#AccessFromHome Stories: Liz & Leona

Poem by Sunny Liz: 

It’s a safe soft place to fall for an embrace of tenderness as love, to be insecure from has been given, things that Can’t be changed When all we need is a bear hug, and a little sweetness that we stir in the pot, Turn off the news put down the newspaper with the bad news. Let’s make some good news, and make are hearts full of songbirds That sings in the blossom tree, That’s a safe and Secure place to fall.

© Liz Etmanski

Words by Liz Etmanski

My name is Liz. I have Down Syndrome. My parents are Helen and Allan. Since the Covid 19 I have been staying in Victoria with my aunt and uncle. My sister, Catherine, lives in Victoria as well. I like to write and do lots of different types of art – mostly electronically. Sometimes I go for walks to the park and nowadays I go for car rides. I always keep my distance of two metres. Pizza is my favourite food and my favourite colours are from the rainbow. I like to have catnaps around the house. I like taking photos of pretty things. And I get excited for ‘Zoom’ time with family.

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Positive

…Not really

  • Having help, when I have a bad foot
  • Having good talks and being able to talk to someone
  • Being able to stand on my foot, even just for a little while
  • Waking up to the sun through my bedroom window and hearing the birds sing
  • Food, water, roof over my head
  • Having ‘me’ time
  • Having picnics with my sister, Catherine, and her hubby, Neil, and Leona and Carl (aunt and uncle)
  • All of Leona’s baking and Leona and Carl’s hospitality
  • Art work (doing art)
  • Sitting in the sun
  • All the Zoom and Blue Jeans talks and hearing from family and friends
  • Making videos for people
  • Seeing pictures of my nephew Anderson
  • Carl (uncle) letting me use his chair when my foot is sore
  • When Leona and Carl put up with my crazy ways
  • Taking courses at my sister’s university
  • Learning new things like knitting
  • Art brain (art by email project)
  • Making homemade pizzas with my aunt
  • Telephone calls from family
  • Life is good when you have cookies
  • Taking care of myself
  • Eating good food and drinking too much water
  • Being healthy
  • Using my singing app with my sister, Catherine. She’s funny.
  • Doing the best I can
  • My dad works very hard. But it’s a good thing too. As long as he does not work too hard.
  • Leona cleaning my hair
  • Baking with Leona and cooking with Carl
  • Being part of the planning and making of a grocery food list
  • Not being able to help carrying shopping bags
  • Standing away from people when talking
  • Hugging
  • Not being able to go back to my place and seeing my friends
  • Missing my whole family
  • Not having a boyfriend
  • This crazy world
  • Not going to work
  • Not getting enough workouts
  • Not having ‘girl talk’ with friends sometimes
  • Not being able to go to parks
  • Not being able to go for dinners in restaurants (or dancing!)
  • Sleepovers with friends
  • Travelling
  • Not being able to purchase a large journal
  • I miss being independent. I am now dependant on my aunt and uncle
  • Being emotional
  • My dad works very hard. But it’s a good thing too. As long as he does not work too hard.
  • I miss being physically close to people
  • Not being able to pet other people’s dogs

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Words by Leona Etmanski

My husband and I are retired and involved with volunteer work (currently helping refugees settle in Victoria). We offered our house to Liz when her stepmom was diagnosed with a severe case of shingles. Liz has stayed with us lots of times in the past and we have travelled on many trips together. We weren’t thinking very far ahead when this all began – everything happened so fast.  Liz has now been living with us for over 10 weeks – the longest we have ever lived together!

Living with Liz for such a long period has been a new experience for us. We had to adjust our own routines to accommodate a third person in our home.  And we have all had to adapt to this new way of living during the restrictions. Our offer to house Liz began as a temporary offer to help out a family member and it has now transformed into something much more long term and rewarding.  Even though Liz lives on her own in Burnaby and misses her independence, she has adapted and influenced our daily structure and schedule.  She sometimes needs assistance and it can be quite frustrating at times to figure out what she wants or needs.  Or even to figure out how to have alone time for ourselves. We have managed to work out something that works for all of us; including which night we watch a romantic comedy! 

Things did become more intense a couple of weeks ago when (after consulting with her parents) we had to take Liz to emergency on a Saturday night. Her foot was swollen and was not getting any better. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with a foot infection.  She was unable to walk on her foot for a couple of weeks but is slowly becoming mobile. The hospital staff at Royal Jubilee Hospital were kind and thorough. In spite of the COVID19 restrictions, I was able to accompany her into the consulting room.  

We have rediscovered her ‘off the wall’ sense of humour and have enjoyed watching her creative process while she tackles some of her art and writing projects.  We now appreciate the steps she goes through to arrive at her final product.  She really loves interacting with people on a daily basis and thrives on any feedback she receives. We have had some heavy personal conversations and huge belly laughs together.  

We are grateful to be on the receiving end of her unconditional love and trust.  She truly does enjoy all the things she has listed above and we love seeing her learn new things. She looks at the world around her with her artist’s eye and was beginning to enjoy her daily walks to the park before the foot infection. Unexpectedly, her presence has provided us with a focus to the days and weeks and months.  Liz has enriched our lives and we can honestly say that this new relationship with her during the pandemic is a huge, positive outcome.

Leona and Liz sitting in the living room
Liz & her aunt Leona spending time together at home

Elizabeth Etmanski is an Artist based in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. Having won an award for her artistic passions in Secondary School, she went on to become the first person with Down Syndrome to graduate from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. She also writes poetry, which deals predominantly with the themes of love and overcoming personal obstacles. She is currently in Victoria and staying at home with her relatives.

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#AccessFromHome Stories features people from the disability community and advocates and lived experiences at home during COVID-19. How are you managing during this time? We want to hear your story! Contact us to contribute.

#AccessFromHome Stories is made possible by our Supporting Partners Government of Canada and CIBC.

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