Monday, December 5, 2011


The Moulin Rouge, Montmartre, Paris - by DGH

Walking in Paris is the best way to discover the charm of the city, from the cafés tucked into the Ile St. Louis, to the bridges that cross the Seine River. From pop-up stores to a hidden vineyard in Montmartre, from a graffiti wall to a bit of old Rome underground, something unique is waiting around every corner. Our daily walking on average was five to six miles with café breaks. Wear comfortable shoes, and watch the locals when crossing the streets then, do as they do.

Walking tour of Montmartre (a booked tour)

The Moulin Rouge sits across from a Starbucks in Montmartre and seems less glitzy by day. The big red windmill serves as a landmark, as does the wooden Moulin Galette further up the hill. Full scale dinner shows can be booked at the Moulin Rouge through tour agencies. We paused here to take a photo as we walked up the Rue Caulaincourt to meet the tour group of 12 people near the Blanche Metro station. After all, an icon is an icon.

Au Lapin Agile, an original cabaret /café from the past that in earlier times was known to allow the exchange of art as payment for food & drink. It helped the artists and gave the art more exposure.

Le Bateau Lavoir, the studio and sleeping quarters of many artists, including young Pablo Picasso, was one of the sights our tour guide stopped to talk about. At the height of the studio’s usage, beds were used in shifts in the shared accommodations so the artists struggling to make ends meet could stay in Paris.

Le Bateau Lavoir - Paris - by DG Hudson


The Wall Passer, a sculptural representation of a character from a local Paris story that tells of a man who could pass through walls; the work was commissioned to honour the local writer who lived in the area (Marcel Aymé).

The Wall-Passer, Montmartre, Paris - by DG Hudson


Sacré-Coeur Basilica sits majestically at the top of Montmartre, fronted by wide steps for relaxing and observing the city of Paris spread at your feet. You can visit the ever-white stone cathedral that has offered shelter for over a century, or you can begin the steep descent down the hill, past street buskers, petition hustlers and old style cafés.

Head East from the Marais. . .

The Cimetière du Père Lachaise is in the 20th Arrondisement; we walked from the 4th (the Marais) past the Place de la Bastille, and up to the Rue du Chemin Vert. The trip covered 2.5 kilometers, uphill but manageable.

This cemetery was the final home for some celebrities: Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Stephane Grappelli, Isadora Duncan, and Georges Bizet. There are many others. Maps of the layout are available to help you find your way through the streets of cobbled stone -- each one approximately 4 inches square -- reminiscent of the Versailles courtyard.

Oscar Wilde's monument before the cleaning - by DGH

 Some traditions we noticed from the locals and tourists: leaving a rose on Edith Piaf’s grave, leaving a pebble or other item on grave markers as if to say ‘I was here’, leaving a red kiss on Oscar Wilde’s monument -- BUT this last one is no longer allowed, now the bottom half has been encased in glass to prevent damage to the stone through two mediums: waterproof lipstick and graffiti pens.

Latin Quarter

The Church of St. Germaine des Pres, situated near Les Deux Magots is the oldest church in Paris, built in 542 AD, and it retains one of the original bell towers.

Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore

Two well-known cafés in the Latin Quarter are famous for their past lives as  gathering places for the Lost generation and the Existentialists (and a lot of writers were in those two camps) They have always enjoyed a friendly competition in vying for the students and the literary crowd.  Prices are higher here, according to a local insider. You go for the atmosphere and for the history, all the while hoping to absorb some of the literary magic that hangs in the air of these two cafés.  Think Midnight in Paris and go from there. . .

 Île de la Cité

Notre Dame Cathedral (Our Lady of Paris)

Visitors and locals lounge around the square facing Notre Dame enjoying the statue of Charlemagne, the people, and the pigeons.  Others, visibly identifiable as tourists, contemplate whether it's worth the climb of 400 steps or more for a photo opportunity.

This is the oldest spot in Paris. When the Romans arrived, the Parisii lived here.  A circle design embedded in the square facing the church identifies the exact Centre of Paris. It’s made of brass which is set into granite, then into concrete.  Most of the visitors missed seeing this important spot, simply because they were too busy looking at everything else.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris - by DG Hudson


Crypt Archeologique (Roman Ruins, and the Parisii)

This underground museum sits under the square fronting Notre Dame, protecting ruins of the Roman city of Lutetia, and the original settlement of the Parisii.  The lighting is designed to highlight the structures and information is available on each part of the exhibit.  A must-see if you’re a Roman history buff.

Roman excavation in the Crypte Archiologique - by DGH


Have you explored a city by walking through the streets?  If so, what city?

The Centre of Paris, Notre Dame Square by DGH

Monday, October 31, 2011

Paris Gilt Trip

Traveling in the City of Light, you can’t help but notice the wide variation in the guilded sculptures adorning the Seine River bridges, light stanchions, and 16th and 17th century buildings.  On a sunny day, you might need sunglasses.  After visiting Paris, I can fully appreciate the effect of gilding.  The French take special care of their monuments and their past.  Following below is my evidence supporting that statement.


This palace seems to be dipped in gold decoration, which enhances the front entrance street appeal. It’s the approach that humbles you. The cobblestones were set in place in such a way as to slow down the horse-drawn carriages and those walking so that they could properly approach the palace of the king. At least, that’s what I heard. . .

Built to house 3000+ nobles, their families and caretakers, including the king and his retinue, Versailles was like a small village for Louis’ court. Statuary, fountains and gardens in the back were part of the entertainment for the court and allowed the king to keep watch on them all.  The Hall of Mirrors, where you can see forever, might have served the same purpose.

Down side: When we were at Versailles, there was a jarring juxtaposition of modern art being integrated into the French interiors. It didn’t work. Even some of the tour guides admitted that the effect was garish.  Exhibitions of this type are allowed to provide additional funds for expert restoration and repair, and general trust expenses.

The Louvre Museum

This beautiful museum was a palace first, before it became an art museum and it shows in the details. It’s also shown in the basement where the foundations of the original Louvre palace can be seen, with a model of the medieval palace.

Paintings of all sizes, sculpture, historical artifacts, and a trove of antiquity collections surround you.  Various coloured marbles, painting and gilt cover the walls and ceilings. What a feast for the eyes and a photographer's dream - you can take photos in this museum.  We saw Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and Mona Lisa before we started sinking into Antiquity.

Although we spent nearly five hours meandering through the exhibitions, we didn’t see all that we wanted to see. We did our own walking tour after buying their floor map of the exhibits. It's difficult to get a close look at the art in a tour group. This is important if you want photos like we did. I recommend plotting your own path through this art heaven.

Bridges (Ponts), Lampposts and Fountain Embellishments

Perhaps the gilding lends a romantic aura on these places, favourites of lovers sharing a kiss. Certain bridges, like the Pont D’Iena by the Eiffel Tower, have more complex architectural designs which offer gilding opportunities.  History can be preserved, and these places prove it.

Opera Garnier

The name of this opera house refers to the architect who designed the building. It was the setting for the Phantom of the Opera and still survives in grand style. Gilded sculpture tops the roof and highlights the busts of musicians on the front of the building. 

We found out - too late - that there are tours of this building when the opera isn’t performing.  Photo detail in upper right on this post.  There are images available on the Paris tour sites if you're interested.


Joan D’Arc, on the Rue de Rivoli

This statue of Joan stands in front of the Hotel Regina, just down from the Louvre Museum on the Rue de Rivoli. She has a majestic presence over the traffic which faces her on the opposite side of the street. Gilded from head to toe, she and the horse remind us of another era in the French past.  I like this commanding sculpture of the French heroine.

A Gold Mime, on the Pont D’Iena (near the Eiffel Tower)

Sitting on the Pont D’Iena, we saw the golden mime, waiting for someone or something. He wouldn’t say.

To ‘gild the lily’ is to try and improve on what is already beautiful. Paris seems to have it right.

All the photos taken Autumn 2010 in Paris by DG Hudson. 


Do you notice architecture? Any favourite buildings?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Duty vs. the Self - Finding Time

Grande Palais Fountain, Paris 2010 - Photo by Green Eye

My favourite time to write is in the morning, when it’s quiet and the birds are just starting to chirp.  I don’t always get to do my writing then, as there are other duties that are demanding my attention. We all have those obligations. Many of the decisions we make about our use of time are based on our sense of duty or necessity.

The Wall-Passer, Montmartre, Paris 2010 - by DGH

Every day, we decide when and which Duty things will be done: going to work, household tasks, visiting elderly relatives, driving the kids, volunteering, etc. Some we do as part of our routine, but because we fixate on getting the duties done, we forget that we need ‘time out’ for the Self. Our sense of cognitive dissonance (discord) becomes agitated when we push our own needs aside. There’s no need to abandon your duties, just make ‘time for yourself’ one of those duties.

Self-time is whatever restores your sense of equilibrium. Writing does it for me, and I find that I get annoyed when my time is hijacked by those ever present duties. When I take the time for an activity I enjoy, it benefits me in several ways. I distance myself from the problems, the worries, and the annoying things; I lose myself in the act of creating something for the pure challenge of it. The problems don’t go away, but I forget about them for a while.

Sacré Coeur, Montmartre, Paris, by DGH 2010

We each have to find that balance in our life, even though the variables are ever-changing. Make the effort to spare a little time for yourself, you’ll be glad you did.


What sparked this post:

In Hope Clark’s post, My Fiction Day (Oct 5, 2011) . . . she talks about when she writes best, and why. Her words started me thinking about my own time to write, and how difficult it was initially to carve out that time.

Her post is an interesting look at one busy writer’s schedule. Check it out at her blog:

A Musical Interlude:

A YouTube video of a song by James Brown, with his advice: ‘. . .you got to live for yourself, yourself and nobody else’. . .)  It may sound a little narcissistic, but the point is, don’t neglect yourself.

I’ll Go Crazy, by James Brown, R & B artist.  (music only)


Do you make time for yourself? How do you manage it?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Strong Women in Culture

What did these women have in common? A strong sense of self and enough confidence to pursue their dreams. They lived in different times, and sought their own way, oblivious to those who said they couldn’t.

French Flag in the Arc de Triomphe, by Green Eye

Simone de Beauvoir - (1908 - 1986) France
Philosophy and Literature  
Compatriot of Jean-Paul Sartre, professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, and a member of the early existentialist movement, she examined women’s rights and through that, influenced a generation of women. In her book, The Second Sex, feminism was defined.
 Many of the feminist ideals of the 1960s and afterwards found their roots in the writings and musings of de Beauvoir. All through her life, her attitudes, her writings and her relationships were under scrutiny. She said she lived her life to please herself, not to please others.

After Jean-Paul Sartre passed on, Simone had to recover.  His sickness had depleted her reserves.  Simone still showed that pragmatic frame of mind in an interview in the mid-1980s. She was more interested in ensuring that Sartre’s unpublished writings made the light of day than in continuing her own writing.
Her reply to why she wasn’t interested in writing more about her own work: “In a creative profession, one does what one feels like doing. ... It takes inspiration to create...”
For more information:
Ref:  Article, Who's News, New Woman Magazine, July 1984.


Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver - by DGH

Emily Carr -  (1871 –1945) Canada
Artist and Author

Growing up in Victorian times, Emily survived by using her own wits, and running a rooming house (with help) in Victoria BC; she had her studio in the upper quarters of that same house on the main street near the current site of the Empress Hotel.

She travelled to the Queen Charlottes (now called Haida Gwaii), north of Vancouver Island, BC, lived in the area and painted many of her famous Northwest Coast totem and forest paintings while immersing herself in the culture of the Haida natives. Her art showed the raw beauty of western Canada when viewed through the lens of a perceptive artist, she tried to capture the spirit of the huge towering evergreens and of the carved traditional totems. An art school, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, bears her name.


Pere Lachaise Cimetière - Paris - by DGH

Isadora Duncan - (1877 - 1927) USA
Dancer; forerunner of interpretive modern dance
Isadora’s style was much more appreciated in France and Europe, she was too modern for North America in 1899.  Her choreography and movements set the stage for modern dance. She had the audience on their feet when she danced to the Marseilles in France. The fluidity of her movements came from a mixture of various dances and from the sheer, flowing fabrics she wore.

One of these, a long scarf, was blamed for her untimely death in 1927 when it caught on the spokes of a Bugatti wheel in Nice, France.  She rests in the Pere Lachaise Cimetière in Paris, France, near violinist Stephane Grappelli and in the company of other residents Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Georges Bizet, and Jim Morrison. We checked in 2010 and none had changed their addresses.



Lena Horne - (1917 - 2010) USA
Singer & Actor

An American singer foremost, as well as an actor in early movies showcasing the music popular in the 20s, and 30s, the music coming from Harlem and places like the Apollo Theatre. She had more class and sass than most.

Lena was a mix of African American, Native American, and European American, and lived in an upper middle class stratum of educated sensibilities. Her political views and her involvement with the Civil Rights movement illustrated that she was no shrinking violet.

Outspoken, and fighting for the rights of those less fortunate, she battled the mores and the attitudes of the day, getting blacklisted by an industry too dependent on government approval. She survived into the 21st century, but her voice singing “Stormy Weather” will be with us always.


(Lena singing Stormy Weather)

These four diverse women influenced many other women during their lives as well as afterwards through their books, or the changes they helped bring about.   There are many more and they come from many countries.

Never underestimate the power of a woman with a goal in mind. 

Have you been affected or influenced by a particular woman's story? Or has there been a woman in your life that made a difference in how you perceive others or yourself?

We can't all lead armies, but some of us are good at it.

Joan of Arc, near the Louvre in Paris  - by DGH

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Chronic Pain of CVS

Sculpture by O. Zadkine, Paris - photo by Green Eye

  CVS = Cyclic vomiting syndrome

Cyclic vomiting syndrome (US English) or cyclical vomiting syndrome (UK English) (CVS) is a condition whose symptoms are recurring attacks of intense nausea, vomiting and sometimes abdominal pain and/or headaches or migraines. Cyclic vomiting usually develops during childhood at ages 3–7; although it often remits during adolescence, it can persist into adult life. (Wikipedia definition, link below post)

The young woman awakes, hoping for ‘normal’ but fearing the worst. Will there be more gut-wrenching pain that wraps around from the stomach to the back, and the unbidden nausea that is a chronic side effect? On a good day, she will be able to get up early or mid-morning and eat breakfast. If that poses no problem, then she may be able to do some household chores, or even work when that occurs. When it’s a bad day, everything squeals to a halt until the pain is attended to or runs its course for one to several days.

For relief and the ability to do the basic things, she has medications to help quell the effects of the CVS syndrome. There are pain medications prescribed including nose sprays or pills that melt in the mouth, hydration to replace the lost fluid, and nausea pills. Sometimes a combination of these will work and sometimes they won’t. As a last resort, the doctor’s office will administer a shot to stop the spasms of the stomach. Sleeping for several hours is usually needed to recover from an intense bout, or incidences that last longer than three days.

A mild attack of CVS will last one day, but the length of time can vary depending on other factors that come into play. Hormone fluctuation, stress, a lowered immune system due to a cold, lack of sleep/insomnia -- any of these can trigger the start of the pain spasms in the stomach. One doctor said we all get butterflies in our stomach, but a person with CVS gets “tigers” in their stomach.

There are websites for this rare condition, but no cure that this young woman has been able to find. Managing the disease may be an ongoing factor in her life, even though some believe that the frequency and intensity will reduce, if not disappear at certain ages, e.g., after puberty, in early adulthood, etc. That hasn’t happened yet. Various tests can be scheduled to check the condition of the stomach. Other tests which must be done in a hospital, such as scoping of the upper or lower digestive system, are sometimes required after other causes such as ulcers are ruled out.

All the basic mundane things that we have to do everyday become a real chore when the body fights itself, or causes intense pain. When that pain is internal and not visible like a wound, others can doubt its validity, forcing the person who is ill to be constantly on the defense.

CVS affects males and females, with more incidences occurring in the female gender. That may be due to the difficulty in diagnosing this rare condition that has symptoms common to several other diseases. The search will be ongoing to find better solutions, but finding support is difficult when costs are being cut in many health services. Researching several different mobile nursing services revealed that they aren’t prepared to take on-call requests for administering injections.
There are many voices in the cities that we don’t hear. This post is an attempt to promote understanding of this debilitating disease, by describing some of the challenges of the person coping with it. 

Sites to check for more detailed information:

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association

Definition of the disease

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) (US)

Reference Post: The Parent, the Child and the Disability (a parent's viewpoint)

NOTE: The name of the person referred to in this post has been withheld for privacy.


Mural in Vancouver, BC - photo by DGH

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Elders: Support Seniors in Care Homes

This post will detail from personal experience what to be aware of when your parent or senior relative becomes a resident in a care home. I’m referring to subsidized facilities that I’m familiar with, which are overseen by the health authority in our district. These points were learned in the three and a half years that our relative has been in such a facility. Most of the points will apply to anyone, but the best place to start getting information is with the family doctor.

Visit often.

•  The connection with family is usually a factor in how well the resident accepts being in a care facility. Nearly all seniors will go through the denial phase. Independence is dear to all of us. They may beg to come home, or get surly and refuse to acknowledge you. Each person handles it differently. If Alzheimer’s or dementia is a factor, they won’t remember what you told them the day before.

•  Reinforce the senior’s memories by talking of things that interest them, update them on the family news, play cards, work on a puzzle in a smaller setting than the group activities of the care home, or just wheel them around the floor if the elder is in a wheelchair, walk with them if they’re still mobile. Doing something that’s not part of their daily routine is what makes the visit a little more special.

•  Be aware of other residents and learn who will try to talk you into releasing their seatbelts or pushing the correct elevator buttons so they can “escape”. Keyed or touch pad entry doors are in many newer care homes to prevent unauthorized excursions by residents.

Mix up the schedule of your visits

•  In any reputable care facility, this won’t make a difference, but dropping in unannounced is a good way to see what an ordinary day is like for a resident. Weekdays and weekends employ different staff ratios.

•  Be informed. Relatives can ask to be contacted if the resident has been ill, to be advised when in-house needs are required (like hip pads for fragile bones), and should inquire for a list of expenses if a patient’s trust fund is used for providing simple needs. Some care homes provide auxiliary services such as shoe fittings, wheelchair sizing, podiatry services, and haircutting via mobile contractors who come to the facility.

• Occasionally drop in for the meal times and offer to assist by feeding your parent. This enables you to observe how they handle the other patients and also to drop hints about your own parent. Sometimes that interaction results in better treatment from the staff, especially if the parent if hard of hearing or has poor vision. The care home staff need to know the specifics to understand why a resident may not hear an instruction, or answer a question.

Another Era by DGH

Get to know some of the health care staff at the seniors’ facility.

•  Our relative attended senior activities for a couple of days a week for several months before being assigned to that facility. As a result, the move wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been. The place was somewhat familiar, and the people managing the daily senior recreational programs were the same ones who planned activities for the residents.

•  Greet the health care staff on your visits. Find out which nurse is assigned to your relative; she can be a helpful contact at the facility. We also will greet those residents who are familiar to us, and who have talked to us as we helped feed our relative, or attended an event at the care home. Most residents respond in kind, but some may frown or rebuff your efforts.

•  If you know who to contact in case of any incidents or accidents which are not fully explained, you will save yourself time and trouble. It’s your right to have a full accounting by owner, coordinator or nurse when any incidents result in bruises, or injuries requiring x-rays. It’s always better to ask for facts first, before jumping to conclusions.

Attend events organized by the care home.

•  Family meetings dealing with particular issues, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, dementia or issues of health which affect all residents are held monthly or bimonthly. (e.g., flu shots for residents and visitors) Seasonal events will vary by facility, and may be dependant on staffing levels or volunteer help. The type and scope of events planned for residents is important, when a majority of residents are confined to wheelchairs.

•  Volunteers entertain the residents during the Christmas holiday season, and at other times throughout the year. Church services may be available for those wishing to attend on site with their relative. Residents are allowed some choice, but group activities are encouraged. This promotes the feeling of community.

Say thank you at Christmas.

If your budget allows, a group gift is always appreciated, or at the minimum send a personal card thanking the staff for their efforts throughout the year. By staff, I’m referring to the nurses, health care workers, and orderlies/attendants who help in the daily running of the facility.

The Fantasy Care Home on Moon Base
 Finally. . .

Keep yourself informed about the care facility in which your relative lives. That usually requires your physical presence, if you live close enough. Ask questions and keep your eyes open. Our relatives rely on us to support them.

Don’t assume. Be in the know.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Around the City-Vancouver: A Backyard Festival, Community Gardens & More

Vancouver, BC Cityscape from Stanley Park - DG Hudson


Festivals abound in the summertime in large and small cities, whether they focus on music, family activities, theatre, or unique happenings.  One unique neighborhood event I read about in the Vancouver Sun told of several homeowners staging an In The House Festival.  This happens in a heritage area of Victoria Drive, in Vancouver, British Columbia in an effort to increase community spirit and to offer family friendly activities.

Reference:  Article by L. Kane, Vancouver Sun, June 3/11
Details at:

GREEN THINGS:  Community Gardens
Interested in gardening but have no outside area?  Check out community gardens, a great way to grow some of your own food, herbs, or flowers.  Many cities have these communal gardens where plots are either assigned or work is shared, and the harvest allotted accordingly.  Vancouver and many of its surrounding municipalities encourage the residents to participate in this effort.
More information is available at the link below. 
City of Vancouver site

Monet's Garden in Giverny, France -'Green Heaven - DG Hudson

MOVIE RESEARCH:  Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen

Everyone seems to be fascinated currently with the Jazz Age in Paris, when the city was the expatriate centre of culture.  I'm one of those who can't get enough of reading about that time period.  As a result, many books and movies are being made which focus on the attributes of the most loved and visited city in the world. 

This movie is currently playing in many cities.  I plan to see it since I've recently visited the City of Light, and just watching the trailer brought back my own memories of Paris, the Isle St. Louis, romantic bridges and the Rue de Rivoli.  It's a city that's hard to forget.

It's a movie about choices and facing reality.  Woody Allen has created a romantic fantasy about the meaning of a place, in particular, Paris.

Eiffel Tower, Paris - by DG Hudson 2010

The photo following was taken at a local parking lot.   Don't they say that dog owners and their pets start to look alike?  Is this what they mean?  See what happens when the dog is allowed to sit in the driver's lap?  Then, they want to drive. . .
(photo taken with Blackberry camera on the road)
Beware:  Dogs Who Drive - Mobile DGH
This post is a compilation of interesting events and things observed in my treks around the city and its surrounding area.  Do you know of any interesting events that show cities are trying to engage their residents to take more pride, and get to know who is in your neighborhood?  As shown in the Woody Allen movie, even if they are the musings of an aging director, some cities like Paris cast their spell on us.  Vancouver can do that, too.  How about your city?



Email received from C. Leamon, author of Writing up a Storm:

"We are so fortunate in BC as there is so much going on through the summer. In the Gulf Islands we have our Saturday market on Mayne Island, from ten until one every Saturday from May 21, or around then, to Thanksgiving. There are some talented artisans and you can also buy local produce. It's a great meeting place and community event.


Sounds like a great idea for a summer day-trip.   

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Elder Dilemma

Waiting. . .  the Florida Coast (Photo by DG Hudson)

North American natives call them Elders, a form of respect towards those most of us call grandparents or seniors. We have an aging population which forms a large demographic segment. That fact isn’t going away. How we deal with them tells a lot about our capacity for caring and about the fears we have for their safety. It’s an issue most of us will have to deal with, if we have parents who are unable to care for themselves any longer.

Elder care is an uncharted area for most of us, but we need to know what to do when we see the first signs of dementia, or Alzheimer’s. Seniors can be coping with an unreliable memory in addition to the loss of adequate sight or hearing. The symptoms can appear gradually and go unnoticed. The elderly will attribute their lack of balance, forgetfulness, or confusion to other causes rather than admit they have lost the ability to be independent.

We need to ensure they are treated with dignity and not shunted aside. If home care is not an option, then you will need to research care homes (as in full care), and have the senior assessed as to whether they have dementia or other age related illnesses.

Decisions will have to be made regarding power of attorney (if the parent is the only survivor and is at the onset of dementia), and applications made for registering a senior in a suitable facility. Depending on the senior’s budget, various levels of care are available. Application for subsidy assistance for low income seniors is made to the local health authority in most instances.

Warning Signs

  • Confusion
  • Losing Money or Valuables (this can include dentures or hearing aids)
  • Getting lost & driven home by police
  • Taking longer than usual on public transit, or getting injured (falling getting on or off public transit)
  • Inability to state their own address or telephone number, or other basic information

Even when asked, a senior won’t admit to any loss of the five senses or their own physical abilities, since that would mean losing some of their own independence. We, as caretakers or relatives, have to be aware of the warning signs early on to prevent the senior having an accident. Find out what you need to do so you’ll be prepared. We can help them keep their dignity.

Key Points

Recognize when home care isn’t enough. Be realistic about the senior’s needs as well as your own capabilities. Seniors must be assessed for competence in caring for themselves, and for the early warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. This is done by the family physician and the local Health Authority.

Research your options. Information regarding programs for seniors is found under Senior Care or Social Services departments. Discuss legal implications such as power of attorney with the parent.  This needs to be done before the memory loss escalates. To change power of attorney requires a notary public and the parent needs to be able to understand what he/she is doing (signing over legal responsibility to another person).

This post is written from personal experience. It can be very stressful when you don’t know what to do or who to call. A good place to start is to talk to the senior’s family physician about any concerns. 

Ask questions, it’s the only way to start getting answers. 

Any questions or comments regarding this post are welcome.

Calm and Balance - Florida seacoast  (photo by DG Hudson)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Street Cat Tale

Name’s Slick, that's me on your left. My pack chose me for my shiny black and white fur coat and the dashing white lightning streak across my nose. As I look back after fifteen years, I realize I've been one lucky cat.

Life for me started on the street as a homeless stray that no one cared about, orphaned by a speeding car. They never saw my loving, tender mother slowly making her way across the street. Mom, wake up, Mom, I called. I meowed and meowed, but she didn’t move. I was frightened. I was the last of the litter to leave, having been the last born. What was I going to do? Mom hadn’t shown me how to hunt yet, I was only ten weeks old. I knew nothing about surviving.

Feeling alone and cold, I crawled into the plastic bags that blew about the market area. They kept me warm and hid me from those who frightened me. Humans who lived in the area felt sorry for me and gave me handouts, but I soon learned to hunt small things that weren’t as fast as me. Amazing what instincts come out when you’re hungry.

I could smell the aroma of fish in the boats that docked nearby. It made my stomach growl. Some of the fishermen would give me leftover bits of their haul.  The tough cats and dogs, who scrambled for their bit of food, terrified me. When the big metal cars that humans called trains rattled by, I made sure I was far away. They were noisy, heavy-sounding and the shrieking of the wheels made my ears hurt.

Humans don’t like stray animals hanging around. I found that out when a hunter in a big truck caught me with one of his nets. I had done nothing but try to live on the street. I didn’t understand what was happening. Was this the end? I was taken to a place with many cages inside, and other animals like me, all squalling and making noises. Some of the very tiny ones were very quiet. I was frightened. Maybe being lonely hadn’t been so bad.

After they settled me in one of the cages, I was fed and given water. For the time being it appeared I had only lost my freedom, but was worse to come? Humans came in at different times and looked us over. Some animals were taken away, never to be seen again.

For a few days I lived in that cage, before a human pack of four came to look at all the cats. They were looking at the cage beside me, when I took a chance. I reached out with my paw as far as I could to get their attention. They saw me. The shelter humans asked if they wanted to hold me. Yes! Yes! As they rubbed my fur, I rubbed my nose on each of them so everyone knew they were marked as MINE. That was the turning point in my life. Those humans adopted me into their pack and took me home. My first and only home, it was a marvel for a street-born cat. I had a room to myself, the place where I was put at night. It was warm, with many soft places for a cat to sleep. It took me some time to figure out what a ‘catbox’ was - how’s a street cat to know? Oh, I’m supposed to use that, not just any corner. Soon afterwards, I became an ‘indoor’ cat after a certain (ahem...cough,cough...ack, a hairball) operation.

I became best buddies with the alpha male in my new pack, since he let me do the things a normal outdoor cat gets to do. Like climb trees, chase squirrels and pretend I was lord of my backyard domain, but only when he was outside. The softer feeling females cuddled and petted me. I thought of them as my sisters, so we played and had mock fights. Sometimes I slipped up and scratched one of my pack sisters. Thank goodness they didn’t declaw me – what’s a cat to do without claws, I ask you? There was one female human who seemed to be the mother for all the pack. That was feeding lady, the alpha female. She let me know when I was in trouble, just because her voice became very hard and loud. When that happened, I would lie quietly and try to win her favour back. I used the old passive cat routine. That ruse worked most of the time.

Later in my life, I put on a few pounds from all the good food. My favourite was salmon. I could smell it cooking from anywhere in the house. About that time, I started to feel like an old cat, achy and always hungry. After several visits to the doctor where I got stuck with those sharp things called needles, I learned I had diabetes, whatever that is. I had to be stuck once or twice a day. The alpha male had to give me that sticking, feeding lady just couldn’t. It didn’t hurt, as the needle was very small. I lost all my fat, and my appetite became more normal.

I didn't like going to that place called the vet’s. It was never fun. Howling and noises like you can't imagine came out of the back. The human who checked me out was kind and gentle. If feeding lady held me, I stayed calm, but I sure yowled while we waited, to let them know I didn’t like the place.

Now, I'm back to my usual routine.  I eat, I relax, I go on the deck, I relax, I come back in to see what's new, I curl up in my favorite chair, I nap, I eat, and relax a bit more until it's bedtime.

A cat couldn’t ask for a better life. 

A safe place to live, good food and many happy years as part of a loving pack. Cat heaven can’t be much better than this. Slick signing off.


Monday, February 28, 2011

It’s Your Life - Prove it

Egyptian Tablet - Louvre Museum - Paris (by D.G.Hudson)
Write it down, Photograph it, Do Something!

Humans have always struggled to understand their lives, and to put it in perspective by writing about it, photographing events or making a video of people, places and interesting things. What we know of previous civilizations is due in part to what was left written on cave walls, on stone tablet fragments, or other surfaces which managed to survive.

How do you save information about your life? With technology today, there are many ways to connect and share with your family online. Information about social networks abounds if that is your chosen method. But down the line, will your descendants know what their ancestors did, how they travelled, or interesting facts about the family? Storage is important - whether online or manual. Taking the time to create this information, and deciding what is to be retained will be an ongoing task.  The best time to start is now.

Written Stories:

Family stories - old tales heard at your grandpa’s knee, ghost stories relating to family members or places, what happened to some of the relatives - war, travels, or unique occupations, e.g., captain of a ship, pilot, actress, writer, etc., family tree origins

Interesting Relatives - how ‘Harry met Sally’ (substitute appropriate name of parents or grandparents), identify far-flung pockets of relatives in other places, elaborate on ancestors who ruled the family - a grand matriarch or undisputed patriarch, any ‘black sheep’ who left the fold, or a grandfather who helped track and catch a famous criminal

Interesting Trips - think exotic locations, literary hotspots - Key West (Hemingway), Paris (the Lost generation), New York (the Village), San Francisco (Beat poets & writers), OR adventure trips taken, i.e., sailing a catamaran to the Dry Tortugas - an old pirate hangout, whale watching on a Zodiak in the Pacific, being on site at the southern California grunion spawning - an event which coincides with lunar tides

Work tales - (no gossip please) certain occupations lend themselves to this more than others, e.g., an actor’s experience as an extra or background, railway workers helping farmers during a whiteout, acts of valour, and especially humorous incidents

Music History - concerts attended (set-lists if available), autographs collected, names of musicians, location and dates of events (e.g., Woodstock, last concert at Fillmore East,)

Education Trail - schools attended, specialized courses, any honours or interesting facts, i.e., seven generations at same school, special teachers/instructors who made an impact


Take photographs often at family gatherings, on vacation, and during important events you have attended or hosted. Collect group photos at work, and Halloween photos of kids or adults in costume, but be consistent in identifying all media records and storing them in albums, on flash drives, or memory cards. Don’t wait to do this, as the memory (yours) will fade with time. It gives children a sense of history to see how they have grown or which relative they resemble. Online storage isn’t covered in this post, as it serves a more immediate purpose and will change as technology evolves.


Baby books, wedding albums, needlework birth announcements, memory quilts, and provenance for antique furniture are all forms of collectibles and part of your life. Some have a story behind their acquisition, and some tell a story. Documentation of heirlooms, and rare collectibles should be kept in a secure place, itemized with details of value or where they came from. At least if your descendants don’t care for that type of item, they will have an idea of its value if they choose to sell it.

To wrap up. . .

Think of all this collecting and writing as research. It could be great info if someone decides to write a memoir. Ask those questions - why, when, where and how - while you still have a source to talk to. Sort those photos, and take notes in a journal just to get the ideas going.

It’s an ongoing task with only one deadline.

UPDATE March 8, 2011 International Women's Day:  See post from 2009, Strong Women Role Models


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Music for the Soul

(Photo - A well-known Spiral staircase in Paris, France.  By D.G. Hudson)

On author Nathan Bransford’s blog, (Wed. Jan. 19/11), the question of the day was “What is your favourite song of all time?” Most of the readers had difficulty naming just one, perhaps because we attach significance to different songs at different times in our lives. A song is generally accepted as music with lyrics, intended to be vocalized.

Is it the lyrics, the music itself or the mental association which imprints certain songs upon our memories? Each of us has an appreciation for certain types of music, something which is very subjective and unique. Music can bring comfort, it can set the mood of a visual experience, or it can remind us of times past. Live performances reveal some of the power of music, as we are hit by a wall of sound at the rock venues or we watch the intricate playing of the saxophonist at the intimate club.

The theme music that accompanies a great movie, or a live play can imprint our memory much more strongly. Certain musicals used this method to introduce new songs, and set up a ready audience for the subsequent distribution of the same music in a packaged form (published music sheets, early recordings). Laura’s Theme in Dr. Zhivago, or the whistling tune (aka the Colonel Bogey March) from  Bridge Over the River Kwai illustrate how the song can live outside its original purpose.

Driving songs, based on my research, must be played uber-loud so as to get the adrenaline rolling in the listener’s veins. It goes along with the roaring engines, and the smell of exhaust. The male gender seem especially attracted to these types of songs, in many cases linking them to memories of a previously owned vehicle. Think Radar Love by Golden Earring, or Midnight Rider by the Allman Brothers Band, or Autobahn by Kwaftwerk. Remember: using the music as an excuse to speed, or to keep up with the beat is not generally accepted by law, and won’t get you an exemption from receiving a fine or traffic ticket.

Give it some thought. Those favourite songs are usually connected to some favourite time in your past or a major life event. You may have met the band members backstage, or the lyrics meshed with your view of life. Just as photographs remind us of the event in a visual sense, songs bring back memories in an auditory sense.

The next music event where I’ll have a chance to forge some more memories will be at a local club listening to live jazz. Just music. Not songs this time.