Convening Optimism

Each of us can write a list of individual, local, national and worldly grievances, wrongs, and sins. We have just ended a year that seemed to rapidly replicate all these grievances, wrongs, and sins into an event that showed us the fragility of our union, if not our democracy in the United States.

Many of us are hurting perhaps even broken in ways uniquely our own but also certainly collectively in the United States. The coronavirus has changed the world for millions forever. The presidential election and the post insurrection has shaken us to our core.

You may think the Owl is peering through a pair of rose-colored glasses or has mixed a bit of scotch with her chemotherapy, but just hear me out. I know it may sound like I am begging you to go out on a blind date and we all know the success statistics on blind dates. It may also feel like I am asking you to to attend a dysfunctional family party on a non-obligatory holiday, and yes, I know statistics are not great there either.

Do me a favor though and repeat the Owl’s mantra after me:

Resist Reaction Reason Rules.

Now hold that that thought…

What will it take for each of us to unite, to heal, to feel we belong and not at the expense of another person?

Or a better question: what can each of us invest to mutually diversify whatever risk we believe there is to ourselves to earn a better return for all of us in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

What will convince us that the other person’s well-being is just as important as my own?

As I mentioned earlier, too much negativity has and is ruling each of us. 2020 was the icing on that gluten-free cake!

I am asking that we need to dig deep inside our hearts and minds that goodness pervades reality. We may need to find the biggest shovel possible to dig really deep into our soul to find that goodness ultimately predominates over evil in the world. And let’s remember there are many people who have never known goodness and who have never felt they belong or that much has been taken from them which makes optimism an almost impossible choice to make.

But each of us must have the disposition to look at events of the past and the present as opportunities to work toward a favorable outcome. Too often we think of people as hopeless causes or the culmination of events to be too difficult to overcome.

The difficulty of hopelessness is not to convene in optimism through the persistent work of seeing the other side’s point of view, of the other side’s unbelief of being heard, and both not valuing that together we are better even in our God-given differences.

I am guilty as each of you are in our separateness. Let’s turn down the heat and convene together to educate ourselves in the optimism of listening and seeing each other and the world with truly an open heart of forgiveness, if possible. Conviction, if necessary.

I may never believe 100% in what you believe in and the same may be true of you with me. Yet optimism can bring us together to respect one another, to trust each other, and hopefully to openly believe, “I value you.”

Idealistic? Perhaps.

With an open heart and steadfast spirit nonetheless I invite you to convene in this pledge of optimism in a way forward for a better tomorrow that is inclusive and just for all.

If we do not try, we will all lose something very precious – the American dream.

Peace,
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The Blogging Owl

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(c) 2017-2021 All Rights Reserved

The Team – The United States of America

As I was watching the Kansas City Chiefs pull out a win against the Cleveland Browns by none other than a Michigan man, quarterback, Chad Henne in for the concussed quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, I wrote a piece for this blog I had intended to post today. I tend to allow whatever I write to marinate overnight and edit the next day. What you are about to read is not what I had written yesterday or edited throughout the night.

My three words to live by in 2021, mindfulness, creativity and discernment are becoming a more integral part of my life. I now see it more clearly in what I had written yesterday, which is why the piece is not ready for publication and may never be published at all.

Instead I have written about my love of football because football is an analogy for life. We do not go through life without the help of other people. Our goal, no pun intended, is to try to score in happiness and or in monetary wealth and for some people that means the same thing. Other people consider their final score reflecting a life well lived. In the game of football as in the game of life there will be penalties and fines, injuries which may be career-ending, unbelievable plays of skill and fortitude, and field goals that doink the uprights for missed points that ultimately could decide the game. There are winners, losers, with games sometimes going into over-time. At some point, the tie is broken out of skill or fatigue.

Far be it for me to tell anyone how to live their life or challenge their notion of a life well-lived. I am still trying to figure that one out myself, which is why I am allowing what I had written yesterday to marinate a little longer. Now I will be the first to admit that cooking is not my forte’. Food can marinate too long, spoil or go out of date. My husband, Vinny Sal and I have had many discussions on the expiration date on foodstuffs. Even that topic seems to be one for debate which brings me back to football.

When to throw the red flag?

There are rules on what plays a coach can throw the red flag and plays that are reviewable by the referees. While the referee may determine if that play stands does not mean the opposing side accepts the outcome and moves on gracefully.

The outcome of the game is going to disappoint one set of fans and there may even be a few couch burnings, overturned cars, businesses with smashed out the windows as the disgruntled fans riot in their team’s hometown because of the loss. (This outrageous display by fandom is unsportsperson-like, plain and simple not to mention criminal behavior.) While other disappointed fans may simply go home knowing that their team played their hearts out and next season gives their team another opportunity to make the playoffs and perhaps even win the national title or the Super Bowl.

A Team Player

As a Detroit Lions fan, I know all too well all the above with penalties, fines, favorite players exiting the game of football by career-ending injuries or before this fan was ready for them to retire from the game I love. I fully remember the infamous touchdown that was not because Megatron did not ‘complete the process’ of catching the football. Time and time again the referees seemed to be paid off by the opposing team. Each year the diehard Lions fan like myself dreams of our team’s chance in the playoffs. The Detroit Lions have never won a Super Bowl.

This year the Detroit Lions once again will hire yet another general manager and a head football coach. We are left wondering about our quarterback, Matthew Stafford’s future with the team, the free agencies, and if this new regime can wisely pick the next rising star in the NFL draft who will take us into the playoffs, dare we dream even to a Super Bowl?

Much has been written about the Ford family ownership of the team; however, I will abide by the late great University Michigan football coach, Bo Schembechler:

“We want the Big Ten championship and we’re gonna win it as a Team. They can throw out all those great backs, and great quarterbacks, and great defensive players, throughout the country and in this conference, but there’s gonna be one Team that’s gonna play solely as a Team.

No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team, and if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration what effect does it have on my Team? Because you can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here.

You will never play for a Team again. You’ll play for a contract. You’ll play for this. You’ll play for that. You’ll play for everything except the team and think what a great thing it is to be a part of something that is, The Team. We’re gonna win it. We’re gonna win the championship again because we’re gonna play as team, better than anybody else in this conference, we’re gonna play together as a team.

We’re gonna believe in each other, we’re not gonna criticize each other, we’re not gonna talk about each other, we’re gonna encourage each other. And when we play as a team, when the old season is over, you and I know, it’s gonna be Michigan again, Michigan.”

Can Jim Harbaugh bring back the Bo era? Michigan fans like myself all thought he could when he arrived back home six years ago. Who could have predicted such a dismal result and still be awarded a contract extension? But I still believe in the team, the team, the team.

So, what am I trying to say here?

This week we will inaugurate a new president and vice-president of the United States of America. Whether you voted for or believe in the new regime or not, I hope you will take the last paragraph of Bo’s quote to heart and insert “…it’s gonna be USA again, USA.” As Americans we are all on the same team, the United States of America. Let’s work together!

Peace,
Blog - Owl Photo
The Blogging Owl

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(c) 2017-2021 All Rights Reserved

 

Today’s Reality: May I ask a favor?

This is the sixth post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.

Each time I have spoken to my 81-year-old narcissistic mother since being diagnosed with CML in this global pandemic of coronavirus has been an exercise of setting realistic expectations of future personal visitations and my progress with CML. She does not use the Internet. She had been reading about CML from a medical dictionary that I can only imagine is about 20 plus years old. I decided to mail to her information that explained CML, leukemia drug therapies, scientific studies on life expectancies. The information I provided to her is in this link from the National Organization of Rare Diseases “NORD” on Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/chronic-myelogenous-leukemia/) with the hope to reassure her that I do not have one foot in the grave.

After my next telephone visit with her, I realized my error in sending her the information.

My mother thanked me for mailing her the information. “It was very helpful.” She went to share with me that she heard recently that her old manager from her last employer had “the same blood cancer” as I have; and she went on to say, “he was a little bit younger than you.

My mother retired over 20 years ago and while I vaguely remember this gentleman, I do not think he was younger than I am, but I was not going to quibble about it with her. After all, she is 81 years old, wears hearing aids with rarely charged batteries, and tends to piece her information together as she sees fit for her own edification.

He did not last very long. He died last summer,” she blurted out.

I said calmly, “he probably was in an acute stage, and as the information I sent to you would indicate, he probably was diagnosed beyond the chronic stage. Mom, I am in the chronic stage. I went to state that my goal is to be one of the 90% that is still alive 5 years after diagnosis based on the studies of the my daily drug treatment.”

May I ask a favor?

I know my mother loves me and wishes the best outcome for me. Yet she likes the sympathy that my diagnosis brings her from her circle of family and friends. My cousin and I joke about this because we each have been on the receiving end of her narcissism as we both have been approached by sympathies from others who have received my mother’s notice of our ‘diagnosis.’

My husband was appalled by this conversation with my mother. “Even that story goes beyond on the pale,” he sighed.

Please do not share other patient’s cancer stories with me.

Each cancer patient’s journey is unique. While it is comforting to know other cancer patients are having success with their treatments and have reached longevity milestones, there is always the percentage of those who do not. For clarity sake, I am not being negative, nor do I have a negative outlook – quite the opposite.
I am positively mindful of my own unique reality with CML based on ongoing science with my rare cancer. CML affects 20% of all leukemias and is a rare slow-growing cancer. I am fortunate that even though I may have unknowingly had cancer for 2 years or longer based on my personal symptoms and missed diagnostic opportunities, I am in the chronic stage of this disease.

Let me illustrate my second favor that I ask of you.

A very long-time friend of mine and I catch up with each other weekly. She often prods me for how I am doing physically and usually ends with a statement in some fashion as, “You’re a fighter and I know you will beat this thing.” I know this is her way of believing I needed to be cheered on to victory even when I express to her that I have had a good week.

I appreciate the cheerful response, but please, just don’t.

Friends and family do not know what to say when they hear a person they care about has been diagnosed with cancer. I have heard all types of the responses from what feels like being dismissed with the “thoughts and prayers” to the “my friend died of cancer within 6 months from her cancer diagnosis.”

I understand. I may have said some of the very same things before my own cancer diagnosis. Now I know better.

The best answer you can give is, “I am here whenever you need someone to listen.”

Say it and then leave it. Wait for me to bring it up if I choose to do so.

You may think it rude of me to request you not be cheerful as though I want to wallow in the negativity of my cancer diagnosis, but again, for clarity sake, it is quite the opposite. I do have bad days like this past New Year’s Eve night.

As I worked on New Year’s Eve day fatigue and pain began to firmly grip me. I logged off at 4:30 p.m. And by 7 p.m. I was in bed so exhausted with excruciating pain, I could not even shed a tear. The throbbing of my joints that surrounded the brittle pain of my bones bringing about the panic of being acutely aware of the studies that indicate that approximately 85% of all individuals with CML enter the acute stage.

In my panic, I soothed myself with summer memories of being at Lake Michigan being massaged as I floated in her comforting waters under the bluest sky with the warmth of the sun kissing my face and the breeze tousling my hair. I finally fell asleep to the sound of gentle waves in my dreams of a better tomorrow.

Your antidotal cheers or your sorrow for me only reminds me of my cancer. Cancer has its’ own way of letting me of its presence on those bad days – whispering to me there is no known cure and that I may be one of the unlucky ones.

I am mindful of my reality but I have chosen to be positive. All I ask is that you choose the same by telling my about your day and I will tell you about mine.

Please treat me in our conversations the way you did before you knew I had cancer.

I yearn to be normal again. You can help me with that yearning by just being you. Because we all know my mother will never change and I do not want you to change either. I love you! So allow me to take the burden of cancer off you that cancer has put upon me. You just do you! You know what I mean?

No fear, no tears, God is here!

My oncologist is pleased with my progress after 12 weeks since beginning treatment. Unfortunately, I have a re-infected root canal that will require surgery in the coming weeks, so prayers are appreciated!

Peace,
Blog - Owl Photo
The Blogging Owl

This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!

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Discerning a way forward

I was going to post last weekend regarding my third word that I had chosen as one of my three words to live in 2021. My previous posts highlighted the first two words of creativity and mindfulness. Ironically, the third word is the word, discernment. Ironic because it is the same type of procrastination that led me to choose the word discernment as one of my three words to live by in 2021.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021: An infamous day of sedition led by a sitting U.S. President who lost re-election of the office.

Was my procrastination a heightened discerning sense of some kind that would better convey my purpose for choosing the word discernment?

Discernment

Dictionary.com defines discernment as:

“Verb (used with object): to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehension; or to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate.

Verb (used without object) to distinguish or discriminate.”

Discernment for many people takes on a spiritual connotation.

I am in that spiritual crowd. However, I do not believe that one must subscribe to a particular religious faith or any for that matter to have the power of discernment.

I chose the word discernment because of my reflection of 2020. I know. Many people want to quickly forget 2020. I would certainly like to forget it too if it were not for my leukemia diagnosis in 2020. Funny, not ha-ha, but rather sadistically how cancer does not want to be forgotten on any day.

It is because of my faith that I can only speak about my discernment of last year. I believe that my best summer in many, many years was an indication of what was to come personally for me. In fact, in my state of mindfulness on my summer vacation, I thought about cancer. I thought about all the trauma and hardship over my life and how I was finally at peace with all it. I am on the downside to retire in the next several years and I am finally enjoying my life where I am at if not in total balance of mind, body, and spirt but firmly on my way there. I asked myself as I floated on Lake Michigan under a cloudless bright blue sky with an egg-yolk sun overhead, ‘what if suddenly I had cancer or I lost someone I loved?’ 

Six weeks later I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). I was shocked but I am determined in my remission mission. 

Was the power of discernment at that moment preparing me?

That memory powered my reflection to think of other events and decisions I made in 2020. I realized there were other signs of a lack of a better term that showed me, how in my opinion, that would personally distinguish the year 2020 far beyond a global pandemic, an explosive divided political nation into a personal reckoning of that delicate balance of mind, body, and spirit.

Last Wednesday, January 6th as we saw the nation under siege, there is a long way forward in actualizing the power of discernment.

I am truly disgusted and grieved in the actions of a hostile mob that would disrupt and destroy our U.S. Capitol and cause the death of not only some of their participants, but one who bravely stood to protect a national monument, a symbol of our democracy, and those who serve our nation. The actions of last Wednesday were an affront to all political parties and to all Americans.

As I have declared on many posts to this blog over the years, I am a conservative Independent who believes in diversity and inclusion, the choice for men and women to have the power to make decisions over their own individual bodies; I believe in life from womb to tomb and that also means that I am against the death penalty. For me to be a better ally for all Americans and peoples around the globe, I have work to do with the developing the power of discernment by falling back to my own personal mantra that I sometimes forget and that is “resist reaction reason rules.”

What discernment means to me

… Resist reaction, be mindful, but more importantly, acutely listen to all five of my senses empathetically, intellectually in mind, body, and spirit. Discerning the moment in this way is the only way forward to actualizing the power and purpose of becoming the person God needs me to become.

My prayer for this morning

In my blog series, Today’s Reality, I posted on December 19, 2020, that each year has 365 fresh starts. As I meditated on today’s fresh start, I began with reading Psalm 139 and I wrote in my prayer journal:

“I believe that You, God can fortify and protect my thought processes far beyond where I can go. The same spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of my spirit. I must allow my mind to meditate on the great, massive truths of You, God.

If I am struggling with sin of any kind, I ask you, God to show me how grievous it is to You and for me to look at it from Your perspective. I cannot just be sorry without truly carrying out my repentance with action. I rely on God’s power and truth to overcome every temptation.

Today, is a fresh start. May I start again with spiritual discernment to reflect the true nature of Jesus Christ. Amen”

A way forward

You do not need to believe as I do spiritually to becoming a person of wise discernment. I do believe, however, that one must be a person of character to develop the power of discernment. It is our only way forward.

Congratulations to President-elect, Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris!

Today is a fresh start.

Peace,
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The Blogging Owl

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(c) 2017-2021 All Rights Reserved

 

Mindfulness holds the key

I covet my solitude and I often wonder if I may be abnormal as so many of my friends enjoy the constant company of others. Is it unhealthy to desire to be alone, yet thrive on social interaction but on my terms? Would I be defined as some sort-of nonsexual type of tease?

I am the quintessential owl.

It is in the stillness of my own company that I truly begin to bring my attention to the inner landscape of my thoughts and emotions where lies a crucial wellspring of creativity.

I like a good story; but I love an even greater one that too often for me is rooted in the narrative prose of non-fiction. So, in that case, solitude does not lend itself to my innate visionary’s creativity. Or does it? Could I be in the middle of an identity crisis?

If 2020 has taught me anything is that my current reality cannot become any more weird, strange, and downright scary. My world needs more joy; and it is in the act of mindfulness where I know I can see it, feel it, hear it, taste it, and smell it. Will my creativity become less solemn and more visionary in 2021?

What is this business of mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating a focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.

Mindfulness for me means not reflecting on the past, worrying about the future, just being present utilizing all my senses and acting upon them (or not) and not judging whether this moment is the best use of my senses.

The difficulty in mindfulness is the nonjudgmental part. Oh! And the anxiety of what may come next.

When I have experienced mindfulness, I believe my senses have had their sharpest acuity. I am honestly alive and most capable creatively or otherwise, for whatever the moment has to offer. Mindfulness is much more than just “going with the flow.” It is being fully engaged in the moment.

Mindfulness though takes persistent practice.

After 2020, you do not have to have been diagnosed with leukemia as I to understand what the world needs. Individually, we all have been become vitally aware of the delicate balance of mind, body, and spirit in a global pandemic.

Dionne Warwick singing, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” conjures up for me the need for not just love but more joy – loads of it!

The act of creating brings me joy. Creating for me can take many forms, but mostly it is in the form of writing.

Prose - Channeling Ernest

Mindfulness is the key to opening the doors of the senses to unleash my creative self in solitude or in the company of others. I do need social interaction for good if not great storytelling. It is ‘in’ that moment where all the genuinely great stories begin to weave their threads. Whether someone’s gift is in writing or not, but in some other creative pursuit, mindfulness holds the key to all that is lacking in our individual and collective worlds.

I want to hit my stride and all that creatively means to me in 2021.

Now where did I put my keys??

Peace,

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The Blogging Owl

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Creativity 2021: Change the World

One of my words to live by in 2021 as mentioned in my blog post, 2021: Three Words to Live By being the word: Creativity. I passionately believe that creativity brings to life all the words on my ‘words to live’ by list: minimalism, grace, truth, wisdom, honor, joy, mindfulness, and discernment. Creativity is one of the words I chose to live by in 2021. While 2021 has only begun, I look forward to what my creative self does in 2021 to reveal the next three words to live by.

Creativity

It is only the second day of the new year and I am well on my way to an exciting new year of creativity. I have two writing projects that I am embarking on that involves my love of journaling and poetry. But why stop there? There is more to my creative-self than writing.

After deactivating my personal Facebook page two years ago, I have reclaimed much needed time and sanity. My mind has become less anxious and overwhelmed with the outside world of political meanness, divisiveness, and outright nonsense.

“I can shake off everything as I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank

Exploring the creative mind

I do not believe anyone who says, “I am not very creative.” To exist and to survive in this world each one of us has been gifted creativity. What most people fail to recognize is the creative gift given to them. For some people, their creativity is obvious and for others it seems to be a directionless persistence of trial and error.

Start now to find your creative type

Go to www.mycreativetype.com and take the free test. Do not look any further in this website but taking the testing because you will be able to do that after you receive your results.

There are 8 creative types, and each creative type will display a descriptive tagline with a list of creative strengths, untapped potential, and your ideal collaborator (another of the 8 creative types). Your creative type will also provide an overall detailed description of your creative gift to help you get started with exploring your creative self.

I will give you a clue of my creative type with this quote by Anton Chekhov:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Curious to learn more about creativity?

I highly recommend the book, “Wired to Create, Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind” by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, ©2015 TarcherPerigee, Penguin Random House LLC, New York, New York publishers. You will discover the 10 things highly creative people do differently.

The My Creative Type test is a fun, inspiring, and learning opportunity for all ages and may help parents and teachers alike to assist children grow their creative gifts. Who knows what the future holds for discovering new masterpieces of art, literature, and science all by nurturing the creative mind?

Action Required: Pursuing Creativity in 2021

Creativity can change a chaotic and corrupt world into a beautiful place to live for everyone. I am pursuing my individual creative gift to push the limits of, well, everything – personally and professionally.

We can take a lesson from one of my favorite poets, Sylvia Plath:

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

2020 taught us that so much needs to be changed in our world and it will take all of our collective creativity to make it a happier and healthier place.

Peace,
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The Blogging Owl


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(c) 2017-2021 All Rights Reserved

2020 Christmas – Finding JOY!

What I miss this Christmas season is what I normally do at Christmas and that is attending traditional evening church services on Christmas Eve. There will be in-person church services, however, I am uncomfortable in this coronavirus and cancer reality that online services will have to do for me this Christmas season.

Leukemia has dampened my Christmas spirit coupled with fatigue and the coronavirus blues, it has kept our household from decorating and baking as in years past.

2020 will not be fondly remembered for many people. There will be more homes this holiday season with unexpected empty chairs whether forever or temporarily due to the coronavirus pandemic. Holiday parties this year will not be the same. There will be no welcoming each other with physical hugs and cheek kissing. We will not be clasping hands around the holiday dinner table to say grace or raising our glasses in unison.  Excited children anticipating what Santa has left them under the Christmas tree may not be as noisy this year. Many families this holiday season will be hosting socially distanced parties in our new technical age of using apps like FaceTime and Zoom.

Determined to find JOY!

How can we find joy when so many have lost loved ones or struggling to breath?

How can we find joy when so many are destitute and hungry?

How can we find joy when we have nothing to wrap?

Wrapping our memories

I was determined to find joy this Christmas season even if my surroundings and traditional holiday activities were different this year. I decided my family would wrap our memories this Christmas to open next year. I purchased vintage stationary and matching envelopes. Each family member will write their answers to the following questions:

What is my favorite Christmas memory?

What will I remember most about Christmas 2020?

What does Christmas mean to me?

Where did I find joy this past year?

We will wrap our memories in an envelope and place them under the Christmas tree. I will collect them and hold them until next Christmas – a time capsule to be opened when we can freely hug and kiss each other. After we gather around the dinner table clasping hands to say grace, we will raise our glasses in unison to toast our Christmas memories. Then each envelope will be carefully unsealed and read aloud to one another. May there be plenty of love and laughter perhaps a tear or two.

No longer will there be an empty chair because our memories fill each one!

There are plenty of twists you can make to your own Christmas or holiday time capsule. Not fond of writing? Make a video. You do not want to wait to open your memories next Christmas? Perhaps your family is postponing this holiday party until the New Year, write your memories now and unwrap them when you get together again. How about a Christmas in July party? Create your own Christmas time capsule with anticipation and excitement! Find joy in your own memory activity!

Memories cost nothing and they may be the most valuable gift we can share with those we love and cherish.

I hope you find JOY this Christmas holiday season!

Christmas 2020 Blogging Owl

Peace,

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The Blogging Owl

Other places to find me:

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(c) 2017-2020 All Rights Reserved

IF I am being honest, kick-starting life’s joyride!

As I mentioned in my post, Today’s Realty: The Good Place, each year has 365 fresh starts. While 2020 was a harsh year for almost anything to get accomplished, I gratefully have been remotely employed full-time. It does not seem like I have gotten much traction on the work front, however, I did receive promotions in April and September, and moved to a specialty team just this past week. If I am going to keep up in 2021, I need a fresh start in mind, body, and spirit!

If you are a new follower of The Blogging Owl, this post is part of a series, IF I am being honest – my journey to wellness in mind, body, and spirit. Read my previous posts in this series under this blog’s category file: IF I am being honest (A Series).

IF I am being honest, I need a kick-start to life’s joyride.

I have talked a good game prior to 2020 and even had made some headway with my intermittent fasting regimen. I lost 27 pounds only to regain all of it in the pandemic lockdown. Now the stakes are even higher because of my leukemia diagnosis three months ago.

A fresh start starting today with new goals.

Goal 1: Gluten free

Fresh vegetables and clean protein on a 12-12 intermittent fasting (IF) schedule for the next 2 weeks, following by another 2-week 12-18 IF schedule, and then maintaining a 20-4 IF schedule with an occasional 23-1 IF day to mix it up.

Goal 2: Minimizing sugar

We are in full swing of the holiday season. Yet, I will make the conscience choice to begin minimizing sugar. I know from experience with intermittent fasting that sugar will become less of a desire.

Goal 3: Water, water, and more water

I never really gave up my water consumption this past year. It is even more important now that I continue to drink at least 96 oz. of water daily due to my daily chemotherapy.

Goal 4: Fun exercise

Indoor trampoline, Pilates bar, kettle ball, yoga ball is my go-to exercise for stretching, building my core, and providing a safe exercise routine for building my core, increasing flexibility, overcoming fatigue and depression.

When warm weather returns, my goal is to make it a practice to walk outside daily and resume Sunday afternoon golf games with husband, Vinny Sal. Swimming is on tap at my favorite place on earth – Lake Michigan. Pure joy is spending time outdoors in places I love, with people I love, or simply pure solitary daydreaming.

Goal 5: Prayer and meditation

I am an early riser. My pups AKA editors, Barkley and Penny make sure of it. Yet I really enjoy that quiet time for daily prayer and meditation in the early hours of the day. It really does set the tone for my day.

Goal 6: JOY

Joy is actually my first goal but let me just say that finding joy wherever and in whatever is an extension of all my goals.

Joy for me is found in feeding the birds and wildlife right outside my window. It is so entertaining to watch the birds, squirrels, and rabbits out in the yard. Our neighbor’s cat, Steve, is really a community cat. He takes up residence wherever he feels like it. He can be often seen lying in the middle of the road, on someone’s front porch, my landscaping or casually watching the bird feeders outside my office window.

Joy is reading, writing, or daydreaming. Instead of scrolling social media in 2021, I have made a pact with myself to continue to explore my creative self wherever that leads me. Poetry, creative writing, blogging, gardening, crafting, and so on. My goal is to leave the noisy world, I cannot control at a social distance and out of earshot.

Joy is not being perfect in all I do, but doing the job, the activity, being mindful and present with an impressive level of commitment.

Joy is being with the people I love and whose company I genuinely enjoy, whether it is in the same room, miles apart, or across the country or continents even if it has to be by telephone or email. I need to remember just because someone was in my life at some point, family, friend, or merely an acquaintance does not mean they can stay in my present life. Healthy boundaries are critical to attaining and maintaining joy.

IF I am being honest, I think we all could use a kick-start in 2021!

Why not join me in making a fresh start today? My goals are not your goals. Set aside some time to reflect on our own goals to kick-start your life today. I think we all could use more JOY in our lives.

Cheers to JOY in 2021!

Peace,
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The Blogging Owl

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(c) 2017-2020 All Rights Reserved

Today’s Reality: The Good Place

This is the fifth post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.

2020 is nearing the end! We are all shrieking from the top of our lungs, “FINALLY!”

The transition from one year to the next seemingly ushers in a revival of the spirit. No matter what kind of year one is leaving behind, the new year tends to bring a sense of fresh opportunities to setting things right. This new year, 2021, hopefully will be no different in bringing a new course of rightness and purpose irrespective of 2020’s decisions, diagnosis’, deaths and drama. It is the hope of every new year, isn’t it?

In my last post, 2021: Words to Live By, I added three more words to my growing list of words to live by in the forthcoming year – mindfulness, creativity, and discernment. Along with those three words, I am going to take a sabbatical from those activities and platforms that push me away from living by my list of words.

The Good Place

One of my favorite Netflix binges this past fall was creator Michael Schur’s, The Good Place with familiar actors Ted Danson, Kristen Bell and new or unfamiliar actors (at least to me). My favorite character is Janet played by D’Arcy Carden. Creative plot with brilliant writing and each actor cast perfectly. It is a story of 4 undeserving humans that find themselves in the good place but are supposed to be in the bad place. The story is part fantasy, drama, and most especially funny, sprinkled with wisdom. The last episode of season 4 caught me totally off-guard. It was difficult for me to keep from sobbing. In my depression and without giving too much away of the ending, like each character, 2020 has me feeling ready too.

My cancer diagnosis, my daily chemotherapy, and simply my nature is causing me to succumb to the side effect of depression. I am a fighter, a survivor, and I tend to lean toward positivity; however, while my remission mission is still underway, I need to protect those personal innate instincts.

365 Fresh Starts

I am not going to think of 2021 as “another” fresh start, but rather 365 fresh starts. Each day begins with new possibilities that often tend to be more wasted time than valuable mindful moments.

Irrespective of electoral outcomes, vaccine development, and pandemic corner turning, there will always be good, bad, and even devastating things happening in the world. My natural born activist’s heart becomes too readily invested in what happens out there and much of it is out of my control. My survival and my sanity’s sake demand I do some retreating not into depression, but from those activities that cause me depression that drag down to the “Bad Place.”

In essence, I am reclaiming valuable time to hopefully doing things that bring me joy. Boundaries and barriers will be constructed to prevent toxic relationships of persons, places, or things.

Social Media, namely Facebook

The last four or so years have been like a pail of ice water to the face.

Family, friends, and colleagues overly exposed themselves on Facebook and so have I. Each morning I would scroll through my Facebook memories from past year posts and the memories would flood with varying emotions of nostalgia, embarrassment, anger, and a bit of humor. I seriously posted way too much on football, my dogs, and outdated opinions. EEK! I am really trying to grow as an ally in love toward diversity and inclusion for all.

2020 with its’ ‘fuckery’ has enlightened me to the best and worst of social media, namely Facebook. I am deactivating my personal Facebook page on December 24, 2020 throughout 2021 no matter what occurs in my life and perhaps permanently.

I know will miss family and friends’ posts from wedding engagements, pregnancy, and baby announcements, to posts about pets crossing the rainbow bridge and heaven receiving its’ newest angels. I will especially my friends who have brought me joy in their humor (Deb E., Kari S. to name a few) and those whose wisdom has helped me to become a better human being.

What I will not miss is the political posts and memes, the name calling, and the ugliness in people I thought knew to be otherwise. It okay to have differing opinions but still share common values, however, it is the common values that has become lost. I have grown these past couple of years, but not far enough past my own ugliness. Perhaps it is just me or perhaps it is as I imagine, all of us.

While I am retreating from my Facebook friends list, I am not retreating from family and friends. I will just connect the old-fashioned way to those whom I know to be true, who share my values, and who I believe are truly trying to grow as I am into better human beings. Yes, even some family will be held at a distance. Boundaries are becoming increasingly important to me in my remission mission in mind, body, and spirit.

Each fresh start

I will begin each fresh start in the good place embracing whatever cancer or the world wait for me. My activist heart will still be employed where it can be of benefit and not just noise. I will further explore my creative self, read all the books I left on the shelf while scrolling social media. Mindful of each moment to find JOY wherever I hear, feel, or see it. God’s peace will let me know when I am ready.

No fear, no tears, God is here!

While side effects are becoming fewer and further apart, depression is by far, including chemo-brain (short memory lapses) the most difficult. My oncology counselor says this is part of the landscape of cancer. But across this landscape I know there is hope because I am a fighter, a survivor, and surely an activist in positivity.

I am confident God is here!

My lab work continues to improve and stabilize, but my oncologist has braced me for the reality that my remission mission may not be reached as soon as I would like it to arrive. I am not to become discouraged; she tells me. So, I endure with patience and confidence surrounded by the love of family and friends I will now stay in contact the old-fashioned way by email, phone, and letter-writing.

One last bit of Owl Wisdom

No one needs to have cancer to make 365 fresh starts a trend. Heck! Start now! Why wait until the ball drops onto 2020?!

See you all in the good place!


Peace,

Blog - Owl Photo
The Blogging Owl


This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!

“Like” my Facebook pages: The Blogging Owl and The Prayer Journals

(c) 2017-2020 All Rights Reserved

 

2021 – Words To Live By

It is that time of year again where I reflect on this past year and I look forward to the year ahead. I used to share New Year resolutions. In 2018, I changed my resolutions to three words to live by in the coming year. In 2018, I chose minimalism, grace, and truth for 2019. Last year, I chose three verbs for 2020 – wisdom (seek), honor (speak), and joy (share). This year was a particularly thoughtful year because of the global pandemic due to the coronavirus coupled with my recent diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia.

A Watershed Year

When I reflect on the last six words chosen, I ask myself, “Have I grown as a person in living my message in mind, body, and spirit? Is my voice communicating my authentic self?”

The pandemic lockdown allowed several things to occur in my life. I was gratefully able to work remotely, which allowed me to spend a great deal of time at my second home in northwest Michigan near Lake Michigan. I spent much of my time when not working, in and near the lake, contemplating my life and looking toward the future. My thoughts surfed over waves of nostalgia as I am in the last year of a biological decade contemplating a new milestone birthday in 2021.

After recently reading my 2020 Words to Live By post and reading my earlier posts on COVID-19, the word cancer appeared in my writing long before I was surprised with my leukemia diagnosis this past September. I thought about my lockdown sabbatical at Lake Michigan. It was one of the best summers of my life. Now cancer would like me to negatively dwell on all these thoughts to conclusively ask, “Is this it? God granted me one last glorious summer, my favorite season. Will this be my last Christmas? Will I be here at the end of my next biological decade?”

I have a positive prognosis for living a normal lifetime even with CML providing I take my daily chemotherapy for whatever days God grants me. I have not reached remission; but my oncologist is pleased with my progress these two and half months. I remain positive in mind, body, and spirit.

COVID and cancer

2020 has helped me to define how I choose to live my life beginning now and not waiting for the ball to drop on 2021.

Mindfulness

In my post, Iron Sharpens Iron of September 7, 2020, I shared my intentions and afterthoughts of my August summer vacation.

August prepared me for what I would learn by the end of September.

Life can change in a moment. I take into 2021, the first lesson of 2020 with the word: mindfulness.

When I think about mindfulness, I think about the three principles of unities in drama from Aristotle’s Poetics – a play’s requirement to have a single action occurring in a single place and within a single day – unity of action, unity of place, and unity of time.

Now let me be clear, I am not stating that every day be dramatically filled with vivid emotion or conflict; but if it is, I will allow myself to live in that moment. I will give my full attention to only what is in the present, experiencing my thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment. In other words, I will not dwell on yesterday or worry about tomorrow. No more climbing ladders of any type. We only have today, right?

Creativity

When I reflect on what brings me the most joy outside of my family and friends, I think of being creative. Creativity to me is an exploration, being authentic, whether is it writing, crafting, designing, gardening, or simply nature.

One important lesson of the pandemic lockdown is eliminating negative connectivity.

Negativity in mind, body, and spirit eliminates creativity of any kind. Therefore, I am eliminating the negativity that seeps into my daily life. Negativity takes up too much space in the unities of life. For example, I am deactivating my personal Facebook timeline and eliminating negative relationships relating to any noun – person, place, or thing.

This day forward I am investing in my creative-self and wherever that creativity takes me without judgment or promises. Legacy is for others to decide so why dwell on it.

Discernment

While all words that I have chosen to live by are important, this next word, discernment is critical.

Am I living my message?

To live my message, establishing boundaries becomes especially important in mind, body, and spirit. Personality and character are often thought of as being the same. However, our personality is our inner spirit, and our character is our outer nature. My personal devotion to Jesus Christ brings the two together – my personality and my character. That transformation was brought about by love, the overflowing result of being in true fellowship with Christ. I cannot allow anyone or anything to invade that relationship.

People bound in love for one another without judgment, worthiness, or differences are people who make the difference in the world. I will do my best to respond in love. I will also respond to bigotry as if the people others demean are witnessing my response. My relationships will either survive or they won’t. These are the natural consequences.

Discernment, for me, is the ability to distinguish intellectually or recognize spiritually without the world dictating to me how to live my life in the moment. If I am living my message today, in this moment, then I am making a difference in the world. If making a difference in the world is not important, then why am I here?

Mindfulness, Creativity, and Discernment

The three words I add to my list to live by.

May everyone know the true peace and joy in 2021.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Good Health and Prosperity for all!


Peace and Joy,
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The Blogging Owl


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(c) 2017-2020 All Rights Reserved

 

Today’s Reality: Boundaries

This is the fourth post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.

We are nearing the end of 2020, a layer cake of political divisiveness, coronavirus global pandemic, an American electoral lunacy iced with our individual malady whatever that may be.

2020’s narcissistic manipulation of us has been frustrating to deal with when we expect honesty and compassion in return. 2020 has delighted in offending us in numerous ways, including those individuals (family members, friends, colleagues, spiritual advisers, leaders, and so on) we thought we knew.

Let them eat cake!

The sobering truth of narcissism is that the person just does not care even if it is recognized – it wants what it is best for them no matter what it may cost to the other person.

I am about to share with you an intimately personal experience because I do not believe one has to have cancer to identify with what many of us are experiencing in our current daily lives. Each one of us is grieving the loss of one kind or another.

Setting Boundaries

Over the last nine weeks since being diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and acclimating to daily chemotherapy has been adjusting to each side effect from the disease and the chemotherapy. It seems as soon as one side effect becomes tolerable or goes away, another side effect becomes evident. I debated whether to share the side effects with my readers because mouth and butt sores are embarrassing. I also risk sounding a bit narcissistic; but what I really want everyone to understand is that the side effects though they are real and sometimes intolerable eventually dissipate.

The loss of empathy

The last few weeks I was struggling with heightened anxiety – not because of my cancer diagnosis – but the sheer lack of empathy living in this coronavirus pandemic. It saddens me to admit that my 81-year old mother is my biggest offender. I apologize in advance to throwing my mother under the bus. I do realize the loneliness that she and her husband have felt during this long year of lockdown and the estrangement they feel from their children and grandchildren due to the coronavirus. Regardless, they continue to go about their lives with doctor appointments, shopping, church and even crossing the Ohio border to eat lunch several times a week. (Restaurants are closed in Michigan except for curbside pickup. She has refused my offer to help her setup pharmacy and grocery delivery.)

My mother explains she does not feel like cooking. I ask, “Do you feel like getting COVID?” Her response is wearing the mask and keeping socially distanced.

She lives an hour away from my home. I have refused her incessant pleading to visit her. I cannot chance it; I explain to her. I further explain I will not allow even my husband to visit her as the coronavirus is surging again with hospitals almost at capacity. Yet, she persists.

What does it cost me to tolerate this behavior?
What might it cost me to not to go along with this behavior?
In either case, do the benefits outweigh the cost?

I must ask myself these questions. The emotional agitation is affecting my already heighten anxiety and the precarious balance of wellness in mind, body, and spirit.

Declining the slice of cake

Just like my CML and chemotherapy side effects, my mother and other’s persistence to do what they want without regard to others safety and a sense of wellness will come back from time to time. The key to overcoming any side effect is to ride it out without emotion and setting clear boundaries. Anxiety is like butt and mouth sores. All are annoying and even toxic like sepsis if given boundless authority.

No Tears, No Fear, God is Here!

There is definite power in prayer! My oncologist sent me a message the morning after Thanksgiving to let me know she is pleased with my progress. My recent lab tests show that I am halfway to remission. I shed tears of gratitude for my family and friends who have prayed countless prayers and added my name to their prayer chains, as well as, to those who have sent me gifts of JOY along with daily messages of hope and encouragement. THANK YOU!

May God bless you all this holiday season with good health and joyful desserts!

One last bit of Owl Wisdom

I am doing my best to be patient, be kind, and allow others to do what is best for them without prejudice or judgment. I must also be patient, kind and non-judgmental toward me too. Let’s all make this effort so we can feel the warmth and comfort of each other’s presence in the New Year!

Peace,
Blog - Owl Photo
The Blogging Owl

This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as, a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!

“Like” my Facebook pages: The Blogging Owl and The Prayer Journals

(c) 2017-2020 All Rights Reserved

Today’s Reality: “C” Signs

This is the third post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.

Tomorrow, will mark 30 days since learning I have CML. Cancer. Today, I look back over the past year to see if perhaps I missed signs that my body was giving me clues to my diagnosis 30 days ago.

Were these signs of cancer?

As I looked back to the beginning of 2020, I scoured my writing, blog posts, social media, and my memory for clues in mind, body, and spirit. I had started a blog series here on The Blogging Owl, “COVID-19” to document what it was like to be in a global pandemic.

My first COVID-19 blog post was on March 28, 2020 – COVID-19 Isolated Thoughts (https://thebloggingowl.com/2020/03/28/covid-19-isolated-thoughts/).

I was stunned to read my own words,

“What happens when we find out about the people whose preventative health care appointments were cancelled because of the overwhelming cases of COVID-19 and are then diagnosed with a terminal illness or disease? What if cancer is lurking inside me and I won’t be able to find out until it is too late?”

As of this post, 7 months later, my primary care and gastroenterologist physicians are still not taking in-office appointments – only web appointments.

For the love of scotch! I stink!

This summer I spent most of my time at our northern home on Lake Michigan. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to continue working 100% remotely and be able to enjoy our home, they are affectionately called, ‘Heaven’s Lighthouse – Owls Bliss.’ Although my husband, Vinny Sal also works remotely, he would come and go between our home in southeast Michigan to Heaven’s Lighthouse. I was pretty much on my own during the week.

I do not care for air conditioning and I prefer fresh air from open windows unless the humidity is intolerable. I was often wearing a tank and shorts or a lightweight cotton PJ’s while working at my desk all day. My office faces the lake so there was always plenty of air flowing through the three windows in my office which also serves as a guest room.

Everyone has their own distinct odor when they sweat. Take a shower, roll on deodorant, and everyone is good to go, right? Yet, my natural body odor had taken on a distinct aroma. Sort of like a pungent garlic, cumin, musky smell. It was horrible! It was worse then opening up a lacrosse bag of a pubescent boy!

I was at a loss as to why the scent of my body odor had changed so drastically. I was eating simple, healthy meals like salmon Caesar salads, chicken, and roasted vegetables. In addition, I was not highly active enough to work up a sweat and spent most of my off time at the beach swimming. Yet even coming out of the water, I still stank to high heaven!

Then I started getting Snapchats from my nurse friend with photos of natural deodorants she was trying out. For the love of scotch! I thought, “can she smell me from four hours away?” I had not even confessed to her that I was experiencing such odd body odor. I could not bring myself to talk to anyone about it, although I knew my husband could detect it, he never mentioned it. (Yes, he is a saint.)

I tried the deodorants she was trying as well as branched out on my own hunt for a deodorant that would overcome the overwhelming stench. I do not like scented deodorants but most of the deodorants I was experimenting were scented and often made the stench worse. In fact, I could still smell myself after swimming. I constantly bathed and scrubbed my pits raw using antibacterial soap.

Since my diagnosis, I wondered if the change in my body odor was from a hormonal aging thing or was it the leukemia. My research took me to an article, “Does cancer smell? Can people smell cancer?” https://cancerdocs.com/blog/cancer-smell/. There are scientific research studies on cancer odor, but none that I could find on specifically on leukemia.

The article did raise important research studies using animals for cancer detection:

“Dogs have an astonishing sense of smell. Their ability to identify odors and scents is 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than humans are capable of identifying. In fact, dogs can identify the scents with just one part in a trillion (PPT). Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors in their highly, sensitive notices. Humans average a paltry 6 million. No wonder they catch more scents than humans do. Scientists are testing to see whether their incredible sense of smell can lead to early identification of cancers.”

My Editors 3

My pups, Barkley, and Penny

I have been rescuing dogs for years. My first 2 rescues, Mona Lisa and Bailey Sue knew I was in labor with my first son before I did. All day long, they laid their heads in my lap and would not leave me alone until I realized I, myself, realized I was in labor almost 12 hours later.

BarkleyMy current pups, Barkley and Penny are my shadows. However, looking back over the summer months, Barkley was much more attentive. He was always by my side, outside of the bathroom door, or he especially wanted attention laying in bed with me. Barkley was never this clingy before. He had back surgery a few years ago, so I wondered if it was him that was sick. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, the vet was not taking appointments unless it was an emergency. So, I gave him pain medication for his arthritis per the vet’s recommendation and gave him extra attention and love.

barkley 929

I am wondering now if Barkley sensed my cancer all along.

 

Please spleen this to me, I mean EXPLAIN.

Since working remotely, who needs to wear a bra, right? Woo hoo! What a relief. Wearing a bra, even a camisole, or sitting upright became increasingly uncomfortable. I had not gained weight, but I could not find a bra or camisole that was comfortable to wear for any amount of time.

I had no idea when I was laying there on the examining table in the ER describing the tremendous pain in my chest and abdomen that my spleen was the cause. Heck, I did not even know where the spleen was in my body nor its’ function. The spleen is a fist-sized organ in the upper left side of the abdomen, next to the stomach and behind the left ribs. No wonder! I always thought I was having heart issues. But this time, I thought it could be appendicitis. My spleen had grown to two fist sizes and could not keep up with my white cells that were vastly multiplying out of control.

My spleen was the reason for my discomfort. I certainly do not need an excuse not to wear a bra, but I know now it was not because I was gaining weight. Although I would take that over leukemia any day!

No Tears, No Fear, God it Here!

30 days into my cancer diagnosis and over 14 days into chemotherapy. I have had a few days where depression wanted to take over. I allowed myself to feel it and then I said, “Okay, let’s get on with it.

The depression had slipped in not because of my diagnosis nor because of chemotherapy. My depressed feelings came from having leukemia in global pandemic due to COVID-19. The number of coronavirus infections and dying are rising across the country again. The winter flu season is upon us. Coronavirus + flu + winter + a national lockdown = months of isolation. I have family and friends exposed to the coronavirus, who are sick and have been hospitalized.

Yet Donald Trump insists the United States is turning the corner. 2020 may well end worse than how it began. We are 12 days away from the presidential election. Please VOTE whether by absentee ballot or in person just do it masked and safely social distance.

Please! If you are feeling sick, don’t wait it out like I almost did on the morning of September 25th. Don’t accept a web appointment, go to the ER! 

Okay! Let’s get on with it! The remission mission is moving in the right direction. My oncology appointments and lab results have been encouraging so far. GOD IS HERE!

Peace,
Blog - Owl Photo
The Blogging Owl

This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as, a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!

“Like” my Facebook pages: The Blogging Owl and The Prayer Journals

(c) 2017-2020 All Rights Reserved

Today’s Reality: Chemo

This is the second post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.

I am writing my way through this journey not for anyone’s pity. I do not do support groups or patient forums. Writing is my therapy as it always has been toward wellness in mind, body, and spirit. Read this at your own risk. It will be my only disclaimer.

Today’s Reality: Chemo

The days leading up to my first dose of chemotherapy were appointments with Nurse Kathy would explain over the course of an hour the when, why, and how of chemotherapy treatment. I had met my oncologist, Dr. B the next day in which we reviewed Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, my labs, and the chemotherapy she had prescribed.

Chemo’s first week

I began chemotherapy treatment a week ago today. I would like to say that as I looked at that white pill in the palm of my hand that I prayed an eloquent prayer filled with elegant words of gratitude for all the medical research that went into making this drug available to me in combating leukemia. I confess I took God for granted as I leaned on that bathroom vanity writhing with pain in my bones that felt like dried timber and joints of hot coal. I wish I could say that my words were inspiring. They were not. All I could mutter in the early morning darkness of Thursday, October 8th was, “You better work, motherfucker.”

The first day was filled with extreme fatigue and dizziness fused with bone and joint pain. The following three days, I battled a tremendous headache as though I had the severest sinus infection of my life. My face and lower jaw ached so badly it felt as though my teeth were going to pop like a bag of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn. I barely could move my jaws making the cartilage in my ears hurt. At night, I wore a wet warm compress over my hurting eyes for even the slightest pain relief. When I explained this to my nurse case manager, Laura, she had not heard of these side effects and prescribed acetaminophen to minimize the pain.

The next two days were met with continuing fatigue and a new pain in my little toe on my right foot. When I was dressing to go to the ER on the day of my diagnosis which I thought would be appendicitis, I stubbed my little toe while trying to find my shoes in my bedroom. My toe had turned bright shades of purple and blue for days afterward but now it was bright pink. I thought it had healed as it did not hurt this badly until after starting chemotherapy.

I saw Nurse Practitioner, Lisa for this week’s oncology visit. We reviewed my labs and the side effects from my chemotherapy. As she was examining me, I told her how I thought I had appendicitis and how a highly animated young doctor had given me the news. I am a literary-type, not a science-type. I had no clue where or what the spleen does and that mine had grown to the size of a miniature football.

I laughed, “I must tell you though a couple of stories about my visit to the ER that day.”

I recounted how Dr. Mike had swept into the room and told me I had leukemia. I laughed, “I could tell by how animated he was that he was inexperienced at breaking the news that I had cancer.”

She laughed. “I knew exactly who you were talking about, Sheri. He has been a doctor for a while, but he is what is called a ‘fellow’ meaning that he is training in the specialty of oncology.”

“Hey, everyone is new at some point in their career,” I said. “No worries.”

I went on to share the story with her about Dr. B and how I knew I wanted her to be my oncologist. During the bone biopsy procedure, Dr. B was assisting Dr. Mike and it was though they were kneading my left hip like a big lump of white bread dough for an awful long time as they were trying to puncture the hip bone to extract bone marrow and fluid. As I was curled up in the fetal position hanging on to the bedrail with dear life, this petite little woman, Dr. B came over and bent down to look in my face and said so sweetly, “You know everyone’s anatomy is a little different. And moving around all that tissue sometimes we cannot get to where we need to be. We are going to try it one more time here and if we cannot get a good enough sample, we will schedule another bone biopsy with the radiologist on Monday. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes,” I had squeaked.

Lisa and I laughed as I shared these stories with her. I told her that my husband and I giggled about Dr. B’s sweet explanation later that evening in my hospital room because realistically I knew she was just trying to tell me I had a fat ass!

She said, “You know, Sheri, most people would be upset about their diagnosis experience. You are a laid-back person. I do not believe I have ever laughed when meeting an oncology patient for the first time. You must be the care-taker.”

The room suddenly became quiet.

“Lisa,” I asked, “I cannot change the fact that I have cancer, can I?”

She shook her head no.

“Cancer may want to change my body,” I said, “but I refuse to let it change my mind and my spirit. Because if I allow cancer that power, then cancer wins.”

Now about that little toe. “No x-ray needed. I can tell it is broken,” she said. For the love of scotch! What next??

No Tears, No Fear, God is Here!

I will not lie to you and tell you I have not shed tears. The tears are not from the bone and joint pain, nor are they from the side effects of chemotherapy. The tears flow when God is holding me up in that extreme fatigue every morning to swallow that chemo pill.

But do you know how I really know God is here?

The tears I have shed have come when my son comes up behind me to  whisper in my ear ‘I love you’ when he is doing something to make my life easier.

The tears spillover uncontrollably when I receive thoughtful gifts at my doorstep or by mail, a thoughtful card from my son’s girlfriend, texts and private messages offering to deliver meals, drive me to doctor appointments, virtual hugs, and countless daily prayers.

The tears flow when my husband does almost everything to help me just be me – living in the moment of today’s reality.

God is here working through all the wonderful people in my life. And I say a prayer of gratitude for each one of them including that white chemo pill.

Peace,

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The Blogging Owl

This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as, a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!

“Like” my Facebook pages: The Blogging Owl and The Prayer Journals

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Today’s Reality: Remission Mission

This is the first post in a series titled, Today’s Reality. The series will chronicle my journey to remission from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). My outlook as I begin this new phase in my life and blog series is living in the moment in mind, body, and spirit. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life with love and peace in my heart with the confidence of a better tomorrow filled with joy and humor.

Today was my first oncology appointment since my diagnosis. But first, let me back up and share with you as to how I arrived to becoming diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML).

Diagnosis

On Thursday evening, September 24, 2020, at 11:00 p.m., I suddenly began to feel a tight band around my chest and abdominal pain. I have had similar episodes ranging in severity over the last ten years. When I began having them, I would go to the ER and return with a non-specific diagnosis with follow up appointments to primary care physicians over the years including cardiologists. My heart was always fine but the diagnosis’ ranged from GERD, acid-reflux, possible small vessel angina to panic attacks. I never had a concrete diagnosis. In the fall of 2019 after another all clear from a cardiologist, I scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist which because of an office mix-up got bumped to 2020. Then COVID-19 happened. My appointment was cancelled.

The following morning on Friday, September 25th, I called the gastroenterologist to schedule an emergency appointment, however, the doctors were only scheduling web appointments. I declined and the nurse suggested I go to my local ER. I vacillated about whether to see if my symptoms would subside as the eventually did in the past or was this perhaps something else like appendicitis? I decided to have my husband, Vinny Sal drive me to the hospital ER instead of urgent care. If it was appendicitis, then I would be where I needed to be – at the hospital.

At 9 a.m. I was whisked into an examining room and immediately seen by an ER PA who was listened intently. I really do credit her for ordering a litany of lab workups, heart tests, and abdominal scan. It was long afterward that she moved me to a private room adjacent to the ER area to let me know the good news that I would not be having an appendectomy. However, my white cell count was drastically higher than the normal range. She was calling in hematologists to review my tests and that she would be admitting me to the hospital for further observation.

At 11 a.m., a young, smiling, highly energetic young doctor with the words, “CANCER PROGRAM” labeled across his hospital lanyard came into my small examining room spewing way too much medical information for me to keep up with his caffeinated presentation as he danced around my hospital bed. I finally asked him as he finally perched on a swivel stool next to my bed, “are you telling me that I have leukemia?” Staring intently into each other’s eyes, he calmly replied, “yes.”

In that moment, I was instantly caught up in a wildfire of medical terminology as to the types of leukemia, desired outcomes, and thoughts of my children as the room flooded with about eight other doctors and medical personnel. The oncology team wasted no time with synchronized precision of lab tests, scans, and a bone biopsy.

“No Tears, No Fear, God is Here”

“How would I tell my sons?” I asked out loud to the ceiling hoping God would answer me in that moment. And in my mind, I knew my 81-year-old mother may not survive this news about her youngest daughter.

Three days in the hospital, my husband and I told no one. We did not have enough information for our own comprehension let alone trying to share the news with our sons and family. At night, alone in my darkened room on the 11th floor of the hospital, I rehearsed my presentation repeatedly on what I would say to my sons, Leonardo (24) and Christian (22). The only time I cried was when I spoke to the doctors and nurses about my sons. My instinct to protect them, reassure them, and let them know this disease would not define our lives or change personal event timetables weighed heavier on me than the diagnosis.

One by one I told my sons, my mother, my siblings, and my closest friends. Those interactions will remain private, except for two that I shared on Facebook.

September 28, 2020 at 6:08 p.m.

(edited for privacy):

This is not information I would normally want to share on Facebook, however after informing my immediate family who many are interconnected with all of you, I want to share this news directly with you instead of you hearing it elsewhere.

On Friday, September 25, 2020 at 11:00 a.m., I was diagnosed with leukemia. Treatment options are still pending as we await the final type results from the remaining diagnostic tests with another possible bone biopsy on the horizon.

I walked into the ER early last Friday morning with tremendous abdominal pain with the thought of perhaps an appendectomy might be on the agenda for the day. Instead, I was given a cancer diagnosis.

God prepared me for this new journey with a purpose this past summer by showing me how to live life in the moment. As my family and friends, I hope you will join me (even if you are non-believers) in repeating my new mantra as a prayerful blessing to me:

“No Tears, No Fear, God is Near.”

I have been blessed with a great oncology team. The oncology team wasted no time with synchronized precision of lab tests, scans, and a bone biopsy. My new team is caring, uplifting and tender. The nursing staff was outstanding even understanding about my unconventional preference to sleep with my head at the foot of the bed. They only received one demerit from me when one of the nurses handed me a pair of green hospital slipper socks (thankfully) wrapped in plastic. I graciously accepted them and when she left my hospital room, I immediately texted Vinny Sal, “Bring me socks! They gave me green ones.” (For the love of scotch! I cannot have a bad case of hives on top of leukemia!)

The coming days and weeks ahead are sure to be filled with more questions, but I rest in God’s presence in mind, body, and spirit. God will direct me further on what I may share with you. I know you will respect my privacy regarding any open discussion on FB. I know though as my family and friends, I can count on you for much needed prayers and encouragement especially for Vinny Sal, Leonardo and Christian, as well as my Mom aka Ruth.

I know God is holding my husband and my sons lovingly in His arms as I walk beside Him in this new journey of purpose and grace. I now fully appreciate His lesson and the importance of living in the moment just like on Friday, September 25th at 10:59 a.m. on how life can quickly change in a moment.

2020, the year of a pandemic, of so much loneliness, grief, and sorrow are no different than any other year without a virus, political and civil unrest. Cancer is not the word anyone wants to hear no matter what the date is on the calendar or what is swirling in the world around them. I am not angry. I refuse to be sad. I am determined to live a long life in each moment with love, hope, and peace in my heart for a better tomorrow.

Love, Sheri

September 29, 2020 at 11:12 a.m.:

Okay, one more post on this subject then you may not hear from me for a bit because I want to be sensitive to others going through similar journeys that are having a difficult time and I don’t want to negatively add to it.

When I told my friend, Mary, of many, many years, of my diagnosis, she began sobbing. Through her sobs, she said, “it is just one more thing for you.” I stated emphatically, “Mary, we all have one more thing. I never will deny a person expressing their emotions (unless of course, they are abusing someone), so you have 1 day. 1 day only to get this out of your system and then we get on with it. Promise me. (Of course, I said the same thing to Mom aka Ruth, but everyone knows she doesn’t listen to anyone.)”

The trap we lay for ourselves is when we measure the severity of our “one more thing.” God has prepared me (and each one of us for that matter) for each one more thing in our life with strength and conviction to get on with it. The problem comes when we wallow in that one more thing. Let me be clear. God did not give me leukemia or cause any of my other one more ‘things’ in my life. I just happen to listen better now. He also has the power take this one more thing and put it into remission. And I believe solely in the power of prayer so I am banking on that He will do it.

So that is your one FREE Mama Owl counseling session. If you need another one, it will be $500 per session because this cancer shit is expensive!

Today’s Reality: Remission Mission

Back to today, October 7, 2020.

So tomorrow, I take my first oral dose of chemotherapy. One pill costs $1,100. I will take this pill if it is successful every day for the rest of my life. I am grateful that I have healthcare insurance that has approved this drug in the generic form with a reasonable monthly co-pay. So many people are not as blessed as I am with healthcare insurance or adequate, affordable healthcare. I pray for them as I pray for my own remission so that we all may live a normal life expectancy. 

I pray the common side effects of this chemotherapy are not severe and that my body will quickly acclimate to it. The next few months will undoubtedly be rough with the additional anxiety of an infection, flu season and with the pandemic infections rising across the country. No visitors, however, I will need to leave the house for blood labs and oncology appointments. I will just repeat my daily manta, “No Tears, No Fear, God is Here!

So let’s get on with it! 

Peace,

Blog - Owl Photo

The Blogging Owl

This series, Today’s Reality will also offer a spiritual perspective on my website, The Prayer Journals, as well as, a literary perspective on my website, The Owl Poet. I hope you will also follow me on those blogs too!

“Like” my Facebook pages: The Blogging Owl and The Prayer Journals