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!

Medical Emergencies while Abroad I: My Story

Whew! I have a lot to say on this subject. Dealing with medical emergencies while abroad is one thing in life that I wish came with an instruction manual. I’m coming down from dealing with a medical emergency that happened right before I marked my first year in Canada. For those of you who don’t know what happened, my mother got appendicitis. I mentioned it in my One Year in Canada! post. What I haven’t talked about is that she had a rare complication a week after her appendectomy. Fortunately, she’s home and recovering well. Here’s my story, which I wanted to write while this was still fresh in my mind.

I will do another post or two on tips for current and prospective expats on dealing with emergencies while abroad. I wish I could provide a rulebook, but I hope sharing my stories and personal tips will help. My posts will also include tips for native-born citizens who want to know how best to support migrants when they are dealing with emergencies.

Please note, I am going to be brutally honest here because this subject is not often discussed. If you don’t wish to continue reading from here, I won’t hold it against you. Disclaimer: I will be discussing medical things and mental health problems that some people might find disturbing. That being said, if this post helps someone else through an emergency while they’re abroad, I will have done my job!

Some Relevant Things I want to Mention:

I had appendicitis a few years ago, and I still remember vividly how it presented. It was my first hospitalization experience and I had trauma to work through in counselling afterwards. I learned the hard way that you MUST go to the Emergency Room if you have abdominal pain! If you talk to anyone who has had appendicitis, you will see that they have an intense fear in their face. Appendicitis generally happens when you’re under 30 years old and it’s normally someone’s first hospitalization experience. It sure was with me, anyway. So, I’m not surprised to see people who are part of the Appendix Free Club look scared when they remember their experience.

A month ago, the hospitals in Alberta reached a breaking point with the Delta variant. They were short-staffed and the military and Red Cross were called in to help. Additionally, when Alberta introduced a proof of vaccination program, Covidiots were protesting outside hospitals! Fortunately, that was made illegal, but it wasn’t done out of concern for people on hospital premises. Anyone who wishes to rant about this in the comments, please do! Mum and I decided to be vigilant because we didn’t want to have to go to the ER under those circumstances.

How Things Started:

Canadian Thanksgiving was on October 11. Mum and I had a great day cooking and listening to music from Canadian singers while we worked. It perplexed me though that Mum didn’t feel like eating much. The next morning, Mum thought she had a stomach ulcer, but the things we tried didn’t work. Later that day, I called the nurse at our family practice for a phone assessment. When Mum said the words “abdominal pain” and described certain symptoms, a warning bell went off in my mind. Even though the situation in the hospitals had improved a bit, I felt like I needed to talk to the nurse before taking Mum to the ER for abdominal pain! Under normal circumstances, I would have taken her as soon as she said the words “abdominal pain” HANDS DOWN!

The nurse told me to take Mum to the ER and I asked her which one is best to go to, considering the circumstances. She assured me all the hospitals have super strict triage protocols. We almost felt bad for imposing on an already strained hospital system, even though it was a genuine emergency. When I took Mum to the ER, they told me I couldn’t go in with her because of COVID-19 protocols. I had a hunch Mum had appendicitis though, so I encouraged her to ask to be tested for it. She’s not in the normal age range for it, but it’s not unheard of for older people to get it. I have said many times though that appendicitis is a young person’s disease. This study says the same thing.

I know some older people who have had appendicitis and they have struggled with it or were misdiagnosed at first. That was not happening to my mother!

Called It!

My hunch was correct! To be clear though, I have no medical background at all. I just have vivid memories of my own appendicitis experience. Plus, I have had a lot of conversations with others about appendicitis. We got the diagnosis late at night and Mum was in surgery the next day. I wanted to visit her, but I couldn’t. They would only allow me in if it was an hour before surgery, but we had no idea when that would happen. By now, my Fuck This Pandemic List was a mile long! I know we all have our lists these days, but I was so livid that I threw something across the room! That never happens. Let it be known that the Covidiots, who find new ways of acting entitled, took away my opportunity to be with my mother when she needed it most!

I was able to bring Mum home the same day she had surgery! Sometimes, things just work! I bought a cake for the ward that took care of Mum to thank them. If I said I was ecstatic, that would have been an understatement! I was proud of Mum for not only going through this but doing it during a pandemic when I couldn’t be there to hold her hand! There was a certain amount of guilt and flashbacks too. I have often said how grateful I am that I didn’t have appendicitis during the pandemic. I don’t know if I would have been able to deal with it. At this point, I was also hoping Mum wouldn’t have any complications because of the hospital situation. I threw myself into taking care of her and decided to deal with any mental health repercussions later.

Things Were Only Beginning

After Mum got home, we discussed whether we wanted my Dad to fly in to help out. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t need him to come unless something else went wrong. At first, things seemed okay, but there were some warning signs. I was confused about what to do sometimes, and Mum kept asking me questions about my own experience. I could tell she needed major reassurance. We called this 24-hour line where you can speak to a nurse, which, in retrospect, we did too early. A week after she came home from the hospital, we had to call our family practice nurse again. Mum mentioned something that set off a warning bell for me. Plus, our doctor calling us back didn’t help.

I spent the night trying to help her with the concerning thing. I knew if it didn’t work, it was back to the ER. The writing was on the wall though, because since she had got home, she had barely eaten and was tolerating liquids at first, but then that stopped. I was considering force-feeding her, if necessary. The dread I felt when Mum went back to the ER was penetrating. Mum tried to reassure me by saying, “Think of me just going to Banff for a weekend.” Or, “I likely will only be in the hospital for a day.” Somehow, I knew that wasn’t true. I felt terribly guilty like I had let her down.

The Next Day:

I was able to visit my Mum the next day for an hour. The nurse said the current diagnosis was a paralytic ileus and Mum had a nasogastric tube to drain her stomach and relax her digestive system. Yes, that is as bad as it sounds. Plus, she couldn’t wear a mask. Surgery was a possible treatment option, but we didn’t know if that was necessary. Mum was super happy to see me! It did us both good to see each other. I asked her if I should tell Dad to fly in to help us, and she said yes. I was already about to tell my Dad we needed him anyway, but I wanted to make sure Mum wanted it too. As soon as I left the hospital, I called my Dad and told him to come as soon as possible.

Later on, Dad said that he would arrive in two days and stay for a week. He had the option of extending it if he needed to. I started counting down the hours until I saw him again! He called me later to tell me he had a problem getting a required travel COVID-19 test before flying though. Apparently, it’s hard to get COVID-19 tests for travel at such short notice. For a minute, we thought Dad would have to change his flight. I contacted my friends in my TCK group and one of them told me that SFO was doing rapid COVID-19 tests that met the requirements for international travel. After grumbling about the fact that SFO charges a premium on their travel tests, Dad decided to go with that. As he said, “They wear you down into paying the costs.”

Then, It Got Serious:

I went to see Mum the next day. She had a CT scan and was awaiting the results. She seemed emotionally better, especially after seeing me the previous day, but I was concerned that physically, there was no change. I hoped the CT scan would give us an answer. She seemed happy when I told her Dad would be coming in less than 30 hours. She knew what I was up against with logistical problems, so she encouraged me to prepare for Dad’s arrival and pick him up at the airport. By the time I left the hospital, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her the next day. So, I said a variation of Mama Imelda’s line from Coco, “Mum, I give you my blessing to get better, be strong, and never NEVER forget how much your family loves you!”

There were some nice things that happened that day. I called my Dad in the afternoon to update him, and our neighbour was over talking to him about looking after the cat, so I talked to her too. Later on, my aunt surprised me with a phone call! We talked for about half an hour. That made my day! She and Mum email each other frequently, and she got worried when she didn’t hear from Mum for a week.

I was happy for a while, and then Dad called the hospital that night. They found out Mum had a hernia and she was about to have emergency surgery! Then, everything good about the day came crashing down around me.

An Emotional Day and The Worst Night:

That day was a super emotional day. I had been hiding my feelings behind a wall for so long, and then it broke like the Oroville Dam. Before I saw my Mum, I had a chiropractic adjustment and then started crying. One of the receptionists at the chiropractic office gave me a hug. At this point, I was like, “To hell with COVID-19! I NEED a hug!”

That afternoon, I didn’t know how to feel about seeing my Dad again after a year apart. I watched YouTube clips from movies about kids seeing their parents again after such a long time apart. I needed some tearjerkers. The one that REALLY got me going though was a music video from one of my favourite bands. It’s SO TCK!

I’m not crying, you’re crying

To those of you who are either experiencing an emergency while abroad or have done so, this music video is for you!

I went to bed knowing my Mum was having a life-saving operation. I had questions floating around my head and I was shivering. Even though I had tried everything in my anxiety toolkit, it got to the point nothing worked. I was alone in a foreign country worried that I would get a call from the hospital in the middle of the night. My sleep was interrupted by panic attacks. At 3:30 in the morning, a few of my friends in my TCK group were having a call and I jumped on. I am not the only one in that group that’s been going through something lately. So, we all just talked and held space for each other. I don’t know what I would do without that group sometimes! Once I hung up, I was able to get some sleep.

Emergencies While Abroad My Story
The perfect quote

And then…:

When I woke up, I called the hospital. I told my Dad to call me from SFO so I could give him an update on Mum. When the nurse spoke to me in a happy voice and told me Mum was stable and recovering well, I was fighting back tears of joy! She had made it! They were going to take the nasogastric tube out later! YAYY!! I also talked to Mum and she was already sounding better. I told her to sleep and that I would visit her the next day at the hospital, possibly with Dad!

Mum told me to get some treats at our favourite patisserie for the ward and the surgical team that saved her life! I did it without hesitation! You would not know that the hospital staff were under so much pressure with COVID-19! Any time my Mum said that she or I were vaccinated, the response was always, “Thank you!” EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! Whenever Mum felt right, she would always have words of gratitude for her healthcare heroes. They truly ARE heroes doing what they do during a global pandemic and being screwed by the institutions they work for and people who deny there is a pandemic! I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am to the heroes that saved my Mum’s life!

I did a dance for joy and suddenly had a burst of energy for the rest of the day! It was quite a coincidence that it happened the same day that my Dad was due to arrive. I happily relayed the news to Dad when he was at SFO and told him I would meet him at YYC! Then I set to work preparing for his arrival.

A Note about Logistical Problems:

Every emergency has logistical problems. I had to plan my day when I called the hospital in the morning. I had some logistical problems with getting to the hospital. When you’re a caregiver, time is of the essence, so I would Uber there. I didn’t even have the bandwidth to check public transport options. Plus, the first time we went to the hospital, we had to go on one of Calgary’s famous trails. The trails are connecting roads in the city, which turn into mini-freeways. I find using public transport to be difficult when trails are involved. Either you get windy routes or infrequent service. That’s not good if you’re a caregiver. Every day, I wondered if Mum going to have surgery, or if I would be bringing her home. If either of those answers was “Yes”, I wouldn’t visit her.

I didn’t know if I was going to get my Dad from the airport until the morning of his arrival. I didn’t know if I would be visiting Mum the same day Dad arrived or have other stuff to do for her on top of preparing for Dad’s arrival. By the time my Dad arrived, I had been in limbo and running on empty for over 10 days, even before Mum went back to the hospital. I didn’t know if I was going to be ready for Dad to arrive either. Fortunately, Dad said that if I didn’t have everything done, he would help me when he got there! The relief!

Ready or Not:

Thank goodness for that burst of energy that I got that morning! I had less than 8 hours to set up our small apartment to fit another person before I had to leave for the airport! Mum and I were planning to do a massive clean of the apartment, but then she got sick. So, I had to improvise, find stuff that I needed in the weirdest places in the house, stress over whether we had too many plastic bags, and move everything to a convenient location.

Meanwhile, I kept checking the time, my text and email messages, and the real-time flight tracker. I kept making sure I had the route to and from the airport planned out. It rained the whole day and I was hoping it would clear up before Dad got here! No such luck. I tried to rest because I had time to do so. Nope. Too excited and wondering what would happen to have Dad here. Finally, it was time to leave.

I took two buses to get to the airport and whenever I was at a certain point in my journey, I would take a guess on where Dad was flying over. That’s one excuse to keep looking at a flight tracker, I guess.

When I got to YYC:

I hadn’t been to the international terminal before. I had arrived at the domestic terminal when I moved to Calgary because of doing a layover in Vancouver. Therefore, I had to take a photo of this beautiful glass sculpture of the Canadian Rockies! It calmed me a bit too. I had a certain amount of nerves about seeing my Dad again. Fortunately, I was texting with my friend Hilary Tan from Sereneluna! I want to give her an extra special shoutout for her unconditional support during this time! At one point, I said, “Fuck COVID! I’m hugging my Dad!” She said, “Do it!” I am so grateful for you continuing to check in on me and being there to text whenever, Hilary!

International Terminal at YYC

PSA for international travellers! Even if this might not be applicable to every travel situation, take note! I had told my Dad that I would meet him at the baggage area, but when I got to YYC, they had a COVID-19 testing line and I couldn’t go past it. At the time, I didn’t know what that was for since they don’t even let you on the plane if you don’t have the required tests to enter a country. I kept hoping, “Dad! Please put two and two together here!” Fortunately, he did because I saw him in the line to go past security. I jumped and waved to make sure he saw me! When he saw me, he told me he had been selected randomly for a COVID-19 test. Because of course, he did. I hung around all irritated that I had to wait to greet my Dad properly.

FINALLY!!

I gave Dad an extra long hug!!! And then on the way home, we didn’t stop talking. We were like the magpies we feed every morning having their little corvid party… Lol. It was getting dark as we left the airport, but I was still able to point out a few things, like Chinatown and the Calgary Tower. Dad insisted on calling it the Space Needle. Oh well, we’ll get there, eventually. It was after 8 pm when we got home. When I called Mum in the hospital, I told her no, even with today’s technology, I didn’t do a three-way voice call using my cell phone and our home phone with Dad. He was really here! Even though it was a long day, I still had to go over living logistics with Dad. We relaxed with the first two episodes of Schitt’s Creek before going to bed.

Mum said later on that she was moved to a private room before surgery. She had tested positive for MRSA. The room overlooked the city and the night Dad arrived, she felt well enough to watch the sunset. She watched the time knowing that Dad was arriving and I was picking him up at the airport. Somehow I knew that Mum was there with us in spirit. That was a tissue moment when we shared that!

Visiting the Hospital… With A Twist

Dad was able to visit Mum with me! They asked him a few more questions at the screening area and he had to show his documentation. I also brought the treats that Mum told me to get. I got a lemon meringue tart, a box of 24 macarons and some little boxes of chocolates at my favourite patisserie! When I dropped them off at the nurses’ station, the looks on their faces were priceless! I also told them to pass some on to the surgical team that saved Mum’s life. I wasn’t allowed to hug Mum because of the MRSA, but I was happy to see her eating and looking MUCH better! There was talk of her being discharged the next day!

Then, I told Mum I had a surprise for her and went to get Dad. We were only allowed on the ward one at a time. I let them catch up for a while. In the last ten minutes, I talked to Mum and she told me why she was in emergency surgery. Apparently, her bowel had got into the area where they had removed the appendix and started twisting. It’s a rare complication that has only happened four times in the history of the hospital! The surgeon that saved Mum’s life said he had only seen it once before.

Dad said he was able to walk around and see the views from the hospital. There was the city on one end and the Canadian Rockies on the other. I knew he couldn’t leave without seeing that! He’s SUCH a Montana boy! When I shared the photos below with my friends, they asked me if the hospital rents out rooms!

Mum’s Finally Home!

I was able to get Mum the next day! I felt like I was about to explode! When I was pushing her in the wheelchair out of the hospital, I calmed down though. As my Dad said once when he was pushing me in a hospital wheelchair, “Let’s try not to break any speed records here!” I added another phrase to use when going into an elevator, “Excuse me, precious cargo here!” I didn’t get to use it this time though.

For the next 5 days, Dad helped me out with whatever major chores I needed help with and tag-teamed with me on caregiving duties. Whenever we had some quiet time, we either watched Schitt’s Creek or slept! We managed to get through all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek before Dad left! I can’t tell you how grateful I was that Dad dropped everything and came to help out! He could only stay a week though because our cat is living with him and she gets separation anxiety if we leave her too long. There are times I wish he could have stayed longer though. We’re still exhausted from this experience, and I estimate that it’s going to be at least a month before my Mum even starts feeling normal again.

We’re getting to the point though that people assume we aren’t struggling anymore. In reality, we still have problems. When you’re going through an emergency, people who normally give you toxic positivity cool it for a bit, but then when the danger ends, it resumes. People ask me if I have any fun plans coming up, and I say not for a month at least and move on. That being said, I am still super grateful for the outpouring of love I have got from family and friends!

Final Words:

I wanted to give a shoutout to my TCK community at TCK Global and my followers here and on Instagram for their support and love! I know I said I am taking a break, but I wanted to write this post and share it with you all.

One important thing I forgot to say is when my Dad was visiting the hospital, he was enjoying the views from an empty room. He told me that someone had defaced a patient whiteboard with comments such as “Lies, lies, lies!” and “Covid is a hoax!” Now that you have read my story, look me in the eye and tell me that! If you had seen our healthcare heroes go out of their way for their patients to give them quality care despite being screwed by Institution X and Covidiots, you would have more respect for them than ever! You would not know they were under so much pressure and risk. I may never meet the people who saved my mother’s life, but my gratitude for them will stay with me forever!

What was even more touching was giving the ward and surgical team treats to say thank you. Mum said that after I did that, the surgeon who saved her life came up to personally thank her! Apparently, the box of macarons went to the surgical team and the ward had the cake. I don’t know who got the chocolates. As Mum says, “It’s not every day when someone saves your life.”

To those of you who are struggling with a medical emergency while living abroad, my heart goes out to you. I hope this post gives you strength and peace.

Preparing for Winter 2021

Yes, I know it’s September, but the leaves started to turn in mid-August! Word is that it has to do with the drought and heatwaves that we had this summer. So, this year I’m not going to be caught off guard when it comes to winter. I’m already thinking through things I need to buy and do before the snow starts to fall. Plus, I’m wearing warmer clothes now!

I’ll tell you this though. At least I don’t need to worry about when to get winter tires! I have no idea when I will drive again, but someday, I will experience this funny part of Canadian culture that involves putting on winter tires!

Example of Winter Tires Culture:

Before we moved here, we asked our friends in Canada about driving. The FIRST THING they said to us is your insurance is void in the winter if you don’t have proper snow tires! Since then, I have noticed it’s a common piece of conversation. One of my favourite films to watch is called Being Canadian. It features Rob Cohen who is travelling across Canada with a goal to find out what it means to be Canadian. He ends his journey in Vancouver on Canada Day. When he’s in Ottawa, it’s snowing. One person he attempts to interview for the movie is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But when he arrives at 24 Sussex, the PM’s security detail says that Harper is out buying snow tires! That says more than any interview with the Prime Minister ever could! Since then, I have heard some funny anecdotes about winter tires!

Okay, no winter tires this year, but it’s still funny!

What AM I Doing to Prepare for Winter Though?

I learned last winter that I have to keep my cold-weather items in good condition and monitor them. I’m checking to make sure all my winter items are okay and going to replace certain items. Additionally, winter requires A LOT of skincare, especially in a dry climate! I will do a separate post about that. Bottom line: you need to take care of your skin more than you think you do. I’m glad I know how to take care of my feet after being in ballet for years and I can help my Mum with it too. After I left ballet, I didn’t care about my feet because frankly, I HATE feet! It has been very good for me to live in Canada because I can get into the habit of taking care of my feet again and enjoy it.

Beautiful Autumn Leaves:

Since August, I have been on standby to take photos of the foliage. Here are some pics I took last week! I know the first day of Autumn is on the 22nd. Um, not here it isn’t!

Additionally, I was walking by this certain church last week. As a bit of a backstory, discoveries of mass graves at former residential schools were being reported last summer. Indigenous people were throwing red paint on church doors, sometimes with the words, “We were children”. This particular church said they weren’t going to remove the paint nor press charges. And they have been good to their word. One time, I walked by there and noticed people left flowers by the door and tied orange ribbons to the railings. Someday, nature is going to leave her contribution by dropping orange leaves on the church. I didn’t take a photo because I want to be respectful.

September 30 is the first Truth and Reconciliation Day. I like how it’s happening at a time when leaves are turning orange. For those of you wondering why orange, it’s a symbol of Indigenous children who had their culture and identities stripped away from them. You can read more here. Some provinces aren’t observing Truth and Reconciliation Day, which just shows you how some people in charge need to be more woke!

Books:

I’m planning what I’m going to read this winter. Reading is non-negotiable during a long winter! It stops you from going crazy or at least delays it a bit longer. When I moved here, I only brought two books with me. One was The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson and the other was Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran. I didn’t want to read either of them while I was dealing with culture shock, but I’m fine to read them now.

I didn’t read during the summer because I was spending more time out of doors. Also, I didn’t want to admit it, but I got separation anxiety from the books I left behind. It doesn’t matter how much I move overseas, books are VERY hard to donate, leave behind, ship separately or put in storage. Yes, I have done all four. When I get separation anxiety, I can’t read for a while because I feel like I’m being unfaithful to the books that have gone with me from country to country. Here are the books I just got at the library

Books!

I let myself have separation anxiety this summer and then I went to my local library and realized, “I’m over it! Now I want to get off this toxic internet!”

I am going to do a post about a summer recap because I stopped doing my X-Month Theme posts. I didn’t have a lot of time to do the monthly recap posts as well as my parks posts and apply for PR at the same time. My Eighth Month Theme post was the last one.

It’s also been 20 years since 9/11 and I’m working on a post about that. I had more revelations this year, especially from living in Canada that I wish to share.

One Last Thing:

As many of you know, Canada is having a federal election next week. I haven’t said much about it, or other things affecting Canada right now because I’m not a citizen. Please don’t ask me about it because I’m not in a position to talk about it! I am having conversations with people I trust, but I keep it on the down-low. Additionally, since 2016, elections make me sick! I know I throw shade at the US and UK, but they are my passport countries, so I can just go there with them! I’m still a guest in Canada, but I am encouraging others to talk about it. Sometimes I say, “Say it louder for the people in the back!” I feel like I’m walking a double-edged sword right now because I can’t vote, but it matters just as much to me as it does to citizens.

I did watch the French and English debates and I actually enjoyed the French debate. Yeah, there was some catfighting, but, well it sounds better in French. This year, I have been trying to understand QuΓ©bΓ©cois French so the debate was a great way to work on it. I’ll do another post on what I have learned about QuΓ©bΓ©cois French this past year. Anyway, I’m trying not to be American and talk about politics all the time.

What are you doing to prepare for winter? What is autumn like for you?

Seventh Month Theme: Mishmash

Hey everyone, didn’t know how to title this theme even though I gave it a lot of thought. It’s really been a mishmash!

Health is A Factor:

A week after I got my COVID-19 shot, I had gum graft surgery. Fortunately, the pain was FAR less than it was the first time I got it and I recovered faster! I have been super happy with the healthcare I have received in Calgary so far, and this was no exception. At least during my recovery, I was able to let my immunity develop after getting the shot without having to worry about going outside.How do I feel now that I got my first shot? Weird. There is a certain mental block I have after getting it. When the pandemic started, I got the attitude, “I’m not f***ing around with that s**t!” and I would overthink following COVID protocols. Now, even though I do still follow them, I don’t worry if I make a mistake. Even the best of us screw up sometimes, but the shot gives me peace of mind that I didn’t have before when I screwed up. Also, I read this New York Times article about languishing. Wow! Nailed it! There are lots of things I want to do, but I guess I have been locked down too long. I’ll get past it though.It doesn’t help that cases have been exploding in Alberta. I was recovering from surgery when new restrictions came in. My reaction was, “Fine with me! I’m home anyway!” I’m glad that vaccine eligibility has been expanded. Still, if you need tips, feel free to read my post about getting my shot!

Travel Update:

Thank you to everyone who gave me some travel recommendations last month! Word is that the Calgary Stampede is going to happen. Considering the current COVID-19 situation, it’s like “Oh no!” The plan is to definitely get out of dodge. I know how international events can take over cities. I was in London when the 2012 Olympics happened and there wasn’t a pandemic on top of it. Plus, there might be trouble if there are restrictions on the event because of COVID-19, so I feel it’s best to step away this year.So far, I am in the planning stage of a trip, and I don’t think anything will be finalized for a while. Restrictions keep changing all the time. At least I will be able to travel a bit (safely, of course) and hopefully, be able to see my Dad! Hopefully, next year will mean better times, and I will be able to see what the fuss is about with the Stampede.

More On Cultural Adjustment:

Normally, after the honeymoon period, there is a phase where you don’t like your new home. I found out I was going through that this past month. It’s one of those things I haven’t mentioned before in the past for various reasons, but I am breaking this cycle. There are many misconceptions about this phase, so let me clear some things up.

  1. As a general rule, this phase is really nothing personal against a new country. On the other hand, after this phase, if you STILL don’t like your new home, there is something more going on than meets the eye.
  2. You can tell when you’re going through the phase if your feelings are going to be temporary or permanent.
  3. This phase is completely normal! A country can be absolutely perfect for you and it will still happen!
  4. When you are feeling bad about your new home, it’s not necessarily what people say or do, or things going on in the country. Anything can set this off. Of course, things like the pandemic don’t necessarily help.
  5. You can get it with reverse culture shock too.
  6. A certain amount of homesickness contributes to it.

Case in point

I know I am going to get past this, and once I do, I am going to love Canada more! I saw the movie, Brooklyn recently. It’s so real about moving to a new country! My Irish side was saying, “I’m not crying! You’re crying!”

Some Other Cool Cultural Things:

Note the featured photo on my post. I find it touching how people are still saying “Welcome to Canada!” to me even after several months. I have also learned more about foods in Canada after watching the Great Canadian Baking Show. Despite my current phase of cultural adjustment, I am still trying to find hidden cultural gems!Funny story, I was with my Mum in Uber once and the driver asked us, “So where are you ladies from?” I don’t know if I have said this before, but TCKs have a weird relationship with that question. We can tend to dread being asked that. The general advice is to have a short version answer, a medium version answer, and a long version answer. What I tend to do is start with my short answer and if I get a good response, expand on my medium or long answer. I vary it depending on how people respond to me.This time, I gave my long response. My long response includes that I moved to Canada because the situation was getting pretty desperate in the USA. The Uber driver was very direct with how he felt about the USA and I took it. I said I completely agreed, but also added, “Having lived in other countries, I do understand those sentiments, and it’s okay with me.” I can’t believe I had never said anything like that before, but then again in England, there was a lot about American culture I didn’t know because of growing up there. Although I had some variation on that phrase, it fell flat.I think now that I have actually seen how American culture is after being away for so long, I can imply that it’s okay to say how you feel about the USA to me. I can also implicitly slide in the warning, “Don’t treat all Americans this way!”

Canadian Country Music In Time for Summer:

I stumbled on the following song and had to look it up!How perfect that summer is coming and found the song. Killed the replay button! I’m starting to learn more about Canadian country music (hey, I’m in Calgary)! Is it different from American country music? That’s a big yes! I am listening to Dean Brody as I write this post. I like his song Canadian Girls as well. One of my biggest hopes is that I will see Dean Brody perform (hopefully at the Calgary Stampede)!

Spring!!

I can’t get enough green things now!! I have waited 7 months for blossoms to appear! Lately, I have gone crazy with the camera photographing flowers, baby bunnies, goslings, and other signs of spring!

I saw a bobcat!

I want to take the black bunny home!

Right now, Victoria Day weekend is about to happen, and the weather has turned. It’s now what I call snailing: a mixture of snow, rain, and hail. Only hardcore campers go camping this weekend. This is apparently the last gasp of winter and then June 1st is a whole different story!To my fellow Canadians, have a nice Victoria Day weekend!

Fifth Month Theme: Spring? What? Confusion All Around!

This is my weirdest month so far! Plus, I had some culture shock going on. Read on to find out more!

What is Spring Like?

How do I answer this? People ask me about spring, but I can’t give direct answers. The best I can do is send photos. The river started melting and I got snaps of its progress. I’ve included ones from last month to show the progress. I feel like sometimes I’m snapping the receding ice shelf in Greenland.

February 15:

February 28:

March 10, 13:

There was a big melt and we decided to call it the Canadian Slush Fund. Then it froze when the temperature dropped. At least the city cleaned it up so it wasn’t so slippery.Β 

After the big melt, grass shoots started growing! We were stroking them lovingly. I didn’t realize how much I was craving the sight of green, living things. Although, my favourite shirt to wear at the moment is green with flowers and paisley. Plus, when I went to get some clothes for warmer weather, I gravitated to ones with flowers on them. Now I know to get house plants next winter. Evergreen doesn’t satisfy my needs for seeing green, living things because let’s face it, sometimes it doesn’t look green.

What can I say about the temperature? It gets erratic. The hottest it’s got is just between 10 and 20 degrees C, which is typical for cold weather in California. Then all of a sudden, it’s subzero again. At no other time has the phrase, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 20 minutes.” been more applicable.

It makes me laugh how there’s “spring” here just like there’s “winter” in California. One minute, I am walking in the sun, getting warm weather clothes, seeing grass shoots and nesting birds. The next minute, it’s plunged into snow!Β 

How do I Feel About Snow Now?

This video sums it up. I’m going to watch comedy until spring comes back!

My feet are a mess after shoving them into boots for five months. I am glad I used to be a ballet dancer though because I know how to take care of my feet. However, I have had to change up how I take care of my feet and I am still learning. Does anyone have any tips for that? I am so glad I got a footbath for my birthday! Right now, I feel like I need a major pedicure. Recently, I saw a comedy skit that talked about winter foot. Okay, too much!

I have been making a point of staying warm during these erratic temperatures so that I don’t weaken my immune system. I will be getting the COVID-19 shot in either May or June. Yes, I have pandemic fatigue, but I keep telling myself I need to hold on just a bit longer.Β 

A few days ago, I woke up, saw it had snowed and said, “I knew it!” I said it while laughing but felt annoyed too. Sometimes, I am quoting the above video so I end up saying, “Oh F**K!!” I took a photo of the snow, sent it to my friends with the following caption:

I did not photoshop this!

And Now:

I am writing this when there are warnings for both high wind and a snow squall for the next 24 hours. I hope this is just March going out like a lion. One thing has made my month. I found Cadbury Creme Eggs! They made my Easter back in England and it’s been 8 years since I have had them! Sugar binge!

It helps to laugh at this situation though. I have heard this season being described as “After Winter” or “False Hope”. I have created responses to the question “Is it spring?” according to how certain politicians would spin it. It’s all in good fun. When you get a situation where you don’t know how to answer, it’s funny to remember people actually make this their existence. I heard this is the warmest year on record, so sometimes I wonder if I am in for a shock next year?

Some Things to Look Forward To:

Once my feet recover a bit and the warm weather stabilizes, I am going to get out more and enjoy nature. The other day, I was in NW Calgary near the Bow River. I don’t see as much of the Bow River as I would like. I frequent the Elbow River more. Anyway, I saw what I think was a hawk there! It was hard to see or get a good photo of it. Plus, I heard a lot of geese and ducks calling. The Bow looked really beautiful at this time when the ice was melting.

I want to explore more of the Bow River. Plus, I hear that bald eagles are starting to next at certain points of the Bow. Additionally, golden eagles will be migrating back to Alberta soon, and I want to see them too. Watch this space!

Immigration Was Weird Too:

I applied to extend my stay here this month. This is the first time I have had to deal with immigration paperwork completely online. When I applied for UK citizenship, I did it on paper. It was only a couple of years after the first iPhone came out. Life was just starting to go digital, but the Home Office hadn’t caught on yet. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer pen and paper.

Since my Mum and I were applying together, we had a joint online application. We had to apply to extend our stay 30 days before our status expired. It was over a month ago when we started preparing our documents. Then, all of a sudden, the system wouldn’t let me upload my application form. I tried different solutions to figure out what was wrong. I must have refilled my application several times and checked it over several times a day. Anyone who knows me knows nothing gets me testier and worked up like immigration paperwork. Every day, I reached an impasse. We tried to find out how to do a paper application, but the IRCC website was super cryptic. Plus, the IRCC has to grant you permission to do a paper application. It didn’t help to email them or call them either.Β 

I didn’t think to Google the answer. I assumed because it was a secure system that tips for applying online weren’t allowed to get posted on the internet. Then, the last day to apply came around and we were just about to give up the online application and send a paper application by courier. Out of desperation, I Googled it and realized I had ticked the wrong box on my form! The relief!

And Another Thing About Immigration:

I know six-month cut-offs for certain visas are a common theme around the world. Here’s why I hate it. It’s like governments know that around the six-month point, you’re likely reaching a low point with adjusting to a culture. Therefore, they require you to apply to extend your stay when you’re already under a lot of pressure. I knew in February that I was going to hit that low soon. It hit me when we were struggling to apply to extend our stay. Fortunately, it’s not the first time I have been through this, and my Mum was supportive. She let me vent, cry and have some time to chill. Then, the next morning, she asked me, “What happened?” That question was a great way to unpack everything. I’ll be doing the same for her someday.

Right now, I’m not ready to say exactly what happened, but I will do a post on how to survive that culture shock dip. In the meantime, I’m going to eat some Cadbury Creme Eggs and watch Canadian comedy while waiting for the weather to pass.