Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween weekend

In past years, our house has been covered with Halloween decorations. Pumpkins, on the verge of rotting, sat on the front steps; gravestones and cemetary signs covered the front lawn. Inside, the living room looked like backstage at a community theatre. Costumes and weapons covered the coffee table, end table and chaise.

This year with Jamie gone, the house is eerily quiet. Em is having a sleepover a few houses down, and it looks like she took her giant pumpkin with her. That thing weighed at least 25 lbs, lol.

Yesterday she went to school in her Mad Hatter Girl costume and it was a hit! At first she wanted to buy a costume but I talked her into getting a hat and building a costume around that and a Victorian jacket we cut down. After moving the buttons and slitting it down the back, I used a long black shoelace to put corset lacing in. She wore a blue satin bubble skirt, multi-coloured leggings and boots, and the other kids loved it.

We don't have any decorations up, but we do have a snow globe that has a skeleton couple dancing to Ding Dong the Witch is Dead and two crows that look down on you from the top of the desk in the kitchen. That's the extent of Halloween for us, this year, along with handing out candy.

Have a safe and happy weekend!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

there's a chilly mist today

painting by Mark Bryce

I'm a little disappointed that it's cold today, although it might not stop me completely from trying to place a bunch of rocks that we got yesterday.

Jamie, Em and I drove out to the farm to harvest rocks for the backyard, and it was a great day for it. We picked up one little boulder (40lbs+) and two dozen medium size pink rocks that will form the foundation of the beds that surround the stairs that come up from the basement. I've already transplanted some of shady plants from the front yard back there, but now I can replace the old boards with stone.

While we were there we visited with Mum & Jim, and I got to talk gardening with Mum for awhile. I can't wait until the Spring, because I'm going to fill their front yard with annuals!

Jim was a little grumpy but he's got another hip replacement coming up so he can be grumpy if he wants to be. Still, he gave me a box of potatoes from his garden, which is a real treat for us these days! I don't know why I didn't always appreciate the difference between fresh veggies from a garden and from a grocery store, but I'm loving the onions and garlic from Bill's sister Cathy.

I'm off to make some stew. Have a nice Sunday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

becoming an advocate

photo from Gratitude

I mentioned Mr. Schultz in my last post. He's about ready to break my heart! In between phone calls and enquiries I am getting a lot of lectures from co-workers.

It started when I got the pick up notice from dispatch. Mr Schultz is actually a C-Pap client but because he is 85 and severely claustrophobic, he was unable to be fitted for the mask and when he started freaking for the second time on the second try, the Specialist ripped the mask off and said "You know what? This isn't going to work. Maybe you should pay for the Oxygen." Keep in mind that this all happened within six months of his wife's untimely death.

So instead of having a C-Pap machine to treat his apnea, he was being billed for an oxygen concentrator that would open his airways a bit at night and because he had not applied for any widow's benefits, nor updated his new address with the Senior's Program, he wasn't getting subsidies and couldn't pay for anything more than food & rent. After his bill went $600 Past Due, I was sent to take the concentrator away.

I did have to take it, but I also stayed long enough to contact Home Care. They'll get him some of the things he needs (like a wedge pillow and a shower chair) and they'll help him with payment plans in case he needs to buy something. I also called the Senior's Program and printed off the app for CPP Widow/ers Pension so that he'll be able to pay the overdue amount and (hopefully) get the C-Pap.

Bill cautioned me not to do "too much" or bill my time doing all this, but I believe in the end, he will qualify and we'll be able to make him a client in good standing.

Twice during our meeting, Mr Shultz cried when recounting how his wife used to take care of him. I looked him in the eye and told him, "Mr Schultz, I believe that you've had one of the roughest years of your life, but you are not alone. I will help you get the ball rolling with the paperwork, and Marianne will help you get the C-Pap. Until I can find you another, I will be your Advocate."

He promised to be more open-minded about talking to machines (Mr Schultz hung up the moment an electronic voice came on the phone, out of principal. But that principal was driving him out of his home and into the poorhouse) and he promised he'd be open-minded about the masks we'll have to try on his apnea.

The next day, I called Billing and confronted the woman that was pushing me to go out and get the concentrator. I explained a little before she commented that I was "new and idealistic" but I didn't agree. "I may be new to the company, but I'm forty-five and have a lot of experience with people."

"Everyone has a story," she cautioned.

"Exactly! I have a story too, and in this case I think I can help him and I can get that invoice paid."

In the end, she softened. "I hope that when I'm 85 and have Alzheimer's, someone like you will decide to help me."

Me too. And if I'm not here and my family needs help, please let someone else step in to help them!

I'm off to see my mum today, and hopefully get some nice quartz rocks. Have a good weekend!

Friday, October 22, 2010


I'm in my office, waiting for Bill to come back so that we can go home.

In the end, it was a good week! I did my deliveries and pick ups, and although we lost several clients this week they were people I hadn't met and I found it easy to deal with their families.

I met one man yesterday, Mr. Schultz, who is 85 and living in a town half hour south of here. His wife of forty years died last January and ever since, he's been sitting back waiting for everything to fall apart around him. It hasn't taken long, given that his wife did everything for him; all the banking and paperwork, all the Dr's and dentists appointments, all the bills. Anyway, he just needs so much and his kids aren't helping, so my office is stepping in.

I contacted a seniors helpline today and got the ball rolling. Ah, Bill is here. Back later!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

tuesday afternoon

An old barn on my parents' farm. Pine Lake, Alberta

Each week I face new challenges and frustrations on the job; this week it's a couple from a farming community south of here. On Saturday I got a call from a rural hospital asking that I come in and set up Mr. Oakley so that he could go home, he had some kind of pulmonary problem and had gone to the ER Friday night. Nice couple in their 60's but very high strung and not likely to listen to anything you say! The two of them rambled on while I was trying to demonstrate how to use the equipment, interrupting me over & over again to ask, "how much is that?" A ninety minute job turned into two hours and twenty minutes, and when I would try to steer them back to the task at hand they chastised me.

To be honest, I don't know. Most of our clients are covered through a provincial program, and in their case they have 100% coverage. It doesn't stop them from worrying, and I don't blame them for the worry, but if they've been told over and over by several different people that they have full coverage, they shouldn't call me when I'm with another client to accuse me of "shafting" them. Seriously.

My working relationship with Bill continues to improve but there have been several setbacks, and as much as he'd like me to forget what was said, it's going to take a little time. Remember that line from When Harry Met Sally?

"You can't take it back. It's already out there!"

It's true, for the most part.

On another note, do you have teens? Em is thirteen and would like to start dating soon. My thoughts are that dating means "physical contact" and I don't want anyone touching her! How old were you when you started dating?

I was sixteen before I was allowed to date, but was able to trick my parents into letting me have "sleepovers." These were plans to attend parties & dances, to drink, and to scope out boys. I was NOT a virgin when I was finally allowed to date.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on it, and I must return to work now that's 1 pm. Have a good afternoon!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

over it

photographer unknown; came across it while gardening this summer.

In the last six years, Bill and I have created quite a little micro-climate of our own inside this house. He and I and the kids have used this house as a haven against the harshness of the outside world. When retail was kicking my ass (or Jamie's) we could come home, make a nice dinner, and sit around the table just basking in the glow of how safe it was here.

Maybe that's why it hurts so much when turmoil appears on the scene.

Oh man! Years and years ago when Dale was still chronically drinking and bringing home all that angst to me, I asked his therapist about it.

"You know, people don't believe me when I say that he did this; no one but me ever sees that side of him! Everyone else sees the charming, friendly, happy man who has it all together. I just don't get it."

"He trusts you. He loves you and he knows that you're the only one that really knows what he's like and you love him anyway. Classic Borderline behaviour, actually."

Let me just say thank God I don't go through that anymore. Bill is a supportive co-worker but he's never worked with a wife before either, so I'll not hold a grudge for long. This time.

To be honest, I'm never very sure if he gets it or if he's calling a truce to get me to shut up. I guess time will tell. Yesterday and today have been pretty normal and we're back to being laughing companions, the way it should be.

Have a good Sunday!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

coming down

photo courtesy of Ron Chavez

Things had calmed down somewhat from the night before, but by yesterday afternoon I continued to resent Bill for comparing me to Lacey. If a call came in for me to fix something on his paperwork, or if I thought I might have to do something that would normally fall into his area of responsibility, I would start to feel miserable immediately.

At four-thirty, I left the office thinking that I'd gas up and deliver a few cylinders to the dentist office and a guy out near Sylvan Lake, but after getting to the gas station I realized that I hadn't brought the delivery notices or an invoice book and couldn't do either because I was too distracted.

Now Bill gets kind of frustrated with me because of the 24 hour turnaround time it takes me to calm down; for him something can be over five minutes later and he can go on as if nothing was said. Unfortunately, when someone questions my ability to do something it takes me a bit longer to calm down. Yesterday and the evening before all I could do is inventory my successes, all the things that both myself and my new co-worker have accomplished, against what I haven't completed yet. I called him from the gas station, miserable.

"So you really feel like things were better before?!" I asked, trying not to cry.

"No Kate," he said, frustration spilling into his tone. "It was a mistake to go down that road last night, I shouldn't have done it and I didn't mean to do it. If we start it all over again today it'll all go to shit like it did last night."

"But why would you say it if you didn't mean it?"

"I was frustrated. I really appreciate everything you and Marianne are doing."

"You didn't mean it."



Bill went to pick up his nephew, so that they could take in a Rebel's game (local hockey) and I got Em and Jamie and took them out for chinese food and got them some clothes for school.

I hope that on Monday, I can get back some of the enthusiasm I had for the job before all this stuff went down. I like the job when I think I'm making a difference. Not just to Bill but to my clients. Oh, and the good part of it so far? My paycheque was actually bigger than his. That's awesome.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The night I moved into my new house, 2004

Many of you know that I took a job at Bill's company as a respiratory technician; there hadn't been one for several years and the remaining staff were completely overwhelmed.

Lacey, the wife of the old manager, left the company when her husband got her a position at his new company, our competition.

After she left, we started seeing just how overwhelmed she was. Piles of files and invoices and requisitions lay all over the office, every surface was covered. Based on what I've seen, Lacey did nothing but sell C-Pap machines and service those customers.

She talked our boss into letting her hire a helper, based on the fact that she'd take over some of the home oxygen deliveries but that never happened. Apparently, she lied to get the help in the office with filing (fat lot of good that did) and sold Bill down the river.

I come along and six weeks later, have the deliveries done, the paperwork done, the filing, the Safety, the warehouse, the supplies, the troubleshooting and Bill is now down to very little overtime and can call on me when he needs something. Good, right?

Yesterday Bill was in a mood due to some computer error and even though I took care of it (and it's still being investigated) he decided to "be honest" with me. Apparently he'd been "spoiled" by Lacey because he could call her and she'd "make one call and it'd be alright" and he doesn't blame me because I am "inexperienced" and "need some more time to learn the ropes."

BIG, BIG, MISTAKE. I know he was just venting; but now I'm doubting that anything I do will make a lick of difference. Today I feel like quitting my job because apparently, I'm not doing enough, and to be honest, I can't do any more - working fifty hours a week is already too much.

The good news is, I don't have to see him tonight because he's taking his nephew to a hockey game and I'm taking Em & Jamie shopping. Hopefully this black mood will lift by then.

Monday, October 11, 2010

another day off

Random garden art. Love stuff like this!

Yesterday was such a lovely day!

Bill and I usually spend Sundays loading/unloading his 3 ton truck, sorting empty cylinders and decontaminating and transferring equipment to our biomed location in Calgary, but this week we did it on Saturday and boy did we get a lot done! Thank goodness too, because in the last few days we've had a lot of call outs to change concentrators and we were so behind we were having to clean & test on the go.

Having everything finished early meant that I could do some gardening while the turkey was in the oven, and I took full advantage of that. I moved a peony tree from the front yard to the back (I think it's going to need it's own micro-climate this winter, and since I moved it into a corner area, I believe it'll survive) and I edged some of the other beds I have in front with soft red brick. Although I don't always like the look of it when it's freshly installed, I know it'll look great next spring once the annuals are planted.

By five in the afternoon, I had much of the garden cleaning done and while Em and I drove off to collect Jamie from work, Bill mashed the potatoes and drained the veggies and took the turkey out of the oven.

Dinner was lovely! The bird was only ten pounds and went quickly, and after dinner we settled in the living room with coffee and cheesecake to watch "One Week", a Canadian independent film with Joshua Jackson. Loved it and highly recommend it!

Today is Holiday Monday, which means I get an extra day off (again, thank goodness! I put in 51 hours last week) and we're driving out to Eckville to see Bill's sister. Since she lost her MIL to cancer in January, she has quit work as a camp cook and stays home on the family farm to help look after her FIL; this has meant she could send for her fifteen year old son in Newfoundland and she's thrilled. She has not lived full time with her children for several years, because she had to leave the province to work. Now that she has Brent back, she's spoiling him rotten! Good thing he's such a nice boy.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and I have a lot to be thankful for!
My parents are all alive and relatively happy, my oldest is in college and working and Bill and Em are doing well and their respective families are all okay.

Em is coping well with the suicide of her mom, which happened in March this year. Since she's turned 13 (in May) we've really stepped up our expectations in regard to how well she cares for her own possessions, how much she helps us around the house and how willing she is to be open about her friends and aquaintences and she's done pretty good. There have been a few times that we've had heated exchanges, but that is to be expected. Man, the teenage years are hard on everyone!!

Jamie is enjoying college but really needs to get out of retail and FAST. She's been trying to do both because she put off asking for a loan, but after her manager started gunning for her (writing her up for almost anything! She's had to refuse to sign a few complaints because they were completely made up) she's decided to resign and is looking for something more part time and hopefully, with a team that doesn't have an ego based manager. Jamie is a lot like me when I was younger, and having such a strong personality doesn't go over very well with managers like that, lol.

This past week was a lot better in terms of work, and I cried only three times, which is an improvement! One of the problems is that I am very sensitive to other people's pain; this is something I have always had and it got worse after Dale's passing. If someone yells at me or treats me badly I must chalk it up to stress or worry, but I am getting better at ignoring it. Remember Mr Avery from last week? He was in the hospital this past Wednesday and I didn't have to deliver any cylinders, but I was awfully worried knowing how he'd been feeling the week before. I can only hope that he recovers okay, or if he can't, that he goes quickly and without pain.

Okay, I'm off to read a few blogs. Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

long darn week

tokyo loved the moniter and the warm modem, which used to sit atop the old desk.

What a rough week.

On Wednesday while I was out in the van, Bill called to see if I had enough cylinders on board to deliver to a man on the south side. Since I knew one of my favourite ladies on the west side hadn't been feeling well and thus hadn't used her oxygen cylinders up, that left one delivery in that area.

I pulled over and called. In the last month, Mrs. Miller had hurt her foot and lay down more, Mr. Miller often forgot to put the empties out and always appreciated a call anyway. Two weeks prior, I had taken her a kit filled with soap and bath puffs from Jamie's store and as I was leaving, Mr. Miller shouted after me, "Make sure you say thanks to your daughter, too!"

The phone rang several times.

"Hi Mr. Miller! It's Kathy calling. How many cylinders will Mrs. Miller need this week?"

"She won't be needing any. She died an hour ago."

Heart sinking

Completely unexpected! His voice was filled with shock, confusion and despair and after saying how sorry I was and making some cursory plans to pick up equipment, I hung up and cried for the next few minutes. I can tell already that I am going to have to keep tissues in my work van! After sniffling for a moment I called Bill to let him know and he was heartbroken as well.

Thursday dawned with the excitement of my second full time paycheque, but after checking online I realized that I'd only been paid for one week, the mortgage had already come out and I was left with enough to pay for haircuts (myself, Jamie and Em cost about $135, tips included) and maybe a few groceries.

Later in the day I was called to Mr. Avery's senior's residence to replace his regulator (the mechanism that brings oxygen from the cylinder into the tubing) and was looking forward to seeing him again. I'd met him the week before, changed out his cylinders and found him to be very friendly. He reminded me of what Tim Robbins might be like, if he were 90 and very frail.

When I arrived at 3:30, he was with a palliative care community nurse who must have mistaken me for a respiratory therapist, because she started asking me about his sats and pulsox and charts and information she'd been promised but which never arrived in time for this appointment. It was meant to arrive through the Hospital Respiratory department, not our company, but I was able to get a house therapist on my cell and get all the numbers she needed. I could feel a lot of tension and confusion in the room and that made me feel as though I would take the brunt of it and I was right. Apparently a recent diagnosis had forced his consumption of oxygen up and he's received a call from WCB asking why he was doubling up on cylinders. (What bastards by the way! Mr Avery suffers from the effects of inhaling asbestos in his working days) He must have been flustered by the call, by the nurses visit, and by the way he was going through oxygen.

"I need a new nose piece!" he'd bark out. "And some tubing. No! Not that long. Pull your hair back! Don't drop it! What do you mean?! Did you do that or not?"

Throughout, I continued with "Yes, absolutely! No problem. Okay, Mr Avery." I gave him two large cylinders free of charge.

As I was saying good-bye, he apologised and I smiled and said I'd see him Wednesday, then went outside and cried.

It's emotionally exhausting some days, which is something I wish that Em would understand, but at thirteen you can't really expect it. That particular day was a bad day for her to start something with me at the mall, particulary after we've spent the last month buying, buying, buying and she was whiny and insistent that it wasn't yet enough. It doesn't take long for that sense of entitlement to kick in for teenagers and I'll always put the kibosh on that! Still, I hope one day that Em realizes she'll avoid a world of trouble if she just watches her tone when she's addressing adults.

Tokyo ran way three days ago and we don't know where she is yet.

Now it's Saturday and we've all made peace again, although we're all worried sick about kitty. Bill and Em are bedroom cleaning and I'm blogging, after having made eggs & toast for breakfast. I have some chicken soup on the stove and I'm going to try my hand at cooking this hard bread that Bill says is such a Newfoundland delicacy. Today is the eighth anniversary of Dale's death, which is hard to believe! Time truly marches on.

Have a wonderful weekend.

disclaimer: all names and locations are changed to protect privacy.