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When we associate texting with our health, the topic is usually bad news: texting while walking/driving causes accidents; constant texting causes carpal tunnel syndrome; texting too much damages personal relationships etc. etc. However, as the following studies show, texting has also proven to have distinct health benefits. In fact, mobile phones have found a place in the modern delivery of health care. It’s called Mobile Health, or mHealth, which covers any use of laptops, cellphones, tablets etc. in collecting patient data, monitoring patient health and delivering services.

Here are four ways that sending and receiving text messages can improve our health:

• An emergency room doctor at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island led a study that offered a violence prevention and intervention program via text messages to young female patients who’d experienced peer violence. The teens overwhelmingly agreed to the follow-up service, believing the supportive messages could help them avoid violent situations in the future, and they indicated they would recommend the service to other young girls at risk. The results of the study were released this past March, and the positive outcome has the hospital looking at ways to expand the service to reach out to at-risk male youths and non-English speaking teens.

• A University of Connecticut study observed positive results in HIV/AIDS patients who connected with their health care providers via text messages. Earlier this year, The Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention (a division of the university) released the results of a study in which patients who received text message “intervention” were found to be more likely to stay on track with their drug regimen and have better health than those who just saw their physicians for follow-ups every few months.

• Persons at risk for type 2 diabetes could benefit from text message reminders about their health, according to a University of Michigan study. Persons who signed up for and received regular messages about eating healthier, drinking more water, exercising etc. were more likely to lose some extra weight and live a healthier lifestyle, according to the study results released in 2013.

• Receiving a simple “how r u” on their phone from a loved one can be a much needed lift to someone who is isolated or feels alone, according to a University of California Berkley study that began in 2010. The project, led by a clinical psychologist, involved sending mental health participants regular messages asking about their moods, suggesting they think about positive things that happened to them and reminding them to take their medications. When the program ended after a number of weeks, several patients reported missing the regular connection. To someone who’s depressed or under stress, a concerned text message is a welcome connection and immediately makes them feel cared for – proving that through texting you really can “reach out and touch someone.”

Feel Good Messages

Downhome asked our facebook friends, “What’s the BEST news you ever received via text message?” Here’s what some said:

“I got asked to be a godmother for the first time.” – Chantal Oake

“Friend’s baby’s arrival.” – Fousty Touton

“‘I’m coming to get you’ – when I was stranded.” – Tracy Perry Stepanuk

“Pics of my grandbaby-to-be.” – Wendy Roenigk-Crane

“I am home safe.” – Deanna Dwyer
There are two main reasons to visit the Little, Big Bear Safari, located about 90 minutes from Moncton in Acadieville, New Brunswick. One, of course, is to safely view black bears as they roam onto the wilderness site. Another is to meet Richard Goguen, a.k.a. “the bear whisperer.”

“My husband has a gift with animals,” says Vivianne Goguen, who co-owns the attraction with her partner. The couple built an observation tower in 1998 with the intention of inviting the public to safely view and photograph black bears in their natural environment. But one bear had a slightly different plan. During construction, an orphaned cub wandered into the area and, as Vivianne puts it, “adopted” Richard. They aptly named the cub, which Vivianne says followed Richard around like a dog, “Pooch.”

“After a few years she had babies and we said, ‘Oh great, she’s going to become wild and that’s ok – but after a few weeks she brought her babies out and literally introduced them to grand-daddy,” says Vivianne. “She pushed them towards Richard.” Now 16 years later, the Goguens believe Pooch has passed on, but three generations of her descendants still visit the site very frequently and maintain the unusual bond with Richard.

Check out this shocking footage taken at the Little, Big Bear Safari. Richard enters the scene at 1:20.

While they do not guarantee sightings, Vivianne says their tour groups have missed out on seeing black bears only twice since opening to the public in 1998. Once visitors are safely inside the 26-foot-high tower, Richard lures the animals to the site with food. “We have the same permit as hunters – we have the right to leave little treats,” says Vivianne, adding, “but we shoot with cameras only.”

Local biologists have openly criticized the business, saying Richard’s close relationship with the bears is extremely risky – not only putting himself in harm’s way, but also anyone who may encounter one of these bears in the wild, outside the safety of the Safari. Vivianne maintains they have never had any complaints of that nature and believes the bears prefer Richard only. However, she warns, “We don’t suggest that people do that in their backyard. Don’t try to do this.”

To find out about other wild encounters available right here in Atlantic Canada, see the July issue of Downhome.

Editor's Note: Richard's interaction with black bears is extremely risky. Never, ever approach a black bear if you encounter one in the wild. To find out what to do if you do encounter a black bear, click here.
Family and Friends
By Ashley Colombe

A Newfoundlander living in Nova Scotia for the past 28 years, Lisa Braye’s ear is still fine-tuned to the sound of the Newfoundland accent. Whenever the 46-year-old hears that unique lilt roll off some stranger’s tongue, she says she just can’t help but ask, “What part are you from?” But one day last fall, Lisa’s favourite conversation starter wound up leaving her completely speechless.

On October 3, while enjoying a night out at a bar in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, Lisa overheard that familiar twang from a couple seated nearby her and, as usual, she began chatting them up.

As Lisa predicted, the couple, Shirley and Jeff Taylor, were from downhome.

“They told me they were from St. Anthony and then they asked me (where I was from) and I said, ‘well, I was born in St. Anthony actually, but I grew up in Corner Brook because I was adopted out,’” explains Lisa. Curious, Shirley asked Lisa how much she knew about her birth parents – which wasn’t a lot. Lisa’s adoptive parents, Gae and Rex Braye, knew only that her birth mother’s surname was either Grinham or Greenham and that Lisa’s name at birth had been Ivy; she knew nothing of her birth father.

After revealing those few pieces of information, along with her date of birth, Lisa says, “their mouths were open and it was just total shock.”

“(Shirley) said, ‘I would say 100 per cent but I’m not going to because I have to call her – but I’m 90 per cent sure that my best friend is your biological mother,” says Lisa, recalling the conversation that took place. The following evening, Shirley phoned Lisa and confirmed that her best friend, Liz Grinham, was indeed Lisa’s birth mother, and gave Lisa Liz’s phone number.

“Every emotion any person could ever have I had it that whole weekend – happy, excited, nervous, shocked – you name it,” says Lisa. Despite the emotional rollercoaster, Lisa quickly picked up the phone to speak to her biological mother for the first time.

“I felt like I had to call her because you hear these stories of adopted kids who hate their parents,” says Lisa. “So I called Liz to basically tell her that I didn’t hate her for giving me up whatsoever, that I had a loving family and I had a great relationship with them.”

A mother’s dream

That first telephone conversation with Lisa was overwhelming, says Liz, bringing back a flood of emotions from the heartbreak she endured the day after giving birth to her more than four decades ago.

“The nurse brought her in and she told me I had to feed her,” begins Liz, and for the first and last time, a 19-year-old Liz held the bottle of milk to her baby girl’s mouth. “Then the head nurse came in and told (the nurse) off because she gave me the baby – because I wasn’t supposed to see her.” After a falling out with her boyfriend, and having been turned away by her own parents, Liz, now 66, says she had previously signed documents that relinquished her parental rights. But Liz says those few precious moments with her infant daughter were enough to change her mind. Unfortunately, she was told, there was no going back.

But as the years rolled on, her baby girl was never far from her mind.

“On her birthday, the 16th of May, I used to go around the floors saying, ‘I wonder where she’s at, is she alright? If she had a good life and stuff like that – just mumbling to myself,” says Liz. “I never talked about her much, because it hurt too much.”

Liz later had three more children and in 1999, she and one of her daughters, Loretta, decided to search for the missing piece of their family; they quickly reached a dead end, though, told that nothing could be done until “Ivy” (Lisa) came looking for them.

Meanwhile in Nova Scotia, Lisa was becoming curious about her roots as well. Around the time she turned 40, Lisa says, she began pressing her adoptive mother, Gae, for more information.

“It just seemed like I was hurting her, so I said, ‘no, I’m not going to do nothing till she’s passed away and if it’s my loss than it’s my loss.”

In 2011, Gae passed away at 79 years of age. Lisa was planning to resume her search for her biological parents when she stumbled upon the Taylors last fall.

Together at last

With Lisa’s blessing, within a few weeks of finding each other Liz and Loretta were flying to Nova Scotia. The Taylors hosted the long-awaited reunion at their home.

“(Liz) was sitting at the kitchen table there and she didn’t know what to do, like I could tell she didn’t know whether to stay seated or stand or give me a hug or whatever,” says Lisa. “She just looked at me, and I said, ‘well would you like a hug dear?’ And she come over and grabbed a hold of me, started bawling her eyes out and just said, ‘Oh, I got my baby back in my arms again.’”

“We cried and we laughed and we did it all,” says Liz. “She’s still my baby to me.”
When word got out about the twist of fate that led to Lisa’s reunion with her mother, a flurry of media attention followed, with news stories popping up in both provinces. One of those stories reached the home of Wilson Osmond of Triton, Newfoundland – Lisa’s biological father.

The year that Lisa was born, Wilson says he moved to the mainland, where he settled down and started a family, including two daughters: Lori and Lisa (yes, another Lisa). He returned home to live in 2001.

Lisa and Wilson have since connected by telephone, and they’re planning their own reunion this summer.

“I feel great about it, yes I really do,” says Wilson, 68, adding he thought bout Lisa often throughout the years.

Since running into the Taylors last fall, Lisa’s family has expanded considerably. In addition to finding her biological parents, she’s gained four sisters and a brother – plus nieces and nephews.

“I’m going to have to start working two other jobs just to send Christmas presents,” says Lisa, laughing – but it will be more than worth it.

“It’s filled a void that’s always been with me, and I’m sure every adopted child has that void,” she says.

It’s going to be a whirlwind summer vacation this year for Lisa, who’s planned visits in both St. Anthony and Triton – but her first stop will be Corner Brook, to pick up her adoptive father, Rex, who plans to accompany her.

Rex says he plans to give both Liz and Wilson a hug when he meets them; after all, without them he never could have been Lisa’s father.

“We loved youngsters,” says Rex who, together with his late wife, had a hand in raising about 85 foster children who passed through his home. He believes if his wife were alive today, she would be pleased to see her daughter reunited with her biological family. “She would think it was wonderful,” says Rex, “because that’s the type of person she was.”
Whether you’re spending the weekend boating, camping or partying at the cabin, here are some tongue-in-cheek, but surprisingly practical, things to take or do to make the most of this May Two-Four. (In order of no importance.)

1. Pack several changes of clothes: rubber clothes, wool clothes, flannel clothes, summer clothes. Be like the Scouts, prepared for anything.

2. At least 5 tarps – one to cover the cold, wet ground; one to go over the tent; one for the cooking area; and two more to block the wind.

3. Deck of cards, to keep the youngsters from killing each other ’cause it’s too miserable to play outside.

4. Sunblock. Many May campers have been caught off guard by a sudden sunny break and come home looking like a lobster.

5. Lifejacket, seriously. And wear it. A seat cushion won’t save you from drowning.

6. Cell phone, preferably a smartphone so you can tell your whole social network if you get lost, or that you’re in the woods and forgot toilet paper #bummer.

7. Guitars, harmonicas, ugly sticks – if you can’t play them, you can use them as noisemakers to keep the bears away.

8. Garbage bags to put your sleeping bag in – to keep it dry at night.

9. Snowsuit to sit around the fire at night.

10. Newspapers – they make great fire starters and, if you’re stuck, toilet paper.

11. A shovel – in case it snows, and to clear a spot for your camper/tent.

12. Good quality fly oil to douse yourself in.

13. Coat hanger, to use as makeshift rabbit-ears antenna, a fire-proof handle for the camp kettle, a marshmallow roaster, or a slim hope of unlocking your car to get the keys inside.

14. Disinfectant wipes to wash off every surface of the cabin after you find out what rodents have been wintering there.

15. A hat that will keep your head warm and dry, and make you presentable for the trip back to civilization.

16. A bucket to carry water, to sit on around the fire, to hold the fish you catch, or to pee in if you’re that afraid to leave the tent at night.

17. An axe to chop wood, cut through ice, or pose with for “outdoorsy” photos for facebook.

18. Homemade bread and tea bags. You can’t start the day without a feed of toast and tea!

19. Disposable dishes and cutlery. The weekend’s too short to be doing housework.

20. Dry wood for the campfire or cabin stove – ’cause you won’t find a dry stick to burn in the woods in May.

21. Snowmobiler locater beacon – so rescuers can find you when the unforecasted overnight snowfall crushes you in your tent.

22. A can opener. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you break the tab-thingy off the can of sausages, beans, KAM etc. before you get it open.

23. Stick of bologna – walk softly over the marsh but carry a big stick!

24. Say “shag it” and rent a hotel room.

25. The best way to survive May 24 in NL? Spend the weekend with friends and family who you can count on for a good time no matter the location or the weather!

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From the Archives
Do you think your Martha Stewart-inspired Christmas tree is a real show-stopper for Santa? Think again.

Have a look at our readers' most extraordinary Christmas trees. With inspiration like this, maybe you'll be the one surprising Santa this year!

Accordion Tree

“EveryImage year I put up a Christmas tree with nothing but ornaments that have something to do with the accordion. I add to the collection every year. Then I put the presents under it – which are my real accordions. That way, they are always close by during Christmas to crank out a tune.” – Wade Purcel, Shea Heights, NL

Head Over Heels for Christmas

“I thought you would enjoy seeing my inverted Christmas tree with a village underneath it – or should I say, on top of it.” – Leona Kirk, ON

Very Beery Christmas

“One year we spent Christmas away from home, so instead of buying decorations we made (well, drank) our own.” – Nikki Ralph, Burnside, NL

Newfoundland Christmas Tree

“Each year, my wife Dale puts up her Newfoundland Christmas tree,” writes the submitter. “The tree is decorated with many different items, all from Newfoundand, that we collect when we are vacationing in Newfoundland each summer (i.e. every type of Purity product ever made…cans of salt fish under the tree; snowballs; tea-cup cakes; purity kisses; actual squid jiggers; a label from each type of Newfoundland brand beer; miniature wool socks and mitts; etc.) Below the tree is Dale’s mummer collection, all made by Denise Chippett from Leading Tickles." – Clarence Strickland, Fort St John, BC

Money Does Grow on Trees

“My 14-year-old (Sarai), seeing my love of Canadian Tire money, collected it and decorated the Christmas tree with it – more than $100. I can’t wait to go on Boxing Day and get a bargain.” – Anthony Greening, AB

Birch Christmas Tree

“Anne and Tony Harvey of Deer Lake decided to have their first birch Christmas tree this year.” – Gennie Philpott, St. John’s, NL

“Green” Christmas Tree

Instead of chopping down a living tree, the submitter decided to dress up one of her houseplants for the festive season. – Kim Martin, London, ON

Random Act of Christmas

“My son found this Christmas tree just standing there, fully decorated, while walking along the seaside in Kippens. It was put there by a Mr. Bougeois from Kippens and decorated by the White sisters. This has been their tradition for a number of years, just because they love Christmas.” – Patricia Ballard, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL

The WORST Christmas Tree

“My husband and I couldn’t decide if we should buy a new Christmas tree or not, so one day we went for a walk and I suggested we get the worst Christmas tree we could find. This is what we came up with.” – Yvonne, Twillingate, NL

Editor's Note: Since posting this article we received the following photo and update about the "Newfoundland Christmas Tree" above.

I see Downhome posted a picture of Dale's Newfoundland Christmas Tree as one of the 10 unusual Christmas trees. That picture is at least two years old and I wanted to show how much her Newfoundland Christmas Tree has expanded since then. It is a full seven-foot tree now with every Purity product ever made either on or under it - even a salt beef bucket for a stand. Underneath, her mummer collection has nearly tripled since that last picture. Brings lots of good back-home memories all the way on the other side of Canada in Fort St John, British Columbia. – Clarence Strickland, Fort St John, BC

This column originally appeared in the August 1996 edition of Downhome, and was rediscovered recently when Janice and Ashley were researching back issues. Even though there is a cod moratorium in effect - 17 years and counting - there are still many hard-working fishing families in this province who continue to face the perils of the job. So we thought this column was worth a second read.

A Way to Live, A Way to Die
Since 1497, when John Cabot got his first basketful of fish off Bonavista, the sea has played a major role in the lifestyle of Newfoundland and Labrador. Most have made their living from her, and many have died by her. The souls lost in the many shipwrecks around our rugged coastline over the years would make a formidable list. Most of these losses are recorded, and many have been honoured in stories, poems, songs and even movies.

Passing with much less mention is a group of men who also lived and died by the sea, the inshore fishermen. I'm sure the men who died while fishing from dories, punts, motorboats, skiffs and, in more recent years, speedboats, since the settling of Newfoundland, would comprise a greater list than those lost on larger offshore vessels. I'm talking about the lone fishermen, the brothers who work side-by-side and the father-and-son teams who go out and never return.

E.J. Pratt, Canada's unofficial poet laureate and a native of Newfoundland, speaks of these men in a short poem called "Erosion":

It took the sea a thousand years
A thousand years to trace
The granite features of this cliff,
In crag and scarp and base.

It took the sea an hour one night,
An hour of storm to place
The sculpture of these granite seams
Upon a woman's face.

Twelve years ago, on August 22, 1984, two brothers and the son of one of them from the community of Merritt's Harbour, near Herring Neck, Notre Dame Bay, went out as usual to haul their fishing gear. A storm came up and the three did not return. The bodies of one brother and his son were found close to shore the next day. The two were wearing lifejackets, and their hands and fingers were torn from trying to climb the slippery rocks. The other brother was never found. His wife lived for a year or so in the house he had built for her, but the memories got to be too hard to live with and she moved away. The wife and mother of the other two has also moved away.

Merritt's Harbour is a community of about 65 residents. Three people dying in a large city would not be considered a great loss, considering the total population, but three people represented a loss of five per cent of the population of Merritt's Harbour. It was a major catastrophe that is still felt in the village today. People continue to talk about the accident and try to speculate on the cause. The answers, however, are buried in the North Atlantic.

I learned this story when I went looking for a cottage on or near Twillingate Island. The widow of the man who was never found put their house on the market and I bought it. I would probably still own it if Downhome hadn't come along and consumed my spare time. I wrote the following poem to the memory of the three around that time:

The Ghosts of Merritt's Harbour

Three fishermen went out one day
From the calm of Merritt's Harbour
Went out to make their daily pay
The weather in their favour

Who would know, or who could say
To the happy three that left the shore
That all three would be lost that day
And one of them be seen no more

Fair weather later turned to foul
The time for hauling gear was gone
And little boats with half a haul
Went back to shelter, one by one

But three in one boat never came
Did they stay for pay, or show
Or to beat the devil at his game
We'll never, ever know

Was her engine fouled somehow
Or was she swamped astern
As gear was hauled? We won't know now
Nor will we ever learn

All night long the storm howled 'round
By morning it began to lift
And two in life preservers found
On the sea that took their life, adrift

Two found with hands cut to the bone
Evidence of a struggle frantic
The fate of the third is only known
To the never yielding North Atlantic

Two made the rocky shore that night
Tried climbing up, but no one saw
Two poor souls losing life's last fight
With fingers cold and numb and raw

Two bodies in the church may be
To be view by friend and neighbour
But three souls are still at sea
Not far from Merritt's Harbour

Sad folks in their sad abodes
Their loved ones' loss belabour
While children play upon the roads
In solemn Merritt's Harbour

It's been years since the three passed on
From the village by the sea
Yet it seems somehow they are not gone
And somehow can never be

But the ones who loved them most
No longer are around
They've left the outport and its ghosts
Where memories abound

But three ghosts will not leave this shore
The place of their last harbour
They will be here for evermore
In tiny Merritt's Harbour

Those visiting the Coast of Bays this summer will have a chance to help ring in a very special anniversary. Sunny Cottage in Harbour Breton is celebrating its 100th year, and tourists and residents alike are invited to take part in the festivities all summer long. Built by local merchant John Joe Rose in 1910, and later inherited by the John B. Stewart family, the beautiful Queen Anne style home - one of the largest and few of its kind in Newfoundland - has been drawing hundreds of tourists each year since the Town purchased it in 1996. The heritage structure is operated by the Sunny Cottage Corporation. Tagged as "100 Days to Celebrate 100 Years," the anniversary celebrations kicked off on May 30 and will continue until September 9. To find out more about Sunny Cottage and the events planned, click here.

Miss Sunny Cottage, Heather Blackmore, helps Harbour Breton Mayor Eric Skinner (left) and Don Stewart (representing the Stewart family of Sunny Cottage) cut the 100th anniversary cake.

Harbour Breton Mayor Eric Skinner and Miss Sunny Cottage Heather Blackmore.

Miss Sunny Cottage on the Widow's Walk of Sunny Cottage.

Tea Room entertainment to kick off the 100th anniversary celebrations for this tourist season.

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