An Attitude of Gratitude

Research shows that practicing gratitude can be beneficial for our overall health…physically, socially, spiritually and emotionally. This translates into better health habits, and healthier bodies. Gratitude can help restore our sleep patterns, making us feel more rested in the mornings and better able to face the day. Gratitude journaling before bed, or first thing in the morning can help improve a good nights sleep. Gratitude increases patience, and lessens our chances of burnout. Grateful people are less materialistic, and are drawn to minimalism trends, in home and surroundings. Less chaos gives way for more peace of mind. Expressing gratitude has shown to aid in reducing aches and pains in our body. It has been observed that levels of aggression decrease, not only in children, but adults, as well. Imagine what this could do for inmates, or special care facilities?

So grateful for love and support of friends and family

Robert Emmons, PhD, suggests expressing gratitude can increase our overall happiness by 25%. This reflects in improved self esteem and social relationships. This is a two way street…we feel better when we acknowledge kindness and thanksgiving from others, as well as being the giver of kind deeds. Gratitude, kindness, and love are all interrelated, making it very evident that love DOES make the world go round. If everyone were to practice gratitude in their own lives, not only would we see the health benefits in our own lives, but those around us…in our relationships with our significant others, with our children, with our co-workers, with our neighbours, with our communities. Dr.Jennifer Russell, NB Chief Medical Officer, has continually reminded us to be kind throughout this pandemic, and for good reason. It is a stressful time for many; and a little kindness and gratitude for those around us can go a long ways.

Strengthened resiliency is a long term effect of a gratitude mindset. Resiliency is the ability to “bounce back” from what life throws at us. This includes building our immune system, so we handle stress better. If we sleep better, our bodies are better able to handle life’s little “speedbumps”. If we develop stronger, caring relationships, we build a stronger support network; a definite asset when times get rough. Gratitude can have a direct impact on all of these.

In the Christian faith, “Eucaristeo” comes from the Greek word for “thanksgiving”, but as Ann Voskamp explores more in her book, it really means the JOY and GRACE that comes in the thanksgiving, and in this instance, around Jesus and the Last Supper. Despite the intense agony that would follow in the crucifixion, Jesus was letting the disciples know, joy would follow, even in the hard times; especially in the hard times.

Having an “Attitude of Gratitude” really can improve our well-being, and overall health and wellness.

Being grateful all the time isn’t easy. But it’s when you least feel thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective. Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest most powerful way to effect change in your life — this I know for sure. ~Oprah Winfrey

Attitude of Gratitude: Resource List (Books, websites, Facebook pages)

Try adding these daily gratitude prompts to your calendar or journal!

Heather Brown website: https://inspireexplorecreateempower.wordpress.com

Facebook Page: Inspire, Explore, Create, Empower

Robert Emmons: THANKS! HOW THE NEW SCIENCE OF GRATITUDE CAN MAKE YOU HAPPIER

Sarah Ban Breathnach:  SIMPLE ABUNDANCE

Ann Voskamp: ONE THOUSAND GIFTS (book, http://www.annvoskamp.com, Facebook)

Karl Staib: BRING GRATITUDE (book and website, bringgratitude.com)

Abraham Hicks: RAMPAGE OF APPRECIATION

Katherine Furman: THE GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Lori Deschene: TINY BUDDHA GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Pretty Simple Press: START WITH GRATITUDE: A 52 WEEK GUIDE

Louise Hays: GRATITUDE: A WAY OF LIFE

Gratitude Gals: Facebook page

Daring to Live Fully: https://daringtolivefuly.com

GRATITUDE ACTIVITIES: Gratitude letter: to a teacher, parent or mentor. Gratitude Visit (mentor, teacher, etc., to share that letter). Gratitude Stroll (use all your senses).

GRATITUDE PARTNER for a week: Choose a person to check in with daily for the next week, reporting examples of gratitude you witnessed or experienced.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you each find something to be truly grateful for today.

Changing Seasons

We change our clothes. We change our shoes. We change the sheets on our bed. We change a lightbulb. We change our winter tires. We change the batteries in our smoke detectors.

Wellness Walk & Talk: Net Point

Life is about changes. I am easily reminded of this, as summer turned into fall. Looking back over this year, I think that has been one of the hardest adjustments through COVID… we entered into lockdown during the end of the Winter season, and stayed in hibernation for the most part, through Spring. As some restrictions began to be lifted, we were sliding into mid-Summer. Here we are, welcoming Fall, and life is still about changes, unlike we have ever seen.

I remember thinking back to early Spring, I needed to get the winter tires off, and regular warranty work done on my Jeep, which would mean a trip to the mainland. I hadn’t been driving much, as I “stayed the blazes” home, so vehicle maintenance wasn’t high on the list. The world had stopped in a lot of ways, but the seasons continued around us. For awhile, I couldn’t get to my favorite park and beaches, so I didn’t even notice the seasons changing.

Life was surreal. We are very fortunate on our island to not have encountered the virus, but many of us watch in shock as friends and relatives in other parts of the country prepare for a second wave. Those rising numbers keep us in our bubble, and insulate us from reality.

Changes are still all around us. My calendar pages got stuck on a month, as I didn’t have any commitments that needed attending to. I could easily rely on Facebook for birthday reminders. So I saw no need to skip ahead to the next month, except to view Jon Billings’ next photo. I was quite intentional about getting out for walks and hikes around the island, and I have taken note of the seasonal changes; as temperatures warmed, and cooled, and rose again for awhile. My choice in footwear from sandals to flats; sneakers and socks to hiking boots, reflected those changes, and changes in life itself. As a new school year began, everyone is adjusting to new changes. A LOT of new changes. As a retired teacher, life for me always revolved around the beginning of a new school year. Old habits die hard, as I looked forward to fresh beginnings in September, not January, like most people.

I have been thoroughly enjoying leading my Wellness Walk & Talks since mid summer. I had originally planned on only hosting them for the summer, but soon learned my group wanted to continue into the fall. Being my favorite season, I am happy to oblige. The changing colours of the hardwood are hard to match. These walks were intended to share my love of our island beauty, especially with people who may not get out walking on a regular basis. We have shared some great conversations about life, including how our everyday worlds have changed. One lady, a widow, commented how her life hadn’t really changed much, as she was used to being home alone, anyway. What she did mind, was her sense of community. Many activities we enjoy on our island were cancelled, or had changed significantly; many of our “summer friends” weren’t even allowed to travel to our island. The social comradery had been completely stripped away. Community Markets looked very different as they opened up again, only taking place once a month now. Rotary BBQs were no longer about getting together with neighbours, but still enjoying good meals. Going to the Independent is now totally for function… no longer a chance to say Hi and visit with your neighbour. She was right…our sense of community has changed, and we look to online community to keep us in touch with each other as opposed to personal visits.

We change our minds. We change our attitude. We change our habits. Whether we like it or not, life is all about change. Our ability to change with it is what makes us stronger. Sometimes that isn’t easy. Being flexible builds our sense of resiliency. It’s that resiliency that makes us stronger humans; it builds determination and often faith, to get us through the toughest hurdles. As adults, perhaps one of the greatest traits we can nurture in our children, is resiliency. We can give them the power to cope with whatever life throws their way. Some people may turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping; but all that does is keep a person in denial, and unable to face the challenges ahead. There are other addictions that seem less harmful, such pouring yourself into work, or extreme fitness routines; but again, if we refuse to accept the inevitable, we can create more problems for ourselves. Unfortunately, acceptance or denial does not just have an individual impact, it affects those around us, including those closest to us. Our relationships begin to suffer, our stress levels go up, our work environment may even be impacted.

The first step in resiliency is recognizing, and acknowledging, a change is indeed impacting us. Take time to grasp it, and admit it may take you awhile to work through it… but you WILL get through it. Talking with a trusted friend, taking a walk on a beach or wooded area, journalling, or time spent in prayer are good ways to initially face any crisis or change head-on.

It also helps to understand that not everyone will deal with the same change in a similar fashion. We all come from a variety of backgrounds that will affect how we face each new change. It may take some people longer than others to work through it as well. We are all on our own unique journey, and sometimes there are different paths to reach a similar destination.

Wellness Walk & Talk: Castalia Marsh Retreat

Sometimes, we might have to admit we are lost, too; and need to ask for help. Pride, denial, embarrassment are all emotions that can paralyze us and prevent us from moving forward. It is okay to reach out and say “I am struggling”. Instead of saying “I can’t do this”, be kind to yourself with a gentle reminder, “I can’t do this YET”. The great thing is, our brain remembers…once it learns how to handle something, the next time we are in a similar situation, it reminds us of what worked last time. And it gets EASIER. That may include reaching out for professional help; whether it be through your family doctor, Mental Health or private couselling /coaching. There are many resources available right here in our own community.

Transition and change can be difficult. Look for the beauty in the changes. One walk down any wooden trail right now is a sure reminder that changing seasons each have a beauty all their own. We just have to be open to the next season awaiting us, and be prepared. Bring along an extra sweater, and maybe your orange vest for right now. I’m so glad we are all walking each other home.

When you wish upon a star…

Every August, I look forward to the best nights of the year, when the meteor showers are at their finest; evenings are still warm; old friends come to visit and the crickets create beautiful background soundtracks … and I have immense gratitude for the space on our back deck as summer days end.

photo credit: Katrina Gaunce

I was jealous of Katrina’s photo from her back deck in Castalia. I have yet to figure out settings on my camera to get adequate, let alone superb, night shots. Katrina tells us she just got a new phone. It does take great shots!

I love laying back in my lawn chair and watching, waiting, for the shooting stars. There is a thrill of seeing one, two, or more, just as much as counting the many shades of gold and pink up at Swallowtail sunrise. The problem is, I just can’t seem to swing both anymore! If I’m up until 12 or 1 for shooting stars, I just can’t seem to pull myself out of bed at 5 for the sunrise, too. I was talking about this problem over lunch the other day with someone, and he jokingly suggested I must be getting old.

The nerve!!

Whenever Dale & Jean come to visit, one of my treasured memories is spending time on the deck, catching up on life over the past year and watching for the stars. Inevitably, stories emerge of other acquaintances we have made over our 35 years of friendship. This year did not disappoint. The first couple I saw were actually the brightest I had ever seen. They reminded me of my cheesy Hallmark movies, where the soul mates get an unexpected surprise of that one shooting star that is perfectly orchestrated to pass, just as they first kiss. You know it is just the magic of cinematography, but you secretly sigh in happiness. My heart skipped a beat when I first saw it, and was saddened that Dale missed it, while looking the other direction. Then I saw the second one, just as bright, and just as cheesy. The next dozen or so were mediocre in comparison, but still so beautiful. For the next week, I would go out each night, hoping for a replay. I did enjoy a few more, and a couple of nights I had to grab my blanket. One night Parker surprised me in the dark and jumped up on my lap, soon to be purring contently. I don’t know if there were fewer shooting stars, or if I just kept dozing in and out of consciousness, missing them altogether. Now there are hints of fall in the evening air, and I chose to go to bed earlier… a couple of times so I could get up early for a trek out to Swallowtail.

This month my late night excursions have given way to other lingering thoughts. It has been exactly one year since my mom was admitted to the hospital with mounting health and safety concerns and signs of dementia. I scrolled through last summer’s blogposts and recognize the tune “Somewhere out there”, wondering what mom is thinking now under these same stars. A lot has happened since then, as she was placed in a lovely nursing home near our old home. Sadly, she never recognizes those surroundings or her fortune, continuing to be disappointed and tormented with life. This month also saw her take another plummet, and now she waits for placement in another home, where her rising needs can be better met. I should back-step and say, our family awaits, not her, as change will once again be surely hard for her, as always.

This month has proven to be challenging. Some days it is harder to see the stars than others. Sometimes the fog moves in and out around the deck; sometimes the clouds roll in half way across the evening sky, blocking any stars. Hubby took a tumble and is now on crutches, unable to return to work until October. I am now chauffeur for when he does have to run into work for weekly paperwork/meetings and doctor appointments here, and SJRH. Shared household errands like laundry, dump runs and meals are now solo tasks. Our fridge died while hosting house guests… I like camping, but living out of a cooler during Grand Manan heat wave is not fun. (and yes, heatwaves do exist here; we actually hit record temperatures a couple of days!) COVID interruptions made getting a replacement fridge challenging, but we did. Kiddo’s well is so low, I’m doing his laundry at our place. I was so hoping to get to Ontario this summer to see my sister, but not with COVID. Some days, I’ve started to wonder if it is safe to even leave the deck!!

“God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light. And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I
So will I
So will I If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times”

Thanks for the reminder at church last Sunday, Jon. I needed to hear this.

Here’s the video… So Will I

(Etsy seller ScreenMasters: https://www.etsy.com/cart/?show_cart=3417292553&ref=listing_page)

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.