Critical Reflexivity and Occupational Therapy.

Hey friends. I know you’re all probably dying to know more about what I am doing/learning in school, yes?

Part of the reason I have been blogging less is that my writing efforts have had to be directed elsewhere. But I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone, or feed two birds with one scone, as it were. I had to write a final essay for my Occupation and Society: Theory and Practice class that I was proud of and I thought I would share it with you as a way to both put together an easy post and share what I have been up to these last few months.

The essay is about critical reflexivity. If you are unfamiliar with the term, here is a very basic definition.

Critical reflexivity involves aspects of reflection, in addition to the act of interrogating one’s situatedness in society, history, culture, and how this may shape one’s values, morals, and judgments at both individual and social levels.

I took this definition out of a lecture by an OT named Erin Duebel. There is no citation on the particular slide it was on, so I can’t say for sure where she got it or if she wrote it herself. Anyways, that is a vague description. Feel free to give it a goog if you would like more.

The question given to us was this:

Discuss why it is necessary to be critically reflexive about our traditional understandings of occupation, disability, and inclusion. What are the implications for occupation-based research and practice?

I feel that I should point out that this essay had a VERY strict word limit. So I feel like I actually wrote a slightly better essay, but then had to revise the living daylights out of it to get it under the word limit. So if it feels short or like there was much more to say, know that there was, I just wasn’t allowed to say it in this situation. Also it was clearly outlined to us that we needed to thoroughly cover each of the underlined topics – hence the ‘paragraph dedicated to each’ format. Anyways, enjoy:

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Critical reflexivity seeks to question the “conditions under which knowledge claims are accepted and constructed” (Kinsella & Whiteford, 2009, p. 251). Within occupational therapy it aims to challenge current practices and enact change to improve client-centered practice (Phelan, 2011). As occupational therapists, we have assumptions about what occupation, disability, and inclusion mean. Constructed ideals and patterns of thought and action are increasingly viewed as ‘norms’, and as the only correct way of approaching a particular issue (Kantartzis & Molineux, 2011). Critical reflexivity is necessary because it insists that we closely examine our assumptions about occupation, disability, and inclusion in order to determine if the way we approach and define these terms is helping or harming our clients. Challenging these assumptions leads us to challenge the way that we conduct research and the way we practice occupational therapy.

Occupational therapy theory has long-standing and ingrained assumptions about occupation. One of these assumptions is the idea that individuals choose to participate in occupations they find meaningful. Christiansen (1999) states that “individual persons create their unique identities and life meanings through occupations” (p. 556). When we critically examine this idea, a few important things stand out. First, it is reflective of a western culture that values free choice and independent occupational identities (Phelan & Kinsella, 2009). Overall, Phelan and Kinsella (2009) state that the idea of occupational choice shows itself to be rooted in “white, middle class, American and European culture” (p. 87). Second, it is making the assumption that free choice exists and that each person has the ability and self-efficacy to build their own occupational identity. It does not take into consideration occupational injustice or concepts such as occupational deprivation, occupational marginalization, and occupational apartheid (Whiteford, 2000; Hammell & Beagan, 2017; Kronenberg & Pollard, 2005). Considering these two factors, it becomes clear that while some individuals may have the privilege of selecting their occupations and building their occupational identity, that is certainly not the case for everyone. Thus we cannot assume any particular client has the ability, or the desire, to choose their occupations in this way.

The most common disability discourse in healthcare is the individual/medical model. While the social model of disability is not an obscure discourse, the biomedical model dominates most, if not all, areas of healthcare and rehabilitation. As a result, many of the theoretical models of treatment localize disability within the person. Some disability scholars claim that when these dominant perspectives guide rehabilitation professionals, they may introduce interventions that are unhelpful or even harmful to disabled persons (Kielhofner, 2005). It is important to point out that as a profession, occupational therapy has a more client-centered and holistic view of disability than some disciplines; however as Phelan (2011) points out, despite these views, occupational therapists often are “still overshadowed by dominant power structures strongly embedded in the systems we work within” (p. 166). Critically reflecting on disability and the way we approach impairments in occupational therapy may result in the need to reject the typical ways of approaching and treating these impairments. This rejection of the normal medical approach may be the appropriate reaction to the realization that “the health care system may be organized in a manner that denies true client-centered practice” (Phelan, 2011, p. 169). As has been mentioned, one of the reasons critical reflexivity is so important is because of our so strongly held assumptions that our societal ‘norms’ are, in fact, the only right way to do things (Kantartzis & Molineux, 2011). We must be willing to reflect on and challenge our western way of approaching disability and rehabilitation.

Attempts at inclusion that do not involve critical reflexivity run the risk of pushing marginalized people further away. A great example this is the First Nations version of the MoCA (MacLachlan, 2018). In the adapted version, the animals have been changed from a lion, rhino, and camel to a salmon, eagle, and wolf. Clearly, this was an attempt to adapt the test to be more inclusive towards Indigenous people. However, as Janna pointed out in her lecture, the issue with using the MoCA in Indigenous populations was never about the recognizability of the animals, it was about the structure of the test and the way in which western society views assessment (MacLachlan, 2018). By only changing the pictures and doing nothing to the structure of the test, it felt patronizing instead of inclusive. If we reflect on this problem critically, we can see that Canadian health policies and practices have been shaped by the legacy of colonization (Hojjati et al., 2017). In fact, while reviewing the Canadian health care system, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (RCAP) found that Canadian healthcare models were oppressive to Indigenous people because they failed to recognize Indigenous culture (Jull & Giles, 2012). This relates to the earlier point by Kantartzis and Molineux (2011) about the way society tends to adopt a single viewpoint as the only correct way to do something. In this case it is the idea that our western form of cognitive assessment is correct and the only way to accurately assess cognition. Taking this into account, it is easy to see why efforts to make colonial assessment more palatable to Indigenous people by using pictures of salmon might elicit a negative response. These same principles apply to other minority and marginalized groups. Mulé et al. (2009) state that those marginalized by gender expression and sexual orientation are “largely excluded from mainstream health promotion research, policy and practice” (p. 2) and as a result often face bias, discrimination, and a lower quality of care.

Critical reflexivity has implications for research in occupational therapy. Reflecting critically on our foundational beliefs results in an understanding that this profession, at its core, reflects Eurocentric values and perspectives (Jull & Giles, 2012). Iwama (2006) points out that these “long held universal assumptions and practices continue to transcend cultural boundaries in places and people outside of the cultural contexts where the ideas originated” (p. 224). Since this is the case, we must recognize that our definitions and ideals do not adequately describe the values and experiences of the society we seek to serve. A solution to this discrepancy is collaboration. A commonly used phrase in the disability community – “nothing about us without us” – applies well here. If we want to apply our research to a certain population, members of that population must be involved in the process. Mulé et al. (2009) point out that in order for the healthcare system to adequately include the LGBT community, their unique and specific needs and issues must be recognized. Jull and Giles (2012) state that to work towards inclusive and culturally safe practice, the profession of occupational therapy must partner with Indigenous people. If we are seeking to produce research that will result in outcomes that are applicable to those outside the white, middle class culture in which occupational therapy was founded, we must include them in our research. We cannot claim to understand cultures and experiences we have not lived, and when we act on the behalf of others without their input, even with good intentions, we can easily do harm. As Bailliard (2016) states, it is “possible to cause injustice through naive and ill-informed attempts to promote justice” (p.8).

An important implication for occupation-based practice concerns the way we address internalized oppression. The pervasiveness of ideas such as colonization, ableism, and the medical model of disability mean that for many, they have become the ‘norm’. In her article about self awareness and social cognition, Heotis (2018) states that “a familiar way of thinking is likely the most accessible and easiest way for the thinker, whereas other ways are relatively difficult” (p. 24). In other words, when these ideas are ever present, it becomes easy to rely on them as the only available options. If there is an underlying message that impairments must be eliminated, clients with impairments are more likely to internalize a negative self-image (Kielhofner, 2005). This means that a therapist may encounter clients with impairments who have very ableist views. What then should a therapist do? Suggesting a client may not overcome their impairments and encouraging the acceptance of them may be discouraging and upsetting, while at the same time, focusing on impairment reduction may reinforce negative views of impairment and contribute towards internalized ableism (Kielhofner, 2005). Is it more client-centered to simply accept their ableist views and adopt rehabilitative goals to strive for independence and able-bodiedness? Or is it more client-centered to educate them and attempt to introduce a new way of thinking and thereby expose the internalized oppression? There may not be an easy answer to this, but it is important to reflect critically on these ideas so that we can see that this issue exists, understand that we will face it in practice, and begin to prepare ourselves to deal with it in the most client-centered way possible.

If we choose not to engage in the important work of critical reflexivity, we become complicit in oppression and injustice. Jull and Giles (2012) state that a lack of critical evaluation of the values on which occupational therapy stands actually promotes injustice and that as a profession we must end our “unquestioning acceptance of its core assumptions” (p. 74). A theme that has been repeated in this paper is Kantartzis and Molineux’s (2011) statement that “within any society, a way of life emerges that members perceive to be the usual and ‘healthy’ way to live, the only possible way of doing things” (p. 62). Critical reflexivity demands we reflect on and challenge these assumptions about the ‘right’ way of doing things. This does not mean that our societal ‘norms’ are universally untrue, but while they may be correct for some, or even most, they do not apply to everyone. And if the goal of occupational therapy is client-centeredness, we cannot be content with “most”.

 

References

Bailliard, A. (2016). Justice, difference, and the capability to function. Journal of Occupational Science, 23(1), 3-16. doi:10.1080/14427591.2014.957886

Christiansen, C. H. (1999). Defining lives: Occupation as identity: An essay on competence, coherence, and the creation of meaning. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 53(6), 547-558. doi:10.5014/ajot.53.6.547

Hammell, K. R. W., & Beagan, B. (2017). Occupational injustice: A critique. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 84(1), 58-68. doi:10.1177/0008417416638858

Heotis, E. (2018). Cultivating self-awareness: Dual processes in social cognition. Journal for Spiritual & Consciousness Studies, 41(1), 22-28. Retrieved from http:// search.ebscohost.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=131637447&site=eds-live&scope=site

Hojjati, A., Beavis, A. S. W., Kassam, A., Choudhury, D., Fraser, M., Masching, R., & Nixon, S. A. (2017). Educational content related to postcolonialism and indigenous health inequities recommended for all rehabilitation students in canada: A qualitative study. Disability and Rehabilitation, 40(26), 1-3216. doi:10.1080/09638288.2017.1381185

Iwama, M. K. (2006). The Kawa Model: Culturally relevant occupational therapy. New York: Churchill Livingstone.

Jull, J. E. G., & Giles, A. R. (2012). Health equity, aboriginal peoples and occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(2), 70-76. doi:10.2182/cjot.2012.79.2.2

Kantartzis, S., & Molineux, M. (2011). The influence of western society’s construction of a healthy daily life on the conceptualisation of occupation. Journal of Occupational Science, 18(1), 62-80. doi:10.1080/14427591.2011.566917

Kielhofner, G. (2005). Rethinking disability and what to do about it: Disability studies and its implications for occupational therapy.American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 487–496.

Kinsella, E. A., & Whiteford, G. E. (2009). Knowledge generation and utilisation in occupational therapy: Towards epistemic reflexivity. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 56(4), 249-258. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1630.2007.00726.x

Kronenberg, F. & Pollard, N. (2005). Overcoming occupational apartheid: A preliminary exploration of the political nature of occupational therapy. In F. Kronenberg, S. Simo´ Algado, & N. Pollard (Eds.), Occupational therapy without borders: Learning from the spirit of survivors(pp.58–86). Edinburgh, UK: Churchill Living-stone Elsevier.

MacLachlan, J. (2018). Occupational Perspectives on Justice and Rights: Implications for Practice [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https:// eclass.srv.ualberta.ca/course/view.php?id=45749#section-9

Mulé, N. J., Ross, L. E., Deeprose, B., Jackson, B. E., Daley, A., Travers, A., & Moore, D. (2009). Promoting LGBT health and wellbeing through inclusive policy development. International Journal for Equity in Health, 8(1), 18. doi:10.1186/1475-9276-8-18

Phelan, S. K. (2011). Constructions of disability: A call for critical reflexivity in occupational therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 78(3), 164-172. doi:10.2182/cjot.2011.78.3.4

Phelan, S., & Kinsella, E. A. (2009). Occupational identity: Engaging socio-cultural perspectives. Journal of Occupational Science, 16(2), 85-91. doi:10.1080/14427591.2009.9686647

Whiteford, G. (2000). Occupational deprivation: Global challenge in the new millennium. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63,200–204. doi :10.11

Year One

In one week I will turn thirty, and I’m in a reminiscent mood. It feels like a good time to post this small reflection I wrote back in August.

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Josh and I spent our anniversary driving from Fernie to Edmonton after a week of holidaying throughout Saskatchewan and BC. We were both happy to be going home, and after a week of being social, we had a rather quiet drive. We stopped in Calgary to get a few more plants and have some lemonade at Josh’s parents, but other than that and some quick stops for gas and to switch drivers, we just sat quietly in each other’s company.

It has been a very good year. While the winter found me mired in anxiety and mental health troubles, and there hasn’t been a lack of the slings and arrows that flesh is heir to, I can still confidently say that my life is made better by being with Josh. His kindness and gentleness are wearing off on me, and I find myself looking at things in a more charitable light — or at least noticing when I’m not. Josh is more patient than I am, and more methodical, and our strengths and styles compliment one another and make both of us better.

I’m learning more and more how to ask for what I need. Sometimes my brain will launch itself into an anxiety spiral with only the smallest bit of provocation, and working on explaining these bouts to Josh has made me more aware of my sensitive points and more able to ask him for help. We vowed to ask each other for help, and to help each other. We grow steadily better at communicating with each other, and more responsive to each other.

Josh feels like home to me.

Books – 2018

So a couple weird things happened this year regarding me and books. First, I read a heck of a lot of non-fiction. Second, I listened to a lot of audiobooks. If you know me well, you know I am a ‘read a physical copy, fiction only’ type of reader. The answer to this weird year is that I worked at the sawmill for a large portion of it. Working at the mill meant that I had nearly two hours of commuting time every day in which I could listen to books but not read them – I get carsick plus it was always dark at least one way (hello shift work). Sometimes I had even more time where I could be listening to a book during the day, it depended on which particular job I found myself in. So that explains the audiobooks. But the reason for the non-fiction is related. I have tried audiobooks before and never really liked them because they changed the way I experienced and imagined the story. I started out listening to podcasts and when I got bored of those I realized that non-fiction books were kind of like listening to podcasts. I started out with autobiographical books that were read by the authors (very much like podcasts) and slowly branched out from there.

Here are the books I read. If there is * it means it was an audiobook. I ended up listening to a couple fiction audiobooks. This was mostly unintentional. I didn’t know The Hate U Give was fiction until after I had started it. And One More Thing was read by the guy who wrote it, so it slipped in as well.

Fiction

  • A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  • One More Thing – BJ Novak*
  • Equivocation – Bill Cain
  • The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Slapstick – Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Outside Circle – Patti LaBoucane
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas*
  • Birdie – Tracy Lindberg
  • Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  • God Bless You, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut

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Non-Fiction

  • Bossypants – Tina Fey*
  • Yes Please – Amy Poehler*
  • Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick*
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling*
  • Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling*
  • The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher*
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: a black lives matter memoir – Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele*
  • Wildflower – Drew Barrymore*
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou*
  • Mom & Me & Mom – Maya Angelou*
  • The Last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish*
  • Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman*
  • Beautiful Boy – David Sheff*
  • Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher*
  • Confessions of a Sociopath: a life spent hiding in plain sight – M.E. Thomas*
  • Tweak – Nic Sheff*
  • We All Fall Down – Nic Sheff*
  • Hamilton: The Revolution – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter*
  • A Million Little Pieces – James Frey*
  • The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson*
  • Quiet – Susan Cain*
  • 12 Years a Slave – Solomon Northup*
  • Bitter Medicine – Clem and Olivier Martini
  • Hunger – Roxane Gay*
  • You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me – Sherman Alexie*
  • This Will Only Hurt a Little – Busy Philipps*
  • I’m Afraid of Men – Vivek Shraya*
  • first, we make the beast beautiful: a new journey through anxiety – Sarah Wilson*

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My recommendations/favourites:

  1. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (Sherman Alexie) – This book was beautiful and has stuck with me in a visceral way. I think it was even more so because of the way Sherman read it. It is the first of his books that I have read and I must read more. It is a book that reflects back on his relationship with his mother and has a lot of stories from his childhood on his reservation. I highly recommend it.
  2. When They Call You a Terrorist: a black lives matter memoir (Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele) – If you want to learn about how the BLM movement started, this is the book and these are the people. It is very good and got me started on a trend of seeking out books by those who have had different experiences than me and doing my best to listen. I know it might be more enticing to read The Hate U Give if you are looking for a book about BLM because it is fictional and there is a movie, but you should really read this one instead. Or better, read both. But I would recommend this one first.
  3. Beautiful Boy (David Sheff) / Tweak (Nic Sheff) / We All Fall Down (Nic Sheff) – I know this is three books, but it is the same story. You kind of need to read all three to get the whole story. These books were very very engaging. At times they were sad and at times they were very frustrating. It feels like a very real description of addiction and the struggle to reach recovery. The upside of venturing into these is the knowledge that Nic is very much alive and well today.
  4. Bitter Medicine (Clem and Olivier Martini) – I had to read this one for school, but it was very good. It was written by brothers from Calgary and tells their story of learning to cope with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and interact with the health care system. Olivier drew the pictures and Clem wrote the words and together it is both powerful and informative.
  5. One More Thing (BJ Novak) – I love a good book of short stories and this is one of those. The first story in the book is one of my favourite short stories of all time.
  6. God Bless You, Mr Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut) – I love Vonnegut. He has been my favourite author for years. I am working towards reading everything he has written.
  7. Birdie (Tracy Lindberg) – I selected this one off a list for one of my assignments last semester. It is fiction, but was written by Indigenous author and the events that it portrays very closely mimics things that have and continue to happen to Indigenous women. It is powerful and moving. If you want to start to understand the legacy of trauma embedded in Indigenous families and how it affects people differently, you should read this book. Even if you don’t, you should still read it.
  8. Quiet (Susan Cain) – This book is about introversion and helped my understand myself a little bit better.
  9. Mom & Me & Mom (Maya Angelou) – I read two Maya Angelou books this year and both were very good. She is a beautiful writer. I put this one on the list because I loved the way it used vignettes and stories throughout her life to show the relationship she had with her mother and how it changed and flowed.
  10. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) – This book took me FOREVER to finish. I’m talking like over a year. But it was a good story! And it left me with that heavy sense of accomplishment you get when you finish a long but good read. I am not going to dive into another Dostoyevsky right away, but I will be reading more of him in the future.

What I Read in 2018

I always used to set my reading goal at 52 books a year. It’s enough books that I have to push myself a bit to keep on reading, but also enough that I can usually exceed it and therefore feel accomplished and good about myself. Cut to my masters degree and my reading stats significantly dropped, and instead of ending the year with good feelings of accomplishment I found myself feeling bad about not reading “enough”. One of my 2018 resolutions was to be more gentle with myself, and one small way to do that was to lower my reading goal from 52 books to 30 books. Of course, I finished my degree in April and my reading took off, and I finished the year with a grand total of 71 books read.

I’m gonna insert a caveat here for the folks at home. I read a lot! Me reading a lot doesn’t make me a better person than anyone else! There is no reason to feel bad/guilty/ashamed if you read less than anyone else! Okay now to the list.

In the order I read them, with some notations:

Key: underlined = non-fiction, *asterisked = comic, bold = re-read, ^this symbol = in a series

  1. *The Coldest City / Anthony Johnston
  2. From Here to Eternity / Caitlin Doughty – if you read one book about death rituals this year let it be this one.
  3. Rosemary’s Baby / Ira Levin – terrifying!!!!!!!!!!!!
  4. ^Akata Witch / Nnedi Okorafor – Nigerian magic school!!
  5. *^Monstress, v. 1 / Marjorie Liu, et al – the art in this series is truly remarkable.
  6. *Hostage / Guy Delisle – I read and enjoy pretty much everything I find that Delisle writes, and this is in my top three of his books.
  7. *^Monstress, v. 2 / Marjorie Liu, et al
  8. */ Jon J. Muth – LISTEN I appreciate the Art of this book but if I wanted to watch I would just WATCH it I don’t need to read an exact transcription!!!
  9. *Mr. Higgins Comes Home / Mike Mignola
  10. *^Silk, v. 0 / Robbie Thompson, et al
  11. *^Silk, v. 1 / Robbie Thompson, et al
  12. Iron Cast / Destiny Soria – between this and Hadestown I can’t get enough of Prohibition.
  13. *^Silk, v. 2 / Robbie Thompson – a curse on Marvel for cancelling this ongoing!
  14. Horrorstor / Grady Hendrix
  15. *^Paper Girls, v. 1 / Brian K. Vaughan
  16. The Rules Do Not Apply / Ariel Levy
  17. The Book of a Thousand Days Shannon Hale – I have listened to this audiobook so many times that I have a great deal of it memorized; I love it so much. Whenever Josh is out of town I check it out of the library and listen to it to fall asleep.
  18. Attachments / Rainbow Rowell
  19. ^The Rook / Daniel O’ Malley – you can tell I was in the throes of the end of my last semester by three comfort reads in a row.
  20. ^Retribution Rails / Erin Bowman – I LOVE REVENGE.
  21. *^Paper Girls, v. 2 / Brian K. Vaughan, et al
  22. ^Birds of a Feather / Jacqueline Winspear
  23. ^Annihilation / Jeff VanderMeer – highly recommend this book, highly do not recommend reading it “to fall asleep” because you won’t and if you do have fun with those dreams.
  24. The Midwife’s Apprentice / Karen Cushman
  25. Overture to Death / Ngaio Marsh
  26. *^Scott Pilgrim, v. 1 / Bryan Lee O’Malley – it is almost jarring how many of the locations in this book are EXACTLY replicated in the movie (because they were modeled on irl places).
  27. *^Paper Girls, v. 3 / Brian K. Vaughan – if you like Stranger Things you will like Paper Girls.
  28. The Beauty / Aliya Whiteley – perhaps the weirdest book I have read in my entire life and that’s saying something. I loved it.
  29. The Ivington Diaries / Monty Don – I love plants, here I stand I can do no other.
  30. Eileen / Ottessa Moshfegh – I think I stared blankly at a wall for a good ten minutes after finishing this book.
  31. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death-Cleaning / Margareta Magnusson
  32. *^Scott Pilgrim, v. 2 / Bryan Lee O’Malley – tbh at this point I kinda lost interest in this series!
  33. The Princess Diarist / Carrie Fisher
  34. The Fire Next Time / James Baldwin – this was my first time reading Baldwin and I was absolutely floored. This slim volume is a must-read, for your own good.
  35. ^Pardonable Lies / Jacqueline Winspear
  36. Death With Interruptions / Jose Saramago – I was glad to have read Blindness before delving into this one. It was good to be a little bit prepared.
  37. *^Paper Girls, v. 4 / Brian K. Vaughan, et al
  38. ^Messenger of Truth / Jacquline Winspear – what can I say, I like a good mystery with a good female protagonist.
  39. ^Jurassic Park / Micheal Crichton – 2018 was the Year of the Dino for me and I have no regrets.
  40. Killer Fashion / Jennifer Wright – too short
  41. Undead Girl Gang / Lily Anderson – promising premise, ultimately disappointing.
  42. Pride and Prejudice / Jane Austen – I wanted to re-read this and discover if it is better than teenage me thought and newsflash: this book is an absolute treasure, how am I the FIRST person to figure this out?
  43. *Super Late Bloomer / Julia Kaye – recommend!
  44. ^Binti / Nnedi Okorafor
  45. The Problem With My GardenKendra Wilson
  46. *World War Z / Max Brooks – another audiobook I listen to repeatedly every year.
  47. NigelMonty Don – did I cry while reading this book about dogs and gardening? YES.
  48. Scatter, Adapt, and RememberAnnalee Newitz
  49. *^Inkheart / Cornelia Funke
  50. ^All Systems Red / Martha Wells – this is book one of the Murderbot series, and I urge you: do not pass go, do not collect $200, read Murderbot AS SOON AS POSSIBLE this is not a drill.
  51. The Poisoner’s Handbook / Deborah Blum – this book has it all: Prohibition! Poison! The beginning of modern toxicology!
  52. ^Binti: Home / Nnedi Okorafor
  53. Malagash / Joey Comeau – this is such a beautiful book, I want everyone to read it.
  54. One Bloody Thing After Another / Joey Comeau – Malagash was so good that I had to IMMEDIATELY read more by Joey Comeau.
  55. The Essex Serpent / Sarah Perry – not NEARLY enough paleontology, WAY too much adultery!
  56. Down to Earth / Monty Don
  57. The Mist / Stephen King – sometimes I get an Urge to read horror novels. I don’t know why!
  58. ^Binti: The Night Masquerade / Nnedi Okorafor – this series is excellent, I highly recommend for anyone who a) likes science fiction, or b) wants to expand their reading horizons.
  59. *Woman World / Aminder Dhaliwal – fun!
  60. ^Artificial Condition / Martha Wells – I’m not kidding: read Murderbot.
  61. *^Monstress, v. 3 / Marjorie Liu, et al
  62. They All Love Jack / Bruce Robinson – IT GOES ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!
  63. Sunshine / Robin McKinley
  64. *Spill Zone, v. 2 / Scott Westerfeld – kinda lackluster and unsatisfying, unfortunately
  65. Bird Box / Josh Malerman – saw the preview and said “it is time” and then went and got this book off my shelf and finished it post haste. It’s fine.
  66. *An Age of License / Lucy Knisley – I really like Lucy Knisley and “license” has got to be top ten worst words to spell in the English language.
  67. ^River of Teeth / Sarah Gailey – what if the wild west but with hippos?
  68. *The Initiates / Etienne Davodeau – tbh I’m not exactly sure when precisely I read this book this year because apparently Goodreads didn’t track it?? But I know I did, otherwise I wouldn’t have read Sabrina. Also: it is very good!
  69. *Sabrina / Nick Drnaso – I read this one because Nick Drnaso is one of the artists mentioned in The Initiates, and going in to the book I didn’t actually know what it was about. I’m not sure if that made the experience of reading it better or worse, and I’m not sure I liked this book.
  70. No Stone Unturned / Steve Jackson – if you’re interested in forensics this is a v good read.
  71. ^Rouge Protocol / Martha Wells – me, chanting: MURDERBOT! MURDERBOT! MURDERBOT!

Overall, a very good reading year! Here’s to 2019 and all the books to come.

I’m going to end this post with a strong exhortation to suggest books to your local library if that’s a thing you can do! In Edmonton I can suggest five books a month, and I try to hit that number regularly. Suggest authors from independent presses! Suggest books you think should have a wider audience! Suggest books you think would fill a hole in the library’s collection! Take part in the collection building at your local library!

Movies – 2018

I watched quite a few movies this year. This is not all of them, just most of them. Movies were included in this post because I particularly liked them or liked a part of them or they felt significant in some way or they were critically acclaimed movies I finally got around to seeing. Some movies I saw this year I didn’t include. Either because I didn’t like them/found them boring (hello, Ready Player One) or because they super didn’t live up to the hype and I didn’t understand why everyone loved them so much because even though parts of the movie were unique, the story as a whole was so unbelievable predictable that it almost wasn’t enjoyable at all (I’m looking at you, The Shape of Water).

Not all of these movies came out in 2018, but they are only included if I watched them for the first time in 2018. Anyways, here are the movies. I present most of them without comment or judgment simply because that would make for far too long a post. Please feel free to engage me on any of these movies the next time you see me or in the comments and I’d be happy to tell you what I thought. I will give my top 10 at the end.

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20th Century Women

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A Royal Affair

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A Simple Favor

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Almost Famous

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Annihilation

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Beautiful Boy

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Black Panther

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Blindspotting

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Call Me By Your Name

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Carol

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Crazy Rich Asians

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The Danish Girl

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The Edge of Seventeen

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Ex Machina

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Frances Ha

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Girl, Interrupted

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Happy Anniversary

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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I, Tonya

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Ingrid Goes West

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Landline

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Landline

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Like Father

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Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

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Mary Poppins Returns

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The Other Woman

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Sleeping With Other People

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Thor Ragnarok

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Up in the Air

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Okay, my top 10 (in alphabetical order, not in ranked order because it was hard enough just picking 10):

  1. 20th Century Women – a simple, authentic, indie drama. Honestly, my favourite kind of movie. Feels authentic and genuine without being overly heartfelt and emotional. I think this was the first time I’d seen Greta Gerwig act. I immediately looked up other movies she was in and watched Frances Ha, which was also very good.
  2. A Simple Favor – this movie is equal parts awkward and suspenseful. It was a very weird combo of feelings I shifted between while watching it. It went from absolutely cringeworthy – so awkward I can’t even watch – scenes to the biggest jump scare I think I’ve even encountered in a theatre. If I had been holding popcorn I definitely would have thrown it and I’m pretty sure I actually made audible noise. It manages to straddle a few different genres and leave you feeling like you watched something unique. I would definitely recommend it.
  3. Almost Famous – I met the lead singer of The Matinee in the summer of 2016 and he was shocked that I hadn’t seen this movie. He told me that I had to watch it and I told him I would. Then this fall I saw The Matinee play again here in Edmonton. I had to tell him I hadn’t seen it yet. I remedied the situation pretty soon after. Turns out he was right and this movie is fantastic. I don’t know how I missed it. I feel like I need to watch it a bunch more times because it had so many things to say about so many different things. It left me with the feeling that I definitely didn’t take it all in the first time. I loved it.
  4. Beautiful Boy – I listened to the books this movie was based on while I worked at the sawmill. It is based on the books David and Nic Sheff wrote about Nic’s meth addiction. The books were very good and I was looking very forward to the movie. I think I would have actually enjoyed the movie more if I hadn’t read the books first. I was so concerned that they were going to get the story wrong that I couldn’t just relax and enjoy the movie. But Timothée Chalamet was fantastic, the soundtrack was AMAZING, and it was filmed in the quiet sort of indie way that I love. I am not sure I am in love with Steve Carrel as David, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for me.
  5. Black Panther – I feel like a million other people have watched this movie and written things about it. You already know what made this movie so good so I will just say that I liked it a lot.
  6. Blindspotting – this movie didn’t play at any theatres around here so I spent months waiting for this movie to finally come to iTunes so I could see it. It was written by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal and is set in Oakland. It felt very important while not being overly heavy. Daveed and Rafael also play the main roles and they are both amazing. The movie follows Daveed’s character as he navigates his last three days of parole and witnesses a police shooting. You should watch it.
  7. Ex Machina – This is one I missed when it came out. I would definitely say it is in my top three for the year. I love this genre. This movie was beautiful and quiet and the first time you watch it you have no idea what is going to happen next. I love it. I’ve watched it two or three times this year and it feels like one of those ‘watch at least once a year’ kind of movies.
  8. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – If you are picking up on the clearly defined type of movie I am into, it is probably no shock to you that this is on the list. I loved this movie. It made me nostalgic for NZ and it was quiet, beautiful, and unique.
  9. I, Tonya – This one mostly made the list because I was not expecting to enjoy it at all. I wouldn’t have chosen to watch it except that I was on a plane and the options were limited. I was almost annoyed that I liked it. But that scene, were Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding is re-enacting Jeff Gillooly’s statement that she chased him with a shotgun and she turns to the camera and says, “this never happened,” won me over. It was the way that the movie was made that I loved.
  10. Landline – I love Jenny Slate. You might remember me writing another time about a movie I liked called Obvious Child. Well, this movie was made by the same people who made that one. I watched it in my hostel in Wellington and I had to watch it in two sittings because my daily wifi allotment ran out halfway through. And yes, you guessed it, it is a quiet, genuine but not trying too hard to be heartfelt, indie drama.

Honourable mention: Mary Poppins Returns – Maybe I am including this because I saw it most recently. But I don’t think so. I wasn’t expecting to love this movie, but I wanted to see it because Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins seemed like a great fit and I do love me some Lin-Manuel Miranda. Movies feel different now than they did when the first Mary Poppins was made; that is to say, I don’t think you could every recreate these days how those old movies feel. So this one didn’t feel like the old one. But it also didn’t feel like a watered down sequel. It lingered with me much longer than I thought it would and some of the songs are still stuck in my head. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were fantastic. I liked it a lot.

Not So Merry Christmas 2018

The light is getting low, the year is winding down, the halls are being decked, and you know what that means: time for the most honoured tradition of this Christmas season. Yes, yes, it is time for a curated selection of some of the most depressing Christmas songs I could lay my paws on. Not So Merry Christmas has gone through so many stages and evolutions, from the mix CD made by my sister and I, to the new, improved, expanded CDs we burned each year, to a disk I mailed out to people who asked, to a giant list on spotify, and now, returning to its roots, an album-length selection of some old classics, some new favourites, and some only tangentially related to Christmas but it’s my party and I can cry if I want to. Literally!

Please, sob over enjoy this list of some exceedingly sad songs. I made it for you.

Here it is

Not So Merry Christmas 2018 will be public until Epiphany, as is tradition, and then it shall disappear until next year.

Vax.

As you know, my program (Occupational Therapy) is a course based Master’s program which consists of about 40% fieldwork (i.e. practicums or placements in the community). This means I will be interacting with and treating people in any number of environments and circumstances. It then makes perfect sense that in order to be in those places (hospitals, clinics, outpatient programs, home care, etc.) and to work with those people (babies, children, seniors, etc.) I need to prove that I have had all of my vaccinations. Both to protect myself from any diseases clients might attempt to pass to me and to protect clients who have not been vaccinated or have weakened immune systems (we all know about vaccines and herd immunity, right?).

Anyways, it turned out to be a slightly more involved process than I initially thought and in the end I was actually missing a few vaccinations. So here is the outrageously interesting story of my vaccination journey over the summer (spoiler: it’s not actually that interesting).

I should preface this with some history:

I don’t particularly like getting vaccinations. I mean to say, I don’t enjoy them. Who does I guess. When I was a child, I was given allergy shots for a few years. If you don’t know what that is, it is when they inject you with slowly increasing doses of certain allergens in an effort to desensitize you. Each round would be a particular allergen or combination of allergens. The first shot would be 1 ml, then a month later 2 ml, then a month later 3 ml, etc. until you were at the point where you were getting 9-10 ml shots. Now, I can’t recall if those numbers are exactly right. Maybe they are wrong, but the premise is correct. And the take away for me was that the first few shots you barely felt, but by the end they were absolutely massive and were quite painful. After a round is done, they begin another one.

Now, to be honest, these didn’t bother me too much. I certainly didn’t like getting the big ones. But they didn’t leave any lasting issues with injections themselves. If anything, they made other vaccinations seem like no big deal. I had just received a massive allergy shot, I wasn’t even concerned I’d feel the little Hepatitis B shot I had to get in school.

BUT THEN. Oh then. I was about to leave on my first trip to Australia and decided I should get Hepatitis A vaccinations. I was just about to leave and didn’t have time to go in to a doctor, but luckily for me (spoiler: it was not lucky), I could get in to a pharmacist to get them done. The pharmacist suggested I also get Tetanus since it had nearly been ten years since my last one. He said he would do the Tetanus in my left arm (since it tends to hurt more) and Hep A in my right. He started with the Hep A and when he put the needle in it hurt like the dickens. Not like, “ow that feels like a lot of liquid in my muscle” pain, more like “I’ve just been thoroughly stabbed” pain. I got instantly dizzy and while he did the Tetanus shot in my other arm I tried to make my eyes focus and stop blurring. As soon as he was done the second shot (which didn’t hurt at all, by the way) I passed out in the chair.

I have never fainted before, at least not out of anything other than extreme illness. And even then, I am not sure I have. When I woke up, the pharmacist was in a sort of quiet panic. I had to call my dad to come and pick me up because I still could not see straight and I certainly couldn’t drive. It took the rest of the day for the dizziness to wear off and the pain in my arm only got worse. I could not move my arm for two or three days. It was horrendously painful. Turns out (as I learned later – when I got my second Hep A shot a year later and explained previous experience to the doctor) he hit my bone with the needle.

Needless to say, this has coloured my feelings about needles being put into my arms. I am still almost always fine. But every once in a while I get just a little bit of a vasovagal response (I get light headed and woozy). It has never lasted more than a few seconds and I have never again fainted (most likely because I have never again been hit in the bone with a needle). But it means vaccinations are no longer the “no big deal” they used to be. It also means that I have to check yes on the “have you ever fainted after an injection” box all the prevaccination forms. Which is annoying and forces me to tell the story over and over and then assure them that I will not faint as long as they don’t push the needle into my bone. Sometimes they still make me lie down while I’m getting the injection.

I also think time has something to do with my feelings about vaccinations. The longer it has been since I have had a vaccination, the more likely I am to feel not awesome about it. I think this is because the most memorable vaccination experience I have (the one that most readily comes to mind) is the terrible one. But as soon as I have a good one I remember that they are not that big of a deal. All this is to say, by the end of this process, vaccinations felt like no big deal. But at the start, it was a less appealing process.

It’s also worth including that these vaccinations and tests came right in the middle of my second and third HPV vaccinations. I missed getting HPV vaccinations when I was younger and finally decided on my own to get them done. They are a doozy of a shot and are more likely than most to cause fainting.

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Anyways, back to this summer. The first thing I had to do was locate my vaccination records. If you had your vaccinations done through school or at a Public Health Unit, the records should be there. However, when I was a baby, there were no digital records, so while a few of my vaccinations were probably on record at the Health Unit, I was forced to rely on written immunization records given at the time. Luckily for me, my mom was diligent in keeping these and she knew exactly where to find them.

With these records and my program requirements in hand, I made my first appointment at the Health Unit. At this appointment, a public health nurse officially entered all my recorded vaccinations into my official record and we went through the requirements for my program (public health nurses are great!). The requirements for my program are:

  • Three doses of Tetanus/Diptheria (with the last dose within ten years)
  • A dose of acellular pertussis given after the age of 18
  • A strong history of varicella at 1 year or older, positive varicella serology, or proof of vaccination
  • Two doses of measles, mumps, rubella
  • A minimum of three doses of Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis B serology to prove adequate immunity
  • A tuberculosis skin test (and follow up chest x-rays if required)

My tetanus/diptheria were all done (thanks to the pharmacist who also gave the fateful Hep A vaccination). I had one dose of measles/mumps/rubella (they changed the dosing after I received mine – if you were born before 1995, there is a chance you also only got one MMR vaccination, which means you are susceptible to getting the diseases and also means you can get your second booster for free from Public Health. Which you should do because you don’t want to get the mumps. Remember all those hockey players who got mumps? They are all older than 1995 and probably only had one MMR vaccine and then they got mumps!). I had all three doses of Hepatitis B and although I have a strong history of varicella (chicken pox), I was only 8 months at the time so I required serology to prove my immunity. I had not had a pertussis vaccination after the age of 18. Pertussis is whooping cough and apparently (as my mom related to me from personal experience) it is absolute hell to get as an adult. So even though this one wasn’t covered by Public Health, I felt good about getting it. So this means I had to get a pertussis vaccination, a MMR vaccination, Hep B serology, varicella serology, and a Tb test.

Unfortunately, all of these things had to be done in different places. The Tb test could only be done at the local travel clinic. Pertussis is offered as a dTap (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis). While I was more than up to date on tetanus and diphtheria, my last dose did not include pertussis. This was is considered outside of the government vaccination plan, so I had to pay and have it done at the travel clinic as well. So that is where I started. A Tb skin test is a test that requires two appointments scheduled two days apart. At the first appointment they inject some stuff (neutralized Tb) under the skin of your forearm. Then at the second appointment they measure your reaction. The appointments have to be precisely spaced and if you miss your second one, you have to start all over. When I returned for my second appointment I was also given my dTap. My Tb test was negative, so no chest X-ray needed.

(A few days after this I had to get my third HPV vaccination, which was unrelated to this whole deal, but added to my general vaccination load).

Then it was off to the doctor for blood work. For Hepatitis B, it was a check to ensure I did not need an additional round of vaccinations. They had to measure the antibody level in my blood. It was similar for varicella. Since I had the disease so young, they were not sure I would have retained my immunity. If I was not immune, I would need to get the full round of varicella vaccinations. It took a few weeks for the results to come back. I was found to have adequate immunity to both, which saved me from multiple additional injections.

Lastly, my final measles, mumps, rubella. I got this one for free at the Public Health Unit. MMR is a live vaccination. This means that I could not get it before my Tb test as it could affect the test results. You can’t get a TB test if you have had a live vaccination in the last 4-6 weeks. Live vaccinations are not given intramuscularly. The are given subcutaneously (just under the skin). This allows the body to absorb the vaccination slower, which is important given that there is live disease in the injection. I got this vaccination about two weeks before moving to Edmonton. She informed me after giving it to me that I should expect to experience symptoms around 7-10 days after the injection and that they could last up to 5 days. Mainly fatigue, body aches, a rash, and other flu-like symptoms. I was very excited to hear that these would hit me just as I was scrambling to pack and move. Luckily, however, they didn’t seem to bother me too much.

Then the public health nurse went through my forms and records again and we made sure everything was filled out and backed up (did I mention public health nurses are great?). Once I got to Edmonton I had to make an appointment at the University Health Centre to have my forms and records inspected and approved. Luckily the public health nurses I saw were diligent and this was a relatively painless process.

So there you have it. My immunization records are up to date and I am approved to do my school placements. My advice to anyone reading this is that it would probably be a very good idea to locate and take a look through your own immunization records. Before this, I really had no idea what vaccinations I had and just assumed that because I was vaccinated as a child and got all the offered vaccinations in school I was up to date. You might be missing a MMR! Your tetanus might be overdue! You might not have a current pertussis! It would be real bummer to come down with a terrible disease simply because you were unaware that you weren’t protected. If you are missing any vaccinations from the government vaccination plan, they are probably free for you to get. You just need to go to a public health unit. And even if you have to pay, wouldn’t it be better to pay $50 for a pertussis vaccination now than to suffer for months with a insatiable and painful cough?

Get your vaccinations friends.

Garden

I have many things to write to you about – mostly my convocation and Xavier Rudd – but here we are with another garden update.

Josh and I have been digging, digging, digging in the front, and on Canada Day we planted a small and promising tree. Before driving out to the garden centre to get our tree, we made as much room as we could in the car, and concluded that we could get a tree eight feet tall and still be able to close the back of the car and therefore drive safely home. We looked at all the trees and decided that we wanted a Japanese lilac, which will grow to about 15 feet tall and wide, and has lovely white flowers in late spring but which doesn’t set seed, so there’s no concern with it spreading itself around.  We planted it in the end of the new bed we’ve been painstakingly digging out (it is so much easier to say “this year we’ll dig out all this turf and then build up the soil to extend the front bed” than to actually do it), and every time I look at it I feel joyful. It’s a very small tree, and will take a long time to grow, but I love it. We staked it to give it support against the wind, and have bee keeping it well watered, and it seems to be feeling healthy and happy.

I’m slowly finishing and filling the rest of the front bed. I’ve added several wheelbarrows full of better soil, and done a great deal of soil loosening and quack grass root removing, and am trying to make the garden inhospitable to ants. Josh’s parents came for a visit this past weekend, and they brought a wealth of plants (irises! day lilies! sweet woodruff! false spirea! so much more!), which in addition to my giant goats beard, peony, scabia, globe thistle, lavender, and spurge makes for a well-stoked garden bed. At the moment it’s looking sparse and freshly planted, but I’m confident it’ll fill itself out. In September there’s a perennial swap in my community, and I’m hoping to get some good plants from there as well.

My veg patch is thriving, and things are going nicely in the raised bed we built, and of course the weeds are loving it too even though I feel like I’m constantly weeding.  I’ve got tiny, adorable cucumelons growing, despite my not giving them something proper to climb and them just clambering up the neighbouring tomatilla instead. I’m learning about what each plant needs, and how to better care for all of them, and I’m being rewarded by things like seeing my goji berry bush finally beginning to thrive, or adding things from the garden into our meals. It’s still early in the season for most of the veggies, but we’ve been eating a modest amount of strawberries, radishes, and tomatoes. It’s not all going perfectly however, I’ve pulled up some radishes that were going to seed, only to discover the evidence of cabbage/radish fly larva, and went on to discover that all the root crops in the main veg patch were toast. It was discouraging to pull up plant after plant, but I also know the other plants will be happy to have some extra space. I underestimated how large everything would get when I planted out the babies in the spring. The tomatoes could do with more breathing room (and more support, oops), and the sunflowers are slowly taking over. But now that I’ve pulled the ruined root crops out, there’s more space for everyone else.

The raised bed is pretty crowded, and I’ve found root maggots in there as well. Next year I’m thinking I’ll plant more things like chard and fennel (which are both doing splendidly) and I won’t do as many radishes, turnips, and rutabaga. I have a very tiny squash on one of the plants in there, and while I know that a single squash won’t exactly keep us fed through the winter, I’m very glad to see it there. In the main bed my peas are continuously producing, my pumpkins vines both have small pumpkins growing on them, and I keep finding more and more tomatoes.

I’ve found myself thinking of what I can do next year: what to plant, what to do differently, new things to try, on and on and on. The pumpkins I planted this year keep getting dirty and weighed down, I’ll mulch them nicely next season so they don’t get so splashed with mud. The strawberries are growing well but the berries keep getting icky before I pick them, next year I also need to mulch them with straw before they start to fruit. The tomatoes in the ground are doing much better than the tomatoes in pots, maybe I’ll dedicate a whole corner of the garden or build a new raised bed for them next year, and grow something else in the pots. The hanging baskets are looking so great, even if they’re a bit behind the rest of the garden; next year I’ll make sure to plant them up a bit before the last frost so the seeds germinate sooner. I’ve been looking at grow lights and figuring out my plan for starting things in the spring, I’ve been adding things to the compost and turning it regularly, we’ve built a turf stack and are waiting for it to become loamy and lovely, I’ve bought plants and soil additives that I didn’t know existed until the last couple of years, and my heart is soaring. I have lilies and poppies and delphinium blooming in full force, and it makes me so happy.

The indoor plant collection has also grown, and now includes a fig tree, a banana plant, a small tropical terrarium, a couple different kinds of pilea, and – most exciting of all – two lithops/living stone plants. I hope to coax them both into flowering, so that I can pollinate them and hopefully end up with some seeds. My spider plants are once again sending out as many babies as they can muster, so anytime you want a new plant, just let me know.

 

 

Imprinted.

I often attach memories to music. It is not uncommon to remember a memory when hearing a song, or to think of a song when I think of a memory. But often it is transient and requires me to be in a reflective mood to actually pull the memories up. I can easily just listen to the music without recalling. But with some songs, I have memories burned so deeply into them that I cannot hear the song without actually reliving an entire memory in my head every single time I hear it.

Music has always been very important to me and I have always seemed to use it to connect to and relate my emotions. So it makes sense that sometimes it would be a vessel for strong memories. Sometimes mundane things that I wouldn’t normally remember become burned into my memory because of their attachment to a song or an album. Sometimes it is the first time I hear a particular song and whatever I happen to be doing becomes ingrained, other times it is a song I have known for a long time that becomes associated with a memorable event. I am sure this happens to everyone? It must. Anyways, I thought I would share a few of these imprinted music memories with you.

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Yeah – Usher

I am in grade eight and on a basketball trip. I am in a nondescript hotel room and it is the first time I have ever watched MTV. This song is brand new and plays over and over. MTV is always on in our hotel rooms and I watch this video multiple times every weekend as we travel from tournament to tournament. I’m going to embed the video because the music video is part of the memory. When the song starts now, I see Usher alone on that dark dance floor with those lights behind him and Ludacris in that bucket hat.

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Waiting on an Angel – Ben Harper

I am a camper and Caleb is singing this song. He tells me about Ben Harper. Alex is in my cabin and we ask him to sing Waiting on an Angel every time we see him.

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The Parting Glass 

It is dark and I think we are in the sauna and I am in PIT and Lewis is singing.

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Me vs Madonna vs Elvis – Brand New

I am at camp and Jesse is singing. Molly and Joannah are there and we don’t know the name of the song so we call it the sad song. Joannah doesn’t like the sad song, but Molly and I keep asking Jesse to sing it. He always does.

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I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing – Aerosmith

I am directing a camp for the first time and a cabin sings this song at the talent show. They pull me and Amy up to the front and sing it to us. We are extremely suspicious of their intentions and at the end of the song they pour cupfuls of glitter on us and it takes me days if not weeks to get it out of my hair.

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Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional

I am driving in a car with Amy and we are screaming this song at the top of our lungs.

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Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Glynis and I are singing this song at a coffee house or talent show of some sort. It does not go well. There are too many words and we have not practiced enough. When I think that maybe I want to sing in front of people, this is the memory I pull up to remind myself I don’t.

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Lies – Chvrches

I am driving to the mill with my brother and it is very early but there is a beautiful sunrise and the bottoms of all the clouds are pink. He introduces me to Chvrches, they are new and only have a few songs out. We listen to this song often.

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Moles – The Courage

I am at a little outdoor amphitheatre at a small college in Spokane and it is my 23rd birthday. I am seeing Noah Gundersen for the first time and I am standing at the front and he is so close and I can’t believe I am there. I am so entirely and perfectly happy and he plays this song. I have never heard it before and it is beautiful.

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Undone – The Sweater Song – Weezer

I am in COLTS and Josh sings this song every single time he puts on, takes off, or is wearing a sweater of any kind. I am sure it was not quite as often as my memory tells me, but seriously, in my memory he is ALWAYS singing it.

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Bronte – Gotye

I live in Lethbridge and am going to the University. My roommate shows me the music video for this song and tells me it made her cry. I am having trouble sleeping so I make a playlist that is just this song five times in a row and then I listen to it on repeat until I finally fall asleep.

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Closer – Tegan and Sara

Glynis and I are at a Towers and Trees show in the basement of a bar in Calgary. They play a cover of this song and we dance. The lead singer is dancing in the crowd and now I can never hear this song without thinking it needs more tambourine.

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Broken Song – Towers and Trees

I am laying in the shade at the back of Annex Park in Fernie half asleep in the afternoon. Wapiti is going on and Haley and I are taking a break from the sun. This song gets to the bridge and we both wake up and slowly sit up and fumble for the schedule to find out who is making this beautiful noise. We go and meet them when the set is done and the lead singer is very nice.

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Words in the Water – Thrice

It is 2012 and I am leading PIT. Sami is singing.

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I Could Have Been Your Girl – She & Him

I am driving along the north coast of Tasmania. The ocean is on my left and is so close. The sun is shining and I am peaceful and happy.

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Dust Bowl Dance – Mumford and Sons

I am in the basement of the sawmill by the head end of the 1085 belt. I am sweeping the concrete in a dark corner around a waste conveyor.

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Two – Ryan Adams

I am sitting in the living room and my brother is teaching me how to play a song with him on the guitar. I don’t really know the song while he is teaching me, but then we play it and it is this song.

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San Antonio Fading – Noah Gundersen

I am driving by myself in my car, I think somewhere between Cranbrook and the Crowsnest Pass, and even though I have heard this song a hundred times I listen to it and it makes me cry.

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Friday – Rebecca Black/Glee

I am in Graham’s old civic. We both live and work at camp and we are driving into town to help with youth group. It is Friday. We only listen to the Glee version because it is this weird thing where there is a combination of two things that we don’t really like (Glee + Friday) that makes a thing we like. There are often lenticular clouds.

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Thunder – Imagine Dragons

I am in Vancouver with my dad watching the Maori All Blacks. I am excited, more excited than I thought I’d be when I bought the tickets. The All Blacks crush Canada and I love every minute of it.

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The Calling – The Killers

I am in the TSB Bank Arena in Wellington and the band has just come out for the encore and Brandon is wearing a ridiculously shiny golden suit. I am covered in confetti and streamers and I am perfectly happy.

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New Slang – The Shins

I am in Wellington by myself walking down Courtenay Place. It is busy and I have my headphones in. People are swarming and weaving around me and it feels like I am in an indie movie.

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Occasionally an entire album has a distinct and vivid memory attached.

Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park

I am 10 years old. I just got a new discman and I am using it to play this cd over and over and over while I do my paper route. I listen to the same cd every single day. When Papercut starts I can actually see the sidewalk and the houses on my old street.

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A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out – Panic! At The Disco

It is 2010. I am in my first semester at the U of L and I am taking Biomechanics. The final is worth a very large percentage of my final grade and it is not a particularly easy class. I close myself off in the basement of the library for a full week to try and study. I listen to this album for the first time and then listen to it incessantly for the entire week.

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Goodnight – William Fitzsimmons

I am in Tasmania. I listen to this album while I am falling asleep every night.

Two Healthcare Anecdotes

I have had recurring shoulder pain for about five years now, to the degree that, when it’s really bad, I have to screw my courage to the sticking place and grit my teeth to do things like open car doors, change my shirt, or do any kind of reaching/pushing/pulling. It’s not always that bad, sometimes it pretty much goes away, and sometimes it’s just a dull ache, and sometimes it only hurts when I make a big, sudden motion, but when it’s bad it’s awful. Recently it has been bad all the time. There wasn’t a big injury that started all of this off, I think my joints were just fatigued.

When it first started, I was confused and in pain for about a week before making a short-notice appointment at my doctor’s office, and since they don’t do walk-in appointments the receptionist asked if I wanted to see a doctor other than my usual doctor, as she was booked pretty solid. My shoulder hurt so much that I would gasp and almost cry every time I had to use it to get out of my car, so I said yes. On the day of my appointment, the (male) doctor moved my arms around, but didn’t do tests other than looking at my range of motion. I explained that it didn’t hurt when he moved my arm in circle, it hurt when I moved it in an outward motion, but he didn’t ask me to show him the painful motion, and didn’t feel my shoulder joint, and he seemed annoyed with me that I had come in and had an alright range of motion. He said, “it’s inflamed, take an ibuprofen,” and left the exam room.

On Thursday I went to the doctor again. Between my first appointment and my second one, the shoulder pain had escaped the bounds of my left shoulder and had begun to affect my right shoulder as well. If my left started hurting, I knew it was only a matter of time before my right started hurting just as the left eased up. It was an unpleasant cycle of shoulder distress. In the past year or so, my right shoulder got worse and worse and worse while my left remained at about the same level of bad. On the day of my appointment, my (female) doctor felt my shoulder joints, asked about the nature of the pain, asked me to show her the painful movements, demonstrated where I had weakness in my arms by having me push against her arms, had me show her my range of motion beyond doing arm circles, and when I said “that hurt right here,” pointing at a spot on my shoulder joint, she said, “it’s your bursa in your joint that’s causing you trouble, you pointed right at it.” She told me that I have tendinitis in my left shoulder and bursitis in my right shoulder. And then, she said that for the bursitis she recommended a steroid injection, and if I went down to the pharmacy to get it, she could do the shot right now. I left my appointment with two actual diagnoses, and a freshly jabbed shoulder joint, and an exhortation to go the physio.

When women talk about not being believed by healthcare professionals, it extends beyond reproductive health and into the rest of the body. I was so hurt and upset by the first appointment and the irritated “it’s inflamed” comment, so anxious that I had overreacted to my own pain, so put off by the interaction, that it took me five years to talk to a doctor about it again. I decided that I must just be being a baby, and the doctor made it pretty clear that I had just wasted his time, so it seemed better to me to just live with severe shoulder pain which has affected my life in a myriad of ways rather than hear another “you have inflammation, take an ibuprofen” from a doctor who didn’t care about me or believe me.

It took a long time (and a traumatic IUD experience) to build enough trust with my doctor to ask her about my shoulders. It had to get to the point where my right shoulder hurt all the time, and I would be icing it and taking painkillers multiple times a week. I played down how much it hurt to myself and to Josh, and didn’t mention it to many other people. I broke down crying Thursday night, overwhelmed by the feeling of being believed and being told that I was right, there is a serious problem, and that I know my body well enough to say “this is where it hurts, and this is how”. I’m imagining my life with a shoulder that isn’t constantly in pain, and it’s a marked improvement.

The thing is, this isn’t the only pair of healthcare stories I have where a male doctor dismissed my knowledge of my own body and didn’t believe me, and where I had to build up trust for years to even mention the same, continuing issue to my doctor. I know I’m not the only woman who has these stories, and while I also understand that having a doctor who is a woman when you’re a woman isn’t a universal cure-all, still, if you have a uterus, I cannot recommend finding and going to a doctor who also has a uterus highly enough.