Unwrapping

A Real Non-Event

On Tuesday I had my annual check-up with my oncologist.

NINE YEARS!

(Of course, I will mark and celebrate these nine years many times over the next several months.  Nine years since my diagnosis.  Nine years since my "port" was installed.  Nine years since my chemo began. Nine years since my first clean scan.  Nine years since the end of chemo.  Because . . . really . . . there are so many anniversaries to "celebrate.")

Anyway.  The appointment.

All. Good.

A-OK.

See you next year!

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So.

Other than the appointment being a Big Life Marker . . . it also made me realize something I never-ever imagined possible in those raw-and-shining days just out of chemo . . . 

Having cancer is just not something I think about much anymore.

This is unfathomable to me.

I can go days now . . . maybe even weeks . . . without thinking about cancer or treatment or that I had it or worrying that it might come back.

I can hear about someone else (or someone's sister) (or someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (or someone who just happened to be a friend of someone's sister's ex-fiance's mother-in-law) (etc.) being diagnosed with cancer without that trap-door opening and sucking me down into the depths. 

I can think . . . I am a nine-year cancer-survivor.  And just be grateful for that -- without feeling guilty because of all the other cancer survivors who never made it to nine years. 

I can allow myself to trust in a future again, as much as any of us can.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL.

I've passed some huge milestone of "survival" somewhere along the way to nine years.  I'm not exactly sure when or where I did that . . . but I did.  I'll never kid myself.  My experience with a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma back in the fall of 2008 changed me . . . forever and for good.  

I have no illusions.  

I know that every day is a gift.  

And that life can change on a dime.

But after nine years . . . I'm grateful that my annual oncology check-up is just routine for me now.

A real non-event.


Deadheading: Good for More Than Gardening

In gardening, deadheading is a particular maintenance practice that prolongs blooms, prevents seeds from spreading where you don't want them, and keeps things looking neat and tidy in the garden.

Basically, it means pinching or snipping off spent blooms -- those blooms way past their prime.  (My favorite gardening mantra:  If it's brown, cut it down.)

Some gardeners hate this chore, but I love it!  I find it very meditative and centering -- and it's a great way to keep in close touch with what's happening in my garden.  

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(That's a look down into my bucket after a good deadheading session last weekend.)

So, last weekend - as I was deadheading my perennials and containers - I started thinking about the value of getting the spent "stuff" out of the garden.   

It certainly makes things LOOK better.  (Because a clump of dead daisy heads is really not attractive, y'know?)  

And when you pinch off dead-and-dying blooms, you provide more energy for the plant to produce NEW blooms -- or to grow deeper roots if the blooming period is really over.  (Roses respond especially well to deadheading.  And those daisies?  Once I deadhead the dead daisy heads, I get a second round of blooms.)

And deadheading allows you to gather seeds to share or to plant where you want them.  (Rather than the wild self-seeding that can happen with some plants if you're not careful.)  (I'm talking to you, Japanese anemone.)

All good things . . . for the garden.

But.

Isn't the same true of our lives?

Perhaps we should also be doing some "life-maintenance" once in a while. . . deadheading out the "spent" stuff in our lives.

Relationships.
Situations.
Habits.
Notions.

With regular deadheading, we can create space and energy for our own new growth.  We can keep old, negative seeds from spreading and growing where we don't want them.  We can keep our minds neat and tidy . . . and ready for new blooms.

Deadheading.  Turns out it's good for more than just garden maintenance!


In the Bag

Until a couple of years ago, I had kind of a Thing . . . for bags.  Handbags.  Totebags.  Wallets.  Clutches.  I had quite a collection . . . far too many to use, truth be told.  (I actually started hanging some of my favorites on doorknobs -- as "art objects.")  (Because I think I was taken more by their design than their function.)

And then . . . I discovered the Marie Kondo method (Kon-Mari for those in the know), and discovered that most of those bags just . . . didn't bring me joy.  They're gone now.  Seriously.  Gone.

And replaced by the completely unattractive yet highly functional Baggalini Everywhere Bagg.

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Yes.  For two solid years now, THIS bag has been my only bag.  (I do actually have it in two colors -- black for the cold months and blue for the warmer ones.  Same bag.  Different colors.)

Although I thought I might die from bag-boredom early on, I can now say that this bag is the perfect bag for me!  Every. Day.

It has functional pockets --- that I actually use.  For my phone, for my lip gloss, for my bullet journal, for my cheaters, for my umbrella.  There is ample storage for those times I want to bring my iPad or a small knitting project along.  Everything fits.  Everything has it's place.  Shoot . . . there's even a hook for my keys.  And - maybe best of all - I can throw the bag in the washing machine and freshen it up if I need to.

It's time for me to switch out my bag . . . from the black version to the blue version.  Perfect timing for this week's Think Write Thursday topic!  Want to see what I keep in there?

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Let's see . . . 

We have my wallet (which doubles as a clutch if I don't want to haul the entire bag around -- it even has room for my phone), my grocery-list-memo-pad, my horribly hideous umbrella (I'm really hard on umbrellas; this is a free-with-purchase umbrella that came with some random totebag along the way), cheaters pair #1, bullet journal, wet wipes (just in case), my quick-sketch pad and pencil, some Imodium (because you need to be prepared, y'know), Altoids, spare hearing aid batteries, tissues, a decent pen, keys, hand lotion, lipgloss, and my phone.  (I just realized my cheaters pair #2 missed the photo . . . because they were on my head.  But they belong in the bag too -- right in the handy side zip pocket, perfect for cheaters or sunglasses.)  That's pretty much it for me.  I like to travel light . . . but also be prepared.  

And, with that . . . I've switched over to my warm-weather blue version of the Everywhere Bagg! 

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How about YOU?  What's in YOUR bag?

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Today's post is part of Think Write Thursday.  To see what other bloggers are carrying in THEIR bags, click here.  And to sign up to receive weekly prompts, click here.

 


Living with Intent

Every year, in January, I come up with a list of intentions to guide me through the year ahead.

I don't consider them resolutions or even goals.  Just . . . intentions.  Ways I want to live.  Ways I want to BE.

And I try to distill them down to just two or three words.  So they're simple and concise -- and open to interpretation (re-interpretation?) as the year unfolds.  Here's my list for 2017:

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Now that I've been living with these intentions for a few weeks, I wanted to take a close look at them again -- as a review, and to see if I wanted to make any adjustments to my list.

I think they're good, though.  I can already feel them taking root; guiding my thoughts and actions.

I'm off to good start . . . at living with intent!


Slipped My Mind

Tom was away over the weekend - to curl in a bonspiel up in Canada.  Before he left, he reminded me, "Don't forget about the wine sale on Saturday."  (Because Tom manages our beverage inventory - and would usually hit the sale himself.)

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I had every intention of stocking up at the wine sale.  But I got busy with other things.  And, well.  I missed the wine sale.  It just slipped my mind.

It wasn't until yesterday that I realized . . .
the wine sale wasn't the only thing that had slipped my mind!

Saturday - February 4 - was also the 8th anniversary of my final chemo treatment.  A Big Day.  A Red Letter Day.  A Day I usually set aside for some serious reflection and celebration.

But it slipped my mind, too.  Completely.  I never even gave it a thought.

I think that's really significant. 

Y'know?


Looking Back

As I mentioned the other day, there is nothing magical about turning the calendar to a new year.  The beginning of January does not erase current situations, ongoing projects, or existing problems.

But.

There is something about the fresh start of a new year that brings reflection -- a summing up and moving forward kind of feeling.

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For me, the beginning of a new year is a time to . . .

Stop.

Think.

Assess.

Where am I?  And where do I want to be heading?

Ideally, I'd do this reflecting before turning the calendar over to January.  Y'know?  To be ready to hit the ground running when the ball drops?  But that never seems to happen for me.  (I blame the hub-bub of the holidays.)  

So January . . . serves as my time of reflecting.

It's great to look back over the just-finished year -- to face last year's mistakes and disappointments; to leave guilt or despair behind; to get closure on projects or ideas; to assess what worked - and what didn't.

It's also a perfect opportunity to pause -- to just breathe; to allow my mind to wander; to read poetry; to clear some space for new thoughts and ideas.

All of this helps me gain perspective -- on who I am now, and where I want to head next.

And, although I don't really set any "resolutions" for myself, I certainly do set intentions -- for how I want to live and what I want to especially focus on during the upcoming year.

I guess it's a good thing January is so gloomy and long!  It gives me plenty of time to reflect. . .

Enjoy the weekend.

 

 

 


The Beginning

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

---- Ellen Goodman

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I'm always a sucker for a fresh start.

A blank journal.  A new calendar.  A freshly turned garden.  Casting on.

Especially after a rough go of things.  

And 2016 was certainly that.

I spent the day yesterday drawing up a list (as Ellen Goodman so artfully says) of work to be done, cracks to be patched . . . and potential.  So much potential.

I have no illusions that turning the calendar to a new year will bring any magic.  But it does provide a sense of beginning again.  A summing up, so to speak.  An opportunity to assess and reflect and start anew.

So.  Welcome 2017.

Let's do what we can . . . to make you a good one!


More Than Just a Storage Solution - It's a Way of Life

When I read the prompt for this week's Think Write Thursday post, it made me chuckle.  How I stay positive when it feels like everything is going wrong.  Because ... well.  This has been my daily struggle for a while now.  Y'know?

So much going wrong.

So many attempts to stay positive.

So many ways this blog post could go.

Like . . . I could write about meditation and mindfulness practice.  (Because that helps.  A lot.)  Or I could write about journaling.  (Because that is essential for my well-being.)  Or I could write about the power of a good workout.  (Because pushing your body is powerful and sweat is GOOD.)  Or I could write about knitting or weeding or drawing.  (Because those activities are grounding and help me find my center.)

But, instead . . . I'm going to write about Ziploc bags.

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Yep.  Ziplocs.

You see, somewhere back in time - probably college; maybe earlier - when I first started dealing with time management issues and that feeling-like-everything-is-going-wrong thing - I came up with a sort of Scarlet O'Hara tomorrow-is-another-day approach to dealing with things.

Stick it in a Ziploc.

Yep.  Just stick that thing/idea/future to-do item/problem in a Ziploc bag.  Seal it up nice and tight.  And store it in your brain.

The trick?  Keep. It. Sealed.  Do NOT let it out.

And, just like real Ziploc bags of real stuff in your real life, that thing/idea/future to-do item/problem will just sit there in your brain.  

Safely stored.  
Marinating.  
Gathering dust.  
Or rotting.  

And you can open that Ziploc bag whenever you are ready.  Or when it is time.  (Or somewhere between 2:30 and 4:00 am, when the seals, sadly, tend to be at their weakest.)

I'm not talking about denial here.  I'm just talking about compartmentalizing.  When things/ideas/ future to-do items/problems are overwhelming and when it feels like they're all closing in on you and you just can't manage . . . that's when it's time to do a little sorting-and-storing.  

Fill up your Ziploc bags with things that you really can deal with/think about/do LATER -- so you can deal with the more immediate issues NOW.

It works for me!

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This post is part of Think Write Thursday.  Read more posts on this topic here - and sign up to receive the weekly prompts here.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Desperately Seeking Balance

15/30

Nothing is permanent.
Everything is subject to change.
Being is always becoming.

                          ----  Buddha

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Like many of you, I have been profoundly disturbed since last Tuesday night.  My mind is a swirl . . . What's going to happen?  What's the latest news?  What can we do?  

Swirling.  Swirling.  Always swirling.

Around and around and around.

And, of course, my own regular life is still happening, too. 

So I'm swirling about  . . . first amendment rights and my concerns over the Paris Agreement while also creating the slide show for my mom's memorial service and planning Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm managing preparations for a house full of guests while I also come to grips with having an ill-prepared and inexperienced flim-flam man as President.  I'm sad and worried about the future of my country . . . at the same time I'm excited to see my family and wanting to honor my mom with a meaningful memorial service.

I am . . . completely overwhelmed and desperately seeking balance!

Last night, I went to yoga.  I almost didn't . . . but I made myself leave the house and go.  Once I got there, I knew it was the right place for me.  Comfortable space; welcoming environment; stretching and bending.  

During the balance portion of the class, my yoga teacher talked a bit about the importance of finding balance in the midst of challenging times.  She reminded us that when we're overwhelmed, we need to find our core - our center.  She also reminded us that the sun will rise again tomorrow, and it will bring a new day.

I really needed to hear those words.

So, yes.  

I do want to raise my voice and make a difference.  But . . . I also need to take care of my family.  

I need to be informed.  But . . .  I also need to shut off the hype.  

I know the world has changed.  But . . . I also need to hold on to what I value in my heart.

Nothing is permanent.

Everything is subject to change.

Being is always becoming.

And . . . BALANCE . . . is key.

 


Little Bits of Good

11/30

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little
bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."

                               --- Desmond Tutu

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Okay.  I'll admit that as I lay in bed, not sleeping, on election night . . . I only felt disappointment, disbelief, and deep, deep despair.  

Then I got angry.

And motivated.

To DO SOMETHING, for crying out loud.

Because I really do care that all people feel safe and secure and protected.  I think that even the very language we use should reflect respect for one another.  I believe in protecting our environment -- and that we should be doing a whole lot more to address climate change.  (Which is real.)  I believe that a rising tide raises all boats.  I believe in hope -- not fear.

I started doing some real soul searching . . . How can I move forward?  What can I do that might actually make things better for someone (or some concept) threatened by this horrifying new political reality?  Are there ways I might be able to make a difference?

I started by making a list of some of my biggest concerns.  And then, I started brainstorming about ways I could address them.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

  • I am concerned about the lack of civility . . . so I plan to be particularly mindful about practicing and modeling kindness, respect, and thinking before speaking.
  • I am concerned about threats to free speech and our constitution . . . so I plan to make significant donations to the ACLU, an organization that will stand on the front line in defending our constitutional rights.
  • I am concerned about the safety and protection of refugees and immigrants . . . so I am going to learn about programs and resources available to this population in my own community.  In fact, I have already been invited to observe an ESL class this Saturday at our local Islamic Center -- and I'm considering becoming involved as an ESL tutor.
  • I am concerned about voter suppression efforts . . . so I am going to learn more about voter rights here in Michigan, including who is doing what to keep voting accessible for everyone.  Perhaps I'll join the League of Women Voters and become a poll worker as a result. 
  • I am concerned about the climate . . . so I am going to start by focusing on my own personal conservation efforts.  I may begin devoting one or two blog posts each month to conservation topics, and I'm reseaching organizations to support through charitable donations and volunteer efforts.
  • I am concerned about racism . . . so I am going to learn more about being an effective ally -- and then I'm going to put that knowledge into practice.
  • I am concerned about freedom of the press and the general disintegration of journalism . . . so I am going to purchase online subscriptions to the New York Times and the New Yorker.  By supporting paid subscriptions, I hope to help strengthen checks and balances through the independent media.
  • I am concerned about women's reproductive rights . . . so I am going to make donations to Planned Parenthood, an organization that will stand on the front line in defending these rights, and will provide essential family planning services to women.
  • I am concerned about hunger and poverty . . . so I am going to shop for and donate at least one bag of groceries for our local food pantry every month.
  • I am concerned about education . . . so I am going to donate to a local, grassroots program funding college tuition for low-income, rural students in Lake County, Michigan (Michigan's poorest county on a per-capita basis -- and the county where my "up north" hideaway is located). A well-educated populace is necessary if we're ever going to think for ourselves.

This is just a start; I'm still brainstorming and thinking.  I want to make sure I'm doing my part to protect threatened people and causes that I care about.

I'm ready to DO SOMETHING -- and these little bits of good will add up.

Join me, won't you?