Monday, 5 October 2015

Life Updates

While the general trend across the blogsphere has been to move away from the medium, my main  reason for not continuing to blog is mainly due to a personal desire to keep my private life private. I've tried to maintain a balance of not divulging every detail of my life on this space over the last four years, while still remaining open and honest about the big things, especially when you feel doing so may help others. Here's a big thing. The past year has been one of the hardest of my life for a big reason, one that I alluded to but could bear to share (doing so made it too real). My father's cancer metastasized in his bones in January 2015, spread like wildfire, and sadly he passed away this past May. I didn't share it on any social media aside from facebook since I only have good friends and family as facebook friends. The loss of my father - who I was freakishly close to - has rocked my world in more ways than I can imagine. It's been weird and hard. It's amazing how watching someone you love die, and dealing with their death, can change you. I've pulled inward a lot since January when he got sick out of nowhere. I feel like this experience has really shown me who my friends are. Some people were there for me in ways I can't even express, and other (supposedly) close friends, to my surprise, were not there at all. But rather than be angry and hold a grudge about this, I have accepted that sometimes people can only give what they can give you, and are too self absorbed to be there for others. It's amazing how something as simple as a text message saying "thinking of you today!" can make all the difference in how you go about your day. Luckily I've had good work projects and travels to help distract me. And good friends to lean on when I've needed to. Something I think many people make the mistake of doing when someone is going through a hard time or grieving is saying things like "I'm here if you need!" It sets the precedent that you have to go to them when you need support. If you're a person such as myself who tends to keep feelings of grief to themselves, it's incredibly difficult to randomly text someone out of the blue and say you feel sad and need to talk. I am so grateful for those people who checked in with me, took me out for dinner, and came to me to show me support rather than wait for me to come to them. A few people really got my through feeling really blue with simple gestures like a one line text saying they hope I am doing well, and checking in just in case I wasn't doing ok. You know who you are. It seriously made a huge difference. I am eternally grateful for that.

I feel lucky I had 28 great years with a father who was kind and generous and treated me like I was the most important person in his world. I am grateful I was there when he died so peacefully, listening to his favourite song with both my mother and myself in the room. He just stopped breathing and faded away in what was, I hope for him, a painless death after so many months of unbearable pain. I am grateful I got to say goodbye and that we were able to say all the things you say when someone you love is leaving you. I am grateful for the moments we spent one on one during that desperate four months while we still had hope he would be ok. For someone who isn't too sure if they believe in a higher power, the serendipity of that day will forever haunt me. I was having coffee with a friend across the street from the hospital where my dad was staying, planning to visit him afterward, when I got a call from my mother saying I should come to the hospital right away, and that she was already there. His vital signs were fading, but he was still conscious when I came in, with a big smile on his face when he saw me. He passed away an hour or so later.

Some days I feel completely fine. Others I can barely get out of bed. Without fail, every night I fall asleep to images of some period from my dad's final months. Most I cry myself to sleep. I am lucky in the sense that I naturally seem to be able to compartmentalize my grief. Alone I feel it strongly. With others, at work, at school, it's like I naturally put it away and interact as though nothing as happened. With others I am fine - truly fine, not pretending. It's strange. I am glad for this coping mechanism. However when alone the grief will strike me out of nowhere. In the grocery store, hearing certain songs, walking down the street. Mostly recently Neil Young's Helpless hit me hard. My dad grew up in Northern Ontario before moving to Hamilton, and is from the same county Neil Young grew up in. Those lyrics took the wind out of me right in the middle of a Shoppers Drugmart.

I have so much respect for my mother who has carried the show despite losing her husband and best friend of forty years. I always knew she was a strong lady, but how she's coped with his death, with her own grief, with dealing with all the paperwork post mortem, supporting me, deserves a damn medal.

I also have so much respect for those who work for Alberta Healthcare. This experience made me realize the pitfalls as well as the great things about public healthcare in Canada. It's definitely not a perfect system, but I cannot imagine what it would be like to be dealing with the stress, sadness and worry of someone dying, on top of worry about the massive cost of a private healthcare bill. The total cost we had to pay for my dad's radiation, medicine and hospital stay was $22 - the cost of a private phone in his hospital room. His death was not due to a failure on the part of the system. He never had any waits for specialists and his doctors were extremely competent and caring. I will always support public healthcare in Canada, and I sure am bloody grateful for it. He had cancer for many years before it spread. He had check ups every month and took hormones which kept his prostate at bay for almost five years. Sadly cancer is cancer, and it literally spread from on month to the next. Just like people can become immune to drugs like antibiotics, cancer can also become immune to medicine. Sadly it's quite rare in the case of prostate cancer and the hormone my dad was on, but one cannot control these things. His cancer was considered practically level 0 for so long, and shot up to stage 4 in a matter of weeks. What can you do? Cancer is elusive and tricky. I just really sucks it happened to be him to defy very rare odds.

As time goes on, it becomes both easier and harder to deal with. I am very sad he will not be in my life for The Big Things. But I am lucky I got the time with him I did, that we had a good relationship, spent time together, that he was a good man, a good example, and always good to me.  I am trying my best to celebrate what I had, rather than be angry about what I lost. Even though it really sucks we said goodbye too soon.

This is one of the last photos I took of my dad before he got sick. I called this one "my boys." My dad loved our cat Gus so much, it was pretty damn cute. 

That's about all I can muster for today. Glad I finally shared, even though no one reads blogs anymore. It felt good to write. 


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Clarion Alley

I guess I am kind of bad at this keeping up a blog thing. But then, who even blogs anymore? I feel this medium is dead for the most part... But anyway:

Here's the second last post from the trip I took to the States over two months ago already. For the very short time I was in San Francisco, I took a shit load of photos. My goodness! I arrived late on a Thursday, left in the early evening on a Monday, and one of the days was spent day tripping to Big Sur. One of the places in the two and a half days I had in San Francisco, Clarion Alley in the Mission district is one such place where I took way too many photos. Easily over a hundred! The alley is full of some incredible murals that range from the cute to the very thought provoking. I think murals are smart and aesthetically appealing ways to spruce up otherwise boring public spaces and get people interacting with their spaces. I am a big advocate for public art for this very reason! Jen, Jeremy, Lauren and I enjoyed posing in front of murals and taking too many photos.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Big Sur

One of the highlights of returning to Northern California was seeing Big Sur in person. It was so beautiful, it didn't even seem real. My friends Lauren, Jen, Jeremy and I rented a car, left San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning and cruised down the California coast. It was jaw-droppingly gorgeous, I couldn't believe it!!! 

We stopped in Monterey on the way down for lunch, and in Carmel-by-the-Sea on the way back. Carmel is one of the most overwhelmingly wealthy places I've ever been. Every house is a mansion, the small town had a Tiffany's, and every single store was a high end restaurant, or a commercial art gallery - presumably for rich retirees to decorate their houses. Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor of Carmel! 

The Bixby Bridge - so cool!!! 

Sigh, what a magical place. I'll definitely be back again one day. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Summer in the City

The dog days of summer are most certainly upon those of us who live on the Canadian prairies. Each day the sky is cloudless and blue, and temperatures hover around +30C/86F. My summer has been BUSY! Aside from work and too many volunteer commitments, I've been doing what I usually do - lounging in parks and on patios with friends, taking in festivals and staying active. Here are some photos of an outing in Chinatown. A friend wanted to find a specific tea leaf so she could make Thai ice tea at home, and we stumbled upon this wall my dress happened to match perfectly. 

This neighbourhood is called The Quarters. It's definitely still apart of the inner city, but it is gentrifying slowly and is definitely going to be an up-and-coming neighbourhood in the next ten years. I really hope as it revitalizes the character of the buildings is not forsaken.

Next up are some San Francisco posts, once I am done editing the mass amount of images taken! 

Charmaine x 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Portland, Again

Portland, Portland, Portland. My favourite American city! 

After Nashville I flew from the South East to the North West to visit an American friend Jocelyn, who just re-located to Portland to work at the Audobon Society as an outdoor educator after spending a year living on a mountain. Originally from Los Angeles, Jocelyn went to my university as an international student and studied Art History just like myself. Jocelyn was one of my favourite university friends; one of those people who is full of light and passion and sweetness that attracts people to her like a moth to a flame. It was so nice to catch up! We'd not seen each other since 2012 when I graduated and moved away promptly after. 

My return to Portland was short but very, very sweet. Seriously, Portland is such an amazing gem of a city. The food is great, the people are great, the city is accessible, anything and everything goes. It's so liberal and tolerant, I love it! I've been once before, and returning only solidified my love for PDX. The weather was also perfection! Close to 40C the entire time I was there. Here are some photos from my four days in town. 
Jocelyn on Alberta Street. I stayed right downtown in the Pearl District last time I was in Portland at the Ace Hotel, but this time stayed at an Air BnB on Alberta Street. Such a great location. Lots of delicious food choices such as Salt and Straw for ice cream (I ate honey-lavender ice cream and died of joy), Boxer Ramen, and a DELICIOUS coffee place called Barista. Alberta street is a bit far from other parts of Portland, but definitely an area worth spending time! 

A photo from the Museum of Contemporary Craft. So many zippers. 

So, my Air BNB was pretty much a hostel, despite the ad mentioning nothing about other people sharing the house with other guests. Luckily my roommate was Mia! She's Japanese-American and originally Massachusetts, currently based in Brooklyn. We got along like a house on fire. Seriously, this what I love about travel, and what is so great about being on your own places. Even though I came to see Jocelyn, I stayed on my own since Jocelyn is currently living in a tent in her cousin's backyard just outside the city (very Jocelyn!). Mia and I talked about anything and everything, from politics (mostly politics 'cause I am a policy nerd, let's be real), to relationships, travel, sex, you name it. Mia has concluded Canadians are a bunch of communists. Ha, ha, ha! Maybe so? Socialist to some degree, certainly, though Communist is a bit far left. We do love our publicly funded healthcare among other government/taxpayer funded amenities. I'll pay my crazy high taxes to make sure everyone has equal access to healthcare and education any day over the alternatives. 

Mia speaks three languages (English, German, Japanese), works as a translator/transcriber, has lived all over the US and Germany, and randomly likes a number of Calgary bands I wasn't even aware are big outside of specific Canadian music circles (such as Women and Viet Cong). Every night in our room felt like a sleepover. I hope my path crosses with Mia again one day! 

Potato pancakes at Helsers on Alberta. 

Here are some murals/graffiti on Alberta Street. 

The Ace Hotel, looking like a Wes Anderson film set. I met up with lovely Solanah of Vixen Vintage for a second time here, where we enjoyed Stumptown coffee and then Bluestar donuts! 
Pastel Princess in her Mary Blair x Pinup Girl Clothing dress! 

On my last night on Portland I met up with Jocelyn, wandered around Hawthorne and then finally, FINALLY ate at Pok Pok. Life changed!!! SO delicious. 

My Air BnB was a huuuuuge, beautiful heritage home with a massive front porch and a lovely garden. It was so dreamy! It reminded me a lot of parts of Toronto such as the Annex and Parkdale, with their sweeping Victorian homes. Portland reminds me of Toronto a lot in many ways. Aesthetically in terms of houses, but also in terms of the vibe of the city. It made my heart ache for Toronto so deeply. I want to move back sooner than later. 
Jocelynator and I at Pok Pok. 

Thanks for reading! I still have a few California posts left. 

Charmaine xxx