Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Sharing of Christmas with Seniors

Christmas was a bit different for me this year.

I wound up working on Christmas Eve day and on Christmas Day.  We gave out presents and cards to 175 residents on Christmas. I walked through the halls and from room to room jingling a wreath made up of bells while saying Ho Ho Ho and spreading Christmas Cheer.

The personal care home I work at gives residents presents on Christmas Day. Some small presents are purchased by the Recreation department with the hope of giving residents something they will be able to use and enjoy in addition to the gifts that they might receive from family and friends. Other residents' gifts are purchased for the seniors through a program called "Be a Santa to a Senior".
Seniors who are impoverished and/or isolated are referred to the program by health care professionals and agencies serving older adults.They are asked what it is they need or would like and these wishes are filled through kind donations from the community.

We also gave out some cards made by children. I volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada as a leader and work with girls 12 to 15 years of age. Last year the girls signed about 100 cards for me to take to work and give the seniors as a service project.  The girls planned in September of this year to spend one of the evenings in December doing something for seniors. I was so proud to have the girls request on their own to do such a kind thing.  They spent a meeting crafting cards and they made centerpieces for a tea party at my work. The girls and Guiders loved the evening of learning new crafts while doing something nice for others.

I think it is wonderful that the girls at this young age can reach out to others in their community. They grow into the kind of wonderful people, like the participants in the Be a Santa to a Senior Program, who continue to be willing to reach out and brighten the holidays for someone they have never met.

Thank-you to all the kind, giving people who brought Christmas Joy to the seniors and others in need in their communities.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Power of Baking

I have such strong memories of baking with my mom when I was little. Christmas was a massive push to produce huge quantities of cookies, tarts, Christmas cakes and wonderful bars and treats.  I really don't know why we needed so much when the only ones sharing goodies over the holidays were my mom, dad and me plus an uncle and aunt. I loved the excitement of baking and holiday cooking and I loved that special time with my busy working mom.

My Mother-in-law was famous for her baking. Her style was to produce tons of stuff all year round and always had the freezer stuffed. Company over? She just pulled some margarine container of cookies from the freezer. Come Christmas time she dipped into all the containers and produced lovely trays to put on her dining room table or to take to the various charity groups she supported.

When our kids were growing up we tried to bring all of the above into our traditions and added in treats and baking that were particular to our family. I took courses in making fancy cakes and I considered baking to be my hobby. I collected cookbooks, and I have more shapes of baking pans and fun tools than one would believe possible. They make me smile.

This week I feel a desperate urge to bake everything. I want to bake with my family and pass down the recipes. I want to share treats and give gifts of goodies to friends. Sometimes it is fun and sometimes it feels more like work and the cost of ingredients can get away on you.  Sometimes all the dirty baking dishes can get away on you!
 I am really busy and over committed right now and I don't have the energy for it.  I sure don't need all the calories that those lovely chocolaty treats come with. Common sense tells me the grocery store\s bakery has it covered. My daughters say lets make this favorite food or that favorite cookie. My Grandkids usually make gingerbread house with me however I haven't visited with them in weeks. Despite all this I still want to be baking!

For a while there I was physically unable to do much baking and cooking and it shot right up to the top of my rehab priorities. I worked with my occupational therapist on regaining my cooking skills and in fact I still have the goal sheets where we worked out what I wanted to accomplish and brought it down to my SMART goals.

 It was absolutely the right goal for me at the time and it worked on all those damaged skills.. hand control, planning, order of operation for activities and it even worked on my stamina! It was a useful skill. It was familiar. It was part of having a normal life. What I have recently come to understand is how complicated the idea of a "relevant" goal is.

The ladies and gentlemen in the personal care homes always enjoy the baking programs we do. For most people it is not about trying to get back skills like I was doing in rehab, but it is indeed about regaining a little bit of their former life.
Baking programs are a fun social event shared with others. The smell of the  ingredients, the act of stirring and pouring all have this sense of connecting us with a different time. The smell of the food baking and the taste of the food is evocative of the past. It is a sensory joy.
It brings us memories of shared times with family and a pride in producing and sharing something of value.  It is connecting our now with our past and giving us a sense of continuity.

When we bake we share our stories and tell about who we are.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I'm Back!


It has been months since I blogged.  My last post  included the cliff hanger that I had received a termination notice for my job.

Yippee! I get to stay in my same job!  I had a term job while a staff person was away on maternity leave. When she decided not to return to her former position the situation changed and eventually my little part-time job turned into a permanent job. I am at work about 26 hours every two weeks plus an extra shift every once in a while.

When I thought my job was over I applied for another job as a casual employee at a different Personal Care Home and I got that job too. It is like being a substitute teacher. I get called to see if I can come in to work when regular recreation staff are on vacation or off sick. It is not ultimately a lot of hours but I am really enjoying working there too.

The other things I do each week include facilitating a weekly Art Group at the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba, participating in a local community choir and I am still involved with Girl Guides.  I enjoy time with family and friends and I keep trying to learn new things. 

Guitar lessons are on the back burner for now. It just felt like too much for this year but I am not giving up permanently.  I dug out a book of beginner Christmas carols and I am playing and singing away when no one is at home with me except the dog!

I still spend a lot of time really exhausted and I have a lot of joint trouble now but I keep going anyway. I am trying to be very careful how I move and trying to pace myself. It is hard though because my heart and mind wants to try everything and do everything but my body keeps saying "Enough is enough!".

I have worried a lot about what to do with this blog.

The fact is that I am not all that up front at work or in professional situations about my health, my recovery experiences or my level of disability. I am not ashamed of who I am or what I have experienced but most of the time I feel like it is just too much work to explain my life to people. I also don't want to be judged and I don't want people second guessing my professionalism or my ability to do a good job based on the fact that I have had a brain injury.

I strongly believe in advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities or special health needs and I have felt very ashamed about my unwillingness to  be open and speak up for myself.  I was worried that other Recreation Professionals would only see my weaknesses and that no one would hire me and give me a chance to show my strengths.

I have learned a lot about health, recreation and therapy in the past couple of years and I do want to share what I have learned. I have thought a lot about opening a separate blog with ideas about Therapeutic Recreation but I think being true to myself  means that I should just keep going forward with this beloved blog of mine.  I want to continue to share my personal story but I also plan to write about a broader variety of recreational and leisure activity topics, health conditions and community resources. I want to share some of the fun activities I am involved in. 

The title of my blog still works for me.
I still want to write about Leading a Healthy Life.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What Next?

 I checked my email yesterday and opened one from my boss and there it was--- 4 weeks notice of the termination date for my part time job.

I have always known that my job is a term position related to someone's maternity leave. The leave is almost over and changes are going to happen. I knew it was a short term position and thought of it as an excellent way to get real life experience after doing the training. This job has been very rewarding and I have enjoyed my work, spending time with my co-workers and I am really sad that this is coming to an end. I admit it was physically harder than I expected largely due to the issues related to the building. I have pushed and pushed, gone up and down stairs, dragged, lifted and twisted. You know what? It has gotten easier over the past year.

I previously thought I had gotten as far as I could with physical rehab. It seems that working in a 9 story building, where you can't always wait for the elevator, encourages a whole lot of exercise that I would never have chosen to do for myself. On the other hand my neuro and muscle work related improvement is meeting a spot where my age and years of walking funny have damaged my joints. I am going to physiotherapy as needed  and it helps.

Jasper resting at the cottage after a long day of play.
What next?

I follow a wonderful blog The Murphy Saga and the amazing and inspiring author recently wrote :
I've got a choice to either stew over it and be miserable until it consumes me, or I can get busy adjusting to my new life.

What a powerful approach to dealing with change!

First my husband and I are going on a two week vacation and taking time to have an adventure and enjoy a break away from it all.

I will start to apply for jobs again. I probably should have started much sooner but I was enjoying being settled into this life. I am optimistic that I will find another part time job .. hopefully a permanent one!

Maybe I will take some more courses, maybe I will actually spend time practicing guitar maybe do some different type of volunteering. There are so many new things out there that I could try out..


 Maybe I should follow Jasper's lead and just take more time to nap.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Free Hat for Runners Today

I went this evening to watch my daughter participate in a 20 minute run at our local Running Room.  They probably had a hundred people show up for this  free event 20 minute challenge -- and for the free hat that was included with registration.
Please visit the Running Room site for more info.

There was a 2 K walk/ run, a 3 K run or a 4 K run the people could choose from.  They got every one in into the parking lot for group pictures and then off the people went into the neighbourhood.  About 20 minutes later they returned looked a little the worse for running in the heat and humidity all claiming their nutritious snack bar and a bottle of water.

I liked that it was such a nice free event for adults of all ages and that there were lots of kids and a dog or two running with their families. What a wonderful way to enjoy healthy living as a family. Then there was the group of friends in their forties that I overheard planning what pub to meet at for a beer afterward. Think about the contrast between the wholesome snack bar and then beer time. I think it is awesome that a group of 6 or 7 friends would lace up their shoes and then go enjoy an evening together.  What great social support for an active lifestyle.

I sat and waited because I am having a lot of knee and hip issues. I chatted to a 66 year old man who was sitting it out because of  a sore leg from a run he had been in last week. The gentleman told me he has been a runner for 40 years and still going strong. He also shared some interesting info about the local orienteering association.  Orienteering is when you chase around a trail or in a community using a map and a compass to find a series of check points. I asked if they ever did accessible events or wheel chair programs. He said he has not seen that around here but had participated in one in Colorado years ago. I jokingly said maybe someday I will help get one going in our province. He said he and others in the association would be there to help me.  Who knows? Something else to think about!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

TED talk- How my brain injury made me smarter.

I watched this TEDx talk today and it resonated with me. It is about how life changed for a smart woman who suffered a brain injury.  Ann Zuccardy has a blog with the eye catching title... I want my Brain Back. Ah ha! I like her already.

She is a communications expert who had a fall resulting in a Traumatic Brain Injury and she talks about resiliency and what she has learned about creativity and intelligence in her attempts to put her life back together. She promotes pushing your comfort level. Ann learned ways that play, movement and humor could help in her recovery.

She says she became... an "accidental neuroscientist".  How many of us could claim the same title?  It is amazing how much we needed to learn about brains and neuroscience at a time when we felt the least able to focus and learn.

What are your thoughts about this talk?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Summer is Coming

Summer is Coming

What are the 3 things you look forward to the most in the summer?
Whether it’s travel, the weather, family cookouts or another activity,
share with your readers why you’re excited for summer! #HAWMC
Oh Summer!
What do I look forward to?

What good is the warmth of summer,
without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
~John Steinbeck

Not freezing

In summer we do not have to dress in layers, put on boots, or worry about where our hats and mitts are hiding. This is probably saying more about what I dislike about winter than what I like about summer. Really weather affects your moods so much. Longer days, with increased sunshine and warmth make for pleasant easy days. You can walk safely outside with less chance of slipping. Life is just so much ... umm warmer!
Spending time in our yard and parks

Jasper smiling in our backyard.

container gardens in the yard
Time at our beloved little island cottage

Watching ducklings by the dock

Basking on the boat with the wind in our hair.

Peaceful evenings in front of our Cottage

What should I do with this blog?

Health Tagline
Give yourself, or your patient experience a tagline. 
 Grab attention with your slogan.  Make sure it’s catchy! #HAWMC
 I wrote on this topic once before for the HAWMC challenge and I still think the ones I came up with  are pretty good lines.
 I thought back then that this would be a good tag line for my blog in general.
Leading a Healthy Life:
Moving Toward Wellness in our Community
 I thought that this one would be good line for my personal health concerns.
Stroke and Brain Injury:
Working on Recovery with Determination and Dignity
Those tag lines really do reflect the directions I have taken over the past couple of years. I really am concerned with what our communities have to offer people who live with health and wellness challenges and I truly believe that people need to reach out for help and work with determination to meet their own needs and the needs of their loved ones as well as others in their community.
What would be a good line for my new career?
Recreation Therapy is defined by the American Therapeutic Recreation Association as:
"Recreational Therapy” means a treatment service designed to restore, remediate and rehabilitate a person’s level of functioning and independence in life activities, to promote health and wellness as well as reduce or eliminate the activity limitations and restrictions to participation in life situations caused by an illness or disabling condition
 Recreation Therapy as a profession tries to facilitate individuals in reaching the best quality of life possible and we look at that in terms of the physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and  spiritual aspects of life.
I have been debating the options of sharing some of my recreation program information on this blog or the possibility of opening another blog dedicated to sharing ideas related to Therapeutic Recreation. I would be interested in hearing your opinions.  My personal focus has most certainly broadened from stroke and my personal health issues. My work has me talking and working with people with many different health concerns and I have learned a lot of new information.
What should I do with this blog now?
Maybe a good tagline for a new recreation blog would be:
 Recreation Therapy:  Discovering New Ways to Lead a Healthy Life

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Childhood Dreams and Adult Aspirations

Life Goal
What’s one thing that your 10-year-old self thought you would do?
Can you still do it?
How would you approach it to make it happen?

Childhood Dreams and Adult Aspirations

When I was a 10-year-old I think I imagined myself a ballet dancer, or a scientist or a zoo keeper or a famous pianist or perhaps I could be a helping people as a missionary in distant and exotic places. Even though I had never gone sailing, I figured that someday I would live on a sail boat in the Caribbean. How can choose only one thing when as a child I thought, like many kids do, that I was invincible and that I could do EVERTHING!

Can I still do it?  I think the bigger question is would I still want to make any of  my childhood dreams come true?

Ballet Dancer?
... all of me hurts at the moment and spinning  and leaping would make me nauseous. I can go in a few weeks and see my 7 year old granddaughter's dance recital and watch her dream of being a great ballerina someday.

... I did become a scientist and worked in that field for about 14 years. I can't do that job any more but that is okay - I am ready for new challenges.

Zoo Keeper?
... At some point I realized that is one really messy job and I wouldn't really want to do it. I do like to learn about ecology and all creatures that have ever  lived, from microorganisms to those extinct dinosaurs. I hope to have more amazing experiences meeting wild animals but I am happy watching the  Discovery Channel.

... I did about 7 years of lessons and it all went away when I got sick. I might be able to get better at playing the piano if I just tried again, but for now I will keep trying to make progress on the guitar.

Distant places?
... I have a daughter who travels to many exotic locations while learning about international health issues and she is doing a lot of good in this world. I can live that dream of mine through her adventures.

Live on a sail boat?
... I had a chance to go sailing on a tiny boat sailing.  I felt sick and dizzy, but loved it anyway. I have plans to go on a Caribbean cruise this year if all goes well.  I think I am okay with living on solid ground.

I have had new goals to work on. This blog, so far, is largely about how I have been working on making my dreams come true.  I am still working on gaining more skills and getting more competent at my older skills. I will just keep taking one step at a time while working on "Leading a Healthy Life".

As I write this I am realizing how many of my own childhood hopes and dreams have been fulfilled in some fashion by my children in their own unique ways. I am proud of my family and ever grateful to them for their patience and support.

 It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. 
~Joyce Maynard

PS ~ I have already missed many of the "Daily" posts in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge. Easter and hurting my back have made this a couple of difficult weeks and I have not been on the computer as much as usual. I plan to still do all the prompts, but they might not be in the right numerical order. I am learning to do only what I can, when I can.



Friday, April 3, 2015

Amazing Grace.

I work at the personal care home every second weekend and I have the privilege of leading a Sunday Hymn Sing with a group of seniors. Amazing Grace is a song that I always include because it means so much to so many people.

Today, on Good Friday, I wanted to share this beautiful song that reminds us of hope even in our darkest hours.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Key to Happiness - Truly Brave

Thursday, April 2:

 Key to Happiness

What do you think is the key to happiness? Is it being able to overcome a hard time? Laughter?
Maintaining a positive attitude? Tell us what you think and why. #HAWMC

I absolutely love this topic!

 I have spent a lot of time trying to figure this out. I have tried meditation, I have taken up hobbies and looked at so many ways to find the key to happiness myself.  I have attended a variety of workshops and eventually I got guidance from a life coach, Deb Dunn who promotes  laughter yoga, playshops for adults and encourages looking for JOY.

A pink paper Joy flower that I move around from time to time.
My daughter took my Joy flower and demonstrated fun for me.
I think my natural inclination is toward being a happy person (or I would not be singing crazy songs around campfires with Girl Guides and training to become a Recreation Therapist) but I have also experienced a lot of overwhelmingly sad times where I  found it very difficult to move forward with life. Lets face it, sometimes life can be really awful and as we experience these hard times we need to be sad and mourn for what we have lost. Some people become lost in the pain and the sorrow and have trouble finding their way out. The challenge is how to find a sense of  joy once again. 

I think we have to start with defining happiness. We all  know it when we are feeling it but what is it? Happiness can be defined as satisfaction with life and experiencing more positive emotions than negative ones. This can be very elusive state of being. Happiness or sadness impact your physical and mental well being, and that of those around you. It affects your ability to think, work, parent, sleep make choices and really just about everything about how you interact with your world.

Our Recreation Therapy courses including learning about the benefits of physical activities and mental stimulation but a big part of the training also consisted of learning how to meet all the needs of the individual. A recreation therapist tries to look at 6 different domains of life which are the cognitive, emotional, physical, social, spiritual and sometime vocational domains. This is considered holistic health and looking at the person as a whole results in an increased ability to bring health, peace and satisfaction to their life and yes, even happiness.

Todays blog writing prompt asks if  the key to happiness in being able to overcome
 a hard time. No I don't think so. Overcoming a hard time might give you pride and might make a difference in your circumstances but the sense of accomplishment is what is really making all the difference,-- It is an internal sense of personal value.

 I think happiness is not so much something to pursue as something to be open to. In the hard times you need to look for those moments of joy. You need to look for the adorable puppy, the smiling face, the sunny day. You need to be a person who look back on your life with forgiveness and remembers the happy moments. You need to be realistic and accept the bad things that have happened but you don't need to dwell on what that was like. You need to smile, sing, laugh, dance, hug, think new ideas and be a friend. You need to look for Joy and embrace it when and where you find it.

Here is the power of FUN!
Please look at this great video that features young cancer patients. When peoples lives are changed by an illness or injury what we need is to claim back bits of normal life, normal play!

Cyndi Lauper and Sara Bareilles, combine their songs 'True Colors' and 'Brave' to produce a song to raise money for the fight against pediatric cancer.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Daily Blogging during April

I decided to accept the challenge of blogging every day in April for the Annual Health Activist Writers Month Challenge. It is organized by WEGO Health which is an online hub for health activists.  WEGO sends out a list of daily topics to write about and I think most of them are very interesting. I did this challenge before and I learned a lot about myself and about blogging. I have had a lot of different experiences in the past couple of years and I think I will be writing from a very different view point this time.

Todays Topic:
Wednesday, April 1

Wordless Wednesday!
Since this is the start of HAWMC, post a picture that shows how excited you are for the next 30
days. We always love a good Health Activist selfie!  #HAWMC

So here you go!  This is what I looked like yesterday evening.  I was playing on my computer and our dog, Jasper, decided it was his turn to get some attention. Jasper and I are all settled in for a month of cuddling and blogging.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is there life out there?

Grad is over, work is interesting  and I have some new challenges and new ideas that I want to write about very soon.  I don't want to leave that college part of my life without acknowledging all the wonderful people that I have met over the past two years.

Many of my classmates faced challenges last year while attending school. Financial problems, learning struggles, health issues, family demands and even the loss of loved ones made the journey harder. There were a lot of sacrifices made by many of my classmates and their families in the hopes of a better future.

Our teachers also faced some challenges in their lives but they still worked above and beyond to give us an extraordinary education, support us in our training for our new careers and they helped us learn about ourselves in the process.

I want to share a Reba song.
Here is to all the people who are trying to make a better life for themselves!

"Is There Life Out There"

by Rick Gilesen  Susan Long

She married when she was twenty
She thought she was ready
Now she's not so sure
She thought she'd done some living
But now she's just wonderin'
What she's living for
Now she's feeling that there's something more

Is there life out there
So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

She's always lived for tomorrow
She's never learned how
To live for today
She's dyin' to try something foolish
Do something crazy
Or just get away
Something for herself for a change

Is there life out there
So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

There's a place in the sun that she's never been
Where life is fair and time is a friend
Would she do it the same as she did back then
She looks out the window and wonders again

Is there life out there
So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

Is there life out there
So much she hasn't done
Is there life beyond
Her family and her home
She's done what she should
Should she do what she dares
She doesn't want to leave
She's just wonderin
Is there life out there

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Convocation from College

On February 9th ... I attended my Convocation from Red River College and was conferred with the title of Therapeutic Recreation Facilitator.

The experience mattered a lot to me. It has been such a hard journey these past few years and it is still hard to believe that I have come so far. I did not realize how much I cared until I was in the middle of the ceremony. Just like any other graduate this is the start of a new phase of my life. A new beginning and it truly seemed like a miracle to me.

New friends from class graduated  beside me. My husband and two of my children were cheering me on from the audience, and I knew my other two children were cheering me on from their homes. I was surprised and so happy to realize that two of my best friends had come to the ceremony too and  I later heard that another friend watched me graduate via an internet link. When I joined the audience after the ceremony I looked at these terrific people and cried with happiness.

I have been very privileged to have so many wonderful people support me through times of loss, sadness and fear  and also there to share and celebrate in so much joy! Thank-you!


My new friends Janet, Linda M, and Ashtyn

My wonderful long-time friends Sue and Faye

My daughters, Alicia and Emily
Bob and me

Friday, February 6, 2015

Are you wearing Red Today?

Today is Wear Red Day

1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke each year. Join the movement to end heart disease and stroke in women.. Check out the link below to find out more about the Go Red for Women Campaign.

I know what color I am wearing tomorrow. How about you?

Friday, January 30, 2015

So Many Little Changes

I have not written for such a long time and it has been good for me to take a break from blogging. I am still working at my small part-time job and I am gradually getting used to working. It seems to have changed a lot of the little aspects of my life.

Clothing.. I need more of them. I had a jeans, sweater and t-shirt wardrobe. Now I need dress pants or active wear clothing. I need cooler dressier shirts that are good for moving in a warm building. I personally need shoes that give really good support.

Sleeping... I need to get up at 7 in the morning and I have to be well rested. I go to bed .. start thinking and then have trouble falling asleep. Lately I am back to using meditation at night to try and keep me level.

Remembering... I try so hard to remember names and other information. I think I am doing better but it is still not easy for me when the pressure is on.

Meals... I need to pack a lunch and eat in a lunch room and that still feels weird.

Co-workers... really new to me and it is fun to have co-workers to chat with who are doing similar jobs. In my last working life I had a boss and no one working with me or under me.

Swipe cards.. I have to swipe in and out at work to track my work time... that is new to me too. I live in fear of breaking or loosing the thing.

Housework.. Not one of my priorities at the moment, but we will catch up eventually.

Fitness... This has two sides to it. My endurance has shown a huge improvement. My legs and hips are building muscles. The flip side is my knee and shoulder joints are getting worse fast. Arthritis is winning and I am back to visiting my doctor.

Paychecks... Direct deposit is good. I set up an account for my earnings and the amount is going up slowly. I don't work a lot so progress is not spectacular.

I know that none of this stuff is too exciting or too important- just part of my days now.
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