Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

I have learned a lot of things in the past few weeks. I learned I have high blood pressure. And now I know the difference between systolic and diastolic. I know how your kidneys use sodium. I know what happens when they can't use all that you give them.

My doctor wants me to supply him with a chart of my blood pressure every 3 days for a month. So I had to get it checked in Vancouver. After squeezing the life out of my arm at least 5 times, each giving a reading of a diastolic much more elevated than a systolic number (consistent with the numbers my doc got) the little Chinese dude exclaimed, "You numbers. They close together."
"Yes, I know. That's why I'm here." I replied.
"You no eat salt. You walk." He ordered.

My doctor didn't flat out tell me to lose weight or die, but he implied that perhaps I am packing around a little more than I need to. I think I was secretly hoping he'd give me the "lose it or die" ultimatum so I'd actually get motivated. But alas, he only left it as a suggestion that I eat smarter.

Did you know table salt is only 40% sodium? And it generally only accounts for 10% of our daily intake. It's the processed foods that are the major culprit. You'd think that you'd be smarter to cut out the fries than the burger, but in fact medium fries have 250 mg of sodium. A cheese burger has 750. I'm shocked by this.

To lower blood pressure the recommended intake is 1500 mg maximum per day. (The body only needs about 500 to function adequately.) Most adults consume about 4000 mg.

Lose weight and intake less sodium. That's the challenge set forth.

So... I'm on a label reading tangent. It takes me 2-and-a-half hours to grocery shop.

But what is one supposed to do? They tell you being fat raises your blood pressure. Eating sodium raises your blood pressure. But as they reduce fat from food products, they increase the sodium. So which is supposed to be the lesser of the two evils? By the time I leave the grocery store I'm so confused and frustrated I say, "To hell with it." and throw the bag of nachos in the cart and head off for a burger and fries on my way home.

1/2 cup tomato soup - 3 times the sodium and similar calories as Doritos.
What would you choose?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm so full.

We just returned home after 4 glorious food-filled days in Vancouver with Brandi & Kore. I may not eat for another week.

We arrived on Friday to the aroma of roasting pork - Kore's successful attempt to prove himself worthy of the role of head chef at the wedding. As if we weren't stuffed enough, we later cruised the streets of the city in search of dessert. And dessert we found!

Right there on the corner of Broadway and Alma was a little piece of heaven: a dessert only restaurant, True Confections. Mmm mm m. The hard part was choosing between cake, pie and cheesecake. The coffee is good too.

Rather than stuff myself sick eating the entire 15 inch piece of melt-in-your-mouth goodness, I saved half of it for breakfast. But of course did not eat it for breakfast because we awoke to the sumptuous smells of coffee, eggs, hash browns and toast which we ate on the sunny balcony over looking the city with the mountains in the background.

Lest the calories go straight to the hips and butt, Kore marched us all over town, to the point of blisters, before our excursion up Grouse mountain. Where we proceeded to linger over a lovely feast of appies and drinks whilst viewing the beautiful city and English Bay from up above. Way way up above.

I managed to squeeze a tiny nap in on the devil couch (so called because no one can sit on it for more the 15 minutes without falling asleep) while Kore & Brandi prepared a magazine-worthy meal of goat cheese and cranberry stuffed turkey breast. Once again we dined above the city lights on the deck.

Sunday morning breakfast was a lighter faire: yogurt and berry sundaes. To keep our stomaches in shape for the pending evening meal at Hy's Steakhouse, we stretched them a little further with elegant pork roast sandwiches for our midday dining experience.

Hy's Steakhouse is truly a fantastic dining experience not to be missed. From the valet parking, to the indescribably glorious cheese bread, to salad dressing made at your table, to great steak and fabulous dessert all presented by the best waiter I have ever encountered, it was incredible.

Monday morning Jim, Barb and Kyle joined us for a spread of French toast, berries and whip cream along with a side of bacon before the guys headed for the golf course and we girls shopped till we dropped.

That evening, the Olive Garden did not disappoint as we gorged ourselves on bread sticks, salad and assorted Italian food. Topped off with a bottle of fine Italian red and the obligatory piece of tiramisu, worthy of it's reputation that goes before it.Kore asked why Olive Garden was my favourite. I didn't have a direct answer.
It just is.
Could be atmosphere. Could be taste. Could be price.
Could be that I fantasize about Italy.
Could be all of the above.

Doesn't it seem a sacrilege to play with your food at Olive Garden?
Them's holy morsels, Kyle!

Tuesday morning we had breakfast at Tim Horton's in Chilliwack and didn't even think about eating another thing until we got home and unpacked the leftover Olive Garden goodness.

All that and I only gained 2 pounds.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Apparently "annual" means once a year.

I went for a routine female exam with my doctor whom I've had for over 20 years. The receptionist had a hard time finding my file. Apparently I was filed with the dead people due to lack of activity.

I'm not dead yet. But by the flurry of activity that took place once my blood pressure was taken, you'd think it won't be long now. My doctor normally takes the "just leave it alone, you'll grow out of it" attitude whenever possible when treating things. So when he read my bp and scheduled me for every blood, organ and cell test known to man, you can be sure that if my bp wasn't high enough to start with, it was by the time he finished.

He then proceeds with the task at hand.

"Umm. I can't find your cervix."

He removes the tool the nurse had nicely warmed up in a bowl of hot water and inserts some other object he found in a draw full of ice or something. After he dug around for a while and just about the point I thought he was going to reach for a miner's lamp or something, I said, "`Scuse me doc ... just how does one go about losing their cervix?" He laughed. And then apparently found what he was looking for.

I should really try to make my annual visits once a year instead of once a decade. Getting old sucks, but beats the alternative, I suppose.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Honk honk!

As a general rule, all of my work shifts start at noon. If I were a person able to sleep in, this would be an absolute luxury. Even though I don't sleep in, I do enjoy going to work at this time - except for the drive to work on school days.

This means I am driving through the John McInnis school zone at precisely the same time the kids get out and head to the corner store or Panago for lunch. Even though there are crosswalks and lights at the corner, 90% of the kids choose to randomly step into traffic in the middle of the block. For three years now, I have managed to remain calm and meander along amongst the kids. Although I will say that my urge ranges from screaming at them, to phoning the school, to wanting to have a stack of 5 dollar bills in my car one day and jump out at the intersection and reward the relatively few kids who use the crosswalk. - Of course my suppressed urge totally depends on where I am in my PMS cycle.

Today I made it through the regular throng of kids to the intersection where my light was red - soon to turn green, because the oncoming traffic was coming through but they also had a left turning light.

Two kids, who had the brains to walk to crosswalk but obviously didn't know that the red hand light means "do not cross right now," stepped in front of my car without so much as looking at the oncoming traffic, ignoring the fact that they could have crossed the street in the direction I was headed. (a street they had to cross anyway)

My light turned green just as they were right in front of me. I probably could have exercised patience if they were making an effort to get out of the way, but they nearly stopped in the middle of the street, chatting away to each other. I laid on my horn. Now, this is a foreign-car gentle horn - I was wishing at that moment for a Mac Truck air horn. But it did the job. The kids jumped so high, it actually scared me.

I laughed out loud. Ha ha. I still chuckle when I envision their faces.

How sad and childish.

Drivers with cellphones in parking lots is near the top of my list of pet peeves.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Prov 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor.

... and most of us pay a lot of money to get rid of it.

Jed's budgeting and financial skills are somewhere between nil-to-none. A lot of that is largely inherited, I suspect. Either way, I carry his bank card and dispense it for short periods of time on an as needed basis.

He reminded me yesterday morning that he needed his bank card because he had made an appointment for a haircut. He had just gotten a hair cut a few weeks ago, before going to Vancouver, and he even paid a substantial amount of money to get some cool blonde streaks put in. I, however, am the only one who has ever seen these cool streaks cuz he always wears a hat - even to bed.

So although he didn't really need his hair done, I was quite encouraged by his initiative to take an interest in his own person grooming, I handed over the bank card before I left for work.

When he said he was going for "a" hair cut, he meant "a" hair cut. I'm sure she only cut one hair because it really doesn't look any different - except for the colour. It no longer has cool blonde streaks. His hairdresser commented that this was the first time in her career than anyone has come in and asked for their hair to be dyed grey. Yes, he bought himself a crown of splendor. For eighty eight bucks. He also had lunch at McDonalds. He bought a 10-time punch card for the swimming pool. He signed up for private swimming lessons. He had lunch again at Tim Hortons.

So he goes on this rapid spending spree and did it even cross his mind that tomorrow is Mother's Day. No. This is why I control the card.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Significance of Seven

I looked down at my countdown clock this morning and these are the numbers I saw. Holy crap! Do you know that significance of that? ... Nothing more than the fact that there are less than eleven weeks till the wedding, but I thought the number looked cool so I took a screenshot of it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

They always warned me not to skip breakfast.

As a child I remember disliking a number of foods: peanut butter, watermelon, cucumbers, green peppers. I don't recall us kids ever being forced to eat anything. My husband's family was the opposite, they had to try some of everything on the table. As adults, my family will eat just about anything and everything - and a fast as we can. Alb's family has a number of picky eaters.
Coincidence? Possibly.

A couple of weeks ago, Alb asked me if I'd had one of Tim Horton's new slow roast beef sandwiches. "They're quite, good," he said. Then the other day he commented how he and Jed had gone to Timmy's for lunch and had slow roast beef sandwiches. "Have you had one yet? They're quite good. Except the horseradish is maybe a little strong."

Now I had see them on tv ... they are covered in onions and mushrooms - Alb's 2 least favourite foods in all the world, so I knew this must be a fantastic sandwich for him to go back twice and be willing to flick the onions and mushrooms off.

I am in the midst of a 6-week stint of Jenny's Friends & Family Biggest Loser Fat Camp Challenge. But I decided I'd have a slow roast sandwich on my way to art class. (I find I need to eat on the way to class or else I'm pretty hungry by the time the 4 hours is up.) Not knowing the calorie count or fat content of the said sandwich, I skipped breakfast to make up for it. (Dumb idea, I know - this is why I am not leading the challenge)

I was starving and running a little late by the time I received my sandwich and coffee. I sunk my teeth into my nice warm sandwich. Ahh..aaarrg. What the heck? It tastes like mildew. The onions that look fried were so cold they were nearly frozen. The horseradish is obviously not the brand I buy and enjoy the flavour of. I dunno what concoction of spices the bun was rolled in.

I threw it back in the box on the passenger seat. I can't eat that! But as I neared my class, I knew I was late and didn't have to time get something else and I'd be shaking and seeing spots by the end of class if I didn't eat it, so I forged ahead. By now the warm roast had transferred its heat to the onion goop so the whole thing was just kinda room temperature.

I forced myself to eat the entire thing, washing each bite down with the delicious black goodness in my cup. But I have to say that was the most disgusting unharmonious blend of flavours that has passed my lips in a very long time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Four Hundred and Twenty

420. Four-twenty. If you are under the age of 40, you probably know how this seemingly innocent looking number relates to cannabis. Since I am not under the age of 40, I do not know the origin of it, but I do know that it somehow relates to cannabis. It is my belief that it stems from the 70's in either a movie or a book where a group of kids would meet after school at 4:20 to smoke pot. I even have an inkling this group of kids was called "The Waldos." Okay, that's all I know. I plead innocent of anything else.


Today my innocent special needs son, aged 21, asked me at least 15 times in the first 45 minutes after I arrived home from work, "What's your plan?" This is his favourite question. He cannot comprehend the answer. "I have no plan. I am tired. I am going to kill time. I am going to go to bed. The end."

After the 15th time I said, "Make me a plan. You decide. I'll do it." As a result we spent an hour in Value Village tonight. Oh yay.

On the way home, he asked me, "Mom, what did you do on April 20th?"

"What?? I'm not a frickin' calendar. I have no idea. I don't even know what day of the week that was."

"I flew to Vancouver to see B&K on the 19th. I was at their house on the 20th," he says to me. "I saw a lot of cops that day. Were there lots of cops and sirens around here that day?"

"Not that I remember. There's always more cops and sirens in Vancouver."

"No, Mom!" he says in a very you-old-idiot-you-don't-know-anything tone. "April 20th is 4:20 day."

Like I said, I'm over 40. What do I know.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Men are Dogs.

When I was in a creative writing course 4 or 5 years ago I totally offended one my male classmates by titling a story "Men Are Dogs." He didn't even want to read it. However, if he'd been the least bit open minded, he'd have realized that the story was in fact more of a slag against the fickleness of women.

Anyway, since I have been trying to help the kids come up with some appropriately "medieval sounding" vows I remembered this story I wrote (which has nothing to do with medieval, but it is about vows) and thought I'd post it. I wrote it from a male voice.

Men Are Dogs

I am spellbound as my bride, wearing her favourite blue jeans and that tight red sweater that I love, walks down the aisle towards me on her father’s arm. My heart is pounding, my palms are sweaty and I am grinning so hard I think my lip is going to split. I wonder what kind of basket-case I will be tomorrow when it’s not just rehearsal.

We have been planning this for over a year. I think Cassie has actually been planning it for pretty much all of her life, but when we became officially engaged thirteen months ago, I got dragged into the planning. Not that I feel like I’m being dragged into marriage; I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with this gorgeous creature who has seen fit to love me. It’s the wedding hype and planning that is beyond my comprehension. I am a simple guy. I would be happy to sign on the dotted line and then go for a beer with all our friends to celebrate.

Cassie, on the other hand, wants a wedding that no one will forget. She’s not flashy or conceited but she is unique and wants our wedding to stand out from others. That is why there are four groomsmen and only two bridesmaids. There are six flower girls who will be dressed like butterflies - wearing wings on their backs and nothing on their feet. Her desire for originality is why she insists that we write our own vows instead of repeating age-old phrases like “I plight thee my troth.” I have no idea what those words mean, but they seem to have worked for my parents 34 years ago; they are still married today.

After having instructed everyone on where to stand and what to expect, the female minister runs through some of the things she is going to say tomorrow. She then turns to me and says, “At this point, Mike, you will recite the vows that you have prepared, and Cassie will follow right after with hers.”

“Cassie, I promise to love you for the rest of my life, or die trying.” Dead silence. They are all waiting expectantly for me to finish.

“That’s it. That’s my vow.”

The disappointment on Cassie’s face cuts me to the heart. But like a trooper, she just starts in with her prepared vows. “Mike, you are the man…” I don’t hear another word she says because my mind is scrambling, trying to make up more stuff to add to my vows. I make a mental note to pay closer attention to her vows tomorrow. I know we will be discussing them at some point in the future – probably sooner than later.

We simulate the exchange of rings and the minister finishes off with, “Mike, remember that Cassie is your partner, an equal, treat her with respect and your relationship will be successful. Cassie, remember that men are dogs.”

“Uh,” I utter, about to interject that I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing to say at a wedding. It is my wedding too.

The minister continues, “Treat him well and he will be your faithful best friend.” Everyone chuckles, including Cassie. I guess I can live with that.

I fumble through the rest of the evening feeling totally guilty that I have put such little effort into something that means so much to Cassie. During rehearsal dinner she seems a little quieter than usual. She hasn’t mentioned the vows at all, but I can sense that she is disappointed in me. Her eyes avoid making contact with mine, but our feet are tangled together under the table, and I take it as a sure sign that she still loves me and is willing to forgive me.

I am caught a little off guard by the onslaught of last minute instructions and advice everyone has to offer throughout the evening.

“Wear black socks or they’ll show in the pictures.”

“Don’t lock your knees while you are standing up there.”

“Remember to carry breath mints in your pocket.”

“Don’t look directly into the camera.”

“Start buying RRSPs.”

“Enrol your children in a private school….”

Enough is enough. Cassie and I are nearly the first ones to leave the restaurant and head for home. I kiss her goodnight. “I love you, Cass. Thanks for choosing to be with me forever.”

“I love you too. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Try to get some sleep, Babe.”

For the last time I watch my girlfriend turn and walk into her house. Tomorrow she will be my wife and she’ll live in our house. The thought of it is almost overwhelming. Combining that with my guilt over my lousy vows and the minister’s statement, “Men are dogs,” I know that I am in for a sleepless night.

The more I dwell on the minister’s words, the more I see the wisdom in them. I grab a pen and scratch down some words. Yes! I have a new set of vows.

In the morning the boys and I meet for breakfast at Denny’s. “Hey, Mike! Tonight’s the big night – your first sexual encounter. You are a virgin aren’t you?” Jeff’s phoney look of innocence and shock gets belly laughs from the others.

Doug punches me in the shoulder, “Where do ya suppose Cassie went after you dropped her off last night? I wonder what kind of shape she’ll be in this afternoon.”

“You shoulda come with us to Joe’s Place after you left the restaurant. The last Friday of the month always has the best wet t-shirt contest.” Jason turns his mischievous grin towards Doug, “Wasn’t Cassie one of the finalists?”

By the look of the bags under their eyes, I’m glad I didn’t go with them. I happily deal with their antics, thankful that they haven’t actually followed through with some of the asinine things they joked about doing, like tying me naked to a parking meter or shaving my head.

Before I know it, I am standing in front of 250 people holding both hands of the person I love most in the world.

The minister turns and nods to me when it is time for me to say my vows. Cassie’s eyes light up with pride when I pull my new vows from my pocket. I know she thinks it was all a trick and that I had them ready all along. I won’t be the one to tell her otherwise.

I take a deep breath and begin. “Men are dogs. As a man, I have to agree with this statement that is usually uttered by women who have recently broken up with a guy, or been the victim of an abuser. My reasons for agreeing are completely different.

“Like a dog, I am eager to please you - my woman, my master. I live for those moments when I bring you joy and pleasure. I am happy to run along after you, panting in anticipation of getting a pat on the head or an occasional verbal “Good Boy.” I am okay with serving you all day, as long as I get to operate the remote control in the evening and get sex on a somewhat regular basis.

“Everyone knows that a dog has to be trained, and consistency is the key to good training. That’s all I ask of you Cassie; keep the rules consistent and simple. I am not a complex thinker. I have no desire to analyze everything to figure out why, or how it happened, or what action should logically follow. Even if I had the desire, I don’t think I could work it all out in a way that would please you.

“Just as a dog finds it logical to chase a cat just because it’s there, I also find it logical to do things that you find absurd. Take watching wrestling for example. You cannot understand the pleasure that I, as a man, get from watching this pointless show of strength. By the same token, I don’t have a frigging clue what attracts you to watch things like Dr. Phil and Oprah, where they want to figure out all the whys and hows of every relationship.” I want to look at Cassie’s face to see if she is still looking proud, but I don’t dare take me eyes off my paper and lose my place, so I keep on reading.

“I love to play fetch for you. The only catch is that you have to tell me what it is that you want me to bring back. Let me see the stick first, before you demand, “Go get it, boy!” and point in a general direction where I can see ten thousand things. If it’s flowers you want, tell me it’s flowers you want. If you hate chocolate, let me know before I bring it home. Don’t leave me to my own devices to choose. I would rather bring home an old baseball glove or a six-pack – that’s just the way my brain works. The hardest part in the game of fetch is when you don’t know what you want. If you don’t know, then I don’t have a hope in hell of figuring it out, and anything I bring home is wrong and I end up in the doghouse. On those days when you do not know what you want, let’s just play a different game; or play no game at all. I’d be content just to sit at home and sniff each other’s butts.”

My mother is going to freak because I said that in a church. I don’t dare look in her direction, so I just carry on, “I hate the begging game. You love to hang a treat over my head and make me beg for it. I know you intend to give it to me eventually, but you get satisfaction from seeing me work for it. So I continue to say, “Please,” and dance around and roll over; I do this more for your pleasure than to receive the item you are tempting me with. The best way to frustrate me is to offer a treat, get me to perform, and then refuse to follow through. I am a little dense sometimes, but it won’t take long before I refuse to play when I know there is no reward coming at the end of the day.”

I am starting to think this was a bad idea. I am so nervous standing here, I wish I could just stop, but there is no way out now; I have to finish what I have started. The first version of my vows is starting to look even better to me. Cassie is probably thinking the same thing.

I clear my throat and continue, “It is when I get confusing directions that I start to panic and cower. I can only take so many conflicting orders: Sit! Stay! Fetch! Go! No! before I get all flustered and have no recourse except to bite you.

“I would much rather bark than bite. It’s good for my ego when you let me bark occasionally. It lets me show how tough I am without hurting anyone. Just quietly listen to me while I rant on, then pet me and tell me it’s okay. And for God’s sake don’t remind me next week of a barking session I had today. It’ll mean nothing to me.” The minister shuffles uneasily and looks to the rafters as if to summon God to intervene. He just might do that before I’m finished here.

“It is my nature to know when a female within a five-mile radius is in heat. Do us both a favour and keep me occupied so I’m not tempted to stray. The last thing I need is another master to try to figure out. The last thing you need is a bitch to compete with.” To my left, Jeff and Doug both snicker out loud; they are not the only guys in the building to laugh. Funny thing is, I am being serious.

“If you follow these guidelines and train me with consistent rules, love me for the mindless beast that I am, and give me occasional rewards, I will remain faithful and true, your protector, companion and friend.”

I lift my eyes from my paper to Cassie’s face. I cannot read her expression. I don’t think she knows what to think. I cock my head to one side like a dog and give her my crooked little grin that she says she loves. I see relief wash over her and she looks right into my eyes and begins, “Mike, you are the man…”

I listen intently to every word she says. I know that the conversation about vows is going to come up even sooner than I thought. But that’s okay, cuz I got my woman, my master, and Cassie got her wedding that no one will soon forget.

Consider Yourself Reminded.

Ten years. It's been 10 years today since I was branded with that title that no-one ever wants to wear. That is until you receive it. ...