Monday, January 7, 2013

People Can Be Wonderful

The onset of a new calendar year feels like a bit of a clean slate.  I've never really been one for New Year's Resolutions - my last post was mostly tongue in cheek, and is the closest I've ever come to an official list of resolutions.  My preference is to see the clock striking midnight as a chance to forget about the nonsense of the past year that has been weighing me down and see the new year as chance for a do-over.  And the great thing about do-overs is that you have the benefit of everything you've learned while you were coping with the crap that the previous year threw your way!

2012 was a particularly difficult year for me, and in my mind, I have this self-centred daydream.  I picture me greeting 2013 by flinging open the doors to my imaginary Juliette balcony, leaning out over the balcony and breathing in the fresh, fresh air of the new year.  And then I look out and all of my friends and family are floating by in big hot air balloons cheering and fistpumping and waving and holding up signs that say things like, "You rock!" and "This is your year!" and "Don't fall off the balcony!".  

I say this because I have THE most wonderful friends and family that you could ever imagine.  I can't even begin to list all of the breathtaking gestures of love and kindness that I have been on the receiving end of this year - they all deserve their own blog post. I can only hope that when the time comes that I can be there for the people I care about in the same meaningful way that they have been there for me.

One of these gestures was just so fun and so uplifting and so visual, though, that I just knew I had to share it with people.  I work at a national organization and have become friends with colleagues who work in other provinces and who I rarely get to see.  One of the fantastic people I have been lucky enough to click with is my friend Monica.  Monica is one of those people who can put life into perspective while making you laugh.  Let's put it this way - it's a widely known fact that she keeps a can of root beer at her desk to be used only in the case of emergencies. LOL  She prides herself that she has only had to replace that can of root beer 4 times (last time I checked).  I love that her outlook on life is that a can of root beer can help any situation.  :-)

Back in August, I had been dealing with a variety of crappy challenges.  In the middle of that, I had to go see a dermatologist for a mole that had been behaving weirdly, and to make a long story short, it turned out that the mole was a basal cell carcinoma.  Cancerous... not the "bad" skin cancer, mind you.  It was easily treated.  All we needed to do was excise the mole and then see the dermatologist every 6 months for 3 years.  

Even though it really was nothing, it still freaked me right out.  When I mentioned it to Monica, she dropped everything and I remember the words she said to me so clearly:  "Kirsten, cancer is never 'nothing' - you are freaked out because cancer is not 'nothing' and freaking out is a completely reasonable reaction."  It was like someone had given me permission to not be brave and nonchalant about it even though all of the physiological evidence said it was nothing to worry about at all.  I was feeling like a doofus for making a big deal out of nothing, but really, my head was reeling with thoughts like, 

"I'll have to check 'yes' on every health form from now on that asks if I've ever had cancer" and 

"This means I have a greater chance of getting the bad kind of skin cancer" and 

"What if this means I am going to get a serious form of cancer?" and

"What if this means my kids have a chance of getting this?"

Monica and I had a great chat and I honestly felt so much better after I talked with her.  Like I said, she can put life into perspective and make you laugh at the same time... and that turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.  She challenged me to find humour in every part of my days - especially the crappy parts - and that has been a wonderful gift to me.  Laughter is one of my favourite things, and it is more of a tool for coping than I had ever imagined!  And that is why it is particularly ironic that when Monica called me a day or two later, begging me not to go home until a package arrived for me at work, I had just discovered that I had been walking around from noon until 4:15 pm looking like this... completely undetected behind the lanyard that my work pass hangs from.  

At least I had a good laugh with the two women I work with while I was waiting for this mystery package.

Anyway, I waited and waited and waited and finally the package arrived.  I called Monica right away - as instructed - so that she could hang out with me over the phone while I opened this unexpected gift.  What I found inside made me laugh and cry.  It was a care package from a friend who cared.  A care package full of AWESOME!

Here's what it looked like spread out all over my desk:

The first thing I zeroed in on and yanked out of that package was my very own emergency can of root beer!!!

And then there were lots of things to open... how did she know that I absolutely LOVE to open things?

Inside was this pretty card:

With this note:

Since I can't seem to rotate the image, I'll tell you what it says:

"Everything's okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end" - Carolyn Myers
Kirsten, I've been thinking about you lots.  The result?  A care package just for you.  Enjoy!  - Monica

And then I pulled out this little ray of sunlight!

I shared them with my kids, and it was truly a happy moment.

And then there was this DVD set that her co-worker had given her when Monica said she needed something to make me laugh (Thank you Laurie!)

And this new box of crayons made me feel like a little kid again!

With a new colouring book!  And Monica was right... it IS relaxing!  Especially if you manage to colour without your kids climbing all over you trying to STEAL your only colouring book!

The next thing I pulled out was this really lovely notepad.  It has all of my favourite colours in the design, and it has a nifty flap at the top, which the geek in me really enjoyed.

On the back of it, Monica had attached this note:

And then there was a new friend for me!

And of course, Michael the Mouse came with a little explanation:

And then there was chocolate!!!

(Which my daughter somehow managed to charm out of my hands.)

And soap.... which was so exciting to find in my care package because I used to have a little soap making business and I just love hand made soap!

Smurfette!  This gift was particularly appropriate given the shape of my nose (for a refresher, click here).  LOL  I especially appreciated that it was the old school version of Smurfette from my childhood.  :-)

And finally, my most treasured gift in the care package:

Monica had sent me a bookmark that she had tatted for me.  Monica is an extremely talented handicrafter and I just love this bookmark because she made it for me.  It is beautiful and it is from the heart.  I just love it.

Well, I'm a crier, and by the time I had pulled everything out of the package, I was laughing through my tears.  It was so much fun to open every little thing, and to imagine the fun she'd had putting it together.  It was definitely worth missing my train home for!

The experience of opening this really reminded me of my mom, who loves to give things she has made to the people she loves so that they will have something tangible that will remind them they are loved.  There really is something to that - to holding something physical in your hand that someone has intended for you.  In this age of emails and the internet and texting, there was something really earthy and grounding about getting that package in the mail.  I loved it and I thoroughly plan on doing that for someone when they need it too!

So, when I say that having a clean slate in 2013 is bettered by the things that I have learned in 2012, I am talking about things like this package.  I have learned that I have people in my life that will bolster me and uplift me through good times and bad times.  I have learned that humour will make the bad days a little easier, and will make the good days great.  And I have learned that in the midst of all of the terrible things that the human race is capable of, that most of us are really wonderful.


  1. Monica, I think you live in B.C., but wherever expect yet another big sloppy kiss & hug from me (Kirsten's Mom). You have been getting one everytime I see a Root Beer. By the way, I decided to put one in my home office with an axe to break the glass.

    the bookmark is beautiful....I did one little line of tatting on Kirsten's birth announcement that I had made.


    Please write more blogs, and God has blessed you with the kind of friends you deserve....I needed almost as much Kleenex for this blog as I did at Les Miserables.

    Love to you

  2. Kristen You are am amazing writer. I saw the package before it went your way. You are right Monica's wisdom is special. I am fortunate to work int he same office and be able to access it when I need to!

    Happy New Year from Laurie Sodomlak (ps thanks for mentioning me too :))

  3. I am in tears here- what an absolutely beautiful gesture! Kirsten- you could not be more deserving. I will always love you :).