Things just got real!

As you know from last month, I am registered for a writing workshop in June.  My manuscript was sent off to the coordinators a few weeks ago. Earlier this week I received my homework for how to prepare for the seminar and what to bring. And today I was given the name of the person who will be critiquing my story!  Eek!!

I have received writing critiques in the past through peers and teachers in college but nothing like this. My first thought was a ping of terror – what of he hates it?!

But my rational side followed suit…so what? And I don’t mean that in an I-don’t-care kind of way. I mean it in a positive, I-care-so-much kind of way. The purpose of attending this workshop is to learn and grow as a writer, to understand what publishers are looking for and to enhance my writing.  I am excited to have a professional author – yes, author! – review my writing and tell me what he thinks. I’m anxious to hear the feedback that he has for me and perfect my manuscript so that it will be loved by a publisher and kids some day.  I’m thrilled to meet new people – people who have a passion and love for writing and reading.  I can’t wait to take in the entire experience and grow as a person and as a writer.

So, things just got real.  I am venturing out of my comfort zone, exposing myself and my writing to criticism (on purpose!) and taking a BIG step towards accomplishing my goals as a writer. How awesome is that?!

Do you think he’ll sign a copy of his book for me?  :mrgreen:

Oh, sweet weekend

Happy Memorial Day, friends!

This weekend has brought a mix of fun, productivity and relaxation for me. We spent time outdoors, went to church, cleaned out the garage, enjoyed a cookout with my in-laws, grocery shopped, meal prepped for the week, the house is clean – and there is still half a day left before the work week begins! I took the weekend off from running but still made sure to exercise in different ways to make up for it. Don’t worry, I rested lots in between. Friday’s expansion was bothering me pretty good on Saturday so I was quite uncomfortable. Thankfully, that’s gone now. Treatment continues to tire me out and I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I was asleep by 9pm all weekend. It was wonderful to grab the extra time to sleep and let my body – and mind – rest.

Having such a productive weekend has my mind wondering a bit. Summer has started and I’m antsy to spend time outdoors with my family but still try to get things done around the house, while keeping up with the day-to-day necessities of the house, exercise and writing too. Being almost two weeks out of radiation, we are beginning to find a new routine and the summer hours are allowing more hours with daylight.

I don’t necessarily want to rank all of these activities as a matter of importance because although some will absolutely outrank others, they are all things that I want to be a regular part of my daily routine. I’m learning to grab up the time that I have let slip by me in the past and fit things in small windows of time throughout the day.

Joe & I have the luxury of carpooling to work every day, so this has become my go-to time to write. Whether it’s my blog, catching up on emails, making appointments or free writing, this is a 30 – 45 minute ride each way that I used to spend just daydreaming. Since I’m using my phone to do these things, I can easily put it down to chat with Joe or help Jacob sing a song that he likes along the way.

Dinnertime has been a point of stress for me in the past, as I always feel rushed to get home and cook. We’re using the crockpot more (especially with the summer heat coming!) and making a larger meal on Sundays when we can to have leftovers throughout the week. On run days, Joe will heat up food for all of us and we’ll eat together when I’m done. On non-run days, we all go for a 30 minute walk after dinner. This might be Jacob’s favorite part of the day! If I haven’t hit my step goal by the time Jacob is asleep, I’ll pace while watching a show before bed – looks silly, I know, but it works!

So it’s a work in progress and I’m learning to fit things in where I can without compromising family time or household duties. I’m wondering, what tips do you have to fit more into your day?  Do you keep a list of things you want to accomplish?  Do you plan out what activities to complete each day of the week?

Fear

Growing up, my mom loved Stephen King and horror movies. I quickly grew to love both of these things as well. Whenever we went to the local video store – VHS! – I would head right to the horror section to see which movie looked the most terrifying. The old school Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13th are still some of my favorites. And I am still a sucker for a good vampire or zombie movie – I seriously cannot get enough of those! There were times that those movies kept me up at night, afraid to get out of bed but to me, that simply meant that they were awesome! I mean, that’s the point of a scary movie, right? To be scared? To add a little fear to your life…one that you know you can walk away from when the credits come on?

But what about the fear you have as an adult? The fear that comes with following your dreams? Fear of the future? Fear of the unknown? Fear of rejection?

Knowing how much I love to write, my mom bought me a membership to a writer’s organization for my birthday. I was instantly thrilled and have been trying to learn the ins and outs of it for the last month. This particular organization has a local chapter and that local chapter is having a workshop this summer. I’ve been contemplating whether or not to go. It is an incredible opportunity to branch out of my comfort zone and meet people who are doing what I want to do – what I dream about doing! It’s a chance to learn what the steps are to becoming a published writer. It’s a place that I can talk about writing as if it were the only thing that mattered in life – because at the workshop, it will be.

But as an aspiring writer, I am filled with fear. I fear that I am not good enough. I fear that my writing isn’t good enough. I fear that I will be an outcast. I fear that I will be the only unpublished writer there. I fear that I am not creative enough. I fear that I will be too scared to talk to anyone. I fear that I will leave more afraid than I am now.

Fear is a powerful thing. Fear can consume you and tear you apart. It can take over your rational thinking and fill your head with doubt.

I had mentioned to Joe a while back that I was interested in this workshop but wasn’t sure if it was something that I should do or not. This past week, I received a flyer in the mail reminding me that the workshop deadline was coming to preregister for the event. I stuck it in my book to bring it with me to look at during treatment today but forgot about it until Joe picked it up when we arrived. Looking it over, he started asking me which portion of the workshop I was considering and whether or not I wanted to do a professional critique. We chatted about it a little and I made comments about how I will hopefully be ready to go next year. I have a draft written for a children’s book that I’ve been working on for a while now and someday I’d like to try and get it published (or at least have an editor look at it and tell me if it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read).

Next thing I knew, I was registered. For Mother’s Day, my sweet husband signed me up for one of the workshops and a professional critique of my writing. Wait, what?!

Remember that fear that I was talking about earlier? Well, it’s time for me to put it aside. Tonight, I hit send. I sent my children’s book out into the world to land in the inbox of a professional to critique it for me. When the workshop comes, I will sit down with them and they will tell me what works and what doesn’t.

Am I still afraid? Oh, yes. Yes, I sure am. But regardless of this fear, I will walk away from this stronger and more determined than ever.

Oh, so tired

Life continues to amaze and inspire me. The way one phone call, one conversation, one word, one smile or a seemingly random encounter can put together a stream of events that fall perfectly into place. Incredible, isn’t it? The way life works sometimes…it’s like the universe (or God!) is winking at you and saying: Just follow my lead.

So what’s stopping you from taking the lead and following the path that seems to be carved for you? What’s stopping you from following your dreams and making them a reality? Excuses? I need to stop making them.

I wrote today. A lot. I felt really great about it, actually. My day was spent going from one appointment to the next with a few minutes in between that I spent scribbling away in my notebook trying to make sense of my thoughts and organize them in a way that can be understood and flow nicely. I scratched out lines and wrote in the margins and crossed out a paragraph and skipped to a new page. It was a wonderful way to spend the time in between appointments and it felt productive…and wonderful.

I came home in the late afternoon after traveling around town for these appointments, which included radiation treatment number 3. I walked in and sat down to enjoy a bit more time to write…and then it hit me. Tired. Oh, so tired. My whole body suddenly felt exhausted. I decided to lay down and nap, which I did for a quick 30 minutes. I know radiation causes fatigue but I didn’t anticipate that it would happen so quickly. And maybe it didn’t, maybe I am just over tired and the running around to appointments today got the better of me. But my goodness, I am tired. It was a reminder to me that my body is still healing and still fighting. And sometimes it needs a break.

So, although I feel good about the writing that I did today, the rest will have to wait until tomorrow. For now, I will rest.

Today’s firsts

When my husband and I bought our house years ago, I was super excited for each holiday in it. Since it was our first home purchase, I wanted every holiday to be celebrated within our walls. We hosted each event and took pictures of every detail to create a scrapbook of our first year. When our son was born, this first year of excitement was amplified. Every holiday we decorated, did arts & crafts and celebrated that it was the first of many to come. Each milestone brought pictures and smiles (and books!) and traditions that we were determined to create for our little man. All of the firsts were filled with pure joy and lots of passion. Each day felt as though it brought new excitement.

Though it’s still early in the day, today has been a great day so far! After surgery, I wasn’t able to do much. Each day showed improvement but in general, the everyday tasks were not possible. Thankfully, I have an incredible husband and support system that has continued to help throughout this journey.

Today though…today was a day of firsts for me.

  • I woke up in my very own bed. I have spent the last 2 weeks sleeping in the recliner in our living room. My sweet husband has spent every night next to me on our couch, often with little man snuggled in next to him. But not last night! I am still sleeping at an angle and mostly upright but just being in our bed was wonderful. I was surrounded by a sea of pillows, my warm comforter and my husband by my side. I was even able to get up into it and out of it all on my own!
  • Morning snuggles. Little man woke up in the middle of the night and Joe brought him into bed with us. After waking up this morning, Jacob cuddled up next to me and snuggled into the nook under my right arm. I haven’t had those sweet morning snuggles in two weeks. My goodness, how I missed them.
  • I unloaded the dishwasher. Though this is a relatively mundane task and often something I dread when coming home from work or waking up in the morning, I did this with a smile today. It is the little things in life that bring the purest joy and today’s joy had to do with being able to handle my own dishes.
  • I made breakfast – not just for me but for Joe too! Despite growing up with Chef Dad, I am not an excellent cook. Sadly the knack doesn’t reside in me, save for a few recipes that I have mastered over time. Today though, I made breakfast that consisted of roasted potatoes, bacon and eggs. Simple? Yes. Easy? Usually. The first I’ve made food for myself since surgery and therefore super exciting? Yes!

These firsts may not be things that I ever expected to get excited about but today, they made me smile ear to ear. I am tired despite the early hour and will probably go nap soon but I will enjoy this moment of progress for just a little while.

The 100th

When diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to ignore the thought in the back of your mind that continuously asks Am I going to die?

In the middle of the night and when I feel the worst is usually when that dreaded thought creeps in and tries to wrap its tentacles around my happiness. I fight hard to keep those tentacles subdued but the reality is that I think about cancer for the majority of the day. Whether I’m dealing with appointments or phone calls or that forever painful lump or the medicine I take in the morning or before bed…cancer is always in my mind in some way.

I’ve mentioned before that I have dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember. I have always had an excuse as to why I didn’t have time to make that dream become a reality. My decision to start a blog came easily. I knew it was the right thing at the right time for me. It just made sense. Cancer put everything into perspective. It was the push that I needed to follow my dream.

Today, this very post, is my 100th blog post. If you had told me a year ago that I would have 100 blog posts, I probably would have laughed and been silently hopeful that it were true.

Cancer is scary. It is a reminder that life is short and that life is precious. It forces me to embrace each day and be grateful for it – for a fresh start and another chance to accomplish my dreams.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed. This is what I remind myself in the moments of darkness. We do not know what the future holds for us. Cancer is a reminder of that. But it is also the push that I needed in my life to pursue my passions. It is also a reminder that some things can wait until tomorrow (dishes, anyone?). What’s important is that today we enjoy the moment, embrace the day and love the people that make our life whole.

Here’s to 100 posts so far…and hundreds more to come!

The new countdown

Two weeks from today I will have surgery. I have been thinking about how this countdown to surgery feels similar to the prior countdown, and yet different. The first phase of this journey is complete and though there are still more phases before this journey ends, I still feel an odd sense of calm.

I was starting to feel the pressure of the looming surgery and all of the things that I want to get done ahead of time. It started to make me feel a little frantic and a bit nervous. My mind wandered a little and the fear crept in…but I reminded myself it’ll be ok. I can’t solve for everything but I can prepare. For me, that means that I’ve made my lists of things to get done prior to February (and started tackling those to-dos!), began the necessary paperwork for surgery and ordered a few books to catch up on reading.

I know recovery is going to be tough and I am dreading the pain/discomfort, the inability to lift and not sleeping in my own bed…but this is one surgery. (I will have reconstruction later in the year but it shouldn’t be as intense as this.) It isn’t 6 treatments that knock me on my butt for a week or more at a time, just to do it all over again once I start feeling better. It isn’t 1 day with 5 more looming behind it.

Yes, it is major surgery. Yes, it will be emotional. Yes, it will take time to heal. BUT I will heal – in so many ways.

Every day I will heal.

Every day I will get stronger.

Every day it will hurt a little less.

Every day I will be one step close to picking up my little man.

Every day will be one closer to my husband hugging me as tight as he can.

And every day I am one step closer to being completely done with this phase.

So I am ready for this countdown to begin, for the clock to start. Because at the end of it, I will be cancer free.

My sanity

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When I was pregnant, I had a large spiral notebook that accompanied me on a daily basis. It went to every doctor’s visit, every ultrasound and all of the classes. I used it to keep track of the things I needed to accomplish, the items left to purchase and the research I did throughout pregnancy. Once Jacob was born, I often looked back on those notes to find an answer to a question that I had or to jot down the questions that I had for an upcoming checkup. I still have the notebook now, though I don’t use it like I once did. I smile when I happen to glance at it, knowing all of the scribbles and love it is filled with.

Though the yellow spiral is no longer my go-to notebook, it has been replaced by multiple notebooks. I’ve mentioned chemo fog before, and I promise to spend more time on it in a future post, but I had no idea how real it was until I was in the thick of it. I consider myself a relatively organized person and I now find myself needing to write down everything to keep my head straight. Setting aside work hours, my weeks are filled with follow-up phone calls, checking on claims, (re)submitting documentation, scheduling (and rescheduling) appointments and trying to figure out who I need to call next. And that’s just for me! Then there’s the day-to-day activities of bill paying, little man’s checkups (and surgery consults) and everything in between. Life is quite busy and I need a way to keep it all straight.

So, I turn to notebooks. I have a notebook for each activity in my life. The ones that you see pictured are the ones that I touch almost every day. Two are filled with notes about the two weddings that I’m blessed to be a part of this year, one contains the ins-and-outs of everything that is cancer related (and has lots of post-its for easy access to the parts I need often), one for little man’s adventures, one that is filled with writing specific to my cancer experience, one that is filled with ideas that I have for the book that I want to write….and that doesn’t include the planner that I carry in my purse to keep track of the appointment times and locations. I try to put it all in my phone but sometimes it’s easier to see it on paper.

It’s a lot…but it keeps me sane. All of it. I write it all down so that I can clear it from my head and yet go back to it later and be able to recall the conversation or the outcome. I carry them with me so that I can grab one to jot down a note or two when it comes to me.

I’m anxious for the day that I will be able to look back on the cancer notebook and no longer need it – the appointments and the labs and the claims no longer needed. Though, I don’t think I will keep it around to remember fondly like my yellow spiral notebook…I think I may have to burn it. That doesn’t count as burning literature, right?

 

Merry Christmas!

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After moving to Florida, Christmas was always an odd time of year for me. I was used to the cold weather and my own family traditions from upstate New York, so the first few years were tough. I missed my sister snuggles and the yearly attempt my parents made at pop over perfection (the struggle was real!).

One year, Joe & I were talking about what to do Christmas Day. We had tried spending Christmas Day at home but it felt a little off because it was just the two of us and the weather was warm. That’s when it hit me.

We need to embrace Christmas in Florida. Instead of trying to make it feel like the Christmas I had in New York, we needed to create the Christmas we want here in Florida. Seems simple, right?

That year, we headed towards our favorite restaurant near the beach, only to find out it was closed Christmas Day (oops). Hungry and disappointed, we started driving again and passed a restaurant that we had talked about trying before. We pulled in and grabbed a table. We enjoyed a really nice meal with a wonderful waitress but it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t quite the Christmas that I was looking for and I felt bad eating out on a day that everyone should be with their families.

After our meal, we headed towards the beach to spend the afternoon. As we sat staring at the ocean, I realized that this was exactly what I was looking for in my search. What’s more Florida than Christmas at the beach?!

And our tradition was born.  For the last five years, we have headed to the beach on Christmas Day. We grab a picnic table or two, Joe heats up the grill and we sit enjoying the ocean air while cooking chicken wings, potatoes and a yummy veggie. Some years we spot Santa handing out candy canes while walking in the sand, while other years there are barely any people around the beach at all. It’s become our “thing” and I love it more and more every year.

Last year, Jacob joined us for his first Christmas Day beach trip and this year our friends joined us as well. Though this was the warmest year yet, it was still filled with fun and laughter.

Though Christmas in Florida is not filled with snowmen or hot cocoa, it is filled with a sandman or two and love. And that, my friends, is what makes this holiday so wonderful. I hope your holiday was magical, no matter what traditions you have.

Merry Christmas, everyone!