The Unspeakable

I have the luxury of being semi-retired from my teaching career and so I have the luxury of designing my schedule so that I can take care of myself and also take care of others.  It is a good feeling.

This past week has been given to my before-sixty colon screening.  I wondered about writing a blog post about the process because I think that generally it’s viewed as a private subject…or that is the stigma of the past, at least.  Let it be known, I’m going to encourage the more healthy approach…this is a preventative step that all of us can take to better health and personal safety, so it needs to be demystified (to a point).  While I am tempted to post the three photographs that were snapped of the inside of my colon, I promised my father that I wouldn’t.

First, let it be known that the Forzani and Macphail Colon Cancer Screening Centre is an amazing facility and team under the umbrella of Alberta Health Services.  After receiving the necessary paperwork from your family doctor, off you go for a two hour information session about the process and the benefits of having a colonoscopy.  I had already completed a FIT test and with 75% accuracy, it is less invasive than the colonoscopy, but a bit messy, if you get my meaning.  (sidenote: for your collection, the saran wrap-over-the-toilet-approach can be unsuccessful…just saying).  I had passed that test with flying colours, but still wanted the 98% assurance of the colon screening.

The most inspiring event along the way was sitting in the lecture theater next to a similar aged woman.  She had sat next to her mother in hospital when she was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. She watched her own mother endure a huge fight for the last two years of her life.  This gracious daughter was so matter-of-fact about her approach to screening and yet held in her heart such an enduring story, that I could not help but feel motivated.

Everything I had heard from others was true regarding the prep being more unpleasant than the test itself.  I chugged my four liters of CoLyte (an intense laxative) as specified.  What is funny about this is that I spoke to the husband of one of my teacher-friends over the phone about all of this to minimize the anticipation factor.  He was so bang-on about his description of the experience that absolutely nothing was surprising. I really appreciated that.  Basically, you learn your own way of managing the taste, the amount and the experience.  After the fourth eight ounce glass I DID have a bit of anxiety, but I called up Health Link and they calmed my jets.

What worked for me….thinking about this being a medically amazing adventure…focusing on the benefits to my health…watching the birds nesting in the neighbour’s vent across from my kitchen window (visualizing a focal point)…breathing.  After each eight ounce glass, I swished my mouth with mouth wash followed by a swish of nice cold water.  The solution can leave a slightly metallic flavour in your mouth otherwise and create a bit of a fuzzy feeling on the tongue.  I kept myself well-hydrated on power drinks and the process was managed swimmingly. (You guys were all eating pancakes, bacon and sausage for Shrove Tuesday…my Lenten fast not only started early, but was taken to the next level!)

Very specific directions are given and excellent scheduling times, so that nothing in the process is surprising.  My daughter was generous and made herself available for the entire afternoon of the procedure.  I think it is such an important thing to be supported when experiencing a new event such as this, so hurrah for the care givers out there!

The day of the procedure, (Ash Wednesday) I was welcomed by a warm and friendly care nurse, Janet.  If it’s possible to make an unpleasant experience, lovely, this lady made my day.  She placed, on my tray, a juice box and some shortbread cookies as motivators to get all of this over with.  After a two day fast, these were exciting to see.  I informed her that “Yes, I WANT TO BE SEDATED…if not knocked out!”  Apparently some patients do this without sedation.  Wowsah!   When you are sedated, you DO have some recollection of pain, but it is muddled and after two twinges of this, I seemed to go off to sleep.  Air is injected (for lack of the proper word) into the colon so that the wall of the colon can properly be explored for the sign of any polyps (most times benign, but sometimes ugly).

I came out of la la land in a sort of euphoria.  Janet’s voice spoke to me about my cookies.  She had told me before hand that she would be letting me sleep for fifteen minutes and then would wake me for snack…so there were no surprises.  Time flew by. After the snack, a complete report (along with photos) is given and it turned out that 1. I had done an excellent prep and 2. my colon is in super condition.  I was told that my next screening could be done ten years from now.  I’m so grateful for this result.  I felt absolutely normal apart from some gas pains in my tummy.  At home, I was stooped over for a while as these pains increased in intensity, but once things started moving (inject laugh here), it was a breeze. (if you get my meaning).

I guess if I could give my readers any advice, it would be, if possible, book off of work on the day preceding the test (a fast day) and the day following…just be good to yourself and turn on your favourite Netflix binge.

The day after my test, yesterday, I began my spring litter clean up at Frank’s Flats.  The recent warm weather 8 degrees allowed for some serious picking to begin.  My daily litter pick always begins as a positive aspect of my Lenten journey.  I just wish that citizens would take better care of our landscape.  Some aspects of life seem to be unspeakable.  We are faced, daily, with challenges.  I hope that my post will remove some of the fear of the Colon Screening process.  I am grateful for the excellent program that is available to us in Calgary.

Second to that, I wish to challenge each of you to find a wee piece of land; a sidewalk that you travel each day, one edge of a park where you take your children to play…a place that you can regularly pick throughout the spring and summer.  If you are disgusted by something, then be proactive and take care of it.  Don’t grumble…just be the change you want to see.

February 19, 2015 Frank's Flats

February 19, 2015 Frank’s Flats


Losing Peanut

My readers knew that my beautiful tabby, Peanut Meister, was sick.  I wrote a cat story as I struggled with his health, visits to Dr. Marty and possible outcomes.  In the end, Peanut became very sick here at home (I will spare my readers the details) and after observing a list of observable symptoms, I knew that Peanut was struggling.  Thirty six hours later and before our Thanksgiving weekend, I made the difficult decision to ‘send him to heaven’, as Dr. Marty puts it.  As you likely would guess from my writing and approach to nature and life, I am not in support of the death penalty, abortion or euthanasia…personal views of mine alone.  So, when it comes to the decision to have a beloved pet ‘put down’, the decision comes with huge struggle and laboured consideration.  It’s a time when it would be great to have a partner to support or argue my decision(s).  But, more and more, I realize that decisions have to be my own and I have to make them with my own sense of right or wrong.

Where Peanut was concerned, my daughter informed me that we could have our vet make a house call.  This was something I did not know and in a very short time, on that horrible Friday, Dr. Jennifer Hewitt and her beautiful assistant, came to our home.  I am grateful for the respect and compassion that were shown to our family on that day.  And while it was another very sad time in my life, I felt cared for and felt that Peanut was genuinely cared for in his final hour.  Thanks also, to Dr. Martin Lovo, who always cares for my pets with a big heart and to Amanda who is the very best on the front lines.

We are all faced with difficult decisions, every day.  I’ve just shared one of mine.  Peanut, along with Laurie-dog, Edgar and Piper, before him, will remain in my heart and in the heart of my family forever.  As one of our pet-family, he brought 15 years of joy and fun into our lives.  Thank you to McKenzie Towne Animal Clinic, under the Horizon Veterinary Group.

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A Cat Story

This week was a tough one, for a whole lot of reasons…but this is one that I can write about.  We adopted Peanut from the Calgary Humane Society when he had been there for weeks and was scheduled to be put down, along with his sister who was sleeping in a corner of their shared cage.  Ironically, I was drawn to an old tabby (looked much as Peanut looks now) who was curled up in his small kennel space, quite peaceful…a tabby that had found his way into this situation when his forever-mother had passed away.

My daughter had other ideas. That day we met Peanut, a seven week old tabby who was literally climbing the walls of his cage and crying out to my daughter, Cayley…”PICK ME! PICK ME!”  I walked Cayley over to the older boy and said, “Look!  We need to save this beautiful boy!”  Her head was cranked over her shoulder and obviously making eye contact with this crying baby, literally dangling from the cage by his claws.  He had chosen her.

There was no way that I was leaving the building, without him.  That’s what happens when you visit a place that harbours lost and forgotten pets; your heart strings require a decision of you.  And so, you leave with your arms filled with love, a forever-love.

We picked him.

Peanut Blog 1That was in July of 1999.  As I look at his adoption contract, I notice that we listed as his date of birth, May 8, 1999, my birthday.  He was scheduled to be euthanized, along with his sister, 7 days from his adoption date.  Our Peanut is now 15 years old and at times, experiencing survivor’s guilt, as are we.  Often we have been challenged about leaving his sister back at the Calgary Humane Society on that day, so long ago.

Peanut has been with us through so many of our personal struggles, heart aches and joys.  He is family.  Our dear border collie, Laurie-dog, took him under his wing and Peanut learned to groom his dog-friend regularly and rarely did they sleep alone.

Peanut Blog 2As a kitten and young cat, he spent much of his recreational time finding and then hiding in plastic bags and pop boxes.  Even when his body had outgrown his mind, he nested in the funniest places.  Peanut has given us much to laugh about when we take ourselves too seriously and he is the go-to guy to pick up and curl into hurting arms when sobbing begins over illness, loss or hopelessness.

Peanut ChristmasA part of every celebration, Peanut has never been any sort of problem or demanded anything from us.  He is flopped on his basket chair where he can watch the action at the bird feeder or curled on his red couch while family is hanging about.  When his dearest friend Laurie-dog passed, he lost his greatest companion, but at the arrival of Max Man, he quickly re-assigned his loyalty to this crazy boy, that, in no way, demonstrated the same calm as Laurie did.

I wrapped Peanut in a bath towel and deposited him in a Soby’s re-usable bag a couple of weeks ago and took him over to Doctor Marty on High Street in McKenzie Towne.  Dr. Marty has been taking care of our boys for years.  I had asked for a geriatric exam for Peanut because I felt, in my bones, that things just weren’t right.  For a short few days, I agonized that we were losing our Peanut Butter (immediately, right now, this moment) and could hardly breath for the remembrance of losing Piper, Edgar and Laurie-dog.

DSC_0440 DSC_0438 DSC_0436These pets become a part of us, our families and in some way, our identities.  Doctor Marty, in his compassionate and knowledgeable way, gave me confidence in his diagnosis process and in his treatment.  He also assured me that he would give me the knowledge to recognize whether or not Peanut is feeling unwell, discomfort or pain.  In the end, Peanut has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (on the day of his initial exam his heart beat was sitting at 210).  With follow up care, I will have to diligently monitor for the onset of kidney failure.  Presently, my sweet man is being treated with medication every twelve hours and I am hopeful that this will give us more quality time.  Thank you, Marty, Jennifer and Amanda.

So, why am I writing?  Morning coffee always tastes better with writing.  Also, I wanted to write my love and gratitude…for what it means to be a pet owner.  Owning an animal that requires our care and concern, takes us out of our selfish place, at a very personal level.  There are lessons to be learned in caring for a pet that we can apply to our larger lives.  We must be vigilant in our concern for how animals are treated because it is a reflection of how we treat one another.

I suggest, where it is in your means, that you support agencies that do good for abandoned and mistreated animals.

Peanut has given our family a life time of shared experience.  I am grateful that we chose him and I hope to enjoy the rest of his time with us.



Wreck City: Lane Shordee

One of my favourite spaces in Wreck City is the Greenhouse project.  I want the greenhouse to stay.  Could it be our collective Walden?  When people entered the space, they became more quiet.  Surrounded by Christmas trees, once cut, now planted back into soil…filling the air with the strong smells of life and GREEN, one discovers the workshop space, the notations, quotes and archives of a magical and positive process.

Please explore the photographs and the in depth explanation of this process HERE!  I appreciate that Lane shared this narrative…so important, I think, to the life of the work. ”

“After negotiating the use of the space, John Webster the original builder and owner of the greenhouse stopped by and I learned that he would grow food all year round, piping in hot water from the house boiler.  He would grow seedlings in the greenhouse and move them to a farm where they would grow to maturity and then get donated to charity.  It became my focus to pay homage to a place that provided so much growth, and once again transform it into a lively environment before it’s demolition.”

While my photographs do not capture the same clarity, they are an attempt to capture the sense of the space on opening night.  I will return this week to enjoy the quietude again.

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Lane is a scavenger artist based in Calgary, Alberta. Drawing from construction waste and items Lane is a scavenger artist based in Calgary, Alberta. Drawing from construction waste and items found by happenstance, he builds elegant sculptures and installations that both challenge and indulge our relationships with the things we throw away. Lane mines the immediate surplus of materials available, and, informed by his environment, re-frames it into cohesive structures, allowing its presumed worth to be re-evaluated. Embracing shift and impermanence, Lane abides by the notion that we live in a cultural mash-up of ideas rooted to all parts of history – as with memory, each idea becomes new with every attempt to access and re-create it.”

Lane is all of this, but he is also just a genuine person who is generous with sharing his ideals and his friendship.  He has been a partner in painting at the Gorilla House and his insights and approach are appreciated.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: March 27, 2013

I went to paint with my community last night…not for the sake of an auction at the end of the evening, but as a way of working out my frustration at being here in the west while out east my Mom is sick and my Dad is worried.  I’m grateful to my sister and my daughter who are there as supports…grateful to my uncle who drove from Montreal to love and support…but still my heart aches to be there…so I painted.

I have captured a likeness of my mother at a young age, but recognize easily the bits that need to be perfected to give a truly accurate depiction.  S’ok though, because in two hours, the place I arrived at was a peaceful place.  In attendance, and greatly appreciated, were Clayton, Margy, Wendy and Jen….and with open arms and big hugs; Bassano, Jeff, boy-Morgan, Karen, Jess, Harold, Tamara, Andy, Bruce, Jeff, girl-Morgan and of course, Rich.  Oh yes, and there was one wee girl who observed from behind for much of the evening and finally approached.  Her hair was in a thick mass of curl.  She said sweetly, “If that lady had brown eyes, we would be twins.  I think I look like her and she’s beautiful.”   Great conversations were shared while painting and I thank the people who attended for the first time and the people who stopped to give me their thoughts on my process.  It was wonderful.

So, no, I did not paint the inspirations of the night…and I began upside down and then shifted to right side up during the last half hour.

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Meeting Poet, Norman Henry Kendrick, and Dear Imogene

It was three years ago, in summer, that I stopped to chat with Imogene as she tended her most remarkable garden.  As luck would have it, I walked/walk Max regularly at the off leash park across from her home and so, with my love of gardens, I watched the progress of her amazing blooms throughout the summer and into autumn.  I became curious about many of her plants and so this one day, with a brilliant blue sky above us, I pulled my van over and got out to chat.

It was with a generous spirit that she welcomed my questions about perennials and nurturing gardens and she extended her good will to a wander into her back yard gardens and a most amazing and deepening conversation.  In my mind, she was brilliant…a truly remarkable, smart and witty woman.  Our chat in the back yard garden inspired me and I wondered, “How is this even possible that life should be this magical, one moment to the next?”

And then I met Norman.  What a blessing!  And I hope that my readers will take the time to read the publisher’s remarks and his biography here.

I write about Norman and Imogene because just two days ago, I had my annual summer chat with Imogene.  I stopped, as is usual, to remark on the state of her gardens.  I will respect her privacy and will hold myself back from publishing a photograph here, but suffice it to say that there are NO gardens in Calgary like Imogene’s and NO grass like Norman’s.

At our meeting, we had the most precious fifteen minute conversation that I have shared with someone in a very long time.  We spoke of flowers and Spain…health and sons…and then she spoke of her love for Norman.  I get chills as I type the words, ‘love for Norman’ because I remember the look in her eyes as she spoke to me.  Her thoughts are invaluable and are only paraphrased here. ‘Live for the present moment.  It is what we have.  Forgive.  Do what is healthy.  Work hard, but also let go of those things that are unnecessary.  Pay someone else to mow your yard if you are tired OR do it another day. (this, it seemed as she spoke, is a metaphor for all of our busy-ness).  Love passionately.  Grow flowers.’  I always feel to be a better person when I leave my garden-conversations with Imogene.  I will ask her one day if I can take her picture.  I can not possibly capture her face with words…she is beautiful because she lives beautifully.  Her last words to me two days ago were that she would write about our meeting in her night-time journaling…and so today, I am doing the same.

Trafford Publishing says about Norman,

“Norman Henry Kendrick was born in the village of Southwick, now part of the city of Sunderland in the county of Durham, in the North-East of England.

His father, a Liverpudlian of Scottish blood, was a petty officer, gunnery, in the Royal Navy from the age of 15 and saw action in the North Atlantic and with the Russian and Malta convoys.

His mother was a busy housewife, with three sons and an absent husband. She came from a long line of respected clairvoyants and was active in the spiritualist church.

His grandfather, on his mother’s side, became a coal-miner, from necessity, at the tender age of nine and, with determination and tenacity, became very well self-educated, sharing his knowledge with his grand-children.

Norman grew up, during World War II, to the sound of riveter’s hammers and the flash of welding arcs from the numerous, war-driven shipyards of the river Wear, with the resulting intense, industrial pollution and smog.

In the background was the constant, throbbing hum from the busy Wearmouth Colliery as it fueled the war industry. At night, he was kept awake by the menacing drone of hundreds of Nazi bombers, flying overhead to terrible destinations. On their return, dropping their remaining bombs on the town.

Yet, less than a mile away, the lush, green countryside began, reaching north across Durham, Northumberland and the wide-open spaces of Scotland. Excellent cycling country.

He became an apprentice, studied at night-school three nights a week, studied music, pianoforte, on the other nights and at weekends, walked and cycled to keep fit and eventually worked as a Marine Engineer, both on land and sea, then as a teacher. This wasn’t exceptional as most of his friends were working, and playing, just as hard, meeting the challenge of the post-war world.

He will always love the area where he was born: Hadrian’s Wall, the wind-swept, heather-covered moors of the Brontes, Wordsworth’s Lake District, Burns country – just over the border, the Viking-haunted coast-line, the ruined abbeys, the castles, the towering cathedrals with their beautiful, choral music and especially the warm, friendly people of the North of England.

Norman, his wife, Imogene – a State Registered Nurse caring for the severely injured coal miners and shipyard workers in the Monkwearmouth Orthopaedic and Accident Hospital – who shares his love of music, literature, drama and travel, and their three sons and grand-daughter, now live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, close to the beautiful Rocky Mountains, where they have lived, and worked, since 1969.”

Poems of Innocence

Norman Henry Kendrick
Trafford Publishing, 2007-03-01 – Poetry – 152 pages
At last, we have a new book of poems for readers with an open mind – a wide-open mind.
You might never have read a single poem since leaving school, but beware! You are looking back through the eyes of the child you once were. Look now, through the eyes of experience, at these fascinating poems by Norman Henry Kendrick.
If you have always been a poetry buff, then I envy you your first reading of, Poems of Innocence. You will feel your mind gently moved to places that you never dreamed of visiting. Poems which at first seem innocent, to the dreamer’s eye, open up layer by layer, when experienced by the more sophisticated reader.
If you happen to be a prude, and pretend an innocence that you don’t possess; if you are a snob, and never lower your standards to read ‘lesser’ books; if you are religious, and swear never to read anything irreligious; if you find life to be an excruciating bore, while sipping that glass of vintage wine; if you think that poetry is trivial – not for real men then, Poems of Innocence is definitely for you too. Imagine the fun you’ll have reading it. No-one will ever know!
Norman Henry Kendrick will take you on a journey through time and space, with an unexpected sense of deja-vu. You will think, dream, envy, desire, dread, hesitate, agree, disagree, doubt, wonder – and you can even ask a friend.
Visit an English village, ancient Britain, the age of dinosaurs, heaven, Rome, Tuscany, Calabria, Sicily, Spain, Malta, the Rocky Mountains, Calgary, the foothills of Alberta, space, the ocean, the sky, or simply walk with Norman through a remarkable field.
Rub shoulders with the living, contemplate death, dream with Don Quixote, reflect on Einstein, go to war, drift through oceans, look over the Pope’s shoulder, have some advice for God, and experience the beginning of a new universe.
Poems of Innocence, by Norman Henry Kendrick, is not for the faint-of-heart. But if you have a big heart, then these fascinating poems are for you. ‘Take my hand… And I will let you see all the good things…’

When I gaze upon my flowers, I sometimes think of Imogene and Norman.

I am very sad that just today, I learned that both Gene and Norman have passed…they lived such a rich and beautiful life and while I was just a dog-walking, passer-by, they both generously included me in their lives with stories and flowers.  May they be blessed in the everlasting, always.

Kendrick, Imogene “Gene”
October 24, 1938 – September 23, 2016

Gene Kendrick passed away on Friday, September 23, 2016 at the age of 77 years. Gene was born at home on October 24,1938 in the northeast of England in the town of Sunderland. She was the eldest of four childrenGene attended Chester Road School in Sunderland and was trained as a nurse at the Orthopaedic and Accident Hospital. She worked at the Royal Bolton hospital in England for several years. Gene met Norman Kendrick at aged seventeen and the two were married on April 3, 1961. They immigrated to Canada in 1969 and settled in Lake Bonavista in Calgary, AB. Gene worked at the Rockyview Hospital for several years before moving into different jobs including the oil industry. Her best job was to raise her three sons. Her favorite activities included ballroom dancing, gardening, cooking, books, walking, fine needlework, and listening to Norman play music and read poetry.

Kendrick, Norman Henry
August 26, 1934 – November 9, 2016

Norman Kendrick passed away on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at the age of 82. He will be missed by his three sons John, Andrew, and Stephen; grandchildren Ashley and Johannes; as well as extended family and friends. He was predeceased by his beloved wife Gene. As per Norman’s request, an informal gathering will be held to celebrate his life.

Norman grew up in Sunderland, England which is where he met Gene. He preserved in times of great hardship and trained as a mechanical engineer. He worked in shipbuilding and spent time at sea, traveling the world from the coast of Africa to India and through the Suez Canal. He went on to train as a teacher and taught engineering for several years in England, before moving with his young family to Canada. He taught physics for a number of years before he retired, freeing his time to travel.

Norman and Gene spent many winters in Spain, Portugal and Italy where they would dance the night away. Norman was an avid history buff and enthralled himself in the history of these areas. Together, they loved to meet people and truly get to know them. Norman was a talented pianist and a great intellect. Norman also loved poetry and published a book “Poems of Innocence”. Here is one of his poems:

Lots To Do.

If I were God, I wouldn’t hang around here!

Not while there are supernovae to watch,
And galaxies colliding.

I would leave everything on automatic,
With life genetically programmed
To repeat itself, ad interim.

With a few, built-in limiting devices,
Such as the atmosphere, an erratic food supply, sex,

Power-hunger, the speed of light, natural calamities,
Death, religion, greed, disease – to name a few –

And some chance, genetic surprises!

And I would go off…

And have fun!