Thursday, November 16, 2017

Football and Christmas

Football season is almost over in Canada. Eastern and Western Finals are next Sunday and the Grey Cup is the following week.  Our beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders made the playoffs and won last Sunday to advance to the semi-final against Toronto. The Riders belong to all Saskatchewan and all Saskatchewan turns up to cheer for them. Including ex-Saskatchewanians.  The stands are a sea of Green and White when the Riders play, even away games.

My son-in-law and his family live and breath Rider football.  The first game my daughter went to, she took a book so she would have something to do.  Now she goes to the games with him and watches the away games at home or in the sports lounges. She is a good wife.  SIL immediately bought tickets and airfare to Toronto when the Riders won last Sunday.  Daughter will join him in Ottawa the next weekend as SIL already has tickets to the Grey Cup.  SIL and his sister will go to the Grey Cup game and daughter will visit former Regina neighbours who now live in the nation's capital.  She is a good wife. . . to a point.

Tanya is going home for Christmas.  Flies out Christmas Day and back Jan 16, all for under $1500 CAD. She deserves it, having nursed me 24/7 since July 1.  She is excited but not nearly as excited as the granddaughters. I will cope.

Christmas Day is a good day to fly. Youngest is coming home from London, and Second-Youngest from Vancouver on Christmas Day. Son is driving in.  Christmas Dinner is on Boxing Day at Oldest daughter's house. We have booked our favourite photographers (Free Lense Photographic) for some time that week to prove we are all in one place.  The photo will have a disclaimer printed on it saying Photoshop was NOT used to put everyone in the picture.

Winter arrived Nov 1st and stayed.  Snow means I cannot use my wheeled walker so I am using a cane. Ice picks on the bottom sure help with the slippery roads. I can walk (and even run a bit) without it but am unsteady on my feet.  Besides if I am shuffling across the street it buys sympathy from the cars waiting for me to get out of the way.

Other than that, not much happens on a day to day basis. Just putting in time.  The sun comes up and the sun goes down. The hands on the clock go round and round. I just get up and it's time to lay down. Life gets teejus, don't it?






Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sleepless in Regina

Some nights I have trouble going to sleep and end up staring at the clock for hours since it is the only source of light in the room. As can be seen in the pictures below, it is an older digital model with little bars that light up to make the numbers. The system is quite simple.  Two bars make the number 1 and 7 bars the number 8.

Number   Bars

1               2
2               5
3               5
4               4
5               5
6               6
7               3
8               7
9               6
0               6

The least number of bars lit is at 1:11 for a total of 6.  The most number of bars lit is at 10:08 for a total of 21, unless you use the 24 hour clock when 20:08 would have a total of 24 bars lit.

I have not yet calculated the average number of bars lit over a 12 hour cycle.  That is for another sleepless night.




Saturday, November 4, 2017

Learning to make pumpkin pie

Halloween night, my daughter picked me up at 4:00 to help hand out candy to all the little monsters.  I was supposed to take pictures of the costumes but my phone was dead on arrival.  I had one job. . .

Tanya cleaned the flat, made stew and then walked over to the Lawson Pool.  We picked her up at 8:30.  She says she can get a lot done if I am not there to help her.

Tanya has discovered pumpkin pie. She is addicted.  As of yesterday we have a freezer full of pumpkin. My cousin's daughter learned to make pie crust from her maternal grandmother so I volunteered her to teach us.  Once you can make pie crust, you can make anything from it, I figure. We had not had a visit with her since we got here and wanted to see their new (to them) house.  Tanya had knit a scarf and toque for their 4 year old daughter too.  My cousin and his wife picked us up.

We had fun.  The little girl loved her hat and scarf and played outside in the fresh wet snow with Grandma while Tanya and I were schooled in the art of pie crust.  Tanya was hands on while I observed the process. One can read pie crust recipes called never fail but unless you know what to do and when, they will in fact fail.  Process is more important than ingredients.

The pie crust recipe called for half a pound of butter and we had brought a pound so Maryanne doubled the recipe, figuring it would make five pies, two large glass and three small aluminum pie pans. The finished dough was divided into five balls and stuck in the fridge for an hour while the pumpkin custard was prepared.

We were supposed to bring heavy cream but our grocery store was out of it so Maryanne's mom drove to a nearby store to get it.  It had snowed Halloween night and the streets were icy, very icy.  She slid into a curb and flattened a tire. CAA to the rescue. . . eventually. Being in an expansive mood, Maryanne tripled the filling recipe, I think just to use up pumpkin.

The dough was formed into pie crust in the pans and baked for 10 minutes which was new to me. Parchment paper went into the pans on top of the crust and was filled with dry beans to keep the crust in shape.  This jar of dry beans was especially for pie crust and was over 7 years old.  The crusts were then filled with custard and put back in the oven.

We had brought a big glass pie pan and took our pie home when all was finished.  It is now gone where all good pies go.  I got 1/3 Tanya 2/3.  As she said she did the work and it isn't good for me to eat too much sugar. She also said Maryanne was a great teacher but the big pie from Costco for $6 was a lot less work.

Photo by Maryanne. Jack o'lantern by her 4 year old daughter



Monday, October 30, 2017

Update on Ukraine

I expect Ukraine doesn't make the North american news much these days.  Too much going on in both Canada and USA.  Besides, on a daily basis, not much changes.  Yesterday's news is as good as today's.

On the Donetsk front Russian backed troops attack Ukrainian positions many times per day resulting in 1 to 5 deaths of Ukrainian soldiers and 1 to 10 wounded.  These are the official counts.  The attacks are always driven off; no accounting of Russian deaths or wounded.  Rinse, repeat. Occasionally, the Ukrainian side will retake a few meters of ground in driving back an attack but they must be careful or they will be accused of "breaking the Minsk Accord".

However the Ukrainian government has passed two laws regarding the war in Donbas that essentially lay out the Ukrainian understanding of the Minsk Agreements in black and white regardless of how Putin would like it understood.  The first law "establishes that a special procedure for local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions comes into force only after all the conditions set forth in Article 10 of the law have been fulfilled, in particular, with regard to the withdrawal of all illegal armed formations and their military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries, from the territory of Ukraine." 

The second law "defines the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions as: the land territory and its internal waters within the limits of separate districts, cities, towns and villages, where the military forces of the Russian Federation and Russian occupational administration have established and carry out the occupying government and general control; internal sea waters and the territorial sea of Ukraine adjacent to the same land territory; airspace over these territories.

In other words it is no longer an anti-terrorist operation.  Russia has been named as the invading and occupying force in Donbas.

There have been a number of kidnappings of Ukrainian citizens who are taken to Russia and imprisoned on made-up charges.  Recently a young man was lured to Belarus by a girl who had been coerced by the FSB.  The young man is now in Russia, charged with plotting to blow up a school.  His actual crime was blogging something the Russians didn't like.  Two young men in the Russian controlled area of Donetsk have been arrested and sentenced to several years in jail for spying for the Ukrainians.  Their actual crime was waving a Ukrainian flag. In Russian occupied Crimea, Tatars are specifically targeted by the Russians for extremism or terrorism.

A number of people have been assassinated in broad daylight in Kyiv.  Bullets or bombs.  By whom is never certain even when the trigger men are caught.  Could be both sides or even third parties. Two ammunition dumps were blown up this year.  Sabotage.  The most recent in Vinnitsa Oblast was a main  arsenal of the Ukrainian army and fortunately 70% of the ammunition survived the blast.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/27/fire-ukraine-ammunition-depot-prompts-mass-evacuation/

The real war is in the Ukrainian parliament with the old guard fighting tooth and nail (sometimes literally) to preserve the corruption that has made them or their allies rich.  Progress is made slowly, mainly forced on them by outside pressure. (You need eg IMF money?  Clean up your act). Reforms have been quickest in areas that do not affect the lawmakers.  The price of gas and electricity have gone up dramatically, as an example.

The attempt to reform the health care system is a good example of the difficulties faced by reformers.  The Minister in charge has submitted a bill to parliament to reduce the corruption levels and provide more money for actual health care.  The bill was not initially passed in July as it did not get support.

“The state has spent about 300 million UAH [$11.5 million] to build the new facilities for that hospital; 60 million UAH [$2.3 million] was spent on equipment—which disappeared,” Suprun explained. . .
In many countries the hugely expensive equipment in hospitals is leased. But in Ukraine, that’s forbidden by law. Why? Because kickbacks are built in to the sales, generating enormous income every year for everybody in the corrupt chain. “The pharmo-mafia and some hospitals make billions of dollars, while we want the purchasing to be done by international organizations including the UNDP, UNICEF, through tenders,” Suprun explained. . .
“There is a tiny piece left to fix the poor infrastructure of hospitals and pay extremely low salaries for the workers,” Suprun said. The average salary of a Ukrainian doctor is about $200 a month. “That’s what makes medical workers charge payments for their services, then kick back up to their head doctors and higher,” she said.

The bill was finally passed in October.  The following article provides an overview of the reforms.  It will give you an idea of the situation I faced in the best hospital in Dnipro. And of course how or even if it is implemented is another question.  http://euromaidanpress.com/2017/10/20/what-ukraines-healthcare-reform-is-about/

The hardest fought battles are in the area of reforming the courts, judges and prosecutors.  This is the root of corruption in Ukraine.  Attempts to establish an independent anti-corruption court has not gone anywhere and may never if President Poroshenko has his way.  The powers that be dare not allow such a court because they know they will all go down. Again, such a court is being forced on Ukraine by outside pressure but there are many ways to sabotage it.

Optimists such as Alexander Motyl that Ukraine is reforming slowly but surely. As my father once said about me, "You have to put a stake in the ground and use a tape measure to discern any movement at all." OK, maybe it isn't as bad as I think but I am not optimistic until they fix the roads.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Back Home Again

Where is home?  Many answers to that, all correct.  Where I hang my hat.  Where I can get internet.  Where i was born and raised.  Where I spent most of my life.  Where I now live. My permanent residence.

So the farm is home, Ukraine is now home but Regina will always be home. Our family spent 24 years in this city.  My oldest still lives here. As of September 1, it is home for Tanya and I for one year until I am healthy again.  We have a small 1 bedroom flat found and furnished by my eldest. Five minutes from hospital, doctors office and bus stops.  And affordable, sort of.

It is also across the street from Regina Exhibition Grounds, home of Canadian Western Agribition, the world's largest indoor cattle show.  Haven't been for 10 years.

I had a specialist lined up a month before we left Ukraine. My ostomy bag was giving no end of trouble - it would not adhere to my skin any length of time. My oldest was friends with a nurse who worked at the Enterostomy Clinic and would message her for information and assistance in trying to solve the problem.  The nurse mentioned this to a surgeon she works with who up until 4 years ago had been a surgeon in the hospital in Dnipro where I was a patient.  He got all excited and phoned Tanya a couple of times to discuss the issue.  I had an appointment with him before I had a letter of referral from a General Practitioner.

So the morning after we arrived I had an appointment with a GP or in this case a Nurse Practitioner to get a letter of referral to the specialist with whom I had an appointment the following morning.  The nurse practitioner turned out to have lived in the house behind us when we first moved to Regina in 1983. She and her brothers went to school with my kids.

I can't travel as we have no car and our government killed the provincial bus service, so friends are coming to see us.  People I haven't seen in years.  Averaging 3 to 4 per week.  It is wonderful to catch up, I can tell you.

Last night, Tanya and I went with friends to the Bushwakker Brew Pub to listen to live jazz from 'round midnight, a local band  where a long time friend plays bass. Food there is great.  I have never tried their beer as they have a wide variety of good Scotch.  Which I can't drink anymore.  Especially at $8 to $22 for a 30 gram ounce.  At least in Europe a shot is 50 grams.

Tomorrow I am going to an anti-provincial government rally just for fun.  Saskatchewan has a conservative government which like all conservative governments has cut taxes for the rich and made up the difference by cutting services to the rest of us.  They have already been forced to back pedal on several of their cuts.  Tomorrow is about forcing more back pedaling.

A CT scan and colonoscopy will tell me doctor how much more of my poor colon needs to be removed.  I will then be a semicolon. This will happen in January if all goes well. Then in February they will reconnect my stoma or as I told my children, reconnect my mouth and my a$$. My youngest suggested that when they were doing that, could they remove my feet from the one and my head from the other.  I get no respect.

By the way, did you know that when people kiss they just make a long tube connecting one butthole to another.  But I digress.

I am glad to be home.




Sunday, October 22, 2017

Top 10 signs you are too old to be trick or treating

10. You get winded from knocking on the door
9. You have to have another kid chew the candy for you.
8. You ask for high fibre candy only.
7. When someone drops a candy bar in your bag you lose your balance.
6. People say, "Great Keith Richards mask!" and you aren't wearing a mask.
5. When the door opens, you yell, "Trick or . . ." and can't remember the rest.
4. By the end of the night you have a bag full of restraining orders.
3. You have to carefully choose a costume that won't dislodge your hairpiece.
2. You are the only Power Ranger in your neighbourhood with a walker.
1. You avoid going to houses where your ex-wives live.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

How I spent my summer vacation

June 30, the next day being July 1st, Canada Day, I took Tanya, Lina and Sveta to The Egoist Restaurant for supper. Trying to imitate the eating habits of Henry VIII, I over did it and was very uncomfortable, not for the first time in my life, sad to say.

At 1:30 am July 1st, severe abdominal pain hit and by 3:30 I was dry heaving and my belly was swollen like a poisoned pup. By 6:00 am I was in an ambulance headed for the hospital.  The ride was so rough, I had to get out and go in Andrei's car.  At the hospital in Zhovti Vody, a doctor examined me and concluded I had peritonitis and possibly pancreatitis and needed immediate surgery and should go to Dnipro as they could no longer do surgery in Zhovti Vody.  Andrei had to go to the Mayor's office to get him to instruct the hospital to send me as they were NOT going to send their good ambulance out of town. Pain killers made the ride bearable

By 6:00 pm I was in the best hospital in Dnipro, which was also crowded with wounded soldiers from the Donbas front. they wired me up with IV antibiotics and morphine and I don't know what else.  Several doctors poked and prodded causing me great pain and July 4 they finally operated on me. I am guessing they plugged the hole in my colon and the words "diverticulosis" and sepsis were mentioned.  I had a temporary iliostomy c/w bag and several drainage tubes in my abdomen. I was so weak, I could do nothing for myself, not even turn or feed myself, nothing. The doctors were worried I was not going to make it.  So was everyone else.  No one told me so I didn't know until late August why everyone was so scared for me.

July 7th, my three daughters arrived in Dnipro to help Tanya look after me.  Two stayed for three weeks until I was moved back to Zhovti Vody. The youngest stayed for a week as she could not get more time off work. My son was frantic to come also but the girls talked him out of it.  Given his health problems (Crohn's Disease) they did not want two Hingstons in hospital in Ukraine. My oldest daughter's description of their time and why it was critical they were there in Ukraine can be found below.

I spent a year in Ukraine one month: Part 1 
I spent a year in Ukraine one month: Part 2 
Lessons I learned in Ukraine 
Adventures in Ukraine: Part 3 -- Wherein we learned to ask for help
July 26th, Tanya rented a private ambulance to move me back to Zhovti Vody Hospital where I spent a further two weeks. Having developed a hernia along my incision, I needed to be bandaged up tight before I could get out of bed.  Walking the length of the room using a hump and clump walker I named Texas Ranger was hard work.  Gradually I got it up to 5 round trips, then 10, then out in the hallway where I could boogie.  

After a couple weeks, I was reluctantly moved to our house. It worked out far better than I imagined  It was easier on Tanya and with help from Lina and Sveta she managed quite well.  She would have to get up every 2-4 hours in the night to attend to me but she did it. And I had more places to walk.  Outside even.  Though the day I tried to climb the front three steps without notifying anyone and fell on my face did not endear me to anyone.

Basically, I would not be alive without Tanya.  She nursed me 24/7 from when I was first sick.  Argued with the doctors and nurses to make sure I was well looked after by them and that she knew what to do if they weren't around.  Cooked and fed me until I could feed myself, tended to my natural functions until I could myself, changed the ostomy bag several times a day, bathed me, did laundry, administered meds, encouraged me, bullied me when I needed it, was patient with my outbursts, and worried constantly.  She is an amazing wonderful woman and I love her so much.

My youngest came back for a week after I had moved home.  We managed only one game of crib so you can see how weak and tired I still was. She helped us get started packing to come back to Canada. I needed further operations once I was strong enough and was determined to have them in Canada. Getting to Regina was going to be one horrible ordeal.  First I had to get to Kyiv.  No way could I take the train so we hired the private ambulance again and drove. Andrei had all our bags and medical parafinalia (wheelchair, walker, monkey bar) in his car. 

My oldest flew to Kyiv to meet us at the airport and help Tanya deal with me on the trip home.  We were well looked after in the airports at Kyiv and Frankfurt.  Toronto is another story.  NEVER fly via Toronto Airport.  We were left on our own and missed our connection to Regina.  A later flight put us in at 12:30 am instead of 10:00 pm. For our adventures on the way home see my daughter's blog post: 

The day my father pooped my pants


My daughter had found a flat for us five minutes from the hospital, my doctor's office and two bus stops and furnished it in early Canadian attic with help from her friends, Dollarama, Varage Sale, and I don't know what else.  It lacked for nothing.  This was how she spent her August.  It is safe to say I would not be alive without her either.  While Tanya organized everything in Ukraine, she organized everything in Canada, taking a semester off her Masters in Social Work degree to do it. She also organized the Go Fund Me or whatever it is called that payed our bills.  I also owe my life to generous donors whose names I do not know as she looked after that detail too. As my daughter sais "It takes a village to raise an Allen". Thanks, Village.

We have been in Regina 6 weeks now.  More on that in the next blog post.

For those of you who are still following me, in spite of my long absence, greatly appreciate your loyalty.  And I will get back to my favourite blogs too. Never fear