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Yesterday I wheeled in the Port Moody Centennial parade from City Hall to Rocky Point Park (and back again). Our group, Mossom Creek Hatchery together with Noons Creek Hatchery joined displayed our our colourful fish to draw attention to the salmon and the streams. It would have been impossible for me to walk as I am too slow on my feet. I would not have been able to keep up the pace so I decided to join in and use my manual wheelchair. I am still, despite my sporadic use of it, in my opinion, fairly fast in my chair. Not sure of the hills and obstacles, I asked my amazing friend, Ruth Foster, to walk with me in case I should need a helping hand.

Asked if Rick Hansen is my inspiration to use my manual chair so independently, I have to answer honestly, “No!” Of course Rick is in inspirational guy. Personally I am inspired by Paul Gauthier, the man who kept me from being sent to a nursing home for the crime of being disabled; by Paul Caune, who fights with every mechanical breath to make sure that no one with a disability will ever be in that position; and Adam Frost and young Jessica Kruger, who managed to obtain me a sports wheelchair in weeks when a year of grant applications at G.F. Strong failed.

My hope is to continue to change the world in any way I can by helping others, through environmental stewardship, by advocating for people with disabilities, by working through government – one meme at a time. I am grateful for the opportunity.

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I am fortunate to have several groups of friends that take the time to celebrate each other’s birthdays. My dear friend, Ally, is one who often does the cooking and entertaining. She is a warm and thoughtful host as well as an artistic chef. As she is fond of experimenting, she designed this cake for our friend, Frieda. Easy to make, delicious, moist, and not too heavy or rich, this one is a definite winner. When reproducing it, the only thing I did differently was soak the poppy seeds overnight in the lemon juice, in the belief that slightly swollen, they wouldn’t stick to my teeth. Research about soaking provides two different answers: either they become more digestible or the soaking helps to extract the opium. I must confess I sleep very well after eating this cake…hmmm…

Poppy Seed Angel Food

Ally writes: (I am so in love with poppy-seed I really do think of it as "food for angels" rather than mere cake
so I left off the word 'cake'). This is embarrassingly easy to make. Unless of course you are one of those
"I make everything from scratch" people and don't use the angel food cake mix.
The recipe:

cake1 package of angel food cake mix
1 1/8 cup water
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
2 to 3 tsp grated lemon rind and 1 tsp for garnishing cake later
Mix according to package directions. Lastly, g-e-n-t-l-y stir in:

3/4 to 1 cup of poppy-seed

lemon curd - set aside for topping
Cake+
Bake according to package directions, which for
Duncan Hines was 350 degrees for 38 to 48 minutes. I found
38 minutes to be perfect so do check early. After the cake had cooled by
hanging upside down on a bottle as directed, I spread just the thinnest layer
of lemon curd on the top and down the tube of the cake (to keep it moist). This
is probably an unnecessary step but I wasn't sure when the cake was going to be
eaten. Lastly, I sprinkled about a teaspoonful of grated lemon rind on top to add
a little colour. Enjoy.
P.S. If you are not fond of this does it mean you are not an angel?

I am truly lucky. I have a job, again. My new position allows me to help people who are experiencing frustration with bureaucracy. Because I have been a person who has experienced so much of this type of difficulty myself, when I say, “I understand,” the words, I trust, never sound hollow. Sometimes I, too, have been very desperate – trying to find educational help for a relative; navigating the mental health system with a friend at his lowest; a life and death situation medically; a financial crunch as a young widow with two small children to support; victimized by a supposed “support” system for people with disabilities; suffered abuse as a disabled person in a medical institution…

Many times people have nowhere to turn or have run out of people to turn to because their emotions run high. How fortunate I am to have some training (thank you Selma Wasserman) and skills to assist people in a calm, soothing, rational manner. When people feel heard, they feel trust. With trust they can often move forward through difficulties with more strength. Empathetic responses can be learned. With practice they come naturally. Because the true passion for social justice comes both from my upbringing and my DNA, these learned responses are most fitting with my own character when crisis is in the voice of another human being.

I also find myself as advisor to friends and family. It is these same calm yet rational listening skills that are so helpful. I set firm limits on my time, but do so with kindness and care. No one, I hope, ever feels shut out by the limits. On the contrary, it is my hope that the limits keep me from being overburdened, yet also empower the individual to find some applicable options and take actions from our interactions.

BackgroundPearls3_1I write this after an interaction with a colleague for whom I have great admiration and respect. He is dealing with a person who has a particularly difficult personality. We had several conversations yesterday – some at work. I had to limit the time we spoke and yet my friend was very anxious to debrief with me and find some solutions to this terrible problem. I also found an email when I arrived home. Eliminating names, this is the gist of the content – I wanted to capture the pearls of my words, just in case they come in handy again!

“Don’t worry about the difficult person. He is not worth the stress. Stress is bad for your health. You need to stay healthy for your family.

This difficult person is poison to you. Don’t drink in his words. Poison is safe in a bottle – to be observed but never ingested.

My friend, there is always something good from every experience. Think of this is an opportunity. Every problem is just an opportunity in disguise. It is finding the opportunity that is sometimes the puzzle.

Enjoy life’s beauty.  Life is short.”

This morning he found his solution. Embedded in his email to me were some of these pearls.

Helping others is gratifying. We both gained happiness from our interaction.

I am privileged to be a member of the Tri-City Green Council Steering Board. For the most part this intelligent, hard-working group of people has spent the last few years dedicating spare time working to make sure that local governments pay attention to environmental issues. As the oldest member of the group, I have moved to elder status. I like it. This has become another family and when we last got together, instead of sprawling over sofas to eat while we talked, we sat, unplanned, at the dining room table and ate our meal formally. To honour the occasion, I am presenting Graham Girard’s recipe for cucumber salad.

In the future Graham will be famous for his architecture, mark my words. He is the youngest member of the group. I have watched him think – his creative processes visible on his face. He has the power of synthesis – generally attributed to older brains (or so I have been reading). When I met him he was studying Environmental Engineering. Having secured that course of study, he is now studying Architecture. Did I mention I admired his mind…and that he can cook?

Here’s his recipe – I’m sure it has a lovely name – somewhere – other than Dill Cucumber Salad.

THE RECIPE:

2 organic long English cucumbers

6 cloves finely chopped garlic

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp thyme, 2 tsp dill (or 1 T lemon dill dip mix)  THAT’s it!!

Adjust amounts to taste. I used Epicure Lemon Dill Dip Mix and topped with fresh parsley. I am pretty sure I used more garlic than Graham used in his original recipe but it seems to have worked.

Honouring Friends – A Recipe

Posted: September 7, 2012 in 1

I attended my “professional year” with Delores. She had a different last name at the university;  the story of the change was unique. Delores Von Kruse acquired the name that became her final one when her husband learned that his family had modified their past. We spent some years teaching at the same school, but many years connected through friendship and cooking.

I think we initially  became friends because we both had children. Looking back I realize I was closer in age to the other students in my PDP (Professional Development Program) module but life experience connected me to Delores. She was intelligent and an intellectual; these traits kept her home struggles from ever being shared. Glimpses of difficulties, now common for people, appeared but were not discussed such as loss of the family home, husband’s loss of his job, transportation shared and then failing… Other than both being moms as we learned to be teachers, we shared two passions, respect for the “alternate program philosophy” in which we were trained and a love of cooking. I smile as I remember our program being dubbed “The Delicious Alternative”. Perfect.

One recipe in my collection is simply called “Delores Dessert”. It is a cookie crust pie made in huge quantities because my tendency is to cook for large groups or to share. Here it is with an inelegant photo (my hands are impaired so my rolling and cutting of the lattice is anything but perfect). But Delores Dessert, I guarantee will enter your list of favourites if you give it a try. It’s easy. It’s delicious. It’s hard to mess up.

Delores Dessert (Cookie Crust Lattice Pie)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Ingredients

1 cup butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups flour

ice water as needed

Method

Blend in food processor. Add ice water only if dough does not make a ball. Divide mixture in half.

One half will be larger; use that half to press into bottom of glass 14 by 9 inch pan. Fill with fruit as for pie.

Roll out top crust on lightly floured board and cut into strips. Lay across fruit. Bake (375○)for 45-50 minutes.

BLACKBERRIES                                                                                         RHUBARB

can add blueberries if short of full                                                  can add strawberries – adds great flavour

1 1/2 cups sugar                                                                      2 cups sugar

6 T cornstarch                                                                        6 T cornstarch

1 T tapioca (or tapioca flour) optional                                              3 T tapioca (or tapioca flour)

The fruit, not too little and not too much, (overfull will boil over) is mixed with the sugar and cornstarch/tapioca in a bowl before being poured over the bottom crust and covered with the lattice strips.

 

 

Last night I attended the Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Awards as a nominee. The nominees were truly an amazing group of women. I was truly impressed with the achievements and passion of the group.  I recognized that, collectively, there were many world changers sharing the stage with me.

I did suffer some chemical sensitivity issues early in the evening, especially when we were sent into a tiny room, where the newly perfumed women were gathered to practice going on the stage. Oxygen at maximum was not stopping the symptoms of watery eyes, extreme irritability, inability to concentrate and the strong feeling of a need to escape. The inner me was trying to stay calm but the inner me disappears and the animal me comes to the fore. Lucky for me, my dear (and I cannot emphasize this word enough), dear, dear friend, Dr. Lynn Elen Burton, acting as attendant (and she is not that kind of doctor, she’s an academic) was with me trying to stave off the reactions she has seen up close. Fortunately, in their wisdom (or was it due to Lynn’s pleasant attentiveness to the situation and her ability to communicate with the volunteers?) those in charge allowed me to wait by the ramp rather than repeating my entrance and exit from this little room.

From that point on, the evening was delightful. I was flanked by my scent-free friends on both sides through the dinner. Long time friends Lynn, and her husband Mario Piamonte, former Anmore Village Councillor, attended to my every need at my right. On my left,  Joe Trasolini, MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam and Gray Giovannetti. With tickets to the event at $200.00 each, most of my friends were eliminated from participation. How lucky I was to have these four with me!

It is easy to become caught up in the competition when the reality of the event is quite simple. It has two purposes. It is to raise awareness and much-needed funding for the wonderful programs for women sponsored by the YWCA. And, in doing so, this night of celebration raises awareness of some of the women in our community who are truly outstanding in several ways. These are identified as:

1. Breaking new ground or old barriers
2. Showing vision, creativity and initiative
3. Being a leader and role model
4. Guiding, supporting and encouraging the development of others
5. Participating actively as a volunteer
6. Being recognized by her community for her contributions (i.e. awards, accolades)

I am truly grateful for the recognition and the opportunity to participate.

Being completely open-minded is something I truly strive for, yet I struggle to keep an open mind towards the extreme authoritarian governments in power in my country and my province. In Nick Fillmore’s latest BLOG post,

Is Stephen Harper displaying
fascist-like tendencies?

he makes the case that although he doesn’t accuse Mr. Harper of being a fascist, one can easily identify elements of fascism from Harper’s actions when applying Dr. Lawrence Britt’s fourteen defining characteristics of fascism. It is compelling reading. I worry about the changes happening in a country once known for its collective social conscience.

Our province could be similarly analyzed. In a province where a campaign has been launched AGAINST opposition leader, Adrian Dix, before an election has been called; in a province where teachers enter an eleventh year with bargaining rights suppressed;  in a province where cuts to arts funding were increased (AGAIN!) and the Bible is raised in discussion by the Minister of Culture and the Arts, I begin to see fascist-like tendencies very close to home.

One can despair, shut them out or take action. Of course taking action is the obvious solution, yet that, too, can be difficult. What to do? What obstacles? What politics within the politics?

Which brings me to social conscience…

When you find someone with true social conscience with whom you can work, volunteer, collaborate…it all becomes so much easier. I found Dave McPherson. He is smart, funny, caring, dedicated, a great navigator but above all he has a true social conscience. And, he’s handling Joe Trasolini’s by-election campaign. Officially he’s the Campaign Manager, but that title seems minimal for what he does. Somehow I knew this was where I could make a difference, stop the creeping fascism, restore some balance and join a team of like-minded people. I am very impressed with the candidate and the myriad of volunteers who have arrived to make a difference.

Joe Trasolini has a public persona that one begins to identify through discussion, through the press, through living in a neighbouring municipality, but every day I like and respect Joe more and more. His values are the right values. He cares about people. He cares about getting things done.  This hard-working man has earned the respect of many, many people in the City of Port Moody. He makes himself available to anyone in the public for meetings through his open-door policy carried over from his 12 years as Mayor. He IS open-minded. He has the mindset of a person who comes to politics to make the world a better place for the many, not for the few. The environment is always in the forefront of his thinking. Scent-free office – OF COURSE. In fact, time to stop BLOGGING and get down to the office. Volunteers are welcome. The office including the phone rooms are wheelchair accessible. Come and join me. We can make a difference.