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Sunday, November 25, 2012

There is still more story!

After a rough few days of worrying about and wondering if my bone marrow was failing or not, I finally had some good news.  Every morning my blood work would be done around 6a.m. and by 9 or 10 we would have the results.  We waited patiently for any increase, some sign that my sister's bone marrow was finally taking it's place in my body and working.  We were at about day 14 when my white count went to .4, and we were elated.  It was such a small sign, but such a needed one, never mind that I still had a long way to go.

As I mentioned before, I had been working at Mabou Gardens for a few years, and I worked with so many amazing men and women during that time that I still feel a close connection to many of them.  There was one of our bosses, Gerald, who always looked out for us, and rescued us from snakes and sticky situations on more than one occasion.  He is one of the most genuinely nicest people I have ever met.  There was Chris who invited me for lunch so I would feel like I fit in with the group, and inspired many by living a life centered around her girls and many other youth in the community, her door was always open and she always had a kind word and good advice for many of us.  There was Julie, who was one of the hardest working people I have ever met, she put the rest of us to shame on many days.  Michelle and Andrew were a husband and wife team, Andrew worked his butt off, and Michelle, even though she was only 3 apples high, she carried and loaded those trucks with a smile on her face and a hop in her step.  They were one of the first couples I remember thinking that I wanted what they had in a marriage, they always seemed so happy together, and I never, ever heard Michelle ever complain or criticize her man.  And Gayle, who was like a second mother to me for many years, as her daughter and I worked side by side, went to school together and probably drove both our mothers crazy on more than one occasion. 

But there was one other woman I worked with who would come to mean so much more to me in my life.  At first I did not know how to take Mary Mae, she was a mother of one of the boy's in my class, but I did not know her very well prior to working with her.  In the first year or two we worked together in some green houses, and did some trucks together, and we slowly started getting to know each other a bit better.  By the time I reached grade 12, I was doing almost all my lunch breaks at her house, and I often went to her for advice about just about anything.  When my cousin Shelly was on life support, and it was decided that it would be removed, my mother called Mary Mae so she would tell me during lunch at her house so that I would not hear it from someone else.  Even though we should never have been friends, I loved her, and loved spending time with her.

So when I was in Halifax, many of these people came to visit, sent me cards, and sent their prayers.  They were like my "Garden Family", and the owners, Peter and Florence also came to visit and told me how they would help however they could.  I was a lucky girl, but it was around the day my counts started coming up that Mary Mae came to visit.  Her father was up for a check-up, so they were spending a day or two, and she had planned on staying at the hospital for an evening with me so mom and dad could have a break.  My fantastic cousin Debby had tracked down the VCR for me that day, and for the first time in almost a month I wanted to watch something, most of the time the moving images on TV would make me sick, but I did not just want to watch anything, I wanted to watch Wayne's World.  Poor Mary Mae was the one who was stuck with me on the day I wanted to watch this movie, and I could tell she was not too sure of what she had gotten herself into.  I am sure she thought I must have lost some of my mind along with my hair, as I laughed so hard at Garth and Wayne's antics on the screen, that I made myself sick several times.  It was the best night I had in weeks, and I don't even remember if I stayed awake long enough to say good bye when the movie ended.  You know you have a good friend when they travel for hours to visit, and sit through something that they would never usually watch otherwise, all the while watching you throw up repeatedly with your bald head and raccoon eyes.

But here is the kicker, Mary Mae, my wonderful friend and cheerleader, became my mother-in-law!  Yep, I married her son, Tim, and she has been stuck with me now for 19 years in total.  There have been many nights since that I am sure I have been on her last nerve, and for many years I worried that she thought I was not good enough for her son.  I was always worried about not giving him children of his own, and also, she knew me so well that maybe she just did not want me to be bringing all my baggage to her family.  It was different to be her daughter-in-law, and I probably worried about it more than she ever thought about it, but I am glad to say that now, all these years later my mother-in-law is my friend, and I cannot imagine having her to call when things go wrong in my life.  She continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders, and we now share a history that only family can share.  We can start a sentence, and we know which story is coming, and I can say, "Remember that time when Tim did that?"  And she knows exactly what I mean. 

She will bawl her eyes out when she reads this, but I love you Mary Mae, thanks for everything over the last 23 years, especially your son, lol.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Centre of Hope

On Saturday night several of my Twitter friends were attending and twittering about the KD Gala here in town.  If you don’t know about this event, it is an annual event, and it is in support of the Centre of Hope.  As I sat thinking about the Centre, I decided to share some very personal stories about what the Centre of Hope has come to mean for me and my family.

The first few months that I was in Fort McMurray, I was hired and working for the registry office here in town.  I met people from around the world while working there, and heard so many personal stories since some of the services provided there meant that you had to ask some personal questions.  Over a couple of weeks I saw one man come into the office on several occasions, but I never had him at my counter.  I could see that he was frustrated some days when he didn’t have the proper paperwork, and sad on other days when he realized that he would have to return with another form to get whatever he needed.  On a Friday afternoon, in mid November, he arrived at the office which was almost deserted because outside it was bitterly cold, and the wind made your face sting when it hit you.  The girls in the office had been digging out Christmas decorations since it was so quiet, and I was nearest the counter when he entered, so he became my customer that day.  I was not in a rush, as we often could be, and that day, we walked through every form, every step, and we filled everything out together.  I made a few phone calls with questions, and we finally had everything done so that he could receive an Alberta driver’s license.  He left, and I never really thought about the transaction at all, until about three weeks later, and it was getting closer to Christmas.  It was again a Friday, but the office was filled to capacity, and the line was going out the door.  This man entered the office, and asked if he could have everyone’s attention.  He then went on to say that he had been struggling to get his license in Alberta, and had finally received it that day in the mail.  He said he did not have money to buy chocolates for the girls in the office who had helped him, but that he wanted to share a song as thanks instead.  You could have heard a pin drop as this man told his story and then gave a stunning rendition of Silent Night and then We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  It was better than any of the chocolates we received, and the sweet memory still lingers.  On the day he came in and I served him, I too was stuck with how to help him, so I called the Centre of Hope.  They knew the man, he had used their services, and together that day we came up with ways to help him.  The day he came to say thanks, he said that he had already gotten a job, and would be getting a place in camp.  That was the first time I thought that the centre truly gave people hope.

I never thought our relationship would get more personal, but it did.  I had debated sharing the rest of the story, but it really is something to be proud of instead of not talking about, so here it goes.  Our little girl’s biological mother has had a very hard life, and sadly, she never had a strong family connection or support.  So when she found herself in labor on a record breaking cold night in February, she had no one to go to….except for the Centre of Hope.  Workers there took her to the hospital, and were there when our beautiful baby was born.  As we worked towards the adoption, she continued to struggle with her own demons, but her love for her little girl always shone through.  Mother’s Day rolled around, and after we were all out to brunch, I thought, “I bet her mom would like to see her today.”  But where would she be?  I drove to the Centre of Hope, and there she was sitting on the picnic table, she had gone there for support that day as she was missing her little girl.  We returned on July 1st to watch the parade together.  The Centre was our connection.  And then came Christmas Eve.  We were busily running around, and were heading out to gather with family who was visiting, when we got a call from the Centre of Hope.  Our little girl’s mom was there, waiting for a visit with one of the government workers.  I called the office, and no one knew of a visit, and anyone who could help had already left.  At this time, we were drawing closer to the adoption, and the worker who I eventually spoke with was very matter of fact, and said that I did not even have to call back, not to worry about it, and that no visit would happen.  I sat torn for almost 20 minutes, but the image of her mother sitting there on Christmas Eve was too much to stand.  I called the Centre back, and told them not to tell her, but I was coming, was it okay with them? 

I will never, ever forget arriving with our little girl dressed for Christmas Eve.  Her mother ran faster than any Olympic sprinter down those stairs when they called up for her, and she ran straight into my arms with words of thanks and gratitude pouring from her mouth.  Everyone there, workers, and clients both gathered around to proclaim what a beautiful little girl we had.  Her mother beamed proudly, and quickly handed her back when she started to cry because she did not want to upset her.  She said she would have been happy just seeing her through a window, but this was so much better.  It was one of the most powerful moments I have ever had in my life, and as she handed her daughter back to me, she said, “Go back with your mommy, I love you, Merry Christmas baby girl.”  The Centre of Hope made the moment happen, they give hope to those who are way too often overlooked, and while there can be many hard stories, the Centre has magic happening there, and should be supported and celebrated by the community.  I am glad the gala was well attended, and I hope the support continues as we approach the Christmas season.

Verna can be reached at:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Keep it going!

Life gets to busy, especially when you have sick people in the house.  As many of you know, my husband, Tim was in a bad accident a few months ago, and yesterday he was told that he may have more long term problems with his leg and hip.  This morning I woke up to one sick child, and by lunch time another one had joined him.  But I still have much to be grateful for....

First, I am still grateful that my husband is here with us.  We have heard so many horrible stories about others who have suffered an even more terrible fate than Tim's...I can only hope that those impaired drivers willl learn some hard lessons and make some major changes in their lives.

Second, I am happy that to have a house full of children on any given day.  I love that our boys have their friends coming and going, and I am blessed that we have new friends who trust and share their children's lives with us.

Third, I am grateful for the ability to sit down and do what I have always wanted to do since about the age of seven.  I love words, and I love creating stories and sharing our stories with everyone.  I continue to believe that we are all more alike than we are different, and that in sharing, we all feel more connected.

Fourth, I am grateful for good teachers.  I had some fantastic teachers during my years at Mabou Consolidated, and they encouraged, supported and inspired me to think about things that I had never thought about before.  On the day after Nelson Mandala was released from prison in South Africa, our english teacher, Carol Chisholm held a, "Free Mandala" party, and she brought in blue cheese and crackers.  I had never tasted blue cheese, and I had never heard of Mandala.  She brought South Africa to rural Cape Breton, and she made me want to visit there, it is on my bucket list, and when I go, I will send her a post card, and once again thank her.  Great teachers like her can make you dream bigger, think bigger, and want more for your do you thank someone for doing something like that for your life?  Already in my boys' lives, I see that there are teachers shaping their lives, and even that Shayleen looks to her teacher for guidance and direction.  We are lucky to have such support now as parents, and praise the Lord for wonderful teachers.

And finally tonight, I am thankful for wonderful neighbors.  Wherever we have wandered in our lives, we have always had fantastic neighbors.  When we first got married, and were living poorly in Howie Centre, we had neighbours that I would still fantastic friends, even though we don't see each other any more.  And then we moved to Chisholm Road, Long Point, Nova Scotia.  Yes, rural Cape Breton, and some of the most fantastic people you have ever met lived on that short little stretch of road.  Long Stretch Road was our next address, and over 7 years, we made a family there.  We had neighbors that we now call family.  The MacLellans, the Downards, the MacLean's and the MacGregor's were one's that held an especially special spot in our hearts.  We have never been able to replace them, but the neighbors on Becker Crescent are trying!  We have now been here for five years, and last night, when I took our baby girl around for treats, my heart was touched with our neighbors who asked about Tim, who wondered how I was holding up, and who had special treat bags to send home to my boys.  We have been so blessed over the years to be surrounded by wonderful people, who all make our days a little easier and brighter!