Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Tradition

When I was about 5, my grandparents moved to Florida. It was great to have relatives to visit down there (we lived in Michigan) but it was also difficult to not get to see them for the holidays. We visited when we could, and otherwise my mother and I sent packages.

The thing about those packages was that since Grandma and Grandpa had gotten rid of a bunch of stuff when they moved, they didn't really want more stuff that would just take up room in their house. I can't really blame them. So all year long, my mom and I would collect things to send them for Christmas, usually small things or consumable things. The one thing I really remember is stocking up on loose Earl Grey tea because back in the 1980s and 1990s, loose tea was hard to find, and Grandma preferred to make iced tea with loose tea over making it with tea bags. But there were other things, too.

As we found them, Mom and I would stash these little gifts around the house. We usually started each year with the best of intentions and declared one drawer or cabinet the gift spot where everything would go. By December, however, there were usually 1-4 gift spots. Many, many years, when we would assemble the Christmas box, we would miss a spot where gifts were stashed. Inevitably, we would discover this spot in January or February. Since we knew good and well we would loose track of this stuff before the next Christmas (or Grandpa's birthday in April or Grandma's in October), we would pack up the extra presents and send a Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's day present.

I have decided that this isn't a bad tradition-- to just send people you love gifts for either completely random days that aren't holidays or holidays that aren't traditionally gift giving holidays. This year, I have spotted my mother-in-law struggling with plantar fasciitis. I know it is terribly painful. I had a surgical procedure for it a few years ago. She has found one pair of shoes that are comfortable: a pair of flip-flops. Because the weather has gotten cold, she is wearing these shoes with socks, wadding them up to accomidate the shoe. So, as a random gift to her sometime in the spring, I am going to knit a heavily modified version of this pattern for her. That's right, socks that are already divided at the toes. Okay, so I hate provisional cast-ons, and I'm going to skip the colour work, and I'm going to avoid the seam on the ankle, but I am going to make her a pair of thong socks.

I think Mom would approve of this as a contiuation of our tradition of late holiday gifts.

Monday, December 15, 2008

One Semester Down

... a bunch more to go.

So I've been in Canada since September. Wow. I haven't been drummed out for not using "U"s where I should and not understanding the metric system. (When I hear on the radio that it is going to be -2 and we'll be getting 4cm of snow, it takes a calculator and 15 minutes to figure out if I should stock up on food and potable water)

I thought I would perhaps sum this up in an entry of lists

Stuff I like about Canada:
  1. Knitting. Seriously. Consider my post about the logic of knitting woolly things, but then also, there are tons of great knitters in Canada. London has a bit of a dearth, but I can change that, and I am thinking that I might take part of my spring break and do a knitting pilgrimage around Ontario.
  2. Universal health coverage. Note that I might feel differently about it if my broken metatarsals don't heal properly and I have to wait 3-6 months to even see an orthopaedic surgeon, but for now, for me, its working.
  3. A political system where the above and funding for the arts are just a given in the debates around public policy. It isn't a question of if these things are important or evidence of liberal insanity. They are assumed to be important. If someone questions this in public debate, there is hell to pay.
  4. A political system with multiple mulligans built in. There is the exercise that was this fall's election, wherein the parliament wasn't working so parliament was dissolved and an election was held. Or the current weirdness wherein the Liberals and the National Democratic Party got together with the help of the Bloc Quebecois to attempt to become the ruling coalition in the parliament. I can't really explain it, but here's the best one I've found so far. In the U.S. if we elect asshats by accident, we're stuck with them for 2-6 years barring seriously illegal conduct.
  5. Public transportation that works. And London Transit isn't even that great, according to my friends.
  6. Beer. Canadians are a people who take their beer seriously, and I can appreciate that.

Stuff I find really funny about Canada, that Canadians think I'm weird for laughing at:
  1. How much they love Canada. I'm not just talking about the flags and maple leafs everywhere, although I do find that funny. I'm also talking about the great love that Canadians have for all things Canadian. Indeed, if a Canadian likes something Canadian all she has to say to justify it is "but its Canadian," and I, frequently the lone American in the room, am left saying "but why does that make it good?" I love a band called the Winter Gloves that hail from Quebec, and I can explain that I like them because they've goot a good sound and occasionally cute lyrics. But in Canada, I don't need to use pesky logic. I'm allowed to love them just because they are Canadian.
  2. Milk. I know I should let go of this, but how is it not funny when you can buy milk in bags, and sometimes that milk is called "homo milk." I know I'm immature, but it is really funny.
  3. The names of the towns in the West. I only hear about these on the CBC, but there are some good ones. There are Moose Jaw, Mozart, and Old Wives Narrows in Saskatchewan, and Alberta has Medicine Hat.
Things that still confuse me a little:
  1. There is a code at Tim Horton's that I don't understand. I've heard of this thing called a double double, but since they don't sell cheesebugers, I'm flummoxed. After five minutes of searching Wikapeida, I find that it is a coffee with 2 sugars and 2 creams, but yikes. Do I look like a looser for just asking for such a coffee by its long name?
  2. The London municipal trash schedule. They come every 8 days, unless there is an intervening civic holiday or an arbitary gap. I just don't get it. They sent me a helpful wall calandar, but it still confuses the heck out of me.
  3. Canadian politeness. I have found people in Ontario to be kind, polite and decent. As long as I know the rules. If you don't know the rules and screw up, you are a bad person. Now I have always had a theory that people in colder climates are meaner because of the cold... when its cold you can't waste time with niceities. Its the same reason we talk faster. But Canadians do it weird, because on the surface, they are super polite.
  4. French in the grocery store. I GET IT. Canada is a bilingual country. There is a significant French speaking minority, even in Ontario. I'm just asking the stock people at my local A&P and Loblaws to please put things on shelves English side facing front or at least half and half. It took me way longer than is reasonable to figure out what the heck Gruau is. (Incidentally, it is oatmeal.)
So those are my lists on Canada so far.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jess Encounters Socialized Medicine... And It Works!

So I have hurt my poor foot. My right foot. I don't know how I did it. I went running on Friday, and by the evening, I was hobbling around uncomfortably. Sunday, I could barely sleep, it hurt so much.

I did what any good American would do when injured. I checked the internet. I either have a sprain of something in my foot or ankle, have ill-fitting shoes, have had a stroke, or have a stress fracture of one of my metatarsal bones. I'm betting on the sprain or stress fracture, myself. But because google and WebMD left me with such inconclusive answers, I decided to get a professional, in-person opinion about it.

This being Ontario, and there being a doctor shortage, I don't have a primary care doctor. I'm not even sure, quite frankly, how I would go about finding one. Student health here at the university, while good, are continually overbooked, so I decided to go to an urgent care clinic.

I get there, check in and show my health card. The triage nurse sends me down the hall for an x-ray, complete with directions referencing a Tim Horton's. (There really are Tims everywhere) I had my x-ray, waited for a few hours, and so a doctor, who looked like he was 15, but maybe I'm just old.

My x-ray showed nothing wrong with my foot. His exam didn't really show anything other than the fact that I am "neurologically intact" (he hasn't really met me, eh?). He told me that he would give me a referral to go see a sports medicine clinic if I was still hurting at the end of the week. I figured, in light of everything I hear on the radio here, that if I needed to see them, it would be spring before I got to see a doctor.

I was so wrong! I got a voice mail this morning (missed my phone ringing) saying that the sports medicine clinic got my refferal and have an appointment set for me at 10am tomorrow. Even though I'm not supposed to go until the end of the week, I'm going tomorrow.

Maybe I'll even be able to get the bone scan that would show if I have a stress fracture. Maybe this thing works.