a little wordy

because words can inspire

Love

Michele Viner
n. a passionate affection for another person; a strong liking for something or someone.

Of course this week’s word is love.  It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

Love Love Love.  It’s all about love. 

Ah yes, Valentine’s Day.  The day when my single friends lament not having someone to love, and my attached friends lament that they never get the last piece of pie.  Although, I married a fabulous man who hates pie.  Ha.

No, I am not making fun of Valentine’s Day.  I am a sucker for hearts and flowers just like the next girl, and I am ALL about spreading love.  I think the world needs it.  Its just that, as I’ve grown older and have lived through a few things, my definition of love has changed.  A lot.  I don’t look at it any more as the romance and the poetry and the bling, I look at it as the courage to stand in another’s corner as you would stand in your own.  That doesn’t have to be romantic love, although it can be.  It can also be for a child, for a parent, for a sibling, for a friend.

One of my greatest lessons about love came from my kids’ pediatrician.  

It was New Year’s eve 2015.  We were about to ring in 2016 and my family had just returned from a quick getaway to Old Montreal (my personal creative mothership) over Christmas.

Somewhere between Montreal and Toronto, something went terribly wrong for my older daughter.  I have shared in my blog before that my daughter lives with bipolar disorder.  Through medical intervention, it is something that she manages extremely well, but bipolar disorder is a beast, and it can raise its head without warning.  Such was the case on this evening.  My daughter fell into a severe depressive state unlike anything we had seen before.  And we had seen a lot.

“We need to get her help,” I said to Kevin.  But honestly, I didn’t know what that looked like.  It was 6 p.m. on New Year’s eve.  None of her medical team would be available and I didn’t expect them to be.

We stood in her room looking at each other, when I took the notion to call Dr. Marvin.  Marvin Gans had looked after my girls as kids, and as such, he had become an invaluable confidant to me.  He was aware of my daughter’s diagnosis although he no longer was their primary caregiver as they were now older.  That said, I wondered if I could get his advice.

Within 10 minutes of calling him, I got just that.

“Dr. Marvin, I said,” I don’t know what to do,” after telling him the story.  “It’s bad.  Tell me what to do.”

“You want to know what to do,” he asked?

“Yes,” I said, “please.”

“Nothing.  You do nothing.  You and I love this child way too much to try to decide what she needs right now.  You put her in the car and take her to the ER and let them tell you what she needs.”

Love.

“Sometimes in life you need to separate the love from the help,” Marvin continued.  ‘You and I can love her.  The professionals will help her.”

Love.

So we did just that.  My daughter would spend a week in the hospital before she was feeling well enough to return home.  Truth be told, it was a turning point for her, and she came out of the experience stronger than ever.  Today she is thriving.

Love.

It really is everywhere, and it isn’t always about wine and roses.  More often than not, it is about meeting someone exactly where they are. It is about giving someone what they need to be them, and it is something we all share with someone, whether we are married, single, or eat pie. 

Who do you love?

Gratitude

Michele Viner
n. the quality of being thankful; to show appreciation for and to return kindness

A few years ago I was on a jury.  

It was a big muckety-muck case that involved a serious crime and the trial was a long one. In a million years I didn't think I would be chosen.  I was one of 300 prospective jurors to show up, wait for the day, only to be sent home to come back the next day.  That repeated itself for three days.  I kept thinking that each day I would get word that the jury had been chosen and I was free to go, but that never quite happened.  On day three, I finally got my audience with the judge, the prosecuting attorneys and the defense team, for which there were six lawyers.  Their collective job, as I climbed into the witness stand, was to determine if I would be an adequate juror for the case.  I didn't know it at that moment, but I was potential juror number 296 out of the 300.  A few minutes of questioning, and suddenly I was juror number 12.  The trial would begin the next day.

All of that considered, you might be surprised to learn that this week`s word is gratitude.  

While I was nervous to begin what would turn out to be a three month trial that would require the jury to be sequestered for six nights before we reached a verdict, it is an experience I wouldn't have missed.  And, yes.  I am grateful for it.

I learned much about our judicial system, and I felt like I was contributing to a greater good.  But gratitude doesn't have to be that big.  It can be quite small.

Let me tell you, there are many, many hours of downtime when you are part of a jury. Moments in between the hours we spent in the courtroom were spent in the jury room with 11 other people who were fabulous, quirky, kind, and never dull. Over the course of the three months, we went many places in our conversations. We discussed everything from world peace to hangnail remedies to meatloaf recipes. We argued the fate of organic farming, discussed 'them Jays' and spoke about all the places we had travelled in the world, all the time playing hundreds of rounds of the game, Bananagram.  (Hearing someone yell “peel” remains a trigger moment for me, not going to lie.)

One day, our conversation turned to gratitude. We decided to go around the table and regale each other on what we were most grateful for.  

Of course we said all of the usual things – family, health, love and freedom (we were a jury after all.)  When it came to be my turn, I said that I was grateful for our accessibility to food in this country.  And I am. I think we are one of the luckiest nations in the world for our ability to walk into a grocery store and buy fresh produce that is healthy, clean and – mostly – affordable.

I wish I had stopped there.

“I get more jazzed by the produce department in a grocery store than I do in a jewellry store; in fact sometimes it makes me emotional.”

From that fateful moment on, and for the remainder of the trial, I became known as the woman who cries at lettuce.

Ha.  I've been called worse.

Gratitude.  What are you grateful for?

Selfless

Michele Viner
adj.  concerned more with the needs and wishes of others that with one’s own; unselfish
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I wear a Pandora bracelet that dates back seven years in my life.  It is filled with all silver baubles - mostly because I love silver and because I like the uniformity.  There is one charm in particular, though, that stands out.  Instead of being silver, it is a bright blue ring with pale blue flowers around it, and I am often asked about it.    

“What’s that one about?” people will ask me.  And I will tell them, “it’s a gift from my mom.”

Not that it was the only charm she ever gave me.  She loved buying them - a teapot, a rose bush, a mom charm, and she was always on the lookout for more.

“I wonder, she said, if there is something that represents Israel?”  I would love to get that one for you next.

We were planning a trip to Israel in December of 2012.  Years in the making, this trip would see my two daughters celebrate their bat mitzvahs at the Western Wall and it would be a family affair - Kevin, me, Jac, Emma, my in-laws, sister-in-law and mom all planned to make the trek to mark this occasion. No one was more excited about it than my mother.  Perhaps in her quiet moments she was a bit nervous - she would be, after all, 83 years old at the time of the trip, but this woman was a powerhouse 83 and always ready for an adventure.  “Molly McBubby” would be Israel bound and I was sure Pandora would have just the thing!

And then she got sick.

In the summer of 2011 she started to feel very tired.  A trip to the doctor’s office to explore why resulted in a trip to the hospital the same day, and soon the news would be that she had bile duct cancer.

“I won’t be able to go to Israel now,” she said as I sat sadly by her gurney, holding her hand.  

“No,” I said, devastated.  “Maybe not”, honestly thinking that she wouldn’t be given the choice.  I really thought, hearing the diagnosis, that my mother would likely die by then.  The trip was still 16 months away. But as things happened, those sixteen months were filled with hospital stays, surgeries, medications, prayer, memories and one very stubborn Scottish lady who wanted more than anything to live.

By the fall of 2012, just one month prior to our planned departure, my mother was very ill, but very much alive, and very adamant that we would continue on with our plans without her.

Anyone who has experienced cancer in a loved one can relate.  At this point, my mother’s life might end at any time.  Tomorrows were no longer guaranteed.  How could I possibly leave her?  

Today’s word is selfless.  What my mother said to me in those days is the most selfless thing I have ever heard.

“You will leave because you must always face the future.  I am your past.  Kevin and your girls are your future, and you must always go into your future with strength.”

She even started calling our best friends to have them talk us into getting on the plane. And so we did.  It was simply the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.

I left my mother lying in yet another hospital bed as we left for the airport.  The girls modelled their bat mitzvah dresses, gave her a kiss and said goodbye.  As I did the same, I asked my mother to be here when I came back 10 days later.

She said she would be.  And she was.  For three weeks upon our return she was.  And then on January 30, 2013 - five years ago today - she died.

On the day of her funeral, I returned to her apartment after the service.  No sooner was I there, when there was a knock on the door and her good friend, Norma, was there holding a Pandora bag in her hand.

“Your mother wanted you to have this”, she said.

Inside was the blue charm.

“She wanted you to be reminded that you must always go into your future with strength.”

And so I do.

Words

Michele Viner
n. a single, distinct meaningful element of speech or writing used with others to form a sentence

Have you ever said something you shouldn’t have said?

Something you regret later because, chances are, it was none of your business?

I know I have.  As I sit writing this blog, I’m trying to think when it was.  Hmmm.  When was it?... When was it?...

Oh yeah.  It was yesterday.

Kevin and I were having dinner with some cherished friends and we got - let me re-phrase that - I got talking about someone who was having some issues. Someone who I hardly even know and who was not at the table to participate in the conversation or defend themselves in any way.  It wasn’t that I was being unkind, necessarily, and I assure you my heart was in the right place.  But really.

Who died and made me queen of opinions in absentia?

I should know better.  I write words for a living and I’m the one who talks about choosing words carefully, uttering them kindly, and speaking them truthfully.   (But maybe not too truthfully.)  

Words are supposed to be inspiring.  But we all know there are times when they can be just the opposite.

Several months ago, someone said something to me that stopped me in my tracks and sent me into a funk for days.  It was something so unthinking that I couldn’t believe the person said it out loud, let alone right to me.  Without going into any details, suffice to say it was something that I could have lived a rich and full life without ever having to hear.

So.  In honour of that experience, and in order to make amends for yesterday, I am going to give myself a goal this week.  I am going to purposely give people some positive words that they normally might not hear.

Starting with you.  You are reading my blog.  Thank you.  

Want to join me?  Say one thing to someone this week that makes them feel good about themselves, and watch what happens.  

I will leave you with a story about just that.  Several weeks ago I received an email from a perfect stranger.  She had seen my business on Instagram and had reached out to say that she liked what I was doing.  “I just wanted to send you a quick note to say I think your work is beautiful.”  And then she said, “people are watching.  Keep at it.”

For anyone who has ever created something from nothing and tried to put it out into the world; for anyone who posts instas and FB messages that never go beyond your friend group, and for anyone who has written a blog that you believe no one will read, those words are priceless.  

She may as well have given me the Hope diamond.

In many ways she did.  She gave me the gift of her words.

 

 

 

Happy

Michele Viner
adj. feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

What does this word mean exactly?

I used to work in the admissions office of a school.  My job was to show perspective parents the school in the hopes they would send their 4 year old to our Junior Kindergarten the following September.

I met a lot of wonderful parents.  Okay - most were wonderful; others were downright crabby, and yet others would spend the entire tour bawling because they were separating from their baby.  I got that.  I always carried tissues.

My husband called me Lucy Van Pelt.  (Google it.)

While every parent was different, they all - the wonderful, the crabby, and the bawling - had a common wish that I heard on every tour.  I could practically predict the time it would come out of their mouths.  The wish? They wanted their child to be happy.  Happy.  “I want her to feel happy.”  “I want him to be happy.”  “Be happy.” “Feel happy.”  “Act happy.”  Happy, happy, happy.

Finally, after conducting hundreds of tours over several years, I couldn’t take it any more and on one occasion asked a parent - a parent from the wonderful group who I thought could take the question emotionally - what that meant.

“What exactly do you mean by happy?” I asked.

She looked at me like I had two heads.

“I want her to feel like she loves her surroundings, to have friends, to feel confident, to fit in and be happy every single day.”

Are you happy every single day?  I know I’m not.

Here’s the thing.  I wanted that for her child too.  I wanted that for every child who came to the school.  But, honestly, happiness is something we earn.  It’s not something we are handed when we walk into a room.  In fact, I was willing to bet that within hours of her kid entering the JK classroom some other happy kid was going to rip the red crayon out of her hand and step on the artwork she just made.  You know what?  She wouldn’t be happy.

“I think what you really want,” I said, “is for your child to feel capable.  Resilient.  Content.  To be able to roll with the punches.  Peaceful.  Maybe even a little fearless.”

She continued to look at my two heads.

I don’t blame her.  Fifteen years earlier I took the same tour at the same school and uttered the same words.  I wanted my daughter to be happy.  If I remember correctly, I was a bawler.  Maybe even a crabby bawler.

Can I share something with you?  Four years ago that same daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We have seen ‘happy.’  Boy, have we seen happy.  And, by definition, we have seen the opposite.  Honestly, watching my incredible daughter navigate it all has lead me to this ‘word business’ business in the first place.

All that to say, I am not picking on the word happy.  It is a happy little word.  I am simply suggesting that achieving happiness requires work.  And in a world where we seem to be more anxious than any other generation, the expectation to feel happy can leave us feeling miserable.

So, instead of wishing you a happy day, I wish you a day where you feel like you are all that you are.  That way, you will find your happy.