Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Moment We Became Adults

Happy Easter! Easter, to me, is synonymous with family. My family has had a difficult year. We lost my Dad's Father, my "Gido," to cancer in October. Easter has always been a big family celebration in my Dad's family, and this will be my Baba's first Easter without my Gido. I'm sure it will be a difficult day for her. Almost a month ago, we lost my Mom's brother, my Uncle Neil, to cancer. Uncle Neil was far too young and vibrant to leave this Earth. My heart is just so heavy for everyone who is hurting, including my Mom, my Grandma, my Aunts and Uncles, and especially his immediate family: my 4 young Cousins and my beautiful Aunty Colleen who lost an incredible Father and Husband. I know that I can't take their pain away but I wish that I could teleport myself back to Canada so that I could be there to support my family. I've said it before, the biggest sacrifice I've made moving to a tropical island is being present for the ones I love when they need me the most. I love my family so much and I just hope that they know that despite being so far away, I think about them all the time.

Easter, on the island, however, is apparently synonymous with camping. I discovered this a few weeks ago when I was listening to the car radio. You heard me correctly: CAR RADIO. After 2 years of burning CD's (like it's 1999) for the Japanese radio that refused to tune into a station above 75 FM, and constantly indicated via GPS that I was floating in the ocean around Japan, I got a functional car radio installed! WhooHOOOO! Grand Cayman, to my surprise, has 5 FM stations that I choose to listen to which include the hits, rock, Caribbean soca, and some old school 90's music. Not bad for a an island with 60,000 people! As I was driving to the east end of the island one day, a commercial came on for our local grocery store: "It's almost Easter and you know what that means!" (eggs? Bunny? Jesus?) "....Camping!" (Camping?) Yes, the Easter weekend is the "May Long" of Cayman, where the locals pitch their tents on the beach and grill, party, and celebrate the Easter long weekend
for 4 entire days.

My Japanese GPS: It took 2 1/2 years but I made it to Japan!

Cayman Campground

Seeing the plethora of tents, BBQ's, and cases of beer, I immediately had flashbacks to the May long weekend in Canada. The May long weekend (typically the third weekend in May) is the biggest party weekend of the year because it is the official start to summer! (I believe it's also the Queen's birthday - Thank you Queen Victoria!) After hibernating for months through the frigid winter, everyone packs up their tents, trailers, and cabin supplies and heads out to the lake to enjoy a weekend of campfires, wiener roasts, and PARTY. In Saskatchewan, it's very seldom that the lake has actually completely thawed for the May long weekend, so we often gaze out at the frozen lake, anticipating all the fun water activities to come.

As a teenager, the May Long was THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTY WEEKEND EVER. Now I am NOT admitting to anything, but many teens prepared for May long in April, arranging a "pull" (someone who was at least 19 years old who could legally purchase booze). One year, some people I know managed to line up someone's brother's cousin's friend who took their $800, promising to return with the booze that was neatly listed on a piece of paper (Rockaberry Coolers and Strawberry Angel!) The pull ran with the cash and left 10 very sad (and broke) teenagers sobbing like babies. Sober babies. If anyone did actually make it to the lake with the pulled alcohol, the weekend was spent running through the campgrounds of Candle Lake,  dodging Conservation Officers and RCMP. You were a true survivor if you made it through the May Long without a ticket (known as a "one eighty" - $180 fine) for underage drinking or open alcohol. Looking back, the May Long was not actually a good time. My friends and I often spent the weekend, cold, dirty, shoeless (why the hell were we shoeless?) and miserable, wandering the campgrounds with a severe case of FOMO, searching for the best May Long party, racked with the fear of returning to school on Tuesday, only to realize that THE PARTY OF THE YEAR was missed or shut down by a responsible adults. Responsible adults were always ruining the May Long fun. To solidify the agony of the May Long, Mother Nature occasionally threw a wrench in our camping plans by delivering a heavy snowfall during our initiation to summer weekend.

A Canadian Classic: You will wake up with a headache. Guaranteed. 

Don't grow up, Kirstie! It's a trap!
At age 17, when Evan and I became a couple, I introduced him to epic May Long, and, together, we shared in the misery excitement. As we matured, the May Long morphed into a "Rick's Lounge" weekend, where we (Gasp!) partied legally at the local lounge. Despite our mature approach to partying, somehow the night always resulted in wandering, cold, miserable, and shoeless (Why? Why?) through the bushes, searching for an "afterparty."

When we turned 25 years old, we purchased our first house - a lakefront cabin at Candle Lake (when I say "WE purchased," I mean "Evan purchased"), and Evan and I had our own place to party on the May Long. Unfortunately, our first May Long in our new home took a terrible turn and nosedived us into the depths of despair known as adulthood.

It was 2am on the Saturday night of May Long 2005, and Ev and I had settled into bed after a night of campfire wobbly pops with our buddies. Suddenly, we were awakened by the flashing lights of a police car projected on our ceiling. We could hear shouting, the sounds of breaking glass, and the rustle of bushes in our yard. Ev quickly jumped out of bed, grabbed his golf club and headed outside to survey the situation (or beat someone with his golf club...the jury is still out). I watched in horror from my window as half a dozen frantic teenagers abandoned their bottles of beer in MY yard, and hid from the police under MY deck (technically, all of these things belonged to Evan, but you get the point). Donning only his bright blue Bart Simpson boxers, and shoes! (He was wearing shoes?) Ev waved his golf club at the drunk teens and bellowed, "HEY! GET OUT OF MY YARD!" I shuddered from my window. My boyfriend, the super cool Evan Lindsay, had a "Dad" voice. Terrified, the teens abandoned our yard and fled the scene. Terrified, I climbed back into bed and snuggled under my covers. At that moment it occurred to me: We are no longer the careless teens running from the law. We are the adults ruining May Long fun. We are the fun inhibitors. That moment marked our graduation from our carefree childhood days into the realm of responsibility and adulthood. That is the moment when Evan and I officially became (shudder)...adults.

Happy Easter Everyone!
To my family: I miss you and love you so much. I will see you soon.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Things you should not say to people on crutches

Crutches are an interesting mobility aide. For most people, crutches symbolize a temporary disability. Many of us have been on crutches at one point or another - whether it was a broken ankle in high school or a knee replacement at age 65, many can relate to the crutches, and assume that the person on crutches is in the process of being "fixed."

When we see someone in a wheelchair, on the other hand, we may sympathize, wondering if the person was in a tragic accident and unable to walk again. When we see a woman with a bald head peeking out from beneath a scarf, we may sympathize, wondering if she is undergoing cancer treatments. It's human nature. Certain aides or accessories cue our brains to experience more sympathy, to view a situation as more serious than another.

Now I'm not inferring that no one has sympathy for people on crutches; however, based on 5 years of consistent crutching experience, I will say that there is often a different reaction to a person on crutches verses other visible injuries/ailments. My situation is unique, in that, I have a degenerative cartilage disease. I don't mind explaining this to people, but I do notice that when they ask, "What happened?" many are surprised and slightly uncomfortable with my response. People appear to struggle to process the information about my condition. It's not expected. They would prefer to hear that I tore my ACL in a skiing accident because that makes sense to them. They can relate to that injury. Everyone knows someone who tore their ACL! It confuses people when I use 1 crutch one week, 2 crutches the next, and no crutches the following week. They don't understand that my pain varies from day-to-day. They expect to see progress. They expect to see recovery in a neat and linear way consistent with the average person who is recovering from a knee injury. So I think that sometimes people say and do inappropriate things because they just don't understand my disease and my explanation does not match their expectations.

I've noticed quite a few list-type articles out there: "10 things NOT to say to a pregnant woman," "5 things NOT to say to someone with depression," "7 things you should NEVER say to someone who has just gotten divorced," etc. So, I thought I'd add to the mix and create my own list. Behold:

Things You Should NOT Say To People On Crutches

1. "What did you do to yourself now?"

As I crutched across the school yard, sweat dripping down my face, pain radiating down my knee, I looked up as a fellow "professional," hands placed sternly on her hips bellowed, "And what did you do to yourself now?" I clenched my teeth as my inside voice replied, "Oh I just acquired a rare cartilage disease you dumb &*%$" Being a professional in my place of work, I filtered my inappropriate thoughts, smiled through my gritted teeth, and replied, "Just had another knee surgery." 

Why would one assume that I "did this to myself"? Given that I've been on and off crutches for the entire time I've worked on island, do people assume that I am injuring myself every weekend at international beer pong tournaments? (How badass would that be?) Anyway, don't say it. Just don't.

Crutches need support too sometimes

2. God will heal you

Now don't get me wrong. I'm pro God. If God wants to heal me, I'm all for it! I really do appreciate it when people say that they are praying for me. Regardless of your religious beliefs, when someone states that they are praying for you, it indicates that they are thinking about you, hoping and wishing for the best. It's a lovely gesture that I greatly appreciate. But I'm afraid God ain't putting my cartilage back together. Dr Carey from the Penn Cartilage Centre is putting my cartilage back together. When I explain to you that I have a specialized surgeon who is planning my treatment, please don't diminish my trust in the medical system by saying, "Don't worry, God will heal you."

3. That doesn't look fun!

Picture this: a sweaty woman, donning 2 large knee braces, leaning on a crutch, and painfully rolling a suitcase across a gravel path. Yelling, "That doesn't look like fun!" from across the gravel road is NOT helpful. Please help me. Please take 3 minutes out of your day and give me a hand. Some days I may not need your help. Some days I am stubborn and want to prove something to myself. If you ask, I will reply, "Thanks for asking but I got this today." Some days I will thankfully hand over my goods and direct you to my destination. It sure doesn't hurt to offer!

My crutches have many useful purposes, from bottle opener... a microphone! This crutch knows how to party

4. I know exactly how you feel. This one time....

Okay. I want to be clear about this one. I think that it's human nature to try to relate to someone when he/she isn't well. It's a technique that we've incorporated to help us form connections with others: "Oh the same thing happened to a friend of mine and he's all better now," etc. I get it. I also understand that people want to help, and sometimes that involves sharing articles they've read on the internet about stem cell treatment, miracle cartilage gel, etc. The gesture is nice. However, this can quickly turn into a long-ass boring story about "you." I thought you were trying to empathize with me, but now I've been leaning on my crutch in the hot sun for 10 minutes listening to a long ass story about the one time that you broke your ankle. One acquaintance skipped the empathy all together and commented, "My knees are killing me too!"  A simple, "I was on crutches too and I know that it's not fun. Hope you feel better," would totally suffice!

5. When are you getting off the "sticks"?

This is another interesting human response. When someone is sick, whether it be suffering from a cold or recovering from brain surgery, we just want to hear that they are "getting better." It's uncomfortable when we ask someone, "How are you feeling?" and the response is, "Actually, I'm not feeling better." What do we do with that information? Often, especially if it's not someone I'm particularly close to, I will respond, "coming along," regardless if I just discovered that I will require another surgery due to my degenerating cartilage. 

So when someone asks, "How much longer do you need the crutches?" I'm unsure of how to respond. The truth is, I will probably need then off and on for my entire life, but no one wants to hear that. That's not an expected response and it's typically followed by awkward silence. So my reply is typically, "Any day now." Unfortunately, I feel like people are disappointed, when 2 months later, they see me back on the crutches. And that's when I hear, "What did you do to yourself now?" (See  #1) It's a vicious cycle!

My crutches can jump at Batabano

So now that I've disclosed all the things NOT to say to people on crutches, let's end on a positive note. So many students, friends, colleagues, and strangers step up and say and do some very helpful things/gestures when I am on crutches. These caring gestures/words restore my faith in humanity and often make my day. Here are just a few examples of the awesome acts of "CaymanKind" thoughtfulness that I've experienced on crutches:

"Miss, that looks like it hurts. I feel sad for you." (5 year old student with a language delay)

"You always keep going with a smile on your face. That must not be easy for you some days." (co-worker)

"Whoa! Stop. I'll carry that for you. Where are we going?" (security guard at school parking lot)

"Hang in there. I can see that you're in pain today." (co-worker)

"You need a hug!" (7 year old student with a language delay)

"Let this woman to the front of the line." (stranger in a long line at the police station)

"Do!" (5 year old severely language delayed student as he independently brought a chair for me to sit down and motioned, "sit" with the word, "Do!" This was such an incredible gesture of compassion from a little boy who has shown remarkable progress)

"I got it!" (Uttered by each and every one of my office-mates as I pack up my materials to leave for the day. My office-mates ROCK!)

"Miss, come with me. I can help you in the office where you can sit." (Bank Teller who noticed me waiting in line)

"We're your island family. If you need anything, we are here for you." (My island besties)

My crutches can even SCUBA (with the help of good friends!)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bonding over emesis: Another surgery in the books!

Well surgery #8 has come and gone, and compared to previous experiences,  I will chalk it up to a success.

After undergoing 7 previous knee surgeries, I went into 8 like a professional patient (or terrorist), negotiating my demands with the surgical staff as soon as I entered the surgery centre in Philadelphia.

"Ok, listen. We can do the Percocet but no Fentanyl this time. Last time I suffered convulsions and we do not want that happening again."

"Fine. I will take the general anesthetic, but you need to use the mouthpiece instead of the oxygen mask. You know I get claustrophobic under there."

"Where's my Versed? Did someone forget my Versed? You guys know that I get anxiety and need that Versed."

Ok. I wasn't actually that demanding - I definitely made requests politely as any nice Canadian would - but I did go in with my list of "optimal surgery strategies." Oh my god. They must hate the Type A controlling patient from the Cayman Islands! 

I exited the surgery centre the very afternoon after my surgery, feeling pretty badass and ready to conquer the famous Philly "Rocky" steps. My pain was minimal and I was on an anesthetic high. 

About 24 hours later, nausea rocked my world, and continued to rock my world for 3 days. Let's call it the "post surgery beach body diet." Aside: I have so much sympathy for people who suffer from nausea for long periods of time due to pregnancy or chemo treatments, for example. That must be so awful.

I met with my Orthopaedic Surgeon, the Cartilage Repair Specialist, 4 days after my surgery. My surgeon is a good guy and a total cartilage nerd. He LOVES cartilage. He loves to talk about cartilage, he loves to photograph cartilage (I now have an album of deteriorating cartilage pics), he loves to repair shitty cartilage - cartilage is his JAM. Given the fact that I have a rare cartilage condition, we are a match made in heaven and I am extremely lucky to have him as my surgeon.'s taken me a while to warm to my brilliant cartilage buddy. I have no particular reason, really. He listens. He explains things very well. He takes a lot of time with me. He emails back immediately if I send a question. He has good bedside manner. He's a likeable guy. But...he finds cartilage sooo enthralling that he smiles the whole time whilst discussing it- even when delivering bad news. It irked me. I felt like he saw me as a surgical challenge and was actually excited about my shitty knees (the dramatic side of me pictured a villain from a Disney movie rubbing his hands together, "Yes! This deteriorating cartilage is mine. All MINE!") I yearned for a bit of sympathy - maybe a frown -  to accompany, "Your knees are worse than expected." 

Luckily, we turned a corner on surgery #8. As I sat in his examination room, 4 days after surgery, listening to him describe the details of the next surgery - the cartilage implantation (smiling!), I felt that horrible familiar feeling of excess salivation and stomach roll. I quickly pushed my surgeon to the side and puked in the sink directly behind him. In that moment, something wonderful happened - he stopped smiling. I mean, he didn't hold my hair back or soothe me with a rendition of Frozen's, "Let it go!" But I felt like he saw me as a person who...well...puked. 

Although my Surgeon opted to exit the room for pukefest '17, upon his return, instead of continuing with the discussion of the next exciting surgery (happy face!), he commented, "You really are struggling with nausea. That's awful. We will try and solve that issue for you for the next surgery." EMPATHY! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am more than just a challenging case, you know. There is a nauseated person attached to these scarred up knees! So now I feel like we can work together on this. It was a "me" issue and now I am over it. Yes. Let it go, indeed. 

I've been back on the island now for about 10 days and recovery is going well - there's always good days and bad days, but overall, it's been positive. A huge part of the success is the presence of my Mom. It's so nice having her company, as I find quiet alone time difficult, my head spinning with worries about my job and the upcoming challenges that the next surgery brings. I have this terrible habit of telling myself that I am not healing fast enough (I know. Ridiculous), and both Mom and Evan have been so supportive and reassuring that I am doing great. Mom has also been feeding, watering, and cheering me on during my physio exercises. Although she leaves the island on Wednesday, I still have a week to work on my strength and endurance so that I can return to work in the best shape possible. 

In all the flurry of post surgery activity, something terrible happened in our house. We forgot Dundee's Birthday. It completely slipped our minds. Oops. I awoke on Thursday to a Facebook memory of Dundee's birthday a year ago. Damn. I quickly looked at the date and realized that we had missed his birthday by a week! Luckily, Dundee hasn't had access to a calendar and as far as we know, did not suspect a thing. So we celebrated Dundee's 7th birthday on Friday with birthday hats, friends, and lots of pats. Have you ever seen such a big puppy smile? 

Cheers Friends!

One happy pooch!

Another Penn Medicine garment bag. Luckily they've started a punch card for me. One more surgery and I get a free shirt!

But how awesome is that pedicure? Perfection.

During my appointments Evan plays. With everything. He even froze his arm with anesthetic spray.

Oh good! Ev caught the post barf on camera! Ahh..the memories.

Just organizing my cartilage photo album (these are my intra-operative surgery photos). Someday I can show my awesome cartilage just how far it has come! ;)

Dundee and I do physio together every morning!

Dundee hugging his new birthday toy - exhausted from his party!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Training for #8

I have a small, brightly coloured Mead notebook that I keep around the house. If you peek inside, you will see (in my neat "teacher" printing) items such as:
  • Maintain weight. Protein!
  • Sleep goal: 8 hours a night
  • Meditation goal: 3 times a day
  • Gym 2-3 times a week: range of motion, stretching, upper body strength, core stability
  • Water exercise 2 times a week: range of motion, increase heart rate, stretch
  • Ice and heat for pain

At first glance, you might assume that I am training for something - perhaps a marathon or race of some sort. I guess I am in training, but not for something that most people train for. I am in training for my 8th knee surgery which takes place next week in Philadelphia.

Time to overhead squat the crutches!
I don't think that the majority of the population undergo regular surgeries once or twice a year like I do. On the other hand, I am aware of the fact that some are withstanding much more serious and life-threatening procedures than mine. But I would assume that most people go into surgery having no idea what to expect - there are so many unknowns. What happens before I fall asleep? Will I wake up? How will I feel when I wake up? Although each experience is different for me, I have 7 past surgeries to reflect upon - each experience has had its positives and each experience definitely has had its challenges. So I'm doing what any type-A control freak would do: I am using my past experiences to train and prepare for this surgery as best as I can so that I am in a position to succeed. But...and this is a huge but that I have spent hours discussing and analyzing with my Pain Psychologist:  I am prepared for the fact that obstacles will arise that I cannot control... and that is OK. (Haha, my $100/hr sessions are paying off!)

I hear friends saying, "You are so brave," but I don't necessarily feel brave. I feel like I am just living my life as best as I can with this shitty disease. To be honest, I am scared. As prepared as I am for this surgery and as strong as I presently feel physically and mentally, I am still fearful. Some of my fears are rational. I am afraid of the 10/10 pain that consistently hits me 2-3 hours post surgery. That pain is scary and, despite undergoing 7 surgeries, no Anesthetist, Surgeon, or Nurse has yet to determine how to control that pain for me during that period of time. I am also afraid of drug interactions. I've had a few bad ones that have caused me to shake and twitch uncontrollably. Kinda terrifying.

Some of my fears, however, are irrational. I had a nightmare that my surgery was on a Carnival Cruise Ship. My Ortho greeted me in a Captain's hat and said, "Welcome aboard, what joint are we doing today?" Perhaps you recall my post about our disastrous cruise on the "unfun" ship? Another irrational fear is the fear that my Anesthetist will have an "off" day and miscalculate my anesthetic, placing me into a lifelong coma (I mean, haven't you ever been daydreaming when you go to make minute rice and mistakingly add 2 cups of water instead of the prescribed 2/3 Cup of water? Does this ever happen to Anesthetists in the operating room??)

Ev and I head to Philadelphia on Wednesday, I meet with my Surgeon on Thursday - the brilliant cartilage man who is much too joyful when he delivers bad news - and I undergo surgery on Friday. This surgery is another "clean-up" operation to prepare my knee for upcoming cartilage implantation surgery. My Mom is meeting us there (my mom and Evan are a huge part of my successful recovery plan - thanks Team!) and we will spend a week in Philadelphia before we all fly back to the island for my rehabilitation. It sounds so simple when I write it all down! I am fully aware that the next month will test me, but I feel confident that I have a solid plan in place.

Note the stupid smile. Can you say "high as a kite?"

Stupid smile again! I am obviously drugged and think that I am going to the spa for a facial. 

In the meantime, Ev and I have been partaking in some fantastic island activities in an effort to relax and distract. Last night we did the Bioluminescence tour, which entails paddling a kayak to a bay at night where glowing plankton reside. It was a beautiful star-filled night sky and the ocean glowed liked tiny diamonds when you ran your paddle through the water (kinda like the scene in Life of Pi!) Today I have a pedicure at the swanky new Kimpton Hotel Spa (I will opt for a soothing toe hue to ensure that my Anesthetist is NOT distracted) :)

This week I have felt incredibly grateful that I live in such a beautiful place that promotes relaxation and serenity. I am also grateful for wine.

Cheers Friends!

Photo cred to Cayman Kayaks

Sunday, February 5, 2017

And the Rest Is History

It was September something 1996 and I was flipping my hot rolled curls, anxiously awaiting for the new student to arrive to our grade 12 Social Studies Class. He was rumoured to be a Prince Albert Raider. The Prince Albert Raiders were junior hockey players imported from exotic locales such as Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and Lloydminster, Alberta to play hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL). In a small-ish city of 30,000 people, the arrival of a new boy from a different city was exciting news in my little egocentric teenage world.

I straightened my Shania Twain "Any Man of Mine" denim vest, sucked in, and turned as the classroom door opened.

"Evan Lindsay! Glad you could join us today," remarked Mr. T,  our sarcastic (and possibly drunk) Social Studies Teacher.

A tall, skinny, sullen-looking teenaged boy with a mop of curly ginger hair entered the room. As I examined his baggy jeans and Air Walk sneakers my first impression was that the new boy looked more like a skater than a polished imported WHL hockey player.

Likely re-calculating his save percentage

I didn't really get to know Evan until December of that year. He was quiet and often appeared a bit resentful about being traded to the Raiders. As I desperately attempted to climb the popularity ladder, Evan Lindsay appeared to care less about his high school social status and more about his goals against average. He intrigued me. He didn't seem to mind being alone (in high school? Gasp!), he didn't have a locker in the "square" with his teammates, and although he attended team parties, he always hung back quietly observing his surroundings. Evan Lindsay was different.

One night at a Christmas party, Evan and I seemed to hit it off. Spending most of the night seated on the floor next to each other, we laughed for hours, mocking the drunks as the party spiralled out of control. Reflecting on my relationship knowledge, all gathered from the teenage relationship bible,  "YM Magazine," I made the executive decision to play hard to get and wandered away from Evan to talk to some other boys. Evan did not follow me, and in fact, left the party soon after without saying goodbye. Undoubtably, according to YM Magazine's relationship quiz, "Does he like you?,"  this was a sure sign that we were "in the friend zone." Sigh. Now I knew.

Despite YM's sound advice, I continued to have a sneaking suspicion that Evan Lindsay liked me. In Social Studies class, he often casually walked by my desk, dropping a handful Mike 'n Ike candies in front of me. Occasionally, as a special surprise, he would tear a Mike 'N Ike in half and fuse it with another flavour. C'mon, people. That's gotta be flirtation? Something hot was brewing.

I met up again with Evan after Christmas at a house gathering. He immediately approached me and we picked up right where we left off, laughing and joking easily with each other. I was confused. It seemed as though he was interested, but my test had blatantly indicated zero romantic potential. So I did what any intelligent 17 year old girl would do, I delivered Evan another relationship "test."

I headed to the kitchen and reached up for the hot chocolate on the top shelf.  I beckoned (in my best sultry tone), "Evan, can you help me reach the hot chocolate. It's too high."

YM Magazine specified that if the boy reached around and touched you while he was retrieving the object, this gesture indicated that you had succeeded in "catching your crush."Obviously.

"Sure. Move."

Evan (very unromantically) bumped me out of the way and retrieved the hot chocolate.

Damn. According to YM Magazine, Evan and I had zero chance of being the next "it couple."

Despite the failed tests, I still felt chemistry with this tall skinny goalie, and given the fact that I talked about Evan all the time, my friends had begun to suspect that I had a crush on him. One day after school, as I sat on my best friend's bed discussing Evan's hilarious comment in class that day, my bestie shouted, "You like him! You totally like him!"

"No way. We're just friends. Seriously."

Without blinking an eye, Janna picked up her super cool see through phone and dialled Evan's phone number. When Evan answered the phone, Janna threw the receiver at me. Unprepared for a mature conversation, I squealed loudly and frantically hung up the phone. Epic fail.

A few weeks later we found ourselves at another party together. As soon as I entered the room, one of Evan's teammates approached me and said, "Evan Lindsay has been asking where you are."
My stomach fluttered excitedly. Evan Lindsay was asking about me? Perhaps he WAS interested? I decided to forgo all my YM relationship knowledge and just be "me" for the night.

As soon as I saw Ev that night, I knew that something had changed. We made small talk for a few minutes with stupid teenager, "I like you" smirks on our faces and then it happened. He asked me out on a date!

Three days later, on February 3, 1997, Evan and I stiffly sat side-by-side at the Cinema IV theatre in Prince Albert. "Star Wars" was being shown, but I don't recall processing one second of that movie. I was focused solely on Evan's hand, which moved closer and closer to mine, only to retreat a few seconds later. Evan never did get up the courage to hold my hand during that two hour movie. But I knew that he wanted to.

On the way back from the movie, in Evan's silver 1986 Mazda 626, we chatted easily about school and hockey. I was surprised when Evan rolled down his window and the -25 degree winter air shocked our faces.

"It's kinda hot in here," stated Ev calmly. I only found out years later that he had farted, and was desperately trying to mask the smell. Romance at its finest.

That night Evan walked me to the door of my mom's house and stood in the foyer grinning madly. Awkward silence ensued for what seemed like hours until I finally decided to break every YM relationship rule and stated, "I really want to kiss you."

And so we kissed. You know how some teenage kisses (and first kisses) are really bad? There can be tongues and teeth and uncoordinated nose placement in those early years when you are attempting to solve the mysteries of lip locking. Well my kiss with Evan was awesome. It was just a really great kiss with a boy whom I really liked. As we reluctantly pulled away and said goodbye, I knew that I had already developed real feelings for this sullen teenage boy with curly ginger hair. Although I kept it a secret for an entire month (Gasp!), I was in love.

Even though it was immediately apparent to me that Evan and I  shared a special connection, I did not imagine that his lips would be the lips that I would kiss for the next 20+ years. (So screw you, YM Magazine!)

Cheers to 20 years of ups, downs, highs, lows, tears, laughter, and joy. What a ride!

"As soon as I saw you I knew that an adventure was going to happen."
- Winnie The Pooh
Another pivotal kiss in our relationship!

Our first picture together. No awkwardness here.

First summer as a "couple"

One of us has always tanned easier than the other ;)

Teaching Ev how to two-step. It was short-lived.

Another awkward couple photo

Grade 12 Graduation. Ev slicked back the curls for the occasion. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Which Would You Rather?

Hey Friends!

I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone. The trip back to Canada was fantastic. It was the perfect mix of chilling in front of the fireplace with my Timmies and visiting with family and friends. In addition, I actually really enjoyed winter. It dawned on me, for the first time in 37 years, that winter is quite pretty. I loved watching the fat snowflakes fall, the sun set over the frozen lake, and the Christmas lights glistening on the snow-capped roof. So yes, winter isn't so bad if exposure is less than 2 weeks in length and there is an option to remain indoors the entire time! The knees, on the other hand, hate winter. The increase in pain and decrease in mobility just reinforced my decision to get the hell out of winter when I did 2 and a half years ago. If I could only move all my favourite Canadian peeps to Cayman. (Unfortunately we only have 2 bedrooms)
Looks like a BBQ on the deck is out of the question today

Christmas Eve with my Dad and Sis (Kayla flew in from the Netherlands!)

LOVE my mom (and sweaters!)

A boat selfie without the boat - such a great night!

Speaking of the knees, have you ever played a game called, "Which Would You Rather?" As a child, I loved to play this silly game. The premise of the game is that you present your "competitor" with 2 horribly disturbing undesirable scenarios, and your competitor must choose the one he/she would prefer. The clincher is that you are not allowed to say, "I choose neither." You must choose the scenario that you deem the best of the worst.

Let me give you an example:

"Which would you rather....Get your big toe backed over by a semi truck for 3 seconds or have your pinky finger slammed in a steel door for 10 seconds?"

Fun, right?
As I matured, the game became much more sophisticated and usually involved the names of boys with whom I adamantly denied liking.

For example, "Which would you rather…kiss insert name of boy you adamantly deny liking for 3 seconds or hold hands with insert name of another boy with sweaty hands that you adamantly deny liking for 15 minutes?

Whoa. Intense. And it provided hours of entertainment. I'm not sure if anyone actually "won" that game. Probably not, but it made for some interesting dialogue.

I was reminded of this silly little game when I was conversing with my Orthopedic Surgeon in Philadelphia.

We discussed the plan to implant the cartilage into my left knee in May. The concern is that the recovery for that surgery involves 6 weeks of non-weight bearing. This means hopping on crutches, without bearing any weight throughout that left knee. I've done it 3 times before. It's not fun. (Confession: it was kinda fun after the first surgery when I learned how to do stupid crutching tricks from youtube videos. The novelty definitely wore off by surgery number 3). The issue is, my right knee, which will be in charge of bearing my weight for those 6 weeks, has deteriorated significantly in the last few months and it is presently likely not strong enough to bear my weight for that length of time. Looks like I'm in another $%*&ing pickle.

So as my Surgeon joyfully (much too joyfully, if you ask me), presented the adult reality version of Which would you rather? I listened to the options and screamed (in my inside voice) "NEITHER! I CHOOSE NEITHER! THEY BOTH SUCK!"

Here's the question:

Which would you rather…

Wait until May, have the cartilage implanted in the left knee and hope that your deteriorating right knee can bear your weight, realizing that you may be bed-ridden/wheelchair bound for 6-8 weeks if your knee is not capable.


Opt for a scope surgery in February to clean out your right knee, in the hopes that it will be in a better position to bear your weight for the cartilage implantation surgery in May.

Hmmm....both tempting options. Option 2 is probably the most responsible choice. On the other hand, it involves an extra surgery. Recovering from 2 surgeries within 3 months of each other, especially given that I have already had 7 knee surgeries, is daunting. With each additional surgery, I am finding recovery increasingly difficult and am struggling to remain positive and hang on tight to that rope. You know, the rope that I'm presently at the end of. It's just sucky.

Initially I was pissed off and decided to forgo the responsible choice and take a chance with the right knee in May. You know, to spite my surgeon and his joyful face. But after a line of questioning from my very logical and reasonable hubby, and a quick read on Pinterest, I realized that I was lucky that I even had a choice, that I was only hurting myself by choosing the less responsible option, that being prepared is half the victory, and various other inspirational cliche quotes. So…big sigh…I have opted for the extra surgery in February. Big sigh.

I'm dreading it.

People often ask me how I remain so positive. I have to admit that it takes some work. I've come to terms with the fact that I have a degenerative disease. Most people see someone on crutches and assume that they are waiting to get "fixed." Unfortunately, that is not the case for me. There are surgeries that will improve my situation; however, although we can hope that things will stabilize, the degeneration of my cartilage appears to be a "forever" kind of thing. It's taken me years to come to terms with this, and at times, I am still struggling to accept this diagnosis.

And I'm not always optimistic and upbeat. I tend to save my low moments for the privacy of my home. I occasionally curl up in a ball on the couch, cry, and watch "Full House" reruns on repeat (Yes, Full House. Don't judge me but DJ has the most impressive wardrobe and Michelle is just so freakin funny). Sometimes I think, "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?" But…I like to be around people. I am a social person. And people, for the most part, do not want to hang around someone spewing negativity. So I make a conscious effort - a decision - to be positive. I work hard at it. I have enlisted the help of a team of professionals including a Pain Specialist, a Massage Therapist, a Pain Psychologist, and my Surgeon, who specializes in and researches cartilage repair. So at the end of the day, I have access to a wealth of knowledge and support and have placed myself in a position for success. In addition, I made a choice to move to an incredibly beautiful place that inspires relaxation and peace. Although this condition makes me feel powerless at times, I do know that I can control how I react to it.

In the meantime, my goal for the next 6 weeks is to focus on increasing my strength and having fun (you know: lift weights, swim in the sea, and drink wine).

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2017!

Dundee loves his beach sunsets

Our new favourite cocktail: The Margarita Mule. Definitely makes me better.

Life is good.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What the cluck?

Ahhh…the sounds and sights of the Christmas season is upon us.

Sparkling white lights twinkle around the trunk of the palm trees.

"Jingle Bells" echoes in the grocery store as you place your eggnog in your cart.

Shoppers clamour the stores in search of the perfect holiday gift.

Children scream with excitement as they attempt to release the trapped chickens.

What a minute…what?

Oh yes, it's that time of year where the children... and chickens... go nuts.

Working as a Speech Therapist in the schools, I have come to the realization that there are 2 distinct times of year when it is virtually impossible to hold the attention of a student - the entire month of December and the entire month of June. I've tried. I've strategized ways around this predicament to no avail. The kids are just wild with excitement for Christmas in December and Summer Holidays in June.

Last week I attempted to re-assess all my students' speech and language skills. Worst. Idea. Ever. Not only were the students distracted, excitedly listing off their wish list for Santa, but many of them were nowhere to be found - either practicing for the Christmas concert in the Hall or carolling the neighbourhood on a class trip. If I did manage to re-assess a child, he was impulsively shouting out wrong responses to subjects that we have painstakingly drilled repeatedly in the last few months.

"Ok, J'Quan. Listen closely: a shirt, pants, and socks - they are all….."
(C'mon kid, we've been targeting categories for 3 months)


Ugh. So close.

To make matters worse, one of my schools decided to set out traps for chickens last week. As you may have suspected, given my multiple posts and complaints about chickens, there are a LOT of wild chickens on the island. The chickens roam free, digging in garbages, stopping traffic to cross with their fuzzy chicks, and fighting with each other in the streets (I once witnessed 5 chickens chasing a rooster who was running wildly with a piece of pizza in its mouth).

The chickens are a real nuisance on the school grounds because they jump in the garbage bins and leave a trial of half-eaten school lunches behind. One of my schools attempted to alleviate the problem by outfitting each bin with a lid; however, the chickens got savvy and began knocking off the lids by jumping up and bumping them off with their own heads! These chickens are calculating and I secretly fear that one day they, and the iguanas, will rule the island.

Desperate for a solution, the school decided to trial chicken trapping. You gotta do what you gotta do, but I seriously questioned why this chicken trapping trial had to occur directly outside my therapy window, during my re-assessment week, in the middle of the school day. In the words of Vivian (Pretty woman) "Big mistake. Big. Huge."

I tried to divert my students' attention away from the window where 3 cages sat, containing 2 desperately squawking chickens. Suddenly dozens of chickens descended upon the area, clucking wildly, and (from what I imagine), shouting reassurance to their trapped friends, "We will get you out! Stay calm Edna! Don't get your feathers in a knot Margaret!"

Cue the wild students. Curious students, transitioning to their next class, suddenly became interested in the commotion and descended upon the school yard as well. As I unsuccessfully attempted to extract a description of a bicycle out of J'Quan, the view out side  my window now consisted of dozens of flapping, squawking chickens and screaming students, either attempting to kill or release the trapped chickens (The jury is still out, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt and call it a "rescue mission")

Gritting my teeth, I stomped outside (when I say "stomped," I mean limped heavily and loudly), put my hands on my hips and screeched, "PUT THE CHICKENS DOWN AND GET BACK TO CLASS NOWWWWWWW!"

The shrillness of my "mom" voice was alarming. The students stared blankly at me for a mere second, likely deafened by the frequency of my voice, and then carried on with the loud, chaotic chicken rescue mission. I wiped the sweat that was now dripping down my face, arms, and legs, and stormed into the School office, yelling at no one in particular, "The chickens! You have to do something about the chickens!"

I had reached the end of my rope. I am no spring chicken, you know. I was ready to fly the coop (See what I did there?)

In the end, the chicken trapping was an epic fail. The students' rescue mission had succeeded and no chickens were trapped during that momentous afternoon.

Once the bird seed cleared, I calmly sat down at my computer and began composing a strongly worded email with the following subject line: "Chicken trapping is interfering with speech therapy."

At that moment it suddenly dawned on me that I was truly living a completely different life than I had ever imagined.

Update: I fly back to the Arctic Circle Saskatchewan in less than a week! I am so excited to see all my friends and family and celebrate my first Christmas in 4 years back at home. I am; however, slightly concerned about the weather forecast. When you google, "Prince Albert Weather," an alert pops up stating: "Extreme cold warning due to Polar vortex." EEEKS! Given that I haven't experienced "winter" in 2 years, I am a little apprehensive about how my body (especially my knees) will react to wind chills of -40 degrees Celsius. I showed one of my keen students a map depicting the current temperatures in Saskatchewan and his response was, "But that can't be possible. I don't get it." Yes, kid, yes it can be possible. My Caribbean co-workers questioned, "How do humans live there?" Um…we just do? I'm not exactly sure how to respond to these questions, but I do know that it is imperative that I locate a pair of socks before I fly out on Friday.