Why would I shovel while knee-deep in snow? (and other questions)

pillsSo, obviously, I did that; on Sunday, while attempting to fashion a backyard luge for the kids, I picked up a shovel full of snow, twisted a bit weirdly due to the fact that I had no range of motion in my lower legs, and felt a little twinge in my lower back. After another hour or so outside, it was a bit more than a twinge, so I came in and put an ice pack on it. I didn’t sleep well that night, despite Robaxacet. The next day, more muscle relaxant medicine, more ice, and off about my business.

It is Wednesday now, and it’s still bothering me, so I figured I’d go see a doctor and get a prescription for some massage treatments. So, I tell my tale, I get my massage prescription, and I am asked if I’d like to try an anti-inflammatory to see if that eases it.

“Like Advil?” I ask. But I’m told I’d need about 12 Advil a day to really see much improvement, and that would be awfully hard on my stomach. The suggestion is a different medicine – a prescribed one called Vimovo.

“Sure,” I say, and I go fill the prescription and take one right away.

When I get home I read the bit that the pharmacist has highlighted on the information sheet, and am surprised to see some of the side effects that appear in neon yellow:

back pain?!?
burning or discomfort of stomach
constipation
cough
diarrhea
dizziness
gas
headache
indigestion
impaired sense of taste
inflammation of sinuses
nausea
upper and lower stomach pain
upper respiratory tract infection (i.e., common cold, flu)
joint pain?!?!

Seriously? Check out the first and last ones – aren’t they the very issues that took me to the doctor in the first place?!?

It also states that this medication is used to treat osteoarthritis, and then in an “all-new” warning from Health Canada: Several scientific studies suggest that this medication may be associated with a small increased risk for fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine related to osteoporosis, a disease resulting in the weakening of bones.

Nice. So potentially, I could be going from mildly uncomfortable lower back pain into a fracture of the spine.

Oh, and my personal favourite?

This medication is associated with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The risk is increased with higher total daily doses and taking the medication over a long period of time. People with a history of heart disease (e.g., heart attack, stroke, heart failure, blood vessel disorders) or who have risk factors for heart disease (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, kidney disease) should discuss with their doctor how this medication may affect their medical condition, how their medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Good God!

So, here’s a new lesson I need to teach my children – ask questions. Lots of them. Don’t simply accept what people say or do based on their authority. Be judicious in your choices of medical treatment. I don’t need those pills, and the one I took today will be the last one I take until I have explored some other, less side-effect fraught, options. I’m not unable to function; I am uncomfortable. That’s all. Is that worth the risk of all those other potential side-effects? Not right now. Not to me.

And yes, I know they have to put every possible complication on the packages these days, no matter how minute the risk – even a box of Smarties probably poses many similar risks.

And, yes, if I needed medication, I would take it, regardless of those risks; I am not being naive, or “bashing” modern medicine in any way. When I need medicine – to keep me alive, or even just to keep me comfortable – I will be taking it. Without a doubt. But aren’t we quick to accept medications – no questions asked? To be fair to the doctor, he didn’t really know me well, and I might have been in much more pain than I actually was, and that medication is probably completely benign in the short term, with zero potential serious side-effects. So, I’m not bashing the medical profession either. It’s about me, really, and my children, and the fact that I want us to make informed choices based on what we learn and discover by asking questions and researching. There will always be someone who knows more. Did I ask that doctor about side-effects? No. And when the pharmacy employee asked if I’d like to speak to a pharmacist about the medication, did I? No. This is not about them. It’s about us.

On another note, I took my youngest daughter (who is often complimented on her lovely straight teeth) for an orthodontic consultation a couple of days ago on the recommendation of her dentist, and after listening to all the “flaws” the orthodontist listed, she was pretty convinced she needed braces, and so was I at the time – blinded by the reading of numbers and the showing of X-rays. I’m not quite so convinced two days later. I think that a large percentage of our current population has probably managed quite well with an 80% overbite. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most of those people are blissfully unaware they even have an overbite. And again, if and when a person needs such treatments, I’m all for them. The power of a beautiful smile cannot be overstated. But really? Does everyone need to get braces?

Questions. Lots and lots of questions. Which none of my kids would be naturally inclined to ask a professional – a voice of authority.

Sigh. I’ve got some work to do.

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New Experiences – The Levees

tankNow, I realize right off the top that this post has little to nothing to do with roadschooling or travelling, but I think we can make some tenuous connections based on the fact that it relates to new experiences, and also includes a war museum. And a person might want to take their kids to visit this war museum on a different occasion, one that does not include alcolholic beverages, obviously. And as so often happened while we were travelling, this new experience has inspired me to write. So, relevant or not, here goes!

According to Wikipedia, the definition of a New Year’s Day Levee is this: The levée is a New Year’s Day social event hosted by the Governor General of Canada, the lieutenant governors, military establishments, municipalities and other institutions.
I had never actually been to one until this year, and I really didn’t know what it was all about, except that people seemed to get all dressed up and drink a lot, neither of which really appeal to me, if I’m honest. But this year, I went. And what a strange and surreal experience it was. The first establishment we entered, I was surprised that there was a line-up of name-tagged “officials” we were to shake hands with on the way in – very much like a wake, really. Except more cheerful. And obviously the “Sorry for your loss” greeting was replaced by “Happy New Year”. After the line-up, there was a table stacked with cookies and squares and other little treats, followed by another table well-stocked with non-alcoholic punch, and very alcoholic “moose milk”. Delish. And this is about 10:30 am – not my usual moose-milk-and-square-eating time, but hey, who’s complaining?
Then, it’s off to the Armouries. Now this one was a hoot. I laughed inside my head the whole hour we were there, because where else could a person enter a large hall, shake hands with military officers on the way in, be served seafood chowder by camouflage-clad soldiers, and drink rum and coke, while listening to Eighties classic hits (like Thrilller!?!) played by a live military band? Oh, and also peruse war memorabilia in the museum while still sipping on the afore-mentioned rum and coke? Bizarre.

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The Inspiration of Stats

mapI remember way back in June of 2012, before our roadschooling adventure had even begun, I posted about stats, and how darned exciting they were. And they are! It still gives me a thrill to write for an actual audience of actual people, especially when they come from so many different places. As a kid, I used to cut maps out of National Geographic magazines and stick them in a scrapbook, just because I liked them, so when I see that WordPress map with the countries of my “visitors” coloured in – well, you can imagine my excitement. And even though I only posted four times in 2014, I received my “Blog Report” on Dec. 31 informing me that in the past year I had 2900 visitors from 78 different countries. From four posts! I need to get back at it – imagine what would happen if I blogged once a week, or even once a month. Actually, that seems like a reasonable goal – once a month. Starting tomorrow. Promise.

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Our Own Space

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It is just over one year since we left Europe; it’s hard to believe it was that long ago, and as I reflect on that final leg of the journey, I remember being sad that the adventure was almost over, yet excited at the prospect of home. Most of our year had been spent either all cramped into small places together, or living in someone else’s space, and as much as we appreciated both, the thought of our own space again was pretty exciting (although that didn’t happen until September when we finished building our new home!).

It is interesting to think about what effect that space-sharing has had on us as a family. Our two older daughters formed an amazing bond while we were travelling, strengthened by the fact that they spent many nights in the same room, if not in the same bed! We used to lie in our bed listening to the incessant giggling, and while it did drive us nuts at times, it often made us smile too. Until about midnight. Then there was no more smiling to be done. Just a bit of yelling and threatening, generally.

This giggle-fest would often happen in the car too, as we drove seemingly endless hours through Europe. They invented entire worlds to entertain themselves into delirium, complete with characters, lives, theme songs, book title spin-offs – I would go on, but in reality, I have no idea. Very little of it was accessible to my far too sensible adult brain!

As we look at photographs and reminisce, the memories that come to them are almost always  associated with some sort of “nonsense”!

And now that we have our own space again, and they are not forced together so often,  I think they miss each other sometimes. Combined with friends, school, extra-curricular activities, phones, and iPods, all this space makes for a distinct lack of connection sometimes.

As happy as I am to be settled in our new house, and have our own bedrooms, and lots of  space in which to retreat, I do recognize that all this space can sometimes have a negative effect on family relationships, especially as our daughters become teenagers and have a more natural inclination toward friends. And not only our immediate family relationships, but our extended ones as well – we have been a bit reclusive since we moved in here, actually. I think we are so relieved to have the space, and so tired from creating the space (still a work in progress), that we don’t tend to invite family and friends over nearly as often as we used to.

We have been making a conscious effort to cultivate that time together – have some sister “sleep-overs”, and family read-alouds or movies. And now that summer’s coming, we can have some family outdoor adventures too – some camping maybe? We really do need to find ways to hang on to those bonds that were created while we were travelling. I suspect camping will work – shove us all in a tent together for a few days to recreate some of that forced closeness we experienced as we travelled! Add a little discomfort and it will be truly authentic…maybe it will rain, or the airbed will deflate in the night. Ah, then we will bond for sure!

We  are so lucky to have what we have and to live where we live. We just need to be careful; it’s easy to get lost when you have so much space and comfort.
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I’m so not happy right now!

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Says our youngest daughter on the way to school this morning.

“Why?” I ask her.

“Because I’m not in Europe! While we were there I didn’t really like it, but now I just want to be back in Monterroso – it was so cool there!”

This sudden wish to be in Europe was spurred by a visit from a friend last night who is about to take a trip to Cinque Terra. The girls were advising him on where to stay, how to find the local beach to avoid paying for the overpriced loungers, where to snorkel, the best food to eat – Nutella and breadsticks, naturally – and how he might not want to bother with the long, hot, sticky hike from. Monterroso to Vernazza. But if he does do it, he should look out for the strange cat on a table under a tree half way up the second mountain, just there, in the middle of nowhere.

I guess this visit inspired a bit of nostalgia in them.

And now, this morning, our oldest daughter headed off on a French Club trip to Montreal and Ottawa, all set to compare Paris’ Notre Dame with its namesake in Montreal, visit Parliament, The Biodome, and the Olympic Stadium where her cousin competed for England in 1976.

How things come full circle…

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Daddy/Daughter Stuff

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The other night, we went to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. I’ve been before, and these extreme adventure films usually do one of two things – they either make me feel depressed and inadequate because I don’t do any extreme adventure things and I’m not outdoorsy enough, or they inspire me to get outdoors, travel more, and spend more time with the kids.
This year’s crop of films did both, as usual, but weirdly, the one I found most inspiring was Spice Girl – a film about a little blond UK rock climber. I say “weirdly” because rock climbing is something I would never do. But I always loved to watch Dev rock climbing, and I love the places in the UK where the rock climbing happens. Almscliffe Crag, Otley Chevin, Stanage Edge, Ilkley, Malham Cove…places like these are so stunningly wild and beautiful that you don’t need to be a climber to enjoy and appreciate them.
Rock Climbing is a fascinating sport that demands such physical strength and agility, but also an incredible amount of mental clarity, stamina, and courage. Because if you fall off, you get hurt. I guess thats why it provides such an adrenalin rush, and pushes people to do things that are more and more difficult and dangerous. I really admire that in climbers. But the other thing climbing does is inspire a love of nature and the outdoors. And I want that for our kids, whatever their interests.
Anyway, I think part of the reason this film moved me so much was the unexpectedness of this hardcore traditional climber being the pretty little blond – gotta love smashing the stereotypes. And also, the relationship she had with her father through climbing. It makes me think of our middle daughter, and the relationship she could have with her dad through climbing. If we lived near any rocks. Or even a climbing wall. She has always loved the idea of climbing, and unlike her mother, she has no fear of heights whatsoever. She had a little bit of an opportunity to experience climbing while we travelled, and even a bit of what I would call “extreme hiking” at places like Carancas Gorge in the Pyrenees (when she was the only one brave enough to follow her father around a crazy ledge about 1000 feet up).
Our little Island does not offer much in the way of rock. Sandstone cliffs are a bit on the crumbly side. Don’t get me wrong – it offers many many things, and that’s why we live here, but it definitely limits any fulfillment of a passion for climbing. So, what to do? How to help cultivate that climber/climber’s daughter relationship in our own family? I’m thinking we might have to take a few road trips to The Mainland this summer! Find some rocks for our own little Spice Girl to climb with her daddy!
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Persuasion

Got this letter in the mail recently. With a stamp and everything…

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Thank You

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I remember leaving Paris last November early in the morning, taking the cab to the secure parking lot on the edge of the city where we had housed our car, then realizing that in the very rushed exit from our apartment, we had not loaded the map onto the ipad. We had no paper map, and we knew that if we didn’t get out of the city now, it would be “rush hour”, and I was pretty sure we didn’t want to be trying to navigate the spaghetti-like roads in that! We managed, though, but again, it seemed a lot more stressful than it should have been…in retrospect, we should have chilled a bit more.

Anyway, the point was, leaving Paris in such a state – we briefly considered driving straight to Brugges rather than trying to find our way to Vimy Ridge, and then on to Belgium that same day. This very humbling poem that Darragh wrote yesterday for the local Legion’s Remembrance Day Poetry Contest makes me so glad we didn’t give in to our rather pathetic impulse to take the easier route.

Thank You

Last November, I was at Vimy Ridge

As I walked up the gravel path

The huge memorial appeared through the mist

Tall and graceful yet strong and powerful it stood.

On it were precise carvings – people in cloth,

Looking up to the sky.

Names carved in marble, names of soldiers who have died for us.

As my dad lectures on about wartime, I imagine:

Soldiers crawl up the bombed trenches

Aiming and shooting

Guns fire

Mud squelches under their boots as they run

Sheltering their heads with their hands

Escaping.

A bomb drops and the earth erupts in a torn explosion

Faces.

Some dead, some wounded, some dripping with tears

All expressionless, waiting for good news.

Hope.

A soldier yells as one of his friends is taken by a bullet.

He ducks, but I can feel his tears. Feel his pain.

Rain parades onto the dead landscape

As more guns fire and bombs explode.

I look up at the huge memorial.

Strong and Proud.

A small ray of light breaks through the fog –

That ray of hope soldiers waited for and never got.

That ray of light I now look at freely.

“Thank you”, I whisper to the breeze.

But I am really whispering to the soldiers who

Saved my country and my life.

Because of them, I see this sunlight.

Because of them, I have this hope.

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More inspiration

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My Log Cabin by Mairi

Remember how I mentioned Mairi writing about the Lake District and sending it to her Nana? Well, while I’m embarking on this new reminiscing/publishing-my-children’s-writing thing, here it is; we were all inspired by this place, and the inspiration is lasting, apparently!

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