Western education 2013

Sunday, December 18, 2011

.... the first month

.... it has been a month since Dad has moved here to London.  Yesterday was an off day for him.... he was remembering things that happened when he was a very young boy.  His memories are flashing in an out of his mind these days.  The years peel away for seconds and then abruptly cover the secrets once again.  Like the waves on the shore erase the footprints that crossed moments before only to uncover fossils of a millennium in the next roll.

I am trying to piece together his fragmented past and have run into numerous roadblocks.  The response from an email I sent to his old boarding school came back with more questions than it answered.  They have never heard of Tim or his parents... the headmaster that my Dad lived with while attending boarding school.  OK, I will just keep trying.  He has memories of his father tucking him under his arm and running with him.  He thinks it was when the Hong Kong war broke out when he was a child.  His father was taken into a concentration camp by the Japanese when they invaded Hong Kong at Christmas 1941.  Dad, his sister and mother fled to Australia leaving George Stopani-Thomson behind to live his final days out as a prisoner of war.  He would be killed on January 16th 1946 after the Americans bombed the concentration camp.  They claim that there were battlements in the camp.  My grandfather was 41 years old and is buried in a common grave whom he shares with a number of other 'residents' who were killed with him.

My father is haunted by images of what he perceived to have happened in his youth.  He thinks his mother may have sold favors to gentlemen to put him through school overseas.  Children's perceptions and adult understandings can leave many gaps in what really happened and what was imagined.  I can often see his arrogance peep into conversations.  He thinks he has an I.Q of 5,000..... I think he was always passed over for recognition of things he accomplished because he was not often seen as popular.  Those who were, were often given the credit he should have had.  This created a lot of bitterness and unsatisfied outcomes in his life.  He spent a youth filled with being an outcast.  He was mischievous and had a great sense of humor and fun.  What he lacked was the ability to see that trying harder rarely panned out in a positive way and he would only end up more frustrated than ever.  He never understood that being popular and well-received was the unfairness that so many of us find so frustrating.   He chose to not play in the main stream 'politics' and instead felt he was above all of that.  He felt he could see things that others could not and associated that with a higher intelligence.  He didn't realize that there are those that would try to fit in at all costs and it didn't take intelligence to see that those who were popular were treated with reverence.  He knew that life was not fair and couldn't grasp how it just couldn't be by challenging the establishment in many facets from our taxation system to other such unfair practices.  It made him angry that people were getting away with things and he was held to answer for any little infraction.  From one career to another, he could never seem to get the accolades he felt he so richly deserved.  Perhaps, I have said to him, that like myself, you are just a catalyst - a maker of ideas that someone else is supposed to carry out?  Who knows?

Life is good for me.  I am learning as an adult too that life is rarely balanced or fair.  This year, I am making promises to myself that will bring joy and satisfaction on a level that I can live with.  I have already begun the housekeeping portion of removing myself from activities that cause me emotional angst.  The recent admission of a woman that she encouraged someone to tell me off at a summer event and apologized to me months later that it was her fault.  A woman who told me that she wanted to hang in other circles prior to getting into an argument with me and then playing the wounded victim while being incorporated into the inner circle she wanted to be included in.  The woman who spent months picking on me and being disrespectful to my family members, plays the wounded victim when I finally call her on her behavior.  I pack up my emotions, wear a thicker skin, and keep going.  I have some truly remarkable friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin and who have supported and believed in me.  They have given me a gift this year that I will always treasure and I will always honor what we have.   The New Year has many great surprises in store.  Today Mitch and I are taking my Dad out for coffee.

Monday, November 28, 2011

.... my daughter pays a visit....

..... it is Sunday (yesterday) and I want to bring Lydia with me.  It has been a stressful weekend and I need to spend time with her.  She tags along and walks beside me as we search for my Dad.  It is only 11:30 but he has gone back to bed and is trying to take a nap.  He says he is tired of waiting for lunch.  I note all the other residents have seated themselves and are also waiting to each lunch.  It will be an hour before they place the first bowl of soup in front of them.  We wait outside of Dad's room while he puts on his pants.  He calls to us through the door that he is putting on his shoes.  Lydia is quick to bend over and tie his shoes.  Dad grins and tousles her hair.

Today Dad recognizes her and smiles into her upturned face.  She will take him by the hand and lead him down the hallway, past the waiting residents and along to the sunroom at the end of the hall.  Dad stops along the way and looks at the pictures hung on each wall.  He tells me that they are pictures of Tim and him and points to them.... he is far away and pulling at long ago memories.  I nod and agree and we move along to the sunroom.  Lydia wants to engage in play and goes to the games shelves back down the hall while I move a chair into place near the glass topped table.  Lydia has found some primary puzzles.  Within a few minutes, she informs Grandpa that he sucks at puzzles and informs him that it is now time to play Bingo.  Bob the Banker shuffles in with a grin and waits for us to say hello before he sinks into a chair opposite me.  Lydia gives Bob a card and deals out one to Dad and myself and proceeds to spin the ball.  I am now looking at everyone's cards.  A few minutes later, it is lunchtime.

Bob is off and racing down the hall as fast as one can when you shuffle.  Dad is being pulled along behind Miss Lydia and I take up the rear with a hand full of game pieces.  We sit with the residents who love the attention and chat with Lydia.  Donna is sweet but today she is off and wants to run away.  I give her a big hug and smile as I steer her back to her seat.  Marie is dripping soup into her lap and Joyce is her sharp witted self... which lasts a minute before she pipes up with a hi.... and followed by a 'I know who you are'!!  She is distracted by lunch and the room is quiet.  Marie doesn't want to eat today and is asking for my help.  She has forgotten to put her napkin on her lap and is dripping most of her soup in her lap.  She often walks around wearing sweaters that advertise boldly what her plate held the meal before.

These are the golden years????  Lydia is sweet with her Grandpa and the other residents and lets me know that she thinks the ladies are all so pretty.  She is right.  We kiss and hug my Dad, say bye to the other residents and then we are off to shop for Daddy's birthday gift.  Lydia loves to shop and who can blame her!!

Happy Birthday Max,
I love you now and always.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

..... taking down a wish list....

..... tonight I popped in to see Dad on my way home from a long day at work.  It is getting cooler and the snap in the air is accompanied by the rain as I jump between puddles on my way tthrough the parking lot.  It is a typical late fall evening - dark, damp and windy.  I enter the home and make my way through the secured entrance.  Dad is standing in the middle of the dinning room just peering around.  The caregiver lets him know that he has a visitor.  'Ah Hello!'  He cracks a great big grin as he spins to face me and grabs me for a hug when I get closer.  He is so happy to see me, and I, him.  He has great color in his face tonight.  The gray in his face is fleeting now as he gains strength with each passing day.  He is moving better but still hunched over.  He will later tell me that his crooked pinkie finger on the right hand was broken by some bloke and he is still pissed about it.  A quick re-direct in a positive direction has us talking about art.  I ask him about the beautiful marble Greek Statues.  He loves Art and quickly falls into an easy candor with me.

Soon the distant glance and a chewed lip as he let's me in on his secret mission.  He needs a pad of paper and a good pen to write out his notes and I promise to bring him his requested items along with a brief to hold them in.  He describes the expensive waterway locks that are built just outside his window with their pristine white concrete walls.  I am sure he can smell the occasional ocean breezes of his youth as the experiences of a lifetime have slipped through the passage of time and blended with the present.  The wooden fence mere steps away has the look of driftwood on the 'shore' that runs along side the building.  He is here as an agent and I am sworn to secrecy.  No worries, as far as anyone knows Dad, you are here on some R&R and as long as the bill is footed, just sit back and take it all in.  He likes it here and finds serenity.... except for those darn people that he keeps finding in his room.  I tell him to just let them know that they can leave when you arrive, after all Dad, it is your room.  Be nice though, they might not realize that it is your room and be polite but firm when you ask them to move along.  Perhaps he is seeing the 'other side'.... I hope he is wrong when he abruptly declares that he won't be around for much longer.

A frail woman behind us is experiencing chest pains and has begun to panic in a high pitched tone.  I can hear the calmness of the caregiver as she administers what I believe to be nitro.  She is guided to a seat where she sits wide eyed and scared.... within a minute, she has forgotten the issue entirely and gets up to move on to wherever she was headed before being rudely interrupted.  Marie is really off her game this evening.  She is always drawn to me and will follow me around.  She takes solace in the hugs and smiles I offer her and then she too is shuffling off with her vacant stare.  Tonight she will be asked to fold laundry to keep her focused.  My Dad is tiring out and I need to head home for a meal. I have been gone since 7 am and it is now 7:15 pm.  I give my Dad a hug and a kiss and guide him next to Marie to help fold the napkins in the bottom of the basket now offered by the caregiver.  He is thrilled to help and meticulously folds the first one as I wave bye.  He calls to me that he loves me.  Love you too Dad, I offer back over my shoulder.  I am so glad you are here with me Dad.... and I know he is happy to be with us here.

Time to head up to bed... exhausted but happy.  Life is good.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

.... the escape plan....

..... my Dad is looking better, feeling better and is planning on having me assist him in escaping.  The people on the floor where he lives, as far as he thinks, are all trying to take his things and they gather in his room and sit on his furniture while crowding his personal space.  I begin to straighten out his laundry which is folded but placed every which way in his closet.  He leans in and describes a hat he has had for over 70 years.. he wore it as a student and it is threadbare - I know he has that vacant far off stare.  His lucid moments are peppered with memories of long ago and places far away.  His friend Tim died, he says, as he looks into the distant past over my shoulder and fingers a vest.  He went to school with him and although he was 5 or so years older, the man died a few weeks after their last evening of drink and laughter.  I am trying to guess the man's age but Dad says he thinks he was 60.  He snaps into focus and within minutes.... he is gone again talking about Tim dying a lonely death.  He says he hasn't much time left.... figures his own end will come in a few weeks and although he is not afraid to die, he doesn't want to leave without Mom.  (Tim was the son of the head master and was about 5 or 6 years older than Dad. He passed when he was in his early 20's to mid 30's at our best guess)

Mom is a tough subject these days.  I let Dad talk to her on my cell phone on my last visit with him.  She admits to me that she loves her newfound freedom and takes full advantage of the time by being out for most of the day.  She is finally free after 3 years of being his caregiver.  She also didn't do a very good job of taking care of him and is quick to point out all his flaws.  My mother has dementia and has delusions.  Her lies and truths have no distinct boundaries.  She is beyond reproach and has no guilt that Dad is far away and feeling isolated.  She has lost empathy and respect for him years ago.  Her upbringing was incredibly harsh and one rife with punishment.  Her lies in her youth would often protect her from punishment and as far as my sister and I can tell, she has become incredibly proficient at deflecting responsibility and blame for anything.  I am sad for both my parents - born into the war years, victims of the war and of the parents whose harsh and unbending attitudes altered the course of their own ability to raise their children.  I am grateful that I have not repeated history in the raising of my own children.

I am trying to move Mom here in the spring.  She will have her own apartment with assistive care as soon as we can sell the farm house.  She has a lengthy wish list of what she wants in her new life should she decide to move but no where do her plans involve her husband of 50 years.  She does not want to live with him and is considering whether she will visit him at all should she move here but that is something we will deal with later.  She called me tonight and spoke for over an hour.... she wants to be with me and the children and is trying to sort out her stuff for an early spring move.  She is grateful that we are looking out for them and she thanks me for taking Dad out and keeping him company through the week.

I am taking the high road and just spending time with my Dad trying to reminisce about times I know he would remember.  Such a lost soul who really though that everything he was doing was what his family would have wanted.  Growing up in a boarding house with nuns certainly taught him that having a family might mean he would be valued and loved...... I am sad for him and I love my father.  I sit with him for hours laughing about the silly things that happened.  He thanks me for the wonderful memories as I walk him to the dinner table.  He reminds me that he will have his bags packed and ready to go.... he needs to leave and get back into the military.  Perhaps I can take him downtown too.  They have sent him here and he is waiting for his orders.  Dad, just enjoy the R & R.  Dear God, please be merciful and let him forget the things that bring him such painful memories of a life he did not deserve.  I love you Dad, sleep well.  Tomorrow I will pick you up for supper so you can spend time with the Grandkids. xoxoxoxo

I received a call this morning November 20th from the care nurse.  Dad has spent a tearful and restless night.  He thinks his wife is dead.   Lorna cannot seem to lift his spirits and has decided to call me.  I speak with him and let him know that Mom has been on the phone with me last night talking about her dinner out with friends.  I assure him that she is fine, just a little forgetful and I can hear the sadness start to ebb from his feeble voice.  She's fine I tell him again as I remind him that I am coming to get him this afternoon for a lovely walk in the neighborhood and dinner at our house.  He is looking forward to the visit and I sign off with a 'see you soon Dad'!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

.... Dancing with the elders...

... When you don't really know what to talk about to someone with Alzheimers whom you have known your entire life, it is often just best to keep things moving, lighthearted and loving.  My father's health is steadily improving and with the addition of antibiotics to combat a possible staf infection in the wound from his surgery, the tenderness and swelling should sort itself out.

Saturday afternoon, I took the two youngest kids and Max to visit my Dad in the afternoon.  The staff told us that they have a music lady coming at 3:30 and it might be fun for all of us.  Max and Mitchel drop Lydia, Dad and myself off after going out for coffee to Tim's.  Dad sure loves his sweets and he smiles broadly as he says thanks for taking him out.  Earlier when we stood in the now barren garden in the warmth of the sun, a train passed by to the south of us.  Dad thought it was a lovely view having the train run past the ocean like that.... where are you, I wonder as he grips my hand.  I guide him back through the doors and out to the van.... where have you gone?  Is it a place you grew up near, is it a place in your dreams?  You call me by name and you know my children but the photo of your wedding day is a strange one to you.  You shuffle with age but you are young.  You have vision problems but admire the beauty of my daughter's face.  You connect with strangers you barely know... and you know that you are slowly losing your wit.... where do you go when it becomes too much?

I wasn't feeling well today... it is Sunday and sadly, I have a lot of work to catch up with.  My sinuses are running and my temperature feels out of whack.  I am tired.  Yesterday I ran 2K and started the poolside practice in the morning.  I ache all the time but ignore the pain that will always be there.  My mother called last night.  It is rare if ever for her to call.  She wants to retire to a two room apartment and is unsettled that she might not get what she wants.  She hasn't asked about Dad but I offer her information anyway.  He is loving spending time with his grandchildren.  Lydia has started to hug him and he responds with a gentle laugh as he touches her face.  He is grateful that we are so close to him.  I am grateful he remembers us.  I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know him on a different level.  I have to sort out the truth from fantasy.  No matter how many times he tells me the same story, it is always met with fits of giggles and he warms to the notion that he has brought joy in his words.  The ladies around him find him charming.... he always could think quick on his feet and was always the entertainer.  God how I missed out on so much over the years Dad but I hope I am making up for it now when it really counts.

I love you Dad, good night.  I will see you tomorrow as I go looking for a place for you to call your last home.  I just want you to be happy.  I am hoping that we can get Mom moved down too.  At the very least, I can advocate for the both of them while they live close to us. xox

Saturday, November 5, 2011

..... when things fall into place

..... what a whirlwind week that began with tears and ended with ear to ear grins.  My sister Gina and brother Chris, bless their souls, have done an amazing job of organizing and making sure that my father has been seen by CCAC and evaluated for a placement while in the hospital.  He is stable and medicated appropriately and with that, his demeanor is steadily improving.  Friday morning just before my MRI, I called Gina at her request.  She asked me again if I wanted Dad to be placed in London and of course I emphatically said yes!!  I told her that I wanted him here as soon as possible.... that's when she told me that I was on speaker phone with CCAS and that my verbal yes was the permission they needed to place him in London!!!!!

 He will be arriving on Wednesday with my sister driving him from Smith Falls, at dinner time.  My mother has chosen to remain at the farm house but now has to wear an emergency button in case she requires assistance.  I have already assured her that her dogs will come and live with us when the time comes for her to leave the farm permanently.  She is understandably upset but I think she understands that it is necessary that she considers a relocation here to London.  We will put her name on a list but she will be located in a different retirement home/assistive apartment living when the time comes.  We are hoping that she becomes more willing to relocate when she discovers that living alone is not what she wants to do.  We can only hope that we do not have to force her to evacuate the premises.

Thank you to Gina and Christian for all the time spent preparing Dad and Mom for the huge transition over such a short time period.  I am so excited that Dad is coming to live here.  I have been forewarned that he is very thin from not eating properly.  My mother thought that he was making his own meals and taking his own medication.  It's hard to believe that my mother was allowed to take care of him in the state of mind that she is in.  It's OK though, that was then, this is now!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

..... and then the tears.....

My sister calls me this afternoon and asks me in a cautious voice if I am sitting down or if not, could I find a seat.  She has travelled to Kingston this past week to drop in on our parents for their 50th anniversary.  She got to Kingston on Tuesday, days before the big event and was told that he was in the hospital...... the tears began and couldn't stop......

.........Our mother had called the OPP attachment in their small town and had reported him as being violent.  When the police arrived, she was telling them that he assaulted her and urinated all over the rug.  She neglected to mention that he had recently gone through a hernia operation and due to a venus leak from surgery which had caused his abdomen and scrotum to swell to proportions that had became unbearable.  He was bleeding internally and was unmedicated for pain and he could no longer tolerate it and the bloody urine coursed down his leg soaking into the carpet. He had pushed her aside and not assaulted her.  My father has Alzheimer's and the excruciating pain had disoriented and confused him.  My mother as usual in her dementia was sure he was just trying to make her mad.  She wanted him jailed for assault but fortunately the female officer decided to have him taken to the hospital to be examined and thats when they discovered the problem.  According to my sister, he is now comfortable and is pain free... today he ate.

I called my father at the hospital and he answered immediately.  He knew who I was and he asked about the family.  His sense of humor was back and the two of us laughed.  You could tell he knew the severity of the situation but chose to look on the bright side.... a side I easily share with him no matter what is going on.  One of the first things he said was how much food they were bringing him to eat.... I realize now that he was not eating enough and my sister described his condition as seriously slender with little fat on his frame.

I am trying to make arrangements to have him transported here as soon as I can find him a long-term facility.  I will try as hard as I can to get him where we can see him often... I know he would love to visit with his grandchildren and get to know them better, and maybe, his dementia will not progress.  I miss you Dad and think of you all the time. xoxoxo

Sunday, October 16, 2011

.... Sarah's Wedding....

What a great wedding.....
..... the day started off cold, wet and drizzling.  The church was busy with another wedding and we were unable to gain entrance until after the estimated start of the ceremony.  It was an elegant and understated wedding and one of the most charming and love-filled weddings complete with Miss Payton - the daughter of the Bride and Groom.  The weather did not dampen the spirits.  If anything a lovely wedding always reminds me of the love and passion I have for my own husband.  The reconnecting of two hearts is sheer magic.

The reception was filled with loving friends and family... Sarah's family has been such an integral part of my own family.  Sarah was Lydia's age now when we first met and over the years our love and friendship has grown to include our children.  We have very little family in this country, at least until they all came into our lives.  Life has many great moments!!

Dinner was wonderful, followed by a trip across the dance floor to Nannie.  Time for Miss Payton to come home with me to go to bed.  Her newly married parents will be spending their first night as a married couple celebrating on their own.  She was a super tired little girl when we got her to the house but immediately perked up when she caught sight of Lydia.  It took her almost an hour to fall asleep.  We returned back to the reception and left Payton in the capable hands of Mitchel and Lydia.

This morning little Miss Payton stood up in her sleeping pen and peered over the edge eying Max and I.  All smiles when I pulled her up into my arms for a morning hello and hug.  Later when I was eating my bowl of cereal, she opened up her mouth and like a baby bird grunted until her mouth was filled.  She is adorable and I love her to pieces!!  Breakfast done and an hour of play and Miss Payton was ready for another sleep.  She was out before I even made it out the door!!  A nice long nap, an early lunch and some more playtime and it was time to take her back to mommy and daddy for a visit before they head out to their honeymoon weekend.  Lots of hugs, gift opening and off we go to head home for some quiet time.  Thanks Lydia for helping mommy.... love you alway and forever.  To Mitch, who has always been a fabulous helper... you are awesome!!

May Sarah and Len enjoy their honeymoon away!!!  Love you both, wishing you a lifetime of wonderful memories, joy and laughter always.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

... Marketing interview at Fanshawe

.... busy mornings now seem to start up at 7 am in the labs.  I allow my students to just drop in early to get some one on one guidance to set them in the right direction.  Sara and I seriously need roller blades some days.... today especially I ingested way too many lovely colored gummy bears and a super-sized coffee.  I am playing to a packed house and trying to get everyone started on their next project so I can slip out for an interview with marketing.  My wonderful boss wants them to do a story on me.... and while I understand that it is a great thing to showcase the triumphs of the recent past and to share that with others, the other part wants to find anonymity.  I often joke that I was born petite, quiet and demure.... somehow my 5'10 stature,and  an outrageously outgoing personality makes this more than just an inside joke.... lol.

Today was a wonderful day!!!  It feels great to be alive and to be amongst the young men and women that I have the privilege of teaching each day.  Everyone should be so lucky to absolutely love what they do and to look forward to each and every day.  We never know how long we will grace this earth..... seizing each moment and breathing it all in at the moment it happens and remembering how it felt days or years later means you are truly living.

Sara had to pace behind me as I ran off to the test room and realized that I missed the classroom 3 times before I found myself breezing through the door of the right room.... flushed and three minutes late.  There they all were sitting quietly at their desks, knapsacks placed carefully at the front of the classroom as they had been instructed to do the day before.... impressed was a word I would use many times then and for the rest of the day.  Thank you to each and every one of those students for being amazing!!!  Thanks to Sara for following me and supporting me in the classroom and for managing to keep up in the hallway!!!

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and wonderful laughter!!!

.... my first paid published article....

.... I flip open the glossy pages of the first edition of go2 London magazine that Diane has just offered me.  We are standing amongst the waning crowd of the Tampon Tuesday event....I have arrived late.  She gives me a hug and leans in to let me in on her future plans with the magazine which includes the possibility of future offers for me to write another article.  I have been writing for years but this is my first paid article.  I am so excited that I share the news with familiar faces in the thinning crowd and get hugs from a number of them as we quickly catch up.  It has been almost 6 months since I last attended this event and only because my team practice on the lake is on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

I can't sleep... it's been this way for a few nights now and I can easily blame it on the change of seasons but I know better than that.... there is always a lot on my mind but my thoughts these days have switched to Mom and Dad.  My brother has sent me some pics of our parents that he took this past summer... how did my parents get so old.  My Dad has Alzheimer's and it is slowly stealing him away.  I know that it is progressing from just the simple disorientation of last May to him now living in what amounts to the days of his early thirties.  It must be confusing for him to look in the mirror and see some old guy staring back at him?

Chris has been an absolute saint with his unwavering strength over the past 2 years of trips he can ill afford to take just to be with them to sort out one issue after another.  I am not able to visit at this time...busy with so much on the go with a recent return back to work into a hectic schedule.  I wonder why I did not make more of an effort to visit during the summer when I was home with the kids..... and then I realize that I would have spent my entire time working at the farm for days without a break in a body that can barely keep up at times with the fatigue that still pulls at me from time to time.  I just wonder what would have happened if they had decided to retire closer to us when they decided to leave Ottawa.  I think some days that my father might not have gone through such a downhill slide with his disease.  Most days, he just hides away by himself in what amounts to a self-imposed prisoner.  I just wish we were much closer than we are.  I hope that my relationship with my kids is strong enough to continue the bond into my aging years....

I should go to bed... at least get an hour of sleep before another 12 hour day begins.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

.... Dragon Boat Season is officially over for the season....

..... this weekend marks not only Thanksgiving, but also the weekend that we officially pulled the Dragon Boats and the floating docks off Fanshawe Lake for the season.  The weather has been incredible with daytime temperatures of over 28 degrees with bright sunshine.  As I stand on the shoreline and look out over the smooth as glass surface, broken occasionally with driftwood, feathers or algae, I think about the season and how it started in a miserable rain shower.  I think about the relationships that have grown over the season and of all the truly great moments with the women I have come to love and admire.  I am deeply grateful in this bittersweet moment as I celebrate the passing of my first season of which I am no longer a newbie.  I breathe in deeply and look around at the rusty, reds, oranges and yellows of a season in change - reflects a season of so much change within me.  I look forward to the next season and know that the month in between will be spent taking some much needed down time as I try to balance my hectic lifestyle.

These past few weeks have been challenging and rewarding.  The students are the best group we have had in a very long time and I am eager to see how they fare on their first test with me.  It happens this week after a period of review.  Next week I have to prepare my lectures for the students starting with how to reduce and map boolean equations.... love this stuff.... such a geek!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

.... Welcome to the new gals who came out this week to try out Dragon Boat paddling!!

It is hard to believe that in a mere few weeks, I will no longer be considered a newbie!!!  I had a new girl ahead of me and one behind and although there were a few hits to the paddle in the beginning, Marianne in front did exceptionally well and the one behind was grinning from ear to ear.... ahhhhh yes, the magic of being in a boat moving with the heartbeat of 20 paddlers in time!!!  it was getting into the dusk hours with the skies threatening rain and the cool wind on our exposed limbs.  The splash of the occasional paddle hitting the rise of water beside the boat created a spray and mingled with the few drops coming down.  The flock of seagulls by the thousands rising up with the approach of the boats... 4 boats with members of the PenDragons, Rowbust and prospective new members for each team.  What a thrill!!!  Coaches Cheryl and Sarah are amazing in their engaging banter.  One of the gals in the PenDragon boat started blowing bubbles and we all watched them drift past the four Dragon boats bobbing gently at our imaginary start line.  READY READY was called, then a GO and we were all off paddling with great time and speed... exhilarating.  No matter how tired I was today after an early start, the fatigue easily washed away with each stroke of the paddle.  I LOVE DRAGON BOATING!!!

Tomorrow I am off to meet with Andrea Horvath, our provincial NDP leader for a gathering here in London.  We both know that the wages for those in CEO positions at our tax-payer funded hospitals is outrageous and needs to be capped.  It's been 18 months since I last met with her in Queen's Park where she stood and introduced me to the members while asking them to consider the CEO's outrageous wages and the plight of the nurses.  I will stand with her tomorrow as she addresses the constituents of London about this and other health care issues.  Go Andrea Go!!

I am feeling tired these days and have not yet caught a break.... I need to rejuvenate my batteries but will not be able to until this semester winds down.  The time passes so quickly now that I am incredibly busy!!  January will come soon enough when my LTD runs out and I will know what happens to my full-time position and how I will be bringing in an income....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

.... in the lake with my paddle....
Tonight, our Dragon Boat team hosted a welcome paddle night to new and prospective breast cancer survivor members.  The guest I had invited out for our invitational is Natascha.  She is a sports psychologist and guide to our paddling members.  She made it out to the lake and with her signature smile and high energy, she eagerly jumped into the boat to participate as a first-time paddler.  There is nothing like going out to paddle in the waning light of the fall sky with comfortable temperatures and teaching someone new about a sport you are so passionate about.  In two weeks, I will cease to be a newbie and my first year will fade into wonderful memories and begin a new year in November.  We train by the pool for 6 months each Saturday morning and on Wednesday nights with an aerobics instructor.  I have missed about 3 practices in 11 months of training.  My passion for the sport is shared by so many others in our breast cancer sisterhood.

I came home shortly after 8:30 p.m to find my facebook home page filled with notes that our NDP provincial leader Andrea Horvath had mentioned my name twice in the candidate debate this evening whilst I was out on the lake.  What an amazing feat of co-operation and help from so many that we were able to save the jobs of the 8 nurses in the LRCP.  Go Andrea Go and know that you will always have my vote.

Today was a very busy day.... I will leave you with a very funny clip of what my day sometimes consists of the older I get :)What is Age Activation Attention Deficit Disorder......

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Life is getting busier.....

..... and I am loving every minute of it.  I am in the process of getting ready for another Dragon Boat season, now that my 'newbie' year is officially finished!!!  What an amazing year of personal growth!!  The breast cancer journey sent me on a different path and woke me up to a whole new way of living my life.  For some of us A type personalities, it often takes an abrupt wake-up call to determine where your life should have been heading all along.... only the hints along the way just never quite got our attention.

MY VISALUS BUSINESS - I am feeling confident that I am on the right path these days to fulfilling some of my life-time goals.  I have started a new business with ViSalus and loving the product line that they offer  The great thing about this business is that it grows itself.  I simply put it out there and any customer can become a distributor through me with products being drop shipped straight to their home and to their customer's homes. This really translates to a no-brainer business where you can have clients from around the world!!  They can develop their own business and make money doing it.  

The Dragon Boat competition season on the Canadian waters has come to an end for our team.  November will bring with it a number of new members and a training schedule in the gym.  I will miss the summer training on the lake!!  Next year, I will be stronger, faster and more competitive than I was this year.  I am looking forward to our end of season party next month and the new electronic yearbooks that we are producing for all members of the we can really show off our stuff to family and friends during the holiday season this year.

I am currently drawing up a first evaluation exam for my students and creating next weeks lecture where my students will be using what they have learned in a more practical application.  Building circuits in the practical labs is proving to be fun for the majority of the students and my animated lectures are keeping most of them awake!!  I remember being a student and thinking to myself... what have I gotten myself into... when there was so much information coming at me!!!  No worries, they will all come to understand the information in time and I know there are a few each year who literally jump out of their seats when they finally 'get it'..... the epiphany!!! 

Max is amazing - after all these years, he is so supportive of my life.  I think he knew 13 years ago that he just needed to get in, tighten up the seat belt and hang on for dear life..... we have yet to sit still for too long.  He is one of my biggest fans and I have to remember as I come back online from my illness that I still need to take time out for us both!!  Will is finishing up his grade 12 this year and I expect that he will head out to the college and take welding or some other 'hands-on' trade... just like his Mom.  Mitch is enjoying his first year of grade 9, trying to keep his acne at bay with Acutane and teaching himself the electric guitar through YouTube.  Lydia is in grade 4 and is showing a great deal of independence.  She has decided to join the cross-country running team and is proud to report that she has placed 39 out of over 200 competitors in her first race!!!  I love that my family is pursuing their own interests and keeping it fun at the dinner table each night!!  

I am still between two worlds... my long-term disability ends in January and the decisions that need to be made regarding my full-time job will become apparent at that time.  It is a tough gig not knowing what will come next and trusting that I will be OK no matter what the outcome.  I have learned to trust that everything happens for a reason (so cliche) and that not everything that happens is always bad.... and even if it is... something good always comes after..... the silver lining in the dark cloud.  Life is good.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Welcome to the new semester of students....

..... it has been a busy first 3 weeks of the new semester in the college!!!  The support staff strike meant that the lab assistant would be unavailable for the first 2 weeks of school.  My prayers were answered and Sara has returned fresh from the picket line and back into the groove.  We are both busy with a number of students who are eager to get started and get organized.  I have done the same lecture for 8 classes this week and I can almost hear me slurring the words.  The occasional student appears to be drooling at their desk behind heavy lidded eyes - it's not just their first year... for most, it's their first year away from home.  There is so much information being thrown at them, it's a wonder that they are retaining more than the obligatory minimum.  We see many different students from around the world and across the street.  Soon, we will all find our rhythm.  I started a now my students and faculty can read what we have covered during the week and what they need to study.  Our first exam is a few weeks away and we have a number of ideas to cover until then!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dragon Boat season finale.....

It has been a challenging season where I have pushed myself beyond what I ever imagined I could do.  I have grown personally in leaps and bounds.  Sunday was such an amazing day and a turning  point in my life....

.... the summer had for me been a constant upheaval of drama within a group of strong women.  I had never really worked with a large group of women before and within months, found that there were those that simply didn't like me for my 'new' ideas or my energy level.  Some women simply hung out with their own group while others were just plain quiet, and there were those who couldn't care what anyone thought. Arrrrrrrg!!!  How does one fit in when you feel like such an outsider? By the time I figured out where I belonged, it was about the time that I threw my hands in the air and gave up.... gave up trying to be everything to everyone.  I stopped trying to like the miserable one, who could never, no matter what say anything nice.  She spends most of her time complaining about everything to anyone who will listen and I simply went tone deaf in her presence.  I could see her talking, but just couldn't hear her anymore.  A friend of mine would say that she was an energy vampire sucking the life out of anyone within earshot.... and then she would do something really sweet.... sigh.
..... so why was Sunday so amazing?  It was the day I realized that I loved each and every one of these incredibly amazing women with all their flaws and I accepted me for all of mine.  It was the day I heard the words..'it's about time you were put on our boat' by the women who competed in the Women's division in their third race.  It would be my third race as well, with the first two being in the BCS division.  The fourth race i found myself back in the BCS boat with the ladies there welcoming back.  I was so happy just being out and paddling in a boat and just doing my very best.  WOW!!!!  What an incredible day, filled with the camaraderie I had sought out my whole life and surprisingly finding that I just had to be myself and just enjoy the ride.... everything would fall into place just as the coach had predicted it would.  I am such a lucky woman.

It is bittersweet bidding the season good bye but looking forward to another one starting in November when we begin another season of training in the gym.  How did this fly by so quickly?

I dropped into work today to say hi to the fellows and to pick up some paperwork.  I can't believe how small the new digital transmitter is.... I missed an entire rebuild and entry into the world of digital broadcasting.  I got hugs from all the guys and sat and chatted with my boss.  I am teaching at the college until my long term disability is over and then, we will see what comes next.... who knows, I will keep my fingers crossed that the next chapter goes well!!!

Two weeks ago I started my new ViSalus business and I am excited to watch it grow as I get healthier.  It is my time to look into keeping myself healthy, build my stamina and keep the weight off.  I promised myself that I would go into my 50's looking better than I did in my 30's... let's see if I can manage that goal over the next few years!!!

Here's to living life large!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

.... Canadian Dragon Boat Nationals - Welland Ontario 2011

.... and to think... it was just a mere 12 months ago when I could barely walk a block and not be in excruciating pain with every step.  Yesterday, my team ROWBUST stood on the podium and accepted our GOLD medals.  It has been a painstaking and dedicated year to go from barely moving to moving a boat with 19 other paddlers to take the Nationals for women's Breast Cancer Survivor division (BCS) with a GOLD medal win in three official races - 200m, 500m and a 2K.

I am still in pain every day and usually find that sleep, when it finally comes, comes in the wee hours of the morning and fails to be restful.  My journey through chemo still affects my every day activities and I push through it will an iron will and determination that has marked so many of my life's journey.  This past weekend is a testament to the iron wills and the love and passion that my team mates have for each other, their families, to strangers and to other competitors.  I am truly blessed!!!!

Our 2K race by far was the most amazing in that we were the 6th boat to start in a 10 second staggered start with our nemesis Toronto team pulling out ahead of us.  The horn went for us, we pulled out and we were passing the Toronto team when the paddles clashed as their boat veered close to our boat in its bid to take the inside lane to which they were waved off by the refs in pursuit of the race.  Sarah held her stern firm and guided us into the first turn ahead of the Toronto team and gaining on the Hamilton BCS team leaving them both behind mere meters into the straightaway.  The Toronto team pushed hard but their race is the short sprint and they soon fell behind while we surged ahead to pass another boat before the second turn.  We might have started in 6th place but we finished in second right behind the Premier women's team and ahead of another woman's team.... if we had only had another 50 meters, we would have placed 1st!!  We won the preliminary 500m, the final 500m, the 2K final and placed second in the preliminary and final 200m.  Watch out next year Toronto!!!!

We all felt bad for the Toronto team with their paid professional coaches who treated them quite poorly and spoke down to them with harsh words and a condescending attitude so it was karmic (but sad) to see that their coach who was steering, slipped and disqualified the team within meters of the finish line in the 500m finals.  The buzz amongst all of the other teams in the area was about the poor behavior of the team's coaches... we were next door and had to listen to the constant dressing down of the team members, some of who had paddled with our Rowbust members in Whistler last year - the first year the BCS were allowed to compete at the Nationals.  All in all, when the last race was run, Rowbust disembarked and made a paddle salute for all the competing BCS members to pass under and receive hugs and hand slaps as they formed their own Salute!!!  What an incredible weekend.

I actually spoiled myself on a shopping trip in one of the busiest outlet mall in Welland... which was conveniently next door to our hotel.  I purchased a lovely white shirt and casual pants.  At the NIKE store, I bought a great pair of NIKE runners and the ipod-NIKE gear to interface with my iPod nano.  The employees were amazing there!!  They all gathered around when I took out my new nano touch screen and allowed me to interface it with the unit prior to purchase - they thought it wouldn't work but we got it up and running.  It turns out that my shoes and unit cost me a whopping $100 - saving me over half the cost of retail!!!  I purchase a pair of winter jogging tights - yes, I will try to jog to increase my stamina.

Soon I will become a published columnist with a quarterly magazine.  I get to write about the technology and the toys I have the time to play with these days.  I am certainly hoping that I get that playbook I want so badly!!

William went on his flight this morning to Calgary and will take another flight out close to where my sister lives... he will be there for 3 weeks working on my sister's farm.  I stood in the parking lot of the airport and watched his plane take off at 7 this morning... my baby is all grown up.  I just stood there in the early morning light watching it disappear into the horizon and wishing my baby a safe trip.  I love you  William and yes, I will miss you terribly. xoxoxo  The other kids are getting up which signifies the beginning of our vacation after a long weekend of work!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 2011

I went through a horrible depression soon after my treatments ended and the nurse handed me the 'Dear Jane' letter, which happened to coincide with the human resources officer at work asking for my cell phone and work keys back.  It felt like the two handed slap to the cheek - the one in which your head snaps one way then the other and you are left dizzy and confused as to what exactly went down?  I have always been an upbeat person with a positive spin on life and when it spun out of control and the tears seemed endless, I found little solace in the few friends that remained after my journey.  Everyone it seems is on a journey of their own and with family living many miles away and my own children moving along at their own pace, I felt very isolated and cast out.  I stopped going into work for visits because I no longer felt welcome there either especially when I was told that I could no longer head up the Recreational committee that I had been a part of for so many years.  I also could not witness the installation of the new Digital Transmitters that I had so longed to do!! The isolation at times was taking it's toll and I needed an outlet and a goal to work towards.  Summer was spent hanging out with the children and as September rolled in, I was able to return to my teaching position part-time as this was a rehabilitation portion of my insurance and not a physically demanding job.

The fall seemed to go by so fast as I immersed myself in teaching the labs to a group of new students.  My memory wasn't great and I had to leave notes and minders everywhere.  I finally decided that getting my own personal BlackBerry would save me a lot of aggravation and get me feeling connected with the world again.  I removed all my gaming friends from Facebook and the games I played when I didn't have much energy to do anything else with my time and then started to remove those people who meant little to me.  I wanted to recapture my private life again after being in such a public forum through my illness saving the nursing jobs.  As tired as I got some days and the appointments missed because of the flawed memory - all due in part to what could now be classified as menopause brought on by chemo - things were steadily improving and I was becoming more myself.  It was good to be back in the driver's seat again..speaking of which - I got my car prior to my first teaching semester in November 2007 and almost four years later, I am still under 30,000 Km!!!  October also saw me finally accepting the fact that I needed to take medication to keep the hot flashes I was experiencing under control.  I could go from comfortable to wanting to pull my skin off at a moments notice when the heat wave would start and the sweat would stream down my face.  I would ask my students if it was hot and they would smile and say 'not really'.  The medication is an anti-depressant which took most of the flashes away and finally normalized my demeanor and kept me feeling more of myself that I had not been since the early spring.

Life is a funny thing and one only has to put out a thought or a desire to set a goal which is precisely what I needed and found when I went to the Braz for Cause in October of 2010 and met Linda, a Rowbust member who was standing behind a display and looking for new recruits.  I remember telling her that I was strong and sure, why not, I would love to try out!!  A few short weeks later, I received a sign up welcome note and the start date in November at the gym.

It is now June of 2011, two years after my diagnosis and 23 months after treatments began with my two surgeries.  I still cannot feel my underarm or parts of my shoulder due to nerve damage and the likelihood diminishes with time that I will regain much feeling.  My fingertips fell victim to neuropathy - the nerve endings in the fingers were affected by the Docetaxel portion of my treatments which means I can easily injure my fingertips without realizing it as they are numb all the time.  My toes were affected but not to the same degree.  There are many side effects of the chemo medication which in some cases do not present themselves until years later.  Kim discovered a heart condition which came about as a result of the Rubricon component of the FEC treatment she had 5 years before.  I had the same treatments and I pray that my heart is OK.  According to a friend going through treatments currently - they are using that chemical less and less.

Without the work outs and the constant movement of my arm and shoulder, I would not have the mobility that I have right now.  The pain is always a dull reminder that things are not 100% but it is a small price to pay for having my life and the privilege of being able to live it.  So much has changed in my world including my outlook on life partly due to the wonderful gals that I paddle with at Rowbust Dragon Boat racing.  I finally feel a part of something that I have been missing since i left work those many months ago.. an opportunity to be with women who know what the score is without having to explain yourself to.. you just are a part of the group.  A part of me is sad to see the old life end but is excited about so many new doors that are opening and my new found ability to recognize opportunities when I see them.

At the end of May, I went to Toronto to take part in my first paddling competition and won a silver medal in B division - pretty much means that we placed the 6th best time out of 51 competitors.  While in Toronto, I also partook in an Advocacy course with the CBCN and had 3 appointments with Mpp's at Queen's Park.  I also visited with Carolyn, who has been hospitalized for months with a new cancer diagnosis of Leukemia - a very dangerous form of which she is receiving chemo treatments for.  I met her when I advocated for the nurses and this go-getter has advocated many things but mostly for the myeloma cancer patients.  I think of her often and of my friend Perci whose diagnosis of metastasis in her bones, soft tissue and neck have rendered her unable to eat or drink.  My heart goes out to these incredibly brave souls who face yet another journey with cancer and the constant fear of their mortality.  It is also a reminder to live each day and to focus on what is positive in your life.  Remove the negative garbage by doing a spring cleaning of all the energy vampires in your life.  Friends are those people that stick by your side through thick or thin and remember to send a quick note once in a while to see how you are despite their busy lives.  Saying good bye to people is easy when you know that they are not genuine.  Be kind but be honest.  Do something sweet for someone because you know we all need that and learn to accept that not everyone will like you and you will not like everyone.

My blog has always been positive and pro-active and I have neglected to write down some of my feelings in an attempt to take the high road but I would be remiss if I did not mention that my journey had its pitfalls.  Some of which I cannot discuss at this point but will blog at a later date.  It is suffice to say that the individual I have had dealings with over the past two years of my illness needs to take a course in empathy and another one on how to effectively do her job..... I have often thought of telling her to her face what she put me through while I was ill.  The disappointment of having cancer was magnified by the insensitive handling of myself as I struggled with the loss of everything that was important to me and the years I spent in my career..... and how she just matter of fact told me it was over..... what that does to you when you are fighting to get better is devastating..... I do not wish her ill will but a part of me will always have a distinct dislike for her.

On the up side - my Mr. Mitchel will be graduating on Monday - he is soooooo excited and we have just the nicest suit ready for him to pick up on Monday in readiness for the day's event of graduating and celebrating with his friends.  Mitchel has been teaching himself how to play guitar and will often find himself up in his room strumming away on the guitar I bought him years ago for Christmas.  He is able to download YouTube tutorials on his android phone and is proving to be a quick study.... always brings me back to his piano lessons and finding out that I really am a failure as a Suzuki parent... I take comfort in the fact that most of us aren't and our children grow up Ok anyway.  William is finishing off grade 11 and was struggling near the end.  He broke off his relationship with Eryn which was becoming toxic by the minute and finally collapsed with an argument and a parting of ways.  He is getting ready to head out for part of his summer to my sister's farm to experience rural life and a change of scenery.  I am teaching him how to drive my standard car and other than some burnt clutch work, he seems to be picking it up quite quickly.  We hope to get him into driving lessons in the fall and to have him get his license in the new year just in time for his grade 12 graduation..... where did all the time go?  Miss Lydia is growing in leaps and bounds and at 9 years of age, she is funny, affectionate and highly entertaining!!  I am so incredibly blessed.  Last but not least, my soul mate and my best friend has finally gotten back into doing his artwork after all these years and his first pieces have been a hit!!  Bigger and better projects are on the go.  I am creating artwork myself and developing a health newsletter for my paddling girls.  Who knows what the next few months will bring us.... only upwards from here!!!

... post cancer with a new beginning

We were so fortunate to be able to travel to a cottage offered to us by a generous cottage owner on Ril Lake in the Muskokas.  Cottage Dreams is an organization that matches cancer patients and their family with a cottage in an area of their choice.  It was an opportunity for us as a family to say goodbye to our cancer journey and a big hello to the next chapter of our life journey.  It is a year of sharing our story with so many strangers as we stood up for the nurses that were being let go at the cancer unit and eventually saved their jobs.  Our trip to the cottage ended with a photo shoot from the Muskoka Magazine.... they knew nothing of our media involvement but chose 3 families to be a part of an article about Cottage Dreams....... as much as I like the media and the world in which I have worked for 17 years.... it really was time to drift into anonymity and gratefully so.  We have pictures of the entire family caught laughing and out enjoying ourselves - a true beginning for each of us.

It signified the closing of one career and the beginnings of another.  I consider myself a very fortunate woman despite the hardships over the years.... I am a happy woman.  Upon our return from vacation, it was time to say good bye to Wellspring.  Although it will always be in my heart, I have moved on and forward in my journey.  I will stay friends with the girls I have travelled in my journey with.... they have become part of who I am.  We email and share stories and laugh on the phone.  I will find the time to see them when I can.