Uncategorized

Chronic Pain Diaries “The Luckiest”

I’m lucky, I’m lucky, I’m lucky. It’s a mantra that I force myself to live by. I am lucky. I am well-adjusted. I’m okay. I repeat it every day religiously because if I don’t, if I miss a moment of it, I run the risk of revolving into something heinous. It’s a something that is a wreck, a destructive force that runs the risk of devouring my sense of ‘self’. I don’t know what I would become, but I can’t find out.

Because I am lucky. I am lucky.

Today is a bad pain day. I knew it the moment I woke up. My skin ached, my bones felt like they weighed a thousand pounds each, and my muscles pulsed. I know these bad pain days better than I know good pain days, if there can really be such a thing. I know them and I dread them because they bring me as close to the edge of the ruination of my ‘self’ as I ever want to come. I continue to remind myself, I am lucky, but somehow the words are more hollow. They echo in my mind, absorbed by the heavy darkness that infiltrates all my senses.

I am lucky.

I never understand how it happens. Yesterday my pain was awful too, but for some reason it wasn’t a struggle. My brain woke up, acknowledged the pain, and then kicked it into the back corner where other, more important things could overshadow it. Funny pictures, my Codsworth FunkoPop arriving, lovely emails from people I work with, dinner with the husband. It’s all good, everything is fine because I am lucky. So what changed in the eight hours of sleep (or lack thereof) that my mind, so irregularly wired to handle the concept of chronic, unending pain, now seems like a mountain I can’t climb, let alone reach the summit to plant my flag? Brains are remarkably fickle things, I suppose.

I am lucky. I am alive.

It’s so damn exhausting. On the long walk through the Plus Fifteen from where we park downtown to my office I listen to my Chronic Pain Mix. Songs that are dark, or peppy, or make me feel good. The Lament of Eustace Scrubb by The Oh Hellos; Alright by Pilot Speed; Safe and Sound by Hawksley Workman. They calm the sense of aggravation, of unease. Some songs are so melancholy, I could revert to a teenage frame of mind and think Yes, this song perfectly fits my mood. Some are so energetic, I wonder how I could possibly feel depressed. Because that it was it is. Depression. A big, black swath of angry, vitriolic depression that clings to me.

I am lucky, but I can feel it in my heart, like it is encased by a cloth that is too warm, uncomfortable. It makes me feel sick. And I can’t express it properly, because for over half my life now I have lived with this I am lucky persona. I thrust out my chest, I bang my drum, and I declare Look at me! I am lucky!

The drumming drowns out the little voice in me that is sad and exhausted by the weight it carries.  Lucky as I may be.

I am lucky.

I see others who are also lucky, but don’t know it yet. I speak to them and listen to their frustrations and I nod and commiserate, because on some small level I understand. Yes, it is overwhelming; yes, it is depressing. Yes, it is never going to end. But you will live. We will live. We are lucky. But there is the part of me that knows that I will never be part of their club. Like high school, like all the places I’ve worked, like any social circles, I sit on the periphery of this world because my day-to-day sensibilities do not lean towards sadness and anger and frustration, but relentless positivity.

I am lucky.

Chronic pain is lonely enough as it is. Social isolation is a monster. But to be isolated further from those who suffer as you do? Unfathomable loneliness that eats away at you.

Still, at least you are lucky.

An Open Letter to Andrew, Who Just Wanted to Share a Quote

You might remember Andrew. Andrew emailed me again, this time to share a quote:

You’ve got to let it go and say it was the best I could do at that time and place in my life. You hope that the thing you’re doing next is a little bit better.”

-Todd McFarlane

Here is Katarina Savatski’s response.

Dear Andrew,

I thank you for your words of encouragement. When last we spoke I was returning to Russia and, I believed, my likely demise at the hands of Putin’s entourage of gnome-like FSB agents. I was certain my cover was blown, especially how Mr. Turd Ferguson, who you remember to be my handler, I’m sure, refused to see me off.

I spent several unfortunate weeks upon the boat, the SS Hipsmasher. One might believe that to be a comical name, a play on the absurdity, but it was indeed a most harrowing ride and I am grateful that I have survived to tell you the tale. I was brought onto the ship under the cover of darkness the night prior to its departure, carried in my faithful potato sack which once acted as a sleeping bag for me during my youth when my father and I traveled with the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Now, my faithful burlap, would accompany back to the old country and, god willing, convince those meeting me on the other side that I was still loyal to Putin, Mother Russia, and perhaps even the ballet.

I was directed to not leave my sack until I was certain the boat had departed. Oh, how those hours wore on! I was tucked among ballasts and boilers, next to a noisy pipe that was either used for transporting water or rats. I made myself as small as possible, which was no small feat given that part of my obligatory ballet training included spending several hours each day on a rack, meant to stretch my limbs so I might achieve maximum ‘willowiness’. After what felt like days and days, curled in the cold corner of the boat, I felt the world shift around me. Praise me to Saint Jude, we were off!

I emerged from my burlap sack and was quickly escorted to the bow where I met the captain, a Mr. Burt Lancaster-Steele. In the old country his arm hair would indicate he was a man of high rank. As it was, he explained he had some sort of allele condition and that I should not use the women’s razors in the ships bathroom, as they were meant specially for him. Captain Lancaster-Steele explained that he had been paid to bring me back to Russia, and that I should not feel even remotely uncomfortable despite the fact that I was the only woman on a ship full of men who would be isolated from the rest of the world for the next month. In hindsight, I suspect Captain Lancaster-Steele was trying to subtly warn me that the crew were not to be trusted.

I spent my days wandering the deck of the ship, making polite conversation with a young shiphand named Daniel who seemed relegated to what I believe you Americans call ‘Charlie Work’, as more often than not he was covered in some form of human excrement or handling rats. Nonetheless, I found Daniel to be a clever conversationalist. He was born in New Jersey, but I do not hold that against him.

Ah, Daniel. Were it not for Daniel, I would have surely perished upon that boat.

It happened the second week. We had been forced to sail into a storm, or else bypass it and add another three weeks onto our journey. Have you ever been trapped on a ship with a group of sweaty, sea-salt licked men, Andrew? It is deeply unpleasant.

During the night, as the SS Hipsmasher was buffeted about by the wind and waves, there came a commotion from outside of my quarters. Since I had volunteered to tend to Captain Lancaster-Steele’s chest hair he had graciously upgraded my living space from a corner in the hull to a broom closet. I was quite content there given I now was able to lock out the rest of the world if I so desired, but with Daniel sleeping down the hall, and frequently suffering nightterrors brought on by his fear of open water, I was never concerned that anyone would be able to sneak up on me.

I called out, thinking it must be Daniel, come to curse Poseidon in his terrified state. Upon opening the door, I was terrified to realize that the second mate, a wormy-like man I had only known as Dwight, was standing at my door. I learned, not long after reaching shore, that Dwight was actually Dimitri, and was, as I suspected, a plant from Putin, sent to kill me. Dwight lunged, his hands wrapping around my neck. Now, I must caution you to not dear for me, Andrew. Do you recall I mentioned my willowy stature? Dwight’s efforts to wrap his fingers around my neck were halted as I was able to deliver several swift blows to his kidneys with my lanky arms. I drove my toned ballerina foot directly into his sternum and managed to haltingly leap over him. Alas, Dwight recovered from my attack and lunged towards, me, tackling me just as the ship lurched to one side. We crashed into the wall of the hallway, and began to kick out fiercely at Dwight, landing blow after blow on his delicate man bits.

Temporarily free, I made my way down the hall, thinking I might make it to the deck and take one of the life rafts to safety. Alas, as I reached the stairs, the SS Hipsmasher at last gave way to the power of the storm, and a torrent of water surged down the stairs, knocking me back down the hallway and into Daniel, who was just emerging from his quarters.

Now, Andrew, I must tell you what happened next is a blur. I recall the sea, cold, empty, and endless. It churned around me, frothing. I recall seeing Daniel and Dwight both grapple for a knife, and the sudden and complete submersion of the boat below the water. I cannot say where I found the pipe or what I thought I was doing, but as I delivered a first, second, and then third blow directly to Dwight’s hip, I knew the SS Hipsmasher had remained true to her name.

But oh, that water, Andrew! So cold! And I say this being Russian! Do you know how much it takes for a Russian to admit they are cold? I would not admit it even if Putin had had my father hung over a bear pit! We Russians are proud people.

I’m not sure how Daniel delivered us from that balmy abyss. When next I woke I was curled on a life raft with Daniel on one side of me and Captain Lancaster-Steele on the other.

And my hands. My glorious, Putin-Oiling hands, bandaged using my faithful burlap sack. The pipe I had grasped, the very same that kept me awake during those first few hours on the boat, had been a steam pipe. Even now, as I write to you, Andrew, my palms blister and pus. The pain is excruciating.

We were not on that raft for long. Land was already in sight when I awoke. But I already knew that I would never be able to return to Russia. Were Putin to see me now, he would surely have me killed. His favorite prima ballerina and chest-oiler, now disfigured, useless. No man wants scarred, lump hands massaging unscented baby oil into their ripped pecs.

I could not go home to Russia, for I would be killed., I could not go to my adopted country of the United States of America, for I betrayed their trust in rigging the election. I was anchorless, homeless, and country-less. And so, when we arrived on the Irish coast I knew at once, Katarina Savatski surely died on that boat.

Kathleen O’Whiskey, on the other hand – oh, hands. It still pains me – Yes, Kathleen O’Whiskey would make a new life for herself on this emerald isle.

Dawn is breaking, Andrew, and I must be off. If I stay in any city too long I run the risk of being spotted by one of Putin’s spies. There is so much I wish to tell you. That your President Trump is not who he seems; that Bannon is not the puppet master you should concern yourself with. There is much you need to know, Andrew. When I am next able to contact you, I will explain much more.

Yours truly,
Katarina Savatski

Canada! Win a Signed Copy of Between Fire and Pines

You heard me right, fellow Canadians! You can win a signed copy of Between Fire and Pines! Why only Canadians? I’m always doing Amazon giveaways, but alas they only apply to US residents (because of course they do.)

 

Well the joke is on them. Their copies will never be signed! Actually I guess they could theoretically be some day if that winner hunted me down or something.

Where was I? Oh yes! Win a signed copy of Between Fire and Pines and get into the long-term saga of Natalia Artison before book 2, The Skeletal Bird, is released (probably in June, maybe earlier! Who knows! I am the master of my own destiny with this self-publishing gig!)

In order to be entered to win you simply have to tag me on Twitter, or comment at the bottom of this post with your favorite book of all time! I need something new to read, so this is me getting two birds with one very subtle stone!

So find me on Twitter,  @KathleenSawisky, and let me know what your favorite book is! Throw in the hashtag “#BetweenFireAndPines” for good measure! The contest will be open for a week and the winner will be announced next Monday at Noon, MST!

An Open Letter to Andrew, Who Wants Me to Sign a Petition

Andrew sent me this forward. I don’t think I know Andrew. I know some Andrews but I don’t think I know this one.

Hi,

Today—just one week before the Electoral College meets to formally elect our next president—a bipartisan group of electors sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper demanding an intelligence briefing related to Russia’s impact on our elections in advance of their vote.

CIA analysts have apparently concluded that Russia sought to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, and that Russia got the result it wanted. But the level of that involvement and what it means for our democracy is unclear because the CIA has not made the evidence public, briefed key members of Congress, nor fully updated members of the Electoral College who are being asked to determine the next president this coming Monday.

The electors and the American public deserve to hear the facts. We cannot presume to know what impact Russia had, whether this should negate the election night results, or what it might mean for future elections until we review the evidence. And while it is unlikely to change the election outcome, Americans deserve the confidence in our electoral system that comes with clearly knowing the threats we faced and whether they had impact.

The president has a responsibility, among his final duties in office, to give Americans the truth, and help us establish confidence in our democracy again. He can and must order the CIA to brief the electors and members of Congress in full before December 19, and declassify and disseminate the evidence for the public to consider as quickly as possible.

That’s why I signed a petition to President Barack Obama, which says:

” The Electoral College has the right and the duty to see the evidence that the CIA has related to Russia’s impact on our elections. Declassify the evidence and brief the electors before they vote on December 19.”

Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/direct-the-cia-to-declassify?source=s.fwd&r_by=15375497

Thanks!

I replied to Andrew as such:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your forward. I regret to inform you, however, that I am in fact a Russian spy and have been for several years. My actions up to this point include cleverly inputting small quantities of nuclear material into every day objects (I would recommend you get rid of that favorite mug of yours), hacking Trump’s personal email (and let me tell you, his tanning technique is far more invasive than anyone could have expected given the end result), and being Putin’s personal chest oiler.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Kathleen, how does one get the position of Chest Oiler Supreme?” or, as we call it back in mother Russia, “Cold Hands, Warm Heart, French-Fried Nipples” (Loosely translated, you must understand). My story begins long ago to when I was a youth who travelled the Trans Siberian railway with my father, who was conductor of the orchestra (you might have hear of them) for a short period of time in the early 90’s. His career wasn’t to last after he lost the use of both his elbows in a freak snow shoeing accident. After that we ended up in Moscow and I kept us alive by stealing rubles from the fur lined pockets of wealthy stereotypes until one day, after marking a certain local official, I was caught with my hand in the figurative cookie jar by none other than Putin himself.
My father, having only a slim understanding of Disney films and parental duty, readily sold me for a ticket to Fiji and some matching luggage which, in hindsight, was probably the best deal he could have gotten given how malnourished I was. I know it seems like this story is going to a weird place but just hold on, okay? So after thirteen years in the Russian Ballet (All young Russian girls are required to join the ballet. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet or prefer video games. Historically, every woman of Russian origin has been a Ballerina for at least 30% of her life) I was spotted once again by Putin during my solo exhibition performance of Annie. The part of Daddy Warbucks was played by a cardboard standee as my partner had only recently defected and was, I presume, currently being interrogated by Chinese Nationals somewhere outside of Putin’s reach.
So you’d think being a Russian ballerina I would have lovely feet, but in reality it was my hands that Putin was interested in. I have always had lovely hands. My father used to say I had the hands of a youthful Baba Yaga. I never knew what he meant but the man was usually three sheets to the wind on potato vodka so I am left assuming it was a compliment. During the pinnacle moment of the performance where Annie stabs Miss Hannigan in the throat with a knife and proclaims herself to be a daughter of Mother Russia, Putin stood on his chair and forced the performance to stop, declaring me to be the new Chest Oiler. Now, Kim Jun Un, who was visiting at the time, looked a little shocked, so you can imagine how those of us who were not completely psychotic thought of it. It made no difference. After I finished awashing myself in the blood of Miss Hannigan the performance ended and as I was leaving the theatre I was thrown unceremoniously into the trunk of a passing black car. I had, of course, expected this, making the tumble rather gracefully. You can take a ballerina off the stage, but can’t tag the stage from the ballerina.
Some time later after the customary sixty-three days of interrogation, wherein I was challenged to admit my complacency in American Communism (I never did break, praise be to Putin) I was taken to the Kremlin, given a new set of clothes and a tub of car wax and presented with Putin’s fresh shaven chest. This became my life for the next six years until, after having buffed and spit polished Putin’s chest, I was taken by a handler I had come to know as Madame Perdet. Putin had new orders for me. I was to travel to the United States, infiltrate their electoral process and, ultimately, ensure the election of Donald Trump in 2016. This was particularly interesting to me given we had only just begun to see reruns of The Apprentice in Russia and I was interested in the physics of his hairs as well as how he managed to appease his many wives (sexually) with such tiny Vienna sausage fingers. Putin told me I was his oily star, and when the President comes a’callin’ you must answer or else you disappear and everyone you love is told of your treachery.
Fast-forward some years later and I had yet to be activated. While finished my Undergrad in Visual Arts I joined local political protests, and while I am unsure of what I was protesting, I was told it was very important and it involved throwing many buckets of paint. In Russia this is just an average birthday party so it was like being back home. I met a lovely boy named Bobby who decided he wished to couple with me, but my handler in America, Mr. Turd Ferguson (I believe this is an alias, however he demands I call him by his full name) quickly put an end to that, and to Bobby’s promising football career, by breaking both his knees in a bar brawl outside of a Hooters.
After that Bobby succumbed to the drink, as weak willed men are want to do, and I was told by Mr. Turd Ferguson that the time had come to point the ranks of the Republican Party. I was confused, as the values praised by this party seemed very reminiscent of those at home and not at all the sort of values that I had learned during my education in the Liberal Arts. I was assured that this was wholly American, and that I was about to see some, and I quote, real interesting shit go down.
I must admit I was so pleased to see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Nominee. Back home is a woman ever tried anything like this she would… well, nothing bad would happen to her. It would really depend entirely on her ballet background first and foremost. Ultimately she would probably be passed over for a man, whether or not he was more competent than her. In fact, our general election back home involves six weeks of drinking until the population is in a blackout haze and incapable of even the most basic commands beyond ‘sign here’. On more than one occasion a hungover family man has come from his stupor to discover he has sentenced his entire family to the gulag. Putin finds the whole thing very hilarious.
Where was I? Oh yes. Ultimately I was activated by Turd Ferguson and sent in to corrupt the vote. Over the last two years I have thrown many chairs and hacked many emails, but none ever brought me pleasure. I was frightened, realizing that this country that had adopted me was more home than Russia ever could be, and I was actively contributing to its downfall. I did what I could; I hacked Mr. Trump’s emails, his taxes, all of it, but every time I went to meet with a contact in the news to release the information I would find that individual mysteriously strung up by their own entrails. Quite peculiar.
As I write this to you, Andrew, I am at a loss. Trump is now the President-Elect. Hillary Clinton has not been seen for weeks, and I have been summoned back to Moscow by Madame Perdet. Turd Ferguson would not meet with me prior to my boat leaving New York. I am frightened at what awaits me back home. My hands are not dry and paper cut from weeks of writing letters and stuffy envelopes. What Putin expects to find when I arrive back in Moscow is a young, vivacious young woman with the glistening hands of a Russian child. What he will find is a cynical American woman who has seen the true underbelly of the world and been helpless to stop the impending doom. I pray for you Andrew, as I have prayed for my homeland so many times before.
Yours Sincerely,
Katarina Savatzki

An Open Letter to the BC Teachers’ Federation – A Reflection on Military “Propaganda”

Note: The following letter was forwarded to me and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. The individual has asked that they remain anonymous to prevent any internal backlash. As today is Remembrance Day here in Canada, I felt obligated to reprint it today more than ever. 

Dear Sir or Madam,

It is regrettably with a heavy heart that I find myself writing to you today, and I wish to direct these words to whomever is responsible for the approval and creation of the poster found in the link included below:

http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/SocialJustice/Programs/GlobalEd/Military_Recruitement_Web.pdf

This poster was brought to my attention today by a colleague, and it is my understanding that it owes it’s creation to the Social Justice department of the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation. I must admit that my initial feelings upon seeing this poster were that of outrage. Tempted as I was to call your organization and lodge a complaint, I decided instead to think about what I had seen and why someone might have thought that the creation and distribution of such nonsense might have been a good idea in the first place. As the afternoon wore on, I cooled off enough to get my thoughts in order and came to the conclusion that perhaps the individual or individuals, whatever the case may be, that generated this work may just be ignorant as to the function of the Canadian Armed Forces. Perhaps it was a case of best intentions gone horribly wrong, or maybe the heart was in the right place but the head was firmly stuck up the arse?

Whatever the case may be, this issue still needs to be addressed as I think the author of this work failed to take a number of things into consideration. But I must start with disclosing the fact that I am currently an active serving member of the CAF with 17 years of service, with multiple tours of duty, and many numerous operations both domestic and international. So perhaps my opinions on this subject does contain a certain amount of bias. That being said, when it comes to social issues facing Canadians today you won’t find a stronger supporter than me. I truly believe that the level of social development this country has achieved is what has made us a truly wonderful society. And although there is always room for improvement, you would be hard pressed finding a more diverse or inclusive land to live in. Values like these are what makes us unique in many regards, and many across the globe hold us in high esteem and as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world to emulate. It is values like these that make me proud to call myself a Canadian, and it is values like these and the people that hold them dear that I would do anything to protect. Which, as it happens, is why I do what I do. So that is why it breaks my heart to see those who claim to fight for social justice slander those of us who actively fight to protect it.

So lets look at the poster. Your poster is divided into two parts, or at least it is laid out that way on your website. The top half as I am looking at it asks “Are You Thinking About The Military?” in an uneven and gritty font seen often in numerous anti-drug posters from the 80’s, no doubt this was done to really jump out and grab the attention of the youth you are so worried about losing to the brainwashing of Canada’s mighty and fearsome military juggernaut. The rest of the first page goes on to encourage prospective recruits to ask questions to themselves, their family, and their recruiter. Now this portion I can totally get behind 100%, as these are all very good and important questions that should be asked before making a decision. Pursuing any career requires plenty of foresight and careful consideration, and the military is no different. What irks me is not the first page, which is good food for thought for anyone toying with the idea of a career in defense, but the second page.

Here, the gears get switched here as the author(s) attempt to build a case against the defense of their own country. The first point on the poster encourages the readers to raise awareness with teachers that military recruiting is a social justice issue. That is false. Military recruiting is no more a social justice issue than picking up after your dog is an environmental issue, or losing a loonie in the couch cushions is an economic issue.

The next two bullets instructs teachers to report the sightings of recruiters to their unions, and for students to report the same to their teachers. In this case it feels like the creator is somehow drawing comparisons that men and women in uniform should be treated no differently than some stranger in a dirty trench coat skulking down the halls of a public school. Not to mention missing the fact that recruiters do not show up unannounced and uninvited to places of learning. When they do show up, it  is arranged ahead of time and usually coincides with a career day or a job fair. Military recruiters do not, I repeat do not hide outside in the bushes ready to grab the first kid they see and throw them in the back of a cargo truck to be shipped off to war. Really the whole tone of this second page is rather alarmist while being short on actual facts.

Bullet number four encourages educators to teach all sides of the story to the students, as well as the sobering facts and figures that come with it. This I actually do respect and encourage as well. However if the teachers who are supposedly teaching all sides of the story from an unbiased perspective are the same ones who can’t tell the difference between recruiters and pedophiles lurking in the halls, then I think that any hope on encouraging fair and thoughtful discussions in our classrooms is probably lost.

Moving on, point five encourages us to support counter-recruitment programs in schools. Well we certainly don’t want our kids to find jobs, do we? No, better to get an arts degree and live in your parents basement suite until you’re 38. Point six, pretty much just an extension of point five. The materials used I imagine are probably construction paper, glue sticks, and lies.

Point seven provides a link to another webpage, one that at first I couldn’t tell if it was actually being serious or not. At times, Operation Objection seems to depart from reality altogether and devolve into some sort of self parody that had me scratching my head in confusion. If these are the kinds of resources your department is using as a tool for developing social justice policies, then I think you may need to pump the brakes and take two steps back from the whole campaign while you give your head a shake. At the very least try to reach out to other groups and get some educated opinions on defense policy, and try not to rely solely on a website that claims that the cadet program is Canada’s effort to raise an army of child soldiers. Really, I can’t even be upset with them because the nonsense being spewed is so surreal.

The next point encourages the public to do what they can to counter “military propaganda”. Now, I’m not sure what you consider military propaganda to be, and quite frankly I’m a little bit confused by this one. With a budget of only 0.9% of the country’s GDP, we can’t even afford to keep our aging aircraft flying, let alone run some sort of slick propaganda machine to brain wash the masses. What exactly do you consider propaganda to be in this case anyway? Would that be recruitment posters? Cause that’s not actually propaganda, those are the equivalent to “Help Wanted” adds. I’m sure you don’t open the news paper in the morning, flip to the classifieds, and say to yourself “Aha! There’s a job opening at Sears, this is a prime example of Retail Propaganda!”. Of course you don’t, that would be very silly. The rest of the points on the poster I’m not going to bother touching, it’s late here and if you haven’t figured it out yet then a few more lines probably won’t help any.

I’ll finish this off by saying that despite your best intentions, I found this poster to be grossly offensive and I consider it a personal slap to the face after spending the last 17 years serving my country and people the best way I knew how. If there is anything you can take away from this letter, let it be this. We’re not monsters, murderers, political party hacks, or shills for the military industrial complex. We are public servants, nothing more nothing less. And we take great pride in serving the public, even when at times the public doesn’t seem to reciprocate those feelings. We do our jobs the best we can, despite the fact that we are short on equipment, funding, and people. Somehow we still manage to get the job done, despite all these challenges. And despite the great cost that all to often comes with the job. The hardships, the injuries, the fractured families, the lives lost, all to serve the public.

To serve Canada, the people, and all they stand for, that’s what they do. And for your department to spit in the face of all we have accomplished, all we have sacrificed, and have the audacity to call that “social justice”? Well, I guess some people just don’t get it. Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, and I will go to the ceremony and pay my respects to those who have fallen. Those who decided to give instead of take. Then I will go home, pour myself a drink, and think long and hard about the friends I’ve seen come and go through the years. Those who gave and were injured in such ways that they couldn’t give any more, those who became frustrated at the bureaucratic red tape and the disrespect from misguided campaigns such as this and left the service frustrated and broken, and those who gave their lives because at the end of the day there was nothing left to give. I will think of them all for a long time, about who they were, what they did, and what they stood for. I shall reflect on them for a long time. Then I will think about your department, this campaign of yours, and all the good it has achieved.

I won’t have to think about that for very long.
Regards,

[Redacted]

 

Note: Because today is Remembrance Day, and in light of the above message being spread by the BC Teacher’s Federation, it seems appropriate to end this post with In Flanders Field by John McCrae, composed on the battlefield on May 3rd, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Extra Life 2016 – Tomorrow

With 24 hours to go until game day I can’t help but reflect on why on earth I would put my body through this insanity once again. Oh yes, it’s no triathlon where my feet end up bloody and bruised, but it is one hell of a rough experience on the body, especially when your body isn’t up to snuff. Scoliosis, arthritis, chronic pain. They all impact my ability to do even the most basic tasks. 

Today I couldn’t get out of bed. Sure. All my limbs were responding. I could wiggle my toes and fingers, I could move my head and neck, but anything beyond the most cursory movements resulted in intense pain. My feet, my legs and arms, my back. It felt like someone was threading needles in and out of my spine. It was agony and it took me an extra hour to pull myself out and into the shower where hot water somehow managed to simultaneously make me feel sick and offer me a slice of relief. 

And yet, and yet. I got up. I will go to work. I will earn a meager paycheque and I will go home to prep fresh fruit and veg for Cheryl and I to nom on tomorrow. I will do some writing, because I am painfully behind on NaNoWriMo. I will do all this and more because 14 years ago I had my spine fused to prevent a devastating case of scoliosis from moving further and impacting my life even more than it already had. Already my right lung wasnt receiving as much air as it should, and my ability to do standard 13 year old things was impacted. 

They were able to schedule me in for the surgery in a matter of months because it had to be done. I received world class care from a doctor whose influence still brightens my life every day. I am, essentially, whole and capable because of Alberta Children’s Hospital. I owe then more than I can ever repay. 

So 24 hours of gaming, with an additional week long impact on my body is a small price to pay in order to be able to breathe, live, exist. 

I am at $825 at the writing of this post. It’s amazing the generosity people have shown over the last two months. Now is the time for the final push. Every dollar helps. Every share, reblog, or mention brings attention to this amazing cause. 

http://www.extra-life.org/participant/KatSwat
Thank you.

Extra Life 2016

It’s that time of year folks. Extra Life 2016 is almost upon us; 14 days and counting. Somewhere, in my brilliance, I thought I could make a $2000 goal. That was silly. I am silly. As it stands I am currently at $410 plus some change donated by my lovely coworkers. Not bad given that I haven’t bombarded social media the same way I normally do. If you’d like to donate to my Extra Life campaign, you can do so here. If you need some convincing, read on.

The What:

Extra Life is a 25 hour video game marathon that takes place every fall. Gamers around the world gather to play video games, board games,  and card games for 25 hours while simultaneously raise money for local Miracle Network Hospitals. I play for Alberta Children’s Hospital. ACH is my jam.

The Why:

I’ve spoken about my medical misadventures more than a few times. I haven’t held back when discussing how nasty chronic pain is, or how vital I have found music and books when it came to surviving my hospital experiences. When it comes down to it, a person can’t be expended to spend hours upon hours of their formative years in the same place with the same people, repeating the same experiences, and not develop some sort of affinity for the setting. For me, that has been, and always will be, the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The old hospital, now the Richmond Road Treatment Centre (Where my chronic pain clinic is now located, fancy that) became my home away from home. I knew its walls, its art work, its doctors and nurses and orderlies. I knew it better than I knew myself, and consequently found the earliest pieces of who I am grew and were nurtured in those walls, by those people. The old ACH holds a very special place in my heart.

It also terrifies me. Like, literally, I usually pee myself a little bit when I have to go back there. Three spinal surgeries with awful, debilitating pain will often create that negative connotation. And yet, for whatever reason, I also love it. Despite having only one surgery in the New Children’s Hospital (which will be celebrating its Tenth Anniversary this year!) I find myself still associating it as a home-away-from-home. It is still inexplicably mine, though I have grown so much older since walking through its halls as a patient. It is a place I ‘graduated’ from, phased out of, and in so many ways, it was the first place to dub me an adult. Sure, I had already graduated high school and gotten a diploma and could vote and had to do my own taxes, but only when I was told I could no longer go to ACH did I truly feel like I had grown up.

It was mesmerizing how sad I was to leave the hospital, to leave behind the nurses who had helped raise me in so many ways, and the doctor who had been like a father to me for the last seven years.

Growing up sucks, but growing up and leaving behind that was more difficult than any tax equation or ‘adulting’ I have had to do since then.

I love the Children’s Hospital. I hate what it represents in many ways; all my fear, my pain, my awkward youth. But I appreciate how I can now look back on it with wider, if not world-weary eyes, and see what it meant to me and how it shaped me into the woman I am today. That is why I take part in Extra Life. It is giving back, if only in the smallest way, to a place that helped shape me into the sarcastic, annoying individual I am today.

I couldn’t be more grateful.

The When:

November 5th, starting at 10:00 a.m.

The Who:

As always, Cheryl will be joining me for her own live stream! Last year I was pretty damn sick and I flaked bad on her. This year I am making it up. Because Alex and I are moving this monday, we will be having a pseudo-house warming party with some close friends who are invited to come over and play card games as a break in the evening!

The Small Details:

I’ve decided this year to try doing a single game from the start. Namely: Fallout 4. I’ve only done a single run of Fallout 4 so far, so I think it’ll be fun to start all over and make the biggest, sarcastic, jerkiest character I can. I’m going to call her Moira BulletStomper. Yeah.

I’ll be streaming on my Twitch channel here!

Tweets will happen intermittently here.

How can I help?

If you have a dollar to spare and you’d like to donate, you can do so on my fundraising page here!  Alternately, I encourage you to join in the fun! Tell your friends, get groups together, and use November 5th as an excuse to reconnect with some old buddies and raise money for your local Children’s Hospital. It certainly doesn’t have to be ACH! You can pick any hospital in any region!

This really is a wonderful cause. I can’t do sports. I am not so good at the mathing. I don’t politic or science well. But dammit, I can game, and I can write, and on November 5th I’m going to be doing it #ForTheKids!

As a bonus, here is my spine from… one of the surgeries. I don’t know. I’ve lost count.

participant_141562