Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday

IN YOUR FACE

Last Monday, for the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,

I shared a wonderful post from my very own parents, which I called:

Literally.

Last week’s question was answered by my parents, from the perspective of raising not one, but two children with a disability. They will be back again next week with another thoughtful response, but this week it is my turn once more.

🙂

Week Three: Part A

Q: If you have a medical diagnosis, do you see yourself as having a disability? Why or why not?

A: I probably would not be here answering these questions if my answer were no.

🙂

I have had several of these in my lifetime. The main one was the LCA, see

Here.

Then there was the Senior-Loken Syndrome, which included the renal failure and scoliosis.

These, to say the least, made my teen years interesting ones.

I have had many different diagnosis suggestions from neurologists with the headaches and chronic pain I have dealt with over the last ten to fifteen years now. However, unlike the obvious medical signs that I am blind or that my kidneys stopped working or when an x-ray clearly showed signs of a curvature in the spine, chronic pain shows no signs that can be clearly and medically spotted.

All of this is true and yet, I can not let any of it weigh, drag, or generally bring me down for very long. Whether it’s one medically diagnosed disability or multiple, if it is at all possible to get on with the business of living, I would highly recommend doing so, to myself and anyone else out there.

I did not come up with the term and I do my best to deal with it in this society of labels.

I am so pleased to participate in this awareness challenge of disability because I know I must live life, not just with disability, but in spite of it. I have had it in some form all my life and this makes it very difficult to live in any sort of denial, not that I haven’t had my moments. It just becomes a part of you and something that it would do no good to refute. It’s not that it wouldn’t occur to me because I am human and I have my bad days, but I know I must take control of my own life, to take the power away from the cruelty and the harshness that living with the label of disability often causes.

Yes, the short answer is that I have disability as a part of my life and the person I am. This is the cold, hard, in-your-face reality of the situation. I look forward to getting further into the issues surrounding life with disability, with some of the questions I have yet to answer, in the weeks to come.

Check back next Monday for more.

Next week my two parents will be answering the following, Part B:

If you don’t have one, how do you view the concept of disability and the people in your life who have them?

***

Speaking of in-your-face.

🙂

With September being Chronic Pain Awareness Month I wanted to share here an initiative being organized by the ones fighting to lessen the stigma surrounding chronic pain and a new way to hopefully bring attention to this silent and invisible scourge.

I asked to do what I could to help migraine, headache, and chronic pain ambassador JP Summers, and this is what she had to say:

“Here is the information for the Pie Challenge. I hope we get some media attention for the sake of all of us that are tired of our condition not being considered severe.”

Please check out the links below to see what’s being done:

Twitter,

Facebook,

and

Website.

Of course this is a take on the:

Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS,

because every person has their own unique story of suffering and deserves to be heard and helped, whether it’s by way of ice cold water being poured over the head or a pie in the face.

Whatever works and get’s peoples’ attention, right?

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections, Throw-back Thursday

Tornado: Part Two, Aftermath

Last week (in Tornado: Part One) I told the tale of the day the tornado struck and the

Whirlwind

And now here is the aftermath of that storm.

***

Rural areas around Hickson, 13 km north of Woodstock, and a wide swath south and east of the city showed only too clearly the devastating damage left by the tornado.

***

What happened to your father’s car?

We found out where it was and went to the auto body. It didn’t look horrible. The windows were all knocked out, dents all over the car, but it looked damaged enough. We got the insurance and the things we needed out. I am not sure what ended up happening to it.

***

What did you and Dad do the next morning?

We went out to the farm and I was just shocked. By then already there were chainsaws going, people were cutting up the trees.

I don’t think I did anything but walk around that day from the barn to the house to the driving shed, everything was just completely gone.

Back then they still let you go through all your stuff. I wandered through the rooms. Today they would bring in crews and would need to check the structure of the house before they would even let you go in.

There was broken glass all over and shards of glass were driven right into the kitchen counters. The walls upstairs were completely torn off. My old bedroom was completely open to the sky. My wedding gown had been in one of the spare bedroom closets. We found it stuck up in one of the pine trees. shredded and dirty. Somebody else must have taken it down already because I don’t think I did that.

The little kids swing set was still standing unharmed with pine trees ripped out on all sides of it, from when we were kids. We had that swing set.

wpid-unknown-2014-08-14-08-09.jpg

(I used to swing on this set with my cousins when we were growing up. My youngest uncle would live on this farm for many years, after my grandparents retired and passed the farm to him.

My grandfather gave a swing set like this to each of his children for their children. Ours stands there still and now my nephews and niece play on it. It is a strong structure, as strong as the man it came from had been.)

***

What did you and Mom do and see that next morning?

We drove out and as we got there we could see how much damage was done. All the trees were down…tuns of people already, chainsaws going. Mom met her family…lots of hugs and crying, surveying the damage, driving shed gone and debris all over the place.

It was only nine or nine thirty and there were already probably one hundred people there, people…people showing up all the time. Family and friends just kept on showing up.

What damage was there to any vehicles?

The freezer had fallen against your uncle’s car. It had been in the garage and the garage had been attached to the house by a little breezeway. That wall had fallen…on his car, which was in pretty bad shape.

What other damage did you notice?

Outside I looked up and could see the bathroom wall was gone, you could see the bathtub and toilet. The house was quite damaged, especially the top, a lot of water damage. The staircase was damaged with bricks all over the place. I thought I walked upstairs. Sometimes…it’s thirty five years ago and it’s pretty traumatic. Some of the finer parts…I might have forgot. Chaos all day…people working, doing this or that. I don’t know what we did all day. I don’t remember me doing anything all day either…people bringing food.

***

When you first saw it, did it still look like the house you grew up in?

There was a nice stained glass window in the living room, it was all shattered to pieces. Most of the downstairs windows were all blown out. The stairs were all full of bricks.

How long had that house been there?

It had previous owners. It was built somewhere around nineteen-hundred. It was already almost eighty years old when this happened, but it had a double brick layer, a beautiful old farm house.

What did you say and what did they say when you finally saw your parents?

They both explained where they were and what it felt like.

The loud roar of everything being torn up above would have been frightening I’m sure.
She didn’t know where grandpa and bruce were. She had no idea. She stayed crouched beside the oil tank in the basement, next to the furnace.

They were out in the barn milking cows at the time.
They went over to the milk house because it was buried in the barn bank. two walls were buried in the bank and the third wall was against the barn, figuring that would be the safest place. The doors blew open and it got really really windy in there so they moved just inside the barn on or underneath the steps. As they did that there was a horrible loud sound and the silo broke apart and fell down on top of the milk house. If they had stayed where they were they would have been crushed by huge slabs of concrete.

(Grandpa and my uncle laid there, my grandpa covering my uncle and the dog somewhere in there too.)

Was her name Lassie? Didn’t you have several dogs named that growing up?

Quite a few. Grandma liked to name her dogs Lassie. The poor dog. She went deaf after that tornado. She never heard again. Whether it was just stress or the pressure of the wind.

It took their farm but the farm north of them and the farm south were perfectly fine. Then it went over to the next road. It hit the river bed and kind of followed along the river. Then jumped out…there’s one woods along the highway and it went through there and all the trees were just wrecked.

***

(For a while during my conducting of these interviews my two parents spoke of their memories and recollections together. Mom remembered what was necessary to protect the ruined property early on and Dad chimed in with what they both recalled of a particular situation.)

My uncle stayed over night to make sure nobody came out to steal anything. The telephone still worked. Well, I think you could call out but you couldn’t call in.

Wasn’t there some guy? my father reminded her, not having to finish his sentence.

When they were chopping up white birch trees…some guy started loading it in his truck. “Hey! This isn’t a free-for-all!” My mom recounted.

A lot of people were helping out, weren’t they? I asked naively.

Yeah, a lot of people but not strangers putting in their trunk to take home. HE was taking wood. Why would you take wood. You’d chop that up.

(Both their memories intersect and overlap and one had a picture of the details of those days that the other did not or which did not match up at times.

My father still recalls the tornado falling on a Tuesday while my mother does not recall the actual dates, him being better with those sorts of details. That is a trait I inherited from my father. He remembered details such as where the holidays were spent that first year after the tornado.)

We had Christmas dinner down there that first year, Christmas of seventy-nine.

***

What other damage did you and Mom notice as you wandered around that next day?

The chimney had fallen on top of Grandpa’s car.

How were you involved in the days that followed?

We were there constantly, back and forth everyday. I was off work for a couple days.

How did Grandpa seem to be holding up to you?

Confused, in a bit of a daze with everything that had just happened to them.

When did the rebuilding begin?

Grandpa had to decide if he wanted to even rebuild. Someone down the road might have sold their farm to him if they had been ready to retire…I remember him talking about that.

Finally they decided they were going to rebuild and by the next week there were men working to rebuild the top of the barn.

***

Mennonites are Christian Anabaptists who follow the teachings of European religious leader Menno Simons (1496-1561). They believe in pacifism, non-violence and simplicity. The Anabaptists (meaning “re-baptizers”) arose from the Protestant Reformation. They rejected the idea of infant baptism, believing the practice should be a voluntary expression of faith. Their descendants include the Amish, Baptists, Hutterites, Mennonites and Quakers.

. According to their website, The Mennonite Disaster Service was first organized in Kansas in 1950. It was an extension of the Mennonite practice of mutual aid, and the belief that their faith is best expressed through daily caring for one another. When church members or neighbours lost a barn in a fire, flood or tornado, the Mennonites would raise a new barn “to represent the love of Jesus Christ and the power of collaboration.”

. The Mennonite Disaster Service now claims the involvement of more than 3,000 Anabaptist churches and districts. They organize and manage volunteer labour, but do not provide direct material or financial donations to victims.

***

How did your parents find out about their car and all that had happened at home while they were away?

A week and half later mike (his brother/my uncle) and I went to meet them. Obviously, we had to pick them up at the airport and we told them what had happened. They said they remembered seeing something in the paper about a tornado somewhere around here, not if they knew where. Back then you didn’t have the same news as today. They didn’t realize it had hit at home here.

Even your father helped out didn’t he?

My dad was still working, but he came, as a brick layer. He helped fix some of the barn, pens and around the windows and doors. He would come sometimes after work.
There were people milling around, not as many people as the first few days, but it was a lot of mess around to be cleaned up still.

***

Where did your parents live once their home was practically destroyed? Did they stay with family?

They did for probably the first week or so and then their friends lent them a Winnebago they parked on the farm so they could stay right there because they had cows to milk and people were there all times of the day and night.

Did all the animals survive?

All the cows were fine. There could have been some pigs lost. I don’t know if there were some sows outside probably.
But most of the animals inside the barn…the tornado took off the whole top. The top of the barn was full of both straw and hay. It took the barn walls and roof and most of the hay and straw were blown away, but the floor of the barn was left in tact and therefor all the animals below it were protected.
There aren’t that many windows in a barn and they are all solid stone and concrete sides.

What other damage and destruction was there?

There was corn out in the field and it looked like someone just took a big roller over it and flattened it right to the ground. It was just pushed over sideways from all the rain and wind. Most of it wasn’t broken off. It was just pushed over sideways and flat.

One of my old report cards…up in the attic already…it blew to Drumbo, which was ten miles away. Somebody found it in their field. I got it back. Somebody eventually recognized my name and returned it to me. It was a little tattered, but it was still very legible…probably had gotten wet but had dried out and laying in a field. You didn’t know whose stuff was whose. We could have been picking up debris from the neighbours. A lot of it was broken pieces of things. Very few things were left in tact.

What happened next?

And then the clean-up began. I used to go out there every day and bring a basket of laundry home with me every night because everybody’s clothes would be filthy dirty.

Then we started knocking the mortar off, to reuse some of the bricks. Grandpa sold the bricks from the house. The whole structure was torn down. First, salvaging what you could, taking out all your personal stuff, Grandma’s photo albums were in cabinets right in the interior of the house inside closed doors so most of them were okay. She had a lot of her personal effects like that still kept. Anything out oven a room or upstairs was taken away pretty much.

It was a matter of taking all that stuff out and then where to put it. It got taken to a lot of different places. For months and months afterward, when they finally moved into their new house people were returning with boxes and boxes of the stuff they had taken to keep for them.
Many different people came and helped and then those people would take boxes of stuff to their own homes because there was no place to store it. There were no buildings left to put it into.

How long before they got their belongings back then?

It took probably almost a year after before they got all their stuff back. You didn’t know what all you were missing initially because so many people packed it into boxes and took it away. That way a lot of people cleaned up stuff for grandma so she didn’t have to do it all. For months after even food from the freezer was returned, stuff they didn’t even remember they had had.

Grandma dealt with pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia for years at this time. was all the stress hard on her condition?

Yeah she did. I’m sure it was. Sometimes you go on adrenaline initially but yeah Im sure it was hard on her too but she did well considering. Sometimes you don’t really get a chance to think of yourself. when you’re caught up with so many different things and
that was why it was good to be right there. She could go lay down anytime she wanted to.

How long before they could move back into their house?

They didn’t get into their house until almost Christmas. They were just thrilled when they could move into the basement. They just set up sheets to divide and separate the room for privacy.
One couch was rescued but their living room furniture was ruined. They had to buy a new living room set after they moved into their house.

(Years later the surviving couch was still in use in the family room of their little house. The arms were ripped, but at least it was well-worn.)

How long before the new house was totally rebuilt?

It would have probably been Feb or March before they actually moved in upstairs.
By spring all the rest, all the outside was done.
They had insurance so that paid for the majority of stuff. They had someone come in and paint and do all that stuff so Grandma didn’t have to.

How did this affect them financially?

The community, they had a tornado fund. I can’t remember if they got seven thousand dollars or how much they got.

What did Grandpa do going forward?

He took all the pine trees that were wrecked and took all the tree trunks and sawed them into 2 by fours to build the barn. Had to buy some but that really helped with the lumber, to keep down the cost too.

You were pregnant and then a first-time mom when all of this was going on. What was that like?

We spent that whole fall and into spring…almost every day I would go out to the farm. There’d be something to clean up…work at.
I felt fine…I felt good. I would take some days off, but spent a lot of days out there.
Paul and I went out fairly often in the spring.

***

It’s strange finishing the interview with her with Raffi on the television while my nephew sleeps in the next room, reminding me of a time on our old home movies with Raffi on in the background as children. That was only a few years after all this, but now it has been thirty five and I try again to imagine what it was like that day for them all and over the ones to come.

All I and many people imagine of a tornado when we try to picture one is that famous scene from The Wizard of Oz, on that Kansas farm in the thirties, a time long gone. That is even what I use as a visual in my own head.

I wanted to look back on what it was really like, with the only two people I can now ask. I want to thank my wonderful parents for telling their story and for the life they made for my siblings and I after that day that changed everything.

***

Some of the quotes from immediately after the fact I took from the following sources:

Kitchener Waterloo Record

Written by Sheila hannon

http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/environment/extreme-weather/deadly-skies-canadas-most-destructive-tornadoes/1979-woodstock-tornado.html

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Special Occasions, This Day In Literature, Throw-back Thursday, Writing

TBT: to the first time I read Harry Potter

This Day in Literature:
Happy Birthday to J. K. Rowling and her main character and protagonist from her Harry Potter series.
Funny how both Rowling and Harry Potter share a birthday. I would love to ask her about this if I ever got the chance to interview her…on my dream Bucket List for sure.

On this day I wanted to take the time to speak about how Rowling and Harry Potter changed my life.

This may sound dramatic to some, but I wish only that everyone has that one book which has changed their outlook on life and made such a difference.

Between February and June of 2008 my brother and I read all seven books in braille. It was nice timing that the final book came out just before this.

My brother had been awarded Harry Potter on tape from his eighth grade English teacher. HE knew how amazing these books were and he knew me well enough to know that, if I just gave them a chance, they would become hugely influential in my life. He knows me just that well.

I will someday own all the print books on a shelf like I do already in braille. I was given them for Christmas a few years back, and they take up a whole bookshelf, several volumes for one of each of the seven books. These are my prized possessions; not quite as valuable as my grandmother’s journals which could not be replaced if lost, stolen, or destroyed, but these are some of my favourite things.

I read about the Boy Who Lived and I wanted to write even more than I already did before. These books are my favourite stories of morality and justice and triumph against evil forces. It is the ultimate story of love conquering hate.

Psychologists Find a Surprising Thing Happens to Children Who Read Harry Potter

I idolize the woman who has given me this gift, this world of magic and wonder where things never imagined are indeed possible. I take hope and comfort when I read about Harry and his world.

Thank you Rowling for all of this. To many more!

This date is surrounded by the rerelease of the Harry Potter books with all new book jackets. See
Here
To view.

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Uncategorized

The Dark Mark

I’ve always lived a rather sheltered life, I must admit. Sure, not always simple, easy, or fair, but safe and secure in every way that counted. I was never scared or afraid or aware of the darker elements of this world.
J.K. Rowling has a term in the world of Harry Potter called The Dark Mark, referring to a symbol of evil in the wizarding world, but this was no made up world. This was no work of children’s fiction.. The small town where I lived would lose what innocence we thought we had, five years ago, on that April day. Evil would creep into our world, forever leaving its mark.
***
It was a cool but sunny early spring day. I went about my morning as usual, not realizing something could be going on in my neighbourhood until I began to hear the sound of airplanes flying low above my house. This seemed strangely out-of-place to me and I wondered, commented to my sister on what it could mean.
By late that afternoon I was no longer left to wonder.
A full search was on for a young child in the area. People were going door to door. Yards and sheds were being searched. A panic had begun to spread around town, and rightfully so.
I naively thought no evil could find its way into my little town. It was the kind of evil to harm an innocent little child, openly on the streets of the town, in broad daylight. This could not, would never happen here, yet it had.
Nobody had seen it happen and the child’s whereabouts remained a mystery for weeks, hope remaining alive, until all hopes were horribly dashed. Our sleepy little town would never, in my opinion and in other peoples’, be the same again – that safe community to raise a family and to let children walk the streets alone. Walking home from school had been a pastime of growing up, yet now it was where evil had lain in wait.
It was hard to accept that this could happen here. Maybe in a large city miles away, but not here. Things like this didn’t happen here. The monsters wouldn’t dare come here.
The town would hold its children a little tighter that spring and all eyes were watchful. People grew much more suspicious of strangers. The details would end up being like something out of a horror movie. A dark mark,a black cloud had rolled in over our heads here.
***
Five years later and we’re still raw. At this time of year I feel a nagging sadness, an anxiety, and an ache somewhere inside of me, for a family I don’t know, a child none of us could help, and a community never to return to the days of innocence we once knew.
I am a part of the neighbourhood forever to be known as the place where this terrible and unspeakable crime, act of pure evil was perpetrated. It was a mere few blocks from where I call home; parks, schools, are not the safe places for children that they should be.
On the anniversary of these darkest of days, forever to be a mark in our history, I feel the urge to move, to leave the house I have grown to love. I know in reality there is no place I can run from these thoughts, but I still feel them somewhere inside myself.
I want to run and hide and take my family with me. I want to run somewhere where my little niece and nephews and other children wouldn’t ever have to worry about the risks this world poses, when walking to and from school. I know there is nowhere in this world safe from the possible evil which exists in our world. I stop myself from letting my mind wander to where it dares to wander on this day, when I think about what I would do to anyone who would dare to attempt to mess with the children in my life because truthfully my love for them is so strong that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do, no line I would not cross for them. My mind threatens to splinter when I try to imagine what the family of this lost child has had to do in order to cope with their grief and anger. The children in our lives deserve to be protected from the evil which threatens our neighbourhoods and our communities and our world.
***
My first instinct was not to write about this: whether because I felt it wasn’t my place, that I wasn’t directly affected, or that this topic was too horrible to speak openly about. It was then that I didn’t want to say nothing and let my feelings fester, kept hidden because maybe this was too horrible to talk about. I am not ashamed of my town and the people in it. On days like these it is also just as important to remember the human decency and goodness, the light, which I still believe trumps the dark. The mark on my town will never be washed away again, but the humanity and neighbourhood support and tight-knit spirit I can feel all over town.
At a time like this I am still surrounded by my family and reminded of the kind of love that does still exist. When the one who is sick is the one to bring others flowers, that is what decency means. When family goes out of its way to step up during times of trouble, that’s what decency looks like. These things can never be eclipsed by the evil which sometimes threatens to shadow everything else. I have to believe that the good will overwhelm the truly evil in this world, and that the children that I love and those loved by others will not know one moment of fear. My town and our world are places where we can once again know goodness and love; it’s all around us.

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