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ROCK solid HOPE: Brightly painted pebbles for people facing troubled times

By on August 28, 2018 in Articles with 0 Comments

Anita Paquette paints happy images on the front of her rocks that match her bubbly personality.

By Jaana Hatton

When life brings along troubles we need something firm to hold onto, something good to look forward to. Maybe a rock that says “Hope.”

Anita Paquette of Malaga might have just the right one for you.

Anita is like a teapot happily bubbling atop a stove, full of warmth and energy. She is also a cancer survivor, and had to find something positive in the past year to keep her going. She realized her happy thing is painting rocks.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2017,” Anita said. “I went to tiring, painful treatments five days a week until October. Things are fine now.”

Her oncologist praised Anita for her positive attitude and pointed out that it helped her to heal. That knowledge encouraged Anita to pass the good along, in the way of her “Hope” rocks.

Anita spends hours and hours in her bright basement, creating her rocks of hope.

“I gave my oncologist, Maggie Ellis, one of my painted rocks. To my surprise, she asked for more — for the patients,” Anita said.

“I had been placing the rocks on the graveled areas of the hospital parking lot,” Anita said. “Then, I started taking them to different departments and leaving them at the check-in counters — with the staff’s approval.”

Maladies need remedies, even if they come in unexpected, pebbly shapes.

Anita has many touching memories about the good the little painted stones have generated.

“I remember sitting in the hospital waiting room eight days after my diagnosis. My attention was on two ladies also waiting their turn: they were tired-looking, thin, with scarf-covered heads. We all know what cancer looks like,” Anita said. “Nobody would sit with them or talk to them. But I did.”

Anita offered them each one of the “Hope” rocks and they just stared at her. What is this? To keep? Someone cares? The two ladies held the rocks and smiled.

Chrissy Davis, who is a volunteer at the surgery department, has been a great supporter of Anita’s rocks. That’s because Chrissy has seen the magic they behold, on a daily basis. She has to keep asking Anita to bring more as the rocks are in great demand. We all need some hope and a rock-solid faith in better times ahead.

“I remember this one so well,” Anita said, with tears of emotion in her eyes: “A lady was waiting for her husband who was having open-heart surgery — a scary operation. She sat there and I handed her a rock with a heart painted on it, with ‘Hope’ written on the other side, like I always paint them. She held on to that rock the rest of the waiting time.”

Anita paints happy images on the front of her rocks — and the word “Hope” on the reverse side.

There was an occasion when Chrissy called Anita, somewhat apologetically.

“I wouldn’t normally do this, Anita,” Chrissy said, “but I have a lady here who wants to personally thank you.”

It turned out that this lady’s husband was in surgery and the wait was full of anxiety. Normally the wife’s sister, Anita – yes, the same name – would have been there, but could not that day. Instead, the wife was holding on to one of Anita Paquette’s “Hope” rocks and felt like the sister Anita was right there by her side.

Anita’s happy rocks have been in such demand that she ran out of stones last winter. But, when you live in Wenatchee, you will find people who care.

“I went to Home Depot, hoping to find more material. Jason, the assistant manager, came to my rescue. He gave me three bags of rocks and a case of spray that I use for the final touch — for free. He just wanted me to be able to carry on my mission.”

A mission it is, nothing less. Anita’s heart and soul are in it.

She spends hours and hours downstairs in her cheerful workshop decorated with lace curtains and outfitted with lights bright enough to compete with a runway. Her husband, Fred, is her biggest supporter and admirer and doesn’t mind her disappearing into the world of painted pebbles.

Anita uses acrylic paints to decorate the stones. She coats the finished works with a spray that is UV protectant and also keeps the paint from coming loose. She also uses paint pens for the detailed touches on her rocks.

“I have found a supplier for my rocks: Bob’s Apple Barrel quarry in town. They let me pick as many as I want — for free. They actually offered to deliver a whole truckload to the house, but we have nowhere to put that much,” Anita said.

Tears were in her eyes, again, I imagine tears of joy. Anita loves what she is doing. It has helped her through the illness and now she is helping many others to overcome their troubled times.

“This incident really blows my mind,” Anita said. “There was a bad Jeep accident recently, involving Eric Jensen. He suffered a spinal injury, and the doctors predicted paralysis. He is now doing better and has been transferred to Seattle for more rehabilitation. A relative, who had visited, contacted me to paint a rock with Eric’s favorite football team theme, The Cincinnati Bengals.”

Anita did some research to find the team logo and colors. As she was painting the rock, the words “who dey” popped into her mind and she wrote them onto the stone. “Who Dey” is the team mascot, a Bengal tiger. Anita only learned that the next day.

“I believe in destiny,” Anita said, in a rare moment of seriousness on her face. “It puts me in the right place at the right time.”

Destiny and hope: they are like tossing skipping stones on the water, one ripple creating another. Rocks of Hope. Hope rocks. Thank you, Anita.

If you wish to sponsor Anita’s work, which is picking up momentum and also cost in terms of materials, you can contact her at (509) 679-2636.

Jaana Hatton is a freelance writer, living in East Wenatchee. She takes a special interest in people who embrace hardships and turn them into rays of sunshine. She also has an unexplainable affinity for river rocks.

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