You Can’t Get Blood From a Stone (or can you?)

Wrecked Veins

Not long into my chemotherapy, the chemo nurse was struggling to get an IV into my arm. I wasn’t surprised because my visits to the lab for regular bloodwork were one of the most daunting things I faced. The reason was my small and rolly veins. The veins looked easy but the second something pointy came near, they would roll into hiding. Every time, three jabs before it worked. So on this particular day when my  nurse was disappointed with her efforts, she looked me in the eye and said, “well Trudy, I see we are doing what we do best around here, wrecking veins.” And we laughed.

Now, that was 13 years ago and since that time the only veins that work, on the arm I can use, are not my arm but my hand. So every time the occasion arises, I do my little song and dance. It goes something like this:

“I want you to know that I have very tricky veins so when it doesn’t work the first time, or the second, I’m used to it. So don’t get nervous, as it usually works on the third try. It is better to use my hand.”

One of two things happen:

1:-) “I’m actually good at this,” the lab tech says confidently. “And we won’t need to use your hand.”

You already know what happens, and he or she feels pretty sheepish when they finally call for the one with just the right touch.

2:-) “I have the perfect solution,” says the tech I love to get at my chair.  “We have a tech who is a genius and she will get it on the first try. I will go get her.” Let me note that the genius does get it on the first try and as she surveys my veins she reaches for the child’s butterfly and inserts it deftly into my hand.

This is how it always goes until today.

I was at my favourite small lab in Ottawa, and having used their fantastic app, I knew beforehand that at 10:30 there was no wait time. (I was dropping in) I quickly drove over, parked, and walked in seven minutes later. The efficient and warm human behind the desk took what she needed and invited me to take a seat before she disappeared. It didn’t take me long to realize that not only was she handling the desk, but she was the lab tech too. Clearly, something had happened that she was working solo.

And then my mind started making up stories. Maybe I should leave, a tech doubling as an admin did not engender confidence in me. I was thinking about imminent torture. Ok, a slight exaggeration. However, during my ruminations, she came out and called me in.

And I discovered a new third option:

I calmly and pleasantly gave my usual speech and she took a brief glance and said “do you mind if I take my own look first?” No one had ever asked that question.

“Sure,” I said. And in her warm, yet, efficient manner, she found a vein in my arm and said, “I know this will work.”

I did point out the fading bruise, close to where she pointed, from the previous week.

“Ah,” she said, “finding just the right spot, is the secret.”

For the first time in 13 years, it looked like she was taking blood from a stone. I was totally astonished and told her so. I thanked her for this surprise and for her incredibly efficient handling of both the desk and the lab chair. She was amazing! She was a genius.

I then thought with chagrin about my earlier bias as I now re-looked at this superstar. It was obvious that a small lab, where they needed to open with one staff, required the best.  That special person, who was flying solo, handled it all with efficiency, skill,  calm and good cheer. No rushing. No sighing or complaining. It was all seamless. And the results were online a few hours later.

This was a highlight of my day. To be attended to by this woman felt like a bonus, as I said thanks and walked out the door.

We all know them,  have met them, worked with them, and lived with them. Stranded on a desert island we would like them to be there. It’s not just their resourcefulness and getting the job done but it is also their kindness and good cheer. They make life a little better for anyone who crosses their path, no matter where they land.

Gratitude requires noticing, and paying attention, otherwise, our life passes by in a blur. Such a simple ordinary thing to do – blood tests. And yet, today, I was the beneficiary, of about five moments of extraordinary care by a human being, who if asked, would say something like “I was just doing my job.”

For me, this young unknown woman in the lab was a bonus this morning.

A Poem

Yes   – William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon.  It could happen. or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know.  That’s why we wake and look out—no guarantees

in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.




1:) The photos today are all recently taken by Gottfried on Gabriola Island. Thank you.

2:) The fMRI I did last week is part of a Neuro-Cognitive Brain Mapping research study from the University of Ottawa. The two cohorts are 18-30-year-olds and my vintage, 60 to 80. I thought it would be interesting to be part of it and it was. The paper will be ready in February.

3:) As always I thank you for coming by here. May you have a lovely last Sept and first Oct weekend.

4:) See you in October. All the best, Trudy

International Day of Gratitude

Picking and Choosing

I’m not a big fan of International Days, only because there are so many of them. So I pick and choose, as we often need to do with the abundance of choices in our current life. My mother had “the gratitude thing” going as my friends liked to point out, and it’s true. Gratitude doesn’t mean walking around with rose-coloured glasses. Rather, it means seeing the world realistically through a crystal clear lens where we don’t hide from the brutal facts and we don’t ignore or overlook the help we have received.

Furthurmore, we work towards influencing the things we can do something about, and in the same breath, we recognize that we can do nothing entirely by ourselves. It is thanks to so many people and even things, known and unknown that we get to be here today. This has nothing to do with discounting our effort and hard work, but it includes all the circumstances and people who helped us get here. It is actually a surprising exercise, to sit down, and start listing off those who taught us to read,  gave us our first job, or invented the cancer drug that saved our lives. Once we get going there is no end to it.

Decades ago, I read a poem by a Fortune 500 CEO that has never left me:


Self-Made by James Autry

He called himself a self-made man
His colleagues agreed

The kind of man who built this country they said,
never asked anybody for help
Never took a dime he didn’t earn
Made it on his own and so forth
But can that really be?
The self-made somebody

How many dimes do we take before we earn the ones we keep?
And how many of us have climbed the ladder alone or
do some of us just never notice those lifts and boosts along the way.

With impartial self-awareness, we may discover by our very own standards that it is hard to get ahead of all the help we actually receive.


Gratitude, the word, has been co-opted for all kinds of commercial things – this is something we often seem to do in our culture. But I like David Steindl-Rast’s take:

 “You can’t be grateful for war in a given situation, or violence, or sickness, things like that. So the key, when people ask, “Can you be grateful for everything?” — no, not for everything, but in every moment.”

The Mayo Clinic is one of many medical schools that links gratitude to better health outcomes.

“Expressing gratitude is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits. Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity. Gratitude can also decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease.

If there was a pill that could do this, we’d all be taking it. Our brains are designed to problem-solve rather than appreciate. And we often must override this design to reap the benefits of gratitude.”

New Film

There is a new film being released at 7:00 PM EDT today called Gratitude Revealed. Here is a link for anyone who is interested. I bought a ticket (I think 12.00) and plan on watching it this evening. You also get a couple of extra days to do so. If you like the work of Louis Schwartzberg and Brother Steindl Rast and others you will probably enjoy it.

You all know how truly grateful I am for you: showing up week after week; reading; communicating and providing extraordinary company as we make our way through this lifetime.


1:) The banner photo is thanks to Donald Giannatti at Unsplash

2:) A link to one of many Mayo Clinic articles. (quoted above)

3:) September is flying by at warp speed where I am. I hope it is a slower pace where you are.

4:) Today was an interesting and exciting day. As part of a research study at the University of Ottawa, on Neuro-Cognitive Brain Mapping I got to do a functional MRI this morning. Will tell you more next week.

5:) Sending all my best wishes. Trudy


Connect the Dots

This banner picture pretty much sums up my thoughts from yesterday, on my birthday. When we look back we have a chance to connect the dots. We get to see that the entirety of life has brought us to this moment. Our entire history, the good and the bad, has contributed to who we are today.

And although we cannot go back and change the past we create a new past through what we do today. This is so wonderful when you pause for a moment and really see the possibilities. We can stop beating ourselves up over something that we can not do anything about, and, instead, put our energy into handling a similar situation, today, more skillfully. I suspect that is one reason grandparenting is a little like a second chance.

No matter how long we live if we have that tendency towards self-improvement, it doesn’t end at 50, 60, 70, or 76. But one thing that does lessen, is the bad habit of thinking we need to do more and be more. We are able to be a little more impartial and understand that we are humans and not robots. I err, therefore I am. However, my sense of things is that, if anything, we need to be more conscious of inviting beauty and kindness into our lives.


A friend gave me a small poem by John O’Donohue and I particularly love the first two lines:

Set out that luminous glass bowl

where the sun can light it like

a small blue planet…

As I read the lines I immediately was flooded by memories where the stained glass or crystal bowl was dazzling in the sunlight. Or the shadow of the pussy willows in the earthenware vase created an understated reflection on the painted wall. I am of the opinion that we need beauty in our lives. That it is important to seek it out. Nature; art; music, dance; poetry; kindness, and cheerfulness. And also important to create beauty and opportunities for kindness. We are all made to create, not just a talented few.

VIP Ticket

I received a special gift from my teenage (16) granddaughter, yesterday; handwritten on plain paper. It was heartwarming for me, in its thoughtfulness and love, because it was about time and an awareness of things that I liked and that I would like to do with her. A teenager’s time is precious. The gift of her time for one day, from noon to bedtime, with me planning what we do is quite frankly remarkable. I asked her permission (no pressure) to share it with you and she said yes. I wanted to share it because this is a gift that money can’t buy. And I intend to fill our day with beauty and joy. It also inspires me to be more creative in my own gift-giving. Thank you, Sophie!


The things that count in our lives are most often things that can’t be counted. As we go forward, starting right where we are, may we all give and receive with a generosity of spirit while keeping our eyes peeled for the many faces of beauty.


1:) Tomorrow happens to be International Dot Day and the amazing little book, The Dot,  changed people’s lives by showing them how to make their mark. Here is a link to a fun exercise you can do with your friends or your kids. And a link to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this year’s host. Imagine over 19 million people around the world in 191 different countries celebrating The Dot and how it changed lives.

2:) A friend and reader of this blog sent us a link to an interesting photographic project on the full moon, collected over ten years.  Enjoy here. And once again, thanks to Patricia Ryan Madson for her postcard painting that I am using as a banner photo.

3:) Enjoy this beautiful month of September. Try your best not to rush forward into imagining winter. Stick with autumn, one beautiful day at a time.

4:) I love the fact that you come by here and read my blog. Is this not joy for me! Thank you, thank you.  See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me…

Almost Full Moon

As I drove home tonight the almost full harvest moon dominated the sky. One important way that I am connected to my far-flung friends, relatives, and colleagues is via the moon. Wherever we are and no matter the time zone, we all get to experience the same moon. There aren’t different moons for each continent.

“If only I could show them to someone who knows,

This moon, these flowers, this night that should not be wasted.”  – Minamoto Hobuakira  (Not certain about this spelling)

There are so many things about Japan that I deeply appreciate and their reverence and love of nature is one of them. What is interesting is how they combine their love of nature with their social events such as how they celebrate cherry blossom season with special food and saki under the cherry trees with loved ones and even strangers. Or in olden times how they would have moon viewing gatherings and write poetry by the light of the moon.

The Harvest Moon

The harvest moon (the last full summer moon of 2022) will be full on Saturday the 10th. Apparently, a good time to view it will be at twilight, just after sunset, in the eastern sky. If you have the chance to see the moon over water it is even more breathtaking with the illuminated path cast by the light of the moon.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
Wu-Men (1183-1260)

Enjoy these moons while you can

I know it is hard to imagine that we will run out of moons. But like it or not we are mortal. When we grasp this fundamental fact of life you/me might be inclined to take time to look at the vastness of the sky, the mountains, the sea, and the harvest moon in 2022. As Oliver Burkeman, stresses: “You really, really, really ought to spend more time in nature. We already knew that it boosts mental health. But new research suggests the effects might last for years.”


1:) Photos of the 2021 Harvest Moon thanks to BBC

2:) The photos on this blog post are thanks to Rob and Gottfried on beautiful Gabriola Island this past weekend.

3:) You may want to write a moon Haiku. Check out NASA

4:) Next week on the 15th is International Dot Day, live from the Metropolitan Museum of Art  If you don’t know the story of The Dot by Peter Reynolds, it is worthwhile clicking on the link and see what the fuss is all about: 19 million people from 197 countries joining the celebration. Go ahead and make your mark.

5:) So many thanks for stopping by. I will see you again next week. Warmly, Trudy