Well, that was a long six weeks. As much as I’d like to think I have it all together, it seems like some old habits die hard. Worrying is my default mode, and it takes a lot of mental energy to get past the darkness that tends to fall over my mind from time to time. This makes sitting down to write kind, loving messages a nearly impossible task. I want to give you fun and practical ideas for living a gentle life, not drone on and on about the black dog that can rear it’s ugly head from time to time.
Things took a turn for the better this week, though. Lee and I spent Thursday morning at Sunnybrook Hospital to get the results of my biopsy. Great news – the cervical cells they removed are only mildly abnormal (kind of like the rest of me) so no scary treatments will be necessary. I have to go back to the clinic every six months for a scope until everything returns to normal, but, hey, no complaints here.
Well, ok, one complaint: I called the clinic on Monday to see if I’d be full-on examined this week or if I’d simply be talking to the doctor (fully dressed, feet flat on the floor). His secretary said “no examination, just a chat”. Imagine my surprise when his nurse handed me a gown and ushered me into a treatment room. Odd that my first thought wasn’t “oh no, this is not good” but rather “are you kidding me? I didn’t wax or shave my legs!”.
I immediately relaxed, however, when the doctor came in excited to talk about his Halloween decorations. Doctors who have to give bad news generally walk in slowly, with their glasses in their hands, and greet you with a simpathetic smile. This guy came in with a big hellloooo and took out his iPhone to show us a videos of his animatronic ghost display. Female friends, if you need a truly compassionate doctor who can work a speculum like butter, call Dr. Michael Shier.
So, back to concentrating on kindness and gentleness. I find Christmas to be the perfect season to exercise my good-deed muscles – so many fun opportunities lie ahead! First on my list is to visit the local nursing homes to get the names of residents who don’t have family, and therefore won’t get many gifts. I try to get some idea of who they are, what hobbies they have and if they have any disabilities. Then it’s off to the local shops. This is a cool twofer – I love supporting the tiny, independent shops in our little town.
I know many families bring out the Elf on the Shelf at Christmas. Not my favourite thing, to be honest. While I love looking at photos of the elves getting into mischief, the message they send bothers me. Seems like the elves can be naughty and get into all kinds of messy situations, but if little Johnny pinches his sister, the elf reports back to Santa Claus.
Kind of a dick move, little elf.
Also not a fan of the whole “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” lore of Santa. Ideally we’d all try to be good for goodness sake regardless of who is watching – but I’ll get off my high horse now
and just draw your attention to these guys. You can still create all kinds of Christmas fun with them. No judgement, though. You do you, and whatever works, when you have kids. Please share any holiday traditions you and your families have. I’d love to hear them and get inspired by your ideas.
Last fall, I went to a meeting of the Bolton Empowering Women’s group. The leader, Sarah Neal, shared her story of losing a friend to cervical cancer. She was 32 years old. To honour her fight, Teal Power was born.
At my last physical in January, in addition to the standard blood-urine-mammogram, I asked my doctor if I was due for a Pap test. She looked at my records and said “no, not for another two years”. (The Ontario Government only allows for one test every five years if you’ve had two clear tests in a row).
My mind flashed back to Sarah’s story and that little voice we all have inside us told me to ask for a test anyway. Friends, we all have that inner voice. That gut feeling when something needs to be said. Listen to that voice.
I asked, since I was there and naked anyway, if she could do one and I’d pay out-of-pocket for it.
“Sure, no problem” she said and so it was done. Then I forgot all about it.
Until her name appeared on my phone three weeks later.
“Listen, not to worry” she began, “but your Pap test came back abnormal. This is nothing to worry about, but I’m going to make a note in your chart for you to come back in six months to have it re-done. These abnormalities can quite often resolve on their own”.
And back I went in July for the re-test. And three weeks after that, her name appeared on my phone once again.
Still abnormal. A bit worse this time.
I researched the doctor I’d be seeing and felt reassured just by seeing the ton of awards and accolades he has received over the years. One Rate Your Doctor commenter described him as “The King Of The Cervixes”.
Huh. I bet I could design a crown for him. I think it would be pink and have flaps.
Anyway, to prepare for the test, I booked a wax and pedicure near the hospital. My husband had to remind me that this is a medical procedure, not a date, but I figured I floss before going to the dentist, right? Plus I wanted to make a good first impression.
Big mistake. First, the doctors and nurses don’t care what things look like down there. Second, the first part of the test involves the spraying of an acetic acid spray. Yowza.
The rest of the test consisted of a scope, not unlike the ones that optometrists use, and a lot of swabbing. When they found an area of concern, the doctor injected a local anaesthetic in order to take a sample for biopsy. The injection was totally painless and very effective as I felt neither the needle nor the subsequent snip of tissue. There is a t.v. screen next to your head, where you can watch the procedure. I asked if it gets any other channels, and it doesn’t, so if an up-close play-by-play of cervical biopsies isn’t your thing, just close your eyes. Maybe bring headphones too, as I felt a bit woozy when I heard the medical resident ask for the biopsy instrument with “the bigger teeth”. Geez. Still, the most painful part of the day was paying the $23 parking fee for two hours.
So now we wait for the results. They have re-booked an appointment for me in six weeks time. The nurses and doctors were very reassuring, saying all the things patients want to hear: “mild”, “treatable”, “don’t worry”, “seriously, don’t worry”. Their calm, confident manner left me feeling that I’m receiving truly exceptional care, regardless of the outcome.
I feel silly wasting so much brain power on worrying about this test and the results. Folks, I’ve had more painful dental cleanings. Please, for the sake of your health, for the sake of the people who love you, get a Pap test done every year. I shudder when I think I almost let this go for another two years when there was a change for the worse after six months. Thank you, Sarah, and thank you, Teal Power.
Go. Call your doctor. Book one now.
Our son is blessed with loving aunts and uncles who dote on him endlessly, and when he asked his beloved Godfather about his aunts and uncles and cousins, none of us minced any words. Because his Godfather is a holocaust survivor, he has very few living relatives and he replied in this way:
“They died in the war started by a man named Adolf Hitler. He was a person who was so filled with hate and the quest for power that he ordered the death of millions of Jews. My family were amongst those who were killed.”.
“Fuck that guy!” our nine-year-old aptly commented.
Indeed, but we reassured him that most the world came together to defeat Hitler and that this would never happen again.
I firmly believe that just as hate begets hate, love begets love. And of the two, love is the more powerful force.
In the interest of spreading love, here are a few ideas to bring light into the world this week. A week that demands action over inaction and kindness over malevolence.
- Bring food to the food bank. There will be a rush of donations come Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the shelves tend to empty over the summer months. Anything non-perishable is appreciated.
- Donate blood if you are able. Blood units tend to drop over the summer months. As a donor, you get cookies and juice and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to save a life. (On that note, why can’t we be notified when our donation is being used to help someone? I’ve seen their tracking procedures – each and every unit of blood is marked and labeled and checked and double-checked and recorded arduously. Would it be that difficult for Canadian Blood Services to send a text or email when our donation is being infused? That would be a great notification to get and may inspire new people to donate).
- Buy some flowers for a friend, or for someone in need. A little potted plant (usually under ten dollars at the grocery store) delivered to a local nursing home can really uplift someone. I leave it with the receptionist with the instructions to pass it along to someone who is sad or lonely.
- My dad is in his eighties, and my mom just turned (redacted). For her birthday, we gave them a food delivery service for two weeks (my friend, Jenn Tobin, had the idea). They are THRILLED with it. We ordered from Chef’s Plate. They usually have 50% discount for first-time customers. My parents are very particular, and they are awestruck by the freshness and tastiness of the meals. They even tried soba noodles for the first time! Best idea ever, Jenn. (Chef’s Plate requires the assembly of the ingredients. If someone you love could use a little more help, you can order pre-cooked, pre-packaged meals from Home Style Meals — it’s a far fresher and tastier alternative to Meals on Wheels). (NOTE: I am not being paid or compensated in any way to suggest these companies.)*
- Forgive a small slight. My parents moved into an apartment a few years ago and were introduced to one of their neighbours. She was unwelcoming and nasty to them right from the start. Some people are just like that, I suppose, but mom and dad have stayed far away from her since their first encounter. Until today. This morning, when the three of them entered the elevator at the same time, a very cool “hello” emerged from my mother’s pursed lips, followed up with a “and how have you been?” (not that she particularly cared, but old polite habits die hard). “Not well” the woman replied. “my husband died”. Cue the melting scene from Frozen. Hearing of a spouse’s death is like kryptonite to my parents. Sincere condolences were expressed, and later that day my dad brought her a plant with a note containing their home and cell phone numbers, giving her explicit instructions to call them day or night if she needs anything. They had a long conversation in the hallway, and a new friendship might just emerge from this.
“Love begets love. It multiplies the kindness and goodness of every heart” – Jean Ayende Totanes
*my editor, Lee, insisted that I add this disclaimer. I find it hilarious how he thinks that so many people read this blog that I have to worry about legalities.
One of Lee’s best qualities is his willingness to help anyone, at any time, with anything. He jumps into action the moment he is needed – without question or comment – and just helps.
The most recent example of this kindness happened last week. We rented a quaint little cottage on a river; it had a wrap-around deck with glorious views of enormous trees and the calm waters cutting through them. Lee was absorbed in a Sidney Sheldon novel when when a couple approached him. They startled him out of his retro-fiction read, apologized, but explained that their boat had just broken down. They were stuck, had no idea where on the river they landed, and needed to get back home.
I would have offered my telephone and put the kettle on, but my sweet husband grabbed his keys and said “don’t worry! I’ll drive you home”. They lived 30 minutes away but that didn’t deter Lee.
It didn’t even occur to him that there could be an element of danger to his good deed. Quietly, I asked Lee “is this safe?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” he replied.
Ever the jaded skeptic, I hid by the kitchen window and took photos of the couple.
He returned (safely) a little while later, and off we went on a paddle boat ride down the river. Long story short, the boat had holes, we took on water, and capsized. In a paddle boat. What an inglorious way to die that would have been.
20 minutes later, a pontoon boat appeared and stopped when they saw our sorry asses on the riverbank. The women on board hauled the children up, wrapped them in their sweaters and took us down river where we could fix things up. We returned to the cottage safe and sound, with the children so very excited about their adventure.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative news cycle. It seems like everywhere you go, people are competing to be America’s Next Top Dickhead. These two examples of kindness, occuring just hours apart, buoyed my faith in humanity. I hope it inspires and enlivens your day too.
Picture this: I’m in my car, sitting at a red light in the left turn lane. The advance green arrow appears and INSTANTLY the guy behind me lays on his horn.
(Note that I’m a ridiculously nervous driver – hands at the “ten and two” position, head up and at attention like a German soldier.)
So here we have it, folks, another angry pork chop guy. A guy so unhappy in his life that he feels the need to lash out and exert power in even the most benign circumstance.
As much as every cell in my body wanted to give him the finger and drive suuuuper sloooooowly, that would just escalate the situation. Instead, I made my turn, moved into the right lane, and as he passed I smiled and waved at him like I would an old friend. His angry expression became confused. “Do I know her? Why is she waving at me? Who did I just honk at?”.
Hopefully, my Random Act of Ridiculousness gave him enough pause that he continued his drive peacefully. I’ll always take perplexed over angry.
Now it’s time to concentrate on the kindness I’ve witnessed lately.
I have an entire blog post devoted to the friends and neighbours who have helped me through my adventures in disc herniation. The warmth and concern that surround me stop me in my tracks and I’m eternally grateful. More on this later.
The second act I witnessed came from my dad. He’s 83 and still working as an insurance broker. One of his clients went on a sabbatical overseas but forgot to pay her insurance premium before she left. When he received a note from the insurance company indicating that her house insurance was going to be cancelled, he took out his VISA, called them and paid her premium for her. $800 that he won’t see for a bit, but he truly doesn’t care: “she’s been a loyal client for some time” he said.
Take that, Geico Lizard.
The final act of kindness came about in 2006 – the year that Lee worked in Vancouver. He lived in the Vancouver Marriott hotel and was treated to both a delicious breakfast every morning and the sight of Jessica Alba working out in the hotel gym.
Lee got into great shape that year.
Anyway, the hotel chef prepared a homemade granola that was stop-in-your-tracks delicious. Other than stalking watching a Hollywood star stretch and sweat every morning, it was the best part of his day. When Lee complimented the chef, he asked Lee if he’d like the recipe and wrote it out by hand. That stained, worn, well-loved piece of paper is in our recipe book and every time Lee sees it, he is reminded of
Jessica Alba’s abs the chef’s kindness in sharing it with us.
Here is the recipe. Guaranteed it is the BEST granola you’ve ever had.
4 cups oats
1.5 cups rice krispies
1.5 cups brown sugar
250 g butter
50 g honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup almonds
In a pot mix together the brown sugar, melted butter and honey over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Fold mixture into the dry ingredients.
Mix well until the oats are well coated then pour onto baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir granola once during cooking process to ensure even cooking.
Let cool, keep stirring until fully cooked (if you prefer chunks, let cool without stirring and break pieces into container for storage)
Options; add dry cranberries or sun-dried cherries or raisins.
Three different forms of kindness: a passive, non-agressive act when confronted by misplaced rage, a huge favour for a loyal client, and a seemingly small act that is appreciated 11 years later.
Kindism will return August 4, 2017.
I am always trying to think up the next “million dollar idea”.
For instance, I want my car to come equipped with different horns for different situations (someone has done it, I see, but I swear I had that idea ten years ago), a diaper genie for kitchen food waste, and a website where you can download forms to help you tell people how you feel about them while they are still alive. The last one was going to be called SayItNow.com but when I pitched it to those closest to me, I got some lukewarm feedback. And some crinkled brows. Plus, my mother said “that is horribly depressing”. Figures that the one thing I could do without the aid of an engineer got a big thumbs down.
However, this is what sparked the idea: I work part time in a beautiful funeral home. It has the feel of a fine hotel – wide staircases, an enormous, glittering chandelier, and furniture clad in the softest fabrics. The building is kept immaculately clean, soft music dances gently through the speakers and it always smells like vanilla shortbread cookies. Lots of people say they couldn’t do my job, but my office is quiet and civilized and filled with a supportive staff who treat each other like family.
It also has a state-of-the-art sound system, and, quite often, I can listen to the eulogies given during funerals over the speakers scattered about the funeral home. While every funeral and every family is different, there are a few similarities:
Flowers. So many flowers.
Eulogies from loved ones reminiscing about the good times and speaking well of the deceased.
It leaves me wondering if anyone said such wonderful things to them while they were alive.
I try very hard to remember the fleeting nature of life and if I were rich, I’d like to rent a plane to sky write: DON’T WAIT – TELL THOSE YOU LOVE HOW YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW. Grief is painful and leaving things unsaid and undone intensifies this pain. Now, there have been volumes written on grief but the most meaningful words I’ve read were written by Jamie Anderson:
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go”.
If grief is painful, guilt magnifies this pain. The guilt sneaks up on you and weighs you down with thoughts of “if only…”. So I think everyone should take the time now, while your loved ones are still alive to express how you feel about them.
A genuinely kind note written from the heart is never a bad idea and is always welcome. For instance, I work with a man who is very quiet. Pleasant always, but not overly emotional. Yet, every single Christmas he gives out Christmas cards with the most beautiful sentiments handwritten on the inside. I keep every single Christmas card I’ve ever received but I keep his in my desk to read throughout the year. They always make me smile.
So write the letters, send the notes saying “thinking of you”, email the friends who mean the most to you. Buy the cheesy cards, send flowers, tell your family you know they did their best. Say thank you with a card. Make someone you love laugh. Take a shitload of pictures. Host a crappy dinner party. Get over the awkwardness of self-expression. Just get over it.
Or, if you can’t, order a card from these people. They are hilariously vulgar.
Who would you like to hear from? To whom do you owe a thank you? How do you want to be remembered? Celebrate the people you love and those who love you. Say it now.
Another guest post by Lee. Angie is the one with the talent for writing interesting things that make you think and get you to action. I find interesting things on the intertubes and post them. Like this:
The writing is a bit small so let me transcribe it for you, just one of the many services I provide other than posting pictures!
None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else. — Reddit user “Hotsauceinmyeye”‘s mom
I have the be silly and be weird down. Angie has the be kind locked up.
Normally when one of my friends has a birthday I send them a quick note saying “Happy birthday” and include some form of insult, possibly on the FacePage thing. I’m not sure why I have friends plural and not just maybe one sick and twisted person who puts up with me because they think I’m funny. Today I did something a bit different and sent a personal email with “the truth that you’re carrying in your heart” and it felt really good to express myself with none of the macho-manly don’t say what you feel and definitely not to a guy garbage. No time like the present and no sense holding onto the treasure until you can use it in an eulogy.
So the challenge to you is to take one of the suggestions above, and don’t just pick the easy one about eating delicious food, and do it over this weekend. I’ve done the one and will do all of the rest except jump in the ocean, but I will jump in my pool.