All posts by Julie

April – Update

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It’s always out of the blue. Good things seem to happen out of the blue, most likely because they’re orchestrated by angels. I almost didn’t look at his message. I thought it was from the cat guy because they have the same name. Why would the cat guy be sending me another message? And why did he message me in the first place? I clearly stated in my profile – I’m allergic to cats and dogs. He said he saw that but didn’t think it was an extreme allergy. Lol. He obviously doesn’t have allergies because he also volunteers at a dog shelter. Oh my. He seemed like a really nice guy and was actually going to take one lucky lady to four concerts this summer. I told him, thanks for the message, yes, my allergies are extreme and have fun at the concerts.

When I opened up his message, “I’d like to talk with you if you’re willing. What is the last spirituality book you enjoyed reading?” I think my jaw dropped and my pulse quickened. There was something masculine and strong about his picture that didn’t disgust me. He has a seriousness about him with a touch of sadness that made me wonder if something bad had happened. He’s divorced, maybe she died? When I looked at the second picture, I saw him and his two beautiful daughters, they were smiling and happy. They are five and four years old. He has full custody. At the risk of seeming over eager, I only liked his profile but didn’t message back. He took this to mean my membership had expired, sent me another message saying he’d really like to talk with me and would hold onto hope. I am fond of hope.

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When someone finds me fascinating or even tolerable, I’m suspicious. It’s not due to low self-esteem, I know I have a lot to offer. I think it’s a normal reaction or maybe I’m afraid of being hurt again. In reality, my isolation is twice as harmful. When talking about her now fiance, I remember my cousin saying, “he messaged me first.” The dynamic was right from the beginning that’s why it worked. The man gives while the women receives, then she gives while he receives. It has to start with the man. For once, I’m not the aggressor, although I can be aggressive, we are assuming our natural roles. We both want a relationship. I hope we have a connection when we meet this weekend. He chose a coffee shop that’s closer to where I live, which I think is very sweet. I’m excited to meet him. I don’t know how much I’ll share here, I want to respect his privacy. Sometimes I get tired of social media. These lives we pretend to have by only showing the happy moments. Life has sad moments, too.

If you’ve read the previous post, you’re probably thinking I sound a bit contradictory. I said I don’t want kids, that is, I don’t want to have kids through labor. I am more than okay with meeting a man who already has children. And I would stay in Cincinnati for the right person. What about the guy who lives in California? I still think he’s a great guy, but he won’t step up to the plate which leads me to believe he doesn’t share my feelings and pining away over him makes me look like an idiot, and I’m tired of looking like an idiot. I enjoy talking with the new guy, J. We both have the same first initial. I could be the strong survivor that he sees in my pictures. And I could make him happy. Imagine that? I would actually be doing something right. I could be loved and adored instead of the person who does everything wrong. We could learn from each other. Isn’t that what we’re here for? Maybe I should try to be less snarky and sarcastic. That might help!

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Did I have a good time in Utah? I sure did. My niece is so precious. She adores my mom, follows her everywhere, they are best buddies. Every morning, bright and early, I heard Emma calling out for Grandma. She also says, “I need it” and “Emma do it.” After a few days, she warmed up to me and began saying my name. She’s so cheerful and happy. She’s athletic and strong. She laughs at almost everything and is very perceptive. When I made her a friendship bracelet and put it on her tiny wrist, she held out her other wrist and said, “two.” There’s no way you can tell that sweet angel, “no.” I quickly got to making another bracelet and tied it onto her other wrist. She enjoyed playing with the stamps, stickers, and markers I brought for her. She has an entourage of stuffed animals which she sometimes carries everywhere. It’s neat to see my brother with her, he’s a great dad, talks to her calmly, takes her to the park, and makes sure she eats her lunch. Our dad would be proud. I know he was there with us in spirit – happy to see us happy.

What’s on my plate? The date, the book fair, and then Camp Koru. I also need to get more laundry and cleaning done. I still have to buy a few things from the packing list. I’m going to be super productive and make good use of my time. Yes, I’m a bit stressed and overwhelmed, why wouldn’t I be? I’m going to breathe and pray that everything turns out well. I probably won’t be packing my suitcase super neatly like I did for Utah, it might just get thrown in. My therapist (who I stopped seeingΒ  a few months ago because I felt like I was talking the talk and not walking the walk) would appreciate that! Any time I don’t give in to my ocd tendencies is a victory. Although, it is good to be organized! My second interview, with Terri from A Fresh Chapter, went okay and I’ve applied for a scholarship to help offset the cost of the volunteer abroad program. The weather has gotten warm here. I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter, if that’s what you celebrate! πŸ™‚

Have a great week,

Julie

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April – Dating and Travel

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If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you’re probably thinking, she’s completely obsessed with him. Let’s use the word “enamored,” it sounds less crazy. We praise athletes for their long hours of practice and devotion to the sport, yet we frown upon people who get too infatuated. I know it’s slightly different, but don’t we want that to happen? Would you want your sweetheart to be on-the-fence about you? When people get married, it’s because they’ve chosen that person over everyone else or in today’s age until they get divorced. It’s having other options and still choosing them because there’s something amazing about them that everyone else lacks. It’s how my grandma’s face would light up when she described my grandpa.

In my defense, I’ve started dating. Well, I haven’t actually gone on a date, but I’ve been talking with a guy who lives about 20 minutes away. He’s asked me out three times now but I’ve turned him down, so I guess I haven’t started dating! He wanted to meet up last weekend and I told him I was busy which wasn’t a lie. Then he wanted to pick me up and go to a bar in downtown Cincinnati, that’s a bad idea for several reasons. Then he mentioned a winery near Oxford. I don’t like wine. I’m not trying to be difficult. I think a good first date is meeting for coffee or lunch or at a bookstore. I could mention that to him. The problem is, I don’t think he’s “the one.” You’re probably thinking, well, you haven’t given him a chance. No, I haven’t, yet I know when something has potential and when it doesn’t.

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He seems like a decent guy, he’s just not my guy. He’s shorter than me. God blessed me with long appendages. I want to be with a guy who’s my height or taller. He wants kids. I don’t want kids. I’m not a baby maker. I ain’t gonna be his baby mama. I feel pretty strongly about that. And it’s interesting the majority of guys on that site seem to want kids. He’s buying a house in Cincinnati. We all know that’s the last place I would buy a house. Why was I even talking to him? Back in February, as a birthday present to myself, I joined MeetMindful, a dating site for people who are into spirituality, meditation, and yoga. There’s a very small pool of men to choose from which is good in a way. I might’ve gotten overwhelmed by the amount of men on a larger site. Until I take it seriously and make the effort, it’ll be a waste of money. I’m always working on something else and dating gets moved to the bottom of the list. I need to get my priorities figured out.

I don’t know if I’m going to renew my membership. I guess I would recommend the site, you get three free days to see what it’s like. At first, I was mad at myself for joining and decided it was a waste of money, so I tried to put some effort into it which is why I started talking with him. Although now I realize when I text him back it just encourages him. Something else worth mentioning, I had “cancer survivor” in my bio and it seemed like I wasn’t getting much attention. I wondered if that was the cause. I deleted the ominous words and got two messages which was just a coincidence. It felt better without the heavy label, then it felt like I was keeping a secret or trying to be someone else, so I put them back on there. Update: it hasn’t made a difference. I’ve gotten the same amount of messages. I think it’s something they need to know and if it’s a deal breaker, like dogs and cats are for me, then we don’t have to waste our time.

He seemed genuinely interested which surprised me. I think he’s lonely or I’m incredibly fascinating to talk with! I don’t think he was just being nice to get in my pants although he could’ve been. He was winking at me and I thought to myself, why are you winking at me? Please stop. Maybe I’m not ready for dating. He sensed that I didn’t like the winking and switched to regular smileys. He seems immature even though he’s 34. There’s a seriousness about me now that caught me by surprise. I can’t go back to the recklessness of my twenties. Those days are long gone. I need to focus on my diet and exercise, the missing pieces of the puzzle, the things that are going to save my life. And real love grows like a beautiful flower in a magical garden. I’m going to keep looking even though I’ve already found him.

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You might also be wondering if I’ve made any travel plans this year. I’m going to Utah with my mom to visit with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece for a week in April. My niece is two years old now. I’m really excited to see her. My sister-in-law is pregnant again, due in July. It’s a girl! πŸ™‚ I booked my flight to Salt Lake City then found out I’d been taken off the waitlist for the Athletes for Cancer – Camp Koru program, which means I’m going in May rather than November. Instead of tears of joy, I was crying tears of overwhelm because I had four trips in the next three months which is a lot even for a person who doesn’t struggle with anything. Camp Koru is in Maui, Hawaii, the mythical place I’ve long to go to since I was a little girl. The day after I made my flight, I had a lot of anxiety and it took about a day to calm down. I still can’t believe I’m going there. It doesn’t help that I stopped exercising during the winter and my bikini body is nowhere to be found. Of course, I found a way to put pressure on myself.

Guess which trip got taken off the table? The book fair in Berkeley which is in early June. My friend, Christen, wasn’t able to go with me after all and the trip had fallen apart. πŸ™ They aren’t pairing authors up this year and it would’ve been difficult running the booth alone. Even though I was disappointed, I’ve realized giving a few gift wrapped copies of my book to survivors who become my friends feels better than selling them on the street to strangers. The trip that got to stay, rock climbing with First Descents at the end of June. This is what my schedule looks like for the next three months: April – Utah, May – Hawaii, June – New York. I wanted to travel, well, I’m getting my chance now! If you want to start traveling, you have to start traveling. I hope I haven’t pushed myself too far outside of my comfort zone and I can get ready in time. Have a little faith in me.

I’m also applying for a volunteer abroad program for cancer survivors which would be for two weeks in November. To pay for the cost of the program, I’ll hold a fundraiser which I’m surprisingly excited about it. Everyone who donates will receive an arts & crafts item made by me. There are five choices: friendship bracelet, origami envelop with a quote, glass gem magnet, affirmation card, Polaroid photo taken in Peru. I’m about to get crafty! πŸ™‚ Before I get too excited, I have a second interview with A Fresh Chapter’s founder Terri Wingham. I’ll find out by May 1st if I’ve been selected to join them as a cancer ambassador and truly begin to heal the emotional scars of cancer. What have I learned from all of my planning and yearning? God doesn’t give you what you want, He gives you what you need.

Have a great week,

Julie

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March extra: a poem

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I can’t stop my heart from calling out your name. God made me for you, this much I know is true. He gave me this body for you to ease my mind. He gave me this mind for you to caress inside. Deep as the ocean we swim like dolphins, carefree and awesome. I think love is my purpose along with all of the others: faith, hope, and courage.

You have to bet it all. I’d rather play it safe. Safe won’t get you castles in the clouds and sand at your feet. What if he doesn’t like my smile? Honey, your smile gets him out of bed in the morning. I barely know him, this is absurd. Stop thinking and feel, your feelings are real. Sometimes, your thoughts turn you into your worst enemy.

It is going to work because love is stronger than fear. Because the angels are cheering for you. Because I’ve waited a whole year just to see him again. I know I sound foolish, so call me a fool and I’ll take it as a compliment. Butterflies, cloud nine, hallelujah. Then we become grounded in the joy and strength God gives us.

Don’t listen to the voices that keep you up at night, they are filled with envy, they are filled with spite. Everybody wants a good old-fashioned storybook ending: toe pick and as you wish. They had to put up a fight, they had to walk towards the light. You can live the life you want to live. Just listen to your heart and you will be alright.

Have a good week,

Julie

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March

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I had a realization the other day, the work is its own reward. And the more I don’t let myself do what I love, the more depressed I get. This seems quite obvious in theory, in reality, to let yourself have what you truly want, to choose the path that soothes your soul and makes your heart run wild, can often be the harder choice. Why is this so? Because we’re taught to conform and choose the safe route, which isn’t a bad thing per se, we just have to make sure we can live with our decision and haven’t betrayed our deepest longing. While I enjoy being alone, I also crave more connection. The key is to find a balance.

Or we hit our happiness threshold and self-sabotage because it feels scary and unfamiliar. The questions isn’t – Can I be happy? The question is – Can I let myself be happier than I’ve ever been? Can I let myself be loved even though I’m not perfect? Why do I think perfection is a prerequisite for love? We feel most seen, heard, and loved when we are being vulnerable. From an early age, we’re taught if we look a certain way and say the right things, someone will love us. We grow up feeling like we have to do something special to be loved, that our unique, quirky self isn’t good enough. We build walls in an effort to protect ourselves from getting hurt which in turn prevents intimacy, the only thing that will save us.

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Sometimes, we make the mistake of letting other people tell us what our work is and choose a job that’s more socially acceptable. These are things I’m working through. Do what feels good and then life will feel good. And yet, I haven’t been writing. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from writing. I have to be careful I’m not taking an extended break. Fiction is as just important as nonfiction, if not more. Sometimes we need laughter not theories. Even though there’s warmth in his words, I need to be held. He makes you feel safe. Yes, he does. That’s important. I know. You’ll be together again. I hope so. You had to go through the bad to get to the good. I wouldn’t have appreciated him. No, you wouldn’t have.

I’m trying to find my way back. I quieted the outside world for so long that I got a bit disconnected. Maybe that’s a sacrifice you have to make to get a big project done. I know there’s a way to have a better balance even if it means doing work that isn’t my real work. Won’t those other experiences add richness to my writing? Yes! Most likely. And it will make me appreciate my creative time more. It feels good to be busy. We’re each called to do something and one isn’t better than the other. What if everyone wanted to be the same thing? It wouldn’t work. We need different types of work to make the world work. Everyone has a special light that adds beauty to the world.

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I had an interview for a volunteer position, but it didn’t feel right. The hospital felt triggering and the job wouldn’t be making good use of my skills. The nice lady could sense my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t even want to make the very small time commitment. How odd my thinking is now after what I’ve been through, or maybe it’s completely normal to see everything differently. We underestimate the effects of trauma. I need to work on my composure and professionalism. I was nervous which seems silly now since I was overqualified for the position. No worries, she had seven other applicants to choose from. It was good practice for me, and I want to find something that does make sense.

I want to travel more which is forcing me to become the person I lost on the day I was diagnosed. I was happy and carefree. I want to be strong and give love. I’m tired of being weak and stingy. I need to pick up the stuff I dropped and neglected in order to get the book done. In a sense, I have been trying to run away from my obligations, the less-than-fun things that need to be faced here. I think there’s a misconception that some people are always on and making progress. There’s nothing wrong with going through a short, restful, contemplative phase because it usually precedes a longer phase of discipline, structure, and productivity. It’s always the workaholics who think they aren’t working hard enough!

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I thought after the book was done everything would be okay or get better. I forgot life doesn’t work that way. I have to keep going. I have to keep working, exercising, and practicing my affirmations. I have to keep the apartment running. I have to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I remember listening to a Neale Donald Walsch interview and he quoted a line from the Bible, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be added unto you.” I would add: Be patient for it won’t happen immediately. God doesn’t make miracles in a microwave. And then all of sudden you realize you have everything you’ve ever wanted and more. It’s what you call magic.

All too often, we think we’re ready, because we’ve prayed and begged and planned and forced. We become needy and aggressive which prevents the miracles from reaching us. And then we get mad and hurt because God isn’t doing his job. But He is. He’s teaching us how to step back, be receptive, and surrender. And that’s when our good can flow towards us, the bounty that’s truly ours. I found so many fun things to do this year and became somewhat confused as to which ones were for my highest good. To do all of them would be logistically and financially impossible. And they weren’t baby steps, they were giant leaps into the unknown. I need to be moving and shaking around here before I can be successful elsewhere.

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I’ve always shied away from practicing manifestation because I know how powerful it can be. Let’s try this out, I need some guidance. I began asking the universe before I left the apartment something like: “Give me a sign about what I should do. Give me a sign I’ve made the right decision. Give me a sign of which path I should pursue.” And I got a few answers. I want to preface this by saying, you have to be careful you’re reading the signs right. You could think you’re getting the answer you want because that’s the answer you want rather than the answer you’re actually receiving. I went over to the mailbox expecting to get a few bills or junk mail, I pulled the mail out and an envelope fell and smacked the concrete. This surprised me because I’m usually very careful. I looked down – it was my passport. It had only taken three weeks even though I didn’t expedite it.

Then I went to Target to return something and it was taking unusually long because there were two women in front of me. I was pretty much stuck in this one spot. I felt a nudge to look down to my right and three words on the cover of a magazine jumped out at me. The words were nearly identical to the name of an organization that gives cancer survivors an opportunity to volunteer abroad. Later that day, I saw this quote: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” The right amount of challenge stretches rather than breaks us. The right kind of challenge gives us grace and confidence. It’s okay things were neglected, I wrote a book. I wasn’t being lazy. There’s always another opportunity if we’re brave enough to try. Instead of doing ten things poorly, I will do several things well! πŸ™‚

Have a great month,

Julie

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February

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If you can tell by the title, I’ve decided to do monthly posts, although, some months I might blog more depending on what’s going on.

I’ve become a bit farsighted, not literally of course, I mean figuratively or metaphorically. I can’t see near, all the amazing opportunities around me haven’t appealed to me for various reasons. One, I don’t want to put down roots here, even though I’ve been back in Ohio for ten years. I left Santa Fe in 2007 when my dad got sick. My mom is doing fine now, she’s had the same boyfriend for eight years, she really doesn’t need me anymore. And I am many years past the normal recovery time for cancer treatment. Two, the “person loses interest in things that used to bring them joy,” really has rung true for me.

Cincinnati is home to a wide assortment of concerts, sporting events, activities, and museums that are all available to me. Because I have a good knowledge of art, music, and sports, I often see something of interest: a band, a game, a festival. In the past, I wasn’t healthy enough or was waiting to get stronger. I’m never going to be 100% again and that’s okay. I don’t want to keep missing out on life or let my health deteriorate even more. This year, I’m choosing to become more involved in my city and at the same time planning things in other cities. I don’t like winter and cold weather. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a city that doesn’t have nice weather.

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What worries me is that I’ve been experiencing a lot of fatigue almost as if the radiation fatigue has doubled back somehow. The funny thing is, thanks to the universe, I’ve found so many wonderful things to do and they are what’s getting me out of bed in the morning. The things I can do in my city are: volunteer, get a part-time job, start dating, and go to the activities mentioned above. I feel like trusting people again and realize my isolation, although I did it to protect myself in the beginning, has become a defense mechanism that’s holding me back and limiting my quality of life. So yes, I’m excited and looking forward to a better year! I hope you are, too! πŸ™‚

So, what plans are in motion? I’ve applied for the book fair in Berkeley that takes place in early June. I’m waiting for confirmation of acceptance. My friend, Christen, has already agreed to go with me, which is awesome, we’re going to have an awesome time! For that, I need to order books, get the table stuff ready, make things to sell, decide on hotel and flight. I have some time. Actually, the Dayton Book Expo comes first, it’s in April, so I need to get ready for it and figure out what I’m wearing to present myself in a way that looks cool, casual, confident, and comfortable. I might have to go shopping, especially to buy materials if I’m going to make things to sell.

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Regarding the cancer survivor camps, I received an email from First Descents, probably the coolest one, they’ve opened up their 2017 summer camps. I can choose between rock climbing!!! or whitewater kayaking!!! I know, right? πŸ™‚ They’re in cool locations, too: New York, Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Both activities seem scary andΒ  challenging. Even though I’m somewhat afraid of heights, I’m leaning towards the rock climbing. Kayaking looks fun, too. I need to decide for sure and let them know before the spots fill up. Right now I’m out of shape, yet I consider myself to be athletic and that would give me a boost of confidence. And I sincerely look forward to the experience of bonding with other survivors.

The Love Your Life 30 Day Project, the link is in last month’s blog, is really helping me to focus on what’s working and what changes need to be made. It reminds me of an art therapy activity where the client answers the miracle question. If you could wake up tomorrow and your life were exactly the way you wanted it to be, what would it be like? Where would you live? What would you do for a living? Who are your friends? What do you do in your free time? What brings you joy? And then the client draws a picture of their future self once their dreams have come true. It’s a really neat exercise, one that puts things in perspective. How near or how far are we from our ideal life?

Have a great week,

Julie

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January

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This is the first blog of 2017! πŸ™‚ Here’s to many more… I’ve been waiting to write this because I’ve wanted to let my thoughts settle and prevent myself from making grand declarations of change. Yes, I want to make some changes, but they’re going to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. I’m going to set goals and intentions rather than resolutions. How do I want to feel? Happy, healthy, strong. Energetic, inspired, connected. Relaxed, peaceful, grounded. I’m going to take small steps in the direction of my dreams – follow my highest excitement, give it careful consideration, and then don’t talk myself out of it. The Universe is guiding me towards my highest good. I will listen to my inner wise self and trust that voice. Change requires courage, hard work, dedication, and encouragement.

When you think about it, change involves creating new habits or reinstating old ones. I remember something Tony Robbins said, he’s a motivational coach who helps athletes and performers get back on their game. “What were you doing that was working that you stopped doing?” That’s pretty powerful. I can think of a few things I stopped doing that were contributing to my health and happiness. Those are things I need to start doing again. It seems like people have similar goals for the new year: exercise more, eat healthier, find time for creativity, and deepen friendships because these things cultivate feelings of self-love and inner peace which makes us all feel better.

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I have a few updates for my readers who are genuinely concerned about my well-being and whereabouts. First, the doctor’s appointment. I get a gold star for putting on the gown and letting her touch the lump which she decided was an epidermal cyst. She reassured me that it was probably nothing. Well, in 2009, the gynecologist “reassured” me the 2cm tumor was “probably nothing.” I did feel reassured that day, but it’s still hurting. She said the pain could be caused by inflammation. The next step would be an ultrasound, which was useless last time, or have a surgeon remove it, if it continues to bother me. It’s been bothering me for two years, so I might get it removed this year just to put my mind at ease and quit being bothered by it.

I wanted to clarify something I said a few posts back about the Berkeley book fair. I had looked at the application on my phone and didn’t realize I was looking at the wrong category. I’m a small publisher not a large publisher. So when I said it was too expensive, that wasn’t an accurate statement. And interestingly enough, the Chicago book fair is more expensive. I haven’t made my final decision about the book fairs yet. If I do apply, I will write about it in the blog and then list it on the newly created “Events” tab. Exciting stuff. I’m a website wizard! πŸ™‚

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I’m doing a “Love Your Life in 30 Days” project that you can find here:Β http://www.tut.com/index/tut30days. All you have to do is sign up and get started! You can start late and catch up, they aren’t too difficult. Well, they’re meant to challenge you to make changes and create a more fulfilling life, so I guess they’re a good activity for me. I’m actually a few days behind, but that’s okay. You get a daily email with the writing prompt and explanation video from Mike Dooley. I had just bought a new journal from Target, so it worked out perfectly. I have a feeling the activities will become more fun and challenging!

About the cancer survivor camps – I’m really excited πŸ™‚ about the possibility of bonding with other survivors and continuing to heal from the experience. I’m in contact with Mindy from Athletes for Cancer – Camp Koru and Colin from Epic Experience. My doctor faxed the medical release forms to them. I’m on the waitlist for spring Camp Koru, which is surfing and stand up paddle boarding. If I don’t get into the May camp, I’ll be given priority to attend in November. For Epic Experience which is near Denver, Colorado, I was already asked to join their winter camp in February, but I don’t like cold weather enough to want to go skiing!! Hopefully, I’ll be able to join them in the summer when they go kayaking and horseback riding.

I think a big theme for me this year is to push myself to do more while being kind to myself along the way. Less criticism, judgement, and comparison. More compassion, encouragement, and acceptance. I am grateful for the good things in my life: a warm place to live, food on the table, and people who love me. I am very blessed. God is good.

Have a great week,

Julie

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holiday recap

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I hope Santa brought you everything you wanted and more. I had a very nice Christmas. The weather warmed up a bit, and I spent three days with my family. As expected, I ate way too many cookies!! Next year, I’m going to bake some healthy cookies to contribute to the cookie table. On Christmas day, I went to my aunt Joyce’s house in Kentucky. My uncle, John, who was my dad’s best friend brought up a good point. “Didn’t writing the book help you to heal, you know, getting all that out?” I answered. “Yes, I guess so, I do feel like a weight has been lifted.” I wrote the book to share my story, get closure, and help other survivors. I had forgotten why. I don’t give myself credit for how far I’ve come because it never feels like enough. I get upset when I hit plateaus or as of late having taken what feels like a back step.

There’s nothing wrong with regrouping and reevaluating the game plan. But you see, that’s where I have it wrong, life isn’t a game. It’s not about having the newest car, latest phone, or highest score, although those things are important in their own way, they aren’t the essence of life. There’s a quote, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” -Unknown. I think that’s why we have the ritual of opening presents because it takes us one step closer to the magic. Yes, it’s nice to get new things, but it’s more important spending time with the people we love. Time is all we have and we waste so much of it caring about what other people think and harboring resentment because life took a different turn.

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But what if the wrong turn, the pain and confusion, was something we had to go through in order to become stronger? What if the experience of sickness and powerlessness is going to lead me to health and power? One can only hope. I wanted to mention George Michael’s passing, not that I knew him or anything, because I’ve always been a fan of his music. When I was little, my favorite song was “Faith.” You can ask my mom, I’d dance around my room in a state of bliss. I didn’t really know what the lyrics meant but I liked the song. I also thought he was really cute. He had a unique voice – the voice of an angel can soothe. I’d listen to the radio, Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown and record songs onto blank cassette tapes. You had to press down the record and play buttons at the same time! I made a lot of mix tapes. Even when I was younger, music brought me joy.

I got a lot of positive feedback from my aunts, uncles, and cousins. “Write another book, start dating, move to Hawaii.” I also practiced grounding when my anxiety acted up, although the wine worked just as well. What did I get for Christmas? Some gift cards and clothes. I want to end the blog this week with pictures of my niece, Emma. She got a few presents, lol. My brother said she wanted to play with each one before going onto the next one. She’s very perceptive, that’s Pisces. She can say, “Julie.” My brother taught her how. And guess what?? Emma’s going to have a sister or brother in July of 2017. My sister-in-law, Kristine, is pregnant! I’m going to be an aunt again! πŸ™‚

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Β emma-christmas-2016

Love is…my brother putting together that kitchenette because he knows it will make Emma happy. And sometimes, especially in that picture, she looks like the spitting image of him when he was that age.

Love is…my mom helping my grandma, her mother-in-law, get a shower because even though it’s like getting a cat into a bathtub, she feels better once she’s clean and warm. My mom is patient and kind.

Love is…waiting to hear from someone and then cherishing every word as if they were etched in gold. There’s energy in everything, especially words, which is why they have the power to heal the soul.

Take care and be well,

Julie

The next blog will be my New Year’s Resolutions 2017.

facing the music and answering the hard questions

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I made an appointment with my primary care physician about the lump. I saw her in July, but I didn’t get an x-ray, nor did I let her examine it. I’ve become very squeamish about letting people touch me, especially doctors. The appointment is in early January. I hope we don’t have bad weather so that I can make it there. It’s gotten to the point where I want to know if it’s a recurrence, not because I would get more standard treatment, don’t get me started about how horrific and ridiculous that is, because it would scare me into taking better care of myself. I’m having it looked at because it’s hurting me.

The fact that I haven’t been taking good care of myself the last few years is a testament to my ignorance, arrogance, and stubbornness. I just keep thinking I didn’t learn my lesson that’s why it could be back. And it would explain the fatigue and weight loss. I know what a tumor feels like and it feels like a tumor. It’s just in a weird location. It’s not on either breast. It’s in between two of my ribs, on my left side, down from my armpit, across from my breast. Exactly where the side seam of my shirt and bottom of my bra intersect. Well, I wear a tank cami, but there’s still the inner bra thing. I’ve had the pea-sized lump for about a year or two and it hasn’t gone away.

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Enough about that, I don’t want to dwell on the negative. This week, I had two phone interviews for opportunities in Costa Rica. For some reason, that place is calling to me and I’m not sure why. Probably because, like Hawaii, it’s an inherently healing place. Even though I got accepted to both of them, neither are going to work out, and I went from being really excited to depressed again. The first one was a raw vegan yoga wellness retreat with Ellen Livingston at the Farm of Life. It was just one week which would’ve been doable. The problem is, there are four Husky dogs at the retreat. I’m allergic to dogs and I have a phobia of them. I know most dogs are friendly and it seems like the majority of people adore them. I guess I’m not in the majority.

The other opportunity was with A Fresh Chapter founded by Terri Wingham. It was a two week volunteer program in Costa Rica with a group of cancer survivors. Like the retreat, it was also in March 2017. I really felt a connection with Terri because we were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She was 30, I was 31, and we had similar treatment plans. This program really appealed to me because I want to do something meaningful like help others. I have become very self-absorbed but not in a good way. Nevertheless, I’m not in a good enough place to be of service to others. And two weeks, although exciting, would’ve been challenging for me. Don’t take your health for granted. I used to be able to do anything I wanted and now I’m limited. Maybe that’s my next step – to feel alive and empowered.

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Terri asked me some really good questions, they made me think and were hard to answer. Cancer is a teacher. What is something positive to come from your experience? Oh my. I couldn’t think of anything. I paused and then answered, “The book, because it can help others and I discovered my love for writing.” The book is important because it represents something I worked hard on, gave of myself unselfishly, and completed the project. Later that night, I thought of something else positive to come from my experience – I met someone who I really liked, still like, but he doesn’t like me, so it doesn’t matter. It was just a passing experience. It was a good learning experience because in order to see him, I had to challenge my OCD and PTSD. And I did.

It’s a good thing that I’m wanting to face my fears and push myself out of my comfort zone, yet once again I’m trying to go from 0-90 instead of 0-25. Although, sometimes that’s what it takes to really experience a profound shift. I need to start doing more things in my own community rather than trying to go so far away. I’m still looking forward to the cancer survivor adventure camps which are happening in the spring/summer of 2017. They are one week long. I can connect with other survivors and have fun. These are Epic Experience, Athletes for Cancer, Send It, and First Descents. They range from surfing in Hawaii to kayaking in Colorado. They are free with the option to fund-raise for airfare. It’s funny that I’ve just now discovered them.

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The other plus to seeing my primary care physician in January, she can sign off on the medical release forms required to attend the camps. I asked if this is okay and it is, since I haven’t seen my oncologist in two years and she can’t give a current physical assessment. And God knows, I don’t want to step foot into that place. My PCP has all of my medical history. So far, I only have forms from two of the programs. I don’t know how many I will end up attending. I think at least two of them would be super awesome! πŸ™‚ And I know I’ll probably get scared and want to back out, but I won’t let myself. I need to experience a deeper sense of healing and find my purpose.

The other thing I found out, I got an email from the Bay Area Book Festival, the book fair I did last year, their early registration is open. The only problem, they have doubled their booth fee making it, in my opinion, ridiculously expensive and not affordable especially since I didn’t sell many books. So, I’ve decided not to go this year even though I had a good time. There’s a large book festival in Chicago, Printer’s Row Lit Fest, that is also in early June and might be a better idea. Hopefully, when they open up their registration it will be more reasonably priced. It will be nice to go to a different city and meet new people. I think book fairs are a very fun and worthwhile experience.

Have a great week, happy holidays, and happy new year! πŸ™‚

Julie

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how to get out of a rut …

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Or rather how I plan to get out of my rut. Winter is here and I hate it. Sorry, that doesn’t sound very optimistic. Honest, yes. It’s very cold outside and since I don’t have much meat on my bones, it makes it that much worse. I couldn’t bring myself to take a walk today, even though I know how to bundle up and face the cold. I’m going to have to start exercising indoors. I keep telling myself to embrace winter and see it for what it is: a time to rest, recuperate, and reflect. The flowers will bloom again and everything will be lush and green.

I live in Ohio which has four distinct seasons. To say I’m looking forward to spring and summer is an understatement. And trying to get out of a rut while going into winter could be a bit of a challenge. Needless to say, I need to think about moving to a warmer climate. I moved into this apartment in November of 2012. The first few years went pretty good, the last few not as good. I just renewed my lease for another year and it will be up in November of 2017. I’ve lived here a long time, but the book is done, that’s why I needed to be here. Now, I need to move forward onto a new path which I think will become clearer as the year progresses.

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I’m hoping it will be a job opportunity, friendship, or relationship that allows me to find a new living situation. And I know I have everything I need right here. I can juice here. I can exercise here. I can write and make art here. This apartment as far as apartments go is wonderful, and I’m very grateful to live here, I just think I could be happier in a different environment. I’m too isolated here, but that’s because I’m not being very social. Back to the original topic of getting out of a rut. I’ve started showering in the morning and getting dressed rather than staying in my pajamas. I’ve noticed I’m a lot more productive when I show up for the day. I can then do laundry or clean or exercise or go to the grocery store. It’s a completely different mindset.

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Okay, so what else? I need to get a haircut. It’s gotten really long and unruly. I never got it fixed after I let my mom cut it back in May. I have to braid my ponytail because it’s just that long, and I like to keep it out of my way most of the time. I need to get the lump looked at to see if it’s a recurrence or nothing. I need to start eating healthier and exercising more. I need to stay positive and optimistic. I need to start dating. I need to get a part-time job. I need to continue marketing the cancer book. I need to continue writing because it makes me happy. I have a list of fun things to do next year, and that keeps me going. I just hope that I am well enough to do them. I have to be well enough to do them. I have to keep fighting and surviving. I’m a survivor and that’s how I can inspire others – by not being angry or bitter. By continuing to love and learn and look forward to warmer days and starry nights.

Have a great week,

Julie

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Hello December!!

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I’ve decided to write another book. Just like Rory telling her mom she’s pregnant at the end of the Gilmore Girls, this isn’t easy to say. I haven’t watched the Netflix special yet, but I’ve heard enough about it. I’m Team Jess, always have been. I saw a good tweet about how she’s been with Logan for nine years and her life’s all messed up, she talks to Jess for two minutes and he straightens everything out. Because he cares about her. Even if it’s Logan’s baby, Jess will help her raise it like Luke did with Lorelai. Interesting parallel they’ve made.

I digress, possibly on purpose. Yes, I’m excited, but it’s hard work. It’s a serious commitment. It’s one of the only things that will save me. It’s lonely and scary and thrilling, which only another writer would understand – to create something that can be criticized. I think that’s part of the problem, I haven’t had anything to work towards, to be excited about, a goal, a purpose, a reason. And even though I took a much-needed break after finishing the cancer book, I didn’t really rest or enjoy myself. I barely acknowledged the tremendous feat I had accomplished. That’s how I am, off to climb the next mountain.

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The other night, I was lying in bed and the first line came to me. I thought, “Oh no, not this again.” And then I started dialoguing with Sunny, it’s called automatic writing. I wasn’t sure if he was still around or if we’re going to write more. We’ll see. He’s helpful to talk to because I have been struggling a bit here lately. I’m also going to work on the fiction stories, one is chick lit, the other is fantasy, and see if they are worthwhile. I’ve noticed over the last several months, instead of opening up the word docs, I start a new blog. So, I might not be blogging as much because I want to work on them. And no, he’s not to replace real people. I find real people to be much warmer.

I know why it’s scary, because writing a book requires me to put my heart and soul into it, to be vulnerable, to go against the grain, to be introspective and solitary – to do that which is maddening. And yet, I feel like I have support now, I have my own Jess. We only talk through email, but it’s enough to sustain me and make me act like a silly bird. I know I shouldn’t talk about him here because he probably reads this and then feels weird. I’m trying to feel instead of think, although thinking is much safer. Is it? No, not really. I have to do both. I have to let myself feel, and I have to remember to think. Someday, I’m going to unkink his curls and show him that the best form of magick is a kiss.

Until then, if there is a then, I’m going to stay strong and focused.

Have a great week,

Julie

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