I had planned on blogging sooner, but, as those of you who keep up with me on Twitter know, our beloved Maarge has been really ill.

It started last week. All of a sudden, as I was leaving the house to take the kids to school, Maarge flipped over on her side, started foaming at the mouth, and seemed to be struggling over and over again to get up. When she finally got up, she just stared blankly for about 20 – 30 seconds. I dropped the kids off at school and immediately called the vet. They told me to bring her over as soon as possible.

Maarge was happy at the vet, purring too loudly for them to check her heart. So they had to take her to another room. And I sat alone in silence.

When they returned with her, she came right up to me and (this cat-who-doesn’t-kiss) kissed me delicately just below my lower lip.

After that vet visit, which ended optimistically because of Maarge’s happy mood, everything went downhill. What followed was seizure after seizure — each one more aggressive and violent than the last. It was horrific, disturbing and messy. And on top of it all, I was struggling with a brutal cold, Josh was away, my parents were away, and the kids were sick. I can’t believe I got through that madness.

For the next two nights I didn’t sleep because Maarge kept having seizures beside my bed, under my bed, around my bed. I waited patiently through each one to see if she would survive, watching and waiting as she stared, drooled, foamed and urinated.

When I talk to people about this, they often tilt their heads, look at me with sympathy, and ask, “Do you think maybe, I mean, I know it’s hard, but do you think you should maybe put her down?”

And you know, I asked the vet the same question. The morning after that first all-nighter with Maarge, I took her to the vet with the expectation that this might be it for her. But they said no. At her age (almost 16), it’s likely she has a brain tumour. So we could put her through exhaustive tests — MRIs and cat scans (ohh, I just got that terrible pun now…) to get to the bottom of this. But that’s not the goal. If they were to find a tumour, would we operate on her at her age? No. All I want to do is stop the seizures. I want to see her get fat, for once, sleep, purr, and just go in peace.

Yes, my goal right now is to let her die with dignity. It could be a week from now; it could be two years. My meticulous Maarge (it’s really spelled MAAARGE! but I’m so tired…) doesn’t deserve to die a mess like this. Although she’s ravenous and lethargic from the anti-seizure medication I now have to give her around the clock (until her every-12-hour pill kicks in), she’s beginning to clean herself again, she’s started lifting her head and trilling again when I walk by her, and she’s purring. As long as she’s happy, she’s not going anywhere.

Maarge has been my pretty, creepy little shadow for all these years: through university, my engagement, marriage, my crazy pregnancies, my children, new jobs, new homes, new cats, old cats, new dogs. Watching. Witnessing it all. And when I’m away from her, I see her in the shadows, creeping around in my peripheral vision. I hear her purring and trilling.

She’s the first pet I got on my own; I took her with me to university in London, Ontario, the first day I got her. She’s been a key character in this blog from the beginning. So you know, losing her is hard.

For now I’m going to spend any energy I can spare giving back to her for all she’s given me. Which means wiping her down even though she gets uncharacteristically ornery!

And look, she’s looking straight at the camera for the first time, maybe ever (I just took this photo this evening)….


xo Haley-O



I went from so many extremes — new nephew, new dog, new job…new tooth (ish) — to the dark, fearsome extremes that marked this week. It’s been a nonstop roller-coaster ride. A lot of time in hospitals, vets, dentists’ chairs, fluorescent lights. So many new lights. Bright lights.

I remember. I always get poetic — Yoda — on you when I’m talking about something personal I can’t blog about that’s very serious. So. In hospitals, I have been.

Someone I’ve been calling “Loved One” or “The Patient” on twitter has been very very ill. Loved One is very private. So I won’t even reveal gender to protect cherished privacy.

On Monday, I spent 8.5 hours in the hospital waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Then, I spent 5 hours in ICU while they set Loved One up there.

There was one little thing that made my day, I remember. One little thing that may raise this blog post from the depths of darkness and obscurity. Aside from the surgeon finally walking into the waiting area to tell us the surgery was over, and how miraculous Loved One is, I remember this….

When you’re (temporarily) missing a front tooth, and you just spent 8.5 hours in surgery, things like this mean so much, or a welcomed nothing-at-all.

Come to think of it…, maybe it’s that falafel that made me THIS SICK. I swear, I have FEVER right now. Freezing…am. Through the ringer, have been.

I can’t remember ever being this exhausted. Even giving birth came with the excitement and adrenalin of a new baby that masked the exhaustion…. Today, my body won’t let me eat. Freezing.

But everything’s okay. Love One is out of ICU and looks a lot better today than yesterday.

Loved One just called me.

On the phone.

I’m glowing. As bright as Yoda’s sword glowing am!

Also green…. In knots and pain, stomach is.

But called. On the phone. My heart.

Love! (and THANK YOU to everyone for the support.)

Haley-O xo

The Monkey’s been asking The Questions — The Questions, that is, that I’ve been waiting for.

When I was a little girl, The Questions came first thing one morning. It was like a bell went off — DING: I realized I, and everyone around me, was going to die one day. My head started to spin as I went through all the people I love. All of them were going to die one day. My Great Grandma Fanny was already 96! My DOG Belle was 8! My PARENTS! OMG, MY PARENTS!

I ran to my parents’ room, gripping my favourite doll, “Marcus Mouse” — who happened to have a bell attached to his paw. DING DING DING DING DING. I ran to my parents’ room and jumped into the bed between them, and sobbed.

“When am I going to die? I don’t want to die! Belle’s already 8 years old. And soon she’s going to be 9 and then 10 and then 14 and then she’s going to DIE-HIE-HIE-HA-HA-WAHHHHH!” I don’t remember a thing my parents told me to pacify the anxiety and sadness. I just remember realizing that I was going to have to figure out how to live with all this new knowledge.

I now know how helpless my mother felt that morning. I was probably in Grade One already. The Monkey is only FOUR.

She’s been obsessed with death and dying since we lost Tigger. She would taunt me with hard questions about Tigger’s death, and laugh because she knew she was being a nutball…. She never reflected it all back on herself, thank GOD. Until now.

Yesterday, in the car — it happened. As she asked me Question after HARD Question (in panic and tears), I couldn’t help but notice I felt half there, and half transported back into my childhood, to that day when I realized that my life was finite. I can’t even bear to put her questions into writing.

I had to think quickly. On the spot.

“We die when we’re ready,” I said, “when our souls are ready, and usually when we’re really really old.”

“One hundred and ten, Mama?”

“Or one hundred and fifty! Who knows. But, in one way or another, you’ll be ready, so you don’t have to worry, Monkey.”

But this didn’t help, and the questions got worse, and more intense, and more horrifying. And, in the end, all I could say was this:

“Monkey, I love you. I’m here. I’m with you.”

And it worked.

She was having major anxiety — and, thankfully, I know anxiety. I needed to bring her back to the present. Since then, The Questions haven’t returned. So far. Today.

There are NO good go-to answers for The Questions, I don’t think. When they come, they’re here to stay, emerging now and then, like waves of the ocean. The only thing I can do is bring her back, say, 150 years, to now — to the present and to love.

*On a lighter note (GAH!), if you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see a little blond untamable shock of hair. Her little brother is oblivious to all the Questions…. Ignorance is bliss.

-2 I took my kids to Shoppers Drug Mart yesterday. We needed diapers, wipes, a new eyelash curler, and celebrity gossip magazines (because I was craving a guilty pleasure that doesn’t involve CALORIES) — and dammit I should have bought those organic cough drops because *COUGH.*

Anyway, as I was pushing my terribly awkward double stroller (which sounds like a WAILING GOAT thanks to one rainy day — M-A-A-A-H) by the newspaper stand, something caught my eye. A picture on the front page of The Toronto Star of an old friend of mine, Krista Stryland, holding her baby boy, and, next to it, another picture of a woman standing proudly, almost smugly. The title of the article read “Liposuction MD Loses Right to Treat Patients.”

I had to do a triple take. I thought to myself, “Krista died almost two years ago already — why is she in the news again?” Of course, I called my friend Jenifer-Lyn, who’d introduced Krista and me several years ago. “Jen,” I said, “Krista’s on the front page of The Toronto Star! Justice, Jen, justice — the doctor who performed the lipo that killed Krista has lost her right to practice!”

As much as I was glad to learn this news, and to see it on the front page of the paper — Krista was THAT important — I was a little disappointed in the amount of coverage the article gave to Dr. Yazdanfar and her FEELINGS. It’s just paragraph after paragraph of her PR babble — how sorry she is, how her life’s been forever changed, how she PRAYED that Krista would be saved, blah blah. PR babble, that is, to go with the perfectly-crafted pose in that font-page photo (above) suggesting both pride AND remorse. Tyra Banks herself must have trained Yazdanfar in front of the mirror for this one. But, obviously, the PR people were sleeping when they okayed Yazdafar’s final statement (which was also the final paragraph in the article):

“I just want [Krista’s family] to know…, because they have the impression that I have no feelings about it, I need them to know that it does devastate me to lose a patient. It really does. It’s the worst thing if they can feel that I don’t care.”

If the family has “the impression that [you] have no feelings about it,” there’s a reason for that. And, of course, YOU CARE — your reputation has been ruined. And it SHOULD be. It’s a wonder you’re not in JAIL.

Just saying.

I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not doctors need to be CERTIFIED plastic surgeons or not in order to perform liposuction — which is what this tragic event triggered the medical community to ponder. I really know NOTHING about this. I’m not interested in plastic surgery. And, it was a SHOCK to me when I learned my friend had DIED of plastic surgery.

Too many incisions, they said:

“[Krista] had liposuction on both legs, buttocks, back, abdomen and chest wall. This seemed to be excessive,” says a memo written by college investigator Sandra Keough quoting Dr. James Edwards at the Office of the Chief Coroner.

This was a SHOCK to Jenifer-Lyn and me. I wasn’t as close to Krista as Jen was. And even she was shocked by the amount of lipo the doctor performed on this truly beautiful, SLIM person.

I wasn’t as close to Krista, no. But, I was profoundly affected by her death. Her son was only three when she died. And I had JUST SEEN HER. I used to take dance class with her at the gym every Saturday. The teacher used to tell us to shut it and pay attention! Heh. I always feel her absence when I go there now. I miss her smile. I miss dancing with her. I miss talking about our kids together.

One thing we never talked about, though, was HER weight. We were a little too focused on MINE: me telling her I had a zillion pregnancy pounds to lose, and her telling me NAHHHH. When I looked at her, I saw perfection. She was a ballerina.

She was not “that girl who died of liposuction,” or “the 32-year-old real-estate agent with the 3-year-old son who died of liposuction.” She was a dancer, a wonderful mother, an extremely warm, friendly person. Not shallow in the least. You’d never guess she had such serious issues with her body that she’d go to this extreme. And, it’s a REAL shame that she’s being remembered for that.

The very last time I saw Krista was at Toronto’s famous Hollywood Gelato. I think I was on my way to a mom-baby store nearby. She was sitting on the front patio sharing some gelato with her little boy. I remember having to do a triple take (me and my triple takes, I know…) because she looked so stunning. I remember telling her, “Wow! You changed your hair colour! I LOVE it! You look gorgeous! I totally just thought you were a celebrity — I had to do a triple take!” She smiled broadly at that, “Really? A celebrity? Thanks!” We promised to get together at some point with Jen and her kids. But, that never happened. I never saw her again.

I haven’t heard much about how Krista’s family’s doing. But, I’m sure they’re happy to see some justice done, and that she didn’t die totally in vain. Her death has brought a lot of awareness to the subject of liposuction and who has the right to practice cosmetic surgery at all. This still doesn’t bring a mother back to a little boy. A young daughter back to her parents. And it doesn’t fill the void I will always feel in my dance class, or the absence I always feel when I go to (or even drive by) Hollywood Gelato.

Just last week, I took my 3-year-old daughter to Hollywood Gelato, and we sat in the very seat Krista and her son were sitting in the last time we saw them. “Remember the woman and her little boy we saw here a long time ago?” I asked my daughter. “Mommy used to dance with her. She was beautiful, smart, funny and kind.”