Archive for the ‘In the midst of life’ Category

DSCN2367crI know of two Boxing Day traditions – shopping and walking. I’m about to need a new ink cartridge for my printer and I’m about to need a new battery for my food (soap) scale but I opted for a walk. Yep, enjoying life’s simple pleasures.DSCN2368cr2 What did you do for Boxing Day?


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My mother, Leona

Mom & me, summer 2012

Today is Leona’s birthday. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and has been living in a long-term care facility for awhile. Happy birthday Mom.

Photo-0009cropMy mother’s thing was walking. She walked everywhere. That love of recreation and movement is something I inherited from her. The picture of her in the woods is from a hike in 2009. She had gotten to the point where she wasn’t comfortable being around a crowd but out here in the woods she was filled with joy. Skipping, kicking leaves and smiling. At least until her feet started hurting. Her running shoes, she always had numerous pairs of white sneakers, were fine on pavement but not on a trail. We didn’t really do much together but that hike is a nice memory of our last outing.

When I saw her last summer I was startled by how pale she looked. She recognized me as someone she knew but not who I was. I reminded her that I’m her daughter and she asked questions. We sat outside and watched a new patient running back and forth with his daughter. He had been a marathon runner and still seemed to be full of energy. Most residents are much older and much further along in their deterioration.

It was the first time I had seen her since my father passed away the previous fall. At that time, when I told her he had died she seemed to have a moment of clarity. She understood that he wouldn’t be visiting her anymore and I could see the sadness in her eyes but rather than convey her feelings she quickly reverted to her old usual persona of pleasantness commenting that he had had a good life. Towards the end of the visit I sensed that she had forgotten who I was.

Leona was born in New Brunswick. For a few years, in her youth, she had been a teacher. This was before you needed a degree to teach. She had kept a few momentos from that time and showed them to me when I was a child. I don’t know much about her youth – she had skied to school in the winter, ridden on motorcycles and was devastated when a boyfriend decided to become a priest and thought of becoming a nun. She moved to Ontario in her early twenties and shared a flat with her best friend. This is where she met my father. They were next door neighbours.

Al & Leona, September 1959

Al & Leona, 1959

She had always liked going to the beach, this was a fairly regular summer weekend event, and she was an Elvis Presley fan. She wore jeans in the 60’s, one of only two moms I knew that did, told me I could be anything I wanted to be but she basically had traditional sexist values. She worked until she was about sixty, in a factory, and once she retired, now living in a smaller community, she took up lawn bowling, became the club’s treasurer, joined a senior’s group, befriended an older woman in the neighbourhood, started watching soap operas, went on bus trips to the casino and, of course, still went on her daily walks. Mom, I hope you get a chance to go on a walk today.

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It’s now been four years since I returned from my travels, ready to start the next phase of creating a life that was more attuned to what I had envisioned. The idea was to get work and put some money together to start a business. I had many ideas that came out of interests, travels, moves, situation and opportunities that I saw. Most weren`t micro-level enough so I also thought about additional training – old thoughts about landscape architecture, thoughts that aligned with recurring interests in recreation and leisure, and newer thoughts like food or massage therapy. My job search has been ongoing, but, it has been a four-year waste of time. A year and a half ago I finally did get work – a two day a week retail job. That ended before Christmas, just after I had managed to get a seasonal job.

Last summer, I decided to start researching a couple of my business ideas so I`d have some pieces in place in the event I am ever able to act. While doing so I stumbled upon the idea of making natural soap and related products. Finally, a business that could start at a micro level, had potential for a sustainable livelihood and blended values and interests. I was excited! I would finally be able to “do/act”. I`ve learned a lot but most of my efforts have centred on research rather than development. It`s frustrating. My part-time work didn’t provide much in the way of a disposable income.  It took nine months to gather the very basic equipment and supplies I needed to start experimenting. It`s taking a long time to move forward and get a micro-level business off the ground.

I now have an employment insurance claim and I’m eligible for a self-employment benefit program. I went to chat with an employment counsellor about SEBP a while back and found out that you need $4442 in cash or kind to be eligible for this program. I signed up for the info session, which was held last week.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to develop a business plan and start a small or micro business. It provides workshops, access to advisors, networking and provides EI benefits for 42 weeks. I would like to participate in this program but I don’t have $4442. I’m not sure what annoys me more – the fact that at 52 years of age I don’t have this relatively insignificant asset base or that the Ontario government puts this financial barrier in place.

My other potential option is to go back to school for retraining via the Second Career initiative. I’ve been investigating this over the last month or so as well. The training has to be in a field in which there are full-time jobs, i.e., trades, social services, health, and not more than two years. I`ve looked at it from different angles – what`s available at less than a year, what`s something I can get work at regardless of where I live, what programs would I have taken a few years ago and are they still feasible, what will complement the business I`m trying to develop, what will offer skills or knowledge that I could turn into another business, what will put me back in the job market doing something that I like, what`s still open, what`s missing from the college programs, undergraduate degree and experiences I already have. I`ve explored a number of programs and am going to talk to someone at the college in a few days about the recreation and leisure studies program. I`m holding off hitting the Ontario colleges send transcripts and apply/pay processing fees button till then.

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Al & Leona, September 1959

Al & Leona,1959

My Google calendar pop-up notice reminded me that my father’s birthday is coming up next week. He passed away in October 2011 and I should probably fix that calendar alert. The same day my daughter sent me a scanned copy of my parents wedding photo, which I had gotten her to scan for me back then. So, I guess it’s time to write something about them, or at least I’ll start with my dad today.

My father, Al, would have been 82 next week. He enjoyed country & western music and Hank Williams was his favourite artist. He loved to belt out songs but wasn’t particularly gifted as a singer. He was also big on whistling. When I was a kid one of the neighbours called the police about the whistling saying it was noise pollution that interfered with his dental practice. Al didn’t give up whistling. In his retirement years, once arthritis had limited his mobility, he’d get on his scooter to go for a ride around the neighbourhood, whistling all the way.

DadAl  loved being outdoors. His passions were gardening and wildlife. Roses were his favourite flowering plant although he had many hollyhocks in later years. Fruit trees and berry bushes were also dear to him and he took some of these with him when he retired and moved from Toronto to Orangeville. He nursed injured birds. He’d come across them at work and bring them home. As someone who liked singing and whistling, he also gravitated towards bird calls. If a bird crowed, he crowed back. When he passed away we found a Hank Williams cd in the car player and a bag of bird seed in the backseat.

At one time we had a couple rabbits. Al brought a couple hares home that he had found at work. We ended up with many rabbits and hares. One morning, to my horror, I went out back and saw two of the rabbits and two of the hares hanging from the clothesline. I screamed and ran crying into the house that someone had murdered them. I was told teenagers must have snuck into the yard and did this horrible deed. A day or two later I came home for lunch and was apprehensive about the unfamiliar smell that was coming from the pot. My gut told me it was rabbit stew. I was mortified again. My father denied it. How could he dare cook them. At this point I surmised he was probably the killer.

Al was born in Saskatchewan and this rural family included 18 other siblings. A few didn’t survive childhood. He was one of the younger kids. I thought the family had always been a farming family but at my father’s funeral my cousin, Myra, told me a different story. She heard this from her mother, who was twelve years my father’s senior. I’m not sure if it’s true or not but this is how it goes. … Back in the 1920s my grandfather had been a prosperous bootlegger. The family lived in a big Victorian house and life was pretty good. Then my grandfather got caught and spent some time in prison. The family lost everything and ended up on this 165-acre farm where my father was later born. Their Ukrainian heritage would have made life difficult in Canada at the time but I can’t help but wonder – what if they had been situated in Montreal instead of the prairies? They might have ended up being one of the country’s wealthiest families!

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My daughter is a thoughtful and talented person who is doing the right thing by transitioning and being true to herself. It’s been a month since she came out as a transgender woman and she has received support from friends, family, clients and strangers. Thank you.

daryl profileShe is a photographer and wants to help increase awareness and acceptance of transgender people. She has started a crowdfunding campaign, The Transgender Experience, a project that will explore what it means to “pass” in society.

I’m reading The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille, and a quote in the book comes to mind, “Nature loves diversity; society hates it.” For as long as people have existed, transgender people have existed. Trans people are a minority and not well understood. This has often resulted in prejudice and violence. It is absurd that we would hate or hurt people simply because they are different. Gender variance is part of our human fabric and we need to learn about and accept other people. A trans person could be your child, sibling, parent, grandparent, friend, neighbour, colleague, etc. Learn, accept, become an ally.

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Last weekend I tried contra dancing! It’s a community style of dancing that evolved out of English country dancing and it’s fun. You can come with friends, a partner, or, by yourself.

There are many people to dance with and you learn the steps quickly. You dance with a partner but you also dance with everyone else as you progress up/down the line. People ranged in age from 7 to 70.

The dance is organized by the Old Sod Folk Music Society and is held twice a month, from September to June, at the Churchill Recreation Centre. I enjoyed the energy and all those smiling faces!

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Enjoy the fall scenery on the way to the bus stop.

Buy bread at a West Wellington neighbourhood bakery and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Observe the surroundings and take a picture that, to me, says “urban neighbourhood fall”.

Once at home try cropping the photo.

Play around and crop it again.

Enjoy a slice of fresh bread.

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