Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Gift of Music

I met Terry Kelly back in October, when he was the keynote speaker for the Cape to Cabot 2015 road race, which I wrote about HERE.

Upon hearing him speak, I was immediately impressed with Terry's positive outlook and distinct sense of purpose. He is filled with love and hope and he passes that on to anyone who is open to receiving it. His presentation (and his presence) really had an impact on me that day, and I knew that there was a place in my heart for Mr. Terry Kelly.

Terry and I chatted a little bit back in October, and I told him about my son, Brennen. He was very curious about him, and by the end of our conversation, he said that he would love to come and play for Brennen when he is in town again. True to his word, Terry and his wife, Anne paid us a visit this week! What a wonderful Christmas gift!

Terry Kelly writes in the liner notes of his Christmas album, 'Olde Tyme Christmas':

"Christmas has many colours, many sounds, an abundance of fragrances and tastes and, of course, the ever accumulating basket of memories and traditions. All of these awaken a range of feelings and emotions in each of us every Christmas."

"Music has a mystical and wondrous way of resurrecting our senses and memories of Christmases past. It can also play a significant role in creating new memories - both happy and sad."

Terry, your music, your thoughtfulness, and your kind compassion was truly a gift to our family this Christmas.

Terry was very in tune with Brennen's reactions and responses. He spoke gently to him, held his hands, and was very comfortable and engaged with Brennen right from first meeting. He sat close to Brennen, and played his guitar while Brennen's little foot was touching it, letting him feel the vibrations in the instrument.

Brennen loved the music and enjoyed his private performance. These are the meaningful moments I'm always talking about - the moments that make life special. These are the memories I go back to when things get rough, when parenting is hard, when I don't have the answers. I save up these memories in my mind's keepsake box, ready to be accessed when needed (and they will be needed).

I have to say that while we were expecting this afternoon to be a very moving experience for our family, it was clear that it meant a lot to Terry as well, in a way that I hadn't quite anticipated. Terry is soulful, emotional, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. Terry and Anne are my kind of people, and I am honoured now to call them our friends.

In raising a child with a disability, undoubtedly there are challenges, but there are so many blessings, and we seek them out. We can't control a lot of things in life, but we can control how we feel about them, and we can choose to be happy. Meeting Terry Kelly. Having him join us in our home, singing Christmas songs and feeling that even on the coldest of days, we were in the warmest of places. That's what Brennen does for us, over and over again. He is our happy place.


We thought we would give Terry one of our Christmas cards with a thank you message and a photo of our family.. but then I realized that he wouldn't be able to see it. What's the point of a card, I thought, if the receiver couldn't gather any information from it? SO.. we decided to write it in braille! (because how hard could it be, right?!) Andrew and I spent the night researching and downloading information on how to write / make braille, and we totally nailed it!

After several attempts with different methods - one including dots of nail polish (which actually had a lot of potential until some of the dots started running together) - we found that using a ballpoint pen with just the right amount of pressure so as not to poke holes through the paper made perfect braille-sized imprints!

Thank you, Terry, for bringing the gift of music into our home, and for adding to our basket of memories.
I am honoured and humbled, inspired and just - so incredibly grateful.

We will be sure to keep in touch! A new year is coming, and it's gonna be a good one!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Any Mummers 'Lowed In?

Mummering in Newfoundland is a tradition as old as it is odd. It dates back hundreds of years, and was brought to Newfoundland - like much of our history - from England and Ireland.

Over the Twelve Days of Christmas, Mummers would dress up in whatever old clothing they could find, and disguise themselves by hiding their faces behind masks of curtains or lace. Pillowcases and tablecloths also came in handy! They'd then trudge from door to door making surprise visits to houses around the community, singing, dancing and drinking.

Though it was never as popular in the city as it was in rural communities, I have distinct childhood memories of my parents dressing up in their most hilarious 'underwear as outerwear' to visit unsuspecting friends and neighbours. I also remember welcoming Mummers into our home, not knowing exactly who they were, but assuming that there was someone we knew among the crowd of foolish dancers. We were happy to participate in the excitement of the season. It was all part of the fun of Christmas growing up in Newfoundland.

Mummering was actually banned for over 100 years, but started to make a comeback in the 1960's and 1970's. It got another push in the 1980's when the locally popular group, Simani released 'The Mummer's Song'. Click HERE to listen!

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador welcomed its first Mummers Festival in 2009 in an attempt to revive the tradition once again by encouraging active participation in Mummering activities. With workshops and information sessions designed to equip the public with knowledge on the history of Mummering, the crowds are growing bigger and bigger each year. Along with the fun and celebration, there is a notable sense of pride in the local participants as they breathe new life into a tradition that was once seen to be 'dying out'.

Now in its seventh year, the Mummers Festival continues to grow with a series of events throughout the month of December, all leading up to the Mummers Parade that ends as one giant party.

Andrew and Brennen and I dug into our closets (and the old trunk in Mom's basement) and threw on our best (and worst) disguises to join in the merriment this past weekend. What a time we had!

 Thanks to Greg Locke for this photo of my Mummer family!

And thank you to Alick Tsui for allowing me to share his photos below!

Now, if you're not from Newfoundland, I bet you wish you were!

You can see Alick's photos from the 2014 Mummers Parade HERE
and the 2013 Mummers Parade HERE!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Celebrate the Season

Perhaps best known as one of the founding members of Great Big Sea, Séan McCann has most recently been touring the country as a solo artist, spreading a message of peace, love, and happiness through his music. He is an amazing musician, a creative force, and an alluring combination of talent and story. Séan has been through a lot in his life, and he has been open about his struggles. He holds a place in the heart of many Newfoundlanders, as he is one of our own. He is our son, our brother, our childhood friend. Both through his music and telling his story onstage, Séan is not only continuing his own journey but also striving to impact the lives of others.

Séan has been a strong supporter of Easter Seals for the past several years, after having been invited to work with some of the Music Therapy students. He said in a recent interview for The Telegram, “I was blown away. They melted my heart, and it needed to be melted at that moment. They have really had an effect on the decisions I have made ever since. They moved me in a really deep way.

I first met Séan last year at a fundraiser for Drop Zone  - you can read about that HERE.

Though Séan has since left Newfoundland and moved with his family to Ontario, he was back in town this week for the Easter Seals 'Celebrate the Season with Séan McCann' fundraising gala, where he shared the stage with some eager Easter Seals participants.

Funds raised from the luncheon will go to support the many programs offered by Easter Seals NL, including wheelchair basketball, sledge hockey and music therapy. Brennen was invited to be a guest of the event, and we were excited to join members of the community in a wonderful celebration of music and song.

Ashley Martin-Hanlon talked a little about her journey and what Easter Seals has done for her, and she joined Séan in singing 'A Life That's Good', from the series 'Nashville'. It was the perfect song for the occasion, told from the point of view of a person who is hoping to make the right choices in life and to be blessed with good things along the way -

"Sometimes I'm hard on me,
when dreams don't come easy
I wanna look back and say I did all that I could.
At the end of the day
Lord I pray I have a life that's good."

The show was intimate and interactive, with the goal to get everyone singing. Eleven year old, Anna Santos delivered a heartwarming rendition of 'Little Drummer Boy', and then treated us all to a beautiful song that she wrote herself. Anna is an absolute superstar, there is no question.

Séan means it when he says that connecting with Easter Seals changed his life. I believe him when he says that this show is the one he looks forward to the most all year. He talks about how he has been touched by the friends he's made at Easter Seals, and he delivers his message as soulfully as he sings his songs.

He did a beautiful version of 'This Life is an Ocean of Love' - a single from his new album, aptly titled, 'You Know I Love You'. The lyrics are simple and true. "This Life is an ocean of love. Let every heart rise above."

Séan, you filled our hearts with your kindness and compassion. We can't thank you enough for your support and dedication to an organization that helps to enrich the lives of so many people. Easter Seals truly is an organization that is worthy of praise and celebration, and we were happy to be able to celebrate with you today!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

A child is born, forever. 
A child is born, for everyone.
Lift up your hearts and hear his laughter
A new day has begun.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Ghost of Christmas Present

I've said it before, and I will say it again - my favourite part of the holidays is spending time with loved ones and making memories together.
Here are some recent photos of how we've been enjoying the Christmas season so far!

We kicked off the holidays with our annual CP Parents Group Potluck. This year, it was also an Ugly Christmas Sweater party! 

We attended the Janeway Children's Hospital Christmas Party:

This is Brennen with his friend, Claire. I'm pretty sure she loves him as much as I do!

We had Breakfast with Santa at Easter Seals:

Brennen went on a field trip with his Grade 4 class to sing Christmas carols at the airport:

 And we participated in the Rainbow Riders Live Nativity:

We have a few more big events coming up this week, packing as many Christmassy things as we can into a few short days. 
However you celebrate the holidays, I hope you are enjoying time with your family and loving all that this season has to offer!