From my Hands to Yours

(Disclaimer: I started writing this one month ago amidst the beginning of our “can’t see the grandkids” experience due to this Covid-19 pandemic. I couldn’t finish it that day because I became too weepy. These days of Facetime visits and video updates bring small delights, but I still miss his little hands.)

I spent the last few days putting together an assortment of hands-on items into an activity book for our 5 month-old grandson. The finished product made its way into his realm of discovery yesterday. I didn’t see his immediate response to it, or have the opportunity to guide his wee hands over the pages. Our son and daughter-in-law picked it up from our front porch allowing for the necessary social distancing. I stood near but away from the assembled bins and bags I had carefully packed to transfer to their home.

The conversation we shared as they gathered up the goods framed the feelings we conveyed by the looks we gave each other. Disbelief and dismay etched on our faces as we recognized we would usually be enveloped in each other’s hugs at a time like this. I could only share quick explanations of what I had put together for them since little Fraser began crying as he sat alone in the car, strapped into his safe and isolated car seat.

Our front porch, a loading and pick-up zone, a bridge between our home to theirs. A station at which I place carefully chosen things I would like to share with them, but cannot at this time because I am too vulnerable to be in close proximity with them.

As I contemplate what I miss most during these weeks of social distancing and isolation from my grandson, I struggle with the loss of the softness and sureness of his little hands. I want so desperately to simply connect again in the way that Nana’s have all through time.

My hands to yours…

Little one, I cannot lift up your tiny fingers and marvel at your strong clasp on mine. Little one, I cannot trace the designs of your movements as you tactilely define your environment. I cannot see every nuance of your little eyes as they light up with delight or discovery. I only know that as I poured my heart and soul, my imagination and creativity into this unique baby activity book for you, I gathered up your little hands into mine and somehow, someway, spiritually or purely because our love exists without physical boundaries…I opened this book with you.

My hands to yours…

To Hear His Voice

I grew up in a small town in which the local churches took turns hosting mid-week Lenten services. As we worshipped together, we benefited by hearing about God from fresh perspectives through different faith backgrounds.

The hymnals featured unknown arrangements of songs, but the choirs always led wayward singers to the appropriate Hallelujahs. The prayers sometimes seemed strange, but they all got around to Amen with or without everyone following each response.

When I went to live on campus during my college years, I discovered that reading through the Psalms kept me grounded during Lent. I attended chapel services and became active in the Religious Life Council which brought the traveling Great Commission to our school during one spring-term. The new era of emotional Christian rock music broadened my lexicon of hymns with worship songs that could bring forth responsive moments when I sang.

When I married and moved from place to place with my husband, we attended the local churches celebrating Lent in a New England Congregational church, in a Virginian Methodist church, a North Carolina Presbyterian church, a United Church of Canada, and an Alliance Missionary Church of Canada. Navigating our way through the different approaches to Lent gave us the opportunity To Hear His Voice from a fresh perspective in varied places.

Presently I am focusing on Jesus and how He prayed.

He too wanted and needed… To Hear His Voice… the guidance and wisdom of His Father, our God. He prayed for us, and for the purpose of his life to be fulfilled.

Mark 1:35-37 (NIV)

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him and when they found him, they exclaimed “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.”

Jesus prayed.

Jesus prayed and lived through the ultimate human yearning…To Hear His Voice. He prayed in humility yet with authority. He prayed in gentleness yet with intensity. He prayed in expectation yet with compassion. He prayed for us and He prays with us when we seek His presence today.

Jesus prayed and then He listened…To Hear His Voice.

I cannot immerse myself into Lent without the multitude of songs that come to mind from the history of my worship experiences. Yet this year the season is freshly new as I begin each day praying fervently for the presence of Jesus and to gain His fresh perspective for my life.

Praying and seeking …To Hear His Voice.

When I worked in a high school supporting special needs students, I sometimes had to search for a student who had taken a walk to escape too much human interaction. In fact, we often encouraged our students to use a separation strategy by taking a walk as a calming tool, or as a venting escape.  We hoped that they would allow a companion on these walks so that it became either a time to provide silent support or an opportunity for a walk-and-talk. A chance to gain a fresh perspective! However, in a meltdown of feelings often a student would head out on his own and quickly outpace me. So, I would go on a search.

Thankfully our school campus had boundaries surrounded by sports fields and country roads.  Thankfully our students created repeated routes that they would pace on these rare occasions. One day I had followed the predictable path of one student over and over again. Every time I turned a corner, I expected to see him in a usual place or with a trusted staff member. As I grew increasingly worried, I circled the outer grounds following the sidewalk that led to the baseball fields. Suddenly I saw him walking towards me with a huge grin on his face. As I neared, he exclaimed, “Mrs. Ford, I found you!”

Imagine that! Sometime along his walk his perspective changed, and he believed that he needed to find me!

I have often replayed that scene in my mind as I ponder what it feels like to be found. To realize that someone wants to come to you so that you may share a walk-and-talk or silent companionship.  To seek for someone and to find someone. To rejoice when found.

When the disciples went looking for Jesus in exasperation because “Everyone is looking for you” He very well could have said, “Simon, I found you!”

We forget that as we pray yearning to Hear His voice, He finds us.

I pray that we may sense and know that Jesus continues to find us. He constantly approaches us with joyful delight, to encourage us to continue on our walk-and-talks together so that we may fulfill our life purposes, with fresh perspectives.

Praying and continually seeking …To Hear His Voice.

On a walk?  Listen… To hear His voice… To gain fresh perspectives

Get Your Spots On!

I put my cheetah pants on today. If not for any other reason than they make me feel close to my granddaughter. I cannot see her physically these days due to social distancing guidelines. She adores cheetahs and immerses herself in imaginative cheetah scenarios.

Roar*! Cheetahs fearlessly greet the morning with awareness, confidence, boldness. Roar! Yes the day begins!

(*Keep in mind that cheetahs actually have a loud growling purr and chirp, not really a roar – their version of a roar!)

As I sip my coffee and wonder if or when I should listen to the daily news reports, I am mesmerized by the patterns of cheetah spots covering my pants legs. I know, plunked in the isolation of my home my mind aimlessly settles on the absurd.

The cheetah rises up to stretch, arching its back to awaken the pulsing blood coursing through its body. Rolling its neck as it scans the periphery of its location. The folds of its skin undulate in slow motion, disguising the musculature that smoulders, ready to ignite. Beneath lies hidden the unrelenting power to surge forth as needed to pursue and pounce on unsuspecting prey.

Fascinating this pretend play, I find myself breathing deeply to rejuvenate the resources my body requires to attack this day. I close my eyes and wonder if I could be like a cheetah…aware, confident, bold. Roar!

Although I understand that I must be responsible and stay at home to fight this virus; I refuse to be ignorant, scared, or timid. I want my pattern of behaviour to reflect that when this virus chose to invade my territory I woke up and allowed the power coursing through me to activate all my senses. It may come within striking distance, but let me be aware, confident and bold.

I am ever grateful knowing that the power within me has as its source my faith and trust in the Lord. With every breath I am renewed by the strength and protection provided by and through His great love. I may be warmed by these cheetah pants, but my true pattern of hope begins and continues through the love that covers me everyday. His love. His great love. His love that constantly battles for us and with us against this virus.

Keep praying. He begins each day with us and for us. Keep praying. His pattern of love covers any pattern of fear. Wake up your senses, scan your horizon and move forward. Aware, confident, bold.

What plans do you have today? What will you put on to give yourself a bit of direction in the course of your day? I’m wearing my cheetah pants. I’m going to dig out that retro cheetah fleece jacket my mother gave me and then make a silly video to send to my grandkids. Roar! This Nana will dance and close the gap of isolation with cyber distancing craziness.

Today let’s create a pattern of hope with awareness, confidence and boldness. Let’s not be the prey, let’s be the cheetah. Get your spots on!!

Here, Grip my Hope

Who could ever imagine that March 2020 would bring about this worldwide pandemic, this life or death crisis. How do we walk through this together? How do we remind each other that despite the weight of what may come next we can lighten each other’s spirit and each other’s perspective. Even as we cannot take each other’s hand physically, we can grip firmly and boldly to share each other’s hope.

Here, take my hand. Take my assurance and encouragement. Here, grip my hope, I will never let you go!

I walk around moving within a constant prayer, holding up each of my loved ones to be guarded and protected from this deadly virus. My emotions seem spent before the sun even rises, as I place my heart and spirit in close proximity to those who live in separation from me.

Here, take my hand. Take my assurance and encouragement. Here, grip my hope.

I woke up this morning recalling the way our youngest son walked with us as a toddler and preschooler. For whatever reason he needed to know that we held his hand in a solid grasp. We would offer our hand in front of him and he would reach out to slide his into ours. But as that little hand became ensconced in safety, he paused. He waited until he felt a tug that assured him we definitely had him in our grip. We took hold of him, but actually had to gently pull him forward before he began walking next to us.

This morning I wanted that. Before my feet hit the floor as I ventured from my bedside, I wanted to know that my hand would be gripped in a sure and steady grasp. I wanted to feel a grip of hope.

Lord, tug me forward. Lord guide me to walk through this with your wisdom, your mercy, your kindness, your hope.

Even as I contemplate how to help others through this, I pray wholeheartedly for the ability to offer hope to anyone who needs to come into close proximity of it as each day unfolds. Don’t let it move too far forward, don’t let it be barred by an expanse that becomes unreachable. In this time of social distancing, don’t hesitate, reach. Place your hand beyond your fear.

I promise I will wait for you. I will take hold of you in prayer, with words of encouragement, with ways to promote laughter and lightheartedness amidst this crisis. I will tug you along on this long walk that winds before us.

I will take your hand, I will let you feel the grip of my hope.

Before the Sun Rises

Before the sun rises, before the last snow will trickle into puddles of water and disappear, before the silence of the house gives way to us trying to prepare for the grandchildren, before any of this, I begin my morning with thoughts cascading through my mind.

Thoughts of hope, thoughts of love, thoughts of anticipation for what comes next.  Afterall, even though I couldn’t sleep longer than 4:38 AM, I am grateful for being able to sneak out of bed. Grateful to be awake, to peer out into the backyard to see if any wildlife roamed through our yard during the night.  Ever marveling at the tranquility of early snow and the advantage it allows us to see the traces and tracks left behind from our nightly visitors. 

Up early, reflecting and remembering Novembers through the years. We will leave in a few short days to travel to my childhood home, so we can gather to celebrate American Thanksgiving with my side of the family. So much to do before we leave, so much to prepare as we leave Canada behind for a short visit to Pennsylvania. In the room we now call Finn’s room, because he sleeps in a crib in there, our clothes cover the bed waiting for their turn to be rolled and stuffed into our suitcases.  It has to be done before those kiddies arrive or they might roll on top of them, throw them into the air and then hide underneath them. What else do you do at Nana and Pop-Pop’s except become silly, laugh and generally do things that Mom and Dad would disprove.

Soon they will make their own tracks throughout the house!  Violet, 4 and Finn just barely 18 months, running about laughing, as Violet calls out, “Catch me Finn, catch me!”  Finn taking the shortcut behind the sofa in the family room and popping out into the kitchen before Violet can make the longer run ahead of him.  As Brad would say, “total mayhem, total mayhem.”

Pop-Pop Brad needs to inflate Frosty the Snowman and Snow the Squirrel before the grandkids arrive. They come to life on our back deck so the kiddies can watch them bop about as they eat in the kitchen.  I always disliked those inflatable decorations until our grandkids helped me discover the delight they bring.  Yes, we have already transformed our home into Christmastime complete with the Christmas tree sitting prominently in our family room.  We have a stuffed moose standing below it waiting to be hidden as the prime target in an upcoming Hide the Moose hunt.  For Canadian Thanksgiving in October, we played Hide the Turkey with the stuffed turkey my mother made so long ago.

It will be Christmas fun that we leave behind when we travel to celebrate Thanksgiving one more time.  Here in Calgary as across Canada, Christmas activities filter in shortly after the Remembrance Day weekend, Veterans Day for all the American readers. All through our married lives, Brad and I made certain that we recognized both Canadian and American Thanksgiving.  It didn’t matter where we lived, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, and now Calgary. We consistently made sure that we noted both holidays and incorporated all the traditions in October and November.  Admittedly though, nothing compares to my hometown American Thanksgiving.  In my small town, as in so many others across America, Thanksgiving summoned so many traditions, so much anticipation, and so much food!

But this morning, I begin in a muddle of thoughts. I have a gingerbread house ready to be decorated with Violet this afternoon.  It’s going to be a create-with-Nana afternoon, while Finn naps.  Pop-Pop and Donald will head to the Canadian Grey Cup football game here in Calgary, complete with Keith Urban headlining the half-time show! Kim leaves for a speech pathologist conference this morning, so with no Daddy, Mommy nor Pop-Pop around, Nana is on duty. They will also enjoy a sleepover and a full day tomorrow with us until their Daddy picks them up after his workday.  That leaves a few tired hours to do last minute packing and preparing before we fly away to Pennsylvania very early Tuesday morning.

Given the logistics I should have stayed in bed.  I should have tried to go back to sleep. However, I woke up and pictured our newest grandson, Fraser, only one month old.  He will change considerably before we return from our USA Thanksgiving visit. My Nana heart wants to stay home and cuddle him in these early weeks.  This trip came about unexpectantly as a reschedule from our planned May vacation plans.  Just prior to packing our suitcases then, our precious little dog, Dusty, became very ill. He had battled a stomach cancer since January, but by April seemed to have a resurgence in energy, a sort of remission from pain and problems.  With vet approval we planned our trip to Pennsylvania for May and booked Dusty for a “camp” stay at the local Springbank Pet Resort.  We felt at ease with Dusty staying there since his vet worked right next store in the Springbank Veterinarian clinic.  Unfortunately, Dusty had a downturn days before our time to leave.  To salvage our flights, we rescheduled when we cancelled. Back then, it seemed reasonable to travel one month after Chris and Catherine’s baby was due.  Now it causes heart pangs for Nana.

However, I am looking forward to spending time with my 89-year-old mother. We will be cooking and baking in her kitchen, visiting the extended family, talking, reminiscing, creating moments to treasure.

The day here begins with this pause. This quiet reflection. I picture the weeks ahead with mother, pulling up a kitchen stool as we enjoy morning coffee together, planning what we will cook that day.  I recognize a similar scene in my own kitchen.  As soon as I end this bit of writing I will pull out some butter to soften on my kitchen counter.  I will peel and chop some apples for the cinnamon apple muffins I will bake as a treat for the grandkids.  The house will fill with home cooking scents that will greet them when they arrive. A long time ago I learned to cook in the kitchen with my mother, and now I reinvent the scene in my own home. 

As the circle of time spins forward, in a few short days I will cook again in the kitchen of my childhood.  For that and for these times I am ever grateful.

Perhaps I will have a few sleepless early mornings there as well. I will awake, before the sun rises, and reflect on enjoying the Thanksgiving season. Because no matter when I celebrate gratitude, my heart rejoices.

Trusting for the Words

The art of writing requires TRUST.  I hold a pen, I await the thoughts to arise.  As quickly as the ideas surface, I scribble them out onto my page.  Wait I am not merely scribbling, am I?  Surely these thoughts deserve more than a smattering of ink touching paper, they demand or perhaps expect to land with dignity, with respect.

I am choosing words to relate to others, to purposely and persistently probe my mind for the images that might resonate with family, friends, and strangers.  Writing requires this TRUST, the unseen mysterious momentum that urges my words to appear and then be shared.

It occurs to me that if a blog exists to provide words for others to read then it should be led by a mission statement, a reasonable guideline of sorts should surround my thoughts.

So, I begin again, to write here on my blog to literally expose my traumatic brain injury (TBI) recovery through my own words, my observations, and my understanding.  My mission statement – To offer a glimpse of hope to myself and to others who struggle with brain blurs!  What do I mean by brain blurs?  The moment when you try to hold onto a thought or an idea and then it disappears as if someone finger painted it into a lovely smear.

Its lovely because underneath its smudged colours lies a sweet, simple thought you managed to think forth.  Yet the smear so completely covers it, you can’t possibly rescue it.  The idea simply cannot be retrieved at present, it has become a brain blur.

Maybe you call it shutting down or hitting the wall.  The non-TBI world would call it forgetfulness, or with age a senior moment; scoffing at how seriously my brain blur affects me.  For me, and maybe for others with TBI, a brain blur throws me off course in the moment and/or perhaps for a longer period of time. It may trigger physical difficulties, anxiety or the anguish of thinking “uh-oh, what does everybody else see when my brain blur overtakes me?”

Fortunately for me, these brain blurs are happening less frequently.  However, when they do, they are still as debilitating and impacting as they have been for the past two years of my recovery.  That I can now actually focus on a mission statement offers me hope that I am regaining the ability to draw images from my mind and re-establish the ability to TRUST my words.

Feather of Mine

A number of years ago I took a graphic arts course in which we needed to create a logo for ourselves.  In fact, we had to hand-draw it, so obviously this happened in the time before internet ready-made downloads offered printed logos that could be selected and then “Photoshopped” to perfection.  I chose a feather, one with haphazard edges that represented to me at least, rugged days of wear and tear. I drew folded-over edges and creases that left my feather looking bent and crooked but as I surmised, a feather with personality!

A feather that had withstood its adaptation to the unknown environment of a forest floor.  A feather that had survived crushing forces of hiking boots, shuffling kicks from hooved animals, and flattening shoves of thrown backpacks.  I imagined my feather being discarded from its winged home, falling to the ground much like I would lose a strand of hair by brushing against a rough piece of bark while moving through the trees.  I pictured the swooping eagle descending closer and closer to catch its prey from the forest floor and then as it beat its wings to slow its descent a feather, a single feather dislodged from underneath its wing, finding its way to the path below.

Feather of mine, found as I tracked the trail through the woods, following the winding way to a place to be alone and ponder my thoughts.

I’m not sure if I drew my feather logo with detailed depictions of tattered strands because I had in mind its history or whether I drew it with its future unfolding before me.  To me, that feather represented a way to relate the words that I would share with others.  That feather would inspire me, as I felt not only its fine fragile hairs but its firm central shaft as well.  Created to be attached to the whole, to be part of a magnificent, powerful eagle wing.  How could it not lead my imagination to be a storyteller?

Years later, this feather of mine, this logo of who I believed I would be, this feather of mine, so crinkled and crumpled yet full of potential to create, this feather of mine is in my grasp again, and so I write, and so I write.