Category Archives: Health

The Things We Keep

The story in The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth reminded me of the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova because it is also told in the voice of a person being effected by Alzheimer’s, although in this case it is not a fifty-something college professor but a thirty-eight year old motor cycle riding paramedic named Anna. Anna’s brother arranges for her to live in a care facility after it is no longer safe for her to stay with him and his young family. Here Anna meets Luke a man about her age who is also suffering from dementia.  They develop a romantic relationship that brings a momentary escape from their situation and adds meaning to both their lives.  But their families and the staff at the care home aren’t sure how to handle their relationship.

The Things We Keep has a second narrator, a young woman named Eve who is trying to start life over as a cook in the care facility where Anna and Luke live. Eve’s husband has died, leaving her and her young daughter Celementine destitute. 

The book made me think about how important it is to live in the moment, to enjoy and appreciate the here and now and to relish whatever love and happiness and meaning it brings. It also made me think about what life is like for people in institutionalized settings.  There is a whole network of relationships to navigate and a power imbalance to be handled with responsibility.  There are opportunities for caring and love but also hurt and harm. It made me think about the people I know who live in such settings and wonder how I might feel if I have to live in that kind of a facility someday. 

Other posts…………

Feeding My Mother

Where I Live Now

I Don’t Like Murder Mysteries but………

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Filed under Books, Health

A Going Concern

oma and grandchild

My mother-in-law often referred to her grandchildren as ‘going concerns.’

When my sons were small they were active, curious, social little beings. They were interested in everything.  As my mother-in-law would watch one of them busy exploring their surroundings and interacting with people she would often say, “He’s a real going concern isn’t he.”  I was never quite sure what she meant by that.  Until I married into my husband Dave’s family I had never heard the phrase ‘going concern.’ 

Over the Christmas holidays I watched my one year old grandson have a fine time exploring every corner of our condo, doing puzzles, singing, interacting with family members, laughing, opening presents, learning new words at a rapid rate, and playing little games like peek a boo.   I almost said, “He’s a real going concern isn’t he.”

grandparents and grandkids

My mother-in-law thought her lively crew of grandkids were ‘going concerns’ -happy, healthy kids with lots of potential.

It made me decide that finally after all these years I was going to find out if ‘going concern’ was a recognized phrase and see if I could figure out what it meant. I learned it is actually a term used in the business world to refer to a company that is doing well.  It is healthy financially, can honor its commitments, and has good future prospects.

But I also discovered the phrase in a 1949 BBC broadcast script in which a psychologist refers to children who are happy and bright and developing well as a ‘going concern.’ He tries to reassure parents they shouldn’t get overly anxious about doing everything ‘exactly right’.  Most children are a ‘going concern’ and will develop in a healthy way if they are loved and their basic needs are met by caring parents.  

driedger grandchildren

Oma’s ‘going concerns’ pose for a photo with her and Opa on their 50th wedding anniversary

The 1949 date of the BBC broadcast made me realize that ‘a going concern’ was a term people of my mother-in-law’s generation would have used and also helped me understand she was actually paying my husband and me a compliment when she said our children were ‘going concerns.’ She thought our sons were happy, healthy, bright and developing well and we were doing our best to parent them.  

Thanks Mom!

Other posts……..

What’s the Best Way To Raise Children?


What Will Our Grandchildren Think?

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Filed under Family, Health

Abortion and Summer Jobs

Will faith- based camps lose funding for summer student workers?

Member of Parliament Ted Falk and other social conservatives are actively fighting  a new government regulation regarding funding for Canada’s summer jobs program. Justin Trudeau says they are creating an unnecessary “kerfluffle”. A new requirement means organizations requesting money must agree to respect all human rights including reproductive rights. Faith groups who oppose abortion are actively protesting the regulation. They believe they will lose the financial support they have received in the past. The prime minister describes their reaction as alarmist. He suggests program applicants whose primary mandate isn’t denial of abortion access will still receive grants. The new directive will just target organizations that actively and openly lobby against reproductive rights.

I will follow the story of how the new regulation is applied with interest because I agree with our prime minister that  reproductive rights are human rights. I believe giving women full control of their bodies is fundamental to them having an equal place in society. The television series based on Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale imagines the frightening possibilities when we fail to defend a woman’s right to make reproductive decisions.

Research shows that protests like this one at the University of Toronto are not effective in reducing abortion rates

That being said it would be ideal if no woman ever felt she needed to have an abortion. But we will not reduce abortion rates by criminalizing abortion or denying women access to it. Equally ineffective in reducing abortion rates are attempts to make people feel guilty with graphic billboard pictures or 100,000 memorial flags for aborted fetuses planted in a public park. Research by the World Health organization and other groups tells us exactly what things will effectively reduce abortion rates.

  1. Provide comprehensive sex education in schools. Teens that receive medically sound sex education and learn about many forms of birth control, not just abstinence, are 60% less likely to become pregnant. Since 30% of women who have abortions in Canada say the reason for their choice is they are too young and not ready for the responsibility of a child, it makes sense that as teen pregnancy rates are lowered, abortion rates will go down. In Canada sex education is different in every province and even varies between school districts. Is it time to create national standards for comprehensive sex education?
  2. Provide free contraception whether birth control pills, condoms or intrauterine devices. When Norway provided free birth control their abortion rate was cut in half. Irene Mathyssen an NDP Member of Parliament has been lobbying the government to make birth control free in Canada. Politicians who are serious about reducing the number of abortions in our country should give her their unstinting support.

    Photo of Canadian child living in poverty from the website of Member of Parliament Ted Falk who is one of the politicians most harshly criticizing the new regulation for summer job grants

  3. Reduce poverty. According to the Abortion in Canada website, financial concerns are the number one reason women in Canada have abortions. If we reduce poverty, we will reduce the number of abortions. Manitoba has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. We obviously need to search for more creative and effective strategies to address this disgrace.
  4. Better childcare. Many women choose to have abortions because they can’t balance child rearing with pursuing higher education or a successful career. Logically if families had assured access to quality affordable childcare they would be less likely to choose to have abortions. In 2005 Prime Minister Paul Martin negotiated just such a national childcare program. When Mr. Harper’s Conservatives came into power the following year they scrapped it. Nothing as comprehensive has been proposed since. Could all political parties work together to create universal, affordable childcare for our country?

If people who consider themselves anti-abortion advocates are serious about reducing the number of abortions in Canada there are plenty of effective things to do. Fighting a government grant regulation that requires respect for women’s reproductive rights is not among them.

Other posts…….

Should Young Women With Children Be Politicians?

Thank Goodness For The Battle of the Sexes



Filed under Canada, Health, Religion

Mennonite Nuns

Did you know there were Mennonite nuns? Seems unlikely doesn’t it, since Anabaptists really tried to distance themselves from the Catholic Church. But at the turn of the century there was an order of Mennonite women who wore ‘habits’ and dedicated themselves to serving others. They were called deaconesses. Many years ago on a visit to Newton, Kansas I interviewed one of only five remaining deaconesses, Theodosia Harms, who just happened to be my grandfather’s cousin. 

deaconesses with babies at bethel hospital 1915

Deaconesses with babies at the Bethel Hospital 1915 – photo Mennonite Church Archives

The deaconess movement began in Germany in the 1830s when young Mennonite women went to live in specially built homes near hospitals and made a commitment to spend their lives caring for the sick. The movement spread worldwide and at one point there were more than a hundred of these deaconess homes. Some 40,000 women served as deaconesses in the 1800 and 1900’s. theodosia harms0001

My grandfather’s cousin Theodosia Harms, shown here when she first became a Mennonite sister, went to live in the deaconess house in Newton, Kansas in 1922 and train as a nurse at Bethel College. She served as a nurse in the Newton Hospital eventually becoming the chief of the nursing staff and instructor of nursing students. She also lived and worked in Paraguay for two years as a missionary nurse. For a time she was sent to Mountain Lake Minnesota to start a hospital there. 

I spent an afternoon visiting with her in 1989. Although retired, she still wore her habit, a plain dark blue dress with a simple white collar and neatly mended stockings. She remembered my grandfather and told me stories about him as well many interesting anecdotes about her own brothers and sisters, her patients and the good times she had with her sister deaconesses. I heard about the goose who once attacked her brother, the patient who swore at her and threw a Bible at her, and the Christmas gifts she’d received from her nursing sisters. She told me she had been a mischevious  ‘troublemaker’ who liked to have fun with her patients and the doctors. 

deaconesses at bethel hospital in Newton kansas 1911

Deaconesses at Bethel Hospital- Newton Kansas 1911- Photo from Chicago Community Mennonite Church

If you want to read the full story of my time with Theodosia and learn more about the Mennonite nuns you can click on this Mennonite Mirror link and go to page 6 and 7 of the issue. theodosia's grave

Sister Theodora died in 1991, just a year and a half after I interviewed her and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Newton, Kansas. 

Other posts………..

Norman Rockwell – The Mennonite Connection

Could I Have Been A Grey Nun?

The Break Event


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I’m always ready for new experiences but 2018 has already brought me one I could have done without.  I got a cast on my left arm yesterday.  I slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk on December 22 in the morning.  By the late afternoon my arm was in enough pain that Dave took me to a hospital emergency department.   I waited six hours in a narrow hallway crowded with patients to get an x-ray and have a doctor and a resident tell me my arm wasn’t broken and would just take time to heal. 

Over Christmas and New Years the pain didn’t really abate and I was managing it with regular doses of Ibuprofen. My son suggested I might want to see a physiotherapist for help with healing.  I took his advice.  Trevor, at Elite Physio who has helped me deal effectively with injuries in the past, advised me to go to the Pan Am Clinic and have my arm x-rayed again.  He suspected a bone in my wrist might be broken and he told me often fractures can’t be detected on an x-ray right after they happen. I wondered why the very kind but clearly overworked doctors at the hospital hadn’t advised me to come back for another x-ray in a couple of days.  

I went in to the Pan Am Clinic yesterday morning at 7 am when they opened, was given an appointment time, and within an hour and a half had seen a doctor, been x-rayed, had seen the doctor again, had been shown the very clear fracture of my wrist on the x-ray, been casted and sent home.  I saw four different women at the Pan Am, two doctors and two nurses, all extremely pleasant, efficient and professional. 

I will see the doctor again just before I leave on my two month holiday to get a new cast and a dossier full of information and photos to take along with me so I can have the arm attended to by a doctor in Portugal. It should add an interesting twist to our trip. 

Other posts………..

A Cane For Dave

Sitting is the New Smoking

Dead Sea Beauty Treatment


Filed under Health

Food Rules

food-rules-illustrated-editIf you are like me you may have made a resolution to eat healthier in the new year.  Here I’ve illustrated six helpful rules from Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules. 

breakfast at sidewinder

Breakfasting at the Sidewinder Golf Club in Gold Canyon Arizona in 2015

Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and eat supper like a pauper.  

women having coffee

Having a coffee at Winnipeg’s Parlour Cafe in 2013

Get your caffeine in natural ways from tea and coffee. 

bread vendor new york city

Bread Vendor in New York City in 2012

The whiter the bread the sooner you’re dead. 

meal with students at korean restaurant

Eating with some of our former Hong Kong students in Toronto 2012

Try not to eat alone.

dad and his tomato plants

My Dad with harvest from his tomato crop in 2006

Eat mostly plants. 

enjoying an ice cream cone

Dave having ice cream on a food tour in Toronto 2012

Avoid foods with sugar as one of the top three ingredients.

Other posts………..

A Meal in a Novel

Cooking Together

Wined and Dined at a New Restaurant


Filed under Food, Health

Another Shameful Chapter in Canadian History

Residential schools, the sixties adoption scoop, murdered and missing aboriginal women. It is only within the last decade most Canadians have become acutely aware of these atrocities and how they have impacted indigenous people.

Stephen Lewis

A recent report from Stephen Lewis, Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations, provides a look at another awful chapter in indigenous history. Lewis ranks it with the horror of residential schools, baby scoops and murdered women.

The C.D. Howe

In the 1950s and 1960s a ship called the C.D. Howe sailed the Arctic visiting remote communities.  Inuit were brought on board to screen them for tuberculosis. Those people diagnosed, including children, were not allowed to leave the ship but were taken south to Indian hospitals. Some were away for years. The impact of this forced separation on families was devastating.

Stephen Lewis says that during his visits with Inuit elders they described this experience vividly. Parents, grandparents and children were wrenched abruptly away from their families and taken south. Most didn’t understand what was happening to them. Lewis says many Inuit died while in health care facilities and family members were never informed and to this day have no idea where their loved ones are buried.

Pitaloosie Saila answers questions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on October 28

On October 28 I was given a personal look at this tragedy. Pitaloosie Saila one of Canada’s foremost Inuit artists was at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to open an exhibition of her work. Several of her art pieces describe her own experience of being sent south to a hospital as a child. Complicated health issues meant she spent years away from her family. Pitaloosie completely lost her native language of Inuktitut so when she arrived home she couldn’t communicate with anyone. She had forgotten her community’s cultural practices and was unfamiliar with their food. She was a stranger in her own family.

Pitaloosie and Aqsatunnguaq –  by Pitaloosie Saila

One of the pieces in the exhibit shows a smiling Pitaloosie hugging her sister. During the years Pitaloosie was hospitalized her sister died but no one was able to communicate with her to tell her. She only learned of her sister’s death when she returned home to Cape Dorset. 

Last year the Winnipeg Art Gallery hosted an exhibition by Cape Dorset sculptor Oviloo Tunnille. Her show included a series of pieces detailing a similar experience she had in a Manitoba Indian hospital for TB patients.

Nurse at the hospital with Oviloo

In one sculpture she is sitting on a nurse’s knee and crying. She misses her family. In another she stands weeping holding a teddy bear behind her back and in one she is sitting up in bed with a scared look on her face.

This Has Touched My Life by Oviloo Tunnille

Another sculpture depicts a doctor and government worker leading Oviloo away.

Stephen Lewis’s report addresses the current TB epidemic in Nunavut. This disease is a hundred percent curable. Lewis believes at least one of the reasons it has not been eradicated in the north is because the horror of the days of forced hospitalization and separation lives on in family’s memories. There is still a stigma attached to the disease. Lewis believes to overcome that legacy the federal government needs to issue an unequivocal apology to the Inuit and provide resources so they can find out what happened to family members who died and travel to their loved ones’ gravesites.

I learned about Stephen Lewis’ report and the current TB crisis in Nunavut from a member of the board of directors of  The Canadian Paediatric Society. Perhaps as more national groups recognize and publicize the history of this disease in the north and its ramifications for communities, steps can be taken to bring about emotional healing for the wrongs of the past and provide hope for physical healing in the present.

Other posts……….

Getting to Know Oviloo

A Scary Story

She Is Gripped By Terror

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Filed under Art, Health