Through The Eyes of Others

Version 2Many years ago I suffered the unbearable pain of losing my son. We buried him, and he is now my forever memory. Fourteen years ago after thirty years of marriage, I buried my late husband. In 2011 after a lengthy illness I lay on an operating table, clinging to life. My life was saved and my ostomy, “Percy” was created. As I sit here today, I know I’ve had a lot of experience with major life challenges. And, each time I was compelled to create a “new normal” for myself and my life.

I did not do this alone. There were friends, family, and even strangers who were there as I journeyed to my new normal. Some of the people experiences were negative, and others were positive. Each negative and positive experience played an empowering role for me. My attitude has always been: even amidst a negative, there is always something good, although I may have to look deep and hard for it. Each experience was an instigating factor for spurring me on. I still wish the negatives didn’t happen, yet in spite of myself they were a part of the journey. Life is short, life is precious, and it is the people who profoundly affect our very being and experiences.

Every negative and positive person from the stranger in the store who was rude to us, the generous neighbour who dropped off some homemade jam for our enjoyment, to the child who lights up our heart, each person affects us on all levels. This fact of life for us as human beings, as individuals, and as a group, came to mind for me again this past weekend.

A friend of ours turned 40. His life partner organized a surprise birthday party at their favourite restaurant. When he walked into the room filled with family and friends, the expression on his face was priceless. He had no idea. The rest of the evening was filled with good laughs, special people, and delicious food. He enjoyed the celebration of him, and as he observed the folk in the room, he was reminded as to how special he is to them. I sensed the spark of his aliveness as his glow danced, merged, and became part of the greater aliveness of the room.

Each one of us individually and along with everyone, whether they are family, friends, or strangers, all have an affect on each other. We affect one another through the way we interpret life, and where we perceive our place to be in it. This is the foundation that supports how we live our lives, solve our problems, and how we treat one another. Each of us has our own life story that we blend and integrate into the life story of others. Like a plot within a plot, a circle within a circle, on the grand scale of life, our emerging stories enrich or impoverish us, and those who share in our life.

Since the party, our friend has expressed his gratitude, and the joy that his loving partner would organize such a special occasion to honour him. He is delightfully surprised that so many friends and family enthusiastically participated in the celebration.

As we live each ordinary day, and when we endure significant emotional events due to one reason or another, we are not alone. We journey forward on our personal life path come what may, as the community of friends, family, and strangers join us. We are connected to each other, and we affect one another through our thoughts, behaviours, and actions. Each of us has a story. It’s the narrative of us, our experiences, and the people who by choice and by chance, are part of the experiences. It’s a tale of the amazing you. May your life be filled as you touch the lives of others, and you are touched by them.

Authored by:

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

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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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YIPPEE KI YAY

Happy Stomaversary to us! But for the intervention of our wonderful Canadian medical Version 2system I would not “Die Hard” – yippee ki yay. It’s our 6th year together. Percy Stoma you’re my awesome ostomy. I fought the good fight through the illness that brought me to the brink, then during the life saving surgery you were created. Together we’ve continued to battle, cope, and thrive.

We’re lifetime partners you and I, and we will continue to work hard to make life as fantastic as possible in spite of it all, as we live life to the fullest.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY LITTLE STOMA BUDDY!

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay – Ostomate

Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

HAPPY 150 BIRTHDAY CANADA, EH!

“It’s a party Jo-Ann!”

“It sure is Percy.”

Canada Goose

It’s going to be a heck of a party Saturday July 1st, 2017, our country is 150 years young. All 36,626,086 of us are celebrating. Our country is 99,984,663 km (3,855,100 sq. miles), in size. In fact, we’re the second largest country in the World, that means there is only 13.7 people per square kilometre. So, we have lots of room here for more people to invite to our party. Everyone is welcome to join in.

“Hey, Jo-Ann.”

“Yes Percy.”

“Let’s share a few fun facts with everyone about Canada.”

“Sure”

Well, talking about room for more party dudes and dudettes, Canada has fewer people than Tokyo’s metropolitan area.

Our money is just so fun. Each bill is colourful and there is Braille-like markings on them for the blind.

We love our doughnuts. Canadians consume the most doughnuts and has the most doughnut shops per capita of any country in the World.

Canada is an Iroquoian language word meaning, “village”.

Our official phone number is 1-800-0-canada, how fun is that!

We might feel a little light headed during the celebrations, and not just from the party cheer, large parts of Canada has less gravity than the rest of Earth, the phenomenon was discovered in the 1960’s.

We’ll have one heck of a street party, with 1,896 km, (1,178 miles), Yonge Street in the Province of Ontario, Canada, is the longest street in the World.

We’re a high flying people, in 2015, a Canadian man was arrested after tying more than 100 balloons to a garden chair and flying over the city of Calgary, in the Province of Alberta.

High flying balloon dude aside, we’re pretty smart cookies. Canada is the world’s most educated country, half of our residence have college degrees.

If your party ideas include a swim and some boating, Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world’s lakes combined.

We sure get a lot of mail in December. Every Christmas, 1 million letters are addressed to Santa Claus, he has his own postal code; ‘H0H 0H0, North Pole, Canada”.

We do hope you’ve enjoyed a few fun Canada facts. Both Percy and I wish Canada, all Canadians and everyone who can join us, a very happy, healthy and prosperous 150th birthday. And remember, if you’re in Churchill, in the Province of Manitoba, residence leave their cars unlocked to offer an escape for anyone who might encounter Polar Bears.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA, OUR TRUE NORTH STRONG AND FREE

 

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

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

Family Like Friends & Friends Like Family

Sitting out on our Florida deck, I’m captivated by the manatee lazily floating by in the canal with a turtle perched on her back, reminding me of the events of the past week.Manatee:Turtle

We were delighted when our sister/brother-in-law and furry niece (Bernese Mountain Dog), arrived for a week long visit. Our experiences of magical moments, emotional touches, talking and laughing, are the meaningful gifts that are a part of making life special.

As life did unfold over the week, the friends we are fortunate to have here in Florida embraced our family adventure without hesitation, with enthusiasm and sharing; in birthday celebrations of a friend of ours, a day at the races, a gathering at a back deck campfire of smores (a decadent delight of fire cooked marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate and graham wafter cookies), and so much more. The days, nights and activities, were filled with fun, conversations, camaraderie, and the joy of a community of humanity celebrating family and friends.

Watching the manatee with the turtle on her back reminds me of the differences and similarities that make up each individual family member and friend. The nature of friendships and the nature of family are individually unique, yet, when you  boil it all down, each is an experience of what it means to be close. There is a special connection, and it is the connection of the heart. It is the journey of human souls joined for life.

Friends are like family and family are like friends, is the solid foundation we build our life experiences on, and that helps to keep us where we need to be. It’s amazing when you think of it, that someone else will believe in you, and will trust you with a friendship.

During my illness, the eventual ostomy surgery, and the lengthy recovery when my physical and emotional strength seemed to fail me half way through, it was my friends like family and my family like friends whose care, concern and love, drop by drop filled my heart, mind, and body till I was overflowing.

Mother Teresa said: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

So thank you Terri, Murray and Piper. Thank you our dear and generous friends. Thank you all for embracing us and each other.

Reach out to someone(s) in your past, current and/or future, be a friend like a family member, and a family member like a friend. There will be frustrations once in a while and you may have to carry them on your back from time to time, but that’s life too, one sure thing is, you’ll always remember how much they really mean to you, and how much you mean to them!

PS – March is Colorectal Cancer Month. Remember to tell your family, friends and yourself to schedule your colonoscopy, it could save a life.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

www.jo-annltremblay.com

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

Listen to the Ocean

Gazing into the horizon the ocean stretches beyond. I find myself gather and merge, becoming part of the sand. I am drifting as I listen to my pondering breath, and noticefeb-2017-blog-photo  a briny tear slide down my cheek.

The ocean is talking, beckoning my soul as I match my heart to the oceans roaring heartbeat. The tips of the waves slice time and the hours stand still. I listen to the ocean and I hear a ghost song that draws me deep within where the mysterious tides of my life fill me with sadness, joy, and wonder.

The waves coming in and going out are the reflection of life itself. Musing upon the crested waves, I become aware of the ebb and flow of the beautiful moments, the fierce storms, and changing tides of our human experiences.

I am an ostomate standing on the windswept edge of the ocean of life. The mesmerizing waves captivate me as the white crested caps fold over gently. It is calm right now as I am drawn deep within. From the depths of the deep blue ocean the memories of times, incidences, and circumstances, of the past fill me with wonderment, each memory a dazzling and ever changing sunset.

My mind meanders to the quiet beauty when I was able to drift freely with the gentle currents of life, oh the freedom of those days. My mind now descending further into the depths of my experiences, brings me to the storm that my emotions endured through the illness, and then the alteration of my body function to create  my ostomy, “Percy”. The thunder of the ocean waves crashing on the sandy shore roar through my soul. My dark time haunts me like the clawing of the salty water slipping between the rocky fingers and back into the ocean, again and again.

Many a long night since, I have squished my toes into the unpleasant and unwanted scum left by the forces of the storm within, as the uncontrollable tides of my life rise and fall.

Time is slipping by, the storm calms more and more now. Life goes on, children and grandchildren are the joys of my life, our little frothing snowy white bubbles. My new adventures are making splashes that sparkle in the sunlight, as they dance all around me. Living in this ocean of life, listen and hear the soft pull of the siren’s call; treasures and wrecks lie beneath the surface, trials and tribulations ebb and flow, listen to the ocean from where life began, and journey into the discovery of life and of yourself.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com