The Importance of Jumping on One Foot - Part I

by Helene Louise  

One of the many "inabilities" that was pointed out in the early years of my daughter's rehabilitation, was the fact that she could not stand on her right leg and jump on one foot. Year after year, it was checked and year after year it was pointed out that she couldn't do it. 

At the time, I was painfully aware of what other kids her age could and were supposed to do—especially since her assessments continuously focused on the abilities that the stroke had taken away as opposed to what was, or might, be possible. So, learning to jump on her right foot was one of the many things that I worked on with her. At the park, in her room, in front of the TV, I held her as I encouraged her to lift her left foot off the ground and try to balance on her right leg. 

But, try as she might, it was very difficult for her to even just stand on her right leg, let alone try to jump. And, the muscles in her foot and leg were so tight that she couldn't easily bend them. So, being able to then bend, balance and jump, did seem impossible. Balancing alone remained a major challenge let alone ever achieving any kind of lift-off. Still, for a long time, I tried just the same. I figured that if I didn't try, then she certainly would never learn to do it and if I did, then at least there was a slight possibility of it happening. 

As she got older and the other little girls in the neighbourhood skipped along on the sidewalk as young girls like to do, my daughter would skip too. But she skipped on the left leg only and then took a step with the right one. It was lop-sided but it didn't matter. She was with her friends, she was happy, she felt good about herself and she was skipping in her own way. 

As a result, I eventually abandoned the project of overcoming that particular "inability". In part, because with time, I gained a little more perspective. Really, aside from maybe mimicking Fred Flintstone stubbing his toe and yelling, "yaba-daba-daiai-aiai" as I sometimes did when I was a child back in the seventies, or trying to hold a pose while playing Twister in someone's "rec room" as we called it back then, how many times have I actually jumped on one foot in my lifetime?  And, of those instances, how many times was it absolutely necessary that I jump on one foot as opposed to moving in some other way? I can’t think of a single instance. 

So, perhaps my daughter was assessed as incapable of jumping on her right foot. But, she is capable of a great number of things, including skipping, even if it is a bit different. And, she is capable of making friends and enjoying a summer day—which is even more important. 

Form is loading...

Happ-e New Year!

by Helene Louise  

It's the beginning of a new year and I'm not much for making new year's resolutions but I do always like to have a goal or two on the go. For me, there is an important difference between the two.

With new year's resolutions, there is an implied 365-day implementation deadline after which you reflect on the success or failure of whatever it was you intended to do. Goals on the other hand, don't have to fit neatly into a one-year period and therefore, can legitimately extend over a longer period of time than whatever was expected at the outset. 

I believe this is a very important difference because in this way, any progress, no matter how minimal it may seem to others, can still be counted as a step towards achieving the goal, even after a year, or more. In my case, this is much more likely to keep me from abandoning whatever goal I've set for myself, which of course makes it much more likely that I will actually ever achieve it!

This project, Micha Books, is a good example. At first, it was a vague dream I had of doing something positive with my experience coming to terms with my daughter's stroke, beyond her own progress. Slowly, the idea became a long series of small goals spread out over many years - an outline for a book that I felt I could write, learning how to use a specific software to format what I eventually wrote, learning how to build a website and then slowly building one, writing and developing a children's book, etc. The only resolution I've had really, is in the broader sense of the word. That is, a resolve to keep working on something that is meaningful to me. And that's what I do, from one year to the next.

So, as we start this new year I don't have a resolution, but among my more practical goals, is to figure out how to turn my books into e-books. Hopefully, it will take less than a year to do but even if it takes longer, I will still be "happ-e" with the outcome - whenever that is.

I wish everyone a happy (and happ-e!) new year full of goals of all shapes and sizes, to be achieved, all in good time.

Form is loading...

Kosik the Korean-Speaking Elephant

by Helene Louise  

I read that in a Korean zoo, there is an elephant named Kosik that has apparently learned to say five words in Korean, among them “annyong” or hello and “choah” or good. Elephants are highly social creatures that live in large family groups. They have an elaborate way of communicating with each other by touch, sight and sound. Kosik was apparently isolated from other elephants for many years and it is thought that with his innate need for social interaction, he adapted his sounds in order to strengthen the social association he had with his trainers. 

The most striking feature of elephants is, of course, their trunk, which is a fusion of their nose and upper lip. With a facial structure that is so different from ours, it is not obvious how an elephant might go about making human sounds. However, Kosik wanted to communicate with the people around him, so he found a way. He put his trunk in his mouth and moved his lower jaw in such a way as to overcome his physical limitations—or his “dis-ability”, and make the sounds that he wanted to make back to his trainers.

Something I've regularly faced with my daughter throughout her rehabilitation after a childhood stroke, is the idea that we aren’t all the same and we don’t all have exactly the same capacities. In some cases, our differences are very obvious and in others, less so. Still, in many cases, if there’s something we really want to do, we can find a way, even if it’s a little different, or even if it’s a lot different. In my opinion, that should be good enough – or as Kosik might say, “choah” enough.

Form is loading...

Mimi Books Now Available Online!

by Helene Louise  


I am so very happy to be writing that the first book of the "Mimi" series is now available online! "Mimi Learns to Walk" or "Mimi apprend à marcher" in French, is exactly the kind of book I wish I could have found when my daughter was a baby and was first diagnosed as having suffered a stroke. 

From the time I first had the idea of creating these books, I knew exactly what I wanted the stories to be and why I felt such a strong drive to create them. What I didn't have (and still don't have...) is the artistic capacity to turn the words into pictures. I am therefore very grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with an extraordinarily talented illustrator, Zina Mufarrij. She not only reflected my story beautifully in colourful, adorable pictures, she also did so in a way that conveys the emotions that run like threads through the pages.

As new as they are, I am happy to say that copies are already starting to appear in waiting rooms, libraries and classrooms - because after all, even though the stories feature a young girl who has suffered a stroke, the themes of working hard at something that is difficult, staying positive and persevering, are applicable to everyone. Just like Mimi in "Mimi Learns to Walk", I will keep working at this project one teeny tiny step at a time...

Form is loading...

Bon Echo

by Helene Louise  


A few weeks ago I visited some dear friends at their cottage in South Eastern Ontario. We've had a long-standing invitation but it wasn't until this summer that I finally managed to get myself and my daughters there. It was a long drive through parts of Ontario that I didn't know but all of a sudden, about fifteen minutes before arriving at our destination, we passed a sign that said "Bon Echo Provincial Park" that looked so very familiar. 

It had been about thirty years since I had last seen that sign but I recognized it right away and it brought back a flood of memories. In my book there is a chapter called "Finding Reasons to Persevere - My Collection of Fireflies" in which I write about how finding reasons to persevere in the context of my daughter's rehabilitation after a childhood stroke was a bit like catching fireflies on a high school camping trip many, many years ago. It's an example that I use quite often, including an earlier blog entry. Well, it was in fact in Bon Echo park that I collected those very fireflies so many decades ago! It's funny how we can think we are so far away from our past but then, unexpectedly, there it is right in front of us once again. 

On the way home after our visit, my daughters and I stopped to take a picture of the Bon Echo sign. Thirty years ago I could never have imagined how my life would unfold between my two visits to that area, how many turns it would take and all of the challenges I would eventually face—including my daughter's diagnosis of a childhood stroke. But all in all, I am grateful for how things have turned out, for the experience of catching fireflies so long ago and for the way in which my past, in this case, is still with me somehow.

Form is loading...

1 2 3 ...4 ... 6 ...8 ...9 10 11 12