Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Surviving Christmas Post Workplace Abuse: The Second Memory Trip

I seem to be on a memory lane expedition in this blog since restarting it this week.  But then, that's probably par for the course at this time of year.

We start thinking of Christmas - past and present.

Then there's the New Year coming just a week after Christmas.  We look behind us at the year just past.  We look ahead to the year coming along the horizon.

For me, I think I'm merely catching up on all the thoughts that have been wandering around my brain during the pre-holiday and holiday season.

This year, for the second year in a row, we gave the grands a memory gift.  This time a trip to Legoland in Toronto.  Since the two grandsons love their lego blocks, I thought this would be right up their alley.  The granddaughter I wasn't so sure of.

And again, the other side of the gift was a kid-free day for my daughter and son-in-love.

There was no Aunty this time, as she opted to stay in Western Canada because of the high cost of air fare.  So it was just Grammy, Papa and two grands.

Two grands?  What happened to the third?

The youngest has been having a hard time (it's hard to be six) and didn't come with us.  Which meant my daughter and son-in-love didn't get their present of a kid free day.  First oops!

Actually, the first oops was that looking at Legoland on the net, I saw that they had guaranteed entry - non refundable and non transferable - tickets which I bought.

I shoulda known better.  Remember how I've mentioned in the past about having a plan B?  Well this kind of ticket didn't leave me any wriggle room when things started not going according to plan.  The first indication this might be like trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole was when both of us got sick with the "cold that doesn't leave" followed by the youngest grand having a very bad, horrible, no good day.  Changing our plans to another day was not an option.  We were locked not only into a certain day but also a certain time.  If we didn't go, we lost the money.  Period.  We were committed.

Since we couldn't devise a plan B, the next option on my list - going with the flow  - came into play.  Also, don't sweat the small stuff.

Legoland is for children.  No two ways about it.  In fact, adults can only gain entrance in the presence of one or more children.

The pictures on the left are all of the first room we entered.  In some ways, I think it was my favourite.  It was colourful, small and had different displays of legos.

Right off the bat, I discovered the first drawback to Legoland - or should I say going there as an emotionally damaged person.  People.  Tons of them.  All over the place.  Careening around.  Even the adults.  Walking directly in front of the camera.

Yet, I was still able to chill - and go with the flow.  Even if the flow was a bunch of humanity of all sizes, shapes, ages and descriptions.

Next in line, was a ride where you rode around in cars for four with laser guns and shot at the "bad guys".  My little laser light quivered all over the place but I did manage to get a little over 1000 points which I considered good ... until I looked around and saw that Papa had gotten over 7,000, my 9 year old grandson had gotten over 12,000 and the little lady, the demure little girl, had gotten over 14,000.

The ride is not compulsory, there is a pathway around it which a lot of people took, but I wanted to experience it all - and so did the grands.

To me, it was "grand" day.  Their desires were at the top of the list.  They mattered.  It was all about them.  As I think it should be.  After all, it's their Christmas present.

After the ride, we walked down a hallway which said "To Toronto" and entered a small room which - you guessed it - was full of lego recreations of Toronto.

I think that was my next favourite part of the place.  Except for the constant flow of people walking in front of the camera. it was a photographer's paradise.

Yet, none of that seemed to bother the grands.  It seems like they were caught up in the wonder of it all.  Not quite like little kids at Christmas, but almost.

I don't know about them, but I've never seen anything like this.

I was amazed.

This room was almost like going through a museum.  A museum of lego structures of Toronto.

There was the CN Tower and other recognizable buildings in the downtown core.  The harbour front was also represented with a lighthouse.

We followed the flow and entered the last - and largest - room in Legoland.  I don't know if I would call it a play room, activity room or what.  There are different activity centres scattered around - and off - this large room.

Off to our immediate right as we entered this room was the 4D theatre - which we decided to enjoy immediately.  Apparently, there are four movies which are shown in succession.  We saw one of the four.

Off to one corner in this larger room is another ride - which the children immediately spotted and wanted to go on.  It turns out that only 12 people can go on this ride at a time, so we joined a very slow-moving line up.

And this is where I got to really watch the grands in action and observe their personalities.

They played hand games with each other while waiting.  And bonded - with each other.

Usually, with three children they're divided - the boys on one team - and the girl alone.  This time, with the two older ones, I saw a vastly different side of their personalities and their relationship.  They stayed together.  They were a team of two.  They were mostly on the same page.  They actually seemed to like - and rely - on each other.

Those are the memories I took away with me, the ones I treasure in the "memory album" in my mind.

The way they entered the big room hand in hand wandering around, building racing cars.  Almost always together.

Grammy and Papa?  Well, I found myself a much needed cup of coffee and a bench to rest my weary bones on.  Papa joined me.

The ride in action
I'm afraid I have more pictures than words to share on this post, so I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story.  Because for me, I've realized that pictures is part of the way I think, part of the way I communicate - especially when the brain doesn't work as it should.

I hope you enjoy the rest of our memory trip.

Until next year .... may it be full of recovery and good memories to counter the bad stuff life throws at us.

The ride in resting position.
A life-size Santa's sleigh all built in legos
The wizard - in the background the ride the children went on
The build a racing car station - or controlled chaos as I call it
The budding engineer - or race car builder

On the way out
Bye Toronto!  By Legoland!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Surviving Christmas Post Workplace Abuse: The First "Memory" Gift


Life is all about change.

Whether we like it or not.  Whether we acknowledge it or not.

The world changes as regimes come and go; as technology increases, etc.

The world I grew up in in the 50s no longer exists.

So why should I expect my life to stay the same?  To never change?

In my journey towards recovery post workplace abuse, I've learned not only to lean into the pain but also to embrace the changes.

For example, I no longer feel much excitement towards anything.  As Christmas drew near last year in 2013 there was no excitement.  No interest in joining the mad dash for presents.  Besides, there was no money to be spent on things that would ultimately clutter up a house and be discarded at some point.

So after some discussion with my one daughter, we devised a plan.  Give a gift that counts.  A memory gift if you will.  For my daughter and son-in-love, it was a child free day.  For my other daughter, it was a clean(er) house plus a carriage ride at Niagara on the Lake with her niece and nephews.  For the grands, it was the carriage ride to Niagara on the Lake with their Aunty (whom they love).  For me, it meant not having to endure the mobs at the mall and having a bonding experience with my grandchildren.  Also a picture taking spree.  A win-win situation for all.

As usual, mandatory camera went with.

It was a grey day, but not a cold one, despite the snow you see on the ground.  Except for the lack of sun, it was a perfect day for a carriage ride along the quaint streets of Niagara on the Lake.  Something none of us had done before.

Our first "memory" of the trip was a stop at a donut shop en route.  Me before me, decided to act as commander in chief of the "troops", I commanded the children to follow me and started marching towards the entrance of the shop singing Scotland the Brave.

My daughter began laughing uncontrollably.  The three children had lined up in single file and followed me - marching.

Arriving at Niagara on the Lake, we were plenty early so we scoped out the scene and then separated.  The boys went with their Papa (whom they adore); the granddaughter went with her Aunty; and I got me time.  To walk around, explore, and take pictures.

Arriving back where the horses and carriages congregate, we regrouped, found our carriage and driver and climbed in.

Now it might seem that I am favouring two of the children above the third in the pictures, but the truth of the matter is that one grandchild was nestled quite cozily beside Papa on the seat I was in.  The others were in front of me, directly in camera sight.  So I got to enjoy the carriage ride watching them enjoy the carriage ride.

After the carriage ride was a mandatory cup of hot chocolate for all.  We did lose one member of the family, Papa, and after a while I went out to find him and corral him.  But that only adds to the memories, the uniqueness of the day.

Our next stop was just down the street several miles:  Niagara Falls.

By then it was getting late in the afternoon.  The sun was setting.  But it was still an enjoyable time.

We wandered down to a spot where we could see the falls.  I took pictures (duh!)  while the children enjoyed the falls.

Next stop:  supper at a restaurant on Clifton Hill.

I was determined to make this trip last as long as possible so that the parents could have as nice a gift as possible.

Finally, it was time to go home.

For me, some of the nicest memories are watching how the grands interacted with each other and the adults around them.  Seeing the small hands in Papa's or Aunty's bigger ones.  Trusting.  Happy.

Watching the various personalities unfold.  The demure little girl isn't so demure after all when she's throwing snowballs at her brothers - or chasing after them.

The two older grands following their younger brother and aunty hiding behind poles on the way to the hot chocolate place.

The way they chose their meals at the restaurant and communicated not only with us but with the server.

Watching the grands grow up and develop and seeing them as the individuals they are.

Watching their wonder at the things they were experiencing and seeing.

These are all priceless.  They cannot be bought at a store.  The memories will never entirely leave them - or me for that matter.  Not as long as I have the pictures, that is.

As the Christmas season of 2014 was approaching, rather than stressing over what I no longer have, I was realizing what I do have and how priceless it is.

It is time now to close this post with a few last pictures of that memorial day and the thought that while I lost a lot because of the workplace abuse, I also am gaining a lot in the process of recovery.  Things I would never have gotten otherwise.

Among them, the realizing that relationships, especially those with the people closest to you, are what matters.  Not what others on the periphery i.e. workplace of your life think.

Until my next post ....

Monday, December 29, 2014

Life Post Workplace Abuse: Christmas - changing traditions

We've just passed Christmas -which is supposed to be the best day of the year.  And it probably is ... for some.  But for many people, it's a time of depression.  A time where losses are magnified.

As I walk through this post workplace abuse journey, everything has changed.  Nothing is the same as it was before.  Before injury.

In some ways, it is a good change.  I've learned the relationships that matter are those of family - and close friends.

I've learned to let go (more or less) of things.

I've started to learn how to change and adapt.

Part of the changes involve Christmas.

What used to be is gone.  We used to have a Christmas Eve Open House inviting family, friends of family, neighbours and anyone who didn't have a place to be on that night.  Our house may be small, but our heart room is big.

I'd spend the day - or even days - preparing appetizers, buying treats and then spreading everything out in both the kitchen and the living room.  People would gather just to talk and be together.  A low-key time of togetherness.  A good time.

All that changed, though, after the injury from the workplace.  I was no longer able to think, to plan, to read recipes.  I had no energy and no interest in anything.

That first Christmas post workplace abuse (2011), all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball in my bed and stay there through the holidays.

My sister stepped in to the rescue - kind of.  My mother's health was going downhill and she was afraid that this would be our mother's last Christmas (she was right).  So she wanted us all to be together - at her house.  It meant moving my children, grandchildren, son in love and our .5 (essentially everyone but the cat) to her house in ... well, since I live in Canada and she lives in the U.S. ... to a whole different country.  It involved three vehicles, three departure times and three arrival times.

As I've mentioned before, I had no interest or energy.  I just wanted to skip Christmas.  Forget about it.  But my family wouldn't hear of it and loaded my somewhat inert body into the car.

That become the first "homemade" Christmas.  The one where (almost) everyone's Christmas presents were made by my own hands.

Different from past Christmases certainly but memorable in its own way.  Enjoyable even.  Fraught with special memories - and pictures.  A time to remember.  A good time.  A bonding time.

Christmas of 2012 became known as the Charlie Brown Christmas in our house.  My mom had died.  I had psychiatric injury added to psychiatric injury.  And then I broke my arm.

I wasn't able to do anything either physically or mentally.  Drastic changes were necessary.

No Christmas tree.  No decorations. No Christmas Eve open house.  No big family dinner.  I ordered a plate of sandwiches and a veggie tray from a local supermarket.  The .5 came and we sat and watched Christmas movies all day.

One daughter opted to visit a friend in the States where she was welcomed with open arms and included as part of their celebrations and their family.  The other daughter complete with husband and children came later in the even for a put together supper.

Low key, but in its own way fun.  A time of closeness.  A time of bonding.  A time where being with each other was more important than all the trappings and former traditions.

The worst part was that with the broken arm, I could not knit or crochet.  I could not indulge in my right-brain therapy.  I could not make presents.  I was truly lost.

HOWEVER, I did have a few things I'd made before I broke the arm - including the cowl pictured above on my daughter's head.

AND I did find a way - a totally different way - to make presents.  I bought each one a digital photo frame and uploaded photos pertinent to each child from my collection.  Doing it left-handed was a challenge, but I was happy with the end result.  Memories captured and shared.

Once again, for the second year in a row, we had the main Christmas meal at someone else's house.  Much closer to ours than my sister's.  My daughter's mother-in-law included us as part of the family.

And it was good.

 Christmas 2013.  The second "Charlie Brown" Christmas.  Still very low-keyed.  Still no fancy decorated Christmas tree or decorations.

Starting to come alive again, but still no energy.  No spark.  Limited sparkle.  (At least I didn't have a cast on my arm this year.)

I gave up on Christmas shopping entirely last year.  Our Christmas gifts became time/memories rather than things.

We gifted the grands with what we call a "memory trip" - a carriage ride at Niagara on the Lake.  Their parents got a kid-free day - just for them.

Although still very limited, I was able to start thinking in terms of new traditions.  Since the Christmas Eve Open House is now a thing of the past, a victim of the injuries caused by workplace abuse, I wanted to start something different, something low key, something we would enjoy together but would not deplete my limited energy reserves.

So I came up with a Christmas Eve bonfire.  Just close family.  No appetizers.  No days spent cooking.  Chips, hot chocolate in the crockpot, hot dogs, etc.  Family time.

For the third year in a row, we spent the main meal being invited guests - this time out in the country to my husband's brother - where I took the picture of horse and buggy Mennonites travelling to their Christmas get-together.

In the evening, the family gathered together.
 When we've suffered losses, when our situation has changed drastically, when we're no longer the same person we once were, live can still be not only liveable but good.  In it's own way.

A belated Merry Christmas from my house to yours ....

Until (hopefully) tomorrow.