Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chris, one of the friends staying with us at the moment, said, in catching up, "So how has it been going since you stepped down from the worship team to study and write?" I wrote about that last year here.

 I made the decision in June, intending to narrow the focus of my spare time to the one thing I love doing more than anything else--writing. 

Instead, as I explained to Chris with a little embarrassment, life speeded up in July and I was consumed by other duties and callings for the remainder of the year and into the last month, when I have finally slowed down enough to take some time off. Still, it was a good thing to have already let go of the added time that would have been given to being on a worship team.

I was pondering this week whether I am silly to believe that God is involved in such small things as this, something so insignificant to anyone but me. What made me think about this was that I had just found an action that I was about to take blocked repeatedly, and I took it as a hint from God that I needed to pause and consider something more deeply, which I did, and was grateful afterwards for having done so. 

My friend Eileen put it this way, not knowing anything of my own thoughts, "God spoke and the universe came into existence--he created everything, and yet he can find me." Her brow furrowed at the thought as she said, "And more important--I can find him!"

I can't explain the sense of it, but I do believe that God intimately knows us and cares about the smallest details of our lives and I think it's because I experience this sense of guidance; gentle prompts; actions taken that I thought were for one reason but were really for another. 

I haven't given up on writing for one minute. I am more determined than ever to write the things that God gives me to say, as well as I can. 

And I want to say thank you to the people who read this blog. You are such encouragers with whom to share the journey; whether laughing at life with me or considering the bigger questions. Thank you for being there! And maybe Easter, a time of rebirth and resurrection, is a good time to turn the corner with my writing life. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Friends

This week, for a couple of reasons, I am grateful to lean into a guest writer for my Monday Morning work related email. We have friends from England staying with us, and our focus has been on enjoying their company to the full; and secondly, my head has been spaced out from medication related to an unexpected dental procedure! 

So here is a true story with names changed, written by Elaine Day, a direct support professional who works for our organization.

Before turning the blog post over to Elaine though, I want to applaud the staff involved for the elements behind this story of a blossoming friendship between two people with developmental disabilities. The staffs' work shows sensitivity; inspiration; creativity; facilitation skills and caring; helping to fulfill our Christian Horizons' Vision Statement:

People with exceptional needs belong to communities in which their God-given gifts are valued and respected.

Relationships often don't just happen. A little help can make all the difference between loneliness and belonging--and bring a smile to the lips of someone who rarely shows that much emotion. That's enough from me--now over to Elaine--with thanks!

It doesn't matter how much people love their jobs, we all look forward to time off. It’s an opportunity to see family and friends, relax; perhaps, enjoy a meal at a restaurant, a movie, or a sporting event. For most of us, this requires only minor planning, a phone call or perhaps an email.
For some of the people we support, it may not be that simple. They may not have family involved in their lives or their family lives too far to visit on a regular basis. Although they may attend day programs, for the most part, they interact with these peers only during the week. 
This was the situation for one of the people I support. Sam has lived in an institution, a Christian Horizons group home, shared an apartment and now has his own apartment. Sam is well past retirement age but eagerly looks forward to attending his day program three days a week. He gets his groceries and does laundry on Monday and Tuesday.
On Sunday, Sam enjoys going to church with staff and peers. The afternoons, however, can be very long for him. After chatting about Sam’s situation with a staff who works at the group home and in the SIL (supported independent living) where Sam is supported, we came up with an idea we shared with Sam and someone who lives at the group home. We wondered if, every other Sunday, they would like to get together for lunch and a movie. Yes, they both said, they certainly would.

The first week, Sam went to the group home and he supplied the movie and refreshments and enjoyed lunch with Rose, who also finds Sunday afternoons very long.

At their last get-together, Rose joined Sam for lunch at his apartment, prepared by Sam, with assistance. They chose the movie they wanted to watch (from Sam’s collection) and staff made popcorn. At the end of the movie they decided they would like to watch another movie and so it became a double feature afternoon. 
Later in the week, Sam returned from his day program clutching an envelope. (The taxi Sam takes to his day program picks him up and drops him off at Rose’s home). Sam held onto the envelope while he watched television before dinner. Eventually he opened the envelope and inside was a brightly colored “Happy Easter” card. Rose had colored on the inside and a staff, whose handwriting I did not recognize, thanked Sam on Rose’s behalf.Sam was grinning from ear to ear. He held the card until well after dinner and then put it on his dresser so he can see it when he is in his room. 
Sam and Rose remain very happy with their Sunday afternoon get-togethers. It appears to be a win win situation for all involved. Staff at one location are supporting fellow staff from another location, a very thoughtful staff helped Rose choose a card which made Sam smile, which he doesn't do very often.

Best of all Sam and Rose each made a friend.

As Judith Viorst has written “Friends broaden our horizons (and) enhance our self esteem because they think we’re OK”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dangerous Substance Not Allowed

We have house guests from England staying with us. Yesterday Chris and Eileen arrived, after a long journey from the Lake District via Glasgow. Their 26 year old daughter Nel arrived last week. A nursing student, she wanted to research what she could about nursing in Ontario and is visiting here and there and listening to whomever will talk! :)

File:Marmite.jpgEileen confided that she had to surrender a jar of Marmite at the airport, it was in her purse and spotted as it went through the scanner. At 150 gm. it was classified as a paste, 50 gm. over the 100 gm. limit. This is nothing to do with the reported ban of Marmite and Irn-Bru in Canada!

I wonder how many more jars of Marmite are piled up at the airport, seized from British travelers who only want their Marmite on toast for breakfast. An acquired taste, for sure, but once embedded, a necessity of life! :) Fortunately, it can be found in Canada, and I am in no doubt that the Ashton family will come home with some this afternoon. :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Welcome to the World Baby Girl!

Kasey Jane Kelly Cater, welcome to the world and welcome to our hearts.
Sweetie this is your Great Auntie Belinda, from far away Canada.
Thank you for showing up on your grandad's birthday on April 6. You were the best gift he could have ever wished for. I did my best surprising him last year by showing up in England for his 60th, but you topped that. 

hear that you have your Great Omie's eyes. Not only does that mean that you will be beautiful, but I hope that they see what her eyes always saw--the best in people--the good in bad situations--the humour in every day life, and the blessings that God gives us in friends and family.

Love like she loved and you will do well.

Your Daddy, Mummy and big sister Jayda are all so proud of you.You are loved, darling. Our hearts grew bigger on Sunday. Can't wait to get to know you. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Let Go; Let them Grow

My post focusing on the work our agency does to support people, is about a parent's perspective this week and I am using an excerpts from interview that I did with Lynda Beedham, mom to Eric, several years ago.

The title of this post, "Let Go; Let them Grow," comes from advice Lynda gave, in an article she wrote for other parents.

In the mid nineties, Lynda had applied to every service provider in southern Ontario, but Eric found a home with Christian Horizons, in a process Lynda describes as, "The luck of the draw."

At the time, the Beedhams were in desperate crisis--"Eric just needed to be out of the home.We didn't have a choice," Lynda explains, "He was totally miserable--teenage angst--anxiety--it was horrible for him and for us."

Eric moved into his new home on May 1, 2001, after a three month transition. Lynda had laid the groundwork by saying things to Eric like, "When you grow up and have a house of your own..." building expectation in him and themselves that he would be living elsewhere, not with his family, when he was an adult.

When he first moved, Lynda remembers one of the staff referring to him going back to visit his parents, as, "Going to Eleanor Circle," so that "home" remained his new home. Lynda was impressed that the same staff's first sentences were to Eric welcoming him and telling him about his rights. The effect of this was that Lynda realized that, "This is about him, not me."

Lynda had made a glossary of Eric's signs and signals, but also supported the staff by being an interpreter at first. Slowly her relationship changed for the good with Eric. She now has a role in his life as the bearer of all good things. She can spoil him and send him back home!

Her relationship with the staff is important. She focuses on thinking, not doing, working with staff on strategies and problem solving.

Although Lynda and her husband Brian did not deliberately choose Christian Horizons as the service provider for their son, they are glad that it is. "Because you are part of the faith based community, your staff reflect these values," says Lynda. She has shared her experience with other families and is a strong ambassador for the agency.

Lynda's biggest fear had been that Eric's life would change when she died, "It was obvious that he would need support forever," she says. But Lynda took the advice she give to other parents, 'Let them go; let them grow."

Lynda continues to be a resource for the team that supports Eric. She is also a member of an Ethical Review Team and of the Faith and Culture Inclusion Network.In 2008 she received Autism Ontario's "Advocacy" Award, presented by the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pure Gold

In 2006, our daughter Brenda used to volunteer at Maple Lanes Kennel, near Alliston. It was from that kennel that Molson, the most gentle of Golden Retrievers, came into our lives. He trained as a therapy dog himself and is father of three COPE service dogs. Now my friend and coworker Irene, is awaiting the imminent birth of a litter of his pups being carried by a dog named Lyric, and she'll be choosing one of them to share her life. Today here's the story of one very special dog from Sherri's kennel and then a link and video about COPE.

Back in 2006, Brenda recorded the details related to various litters of puppies on the computer--where the puppies went, to whom and for what purpose. The pure-bred dogs go all over the continent, some as far away as Yellowknife, Alaska, and some are trained for such unusual jobs as detecting bed bugs or termites!

One dog's name struck her as unusual; her registered name was "Maple Lanes--You'll Have to Tri Harder"--and her "call name" was Tri.

"Ah, now there's a story," Sherri, the kennel owner said when Brenda asked her about it.

Something had happened to one of the puppy's legs after birth--it was swollen and bruised and Sherri thought that maybe its mother had stepped on it. The puppy was put on antibiotics to try to save the leg.

Sherri's aunt--who was like a big sister to her--was dying of cancer, and the call that she'd been dreading came from her mother to say that it was time--her aunt was close to death. Sherri left to be with her mother and her aunt.

When she returned after three days, an awful smell of rotting flesh filled the house. Even though the puppy was otherwise healthy because of the antibiotics, the leg had died and was already decaying. Needing to make the arrangements for her aunt's funeral, Sherri took the puppy to a vet she doesn't usually use, to be euthanized--no-one would be likely to buy her and it just wasn't practical to keep her. Her heart was heavy as she dropped off the puppy, full of grief for the loss of her beloved aunt. She said she'd come by later that week after the funeral, to pay the bill.

When she returned to the vet's, just expecting to write a cheque, to her surprise, she found the puppy was still alive! A new, inexperienced but enthusiastic vet just out of veterinary college had taken it upon herself to amputate the leg and save the puppy, paying for the surgery herself. The other vets in the office told her she was crazy. She had put drinking straws into the stump where the leg had been, for drainage.

Sherri was a bundle of emotions but mainly overwhelmed. Still grieving the loss of her aunt, she took the puppy home, knowing that for the next eight weeks she would require intensive care.

Every three hours, around the clock, Sherri took the puppy to suckle at the mother dog, keeping all the other puppies away and preventing the mother dog from licking the site of the operation.

Thanks to a determined vet and Sherri's commitment the puppy survived. And the puppy, whom Sherri named Tri after she survived against all odds, has a very special job. She is now a St. Johns Ambulance therapy dog--with children who are amputees. 

It seemed that God had a purpose for this puppy who seemed to have no place to belong--and he made sure she survived. Tri the three legged dog has a bond with the children she works with that no other dog could have.

COPE, the organization we became aware of through three of Molson's pups being sponsored by McDonald's to become service dogs does amazing work in supporting people with service dogs.

You can follow this link http://youtu.be/sn42gxNcFuw to watch a video about COPE or view it below. On You Tube there are many more videos on the work of these wonderful partners in life. I love the fact that they include "at risk" youth in working with the dogs.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

One Chilly Rainy Wonderful Day

The March that is in my genes has "a host of golden daffodils," "fluttering and dancing in the breeze" (thank you William Wordsworth,) and although for a good two thirds of my life, I have lived with a very different reality, I can never quite shake the feeling that something is wrong in March--the weather angel didn't get the memo maybe. 

Today icy rain needled the snow on the ground until it shrank back several inches from the piercing fingers of "Spring North American Style." 

I was grateful to be cosily warm inside all day, but at 3.00 I decided to leave the house to run some errands, deciding that the efficiency of a Friday afternoon versus Saturday for shopping, would be worth braving the nasty weather. 

My first stop was our little post office, in the basement of the St. Catherine of Alexandria church hall. I recently lost the set of car keys that had my mailbox keys on it, so I had to get replacements. Laurie, the postmistress was discussing the high price of propane in Ontario, with two customers. The price has doubled and it has cost her $6000 to heat her home so far this year! She said that people she knows have had to leave their homes and move in with family to get through this bitterly cold winter. I had no idea!

When I got over the shock at what some poor souls are having to deal with, I asked for new keys. Laurie bustled about behind the mail boxes, then held up a key and said, "This is my master key. You're going to get it copied, or when you lose it you won't have a post box." Okay!

I went straight to Home Depot to get several copies made of that key and another couple of keys--three of each. Is this a sign of aging I wondered--making spare keys--and spare, spare keys? 

I enjoyed watching the silver haired man in the orange apron as he studied the wall of key templates with an expert eye. He carefully selected just the right one for each key, then the grinding wheel whined, as he concentrated on the keys and buffed the rough edges smooth, swiftly and skillfully. It did my soul good to watch his unhurried, quiet work, a job well done.

On to the library next--I was out of audio books, and I am afraid that I am addicted to James Patterson mystery thrillers. On my way in I noticed a book sale being set up in the foyer and an adjoining room. I could not walk past without having a look around, and before I knew it I was gathering books--they were $1 each except for one that cost $3-- several for granddaughters on topics they are interested in, and some, I admit for me.

I went with my pile of books to the cluster of busy people unpacking books, who looked at me and shook their heads. Didn't I know, they asked, the book sale starts tomorrow, and the Early Bird viewing, was tonight at 7.00 p.m.--for $10 admittance. I smiled and said, "I can put them back, I know where I got them, but I won't be back tonight, or tomorrow, and you know, there is no sign telling people they aren't for sale now," which they all admitted was true. Gentle persistence, nice negotiation, and I bought my books, having paid the Early Bird Admittance Fee, three hours early. The Earlier Bird gets the Books! :) Librarians are such sweet people. I told them that I'd never gate crashed a book sale before!

I went to Costco for a few things. How I could need a few things baffled me after having spent a fortune there just over a week ago, but it was true. And then my final stop was No Frills, back in Bradford.

Inside the door stood two young boys, Air Cadets, in pale blue gray uniform. The taller and older boy stood proudly, fair haired, with a friendly smile and responsible look about him. His younger and shorter buddy was dark eyed and dark haired. I thought that their parents should be proud of them, but my heart had a pang at the thought of where their youthful interest in the armed forces could take them in the future. By now it was around 6 o'clock, and I wondered how long they'd been standing there in that chilly doorway, with their trays of badges and collection cans. I fished in my purse for change and put some in both cans. They both offered me paper badges and I laughed, "One is enough. Thank you!" 

On the way through No Frills, I picked up two bars of Cadbury's Chocolate, with salty peanuts. Going through the cash register I pointed to them and said to the sales clerk, 'My Friday night guilty pleasure!" 

"Enjoy them," she said with a smile--and we did.