Bring Diamonds

“ Tell us again the story of how you met?” (Warning – rambling thoughts make long blog )

July 7, 1973 Jago/Dokken

Yes the story of how my husband and I met and eventually married always causes some eyebrows to raise and is guaranteed a laugh.  Maybe fitting to tell it today, my first wedding anniversary alone after 45 years. I am sure there are many who would have placed a bet against us lasting that long !!

I was a nursing student, happily planted in Edmonton and in those days, it was okay to be dating several men at once.  In the late 60’s , dating was just that – occasional times out with a fellow, usually ending in a kiss or some “necking” in the car and a promise to “call.”  As we were young and the “will call statement” about as reliable as a “see ya” – you didn’t worry if the next day you had a date with someone else. Exclusivity was granted with a conversation or a promise ring.

Although many weekend nights were spent hanging out at a local bar – which in the 60’s were HUGE establishments attached to hotel, it was best to meet men at a party of sorts – or a dance – and nursing students had no shortage of those.  A fraternity house or group of students somehow got a hold of someone at our Nursing Residence who would run around the residence inviting us all to a party. Hence my first real injury – tearing ligaments and tendons in my knee slipping on spilled beer at a frat house while doing the polka – but I digress.

We were indentured to Nursing school for three yrs. Two months of that was spent at Alberta Hospital, Oliver, a stand-alone mental health institution just outside Edmonton. We were housed there with students from the other two hospitals that trained nurses, and made many new friends. ( I think that place might deserve its own blog post !) One night the topic of conversation came around to our quarterly nursing school dances (Live band and open invite dances held at each Nursing Residence)  One of us, maybe me, mentioned that the Royal Alex Dances always got the same old guys – and the students from the Misericordia Hospital raved how their dances were better than ours – and attracted great men. Good idea, we thought, so 5 or 6 of us “Alex girls” piled into my Vauxhall  and off we went to the “Mis” residence on Friday February 27th, 1970.

A large gymnasium, beautiful decorated, with about 500 ladies in very short mini skirts, and at least that many guys – in shirts and ties ( oh my does this date me !! ) was what greeted us on arrival. Our friends rushed over and we all found a place to STAND.. In some ways we hadn’t moved much farther than our old high school dances. Immediately this tall, thin, good looking guy came over and invite me to dance and we did.. He chatted and chatted and he seemed very nice but there was ONE problem – he was a regular attender at our dances And had dated a classmate of mine – I recognized him from our longing gazes out the window of the residence – we didn’t miss a thing from our gallery at the lounge. I even knew his first name -Gordon.

So what was I to do… but say thank you after the dance and go back to my friends.  I had no shortage of requests to dance as maybe “new blood” was what the guys wanted too, but none seemed too worthy of exchanging names and getting them to say they would “call”.  We were about to leave, and this same guy came back, persistent, and asked me to dance again. His thoughts were ” well she can only shut me down again.” My thoughts were – well at least he wasn’t boring – so I danced, several dances and went to another party with him after the dance, handing my car keys to the girls who were heading back to residence. 

I came home that night, thinking he was “pretty nice “ and accepting a date for Sunday skating at a park. He had tried for Saturday night – but I already had a date – yes that seems preposterous thinking of today’s rules – but this was 1970!  I had tried to get out of the skating date ( those that know me know that a good first impression may not have been a sports date) but my lack of skates was solved by borrowing his sister’s, and my lack of skill was countered with “ I’ll hold you up”.

You couldn’t live in a residence with 120 classmates without having everyone ask for a critique of your date and my innocent next door neighbour, Bonnie who was always curious about how someone found “the one”, asked me “ Did you ever think that he could be “ The ONE “ and to my surprise I answered yes !! 

We continued dating – a lot of our dates very impromptu (when he could borrow his father’s car) – where he would show up at the Residence and the girls guarding the lounge would yell “ Terry, I see Gordon” which would be followed by an intercom announcement “ Miss Dokken, you have a visitor”. You could often tell if the Housemother approved of your visitor by the tone of her voice. I am not sure she did the first time, recognizing him as someone else’s date ! I would tear curlers out of my still wet mid back straight blond hair, do a quick change and run down to the lobby where he would say – Do you want to go for “ coffee?” Coffee was usually not involving coffee at all but a trip to one of the two neighbouring drive in A & W’s and a usual order of a “ swamp water, orange drink and onion rings to share. ( a tradition that continued for all 45 years ).

We dated – mostly exclusively but without that label, for the next year and a half of my nursing training. We had real dates too, attending weddings and graduation, met each other’s family and expressed our love for each other.  If permanence in our relationship came up, Gord  was pretty quick with a standard answer “ My dad got married at 31 and I think that is a good age- I want to see the world.” So that would put a damper on this not quite 21 year old aspirations that she perhaps had met her future husband.  It came to graduation time, and seeking out jobs. A fellow classmate and friend had applied for a job at the International Grenfell Mission in northern Newfoundland and had asked me if I wanted to come too. It seemed adventurous so I mailed away for an application and took it on one of our coffee dates to show Gord – completely assured he would say “ but I love you – you can’t go that far away”. To  my surprise, my adventurous man said “you can’t miss that opportunity and that we should date others and maybe if I returned to Edmonton we could see each other again.”  Not the response I wanted, so I applied and that August Karen and I  took off with a car carrier on my brand new  Toyota Corolla drove across Canada to the northern most part of Newfoundland for our adventure.  

We stayed a year, while we dated others (not so many others for me and I think the same for him ) for a bit – but soon the letters got more romantic and we “ couldn’t live without each other” after this year of separation. We did see each other at a friends’s wedding in October I returned home for and a family ski trip Easter that Gord came on, most of our communication was weekly letters and monthly phone calls (20 mins $20).  Although I applied and got positions in 3 hospitals in Toronto, where friends lived, Gord was quite insistent that if I returned to Edmonton, that would be best – so I did.  I rented a small apartment for September 1, started my job at U of A hospital and prepared for a “ forever after ending” with the man I loved. 

Well the man I loved was teaching by now, coaching every sport (girls and boys) in his small jr high /sr high school, and had met lots of single guy teachers. He seemed to have time for a quick date with me once or twice a week, which soon slowed to maybe every 10 days. Not my idea of a hot and heavy romance !!  I was lonely, and asked him to come over and talk about this, asked for a bigger commitment and he promised to call with his answer.  We were 22 and 24 – still far away from that magic 31 age ( which by the way DID come up in that big talk ). When three weeks passed without a phone call, I phoned my friends in Saskatoon, received three job offers there, gave my notice at work and the apartment and took off for greener pastures. I didn’t call him to say I was going – I figured my “ talk” had scared him completely away.   Near Christmas, he calls my number, to find it disconnected, calls my sister and finds out I am in Saskatoon!!  Although I was pining, my friends basically said “ good riddance- he used you”

So was that the end ?? Well obviously not!  He phoned my parent’s home on New Years Eve to talk to me. I agreed and when he asked to come and see me I blurted out ” Not unless you have a diamond”. I hung up the phone – and wondered what I had done. But two times leaving disappointed in his lack of commitment, I decided not to call him back. 

Late January I had some days off so I decided to return to Edmonton to visit my sister, Marian.  When I arrived, January 26th, she asked me if I had told Gord I was coming and since I hadn’t, we hatched this idea that she would call him and tell him where we would be and pretend I didn’t know she was doing this. For how could he bring diamonds if he didn’t know I was in town?.   Gord recalls that he had plans with friends, but he decided to just go see if he could find me – at one of those huge bars at the Edmonton Inn. Turned out there were no seats in the bar and Marian and I ended up in the lounge and without text or find my phone advantages, Gord found us there.  We chatted for a while – the three of us – and Marian excused herself to go to the bathroom (Gord would say FINALLY if telling this story) and as soon as she left he blurted out “ Will you marry me ?” I started to cry and said “Really – you mean it?” and he said he thought that July would be a good date. I said yes ! I was really pleased that I wasn’t going to have to wait till 1980!

Marian returned and saw our faces – both crying and wondered what had happened in that brief time. Marian returned to her apartment and we went over to tell Gord’s parents who were happy but a bit shocked, and called my dad who in his matter of fact way, said “ Not much I can do about it – welcome to the family.” 

In the fairy tales, there would have been a big wedding and a happily ever after story, but today would not be honest if I didn’t tell you that the same problems that were in this story, continued for many years.  Gord loved everyone and had a huge heart for service – and our main arguments were for the same energy to be put into  us. He also really never could understand that the bold girl who asked him to bring diamonds had a lot of shy qualities and didn’t like being placed at a table at an event while my social butterfly husband worked the room. That caused a lot of fights.  We worked through it – we both knew it was worth it.

I read somewhere that as widows and widowers we remember only the best of our spouse, and somehow give him sainthood.  I remember the tough times, and regret a lot that I dwelled on some faults in our relationship rather than the love, but when push came to shove, and our many griefs and his illness invaded our lives, we clung to each other remembering that throughout all this we chose each other with all our faults showing.

There was a big white wedding, and a happily ever after – and the story still brings laughs and actually has inspired several young ladies to ask for what they need from their partner while risking it all.

 I like that.

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Christmas Present and Christmas Past

There is always that big let down after Christmas when all family is gone and we are alone. More alone this year and the tears run down my cheeks. Grief is like that – days when you you are doing well – and others where your head hurts from too much thinking and crying.

Memory book for each family. Pressed celebration service flowers. Love.

Family Christmas is a big thing to me. Some years our family has been small, but most brimming with family and extended family. My memories today are of some of those big Christmas with too much food, too many presents but grandparents, children and grandchildren crowded and playing together.

Christmas at home growing up was often just us – my mom and dad, and three sisters – there was always one big present – blatantly obvious like sets of skiis or one year a ski do ( more for Dad than us ). Some years we would head after xmas to visit extended family or ski in the mountains. The Xmas after my mother died in 1966, we were three vulnerable teenagers so Dad chose to take us to Sunshine Village skiing – just the 4 of us. A great Aunt hosted the actual Christmas in Medicine Hat. Mourning in 1966 was silent – my mother the very large elephant in the room and none of us dared mention her name.

Nursing meant every other year working the holidays – but we made the best of it. I was alone one year in Newfoundland – no family at all till I came home in August. That was difficult – even the phone call home was a chunk out of my budget. My first year working in Edmonton, we went to Gord’s family – and enjoyed many of the same family traditions and foods. I think it was that year I vowed to spend my Christmases with both families, if possible. We alternated years with Jago’s and Dokkens. Sometimes that meant we headed out after I had worked a 12 hr shift or even a night shift – or arriving closer to New Years. But always we gathered here or at one of the sisters place or Gord’s family’s small war time home. Crowded, airbeds, cousins loving one another. We made it a priority to celebrate together. Some years with the Dokkens there were conflicts – that many people and ideas and children – it had to explode at times and sometimes I was the stubborn catalyst in those explosions.

So with both sets of our parents gone, we have endeavoured to keep a family Christmas intact. It is hard – with shift workers. store owners and young children – and dialysis. I am grateful that my parents, and Gord’s parents recognized what we lovingly call the ” in-law” Christmas, and that we continue the practice with no expectations having all our children present on alternate years , but we make the best of those years. Sometimes the ” In law’s” have just included us and that was special.

This year had some very perfect memories in it, despite the large hole left by hubby, dad and grandpa. It was important to me to change it up – to not have a big Christmas here – and stare at an empty chair, so our little Mountain hideaway did that. Food was perfect – and I guess it is with food in our family, very traditional – large turkey breast and all the trimmings – all perfect in my eyes. I even managed to pass off the cooking!! There were a few dozen “Cuban Lunches ” left over so now we know who ate the majority of those !! Presents were plentiful but lacking the need for excess. Those that wanted to played board games ( or Kyle’s Nintendo Switch) , and the mountain air for walks were the best way to refresh.

If you ask me to describe our family, I would tell you I have three children who are almost as different as could be possible – but all strong, happy, and unique. Two of them married spouses that I have grown to love, (without a lot of effort I must say) making a beautiful mess at times. My three grandchildren are well behaved and precious and each one, like mine – different and needing different kinds of love. I expected emotion and tried to give everyone the space to vent and be alone. And emotion there was. But the prevailing emotion was gratitude for a special man and thankfulness for the family he fathered.

So Gord , as you watched us, finally feeling better with your healthy heavenly body, I hope you were pleased and content as ever, with the family gathering that you loved so much. It was one where you were remembered and loved. Mourning in 2018 speaks his name – and his memories and that is good.

May some of my memories invite your memories of Christmas past and present – maybe with tears but hopefully also with smiles.

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Its Not about the Cake

MayaI consider myself a white evangelical Christian. Or at least I did until recently when that term has morphed into something very different from what I have always thought it was.

It is estimated that 81% of white evangelical Christian’s in the USA voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Although some say that these Christians really just voted against Hillary Clinton, I believe that Trump’s agenda  – to protect religious freedoms and to de-fund Planned Parenthood added to the reason many voted that way.   Others  voted just because they always have voted Republican. for whatever reason, I am having a hard time with these facts.

According to a January  2018 USA Today article, the Trump administration has furthered the Christian cause with conservative judicial appointments, (Neil Gorsuch and more recently Brett Kavanaugh) to the Supreme Court, anti-abortion actions, elevating religious protections, weighing in on Supreme Court case re the baker and gay wedding cake, recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel, allowing federal money to pay to rebuild churches after disasters, directing aid to persecuted Christians through faith-based groups, and doubling the tax credit for children. So, on the surface this sounds good. But what else have we gained ?

We’ve gained increased anti gay sentiments, and misogyny, decreased empathy for the women’s truth in sexual assault and harassment cases and increased awareness of blatant racism. We’ve gained  lack of understanding of the plight of our neighbours in countries that are torn with strife, war and gang violence. We’ve gained a Supreme Court justice who may or may not have sexually assaulted a women when he was a teen, is very politically motivated and has said he would like to reverse Roe v Wade in the future.

We’ve gained support for de-funding Planned Parenthood (the bill did not pass this time) which claims to be helping the anti abortion cause. However,  this organization doesn’t and never has received funding for abortion. So supporting de-funding of this organization only takes away their ability to supply birth control and information about sexually transmitted infections.  Their clients need information in order to have “safe sex” and prevent unplanned pregnancy but as these are the funded services, any reduction in funding will only affect these, no women’s access to abortion.  Instead of trying to de-fund the organization, lets offer and support services to women and men facing unplanned pregnancy or suffering grief after having chosen abortion. Instead of picketing those that perform abortions, let’s love those women who are making the most difficult decision of their lives and offer them options and support – just as Jesus would.

We have forgotten what the Bible teaches us about loving each other and loving our neighbours – not just the ones who look like us and think like us, but all of our neighbours. Let’s remember that Jesus approached and hung out with the least of these –  lepers, blind, handicapped, and Samaritans ( another race).

Two people I know told me recently of their trips to Germany and Austria and touring concentrations camps.  In the presentations, the greatest lesson these countries wish to tell you is not that this will never happen again…. but that we must be ever vigilant to the signs – as history is very likely to repeat itself.  Hear their fear!

The refusal to bake a cake for a gay marriage has been heard in the Supreme Court and influenced by the President.  What does this case say about us as Christians  ? Instead of refusing to bake the cake for a gay marriage, the Christian baker could have just  explained any restrictions he had on decorating- just like he would to any customer.  In my opinion, by baking a cake  he was not blessing their marriage, he was baking a cake!  In baking the cake and showing love to his potential customers, he  will speak much more of what it means to be a Christian than any refusal based on his beliefs on marriage.

We’ve focused on a US president who says he is a Christian yet mocks the poor, the handicapped, and the assaulted. We’ve allowed White Supremacist “freedom of speech”, Nationalist ideology, and ridiculing of the free press. As a Canadian, I see that what happens south of us has a huge impact on Canadians. Canadian politics are getting more divided – along some of these same lines. Some of the same extremism lives here as well. Many Canadian white evangelical Christians defend an American president who mocks, who has had many affairs, who paid off a lover, and likely “colluded” with a government to rig his election.  Not sounding like any biblical principles I have been taught!

There is no Roe V Wade (1973) in Canada, but in 1988 our abortion law was found unconstitutional, therefore there is no law in this regard. Before 1988, I saw physicians counsel young women to claim suicidal ideas in order to qualify.  When abortion is illegal, desperate women cannot even tell a trusted friend that they are considering having one and often end up in a back room dangerous situation. I saw the results of those – women nearly bleeding to death and emergency hysterectomies.   I worry that in our zest to try to get the world to conform to the laws of Christianity, we are losing the principle of loving one another.

I am seeing Christian values being more condemning than accepting, more excluding than including, and more hateful than loving. It is hard to call myself a White Evangelical Christian and make these opinions known.

If Christianity is about love – loving our neighbours as ourselves, then we need to take a look at what that means.  Really, it’s not about the cake – its about how you show love to the person that wants that cake.

For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

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Broken Hearts

Broken heart Tears are literally running down my cheeks.  Those who know me probably say “so what’s new”.  I used to say ” I cry at the Walton’s (a very dated example but you get the meaning). This is still true – a good heart warming story gets to me.  I also cry when I am angry.  God gave me a heart for others, a righteous anger and eyes to see, ears to hear.  I feel helpless in this situation.

This past week has been heartbreaking to hear of the plight of Central American and South American refugees who cannot find asylum from their circumstances.  Most of us have never had our lives threatened, or guns go off in our backyards. Probably we have not lacked for food/water and other necessities of life. Most of us can’t even say we have gone hungry for more than a part of a day.  And certainly most of us have not had our children torn from us and been left with no idea where they have been taken.

The stories have been hard to take – crying children, teens sent across the border alone, parents separated, misdemeanours turned into criminal convictions, metal fences holding children, cages and tent cities meant for soldiers not families.

Today, MSNBC released a news report with some pictures… images  which I cannot get out of my head. Young children ( under 10 ) now moved in the middle of the night to New York to be fostered.  By day they sent to a day care which is clean, bright and friendly looking.  You might say “that’s good”.   Facilities may be spanking clean, though crowded, staff may be loving and compassionate but children should not be 2000 miles away from their parents, who committed the “crime” of leaving an unsafe situation in desperate hope for a better one.

The staff worker in the news story  quit her job after taking hidden video of the detention centre.  With jobs scarce, and money scarcer, this is a brave lady to stand up for these children.   I am sure that was not an easy decision.  I have left a job when things just ‘ weren’t right but I never had to say ” They said we couldn’t hug them, but I hugged them”

I have never felt in danger or the need to leave my beautiful country.  But I have heard stories from those I have met who left Kosovo and other countries in previous war crises.  I have seen one woman jump and immediately cry when a backfire type noise split the silence.  I have heard first hand stories of what it is like to have your home, life and family torn from you.  But most of my learning about refugees is from what I read and hear.  My heart is blessed by knowing what you go through, dear refugees. It invokes a new kind of thankfulness.

I do remember anguish as a parent/grandparent.  I remember leaving my young children at a day care situation or nursery at church and hearing them howl as I walked away.  Heartbreaking for me, but luckily I knew it was temporary, and I was making a choice.  I have cuddled my granddaughter and desperately Face-timed her parents when she cried   ” I miss my mommy and daddy” when they were on a kidless retreat.  I have seen the fears of children who are adopted, and know they  worry about another abandonment.  I have spent two days in kindergarten with a child who couldn’t separate easily, and cried when the teacher told me my efforts were not working –  and it was time for me to leave.  (That child spent almost a week in the grade 4 class that year as if she couldn’t have mommy, older brother was the next best. When she felt safe, she became a thriving kindergarten student.). Will these children ever feel safe, know that their mommy and daddy won’t ever be separated from them again (that is if they are ever even reunited with their families.)

Friends tell me that I listen to the wrong type of news broadcasts and follow only left winged sites. Sometimes I hear that my lean to the left is not very Christian.  I try to validate most of my news but it is not easy.   Sometimes comparing the news stories is really all we have, and pictures tell a pretty good story.   I have been told that separating parents and children is  okay because,  after all, “Obama did it “.

NO.. it is not okay to remove children from their mothers for the “crime” of fleeing a life threatening situation.  It is NOT okay to house refugee children and teens in military camps and strange foster homes, or have a day care where the staff is told not to hug.  It is not okay to have to use DNA testing to match families that you separated. (thank you 23 and me for your assistance  but this shouldn’t be needed !)  It is not okay to tell children they had better not to tell their story or it can get worse for them.  It is not okay to say that judges and due process is not the method to solve this, even if you are Mr President.

It is not legal to cross borders without going through the right processes.  But if the line up for a due process is long, and  those in the line  hear that nobody is called a refugee if you are ” just” fleeing gangs ( rape and murder). They lose hope in the system and take the risk. There has to be a more humane way to handle this problem.  Countries with more open borders have problems with housing and costs and even crime. I hope that they have some of the same positive benefits that Canada has had for welcoming many immigrants and refugees. It may not seem fair to give hearings to people who cross the Quebec and BC borders illegally, but, whether you love our PM or hate him, you surely agree that it is not the Canadian way  to send them back to a certain death.

Imagine now holding your child, or your grandchild and having a customs officer remove him from your grasp, while the child screams. Imagine not knowing which tent or cage your child has gone to. Imagine facing criminal charges and wondering if you will ever see them again.   With that thought will the tears roll down your face too ? I hope so.

Whatever your religion, your political swaying or your life circumstance, by now I hope you are saying, even if just to yourself, – This just is not right.


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Though the Mountains go into the sea…


This blog post was written in April but not made public.  I have changed some it to reflect the now.  I just could not make it public at the time.

Unless my readers have been in a complete bubble, you will know that our province, and country was rocked by the news in April that a semi truck and a bus containing a Junior A hockey team collided on a lonely rural corner. First on the scene were family members following the bus for the playoff game.  Unprecedented calls out to three STARs helicopters soon followed.  Soon rumours of fatalities and then multiple fatalities came through the Facebook feed and news channels.  When all the news was in, fifteen passengers on that bus died in that accident and many more have critical and life changing injuries. Only a very few walked out of that bus. Our province, and country were stunned and in grief.

I don’t know how it feels to have PTSD, but I do know what flashbacks of memorable moments feel like – flashbacks of good days, and flashbacks of the most terrible days. There are days, and dates and times that one will never forget because they are days of our “worst nightmares.” That night  was so many people’s “worst nightmare”. So I know that for some, that weekend will remain with them in great detail for all of their lives.

I have never been a first responder or EMS staff to first encounter any accident, nor have I been a part of a team tragedy big or small.  I do, however, have some significant events in my life that have made that weekend one of flashbacks that help me to relate to those more closely involved.

I remember the feeling when the door rang one morning to have a police officer at the door to tell me that my dad was involved in a fatal rollover and the shock and grief as we travelled to identify his body and get his personal effects. I can’t forget turning away from the demolished car.  I remember hearing of his accident on the news – over and over.   But, that only gives me a small window into what happened that weekend.  I have never  heard the breaking news of a bus accident and known that my  son or daughter was on that bus. I don’t know what it is like to be part of a huge news story and not know what part I was to play, or to sit at a community hall with others- waiting for news and knowing the odds were not good.  My experience, though at the time, mind boggling, pales in comparison.

I  remember the deep, deep grief of being a bereaved parent.  I was humbled, through our involvement in Compassionate Friends to hear the sharing of many parents who have had children die – in surgery, in accidents, from cancer and SIDS.  Children are not meant to die before their parents. But I do not know how it feels to be part of a national tragedy, your son’s death or son or daughter’s injury being one of many. Or how it feels to not even have your closest friends for support, for they are grieving as well.  I don’t know how it feels to pray ” not my son” when that prayer answered means someone else’s son.  I pray for those families.

I remember what it was like to receive the phone call that a kidney was available for my husband and knowing that in order for that to happen, a young life was taken. Unfortunately, this weekend, those who died at the scene would not have had the opportunity to make that decision – a gift of their organs.  Those that could, perhaps have that wee small comfort that their decision made a difference for several people and families.

I remember the one time that the equivalent of a Code Orange was called at the hospital I worked at.  We prepared. We feared. (no cell phones and information overload like today) and breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn’t as severe as what was anticipated.  It still was a tragic highway accident where one person died. I remember as clear as if it were yesterday responding to a Code Blue of a child, or of a young person.  Horrible moments lived through as a medical personnel stay with us forever. I can only imagine the setup, the chaos, the tears, and the despair as our hard working health professionals worked and volunteered to make sure of the very best outcome for these people. I know, that details of Friday night will burn in many people’s memories and many tears still will fall. But Friday night continues for many health care workers, nurses and doctors, as the continued fight for life and healing continues at Royal University hospital and perhaps at home.

So perhaps this is why the news of last Friday’s tragedy set me up for a lot of memories, some anxiety and tears.  Perhaps these experiences give me a small glimpse into what it might have been like.   I felt, I am sure like many, lost, angry and sad, as we listened to the news over and over.   We sat glued.

But my sorrow, and my fear is so minor compared to hundreds preparing funerals and waiting at bedsides, flying in and continuing to save lives in the jobs that they love. There are parents, coaches, billet parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, classmates, neighbours, teammates and medical personnel that still need our thoughts and prayers.  Not just quick thoughts or one prayer, but support for days, weeks and months to come.


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.                                                                                                                              Psalm 46 1-2






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Health care – imperfect yet necessary

stethHealth Care and Medicine make mistakes.

That is a hard pill for me to swallow some days.  I feel a need to defend. I feel a need to complain. I feel a need to have compassion. I feel conflicted.

The sad facts: Some of Medical care’s long-held beliefs may be (or are) just incorrect.

  • So many things I have done in my 40+ years of nursing, with the knowledge we had at that time, have been proven ineffective and incorrect.
    • We believed that testing the urine of a diabetic patient would give us a good indication of how much insulin he needed – not knowing about renal thresholds of sugar, HBAIC and fancy glucose meters.  Many of our patients died prematurely , or have long-lasting complications from our poor control measures. This saddens me but gives me hope for the future of medicine.
    • We thought days of hospitalization and bedrest made for better outcomes for surgeries, cataracts, heart attacks, childbirth and medical conditions. We needed a lot of hospital beds for these long stays and families were interrupted.
    • We cleansed, enema’d, and  shaved from knees to nipples prior to most surgery, – We cut people wide open and gave them awful naso-gastric tubes for gallbladder surgery. We “opened people up” for a look see because of lack of good imaging.
    • We made hip surgery patients stay in bed and non weight bearing for weeks. Children with fractured femurs, or needing IV antibiotics stayed  in hospital for months.

I am sure we can think of more and my point is not that we did wrong, but that thankfully we were open to new ideas and changes. There are still things stuck in the dark ages – things we need to let go of and make way for change.

  • Physicians can be wrong, uncaring, overworked, behind the times and stuck with tradition.
    • you have the right to change physicians if it is not working for you. The best way is to tell the previous one you are changing.  Although I have advised many people on how to change physicians, this is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. Sometimes physicians can be lovely but not progressive enough for me. Sometimes my need for facts/results/options can offend the  physician. Sometimes the personalities are just not right. The good news is there are many good ones !
    • you have a right to a second opinion
    • you have the right to say “No – that is not my belief or wish”  ( I did this just recently when the common canned supplement was recommended for hubby – I said, “you know I really don’t like all the preservatives in that and prefer to make my own” )
    • You have the right to say – “can I go to a specialist anyways”  – even if your GP says you probably are “all right”.  Let the specialist decide if your concern is valid.
    • you have the right to combine natural remedies and traditional medicine. You should inform your health care team what you are doing, but don’t always expect them to approve. This is a field that still lacks approval from many physicians.
    • you should check for references from friends or other health care professionals for physicians and specialists – you want someone you can relate to.
    • You have the right to research – but try to research the reputable sites ( Mayo clinic, Registered nurses of Ontario,  Pub Med)   rather than relying on Doctor Google.  You have a right to package inserts or written information.
  • Physicians and nurses may avoid telling you the truth if a mistake has been made – This is a practice  that is going away quickly, and far from the norm now, but as I said – some are stuck with tradition. The traditional  system used to believe “what they don’t know doesn’t hurt them”.. yes I am ashamed to admit that but I belonged then too.  My most meaningful episode of this was when as a student nurse a surgeon called tying of the ureters instead of the fallopian tubes ” something that just happens”. The patient nearly ended up in renal failure and had a second surgery.  I wanted to squeal so bad, but that would have been the end of my career. I do believe that these days  major errors are told to patients and families – but some minor still go unknown. If you see something you don’t think was right – speak up.
  • Wrong medication is the most common error that happens in hospitals and pharmacies. Double checks are put in, but the best check is you!  Check the medications you or your family get and say something if you get the wrong coloured one or a new one. Double check your discharge medications for dosage and drugs and ask about ones that seem to be missing. Ask the why’s about any new ones – they may be the same as the ones you have. A pharmacist can be your best source.
  • Nursing staff can be wrong, uncaring, overworked, behind the times and stuck with tradition.
    • Sad to say this, but I almost quit nursing because of how I was treated after loss of my premature infants. I ended up making motions to change a system, and the nursing classes… not by myself – but through Compassionate Friends and others.
    • I firmly believe if you have an issue there are very important first steps to take. First talk to the nurse in question – Sometimes, we as nurses need to check ourselves. Busyness, home problems and unthinking can cause us to ignore something or appear unkind.  Then contact the supervisor in charge and wait for them to get back to you. Then the Quality Care Coordinator for the hospital. Calls to MLA’s and ministry can follow if those people don’t hear your concern.  As a former manager, it was very disconcerting to find out a problem had occurred and nobody had advised me before going to the ministry. It causes a lot of people to be involved and maybe some press, but it ties the hand of the manager to get the problem solved. It is hard to reconstruct an episode that happened weeks ago, but easy when the staff is still present.
    • If you are a health care worker, ask your coworkers to intervene if you mess up or sound sharp – to take you away from the bedside and offer you a break. When you do intervene, as a patient, advocate or coworker  do it gently, if you cannot do that at the moment, take some space and time and then go back. Vulnerability is a sign of maturity. As a former nurse, I appreciated when someone called me out – even if it did hurt at the time.
    • Beware of the viral Facebook post – it is so tempting to share them and to get caught in the ” ain’t it awful” comments.  Ask the question first – did the person follow the above steps? Will this post hurt someone who has no control over the situation ? Will it help ?  If not.. read and move on.
    • Find an advocate who can look at situations from the outside or who can help from a medical standpoint. This can be very helpful to understand the why’s of situations.
  • Hospital beds are at a premium.  This is somewhat from the old belief of patients staying in hospital weeks and months for things they no longer stay in for. Bed numbers are based on “average ideal length of stay”. It is in part due to lack of funding for beds that are closed. It is sometimes because physicians listen to us when it is inconvenient to take our loved one home today as we are working, or he/she would need some extra help. It is because we think it impossible for our loved one to a nursing home that his not our preference, or even out-of-town to free up a bed for someone very ill.  It is sometimes because physicians still think that hospital is the best place and keep their patients too long.
    • Hubby has stayed in Emergency for a couple of nights, been without a bed following elective surgery, and moved several times. The cubby hole  in Emergency was small and cramped with little space for me. He has shared rooms with women ( now common) and none of this was easy.
    • There are ” bed managers ” working at full tilt trying to find beds that aren’t in hallways and making sure people are safe.  Hubby once had an alcove bed with a little  ding bell that would probably not be heard in the next room let alone down the hall, but he was fortunate, that time,  that he could call out and walk to the desk. It was crowded – but it worked.
    • Talking about closing the Plains or too few beds at FH Wigmore Hospital  is not helpful. It is too late for that planning to change but not too late to look at solutions with the beds that are there.
    • The nursing home that you don’t prefer is tough, but a hospital where someone is kept in bed, not dressed and not socializing in a dining room is the worst place for our elderly patients.  Infections, pneumonia, incontinence and confusion are side effects of this. Ideally everyone should live where they want, but life today is less than ideal for our elderly.

I had a lot to say – and said a lot.  I hope this helps your navigation through ” the system” and helps you understand.

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone fails to be kind, everyone says the wrong things. Only you can decide whether it needs forgiveness or fixing.

Posted in Canadian Health Care, Health crisis, lean health care, Living life, musing, registered nurse retired, Saskatchewan health, Women,s issues | 4 Comments

Gentle not Nasty -A rebuttal to Ashley

gentle-changeWomen joined all over the world to protest in peaceful marches to draw attention to women’s issues – the march prompted by President Trump’s sexist, demeaning comments about women and potential policy changes.  In most countries women’s issues need to be addressed.  It is in the way we draw attention to these issues that makes  or breaks our cause

From Madonna’s outrage to Ashley Judd’s recitation of “I am a nasty women” by  Nina Donovan, ( a 19-year-old in Middle, Tennessee)  to a song organized as a pop up a Capella beauty by singer Milck,  we protested.  Carrying peaceful placards fit for a “general audience” to wild and outrageous profane signs, wearing  pink “baby cat” hats to  hajibs, women around the world marched.

Today’s my blog post is a milder gentler protest using some of the words from Nina Donovan’s prose, but written in a way I can relate to.  Nina’s was written after Trump called  Hillary Clinton a nasty woman. I will link the words and video from the march as a reference, but gentle women, you may not want to even look at it.

I am a gentle woman. I’ve learned the hard way not to judge people just on their looks.  I am a gentle  woman who can express my views without vulgar, demeaning terms, a gentle woman who cringes at words used by women (and men) that make vulgar our body parts and acts of love.

That does not make me complacent regarding real concerns regarding the people chosen to lead our countries. I am concerned about elections that are real and fair. I yearn for campaigns filled with issues not criticism, kindness not hate.  I know that combatting nasty words with more, doesn’t solve our problems. I believe in absolute truth  – absolute values that hold true through generations.

Being a gentle woman doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry.   I am angry at any leader who uses hate speech and intimidation in his election addresses.   I am angry when racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, misogyny, ignorance and white supremacy is allowed and championed in a day where it should never be.  Yeah, I’m a gentle woman — but that doesn’t make me complacent.

I am glad my choices in the election booth didn’t have to compromise my beliefs – making voting for honesty mean my vote didn’t count. I honour the battles our grandmothers fought to allow  me to vote. I believe in wage equality and see many examples of it, yet know others make less money just because they are women.  I believe that paid maternity leave for women allows an important bond that is priceless. I am angry when women feel that to go upward in a career, the trail must be be paved with sexual favours, and that they don’t feel that they can stand against this and still be successful. I am angry at Jian, Bill, Bill, Donald and countless other men who see their popularity as privilege over the bodies of a trail of women and girls. I am angry that many women (and young girls) can tell a story of coercion, assault, rape, date rape, or of not feeling worthy of saying no.  I am angry that Canada has a path of missing and dead First Nations women and didn’t priorize an investigation into it.  I am angry that courts often blame the women and look past a crime to the woman’s past sexual history.  I am angry that even today in both our affluent countries women are sold in the slave trade.   This is not a myth. This is not what Canadian (Nellie, Emily, Mary Ann, Alice,) and American ( Rosa, Elizabeth, Susan B , Eleanor, Condoleeza, Michelle) women fought for. This is inequality. This IS nasty.

I am a gentle woman, a woman who knows sorrow and anger. I buried three babies born live-who were not in the womb enough weeks to be viable. I am angry that babies this size legally can be aborted in our country because we “own” the right to our bodies.  This right is balanced by the fact that most Physicians will not do this unless absolutely necessary so very few late term abortions are ever done.   I am angry that fetal rights are forgotten in this era of “my body has rights.” Yet I know of late term terminations taking place to abort a baby with a genetic condition that has no chance to live. I cannot imagine that decision or that lack of choice.   I cannot be in favour of banning  abortions either for these reasons, and what I saw as a new nurse in that era of backroom butchering.   I have seen women who felt they had no choice but to abort.   Personally, my experience makes me conflicted.    I am an adoptive mother.  I have held a 23 week baby in my arms.  I felt the bond of a 10 week fetus four times.  This  “women’s right to choose” movements forgets that pregnancy ended early for any reason leaves a huge loss whether that child was planned or not.  Women remain wounded.

Gentle women can make a difference. Perhaps by marching in a protest march with signs that respect and honour their cause. Perhaps by fighting with gentle words rather than vulgar ones. Perhaps by having a home where girl’s issues, girl’s opinions, and girl’s privacy are  honoured. A home where girls and boys are respected equally and taught to honour others.   Perhaps by living values and saying words so that they will feel no shame by when their children or grandchildren repeat them. Or perhaps by every day having such clean language that people gasp if they slip up and exclaim words they so commonly hear outside their home. Perhaps by prose or songs or speeches and even Facebook memes that honour rather than degrade while still calling for equality and truth. We need to honour and value people of all gender, race, colour, economic standing and beliefs. And teach our children and grandchildren the same.

So women – let’s yell, let’s march, let’s hug, let’s cry. Let’s learn and study, and pray and listen. Let’s say NO to inequality, racism, bias. Let’s find out where the concerns are in our own sphere of influence, and each do one small thing to make a difference. Let’s throw out vulgar terms for body parts and acts of love, in doing so recognizing our diversity and beauty created by God.  Let’s say pardon me  or gasp instead of ignoring it when language or jokes offend us. Let’s change women’s words back to those that honour, not degrade. Let our feminism be one of beauty, strength, companionship and love.

We CAN Be those that make Canada and America great.


Posted in Faith, grief, healthy living, Living life, Women,s issues | 12 Comments