November

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November passed by very quickly. I’m late to get my blog posted. I was busy learning my new job and my family visited for a few days. Since I’ve had several different retail jobs in the past, I feel very comfortable running a register. I haven’t worked in seven years, this felt like a good place to start. I enjoy helping the customers which requires me to be friendly and confident. I feel better about myself because I’m testing my limits and no longer being afraid. It’s also good for me to be busy and out of the apartment. I didn’t want to spend another winter feeling alone and isolated. I’m grateful to have found a job close by. I stopped shopping for clothes while I was writing the book. I wore the same pair of blue sweatpants for a few years, so it’s nice to be around new clothes. Although, I still have trouble buying myself stuff which is something I’m working on. I’m learning how to feel comfortable in my body again. I’m learning how to have a life after cancer. I was already behind on the cleaning and laundry. Now, I have even more to get done but it seems like the busier I am, the better I manage my time.

I realized something after watching a Youtube video where it talked about how our past isn’t baggage if it becomes a learned lesson. When you’re dating, if a person doesn’t appreciate your strength it’s because they’re trying to take advantage of you. I went on one date this month. I’ll call him guy #5 because that’s what he is, the fifth guy I’ve met from the dating site. He sent me a message and since I wasn’t completely repulsed by him, I thought I’d give him a chance. We talked on the phone about four times which now seems like wasted time although it takes time to get to know someone. He’s in a profession that I somewhat respect, yet the longer I talked with him the less and less I liked him. “Give him a chance,” my mom said. We agreed to meet after work at a restaurant near me. He was late to the date. I gave him the benefit of the doubt since he had a longer drive through rush hour. I wasn’t very nervous. I had already somewhat written him off, which I know sounds terrible. If nothing else, at least I’m being honest.

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I went into the date already annoyed at his ex-wife baggage which he talked about in length. He wanted to know what the other four guys did wrong so he could mold himself into someone I would like. It doesn’t work that way. You’re either the person that I like or you’re not. Sure, you can stop bad habits or change superficial stuff but it comes down to whether the person does it for you or not. He didn’t do it for me. And I just keep thinking, am I being too … I don’t even know the word. No, I’m not being too anything. I’m being myself. I had a good time with him at least in the beginning. We had good conversation, but the final straw came when he drank more than I was comfortable with and wanted to go somewhere else and keep drinking. I’m not a party girl that’s pretty obvious on my profile. I ate more sushi than he did. Oh dear. I can’t eat more sushi than anyone lol. He said he hadn’t ran that day and didn’t want the extra calories. I think there’s more calories in beer than sushi.

While we were eating, he said, “I don’t have any STDs.” Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s polite dinner conversation. He said he figured I had probably slept with the other four guys because I’m on a dating site and that’s what people are doing nowadays. Oh really? I’m too old to fall for peer pressure. I could’ve slept with him but I didn’t want to, nor did I want to get to know him better. I guess that’s the bottom line. I want to actually like the person I become intimate with and feel like they like me too rather than just being some girl they find attractive enough to sleep with. Actually, the final straw was when he said he doesn’t like rap or country music. Oh dear. When I asked him who he likes he said John Mayer. While he does have a few good songs, he’s not one of my favorites. To put down two genres of music that require skill, talent, and musicality, is absurd. He probably realized that by the look on my face. Ugh.

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I know I’m being too hard on him, that’s his opinion and he’s welcome to it. His niceness seemed insincere which also got on my nerves. Once again it sounds like I don’t like a perfectly nice guy. But if a person is just being nice to get something from you, how is that any better? I’ll admit, I’m a bit naive, a little slow to catch on. We all have issues, it’s whether we’re working on them or not. I got upset recently and cried about something. I’m doing something wrong. That’s it! I’m doing instead of being. I step into my masculine energy, try to make things happen, when that’s the guy’s job. I need to be more comfortable in my feminine energy. It’s okay to have feelings. If we didn’t have feelings, we’d be robots. My fears keep preventing me from getting closer to guy #3. Although I did see him again, I don’t feel like I made time for him. I focused on learning my job and seeing my family. I worried about whether he liked me or not. I wondered if I was pretty enough. And I didn’t want to get my heart broken. The problem is, you can’t go into it half-hearted or trying not to get hurt. That’s like half way striking the ball, it’s not going to go very far and you get hurt by stopping short. This is another example of how I deny myself what I really want instead of being brave.

I like my freedom too. I have to feel like I’m gaining rather than losing something by having them in my life. I didn’t feel that way with guy #5. I felt trapped and it seemed like he was trying to impress me by buying me an expensive dinner. As many of you know, I’m perfectly happy with a Pepsi and a burrito. I don’t want to throw him under the bus because it makes me sound rude and judgmental. I’m also trying to write a humorous post and dating is good material. My dad used to tell jokes and make people laugh, I think that’s what I’m trying to do. He wanted a second date and when I told him no, he got pretty upset and bad mouthed me. I told him about a quote I saw, I’m sure that helped, lol. It’s something like – if you don’t feel blessed to have them in your life, they’re someone else’s blessing. I’m not the one for him and he isn’t the one for me. You can’t force that to happen no matter how much you try. Love doesn’t work that way. I also heard something else – when you hit the lottery, you stop buying scratch offs. When you find what you’re looking for, you stop looking. It’s that simple. Trust takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

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I deactivated my dating account, there was only a month left of my subscription, because I don’t feel like my head is in the right place. In some ways, I’m not taking it seriously enough, it’s an opportunity to meet someone special. In other ways, I’m taking it too seriously, it should be fun. I also felt like I had hit a dead end on that site and it began to feel like a burden. When I feel like it’s time to start dating again, I’ll pick one of the free sites, I don’t want to spend any more money. Most importantly, I’ve decided not to say anything about being a cancer survivor in my profile, that’s not something they need to know right off the bat. I realize that now. While being a survivor is an advantage, I’m less likely to put up with a bunch of nonsense, it puts me at a disadvantage by creating a dark cloud around me. Sad but true. It’s a part of who I am, for better or worse. I can’t undo what’s been done. I can’t change what’s happened. I can only move forward and hope for the energy to get out of bed and make it through the day. I have faith in God and myself. Being alone has made me stronger and no one can take that away from me.

Since I still have some feelings for guy #3, I’m not giving the other guys a chance. You’re just supposed to hide your profile when that happens and see where it goes. I don’t know where it’s going or if it’s going to go anywhere. When I start thinking with my heart instead of my head, I get off track. What brings me back to center is the fact that dating is about finding the person who can give you what you need and vice versa. It isn’t about forcing someone to be someone they don’t want to be. I have to figure out what I need. It’s harder to go out with someone I actually like because it means something. It’s easy to go out with guys I don’t like because it doesn’t matter. If I’m just going to pick guys to reach the challenge number that isn’t right either. I should look on the bright side, I’m 1/3 of the way there. If I decide to complete the challenge, I only have to meet 10 more guys. I could pick up the pace, I move at the speed of a turtle. Some girls could set up 2-3 dates a week. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had because they’ve helped me move forward. I just got my second paycheck and while it isn’t that much money, my mom is proud of me.

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I’m typing this on my new laptop, a 13 inch MacBook Air, which I’ve had for a few months now. At first, I didn’t like it and had a difficult adjustment which is normal for me when I get new things. I had a Dell Inspiron for many years (contrary to popular belief, I did not type the book on a typewriter lol) but it had stopped working. What do I love about the laptop? It’s lightweight, has a long battery life, and syncs with my phone. I love the keyboard. I can bang on the keys which is quite satisfying. I’ve gotten used to the screen resolution which bothered me at first. Since I have ginormous hands, I wouldn’t have been happy with the 12 inch MacBook despite it’s Retina display, the keyboard is smaller. I also had to upgrade my phone from a 5C to a 7 because I was out of storage. I couldn’t take photos and my email wouldn’t open. I’m very grateful for my new technology. I’m also hoping to get a television for Christmas. What’s come over me? Five years is long enough to go without a television. I’d like to watch Jeopardy, soccer games, movies, and a few of my favorite shows.

I enjoyed seeing my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces. They flew here from Utah and stayed with my mom for five days. My aunts, uncles, and cousins came over for Thanksgiving dinner. I always enjoy seeing everyone and eating a delicious meal especially the sweet potato casserole, pecan and pumpkin pies. My niece, Emma, who will be three in March is very energetic and cute as a button. My other niece Mary, is five months old. She’s definitely more calm and quiet. Since I’m not having kids, I enjoy spending time with them. We went to the Entertrainment Junction and had a great time seeing the trains and taking pictures with Santa. Since I was so excited to see him, he gave me a token. I’m on his nice list lol. Since Christmas is right around the corner, it’s a good time to remember the reason for the season. Love. Joy. Hope. Faith. Gratitude. Family. Friendship. Strength. Purpose. Forgiveness. Humility. It’s not about presents although that’s one way we show our love and appreciation. Christmas is about the birth of potential, to see with new eyes, hope with renewed hope, and have faith that what is meant to be will be.

Have a happy Holiday,

Julie

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October

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What’s been going on since my last blog post? I spent two weeks in Utah visiting my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces. I had a really great time. My brother’s business trip to Amsterdam got postponed a few weeks so he was able to spend time with us. We went shopping at the Park City outlet mall and hiking in southern Utah where the terrain is desert with cactus and red rocks. My sister-in-law, Kristine, works at the Deer Valley Ski resort. She’s the head chef at one of their restaurants where we ate lunch after a beautiful drive through the mountains. The leaves were already changing colors and the aspens are almost as cool as willow trees. The higher we drove in elevation, the temperature dropped and everything was covered in snow.

At the risk of getting sappy, the love they share and the beautiful family they’ve created is awesome. I’m a proud aunt! Emma is two-and-a-half years old, Mary is four months. I don’t have much experience interacting with toddlers and babies so that was fun for me. Emma is very energetic while Mary has a quieter personality, lucky for them! They have one of those Echo things where you can tell it to play a song, it’s like a modern day jukebox. We had fun dancing to some tunes. I enjoyed holding little Mary and she fell asleep on my shoulder. I was able to pick her up when we she was crying and then she would stop crying. My energy was calm enough to calm her. I look forward to seeing them again when they visit next month.

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When I got back home, I had a mountain of laundry to do since I totally overpacked, lesson learned, then I focused on applying to different types of jobs hoping that something would fall into place. I put a great deal of faith into the Universe to lead me in the right direction, of course, it takes effort on my part and that’s where I’ve been falling short. I’ve done a lot of inner work. I trust my intuition. I’m not angry anymore although I have moments of animosity. Forgiveness is the answer, it brings us joy. All of the despair we’ve gone through has only deepened our appreciation for happiness. I know no other way to describe it. The point of life is not suffering, it’s not about working ourselves to death, it’s not about denying ourselves pleasure. Life is about taking risks even when we’re afraid because one day of adventure is worth a thousand days of comfort.

The next weekend, I went shopping with my mom to buy pants and jeans to wear since I’ve gotten used to wearing sweatpants. As many of you know, I haven’t worked a regular job in several years. I survived cancer and self-published a book, I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs. Although, I got disconnected from the world around me. My disability has become a crutch allowing me to stay sick instead of pushing myself to get better. This year, the survivor camps were an important part of my healing process. I met survivors my age and realized the struggle is real. I was damn proud to stand among them. The fact that we had to suffer and still suffer in the name of health makes no sense. What if the way to heal darkness is with light and love? I am grateful for modern medicine and have deep respect for anyone who chooses that path, I just don’t think I could fight that way again. Of course, it’s easy to speculate from the crowd.

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Family and friends notice when we’re not living up to our potential, but they often fall into the enabler role and things stay the same. Oftentimes, we bring new people into our lives who we know will call us on our shit. Even though the truth is hard to hear and we’ve heard it before, we’re finally ready to do something about it. We find the motivation to make changes and get our work done. I went out with one of the original four guys again because I wanted to see him. He was the third guy I met from the dating site. We played frisbee golf and now I regret complaining about the warm weather lol. He made me take a hard look at myself. I’m not going to give him more credit than he deserves because I’ve done the work, but he said something that struck me – I’m just going through the motions. He’s right. Fear does that to a person, it shuts down all possibility which makes us spectators instead of warriors. We all have wounds to heal. We all need love to survive. After awhile, no more healing happens in isolation, we need relationships. We have to allow ourselves to be imperfect because perfection is not something that God asks of us.

I’ve had three job interviews so far and …… I took the third job!!! During the first interview, which didn’t feel right at all, I realized I don’t need to apologize for what I’ve gone through and how long it has taken me to get back on my feet. Healing takes time, that’s the hard part, but that doesn’t mean I have to be hard on myself. Even God pardons sinners. The second interview went okay. I was offered the job but it didn’t feel right either. I went into two more stores that I was genuinely interested in and asked about my application, but I didn’t get the feeling they were hiring or that I was meant to be there. I decided to stop into the Eddie Bauer store at the Liberty Center, which is seven minutes away, and ask about my application. I love the store and their clothing. I feel comfortable there. It’s more than a brand, it’s a way of life. I support being active and enjoying nature because that’s how our spirits are refreshed and renewed.

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What happened next was very interesting. I asked the guy who was working there about the status of my application. He’s actually the store manager and gave me an interview the next day. My mom and I shop there during the day when it isn’t busy and he has helped us several times. He remembered me and my mom. He said he enjoys hiring people who embody what the brand stands for – live your adventure. That’s a lot to live up to, and yet it’s who I have become. Working there will help me to stay on this healthy path. I feel happy to have someone recognize that and give me a chance. He didn’t even have my application. I had to fill out a paper one. After the interview, which felt like I was talking with an old friend, he offered me a part-time job. I took the job! I feel good about my decision. It’s the right speed for me. Yes, I’m somewhat nervous. I look forward to learning the job and getting into a routine. I hope to help the store as much as they are helping me. This is a big step towards regaining my independence, confidence, and normalcy, all of things that I lost.

For awhile now, I’ve wanted to feel more productive in my community. Helping others improves our self-esteem by generating feelings of well-being and satisfaction. The reason health can be so tricky to achieve and maintain is because we have a mind, body and spirit to look after. If we neglect any one of these, which is so easy to do and because they’re interconnected, we’ll feel out of balance. Same goes for dating. It isn’t love that eludes us, we elude love, we stand in our own way, we mess things up because we’re afraid, we’re used to being abandoned by the people who were supposed to love us. That’s why it’s hard to receive love and not be suspicious or worried that it will be taken away. Love doesn’t leave us. Fear leaves us when we love. Fear leaves us when we laugh and play. Fear leaves us when there is a safe place of mutual respect, trust, and kindness.

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I’m sure some of you are waiting for some tasty tidbits from my dating life of which I have none to offer. I haven’t gone out with any new guys. I decided to put my energy into finding a job. That isn’t to say I’m done with dating, I just haven’t started up again. I have been back on the site. I’ve gotten a few messages some of which have potential. Although, I’d like to lower the challenge number because meeting 11 more guys seems like a lot. Or maybe I need to break it down into smaller chunks and meet 2-4 guys in the next two months. I want to be realistic and not go overboard while pushing myself to get out there. My friend, Christen, who gave me the idea, after hearing how well my first four dates went, knows me very well and wants the best for me. I’m glad she cares. Writing and working are safe activities for me because I’m in my head, yet they don’t get me the companionship my body craves. I think I’ve mastered the art of being single! There’s no shame in needing someone. Maybe the strongest thing I can do now is learn how to trust someone again.

The holiday season can be a very busy and hectic time. I should be more excited about dating and make good use of this opportunity to learn about myself. I still like one of the original four guys and even though we had rocky start, I feel blessed to know him. He makes me laugh. There’s a depth to him that matches my depth. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I know better than to put my cards on the table. Let’s just say, I feel like I’m the Bachelorette and I’ve already chosen my favorite lol. I’m going to follow my heart. What else can I do? I also realize the importance of not putting all of my eggs into one basket. Even though I enjoy being alone and have plenty to occupy my time, I wonder if I could share my life with someone down the road. I’m the type who wants a relationship, yet I don’t give a lot of chances and I’m quick to dismiss guys when I don’t feel a connection with them. I have trouble letting people love me. Dating is hard work. I keep forgetting that it could be a fun experience.

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I need to give myself credit for how far I’ve come while encouraging myself to do more. It isn’t about dating a certain number of guys, those are just guidelines to get me to see the bigger picture. Life is too precious, like my sweet baby niece, Mary, to waste it on self-doubt or negativity. I need to quit disrespecting God with my bad attitude and inability to let go of the past. I can trust where this path is taking me and I’m smart enough to know when it’s leading my astray. The best thing we can offer someone is friendship that’s the foundation, the bowl filled with ice cream. Passion is an added bonus, the whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Having the whole damn sundae is the holy grail. I won’t settle for less. I can’t settle for less. It’s what we all deserve, love that knocks us off our feet in awe and surrender and gratitude that there can be something so beautiful and amazing in this fucked up world, if only we can hold it gently and carefully. That’s why we’re here, one of the many reasons, to love like we’ve never been hurt and live like we’ve never been lost.

Have a great week,

Julie

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September

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I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time now, but I needed to let my thoughts settle and make sure I was blogging about something useful to me and everyone else. How do I know if my words are going to be useful to you? I don’t. Maybe if you’ve been out of the dating scene for awhile because of a health issue or divorce, this might resonate with you. I have to speak my mind and search my heart for clarity because confusion feels like darkness. Although, the darkness has it’s place and something to teach us as well, it’s the light that heals and brings peace of mind. It seems the last post wasn’t well received and I think it’s because I overshared about my dating adventures. I’d like to say this post is not about dating and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, unfortunately, that’s what’s been up for me, so I’ll be sharing more revelations. I could congratulate myself because for the longest time I wouldn’t even step into the dating world.

I received some flack for not liking the nice guy who seemed great. Just because someone seems nice and great doesn’t mean they are. Everyone has issues and their own agenda. It appeared as though I don’t like the good guys and only want to chase bad boys because I like drama. If my memory serves me, I was with a really nice guy for eight years and I was very happy, so that claim doesn’t hold water. I do have to be careful because I had an alcoholic father and will always be somewhat drawn to emotionally unavailable men. Do you really think I want more drama in my life? Cancer is enough drama for two lifetimes. I have to be physically and mentally attracted to someone. I want a friend and a lover combined. I shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than that. When someone inspires me to be better, to become the best version of myself, that’s awesome. We need that rather than someone who tells us lies and has fake feelings of adoration. I’d rather sleep alone than to be with someone who doesn’t appreciate who I am and what I have to give. Yes, these are just words, it takes heroic action to even attempt such love. I’m getting ahead of myself because I’m such a hopeless romantic.

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One of the fellas, and I’ve decided to stop using names to protect everyone’s identity, contacted me again wanting to see me. He was the very first guy I went out with. I saw him a second time and met his son. I have enough information to make an informed decision, and I don’t see us in a long-term relationship together. I was attracted to him initially but the more I got to know him I realized, while we do have our health issues in common, we don’t have anything else. When I asked him what he likes about me, he couldn’t think of anything. And then he said, “Everything.” And I said, “Name one thing.” And he said, “We get along good together.” Oh no. I need more than that. I want to be with someone who likes my hair, my smile, my eyes, the way I talk and the way I walk. I’d have the same adoration that’s how love works. It’s maddening and amazing. I know it takes time to develop those feelings and you grow to like someone’s quirks, but I refuse to be someone that someone is settling for, that would break my heart. To know he’s with me only because he’s comfortable with me. How depressing is that? I deserve so much more.

I went to the FCC soccer game with my mom and friend, Christen. We had a really good time. I’m glad we have a professional soccer team in Cincinnati. It’s about time! I was telling Christen about my dating life and how I had fallen pretty hard for one of the guys and overreacted when I felt him pulling away. She gave me a challenge – I have to date 11 more guys before I can fall in love with any of them. Wow! That would make a total of 15 since I’ve met 4 guys so far. I can still see any of the original 4, I just have to keep dating new guys. My brother gave me some good advice: just be friends and get to know them, have fun rather than trying to turn it into a relationship. One of the guys gave me some good feedback – I seemed anxious.  Well, I have generalized anxiety, so it’s quite possible I would’ve seemed anxious. And since I actually liked him that might’ve increased my anxiety even more. There are worse things in life than being anxious. I think dating takes practice, learning not to fall for someone you barely know just because they seem very interesting. I wonder if making the dates shorter and simpler would make it easier for me? Probably.

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Feelings of infatuation cause the brain to release norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, which is why people sometimes enjoy dating, lol. There’s nothing wrong with letting yourself fall for someone especially when they share the same interests, it’s just like heaven. I didn’t do anything wrong and I should be glad to have met someone that I actually like even if it has caused me some pain. Two things I’ve learned: don’t give your heart away until they ask for it and you can’t keep a person who doesn’t want to be kept. Something else good came out of this. The other day when I was crying, I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I thought to myself, I am so beautiful, and it wasn’t an affirmation. I felt it deep down. Sure I have days where I doubt myself and my talents. Days when my body hurts and I’m tired of being strong. Days when I wonder if I’ll ever get my life back on track. Nights when I want to drink a beer, watch television, and be held by someone who cares about me. Nights when I’m grateful to be warm in my bed and protected by my angels.

I know I’m doing better than I was, even better than last year. My progress always plateaus and I find myself face-to-face with the things I’ve been avoiding like getting a part-time job. Not that the things I’ve been doing instead weren’t wonderful. I have survivor friends and a supportive community. I don’t feel so alone anymore. It’s a blessing to have people who understand. I don’t regret any of it except for the painful sunburn, swelling, and blister, that wasn’t fun! I’m the only one I know who can go to paradise and get injured. As long as I keep choosing the right path everything will be okay. I’m still too isolated which is part of the problem. I want to get a job, it’s time. It’s been time for some time now. I think it’s important for me to get a job close by before winter sets in because we get a decent amount of snow and bad weather. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge, learning something new, and making a few new friends. It’s taken me a long time to become well enough to be able to help others. Getting a job will be a huge accomplishment.

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I had to stop my mind from automatically wanting to find fault and cut myself some slack. Why don’t I have a job already? Because I was healing and writing a book. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. The Universe provided for me. Why has it taken me so long to get better? Healing takes time. Why can’t I be like the other girls who aren’t a problem? You’re not a problem to the right person. There’s a line in a Ryan Adams song, “I used to feel so angry, now I only feel humbled.” I can relate. I was angry at God for taking my dad away. I was angry about getting cancer and the damage it did to my body. It’s taken me a long time to be humbled. I don’t want to die now. I hope the treatment worked. I have no idea. I’ll never know. And things don’t change until our attitude changes, maybe that’s why I was stuck for so long. That’s why we have friends, to remind us that some things are more beautiful for having been broken and with enough love broken things can be mended. I am stronger and wiser. Amen.

Have a great week,

Julie

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August

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This month I’m going to talk about dating and my experience thus far. I went to a speed dating event that was good practice, but ultimately didn’t turn into anything. I found the guys to be too young or not my type. I only said “Yes” to two of them and only one of them said “Yes” to me and then we never emailed each other. It was good to see that six out of the nine guys said “Yes” to me since I was nervous and thought I had made a bad impression. My mom thinks I’m being too picky and not giving them a chance. I think it’s okay to be picky because I can’t fake feelings of adoration. I also joined a popular dating site, one that I had been reluctant to go on. Between being allergic to cats and dogs which eliminates many of them, a cancer survivor which adds some degree of seriousness, I’m not getting as many messages as I probably would have. And yet, I’m getting enough to keep me busy. If nothing else, it makes me laugh, some of the messages are hilarious. You never know, the love of my life could live in my own town.

I think I got tired of meeting and falling for guys who live in other states. I’m talking about you California and Colorado! When you know or meet amazing guys, it raises the bar. I’m a deep thinker. I shouldn’t have to apologize or dumb myself down. That being said, I’m not that complicated! I’ve noticed I’m too quick to sell myself short and dating requires a lot of effort. I’m definitely learning what I like and don’t like. Regardless of whether they’re naughty or nice, they all have the same end goal, just different ways of going about it. My first date was with Charles. He’s very sweet, charming, and good looking. We had an innocent, flirtatious banter right from the beginning. Let’s just say, kissing him made up for seven years of solitude. I was like, thank you Jesus. Hallelujah! 🙂 I’m a pretty good kisser and I’ve done my fair share of kissing back in the day, so I know what I’m talking about. I definitely enjoyed the movie and dinner date.

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It would be better if I had a part-time job, something else to occupy my free time. Sometimes, I miss having a work schedule and find myself somewhat lost. I’m happy to report I’ve begun working on the next book. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know this has been a constant struggle. I’ve decided to call my writing a hobby in the hopes that it will take the pressure off. Writing brings me joy and I feel lost without it. I know what writing a book takes: passion, focus, solitude, feedback, and devotion. It’s hard to be in both worlds. It’s hard to stay balanced. I nearly went insane last time. It’s takes a lot of courage to step back into the arena. Luckily, I’m writing fiction this time which is much easier and I have an awesome group of friends who motivate me to be brave. I don’t feel lonely anymore. This book has a lighter tone making for a more enjoyable read. I’m not starting from scratch, I’ve been writing bits and pieces of it over the last few years when I had breaks from the cancer book. I wasn’t sure where the story was going. I might end up doing a collection of short stories. It feels good to be in the creative mode again.

I have a feeling athletes, musicians, writers, and artists experience burnout more often than we’d care to admit. We forgot why we love what we love because it gets wrapped up in other things. We have to fall in love with the process all over again, seeing it as a gift rather than a burden. By stepping away from it, I have fresh eyes to fix the problems and through blogging, I’ve become better at writing. I find writing to be very healing and empowering. It’s something I can do on my own, no one can take it from me, and eventually it can help others. When I was recovering from cancer treatment, my mom and I went to Books-A-Million and bought a stack of books for me to read. It was the best thing in the world. I picked the fun, easy-to-read chick lit books usually with a love story because they cheered me up. I became the character in the book instead of the sick girl with cancer. That’s what I’m hoping to do for someone else. If my gift is words, and I’ve tormented myself wondering if it is, then that’s what I have to offer, that’s my purpose. Not all escapes are bad, some are quite necessary.

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It’s taken me over a year to get back into “serious” writing. I thought I was being lazy, because I still don’t give myself credit for anything, but my friend, Mike, doesn’t think I’m lazy, probably one of the best compliments I’ve received this year. I got tired of being alone which should come as no surprise, I’ve been alone for quite awhile. While it has made me stronger, I’ve almost waited too long and now appear somewhat desperate or can’t be as discerning. I’m old enough to know better, but love is like a drug and logic can go right out the window. I want to meet a man who doesn’t need me to change the core of who I am, which is impossible anyway. I want to meet a man who makes me feel calm rather than agitated, loved rather than neglected. I want to meet a man who can handle my need for freedom without getting worried. I don’t want a man who falls at my feet nor do I appreciate being ignored. I guess it doesn’t work until there is equal adoration. I want sparks and butterflies. Why wouldn’t I?

Dating is a very strange process that takes time and energy. The dating scene has changed a lot and yet it hasn’t changed at all. There are a lot of people looking for love and affection, conversation and connection. I’ve started taking my walks again which feels amazing. I went swimming at my apartment’s pool, it was very relaxing and great exercise. I’m getting my hair cut tomorrow, it needed to be trimmed a few months ago. I bought a Vera Wang dress at Kohl’s for Heather and Kyle’s wedding. It’s very pretty with a green, blue, purple, black, and white flower design. I’ve enjoyed looking for a dress, it has forced me to get in touch with my feminine side. What’s more feminine than a dress? I want to look good and be presentable at my cousin’s wedding. She looks up to me. I’ve missed two family weddings, sorry about that, and have some catching up to do!

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My haircut turned out great. I’m really happy with it. Rhea, a hairstylist at Mitchell’s salon, cut off 4 inches and gave me face-framing layers. Don’t worry, I can still put it up in a ponytail! It feels better to have a shape and style. I figured out why I wait so long between appointments – my hair fell out during chemo. I had some anxiety during the haircut. When I saw a chunk of my hair slide down the black smock and land on my lap, I tried to stay present. I grabbed the hair, tossed it on the floor, and said some encouraging things to myself. I’m getting a haircut. I feel safe with Rhea. She’s been cutting my hair for several years. It’s going to look better. We were chatting about boys and music which is a good distraction. I feel like a weight has been lifted. Why do we hold onto things that no longer serve us? Why do we get used to feeling bad? I felt tired today. I didn’t feel like doing much. I wanted to curl up on the couch and watch a movie, which is pretty hard to do without a television! I ended up taking a long walk. Fresh air + sunlight + exercise = health. If you subtract a few letters, lol.

I have had a negative experience from online dating, it was with the first guy I started talking with named T. He’s six years younger than me which might explain the difference in maturity. A few weeks ago, I was looking at profiles on my phone and accidentally liked his photo. We got to talking and then stopped when he admitted to being a pothead and wondered if I was okay with that. I’m not okay with that. I don’t like when people aren’t present with me. I don’t have anything wrong with cannabis or it being used medicinally, I’d just prefer not to have a partner who smokes weed. Somehow, we got to talking again, call it what you will, loneliness, whatever. The texting escalated pretty quickly. Let’s just say he wasn’t texting to hear about my day. And since this dating thing is part research, I continued texting thinking if nothing else it’s material for a story. And I thought he was cute.

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T asked me if I’d be interested in some nsa/fwb fun. It took me a minute to figure that one out – no strings attached/friends with benefits. Hmmm. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, if both people agree and stay safe. Might as well get high, too. I’m just kidding. Laughter is good medicine. Is it easier to do that and walk away? Hit it and quit it, as they say. Or is it easier to form an emotional bond and actually care about the person? I think there are two mistakes we make when dating: taking the easy route or forcing things to happen, both of them kill the magic and make a mockery of love. Relationships take time, they’re frustrating and difficult, but in the end it’s worth it. When you have someone who cares about you, that’s a priceless feeling. He was pressuring me, and I felt like a coward for not accepting his offer because a part of me wanted that, why wouldn’t I? I’m human, I got needs. Then I remembered what it felt like to sleep with someone I barely knew. It didn’t feel right.

What happened though, and I should probably be glad because it kept me from getting myself into a bad situation, he admitted to there being two dogs at his house belonging to his friend. I don’t know why, but I immediately knew they were his girlfriend’s dogs. Yep, she’s out of town, doesn’t want to know about it, but she’s okay with it. Oh my. This is just baffling to me. One lie after another. We had even talked previously about how I’m allergic to dogs and he didn’t have any. That same night, I was also texting Brian who is very polite and not being overly aggressive. I told him about T and he said, “Get a hooker, if that’s your intentions.” I told T to hire a hooker and that shut him up for a minute. He kept talking and I texted him, “One day you’ll realize you’re more than your dick and then you’ll stop acting like one.”

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Once he realized he wasn’t going to get any, he switched his tactics to wanting to grab some wine. First of all, you don’t grab wine, you grab a beer. Second of all, why would I want to grab wine with you now? I told my mom about him. She said I need to screen them better or be more selective. I agree. Luckily, there are guys who won’t take advantage of my ignorance and vulnerability. Guys who respect women rather than treating them like a piece of ass. Although, I’m realizing even the “nice guys” just want to get in my pants. I must have some nice pants, lol. Maybe it’s okay to be seen in a sexual light and I’m the one who’s being too prudish. I’ve always struggled with my sex appeal, feeling more like a tomboy, and in some sense the only sex appeal I have, I have nothing to do with. I feel comfortable in my own skin and don’t try to impress others. I could spend more time on my appearance and present myself in a way that makes me feel more attractive. It only mattered that I was slender and attractive, that was his criteria. I don’t know whether to feel insulted or flattered.

I’ve noticed when I get messages from guys who seem really nice, my first instinct is to find a reason not to like them. Case in point is John. He eats clean, works out, and the conversation is great. He asked me about the koru necklace I’m wearing in my profile picture. I didn’t have an initial attraction to him and worried there wouldn’t be any sparks. Good grief, sparks can burn a house down! At first, I pushed him away saying it was the distance because he lives a bit further away, then I contacted him again and we planned a hiking date at the Cincinnati Nature Center. I had a really good time. Before y’all get too excited, I don’t think he’s the one. I know he’s not the one. He’s a great guy, but he’s not my guy. Even though we kissed a bunch of times, there weren’t any sparks. And no, it isn’t something that will come with time. I thought about that, too. He wants a relationship. He’s further along in the dating process, I’ve just gotten started. I talked with him today. He thinks the world of me, which is good for my ego, but I don’t feel the same way about him. It’s nice to be on the other side for once. I can see how silly I was to chase guys who weren’t that into me. I hope John and I keep in touch and become good friends.

Have a great week,

Julie

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My FD experience – June 2017

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I went into the First Descents rock climbing program with some preconceived notions and a good bit of trepidation. I knew it was a highly respected organization that helps cancer survivors heal by taking them into the great outdoors where they can breathe, enjoy the beauty of nature, and regain confidence. I would imagine each of us walked away with renewed hope and strength. I had never climbed nor been to the Adirondaks which made it very exciting for me. We didn’t go by our real names rather we could choose or be given a nickname. I chose Willow because that’s the name that came to me. And I love willow trees. There’s a group of them living not far from me. For the last five years, I’ve walked to see them admiring their beauty and movement. Now I realize they symbolize healing, surrender, harmony, intuition, flexibility, immortality, and feminine power.

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When I arrived at the Albany airport, feeling cool just for being in New York, I made my way to the baggage claim relieved to meet Laura, Lauren, Lindsey, and Donal, who became Scooby Snacks, Eden, Tahoe, and Woz. A young girl who looked to be in her early twenties kept walking by our group glancing at us. Luckily, she joined us, and Paige became Glance. An FD volunteer, Benchy, greeted us with warmth and excitement. Being from Cincinnati, I knew the baseball player his nickname was derived from: Johnny Bench. We piled into a white minivan and the adventure began! He drove us the two hour scenic drive to the Keene Mountain House, our home for the next five days. Glance became my roommate as we stumbled into one of the cabins, found two twin beds and took a much-needed nap before dinner. Both of us had been up late the night before packing and worrying. She was packing, I was worrying! Once I got there, I knew I had made the right decision, being in the mountains felt refreshing and the view was breathtaking.

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In hindsight, taking an indoor climbing class to learn the basics might’ve eased my mind and better prepared me. I relied on my natural athletic ability and caught on fairly quickly. To be honest, Alpine had to go up with me the first time, I was that scared. After that, I had several decent climbs where I felt like I was getting the hang of it, no pun intended! When my fear of heights kicked in during the multi-pitch climb, I stayed focused, prayed to God, and said my affirmations. Luckily, Tahoe was following me, Woz was climbing next to me, and the group was cheering me on from below. I didn’t want to let them down! Sugar, one of the guides, eased the tension with jokes like, “Today’s my first day! A temp agency sent me.” We also learned how to belay and rappel down. Rock climbing shoes have rubber soles which help your feet grip the rocks. I make it look easy, lol!

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But I’m skipping ahead…the rest of the survivors arrived later that evening and I met: Jocelyn (Jack), Tatiana (TBD), Rachael (Thrifty), Jenny (Kini), Betty (Fifi), and Chris (Data). Yes, it was intimidating to meet new people and rock climb with them. They were really easy to get along with, survivors know how to have a good time, and the Alpine Endeavors guides were awesome teachers. Each morning, we ate breakfast and packed a lunch to take with us. I enjoyed the egg salad wrap, fruit, and trail mix. Most days we were gone from 9am-4pm. When we got back, we showered, rested, and got ready for dinner. Depending on the weather, we had a campfire inside or outside. I had forgotten how much I enjoy a campfire. It takes me back to my childhood when my family used to go camping and my dad would build us a fire each night. Nature heals the soul and humbles the ego.

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We dodged rain all week. I’m glad I packed a wind breaker. The last day, we went for a hike up to the Baxter Mountain Summit. At this point, my legs were nearly jello. I thought I wouldn’t make it up to the top, but I’m glad I did. The highest climb has the best view. As oxygen flooded my cells, I realized this is how you heal cancer with fresh air and exercise, sunlight and laughter. Not to mention, we were eating a plant-based whole foods diet, thanks to Vagetti and Mayor. There were no refined sugars and yet everything tasted delicious. Some of the highlights for me were the: pancakes, chicken pot pie, pad Thai, fish tacos, veggie lasagna, root bear float, strawberry shortcake, and chocolate mousse. I was in food heaven. We had very little dairy, meat, or caffeine. My mind was thinking clearly almost euphorically and eating healthy meals gave me energy to climb.

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Mind you, it wasn’t all roses, there were mosquitoes to contend with, clouds of bug spray, squat peeing behind trees, which I got pretty good at, and the realization that even though we had done a lot of healing there, we would return home and have to keep up on the promises we had made. After the final hike, we went into town to do some souvenir shopping. It was then that I realized the string and rock (FD rituals) we had been given meant more to me than anything I could buy in those shops. Although, I did manage to buy a souvenir t-shirt and moose magnet. I’ll always think fondly of my FD experience and recommend it to new survivors. Since arriving home, I’m inspired to continue taking courageous action. I’ve signed up for speed dating, an indoor soccer team, and applied for a part-time job at a rock climbing gym near me. I can get unstuck, I can find my way.

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Cancer takes away our power and makes us mistrust our body. To see myself and the other survivors climbing the crag day after day was very inspiring. Just when I was about to give up, I’d find a handhold or foothold and be able to climb just a little bit higher. Life’s like that. My mom asked, “Weren’t they tired?” No, cancer survivors are the strongest tribe alive much like the Samurai. And if they were, they didn’t show it. We’ll always have something to prove. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. When I look back, I wish I had climbed a few more times. My rock revelation: I need to start making my own decisions. God knows, I’m old enough! It’s when I don’t trust my inner knowing that I lose my way. At the campfires, we shared our stories and felt understood maybe for the first time since being diagnosed. When I sit in a circle of survivors, I can feel the pain and strength. It’s not a circle I ever thought I’d be in and it took me a long time to join the circle. I just hit my eight year anniversary! I’m thankful for the tears, laughter, and dancing – those are the true remedies.

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Big thanks to the awesome FD staff: Benchy, Scrawny, Rut-Roh, Vagetti, Mayor, Minguyver, and Ama D. As well as the Alpine Endeavors staff: Alpine, Jugs, Grins, and Sugar. It was more than a job to them – they truly cared about us, nourished us, and treated us with loving kindness. They created an environment where we felt safe to be ourselves, have fun, and heal. They treated us with respect and admiration. They weren’t afraid of our tears or laughter. It’s easy for survivors to minimize what we go through, what we’ve been through, because we have to shrug it off and be brave. When I returned home, I felt different like I had changed for the better. I stood a little taller and breathed more deeply. I had to laugh at myself when something silly bothered me or seemed difficult. You just climbed a mountain, I reminded myself, and no one can take that away from you.

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My roommate, Glance, was quite younger than me, which forced me to step up and be the responsible one. Although it turns out, I’m the lenient mom. I let her sleep in too late! I can’t imagine being diagnosed in my twenties. I was 31 and that was devastating enough. After treatment, I didn’t think I’d ever date again or have a guy find me attractive. I felt sick and damaged. I thought God was punishing me, and I was very angry about the lingering pain and fatigue. I lost interest in the things that used to bring me joy. Getting cancer felt like a weakness, but it has made me stronger. Strength is letting people help me. Strength is letting people love me. The Universe brought each one of us there because healing doesn’t happen in isolation. The magic happens when we let our guards down and become vulnerable. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one feeling stuck or depressed upon arrival. The key is to keep the momentum going. What brings you joy? Go and do that. You’ll find your way.

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FD lead staff Rut-Roh, who could be goofy one minute and a philosopher the next, led a Baci ceremony which was new to me and very cool. I have a piece of string tied around my wrist that has more meaning and value than almost all of my jewelry combined. My three figure eight knots represent: bravery, determination, and persistence. Sugar chose those three adjectives to describe me. I chose sense of humor, outgoing, and kindness for his knots. The figure eight knot is the one we used for tying the rope into our harness, so it also reminds us of the climb. I’m not always brave, determined, or persistent, no one is, but I have been in the past and I can be again. There’s strength in knowing that. My cancer experience has given me much sadness, but it’s also given me new friends and fun adventures. I can let go of the grief, anger, and confusion. And each time they pop back up, I will let them go again. Healing isn’t about being perfect, fearless, and having the right answer. Healing requires compassion, courage, and humility. We practice forgiveness because it sets us free.

Have a great week,

Julie

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June

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I was planning to write the June blog about my experience rock climbing with First Descents, an organization that takes cancer survivors on outdoor adventures, since it’s at the end of the month, I’m going to make that the topic of my July blog. I’m excited about going. I’m also nervous because I’ve never been rock climbing before. It looks like fun, on the other hand, I’m thinking, what have I gotten myself into? I’m probably going to be exhausted. I have a minor fear of heights. It’s easy to forget my original intention: meet other survivors, gain confidence, and experience healing. We’ll be in the Adirondack Park which is cooler weather, and I will pack accordingly. I’ve never been to the state of New York so that will be interesting.

Recently, I realized something important, I’ve been disappointing myself in little ways. I’m not getting enough exercise, I’m still struggling to clean up my diet, and I haven’t found a part-time job. I guess being honest is the first step towards making changes. I started feeling like the world was reflecting that back to me. I began to experience minor disappointments in my outer world. I was swinging too high and inevitable crashed. I think life is about finding the middle path: balanced, stable, happy, and grounded. I need to sleep, eat, move, create, laugh, and learn. I’m done waiting for Prince Charming. He isn’t coming. I have to rescue myself, that’s the modern day fairy tale, that’s when love doesn’t feel burdened.

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Something happened that had me on the verge of tears for three days. I invited someone to my cousin’s wedding in August and he declined. Even though he let me down easy, rejection is painful, and if anyone tells you differently, they’re lying. I know he cares about me and wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings, nevertheless, my heart and self-esteem were crushed. Because I’m so sensitive, it put me in a very dark place emotionally. I promptly started up my affirmation practice because that’s the best way I know how to get my thoughts back on track and find the light. I still feel silly talking about affirmations, like everyone is naturally optimistic and filled with self-love, doubtful. For me, it takes practice because I can be very hard on myself.

About a week later, I was out shopping for some hiking gear, feeling quite proud of myself for getting through it and not messaging him. Pain is a teacher, it’s teaching me to stop touching that burner. I had the feeling that I need to move on and start talking with other guys. The next thing I knew, I got my chance, I struck up a conversation with a guy who was working at the store. Feeling apprehensive about rock climbing, I asked him if he’d ever been. That’s all I’m going to say, I’ve already chased one guy away by writing about him in my blog. Regardless of whether we continue talking, and I hope we do, the experience showed me there are other men, and I don’t have to be alone.

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Something else about this month, it’s my cancer anniversary. I was diagnosed on June 5, 2009. It’s been eight years. I’m writing a short blog this month. I can do whatever I put my mind to, that’s what we learn as children and forget as we grow up, which reminds me, I’m about to be an aunt again. My sister-in-law, Kristine, is due the 4th of July, the doctor said she could be ten days early. Children are quite magical, they are a blessing. God has a plan for each of us, it’s our soul’s purpose, our mission this lifetime. It’s when we stop listening or want what isn’t ours that we cause ourselves unnecessary agony. Life shouldn’t be a struggle. Life can be joyful and adventurous. Hurt doesn’t heal hurt. Love heals the hurt. I’m thankful for the lesson. I’m thankful for my friendships. I continue to become stronger and wiser.

Have a safe and happy summer,

Julie

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May – Aloha!

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Before I talk about my amazing experience with Athletes for Cancer, who recently changed their name to Project Koru, I need to bring you up-to-date. Speaking of dates, I did not go out with J. He sent me a text message saying he was no longer interested in pursuing a potential relationship. He didn’t give me any explanation. I have a feeling it’s because I talked about him in the previous blog. I’ve learned my lesson there. I’m honest to a fault which sometimes works against me. Oh well, there are plenty of fish in the sea. I refuse to censor myself on my own blog. This is a place where I can express myself and find healing. I want to be with someone who appreciates my personality and finds it endearing. The Dayton Book Expo (see picture below) went really well. I met a bunch of authors and talked with several survivors. At the risk of sounding like a salesperson, I had never developed a short pitch to describe my book. I have since realized it’s okay to have one and quite necessary for a book fair.

dayton book fair 2017

The day before I left for Maui, I was completely terrified, which seems silly now since I was flying to paradise! I had never flown that far away from home. On the way there, I had three flights, 14 hours of travel. On the way back, I only had two flights, 11 hours of travel. The flights weren’t bad after all. I read a book, slept, listened to music, and watched a few television shows. I made the mistake of getting a smoothie instead of a turkey sandwich before my long flight and then I was grumpy upon arrival. My mom and brother gave me pep talks over the phone. I think it was fear of the unknown, leaving my comfort zone, and not wanting to feel out of control. Ironically, that was exactly what I needed. I was feeling stuck and isolated here. I definitely got unstuck and have become part of a fun community. I’m going to continue to create a life filled with joy, meaning, and purpose.

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Once I got to Maui and met the counselors and survivors, I instantly relaxed and knew I had made the right decision. Most of my worries went away and I was able to be in the present moment. The funny thing about camping, you become very resourceful very quickly. The flashlight I wasn’t even sure why I was bringing, became my best friend at night when walking to the bathroom. It was fun to light the path and make sure I wasn’t stepping on a critter, that is, a giant cockroach, centipede, or cute lizard. It also taught me that being clean isn’t the most important thing in the world and towards the end of the week I didn’t even mind getting into bed with dirty feet. There’s something soothing about being on the beach and listening to the sound of the waves. I will never forget that sound. It was so awesome. Once I made friends with the sand and the heat, I had a good time. The coconut water and shave ice were very refreshing.

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What would I have done differently? I would apply a generous amount of sunscreen on my legs the first day. I don’t have a good excuse. What would’ve taken me under two minutes to apply, has cost me about two weeks of pain and annoyance. I learned my lesson. Lots of lesson learning this month. Also, I would’ve packed some cooler clothing: a swimsuit coverup, sundress, and tank top. I didn’t have anything cute to wear on the last night when we had the ohana ceremony and that was a bummer. While some of them were working on their tans, I was trying not to get burnt to a crisp! Now, I feel more than ready to hop into my apartment’s pool, it’s salt water not chlorine, when it opens in a few weeks. And I will be using my sunscreen!

I also need to mention my roommates, Tidal and Monarch, who were the perfect cabin mates for me. They were very understanding when I was still up folding my clothes, which is something that soothes me and makes me feel in control. It definitely put things in perspective, everyone else was in bed going to sleep and I was organizing my stuff! We had such busy days that I needed all the rest I could get. It was neat to see how they could throw their stuff in their suitcase and everything didn’t have to be perfect. I also noticed they were able to take a quick shower, whereas, I felt better waiting until the evening when I wouldn’t be rushed. Tidal also helped me with trying to do things faster, even saying something like: 3, 2, 1, Go! What we noticed is that I overthink things instead of just performing the task. I worried about having a schedule and being ready on time, but it actually helped me by forcing me to think quicker and move faster.

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How did I get my power name? This is a good story. My mom drove me to the airport on the morning of my departure. It was pouring rain and I was half asleep. Surprisingly, my nerves had calmed down and I was getting really excited. I started thinking about what my power name should be and how we were going to have to share it when we got there. The next thing I knew, a white truck passed by with a small picture of a bird and the word LARK written below it. I looked over at my mom and said, “Well, there’s my power name.” I thought it sounded really strong and cool. I’m glad the name came to me organically and ripe with symbolism. Birds represent leaving the nest and being brave. They trust their wings to carry them. It’s how tiger girl gets out of the tree. She doesn’t go back down the way she came, she flies! She becomes Lark – a strong, powerful woman. Woohoo! 🙂

During Camp Koru, I experienced healing on many levels. I had several cathartic moments where I was able to release grief, pain, and anger, the old survivor baggage that was weighing me down. I enjoyed surfing and standup paddle boarding. I’m confident in my athletic ability, talent I was given at birth, and being active makes me feel good about myself. I enjoyed the time I spent in the water learning the two awesome sports. What was even more amazing, I got to learn them with my new group of friends. From the moment I got there, I felt a special bond with them that I have never felt with anyone else before. I would imagine that’s how war veterans or alcoholics feel when they go to a support group. It was like nothing had to be said. They just knew. They had been through the same hell. They had to fight. I felt accepted and supported from the moment I got there.

tenacity award

I won the Tenacity award (see picture above) one night at the camp fire, Aurora presented it to me. And then the next day was really rough, my self-doubt came back with a vengeance and the blister was bothering me. I was really looking forward to hiking to the waterfall, but the hike proved to be quite difficult. It was muddy and the rocks were very slippery. Not to mention my left foot had swollen to three times its size and I was carrying a beach bag on my right side, a back pack would’ve been much better. I was basically useless on both sides and kept slipping off of the rocks. It was pretty embarrassing. And yet, the blister didn’t pop. Even my blister is tough! I won’t insert the picture here, but let me tell you, it was a doozy. I think I was a bit exhausted, too. I was walking faster than my feet would carry me. I had hit my happiness threshold and found myself running from an experience that I dearly wanted but couldn’t handle at the time.

maui beach

Another thing worth mentioning is the beauty of Maui; it’s breathtaking, remarkable, and humbling. I’ve seen my share of mountains from Colorado to Utah to Montana and even the wonderful Great Smoky Mountains. But the mountains in Hawaii have a presence to them, they are living and breathing and filled with spirit. The natives are also filled with this aloha spirit, I think it comes from living on the island and being surrounded by peace and love. It’s simply amazing! 🙂 I had no idea how special it is there. So, it’s not surprising that a few days ago, I felt completely depressed to be back here. I think it’s pretty normal to come down from a high like that. There aren’t too many places that can equal the beauty of Maui. Surprisingly, I didn’t take many photos. Bear took photos of everyone from Camp Koru 29 which I re-posted on my brand new Facebook page. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/julie.knose.79

I will be forever grateful for my experience and I don’t regret any of it. Well, maybe the sunburn and blister! Although, pain is a teacher. It forced me to say the two words I rarely say or said, “It hurts.” I’m glad it’s healing and no longer hurting me. I’m a lucky girl. Lucky to have met an amazing group of friends. We went through hell and we deserve every bit of joy and happiness. I am proud to be a survivor, if it means standing in their company. We survived the darkness so that we can live in the light. That’s our job. That’s all we have to do. No stress. No pressure. Just being you is enough. Just living is enough. Just reaching out is enough. God gives us opportunities like these to heal and play and laugh. Life isn’t without pain, yet having friends who understand makes the pain go away. That’s why a cancer survivor camp is the most awesome thing in the world. We aren’t alone, we have each other, and being loved is the best feeling in the world.

Have a great week,

Julie aka Lark 🙂

Oh what the hell, the blister was pretty remarkable!!

the maui blister

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 seeing  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! 🙂

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! 🙂 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. 🙁 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! 🙂 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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The Healing Room