Monthly Archives: October 2012

My Thoughts on Nursing Homes… for you Chatter Master!

I just finished reading Chatter Master’s post, “I Just Hurtle”, and I almost replied.

Realizing, however, my reply was more of a rant I felt it best to just haul off and “post” my reply.

Why is it that Western society has offered nursing homes as a solution for our elderly loved ones?  The words, “she would be better off in a nursing home” are just so predictable that it makes me want to vomit.  Can we not come up with something better?

I remember feeling trapped in the same scenario when my Dad was recovering in the hospital from pneumonia.  The hospital staff and CCAC told Mom and I that they would not release Dad back to his home and the best thing to do was to put him in a nursing home.  He was simply, “too much” for my Mom to handle on her own.  Dad used to say to us, “If I ever get too unable to take care of myself – take me to the back 40 acres and shoot me.”  Well, that was not going to happen, but neither would it happen that I would EVER put Dad in a nursing home.

I’ll confess that there are some homes that have wonderful care – but so many of them are so understaffed that an individual resident is denied the full care they need and deserve… as Chatter Master commented… after working hard all their lives.

Thank God I work in a school that also offers PSW courses and so when Dad was put on the nursing home treadmill I got busy and solicited the assistance of Janine, the PSW teacher, to help us find home care.  And that’s when our journey began surrounded by angels.  Diane came into our lives first, followed by Tessie and then a barrage of other angels.  I refused to abandon Dad in a nursing home.

This home care was not without it’s pitfalls.  Mom lost her privacy somewhat, especially when Dad’s needs grew.  I was no longer able to just visit Mom and Dad – it was always Mom and Dad and … whoever was helping out that day.  But losing her privacy was such a small price to pay for keeping Dad where he wanted to be:  home.

Their home was wonderful and it was a place where my children would always want to go and visit.  They had sleep-overs.  Who can say they would send their children for a sleep-over in a nursing home?  I wouldn’t want to – I don’t even like going there to visit.

Dad’s bedroom at home was the place where he went to sleep for the final time.  Everyone was there.  What a blessing.  How peaceful that transition was!  He was home.

Mom taught me that we did not need to follow “doctor’s order” or hospital orders – that we could think for ourselves in terms of what we felt was right.

I refuse to believe our only option for caring for our loved “elders” is to put them in a nursing home.  Society needs to become more creative and not just do what we are told is our only option.  We need to keep our families united at home – not a nursing home.

How can this be accomplished?

I became my Dad’s primary care-coordinator.  I cooked for him, payed bills for him, cried with him, laughed with him, and changed him when I needed to.  It was difficult for he and I and it was difficult for my family to give me up.  This coordinator required that I was with Dad a lot.  But my Dad raised me and put his life on hold for me.  It was my turn to give back to him.  And I do NOT regret it.

I’d like to think I’ve taught my children that there are options.  I’d like to think I’ve taught my children that it is possible to die with dignity in your own home and that death is a natural part of life.  We tend, as a society, to hide death and believe it needs to happen in a “hospital”.  Death is something that needs to be addressed as a part of life.

Nursing homes must not be dumping grounds or considered the be all and end all solution for our elderly who are not able to care for themselves.

Mom and Dad were my teachers even through death.  And by keeping them home they were able to live a better quality of life until the very end.

I think we can do better than nursing homes.

What we need are caring homes and caring families willing to make some sacrifices.  Our seniors deserve better.


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They are everywhere… they are everything…

He sat.

In his chair.

He smiled.

For there – beside him was his grandson who placed the graduation cap on his Poppa’s head.  The sun’s rays warmed their exchange.

He sat.

In the pilot’s seat.

He smiled.

For there – beside him was his son who took him for “one last flight”.  The sun’s rays warmed their exchange.

She sat.

In the restaurant’s seat.

She smiled.

For there – beside her was her son-in-law who shared one last meal with her.  The moon’s glow warmed their exchange.

They sat.

On their front porch.

They smiled and sighed.

For there – in front of them were the fall leaves.  The glow of autumn warmed their exchange.

He sits.

In his walker.

He shivers and smiles.

For there – in front of him is the approaching winter.  The wind off the bay warmed their exchange.

It sits.

On the corner.

It is.

It provides shelter for the many who gather to collect mail, to buy supplies, to now buy pizza.  The door swings open and permits others to exchange a warm welcome.

They sit.

Sisters, mothers and daughters, cheering, flying, soaring, poppas and grandchildren, sons, fathers, care-givers and care-needers, chefs, and hosts.

In the frame.

It offers snapshots of history, roots, smiles, tears, colour, family, cousins, anticipation, scenery.  The images offer warmth to the heart.


Categories: Family and Friends, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

And through Martin, I now hear Dad’s words.

High Flight

My father always said that when you die, if you can count the number of good friends on one hand, you were one of the lucky ones.

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with family and friends.  I don’t think there was a single week-end on the farm when friends didn’t drop by for a visit.  Of course the Triple – B (bonfire, body-builder, and billy burgers) probably helped influence that drop-in visit, but nonetheless – they came. I’ll have to include the pool on that list – but it wasn’t part of the Triple-B! (wink)

It seems that the older one gets, the less visitors one has.  I guess it’s difficult to understand me sometimes as it isn’t as easy to articulate as it once was for me.  I was known for my songs, bagpipes (which were instantly produced by plugging your nose, tilting your head backwards, and…

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Where Does the Journey End?

I have not had much to say lately.

Mom and Dad continue to be on my mind – often – but I just don’t know what to write.

Maybe it’s writer’s block?

Maybe it’s grief?

Maybe it’s time to put closure to something else?

This blog, and all you wonderful readers, have been a great source of comfort for me through a very challenging time.  I’ve lost both parents in less than 18 months.  To me, this has been traumatic.  It has been a long, long, journey.

I wonder now, though, if the journey is coming to an end?

Is it time to put this blog to bed?

The condo up for sale.  I have a difficult time going back there to even check in on it.  It’s difficult to go “back” in time.

Yet, I sit faithfully in front of the digital photo frame as images of our lives fade in and fade out.  I sent some new photos to it the other day and I enjoy watching those fade in and out too.

What would it feel like to say, “good-bye” to this sentimental journey – or rather TTFN?  Letting go is the hardest thing to do, yet I think I need to know my limits and not stay too long.  I feel like the guest that never left… not knowing when enough is enough.

I need to move on – but how much of the past do we need to break from?  Does the past propel us to the future?

Does the past help us to build a foundation, yet anchor us to the ground?

It is inescapable, haunting, yet at the same time it is still my greatest source of comfort.

Should I stay or should I go now – I believe someone else used that phrase and sang a tune along with it (grin).

Maybe the falling leaves have brought this feeling of loss to front and centre.

Where is my faith? What is my purpose?  When will “this” sentimental journey end?

I guess today is a day of questions.  And having said that – maybe today begins a new “quest” for closure.

How is closure best achieved?

And the photo frame flashes images at me like pieces of a patchwork quilt.  They all blend together in an odd, yet harmonious blanket of comfort.

TTFN  – for now.

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

49 Reasons to Be Thankful

Dear Mom and Dad:

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  This is the first time – ever?- that you and I won’t be sharing dinner.  I must confess it didn’t hit me until this morning when a friend of mine was talking about her parents coming to her home for Thanksgiving.  She had a coffee with her Dad this morning, she said, and talked about how much she enjoys talking with her Dad.

I don’t feel envious.  I feel like I am in unfamiliar waters.  Thanksgiving will be different without either of you.

Mom, who will Kevin tease when it comes to your stuffing wars?  I still think yours was better – wish I had payed more attention while you were making it.  Maybe I’ll have to make some cranberry sauce like you taught me the last Thanksgiving we shared together.

The image of you looking at Dad, with your head resting on your hand, is forever ingrained into my mind.  The scarf you wore – I gave to Auntie Helen and she brought it here this summer to wear during the Malloff reunion.

Dad, you were always so gracious at these dinners.  You never said much, but, as you would say, “Wisdom is knowing what to say and not saying it anyway.”.  The grace, “Some ha’ meat and canne’ eat – and some can eat but want it – but we ha’ meat and we can eat so let the Lord be thanked” will INDEED be recited tomorrow.

So – it brings me to consider the things for which I am thankful – one for each year of my life would allow me to offer thanks for 49 things.  Here they are:

  1. health – and the ability to look forward to good health
  2. family who gathers around our dinner table
  3. faith – when the going gets tough
  4. hope – what would we do without it?
  5. freedom
  6. friends who still reach out – even though time separates us
  7. fall – well, actually, spring
  8. history – and being a part of it
  9. future – knowing that great things are still yet to come
  10. my talents
  11. my humility
  12. roots
  13. a home filled with love and laughter – and sometimes tears
  14. education
  15. colour – especially in the fall
  16. good food
  17. the ability to cook
  18. my kitchen
  19. laughter – sometimes remembering how a joke goes
  20. wine – mainly white
  21. music – especially Nat King Cole!
  22. the ability to play the piano and sing
  23. harmony
  24. pianos
  25. the ability to teach
  26. students who love to learn – or learn to love learning
  27. learning how to teach better
  28. being open minded
  29. being a wife
  30. to Kevin – my partner, my friend, my inspiration
  31. love
  32. being a mom to Ben, Katya, and David
  33. compassion
  34. adulthood
  35. photos
  36. blogs
  37. the ability to write
  38. to tell stories
  39. to have people who tolerate my stories
  40. maple syrup
  41. maple trees
  42. colourful leaves
  43. memories of the farm
  44. memories our first home in Collingwood
  45. learning to mud and tape from Dad
  46. learning to sew – and being able to give up sewing as it is way too frustrating – from Mom
  47. midnight talks with Mom
  48. midnight talks with Dad
  49. holding hands

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mom and Dad.  We will definitely raise a glass of wine to you and be grateful for all that you have meant to so many!  And I’ll count my blessings.

Here is the “master blessing counter”, Bing!


Categories: Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Smart Skills in the Classroom: A Whole New Approach to Teaching and Learning

So – how often is it that you google your name and find a video-clip that has been produced about you?

Yeah – not often – and so when it does happen, you gotta blow your own horn?  Right, Dad?  Mom?

I love this clip – mainly because there are so many testimonials from my former students who “suffered” my learning about best teaching practices.  Please, let me know your thought. TTFN.  Be kind.  My Mom and Dad are watching.  grin.

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I love this video! What a powerful message constructed in a very creative manner… how do people do it? Bravo!

Goblins, Ghouls and Geography

Give Earth a Hand


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The Photo Frame in the Front Room

My first greeting in the morning flashes as a random light from the front room.

The source of the light is clear and I welcome it as equally as it welcomes me.

“Good morning, Mom.”, I say to the photo of Mom that flashes up on the digital photo frame.  “Good  morning, Dad.”, I say to the next image of Dad that appears on the screen.  The light from the photo frame seems to be getting brighter as the morning light begins to appear even later.

The images light up the room as much as they light my heart.

I move closer and stand by the frame for a while, just watching as my childhood flashes before me.

  • There’s lady – our first dog, anticipating a treat that Dad is holding to reward her for “sitting pretty”.
  • dad and I sitting on the balcony of his condominium
  • Mom – making her first attempt at using her new computer
  • Mom – wearing the neck brace that she had crafted to support her neck
  • Norman Kee at the farm
  • Mom, Dad, and I on the beach in Cuba.  Dad was standing without his walker then
  • Dad walking me down the aisle to marry Kevin.

And then reality hits – its time to go to school.  I turn away and think, “oh, just a few more.”  And I’m trapped by history again.

I love the frame – I hate the frame.

The memories are comforting and disturbing at the same time.

I visited Mom and Dad yesterday – prompted by seeing a little old lady at the grocery store who reminded me so intensely of Mom.  I had to leave the store quickly so that I would not draw attention to myself as I began to cry.  Funny how the emotions can be so suddenly intense.

  • There’s Tessie and her family at Dad’s condo – all of us enjoying each others’ company for Wednesday night dinner.
  • Mary and Dad toasting with a glass of wine on our front walkway just after Mary lost her own Mom.  Dad was a source of strength for her during that time too.

It’s time to go.  It’s time to say good-bye.. or at least TTFN.

My first greeting in the morning continues to flash as a random light from the front room as I walk away and move on with life.

“TTFN, Mom and Dad.”, I say to the photo of Mom giving Dad a peck on the cheek on the occasion of their 61st wedding anniversary.  TTFN

Bill and Paula Duff

Summer Smiles






Categories: Life After Dad, Mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Maple Syrup Operation: It Was One Sweet Story

(Thanks to my brother, Jamie, for this contribution)

After buying 80 acres of pasture and bush, getting us to move into a dirt floored cabin until the house could be built, dad seceded that he wanted to make maple syrup. He knew next to nothing about the process, but as always, the library had a wealth of information. After scouring a number of books, Dad he was ready to take on the maple bush. If it was in a book – Dad could do it.

First, he ordered an attachment for his chainsaw and a special bit (The saw rotates opposite of a drill, so the bit had to cut backwards) Then, he ordered 200 spigots along with the pill you have to put in behind to stop the tree from “healing” itself. He went out and bought an old fuel oil tank and had a local shop in Craighurst cut the side out, weld a pipe and tap onto the now bottom, and steam clean the inside of the tank. They also welded a stand to sit the tank up to allow the fire to be built underneath.

He set up his first attempt at this beside the old cabin deep in the woods…. the one we slept in for 4 months whille the house was being build.  He tapped trees on the other side of the stream. His original intention was to bring the sap back by wagon, but we’d had lots of snow that winter, so that idea was out. His next idea was to take a plastic garbage can and use the snowmobile to collect the sap. This worked well at the start, but as the snow started to melt and the packed snow wasn’t as solid, a number of cans full of sap were lost to tip-overs, as my brother Jamie and his friend David Clark can attest.  The sap was not only “wet” but it was sticky.  What a mess.

The tank didn’t allow for accuracy of any kind when it came to temperature control, so there were a few batches that were lost due to burning. It was a tricky process getting the sap to a really light syrup, then drawing that off to finish on a Coleman stove. Even with a hygrometer to measure density, it was seconds sometimes between the “perfect draw’ and a burnt glob. Dad persevered though and got it down to a reasonably fine art, even with a fuel oil tank for an evaporator.

He used old wine bottles for his first syrup containers, and considered the year a rousing success. He managed to make 12 bottles of syrup that year, and had collected about 2000 gallons of sap to accomplish that.

Dad was hooked, and for the remainder of our time on the property, March was Maple Syrup time. He moved up from the tank to a professional evaporator manufactured in Quebec, with a “sugar shanty” to keep the elements out and allow for a better product. His best year was 200 litres of syrup produced … at a ratio of 60 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup, we collected 12,000 litres of sap that year.


The maple syrup was “liquid gold” to most folks, especially Mom and Dad.  For us, my brother and I, it created golden memories and sweet tales.

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