask why I haven't posted in a long time.  The reason is that our family is experiencing a pretty serious medical crisis.  My beautiful, vibrant Mom has suffered a very debilitating stroke and we are spending as much time as possible with her as she works to recover. 

For those of you who have expressed concern, I am so grateful for your kindness.  Several have encouraged me to begin writing again, and as things settle down a bit, I may just start doing that.

Hanging in,