Thursday, May 3, 2018

Remembering Dad. An update.

 May 3-4, 2018 

Remembering Dad- an Update.

Twelve years ago this evening, at Edenbank, a most beautiful residential complex nestled between Chilliwack and Cultus Lake, my dad and I pulled an " allnighter". 
He was dying from congestive heart failure. I'd been at my parents' home for 3 days, and would be going back to the city the next day. It was sunny and warm. My mom, dad and I enjoyed what was to be my dad's last real meal. Fish and Chips from a local British shop. 
Later that night, my mom took out her hearing aids so she could get a good night's sleep and I camped on the floor at the foot of the bed. Mom slept great! Dad and I not so much. His kidneys were failing and he was restless and up every 30 minutes. All through the night.  It was rough. But now I feel that spending that time with him was such a gift. My sister T. arrived the next day to take over and at around 4:45, just as the sun was at that magic hour on May 4th, my birthday, I kissed my dad goodbye, and said " I love you Daddy". He lay in his bed and although he didn't open his eyes, he replied, "Ditto". A family joke that meant the world to me. He died the next day.

Original post:

Saturday, September 5 would have been my father's 95th birthday. 
Here's a look back on his remarkable life.

There's a special bond between fathers and daughters. My dad was my hero. It didn't matter where I was or what I was doing, if Dad was there, I knew I was safe.
I said goodbye to my father on my birthday in 2006, knowing I wouldn't see him alive again. I told him I loved him. He whispered back "I love you too". Dad died the next day at the age of 85. Sometimes it feels as though he's been gone forever.

 Dad lead a remarkable life. He was born in 1920 in the  warm Crimean peninsula of  southern Russia. His mother had been widowed 3 months prior to his birth. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had unleashed chaos and lawlessness in villages all over the country and famine and disease followed. One of his older brothers died of starvation and his  mother succumbed to typhus by the time dad was 5. No one wanted an extra mouth to feed  so he was shuffled around from relative to relative. Eventually he and his remaining older brother were adopted by a childless couple and in 1930 they immigrated to Canada.
Dad's passport photo age 9 , bound for Canada.

First day of school in Canada
 Dad entered Grade 1 at the age of 10.  There were no English as a Second Language courses, no support. It was sink or swim and boy, oh boy, did my dad ever learn to swim. 
He was determined to learn English quickly, became a bit of a rebel as an adolescent and at age  17, hitchhiked from his home in Lethbridge to Rosthern Saskatchewan to attend a private college that he had heard from friends might be a good fit for him. His adoptive parents had not supported his decision  to pursue higher education instead wanting Dad to remain  on the family farm. For many reasons, it  remained a strained relationship throughout Dad's life. 
On leave during WWII. 

 It was at Rosthern Junior College that Dad met my mother.  My mother liked to  tell us about their first date, going to the movies and that she was so impressed because Dad had a dollar to spend, a whole dollar!
 In the early 1940s, Dad enlisted into the Canadian Army  and was stationed in Lethbridge Alberta at Internment Camp #133  home to 20,000 German Prisoners of War. He worked  in the Dental Corps and was also the camp's translator, having learned German  as a child in Russia.
 In later years we would love to hear dad tell  stories about those years in the camp  and his relationships with some of the POWs. Simply amazing.
The things that went on behind the wire....Read more about those days here
Dad, front row, far right with other members of Dental Corps

  My parents were married in 1944 and when the war ended they headed for Vancouver and UBC where dad earned his teaching degree. To make ends meet,  Dad sold men's shoes at  Woodward's department store in downtown Vancouver. One day he had to fill in  for someone in the ladies shoe department and as the story goes, after one shift declared "Never again! Those women  don't buy anything! They just keep trying on more shoes!"
UBC graduation  1951

Mum and Dad  finally settled in Chilliwack BC  in 1953 with their 2 young daughters with one more,me, to arrive  several years later.

My parents on Granville St. Vancouver around 1945 . Photo taken by street photographer Foncie Pulice.

One of many family picnics at Crescent Beach.
Dad the protector :
 Dad  was a secondary school teacher for many years, then principal, and finally  director of secondary education for the district (now referred to as assistant superintendent).
He retired in 1979.
Although Dad was busy with work and service organizations, he always had time for his family.  One of my favourite memories is of him reading to  me. He continued that with our children too. He loved his grandchildren and was always thrilled when my sisters and I plus our young kids would  descend upon our parents' house and fill their home with laughter  toys, and so many little boys!

Dad reading to my son 30 years later.
Reading to me.
Love the  Don Draper/ Mad Men look. 

Jack's three  daughters had 3 little boys in one year!
One of Dad's and my favourite things ever.  Dad took me to see Muhammad Ali vs George Chuvallo  when I was a kid. It was a spectacle beyond belief. We relived that evening a hundred times over the years.

Keeping cool at Mum and Dad's pool in Scottsdale AZ
Dad, you were the glue that held our family together, and even now, after eight years it's still hard to believe you're gone. You were my rock, my hero and sometimes my 'partner in crime'.
 I miss our talks about politics, world affairs and history. You were such a good and patient teacher. 
Thanks Daddy-O.  I love you.
Somewhere I hope you're saying with a wink, " Ditto, kid"

My 21st birthday
Mum and Dad on their honeymoon in Banff 1944
University Women's Club ( Hycroft) Vancouver

JFK Sept 5, 1920- May 5, 2006

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Most Beautiful Woman I Know....

Today is Mother's Day.
A time to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions mothers all over the world have made.
I'll keep my tribute local and personal.
My mother.
 As Abraham Lincoln once said
 "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." 

Never one to boast, Mum  quietly lived her life in service to others. A full-time mother ( I hate the term stay-at-home) she managed to do the Suzy Homemaker stuff while being a volunteer for just about every cause that touched her heart. 
Mum spent afternoons at a local school working with children and adults with Down Syndrome, weekly shifts at a thrift store, was president and today at the age of 93, was honoured for 50 years of service as a member of  PEO, a philanthropic educational organization helping  less fortunate women achieve their educational goals.  Although my parents attained a certain level of financial comfort and ''success",  Mom never forgot where she came from. She was the first in her family born in Canada  to war refugees from southern Russia, and knew what it was like to struggle and be considered an outsider. The "Displaced Person" label doesn't go away. 

And then there were the Barbie doll clothes! Those teeny-tiny knitted outfits she painstakingly designed and made for my dolls. Yes she sewed many human-sized outfits for her 3 daughters and herself, but attaching an itty bitty sleeve to a Barbie coat?  Well, Mum deserves sainthood for that alone. 

Mom sometime in the late 60s
When my father died in 2006, at his memorial service I said that the greatest thing my dad gave me was the gift of his love. He always took time for me, an annoyingly curious young girl, always answered my many questions about the world " Daddy... why are there people"? His love was unconditional and I never for a moment doubted it.  The same applies to my mother. Never for a moment have I ever thought that my mother did not love me with her whole heart. She sacrificed much for her family and her community. 

Today I celebrate my mother, the most beautiful woman inside and out, that I have ever known.

At age 90 
Wartime Honeymoon 1944
My sisters and our mama.  
I'm the chunky-cheeked baby
 Happy Mother's Day Mama, love you to bits!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Yes, I am still here! And I have things to tell you about.....

 What a year!
 I have much to talk about.
Reasons why I have been absent....
 Good Grief Charlie Brown.....  What a year... but I said that already, right???
 But.... for now... enjoy these pics of me with some of my fave people !

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Today's Must Read!

If You Want to be a Better Artist, Adopt Astronaut Wisdom
by John Weiss
There's a well known phrase: Do what you've always done, get what you've always got. Most people know that achievement usually requires change. Obesity doesn't evaporate with wishful thinking. Addiction won't disappear through hope alone. Better artwork seldom happens by painting the same way over and over. So, if we know that the path to improvement demands change, why do we resist? Fear.

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

There are many things that can prevent us from achieving our best selves. They include laziness, procrastination, poor time management, self sabotage and immaturity. Perhaps the most powerful impediment, however, is fear.

The musician and singer David Bowie passed away this year. Many remember his Ziggy Stardust alter ego. He wore outrageous costumes and performed in concerts, television and movies. He even sang a duet once with Bing Crosby.

David Bowie is credited with being a music visionary who influenced many artists after him. Yet despite all of this, off stage he was a shy and introverted person. He even had a fear of flying.

An article about David Bowie in BeyondAnxietyAndDepression.comnoted: "When you see David Bowie put on a performance you will think he's outgoing, fun, exciting and generally a flamboyant person. But, when Bowie is off of the stage it's a completely different story. When he's not pretending to be someone else, he has to deal with the shyness of being himself! Like many other celebrities and singers, Bowie uses his music and his stage to be someone else."

One of David Bowie's most famous songs is Space Oddity. It tells the story of an astronaut named Major Tom, who loses communication with ground control and becomes lost in space.

I wonder how much David Bowie felt lost in space? Clearly, performing was easier for him when he could hide inside the character of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. No doubt pretending to be someone else eased his fear.

Similarly, there are a lot of people out there wearing masks. Pretending to be someone they're not. Maybe to help manage their fear. But if you pretend long enough, you start to lose track of who you really are. Before you know it, your own mission control (true self) may start calling out to you. And sadly, like the line in the song Space Oddity, "Can you hear me, Major Tom?" there is no reply.

Ride that meteor back to earth

Chris Hadfield is a retired Canadian astronaut and the first Canadian to walk in space. He has flown two Space Shuttle missions and served as Commander of the International Space Station.

As a boy, Hadfield was inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing on television, and wanted to become an astronaut. So he did. Of course, it wasn't a straight shot to the Space Shuttle. First he went to school, then joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and became a fighter pilot. Eventually, he ended up on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

Chris Hadfield delivered a stirring TED talk titled What I learned from going blind in space. Apparently on one of his space walks, condensation inside his helmet caused severe eye irritation. Because there is no gravity for tears to drop, they just coalesce and get bigger. Soon both his eyes were irritated and he was unable to see.

Fortunately, astronauts train for every imaginable problem, including "incapacitated" astronaut rescues. He was assisted back inside the spacecraft and able to clean out his eyes.

Chris Hadfield told his TED talk audience that the original Space Shuttle missions had a 1 in 9 chance of catastrophic failure. He said that lift offs created such force you felt like someone was pouring concrete over your body. He joked that "there is no problem so bad, you can't make it worse."

He described reentry into the earth's atmosphere as akin to "riding a meteorite back to earth."

Talk about danger. Talk about fear. Why would anyone do it? Part of the answer, according to Hadfield, has to do with spiders.

One hundred spider webs

For Chris Hadfield, what propelled him to face his fears had a lot to do with his childhood inspiration, as well as deep questions about what the substance of the universe was made of. Never the less, there was still considerable fear to deal with. And the way you get over those primal fears is by reprograming yourself.

Hadfield talked about spiders, noting that few are dangerously poisonous. Still, when people walk through a big spider web, they freak out. A primal, largely irrational fear takes over. The solution? Walk through one hundred spider webs. Soon you discover that the soft, nearly invisible webbing is harmless. And that spider in the middle of the web is more afraid of you than you are of him. Facing the things we're afraid of and then doing it, over and over, tends to kick fear in the face.

Shoot for the moon

Chris Hadfield appears for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a short, inspirational video titled An Astronaut's Guide to Optimism. The basic message of the video is this: "Our world is not as bad a place as we often feel it to be. It is easy to look to the future and lament how far there is left to go, but sometimes it is helpful to stop and reflect on just how far we've come."

Consider the fact that in just over the last 100 years we've gone from filming the Wright brothers to landing a camera on Titan, a moon 800 million miles away. "We live the way we do," Hadfield explains, "because people chose to tackle their problems head on."

What does any of this have to do with becoming a better artist? Well, a lot of creative people never put up a website or show their work. Because of fear. They think they'll be rejected. Others are frozen by shyness or introversion, like David Bowie. A lot of us wear masks, and become lost, just like Major Tom.

If an artist wants to grow, he or she has to start walking through some spider webs. Maybe that first web is approaching a gallery about your work. The next web could be posting your artwork on a website, for the whole world to see. Over time, those spiders and webs aren't so scary. You learn volumes in the process, which helps to improve your art. And you become more optimistic.

There's no reason why you can't shoot for the moon. Face your fears, pull off that mask and walk through some spider webs. Reprogram your thinking, expect some setbacks, but keep tackling those problems head on. And learn to be more optimistic.

Even if you have a day job, there are tons of ways to infuse creativity and artfulness into your work. Don't believe me? Check out this video of Chris Hadfield, in space, playing his guitar and singing David Bowie's song Space Oddity. If Chris Hadfield can chase his dreams and juggle his passions, you can too. Just adopt a little Astronaut wisdom!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Remembering Grandma 
Nov. 18, 1887- April 29, 1971
Katharina circa 1909

Like Chekov's Three Sisters.
Katharina (right) with sisters Lena and Lisa 

The Russian version of Downton Abbey!
My lovely maternal grandmother was born on this day long ago and so very far away. I  am so very fortunate to have  had the chance to know her. She died when I was 11. Grandma Katharina/Katherine had a remarkable life. Born in Southern Russia in 1887 in a place called Friedensfeld ( Field of Peace). Life was very good for her family for a time. They were landowners, ran a paint factory and a flour mill. Their days were filled with music, literature and lots of love.  Against her parent wishes, Katherine married a 'lowly' but ever so handsome and learned school teacher and they had three children.  

 Then in 1917 the revolution came and things got very, very bad.  
My maternal grandparents Katharina and Gerhard
The family's large estate and all land  and property was  taken away.Villages  were destroyed by gangs of lawless marauding bandits. Katherine and her husband Gerhard learned that he was on a list to be sent to Siberia or killed.  The revolutionaries  wanted to eliminate all academics fearing they were a threat against the new communist regime. The decision was made to leave Russia and immigrate to Canada.
My grandmother had to leave her parents behind. They  chose to stay, thinking things would get better. They didn't. My great-grandparents ended up dying in Siberia.

First by wagon, then by train and finally in Southampton the journey to a foreign land began. Grandma was 5 months pregnant with my mother when the 10 day voyage across the Atlantic began on the Empress of France. 
Disembarking in Quebec, they travelled by train arriving on the Saskatchewan prairie in July 1923.  My grandfather carried  a grand total of 36 dollars in his pocket, a seashell from the Crimea and his beloved violin. My grandmother had her samovar for making tea. That was it. 
The family Samovar used for tea making.  
A shell brought along so the children could always remember the sound of the Black Sea. Home.

 Katherine gave birth to my mother in November of that year and had 2 more children. Although they had their worldly possessions taken away in  Russia, my grandparents gave each of their 6 children the gift of love, music, poetry and a good education. In their later years when they had moved to Chilliwack BC my grandfather I am told, could be seen around town on his bicycle visiting the sick and elderly in hospital. He was a compassionate man. Although he died before I was born I am so thankful to have known my grandmother Katherine. She lived to be 83.  
Probably my favourite photograph ever. Grandma Katherine
( Katarina-right) with guitar. Taken at their estate at Friedensfeld Southern Russia when life was good. 

Forever Summer- Forever Sunday

Katarina top right with her parents and siblings around 1908 .  
 From peace and prosperity in Southern Russia ( above) to a  hard life on the Canadian prairie (below).

The Dirty 30s, life during the Depression years. My mother standing at the table. Grandmother in the doorway.

The family embarking on the Empress of France July 1923, bound for Halifax and a new life on the Canadian prairie. Grandma  pregnant with my mother, the first of the family to be born in Canada

A whole new  and different life on the Saskatchewan prairie.
  I'll always remember my grandmother's beautiful silver hair, so long she could sit on it. When she was in her 80s we kids would visit on Sundays and sometimes she would get this far away look in her eyes and she was off, reciting Russian poetry by heart. Didn't understand one word, and it was beautiful.
 Love you forever Grandma Katherine

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Remembrance Day- My Father's War Stories

Every Remembrance Day the number of living World War II veterans diminishes. 
The ones who are still here have some amazing tales to tell of that time in the 1940s.
 I encourage you to talk with them while you still can. Nothing beats a firsthand account of history!

 Although my father has been gone for 9 years, his stories of the war years live on. Dad was in the Canadian army, stationed in Lethbridge, Alberta, where 12,000 German POWs were interned at Camp 133, many for several years. He worked as an interpreter and supervised the dental clinic in the middle of the one square mile camp.
 Because he spoke fluent German, he developed close relationships with many of the prisons of war. Most of them came from Rommel's Africa Corp.  There were many artists among the group, and the artifacts shown below were given to my dad as tokens of appreciation and friendship. Four years is a long time to be held in captivity. Lots of time to paint and carve.
 One German prisoner and my father became friends, at least as friendly as two soldiers on opposite sides could be. When the war ended, that young man went back to Berlin, and for 50 years, he and my dad wrote letters back and forth. When I was a young girl, I recall how exciting it was to open our mailbox and find an airmail envelope with a strange and exotic looking stamp on it from Walter Otto, Berlin.  In the 1990s,  fifty years after the war ended and not long after the fall of the Berlin wall, my parents visited this man and his wife. What a reunion!

 Most of the men in the camps were not aware of the atrocities that Hitler had committed. They had been captured early in the war. Near the end of the conflict, allied forces liberated the  concentration camps in Europe and found graphic evidence of the unspeakable horrors that Hitler had ordered.  Shortly after, films of the atrocities were distributed for all to see. The German POWs in Camp 133  learned of the horror their leader was capable of. Dad said that when the films were first shown to the captives, they all turned their chairs around and refused to watch. They couldn't believe it was true.
 Seventy years later, it still is unthinkable that man has the capacity to inflict such pain, humiliation and degradation on our fellow human beings. We must never forget that war is hell.

Canadian Army Dental Corps  Dad front row- far right.
Camp 133- home to 12,000 German POWs. Lethbridge Alberta

 Sad day for my parents.  Dad got his call to report for duty. 1941.

Dad in his army dress uniform

On leave with friend Bonner Bain,
twin brother of actor Conrad Bain,
 for all you fans of the 70s sit-com Maude :)

 There was even a murder at the camp . Dad was called on to interpret at the trial held in Medicine Hat. Details from a book by David Carter here:
Letter written  by my dad  for my son when he was
doing a Remembrance Day project in Grade 4

The Bismarck -  wooden carving by POW given to my father.  

The dial used to turn the cannons.  

I broke them when I was little playing

 with it in my dad's study. 

He was not amused.

Another  intricate wood carving.
This one of the Mayflower with a distinctly German touch on the sail. ( below)

The  Mayflower- 70 years of dust on the deck.

 Gift for my father. With his initials JFK

Sandstone from North Africa & Rommel's Africa Corp. 1941-42.
Brought to the POW camp and carved into these one of a kind wartime artifacts.
Given to my father by a prisoner.
Dad had these in his study and always ensured that the swastika never was visible.

Maybe one day we'll find a cure for war. We humans are so brilliant and innovative, and yet, as I write this, all over the world wars are being fought. And for what? Beats me if I can figure out an answer to that.
 So, I'll leave you with a little bit of happiness and joy.
I recently watched the short documentary The Lady in Number 6.  Here's a bit of this lovely film.