On a Wing and a Prayer

My nose pressed against the window, the plane is transporting us across the sky, we are headed for Orlando, Florida airport. From my cramped seat I lower my tearful eyes downward. The wisps of white clouds are racing by. With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, I lift my eyes up to the brilliant fluffy white clouds above. Beams of sunlight pour through the openings. Shafts of brilliance holding the hope that this is all just a dreamtime. But, I know I am not dreaming, and I miss her greatly.

You see, it was 2 years ago at our winter home in Florida when we headed down to the lagoon. There we enjoyed the wild dolphins, birds, water, clouds and every other treasure nature can offer. The first of what would become our daily 4:00 p.m. ritual.

We arrived and settled down on a bench and I looked over to my left and there, sitting in her wheelchair was an elderly woman. Beside her was an elderly gentleman in his golf cart. Both were looking out to the water. It was then that she looked over to us, and gave me a brilliant smile. Her smile lit up my heart, and it has glowed with her light ever since.

We walked over to introduce ourselves and the gentleman said; “Pleased to meet you. My name is Bill, and this lovely lady is my wife Straucie. She had a stroke a number of years ago and it took away her ability to speak.”

I said, “Oh that’s okay, I can’t hear well, she can’t talk well, hmm… we’ll find a way. From that day forward, Straucie and I had many lively conversations. Somehow, Straucie and I found our ways to communicate. Straucie could say a few words such as a long drawn out, “yeees”. With her facial expressions, animated body language, and her sharp mind, we discussed life, struggles, blessings, and all manner of the stuff of life. Bill and my husband Mark were often perplexed as to how Straucie and I could have discussions. At one point during our conversation, I would turn to the fellas and say, “Straucie was just telling me…”, the fellas would look at me and Straucie with crooked smiles, and then Straucie would give them a determined nod and say, “yeees”. Yup, we had discussed and understood one another!

Bill and my husband Mark talked about football, politics, and all manner of interests to them. Bill shared many stories of he and Straucie’s life together, and I must say they had us laughing at their adventures and antics.

Just about every day our feisty Straucie would head down to the lagoon at top motorized wheelchair speed with a glowing smile on her face, while Bill followed her in his golf cart. Straucie’s body was paralyzed on the right side, and at 93 years of age, Bill was taking care of her, the house, and meals with the full and consistent assistance of their dear daughter Sandy, and son-in-law, Mark. Together as a team their beloved Straucie was well taken care of.

Our love for Straucie and Bill grew to include Sandy, Mark, their children and grandchildren. Friends became like family and family like friends. As mentioned, the stroke had robbed Straucie of her ability to speak full sentences, but as we found out, she was able to sing. So sing we did! Straucie had a lovely singing voice and when she sang, many words came out clear. Together we sang her favourite hymns, and other songs including some silly ones like: Mairzy Doats which is a novelty song written and composed, in 1943, by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston. The songs refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless, but it is not.

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey,

A kiddly divy too, wooden shoe…

We would both melt into giggles and laughter with the silly words. She amazed me with her ability to articulate each word, in tune and on pitch.

In the weeks before Christmas of last year, Straucie, Sandy and I went shopping. Straucie and I purchased matching Christmas sweaters. Both of us refused to wear them until Christmas day. We sure had fun being twins for a day!

We are snowbirds, Florida is our winter home only, so in May it was time to head north and return to Canada. We bid our tearful good byes with the promise we will be returning in November. We text Bill just about everyday and send pictures of our summer adventures for their delight.

In early August, Straucie fell ill. Although everyone did all that they could, our Straucie succumbed to her illness, and on the wings of angels she passed, August 14th, 2017.

With my nose pressed against the window, we are on our way to give our final good bye to the lady that lit our hearts with the brilliant light of joyful friendship, family, and love.

Bill, Sandy, Mark, granddaughter Michelle, other family and friends, gave Straucie a celebration of life she would have been delighted with. Songs were sung. Poetry, and a letter she wrote to Bill were read at the gravesite. Personal stories shared. All of this was enveloped in the love we have and hold for friends like family, and family like friends.

We miss you Straucie, we will always hold you in our thoughts. You cozied up in our hearts, and you will forever have a soft place to be lovingly remembered. Thank you for you our beloved.

With all of our love, Jo-Ann, Mark, and Percy xo

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The Tapestry of Life

“Plan for the future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life” – Mark Twain

There is the common thread of life that binds our collective and individual lives and this is the thread of change. 2016 has been a year of many global and individual chanxmas-lights-blogges, and it has set the scene for many more changes to come in 2017.

All People must cope with change, moving from one situation to another. In addition to life’s habit of thrusting change upon us, ostomates and any other folk who are physiologically altered, change and all of its psychological challenges are magnified manyfold.

We want the comfort of staying in a life space that is familiar, but, inevitably and consistently change weaves in and throughout the tapestry of our life story. We can only hope change is a good thing. All changes even good ones, as with the creation of a life saving and sustaining stoma, for most of us, well we just don’t transition smoothly.

Often our minds and our guts sends us strong opposing responses. We have to let go, this is challenging, so we catch ourselves trying to build the missing pieces back in. Of course they no longer exist as we move forward through the changes. What we are really trying to do, is to find the ways and means by which we can balance the conflicting emotions about the change.

The price for balance is often a valuable and burdensome journey that teaches
us about ourselves, our lives, and mostly what is inside of our heads.

Balancing through change is a lonely task, we may be fortunate to have supportive people in our life, but when it comes down to it, it is done alone. This makes us feel isolated, separated from our family and friends. Focus is required, and so, change is stressful for our brain, it becomes overworked, and an overworked brain does not function well. Change can cause irritability when it means we must change our behaviour patterns. Sheesh, ostomates sure can relate to this one!

It’s tough coming to the realization we can no longer accept what we previously had, and we feel dissatisfied. The feeling of being lost before we find our way, is powerful. It’s not easy transitioning and dealing with a whole new set of expectations, emotions and experiences, it is daunting.

Sometimes we feel lost when we are creating a new reality and we’re somewhere new. The thread of change consistently weaves in and throughout our lives. The changes we will experience during the coming year will challenge us and our entire future lives. Life goes on, and as the ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

Our destination is tomorrow, plan for what you can, want, and need. Take the step into the changing unknown and may the bright colours of health, happiness and prosperity, illuminate the tapestry of your life throughout 2017.

From our home to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 
Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

Percy Stoma

EOL. Poopology

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

BAGs Around the World – New Book

Step into a journey through experience and transcend the normal limits of everyday life. Join in the intellectual, emotional, and physical pilgrimage to discover the meanings in and of our lives. Be touched by bags-around-the-worldthe spirit of the fellowship of people around the world as we celebrate 2nd chances at life.

Better WITH a Bag Than IN a Bag, introduced Percy Stoma to the world. Another BAG Another DAY, marched to the beat of the recovery drum. Now, the newest book, BAGs Around the World, transports us to the far reaches of our everyday human experiences and life adventures.

Join Percy Stoma and Jo-Ann L. Tremblay, as they explore, muse, and contemplate the life of ostomates and non-ostomates, in our challenging life experiences as humans on planet Earth.

BAGs Around the World, is coming to Amazon worldwide October 2016.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more information on how you can order your copy of BAGs Around the World.

Friends Are Better Than Therapy

We left our home in the cold north last November to spend the winter in the warm sunny south. It was at this time we also left our friends behind. We arrived at our

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Photographer: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay 

winter home in a community where we knew only a few people, it could have been lonely, but as it turns out this is not the case.

We have become members of a neighbourhood with a true sense of community. There is no doubt the setting is well kept and beautiful, and our little home is nestled on the banks of a canal filled with fish, waterfowl, and the occasional alligator. But the natural beauty is only part of the joy, it is the people who pull it altogether.

In the mornings when I take a walk, everyone I meet along the way, greet one another with a smile and a wave. If someone needs a helping hand, there is a line up of folks ready to give of themselves. In the afternoon when I wander down to the bay, people exercising their dogs, people fishing, and folks like me simply enjoying the day, catch up with the latest news. Our community friends are our pals and buddies.

We all have different lifestyles, have come from different places, we follow separate paths, thoughts and memories, yet the feeling of fellowship with each other is powerful indeed.

A short while ago I met a new friend who is a fellow ostomate. She is new at this life altering living and we spent an afternoon sharing our experiences and knowledge gained. At the end of our delightful afternoon we decided to organize a “ladies night out”. Within a  few weeks through word of mouth, we decided to go to the Crab House Restaurant within walking distance from our community, and off we went. With laughs, giggles, great conversations, sharing pictures and more, we who are ostomates and our non-ostomate friends shared a wonderful evening of food, drink, merriment and camaraderie.

Communities come in all shapes and sizes, and they come together for different reasons. We humans are social and when we share a feeling of community with others we are drawn together in fellowship regardless of age, race, colour and creed. Together no matter our personal circumstances, challenges and triumphs, we receive and express support, balance, harmony and joy with our community of humanity and our world.

In our book of life the next page is blank. As we greet the new day a page is turned, and we fill that page with our life happenings. The people who share the day with us sit at the heart of our story. As always the language of the heart is eloquent.

Fellow ostomtes you are not alone, join an ostomy support group, become a member of an ostomy social media group, connect with your ostomate and non-ostomate friends and neighbours. When you do this, you fill the pages of your life story with the joy of people, as you strive to live your life to the fullest, come what may.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

Website: jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

Do Our Hearts Need To Break To Grow?

Everyone has a story to tell and I am struck by the stories that speak to the moments of

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Chris’s Rainbow Cloud. Photographed by: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

our lives. Each of us who are ostomates and the non-ostomates who share our lives, have an extraordinary capacity to heal from the greatest tragedies and this fills me with awe.

Every year the month of February is a bitter-sweet journey for me. It is the month that we celebrate my son Richard’s birthday, this year he turns 38. He, our little miracle who we were told could never be. It is also in February that we mark the death day of our son Chris. I’ve lived his death day for 42 years now, and I still feel the unspeakable joy of being graced with him, and then the feeling of his passing impacting me to the core of my being. It is the day I have to accept that he has left us. It is the anniversary of the wailing good bye. It is the annual reminder of how fragile and precious life is, and how deeply and profoundly I love with all of its risks.

Many times through the past 42 years I have tried to make sense of how this could have happened. How could a seemingly healthy 4 month old baby be taken from his parents? Why did it happen? He didn’t do anything wrong, he was just a baby! Then once and again there are the fresh tears as I accept the unbearable pain of good bye.

Through the years I’ve deeply questioned everything I think I know and how I think I know it. Chris, his birth, his short life and his death has been a tragic great teaching for me. Chris taught me life is precious and fragile. He has taught me the world is a wondrous and mysterious place. He has taught me that although I at times feel profound sadness as I stand lonely amid my community of humanity, these are also the same people who with an open heart lend me courage as I face searing heartbreak.

Does our hearts have to break to grow? I do not know the answer to this question. What I have learned is; I refuse to allow any life tragedy to over take me as I feel in my heart life goes on and I will live life to the fullest, I believe my dearest wants that for me. That all life is uncertain, and if we choose to love, it will mean keeping our heart open in the face of perpetual uncertainty. When our courage is tested and we face crisis, a small door opens somewhere inside and we begin to ponder life. Through tragedy we become seekers launched on a path where everything and everyone becomes a life lesson that touches and teaches us.

The nightmare does have a happy ending. Chris’s short life blessed the entire family with joy, and his great life and death teachings of unconditional love, the fragility of life, and the gift that all life no matter who we are or how short it may be…lives on.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

 

Announcement

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Another BAG Another DAY

Percy and I are excited to announce Another BAG Another DAY is now also available for purchase through KOBO and iTunes.

Another BAG Another DAY continues to be available through AMAZON worldwide.

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Better WITH a Bag Than IN a BAG is available through AMAZON worldwide, KOBO, and iTunes.

Sand Angels

Christmas is upon us and the music of the Christmas season is playing on the radio. We sway to the sounds of crackling, crystalline snow. There are

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

songs that transport us to enchanted glacial vistas, sometimes with a jingling tempo, and at other times with songs that bring us to storybook powdery northern vistas. All beautiful as they transport us back in time and space.

We’re celebrating our first Christmas south, way south of our pure white Canadian home. As I listen to the music, it really strikes me as to how odd that my head is filled with visions and memories of sparkling snow, while my body is nestled on a sandy beach all warm and glowing in the sparkling sun. What a contrasting effect!

As the radio station is playing “Sleigh Ride”, my body is heating up in the sun and my mind is wandering as it often does and I find that I’m changing the words of the song as I sing along to fit my southern experience.

(Sleigh Ride is a piece composed by Leroy Anderson completed in February 1948. Originally an instrumental piece, lyrics, about a person who would like to ride in a sleigh on a winter’s day with another person, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950. The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Over the years, the song has become a Christmas standard.)

So, with a lighthearted celebration of Christmas, here’s my version of “Sleigh Ride” that I call, “Sand Angels”.

SAND ANGELS

Just hear those beach venders bells jingle-ing

Ring ting tingle-ing too

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For making sand angels together with you

Outside the sand is heating up

And friends are calling “Yoo Hoo”

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For making sand angels with you

Giddy-yap, giddy-yap, giddy-yap

Let’s go

Let’s look at the ocean ebb and flow

We’re sitting in a wonderland of sand

Giddy-yap, giddy-yap, giddy-yap it’s grand

Just holding your hand

We’re dancing in our beach chairs with the song

Of a beachy fairyland

Our cheeks are nice and our noses burnt red

And comfy cozy are we

We’re snuggled up like two

shore birds of a feather would be

Let’s take a walk on the stretch of beach

And sing a chorus or two

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For making sand angels together with you

There’s a beach party under the sun umbrella at Crusty Crabs

We’ll be singing the songs we love to sing without a stop

At the fire pit while we watch popcorn pop

Pop! Pop! Pop!

There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy

When they pass around the beer and we swat the flies

It’ll nearly be like a picture print of Beach Comber Sy

These wonderful things are the things

We remember all through our lives

©2015 Jo-Ann L. Tremblay All Rights Reserved

We miss our Canadian family and friends, but for this year, we are celebrating the Christmas season with all of its joy and reverence having fun in the sun.

Mark, Percy and I, wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR. May 2016 be the best year yet for ALL.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay – Ostomate

Percy Stoma (Eol. Poopology)

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

PS – We so excited, check our newly re-desgined lighthearted and informative website – www.jo-annltremblay.com

Crab at Beach