Isolation Journal Day 48 Anatomy of home

Your prompt for today: 
Write about a time when you felt a shift in your relationship to your home. This could be your present home, your childhood home, or a temporary shelter. Think not only about the physical structure but the people there with you, or those who are not. Was there an event that led to this shift, like a major life change or extended time away? How do you feel about home now? Are there any revisions you’d like to make to how you define home?


Three sisters in front of 966 Henry. Me on the far right.

I was nine when I moved into the house I remember most as home. It was a four-story split-level home on the corner of 10th and Henry. My dad had it constructed so it was just right for our family of five.

I have two  wonderful sisters, and I am in the middle – 2.5 years between each of us. We each had our own bedroom in the lower level. For some reason, my sisters sometimes said favoritism, I had the largest room. Each room was a different colour, with wallpaper that we each picked out. Mine was green – of course. Having the biggest bed meant giving up my room for their sleepovers. I didn’t mind.

Many of our family times took place around the kitchen table.  I can just imagine some of the planning that went into that kitchen. The stove was a double wall oven and had a retractable element shelf.  I am not sure what bargaining went on between my parents, but the appliances all went to an autobody shop and came out my mother’s favourite colour – turquoise. We were probably the only family we knew that had a dishwasher.

But it was the 4th level that we spent much of our time. It was a long bowling alley shaped room with older furniture and a fireplace. This is where we would find our mother when we came home from school. At her sewing machine, a trusty Elna, sewing all of our clothes, often without a pattern and from looking at a style in Seventeen Magazine. It was here that we brought all our friends, and sometimes even our boyfriends.  It was our space when it wasn’t Mom’s sewing room.  It was here that we found gifts under the tree Christmas morning, where Dad cooked steaks on the fireplace grate, and it was here where a bunch of giggly girls had sleepovers.

Around the corner from the rumpus room you would find a large laundry /ironing room. Even more time was spent there, not because we liked doing laundry, but that is where the downstairs phone was. We would wait our turn to call our friends, and talk for hours, sitting on the floor by the ironing board.  We would hear a knock on the door, and one of us would be begging time from the others.

But it was also in this house that our world changed. It started out with an excision of a mole on our mom’s forehead, and soon became a “radical neck dissection” and radiation. In the winter of 1965-6 she was in hospital and came back with a four-pronged cane and the inability to use one side of her body.  . A housekeeper arrived and looked after her while we were in school, preparing wonderful home cooked meals and looking after her with all the care and attention she deserved.  It was here that I learned a little about my future career in nursing, helping her eat her dinner, or climb up the stairs or even sometimes to the toilet.

It was in this house, that some words were never spoken.  Dying, terminal, Cancer.  I remember once that my dad telling that she was not coming home from the hospital, but it was later when I actually did a shift with her in the hospital by myself, that I learned what that meant.

It was in this house that we learned to live without her.  My oldest sister went to college. There were just the three of us left at that large kitchen table.   I learned to cook the meals and do the wash, and even to iron my dads white cotton shirts.  I did that until someone at the office asked who was doing his shirts and chastised my dad into using a laundry service.

Oddly, it was in the same house where she had been such a central figure, that we couldn’t say her name, or talk about her. It was also in that kitchen my dad told me he had been dating and I found out that we would have a new stepmother only eight months after Mom’s death. “Could I cook her a nice meal? “

Somehow, because it was supposed to, and I knew no other way, my life went on. High School football games, dances, dating and lots of friends.  Somehow, because I was supposed to, I stayed strong.  Somehow having a stepmother who was diametrically the opposite of our mom, became my accepted norm.

Dad and my stepmother sold the house in 1971.  The doodling and the friends’ phone numbers on the wall beside the phone stayed with the house.  I pretended I didn’t miss it.

But as I walked through another grief fourteen years later, I missed my home, my mom and my anticipated life.  I grieved. I healed.




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Isolation Journal Day 47 A Town

Your prompt for today:
Write an open letter to the city you love, or the area code you rep. It could be the one you grew up in or the one that feels the most like home. Start with: “Dear [name of place], this is a love letter.”


Stock photo of modern St Anthony.  I will replace later with one from my files

It is not my hometown, or even a place that I lived for long, but it takes special mention in my life, as it helped me grow, learn to love, and make fun out of the simple things.

It was my first year after nursing training. The story of how I decided to take this next big step is hidden in my blog here.  My first nursing job was a staff nurse position in St. Anthony, Newfoundland. For those that don’t know Newfoundland, it is Canada’s treasure, with people who welcomed airplanes after 911, the show Come From Away and one of the prettiest places in our land. After a fairly eventful trip across Canada to reach this northern community (located on the very tip of Newfoundland), we found this town to be exactly what we expected from pamphlets and imagination.

This town taught me to immerse in a culture, and to learn to enjoy life where I was.  I remember driving in for the first time. We had just driven 256 miles on a gravel road in my 1971 Toyota Corolla with the car top carrier with a sign saying Newfoundland or Bust.  I had not driven a lot of gravel roads and had certainly never seen a sign that said “Honk and proceed” on a one-way bridge. But we saw several of them. It may have been only 300 miles, but it took us 8 hrs. We went past several fishing villages with crisp white houses all facing the cove. We saw our new province in its beauty and simplicity.

We arrived and saw the little town that we would call home for the first year.  How do you describe a town that was so much a fishing village, but also the hub of a large International Medical Mission?  It was beautiful, plain, quaint and a mixture of many nationalities all in a little Newfoundland town.

We (my classmate and I) were originally housed in two small rooms sharing a kitchen with two spinster retired nurses. Housing was included with the job. That was hard, we had a small room with two beds and a bathroom and sitting in the shared living room and cooking in a shared kitchen was problematic. They were teetotaler so, no wine or beer except that cooling in the back of our toilet. We asked for a transfer, causing a bit of concern from our roommates and the mission.

About six weeks in we were moved to Stanton House, an old 1 ½ story house shared with four  other women. They made a closet into a bedroom for my friend, and my room was in a dormer. Mine was twice the size of hers.  But we loved our little private spaces and loved cooking with our new roommates. They were from England, Scotland, and from other Canadian provinces. We made bread, fished for smelt, found a source for shrimp, and attempted all the local dishes.  There was never a dull moment in Stanton House, from the time our cat broke her leg and was x-rayed at the hospital x-ray and treated by the orthopedic surgeon, to the calls to go with patients to Labrador in a helicopter or ski plane.

We would soon learn the history. Being a MISSION  town, they had banned alcohol within 12 miles of the town, so the  bar was exactly 13 miles out.  A few years before our arrival , they did change that rule, so a pub in town was opened. We were not “allowed” alcoholic beverages in our houses, a rule that was not observed and parties by all except the Director of the Hospital had free flowing drinks.

We even found a recipe (handwritten by a local guy) for Abe’s Beer, and proceeded to make beer in our basement. We had a helping hand from a couple of young volunteers, and we bottled 4 dozen beer. We were so proud. We felt we were accomplished brewers until one day we heard several loud pops. Our beer had all exploded and the basement now smelled like a brewery. The local maintenance man was sworn to secrecy and we never attempted beer again.

Entertainment was scarce. There was a skating rink in winter and a swimming pool in summer. There were the two pubs that offered dancing every weekend. The Loon, 13 miles out, was the best, but if we had to work the next day, we headed to Bills, the next best. Now sometimes I would be in the minority, being the only one working at 6 am and there were many a day shifts that I barely hit the pillow and the alarm rang.  We made our own entertainment – sliding down the hills on crazy carpets, picnics on the rocks and even picnics on what is now an International Heritage sight – the Viking settlement at “L’Anse au Meadows.” But we were content and loved our simpler lifestyle.

Shopping was scarcer. The Grenfell Mission supplied our groceries, ordered from a long paper list something like online grocery shopping today.  One corner store had all the necessities but not some necessities young women in the early 70’s wanted. For some things, like Tampax, clothing and make up, the trusty Sears Catalog had to do. But we wanted for little and were able to eat and find what truly mattered.

Gord and I would phone each other, rationing out long distance time and phone bills were a major expense. We wrote letters every week. I depended on mail service to keep in contact with my parents and other family members. Our family were the staff we worked with and lived with.

I chose to write about St Anthony because it was a year of differences.  New friends from all over the world, a different culture, a lack of eligible men, and yet some of the most fun times ever.

When writing about it, I almost think that there is now some parallel to our Isolation Journey. Again, we are unable to find some simple grocery or personal items, we make do with some of the simple things in life to entertain us and we find solace in friendships. We bake bread, make complicated menus.  It sounds like our Covid life just a bit. Perhaps a return to a simpler life is what we will gain from this, as I did in my year when I came from “away”.

I hope it will give me as many memories.




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Isolation Journal Day 46 Stranger on a Train

Your prompt for today: 
Find a picture of a stranger (it could be one you took, found on Instagram, in a magazine, or even an extra in the background of a movie) and write their story. Start at the beginning of their day: What do they see when they first wake up? What do they smell? What do they have on their schedule? Then begin to answer the bigger questions that come up as they go about their day: Are they restless? Lonely? Afraid? Excited? Joyful? Start to tell the story of a life.

italian nurse

This is a picture of an Italian Nurse.  My blog is more about American/Canadian Nurse 

Her voice  

Everyone saw my face all over the world on the news. The marks show from a day with a mask on. I look tired, sad, exhausted.  I am.

I started my shift today in anticipation and dread. I drive to the hospital and don’t know what will greet us. I know, however, that it would take a miracle to be better than yesterday. It is going to be weeks before the Covid19 cases decrease

I drive into the parking lot and into the dressing room. I find my mask – the one I used a few days ago. Not long ago it was unheard of to re-use masks but now it is the normal.  Rarely have I had to wear a mask that clung so tight to my face that by the end of the day, my face was marked. But that is a daily event now. Someone helps me get all my gear on. I need to be assisted and watched, for an error here could be fatal.

I walk into the temporary Intensive Care Unit  ( once an outpatient unit ) and hear the bells ringing, hear the swoosh up and down of several ventilators, hear the call of Code Blue, and the swish of paper gowns rushing down the hall. The day has begun but I am already in the middle of it.  I used to think some family members were a pain in the “you know what” and that we could get through the day faster if they didn’t need so much reassurance and information. Now I long for the sight of a family member, to be with the patient who will certainly die tonight. I Facetime a relative – they tell their loved one how much they love him. They say goodbye – over the phone.  I want to cry, but there is another crisis I am called for.

This goes on for 12 hours. Three patients died on my shift.  Two were older, in their late 60’s, but one was in her early 40’s.  They need to come earlier, but this virus takes them unaware. We need to figure this out, but when professionals are so overworked, they have little time to reflect and see the patterns.

When my shift is done, I try to go home, but I know my colleague is having a rough time, so I stay a while longer.  I take of all my protective gear, in the right order, following the guide.  I don’t want to take it off wrong and infect myself. I drive home. I undress in the garage, say hello to my husband from the door and head downstairs. I just cannot bring this virus home to him or my kids, so we have decided I should live in the basement right now. He phones me, on Facetime and we say goodnight.  I weep now, glad that it is not goodbye for me over Facetime, but goodnight.  I am one of the lucky ones.


Terry’s voice: I didn’t have to come out of retirement to work but I think I would have.  I have skills that can be used. We haven’t had enough cases, and soon I will have 5 years out of nursing and no longer be eligible to be registered.

I have a small inkling of what a busy day in an ICU was. I worked and came home exhausted. I think my worst day I lost two people. Or ran to a code blue for a young person. I have never worn an N95 mask or a gas mask for an entire shift, but I have worn PPE and surgical masks all day. I have had days without breaks.  But I know absolutely NOTHING about what I wrote above.  I am taking it from their stories, and stretching  it out by my knowledge.  I weep too some days hearing the stories. Some places are no longer totally overrun, but I fear that others have just begun.

I am a retired nurse, she is a nurse during Covid19. There is a world of difference. Most days I am glad of that.  Some days I just wish I could help.

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Isolation Journal Day 45 Draw eyes shut .

Your prompt for today:
Close your eyes and draw a giraffe. Your drawing can be of the giraffe’s bust or its full body. It can be in a setting or alone on the page. If you’re feeling bold, you can attempt a tower of giraffes.

When you finish, open your eyes and write about your giraffe. What questions and ideas came up? How does your drawing compare to the image you had in your head? What did this exercise reveal—maybe something about your creative practice? Or something about control—and what it’s like to cede it? About trust?giraffe

I need to get my car packed for a trip to the cabin for the weekend knew if I was going to do this prompt, it would have to be now. ( or never ) and to be honest, never sounded better. Well she looks like she’s ready to have another giraffe so perhaps a tower of giraffes.

I don’t draw well with eyes open. But I love games. My family and I used to play Pictionary with the idea – everyone laughs, nobody can draw. Now we play Drawful on ” Jackbox tv ” and it has been a wonderful, full out laugh type of activity for our isolation days. Nobody draws well with a finger and a phone or iPad, but some of my family actually do well. In that game, it doesn’t matter because its a bit like Balderdash, where the most clever answer seems to win.

I have ‘ double bubbled ” with my youngest son and his family and I think the girls ( 10-5 ) would love to draw a giraffe with their eyes closed. ( One might cry but maybe she will learn that nobody does it well. ) I might even pull up the Intstagram page for her.

I think drawing exposes vulnerability – and very young in life we learn to be critical of our efforts. I am glad I have learned to laugh at myself through games with art.

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Isolation Journals Day 44 My name


Me 1995 looks like Covid Hair  The Netherlands.

Your prompt for today: 
Write an ode to your name. Reflect on how it sounds and makes you feel. What it means, where it came from and if there’s a story behind how you got it. How has it informed who you’ve become?

I wanted my parents to give me a “proper name” in grade 3. I was determined  to change the spelling of my name in grade 8. Terri would be less confusing. I accepted my name it in my twenties. I laugh, and  embrace it  in my later years.

YES, my name is Terry, not Theresa or Teresa and certainly not Terrence!

The days when you preface your name as Mrs. in brackets are gone.  I laughed when my son was explaining how people are putting their preferred pronouns on their mail signature, and think that doing that all my life would have helped.  Preferred pronoun “she.”

“Terry is not a proper Christian name” my Aunt to my mom.

“Your registration paper is not correct. Put in your proper name” said the teacher. “Like Theresa or Teresa – that is a proper name – I will call your mom”.

“What do you mean you are in the wrong cabin at camp. We don’t allow cabin changes” “But I am a girl, Sir, and all the campers in that area are boys”.

“Did you get your advertisement package in the mail, Terry?” my friends would ask.  “Mine contained tampax and pads, and makeup and a pretty change purse.”  Yes, I got it, I would say quietly – hiding the razor, shaving cream, invitation to join the army.  I wept.

“Send a letter to the school in Ireland and each student will receive some pen pals. Each letter began  “Dear Terry, I am a 13-year-old boy in Dingle Ireland. I am pleased to be your penal.  Terry is a nice Irish name. Is Diane and Irish name too” 

Dear Sir:

Dear Mr. Jago;

Oh, I you are a woman, sorry I was expecting a man.

It has been my life’s’ tale, people expecting me to be a boy, or a man, or “KNOWING” that Terry is short for something.  It has generated some funny stories but, to be honest,  some of those stories hurt. They added to my already shy personality.  My dad says he hated it when people immediately shortened a name into a nickname without asking. He said he named all of us with names that wouldn’t be shortened. Begging a black and white Dad like mine for a new spelling fell on deaf ears.

Probably the funniest story that I tell about misconceptions on my name, was when I was a chaperone/nurse with the Moose Jaw Children’s choir  to the Netherlands. It was 1995.  The chaperones were being billeted together in two’s and the children had their own billets with choir members their own age.

We arrived in Utrecht and were greeted by our billeting family. I had chosen to be a roommate with my friend Donna, who went by her maiden name. Her children went by her husband’s name, and mine went by my last name (which is also my husband’s last name)

There was a bit of a hesitancy when we met our billets, which we put down to the fact that they arrived with the smallest car in the world, and we arrived with the biggest luggage.  Several attempts to pack the car, and my suitcase had to be sent with another car  We introduced ourselves as Donna and Terry. A funny look came over the man’s face, as he shook our hands.  I felt something was wrong, but I was nervous, so I assumed he was a bit too. We arrived at their house, there was mention that our room was upstairs, but we would “sort that out later”. We met his wife and four children and had a lovely supper, where we talked about our families and our children. Donna and I each had two children in the choir.  We had a lovely meal. The awkwardness continued, and perhaps got worse.

Then the wife said that perhaps we would like to unpack and see our room.  Up three winding set of stairs we went, now learning why the large suitcases were not the best choice when visiting Holland’s homes.  We walked into the room and there was a lovely queen European bed with the traditional duvet. It was at this point when the couple started talking to each other in Dutch, pointing to each other. If I could figure out what they were saying it seemed to be ‘’No you do it”. So, after a couple of minutes, the gentleman said, very kindly, “We made an assumption that you were a couple, but we can find a cot for one of you. We can call a friend.”

They had placed us together, assuming that I, Terry was the man, with the Jago kids and since there were no kids with Donna’s last name, that she was my wife.  When they had seen I was a woman, they didn’t know what they were dealing with.  Was this two friends or a same sex couple ?

But as the conversations continued over supper, they realized that we were friends from two separate families and offering us one bed was a big faux pas.  They kept on, finally deciding to let us see the accommodations and see what solutions they could find.  Houses and guest beds being small in the Netherlands, putting a cot up would have been a logistical nightmare.

Donna and I were pretty easy-going people.  “One bed will be fine” was Donna’s answer. “I guess we will find out who snores”. The awkwardness was broken.

From then on, our relationship with that couple blossomed. We stayed there 2 days and felt a bond, probably strengthened by a funny story. They asked us many questions about Canada that sometimes expressed an intimacy of a longer friendship. The ice had been broken.

Yes, you are correct.   None of my children have unisex names.




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Isolation Day 42 Creative Injury

Your prompt for today: 
Close your eyes and imagine the last time you tried to create. Who appeared? What did you hear? Maybe it was a critical parent, a competitive classmate, a teacher’s thoughtless remark, or a line from a rejection letter. Maybe it was a voice of unknown origin that you hear on loop: it’s too late, you’re not good enough, you’ll never get there. Write an eviction notice to whomever or whatever hinders your creative joy. Name them. Call them on their bull. Firmly usher them out the door. Once they’re gone, if you notice a difference in the space, write about the change.

By the time I graduated high school, the sixties were well underway and women’s liberation just beginning. But still the numbers of women in traditionally men’s professional education (doctors, engineers, architect etc.) were small.

I am unequally gifted in the arts. I can’t draw, paint, sing or dance to save my life. My piano teacher told my dad to let me quit lessons.

My elementary teachers praised my writing skills, but by the time I got into high school, it seemed apparent that my marks in the mathematic classes outweighed my marks in the literal arts. It gave me unexpressed feedback that I was more mathematically inclined than artistically inclined. In my grade 12 year “departmental” or province wide exams were mandatory. I had been exempting from every final exam for my previous high school years. So, I wrote exams that were marked at the Provincial level. My English teacher sent my departmental back for a re-mark, moving my mark from a 75 to 85. He knew about bias in marking. It is kind of like all the arts – some will like how you create, and others will not. This teacher gave me the first positive feedback about my writing skills since elementary school.

In 1980/81, in emotional times, I started writing some free verse to express my feelings, My journaling started again. I started to realize that I could express in these poems what others were feeling. Three of my poems were published in an anthology for bereaved parents, and in newsletters around the world (we called it “lovingly lifted” meaning published without permission). This little dream of writing and being published began again. I started to tell a few select people of this dream.

I soon became known for the person who could write a poem for every farewell, special birthday, retirement etc. People liked my poems but artisctically, they were some of those ” bad poems”

In 1998 I submitted an article to Canadian Living magazine for their O Canada segment. I thought it was good. It was rejected. My inner critic told me I was not good enough. It didn’t upset me, but I stopped writing. It was a busy time in my life.

I started blogging in 2012. My children were grown and independent and I started the blog because I had read that it would be good for a home business I was trying out. Soon the blog became more personal – expressing my thoughts and feelings I received quite a bit of positive feedback

Enter my inner critic. I thought it was too easy. How could something that just flowed out of my mind onto the page be good? From then it was the voices in my head, my inner critic, that held me back. She tells me lots of things “you are too old, the process is too hard, you don’t know what to do, how to start.”

Hence, the only person who needs to be put to silence is my own inner critic, for she will raise her ugly head as I go forward. In order to do that, I must embrace my inner coach. She is much more kind. She listens to positive feedback and encourages me in many ways.

So, it was the inner coach that told me just to hit post on the Isolation Journal Facebook page April 1. It was the inner coach that allowed me to spend a few dollars on the Pandemic University and start seeing my interest in learning about form and tension and all sorts of things that I had no idea of. Not a coincidence.

This Covid virus might just have shut that inner critic up for a while.

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Isolation Day 43 One syllable

Your prompt for today:
Write at least one full page of prose or a poem. It can be a made-up tale, a scene, a thing you’ve just done or seen. It can be a dream. But the one thing you can’t do is use a word that’s more than one syllable. 
Huh? Wait? What! No way! Come on, it’s fun. Trust me, it is. And, sure, it is tough. At least when you start.  But your voice will jazz in new ways. The beats of the words will pop in new ways. You will have to walk this way and that and bend and stretch to find your way to say the thing you need to say. Which means you will write in new ways.  Which is cool. It will not sound as odd as it seems.  (Just look… the one word in this whole long prompt that is not one syllable… is the word “syllable.”)

This was a difficult exercise. I felt like a grade 1 writer. What I expressed was not a new sadness, nor something profound as much as a feeling from the news that made me think that telling a person in my household how I feel is something that I really miss.

I was composing something for International Nurses Week when this news hit. It was derailed.


I feel sad today. My house is not loud. I want to hear his voice. I want the sound on. I want him in his bed. I want to see him. I want to talk to him. I could tell him all things. It is lake time. How he loved that place!

But in ways I don’t want him here. It would be hard to keep him safe from this germ. He would have to go to that place three times a week. He would be at risk. I know it is best. He was not the same. He would not want to be here.

But I miss his smile. I miss him. Some days are like this.

I think I am sad too, as a nurse in our land died of the germ that plagues us all. He was at work in a place east of me so I don’t know him, but it is still very sad. He worked in a long term care home in a city. Long term care homes are hard hit in most lands, and ours is the same.

In our land up north, we have a some parts hit hard with the germ, and others will bend the curve. This was our first nurse to die. What seems hard to know is that he died in his home when he had to be there to keep friends safe. Did he know he was so sick? Was there no friend to help? I want to know

We once said Take Care. Now we say Stay Safe. Will we go back to Take Care? Or will we still think safe.

Stay safe my health care friends, my kin and my friends not met.

We grieve.


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