Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Point of View

        I arrived home one day five years ago, in the spring, to find four floppy baby squirrels on my porch inhibiting my entrance by crawling up my pantlegs. Since then, I have longed for a squirrel-free yard. I've not appreciated the high pitched scritching, and their relentless attempts to enter our home through miniscule gaps in the roofline. Especially despised were the red squirrels -their territorial hissing, their attempts to intimidate me, to have me dash to make it into my own car. Did they think I might one day drive away and not return? That they'd finally have the yard to themselves?

The Rocket
          But this summer, after watching one red squirrel daily, getting to know his personality, all that has changed. I've decided I like him. I admire him. I call him "Rocket", "Rocky" for short. That little dart makes me smile. I pointed out his habits to my husband and now we discuss him like a family member. This is what I see: Rocky thinks he is Lord of the Manor. He strives to rid our yard of every other member of the Sciuridae family. He runs the perimeter of the property, leaping from branches, slipping along the rail pipe fence and negotiating wires. He is a rocket. From his lordly perch high in the maple, he is ever watchful. No grey or black squirrels are allowed on our property. The tree nuts, keys, and cones are his. Somehow this non-mortgage payer thinks he owns it all.

        We have a young black walnut tree at the side of the house. This tree bears large, round nuts that look somewhat like limes. I have seen Rocky scale the tree and systematically shake down as many nuts as possible and then start a run, carrying one at a time from the side of the house to hide his cache in the thick evergreens that border that back of the property. To do this, he has to lift and carry something that is about one third the size that he is. The nut is bigger than his head, but his sharp incisors hold the nut firm as he uses his straggly tail to balance his way along. Before he hides the core of the nut, he usually sits in the maple tree and gnaws off the outer shell. But a few times, he brought still-green nuts, outer cores intact and displayed them on an evergreen branch about five feet off the ground. They were there for all to see. My imagination tells me that Rocky showed them to us. He must feel a sense of accomplishment and pride as he shows us his wares.

        At any rate, we've become accustomed to each other. He no longer hisses when we come into the yard, but he goes about his business at his usual break-neck pace. He watches and we watch. I find myself concerned when I've not seen him for a couple of days. Then there he is again, running his course. Why this is a delight to me, I don't know. But I'm glad of the change of heart toward this little creature in God's care.

Monday, September 26, 2011


    Yesterday, after a particularly rough week, I begged my dear husband to take me “to the wilderness.” We’re usually people of lakes, rivers and streams, but every time we happen upon a forest or pond walk, we agree that we need to spend more time in the woods. The rich earth, the precarious hike over tree roots and muddy pools are a far cry from the pavement world in which we dwell. And this is the time of year that all the signs are there - our comfortable outside weather will soon end. Every time we’ve been couching, I’ve pointed out that these are the glory days of early autumn when the summer sun is still making a play - that these are the days we’ll long for when the furnace is roaring and we’re watching the cold, white world through panes of glass.

     So we headed out. The fishing gear was in the car, “in case”, but fishing was not the plan. We headed up to the Wye Marsh, a place I’ve only seen when supervising busloads of kids on school field trips. Yesterday, the Marsh was almost deserted. It was 23 degrees, slight breezy and intensely colorful. Ontario’s leaves are at the beginning of the turn, but the marsh grasses and bullrushes are already yellowing. Snakes and frogs skittered across the path in front of us as we wound our way through the expanse of waving reeds. Snapping turtles and green turtles surfaced and swam amidst swans and mallards. Stick bugs skimmed the pond surface keeping minnows and pumpkinseeds company below them. The air was clean, such a peaceful place.

 I felt my senses fill and my heart slow its beating. For a few hours, the stresses of our workplaces and family concerns took a back seat to migratory birds and aging water lilies. And I was filled with gratitude once more for time spent away.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

      Up early this morning, on this tenth anniversary of 911. How quickly time flies. Whether it was a complete conspiracy, as some would have us believe, or it happened as reported by the media, I am not sure. I only know this. People died that day and it did have an impact on me.
       That Tuesday morning, we were gathered, of course, for our second week of the new school year. As my grade two's were having a second-period gym class with another teacher, I slipped down to the office to check on some textbooks that I had ordered. One of the women in the office had been listening to the radio and heard that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. We thought that it was some random accident and as we were standing there, she came out pale-faced, and said another plane hit the second tower. We were frantic for information. I went up to my classroom and tuned into the talk radio station. It was all over the news and conflicting reports kept coming. I went around to update other teachers and check into the office. There they were listening to other radio stations. We heard of another plane that hit the Pentagon and then another that went down in a field. At one point we were informed of a fifth plane, but that turned out to be false. At that moment, it felt like the end of the world had begun. Seemed that there was to be war starting on North American soil.
       A call came through soon after that from a parent of one of my students. I could hear the controlled desperation in her voice, as she said she was calling from New York, didn't know when she would be able to call again. She was on a business trip there and was on the fly trying to get out of the city. She described the chaos, but very quickly. Her main purpose was to say, "Tell my children I love them." I asked if she wanted to speak to her children. Her son was in my class. She said no, that she didn't want them to be alarmed. She said to make sure they knew that she was all right. She would talk to them when they were safely in their father's arms at home. She further asked that we protect them from the news, advised that we might want to keep all the news to ourselves until children could be advised by their parents. She later told us her whole harrowing experience, taking four days, much of it on foot, to get back safely to Canada. Her whole life changed after that event, but that is her story. I won't tell it.
       Myself, I remember walking around in a daze those next four days. Watching the images on CNN and other major news networks over and over again, trying to take it all in. On Friday, my principal asked me if I had written up an educational plan on one of my students who had major learning disabilities. I turned to her, and in all sincerity said, "What's the point?"  I really felt the end was nigh.
       By the weekend, we decided to head out for a long drive, out to the beach north of here, to get away from the television. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. It was good to breathe again, but I could not shake the dread. My husband and I prayed together, called our son and made an attempt to get on with it. But for a few weeks, I walked around as if wrapped in a thick grey gauze.
       Now it has been ten years. We settled back into our lives. The ups, the downs, life goes on. This morning as I look at memorial tributes and watch the old footage of the towers, I remember. Seems the end is not yet. I'm looking up. Whatever the future holds, "my times are in His hands." (Psalm 31:15) I look into the face of Jesus and find peace there. He is with me. I'm so grateful.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quick Follow-Up

Do you know the symptoms of anaphylactic shock? After yesterday's fiasco, I looked up how to use an epipen on youtube and learned the symptoms. I did not know most of these. I thought shortness of breath and throat closing were the symptoms. Boy, was I wrong. You may want to check this out! It lists the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Like I said before, information goes a long way! Stay safe.

A Little Information Goes a Long Way

     Yesterday, my husband and I were anticipating our annual trip to Port Credit to take part in the salmon run that comes off Lake Ontario into the Credit River. By the first of September, the salmon arrive and so do many anglers. I had sorted through our collection of lures and fish-specific paraphernalia and felt pretty much ready to go. Little did I know then that I’d see no salmon that day.
     My husband had rushed home from work at about 1:30 in the afternoon to quickly cut the grass before we headed out to fish. About 2:30, he came to the back door and yelled, "Quick, quick, get me some Benedryl.” I could see he had some bites on his legs and feet. Thinking they were mosquito bites, albeit very large ones, I gave him the Benedryl itch spray. He then told me that in fact, he had been stung by 4-5 wasps. He thought he should take a couple of Benedryl pills, but I said that it would only make him tired and he'd never been allergic before, right? All I could envision was a drowsy angler trying to stay standing when trying to cast off the banks of the river.

      About an hour later he came in and was very red. His ears looked like slices of liver. Sweating profusely, he took off his shirt and it seemed that he had what looked like mosquito bites all over. I talked him into taking a cool bath and drink lots of water because he was really red and sweating. It was then he took the Benedryl.
      To be cautious, we called Telehealth Ontario, which is a phone in for advice medical line. We spoke with a nurse and she advised we go to emergency. By this time, his face was numb, his lips swollen and those mosquito bites were actually hives, a severe allergic reaction. They were spreading quickly. Good thing the hospital is right up the street from our house!
      He went through triage in the emergency ward quite quickly and within 30 minutes he went behind the closed doors to see the doctor. He still wasn’t out after a half an hour and I thought maybe there was another long wait behind that door. A nurse came to get me. I was shocked to see my dear one in a hospital gown with an IV in his hand hooked to two bags of suspicious looking drips and wires going from his chest to a heart monitor. Seems this wasn’t so simple. He had been given an immediate shot in the upper arm of epinephrine and now he was experiencing the slow drip of a "cocktail" of drugs to settle this thing down.
      He was there for over three hours before they let us go. They warned us to take this very seriously. Seems that once you show an allergy to bee and wasp stings, each episode is cumulative and worsens. This reaction had been “severe” and the next one could be fatal - that he could die if he did not have the proper attention quickly.
      Well, of course, I feel so guilty. I should have given him the pills immediately and maybe it wouldn't have been so severe. There was some information I didn't have. In the spring, cutting the grass in the same area, my husband had been stung before. He did mention this to me, but had left out the part that the neighbour had run over and given him Benedryl!!! She is allergic to stings and gave the pills to him as a precaution. That bit of information would have made a difference to me. When he first asked for the drug, I didn’t even know why he thought he’d need it. Had I known, I would have given it to him immediately. In the hospital, the doctor assured me that if my husband had had the Benedryl at home, it wouldn't have been enough to stop this, the reaction was too severe. But we’ll never know. BUT - note to self..."just do what he says!"
      So we’re calming down now. I’m so thankful this happened here, with the hospital right up the street from our home and not when we were in all kinds of small towns and in remote cottages on our holiday a couple of weeks ago.
      Today, we have epi-pens to carry and the Credit River is still there. The salmon have not all gone away and I’m praying that this is the day that my husband catches the biggest fish of his life!