Which is a nice way of saying that I spent an inordinate amount of time on my ass in an automobile across the dusty, tan prairies.
We left Saskatoon at about 5 am on Wednesday morning. I didn’t get any sleep at all that night. I did wish that I had gotten a nap but I’m pretty sure that it would have been a mistake. I took along my e-book, the notebook computer, some movies and my crossword book. I did try to nap on the way to Calgary but I think I was too wound up and too over-tired to settle in. I think I maxed out with about 20 minutes or so sleep. The same is true for my co-workers. We got to Calgary about 10:30 am or so. We found a Subway for lunch. I had a 6″ roast chicken sandwich. I was disappointed that this store didn’t have spinach as a sandwich ingredient. I had to settle for ice-berg lettuce. I prefer getting more nutritional bang for the boss’s buck, but there was no real option. Then it was off to the hotel and the first part of the AGM. That night we went to Olive Garden for supper. Instead of having pasta (which is the majority of the menu) I had the mixed grill and substituted a vegetable for the potato. They chose broccoli. It was quite good.
The next day was somewhat of a mixed grill itself for the AGM. We heard from the Calgary Police Service’s chief. He talked about working with the halfway houses in Calgary, the mental health initiatives the provincial government had implemented and other partnerships they’d created, in particular with young children coming into contact with the police. The partnerships were created with social services, the police and health care workers targeting children in elementary school who were already becoming a problem and intervening early. So far, according to him, it’s been a success. The premise is that teachers can point to children and tell that a child is likely going to be arrested as a youthful offender or adult in the early years. They see it happening and no one does anything to stop it. They now have a pilot program in one school where it is showing great promise for success. They chose one of the inner city schools however there are more schools asking for this in their school as well. Problem children are fairly universal. They chose the inner city school because of the additional challenges that children living in poverty tend to encounter such as drug/alcohol addictions in their family, the neighbourhood itself, gangs, etc.
The problem child of the AGM was a lunchtime presentation by a therapeutic clown. First not getting a break was problematic. Second, having to work during one’s meal is an issue. Third, it wasn’t a good fit to the work we do. Sure we encounter all kinds of stress at the work place but unlike the a palliative care ward or hospice, or cancer or burn ward, we don’t have systemic, chronic stress. We get circumstantial stress that tends not to be long term and can be easily taken care of with competent supervisors making themselves available for debriefing. The key word is “competent”, but even finding a friend who can listen is helpful. We don’t have to use, what she called, laughing yoga to release stress.
Another thing that the AGM did well was separate the management and supervisors and front line workers to allow each to have their own workshop catering to their own issues. The management and supervisors got to have a “bear pit” session with the Western Canada Director of Parole. We got to debrief about other things. Our boss hoped that there’d be more of an exchange of ideas between all the front line staff. However it’s not really how it was presented to us. We were asked our greatest challenges and our greatest rewards. We weren’t asked to exchange ideas of how to work with the people we were tasked to work with. However that doesn’t change the usefulness of the whole session.
Then there was two sessions where you could choose one. We divided up into two groups so that there would be staff from each. I stayed in the one about mental health issues. The last part was useful because that’s where they talked about the symptoms of mental illnesses. However they didn’t give any information about how to deal with someone who’d gone off their meds, only how to recognize that they might have. A large part of the session was about the mental hospital they worked in and how they worked. That part wasn’t so helpful. Apparently the other session was misleading. The title sounded like something that would deal with trauma and vicarious trauma. People who work in the helping professions tend to burn out from vicarious trauma. As it sounds, it’s trauma from hearing about (or sometimes seeing) other people’s trauma. Again, this was a whole lot less about that and more about the trauma of the offenders we work with…not that helpful.
The final session was on Friday morning and it was about working with men and women who are considered long-term, or those who had been sentenced and served 10 or more years. Now this could be a single sentence, as a life sentence (serving a minimum of 10 years but frequently more) or those doing “life on the installment plan” (those who serve shorter sentences but are out in the community for only short periods of time). In this session we had two men who are serving life sentences but have been in the community on parole for many years. They work with a group called “Life Line”. This organization is made up of men and women who are serving life sentences and have been successful in the community for a period of years. They go back into the prisons and help prepare inmates for their eventual release. The project and organization helps lifers to stay out of prison after their release rather than going back because of parole breaches. In Canada, 99% of those who go into prison will be released. The trick is to help those released stay out, become productive citizens and not reoffend or get suspended while on parole. The woman who did the presentation is a professor from BC.
Part of what she talked about the culture shock that offenders experience, especially those who are inside for long sentences. I mean, look at the changes in life from 1990 to now. In that time we’ve gone from computers being only in business offices to having them in our hands with the smart phones. Cell phones are ubiquitous where before they did not even really exist except for the most affluent of us. ATMs didn’t exist and so on. Our lives now are totally different than they were twenty years ago…or even ten years ago.
Another thing she talked about was how men and women coming out of prisons are actually suffering from varying degrees of PTSD. Their lives in prison were not a cake walk. Even the minimum security prisons, as relaxed as they are, are traumatic places to be. She talked about how men and women have seen others killed in front of them, now their lives were threatened or sometimes injured because of being there and the code they were forced to submit to.
Over stimulation tends to be huge issue for men and women coming out after a long time inside. Life inside is fairly monochrome. They get used to the sounds of the prison and those sounds don’t change much, they just get louder or quieter. Prison life is a life of sensory deprivation. Their lives are tightly controlled. They’re told where to go and follow specific paths to get there. Those paths don’t change over the years. If they live in housing units like in minimum security, even if they get to choose what they eat their choices are limited to what CSC provides for them. They might have the choice of two types of cooking oil and two or three different types of vinegar. Go into your grocery store and check out the number of kinds of oil there are. Then the kinds of oil of the same type, like olive oil. Then check out the types of vinegar, then the number of brands of one specific type of vinegar. Coming out is a whole shock to the senses. There are colours (count how many coloured and patterned blouses and shirts you can see on the street) that are not available in prisons. The noises are varied and quite different from prison, traffic noise, music, people talking, sirens, etc. People have had panic attacks from that kind of sudden over-stimulation.
You can tell the way I’ve talked about the last session that I found it most interesting and extremely helpful.
Supper on Thursday night was at Chop. I had the medium prime rib (rare) with asparagus instead of potato. It was extremely tasty. The poor waiter tried to get us to indulge in pre-dinner drinks, wine and after dinner drinks but all we got was pop and I got water (tap water not bottled). We also didn’t get dessert, but then everyone was full and I don’t do dessert.
After supper on Thursday we went shopping in Chinook Centre. I just walked through and got some pepperoni and organic cashews. It was a mall that is pretty much the same as every other indoor mall across the world. The difference to me was that they had an Apple Store. We don’t have one in Saskatoon. The mall had it’s share of poseurs and faux-hawks as well as a frump or two (which let me feel less lonely). I didn’t see a hobby store, but then I didn’t really search for one. My boss wanted to go to Victoria’s Secret to get something impractical for his fiancee. I worked very hard at ignoring that. Another picked up a few books at Chapters.
The reason I don’t talk about Wednesday night is because after supper at Olive Garden we (my roomie and I) went back to our hotel room and pretty much immediately went to sleep. There’s not a whole lot to write about with that. Oh, the room. It was fairly comfortable. We had two double beds covered with white duvets. Needless to say I pulled most of the duvet over to the other side of my bed because a sheet was sufficient for my needs. Our room backed on to the elevators so we had some ambient noise from them. Also, our window faced the first floor roof. Work was being done on the roof so there was noise from there in the morning as well. I don’t know if you’ve stayed in a hotel recently, but many are trying to cut costs by not laundering everything daily unless at the specific request of the client. So the beds were made but the sheets weren’t changed. As well, any towels that weren’t thrown into the tub were to be left alone. Sadly the maid took all our towels (including the ones hanging) and didn’t leave any behind. I had to call for more towels from front desk.
The lunch we were served during Thursday’s not relaxed-work-through-lunch-with-a-clown was also a bit of a failure. It was a chicken breast (nicely cooked btw) and butter herb pasta and a starter salad. Not really vegetarian friendly and not friendly to anyone who might have celiacs or wheat allergy. Also the salad, though very tasty and made me happy, had walnuts on them. Not happy making to anyone with a nut allergy. We had not choice of the meal. A choice would have been nice. My choice would have been to eat elsewhere and get a break.
We left Calgary shortly after 1 pm and got back to Saskatoon around 8 pm. Bran picked me up at work.
That was my trip to Calgary. I don’t miss the place. Traffic is stupid, drivers are rude and it takes forever to get anywhere at all. I’m happy to be at home.
It is now 3 am and I’m doing what I promised. In about 1/2 hour I’m going to have a shower and a cup of coffee (not together). An our after that I’ll be headed to work. Why am I going to be going to work at half-past two damned early in the morning? Because I’m going to Calgary with my co-workers. As I’ve mentioned before we are going to Calgary for the half-way house association’s AGM. Surprisingly enough the big boss, the owner, is also going to the AGM. I don’t know if he’s going to stay for the entire time or if he’s just going to be there for the business part of the AGM, but either way, it’s a surprise. He’s not shown any interest in that part of the business before. Anyway, I’m packed. All I have to do is get my pillow into a bag and I’m ready to go.
Bran and Boy picked up the new Midsomer Murders DVDs. I tried watching them tonight but I was too busy. I did manage to finish the monthly and quarterly reports. I also got my daily work done and some other little bits of work that will make the work of the co-worker who is working my shifts easier. After I finished my shift I cleaned out the chinchilla cage, made sure they had food and replenished the water in both the hedge hogs and the chinchillas. That should keep them ok until I get back on Friday. On that day I’ll feed them enough to get them through to Saturday or Sunday and come in and do the weekly, more thorough cleaning.
I have the hiccoughs and they’re being really annoying.
I got a reply from Student Loans today. I can’t remember if I told you about this adventure before. In Canada a person who owes Student Loans can get interest relief if their income is low enough. The debtor has to apply for this relief every 6 months and can do so for up to 5 years. For the past 6 months I’ve made reduced payments because our total family income was low enough. Now that Bran is unemployed one would expect that that would give us more relief, right? Not so. It turns out the entire bureaucracy known as Canada Student Loans came to a screeching halt on my reapplication for interest relief. Why, you ask? Because I dated the form August 31 instead of September 1. Yeah. So I refaxed the application with the correct date on it and they have given me total interest relief. I make no payments for 6 months. We’re still paying off Bran’s, but we can afford his. In February I’ll apply again (because the winning the lottery thing isn’t working out as ideally as I would like) in February for the March 1 deadline. This time I’ll remember to put March 1 on the application.
This weekend I went through my email for my Wicked Witch Jewelry thing. While going through I was reinspired to take up the production of decorative metal and stones. I got two new books on working with wire and one about Native American beading (that’s the name used in the title) which includes templates for 3 different moccasin patterns. I downloaded the application for the Sundog Artist Society as well. I can join them for $10 a year. Then I can apply to have a table at the Sundog Craft Faire that’s held yearly in December. I’m way to late for this year and I have no inventory. However, I can build up lots of supplies for next year’s Faire or perhaps the year after that. The Sundog is one place where people don’t expect to pay puny sums for work done by crafters, unlike the Fringe where I was competing with people who imported really cheap jewelry from China and India. Part of the work I’ll be doing is making rings and bracelets and maybe some neckware from wire.
My left wrist has been sore lately. It has the same sore feeling as my right wrist did when I had tendonitis in it. If it’s not better by next week I’ll go in and see the doc about it.
Let’s see. What else have I been up to lately? For the life of me I can’t think of anything.
So there you have it. I might update from Calgary but don’t count on it. I can’t seem me lasting very long tonight after supper. Tomorrow night might be taken up spending time with my co-workers. Then again, I might beg off and watch some movies (I’m taking the Midsomers with me) I think that after my shower I might watch the remainder of the movie I tried to get through at work.
As you may have seen I created, deleted and recreated a photo blog. Since then I’ve been more diligent at posting photographs than I have been at writing here. I suppose that’s because it’s just easier to post a photo with a little description than it is to actually think of shit to write.
As you know (if you’ve been to my photo blog) Bran, Boy and Boy’s friend went to Edmonton, Albert last weekend. This weekend was pretty much for Boy but ended up being enjoyed by the entire group. A couple of months back I bought some really good tickets to Rammstein one of Boy’s all-time favourite bands. Based out of Germany the band took the name of Rammstein after a tragic accident at an air show when 70 people were killed after a mid-air collision of jets at an air show caused one jet to crash into the audience. Anyway, I find them to be repetitive and dull. Afterall, I don’t speak German. Boy, however thinks they’re the cat’s meow. The band doesn’t tour North America often. In fact, the last North American tour was around 10 years ago. Even more rarifying is that they played only 3 Canadian cities, Edmonton being one of them.
So I bought tickets, then I booked two hotel rooms. One room for Boy and his friend and one for Bran and I. We went up Friday, the day of the concert. The GPS was proven to be invaluable in keeping us from staying lost. The instructions were confusing at times, causing us to go the wrong way but eventually “recalculating” got us on the right track again and we got to our destinations. After we checked into the hotel (a relatively painless endeavour despite the cost) we drove off to find Fat Burger. That was when we discovered there is more than one Fat Burger in Edmonton. It took us to the downtown restaurant. We set the GPS to take us to Ikea (where the Fat Burger I’m familiar with is at) and off we went again, through downtown, past construction detours and eventually we were at the right place.
Silly me, I didn’t have my camera out for much of the trip up to Edmonton. But when we got to Elk Island National Park we pulled over and hauled out the photography equipment and I began snapping pictures. Yes, I have a lot of pictures. Some of them I took because I know that not all people on the internet live on the prairies. Imagine that!
What can I say about Fat Burger? Well, I can say it’s not a place I’d take any vegetarian friends. For them I’d try out the Mongolie Grill that apparently makes a phenomenal meal and is very vegetarian friendly. I haven’t eaten there though. Back to Fat Burger. Each person ordered a different burger. I got the Fat Burger with cheese, Bran got the mushroom with Swiss cheese, Boy got the old style cheddar bacon and his friend got the bbq burger. The only sound coming from our table was much nomming. Each of them declared that Fat Burger was the best they’d had.
After we were stuffed to the gills on burgers and fries, we headed back to the hotel. I was somewhat intrusive on the direction department, but Bran didn’t seem to be looking at the GPS when he was taking direction. The voice doing the directing is only 1/2 the equation with GPS. You have to look at the screen to see what’s up. I wasn’t so interfering when I had a camera in my hands.
We got back to the hotel with about 1/2 hour to spare before the guys were going to take a cab to Rexall Place for the concert. After they left I watched a movie or two, read, did crosswords and napped. They didn’t get back until nearly midnight, though Bran kept in touch so I knew they were safe. Apparently they started walking, looking for a cab, but in the wrong direction. So 25 blocks away from Rexall Place they finally got a cab and headed back. The boys were blissed out. They had their dream concert. Each bought some memorabilia. Friend got a t-shirt, Boy got a sippered bunny hug (hoodie to you non-Saskatchewan people) and a banner and Bran got a scarf, the only thing he was certain would fit. Throughout the rest of the weekend I was regaled with tales of how awesome the show was, critiques of the performances of the front bands compared to Rammstein and general teenager chattiness.
I took photos of as much as I could. I took photos after we got the cameras from the box in the trunk. I shot bison, farms, old farm buildings, signs, highway workers, the skyline of Edmonton as we approached the city, trains, cows (mostly Charolais and Angus), some elk, everything outside our hotel window, Bran, Boy, Boy’s friend, the streets of Edmonton, buildings, flags, lots of stuff in West Edmonton Mall, the sea lions they have there, more buildings, the North Saskatchewan River and river valley, the scenery when were were travelling to and from Edmonton, the giant decorated egg at Vegreville Alberta and more. You won’t see many of the photos because they’re hard to process. Taking photos from a moving vehicle means the photos will be grainy if much cropping is done. However I’ll try to make sure there are lots on my Flickr account. You’ll have to go to my photo blog (remember, the green button on the right that doesn’t match the other buttons – then click on a photo and you’ll be at my Flickr pages)
On Saturday, after eating a rather overpriced breakfast at the hotel, we all headed to West Edmonton Mall for a bit of shopping. Bran and I wandered around for a few hours while Boy and his friend did their shopping and saw a 3D movie. I bought some capri pants. I was wearing sweats and sweating I was. So I wore a pair of the capris out of the store. We stopped at a camera store and Bran geeked out with one of the staff there. He horrified/tempted me by asking about a large, expensive lens. The guy checked and one of their other stores in town had the lens in stock. I was tempted like you would not believe! It would mean that I could get close in shots of animals without disturbing them in any way…like the pelicans on the river. We didn’t get the lens because we needed to buy food for the family first and the store would be closed by the time we were done.
That night we found, by serendipity, a Chinese food buffet. It was pretty good, as far as buffets go. There was some lovely spicy stuff and some bland stuff. I was especially happy to see some veggie chow mien that was mostly bean sprouts. I like bean sprouts and it made a lovely accompaniment to the tasty spicy shrimp.
After that we dropped the boys off at the hotel, picked up our cameras and headed off to a downtown (by the river) park. That’s where I got the photo of the hare at the river bank. It’s also where I got a lovely clear shot of a marvelous bull dog. Alas, I had to take the photo of the dog against the sun so it’s washed out with light. The worst of it is that the dog is in perfect focus. Bummer. The mosquitoes became horrid and being as I’m an attractant to the little buggers we headed back to the hotel. Bran wanted to stay out longer, but once we got back to the hotel he realized that he was quite sore and tired and very glad to be back in our room. The boys informed us that there was no promised wireless internet, that the IT people were working on it and that they had no TV. Though we didn’t care it did get us $30 off their room.
On Sunday I woke early and took a nice shower. I was somewhat surprised to find myself running out of hot water by the end of it. One would think that a hotel with 14 floors wouldn’t allow that sort of thing to happen. But it was the end of my shower and I wasn’t too disturbed. I got dressed and played some DS (Brain Age 1 and 2). Bran woke sometime later. We spent time packing up and then the boys joined their stuff to ours on a cart. Of course Boy forgot one thing, his Rammstein bunny hug and had to go back for it while I was taking care of the bill.
From there we headed off to Ikea to look around. I was blissed out. It was a lot of fun to look at all the stuff. I would have stayed longer but Bran’s body isn’t what it used to be and he’d abused it a lot the past few days. So I did what I usually do on stores, I headed directly to where I wanted to be and looked only at the things I was thinking of purchasing. In the end we bought a dresser and chest of drawers (chiffonier) for our bedroom. I’m currently using a crap dining room hutch we purchased at Junk (pronounced yunk) and Bran’s dresser is too small. So Boy will get the dresser and our room will get rid of “stuff” that just has nowhere to go.
After Ikea we went back to Fat Burger for lunch before heading back to Saskatoon. I had the California burger (it involved an obscene amount of very delicious guacamole), Bran stuck with the mushroom and Swiss burger, Boy did the BBQ burger and his friend did the king supreme (or some such title). We also got milk shakes instead of soft drinks. They were quite yummy and I couldn’t finish mine. Then it was off to Tim Horton’s for some caffeine and out of town to home.
We stopped at one old homestead to take pictures. There was an old stone foundation, an old animal shed (we aren’t sure if it’s for sheep or if it was a cow shed) and an old house. The house had no windows and no doors. any paint that might have been on the siding was long since gone on all sides and the boards were all darkly stained with age. Surprisingly it had a basement foundation, though I think the access was through a floor door rather than a set of stairs, though I could be wrong on that since there appeared to be both.
The rest of the photos I took were while we were moving. We got back to town around 7, dropped off Boy’s friend and went to get gas and get the truck washed. The guys who filled the truck and washed the windshield were both rock fans and sounded deeply envious of Boy being able to take in the concert. Then we went to eat supper. After that it was home to pick up my truck and get it gassed up and washed.
After we got gas we went to the car wash. It’s one of those where you put in the code of your wash ticket and it hauls you through. The person ahead of me screwed up somehow and ended up hauling me through the wash. I followed the instructions about when to drive ahead and was trying to put in my code when the truck was hauled in behind the other vehicle. Talk about upsetting! We were on the verge of being run into the back of the car a few times. I put on the brakes to keep from piling in. Bran was wigged out and kept yelling at me. Let’s just say it wasn’t a stellar moment of marital communication. I went back around and made certain that I wasn’t going to get hauled through prematurely behind the car in front of me. I waited for the car wash door to close and then drove up. Happily the second time proved the charm and I drove out with a clean car. Bran thinks that the person in front of us drove through rather than letting the machine do the work and I was a victim of the machine thinking it had them.
When we got home Bran phoned Boy and Boy put Dutchess in his bedroom so we could unload the truck without her bolting out of the house. I unpacked some bags and then tried to catch up on blogs. Since I had to work on Monday morning that endeavour didn’t last too long and I went to bed.
Since we’ve been home things have gotten back to mostly normal. I was sick today with my guts being irritated. Though better I’m still finding myself controlling nausea and pain that makes me cringe and have to breath through. I hope I’m feeling better tomorrow.
The inheritance came through last week. This means that we are able to afford certain things that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Bran and I now each have our own vehicles. In total we spent more than we probably should have, but each auto is only 3 years old, they’re both covered by 2 year warranty that covers nearly everything that could bork out, such as the electricals, drive train, motor, and nearly everything else mechanical. Being used cars that is a good thing. Bran got a red truck.
I got a silver SUV (gets reasonably good gas mileage – better than the Volvo did). It was taken back into the shop to get a bit of body work done, detailed and have a sun glasses visor replaced. It was taken in on Tuesday for the work and I got it back today. I’m pleased as punch with it. It’s easy to drive, quite manoeuvrable. I like how I fit in the driver seat. The signal lights turn off automatically. It’s an automatic so no more shifting gears (though for the first couple of days I was automatically trying to find that nasty clutch – hit the emergency brake once or twice because of that). It has tilt steering so I can get in and out comfortably and have the wheel set at where it’s comfortable. I also don’t have to duck down to get into it, it’s just a slide across from a standing position. It’s a scary thing as previous to my first ever all-my-own vehicle is that I’m enjoying driving. That took Boy and Bran by surprise. Me too, when it comes to that.
Boy doesn’t like driving at all. He didn’t want an auto of his own. We are requiring him to get his driver’s license. He has his learner’s right now. Instead of a car he chose to get a very zoomy, very fast computer. He’s extremely happy with it. It’s a desk top beast that sits on his end table in the living room. They keyboard mouse and flat panel monitor sit on a table in front of his chair. Boy also got a new DS so I got his old one. This one has a hinge that actually works. Gotta love hand-me-overs.
I got a cheapo purse too. It was only $20. I desperately needed something to replace my old purse that was falling apart. The new one is made entirely of vinyl so it gets mighty crispy and stiff in the cold. It’ll get replaced when I find a leather one I like enough. I’ll hang onto this one as a spare. It also doesn’t have long enough shoulder straps.
My shifts at work are still all over the place. Last week was the first time I had a steady week of regular shifts. This week I was supposed to work evenings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday then days on Tuesday and Thursday. That didn’t work out as planned. Our night shift person is sick so I worked most of my evening shift last night and then did the graveyard shift right after. I worked until nearly 7 and then walked home to spend a bit of time relaxing. Then I walked back to work again so that I could be there to relieve the counsellor who needed to go home at 9. By the time the shift was over my knees were seriously aching and I was ready to collapse into a coma of fatigue. I got a call this afternoon and she’s still sick so instead of relaxing and spending a leisurely night at home and having a short shift tomorrow evening, I’m covering her shift again from midnight to 8 am tomorrow. Happily I have my baby back so I don’t have to walk to work again. It’ also means that I get some nice overtime.
I reserved the hotel rooms we’ll need in May when we got to Edmonton for the Rammstein concert. It’s boy’s 19th birthday present. He and a friend are being treated to the concert and two nights in a hotel (they get their own room) as well as all meals paid for. Of course I’ll be paying for any incidentals that Boy will want in terms of shopping. I should have Bran make sure he takes cash to the concert (yes, he’s going too – with ear plugs to protect his hearing) for t-shirts and such that Boy is bound to want as memorabilia. While they’re at the concert I’m going to be relaxing at the hotel. The next day we’re hitting the West Edmonton Mall for shopping. I want to hit up Cotton Ginny as they don’t have one in Saskatchewan anymore at all. It’s a great place for fat women to get good quality, natural fibre clothes. I’ll probably get another purse, if I can find one I like.
As some of you may know, I’ve been making a stole for Bran to wear when he does hand fastings (pagan type weddings). It’s nearly done. The beading is complete, I’ve got most of it attached to a very long piece of canvas (9’5″ long to be more accurate). I put black ribbon around the whole thing except one end. I’ll be finishing that up this weekend. Then I will sew on wide black ribbon for the back to hide the threads and knots that tie the beads to the canvas and finish by the final sewing of the side ribbon to hide all ravelling edges. I’ll take a picture of it when I’m done. After that I’m making him moccasins to wear. They’ll have sheep skin insoles and be made of either cow or deer leather. One of the residents is willing to teach me how to make them and they’d be ideal for Bran’s feet. I might have to get a rubber sole put on them to ensure they last and to further protect his diabetic feet.
I start paying student loans back really soon. I may be able to arrange to have my loan frozen (where they don’t charge interest on it) so that everything I pay on it goes straight to the principle of the loan rather than the interest for 14 years. If that’s the case I can apply every 6 months to continue that for 5 years. That’ll mean I can pay a significant portion of the loan without being screwed by interest charges.
I’m watching Dog the Bounty Hunter. Seriously, what’s with the hair? Dog has a mullet with a Great white Shark Alfalfa thing happening in front and on top. Then two of his sons (or one of them) with that long rat tail thing. Beth’s hair is relatively normal though an unnatural shade of blonde. Her boobs! My Goddess, her bodacious tatas defy gravity! She also has shoes that can kill ants in the corners of room. If they curled up she’d have genie shoes.
It’s still winter here. I’m seriously tired of the snow. I’m not sick of the cold. I like the cold, but I’m seriously tired of the temperatures the thermostats have to be set at in the building at work to make sure that none of the pipes freeze and flood the building. I mean, if it’s a choice between the two I’ll take the tropical rain forest temperatures. I mean, I’ve already had to deal with two cold weather related floods (one a regular plumbing pipe, the other a frozen heating pipe) and I don’t want to have a repeat of those adventures. But speaking as a middle-aged, fat woman whose body temperature runs higher than most other human beings, those tropical rain forest temperatures suck donkey balls.
We will soon be looking to buy a house. We’re thinking of working with a mortgage broker as they do the work that we’d have to do by going to banks, comparing interest rates and mortgage amounts, etc. We’re trying to figure out if that would be worth the extra cost. It’s hard for the two of us to coordinate our off-work time together right now. Then it’ll be finding a real estate agent to organize house viewing and make an offer and buy a house. I want to do this while it’s still wintery outside as house prices tend to be lower in winter. Then we can give notice to our passive-aggressive landlord and get out of renting. Of course we’re getting an insured mortgage that would be automatically paid in the case of either Bran’s or my death. We’re too old to not go for that option. It’s a way of making sure that the other spouse (or Boy) will be sure to have a home after the other income is gone.
This week we heard of the death of Brian Jacques , the writer of our favourite books. He wrote the Redwall series that we’ve been reading since Boy was 3 years old. Our interest in the books began with the television with the animated production of Redwall. After watching and being charmed by the series we began purchasing the books. I used to read for an hour a night (this usually got one chapter read) each night between 7 and 8, just before Boy’s bedtime. We started the tradition with The Long Patrol and progressed through the series. I also read the Harry Potter series this way. We now own all the published works to date. Sadly there won’t be any more Redwall books. I heartily recommend the books to anyone, young and old, who likes adventure, engaging characters and a general good read. Like the Harry Potter series, these books have been read repeatedly by all of us through the years.
I have 4 new bras. They’re Wonder Bra 18 hour types. They’re very comfortable. I will be getting more at Cotton Ginny in Edmonton. Sure, this might be more than you wanted to know about me, but bras have become important in my life. I like being supported and having the appearance of being “perky”. I’ve never been “perky” so it’s a novel look.
This week I was away for two days to Edmonton and Grand Cache, Alberta. We flew from Saskatoon International Airport (John Diefenbaker Airport) to Edmonton International Airport on Wednesday, February 23 (Bran’s 51st birthday). Our flight left at a fairly decent hour (about 10:45) instead of the usual before dawn flights. We arrived about 5 minutes before we left. Yeah, we went from one time zone to another. We picked up our car rental right after. Because we’d be going to Grand Cache we got a 4 wheel drive vehicle, a fairly recent Jeep Grand Cherokee.
I have to say I liked it a lot. It was reasonably comfortable, and had a few fun bells and whistles. Unlike our Volvo it had cup holders. That might seem a trivial thing, but when you don’t have cup holders you can’t even pick up a cup of coffee to take to work because there’s no place to put the damned thing while you drive. Of course it was automatic (being a rental they don’t generally have manual transmissions). The radio had a large screen where you could see what you were listening to. It had a hard drive where songs were stored (a lot of Eminem, Tupoc and other rappers). There was also a CD player behind the screen but we didn’t figure out how to work it. Not having CDs helped us not worry about that. There were controls set into the back of the steering wheel. Every function of the radio can be safely accessed without removing one’s hands from the wheel.
There were other controls that personalize the driving experience that could be accessed from buttons on the front of the steering wheel. My co-worker checked them out but didn’t set any of them. All in all it was a very nice drive in that vehicle. The one major drawback to the Jeep is that it doesn’t have great gas mileage. I know I shouldn’t expect that, but still.
The first place we went to was Edmonton Institute for Women (EIFW) in Edmonton proper. It’s a penitentiary that houses all security levels from minimum to maximum. They have a version of the men’s special handling unit (SHU). It’s very small though. There are three pods in the max house, each housing 6 to 8 women with one or two rooms double bunked. As with male prisons they have to be mindful of incompatibles, people who can’t be housed together because of conflicts. Only one pod is released for daily exercise and such at a time to prevent incidents. There is one woman that is up for Dangerous Offender status because of her propensity to try and take hostages. Thus far EIFW is the only women’s prison where she’s not successfully taken hostages.
The remainder of the population is held in houses around the main buildings. Each house has 8 to 10 bedrooms, a main common area and a kitchen. The women can either pool their weekly pay and buy groceries together or they can work individually. If they pool their money and purchases then they can get more and better groceries. It also allows each woman to keep more of her money for personal items. Once a month or so a volunteer goes out and purchases items for the women. They can get such things as hair dye, cosmetics, CDs, video games, etc. Also, unlike the men in a large male institution, the women are allowed to wear more in the way of street clothing. There is also a high needs (usually mental health) house called Hummingbird House. Women come and stay there for 4 months in an very supervised and intensively programmed environment. There is always a CX (guard) in the house and during the day there is a psychologist, social worker and program worker in house. This way the skills the women learn are always reinforced and they can be called to task immediately at times when they fail to use their new coping skills. This is more effective in halting unhealthy behaviours than waiting until the next day. It also helps avoid having volatile situations escalate.
After our tour there we began the 4 plus hours drive to Grand Cache. All I can say to this is that Alberta drivers are nuts. Really. The highway speed is 110 kph (68 mph). My co-worker was going 115 kph (71 mph) and a lot of the drivers were passing us as though we were driving at city speed. It was scary. This was on the Yellowhead highway #16 (the northern TransCanada). When we turned off the #16 and onto the #40 things changed somewhat. First off, it wasn’t a divided highway. Next the speed limit was 100 kph (62 mph). This highway was somewhat twisty and started the journey into the foothill mountains of the Rockies. There were sharper turns and twists, hills and dales and lots and lots of areas where passing wasn’t permitted. Add to that we were driving at dusk and night. Again, there were autos passing us at regular intervals. Not only personal vehicles but semi carrying full loads passed us. Many of those passing us did so in areas where passing wasn’t permitted and downright dangerous because we were going up a hill or there was a turn around a hill making it impossible to see if there was oncoming traffic. It was risky behaviour that had me thinking they were dying to get where they were going and weren’t averse to taking other people with them.
The hotel we stayed at was Best Western in Grand Cache. We arrived after sunset. They had two buildings, one for (I assume) longer term stays and the other for the hotel proper. Of course we went to the wrong building first. We finally checked in and got to eat. I had chicken Alfredo with broccoli. It was incredibly meh. The sauce was virtually flavourless and watery. The Caesar salad I had as an appetizer was good though. (I took a photo of it and of our lunch earlier in the day at Fatburger). That night I found out that we couldn’t close the curtains for privacy. They had sheers then over that they had curtains on short rods. This meant that a ground floor room was open to view to anyone who wanted to peek in. I know I’m no great beauty, but I do like to be concealed from the eyes of strangers when I’m changing clothes. It can also present a significant security issue. I shall be visiting their web site and making the suggestion that they offer full drapes that close all the way. Aside from the security issue, it means that sunshine cannot be shut out of a room if one needs to get some sleep in the day time. Non-functioning drapes are just stupid. I’ll be going to their website and leaving a comment or two about that.
After breakfast (scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, hash browns, toast and coffee) we went to the men’s prison. It’s situated down hill from town of Grand Cache in a valley. This is a medium-minimum institution. There we talked to all the institutional parole officers (IPOs) about our half-way house and the Reporting Centre program. Then we spoke to a prisoner who plans, and has been accepted at the house, to move to Saskatoon. This gives him familiar faces when he gets to our place. Then we talked to the inmate reps who represent all the prisoners and advocate for them within the institution. From there we went to the Pathways House. This is a program that focuses on Aboriginal prisoners who want to work on healing themselves from issues such as childhood abuse, alcohol and drug addictions and learning the ways of their cultures. It’s a fairly intensive program that prisoners have to prove themselves to get into. They work with Elders and help each other in their attempts to make sure they don’t keep repeating the patterns of behaviours that brought them to prison in the first place.
After that it was the long drive back to Edmonton. We went to West Edmonton Mall to shop around a bit and eat supper. My co-worker picked up a pair of sweats for her boyfriend and drooled over purses. I wasn’t able to buy anything with cash and didn’t want to use the credit card unnecessarily. That mall is impressive. I got thoroughly lost. Oddly enough we found a parking spot only two rows from an entrance. Go figure.
The flight home was on a different air line. We flew Air Canada Jazz to Edmonton. We would have flown home on Air Canada (the only direct flight) if they had more than one flight per day. We would have had to stay another night in Edmonton to do so. Instead we flew West Jet to Calgary and Calgary to Saskatoon. This flight was around 8:30 to Calgary then a wait until the flight from Calgary to Saskatoon. We arrived at nearly 1 am in Saskatoon. I took lots of photos on my trip but wasn’t able to on the flight home. I didn’t have a window seat and so wasn’t able to get night photos of landing in Saskatoon. I had two window hogs between me (on the aisle) and the window. That sucked. Flying kind of sucks. The seats are narrow and they aren’t very comfortable. By the time I got home my butt was in need of not sitting on hard surfaces. It was a great relief to get home.
As I mentioned before, I took lots of photos. The ones from the plane have a decided blue hue to them. That is what comes from taking photos of snow. Here’s the slide show of my adventures: Trip to Edmonton/Grand Cache
Thursday. It was an entire week all packed into one day. And that was after Wednesday. OY!
Wednesday I had to call NDO on another person. It was one of those foggy ones where the boundaries between what the PO wanted and what the parole board set out were somewhat contradictory. I let the NDO decide what to do. The next day I heard that warrants were issued for him.
That’s a record for me – having to call three people in to the DO in one week. I haven’t had to do that for months. I think the last person I called in was (I had to really stop and think) over a year ago. Then I get three in a week.
Then Thursday. An experimental contract with opening two mental health beds failed in one fell swoop. We were going to house people for short term when they were being forced to move from one mental health group home to another because of conflict or the home became unsafe.
We’re experienced with working with people with mental health issues. In fact, that’s one of our selling points for people coming out of prison. We offer closer supervision and support as well as working closely with the mental health social worker. However we were lied to with this one. The degree of mental illness, the neediness of the person involved, and I believe the very reasons this person was moving out of the group home were glossed over or lied about.
I spent most of Thursday night’s shift running interference between this new person and the residents. Most of the residents were patient and tolerant. A couple, however, were severely tried by her. In one case a baseless accusation was made that could have had extremely dire consequences for one of the residents. I know it was baseless because I had the two in my sight the entire time before the accusation was made.
It’s unfortunate that the person who was trying to place her lied. You can’t do that when it comes to mixing different populations such as that. It jeopardized the safety of the house. That’s not an exaggeration either. Because of the actions of that person I had to have my attention nearly fully on one person. There are 23 other people that I have to make sure are safe and not up to something. The degree of mental illness, this person’s fantasy/delusions, inability to not insult people (called one visitor a slut, called other staff names, and general all round rudeness), and at times inability to distinguish between reality and what goes on inside her head placed her at risk, and also placed residents at risk for a false accusation.
I ended the shift with a nasty headache that didn’t go away fully until I was nearly done Friday’s shift.
I was supposed to change the bedding in the cages last night but didn’t have any bedding. So I emailed their owner and told him to get more bedding. I’m thinking of handing responsibility of the animals back to the owner. He ‘s working in Saskatoon now and there’s no reason he can’t come and make sure they have food and that their bedding is changed. To be honest I’m feeling like I’m being used.
He was supposed to be selling the animals and I was taking care of them until they were sold. Then I was taking care of them because he was out of town. Now I’m taking care of them without the benefits of owning them and he’s getting my work for his animals.
I have to figure out a way of telling him this without ending our friendship. I mean, I still like him. It’s my fault that I allowed this to go on for so long. I doubt he’ll feel like he was taking advantage of me. I just don’t want to take care of animals that aren’t mine, especially since he’s not at school out of town and making no effort to sell them, as he said he was doing when he left to go to school last fall.
Sometimes it’s easier to not make friends.
I didn’t sleep last night. My brain was too active with the events of this week. It wouldn’t let me settle in and relax. I was awake until just past 9 am. Because of that now my day is upside down and I have to fix that before Monday as I’m on days. To quote Roxie in Dead Like Me “Why do you do that to yourself?”
I get to go to Edmonton later this month to the AGM of the organization our half-way house belongs to. I’m quite looking forward to it. I learned a lot at the one that was held here last year. This means I get paid for going out of town. My accommodations and food are all paid for. All I have to pay for are incidentals and entertainment.
Then it’s a concentrated wild time of getting month end completed, a week of work and then I’m going to be on holiday for 2 whole weeks. We’re not likely going anywhere, or far if we do go anywhere, but the whole idea of not having to get up for work, being able to do what I want without a schedule, pleases me enormously. It’s been nearly 10 years. I think I’m due.
My beading supplies were shipped on May 21st. It will take 6-8 weeks for it to get to me (surface shipping is cheap, but slow) and it should be here sometime in my holidays. I’m quite looking forward to getting them. Everything I ordered is nickel free. That’s a great selling point as so many people who react to jewelry are reacting to the nickel in the alloy.
I think that’s about it for now. It’s been a hard week. I was glad to see the end of it last night.
Boy was watching Myth Busters tonight. Yeah, that’s right. So out he comes from his bedroom to ask me a question. He wants something. What does he want, you ask? Well you should. He wants a steak. He wants some kevlar wrapping. He wants some C4 explosive. He wants to tenderize a steak just like they did on the show. I laughed. I laughed heartily and responded, “I don’t think so Tim.” (Kudos to anyone who remembers where that answer was stolen from because Boy’s name isn’t Tim.) It looks like he’s just going to have to use the old fashioned way of whacking a steak with a tenderizing hammer. He was disappointed.
Today was stats class. I spent a fair amount of time explaining some of the more subtle terms of English to one of my fellow students. He’s from Egypt. He learnt very formal English so he doesn’t understand local idiom and such. He was also having trouble figuring out that the 2 graphs we were looking at were using the same data set but were different ways of summarizing and displaying the data. It was fun.
After that it was to a meeting with my adviser. She’s going to be right handy. You see, although the UofS is signing a “letter of understanding” with Corrections, that doesn’t mean that getting in to see prisoners is gong to be in any way, shape, or form. That’s assuming I get my stuff past the Ethics Committee. Anyway, my adviser knows several women who had served prison terms longer than 10 years. Oh, that’s 10 years as a stretch, not a year here, a year there and so on. Crimes that get sentences like that are pretty significant and usually involve multiple crimes or murder. Yay! for activist, pain-in-Corrections’s-tush advisers!
After that I went to the Pride Centre and sat for a little bit with people there. I phoned Bran and he came to pick me up and we went to pick up Boy at school. Boy didn’t drive because I wanted to go on a tour drive south of town amongst the acreages. There were a couple of nice properties for sale. Of course that also means they come with a significant price tag (probably over $500,000) but they were very nice and nicely placed near the river valley and far enough away from the city that the land wouldn’t be expropriated by the city for at least 50 years or so.
Then it was out to Costco for some things we needed. So we picked up a passel of vegetables, a box of my sweet-salty granola bars and some garbage bags. Oh, we also got some Costco bags because we’d forgotten to bring some in with us. Those bags they sell can hold a shit pile of stuff and they have two types of handles. One for carrying with your hands, the other set to put over your shoulder.
Somehow that reminded me of something. Perhaps it was the concept of a container that did it. I have a locker now. I have a place to put my coat and other winter wear as well as books that I’d rather not carry around on my back on Mondays. There are also three drawers of different sizes for me to use. I love it! I have a key to get into the sociology grad student’s room, a key for my locker (in which I put my USB fan) and there are carols (I think that’s how they’re spelled) so spread out books and do research out of the library and its ambient noise.
That’s been my day. I had veggies and dip and those Baby Bel cheeses for a late supper and I’m watching murder and mayhem. I’m working the weekend night shifts so I’ll have time to do some reading both for my presentation seminar on Monday afternoon and Stolen Life: the journey of a Cree woman by Ryd Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson. That one is going to be a triggering and difficult read, but I need it as part of my research.
Dorothy Gale from Kansas surely had it right when she said those immortal words. There really is no place like home.
Being away was good, albeit stressful.
Saturday morning started out bright and early (for me) at 7:45 am. I got up, showered and ate a cheese sandwich before leaving town. We had mostly packed the night before, but hadn’t done the last finishing things. That done we packed up the car and headed out of town for a weekend of fun and carousing.
Going to Prince Albert isn’t really the trip to Alaska, it’s about 1.5 away. All in all a rather pleasant drive. We drove by dairies, through Mennonite country, past sloughs populated by ducks and other water birds such as coots and past many cows and horses. The nice thing was, when looking out the windows that there were trees on the side of the road instead of just grain fields. There was a plethora of wildlife, mostly dead, at the side of the road.
We got to Prince Albert in good time. We stopped at a little place and had breakfast. Then we drove off to look for the park where the wedding was to be held. We got lost. Why did we get lost despite having a map? We got lost because where we ended up wasn’t on the map. Not one of the streets, roads or avenues in that area were on the Prince Albert map that Bran got from the CAA (Canada’s version of the AAA). So we turned around and got back to the highway that was our main reference and then followed the map (Google maps are really good if you want to waste gas).
We finally got to where the wedding was to be held but only after driving around the long way. Yes, that’s right, the long way. You see, there are two entrances to the park and we took the first one as we were instructed by Google. Had we just stayed on the highway we could have saved 3/4 hour of driving on washboarded dirt road. Anyway, the important thing was we got there and were there nice and early.
We watched the nervous groom as he wandered about getting the ground ready for the handfasting. Boy, Bran and I pitched in some by getting any trash and detritus out of the circle so that when Bran blessed it, it would be clean. Then we went back to the gazebo where there was shade and cool breezes to wait for people to start to arrive.
The first to arrive were dressed in medieval costume. In fact, several of the guests came dressed as such. There were a few that were quite beautiful. The handfasting, being of the pagan variety, also meant that things ran on “pagan standard time”. For those of use whose lives are run by the clock that had the potential to mean that things were darned frustrating. It was nearly an hour past the scheduled time before things got underway.
I got tons of photographs including photos of the fire bombers (it is, after all, the major depot of the forest fire monitoring in Saskatchewan), the spotter plane and the firebombing helicopter. A couple of times those things caused the ceremony to halt because they are rather loud. The woman sitting next to me is a small airline pilot and she was very excited to hear those engines. She’s one of those people who have aeroplane fuel for blood.
Bran did a marvellous job of officiating (he called it script reading since that’s what he did – the bride and groom wrote nearly everything out previously) and it was a very beautiful. The bride wore a purple satiny gown with lovely ribbon trim, flowers of calming and peace in her hair and in her bouquet (it helped her stay calm). The groom was dressed in breaches, boots and cape and he carried a sword. I got lots of photos as well. In fact, the bride was confused as to who was behind the camera because I was wearing Bran’s shade hat and the camera in front of my face. She managed to figure out who I was eventually.
I used the monopod with the camera and it was great! The tripod is good and works well, but the monopod was fabulous. It held the camera still but allowed me to move about easily without tripping over a leg. I was also able to quickly adjust the height as I needed. I really preferred it to the tripod and though it’s heavier, I’ll probably use it more.
Boy was also snapping photos, so between the two of us we should probably have a nice lot of pix to send to the happy couple to augment the professional photos that were taken that day. They had a very traumatized time doing all the kissing for the cameras after the ceremony. Yeah, we could tell that they hated that part.
In between the handfasting and the reception, there was a short break where Boy, Bran and I checked into our motel (paid for by the bride) and rested for a short bit. Bran ordered a couple of thin crust pizzas for him and I (mine without sauce) and a p’zone for Boy. It took an hour to get there and by the time it was there it was time to leave for the reception. We each had a short snack and then off we went. You might find it odd that we’d eat just before the reception, but we were short on energy and Bran can’t let his blood sugar tank out.
The food at the reception was quite good with a few not very quite good parts. It was catered by a local Filipino restaurant. There was chicken, a whole roast pig, potatoes or rice, gravy, hot stir fry veg and a macaroni salad. The biggest problem was the roast pig. In carving the meat, the carver also carved fat. Now some fat with meat can be very tasty. In this case, however, the fat was sometimes the only thing sliced and it was expected that people would eat that. Ick. The meat was scrumptious though.
After such a day I wasn’t able to stay to the end of the reception. It wasn’t long into the meal that I began to feel the rumblings of panic edging into my being. I did try my usual methods of calming down, but it wasn’t working. We were back at the hotel room in fairly short order after the meal.