Seeing from someone else’s perspective

Today I had the honour of discussing my exhibit “Celebrate Canada” with our local Life Skills class. I wondered what I might learn from them?

I really enjoyed seeing through my children’s eyes, because of their unique innocent ways of looking at the world. I recall my daughter asking while stopped for a train, what the train was called, I replied “a freight train”. She looked at me quizzically and replied “Why, are people afraid of it?”. Sometimes it gives you a whole new way of looking at something and you can have your own awe-ha moment or chuckle. Those in a “Life Skills” class have a very diverse set of abilities and experiences, and are often in a never ending childhood, some more so than others. I was excited as to what new meaning of life I might witness, be a part of.

They behaved very well, their assistants were wonderful. Everyone taking the time to connect, or try to connect with the one they were with. Of my 150 paintings I learned of some of their favorites, Superman, the Stanley Cup, I didn’t catch the others but they all had their photo taken with their favorite image. Their teacher had made a sheet for them to find certain images, a bird, farm pictures, and other topics, which they pretty much all completed.

Their teacher now is a “retired” teacher, who has never really “retired” on call whenever the school division needs her it seems. Since her retirement when called back she has been in positions she would have never expected, I’m sure this was one of them. She feels she is out of her comfort zone/league but she is enjoying it and learning all the time, thankful for her dedicated Education Assistants, who know the students well.

Having now been a school trustee for 21 years, I am often pleasantly surprised at what can be taught to people whom others in the past may have deemed unteachable or limited. I never should be, for in truth learning is usually about desire or finding the right teacher or teaching method that is right for the student. Even us old dogs can be taught new tricks, and I certainly believe in life long learning.

But remember how excited you were when your child spoke their first words, or took their first steps? In a “Life Skills” class, some things we might take for granted can be HUGE learning and life altering skill for another. I remember a past School Trustee who has an autistic son, being told her son would never speak, never do this, never do that. He did manage to do some of those things they were told he never would, and those moments are amazing. Life skills like, learning whether it is safe to answer a door, asking yourself is the person on the other side of the door a friend or a stranger, if a stranger did you invite them, like a pizza delivery man? Can you communicate, what is needed so that you can. Every step that we can bring a person closer to be independent is allowing them so much more freedom. Freedom to choose, to become the best person they can be.

That’s truly a goal for all of us to have the freedom to choose, to be responsible for our choices and to become the best person we can be.

Listen and seek to understand, and if we are exposed to a new way of looking at things pause and learn from it. Most things in this world are not black and white, there are many shades of grey and ew need to embrace them.

Stories in the Emergency room

Last night I took my son to the emergency room. Very anti-climatic, thank goodness. The phone call, ” Mom, I was wondering, I think I need stitches in my leg” He has been renovating a house. Well, I said, I think you should go to the hospital. He said, “I would, but I need to hold the cut closed.” “Okay, I’ll be right over!”

Thankfully I wasn’t met with blood gushing all over and he could still walk. I live in a small town so the hospital wasn’t far. I drop him off at the door, and he goes in while I park the car. He’s very calm, as he holds his cut clamped together with his hand and talks to the receptionist. We get his paperwork, slide it in the appropriate spot on the triage door and take a seat with all the others waiting for their own emergencies.

You know a visit to emergency always starts off with quite a jolt from routine, “Oh my God, what happened? We need to deal with this NOW!!!, hence emergency.” Then of course you get there, and in a prim and proper way, after all we are Canadians, we are prioritized as to need, who might actually have a more pressing emergency than yourself or loved one. Makes total sense, and I understand that a 3″ gash probably 3/8ths of an inch deep is not, thankfully, life threatening, so you wait. Half an hour later, we had a person sit beside us (other chairs were already full), an hour past and my son was seen by a triage person, and sent back out to wait. They have installed a TV now that gives you updates, how many patients are waiting, average wait time, longest wait time and this is updated regularly. I suppose it is there to give you some form of understanding, acceptance of why you are still waiting, and that yes if your situation is a higher priority you will be seen sooner. So, you sit and watch quietly while time ticks by, as these possible wait times change, and number of patients also changes. And since you have nothing better to do you measure your standing against this as to how long you have been there and how much longer you may have to wait the good scenario 2 hours and the bad scenario at one point 4 1/2 hours. As my son tells me, still better than a hospital wait in the City. I jokingly tell him and the lady beside us, both waiting for stitches, that maybe if they had wanted quicker attention they should have come in with blood gushing out and screaming?

So what do you do while you are waiting? Observe the others in the waiting room. Play your own guess the priority game? Is that one really an emergency, they look fine, you call that a cough, I’ve heard worse than that. A police brought him in but then the police fellow left and he seems fine. Then being a small town people start to come in that you know, who knew an emergency room could be like a coffee shop.

On being admitted, one of the questions was have you been to emergency in the last 6 months? (Does it matter? Okay maybe some people are more accident prone, but if you need help, you need help, right?). That did make for some conversation on sitting down, memory lane, when did you go in for cutting your hand, did you get a tetanus shot then or did they just talk about it? When did you break your collarbone? Now he’s thinking will they have to cut my pants off? They cut his clothes off when he broke his collarbone, but it’s -30′ outside and he doesn’t have any extra pants here. I told him he could let go of his cut for the few minutes it would take to pull his pants down, it wouldn’t bleed for long. I had to laugh internally when he went in to triage and came out with a piece of tape holding his pants together??? But no stitches on his leg yet. Really? What was the purpose of that? I was more concerned about his wound getting stuck to his pants and then being ripped open again when they went to deal with it.

Meanwhile the lady beside us had cut her finger. I asked how she had done that, cutting frozen meat? (That’s how my daughter had ended up in emergency a few years ago.) No, putting something in the garbage and slicing it on an open tin can in there already. Down to the bone she said, ouch! (Now that I think of it, that ‘can’ should have been in the recycling, next time, Isn’t it funny how our brains bounce around, or mine anyways)

My son and I talked as we waited about how I should have brought my own needle and thread and then we wouldn’t be waiting so long, or just a clamp, though he admitted that would really hurt. Seriously I don’t know if I could stitch up another human being …unless I thought there was no other option, which of course I would then, but here’s hoping I never have to. We talked about staples, just imagining that made me wince. Superglue, I have had that before, it stings, my other son had that when he ran a hand saw over his hand while building a fort, the glue job didn’t hold and I wanted to take him back to get it re-done, he, a teenager at the time , said “No” he wanted a battle scar, a story to tell, silly kid. While waiting, we learned that they don’t do stitches if the wound is more that 24 hours old. Certainly we wouldn’t be waiting 24 hours, if so I would find someway to put “Humpty” back together again, no, 4 1/2 hours at most the TV screen said.

At one point the lady beside me told me that she once had to come in because she had put an axe through her leg, not good. Okay, my turn, I had tripped on some scrub bush and had another piece go up my leg when I was playing tag, stitches out on my birthday, (I was 5), She had another, she was bit by a beaver!!! A beaver, wow, how uncommon is that! How on earth did that happen, I asked did she poke it with a stick? She said she was with her dog, when they ran into the beaver, and she did have a stick and was trying to keep the beaver from her dog when it, she thought rubbed up to her, but she had three bites, and had to get rabie shots in the wounds and couldn’t get it stitched up because of the possible rabies. Now that was a story. Well, I didn’t have one to trump her, but I told her I had been followed to school by a bear one day, haha. (true)

It was more than 2 hours before he went in for his stitches, and he did come out with his pants intack (besides the slice he had made cutting his leg) for his hour plus ride back to the city.

I bet those emergency room staff have all kinds of whopper stories to tell, silly ones, what were they thinking ones, and absolutely devastating one’s, heart wrenching ones. So glad ours was just a different way to spend a few hours on a Sunday night, and that someone else was there to stitch up my son. And we have no intention of coming back anytime soon, thanks for being there though. Love, living in Canada.


16722410_10158248774290501_1439403914849664656_oPlanning my trip to Guatemala in the fall of 2014, I figured I should nail down accommodations for over Christmas and New Years before maybe there weren’t any or they were out of my price range. I thought I would like to spend that time in Antigua, Guatemala and a World Heritage site. I found a place through AirBnB I believe, it sounded perfect but it said those dates weren’t available. I decided to send them a note anyways seeing if they might suggest other accommodations for that time. The owner got back to me, that since I was a single lady, I could stay there during that time any ways, she had booked it off as her child “Oliver” was coming at that time. Oh, I thought, and replied, maybe since this was such a special time for her I shouldn’t impose. Initially I understood by how she replied that she was pregnant and expecting her first child, so I offered to help in any way I could with cooking and cleaning at that time to help her. Then when she kept referring him to him as “Oliver” I thought maybe I misunderstood, maybe he was already born, and she just got to visit with him at that time. So I started telling her a bit about my children and how old they were. She replied then, that no he had not been born yet, and indeed was expected to arrive at that time. I had a place to stay. A wonderful family, and her Mom was going to be staying with them as well to help out and be there for the birth.

I felt like part of the family, the first day there I got to attend a baby shower at their church. I was there when the priest came to visit at their home prior to the birth. They were not yet married yet even though they had been together for sometime as there were problems due to Daniel being from Germany I believe. (Guatemala is very religious with something like 97% being Roman Catholic.) That was another question I was asked from place to place as I arrived, was I religious? My answer, “No”, but I was brought up Roman Catholic.

Antigua is a wonderful place to be around the Christmas/New Years holidays, lots of extra activities happening. There was the evening before Christmas when a procession went by at night, maybe a rendition of them looking for a room for the Virgin Mary, I’m not sure but the lanterns, etc were a nice surprise, and it was very small scale, intimate. Video of procession

Paola had been hoping to give birth at home with a mid wife, but just before Christmas, she learned that the baby was breech, the midwife tried moving it, but he was too comfortable, or big. Paola tried crawling around a bit as she was told this might get the little fellow motivated to move but it just wasn’t happening. Plan B, a doctor and hospital, to find one in a place that she felt comfortable in. That done, now the doctor was trying to encourage her to have it before Christmas, but she really didn’t want to, even though her husband was anxious to see the little guy. I thought the Doctor just didn’t want to be disturbed during the holidays? There was also the thought of schooling and where that would put him in the school year when that time came. Paola decided she would plan for Jan 2, if the baby decided it could wait that long. (Daniel had painted from time to time, images on Paolo’s growing stomach, the one I remember most, the cat’s back end, and  a cracked egg. They also wanted to make a cast of her stomach just before “Oliver” was born. I’m not sure if that happened, but I think so. Very creative.)

On Christmas Eve, which is the day they celebrate or on the stroke of midnight, Paola’s mother Isabelle, Paola, Daniel and myself all sat down to help make tamales, a Costa-rican version as that was where her Mom was from. Quite the assembly line we had going, and by the end we had made over 100.

Making tamales 

(Making cost ricin tamales for new years
Plantain leave, masa with garlic, salt and pork fat, then rice with achiote or paprika , spoonful of peas, pork slice and pork fat, 2 slices of tomatoes and carrot, 6 raisins,1 prune, 1 olive, wrap it all up and bake for 1 1/2 -2 hours at 325′)

Then there was Mass, which Daniel asked why I wanted to come if I wasn’t really religious, part of the experience I told him. A grand church, with a nativity scene that they had brought in dirt from the various areas around so that all were represented.. Then we went home for the meal and gifts, they even got me a journal, with a cover that had local weaving on it. Then I heard it, that strange sound… What could it be? I finally asked, “that rumbling noise, what was it?” It sounded, I said, like someone rolling a barrel of ice down the cobblestone hill. Her brother looked at me, curiously amused. “Only a Canadian would come up with something like that. It was fireworks.”…Okay, I have to admit that did make a lot more sense, and then we went up to the roof top to see. All over the city fireworks were being set off at midnight, not in just one spot, the whole sky was alive with them. I was told that they would set off fireworks at midnight, 6am, noon and 6pm, that’s a lot of fireworks!! I know how expensive they were back home so I asked about that there. Yes they said, they were expensive there as well, but everyone saved up to set off fireworks, rich to poor. On Christmas day I called home to talk to my son on Facetime just before noon, and I was up on the roof top showing him the view when the fireworks started, “Get down, Mom!!!” he shouted, as he thought it was gun fire, no I assured him, just fireworks.

I couldn’t believe all the firework debris along the streets. Then came the New Years celebration, the central street in Antigua was filled with performers, it was alive, and of course a big fireworks display.

The next day, January 2nd, time for “Oliver”, they told me the address of the small hospital, so when I thought enough time had passed, I wandered down, my Spanish not being very good, I managed to let them know what I was there for, and down the hall I went. Very different than our hospitals. There she was with little, or not so little, “Oliver”, one proud father, who I couldn’t believe how much this new born looked like!!!! He seemed all Dad and no, or very little Mom. A mini me, for Daniel. Also a very proud Grandma, and 2 brothers, her younger one was VERY excited even before hand and let Paola know, he already had a car seat so he could take him for rides.

So I was the very first person to hold that first born child, after the Mom, Dad, Grandma and Uncles, pretty special. Such a short time ago now, and he is such a big boy now at 3, (especially for that country, but there comes into play his German father), still looks the spitting image of his dad, who unfortunately, past away last year but will always be remembered, a kind caring person.

Chopping wood, building forts and more

My sister and I met with my Aunt yesterday. She was telling us how shocked her girls were that she knew how to stack wood. Stack wood she thought, I can fell a tree, chop it stack it, we had a huge boiler and wood stove to keep a wood pile for, there was never an end to work.

My sister and I remember visiting that house. As my sister said she always remembered that as a huge boiler, but maybe that was because we were small at the time. “Oh No,” my Aunt replied, “it was huge! You could put 1/2 a tree into it.”
Nancy. my sister recalled the drying rack over the wood stove. I remembered chasing or being chased by my Uncle, probably playing tag, and I fell on to some cleared shrub brush, off to the hospital for stitches, which came out on my 5th birthday, right after the party, what an ending. I remember my sister swinging on the Tarzan rope, she started to lose her grip and asked my other Uncle to catch her, but he didn’t realize she was losing her grip and didn’t, she fell and broke her arm or collar bone.
My Grandparents had a blue berry orchard there, kind of fitting that when I moved to Manitoba, I ended up running a 5 acre saskatoon berry farm for 19 years. I can understand the work involved with that alone, thank goodness I didn’t have to chop wood to heat our house and for the stove as well.
So glad we didn’t grow up in the “Good Old Days”, memories of others I hear don’t sound all that great. I am glad my children got to grow up at the family farm in Manitoba, in that they got to really run around and explore nature. I especially liked how they built forts. They had several, one long one nature provided in the tree shelter row, where the trees grew so close that not enough light could get into the bottom of the row so the branches died off and there was a long above ground tunnel with evergreen canopy, and a blanket of spruce needles at the bottom, a perfect place for bird nests as well. A magical place. They built some forts with scraps of lumber up in the willows by the slough, with horizontal scraps used to create a ladder so they could get up high. The creaking of the willows always making an interesting sound. There was another fort in front of the house near the saskatoons a good place to have a look out from. There was also the one they built, or dug down by the dug out, it was deep, big, quite a feat. Those forts sure kept them occupied for hours and days on end.
Snow forts were quite an adventure as well, when younger just shovelling and heaping up snow and digging into them, how many people could they fit inside? Quite a few, and it would be pretty cosy. Don’t think they ever slept in one over night but I know it had been the plan from time to time.
As they got older they advanced to using sheets of plywood for forms that they would fill with snow, amazing forts.
Then of course, there was jumping into piles of fresh heaped snow, just like jumping into leaves, the older they could the higher the piles and the higher they would jump from. Jumping off of the 2nd floor balcony. One day a friend was over and there was a big pile of snow over by the granaries. He decided to jump off the granary into the pile of snow……on top of that for some strange reason, he decided to do it in barefeet!!!! I was called after he jumped, feet first up to his neck practically and he was wanting out. Quickly we dug and freed him, he was fine but his feet hurt, go figure, sometimes snow crystals are almost like glass, add the cold and he was feeling a burning sensation. Silly guy, he didn’t do that again at our house that I’m aware of but he was (still is I imagine) coming up with interesting things to try, no lack of adventure there.
Out doors a never ending play ground and place to explore. Watching their cats hunt, the stealth, the patience, how close they could flatten themselves out to the ground and spring up in an instance to catch a bird.. Seeing how quickly a dead animal is cleaned up by nature, it doesn’t last long.
Nature is a wonderful class room, and such a rejuvenating place to be. I’d rather be going on a walk through nature any day than the concrete jungle. Good memories.
Do you have a favorite memory of building forts, or learning from nature?