Saturday, February 13, 2021

Kindness. Part Two


Thursday morning, 9 am. I get a call from someone saying she's from my bank. I'm seriously overdrawn and incurring massive overdraft fees. 

At least I think that's what she said... she had such a strong foreign accent, I was barely picking up what she was saying. 

And I knew she must be mistaken; I'd checked my bank balance at midnight (not a usual occurrence, but SO MANY people have been doing auto deposits this week, I needed to make sure I was keeping track of it all) and there was lots of money in there. Like, thousands more than usual. 

Assumed it was a scam call, and ignored it. 

THREE more calls from this frantic person at 'my bank' before I finally went online to see what the noise was all about. Sure enough, someone withdrew $21,000 from my chequing account. Which, yup, she was right, put me deep into overdraft. 

I could see who the culprit was, (it was the bank itself) so I wasn't concerned. It was clearly a error. But talking to her again wasn't an option. She was just so jumpy about me coming in with a suitcase of cash to cover the negative balance. 

So I left a voice mail and email message with 'my guy' at the bank, asking him to clear it up. He called back a couple hours later, super apologetic, and said he'd look after it. All of it. It would be done by the end of the day. In the meantime, my account wasn't available for me to withdraw funds. 

Bummer. 

My plan had been to get a 500 British Pound backdraft (!!!) for English Twitter Heather and send a care package filled with Canadian goodies over to her that afternoon. (I have been absolutely gob-smacked by the generosity of friends, who've given money, cards, gifts to my aching girl in Lancashire.)

I can't even. 

I really can't.

And then...

And then, I started getting messages from friends, letting me know they had things for the homeless in Abby. (Originally, earlier this month, I was selling Valentine's rocks to raise extra funds for our 'last Saturday of the month dinners' as we were told to anticipate an increase in numbers (from 60 to 80 or more.) But THIS weekend, with record-breaking cold weather, the need was for late night care packages, sleeping bags, coats, hand-warmers, gloves, socks, Tim Horton's gift cards...) 

I posted a story to my Facebook page about two gals from The 5 and 2 Ministry who drove around Abbotsford at 3 am, looking for homeless people in distress. They gave them care packages, and took a couple to shelters. (My reason for posting the story was I felt it demonstrated perfectly who The 5 and 2 Ministries cares for and how personally they do it.) I WAS NOT FUNDRAISING. I was simply informing. 

 The response from my friends has been overwhelming. 

Angie, a friend I worked with 10 years ago, jumped right on it, asking her friends to help her provide sleeping bags ($125 each for those rated for - 14 degrees). A few hours later:




Way to go, Angie and friends! 

Meanwhile, I was getting messages from my Facebook peeps wondering how they could help.

Next thing I know I'm getting MORE money transferred to my account, and I'm meeting folks in the lobby of my work building, in church parking lots, at Tim Hortons ... who're loading up the back of my truck with brand new men's winter coats, brand new sleeping bags, 100's of granola bars, dozens of packages of thermal socks, toques, waterproof winter gloves ...

It was about 5:30 pm, my truck was full, and my eyes were overflowing. 

I sat and bawled. 


Kindness and compassion just does me in. And here I was in the middle of a swirling storm of generosity and I just couldn't hardly handle it all.

I felt so, so very lucky to know these good people. 

My last stop on my way back to my mom's at 7 pm, was to pick up bottled water and home-baked brownies from a friend. 

Her: You haven't eaten yet, have you?

Me: Nope. 

Her: I thought so. Here. Perogies, sausage, bacon and cole slaw ...

.... and that set me off again. 


For a woman with no hormones (me) I sure was being hormonal.


When I got back to my mom's, Max and I prepared 15 Late Night Care Packages for when The 5 + 2 Team they drive around at 3 am checking on their homeless friends in parks, behind buildings, under bridges...


Each bag is worth about $35:

  • Waterproof winter gloves
  • Toque 
  • Thick new thermal socks
  • Bottled water
  • Fruit Juice drinking box
  • Home baked brownie
  • Fruit cup 
  • Two granola bars
  • Fruit chews
  • Package of Kleenex
  • $10 Tim Horton's Gift Card






We boxed up a 8 men's winter jackets, 24 extra pairs of socks, a couple extra toques, two bags of used winter clothing and about a hundred granola bars, extra juice boxes, fruit cups, and and and. Well you get the idea. 

This? Was not anticipated. 

I started this month hoping to sell a few rocks to pay for some extra servings at our end of the month meal. And out of nowhere I have a truck full of donated items for the homeless. 

I dropped them all off at the shelter this evening, where they were accepted with appreciation and excitement. THANK YOU FRIENDS for allowing me to be part of your acts of kindness. It was a privilege to collect and distribute it all. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My other 'project' this month, was to send British Twitter Heather a sympathy card and small care package. It was going to be from just me, but when I let friends who'd bought rocks this summer and sent Christmas cards this winter know that her dad died of Covid, AN OVERWHELMING OUTPOURING OF LOVE AND STUFF caught me off guard. Like for serious. Crazy just crazy how much people have loved on her. Her. A stranger. 5000 miles away. 

But she's hurting and wow. People have responded. In such a huge practical way. 

This afternoon, I sent off a box filled with gifts and a bank draft for 500 British Pounds (which is about $900.) (My overdraft issue was cleared up, just like I thought it would.)

!!!!!!





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It's around 4 am right now.

Clint joined me this evening (at the lake) and we've made a gazillion gallons of Beet Borscht. 

Chopping and slicing and dicing and grating and simmering and frying and it's been awesome. 





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three things I'm thankful for:


1. Thursday evening with Max, preparing care packages.

2. A "gift" day on Friday - day off with pay :) 

3. Friday night with Clint, making borscht. 

4. The people in my life who inspire and humble me. 

5. The way our churches have opened their doors to the homeless:



6. Sugar cookies, made for me, by Susan at The Cookie and Co.


Take care, stay safe, God bless,

xo

Monday, February 1, 2021

Kindness in the Time of Covid

I'm posting this memory so my great grandkids will know how good, kind and generous people were during this pandemic. 

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know bits and pieces of the story, but not all of it... in particular, what happened on Christmas Eve. 

The story starts in Jan 2020. I was sitting in the basement of the Fraser Valley Cancer Clinic on a dark and wet night, waiting for my radiation appointment. I had been driving myself to and from my appointments, so as I sat in that quiet corner, wearing two blue gowns, I didn't feel guilty scrolling through Twitter on my phone to pass time. 

I stumbled upon a new account, called Louise Does Loxley, which was delightful. "Louise" was watching the 2006 BBC version of Robin Hood, one episode per evening, and live tweeting her impressions, thoughts, feelings, criticisms as she viewed each show. She was 3 episodes in and she was so funny. Witty. Entertaining. Sarcastic. Appreciative. 

In other words, she had me hooked. She was 8 time zones ahead of me, so by the time I checked her account in the evening, it had been sitting there all day, online waiting for me to enjoy. After a couple days, I introduced myself to her; told her my situation and she responded with compassion and a commitment to provide me with something to read every evening while I was undergoing treatment. 

(I feel like I should insert a photo here; this is going to be a very text heavy post. But she has since deleted her Twitter account, our private conversations disappeared then as well. Which is too bad, as I'd love to be able to screen-cap some of her funnier bits and post them here. Oh well...) 

On January 30, she sent me a private message; "Hey. I've got it marked on my calendar that tomorrow is your last day of treatment. SO excited for you! How will you be celebrating? I want to do something special for you, so I'm going to review TWO episodes for you."

(Can I say how every touched I was? This was such a sweet gesture.)

Even after my treatment, I continued my evening routine of reading her tweets, because they were so much fun and now a normal part of my life. Near the end of February she asked me for my mailing address (which I gave her with no hesitation) and she sent me a limited edited, collectible, numbered Robin Hood wrist band. I, of course, responded by sending her some Canadian gifts, including Purdy's chocolates and a book written by my friend, Jenn. 


It was at this point that I started asking her about HER. And I found out about her own personal health challenges as well as all the deaths in her family over the previous year, including her mom and her best friend. 

Covid happened, and both our worlds changed. We kept in touch, and I was aching for her. She was in chronic pain, unable to work, living with her sister, and trying to care for her ailing dad. I wanted to help her and the only thing I could think of doing was sending her some money. 

During the summer I learned how to put dots on rocks. 



And thought I'd sell a few, with all the proceeds going to my British Twitter friend. 

(To be honest, I thought the only person who'd buy them would be my mom. And assumed I'd be sending a couple hundred dollars to England by the end of August.)

MUCH TO MY ASTONISHMENT, in three weeks, I sold eleventy gazillion rocks (to the most supportive friends and generous co-workers) and raised $1800 (which equals one thousand British pounds, coincidentally the exact amount that she'd lost to a phone scam earlier in the month).

Sadly, the day she, Heather, ("Louise" was just her Twitter handle) received the bank draft by courier, her sister was rushed to the hospital, on the brink of death. (She eventually recovered, but her health remains precarious.)

I didn't hear from Heather much during the Fall. But when I did, in mid-November, things were not well in her life. Her dad's health was deteriorating, her sister was failing, she was broken-hearted, and her body was in constant pain. She was under the care of emergency local mental health professionals, as she just wanted to die. 

Besides praying for her, (and asking my team at work, as well as some friends to join me in doing so) I wanted to do something else for her. And I was reminded of her joy back in January, when she was watching the 39 episodes of Robin Hood.


So.

So I thought I'd contact each of the main actors and ask them to send her a card. 

Yes. You totally read that right. 



First step was to go to the British Royal Mail website and order stamps. 

Second step was to find hi-res (high resolution) promo (promotional) photos online. And get them printed at London Drugs. I ordered 4 x 6 prints then attached them to blank white cards. 

I inserted the blank photo cards into envelopes that had Heather's address on them, as well as an English stamp adhered to the top right corner. Then I wrote a cover letter: 

Hi Jonas, Lucy, Joe, Keith, Gordon, Sam, Richard, Anjali and Harry …

January in Canada is cold and cruel. (The same is likely true for England.) And having (breast) cancer treatments during that miserable month makes it especially crappy.

The highlight of January 2020 was discovering the LOUISE DOES LOCKSLEY twitter account while sitting in the waiting room of the cancer clinic’s radiation department. “Louise” had just stumbled upon your Robin Hood and love, LOVE, L.O.V.E.D it. As she watched an episode each evening, she’d live tweet her thoughts, observations, and feelings with razor sharp wit and wonderfully appropriate (or not) GIFs. I was entertained by her delightful commentary from eight time zones away.

After a few days, I sent her a private message introducing myself/my situation, and an unlikely but friendly relationship formed. She was committed to continuing her daily viewing/tweeting for me, a stranger, 5,000 miles away.

Eventually I finished my treatments and she completed her 39-episode marathon. And then Covid hit.

I’m doing fine; cancer-free, working, healthy and safe but my English Twitter friend is having a horrible time of it. There have been deaths in her family, on-going illnesses, chronic health challenges, unemployment, etc. She is struggling both physically and mentally.

The greatest moments of joy she’s experienced this year was when she was watching y’all frolicking in the forest and canoodling in the castle.

I’d love to surprise her with cards from the cast of The Show That Made Her Smile.

I’ve printed off some photos, attached them to cards, put them in envelopes that have been addressed and stamped. Really hoping you have time to add your signatures and a friendly “hi”. I know this won’t change her circumstances, but maybe it’ll provide a ray of light into her dark place.

Thank you for being actors. What you do is important, especially during times of uncertainty and unrest. Robin Hood, in particular, seems to be one of the shows that’s like comfort food for the soul in a world gone bat-shit crazy. Praying that y’all will be working again soon.

Take care, be safe, much love,   

Jane               


                                                                            

I put the letters into envelopes addressed to each actor's agent. 
And I included a $6 Starbucks card to thank them for their time. 
Sadly, at the time, my local Starbucks was out of Thank You gift cards, so I included Happy Birthday gift cards as well as a post-it note explaining why I was sending them Happy Birthday cards. 

I put the packages in the mail. 
And realized, that most actors wouldn't receive their packages til after Christmas. I was confident they'd get around to sending her autographed cards, but it might not be til the Spring. 

So I checked my inventory of unused Christmas cards, found that I had about 20 unique ones, and asked 20 people who'd bought rocks off of me during the summer, if they'd like to send Heather a Christmas card. Everyone said yes; so I addressed the card, put a stamp on it, and delivered those cards to The World's Most Supportive People. 

And then it was December and my world got a little crazy. I left all that mail in God's hands and went about my work.

Partway through the month, I got an email from a co-worker who'd just opened a 30-day trial account with Amazon Prime UK and he wondered if I wanted to send anything to Heather? Shipping would be quick and free... So I found a 11 x 17 printed canvas of Joe Armstrong (Allen A Dale) for $4.99 and had that delivered to her. 

It arrived 24 hours later, and it brought a huge smile to her face. She placed it in a location of honor, on the wall above the fireplace. 

A couple days later I got a Facebook message from Jonas Armstrong, the lead actor in the series, Robin Hood, himself:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought it was a lovely idea. 

Heather got in touch with me on December 20 to let me know that she'd been receiving Christmas cards from Canada and she was touched by the kindness. But, sadly, both she and her dad had contracted Covid. A few days later, on Christmas Eve morning, he was rushed to the hospital. 

Later that same day, on December 24, (1:30 pm, my time - 9:30 pm in England) I received another email from Heather:



And then again a few minutes later: 




Eventually she sent me a detailed, minute-by-minute review of everything they said, and she was just bouncing in spite of her high fever and screaming body ache from Covid. What an unexpected, fun, Christmas Eve gift for her. 



Tragically, last week, she posted the following:





Ugggh. SO much heart-ache and pain in this gal's life. I can't even. 

Because so many of my friends and co-workers have been praying for her (and bought rocks, sent Christmas cards), I posted this update to Facebook to let them know.

AND AGAIN I AM IN AWE of the beautiful people in my life. I've received an outpouring of messages, as well as dozens of wishes to be a part of any care package/gift idea I'd be sending her. Seriously. The world is made up of billions of loving people. And I am 😭😭😭😭 because of the tender way we care for each other. 

Last night, as I was praying, I wrote in my journal: "God? Could you handpick someone to come into Heather's life? Someone in ENGLAND. Someone who would be closer than 5,000 miles to be there for her?"

And today I got a text message from Surrey-Heather asking me if it would be alright if she shared England-Heather's story with her friend WHO LIVES IN ENGLAND and might want to get in touch. 

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭

(Sometimes it takes forever for God to respond to a prayer. Other times? It's like, less than 24 hours.)
(Answered prayer always makes me cry.)

So I'll be putting together a care package filled with love from Canada, and get it over to her by Valentine's Day. Praying that in the meantime, she will feel comforted and at peace. 


Three things I'm Thankful For:

1. Postal services that move letters and cards and gifts across oceans and miles n miles of land. 

2. Kind actors who take a few minutes to connect with their fans.

3. Friends, family, co-workers (who have become friends), strangers on Instagram ... people in my life who encourage my efforts at helping British strangers (and contribute to my monthly feed-the-homeless meals.) I have been blessed mightily by being surrounded by the very best souls. 

4. Thankful for answered prayers even though it makes my nose run and my eyes blotchy.

5. Thankful, that during a global pandemic, we can find creative ways to connect and care. 

6. Thankful for cucumber, avocado and tomato salads. 

Take care, be safe, love well, 
xojo



Monday, January 25, 2021

Standard (Covid) Saturday

 There was nothing special about THIS Saturday in particular. It was exactly like a lot of them this past year. But, just in case one of my great grandchildren, in 2075, wonders what their great-granny was doing with herself during the Great Pandemic of the early 20's - this will answer their questions and they'll get an "A" on their History report. 

1. Great granny slept til noon. She is unique in this; the average person does not ignore weekend mornings. But being more of a sunset than a sunrise person, she looks forward to Saturdays in her new-ish, wildly comfortable King size bed, in a bedroom with 4 windows - all open, regardless of the outside temperature. 




2. Went for a walk along the Vedder River. As did thousands of others in need of fresh air and a change of scenery beyond their home's four walls. 


The Vedder Rotary Loop Trail is 22 km's long, so she's doing it in sections. Saturday, January 16th's section started at the 5K marker, and meanders under this railway bridge. In an effort to continually challenge herself, (both physically and mentally) she tried walking across the bridge.



But failed miserably when 1/3 of the way across she got dizzy and overwhelmed with the realization that the wire fence would not, in fact, save her from falling into the river should she trip or lean on it. So, with great sadness, she fell to her stomach and crawled back to shore. NO SHE DIDN'T. She kept her dignity, while walking very slowly, taking lots of photos, as if she were on a photo shoot and had never intended on crossing all the way over in the first place. 







3. Left a few rocks along the trail. It was her way of spreading sunshine and lollipops. 




4. She picked up a couple dozen smooth rocks and took them to the lake house where she washed them. 




5. And then she settled in to spend the evening alone (not because she's a loser but because in January 2021 everyone (residents of BC) are in lockdown. Zero visitors to each other's homes. Zero travel. Zero socializing. It's a quiet life, for sure). 

She 'did' church, by listening to the online service on her phone (churches are closed right now), visited with her kids and friends (by using a social media platform's messengering option on her laptop, painted some rocks (because rocks are free. Canvases are not) and watched Netflix  (a streaming service that is keeping everyone entertained this year) on a 65 inch flatscreen attached to the wall. 

Meanwhile, her sister was in Abbotsford, serving the meal she, Daryl and their friends had prepared for the homeless and hungry.



 



(Thanks for Mike and Arden for helping prepare Shepherd's Pie, bake brownies and assemble take-away bags. Thanks, Marlene for baking 120 kaiser buns. Thanks, Heather, for the water bottles. Thanks, mom, for buying the meat.)

(Apparently, in the Spring, there will be a reduction? elimation? of $300 disability cheques? So we've been told to get ready for an increase in numbers. We may go from 60 to 80 or 90 people dropping by Our Table On the Corner for a hot meal ...)

So with that in mind, great granny Jane started painting rocks for Valentine's Day. Maybe she could sell a few? And use the funds to buy ingredients for next month's meal...











6. And at 3 am, she went to bed. Her eyes were seeing double and besides, her show was over. 


Three things she's thankful for:

1. Sunny Saturdays.

2. Safe places to stroll.

3. Stunning sunsets.



Stay safe, take care, 
xojo

Sunday, January 24, 2021

So Worth It

I was at the lake, just sitting down to eat my late dinner of bacon and eggs when my phone dinged. 

It was Clint and he was wondering:




I let my breakfast-supper go cold as I pulled out a few photo albums to see what I could find. (I'd moved 34 photo albums from storage to the lake house a few weeks ago. I still have more to move but they're heavy, boxed up and I am lazy.)



Probably goes without saying that my heart was singing by this point. I threw out the congealing eggs, nibbled on a piece of cold bacon and started taking pics with my phone of old photographs.


Hahahaha. 

That'd be cozy, Mark and my mom, cuddled on a flowered couch, crocheting together. :) 



I think every family should have a historian/photographer. Someone/anyone who sees the value in recording The Everyday. (And then saving those photos somewhere other than Facebook.)

THIS MESSAGE THO:


I do! I kept every negative. In a Negative File book. It's buried somewhere amongst my boxes, BUT I HAVE THEM. It's the little things that make one feel proud ...

And this:



I DO! I have more pics of EVERYTHING. And they're in albums, all chronologically created. I just have to get them out of storage. 

And even though I couldn't spend the evening with my kids on Friday night as I'd hoped/planned... THIS was the next best thing:




I posted links in our chat of specific blog posts that had pics of my dad and mom's farm house. Then I got lost in the years 2007 - 2011 as I read words I written and photos I'd taken of our ordinary days.

I went to bed (7 hours later. I REALLY need to get a normal sleep cycle going again) CONVICTED that I need to keep chronicling my days by blogging more regularly. (Because, just maybe someone, in 2032 will ask about Christmas in the Year of Covid, or something... And I will have evidence and content regarding that time.)

And sigh, yes, Drew is right. There's something about having photo albums that feels right. So. Maybe my big project this year is to start making albums again? 

Current album situation, in need of a better location. 




Three things I'm thankful for:


1. My tongue. (I just can't stop thinking about Wyanne's cancer surgery.) Thank you God for my tongue. 

2. My camera. 

3. Family chats.

4. Surprise gifts, like this, waiting for me at the lake:



Take care, stay safe, much love,

xojo