Friday, October 30, 2009

Oink Oink

If this H1N1 flu pandemic is a test case for the way the Canadian government and health agencies will respond to a super bug pandemic then it looks like we are totally screwed.

It is not like this “second wave” of Swine flu just crept up on us. It cannot be said that we did not know it was coming, and yet, it seems officials are running around in a blue ass panic.

The roll out of the vaccine is too little, and far too late. Small makeshift clinics set up in old fitness sites (as is the case with Whitby anyway), 5 to 8 hour long line ups in the cold and wet (that sounds smart) and inconvenient clinic times for most working people, make this whole vaccination plan seem like someone hastily drew it up with red crayon in a tree house over recess time.

Today’s news did little to make the situation any better. I can only imagine what this will do to the current line-ups.

According to the Globe and Mail, Ontario will no longer give out H1N1 flu shots to the general public because of a shortage of the vaccine- high risk candidates only. The CBC is reporting that Provinces get less H1N1 vaccine next week because the producers can’t make it fast enough.

“The problem is the maker has a single production line but had to stop producing adjuvanted vaccines to make the unadjuvanted type. Adjuvants are used to boost effectiveness, but can have unwanted side-effects in some cases.”

Mmm. really? So I should hold out for the side effect free Non-Adjuvant version?

The hope now is to get the vaccines all in for everyone who wants one before Christmas.

Merry Christmas Canada, here is a vaccine you needed in September! Oh, you don’t need it now? You are immune? You already had the flu?

I am sure there is some country we can regift it to.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For Wicket

The first year we moved to Ontario , we lived in a very small Junior one bedroom apartment on Jarvis Street in Toronto. It was cramped and noisy, and all kinds of interesting characters came out to play at night…well mostly at night. I was missing home pretty bad- everything here seemed so crazy to me, the speed of life, the insanity of some of my neighbors, and the lack of community. I was having trouble adjusting to life in the big smoke. Even though I had Don, I was lonely.

Shortly after the New Year, I got a really bad flu, and I was home for days. It was January 8th and bitterly cold. I remember crawling back into bed that afternoon, Don tucked me in set a glass of juice on the side table and told me he was going to the store to pick up a few things. I promptly passed out in a Tylenol Cold induced haze.

I woke up to the sound of Don unlocking the apartment door. He had a kind of grin on his face that made me worry; I was about to ask him what the heck he had been up to when he produced a cage from behind his back. Inside there was a little black and white fur ball we named Wicket. This little kitten was to be my birthday gift- even though Don is allergic to cats, indeed Don never really liked cats. As Don was handing the little kitten over to me he made sure I was clear on one condition: “The cat cannot be allowed in our room. That has to be a cat hair free zone; I need to be able to sleep”. That sounded reasonable so I agreed.

The first night Wicket cried and cried and cried to be let in our room. It was a long night.

The second night, Don said: “Maybe he is lonely, let’s let the cat in the room but not on the bed. He can never get on the bed.” That sounded reasonable so I agreed.

It wasn’t long that night before the cat scaled the bedclothes and crawled on top of the bed. Purring the whole time. Don would pick the cat up and put him back down each time until he finally gave up. Wicket was both persistent and smart. Those first few nights Wicket wisely slept at the foot of the bed. But as days and weeks past, he slowly moved up to sleep at our knees, then cuddled into the small of our backs, and finally we woke up one morning to find Wicket between us, with his head on the pillow and his body tucked under the sheets. He was smart I tell ya. Strangely, Don was not suffering any allergic reactions.

This cat did not know he was a cat. He was part dog I am sure, perhaps that is why Don did not have any allergies to Wicket. Our cat would fetch. If you threw a stuffed toy, he would run after it, pick it up in his teeth and strut back to you like a lion on the Serengeti. When he reached your feet, he would drop his kill at your feet and step back proudly, waiting for you to pet him and toss it again. He could do this forever.

If Wicket found something interesting or when he really wanted your attention, he would stand up on his two hind legs hold his paws up like a Prairie Dog and sway back and forth like a cobra. He could hold this stance for a long time, and it unnerved many a guest to the apartment. Also, he did not meow- he trilled. It was the oddest little noise.

When we moved into our new home in Whitby we noticed more of Wicket’s interesting little quirks. Wicket loved all dogs, was not afraid to run up to the biggest of them on days he escaped outdoors, sniff them, walk along side them. Try to talk to them. Most dogs shied away from him at first, but warmed up to him before long. Cats however, were a different issue. If a cat came to our door, or to our back patio Wicket turned into a feral little creature. His eyes would get black and wide, he would puff up to twice his size and make this woofing sound, sometimes even throwing himself at the door in a desperate attempt to get at the cat on the other side. It was scary to watch Wicket go bye-bye.

While Wicket fiercely guarded the house from other cats he was very welcoming to other visitors. If you knocked on our door Wicket would be there to great you and once you were in the house you were going to be cuddled. He insisted. He would see you out too- walk you to the porch and all.

Because we bought a new house, and because we bought one from Liza homes, that first year we had a steady stream of contractors come in to repair or redo things around the house. Wicket was an indoor cat- so we had it on our standing orders that if a contractor came to our house; they were not to let the cat out. One day I happened to be at home when one of the contractors came by to fix the leaking bathtub upstairs. Wicket watched the guy the whole time, and when he was ready to leave followed him downstairs. The man came and spoke to me about the repairs, and commented on how friendly Wicket was: “He sat there the whole time” He said. “He purred all the time, and just sat at my feet”. He looked down at Wicket who was circling his legs while he spoke, and petted him. Then he gathered his stuff and headed for the door. I was making supper so I figured he could see himself out. A few moments later I realized that the contractor was still there; he had opened the door and closed it several times, but had not left. I peaked out, my hands full of dough. The contractor looked at me, a little chagrined he said: “The cat won’t let me out”

Then I saw the light bulb over his head. He started laughing.

This is the House!” he said. His face red, tears streaming down his face”. This is the house they were talking about!

By this point I was curious and laughing myself, the guy was just howling and it was kind of infectious. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

Kirk was here last week fixing your ceiling I think, and he had to call the guys from the site to come let him out. He saw the order not to let the cat out, but the cat would not leave his feet long enough to let him open the door and squeeze out. We asked him why he didn’t just pick the cat up, step out and then toss him back in, and he said the cat was not normal. He would not pick him up.”

Apparently Kirk was teased mercilessly about having to be rescued from a cat, and the story had made the rounds.

As Wicket got older he started to get a series of bladder infections which caused him to pee in places he should not. Antibiotics and special food only kept him clear for so long. The poor guy had all the fur licked off his paws and his belly was raw from licking. A few weeks ago we noticed a furball on the top of his head. We let it go, because Wicket usually works those out himself. But he hadn’t, and he wasn’t himself. His infection was back we thought at first. When Don tried to cut the furball off himself we discovered a lot more was going on.

Wicket was put down two weeks ago now. I still find myself listening for the sound of his paws patter across the floor at night and waiting for him to hop up on the bed. Don has to stop him self from making sure all the toilet seats are up and clean (Wicket would only drink out of the toilet). I have a cold now, and I miss how Wicket seemed to know I was sick, he would stay near me all day, and sit on my feet to keep them warm.

I will never have another pet. Telling the vet it was ok to put Wicket down was very difficult. Saying goodbye to Wicket hurt. But boy am I grateful I had that little furball in my life. I know some people will laugh at this and wonder why someone would get so upset over a cat- but the thing is he wasn’t just a cat to me; he was a member of the family.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Communication Breakdown

Our little guy has a bit of a speech delay. At a year old he began getting ear infections and they never went away. He lived on various forms of penicillin. Both ears were constantly infected, and my little guy spent much of his days isolating himself. Wil became very withdrawn and stopped responding to his name. Worse, my quiet little guy was becoming increasingly frustrated by is lack of ability to communicate.

When we finally got him into an ENT we discovered that he had no movement in his ear drums, which meant he could hear very little, if at all. He had to have surgery to stop the infections. Thankfully, he has not had an infection since the surgery, and his hearing has improved a great deal. His speech is coming along, but slower than we would like. At three years old, there is still a lot of gibberish, but he is putting sentences together, and seems to be understanding a lot more than he did even a month ago. More importantly, he is trying to make connections between the words he knows and the ideas he is trying to express.

The other night at the dinner table he passed gas. I looked at him expectantly, he knows he must say excuse me when he coughs or burps and I had assumed we covered the emissions from his bottom as well. He looked back at me, knowing I wanted something from him, but clearly unsure what that something was. So he said:

“I burp in my bum”. His face serious; searching mine. I tried not to laugh.
“No buddy that is a fart. Say excuse me.”
“Scuse me.”

Now I am sure someone is going to tell me I should not have taught him the word fart, I should have used the phrase “passed gas”. And I am not sure why I used the f word. All I know is, it is much better than “I burp in my bum”.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Christmas on Thanksgiving

As many of you know, I live far away from my family. We are all spread out, with the bulk of the clan living in different parts of Newfoundland, and everyone else is spread out all over Canada. The only relatives I have here in Ontario are my Uncle Brendan and his family in Oshawa, and my sister Serena in Kingston. It makes holiday times kind of lonely. While all family gatherings that I miss are difficult, missing Christmas in Newfoundland damn near kills me. I spend much of the holiday in a bit of a funk, prone to spontaneous bouts of weeping. Even Christmas commercials get to me.

You may be wondering why I am talking about Christmas so early this year, and the answer is that I had my Christmas this past Thanksgiving weekend. The plan was that my parents were going to fly up and my sister was going to drive in from Kingston to spend the long holiday weekend together. I was really looking forward to the holiday- even if only half my family could come.

However, my mom is a bit of a sleeveen. Unbeknownst to me, she had arranged for the entire family to be together. Mom, Dad and my brother Cas all flew in to Toronto together, and my little sister Cassandra flew in the next day. It was the first time we were all together in 3 years. It was wonderful.

We spent the time playing cards, spoiling my son Wilson (he is the only grandchild), laughing and teasing each other, and eating. We were all together, enjoying each other, we were busy making memories; in short, it was Christmas for me. Who knows, maybe, with a little luck, we can make this a new tradition for the family.

Thanks Mom, Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Newfoundland Marshmallow Cookies

Here are two of my favorite cookies from Newfoundland. It has been a while since I had any of these delights, and I got a hankering for the chocolate version of the recipe last night. I didn't make any though, because I just went down a size in pants and have no desire to start filling out the older bigger pants again, and neither my husband nor my son likes marshmallows. So had I made them, I would have had to eat the whole pan. That would not have ended well.

I thought I might work the craving out of my system by sharing the recipe with all you special folk. These are quick, easy to make, and freeze well.

Chocolate Marshmallow Roll

1 cup semisweet Chocolate Chips
2 tbsp Butter or margarine

1 egg beaten
1 cup Icing sugar
2 1/2 cups of small colored marshmallows
1/4 cups maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 cups chopped walnuts (or pecans)
Coconut for coating

Instructions: Melt chocolate chips and butter over low heat until soft. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Add beaten egg, icing sugar,marshmallows, well drained cherries & walnuts and combine. I like to do this next step on waxed paper. Sprinkle some coconut over the waxed paper and fold the mixture onto it. Using the paper form the mixture into a roll. Tossing a little more coconut on it to ensure the outside of the roll is well coated. Roll up the cookies in the wax paper (it should look like a little chocolaty coconutty tube of gooey goodness). Chill well before attempting to slice. I sometimes toss it in the freezer for about 20 minutes before slicing as it is much easier to cut. It makes a really pretty cookie.

This next version of the cookie is also tasty. I cannot decide which is best!

Here is the recipe:

Graham Marshmallow
3 cups mini marshmallows (coloured or plain)
2 cups of graham wafer crumbs
1/2 cup maraschino cherries cut up
15oz can Eagle Brand milk
1 tsp vanilla
Few grains salt
2 1/2 cups coconut

Instructions: This one is even easier to make than the first recipe. All you have to do is blend marshmallows, condensed milk, salt, graham crumbs, vanilla and cherries together. Then, line an 8x8 inch pan with half of the coconut and spread marshmallow mixture on top and press firmly.
Sprinkle remaining coconut on top and press down gently. Refrigerate for 24 hours before cutting in squares.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Too much!

Last week the Work Fairy shat out a large steaming dump on my desk and at the same time I had the perfect storm of school activities land on my head. Seriously, I have not had much time to do anything other than work, and it is beginning to get to me. I am starting to get that bug eyed look. People in my life are taking on a vague hazy sheen. I seem to be forgetting where I am from one moment to the next. I don’t remember the drive in to work. I just seemed to arrive here.

Last week, the one and only time I made it to the gym ended in embarrassment. It was a minor miracle I found the time to haul my ass there, remember my gym bag and shoes. I did manage to forget my MP3 player, but hey, you can’t win them all. I changed and locked up my gear in the locker room, and got on the treadmill. I was mentally congratulating myself on my dedication, my perseverance, my inner drive…and yet, something was not quite right.

I tried to ignore it. Tried to focus again on how good I was being. I mean here I was, at the gym, I had made it a priority! Even though I still had mounds of marking, that Grad was looming in three days, that we still didn’t have the rental chairs, that I had a SAT meeting, a CLIP meeting and a Staff meeting to prepare for, that I had yet to find a babysitter for Wilson for Grad night- I still made time for exercise. I was moving at a pretty good pace too- considering I had all this on my mind.

But hey, I missed that music in the background. Music keep me on pace normally and it distracted me from the fact I was exercising. Yeah, I wish I had that MP3 player. It seemed awful important to my workout now that I had forgotten it. Suddenly I found that I could not stop thinking about it- why the heck was that bothering me so much?

Well because I don’t use a combination lock. I use one of those little gold locks. You know the kind with a key. And do you want to know something else? I keep that little key tied to the wire on the earphones of my MP3 player.

The player that was left at home.

I had to go to the gym office, and explain to them what happened, and have them cut the lock. It was so embarrassing. But that is the way my mind has been working of late. Which is to say, it has not been working well at all!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Time sings the praises of the Rock

Time Magazine did a little piece on Newfoundand yesterday, and I thought you all might like to check it out. The article described the Rock's as: "astonishingly photogenic. Its blend of rugged landscapes (icebergs, mountains, forests, fjords, beaches and coastal trails) make it a playground for nature fiends. You don't have to be Grizzly Adams to enjoy a break there though: culture and revelry are on hand at the convivial capital, St. John's." It then went on to outline five of the Islands attractions. Check it out.