Monday, November 10, 2014

Sick Day

Sad Pumpkin
I already missed a day of work. I was supposed to work an extra shift on Halloween and I wound up at home vomiting instead. Holidays and parties are big deals for recreation programs with a lot of extra work so my not going will have been a problem to my co-workers. Besides-- I wanted to go! The staff and residents could dress in costumes, and we had decorations, cake and treats to give out. There was a pumpkin carving contest,  a musician performing, and a bake sale with the proceeds going to the Alzheimer's association and that all sounded very exciting to me. It is a larger event with the residents families and our community invited to share in the fun.

One of the issues with working in places with a larger group of people.. is that you get exposed to a whole lot of different infectious organisms. So many residents, staff, and visitors all in one place and in closer physical contact increase your risk of picking something nasty up.  There are several categories of how disease is spread. It can be via what you are eating or drinking, by touching contaminated surfaces, by touching someone or some animal who is infected or by breathing in air that is contaminated. All the different types of microorganisms have their own particular needs for spreading and what they need to multiply.

In fall we aggravate some of the issues by closing windows and turning on forced air heating systems that circulate air from one area to another. Even with good filters the risk of air born infections increases.  People let me yell here; BEING COLD does not actually cause colds despite the common belief. Colds are caused by viruses. Period. Now being cold makes you huddle together with other people who might be infected. Being very cold can be a stress on your system and make your immune system more stressed and therefore less able to fight away that virus. Being sick with something else, being exhausted, being malnourished or on certain medications can mess with your immune system big time.

Where things get really serious is that infections can be devastating to people who have compromised immune systems. It is a real danger to so many residents of nursing homes.  There is a huge amount of effort put into sanitation efforts and other methods of preventing the spread of infections but the fact is people sneeze and cough. Visitors might not even realize they are getting sick and could still be contagious.

What can you do? Wash your hands. Use hand sanitizers.  Eat nutritious foods.  Get plenty of rest and basically try to live as healthy a life as possible.

And--- if  you are sick don't share your germs. Stay home and get better, even if it means missing the Halloween party.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Back to Work

Guess what?

 I got a JOB a couple weeks ago. It is a very little one but it is a real job --- they are paying for my knowledge and ability! 

I am working in a personal care home as a part-time Recreation Facilitator.  The job is as a replacement for a lady who is on maternity leave and is listed to continue until around August 2015, but it can end with two weeks notice if the new Mommy chooses to come back sooner.

This personal care home/ nursing home is part of a larger chain of personal care homes and assisted living facilities so when the time comes I can be applying for internally posted positions. There has been a lot of time spent in job orientation. I spent 2 days being trained at their regional orientation for all new employees and then a day getting trained at my new workplace. After that I have spent several days basically job shadowing the other recreation staff and learning how they do various activities in this facility. Now I am officially able to work independently but as part of the team. I do still need a lot of help and advice from my co-workers  in order to learn the best way to do the various tasks I need to carry out.

The facility is pretty large with around 170 residents. The recreation department is organized with a department coordinator, 4 full time recreation facilitators, 2 part time facilitators and a part time spiritual care facilitator (chaplain). This group also has a couple casual staff that can be called in and they have many helpful volunteers that share their time. There is also a resident cat that lives in and around the recreation office and does his best to keep us all entertained in exchange for some petting.

I am only scheduled to work 4 days in a two week period and I think that is a great way to start. It lets me build up my stamina slowly and get to know the residents and staff gradually. I know there will be a few extra shifts that I get to pick up, for example, this Friday I get to come in and help with the big Halloween party.

There are a lot of challenges for me in this job but so far I have been up to it.  I will admit I have been getting home and collapsing on the couch for the entire evening.  There is a lot of time spent going up and down in an elevator and I find that triggers a fair bit of nausea but the alternative of walking up and down countless stairs makes the elevator seem worthwhile. I am having an extra hard time remembering people’s names and room location but I will just keep working on it. I am using all the memory tricks I have learned in the past 6 years and they really do help.

I ran a really good program yesterday. It was a discussion group with 6 people.  I talked about pets a bit and then I read a short story from Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul. We talked about the pets we had when we were younger and about the differences between growing up with animals when you live in the country or in the city. We also talked about unusually pets people sometime have. We started off a little hesitatingly since the ladies and gentlemen really don’t know me but pretty soon we were all smiling and laughing. When I ended the group I asked if they enjoyed our chat and a couple of them wanted to know if we could do this again next Sunday.
I knew then that I had done a good job.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer Time

Bob is teaching our granddaughter a first song on the ukulele
What have I been up to this summer?
Not really all that much. 

What I have done is spend more time at the lake, more time just cruising the internet and more time napping. With Bob's recent retirement we have had a unique time in our lives to just be together.

I have spent a lot of my time tweaking my resume and looking at the job ads. I have read an interesting assortment of library books including  Get Back to Work Fast- a No Nonsense Guide For Finding Your Next Job which is good for a more mature person trying to get reemployed.  What Color is your Parachute? is a classic that is helpful in figuring out what kind of jobs might interest a person. I even read a surprisingly useful book called- Landing a Job for Canadians for Dummies.  I have even been saving pins on Pinterest about how to ace interview questions.  I might be overthinking this.  I have wanted to get back to work for such a long time. The prospect of a real job is both exciting and a little intimidating all at the same time.

 Recently we have been working on cleaning up a lot of junk from our house. We tend to hang on to old ways and the things we don't need anymore and my heart is saying it is time for a fresh start. My parents were very frugal people. The depression years taught them not to waste anything and I was raised to make use of every plastic margarine container, piece of scrap fabric or tiny piece of wood. My husband was raised the same way so the two of us make a bad combo for keeping things.  We know that things have to change.

Right now my husband is out in the garage sorting through the mountain of stuff we have had piled up for years. We saved all those things because someday they would be useful.  

It is hard to pick up an item and make those hard decisions.

Will I use this item again?
Is there someone else who can use this item?
Have I waited so long to use this that it is now simple garbage?

I have a huge heavy box of record albums, mainly my late fathers, out in the garage and we have a stereo system in the basement that could play them.
I look at all those albums and think of my dad with some happy memories but I don't for a minute think I will ever play them again. If I actually wanted to hear the Lennon Sisters I would watch them on YouTube with enhanced audio. The next question is could they be worth something if we sold them? There is a maybe in my mind about that one but I bet the dollar value selling them is no where near worth the stress of it all.

Now that we have decided to part with those records the question pops up-- Are they garbage after all? If we take them to a charity resale shop will they just have to pay a staff person to carry them to a dumpster? The other resale place buys material that is picked up from homes or community drop off areas by charities like the Canadian Diabetes and it  pays the charity by the weight of the load. Those ol' LP records are pretty heavy you know.

Ultimately it seems easier to use some of the scrap lumber leaning on the opposite side of the garage to make a new shelf and put the record box back up.  We could choose to leave the decision one more day.. or even  longer.

Just to brag a bit we have recently hauled 1 load of "electronic waste" and one load of scrap metal out of our lives and  3 SUV loads off to charity. Our garbage and recycling containers have been filled to the brim every week.

Change is hard.
Really hard.

You can't turn the clock back.

I can't sit and listen to those records with my dad ever again, but I will always appreciate music and I do love singing those old songs to my grand-kids.

I will never again have the kind of job I loved 20 years ago but I think, just perhaps, the new type of job could be even more wonderful.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Final Week of College

The end is in sight.

Painting by Edmond W. Greacen - Ethol with Roses
My course in therapeutic recreation is going to be over after 5 more work days.  In many ways it feels like we just got started and now it is over already. This has been such an exhausting  and difficult experience and in many ways it has been  positive and life affirming.

In a somewhat overwhelmed moment I told my husband I wasn't sure this has been worth it and that I might never actually get a job.

He said he knows it was worth it. My confidence and attitude is so much better.  My interest in learning is  back. My stamina and energy level really has increased since I have been pushing myself to the limit day after day. Physically I still have a lot of issues and I have more than a few emotional scars from the trauma of the past 6 years but I feel very different about myself right now. I feel a sense of value and direction in my life once again.

I don't know what will happen next.
Maybe I will get a job soon.
Maybe I need to get even more training somewhere.
Maybe I should go on a trip.

I think I might just  relax and take some time to smell the roses!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Work Placement

I might use pansies for my indoor garden program next week.
I have been very, very busy at my first unpaid work placement for the past 3 weeks. I am at a
personal care home that is part of a large chain. The home is pretty large with just over 200 residents and it has 10 people employed as recreation staff.  I love the people I have been working with. Just lovely people and I do feel at home. It is challenging though. The real world experience is being valuable.

 Next week will involve a lot of assignments and activities that I will be marked on. I will spend Monday at the college with my class and teachers and I will have to give a short presentation about the place where I am working. We are all at different locations all around the city and it fascinating to see how incredibly different all the facilities are.  From Tuesday to Friday I will be observed and marked while running three programs. I choose the programs, plan them out  and I will do a write up about each of them. I am planning a music program, a game program and I have been researching Horticultural Therapy for the last one. I will get to help out at the monthly "club night". I also need to make up a pretend May calendar for the facility with events and activities for the floor I am working on.

I am holding out okay physically, but believe me this is NOT easy.  It is a blessing to be of service to the people in the home but there is only so much one can do to help. There is sadness and loss to be seen there but there are inspiring moments of joy and dignity too.

I will do a work placement at an assisted living facility for May and I think that will also be an interesting experience.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On?

I am participating in WEGO's challenge to post everyday in APRIL. WEGO is a group that empowers online communities in Health Activism to help others.
Keep Calm and Carry On. Write & create your own “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. Try to make it about your condition! You can then go to ( and actually make an image to post to your blog. #HAWMC

I was very surprised to find out that people think of Therapeutic Recreation Facilitators as people who just lead Bingo Games and do Arts and Crafts with Old People. It is so much more...
One of the first appointments with my Occupational Therapist involved a discussion about what my goals for recovery were.  What were the things I needed to do and what were the things I wanted to do? What had I lost with the injury that would impact on my life?
We talked about what I needed to do to be safe. What did I need to be able to do that were activities of daily living such as managing to dress and feed myself.  Issues related to moving physically, reading and knowing what to do with numbers were at the top of my list.
How do you want to spend your leisure time? What helps you participate in activities with your friends and family? What will it take for you to get to go back to volunteer or paid work or allow you to care for your family?
I wanted to read, I wanted to cook, I wanted to shop by myself. I had a goal of being organized and remembering what I was doing. I wanted to crochet even though my left hand was NOT working well. I wanted to enjoy photography. I wanted to go camping, hiking and boating.
What I REALLY wanted at that point was my old life back.
What have I done in my journey to get my life back?
I worked on reading and writing with my OT
I worked on how to cook again with my OT
I helped decorate and paint my cottage walls
I wanted music so I joined a very tolerant choir and I found a guitar teacher
I went to boating, sailing events for disabled people to help with my balance
I had  a physiotherapist that made me ride a stationary bike.
I was sent to aquatic therapy where I got to exercise and play in a pool.
I went for (remarkably slow) walks with friends to learn to walk again and gain endurance.
I joined the Stroke Recovery Association and found  peers for support and to do activities with.
I attend adapted Tai Chi classes with a physiotherapist to help with balance, spasticity and strength.
I attended an outpatient group where we  played games to encourage cognitive recovery
I attended a whole lot of sessions of Mindful help balance my emotions
I blog... for recreation and therapy too.. and the hope of making a difference to other people.
I have socialized and made new friends and got a lot of support on this journey.
That, my friends, is what I think Therapeutic Recreation is all about. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Month of Blogging

I am off to a late start but I am going to try to do the WEGO month of blogging challenge. Wego Health is social media community that supports on-line Health Activists.

They give a blogging topic suggestion every day in April so I want to see what I can do with the topics this year.
Imagine your health focus or blog is getting its own theme song. Think “Eye of the Tiger” for Rocky Balboa. What would the lyrics be? What type of music would it be played to?
My song would be optimistic and encouraging and probably set to piano or acoustic guitar music but I don't have the energy today to launch into writing lyrics and a song for this blogging challenge.

 I am doing well right now. My health is pretty good, and yes I still face challenges, but I know that there is still a lot I can achieve. I am in the middle of changing the direction of my life, and not sure what is going to happen in my future, but I feel very positive.

The little community choir my husband and I sing in has picked a garden theme for our Spring Concert. One of the songs we are doing is a Choral arrangement of The Garden Song. I love singing it. It just plain makes me happy.  I also think it fits where I am in my recovery journey and it also goes with my newest focus on learning how to become a recreation therapist.

"Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.... "

I just keep moving inch by inch, row by row ... step by step ... challenge by challenge. Just trying to find my way.

"Garden Song"
Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless the seeds I sow.
Someone warm them from below, 'til the rain comes tumbling down.

Pulling weeds and picking stones, man is made of dreams and bones.
Feel the need to grow my own 'cause the time is close at hand.
Grain for grain, sun and rain, find my way in nature's chain,
to my body and my brain to the music from the land.

Plant your rows straight and long, thicker than with prayer and song.
Mother Earth will make you strong if you give her love and care.
Old crow watching hungrily, from his perch in yonder tree.
In my garden I'm as free as that feathered thief up there.

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row, Someone bless the seeds I sow.
Someone warm them from below, 'til the rain comes tumbling down.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Last Class at the College.. DONE

Today was the last official day of courses. 
All the course assignments are now handed it.  Pheww!!

We will still go to the college once a week as a group but we will be dispersed to different places all over the city for the other 4 days per week doing unpaid job practicum training.

 I will spend April at a personal care home that is ALMOST walking distance from my house. May will find me at an assisted living facility about 5 miles away. There will still be assignments to do with the placements.

I am too tired to blog much today....

We are celebrating and Pizza is on the way!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Butterfly Circus

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon? I sometimes see that happen with Monarch butterflies at our cottage in lake country. These yellow, white and black caterpillars eat milk-weed like crazy and then form a rather webby cocoon  that changes into an inert looking  green chrysalis. Ten days later, out it comes as a wet soggy bug. It sits there and it's wings gradually pump up and unfurl. It is now a gorgeous orange creature that flies!

What a wonderful inspiring process and what a story of resilience! It starts out as one thing and becomes something very different but wonderful. The caterpillars eat a plant that is hard to consume and is quite toxic to many creatures but that same poison in the milk-weed makes those butterflies kind of toxic to birds that wants to eat them. They display their lovely bright colors as a warning to predators and basically announce to the world that they are tough little survivors.

One of my dreams is to follow the migrating monarchs from Canada to Mexico where some of the them over winter. They can fly 3,000 miles to exactly the same tree where previous generations overwintered. There is one of these spots pretty close to an international Girl Guide and Girl Scout center and some of my Guiding friends have gone to see this magical spot.  One lady told me about her experiences in Mexico. She said the walk up the trail into the forest is fairly difficult but she though that if you take your time, even with a cane, you can eventually get up to where thousands of butterflies are located.

When I  get tired of walking, or going up the stairs I sometimes think that there is no point in doing all this work  and rehabilitation with so little return. Then I picture that caterpillar chomping away on milkweed and the miracle of the chrysalis followed by that 3,000 mile journey.

Someday ... I am going to follow them from my cottage and walk up that forest trail in Mexico  to see a miracle of nature.

Below is a short award winning video featuring the inspiring Nick Vujicic. I hope you enjoy The Butterfly Circus.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Today was a Good Day

I have been asked questions lately that made me realize I should clarify what it is that I am training to do!

Therapeutic Recreation, according to the US National Therapeutic Recreation Society, is

"Practiced in clinical, residential, and community settings, the profession of Therapeutic Recreation uses treatment, education, and recreation services to help people with illnesses, disabilities, and other conditions to develop and use their leisure in ways that enhance their health, independence, and well-being."

The idea is to assist with activities, other than basic living skills (ADL'S), that promote some one's well being and that includes ones physical, cognitive, or emotional health.
We are to help with socialization, physical activities, creative expression and to support peoples spiritual needs and so much more.
Some people work with special needs kids, some people work with veterans,  adults with intellectual or physical challenges, and even prison populations sometimes have a Recreation Therapist.
I am learning to work specifically with Older Adults. I might work in a personal care home, hospital or a place for assisted living / independent living or maybe a charity or support organization in my community.
Today I led a craft with a group of seven elderly women who face a lot of challenges.
We made a nice floral arrangement.
We sat and chatted. I kept guiding the conversation to encourage thinking about spring and encourage cognitive skills.  We reminisced about the first signs of spring from when they were younger. I played some YouTube nature bird songs to encourage sensory recall.
The ladies expressed their creativity when they picked the kinds of greenery they wanted to include and choose where to put bows, butterflies and a little decorative birds. They smiled and were proud of what they made.

I helped push or walk them and their basket to their rooms where they made a decision about where to set their pretty new arrangements.  One lady wanted it put where she would see it every morning when she woke up.

 Next they went into the common room to get some cuddles with a therapy dog.

Today was a good day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Moving Toward the Real World

We are heading into the last courses for the Therapeutic Recreation Program that I have been taking at College!

I feel physically and emotionally tired a lot of the time, and there are days where I become very discouraged. In spite of that I feel even more strongly that  I REALLY do have a lot to offer to people who are facing life challenges with disability and aging.
I do have a sense of purpose once again.

My bookshelf of this years resource books and binders!
The past month has involved 3 different
courses with so much writing that blogging fell to the very bottom of my to do list!.

We have looked at Diversity Issues and at the changing face of our aging population.
  • I did a paper about traditions and the core values that direct peoples choices and lives.
  • We did presentations about religious and other symbols to bring awareness about spiritual aspects of peoples lives.
  • Next week our class will take turns presenting group projects about five different cultural groups that are part of the immigration groups choosing Manitoba Canada as their new home and hopefully prepare fun programs that would be of interest to people of that heritage.

We have taken a class on Documentation.
  • We learned how one works with record keeping in the hospitals and personal care homes.
  • We learned about taking histories that include peoples interests backgrounds and
  • we are learning about how to help people have a chance in engage in activities that are meaningful to them as well as therapeutic.

Now we are looking at Programing for Leisure by spending several days at a personal care home.
  • We are job shadowing Therapeutic Activity Workers and learning about everyday life in personal care homes. 
  • We are helping with parties, current event groups, music entertainment and many other events.
  • We are each being assigned a resident to visit and work with a few times.
  • We will do a one to one program were we will plan out and care out  program specially designed to meet that person's needs and interests.
  • Next we will organize and lead an event for a group of about 10 residents.

Things are getting exciting and more fun as we move towards using all the information we have been learning. Next month we will be doing a job placement.
We will be out into the real world!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stand by Me

The new class we started today is called Valuing Diversity, Faith and Culture  for Therapeutic Recreation. This is one of my favorite topics so I am looking forward to this class.

We watched this video in class. I have seen it before and it is just as wonderful every time I view it.
Playing for Change has a very rich website with a lot of videos to view and a blog to read. It was a wonderful idea and I hope you check it out.  They have set up a non-profit organization dedicated to building music and art schools for children around the world.

I love this particular song too.  My sense of the lyrics has changed with time. When I was young I couldn't imagine what it would be like to even want to have someone stand by me through "the night".  I am so grateful to all the wonderful people out there who have supported me through the hard times and the good times alike.

 I am going to get out my guitar this weekend and try and figure out how to play this song. I have barely touched the guitar since I started college and I have been missing it. Music is such a therapeutic release of emotions for me so why haven't I made the time to work on it? 

"Stand By Me"   Ben King

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
No I won't be afraid
Oh, I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
All the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry
No, I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now, stand by me
Stand by me

So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now, stand by me, stand by me
Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me
Oh stand by me, oh won't you stand now, stand
Stand by me

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dealing with Loss

The theme for this section of school is Dealing with Loss and Palliative Care. Yeah. The topic is heavy. I just finished writing two papers that are due this week.

My Fall Sunset photo just seems to go with the theme.
We watched a movie in class that I blogged about last year, the Bucket List . We were challenged to create our own bucket list with a minimum of 15 items that we want to do, achieve or experience and explain why.  I apparently have a lot of things I want to do and even more of places I want to go. This assignment was fun for me and I just took a very casual style in writing it up, I kept adding web links  to show exactly where I want to travel to. I'm not sure what the teacher will think of web links scattered throughout my printed paper but it made me happy to write it that way.

The next one was much harder. We had to write about our personal experiences with the stages of grief.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book called On Death and Dying (New York: McMillan Publishing Company, 1969), presented a theory that people experience five different stages during the grieving process. The stages she suggested are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. These stages are understood to occur at different speeds and in different orders and in fact a person might jump back and forth between these stages. The study was originally reflecting the experiences of the dying person and was revolutionary in its time. Common culture is now accepting that these stages are also seen in others who experience great loss be it the death of a loved one or other crisis; profound loss is expressed by the intense emotion of grief.

I could have written about the death of  one of my parents or even a large event that I was at where a tragic accident occurred but I decided the best thing for me would be to work through the experience of my illness and brain injury. Not an easy choice especially with marks attached. I swing rapidly back and forth between "the stages" on any given day.

  •  Denial? I'm kind of thinking I was in denial when I decided I needed to go back to college.
  • Anger? You bet. I just have to think about the hospital I was at. Just have to look at my cane. 
  • Bargaining? Well maybe. Do you think if I just went up and down the stairs at school 500 more times I would get fitter and I would stop needing to depend on the elevator?
  • Depression? Been there a lot and my social worker and meditation were very helpful in the first years. Time and physical recovery have helped.  There are still bad days though. Christmas was very hard.
  • Acceptance? Okay yes sometimes  I accept the situation, because truth be told I am doing spectacularly well.  But then... something goes wrong. I drop a cup that I picked up with my left hand or I have trouble getting the laundry basket down the stairs. (This morning I got frustrated and just kicked my clothes loose down the stairs toward the washing machine). I get a bad headache and my first response isn't that I should go get Tylenol-- I imagine I am about to die and think about if I should call an ambulance or not.

Mainly though, I just get on with life.

Next week there are two more assignments to complete for this particular course. I have to do an art collage of my life and I have to work on my own Eulogy.  We will see how that goes.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Parking Place

Where I park at college
I hope everyone has had a great holiday season. I had two weeks off of school and was just starting to de-stress and wham... here we are back at school already.

By 8 this morning I was driving in the horrible frozen world that is Winnipeg It is  -17 F or -27 C. right now and it has been cold for a couple of weeks now. I got to school to realize that my Handicap parking pass for the college had expired over the holidays. There were no day only parking spots left either. The parking attendant told me to pull to the side of the parking lot and go renew my permit inside and then come back and park the car in a handicap spot. It was the first day of class for the term and there were so many students paying up for new courses and getting their IDs that the line was the length of the hall.

Class started and I was still in line. I was still in line an hour later when some of my class members walked past during coffee break. The guy behind me in line told me to go sit down somewhere and he would save my spot. He was worried that I was going to keel over. There is something really wrong about standing in a line for and hour and a half in order to get a handicap parking spot!  Maybe it took three minutes to pay for the pass and then I went to move the car. I'm paid up for 3 more months.

I missed two thirds of my class. This was first day of a new course called "Dealing with Loss and Palliative Care".  I am dreading the course already so I guess that means  I still  have a few issues I need to deal with.

Yup the holidays are over.
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