Gone Coastal

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I know nuh-sinkh!

I begin this post while sitting in the Ambulatory Care Building of BC Children's hospital. Apparently, I'm three hours early for my appointment. It's quite possible that it's my error - my mind's not exactly razor sharp these days. I had an appointment for 1:30 with Rheumatology, and I opened some mail a few days back that mentioned an appointmentment at 10:30 with our doc at Biochemical Diseases, but maybe that was the appointment in October. I know the plan was to coordinate visits. Whatever the case, I'm here with Trin, with three extra hours to kill. Thank goodness for the great silly installations they have in the clinic waiting areas, with wheels to turn chains, pulling bouncy balls up elevators to tracks, buckets and ladders, spinning sunflowers and sending cows looping round a moon with his smile on backwards.
Oh, yeah. And a TV. Sigh.
All of that helps pass the time and keeps Trin busy. But I'm still a parent, back again at Children's, hoping we'll finally get some answers. When our appointment comes, I expect we'll go through a very familiar routine. Weight height and blood pressure, then back to the waiting area. Then rewind/replay the clinical history for the Rheumatology Fellow. Watch Trin walking, do basic strength tests. Then wait for the Fellow to discuss with the attending Rheumatologist and possibly rinse and repeat. Then possibly do it all over again for the Biochem folks.
In the last few months again, there've been a few things more evident than before. Whatever it is, it's still subtle, still changing, and not going anywhere.

At the end of the appointment, I know nothing new, medically speaking. The new symptoms don't fit the patterns that would indicate a specific condition, and there are no further tests at this point beyond some rather invasive options that we don't wan to proceed with without stronger evidence that we'll actually find something.
Discouraging. But one thing I know. With all the varied struggles big and small, it's tough sometimes to find that sparkle in Trin. But when everything comes together and her imagination is sparked, she blossoms bright, like a flower in the desert.
In the Nevada deserts around Vegas, I was struck by the beauty of the desert - a place we tend to associate with insufficiency. I was especially struck with the contrasts of the desert surrounds with the intensity and boldness of the blooms there.

Three weeks ago today, I sat somewhat awkwardly for an hour and a bit and let an artist of a different medium capture that essence in a tattoo, my first, on my back shoulder. A desert cactus in bloom. It was a way of declaring indelibly that I love my daughter dearly, that she is wonderfully made, and that I want to be there for her on the road ahead, wherever it leads.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Can I paint you a picture?

Vegas sits in the middle of a low flat valley. To the west, and a little bit north, is Mount Charleston, and a long low finger of a ridge stretches south.
It's been windy since I've been here, and I might have mentioned to some of you that it's a bit dry. In fact there's been a bit of a drought, and even the famous fountains are flowing rather with much less flash. In the early evening, there were dark clouds breaking up the blue sky. Someone around here's gonna get some rain, I thought, and that's probably a good thing. I was driving down to the outlet center to find a place to eat.
When I came out after supper, the sun was just setting, and most of the sky had cleared again. As I pulled out of the lot and turned west to cross over the freeway, I saw what remained of the earlier menace.
Ahead, running the length of that mountain ridge, was a line of rain clouds, still emptying. A thick dark line divided the darkening blue sky. Below it, the virga hung and just brushed the top of the ridge's silhouette, backlit by the last of the sun's rays.
I didn't have a camera, and in any case I was driving. For a moment I wished I could snap that shot, capture it, but I wouldn't have done it justice in a frame.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


By the time I post this, I'll be in Vegas, but at the moment, I'm at YVR, waiting to board. About an hour ago, I said goodbye to my daughter and planted a kiss on the sleeping head of my son in the back seat of my car, having been driven to the airport by my Mom. It's Mother's day and I'm heading away from my kids for two weeks for training.
Most of what followed the goodbyes was pretty standard airport fare. A small lump in the throat and a butterfly or two. Stand in a line, Show some papers. The airline rep gave me the run down of 'the mill' ahead as I said it had been awhile since I'd been to this end of the airport.
Haul the bags down a hall. Show some papers. Answer some questions. Check the big bag. Stand in another line. Show the same papers again. Pull stuff out. Take things off. Put stuff away. Put things on. Stand in another line. Have the fast moving line I'm in moved to another queue and s.l.o.w. .r.i.g.h.t. .d.o.w.n. Exchange pleasantries, hand over a paper and walk through another door to the other side.
Having plenty of time before boarding, I wandered slowly toward my gate, checking out my options for overpriced food to bring aboard for later. My gate was waaay down at the end, and as I rounded the last bend it hit me exactly how long awhile it had been. About two and a half years since I was flying out of this airport and this very same gate. Trinity was just about 15 months when I was last here, and had been quite resistant to walking on two feet. But right here - or right over there, at that little indoor playset - as I watched with my 4 months worth of Eli belly and all the paraphernalia required for a mom taking her toddler on vacation - Trinity decided that walking was actually worth the effort. She proceeded to walk all over Kauai.

I'm now watching a couple of brothers scrambling about on that same playset. The younger is probably under a year, not yet walking, but climbing up the same slightly slippery steps, making his mother visibly nervous. The older is maybe three, somewhere between Trin and Eli now, running circles around, and occasionally over, the younger.

A little Mama nostalgia to mark Mother's Day.

And who knows, you might just get another post or two out of me while I'm here, wondering how to occupy myself without eager little hands pulling me this way and that. I miss 'em already, but checking in with my mom a little while ago, there sleeping soundly already. Perhaps I'll catch up with them in dreams.

Happy Mother's Day, all of you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tough questions

This week we had one of those surreal experiences that you see on prime time drama shows. Swat teams in armoured cars, road blocks, and snipers on roofs.
Except it wasn't on TV. It was our block that was closed off with cop cars, the roof of the shed that backs on to our yard that served as a platform for the man in black with the big gun. And it was our next door neighbour - whom we've alternately seen arrange hedges and flowers in his garden, go on random tirades against neighbours and family, and raise a baby crow as a pet - who eventually gave himself up and was taken away.

Drama aside, it's left me with a lot of questions. The sort of questions that don't have tidy answers. The sort we often don't want to think about for that reason. But this is not a character wrapped up in a screenplay reality, with a story line that neatly starts and ends within a few days or weeks. I have had a part to play, and a much more personal perspective.
I'll admit I've felt some relief, or at least reprieve, with the crow guy gone for awhile, at not having to wonder what state he's in today, or check for his presence outside before letting the dogs out in the yard. I'm also apprehensive about what's coming. We don't know where he was taken or for how long, and will not likely be informed when he's released. There's a good chance he's going to be pretty angry when he comes back, and he has a pattern of being highly suspicious of those around him after an outburst or when authorities have been called.
But beyond that, I'm concerned for him. I want to know if he's getting help from competent people wherever he's at. Is there anyone within the system who's been able to gain his trust before? Is there anyone who has contact with his grown sons, one of whom was over and did his best to calm down and reign in his dad during this most recent episode. Do they have support and resources to help their father? As his neighbour, how do I strike a balance between offering a hand of friendship, and ensuring the safety and security of my family, especially my children.

I've done a lot of reading on mental health and various mental disorders over the last year while trying to understand my own experiences. I've talked to a number of friends who've struggled with different symptoms and disorders. I happened to just finish reading a book, The Soloist, that chronicles part of the life of a promising musician who was afflicted with schizophrenia.
To my knowledge - it was mentioned in passing by our former landlord - it is schizophrenia that has long plagued our neighbour.
I'm no psychologist, but in what I've picked up there's a consistent dividing line between psychoses and other mental health issues, where psychoses have some element of disconnect with reality. In my research this past year, I've found commonalities between my experiences and many of the different categories of illness I've looked at. I've recognized that I've been lucky that many of the symptoms I've experienced have been fairly limited, often just enough to trouble me with a taste of what it must be like to deal with similar symptoms in a full blown form. I also count myself fortunate to have stayed on the connected side of that dividing line to psychosis.

I was very glad that I happened to be out at a speech therapy session with Trinity for most of this incident, and just happened to pick that week to take a detour to visit a friend after the session, so that when I arrived on our block, Trin was asleep in the car and I only had to wonder for five or ten minutes before they cleared up the operation and I could go home and check in with the Bear, Eli and the nanny.
This was not the case with the last major incident with the crow guy. I was pretty much full term with Eli when a minor indiscretion of a friend's young puppy set him off. We were heading for coffee, when the puppy slipped past me out of her car and ran on the other side of our fence, on the crow guy's property, to playfully chase our dogs on our side of the fence. By the time we had retrieved the puppy, who had run a couple of laps front to back down his property, he was standing in the street in front of us, with a roofing hatchet in hand, screaming and threatening us.
Even then, we wrestled with whether to press charges because we were concerned first and foremost that he get the help he clearly needed. That obviously added some tension to our neighbourly relationship, and many awkward moments of avoided eye contact. A couple of times when opportunities arose, I tried to extend an olive branch of sorts. Sadly, it seemed to trigger his paranoia. Over the last few months, though, it was my very charming son who seemed to bridge the chasm and soften up the crow guy. A few well timed waves and smiles as the crow guy drove by or sat on his porch, and I no longer felt the need to usher the kids past that first property on walks for fear they'd pull a flower or step over a boundary and set him off. The crow guy even came out to give the kids some leftover bubbles one of his grandkids had left in his trailer.

It bothers me immensely that a troubled man has to get to a point of bearing weapons on a street dotted with young families before action is taken, and that it then has to come in the form of forcible removal from his home at gunpoint. This is not a case where there were no previous indications. There are a number of people who have lived on this block for decades, and known this man and his occasional outbursts, but have generally gotten along with him. But over the last few years he has gotten steadily worse.
I don't know what should have happened. I don't know how to strike that balance between the rights of the individual to have some say in their own health and lifestyle, the safety and the security of the public at large, and the health and safety of the person whose very mental illness may make it difficult for him to recognize his need for help and accept what is offered. But I feel for our crow guy and his family. I feel the need to at least voice the questions, that perhaps a few more people would pause before pronouncing judgment on 'the crazy down the street.' I hope that I will find ways to let him know, gently, that we understand at least a little, and we hope to meet up again with that personable guy in the garden.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Like peas in a pod?

There's absolutely no mistaking the physical resemblance between my two offspring. Blue eyes, blonde hair, a certain twinkle in their eyes. When I look at baby pictures of them at the same ages, they look very much alike.
My sister and I, too, look very much alike in pictures. But we're two very different people. In my first year of university, my sister was studying at the same school, and if I found myself near one of the buildings she spent most of her time around, I'd sometimes get a nod or a wave from someone I'd never met before. I'd wave back and carry on, with a bit of a smile to myself 'cause I knew I'd just been taken for my sister by someone who clearly (in my mind, anyway) didn't know her very well.

Well, Trin's a month shy of her third birthday coming up on three and ahalf, and Eli's a couple of months past his first almost 20 months, but they are already very different creatures.
Trin has always been rather tentative in her approach to new skills. She seems to want to be sure she can do it right before she begins. When she was learning to walk, she took those first steps beyond the 'step-dive' maneouvre at 12 months, taking 3, 5 and 7 steps in the space of an hour. Then she went back to crawling and cruising till 15 months, in the airport on the way to Hawaii, at which point she took off and never looked back.
Eli is very much a jump in with both feet kinda guy. He's always pushing the limits of what he can do. He started walking on his own by about 11 months, and as soon as he figured that out, he seemed to switch gears to focus on trying to talk. He's quick - quick to learn and quick to move. A couple of months ago, I went to the mall with the kids to get my cell phone sorted out. I let go of his hand for maybe 30 seconds in the store while I fished stuff out for the clerk. Did the semiautomatic headcount scan and he was gone. A family friend happened to be in the mall and bumped into him (almost literally from what I hear) at the other end of the mall within a few minutes. (and yes, I scoured Zeller's for a harness for him before leaving the mall that same day).
Trin has always been pretty content and complacent. When she started daycare it took her some time (probably upwards of half a year) to learn that she didn't have to let all the other kids walk away with her toys. Eli has always known exactly what he wants and been good at making it known. And that, of course, has been a major motivator for stretching those skills boundaries: "How do I get to that, and if I can't get there myself, how can I get someone else to get it for me?"

In an odd way, though, these differences are starting to make them more alike. Trin has had some significant developmental delays in a number of areas, due to some underlying strength and stamina issues that we're still working to diagnose. With Eli being rather ahead of the curve, they wind up pretty close to the same point. Eli's already got better coordination, strength and stamina than his big sister, though he's lacking some finesse in the fine motor areas yet. And there are days where he's as understandable as Trin, though what he says may be simpler in form.

They learn from each other, adapt to each other, and look out for each other. And I can see them becoming a really neat pair as they grow. Not so much peas in a pod, more like strawberry and rhubarb. Different but quite complimentary.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A momentary change of pace

Life with two young kids keeps you going. It's downright crazy at times. Probably no more so here than in other homes with two (or more) pairs of little feet trotting ever in different directions, but I don't have to trump anyone with epic tales for you to understand why my writing has been far from prolific.
So, now. How does it happen that I find just a little bit of time to post again tonight? Well, my two pairs of little feet are marking paths around Port Moody with their Mor Mor for a few days.
I've been very much looking forward to this, a few days with my hands free to make some progress on the list. And time to spend with some girlfriends who were visiting. Indeed, we did some marathon shopping (apparently, I'm an enabler for shopaholics), and hosted a little party Saturday, and Sunday I did roll the carpet of weeds back a little further in the yard, puttered a bit with some new art materials and slept more than I thought I could on the couch in the middle of the day.
But I found something was definitely missing. I've been dragging myself along, feeling rather low. I've done alright with taking advantage of the freedom, but even the fun stuff like art puttering didn't give much satisfaction.
It took me some time to put my finger on it, and when I did, it was an oddly pleasant surprise. I was missing the kids. Not just in a 'miss their smiling faces' way, a sentimental something you could neatly frame and put up on the dresser. No, with all that I struggle with, and all the ways it's so closely tied to the kids, as hard as it is sometimes just to spend a day with them and still keep myself together, nothing else in my life fulfills me like sharing life with them. Finding ways to connect with Trin when her words won't come. Watching the wonder in Eli's eyes as he discovers the world around him, and leaving him room to conquer a bit more of it, safely. And stretching out those chance moments I get with each of them alone, one on one.
In an odd way, the struggle seems to be part of the satisfaction, not only of parenting, but of all the other things that don't get done as well or as often when you're raising little kids.

I'm wrapping this post up in the morning, before I dig into my work day. With my current mental state, I struggle at the best of times to stay focused and on track with my work, If I'm working from home, as I sometimes do, I can pretty much guarantee a few 'MUMMEE!!' interruptions, and I'll chat with Trin or look at whatever she's brought to show me and then shepherd her back out to the living room, or occupy Eli while Sheryll draws Trin in to put on her socks and shoes for a walk.
Today, I'm working from home again, saving the commute time knowing that there'll be no-one bursting in on me, no backdrop of toddler chaos and drama. But I know where my head will be, too. It's already there at the ferry terminal, waiting to scoop up my babies and get back to the crazy daze of parenting.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Happy Birthday to me!

Well, it's not actually my birthday, yet, but I did give myself an early present. Yesterday I went into the hospital to get my tubes tied. Or fried, to be slightly more accurate. And so here I am, taking a couple of days off at home, with time to actually post to my much neglected blog.
We made this decision a long time ago, shortly after we found out we were pregnant with Eli, in fact. I talked to my GP almost as soon as the three month minimum post partum wait was up, only to find I'd be waiting quite a bit longer. Sometime in early March I got a call, for an initial consultation late April, and an average of six weeks or so after that for surgery.
Which all amounts to another ten months to consider the choice. I've thought about it a lot, and it makes each of those milestones that are passing all to quickly with Eli a bit more precious, but I don't think I've ever really come close to changing my mind. It would have been a harder choice if I were maybe ten or fifteen years younger, with that many more potential childbearing years to cut off. But I'll be thirty-seven in a couple of weeks, and unless I had another in very short order, I'd likely be done anyway.
Probably the biggest factor for me, though, has been the struggle with mental health issues. Eli's a year old now, and at some point things cease to fit into a neat postpartum package. They simple become a part of ongoing life. As with any other health issue, you seek out ways to manage the disease, and work to maintain a balance in your life, always juggling a bit as things shift. I can no longer do my job the way I used to, and have to keep that in mind as assignments change. The children grow and develop and different issues come up that require different strategies, and take different tolls. And you reevaluate and adapt.
I do look back on the last few years, though, especially as I have a few longer stretches of clarity, and am a bit saddened to see signs of the impact this has had on my kids. The times I've not been able to be fully present with Trin, when I've simply been doing what I know I ought to, working up a smile and a kiss, but not fully there. I can't help but think this has been a factor in her developmental delays, and in the insecurity that shows itself now and then. It's far from the only factor, her sickness last year was a big part of it I'm sure, and it's not a guilt I feel, just a regret that this was how it had to be, and that in some cases I didn't have the energy to advocate and intervene sooner on some fronts. Eli's doing great developmentally - in fact I wouldn't mind at all if he slowed down a bit. But I'm disappointed, to put it a bit mildly, that I've missed out so much on really enjoying that first year - being fully in love with my babies. I've had a few of those really good days lately, and they're wonderful, but it kinda hits home about how much I've lost.
So, to think there won't be any more first smiles, first giggles, first hugs, first words or first steps makes me feel a little nostalgic. But I love the two blessed, beautiful babes I've got, and I want to take care of myself so that I can be more to them. And for me, that means taking no further chances with aggravating mood and anxiety disorders with another child. As time goes by, I hope and pray and expect things will continue to get better, the good stretches brighter and maybe longer, the dark spaces more manageable. We can't go back but in the days ahead I'll be able to make up for some of what we've missed. I pray, too, that my children will learn from my struggle, to become resilient to depression and anxiety themselves, and to grow up to be empathetic to those in their lives who struggle like this.

Of course, no post on this topic would be complete without some reference to the joyous return of spontaneity, freedom and stress reduction to our sex life. No more hormones messing me up, no more double backup to be extra sure (we don't trust much to be fully safe after the IUD :). Which could all make for a great birthday party! And one less thing to stress over in life, and a little more access to a great outlet for the other tensions, is good for all of us!