Tag Archives: 2015

Uncomfortable (3)

A few months ago, I panicked. I had a panic attack. This was diagnosed after I spent 3 hours shut in a room by myself, to write an open book test for which I had prepared.

I am an experienced test taker. I prepare, I budget my time, I get good grades. I don’t panic. In my entire academic career I have never once panicked over a test. I am used to scribbling answers for 3 straight hours in a room by myself. I appreciate the time and the solitude.

As the saying goes, there’s a first time for everything. And my first time was scary as hell. The usual tension was there, when you look at a test and decide whether doing a decent job on it within the allotted time will be rated a standard, difficult or excruciating task. That was ok, no surprises.

“I can do this, I know the material. My notes are good. It’s open book. I have 3 hours. Let’s begin.” And then my mind went blank. A whiteboard with nothing on it. What the hell?

“Ok. Deep breath. Let’s try that again.” The moment was surreal. Nothing. I watched myself from across the room, as an outsider, noting this bewildered stranger with her rapidly rising pulse, sweaty palms, shaky limbs and wild eyes.

I tried. I tried so hard to get back my cool, and I couldn’t do it.

I tried walking the room, yoga, and multiple restarts, while my other self continued to analyse the situation with interest, from across the room. I could not write the test. My vision swam, my head pounded and I felt violently ill. I felt wretched. Ashamed. Terrified. Having no idea what was going on, but realizing finally that going through it alone would be impossible, and that there was no way I could finish the test without having started, I went for help, my other self following me out the door.

I would spend the next 2 hours trying to work through the events with the department assistant, my prof, and the school counsellor. The people were amazing, the support was fantastic. But still my other-self watched, and my feelings of confusion and shame and terror ran rampant. I never wanted to write another test. I didn’t know anything, I felt like the queen of Loserville. My confidence was zero. I was done.

My selves were at war, still separate, and violently contradictory. This is bizarre and unfortunate, but hey, now you know what a panic attack is! It’s probably a one-time thing- you’re a good student and you can take this test and do well, said one. I am so, so scared. I’m going to be sick. This is not normal, what if it happens again?! I am a terrible student. This is awful. I’m so scared, said the other.

Days later, I rewrote the test. And I did know the material! It was so important to me to have that proof. To find that my belief in myself and my abilities was not misplaced. But througout the writing, I was still terrified. I was sure of my answers, sure of the logic. And that was good. Logic was driving this vehicle, the brain, though panic was screaming in the back seat.

And that’s how it’s been for moments in time, in response to a variety of triggers, for a while now. Since my meeting with the school counsellor, I’ve realised that my first attack was not in fact the first, that there are instances where this has happened before without my having a label to stick on it. I’ve realized that there are valid triggers, and valid responses to those triggers. Most of the time, logic wins. And when it doesn’t, I do the things that make me happy to move things back on track.


Uncomfortable (2)

I have lots of Aha! moments.

I am learning all the time. Navigating.

I know what makes me happy. I love a story well-told, good food, meaningful conversations, listening to and making music, loving my dog, being clean, being healthy, laughing at stupid jokes, camping in the tent in the rain, reading, writing, and researching.

I also know what makes me squirm, (1) the awkward moment when someone asks “WTF did you do that for?” and (2) the feeling that everyone is asking that question, always (3) the paradox of what we do behind closed doors and what we allow to be seen in front of them (4) going for the wow factor — because it’s just not me and does not work in the slightest, (5) when things go horribly sideways (6) perceived and actual punishment, and the threat of it.


Uncomfortable (1)

From a dark place in the past thinking dark thoughts and finding fascination in the way the mind works, and the way people work, and the things that we do and make and become over time….


Vicious Stabs

Take vicious stabs at my mind

Cursed grey areas of judgment calls and discretion

Readings of situations, character and context

Rape scenes and those behind closed doors

Rules and interpretation

Truth, shock and conflict

Broken bits, I can’t move on

Panic, fear, pain

Take vicious stabs at my mind

thoughts on spring

I’ve been sneezing a lot.

I’m trying to pay more attention to the words I use.

Please don’t gift me stuff. I just want to enjoy the experience, share the moment.

Out with the old and tired, and in with the fresh and new. Amen!

I would really love some peanut butter, and for someone to come for tea. I want to read what’s on my shelf, and remind myself why I love libraries and muffins and sunny afternoons.

I need some fresh air and a dog to hang with. I really love music and dance, and having a sense of joy and place in what is often a chaotic world.

I can barely keep my eyes open, but I’m going to attempt a shower and an episode of Grey’s with popcorn. And fingers crossed for a comfortable sleep in — I wouldn’t mind a bit if it rained all day tomorrow 🙂 Self care and space care coming up.



What’s new with you?

I thought I’d write this, just so that I at least, would have it on file…

New stuff has been coming from all directions. And if I’m being honest, it’s quite overwhelming.

I have a new job, which I love, with new responsibilities– an office (!!) and the opportunity to speak to someone new everyday. “I think this position would be perfect for you” was what they said, “I’m really hoping you will apply.” And it really is. And I did 🙂

Incredibly supportive, warm, funny, and professional. That’s my workplace and my coworkers in 5 words or less. I am part of a great team and bring something to the table that is recognized, respected and valued. And it’s a great feeling.


Personal income taxes, bills and monthly reports and all that awesome stuff is coming up and I really don’t want to have anything to do with any of it, but it must be done.


It seems odd, but I’m only just realizing that people talk. People say stuff about other people, when that person is not around, or they think they aren’t listening or when they feel in good company and able to speak their mind. Good stuff, and bad stuff.

And I’m torn, because on the one hand if it’s good stuff, wouldn’t it be great to be able to tell the person to their face? And if it’s bad stuff, isn’t it still more important to have that conversation and perhaps have a chance at better understanding the issue or finding a resolution?

But I understand in either case that saying something to someone’s face is hard, sometimes. Telling someone you think they are awesome, or that you love them is just as hard as telling someone that you disagree, or that they are unfortunately an uninformed racist idiot.

And, yeah, I wonder what people say about me. I hope it’s kind. I hope it’s true. And I hope I never become one of those people others decide, for whatever reason, are unapproachable.


For 6 years, I have been on PWD assistance, something I thought I was eligible for because I was a person with a disability. As I found out later, that’s not how it works.

PWD assistance is designed as a temporary financial support, despite the fact that for many PWDs, their disabilities are not temporary.

It’s all about the money, for the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation. How much money do you have now, how much money do you have at the end of the month, how much money did you spend, earn or receive… How much? Combien coûte?

It’s not about the people, it’s not about disabilities, it’s not about supporting anyone facing daily challenges. And it is most definitely not about compassion or customer service or common sense. It’s about the money.

It was an honest mistake. But it cost me dearly, financially and emotionally. They thought I was trying to cheat the system, branded me a liar and one who was up to no good. I was shocked, in disbelief. And then I got angry, and then I got really scared. But I stood up. And I made my case. It was a 5 year rollercoaster ride of legality and brutality that I never, never ever want to repeat.

I wanted so desperately to give up, to be done with it all, lawyers and red tape and tribunals and reviews and meetings with the guys at the top. I look back and think, “Wow! How in hell did I manage to make it through all that?!!!” Moving out, jobhunting, networking, working, graduating university with honours…On top of everything else going on with the Ministry. But you don’t see all that, then. When you’re in it, you just make the decision to keep putting one foot in front of the other, until it ends, or you can’t do it anymore.

Workers at the offices would refuse to speak to me, refuse to acknowledge me. I was asked to leave the premises, shouted out the door. Others told me I deserved what I got, and that fighting the decision was futile. Emotionally, I broke. I was traumatized. I cried and swore and shook with emotion (in private) with alarming frequency. In public, I put on a brave face. But people call you a liar and a cheater enough times, with enough conviction and you begin to believe it, begin to question who you are as a person, question your values and your choices and your intelligence. Maybe they’re right, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is just as pointless to continue as they say it is…

It wasn’t pointless. There is a happy ending to this story.

I still have a distrust of government offices and officials and program paperwork. My heart races with anxiety each encounter, and I have this fear of being screamed at and being thrown out on the sidewalk. But I am no longer afraid to plan for my future, be my own person and achieve my complete independence.


There are some things you don’t talk about with certain people. They just don’t get it. So, drop it. Move on.

I believe people say and do things for a reason, things happen for a reason. Maybe we don’t know what the reason is, maybe the reason is ‘no reason’, but there is a reason (*See my posts Chicken Camp: Part 4 & 5).


I’m happy when my dog is happy. And I think I’m a fair judge of when he is.

I’m glad he has a warm bed and good food and is in good health and spirits. ‘Look good, feel good’ holds true in this instance. And Mr. T looks good.

As always, it’s rarely the four-legged member and often the two-legged members of the family that could learn a few new tricks. I know Mr. T knows what happy human looks like (Smile at your dog), but do the humans know what a happy Mr. T looks like?

I feel like I need to get some closure on this final piece of the informal and convoluted shared canine custody agreement that exists between myself, Mr.T and M+D.

*Feed, water, house. Look out for each other, enjoy one another. Vet, groomer. Toys, treats and tools. Friends and exercise. The basics, down pat, with consultations.


I graduated! With honours! 🙂 In December.

Through good times and bad, of which there were plenty of both (see above), university was fun. I learned a lot. I gained new perspectives and met new people and found new passions. I read a lot and wrote a lot and really was able to and wanted to participate in class and have discussions and make contributions — which didn’t happen so much in high school.

High school I would say, was much harder to get through than university. High school I did because I had to, because it was expected and not because I wanted to be there or had much fun. University was a hundred times better.

All the same, being homework-free is truly an amazing gift!


I’m going to a gala on Thursday. Dress code: Business attire. I’ll have to look into exactly how that will translate to my wardrobe, but I’m looking forward to it — friends and food and neuroscience 🙂


I watched the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. It was well done. I wasn’t surprised at the content. It just goes to show how eager people are to simplify things, to support a cause that they feel strongly about, but know little of the inner workings or bigger picture. How important language and image and identity (and marketing!) are in bringing people together and segregating them out. Some excellent points were made.


I’m tired of transitions. Of transitioning, of multi-tasking, of seeing others attempt it and claiming to be fine.

I’m not fine! As I said before, all this new stuff is quite overwhelming.

I have a one-track mind. I am methodical, meticulous. I like to be able to do one thing all the way through from beginning to end. I appreciate consistency, continuity. And while I’ve achieved it, finally, in some key areas, others still need a bit of work.

I’m flexible, I adapt, but to a point. And I’ve almost reached it. Today is another day to recharge.


No, I don’t want to spend 4 hours a week travelling to distant locations.

No, I don’t want to  repeat the same conversations.

No, I don’t want to be taken for granted, or worshipped or ignored or forgotten because you’re still reeling and I’m your rock, solid and dependable and there if you need me. Because I care. Sorry, friend I don’t want to be your rock anymore. I can’t be your rock.

I need to be my own rock. I need someone to be my rock.


This blog is my rock.

It is my place to share and combine my writing and creativity, joys and sorrows, knowledge and discoveries, hopes and dreams, memorable moments, personal and professional perspectives. It is for me, and I am happy to share it with you.

And I’m doing well. I just have to remember that I don’t have to put up with all the crap –that I am strong and valued and can continue to grow as a compassionate, intelligent human being.

Trust is a tricky thing. You have to trust, to be able to talk. To be able to be someone’s rock, you need to have their trust. And I right now, I trust what I’ve written, what I’ve experienced. I trust myself, and I trust you the reader (and my dog). But I’m not sure I have that confidence in anyone else, anywhere else right now, which is why this is happening on the page and not over a cup of tea in my kitchen.

Here and now is my focus. And at the moment, it consists of lunch and a nap!


Like it is (1)

I can’t be sure, but I think I slept a solid 14hrs. It was great. Really, really great 😀

I’ve started watching X Company, and it’s pretty good.


The world’s not small anymore, people. Not in the way you knew it, not in the way it was. And the info is not going to be posted in your neighbourhood newspaper the way you wish it was, clear and simple and culturally curated.

I feel like I’ve had the same conversation 3 times over in three days. And I get that change is hard, sometimes it’s no fun and sometimes you end up in a bigger mess than you started with — believe me, I’ve lived only a quarter century on this planet, in one of the most rapidly changing chunks of time ever to have occurred, and I find it incredibly hard. To have to think about a change in thought and action having lived beyond that is no small feat.

And yet, sometimes the generation gap, the culture clash, is so apparent and so vast.

“Why can’t all the info be in one place? Why can’t people just speak english? Does the government exist to govern, or just to drive us all into an early grave?  Why does it have to be so complicated?! What the hell is Google, Twitter, hashtag, trending, Pride, YOLO, vegan, gluten-free, selfie and posting, twerking and Facetime?” Just give me a bloody phonebook and a rotary telephone and a pot roast and a block-party and call it done, you say. And I don’t blame you.

Is it just me, or do we have no history other than the list of stupid, at best self-deprecating and at worst self-incriminating Youtube videos and ‘news’ articles cached in our browsers along with the cookies, lurking and other guilty pleasures?

A friend once said, “We’re so boring, aren’t we? Really.” And I suppose we are. Everything we see is so one sided. We have been separated out from ourselves, distanced from each other, from history, from knowledge and beauty and community.

And no one wants to start picking up the pieces and peeling back the layers, because they already have so much on their plate, who knows what they’ll find, it could be terrifying there, exposed for what it is at it’s core, unfiltered, unbiased and raw. But it could also mean discovery. I’m haunted by both possibilities, and can’t believe I’m the only one.


And though it is a lot of work, you have to try! You have to start! You have to build something, share something, say something! Collaborate, network, question, learn, GROW!

I watched a film, in Anthropology. About the conflict between a BC First Nation and a local logging company who tried to lay claim to the Nation’s traditional territories, for the lumber and the money to be made. They felt they had a right to it, some residents who had been on the land for generations, a few hundred years at most. “And how far back can you trace your heritage?” says the arresting officer to the chief. And he replies,”Our people are estimated to have lived here…30,000 years, through the ice ages” (Blockade, 1993).

And I wish we could all have that history, that connection to each other, to our culture and traditions. I wish we could know it, rather than chase the shadows of it, and have true respect for one another, to be open to learning from each other rather than hold everything at a distance and look at it through our personal pre-concieved filters.

Inspired by…

  • Conversations with my elders
  • Geography 101 (Environmental Geography: Perception and Change)
  • Anthropology 201 (First Nations of BC), Blockade and the ethnoghraphy ‘We Are Still Didene’ by Thomas McIlwraith


Because it’s fun to play!

I think about playing fiddle all the time and how much fun it is to literally fill the house with music. Forrest and I on fiddle, Rube on piano, Dad on guitar. And if you’re really lucky, you might catch me or Rube or Dad singing softly, maybe some cello.

We look at each other, we smile, laugh, goof off, make up harmonies and crazy variations. We ask, “How does it go again?” and dive head first into our favourite tunes while the rest of us jump in a beat or two down the line.

I always remember the block party we had ages and ages ago, when we still had the brick around the fireplace and Kita-girl was the only dog. All the neighbours came. Everyone brought food, we cleared out the kitchen pulled up some stools and chairs into a circle and began to play.

No one worried. No one stopped. No one studied. It just became a part of the room, part of the celebration of good fun and tunes and neighbours and food. And I think this is what’s missing on other occasions.

Somehow, we always get pulled into playing for family and yet never find time to play as a family. Our relatives are wonderful people, but it’s always a weird compromise between practice and performance.

There’s worry (Got to catch the ferry).

There’s stopping (We ask ourselves: is this tune appropriate for the occasion?) –And, they say: “Nobody move! The Riesco’s are playing now!” 🙂

There’s studying (What’s the time? Can you remember the harmony? Wow, that’s amazing you can play without music –but what if there was music, what would it look like on paper?).

We live a ferry ride away. Coming to Van is a big undertaking. Coming with instruments, setting the time aside to practice a set is a serious commitment. And like it or not whenever one branch of the family tree crosses the water to intertwine with the other, we are each of us out of our element, we do not really know one another. We live different lives and see each other maybe twice a year.

Christmas 2015, Mom made turkey dinner and had the whole family over. As many as could make it were invited to share Christmas Day with us. And I for one was relieved. Finally, we would be on home turf, yeah, we’d have to play host. But this was our house, our town, our rules and our comfort zone. No more feeling like the hicks from hicks-ville in with the city-slickers for the evening of awkward conversations about the latest video games, fashions and funerals at odds with the best snow-shoe expedition, farm fresh eggs and ferry traffic analysis, because that’s the only time anything close to a traffic jam hits this town, thank goodness! 🙂

Playing was fun, still slightly awkward with everyone listening so hard you could imagine their eardrums busting with the strain, but fun. My uncle got offended when I said quietly how much fun Forrest and I had last year just jamming with Dad before dinner for hours. And my Grandpa asked how all this would look on paper…

The point was almost completely missed.

It’s not what it looks like on paper! It’s about what it sounds and feels like. Does it make you want to dance? Does it make you smile? Does it make you cry? Do we dance and smile?

It’s not that it was not fun playing this year. It’s who you play with, how comfortable you are, being able to have that bridge of understanding between each other as musicians and listeners.

So next time, just relax, enjoy it and let us do the same. Listen with your whole body, with your heart and not just your head.

Maybe we can do it again some time, as a family and have a real old fashioned kitchen party where nothing’s written down and everyone’s having a good time in the kitchen 🙂

And here’s the inspiration behind this post that’s been brewing for a while. Like Mr. Newman says, “Music doesn’t get much happier than this!” Nuala Kennedy, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas 🙂



2) Life, LOL!

From November 2015 —>  My life has been full of LOLs lately…LOL has a multitude of translations: Live out Loud, Laugh out Loud, Lots of Love and my personal favorite, Lots of Laundry.

I went out for dinner with Rube (live), I visited with Mom (love), I watched Despicable Me 2 (laugh). I cleaned house (live/love), I skipped class (live), I watched Bones (laugh) and I worked (live/laugh/love). I did laundry, lots and lots of laundry (live, laugh, laundry).

October was a complete blur. I’m honestly very surprised to have made it through in one piece. There was just so much happening! Life happened.

And I didn’t have time to do laundry until this past weekend. Rube saw the hamper pre-wash: “Wow!” she said, staring at the mound of textiles grown to three times its normal size, “How are you going to do all that? That’s not going to fit in one load, is it?”


Later, I hauled everything down to the laundry room. I notice the light switch has been changed; it’s really been a while! One of my neighbours is putting on a load. “Hey, how’s it going?”

“Pretty good! How ’bout you?” I ask.

“Good, good. So you’ve been away for a while, eh?”

“Yeah,” I nod, smiling.

“Where ya been?”

“Oh,” I laugh, “Nowhere. I just haven’t done laundry in quite a while!”

“Ah, on the back burner, then?”


“Well, good luck with all your laundry!” She smiles.

“Thanks!” I say, laughing. “I’ll see you later,” and turn my attention to the sorting.

The moral of the story is: live, laugh, love– and do laundry! 🙂

1) Life, LOL!

From November 2015—>  Yep. So, life has been happening! And I’m really ok with most of it, though it can seem awkward at times. I work, I go to school, I have fun at home, I visit and laugh with friends and family, I eat and sleep and do schoolwork and housework.

Not much seems necessary…As in, I don’t really stress about a pile of dishes in the sink, or the fact that I may have to do 3 loads of laundry on occassion, or maybe I can’t see the floor for an hour… or god forbid I skip a class, in favor of a day of wellness instead. I can read for pleasure for hours, become engrossed in a school project for days, take a nap, stock up on groceries, strike up random conversations, go out for dinner on a whim.

For years, I’ve had this inner-voice with my interpretation of the world’s ideals, my personal views and those of my friends and family on shuffle. Eat well, sleep well; graduate with good grades, go to post-secondary; find secure, high paying employment; find love; have a social life, with parties and numerous friends… In society today there is also a pervasive imperative to consume and earn more and ridiculous value given to being  constantly busy. And I find there is so much pressure to live up to– and sort through– all of that, and that there always has always been. Whether driven internally or externally, I want to make the people who matter most to me proud, I want to make me proud, and I want to be happy.

Now I realize it’s all a process, learning and sharing and growing and ever-changing. And nobody is perfect. You can’t know the whole story. You can’t live someonelse’s life. You have to live your own life, the very best that you can. And that’s what I’m doing. And it’s pretty freaking amazing!

I just never feel like I’ve had this type of freedom before, this cautious boldness to test uncharted waters and find that far from being sucked under in confusion, I can actually swim. Being a friend, staying up into the wee hours, improvising a tune, being asked for my ideas and expertise. Being taken seriously. Choosing to let life’s tornado track through my space, knowing I can pull it back together. I’m happy!