Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do we ever get too old to need our mothers?

I was doubled over the toilet recently being sick for the third time in twenty minutes, when I realized something … I wanted my mother. It wasn’t like I’d never been sick before, but something felt just a little scary this time. So what if I was 54 years old, does the statute of limitations run out on being mothered?

My parents live with me, which makes it easier for me to take care of them as they have multiple health issues. Over time, it seems, I have become the parent in this relationship. I take them to medical appointments, I control medication, and I worry about changes in their condition.

But now it was about me. As I recovered from my third visit to the toilet bowl, I grabbed my trusty Blackberry and dialled the home line downstairs. My mother picked up the phone and I suddenly started to cry and blurted out “I’m being sick, come upstairs please”. I didn’t even hear her hang up the phone and she was upstairs beside me. She got a cold wet facecloth and pressed it against my fevered forehead and immediately took charge. She asked pointed questions trying to determine the onset of my illness and possible cause.

Over the next two hours I made multiple trips to the toilet bowl and by the end I was as weak as a kitten and could hardly make it back to my bed. As I lay spent and sore, she tried to entice me with Ginger Ale and Camomile tea, having success with neither. I tried to sleep but was unable to. She lay down next to me on my bed and began regaling me with an account of the baseball game she had been watching when I phoned her. As she spoke, I remembered back to November 2002 when I had surgery and she helped me get in the shower one day. When I thanked her for being there to help, she prophetically said “Maybe someday I will be sick and you will have to take care of me”. Less than two months later she was diagnosed with cancer. Our roles reversed that day and I cared for her through radiation, chemotherapy, surgery and a blood clot. My once invincible mother had become mortal.

Seven years later, she still has more energy than anyone else in our family. Despite ongoing medical issues with an ulcer that simply will not heal there is no stopping her. In her spare time she knits and crochets beautiful baby items which she sells to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society and come June 11 she will be the centre of our Relay team when we participate in our sixth Relay for Life.

I’m a grown woman, financially independent, mature, confident, but when I’m doubled over a toilet bowl being sick, I am still my mother’s little girl and I’m not afraid to need her touch.

                                          Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Boots at the door

There are many things that have been said over the years about "family", some positive, some not so.  In my experience, the one thing that can be said is that "family" is a multi-faceted organization with weird and wonderful nuances that add colour and complexity to our lives as human beings.  I have 2 brothers, and 4 sisters - I'm somewhere in the middle.  Recently, the first born, my brother Bill, has been working with me to help us with the evolution of an equine assisted "wellness" program as an extension to the human based "wellness" programs we offer at Ste. Anne's.  Bill has travelled and lived all over the world, but his most recent roots have been put down in Los Angeles.  Prior to working with me, Bill had a successful career making movies, so Los Angeles was probably the right place to be.  When Hollywood started to experience the meltdown that has undermined the very foundation of the U.S. economy, Bill started to look for other options to continue his personal growth and support his family.  For the past couple of weeks, Bill's wife Julie, and his children, Cole and Lauren (my youngest nieces and nephews), joined him here in Canada.  Because Bill and his family have lived abroad for the most part, I haven't had as much of an opportunity to get to know them.  This recent visit allowed us to start to build the foundation of a relationship.  Each day Cole and Lauren would help Bill with the horses and the cows (mostly an excuse to check up on the kittens) and experience "life on the farm".  For my part, I got to "hang" with Bill, Cole and Lauren most nights over dinner - we had a camp fire one night, and a visit to my "shack" another.  I know it was hard for Bill when his family returned to L.A., but I hope that not too much time will pass before they can be together again.  Seeing boots at the door, even when they have a little crust of mud or horse poop on them is strangely comforting.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thank you Ste. Annes's for the most wonderful experience of my life. From the moment I arrived until the moment I left I was treated with the highest of respect and luxury. I felt complete serenity and relaxation and was made to feel like the most important person in the world.The entire staff is to be commended for their obvious enjoyment of working there as well as their pleasure in pleasing every patron, at all times. I will be back and I will be recommending to everyone to visit your establishment.thanks again.
Kathy and Lauri

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Helping Hand

There once was a young girl who worked in the packing department of a paper mill in Thorold, Ontario.

She was just out of high school and lucky to have such a job. The year was 1936.

The stacks of paper would come off of the line and she would wrap them up for shipping. Everything was quota based and if her team (they all worked in pairs) didn't meet theirs, they were both out of a job. But she didn't have to worry, she and her partner were the fastest and most efficient team on the floor; young and full of energy.

One half of the team next to her on the line was an older woman; not as fast with a lot less energy, eyes failing. She had worked hard on her feet at that old mill for many a year. Her name was Mary Jordan.

One morning, an announcement came down that cutbacks were imminent. Those teams that were the slowest would be the first to go. The young girl looked at Mary and realized that she was certain to lose her job. So, she marched into the forman's office and strongly "requested" that she be reassigned to work with Mary. The forman looked at her as if she were mad but after a bit of badgering, he relented.

When Mary heard of this, she went to the young girl and broke down, sobbing and crying with relief. She thanked her over and over for her act of kindness and for saving her job as she knew what would have come otherwise. So away they went, a new team, one of them flying fast and high, and the other trudging behind. What a pair they made!

That young woman was my mother. She is now 90 years old and would still do anything to help anyone. You should see her wrap Christmas presants....WOW....still fast!

Is there a Mary Jordan in your life who could use your help?

You'll find one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hug me like you mean it ...

I always wanted to meet Dr Leo Buscaglia but he died before I could. It wasn’t just his extraordinary lectures that I wanted to experience firsthand; I wanted to line up after the lecture with thousands of others to experience a Buscaglia hug. He was a master and an advocate of the hug. He had this to say about hugging:

“Nine times out of ten, when you extend your arms to someone, they will step in, because basically they need precisely what you need.”

I don’t know if it grew out of his doctorial studies or the fact that he was Italian but he surely elevated the hug to an art form.

I love being hugged. Not the air hugs from those who lean in to hug you without actually touching you. No, I’m talking about the hugs that leave you breathless and just a little bit sore. Those are the hugs that cry out “Hey I want you to know that I’m here”. My nieces and nephew hug that way. Their hugs are exuberant and uninhibited and usually accompanied by a kiss and an “I love you Zia Nadia”. My gay friends hug that way. Their hugs say “Thank you for your acceptance and your love”. My relatives in Italy hug that way. Their hugs say “Why do have to live so far away… Oh my God you look just like your aunt Flora… why didn’t you phone, I would have made gnocchi… I didn’t think I’d live to see you come back and visit again”. There are Italian co-workers at the office that will stop me in the hall to give a hug when they haven’t seen me in a few months. Italians certainly don’t have the market on hugging. I recently discovered in our Costa Rican Service Centre that Costa Ricans will hug anybody and everybody. I felt right at home there.

The hugs give me comfort, they sustain me and they feel so good. Hugs don’t cost a cent and they are healing. Dr Harold Voth, psychiatrist has said: “Hugging can lift depression – enabling the body’s immune system to become tuned up. Hugging breathes fresh life into a tired body and makes you feel younger and more vibrant.”


Hugging may sound like the simplest thing on earth, but it will help to keep a few things in mind. Non-hugs are no good. In his book Caring, Feeling, Touching, Dr Sidney Simon describes five non-hugs:

I. The A-frame hug, in which nothing but the huggers' heads touch.

2. The half-hug, where the huggers' upper bodies touch—while the other half twists away.

3. The chest-to-chest burp, in which the huggers pat each other on the back, defusing the physical contact by treating each other like infants being burped.

4. The wallet-rub, in which two people stand side-by-side and touch hips.

5. The jock-twirl, in which the hugger, who is stronger or bigger, lifts the other person off the ground and twirls him.

The real thing, the full body hug, touches all the bases. Dr Simon describes it like this: "The two people coming together take time to really look at each other. There is no evasion or ignoring that they are about to hug... You try as hard as you can to personalize and customize each hug you give... With a full body hug there is a sense of complete giving and fearless communication, one uncomplicated by words.”

So if you should meet me some day and open your arms, know that I will step right in for a hug. Dr Buscaglia and Dr Simon would approve.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A new beginning

Today is the beginning of a new Ste. Anne's Spa blog.  I will be looking for contributors who want to trade stories and insire the exploration of  the healing power of human touch.  Send me an email if you would like to contribute.  Have a happy Easter Weekend!