Tag Archives: family stories

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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)

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dad: storying

I’ve been taking a photo a day for the past four years. For the past two years I have made these photos into a photo montage of my year, letting the adventures of the past 364 days swirl into a movie. I have even begun to add music. Sometimes I go about my day thinking about the photo I might take, ‘this moment will make a wonderful addition to the ‘year-in-video.’

But for the past 21 days these photo moments have been the most difficult to capture.

21 days ago I was waiting in my car my 17 year old daughter, Jess, beside me. We were waiting in the parking lot at the Moose Jaw Union Hospital, the nose of the car facing the doors to emergency.

We had had the call from my Mom at 4:10pm.

We waited. At 5:00pm I looked over at Jess and said, “Our world is about to change.”

Mom had said she was certain Dad had had stroke.

Dad had gone out for a walk as he did every day, walking the loop near the cabin at the lake where my parents are retired. He would likely stop to feed the birds. Likely, he would then take his usual path towards the boat dock and down towards the trees by the lake, perhaps stopping to leave a treat for the coyotes.

He had left at half past noon.

At 3:30pm Mom had called for him in the garage, she had called for him out the back door and had called out into Dad’s shop. She had then taken the van keys and had headed out to look for him. She found him face down in the front yard in the snow with the newspaper, he was responsive and soaking wet. It would take another two hours before he arrived to Moose Jaw by ambulance.

My sister was in her car next to me and Jess. We heard the sirens before we saw the ambulance. I stepped out and walked as close as I could to the ambulance bay.

I am not certain exactly why I snapped a photo.emergency

I just sensed in every part of me that that moment marked a before and an after for every person I loved most.

The ambulance attendant looked and me and said, “He’s okay.”

A hand came out of the blankets and waved, up and down: Dad.

“I love you Dad!”

We walked quickly to the front doors at the same time my Mom parked her van.

~

For nearly three weeks we lived numb. Maybe we are still living numb. What resonates the most and yet has not surprise me, is the love between my parents.

My parents.

They only wanted each other. As those first few weeks rolled out Dad would reach for her and she would reach for him, just the simple act of touching one another was what was needed, like those finger tips would make him walk, heal the hemorrhage in his brain, control the pain. Neither complained and each would say thank you to everyone that crossed their mompath.

Mom has moved in with me and Jess; it’s more like camping. We hardly see her except for the hospital. We’ve worked out the kinks of living together; we have learned not to run our blow-dryers at the same time, made certain she eats more than the tomato-macaroni soup left over from Dad’s lunch try; My Mom and her indomitable spirit. She has been there every day before breakfast and has learned to send photo and text updates with her phone. My Mom, who has not left her husband’s side, and has left the rest of us wondering from where her energy comes.

 

Dad has been moved to Providence Place and the goal is to … well, increase his independence. Mom hopes he will stand.

There isn’t any conversation we’ve haven’t had these past few weeks. My sister and I have been alternating nights at the hospital and there was a while there when Dad’s pain was so bad that we both stayed. Often, I would return home to find Mom still awake. We’d sit on the edge of her bed and talk into the wee hours of the morning. There isn’t anything we’ve not talked about.

For 21 days I’ve watched my Dad struggle with a body he can no longer control. I’ve watched him do this with kindness to his family and to the care providers around him. I’ve listened to him tell me and my family that he will be here for us when we are ill. I have watched my parents show their love for each other, over and over, show, not just share. I have felt the support of those in my life burst from the margins and bounce to life.

I missed a few days of work when Dad was in ICU, and honestly, that next week while Dad remained unstable, I was a mess. Mom didn’t want a herd at the hospital, my sister and I needed to divide our time, and I needed my other family too; I needed my kids. I am gifted by a safe space to share, to cry, to feel supported. This place is my school. Many of our kids feel the same. Many of our staff feel the same. Our school is a home place, here we belong.

My Dad has often trekked with my students. My instructional practices are replete with the stories and teachings I’ve gleaned from listening to my Dad. Every, every group of students I have taught has been gifted to know my Dad, to have trekked in some way with my Dad, to have had the chance to spend time with him, to have heard a story or two from him, some, even around a campfire, or on a basketball court.

And it may not seem that important, but it feels important. I am sad. I am scared and the kids I live in the midst of understand. And kids that knew Dad well, and knew his stories well, message often and check-in often, and I am grateful that our shared stories have created this space. See, there’s a whole wack sack of truth in my living alongside our kids right now. I share about the love between my parents; I share about how tired I am; I share that I am drinking far too much coffee, about how I am crying easily and often; I share that I love them, and then I share again.

I am sad and I am grateful. This Friday is my Dad’s 74th birthday and I want to walk with my Dad like we have done every year. This year, Jess and I will bring some eggs to Providence Place and colour them.

The last time I walked with my Dad, two weeks before his stroke, I was walking too fast, going ahead like I did Dad and me walkingwhen I was a child. That last weekend, he stopped often, and when I returned to stand next to him, he asked me to identify the animal scat over which he bent, the twig next to which he stood, and the berry he held in his hand. When I was child, I would not have had the patience for standing and wondering. When I was a child I hadn’t yet come to honour the stories of Dad running Otter Rapids, or Dad canoeing the Churchill, or Dad building a log home by hand, or of Dad putting himself through High school and University, or of Dad choosing to love, and loving, always loving with kindness. That day, two weeks before ‘the before moment,’ I had stood and listened to Dad every time he paused.

I still have much to learn from storying with Dad. There are many walks left in both of us.

Dad would say, there’s a teaching there.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Different Stories

I changed schools this fall, moving from a traditional space, teaching kids I loved and subjects I adored (ELA, Outdoor Education and Arts Education) into a different role. A role I sought. The subject areas, for the most part, have been the same. And I still adore the kids. The move was spurred in part because of my graduate journey, but truthfully, it was time for a change; I needed to know a different story of educator me.

The last four months have been different. Mess is good right?

I expected things to be different. I expected a learning curve as I moved into the role of Student Support Teacher, and I as I began my graduate research. There is much I miss about my former school, but what I miss most is feeling validated.

The educator story of me whispers that I should now be reflecting that this is an internal struggle and I should work it through.  

But that’s not how I’m feeling.

In early December the one of my committee members commented that when he feels this way, he blogs.

I live in the midst of groups of kids and yet get very little time to attend to their narratives. I feel continually rushed, as though I never really get to settle-in; I feel as though I’m never really in an at-home-living space with kids, as though I’m moving to the next place, next place, and this makes me want to put my hoody up.

There are moments of gentleness though. There was a morning in early December. Our school family had suffered a loss, our Vice Principal had lost her son a few weeks before. A student, Kate (pseudonym), and I sat around our morning sharing table. Neither of us could yet manage to take off our coats. We were tired and we were sad. Kate shared about missing her brother who had died three months earlier. Our VP joined us then. We asked questions that none of us had the answers to. We cried. We laughed. We didn’t wipe away our tears with our mittens. We sat a long while until finally we joined the rest of our school family for pancakes. These are moments of such beauty. These are moments when our space becomes a curriculum of lives. 

Maybe what I need is gentle time with kids, like those after-school moments and come-of-your-own willingness spaces. I ache for them.

The last day before we left for winter break Kate and I sat around our sharing circle with Joe (pseudonym). He is the youngest student in our sharing circle. Kate came up with a plan to keep the three us connected. Kate was really worried about Joe.

“Okay but this is weird,” Joe replied. But his eyes caught mine. I wondered if Kate was worried about the long two weeks away from her circle. I wondered if Kate was worried about missing her brother. I wondered if the hum from her ear buds that don’t drown out well, would be enough. I wondered, as I met Joe’s knowing eyes, if it was Kate who needed a plan.

~

In December, I attended my last fall term Works-in-Progress graduate group at the University. I feel like such a kid at this table. I feel as though I have little to contribute, as though the world speaks deliberately in academic babble, and I wonder if I should SoundCloud everyone so we might return and reflect on how we share. I sit on my hands. I drink tea and water and coffee, twirling a beverage between my hands and lips to keep busy. The others usually ignore me. I am grateful. Too bad I don’t wear a hoody to Works-in-Progress group, though that’s a story of grade-five-me, of school that fits that sharing space too.

Our knowing of children’s past experiences on their in- and out-of-classroom places was shaped by their storytelling as we continued to hear the numerous accounts of the experiences… As children spoke of resistance to our plotlines of a story of school composed around making spaces for lives, we knew their resistance was an expression of the lack of narrative coherence they felt between our practices and what they knew as school. Our practices were an expression of our stories to live by, of who we were. But we also knew our practices were not coherent with the practices children knew as fitting within their stories of school. (Huber et al, 2004)

At my Works-in-Progress group, we are pulled together by one of my committee members, a professor at the University, and by our common focus of narrative inquiry. The tea is good. And so are the stories. There are two of us working on our master thesis; the others on their doctorate. In December, I sat at the table feeling as I sound now, a bit bitter, feeling a bit wiser too about the role of the University in my research, in my practice, and in the lives of students and families. I tried to stay positive. There were cookies.

The group was discussing the potential of narratives in Teacher Education programs. They were only discussing the value of narratives for pre-service teachers. I almost lost my gourd. The conversation felt so… disconnected. In that moment all I could think about what a student of mine who had been arrested two days before and whose stories had often been silenced by school or told for him. I almost pounced into the conversation, “The value of narrative is when my grade ten student is doing this with a grade two student down the hall.” 

Okay. I wasn’t eloquent.

I was frustrated because the people around my sharing circle, some I trust, some I don’t, all with a great deal of influence in the education world, where having what felt like yet another conversation that did not included  elementary and high school students. Where were their narratives?

I cried during the rest of group and the cookies got soggy. The PhD-ers suggested I send them my works-in-progress, for feedback. It wasn’t pretty.

A few days later, after the students, staff and I returned from our daily late morning walk; I poked my head into the office to share with my VP. She was just back on half days and she was sitting at her computer, listening to the hum of the monitor, preparing to head home. She asked about my university journey. I sank into the chair she keeps beside her desk.

“You know, I have this lens. I am not going to change it. I really don’t care about teachers or administrators, and I really don’t care about pre-service teachers or superintendents, or professors. I care about kids and families. I can’t pretend I see things differently. I don’t.” 

She hugged me, and she cried. I don’t think it was my words. She suggested I talk with a teacher in the division who completed his thesis and had learned much about the journey. “Talk to him, it will help.” I kissed her cheek and joined my school family for lunch.

Just as I have been silenced and labeled by the messy plotlines of school stories and stories of school, so too have the students I live alongside.

When I arrived at my new school in the fall I had heard the rumors of how others labeled the students. I was prepared for those comments. And they came. They continue to come, but not so blatantly. 

I wasn’t prepared for the comments directed towards myself and other staff at the school that similarly set us apart in negative ways. It has been a different term. 

The final afternoon of term, a colleague and I were cleaning up, reflecting, celebrating successes; we’d had a busy day. We had taken the kids to another school for a concert and upon return a grade nine student stated, “Miss Saas, I’m tired.” The events of the day had exhausted our school family.   

It has been a different fall.    

Last night I jumped into a brief Twitter chat with the Deputy Minister of Education and two university professors about measurement, standardized testing, assessment and evaluation. In the end, what I wanted to share with everyone was an invitation into our classroom, but I didn’t.

What I wanted to share were the different stories of experiences of our sharing space.

I wanted to share student narratives.  

There are no pretty successes where students, staff and I live every day. I am going to write that again, there are no pretty successes where students, staff and I live every day.

Our successes sure aren’t small. And, they sure can be different too. And we need everyone to look closer; we need everyone to note that just because our world is different, it is also filed with successes.

Our successes – I am crying – are Robert Munsch Enormous in the lives of our youth. Sometimes they are so big they are like tectonic plates shifting lives and so embodied that kids bolt from school. This is success. One day this term a student slipped in from another class, walked down the hall and asked me if I would help him to learn. He shared that he had not understood the idea of a story having a beginning, middle and end until I wrote it on the board, and that he and I had to work on this during out-of school hours so no one in class would know. There was another student who hugged me goodbye because he had come to understand he needed a hug. This is success. There are the smiles of showing up, and showing up first to make coffee, and staying an entire day or understanding the sense of ditching class because for the first time, a student experiences the beauty of the middle-years pull of liking someone; these are successes. And these we celebrate.

So Kate came up with a plan.

Every day during the break we would message photos to each other and to Joe. We would keep Joe connected to our sharing space through photo stories. Some days slip by where all we send is a photo. Some days, we share a photo and a few words. Other days, Kate will ask questions and ask me to send a specific photo, or I will send a photo that connects to a story I’ve shared. 

Two days ago she shared a photo of a letter her brother wrote to her while he was in jail, long before the accident that took his life. She has been rereading his letters and notes. Her messages and photos are filled with reflection, courage and sadness. “I miss him so much,” she writes, Kate who four months ago now never spoke about her loss, Kate who now finds ways to connect to others through it.

Maybe the glitter and easy isn’t needed? But I think some of it is. I don’t know. Maybe somewhere in all this messiness I am learning something about what I need and who I am. Maybe, in the tension of my graduate journey, school spaces that were once closed will come to listen, to really, really attend to silent stories like Kate’s, just as she has listened to Joe’s? Maybe when our grade ten student returns from lock-up he will share his stories of his experiences. I miss him. Perhaps, I am just not supposed to know, not supposed to see around as many corners like I did in previous years. What if the stories of experiences are our successes?

Some successes are profound.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized