Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"The Gummint done falled. It done falled on my haid!"

Admit it. You've done it.

Had a conversation with your pet.

And not just a conversation where you talk to your pet. A conversation where you, or another person, provides the pet's half of the conversation.

Thus was it last night when Husband and I settled in front of the television to watch the long-awaited, not-at-all-anticipated non-confidence vote which would dissolve the current Liberal minority government and give us what we didn't want for Christmas - an election campaign.

We were watcing CTV Newsnet, waiting for the vote, and talking about the relatively odd events of our respective days (which, in my office, included holding an information session for immigrants learning English as a Second Language reassuring them that "the Government falling" was a relative concept, everything would be fine, and they did not need to hide the children and convert their meager savings into soon-to-be-worthless cash).

Veronica was dozing contentedly at the foot of the bed, and Husband jokingly said, "Veronica! Veronica! How can you sleep like that? Haven't you heard? The Government is falling!"

I, wrapping Christmas pressies on the other side of the bed, provided Veronica's alleged half of the conversation:

"Is it goin' to fall on me?"

Husband: "Well, no."

Veronica: "Is it going to fall on mah haid?"

Husband: "Well, no."

Veronica: "Well, I just don't care, then."

And that would have been the end of that, except that we watched the vote; as expected, the non-confidence motion passed and the Government fell; and, in tossing a wrapped Christmas present to join the pile of wrapped gifts at my feet, I miscalculated and bonked poor, dozing Veronica right on the haid.

"Oh, my God!"
"Oh, no! Veronica! Veronica! I'm so sorry!"
"Oh! Poor Kitty! The Government fell right on her haid!"

The word "disgruntled" barely begins to approach the face of a cat who has been accidentally beaned by a holiday gift. I didn't realize before that she could swear telepathically, but I do now. And in a final gesture of utter contempt, she did not leave, nor did she even move, much. But she did tuck in her haid.

away from the hazards of falling Governments, stupid Mamas, and all other slings and arrows a poor, poor kitty gotta face.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Now it's officially Christmas.

"Pet Photos with Santa" is an annual fundraiser for the Fredericton SPCA. But I like to see the looks on people's faces when I tell them I went to the mall and stood in line.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mlkikney Mirma'si!-

My apologies for not posting more frequently. For both work and personal reasons, I've been on the road so much in the past week that my toothbrush left a polite note on the hotel bathroom vanity claiming Vitamin D deficiency and asking to be left out of its travel case for a little daylight now and then.

Last Friday it was Halifax, where I got a CI Processor tuneup. The difference is notable. I described it to audiologist "Helen" as being "like cleaning your glasses". Sometimes you don't even realize they're dusty and smudged until you polish the lenses and the world becomes crystal-clear again. This time, I had noticed that my hearing had become "smudged" and had requested the visit.

I barely had time to return home before work put me into a rental car and on the road north to the Miramichi region of the province. I've stayed and had meetings with folks in both Bathurst and the City of Miramichi (an amalgamation of a number of what used to be smaller individual communities along both sides of the Miramichi River, including Chatam, Newcastle, Douglastown, and so on). This part of the province is very French, has strong Native and Irish roots and populations, and, positioned as it is somewhere between Quebec and southern New Brunswick and the rest of the Maritmes, it has a sensibility and culture very much its own. (The title of this post is "Welcome to the Miramichi" in Mik'maq.)

It is the region brought to life, sometimes depressingly so, by David Adams Richards in his novels (I believe Canadian literary guidelines demand that I insert the word "gritty" in there somewhere, but I've never much been one for guidelines). Its pre-European-contact history is one of abundance for the local Mik'maq people; its post-contact history one of prosperity (for the Europeans, at least), timber export and shipbuilding (Joseph Cunard of the "Cunard Line" shipbuilding and transatlantic shipping family, made - and lost - his fortune here).

But that was then, and like many places with a rich history and a hardscrabble present, it's full of fascinating contradictions.

The industry has waned and today the region chronically has the highest unemployment rates in the province; but the river is still acknowledged to be one of the finest salmon rivers in the world (the word Miramichi is derived from the Mik'maq word mirma'si, meaning "Giver of Life"), and baseball players Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and former US President GW Bush are among the notables who were and are fond of getting away for some fly-fishing here.

And now, after some very successful liaison work with local community groups, I'm packing to hit the road southward again to my own river, the Saint John, and - I hope - a little breathing time. Husband is wonderful, but frankly the cats really suck at phone comm.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Old soldiers never die...

Went with C. to the Cenotaph on Friday, November 11, to pay our respects both to the old soldiers who are still able to march, those who aren't, and the many who never got the chance to wear the title "Veteran". C. goes every year, and every year I mean to go or say I'll go; but by the time we part for the evening on the 9th or 10th, I always end up making some excuse why I can't get out of bed early on a holiday after all.

This year I had a few personal reasons for attending, and they had to do with more than just admiring C. for doing it every year and wanting to spend the time with her. No, this year with everything that's happened, I realize more than ever how lucky I am to live in the country I live in; and the very real and personal sacrifices that were made to entrench the principles that I value - "peace, order and good government"; a strong social safety net; tolerance and freedom; a strong Canadian identity built on multiculturalism; civility and mutual responsibility; a hand up when you need it; a country that is a beacon of safe harbour to the human orphans of the troubled world. Those are the principles my grandfather fought for in England and my cousin fought for in Afghanistan.

And speaking of that, it was also an opportunity to thank those who serve today, represented by a contingent of young fresh-faced boys and girls from across Canada, pink and tan and chocolate-brown faces serious over green uniforms. We were all thinking, I know, as we applauded them on their march by, that most of them - based at CFB Gagetown - are either on their way to Afganistan, or freshly returned.

The "War to End All Wars" indeed.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Goodbye, Cosmo

I got this email from my sister a little while ago.

"Hey. I just wanted to let you know that this morning, around 9:30, Cosmo had a heart attack and died. He was fine earlier, had his breakfast, barked at a visitor, took a nap on his little bed, and died in his sleep... It's hard to accept that he's gone, and not just hanging out in one of his usual spots around the place.

Make sure you snuggle Mojo and Veronica tonight. They can, quite literally, be taken from you, unexpectedly, in the space of a few minutes, but they will forever leave a hole in your heart."

Cosmo was my family's dog; he was my Mom's dog and my Dad's dog but most of all, my Sister's dog. I never got to know him very well - my visits home have been sporadic during his all-too-short ten years. But he had charm and personality, as you can see for yourself.

Thanks to Sis for the pictures. Many of the readers of this blog are not just animal caregivers but passionate about animals, understanders of animals. I know they join with me in sending my parents and Sis genuine sympathy and good thoughts to help them get through these first days after the loss of a beloved family member.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good God, y'All!

You KNOW you've had a busy week when you took these photos on your own block - like, two doors down - Sis, you'll recognize it - on your way to work last week, and didn't have time to post them to the weblog until today.

Little harm done to the building or the neighbourhood in the end, it appears - I don't know why or for whom the ambulance was needed. Nothing on the neighbourhood grapevine to suggest anything serious.

I spent Saturday in beautiful downtown Moncton, NB, working on a conference, so Husband and I decided to make a virtue of necessity and make an overnight of it. We had some excellent food and wine at a very nice hotel and drove back at our leisure the next day. I hope all you married folks and nice settled couples out there are familiar with the delightful charms of an overnight hotel stay. I'm not talking about swinging from the chandelier wearing Catwoman costumes - although that's always nice, and by all means, should be on the menu! - I'm talking about the sheer luxury of using glasses and towels and bathtubs without having to clean them later. I'm talking about slipping between pristine sheets you didn't have to launder yesterday, and won't have to tomorrow. I'm talking about room service, and watching your spouse tip the valet or bellhop like he or she was born doing it and does it every day; of opening a bottle of nice wine in complete privacy someplace where nobody knows to look for you, and about going down to the hotel bar for a drink together as a good-looking, well dressed Couple du Monde, not "Mom and Dad" or "Aunt Brenda and Uncle Charlie" or "Jim from Accounting and his wife" or "Mike and Phyllis from Canasta Club". They say "a change is as good as a rest", and friends, I highly recommend treating yourself to a night in a hotel every now and then, even if it's just three blocks over. Fall asleep together in front of the tv in a bed neither of you will have to make tomorrow morning. If that doesn't keep the romance cooking, brothers and sisters, nothing can.

There have been huge changes at work in staffing and (volunteer) leadership, so we are in a state of very serious flux at the moment. It's interesting, busy and stressful. In the midst of all this, my hearing is eroding in the manner it usually does prior to a reprogramming visit, so we've scheduled one for later this month. Eventually, this process of re-programming will only take place once a year - a bit like one's glasses prescription gradually fading - and it won't be as noticeable. That'll be nice.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

« Le Programme provincial de suivi des porteurs d'implants cochléaires - bien sûr, c'est bon!»

Way back on October 17, Kate asked a question in response to my comment that with the opening of the CI Follow-Up Services Program in Bathurst, New Brunswick, French CI recipients would finally be able to get post-op service in French:

ronnie, if francophone New Brunswick residents can only get CI service in English, does that compromise their ability to work with a language therapist during the time when the ear and brain are being re-trained to accept signals from the CI?

Do francophone CI recipients generally go to Quebec for help?

It's an excellent question, so good in fact that I tried to track down some accurate information to pass along to her and all of you. The answers to her two questions are, in short, "I'm not sure" and "No". But in more detail, here's what I was able to find out with some phone calls to the Chaleur Regional Hospital (which will be the home of the new program) and the NB Department of Health and Wellness:

The Province of New Brunswick (NB) has an agreement with the Province of Nova Scotia (NS) which sees potential CI recipients living in NB access assessment (through the NS Hearing and Speech Centre), surgery (through the NS Department of Health and the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax), and follow-up therapy and programming once again through the Speech Centre. These facilities in NS provide the services and bill the province of NB for our care. With the opening of the CI Followup Program in Bathurst, patients will be able to access the post-op part of services here in New Brunswick. Since New Brunswick is officially bilingual - and Bathurst is in the heart of French New Brunswick - that means, of course, that the staff will be bilingual and the post-op CI services they offer will be fully available in French.

The province doesn't have such a contract with Quebec to provide CI assessment or programming. So while nobody could guarantee me without doing much digging through their files that in a specific case a francophone client hadn't gone to Quebec for therapy in Quebec in the past, nobody could think of such a case and it would be the exception and not the rule.

As to whether having to receive post-op therapy in English would be a handicap to a francophone, that's a very interesting question. Obviously to figure out that you are hearing speech, and that it sounds like a human voice, you don't need to know what language you are hearing, and the programming focuses on sound more than content. I haven't seen "Helen", my audiologist in NS, since Kate asked the question, but I'm curious to know if they use interpreters to work with patients who speak only French (rare but by no means unheard of in New Brunswick, particularly on the Acadian Peninsula). The only time I can imagine language being a really significant handicap would be in testing progress; they put you in a sound booth and play sentences on a CD, and you repeat the sentenced back. Based on how close you are to accurate, the audiologist can chart how well you're doing. Even if the CD questions were in French, unless the audiologist was fluent in French, she couldn't properly assess how strong your comprehension was.

Some of this, happily, is a bit of a moot point now that the CI Follow-up Program has opened in Bathurst, NB, in the heart of francophone New Brunswick. That's the good news; the bad news is that the funding for the Bathurst program is worryingly small ($67,000 startup and $60,000 per year after). That's why we need to continue to get the word out to ensure it's properly funded and supported.