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Monday, December 31, 2012

Moments of Kindness

Throughout the day how many times do you catch yourself with a negative thought or comment about someone? The driver in front of you. The driver behind you. The driver who steals your parking spot (perhaps he didn't see you reserved sign). The kid with the droopy jeans. The old person taking too much time to do whatever it is they are doing.

During my visit to Alberta this Christmas, I planned a day out with my mother. I knew there would be challenges, because she is in a wheelchair and needs quite a bit of help to get from chair to vehicle. We were going shopping and then to lunch, both of which would require some maneuvering.
Mom modeling one of 25 ways
to wear her new scarf

At some point during the day I began to notice the number of people making the day easier than I would have anticipated, starting with my sister who loaned me her vehicle with 4 wheel drive and said to come back whenever, one of the 250 nice things she did for me during the week. Actually the nicest thing of all was sitting with our mother earlier in the month to extract stories of her memories of each of us, and then typing us each a letter from Mom full of those stories. Oh and cooking dinner for 18 Christmas Day. But I digress...

My sister Angie baking pies for her 18 guests Christmas day

When I arrived at Mom's residence I was able to park right in front and the nurses had Mom all ready to go, another nice thing. The shopping center had no obvious handicapped parking, but I pulled right up to the main door and a nice young man opened the doors for us. When we were leaving the mall another young man offered his strong arms to hoist Mom into the vehicle. At the restaurant a young woman rushed out and held the doors for us.  A young man did the same as we were leaving, and a second man in the parking lot helped us do the transfer to vehicle smoothly. Small gestures make a big difference in such circumstances.

Back at my sister's, after giving me their bedroom for the week, my sister and her husband loaned me ski pants, a jacket, socks, boots, a warm hat and gloves, and best of all, a skidoo! Yes I am Canadian and no I have never driven a skidoo before. With hundreds of acres at our disposal we played on the back field, and then proceeded to cross roads, fences and fields to visit neighbors.  What fun! 

Then  back to get ready for an evening of visiting with more friends, all of whom went out of their way to make me feel welcome and eventually suffer from post -laugh syndrome, typically caused by long sessions of uninterrupted laughter. Oh and we had delicious food throughout the evening. My final gift that day was an education on cow calf operations in Canada, so I can finally answer the questions posed to me by my French boyfriend about the where why and how of Canadian farming vs. French methods. Thanks Tracey and Yvonne.
His and her cattle paddles with rattles 

Jeannine showing me a cow counter

As usual I will finish by issuing you a little challenge. Pick a day and count the number of kindnesses offered to you throughout the day. Then try to be grumpy. Bet you can't!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What will you remember?

What does December represent in your life? Regret for things unfinished and pride in your accomplishments? Christmas with its mixed bag of loneliness and joy?

For me it is a dose of reality. No matter the pleasant surprises up to now, it is truly winter. And whatever is left unstated/unfinished is likely to remain so.

Of course I feel very strongly the desire to be with friends and family. And even though it means leaving my wonderful man behind this year, I will spend a few wonderful days with Mom and my sister and brother in Alberta. And it will be great. And still there will be others missing.

But what a year it has been!

May midnight celebration of Alison's birthday
at DaZavola Paris

March Andy visited me
in Southampton, UK
Sept with Alison
Potato Head Beach Club Bali

April search for a decent
Bloody Mary in Paris
Sept Bali with Alison
April discovery of discount shopping
in Marne la Vallee
Aug visit Berlin with Annie

August walk with Serge
Parc Monceau

January started tradition of Sunday market shopping
(eating) Place Monge Paris

February first time in Shanghai

July wildlife with Angie

September Happy Hour in Paris
July visit included a day at the cottage
with Mom Alberta

January Daycap became a formal practice
Park Hyatt Paris

Dec Christmas window
BHV Paris
July Bastille Day

July Alberta visit
Harold and Amaya

June Bike tour of Bourgogne
Alison, Simon, Carole, Melanie

June Chez George

June with Serge
Jardin de Luxembourg

One day trip to Madrid
May Capri with Angie
March Paris

March Barcelona with colleagues
May Johannesburg

May Rome with Angie

May Naples with Angie

May Pompeii
May Sorrento

May Positano

May Cape of Good Hope South Africa

May my first wild penguins in South Africa
November back to Shanghai

October Chris Isaak concert

Zurich wine tasting

October Daycapping
in Paris

September quick trip to Vienna

November Susan visited me in Paris

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Memory Sense

My father should have smelled like ink or paper
from devouring every book in reach
Often chosen by size rather than subject

I imagine him once again perched at the kitchen table
coffee and cigarette side by side
in triumphant if futile denial

If it was summer 
a finch tap tapped at the window
Only they two knew the secret code

Melanie Brown
Inspired by Bentlily's prompt to write about how my father smelled

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Be Well in France

Having been recently hospitalized in Paris, I am sharing my impression of the French Health Care system compared to the US or Canadian versions. 

  • There are lots of good doctors, but finding one that is right for you takes some effort.
  • The doctors and nurses in both places were kind, professional and competent.

  • In Paris I was encouraged to stay in the hospital until I was well enough to go home. Compare this to the U.S. where I went home the day after heart surgery. 
  • Everyone here was very casual with the medication instructions. Even asking for several repetitions and posing detailed questions left me pretty much in the dark. Thank God for WebMD.
  • Patients here typically go home with several types of medications, and an option to ask for more or different.
  • The doctor here prescribes significant time off work. Paid-for time. 
  • Patients here should be prepared for a "surprise visit" from L'Assurance Maladie to make sure they are unwell and at home.
  • There are public hospitals (basically free with insurance) and private clinics (not free at all). 
  • Even in the private clinic here I received a hospital bill lower than I eceived post surgery in the U.S. where I was fully insured. 

Although I do not recommend being sick anywhere in the world, if you have to be sick, Paris takes good care of you.