As I reflect, I recognize that each of us influence others in ways that we may not be able to comprehend, by just being who you are! Being the most authentic you is so important and should allow for differences to be encouraged and celebrated!
Global just posted this piece highlighting Easter Seals Alberta, The Woman to Warrior / Guy to Gladiator competition coming up, and a bit of my story.
Within a day of this being aired I had two people connect with me, one a person with a disability in another province and the other was a mother of a son, also living with Cerebral Palsy.
One piece that Jacky Gay had mentioned in a C3 video we were in together, surrounded the concept of inspiration. My hope is that if I can be of inspiration, that I encourage you to do something, to challenge yourself, to be the better you, regardless if you live visible or invisiable disability, mental or physical disability, or medical conditions.
It has been just over a year since the Canada C3 ice breaker set sail from Toronto and started the voyage around our great country, coast to coast to coast. It has also been a while since I last posted, so this one may be a tad lengthy.
In Calgary, we were thankful and humbled by Paul Rogalski (from Leg 7), who was a chef on board and at Rouge Restaurant in Calgary, AB. Eight C3 alumni from various legs met on June 1 to celerbate. At first, we were not really strangers (most wearing Canada C3 clothing), though truly friends we have not met yet. There was an instant connection with everyone, having experienced something similar, whether you were on the same leg as them or not. Many stories were told that evening, and it reminded me of nights in the hanger and the knot. One of my ah-ha moments that evening, was that within the stories that I share, I did not have to describe the way the ship was set up, everyone knew the ship :). For those that have been following Frosty, he came as well.
I have continued to present and share my learnings with people of all ages, from 5 to over 65. It has been a good challenge to adjust the content or my explanation depending on the age group I am presenting to. To date, there are a few key themes that continue to be ones that my audience holds on to, take away, and they include:
ACE is something that we think we do, and that is fantastic. Thinking and attempting to do these more often can be challenging at times. It is a good challenge and I encourage everyone to try and encorporate ACE into their daily lives.
2. “It’s not that hard”
This quote came from a moment at Koeye camp when a friend came running back to let me know she she thought about the do-ability of the next challenge. Earlier I had shared with her that walking on hard, recently watered sand is much easier as it is packed. In contrast, my feet sink in soft sand, making it much harder. The friend was highlighting that that sand was not that hard, and was not speaking about the do-ability of it. “It’s not that hard” though, became a quote for me as, though things at times can be difficult, it’s not that hard if we can access the supports and resources by others, and ultimately support one another.
3. Shoulder Check
On the last full day on the ship, I had time to manuever the ship and was at the bow of the ship, looking in the directing the ship was going. A friend, Napalai was leaving to grab something and she exclaimed, and I looked. What we saw was a beautiful double rainbow. It was a reminder to me that we can be focused on our goal, our next steps, and so forth… though we should look around every now and then, as what is happening beside us, out of our sight, can be beautiful.
I have been invited to many schools in the city, some of them even more than once! I love passing on what I have learnt to those younger than me. I have had the opportunity to speak at friends’ and family classrooms within the city. It is meaningful to share this with students and also with adults.
The Catholic Women’s League (CWL) at the parish, city, and provincial level provided me with an incredible donation last year to support many of the costs that I was responsible for. I am incredibly grateful and honoured that women across the CWL choose to suppport me. I was able to purchase my flights to and from Calgary, in addition to some much needed gear such as rain pants and boots, which we often do not need in Calgary! Over the last few months I have spoken both to my local parish at St. Peters, though also at the diocesan and provincial annual meetings, sharing my experience, conversations, sites, and learnings with over 300 in attendance over the three presentations.
In February, I joined NAMES to present a panel discussion to teachers within the province of Alberta.
On the 14th leg, there was a discussion about creating a book club. We had met once last year and it waas great to both check in with one anothers and discussed a book written by Bev Sellars (a leg 12 participant), They Called Me Number One. I am guessing that one of the challenges for meeting was time, as Canada spans multiple time zones. After reflecting on this, I created an online book club called Canada C3 Book Club. The flexibility of an online book club allows for people to engage at their own convenionece and allow for the conversation to continue over time. People can continue to meet in alternative ways and both catch up and discuss the book.
Today I had the honour of being the Keynote speaker at the United Nations International Day of Persons with a Disability (IDPD) event in Calgary, AB in the City Hall Atrium.
I was able to share the following, by infusing some of my Canada C3 experiences into my speech:
That persons with disabilities should be involved in the decision-making process;
Education plays an important role in understanding and learning; and
Genuine connections play a role in the development of the community.
The following video is of my speech on this day.
It was the first time that I had an interpreter beside me while I spoke and there was also a speech to text system set up as well. These alternative ways to communicate allow for people to engage with the speakers in different ways.
I was able to meet with people. Some lived with disabilities, some had roles within politics, some created organizations, while others worked within organizations, supporting those with various disabilities. I witnessed the essence of community at the IDPD event in Calgary. A community of individuals with different disabilities and abilities as well as those that are present to support. The supports ranged from accessible housing, accessible university, specific disability organizations, and organizations set up to support those throughout the lifespan.
My gratitude to Jacqueline Cameron, Michelle Cameron Coulter, and Karen Judge is very much present. Superfly Adaptive Apparel, Inspiring Possibilities, and A Dose of Happiness supported the Canadian Premiere of “I’ll Push You” a video sharing the experience of two friends, Patrick and Justin who hike the Camino de Santiago. Justin has been living with a neuromuscular that has slowly taken away his ability to be independent. During conversation Justin and him were talking about this and Patricks response was simple, “I”ll Push You.”
I attended as Superfly Adaptive Apparel representative and spoke with a variety of people. I met some new people and caught up with other community members and friends. It was lovely to see a community of people from different walks of life that evening!
During the first part of the presentation, I modelled the Adaptive Apparel Clothing and shared how I have got to know Jacqueline Cameron. I was able to explain a bit about Canada C3, the 14th leg, the expedition, and a little about my experience. I then shared how I went out to the community looking for a variety of different supports, and Jacqueline responded so quickly with a yes.
The following is the Trailer for I’ll Push You (2016) and after that is a Ted Talk with Patrick and Justin. You may need kleenex for this.
One aspect that continues to resonate with me was this concept of community. A community along the trail came together at different points. Some coming to help fix a broken wheel (I can relate to the experience of a popping a tire, and people working together to fix it). Patrick said something along the lines of “People find a joy when they help.” There does not have to be a specific reason. This resonated with me, as lately I have been trying to figure out why certain things happened on the ship. Sometimes things just happen, and I have a strong sense that both community and joy were pieces of it.
Some disabilities are visible, some are not, though people often place barriers on themselves that limit what one can do. If you want to do something, go for it. It can be challenging, barriers may come and face you, though working within yourself and within the community can allow for successful moments. Most often, we do not know the experiences, struggles, and lived experiences of people around you.
I definitely empathized with Patrick at times, feeling burdensome at times. Times when I am in my wheelchair manoeuvring steep or uneven terrain I have relied on people in the past. Some are my family and friends, others I had just met in Bella Bella on the Canada C3 ship, where we became friends so quickly.
I believe that we are all part of a community, a family, a unit. This community can also include friends, co-workers, colleagues, teammates, and others. I am aware of my community and how members of the community have supported me. There is also this awareness of support and help and we do not necessarily need to share and educate why, it is just inherently there. As an example, I was hiking up the Canadian Mount Everest Expedition Trail (2km loop, 122m of elevation) and I was about to fall, my friend pushed me forward. Her quick thinking made me fall to the ground in front of me, not down the mountain to my left. Reflecting on this, I never had to explain to her or pre-plan this, as I did not know that I was going to fall at that moment on the hike. I, along with Justin, moved from a community that may have understood my physical needs, onto a ship where I met 59 new individuals who did not know me. I was reminded at this time how important it is to educate and discuss concepts, such as disability, support, language used, and pre-planning (when possible). Not everyone knows about disability, and the experience that people have with disability changes depending on who they know that lives with one and what type of disability that person lives with. I believe that we are meant to meet specific people during specific times, which aid in the sense of community.
The Canada C3 expedition was only possible from the vision Geoff Green put into action and the lovely skills of Captain Stéphan Guy navigating the ship around Canada’s 3 coasts. Gratitude to both of these men. There were many individuals that supported the creation of this journey prior to and during. This includes all of the members of the hospitality, communication, expedition, education, and the program team. Also are those that are based at the home base that put in the time, hours, and effort to allow the ship to set sail and continue, for 150 days. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
This day consisted of hopeful goodbyes. A group of us had flights later in the afternoon so initially planned on staying on the ship for a bit longer. We thought it was time to leave prior to lunch and headed into town. We stopped at a café and some leg 14 friends were there too. It was a lovely reunion. We took over the table next to us with all of our lugguage, guitars, and packs.
At one point, the group of us were sitting around a table and one had pointed out what we were all doing, on our phones. It proved to be a quick realization of how quickly we can go back to what we are used to, even if we know it creates barriers. My phone went away. Some of the conversation surrounded how each of us were going to share the information with others that we know and how we were going to answer the question “how was your trip/expedition/vacation?” as we knew it was coming. My first response indicates that it was not a vacation, it was an expedition where so much learning took place. A have not been able to come up with a 30-second elevator pitch of what encompassed the expedition, that would not do it justice. I try to describe the dichotomy of emotions or feelings that existed in some of the places we explored and learned about the area, the people, and what happened.
At the airport in Campbell River, we ran into some leg 15 participants that were on their way to the ship. They were brimming with excitement and they had no idea, I imagine like myself at the beginning, about how their own world perspective, human perspective, thoughts, and feelings were going to be impacted over the next 9 days.
As we were checking into the airport, Geoff, the artist, was rushed through security to get on the plane. I had thought it seemed a bit strange, as him and I had the same flight from Vancouver to Calgary that evening. It was a small plane with only a few of us on it, it was probably one of the smallest I have been on.
Once we made it to Vancouver we found our gates and Geoff, the artist, was waiting at the gait for the flight we were both on to Calgary. We were able to switch seats so we could have one last chat with someone on Canada C3 before entering our own lives. At one point I was trying to explain Canada C3 to the person sitting on my other side, who was not interested in listening, I felt sad for this human being. This was a disappointment as I was still experiencing the Canada C3 high.
The conversation with family, friends, and the community started right away. I spent two hours going through photos with my dad. The content of our discussion surrounded indigenous peoples and reconciliation. I had my first disagreement in conversation, it is okay to disagree, as conversations lead to knowledge and greater understanding. The disagreement challenged me a bit as it seemed like most people agreed with what was expressed and shared on the ship.
As I reflect on the questions that I wrote on October 9, though I did not share them earlier. They included:
Was my worry based out of not knowing, considering all things that I do not know?
It may have. My worry definitely was a motivating factor in asking questions and having conversations so I could become aware of other peoples and their histories and stories.
Was my worry related to the questions I would like to ask or the questions that will be asked of me?
Asking questions can create a vulnerability, in which the idea may exist where the other may think ‘how could you not know this.’ I did not feel vulnerable in these situations as I often started with, “I do not know much about this, please let me know…”
Was my worry related to my mobility abilities?
It may have. I had some awareness of the mobility of the ship though it was hard for me to understand it completely, even though I had someone show me pictures and describe it. My strength, mobility, and balance were definitely an asset on the expedition. I had only fallen once on the first day, and it was an incident with a door, which I had thought it would have stopped, it did not. For the times when I needed a hand, a lift, an arm, a lifejacket, the family community that developed was something spectacular. There was always someone who offered support or I was able to ask for specific help, creating learning and teaching opportunities for myself and those on Leg 14.
This morning we found out of Gord Downie’s passing. On the ship, there as the first Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Legacy Room. The room is meant to be a place, a safe place, where people can have conversations learn, and ask questions. Chanie was sent to residential school, he tried to find his way home, and did not make it. Gord used his ability as a musician to highlight concerns, create relationships, educate, and bring awareness to the experiences of indigenous peoples as well as residential schools.
To be on the ship on this day in that room, with the people on leg 14, on a ship sailing around the country, with an incredible focus on Reconciliation, was so meaningful. Gord Downie provided a beautiful example of what it means to create change through relationships and action, reconciliACTION.
Both musicians on board, Sarah Harmer and Tim Baker, sang songs in memory of Gord Downie. At one point the whole room was singing Downie’s, “Ahead by a Century.” Gratitude to these two for bringing the essence and memory of Gord Downie into the room.
The following is a short video that describes the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Legacy Room.
We were given the morning to reflect and have some quiet time to do whatever needed to be done. After I spent some time writing my thoughts out, I joined Jamie Kennedy in the mess hall to help prep some items for the dinner Jamie Kennedy created that evening. In the mess hall, a Gord Downie playlist was going and many people were singing along while helping out, it was amazing.
As I was heading off the ship I was informed that the communications team wanted more footage of me maneuvering around the ship (the video will be shared in a later post). Initially, I was okay with this request. Then the struggle became real. The last step to get to the gangway is a giant step. There are no railings, but ropes to hold onto. I had managed this every time I got on and off the ship and it worked. This time though, there was a camera watching and recording me navigate up this one step, which felt like 20 minutes, though it may have only been 5. This moment felt so isolating and so different from the other times that I had maneuvered this same step before.
The group got on a bus and headed into Campbell River to learn from Ocean Networks Canada. This network provides video information along with other pieces of information throughout the day, and you can even check it out live. We learned about clam gardens and even got to experiment and create our own, to learn about the different ways one could set them up.
When I think of the emotional roller coaster of this day (and including everything from the past 8 days), there were many things that played a role. When I take a step back and look at the different experiences, feelings, and learnings over the last 10 days they have been so important, so life-changing and the feelings have ranged drastically, some even conflicting. Those who know me, know that I do not back down when a challenge presents itself and will continue to try until I accomplish something. There have been a wide variety of challenges during this part of the expedition, which I had planned for both physically and mentally. They may also know that I am a fan of making adaptations or modifications to make life a little easier. A few days ago, I started to struggle to get over a giant stair to go from out of the ship to in the ship. A smaller stair was created for both inside and outside that was set out, that others used as well. Gratitude for those that made the stair!
Coming to this day I still had the zest to continue to explore and push my body. There was definitely some fatigue setting in, but with mind over matter, I push through. I had a strong personal realization on this day that sometimes mind over matter doesn’t work, and sometimes it breaks.
As I was heading back to the meeting room, a co-participant asked if I wanted to go back to the ship in a van. I indicated a pretty strong YES, to this question. I was so happy to hear that there was an alternative mode of transportation available, a vehicle that I could get in on my own, with ease. The person driving the vehicle responded saying there was no room. I felt instantly defeated. Regardless, I managed to get onto the bus, I cannot and would not give up, and was feeling sad and angry. When my perspective became filtered with defeat, sadness, and anger, sometimes I perceive challenges to happen, which generally increases the prevalence of noticing them. Back at the ship, the gangway looked even steeper! I have hiked steeper mountains so managed it, to get to the knot, where we are having our last debrief. I was on my way to get into my basketball gear as a group of us were leaving as soon as debrief was done. On the way, Jenn asked me how I was doing. It is so easy for people to respond and just say, “I am good, you?” We created this relationship, where I felt that being honest with her was the best thing and responded, “I’m okay” which quickly turned into “not well.” The van driver noticed this and we spoke about it. I recognize the importance of communication, clarification, and being assertive. These skills seem to be much easier to use when I feel in control of what is happening. I was able to share with the van driver that I perceived a way back to the ship where I could manage getting in and out of the vehicle on my own. There was a sense of understanding that came out of this meeting. Definitely a learning opportunity. I learned that even when feeling frustrated, it is helpful to explain to allow for a space of understanding and to start the recovery process. Once I was ready for basketball, I was heading to the knot and met Jenn in the hallway and vocalized that I couldn’t go into the knot, even though I recognized that I was missing out on personal learning moments and experiences of those on leg 14. We spent time in the Legacy room together, talking, sitting in silence, just being present, and crying too. So thankful for Jenn at this time, it was very meaningful. It was having a safe place, person, and environment that was created over time to allow for this to be felt out for a period of time and to move to a place of processing it. We discussed quite a few different things at this time but there is one thing that stood out for me that I am choosing to share in my own words. Jenn observed how ‘able’ I present myself, I continue to try, I maneuver in the way I can (using walls, crutches, or wheelchair), I am independent, and I elaborate when I need help. I agreed with her statements and am glad that this is her perspective, as it is part of mine too.
As I look back at this event, now almost two weeks ago I smile as my perspective changes, even though I can look at the entire leg as a whole and see the various rollercoaster of thoughts, conversations, learnings, and feelings that were experienced. I imagine that if this event was to have happened earlier, that I may not felt the way that I did. It is interesting how time can play a role in how we feel or think about things.
The basketball game with some athletes from Special Olympics-Campbell River was just what I needed to get back on my feet and reset. It was fun, supportive, competitive, and lovely all at the same time. I truly came back to the ship feeling refreshed.
Jamie Kennedy is an amazing person and incredible chef. On the last night of the 14th leg, we had cabbage rolls infused with corn and beans, beets, and a cored apple with banana bread and dates in the middle.
These learning opportunities happen at moments even long after the activity. I had one of the photographers on the communications team apologize to not choosing a disability for the dinner I facilitated. They felt like they could have still participated and captured these moments, and shared that one cannot choose when their disability impacts them, let alone the disability that may impact them. We can all learn different things from participating or not participating. I feel that even though this person did not participate with a disability, she witnessed it and came up with a very strong realization of disability.
A few different video’s that the communication put together were presented (these I have shared in previous posts), they did an amazing job! I had a chance at this point to share that there was so much learning that happened on this expedition for me. Education comes from discussions, presentations, engagements, and exploration. When we truly we do not know, it makes it hard to do anything about it. Education is key and allows us to take what we know and do something with it. My hope is that as a reader, I brought you with me in some of my learnings and experiences and you take it and incorporate it into your life. I highlighted what an amazing group of people were on this leg, allowed for all of us to engage in the process together and thankful for support throughout leg 14.
The rest of this evening was spent singing and dancing with Leg 14 friends! The night ended with Green Day’s, Time of Your Life, which was a special way to end the night. There were many lessons learned during this time and I know I definitely had the time of my life.
This is the time, the time to share, love, care, be, and do. Be the best you, you can be and share it with those around you. Each person has a set of skills that are so very important. We learn by interacting with others, and by asking others. We do not stop learning once we exit school. The world, the land, and people are extraordinary sources of information. I learned many ‘things’ on this trip and they all started with a question.