From Self-Care Challenge to Well-Being Days

Hi everyone! Hope you are all preparing for a lovely Easter! I’m going to have a relaxing Easter and do one of what I call my Well-Being Days. My Well-Being Days started as a Self-Care Challenge and have flourished into something amazing. Read on to find out the process!

My Initial Self-Care Challenge:

I want to go back to when I first moved to Canada. Little did I know that I would start a habit that would change my well-being. It’s hard to do self-care when moving to another country because too many things can happen at once. If there is one thing life has taught me it’s to prioritize my well-being when times are good and slow-paced. Then, when times get hard, or even fast-paced, I have the resilience to see it through.

My nerves were frayed for the first month I was in Canada. When we first arrived, Mum and I were heavily dependent on my cell phone. I had to use it far more than I normally do. I was exhausted, which meant it took a while to get things organized. The only escape I could find was in reading and writing. In my first full month (November 2020), I decided that I would take a few days for a self-care challenge. I chose one day to devote to finances, one day to just organize all the crap that had accumulated, one day off from my phone, and one day to just rest (and I mean REST!). I ran those days by Mum and she thought it was a great idea and wanted to do them as well.

The Results of the Self-Care Challenge:

After each of the days, I found myself thinking, “Wow! These kinds of days should not just be a luxury! We should do them every month!” Do you know what was REALLY funny? Mum was thinking the same thing! I find self-care challenges overrated and words like well-being overused. This time, it worked like a charm! I guess desperation was the motivator to kick-start something lasting.

Our Well-Being days were born! We learned the first time we did them that the days should have guidelines and few if any, hard and fast rules. Over time, we added more days to our Well-Being Days. Will I continue my Well-Being Days once I start my own business? Heck yes! I am not a fan of working myself to death. Been there, done that and it’s not happening again! I’m going to whip a dead horse here. Brutally. These kinds of days should NOT be a luxury! I have found they are an effective burnout prevention tool. Okay, it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. Anyway, here are my Well-Being Days and what they entail!

Well-Being Days
Well-Being Days

Money Day:

Do you know how people in finance say that you should set aside some time every month for your finances? Well, this is the day I do the majority of my finances! If I can, I save all the heavy-duty stuff for this day. I am fortunate that Mum and I have worked out a mutually beneficial system. My Dad is still currently in California, but I feel like he’s grateful that Mum and I have this Money Day. I can’t wait to introduce this to him as well as our other Well-Being Days!

Deep-Cleaning Day:

This one has been a newer edition to our Well-Being Days. Here’s the story behind this one. Last October, Mum and I were planning to clean our place thoroughly before winter, but then she got sick. For a few months, we completely forgot about cleaning the apartment and just let things gather dust. I have heard stories from people I know who have taken care of parents and they completely forget about their living space. Sometimes, their house will literally crumble around them.

In March, we got the urge to clean one room at a time and we got through it! We decided to do a Deep-Cleaning Day every month while also making a point of staying on top of the little chores when it’s not Deep-Cleaning Day. The little chores make Deep-Cleaning Days easier because our place collects a LOT of dust!

Organizing Day:

There is some overlap between an Organizing Day and a Deep-Cleaning Day. At first, we did some deep-cleaning on an Organizing Day. Then we realized there are some things that need to be done separately from a Deep-Cleaning Day. The things that are prioritized for an Organizing Day are papers, emails and digital files, or anything else that needs some straightening up.

It’s amazing how much useless paper, emails and digital files accumulate in a month! When I first started the Organizing Days, getting rid of the useless crap was quite tedious! Now, it’s just a matter of cleaning out what accumulated in a month! Additionally, it helps to have a temporary filing system, so that when the Organizing Day comes around, the files can be moved to our permanent filing system with relative ease.

The best source I have ever encountered about filing systems is Randy Pauch’s video on Time Management. Mum and I agreed early on from sharing an apartment that, to quote Randy Pausch, “A filing system is absolutely essential”. The part on filing systems starts at 25:34

A filing system is absolutely essential! Starting at 25:34

No/Limited Tech Day:

This is one of my most important Well-Being Days! I have become increasingly aware of just how much technology stresses me out. It took a while after starting a No Tech Day to realize that I need boundaries on tech in general. I have also discovered differences between essential and optional tech use. The reason why I say it’s a No/Limited Tech Day is that sometimes things come up on that day that I absolutely need to take care of and it’s necessary to use tech to solve them.

One exception to the day is if there is something good to watch on CBC Gem. You have probably figured out by now that I’m obsessed with CBC Gem! It is an affirmation that tech can be genuinely fun!

Overall, having this day from the get-go has made me more mindful of tech. My life changed for the better when I gave up my personal social media accounts. I use IG and Twitter for this blog on my own terms.

Another thing I have noticed is that when someone sends me a message with a certain tone to it, I think to myself, “Were they just doomscrolling on (insert social media site here)?” Each social media site has its own flavour of doomscrolling and I can see it more now that I don’t have personal social media accounts. That’s not to say I don’t fall down a doomscrolling rabbit hole, but I do something that does not involve tech to cool off. Plus, when I get messages like that, I don’t answer immediately. I wait for that person to cool off. Of course, I cringe to think that I did the same thing. It’s not at all intuitive.

To the people who were also affected by my doomscrolling, I apologize!

Rest Day:

This is another Well-Being Day of great importance. Naps are non-negotiable. Plus, I tend to lie in bed and read A LOT! I think one reason why Rest Days are important to me is because of living so far north and the sunrise and sunset times really messing with my body clock, even with SAD lights. Time changes are the weirdest thing. If it’s not the sun rising at 8 am in the winter that’s messing with me, it’s the birds singing their dawn chorus happening between 5 and 6 am in the summer.

It’s amazing how in this day and age that you literally have to force yourself to SLOW. THE. FUCK. DOWN!!

Pampering Day:

Sometimes, I’m not able to do everything I want to on my Rest Day, so this day is for things like footbaths, face masks, bubble baths, OR even MORE reading! I also like to treat myself and Mum to something special from our favourite patisserie. I could do a whole photo album of the pics I have taken of their food. Sometimes, I get us a treat on the other Well-Being Days too, like the Money Day or Cleanup Day or Organizing Day. After all, those days are more hardcore and it’s nice to have a treat at the end.

Fun Day:

My next Fun Day is Easter Monday! On that day, anything goes! Sometimes, I try something new. Sometimes, I devote myself to my other hobbies. My favourite thing to do is go outside. If I can go to a park, even better. This makes me think of the Big Bang Theory when they have Anything Can Happen Thursday.

One thing I have learned from this day is even when it’s not a Fun Day, it’s wonderful to be so close to nature. Sometimes, I need to go to the river and just discharge from something that’s stressing me out.

Creative/Arts Day:

I make a point of eliminating unnecessary tech use on this day! As Steve Jobs discovered, tech kills creativity. Have you ever wondered why he and Bill Gates and tech executives won’t let their kids use technology? Exactly. Creativity is best when your mind is quiet and clear, so I make sure mine is before this day happens.

I do like doing stuff for my blog on a Creative/Arts Day, so I make an exception for that. Otherwise, I like doing stencil drawings and listening to music a lot. Sometimes, I find new ways to be creative.

When Well-Being Days Don’t Work:

The one time Well-Being Days don’t work is when emergencies happen. There is too much going on that has to be dealt with on the spot, and there is a period of time afterwards dealing with the fallout. When Mum got sick last October, we didn’t get back to our Well-Being Days until the New Year. If we needed to rest or have a few hours of no technology, we did it. If we had to organize our stuff related to the emergency, we just got it over and done with! When you think you’re done with one thing, another thing comes up and you just have to zip it and then savour the serenity when it’s done!

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to take care of yourself during an emergency, or for a while afterwards. It’s important to understand what is possible at times like that. When you can take a moment for yourself, be grateful! Remember, self-care is a necessity, not a privilege!

For the Future:

I had originally started doing a Dutch Immersion Day. Then some changes happened. We found another way that we can possibly stay in Canada. It could still fall through, but the plan is that we will move to the Netherlands if it does. Plus, we don’t feel like it’s a good time to move to Europe with the refugee crisis happening and the higher cost of living. Now, learning Dutch is more lowkey.

Will I add more Well-Being Days in the future? It’s hard to say. I don’t want too many, then I won’t have some good ones to look forward to. I can tell when I’m about to have one of my Well-Being Days because my body responds in such a way that it cries out for them.

Sometimes, things don’t last an entire day, or I’m not able to follow through for an entire day, but that’s okay. Even devoting a few hours to one of these days makes a difference. That affirms to me that these days are a necessity.

Happy Easter to you all. Have fun or rest, but enjoy whatever it is you are planning to do!

First Dutch Immersion Day

My Mum and I have learned over 500 words in Dutch and are now at 30 lessons in Duolingo! We decided to try our first Dutch Immersion Day after we reached 500 words. That took about six weeks, but I feel we are making good progress. How did our first time doing immersion go? Let’s find out!

Immersion Day Plan:

Failing to plan is planning to fail, so here’s what the rules for the day were:

  • If we don’t know the word(s) but we can say the sentence, look up the word.
  • Have a computer going all day for Google Translate and use my phone for it too.
  • Spend 1 hr labelling things around the house in Dutch. Note: it is a great thing to do, it’s just that even now, we still haven’t done it yet. LOL.
  • Keep the Dutch radio on (BNR Nieuwradio). Plus, watch Arjen Lubach. See my previous post on learning Dutch for why I use these sources.
  • Do a complete review. Note: English during Dutch lessons is okay for translation purposes.
  • Switch computer and cell phone to Dutch.

There were also things I wanted to accomplish that day, but then decided it was worth waiting to do them.

There’s a reason why I decided to wait on these things. Right now, here’s how my first Dutch Immersion Day went.

A Dutch Morning:

The morning started off relatively easy. I had covered a lot of words typically used in the morning that are related to breakfast and greeting others. The night before, I had switched my computer and cell phone over to Dutch. To be honest, it was easy to understand the names of apps, login information and whether someone is typing on WhatsApp. At first glance, you don’t think about it when you see that information in your dominant language, but it’s easier to translate than you might think.

It’s not easy to wake up and automatically immerse yourself in a foreign language while your brain is warming up. No, wearing a toque doesn’t help. Wearing a toque in Canada provides a lot of benefits, but this isn’t one of them. LOL.

While doing the Duolingo lessons and review, I started to get overwhelmed. One of the rules for the day said that English is okay for translation purposes on Duolingo, but I could tell I was getting overwhelmed because I was leaning on English more and more. By lunchtime, I couldn’t go any further with Dutch. I lasted about 3-4 hours with immersion. I didn’t feel like listening to the radio, watching Arjen Lubach, or labelling items around our living space.

Wakeup Call:

Okay, I am NOT ready to move to the Netherlands yet! Plus, 500 words is good enough for a bit of immersion, but not for a whole day. If I were to move to the Netherlands tomorrow, I would probably be crying within a few days. I have always respected people who can move to a country and learn the language from scratch. Now, that respect has increased TENFOLD! I do wonder how often tears happen with people who have to learn a language from scratch in a new country. It’s not something that’s ever talked about.

I wish I could remember what it was like to move from France at two years old and learn English at school. Although, in some ways, it’s better that I don’t remember it. From what my Mum said to me, my teachers weren’t exactly supportive of bilingual children. I have a theory that this is why I rebelled against speaking French for years! It certainly knocked my confidence in French, and even though I have tried to regain it, it just hasn’t happened.

There was a high point in the day. I tested my comprehension of Dutch by watching the video of the Netherlands welcoming Trump in his own words.

America First Netherlands Second

In the video, I don’t need to turn on the Dutch subtitles until “This is a message from the government of the Netherlands”. Then, I turn the Dutch subtitles on. To my surprise, I was able to understand over 90% of the video! It makes sense though because the way Trump talks is VERY basic and if you translate that into another language, it’s very basic too!

Self-Care:

Even though I make a point of doing a bit of Dutch when I feel tired, I still understand that I need breaks sometimes. As my Mum said, you are kidding yourself if you think you aren’t going to encounter the language when you are stressed, tired, dealing with an emergency, or anything else that challenges your language ability. One thing I never really understood as a bilingual child is that sometimes you need a break from one of your languages. It wasn’t until I had a colleague who flipped out once because none of us spoke her language that I understood the importance of resting from a language. Okay, my colleague wasn’t exactly a nice person, but this time, I would say she had a point in flipping out.

I know when I can do Dutch and I know when I can’t, yet. I recently felt like crap physically after overdoing it on a workout and having a weird nap afterwards and I just could NOT do Dutch under those circumstances! One way I laugh about it is remembering this Jackie Chan blooper. He’s flubbing his lines and then he says, “I hate English!” Yep, I get that.

I did put some pressure on myself with this Dutch Immersion Day. I am good at learning languages thanks to being bilingual from birth. Sometimes, I have surprised myself with languages. There have been quite a few times that I have been on a bus in London (the perfect place for overhearing people’s conversations) and I am able to understand everything a person is saying in a certain language, even if I haven’t taken classes in it.

What Next?:

I wasn’t able to do everything on the list for my first Dutch Immersion Day. I will get to labelling items around the house and I will find a translation app that is suitable. Additionally, I will switch my computer and cell phone language to Dutch more often. I’m not ready to look up ebooks in Dutch yet.

The plan is to do another Immersion Day when I reach 1000 words. That might happen in May since it only took me six weeks to learn 500 words, and as of publishing this, it’s now 620 words. Heck, I laughed remembering when I had a hard time starting my Dutch diary of grammar and vocab words. It was like David Rose holding his crumpled tape measuring his cedar chest when Mutt asks him, “How far are you?” and David says, “I’m this far”.

So, that’s how well my first Dutch Immersion Day went! Feel free to share any stories you also have about language learning in the comments!

Best Material Possessions in the Past 1.5 Years

Before I start, I want to say that it’s not a sponsored post. This is just what I have found to be extremely useful to me for my first year in Canada. When you move to a new country, you figure out what material possessions need to help you through your first year. In some ways, I regard these things as more of an investment than just buying things. Here’s my list of what has been invaluable to me and why.

Hardshell Suitcase:

Best Material Possessions
Hardshell Suitcases are LIFE!

I just happened to buy this the day before I moved to Canada. I was at Target trying to look for a luggage carrier. Things were getting desperate, especially since the amount of travel stuff was unpopular and overpriced because of COVID-19. I bought the largest hardshell suitcase I could find for a decent price. I was able to fit ALL my check-in luggage in there, plus some extra stuff that I wasn’t originally planning on taking with me.

When I got to the airport, I realized how maneuverable it was. The spinner wheels are sturdy and able to turn a full 360 when necessary. I didn’t have to worry at all if my things were going to be safe. I sometimes wish the suitcase I bought wasn’t exclusively for my check-in baggage. At the end of a long moving day, I looked at the suitcase and said, “Where have you been all my life?! I would sure like to shake hands with the genius that invented you!”

These suitcases come in a set of various sizes. You can get ones small enough to put in your overhead or possibly under the seat (depends on the brand). Hardshell suitcases are also available at Walmart so before I move to the Netherlands, I’m going to buy the smaller sizes! The brand I got was American Tourister. I love the colour and the product! It’s clean, protects your stuff, has an inside pocket within the inside pocket, and is efficient when you’re at the airport! As a TCK who loves travel, I’m positively drooling over hardshell suitcases! When I was waiting for my Dad at the airport last October, I ran into someone else with a hardshell suitcase and said, “That suitcase is amazing, isn’t it!” She agreed with me!

Handwarmers:

Cozy Handwarmers

These are the simplest and yet most effective things I have found to keep my hands warm when it’s below -10 C. They are little bags of what feels like sand and something else that turns warm when you shake them. Just shake them ten minutes before you step outside, put them in your parka pockets and you’re ready to go! I also put my cell phone in the same pocket as these warmers because extreme temperatures are not good for cell phone electrics.

I’m wondering if I can take a bag of them with me… remains to be seen.

Incandescent Lightbulbs:

Another moment where I said, “Where have you been all my life?” Or at least during my time in London. I talked said in my Winter: London vs Calgary post that discovering incandescent lightbulbs was like

I'm sorry. I just hallucinated.

It has significantly helped with SAD during winter! I can’t live without them now. It also helps that Calgary is super sunny, even in the winter. I know in the Netherlands it’s going to be cloudy a lot. I have already resolved that if I can’t find incandescent light bulbs there, I am going to find some in Sweden or Norway!

PROPER Winter Clothes:

As the saying goes, “There’s no bad winter, only bad clothes.” Okay, I made a mistake with getting boots. Overall, though, I listened to all the advice about layering and when to do so. I ended up with some quality pieces like proper pants when it’s below -10 C and a wonderful parka! Not to mention Canadian toques (beanies in the US) are amazingly warm! I’m definitely going to be taking these items with me because the Netherlands is humid which makes things feel colder. Plus, I’m planning to travel to the Alps and to the Scandinavian countries.

Memory Foam Mattresses:

After some trial and error with past memory foam mattresses, we finally found ones that are wonderful for people who have musculoskeletal issues. It took some research to find them. Now there is no way I am letting mine go. I swear to wear it out! I don’t have too much to say because this speaks for itself!

Reading Socks:

Reading Socks

I ran into these accidentally. I went to an Indigo bookstore for Christmas shopping and I stumbled upon these reading socks! A realization hit me when I saw them. These work so well in cold weather climates! So, I bought matching pairs for myself and my Mum for Christmas. You know that trend of families getting matching pyjamas at Christmas? Well, we did matching reading socks. In order to stop people with a foot fetish coming onto my site, I am not posting a photo of me wearing the socks, but here’s a photo of them.

I noticed when I put them on how soft they are on the inside! Mum and I describe it as “bunny soft”. Anyone who has had a rabbit as a pet knows what I am talking about. I refuse to walk around in those socks because I don’t want to interfere with that softness. The best thing ever is to lie in bed with a good book and my bunny soft socks.

Triangular Leg Pillow:

Triangular Leg Pillow

I love propping my legs up while lying down, but I left my triangular leg pillow behind in California. Eventually, I caved and bought another one at Bed, Bath and Beyond. This one has four different ways you can set it up depending on what you need.

We made an interesting discovery about the leg pillow too. If you are having digestive discomfort while lying down, use the pillow to prop yourself up! It ended up being an invaluable life hack when my Mum had appendicitis and the hernia complication afterwards. Now, Mum uses the pillow full-time, but as long as it works for her, I don’t mind at all. Now, a leg pillow is a priority item for moving to another country!

Footbath:

My birthday came around a few months after moving to Canada and I asked for a footbath. Little did I know how valuable it would be! I was already in the middle of my first winter but hadn’t reached the point I was dealing with Winter Foot. Anyone who has lived in sub-Arctic climates knows what I am talking about. Once a week during the winter, I use my footbath for an hour and then take a pumice stone to my feet. Winter can mean too much dead skin, so this treatment isn’t optional.

I’m also going to get a pedicure when I am finally out of my winter boots (around May after Victoria Day Weekend). There comes a point where I CAN NOT wear my winter boots anymore! Fortunately, the footbath helps delay that time.

Additionally, I find the footbath helpful in the summer because my feet get hot and blistered, even when wearing sandals. So, it’s been a good year-round thing to have!

Proper Chairs:

Best Material Possessions
Proper Chairs Are Everything!

After years of struggling with chairs in our own ways, we FINALLY found some great chairs to meet our needs! Guess where they came from? A physiotherapist’s office was closing, so we bought their waiting room chairs for a significant discount. We looked them up online. We got them for 1/6 of the retail price and they are generally very dear, as we say in England! There’s only so much pain and musculoskeletal problems you can take until you buy proper chairs. They aren’t going anywhere!

Computer:

After 6 months of living in Canada, I needed a new computer. My laptop was dying and it was cheaper for me to get a desktop thanks to the demand for desktops being high. Plus, my circumstances had changed which made a desktop more suitable. My general rule for moving to a new country is to take whatever technology I need with me and if I need to replace it, do it! Additionally, I tend to wait until a store has a holiday sale. I waited until the Victoria Day sale to get my desktop, and it wasn’t a brand new computer, so I got a discount on top of a slashed price! Boom!

Sometimes, it’s not just about getting a great product that you genuinely need, it’s about being strategic to get a good deal! This isn’t about encouraging materialism either. There are material possessions that are essential while in transition.

Have you found with moving either domestically or internationally that there are certain things you need and consider them an investment? Let’s chat about it!

Trying Hard to Feel Anything But Devastated

In the movie Julie and Julia, Julia Child talks about trying to feel anything but devastated when she and her husband leave Paris. Why did I choose this quote for my title? Because I will be leaving Canada sometime this year. We made the decision recently that Canada isn’t working out for us, and we’re going to move somewhere else. There comes a time when a country either works, or it doesn’t, and unfortunately, this hasn’t worked out. I’m not shaming myself because I know this can happen to anyone. Just like Julia Child, I’m trying hard to feel anything but devastated.

One thing that makes me feel better is this amazing quote from Call the Midwife. She’s so correct!

Trying to Feel Anything But Devastated
Trying to Feel Anything But Devastated

Feeling Devastated is Normal:

I have felt it every time I have had to say goodbye to another country. It’s a loss, like leaving a relationship. And in that vein, you can describe a country like a person that you are in a relationship with. I’m glad I was too young to remember leaving France. I’m sure it would have been breaking up because circumstances drove us apart, like Ted and Alexis in Schitt’s Creek. Leaving the US the first time was like leaving a comfortable relationship because you wanted more. The second time was more like going back to that comfortable relationship, only to discover that the person had become openly hostile and violent. Leaving the UK was like getting out of a relationship that was underhandedly abusive like being in a frog in boiling water. Leaving Canada feels like being in a great relationship, but there are too many problems.

I read the article “30 Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know By The Time She’s 30” by Glamour Magazine. Item One on that list is one old partner you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come. It’s true for countries as well. The countries I can imagine going back to are France and Canada. The ones that remind me how far I have come are the US and UK. Thank you, next.

What Happened:

As many of you know, we had some major medical drama around Canadian Thanksgiving. Suffice to say, our struggles were just beginning. Financial concerns, medical concerns, a two-year backlog on immigration were compounded by a new Alberta law. This law says that you can’t get covered by provincial healthcare while you are waiting for permanent residence. We still haven’t been able to apply for permanent residence because the application process is backed up too. It’s expensive, and now there is no guarantee we will get it. That was the final nail in the coffin.

Bottom line: When you move to a new country, you shouldn’t be put in a position where you have to suffer. Medical problems and financial problems are already tough enough when you’re abroad without it being compounded. When I say “tough enough”, I mean when you move to another country, you already have to deal with money and health problems on a whole other level because of adjusting to new money systems and a new healthcare system. If systems don’t work in your favour, it’s terrible! It’s days and nights of stress and lack of sleep, crying and tempers (even if you have good communication within your family). I wonder how many people who moved to Canada are in the same position as me. There’s more to the story, but I don’t feel like talking about it right now.

If you’re going to ask me if the Trucker’s Convoy has anything to do with my decision, I’m going to say, “You mean the Fucker’s Convoy!” And secondly, I really can’t deal with that right now. I have too much going on.

Anyway, where am I moving next?

Let’s Play Where To Invade Next:

Like Michael Moore, I am using the phrase “Where to invade next” satirically. If you have seen the movie, you know what I mean. So, without further ado, let’s play Where To Invade Next!

Clue #1: It’s an EU country. So now your odds of guessing correctly are now 1 in 27.

Clue #2: It’s a country that colonized other countries during the Age of Exploration.

Clue #3: After Donald Trump’s Inauguration, other countries made introduction videos welcoming The Donald in his own words. The hashtag #everysecondcounts was trending. The last line of the videos always says, “Listen Donald. We totally understand it’s going to be America first, but can we just say our country second?” It was a satirical rush for second place. What country started the trend of videos vying for second place?

Clue #4: Fill in the blanks for this line from the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. “Even the (blank) army don’t wear (blank).” IYKYK.

If you know the answer, write it in the comments!

Dos and Don’ts At Hospitals During COVID-19

After my recent family emergency, I felt it was important to say some things about how hospital etiquette has changed during COVID-19. So, I decided to do a post about dos and don’ts for hospital patients and family members during this pandemic. I will also say some more things that I didn’t say in my previous post. Again, I will be talking about medical issues that people may find disturbing.

Additionally, if you want to share my post with credit, please do! It’s important information. Please note, my post is kind of location-centric though.

Dos:

Be Familiar with the Current Hospital Situation:

I can’t emphasize this enough. When we were in the Bay Area between March and October last year, we knew that some of the hospitals had COVID-19 under control and some didn’t. We kept an eye on whether or not that changed.

When we moved to Calgary, we learned that right before the pandemic, our newly elected Premier was starting to cut public health spending. Obviously, Alberta Health Services (AHS) knew that our Premier was hoping the pandemic would be the death of public healthcare. So, they clearly had to gird their loins! This scene from the Devil Wears Prada sums the situation up perfectly. Think of Anne Hathaway’s character as the provincial doctor who does whatever our Premier says.

Jason Kenney gets elected, then the Pandemic hits

At the end of September, when the hospital situation was dire, Mum and I promised each other we wouldn’t do anything stupid that would have us end up in the ER. Of course, my Mum’s emergency was different. You have no control over when your appendix decides to quit on you. Fortunately, it happened when things were starting to calm down just a little bit. That didn’t mean the defunding of healthcare stopped though.

Within this past week, it’s been found during this fourth wave that 15,000 elective surgeries have been cancelled in Alberta. There is no timeline for resuming the surgeries. The province only allows surgeries that must be done within a 3 day period (aka emergency surgeries). Even though I was super happy that this situation didn’t affect my Mum’s care, my heart goes out to those 15,000 people needing surgery in Alberta.

Talk to A Trusted Healthcare Provider:

If you want to make sure you need to go to the ER or need to take someone to the ER, talk to a healthcare provider that you trust. Get a recommendation from them on a hospital that has their COVID-19 situation under control. I said in my previous post that under normal circumstances if my Mum said she had abdominal pain, I wouldn’t have consulted the nurse at our family practice. I was glad I did talk to the nurse though because she told me that all the hospitals in Calgary have a super strict triage protocol. She had been to the ER right when the pandemic started and she assured me the hospitals aren’t letting COVID-19 run amok in their wards. All I had heard was how the hospitals have been stretched to breaking point. I hadn’t heard much about which ones had it under control.

A week later, when my Mum wasn’t getting better, she had further questions. We called our practice nurse again and our doctor called us back. There are 24-hour health lines in Alberta that you can call and speak to a nurse, but you might have to wait a while. The lines are busier because of people calling in with COVID-19 symptoms. We did call one of those health lines when we had a question about what was going on, but we did it too soon. Plus, sometimes there is a certain inaccuracy calling a nurse that doesn’t know your case. That’s why we prefer to speak to the nurse at our family practice. She and our doctor were very helpful and told us to call if we have any further questions or updates. I could tell when we visited the office for Mum’s follow-up that they were sincere.

Find out about Hospital COVID-19 Policy:

Some things you find out as you go. For instance, I couldn’t be with my Mum when she was in the ER, or right before she had surgery. Mum noticed in the ER, they automatically separated COVID-19 patients from regular patients. Our hospital kept the COVID-19 patients in an entirely separate building. Mum said the only reminder that there were COVID-19 patients was that sometimes the PA system would call nurses to the COVID-19 building. I’m glad the hospital did its best to limit the reminders of the pandemic. No patient or their families want to be constantly bombarded with that.

The second time my Mum was in the hospital, she was allowed two visitors, maximum, and they had to be on a pre-approved list. I was only allowed to see her for an hour a day. I never enquired about this, but I noticed none of the patients had flowers. That might have been banned because of COVID-19. I did something better for my Mum though. I brought her some essential oils and rubbed them on her before my time was up.

Find out about Hospital Practices during COVID-19:

I’m pretty sure that hospitals are improvising when it comes to regular patients needing intensive care. After my Mum had emergency hernia surgery, two nurses worked all night to keep her stable, but she was on the ward. She was not moved to an ICU. No one explicitly said that she required intensive care, but I pieced it together. After all, no one just has emergency surgery for the fun of it, and you don’t just end up on 100% oxygen all night. The ICUs really are all occupied with COVID-19 patients, but there was nothing to worry about. They did some good improvisations in that regard.

There was another thing the hospital did that was different because of COVID-19. If patients exhibit any symptoms that are the same as COVID-19, they are put in isolation. Further COVID-19 symptoms mean being moved to the COVID-19 ward. A common symptom of appendicitis is vomiting. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has the same symptom. Mum was in isolation until her diagnosis of appendicitis was confirmed. She said that someone said to her, “We know why you threw up, but we’re making sure it’s not COVID-19.” Strangely enough, when she went back to the ER because of the complication, they didn’t put her in isolation, even though she had thrown up a few times. I guess they knew for sure that she was exhibiting classic signs of a blockage in her bowel.

Wear A Mask:

This is the point where I am going to whip a few dead horses and this is one of them. If you are a family member visiting the hospital PLEASE KEEP YOUR MASK ON! If you happen to be a patient if you can keep your mask on, do so! The first time my Mum was in the hospital, she kept her mask on all the time, except when she was in surgery and post-op. The second time she was in the hospital, she couldn’t wear a mask because she needed a nasogastric tube. I was a little worried, but then I saw that the nurses on the ward were careful, and some of the patients were able to wear masks, so that was okay.

One thing I hope to see after the pandemic ends is visitors continuing to wear masks while in the hospital. I was in the hospital before the pandemic, and as happy as I was for visitors, I did feel a little concerned about germs. I think it’s a sign of respect to wear a mask in a hospital, even if there isn’t a pandemic. My hope is that it continues, even when the pandemic ends.

Show A Little Respect:

I can’t believe I have to whip this horse. Manners cost you nothing! Even when she was feeling her worst, my Mum made a point of being respectful to her healthcare providers, so being sick is not an excuse for being a jerk! Mum could barely talk with the nasogastric tube in, but when the nurses did simple things like their health checks, she always said, “Thank you”. Whenever she felt a little better, she would interact with the nurses and doctors more, and continue to praise them and thank them for being the heroes that they are! She also wasn’t openly obnoxious to other patients. She has always been like that. I followed her lead when I was hospitalized too. People don’t call me my mother’s daughter for nothing!

Additionally, the nurses were happy to answer whatever questions I had about Mum’s care. They and the surgical team were supremely grateful when I brought some quality goodies to thank them. I know it’s their job to save lives, but a little appreciation makes their day!

Mum knows as well as I do that if we have to say that we are US citizens here that people might be suspicious of us (thanks Trump!). She had to reveal her nationality at one point, but she talked about the five countries we have lived in and compared their healthcare systems. That, combined with the respect we all showed to the staff assured them that we aren’t “like that”. Her nationality didn’t affect her care in any way though, for which I am very thankful. I am aware not a lot of people are as lucky though. Watch John Oliver’s show on bias in medicine if you don’t believe me.

If You See Something, Say Something:

Yep, whipping another dead horse. This point is especially true these days with Covidiots around, and also applies more if you are visiting a patient. If you’re a patient and too sick to deal with it, this doesn’t apply to you.

If you see people behaving badly, whether it’s yelling, physical violence, or another type of violence, report it! Remember how I said in my previous post how my Dad noticed an empty room on the ward where someone had defaced a patient whiteboard with Covidiot slogans? If my Dad had told me he had seen that while we were at the hospital, I would have asked at the nurse’s station if they knew about it and gone from there. Seriously though, I hope they caught the person!

Hearing stories about healthcare workers experiencing violence from Covidiots made me a little warier about visiting a hospital. Seeing peace officers at the hospital affirmed with me that the Covidiot situation is serious! Mum did tell me a story from the ER that affirmed with me that even though the nurses are kind and caring, they don’t take any crap.

Don’ts:

Shame Anyone Who Needs Emergency Care:

For the people who need emergency care during this pandemic, don’t shame yourself either! It’s not the people who need non-COVID-19 related emergency care that are tying up the hospitals. The Covidiots are the real problem. It’s completely normal to feel guilty for adding to an already stressed healthcare system though. Mum and I initially felt guilty too. This is why we called the nurse at our family practice. I knew I had to take my Mum to the ER for abdominal pain, but it was great to get confirmation and reassurance.

Thousands of people are waiting for non-urgent surgery and procedures. It can potentially cause resentment and concern among those people while non-COVID-19 emergency patients get priority. In this case, mutual empathy is critical. Whenever someone tells me they are waiting, I let them know I am really sorry to hear that and that I hope they don’t end up needing emergency care because of delayed surgery. Thankfully, those people have extended the same courtesy to my family by saying they are happy that my Mum could still get the emergency care she needed. That’s the way to do it! I know empathy probably won’t take away resentment or concern, but I hope it helps a little.

Think Post-Op Instructions are the Gospel:

I have had appendicitis myself and I found Mum’s post-op instructions confusing! We called a 24-hour nursing line because we didn’t know if Mum had to go back to the ER. People’s bodies don’t work according to post-op instructions, and the added pressure to the question, “Do you go back to the ER?” doesn’t help. In this case, it is good to speak to a nurse about any grey areas you find between the instructions and what’s actually happening. Although, we realized later we called the 24-hour line too soon for any definitive answers. We ended up talking to the nurse at our family practice again. Because Mum ended up with a rare complication, it felt more difficult for me to pin down what was happening. I needed help from a medical professional with that.

Hide Information from COVID-19 Screening:

Poor horses, but it has to be done. I was in a bit of a situation though. My Dad arrived from California two days before I brought Mum home from the hospital. I did want to have the option of bringing Dad to the hospital to visit. Plus, I didn’t know if I needed his help collecting Mum when she was released. It worked, so here’s what I did.

I told the ward Dad was flying in from California to help me take care of Mum. They asked me questions about his vaccination status and told me he would have to bring his documents. I also mentioned that he was flying in from the Bay Area and said that in terms of COVID-19, things were pretty good. We kind of had a laugh about, “at least he’s not flying in from Texas or Florida!” Additionally, I assured them that we have lived in a few other countries, so we know to respect the laws of our host country. After all that, they put him on Mum’s visitor list! They also told me to double-check with the screening area at the entrance.

The screening area reiterated what the ward said. The day after my Dad arrived, the COVID-19 screening went smoothly and he was able to see Mum! I think the ward and screening were happy that I checked with them before Dad arrived if it was possible for him to visit. What they don’t like is people acting shady and pulling a fast one on them. Be transparent, and have the necessary documentation. Plus, I could see that they were nervous initially when I said we were US citizens, but they relaxed over the fact I was honest with them.

Be Racist, Sexist, Rude or Immature:

The horses don’t like me now, but this is the last dead one I’m whipping. I promise. Besides, I live in Alberta. I don’t want to get on the wrong side of our ranchers.

We all have biases, but PLEASE don’t act entitled! If you do, you’re not only hurting whoever it’s directed at, but you disturb other patients who are too sick to deal with your crap. Even if other patients don’t call you on your crap, it doesn’t mean you aren’t bothering them. On the other hand, patients may cry out because they’re in pain, or frightened, or something. As long as they aren’t being jerks, don’t shame them for it. I have cried while in the hospital because I wanted to go home, but I didn’t say anything inappropriate.

I will be sharing personal stories on this subject, but I wanted to say this first. A while ago, I learned that it’s normal when you need hospital care, that you’re frightened and your biases surface. Regardless, I didn’t try to hurt anyone and I learned a valuable lesson. The point is to recognize them and don’t lash out because of them. I felt guilty about my biases, but I know now that shame isn’t the point unless I had caused harm.

My Own Personal Stories on This Point:

I wanted to share two different personal stories I have had in the hospital. The first one was when I was in London and had my lower wisdom teeth out. That meant day surgery in the hospital over there.

I was put on the day surgery recovery ward with several other people. There was this woman who was talking too loudly and being generally disruptive. At one point, I was coughing and she called the nurse to help me (even though I didn’t need it). She said, “Sorry, I thought you was going to throw up!” Yes, she said was. Even though I still needed to cough, I held it in. She was also yelling on her cellphone at her deadbeat boyfriend to come and get her. No one called her on her crap, not even the nurses. Later on, I realized no one would put up with that crap in the USA. It speaks a lot about cultural differences.

The next story has to do with realizing my own unconscious bias. I was in the emergency room for a ruptured appendix back when I was in California. I was terrified, had 8/10 pain, and the infection was advanced. Because of all that, I kept thinking that the men were doctors and the women were nurses. I slipped a few times before I realized my mistake and apologized. Once I had more presence of mind, I told myself to look at their uniform. I joked about it later, like, “Damn! That was one nasty infection!” I haven’t slipped up since.

So, here are my hospital dos and don’ts during COVID-19. What do you think? Anything you would add?