God-bumps

Have you ever heard the term “God-bumps”? The first time I heard it, was from a friend and spiritual role model, and former colleague, Mrs Carolyn Cook.

“God-bumps” are those very special moments when you know God orchestrated something to make a bold statement, even in the tiniest of gestures. You know there is no mistaking that God just sent you a special message, to let you know He is out there, and He is indeed working in mysterious ways. It sends shivers right up and down your spine, and often leaves you breathless.

Yesterday, I got God-bumps. And I dare say, Dalton got them, too. I wanted to share this special moment…maybe after reading this, you will experience them, too.

As you know, I love taking photos – especially of the everyday moments in life that bring JOY, whether it be life moments with friends or breathtaking shots of my surroundings.

I’ve been pleased to see Dalton has picked up that photo-bug gene, too. We will often hang out together just to search for interesting pics around the island. It’s a nice way of spending an afternoon together. Philip enjoys photography, too, and they will often set out on their own photo adventures. What a great family hobby.

Yesterday, I was scheduled to work at Thriftys’s for the morning, to help put out “new” stock before they opened for the afternoon. As sometimes happens, I dragged Dalton along to help us. We had an excessive amount of bags to go through, having received extra freight from the Curling Club’s yardsale, and he was easily bribed with breakfast burgers from Food for Thought. It was during this morning shift, Dalton spied an old camera bag.

One of the number one rules of being a volunteer at Thrifty’s, is you can not make any purchases of things that get put out during “closed” hours. If you are working during “open” hours, you have to wait until the last half hour of your shift. The alternative, is to make sure you get there the next time they are open. This prevents potential “pickers” from volunteering just to get first dibs on the “good” stuff. Vivian, our Boss Lady, was looking for feedback on what to do with this bag, and its contenas …a 35mm Nikon camera. It still had film in it, and there was another roll of new film in the bag. Who knew how old this camera was, let alone the mystery photos on that film? Dalton was intrigued, to say the least. All I could think, was where would you even get it developed? All Vivian could think, was in this day and age of digital cameras, an old camera like this, no matter how nice, would be a hard sell, especially at Thrifty’s.

Finally, it was decided, as a big-ticket item, it would be placed at the cash counter away from the trivial 25 and 50 cent knick knack items. Electronics are a real hard item to get rid of in a thrift shop. Dalton expressed his interest to Vivian, and promised to be be back that afternoon to purchase this “antique”, hoping it would still be there.

We finished our shift, and I went about the rest of the morning with my plans. Philip popped in at lunch, and I shared the story of Dalton’s find. We both lamented about how it was just “one more useless toy” that would clutter up his house, but I knew this useless toy had value, not just monetary, but as item of curiosity and intrigue … I dare say, it did that same something to Dalton’s spirit. I understood his feeling of urgency to get back to Thrifty’s when they opened at 2. So I was not surprised to receive a text later, asking if he could get a drive back up.

Then the impatient text at 2:05, wondering where I was! I just had to finish bagging up a customer’s order, then I would be right along. Ten minutes later, another text…lol, yes, I am in the Jeep, in Woodward’s Cove, almost to your house.

At 2:30, we were waiting our turn to gain access to Thrifty’s; masks on, and wallets in hand. I found a couple of treasures for myself, and Dalton moved quickly to the line at the counter. Vivian is working cash today. Her eyes smile from behind her mask, as she spied Dalton and knows his mission. The camera case is resting beside her.

Then we both hear the words. The lady in front of us asks what is in the case, and inquires of a price.

Dalton and I both turn to each other, not seeing each other’s mouths drop wide open behind the masks, but I definitely see the anguish in his eyes. He turns to look at Vivian, as she knowingly looks over the woman’s shoulder to watch Dalton’s expression as she says to the lady (I’m pretty sure she’s a tourist, too!!)… “I’m sorry, that camera is already spoken for”. My heart just did a somersault. I’m pretty sure, if there hadn’t been a plexi glass barrier, Dalton would have jumped right over that counter, disregarding any rule of social distancing, and given Vivian the biggest hug she ever received. I held back a tear, absorbed by the fabric of my mask. Bless that woman’s heart.

Dalton floated back to the vehicle, and couldn’t wait to open the bag and inspect the contents more closely. We sat for a few minutes, looking it all over. He was so excited! We both imagined what might be on that film. Would there be photos of friends, or family? Scenes around the island, or a vacation in a far off land? Family pets? Would there be islanders we would recognize? It was all pretty exciting. It was too good of a camera to imagine a kid who took those poorly composed pics that get easily discarded in the trash. The first feat would be to find a place to get it developed… or if the age of the film would even allow images to be saved.

Then it happened.

Dalton discovered a luggage tag on an inside pocket. He flipped it over to reveal the owner’s name and address. We both just stared at each other. At the tag. At the writing. I don’t think either one of us could breathe.

God-bumps.

I could even feel Dalton’s God-bumps in the air.

My island friends will quickly recognize the name. And likely have God-bumps, too.

Graeme was a special old soul in a teenager’s body. He loved the outdoors, he loved people. I enjoyed teaching him, many years ago. He was kind and funny; so good natured. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he kept those characteristics… and inspired all of us with his strength and perseverance.

I remember visiting him at his home, seeing his smiling face. He loved having visitors, and could easily make any of us laugh, no matter how sick he was feeling. I treasure my friendship now with his parents, John and Diane. It isn’t hard to see where Graeme got those characteristics.

Fast-forward, 2015. Dalton graduated from GMCS. We were pretty proud of his accomplishments, including various scholarships and bursaries. He showed determination and perseverance through his own journey with childhood cancer.

Of all the awards, I felt the most special one for him to have received was the Graeme Cunningham Memorial plaque.

And now you know what “God-bumps” are!!

*Philip remembered visiting Graeme, and how proud he was to show off his gift from Chidler’s Wish Foundation…that is another connection Dalton could share. We will keep you posted if/when the photos get developed!

When you hear the plane…

When you live in a small community, you can’t help but think of people you care about when you hear the ambulance, or you hear the plane go out. I know, people are using the plane more for pleasure and business trips these days, but sometimes it depends on the time of day. It’s hardly ever a good thing when it’s late at night. After Kiddo’s first trip in a plane, we never forget to say a prayer for those on board. Long before that, ambulance sirens always meant stopping in our tracks and bowing our heads for a minute. After the summer of 2014, we made certain the prayers included the pilots, and EMTs/hospital staff as well.

Isn’t it interesting how life circumstance can shape how you pray, and not just for that moment in time. It transforms your future prayers, as well. I thank God for that.

July 10, 2009. It was a Friday, and we had stopped at the hospital here on Grand Manan, as a detour on our way to see Dalton’s paediatrician in Fredericton. As it turned out, we wouldn’t make it to Fredericton, but took a plane and spent the night at SJRH, instead. On Saturday, we were headed to Halifax by ambulance. Still so many questions. Thankfully, so many prayers from our island home.

Today marks eleven years since Kiddo was diagnosed with Acute Lympoblastic Leukaemia. Sometimes those days seem such a blur; and others, they seem crystal clear. I haven’t had the courage yet to look back over my journal from those days. I am grateful for the binder of email correspondence that was sent to our family and closest friends. Maybe someday I’ll get brave enough to look through that, too.

For now, I’ll rely on photos and scrapbooking memories that bring about so many emotions. And in the midst of those reminders of the power of prayer, we remember the joy… the joy that came from new friendships, new experiences that made us all stronger, and joy in answered prayers. We are so blessed. May we never pass up the chance to pray for a family in need.

Forever grateful… when Klaus treated Blake, Kaleigh, and Dalton to a flight around the island for pleasure…no detours to any hospitals!

Foggy morning thoughts

I have been struggling the past few days.

There. I said it.

Out loud.

I have been feeling out of sorts for the past few days, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. For me, that is what I find most frustrating…not being able to identify it, to name it. Because, you see, if I can name it, then I can control it, right?

The past few nights, I’ve been staying up late “enjoying” Hallmark Christmas movies, all part of Women’s Network Christmas in July programming. Normally, my bedtime is 10:00. This past week, it has been more like 1:00. I know I don’t function well the next day, if I have a late night. Still, I felt compelled to stay up. I had to say “enjoying”, because I don’t know how much I truly enjoyed, if I’ve been falling asleep on the couch part way through. Every.single.movie. Likely, a result of staying up too late the night before.

It’s a vicious cycle.

My sleep cycle has been disrupted, too. I am not waking up refreshed, ready to bounce out of bed, and enjoy the blessings of the day.

No. Not for awhile now.

I love summer on Grand Manan, largely due to our beautiful natural surroundings. I can’t help but feel grounded. I think that’s why I’ve really love sunrise at Swallowtail…feeling surrounded by the water, out on the point, away from everyone. Time to meditate, to pray, and take in God’s blessings. To really soak them in. But the past few mornings have been foggy, grey, dismal. I like to sleep with the bedroom window open in summer. Lately, I have been waking up in the morning to find Philip must have been up through the night and closed it, shutting out the overnight showers, and fog.

This morning the window was still open a tiny bit. Just enough to hear the 5 am alarm sound…the birds chirping in the birch tree just outside the bedroom window. I had decided last night, I must get back to my regular bedtime routine…I hate feeling my head is in a fog, because I didn’t get enough rest. Add to that, the foggy mornings; it has been a bit too much on my head; and spirit.

Instead of tossing in bed, not being able to get my pillows adjusted just right, and secretly panicking about contracting COVID, as I struggle to breathe comfortably (due to allergies…really), I decide to get up. I quietly went to the kitchen for a drink of water, and realize the patio door was left open all night. The kitchen is filled with that clammy feel of fog, and the slight stickiness on the flooring, as I slide the door shut. It isn’t cold at all, just a heaviness in the air, a feeling of discomfort. I don’t even hear the squirrels this morning, and the birds are now still. it isn’t quite an eerie feeling, just one of malaise.

I don’t like it. It’s been sucking the joy out of my day, my week.

I headed to the couch and picked up my iPad. My most recent notifications are from an app called Abide. I don’t even remember downloading it, but for whatever reason, the past five notification snippets of the week have popped up all at once…

“Feeling insecure? Find stability in an unstable world in Hebrews 3:14”

“Beginning to wonder if you’ll ever find peace? Romans 16:20”

“Overcoming spiritual instability Psalms 25:5“

“God will not desert you Hebrews 13:5”

“May the God of hope fill your spirit Romans 15:13”

He lets me know just what I need to hear at any given time, if I would just listen. Not once, not twice, but five days in a row. For whatever reason.

At Round Table meeting last night (our monthly “meeting of the minds” at Community Life Church, and first since pre-COVID), we were talking about how we were feeling as of late, and what we could be doing as a church. We are such social people by nature, it’s difficult to have so many restrictions being placed on what we can or cannot do in ministry. Pastor Karl mentioned not keeping regular hours at the church, but still being fully accessible in the community, as a way of somehow maintaining control over his schedule during these times. I have often spoke of my incessant need to have control over my Happy Planner. Maybe part of that is affecting how I’ve been feeling as of late…not having control over the days, or not TAKING control of the days. We’ve been marking days off as COVID free, then bam! yesterday, our first case in 15 days. I think our last stretch was 16 days? The fog has been keeping things pushed down, enveloping and constraining. It’s hard to take a deep breath, and take in what is fully available to me, despite restrictions and limitations. I need to come up for air again, and soon. I’m looking out my front window, and although the sky is lightening, the fog is very much still present. I need more sleep. I’m still not quite ready to “people”, but I will step out today and try. I committed myself to help at Thrifty’s today, and maybe lunch at Newton’s is in order (when isn’t it?!).

But for now…Parker is knocking at the door, after having stayed out all night. She will be damp from the fog, and sleeping in the grass somewhere, but she will no doubt insist on jumping up to snuggle.

I guess I just need to embrace the day, regardless?!

Don’t forget your Shopping Lists!

We went away on an Adventure today…

I started off with some apprehension, not knowing how the world has changed since I last saw it, pre-COVID times. We left the island surrounded by fog, but by the time we got to Saint John, the skies were bright, sunny and very warm.


Seriously! It was the first time I had been away since mid-February.
As always, I keep an ongoing shopping list on my phone, for the next trip to the mainland. I have been adding to my list for four months. FOUR months. There is always the list for Costco, Indigo, Michaels, and Dollarama. Then, there is usually Canadian Tire or Kents, and maybe a clothing store or two. And of course, a Teen Burger at A&W, and maybe a treat from Laura Secord.
First ferry, back on the 5:30. How am I supposed to even begin to attack a four month long list in less than twelve hours? And worse, I’m at the mercy of hubby, with his short list of only two items … actually vehicle and house essentials, so he’ll be done in no time.

Have I mentioned how much he hates shopping?
Have I mentioned how much I hate shopping with him?!

First stop. Walmart for a BBQ. Hubby had done his research ahead of time, and narrowed it down to three models, three different stores. Fail. The ONE they had in stock last night mysteriously sold before 10 am. Nowhere to be found in the store.

Second stop. Snow tires switched over for summer tires (remember me mentioning in my last blog about entering lockdown in winter, and coming out in summer?). We are at some random garage near the tracks, in a place that reminded me of a back alley warehouse for an undercover operation for a low budget Saturday night cable channel movie.

Third stop. After being asked what stores are on my list, so hubby can mentally map out the route of our adventure, he pulls up in front of Michaels. MICHAELS!!! Oh, how I’ve missed you, my friend! I am almost giddy. Then, I try to hide my huge smile, as he reaches in the back seat for his novel. You know what that means, right?! Oh, yes, be still, my beating heart. I’m about to be let loose in my version of a toy store, and hubby will be distracted (and content), for an undisclosed amount of time. My day of apprehension just got incredibly better!! I walked in, eyes full of wonder, as the store layout came flooding back in my memory, and I was reminded which aisles I must hit. I find the paint aisle, 40% off watercolor paints and brushes!! SCORE! Happy Planner aisle was somewhat dismal, but my mood was lightened when I discovered scrapbook paper packs are on sale, and I find just the one for my COVID memory book. I quickly remember my Michaels App and discover a 45% off coupon. SWEET! Forty five minutes, and we are on our way to the next stop.

Along about this time, hubby starts his wisecrack about having an eject button installed back at that garage. “But how will you be able to drive your Jeep back to the ferry, dear, if you’ve been ejected?!”

Ohhhh! It was installed in the passenger seat 🤔

Fourth stop. Kents. A possible BBQ. Dalton’s shopping list that was texted earlier has been realized.

Fifth stop. Check out one more BBQ -with little success. No, back to Kents. Ok. Four tires, one big BBQ box… equals a serious dent in any possible room for future purchases. And we still have Costco.

It must be an unwritten rule somewhere… the time Grand Mananers have for shopping on the mainland is in direct proportion to the space available in the vehicle + available shopping time until the next ferry. Happens every time!

One last item on hubby’s list. Sixth stop. Home Depot. We just so happen to walk by a Behrs paint display… I send hubby off to get his supplies, and I start to panic a bit. At the beginning of lockdown, I dreamed of time to paint my living room. I spent four months researching colors … grey-blue or grey-green? “Drizzle”, “Open Seas” and “Ebbtide” were strong contenders. I was determined to find just the right shade to do justice to both Jon Billings’ Swallowtail print, and our recent acquisition from David Ian MacDonald. And here I am, in front of the paint display with the paint chip “Crashing Waves” calling out to me. And the time has come for me to make a final decision. NOW.

I took the name as a sign, walked up to the counter before I changed my mind, and had the gallon mixed.

And it was on sale!!

Hubby shows up, we make our purchases, and check the time to see how long we can spend in Costco.

Last stop, cooler bags are filled and we are on our way.

WAIT?! What about my Teen Burger?! Ok, I can settle for Subway. It has been four, maybe even five, months since I’ve enjoyed a chicken bacon ranch sub. It’s too nice to sit in the boat line up to eat, though.

A little detour and we find a nice little spot to picnic before the ferry arrives.

Even though our friends weren’t home, we enjoyed their deck!

Sounds like a pretty good day, eh? I must confess, I was quite nervous about traveling for the first time. We arrived at the ticket office, and got asked if we have our masks. Yes. We drive aboard, past a big sign that says “Masks Must Be Worn”. We park, put on our masks and head up to the seating area. I am quite surprised by how many are NOT wearing masks. We decide the sign should actually read “Masks Must be Worn unless Social Distancing can’t be Maintained”, but it doesn’t. And we didn’t see any staff wearing masks. Once we hit the stores later, we took extra care to read all door signs, and take advantage of all sanitizers at the entrances. We had to tell our Walmart Greeter their bottle was actually empty and in need of a refill. Even if we just put some on in the Jeep, we didn’t want to appear apathetic, so added another layer. We paid extra attention to directional arrows, and got annoyed when staff didn’t actually pay attention to them. I learned a little trick at Michael’s … if you walk straight down the middle of the aisle with your shopping cart, people are less likely to come at you in the wrong direction. Unless they are staff. Argh. It worked at the other stores, at least. I made a quick trip into Bulk Barn, where you had to sanitize, then put on gloves. Do you know how hard it is to put gloves on wet hands?! They were also the worst for directional arrows… a staff member quickly appeared at the door, to go over the rules and to emphasize there was to be NO passing. That made it really difficult to get to something in aisle four, when that little old lady was only half way down aisle one. When I finally got to the check-out with my two little bags, that same sweet little lady came up behind me entirely too close, to offer me some change as I was searching the bottom of my purse. We still need some kindness in this world.

Sporting my Norwex mask!

Sitting on that deck, overlooking the water, reminded me some things have not changed in our world. There is still beauty and kindness, and I am determined to keep looking for it.

But it sure is good to be home; and I guess I can delete that list off my phone… and start a new one for my next trip to the mainland. I have decided that will not happen until either Mom’s nursing home opens up, or Cineplex opens back up. Either one, could be quite far off.

Be Our Guest!

This week started off with a most memorable visit to the Anchorage Campground to see our Grad Class 2020 set up for prom. What a gorgeous night it was! I continue to say “our” grads, not just for personal reasons (I taught several of them in my last year of teaching at GMCS), but as an Islander, as well. One of the things I love about Grand Manan has always been how the island supports its young people. This week was no different.

Approaching the campground entrance after edging forward
at a snail’s pace in the very long line (50 minutes!!)…
The whole community came out to celebrate our grads
Some estimated 140 cars lined the Anchorage Road on Prom night.
Quite the traffic jam for Grand Manan!

New Brunswick schools closed March13, as part of our State of Emergency. Teachers and support staff were finally called back at the beginning of June, to prepare final report cards and other year-end tasks. Students would not return at all, and the province had earlier made the unpopular decision to cancel all graduation activities. All public gatherings were prohibited, so there was no way schools and families would be able to gather. The public was as outraged as much as the grads were disappointed. Eventually, as local businesses began to open up with COVID restrictions starting to lift, safety guidelines and plans were required. As long as they could prove safety protocols were in place, they could open up to the public. It was about then, school districts announced some grad activities could take place, as long as a well thought-out plan was put in place, keeping student safety paramount.

I would have to say, GMCS pulled it off!

Each grad was assigned their own campsite. They were decorated individually, and a large sign at each site let guests know the names of the grad and their date. This year’s class size was quite atypical… only 21. Normally, we have 28-32.

I couldn’t decide which grad to highlight so you could see the campsites…
I finally decided on Carter, my next door neighbour!

As guests, we were directed through the park lanes so we could see each grad. Unlike being in a car parade where you showcase your float and wave to all the spectators; the spectators were the ones on display, and we waved and cheered as we drove by each couple. The local volunteer fire department was in charge of guiding us through. They often take this job on for large community events. Their involvement is always appreciated.

I know a few people had things to say when they saw the grad group shots appear online… but you have to realize, in a small community, many of these kids already shared household and friendship bubbles. Thankfully, COVID has not shown up in our community.

Church gatherings were being limited to less than 50, as outlined in our State of Emergency. COVID safety protocols would prevent the Baccalaureate service from taking place. This was very disappointing to the older generations, especially. I don’t think the grads missed sitting in a hot stuffy church in their polyester full gowns, though. I hope they know many prayers still go up in their names, for protection and guidance, especially in this pandemic. I don’t think Baccalaureate has ever been cancelled. The class of 2020 has certainly seen many “firsts”. The gathering limitations also saw the cancellation of the annual grad/parent/school staff picnic.

Then, it was time for the actual graduation ceremony. The grads could not sit together on stage. The parents and family would not have front row seats. The prize donors would not be invited, nor would the staff. Instead, each grad would be allowed two carloads to line up in the parking lot of the local community center, facing a simply decorated flatbed trailer. Speakers would be tuned in to a local FM airwave, much like the drive in movie theaters. Families would be able to listen in to the valedictory and salutatory speeches, as well as grad history and prophecy speeches. Unfortunately, the traditional grad slide show could not be shown, always a highlight. Diplomas and prize envelopes were presented together, as each grad came up one stage. A new tradition was embraced, as each grad chose a parent or family member to come up and flip their tassels, signifying they had officially made it!

Typically, the bleachers are full, as well as the gym floor,
as our community comes out in droves!
This year looked quite different!
(Photo credit: Joanne Stackhouse)

And that, was graduation. They were unable to travel afterwards for the annual Safe Grad trip, but one last event came about… a car parade down the island for one last “hooh-rah”! Congratulations, Grad Class 2020! Like Jillian said in her speech, you came into a world shadowed by 9/11, and are stepping out into a world shadowed by a pandemic. You’re living in historic times, and graduation 2020 made history in its own way. Resilience, strength and determination will carry you through life.

Graduation week ended with Grand Manan making the news for another reason. Yesterday, our mayor announced on a local radio show that visitors are not welcome on Grand Manan. Facebook lit up with posts of shock and disdain. Our summer economy largely depends on tourism. Now, our “guests” are being told to stay away. Our provincial State of Emergency has explicitly said New Brunswickers are allowed to travel within the province. Premier Higgs has been encouraging NBers to explore our province and enjoy Staycations. What a great opportunity to showcase our island! But not according to our Mayor. A few weeks ago, he suggested Grand Manan apply for our own State of Emergency to keep people away.

CBC interview that got everyone’s “knickers in a knot”

Now, I understand part of his reasoning… if we don’t have any COVID cases here, closing our doors would keep it out. But the reality is, we are not a self-sufficient community; as much as we might like to be; we still need things from the mainland. Our household typically travels to the mainland once a month. The truth is, we have not travelled off island since mid-February. I am a bit nervous of the unknown, but there are a few things I need that I can’t get on island. I will have to travel soon. We went into lock down in Winter, and we are slowly coming out in Summer. Change of seasons naturally sees some needed purchases, that just are not available here. The reality is, as people travel into other communities, we are all at risk of carrying COVID back to our home communities. That works two ways.

On top of all this, today our province further lifted other restrictions… if you own property on Grand Manan and you live outside New Brunswick, you will be allowed to come in. You will be required to isolate for 14 days, but many of these people stay all summer and contribute significantly to the local economy. They also add to the culture of the island, by frequently volunteering and donating to our non-profit groups. We want them here! We value their contributions, as they help make Grand Manan a richer place.

But you are not welcome. Mayor Greene did offer a “clarification” of his earlier statement, indicating NBers would be welcome, but he would suggest others stay home.

Mr Greene’s follow up article later that day. Regardless, the very next day, provincial guidelines now allow those from out of province into NB.

Whichever side of the fence you are on, I can respect your opinion. COVID has brought out a lot of nastiness over the past few weeks, but as Dr Russell continues to remind us, we need to show compassion and kindness. We have a beautiful island, and some great shops and cafes. Many of these businesses have struggled over these past few weeks, and will do well to stay afloat. Sadly, a few businesses have already announced they will not open this summer. Whether you agree or not with having the mainlanders come to our island, I think we should at least challenge ourselves to do our part. We can make a point of checking out a local gift shop if we need a birthday gift. We can give Amazon a break ( 🤭 ). We could eat out once in awhile, or at least pop by for ice cream or popsicles. We can promote our shops and attractions online. If it’s sunny, we can take advantage of our local beaches or trails. If it’s rainy, we can support the museum, or go online and support the Art Gallery shows.

Newton’s Mercantile & Cafe
Perfect place for frozen treats on a sunny day!
(Photos Facebook page)
Enjoying the Anchorage without all the traffic!

This morning, Garrett Travis did a fine job welcoming CBC morning listeners to our island, despite Mr Greene’s plea to stay away. You should check out Garrett’s site… Grand Manan Tourism. Thank you, Jennifer Russell, for also adding support. (CBC interview).

Southern Head cliffs

And you know what amazes me? Yet again, it’s the young people stepping up to make a difference. Thank you, Garrett! (Such a well spoken 16 year old…I can hardly wait ‘til you turn 18 and can legally have a voice!), and to the Grad Class 2020… thank you for being persistent, and finding a way to celebrate an important milestone in a responsible fashion. Most important, THANK YOU, for inviting us, your community, to take a break from all this COVID and media circus mess, and allowing us to share in your joy.

Thank you, for inviting us to “be your guest.”

Now, if we could just all step up and make each other feel welcome in our community. I am challenging myself to support our local businesses whenever I can this summer. Like any guests, we want to make people feel welcome. I came up with the hashtag #beourguestGM this morning while I was thinking about this hospitality our island is known for. So when you are out this summer enjoying Grand Manan with your family and friends, why not snap a picture, and post it with the hashtag? By the end of the summer, I bet we’ll have quite a collection of favorite memories!

The Fear of not Being Still

There have been different times on Facebook that “my” verse pops up in pics, or friends share it on my timeline, knowing its significance for me.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know the angst I’ve been feeling of late. This morning, this pops up…

Usually “my” verse pops up in my life when I need it most; when I need reminding to slow down and stop worrying. I’ll see it on a placard, someone sends me a card, or one of my spiritual mentors is speaking or writing on it. I don’t believe in lucky coincidences, or serendipity, as much as I do divine appointment… when God puts us exactly where we need to be, when we need to be, at a specific time or place. Whether that time or place is meant for my own enlightenment, or for the need of another human is not always clear to me until later. If ever.

For whatever reason, this posting popped up this morning in my Facebook feed. The lightbulb came on. These past few weeks of staying home have allowed me, albeit forced me, to slow down. I’ve had lots of time to self-reflect. This morning, it dawned on me, that my biggest fear of moving through the phases of recovery, has not been the fear of moving ahead too quickly, and fear of COVID second wave… it’s the fear of not recognizing opportunities to Be Still. Fear that returning to “normal”, could mean I fall back into my old habits of filling my Happy Planner with too many activities; even if they are good things. I still need reminding to Be Still.

I wonder what my Happy Planner would look like, if I filled in a bunch of Be Still moments, then tried to find time to plug in the “extras”… volunteer commitments, hair and car appointments, business responsibilities, etc., instead of the other way around?

Hmmmm…

Of Baselines, Norms and Labyrinths

This little guy caught my attention this morning, and got me thinking. I’ve been reflecting on our message in church yesterday. It was our first week back to church since mid-March… pre-COVID. There has been absolutely nothing normal about the last three months, or for what I am guessing, the foreseeable future.

Will the hamster find his way out?!

So much has happened over the past week, and on top of all that, my emotions are all over the place. Am I the only one feeling like I’m free-falling? I’ve been trying so hard to make sense of my changing world in the past three months, and thought I pretty much had it figured out. I was fully believing it was just a short term situation, and life would be back to normal in no time.

Premier Higgs and Dr. Russell keep telling us, as long as we follow the rules, the sooner we will get back to normal. The NEW normal. Like that little hamster above, he just wants to find his way out; to find something he recognizes. Maybe that is our greatest fear; not recognizing what we will find at the other end. We’ve entered into this thing like some mystical labrynth, not knowing which turn to take next, but praying we will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some days I feel like this hamster, ready to jump a wall (or two), and get back to living normal. Then, other days…

Our worship leader, Jon Billings, spoke this Sunday at church, while Pastor Karl took a break in the audience. I’m sorry about your laryngitis, Karl, but I always enjoy hearing Jon speak. Like you, I pack his words away to digest for later contemplation. Jon spoke on “baselines”, and Psalms 71:20.

“Baseline”. An imaginary line for measurement. Resetting the comparison. The process of managing change. The process of managing change.

The words “new mormal” kept echoing in my brain. My days in Sociology class took me back to the definition of “Norm”- the standard or pattern used for comparison. “Conventions -Standards of behavior that are socially approved and accepted.

Recently, we saw a province show contempt for a doctor who didn’t follow the rules. In the last week, New Brunswick saw its first COVID-related death. A sad day for the family of the 85-year-old Campbellton area man. The province grieved with them. Dr Russell begged us to show compassion for both families, and the people in Zone 5.

In our own community this past week, another tragedy unfolded. We lost a well loved young man in a house fire. His gentle nature and sense of humour were only outshone by his determination. His mom set the standard for what it means to fight the system for your child.

Live life full of fear and stress…or…Live life to the fullest. Which is your baseline?, Jon asked.

We have seen several baselines in the past. We are constantly being shown new standards to strive for. Those baselines were present pre-March 19, 2020. Somehow, maybe we lost sight of them. State of Emergency, lockdowns and isolation gave us time to reflect on them, but were we just too busy looking for ways to jump over the walls, instead of exploring a new path?

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭71:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/psa.71.20.niv

I am grateful our small community hasn’t had to deal with COVID at this point. My faith tells me, regardless of the future, God’s got this…and me.

an unplanned purchase on Buy & Sell this morning…
surely a sign. Really, A SIGN!

Despite all this, why have I struggled so much this past week? Jon, I know in my heart how important it is to live life fully, and I really pride myself in being a positive person. Afterall, we are living in a monumental time in history. Besides the Corona Virus and record number of deaths, we have witnessesd the launch of the NASA and SpaceX space shuttle; we watched international demonstrations fight for human rights in a way not seen for decades; we have watched communities and celebrities embrace technology and virtual concerts supporting food banks like no other time. It’s a great time to embrace life, as future generations will no doubt look in the history books with awe. We should be proud of how to we learned to be more self-sufficient, learned new things, and took up new hobbies.

But the fact remains. We haven’t made it to the other side of the labyrinth yet. And truthfully, the idea of having restrictions lifted, frightens me. It has nothing to do with the virus, or the health of my family. My anxiety has slowly started to rise as I look ahead in my Happy Planner. I have real things on the agenda now. Real appointments and meetings. Not the lighthearted things like “learn to watercolor and paint all day” or “make soup and make random deliveries” or “spend the hours beachcombing before my afternoon nap”. I quite like this new baseline I’ve been creating. I have control of it, power over the dates in the agenda. I don’t have control over life after-COVID. Yes, I have power over what goes on those pages; they are all activities I choose to put in there. But, something else is controlling how I will participate in those activities. I do not want to get into philosophical debates of wearing masks and personal freedoms, because I will do whatever it takes to protect the people I care about. It’s not about that at all. I confess, I let a sigh of relief out when we were told we couldn’t open church as hoped on the 31st. I was content to wait it out.

Then it came. The first real event on my dayplanner. The first test of what “new normal” was to look like. June 7th: 10:30am. The building was quiet as we entered well ahead of time. The sun was peeking through the front stained glass. Karl was strumming his guitar. Carl was setting up the coffee. And then I remembered. That familiar comfort in the stillness, as I found my regular seat before everyone arrived. The warm smiles as our oldest member, Vera, came in at 97, and our youngest member, Braxtan, came in at age 6. Mom’s gentle nod of permission as he looked up at her, eyes questioning if they could have their regular Sunday embrace. As I took my seat to prepare for Jon’s playlist, my heart was reassured by the very first lyrics:

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes…

Thank You, Jon. It really is up to us to declare, not just create that new baseline for ourselves; one of hope and His goodness.

Who let the cat out?!

I woke up this morning, to see the glimmer of a beautiful day ahead. I rolled over and looked for my partner in crime. She was there when I turned out the light, but did she want to get an earlier start to the day than me? (5:10am isn’t early enough?!)

Nothing.

I headed to my “Artist-in-Residence” studio, to start my new morning routine. Still no sign of her. I was able to sit and look back over this week’s accomplishments, without interruption. No one jumped on my lap, and no one meowed for breakfast.

The seascape is intended to be cut up for more bookmarks, but I will wait until I order more plastic sleeves for them. In the meantime, I’ve started another seascape, so I can keep practicing waves and sand techniques.

I head downstairs, expecting Parker to come out from some hiding place. Still no sign of her. After 30 minutes or so, there’s that familiar tapping at the door. Hmmm…

Sure enough, there she is. And ready to start her morning routine as she bounds back up the stairs. Sorry, baby, I have a feeling I know who put you out last night. All night.

Sometimes, it’s good to break away from routine, but not so much because someone else forces it upon you. It’s nice to do it when we feel ready for something new, but we learn to adjust, don’t we?!

What happens when the Humans leave?

Throughout this pandemic, I’ve spent many a day trying to navigate my “new normal”. My weekly routine looks quite different from the one I had in February.

I never realized until this morning, Parker has been doing the very same thing. She now has her “new normal”, with her favorite human💕

I love having these uninterrupted days to create, and play with my craft stash. Last weekend, as I started sorting through my craft room, I made the brilliant observation, I had enough supplies in a wide variety of craft mediums to probably last five years of isolation.

No. I’m not kidding. I know I can still pop on my computer and stroll down the aisles of Michael’s, and pick up whatever I might “need” to finish whatever project I started. And this morning, I thought I “needed” to go to Endeavours for a few things. It also helped to see big red letters announcing “SALE!”. Then I reminded myself of the shelves upon shelves of supplies, and Dave Ramsey scolding me over my shoulder. Sometimes there’s just sheer joy in “walking” through the toy store though, isn’t there?! My crafter/crafty friends will get where I’m coming from. I may go in with the intentions of picking up two sheets of paper, a roll of washi tape, or one tube of paint; but I can sure get lost for hours being sidetracked down the artistic rabbit trail. That’s part of the joy. The exploration of unlimited possibility. One project leading to another. And another.

Endeavours online store

It’s been really nice to rediscover forgotten treasures in my own toy store. This week, as we enter Week #9 of State of Emergency, I’ve decided to become more intentional with my art and craft supplies. Every morning when I get out of bed, I stroll across to my art room instead of heading downstairs. My morning routine used to consist of checking emails, scrolling through Facebook, devotionals and favorite blogs. And you know what happens, right?! I end up spending a couple of hours going down viral rabbit trails. I admire those of you that can discipline yourself to just a few minutes online. I do remind myself some of that time is justified as business related and customer service responses. And then…SQUIRREL!

On Monday, I went into my art room and pledged I would start each day painting something new. Something. Anything. I tend to jump around from medium to medium; last week I finally got around to finishing a pen and ink rendering of my church. This week, I wanted to explore watercolours more. One of the tricks Carole Forbes taught us in her art classes, is to always have an unfinished piece available. Something you can just pick up and go with, when a blank slate is too overwhelming. Well, Carole, let me tell you… you have just met the Queen of Unfinished Projects. I ALWAYS have a project that is ready to be worked on. The creative juices never have far to travel. And that is a very good thing these days, when we’re ONLY supposed to travel for essential services. Remember me saying I have enough supplies to last five years? Yep.

This morning, I walked in to this…

Parker has learned my morning routine. She was waiting for me. Before COVID-19, I imagined her day was spent catnapping on the couch, random jaunts to her food dish, and occasional naps on the placemats. I’m pretty sure she thinks those “quilts” were intended for her naps in the afternoon sun. I just know she is delighted when she discovers her Humans leave a bag of rolls on the table. She must have been in heaven last week, when the this human accidentally left a bag of donuts on the table.

Homemade donuts.

Homemade cinnamon sugar donuts.

Her favorite!

Parker’s new routine, once I scoop her off my artwork, is to sit on my lap until the morning art class is over. Then she bounds down the stairs ahead of me, checking out her food dish, as I check out the fridge. She follows me to the couch, and if there isn’t anything of interest online to her, she’ll meow to go outside for a bit. But only a few minutes, because her human is still inside, waiting for her. She will often sit on the arm of the recliner, looking out the front window. More often than not, she falls asleep, still sitting up. If she’s not careful, she slides off the arm as she nods off. Yet again. She will give her head a shake, then jump up and join me as I’m doing paperwork or reading. After catnapping on my lap, she follows me outside. Yard work is most interesting to her when the bird feeders get filled up. Afternoon catnaps on the deck are much preferred to the ones on the kitchen table, especially as the temperatures rise. This human doesn’t scold her as much either, if she chooses the lawn hair instead. Supper preparations still offer hope of dropped remnants. Evenings on the couch with Philip aren’t nearly the same without baseball games to watch. There appears to be entertainment value for him, watching Fox and CNN, but Parker sees no value in watching escapades from a man in front of a White House. I have to agree with you, Parker.

The end of the day now includes Parker bounding up the stairs, as if to race me to the bigger quilt. As I go through my bedtime routine in the bathroom, Parker is kneading various patches of the quilt. She never finds quite the right spot to lay down until I slip underneath the covers. The best spot is on my chest; rubbing up against my sudoku book and trying to gnaw on the pen; until she gets shoved aside. She finally settles in when, and only when, the light gets turned off, snoozing away until her art class can begin again in the morning.

This whole bedtime routine has been new to her since SOE started, even her daily routine is new, just like mine. I wonder what she senses? I wonder what she will do when her “new normal” gets disrupted again, and her human doesn’t take time to play anymore, and heads out the door for extended periods, without her? Time will tell.

**this blog post is dedicated to a dear lady, Barbara Ingersoll. While we spent time at IWK, Dalton (and me!) would look forward to cards from Barb, updating us with the latest antics of Jake the cat. They always brought a smile. Thank you Barb, for that gift!

Mother’s Day 2020…Another day on the calendar

I’ve been sort of caught off guard this Mother’s Day.

I had a customer order a Thirty One Gifts bag for her mom last month, and at the time, she asked me if it would be here in time for Mother’s Day. I had no doubt in my mind it would be…Mother’s Day was weeks and weeks away. I soon discovered ALL my orders were running slower than usual, due to COVID-19. When this all started, I was pleased to learn all the companies were still proceeding “Business as usual”, being deemed “essential”, as food or safety manufacturing. I was more concerned about shut downs and State of Emergencies in various regions. After a couple of weeks, it started to hit. Most businesses were still producing, but the new workplace safety standards meant social distancing and staff cutbacks. This of course all meant, ordering and packaging might become a bit slower. Once goods got out of the various warehouses, it was next met with slower trucking and deliveries, again with social distancing, staff reductions, and often reduced hours. I am grateful for these people that remain part of our “essential services”, including our courier trucks that get things to our front door, and to staff at Canada Post (thanks, Andrea, for putting up with my incessant stalking at the post office, inquiring “is it here yet?”…but at least we got to visit for a bit!).

But what does this all have to do with Mother’s Day? Well, part of it is my present frame of mind. During this time of isolation, I have had little need for my Happy Planner and wall calendar. Unless, of course, you have a Jon Billings 2020 calendar! (Check him out here, Jon Billings Photography website). March is one of my favorite photos, “my” piece of driftwood at “my” beach, and July is my most favorite photo of Swallowtail EVER… so in reality, I should leave it on March, until July gets here. Sorry, April, May and June. Without the daily use of a calendar, I am not paying much attention to significant occasions, such as Mother’s Day. And, since it sort of snuck up on me, I’m not getting caught up in the commercial side of Mother’s Day. I hope that doesn’t ruin it for my customers. I ran my Saturday virtual market yesterday, and decided last minute to throw in a couple Mother’s Day deals, more as a thank you to my customers than a celebration of the day.

I had decided already that I wouldn’t call my mom on Mother’s Day. I did FaceTime her in the nursing home earlier this week. I didn’t mention Mother’s Day, mainly because I forgot it was this weekend. And when I did remember, I decided to still not to, because I know it’s the busiest day of the year for phone calls. At Shannex, this would mean the staff would have to take extra time out of their work schedule to set it up, and they have plenty of other residents who would likely be dealing with the same desire; so I won’t add to that. And I don’t think it would make a difference at all to mom. She may or may not know what day it is, again, similar to my own mindset…the days of isolation run together, and one day is not much different from another. That’s it…no need to celebrate Mother’s Day this year. I was sort of getting down on myself, because conversations with my mom have not gone well, for a variety of reasons, for a very long time. Friday morning, I decided I was not going to feel guilty about that. I just need to accept it, and keep moving forward.

Then it happened. I get a text from my brother later that morning. He wanted to know if we wanted to send flowers to mom, and sign it from us three kids. I suppose, I could at least do that. “Great! You look after the ordering and delivery, and I’ll send you money”. Of course. He’s the one who lives in Fredericton, and has access to all the places to get flowers, but I’m the one with the “get it done” skill set. So “we” ordered flowers, and they were delivered yesterday. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

Please, I don’t mean or want to sound ungrateful. But when I started to text my sister about the delivery, I was reminded this would be her first Mother’s Day without one of her children. And my eyes welled up. She and Nathaniel had a very, very special bond that can never be broken. It came with a lifetime of brokenness, a mutual understanding and respect that life was never fair, and there was always going to be hard times. When Nathaniel started going through some hard times, she “got it”. She really got it. Unlike any of us ever could, despite wanting to share in the burden, praying we could make that mom’s heartache a little bit lighter. I’m so thankful my niece, Jordan, recognizes the treasure of a mother she has. To top it off, yesterday marked six months since he passed away. So I don’t really want to celebrate Mother’s Day for that reason, too. You are such a great mom, Sherri xoxo.

So, here I sit on my couch, Sunday morning. I’m skipping church again, until later. We woke up to snow on the ground. Not a lot, certainly not like Fredericton and up river. It’s May 9th, and it snowed. I know some people are really upset by this. As the continual optimist, I get excited anytime it snows. I looked out this morning, and although a blanket of snow covered the Jeeps, the patch of grass along side it was green…so very, very green. That shade of green you see after a spring rain; that reminds you of all that spring has promised. And that patch was surrounded by glistening white.

There are so many people trying not to celebrate Mother’s Day today. May we be kind, and not scatter around feelings of guilt and inadequacy. If we choose not to mark the day on the calendar, so be it. But like those beautiful daffodils that Dalton planted many years ago in his childhood, may we all be reminded the sun will come out again. The snow will melt away. I’m so very grateful to the women (and men!) that shared their nurturing spirit with me, and taught me the value of motherhood, and encouraged me when being a mom was so very hard. Let’s celebrate that! Happy May 10th! 💐