Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions?

It is New Year's Eve and, according to the assortment of blogs that I follow, bloggers reflect on the joys and sorrows of the past year, or make resolutions for the upcoming year that will improve their future lives.

I actually have switched my thinking since I got sick. Sure I still have my big and little goals set up but I have a different sense of what is realistic now. I still want to lose weight and get my finances in order but I see it with a sense of moderation.  I used to be the kind of teenager who decided to learn a piano piece and worked very hard for several days and decided it was not perfect so what is the point in continuing working so hard. I would give up. I tended to not hand in homework because I wasn't finished but the truth is there would always be more to fix and I didn't grasp the concept of good enough. I think my new big life lesson is that where I am is great and doing "better" is wonderful. Who cares if it is perfect? What I do care about now is that I keep on moving, learning, and trying new things.

I embrace the concept of a "bucket list" but my list continually evolves with time, and I do not really expect to do everything that I might write on my list.

 In the first months post brain injury, while I was mainly restricted to lying in my bed, my daughter bought a movie to watch on my new laptop computer. The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman is the story of two men with very different life experiences who meet in a shared hospital room and wind up creating a shared list of things to do before they die. They proceed to carry out items from the list together. Their list included great activities like skydiving, great travels like going to the Taj Mahal, and great ambitions like "help a complete stranger for a common good".

My resolutions for 2013 - 
Be kind, find joy and be open to new adventures.

The trailer for the movie "The Bucket List".

Here is a really intereting "TED talk"  on the topic.

Friday, November 30, 2012


The most exciting thing happening around here is that my daughter got a puppy.

This puppy is an adorable ball of energy and my own little tripping hazard. We had two dogs when the kids were little but my two younger daughters, who are still living at home, came after the puppies so they did not know what life with puppies is like.

Emily has been wanting a dog for a long time, but with my heath issues the idea of a new pet went right out the window.  Last year we got a new higher fence around our backyard so that meant one of my requirements of puppy ownership was met. I really thought that my old wood floors should be redone and sealed against puppy accidents but that never happened.

Emily has been researching dogs to find the right one for our family.
  • I have allergies to the oil on dogs coats so I need to have a dog that is more the fluffy type.
  • we needed a dog that will be good with the grand-kids who are over frequently.
  • we needed a dog that will keep Emily company on long walks and fun activities.
  • we need a dog to be a family pet and not just a one person dog.
  • Emily thinks she wants to show the dog and perhaps take part in things like agility trials.
She found a breeder nearby who had pure-bred Samoyed puppies from champion stock parents.
We visited the breeders at their home a couple of times and were thrilled with the mommy dog and her adorable 5 little balls of fluff.

Two weeks ago the breeder delivered an eight week old little boy puppy to our house.  Life changed instantly! He is very smart and cute and he has won our hearts.

Emily named the dog Jasper and she is working on teaching him the basics like sit and to go outside to pee. He needs a LOT of walking as he is really high energy.

I complained to my girl friend that I can't manage to take a turn walking him because the sidewalks are slippery and the dog pulls on his leash, tugs, bounds and runs under legs. My family is working on getting him to walk nice on a leash but it is going to take a while before he will be safe for me to walk with.  My sweet friend reassured me that I am getting plenty of exercise with puppy by rushing to get him out the door to prevent "accidents" and that sure it the truth. I need to get working on my old physiotherapy exercises and work on my stamina again ... so that I can try to keep up with Jasper.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Older and Wiser?

I just got home from the dentist and my next appointments will be with an oral surgeon.

I have needed a lot of repairs done and it is just keeps getting worse.   I have never had really great teeth, but issues with my face have aggravated the situation. I have some amount of drop in the left side of my face and altered sensation.  I had a bit of speech therapy early on to physically get my tongue moving better and work on moving my lips properly.  I tended to choke sometimes when swallowing and I was always biting my cheek to the point of bleeding.  My bite is now off  too and that mixed with some facial spasms have resulted in several cracked teeth and it looks like I am about to need a couple of them pulled along with some other major repairs.

Today I questioned the dentist about a spot that had been hurting on the gum at the back of my "good"side.

It looks like I have cut a somewhat undersized wisdom tooth in the past two weeks!  I am in my mid 50's and just cut a tooth! My almost two year old grandson and I have a lot in common this month.

Yup, it's true... after all this I am apparently a whole lot older and a little bit wiser.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Graduating from Therapy

Last Friday I had my final meeting at Easy Street, that fantastic hospital rehabilitation group that was overseeing my recovery. My Social Worker and my Dietitian were the only two therapists I have seen over the past year and I haven't seen either of them for the past 5 months. I have had a couple of phone-calls and many emails keeping in touch with my wonderful Social Worker.  She has kept me in the Easy Street Rehabilitation program while we have been sorting out all the issues related to the vocational rehabilitation program and my efforts to adjust to what is the new normal for my life.

Friday afternoon I went in for a last appointment with her before I was officially discharging from their program.  She assured me that she still wants emails letting her know how my life is going.

I have spent a lot of the time in Occupational Therapy learning to set realistic goals and hopefully these skills are now part of my everyday life!

Two years ago I wrote out a list of what I thought I needed to do before being discharged. My three daughters were all in university at the time and all taking about what courses need to be completed and what last assignments needed to be accomplished before they would graduate. I felt a need to make a "grad" list too. I planned to buy myself a particular piece of jewelry from a hospital fundraiser when I finished rehab, just like university graduates buy a Grad ring.  
I may not have completed all my self-appointed assignments before I was discharged, but I have confidence that I will eventually compete most of my self appointed tasks in some fashion or another. They won't be the first "late" assignments in my life.  (grin)

Some of these items may sound a bit silly, but for me they are all meaningful.

               Shop independently (done)
               Cook independently (done)
               Bake pretty cakes again (done)
               Read for fun and have it feel like fun  (done)
               Get my driver's license back (done)
               Make a photo book of the hospital garden
               Play a nice song on the guitar
               Take part in some kind of sport or athletic challenge
               Get the hang of Photoshop 
               Finish an afghan I started just before I got really sick
               Get a job

It is really kind of scary and exciting all at the same time to be officially out of the rehabilitation phase of recovery.  I know that this really is a new chapter for me.

 I still have a lot to work on ... but I am ready to be stepping out on my own.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oak Tree Trunk with Virginia Creeper Vine at the Lake
 Today is Thanksgiving in Canada and I have a lot to be thankful for. I would not being doing nearly as well as I am without the help and guidance of so many people. I have had so many experts, friends and family all support my efforts at getting my life back.  My life has been enriched by the many people I have encountered during this journey and I am glad to name as friends many of the stroke survivors and people struggling with other conditions that I have met along the way. What would life  be like without the  many kindly volunteers and compassionate caregivers and health-care professionals that give their time and kindness and prayers so selflessly?
There are still sad, depressed days but I am blessed to say that most days include joy and gratitude.

I have been so busy! --- I get myself so exhausted "doing" that I have no energy left to "write" about it. That, for me, is actually a good thing because it means I am out there leading my life.

We experienced several family crisis over the summer including one daughter with serious head and leg injuries after an 8 foot fall and another daughter tripped on a curb and we are now awaiting surgery to fix her still injured dominant hand. My youngest daughter had a pin from a previous injury removed from her ankle because of constant pain. It has not been an easy summer but I have been proud of my ability to be of some help during all these stressful events.

I have been taken part in some different counseling sessions, worked with a life coach, gone to exercise groups and worked on the idea of getting employed again. I volunteered for two weeks with The Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba and I worked hard to fix up a house that I rent out.  I went camping with Girl Guides this Fall and .. yes really.. I slept on the ground in my sleeping bag.

When you are in Physiotherapy or Occupational therapy they ask you what it is you want to be able to do, then they start on a few baby steps to try and take you in that direction. I have been slugging away at that list for a long time now, first with the therapists and then on my own, and I find my lists of wants for recovery keeps expanding. There are always higher mountains I want to climb!

Some of the items that I desperately wanted to do  are no longer of much interest to me once I achieve them. I originally was so sad about not shopping independently. Shopping is now doable for me but I find it is very stressful and tiring. The stores with all the people, and odd lighting and colors make me feel dizzy and ill. Driving home is harder than driving there and putting away groceries feels overwheming. Yes, I can now shop independently but it is no longer a pleasant experience for me. It is just exhausting so I try and farm the basic shopping off on the husband or my kids whenever possible now.

Driving on the other hard still seems like a miracle every time I get in the car. I tried for so long to get my license back and now I really treasure it and the freedom it brings.  I still have a few issues. It is not smart for me to drive after dark and I shouldn't try and drive anywhere when I am tired. I need to allow extra time and take a GPS device with me everywhere I go because I have a lot of issues with some kind of spatial memory. I have a few routes that are solid but if I get turned around by even a block  I am really lost. I am driving just fine along the street and with other traffic, but no idea how to get from point A to point B. Eventually I do get to where I want to be. The Trick, like so much in life, is to keep calm, reassess what your destination is and then just get moving again.

It is now time to go help my daughter get the turkey started.  Dinner tonight is for 10 people. We are taking it easy and making potatoes and stuffing from boxed kits because it doesn't have to be Grandmas Special Dressing anymore. That is not what matters. It is the people you share it with that count. It is recognizing the old memories and it is making brand new ones.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and a joy filled week.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lightning Strike

There was a huge elm tree on the boulevard in front of my 1940 something house. This tree was by far the largest of the row of trees on the street that were planted by the city even before the houses were built and we believe it was about 75 years old.  I have lived here in the shade of that tree since I was 16 years old.  I have spent almost 40 years with it shading my yard and house in the summer and with me raking it's leaves in the fall.  We have been banding the tree to protect it from Dutch Elm Disease for the past decade. My kids tried to climb it, took crayon rubbings on its bark and we watched the squirrels and birds that lived in it.

A few weeks ago we had a severe storm system move through the lower part of our province including the city. It was strange driving through it because there were strong winds but it felt like they were coming from all directions. We were safely in our house when heavy rains and winds and then lightning started. The lights were flickering and then there was an odd noise outside our house. We heard kind of a huge whoosh and sucking noise and we realized the tree outside falling. My daughter and I, perhaps rather stupidly, ran out side to see how bad things were.  One of the major sections of the tree had fallen to the side and was resting on roofs and the side of my neighbor's two-story house. Miraculously no one was hurt and there was no real damage to the house.

We walked over to the main trunk and were shocked to find that that it smelled like a campfire. I saw a blackened, charcoal area and I could see smoke rising off it and then as raindrops were hitting it they sizzled and steam was rising. You could feel heat spreading out from the tree.

Neighbors I hadn't talked to in years gathered around to chat. People were stopping their cars and getting out to take pictures. The storm lasted only 30 minutes but reports of damage came from all over the city including roof damage, power outages affecting 1000's and over 500 trees down.

The city forestry official came by the next day and talked to our next-door neighbors and said the tree broke in the wind because it was diseased.  The various neighbors discussed how I was wrong... it wasn't lighting and rather gently pointed out to me that I was wrong. I was very upset by this. I have been fighting so hard for so long to improve my cognitive skills and be seen as competent once again.
I have a very wise adviser, Deb, who questioned why the heck I even cared that a bunch of neighbors thought I was mistaken when I knew that I was not. Wow. Powerful. Why did I care? I think it reflects how much of a beating my self-esteem has suffered in the past few years. I can't always trust my memory, I come up with wrong words and I make a lot of random little mistakes. I have learned to doubt myself and second-guess everything I do. The problem is not if other people believe in me. The problem is  believing in myself.

 The city sent their crew out later in the week and it took them two half days to remove the tree. They filled up two huge trucks with the branches and trunk and it was to be disposed of in a way to prevent and chance of spreading Dutch Elm disease. It was kind of dramatic and exciting since I had never seen anything like that before. The crew was very professional and then it was all over. 

I had a very strong emotional response to this event.
I knew the tree was going to have to come down and that the damage was too severe to be worth trying to save the tree. The city put a big red sticker on it to declare it a hazard.  I know it sounds silly, but I was busy identifying with the tree. We both had a sudden catastrophic event that threatened our lives. We both were not in perfect shape when disaster happened, but that was not the cause of the serious consequences. It was just how things happened.  The decision was made that it was past its prime, it had the beginnings of a disease and there was one of its main limbs broken and no longer functioning. My heart broke with the removal of that tree. I was gratefully that I have had a chance to recover and I was so sad that we couldn't try and patch up the torn part of the tree with some tar or something.

We told the grandkids that the tree they were playing under the previous weekend was now gone. On their next visit our 6-year-old grandson and 3-year-old granddaughter got out of the car and ran over to the stump and stood on it. It became the little girl’s personal stage. She sang out in her clear little voice a joyful "tree song" that she made up.

The city will eventually plant a new small tree on the boulevard.  Perhaps my grandchildren will see it grow into a proud stately tree.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Leaflets Three - Let it be!

This past week was Bob's vacation week and instead of having a great holiday or getting anything done I have been just miserable! 

We were at our cottage about three weeks ago when Bob cleaned out a small patch of poison ivy from the trail and wound up with a horrible rash up and down his arms. It is not like we have never been exposed to poison ivy before -- that's why we make the effort to eradicate it when a patch pops up. It has to be 10 years since we had any real problems. Horrible itching, rawness, oozing... yup we avoid it. Poison Ivy produces urushiol, an oily resin that it happily spreads on to your skin, shoes, clothes, boots, and tools.  The oil does not degrade rapidly and can lay dormant for years on objects. Quick washing with strong detergent can help break down the oil and prevent reactions, but you have to realize that you have been exposed. Some people, like Bob and me, have an allergic reaction to that oil. It is not even safe to burn the dead leaves because the smoke can affect the lungs of susceptible people.

Maybe I walked through it too and got it on my clothes, maybe Bob got it on our sheets. A week and a half ago I had a touch of rash on my side, and within a day had a massive reaction. Half my torso was covered with some of the typical blisters but mainly a hot raised inflamed area. The topical creams did nothing.  I wound up with it spreading rapidly further and further every day.

 My right and left sides do not have the same sense of feeling.   My left side was numb after I had the brain injury, but gradually it started to feel similar to when the freezing comes out after a dentist visit. Lately it has been even better with mainly a kind of duller sensation on the one side with fewer pins and needles kind of areas. My left side has had LOTS of sensation this past week but not itching or even burning like it should be, instead I have had .... serious excruciating pain as the sensation my brain was reading. I felt a lot like I had heat stroke with a fever, and nausea. My ever-present nausea was completely out of control and I was vomiting with the pain.

 I spent a lot of time crying and standing or sitting upright near a fan because there were no sides of my body left that I could comfortably lie down on.  My birthday was in the past week and dinner out was challenging. Hugs from the grandchildren hurt. I even had to go buy some clothes that were extra loose and not touching too many of the painful spots.

I saw my doctor on Monday and got put on:
  • Prednisone
  • Lots of Benadryl ( He said was probably a good thing that it knocks me out so I could get some sleep- don't drive or operate equipment)
  • A extra heavy duty strength cortisone cream
  • Calamine lotion to cover the cortisone cream and try to sooth the skin

I had to go back in five days because he was concerned I might have in infection or something else going on. Adults are not supposed to scream in pain with poison ivy-- it is supposed to itch miserably.
Things were better by my Friday doctor appointment and I got sent home with a prescription for more of the topical creams and my regular medications. I am on the mend with only a couple of minor newer spots in the past day.

We are going to the lake again this weekend. I am taking new sheets and we will be soaping anything down that Bob or I may have touched. We will be bringing home anything I can throw in the washing machine.... just in case.

I really do love being at the lake.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer Events with Independent Living Resource Center.

sunset at Fort Whyte

Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC) in Winnipeg is a wonderful and interesting organization that functions to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. They have many many functions in our community but I have only been involved in a few of their more recreational functions so far. They host one or two seminars a month about safety and life issues. They also host a conference, some workshops and a variety of summer events.

Their summer events this year include a guided walk in Historic Downtown Winnipeg, an overnight camp at Fort Whyte Alive nature center, an adventure activity day also held at Fort Whyte and there will be a picnic at a different park in August. As well there is individual sailing for people with disabilities that can be booked through the organization.

I was not available to go on the waking tour but I have made it to the two events held at Fort Whyte.

The camp was as much fun this year as it was last year. My good friend Shawn came along and we had a great time together. We made new friends, ate good food and enjoyed the lovely surroundings; we went on some long walks and had a campfire. The highlight for both Shawn and myself was going sailing. Twice each!!!!

There were a couple of problems with the event. The fact that the organization's annual general meeting was the same night obviously put a lot of stress on the staff. They arranged to have streaming video into the camp common room so that everyone at camp could still participate in the meeting. That was a wonderful use of technology.

The most serious problem was the low number of people attending this year. I think there were only 9 participants plus the staff. At the opening of the camp it was announced that they had already made a decision to not have an overnight next year but have only a day camp. There is still the possibility that it could be done if they had the demand for about 30 people staying over. I could probably convince several other people to attend but how can I promote it and get my friends excited about an event that might not happen?

   The camp was seriously under-advertised.  I phoned inquiring about the camp because I had such a good time the year before. The person told me that there was no information available about such an event.  The first time I saw the poster and realized it was indeed happening was at their conference only a couple of weeks before the camp. Other people who attended the camp also complained that they had been unsuccessful in finding information earlier.  What about any new people who might have wanted to attend? There was no information or posters about the camp at any of the other organizations I attend either.
All these things can be fixed, so I am hoping it will all still come together for next year. An event like this is expensive to operate and no doubt is a stress on staff that only organizes something like this once a year. Accessible camping is a wonderful opportunity for making friends, and enjoying a variety of activities. Through Guiding I have attended a ton of camps and find that they are always stressful in certain ways but the benefits in learning, skill building and gaining independence are huge. At the same time fun, friendship, and team development are enjoyed. ILRC has a truly great location and good program already going and it will be a shame it this was the last overnight camp. 
I wonder what I can do to help with this camp and I am really not sure. I have lots of experience and I have lots of resources available and people who would volunteer to help at an actual camp, but how do you convince people that they should attend as a "camper"? How can you show people that camping can indeed be an activity almost everyone can participate in?

 I attended the Adventure Day last Friday and I brought 3 friends with me. We met at Stroke Recovery, did an hour of Tai-Ji and then my friend Sue was kind enough to load up her car with people, a walker and a wheelchair and drive all the way across the city to Fort Whyte. We got there in time to have the BBQ lunch. Hiking, sailing, canoeing, powerboat rides and museum tours were all available. One highlight was going bumping along the trails for rides on a Bison Buggy ... kind of a 6-seater golf cart. The problem was the heat! Oh my goodness the heat was unbelievable for Winnipeg and everyone was trying to find shade or go in the air-conditioned building. Sailing was a bit of a bust too because there was not even a breeze to move all that heat around. I got a bit of a sunburn but it was worth it to have a day out with nice people.  My friends agreed it was a good time, and would love to do it again.... on a cooler day!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Aquatic Sessions at the Hospital

Misericordia Hospital c 1910, Winnipeg Manitoba
Yesterday was my last water therapy session for the season.

I started going to water therapy about a year after I got sick. I kept being told by my physiotherapist how good the water would be for me but it took a long time before I was physically stable enough to cope in the water. The hospital I go to for outpatient therapy has a very old pool in its lowest level. It is a touch claustrophobic but oh so lovely and warm! The hospital is very old, completed in 1900, and the pool was originally set up as a recreation and fitness space for the nuns and the nurses that were trained there and lived in the attached residency.

The first time I got in the water I could not believe how dizzy and sick I felt from the movement of the water.  The visual aspects of the moving water and the feeling of the water moving against my skin along with the shear resistance when moving through the water make the pool very difficult, but the fact is that you are supported by the water and if you do loose your balance you are not going to fall down and break something. My first sessions were short and I needed a family member with me because after the pool session I was unable to get myself to the change room, never mind able to get changed once I got there. The car rides home were horrible and I needed to spend the rest of the day in bed.  Weekly I got in that pool with my Physiotherapist Vicky, the pools aquatic teacher Di, her volunteer assistant Vickie and about 5 other people who had serious movement issues. In retrospect I made really good progress and I am convinced that the challenges of moving in the water, while feeling safe and supported made all the difference in my recovery.

The next year my physiotherapist Vicky got a new job and I found myself with a new physiotherapist who did not do aquatic rehab programs so I was switched to trying new challenges on dry land. I am not sure if the water program was suspended for that whole year, but I know that for at least part of the year the pool and change area was closed down for some much needed upgrading. 

Once I was discharged from Physiotherapy, I got a hold of Di and asked her what my options were for water programs around the city. Di teaches several fitness programs around the city and has several group classes where she does the programming out of the Misericordia Hospital. I started attending one of her adapted aquatic fitness groups and it has been fun and beneficial. There is no missing the continuing improvement in my mobility and I give the water therapy and fitness programs a lot of the credit.

I have been going on Thursday mornings with a group of people with assorted health issues, such as arthritis, stroke, and muscle problems that make participating in normal aquatic fitness programs impossible. Di manages to inspire, bribe and motivate us and, yes- Di is not beyond bullying us for our own good. She is a great coach who is very knowledgeable and can customize the exercises and is acutely aware of the needs of each of her participants. Vickie, the long time pool volunteer, helps keep things organized and flowing smoothly. She adds to the safety of the pool experience and her smiling face and gentle style is very much appreciated by Di as well as all the participants. People who participate in the Misericordia aquatic programs find improvement in their pain levels as well as improved movement and do all that while having fun and making friends in a supportive atmosphere.

Next September I will be back in that hospital pool doing my exercises, but for this summer I think I better find a different pool and start work on my endurance and swimming skills.

The picture above is archival but I found it at West End Dumplings
I would have loved to have shared a picture of this neat vintage style pool space, but the paper work to get permission to photograph it was just not worth the effort.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rainy Day and Dolphin Tale

It is a rainy, miserable day in Winnipeg and one of the first days in weeks that I do not have to be somewhere.

I read a facebook post from my new friend Rhiann who blogs at My Brain Lesion and Me
She noted that she was going to take it easy and watch a couple of videos, and one of the ones she listed was Dolphin Tale. I had also bought that movie but I did not watch it at the time because of problems with my DVD drive. I thought Rhiann's plan sounded great, certainly better than doing laundry, which was my first idea. I curled up in a blanket this morning and popped in the DVD.

I enjoyed Dolphin Tale. It made me cry a little.  I am totally entranced with marine life since my up close and personal encounter with a sea turtle last November so it was kind of a given that I would like it.  It is the fictionalized story about Winter, a real baby Bottleneck Dolphin that became entangled in a crab trap. Her tail was damaged and needed amputation but complications set in and the dolphin would not have survived without a prosthetic tail. The technical developments made to accommodate the dolphin have since proven to be of benefit for human amputees as well.

The story involves a young boy who bonds with the dolphin, and becomes changed by his experiences while trying to save her and advocate for her. There is a second and powerful theme of the orphaned dolphin becoming part of her Forever Family at the Clear Water Marine Aquarium. The last part of the movie shows real footage of the dolphin interacting with injured veterans and disabled kids. Yup I cried again.

The fantastic group of actors staring in the film includes, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman and featuring the dolphin Winter as herself. The movie may not be absolutely amazing, but it is very kid friendly and I found the rescue of this lovely animal to be fascinating. The movie a little slow moving but what the heck... that is how recovery and rehabilitation is in real life for dolphins or people.

The aquarium website has lots of educational material, games for kids, and even a webcam where you can watch Winter and her friends, (and they naturally sell a lot of products too). The web site for the aquarium not only is supportive of wildlife protection and rehabilitation; it supports great visits, camps and other functions. One of the big surprises is that they created a partnership with other organizations to form a campaign to encourage the placement of special needs foster children.  Bravo to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium! Here is an excerpt from that page.
Dreams can come true. Winter lost her family when she was entangled in a crab trap at only three months old. She was brought to CMA in the Winter of 2005 where she found her very own "forever family" of loving people and resident animals. Her new family worked tirelessly to help her overcome her physical challenges. Winter's new mom, Panama is also challenged in her own way; she is deaf.

Many kids in Florida's foster care system face similar challenges; they have special needs and have been separated from their birth families, live in foster care and now need adoptive homes. Winter was a "special needs" adoption and gives hope to all kids waiting to be adopted. This campaign is about raising awareness of the need for Winter to be adopted and for children in foster care to be adopted. It's a great opportunity to connect the two needs through a campaign called "Winter's Dream."
For more information please visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's website.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Quest for the Right Vocation

I have not written about my vocational rehab efforts for a while now. Things have been proceeding very slowly since I entered the program last September and I am not feeling much closer to having a job. A positive is that over the past year I would say I have continued to have improvement, both physically and cognitively, and  I think my job options should actually be improving.

scribbly cartoon of a resume
I had a bit of a "hissy" fit two months ago when we were working on my resume. I did not like the direction things seemed to be going. I somewhat tearfully told my job coach that I thought we were going the direction of a slippery slope taking me somewhere I would be miserable. That was followed by a couple of phone calls and a meeting with me, my vocational counselor and the job coach to review our objectives and make sure we were all on the same track.

The results were that we stepped backward and added in the step of visiting a few people to interview them and ask what they do at their jobs.  We asked, "What are entry level jobs in the field?" and for other bits of information.  The thought was that my understanding of these jobs may not be well informed. When I heard from the people working at those occupations I might understand why some jobs that I thought I might like were not really what I expected and why other jobs that were not appealing to me from the outside were really a good job fit once I understood the details of the job.

"Coach" set up three appointments and also set up a long appointment where we looked at information about the organizations and developed up a list of questions. Coach and I then went on several field trips and met some really interesting people.

The first interview was with a lovely young woman who works very hard doing two jobs from two different funding sources. Basically she works as a coordinator of programs for young special needs clients at a large private recreation facility and she also is involved in a program from that facility designed to work on independent living skills and job readiness for special needs young adults. Her job was too intense and physically demanding for me to ever do. We talked about how a program for older adults might be more to my speed.

 Next we visited with someone who is the volunteer coordinator at SMD, the center my job program is hosted out of. It is a massive local based organization that tries to meet the needs of the disabled community of Manitoba. The lady we interviewed is a very experienced woman with a background in human resources. Basically the lesson learned there was that there are very few organizations that can actually afford to hire someone as a volunteer coordinator. The need for that role still exists in smaller organizations, but the executive director or the board members normally take it on. She got met to tell what I loved in my old job and I talked about being an instructor and setting up programs and she asked why I was looking at being a volunteer coordinator with it's heavy administrative component when I loved the teaching aspects?

Yesterday we had another long visit, again within SMD, but this time with two individuals, the COO of the Fund-raising Department and also the person in charge of Marketing and Lotteries. It was really very interesting to hear about how a large department does things, but nothing was a huge surprise to me. I loved the lady we were talking to. She talked about what a team approach they have there and I would be happy to be on her team anytime and would consider volunteering with them. In terms of pursuing a career in fund-raising I am still not sure that is the best idea. I have done a LOT of fund-raising over the years and know that it wears away at me. There are many aspects that I like very much, but others that I absolutely despise. During our conversation the lady suggested that I might enjoy the diversity of a smaller organization where things are not so compartmentalized. I think she might be on to something.

I am feeling very discouraged right now. I have actually seen a few job postings that were of interest to me but they have all been full time and the reality is that I am only able to handle part time positions. I did learn that I enjoy interviewing people and I am pretty good at it. Not that it is a huge surprise, but it is one more thing I can add to my set of job skills.

Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is hard no matter what age you really are. Figuring out how to actually get that job does not seem very simple either - especially if you are 50, weak on one side and also have balance issues.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

No More Barriers

I attended a conference over the past two days called The Disability Health and Wellness Conference: You and your Life.  I look forward to sharing more details very soon but I wanted to share this video immediately. It had an amazing impact on the crowd.  People fell silent as we viewed it.

This video was shared with us by today's Keynote speaker from Barrier Free Manitoba. Manitoba is currently in the process of drafting accessibility rights legislation and today's speaker gave us an inspiring speech about the status of similar political changes around the word and about the waves of change we can expect as our population ages.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Disability Career Symposium

abiity axis logoOn May 17th I attended a really interesting type of job fair and career symposium. The Ability Axis Employment Expo is billed as "a celebration of employment and career opportunities for people with disabilities in our community".  There were balloons and other decorations, a space to buy merchandise such as shirts and books and an area to chat. Last year the event brought in over 700 participants and I am sure this year it was attended in even greater numbers.

The concept is that it is a place were employers can have booths and so can a whole lot of non-profit and social service organizations, and government agencies that are involved in supporting disabled consumers in living in the community.  They had seminars going on about job and work related issues. The website has a really good section on how to prepare before attending a job fair that is worth checking out for anyone interested in getting back into the job market.

There was a huge crowd with a variety of ages and issues and frankly it was overcrowded considering the special mobility needs in that space. It is a good thing for the conference showing growth, but it made for a tougher day for me. I had a great deal of difficulty keeping my balance with so many people swirling around me and all the loud sounds of so many people also bothered my ear and my balance. I did a quick walk around the job fair area to get the layout of the place but I felt unable to go back later.  I also learned during the sessions that things like the location I choose to sit is crucial for me to get the most out of these sessions. I need to be in the left side of the room and viewing toward my right. I wound up getting through the maze of people too slowly and got a spot on the right. The room was wider than long and the video screen at the front was to the left of the room, a person signing in the middle, the speaker at a podium to the left and a whole lot of people wiggling in between me and the speaker at the front.  I sat with my eyes closed for a good part of the speeches  in order to try and minimize the nausea.

The two sessions I attended were both wonderful. 

The first seminar featured Denise Bissonnette who is a very lively and encouraging international speaker. She speaks with passion about finding what you love to do as a foundation in your job-hunt.  She has several books out and I bought one that is a workbook for people new to a work place but it is used in pre-employment training sessions. Yes I got her to sign it!! She also has a book of poetry out and I found a YouTube clip of her reading one of her poems. It gives a taste of what vivacious person she is.  Her web page has a useful archive of her free newsletters.

The second session I attended was with Marianne Petrachek, a speaker who talked about the legal issues related to disclosure of disabilities in the employment process and rights and responsibilities of both the employee and the employer. It was very informative and I really learned a lot. I was making a lot of assumptions and now I know the facts about disability employment rights in Manitoba.

I had lunch with two of the ladies I met at the computer class last January who were also attending the event. It was great catching up with how they are doing and hearing about their successes in getting some job experience. We are going to meet up again in a few weeks and see if we can find a few others from the class to have a bit of a "class reunion".

I am intending on going to another two day conference this week called Disability, Health and Wellness Conference: You and Your Life.  There are a few things I will do differently. One major change is that I am taking one of my daughters along to act as a personal aid. I admit that I spent too much time at Ability Axis stuck and unable to get around, and in the end I was too exhausted and nauseated to finish off the day. This time I am admitting that I NEED help. I will also find a way to get away from crowds and have more rests. I will also bring more money so I can buy more books!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Comfort Food?

 If you break your leg your definition of comfort food might just turn out to be Rice Krispie squares. The younger sisters went to the store to purchase all the essentials -- like marshmallows and sprinkles.

We are taking turns staying at Liz's house so we can take care of her. She only lives a mile from our place so it is not hard for us to go back and forth from our home to hers. She is on at least 2 weeks of bed rest because of the concussion and the broken leg. We are trying to make her meals she might enjoy and for the most part I am aiming at nutritious food with lots of fruit, veggies and extra calcium. 
She has a great kitchen to cook in so that makes it easier.


Pictures taken with my iPhone.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Broken Daughter

scared cartoon person on a ladder
My eldest daughter broke her leg.

She was on top of a ladder doing home maintenance and fell....

We got a call on Wednesday that she was taken to the hospital by ambulance and my husband and I got there as fast as we could. Apparently she was there for a about 5 hours already with her head and back immobilized. She was treated for a concussion, and it was determined that she has a break just below her knee cap and a chip in the ankle.

We got there in time to watch them sew up a gash in her shin and put a back slab splint/cast on her poor swollen leg from her foot to the top of her thigh. There was a quick- here you need to rent these crutches, sign this contract and yelling that we needed to get her out into the hall even before she was dressed -- we need the room for a serious emergency and it is the only one where someone in not hooked up to monitors.  It would have been a lot easier to have been "out of there" if she didn't have to wait to get her leg stitched (6 hours) and wait for the crutches to appear and then find someone to help her get clothes on over the broken leg.

This was a Wednesday afternoon and she was taken to a hospital at the other side of town and we were told that was the location because it was the only one doing Xrays and casting at the time. Seriously?  Our city had a population of 700,000 with about 7 hospitals and she was taking up the only available emergency room space in the city? There has to be a better way of organizing and using our hospital resources than this!

She goes to see an orthopedic surgeon in 10 days and we are hoping she will just be put into a solid cast then and surgery will not be necessary.

She has been so excited over  an upcoming trip to work for several months in New Zealand but now it will have to be delayed much to her dismay. I am confident that it will all work out but in the meantime her life is on hold.....

Ladder Safety Information

Friday, May 11, 2012

Travel to the Peace Garden

I traveled with several members of my Girl Guide Units (ages 13 to 16 ) to join with Girl Scouts of America for a weekend camp experience at the Peace Garden Park.  Girl Scouts are celebrating their 100th year and we joined them for an Arbour Day celebration.

The park is located between the Canadian and US borders and is managed jointly by both countries and their park services. It was pretty cool that the US girls never had to cross into Canada and we did not have to cross the US border, but we still got to spend the weekend working and playing together.

We had a great time and the facilities were great. We slept indoors and I was happy to find that I had a nice room to sleep in with 2 twin beds and real mattresses.

We sang songs and did skits in a performance hall, we did tie dye pillowcases, we planted trees, we toured the sights and museums of this park that was created in 1932. We were invoved in a service project,  and had a workshop with a photographer. The older girls from both countries got together to roast marshmallows.

I was pretty darn exhausted for days afterward, but I wouldn't have missed this camp for anything!

This memorial is for Game Wardens and Natural Resource Officers who lost their lives in the course of duty. It is located at the North American Game Warden Museum.

 The 9/11 Memorial
Ten steel Girders from the Word Trade Center were installed at the International Peace Garden.


The Peace Tower 
120 feet high with two of the columns located in Manitoba, Canada and two in North Dakota, USA. The columns are separate and independent but located on a common base which is intended to represent democracy.

150 girls tie dyed pillow cases

 The girls and leaders planted about 700 trees. (I took pictures)

We made a lot of new friends.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What a Lot of Blogging!

What a month this had been!

All this blogging has been a lot of work! I think I probably overwhelmed some of my regular readers and few of you writer/ editor types were probably not too thrilled with viewing all of my baby writing assignments.

I can write a mean lab report or a research based science paper. Creative writing? Who me? I skipped that part in high school. I started creating web pages with an interest in the technical aspects and grew to love creating the overall design of documents and web pages. Written content was never my major concern.

I think this experience has been good for me. I really feel like I have loosened up a bit and maybe shared more that I would have without the daily practice. To some extent I was surprised at the range of emotions that certain challenges brought out of me and found that it was a cathartic experience.

I liked producing a variety of post styles. I also enjoyed the challenge of creative freedom within a few guidelines. I even learned about an assortment of online resources. One of the posts involved producing a MadLib poem using an online generator.  The resulting post is kind of odd, but what a useful challenge that turned out to be! I found web pages with lists of parts of speech because I was running out of adverbs. I wanted to use more health related words so I opened a thesaurus for the first time in decades. There was an option to practice editing the resulting poem to try and improve it. All this just had to be good for me as a budding writer!

Through the WEGO Health Activists Writing Challenge I also learned a few things about being an advocate for a health concern. I met new people, and I read lots of different blogs about a variety of health interests.  I signed on to twitter and followed a twitter chat for health activists. I joined Skype in order to be part of a discussion group. I did not find many other participants who were dealing with brain injuries, but I did find a group of bloggers who have formed a community for people with vestibular disorders.  It has been great chatting about issues related to that aspect of my disabilities. I believe that I will now be a more informed blogger, and better able to advocate for people with health concerns in the future.

 Now what?
 I certainly won’t be posting every day but I might post a little more frequently.
I want to work on some of my photography skills this month. I tried, briefly, to take a college Photoshop course only three months after I got sick. I think it is finally time to pick up where I left off.  I will have a few picture posts to share in the near future.

I certainly wasn’t confident that I would last all 30 days but…


Monday, April 30, 2012

LAST ONE! HAWMC #Day 30 Word Cloud

HAWMC Day #30: Word Cloud. 
Make a word cloud or tree with a list of words that come to mind when you think about your blog, health, or interests. Use a thesaurus to make the branches of your “tree” extend further.

This is the Last Challenge of the month long Heath Activist Daily Blogging Challenge. Tomorrow will be a little bit of a windup of the month. How do you like my word web? I think it looks great! I used key words from my blog and got a visual display all about my effort at
 "Leading a Healthy Life"

word coud

HAWMC Day 29 Six Sentence Story

Six Sentence Story. 
In this day of micro-blogging – brevity is a skill worth honing. Can you tell a story and make it short and sweet? What can you say in six sentences. Check out some here:    

I was trying to shop at the grocery store about a year after my stroke with my cane and my groceries in the cart and me gripping the handles of the shopping cart as if it was a walker.  I was trying to be independent and do something that normal, average people can do every day. I reached up with my good hand for the whipping cream on a higher shelf. The ever-present vertigo and dizziness won out and I fell awkwardly into the dairy section cooler. I was hurt and couldn’t get up. A small child came toward me and her mom screamed at her to stay away from that nasty drunk lady.  I knew without a doubt that my life was not normal or average anymore.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

HAWMC Day 27 The First Time I...

The First Time I… 
Write a post about the first time you did something. What is it? What was it like? What did you learn from it?

This topic was probably intended to let us reflect on the feelings and fears one encounters in new situations and what it takes to overcome challenges and accomplish achievements. What is it ike to face your fears? Challenges or my achievements were not the first thing that came to my mind .when I read today's prompt.

My health crisis began 3 days before Mothers day in 2008. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where they determined I had multiple pulmonary emboli (life threatening blood clots in my lungs). They were able to get me stabilized and I got to go home to spend Mothers Day with my family. I was so grateful to be with my family. I have 4 children  and at the time I had one little two year old grandson  and my son and his wife were expecting another child. I wanted to be with them all.

Over that first three months my husband was told three different times that I might not make it through the night. I cried and was convinced that I would never see that unborn grandchild.

Four months later I was still here and I got to see our new baby girl. They took me to the hospital to meet her the day she was born.  I was set up in the arm chair in their room and they put a bunch of pillows under my non-functioning left arm to support it and then placed my darling grand-daughter into my arms for the very first time. I knew how truly blessed I was.

Linda and grand-daughter

HAWMC Day 27 The Good and the Bad

 5 Challenges & 5 Small Victories. 
Make a list of the 5 most difficult parts of your health focus. Make another top 5 list for the little, good things (small victories) that keep you going.

Hi! My name is Alicia and I am guest blogging for my mom today. I am a 27-year-old woman with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).  I was officially diagnosed as a six year old when I started grade one, but we did know I had ADHD before that.  I wanted to write on this particular prompt because many of the challenges with ADHD can also be positives. It really depends on what my mood is at the time or how I choose to look at a situation. Something that may be very good in some circumstances, like being aware of everything around me, can really help me at work and in emergency situations. At the same time it makes it very hard whenever I am asked to concentrate on some kinds of work or even pay attention while trying to have a conversation with a friend in a busy restaurant.

Good Things
  1.  I am aware of lots of things at the same time. ADHD makes me very close to being a multi-tasker.
  2. Sometimes I can hyper focus and give all of my attention to a single item of interest.  Give me a math challenge or a game and I have an advantage.
  3. I have lots of energy and I am always on the go.
  4. I learned at a young age to be an advocate for my own needs as a earning disabled girl and once I laws able to advocate for myself I began advocating for others and has turned into something I am very passionate about.
  5. Learning about ADHD helped me learn about brain function, which in turn helped with learning Psychology and Human Development courses in university.

  1.  I am constantly aware of so many distractions that it is hard to function. I even needed to take exams in an isolated room to eliminate distractions
  2. When I am over focused I really am not aware of what is going on around me and I do things like walk into traffic while daydreaming.
  3. I am constantly fidgeting and the fidgeting annoys other people. I am constantly picking things up in my hands and I am not even aware that I am handing them.
  4. Attention Deficit Disorder is an invisible disorder and people sometimes think I am just being weird, rude or stupid. They pick up that something is wrong but don’t automatically assume it is a disability. Even if I decide to tell someone I have ADHD I get reaction such as “No you can’t possibly have that”,  “but you are too smart to have that”,  “ADHD? What is that?”  or “I thought that was just something kids have not adults”.
  5. Schools are not set up for people with ADHD. You spend so much time stuck sitting down and having to pay attention for long periods of time, not to mention test taking. The expectation is that we will all learn something the same way at the same way and my brain developed in a different way than the average student. I wasn’t ready at the same time as other students and teachers did not acknowledge my earning differences. There has not been enough progress in the 21 years since I was officially diagnosed.

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