My Inspiration!…

posted in: Blog, Inspiration, My Life | 4


The painting below will forever hold symbolic meaning to me, the story of it one that became my inspiration and strength, to keep following the dream of sharing my story in hopes of helping others in ways I may not even know.  What followed next… in relation to things that had been happening previously and how I’d been feeling… the more spiritual might call it a “sign”, while those who would say it was coincidence, that signs don’t exist, would only be transforming everything into even more strength and inspiration to drive me.

Image 36


In May I received a painting in the mail from someone I had never met, someone who had apparently heard about me through friends of his, who had met our family through friends of ours here in Pittsburgh.  It came with a short letter, a few sentences of which brought tears to my eyes, words that still leave me feeling such an honored and humbled surprise even to think of…

“2012 was a tough year for me.  Throat cancer, 35 radiations on neck along with chemo, feeding tube for 6 months.  It was very hard.  You were an inspiration to me in the sense that when I was down, I thought of all that you have been through.  It made me stronger and able to deal with it.  Your strength became mine.”

I was in shock…tears and a smile overtook me.  He had taken up painting over the previous months, enjoying the ability to create, and was sending me one of his latest pieces. 🙂  It was all so unexpected… in such a beautiful and heartwarming way, and I instantly lit up, with a gratitude and even deeper understanding of why I want to share my story with as many people as I can.  His appreciation gave me strength in return!  He spoke with my dad later and told him that it was when he had read my blog that he connected with me even more… and here I was thinking I hadn’t even started my blog, or put 1/2 of all there was on it yet.  It made me all the more eager to have things set up the way I’d pictured in my head and to learn how to fully make use of social media, as it is the one way I can connect with people while physically limited to home.

If the painting and letter weren’t enough to fill me with awe and happiness, what happened over the next week became my surreal miracle.  Details of things on the other end I don’t know, and I don’t ask, all I know is the extreme gratitude and continued thanks that words cannot express when it comes to the bigger picture and meaning of it all.  I was seriously afraid to tell anyone what happened thinking if I spoke, it might literally evaporate into thin air! lol… It didn’t seem real.

This is where timing came in to play, and the idea of “signs”.  We had missed two Christmas’s, the first specifically with the dream of putting everything into the renovation, so we could move in and celebrate the holidays the next year… only to have just spent the next year without even the lights of the previous.  It wasn’t because we were Scrooges by any means, but in addition to saving financially, Mum was getting over the flu, I had my first of these new 7 day migraines, and Dad had thrown his old back injury out so bad he couldn’t get up off the floor.  My New Years resolution was “not to give up hope!” and we continued to work hard in hopes of moving in by his birthday… then it became by my birthday.  With my exhaustion what it was, I was thinking about all the medical years I’d been fighting as well, the 16 surgeries, and how positive we were for each and every one, only to be let down again and again.  No matter what I continued to unconditionally believe even when everything gave reason not to.  Now this might sound silly, but imagine you’re in one of those Disney movies where the only thing keeping Santa alive is believing in him and it’s that part of the movie where there’s only one character left who still does, but even they have been let down and are saying “please, if you really do exist, if I’ve been right to believe for so long, I need a sign…any sign.”.  For me, I was asking for a sign too, anything tangible to help us, even if that was finally getting the loan approval to finish enough to move in.  I almost felt like the child who desperately wants to keep believing. 🙂

Fast forward and the painting arrives perfect for a belated birthday gift!  A few days later, still lost in the awe of that surprise, I’m told my story has been passed on to another close friend of theirs who wants to do what they can to help and a gift of $14,000 is going to be wired into my transplant donation account, specifically to be used towards the reno… what?!… I couldn’t have just heard that correctly, right?!… Apparently they had talked, along with showing them the small amount I had been able to share here, about wanting to help others with a “home away from home” and my hope to create more, but also how it’s been held up while working so hard to have a home of our own.   Numb… speechless… I was in disbelief… but at the end of the week when the wire was real…well, that’s what makes me ask, “Do you believe in signs?” :).  Whether or not it was one, the unexpected gift wasn’t just financial but a small miracle of strength for my heart as well.  It was such a beautiful example of human kindness, of people helping people when least expected, and it’s a story worth sharing to inspire others that good does exist… that we should help one another in what ways we can, no matter how big or small, it all makes a difference.

I immediately wanted to share the story with The TV Cousins, even more than I already wanted to!  It seemed the perfect fit for what they were all about, at the time waiting to air their final Cancer episode of Cousins On Call.  It’s still my dream for them to be part of my story, even if Cousins On Call isn’t running anymore, but it seems right to use the funds to work with a team that is also about helping others and to stretch the funds as far as they can go.  (The help of a team can do just that as installers and labor can eat up half the budget.)  Not only would it be a dream come true, to design with favs from HGTV who are like extended family to me (yay!), but we would get to move in much quicker than we would ourselves, making it a gift for those we get to pay it forward to as well when we fix up the apartment to help other families. 🙂  I smile every time I imagine it, but then again that’s what dreams make you do.

Later in the summer I got to meet the artist when he and his wife made a visit to Pittsburgh.  They have become a part of my East Coast extended family, an instant connection and closeness that I had been missing being so far from home.  It was an extra special surprise I will always be grateful for.  He surprised me with a 2nd painting, this one finding a special home in my heart… he searched for a picture this time that he felt represented what he imagined me like before all this happened.  It’s become my favorite :)…


You never know who is out there hearing or reading about your story, how real that “six degrees of separation” idea actually is, but most of all the affect it may have on even one person who you haven’t met yet.  I never knew.  There is a mixture of excitement and fear in making yourself vulnerable, but the unexpected friendships and happiness that have already come as a result, have become my strength and inspiration to keep working on that dream.

4 Responses

  1. Nancy Jones

    What an amazing story…the paintings are awesome! I love birds so the first one is especially meaningful to me…my sweet birdie died this year and I have not had the heart to get another one yet. I can definitely see you in the second painting! One of my goals for 2014 is to visit my transplant family in the Pittsburgh area. You are on the list! May 2014 be a better year for you my friend. Even though we don’t keep in touch you are never far from my heart.

  2. Jerry

    Beautiful beautiful story. So sweet!
    Such beautiful art, I love it!

  3. Natasha Andrews

    Maria you are an inspiration! You are a beautiful person inside and out! Your site is amazing and I am so glad I’ve gotten to meet you!

  4. Maria

    Natasha, you are so kind! Thank you so much for your amazingly sweet words that filled my heart… felt like a warm hug full of strength and support jumped right off the screen! 😉 hehe I am so happy that we met and so grateful that you have been brought into my life. You are an amazing person… beautiful in every way and I truly admire all that you do. What a girl! xx

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