Bird Feeders: The Red Shoes Series

Coffee HouseThe students I live alongside set a challenge, to write about the past/future. They set the challenge so I would finish a piece, put pen to paper, stop sitting in conversation so long with each of them, and step up to the mic. After all, we headline in a month.

The future. The past. The future. Tricky business these places.

~

Tuesday my sister and I voted in the advanced poles. We stood in line for 40 minutes so our voices would count. my dad always told me, even the smallest change matters. So I stood in line.

I listened while the couple in front of me dissected Costa Maragos’s passivity moderating the leaders debate, “and couldn’t someone just hand that man a bull horn.”

The Langesten’s were leaving when we arrived. Lingering so Mrs. Langesten could take that mouthful after ‘how are you’ to tell us of her four days dying in hospital while Mr. Lsngesten wrapped his arms around my sister, then around me, smiling, finishing his wife’s sentence. We waited. I cast my vote. Dad was right. I have a voice.

At dad’s care home they have removed his transfer pole. The manager of the care home tells mom it is an issue of occupational health and safety. Paralyzed on one side two years ago by a stroke, the manager says it is easier to move dad using a sling.

The long weekend dad came home for two nights. There are no activities at the Manor on GoodFriday. My sister and I both arrived to help. It tires dad, being home. It tires mom. But Friday dad arrived already tired. He asked twice how my car was working.

Saturday morning dad and I sat in the sun room drinking coffee. A place where we used to start the day when I was in high school, those early, early mornings before I’d walk to meet the bus. The magpies would feed like vultures on the scraps dad would leave for them outside the window. The Makaboys, dad called them, a bird that reminded dad of a family and of a story from his youth. And we would sip our coffee and settle in.

But this Saturday morning the lawn was brown and mom was busy answering urgent calls from returning officers. The bird feeders lay empty.

“You’re tired today, dad.” I said.

“I didn’t sleep. I was up worrying.”

“Worrying about what?”

He looked from the feeders towards me then his lap and back out the window, “that I’m not getting well fast enough.”

The care home removed his pole this winter. Four months after dad taught himself to move his leg, to bend his knee, and to nearly stand.

They removed his pole. It is easier, they said, to transfer Mr. Saas with a sling. It is easier.

Mom works for Elections Saskatchewan to help pay for dads care. I can vote. But I am only the daughter. I can not speak to managers. But I can fill bird feeders.

 

 

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2015 in Reflection

For years I have taken a photograph almost every day. This capturing delves deeper than photographing an object simply because I feel obligated to take a picture. Almost two years ago my dad had a stroke. During those first hours and long months after my daughter, my sister, my mom and I followed the stretcher into the emergency room, I began thinking differently about capturing moments.

Capturing moments has become a significant part of my journey. Curating and sharing has become a significant part of my journey as well. Over the December 2015 winter break, as I began to compile images and videos of the past year, I realized how much the process of capturing moments and of returning to savour them has been a healing space for me.

My previous year in review videos have been different. At times they have been out of duty to document a year. Last year I was so filled with gratitude my video paid homage to those who helped, who stepped in, who listened, and who understood the effects of such change on my family.

My video this year though is for me. It is my year-end visual reflection, my visual year-end take-away.

And oh, I learned so much.   Hope. Love. Family. Change. Strength.

 

 

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Storying

This week marked meetings with our administrators to review our Profession Growth Plans. I am serving in a large composite high school this year and don’t get much face to face time with my principal. The time to chat were nice. 
After we talked about my plan, my administrator commented, “I don’t really know what to call the work you’re doing, with Project 104, with Jane* & Mark, its like you’re creating a space they take with them.”
I smiled. 
“I know what to call it,” I said. “Storying.”
I chatted a bit explaining the process and the rationale of sharing our stories of experience as a way to find a sacred space that we carry within. Storying.
What i was really feeling, however, what was breathing and whispering all around me, were student stories of experience, my stories of experience, and the giddy like a pre-schooler work of attending to stories of experience that has been my thesis journey. 
The phenomena of storying. 
No longer only theory, no longer teachings pulled solely from my Dad, bits understood from the Circle of Courage, its philosophical and its connectiveness underpinnings. No longer was this the methodology of narrative inquirers, sharing stories of experience. 
Living storying. Messy storying. With puzzles unfolding and much uncertainty and bursting with the interloopings, the weavings, the complexities of potential. 
My Dad would say, there is a teaching there. 
Today, I understand the name of this sacred space.
Storying. 

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2014 in Review: todays

2014

~ My photo/video story of 2014 (thank you to Jessy Lee for the many hours choosing and adding music).

This year the image capturing/collecting was often difficult and the compiling into this yearend video brought tears.

On December 25th, as my family sat together for the first time since my mom’s surgery my dad, looking at each of us, my sister, Christie, my daughter, Jessy Lee, my mom, Lynne and I, raised his glass to offer a toast.

“We made it!”

Then, Dad began to cry. And cry and cry. Mom pulled up close to him and took his hand. She finished his toast. She began with the story of how she had finished his toast on their wedding day, almost 50 years ago when tears of joy had come then too.

Recently Jess wrote, the “thing I’ve noticed about grief is that it is something that comes even when death does not.”

My video this year is for my family, mostly. It is for the way my mom looks at my dad. It is for the way she has always looked at my dad. It is for the way he still reaches for her, and how he cries with joy every time one of us is happy.

And this sharing is for you, too, for all those wonderful folks who helped my family by pitching in, by listening, by checking in and mostly, by loving us steadfastly and beautifully.

Thank you.

Poet Greg Simison writes of that phone call, “perhaps this longest night of our lives, we’re all simply small children who’ve only been outside playing grownups until our mothers call us home, one last time.”

Mostly, he is right.

These past 10 months I’ve become more grounded in the stories I’ve heard my parents tell, my dad shared hiking along tails, my mom lived while teaching, life making stories, stories I’ve grown with.

Mostly, my dad was kind and told me to leave nothing unsaid. As we waited for the ambulance last March and, mom and I talked though the nights this past November, well, I’ve become more…

I am so thankful for growing up surrounded with love and with family.

I am so grateful for today.

#love

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There’s a Way

bookLast week at our school we read P.H. Reynolds’ book, I’m Here. Inspired by this book, the next day students and staff made, tossed paper air planes and then we shared stories and smiled.

We are an alternate school and part of what we believe is finding ways to listen to and live alongside each other. Around here, we hope everyone finds a sense of belonging so that everyone is able to say, in some way, I’m here.

The morning after we read Reynolds’ book, before I arrived at school, I messaged friends and colleagues. I asked folks to make a paper airplane, to toss an air plane and then to share that moment.

Many people ignored my request. Many people responded with a LOL. A few people grumped out a response.

I few folks wondered about the purpose of my request. At the end of the day I shared that we had been reading Reynolds’ books as part of the author share with the Global Read Aloud.

I didn’t share our connection with #GRA14 until the end of the day. This was deliberate.

I wanted to see who would find a way to connect without an academic link. I reached out through trust and joy in play and hoped others might speak this same language.

“Where ever you are today, toss a paper airplane. Send photo.”SC plane

I like when the world smiles. Does there need to be a better reason to toss a plane?

But that was my cover story.

The night before my sister, my mom and I had an hour long conference call organizing our schedules around Mom’s surgery. We organized her time in recovery, our days off, coordinated our time with Dad, and the if-than conversations that followed. It was a tough call. My heart hurt up inside under my arms in an aching sort of spin. I scheduled and organized and listened. Nothing seemed grounded.

In the morning I wondered how to make my smoothie, plan for the substitute and craft coherent field texts. I wanted to share. Yet, I really didn’t want to either.

I wanted to find a way.

I wanted to find a way, a way to between you and me. A way to smile. A way to take that big big deep breath. A way to hope.

So.

There’s a way you know.

The air planes keep coming in…

Finding a way between the living & telling and the reliving & retelling.

What if I had made explicit the purpose of hope, would others have shared? What if I had added the #GRA2014 hashtag, would others have been keen to share? Would you?

I wonder…

For all those educators (and you are the best of the best, the ones who speak the language of the heart) who pulled their kids into gymnasiums and made and tossed and shared, thank you; I’m here.

For all my friends who made and tossed and giggled and wrote poetry and shared; I’m here.

And for our kids. Our kids. Who read and wondered and shared stories and picked their colours and ran fingers along creases and decided to move outside and tossed and tossed and laughed and laughed, their first ever planes …We’re here.

I am so honoured.

 

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Holding Tickets

About a month ago I posted on Facebook asking if anyone might be interested in splitting next year’s Football season’s tickets. I had a few responses, but soon interest waned.

Then, I’d figured the season was still half new. There was time yet.

And time is important. Last March Dad had had a stroke. The stroke left him paralysed and our lives changed forever. Now Dad lives 20 minutes from Mom in a fulltime care home. Now Mom travels every day to visit him.

My daughter and I, and Dad, of course, have not been to a game this season. Sometime during the one-day-at-a-time moments of this summer I realised it would be too difficult to go to the stadium without Dad; grief is a messy business. Dad can only sit in his wheelchair for about 40 minutes at a time. We are 2 hours away from the stadium.

Still, we’ve not missed many games. Mom renovated their home. She brings Dad home on the weekends, my sister, my daughter and I traveling to the cabin to help her. At home, we watch a lot of football. And our hikes have changed too. We circle around the crescents, telling stories and trusting that hope will come.

When the leaves fell this autumn we talked about finding a way to get Dad’s chair down to the beach, finding new trails. We spoke hope.

It’s important to keep our tickets. As a young child, I first learned to swear in those seats. When I was first married, my husband and I attended football games when our daughter was in the womb, later with her cheering and bouncing on us dressed in green. Then it was Jess and I, and Dad joined us again, teaching Jess never to boo, teaching her secret handshakes, and listening to both of our stories.

It’s been a long long summer.

At times I was pretty low. I don’t know what happened, but around the middle of August something in me changed. Jessy Lee took my hand, snuggled next to me and said, “I am so glad you’re back. I never thought you’d come back.”

And to tell the truth, for three months, neither did I.

But somehow I knew, it was like holding on tightly to those tickets; in time the idea mattered. Hope mattered.

Maybe Dad might mend. Maybe he’ll go home again? Maybe he’ll walk again? Maybe…

So Saturday night I messaged all my acquaintances, you know those not in my inner circle. Those I haven’t chatted with every day, those who haven’t brought donuts, and hugs, checked in, stayed late, sat long & listened. I texted everyone asking if they might want to share our season tickets next year.

And the most amazing thing happened.

I heard tell ways of love and listening that I’ve pushed away, and ways that I’ve been needing these past seven months.

Folks suggested I post to Facebook. Others offered to ask their friends. Others simply ignored my story…

Others wondered why I needed to split the tickets. Some folks wanted to know why I was selling. A few asked if we were okay, asking after Dad’s health. Some friends shared their concerns, knowing the depth of the pain that has kept Jess and I away from attending any games without Dad.

Only one person asked about Mom, and this twist to the tale of our family narrative: a new journey so filled with unwritten lists that it wakes my daughter and I in the middle of the night, demanding to be written, crossed off, and completed, yet they remaining impossibly un-penned. Much like that space of next year football country.

When I was a child my parents bought these tickets. They’d take my sister & I, and I’d sit beside Dad and talk sports and football strategies and we’d laugh. Sometimes I’d catch a little yellow football the fan club would toss into the air and for the next week after school my friends and I would play touch football at the bottom of Bussy’s Hill.

For the past ten years Dad has been sharing the tickets and sharing the cost. There’s no way I can carry them on my own. I need time. So much will change in the next few years. I’ll be done this degree; Jess will be on her own.

We just need time.

I had many 140 character replies to my text. I had many silenced replies too. Grief is a messy business.

Yet the response that lingers wasn’t a yes or a no. The reply was a story that spoke to the wholeness of my family stories, the grief story, and the hope story that has everything and absolutely nothing to do with football.

“My first paycheck when I turned 16 went to a set of season tickets for my dad and I!”

Mom sees a surgeon Wednesday. Cancer, round five.

When I was a younger girl Dad would take me walking when he felt I needed to listen. We would hike along trails, tasting rose hips, shuffling through leaves, listening to wind, attending to each other’s stories.

So I hold on, to the seats, to the tickets and tightly to our stories.

“‘There are no truths, Coyote,’ I says. ‘Only stories.'” (Thomas King)

 

 

 

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I’m Here

(Red Shoes Series)

Saturday Afternoon at the Cabin

Everyone snoozes.

From the far room, Dad’s snore’s whistle. When I was young Dad’s snores rolled in swells through the house. Once, while camping with my cousins, Dad’s snores woke campers two sites over.

Dad’s snores are the sounds of home, the home of the youth where I turned over at night and snuggled deeper into the covers when there was an unknown thump on the back deck or the coyote howls were nearby; I am safe, Dad is downstairs.

His snores are different since the stroke, high pitched, and far away.

Long ago Dad put a crystal in the front window. It spins in the afternoon sun sending tiny rainbows dancing in circles around the living room.

I drift into sleep and forget for a moment where I am. Remembering comes before my eyes pull open or the ray of spinning light circles by. Curled on the sofa, I pull and push trying to shift away from the heaviness in my chest.

I open my eyes.

I listen to the stillness of a home where everyone sleeps until Dad calls, “Lynne, Lynne.”

“I’m here, Al,” Mom says from her single bed beside Dad and he whistles again.

I can hear the hum from the fridge and the settling groan from the front porch. The ceiling fan clicks. With each turn the four inch chain pull cord that no one has touched since the winter we put that Christmas tree up with scaffolding whirls.

On the sofa, my daughter’s breaths come in deep fresh air rasps.

The hum from the fridge stops.

Outside, a car passes by.

What will happen when I can no longer hear the whistle…

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