Heart Is Not Cancelled

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Christine Newman with Cathy Bawden

from the books – Not Cancelled: Canadian Caremongering in the Face of COVID-19. Volume 1 is available on Kobo, Amazon and Apple Books; print editions will be available in bookstores June 2020.

“In my thirty years on the job, that had to be the roughest week I have ever experienced.” My friend and soul sister, Cathy, begins to relate what had occurred as she arrived home that Friday evening. I had just seen her tweet about the surprise she discovered on the front lawn of her house, and was eagerly awaiting the details about that heart photo.

Cathy had posted a video to her community’s Facebook group on Monday of that week. In the second week of the pandemic lockdown, she had encouraged her community to put a heart in their windows to show support for everyone who was taking a risk to make the world work: first responders, medical and hospital staff, retail workers, truck drivers, transit, and more. Her Collingwood community of friends and neighbours took it on, and hearts were seen everywhere you looked.

During the week, Inspector Cathy Bawden of Durham Regional Police Service is responsible for leading 70 officers and civilian staff at DRPS North Division. She lives close to work, returning home to Collingwood each weekend, where she is a mother of five children, and grandmother of one granddaughter.

“I felt like I had an eye dropper of energy left, by the time I pulled into the driveway. I sat for a minute to breathe before gathering my things and getting out of the car. That’s when I saw this huge heart on my front lawn.”

As she walked over to look at the heart and read the messages written on it by her community, she looked up to see that they had all been sitting on their front porches or standing just out of sight on their driveways, waiting for her to arrive home.

“I stood there and cried, I so wanted to hug each and every one of them,” but due to physical distancing rules during the lockdown, it’s not possible, “and they stood, clapped and cheered, and I cried even more.”

I asked to be certain, that this was at home in Collingwood. “Yes, but it can happen anywhere if people get inspired,” Cathy replied. “Apparently they have also arranged for a reporter to drop by tomorrow morning to do a story about this.”

I could feel her blushing from a distance.

Erika Engel from Collingwood Today would drop by the next morning and write an exquisite story on this community with a show of heart. Erika reported on the creation of this large heart tribute by Dianne and Jim Steele, and why it was important to acknowledge Cathy. (click here to read Erika’s story)

Erika Engel’s story in Collingwood Today (Cathy, L; Dianne, R.)

I sent Cathy a note after reading the story: I know how humble you are, but please just take in the love for all that you are doing, I am so proud of you. She replied, “Thank you. We all need a little positive story right now.”

The following day, Sunday, some of the local folks loaded their musical instruments into the bed of a pickup truck, drove up, parked in front of Cathy’s house, and had an impromptu concert on the street. The video she sent showed neighbours on their front porches and in their driveways enjoying the drive-by performance.

Heart is a recurring theme in Cathy’s professional and personal lives.

In mid-May, she sent me a video and a message. “Today was my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. He is a huge supporter of all first responders. I organized this drive-by for him. He had happy tears when it was done. I am so thrilled we did this for him and got the video to show the grandkids.”

It was a minute long video, one of the lights and sirens drive-by salutes that first responders have been doing in their free time for special occasions like this.

Cathy said, “He is a good man and had no idea!! Total surprise. He has called us three times to talk more about it.”

This was a milestone birthday, and physical distancing restrictions had prevented a celebration with all of his family. The Inspector with the big heart found a way to make that day special for everyone who watched the video of his drive-by birthday salute.

Last year, I was asked by a colleague who was organizing an event with a day of speakers to describe Cathy by using a song. That’s easy, from 1955, before either of us were even a thought, the song is titled Heart. Singing them a line from the chorus, “You gotta have heart, miles and miles and miles of heart …”

Because heart is most definitely not cancelled.

There are more stories in Not Cancelled: Canadian Caremongering in the Face of COVID-19. (Volume 1 is available on Kobo, Amazon, and Apple Books with print copies available in bookstores June 2020)

A Promise, An Oath, A Vow; Adapted

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One of the things that Nat (my amazing Sis) and I have created for ourselves are adapted definitions of various words and phrases. For us, they make perfect sense, while others not familiar with them would be just a touch confused/perplexed. You could say that we have our own verbal shorthand.

Here are three terms that we use frequently, yet, I believe many have forgotten the original meanings of them with today’s abuse of the lexicon on social media. We have developed our own adaptation to accommodate what we both require when doing daily battle with PTSD, or when looking through the lens of post-traumatic growth.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines promise as: (Noun) 1 a declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen; (Verb) 1 assure someone that one will definitely do something or that something will happen.

Our adaptation of this makes allowances for PTSD, anxiety, and depression, etc. There are days when things may shift and plans have to be adjusted accordingly.

Therefore, for us, the definition of promise is similar to the OED definition, but allows room to shift something in what was promised, rebook to another date or time, or have to withdraw from attending an event.

As PTSD warriors, we both know that things can quickly go pear-shaped, and you have to either re-promise or cancel outright. Both of us would do anything to not have to break a promise, but, realizing that things are not always predictable in the world of mental health, we make allowances and contingency plans, just in case.

The OED defines oath as: (Noun) 1 a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future action or behaviour; or a sworn declaration, such as the promise to tell the truth in a court of law.

We are mostly in alignment with the OED definition. Oath is a step up from Promise, with no wiggle room. It is as spoken, period. We are both familiar with swearing oaths, Nat as a Paramedic some years ago, and then as a Barrie City Councillor; myself as an executive member of a service club many years ago, when previously called for jury duty, or in various positions where I have access to non-public information and have been sworn to secrecy to not reveal or discuss.

For us, we upgrade a Promise to the Oath level when it is a MUST happen item.

The OED defines vow as: (Noun) a solemn promise.

We can upgrade a Promise or an Oath to a Vow. A vow is the highest level.

Our definition is: something spoken aloud to the universe to bring it into existence. We have a number of vows between the two of us, those promises that, no matter what may happen, they will always be maintained.

We regularly renew the various vows we have made, making sure they still fit, or if they need to be updated.

One vow is to always encourage each other’s growth (personal; post-traumatic; knowledge). Another vow is to always be in communication, particularly when depression has you by the ankle and is dragging you down into the abyss.

In early 2018, after a particularly rough weekend (continuous ice storms), Nat spoke this to me and to the universe. We both knew instantly it would always be the primary vow between us. “I’ll love you forever and a million days more.” We speak it to the universe regularly. It’s how we wrap up every conversation, by text, by phone, by e-mail, or tweet, it’s our thing, it’s who we always are for each other. We have spoken it on stage, in presentations, lectures, and more. Sometimes it is a brief text at the end of the day, “You were amazing with *insert item* today, I’m so proud of you, way to go! Love you forever and a million days more, sweet dreams. xoxox”

There are times when, to express the level of dedication to something, and how serious we are about causing it to become reality, we will take a promise, a vision board item, or an oath, and move it up to a vow. It is our way of thinking, speaking, writing, and working it into existence.

The world occurs in language. A bit of wisdom from a course I used to teach years ago. We speak things into existence. For example, two people standing in a location, an officiant stands in front of them. They speak a quantity of words, alone or together, and at the conclusion the officiant pronounces them as married, joined, partnered, a completed merger, whatever terminology you prefer. The only thing that changed, was a new possibility or reality was spoken into existence.

Human beings are meaning-making machines. You can hear the gears grinding as somebody tries to figure out the meaning of some conversation that Nat and I are having. We will say something or refer to each other with a term that we always use, and minds explode trying to figure out what it means.

The answer to those who smell smoke from their internal thinking engines overheating – it is what it is, it means something to us that you don’t have a need to know. That’s it. In reality, it doesn’t have to mean anything. If you wish to make it mean something, how about choosing something empowering?

Promise, Oath, and Vow, we adapted the definitions to fit with our being PTSD warriors and how we function every day. If you’re into numbering things, Promise is Level 1, Oath is Level 2, Vow is the ultimate, Level 3.

I think you will find that you have developed some adapted definitions of your own as well, to fit your daily existence and with those people who matter the most in your life.

The theme that runs through all three levels – being your word. At the Promise level, being your word could be putting your self-care requirements first, and re-promising an item; at the Oath level, it’s a gotta do it no matter what; and the Vow level is spoken to the universe to bring it into existence, that it shall be always. Being your word is having integrity, and when you do this consistently, people will come to you because they know when you say you will do something, it will get done, or you will be in communication to find a way to make it work.

This is one thing that Nat and I know with absolute certainty, at our soul level:

Choose the people who choose you. That’s where the real magic happens.

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams,

Christine 💙💙

Mother’s Day 2020, Celebrating New Moms

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For this year’s Mother’s Day post, I wanted to focus on all of those who have become new mothers since Mother’s Day 2019 (and those new grandmothers who are still walking on air).

For the first time in my 56 years, there is a pandemic keeping people at a minimum of 2 metres distance, which will unfortunately eliminate many standard Mother’s Day celebrations.

I think, while keeping folks from becoming infected with CoViD-19, it’s a damn shame that we are unable to celebrate all the new mothers out there in a fashion to which we have become accustomed over time.

Many of us have heard the portmanteau, “humblebrag”, to brag in a humble fashion. I have another portmanteau in a similar vein, “mombrag”, a mother bragging to friends and family about her children.

Moments of joy are caused when I have the opportunity to listen to my Sis, Nat, and my treasured friends having a mombrag moment in a conversation. It is so much fun when they are excited to share news about their children. There are a number that come to mind, and I will forget a few (mind like a sieve!), these mothers come to mind when I enjoy listening to what their kids are up to; Cathy, Melanie, Jessica, Angie, Lesley, Laurie, Julie, Parul, Heather, Shelley, Kim, Giselle, Beverly, Judy, and more.

Each and every one, I have heard say they are proud of their children frequently. As the graphic says, there’s no feeling like it when you hear that from your mother. What makes me smile is thinking of how many times these moms have expressed their pride to their kids, aunts have told their nieces and nephews. That’s why I do so enjoy those mombrag moments.

We enjoyed living vicariously through electronic means of communication, as Nat’s daughter Caroline announced that Nat was about to receive a new title, Grammy Nat. I had a laugh with a few friends when I said we would have to tie weights to Nat to keep her from floating away when Caroline delivered her first grandson, Beckham. Ever seen a grandmother walk on air for a solid week? Yup, that was my Sis, her feet never hit the floor, she was so over the moon excited! I had messaged Caroline when she had first shared the news, that I was claiming the wacky aunt & story reader job once her baby had arrived.

When we have time for Nat and I to chat for a few minutes, the order is grammybrag with a photo sometimes (OMG, he’s so adorable!!), then mombrag about Caroline and Adam, fur babies update, and then we can catch up with each other. I do so enjoy how proud Nat is of her kids, I swear I get extra energy from those conversations, they are just so overflowing with joy.

There are a few mothers I know, also PTSD warriors like Nat and I both are, and every one has at one time or another expressed the same concern. Will my kids be okay, after seeing me go through what I did? I have always thought yes, definitely. I know what I overcame, and I’m still standing. I know Nat’s experiences, and both Caroline and Adam are rocking the world on a constant basis.

Over the past years, Nat and I have had many conversations, and her concern is always present about having everything as perfect as possible. I understand that, but, what will cause resilience in your kids is having a happy mom. Speaking from experience, a happy mom will overcome many things from the past.

My circle of friends know some of the stories I have shared from my past, and the adventures that my mom and I got up to over the years. Abandoned by her husband in 1965 with two babies under the age of 18 months, she became a divorcée and single mother. Suffice it to say, compared to how society has matured since then, those were like the dark ages. A single mother and divorcée? Might as well have branded her forehead. It saddens me at times, when I think of what she had to endure, while raising two kids on her own. Mom would be the first to tell you she was not a “perfect mother”. Perhaps in her view, and the view of those judgmental arseholes outside our home. She was a happy mother, and that made all the difference for me. We would spend hours talking, laughing, sometimes healing old hurts. But, until the end, she was happy, she was loved, and she is missed. I’m sure she is somewhere having a damn good laugh, playing with all the fur babies we had adopted over the years, having a coffee with my friend Laurie’s mom while they are engaged in some serious mombragging about their kids.

Besides, there is no perfect. Mom would be the first to tell you, there are no perfect humans, everyone’s arse has a hole in it. (You wondered where I get it from?)

This is wisdom from my second mum, Irene Miller. After losing my mom to brain cancer 10 years ago, in those moments when I needed a mother for advice, or an ear, or a shoulder, Irene just stepped in and was there without needing to be asked. I’m sure the number of people that Irene has been a surrogate mother to over the years must be in the high hundreds. Much of my being a surrogate mom (or CityMom) over my lifetime has been modelled on my late mother and Irene. For those of us who wished to have children but couldn’t, we can still mother.

Here are Irene’s thoughts, sent to me on my birthday some years ago:

“Mothering has nothing to do with giving birth. In my opinion it is about genuinely caring about others; being nurturing, encouraging, and supporting. It is about being there when your instincts tell you that someone needs something … a word, a smile, a hug, an ear, or a voice, and you just respond without thinking. It just happens, and in those moments mothering happens. People either have it instinctively or not. You’ve got it my dear. I find myself mothering others, sometimes not much younger than I am myself, but it feels natural. You have that ability too. Perhaps we got it from our own mothers? Mine certainly showed us by example, that family goes beyond blood.”

Nat and I had a conversation a few years ago, sharing her hopes and dreams for her kids. That concern about her battle with PTSD came up in the conversation. I said, “Nat honey, mark my words, one day, some years from now, Caroline will become a mother. Trust me on this one, I’d bet every penny I have ever earned, that she will be a natural. Your kids are not going to take on what happened when things were hairy, they have watched, learned, and will put in to practice the lessons and the gifts you gave them. I am looking forward to the day she becomes a mom, because it will be a privilege to watch that transformation happen.”

My mother gave me many gifts over our life together. I outlined them in last year’s Mother’s Day post (love, laughter, music, performing, reading, writing, singing, and more – the seeds all sown, tended, and watered with love). All of the mothers reading this are doing exactly the same thing. Might be a fun conversation during a Zoom call or FaceTime, what gifts have your kids received/learned from you? Not just genetic inherited traits, what have you planted in their souls to grow. I’m sure it would be an enlightening and fascinating conversation.

Cathy, Melanie, Jessica, Angie, Lesley, Laurie, Julie, Parul, Heather, Shelley, Kim, Giselle, Beverly, Judy, and more … Happy Mother’s Day! It will still be an amazing day, no matter what is needed to connect everyone. I am honoured to know all of you, I love those mombrag conversations, and I am proud of every one of you. ❤️❤️

Caroline, just in case, you might want to store that bit of wit above. You never know when that flash of hilarity might happen. Seriously, I’m still taking that wacky aunt job, the teller of bad jokes, and reader of stories. I’ll be sure to practice so I can get through The Wonky Donkey without laughing too hard. I am so massively proud of you. I’ll never be prouder than your own mom is, but, darn close! I do enjoy when Nat does a grammybrag about you and Beckham, and a photo here and there. I send you much love, I have always known you would be an amazing mother. Happy Mother’s Day, Caroline! 🙏🏼💖

Nat, Sis, Grammy Nat, I am eternally proud of you. You are truly an inspiring mom, all the proof I need is to look at Caroline and Adam (who is going to be a superb uncle, I can’t wait to hear tales and see photos of the adventures he and Beckham get up to). Every mother worries and fusses over if they have done a good job in raising their children. You have. You will be an excellent Grammy as your family grows in the future. I do love your mombrag and grammybrag moments, there is so much pride, joy, and love in them. I think we should upgrade that promise to fulfill your vision board next year (a delayed Mother’s Day celebration) to the vow level, that would be a fun adventure. (Level 1 is Promise, Level 2 is Oath, Level 3 is Vow – spoken to the universe to bring into existence). We always end our conversations with this, and I’ll wrap up this post the same way: I’ll love you forever and a million days more. Happy Mother’s Day, Nat! 🙏🏼❤️❤️

Happy Mother’s Day to all the new moms since Mother’s Day 2019, and to all moms reading this!

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine 💙💙

To Dare Greatly with Caremongering

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I want to share a story with you, and then my request for you to dare greatly with me.

I was chatting with a treasured friend this past Tuesday afternoon, she works in law enforcement and has been battling breast cancer. When she was first diagnosed, we were on the verge of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I asked how I could best support her, seeing as I could not be there in person. Just check in with me daily, send me something wickedly funny (we share a very dark sense of humour), and stand with me at a distance. Done. Before we settled in for a chat, she received the phone call she had been waiting for – her surgeon called, all results were in, everything was removed in surgery, no further surgery or radiation required, she had an all clear. Great news! But, with physical distancing still in place, we couldn’t celebrate this as we would have wanted, with hugs, happy dances, and laughter. Just then, my Sis, Nat, tweeted this:

“We cannot celebrate your news in person, but we can pay it forward. Whaddaya say we lift this GoFundMe up and help them reach their goal?”

“LET’S DO IT!!”

I texted Nat, “Sis, can you tell me a bit about Andrea?” Nat replied that she recalled Andrea from her early days on the job, and whenever she saw her, Andrea is kindness, a positive personality, and a happy soul who cares for every person she meets. Perfect, Andrea reminded me of the paramedics I’ve encountered throughout the years. Theirs is a profession with large amounts of heart and soul.

I looked at the GoFundMe – #We’veGotYourBack&Front911! Help Andrea Fight! and after nearly a month, they were making good progress, but I thought, how can we get them to their goal and take one thing off of their plate? I know, let’s ask some people with a good following on Twitter for a signal boost.

Let’s get this in front of as many sets of eyes as we can. I know everyone is struggling, but, there must be those who are able to contribute, either by sharing, or by donating. This ask and a few more tweets and we took a seat to see if we caused any movement.

After two days of watching the GoFundMe page, it had moved a little bit, but not what I was hoping for.

I do know of someone in the Greater Toronto Area who has a big Twitter following. He is always the first in line whenever help is needed.

Wait, I thought, he doesn’t know me at all, we had briefly seen each other at one of those meet and greet things a few years ago. Oh, quit dawdling woman, you just read Dr. Brené Brown’s books, Daring Greatly and Dare To Lead … just step into this, dare greatly and see what happens.

I made an ask of the CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, Mr. Mohamad Fakih.

Had I blinked, I would have missed his response, it came quickly:

True to his nature, Mr. Fakih not only gave this a signal boost, but he gave a generous donation ($2,000) to help reach the target! Amazing! Each time I refreshed the page, the numbers had gone up, as everyone who liked his tweet also donated. Yes, Andrea definitely is a full hero, what Nat had told me proved that.

Time to get busy on my side, let’s get this GoFundMe in front of as many eyes as I can. We need, as Canadians, as a connected community, to engage in some big-time caremongering here and help ease the burden while this young mom battles Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Add in the conditions and restrictions during a pandemic, and it makes her battle that much harder. Whatever we can do would be great.

By Friday afternoon there had been some donations, but we would not reach the goal by 5pm, and Mr. Fakih tweeted one more ask:

You see, this one is personal. Not only has my friend celebrated her success in her battle with breast cancer, but another friend & colleague of mine went through it last year. One thing I was sure of, if anyone would kick cancer in the ass and send it packing, it would be Meaghan. I missed her terribly while she was in her battle, and was thrilled to the core to see her return to work. We went for a quick lunch, laugh, and talk a mile a minute to get caught up. My late mom was another warrior in the breast cancer fight. She was like my friend this week, surgery caught it all for her, thankfully. She kicked it squarely in the ass and sent it scurrying away defeated.

In my world view, paramedics are a particularly special kind of people. When needed, they come running; highly trained professionals who are focused on doing what is the best for their patient. When I asked my Sis, Nat, to tell me about Andrea, this Paramedic and Mom, I could see everyone I have known who has been in this battle.

Folks, here’s the link:

#We’veGotYourBack&Front911! Help Andrea Fight!

My ask to all of you: to dare greatly with me, and share this link everywhere that you can. The greater the number of people who see this, the better. Let’s put our Canadian Caremongering skills that we have learned during lockdown to good use.

This Paramedic and mom has looked after the people of York Region for many years. Let us surround Andrea & her family with love, and show them that all of us, together, have got her back.

As Captain Tom Moore reminds us, “tomorrow will be a good day.”

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine 💙💙

Thank you Dr. Brené Brown for the inspiration.

Insomnia Thoughts, the Self-Isolation Edition

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Some of the goofy and wacky stuff that my mind has been serving up for consideration whilst staring at the ceiling during the overnight hours …

Why is the third hand on a clock called the second hand?

Do hummingbirds hum because they forgot the lyrics?

When you feed a baby with a spoon, why do you open your mouth? (Grammy Nat, do you do it too?)

Do viruses get sick?

What if Hell was not fire and brimstone, instead it was people standing in shit soup up to their lower lip – would their motto be “don’t make waves”?

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

Why does bottled water have an expiry date?

If you completely forget something, how do you know if you ever knew it?

If two police officers get married, do they replace traditional vows with reading each other their Miranda rights?

Would a procrastinators support group ever have a meeting?

I’m not lazy, I’m fuel efficient.

I never fail … I succeed at finding what doesn’t work.

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

We’re told we shouldn’t eat at night – so why is there a light in the fridge?

Are ghosts lousy liars because you can see through them easily?

When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?

Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things? (Told ya I was a word nerd!)

Why isn’t the number 11 pronounced tenty-one?

What hair colour do they put on the driver’s licences of bald men?

If lawyers are disbarred, and clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, and tree surgeons debarked?

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy? Don’t know, don’t care.

If you don’t use your hoover, is it still gathering dust?

Love, sunbeams, lots of giggles, and kitten dreams.

Christine 💙💙