SABBATICAL MESSAGE

 

May 6, 2024

 


Dear customers,

 

Happy news:

Everyday Bouquets is nearly four years old.

In this time I’ve met so many of you like-minded, big-hearted people on this fair North Shore of ours.
And I count you as friends -- flower friends! -- the best kind.

With the help of volunteers, fellow gardeners, and devoted drivers we’ve arranged and delivered over 10,000 flower
bouquets in four years.


10,000!
 

To think:

what started as an impromptu flower stand in July 2020 to occupy my restless toddlers on a whim has grown
into a real little cottage (garden!) industry, while helping people along the
way.

What a gift!

 

But…
 
It’s with my children in mind that I’ve decided to
take an indefinite sabbatical from flower deliveries.

The world was a different place when I started Everyday Bouquets -- and we were a different family.

Both have changed so much in four
years and I need to evolve with it.

Thursday June 6, 2024 will be the last flower delivery, until further notice.
Thank you for all your support.

Read on and I'll explain.

- Jana Young
Founder & Chief Volunteer
Everyday Bouquets

 

 


 

Our Family

 

We've had an incredibly hard year as a family with my young son's mental health these last 12 months. This is why I need to take the sabbatical.

 

Owen is 7 and has severe ADHD and was also recently diagnosed with the PDA profile of ASD (autism) plus high anxiety, a growing number of phobias, and we also suspect dyslexia and dysgraphia, too.

 

We've done a number of medication trials this last year and unfortunately none have been beneficial but all have been intensely traumatic so I just need to take a break from flower deliveries and continue supporting him and my daughter and husband and just hunker down and simplify. A new phase and chapter of family life unfurls.

 

ADHD medications can be life-changing for some children but they only work for 90% of people; for now, we seem to be in the other 10%.

 

Since September Owen has attended school for just half a day to manage his anxiety and overstimulation.

He requires 1:1 EA (education assistant) support for much of the morning at school. Working with Owen is intense for them. The rest of the day he is home with me, but trust me, it’s no break, for either of us.

 

ADHD can be a debilitating condition, for both the person
who has it and the people around them. And paired with PDA (pathological
demand avoidance) which is a profile of the autism spectrum (another incredibly debilitating condition), it’s just a
brutal combination.

We’ve fought hard to get these diagnoses for Owen, trusting
our instincts that there was more than “just” ADHD going on (which on its own
is a lot). We're so grateful to Dr. Davies at the ABLE Clinic who finally listened to us, validated and helped us.

With each of these conditions there is a great amount of
emotional dysregulation which can look like tantrums and “bad” behaviour to those unversed in neurodivergence.

But it's not.  


(There’s no such thing as a “bad” kid.) 

 

To us at home it looks like near-constant
vocalizations, irritability, impatience, frustration intolerance, compulsive body movements, extreme avoidance, extreme picky eating, panic.

On the inside his brain is frantically vacillating between overstimulation and under-stimulation, and his body is trying to manage sensory overload, from moment-to-moment, all day
long.

 

PDA stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance, or “Pervasive
Desire for Autonomy”
(as many adults with the condition prefer and deem a more accurate description of their inner experience.)
Pathological seems like a harsh word to apply to a little boy but in medical terms it just means automatic or instinctive, or something that happens in the extreme and impacts a person's daily life. 
 
 Owen’s nervous
system misinterprets everyday activities, requests, actions or behaviour
compliance (demands) as threats to his safety and survival, and he reacts in a
defiant manner, saying "no" to everything to protect his sense of security and autonomy.
So what looks like a defiant child to outsiders is actually our son having a panic attack.

 

Supporting Owen during these highly emotional cycles of
his nervous system requires absolute control of my own emotions, remaining
neutral and unconditionally accepting, at home and in public, for extended
periods of time.

It's not easy.

But it’s also not his fault.

All kids want to be "good."

 

My mantra in these moments has been: “Don’t try to calm the
storm. Calm yourself. The storm will pass.”

 

We were falling through the cracks of both the medical
system and the school system. Our education system in BC doesn’t recognize
ADHD as requiring additional EA support. (BC and ON are the only two provinces
that don’t allocate extra support funding for kids with ADHD.)

 

And the medical system doesn’t acknowledge PDA because it’s
not a diagnosis in the DSM (not yet, it’s proposed, but medicine moves slowly.)

 

The UK is ahead of North America in this regard, where there are many supports
there for kids with PDA, with lots of training and acknowledgment for teachers and parents, and
even special schools geared to help.

After years of casting about, seeking doctors and referrals
and second opinions and researching all of this deeply, we’ve finally found
something (PDA) that explains our incredibly difficult journey of parenting
Owen, and finally gives us tools to help him (Low Demand Parenting has been revolutionary)….so we’re going with the UK on this.

 

As for me, the practical demands of learning to be a support worker for
our son is difficult in itself but add to that the multiple layers of
diagnosis grief which accompanies each new acronym that is applied to Owen and
this last year has been the hardest of my life.

 

And I say that as someone who
is no stranger to hardship.

  

Grief is best faced straight on because "if we don't transform our pain we'll surely transmit it" (Father Richard Rohr) and I’m so grateful that my husband Ben has always been a firm advocate of
“the more information, the better” when it comes to understanding our children
and ourselves diagnostically.

 

But I've also recently heard it said that the opposite is better: that we should stop labelling our children. And I can understand the argument for this as well.

 
I met a woman at my flower stand last fall who said if she'd been born today, she'd have “more labels than a record company." 

But label or no label, the message we want Owen to know — and all neurodivergent kids — is simply this: 

“You’re ok as you are.”

  

And of all the books I’ve read over the last year, the best
tidbit I’ve held on to is this:

 

“The purpose of parenting isn’t to shape our children; but to get to know them.” (Gordon Neufeld)

 

This one has also stayed with me:

“I’m out with lanterns looking for myself.” - Emily Dickinson.

 

There are many GIFTS that come with neurodivergence, too numerous to name here but some:

creativity, generosity, entrepreneurial mindset, logical reasoning, analytical thinking, photographic memory, the list goes on and on.

 

That same woman at the flower stand also said: people are like coins, we all have our good sides and our bad sides and even though it might seem like some people have a bigger bad side than others it's actually that they're just a larger coin and their good side is proportionately larger too, bigger than all those other small coin people.

 

 

There’s so much more to say here but it’s a difficult thing
to put into words …and I have a sick son home from school with the sniffles today for the third day in a row, who is badgering and berating me as I type
this so I must pause for now on this topic.

 

It's been interesting to observe the impact of
all this on myself and this little social enterprise.

 

Fourteen months ago I was still actively trying to develop this business (to expand the delivery area over bridges and grow the customer
base), trying to stay one step ahead of inflation and ultimately help more
needy people.

 

But then family crisis struck and I had to pull back mightily.

 

I let go of new ideas and abandoned all my ambitions and the business contracted instantly.

 

Now the more time I spend with Owen (and less on this business), the more Everyday Bouquets has regressed to its start-up roots:

 

I no longer use the garage as my workspace. Instead, I’m back at the kitchen counter arranging bouquets inside my house while watching Owen play,
just like in the early days.

 

And we have the flower stand out at the road more often now, and we even
sometimes have a $5 price point again, also like in the beginning! (The broken
flower stems.)

Owen is once again motivated to sell these shorty bouquets so he
can save money for his Lego sets, which have been increasingly therapeutic for
him.

 

As for me:

 

I’m letting go of all my earthly plans and goals since clinging to expectations is just a recipe for frustration.

I used to think this business was my calling, but no longer. Parenting can turn on a dime and we're given no promises in this lifetime.

Instead, I’m learning to support my disabled child. Self-sacrifice with a side of self-care is my new gig.

Sainthood in the afterlife feels like my only remaining occupational aspiration at this time.

 

 

The Fallow Year

 

“Fallow” is a farming term which I think applies to both myself and Everyday Bouquets.
After many seasons of crop production a field needs to rest and lie dormant, to “go fallow,” to produce nothing and recover its nutrients after growing and creating and supporting many others.
 
“Harrowing” is another agricultural word that fits.
This poem by Parker Palmer, written in the depths of a dark depression (something I experience too) has always been a favourite, but especially now:



Harrowing

by Parker J. Palmer

The plow has savaged this sweet field
Misshapen clods of earth kicked up
Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view
Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.

I have plowed my life this way
Turned over a whole history
Looking for the roots of what went wrong
Until my face is ravaged, furrowed, scarred.

Enough. The job is done.
Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be
Seedbed for the growing that’s to come.
I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons—

The farmer plows to plant a greening season.

 

 

I’m an incredibly resilient person and a very good steward of my own pain. This entire social enterprise grew out of my own painful struggle with postpartum depression when I took up gardening as therapy.

These last 12 months my mind has been restless, frantically plowing ‘last year’s reasons’:

Wishing we could rewind life to before the medication trials.

Wondering if the complicated pregnancy was the start of it all.

Or which side of the family DNA inheritance is to blame.

 

Or is it the forever chemicals in umbilical cords.


Or the latent anxiety of living through a global pandemic.


Or… or… or… or… 

 

 Enough. The job is done.

 

No doubt there will be future greening seasons for me, but first, I need a rest. 

 


 

 Pictured above: Owen (age 3) at the inaugural flower stand on July 5, 2020, bravely awaiting our first customer. Everyday Bouquets is approximately 10 minutes old.  

 

Customers, you’re very special people.

 

Thank you for your loyal support and enthusiasm. I’ve enjoyed every conversation I’ve ever had with you, on all of your collective doorsteps over the years.

It’s odd to think that I know who ALL OF YOU ARE…but you don’t know who EACH OTHER are.

 

So let me tell you about yourselves!

It’s risky to describe such a diverse bunch of people yet you all seem to share a similar trait, and I think the best word to describe it is this:

 

“Beneficent.” 

 

I had to look it up to make sure I’ve got the right word, and I think I do:

Beneficent means the action of being generous and charitable. It’s related to “benevolent” but it’s not a synonym.

Benevolent refers to the inner moral intentions of helping others, but “beneficent” is the actual ACT of FOLLOWING THROUGH on those intentions. Of actually DOING the good acts.

So I’m not really surprised you have this trait in common.

 

Lots of people probably think: “I should send flowers or a card,” yet fewer of us actually DO it.

 

Not so for you folks.

Y’all are the DOERS!

 

And you could’ve ordered flowers from anywhere, yet you chose Everyday Bouquets.

Not only were you sending love and flowers to people you DO know (friends, family, loved ones…)

But you chose to help people you DON’T know at the same time (newcomers and families in need.)

 

Now that’s beneficent.

 

 

It wasn’t really about the flowers

 

In the last four years you’ve sent flowers to many people and for many reasons:

 

For your child or partner on their birthday.

For delighting your sister,

or surprising your brother,

or honoring your parents on their wedding anniversary.

For a baby’s birth,

and a baby’s adoption.

For your new neighbour,

and to yourself, for your own self-care.

 

But most often of all… for your mothers!

 

Yet beauty is a gentle healer, and in times of pain and loss, you also sent these bouquets to:

 

Parents recovering from surgery,

or a stroke,

or enduring chemo.

To a cousin who lost a baby,

and a mother who lost a son.

To a hurting, grieving, or dying friend.

To the widowed.

And to place on a gravesite.

 

Thank you for trusting me to convey your written notes of condolence and encouragement.

By helping others in need, this act of sending flowers to your loved ones possibly redeemed and transformed their pain, or multiplied their joy.

 

Yes.

These little bouquets achieved all that.

Beneficence!

 

Thank you dear customers: your encouragement, word-of-mouth, and generosity is the real secret behind this homegrown social enterprise on the North Shore.

You should all meet each other, I think you’d really hit it off.

 

 

 

****************

 

 

This is not the last email you’ll hear from me as I wrap things up.

The next email will be an extended update on the Mexican family who is immigrating to Vancouver over these last five years, in the form of a long-awaited sequel to that lengthy email I sent years ago about the time I accosted a federal immigration minister with flowers to advocate on their behalf.

Don’t worry, I’ll re-send the original to jog your memories (as repeatedly requested by a dear customer on Adderley! Thanks Erin for your gentle nudgings.)

My goodness…so much has happened since then, in both their family life and government policy.

They deserve their own newsletter.

 

Thank you all, I better go spell-off my husband now, who is caring for the kids, cat, and new hamster as I get this written at the library. (Two to four animals, depending how you count!)

 

Jana Young

Chief Volunteer | Everyday Bouquets



 

P.S.... an apology

I want to specifically say sorry to any of you wonderful
customers who had sent me an email over the last year with special requests or whatnot and
I never got back to you; I was dropping the ball a lot because of what I’ve
described above. Especially in May/June last year, and Sept/Oct/Nov …those were the
worst months for trauma, and all of the bouquets were arranged under duress at
those times. But I’m better at replying to emails now (not amazing, but
better!) and the duress has died down to a dull roar.

 

 

 

Q & A about the sabbatical

 

Q: That’s great you’re taking a sabbatical, but what about my flowers? I’ve already paid for them.

 

If you currently have an active flower subscription which you’ve prepaid and it extends beyond June -- don’t fret, you’ll still get your flowers!

I’ll be emailing you directly with some options, which will include:

a) a credit to use at my flower stand from Aug-Oct when the dahlias are blooming, or,

b) send your extra bouquets as one-time gifts to your friends or family anywhere on the North Shore in May or June, or

c) a combination of the two, your choice. 

There are only a handful of you in this situation because during the previous 12 months I’ve been methodically reducing the duration of subscriptions on offer, knowing this sabbatical was necessary, and gradually
winding things down over the course of the year.

 

Q: How many bouquets do I have left on my current subscription?

 

If you’ve lost track, just reply to this email and I’ll check for you!

 

Q: Will you still have your flower stand?

 

Yes, I’m going to continue to run my little flower stand out front of the house, usually on weekends, from Aug-Oct when the hundreds of dahlia plants in my garden will be blooming.

I'll send a quick email alert when the flower stand is out so you can have first pickings!