Do you think it’s nearly over?

Could it be? I have started doing my own groceries but I do still wear a mask. My bridge group is now meeting in person. I ventured out to Temples Sugarbush (my favourite) earlier this month for their pancake breakfast. I have booked tickets to see a Celtic Illusion concert at TD place in late April – a mix of Celtic dancing and magic!! Again, I will likely wear a mask. I’m more hopeful than ever that my twice delayed holiday in Abruzzo, Italy will actually happen in September. My brother and his wife are coming for an Easter visit – haven’t seen them for over 2 years. Surely these are signs that either COVID is coming to an end or I have decided to try to “live” with it. Either way, it’s an improvement.

My advocacy group on changing the way care is given in Long-term Care homes has achieved a major milestone. As I type, the chair of my group, along with representatives from CARP National are meeting with Premier Doug Ford who expressed an interest in learning more about emotion-based models of care in LTC homes. It’s hard to imagine he hasn’t heard of this stuff before – but it’s a chance to actually have his ear in a private zoom meeting. I sure wish I could be a fly on the wall! Building many new Institution-like buildings for LTC is not the answer unless the way care is delivered drastically changes. Also today is another of our Lunch & Learn webinars – this one on a new village concept for LTC in Comox, B.C. – including the important emotion-based care we are striving to achieve. We are hoping to make this an election issue with provincial elections coming along in June of this year.

My friends, neighbours, family, and Herbie (my kitty) have kept me on an even keel over the past 2 years of lock-downs, vaccinations, boosters, etc. I think I could easily become a complete hermit as I found I didn’t mind staying at home, being lazy, reading, watching garbage TV (other than Sens games), etc. Life is becoming a little bit more “normal” these days as I watch my calendar fill up with face-to-face appointments (what a novel idea), bridge games and other outings with friends and family.

I hope you are all finding your own “normal” these days and that you are well and at least content.



Getting Involved in the Long-term Care Issue

A while ago, I wrote an email to Premier Doug Ford, Ministers Christine Elliott and Dr. Merrillee Fullerton – and I copied C.A.R.P. Ottawa – just because I had seen a number of articles from them on LTC. Having spent so much time in a LTC home when Mom was a resident of one – and then visits to my Aunt after that – I had a few things to say.

I didn’t hear back from Ford, Elliott or Fullerton, but I did get a call from Kathy Wright, Volunteer Board Member of C.A.R.P. Ottawa and Chair of the C.A.R.P. Advisory Working Group on Transformative Culture Change in LTC Homes. To make a long story short, I was invited to join the group, first as a guest, and then as a permanent member. We are now 6 members with help from other C.A.R.P. Chapters and organizations.

The Vision of the group is to have all LTC homes adopt an innovative model of care which looks like this: A warm, caring environment that feels like home and supports quality of life (ideally 8-12 residents). A place where all residents, staff and families are treated with dignity and respect. A place where the care is person-centered addressing resident needs – both physical and emotional, with adequate well trained full-time staff and adequate hours of “direct care” and a focus on empathy. A place where routines, schedules and activities are flexible and match resident preferences, needs and abilities. A team approach that recognizes families and caregivers as integral parts of the team and where relationships between/among staff, residents, families and volunteers thrive.

Our Mission is to raise awareness – not so much of the issues with the current system – they are already well documented – but to make people aware of how urgent real culture change is in LTC homes and of the options right under their noses. Several locations in Ontario – and even one in Ottawa – have begun or completed the transformation to one of four known successful and innovative models of care developed in different parts of the world. They are all very similar. The model most followed in Ontario is the Butterfly Model, developed in the U.K.

Results of this kind of transformation include an improved quality of care and of life, reduced boredom, helplessness and loneliness, an increase in social engagement, reduced agitation and neuropsychiatric symptoms resulting in a significant reduction in anti-psychotic drugs, reduced falls and hospital visits, reduced staff sick time, and staff feel valued and part of a community with the residents and families. Most of these results come with cost savings. Two of the units where the transition is complete were able to do so under the existing funding model and any initial outlay of costs were recouped in as few as 18 months. And – they did all of this while still meeting Ministry requirements!!

So – why aren’t the rest of the 630+ LTC homes in Ontario lining up to make this transition?? It seems like a no-brainer. Right now, it feels like we have a very tall mountain to climb. It is ever thus when government is involved and where real leadership is needed to invest in something relatively new. We will keep plugging along – we all feel very strongly about what it will take to “fix” LTC properly. The group did have a chance to do a presentation to the “Independent Commission” set up by Ford and we are anxiously awaiting their report due end of April.

If you have ideas or contacts you feel might be helpful – bring them on!

Long Ma and Kumo

For those of you who don’t live in Ottawa, for the past 4 days we have had magical (and huge) creatures roaming our downtown streets.  The story behind this is as follows:

From the ninth level of heaven, Long Ma—a cosmic creature who is half-horse, half-dragon—keeps watch over humanity. But a sinister force that has taken the form of a giant spider slips into his home as he sleeps, burning his wings and robbing his sacred temple. From this time forth, the Dragon-Horse roams the seven seas in search of his missing temple. 

The giant spider, Kumo, takes refuge in Ottawa, the mother-city of all spiders. Buried deep beneath the waves, the temple remains concealed. But the recent work undertaken by the city to build Ottawa’s new transit line has disturbed Kumo, and she is forced to emerge from the ground. Her power depleted, the spider becomes vulnerable and loses control of the temple, which reappears in the city. Alerted by this apparition, Long Ma sets out on the route taken by Champlain several centuries earlier, with the intention of recovering his temple of travel, a shrine that he alone has the power to properly restore.”

Part dragon and part horse, Long Ma stands 12 metres high, 5 metres wide and weighs 45 tons.  With his piercing gaze, Long Ma scours the crowd and interacts with them as his neck rises, lowers and oscillates from left to right. His rib cage swells under the pressure of his lungs.

Beautiful and repulsive, aggressive and gentle, Kumo, the giant spider, will give you chills. Her eight legs and body that synchronize as she crawls around town gracefully. Like a dancer, she wanders, steps over trees, streetlights and bus shelters… At rest, she is 5.7 metres high and 6 metres wide, but she can reach up to 13 metres when in motion.  Fully outstretched, she is about 20 metres long.

The story plays out with a spectacular finale and, of course, Long Ma wins back his wings.

While I sure don’t like the idea of Ottawa being the mother-city of all spiders – this was extremely well done.  The company who made and managed these creatures is in France.

The pictures below were taken by a friend (and very talented photographer), Don Douglas.

The Beautiful Rhine

Now that I’ve ranted about the travel part of our trip – I can leave the negatives behind and talk about the good things.

Our ship – the MS Gerard Schmitter – was very nice – part of the CroisiEurope fleet of river boats – a french company.  It was built in 2012 with 87 cabins and a capacity for 174 passengers.  It sure seemed to be completely booked!  The cabins were small but completely functional.  We were all on the top deck (one below the sun deck) so we had french balconies.  Unfortunately it was so cold and windy, opening the patio doors was NOT going to happen – at least not for any longer than was needed to bring a blast of fresh air into the cabin.

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Breakfast was always buffet style and our group got into the habit of boiling eggs rather than trying to eat what passed for scrambled eggs and bacon.   One had to hook your egg onto a coloured gadget (then you had to remember which colour was yours), and time it, hoping it wouldn’t fall of into the tub of boiling, or almost-boiling water.  We got pretty good at this.  There was lots of choice – cereals, croissants, fruit, yogurt, etc. etc.

Lunch was always a formal 4-course meal as was dinner.  We usually had some options for the dinner entree.  There was never a shortage of food – in fact, it was usually way too much food – but always french, always delicious and beautifully served.  Wine flowed at lunch and then starting with happy hour in a small lounge at the rear of the ship, continued through dinner.  There were even some non-wine options included – beer, rum, scotch, etc.  Premium drinks such as single malt scotch or grand marnier were at your own cost – but there was more than enough alcohol !! If you were still interested in more – post-dinner drinks were also provided!

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Everything about Europe is so full of history!  Buildings are older than we can imagine and towns full of cobblestone and fascinating architecture.  Bicycles are the main mode of transportation and they were EVERYWHERE!  They seem to have the right of way no matter what so you had to take care not to get run over by one!  We had a few days in Amsterdam and area including a canal tour (beautiful city, full of life), a tour of Volendam – pretty little fishing village including a cheese factory visit and windmills.  I completely missed Arnhem due to a nasty tummy bug that flattened me – I slept for 36 hours straight! Then it was on to Cologne where we sampled some lovely local beer, followed by lots and lots of vineyards and castles and the Rock of Loreley on the section of the river called The Romantic Rhine.  In Rudesheim we had a tour by sightseeing train, and then a visit to a local winery with tasting (of course) – and a visit to a very unusual Music Museum.  We decided to stay in town rather than dine on the ship so we found a great German restaurant and had our fill of schnitzel etc.  We had been told we mustn’t miss the infamous Rudesheim Kaffee – so, of course, we sampled that too.  Our next stop was Heidelberg where we toured the Castle and the old town and then finally our last stop – Strasbourg where we had a city tour and a very unique farewell dinner in the Maison Kammerzell – a famous restaurant opened in 1427 where the rich and famous and the royal dine.  You can imagine our surprise when after a lovely pate, we were served pork hocks and scalloped potatoes!!!

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We travelled well as a group – there were 11 of us in our little group of friends.  It was a busy 9 days without much down-time but that’s the nature of a “tour”.  You see a little bit of a lot of places but nothing in any great detail.  We did have some free time in a few stops which was great!  One says it gives you an overview and an idea of where you would like to return and spend time.  That’s a great theory if you are 30 and have oodles of time to re-visit the places you especially liked!!  For me, it was a lovely taste of many beautiful towns and cities and doing it on the water was perfect – there was always a great view.

We had good local tours, well informed local guides, a great Collette tour leader, fabulous food, comfortable beds, friendly staff on the ship, more alcohol than we could consume (another sign of our getting older) and enough castles to last a lifetime!

River cruises are lovely – casual and intimate when compared with large ship cruising.  But – this may end up being the last “tour” type of holiday I take.  The travel is difficult, and the tour pace faster than I like to (or am able to) go.  A “stay put” vacation is calling to me – not sure yet where the next one will take me!


Wonderful Prince Edward Island

It has been way too long since I last posted something to this blog and I apologize for having gone “Missing”!!!

I returned from a fabulous one-week stay at a cottage on Prince Edward Island a couple of weeks ago. One week simply wasn’t enough.  The weather was perfect, the scenery so beautiful, the seafood over-the-top yummy, the COWS Dairy Ice Cream the best EVER and the people just as open and friendly as I remember them from when I attended school in Charlottetown as a 17-year-old.

Speaking of having gone to school in PEI, one of the highlights of this recent trip was meeting up with my friend and former dorm-mate, Phyllis (aka Turtle) and her husband Charlie.  They were both in my class way back then.  Chas makes his own wine – so I was super glad not to have been the designated driver the evening we were invited to dinner at their home. My friends had to suffer an evening of remembering story after story and they were very good about doing so!  How very special it is to still be in touch after all these years!

The cottage we rented was next door to Chelton Provincial Park on the Northumberland Strait, in view of the Confederation Bridge, and worked out very well for 4 women – with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a lovely screened in porch. It was as clean as a whistle and could actually sleep 10 people with 1 queen bed, 2 double beds, 1 sofa bed and a pair of bunk beds.  If anyone is interested in this cottage as a rental for another year, let me know and I can give you the owners’ co-ordinates.

Our car was, without asking, upgraded to a fancy Ford Edge with every bell and whistle known to man.  I think we figured most of them out over the course of the 1400km we managed to put on it.  My favourite feature was the automatic bright lights when driving at night.  When a car approached coming towards us, the lights automatically dimmed and then went back to bright when the car had gone by.  The voice controlled GPS was fun too!

We stomped our feet and clapped our hands at a Ross Family Ceilidh in Stanley Bridge, ate a huge 5-course lobster dinner in New Glasgow (chowder, all-you-can-eat mussels, salad plate, lobster and then pie or strawberry shortcake), visited many lighthouses and beaches (including Cavendish and Basin Head), saw the musical Anne of Green Gables, visited Avonlea Village, the PEI Preserve Company, the “bottle house” – a series of full-size buildings made from glass bottles held together with mortar, shopped in Summerside and Charlottetown and before you know it, the week was over.  We hadn’t even had time to really relax!!!  Another week would have been perfect to allow for some real down-time and beach-lazing.  Maybe another year!

All in all, it was a great vacation – good friends, good weather and a great location!

Ann of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

East Point

East Point

Basin Head

Basin Head

Sand Dunes

Sand Dunes

Riding on the Beach at Sunset

Riding on the Beach at Sunset

The Cottage

The Cottage





Lobster Traps

Lobster Traps

Lobster Dinner, New Glasgow

Lobster Dinner, New Glasgow

The Confederation Bridge

The Confederation Bridge

The "Bottle Chapel"

The “Bottle Chapel”

The Bottle House

The Bottle House

a Ceilidh

a Ceilidh

Tide is out

Tide is out

on the North Coastal Route

on the North Coastal Route


The starting point of  a fun evening last night was a leisurely dinner at Baan Thai – if you haven’t been there – give it a try – it is extremely good (on Centrepointe Drive in a small plaza).  There were 7 of us for dinner.  You do need reservations – it’s a small, cozy place.  The most difficult part of dining there is making a choice from the menu.  Thank goodness there are appetizer portions of some of the options.

From there we went to the theatre to see The Bee Gees and ABBAmania, and were joined by 3 more friends, making our group 10.  The first half of the concert  (Bee Gees) had the entire audience (most of us with grey or covered-up grey hair) on its feet – some even dancing in the aisle at the front.  The group was very good.  They didn’t necessarily look like the originals – but they had the sound down pat. There was lots of opportunity to sing along and they invited us to do so no matter what it all sounded like.  The second half was a group (3 from Ontario cottage country and 1 from Texas) called ABBAmania.  They, too, sounded very much like the originals.  I guess ABBA music isn’t quite as conducive to sing-a-longs and dancing – and they did more songs from Mama Mia than anything else (missing, in my opinion, some great ABBA tunes) – but it was also great entertainment.

Our next Centrepointe outing will be to an Elvis extravaganza in June.  Now THAT will be fabulous.  Does anyone know where I can find a pair of saddleshoes, a reversible pleated skirt and a kitten cardigan (worn backwards, of course) ???


My Life with Cats

We always had a dog while I was growing up.  I love dogs but when I decided to get myself a pet about 20 or so years ago, I was working full time and long hours at that.  A dog needs more time and attention than I was able to provide so I opted for a cat.

My first kittie was a rescue cat who came with a French name “Virgule” – which translates in English into “Comma”.  What a strange name for a cat!!  Virgule immediately became “Max”.  He was about 3 years old and a lovely striped grey tabby.  Max and I were learning how to manage a cat together – they sure aren’t like dogs!!  Here Max! – usually resulted in the opening of one eye and a sultry look as if to say “say, what…..???”.  I learned that, with cats, the sound of the can opener or shaking the treat bag does the trick.

After about 4 months, Max had his first episode – it was like a very strange and frightening seizure during which he became first very still and then he flung himself at me and bit!  Let me tell you, a cat bite is nothing to sneeze at!  Immediately after the “event”, Max would return to completely normal.  After I while, I realized that these seizures were often triggered by too much stimulation – if he was over happy, over mad, over playful – the result was not good.  He was a very large tabby and many of my friends were scared of him.  Other than the episodes, he was a very loving, friendly, cat and I loved him.

The vet was very interested in what was going on with Max (now known as Mad Max) so she consulted with the folks at the Guelph Veterinary College and learned that Max had what was called “Conflict Behaviour” – some wires in his little brain would get crossed every now and then and the result was a seizure and attack behaviour.  I got pretty good at getting something between us.  He didn’t need to bite me, he just needed to go through the motions – so a hit on a pillow or a magazine was just fine and then he was back to “normal”.  Options were to keep him sedated – I chose not to do this.  What good is a pet on drugs and dopey??

When Max was about 12, he started to lose weight.  Blood work was done – but because of his “attitude”, he had to be sedated for this.  Things went downhill from there and before the diagnosis could be finalized (it was a thyroid problem), Max went into a thyroid storm and his heart gave out.

I was devastated.  I cried as if I’d lost my very best friend.

Three weeks later I was poking on the internet and looking at various breeds of cats.  I came upon a Chantilly Tiffany up for adoption – in Kingston.  I headed out, cat carrier in hand – you can be sure I was going to come home with a cat.  Olivia was her name – 1 year old – all chocolate brown –even her nose and the pads on the bottom of her feet.   The breeder was willing to let her go since her mother, for some reason, wouldn’t tolerate her, they were constantly having to rescue her from harm – and her hair wasn’t quite long enough for “show”.  My cousin, Steve, actually purchased Olivia for me as a retirement gift.  Everyone likes Olivia.  She is graceful, quiet, and gentle (or so I thought at the time).

About 5 years later I thought another cat would make good company for Olivia.  Everyone told me cats do well with “others”.  Somehow I was talked into taking 2 foster kitties – not just 1!!  Axel Rose and Pink Floyd became Blaze (an orange tabby) and Herbie the Love Bug (a pint-size version of Max – a grey tabby).  They were just 4 months old when I got them and Olivia didn’t seem to pay much attention to them at all.

Then I moved to a new house and everything changed.  Olivia felt some strange need to assert her dominance in this new place.  She wasn’t at all intimidated by little Herbie – but Blaze – who has turned out to be a very large cat – and who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body – is another question.  He just has to look at her the wrong way and, without warning, she goes after him.  He can run pretty fast for all his large size – but she runs faster and usually comes away with a tuft of orange fur!!  Also – if Blaze and Herbie are playing, she seems to think they are truly fighting and jumps in to break it up!!  I never thought she had it in her to become a complete she-wolf in a nano-second…..but SHE DOES!

There has never been any blood spilled so I have learned to ignore all of this.  Non-cat people who are visiting are aghast if a flurry takes place under their noses – but that’s life with cats.  I think all 3 of them play games with me to see who can get me to react.

Breakfast is their favourite meal.  They don’t allow me to sleep in.  It starts with one, or two, cats walking across the bed.  I give up when I have a 23-lb orange tabby sitting on my chest.  Blaze has spoken.  They each get one ounce (basically a tbsp.) of wet cat food in addition to some dry kibble.  I rarely put my hearing aids in until after breakfast because the noise the 3 of them make is astounding.  You’d think I never feed them!!  Complete cacophony until the bowls are served.

They do have their idiosyncrasies.  Blaze loves to play with hair – particularly hair on which product has been applied – so watch out if you have gel or hair spray in your hair – it’s safer to sit in a chair with no back on which 1 large orange cat can sit.  Otherwise, you will be “groomed”.  Blaze “plays” by carrying a ball around in his mouth making all sorts of strange noises.  After all, when your mouth is full, all noises sound strange.

Olivia loves ice cream.  I can go to the freezer ten times in a day – but the minute the ice cream comes out of the freezer, she somehow knows it and turns up, even out of a deep sleep, and looks at me with that woe-begotten look on her face.  It’s actually a helpful thing – I save the ice cream for major treats and only on a once-in-a-while basis.

Herbie plays catch with himself.  He throws the little balls into the air, or down the basement stairs, and then chases after them – and will do this over and over.  He will actually bring a ball back to you if you toss it for him – but he never gets tired of this – so be careful what you start.

They are a constant source of amusement – and sometimes frustration – and they are always good company.  Seeing a cat in the window watching for me to come home and having at least 1 of the 3 (and sometimes all of them) greet me at the door when I come in – it’s a nice thing.  They do make it more challenging to travel or to do things on a spontaneous basis, but I can’t imagine a house without a pet.

Life with cats is a good thing.

Just Bitchin’ – Looking for the Positives

My “blogging mentor” (and website designer/developer extraordinaire) told me that I should balance my blogs so that people don’t get tired of listening to me rant and whine all the time.

Here is my attempt to find something positive in the things that are irritating me these days:

  1. No NHL hockey:  I’m certainly watching less television and that probably means I’m saving money on hearing aid batteries!
  2. Basic Garbage moving to Bi-Weekly Pickup: I won’t have to lug the garbage can to the curb every week and I won’t have to chase it down on windy days as often!
  3. Dalton McGuinty Resigns:  YEAHHHHHHH!  Break out the champagne!  This one is long overdue.
  4. Dalton McGuinty Prorogues Parliament:  While this one really irritates the heck out of me – I suppose the good news is that there won’t be a Dalton copy-cat interim leader simply carrying on the party line insanity.
  5. Graham Fraser is unhappy about the level of bilingual services offered in Ottawa. I’m so tired of the whole bilingual thing – and I’m even more tired of paying for it!  Let’s scrap the program and save a bundle!
  6. LRT Price Tag going UP UP UP:  At the rate this City Council moves on major programs – I’m guessing I’ll be long past taking public transportation by the time this one is up and running!

What do you think?



Just Bitchin’ – What to Blog About?

There are times when I sit with my morning coffee, reading the newspaper… and I have a significant reaction to something I’m reading.  More often than not, these reactions tend to lend themselves to “rants”.  Here are some examples:

I have trouble believing what I’m reading when I “hear” things like the current liberal proposal to put a 2-year freeze on teachers’ wages.  What in the heck do these folks think is going to happen at the end of year two?  Do you think teachers just might expect to “get caught up on missed increases”????????? DUHHHHH!  Bandaids, bandaids, and more bandaids!

….and why should teachers give up what they believe are their “rights” when federal public sector workers get PAID to retire!……they don’t just get a darned decent pension – they get “termination pay”…….FOR RETIRING!  As a former private sector worker, this just makes no sense at all – and it’s coming out of my pocket!!

I get upset when I read just about anything that comes out of our City Council (unless it comes from Allan Hubley – one sane voice among the bunch)……the “spin” is managed to an extent that it is laughable.  Susan Sherring should run for mayor in the next civic election!!

I get upset when the federal folks think it is just fine to provide EI payments to people who are working – do you suppose this could encourage folks to settle for part-time or ad-hoc work?  Maybe??  At the risk of upsetting a lot of people, I get upset at the idea that women on maternity leave can collect EI.  Isn’t it supposed to be applied to those “eligible for work”?  Why am I funding somebody’s choice to have a child?

I could be ranting about the very hot and very dry summer – the brown lawns, the potential impact on produce prices, etc – and I’m just as likely, 6 months from now, to be ranting about the very cold, snowy winter!

So – there is no end to the number of topics to rant about.

When it comes to the more positive stuff, human nature is such that we do tend to whine and complain more often than we compliment and rave about things.  It’s easier!  The negative stuff is in our face – in the newspapers, on TV and radio.

If, however,  I take the time to think about it – there are just as many things to rave about.

Turn on the TV and watch the excellent Olympic coverage.  What a celebration of mostly young athletes and their skills from all over the world! Finally – something that isn’t a typical reality show or cops and robbers, blood and guts.

Alfie is coming back!  I knew I was doing the right thing when I had Alfredsson and #11 put on my “vintage” style Ottawa Senators hockey jersey last year!  ….and there’s less than 2 months to go until hockey season starts up again!  Can’t wait!  This also means decent stuff to watch on television and the excitement of actually going to a game or two.

There is always another restaurant to be tested……trip to plan……bridge game to be played…..neighbourhood gathering to be enjoyed…..LIFE IS GOOD!

So – I rant…..or I rave……or I babble on about whatever turns my crank!!  It’s cathartic.  You should try it!