Daily Inspiration, Inspiration, Life, Love, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Shifting Gears

Rams Head on UrnIt’s a New Moon in Aries today.  A Super New Moon at that.  The Elephant Journal has a great article out today on this new moon, “Trust in the Magic of New Beginnings.” 

In it, the author says, “Sometimes the best thing we can do is close our eyes, hope for the best and jump.

What a statement!

My natal moon is in Aries, as well as 4 other planets.  So I tend to take anything in Aries pretty seriously, especially when it seems that my life is reflecting something – mirroring – the archetypal energies in the sky. And I always take the moon seriously.  Which is why, for the last few days, I’ve been working on my Vision Board.  It’s been about 4 years since I made the last one, and it was time.

The inspiration was carried to me on some new energy flowing through my home over the last few days. It’s got a clean, life affirming vibe. Putting my Vision Board together just sort of ‘happened’, and it was fun and relaxing – not a task on my To Do list.  And even though there are some challenges going on, I find myself walking around with a huge grin my face at the oddest moments, like while vacuuming, or cooking.

I experienced huge shift earlier this week while out for a walk,  Feeling kind of heavy-hearted,  I asked Whoever Was Listening, “How to I shift out of this?” The answer came fast and super simple:  Gratitude.  Ah, of course!  I know all about the Magic of Gratitude so I started expressing thanks for the good things I could see – the beautiful day, the ability to walk, the Turkey Vultures.

And – just like that – SHIFT.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?  Back in August, after my 2nd or 3rd round of chemo, I began sewing again.  It was something enjoyable I could do throughout the day as my energy allowed.  And since I tend to pick simple things to work on (I sew a mean straight line), I decided to work on some market bags

My intention was to “try one” to see if I liked making it.   Before I knew it, I had made, sold and given away a bunch, and My Hope Totes was born.  If you’d like to see a portfolio (all the bags shown are sold), you can find them HERE.

I thought the name was catchy…a play on one of my favorite movies.  And HOPE, well, it’s been my Anchor Word for the past year –  right up there with TRUST.

When I am feeling HOPE and TRUST, my heart opens, like a lotus towards the sun.  I can feel when it’s happening, that unfurling.  It’s such a beautiful sensation, I’ve taken to cultivating it with much more intention these days.

Whether it’s the Spring, or my recent birthday, or the way Moon is aligned, my Heart Lotus is opening.  I sense it in odd moments while I’m putzing around my house.  My smile usually gives it away.  Embodying the message of HOPE is really what I feel I’m here for.  Like, HOPE is my purpose.  I know what it’s like to feel hopeless, and I know what it is like to have someone there – be it human, animal or event – at just the right time with just the right word to lift your spirits.

I experience that daily, and I want to be that for others.  I’m surrendered into the Service of Hope.  And, the more I give away, the more I feel it myself. Like Magic.

Daily Inspiration

Chemo Hacks – My Top 7 Helps For Managing Side Effects

GoddessHeartThe need to undergo chemotherapy is a harsh reality for many breast cancer patients, and every woman’s chemo “cocktail” will vary depending on what she’s been diagnosed with.  My doctor prescribed TCH – Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. (Herceptin is not a chemo drug itself, but a targeted therapy that produces antibodies for those who are HER2+).  Each of these medications comes with their own list of potential side effects – some of which a doctor will prescribe medication to help combat.

When you think of what is being put into the body with chemotherapy, it’s no surprise that  it basically becomes a toxic waste site.  I am doing my best to eliminate those toxins as quickly as possible to try to maintain some semblance of “health” during and after my treatment plan.  While I’ve avoided any vomiting, there are other side effects I experience with every cycle – typically starting on Day 3 (of a 21 day cycle) after a round and continuing through the first 10-14  days.

I’ve come up this Chemo Hack List of the Top 7 things I’m doing to help eliminate or minimize these uncomfortable side effects. Since I still have 2 rounds to go at the time of this posting, I’ll update this as I find more things that are helpful and well as address whether or not I escaped the more common long-term effects (like neuropathy, etc.) all together with some of the things that I’m doing.

HACK #1 – DRINK WATER: It is recommended that we drink at least 3 quarts of water a day, every day.  That is a chemo hack waterLOT of water but it is vital to help flush the toxins and medication through our systems.  When you’re not feeling great, or when water tastes like metal, it can be hard to remember to drink as much as we need to.  To help with that, I use this 4 cup measuring cup and three stretchy hair bands.  Each band represents a quart, and how many times that cup needs to be filled in order for me to have my daily requirement (4 Cups = 1 quart).  Every time I fill it, I remove one of the bands.  This way I always know how much more I have yet to drink that day.  That being said, on those days when I just can’t force down enough water without gagging, I also include other fluids I drink – hot tea, etc.

HACK #2 – TURKEY BASTER BIDET:  I know, it sure ain’t Thanksgiving! But the body chemo hack turkey basterhas to eliminate all that water and more.  What isn’t spoken much about in the way of side effects is that what comes out can burn!  So I keep a turkey baster next to the toilet in the bathroom (which, fortunately, sits right next to the sink).  Every time I eliminate, I gave myself a little Turkey Baster Bidet to rinse myself.  This helps tremendously, and I never skip this step after experiencing a very uncomfortable raw episode after my first round (which I treated with Desitin).  After each rinse and a dry, I apply Vaseline around the  general area so as to protect the sensitive skin.  With everything else going on, having burning Girly Bits isn’t going to help.  Lube and rinse.  That’s all I’m saying.  (This typically isn’t needed after Day 10-14)

HACK #3 – BAKING SODA:  It’s not just the Down Low that gets a toxic washing.  Our Rob's Red Mill Baking Sodamouths are equally as sensitive and a prime area for chemo effects because the cells there produce rapidity (the type of cells the chemo is targeting).  I haven’t gotten mouth sores, but I do have to deal with this weird all over burning sensation, a tongue that feels like I downed a scorching cup of coffee in one gulp, and burning, chapped lips.  The ACS recommends avoiding certain foods to help combat this….foods which, ironically, are the only ones I really feel like eating because I can actually taste them.  (I definitely pay for this later.)  This includes acidic, salty and spicy foods.  If you can avoid those, more power to you – you’ll be ahead of the game!  And there are prescription medications to help with sores if you get them (The OTC mouthwash Biotene is also helpful).  My chemo hack for this is to rinse my mouth several times a day with baking soda and water.  I use about 1/2 teaspoon to a cup water.  The baking soda helps alkalize the mouth and brings some fast, albeit temporary relief.  I like to use an organic  aluminum free product like Bob’s Red Mill.

HACK #4 – FRANKINCENSE:  I am a big believer in the healing qualities of good, therapeutic chemo hack frankincensegrade Essential Oils. While it was my personal choice not to ingest any EOs during treatment, you can bet I will be during the “Reconstruction” phase when I am done.  I do, however, use EO topically for different things.  One thing I do is apply Frankincense to the soles of my feet and my ankles starting on the day before a round.  I then apply it the morning of treatment, and then every day for a week following.  I’ll apply it once in the morning and once later in the day, and then wear socks.  If you decide to do this, make sure to get a good therapeutic grade oil.  I started with Young Living (being as I’m a YL distributor myself), however, theirs is VERY expensive and a bottle only lasts about 1.5 – 2 treatment cycles.  My Go-To place now is Eden’s Garden for quality, price, and speed of shipping.  I purchased it here.

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HACK #5 – CHEMO FASTING:  The history and health benefits of fasting is long and impressive.  When I heard that some people were implementing fasting around their treatments, I was immediately interested because I know that with less food in the system, everything will pass through much quicker.  It is a personal preference for how long to fast, but based on what I’ve read, I decided to fast the day of my treatment, plus or minus.  I have my rounds on Fridays, so starting that week, I try to keep from eating a lot of food that takes longer to digest, like red meat.  On Thursday, I like to go meatless all together.  On treatment day, I stick to water only, and then go back to regular eating on Saturday.  Another thing I do is take a stool softener with each round as the steroids I am required to take on Thursday and Saturday cause major constipation.  So I start taking them on Wednesday, then daily through the following Sunday or Monday.  This has proven an effective way to keep everything moving through my body as quickly as possible, with no long term back up.

HACK #6 – GINGER ALE AND PRETZELS:  A classic “Old Wives” remedy for nausea related Ginger Ale Chemo Hackto pregnancy, ginger ale works well for chemo related nausea, too, I have found.  Trying to minimize the number of drugs I’m putting into my body, I haven’t wanted to use either of the two prescription medications given to me by my oncologist.  By drinking ginger ale and eating pretzels, I have managed to move past any nausea I experience on-and-off during the week after my treatment (typically starting Day 3).  The fizzy, gingery, salty combination is a classic hack used among a lot of breast cancer patients, and one that I am happy to add to this list because it really worked for me.

HACK #7 – Chemotherapy Meditation CD I wish I had known about this CD before I started chemo, because I would have started using it right away.  The whole freak out factor I dealt with going into this thing was off the Chemo Meditation Hackcharts.  It was actually the thought of undergoing chemo – more than the cancer itself – that scared me the most.  Be that as it may, I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and did what I had to do.  But THIS is making things notably different, I can tell you for a fact, since I have the “Before” and “After” to compare.  Spoken in a very soothing voice by Belleruth Naparstek, “A Meditation To Help You With Chemotherapy” is an amazing resource to help put chemo in a positive light, reduce adverse side effects, help the body’s immune system, and encourage hope, safety and calm.  There is 20 minutes of a guided meditation and another 20 minutes of affirmations.  I use this primarily at night before I go to bed, and it helps me sleep.  (Fortunately, because it works on the subconscious level, one does not have to be awake to reap the benefits.  Win/Win!!)  I highly recommend this hack for anyone who holds a lot of stress around the subject of getting chemotherapy.  I hope it brings you as much peace as it has me.

*This post will be made a permanent page for future reference and additions*

The Wild Pomegranate

Seeds Of Change

seed-packets-peasWhat is it about woundedness that is so powerful in engaging others?  Whether it’s a physical ailment, a childhood trauma or a recent heartbreak, it seems that when we start speaking to the world through the voice of our wounds, the world responds back in spades.  Suddenly, the flood gates open up and everyone has a story to share. Strangers immediately become brothers and sisters, and don’t show the least hesitation in sharing deeply personal and painful experiences.

Years ago, at the recommendation of a therapist my husband and I were seeing, I began going to 12-Step support groups for Co-Dependants Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous.  I also joined a couple of online communities for the same purposes.  Initially, it was a huge relief to be able to share my stories with people who had “been there, done that.”  Compassion, encouragement, and support surrounded me.  I soon discovered that I wasn’t alone, there were people more fucked up than me (no judgment there, just sayin’…), and  I didn’t have to have secrets anymore.

I was validated and heard – two things very important on any healing journey.

But something began to happen about 30 days into it.  I wasn’t finding the groups helpful any more.  The people began to annoy me, the meetings drained me, and I no longer felt like I belonged. I simply couldn’t bear the constant rehashing of everyone’s issues over and over again, with so little focus placed on the solution.  And my skin crawled at the idea of saying, “Hi, I’m Grace, and I’m an addict.”  The words just didn’t want to come out.

“Once an addict, always an addict” is one of the major philosophies of the traditional 12 Step Program. and I was having none of it.   I may have developed some maladaptive “survival” behaviors, but those were things I LEARNED to do as a child. And surely, anything learned could be UNLEARNED, and new behaviors put into place – right?

So I quit going to meetings and began seeing a solution based program.   It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a wonderful Buddhist Bodhisatta, a psychologist, who was running an online recovery program, and immediately I felt at home.  I had found my tribe.  And under his care and instruction, true healing began.

To this day I thank the Recovery Gods that I listened to those little warning bells, and removed myself from the 12 step programs.  It didn’t take more than a year before I was free…completely….of addictive behavior.  My recovery came from being in a “wellness” focused environment – not a “sickness” focused one.  I spoke and prayed and meditated and affirmed and manifested health into existence, having surrendered it all to God’s grace.  My thoughts and words shifted. aligning with freedom. wholeness and well being.

And my whole life changed.

I was thinking about this yesterday when, for what seemed like the millionth time, I sat at the computer to write a post and came up empty.  Several times a few sentences managed to make their way to the page, but the flow was missing.  I’d type and end up staring at the screen for 5 minutes.  Then I’d try to “force” something, but I would quickly lose interest and delete the page – completely uninspired.

Then, the epiphany.   I don’t want to write about breast cancer, my daily challenges and experiences.  Not right now.  Even though it is the “big” issue in my life right now, even though ’m undergoing treatment, and yeah, it’s been difficult at time, and even though there are times when I absolutely need to talk about what I’m going through – it’s not what’s in my heart to write about.

I no more want to identify as a breast cancer “survivor” than I did a “recovering addict”.  It doesn’t feel right.  I am NOT a disease, and my life is made up of so much more than this single season!  As powerful as it’s been, as transformational and life altering, it does not – and will not – define me.

This mindset explains why pink ribbons don’t fill in my space.  In fact, now that I think about it, the only pink ribbons I do have were given to me by others! The beautiful handmade blanket covered…the t-shirt….the handcrafted key chain.

Don’t get me wrong!  I am SO very appreciative of these thoughtful gifts.  The outpouring of love, support, prayers, gifts and encouragement I’ve received has been an amazing blessing.  But it’s been my friends and family who have filled my life with merch and slogans like, “Fight Like A Girl” and “Kick Cancer’s Ass” and “Save The Tatas”.

The only thing I’ve personally done that would ID me as someone dealing with cancer is my bald head.  Otherwise, no one would know if they saw me. AND THAT’S THE WAY I WANT IT.

I’ve been receiving messages from Spirit in the past couple of weeks.  Every time I turn around, I see something about the power of words.  I am being reminded of something I learned several decades ago, and that is this:  The power of life and death and in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), that it is out of the abundance of the heart that we speak (Matthew 12:34), and that the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

Words contain the power of life and death, blessing and cursing, health or illness.  They are containers of vibration.  The Hidden Messages in Water – the work of renown scientist Masaru Emoto – shows that even the written word carries vibrational energy that impacts life is near it. Words let the Universe and everyone around us know exactly what it is our hearts and our minds, and repeating the same thing over and over again is, in itself, a creative process. (Hence the power of chanting).

So I’ve been confronted by Spirit recently:  What is it that I am saying?  What thoughts am I repetitively thinking, what prayers?  What WORDS am I using?  What the HELL is coming out of my mouth?

This morning, I’m  making a decision…..setting an intention.  I want to speak – and write – only those words that bring the vibration of healing, restoration and renewal into my life.  Just like back in the “recovery” days,  I’m going to focus what I want, and not on what I have.

Words are like seeds we plant in the unseen ground of our tomorrows. And I know exactly what I want to grow.

“We have totally forgotten that this Universe is the outcome of vibration. This Universe is not communication. This Universe is not money. This Universe is not love, it is not sex, it is not beauty, it is not even God. That one line is true: “In the beginning there was the Word, Word was with God, and Word was God.” That’s all it is about. What is a word? Creative vibration.”  Yogi Bhajan  7/18/84

Inspiration, Love, The Wild Pomegranate, Writing

WHAT Did You Say?

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I had a Moment this morning.

Having opted to do some meditation and journaling over walking before work (by 6:30, I had already done a couple loads of laundry, ironed 6 shirts for The Man, and watered the garden), I wanted to sit for a bit and prepare my heart for the day.

The candles were lit on either side of my bed.  My steno pad and pen, and one of my favorite decks (Denise Linn’s, “Gateway”) were at my fingertips.  Sitting cross-legged, propped up against the headboard,  I looked for something on one of my YouTube channels that would help set the mood.  When I got there, I had “suggested” channels of some wonderful meditation music over at TheHonestGuys.  Why, I haven’t a clue…this isn’t something that I normally d…but I dialed in one of the pieces that included water sounds, set the volume to low, then sat back to take a few deep breaths.

Maybe 5, 6 in, I could feel calm pour over me like warm honey. Muscles I didn’t realize I was clenching softened along with my gaze, and I went about clearing my mind of all the chatter.  It helps that it’s a cool, overcast morning, and the view from my bedroom window includes lots of trees, hills and sky.

In that clear space, Mom popped up.

Not a huge surprise, as I’m making meatloaf and mac n’ cheese (both long time family favorites we do from scratch, Southern style)  to take to her on Sunday.  She’s super excited!  Even though we planned my trip a week ago, and even though I do something with her every few weeks, the last-minute addition of my husband makes this trip more special.  My mom has always enjoyed spending time in the company of men, and she loves my husband.  They are two Libran peas in a pod, and in some ways, share more in common than Mom and I.  Things like Right Wing Conservatism, and needing to weigh EVERY decision for eternity, and having to deal with me. *grin*

Anyway, in this meditative state, I see and hear her in my mind very vividly.  She’s looking stern and a little aggressive around the eyes, as she tends to from time to time.  She’s saying something like “You don’t know a thing about it, so don’t you tell me what I should do!”…a discussion argument fight discussion we’ve had a number of times, especially in recent years with her declining health and solitary lifestyle.

But then, I saw her again..  NOT as the Angry Mom .  This time in a more detached way.  I saw her as an aging human with a lifetime of experiences, memories and thoughts that are completely her own.  A fellow traveler who didn’t want others to define her experiences for her, or to define HER, at the most personal level.

And THAT is when I had A Moment.  Suddenly, I could totally relate to her!  Just like that, rather than getting frustrated (my typical response when trying to reason with Mom about something we don’t see eye-to-eye on), a flood of compassion washed over me. My eyes filled with tears, I hung my head, and wept.

For the first time, I understood.

I recently went through an experience with my brother.  This was only the second time we had  seen each other this year, and he lives 15 miles away.  As you might guess, we’re not particularly close.

We were sitting in a bar, catching up over cocktails with a cousin we hadn’t seen in 30 years.  There were the requisite stories of our families, and growing up and what our lives are like now.  My brother suddenly says, “ You’ve been  more contemplative in the last five years”, and I…well… I got seriously prickly over it. Before I even realized what I was saying, I turn to him and spit, “How would you know what I’m like?  I see you twice a year on holidays!”.

Ugh! Even though I couldn’t see myself, I know that my forehead and eyes were all scrunched up in that “Are you fucking kidding me right now??”  way I’ve been known to get.

A little over the top, right?  It’s not like he insulted me.  He didn’t say, “Oh wow, Sis!  Packed on a few pounds, have we?  Sure you want some chips?” or anything like that.  No, he just made an observation.

The weird thing is, he wasn’t wrong!  I am contemplative…and maybe more so, at least out loud, in the last few years with Mom’s situation and my own Time Clock ticking away.  The truth is, I got pissy over the time frame: “the last five years”.  He said it with such authority.  With such knowing.

I was born a deep thinker.  My first recollection of communing with the Divine, I was maybe 10 years old and I spent my teen years reading the likes of Rod McKuen , Jack Kerouac and Leo Busaglia.  I’ve been into spirituality and “self help” and psychology and philosophy forever, have journaled my deepest thoughts since I was 12, and have been blogging about a good number of them for a decade.

I realized this morning that the “real” reason I got upset with my brother is that our blood connection didn’t matter a bit.  Here was a guy who, in many ways, I don’t even like and with whom I rarely speak.  And HE was telling me who I was?!?

As I’m reliving this conversation in my head, I imagine myself saying what I wanted to him then that I didn’t:

“DON’T TELL ME WHO I AM!”

Dammit!

“Do NOT tell me who I am!”

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…. I have a feeling this Sunday – and whatever else time I have left with my Mom – is going a be lot different.