Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saying goodbye to: The Stollery Children's Hospital

Is it this time already? The days seem to be zooming by with lightning speed. Friday marked the last day of work for Dallas and I at our respective work places. Edmonton has been so generous with respect to employment for us both. When we first moved here I was able to transfer to a branch of TD Canada Trust with ease and carry on with my illustrious student-career as a bank teller, and Dallas started his electrician apprenticeship right away as well. However, we have both moved on since those first jobs in Edmonton. Dallas has spent the past two years with Optimum Electrical and I have been employed at the Stollery Children's Hospital for approximately two years as well.

August 20 has long been the potential date we would finish working and being the full-time job of transitioning to Victoria, but it seemed to come so quickly. I first came to know the Stollery in Fall 2007 when I did my first BSW practicum. I had an amazing preceptor (who is now a good friend) and started to figure out what social work actually looked like in a practice setting. The team of social workers at the Stollery and the University of Alberta Hospital (which exist in the same giant building) are a knowledgeable, hard-working, professional and dedicated group of individuals. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by peers who are willing to lead by example, encourage me to take on new challenges in practice and to serve the patients and families in our care.

After finishing my degree in spring 2008 I decided to begin work at the hospital. Though my status has been "casual" for a large part of my employment, I have worked a great deal. Over the years I have had the opportunity to work on every unit of the Stollery, from PICU to ambulatory care. I have worked on teams with brilliant staff and physicians, and have met countless families who face the challenges of having a sick child with strength and determination. I am truly honoured to have provided care to the children and families who have walked through those doors with the ever-smiling white and pink bear above them. Each one of my interactions has shaped my practice, provided times to grow and learn more about myself and those around me.

Given that we are moving to a smaller city, I do not know if I will ever have the opportunity to work in a setting like the Stollery, serving patients from 4 provinces and 3 territories. I consider it an honour that I have spent the past two years - the first two or so of my career as social worker - in such an incredible place. On Friday when I walked through the front doors of the massive building, my eyes filled with tears. I was able to spend much of the day sharing my gratitude with my co-workers and the staff of the units who have believed in and supported me on my journey. It was a day well spent.

What does it all mean? (like that silly double rainbow...) Well, I figure that I am going to spend a lot of time at work, b/c that is how things seem to go here in North America, so I might as well enjoy myself. Perhaps the word "enjoy" is superficial, because certainly I did not enjoy each day at the Stollery. Work loads were high and my job was to provide support to families whose children were sick, or dying, or somewhere in between. It was, and will always be, difficult work. But so rewarding, so rich. I hope that I will have more opportunities in the future to be surrounded by equally dedicated groups of people and see the resilience and light in patients in the darkest of times. Although I don't yet know what "work" will look like in Victoria, I enter the next phase of this thing knowing that I have strong roots. Thank you, Stollery Children's Hospital, for all you have taught me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Newest Edmonton Favourite.

Folk Fest. Ah, sweet, lovely folk fest. How is it possible that I have overlooked it before this summer? I have heard rumblings since the summer of 2006 (our first summer here) about how great it is. I think I would have gone to see David Gray the first summer, but was for sure far out of the ticket buying loop and missed out. I still remember Alyssa's story about sitting outside the grounds and listening to DG.

So what exactly is it that is so great about folk fest? It is the perfect combination of music, venue, people, food and drink. More specifically this year, Ben Harper, sweet Dallas by my side (not to mention the countless other friends on the hill) and mini doughnuts. I don't know if the sound has always been as good, but 31 years has certainly given the organizers time to perfect it. I was beside myself with excitement when the initial announcement came across the internets that my favourite BH would be headlining Thursday night. And Van Morrison for the endowment concert on Wednesday? We were in.

For those not from Edmonton, just to give you an idea of how popular this 4 day folk extravaganza is, the weekend wristbands sold out in hours, I think. This is the perfect setting to enjoy Edmonton in the summer - lush river valley, sunshine, etc. Everyone seemed to be pretty relaxed and everyone wants to have a good time. And kids are free (to get into the festival)...not that we have kids, but I find this marvelous! When we were kids my parents took us to concerts frequently, many of them outdoor music festivals. I remember these times fondly and wished the same on all the littles I saw roaming the grounds, trying to collect plates to be redeemed for $2 a piece.

From what I understand, there are some folks who have volunteered at the folk fest for years, even decades. This festival has a dedicated following. This sense of enjoyment and commitment fosters a sense of community, I think, and even as a first time "folkie" I couldn't help to feel the love. Cheesy? Maybe, but it is certainly an experience. If I could do the last 4 years in Edmonton over again, I would make a point to have gone to folk fest each summer. I could also see us returning in future years around folk fest time because summer really is the best time to visit Edmonton (you know, when it's not -40C).

A little bit more on this year's fest, even though we only attended the beginning. Van Morrison played for the Wednesday night endowment fund concert. Was our first FF experience - I was floored when I walked through the top gates and looked down on "the hill" of Gallagher Park - people, tents, tarps, tarp markers, good times all around. To be quite honest, Van Morrison was...underwhelming. There is no denying that he is a fantastic and very talented musician, but he is certainly not a performer. However, we had lots of fun hanging out with our friends and enjoying the good vibes. Thursday night solidified my new love of folk fest. The beer garden was open, we ate dinner at the fest (pulled chicken on a bun from Homefire Grill - delicious!), ate mini donuts, and saw Ben Harper! He puts on a great show, and I'm convinced he was feeling the love that we were all sending his way.

So if you're thinking of planning a trip to Edmonton, I would recommend next summer (and every summer thereafter), for Folk Fest. Perhaps we can share a tarp?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dear Edmonton, I love you.

Where to begin? 4 years plus a few months ago we began life together in Edmonton. Dallas and I were recently married and excited to figure out what it meant to be Mr. & Mrs. We decided on Edmonton originally, if I remember correctly, because Dallas thought he would have luck finding work here. It was easy for me to transfer school and continue at the U of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work, Edmonton Division. I was eager to be near his family to get to know them better, and the housing situation that presented itself was a good fit at a time when rents were going up and we were very, um, strapped for cash. Who knew, at that time, that Edmonton would become home?

It is funny to look back to those first 2 years here, while I was still busy with school, Dallas was working on his apprenticeship as an electrician. Our monthly income was limited, but we enjoyed the city, old friends (Dallas’) and made new friends (Rachel & Dallas’). Somehow the last 4 years have flown by and though we are both excited to see what the future holds, it will not be easy to leave this city where we have jobs we enjoy and find fulfilling and countless other things to add to our general happiness.

The point of me getting back to blogging is, for now, to show YEG some love. We are approximately 3 weeks from moving away and I have been meaning to write these posts for months. Edmonton has been very kind and generous to us. We have always had work, reached personal goals (Rachel = BSW, Dallas = Red Seal), deepened old friendships and made new forever friends, grown, been challenged, and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It is cathartic to put it to paper, or computer, I guess.

Just this week I was hit with the thought, “I wonder if Victoria will ever feel like home the way Edmonton does?” The city is familiar in the best way, comfortable and broken in like your favourite pair of jeans. It is exciting and nerve-wracking to think of the enormous amounts of change that are going to be occurring in our lives very shortly, and before I become entirely focused on staying above water through those things, I want to be intentional about remembering Edmonton. So check back over the next few weeks – I will procrastinate from packing and share the best of Edmonton, in my humble opinion.