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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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

Chris - rainbow cloud

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.

&

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

 

 

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

 

Every Tomorrow Has Two Handles

Nov. 15 Blog Post

Photographer: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay Start Of A New Day

Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with one handle of anxiety or the handle of faith. – Henry Ward Beecher

Living with a chronic physical, emotional and/or mental health issue is like perpetually riding a roller coaster for the first time. When we have a flare up of any sort we feel the rapid reversal of direction and that can be scary because of the unknown ahead in our highly dynamic individual health environment.

When the reversal hits, its like the feeling you get in an auto accident. Everything appears in ultra-slow motion as you see the oncoming vehicle. You’re powerless to move. All you can do is get that sick feeling in your stomach when you know the pain is about to strike, and there is nothing you can do about it. Then, the excruciating painful reality hits you hard…full force…WHAM!

On the roller coaster, once we realize the ups are always followed by the downs and visa versa, and we can see the snaking of the track ahead of us, then we can begin to anticipate the next inevitable reversal and brace ourselves for it.

We know we won’t be able to avoid it, but with each reversal we become more accustomed to the sudden changes, pulls, and drops.

When my ostomy (Percy Stoma), was created, it was during emergency lifesaving surgery. When I awakened from the 8 hour surgery I found that I was now an ostomate. I had no idea what an ostomy was. I had no clue about what was required to take care of myself, nor how to care for my ostomy.

At that pivotal point in my life I had been permanently physiologically altered, and so, was inevitably emotionally and mentally altered. I didn’t know what to think, how to behave, nor how I was going to go forward in life. I didn’t even know what the new me was, let alone how to be the new me.

Everyone has their individualized life issue(s), in my case I am an ostomate. It has taken years of research through;

  • connecting with fellow ostomates
  • joining a local ostomy support group
  • a member of ostomy social media groups
  • following ostomy websites, newsletters, blogs
  • and, meeting with Enterostomal Therapists (ET Nurses).

Through my research and connections, after 4 years I now for the most part feel the confidence in knowing I am no longer blindfolded as I live my ostomy roller coaster ride.

Through knowledge and better understanding of our chronic life/health issue(s), we are able to rip away the blindfold, as we live with the perpetual knowing that as the days, weeks and months go by the next gut-wrenching reversal of direction will occur. That’s the emotional character of the experienced person with chronic life/health issues.

Whatever life/health issue you live, whatever community of humanity you choose, and through whatever medium that works for you, know that; through connecting with like minded people who can relate and live the same issues as you do, (and there are many-you are not alone), you will feel the support. As you give and receive from each other you learn so very much. You will know how to prepare for the worst, and adapt as best you can to the ups and downs.

The key is: adaptation.

We can adapt better when we know what is coming, we learn to know when it might happen, what could possibly bring it on, and we have a plan to adjust to our new normal, our new world.

As every tomorrow unfolds as it will and come what may, we are presented with two handles to choose from, this is the choice for today and for our tomorrow.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”