The Magic Mirror

Magic Mirror on the Wall. . . .

The many mirrors of my childhood home were never chanted to, as far as I have heard, but from a tender age I equated mirrors to magic. Benign mirrors are everywhere in our society, fracturing people a million times, a million ways every single day. Once in a great while, you encounter a mirror that you do not want to look into. There was such a mirror in my past, a long time ago in a very old house. It had another mirror directly across from it on the opposing wall. When you glanced in the one, you saw smoky reflections of almost the same room you were in. The other mirror was just a mirror on it's own. I used to RUN past it, rather than look it after the time I saw something not me in it.

My evil twin brother is just a little younger than I am and was raised completely differently than I, HOWEVER we turned out remarkably alike. His hex mirror practically oozed emotion. It sat in his apartment, in a pile of other pictures and mirrors until one night when it spoke to him and OUT it went to the alley. Of course it did not really form words, it just became very noticeable.

Magic is so tricky. One part of our heritage is the damned side. The fey side. The side cursed by alcoholism and mysticism and sometimes madness. This would be the Priestlays - those who made prophetic utterances and those who clutched bibles babbling - they are all of a piece to me. We just tag the word disturbed on it and gloss over it as it is not particularly valuable in this society to be truly fey. Even without a brain injury I knew this!

In the thrift today, a beautiful ancient mirror sat on an easel with a bloody huge price tag. This glorious piece had come in with a large estate - mostly oversized wood furniture and chintz chairs. A clock and this mirror sat together in the boutique section. The mirror had quite a crowd of people around it admiring it - a crowd that included some of the petty flea market dealers who never pay more than $5 for anything *AND* a few of the high end dealers who own posh Antique Shoppes that cater to higher end purchasers.

This mirror was like a rock-star with it's swirl of devotees. It had a SOLD sign on it. The staff said it was put out and sold in about 2 minutes. The same couple bought both pieces. As I was leaving the couple came in to pick it up. They covered the first the clock in heavy blankets and took it gingerly to their car. When they returned for the mirror, they first preened a bit in front of it and they stood basking in congratulations before covering it too in blankets and carefully exiting the store, out to their Van. As they went around the corner to the parking lot the gentleman swore. The damned thing was heavy! He said it again. "Damn this mirror!"
And just like that -it jumped out of his hand and landed on the pavement. The woman, still holding her end went straight into blame mode. They lifted the blanket to survey the damage. The next stop for that mirror was the dumpster. Strange how the mirror would rather die than go home with that man. I bet the clock stays overwound too!

Of course I am just rambling. But such events happen.
And such people as us tend to be around such events when they do.


“Maturity is that time when the mirrors in our mind turn to windows and instead of seeing the reflection of ourselves we see others.”


Things *NOT* to Buy at the Thrift Shoppe

Don't worry, this is not a post about underwear - although it could be I suppose.
It would depend on how impoverished you are and so on....

My usual list of things invisible to me, things I do not buy secondhand goes something like this:
1- Food (Unless using a food bank)
2- Pets ( no no no and NO)
3- Plants (Bugs,and other awfulnesses.)
5- Shoes unless still with price tag intact

There are a few sundry others I cannot think of this moment but you get th jist. Now I have a new addition to this list. Printers! Do not be fooled by the inclusion of install disks and a full ink cartridges. Do not be lured by the low prices.
Just say NO! Proceed to your local retailer and buy one new.

The carnage from this estate -

2 Canons, 2 Epsons, 1 Hewlett Packer, 1 Dell and 1 Brother. - - and this just since I was keeping count. I have gone through the troubleshooter so often I can chant the instructions. BAH.


Thrift is not an affair of the pocket, but an affair of character. ~S.W. Straus


Living on the Small

Having had the big city life, a degree of(in)fame(y), a sizable income and lots of shiny things, at a time in my life when I was least equipped to appreciate it, I look on fortune with a jaundiced eye. Alas had I know then that the small life is what is best for the likes of me. Alas for all such insights that take so long to be made clear.

This week I was visiting a lovely lady who I first met in another incarnation. Her husband was a client long long ago. He called himself a Jeweller but he really was a merchant running a store with some jewellery in it. He had taught himself to repair watchbands and install watchpins, and used his scales to buy old gold. He sent all his repairs to another company I did alot of business with - Trayling and Waters.

Living in this retirement mecca has brought me into contact with 3 people, all strangers to each other, affiliated with Trayling and Waters. Person 1 is the jewellery store people above, Person 2 is the sister in law of one of the principals of that firm, and person #3 was a woman goldsmith, first of her time, working in the factory floor. Interesting how things come together!

Back to the Jewellery store....

The Proprietor had a little jar until the counter which he took to the bank once a month and deposited into a special account. This was the money he made repairing watch bands. That little jar and the money made, are what that lovely old lady is living on all these years later. That was their retirement plan.

Not bad.
She is still living small by most standards, but she is quite all right thank you.
I love her for it all the more.


Getting real

Murphy's Law dictated that my car turn on every possible trouble light the week that there was no extra anything around my place. It can be disheartening.

Sometimes, when things seem bleak, expenses high, and income low, I cast my mind to the reminiscences of dear Oline. 93 years old, Oline lived through the dirty 30's but assured me the worst times were in the 40's. She said there was no work to be had anywhere. She left her baby with her mother and took her older son, as her husband loaded up their elderly truck and went looking for work down-Island.

The little family found a sweet wooded spot along the Gorge and pitched their tent.

The husband found a job on the waterfront directing traffic. Unfortunately, after only a week on the job, his leg was run over by one of the machines. He hitched a ride from the hospital to the Gorge, only to find a Policeman waiting.

"You are on private property. You'll have to move on."

The little family folded their tent, packed their possessions, and drove back to where they had started. They pitched that tent on Mom's property, but of course she made them come inside even though she only had 4 rooms.

Eventually things leveled out for them and work was found.

I have a home. I have a steady job. I have food in my cupboard.
Not even close.


Testing the Limits

It has always been easier for me to deal with female clients then male. It should not matter -however- a few experiences with men with poor judgment have honed my voodoo instincts. Treating everyone alike has always been my way- providing the same level of care to the rich and poor, the mentally, emotionally and physically ill, those with HIV-AIDS and the common cold. It is important to me to uphold that credo, so it annoys me with my voodoo radar goes off and my guard goes way way up.

This is an embarrassing thing to have to admit, but for some reason men in their 90's absolutely love me. Most of them are very gentlemanly, but some, believe it or not, get a little overly physical. Usually its a hug they want, or a kiss, or some other seemingly benign request. Let me assure you it is not benign. It is really uncomfortable. If this was my own time and private clients, I am very vocal and somewhat chilly, but on the Government's dime, I find it hard. In my mind I am thinking about how I exacerbated the situation. It is not ny favourite ponderance.

The gentleman in question that prompted this post is 94. I am not really there for him, I am there for his wife. He all but physically stops me from going to her, trying to get me to sit and drink tea with him. She has been on a downward roll and says the things that my own Grama used to say to me. "Don't get old, my dear, and if you do, stop before 90".

Her husband has forgotten to remove her nitro patch, again. He does remember to give her medication at the right time, but clearly they are both in the last glimmerings of independance. His inability to see the purpose of my visit is indication enough of this. But its sad.

As I leave he is still trying to grab my arm and get my attention, and then as I am out and going down the stairs he smiles and says: I didnt brush my teeth yet or I would kiss you goodbye.

All the training in the world, all the boundaries you learn to keep in place and all the proactive solutions you can dream of do not make these moments any easier. For me, I find the best solution for these things is to send someone else. A man preferably. After all this man is in his own home, not in a hospital or care home. As judgement declines, he really believes he is being pleasant and appropriate.




There is a school for kids not tailored for the regular system located by the new Starbucks. There are those who want to learn but have trouble doing it the traditional way, and there are those who are enrolled because it is forced on them. Frequently, small gaggles of these teens walk the sidestreets or lounge on the grass, smoking. As I cruise past I try not to judge harshly as I too, once lounged on grasses smoking instead of sitting bored in a classroom.

A week or so ago, I drove past a group of red-eyed sneering boys. They smirked at my car and then one of them raised his arm. A flash of a red laser managed to find my left eye. Whether coincidence or consequence that eye has been misbehaving to the extent that dark rooms and cool cloths are my only solace.

Bugger it.


Just Ducky

The time-honoured way of gaining access to a secure building is to ring the bell, pound on the door or buzz the intercom. In the adult-living environment, it is deemed most important to deny entry to any disreputable sorts loitering about for no good reason. In our storied area, with the whiff of money so fresh on the wind, who comes and goes is surveyed with a jaundiced eye by the residents of the Dead End Hotel.

Now that, my friends, is a less than charitable metaphor to describe Assisted Living buildings. A kinder one does not occur to me so it shall suffice. I could have called it the Prison for Old Ladies Ala Nancy O but the D-E shall suffice.

Today at the front entry to the D-E a small spectacle is taking place. In the vestibule, I stand shouting into the intercom. A group has assembled behind me also waiting to gain entry. My conversation, started in clear measured tones, has disintegrated to me shouting one word at a time to my intended client. Yes, she is deaf as a post. She does have hearing aids but does not deign to put them in to merely converse with unspecified callers.

I give up and wait for one of the people behind to gain entry and slip in. A sharp eyed gentlewoman pushes her walker into my path and asks me if I have valid business here. I side-step here with a smile and flash my badge, wishing it said F.B.I.

After nodding at the concierge, I sprint up two flights of stairs and down the long hall to my destination just in time to witness my client locking her door and heading out for a walk.


How many possible answers are there to the following question asked after introducing myself?

"Can you buzz me in please?"

- no she isnt here yet. (click)

- no, I told you, no one has come yet. (louder click)

- no, I cant understand you. What do you want anyway?

- Yes? (no click)

- Yes? (again) Are you in the hall? (pause) No you are not in the hall. (click)

- I dont buy anything over the phone. (definite click)

- oh- did you want me to buzz you in? Yes? All right then. (click)

- All right I am buzzing you in this time. I press six don't I? (the clear buzz of a nine being pressed)

- Nine you say? Nine what? For heavens sake speak up.


Believe it or not this woman has someone in every morning. How new can it be?


Cockle Shells

It was a very boring meeting. The speaker was not at fault as he was brought in to make a presentation of a specific topic and so he did it admirably. It just happens that I was present only as a show of respect for the work he did on behalf of us all.

Somewhere between the overview and the conclusion I noticed a buzz in my brain.
This is always the harbinger of trouble ahead. Looking for a trigger in hopes of delaying the coming storm, I turn my mind inward and so miss the one thing that is bothering me on a subliminal level. It is the carpet in this meeting room - a horrid red and green that has an effect of flashing my brain like a strobe light.

To get through I close my eyes then open and focus on the speakers hair, Not good enough but better. By the time he finishes and I wait through the question period, my brain is on fire. I make it out the door and down the stairs with a minimum of fuss. Home and a dark room help to dim the cockle shell to the ear buzz that screams behind each thought as a background. Not good. Not good at all.

Waiting for the whirl to tornado away, it comes to me why I no longer work in management or indeed anything or anywhere that I might encounter noise or visual triggers. Mental carnage. Sonic roadkill of the mind. Neural fodder.

How can you tell people that random events might send you off into the twilight for a few minutes? What can you do to justify the sudden and very real need to leave and lay down? It is not easy to balance needs of the damaged mind with the real world.

Communication trouble irritates me more than anything.
Heck I am still mad at the techies who flashed the lights at me during last years show triggering a minute of surreality and a very real seizure in full view of the audience. To them it just seemed I had an attack of nerves. To me, it was a searing brand that took days to dull.

Just when I think it is behind me, a little reminder from life to remind me of my limitations.


A Stable Clientelle

Any time, indeed every time I hear myself remarking on how stable my client list is I remember with a start what lays ahead. It means change looms imminently, and so I brace myself, hoping not to be too jarred by the tremors.

My list was stable. Two days a week every person I visited was well into their nineties. The same three ladies, my pretty maids all in a row, were on those days, one at a time of course. It was such an honour to stand in their company. I was the suckling pig, nursing wit and wisdom hungrily.

One tumbled and broke in three places. Her convalescence in a nursing home did not suit and she let go. One caught the flu and the flu caught her and away they flew together to neverland. The third, adamant that she would stay in her own home until the very end, heaved a great sigh, her last sigh and sank with a smile back unto her pillow, while in the other room her children noisily commented on what a burden Mother was. As that last breath exited her lungs, that smile, and the twinkle in her eyes was dazzling for an everlasting moment. I tucked her in and went home.

Change, she blows hard and we all bow down.


Shimmer -

So often in our journeys temporal, Zeez looks past the obvious, to the inner tugs on the souls so embraced by her rememories. Today it is Esther who shimmers into view.

Esther who had no challenge by privilege of birth; Esther who made a very good marriage and had three beautiful children; Esther whose tapestry strands Zeez is unraveling for me. I am seeing in glorious detail. Just the strands, mind you.

Now this puzzle is gaining shape. Zeez is still struggling to find the great king piece that will allow me to see Esther as she does.

At last she looks right into my eyes and announces jubilantly:

"Her challenge was this - - -"

-and I learn -
what Zeez learned from the pains of another. In so naming she dispels yet another demon for me or at least shows me the secret to so dispel.

Greater love has no man that he would lay down his life for another.
Zeez' laying down is her act of the greatest love.



Its a grey day better suited for November. But it is March.
My break falls now, at 07:30 no less, and I am sitting sipping hot chocolate at the beach.

The dawn is grey.
As are the skies.
In the bay, the herring fleet is a flotilla of ghost ships. Even the wheeling gulls are colourless on this morning. Where is Spring?


"I'm trying to be cranky here"

She was sitting in her big chair looking annoyed. I suppose I sang out my usual cheery greeting and with great effort she retained her scowl.

"What's with the look?" I asked.

"I am trying to be cranky here", she said, "and you spoiled it!"

"There is always tomorrow", said I and we both laughed before getting into her time machine and journeying back to the 70s.

But that, is for another time.


What's not to love?

Ladies and gentlemen:

My companion and bestest friend, -


Goodbye Frank

For a few months I had been whirling about rattling cages trying to find out where the Scribe went without having to call his wife and ask. Today I bump into an older woman while paying for my gasoline purchase. It is of course Franks wife.

Yes she say, he is gone. He was in a private care facility for his last year. It was a good experince for them both and now he is gone she has sold the house and is moving back to the right coast to be with her family. It is a good moment we share before I continue my day and she her lifetime.

Goodbye Frank.
There is a little bit of your wit and wisdom in each of us privileged to share your journey.


The Shuffle

Its sort of like the old disco dance the Hustle. A few jerky movements this way and that in a pattern and repeat! The dance we do is a strange one. We do not recognise the dance until we recognize the pattern, and that, generally. after the fact.

Just a month or so ago I was musing about how Mondays were my very special day with all of my clients being well in their 90s, and all happily living at home, mostly independently. Enter the shuffle. Two in hospital, one recently deceased, and now it is a new Monday of new people and new things.

Buggerit all anyway.


A Westmont girl

--------->Time travelling with my dear Zeez is a favourite pursuit of mine. We sit ignoring the storm hurling waves at her front windows sipping cocoa and chatting about the long ago.
Her long ago is now my long ago thanks to all the time travelling we do.

Today we are in Montreal of the late 1920s, early 1930s.
Zeez is not coping well with school at all. Fortunatly her mother has twigged to this and is sending her to a private girls academy where she can make a more sedate try at things. Before she goes she has a little tete a tete with the art mistress who has seen in Zeez a beautiful mind, and more to the point, a fellow lover of artists.

The teacher takes Zeez to a little storage room where she has stashed her special folios. She gives Zeez a sheaf of papers to look at. And what do you know?
Norma Shearer was a Westmont girl.

The Art Mistress has preserved Norma Shearers high school efforts because she saw in her a beautiful mind headed for better things. I tell Zeez she is my Norma Shearer
The Westmont girl. And I mean it.