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 Crucible of the Bag

No More Searching…It’s in the Bag

The shift, that moment when I was never going to feel the same again, happened 6 years ago in the moment the surgeon advised us, “I recommend you say your good byes, noSun and roadw”.

I had just been prepped for emergency surgery. The expectation that I would survive the surgery was slim. It was my unplanned moment. As I lay at the edge of the point of no return, I looked into my husband’s eyes and said good bye to my life partner. I later realized I also said good bye to myself and my life as I had known it.

When the surgery to deal with my critical intestinal and internal situation was over with, and the days, weeks and months of recovery, I became aware that I was dodging death. I had traded a body bag for an ostomy bag.

During this time in my life the situation was a severe trial. As I embarked on the healing journey, the crucible of the bag caused different physical and psychological elements to meld, oppose and interact. I was fashioning myself into a new creation in my body, mind, and human spirit. I should have expired, I didn’t. Instead, every day since has become a bonus. I shouldn’t be here, and yet, I am.

The bonus days have afforded me with the opportunity to continue on a voyage of self-discovery, but my approach has profoundly changed. Often when we think of self-
discovery, we believe this is a journey of becoming aware of one’s true potential and character motives, resulting in happiness, awareness, clarity, and maybe even enlightenment.

Looking back as I live on bonus time, I have realized self-discovery has always taken me a lot of time and energy. More often than not, this life exercise has caused an army of thoughts to morph into an emotional battle. Always so many layers of complex past and current experiences, situations, events to be examined, considered carefully, pondered, and contemplated, which then leads to mulling, brooding, dwelling…… I would make a stride, and yet I found I was peeling back yet another layer, like an onion and that I had not really arrived at the core yet. So many of the layers are clouded, complex, and it will probably take a lifetime just to “get it” with even one of the layers. I’ve often felt like a dog chasing its tail, moving, and working hard under the illusion of travelling far, picking up speed, getting somewhere, only to realize I can go in circles for a lifetime. I worked very hard in this illusion for a lot of my life. As I stood at the gate to my bonus lifetime, I decided to ignore the noisy mind chatter, and I began the rest of my life.

The heart is eloquent and I find myself listening to it more often. It inspires my spirit to get up and go. There is no doubt the positive and negative experiences, events and situations of my past have played a significant role in shaping who I am. My approach to self-discovery through insights and my personal evolution has changed.

I find myself creating purpose, rather than searching for it. With this approach I don’t dig deep, the affect of this has caused me to become deeply light-hearted. Purpose has become an exercise in simplicity and minimalism.

I realize my current beliefs and I live by them, while being flexible. I do not lock myself into one belief box and throw away the key.

Without over dramatizing, reliving and over analyzing the past that has a big role in shaping me to this point in my life, I give myself permission to feel fear, confusion, misunderstanding, doubt, and I never go to woulda, coulda, or shoulda. No revisiting
past choices, they are history, finished and gone with my descending colon.

I’ve had a hard knock life, but no more than most others. Everyone is a unique soul. Do I get angry, you betcha I do. But, it is in the moment only, and all I have to do is say to myself, “okay, what is the issue right now”, then I work it out.

I create my own purpose. I guess I also have a destiny and I work at trying to connect
with it. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

Knowledge of my upbringing and my past has had its causes and effects. I do not forget the lessons of my life, but for me, they are nothing without applying some imagination to turn them into something useful. This approach unlocks and opens doors.

I haven’t found myself, instead I am something I am creating. I have stopped chasing down and fleeing from my past. I have stopped the search of who I am. Instead I have decided to feel, create, imagine and enhance my awareness of the little things and the big ones.

I notice the breeze on my wrist as I stroll. I hear the tinkle of someone’s wind chimes as I walk by. When the heavy duty life crap happens, whatever has happened, I learn from it, build on it, and move on with my life. I can’t change what happened, I can only change how I deal with it.

In everyone’s life some things that have happened were planned. Sometimes life takes a different path than planned, at one point or another. In my case, the crucible was the moment I said good bye as I was wheeled into the operating room. I was in my 50’s at the time, and sometimes a story told is better when we start in the middle.

As I heal and recover, I see, hear and feel everything for what might be the first time. Good and bad of life is like the dawn and about the dawn, the time when the fingers of light reach out from the dark. The sun is touching me, the ground I stand on, and then the world that surrounds me as I experience my bonus theatre of life.

My approach to myself and my life before and after the crucible of the bag are neither right nor are they wrong. The crucible and so, the ostomy bag was a severe trial causing many different elements of myself and life to interact. All of which have led to my self and my life to be a new and consistently evolving creation. My new approach to life has aroused and inspired my imagination to take the mystical leap over the abyss between life and death, and I landed on another timeline. My spirit is unleashed and I can celebrate the good and the bad until I once again arrive at the point of no return and I must trade in my ostomy bag for a body bag.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

jo-annltremblay.com

On The Edge & Close Enough To Kill

A human being is a fragile creature. Life is a test of survival for all. When the circumstances are right, we borderline invincible. When the circumstances are wrong

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Photo by: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

we stand at the edge of the abyss and our scream of anguish stretches to infinity. We are a contradiction of strength and vulnerability, we are the hard and the soft.

Everyone we meet in this life at one time or for many times, have and will endure life on the bleeding edge of some form of disaster. Be it physical, emotional, intellectual, and/or an assault on their human spirit. The ghosts of past trauma shift amid the shadow play of light and dark. Always at the back of our mind we hear the whispering of potential future trauma, trauma we hope will never come.

As we stand on the edge and scan the deep within, we wonder if with foresight we can see the signs. Most of the time it’s a matter of hindsight and we feel we should have seen the signs.

Hubby and I have left our home in the frozen north and have arrived in our Florida home to spend our winter in the warmth of the southern sun, and into the welcoming arms of our Floridian friends. The fact of life as an ostomate is; no matter where I am a breach awaits a breath away. A potential intestinal obstruction lurks within. Chronic discomfort as I hold everything inside, gnaws at my very nerves igniting lightning bolts that spark, burn and singe. This is my ongoing challenge. Your challenging circumstances, whatever they may be, will cause a breach in your calm, an obstruction of flow, and an attack on your sensitive nervous system, and it is only a breath away. For everyone, life can turn in an instant for the worse or for the better.

Still, 5 years since my brush with death, a moment or a situation can at times leave me tense like a rabbit in the headlights. The disease and altered physiology I must live with now simmers as a low-grade anger warmed past grief. Trauma like this, or any trauma you have or will experience, can be tackled head-on-bulled-through without looking back. For most of us the trauma lives in layers of angles, colours, and textures, that at a drop of a hat, a familiar moment, a remembered smell, will dissolve us into a trembling heap.

Sitting on our Florida deck looking out upon the inland canal, frothy clouds brush the horizon. A gentle breeze whispers through the fronds of a palmetto brush. Bluie the Blue Heron and Edgar the Egret are fishing at the shore. The park is quiet as the sun sinks past its zenith, the lazy afternoon stretches out and in a few hours it will be the time of the  long shadows. This ancient and earthly ritual plays out every day, no matter our human experiences of the moment.

Painful memories are soothed as I run my fingers, trailing them down the arm of my chair. In this moment of time I’m relieved by the serenity and tinkling of the dancing water beside me. The urge to connect the past to the present is dissolving into the steamy warmth surrounding me.

Glancing back to Bluie and Edgar, our wild neighbours who gave us such joy last year, I’m reminded of my worry for them this fall when hurricane Mathew threatened its windy
terror. Bluie, Edgar and many of the wildlife eking out a living in the canal were in direct line of Mathew and their prospect for survival was precarious. Possibly they knew it was coming. Definitely they took the necessary steps available to them to increase their odds of survival. Then, they must have hunkered down to weather the tempest in a bottle, probably trembling in fear, only to emerge when calm reappeared. They returned to their goal of living full and fruitful, (in their case, fishy), lives. Sunning themselves, hunting and foraging for food, arguing with other feathered, scaled, and furry neighbours for territory and the best fishing grounds. Life in all its fury and calm, back to normal.

Their approach to life is amazing. They emerged from the depths of chaos to not only survive, but to thrive. They were close enough to have been killed, they hunkered down at the edge, they carry the scars, and they have moved back to the centre of their being to recapture and re-experience life. Their way is a powerful true life surviving and on to thriving, example for all.

We have catastrophes that descend upon us once, twice or many times in the span of our lives. If we survive it is imperative that we strive to thrive. It isn’t the easy journey, there are no individualized road maps to follow, there are always bumps on the road to navigate, and we wear the physical, emotional, mental, and human spirit scars. But, like Bluie and Edgar’s example, no matter the circumstances that brings us to the edge of the abyss, although we may feel vulnerable, tense and tingle, we need to muster the strength to transcend our fear as we step forward with the determined certainty to thrive. And, then there are the inevitable days we just need to hold our nose and get on with getting on with, in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. And as they say, “that’s life”.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

 

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

BAGs Around the World – New Book Release

Ostomate Jo-Ann L. Tremblay and her stoma Percy, are once again the intrepid adventurers bags-around-the-worlddrawn into the incredible journey of 2nd chances at life in their newest book release, BAGs Around the World.

Boldly venture into experiences that transcend the normal limits of the everyday, through the true life escapades of an ostomate and her stoma.

Join authors Jo-Ann L. Tremblay and Percy Stoma on their quest to discover the meanings in and of life as they explore, muse, and ponder the life of ostomates and non-ostomates, in our challenging experiences as humans on planet Earth.

Through THE OSTOMY FACTOR, the book features blog posts beginning in the month and year of November 2012, and continues through 2015. The collection offers solace, inspiration and joy, as they ignite our human spirit.

Trek along with Jo-Ann and Percy as they share their sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, and always adventurous real life stories through thoughts and words that readers find valuable in their daily lives for a chuckle, a tear, and for inspired contemplation.

ENJOY

Click  https://joannltremblay.wordpress.com/book-order-information/for more paperback and Kindle order information.

With excitment and joy,

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay & Percy Stoma

Check our newly designed website: www.jo-annltremblay.com

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

 

 

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.

Providence Smiles Upon Land, Air & Water

There is beauty and music in the movement of clouds and winds. There is beauty in the

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Atlantic Ocean – Palm Bay Florida © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

flowers, birds, animals and varieties of plants. There is beauty in the valleys, hills and mountains. There is beauty in the symphony of reflections, ripples and tumultuous waves. There is beauty in the creatures on the shore and below the surface of the sea. Beauty in the vivid colours, meandering rivers, and moon lit nights. Beauty we hold in our hearts in the hope that our planet’s masterpieces will always be our imperishable jewels.

An ostomate’s 2nd chance at life is a great gift. With our bonus lives, we are given the opportunity to experience the joys and challenges of life itself once and again, made fresh and anew with our rebirth. Sometimes our difficult situations conceal beautiful moments from our human sight, and then suddenly reveals life’s secrets to us when we stumble upon them. At other times we are impressed with the magnificence of all creations including ourselves, when we take the time to appreciate our lives and the life around us, taking nothing for granted. Ostomate or non-ostomate, we all get one life to live, and every day we wake up with another chance to give and receive the best we can to and from life.

Pictures speak a thousand words, and so I hope you enjoy this small pictorial romp through the grandeur of the part of the planet where I’ve spent the past few months as I delighted in exploring and photographing the jewels I came upon. ENJOY!

Blue Jellyfish

Portuguese Man of War ©ALL RIGHT RESERVED Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

 

2 Dock Ibis

Lovers ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

 

palm tree clouds

Sunlit Clouds ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Crab at Beach

Crusty Crab ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

 

Edgar ruffled feathers

Snowy Egret ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Jo-Ann L. Tremblay