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Posts from the ‘family’ Category

The family album

I got this album in 1959. An inscription on the first page says that this album was given to me on May 18, on my Angel’s day when I was 1 year old. What a great gift! 60 years have passed, this photo album has been traveling with me, and my mom had preserved and saved it for me while I was away or couldn’t take it with me.

People who are old enough remember how we couldn’t snap a picture as many times a day as we wish.

Photo taking was a big even back then in Latvia. One had to prepare, get dressed and have an appointment made. When one got to the photo studio, there were lights turned on, arrangements made and quite a few pictures taken to get the best result. Photo film was developed and later we got real pictures on a photo paper. Judging by quality, I must say some of these photo papers were excellent.

This year on Mother’s Day, I’m not celebrating, but looking through old pictures and thinking back in time when I was just a small kid in the world which I genuinely and passionately had come to love.

My family album

We lived outside a small town in Latvia, which was Latvian Socialist Republic in 1961. I was 3 years old. I look at this picture and I absolutely do not regret that there are not many hundreds of pictures, but just one. That makes it a treasure. That makes it very special.

I can clearly visualize all blossoming trees and fields and the old building where we used to live back then. In my memories, I never see my mom and dad that young. I always see them having fun with daily chores and endless duties because we used to treat work as something we value and love, not as a burden. I sit there in the middle. I can recall the dress I am wearing, the stripes were pink and there were kind of illustrations and they also had bright blue and light green. Mom’s dress was sea green-blue. I do not recall the color of dad’s suit. Well, it was 58 years ago. My mom used to wear a lot blue and blue-green outfits which she had sewn herself because her eyes were strong blue color and it went so well with her light hair.

I enlarged this picture after I scanned it (I should have scanned more of these old pictures) and I realized that I have never seen my dad this young. I would imagine mom was very worried before the photo session because she always cared a lot about all small issues and things. I think she was a perfectionist, just as I have been for the most part of my life.

Mom and dad were married for 48 years. Such a short time before the 50-th anniversary! I think my mom was never the same very energetic and tireless, always busy with something person after dad passed away in 2005. No, I cannot imagine how hard that struck her. I think also when somebody has spent practically an entire life with some other person; it is almost as losing a crucially important part of oneself.

I with my mom and dad in 1961

I do not smile, but I look like my daughter in later photos. I love my very smart eyes and very thoughtful look in pictures. People have always asked me to smile when taking pictures, but I am trying to have a kind face with no silly smile on it. That’s how I like it. It’s way better than weird smiles.

I had a very saturated, mentally and physically balanced and good childhood. I spent it all out there, surrounded by nature, flowers, trees, fields, forests, pets and animals. I think I never left that place in my thoughts, in my mind or in my memories. I keep it alive in my paintings.

It was a great life without internet, TV and without internet. I believe, we had some ancient radio. We ate only food we had grown in our own orchard, vegetable and grain fields and vegetable garden. We kept a few cows, and some other creatures. I loved chickens most. Nobody ever told me when we had chicken soup made from chicken which was walking around the yard recently. I wouldn’t have eaten it; that is for sure. We also rarely had any sweets, except jams we made and some home-made pastries or home-made desserts. However, working as much as my parents had to, that was rare and mostly on some special events. I do not recall any birthday parties or similar things. It must be that they were unimportant to me.

I spent most days outdoors. I helped whatever I could, that included gathering flower heads, leaves and roots for herbal tea, and I was weeding long rows of potatoes, sugar beet and other vegetable rows. When I was 5, I was weaving baskets, too.

I never stopped adoring everything that grows, but I also tried to draw multidimensional drawing. I tried to show that table has 4 legs, and that was kind of difficult to reflect in my drawing. I never drew profile or animated things. I tried from the first drawings to implement dimensions, perspective and values, even though, I had no idea how to do that.

We did not have medicine cabinet and any pharmaceutical products. Our medical supplies were all home-made and collected and picked up outdoors or grown in the garden. I do not recall going to the doctor when I was a kid. I don’t think we even had any pharmacy there, maybe in the central part of the town there was one. I never had or knew about allergies and many issues which are so common nowadays.

I developed my own value system very early on. Honesty, respect and trust were extremely important constituents of it. It is still the same, although, it is 58 years after this picture was taken. As I go through more pictures, I might share a few other memories about life in Soviet Latvia more than half a century ago.

Well, I was happy where I was and things like anxiety, fear, depression, feeling of loneliness or being misunderstood, bullied or attacked never crossed my mind. It was a life absolutely perfect in its balance. There was no internet or even phone. That may have been the best part of it all because it is so much nicer to talk to people in person when they visit your place. It was definitely childhood with a capital “C”.

My old family album

That is what I found today in the album I have had for 60 years.

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Bad news is always unexpected

It is more so because nobody wants to get bad news. Ever.

We are never prepared for it.

The day when we are hit hard comes suddenly. It is always at the wrong time.

That is the lightning from a clear sky moment.

Storm, earthquake and flood together.

As I wrote in my articles some time before, it is hard to recognize signs we are given. I missed the gut feeling and signs 100% this time. I believed that every single thing was going so well, I was absolutely calm and peaceful and satisfied with the way our life was at the moment. I sort of disregarded the nagging feeling that something was not right with my mom. I thought we would be talking on Friday night anyway.

Well, we didn’t.

I had to face bad news which was so overwhelming at first that I felt absolutely lost. It did not help being so far away and left in darkness either because the emergency department at P. Stradins Clinical University Hospital in Latvia literally lied to me and told that everything was under control when it absolutely wasn’t. They had not initiated the emergency treatment for more than 24 hours. They totally disregarded anything we told about mom’s medical history. The attending physician made an absolutely wrong clinical decision which was corrected only when at least 30 hours since event had passed.

In such cases, treatment initiation urgency means success. Any delays mean irreversible changes and losses of the brain cells. Being so far away and on the other side of the globe, I was left with the only option: to pray and hope.

I made quite a few calls to Cardiology Centre at P. Stradins Clinical University Hospital.  I was trying to find out why my mom was placed in a general cardiology department instead of neurology department. She had clear and unmistakable stroke symptoms. The attending physician who was in charge on Saturday, February 9, was rather rude and did not want to either listen to me or to give me any smallest information. Quite honestly, I took a deep breath after she rudely disconnected the phone and I felt like some wave of dark water was rolling over me. The feeling of hopelessness was so deep that I had to clench my teeth in order not to scream.

I suppose some people really forget that if we are lucky enough, we all get old and age. I was told it was the case quite frequently at Latvian hospitals that old age people had way fewer chances to survive than the younger ones because they were simply neglected. I could see it so clearly now.

Our prayers were actually responded to. Very luckily for us and my mom, the doctor in charge on Sunday morning was a very skillful one. I do not know his name, however. He immediately initiated blood thinning treatment to dissolve the blood clots which had blocked the blood supply to mom’s brain.

It is hard to say how much success the so much delayed treatment will have. She was left also for almost 28 hours with no water, I mean, she was heavily dehydrated and that means less success in such cases. In fact, it is proven that 42% of patients who had stroke, caused by blood clot, suffered worse and harder to treat conditions than the well-hydrated ones. Water saturation in the blood matters a lot because it is an extra blood thinning factor.

How do I get over the most shattering and shocking experiences, bad news and sleepless nights?

I read a lot of books, non-stop all night.

I paint if I can during the day.

I do hard physical work whenever my health allows for that.

I still believe that universe and God want to treat us well. That is why we can have hope and rely that help will be available.

Mom recognized me when I was talking a small bit today using Facebook Messenger. I know we are not completely out of the woods yet, but it is still so much better than the two previous nights.

Patterns of life and bad news

I had a surgery at the end of January, and I am ok. It will take some time to get over all this and to heal and to recover, but it will be fine at the end.

I cannot reply to all comments and I cannot return all likes because it simply is a difficult time for me. I will do whatever I can and deal with everything else afterwards.

Flow of time: where does it take us?

I arrived to Canada in 2004. I did not know what to expect, but I was very impressed by greatness of many things, and everything felt to me huge. I mean everything. Latvia where I came from is a small country, and, therefore, the endless wide roads, the high-rise buildings, the downtown Toronto with its busy streets and, especially, the size of any province was so different from what I was used to.

Well, time flew absurdly fast then, and I got married in October 30th of the same year. It’s very amazing that it is my daughter’s birthday on this day, too, which I hadn’t even realized when we made all arrangements. We stayed in Niagara Falls in a newlywed suite which had number 3010 on the door. Something else, or what?

Well, we got married in The Small Wedding Chapel in Niagara Falls. My family was in Latvia, so, my fiancé decided not to invite his family also, just to be fair to each other. Very tactful, I’d say. Therefore we headed out to Niagara Falls the day before wedding. The weather was mild and sunny during the day, although, it was the end of October. These pictures were taken by the numerous by-passers who all kept congratulating us, so, it felt wonderful actually.

I cannot believe it’s been 13 years. The flow of time is very different from what it was back then. The best part is that my daughter is 38 today and we celebrate the 13th wedding anniversary. So much fun together (over the internet because she is in Latvia).

Everything worked out quite well. My husband has proved himself to be the best, most loving and most honest person ever and he is still the same excellent man who I met back then. He has had a lot of patience and understanding in the situations when my health really gave up. When we are saying “…in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part” at the wedding, we rarely can be aware of what is ahead in reality. It has not been all that smooth, but, thankfully, we are managing everything.

We got married in Niagara Falls

Signing …

Happy me, well, we tried to take each others pictures first, and then the by-passers helped

This is us 13 years ago

While we are still very young we believe that nothing really changes as we get older, except it is a larger number. We assume we will have the same ideas and the same attitude, and the same capability when executing different things. That is so wrong! I just now have started to understand how my parents felt at older age, and I am very lucky to have my daughter as my best friend because my top energy levels matched time of her being young and very energetic and passionate.

We are a lot smarter. Life teaches us if we are willing to pay attention and to learn the lesson. We find out that some ideas were simply silly and that the world isn’t there to please us and make miraculously our wishes come true without any effort. We have learnt that lots of things require fighting for them and that path can take a lot of turns, too. It’s never as if going from point A to point B. There are always obstacles and problems, and all kinds of disturbances.

The most important things for a family are love, trust and respect. If any of these are missing, marriage is going to have cracks. The most important thing for an individual is the mental and physical health. While I have a lot of brain power, excellent memory and very strong willpower, the physical side is somewhat suffering. Well, I hope the future is friendly and has some better things for me and us.

Being an older white, legal immigrant in Canada is not quite the same as being a refugee. Refugees are treated very well here and receive extreme support. I haven’t received any smallest or tiniest support whatsoever. My only support has come from my husband so far, and I am happy and grateful for that. Other than that, my expectations did not come true: I wasn’t met too friendly wherever I turned to in Canada, and I haven’t made too many friends locally, as well. Realistically, I was already 46 when I relocated to Canada; so, it’s not the same as when one is 16 or even 26. I have turned from a very social person (I worked at publishing houses, high schools and colleges in Latvia, it was work with and among people) to a very isolated person. My lack of health has contributed to that also, a lot actually, but still, I did not expect such ignorance from the local community and people. It has been as if approaching some unbreakable brick wall: there is very little interest about what I do and offer. I suppose one has way better chances if they have classmates, schoolmates, University time friends, childhood friends and obviously relatives in the country they work and live.

Well, I have only my husband.

Cheers to our 13 wonderful years together! I want to thank my husband and God for this great time and I certainly believe that the best times are still ahead of us.

P. S. I have to apologize to fellow bloggers for their kind and numerous comments and likes to previous posts, as well, as thank you to all who keep following my art site https://inesepogagallery.com/ I will approve everything and I will return all likes as soon as get a bit better and all my stuff is sorted out. That won’t be today because it is our wedding anniversary. Thanks to everybody!

Worth writing a novel about

Please make sure you check out the gallery pictures closer to the end!

Latvia is a place I come from. Most of my family still resides there but I went for a chance to change my life dramatically a bit more than 13 years ago and relocated to Canada. Everything was different, I had to adjust myself, learn a lot and, basically, I can say I’m fine by now. It feels like I started fresh at the age of 46 again.

Time passes so fast, but there are things which I miss a lot while in Canada. I definitely miss my mom, my daughter, grandchildren, my sister and also friends. The other thing which is quite important and which I miss every time I go to the grocery store is Latvian food. I miss the huge variety, the very natural produce, wild mushrooms, wild berries, endless salads, soups and deserts. I miss dairy products and the huge selection of fresh-water and salt-water fish which we do not have in Canada, and it is hard to live without their cakes, pastries, pies and all the stuff that comes on the table just rarely, but makes all the difference. For instance, black or rather grey peas with crunchy bites of Latvian bacon and kefir, or thousands of dishes made of Latvian cottage cheese which is always excellent quality compared to what I have when I can find it in Canada. I mean the raw, nothing added, nothing removed cottage cheese. Their daily bread selection is worth writing a novel about: from dark rye and carrot bread baked using ancient Latvian recipes to all kinds of white, dark bread made with or without seeds and from all kinds of grains. The freshness is breathtaking, and so is the taste. I have always hard times finding a good quality bread at home, it goes bad and stale next morning, and it usually falls apart. My guess is: it consists of hardly anything, but costs a lot.

Therefore, I try everything Latvia can offer, and that is plenty. Neither I want, nor I intend to avoid such a delicious pleasure: it is a feast from the day 1 of my stay here until the dinner before my flight back home.

As I walk along the Central Market (I came here with just one intention: to take a few pictures because this is sort of very large farmer’s market, the largest in Europe), my eyes run all around and it’s great I’m not hungry because otherwise I’d end up buying too much stuff. Most people, however, prefer the ecologically clean product stores. Prices are quite high in stores which offer organic, biologically and ecologically clean produce and all kinds of other foods, and frequently above the affordable level, but still: Latvians take food seriously and they can certainly choose something great even when the wallet is not that full.

There is something else: traditionally Latvians do gardening, even these who live in the downtown of Riga, usually have some out-of-town place where they can grow something. Latvia did a lot of farming in the soviet times, and it was actually quite agricultural outside the biggest cities. The first Latvian Republic before the World War II was famous for its fantastic dairy products, bacon, butter, meats and produce. Although, agriculturally used land and the number, as well as size of farms have decreased, the need for good quality food is the same. People know what is good, Latvians know what delicious and fresh means, and therefore, the food quality standards remain high.

If you are wondering what I mean with all this praising, I do suggest you stop by in Latvia for the greatest and cleanest foods one can try. It’s worth it. I did not notice where their fast food places were, I know there are some, but people who think about their health won’t eat in such places. I personally never learned loving fast food, I don’t think they are popular here because everything is geared towards healthier, fresher, cleaner and less processed.

I have taken pictures also of smoked fish and meats, and these are certainly not for daily consumption, they are not part of a healthy diet, however, small bit here and there cannot harm. They taste incredibly good. If you have never tried, you won’t know how delicious these things are: smoked fish and chicken especially, and I miss such treats a lot. Some fishing villages still smoke fish like Latvian fishermen did 200, 300 and more hundred years ago.

Caraway seed cheese is my favorite, it always has been. When I was 12 or so I worked at a dairy plant during the summer (all kids worked). I had to help by preparation of caraway seed cheese. It was warm and so yummy that I never forgot this taste. The only place I get it as I like is Latvia. I tried to make my own in Canada, but milk and cottage cheese were totally unsuitable: they are too processed and do not have the same properties, so, I did not get very good caraway seed cheese. Dairy products are definitely bad and low quality in Canada. I sometimes wonder: why wouldn’t they go to Latvia, for example, and learn how to achieve greatness in dairy products. It’ s not going to happen because their profits come always first.

Well, wild mushrooms and wild berries are something Ontarians do not get to see or taste. Some might, but it’ s not everybody by far. Mushrooms are still in season, but there are less and less berries in the forest because fall sets in sooner in Latvia than in Canada.

mouth-watering Latvian dairy products

Meats and smoked meats

Fresh, live and smoked fish

A few veggies (because they looked so nice) and some wild berries and mushrooms

I actually wanted to publish separate posts about separate food groups, but time is really short, so I will leave you with these pictures and I am going back home soon.

The Mother’s tree

I have a box of memories. This box holds everything which I could take with me from my past life in Latvia after I moved over to Canada. It is amazing how little space can be filled with memories of 46 years, and that’s all I have from there.

As I’m going through yellowish pictures, some as old as I am now, some even older which makes them 70 or 80 years old, I’m having a look at my mom. She is so diligent, loves moving and doing everything so much that even now at 85 she is still busy in the garden and at the sewing machine. Her eyesight has worsened a lot, but that does not stop her. My dad was like that, too: always busy with something. We had a fantastic place over there in Latvia. It was a semi-detached house; quite honestly, it later caused a lot of problems just because it was not solely ours, and my dad built it practically from scratch, when we moved to this small town Saldus, it had only the outside walls and sort of main structures.

Mother's day

He and my mom worked hard to make it a lovely living space. My mom is a born gardener, somebody who genuinely understands the nature and character of every plant and tree, and I believe I have inherited this knowledge because I have green thumbs, too. We had a huge orchard, 2 greenhouses and many flowers and vegetables, all kinds of them. These, who know what life was like in the late soviet era, can recall how nothing was in the store, so most food which we had on our table came from our own garden. Thankfully, gardening was the greatest thing I could ever learn. I started helping early, we were just small kids: sister and I, but it was an unwritten rule that everybody has to participate in order garden and orchard received the attention they deserved.

My mom in her 30

My mom in her 30

In my memories, there’s always spring and blossoming apple tress in this old place which doesn’t even exist anymore. I suppose, that will be my most favorite time of the year for as long as I live. There were white and sweetly pinkish clouds of blooms all along the garden path as we walk down the hill. The house was at the top of a hill, so when standing there, one was overlooking the most beautiful scene imaginable. Cherries, apple trees, plum trees, pear trees, black, white and red currant and gooseberry bushes were on both sides of the path. I think it’s not a coincidence I love painting garden path images. Whenever I think back, I am seeing my mom under these blossoming apple trees. It is spring, it is warm and sunny and dad works in the small shed he built, as well.

Whenever I think about a mother and her importance in our life, I am seeing a huge apple tree, wide and strong and it carries its fruit through dry, rainy or stormy summers straight into the first frosts of the fall. Branches are so strong and flexible at the same time, but they are in a full beauty in early May. Mother and a blossoming apple tree are synonyms for me.

My mom working at greenhouses

My mom used to work in huge greenhouses, I was quite often with her, I was 4-5 since we didn’t have kindergartens 

I never developed extreme attraction or attachment to things one can buy, but I found an endless opportunity to express myself through things one is able to create. Therefore, creativity became my true existence. That is thanks to my mom who is the most creative person I’ve ever known. She created home decor, pillow cases and curtains, thousands of dresses, skirts, blouses, dresses, coats and jackets. She still loves designing and sewing aprons. She gives them as a gift to people who love cooking or doing work around the house. She could create any outfit one only can dream off. I took over this skill when I was 12; and when I was 13, I was wearing everything made by myself, that included coat, pants, skirts, blouses and tops. It takes my mom nothing to create the most beautiful flower arrangements, and I obviously am good at that, as well. I think my feel of good composition and balance within a space or image takes its origin right there: that is the way my mom would arrange things. Harmony and balance was the main feature of any of her creations. I’ve never eaten more delicious patties or home- made pies. Thanks mom for allowing me to become not a consumer, but so much more a creator of anything beautiful around us! I think it is a precious skill which carries me through life and makes my living so much simpler.

My mom at her sewing machine

Returning to the memory box: I was surprised how few photos I had from all these years. Well, cameras and smart phones were not available as they are now, so having taken a picture was a big deal. I cannot describe the heartache when these pictures didn’t come out as good as planned. It does not really matter whether I have only a few or lots of pictures. My memory has it all: the old house, the orchard and my mom under a blossoming apple tree. That’s all what matters.

My mom in Latvia

A recent picture of mom, just last year, she is 85

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