Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Relationships are the strangest things people have to deal with. There are so many types and so complex, it boggles the mind that we can actually establish and maintain them at all!

Family: I come from a fairly large family, with 5 siblings: three sisters and two brothers. We all get along just fine and have never had the tensions and fights that seem to be so prevalent in so many families. There is a lot of love in my family, both immediate and extended.

My parents, both smokers, both alcoholics, but both loving and always there for me, and both are now gone. They both died much too young; my dad was only 56 and died of cancer; my mum was 71, looked 150, and died of emphysema from smoking, after having survived bowel cancer. I miss them both in so many ways all of the time.

My oldest sister was killed in a motor vehicle accident 2 1/2 years ago, which rocked the family to its core. She was 4 years older than myself and we were very close. We had been more great friends since our teens than just sisters. It was a wonderful and fulfilling relationship, which was never altered by the distance between our homes (which, on occasion, was quite large). Her death has torn a piece of my heart right out of my chest, to leave me forever missing her and not really believing she is gone.

Of my other siblings, the ones that remain, I am now closest to my youngest sister. We both have no kids, we both have dogs, we have similar tastes and perspectives on life. We talk on the phone and get together with the 'kids' for play dates at the dog parks in town. We go for lunch or just hang out. She is 5 years younger than me.

The other three, well, we love each other and enjoy each other's company but just don't seem to keep in touch all that often. Two live in Alberta, so contact is phone/email/facebook most of the time.

The weirdest thing is my youngest brother lives one block from me. I almost never see him or hear from him. Not because of any ill feelings, but just because his life and mine only ever seem to really cross paths when there is a family gathering or some other event where we both show up. He has his own business and keeps odd hours. I work shift work. When I first moved to this neighbourhood last summer, I would call him. Rarely was he home, and rarely did he return my calls. Just busy with his life. So now I see him when I see him and that is about it. Makes me kind of sad, in a way, because he's a great guy and we always have fun, but it just never seems to happen.

Friends: My oldest and dearest friend lives in Texas now. She's a nurse like me.... actually she is the one who kind of talked me into becoming a nurse, in an indirect way. I love her dearly and we have known each other for 36 years. We have known each other through lots of ups and downs, moves, relationships, kids, family crap, you name it. To this day, there isn't anything I would not tell her. I don't see her often but we talk on the phone for hours at a time whenever we talk. And I mean hours! Nothing like having to peel a hot phone off your ear after four hours of yakking. Thank the gods we both have unlimited long distance!

My best friend locally I met when I sold her a horse in 1999. We knew instantly that we would be friends. It just was.... And so we have become very close, especially with my move back to Winnipeg from BC in 2003. We see each other a few times a week and talk or email often. We both have horses (well, I am down to one and she is a trainer so has several), and ride and show and just hang out at the barn together. We have very different personalities but we mesh so well and know each other so well, it is totally amazing.

Intimate Relationships: This is where things are the most complex, at least in my mind. I have had a number of long term, serious relationships. All of which have ended and right now I am on my own.

I have been in emotionally and mentally abusive relationships that I struggled through and finally had the strength to leave. I have had the horrifying experience of having one partner commit suicide. I have struggled to keep relationships alive through talking, counselling, fighting, giving in, whatever I thought or hoped would work. I have been with totally different types of men and not been able to make those work for a variety of reasons.

I have also had the experience of meeting someone who totally stole my heart, so quickly it was breath-taking, only to have him realize I was not the right woman for him. For me, he was, in many ways, the type of man I truly wanted: intelligent, articulate, warm-hearted, very caring, silly, witty, and hugely attractive to me physically (damn those pheromones, anyway!). But it seemed written in the cards that it was not to be and so I had to deal with the emotional fallout from that, which was heart-breaking.

Every relationship I have had has formed who I am today. Whether good or bad, the experiences have strengthened my character but have also taught me things. I have become more self-reliant and self-sufficient. I have learned to look more closely at myself and my actions and behaviours. I have also learned to be true to myself. Because, if you cannot be true to yourself, you cannot be true to anyone else, and you cannot have any kind of a healthy, lasting relationship with anyone without honesty and truthfulness.

So, in all honesty and truthfulness, I am grateful for all of the relationships I have had in my life, and in spite of the amount of heartache I have endured, they have made me the loving, well-balanced, kind-hearted soul I am today.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Mother Nature has been wrecking havoc on the humans on this planet. Cleaning house, as it were - with the loss of lives staggeringly astronomical.

The Myanmar Cyclone death toll may hit 100,000. That may climb even higher due to the disease and pestilence that are resulting from the lack of aid and hampered clean-up efforts of humanitarian countries and organizations.

The Sichuan Earthquake death toll is estimated at 80,000. And there are five dams that are on the verge of bursting because of structural damage from the quakes. The aftershocks continue to destroy homes and displace people in the area.

The tornado season in USA has started early and with a vengeance. The record snowfalls for parts of Canada and the US (the eastern seaboard especially hard hit) have taken their toll. Now there are flood warnings in what used to be semi-arid Alberta, with spring rains causing rivers to rise dangerously.

Hurricanes have battered the US south and east coasts so many times in the past few years. What is mind boggling is that New Orleans is being rebuilt in that below sea level location once again. The logical minded just know it will be wiped off the map by another powerful hurricane, despite all the levies and efforts to protect it from the ocean.

The Santa Ana winds in California cause terrible wildfires and soil erosion, which leads to mudslides and flash floods as the winter rains pour in.

Heavy snowfalls, torrential spring rains and ice jams have caused flooding in the Dakotas and Manitoba of epic proportions in the past. What was once considered a 100 year flood has happened a couple of times in the past decade (or so).

What about the Bird Flu, SARS, hoof and mouth disease in our livestock, the viral diseases killing children in China? The burgeoning near pandemic levels of antibiotic resistant diseases that are plaguing hospitals and even the general population? When will the next plague-like disease strike humankind and wipe out hundred of thousands, if not millions? If we have no drugs to combat these diseases, only the strong or isolated will survive.

So what is Mother Nature's plan here? Is she sick and tired of how we are destroying this planet? Is she sending strong hints that there are way too many of us and we are using up space and resources at an alarming rate? Is she totally pissed off at us and has decided that the only way for us to take better care of Earth is by reducing the population, which will in turn reduce the negative effect we as a species have on the planet? The question is.... are we listening yet?

Friday, May 23, 2008


An annual event in Winnipeg is about to unfold... and no one is looking forward to it!

Each spring, shortly after the leaves open up on the trees, the cankerworms emerge and proceed to munch their way through the foliage, leaving many trees, especially the much loved elm trees, partially or completely devoid of leaves.

There are two types of worms, I learned today: the spring variety and the fall variety. Both are in the larval form in the spring, consuming the leaves on the trees, even dining side by side on the same leaf. The difference is that one pupates into the moth form in the fall and one in the spring. But both do tons of damage to the trees.

Most of the trees survive this onslaught, which typically only lasts for a week or two, by growing a new batch of leaves after the worms are done feasting and move along in their life cycle. Repeated defoliation over numerous years, however, can weaken and even kill a tree.

The real kicker with these little guys is that they like to hang from the trees on silken threads and stick to your hair, your clothes, cars, the dog, and coat the sidewalks with slimy little bodies that get squished from people stepping on them.

Try sitting outside on a patio, having a cup of coffee or a drink, and have one of these little buggers plop into your drink! Eeeeewwwww!

A lot of times you don't even know you have a few freeloaders until someone points them out, or they decide to drop off your head at the most inopportune times - like just when you are lifting that forkful of pasta to your mouth and presto! a little added protein appears. Makes you want to carry an umbrella whenever you walk down the sidewalk to avoid the creepy crawlers wandering about in your locks.

According to the city entomologists, this year should be the peak of a seven to nine year cycle these things have, so I am sure it will be a doozie! Not too many mosquitoes so far, but soon to have an abundance of squiggly things falling from the skies.

Monday, May 19, 2008


As a horse owner, I have been following the horse slaughter ban in the US for quite some time. It just seems to me that there is always that group way out in left field that gets to decide how things are run down there. So far, the slaughter-ban faction has been winning the battle... and the horses are losing big time.

There are non-profit horse rescue organizations all over the States that are so overloaded with unwanted horses that they can't take any more. People are neglecting their horses and letting them suffer and starve, with no basic health care, no food, water or shelter.

The crash of the PMU (pregnant mare's urine) industry in both Canada and the US has flooded the market with horses, both young and mature, purebred and grade. There is no real way to sell your everyday horse and get a decent price and a good home for it - there are just way too many out there. A horse that is well-trained and experienced will still sell and fetch a decent price. But with no training, no handling and often no registration papers, the horses coming on the market are worthless. So they don't sell.

There are numerous reasons why the horse slaughter industry is necessary for the well-being of the horse population in both Canada and the US. (This is, of course, my opinion but it is shared by many others.) This is just a listing of some of the reasons why I think it is a necessary part of the horse industry:
1) old or broken down horses that can no longer work and are suffering
2) horses that are dangerous to handle and/or ride and are not worth (or can't be) rehabilitating with further training
3) irresponsible backyard (and even professional) breeders who continue to perpetuate poorly conformed and ill-tempered horses (she's registered, he's such a pretty colour, he's fast, she's so cute I want her to have at least one baby, etc....)

I have had the experience of having a yearling put down due to colic and a twisted gut. Without a trip to Saskatoon and $5000 surgery (if he even made it to SK), he was in intense pain and was going to die anyway. So euthanasia was my only option for the little guy. He was going to be my next show horse, was a sweetheart and was a baby. I couldn't let him suffer more. In 24 hours I had the vet out twice to treat his colic, but by the next afternoon it was obviously nothing was working. So he was put down.

And then I did something that is actually against the municipality by-laws: I hired a friend with a backhoe to dig a hole on the farm and bury him. The reason that is illegal is fear of contaminating the ground water, which is the drinking water supply. But we had 80 acres, he was small and he was buried far from the well.

You can no longer take a horse's body to the landfill for disposal. And I believe in this area, there is only one company that will come and haul the carcass away for you. Given the circumstances, what I did was the best I could do. I could have called that company to take him away, and if I had been boarding at a stable, that is what I would have had to do. And I would have. I am not sure what they do with the ones that are euthanized because they now have lethal amounts of a drug in their systems.

So this topic will be a hot one for a long time. The US is finding that people are just letting their horses loose to fend for themselves. Horses that are used to human handling, hay and feed, without the smarts to survive in the wild. So a good portion of them will suffer and die slowly, starving, loaded with parasites, wandering onto roads and highways (which is another horrible danger - no one wants to hit a 1000 lb horse in the dead of night on a highway - because then you both may die).

Euthanizing your horse when necessary is definitely something I believe in, but there has to be a way to dispose of the carcass. And if you can't do that, then the only other option is to take the horse to a sale where there are meat buyers. Even with conditions not always optimum in those facilities, at least the horse suffers for a much shorter period of time than if left, neglected (which in my mind is abuse) and possibly abandoned.



Sunday, May 18, 2008


This weekend is the Victoria Day weekend here in Canada - and I am actually off tomorrow. That doesn't happen too often, as I am a nurse and working in a hospital means shift work and different days off every week. But this time I actually do get the statutory holiday off. (Although that also means I don't get paid time and a half while working!)

So Zoe and I went to Assiniboine Park today and wandered around for about an hour, enjoying the sunshine, the people and the scenery. The grass is wonderfully green and the trees are doing their best to catch up, despite the slow and chilly start this spring has had. We lay on the grass for a while and just watched the goings on around us, soaking up some rays and catching our breath after a brisk jaunt.

Then it was over to the ice cream stand for something refreshing. I was hoping they had plain white ice cream for the dog, as chocolate is a deadly no-no, despite her eagerness to give it a try. Well! Did you know that Nestle makes little things called "Frosty Paws" just for dogs???? Kind of a frozen protein treat designed just for pups on hot summer (or warm spring) days, in a paper cup that you just peel off and let the pooch go at it. Zoe was thrilled to get her little treat, and once I got it out of its paper prison (no easy feat, let me tell you!) and onto the grass, she chomped it down in a few bites and was looking for more! Will have to do that again next time we are there.

After heading home and letting the dog have a big drink and settle in for her afternoon nap, I decided a bike ride was in order. I have been slowly slimming down since last fall but have stalled out over the past 6 weeks, so I obviously need to up the ante as far as energy expenditure goes. So the old mountain bike got hauled out of the shed, cleaned up and inflated, greased and ready to roll. I spent about an hour humping it around various scenic parts of the city - areas that I had never been to - along the river in fairly fancy neighbourhoods, through Osborne Village a bit, cutting through The Forks on my way back home. Lovely ride, exhilarating to be biking again, and fabulous that the weather cooperated today. Too bad tomorrow is calling for rain all day. Would definitely be up for that again.

As if I hadn't done enough physical stuff for one day, after arriving home post cycling, I headed out to the yard to clean up fallen branches and trim back a few trees that had branches at eye-poking levels.

There is a tree growing next to the house that someone, in their infinite stupidity many years ago, tied a rope around as the anchor for a clothes line. Now, they didn't just tie it once - no, they wrapped it around the trunk at about eye level (for me, anyway) about eight times. I say many years ago, because this rope has cut into the bark of the tree so deeply, I am surprised that one section is still alive at all. There are a few dead branches above the rope and the rest look like they are struggling, so I got a knife and cut the rope off. It was so tight, I couldn't even get the tip of the knife under any strand, so I had to lay the blade flat across and just saw back and forth until they started giving way. How can anyone be that stupid and not realize the tree will keep growing? I don't know if it will still survive, but at least now it has a chance.

Because this is a long weekend, there were fireworks scheduled to go off at The Forks (a 10 minute walk away) at 10:00 p.m. I thought about heading over to watch, but by this time I was securely ensconced in my recliner, remote in hand and phone in the other (talking to my sister) and the dog asleep at my feet. I could hear them, and I imagine they were great, but there certainly wasn't any more energy in me to expend on that, so... I just stayed put.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


A (mostly) pictorial diary of Zoe's walk in the woods around suppertime today.

Starting off down the (sort of) service road.

This trail winds along the slope of the berm that raises the CN rail lines above the neighbourhood.

Soccer field visible through the trees.

Taggers even get in here to violate the trees. ((sigh))

Da twain! Da twain!

... and the train goes on and on - this is the CN main line - double track - so sometimes there are two trains going in opposite directions.

Down in the 'valley' below the tracks looking east.

And looking west - kids with bikes have built a motocross-type area here with lots of jumps - mounds of dirt all over the place.

Unfortunately, the teens tend to hang out here and have bonfires and drink on the weekends and during the summer - much nicer on weekdays during the school year when there is no one around - tonight we almost got run over several times by guys on mountain bikes popping out of nowhere, so we stuck to the high trail.

Downtown skyline visible from the park.

Anyone home?

Nope, no one home but someone was here recently!

Nobody home here either....

The Seine River - upstream - which is looking south.

... and downstream, which is north.

Canada Goose family

Mr. and Mrs. Wood Duck

Maybe I'll jump this.... nah, too much work!