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Parenting Our Parents

I moved back to Canada from the Bahamas in late summer 2011; and before winter 2012, I moved my mother in with me.  She was not thrilled about living in the Vancouver area because she doesn’t like the damp climate.

“I’ve raised seven children; been butchered up by the doctors after being in the hospital sixteen times,” she likes to remind us, even though seven of those times were to deliver babies. “Vancouver weather just makes my bones ache.”

But  mom agreed to move in with me anyway, and we were living in a high rise on the 33rd floor.   “The bird cage,” she quickly dubbed it.  She loved the views, the sunrises, but hated everything else about it.  All that said, mom’s health improved week by week, likely due to the regular and varied meals we made, and the love received by her grandchildren.  She didn’t like going out much, and I’m no sure if it was the high rise life that was foreign to her, but the woman I knew as my mother always had a gypsy adventurous spirit and it killed me to see her be so idle while I worked on the computer during the day.

That Christmas she went to ‘visit’ her sister in Edmonton for two weeks and flew the coop by refusing to return.  I can’t say I was surprised.

On a warm May day in 2015 walking through Hoy Trail in Coquitlam. I took mom on a walk through the woods and she said, "This spot is so beautiful you should take a picture."
On a warm May day in 2015 walking through Hoy Trail in Coquitlam. I took mom on a walk through the woods and she said, “This spot is so beautiful you should take a picture.”

Mom only lasted two weeks with her big sister and then moved in with a girlfriend.  She stayed there in Edmonton, ended up in the interior of BC for a bit with another girlfriend, and went back to Edmonton until 2015. In 2014 she put herself into the hospital at one point, and the doctors found nothing wrong with her. It was hard to deal with as we wanted her in BC, but she refused to come, and refused to live with her friend again.  The doctors suggested they find senior housing for her. The wait was a few months, and I know it was hard on her.

Finally a place came up in downtown Edmonton, and my sister and I went out to set mom up in her new home. We went out and shopped and got it all ready for her, even buying her new clothes. The seniors facility had all the amenities and no cooking was allowed in her room. Thank goodness as she had been starting to leave pots on stoves, etc.

It wasn’t long before mom said she didn’t like their food, and didn’t’ seem to engage in any of the social activities they had on every day. I could tell when I called she was depressed.  All of her children, live in BC except my brother who lives in Edmonton, but has ALS and lives in long-term care.  If anything urgent were to happen with mom’s health, we’d have to fly in. I continued to express my concern about this with her.   Finally mom agreed to move to B.C. but wanted to live in Abbotsford instead of Vancouver, as she assumed it gets less rain.

Made with love! Every morning I put out breakfast for mom. Home made steel cut oats with raisins and flax; some kefir; coconut milk, stewed prunes; and her vitamins. She's only on one medication for her high blood pressure. Mom is always served first at any of our meals.
Made with love! Every morning I put out breakfast for mom. Home made steel cut oats with raisins and flax; some kefir; coconut milk, stewed prunes; and her vitamins. She’s only on one medication for her high blood pressure. Mom is always served first at any of our meals.

We found the best seniors home in our budget and were able to get her in when we wanted.  My brother drove out to get her things and put her on the plane.  This was the spring of 2015.  Within only weeks at her new place in Abbotsford, mom was complaining about the food, and the staff. She was mostly upset that the units had only walk-in showers and no bathtubs. She’s been a bathtub girl her entire life.   Again, I could hear the depression setting in, although I was driving out to visit her one day a week, bringing her home on a weekend overnights, as was my brother who lives in Abbotsford.

Then our roommate moved out of our home, and  in my heart of hearts I knew my mother should be with me.  I talked to my siblings about it first.  We all agreed she had to stick out 3 months at the seniors home first, so she would understand her actions better and have time to assimilate the transition into my home .

When I asked her if she’d move in with me again, she burst into tears. “I thought you’d never ask me again, after living with you the last time,” she said.   She stuck out the 3 months and moved in with me last year in September.

This Friday mom turns 83 and she’s finally calling our place ‘home.’ She stopped answering the phone saying, “Robbin’s place” and now just says, “Good afternoon.”

Mom’s been institutionalized, and expected meals to be on time, at certain times, even though I told her she’s living with family now and we are all busy.  Things will not always be on time, and she’ll have to learn to go with our flow. We still have to remind her of this.

Out for a walk in February 2015. After winter she was not wanting to walk much, so I had to get out with her to get her back in the swing of daily walks.
Out for a walk in February 2015. After winter she was not wanting to walk much, so I had to get out with her to get her back in the swing of daily walks.

She’s eased up a lot, and her health is getting better and better, although her short term memory has not improved much.  She’s begun sharing her stories (over and over as she forgets), and has also begun going through some of her things like photographs, and has starting giving them as gifts.  I truly believe that if we care for and live with (or near) our parents, this is how our family stories get passed from generation to generation.

I started writing about mom under the hashtag #parentingourparents on Facebook, and since we baby boomers are all taking care of, or assisting our parents in their final years, my writing seems to  strike a chord with those either dealing with similar, or those who appreciate the insight of what to expect.  Some of my writing is touched with sadness, but much of it  is laced with irony, laughter, and a lot of love.

Taking care of my mother is the least I can do. I am lucky she is still in great health and has her mobility.  It is now her time to rest, reflect, share her stories and enjoy life, the way she wants to.   I often want for her to enjoy life the way I think would be best for her … and she quickly lets it be known if those ideas are going to work for her, or not.

She’s one stubborn woman, but then so am I…

Mom woke up very late yesterday... and seemed to be in a zombie state. I had breakfast laid out and she told me she was going for a walk. "Before breakfast?" I asked. She went on her way, and I thought she must be mad at me for something...? She came back in and said, "Oh a bear got into the garbage cans last night. I hardly slept." I guess she didn't want to wake me up. I went out and sure enough our bins were knocked over. They are right outside her bedroom window. At least she wasn't mad at me :P Later I took her for a walk by Lafarge Lake and we only got as far as the first park bench and she said she had to stop because she was so tired. I hold mom's hand these days, as it gives her that extra security when we walk. "If you don't slow down, you'll have to carry me," she says every time. I left her watching the ducks and did a fast walk on my own. She slept like a log last night :) #parentingourparents #bearscare
Mom sitting in the park at Town Centre, Coquitlam overlooking LaFarge Lake. She was tired because a bear got into our garbage the night before. I did the lake loop on my own.

Here’s one of my favourite #ParentingOurParents pieces from 2015:

Tucking in my 82 year old mother the other night after putting in her eye drops from her cataract removal, I gave her a little squeeze, and she said, “Oh my that feels good. I don’t get many hugs these day.”
Then she said, “Thanks for taking such good care of me.” I turned out her light and held back some tears on the way to my bedroom. #ParentingourParents

[To find more of my #parentingourparents entries, go to your search bar at the top of Facebook and put that hashtag in and hit ‘Return’ – please note that there are others using this hashtag also.]

Am I Anti-Pipeline?

It gets frustrating when I hear people make statements about others being ‘pro-pipeline’ or ‘anti-pipeline’, as it’s not that cut and dry.  Many that argue for the expansion of pipelines often justify themselves by asking if you enjoy your heated home or your car, or they ask if you use plastic.

Of course we have benefited from pipelines and have lived and progressed in many ways with the heavy use of fossil fuels.  My father helped put in roads and pipelines in the north of Canada. The oil industry provides an income to my nephew and many of my childhood friend’s families, as I grew up in Alberta.

Pipelines are not going away overnight, and every so-called ‘anti-pipeline person’ knows that. However we have to start making a change, and like any other revolution through time, the change will come, one step at a time. Personal choices are key. How we live, what we purchase, what we eat, all affect the whole. We must stop new pipelines to come into balance and make that turn for a greener tomorrow – to begin the reversal from what has wrecked havoc on our environment.

Sure we’ve seemingly benefited by the use of fossil fuel, but it was at a cost to our environment. Today more and more are divesting and directing their money away from fossil fuels. My brother’s company is pioneering in this movement.

Pipeline in the 1950s, Manitoba, Canada (Photo from the Whachell family album)
Pipeline in the 1950s, Manitoba, Canada (Photo from the Whachell family album)

We have the know-how to go-green through alternate means, and keep fossil fuels in the ground. However we are creatures of habit,  who like to cling to the old ways, and ridicule those who take a stand toward change. We are being egged on to remain complacent by those attempting to debunk new ideas, as a financial loss is at stake (for some). In a world where social media has us inhaling ideas like breathing air, we must be mindful.

Here’s one case in point: The Wall Street Journal, known to be a highly respected publication has a recent article titled, “What the Dakota Access Pipeline Is Really About” where the writer, Kevin Cramer goes on to say that First Nations were consulted; that it’s not about protecting water; etc, etc.

Yet, look at what Wikipedia tells us about the ‘writer.’ I was shocked to find this: [Cramer has been described by Reuters as “one of America’s most ardent drilling advocates.”  Cramer supports an increase in oil and gas drilling on public lands and supports cutting taxes for energy producers. He is opposed to what he characterizes as overreach by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In May 2016, Donald Trump asked Cramer to draft his campaign’s energy policy.  He wrote Trump’s energy plan, which focuses heavily on promoting fossil fuels and weakening environmental regulation. The plan also vows to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and repeal U.S. regulations aims at controlling the carbon emissions which cause climate change. Cramer was “one of a handful of early Trump endorsers” among House Republicans.”]

Yet the Wall Street Journal just let’s Cramer have his way with us…

I encourage everyone to watch the free documentary  on National Geographic channel called Before the Flood by Leonardo DiCaprio. American actor DiCaprio admits in the film that he’s likely been one of the worst abusers of personal use of fossil fuels. Many will just stop right here, because I’ve even mentioned his name. That’s where we go wrong. We get so narrow-minded and hear one thing that is negative about someone (often from a ‘debunker’), and we check them off our credibility list.

First Nations people paddle in front of Kinder Morgan on Burrard Inlet during the Salish Sea Gathering in 2015. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
First Nations people paddle in front of Kinder Morgan on Burrard Inlet during the Salish Sea Gathering in 2015 hosted by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Traditional unceded Coast Salish territory. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Another person I am tired of hearing be bashed is David Suzuki. Suzuki said, “By deciding in favour of the fossil fuel industry, the federal government is rejecting climate science and ignoring overwhelming community and First Nations opposition.” This man has given his life to educate us about the preciousness and intricacies of our planet, our bodies and our minds, yet people say he has a ‘hidden agenda’. Really? For what? If the man is exposing those that exploit our world’s greatest assets, don’t you think those that are gaining monetarily will attempt to make him look bad anyway they can, and at any cost?

What irks me most about pipelines like the Dakota Access, and Kinder Morgan is that the very few rich, get richer at the expense of the land, and the people that enjoy or live on that land, in particular the First Nations people. It only takes one (1) spill to ruin an environment, possibly forever.

I am opposed to Kinder Morgan for those same reasons, and because of the expected increase to tanker traffic in an area we hope our future generations can enjoy as much as we do.  I personally paddle in that inlet and see firsthand the marvels of nature on land, and in and on the ocean. I also work closely with my local wild salmon sustainability program, and I want my grandchildren to see these amazing fresh and ocean water fish return into our streams like we do today.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said in a recent letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “You cannot truly believe that the Kinder Morgan sevenfold increase in tanker traffic is not a real risk to the B.C. coast, to everything that Coast Salish Peoples hold dear, including the fishing and tourism industries, to the orcas, shell-fish harvesting and the dynamic life systems in the ocean and on land…”

Burrard Inlet is enjoyed by the public. People kayak, canoe, row, and dragon boat along the waterway. This is my dragon boat team, the Nothin' Dragon Masters. (Photo: Erica McCarthur))
Burrard Inlet is enjoyed by the public. People kayak, canoe, row, and dragon boat along the waterway. This is my dragon boat team, the Nothin’ Dragon Masters. (Photo: Erica McCarthur))

It’s upsetting and just plain wrong that First Nations people of the affected areas are not being consulted in these big pipeline deals and are lied to by our government.

In the end, I have friends (and possibly family) that likely think I am naive and uneducated. Perhaps they are right.  I am no economist, scientist or marine biologist, and I don’t like labels. I know I lean more toward humanism and naturalism, “Pro-People” or “Pro-Planet.”

I am not simply, ‘anti-pipeline’ because it’s more than just about pipelines and profits, it’s about people and our planet.

[Focused Fashion: In this photo I am wearing my new Green Embassy sleeveless Organic Alpaca felted jacket made in Australia! This jacket is part of the “Empty Oceans Series” and 1/3 of its purchase goes towards Sea Shepherd Australia. Please support efforts to keep our oceans safe for seals, whales and dolphins.

About Robbin Whachell…

Morning mist on Lafarge Lake, Coquitlam

The early bird catches the worm!

My first thought when I woke up today was to get outside and go for a walk. I usually get up, and grab a coffee, check the latest online, but today something pulled me to get outside before the morning waned.

I put on my coat and the first thing that grabbed me was the mist in the air when I stepped out into the morning. The damp heavy air covered my body like a cloak, and went deep into my lungs like a drink of water.

I walked through the woods enjoying the shadow and light displays that are unique to that time of day and to the specific weather conditions. Walking beside Hoy Creek, I took photos along my way, enjoying the sounds and sights of morning. My ears were filled with the soft sounds of the creek,  birds chirping, and the odd ‘good morning’ shared between people I passed on the path out walking their dogs.

When I got to the first large clearing of Town Center Park, and Lafarge Lake the misty morning fog was most evident there, likely due to the body of water. I could see the orb of the sun trying its best to burn its way through.

I took these photos with my Samsung cell phone and they turned out like black and whites stills, yet I altered nothing. They went direct from my phone  to the web.

By the time I got back home, the sun was out in full force and the mist had gone. It became a glorious day.

Morning-Mist-2-copyright

Why the ALS #IceBucketChallenge is so important to me

You are probably getting sick and tired of seeing yet another ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video, but I am not.

I never knew what ALS was until my brother acquired the disease some 5 years ago.  ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die gradually leaving voluntary muscles paralyzed. It usually hits the hands and feet first with numbness as first signs. Eventually the person cannot walk, or move their body without aid, and gradually the person needs to be tube fed and the worst is losing the inability to talk.

When I learned my older brother Dean had ALS, I was shocked… when I sat down at the computer to do research, I then became devastated.  I cried off and on for 3 days trying to come to grips with it.   Bold words jumped out off the screen at me, “Fatal,”  “2 – 5 years to live,”  “Every day two or three Canadians die from ALS,” and “No cure” left me feeling hopeless.

How could something so awful affect my family is all I thought. A family that has been  generally very healthy and free from disease. There is no cure yet for ALS and the cause is still unknown, so I may never know the ‘why’.

My brother Dean with his only child Curt; and Dean and our family angel, Elaine.
My brother Dean with his only child Curt; and Dean and our family angel, Elaine. PHOTO AT VERY TOP is Dean with two home care workers out on a walk in his wheel chair in 2013 when he still living on his own. (Thank you Fluent Light Media)

In a world where most ‘finding  a cure’ information usually only relates to Cancer (one of the world’s most funded diseases) I was shocked, but so excited to find out about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge  started by Pete Frates.  “Finally my friends would understand what our family has been going through,” I thought.  Each and every ice bucket challenge brings great pleasure to me, and I am certain it is a voice for so many ALS sufferers and their families.  I ‘Like’ them all.

Of course with any ‘good thing’ there is always those that poo-poo ideas, in particular through social media, and the latest is the image of that little African boy who can’t believe we are dumping water when they don’t have water to drink… Okay, pleeeeeaaase!  How on earth does this relate?  And the article about how much the ALS Organization members make a year.  Now that one has me a bit stirred up, but I have to go back to the victims in the beds like my brother, the many actually suffering with the dreaded disease. I KNOW this challenge has, and is, lifting their spirits… money aside, the public awareness alone has MOVED MOUNTAINS of grief!

Finding a cure?  All the influx of millions of dollars of course holds no guarantee, and in a recent National Post article it said,  “ALS is a tough nut to crack, however: After 30 years of work, we don’t seem to be any closer to finding a cure. And there’s no particular reason to believe that we’re $100 million away from finally getting somewhere. Even if a million Americans donate $100 each to ALS, the net positive effect on the world might well be very small indeed.”

With the help of so many wonderful family friends, and an abundance of prayer, my brother Dean is a living miracle and fighting ALS.  He’s lost the use of his arms and hands, can still move his legs and feet a bit, but must use a wheelchair.  Last month his lung gave out after an infection and he had to undergo an emergency tracheotomy to survive, which means he is now tube fed.  He continues to amaze me with his courage, and strength, wit and humour.

Like any adversity, there is always a silver lining. My brother is finding his, and we are finding ours through the challenges our family faces together. Sometimes life throws you things you’d never expect, and when you first get hit with it, you feel your life is over, or you can’t go on… then you gather your strength, you regroup, hug your family, move on with your faith (prayers do help), and breath in the love that you always owned, and keep steady at the helm.

A miracle happened when someone told my sister about a relatively unheard of treatment called The Deanna Protocol, which was developed by Dr. Vincent Tedone five years ago, for his daughter Deanna Tedone-Gage who at the time was a new bride and a young attorney.  The products can be ordered online and have since helped reverse many of my brother’s symptom which we know have helped lengthen his life.  Research is now underway on The Deanna Protocol by scientists at the University of South Florida, led by Dr. Dominic D’Agostino. They are studying its effects on mice with ALS.

I encourage anyone with ALS to check out The Deanna Protocol! You have nothing to lose by trying it, and it seems to be far more affordable than much of the other treatments I’ve heard about being prescribed today.   You do not need a doctor’s permission to do so, unless you are in hospital care that is. Sound nutrition also helps. My brother is trying to get as many super foods in his body as he can, coconut oil and moringa are among those. Thankfully the hospital he is in seems to be cooperating and open to it, which we are so grateful for.

So  I hope I’ve been able to help you understand why I feel  the Ice Bucket Challenge is so important. If you need more proof, please watch this video which Upworthy deemed ‘The last Ice Bucket Challenge you need to see‘ by 26 year old photographer, Anthony Carbajal who was just diagnosed with ALS this year. Anthony’s mother has ALS, and his grandmother died of ALS.

I am off to now create my own Ice Bucket video from a challenge that came in from my daughter Jackie.  It’s great timing as my brother Dean will be back online today, as he’s scheduled to be using the new software where he can control his computer with his eyes.  My brother lives in another province, so our internet connection has become somewhat of a lifeline for us.

Please donate or take on the challenge if your name comes up. The more we know, the more that can be done.

(I would be remiss to not mention and link to this Facebook page, Hope for Steve, as they have been huge sources of inspiration for me personally as I watch how ‘Hope’ stays by her husband Steve’s side as he battles ALS. They are a living testament to the power of love.)

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