Tag Archives: love

Stanley Park Seawall

Five reasons to love Vancouver

Since this post from three years ago continues to gather readers, I think it’s about time I cook myself up some crow pie, grab a fork in each hand, and double-fist a big ol’ mea culpa.

I’m back in Vancouver. I’ve been back here for seven months, and I love it. I love this city with all its problems, because the great things about Vancouver outweigh her faults, and besides, I have always had a soft spot for this city. You’ll note, in that post from three years ago, I said “I quite like it and, given other circumstances, I’m sure I could happily live there.” Here’s why:

1. I get so much done on my commute to work

Haha just kidding. I’m working from home most days as an independent communications professional. But when I do commute (and when I’m at the gym), I listen to podcasts and audiobooks – all my favourites: Radiolab, This American Life, Reply All, Criminal, and now Where There’s Smoke. I recently listened to all 14 hours of Neal Stephenson’s latest novel: Seveneves (highly recommended!). Honestly, when I look back at the namby-pamby 35 minute commute to downtown I was complaining about three years ago, I laugh at my formerly whiny self. If I worked downtown again I would probably take my commuter bike at least some of the time. Speaking of which …

2. Have you seen all these gorgeous bike lanes?

The City just completed new road surface for the bike route I would take to downtown from here. A nice, slightly hilly 10K to downtown, where there are separated lanes throughout. Before we moved into my Marpole condo, we lived in a small apartment on Main Street, where it was a barely sweaty, absolutely, stunningly beautiful 5 km jaunt around False Creek to downtown. Vancouver, like Victoria, is cyclist heaven.

I hope, when they build the new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, they also have plans for a separated bike track all the way from Tsawwassen into Vancouver. That would be amazing, because I do still love to get back to Victoria once a month or so.

I also can’t believe I was complaining about no running routes three years ago, when I routinely ran False Creek/Stanley Park, and look at those North Shore mountains for trail running! Also, just over the bridge into Richmond are some really nice stretches by the airport.

people doing yoga on paddleboards  just off Kits Beach in Vancouver

Why yes indeed, those are Vancouverites doing yoga on paddleboards.

3. The weather is really nice. Even when it rains.

No really, it is. I’m writing this at the start of a heat wave, and we’ve barely had rain for a month now, but that’s not clouding my judgment (see what I did there?). This past winter was not bad at all, weather-wise.

Shut up about climate change* for now, I’m trying to enjoy this.

4. Proximity to new friends

I make friends easily. I admit, the first six months of my return I felt like a bit of a recluse, but I’m putting that down to the knee surgery I had in April, and before that, an incredibly stressful job. As I get further away from both (I found a wonderful physiotherapist and I’ll be running again soon – RUNNING!) my circle is expanding. I threw myself into my professional association (IABC/BC), I have volunteered for the next Interesting Vancouver, I went to a LikeMind meetup that stoked my creative side (I’ve been writing like crazy since then), we’ve invited friends over for dinner. Who says it’s hard to meet people in Vancouver?

5. Family

My son and my youngest daughter are still in Victoria, but as my youngest turned 21 last year, I realized she’s really, truly OK and ready to launch. I was so glad to have the past three years with her though! She now has a plan and she’s going for it (she got into a nursing program, I’m so proud of her). My son got his B.A. and is going overseas soon.

I was at the Open Textbook Summit a few weeks ago, talking with Clint (a colleague from BCcampus), and someone else; explaining that I’d moved back here.

“Why did you move back?” my friend said.

I started to go through reasons 1 through 4 above, when Clint interrupted me with a smile: “She moved here for LUUUUUV,” he said. And he was right.

Just over a year ago I met my partner, Ken, and my life has been so much better since then. Within months I knew without a doubt he is the one I want to be with. He’s my family, my support, my collaborator and co-conspirator, my anchor. He’s been on the lower mainland all his life and he loves teaching at BCIT and Emily Carr, so it was a no-brainer that, with my career mobility, and with my already owning a home here, that I would be the one to move.

6. Bonus – it’s all about the one per cent, the things you can control: yourself.

Last week we attended a talk by Brett Gajda, who, with Nick Jaworsky, does the Where There’s Smoke podcast. Something he said smart-bombed straight into my soul and exploded with comprehension. It’s one of those things you hear for years, and you think “yeah, yeah, that’s right, I agree,” but you don’t really comprehend how it affects your life until suddenly one day it burrows into the space inside where you need it most. I’m paraphrasing, but here it is:

“Things outside of your control are so big you sometimes can’t help focusing on them. After all, 99% of the problems you have in the world are outside your control. The only thing you can really control is – yourself. Your actions, your attitudes, your values, your choices. But the moment you focus on the 1% right in front of you, everything is different. EVERYTHING.”

So yes, there were reasons to leave Vancouver, and there were reasons to come back to Vancouver. But more than that, there are reasons to be comfortable and happy with the person inside, so you’re content wherever in the world you find yourself next. And that’s the most wonderful place to be.

—-

*Seriously though, I am worried about climate change. That’s why I take transit and ride my bike.

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Why I'm really running this marathon

It’s time for me to write this post. Please bear with me. It’s a long one.

I think I’m running this marathon for Sarah; Oct 1, 1992 – Oct 5, 1992.

Desolation Sound at dusk, with deep gratitude to BW

Desolation Sound at dusk, with deep gratitude to BW

Sarah Estelle Jean Klassen Wotherspoon was born 5 weeks early, but she weighed 5 lbs, 10 oz – a healthy weight for a preemie. It was a Thursday. The pediatrician expected a good outcome, despite her difficulties with breathing.

The night before Sarah was born – I was sleepless. I couldn’t get comfortable. That’s not unusual for someone as big as a house and nearly 8 months along. Eventually I woke Blair (my then-husband), and asked him to help me set myself up on the living room couch, more upright, watching movies to distract me. It was Return of the Jedi. He went back to bed, and I noticed contractions, but I also noticed a pain that wasn’t there with my other two pregnancies. However, nothing was really important enough to call the doctor right away, so I thought.

Blair got the kids to school because I was extremely tired, still having contractions and in more pain. When we phoned the doc she said she’d meet us at the hospital. While there, she called in an OB-GYN and they palpitated my belly. I nearly hit the roof in pain, and my blood pressure started plummeting. Suddenly there were a lot of people in the room and Blair’s worried face was in front of mine, fading in and out of focus.

My doc’s face was worried too. “We think you have an abrupted placenta. The placenta that feeds your blood to the baby has partially come away from the uterine wall. You are bleeding internally, and your baby is being deprived of oxygen. You must deliver this baby now. We will try to deliver vaginally, but we are prepping for an emergency C-section and are moving you to an OB-surgery room.”

“Ok.” I said through clenched teeth. “I think I will take painkillers this time. Please.” Meantime they were opening up an IV line and starting me on the drugs to induce labour.

“Of course, we’ll give you a saddle block [where you can’t feel anything below the waist] but we need to do bloodwork first. As soon as it comes back we’ll start you on the anaesthetic.” And at this point my memories come alive, as if it happened yesterday.

Drip starts. Contractions grow much stronger. Pain worsens and spikes with each contraction. I felt incredibly lucky to hold onto consciousness, and in retrospect I thank the stars I did not need a blood transfusion. It could have been much, much worse. I could have died.

Each time a nurse, aide, doctor, anyone comes in the room I hiss “Can I please have drugs now?”

“Not yet. Soon. Hold on. Breathe.”

Blair sits with me through the whole thing, holding my hand. I look at his face to try and breathe through the pain. An hour passes. Two. Breathe. Breathe. I am picturing myself running a race – a marathon – visualizing a finish line – I can do this, I can keep breathing evenly until he finish line. I’ve done this before; I’m going to hold on until those damn drugs come.

The nurse comes into the room: “We’ve got your lab results – we can give you the saddle block now.”

Just then another contraction washes over me. “I have to push!” I say, and suddenly the room is a flurry of activity again.

“Don’t push – hold on, don’t push yet – we have to get you to the OR,” and they’re unhooking, rehooking, opening doors, trying not to trip over Blair, wheeling me down the room, sweat beading on my temples, Blair following nearly faint with worry and hunger and thirst because he’s been by my side for hours.

In the delivery room, I’m monitored so closely I feel like the woman in the Monty Python sketch in the Meaning of Life – “and this is the machine that goes ‘PING!” I’m sure I would have laughed at myself had it not been a matter of life or death. There are no painkilling drugs for me at this late stage, only some laughing gas. Someone warns me not to take too much, so I abandon the mask altogether. Damn her, I should have just sucked it down

Then I could push, and then the real pain started. But then, suddenly, there she was, dark hair, scrunched up face, and eventually, a weak cry. No C-section needed. Blair’s expression was rapturous. I was so relieved it was over and she was alive.

They did a quick Apgar assessment [a visual measure of a newborn’s health] and it was an 8 or 9 out of 10. They wrapped her in a blanket and put her in my arms. I tried to nurse her right away, but my mother-senses knew something was amiss. Sure enough, her 5-minute Apgar was down to 3 or so. She was having trouble breathing. They took her away and put her in an incubator, and wheeled her off to Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to intubate her.

The pediatrician was optimistic that Thursday afternoon of her birth. Many preemies lack the surfactant that lubricates the sacs that fill our lungs, enabling the transfer of oxygen from the air we breathe to our bloodstreams. There are drugs that hasten production of this surfactant in premature babies. They are quite successful, especially with babies of a healthy birth weight and no other complications, like my Sarah.

On Friday afternoon, he was confident she would be much better over the weekend, and told us we could expect her to be in NICU for four or five weeks until she was well enough to come home. In the meantime, I was encouraged to use an electric breast pump to express the first milk – colostrum – that is incredibly rich in nutrients. Sarah would need it once she started nursing.

Like the milk cows on the neighbour’s farm just outside Waldeck where I grew up, I plugged myself into a milking machine several times a day while I was in the maternity ward. With my other babies I wanted to leave the hospital within hours of giving birth. Now I wanted to stay with Sarah. I was swollen and bloated, and I had a slight fever. So did Sarah. They let me stay.

I hobbled on my elephant ankles back and forth from NICU to my room. One night I thought I dreamed the PA system blaring “Re SPIRE a tory. NICU. Stat. Re SPIRE a tory. NICU. Stat.” Later on that morning I sleepily joined Blair, who had spoken with the nurses already. It was not a dream. Our baby had a respiratory emergency and had to be revived in the middle of the night.

We still pretended everything was all right. I tried not to think of how I would cope with two kids who needed to be fed and entertained and fetched to and from school, and a baby who needed me by her side, and swollen breasts that needed to be milked several times a day and the milk stored for future use, and a baby who may or may not have further health problems.

On Monday, I trudged down to the NICU. “Do you want your baby baptised?” said the staff with strained poker faces. Not for my sake or Blair’s, but I thought of his mother, Sarah’s grandmother, a devout Lutheran. “Yes, I guess Lutheran,” I said. They called in a chaplain and she was baptised. I only learned later how much that relieved my mother in law.

Later that morning, we were sitting in the “milking room” when the pediatrician came in. It was the first time we’d seen him since Friday. His face was ashen. “Um. Uh.” he stammered. “We want to do an echocardiogram. We don’t know why your baby is not doing better.”

“Is she going to be all right?” I asked, truly alarmed at this point.

He couldn’t say anything other than “I don’t know,” and left the room. Puzzled, I cleaned up and took my milk dutifully to the fridge next to NICU. We approached our daughter’s isolette and there was a big machine over it. Everyone’s face was grim. They turned to us, with downcast eyes. A nurse said gently “Would you like to hold your baby now?”

That’s when I knew for sure.

They gave her to me. Blair and I took turns holding her. She died in my arms. I have never experienced that much sorrow. I have never cried so long and so hard. I have never forgotten one moment I spent with my little baby. I cannot explain in words the depth of experience contained in the terms:

Bereft.

Loss.

Grief.

Emptiness.

Have you ever watched nature programs – where the mother gorilla or chimp carries around the dead baby ape for days? I can understand that instinct.

When we buried her On Oct 10, 1992 in the plot next to her grandfather (Blair’s dad) I was panicking. I thought “I can’t leave my baby here! Who’s going to take care of her? I’m her mother – she belongs with me.” I could hardly tear myself away from her gravesite.

I’ve been crying the entire time I’ve been writing this. It’s ok. I cry whenever I tell this story. I try not to do it in pubs or at parties. Real downer.

Soon after she died, I had a dream. I was running through the park, back in shape, feeling good. Suddenly a young woman was running strong beside me. She must have been about 17 or 18 years old. Her presence was comforting. I woke up feeling calm. I told Blair our daughter was OK.

Only recently (while I was on Cortes Island in fact) did I realize I signed up for an October 11 marathon this year. The same month she would have turned 17 years old.

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