Just smash it some more

My very nice next door neighbours are renovating.  A great big renovation that started this week and will continue for four months and involves them essentially lopping the back of their house off, and digging out this big hole and .. have I mentioned that we share a semi-detached? As we speak there is a guy, or maybe it’s fifteen, I can’t tell, smashing on the wall of what is their kitchen, and my kitchen/office. 

It’s making me want to eat rocks. The noise, the shaking the drilling, and I’m trying to be big about it because heaven knows that they set this up in the nicest way possible. They really did.  Our neighbours let us know it was happening, showed us the plans, introduced us to the crew, made sure I had the architects phone number, and other than the fact that this renovation is going to make our house look like some sort of old hovel stuck to their beautiful home (It’s going to be like their house has a wart)  we are really, really delighted with the considerate way they’re handling this. We’d ask the same thing of them if we were renovating, and I’d hope we would be as sweet about it. I’m so happy for them, or at least I’m trying to be, because right now I keep wishing it would rain a little just so that they would have to shut off the saw.   

My dishes are rattling in the cupboards, the cat’s right on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and this morning when Joe said it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as he thought it was going to be, I almost asked him to hold my coffee while I called a divorce attorney. Joe doesn’t work from home. He listens to it for an hour in the morning and then heads off to the studio, leaving me to wonder if the demolition would go faster if I went over tonight with a sledgehammer and relieved a little stress.

I’ve never been good at this kind of thing.  I don’t like upset, I don’t like loud noises, and I knew straight up that this was exactly the kind of thing that was going to turn me into the kind of person who screams things over the fence, so today, just as soon as I finish writing to you, I’m going to go to the pub with my laptop because I’m sure it’s quieter, and even if it’s not, at least there’s beer.  Although I’m going to write and edit (today I’m writing an essay about my dentist) I’m taking my sock, because I’d forgotten how much progress I can make on a project just doing a little bit here and there.  Every time I have stop typing and think, I’m doing a round to take the edge off, and it’s adding up pretty fast. 

Orange and red added since yesterday, and soon I’ll start the heel, and I know I’ve told you before, but I’m going to say it again, I love self patterning yarn.  I love the way you can mark your progress, I like that with a little bit of care and neurotic behaviour you can make them match perfectly, and I will go to my grave insisting that it is faster to knit than a plain multicoloured yarn that doesn’t make a pattern. Ever notice? It’s like it flies off the needles – although this time I’m using another scale, because of the way the book is ruining my knitting time dedication I have to my work. 

The sock isn’t the only thing that’s limping along… the Nadira shawl is coming along beautifully. 

You can’t tell by looking there, but it’s quite a bit larger than last time you saw it, and I know it just looks like a green blob. Use your imagination.  Slow and steady wins the race, and even though I can only manage a row or four in the evening before I’m asleep holding my knitting,  it’s still forward movement.  I’m all the way to chart four, and five is looming on the horizon. Very exciting, if in somewhat slow motion.

You know what else is exciting? Today’s presents. 
Diane over at The Knotted Bag has a beautiful gift.

According to our good friend Mr. Random Number Generator, it is destined to be with Mary S.  I hope she likes it.

Remember Aubrey at Goodies Unlimited? She’s a kind of nice that just doesn’t quit, because she’s back this week offering four more knitters $25 gift certificates, complete with free shipping. 

Amy N,  Jennifer C, Emma B and Rita S, enjoy! (If you need a hint about what to get, ask me.  I have favourites.) 

All right. I’m off to the pub. I’m pretty sure the guys next door just ran a herd of cattle through a wall to knock it down – at least that’s what it sounded like from here, and me and the sock are going to go get a little peace, quiet and beer while we put another chunk of the book to bed.  What are you going to do?

Random Wednesday

1. With my wool as my witness I meant to keep the good times rolling this week and totally nail another five days of blogging but I’m so close to the end of the book that I keep falling down that particular hole, and not really being able to climb out.  It could be a lot worse – I’ve experienced manuscript endings where it’s almost impossible to climb into the hole and stay there even if I stood at the brink and threw myself in wholesale, so I’ll take this.  Head down, working hard, it feels like I’m making a strong finish to a book I like a whole lot.

2. Knitting is happening here, although slowly, slowly. I’m knitting just enough to be sane, and I’ve been advised a few times in the last few days that I might want to up the dose.

(Yes. I totally screwed with the foot length so that both the heel and toe would be purple. Yes, I totally think that’s normal. No. I don’t know who they will fit anymore.)

I can’t tell you how happy I would be to oblige.  I’ve started a list on my desk of all the things I’m going to knit in a few weeks when the book and rally are over. It’s going to be a yarn party of epic proportions. It’s going to be the kind of knitting party where if it wasn’t a knitting party, someone would call the cops for a noise complaint. The kind of party where you find strangers asleep in your garden the next day. The kind of party where you have to keep telling your slightly berserk neighbour to keep putting his shirt back on and that you’re not into bongs. The kind of party where the next day, when you return all the empties, you can buy groceries with all the money. That sort of a knitting party my friends, and I can’t wait.

3. I have ice on my knees.  I’ll tell you about the ride on Sunday tomorrow when my knees hurt less and my attitude is better. It rained. 

4. It rained on Monday too, and thanks so much for the emails and tweets of concern.  Yeah, it was wild.  Completely wild.  Around suppertime, the whole sky went black – like nighttime, and then the rain started, and Joe and I kept standing there looking at it saying over and over "I’ve never seen anything like it."  It turns out we were right, there had never been anything like it.  Never before.  In just about an hour, Toronto got 129mm of rain (that’s about 5 inches, for my American friends.)  There’s a great video here on the CBC if you want to see what happened.  Our street got off pretty lucky, I had a wet basement, but not a flooded one, and we’ve had issues with the phone and power, and we’re still in the rolling blackout zone for today, because the power grid is too damaged to make enough right now.  One of the hydro stations was under about 7 metres (20 feet) of water.  Like most Torontonians (or at least the ones with a soul – don’t get me started on the young, fit, healthy guy down the street – his A/C is blasting and he’s not even home) we’re conserving as much power as we can to try and make it all go around.  My sister’s restaurant flooded, but just the downstairs, she’s got ongoing power issues though, and my mum had water cascade in her side door and down to the basement, but not too much. Stoplights are still out, the subway is not quite all the way running again, some roads are still closed and it will be a while before Jen and I ride the Humber Trail again, on account of I’m not sure it’s still there (the rail is the side of the bike trail in that shot) but overall, we were lucky. 

5. I’ve thought about going to the trail to look, but as long as the water is high and there’s rain in the forecast, I’m not going anywhere near the place. Those flash floods scared the crap out of me.

6. It is this time of year again. We are inundated. Anybody have a really, really easy solution? They’re Montmorency cherries, (those are sour ones) and the neighbours are stealing them, but not fast enough. 

7. Want some presents?  Sure you do.  Today’s gifts are courtesy of Liz, who went into her stash to see how she could spread a little joy and good karma, and show you all how much she loves you, and look what she found!

Four skeins of Alp Natural Feza (10% Linen, 10% Silk, 40% Cotton, 40% Viscose 100g/230 yards)  They’re going to live with Teresa L.

Two skeins of Araucania Ruca Multi (100% Sugar Cane 100g/263 yards each) that Liz will wing to Shelly W.

Anne M will get a nice package. Artyarns Handpaint Stripes 100% Merino,
Elsebeth Lavold – Designer’s Choice Angora. Very pretty.

Cascade Eco Duo, Alpaca/merino – enough for Kristine R to make something really nice. (That looks like two different colours, but it’s not.)

Cascade Yarns Pima Silk, and I think that Brooke B will be able to make a summer top.

Sally M will be enjoying Liz’s gift of Lana Grossa Coccinella.

Someone who forgot to give me their name, but who’s email starts with "harvest" is getting six balls of  Louisa Harding Jasmine  (Cotton/bamboo/silk)

Svetlana S, will be enjoying three skeins of  Madelinetosh Tosh DK. (I love this yarn to pieces.)

– and the last, but certainly not the least to enjoy Liz’s generosity will be Jami C, who will make something that I will wish I had, from  Plymouth Yarns Mushishi.

I’ve emailed everyone who’s name came up. Thanks so much to Liz for the Karmic Balancing gifts, and to everyone who has donated, is donating, or even wishes they could donate, but can’t.  You’ve given me, Jen, Ken and Pato two amazing things. The ability to help other people, and the chance for us to experience something that never gets old.  When other people on the rally ask us how we’re raising so much money, and how it’s even possible, we get to look them in the eye and say "Knitters, man.  You don’t know what they’re like."

The look on their faces is worth falling off my bike for.

If you’d like to be included in the draws for the Karmic Balancing gifts, it’s easy. Just make a donation of any amount (we know everybody does the best they can) to anyone on our little team of knitters.


PS. I think I’m going to try and give away a gift or two every day now, instead of big clumps, it’s a little easier for me to keep track of.

PPS. Our actual team leads this year are Andy and Brandon, and even though  they’re not (yet)  knitters, they’re really nice guys who have made an amazing commitment to the rally and its cause, and neither of them have made their fundraising goals yet – not for lack of trying. I’m going to give them a little shout out here and tell you they could use a little knitter love too. If you donate to them today, shoot me an email and let me know (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) and I’ll include you for the presents.

Making Friday a Little Better

Here’s to Friday! Frankly, it’s never been my favourite day of the week, but I hear that a lot of people are fans.  Me? I like Thursday.  You know the weekend is coming, and you’ve broken the back of the thing, but you still have time in your week to believe you’re going to get it all together. Thursday is a hopeful day – and less pressure than a full-blown Friday.  Anybody want some presents?  Behold. This weeks round of Karmic Balancing Gifts, from business and knitters who want to spread a little love around.  (If you’re one of the 16 knitters who’s name I drew this morning, then there will be an email from me in your inbox.)

First up, Janelle went into her stash and looked for great presents that could be re-homed in the name of Karma.  She came up with so much that if I were keeping a list called "People I would rob if I wanted yarn" list, I would put her at the top. (But I am not making a list like that. You shouldn’t either. It’s wrong.)

She found this great summer yarn, 10 balls of Amerino, it should make a great top for somebody that Beverly W knows. 

Janelle also found Five balls (that’s an amazing 1499m – that’s more than a sweaters worth ) of Ironstone Warehouse Flake Cotton,  and I hope Linda G loves it.

It doesn’t stop there, this is 3 skeins of Merino Frappe that would make the most beautiful hat and scarf – but Ginni G can make whatever she likes.

More? Oh yeah, Janelle’s got more.  How about Twelve skeins of Andean Silk?

That’s a lot of mileage, so I hope that Erin G has some ideas.

Janelle’s not done yet! How about seven balls of Palette, in Mineral Heather,  Huckleberry Heather, Clematis Heather and Iris Heather, winging thier way to Brianna B.

Here’s something amazing.  Beth (here’s a link to her Etsy shop Dancing Dog Studio. Go look, she’s super talented. I’ll wait.) has made a beautiful medicine bag.  She used peyote stitch – which means she put on one bead at a time. 

Medicine bags are very special.  I hope that Carrie N uses and treasures it.

Elizabeth from A Good Day For a Cupcake has a present. 

She makes these great sheep needles (among other things) and this pair of 4.5mm needles are for Cheryl B.

Ania went into her stash and came up with some beautiful romney/mohair roving

and a charming spindle to go with it.

(Those blue flowers are called Love-in-a-mist. They grow in my garden, I love them.)
Ania will be very kindly sending these gifts to Jennifer C.

Ana of Art By Ana, had an absolute fit of generosity, and landed three presents for you guys in my inbox.   First, one of her beautiful SE Party Cakes is headed for Sherry M.

I am crazy about those party cakes.  Next she’s giving away two skeins of her gorgeous laceweight.  50/50 Tussah Silk/Merino – 1000 metres.  Mya M (that’s how you do it!)  will be making something amazing. 

Then Ana went into her other Etsy Shop, Art-by-Ana HandMade, and came up with a beautiful project bag and a matching notions bag. 

She will be popping that in the mail to Mary A.  Lucky knitters all.

Andrea also contracted a bag case of Nice-Knitter, and she’s come up with ten skeins of Cascade Lana D’Oro Tweed that need a new home.

They’ll be making their way to Jill F.

Finally, last but never least, the always generous Aubrey at Goodies Unlimited (I love everything there.) has four virtual gift certificates for her shop, complete with free shipping worldwide. 

Helen G, Mary M, Casey P and Mary Ellen O will each be enjoying some wonderful things. 

That’s it for this week! More next week, and I think I might have to start giving things away faster, if I’m going to make them fit at all.  There’s so much generosity in the world that it makes my heart go all aflutter to think of it.  As always, if you’ve donated to someone on our team, by sending a karmic balancing gift or by sending in some hard earned money – thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.  (If you’re looking to donate, there’s links on the previous post, just click on our names where they’re underlined near the bottom.)   A special thanks to everyone who expressed their sympathy about Tupper by donating to the Rally.  Very kind of you, and he would have liked that. 

Why, What are you wearing?

I am sitting at my desk wearing spandex.  I woke up about three minutes before my 5:30am alarm because I got a text.  Only Jen texts me at 5:30 in the morning, and only on riding days.  This is best for everyone because saying I am not a morning person is and understatement as significant as "Sometimes teenagers aren’t thinking ahead." The only reason I’m riding at that ungodly hour is because Jen and I  both have jobs, and while I have the option of moving my ride to another time of day, Jen likes to be home for bedtime,  and we’re on the buddy system, so… mornings it is. Every time I realize what it is that I’m doing, that it’s me – someone who is not even a little bit sporty (except for knitting – I totally do that like it’s a sport) and doesn’t like to get sweaty, and is so uncoordinated that she can’t count the number of times that a ball has hit her in the face (and one terrible time, a Frisbee) that I am going outside to ride a really long distance,  clipped into a road bike, several times a week –  wearing spandex in my mid forties, I can hardly recognise myself.  When I add in that the whole thing has required me to get up at 5:30am? It’s like I don’t even know who this woman is. It is only because coffee and I have a special and deep relationship that it’s possible at all. So, all that is to say that I know the text is probably from Jen, and so I reached out and grabbed my phone.  All it said was "Too rainy, Sister.  I’m ejecting."

A wave of relief passed over me. I loathe riding in the rain, but I’ve also made a really serious commitment to training, so Jen pulling the rip cord on the ride before I have to is really satisfying.  I can pretend to myself that it was her.  My alarm went off displaying the message "Go ride your bike!" and I shut it off with a satisfied smirk, and padded to the bathroom. On my way back I could see out the window of the stash room, and  on an impulse, I went over and drew the curtain aside to look out.  It was not raining. It was not raining at all, and the road wasn’t even wet. I cursed, and took a deep breath.  I’ve sworn that I’m not going to avoid riding, that even if I am tired and sore I am going to do these training rides, and it’s a promise I made myself. Five days a week I will ride at least 40 kilometres, unless it rains, and it wasn’t raining, and so I went into the bedroom and put on my spandex, sports bra and jersey. (See the way I made it sound like I just put on a sports bra like it was easy and like I didn’t have to make an effort to remain calm during the part where you think you’re trapped with your arms stuck uselessly to your head and torso and you’re going to have to have someone cut you out of it. Don’t be fooled.)

I came downstairs, made coffee, and ate a bagel standing over the sink – looking  outside.  I was at it for about five minutes before I realized that I was actively hoping it would start to rain.  It didn’t.  I decided I would go ride after my coffee – if it wasn’t raining. I drank my coffee and had a little knit, and then I decided that I would go ride after two coffees. You know, if it hadn’t started to rain.  Right when I was about to run out of coffee (and excuses) the rain started.  I just about wept, I was so happy disappointed.

It’s not that I don’t like the riding. I think I might, but it’s so hard to tell.  I’ve been waiting for it to get easy, and I think it’s not going to, and I think that’s okay too – I mean, being fit and healthy isn’t easy and does take a commitment, and raising money for a cause and trying to be worthy of that isn’t supposed to be easy either.  It’s not like I would really expect anybody to sponsor me if I wasn’t willing to do something extraordinary to do deserve it.  I just don’t know how much longer I can deserve it at 5:30 in the morning or five days a week.  This weekend there are two training rides, and they are both over 100 kilometres and you know what? I can take it. I really can. It is physically easier than what the people I’m raising money for have to go through, and I can take the heat. Hell, I probably need the heat. The heat is good for me. It’s more that I’m trying to finish this book and did I mention that with travel and stretching and lunch and signing in and all that, a 100 kilometre ride takes about eight hours out of a Saturday and a Sunday?  These weekday ones only take 2.5 hours, but still, all this riding adds up to a lot of time, and I’m getting a little tired.  I remember this from last year. I’m just at that point where training has stopped being about 12 hours a week and now takes about 22 hours a week, and when you’ve already got a family and a full time job, that’s a big deal. This part only lasts a little longer.  I know that.  The rally departs Toronto on the 28th of July – and you’re really supposed to scale back the riding the week before, so this intensity is only for a little bit longer and I can do it, and I will do it, and I am happy to do it because I know it is worth it. For me, for Jen, and for PWA.

I’m just really glad it was raining this morning, that’s all. 

I’m sitting here in my spandex, because if it’s not raining when I’m done work then I’m going to keep my promise to myself and go out there and get it done, and nothing says commitment like padded shorts and a sports bra (and I am not trying to get that thing on and off anymore times than I have to. I feel the risk.) Two people today have already asked me why I’m dressed like this, and explaining it strengthens my resolve.  I am going for a training ride.

As long as it doesn’t rain. 

Karmic Balancing gifts tomorrow everybody. If you’ve already donated, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and please check your email for a thank you note explaining what to do to qualify, and if you can’t find it, just send me an email (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) and I’ll add you. No worries. If you’d like to qualify, then donate to any one of the people I love riding this ride, for any amount at all – even a dollar, and watch for the note. We will all make sure to send it to you before tomorrow morning.  We are:


(PS:  I want to give a special shout out to Ken here. He’s a super fast and competent rider, and he’s chosen to slow down and support either Jen or me when we can’t be each other’s buddy.  It means the training rides take him a lot longer than they have to,  but Jen and I haven’t had to face doing a really long weekend ride alone, and I’m really grateful.)

(PPS. It just started to rain again.)

(PPPS. Happy 4th of July to my American friends. I hope it’s lovely.)

I know how to use it

Let’s talk about knitting, shall we?  When I was going to Colorado  – Oh, man, wait.  I have to go backwards for a minute, because now that the fog has (mostly) cleared and we can talk about all of this, we have to catch up.  It was a great trip. Great knitters in the classes, great LYS (the Knit Knook, you should go if you’re close by. They seem like they’re really a tight, supportive group, and you gotta love a yarn shop with a coffee bar) and  neatest of all, Sally took me and a very nice knitter named Marisa to her Alpaca place – Rivendale Farms. I took about a million pictures. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I think you’d want to see a few. Wouldn’t you?  Thing the first: Alpacas are ridiculously cute.

Thing the second: They are curious.

(That’s the lovely Sally) Curious enough that it’s hard to take a picture of them without getting a bunch like this.

Thing the third: I think maybe they’re sort of racist biased.

The only ones who followed me around the whole time were the ones who matched my hair colour.  I’d just be standing there, minding my own business, and I’d feel their hot breath on my neck.  Anyway,  we had a pretty good time, considering that I knew pretty much straightaway that I was in a great place, but the wrong place.  I’d taken some knitting with me, but I had been in such a crazy state of mind right before I left that all I could think of to do was grab some plain yarn, and just plow through.  I went to the stash and scored this DeKay Duet yarn. It’s cool stuff, one handpaint with a co-ordinating solid yarn for heel and toe, and I thought that it was just about the perfect thing.  No brains required. I grabbed it, wound it and split.

That knitting, it turns out, was totally perfect.  I plowed along on it, not thinking, not worrying, and by the time I landed, I had a decent chunk of a sock – and some really bad news.  I sat there, trying to knit after finding out that Tupp had died, and as I knit the plain and lovely stitches, I realized that I was in a bad spot. What I needed to do was fall apart. To grieve and cry and be with my family… but I’d just landed in Colorado, and I had to stay and make the most of it.  I would, be, I decided (rather bravely, I thought) deciding to keep calm and carry on.  I would be home soon enough, and I would do what I needed to do then, but until then, I was going to put that whole thing out of my mind.  I would work hard, stay distracted from it,  and not leave myself any room to be upset. I’ve always used knitting to help moderate upset or stress, and this was going to be no different. I was going to put my head down and get it done, and as I made that decision,  I looked at that plain good knitting, and I realized that it was not going to cut it.  It was too plain. It was too easy – if I was going to use knitting to keep me from being the sort of person who sobbed through an weekend, then it was going to have to be a higher dose.  The next day at the Knit Knook I bought four skeins of Isager Alpaca Merino 2 in Chartreuse,  had Sally choose me a lace pattern and hunkered down. 

Meet Nadira.  It was much better.  A thousand times better.  Plain knitting is good, but if you’re going to ask  knitting to keep you from being really crazy in public, really far from home at a really bad time?  You’re going to need some charts to occupy the part of your brain that keeps considering booking a private plane with a stolen credit card.  (There were no flights home, and the private plane thing seemed reasonable, expense excepted.)  Every time I thought I might come of the rails, when I was alone, mostly, I just put all my attention there, and it kept me from losing it.  I can tell that I’m feeling better, because for the last day or two it’s been all about the rainbow socks (Regia Nation – Colourway 5399, sadly discontinued – a gift years ago when it was already discontinued) and while they are entertaining, they are simple, and that’s enough again.

What happened to the duet socks? Good question. They’re here somewhere.

(I actually think I lost them but I don’t want to talk about it.)

My Really Good Solution

Things here have been stressful lately.  (I hear you. You’re all like "YA THINK?!") Despite the way that I occasionally create stress in my life by accident by trying to get a lot done, it turns out that I really only enjoy stress when I’m in charge of how much there is and when it lets up.  This kind? I’m as good at this as I am at bench pressing pianos, and so I have decided to Sort. It. Out. There’s a book deadline bearing down on me (almost done I am almost done) I’m still training for the bike rally (holy cow that is only a few weeks away I should be out riding) and the house is trashed (I say trashed but I mean that I am about to be on a reality show).  All these things wear on me pretty much equally. (That’s a lie. the book is killing me and I am really scared about the rally. The trashed house worries me less. You know what happens if your house is trashed for a while? Nothing, except for you feel sort of bad about it and you can’t have people over.)
The thing is, I’m pretty smart.  I know what to do when things get ugly.  Jen calls it "going nuclear" and she doesn’t mean like the bomb, she means like a family.  Drilling down to just the basics – because when it feels like things are crazy, the first thing to go is the ability to identify priorities.  What’s that great quote from Natalie Goldberg? "Stress is an ignorant state. It believes everything is an emergency."

The thing is, everything isn’t.  The book really is. The Bike rally really is. The trashed house well, it’s approaching an emergency, but I still feel like there’s some wiggle room there. (You can’t smell it, so that has to mean we have some time.) I sat down a few days ago and thought about what was making me crazy, what was actually functionally important, and what absolutely was not – and then I tried to make things as good and sensible and orderly as possible.  I mean, yeah, there’s stuff I have to do, but what would be wrong with doing it all as nicely as possible? 

In the end I came up with this plan: I will get up early each morning, and put on my riding things and leave. I’ll do my 2 hour training ride straight off each day so that no matter what else happens, I know I can’t end up screwed for the rally, panting helplessly like the middle-aged crap scene I’m so afraid of being while trying to catch up with a peloton of gazelle-like young men on carbon fibre bikes who have so much less body hair than me that it’s actually unnerving. 

(That’s the Humber river, if you’re the sort that cares.)

So far, so good. I rode for two hours on Sunday and Monday, and met up with Jen this morning to ride for 50km.  (That’s two and a half hours, if you’re wondering. We are dedicated, but not fast.) If I can keep this up for the next few weeks – along with longer rides (100km) on the weekends, I should be okay.  Not a gazelle, but okay.  I’m okay with being okay. I just don’t want it to kill me.

The book? That solution was actually easy.  The art of writing is really more the art of showing up and sitting at your desk until it’s done, and other than how hard it is on the heart to sit there for hours and hours, It’s pretty doable.  Still, if you’re trying to lower your stress?

Check it out.  I’ve got an office set up in the backyard, for several hours a day – or at least as long as the sun is shining.  I’ve got my laptop, the shade of a big tree, some knitting nearby, so I can knit while I’m thinking, and yeah -that’s a beer, and yeah, I’m going to drink it in the afternoon, and you know what else? It’s going to be awesome. 

The knitting- there’s two kinds there, to make sure all my knitting needs are met, and we can talk more about that tomorrow. The trashed house? Yeah, that’s still a problem, but let me tell you this.  You can’t see it from the backyard.

Canada Day

It is traditional for me to say a little something about the great country I live in on its birthday, and there’s no reason for this year to be an exception.  (There are previous years, if you want to click on them: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.)

This year is a quiet Canada Day for us, and so I would like to say just two things.  First, because yesterday (well, all week really, but I only celebrated yesterday) was Pride,  I want to say that I am profoundly and immensely proud and grateful that I live in a diverse Country, where all people are intended to be equal under the law and within our society, and that we move ever closer to that goal. 

(Behold – the annual Canadian sock and beer picture.)

Second, I would also like to say, publicly, and without reservation that I am grateful and proud of our health care system.  I once read a thread somewhere where some people (some people who were not Canadian) were discussing my position on this, and said, essentially (and without reservation) that if I liked our system, it has to be that I am either a) stupid, or b) someone who has not needed that system, and that I would be singing a very different song, had anything every really gone wrong – health wise.   At the time I almost choked on my coffee, but I didn’t say anything, because anybody who would say that a non-citizen who’s never used our system would emphatically know more about it than someone actively using that system?  Maybe a) doesn’t apply, because I couldn’t see any point in getting into that argument.

The other thing I didn’t say at that time was anything in response to the idea that if anyone in our family had ever really been sick, or needed the system, we would see its flaws.  At the time within our family, we’d had our share of the regular stuff… births, accidents, appendectomies – that sort of thing, and the system had always served us. (I especially appreciated that here in Ontario I was able to choose a home or hospital birth,  and Obstetrician, Family Doctor or Midwife, as I wished.) It was amazing (and still is) to me, that I can have all of these services without worrying about the cost – but in a lot of ways, those readers were right. It’s easier for a system to deliver heath care to people who are essentially well.  The proof is in the catastrophic illnesses, or emergencies – and what I didn’t share at that time is that our family has had its fair share of that.

Like all families, bad things happen to us, although I don’t always discuss them with you because… well, not only is it a pretty big violation of privacy, it’s also a serious downer.  I can tell you though, that we’ve had serious accidents, with a family member flown to another city because better emergency care was available there, we had someone else have a pulmonary embolism after surgery, someone else we know required years of mental health treatment to get well.  Heck, when Sam was three years old, she had a umbilical hernia that ended up trapping a loop of her intestines. Within minutes, she was referred to the best hospital (The Hospital for Sick Children) and treated by a doctor that was a specialist in the surgery she needed.  For that matter, I had very serious surgeries several years ago, and came very close to departing this earth, and experienced first hand what our health care is like. 
None of this cost a dime – and that was essential, because mostly, we’re a family of artists (no health care insurance and back when that happened, we were actually quite well below the poverty line.

This Canada Day, I want to say that I’m proud and grateful for the way that our health care has served Tupper over the last year.  He required extensive, specialized and very expensive care, and I am grateful that not once during that time was there ever a conversation about money, a concern about who would pay for what, or a risk that something might not be covered. Every decision about his care was a decision between Tupper and his doctors, without needing approval or permission from any third party.  Now that he is gone, there is no financial burden to resolve, and I’m grateful for that. 

No system is perfect.  I know that, and I won’t ever say that ours is – there’s plenty of room for improvement. For starters, ours is a triage system.  The sickest people go first, without regard for anything else. I don’t have a problem with it, but it means that if a wealthy CEO and a homeless guy show up at the hospital, with a broken arm and a heart attack, the CEO is going to find himself waiting for his turn. (This has pissed off the occasional CEO, and they end up using money to go first somewhere else – like the US, although it’s less than 1% of Canadians who ever seek care elsewhere – over their entire lives.)   We do have long wait times for things that can wait (and they’re not as long as you think- comparable or less than most other countries.) I can also say that we have a long way to go in figuring out how to get rural places the same sort of health care available in cities – but that’s complex.  You can’t put a level 3 nursery in every tiny or far flung town – and people who live way the heck out there often have to travel to get care.  Also, we could really use more doctors in general – but I hear our neighbours to the south could use a bunch too.   This system works well enough though, that we have long life expectancies, low infant mortality and morbidity, that the valid complaints are few and far between,  and that 85.7% of us like our system, and feel proud.

The system works well enough that I choose the doctors I see, that I see an unlimited number of them, that I totally got to talk to someone in sports medicine (even though I’m not exactly an athlete) about my sore cyclist knees, and that the people in my family have been as well cared for as anyone I’ve ever heard of, and that their illnesses don’t cause debt. I go to sleep at night knowing that the sickest people are going first, regardless of their social standing, or ability to pay, and that does my heart good, even if it is occasionally difficult to wait my turn.

I’m proud, and I am grateful.  Thanks Canada,  for what you’ve done for our family.

Let’s hear it Canadians -what are you grateful for this Canada Day?