“I suck at this,” she wailed. ” I’ll never get it. I’m going to fail. Why even bother to try?”
Some people take to certain things like ducks to water. Others not so much.
All five fingers are not the same, Mum used to say…
I watched as she struggled to accomplish her task, heaping negativity on her hapless head. Her words settled like corrosive dead-weights in my spirit.
“Don’t say such things,” I uttered. “Words are powerful. They stick and become self-fulfilling.”
If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it, Mum would say …
“That’s what you always say.” She sounded irritated. “So what? It’s just words.”
No. Not just words …
Proverbs 18:21 Life and death are in the power of the tongue …
I began to see a vivid picture in my mind. Two seedlings in glass containers, one full of acid and the other rainwater.
“If you were a plant,” I said, “And words were the medium you were growing in, if kind, positive words were rain water and negative, condemning words were acid – which one would you thrive in?”
She grew silent.
“If you wake up every morning and hear someone tell you how ugly, rotten and dumb you are, that you’ll never go far or succeed, can you imagine the toxicity you’ll imbibe? At some point you’ll come to believe what you hear. Your spirit receives what your ear hears until it becomes a part of who you are.
I plodded on. “On the other hand, if someone tells you daily that you are beautiful, smart, talented and capable of achieving anything you set your mind to … imagine the pure rainwater seeping in nourish your spirit.”
Point made. Her exasperation remained, but the dark words ceased.
For the moment.Oh, to always be able to see the gorgeous pink sunset behind and that dark, dark cloud…
Some weeks back, I stepped into the mall and understood — all over again — the power of words. I’d recently begun to experience occasional darts of doubt . Amazingly, that mellow evening, it seemed like my steps led me from store to store and brought pause at unexpected spots where wonderful words leapt out to cheer me on –
I couldn’t have contrived the inspiration, if I’d tried. My spirits rose and began to soar.
But that wasn’t all …
On my way home, there was an impelling to stop at a supermarket I don’t often visit. I paid for two bags of soil I didn’t urgently require and headed out. A man hurried up from behind and bent over my cart.
“Those look heavy,” he said pleasantly.
I smiled, “They are.”
“I need some for my garden,” the stranger added, “but that’s why I didn’t get any today!”
He straightened up and I became instantly aware of the words on the back of his T-shirt –
I gotta believe …
Caught my breath on a gasp.
Gotta get a picture!
Hurried into the parking lot and chased the gentleman down.
Me (to man): I know this sounds silly, but do you believe in signs?
Man (looking startled): I do.
Me: Would you mind if I took a picture of the words on the back of your T-shirt? I needed to see them. They were my sign today.
Man turned around and obligingly posed.
Man: So what are your plans for the summer?
Me: I don’t know. I have so many dreams and they were beginning to die. That’s why I needed those words. Thank you!
Man: I really need to get some of that soil, you know.
Me: So go get some. Maybe I am your sign for today!
My heart sang all the twilit way back home.
The final clincher came a week later, at the dentist’s office.
I became acutely aware – the moment I stepped in – of the single word tattooed on the neck of the girl manning the phones. She had her back to me –
Point taken — signed, sealed and delivered!
I’d have to be really dense not to get it by now …
Ever noticed how suddenly-sometimes serendipity seems to occur most when the sun is shining and summer seeps into one’s heart, bubbles over and spills out in splashes all over the garden? It almost feels as if this sweet summer state of mind creates a catalyst that activates a sublime sequence of inexplicable events.
Like the time Bernadette called. “The Town is giving away compost. Want to go? I’ll pick you up.”
The sight of eager townsfolk feverishly shoveling free compost, piled up in the parking lot, into bags and bins didn’t inspire me. The stream of comings and goings to and from the main building however, was intriguing.
Woo hoo! Community garage sale …
Bernadette laughed when I mumbled, “I’m going to look for treasures for my garden.”
I heard “Junk Lady” as I hopped out of the vehicle.
My friends know me too well!
I picked up a bunch of beauties for mere coins. Like these –
And then I stopped in my tracks as some old books caught my eye.
Me: “How much?”
Bored vendor: “How about a dollar fifty? Fifty cents each.”
I set the coins down and scooped the volumes up, unable to believe my luck. There were two others still languishing on the table.
“I have a quarter left and a TTC token,” I dared to venture. “Would that be payment enought for those?”
Bored Vendor: “Sure. Someone could make use of the token. This stuff is junk anyway!”
He was in a hurry to pack up and leave.
I handed over my last coin and the transit system token, picked up my booty and scurried away in case someone should have a sudden change of heart.
James 4:2 You do not have, because you do not ask …
This rollicking suddenly-sometimes ride commenced a week before, when Evelyn and I sat down to enjoy a Japanese bento box lunch, and the conversation turned to gardens.
Evelyn: “How’s your garden doing? Done planting yet?
Me: “No. Haven’t even started. I haven’t had time to buy the annuals.”
Evelyn: “Have you tried Costco?”
Me: “No. We’re not members.”
Evelyn: “I am. I’ll take you.”
So off we went.
Nothing caught my eye in the garden centre.
On our way out, we passed the mobile phone sales centre, and I remembered my phone. It had been gasping at death’s door for a while.
Me: My phone is a bit of a dinosaur. I need a new one with a good camera, but I’m not willing to go above my present monthly payment.
Pleasant Salesguy: No problem. How much do you pay now?
I told him. I had an exceptionally good deal, he said. I knew that.
Pleasant Salesguy: Are you willing to go ten dollars more a month?
Me: No! I don’t use my phone enough to justify a higher monthly payment.
Pleasant Salesguy: So you want a free new phone with a great camera for the same amount that you pay now – or less – right?
Me: I know, it sounds like awful cheek, doesn’t it?
I turned to go.
Pleasant Salesguy: Wait, wait …
He continued to scroll down, squinting at the screen in front of him.
Evelyn assured me she wasn’t in a hurry. I rolled my eyes and sighed.
Pleasant Salesguy: Found it! There’s a loyalty deal and you qualify …
Music to my ears …
So I get a free phone worth $700, and my monthly payment is four dollars less than previously. My current phone, I’m told, is worth no more than $150, brand new.
Me: I’ve been to every mobile provider I could think of. When I tell them what I’m looking for, they look down their nose at me like I’m cheap. Or they talk down to me like I’m someone’s grandma, shrug and turn away. So how come you found this one for me?
Pleasant Salesguy: Because the mall guys work on commission. It’s not in their interest to spend time looking for deals in the customer’s favour. I’m a paid employee of Costco. I’m not on commission.
Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would this phone rate against my old one?
Pleasant Salesguy: It’s an 8! What’s more, check out the camera.
Evelyn and I pose. I click. We look ten years younger, the lines all automatically air-brushed away.
I asked for an upgraded phone cover and screen protector and he gave me $125 in Costco gift cards to pay for them.
Me: How come?
Michael: Because this is Costco!
And there’s more …
The screen protector I chose was not in stock, so Michael made a call and arranged for me to pick it up from the mall closest to my home.
I’m elated. Quite weak at the knees, to be honest. Evelyn’s jaw’s dropping. We’re both bewildered by the spectacular customer service …
Daughter squeaked when I showed her my phone at the end of the day. “Where did you get that? I’ve wanted an LG forever! They say it takes the best pictures.”
She almost passed out when I told her how little I was paying for it.
I couldn’t stop talking at dinner that night. About the amazing deal. About Michael and the unbelievable customer service.
So we all four of us marched into Costco the next weekend with Grandpa and Grandma (and their Costco card) in tow – Husband, daughters and I – waving my contract with Michael’s business card attached to it.
The service was disappointing. Lack-lustre. The two young fellows at the counter seemed to barely tolerate us. Kind of felt like we were a nuisance.
Daughters exchanged glances and threw me a funny look.
“So where’s the customer service you kept on about?”
We got the loyalty deal for two more phones. Husband pays two dollars and fifty cents less than I do, because he’s the second line on my account. Husband and Daughter also got $125 each in Costco gift cards. ONLY because I already had my contract through Michael and requested the same deal for the rest of the family.
There was enough left over, after paying for the extras, to buy trays of flowering annuals for the garden, a set of LED walkway lights, and a rose bush for Grandma. Compliments of Costco. All because Michael Blumenfeld never made me feel stupid, and took the time to dig out a deal that finally embraced my family as well.
Young Fellows were indifferent, when we were done, and looked relieved to see us go.
I assumed, because of my initial experience, that exceptional customer service was the norm at Costco Wirelessetc. I understood otherwise on my second visit. It was Michael who went out of his way to make this customer’s day sparkle.
Husband and Daughter had to return to the location the next day, to pick up their not-in-stock screen protectors.
“Pick them up from your local mall? Sorry. No way!”
“But Michael arranged for me to pick it up from …”
“Michael is the manager, he can do these things …”
Evelyn mentioned that if she’d chosen to take me to the other Costco location she shops at, the mobile phone sales section would not have been visible from the vicinity of the garden centre. So I’d never have seen it to remember the worn out dud I had in my possession.
Such a smooth-as-silk sequence of events that led me to three valuable vintage books and a brand new top-notch cell phone.
Life is full of appointments – to be kept or missed as one chooses – delicate deviations from the daily script. Sometimes showing up in the form of inner impelling, an inaudible whisper, they urge one to reach for the moment and grab it by the horns, before it dissolves and vanishes un-met, unrecognized.
Gotta grab that camera before the light moves on …
Rainbows on the ceiling won’t linger long , nor shadows on the carpet …
So one halts to act. Because such moments will not be put on hold. Because the tide of micro-events ebbs and swells, leaving behind the joy of happy happen-stance embraced or the tragedy of serendipity unrealized.
The timing of such things is fragile, precise and never a coincidence.
NEVER a coincidence …
I had a nagging urge one busy afternoon, to check my Facebook page.
I’m not one of those Feverish Frenzied Facebook Fiends … honest!
The screen on my phone opened up at a video clip on Cousin Preman’s page.
Jaunty young men with beards and bright turbans leap and prance, holding hands with a delighted woman.
A birthday Bhangra serenade!
The woman in the motorized wheelchair beside herself with glee, claps her hands and beams.
Her eager, electrifying enthusiasm smacked me in the face.
You have made such a difference in my life this afternoon (I read). Your reply to Preman started it all. I SO want to connect with you. I SO want to find out about the next Thursday. Having gone through cancer yourself, you know the deep JOY of living .
Curious, I leapt into her Facebook page.
The intro read –
I am a joyous person LIVING with ALS with my loving husband, Cameron, always at my side.
I gotpunched in the guts. I’ve lost two good friends to this brute, a cruel, merciless, relentless ogre that steals and destroys –
Drum roll … Ladeez a..a..nd gentlemen, presenting the one, the only …
– Cameron Amos Starritt
Many hats Judy wears. She sparkles, she shines. She’s extraordinary.
A wheelchair won’t vanquish her spirit –
Disease daren’t define her.
Judy: “I have discovered I haven’t changed, just my body has changed. I am more intensely aware of both the changes in my body and the JOY that surrounds me …”
Shortly after her diagnosis in 2014, ALS awareness (literally) deluged public awareness in the form of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Judy: “It was as if ALS suddenly came out of the closet!”
Her firefighter son took on the challenge with gusto –
Click here to watch Judy at Andrew’s side in the Hot Firefighter Ice Bucket Challenge …
– as his mother prepared herself to face the inevitable new normal.
Judy: “I made up a motto for myself and shared it with others … ‘I have faith and hope, I am optimistic and I will find joy every day.’”
I so identify with Judy’s resolve. When late-diagnosis breast cancer crashed-landed on me in the summer of 2008, I determined to live each day with joy. However many – or few – of them remained.
Me to self: “I won’t waste a single moment of my cancer!”
Judy won’t waste her ALS.
Kindred spirits or what?
Judy: “I looked for joy – unexpected happiness – and began to find it in the most unexpected places.”
Judy: “At first I would recite this over and over in my head. Now I just accept it because I HAVE found JOY and mentioned it is nearer than you think.”
Some snippets from e-mail newsletters to family and friends –
“If you are wondering, I did find JOY every day! I don’t want to sound superhuman … I DO have dark moments about the future at times, but by keeping myself busy and surrounding myself with positive people that love me and knowing I have so many people out there, caring and praying for me, this journey is SO much easier.”
“Every day became a special one. I have so many reasons to smile.”
Like them wild chicken stockin’s and a brand new volunteer-constructed ramp …
“As I started out my journey with ALS, I made up a motto that I wanted to represent what I have, what I am and what I want. As many of you know, I composed the following –
I have hope and faith
I am optimistic
I will find JOY every day.
“Just had to look out the back windows to find my joy. I told you once that JOY is nearer than you think!!”
“I will participate in the ALS walkathon.”
Since she made that last statement above, Judy has inspired three ALS Walk Strong teams to join Halifax and Virtual Walks!
Judy Starritt is probably the unofficial poster girl of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (www.alsnbns.ca).
Her story is on their blog.
Click here to read about Judy’s journey: ALS In The Words Of Judy Starrit …
I contacted Kimberly Carter at the the ALS Society for permission to use information from their website
Me to Kimberly: Any friend of Judy is a friend of mine.
Kim’s reply: I’m the same way, any friend of Judy’s is a friend of mine. I just love her half to pieces.
Yes, there’s certainly something about Judy …
It’s ALS Walkathon time of year again on June 10, 2017.
MAY the 4TH be with you and me and the ALS Walkathons across Canada. Today is my official starting date to promote my own team. It is called “Judy’s Joys” and Cameron and I and many more family and friends are going to walk beside me.
It is on June 10th at DeWolfe Park in Bedford. Registration is at 11 o’clock and the walk is at 12 o’clock.
To join my team, go to www.alswalkstrong.ca
I made a donation (of course) and wrote on my page –
Wish I could walk alongside you, Judy Starritt. Brave, beautiful, joyful, you inspire me … Rooting for you in memory of two close friends I’ve lost. Keep sparkling, keep being you. You go, girl … GO!
Join me in supporting ALS WalkStrong 2017. Click here to donate/ support Judy’s team. She calls them Judy’s Joys …
Mum often said when I was a girl, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.”
Phrased more simply: “Who wants to be around a miserable grouch?”
Or in Judy’s words (quoting from a newletter update to her circle) –
Find YOUR joy!
You’ll find this picture in her Facebook photo gallery –
So her home is her haven, not a jail. She made that choice.
Life is her adventure. It’s not unfair. She made that choice too.
It helps immensely, of course, to have a wonderful man at your side.
Judy: Thank God for big men!
Judy: Eggs come in different shapes and sizes, but they’re all the same inside. Just like people.
Some eggs, like some people, have stronger shells strengthened not because of, but despite the circumstances …
Judy wrote on her Facebook page some months back –
Since my video went viral, many new and exciting things have happened to me. I tried to read every comment and some just stood out. Selina’s was one of of the them. I replied and a special friendship has developed. Is it serendipity??? Who knows? Who cares?? I delight in her words and she has opened my mind and heart to newer things.
As she has opened my heart …
Words are powerful. Weapons of destruction or tools of hope. It all depends on how one chooses to wield them.
To bless or to curse …
Judy: “I will pray that in my lifetime, ALS will become treatable, not terminal …”
Oh, me too! Me too …
Believers in dreams, you and I, Judy. With faith, we’ll make them all come true.
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood …
Through the looking glass in my garden nooks …
Judy Starrit has found her Promised Land — that place within the heart, nestled deep inside the human spirit.
A believing heart, a humbly yielded spirit …
Codeword: JOY …
So thankful for Judy’s joy. Infectious, unforgettable lady.
To help increase ALS awareness and support Judy’s Joys at the Walkathon, please share this post. (Scroll down and click on one of the share buttons below). Let’s see how far Judy and her cause can travel. Thank you.
Leave two days later. Weather’s changed, sporadic showers. Piano clothed in plastic protection.
Never encountered Simone in person. Forgot to ask about the piano. Wish I had. Kept wondering …
My mind is an interesting place I’ve been told.
“It’s about perspective,” I reply,
– “being able to see where there’s nothing to see.”
When waters swirl sixty feet deep, who’d imagine the possibility of a stroll on the ocean floor?
A parable? Sort of.
Waters did recede, in spite of what we saw when we first arrived …
Which is the definition of faith. Sort of.
Hebrews 11: 11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see …
Which brings me back to when eye sees what doesn’t yet exist –
Like knowing when garbage is more than garbage …
For example –
(1) Old washbasin – just an unusual lily pond-in-waiting –
2) An ordinary bottle … a prospective tree ornament, of course!
(3) The old kitchen sink – a perfect container for growing swamp plants
(4) That tired saucepan – an eccentric hanging container for a flowering summer plant
(5) Ancient pots and pans make whimsical garden ornaments
Daughters issue dire edict when ensuite toilet is replaced: “No planting flowers in it, Mom. Not going in our garden.”
I give my word!
See a bath tub tossed out on sidewalk recently, imagination bubbles over. So tempted. Wish I could carry it home.
Which brings me all the way back to Simone’s piano.
A year and a half’s gone by. Often wondered about it. Have to know …
Find Simone Ritter on Facebook and shoot off private message. She sends picture of finished work with a note –
Simone writes: It was popular with the passers by during the summer months, even in the unfinished stages. Unfortunately a storm came through and ripped the plastic off the piano. The heavy rains made the wood swell and then it could not be played anymore …
Absolutely breathtaking …
It’s all about knowing how to look –
Living in the possibility of the moment –
And honing the inner vision –
So how do you see what you see?
And that’s Life According To Me, a deliriously expectant resident of La La Land!
Love living there …
Because, ultimately, it’s about the final, impossibly possible picture –
– three hundred and sixty five days untrodden, all gift-wrapped.
Reams of resolutions. High hopes in spite of/ because of …
Then comes …
Evening news. Burning building collapses.
Shades of 9/11 …
Pick up phone to text Neighbour–
Me: (tap, tappity-tap) Hope your family wasn’t near the building that came down in Tehran.
Neighbour (texts): Thank God, none of my family members was in that area. I knew this building very well since my father used to have an office there when I was little. My mother was working, so he would take me to his office after school. It’s all so sad.
Me: (Tap, tap): Thank God. Sad, yes.
Avalanche in Italy buries ski resort. More earthquakes. Tsunami warning. Shooting in Texas mall.
Never ends. So what’s changed?
Nothing, it seems, but …
Must keep looking upward, focus outward, embrace light.
– Must speak LIFE.
Proverbs 18: 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue …
Daughters’ Christmas present hangs by writing desk. Speaks loud and clear to Heart. Heart leaps for joy –
One-woman musical. A bittersweet, poignant, sometimes irreverent look into life as she’s lived it. Script, lyrics and acting by Sharyn Stone, storyteller par excellence, poet, playwright.
She sang and played for me from the show’s musical score, over the phone last month, just before Christmas.
Almost picked up my feet and danced.
Had the privilege of reading an early draft.
Sparks of brilliance. Definitely going places.
Felt it in my bones …
This is Sharyn with her adorable sidekick, Joyce Romero (82 years young) and the comment accompanying the email she sent along with the picture –
and you thought leaf blowers were for the GARDEN??? Think AGAIN TWINNIE!
Aloha, Sweet Things!
A peep into the final scene of Old Girls (with permission, copyright Sharyn Stone):
STORYTELLER/SHARYN: What’s that old guy looking at? (Speaking to “old guy”) Yes? Do you need the machine
MIME/MALE GYM MEMBER, OLD: No, no thank you. It’s just that … well … I’ve been watching you for months now. You’re beautiful. And I just want to say how great it is to see Old Girls like you … Oops – that didn’t come out right
STORYTELLER/ SHARYN: Oh, ya think?
MIME/MALE GYM MEMBER, OLD: Old girls … like you … looking … Hot! And I don’t mean … sweaty. You are seriously … HOT. On the INSIDE. I mean …
YOUTH IS A STATE OF MIND.
I agree. One hundred percent.
Thrilled for you.
Your name in lights …
So here’s to all the dreamers who DARE to dream –
Thankful for the ability to keep dreaming in spite of naysayers, sneering sceptics. Despite what life’s flung my way –
Several dark months when light in home is dimmed while Mother (me) undergoes treatment for late-detected breast cancer. Pretty much confined to bed. A simple journey to the bathroom and back is long, exhausting. Endless pilgrimages to hospital and clinics. Can’t do much else besides. Completely sapped of strength.
One day Daughter says –
“I guess God allows the pit to get so deep, so we can see how high his ladder can go …”
Words to heal or kill- power of tongue to build up or destroy …
Perspective alters instantly. Pit is deep, very deep – yes – but ladder goes high, so high. Begin to count blessings. Endless list.
People who love and care –
Husband, Daughters, Family, Friends, Church (Kitchen lies idle. Meals come in unsolicited for seven months straight.
Maureen, who accompanies me to chemo sessions, sees me safely into house, remains awhile in driveway crying for me before driving away.
Brother-In-Law, Jonathan, who spends 4 hours a day for a week, driving me to radiation through freezing rain and snow storms, so exhausted husband can have a break..
Puppy’s unwavering eyes on me. Doesn’t move from my bedside. (Never wanted a dog. Can’t do without him now)
Top notch medical care. Stellar surgeon and oncologist.
Knowing that everything happens for a reason.
Prayer. Someone IS listening.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Husband wakes up each morning and says, “Good morning gorgeous!”
I cry the first time I hear him. I’m grey, bloated, bald as an egg.
He isn’t joking.
Meet Maria –
I see Maria one morning at the chemo ward. A pretty woman. She begins to cry when the needle is inserted into her vein. My heart aches. In two weeks she’ll be as bald and as I am, with black nails and all the awful trimmings. I don’t want her to suffer as I have.
I place a hand on Maria’s and murmur, “You’ll be all right.”
She says, “How do you do it?”
“You wake up each morning and ask for strength for the day. At night say ‘thank you’ for the grace that took you through. Live one day at a time. Don’t think about tomorrow. It’s too frightening.”
We meet every three weeks at the hospital, talk on the phone. Dark moments. Shared strength.
Maria makes it. So do I. Sisters. There’s something about shared suffering. Eight cancer-free years for us both this year. Oncologist tells me I’m one of her success stories.
How high the ladder goes …
Pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness
Detest the wig. Makes me itch, gets into eyes –
Husband wears it to sixties hippy-themed costume birthday party some weeks back!
That’s my man!
Won’t ever forget that moment when head feels scratchy. Realize hair’s growing back.
What a feeling …
Gorgeous full moon last week.
Playing hide-and-seek over neighbour’s roof …
Roses still blooming in Garden –
Hope is a precious thing. Joy is priceless.
Until next time,
PS: The pictures in this post are all clicks from my IPad and phone. Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. Thank you for dropping in.