Fuck You, Cancer!

Insidious,

You sneak in,

Like a thief,

Unseen.

Entering the body,

Forcing it

To wage war on itself,

Sapping strength,

Muscle and bone,

Like a pestilence,

Stealing health.

And much needed time.

Confusion, devastation,

Questions and doubt…

“Why me, God?”

Or maybe

“Why them?”

Like a vampire,

You suck life and vitality

Leaving behind

A hollow reflection

That reverberates,

Aftershocks of destruction

To crumble

friends and families;

Those left behind,

And think you’ve won.

But that’s the battle,

Not the war.

Some things you can’t

Take.

They belong to the fighters.

The fierce warriors

Who stare you down,

Refusing to let you take

The love they give,

The life they live,

They never back down.

They fight and believe.

They are heroes,

Fortitude and fury

They battle until the body grows

Weary.

They teach…

Love, compassion,

And take back

What you sought to destroy.

For friends, family,

And mankind.

Help and hope–

To restore faith, belief,

And healing.

The beauty of sharing strength

Of loving support,

Of community and humanity,

And remind the world…

It’s not how you die

But how you LIVED!

I lost a dear childhood friend to cancer today after a 6 year battle. Even more, two amazing kids lost a mom and a loving husband lost his wife. A brother lost his baby sister and two parents lost their baby girl.

A year and a half before that, there was my father-in-law. And before that there was another few friends and an uncle…and the list goes on. Cancer has reared its nasty head in nearly everyone’s lives, but the miracle is in their relentless pursuit of life. Of living. Of never giving up, even if their bodies give out.

https://youtu.be/AHZCAcSh7ls

Left Behind

Let me go.
I’m not here…
Chase your life;
Face your fear.
Find your passion
Feed your soul,
Reach for things
That make you whole.

Celebrate
Our memory,
Of laughter, tears;
A legacy.
Embrace the joy.
Never forget;
Keep moving forward,
Let go of regret.

Honor my gift,
Cherish and share,
The joy in remembrance;
You’ll find me there.
So open your arms,
Set yourself free,
And smile when you think back
On memories of me.

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here because life kind of got away with me. But today I was inspired to write something special. Something specific.

I was at a celebration of life service today. The mother of a friend passed away, so I went to help their family honor her. It also reminded me of some of my losses, but instead of focusing on what I hoped they knew, I found myself focusing on the message I’m pretty sure they wanted those of us left behind to hear.

A lot has been going on in my universe this last year. I started a new day job; one that I love, but limits the amount of time I have for writing, but it allows me to help change people’s lives. My sister gave birth to our first nephew on my side of the family….waaaay early. There were fears that we could lose them both, but they’re both thriving these days. And then there’s the step-dad. As most of you know, he’s more a father to me than my bio dad. Keep him in your thoughts. He’s battling cancer. I effing HATE that word.

What I’m trying to say is…. Please be patient with me. I still love you guys. I’m still here. I’ve just had a lot going on…. Including a project that I can’t say anything about yet. But I will. I miss you guys.

A Look Back and a Step Forward

New Year

As the year comes to an end, I’ve found myself reflective about 2013. Overall, it has been challenging, but with every year I learn that growth comes through challenges.

There were a few firsts….

This was the first full year since I was 14 years old that I did not have a “traditional” job working for someone else. It felt strange.

First time I’ve received letters/emails stating a company went another direction in their hiring process (because I was overqualified).

Went to my first readers conference, Authors After Dark 2013 in Savannah, and had a blast getting to know other readers…and picking the brains of some of my favorite writers.

Took my first temp job representing an electronics company in retail stores, teaching their employees about the company’s products, how to sell them, position them, and overcome customer objections.

Milestone Firsts… The GOOD STUFF!

But…even with those negatives…it was also the first time, despite all my stops and starts, that I published my first book…an erotic short! Those of you who’ve known and followed me for a while are not even a little surprised.

I got to meet one of my favorite blogging buddies, Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson, in person. The day we spent together was priceless to me….and quite hilarious. (She’s now going through some tough times, though, and could use lots of good thoughts and prayers.)

I survived my first ever 5K…and I hate to run! But, with the help of a few friends, we killed ColorVibe‘s run. Our team name? “Taste The Rainbow.” Hehehe!

ColorVibe

ColorVibe

I wrote my first ever sponsored blog post, and it was a blast!

I turned 40. Fortunately this one won’t be repeated… overall, preparing for the party turned out to be very stressful, but the love and friendship I was shown was worth the effort.

I got to meet some of my favorite authors…like Cherise Sinclair (who tolerated me when I accosted her at the end of the autograph signing event).

She STILL autographed my book...

She STILL autographed my book…

And the lovely and talented Joey W. Hill who was gracious enough to take a pic with me at the elemental ball….

Me with Joey W. Hill

Me with Joey W. Hill

Not to mention the awesome author who transplanted to my hometown (Chicago), Julie Ann Walker…who bought me a drink and spent time chatting it up and laughing with me.

 

Me and Julie Ann Walker listening to my sister.

Me and Julie Ann Walker listening to my sister.

Or partying with C. J. Ellisson….at the pre-vampire ball party in her hotel room, then at her table.

Vampire Ball with C.J. Ellisson

Vampire Ball with C.J. Ellisson

 

There were a few heartbreaks

A dear friend of mine lost her battle to cancer. I tried to find a way to honor her memory…and share her love of life with you guys here.

My husband lost his job. That stung considering I had not found a day to day job outside of my writing. Fortunately he found a new one a couple weeks later.

Several more friends were diagnosed with various illnesses, mostly cancer.

I had to miss my half-sister’s wedding because of short notice and inability to afford plane tickets (they were nearly $1000).

~~~~~~~~~~

While I was listing a general recap of last year’s highlights, I was surprised at just how many positive things had happened last year. Why? Because the bad ones felt so big!

Overall, life is filled with good and bad…which makes it a bit bittersweet. It’s so easy to lose perspective and let the negative overtake you if you allow it to have a foot hold in your mind.

So, as I enter into 2014, I’m determined to go forward with my best foot forward and my attitude in check…and to make sure that I remember to celebrate all the positive milestones I’ll be experiencing along the way.

What about you? When you look back on this last year, what are some of your most standout moments, both good and bad?

I think The Verve had it right with their gorgeous song from Cruel Intentions….

Christmas Miracles and Sharing Hope

A big part of the Holiday Season are gifts and miracles. Even non-believers are often able to suspend cynicism to find something wonderful.

One of the pleasure I’ve gained because of my blog comes with the people I meet along the way. In fact, that’s how I was introduced to one of those miracles. Imagine this for a moment… You’ve just had your first child months prior when your health starts to rapidly decline. You go to the doctor and are given the frighteningly terrible diagnosis. Yes, it’s the dreaded “C” word…and not just any, but one that usually sees you dead within the year. She was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. That was back in 2005.

As most of you know, I love to tie music in to my posts. When I asked her for a favorite song, she gave me one of Peter Gabriel‘s greatest songs. When you consider her story, the love and support she received from the people around her…and the fact that she’s here for her daughter, the song makes a special kind of sense.

Heather Von St. James has an amazing story that I hope you check out for yourself and share with others. It kind of reminds me of another one of my favorite Christmas tunes. Afterall, when everything is at it’s darkest…. That’s when we usually find our miracles. Personally, I believe in all sorts of miracles. So here’s Amy Grant with My Grown Up Christmas List.

Do you know anyone who could use some extra positive thoughts or prayers? Maybe someone suffering from cancer who needs a bit of hope? Or maybe someone who IS another Christmas Miracle? Please share on here…. I’d love to add them to my prayers, and I’m sure if we all get together to push good thoughts and prayers this way…we can give hope and miracles a helping hand….

Independence Day Hodgepodge

Thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes both here and on Facebook. It’s meant the world. As most of you know, I tend to get pretty sentimental around Patriotic holidays.

Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday, or maybe it’s because the last couple days have been rough (just had one of my close friends moved to hospice with end stage cancer this week), but I’m not in the mood to tear my guts out today…or think too hard. She says she can feel good thoughts and prayers, so whichever way you believe…I’d appreciate anything for my friend Kenda.

It seems I have several friends battling this disease and winning (thank goodness), but even one loss seems like too many. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been my first friend/family to battle cancer, but she hasn’t lost yet…so all prayers are appreciated. This song is dedicated to all of my friends fighting cancer and all the folks who are loving and supporting them.

Today is also Independence Day… Which, of course, had me thinking back to the men and women who battled for our nation as well as our founding fathers. We had some pretty amazing guys!

With guys like Washington, Edison, Jefferson, Hancock and company, it’s hard to decide on a favorite…but I have a couple. Alexander Hamilton always seemed like a player/stud, so I had a bit of a soft spot for him.

My favorite quote came from Nathan Hale:

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

My second favorite is Patrick Henry‘s:

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

I must have always had some sort of fascination with sailors, though, because my all time favorite (and I have no idea why) was John Paul Jones. There’s something kind of badass about a guy who says, “Surrender? I have not yet begun to fight.” I understand that kind of mentality. I respect that fiery passion.

What about you guys? What are your favorite things about Independence day? Who is your favorite Revolutionary War/Founding Father?

Hope you enjoyed the fireworks on my birthday! 😉

#SusieStrong – You’ll Never Walk Alone

Trials have a way of defining us as a person. Not the challenges in and of themselves, but the way we respond to them. Do we run and hide? Do we stand up and face them? Are we strong enough to weather the storms of life?

Some of the most inspiring people I know are those who have not only withstood the trails life’s sent their way, but faced it head on with grace, laughter and strength. But they rarely stop there. These living, breathing miracles take it one step further. They find a way to use those same experiences to help, inspire and give hope.

One of the coolest things about the internet, and blogging in particular, is the people you get to know along the way. It was through blogging that I had the pleasure of getting to know one of the coolest people I know. She has a zeal for life that can’t help but bring out joy and laughter in those she touches. Her Wild Rides have become notorious….from her Polar Bear Club Excursion to her Helicopter skiing to so many more adventures, she’s kept us entertained. Susie Lindau is one of those people who you can’t help but admire and enjoy watching as she attacks life.

Recently she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she shared the initial news, on her blog post titled The Boob Report – Roadblocks and U-Turns my first thought was that I seriously hate cancer, followed quickly by my certainty that Susie would rise to the occasion with this disease just like she has every other adventure in her life. She’s just that kind of woman. What was more, she was smart enough to share the experience with her friends and let us all find our little ways to be there to love and support her through this time.

Most of you know that music is a medium I use to express my thoughts, and today is no different.

After Susie shared with us in her The Boob Report – Laughter Is The Best Medicine that she would be undergoing surgery today, one of her other awesome blog followers came up with the idea of showing her our support through our blogs. I was thrilled to participate. Susie is a constant source of inspiration to me! Doubt how badass she is? Read the links I left and see what I mean.

If you know Susie and would like to wish her a speedy recovery, please feel free to comment. If you don’t know her, but would still like to wish her well, I welcome you to do so and to check out her blog and see why she’s so well loved.

Here are a few other folks today who’ve joined in the campaign to cheer Susie on as she kicks cancer’s butt:

Gloria Richard

BrickhouseChick

Jess Witkins

Tameri Etherton

To close out, I’m posting a song that has always helped me feel strong and reminded me that the strong know when to lean on those around them.

 

 

Love Remains

I talked to my father-in-law yesterday. He’s in good spirits and said that if he didn’t have the history he did, he wouldn’t have even known he was ill. He asked me to convey his thanks for the thoughts and prayers and asked that you keep them coming. He’s certain since everything was caught early, his type of cancer is highly treatable and he’s got faith in his oncologist that he will prevail. I was so relieved to hear that and to get a sense of where he is, mentally.

On the flip side, the friend I mentioned several months ago with cancer is not doing as well. Her last scan has shown that the cancer has grown and that her prognosis doesn’t look very good, but she’s trying to remain optimistic and continue to battle. Please continue to keep her in your thoughts. I thought the Billy Dean said all the right things about life being short and living life to the fullest.

As you all know, I’m a die hard football fan, so I’ll be glued to the TV tomorrow evening. As a Cowboy fan, I’ve got to say….”Go Ravens!” I’m just selfish enough to not want San Fran to get their 6th ring before us. It’s bad enough that Pittsburgh got there first. 😉 So does anyone have Superbowl plans? Which team are you rooting for? Why?

Having said that…I’ll be sharing some of my favorite happy love songs as we count down to Valentine’s day. We’ve got to make sure everyone is in the mood for loving by then…and slow builds are good things. 🙂 This one is from one of my favorite balladiers. There aren’t many who do it as well as Collin Raye.

 

Writing And Music And Where They Merge

I connect very strongly to music. I’m not telling most of you anything you didn’t already know. When I feel sad or lost or hurt or alone…music is my company and my anchor. When I’m happy or excited or energized…music helps me express myself. Regardless, the thing that centers me is music.

I’ve had friends ask me why, if I love music so much, did I choose to follow my bliss to writing? It’s a fair question. The thing that I love about my music are the fact that the smallest phrase can evoke a song into my head…and follow it’s path through my mouth. I love the spontaneity I can enjoy with music. If I decided to follow this as my discipline…I’d have to truly work at it. Practice. Repeat songs. For me, that would create a loss of joy….and probably, in the end, I’d come to resent that which I love so much today.

Writing, on the other hand, playing with words…tossing them to and fro to create just the right phrase, the right image…well, heck! I can do that all day. I love that aspect. It doesn’t get old or boring or tired. In fact, you’ll catch that it’s the lyrics of a song that truly draws me in. Yes, I can appreciate music that doesn’t have words…but my passion and imagination soars with lyrics.

I think that’s part of what makes certain movies so memorable to me, too! Their soundtracks…where long after the movie is done, you’ll hear a song on the radio and remember that moment, that scene, that image…and smile. I’m a sucker for movie soundtracks! Why? Because I get a variety of songs from a variety of talented musicians…sometimes artists I’d never otherwise discover!

So, today, I’m going to share with you my Top 5 favorite movie soundtracks…showcasing my favorite songs from each one…

But before that, I just wanted to thank you all for your encouraging words regarding my family…and the songs you shared…Please continue them. My father-in-law’s oncology appointment and scan are today. His doctor is pretty sure the cancer is back. That’s the thing about Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma…it will always come back. But he’s a 2 time survivor already, so I’m refusing to have anything but good thoughts. For me, that equates to music and laughter, so I’m going to share with you a little known Joey Lawrence song from an old movie he did called Prince For A Day. People forget that the guy could sing. For whatever reason, I saw that movie once when I was much younger, but the lyrics always stayed with me. You’ll see why.  The song is called “Don’t Lose Heart”.

And to feed my need for humor right now I figured I’d stick to Blossom alumni and give you guys one of my favorite Big Bang Theory experiments by Mayim Bialik.

Now, on to my top 5 movie Soundtracks in no particular order…

I can’t talk about soundtracks without mentioning The Sound Of Music. Who can resist the beauty of a voice like Julie Andrews? She is one of my all time favorite musicians…and always will be. (Christopher Plummer wasn’t exactly a slouch, either.) I nearly chose “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria”, but I have an even bigger, more romantic favorite… The discovery of a requited love…

The next song is from one of my all time favorite Christian Slater movies…Pump Up The Volume. I was torn between this Concrete Blonde song and Ivan Neville’s “Why Can’t I Fall In Love”.

I also loved 10 Things I Hate About You…so many great songs on this one…but this one gets me moving. Love Letters To Cleo…and miss Heath Ledger & have always been a big Julia Styles fan.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers stole my heart in the Pretty Woman Soundtrack, though the whole thing is chock full with awesome tunes!

I chose this last one to be my final selection because it’s powerful and uplifting…and something that lightens my heart…and hopefully yours. It’s from Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit. Man, can Lauryn Hill sing!

So what about you guys? Do you have favorite soundtracks? Maybe favorite songs from certain movies? What uplifts you when your heart is heavy? Your turn to share…and hopefully I’ve made you laugh…or smile…or brought back some memories. 🙂

Life And Curve Balls

I had this whole big blog post set in my head, but as often happens with life…we were thrown a curve ball. Instead I’ll simply ask this… Please keep my father-in-law in your thoughts and prayers. At his annual physical his doctor noticed one of his eyelids drooping and ordered an MRI. He wants to rule out a stroke. The up side is that his eye lid is the only symptom he’s exhibiting that may point in that direction.

More serious is the fact that this strong, determined 2x cancer survivor has found a mass in his lung area… His doctor is insisting he see his oncologist and do more tests immediately…so our fingers are crossed. Hubby is very concerned as the uncle that died a few months ago was his dad’s brother. As I said…good thoughts and prayers are much appreciated. (I could use the prayers to keep me strong for him…and the rest of our family, especially since I was blessed with amazing in-laws).

I could also use advice from my Filipino friends/followers. My sister-in-law will be heading to the Philippines on business for about 2 months and staying in areas I’ve never been. If any of you are familiar with Bohol, Boracay & Apo Reef, I’d appreciate any advice or feedback that I can relate back to her.

The icing on the cake? I also got my summons for jury duty today. Yeah, it’s one of those days… So I’m gonna lean on you guys for a while… Any feel good songs or words of encouragement for me today?

 

Bad Gone Good

Have you ever had one of those Days/Weeks/Months/Years where if you put everything that happened on paper it would look like the worst year ever? As is common this close to the beginning of the New Year, I began to reflect. I’ve had two years that were truly bad…I lost a sibling in each of those years. Oddly enough, this year…on paper…should probably have been a runner up.

Here’s how this year has looked for me:

  • Short staffed & forced to work 6 day work weeks and at least 2-3 double shifts per week for 3 months
  • Husband diagnosed with appendicitis and rushed by ambulance for an emergency appendectomy (appendix was necrotic)
  • Less than month later husband has second surgery for inguinal hernia repair
  • 6 weeks later hubby has the worst surgery (both for him and me)…a pilonidal cyst surgery
  • Through all this I had an employee constantly making trouble, making excuses for her behavior and calling HR on every perceived slight (mostly imaginary).
  • On the 4th of July, I got fired for the first time in my life.
  • 2 days before my health benefits run out, hubby breaks his hand playing softball
  • Hubby’s favorite uncle becomes very ill very quickly. (They were talking hospice before they even gave the true diagnosis)
  • Hubby goes to Chicago to visit family for a few days (I had tried to get the time approved when I was working, but had been denied and a week before I lost my job he booked the plane ticket…Joke was on us…)
  • Hubby’s uncle dies a week and a half after hubby came back home.
  • A close friend was diagnosed with cancer.
  • My brother-in-law lost his grandmother.
  • Another family member was diagnosed with cancer
  • Yet another family member lost a toe due to some medical things.

Oddly enough, even through all of this, I feel thankful! I was worried sick about hubby with all his surgeries…but I was grateful that they all happened when I still had insurance. Even his broken hand happened within that timeframe. In fact, two of the three surgeries happened when my mom was in town. She dropped everything to rush to the hospital and be by our sides, keeping me company while I waited.

I lost my job…that should’ve sucked. Oddly enough, I wasn’t upset. I have a very solid skill set in a couple of career fields. Even more than that…everyone on my staff with the exception of my troublemaker called me or gave me a hug on my way out the door. They still keep in touch and let me know how much they enjoyed working with me and that they miss me.

The other thing about losing my job…my sister pointed out…my work/life balance sucked while I was there. On my wedding day (which was out of state) I got a call needing help. During the time my assistants were out, little to no help was given unless I pushed for it… I’m sure you’re getting by now that the little I’ve shared is just the tip of the iceberg with how much my life and time was monopolized.

Working there was also a big part of what caused me to stop writing…to rarely be able to attend church…to be unable to sing except around work and at home. Upon losing my job both my sister and my best friend called to tell me that they always felt I should’ve been writing anyway. They were right!

So, this year I’ve also become a member of the Florida Writer’s Association getting my feet back into the writing universe…and becoming active in my local chapter. I also just finished writing my first manuscript and am currently working on editing it…Cross your fingers! I also joined WordPress and found all you wonderful people! You guys have encouraged me, taught me, inspired me and enriched my life.

As for my singing…the day after I lost my job, my pastor called just to check on me. When I told him what had happened, he was empathetic…keeping me in his prayers. But he challenged me, too. He let me know that choir practice was the following day and that now that I had no plans I would probably enjoy checking it out. He pointed out that nothing makes the heart feel lighter than “making a joyful noise.” He was right! Since that day I have been a part of the praise team for the church, singing every Sunday. I think God was sending me a message through him. 🙂

Hubby’s uncle becoming ill…that really sucked. It was sad…and tragic. But the upside is that my husband got to go there…and spend time with him every day of his vacation, giving him a chance to say goodbye. That may not have been quite so readily possible if I’d been with him. They may have felt obligated to entertain me. The unfortunate thing was that he wasn’t able to go to the funeral when he died…but his uncle knew he loved him and that he was there to say goodbye.

As for the rest…it’s in God’s hands. My friend is battling, and I couldn’t be more proud. My family has a firm foundation in love, support and faith. So although on the surface, this year should probably look like it was awful…It wasn’t! I’ve found some very wonderful things to celebrate to go with some of those losses!

The thing I’ve learned? You can’t always control the things that happen to you, but you can control your response…and you can look for the blessings or you can focus on the bad. I choose to see the good and be thankful.