So for those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I resigned from my job at The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. this week. Of course being me, I did this without another job to go to but that happens sometimes. Yes it is a terrifying move as working in shelters is not a profession that is bank account friendly.
It means that I am now in search of a job. Financially we are okay because Wendy has worked at Safeway for 15 years and is still under their old collective bargaining tier which means that she makes a decent salary. This gives me some flexibility in knowing that we can get by on minimum wage if needed although I really don’t want to do that.
Since 2005 I have been working with the homeless and hard to house and while I love it, there has been some really hard days along the way as well. If I have an opportunity to go back into it, i will but I am always ready for a new challenge that doesn’t involve dirty needles, death threats, and the pain and suffering that I have seen day in and out over the last 8 years.
If you want to hire me, check out my LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/jordoncooper. I am proud of the work that I have done and I think that I have a lot to give but it will be somewhere else now.
If there is one thing I like about me, it’s that I have enjoyed my jobs. I have worked retail and loved the interactions. I have worked in very difficult situations and loved the challenges. Not a lot of people know this but I started mopping floors at The Salvation Army and I liked that as well. I think I am also lucky in that I am not defined by my job which makes it easier to step back. That being said, I have a lot of experience doing what I do so there is a nice comfort zone there.
If you are hiring (we would consider moving) or know of a job, let me know at email@example.com.
I was 12 when I first attended my first funeral. We had a friend at a nursing home and Mr. Crawford lived next door. We would go and visit our family friend and see him each time where he was quite nice to all of us, often giving me some money for candy and to get a coffee for my mom.
When he died, we went to the funeral chapel where his family went on at length about how horrible of human being he was and what a bad father he had been. We just listened but I was shocked when the minister started his eulogy with, “He was a very bad man”.
When I became a pastor, I did a lot of funerals. Some of them were celebrations of life, others were horrible to perform and yes, I buried some really bad men over the years. Each time I tried my best to respect the person and life that I was burying while keeping some sense of reality of the life they lived.
In the work I do now, our clients die very young. The drugs, violence, lifestyle and alcohol takes it toll on your body. Toss in HIV/Aids/Hep-C or cancer from the smoking and you have a really low life expectancy. I have helped more than one mother clean out a locker in a shelter where the only thing she has left of her son was a pair of jeans, a jacket, and really nothing else. I have always found myself hoping that there be something of value in there, a watch or a something of value for the parent to hold on to but there never is. Many tears have been shed by family members during those times.
In most situations I find myself boxing stuff up and realizing that for the most part, no one was going to come get it. Months later my janitor asks me what I want him to do with the sealed box. No one has come to get it.
Every couple of months I hear that a client that I had worked with has died. In each and every case I fire up my computer and Google their name. I search The StarPhoenix’s obituary website and I scour the internet to find out if it is true. I rarely find anything. Over the next couple of days I generally run into a member of the Saskatoon Health Region or the Saskatoon City Police and ask them. In every case I get the same reply that they have died.
They often die alone. There is no media coverage, no obituary, no will, no assets, and to be honest, almost no one cared. Many colleagues just block it out like it doesn’t exist. The file is closed and they are done. Death has never bothered me, neither does the grieving process but in these cases I find myself not sure what to do. The idea that someone has lived their entire life and there is no trace of it left seems wrong to me.
I guess as a blogger and a writer, I find myself in a situation where I write to process. After a sleepless night last night thinking of a couple of people that I had known well that had died, I came in early to work to write something, anything about their lives as I saw them. Of course I never know what do next. I tweeted this morning that I was struggling with his and it resonated with people but I don’t know what to do next.
Is the best way to mark one’s life to have a service provider eulogize them? My first encounter with one gentleman was when he assaulted Wendy with a bottle of Listerine she wouldn’t sell him in about 1998. Of course the other part of that story is that he would beat her at cribbage all of the time when she helped out at a drop-in centre. Do you tell the stories of abuse, residential schools, the people that they hurt.
One of the people that recently deceased was a women that I wrote about two years ago in The StarPhoenix. She had AIDS at the time, was pimped out by her boyfriend and was high for every single interaction that I had with her over seven years. At the same time I appreciated every single strung out conversation we ever had and I was saddened and sickened when I would see her beaten and bruised. It’s weird but I miss her.
They had a legacy with me and we have a bunch of stories that shaped me that are too bizarre to write here (somethings are only funny if you know the person)
The world doesn’t stop for death. When you die, people come together, tell some stories, each some sandwiches, sing some hymns, and drink some coffee. I am not asking the world to stop, I just think they should have some form of legacy.
In Toronto, they have a homeless memorial. In Saskatoon we have a walk to remember those lost in the sex trade but at the end of the day they were individuals that lived and died in our city, it would be great if they are remembered as such. The question for me to figure out, what is the best way to do that.
- It costs around $45 from Shopper’s Drug Mart. It isn’t covered by any drug plan but I find it to be worth it. I keep several bottles around (cabin, two in the house, and one in my car) and they last around a year.
- You don’t drink it, you just put a drop or two on the nerve that is in pain, rub it around and it works in about 5 seconds. You seriously go from I’M IN EXCRUCIATING PAIN AND I WANT TO DIE to, I feel like getting a cookie in about 5 seconds.
- It smells medicinal. My great aunt lived in a senior’s home in Regina and the entire place smelled like ointment. I’d fit right in. It’s not a gross smell but distinctive.
- You can get it in a spray bottle but I don’t find it works as a spray. Several others have told me the same thing as well. The concentrated drops work way better.
- It isn’t addictive.
- You can clean it off once you have applied it. It works as soon as it has been absorbed.
- Neuragen don’t work with all people. Lot’s of people have gotten angry at me when it doesn’t work but often they want it to do something for a pain that it isn’t designed for.
I also use Alpha Lipolic Acid.
I take the pills every morning and night. They too can be bought at a grocery store (although not the Safeway closest to my house) and are pretty cheap. They are an anti-toxicant and work to control neuropathic pain. Outside of the fact that they are kind of gross when caught in the throat, they work well.
While getting my eyes checked this summer, my eye doctor and I started talking diabetes and he got me on to cinnamon pills which regulate blood glucose levels. Sadly cinnamon buns don’t work the same way. The secret to taking these pills is to tell yourself that it is a cinnamon bun and you are living the high life.
I get asked where I hear about these things but most pharmacies have free magazines on diabetes which is a good way to keep up to date on things to ask your doctor about. He or she has hundreds of patients while I am responsible for my health. I don’t want to have to rely on him or her to take care of me. Some ideas they have encouraged, other ideas they have questioned but I am surprised at how many diabetics I know who just suffer from the diabetes without trying anything else.
For the last several months, it’s been raining everywhere I went. I have looked for leaks in my house, my office, at the mall, at friends places, and on sunny clear days. No matter where I go, it feels like it is raining on my face, hands, and arms.
The most obvious explanation is that I am one of the Gruesome’s, Fred and Wilma’s neighbours from the Flintstones who had that cloud that went everywhere they went. Sadly it isn’t that easy but it’s a side effect of my diabetes. I have a rare nerve disease which means that thousands of my nerves are constantly misfiring. As explained to me, the rain drops falling on my body is how my brain processes what is happening to me and it happens in hundreds of places all at the same time.
While that is the good news, the bad news is that there are 20 to 30 places that are in excruciating pain at the same time. They are misfiring really badly and have for years. Looking back at life, my mom suffered from sciatic nerve pain but I really wonder if she was struggling with this. They have tried to treat it with Gabapentin which coats your brain receptors and therefore softens the blow of the pain. That is a great idea in theory but in reality it gave me really bad phantom feelings and therefore pain that didn’t really exist. That and I couldn’t walk that well with my phantom feet and I had trouble picking up my car keys with my phantom fingers. The only way to describe walking was that my feet felt like they grew several sizes and the rocker of my skate was off. I could walk but it wasn’t natural.
Another solution was Oxycontin which is a rather addictive opiate based pain killer. Of course they never told me that when they gave it to me. I tried that and I wish I could say I enjoyed it but it left my constipated and emotional and for that know me, know that I hate emotions, especially my own. A non-stop upset stomach didn’t help me. If there was pain relief or a high, I didn’t get it. That being said I have a freakish non-response to some muscle relaxants so maybe I was just resistant to everything but the side effects.
I was on Gabapentin and Oxycontin at the same time and I remember laying on my couch in terrible pain trying to decide if I was going to kill myself or not when I just decided to toss the pills and face the pain. My doctor was shocked I had no problem quitting the drug. Maybe I did but without emotions or constipation to bug me, it was like I was on drugs. To be honest it made very little difference in the amount of pain I was in but I wasn’t as foggy which I took as a win.
Also the process of accepting that it was never going to get better was a big step for me. It let me accept and process the pain rather than try to escape it. I am told that I have a high pain tolerance but you can start to learn to live with it.
Since I have been diagnosed with neuropathy, I have been shot full of electrodes to see how my nerves are doing and the truth is; not that good. I remember the first time after I was diagnosed that they tried my reflexes in my knees. Nothing happened. I felt it but my leg didn’t respond. As they tried it again and again, I realized that this was not a good thing. My legs are particularly unresponsive while my hands are deteriorating as well. The result has been that I drop more things but I am starting to fall more often.
My balance started to go while I was at The Salvation Army. I fell off my front porch one summer morning and broke my ankle. I fell once while walking in the hall and several times stumbled into a wall. This winter I fell twice on ice while downtown; both times in front of prominent developers locations who should have shovelled but in the end, I gave myself two serious concussions. Well maybe the concrete had a roll in all of that but still…
Some on council have bugged me for my strong stance on snow removal after they voted it down. I’d like them to try to walk through Mayfair or Nutana with my balance. Even 20th Street, downtown, or Broadway can all be bad. Walkable streets and neighbourhoods need to be that way for all of us.
I fall at home now. Generally getting up but often while walking around the house. Walking has become a very deliberate and intentional act for me. It’s weird to lose something like that and to be honest really scary. I am not going to pretend it hasn’t been related to a bad bout of depression that I have struggled with this winter. Well either that or the concussions but who knows? Ether way I am taking the steps of handles in the showers. My face hit my toilet bowl at a high velocity this winter. Neither were impressed with that.
According to tests, it’s getting worse which means two things. I have a closing window on a life of mobility and at least I am not going crazy.
I am not giving up. There isn’t really anything I can do to stop or reverse what is happening but I can work out more and take some steps to make things better. I started to wear those geeky Vibram FiveFinger Shoes to slow the muscle atrophy in my feet and am working my core more at the gym and at home to help with balance issues. The falling hasn’t helped my shoulder heal at all but it is coming along as long as I can stay upright. Physiotherapy is helping a bit as well.
Of course another thing that Wendy and I struggle with is should I quit my job and go take a high paying job while I can or keep working with the homeless. Working with the homeless doesn’t pay well and I don’t have any benefits at work which complicates the decision. If I go, I feel like I am giving up but if I stay, it’s a gamble that can hurt the family in the long run.
I get asked what the pain is like. It either feels like I am being burned badly (which actually generated blisters), an extended shot of electricity, or a slow drill moving through your body. It can be treated quite effectively by a naturopathic medicine called Neuragen. A drop or two can stop the pain completely at that point but in times like right now, there isn’t enough Neuragen to stop all of the pain. Being woken up 25 times a night by nerve pain take a lot out of you as well.
Before I discovered Neuragen and when they were giving me Gabepentin and Oxycontin all of the time, the pain was incredible. The doctors would tell me that by next week the medicine would work and I would be fine. At the time the only thing that would work is that I could grab my iPod and go for long walks in the neighbourhood. I remember a couple of the local cops would stop me from time to time to see why I was always walking. Later on they would see how I was going but I always hated to stop because if I could keep walking, the pain would go away and I could actually walk home and maybe fall asleep before the pain came back. It was the worst time of my life and many nights I remember going out for the walk and thinking, “I should just end this tonight”. I was never serious and while I will always disagree with those that choose death to end suffering, I understand it.
Now the pain is as bad or worse but I cope with it. I know it’s never going away and never going to get better. It is always going to be there, the question is how bad it today going to be? The good news is that once I gave up all hope of getting better, it just became another thing and it could be dealt with like all other things.
What has changed for me is that the neuropathy has kicked it up a notch and now I need to deal with the lack of balance by figuring this out.
The good news is that this isn’t a terminal condition (although I am about 30 minutes closer to dying than I was at the start of this post) but a chronic condition. It is just a chronic condition that is progressing at a rate I am rather unhappy with. Now if I could only find out where that water is coming from…
Apparently it’s my birthday. Wendy has the lowdown. With two concussions in the last two weeks, I am not aging well. If I make it through this winter (hey downtown business owners, shovel your sidewalks) I will consider it a significant victory.
For those of you who are tired of reading what I have written; I have put together a new medium to grow tired of; a podcast. Sean Shaw, DeeAnn Mercier and myself (along with some soon to be announced contributors) are going to talking city politics, urban planning, and other issues that affect us as a city at ouryxe.ca. We have some great guests lined up and at times it can get rather testy but a great city needs a place to debate things and talk about new ideas. This just happens to be one of them. The RSS feed is live and we hope to hear back from iTunes in a couple of days and I can post that link. The first episode can be found online here. Expect to hear our episode with Councillor Zach Jeffries to go live as soon as our iTunes page goes live.
As I move into 2013, I took some time to take stock of my life with a few short lists.
10 Things I Am Content With
- Friends and family
- Earning sufficient money
- Loving being able to make a difference in my job
- Living in Saskatoon (and I think making it better for others)
- Writing my blog and writing for a larger audience in print
- Not having a clue what I will be working on three months from now
- I am still curious and am least interested in learning new things
- Owning a dog. While Maggi is the worst dog that I have ever owned, she is still a great addition to the family. Now if I can only get rid of Hutch.
- With some of the projects that we have on the table at work and at home.
- Planning the future with Mark, Wendy, and eventually Oliver.
10 Things I Am Not Content With
- Heath (the diabetes thing and this arm and shoulder that has been bothering me for a year)
- The lack of time I have to master new things and for study
- How I spend the leisure time in my life (what leisure time?)
- The disconnect between Wendy’s and mine work schedules (I tend to work days while she works a lot of evenings). It’s good for Oliver (as it means less time at a sitter but it is something that neither one of us are happy with).
- The quality of my online writing and blogging
- Time I spend on things that have very little payoff to the projects that I care about
- The lack of time spent at the cabin
- The lack of frontline work I do with homeless men and women. I miss the interactions and problem solving.
- Saskatoon has more homeless people now than they ever have, including at the height of the housing boom. That keeps me motivated.
Here are 10 Small Things I Wish I Did More:
- Going to bed early
- Seeing the sun rise.
- Take more photographs.
- Working out more
- Travelling and exploring more
- Reading books
- Going to talks, lectures, events
- Spending more time working with front line staff
- Using more of my time to help out with some other social problems
- Exploring more of Saskatchewan
Here are 10 Things I Waste Time On:
- Meetings that could be replaced by a 20 minute phone call
- 20 minute phone calls that could be replaced by an email
- Social media
- Administration. It’s part of the job and I need to get better at it for no other reason than I won’t have to spend as much time on it.
- Time wasted reading about sports that I don’t care about. Seriously why am I watching curling?
- Being unfocused on Twitter and social media in general
- Making lists like this. Seriously.
- Projects that don’t matter that I should never have agreed to
- Reading about American politics. I know the U.S. President is the Leader of the Free World and all of that and they seem determined to destroy their own economy but enough is enough. Hold on, Dick Cheney just tweeted something….
- Trying to change partisans’ opinions. I upset people on the right and the left and to be honest, I give hardcore partisans too much time sometimes when they are never going to agree with me. It’s time better spent on other things.
10 Things I Want to Do Better
- Shoot better video
- Learn how to fish (Mark gave Wendy and I fishing rods for Christmas)
- Write something better and less passively.
- Become a better photographer
- Play tennis at a higher level
- Spend some more time in the backcountry
- Finish some of the feature length posts I have been meaning to do on my blog.
- Spend time with friends
- Have more time for study
- Communicate the issues around homeless, mental health, and social issues more effectively.
The glaring question here is “why don’t I fix this?” Of course much of 2012 is going to be spent fixing what I can.
When I write stuff down like this, I realize how stupid I am to be frittering away my life at the same time as wishing I had more time.
Christmas for us started on the 23rd as we joined our good friends Gloria, Jerry, and Kristy for our traditional Christmas together. It was a bit different this year because of Gloria’s cancer but it was a fun night of exchanging gifts and hanging out. We gave some books (as is our tradition) but I gave Gloria a Sound Spa which should help her sleep while the boys gave her a plush blanket.
Because I like to make fun of Kristy, we gave her an Edmonton Oilers Snuggie. Because most of Kristy’s life is dedicated to a) staying warm and b) the Edmonton Oilers, she liked it.
Christmas Eve had Wendy working all day. This is the worst schedule she has ever had over a Christmas season and it hasn’t been a lot of fun for us as a family but that is the life of people working retail. I worked part of the day and then headed home to spend the rest of the day with the boys. We gave the boys two early gifts of some NHLPA hockey sticks so they could play some road hockey during the day. Of course it was freezing outside so instead of playing hockey, we just taped them up. While she worked, we packed up the Mazda and headed out to Warman where we spent the evening at Lee and Brittany’s place for a traditional Christmas supper of lasagna and fighting over who got the lasagna leftovers before opening gifts.
Lee is known to master such phrases as “less talking, more chewing” on Christmas Eve. While he loves lasagna, he loves presents more. In the past when Wendy was working, he would spend most of the day badmouthing Wendy and trying to convince Mark to open Christmas presents without his mom. He takes this whole Christmas gift opening seriously.
Of the delay in eating turned costly when Oliver was playing with Tika (Lee and Brittany’s dog) and fell nose first into the edge of the carpet. There was crying, rug burn, and blood all over the place. While Oliver’s new shirt paid a steep cost, all was okay. It wasn’t as if I didn’t expect blood, I just expected it over the lasagna.
Santa gave Mark a new HTC Desire C Android Smart phonewhile I got him a Fuji AV150 camera (and tripod). I had created a Instagram, Foursquare, and upgraded his Flickr to a pro account on Sunday. We made sure we had batteries, SD (and Micro SD) cards all ready to go. Now we have to download some apps which will mean some quality time on Google Play today. I gave him a 1932 Chevrolet Truck scale model to build, Oliver gave him some adventure and Star Wars blueprint books (and some Daytona 500 cologne). He also got a graphic novel story of Canadians in WWII as well as a book on how to create his own graphic novel
In his stocking he found a new watch, a big bottle of the worst cologne known to man, Brut 33 (Wendy wept tears of pain when I showed her the bottle) Mark also got some high quality headphones; both on the ear and in ear ones. The less I have to listen to 90s rock, the better.
Lee and Brittany gave him a Denver Broncos jersey with his name and number on it. Thank goodness Tim Tebow was traded before the season started. He was pretty excited with that. Almost as excited as Tim Tebow gets about everything.
He also got a Starbucks travel mug and gift card from myself. It’s a bit self-serving as he wanders down to The Lighthouse and takes me out for coffee. To keep all of his special memories safe, we gave him a small chest to keep some of life’s momentos.
All Oliver wanted was a pogo stick and I found him one from Santa on Amazon.com. I gave him a toy F-22 Raptor jet. I would have gotten his a F-35 toy but the price kept increasing until Stephen Harper told me not to get it for him. Mark gave him a rescue play set, a puzzle from the dogs, an Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber, and an Optimus Prime Transformer that talks. He is getting into hockey to I got him some mini hockey sticks and nets.
Lee and Brittany gave him a tricked out big wheel for Christmas. I immediately thought of this.
What’s scary is that I think Oliver would think that was a good idea.
His favourite gift by far was a Power Ranger that transforms into something else. He was quite jacked about it.
With the new iPod I gave Wendy for her birthday, I gave her a set of iHome speakers and some perfume. We got her an electric griddle and skillet (she asked for them), a new popcorn maker (which she was really excited about). Mark gave her a pink Zepco fishing rod which she was horrified of. Lucky for Wendy, the fishing is horrible in our part of Last Mountain Lake. We also got her some high quality over the ear and in-ear headphones. If nothing else she will be able to tune us out for Christmas. The dogs gave her some new knives and a kitchen scale. Not sure where they got the money to get those.
Lee and Brittany gave her a gift card for Dutch Growers which made her day. She’s out right now waiting for spring to hit.
I bought Lee a Leatherman Skeletool multitool and case. Mark got him Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, while Oliver got him a George Reed collector’s edition figurine. Lee and Mark got into an argument a couple of weeks ago where Mark called his uncle, “Uncle Glitter” which has kind of stuck. Mark got him some glitter stickers for his new iPhone 5. ”Uncle Glitter” didn’t seem to appreciate his nephew’s gift that much.
He tried to pull his knife on the Skeletool on Mark for bugging him but he couldn’t get it open. Once he got it open, he cut himself.
Brittany was given a nice fountain pen, two journals (one lined and one unlined), and an Indigo gift card. Because both Lee and Brittany are getting new iPhones, we tossed in some iTunes cards as well. Holding her Indigo gift card was Cooper the Bear which apparently has been a Sears mascot for years (a fact that I did not know). It just seemed to work well for us. Brittany is an english teacher and I just think an English teacher with a fountain pen is more intimidating. It was either that or do what the NRA is suggesting and that is to give her a firearm.
Wendy gave Brittany a soapstone statue of a couple from Ten Thousand Villages which I really liked. As much fun as it is to bug Lee, him and Brittany are a wonderful couple.
I wasn’t expecting too much but Wendy and the boys did a lot of planning and looking for good deals. Wendy gave me a trail GPS and a George Reed limited edition action figure, Oliver gave me a Toronto Blue Jays hat, Mark gave me Assasin’s Creed II and Red Dead Redemption. I also got a Leatherman Skeletool. To balance out my Tim Tebow action figure from last year, Wendy gave me a Peyton Manning action figure. Lee and Brittany gave me a remote control helicopter. It flies and crashes quite well around the house. Also because I don’t smell enough like David Beckham, I was given some of his cologne. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. To replace my old barbecue tools (that are showing some age), Wendy also got me a simple set of three barbecue tools which is all we really use.
The advantage to only periodically playing PS3 games is that I never own the new ones which means that Wendy can find me games for $10-$15 at Wal-Mart and it doesn’t matter since I haven’t played them.
I really had no more success than Lee in using my Leatherman today although no blood was spilled.
The photos can all be found here.
Today is being spent around the house setting up things, doing some reading, and then having a more traditional Christmas dinner. I had hoped to get get down to work but for the second day in a row, someone has swiped our power cords to the car which is frozen solid in this cold. We had planned to take a long walk downtown today with Mark’s new camera but as the song says, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Hopefully your Christmas is a good one and you are enjoying the time with family and friends as well.
Every Christmas individual, organizations, and businesses ask shelters what they can do to help those that are homeless. It’s part of the holiday season. Long before people fought the crowds looking for Boxing Day sales, it used to be the day where people used to box up their food scraps and give them to the poor. While food scraps aren’t needed these days, there are many in Saskatoon with real needs this Christmas. Here are some ideas on how you can help.
In putting together a list of things that people want, you need to realize that many people have lost everything except for the clothes on their back when they end up in the shelters and often have been in this state for a long time. On top of that, many shelters are busier over the holidays as people come inside over the holidays or find that they can’t bear to stay where they are over. Toss in things like season affective disorder (the depression that many have over the holidays), separation from families and frustration over their state of housing, it’s a busy and difficult time for shelter providers and any help that people can provide is appreciated.
For many being in a shelter allows them get a hot shower and cleaned up. Because of the numbers of people needing the services, shelters tend to buy in bulk and in individual packages for ease of distribution. Some simple luxuries like a bottle of body wash, shampoo, or conditioner have always been warmly appreciated as we have given them out. People tend to feel better about themselves when they feel and smell clean.
In shelters, the razors that are given out are of such low quality that I refuse to accept thanks when I give them out. Single blade, double blade, it doesn’t matter as they are all horrible. Most men and women have to get two of them just to shave. There are good disposable razors on the market but what I suggest are the store brands sold by the department stores and pharmacies. They are higher quality and the replacement blades a lot cheaper. If you are inclined, toss in some shaving cream. It builds self-esteem and is another thing that help them as they take the steps towards finding employment, an apartment or just reintegrating back into society.
When the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban bought the team, he went out and bought the best towels that money could buy as he felt that a nice towel was a wonderful luxury. Visiting NBA players agreed as they took the towels from the Mavericks locker room and kept them despite their salaries. For most of the men and women that I work with in the shelters, none of them have a towel which means that on top of it being a constant need, it gives them something that they will need both in the shelter and when they move out on their own.
Many of the men that are in shelters are trying to work to get back out on their own. Which in the winter means a lot of work outside. While many don’t have a lot of job skills, they head down to an temporary labour place which means a lot of jobs which are out of the cold. Work brings in money but also allows a lot of them to prove themselves. Things like winter gloves, toques, warm socks, insoles, hard warmers, or a fleece to layer are critical in working that first winter job and keeps them going until they get that first paycheck. I am always surprised to look back and see for many men, their pathway to housing started with a donation of winter work gear at Christmas.
Along side of the winter work gear, I include an insulated travel mug and a thermos. It’s hard to spend a day working in Saskatchewan winters and when men have been given these in the past, they talk about what a difference it makes on the job site.
You also have the essentials which are often underwear and socks. While Saskatoon is generous with it’s donations to shelters with clothes, few donate underwear and socks because we tend to wear them out and toss them out. For 90% of the people that come into the facility I work at, they need socks or underwear, especially in winter.
Being homeless is hard anytime of the year but even harder over the holidays. In all of your giving this year, consider those that have nothing. It could be the start of something big. Just remember that before you go out and buy, call the shelter you want to give to, they will give you more refined list of ways you can help.
In case you are shopping for the great outdoorsman, here are a list of suggestions for those who often prefer to outdoors rather than inside. Check out the other Christmas gift ideas that have been posted this season. More coming soon.
Fujifilm FinePix XP50 $128 | The FinePix XP50 is outstandingly durable. It’s waterproof to a depth of 5m and can capture both movies and still images underwater. The camera’s casing will withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m, while cold environments are also no problem for this rough and ready device. The FinePix XP50 can withstand temperatures down to -10°C and dust is never a problem, with all the camera’s access points specially sealed for ultimate protection.
Straight from Ned Flander’s Leftorium, the MEC Left Handed Slingpack $21 | Wendy has had a sling pack for years and just about jumped for joy when I told her that there was a left handed version available. She may have actually wept a tear or two.
Pelican 1050 waterproof case $18.68 | These are great camera/GPS/iPod cases. They are water proof, padded, floatable, and strong enough to take a lot of abuse in the back of your trunk or any backpack. While you may not use it when you head to the park, you will use them when you are packing for a trip and don’t want your iPod, camera, or phone to be crushed. They are pretty much indestructible which means that of all of the things you have to worry about, this isn’t one of them.
Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport Shoes $70 – $130 | The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised. The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are designed to simulate walking barefoot while protecting your feet like shoes do. If you have any questions, check out the reviews on Amazon.
Leatherman Skeletool CX $80 | Now you’re ready to lighten your load and boost your survival skills — with Leatherman’s Skeletool. At a mere 5 ounces the new, full-sized multitool keeps weight and volume to a minimum without sacrificing quality and true functionality, and that’s what the Skeletool is all about. Many multitools have multiple options, but they’re often heavier — and they’re loaded with more features than most people actually need on a regular basis. Conversely, pocket knives are light and streamlined, but they render themselves useless when the task calls for a more versatile tool. Enter the new Skeletool platform, offering minimal weight, compact size and endless capabilities. And with the Skeletool’s integrated, removable pocket clip, you can easily clip this tool onto a belt, a pack, or a vest — with no sheath or tote required.
Cammenga Lensatic Compass $88 | This is the Rolls Royce of compasses. It has been used by U.S. troops, foreign militaries, law enforcement, and special forces for years. A total of seven Tritium light sources provide readability in total darkness for 10 years without external power or the need to “recharge” using a flashlight.
Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS $249 | Sharpen your cycling performance with Edge 500, a lightweight GPS-based cycling computer for performance-driven cyclists. Loaded with data, Edge 500 tracks your distance, speed, location and elevation with high sensitivity GPS. Add an ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor or compatible power meter for a finely-tuned analysis of your ride.
Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System $99 | The Jetboil Flash cooking system utilizes the same efficient design as the now classic Personal Cooking System (PCS) but adds the additional convenience feature of an external temperature indicator. Designed to capture and focus heat more efficiently than traditional cooking systems, the Flash brings two cups of water to a boil in only two minutes. The lining also houses a color change window that alerts you to when the contents are hot. A sip-through lid further helps insulate the contents of the cooking cup and prohibits spills. The protective plastic bottom of the cup can be removed for use as a small bowl or measuring device.
If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove $39 | The PocketRocket backpacking stove from MSR provides full cooking function in an incredibly efficient form. Barely noticeable in your pack, it delivers precision flame control from torch to simmer while the Wind Clip wind shield boosts efficiency in breezy conditions. The PocketRocket stove’s diminutive size is also the foundation of a solid emergency kit for home or trail.
Cabin: Two Brothers, Five Acres and a Dream in Maine by Lou Ureneck $17 | Confronted with the disappointments and knockdowns that can come in middle age-job loss, the death of his mother, a health scare, a divorce, Lou Ureneck needed a project that would engage the better part of him and put him back in life’s good graces. City-bound for a decade, Lou decided he needed to build a simple post-and-beam cabin in the woods. He bought five acres in the hills of western Maine and asked his younger brother, Paul, to help him.
Double Nest Hammock $65 | The DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. The DoubleNest seats more than one person comfortably and is essential for family adventures. The DoubleNest still packs down to the size of a grapefruit, so there is no excuse to be without your ENO hammock.
Outdoor Coffee Press $40 | Now there is no reason to bring that horrible tasting Starbucks Via coffee with you when you go camping or hiking. Instead bring some fresh ground coffee or loose leaf tea with you and make some excellent coffee when ever you want with this outdoor coffee press. Of course you won’t bring a bean grinder with you on most trips but it gives you an idea of what it takes to make a good cup of coffee while on the road. Of course you need something to drink it from. You may want to check out some excellent stainless steel coffee mugs/beer mugs to drink from.
Zippo Hand Warmer $20 | The Zippo Hand Warmer is a rugged, metal hand warmer with a high-polish finish and a sleek, thin design so it easily fits into your pocket. The hand warmer is virtually odorless (great for hunters) and stays warm for up to 12 hours. Plus, it’s reusable with Zippo lighter fluid and includes a convenient filler cup and warming bag. Whether you’re skiing, tailgating at the game, hunting, sledding, or enjoying any other cold-weather activity, keep a Zippo Hand Warmer in your pocket and keep your fingers toasty warm.
Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator $168 | Garmin’s eTrex GPS series offers reliable satellite navigation, making it a favorite of hikers, hunters, and geocachers. The eTrex 20 is equipped with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, a 2.2-inch color display, and ships with a worldwide basemap with relief. Add a wide array of detailed topographic, marine, and road maps, and start mapping out your next adventure.
Hennessy Hammock Expedition A-sym $143 | Next generation of Hennessy Hammock’s most popular model with all the key features including full velcro entrance seal, mesh pocket on ridgeline and webbing straps to protect the bark of trees. The rain-fly is polyurethane coated polyester ripstop or silicone impregnated nylon and may be tilted to any angle, rolled up above, removed or used separately. The No-See-Um mesh and hammocks fabric will deflect wind to provide a calm space inside. Large area of No-See-Um netting to provide ventilation and keep insects outside the hammock. When properly sealed, the entrance design also makes sure no bugs get into your hammock. All of this means that you can sleep almost anywhere.
The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern $25 | Designed for ounce-conscious backpackers and climbers, the Black Diamond Orbit lantern packs 45 lumens of bright, non-glaring light in an ultra-portable package. A DoublePower LED (1-watt) works with Black Diamond’s dual reflector system and frosted globe to illuminate everything from tent-bound reading to pre-dawn racking. A collapsible, double-hook hang loop attaches to tent ceilings and tree branches alike. Mark and I both have one and they are simply amazing. They are highly rated on REI, MEC, and Amazon.com and are loved by all that use them. Whether you are a camper, hiker, or even a family who needs a safety light in the car, these are a must have.
Filzer UFO Light $8 | Alert vehicles and help keep track of your dog at night. The UFO light is designed specifically for runners, hikers and dogs. The light easily attaches to 1″ webbing, dog collars, clothing, etc… with a small carabineer. Five red LEDs put out highly visible red light in three modes – steady, flash and rotate. Its waterproof design makes it ideal for any weather.
If I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.
The weekend that was: The lowlight of the weekend was that I was fiddling with a power adaptor with my right hand and jerked my hand away violently when I got shocked. Of course my right shoulder is the shoulder with the torn rotator cuff. I have had both shoulders operated on, I have wrecked both MCL and ACLs, I have even had nails go into my feet. Nothing was as painful as that pain was. I just screamed in pain for a minute while walking over and sitting down before I passed out.
I was hoping the pain would pass but now every time I use my right hand, there is incredible pain in the shoulder which can’t be a good thing. Back to my family doctor on Tuesday to see what we can do now.
On Sunday I watched the Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers at Jeff’s place with Sean. Doing that brought up a lot of Detroit Lions memories and none of them are good. Wayne Fontes, Scott Mitchell, Matt Millen, 0-16… at least the food was good.
On my to-do list this week: Other than seeing a doctor…
Procrastinating about: Going to see my doctor…
Book I’m in the midst of: The Triumph of the City by Edward Glaesar
Music that seemed to catch my attention this past week: The new Sheepdogs album.
How I’m feeling about this week: Pain.
Wendy put together a Christmas gift guide for the cook (or foodie) in your life at The Cooking Blog. If you are shopping for someone that loves to cook or bake, make sure you check it out. All of the holiday season’s Christmas gift guides are being posted here so if you are shopping online or are just looking for some gift ideas, the site can help.