A letter to my daughter: thank you, I think

Dear Daughter,

As I child I was very sensitive and I found that quite painful. I was told I might need to develop a rhinoceros hide to survive in the world  I slowly developed my hide, but my suit of armour was more of a shell.

If I hadn’t had the shell, I would not have survived high school, university, and my internship. Even though I said F.U. and I transferred to a different program I really did survive internship, because I made my shell even harder and more impermeable. My shell got me through.

I remember my younger self as a slightly self-centered person who didn’t let people in. Sometimes that came across as anger. No one could see under my shell, my armour, except my very closest friends. I sometimes took it off when I was alone in my safe place where I could cry myself to sleep. I didn’t even take it off the first time I fell in love. I mean I was really in love but I couldn’t let him know that, could I? Obviously that relationship didn’t last. No one was allowed in.  I wanted to be a nice person and a good person, but not soft and emotional.

I’m not sure who I was kidding. I couldn’t read “Love you Forever” without getting all teary-eyed. Movies still made me cry. I just didn’t let people get too close. I let your dad in. I let him see who I really was, although it took years.

My darling daughter, you changed all that. The minute I learned I was pregnant, my shell grew to protect both of us. I had only really let your dad in before that, and some very close friends.  When you were born, I was totally vulnerable all over again. I didn’t even realize it was happening, but my shell was becoming porous.

You are such an open, loving and giving person. You live and love with passion. You demanded my love and complete devotion from the moment I laid eyes on you. Quickly, my shell began to dissolve. I tried and succeeded to keep it around us for a few years.

Your brother came along and finished the job. I couldn’t protect all of us from hurt. I could protect us in so many ways and take care of all of us, but our hearts were open and vulnerable.

I am no longer protected by armour. I am completely vulnerable to the world. I  think it’s from living in a hot place.(I jest.) My heart is easily won. I care about everyone around me. I worry about everyone, including people I’ve only recently met. I feel protective towards anyone who would dare to embrace the world with your passion. I meet people who have a shell like I had, and I want to pass along my strength. Their shells need to dissolve in their own time, but I understand.

I thank you for helping me to open up again and let people see my love and hope and vulnerability. I rarely feel anger. I feel despair and I feel hope.I feel caring and compassion. I feel what others feel and it is scary. I feel sadness and happiness. I feel love, and it sometimes hurts, but mostly it feels good. Most importantly, I feel okay about letting people see how I feel, and if it really is anger, it’s aimed at injustice, stupidity and insular thinking.

I miss you! Thank you for letting me in.

Love Mama

Recovering in Paradise: showering with Tortuga and keeping my feet up

With two different prescriptions for pain medication filled, I fully expected another easy recovery from this second bunion surgery, at least from a physical point of view. I was surprised then, to find that the pain and swelling the first day were significant.

First of all, I had to take the medication with food. That meant waiting for my husband to make breakfast, as I was supposed to do absolutely nothing. I was also experiencing a headache, probably from caffeine withdrawal, having had my last cup of coffee at 6 am the previous day.

Usually I wake up and make the coffee in the morning, then either I eat cereal or I make an egg dish. That way I have some coffee in me before I start cooking. I’m grateful that my husband made breakfast for me, at least for the first few days, but that first day my head was exploding by the time I got coffee. I’d waited for breakfast to take my pills, so they still hadn’t started working. When my doctor called later for an update, my pain was down to a 3 or 4 on a scale from 1 to 10, but I estimated it at a 5 or 6 when I first woke up.

I was relaxed enough and comfortable enough by the time the meds started to work. I updated my Facebook, Snap chatted with my kids and read. I started doing Sudoku and crosswords again. The first two days post-op I was instructed to do nothing, to keep my foot elevated above my hip, and to only get up to go to the bathroom.

After my doctor called, I peaked under my elastic bandage and realized that my gauze dressing was soaked through with blood. It was dry to the touch, so must have bled the night before. I emailed him and he replied that I should come in the next day, which was only a day early, for the wound check.

The printed instructions from the doctor said I could take a shower the next day, as long as I protected my foot with a plastic bag. We find that Tortuga Rum Company bags are very sturdy and make a good cover, and my husband had made a serious effort to collect several in the time leading up to the surgery.  The taping is the tricky part. If you aren’t careful of the folds in the top of the bag, there could be an unseen opening for the water to seep in. For that reason we double bagged my foot and my husband taped it up so tightly I thought he was making a tourniquet.

That first day I kept the shower very short, being unable to put any weight on my bad foot.  I was still in good shape then, so it wasn’t too exhausting to stand on one foot and try to keep the other one as much out of the shower as possible.

We visited the doctor and he cleaned up the wound. He noted a lot of bruising and said the bleeding was good. It shouldn’t be trapped in the wound. He poked and tweaked at my stitches, which was a little bit painful, but more of an irritant to my foot. Once the foot was all wrapped up again, he got me a wheelchair to get to the front door and instructed me to keep the foot elevated.

Wow! I had a shower and a visit to the doctor in one day! What with going up and down the stairs to get in and out of the apartment, I was tired at the end of the day. Maybe I wasn’t in such good shape after all!

Once we got home, I played some computer games and emailed family to let them know how things were going. After dinner I had an early night. I planned to continue my  focus on rest and healing. My next couple of days my goal would be to taper off the pain medications.



Science, human decency and politics; one of these is not like the other.

With a lot of time on my hands lately, I’ve been on Facebook a lot more. This subjects me to a lot of unwanted information. I have friends of every political stripe. I have friends from various walks of life, and from a few different countries, too.

I get posts from “Occupy Democrats” and from “Justin Trudeau Not” and from Unite Conservatives. I see articles posted by friends who are the smartest people I know. One thing I’ve tried not to read, but can’t always help, is the comments. I lose my faith in the human race when I read the comments.

Since when did being compassionate and caring become a “liberal” value?  Why is science being treated like a liberal conspiracy? When did smart and educated people become the”left wing elite”? I started life as a conservative in Canada, which isn’t even close to being as right wing as the Republicans in the US, and I admit I’ve become more open minded as I get older. Why can’t I be in favour of pipelines and immigration? I am first and foremost a member of the human race and I believe we are all in this together. No man or woman is an island. No country, whether island or not, can stand alone.

Speaking of islands, I can’t begin to understand politics on this island, so I just follow the news and try to keep up with what is going on. I know less than ten people here with the right to vote, so we don’t discuss local politics a lot. Still, there is a lot of that anonymous comment syndrome here, too.

I am so tired of all the bickering and the stupid tweets coming from people who should behave with more dignity and compassion. I’m tired of the trolls and the blanket statements by the followers of one faction or another. I’m tired of the ignorance.

I’m not American and I’m tired of the American news. I turn on the Canadian news and I get American news. I have exactly four American friends on Facebook, yet my news feed is flooded with American news and debates and outright insults towards one party or another.

I’m most dismayed by the complete disregard of some groups towards science and fact. I saw a t-shirt I want. It said: Science, It’s not a left wing conspiracy. Seriously, one would think so these days.

My solution should be to avoid Facebook and any social media, but my options are limited these days. I’d love to go sit on the beach while my husband goes for a walk, but I don’t want to risk sand in my dressing. I’d love to go for a walk, but I wouldn’t make it very far. I’d love to swim, but I still have stitches. I’m stuck here with my feet up, reading mindless insults. (I know, don’t read the comments!)

I’ve taken to doing puzzles offline. Yes, that means on paper; crosswords, sudoku, any word puzzles. I’ve got hundreds of books on my e-reader. I just finished one that was pretty silly. A lot of the free books I download are pretty silly, but you know, that beats internet comments.

The obvious solution is to re-read some of the great novels I brought with me, or to take on another learning challenge, like a new language. Now that I’m off the serious meds I might give that a try.

A little panic; a mini-bucket list

January has been a bit of a crazy month. I haven’t posted anything, or even attempted to post, because of various family commitments that came up suddenly this month. What a way to start the year.

This past week and this weekend, I’ve come up with a sort of bucket list. It’s not really a “bucket list”, but more of a “what will I miss in the next few months” list while I recover from another surgery.

I have to admit that I’m already feeling panic. I have a cold this weekend and if it turns into anything worse, my surgery will be cancelled. I’ve been torn between wanting to fit in as much as I can, and trying to get some rest to get rid of the cold.

So what have I been trying to do? I’ve been doing all the pre-op stuff that has to be done; blood tests, meet with anesthetist, read my instructions, stay off booze and any aspirin or ibuprofen type pain killers. So far, so good. It is frustrating to wake up with a sinus headache, admittedly after over indulging in wine for the last time, and be unable to pop an Advil.

I’m also trying to cook as much as I can, swim every day and exercise as much as I can possibly tolerate. It’s hard to do nothing and it’s even worse if I already feel like a blimp. I want to be as fit as possible before surgery.

I know I’ve gone through this before, but it might be different this time. I know my family members have all survived joint replacements on a major scale, but I am still feeling occasional panic, again, at the thought of going under.

I’m trying to do as much as I can, partly because I want to fit it in once more before I’m laid up, but also to keep myself occupied. I want to be around people, visiting and socializing, because when I’m alone I get a little scared. I get a little depressed at the thought of doing nothing for another two weeks to a month.

Farewell to 2016, Wishing a bright and beautiful 2017 to all

I’ve been reading a lot lately about what a terrible year 2016 has been. In the world at large, it probably has been a very disappointing year. I don’t usually get political, but Britain, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? USA, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Okay, I got that off my chest. There is also the issue of many beloved famous people passing on. We don’t necessarily know them, but we feel like we know them. They were not old people. Many of them were contemporaries of my generation. Some were very young. Some, I was looking forward to their next projects, like Alan Rickman and Anton Yelchin.

We lost brilliant medical people, too. People who probably saved countless numbers of lives.



Back in Paradise, life goes on. Our economy may be affected by political events, but otherwise, we’ll continue to enjoy the beautiful weather every day and to dread the hurricanes every hurricane season. We’ll join our neighbours and friends for drinks and meals. We’ll have Happy Hour every weekend. We’ll swim, snorkel and dive. We’ll talk about how the world is going mad.

I am encouraged by the thoughtful discussions inspired by recent events. I’m hopeful for the future, based on the young people I’ve met this year. They stand up for what they believe in. They speak out against racism and bigotry. They are brave. I have lots of friends younger than I am, but I’ve never had so many younger people that I consider to be friends, who are closer to my kids’ ages than to mine. It’s refreshing and it’s inspiring to watch them and think about the future. They are not the scientists and entertainers we’ve lost, but maybe they, too, will help make the world just a little bit better. I know they have for me.


Leaving Paradise: Life challenges made easier

We’re off island as they say in Cayman. We’ve fled the Christmas and high season madness for six weeks to spend Christmas, not in the deep freeze of Canada, but in sunny Southern California. It’s not Cayman hot here, but we’re getting some very nice weather.

The thing about being here is that it’s so easy to go for a walk or even a hike. It’s not too hot and we won’t be hit by a car or attacked by dogs. There is also a pool. It’s quite a long pool, so swimming laps is that much easier. I can do 20-25 laps and get the same distance with fewer turns than I do at home doing 50-60 laps.

Unfortunately, it is the Christmas season, and I’m in full treat-making mode. We are also in close proximity to the best Mexican food outside of Mexico. In fact we are only about an hour away from Mexico, so we have Mexican food everywhere. Have I mentioned how difficult weight loss is when consuming Mexican food regularly, not to mention shortbread and tarts?

We also find alcohol much cheaper here, but fortunately that hasn’t yet affected our consumption. We’ve limited ourselves to wine with dinner and the occasional cocktail while the sun is going down.

My shoulder is much better and I feel energetic enough to do both a swim and a walk now. I think I can fit in some yoga and a strength circuit. I attempted push ups again for the first time in weeks, but I’m not there yet. Don’t pull your trapezoids  if you can help it! It’s painful and affects so much of your day to day life.

Yes, the challenge to eat healthy and lose weight is actually a much greater challenge here. The exercise part should be easy.

One thing we do have going for us is the abundance of fruits and vegetables. Everything is so fresh when it’s grown just a few miles away. We enjoy the local Farmers’ Market and stocking up on beans and greens and oranges and grapefruits picked yesterday. The market also has tamales. As I said, it’s a challenge!

Life challenge update: now what?

My father said to me the other day, when I finally remembered to call in the morning before his lunch, “This getting old is not for the faint of heart.” He is 26 years older than I am, but I know exactly what he’s talking about.

I felt great on Saturday morning, did a few extra lengths in my swim, did a 10 minute strength circuit later, and felt fine. We went out for the afternoon to check out the last of Pirate Week. It was really windy so it felt lovely to be out and about downtown. We stopped for food, talked to some tourists, and checked out the pirate ship. By the time we walked back to the car, my feet were sore. I didn’t think much of it, but later on at home, I really needed to put my feet up.

Later, in the evening, I was overcome by fatigue. I waited for the fireworks, which we were able to see from our place, but after that I was done. Even the lovely neighbourhood bonfire couldn’t tempt me.

I was in bed, sleeping, shortly after 9:30. For me that is unheard of! I am a night owl! Midnight has nothing on me! I slept for at least 10 hours.

You would think I’d wake up feeling refreshed, but no. I woke up feeling tired and sore. My shoulder was sore. Days later, my shoulder is still sore. Swimming seems to help, or maybe it’s just that the water numbs everything a little.

Here’s the thing: I’m afraid to get this checked out. Maybe I pulled something and this is only something temporary. At this stage of life, I’ve been discovering that the little aches and pains are a sign of something bigger. Apart from the fact that our insurance coverage for doctor visits has run out for the year, I’m just not ready to go for another x-ray and find out that yet another joint is defective. I’m afraid to find out that swimming is actually bad for it. What forms of exercise do I have left?

No, getting old is not for the faint of heart, but I’ll figure this out. My aches and pains are nothing compared to what my own parents have gone through and what many people live with every day. I still have so much left to do and to offer.

There’s just one thing bothering me and that’s the fact that too long at a keyboard also seems to bother my shoulder. I’ll have to find a way to improvise on the writing.


What it’s like to retire in paradise: part 2

Many people come to live and work here, but they generally have a short term plan. They are on a work permit. They are young and have other aspirations. Some of them stay here. They meet people and sometimes fall in love. Sometimes they leave together. Sometimes they have families, keep working and after a few years, have to leave for their rollover.

When you come here to retire, as we did, there is no work place to meet people. We have no intention of moving on, at least until our residency certificate runs out. We meet people; people our age who came here years ago and decided to stay, but who are still working, and young people who are here for a few years.

Some of the people we’ve met have become good friends. We enjoy socializing together and make a point of trying to see each other. Others I’ve become fond of, but we really only talk and socialize because of proximity. They are not here for a long time and I know we’ll miss them when they leave.  That’s the downside of life here. People leave. If people stay it’s because they already have an established social circle and community. Our building is a small community itself, so that anyone moving in or out changes the dynamic drastically.

I’ve become attached to some of the young people here, and they’ve made me appreciate my family even more than I already do. I worry about them sometimes. The lifestyle here can be very extreme for a young expat; long work hours and lots of drinking and partying outside of work. Some of our friends have found a more moderate path, some have not. The work doesn’t change. There are busy seasons in almost any field of work whether it’s accounting, the financial business, tourism or health care.

I’m happy to have met the people that I’ve met here. They are from England, Canada, the United States, Cayman, Bermuda and Costa Rica. People we meet in passing are from Jamaica, Honduras, South Africa and the Philippines.

The downside of retiring here is obviously the distance from family and old friends. Sure, we can visit them or they can visit us, but it’s not that easy. We make it to Canada a couple of times per year and it’s honestly a whirlwind. It can be a little stressful trying to see everyone. It’s expensive to fly here and it’s not convenient from Western Canada.

I miss our kids. Between their visits here and our visits there, we only see them every few months. We seldom have our whole family together. I can’t be there to give them hugs when they need it.

We would love to host Christmas, but our parents are beyond their travelling days and the trip here is a killer. I feel sad that they’ll never see where we live.

All that said, living here is very serene. Amid the turmoil of the political events in the world, we can sit on our deck and look out at the sea and it soothes the soul.



The dreaded day is near: caution, some gross stuff is mentioned

When you’re over 50, there are lots of things to be happy about. Being alive and healthy is one of them, but there are so many more, such as feeling confident in your own skin, having life experience and knowing what you want in life, having a sense of the bigger picture when things go wrong. There are some things that aren’t so great.

Last week, we were sitting on our deck, enjoying our breakfast. I was thinking about the week ahead and how much I was looking forward to it. Everything seemed to be falling into place. The kids are doing well. I’m on the last week of a medication I’ve been taking and I’ll be able to enjoy my wine again when it’s done. We’ve got tickets to a Broadway medley at the drama society on Thursday. I’m expecting a couple of good friends to visit while on their cruise next month.

The phone rang and  I was reminded of one of those things after 50 that isn’t so pleasant. You’re supposed to have a colonoscopy. I never thought about this until about a year before we left Canada. I went to see the doctor and got my referral, did my F.I.T (fecal immunochemical test) and waited. At that time in Calgary, people were waiting 3 years for their appointments. There was a queue jumping scandal, with whistle blowers and everything! I didn’t really expect to get in that soon.

My FIT was fine. I waited and over the course of a very stressful year which I may already have described, we packed up and/or gave away the contents of our twenty-one year life in our home, sold our house and moved out of the country. Not long after, I received the forwarded mail from Alberta Health telling me the date of my colonoscopy, which was months away. I had to cancel. I was no longer living in Alberta or covered by Alberta Health Care.

I saw my doctor here and she made another referral to the clinic in Cayman. The gastroenterologist comes to the island once a month. I waited. I made some trips. I had foot surgery. Several months had gone by. I finally called the clinic and they didn’t have my referral. Perhaps it was lost. I saw my doctor again and she submitted the referral again.

When the phone rang last week, it was the clinic calling with an appointment for me, this Thursday. Thursday! By the time I finish my medication, I’ll be on the preparation for the colonoscopy. I’ll have to miss the show at the drama society.

Right now, I’m doing something I’ve never done, follow a low fibre diet! Then I’m going to take something that will make me poop out everything. I’ll be “cleaned out” for the scope. Yuck! To me it’s ironic that I have to stop eating fibre, then take something to help me get “cleaned out”. The other irony is that a high fibre diet is preventive for colon cancer.

I can’t take Advil or aspirin or anything related. Since I’m still on medication, I also can’t take acetaminophen. This has been a challenge. Not only has my neck been sore lately, likely from the break from swimming during my recent cold, but my foot is sore. My foot which recently underwent surgery isn’t sore. It’s doing quite well, as it should 3 months post op. My other foot is sore.

So these are the things, the aches and pains and unpleasant procedures that come with being over 50. The sudden deaths of friends rather sucks, too, but that puts it all in perspective. I’m happy to be alive and relatively healthy.

Tomorrow, I’ll have breakfast then I’ll be on a clear fluid diet until after the colonoscopy. I’ve stocked up on Jello, ginger-ale, iced tea and coconut water. How fortunate for me that I’m doing my procedure here, so I can drink fresh coconut water.

The other benefit of having the procedure here is the preparation. I only have to drink a 5 ounce solution of Pico-Salax twice rather than the copious amounts of Colyte that is used in Canada. The hours spent in the bathroom are probably about the same. It makes me look forward to my next foot surgery.

Oh, and I’ll also have to wait a few more days before I can enjoy a glass of wine. I’ve only been on the low fibre diet for 2 days and I’m already craving a salad with nuts and seeds and fresh fruit, or a nice vegetable stir fry. This might cure me of my addiction to the baguettes that I have to buy just because they’re hot and fresh.

No matter how unpleasant this all is, most of my friends and family over 50 have gone through it. It could be worse. I could be forced to watch another presidential debate.






Challenge update: It’s a real challenge now!

Not only have I not been writing about my life challenge every week, but I’ve had more setbacks than I care to count.

At first I was doing great. I was getting toned and fit and I lost a few pounds. I could fit into some of my old clothes again. The first setback was being sick with the flu in the spring, then going to Canada for two weeks. I didn’t gain weight, but I had a set back in my fitness regime.

I was back into my regular activity, adding new challenges regularly, until my foot surgery. Major setback number two.

The recovery from surgery seemed endless. Even now I have twinges in my foot and it seems swollen at the end of the day. I can’t do all the exercises I had added to my routine.

Next came another trip to Canada. That one wasn’t too bad, because by then I could go for long walks and I could do a little exercise circuit in a small space, like in my parents tiny guest room or in a hotel room. I returned home feeling like I had made some progress since surgery, but it was time to get serious again. I had gained a couple of pounds back.

I started swimming again regularly, trying to increase my laps every day as my tolerance grew. I tried to add a workout or yoga every day. Things were going moderately well. Our daughter came to visit. She’s all about fitness, so I was able to mostly keep up with the swimming and yoga.

Now, I’m fighting a cold. This isn’t the every day “permacold” that I put down to allergies. That daily congestion that is actually relieved by a good swim. This is a wake up feeling fatigued, stuffed up and my throat feels tight kind of cold. This is a sinus headache, “I just want to read while lying outside on the anti-gravity lounger” kind of cold.

It’s a challenge, but that’s life. If you let every setback stop you, your goals will always seem unattainable. The thing is, I don’t have an end goal. My goal is to be fit and healthy and to find a routine that works towards that, and that I can live with. I think I’ve found it, but sometimes the challenge is to keep it going, even with the setbacks.