From Yoga

Check(ed) 1-2-3…

This is not a test. This is not about a cute little penguin eating an ice cream cone either. Although since his name is Frank, I’ll follow suit…cuz let’s be frank… If it were a test, I gimme an A. (I thought about giving myself an A+ but that would be boring and leave no room for improvement.) But like I said it’s not a test. This is life. My life…so far.

This is that time of year where we’ve all been throwing down our New Year’s Resolutions/Intentions/Hopes/Dreams/Goals/ToDo’s/Much Ado’s/Whatever you wanna call it, it’s chill just like that scoop of pink bubblegum ice cream Frank’s #nomnom-ing on. I took my own sweet time and worked on mine during January, via a vision board project with my daughter while I spent her birthday month with her in #taranthewonderbabyland aka Denver.

This is not that post. Stay tuned for that post.

This is the prequel to that post. If you know me at all, you know I love me a To Do list like nobody’s biz.

But one of the things I love most about To Do lists, is they help me get shit done cuz I get superkaPOWer motivated checking things off. That Been there, Done that feeling… #amiright?! It got me thinking that maybe a little pause, and dare I say a little celebration, is in order. In honor of the Done list. Which I feel is a more fitting ceremony than merely crumpling up said list and tossing it in the nearest trash can.

So here’s to the Done list that I’ve been there done that these 51 trips around the sun.

In no particular order, here’s a quarter of a century of some of my fave things (in the history of the 51 times I’ve surfed the sun) that I’ve crossed off my To Do list…

  1. Wrote a book
  2. Ran a 10-hour endurance run and netted 35 miles
  3. Ran the #Route66 marathon and world’s shortest ultra
  4. Road-tripped Route 66
  5. Road-tripped California Highway 1 in a convertible
  6. Road-tripped from Vegas to Grand Canyon in a convertible, saw the Grand Canyon, ran the Grand Canyon half marathon trail run
  7. Watched a sunset at Joshua Tree National Park while listening to U2’s Joshua Tree album. TWICE
  8. Met my creativity guru Liz Gilbert TWICE and she remembered me, also she commented that I write like a dream on my FB
  9. Met my writing gurus Anne Lamott and Jasper Fforde TWICE
  10. Met my photography guru Jeremy Cowart TWICE
  11. Did a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, ran the breathtaking Jerusalem ½ marathon, was Kosher for 3 weeks while spending time with my beloved Achoti
  12. Drove down to the Keys and had a Cuban sandwich and some Cuban coffee
  13. Stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
  14. Checked in to Hotel California. Heard the mission bell ring. Didn’t check out
  15. Created my #postcardsfromtheroad #Route66 photo exhibit, one of my pics made it into an #americanroadtrip art show at a gallery in NYC, won photographer of the year at ADC’s ACA academy awards for artists, had my first solo exhibit at the 86
  16. Raised my sweet Redheads, homeschooled them for 16 years #bestjobEVER
  17. I am Gigi #hearmeroar #bestjobEVER
  18. Produced SCAR Cincy exhibit, SCAR exhibition consultant, created scar blog, produced SCAR BAMA at Freedom Center
  19. Produced Angelo Merendino’s exhibit in Cincy
  20. Grace project roadtrip sidekick and assistant
  21. Dante pilgrimage and tour in Florence
  22. Saw Rafa play on clay (in Rome sweet Rome)
  23. Ran my own half marathon from Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma on july 4, 2014 during my route 66 road trip
  24. Ran from Illinois to Missouri across the chain of rocks bridge TWICE
  25. Painted desert
  26. Took down 24 chemo cocktails and (so far so good, 8 years later #yearoftheoctupus) kicked cancer’s ass
  27. Won city districts with my tennis team with me on court 1 my first season back after cancer
  28. Got a volleyball scholarship to college
  29. Got up on stage and told a story at Bespoken Live (a moth-like storytelling event) (3 X so far)
  30. Hiked Ocho Rios in Jamaica
  31. Participated in peaceful protests on Capital Hill
  32. Got tats (12) (so far)
  33. Been COMPLETELY bald down to all but a couple eyelashes
  34. Saw Niagara Falls
  35. Drank a shot out of a test tube at Frankenstein’s Pub in Edinburgh
  36. Bought a copy of The Little Prince from a cashier who was brushing her teeth at Shakespeare’s & Co. in Paris
  37. Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam
  38. Read the Beatitudes on the Mount of Olives. Broke bread and spilled wine there with my friend and fellow pilgrim on my journey to the Holy Land and back. We walked the Via Dolorosa together.
  39. Train-tripped through the Alps from Munich to Rome
  40. Followed in Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday footsteps, vespa-ing about Rome (until the “Vespa Incident” in which the brake didn’t break and I did a Wiley Coyote into a wall and broke my face)
  41. Got red clay on my tennis shoes at Roland Garros in Paris
  42. Snorkeled in Cozumel
  43. Saw Wicked on and off broadway
  44. Walked into THE Cheers Bar and everybody yelled JOULES!
  45. Did a Mayan mud hut sweat lodge ritual aka Temazcal and had the most incredible Mayan massage IN THE WORLD aka Kukulkan in Cancun
  46. Road-tripped up the coast of Scotland
  47. Hiked Hadrian’s Wall
  48. Created my own Not-a-Chemo-Cocktail (for my book release party)
  49. Drank a ½ pint in THE Rabbit Room of THE Bird & Baby aka Eagle and Child Pub, where the Inklings used to hang out
  50. Saw THE wardrobe (at Wheaton University)
  51. Liverpool. Magical Mystery Tour. Hard Day’s Night Hotel. Cavern Club. Amanda and I closed down the club, singing and dancing our hearts out with the Beatles cover band.

I know I probs missed a few epic moments but I tried not to overthink it too much and just go with the flow of my own little brainstorm. #postcardfromtheroad #memorylane #epicmoments #done

What’s on your DONE list?

Drunkard’s Prayer

I know it’s throw back Thursday, not throw UP Thursday, but I just got a phone call from my oncologist’s office, letting me know that it’s time for my quarterly check-up…and I almost tossed my cookies (or in this case, nachos). Happens every time. That first chemo cocktail I downed six years ago yesterday, waking up with my first chemo hangover six years ago TODAY… has. left. it’s. mark. on. me. Besides the port scar. Which I had a big c (namaste _/_ Laura Linney) tattooed on—copyright that cancer.

Photo Cred goes to my friend Isis Charise, photographer of The Grace Project

Anyway, so this past weekend I went to a Jen Pastiloff Manifestation retreat in Ojai, California. It was a gift from the hubcap aka Mr. Joules, for my 6 year cancerversary, which I just celebrated August 20th. Now, this is a thing that drives my Redheads bOnKeRs (because they keep their “letters to Santa” constantly updated on Google docs) but I don’t have a list. Mostly because I already feel so lucky that I can’t even imagine what else in the world I could possibly ask for. But I asked for this because I felt I could use a little inspiration boost(er) before my 6-year check up this coming Monday.

One of the exercises she had us do at the retreat is the inspiration for today’s #tbt pic/post. This is where I feel like it’s only fair to give you a #CheeseAlert—so you might want to go pour a glass of wine to go with the cheese I’m about to throw down not up for throw back Thursday.

The exercise I’m referring to, was a writing prompt. The writing prompt flowed from a series of yoga poses. Somewhere in the ebb and flow of the yoga poses and the writing prompts, a beautiful breakdown occurs in places that were a little stuck. All the “I would/could/should/did/didn’t/have to/can’t excuses we all make. Something in the way she makes us do all those hi-YAH! kicks, makes us feel like we’re knocking down walls. (And we did.) Also, all those planks rendered our arms incapable of being raised, even an inch, to point out even one of those lame ass excuses that we all make for not manifesting aka “making shit happen” (the good kind) in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I have a boatload of excuses in my head. So many voices in my head. And way too freaking often, I hear them calling, “All aboard!” Next thing I know, I’m sailing away on a yacht called Hotel California where “you can check out anytime but you can never leave”.

Which is why it’s always a good idea to keep the voices in our head in check. Or, check-mate, as it so happened, for me during this particular exercise.  The writing prompt was to write a letter to ourself in the voice of someone who loves us.

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times, on the path that you have chosen, you could never experience fear or doubt again.”~Wayne Dyer

This is one of Jen’s themes. It’s also one of the magical things that happens at her workshops and retreats, when you look around the room at the beautiful souls who walked beside you through the weekend, and beyond.

I wrote my letter, to myself, in the voice of my husband. And here’s where the cheese enters. But not, as you might suppose, just because I’m the one stringing together said cheese. The truth of the matter is: Dave is just as cheesy as me. I was only channeling him, or I guess you could say, being the grater. Here’s a little slice (and no, I didn’t cut it) of the cheese:

Dear Joules, my jewel, wife of my youth and, I hope—NO. I know. Yes, darling, I know you have trouble seeing that far ahead, into the future, but I know. I know like I know Jesus loves me, and you, that we will be old together one day, like the couple in UP—but we won’t wait to chase our dreams. We are not waiting. The chase is on! And what. a. ride… Go ahead and put your hands up in the air. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t shave. I’m over here right next to you. I got you. Like I vowed when we were 22. And I believe you’ll still love me when I’m 64. And beyond. Even if you can’t see that far. I can see. This I know. I know enough for the both of us.

I forgot to sign it but I think I nailed it, and I have proof. I’ve been celebrating my 6 year cancerversary with this six part series of a half a dozen chapters from my book, SHAKEN NOT STIRRED…A CHEMO COCKTAIL, and there just so happens to be a chapter that Dave wrote for me. Kinda like a letter in the voice of someone who loves me…

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#tbt to the day after Christmas 2008 aka our 21st anniversary

 

Chapter 13
Drunkard’s Prayer

[Cue my fave band Over the Rhine. Click HERE to hear the song that is the soundtrack to this chapter.]

And by drunkard, I mean to give the microphone here to Dave (while I take a little break to pour another glass of wine) because he’s the one who got stuck with a handful of “in sickness” and “for worse” chips. If I were to write a six-word memoir, it would be Sorry I Cashed “In Sickness” Chips. And the sequel would be, I Hope It’s “For Better” Now. Anyway, without further ado . . . Dave.

Joules (or as I call her, Joule, for short, which I prefer to spell Jewel, if you don’t mind) is a sucker for Shakespeare. I am a sucker for my Jewel. A + B = C. It’s simple math, really. I believe even she could figure that one out and with one hand tied behind her back. Even if it’s the one with that little finger she’s got me wrapped around.

All that to say, I like Shakespeare too. Once I stood up on a bench in the middle of Borders and recited Sonnet 116 to her—it’s one of our favorites of his sonnets. And it goes, something like this… ahem: 

Sonnet 116

By Will

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Shakespeare wrote, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” Surely he had not considered “the remover” to be a breast surgeon, nor “Time’s sickle” to be a scalpel, nor the compass of Time’s sickle to encompass his love’s breasts.

We’re not talking wrinkles, gray hair, and a little extra weight here. This is serious alteration. But when it came down to them or her, clearly they had to go.

I admit, initially I told myself that this will be a good thing. There will be reconstruction. My wife will be perky in her old age. But looking into the details, it quickly became obvious that this was not an option either of us wanted. But I have found, in true love, that there is a breastliness that transcends the physical and is more tangible than the flesh.

The only real difference this alteration has brought is that when we embrace, our hearts are that much closer together.

“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” As I gaze on her even now, I hear my heart say, “Well then, Will, this must be love.”

Soul Tattoo

(for Jen Pastiloff)10341949_10203009237703744_3128114967743655481_n

At the end of my days, when I lay me down—

Not to chase dreams, and no more counting sheep…

But when Savasana “gets real”: me, unwound

From this long insomnia to the Big Sleep.

 

When I close my eyes and connect the dots

Tracing the R, the I, especially the P—

In Pen—I’ll inhale like tomorrow’s not.

Holding it like a forget-me-NOT. Me.

 

Swirling that little word around my tongue—

Trying to discern the aftertaste. Mine.

Before I spit it out. Before my song’s sung.

When I ask, “What have I done?” One. Final. Time.

 

When my slobber hits the pillow—Most of

All—Let my answer be: I. Have. Done. LOVE

Road Trip to Kripalu

1510884_10202384062754761_1474129807_nA few months ago I was up late counting sheep, when some shit I’d been dealing with must’ve hit the ceiling fan over my bed and started splatting all over the sheep, spotting them like 101 Dalmatians. Which kinda felt like a spoiler alert to the sleeping game I was trying to win. So I stopped counting shitty sheep and I prayed a little. Which is probably what I should’ve been doing about my shit in the first place instead of kicking it around a bit, and then, kicking myself for making such a mess. I’m assuming we all know how messy metaphorical shit can get when you kick it around. Now, I know I’m not supposed to go assuming, but I figure it’s legit in this case, since there’s no such thing as a shit vaccine. I don’t think there is a sequel or grown-up version of the children’s book, Everyone Poops. But I could see it being called something like, Everybody is Full of Shit. Well, at least, I know I am, on a pretty “regular” basis.

Anyway, after all of that ruckus I sort of pulled it together a bit. I wasn’t in the mood to go back to counting sheep quite yet so I woke up my computer, and Googled: “yoga, writing, cancer, retreat” to see where it would lead. Yeah, that third word is some of the shit I was dealing with. The first two are a couple of ways I try to deal. And the last word sounded like a good thing to do when you’re up to your sleepy eyeballs dealing with your own shit.

poster-yoga-cat-med

Google threw down an article Jen wrote for LIVESTRONG called “7 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat”.  No shit.  This was my introduction Jen Pastiloff and her Manifestation Retreats. It didn’t take me long, after falling head over heels into the lovely vortex that is Jen’s tribe, from the Gateway of that LIVESTRONG article, to Facebook stalking her, and then staying up all night watching her YouTube channel, to realize (become enlightened;) that Manifesting is aka Making Shit Happen, in Jen speak. Which, translated, meant that of course I had to go. I hadn’t tried manifesting my shit before so I thought I’d give it a “swirly”.

I’d already practically nodded my head off, agreeing with her 7 reasons I should go on a yoga retreat. As if, in fact, my body was, literally, saying YES. So I booked the next available Manifestation retreat, which meant packing up my shit for a road-trip to Kripalu in January. I don’t usually buy gifts for myself but this was a gift I needed to give myself. I saw it as the perfect diving board into 2014—a gift, which, 5 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer, I never even imagined. It was time to re-imagine, cast a vision, set course, and dive in. Head first. No tiptoeing about it.

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When I first walked in the door, I had a pretty intense moment of truth. I didn’t know anybody. And, I’m actually super shy. Luckily I have blue hair, so I don’t think anybody noticed my knees shaking like green Jell-O when I walked across the room like Gumby and plopped down to join the tribe 40 women sitting in a circle, like lotuses blooming. As bold a display as it was a beautiful bouquet.

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times on this path which you have chosen, you would never experience fear or doubt.” Jen kept repeating this quote as we went around the circle introducing ourselves to one another. Over the weekend we got to know who walked beside us. We unrolled our mats, unpacked our shit, turned it on its smelly ear in down dog, wrote down the bones, made them dance, shared our stories and our dreams, tore up our excuses, became friends, and each other’s fans. We spent the weekend as beauty hunters, making lists and lists of our #5mostbeautifulthings. This is one of the most. fun. games. EVER. We shared our beautiful things, but we also shared our shit—because love is messy like that sometimes, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Shit happens. To everybody.  Except when you’re constipated. And then you just sit on the toilet reading Leaves of Grass for what feels like forever; meanwhile shit’s just taking its own sweet time while you’re sitting there waiting for the shit to go down. Oh, shit’s gonna go down. And sometimes it’s going to hit the fan.

Shit happens. But so does beauty, and what if it hits the fan? Does it leave a beauty mark or make a beautiful mess? Sometimes you get dealt a shitty hand but sometimes you double down or play a wildcard and beat the dealer. Sometimes you’re up shit creek but at least you’re on a boat. You may not have a paddle, but at least you’re sipping red wine in your flippie-floppies with your girls on deck. Anything is possible. Even making good shit happen. Which is pretty much what a Manifestation Retreat, what Jen Pastiloff, is all about.

Post road trip to Kripalu, I’d have to say, that the shit that drove me there, and the beauty I came away with, are two sides of the same coin. I put so much pressure on myself to not waste this gift of life, but to hopefully leave a beauty mark—that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I put so much pressure on myself not to waste a second of the gift of time that I’ve been given, but to spend myself, paying forward the gratitude I feel all the way down to my yoga toes—by making it count that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a single breath, but sometimes I forget to breathe. This is why I drove to Kripalu. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a heart that beats, or forget what it beats for. This is why I drove to Kripalu.

Jen summed it up best when she wrapped up our time together with these words, this mantra: “At the end of your life, when you say one final ‘What have I done?’ let your answer be, I have done love.”

#iamlove

That’s all.

(Except for the part where I express my gratitude to Jen, Kripalu, and the tribe. Peace, love, and namaste. *bows to your unapologetic awesomeness. Xoxo.)

12 Gifts of Christmas [unwRAP Mix]

Happy 11th day of Christmas everybody! So, the traditional gift for today, would be 11 pipers piping—which makes me lmao a little because of the interesting twist that song could take here in Colorado these days. Anyway, just sitting here at the coziest little coffee shop in my daughter Amanda’s new hood, sipping not on a pipe, but a Cortado, and watching all the fluffy snowflakes make a white canvas of Denver for my baby girl to begin writing the next chapter of her story on.

Storybrook?

And it’s just as enchanting to begin a happy new year here, with her, in this storybrook-like setting, which is where I find myself looking forward to 2014 and the 12 gifts (otherwise known as New Year’s resolutions) that I am giving myself. In no particular order. They are a mixture of personal goals, bucket list items, birthday candle wishes, and pie in the sky dreams.

  1. Last year I ran 5 half marathons to celebrate my 5 year cancerversary. This year I’m upping the ante to 1/2 a dozen 1/2s (Choices, choices! …Charleston, SC/Heart Mini/Flying Pig/Grand Canyon/Little Miami/Air Force/Cleveland/Cincinnati) and crossing my fingers for a full.
  2. Dave and I have already signed up for the Grand Canyon 1/2 marathon in May, which allows me to open one big fat bucket list item of seeing the Grand Canyon with a side of Circ De Soleil Beatles.
  3. Schedule my writing as a priority into my days to whip my WIPs (Homeschool Happy Hour…it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, kids and Bottoms Up…”Getting Over” Cancer) into books.
  4. Finish recording the audio book version of Shaken Not Stirred…a Chemo Cocktail.
  5. Develop my own yoga practice outside of my classes. Consider taking yoga teacher training so I could help other cancer survivors learn yoga.
  6. Learn to make origami cranes. So I can make a 1000. Praying for my survivor peeps as I make each one. Then give them away one by one.
  7. Take the stairs whenever possible. The first time I went to Paris we took the elevator up the Eiffel Tower. It has driven me crazy ever since. When my sweet Mikeyy and got a second chance to go back to Paris with high hopes of finally climbing the stairs, they were closed.
  8. Drink 1/2 my weight (in ounces) of water per day. Between the aftermath of chemo, my difficulty in sitting still, and my beverages of choice (black coffee/red wine) I struggle with staying properly hydrated. Need to focus on this, and always be sipping on the H2O’s. I used to give up wine for Lent every year before I got cancer. But then the year I got cancer my sweet Amanda was sad about me giving up anything for Lent, since she felt like I already had so much taken away, so I didn’t give it or anything up that year. I miss the spiritual discipline and look forward to resuming the practice. It’s always been a pie in the sky goal to one day give up coffee (for Lent) since that seems the hardest thing, as I cannot not drink coffee every day, without giving myself a headache. Bread and wine are the next hardest, and elements of my diet that I will offer up this Lent. I love to cook and especially enjoy pairing wine with my meals; beyond that, I am basically a carbohydratarian at heart. So this is a biggie for me. But I’m taking back something cancer tried to take from me: the practice of this spiritual discipline.
  9. Now that the Redheads have all flown the Evanshire, it’s time for simplifying, de-cluttering, streamlining, organizing this hobbit hole for 2. In order to help me wrap this gift so I can have the pleasure of opening it, I have hired a part-time personal assistant to kick my ass into gear and keep me on track. This will also free me up to write.
  10. Make memory book photo albums for the Redheads. I bought the albums after my sweet Amanda’s sweet 16th birthday when she gave me the idea. But somewhere between the last time I developed an actual role of film, and the proliferation of digital cameras in the Evanshire not to mention copious amounts of digital pictures, and a couple of computer crashes to boot, it became an overwhelming puzzle to sort all these snapshots of our life. My hope is to give each of my Redheads their memory book photo album for Valentines Day this year. With a little help from my friend and personal assistant.
  11. Write poetry, Blog and Vlog once a week. They are all good for my writing. Poetry + Prose = Beauty. Blogging is a good way to connect with my tribe of peeps, to test drive stuff I’m working on with them, and to get valuable feedback from them. Vlogging yanks me out of my comfort zone, which is behind the screen, not on it. For me it’s boot camp to tame the shy.
  12. Recently I googled: Cancer, Writing, Yoga, Retreat, thinking I needed some kind of kick-starter to this next chapter in my life (after cancer, empty nest, book 2).  I found what I was looking for on the very first try. I signed up and later this month I am roadtripping to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshires and I can’t wait to unwrap that gift to myself.

So that’s my 12 gifts. If you haven’t already shared your 12 gifts or New Year’s resolutions, whatever you want to call them, please feel fee to do so in the comment section. Also please link your blog if you have one. We can cheer each other on!

Tomorrow is the 12th day of Christmas, and I will be writing about my word for the year. Have you already chosen on? Or has a word chosen you? I’d love to hear and be inspired. Please also share that in the comment section.

Cheers, love, and happy unwrapping!

Down The Rabbit Hole

I’m not sure if it’s because my daughter Amanda and I have been chasing a certain white rabbit’s tale in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, while, simultaneously binge-watching Once Upon A Time, to try and cram in ALL the happy endings we can, before she and her hubby pack up for their next adventure aka Once Upon a Time in Denver aka the trail of this mama’s tears… but my vertigo has been a wather wascally rabbit of late. Two weeks ago today, it, literally, threw me down the rabbit hole. I had just awakened and almost made it across the room to the bathroom, when everything went all swirly, and somebody pulled the floor out from underneath me. I banged my shoulder on the wall, which broke my fall, and in retrospect, probably saved my poor bean from yet another head injury. Whew. But it scared the crap out of Dave. Poor guy was busy trying to finish sawing all the logs when I came crashing down and startled him awake from such sweet slumber.

DAVE: Wh…what was that?! Did you hear that? What just hap’d? What in the world are you doing on the floor?

Me: Um…falling.

where's alice

We know for certain that this falling out of bed incident had nothing to do with me “waking up on the wrong side of the bed”. I’ve been sleeping on the right side for years, just as a precaution. But clearly, one lesson I think we all learned, was that I should never attempt getting out of bed without being properly caffeinated. Dave usually wakes up before me and brings me coffee in bed every morning, so this has not been an issue before. However, on this fateful morning, and, I don’t want to point any fingers here (unless it stirs the coffee pot;) but… either he slept in, or I accidentally woke up first. Like I said, no sense in pointing any fingers. Neither are very likely to happen again. Mostly because I like tootsie roll pops better than worms. But also because Dave is still too scared to go back to sleep.

Anyway, thanks to the my ENT, Emmy, my physical therapist at the Balance Center, and the Epley Maneuver, we managed to stop the spinning. But I have yet to fully regain my land legs. Which is not really even the Vertigo’s fault, but chronic inflammation in my ears, that makes me feel kinda like I’m on a boat most of the time.

I’ve been dealing with inner ear issues ever since the “Vespa Incident” in which I pretty much did a Wiley Coyote splat into a stone wall, pretty much breaking my face (nose, cheek, eye orbit, nasopharynx) while on holiday in Rome during a chemo break in the spring of 2009. (I wrote more about my Roman holiday and “Vespa Incident” in Shaken Not Stirred…a Chemo Cocktail, in Part II, Round 13 “That’s Amore”. (Btw, the Kindle version of my book comes bundled FREE with purchase of the paperback version on Amazon till the end of the year:)

I didn’t even know what a nasopharynx was, let alone properly appreciate mine, before I broke it. But I’ve missed the crap out of it every day since. My ENT told me the nasopharynx is, or in my case, was, the space behind my nose; its job was kinda like a traffic cop, to direct air and mucus flow, and help out with respiratory functions and drainage. Except for my air traffic controller quit when I broke it. So basically, I have these rather annoying Gollumesque episodes whenever I have a mucus traffic jam.

That’s one reason I am freakishly afraid of getting a cold or being around peeps who should be home in bed taking NyQuil. (Also I don’t want to ever accidentally carry mine or anybody else’s cold to any of my peeps who are already getting their asses and immune systems kicked by chemo. Cuz that’s. just. cruel. And that was me on my soapbox. But I’ll get down now cuz the altitude makes me dizzy.)

These Gollumesque episodes are also one reason I started doing yoga. A few of my doctors including my ENT actually suggested it as being helpful in dealing with some of the post traumatic stress of cancer and treatment and life after cancer and treatment. I don’t really feel like stressed-out is one of my descriptors, but obviously we all deal with our own stressors in life, and apparently, my stress collects in and emanates from my neck (My massage therapist says my neck is the Taj Mahal of stress) and gravitates to my jaw. This manifests in me often clenching my jaw, which exasperates the traffic jam, even if I’m not mentally or emotionally registering stress. Stress is stress, whether it’s good stress or bad stress. And like everybody else I have my share of both. It’s just that without my nasopharynx I have to be my own freaking traffic cop now or channel Gollum.

The monkey wrench in all this dizzy biz has been the overlap of chemo fog that hovers over my head like an empty thought bubble. Which kinda looks like a cloud, if you think about it. Which reminds me of Joe Versus The VolcanoExcept chemo brain is basically like a for real brain cloud. Anyway, it’s sometimes hard to discern where the fog ends and the dizzy begins, which makes it difficult to navigate sometimes.

I don’t mean to put this out there as me being all whiney (winey, maybe;) but as a prayer request, as we are getting ready to drive 1/2 way across the country, not to mention, to another altitude, on Friday. Then we fly home 7 January. My poor eardrums are understandably gun-shy on both counts, having just gone through 2 months of antibiotics, anti-inflams, steroids, sudafed, mucinex, and etc., oh my, as I’ve been trying to get on top of an ear infection I got after the Indy 1/2 marathon Dave and I ran on 2 November. I haven’t actually run since then, which has driven me a little bit bat shit stir crazy, not gonna lie. But I have been trying to chill and cut myself some slack and let my body focus on healing my eardrum so this dizzy blonde can get back to marching to my own beat again stat.

FreeWRITE (c’mon and take a freeWRITE)

So last night it was my turn to teach the writing lesson at Word Bums, my amazing writer’s group that meets once a month (1st Wednesdays) at Book Bums coffee shop. It’s like Cheers, but with coffee. But last night I brought champagne, since it was the eve of Independence Day, not to mention, time to play words with friends—in person! But I digress…and it’s only the first paragraph in.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun talking about “The Write Zone” which Mikeyy suggested I entitle it: The TwiWRITE Zone… but unfortunately he told me as I was practically running out the door, already late to my very important date… and I didn’t have time to download the song (Do-do-do-do. Do-do-do-do) to set the mood. It was all for the best. In retrospect, do-do-do-do is pretty much the antonym of my lesson. So whew. Having my own time zone works itself out sometimes.

Speaking of time zones, that’s a pretty magical segue back to our original rabbit trail of the writing zone. First we brainstormed a bit about some of the ways we crazy rabbits enter the write zone.

Besides the obvious “butt in chair” answer that everybody was practically falling out of their chairs to say first, here are some of the ways we encourage the ink, blood, words to flow: butt in chair, music, wine, coffee, peace and quiet, writing space, nature, chunk of time, spur of the moment, blinkingcursor, blank page, egg timer, munchies, need, deadline, free association, research.

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My summer writing space out on the back deck of the Evanshire

One of the keys to the zone that we talked about, wrote about last night, was, IS: Being Present. It’s not just a yoga thing. But I have been trying to figure out how to bring my yoga to my writing, and life. I loved this quote from Usher on The Voice this season: “We’rehumans being, not just doing.”

But just being is harder than it looks. There’s an art to it. Which is the fun part for wordies like us. Once our butt’s in the chair, surely that blinking cursor is…making us get sleepy, haha.  But seriously, I like to think of it as a thing ofenchantment. Like a flash going off and capturing snapshots. Right here, rightnow. Which is always a good place to be, and to begin.

Now… I know it was the eve of Independence Day and everything… but we did talk about one wee tiny bit of a rule… of which to be mindful… in the spirit of being present: write what we know. (Something to thinkabout: in the word “know” the k is silent and what we are left with is NOW. Hmm…;) So the first thing we had to consider, was where we were, right now, I mean, then and there?

Where WE were, last night, was on the eve of 4th of July. So that’s where we began, what we started with. And because the 4th means freedom, and in the spirit of Independence, we had 3 prompts to choose from. Everyone was FREE to choose one, or to go all 3 Musketeers on us and do that “all for one and all for one” thing.

Here are the 3 prompts:

  1. 1)  Freedom is…
  2. 2)   A fave 4th of July memory
  3. 3)   Something red, white, blue (it’s ok, encouraged to be colorblind by not limiting yourself merely to the colors of objects…for example, Mikeyy said he’d write about an angry Caucasian Jazz player, or Lucy inthe Sky with Diamonds;)

In a follow-up post, I’ll share what I wrote about. But meanwhile, as it is NOW, and in the spirit of, Independence Day, not to mention, it is raining outside, I thought a FREEwrite sounded like a pretty groovy indoor activity. *Champagne not included but encouraged.

Cheers, love, namaste, and happy 4th everybody!

Skipping Stones and Surfing on the Ripples

So it’s already Day 5 into 2012 and I’m just now getting around to writing that post where I go public with my New Year’s hopes, dreams, and resolutions. For those who know me, it doesn’t surprise you that I’m just now getting around to it. I’m a freaking introvert. Not to mention, super freaking shy. Besides, 2011 was such a ridiculous amazing year for me that it’s not like I wanted that party to slow down enough for me to sit still and think about “What’s next?” Instead what really went down, was there was a bit more squeezing of life into what remained of 2011. I admit it, I’m a glutton when it comes to squeezing that last drop out. (It’s a good thing for me, that Jesus hangs out with peeps like that.)

Early on in 2011, I met a woman on a plane who told me that after meeting me, she had an image pop up in her mind that she felt like she was supposed to share with me. She said that she pictured a juicy pink grapefruit in my hand, that it was very sweet, and that I was going to squeeze every last bit out of it. She said she wanted me to know this is what God has for me. Then she gave me a $20 bill and told me she wanted the first copy of my book when I published it. Which I kept on my desk in front of me as I tried to squeeze the best out of my book in the editing process. (Yes, of course, I sent her a book!)

I. Love. Grapefruit. And I love whoever invented the grapefruit spoon. Have you ever noticed that when you scoop out grapefruit it sounds like a kiss? I think God did that on purpose to say, “Hey I love you! Now go have a good day! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.” (At least, my grapefruit had 25 kisses in it this morning. Which means, you KNOW it’s going to be a good day. And yes, I counted them. Who wouldn’t count kisses from God?)

Anyway, I appreciated that word picture she gave me. I don’t think in pictures; I think in words. Then I like to play with them. I try and make pretty word pictures since I can’t draw. But let’s not get into my flaws right now. This is supposed to be one of those uplifting, dive off into the New Year type of posts and how will we ever get there if we dwell on such things?

So one of the first things I read on Facebook when I finally dragged my lazy bum out of bed on New Year’s Day, was from one of my friend Julie Sweeney’s last posts of 2011. She suggested thinking of “a single word to represent a focus of intention for the new year (rather than a list of resolutions).”

I liked that idea a lot. I especially like it here on January 5th, where I’m 5 days behind the resolution groove.

So here’s my word:

Ripple

During The SCAR Project Exhibit which I helped bring to Cincinnati during Pinktober, a friend took me aside and advised me to make sure I didn’t just jump into the next thing without taking time to experience the beautiful ripples from the stone I’d just thrown that was skipping so happily right in front of me. The next day another friend came up to me at the exhibit and asked me if I had considered all the Ripples spiraling out from The SCAR Project and my book? Well, I don’t have to be hit on the head three times. I decided I better sit back and enjoy the ride, or else. (OK, so I have a hard time sitting still . . . so maybe if I grabbed a metaphorical surf board;)

Anyway, here are some of the ripples I’m riding into 2012:

1. My book! It’s still a bit surreal to me that I actually get to finally say MY BOOK! But it’s out there on Amazon and Kindle. I’ve wanted to write a book ever since Mrs. Daneal helped me crack the code in kindergarten and I  went home that day and read a book all by myself. It was a big orange book called “I Want To Read” which  about drove me crazy because I so identified with the little girl in the story.  My Amanda was the same when she was little and I was reading Dr. Seuss to her. One day she pointed at the words on the bottom of the page, nearly knocking the book out of my hands, and then she literally threw her hands up in the air and begged me: “MAMA I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IT SAYS DOWN THERE WHERE THE SQUIGGLES ARE!”

I had a couple ridiculous fabulous book launch parties in December. One was at Book Bums, the coffee shop where I hang out a lot, go to my writers group, and where I wrote quite a lot of my book, while sipping on their delish highlander grog. The other one was at Art Design Consultants, the “Gallery in the Sky” downtown Cincy where we held The SCAR Project exhibit.

I like that particular picture from the book release parties, because I like the way my Amanda is looking at me. Also I love my sweet little survivor sister Paige sitting there all cute and sipping on a not-a-chemo-cocktail (minus the vodka of course) while I’m saying a few thank you’s before doing a reading.

I’m still trying to take it all in. So. much. fun. I feel like such a lucky girl, and so very grateful to have so much love all around me.

I’m scheduled to do an interview for a local magazine next week, 3 book clubs this month, and to speak at Cincinnati State in March. And my Mikey is going to help produce an audio book. Also I’m happy to announce that my Redheads have officially released the “Cancer is a Bitch” song on iTunes! But there’s also…

2. The SCAR Project. Working on The SCAR Project Cincinnati Exhibit was one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. I met so many wonderful people and learned so much about myself. When my committee and I traveled to NYC to present The SCAR Project with a donation from our exhibit, I found myself asking David Jay if there was more that I could do. So now I’m lucky enough to still be working on The SCAR Project, consulting with other people who are trying to bring it to their cities. So far it looks as if there will be exhibits in DC, LA, and Toronto this year! I’m having the time of my life working with those who are trying to make it happen. Also, one of the loveliest things about working on The SCAR Project Cincy Exhibit was getting to know many of the girls who have participated in it. I had begun interviewing the girls and/or hosting their stories in their own words on our SCAR Project Cincy blog. I’m really excited that I am going to be able to continue doing this as we are going to launch a SCAR Project blog on the web site.

3. My Amanda got engaged and thus we are planning a wedding! Here is my favorite of their engagement photos:

Amanda will become Mrs. Gary Duane Freaking Benton on June 10, 2012. That is a day after they graduate from the University of Cincinnati. What a weekend, no? Their plans are to go with YWAM on a mission trip to Wales for a year. Then they intend to move to Denver, where Gary intends on going to seminary to be an Army chaplain.

4. The nest is emptying. Sad in one way. But it’s also exciting to watch the Redheads chasing after their dreams at the same time. And depending on where they land, it looks like some interesting holidays for me!

5. Meanwhile, we have a lovely window where Mikeyy is commuting from home. Kinda cool that Matt had his year of being an only child at home last year while Mikeyy was out of the country with YWAM, and now Mikeyy has his turn.

6. Ive begun practicing yoga. Lucky for me, the yoga studio near me started a book club at my coffee shop a few months ago. This was the perfect segue into going to an actual yoga class for me. And I have been having the loveliest time getting to know my new yoga friends and learning yoga.

7. It’s cold outside, so I’m not doing much running. Hopefully my new yoga practice will keep me up fitness wise. But I do look forward to picking back up my running. I miss my daily 4 mile through the neighborhood. But not necessarily in the freezing cold. Oh how I need to live in a warmer climate.

8. Besides writing a book, there are a few other crazy things I’ve done outside of my comfort zone that I’m pretty happy about: I wrote a song which the Redheads have been covering and are going to release on their full length CD. I love what they’ve done with it and can’t wait until “Wind in My Hair” is released. During The SCAR Project I had to step way out of my comfort zone and do a couple of interviews on TV and radio. Although I don’t recommend viewing them in HD (holy crap my freckles jumped off the screen!) I’m glad I didn’t chicken out because it was good for me to stand in for my friend Vanessa and to promote The SCAR Project despite my shyness. One of the craziest fun things I did this past year was to hang out on set where my Mikeyy was being a grip and production assistant, and then end up being a stand-in and then even an extra in one scene that took place, appropriately, in a coffee shop! Crazier still, and it comes out this week, but the owner of the art gallery (where we hosted The SCAR Project) and I were photographed for a magazine article about successful charity galas in Cincinnati. Who EVER would’ve thought I’d do fashion photography? HA! It was more like Litsa (the Greek goddess) and me (the cartoon character)!

9. I can’t end a post on ripples that affect me without mentioning people I miss who are resting in peace during 2011 after fighting the beast that is cancer: Mary Jo Cropper, Daria, Jolene, Kaye, Cindi. I miss you all, and even though cancer is done with me (God willing) I am not done with it. You are always in my heart.

And since I don’t really know how to surf, before I hang 10 I’ll just stop there. Besides this post was brought to you by a glass of 9 Stones Shiraz that I’ve been sipping on while I skip these stones and surf the ripples they make. So cheers to you, your health, this new year, and to skipping stones and surfing ripples in 2012.