Sunday, January 31, 2010

on call

I have spent this week staying close to home and my car, carrying a constantly charged Blackberry. It's my first week on call for Emergency Social Services for the city that employs me. So far no calls, but I'm on until Tuesday morning. I hope I'll get no calls, because a call means a person or family is out of his/her/their home.

I have been an Emergency Social Services volunteer for about 5 years, and have taken training, but have only been called once to help at a respite centre for a few hours, in a supporting role. Recently, I was invited to join a team of staff members who rotate on-call responsibility to respond if a resident is put out of the house by a house fire or other disaster. I have learned that most calls are for single individuals or single families, but the situation can be larger, like a multi-unit apartment fire, or a gas leak that forces evacuation of a neighbourhood.

If someone is evacuated, and has nowhere to go, the fire chief or police officer on duty will call the Blackberry and I will respond. The Province of BC has a program that provides funding for 72 hours of shelter, food and clothing in emergencies, and my job is to help determine what the people need, and make arrangements for this. In the case of one family I can set them up in a hotel, arrange for meal vouchers, and give them a form that allows them to get enough clothing and personal items for a day or two at a local store. I can also arrange transportation. If it's a larger event, I might initiate setting up a place for people to go (a school or recreation centre) and a way to get there (a bus).

In any case, I can call other team members to help. The Emergency Social Services Director has been great and encouraging, and tells me just to call him when I get my first call and we'll work through it together, so I'm not as nervous as I would be if I was waiting for the Blackberry to ring so I could respond all on my own. I have a car filled with two big totes full of forms and a yellow safety vest, a bag packed with outdoor wear (boots, rain jacket, jeans), and a log book to record any incidents in detail. I have learned that every city or jurisdiction has a program like this. The province provides the overall program, regulations and funding for amenities and callout hours. The cities recruit and train teams of staff and volunteers and ensure that someone is available to respond all day and night, year-round. The cities also set up arrangements in advance with suppliers of food, clothing and shelter, so getting people what they need goes as smoothly as possible.

I'm excited, and a bit intimidated. I've been sleeping okay at night, knowing that I wake easily and will be helping someone in their time of need if I am called. The only thing I miss is walking home from work. I have to have a vehicle with me, ready to go, and that doesn't work with walking an hour from work to home. I've had to pick and choose what I do in the evening, so I'm not too far from home when I get a call, and I can't have a glass of wine when I'm on call. All of these are small concessions in return for being part of something that makes a big difference when help is needed.

If I do get a call, I won't be able to tell (or blog) much about it, due to rules and considerations of confidentiality. Just know, if you hear the fire sirens late at night, maybe I'll be there too, learning how to help.

question: do you know anyone who had to relocate because of a fire?

mompoet - ESS Duty Officer (sounds official, huh?)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

the shirk

At the recreation centre where I work, supervisory staff members take turns being responsible for the building. The "Site Sup" is scheduled in half day shifts. While on duty, the site sup wears a 2-way radio to stay in touch with counter and janitorial staff. He or she responds to any emergencies, customer service issues, and anything else that needs doing.

Usually the site sup remembers to pick up the radio at the office at the assigned time. Sometimes he or she forgets. Then something happens and we hear the plaintive call, "Can I get a Site Sup?" with no answer.

Our trusty Rec Clerk, Rob, came up with a system recently to help us remember, and have fun when we do forget. Now, if you forget to pick up the radio for one whole hour, you get the Site Sup Shirk award. On Friday, I was the proud recipient. I just forgot that I was on in the morning, and went about my business. My co-worker Bruce popped his head into my office at about 10 past 10, and said, "Do you think someone might be shirking this morning?" My heart sank. I checked the schedule, turned pink, and went to the office to get the radio, and to Catherine's office to claim the Shirk award. You see, when you receive this award, you must display it in your office until it is awarded to the next shirker. You must also inscribe your reason/explanation/excuse on the award for posterity.

So here's my award, and my excuse. I am now famous, or infamous, depending on how you look at it.

question: do you shirk?

mompoet - Site Sup Shirker

ps Bruce says he is not gloating. It is after Christmas, and he is bloating.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

just sweet little things

A few things have happened this week that have made me feel just a bit more connected with the universe and happy with my path. Here they are - all real, and all helping me feel glad to be alive.

  • I met up with a lady at work who I haven't seen at the rec centre in months. She came for bingo on Wednesday. Last time I saw her, she was going away in an ambulance. Last time I spoke with her was on the phone in the hospital in August. She collapsed at bingo one smoking hot day in July. She couldn't remember much about the day, or even remember me at first, but as we chatted, I filled her in on what I remembered, and she filled me in on what happened next. She was very sick that day. I followed her into the washroom, and caught her as she fell, then sat with her on the floor until help arrived. She went to the hospital and had 2 surgeries, and stayed in the hospital until September. Now she's "really healthy again" and back to bingo. I was so happy to see her.
  • Walking up the hill on Cambie Street, about 6 o'clock one evening this week, I came across a young woman hauling a cart, carrying 2 enormous floral arrangements. She was struggling as the wheels veered toward the curb and the arrangements teetered. I helped steady the big pots of flowers while she guided the cart up to the intersection, then I helped her get the cart over the uneven terrain of curb cuts and across to the other side. She headed off toward City Hall with a smile. I was smiling too.
  • At church last night we held a celebration party for volunteers who helped with the shelter. I organized it, partly to honour and treat the hard-working shelter volunteer coordinator - a young mom with 3 small children who worked like crazy to make the shelter run smoothly all November. Toward the end of the evening, I sat with her daughter (almost 4 years old) and chatted about Franklin and Dora on Treehouse TV. Then the little girl asked me if it would be okay if Molly wore pants. I thought that's what she said, but it turned out she was talking about "MOLLY! You know, with JESUS?" Oh - Mary. Yes! That's what she said, Molly. She was very concerned about whether Molly was allowed to wear pants. We talked about how it might be cold in the desert at night, and if Molly had a long way to walk, maybe she needed to wear pants, or maybe a long skirt that went all the way down to her feet. The she asked "What about Jesus?" We talked about how he could stay warm in the desert at night. Maybe Molly wrapped him up in a blanket then held him close to her tummy, then put her coat on over the blanket with the baby inside, all warm. That seemed to satisfy this little girl's anxious concern about Molly and pants. I felt nice and warm too.
Sometimes it's the little things that make me feel that in the middle of a crazy world, all is really well. People are good, and thoughtful and connecting in meaningful ways that are often precipitated in random, beautiful, wonder.

question: what has made you smile this week?

mompoet - blessed, yes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

loaner phone

I have a work cell phone, which I am allowed to use for personal call and texting so long as I pay my employer back for my share of the monthly bill. It works out well, as I carry just one phone. I also get a new phone every couple of years.

My current phone is less than a year old, but it stopped working last week. I took it into the retail outlet that provides service. The man there checked it, and took it for repairs. While my phone is in the shop, I have a loaner phone. Before I left, I asked to have my contacts transferred into the loaner. This helps with easy phoning and with caller ID.

A couple of days into using the new phone, I noticed some unfamiliar contacts on the list. On a hunch I began checking what was in the phone and found contact numbers, photos and sent and received text messages that rare not my own. It appears that somebody else's data is still in this phone, along with my own. I think the man at the phone shop neglected to wipe out the previous borrower's information before putting mine into this phone.

So in among my 200+ contacts I have someone else's mother and grandmother, but also most of the characters in the Harry Potter series (must be code names for friends). There's also a cryptic but enticing listing, "pot." I couldn't bring myself to read anything but the message subject titles, which are pretty banal "r u coming?" and "yep." The photos are nothing personal, containing no images of people. Hmmm, a landscape telephone photographer who loves his/her elders, hangs out with kids from Hogwarts and has either a dial-a-dope connection or phones kitchen utensils.

I deleted the pot contact (not like I'm going to call it or anything) and the text messages in and out. I have left the remaining contacts but will delete them before I return the phone. I'll leave mine in for now in case I get a new phone or my contacts are wiped from my repaired phone. I'll need mine from the loaner to restore the contacts when I get my own phone back. But after that I will delete them all from the loaner, along with any other traces of me. I don't want the next person reading my banal texts ("CU at the Skytrain," "Where are my sewing scissors?") speculating about my life or calling my dealer - oh, yeah, I forgot, I don't have a dealer.

In the meantime, there are two numbers in the phone called "voicemail." One is my own number. The other is (I think) the cell phone number of the person who used this phone before me. Maybe I'll call him/her and suggest next time to erase the evidence before handing in the loaner. Cell phones are handy little gadgets, but they pack a powerful key into a person's personal life, and should be handled with care.

question: what's in your phone?

mompoet - this cell phone will self-destruct in 30, 29, 28...

ps some people's taste in ringtones is inexplicable!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

mmmm kale...

I have been trying to eat seasonal vegetables and fruits to get the best nutrition and value. It's winter now, so roots and dark greens are prevailing. Kale is something that I think I tried once 20 years ago when someone served it to me. I remember it was good, but I didn't incorporate it into my kitchen repertoire.

The Province Newspaper featured a couple of kale recipes. I tried the White Bean Soup with Kale last weekend. It is so good that I cooked it again last night, for my friend Michele's birthday supper. It being January and all, Michele requested soup for supper, and a light meal in general. We met at Kathy's house. Kathy provided a veggie platter, a sumptuous green salad and crusty fresh bread. I brought a bottle of Prosecco, and a pecan pie because after all, it was Michele's birthday! Everything was delish and we had a great evening.

Friday morning I had leftover kale in the fridge from the weekend before. I probably could have taken it to Kathy's to make Michele's soup, but I wanted to use fresh kale for the special supper, so I decided to have the older kale for breakfast. I concocted this yummy panini. I made two, so Fiona took one for her school lunch. She said it was delicious cold. Here's my recipe:

Persian Panini with Chicken, Kale and Goat Cheese

Persian flatbread
cooked chicken breast
chopped kale
goat cheese
olive oil
(amounts vary depending on how many and what size paninis you want)

Cut matching pieces of the flatbread. Coat one side of each pair with a thin layer of pesto. Arrange thin slices of the chicken breast on top. Saute the kale in a bit of olive oil until it shrinks. Arrange kale in a generous layer over the chicken. Top with crumbles of goat cheese and put the second piece of flatbread on as a lid. Heat a skillet or griddle with just a bit more olive oil. Cook the panini on both sides over medium heat. It takes a bit of time to heat through the fillings so be careful not to burn the bread. It helps if the kale is warm from just being sauted.

Makes however many servings you wish. Good hot or cold.

If I was cooking this for vegetarians, I would substitute some cooked, seasoned eggplant slices for the chicken.

question: do you eat kale?

mompoet - mmmm...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

why not laugh?

January is a tough time for lots of people. I have so many friends who are facing medical crises or have lost loved ones, it's shocking. I know it's a natural phenomenon at this dark time of year, that people break down, book out, go home, more so than any other time of year. Still, it's stunning to tally up all of the people who are living through the hardest days right now.

My first impulse is always to love, comfort, offer prayer, make casseroles. After that, I want to make you laugh. I know that laughter is the farthest thing from your heart and mind right now, but my forte is cheering, and laughter is a natural phenomenon for me, any time.

So, whether or sad, or happy, or just neutral, here is a riddle someone asked me yesterday:

Q: What is black and white and black and green and black and white and black?

A: Two penguins, fighting over a pickle.

And are some cakes to read.

I know that silliness does not counteract grief of fear or worry. Still, I will try the route of laughter ever time, just for a break.

question: what makes you cry? what makes you laugh?

mompoet - knowing there is room for both, all the time

Saturday, January 09, 2010

one leg at a time (shoes after)

Walking home from work has been the greatest new habit I have ever adopted. Three or four days every week, I take a one hour journey on foot from my office to home. It's great exercise, some time outdoors on the busiest of days, and good for the mind and spirit. I usually listen to podcasts while I walk, but sometimes I memorize a poem, or take photographs along the way.

The weather these days is cool and damp, and it's still dark outside from about 5pm. Andy has helped me find protective outer wear to make the journey safe and comfortable. I have a rain jacket and pants, reflective velcro arm bands, and now my two bright blinking light beacons - one for the front of my jacket, and one for the back of my backpack. I mostly use sidewalks, so the walk is pretty safe, except for crossing at intersections. It's amazing how left-turning drivers check for oncoming traffic, but not for pedestrians crossing side-streets. I make sure the way is clear before I step off the curb, and try to be as quick and visible as possible. Still, yesterday a guy nearly drove over my toes, turning left around me. I don't know what he was thinking.

Anyway, all of this gear requires me to suit up before I leave the office. I put on rain pants, jacket, running shoes or boots, toque and gloves in the changeroom at the rec centre before I leave. I am experiencing a bit of an obstacle in this process, however. I can't seem to remember to put my shoes on after I put my rain pants on. At least half a dozen times recently, I have got all ready to go then thought "Du-oh! there's my rain pants! Now I have to take off my shoes, put on my pants, and put my shoes back on!" It's a nuisance, and makes my feel annoyed at myself for my persistent absent-mindedness.

Starting this coming week, I have decided to try out a few strategies for remembering:

1. Note to Self - I will put a note inside my running shoe that says, "pants first." (I usually use my running shoes at lunchtime in the weight room, so this strategy will also help me not show up in the weight room without exercise pants. If I find myself forgetting to put the note in my shoe, I may just write it on the outside of my shoe with a sharpie. This will be a good conversation starter.)

2. Proximity Rules - When I get my outdoor gear out of my bag in the changeroom, I will put my shoes down at the end of the bench, and my pants near me, so I will naturally put the pants on first. If I find myself walking around the bench for my shoes, and wondering why they are so inconveniently placed, I may remember, "Oh yeah! shoes after pants!"

3. Aversion Training - If I forget again, and put on my shoes before my rain pants, I will not take the shoes off. The pants have zippers and velcro all the way down the outside of the leg. This is to facilitate putting the rain pants on if I am out on a trail somewhere, where I need to keep my boots on my feet. I suspect it will be a bit of a bother to undo and redo the zippers and the velcro. This will likely cause me to say, "Oh NERTZ! I don't want to have to do that again."

4. Reward - When I remember to put my pants on before my shoes, I will give myself a gold star, which I will stick on my shoe. Whenever I see the gold stars, I will smile to myself that I have not completely lost my marbles. I will also get home five minutes sooner than when I have to re-do part of my changing routine, and that's a reward in itself.

question: do you have something that you persistently forget or mess up?

mompoet - look for gold stars on my shoes!

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Our son Alex and niece Maya turned 19 this year. We reminded them that this is their last Christmas of gift bonanza. Next Christmas, they join the family tradition of stocking stuffers and that's all. Well, not all really. In our family, the adults don't give each other "big" presents for Christmas. We spend time with each other, spend the gift money on charities, and just put small, funny or delicious stocking stuffers in each others' stockings.

I got chocolate in my stocking - but not as much as last year because I asked people if they could look for alternatives. My mom knitted me a cool pair of fingerless mittens - totally fingerless like long sleeves with thumb slots. They are warm and stylish. Andy shopped all over the place and finally found me some clip on flashing lights - like bicycle lights, but to clip on my backpack or jacket while I walk at night. He searched everywhere for them and finally found them at Home Hardware. Along the way, he tried the pet store, because people do put these lights on their dogs' collars for night walks. It turns out he could find them only attached to dog collars. Come to think of it, I could wear two small dog collars on my ankles, but that would be silly. At any rate, I feel pleased that he took the trouble to find something unusual that I would use, and that would help keep me safe when I walk home from work at night.

Alex and Fiona have informed me that a new iPod cover is on its way by mail from an eBay seller. I am looking forward to finding out what my new iPod cover looks like, although the pretty pink one that came with the iPod when Fi handed it down to me is really fine.

As for gifts I gave - my "big present" spending went to First United Church and Share Family and Community Services. So all of the adults who didn't get big presents can know that the money is helping people in the downtown eastside and our neighbourhood. I did put chocolate into stockings, but I also found a microwave egg poacher for Andy. He was skeptical when he opened it, but has cooked himself poached eggs almost every day since he got it. Mom and Dad got ticket vouchers for Little Shop of Horrors - Fiona's show in March. Fi got a guitar. Alex got hockey tickets. All in all, it was a Christmas with just the right kind and size of presents. We spent lots of time together, but not lots of money on gifts. It was the way it should be.

question: did you give or receive anything especially memorable?

mompoet - in the present

Saturday, January 02, 2010


I must return to work on Tuesday, but for the next couple of days I'll be on a costume-sewing blitz. First I will sew a pencil skirt. Then I will sew a 1960s dress. Then 6 pink lady jackets (in pink of course). Later, I will sew a prom dress (for a play, not for a prom).

I don't expect to get to do all of these in the next 3 days, but I will get a start. I aim to have all of the jackets done by next Saturday, so there will be a few evenings of sewing after work this week.

The plays? Little Shop of Horrors in March. I'm sewing Audrey costumes. And Grease in May. I'm sewing for Marty and the Pink Ladies. I like costume sewing. I get to use patterns and fabrics I wouldn't use for real life garments. It's also fun to sew a bunch of things the same, like the pink lady jackets. It's fun to see them all on stage.

Sew, if you wonder why I'm home-baste this week, and not interfacing with the rest of the world. It's not that I have any particular bias. I'm just trying to selvage the rest of this weekend to make a fashion statement or two in the world of musical theatre.

question: do you sew? or if not, do you sing?

mompoet - definitely a better sewer than I am a singer (although I once had a singer sewing machine)