Random stuff, reflections on the meaning of life and death, humour, self-deprecation, a bit of bad poetry.

This past Friday, our health unit dispatched two teams to a local senior’s residence in crisis to help with medications and COVID-19 testing.

I was paired with an auxiliary nurse I hadn’t worked with before, a tall and elegant Roshumba Williams type. We met in the lobby of the residence and practiced vigorous hand hygiene before a sink made for giants that was flush with my chin and Roshumba’s hips, then had our temperatures taken. Afebrile. Roshumba handed me my PPE kit.

The white gown threw me off guard a little (we were used to gauzy, yellow, flowy PPE the length of car coats). It unfolded like a table cloth, its stiff, pleated sections hanging like a large, sectional Ikea rectangle. Its length was lined with closely spaced tiny snaps culminating in a neat mandarin collar at the top. Following Roshumba’s lead, I donned it like a lab coat and proceeded to snap away until it completely covered my Gap jeans, my Old Navy plaid shirt, leaving only grape-purple sneakers peaking out from under the hem. I spent the next 6 hours in full (stark white) PPE, roaming the hallways like a mini refrigerator, visor head swivelling like R2D2 as I tried to keep up with Roshumba’s longer stride length, not to mention her work ethic. We got the job done though it weren’t pretty.

Fast forward to today. A new client. Level 2 PPE stuffed into a paper lunch bag. I was already wearing my mask as I rang the bell. The door was opened by my client’s son. I spread brown paper towels on the floor of the hallway to create a clean surface on which to lay the lunch bag and my work bag. Hand hygiene was done first. Gown next. This one was blue. Large enough to to protect the entire Western Hemisphere, it completely covered my purple sneakers, elasticated sleeves extended to the ground in knuckle-grazing PPE style. I pushed them up determinedly and donned medium sized gloves over Hobbit-sized hands. The client’s lovely son asked me if I’d like a tea and I politely declined as one purple sneaker stepped on the inside of the gown, momentarily stopping the earth and me from spinning. I lifted the hem with begloved hands and proceeded.

Evaluation completed. Recommendations given. I doffed gloves and elasticated sleeves unfurled to the ground. Lost hands were eventually found and cleaned. I peeled the blue sky off next, carefully rolling it into a ball, inside out, and tried to stuff it back into the tiny paper lunch bag which promptly ripped straight down the middle. Apologetically, I left the bulging blue detritus in the hallway of my client, instructing his son to wash his hands after he disposed of it.

Home care PPE is clearly not an exact science and its one size must fit all approach is (thankfully) fodder for blogs. Please stay safe, friends.

As a frontline health care worker, I’m as scared shitless as any of you over this coronavirus pandemic, particularly now that there is increasing community spread of COVID-19. That being said, I am grateful for a steady pay check when so many have lost their jobs. I am also thankful for the moments of grace, compassion and humour that bind us all together.

There have been umpteen articles, news reports, instructional videos and personal testimonies on what to wear for PPE (personal protection equipment) whether you are a health care worker preparing for battle or a citizen trying to get your groceries done at the local supermarket.

If it were only a matter of having an adequate supply of PPE at our disposal we’d be all set but alas, there is a specific method to donning and doffing in health care so that you do not contaminate either your client or yourself on the way in and on the way out. Nurses are the ultimate pros (I bow to them) at this but as you have heard reported in the media, there are many who have fallen ill from the coronavirus despite the use of PPE. It is definitely not foolproof.

Let me clarify that as a physiotherapist I have donned and doffed many times in my 35 year career. Never have the stakes been so high though.

Last week I had the opportunity to practice my PPE technique when I did a home visit for a client who was in quarantine with symptoms. Social distancing, my eye. There is no way to examine a wound or reassure an anxious client from 2 meters away. By the time I left, I had managed to contaminate just about everything I touched from the cell phone I took pictures of the wound with, to the pen I used to write down recommendations, to the small bottle of standard issue, flip-top hand sanitizer I used between donning and doffing.

Folks, it ain’t nothing like in the instructional video where everything you need is at arms length like the hand sanitizer dispenser on the wall or in the case of the ever handy garbage can, a foot pump away.

I vowed to do better next time and this past Friday I had my chance: my client had a doctor’s appointment on Monday and I was asked to practice stair training with her. Before leaving for the home visit, I reviewed the PPE procedure in my head and again out loud with my office mates as they nodded encouragingly. You’ve got this, Sharon, they said.

Once I arrived at the client’s, I left everything in my car except my car keys which I placed in the right hand pocket of my coat, my hand sanitizer which I placed in my left pocket and a brown paper bag that held mask, gloves and gown.

As I entered the house, my client appeared on the landing above. She was upset because us workers were leaving our discarded PPE in her entranceway and they were accumulating. I explained that we could not transport them back to the office as they were considered contaminated. Irate, she asked if I could at least throw it in her garbage can outside. I agreed to do so on my way out making a mental note to use my hand sanitizer immediately after.

Here are my donning and doffing procedures in detail.

Donning: hang coat in closet, reach in right pocket of jacket and feel car keys (oops), reach in left pocket for hand sanitizer, practice hand hygiene for recommended 20-40 seconds as client looks on, put on gown, note in hallway mirror that gown is too décolleté and shirt is sticking out, attempt to re-tie gown and note that shirt is still showing but less so, place procedure mask over mouth and nose as glasses steam up, put on rubber gloves pulling them up over arms of gown.

Intervention: reassure anxious client while looking over steamed up glasses, discuss exit plan for Monday’s doctor’s appointment and decide that client will go out front door rather than garage, realize that we will have to practice outside stairs while I am fully doffed for neighbours to ogle at, successfully practice indoor stairs with client who is thrilled, client does even better with outside stairs (hurrah!), client checks up on garbage cans by garage door and notices one is tipped over, client asks me to place it upright, as I put it upright my be-gloved right hand lands in mushy, food stuff that some animal has rummaged through, I silently scream ewww as I retain outward professional decorum and make mental note not to touch anything with right hand, escort client back upstairs and into house, ask client if there is anything I can do for her before I go— As a matter of fact, client says, can you please spray my roots for me with that magic root concealer spray on the dining room table? Spray client’s roots with left hand keeping dirty, garbage-contaminated right hand behind back while client holds stockingnette against forehead, wipe excess brown dye from client’s forehead and attempt to wipe away large, brown age spot that is permanent and matches hair dye, client checks hair in bathroom mirror and gives me thumbs up with her good hand.

Doffing: remove really gross right glove first, remove left glove with magic root concealer on it, reach into right hand pocket of coat to find car keys, reach into left hand pocket to get hand sanitizer, practice recommended hand hygiene for 20-40 seconds, lean head forward to remove mask, realize with horror that mask is stuck on something so pull harder and steamed up glasses go flying across landing as client watches, forget what to do when this happens as it wasn’t covered in instructional video so put glasses on and silently hope for the best, remove gown after untying knot that has formed at the neck and got caught in hair, reach in left pocket of coat for hand sanitizer to practice hand hygiene for recommended time, leave client while promising to take out garbage next visit.

In car: take out hand sanitizer and practice vigorous hand hygiene for five minutes, remove antiseptic wipe from baggie in knapsack on passenger car seat and wipe outside of hand sanitizer bottle, glasses, keys, door handles, radio knobs, steering wheel, bottom of boots and hands again.

Conclusion: it is harder than it looks to don and doff and so much more stressful under present circumstances. Trust me, even with PPE, it is easy to contaminate. I bow again before the nurses who do this so much better than me.

Stay safe everyone. We’ll get through this. ❤️🙏

Bird noises at the avian vet. Reading the same page over and over again as wandering mind scrolls through worse case scenarios.

Feathers, and bone encase his crackling lungs and tiny, beating heart. This small thing with wings, this source of daily joy, has embedded itself deeply in my mundane life.

Tell me, how can one become so attached to something that weighs a mere 22 grams?

Bells, whistles and Star Wars sound effects at the avian vet.

Three years ago today, six men lost their lives in a Quebec City mosque. They were shot dead by a gunman in their place of worship as they participated in evening prayers. Five others were critically wounded. Film-maker Ariel Nasr’s documentary tells the story of the aftermath: six women widowed, seventeen children left fatherless, an entire community traumatized.

Meanwhile, our government denies the existence of Islamophobia in this province, and in the name of laicity of the state, passes a bill banning the wearing of religious symbols by public workers in positions of authority, such as lawyers and teachers. This bill mainly targets hijab-wearing Muslim women. Law 21 happens to go against the Quebec and the Federal Charters of Rights and Freedoms so they invoke the notwithstanding clause in order to bypass any legal challenges.

The government passes a law to ensure the religious neutrality of the state as Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, etc, public sector workers everywhere benefit from stat holidays at Christmas and Easter.

The hypocrisy is infuriating.

I was unable to attend the screening of the documentary film this evening but I am planning to watching it at a later date. It’s the least we can do to rally around a community that has lost so much and is still struggling today.

My husband was collecting hat pics this past week-end to add to the recording of a song he wrote. As a rule, my head is also too big for hats. The great Canadian toque invariably rides up my head and ends up looking like the tip of a condom. And then there is the dreaded hat head which means I have to keep my hair covered until I wash it again. I do however wear many symbolic hats. And more often than not, I end up following a slow-poke “hat” (older person wearing a hat, driving an 8 cylinder car) on my home care route. How about you? Hat person or not?

Click on the video to enjoy the song and the array of hats worn by friends and family.

Vignettes and Bagatelles

I met up several years ago with my good friend Terry to catch up and just enjoy each other’s company over a cup of tea. As we settled in to our seats he asked me how things were going? At the time my life was seemingly spinning out of control. I had a mother who was fading away and who lived several hours away. I had a teenage daughter who was struggling with life, another teenage daughter who wasn’t, but felt neglected. My job was stressful, and my boss was Narcissistic. My marriage was straining (actually failing) and my art was suffering. I said; “I wake up and put on my Dad hat, I drive to work and put on my teacher hat, I come home and put on my husband hat, there were many more hats, but you get the idea. He said “Sounds like you are wearing too…

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Lately, I wear my protest like a badge.

I wear it on my jean jacket, on my light winter coat and on my thick down coat. Sometimes I wear it doubly so that when I remove one layer, I am still protesting.

I wear it during daylight and when it’s dark.

I wear it to the gym, to the office, and to order coffee.

I wear it when I play music.

In November, I wore it alongside my poppy.

And Christmas shopping in December.

People either glance at it or they don’t. There are double takes, quick looks, aversion.

I have worn it out and about my neighbourhood: visiting clients, walking the dogs, doing errands.

I put it on knowing it is controversial. Knowing the majority disagrees.

Mindful of my discomfort, I push the marble down my throat and swallow it.

Only one other person out here wears the anti-Loi 21 pin. Unlike me, he is fearless.

Only one person out here has asked me about its significance. She, a 94 year old Auschwitz survivor.

Out here in suburbia, protest is a lonely affair. It is complacent. It is indifferent. It is silent.

I recently asked an elderly man I know why he wasn’t pursuing a relationship with someone his own age instead of proposing marriage to women young enough to be his daughter(s).

“Because I don’t want some shrivelled up old woman with a walker.”, he said.

Clearly a classic case of the shrivelled pot calling the shrivelled kettle old. Loneliness, apparently, is not a cure for entitlement.

I’ll be honest, that kind of attitude makes me incredibly sad. A huge turn-off in my books.

To counter this bad taste in my mouth, I remember the way my ex father-in-law described meeting his future wife, eleven years his senior, for the first time: “Anne was so beautiful; I had my eye on her. She was the one I wanted.” She had already had nine children by the time they met and together, they had one more, my ex-husband. They remained devoted to each other for forty solid years, until Anne’s death in 2000.

And if that doesn’t revive your faith in true love, listen to Jason Momoa talk about his love for Lisa Bonet, twelve years older than him.

I’m not saying a significant age difference either way is wrong. It just irks me that a crusty old man wearing pull-ups would dismiss the women of his generation so callously.

Care to share your thoughts on this?

From a facebook post four years ago today:

Last night I dreamt that I was with Donald Trump. Hair intact, he was throwing people he didn’t like out of a small plane as it flew over suburbia.

Today I stopped by the pharmacy to stock up on Gravol. I do this fairly regularly and each time, they open a new file under my name and do a background check. I tell them it’s for motion sickness and promise not to drive when I take it.

I wonder what they’d write in my file if I told them the truth. That I take it so that I can have a better night’s sleep. So that I can dream without the shadow of stupid Donald’s cartoon hair waking me up every hour on the hour like an exclamation mark.

And presently he is throwing bombs out of that plane, onto the people he doesn’t like.

January 2nd, 2020. The public health care system I work for requires me to write it in this format: year/month/day.

I purposely did not post resolutions yesterday. Been there, done that. Besides, they don’t really work and leave us feeling less than. Life is too short.

2016-02-20: a birthday present from my sweetie.

At some point yesterday evening, I found myself eating some pretty high quality chocolate called Mozartkugeln (I refer to them as Mozart heads): “A Mozartkugel (English: Mozart ball), is a small, round sugar confection made of pistachiomarzipan and nougat that is covered with dark chocolate. It was originally known as Mozart-Bonbon, created in 1890 by Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst (1856–1941) and named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hand-made Original Salzburger Mozartkugeln are manufactured by Fürst’s descendants up to today, while similar products have been developed by numerous confectioners, often industrially produced.” They are so good, I once convinced a couple of friends I was travelling with in France, to take a train to Berne, Switzerland (where Toblerone is made, by the way), in search of Mozart heads, only to realize years later that like Mozart himself, they were actually made in Austria.

What I’m trying to say, is that for more years in my middle-aged lifetime than not, I was always on some sort of diet January 1st. How liberating it feels to be mindfully enjoying my Mozart heads at the start of a new year instead of trying to finish every sweet treat in my pantry by December 31st.

So no resolutions this year. Rather, I have three intentions: 1. to try to read 52 books again 2. to blog once a week, even if no one reads it 3. to add a couple of morning runs on my treadmill to my trice-weekly kettlebell work-outs at the club because it’s always a better day when I move my body in the morning.

Oh, and to declutter my space. An ongoing challenge. Because if I were to keel over tomorrow, all this stuff of mine would be a terrible burden on my son.

Resolutions or intentions, peeps? Or will you simply carry-on?

Whatever your strategy or non-strategy may be, I’m rooting for you.

Happy, happy!

My intention was to read 52 books this past year and I made it to 80.

I will continue reading throughout 2020 and hope that the cataract surgery that is pending will ease the distressing eye strain and blurriness I have been experiencing of late.

Impatient to begin a new list, I started the first book of 2020 yesterday evening. No loud ringing in the New Year for me, just the quiet turning of pages as a brand new story unfolds. I wear my party-pooper badge proudly; I will always chose a good book over a party.

Here is the entire list, the first eight months copied and pasted from a previous blog entry. There was only one real dud on the list, identified with a thumb’s down but obviously somebody somewhere enjoyed that book. If the book has a heart next to it, it simply means that reading it caused something to shift inside me, permanently. Doesn’t mean it will do the same for you but on the off chance it might, I thought I would mention it.

Do feel free to share your own reflections/recommendations on what you read this past year, and of course, what you plan to read this decade.

Lastly, love to all my followers, whether you like to read, prefer to party or live a balanced life with a little of both. And gratitude for putting up with the introversion and anti-social tendencies that tend to go along with my passion for books.

Books Read 2019

  1. The Little Paris Bookshop — Nina George
  2. I Know You Know — Gillian MacMillan
  3. Life After Life — Kate Atkinson ❤️
  4. Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert ❤️
  5. And Then She Was Gone — Lisa Jewell
  6. Bridge of Clay — Markus Zusak
  7. Grit — Angela Duckworth
  8. The Marrow Thieves — Cherie Dimalin
  9. To the River — Olivia Laing
  10. The Atomic Weight of Love — Elizabeth J. Church
  11. Siddhartha — Herman Hesse
  12. Lying in Wait — Liz Nugent
  13. Less — Andrew Sean Greer
  14. The Woo Woo — Lindsay Wong
  15. A Noise Downstairs — Linwood Barclay
  16. Bird by Bird — Anne Lamott
  17. The Organist — Mark Abley
  18. Homes — Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah with Winnie Young
  19. The Haunting of Hill House — Shirley Jackson
  20. Brother — David Chariandy
  21. The Best Kind of People — Zoe Whittall
  22. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of War and Love — Lynsey Addario ❤️
  23. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye — David Lagercrantz
  24. All the Light We Cannot See — Anthony Doerr ❤️
  25. Songs for the Cold of Heart — Eric Dupont
  26. By Chance Alone — Max Eisen ❤️
  27. Life’s too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious — David Dark
  28. Agatha Christie — The Mystery of Three Quarters
  29. The Travelling Cat Chronicles — Hiro Arikawa
  30. Case Histories — Kate Atkinson
  31. Gift from the Sea — Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  32. Under the Visible Life — Kim Echlin
  33. The War of Art — Steven Pressfield
  34. A Gentleman in Moscow — Amor Towles
  35. The Leopard — Jo Nesbo
  36. Gingerbread — Helen Oyeyemi 👎🏼
  37. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine — Gail Honeyman ❤️
  38. The Moon Before Morning — W.S. Merwin ❤️
  39. The Word Is Murder — Anthony Horowitz
  40. My Brilliant Friend — Elena Ferrante
  41. The Wild Edge of Sorrow — Francis Weller ❤️
  42. Warlight — Michael Ondaatje ❤️
  43. Flash Count Diary; Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life — Darcey Steinke
  44. Natural Causes — Barbara Ehrenreich ❤️
  45. Voices in the Air (poems for listeners) — Naomi Shihab Nye ❤️
  46. The Blue Between Sky and Water — Susan Abulhawa
  47. One Good Turn — Kate Atkinson
  48. When Will There Be Good News? — Kate Atkinson
  49. Grief is the Thing with Feathers — Max Porter ❤️
  50. Bird Therapy — Joe Harkness ❤️
  51. Lanny — Max Porter
  52. The Tattooist of Auschwitz — Heather Morris
  53. The Song of Achilles — Madeline Miller
  54. The Turn of the Key — Ruth Ware
  55. Deep Diversity (Overcoming Us vs. Them) — Shakil Choudhury ❤️
  56. #HashtagRelief — Blossom Thom (poetry) ❤️
  57. Crow — Ted Hughes (poetry) ❤️
  58. Started Early, Took My Dog — Kate Atkinson
  59. Baggage — Wendy Phillips
  60. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous — Ocean Vuong ❤️
  61. The Impossible Will Take a Little While — Paul Rogat Loeb
  62. All the Lives We Never Lived — Anuradha Roy
  63. Albatross — Terry Fallis
  64. The Overstory — Richard Powers
  65. Moon of the Crusted Snow — Waubgeshig Rice
  66. Fog — Rana Bose
  67. Crow Winter — Karen McBride
  68. The Poet X — Elizabeth Acevedo ❤️
  69. Create Dangerously — Edwidge Danticat ❤️
  70. Crow — Amy Spurway
  71. Night — Elie Wiesel ❤️
  72. The Crying Book — Heather Christle ❤️
  73. The Magic Lamp — Ben Okri
  74. Owls and Other Fantasies — Mary Oliver ❤️
  75. Aspirations: Voices of the Street 2019 — Megaphone’s annual literary anthology
  76. Year of the Monkey — Patti Smith
  77. Blue Nights — Joan Didion ❤️
  78. Normal People — Sally Rooney ❤️
  79. Breakfast at Tiffany’s — Truman Capote
  80. Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe — Stuart McLean
Awesome Christmas gift from my husband’s daughter and her partner.
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