Looking At Life Through A Different Lens

enawo1484931211Last year was a stressful year for me.  I went from being a typically healthy and hectic 40-something to someone unsure if I would live to see another Christmas, let alone live to watch my teen-aged daughters graduate from high school in a few years.  My life took on a very new lens…one that forced me to appreciate every moment and has allowed me to gain a new perspective on a lot of things.

Now that my medical crisis appears to be nearing an end and the seemingly endless battery of tests is coming closer to what appears will be a non-life-threatening diagnosis I am filled with incredible relief but also gratitude for the perspective living with complete uncertainty has given me.  It forced me to genuinely consider what I’ve done right in my life, what regrets I have, and what I want/need to change in order to allow my life to be as positive and fulfilling as possible.  It should give me lots to blog about in the weeks to come 🙂

 

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Nova Scotia Staycation – Hirtle’s Beach, Lunenburg County

If you read my blog regularly then you know I am grounded from travel due to health reasons; therefore, I have been playing stay-at-home tourist all summer.  Lucky for me I live on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, one of the most beautiful places in Canada!

Today we ventured off to Hirtle’s Beach, about a 30 minute drive from my home in Bridgewater, because my oldest daughter had spent the night with friends in the quaint little fishing village of Riverport which is just a few minutes from Hirtle’s Beach.

Ordinarily, this would be the place I would post a picture of the village of Riverport taken from the bridge entering town where you can see the fishing boats and stunning old homes built by sea captains a century ago, one of which I tried desperately to convince my husband to let me buy over a decade ago (and I still daydream of owning every time I drive by), but I can’t find the picture I thought I had taken last time I was there which means I probably just thought about taking a picture but got distracted by the house…

In Riverport, we found my daughter and her friend at a quaint little cafe and then headed down the scenic road to Kingsburg where Hirtle’s Beach is located.  As it is one of the last weekends of summer and it was beautiful out the beach was busier than I am accustomed to it being, meaning the parking lot was full and cars were lined for quite a ways down the road.  Despite this, we managed to get a parking spot in the lot in front of the bathrooms – score!  We also had lots of space to spread out because the term ‘busy’ at South Shore beaches generally means you just have to walk a little further down the sand than those who arrived before you to find a wonderful little spot all to yourself.

Before you get to the sand, though, you have to walk across a boardwalk lined with the names of people who sponsored a board.  I always take a moment when I’m there to read a few of the names and thank them silently for their part in creating access to this beautiful place.

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At the end of Hirtle’s Beach is a path that leads to the Gaff Point Hiking Trail, which is a 3.2 km hike that offers lots of great views, sometimes seal sightings, and the ‘secret beach’.  My husband and I used to hike this trail all the time when we were in our 20’s but didn’t venture all that far along the trail today, though, because we were just in sandals and you really should wear sneakers on the trail as it is quite rugged.

The panoramic view from the field along the Gaff Point Trail:

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So, for anyone who is considering a day trip to the area, or better yet a vacation to the South Shore of Nova Scotia, I would also recommend visiting the Ovens Natural Park which is located nearby.  There you can explore sea caves which are pretty cool!

 

Lisa Pomfrey-Talbot is President & CEO of Cathydia Press, a small publishing company based out of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.  She is also the author of  the children’s chapter book, Jennie Fowler Nighttime Prowler.  She blogs about writing, publishing, parenting teens, local tourist attractions, and any of her other random thoughts.  Don’t forget to follow her blog!

COVER REVEAL – “It’s Not About Us; The Secret to Transforming the Mental Health and Addiction System In Canada”

My publishing company, Cathydia Press, revealed the cover for our first non-fiction title today written by first-time author, Todd Leader.  It’s Not About Us; The Secret to Transforming the Mental Health and Addiction System in Canada is scheduled to release in late-October both in print and e-book formats and will be available from all major book retailers.

It's Not About Us - final - cover reveal and promo

On the back cover:

It’s Not About Us is a guide to improving the client experience with the mental health and addiction system across Canada. It examines the traditional and current pathology-oriented medical model within which all of our services are built. It looks at the ways in which that model prevents the transformation we need if we want to really change our system. This book presents a new way to think about what it means to be client-centered, not only at an individual level, but also at the level of system design and operation. It is based on compelling principles and a real success story – a program in Nova Scotia that transformed its way of providing service, according to a new way of defining and understanding what it means to be client-centered. This program significantly improved quickness and ease of access for clients, and also enhanced its capacity to prevent addictions and mental illness.

In Canada, many have tried to improve services. They have instinctively called for more money and more therapists and psychiatrists, or have focused on improving clinical skills of staff. Unfortunately, that simply perpetuates more of the same problematic approach, one that has repeatedly failed to address the concerns of the clients and the public.

What has not yet happened is the one fundamental thing that is required. We need to change the perspective used to design all components of the system. We need to replace our traditional model that is designed from an expert and management-focused viewpoint, and start to look at the system the way clients and the public see and experience it. If you or a loved one have been affected by addiction and mental health issues, and have tried to or wanted to advocate for change in the system, this book will help you know how to do that. If you work in the mental health and addiction system in Canada, this book will help guide you through a more fundamental change than we have seen in many decades.

It is time for change … and this is a call to action.

 

Blogger Lisa Pomfrey-Talbot is President & CEO of Cathydia Press Inc. based out of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia in Canada.  She is also the author of the children’s chapter book, Jennie Fowler Nighttime Prowler.  Cathydia Press Inc. will be launching a new Collaborative Publishing Program in September 2016.

Brigadoon Village -The Place in Nova Scotia You Need to Know About

 

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My daughter, Catherine, on the last day of Camp JoinTogether at Brigadoon Village, 2016.

When I was a kid growing up, my favorite part of summer was going to camp, so much so that my first children’s book, Jennie Fowler Nighttime Prowler, is actually about a girl whose sleepwalking at summer camp leads to some unplanned adventures.

For me, summer camp was a place I could go where nobody knew I was a poor kid.  I could just be me.  Each year brought a new adventure and a new set of friends, some I still stay in touch with 30 years later, and others who I’ve lost touch with over time, but remember fondly.

When I became a mom, it seemed to be a given that my kids would go off to camp just as I had and create their own memories.   But there was something I hadn’t anticipated – juvenile arthritis  – the disease my youngest daughter was diagnosed with ten days before her eighth birthday.  The invisible disease that makes her stiff, requires her to take medication daily that often makes her sick, and causes her joints to swell up.  The disease that made it impossible for her to go to camp.

Or so I thought…

A year after Catherine was diagnosed, we received a letter via the IWK Children’s Hospital from the Nova Scotia Arthritis Society inviting her to Camp JoinTogether, a brand new camp for kids living with juvenile arthritis.  It was being held at a new recreational facility in the Annapolis Valley called Brigadoon Village that was founded by Dave McKeage, a visionary who had lived with cancer as a child and saw the need for kids living with chronic illness, chronic conditions, and special needs to have the opportunity to go to camp and develop friendships with other kids who could relate to what they were going through.  His determination coupled with the generosity of corporate sponsors and volunteers is now the reason hundreds of children living with a variety of different issues get to attend camp each summer.

And believe me when I say it’s not just any camp.  It’s quite possibly the most amazing camp in the world.  If you don’t believe me, just ask some of the campers.  A few of them say they’d choose going to Brigadoon over Disney any day and that’s got to mean something. Aside from all the fun camp activities (swimming, boating, games, archery, arts & crafts, drama, ropes course, survival, etc.), Brigadoon offers something that Disney just can’t – a place for kids to go where every other camper there is dealing with the same issue they are.  It’s a place to meet people and make friends who ‘get them’ and Brigadoon provides that opportunity for them to develop a peer network.

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When my daughter went to camp that first summer she didn’t know any other children living with juvenile arthritis.  Now, five years later, she has lots of friends who understand what it’s like to live with an invisible illness, to take meds daily, and to live life pushing through pain.  Technology allows them to stay in touch throughout the year and support each other through the rough patches.  When we’re at the IWK Children’s Hospital we often run into kids from camp.  It’s nice to see a familiar face when you’re a kid at a hospital.

As a parent, I remember tears streaming down my face when I realized I could safely allow my child, despite the complexity of her disease and medications, to go to camp and not have to worry about her because at Brigadoon they have a whole team of medical folks, mostly volunteer nurses and medical residents, there to ensure they are safe, they get their meds on time, and who understand their issues.

Each week of the summer Brigadoon Village plays host to a camp that runs Sunday to Friday for kids in the Maritimes living with a particular condition or special need and each camp has their own name which was selected by kids.  This summer they are hosting 12 different camps that will see more than 500 young campers go through their programs:

  • Camp See-Ya (blind & visual impairment)
  • Camp Carpe Diem (epilepsy)
  • Camp Braveheart (congenital heart issues)
  • Camp JoinTogether (arthritis)
  • Camp Kedoopse (bereavement)
  • Camp BELIEVE (parental mental illness)
  • Camp Treasure Chest (lung health)
  • Camp Trailblazers (craniofacial/facial differences)
  • Camp Lots-a-Wata (kidney disease)
  • Camp Guts & Glory (Crohn’s & Colitis/IBD)
  • Camp Goodtime (cancer)
  • Camp Silly-Yak (celiac disease)

The activities at each camp are designed to be inclusive for all campers whether they are mobile, on crutches, or in a wheelchair and the meals accommodate the dietary needs of the campers.  So, if your child has celiac disease or a food allergy, you have nothing to worry about.

 

So, why do you need to know about Brigadoon Village?  You need to know about Brigadoon Village because it is still fairly new and even though they have more than 500 kids this year they still have room for more.  So if you or anyone you know living in the Maritimes has a kid/grandchild/niece/nephew/neighbour/friend living with any of the conditions listed above then you need to tell them about this place so they have the opportunity to experience what my daughter and her camp besties have been experiencing for years…LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF FUN…

 

Nova Scotia Staycation – Greenbay Beach, Lunenburg County

Back in the spring I had a pulmonary embolism about a week after routine gallbladder surgery.  I lived – YAY!  However, having blood clots has ‘grounded’ me from travel for the time being which means the summer vacation we were planning out of country was cancelled.  Lucky for me, however, I live on the South Shore of Nova Scotia which means I live in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.  So, this summer I have been playing local tourist and since most people who read this blog aren’t from here I  thought I’d share with you some of the wonderful places I have been visiting right here at home.

This summer has been beautiful, sunny, and scorching hot so we have been spending a lot of time at the beach.  We live within 30 minutes of more beaches than I can count on my hands.  Greenbay is one of our favorites because, as you can see from the photos below, it isn’t generally crowded.  We usually take the scenic route there down the Lahave River which takes us about half an hour from our town of Bridgewater.

The beach has several little coves.  The first cove is usually the most crowded as it is located across from McLeod’s Canteen and the port-a-potties.  We always keep going past this area and drive a little way down the road, passing lots of cute little cottages and beach houses, until we are a few coves down.  We have to squeeze the car off to the side of the road to park and then we take one of several little trails that take us to the beautiful beach that we generally only have to share with a few other people if there is anyone else there at all.

My teenage daughters generally spend their time taking selfies on the big rocks that separate the coves while my husband and I walk the shoreline looking for shells or just enjoying the peacefulness of the beach.

On our way home we usually stop for ice cream at the General Store in Petite Riviere which is located across the road from a little picnic park with gazebo.

Moving Forward Despite an Uncertain Path – My Return to Blogging

wood-road-landscape-31518I’ve known for a very long time where I want my life to take me.  I have spent hours daydreaming and planning what I want my life to look like.  I want to be self-employed, absorbed with books, stories, and people with imagination.   I’ve been heading in that direction for a while, developing a business plan and moving forward slowly and at a pace that has been easy and comfortable.   However, in the spring a medical crisis reminded me that time is something we assume we have and is something we take for granted.

In March (2016) I became very ill.  I thought I had an odd stomach bug but after about a month of not improving and a few scary and painful spells I sought medical attention and it turned out that I needed my gallbladder removed. My surgery  in late April went well and recovery was going so smoothly that I managed to travel to the city to watch my daughters’ volleyball provincials just a few days later.  I was on my feet, moving around, feeling relatively well, albeit sore, and seemingly life would return to normal pretty soon.

I didn’t anticipate that I would almost die a few days later, just a week after surgery, when a blood clot traveled to my lungs and caused a pulmonary embolism.  My surgeon had given me a shot of heparin before my surgery as a normal precaution even though I wasn’t really considered to be at risk for developing clots.  I suspect that if he hadn’t, the clot would have been much bigger and likely would have killed me.

I also didn’t anticipate that the CT scan for my pulmonary embolism would require an IV with contrast (I’m a fainter), that I would get through it without fainting (YAY me!), and that the CT with contrast would ‘accidentally’ find several tumors and lesions on my liver which could turn out to be nothing or could be incredibly serious and life-threatening, leaving my life in limbo while I wait months for an MRI to determine the problem.

Initially, I was crippled with fear and thoughts of gloom and doom.  The internet is a horror show when you google ‘tumors on liver’.  I wasted a good week of the life that had just been spared on anxiety, locked inside the house worrying about things I have absolutely no control over.  Eventually, I went outside and sat on my deck, listened to the birds singing, watched the bunnies hop about like fools, went to the beach, and was reminded that life can be unpredictable but it’s only as scary and bad as we allow it to be.

So, I have chosen to move forward despite an uncertain path, and I can say wholeheartedly that it feels a whole lot better than sitting around feeling frightened.  I’m looking forward to launching the next phase of my publishing company next month and sharing bits and pieces of my everyday life with you through this blog.

Finding the Blessings in a Crappy Medical Diagnosis

I love to write, but anyone who follows me on this blog or through other social media knows that I have been pretty much silent over the past few months (for close to a year really) and the reason is this:

Arthritis.

My official diagnosis came this week -Osteoarthritis in both hands and my knee which, in turn, has put my hips and back out of balance and caused my life to be consumed by pain. But I’m not going to complain about it.  Instead, I’m going to remember a few blessing in this diagnosis, remain positive, and find a way to move on with the rest of my life and get back to the things that make me happy – like writing.

A few of the blessings I am thankful for:

  1.  Arthritis won’t kill me.
  2. The type of arthritis I have is much better than some of the other types.  It could be way worse.
  3. I live in Canada where healthcare is free.
  4. I have an incredible role model who has lived with arthritis almost her entire life and pushes through the pain – my 13 year old daughter.

So, as I start treatment I am optimistic.  The pain has put my writing on pause for now and is causing delays in finishing my manuscript, but I know it’s only temporary.  I should be back to writing soon…stay tuned 🙂

Surprise – My Male Rabbit Had Babies!

Newborn BunniesTwenty-eight days ago we got two male Flemish Giant rabbits.  We named the black one Pepper.  My oldest daughter insisted we name the grey one Clover despite the fact he was a boy.  So, you can imagine the confusion I felt when I walked into their house (a large converted playhouse) and found what initially appeared to be a dead newborn rabbit on the floor. I completely froze.  Then, I looked over in the corner and could see what appeared to be an empty nest of grey fur – Clover’s fur.

Oh my God, Clover is a girl.  We’ve seen Pepper trying to mount Clover numerous times, but research had reassured me it was just his way of asserting that he was the dominant male of the two.  Normal.

Two weeks earlier, I had noticed a few pieces of Clover’s fur in the corner just as it was starting to get hot outside.  Shedding I thought.  Normal.

So, after I regained my composure I quickly scooted the bunnies outside so I could deal with the dead bunny on the floor.  It was completely still and I felt sick to my stomach.  Poor little baby and poor little Clover to have gone through this.  I picked it up and as soon as the cold little body was in my hands it made a little gurgle and started wiggling.

It was alive!!

I had no idea what to do so I decided to place it in the nest and then go call my mother.  She lives on a farm and rescues animals all the time.  She would know what to do.  I picked up a bit of the fur and placed the baby in the nest, then bolted inside to call my mother.  No answer.   AHHHHHHH!  Left panicked message.  Texted my husband.  CLOVER HAD A BABY.  Screamed to my sleeping 14 year old that Clover had a baby, HELP! Then bolted back outside.

My daughter and her friend were placed on “keep Pepper & Clover separated” duty while I ran back inside to get more food/water for Clover and a crate for Pepper.  I looked over at the nest and could see the fur wiggling.  I lifted it and there further down were at least six more.  I must have been so panicked that I didn’t even think to search the nest for more.  Anyway…I didn’t want to pick them up so I’m not sure if there are any more under these ones or not, but I’m thinking not.

Of these seven, one appears to be what they call a peanut – large head with tiny body.  These ones apparently never survive.  There’s also a really, really small one that worries me because it looks more blue than pink but it was wiggling lots. The others looked to be larger, pink, and seemingly healthy and wiggly.

Mentally, I’m trying to prepare myself for the fact that its quite possible none of the baby buns will survive to 8 weeks when they can be weaned.  Clover is still very much a baby herself, barely four months old and it isn’t recommended they are bred before nine months.  According to a few sites on the internet, something like 40% of rabbits abandon or kill their first litter so I’m really concerned that with Clover being so young that this could happen.

I guess time will tell.  Wish us luck.

Me Time For This Mom (#metime4thismom)

strawberriesIt’s been an odd week.  I’m on summer hours at work so I’m home by 1:30 every afternoon I’m scheduled to work, my youngest daughter is at camp, my oldest is babysitting pretty much fulltime over the summer, and my husband is at work which means I get to have some much needed ‘Me Time”.

O.K. who am I trying to kid?  I’m pretty sure “Me Time” is an urban myth.

Yesterday, I found myself with a dilemma – Take some “Me Time” and go for a swim without anyone around to splash me, ask me to get out of the pool to get them something, etc. OR go get groceries so we would have something to eat for supper.  Sadly, groceries won out because, well, that’s what us moms do.  We think of everyone else all of the time. (Some of us also don’t listen to the weather that would have told us that by the time we got home from grocery shopping there would be a thunderstorm so we wouldn’t get to go swimming later like we thought…sigh).

While shopping I came across some local strawberries.  Strawberries are a rare treat at my house because both of my daughters are allergic to them, but yesterday I made an impulsive decision and bought two boxes – just for me.  I trusted that my daughter learned her lesson the last time I bought strawberries and she decided to “just” lick one, which resulted in a trip to the ER.

Like most moms I tend to spend my days doing stuff for others and little, if anything, for myself.  So, it should come as no surprise that despite having bought my two boxes of strawberries with the full intension of treating myself to strawberry shortcake last night that I became too busy carting my teen around and helping my husband with something that I didn’t end up having any strawberries at all.

Sound familiar to you moms out there?

So, this morning after getting up at 5:30 am to ensure my daughter got to her summer job by 6:30 and then spending an hour and a half running errands for my husband, and another hour outside tending to the bunnies before it gets too hot for them to be out I finally managed to have my strawberries.  I took them outside, listened to the birds chirp, watched the bunnies hop around like fools, and just relaxed.  Finally, “Me Time” for this mom.

I’m going to challenge myself to take time each day just for me even if it’s only for a minute and I’m going to tweet it as #metime4thismom to hold me accountable to ensure I do it.

I challenge all you moms out there to do it with me.

Lisa Pomfrey-Talbot is the author of the children’s chapter book, JENNIE FOWLER NIGHTTIME PROWLER.