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To Portland, With Love

by Julie Keon on November 18th, 2014

Three weeks ago, I travelled to Portland, Oregon, accompanied by my dad, to give the keynote at the United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon & SW Washington  family conference. Since my return, life continued on at an abnormally hectic pace leaving me little time to reflect on this journey.
Many have asked me how my trip went and it really feels like a long time ago that I was flying across the country to give this talk. I had been contacted a year earlier by Susan Cushman, Family Support Director for the organization. She contacted me after reading “What I Would Tell You” and asked that I come to Portland and be the keynote speaker as well as a workshop facilitator. I was both honoured and terrified to accept her offer.
It took me a long time to settle on a topic and finally I decided on sharing the lessons I had picked up along the way as a mother to Meredith. It was called “Ten Pearls of Wisdom~ a decade of lessons learned mothering my child with medical fragility.” That afternoon I gave a workshop on “Cultivating Resilience for the Long Haul” touching on the things that have helped me to go from new motherhood to where I am now, almost eleven years later, intact, happy and healthy.
This was my first time giving a keynote and so I really didn’t know what to expect.  It was all very surreal. Writing this speech required a trip back in time to when I was a new mother.  I never would have imagined back in December of 2003, that almost eleven years later, I would be sharing my hard earned wisdom with a room full of parents, children and adults living with cerebral palsy and professionals. My only hope was that something I said would resonate with my audience and from the feedback that I received, I am confident that I succeeded in what I set out to do.
There were many highlights of this trip. I was thrilled to meet a fellow Life-Cycle Celebrant, Peggy Acott,  for dinner on our first night in Portland. Peggy helped me immensely in gathering the items I needed for my keynote and my workshop.  It would have been very difficult travelling with a large glass vase, 200 “pearls” and a live bean plant. Meeting Peggy (and her partner, Sue) was wonderful as we have been “friends” on Facebook for some time. Shout out to Peggy for your kind spirit and your assistance!
Friday brought the conference and there was such anticipation on my part that I awoke ready to roll at 2:30am. With seven hours until show time, I texted with my husband, did yoga, ate breakfast and went over my notes about fifty times before finally being able to head downstairs to the conference area.  That evening, we gathered in the lounge for much needed drinks and soon others joined our table. It was such a pleasure to meet other families who could easily relate to me. I loved hearing from the mothers of children who were now 20 years and older and I loved giving hugs to the mothers who were just starting out on this journey (blog post coming up on this topic!).


Left to Right: Marie Blanchard, me and Susan Cushman (Marie’s mother)

On Saturday, my dad and I took a road trip to the Oregon coast . Our first destination was Cannon Beach which was incredible. Unfortunately, the weather was wicked and we headed back to Portland halfway to our final destination of Lincoln City as high winds and thick fog were making the journey less than pleasurable. I am definitely going to return to the west coast and drive from Vancouver, BC to San Francisco, CA some day. It was like nothing I had ever seen.
Before I knew it, Sunday arrived and it was time to head home. I was relieved, exhausted and warmed by the kind and memorable people I met in Portland. I hope to return one day when life allows. I was excited to get home to my family. Tim welcomed me with flowers and Meredith welcomed me with a cold shoulder and indifference. It didn’t take long for some snuggles to warm her up and for her to forgive me for leaving her for five days.
Since returning, I have been frantically finishing up my book among many other commitments. I have just one chapter to finish plus the introduction and acknowledgements. Finally, after three years, the “What I Would Tell You” book will be  set free. There will be lots of changes coming up in the months ahead with a new website and of course, a new book for sale.
Thank you, Susan (Cushman) and the staff/ volunteers and families of United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon and SW Washington for making this Canadian mother feel so welcome in your beautiful city!

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  1. Great to hear about your experience!

  2. Aunt Marilyn permalink

    I wish I could have heard your keynote address. I know you were fabulous! How proud I am of you for sharing your experiences to help others! sending so much love!

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