On the Same Wavelength

woman in pink shirt sitting by the table while smiling

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Saying goodbye to my kids’ grandparents is a well choreographed ritual (outside of pandemic times) – you hug and kiss each person you are departing from one by one and then exit. Then, you pause in the car until the party inside can assemble at the large window or porch door and, if needed, you back up the car or turn on the interior light for the wave.

It had been a long time since I had visited when we dropped off a gift for Mother’s Day.  But the minute we piled back in the car, my instincts took over and I reversed a little for a better view and we waved our hearts out. This is not my only waving ritual – my grandparents always came out on their back stoop to wave, my elderly mother-in-law to her car port, and countless others.

On the one hand is not the hug goodbye, the visit we just had or the saying of goodbye ample effort? On the other, what joy is ours in this little bit of extra goodbye, the little send off during which, just for one more moment, I am holding on to the visit and being sent more love as I go down the street.

Waving is a big thing now that all meetings are done virtually; in almost all cases we not only say goodbye but wave to each other as cameras are clicking off and the meeting is ending.  When I go for a walk on my back road, I wave at every car, because some could be my neighbours and would expect it. Others will be left wondering how I know them, and everyone waves back – so it’s a great entertainment really. What does a wave say?  I see you; I will see you soon; I care; we are all in this together.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Trillium Tao

DSC00580From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I am on the hunt for trilliums. The weird thing is that these flowers blanket the woods beside my driveway every year; most of the time they quietly pop out and one morning in May as I leave for work – I notice.

This year is different in so many ways. A friend mentioned the flower last Friday and I went on the hunt. For the first time I really looked on the forest floor and found them in bud.

Now I have checked almost every night to see the progress. Of course the difference here is time, a slowing down of my work, leisure and life in general to give me the chance to even wonder about the trilliums. As I said this is the first time I have even observed them in bud; usually I just happen to notice as a I speed out the driveway or on roads nearby that – oh there are trilliums – and then if feels like a few days later I do the same only its about the leaves turning and it is autumn. 

The difference this year is astounding – walking to the other side of the driveway and down the bank to the forest floor and waiting, watching  and wondering. This year maybe that is the biggest difference – we have time.  I know for sure that in all of the planning and preparing we did over the last decade or so with policies around pandemic I never imagined time to think, time at home, social isolation, closed businesses, closed restaurants.  I never imagined the right next to making sure there was PPE that my very next priority would be making sure there was opportunity for fun and activity to pass the large expanses of time.

This is all to say that while I am not a conspiracy theorist about the world never going back, what I wonder is this – next May will the trilliums just sneak out on me while I drive quickly by or am I a different sojourner in the world now?  Am I forever going to notice more, crave more time at home with family? Am I going to keep some of these distancing habits by choice?

When my husband was a boy, he and his cousin were lost in the woods for 24 hours. When they found their way back to the cabin the only things to eat were a few radishes and stale bread. Now, even after all of the intervening decades, he still enjoys the taste of this weird combination of foods – because after his long fast, it tasted delicious then, and still does – though only to him. 

So, similarly to my husband’s radish delight, will I now be on the watch for trilliums, slowing slow down long enough to take in their blooming? Will I take more time to enjoy what I have missed in the past rush?  I guess none of us have the answers as we experience all of this for the first time – we just have to wait, watch and wonder. There is beautiful life in bud right now; it will bloom as we reenter the world slowly and our experiences will taste delicious for the rest of our lives.

Photo (c) Kristin Duare McKinnon

Changing the Channel

grayscale photo of girl lying on floor

“There were seventy-five people in the lobby and only a seven-year-old girl was finding out what it felt like to sit on the marble floor.” Hugh Prather

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I miss my huge family and all of the contact that I usually enjoy with my siblings, nieces and nephews. I am so grateful for Face-time, Snap-chat and the videos and photos that fill in this gap.

One of my brothers has three girls under the age of four. It is a busy household and Disney princesses seem to reign supreme. While I cannot visit them, I do get to enjoy a lot of footage of their energy and smiles.

Here’s the thing – the girls are almost never wearing clothes. They are sometimes half dressed, or wearing princess dresses or variations on costumes; but most often these girls are not wearing anything at all. I love this – they are home, they are safe, they are living in their imagination-filled adventures of childhood, and they are together. They are getting into scraps, excitements, games, challenges and worlds of pretend.

And while I am not contemplating wearing only the skirt and crown of a snow white gown any time soon, what I am thinking about is what it feels like to be a little girl with two sisters and no worries, dress codes or stresses pressing into their lives from a pandemic – nor just regular old – life.

How do we channel our inner half-dressed princess, how so we watch a movie not sitting on the couch but singing and acting out the scenes? How do we reacquaint with
this kind of unfettered joy even for a few minutes? I am sure that my three beautiful nieces wonder why I am never in costume or in a state of undress in my chats – that I’m not probably makes no sense to their understanding of the world and all that it offers.

Let’s take any opportunity we have to “Let it go” and live life like a 3-year-old again.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Don’t Get Bogged Down

hiking backpack nature trip

From the desk of  Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Even with working full time I cannot help but have more spare time than usual with the isolation measures in place. I do not visit with family, I can’t see friends, I don’t have any volunteer committee meetings and my church is shuttered. So that leaves me with a lot of extra time.

Last weekend I used a few hours of this extra time to don my rubber boots and walk the acreage that I call home. For the most part this is swamp that goes on for marshy metres with the small end of the Pigeon River meandering through in twists and turns. I have many observations of this journey. Firstly, mud in a swamp that no matter how firm it looks will suck you down to the depths in seconds if you are caught unaware. Secondly, unless you think to bring a compass the twisting and turning involved to get around mud holes and bushes soon has you going in circles. Thirdly, with a river that twists and turns, the perspective of where you are on the property is very easily lost or at least confused.

So that was the adventure, mucking around, looking at how the river bank had changed since the last time we had mucked through the land; seeing the beaver den and their network of highways through the property; and, sadly, seeing the litter left by boaters or carried in with the floods from the road- a stark contrast to the otherwise untamed wilderness.

So that was the adventure and as I finally found a fallen log on which to sit, and looked at the river, I reflected that it was easy to forget the troubles of pandemic when focused on the challenges of swamp hiking. And here is the thing – just like my walk, the challenge at hand is that what is sure and well advised can suddenly change or be found to be incorrect and not at all what they seem. We are all in uncharted territory and trying to find our way, but it is hard to know where to solidly step.

It is easy to lose our way because none of us has the luxury to just be home under a blanket – there is school work to get through with the kids, groceries to procure, our jobs to be done, the extra cleaning because we are home so much more, the extra cooking because the default restaurants are closed-  and all those extra hours to somehow fill with our families. We can easily lose our way.

On my walk I was stunned at how, at different times, the familiar landmarks in the distance seemed to rearrange. This was due to the fact that I was trekking around a curling river bank yet somewhere in my brain I was convinced that the river bank was going in a straight line. It was like a David Copperfield trick to see the place where my house should be – or at least where the TV tower signalled my house should be  – completely disappearing from where my brain thought is should be.

This is how it can feel right now – the sure things, the family rituals, the annual events and rhythms of the work week are all interrupted. Activities that signal the movement of our weeks and years have flitted from view because we are forced to follow where the pandemic and its safety measures are leading us. And unlike my return to home and removal of my muddy boots, we don’t know what the return to normal will look like – we don’t know what pieces of social distancing or heightened disinfecting will linger long into the future.

All we know for sure is that somewhere off in the distance the TV tower is still there, the hugs, gatherings, shared meals, concerts and other important touch points of our years will return, but they just might look a little different. I have not got any of this figured out –  nor am I about to write a book on how to survive a pandemic with style – but I know I was tired and muddy and I probably sat on that log for half an hour; then I was rested and I carried on.

When you are tired and muddy, take a rest. When you are rested – carry on, find another log repeat. We will get to the other side of this, even with all of the twists, turns and mud – we have boots, ans we have each other.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

Our Outward Looking Angels

man with wings standing on brown mountain peak

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – When I was the shared Executive Director, I stayed two to five nights in Haliburton every month at the same wonderful Bed and Breakfast. From the parking lot to the entrance you walked past a bay window and in it there were several angels. Here is the memorable thing – even though the owners own living space and sitting room was on the other side of the bay window
the angels all faced outward. They looked out the window at the patrons walking to the entrance of the B&B wing.

I asked the owner once why the angels looked outward … she explained that the angels were not interested in watching one person sit on her couch; their domain was the world and all that  it needed.  I saw something similar on a recent drive to work… Care Bears all lined up in a bay window looking out with a poster that read, “Thank you.” ‘

In this time of social isolation, we are turning inward – spending more time at home, more weekends not going out, more time with family members not leaving the house either. We might be tempted to turn our angels around and focus their gaze on our most beloved inside four walls.

I think though, that we should turn more angels around. Send positive thoughts, send good vibes, send best wishes and gratitude – and spread that stuff around like confetti. Those Care Bears were in fact onto something – they did not band together to form a super ninja fighting bear that beat foes into submission – the old cartoon had
them line up and spread their positive power.

Think positive, send love, use your power of what is joyful to shore up an anxious world. Keep your inner angel facing a world that needs a little love.

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Mentor Memories

woman in black hijab headscarf walking on field

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Recently, amid pandemic and all things grim, I picked up the local newspaper and noticed an obituary for a 90-year-old woman. The obituary was for my first 4-H leader, Henny Kraan. Reading it I was instantly taken back to my 12-year-old self trying to figure out who I was in the world  – as most are at that age – and joining my first club with a lot of people I didn’t know. I was nervous and maybe a little shy.  And while I have no sweeping, epic, heart warming words from Henny to stitch on a pillow, what I do have is a tangible memory of how she made me feel. Her warmth, her confidence in me that I could do something and – when I succeeded – her smile; when I fell on my face – her equally supportive smile.

Henny gave me a sense that I could do anything. I remember one time that there was to be a night of presentations. The group came up with the idea, which I don’t remember, that I was to be in an old suit and top hat and performing at the microphone. This was probably my first foray into public speaking and Henny wrapped her confidence around me and let me try. Equally when the club was sewing – she looked at my offering and reminded me that…  I was good at public speaking.

Henny is a small part of what makes up my particular toolbox of talents today and I am very grateful for that.  Take some time away from all things COVID-19 this weekend and think about who shaped your current view on life – think about the role models – there will be countless ones.  So many people touch our lives and right at this moment we have a little time to remember them with gratitude.

Photo by Samuel Silitonga on Pexels.com

Milky Way Muse

person sky silhouette night

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – Last night I purposely breathed in starlight. I noticed when I let the dog out that the stars were particularly bright and crisp. It was very cold, so I bundled up and joined the dog for a late night ramble.

Here’s the thing about stars that I am sure many of us have experienced. At first you see hundreds. They are bright and look big and form some easy-to-spot constellations – you get captivated by the slightly glittering sparkle. But once you really settle into stargazing and simply look up all the rest slowly comes into focus. Behind the shiny hundreds, the millions of the milky way start to come into focus.

And so there, being left behind by my dog, presumably looking to relieve himself in privacy, I breathed in the starlight. I leaned back against the fence and just quietly looked up. Trying to be mindful that in this moment there was an eternal certainty and an expansive universe quietly outside of the somewhat anxious day-to-day life.

I looked until the millions of stars started to come into view and knew that some of that starshine was landing on me. I breathed it in. Wise people would say that the entire course of a life is in the present moment because it is all we truly have to live in. And just for a moment, I simply breathed in the stars.

What I am learning most in this pandemic is that there are very few experts in response, strategizing, surviving and thriving in all that this pandemic is throwing at us. No one is doing a perfect job at home schooling kids, sanitizing groceries and coming up with constant witty conversation with suddenly completely available significant others. We have seen many televised experts learn and grow and change their recommendations. We read also that the anxiety of pandemic is making us all less able to be productive and engaged. And we have all seen the videos where workers from home forget to turn off their cameras before they reveal that they are not in fact wearing pants.

So here is the thing, I think – we just need to let go of an idea of how to perfectly navigate the sea of challenges posed in pandemic times. All we can do is navigate what is right, by what we know at the time of our decision. Let go of the idea of perfection or the idea that we need to be fearless. What will happen however, is moments of heroism, moments of superpowers and moments of knowing exactly what is right for right now.

It is all a little like that night sky – pandemic looks like a hundred overwhelming challenges from health to finance to anxiety to safety. Then if take a moment, the millions of people and positives can come into view. The people who are taking care of their neighbours, the people who are creating opportunities online, the people coming to work and brightening the days of those we support, the people sending positive thoughts, trying new recipes, learning new things, sewing masks or maybe not doing any of that, but still making it through.

So I breathed the starlight in, I forced myself to lay aside the worries and my shortcomings – the unknowns and the pressures – and I just took in the stars. And I went in the house, still not a pandemic expert, not a complete superhero in all things domestic, nor even an expert on how to use my own oven, but someone ready to face another day with a little sparkle. The dog – while also having spent time in the starlight – appeared unchanged, but that is OK  too – we are all in this together.

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

The Sole of Spring

shallow focus yellow daisies

From the desk of Teresa Jordan – I watched to a great webinar this week that drove home for me some of the great challenges that we are experiencing. The difficulty of a pandemic – and the resulting emergency measures that take us all the way back to the great wars – is that in this time of trouble we are being asked to distance. We are being asked to not stand side-by-side, to not band together, to not gather to pray … and to not come together to gather the courage collectively to soldier on.

I was reminded again how significant it is that we are living in these times. And while many say this will forever change the landscape what I know for sure is that it will forever change us – those who are living it. We can rise to the challenge and not faint, we can gather strength together while apart. I have seen countless examples of care and concern, and I know that there will come a day that we do gather and celebrate all that we survived during this time.

In my isolation at home I have been, every day, going on long walks through the woodsy swamp land in which I live. I am amazed in the quiet reflection of these walks, of how I am noticing changes each day. The snow and ice melt a little more, the water in the river rises and falls, the swamp grass is starting to green and the red wing black birds are quite obnoxious when they all decide that I am the intruder.

What I notice for sure, given that I am prone to this kind of observation, is that what I am noting is all that would be happening in any spring in the swamp. The beavers and birds did not get any memos about the pandemic, and they are simply going about the business of living and getting ready for the warmer seasons. The ebb and flow of nature is still keeping up its usual pace.

So what is all of this to us? A calmness, a focal point beyond the noise and perhaps a reminder that while we are in the middle of global crisis and there is much to attend to, there is also the rhythm of the seasons to reassure us that while so much has changed so fast, there is beauty all around just the same.

Photo by photokip.com on Pexels.com

Pandemic Paradox

globeFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Who knew that amidst a global pandemic I would learn how to make homemade play-doh or be able to access a zillion free online books, concerts and music? Who knew that I would see people band together, be creative and sing on rooftops? And yet, perhaps deep down we have always known that as a species we survived for millions of years by depending upon one another, hunting and gathering as a group.

Now we are faced with that same level of survival dependent on each other and we rise.  We rise when we distance, we rise when we reach out in big and small ways to connect, we rise when we get creative and make joy happen.  I see people who are making the most of it – connecting on Facebook, holding street parades and making sure there is no one left behind in true isolation.

Another learning I have had lately is that clearly, I am just like Olaf from Frozen – only with more complicated emotions and wardrobe – I like warm hugs. I like celebrating with a high five, a hug or at the very least my well-practiced firm executive handshake. We cannot touch but must stay in touch.

I am proud of the actions taken by our levels of government, I am proud of how seriously most Canadians are taking the crisis and I am proud that in the distance, as a community, we have grown closer. I will remember most from this time of social distancing that I found out how socially connected and interwoven we all truly are in this thing called life.

Image: Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Lollipop Legacy

lollipops - redux

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – These are unprecedented times – scary, anxiety-provoking and overwhelming, with the added challenge of toilet paper thrown in to keep us off balance. The interesting part of what is happening is that it is worldwide, that as a global community we are facing a threat and mobilizing in each country to try to minimize a curve of contracted cases. There are lay-offs, closures, plunging finances, unknown futures.

Where do we look for hope? Where do we find the sunshine that moves the shadow to our backs?

The hope is where it can so often be found – in each other. It is in the cashier at the store who greets us warmly with a smile after being asked for the 500th time when the next shipment of toilet paper will be in; it’s the neighbours and friends who phone to make sure that we have what we need; it’s the Facebook posts of hope and caring. I’ve seen many videos of the isolated residents of Italy singing from their balconies together – singing in hope with each other in a country that is not flattening the curve at all.

Our best selves are to be found when we look to make the lives of others better. These are scary and overwhelming times, we have to face each day the threat of a virus that has turned the world upside down. What can you do on this day to make one moment of hope or light, or of less fear? What are we in control of?

I am reading a book right now by Drew Dudley that talks about making each day you are a leader like your first day. In it he speaks about the impact that we have each and every day to help someone reach a goal, become a better person and create remarkable stories. He discusses a moment that made an impact on someone by offering a lollipop – his lollipop moment has gone on to be the hallmark of his TED talk, but in summary he made an impact by offering a lollipop that ended up changing the trajectory of someone’s life. And while he was thanked years later by the recipient of this huge life-changing gesture, he has no recollection of it.

This is the kind of impact we can have in these troubled times – seek out the opportunity to lift someone else out of fear for a moment, look a for a chance to make someone smile. There will come a time when this great challenge is one of our often told hero stories in our elder years. Recognizing each other as the heroes of this opera, looking at the people that surround us and know that they are equally scared and anxious but also being creative and kind and present.

Look for the moments of sunshine and call them out, grab onto them and celebrate each other. I have a bunch of sisters-in-law (six brothers), and one is very shy and quiet but with a wicked sense of humour. Fearing layoff she joked that she may have to return to stripping. This is a hilarious statement if you know her quiet withdrawn personality in and of itself. She followed it up by saying that she is even working on her routine – she calls it, “You can leave your mask on”- a moment of sunshine in the rain.

Why is social distancing so hard? It’s hard because we are hard-wired for community, for leaning on each other, for wandering the desserts and forests in tribes to survive the wrath of the sabre-tooth tiger; we are built to social connection. Lets keep the connection in the distance, keep the sunshine in front of us and command the fear to fall behind. We are quite literally all in this together.