Stranger than Fiction

So, here’s the T — I’ve been sick. My last shift at work was Friday, although I will be going back tomorrow (Wednesday). Because of this, I’ve got some thoughts on March of 2020 and the Coronavirus world as we know it.

On Friday morning, I woke up with a nasty headache. But, I get headaches, so for me, that was nothing new. Also, on Friday, the North American continent hadn’t fully exploded yet. I headed in to work.

By about 10:30, my throat was feeling a bit raw. But, I talk all day at work, and sometimes that happens. By about noon I knew something more than that was going on. Shortly after that, my boss asked if I would be willing to cover a shift at a different store the following day. I had to tell her, unfortunately, I’m not feeling great. She gave me lozenges and asked if I would like my next shift covered. I gratefully said yes.

By two, she had pulled me off the floor to work in the back. Again, I was grateful. My throat was sore. It was hard to talk. I could feel the energy dissipation happening. By the end of my shift at 4:30, I ordered a big honey citrus mint tea, drove home, then sat in my car and tried to find enough energy to get out of the car and walk inside my house. Once in, I snagged a blanket and pillow and collapsed on my couch while feeling grateful that the day before I’d hit the grocery store and managed to purchase everything we needed except — you guessed it — toilet paper.

I slept all night. Slept until noon on Saturday. Slept on and off throughout Saturday. Slept Saturday night and into Sunday. I also fielded contradicting opinions from loved ones. You should go to get checked for the virus. You should call first and then go get checked for the virus. You shouldn’t bother calling — you won’t get thru, anyway. You should definitely not go get checked for the virus. You shouldn’t bother going to get checked for the virus because you haven’t been out of the country, and you aren’t over sixty. They wouldn’t even check you for the virus even if you went in to get checked for the virus.

What was a girl to do? By Sunday I was pretty sure I just had a seasonal something or other. I didn’t have a fever, my cough was present but mild. I felt crappy. That was my most significant symptom. Yet, that nasty word asymptomatic was circling in my head. I must have read and reread the list of Coronavirus symptoms a dozen times. And, since I was home, awake but not feeling healthy enough for the mental acuity required of novel writing, I watched the news and social media posts of a world systematically closing down — all while my teenage daughter wondered what this all would mean to her Spring Break, her Volleyball league, her grade eleven classes, her social life.

By Sunday afternoon, I had started to feel like I was improving. Say what you will about our grandparents going to war and we’re just sitting on a couch, I might not be so great at quarantine. Both my daughter and I were hugely restless after being confined to the house for only two days. We took our “quarantine” on the road — and just took the car out for a drive in the sun. By the time we got back an hour later, I was out of energy, and realizing my health might not be as improved as I had believed. Well, crap. Back to the blankets for me.

I tried to write. I tried to read. I tried to avoid social media. And while I’m on that topic, lemme just say, when there is a global pandemic going on and you are home with the flu (90% sure), stupid-ass memes about the non-lethality of Coronavirus are offensive, not funny. So stfu people. All I’m saying is… Also, a status post from my friend, Trevor, gave me the jarring bit of info that thanks to my December birthday, I have jumped the fence into a higher-risk age category. I mean, still low, but not as low as five months ago. So, yeah, thanks for that, Trev!

My boss called to see how I was feeling. I told her the truth, mostly by now I am just exhausted, but I don’t see how, given the world’s emotional climate, I can return to work quite yet. I’m still coughing, and I sound congested, and I would freak people out. Fortunately, I wasn’t meant to return to work until Tuesday, so I had another day to make that decision. She let me know there were changes at work, there was also a pledge from the company that they would pay the salary of any staff member needing to self-isolate. I love my employers. Honestly, I came from a difficult work environment. Now, I work for a big company who treats its people like gold. So thankful. Insert heart emoji here.

That still left me with a conundrum. Do I stay or do I go? With the symptoms I have, I would never normally not go back to work. I’d just power through. I mean, that first shift, yeah sure. But four days later? Get real. But, these aren’t normal times. I haven’t been tested to rule out Coronavirus. So, I don’t know that I don’t have it. But, I’m not exactly sick, either. And apparently, I am wanted back at work at my earliest convenience. Something about being a steadying and reassuring presence yadayadayada. (JK. I was touched she said that.) So, how do you decide if you should self-quarantine or not? I have no idea.

And it starts to make you a bit paranoid. Which is why, Sunday night, with my sleep schedule by now completely shot and out the window, I lay in my bed taking deep breaths and listened to the slight rattle I perceived coming from my lungs. Was that pneumonia? What about that? How about that? What does pneumonia feel like? Oh, the curse of being a generally healthy human being!

Monday. I FOUND TOILET PAPER!

Monday. All Alberta and Saskatchewan schools closing and students getting an immediate pass. How is that fair? Sheena informs me that should her classes go online, she is immediately dropping Chemistry and Spanish. Still not 100% healthy, I save that fight, slot it into the should-that-day-come category of parenting.

Monday. Restaurant closures. Neighbours reporting being laid off. Theatre closures. Pool closures. Library closures. Curling club closures. OK Corral closures. West Jet closures. Basically, if it’s fun, it’s closed. I inform work I need one more day off.

Monday, tragedy strikes: Volleyball is cancelled. Teenage depression off the charts. And then…

I send out a group email to my older children. Sheena’s volleyball just got cancelled and she is sad. Anyone wanting to console her should do so. All three siblings immediately send empathetic notes. Brian and his girlfriend come over with fast food. I go out to drive my eldest daughter home from work. We compare stories. She works for Indigenous Bloom. Even they are talking about potential closures. I tell her I feel people will really panic if even the legal pot dispensaries close. We laugh. It feels good.

I return home and the youngest child greets me at the car. This means she thinks if she produces a smile cute enough, I will take her out for a drive. I balk. The fourty minute visit with the eldest daughter has exhausted me. Sheena then informs me, I am not allowed into the house as Brian and his girlfriend are working on a surprise. I drive the youngest child to 7/11 where she buys Slurpees for them, coffee for me. We return home, and the youngest son and his girl have cleaned my kitchen. As John at work says, it sparkles. Apparently, it was even my son’s idea, and then Daelyn took the reins and things got done right — fridge and stove pulled out and mopped under and everything.

I crash back onto my couch and the dog jumps on top of my hip and settles in for her nap. Brian, Sheena, and Daelyn all go out to Dae’s house. Sheena is happier than I’ve seen her all weekend. My little extrovert daughter finally has someone to talk to other than her boring, flu-y mother. I zone out, post the thirteenth picture on my phone on people’s Facebook walls. Stumble across Keith Urban, live streaming on Instagram. He’d had a concert cancelled, and it bummed him out. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all. So, he rigged up some background tracks and some lights in the warehouse where he keeps oh so many beautiful guitars. And with wifey Nicole Kidman dancing around audience of one style, he played a thirty minute live-stream set which absolutely lifted my spirits and reminded me that the world hasn’t ended yet.

This morning, I’m at 90ish percent healthy. I get up and ready for my day, and jump onto Castanet. American news isn’t fun right now since hating Donald Trump doesn’t seem the most productive use of my energy — despite the fact that he rates his response to this crisis as a ten. That’s cool. The world can use a good laugh right now.  And to be fair, I wouldn’t want to be the leader in charge of a country right now, so yeah, whatever, Castanet it is. Micro-news is likely the best way to go at present, anyway.

And Castanet, this morning, rises to the challenge of improving my mental health.

Apparently, Keith Urban isn’t the only musician doing free concerts. Chris Martin and John Legend did, too. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively donated a million dollars to food banks — half in the States, half in Canada. Tom and Rita were released from hospital. An Okanagan College exchange student has decided to stay in Spain so she doesn’t risk travelling and making people at home sick. She talks about people in Spain sharing items with each other, talks about people cheering the health care workers at the end of their shifts.

And I think, we get to choose who we want to be, how we want to respond. I think, we get to celebrate the resiliency of the human spirit, we get to support those in our community who are suffering as a result of March 2020. We get to take a look at what is really important, what really matters, and hopefully, carry that reminder with us through April and May and into the future when we are all up off our couches and getting back to the work of being part of both local and global citizenry.

 

CBC’s The Debater’s on Is Easter the Best Holiday

So, it’s been a heck of a week.

In Salmon Arm, a shooting in a church service. In Penticton, a shooter on the streets. In Kelowna, bank robberies and police takedowns at gunpoint appear to be becoming the norm, and yesterday the courthouse next to the art gallery where I work was evacuated when someone pulled the fire alarm. Local news called it a false alarm, but in the gallery we noticed the commotion not because of sirens and flashing lights and hot-bodied men in uniforms wandering the street, but rather because the gallery smelled of smoke — causing concern and an immediate investigation of our entire building. Fire is not the friend of art. And I’m not saying the news is lying to you, but…

In France, we saw Notre Dame burn. In response to Notre Dame… memes? Really people? Is nothing sacred with this generation?

In the US, the Muller report, redacted but released, and showing how depressingly immoral a government and apathetic a democratic country can become. Nixon was gone for a lot less; a poll shows that half the American people determined prior to the release of the report that its contents would not change their opinions. Look how far we’ve come, baby.

On the home front, a broken car, a repaired car, a broken car, a repaired car… and a daughter who came home from school in tears twice because of the social and academic pressure dispensed at this mandatory government institution.

Living in the 21st Century, apparently, is not for the faint of heart.

And then it’s Easter. And in a bizarre turn of events a woman with two jobs (me!) has both Good Friday and Easter Sunday off.

This year, I have found that an antidote to the stresses of life and of media immersion is laughter, and I have been turning to comedy more and more often for relief. Thus, I have become a great fan of CBC Radio’s The Debaters.

When my University profs used to speak about listening to CBC Radio in their cars on their way to class, I privately thought, I will never get that old. Turns out, I did. I even downloaded the ap on my phone. So, for those who aren’t familiar with The Debaters, two comics debate opposing sides of a given argument in a comedic fashion, and a studio audience votes for their favourite. Winners are determined by the volume of the audience’s cheers. And it is hilarious.

With topics such as Are the Toronto Maple Leafs the Worst Franchise in Hockey and Pierre versus Justin: Who was the Superior Trudeau, this show is so funny it often has tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.

This week’s topic was Is Easter a Fun Occasion, and the debaters were Lara Rae and Derek Seguin. Once again, I find myself laughing, and crying, and I think, I should post this to Facebook in honour of Easter! I wonder which of my friends would enjoy the humour in it, as I do, which would be touched, as I am, and which would be scandalously offended, as I’m certain a portion of the faith community within my acquaintance would be. To post or not to post, this is the question.

Lara Rae, comedian, Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and transwoman, is given the side of the debate that Easter is a truly “hoppy” occasion. She is given two minutes to argue for her point of view.

Montreal-based Derek Seguin, a comedian who speaks about getting divorced by saying, “I got divorced…not really divorced, I think to get divorced you have to get a lawyer or file paperwork… I’m not really a paperwork kind of guy. I’m more a change the lock on the house kind of guy. But I’m also Quebecois, and I travel all over Canada, so I’m uncomfortable with the word separate, so I always just say divorce,” is given the other side of the argument.

Lara Rae opens, and it is incredible. She starts by talking about the hunger associated with Lent, then says, “Jesus was the first social justice warrior, and the best.” Continuing, she describes the Easter story in terms that would do justice to the script of an epic movie. “It’s got a rock; it’s got a roll. It’s got Golgotha, which literally means hill of skulls. Awesome. It has courage; it has betrayal. It has three women standing up to a fascist military dictatorship; feminism, and a centurion that gets Van Goghed by a hot-headed disciple with a machete.”

And it’s funny, because although I am laughing, it feels a bit like I am in a really good church service. And if more preachers paraphrased the Bible as well as Lara Rae, I’d likely attend a lot more regularly.

Seguin comes back by wondering about the math in the Bible. “Hey, Steve, if I ask you on a Friday, hey, let’s go for lunch in three days, what day are you showing up for lunch?” When Steve responds, “It seems like Monday,” Seguin agrees. “Steve,” he says, “Is very good at math. A terrible Christian, though. ‘Cuz apparently, in the Bible, Friday plus three days is Sunday. What the hell happened?” Then he goes on to say, “What Jesus did, is come back from the dead! That is so huge. What a huge message! And who did we, as parents, choose to bring this message to the kids? A frickin’ bunny rabbit? What? What?” He says, “Maybe Jesus should sneak into the house and.. hide the secret of how to come back from the dead. Maybe in a Kinder Surprise or something.”

And again, I am laughing, but I am actually thinking, that’s pretty profound, really, and some would even say, is exactly what Jesus did that first Easter, year zero (Another Seguin quote).

The debate continues into the bare knuckle round, and Lara Rae laughs that she was “this close to the priesthood! I was set to be one of Rome’s primary transgender female priests.” Even she can’t say this without laughing, and when the host gives Seguin the last word on the topic he says, “I just, I learned a lot about the Bible I didn’t know,” and he sounds serious, actually. The show moves into the firing line, where the comedians answer questions about Easter with their best guess, then finishes up with closing arguments.

Derek Seguin suggests that we are a multi-culture, multi-faith country so we could have an all-faith free 2019. In order to do that, kids should just stay in school on weekends so that parents can have fun with melted chocolate on the long-weekend while the kids are at school. He knows teachers wouldn’t enjoy this, but says, “Suck it up, you have a whole two months off.”

When Lara Rae closes, her speech is reverent, more serious than funny. I mean, she’s funny, but I could be listening to a sermon. Just, a more palatable sermon than most. She says, “You can’t taint Easter. So, they made a pagan holiday to sit alongside it with rabbits and chocolate. Whether you believe in the resurrection, or have a deep respect, it’s still the centre symbol of Christianity and contains a powerful message of forgiveness the world needs terribly today.”

Listening, the audience is hushed, and I find there are tears in my eyes, not of humour, this time, but of respect, of need. And then, in place of an altar call, she concludes with a joke, but the moment is not lost on me, and I find myself extremely thankful that before I move on with my planned day off activities of sweeping the living room floor and swishing the bathroom toilet with its brush, I have had this faith moment, laughing in the comfort of my living room, yet still reminded why I have this day off today in the first place.

In a week that hasn’t had a lot to laugh about, thank you, Debaters, for making me laugh. Thank you, Jesus, for your love that lead you to sacrifice. And thank you Lara Rae and Derek Seguin, for reminding me of the beauty of faith in a world which is most certainly in need of a little faith.

Peter Pan Journeys

 

 

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It started to hit home last night, when she told me of her plans to move her bed into my living room. She continued speaking, wondering aloud about types of screwdrivers, and worrying in a minor way about the potential for losing components of her bed frame. I’d stopped actively listening, though. Unable any longer to ignore the fact of my eldest daughter’s imminent departure, my brain had stuttered to a halt.

Time waits for no man, someone said. At least, I think that’s the quote. Possibly, though, it’s death waits for no man. Both, I’ve noticed, are true.

I’d had an early miscarriage the month prior to Alison’s conception. That baby would have been due near my own birthday, and of course, from the moment you know there’s a baby in your future, your imagination fires. So, the loss is real. The doctor told us we could start trying to conceive again immediately, and that is how Alison became the only one of my four children who was planned.

When, at approximately the same stage of pregnancy that the miscarriage had happened I once again started to spot, I was terrified. I hit my knees. As I was down there, anyway, I told God that since we were talking, not only did I want a healthy child, I also wanted that child to be a red head baby girl. Which is exactly what we got.

See, there is a God. IMG_8210 (1)

 

 

Quite frankly, the entire pregnancy with Alison sucked. First, there was the spotting and doctor ordered lying on my left-hand side — difficult since at that time I was also raising a one year-old son. Next came the intensely itchy rash which covered my torso and extremities and lasted until I ran out of maternal vitamins two weeks before giving birth. (Apparently, I’d been having an allergic reaction.) Finally, during my last trimester, came the undiagnosed gall bladder attacks. Pain would grip me, so intense I’d throw up, and I’d end up in bed in a cold sweat, thrashing until the worst of the pain dulled enough for me to pass out and sleep the rest away.

And yet, out of a pregnancy which was an ordeal came this human being who is an absolute delight. A human being who, tomorrow, is moving out of my home for the first time.

A mother carries a thousand memories, moments snapped like photographs which spool on a loop, inside the recesses of her mind. There was the way, as a toddler, she’d put her hand to my lips and tell me, “Mommy, don’t sing.” The year she was a tiger, a cat, a ghost at Halloween. That time — and I think she’d proud of this one — when she bit the family dentist.┬áThe way she laced up her first pair of ice skates then hit the rink as if she’d been born wearing blades. Continue reading “Peter Pan Journeys”

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