Friday, August 31, 2007

I Have a Secret

A day or three ago, I listened to a piece on CBC Radio (much akin to public radio in the USA, I think) about The Secret and The Law of Attraction and so on. Last season, many of us heard about the same topic on Oprah. When it was on TV, I couldn't see what the big deal was because, to me, it's no secret, for the law has always been pretty darn obvious, at least the way that I would understand it. In my universe, your values influence your thoughts which, in turn, influence your life. What the recent radio program clarified for me was that it (the law of attraction) has been distorted to mean something slightly more than that: if you think about being rich and visualize it, then you shall become rich.

Is it just me, or do you find it so very shallow? Maybe I am mistaken, but I don't seem to hear anyone of these motivational gurus talking about using the law of attraction to become smarter or to serve one's fellow humans in order to make the world a better place. Oh yes, the CBC did interview one apostle who opined that rich people had more resources with which to serve and aid. Who can argue with that? But, let's face it, that's not exactly the drawing card. It's not what the movement is all about.

From what I heard in this documentary, they (the proponents) will admit that it doesn't work for everyone, but their explanation is pretty much like those of certain faith healers, and it goes something like this: if it (the program, the secret, whatever) doesn't work for you, then you did something wrong. Puhleeze give me a break. Let's call a spade a spade, for that's just a convenient rationalization, an escape hatch as it for these proclaimers of the gospel of the secret.

Do you ever wonder why all of these people have to write books and shill multimedia packages if they possess the secret knowledge of wealth accumulation? I mean, if you truly possessed such a secret, would you be forced to make a living by charging others for it? Give me another break! I mean, really, according to this radio report, they were selling such educational kits for up to five hundred dollars at a recent convention in Toronto. Tell me that's not about making money.

I believe I have discovered the real secret that I am willing to share with you: write a motivational book telling others how to get rich, and you shall reap untold rewards.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

As the Wheel Creaks

Soon, I must find a topic other than my recent medical trauma, but here goes one more post.

It's simple really: just that I have been reminded of the cycles of life, the wheel of time as it were. You see, I remember visiting my Dad when he underwent the very same surgery. He was older than I, in his late seventies, if I've recalled correctly, so I was concerned. Because his surgeon had told me that he would recover better with lots of family support, I took three days off work to spend as much time with him as possible. (Not to worry: we were permitted this time by our contract, and it was deducted from my sick time anyway.) When it was all over, he said that the time we had spent together was a real highlight for him. I think he actually said, "The highlight of my year." Maybe it wasn't a very good year, eh?

The point is that family rallied around, and, of course, they have done that for me too, even though I am much younger now than Dad was then. Cuppa has been and continues to be her usual rock-like self: "Let me go upstairs and get that for you." Thesha and Theboy visited both nights and have continued to be supportive ever since: "Dad you shouldn't be lifting that, let me get it." The A-team has called from Vancouver and sent a little care package, and I am touched.

While I won't go as far as Dad and call the experience a highlight, I think I understand. It is, indeed, very satisfying to experience such concern and support. What isn't so especially wonderful is to have the wheel of time turn so relentlessly. It was one thing for it to be old Dad's turn to undergo that operation, but it's somewhat sobering to have my own turn come around.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pill Confusion

I just took my morning antibiotic pill a few minutes ago — at 8:00 o'clock. I'll take the next one at the same time tonight.

This was the antibiotic prescription given to me by the surgeon when I left the hospital last week. We've got the instructions under control now, but we had a few perplexing and funny moments trying to figure them out last week when we got home. I suppose you had to be there to see the humour, that it won't be funny in the telling, but I feel compelled to try to sketch it out anyway.

You must understand that both Cuppa and I were very tired. I had just been through an operation, and she had been driving down to see me, and you know how tiring visiting in a hospital can be. It's terribly draining for most people. I hadn't slept at all well in my two nights in the ward, and neither of us had slept well in the two nights prior to the procedure, our minds active with apprehension.

So, we got home, and got the pills out: Take on an empty stomach; don't eat for two hours before the operations and for one hours after; don't consume dairy products in the six hours prior to ingesting medication and for two hours afterward. Picture two very tired people trying to get it all straight.

I'd look at the instructions, understand them, and then get confused. Hmmm ... was that don't drink milk for six hours prior to taking the pill or don't drink milk for six hours afterward? So, we'd look again, and then get confused about when I was to eat. Frankly, we got rather giddy and started laughing really hard over our confusion. Finally, Cuppa went downstairs for one more read. When she took her time getting back, I knew that she was making notes.

I was right. She came back upstairs with a timeline diagrammed out, and we figured it all out. To the point: I take the pill twice daily at 8:00 on the clock. I must eat before six o'clock or after nine but not between those hours, and I may consume dairy products between the hours of ten and two only. Except when I forget that ice cream is a dairy product!

On top of that, when I opened the pills on that first night, something seemed wrong. There were too many; the bottle said to take them for three days only, but I had a mittfull of them. And on closer inspection they were Tylenol 3's, the same as the other prescription that I had sent home with. Cuppa took them back to the pharmacy. They changed the Tylenols to the correct antibiotics but still gave her twenty tablets and not six. She asked about it; they checked again ... and changed the instructions to read ten days rather than three.

So, here I am almost a week later, still taking the pills and mostly getting it right. I will ingest the last blasted tablet on Saturday morning, but right now, it's time for breakfast. Drat! I have to wait until nine o'clock. I'm not very hungry today; maybe I'll just have a bit of cereal at 9:00. Double drat! Cereal would require milk, and I have to wait until ten o'clock before I am permitted to consume dairy products.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pondering Me and Me Mateys ...

... my hospital roommates, I mean.

Dan is directly opposite me; our feet point towards each other. He's the oldest in the ward, sleeps a lot and has poor hearing, so I don't get to know him very well. He is eighty years old, I think, and suffers from diabetes. I see his feet one day, and they seem to have white, diseased spots. About four o'clock in the morning of my first long and largely sleepless night, I see him sitting up at the side of the bed. He does this for two hours. The nurses try to their best to help and endeavour to give him medication. He refuses. They cajole, but he is steadfast. Eventually, they call his wife who advises him to take it, and he does, very compliantly. He's just very frustrated, and I blame him not, for I feel some sorrow for him and think, "This is not a good way to spend one's final months." I don't think Don is exactly on death's doorstep, but he can surely glimpse the door not too far down the hall ... and it is slightly ajar.

Meanwhile, Allan is diagonal to me. He's old too, but I can't determine just how old. He's an odd, little fellow but very friendly and outgoing. He's a diabetic too but clearly not as severe a case as Don: at least I hope not because I find him eating a large chocolate bar in the lounge on my final day after I am untethered and permitted to roam. He weeps on the second morning: for his wife who died "about a year ago." In part he cries because he hasn't thought about her enough for a few days, and that adds to his remorse. In the afternoon, I find him in the lounge and bid my farewell. I ask if he will be getting out soon. He says that it doesn't matter, that he likes it well enough in the hospital, that when he is discharged he will probably go to a nursing home, and that doesn't matter either because he has no one for his only son lives thousand of miles away. How sad that seems to me, who will be fortunate enough to drop in to see daughter and granddaughter, however briefly, on my way home.

After me, they admit Ralph to the bed beside me. He's old and grey. He's in to have his lungs drained — again! It challenges his stamina greatly to creep to the washroom, and he breathes hard and coughs when he lies down again. His coughing keeps me awake. On the second night, I am bold enough to find my stash of cough drops and pass one to him on the other side of the curtain. It helps. He tells me that he has been a heavy drinker, that he is retaining fluid because there is something wrong with his liver. That's when he mentions that he must change his lifestyle now that he's fifty. Do I hear correctly? Did the man who looks to be seventy really say "fifty"? Perhaps not. I mention it later to Cuppa and then to Thesha, but both are incredulous. So am I, but later, when he tells me his story yet again, he affirms that he is forty-eight. He seems to believe that he must stop drinking and that all will be well. I think, "He fools himself." I think, "He has cirrhosis and will deteriorate very rapidly." The next day Ralph decides to drag his feeble and tired body outside for a cigarette. I think, "You might as well, for it can do you little more harm." I feel sorry for all me mateys but especially for Ralph. He has made his bed, as it were, but he didn't mean to. He just got it wrong. I fear that his dutiful mother who comes to visit everyday will soon bury her son. And that will be hard.

Sometimes this week, in a bit of a post-operative funk, Mr Anvil has invited Mr Cloud over for a bit of a Pity Party. Sometimes, I say. It's natural, I suppose, after the stress of it all, but I am the first to count my blessings. I have so much goodness about me: the wife and children and grandchild that I do go on and on about in this space, and even the puss who choses to doze next to me and my computer almost each and every morning. Someday, many years from now if I'm spared that long, I will be readmitted to the ward and some young whippersnapper will join us in the room. He will recuperate rather quickly and bid farewell. Perhaps he will feel some pity ... for he will not know how blessed my days have been.

Friday, August 24, 2007

O Canada

As luck would have it, I was born in Canada. Over these past few days I have been reminded of how fortunate I was in my accident of birth. It's something that I always know is true, but I certainly don't think about it on a regular basis.

Well, I thought about it in the OR on Monday morning as two doctors and three nurses hovered around and about endeavouring to patch my body. I wondered what the bill would come to ... the bill that I will never see. The cost of all of that expertise plus the room with all of its expensive equipment must be quite staggering, but it hasn't cost me one red cent. Oh I know that all we citizens pay for such benefits in taxes and such, but I'm certainly not stuck with a huge, one-time outlay at a moment in my life when it would be very difficult to afford.

Later, I considered the three-day, post-operative care, once again funded by public health care. I wondered what that bill would look like. I do know, for example, that I could have upgraded to a semi private room for a hundred and fifty bucks, so if an upgrade costs that much, it rather staggers me to think of what the basic cost of a bed plus food plus meds plus nursing would amount to.

Our national anthem is O Canada. Indeed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reporting In

The Cloud is back home, feeling somewhat dazed and battered and wondering in what direction this post will go ... if any at all. In my previous post, I chose to not reveal the reason for my absence but now confess that I underwent what Cathy has called male-specific surgery.

The event took place Monday morning at 8:00 AM, and they discharged me yesterday, Wednesday, at 3:30. PM. After spending two days catheterized with copious quantities of fluid dripping in and out of me, they unshackled me yesterday morning and sent me home in the afternoon once they were certain that appropriate bodily functions had resumed satisfactorily.

I was awake for the surgery. The spinal was all that was required to eliminate all feeling from the lower half of my body, and my iPod drowned out any and all concomitant surgery-related noises. Aside from some soreness from being catheterized for so long, I have felt no pain from the actual surgery. My back, however, suffered severely for awhile when the "freezing" was leaving me. The back and leg pain became so acute that I had to have demerol — right away, no faster! Yes, it was that bad. It seems that the needle going into the spine found and exploited all of the weaknesses of my deteriorated lower back.

But it's over, and I'm doing fine although this rather bare-bones report is about all that I can seem to force myself to write. I thought I might be able to summon some deep and trenchant observations, but alas ...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Parting Shots

The old Cloud will be away for a little while. Not that you'd notice because I often neglect my blog for a number of days, but I thought I'd let you know anyway.

In the meantime, I leave you with a few recent photos of our park.

Aside: this morning, after a poor nights sleep, I made coffee early — but forgot the coffee. I made hot water instead. I just thought you'd like to know how absent minded a Cloud can be.

Lilypads and Driftwood
Lilypads and Driftwood

A Fine Tree
Just a Tree

Cuppa Gazing
Evening Stroll

Sunset (How I Wished to See It)
Day is Done

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ten Good Things

"Every time I come around your site, you give me a glimpse of what a good man is all about, what masculinity is supposed to be. For this sometimes rather cynical woman, you have no idea what a gift that is. Just because my comments are infrequent, don't think for a minute that I don't admire you. A lot. I'd like to hear what you like about yourself."

Those very kind words were posted by ThailandChani when tagging me to do this meme. I don't get tagged a lot, which is terribly fine by me, but this one might be interesting. It will be a somewhat difficult undertaking because it has the potential to seem self-absorbed and rather braggadocios. You see, I am to list "Ten Things That I Like About Me." Part of the difficulty for me will be to not offer umpteen caveats and counterbalancing lists of a plethora of qualities that I don't prefer. But that would defeat the purpose for the meme, which seems to be to emphasize the positive: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it ... I like me."

The other excruciatingly difficult thing will be for me to actually compile ten things. You see, I find it challenging to develop lists of any kind. Ask me for a list, and my feeble brain goes into lock down mode, and my palms start sweating. In point of fact, I rather doubt that I'll manage ten, for at this moment I have no idea what item number one will be. Sometimes, however, the thoughts flow once I get started.

So ....

1. Loving Cuppa: I know that's cheating to some degree for "loving one's wife" is not exactly a character trait, which is doubtless the intent of the meme. Nevertheless, it is something about me and my life that I like. We first met 40 years ago, married over 38 years ago, and the rest is history. And a long-lasting and loving relationship does speak of character after all: fidelity, commitment, and a compromising, for example. Well those character traits that I just threw in are almost three points in one, so maybe I will make it to ten or close.

2. So, let's say that I like the fact that I am pretty loyal. I don't easily discard or disregard old friendships. And it disappoints me greatly that not all old friends feel the same sense of loyalty. I understand that not all relationships are able to withstand against the rigours of time, but I have been disappointed to find that some which I thought indestructible ... weren't.

3. (This is getting hard already ... um ...) Perseverance: There are times when I display great stick-to-it-iveness. Cuppa remarks on this from time to time when she sees me working to get to the root of some sort of sticking point with html or Photoshop. (However, I would like to get back to html a bit, for my meagre skills have all but abandoned me through disuse and neglect.)

4. I am willing and often eager to try new things. I don't suppose everyone would try to pick up and learn the violin at almost sixty years of age, especially when they have arthritic hands, and not a ton of natural talent, but I am trying. While I'll never get to the fabled Carnegie Hall without purchasing a ticket, I have made progress, and playing my little tunes frequently uplifts me. If I am forced to or choose to stop tomorrow, I have accomplished something that has filled me up in some measure.

5. Still Learning: in the same vein as above, I like the fact that I am a work in progress and have been willing to adapt and change. I remember being spoken of positively by younger teachers for my willingness to learn about and use computers. I often found ways to take my classes to the computer lab.

6. Competence: while I am not gifted in any area, I seem to have been achieved reasonable levels of competency in various pursuits. While I sometimes feel that to claim being competent somewhat akin to damning with faint praise (for few people aspire merely to be competent), it's certainly preferable to be competent than the opposite.

7. Dedicated: I suppose this is similar to loyalty and perseverance, both of which I have already used, but what the heck! I think I'm pretty dedicated to family and friends.

8. Logical Thinker: I don't have a brilliant or creative mind and don't even know a lot and am often stuck about what to say, but I do think that I am a good linear and logical thinker.

9. Generous: while I haver never had and never will have a ton of money to spread around, I think I am fairly generous within my circumstances. And I have certainly used time and resources to help friends when I can such as scanning and printing some of our neighbour's artwork. I designed this website, without recompense as it turned out, for a fellow blogger.

10. I do think I'm a fairly good father ... and now grandfather. We all make mistakes, but I have tried to do well. I remember when Thesha was in her teens and she and her friends required chauffeuring from here to there at various hours. I did it a lot: to the extent that I frequently wondered if all other fathers were suffering from paralysis. But I was content enough to do it then and am now very glad that I did. With the second daughter, Althegal, I invested many hours and dollars taking her to softball games She even played travel ball for a few years, so it definitely did require time and money.

Whaddayaknow? I managed to list ten things. Sometimes I surprise myself. I know it's a little long, but it pretty well has to be.

You'll find more about the meme here. I won't tag you, but feel free to pick it up and run with it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Smudge Report

Although she's appeared on pictures here and there in this space, it's been awhile since I featured the little one. The first group was taken in the park just yesterday: Smudge, Mommy, Auntie Althegal, and Grandma. I was just the photographer.

This past weekend was an opportunity to get to know her aunts, especially Althegal whom she hadn't yet met. It's Puff in the final photo of this set.

And here are some miscellaneous weekend photos.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What's Sarong With This Family?

Not long ago, Cuppa found a bargain: Flip Flops and a sarong for ten bucks. Of course she bought one. Then she bought one for each of the girls for Christmas. Hmmm ... well, as evidenced by the photos below, Christmas came early this year.

Just in case you don't know, Cuppa and Smudge are on your left. Thesha, our oldest who lives in town and is exalted mother of Smudge is beside them. Althegal, our second, last and youngest is in the middle hamming it up big time, and her partner, Puff, is way out front posing as only she can. The order does change slightly in the second and third pictures, but bright folks everywhere can sort through those slight changes easily enough.

In Their Sarongs

In Their Sarongs ii

In Their Sarongs iii

The Things That Matter

My kids are the greatest! When we arrived home from Vancouver back in late June, Thesha and company presented me with the card pictured to the left.

On the front it says, "Daddy, there's always so much going on but when my busy schedule makes me forgetful, I count on my heart to remind me what matters ..."

And then I flip it open to read, "... like telling you you're the best daddy a daughter could have."

The thing is that I know she means it ... even though it isn't as true as I'd wish. I've made a lot of regretful mistakes, particularly with her, the first child. Nevertheless, she forgives, and we move on.

I had thought to blog about the card a long time ago but the minutiae of life interposed; however, when Althegal presented me with this little plaque (to the left) this past weekend in honour of my birthday, it came back to mind and the two seemed to fit together. The plaque was meant to be a kid's gift to her daddy, but grown-up Althegal thought that it was perfect for us, and so do I.

It contains a recent picture of Althegal and me (the one below) and the following words: "Dad ... I love you Because ... you take me to the game, you tell me stories, you help me with my homework, you tuck me in at night, you love me no matter what." (You should be able to see all of this if you click on the photo to the left.)

Day 1

Both she and I know that all of those things are true, especially the last, the part about loving her no matter what. But I did read to her lots and not only took her to games but coached her through many years of softball. We learned the game together really. I learned to coach it, and she learned to play it, and I guess I'm forced to admit that she learned to play better than I learned to coach.

But the whole point is that my kids love me, and I love them. Such is the stuff of life. These are the things that matter.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Family Campfires ... and Such

It's been party time here lately, for Althegal and Puff have landed from the left coast to visit with us — Cuppa, me, Thesha, Theboy, and Her Royal Smudgeness — here in Central Canada. First, Cuppa and I travelled to Riverwood where Althegal was visiting with extended family to fetch her from there to here for a short visit with her more immediate family. But for one evening we found ourselves in the country sitting around the campfire (photo below) chatting amiably and swapping stories.

Riverwood Campfire

Before it got very dark, I was fortunate enough to take this photo of the colourful sky beyond the back gate. (Okay, I admit to playing with the photo a bit and using some filters, but still ... it was quite a nice moment.)

Riverwood Gate at Sunset

The next day we brought Althegal back east along highway 7 to the capital to spend several days of fellowship with us. Puff also flew in from Vancouver, and we have been enjoying each other's company ever since. It's a short window of opportunity, but it's an open, and we'll enjoy the fresh air of companionship that blows through it.

The six of us have grilled burgers and steaks, feasted on lasagna and a big breakfast consisting of a dozen eggs, two pounds of bacon and two dozen biscuits -- all of that for only 6 people! And since Althegal and I share the same birthday, 31 years apart, we've also consumed an early birthday cake. We never manage to be together on the actual day anymore, but so far we have usually found a way to converge fairly close to the event. In the evening following the birthday supper, we had a second campfire: this one here in suburbia in an enclosed pit. We roasted marshmallows and hot dogs and just a wee bit of refreshing beverage and laughed and talked about anything and everything.

It's been a good few days. (Here's a photo of Thesha, Althegal, and Smudge.)

Mom, Aunt, and Smudge

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Riverside Jam 2007

Guarding the Gate

Aha! A year has passed, and Riverside Jam in nearby Carleton Place has come and gone yet again. We volunteered for gate duty once again — did four-hour stints on both Saturday and Sunday. Our reward, aside from feeling good about doing our civic duty was free admission into the concert, even when we were not on duty. Our pictures from last year look pretty much like this year's: stern AC and gleeful Cuppa.

Smiling by the Gate

The weather was great, attendance was good, and the crowd was well-behaved except for the usual assortment of youthful yahoos who overindulged in the hooch and ran somewhat amok in the campground on the first night. A bunch were tossed, and things settled down pretty well for the remainder of the weekend.

While I have never held anything against it, I have never counted myself as a fan of country music. I probably still don't, but it sure has changed. To my untutored ear, some of the groups are really rockers in disguise. As I sat and listened to Desert Heat and The Road Hammers, I couldn't quite figure out how they differed from Rock. Not much I don't think, at least not in sound but perhaps a little in subject matter.

The ultimate act on Sunday night was George Canyon. Since I don't follow the country scene, he was new to me, but I was very impressed — enough to be willing to part with some dollars to buy a CD or two when the opportunity arises. He has a great baritone voice and wonderful stage presence that draws you right in; it drew me anyway. Below, is a little video clip that Cuppa took.

Friday, August 03, 2007