Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Change is good, so is Shep

In case you were wondering, Shep is back to normal but for the wound healing on his hind leg.

It's a pretty nasty gash, all the way through the layers of the skin to the thin layers of muscle on his leg.

He's been getting treatments of antibiotic Ozonol. He's still pretty fussy when I touch it ... you would, too, if someone was rubbing ointment into a deep open cut.

Dana checked him out, said he probably could have stood a stitch or two but he'll get away without needing any.

He's been such a good boy through the whole ordeal that I'm hoping to treat him in some way this weekend.

Maybe we'll head out to the woods ... nowhere near any cattleguards, that is.

Or, it's been time to head out to the Red Deer River valley and hang out at Dorothy.

I somehow find that little spot a very centring area and that's really what I need right now, to find my centre.

Everything has been off-kilter lately.

Some things I can't really change about my life, so I'm changing the things I can ... like my hair colour, like the way my evenings go, like what I do on the weekends.

Yeah, news flash. I completely changed the colour of my hair today. OK, I didn't ... my hairdresser Tisha did. And from all accounts — from face first to Facebook — people like it.

I'm a brunette now, not a blond. I don't know if it will last forever because I do rather enjoy being a toehead.

But it's a signal to me that it's time to start taking care of myself again instead of just being.

I almost feel like I've just been going through the motions for the last little while.

Changing things up ... that all goes part and parcel with the challenge.

And the two new pairs of shoes that should be arriving in the next two weeks. They really are quite darling, I swear.

You know new shoes always make me feel better.

So here's how the day went down:

Breakie: Scottish oats with Hamish Knox blueberry jam and a scoop of vanilla protein powder
Early lunch: Ground turkey sauteed in taco seasoning on 1 1/2 cups of lettuce and 1/2 cup of chunked green pepper
Snack: Protein bar
Snack: 1/4 cup soy energy blend (it's a Costco jar of soy nuts, dried cranberries, almonds and seeds)
Dinner: Pho ... yeah, Vietnamese noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts, cukes, spring rolls and satay chicken ... on paper, it sounds healthy but I think there's a load of sugar in the fish sauce and I probably gulled too many of the noodles

Not probably. Did. I still feel them sitting right there at the top of my stomach.

It's an off day from the gym, so I started by waking up and hitting the yoga mat. I did 20 minutes of Yoga Zone with Al. When I got home from work, I jumped into my sneakers and took Shep for a 30-minute stroll. It wasn't super intensive walking, since I'm still treating him a little gingerly. And then I just finished another 30 minutes of yoga with element and Elena Brower.

It was a tense day at the office ... the whole four hours that I was there. Interpersonal bullshit, so I'm trying to ease my mind about that stuff. I'm still plugging through In Her Shoes. The movie didn't steer remarkably away from the novel, although we're meeting the grandmother a lot sooner than the silver-screen version.

It may be unfortunate that I've already seen the movie, because I'm not really investing my brain in it yet. I'm just reading the words, not absorbing them.

That's the one thing I really enjoyed about the first Jennifer Weiner novel I read ... and then there's the Emily Giffin books. Her chick lit books drew me in and made me identify with the lead characters.

And oh hell, I had to do a search to remember her name and now I see they're making a movie out of Something Borrowed, starring Kate Hudson. I like Hudson ... I loved the book.

We'll see.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The fright of my life

I had a hell of a fright yesterday.

Shep and I bundled up in the truck to head west in search of beautiful fall colours, especially a sunrise which is typically so striking in Calgary at this time of year.

We were a little late getting going, though, and missed the sunrise but for a few bursts of colour at Edworthy Park at the northwest end of the city.

I had wanted to get all the way out to the Cochrane turnoff and capture the sun rising over some prairie fields. Ah, maybe next weekend we'll try again.

As long as Shep is in decent enough shape, that is.

Yes ... I have myself an injured pup.

We went onto Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, just north of Cochrane. It's really quite a stunning little place. The lower end of the hill is littered with miniature water falls, brooks and creeks, bridges and falling leaves.

You can hear the rush of the water the second you step out of your vehicle in the parking lot.

We had some time to kill before our company arrived. We were meeting Dana and Tundra, who'd never been out to the area before ... even though Dana grew up in Calgary.

You might recognize Dana's name. She works for our veterinarian, Dr. Bill, at Westmount Animal Clinic in Kensington.

She's also been a teammate, a landlady, a shoulder, a drinking buddy and a very close friend.

Shep and I went for a quick jaunt back up the road. I wanted to see if I could get some lively cow pictures, better than the ones I captured from my truck while they blocked the road upon our entry.

And that's where our day turned scary.

Shep typically will leap over a cattle guard, as he did south of Vulcan this past spring. Whether it's his age catching up to him or the fact he still had his leash on, he tried walking across the cattle guard.

He was hesitant at first and I should have told him to just stay there while I went a little ahead to talk to the cows.

He insisted on trying to walk across the cattle guard.

I heard a whimper behind me and saw my beloved dog with his hind legs fallen and stuck. I could see the panic in his eyes.

I dropped my camera to the ground, lifted his bum up and helped him out.

But then he wouldn't put any weight on right hind leg. I screamed. He yelped.

OK, calm down, I thought. You freaking out isn't going to help matters any at all.

I felt his leg, searching for any hint of a break ... waiting for him to snap at me if it hurt too much.


OK, he still wasn't putting any weight down. He was in the middle of the road and my truck was about 100 metres back that way.

Adrenalin is a funny thing, though. I scooped up my 110-pound dog and carried him to the side of the road.

I laid him down and with a speed unknown to any of my ball teammates in the past, I sprinted to my truck.

I jumped in and drove back to the spot where he lay, then leaped out of my truck, hoping that I would be able to lift him into it and speed back to the city.

My feet hit the ground and you know what? The fucker came running toward me.

My head went from 'oh my God, I could kill you right now' to 'thank Christ, you're OK' in about two seconds.'

He had no problem jumping into the truck, while my head went back and forth between anger and relief.

Mostly relief ... I swear.

The anger started to turn inwards, knowing I repeatedly promise to keep that dog safe from danger for every day I humanly can.

And I didn't.

He recovered quickly and his spirits soared when he saw Dana's truck pull into the parking lot and out jumped his best buddy Tundra.

We walked and took pictures for a good long while, but we didn't do any hills or anything overly strenuous ... hell, Dana and I both getting up there, too!

It's been more than a day since the fright and Shep is still pretty stiff from his trauma. He's taking aspirin, ground up and mixed into an egg (spoiled, I know!).

Plus, I noticed a tremendous gash on the inside of his right hind that will require some nursing over the next few days.

A cone? That won't stay on.

A Tensor bandage is doing for now.

But Shep is a fairly determined dog and when he wants to lick at something, he'll get to it.

And thus, my task for the next few days is just keeping him away from that area.

I owe him as much.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stuck in a rut

Let's talk about this rut I'm in.

It's deep.

And it's muddy down here.

I suggest to you I've been in this mess for about a month ... since I got back from the World Hockey Summit in Toronto.

You see, I've always known I missed sports writing and I waffle in between closure and non-closure, as I've proven on these very pages so many times.

For you to revel in my pain, you sadistic bastards.

All four of you.

The Summit was a brief glimpse into the life that would have ... could have ... should have ... I dunno ... but it was a been of some sort.

And then there's the weather. My God, could it be any more miserable?

Yes, I totally invoked my inner Chandler on that question.

Whatever the reason ...

I'm tired and yet I get enough sleep.

I'm crusty and yet there's little in my life worth being upset over.

I'm lazy but for getting my dog out for a walk and the occasional hour of yoga in my living room.

I'm not eating well, despite a personal challenge to give up alcohol, ice cream and Starbucks for the month. Hey, guess what ... there are still Twizzlers and Hot Pockets.

It takes effort to gfigure out what to eat, write all the ingredients down and make sure they're in the kitchen.

It takes effort to to the gym, from changing into gym clothes to getting there and hopping on the elliptical.

And I'm just not willing to put in the effort lately.

So what do I do to fix it?

How do I give myself the proverbial kick in the ass and get back to being active, healthy, alert me?

Step 1. Challenge myself to get to the gym and do some kind of movement every day ... in addition to walking the dog.
Step 2. Challenge myself to eat better. Convince myself that Twizzlers suck (they really really don't) and beer is the devil (it really really isn't).
Step 3. Write about and make sure I'm being accountable to myself.
Step 4. Go see that naturopath my brother Shane said I should go see. Maybe it's a food thing. Maybe I just need more Vitamin D.
Step 5. Step away from my laptop and read more ... books and magazines, not RSS feeds and blogs.

One of the first things I learned when I was doing a personal-trainer certification program some 10 years ago was that a person's brain and system need six to eight weeks to get addicted a health regimen.

So that's what I'll do ... starting Sunday (hey look, I'm going to the Flames game tomorrow night, cut me a break).

Challenge myself to move every day for eight weeks.

Get addicted again.

Because once those endorphins start kicking and I remember how it feels to feel great, I'll stop being so damn owly.

Oh don't fret. I'll still be caustic.

I'll just deliver my rapier wit with a smile.

Now to prove that I'm still making somewhat of an effort at eating well, here's what I made last night.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

1/3 c. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp raw honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into one-inch pieces
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into one-inch chunks
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into one-inch chunks
1 small yellow onion, chopped (I used a leek)
1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into one-inch cubes (about 1 3/4 cups)
12 sprigs fresh cilantro (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, optional (I used quinoa)


In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Place chicken in a large shallow dish. Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken, tossing gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to eight hours.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and marinade and sauté for five minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Add bell peppers and onions and cook for five minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender. Add pineapple and cook for two more minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately over rice for a complete meal, if desired.

Nutrients per serving
(1 1/4 cups mixture, not including rice)
Calories, 161; total fat, 1.5 g; saturated fat, 0.25 g; monounsaturated fat, 0.25 g; polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 g; carbs, 17 g; fibre, 2 g; sugars, 13 g; protein, 21 g; sodium, 404 g; cholesterol, 48 mg

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A farewell to bats

Are you sad at all?

That's the first question my friend asked me when we met at the bar after our games on Monday night.

No. Not even a little bit.

And that must mean I've made the right decision.

If you've been following along, I've decided to hang up my cleats. Actually, I will probably be throwing them out, given each one has a big hole on the instep.

My dad first put a bat in my hands when I was five or six. He carefully wrapped his arms around me and helped me hold the bat while Shane pitched the ball to me.

Our parents — mostly my mom — painstakingly built a little baseball diamond for me and my three brothers in our backyard. They took two big tree branches from the pasture behind our house and a couple of old fishing nets from our neighbours ... lo and behold, we had  a backstop.

The grass was dug out of four spots and those were our home plate and bases.

It was magnificent.

We had our very own baseball diamond ... oh and the field in my grandfather's backyard next door was our soccer pitch.

We didn't have much when we were kids but our parents made sure we had what we needed.

And what kid doesn't need a baseball diamond in her own backyard?

We were all pretty active kids. We played soccer and competed in track and field in the summer time. The boys played hockey and I figure skated in the winter.

I was even the first girl to play Little League baseball in Antigonish, much to Kevin's chagrin because I always ended up on his team.

I remember trying out for our junior high softball team and staking my claim on first base. I had brief dreams of playing for the Kell's Angels, the rep junior girls fastpitch team in town.

By the time I reached age, I'd long given up on that dream and stopped caring about sports a little bit ... at least as much as I wasn't playing but thinking about boys playing sports.

When I moved to Newfoundland, I immediately connected with a new hairdresser -- because what girl doesn't need a good hairdresser?

As I sat in her chair and she clipped away at my tresses, she interrogated me ... you're new in town? who are you? what do you do? oh, you're the new sports reporter? do you play sports? can you play softball? will you play for my team?

Uh, sure ... what better way would there be to start to get to know people in my new town?

Um ... FYI ... when you're a young female sports reporter in a fairly old-fashioned and pretty small town in the middle of nowhere, you don't have any problem getting to know people. Especially the guys.

In any case, for the next four years, I played with the same team and represented my new home town on the all-star team at provincials.

Softball has always been a way for me to get to know people in my new home towns. It was the same gig in Kamloops and again in Calgary.

I've met some of the very best people. And I've met some of the very worst people.

I've seen the very best of myself. And I've seen the very worst of myself.

The game has provided lesson after lesson about me, about other people and about life.

Most importantly, I've had to learn how to figure out the differences between those best people and those worst people.

I've had to learn how to figure out how to be the better me and stop being the worse me.

Coincidentally, my last games on the ball diamond were against my old team, a roster of friends and of people who resent me for drama which caused my departure from the team.

I hugged each one of those people I call friends and walked away.

But not from those friends. Those are people I want to keep in my life, just not on the ball diamond.

I'll want to see them in real life and, if I don't, it means it's time we grew away from each other anyway.

Because life's funny like that. It's OK to grow away from things and people.

Just as it's time — after three decades and more — for me to grow away from softball and move onto other things.

No more buying the newest, best bat on the market, no more slide rashes, no more broken hands or torn rotator cuffs, no more sinuses clogged with ballpark dust ...

When I Tweeted my retirement, one friend replied 'As one door closes, another opens.'

And it's true. I'm throwing open the door to other opportunities, whatever they may be.

Another friend wrote on my Facebook page, 'So what do I say to you when I see you at the ball fields next year?'

I didn't answer her.

I will now.

You can ask me 'where's your gear?'

And I'll pull a different kind of bag off my back this time and show you all my lenses.

I wish all my softball-playing friends the best of luck and health and sunshine in the seasons to come.

But for me, it's just time to go.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's your instinct?

First time for everything, I guess.

I've been to crime scenes before. It's just something that goes with the business I used to be in.

But I've never been privy to the up-close-and-personal action before.

That's changed.

Like most people to whom these events happen, it was an otherwise mundane Sunday afternoon.

It was rainy. I spend the day watching football, cleaning the house and keeping an eye on the chili in the slow cooker.

Oh, I keep forgetting to get that prescription filled. I have time before kickoff when my friend is set to arrive, so I'll just head over to Shopper's Drug Mart and take care of that.

I head back to the pharmaceutical counter and chat with Gregg ... a three-G Gregg ... they're my favourite Greggs.

He says my prescription will be ready in about 10 minutes, so I head back to the front of the store, checking out the cosmetics aisle.

But there seems to be a bit of a commotion -- some loud talking and some slamming.

The gal at the cosmetics counter looks at me and says 'did he go back there? did he go to the pharmacy counter?'

I say 'who?' and she says some guy just burst in here.

I head back to the pharmacy counter ... look, it's not like I stormed back there for a fight. I inched my slowly, craning my neck.

I see Gregg on the phone. We make eye contact and I mouth 'are you OK?'

He says 'don't let that guy leave!'

So, I run back up front, figuring Gregg wouldn't tell me to challenge this guy if he had a weapon of any kind, but just as I got to the counter, the guy was running out the door and clutching some green bag close to his body.

I burst out the door in pursuit but he was gone in a flash. Another fellow is running with me but he stops pretty quickly when a woman, whom I suspect is his wife, starts yelling at him fairly angrily in Mandarin.

She was one of four customers in the store and she was sounding fairly panicky.

The bunch of them jump in their car and tear away.

I look at the gals working and say 'shouldn't you be keeping them here as witnesses?'

They tell me 'it's OK, we caught it all on camera.'

Yeah, but ...

They tell me I have to leave. They tell me it's all OK, the police are on their way.

Yeah, but ...

I ...

Wait ... I'm a witness to a crime ...

No, it's OK. You can't stay in here.

Like I say ... I've been to a few crime scenes in my time.

So I climb into the truck and pick up my phone to Tweet the experience -- just as you knew I would.

That's when three Calgary Police Service units pull up. She knocks on my window and says 'are you a witness?'

Yes, ma'am, I am.

We chat for a few minutes and then she asks me to fill out a Witness Statement form.

Within minutes, she's called away to another incident and asks me to ensure I give my form to one of the other officers.

So I'm puttering around, waiting for one of them to come out of the store, when the K-9 unit pulls up. He sees the Witness form in my hand and starts asking me questions, all the while making sure I don't come too close to his dog ... because he's already picking up a scent.

Uber cool. I've never seen the K-9 unit at work before.

And I'm done. I start driving around the Crescent Heights neighbourhood, though, just to see if the guy is still running around, being a jackass.

The 'hood is practically in lockdown, though. CPS pretty much has the area in lockdown with streets closed off by squad cars.

I figure there's not much I can do to help at this stage, so I head home.

But I can't get it out of my head that those other witnesses who left so quickly might have had a better description than me or any of the drug-store employees, might not have had some kind of information that could help the investigation.

Fear is a powerfully motivator, though. In the face of fight-or-flight, they chose to fly.

Maybe it's the reporter in me that made me choose to chase and stay.

Maybe it's that I know the police need every bit of information possible to help.

Without question, I'd rather go to sleep tonight knowing I did everything possible to get one loser off the street.

Monday, September 13, 2010

In the twilight

I'm scared.

Yup, there, I said it.

I'm scared there is going to be a day soon when I come home and a big ole ball of white fluff doesn't come bounding up the stairs to see me.

I'm scared there is going to be a day soon when I have to make a decision I don't want to have to make.

I'm scared there is going to be a day soon when I have to say goodbye to the one creature who has been my very best friend every damn day for the last six years and change.

He has endured dances in the kitchen, long days at the ballpark, long days left at home, happy hugs and countless tears shed into his shaggy coat.

He's getting old. He already has health problems. They aren't life limiting health problems. They are quality of life problems.

He has a hyper thyroid and so he is on medication for the rest of his life. I have to push these tiny little Thyro Tabs into his treats - the same kind of treat every day for the last four years.

And with that medication can come complications. Like he may be developing allergies to a certain kind of food or treat. I don't know what kind of food or treat that is. I suspect it's the Think! Dog turkey jerky we bought but I can't be sure.

I just know that two Fridays ago, I came home from work. I reached to put his collar on - he doesn't have to wear his 'shirt' when he's at home - so he could jump in the truck with me while we renewed his prescription. He shied away from me and whimpered, so I grabbed a hole of him and checked his ear.

Sure enough, he has an infection. It had been a while since we went through one of those. But the questions arose ... is it because we reduced his meds in February, after he tested high? It was a good thing that he would require less medication, of course. And so my heart sunk when I thought his thyroid levels were dropping again and he would need more medication, not less.

So into the truck he goes and we have to stick around for an hour longer than planned, waiting for Dr. Bill to see us. Dr. Bill, for your information, is fantastic. Shep adores him and he adores Shep. He's super with the animals and just as gentle in delivering any news to the moms and dads.

We scheduled a second visit the next weekend to test his thyroid. I went in with a shade of trepidation. No one likes to hear her child needs help, no one likes to hear her child is nearing the end of days.

And yes, Shep is as close to a child as I will ever have ... or need.

His thyroid tested fine ... happy news. But my friend Dana, who also works at the vet, reminded me gently that Shep is, after all, a senior citizen.

By a chart, she measured his human age -- he'll be nine in January -- against his weight class -- 100 pounds -- and told me he is 71 in dog years.

That means, she said, we may not be able to go busting through the mountains every day of a weekend.

That means, she said, we have to put him on a diet for senior dogs.

That means, she said, he may have to start taking glucosamine for his joints.

That means, she said, I may notice him start to slow down.

Sometimes, I see it already. We went for a bit of a walk in Elbow Falls last weekend. I had to go out for a bit that evening and when I came home, I wasn't met with the scramble up the stairs.

Instead, he just kind of poked his nose around the corner as if to say 'hey, what's up?'

Shep's breed -- Maremma sheepdog -- has a life expectancy of 11 to 13 years ... human years, that is.

I remember once reading about one in the Italian Alps that lived to 22 years.

I can't imagine I'll be that fortunate.

And I know it can happen any day now. Anything could happen ... his stomach could turn, his body could stop working as well as it does, he could develop cancer ...

Lord Jesus, it's unfair to give dogs cancer, especially when all they give us is love.

So because we never know how long someone or somedog is in our lives, I pledge to make every day of Shep's life worth living.

Whether it's a trip to the mountains, a simple walk around the block or even just a cuddle on the couch.

But no more turkey jerky!

OK, maybe if it's Longview Turkey Jerky. He sure does like it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Breaking the fast ... in a good-for-you way

I don't know about the rest of y'all but I struggle with figuring out breakfasat and keeping it healthy.

I hate bacon but I thought 'turkey bacon might be all right.' Until I got the package home and saw it contained more fat than protein.

Note to self: read nutritional information before buying.

Every day - almost every day - I go with two egg whites, scrambled, and a whole wheat English muffin. Shep gets the yolks.

It gets a bit boring.

And now with Tooth Debacle 2010 still keeping me on soft food, I have to be careful about what I'm eating. Yogurt and berries, cottage cheese, croissants and soup have been my staples since Saturday.

Sounds delicious, no?

This morning, I thought 'man, those blueberries only have about a day left.' But I'd already packed a bunch for my lunch.

Then I remembered a recipe for blueberry pancakes.

They're actually called Bodybuilder Blintzes, probably because they come from an old Muscle and Fitness book I picked up about a decade ago.

I topped them with the last of my wild huckleberry syrup from Idaho (sad face). Of course, that means I have to make a run for the border to pick up some more (happy face).

Without further adieu, here's the recipe, as designed by IFBB pro Eddie Robinson.

(Pssst ... look for a bonus recipe at the bottom.)

Bodybuilder Blintzes

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup non-fat milk (I used soy)
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (I used spelt)
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup whole fresh blueberries
Nonstick cooking spray

Combine cottage cheese, milk and flour. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy, then add to cottage-cheese mixture. Stir in lemon juice, then fold in blueberries. Pour batter as pancakes onto a heated frying pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cook until top begins to bubble and bottom is lightly browned, then turn. Cook through, then serve.

Serves two.

Nutritional information (per serving)
Calories, 307; protein, 22 g; carbohydrates, 48; fat, 3 g.

Oh P.S. I added a scoop of Body Fortress vanilla whey, adding 70 calories, 1 g carb and 12.5 grams of protein.

My lovely syrup was 37 calories, no fat and 8.6 g of carbs.

And now your bonus recipe from the same book.

They're yummy. I've made them before, just not recently. Funny how you forget about some things.

Oatmeal Puffs

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
4 egg whites
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 small box raisins (eh ... optional ... not a big of raisins)
3 tbsp sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; let sit 10 minutes. Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. For each puff, spoon two heaping tablespoons of batter into skillet. Brown on one side, flip and brown the opposite side, making sure puff is cooked through.
Makes six servings. Double up on servings for a larger breakfast.

Nutritional information (per serving)
Calories, 101; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 18 g; fat, 1 g.

I'd probably add another scoop of whey to up the protein content.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Original Joe's and customer service

It isn't like this stupid tooth wasn't supposed to come out.

But it wasn't supposed to come out until October.

So here I sit, a day after having the tooth extracted, with a scowl on my bruised, swollen face ... during the last long weekend of summer. Maybe it's made a little bit better by the cold rain outside.

Or not.

A temporary crown had been in place since mid-July and was supposed to tide me over until October.

"Who wants to spend a summer Saturday afternoon in the dentist's chair getting a tooth pulled," my dentist asked.

Not this chickie. Not when there are hills to be climbed, ghost towns to be found and a dog to keep happy.

It's funny how other folks have different plans in mind for you, though.

The day before I left for World Hockey Summit, I went out for brunch with my friend and her mom. Sherrill had just moved back to Calgary from Saskatchewan and we were hanging out for a bit.

Original Joe's in Kensington, I suggested. Food's pretty good, albeit a tad overpriced. It's been one of my favourite brunch haunts for several years ... no lineups, good menu, great area.

Against my traditional Big Joe's Breakfast, however, I went with a turkey wrap.

Big mistake.

Not even two bites into the second half of the sandwich, I bit into something hard. I spit it out into my hand ... bone shards.

I placed them on my plate and called the waitress over to show her.

"There are bone shards in my turkey wrap."

"Well, there shouldn't be," she replied.

Thanks, genius. I would expect that there 'shouldn't be' bone shards in my sandwich.

She offered to replace my sandwich. I thought 'gee, take the chance on more bone' as I moved my tongue gingerly around my mouth, checking for damage.

I politely decline but expect that more should be done. As I'm checking around in there, I feel the crown wobble and a piece breaks off.


The bill arrives. And my meal is on it. As pieces of my crown sit next to the bone shards on my plate.

I huff on over to the bartender and explain the situation.

His face falls and he says, 'let me take care of that for you.'

Uh huh ... I didn't think I should have been faced with the prospect of paying for it after bone is found in my sandwich, broken tooth or not.

By the time I walk out the door, my entire crown is in my hand. And I'm on fire.

I pound out a series of disgruntled Tweets, to which several of my followers/friends respond with messages of sympathy and empathetic ire. And yes, I include @original_joes in most of my posts.

It takes a day or so but someone on the @original_joes account finally gets back to me with an 'oh my God, let's talk about this' reply.

But I'm on my way to Toronto. So I tell them to get someone to email me. On Tuesday, Adam Powell, area manager for Calgary Inner City and Interior B.C., writes to me.

He expressed his concern about my experience, offered apologies and explained Original Joe's is trying a new supplier, even going for a tour of the plant in short order.

My trip to Toronto is much busier than I imagined. I'm there for the World Hockey Summit and I'm Tweeting, blogging and exploring for most of the time I'm there.

I finally get back to Adam on Sunday, letting him know a description of my server and an account of the events.

Then nothing and nothing and nothing.

So I fire off these Tweets on September 1:

The next day, I get a reply from Adam. He's not so much upset about my experience anymore but about the tone of my Tweets.

My apologies for not replying sooner. I had a hectic weekend in the U.S. and was out of town from Aug. 27th until yesterday. I had a long day catching up at work and then managed to break my hand last night playing softball. I understand your concerns and it’s important to communicate in a timely manner especially these days with twitter, facebook, etc. Please understand there were some extenuating circumstances in this case. I found it important to reply late this evening due to the tone of your last couple tweets. I don’t want to feel anymore frustrated by the situation. I’m really slow on email right now because I’m trying to reply to dozens of emails tonight with my left hand only.

He was frustrated by the situation.

He was.


Well, good.

First, I hate excuses. I broke my hand once, too. It required surgery on a Saturday, tying up all my torn tendons with a couple of pins, and yet I managed to show up to a new job first thing that Monday morning.

Second, I really don't care what your excuses are for not getting back to me sooner. You didn't. I don't need the details of your personal life.

Maybe that makes me an unsympathetic bitch ... yeah, because that's news.

But this is where he really loses me:

I’m not entirely sure of what your expectations are in this scenario?

First, Adam, my expectation was to enjoy a meal with my friend and her mom without incurring injury at the fault of your restaurant.

Second, Adam, my expectation was for the restaurant to know how to handle the situation without asking me what my expectations are.

So, yes, Adam, I will accept your offer of a $100 gift certificate.

Not because I think that's sufficient but because I think I want to move on from this mess.

And when that gift certificate arrives in a timely fashion, as I'm sure it will, I will figure out what to do with it.

I'll probably use it in a way to benefit someone else. Of course, I'll ensure they know I'm not responsible for any injuries incurred while using the gift certificate.

But I'm pretty sure Original Joe's is off my list of suggested dining places.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The journey of a tooth

Farewell, tooth. And R.I.P. - rest in pieces.

It was five years ago I took a one-hopper off the chin at softball and you split in two, causing me to need a root canal.

Two, in fact. My first dentist in Calgary attempted it but decided my roots were too tiny and he couldn't dig 'em out.

Off to the specialist I went. I think it was even on my birthday in 2006 ... but I had to get it done quickly. I had been laid off and the Sun was 'kind' enough to leave me with three months of its measly health benefits.

Time went on. I grew accustomed to the shiny fake tooth that was my new crown. And I continued to see my dentist, believing he was super. He was ... kind, funny, conversational and, yeah, a little bit good looking. And I could give him post-dated cheques to cover the fees not covered by my new, more improved benefits in the non-newspaper world.

But, Lord, how his receptionists pissed me off. I asked them to not call me to confirm my appointments but rather to email me. You see, I loathe answering the phone. And I loathe appointment confirmations, especially when:

  1. I haven't missed an appointment in five years
  2. You're going to charge me with a $50 fee if I don't show up ... confirmed or not

This last appointment I had set up for a cleaning, they found it necessary to call me three times in two days. And you know what? By the time I can get back to you, your office is closed and you don't have an answering machine.

So I found a new dentist. Referred by a friend, Dr. Orr is a kind fellow ... and tall. Mother of God, is he tall! And his staff will email me to confirm my appointments.

He takes X-rays and says to me, 'hmmmm, that doesn't seem right.'

There it was. A curvy dark line running across the tooth, which is supposed to be dead ... just kind of a placeholder, a space filler-upper.

It shouldn't be decaying any further but that's what those curvy dark lines always indicate.

'It's rare but it does happen,' Dr. Orr said.

So off comes the crown - it was gold, I didn't even know. Dr. Orr says your dentist should always tell you what's going in your mouth. It has to be broken, there's no other way. And it can't be fixed, so a new crown will be in order after my third root canal on this tooth.

My head starts doing the calcamutations. Root canal, $1,300. New crown, $650. Trying to figure out how much of this my benefits will cover ... head starts hurting. I get a letter from my benefits provider and it confirms my fears. I'll be on the hook for about $700.

Joy kill, eh?

Except for one tiny little issue. Dr. Orr goes on into that tooth. He says, 'aha, there's what happened.'

As it appears, my previous dentist attached the crown to the filling of the root canal and not the tooth. It is done that way sometimes but it doesn't provide as stable an environment as attaching the crown to the tooth.

Thus, my decay.

He gets the filling out and pokes his nose in.

'Oooh, that's not supposed to smell like that.'

A dead giveaway, it seems. The tooth is beyond saving and must come out.

Hey, look on the bright side, I tell myself. You just saved $700 for a root canal and a new crown. Of course, it also means the tooth must come out.

Dr. Orr stuck a temporary crown on and sent me on my merry way, scheduling me for  a tooth extraction in October.

Who wants to ruin a summer afternoon with getting a tooth pulled, he asked.

Who, indeed.

I went through the month of August with my temporary crown, at times forgetting the procedure that I was due in a couple of months.

Until I go for lunch at the Original Joe's in Kensington. There are bone shards in my turkey wrap. Yes, bone shards. And my temporary crown cracks off.

Come back tomorrow for more on the Original Joe's story. For today, we're dealing with the tooth.

There I am, left with the stump of a tooth and its filling. Food is getting caught in the gap, It's a pain in the ass.

I had to leave for Toronto and the World Hockey Summit the day after my trip to Original Joe's. But I fire off an email to my dentist's office and they agree ... the procedure must be done sooner than October.

So here I sit, my long weekend destroyed.

The extraction was the most stressful procedure for which I have ever been awake ... the drilling, the pulling, the grinding, the breaking, the suction, the digging ...

How was it when we're young these stupid things just fall right out?

I have drugs. Pain killers and an anti-infection drug.

No alcohol, it thins out the blood and doesn't promote healing. No eating anything that isn't soft. There go the steaks I had planned for tomorrow.

For the next two days or so, it's yogurt, cottage cheese and protein shakes.

Ah well, maybe it'll kickstart into dropping the weight I've regained, thanks to ball and beer.

But for now, I'm going to sit here and grumble, fuss, bitch and moan.

Because the freezing is starting to wear off and, goddammit, my face hurts.