Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Exploring the World of Dementia

A couple of months ago I was invited to a symposium on dementia, grateful to my denomination for their forward thinking in caring for this ever-increasing group in our population.

Being a baby-boomer myself, among many, we know that statistics tell us we are at risk, we are vulnerable, this could happen to us. 

My dear mom, who worked in a nursing home, and also cared for our gentle grandmother,  was afraid she would succumb to dementia.    Mom, who wasn't afraid of most things, feared the loss of her memory.  Perhaps that is why she and dad played games every night, she was determined to keep her mind active!  And when she died, five years ago, I was grateful her mind was sound to the end, grateful for our communication.

Because I know not everyone has that gift.

Our grandmother, mom's mom was a beautiful soul, and it was hard to watch her diminish with age.  I remember vividly my mom describing the night my grandmother lost it, it was a very stormy night, and she was trying to convince the staff in the nursing home she resided in. that her husband was out in that storm.  She was very determined to go out into the elements to find him.... even though he had been in heaven some ten years at that time.  The staff couldn't settle her... and finally called my mom to help.  Somehow they finally convinced Grandma to go to sleep, Grandpa was safe.  And indeed he was.

And yet Grandma had lucid moments, and I remember her telling me with regret that she wished she could have gone to heaven instead of my young husband.  The New Years after he died, she was 92, and I remember singing and praying in the New Year with our family. She sang with the rest of us, she knew all the words.   We didn't know she was entering her last months with us, and I cherish those moments.

These are my stories... and many of us have stories too.  Recently I was privileged to listen to a story of a patient in hospital, and she gave me permission to share a bit of it.  She, with a life-threatening illness was much more concerned about her husband, in one of the dementia units in our community.  She talked of him not knowing her much anymore, and her great love for him.  When I asked her how I could pray for her, she always said... please pray for my husband.

She was struggling with not being able to visit him daily, something she always did, helping him with his meals.  On many visits they shared this intimate moment where she sang to him a song "In a World of Your own!"  She would ask him... can I enter your world?  And as she sang, she honoured her husband, and was truly present.  What a gift!

There is much to learn about this world.  There were a number of things I gleaned from Dr. Gemma Jones who lead this workshop I was able to attend.  Dr. Jones is a leading educator on this subject.  One of the interesting things she shared is that dementia has four stages... and it is often in the earlier stages that people are the most frightened and confused.  It is a very difficult time for them, and for those who love them and live with them.

In later stages, their world diminishes... and according to Jones even their peripheral vision becomes much smaller.  She encouraged us who visit to wear bright clothing, and even bright lipstick so that the person can see you better, can follow your lips. 

Jones is part of the Alzheimer's Cafe moment, which started in Great Britain, offering safe and welcoming places for those with dementia, their families, caregivers and other professionals.  They are now offering these meetings in Vancouver, 

I am not an expert in this field, but am grateful for these resources. I have much to learn.  Jones encouraged me to share the information... and I'd love to see more public forums and discussions as we seek to better understand, have more compassion, and support the often fatigued care-givers, both at home, and those working with these precious people. 

This is a wonderful resource, I couldn't find it on Amazon, but you can find information about this resource here. And I do have a copy!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Exploring my World, unfiltered.

I set off on an early morning walk, this mid-spring which feels like summer.

I left my phone/camera behind, it was charging, and at 94% of full charge, felt it deserved the full 100.

Besides, I was inspired by this picture that I saw on the internet... an elderly lady, taking in the sites of the royal wedding party due to drive by... she was peering, radiant... this was a moment she had been waiting for.

All around her were faces, faces with cell phones.  All of them.  Except her... and she was the one who captured the scene with all of her senses.

I love to take pictures, so I get it... but sometimes, can I just take a break and see my world through an unfiltered lense?

And so the pictures I captured this morning are all in my mind...  as I walked the neighbourhood.

I saw a number of guys, work vehicles ready to go, gathering things, dressed in their work-stained clothes... a bob-cat operator who cheerily nodded at me, and I hoped he would stay cool through this warm day... another with a plumbing vehicle, loading up, and I wondered what problems he would solve this day... I thought of my own hubby, dressed in his paint-stained white, painting people's buildings; he left early to beat the heat.  These are precious folk, we need them in our world.

I looked at our neighbourhood yards... and wondered about the people who lived there.  There are the well manicured places, beautiful and tidy, and I'm always thinking either they are retired and have a great deal of time, or are well off and can afford some help!  Some people just love to garden, it is their world.

Others, and we would probably fall among them, have kept yards, but not perfect.  Busy lives don't always catch all the weeds, prolific at this time of year.  It is usually a work in progress.

And then there are the neglected yards, swaths of weeks mixed in with brave flowers making their way to the sun.  And before I get annoyed, I wonder... what is their life like?  So busy they can hardly breathe?  Are they the "sandwich" people, carrying for their elderly parents and their children?  Or has illness or difficulty taken up their time, and the yard is hardly a priority?

I think of my dear elderly friend, energetic and full of life in her prime, now grieving her husband and just living has its challenges.  He won't be teetering on their ladder pruning this year, a task she always worried about... I heard that recently a neighbour of hers came over and offered to mow her grass.  And even better, he brought over his little girl to visit with her while he completed the task.  How delightful... and that is what community should be all about.  Do I know my neighbour?

This is my world, my thoughts, unfiltered, on a beautiful spring morning in May.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Being the Noticer

Have you ever wondered what you miss by not noticing?

Some people are very good at this, they spot wildlife from a distance, they know what to watch for. Others know the world of flowers and plants and even insects. They have a unique awareness that is honed and comes with a curious mind.

The world around us is always full of things to observe, of beauty to drink in, even of comic delight.

Yesterday I left my to-do-list at the urging of my hubby and we had a lovely day trip in our own back yard, in the lovely Okanagan. There will always be dust, paperwork, and the endless weeds, although I’m very grateful for my friend Violet who helps me keep those at bay.

Keeping the critters who want to share the garden with us is another whole subject, and we notice the footprints, the nibbles, and other unmentionables and wonder... who was here??

The other day I was leaving the hospital and heard the words... Lady, lady!  I paid no mind, I was on my way, in a hurry, on to the next thing.

But he persisted and I turned around. “I noticed the books you are carrying “, he said, “are you the chaplain?”

I confessed to being the same and took a few moments to talk, making an appointment for when I had more time to really listen.

He was paying attention, I was rather lost in my own world when he called me...and it reminded me again to pay attention.

Sometimes we pay attention to the wrong things. We joke about this in our house... I notice the “mess” long before my hubby does... and although having a clean and tidy house does have its virtues, it is the living and loving that is far more important.

So here is a photo collection of my last few days of noticing, and you will notice, there are no pictures of dust!!

Aren't these spectacular? Could anyone tell me what kind of flower they are?

These giant irises were giving out their last moments of glory before fading.  Glad to capture their beauty.

This ground squirrel provided us with comic relief and joined us on our picnic.

A beautiful boat we spied between the trees.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Mountain Top Experience - Living in the Valley

There is something so majestic about mountains.  We travelled home through my old dwelling place of Agassiz the other day, and as we drove into the valley we are greeted with this...

Mt. Cheam always moves me, and I gazed upon the beauty.  We stopped the car and I took pictures, wanting to capture the moment.  It was a beautiful day.

This is a mountain that captured my imagination as a child, it was the mountain that was the sentinel of our village in Harrison Hot springs, growing up, always there in the distance.

When I was fifteen I climbed this mountain, and it was a crazy day.  Our youth group ignored any easy way up and climbed on the face-side, 12 miles up from the bottom.  It was a hard climb.  When we finally stepped over the loose shale that formed the peak, reaching the top, we had only minutes to enjoy our mountain top experience.  It was exhilarating and I will never forget it. I think of it every time I see this mountain.

My dad also loved this mountain, but found a much easier path... up the back side, with logging roads part-way up.  He and mother and a host of other travellers climbed this mountain year after year. 

A few weeks after I climbed this mountain I was diagnosed with a very low thyroid, and low blood sugar.  Looking back I could understand why coming down from that mountain was so excruciatingly hard, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  I was exhausted for days.  And perhaps because of this, I have never desired to go again.

I think of the mountain top experiences of my life... and of the valleys.  There is that gospel country song by Lynda Randle speaks of this:
"for the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley...
the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times
the God of the day, is still God in the night."  

I find that often after a "high" moment in my life, I can crash... and know I can't sustain mountain top living.  Rather I find God in the ordinary, the everyday.  It is often in the hard times, the valley, that I learn the most.

When my first husband died, we buried him in a lovely cemetery in Hope, ironically called Mountain View Cemetery.  It seemed appropriate to me that he would have a resting place there, in the shadow of Mt. Cheam.  We had lived most of our lives close to this mountain, and experienced mountain top experiences as well as deep places of learning and shadows and grief. 

So I looked to this mountain again on Saturday, and remembered.  My soul is always stirred, and I come to these favourite words from Psalm 121: "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." 

This is sustaining help, full of grace, and it fills me with hope. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Creating a Welcoming Place

I spent some time yesterday creating a living space on my deck.

It is a wonderful time of year, as we expand our living areas to the outdoors.  I love to plant lots of herbs to use in my cooking and just to enjoy.  My geraniums wintered over fairly well, and have new buds - hurray!  Now I just need to add some gerbera daisies, they always brighten my world with their sunny faces.

A decorator I am not, but I love to create a welcoming space where I can invite friends to spend time with us, and also where I spend time alone or with my hubby.. contemplating, reading, time with the Creator. Comfy chairs, plants, the outdoors... it is peaceful!

This isn't about perfection.

In fact I feel somewhat uncomfortable when I enter a space that is pristine, everything in it's place.  What if I mess it up? 

I certainly can stress about having a tidy and clean house, although having a sense of order and cleanliness can be helpful!  It is more about creating space for others... and all are welcome. 

Since we've had grandchildren, we have lots of toys and books handy, and the kids have their own corner where they can play to their heart's content.  We have lots of books... everywhere, and on any given day, if you come over, you will likely see my art pens and pencils lying about... there is usually something in progress! 

I shared with my church family on Sunday about being a welcoming place.  It isn't always the physical space, but it comes from the heart. 

We, the church, people who love God, also can be a welcoming place... this is a place everyone is welcome.  I know, from the stories I hear, that this has not always been the case, in many churches.  And it saddens me.

In my home, in my church, in my attitudes and in my heart, am I a person that is welcoming?  A safe place where people are free to be themselves, tell their stories, share their heartaches?

These are questions I ask of myself.  And I hope and trust that even this little space on the web is welcoming for you, that you would be encouraged today!

ps.  If you are interested in listening to my talk on Sunday, you can find it on our church's website, First Baptist, Vernon.  I talked about our beautiful diversity... and I might write more about that soon!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Time to turn the Page

It is the first day of May as I write this.

Time to turn those calendar pages, if you still have those old-fashioned calendars hanging in your home.  Even though my phone, my computer, and even my watch tell me the date, I like those reminders on my wall.

I was reflecting on the month of April we have just walked through, and in many ways there was so much joy as spring in Canada finally appeared, and I am loving the brilliant greens, the spring flowers, the new warmth of the sun.  The birds sing every morning, they are filled with praise!

But for many this April, it was a solemn month, a month of tragedy, and Canada collectively is mourning the terrible loss of young lives, of young hockey players, and their support team.  And more recently we have shuddered at the terror of a van in Toronto, killing people at random, and we wonder whatever possessed this driver to take life so senselessly.

These public events affect us.

But there has also been much more personal grief, the home-going of loved ones who do not make the headlines, but changes the fabric of people's lives forever.

This weekend I will be spending time with my New Hope friends as we talk about grief and remember our spouses who have died.  This kind of retreat takes courage for those who come, but it is helpful and healing to share our stories, to remember, and have tools to live with hope in the midst of loss.

It is five years ago now that we journeyed with my mother as she prepared for heaven.  I wrote a poem after she died about turning the page.  Writing these words helped me in my own grief...  and while we celebrated her life, and I think about her every day, I also know she would encourage me to "turn the page", and live life well.

The danger of grief is that we can get stuck in yesterday.  There is a fine balance of cherishing our memories, and embracing the life we have today, even as we plan for tomorrow.  This is not always easy for those who are in the midst of deep grief.

Here is the poem I wrote, which is also in the brochure "Poetry for the Grieving Heart"  now available on my website:  www.gracewulff.com, under the Resources page.

Turn the Page
Written on Canada Day, July 1, 2013, for my mom 
My calendar says June. It is time to turn the page.
I really don't want to...

Mom didn't want to see June,
but we were blessed by June.

Two more weeks to love and talk and smell the roses.
I really don't want to turn the page...

the last of the flowers, those last flowers I bought
for her the Thursday before she died,
bright happy gerbers, yellows and pinks...
I hung on to the yellow ones, and they have crumpled
Yellow petals and pollen fallen on my mantle
And I can't bear to clean it up.

Leftover food...
Gifts of love
fill my fridge... we eat, not hungry
but grateful..

Reminders everywhere of family love
Of being together
Of sharing these moments together
The house now empty
but full of reminders.

I don't want to change the page.
I don't want to clean it up...
I want to hang on and sit and remember

And as I water the fading flowers
And wipe the tears…

I really don't want to celebrate this Canada Day
My flag flies at half mast

The world more empty
Heaven richer.

And I know that I know
that I am grieving..
and that others grieve with me,

And that she would encourage me
to turn the page.

©Grace Wulff 2013