1. Barbara Keller says

    What has astonished me? Every birth I’ve been a part of including my own daughter, every time I’ve come out of anesthesia and found I’m still alive, and often when I look out my window and realize what a wonderful place God has given me to live. That’s a great quote. “Pay attention. Tell about it.” I have a rule that if I think something nice about a person, I have to tell them. Sometimes it’s embarrassing, but I do it and mostly people are pleased. But first you have to notice. The old woman in a pretty dress. The young Indian doctor who is quite smart. The four brothers and sisters under 7 who are nice to each other.

    I’m on my way to have a right knee replacement, in about an hour. I’ve been scared to death. Anesthesia and lots of cutting look to me like the end of life coming up real quick. But this reminded me that soon, assuming I don’t die, I will have the astonishment and joy of waking up – alive, one more time.

    • says

      Barbara, I’m glad this prompt inspired you this morning and gave you something positive to take with you into surgery. Good luck today. We’ll be thinking of you and wishing you a steady path of healing and a good outcome.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Barbara, I’m sending you love and warm thoughts. Hope your healing is smooth. I like the images of ordinary people you use–or at least seemingly ordinary at first glance. Astonishment can be found everywhere and in those we overlook, including ourselves.

      • Barbara Keller says

        Thanks you all for the good wishes. The surgery went well, and then maybe I had a little heart attack or maybe just some random atril fibrilation (sp?). It was a series of difficult, overly dramatic few days of ICU I would have happily done without. Still, I’m safe at home. I think the knee is healing well and I’m glad it’s over.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Barbara, I hope you are having an easy recovery from your knee surgery. I had one sixteen years ago. I had pain at night for months, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  2. Fran Stekoll says

    We had two daughters, Lee Ann in April 1955, and Sheri Lynn November 1958. When I got pregnant with Sheri I was confined to bed the entire 9 months due to hemorrhaging . I was an only child and didn’t want to have only one. When Sheri was born the after birth
    Did not come out. The Doctor was going to leave it as the body has a way of absorbing unwanted tissues. I started bleeding and had a near death experience. My baby did also.
    I had to have an emergency hysterectomy. The Doctor said he was removing the buggy and leaving the playpen. The uterus was taken, the ovaries were re attached to my kidneys. Sheri was born with birth defects, her right ear was attached to her right shoulder, her legs were windblown, her face was a symmetrical, and every other vertebrae in her spine was malformed. They said she would never walk. We took her to Children’s Home Society where they braced her tiny legs, did grafting on her ear taking
    Tissues from her hip and making a new ear, Her face in time straightened itself out. Every other vertebrae was mal formed but on opposite sides. Had they been on one side she would’ve been bent over at the waist. Had her spine been normal she would’ve been
    Over six feet tall. As it is she has a short trunk and long legs.
    My first husband Wayne wanted a son to carry on the name Crownover and since I could
    No long produce babies we turned to our local adoption agencies. Because we had two of our own the only children we were eligible for were mixed breeds or handicapped. We then turned to an attorney in San Francisco for help. This was known as grey market adoptions. We filled out all the papers and gave him a check. He said most of his babies were from unwed mothers and he could not guarantee a match to our backgrounds. I was from a Jewish, German, Hungarian background, my husband was Baptist, Dutch, English.
    We felt dejected. Two weeks went by, we got a phone call saying our son was ready to pick up. Seems this couple was married. She was a Fashion Model and didn’t want children to obstruct her career. He was originally from New York and had hoped this baby would save their marriage. We immediately went to Mary’s Help Hospital in San Francisco and picked up Baby Lavigna. Alan, we named him. I got announcements which depicted a Mother holding a curly haired child wrapped in a blue blanket , saying “I wasn’t expected, I was selected.” Six months passed. We were about to receive the final paperwork from the State. We got a letter from Alan’s birth Father asking for a picture. We had just had a family portrait taken. I cut out Alan’s face and sent it to his Father as requested. The Attorney said he was returning to New York, divorced the Mother and we’d never hear from him again.
    Fifty years later, my good friend Janet from Middletown New York attended her 50th High School Class Reunion. She met Fred Lavigna, a good looking boy she’d had a crush on in school. He used to pull her hair, tease her and sent her love notes. She realized how
    Much he resembled our son Alan. After returning home, she called me and said she’d found Alan’s birth Father. What are the Odds? Before Fred passed away with cancer, Alan got to introduce his wife, son and daughter to his Dad. I spoke to him on the phone but we never met. His Mother had passed away with cancer at a young age.

  3. Vicki says

    I was in my backyard thinking about my mom. She had recently died. Suddenly, like a movie, I had this visual of mom being right there with me. She grabbed my hands and held them tight. Then all this energy started flowing from her into me. She looked into my eyes as she held tight to my hands, a big warm smile full of love on her face. That’s when I first felt the energy between us. I could feel it moving through her hands to mine, from inside her to inside of me. It was very strong. She was transferring something she had in her and was giving it to me. I felt that she was giving me the rest of herself so that I could now have it. It felt very clear and pure. After that everything slowed down. Mom gently let go of my hands I was crying because I realized she was leaving for good. She smiled at me one last time, then she turned away and was gone. I was astonished.

    • Ilana says

      Goosebumps Vicki- I had a similar experience with my cousin. It was the first family event after she passed. I was sitting with her sister talking about her and suddenly she was sitting with us. It was a quiet peaceful moment, just the three of us. It was my own (semi-private) chance to say goodbye. Thank you for sharing yours.

      • Vicki says

        I sometimes wonder if my mom was actually there or if it was my brain helping me to move on and say goodbye. Did some part of me recognize that I needed, not only to say goodbye, but to accept the good things from my mom and take them into myself? I had spent so long hating her and blaming her for everything. For most of my life I had been unable (or unwilling?) to see her good qualities or the gifts she’d given me. Everything good was overshadowed by all the bad. With all of her problems, some of them quite serious, I now feel a kind of sisterhood with her. She struggled. She suffered. But she never gave up trying to learn, to grow and to improve herself. That’s one of the most important gifts she gave me. Laura, I don’t think I’ll be using that first sentence after all. There are better first sentences for me now. Thanks for your insight.

  4. Ilana says

    It was winter, December of 2011. I was in the emergency stage of my healing. Every night the same question loomed. Was I was going to manage the anxiety, nightmares, unbearable sadness and self loathing without the aid of chemicals? That night the answer was no. That night I lost the battle and chose alcohol to numb the pain. After the children were safely in bed, I swallowed the self prescribed dose, just enough to take the edge off and make my world surreal, fuzzy around the edges. As soon as it took hold of me, the phone rang.

    “Ilana.” Zander called from upstairs. I don’t remember what I was doing in the basement but that’s where I was. “Rabbi Grossman is on the phone for you.”

    ‘What the hell?! Why would he be calling me?” I was both surprised and angry. Rabbi Grossman had called our home twice in the six years we had known him. The first time I was going through testing to see if I had another aneurysm. I had asked for his spiritual guidance in a time of tremendous anxiety. The second was when Zander’s beloved Grandfather had died and he was calling to express his condolences. Both of these calls were made before a far more significant interaction between us. One in which I lost almost all of my respect for the man. In a nutshell, I had confided in him that I was a survivor of incest. He’d responded by shouting at me for an hour and a half. Pounding on the table, he had insisted I cut off all communication with my parents and brothers. I left his office with bruises on my arms from gripping myself so tightly.

    So now, here I was, under the influence of alcohol and pissed off that he was calling me. I picked up the phone. “Hello is this Ilana?”


    “This is Rabbi Grossman, from Temple Etz Chaim.” ‘I’m aware of that.’ I thought sarcastically.

    “Hey, what’s up?” I would never have been so casual if I hadn’t been both under the influence and furious with him.

    He was quiet for a second but made no comment on my attitude. “I need your help with something. A woman in our congregation lost her mother yesterday. The funeral is tomorrow and then she has the week of Shiva.” (In a Jewish home the first week after a death is called Shiva. The family follows a variety of traditions, one of which is to say the mourner’s Kaddish every night. You must have at least ten people to say these prayers. This is to insure that the bereaved is not alone. The group of at least ten people is referred to as a ‘minyan’.) “Are you available to help out on Wednesday night?”

    “Oh, you need people to make up a minyan.”

    “No, Ilana. I’m asking you to lead the service.”

    “Me? Lead the service?”

    “Yes. Rabbi James and I are going to be out of town. I think you would be the best person for this family. You are so kind and sensitive. This woman is going to be completely worn out by Wednesday. I just think it would be good for her to have you lead the service.”

    “Okay. Um. I’ve never lead that service before.” The only service I’ve ever lead was the one I completely messed up. Remember? You pointed out all of my mistakes in front of everyone.

    “Don’t worry. It’s a very simple service. You know all of the prayers. I’ll meet with you before then and we’ll go over it.”

    “Alright.” There really was no other option. It would have been sinful to turn down this kind of request. We agreed to meet the next morning after I dropped my son off at the preschool on the other side of the building. I hung up the phone and climbed the stairs to the sitting room where my husband waited.

    “What did he want?”

    “You’re not going to believe this.” I told him the whole story.

    “Well, he thinks you can do it and I’m sure he’s right. Are you okay to meet with him?”

    “Yes. It’s been six months since that day he yelled at me. I’ve been acting like everything was okay for a while now.”

    It was hard, sitting with him at the same table he had pounded on as he yelled at me, but that day was the furthest thing from his mind. I focused on the page he was pointing to, in the prayer book instead of the walls that seemed to both spin and close in around me at the same time. When it was over I knew what I had to do for the service. I met my husband in front of the temple and tried to catch my breath. “You okay?” He asked with concern.

    “Yeah. I’m fine. The room spun the entire time but I’m okay now.” Then I changed gears. “I don’t have anything appropriate to wear. It’s freezing. I need some nice pants and a sweater.” I don’t remember why Zander was off of work that day but he took me shopping.

    Later that night I called the woman who had lost her mother to express my sympathies. “My husband can join me if you need another person to form a minyan.”

    “He’s very welcome to come but that will not be an issue. We have a minyan.” She told me what time to be at her house and made sure I had directions. Zander and I range her bell armed with the prayer book, a condolence card and fresh homemade challa (bread). When she opened the door I realized why she did not need Zander to have a minyan. There must have been 60 people there and I did not know a single one of them. Though her home was enormous, I couldn’t turn around without bumping into someone. It was freezing outside but the inside of the house felt like a thousand degrees. I swallowed hard and hid my anxiety.

    “Thank you for the card and the challa. That was very kind of you.” She said. “Now, I have a question for you.”

    “Yes?” I held my breath I could answer it.

    “For the last two nights we have stopped during the service to share some memories of my mother. How do you usually do this?”

    How do I usually do this?! I’ve never done this before in my life! But I didn’t say that. I answered the only way I could. “It doesn’t matter what I usually do. What is important is what YOU want.”

    “I don’t want to do that tonight. It’s too much.”

    “Then we won’t.” I hid my relief at the simplicity of her question behind my concern for her feelings. She smiled and some of the weary anxiety left her face.

    After meeting several members of her family I took my place at the front of the room and tried to get everyone’s attention. It took a few minutes but finally they were all facing me. I introduced myself and thanked them for allowing me to do their service. My chair was pressed against the hearth and the ocean of faces seemed to bear down on in on me. People were standing in doorways and peaking in from the kitchen. Zander had exactly the space the soles of his feet took up on the tile floor by the front door. Again, I sought refuge in focusing on the prayer book. “Please turn to page 15 and we will begin with the Sh’ma.” I did not look up from my book unless absolutely necessary. After the silent prayer, I had no choice. How else was I going to know if they were ready to continue? Glancing up nervously, I saw all those people staring at me expectantly. I pressed on.

    Finally, it was over. I was mobbed afterword with several people thanking me for leading. One man said, “That was a beautiful service.” Another, the woman’s brother, I think, followed me all the way to the door to thank me for coming. Finally, she rescued me. “Ilana and Zander have to get the babysitter home. It’s a school night.” She said, in motherly tones. I thanked her, expressed my condolences one more time and then stepped out into the icy black night. The cold air washed over me and it suddenly got easier to breathe. “What did I just do Zander?”

    “You just lead a service in front of 60 people and they thought you had done it a million times. I’m so proud of you.”

    “And I helped someone.” I said numbly.

    “You helped someone.” He echoed. “Someone who really needed you.”

    It was astonishing to me because in spite of the enormity of the responsibility, in spite of my intense feelings of betrayal by the rabbi, in spite of the turmoil in my own life, I did a good job.

    It was life affirming because in my own special way, which no one else could have replicated, I did something for a complete stranger.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Hip, Hip, Hooray. Ilana M…You’re OKAY!
      Like Zander, I too am proud of you.
      You put your understandable feelings about the Rabbi aside: ‘felt your fear and did it anyway!’ Isn’t that what they say these days? You were well prepared, as I suspect you always are, and did a really good job. I think this could qualify for the last week’s prompt, “The Value of Excellence!

    • says

      that’s an amazing story. And it leaves me wondering why the rabbi in the story asked this woman to lead the service! was it some kind of veiled apology for knowing he’d stepped over the line? so that he could help empower her?

      • Ilana says

        Unfortunately, no. I can say with complete confidence that (not) Rabbi Grossman (not) from Temple Etz Chaim believes he did exactly what he should have done in that situation. I know because of things he has said to me since then and the way he has behaved toward me. He “doesn’t believe in ‘feel good'”. I was later told by others in the Jewish community that he believes he is Superrabbi. “All the man needs is a cape.” But enough of the negative. I am finding more and more lately that I want to thank people who have been cruel to me because of the important lessons I have learned from my reactions to them. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, yes. You did it with excellence and astonished yourself too! I’m so happy for every step you take which reinforces for you your abilities, competencies, and value. I’m sorry about the encounter with the Rabbi when you sought help; I almost took my issues to a priest but then held back. So glad about that now. Anyway, we keep going, all of us. Sending a hug.

  5. Jenny says

    In some ways I am pathologically hopeful. I live in potential, and believe that life will always work out the kinks. One year that notion was tested and the result surprised me then and still does today. My surprise was not that a result occurred, but what the resolution suggests about life.

    I was sharing an apartment attached to a farmhouse on 100 acres of land that was a tree farm. The owners, two women, lived in the farm house and one of them managed the farm. As I understood it, the rental agreement included our ability to have gardens on the land. When I moved in there was already one small garden on site. It was mainly a flower and herb garden because the soil was harsh. Because I was a grower, we got permission to have a food garden some 300 yards from the house, in a space that was wide open to full sun all day. It was sort of far away and there was no water close by but the soil was good, and there was space for a compost pile. So we rigged up a hose and bucket system to get water to the garden. There was no frowns from the landlady who saw what we were doing, and we did not abuse the well water. In fact we were assured that the well was a deep well and in the history of the farm there had never had problems with the well.

    We grew a glorious garden that first year. After hours of rock and stone removal and enhancing the soil, creating the circular space, making raised beds we planted and loved the plants into producing. The harvest was wonderful, collards, kale, tatsoi, broc rabe, peas, chard, potatoes, squash, summer and winter, culinary and medicinal herbs, an flowers for the bees and the butterflies, and of course the little people. I was in heaven daily at returning from the university to plants butterflies, bees and birds. We shared the bounty with friends and reveled in the observation that the garden gave more as we gave.

    The following year brought a challenge that concluded with an astonishing lesson for me. We woke the garden up early spring, fed it and began to prepare for the season. Spring and early summer was fairly dry but not alarmingly so. So we felt safe, and yet we were mindful about not overdoing the watering, depending more on the winter’s water. It also was difficult to overdo given that we had to use buckets because the combination of hoses available did not make it to the garden gate. The remainder of the way was done with buckets, a laborious and tedious task at best.

    We were surprised when in the summer the landladies demanded that we stop watering our garden. The larger surprise was that they were in the midst of power washing the house when the demand came down. That gave me a warning that did not feel good. We decided to use gray water solely and began intensely collecting water in 5 gallon buckets of gray water for the garden.

    We persevered for a few weeks before beginning to notice the toll of the reduced water on come of the plants. As a tenant I understood my position very clearly. As a human I knew I could not watch plants suffer and die so we could eat. As a gardener I knew I could not destroy the garden, so many life forms benefitted from it, and I loved the place and all the beings. So I did not know what I could do. As usual when faced with a dilemma I took it within. So I asked what to do and then listened for a few days. Then I got it, I had a fabulous idea, crazy and fabulous.

    Soon after, I went to the garden to water carrying two 5 gallon buckets of gray water. I walked into the space and as usual greeted everyone, the birds, bees, butterflies, plants, and all the visible invisibles – devas, fairies, etc. I sat down on a bucket in the center of the space and began to talk to my friends. I told them everything all that was going on exactly as they were playing out – the ban on watering, the struggle with saving gray water, my dilemma of not knowing what to do, how difficult it was to watch some of them dying of thirst and so on. I talked about the strain on my body the ferrying of water was causing and that I might not be able to do it for long if it did not rain soon. I had a long emotion filled talk with them.

    At the end of my explanation I sat in silence. Then I said that I knew there was water deep below the garden. I asked those with the roots that could go deep to please go and find the water that was there. I said to those whose root systems could not go deep that they could leave, because I could not bear to watch them stay and suffer. They had my permission to go. I said that I would bring water as long as I could and some days there would be more than others, depending on my body. I ended by offering my deepest thanks to all for that they had provided and were providing. Then I carefully watered the garden.

    During the weeks following I watched carefully what was happening in amazement. A few plant species quietly left, overnight they would die. On the whole the garden seemed to grow stronger. I saw plants the sturdier ones like the greens become bigger and more abundant. We continued to be able to share greens from the garden; some plants like the squash plants slimmed down and provided smaller fruit, the greens got more luxurious with larger leaves that were healthy and delicious. Instead of appearing stressed out the garden grew more beautiful, filled with more butterflies and birds; fewer bugs appeared. It was as if the plants listened and sent their roots to the water below and the elementals took over the well being of the plants.

    That summer the garden was again glorious and kept on providing food as if nothing much had been taken away. I was humbled. I was astounded. I was exuberant. My friends were amazed. I learned a lot about the natural world and the potential of life in all its forms, to produce wonders when humans ask for help and collaborate. It confirmed my belief about life and affirmed my idea that we humans have much to learn about our place in the web of life on this planet. After that experience I sincerely worked to ask, to collaborate and often to be led by the natural world in my gardening. I am simply a player in the story of life no more no less than one of the players. I love it.

    • says

      Jenny, what an astounding and wonderful story. I just forwarded this page to all the gardeners I know and love (including my partner). Beautiful story, beautifully told.

    • Ilana says

      Jenny- This is so beautiful and I love the way you tell it. My favorite part was the series of sentences that began with “As a..” showing all sides of your reacting to the situation. I love the personification of the plants and how you called them your friends. I am not a gardener. I would go as far as saying that I have two black thumbs but I really enjoyed reading this. Kudos for reaching an audience that was unfamiliar with your subject matter. Well done! IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Jenny, this is such a feel-good story. I feel great just thinking of sitting close to your garden, admiring it, and writing down my thoughts. Thanks so much!

  6. Beverly Boyd says

    Astonished by life: Roadmap prompt: August 28, 2012

    For two years I lived in a funky little house in Pinole. CA. It had the distinction of being the oldest house in the town and I can believe it. One of the better improvements over the years had been an extension toward the back that became the living room with a large peaked window rising into the raftered ceiling and a window seat spanning its six-foot width. It overlooked a spacious yard with five large oak trees and a fence at the back that gave privacy from the walking path that ran beside a stream behind it. On the other side of the creek was a bank and it s parking lot, which I hardly noticed because a lovely split leaf maple in front of the high window gave enough cover without shutting out the view. I would go over to the parking lot at night to see how much could be seen. Maybe not a good idea to run around naked, but a casual observer was not likely to notice my movements inside. I luxuriated in a sense of privacy and openness, yet I was just a block away from the town center. I carefully pruned the tree with all this in mind and was feeling quite happy with the results. I loved curling up in the window seat with a good book. Sometimes I sat on a deck at the side and enjoyed the chatter of squirrels cavorting in the high arching California oak trees that created enough of a canopy to dapple the lawn with shade and sunlight. I spent hours hauling the morning glory along the back fence down from its runaway growth into the tree and pruning the low hanging limbs to provide more privacy from the bank parking lot. I had been doing similar lawn care on on the front and sides as well.

    One day I arrived home in the late afternoon after being gone all day. My little house looked like its clothes had been ripped off. A magnolia tree several feet away from the front corner of the house had almost all of its greenery lopped off. It reminded me of the native toothbrushes we sold in the health food store where I worked: the kind made from a sturdy twig with its ends frayed into a sort of stiff brush. Two large flowering bushes in the side yard that I had kept pruned in a casual flowing arch, again to provide privacy from the cottage that shared the property, had been chopped down to about three feet. I found it hard to really take in what I was seeing. I walked around the house. Several bushes had been similarly cut back, including the lovely split leaf maple.

    The previous week the landlord had called to tell me that he wanted to arrange to have the magnolia trimmed back because it was growing over the roof and into the eave. I had agreed with that, but I never expected the radical treatment the poor tree suffered.

    I no longer had privacy at the back of my house. The maple had been cut down to about six feet, just to the bottom of the window, and would probably never again have the same lovely shape. The bright lights in the parking lot made it impossible to enjoy sitting in my living room at night. The lack of privacy made me feel like I was the unwilling participant in a sideshow.

    Fortunately, the butcher with the saw hadn’t gotten to the Oak trees and plants on the deck side yet. My landlord couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy with what his friend had done, but agreed to not have him do any more work.

    After that every time I came home I experienced again the violation I felt when I first saw that poor magnolia. I began to be afraid to leave the house. What other outrage might occur in my absence. It wasn’t the only reason that I gave notice but it surely speeded up my decision.

    In some ways I loved living in that house and would wistfully dream of going back. Then an errand in that part of town might take me past. The house got some needed sprucing up including a new coat of paint, but it is so sterile and uninviting. The magnolia tree suffered and died and eventually was removed.

    To say I was astonished is definitely an understatement!

    • Jenny says

      Yes. It is sad. It is sad that it happens and so often. The destruction of privacy, beauty, relationship with the natural world. In a minute everything changes forever it seems.

    • Ilana says

      Beverly- I agree, it is sad. Still, you gave us such a beautiful picture of what it was before. You’ll always have that picture and now, so will the rest of us, whom you’ve shared it with. It made me think of the places in my life that are gone now. If I went back there, physically, they would be changed, gone, but I will always have my memories of them. Therefore, this piece, for me, was very bittersweet. I enjoyed reading it. IM

    • Ilana says

      Jenny and Beverly- I saw something today that made me think of your writings. My eight year old daughter and I were waiting for my husband to pick us up. We walked along the sidewalk of a strip mall, window shopping. One of the stores was a fancy flower shop, quite beautiful actually. I noticed a small sign in one of the outdoor pots. “Stolen marigold used to be here :(” Furious that someone would steal flowers right out of the pot like that, I pointed it out to my daughter and together we fumed. Walking a little further I saw another sign, almost identical to the first. All together we counted fifteen signs taking the place of flowers that had been stolen right out of their pots. Having just been inspired by both of your writings, I was baffled that someone who cared enough about the flowers to want them, would steal them from their nourishing soil. It was just so wrong. Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe I’m just really naive and sensitive. It wouldn’t be the first time I fit that description. The fact is your pieces affected me and made me pay closer attention.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Beverly, What a miserable turn of events. I’d feel the same. Privacy is everything. And the magnolia tree was gone. I really hope you’re happy where you are now.

  7. Terry Gibson says

    So many things in my life surprise me. For instance, by age twenty-one, I achieved a huge goal: I secured a permanent, full-time position as a secretary at Place du Portage in Hull, Quebec. That was huge for me; I was alone in the world and had to support myself unaided. Securing the job was a guarantee of work until I turned 65! I was happy, but more astonished that I found a friend in that office of strangers.

    Yvette was hilarious! Eight years my senior, for some reason she took a shine to me. Right to this day, we both remember our first meeting.

    It was a usual Friday afternoon in the land of grey cubicles. For hours, George, my boss, clunked around me with his size 14 loafers and a bloodhound frame of mind. Finally, I got enough photocopies of all rainbow colors for his ridiculous files. I got a breather to distribute more of his boring memos. Seconds later, I stood in front of Yvette’s desk, yet another victim of bored silliness. However, she worked for the Assistant Deputy Minister of Banking and Accounting. Apparently, I looked about twelve and was so timid, she took me under her wing.

    “Is this Mr. Collins office?” I asked, barely above a whisper. An unaware observer might have thought I was trying to be sexy. Asking everyone–most of whom were men–just above a throaty whisper, if they were the person whose name I had written on my paper. Yvette was French, soft-spoken and funny as hell. We laughed our asses off every chance we had a moment or coffee break. I wasn’t a big talker and I couldn’t express my liking of my new friend. So, while she entertained me with tales of her marriage, never stopping the incessant paper shuffle as she went, and answering the phone, I became a situational kleptomaniac.

    “That Monty,” she said, of her husband, “…He has sex once every couple years whether he needs it or not.” While I slipped her stapler up my sleeve, I gave her a quizzical look. “No.” she said. “He’s not, but I wonder. We have three kids so I know he had fun at least three times.” She laughed, looking a bit embarrassed.

    Jack, her boss, poked his head out the door and asked Yvette something just as the phone rang. “Mr. O’Rourke’s office, how may I help you?” She scribbled down notes as the caller spoke and then turned her back to search for a file in the cabinet behind her. I wrapped my hand around her box of paper clips and got several pens all in one go. When my right sleeve was almost full, I started gifting the left of my fuzzy white sweater with whatever I could get my hands on.

    Yvette never seemed to notice my criminal activities, but I was undeterred. Each time before I had to return to George, the droopy-eared bloodhound who was out ordering more bright paper as I breathed, I dropped my loot back on the desk, but chose different spots for good measure.

    One day, just before we were off to the mall downstairs for coffee, Yvette laughed at me. We had already chatted for about ten minutes. “Now you’d better empty those sleeves!” She laughed. With her hand gesture, I knew I had to fess up.

    My eyes shone. This woman seemed to get me and even I couldn’t brag about that. Our friendship was strong.

    With a job and Yvette, I felt less lonely and was able to find my way in Ottawa. Job security was amazing but finding a friend, who is still close to me thirty years later, surpasses all of that. My friend, Yvette, saved my life back then, though she probably never knew it. She validated and astonished me. I love her and am still in awe of her strength and determination. The world of grey cubicles finally yielded something productive, interesting, and amazing. An astonishment well worth the wait!

    • Ilana says

      Terry- I loved reading this! You completely drew me in from the very first word. I don’t believe you have written this one before, at least not since November 15 of 2011. I have been a loyal reader of this blog since I found it. Still, we are getting your other story in stages and that is wonderful. It occurred to me that you are doing what we are supposed to look for in “The Things They Carried” with that one. You are giving us a story in pieces. It is very effective. Oh, just to let you know. I changed my name tag. I’ll be going by “Ilana” that weekend. IM

  8. Bobbie Anne says

    I am blessed with the ability to be able to heal animals and people with hands-on healing. It’s pretty powerful. I have used this astonishing life-affirming and enriching gift since childhood to help myself and others to survive. I do it on most of the animals I know, like the dog next door. I do it on my 3 companion cats, which included Sammy, who recently passed on after 18 years. My furry friend purred all the time, even at the vet’s office.

    I did the hands-on healing before the vet put on the miniature blood pressure cuff. It slips off the thin feline leg. He tightens it and cannot believe it is a normal reading for cats. He does it again. Same reading.

    It works on people too. When I visit my family in the hospital and lower their blood pressure and help them to relax. It helps them out. Sometimes caregivers tend to neglect themselves . I found out the hard way when I went to my doctor, he said I had high blood pressure and needed medicine. I told him I would lower my blood pressure naturally. He wrote me a prescription anyway. I didn’t take the medicine. I did did my hands on healing to myself. I went back to my doctor. He took my blood pressure, and it was a lot lower. He said it was because of the medicine. That was not the case. I didn’t argue. If I did, that might have raised my blood pressure.

    I think every one has wonderful gifts and abilities. My gift helps others and it helps me too. I wouldn’t be here after all I’ve been through if it didn’t. I thank God for that in my prayers.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Bobbie Anne, What an amazing world it can be if a woman’s gifts are celebrated! Not psychiatrized, stigmatized, and openly scoffed at. It is must feel incredible to see the results on animals and people. I celebrate you and all your gifts and talents.

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