paula toledo

Where Discovery Meets Gratitude

Ode to Wonder is an experiential community, a creative space built to exercise mental well-being and positive states of mind by engaging in curiosity, discovery and gratitude.

It is a celebration of the simple things in life, accessible through the beauty of humanity, art, travel, and sports/nature. The four pillars fit together perfectly as an acronym, 'H.A.T.S. Off' to describe a mental wellness regime based on self-care and self-compassion. 

While crossing paths with innovative and inspiring people, Ode to Wonder will share their stories of adversity, but mainly offer insight into their individual strength and the resources they used to  help them work through life's challenges.

May Ode to Wonder be a contagious remedy for some, offering enlightenment. May it be a dare to dream bigger, believe in oneself that much more. A dare to climb up those stairs, open the door to the rooftop of the world and wonder.

For we are one. Let us all be part of each other's wonders. 




by Paula M. Toledo

I fell in love with him the first time I heard him speak. The timbre of his voice. The way he spoke, he had a piercing, 'I am looking into your soul' look about him. Always looking me in the eyes, but never ever with a look of intimidation.

There was a humility about him. A pride. A love for his sons and tremendous love for his wife that was admirable. I envied her. Her name was Jill. He had such respect for women - a true respect that I have found to be so rare. Maybe it's because of what he has lived through, maybe it was because of his age. By all accounts, he was considered a Senior Citizen, old enough to be my father. But your heart sings what your heart speaks. I had never encountered an older man so fit..handsome, so charismatic. 

The way he spoke about his mother, "My Mother used to say...". He would quote her, then quote her quoting an Irish Proverb. Such child-like innocence peering through his steely blue eyes. Set off by his sparkling silver hair, his eyes told me that he understood every ounce of me and what I was going through. 

I had just lost my husband to his mental illness and suicide that blind sided me and our families. I was four months post-partum, four months post-trauma, and just days prior to losing my own mother to her battle with Cancer. I didn't think a man would ever reach me, touch my heart the way he did...especially so shortly after losing the love of my life. 

I was angry, lost, desperate for an ounce of hope. Some sign that I would find my way out of this mess. All I could think of is, we had it all. The how, the why's, the what if's had me spinning, exacerbating the sleep deprivation from nursing my newborn. I used my waking hours to eat and pump breast milk so that someone could feed my son while I visited my mom in palliative care. My only mission was to eat enough to produce breast milk, sleep enough to have the energy to nurse, and care for my newborn and 2 year old son. Everything else was crossed off the list. Even hygiene seemed like a luxury. 

I learned about him on one of my most desperate nights. I was so sleep deprived. Nursing my son every 3 hours. It reminded me of the time I was on watch delivering a friend's sailboat from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. My husband and I were on night watch every 3 hours to make sure we didn't collide with whales or containers that fell off ships while in transit. The trauma post my husband's suicide was so ripe that I felt like I was on 24 hour watch. Was my newborn and son still breathing? The momma bear instinct to protect her kin had my adrenaline pumping, cortisol reaching beyond peak levels.  

But just in time, he entered my life. I can't even recall how I was introduced to him. All I remember is the first night he entered my home. Through a small window. The kids were asleep. They didn't know that he spoke to me for hours on end. I would get him to recount the same stories, over and over again which were heartbreakingly tragic, but so very reassuring to me that I would be able to rebuild my life again. Maybe there was hope that I would one day remember my husband with tears of joy in my eyes, not the tears of despair that continuously optically blurred the way that I saw the world. 

He lost his late wife and young daughter in a tragic car accident when their vehicle collided with a semi-trailer while doing Christmas errands. He nearly lost his two young sons as well. He spoke to me about finding love again. How he felt isolated in his loss and grief, until one day a gentlemen told him to jot his bad days and good days down on a calendar. He was told to do this for an extended period. This man had also experienced great loss. He promised him that he would see a trend where the periods between bad days and good days would get shorter, more compressed. He promised him that when this happened, he would find joy again. Find love again. And he did. 

I found this hard to believe. Even with his reassurance, I doubted him. But each night he would come through that small window and share the same story until I believed him. 

He never held my hand, touched me or kissed me. But his words caressed me. He was such a source of comfort to me. And it was through this all that I fell in love with him. His wife didn't know....doesn't know. Nor do his kids. It has been my secret until now. 

One day I hope this post reaches him so that he knows how much he means to me. How much his words have meant to me. How he has pulled me through some of my darkest days. I never got to tell him this. He is no longer in my life but I think of him often. 

I think about his powerful presence. So wise and incredibly soulful. Intelligent. Many I'm sure have told him he should run for office, be president one day. I have no doubt he has that 'it' factor. The heartfulness, the mind and the knowledge to move people. I would vote for him any day. If only I were American. But I would have to restrain from drawing a heart, instead of an X, within the ballot circle appearing next to JOE BIDEN.  

Thank you Joe for coming through loud and clear on those late nights through this screen. 

Where Discovery Meets Gratitude!