Tag Archives: Health

Pandemic Daze

I often find myself dreaming of pre-pandemic days, that three weeks in, already feel so far away. Maybe a part of me knows that nothing will go back to normal. There will be a new normal that we will all quickly adapt to.

I already know so well how to walk amongst others outside- giving way on narrow forest paths so we can maintain the 2 metres of separation. I know to cover my mouth if a jogger passes by too quickly, to not take the elevator, to wash my hands over and over and over again until they’re almost raw.

Photography – Dave Vanderkop

Like Ebenezer Scrooge I take a deep account of the virus that inhabits our invisible world.

This is how I know things have changed.

Every evening at 7:00 o’clock when my neighhourhood erupts into applause, and somewhere I hear drums and a distant saxophone, someone else is beating on a cake pan (maybe Nancy on the 4th floor), and occasionally the boats out front sound their horns in honour of the frontline workers who risk themselves and their families hour after hour, day after day, to help others.

It’s the vulnerability of the new world that strikes me as well. The small businesses collapsing after only weeks of economic shutdown, entire lives, savings and dreams lost. They scramble to offer goods and services in a way that assures the public they are implementing the strictest of social distancing measures and still they struggle. Everyone wants to stay home.

And then there is the gentleman we passed the other day coming out of his beautiful home, an Audi and a Mercedes parked out front. He was clutching his dog as he opened his door and we said hello.

“How are you?” I said too late to notice that he wasn’t fine and he answered, please don’t ask and off he went into the early evening clutching his small dog.

I think about the days just before the pandemic shut down the world and the global economy.

In January we sang together over a thousand strong at an old theater in Vancouver with Choir Choir Choir. The theme was the sound of the eighties, our song was “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. Our voices were raw at the end of the night but the feeling of community of coming together in song was powerful. When Choir Choir Choir invited their fans to join in a socially distanced sing along, I grabbed my computer and sang alone, together with many thousands from around the world, my voice ringing out loud and hollow inside my home.

I met a colleague at his office just over a month ago, he shook my hand and gave me a hug. “Did you read the news?” he said wide-eyed. “Yes,” I said. “Scary.”

“I won’t be going to China soon.” he answered.

And then we went to a small meeting room and chatted about the project we were working on together. And I think about how foreign that feels now even though it happened just over a month ago.

I remember walking with my sister. I wanted to show her Reub’s swimming hole, the path we walked together with him for years. I knew her new toddler dog Houston would appreciate this walk. So we met, hugged and walked together down the winding forest path, to the quick running river where Reub used to swim.

We hugged afterwards and she thanked me for showing her this great new place. We promised to see each other again soon. We had a date to go to the theatre and dinner at a great Lebanese restaurant.

I remember talking to Dave about doing a trip in the fall to celebrate my birthday. Cuba? I had gotten dancing lessons for Christmas. Now we’re hopefully thinking to go to Ontario to see family again but we won’t hold our breath. Who knows where the world will be in October. It’s a landmark birthday and you have to live every moment as best as you can as the years behind me are greater than the ones in front.

I went “pandemic shopping” just before everything was locked down. I came home with two large bottles of wine, a jug of vodka and French cheeses. “This” I announced to Dave, “Is my pandemic shop.” We both laughed.

I think about the last time we ate dinner with friends, how we talked about how some of their friends were too nervous to meet this way. We laughed and said it can’t be that bad.

But with the dawning realization of people dying, and others risking their lives for those who were sick, and with my own yearly battle to have my lungs survive the annual flu, we have double downed on our own responsibility to ourselves and others.

Now like millions around the world we are practicing social distancing. Dave, the exemplary caretaker in the best of times, has gone into overdrive. I am watched and spritzed with disinfectant regularly . We gather close as a family in the simple rituals of living well together but with a heightened sense of the dangers of the invisible world.

I often think about my 93 year old friend Inge who has been socially distancing from the get go. At 93 she told me over the phone, I’m at the higher risk end of you know what…

Photograph by Dan Toelgoet

But she has quickly put a plan in place to manage her loneliness in these loneliest of times. “I found my phone book and I’ve started phoning every single person in the book. I just spoke with friends I haven’t spoken with in YEARS and they were delighted to hear from me.”

Last when I called she couldn’t chat. She was hosting a socially distanced picnic in her backyard with an old friend and would have to call back. Did I mind? I smiled. Here’s a woman who has lived through the holocaust, lost her parents, was orphaned at a young age and with grace and dignity is now living through the latest in the strangest of times, a global pandemic.

When I think about the wet markets and the distress of those animals gathered in small cages, one on top of the other waiting for an ugly death, having lived unnatural lives, stolen from the wild or raised on farms, when I think about our rapidly heating world, the plastic filling our oceans and the devastation of a mass extinction that will tip the ecological balance of the world that will certainly up-end the global economy, and all of us who are a part of the social systems that sustain it, when I think about all of what we have gotten ourselves into, I can’t help but think that the natural world is sending us a big reminder, a gigantic fuck you, that the eco-systems of the world will prevail and adapt one way or the other. It is more than just the vanishing wildlife and eco-systems that will suffer. The final cost will be one that we human beings will have to bear and it will be the most vulnerable of our species that will bear it.

As I despaired to a friend who works on elephant issues with me he ended the call with something that I’m choosing to continue to think about…there’s opportunity in everything, he said. I’m going to hitch my North Star to that thought. There’s opportunity in everything.

Stay safe.



Filed under Random Musing, Uncategorized

So You Think You’re Covered. The Insurance Industry Rip-off

My sister Jokelee wrote this book which will officially launch September 14. She was in a car accident over 12 years ago, maybe more now. The car accident changed her life. It ended her career and left her with a debilitating pain disorder, followed by a diagnosis of incurable cancer, followed by rheumatoid arthritis.  The book has been a long time in the making but she wanted to write it to help other people avoid the pitfalls she encountered in dealing with insurers. Her story is a hair razing, crazy story. Think Kafka. And yet she persisted and doggedly continued her battles on numerous fronts. But these are just a matter of facts of history. Of things. It doesn’t say much about who she is.

So this is who she is if you’re interested. This is how she rolls. Imagine this. Imagine a big woman, not a physically big woman, but a large woman in spirit. Arms as wide as the sky, riding a horse, rolling over the hills, careening through the forests, intrepidly riding down the Champs Elysee, arms wide, spirit big, carrying with her, her unique style of chivalry, fighting windmills, taking the world and everyone in as she moves through life. We ride on her wings, her sense of generosity, of life, of the importance of now, arms wide, skyward, she embraces those she encounters and makes everyone feel like they belong, that they’re seen and for sure they’re invited to share a meal. How many people tonight? Oh 20. I met someone at the liquor store, the bakery, I invited the mother then I invited the father and then I thought what the hell, I might as well invite the family, arms wide open, where ever she goes, skyward,  her sense of justice finely tuned – she will tell you when you are wrong, she will fight you if you are unkind, she will warn you, against your will, if she thinks you’re in trouble. She saves animals, birds, cats, dogs. She is the sister of How Birdie Was Almost Saved By a Spatula fame.  She will wrestle you if she thinks it’s necessary and she will also pick you up when you’re down. She rides through town in that storm of generosity and the knowledge that all she has is now.She is the only person my mother felt safe with when she was sick. You’ll drop me she said to me. Where’s your sister? I want your sister.

What are you doing? I’ll ask. Skiing. What about your arthritis?. I’m only going to live once. What are you doing? I ask again. Dancing. I”ll only live once. I’m learning everything about opera, art, German, I want to speak German, Spanish, I’m learning piano. She soars upwards, skywards , her arms wide open, heart always looking to get fuller and fuller.That’s Jokelee. That’s how she rolls.

About her book:

So You Think You’re Covered!
The Insurance Industry Rip-Off

Surviving the Fight for Long-Term
Disability Benefits


Filed under Random Musing

Mean Green Juicing Recipe: Road to Wellness

Hi everyone,

This post has been contributed by Leslie Lancaster who left comments on  a post I wrote a while back called Anti-candida, no wheat, no gluten, no dairy no sugar, no nuttin’ diet. I wrote the post when I was having severe stomach problems brought on by candida and as yet undiscovered food intolerances.

Leslie, who has been on her own journey of wellness shared this recipe.

Mean Green

1 bunch of kale (4-6 leaves with stalks)
4 stalks of celery
1 cucumber (peel first unless they’re English cukes)
2 Granny Smith apples (core removed due to pesticide concentration)
1/2 a lemon (peel removed)
ginger root

“I’m now on Day 5 of a juice fast and feel unbelievably good. Sleeping much better without apnea and waking up refreshed with a ton of energy. Am also losing a bunch of weight (almost 20 lbs. already) and my skin is beginning to glow with significant reduction in pore size. Bathroom breaks are more frequent due to drinking eight 8 oz. glasses of water (either plain or with ACV) a day on top of almond milk and six 16 oz. glasses of juice.

I can promise you won’t be hungry simply because your stomach is always full of something and vegetables take up more room than the same quantity protein or fat.

I did transition into this liquid diet for two weeks by eating a diet of primarily vegetables, cutting out caffeine, chocolate and sugar and sticking to the selected carbohydrate diet recommended for SIBO. Since I’m still very determined at this stage, I’m going to set my target for a 10 day juice fast. If all’s well upon reaching that goal, I’ll be going for 30 days. Will keep you apprised.”

Thanks for sharing Leslie and keep us posted on your progress!

I will add my two cents worth  and say that when I cut out dairy, gluten and sugar I never felt so healthy in my life. I no longer eat gluten and eat very little sugar but I love goat cheese and have allowed that to slip back into my life. (I can’t eat cow dairy). So those of you who are going to go for it – trust me the pain of the diet is well worth the effort.


Filed under Recipes

Beautiful Resilience

TreeLife isn’t equal. There are some people who have a much harder time than others. And it doesn’t matter what the cause of damage is – whether it’s sexual abuse, being born into a family and a country that treats you less than you should be, mental illness, addiction, depression, physical illness, suffering insufferable loss or the myriad of hurts that the world has on offer.

Everyone wears their life experience differently.When I was younger I used to think people had choices and if they made the right choices they’d be fine. And to a certain extent that’s true. But it really isn’t that simple is it?

One of my sisters is sick. And yet she’s made certain choices in her life that have led her to a path of extraordinary happiness. I’ve actually never met anyone who takes life on in such a full way.

She sees the end of her life and she lives today like its her last. I imagine a lot of people would be crushed by her circumstances myself included – and truthfully reaching that place was a journey for her and continues to be.

But she has a beautiful uplifting  resilience that is just a part of her DNA.

I meet others on the streets near where I work (thanks to not having a shelter) and through Potato Heads, a volunteer group that cooks up tasty taters and fixin’s for residents of the downtown Eastside – where life looks like it has worn much harder. But I still see beautiful resilience – it’s rougher, it’s harder, it’s often toothless and riddled with addiction and hunger but I see a lot of other things too –  community, laughter, sharing, friendship and love. I see people living life as best they can and  resiliently getting by.

I guess what I’m saying is I can’t fix anything. I can’t fix problems in my family –  I can’t fix people’s lives for them. But I want to offer people a soft place to land even if all that is, is a moment of sharing something – a story, a joke, a laugh, a little heart ache, a compliment, just a little something.

I think life is less about big things than it is about all the little things that make up your day. I try and gather  as many small moments of beauty that I can each day knowing I can’t change anything except this one single moment in time that I’m sharing with a person. A human moment. A moment that bridges our differences and our life experiences. A hopeful moment that is right now. Where resilience meets beautiful resilience. It’s all I have to offer.


Filed under Random Musing

Moods: Variation II

I probably was more than a little sad when I wrote this sad little song in the dark months following my mama’s passing but it I kinda like it.


The non-mathematical inequality of grief
that the person who dies
rises to the occasion
in an unexpected way
that the person
who is dying
grows into their death, into their dying-ness
like a hero
like a person who suddenly
what it is to die
what it is to have lived
who accepts
the gifts
that life has given them
that they know
there is no point
in painful exploration of why, why, why
although they are only human
so they are afraid
not of dying
but of leaving behind
of not knowing
what twists their illness will inflict on them
that the person who is dying
who rises graciously to the occasion
helps you discover
more about them in these last moments
hours and days
than you ever thought you would
that you learn that the capacity for joy, love
and laughter
is no way diminished by their dying-ness
that their love of music, life
shines through
even in their gravest hour
that you never expected to be so engaged
feel love so fully
want to know this person even better
in these final hours
that when they suddenly take your hand
and swing it to the music
that this effervescent life force
this magnificent zest
even in the dying person’s darkest hour
that this feeling of sheer unbreakable unknowable
and crazy love increases as each moment passes
making the chasm between life and death ever greater
knowing that the inverse proportion of wanting to love more is
in direct opposition to the ability to hold life
that death is the only state in which there is truly no hope.
that everything now can only exist in your heart
that there can be no more conversations
no more handholding
no more wry observations on the passing of life
no more sweetnesses
no more declarations of this is it
no more drinking of wine
and no more motherly assurances
that yes everything will be okay.


Filed under Book Reviews, Random Musing

End of life care decisions: Dorothy Ley Hospice

It was very difficult for us as a family to realize that we couldn’t care for Rosie at home. The truth was that the idea of caring for my mother at the end stages of her illness  was for most of us a scary prospect both emotionally and physically. And yet for me that wasn’t the absolute deciding factor.  After talking to a wonderful social worker called Cathy Mahuran we realized that there were things that were going to happen to my mother physically as a result of her illness that would make it a challenge for us to keep her as comfortable and as safe as possible.

Responsiveness to pain management and the ability for my mother to be able to undergo paracentesis (fluid drainage) once or twice a week to keep her comfortable were all deciding factors.

Truthfully bringing Rosie to longterm care was probably one of the most difficult things we have ever done. My mom who is extremely mentally alert was all of a sudden confused and terrified. She couldn’t figure out where she was or why, she kept asking us how she got there and how would she know how to get home and worst of all she was terrified of the personal care workers. Even though we met some amazing people at McCall Longterm Care (particularly nurses and social workers) the fact that she was afraid made it hard to leave her there.

We heard that because she was already considered to be out in the community that her chances of getting into a hospice were very small. Even so we kept her name on lists and worked with the social workers and coordinators to make sure they understood how important it was to my mom and us that she be in an absolute quality end of care facility. Short of being accepted at a hospice we would spend as much time with her at the facility as we could.

I’m not sure how it happened but the day before yesterday we got a call that a bed had become available at Dorothy Ley Hospice. As soon as we arrived I think we all had a collective sigh of relief. The surroundings are beautiful and the are staff absolutely amazing. Rosie deserves to die in love and comfort. Thanks to all the people who volunteer their time so generously to hospice care, to the fundraisers and staff who make these jewels a reality.

“Spiritual care lies at the heart of hospice. It says we are here. We will be with you in your living and your dying. We will free you from pain and give you the freedom to find your own meaning in your own life – your way. We will comfort you and those you love – not always with words, often with a touch or a glance. We will bring you hope – not for tomorrow but for this day. We will not leave you. We will watch with you. We will be there.” Dr. Dorothy Ley

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Filed under Conversations with My Mother, Random Musing

Chris Hughes:Building a Social Network for Non-Profits

Watch this. Chris Hughes gives a presentation on the importance of building a social web with ‘soul‘.  The next social space he is building is called Jumo an online space where people and organizations working for social change can build long term relationships.

Chris Hughes is the co-founder of Facebook, and was the director of social media for the Obama campaign. He’s only 26. “Wow” as my mother would say.

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Filed under Random Musing

Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth

Well, this is an interesting book and certainly one that I could have used during my turbulent teens and twenties.  Geneen Roth is a former compulsive eater turned writer and mentor who explores the relationship women have with food.

Through explorations of her own journey as well as many of the women in her workshops she  not surprisingly discovers that people’s behaviours are often locked in the wounds of childhood.

The self-punishing and relentless cycle of binge eating represents the double-edged sword of momentary oblivion followed by self-hatred and recrimination. “If only I could be thin my life would be perfect.” “Once I get down to a size 10 everything will be good.” And while many will find themselves reaching these self-inflicted goals it’s often done in such an unhealthy way and without the true self-discovery needed that the cycle starts all over again.

Roth explores the idea that healthy weight loss isn’t about weight loss at all. It’s about untangling the emotional wounds of the past that prevent us from self-love . Learn to love yourself and everything else will follow seems to be the lesson from this book. Although Women, Food and God deals specifically with compulsive eating, I suspect that this book could appeal to anyone with addiction issues.

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Filed under Random Musing, Recipes