Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Surprise Birthday Party

Well, it is all over now. I am actually seventy - and while I don’t usually feel that a birthday changes the way i feel - this time there is a warm glow from my tippy toes to my scalp, my heart is bursting with gratefulness and pride. I am so grateful to all the friends and relatives that took the time to join us and my daughters, friends and partner who planned it - I am so proud to be honoured by such a bunch of accomplished, talented, beautiful people.

The fact that this was pulled off without my foreknowledge is pretty surprising too. The fact that Bill was in on it blows me away; I never suspected because he doesn't like surprise parties! (The get together should’ve been as much for his birthday as mine - and perhaps it was and he doesn't know it. Gotta love that guy.)

It was so totally orchestrated. We walked into the gallery - I was still a little annoyed at Bill and Shauna’s nonchalance at getting there because, after all, the gallery closed at 5:00 pm and he went shopping at 3:30 and she insisted that we had time for tea and showed no sign of moving. I was anxious because Mac and Beth Hone's retrospective was one of the reasons that we had come to the city. Eventually I had walked over to the grocery store to “get things moving”. 

The first thing that I saw after coming through the door was Beth all dressed fancy - I thought maybe the group with which she was allegedly rehearsing  in the afternoon had needed photos. A couple of acquaintances were wandering the gallery which was not surprising because I would expect to know people who wanted to see Mac and Beth's work. I did think it odd that there was a bar set up at one end and a table with nibbles on it - but brushed that off as "galleries have the right to do what they want". Beth wouldn't let me hang up my own coat - but then people started appearing - from behind corners and behind dividers, Regina friends, Saskatoon friends, everywhere friends! Allison, Ken, Catherine from Regina Friends. There was Rob and Phil and Karen from Saskatoon! Bernadette and Glen from Daystar! Janice and Marge from up our way! Jim, Will and Brenna, Avery and Ethan appeared. And more.... What is this? I had to scrinch my eyes closed to take it all in.

I was over the top! Someone had to force me to look because I didn’t think that I had room to go when Ev, Don, Betty, Kelly and Denise showed up! 

My head was swirling. I'd spoken with some of these people recently - even invited Marge to join us for dinner and she had excused herself for a meditative retreat. Invited my family ages ago but they were all busy or seemed to be. Nobody really lied - Denise simply told me that Marika was competing in Winnipeg and I assumed that she was going to be there. Betty and I had conversed but a lot of it was about sister Heather's lucky cardioversion for which we were grateful. (Although Shauna might have lied when she implied that she was getting on a plane to go to Regina on Friday evening when she was already in Regina!)

The setting was lovely - a far cry from the little restaurant in which I was expecting to meet Jim and Jan for a cosy family supper. Amongst pictures and pottery of artists that we knew and had known, gracious hosts at the Slate Gallery, chairs were gathered and a slide show presented using archived pics from our collection. Very well done even if they couldn’t ask the one person who might have known the dates! (I have a few corrections.) Letters were read - thanks to all who took the time to write - I had no idea how many addresses Beth ripped out of my computer!

Beth also arranged for a yoga class the next morning in the basement of the Unitarian Centre - Will held up the testosterone side for you guys - followed by a very nervous me doing a talk at the service that morning. (Very nervous because I hadn’t had a moment to review what i was going to say and I had family in the audience - how is that for pressure!)

Leisurely lunch/brunch at the La Bodega. We saw Betty, Kelly, Don and Denise off at the airport - in spite of the lack of security they all boarded, Don didn’t even check their luggage! They would land at Shoal Lake to leave Denise and hopefully arrive home before dark.

That was such a lovely celebration and a roast that I won't need a funeral!


From Hiroshima to Fukushima to You

This is the title of a book that is about to be published.

In writing this book, I didn’t want to come across as a know-it-all because I’m not.  I consider myself an expert in rural family medicine – I’m a jack/jill of all trades and master of some.

As I was growing up, I was always encouraged to “look things up” in our tiny behind-the-living room door set of shelves that was our library – it had a very fat short green dictionary that seemed to have almost every word that I looked up, a small encyclopedia set bought from Reader’s Digest on a book a month deal, and several atlases.

For some time I felt that there should be a book that linked the uses and abuses of ionizing radiation; I kept hoping that someone would write it.  It certainly sounded like a good project for Physicians for Global Survival. However, if PGS were going to write it, we needed assistance from someone who could “look things up”. Florian came to the Physicians for Global Survival’s office as part of a Master’s student community placement at a time that I needed help with some research.  He quickly produced material to satisfy the small project that I was working on and together we hatched up the idea of doing a sort of “ionizing radiation for dummies” book.

This became a scholarly thesis as he and I watched the framework evolve.  Florian did not have a scientific background; he was completing his Masters thesis in International Studies. What started as a student placement continued as the work grew. We were able to offer him a better salary than minimum wages at Canadian Tire. Flo fit into the PGS office; he drank tea, rode the bus and joined conversations. The framework of the book is entirely Flo’s with consultation. He was also the perfect skeptic – we didn’t argue but we did have lively discussions about topics or ways to present material that only served to improve the project. Flo was initially engaged as a research assistant but so much of the book was written by him that it is fully coauthored. I think that it is safe to say that he and I learned far more about this topic than we ever expected – in fact, I don’t think that we knew how much information was available about the field of ionizing radiation. We realized that we couldn’t write the “ionizing radiation for dummies” book – at least not before writing a book that explained the topic for ourselves!

What we discovered in our work was that we can not speak of the topic without defining it, its history, its science, how is it measured, what it does, how harmful is it, what can we do with it, its abuses, politics around its use and more.  We found that we were writing a history book, a social studies and political science book and a science and health care text.

Neither Flo nor I could have done this without the other.