Thursday, August 18, 2022

Mountain Getaway

This past weekend, we had a lovely getaway to the mountains. We always enjoy going to North Georgia at the end of Summer or the beginning of Fall. This year, we went a little earlier than usual, so the trees hadn't started turning yet. It's always so pretty when the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of the leaves dot the mountainside with color. Even though the mountains were just covered in greenery, it was still pretty and we enjoyed the peacefulness. It's amazing what going days without hearing any traffic does for the soul. 

If I had my way, we'd live in the mountains in a little log cabin. I've always wanted to live in one and so has my sweet hubby. But as we grow older, we've realized we have to let some of our dreams go and err on the side of practicality. We need to be around family and all of the kids live in the city. 

Next year, we'll be making some big decisions on where we want to be for the remainder of our lives. We have no idea where God will lead us, but we're trusting He's got it all worked out for us. 

It's hard no knowing what the future holds, but really, all we can do is plan and hope things work out, right? I mean "Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” Despite our most careful planning, the Road of Life is unpredictable. I guess that's what makes it so fun!

Sometimes I wonder if God is sitting up ther on His big white throne looking down from heaven watching us like little ants. Of course, He knows what we're going to do before we do it, because He's Omnisicent, but it'd be fun to know how He sees us. Does He sit like a doting Father, hand to forehead thinking, " Oh no! Don't do that!" or "If you only knew what that choice would bring..." Since we have the gift of free will, He doesn't interfere with our choices but Jeremiah 29:11 says He has a good plan for us, to prosper us and not to harm us. 

Growing old is for the birds. I don't like it one bit! My body balks when I get out of bed. Joints and muscles I never noticed before now scream out in pain. When I look in the mirror, I see more gray hairs, more wrinkles, and more saggy skin. Daily I'm reminded this old body is wearing out. 

Sure, I could have taken better care of it when I was in my teens, but who thinks about approaching 70 then? When we're young we think we're immortal, but oh, how quickly time proves us wrong. 

Several of my friends have lost their spouses recently and those losses have caused me to give pause to my own life. What would I do if I suddenly lost my mate? I'd be so lost and lonely I couldn't bear it! I don't even want to think about it, so I'll change the subject now. 

I'm reminded God has numbered my days. I don't know how many He's allotted to me, but my time is in His hands. That's why I'm doing my best to take one day at a time now and enjoy each one to the fullest. It's hard, especially for a long term planner like me, but I'm trying. 

Vacations help slow me down. That's why we try to take one or two a year. When I'm on vacation, I don't think about the day to day routines, I'm more apt to let my hair down and just chill. Believe me, this old body needs to do a whole lot more of that! In fact, it could use being put on ice a few days! 

If you're finding yourself stressing out about daily life, plan a mini vacation. Get way from the daily grind. Find a place of respite and soak in some peace. It will do wonders for you, it surely will. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Honoring My Icon

Olivia Newton-John
When news outlets announced the death of one of my favorite singers, Olivia Newton John, I wasn’t prepared for the gamut of emotions I’d face. At first, I was shocked. I knew she’d been fighting breast cancer for many years and had done my best to keep up with her story. I’d been interested in her use of marijuana and had been surprised to learn she and her husband had been growing their own for medicinal use.

As I continued reading about her death, I became overcome with feelings of deep sadness. Ms. Newton-John had been initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and had faced a recurrence in 2012 when cancer was discovered in her shoulder, then in 2014, it had moved into her spine.

She’d spoken openly over the years about breast cancer and had seemed to stay positive and upbeat. I’d admired her tenacity.

I first fell in love with Olivia Newton-John in the early 70s when she released her song, “I honestly love you.” In fact, I had that song played at my wedding. It was such a sweet, heartfelt song and completely conveyed my feelings toward my husband.

When the movie, “Grease,” came out, Olivia became everyone’s sweetheart. As she sang and acted alongside heartthrob, John Travolta, audiences were captivated. She was portrayed the all-American girl. I wanted to be like her.

In 2014, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I scoured the internet for information and in those searches, Olivia Newton-John kept popping up. I read everything I could about her and learned about her life pre and post cancer. As I read about her use of marijuana, because of its CBD content, I spoke with my doctor about it. If it was good enough for Newton-John, it was good enough for me. He was on board when I mentioned wanting to try it and I had a good experience. I even wrote an article about it hoping to share valuable insight with others.

As more details were announced regarding Ms. Newton-John’s death, my emotions changed from sadness to fear. If her cancer could return many years after her initial diagnosis, mine could, too. Standing in the kitchen, cellphone in hand, I began to weep. My husband came over to hold me and asked what was wrong. I began to explain about my superstar’s death and openly shared my fear of recurrence with him. “Don’t worry,” he said, “You’re going to be okay. You’re an 8-year survivor.” Though I heard the words he was saying, I didn’t believe them. Yes, I’m an 8-year survivor, but every day I live afraid.

Some days the fear is more prevalent than others. Most of the time, I can push it to the back of my mind, but when I experience a sudden illness, or an odd pain somewhere in my body, I wonder if the cancer has come back. I don’t want to live that way. Many survivors experience similar feelings. It’s a type of post cancer PTSD.

As I write this post, something outside the window catches my eye. It’s a beautiful swallowtail butterfly on the butterfly bush. I can’t help but focus on it. I love butterflies. As I watch it flit among the flowers, I notice something – this butterfly has 2 broken wings! There’s a big chunk taken out of the lower left wing and a piece missing from the top right. Coincidental? I don’t think so. I think God allowed me to see that specific butterfly today as a reminder. Butterflies with broken wings, can still fly. And I can still live without my breasts.

Should cancer recur in the next few days, months, or years, I’ll do my best to get through it. If that broken butterfly can still fly, then why shouldn’t I try to thrive, even under difficult circumstances?

Ms. Newton-John was a beautiful soul with a tender heart. I’m thankful she’s no longer suffering, but I’m also sad she’s no longer with us.

The song, “Have You Never Been Mellow,” recorded by Newton-John in 1975, the year I graduated from high school, reminds me life is precious. It’s worth treasuring and taking time to enjoy. In honor of Olivia Newton-John, I’m going to take her advice to heart and try to remember to take one day at a time.

We will miss you, Olivia, but we’ll never forget you.

Have You Never Been Mellow?

There was a time when I was in a hurry as you are
I was like you
There was a day when I just had to tell my point of view
I was like you
Now I don't mean to make you frown
No, I just want you to slow down

Have you never been mellow?
Have you never tried to find a comfort from inside you?
Have you never been happy just to hear your song?
Have you never let someone else be strong?

Running around as you do with your head up in the clouds
I was like you
Never had time to lay back kick your shoes off, close your eyes
I was like you

Now you're not hard to understand
You need someone to take your hand, hey

Have you never been mellow?
Have you never tried to find a comfort from inside you?
Have you never been happy just to hear your song?
Have you never let someone else be strong?

 

Songwriters: John Clifford Farrar

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Staying inside my own Hula Hoop


When I was a young girl, hula hooping was a big craze. I wanted a hula hoop so badly and begged my mother for one. Finally, after much nagging on my part, she gave in and bought me a beautiful red and yellow hoop. I was so proud of it and although I had no idea how to use it, I spent hours trying to figure it out.

Slipping the large, plastic hoop over my head, I worked it down toward my little hips. Holding it on each side, I began to shimmy my body side to side. The hoop circled once or twice before falling to the ground. Frustrated, I tried again and again until finally, I mastered it. From that day forward, I spent hours entertaining myself with that simple ring of joy.

Today, as I think back on that hula hoop, I remember how I felt to be inside it. It was a safe zone. A place where I could be me and do what I enjoyed doing, even if I was only moving side to side. Fast forward to today, I often wish I were inside a hula hoop again, enjoying the simple pleasures of life. But as I’ve grown older and health challenges have become more prevalent, I don’t think there’s a hula hoop big enough to encompass my woes.

And then, I think about those I love who’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer. How desperately I want to offer them advice on how to go forward. I want to save them from learning things the hard way, like I did when I was diagnosed. I think back and wish I’d had someone to give me good advice — any small tidbit of helpful information would have been greatly appreciated, and then I hear my inner child whisper, “Stay inside your own hula hoop.”

We can’t fight anyone else’s cancer battle for them. No matter how hard we try, it’s a very personal journey.

Just like learning to hula hoop, a person with cancer must learn their own technique of balancing whatever comes their way. They don’t necessarily need or want someone to show them how to keep the hoop up.

Occasionally, the newly diagnosed person may ask a seasoned survivor for help and if they do, we should be happy to assist, but otherwise, we should take a hands-off approach. Just because their hoop seems to be slipping doesn’t mean we have to run in and fix it!

Navigating the world of cancer can feel like learning to hula hoop. At first, the hoop falls over and over again, but with practice and determination, things eventually begin to work into a more manageable rhythm. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and the hoop will definitely fall again, but there’s something inside a person that causes them to pick it up and begin again. That something could be called resilience or fortitude, but I think it’s a balance of both. To keep the hoop in motion, one must be able to recover quickly with courage in the midst of adversity.

Hula hooping is supposed to be fun. Cancer is definitely not. And though I’m currently outside the hoop of cancer, enjoying a life of remission, I know that could change any moment. I don’t take that lightly.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see many hula hoops spinning. They belong to people I care about. Some are spinning slowly and others very quickly. I stand ready to catch the ones about to fall. I want desperately to reach out and assist, but then, I hear that little voice inside my head whisper again, “Stay inside your own hula hoop.” And I do.

Sweet dreams

For the past several years, I've struggled with chronic insomnia. It's gotten so bad, I dread the nighttime because I know, when it&...