Friday, December 26, 2008

magic and the monster

the breast, the breast. it is all about the breast. like tending a sick child, nothing else takes priority. i am a good patient and follow all the doctors' orders. and i am a good mother to this wounded breast. soothing balms and healing potions are applied on schedule, ice packs employed on a regular rotation.

i am doing anything and everything i can to assist and speed healing.

there would appear to be no real rush, as the world has shut down in the northwest. between the holiday and the epic snow storm, nothing is moving. i am stuck inside and not happy about it, i'll admit. but perhaps nature is pushing me into inactivity to help with the healing.

my breast looks shockingly, horribly messed up. my first thoughts were so dark, my heart sank when i saw it. did i make an awful mistake? i know my surgeon said it wouldn't look gorgeous for a few months, but this? my breast looks like a monster. dark and colorful with bruises, a crazy series of long incisions, coupled with a shape that is in no way a match to the other. a sad, beat-up monster, one you would take home wrapped in a blanket and nurse back to health.

i wish the surgeon had warned me exactly how bad it would look. i always do better with the facts and don't fare well with surprises of this nature. i didn't expect to feel more disfigured after surgery. but i guess that was silly. i worried about taking care of so many incisions. and i was right, it is difficult. i am squeamish and don't like looking at them. but no band aid will cover them and besides, i have become allergic to medical adhesives. the incisions are held together with glue.

i am held together with glue. oh, it's all far too gory for me and it's actually on my body. is this really happening? is this my body?

thank heavens for good drugs. painkillers that float you away when it's too much and sleep aids to help get that deep rest needed for healing. although i will be so happy to be past the point when i need their help.

the breast looks strange, it feels strange, too. it's tight and prickly with pain. nerves healing? who knows.

i have barely even pondered how i feel about being smaller. i am still working so hard to control the swelling to wrap my head around the look of it. my sculptors' brain is turning this puzzle over and over - how what i see now can possibly heal and relax into even a pleasing shape, let alone a shape that matches the other breast.

my sister assures me she has seen
the process from start to finish, on reality tv and that every plastic surgery procedure looks like six kinds of hell at first. but that then the lovely results boggle the mind, like magic. she tells me that plastic surgeons are magicians and mine is one of the best. that my procedure is something he does everyday, like me going to the studio and making a ring.

i am trying to trust. trying to feel confident and reassured.

so i focus on what i can do. eat healthy, rest well, stroke on my arnica cream and take my vitamins. every couple of hours, ice the whole area. try not to worry. try not to look at it more than once a day.

suspend my disbelief.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

slower than molasses in january. really.

it is very quiet here. almost too quiet, which is saying something from a girl who loves her silence. my city of portland has nearly shut down, with more snow than the area has seen in over forty years. so outside my door, the world is very white and very quiet, everything laying under that soft blanket of deep snow.

inside my cosy apartment, even more quiet. my mom departed this morning, as a window of opportunity in the storm systems opened, which seems like a christmas miracle made just for her, and all my family anxiously waiting back in michigan.

i miss her already.

i don't mind in the slightest that it's christmas and she's gone back home. i am just sad because i don't know when i will see her again. no plans or budget in place for a visit in the foreseeable future. it' always harder to say goodbye when you can't say "see you in...".

well, five days after surgery, the healing is rolling along, taking just as long as it takes, i guess. i am assisting with all my herbs and potions. my foggy brain has cleared for the most part, my bodily functions are back to normal. which is a great relief. if i had been able to write a few days ago, i literally had nothing to say that wasn't about poop. primarily how completely awful it is to be not able ( three days, four nights) and then overly able (every hour for one day). a completely boring tale of shit, which had i had an ounce of humor left in me, could have been spun into a hilarious story. alas, my sense of humor was in very limited supply.

moaning, however, was in abundance. as was pain and general discomfort.

oh, i have been crabby! my mom is really a saint for tending to such a crabby baby as i, these past few days. thankfully, she finds my biting sarcasm very funny.

i had loads to be thankful for, in fact. i must publicly thank laura, and the z.e.n. (zen elf network) for providing a capable and cheerful driver at 6:30am this morning to drive my mom to the airport. i must say, i feel very well taken care of and loved. i'll take a zen elf over one of santa's guys any day!

even though i could physically drive, i can't get my car out in this snow. also, my little vw beetle is really too low to the ground for our uncleared roads. can you imagine? most of the roads are not even plowed here, after many days. it boggles the mind of this midwest girl to be so stuck with only 12 inches on the ground! the folks who are driving have chains on their tires, something i've never seen even when i lived in vermont the winter they had 18 feet of snow that year.

i guess an epic storm is all relative.

there is much more to share on the state of my breast, but i'll save that for another post. my couch is calling me for a nap and i'm not going to say no today.

thank-you all so much for your comments and emails full of comfort and warmth. you have seen me through so much. i am indeed blessed you keep returning to my story and continue to hold me up, no matter what comes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

home again

just a quick post to say i am home from the hospital. the surgery went well, i made it out alive! have not looked at the results yet, but i'm like a staggering drunk on these pain meds.

so writing more might be comical, but
i'm going to sign off now. sleeping calls.

thanks for the beautiful circle of support. i could feel your good energy all around me last night and today...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

the 11th hour

it is nearly go time for my surgery, dear readers. tomorrow morning i check in at 6am. the surgery is scheduled to be 2 1/2 hours, so if all goes well, i hope we will be back home and dozing on the couch at noon.

the past 36 hours have been rough. the snow and ice covering portland was such a burden on my already overwhelmed preparations list. even though worrying accomplishes nothing, i have been beside myself, with a pounding headache, no appetite and sleep has been hard to come by.

did i mention my heat went out last night? ah, yes. we woke very cold and it didn't get better. the repair crew did not arrive til after 5pm and then spent over an hour seemingly perplexed as to how to fix the problem. i honestly thought i was just going to scream and completely melt down.

finally, the heat was fixed, we ate dinner and watched the weather forecast. finally, some hope on the horizon. the ice storm predicted yesterday for thursday morning seems to have been downgraded to just snow. this surgery is at the branch of the hospital on the riverfront, which is a blessing, considering that the worst of the weather will be in the hills of portland.

i am still nervous about the surgery itself, but at least i am going to bed tonight feeling comfortable with our safe travels to and fro.

i am sorry not to have given you all an update until tonight, i literally have been running around like crazy. i have felt crazy!

but now, with the moment nearly upon me, my mom here (oh, my it is wonderful to have her!) and the apartment warming back up, i think it will be ok. at least most of my to-do list is crossed off! we've grocery shopped enough to last us a week(a task that involved going to literally 5 different stores today), the house is clean and my online sales orders are all shipped out. the sale went quite well, for which i am very thankful. only one thing didn't happen, because i spent so long waiting at home for the repairs to be completed. i wanted candles. not just any candles, but
unscented tea lights. you know, the kind in the little tin cups, that fit perfectly in my candle holders- ready and waiting on my new mantle shelf with it's lovely large mirror. i wanted to have that warm glowy prettiness as i lay on the couch this next week. so, if any of my local friends are out and about and want to drop off something...(hint, hint) i won't be up to visiting for a few days, but care packages are always welcome.

emotionally, this surgery has been harder to prepare for than the others. perhaps it's because i have had so much time to anticipate it, maybe it is because for this one, i am choosing it. cancer put this choice on the table, but ultimately, i am choosing this surgery. intellectually, i feel i have chosen the best possible solution given my options. but emotionally? i have been a wreck.

as i have said before, i just don't like the options. for me, i just want what i had. i have mentally accepted that is not my reality. by my heart still grieves a bit.

tonight i fear all the unknowns. will i make through surgery? will the outcome be something i can live with, something i can love? will i get back to feeling confident and beautiful about my breasts?

only time will tell this story. i'll keep sharing, so stay tuned.

p.s. i anticipate feeling woozy but able to come home tomorrow and post a sentence here to say i am alive and well...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

wishing and hoping and working and waiting

has the intensity of this last week left you breathless? if so, you are not alone. the stars are stacked up and opposing each other, it seems. life in my little corner has certainly been an emotional and physical whirlwind.

today, here in the notoriously mild-weather northwest, even mother nature fell into step with the general craziness. a snow storm. modest by northeast standards, nearly epic by portland
standards! the roads are slick and most are staying inside.

my small dog knows just what to do after a romp in the swirling flakes this morning. snuggle up and take a long winter's nap. here she is, my miss mia. she grounds me and comforts me in ways that no human ever has. we've shared this life for fourteen years now and every night as we settle down to sleep, i am thankful for another day online sale has gone well this week, another thing i am grateful for today. even as i summon my metal focus to dive into an afternoon of job applications - i feel ok. fear held at bay. positive intention holding the lead.

the finish line is so far ahead, i can't see it. perhaps this quest for a job will be a marathon in the end. i hope i am up to the task. and that somehow, my money expands to fill the widening gap. so far, no encouraging signs have come to light. not a call, not a single email to say "yes, please do come meet with us". i know i cannot take it personally, this rejecting silence. i simply must continue to direct my message out to the universe, out to this slim number of appropriate job postings- and wait.

who likes waiting? not me. waiting sucks. but i am getting better at it, after all the practice this year. it seems like there has been a theme to 2008 for me. persevere. just keep on, keeping on. even when it is boring and difficult, even when it seems pointless and painful, especially when my faith wavers and everything looks dark. just move through each day as best i can.

allot of this year has been just surviving.

in 2009, i want more. more joy in each day. more clarity. more consistent good health, prosperity and confidence. i want this for me and for each one of you.

but for today, i just need to stay warm and keep going on the job search. oh, and try not to think about surgery just four days away now...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

only poetry speaks to this day

blessing the boats,
Lucille Clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of your understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love you back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this into that

Monday, December 8, 2008

a big day and a small favor

hello my dear readers! today i launch my first online-only sale, just for one special week, december 8 to 15...both my etsy shop, bread + butter and my own website, Honey & Milk will have glorious deals on all sorts of treasures. financially, times are tough all over, so i thought a little sale would help us both! surely you have some holiday shopping yet to finish?

oh, but perhaps no one on your gift list likes jewelry? (i can just barely imagine it.)

not to worry. my small favor to ask is this: can you, would you, send a quick little email to all your friends, colleagues and family with links to my shops? encourage them to buy handmade gifts, created with love by me in my little studio workshop.i am forever grateful for all your support and encouragement this year and i hesitate to ask for anything more...but times are too lean to feel shamed by asking. so if you can, please do spread the word far and wide about this online holiday sale. i will also ship internationally, of course.

by the way, for those of you asking: my surgery is thursday, december 18, exactly one week before christmas.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

two hands with too much to hold

*gulp* just coming up for air. life has been jam packed this past week. holiday show & sale #2 has come and gone. i was helping organize that one, including writing a blog. it went well, even considering the glum economy, for that i am so thankful! not selling a thing for the month of october has made a very large hole to fill, more than one holiday sale can do alone. i am hoping my website sales are on fire for the next 10 days. fingers crossed...

additionally, i have been in the trenches with my job search. chasing down listings all over the internet and writing, writing, writing. each resume crafted to each posting. also setting all my intention and holding it as firmly as i can muster. if you out there reading would join me in holding that intention, i would be so grateful. i need a job and i want one that sustains me with not only money, but also meaning. i am working quite hard on getting out of the way of my destiny and keeping doubts and fears acknowledged, but not indulged.

my body isn't on board all the way with that, however. the past few weeks have brought long painful bouts of intense stress-tummy. stabbing pain to dull ache. tossing and turning at night. eating very sporadically, as almost nothing will go down. it's better this week, however. my chinese medicine practitioner gave me some herbs that are as bitter as burnt bark, but have soothed my insides.

i am keeping the stress at bay, moment by moment.

this month is flying by already. another holiday sale event this weekend, then my last week of job searching and getting my home in order before surgery on the 18th. also before my mom flies in on the 16th. i want to have my place sparkling, so she can relax a bit when she is here taking care of me. the last three times my mom came, she absolutely slaved, trying to bring me and my home back to civility from squalor.

really, it was that bad.

i'm nervous about surgery, my dear friends. it comes on when i lay down to sleep. thoughts racing around, despite my best attempts to breathe deep and stay calm. i know my surgeon is skilled, i just find the thought of surgery so icky and scary. last year i didn't have weeks to anticipate, everything happened pretty quickly.

so i am doing alright in general, i thought you might like to know. holding fear in one hand and positive intention in the other. trying to honor both, yet i would love to put the fear down and use both hands to hold that intention.

can you help me? can we hold it together? oh, thank-you...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

an abundance of gratitude

there is so much to be thankful for today! here is my short list...what is on yours?

my clear mammogram.
you sitting there at your computer, following my story & caring about me ~ even if we've never met in person.
i may be broke, but more important ~ i'm healthy.
my sweet, almost 14-year old dog is curled at my feet after a nice walk.
i have an incredible, loving family.
even though i have become a hermit, my friends have not given up on me.
i can walk, after months and months of pain and limping!
oh, and then there's obama...*happy sigh*

thank-you from the bottom of my heart for sticking by me through this topsy-turvy year. writing this blog and knowing you are there, reading and hoping the best for me ~ that has saved my life. thank-you, my friends. thank-you, internet. thank-you, universe for this day of abundance.

and as promised, i drew a name today for my little give-a-way. the celebration of my one year anniversary of this blog and of the turnip's arrival in my life. i am so glad the turnip is gone and you are still here, my readers. so without further ado, the winner is...

laura, who writes the inspiring blog, nothing to attain. congratulations, laura! i'll be emailing you for your postal address so you can receive your prize. (to be honest, i have not decided yet what the prize will be, i thought the winner might want to look over my website and give me a hint.)

to all my readers...wherever in the world you are today, i wish you happy thanksgiving and i hope you feel how very much i appreciate you. may your day be warm and blessed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

it's all good, people

i've picked up on a vibe lately from many of you, my dear readers. you're feeling sad and sorry about my business dissolving. perhaps you are disappointed, feeling let down. maybe this change in my life represents something bigger to you, maybe you are having a hard time getting excited about my new career path because, well, it just doesn't fulfill your yearning for romance.

i'll admit, going back to school, getting a job, pursuing a career path that promises security ~ on paper that certainly doesn't read as exciting as being an independent jewelry designer. as a culture, we romanticize the artist, but we don't support them. i don't mean you, my friends who follow this story. you have been incredibly supportive and i am so grateful. thank-you! i speak of the culture at large. we americans in particular are drawn to the dashing image of the solo entrepreneur, making their own rules, not bound by the 9 to 5. but without universal health coverage? just that issue alone points to the huge disconnect between what we say we value as a country and what truly support with taxes.

i want to be clear. i want this change of plan. i choose this new career path. this is good.

i am celebrating, even as i slog through resume writing and job research. the financial crises provided the breaking point, it is true, but i am thankful for the insights these current conditions have pushed to the surface. i am thrilled to have figured out some essential truths about who i am and what brings my life meaning. i am so happy, so relieved to be moving in this new direction. for those of you who only know me through this blog and since i got cancer, i realize it's a stretch of imagination.

for my old friends and family, nothing makes more sense than where i am headed now.

you know, for years i thought that the ultimate would be having my own business, running the show and making beautiful objects to sell. but to be clear, i saw myself as the artist, not the production worker. i never wanted to do my own production. it burns up your body and your spirit. i knew that wasn't for me. yet to be brutally honest, i didn't start with capitol. i didn't start with family money or a partner who paid the bills. i did not have the resources to hire help or set up shop overseas. i started with only a wing and a prayer, with rose-colored glasses firmly planted on my face.

the way i did it is not the way to success.

no regrets. i had to do it this way, my way. the lessons learned could not be gained any other way. anyone who knows me well, knows i can be very stubborn. (although growing softer with age) it often takes a big sign to get my attention. i will never say that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. however, when cancer showed up a year ago, i recognized it as my teacher.

what an incredible year of learning.

i have learned that i don't want to work all the time, i want to have a healthy balance between work and life. having my own business meant i could set my own schedule, but it was very hard for me to impose enough structure to be efficient or have any sense of personal equilibrium. some people thrive on working 16-hour days, but not me. i do not like the lifestyle or the hours of having my own business. for me, it means never really being "off" work, not having enough money to take a vacation, constant worry about the future and no safety net when shit hits the fan. i got sick. i developed chronic injuries that take an incredible amount of time and dedication to manage.

oh, it feels so good to say that i do not like having my own business!

call me a heretic, i don't care. for me there was little glory and much pain. but, i have learned so much from my experiment with being an entrepreneur. skills and experiences that will serve me well in any new career direction. now, i am a guerrilla-marketing expert. now, i know how to write a business plan. now, the web is my right arm. now, i am plugged into an incredible network.

i may not have found my calling with a solo-proprietorship, but i found my voice.

so celebrate with me, my dear readers. change is good. even looking at a balance sheet all in the red and worried about the immediate future, i am happy. happy to see the way forward.

the biggest thing i have given up in starting this business is making art. ironic, but true. that loss has been a source of sadness and imbalance that i believe contributed to cancer, to injury, to weight gain and all sorts of unhealthy conditions. i am so excited to get back to myself as an artist. you know, the product design comes so easily to me so it has been tempting to think that it is my path. i have an inventor's brain, an affinity for problem-solving. those gifts make me lucky, but not bound to direct that talent into a career. i have always suffered from too many ideas, too many things i was good at. such a problem, right? again, i know i am lucky to be able to choose how to apply all those strengths.

i hope to keep my jewelry studio for as long as i can and am currently seeking a studio mate to share the costs. i see myself continuing to make pieces, but only one-of-kind high end pieces. i'll offer them on my website, but in the future i won't make jewelry for a market. i'm going to play the timing by ear. at this moment, i intend to have my business transition into a hobby that may provide some occasional income, but nothing that i'm counting on to live. i am looking forward to painting again and to pursuing opportunities to create and show site-specific installations. for now, nothing has changed except my intention. when i land that full time job i am pining for, then i will really make the shift away from the jewelry studio and business.

at this point in life, i choose to put my energy into those things that feed my soul. connecting with people and helping them through big life transitions. making art for the sheer joy of creating, on my timeline. that is it, people. that is it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

good news and a revealing story

to start, the excellent good news. i had my first post-cancer follow up mammogram this week and am thrilled to report the screening was all clear. free of cancer and free to go on with my life! my beat up little breast didn't enjoy being squished so hard and is tender now in response, but it's worth the pain to get such great news.

as a follow-up to my last post, i want to offer a few more reflections.

i can only assume life is long, that my life will be long and healthy and full. after the year i have had, it seems the only outlook that brings any daily peace. i can't live as if it will all end tomorrow, or next year, or i would not be able to make a plan for a future. seeing the future as long and wide, full of promise, that helps me be in the moment. being in the moment is a very good thing, as we all know.

all the dreams i have, the things i would like to do in this lifetime, i hope to have a chance to see even half of them come to fruition. yet, i am more realistic at 42 than i was at 22, as i should be. which isn't to say i've given up anything truly important to me with my recent decision in regards to career path. in fact, i feel i have embraced the very most important things of all.

in the past, i have made some choices that delivered more flash and drama to my story than substance and consideration for those vital basics in life; health, security, comfort. i regret very few choices i've made. after all, this winding path has made me the interesting, empathetic and experienced person i am today! hopefully those qualities make me employable too.

when i started my retreat in september, i had one strict agreement with myself: stay open. accept what comes without judgment. i wanted to see where my inner investigations would lead. i'll freely admit, this last chapter has surprised me too, on one level -the surface level. dig deeper down (my old friends can attest to this) and choosing to work with young people in transition, to enter a counseling field? it makes sense like ducks in water.

is my heart still tugged towards international development work, towards the entrepreneurial life? oh, yes. of course it is. i have always been drawn to helping people in far-flung places that haven't even reached the bottom rung of the economic ladder. i want to save every one of those dying in poverty every day. my heart is there. and i have always longed for adventure, for travel, for change. yet i know this: i tend towards the romantic view (that's my optimistic side), which isn't strongly rooted in reality. intellectually, i know that the grand gesture isn't as effective as slogging away in the field, making small steady steps forward.

what i have come to be at peace with is that "the field", my field, is right here in portland. and that when i can help young people form clear intentions for their lives and perhaps even inspire some into values-driven careers, that i am making a significant difference. what our western developed world needs most is upcoming generations of leaders and followers that are dedicated to service and sustainability.

i offer you a story from another pivotal crossroads in my life, one where i didn't stop and consider carefully the path i was taking.

first, the back story. at age 24, as i was nearing completion of my undergrad degree in fine art, i was clear and determined about my future. my art was flourishing, i was excited about making a career in the academic world and planning for grad school. i was surrounded by talented friends and supportive professors, my world was rich with interesting discussion, with art-making, with exhibitions and writing.

i was putting myself through school by waiting tables and scholarships. my minor was women's studies and i was planning on writing some grants (i had already been successful in getting other grants funded) and after graduation, going overseas to study and write a book. i was particularly pulled towards the isolated communities in the outer islands of the west coast of scotland. i wanted to live with and study the women working in ancient craft traditions that were dying out at that time. before me, i saw a bright future that included grad school, eventually earning a doctorate degree and hopefully heading a women's studies department at a university.

what a great plan, right?

i met a man at a party. he was a very handsome brit, genius level-intelligent and clearly a troubled soul. you guessed it, my dear readers, i fell for him.
hard. without a pause to see that i was turning onto another path entirely, i soon found my life revolved around him, his troubles, his potential for success. we were together for three years, we planned to marry, raise children, build the perfect alternative energy home. my strong urge to make a difference, to save someone kicked in and his broken psyche became my big project. i forgot about my whole career path, the plans i was so passionate about.

i lost my way. in the end, i lost myself.

i did find myself again, but i never found my way back to that path i was on. i had passed the crossroads and it was too distant to return to, too foggy to find again. i went forward in my life, driven most by my personal demons(the above wasn't the last unhealthy love relationship i found myself in) and my eventual quest for deep healing. there simply wasn't energy for forming a plan, finding a new career path.

here i am, 16 years after finishing my undergrad degree, finding my way. looking at a new path open wide.

in the far distance
i can see some hazy possibilities that do combine my drive to work in counseling, guiding teens and my desire to contribute overseas. i can volunteer on summer vacations. eventually i will retire and explore yet other options for making a difference. life will be long, there will be time for everything that matters.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the bright clear path ahead

I fell into a funk shortly after my last post. it didn't last much more than 24 hours and i do think my hormones contributed something to the equation. yet, when i woke on friday i felt refreshed, hopeful again, energetic. seizing the day, i went to the studio and got more accomplished than i have in weeks. then yesterday i moved a rosebush, and did some gardening. it felt good to move my body, even though i have the sore muscles today to show for my efforts.

it seems i am coming out of weeks and weeks of rest and what has sometimes felt like inertia. even though my emotional world, along with my spiritual and mental investigations, have been very active. why does checking items off a to-do list feel so valuable? and why does spending blocks of time in contemplation feel like it doesn't measure up, like it isn't real work?

for the past 77 days, i have been on a kind of retreat.

in times past, when i had no work and little money, but plenty of time, i felt trapped. certainly in these weeks i have experienced that feeling yet again. i have time to travel: but no money. i have time to go out: but no money.

thing is, i am not meant to be traveling or going out.

in the absence of work (nothing is selling on my websites) i have made myself into a work-worthy project. my cleanse in september kicked off a very contemplative period. soul searching has led to job searching, which has led to even deeper soul searching.

this personal work has been very, very productive.

for perhaps the first time in my life, i recognized that i had reached a significant crossroads. for absolutely the first time in my life, i stopped at the crossroads, sat down and cleared my head. i am still sitting there, my dear readers. no sugar or booze to cloud my view, i seem to be able to see for miles in every direction. at first, the way forward was foggy. the path to the future was littered with fallen branches and leaves. i wasn't exactly sure that there was even a path.

looking back over the landscape behind me, the one i've traveled these 40-odd years, things grew more clear the longer i looked. i started to see the other crossroads i've passed. the places where i plodded on, blindly, when i most needed rest. the streams i waded through, oblivious, even while i was so thirsty. the big signs in the road i didn't notice, distracted by drama, by boredom, by a driving need to be right. i saw alot of murky bogs in my past, a few of which i barely escaped with my life.

then, some encouraging themes emerged. the whole path behind me was not dark. there were lush green meadows as well as frozen, rocky mountain passes. i looked for, and found, some real jewels of information in the journey behind me. just in this last week, sitting still at my crossroads, i realized some truths both profound and useful.

here are those truths, in two parts.

part one: i dream of changing the world, of making an impact in some dramatic and measurable way. to revolutionize the way something is done, to "save" a whole bunch of people. i have global vision and big ideas, i always have. yet what i've realized and am ready to admit is that this desire is driven not just by compassion, there is no small amount of ego involved. perhaps that is not even a bad thing, i'm just saying i noticed it and i am owning it. sometimes it's good to go for what makes you happy, not what you dream about. for me, it is a breakthrough to see that those two things are not always the same.

the second profound and useful part is even more revealing. this nugget serves as a red neon arrow at my crossroads, pointing this way. what i realized is that my most satisfying work has been directly helping individuals, especially teens and young adults. people at that first big crossroads in life. what i love most is connecting authentically, listening, mentoring, guiding, supporting dreams and nurturing ambitions. that work resonates on all levels. that work is a worthy use of my time and talents.

this, what i'm doing right now, sitting at the crossroads, is the work i want to help others do. this powerful, important process of sifting, learning to see, being honest with self, finding the way forward - this is where i am an expert. this is what i have to give. i am moved to tears as i write about it, as i finally see those last dead leaves blown off of my path.

it is clear. i can see now where i am meant to go, where i want to go, where i will go.

behind me, i see my five years of classroom teaching. i know i don't want to return to that. before me, i see high school school counseling, academic advising. work that sustains my interest because, in part, it calls upon what i have lived. i know from experience that working with teens asks you to use everything you have ever learned. as a side benefit, they teach you all sorts of interesting lessons.

i realized during this retreat in my own home that i am more interested in people than business. that MBA i considered in september wouldn't get me to where i really want to be. i have come to accept that my core values have not changed, that they won't change. people always trumps money. in this life, i am meant to accumulate my wealth in social capitol. in this life, all i need is to be comfortable financially and to do meaningful work. all i would do with extra money is give it away, anyhow. and i see now that what i have to give, of myself, my time, is of immeasurable value.

i am wealthy beyond my wildest imagination.

Note: two tools were instrumental in this retreat process. i recommend them wholeheartedly, if you are ready to face, with curiosity and tenderness, any possible answer that may come.
  • i asked for help from five people i really trust and know without a doubt, love me dearly and forever. (for me, that was my sisters, my brother and my parents. i could not have made this request without healthy relationships with each of them). i asked for each person to draw up two lists, one of my strengths/gifts and another of my challenges/weaknesses. i received them gratefully, without getting defensive. this was a difficult and painful tool, but very useful. what i was looking for in those lists is the things that i couldn't easily see. i approached the exercise as research and both lists gave vital information.
  • i read a superb book called making a living while making a difference, conscious careers for an era of independence, by melissa everett. everett's book is more than theory and enviable case studies, as this type of book often seems to be. this book offered real tools and exercises that refined my data, focused my thoughts and opened my heart. i recommend the original, not the revised addition, unless you are looking at moving into environmental fields.
what first steps do i take down this clear path ahead of me? that is exactly what i am figuring out, with gratitude and openness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

notes on a healing body

it has been a while since i gave you an update on my physical health. it's a low-drama report, really. yet there are a few things to note that those following this story may like to know.

i was walking into my studio a couple of days ago and noticed that i was not stepping gingerly. this is more exciting than it sounds at first. not stepping gingerly and with extraordinary care means one thing: my foot is improving. now, i am just walking. not racing along as i used to, like a native new yorker plunked down in the laid-back northwest, but just walking without thinking about each step. slower than before, but that in itself very well may be a good, a very good thing. really, what was my former bustling haste all about? after all, i am not a native new yorker (well, perhaps in another life) and i don't live in a city that requires a brisk stride.

note that i am not going crazy with this news and starting a 10,000 steps a day routine. but i am feeling much lighter in spirit about this change and as if, yes, it will happen. my foot will be healed. another huge bonus is that my new orthodics fit in a variety of shoes. even my cute red wing-tips and my low-heeled, tall black boots! there is alot of talk floating around these days about change from the bottom up. let me tell you, my dear readers, about the change that begins with shoes. suffice it to say that it ends with a little lipstick and a smile. expanding my options beyond running shoes has had a profound effect on my overall appearance and confidence.

now, to the breasts. well they are changing too, quite soon. i did get a surgery date for december 18, almost a year to the day of my last one. dr. reid mueller at OHSU is my plastic surgeon and has a marvelous reputation. it's still difficult to believe that i will submit to cutting open my one breast that has been untouched until now. accept more scars. yet, afterwards, i can move on into a new year with symmetrical breasts that are 100% paid for by insurance. no more heavy silicone prosthesis. no more sport bras everyday (after a few months of healing).

after a few years, all these scars will fade so much that i won't think of breast cancer everyday.

last week was full of doctor appointments, including my 6-month check up with dr. marquez, my radiation oncologist. turns out i will see her for follow-ups for five years! good thing i really like her. i was nervous about my breast exam, but it was fine. she talked me through the new landscape of my breast, after cancer, after treatment. there is less tissue to examine now, which will make my own self-exams easier. the trick is learning the scar tissue and natural lumps, so i know if something new appears. nothing new has appeared. next week is my yearly mammogram, so that will reveal any hidden dangers. please, everyone, fingers crossed for a clear result!

i am experiencing some hair loss, it's been increasing for a couple of months. now, i am losing enough to be concerned. could be caused by stress (although i've certainly been stressed before and not lost hair over it). some reports i have read said that the trauma of surgery and radiation can cause hair loss, which would have a natural lag time. that makes sense, but i will still be asking my doctor about it. seems unlikely that it is caused by any vitamin deficiency, as i am eating near perfect diet.

today is 73 days without any meat, booze, most grains or refined sugar.

i am eating lots of veggies, a bit of fruit, a little fish, some eggs & legumes, healthy fats like avocado, coconut and fish oil and still drinking quarts of water everyday. i have learned to make excellent "raw" crackers in my dehydrator, which are delicious with a smear of goat cheese for a light meal. as the colder weather, dark evenings and rain has come in, it is much harder to eat even 70% raw. yet, i am doing pretty well. i am not suffering and i eat tasty things. considering my stress level, it feels great that i am not soothing my nerves with sugar.

my ph balance quest is going well. it is working, this diet i follow. the weight loss effect has tapered off (although to my credit, i have not gained). yet, my most important goal has been accomplished: i am keeping my body slightly alkaline. when i started, i could not ever get my morning urine reading over 5.5 ph, now it is consistently close to 7, which is a bigger leap forward than it sounds. ideally, i will maintain my ph around 7.25. cancer cells cannot live, cannot form groups and multiply in an alkaline environment. so, each day i follow this plan, i am preventing cancer. i am frankly quite impressed by the change i have been able to effect through diet and nurturing my emotional well-being. more exercise will only help keep things going in the right (alkaline) direction. slowly, i am getting back into regular exercise, which also feels really good.

i used to charge through life, now i am more careful. baby steps to change.

perhaps it's not realistic to think that a person can feel carefree as they age. yet, i still have hope. my papa celebrated his birthday last month. i called in my congratulations, as he lives 2,000 miles away. when i asked him how he feels at age 75, he replied "i feel like i am 40! i feel great". my answer was quick, "funny, i feel 75!". my hope grows stronger that sometime in the not too distant future, i will be back to feeling as i used to, far younger than my 42 years.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

barack obama, a victory for healing

what an incredible week we've all had! on tuesday night, when barack obama delivered his acceptance speech, i was crying tears of joy, of relief and of some disbelief. millions of others world wide were having the same experience.

did we really do this?

the next morning, i wanted to write about it, but there were no words. tears still choked my voice. but i was increasingly giddy, i woke smiling. and i have remained hopeful, expectant, excited, proud. like a 13 year-old girl crushed out on a pop star, i have this strong urge to put a picture of mr. obama on my wall. silly, i know. for now, i put him and his family on my blog, found object. which is, after all, my most public "wall".

my brain is finally settled down enough to begin to express some of what the election of mr. obama means to me.

his election symbolizes healing. it also accomplishes healing.

much of this blog has been about healing. i have been occupied with healing my own emotional, spiritual and physical wounds for years. this particular year has been completely focused on healing from breast cancer. over my lifetime, as i've faced and healed from various traumas, it has been natural to take those experiences and try to use them to help others heal. this blog is, in part, about offering my healing journey up in the hopes it might just help someone else who is struggling.

in this, i feel a strong link with mr. obama.

mr. obama grew up poor, by american standards. like me, he grew up not going hungry, but knowing want and knowing that his parents were not going to be able to financially support his dreams. like me, mr. obama came from intellectual, academic parents who inspired him, who encouraged him to believe that he could become anything he set his mind on.

for me, the deepest piece of my personal connection to this historic moment in american history is not that mr. obama is a person of color. (although that certainly represents immeasurable healing for us as a nation). the piece that resonates to my core is that mr. obama did not grow up financially privileged. he grew up with a single mother. he rode the bus. he spent his youth in an apartment in a big city.he spent part of his childhood living in the developing world. he got all scholarships to an excellent private high school because he was smart and his mother (and grandparents) put a high value on education. and he worked scooping ice cream through those high school years.

barack obama grew up and made his way in the world from, as i see it, essentially the same place i did. without money, without the power and network of upper-class parents, without a father that showed him support, but with an incredible mother and grandparents. (a non-traditional family can produce well-adjusted kids? now that's revolutionary! supporters of prop 8, do you see that?) he understands on a personal level what it means to be a working american. mr. obama understands grassroots economics because he came from the bottom, not somewhere close to the top, as presidents in my lifetime have. he has lived sacrifice and service to others in real, tangible ways that i can understand. he got where he is today on the strength of his intelligence and his willingness to work hard.

mr. obama's election to the office of president represents healing for all of us who grew up close to, or at the bottom of, the economic ladder. his victory affirms us all.

dear readers, you have heard me in this last year express much anguish over my finances, my sense of insecurity and my tenacity to be paralyzed by fear. seeing barack obama be elected by a significant majority this past week has not completely erased those fears or immediately fixed my dismal money situation.

but, it has given me hope in something bigger than my problems. his election does offer a healing balm for people struggling. for me struggling, right now. it has sent a clear message of hope to every kid growing up poor, every child of a broken home and to every person who feels on the outside. if you can dream it and work hard for it, anything is possible. the impossible has become possible.

a year ago, i considered the election of barack obama highly unlikely. i didn't vote for him in the primary because i didn't believe he was electable at this point in america history. i am so glad to be wrong. i am so deeply comforted by this wonderful, improbable result.

the story of barack obama makes me hopeful that other unlikely things may come to pass. the seemingly impossible things become possible. even personal things. if obama can get elected, then maybe i will fall in love and find an amazing partner. if obama can get elected, maybe even in an economic crises, i will land a great job.

if barack obama can get elected, then i have hope that we can end world hunger in our lifetime.

making seemingly impossible things happen takes more than hope, it takes hard work and time. yet nothing ever happens without that hope to get it started.

let's get started.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

what i didn't know, then

what a difference a year makes. this blog is one year old today. the story of the turnip has taken us on quite a journey. i have learned so much. i have suffered great loss, yet also experienced incredible blessings. for instance, you, sitting there at your computer screen, you are a blessing.

thank-you for being there. thank-you for being part of my circle. i couldn't have made it through this year without you.

in honor of this anniversary, i want to offer a little something more than words. leave me a comment on this post and be entered into a drawing for something fabulous, made by me. i'll draw the lucky name on november 27, the anniversary of my surgery. this idea came from another blogger and thought it would be fun!

there are so many things i didn't know when i wrote this, one year ago. i still had some innocence. i still had respect for my surgeon from before, nearly eight years ago now. i didn't know the truth about phyllodes sarcoma, my turnip's medical name. i walked through the world thinking i was safe, that it was nothing, just a tumor.

and what is a tumor, actually? well, it is cancer.

a tumor is a tent revival of rogue cells. maverick cells, really. normal, sensible cells of the body that turn crazy, get excited, then clump together and reproduce. in the case of a phyllodes sarcoma, they reproduce quickly, these tumors can grow from nothing to the size of a baseball in just a few months. it feels like they grow overnight.

after my first one years ago, which was thankfully on the benign end of the spectrum, my surgeon was very reassuring. he didn't even call it cancer. he patted my hand and told me what anyone would want to hear. he said i was more likely to win the lottery or be hit by lightening than to get another one of these very rare breast tumors.

a year ago today, i sure didn't feel like i won the lottery. being hit by lightening only hints at how surprised and blindsided i felt.

what i know now is much, much more about phyllodes sarcoma than the vast majority of general surgeons out there and probably most surgical oncologists as well. what i know now, is that if my surgeon had done his research, he would have gone in for a second surgery and taken more tissue. he would have had to get clear margins around the tumor, to prevent it's recurrence. my pathology report even spelled it out, that recurrence was a probability. not just possible, but probable! so yes, those sneaky rogue cells he left behind eventually re-grouped and formed another tumor, the turnip i have been writing about this year.

funny thing about those rogue cells, they took seven years to find each other, to re-group and start reproducing like crazy, but when they did? those cells were stronger than the first time. the second tumor wasn't benign, it was more aggressive. the second tumor was on it's way to being dangerous. that second tumor meant business.

i found both tumors because i touch my breasts. i know them, i examine them. i treasure my breasts and even though i don't have breast cancer in my family, i did self breast exams. most breast cancers can be caught early, most will not get to the dangerous point if treated early.

here is my advice for every woman:
  • no woman is too young for breast cancer. don't be naive, do your self-exams. don't allow any doctor to brush you off, or minimize your risks, because you are under 40. phyllodes specifically, even though a rare cancer, is more commonly found in younger women.
  • trust yourself. trust your gut and your instincts and your heart. doctors are not gods. don't take every first opinion, do your research as fearlessly as you can. find doctors you can trust.
  • know your breasts. love your body and learn it's landscape. tune in to the changes in breast tissue through your cycle and always self-examine the same time very month, ideally 5-7 days after your period starts. if you don't have periods, just pick a date on the calender and do it on the same day every month, without fail.
even though this year has been very difficult on many levels, i know now that i was lucky. i know that i was smart to continue my self-exams. i know that catching my cancer before it became a monster was really, really good. it could have easily been worse. for many women, it is much, much worse. women still die of breast cancer.

please don't let yourself or any woman you love become one of the unlucky. practice self-love through regular exams. be brave, face any fears you have around cancer and take care of yourself. you are the only you there is and this world needs you.

what i know now is that catching breast cancer early is still the best hope we have. it's in your hands. our hands.
images found here. thank-you, maryam, for posting them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

finding joy again

Since I last wrote, my life has been consumed with job searching. writing one resume, then another version, then another. each new job listing requires a new version of the resume and a carefully crafted cover letter.

There is an art to this thing I am doing, to job searching.

All I have power over is what I put out into the world. This resume, these letters, my smiling face and best gifts. Somehow, I've been trying to express my energy, my outlook, my essence in these applications. Nothing less will get attention in this fierce job market. To even gain an interview will be cause for celebration.

I am remaining open, flexible. At the same time, learning to articulate who I am now and where I would most love to contribute in this world of ours. It's a bit exciting, wondering about what is next. Each job listing I apply for I get a little invested, I let myself fall in love with the job, just a bit, just enough.

And I've been inspired creatively since my decision to place my jewelry business on the back burner. Once I let go of the idea that I needed to make pieces for market, both my ideas and enthusiasm have flowed naturally back. I am paying attention to that truth. Without the pressures and constraints of profit & loss, my creative self expands. I can make objects and not keep track of how long they take to complete. I can let the art determine what materials to use and when it is finished! There is much to learn here in this life transition. Starting to think about art as joy, not as my work, brings a deep sigh of relief. Perhaps owning my own business is not the end-all, be-all of existence.

This past year has not been one with enough joy. For long stretches the joy completely vanished from my life. It no doubt lurked in the corners, just out of my field of vision. I am ready for more joy. To find it and to cultivate it. Life without joy is simply surviving.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

who's that girl?

while i've pondered the big picture for the past several weeks, the most intimate little concerns of the body have also been getting top billing in my busy brain. yes, i have been thinking alot about my breasts. those assets i took for granted for so many years.

i loved them, counted on them. my perfect breasts allowed me to look more kindly on my ample bottom and squishy belly. from the time my breasts first grew, i was proud of them. i had my grandmother's figure, the hourglass shape of old hollywood. i loved looking at photos of my grandmother from the 1950's, with her sweater-girl look -all red lipstick, waved hair and jaunty scarf. my identity as a woman, my sense of self as a sexual being, my confidence in pulling off a smart new outfit -in all these places and more, my breasts play a starring role. my breasts were more than just part of me, i often thought of them as the best part of me. speaking about strictly the physical, of course.

at the times i've spoken on this touchy subject with others, people are quick to point out that i am more than my body, that it's a warped culture that tells me i need to look a certain way to feel beautiful. that beauty, true beauty is on the inside. my heart, my mind, my spirit.

sigh. i know, i know. yet, i've harbored doubts about my surface beauty for years. it's not really even about how i look to others, it's how i feel about my looks. don't expect this to be rational.

here is the thing. i have never doubted my talent or my intellect (ok, i do have a bit of low self-esteem with math) or my compassionate heart. i know i am a good, smart, creative person. i know i am one of the sharpest tools in the shed. i know my ability to connect with others, to inspire and teach and learn, to make a difference in the world - none of that rests on my physical beauty.

except it does. it maybe shouldn't, but it does.

the truth is, i have been hiding in my house alot this past nearly 11 months. when i am out, i just want to be invisible. for many months, i wore only black, shapeless clothes. i have rarely gone out and only with very close trusted friends. (except for once -remember how disastrous my attempt at dating was?) how i feel about my body directly impacts my confidence in connecting with real, live people. how can a girl like me survive socially in a year when she lost her great breasts and her cute shoes? (oh that dratted foot again!) no wonder my circle of friends in the virtual world has grown. online, i'm just my words and my avatar from the neck up.

so, my friends, here is the unvarnished story. i feel deformed and disconnected. i wear a sports bra nearly everyday because my more flattering bras, with the pretty lace and encouraging underwire, they push painfully on the still tender tissue on my side from the radiation treatment. my ribs are sore on the side of my breast. and i wear a prosthesis to make up the radical difference in size between my two breasts. it's a strange silicone thing that looks like a raw chicken breast. it's a bit heavy and hot. every night when i take it off, my breast is warm and sticky from sweating all day under the prosthesis. my breast smells funny. at home by myself, i don't wear it, i can't wait to be rid of it.

that day is coming soon. the week before christmas, i am having another surgery. (thank heavens my sweet mom is returning to care for me) for weeks i have been reading, researching, crying, trying to sort out all the complex feelings. finally last week, i made a decision. all of the choices before me had risks and i was factoring in the financial piece too strongly. my mind had been clouded by fear, raw and frozen fear. i am tired of making important, life-altering decisions driven by the shitty health insurance issues and fears about money.

i have decided to give my cancer breast a break. to turn to my unaffected breast and reduce it to match. this decision fills me with sadness and i've been grieving. i am giving up my hourglass figure for something much more pear shaped. at my current weight (still 25 lbs from my healthy goal) these two smaller breasts will still look ok, i think. only time will tell what i have left for breasts at a lower weight. i try now to think positively. perhaps they won't shrink as much as i think they will, as much as they have in the past with weight loss. perhaps there will be benefits to smaller breasts i haven't considered or ever experienced.

and i have given myself permission at any point in the future to get implants in both breasts, if i don't feel good about how i look. but right now, my cancer breast is just not feeling healed enough to take an implant. there is a higher risk of complications with a breast that has had radiation. making a new breast from my own tissue would involve a way more extensive surgery with a long recovery time and there are risks, of course. and for a while, i need to close this chapter. i need to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and not see cancer in capitol letters, with three exclamation points. over time, the scars will fade and hopefully i will learn to love my new breasts. someday, i'll feel good naked again.

i will never have back the body i had before cancer. i am accepting that now. can't change the past. can't keep driving myself crazy. i've got to move on to other things in my life.

making peace, and perhaps someday even love, with a new body isn't an overnight process.
it took me years to learn to love the body i was born with, now i just want to get back that love. i really want to get back to feeling like me. the me that walks boldly through the world with a little snap in her step and sparkle in her eye. the me that feels sexy and at home in her body.

that's the girl i miss the most.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

going somewhere, slowly

thank-you, my friend maryam for asking me to "please blog". your request was the much needed dash of cold water to the face that reminded me i'm not in a bubble. there are people out there, you are out there, reading this blog and wondering about me. i had gotten so caught up in my "stuff" lately and so overwhelmed, i couldn't even write. thanks for reminding me that my friends care about me and that my silence is worrisome.

i haven't spent much time in blogland even reading blogs the past couple of weeks. except maryam's blog, my marrakesh. she's recently traveled to rwanda and has shared the story of who she meet and what conditions are like there. please, do go read about it yourself. begin the story on october 1st. i am so thankful for maryam, the work she does and her willingness to share. those posts have touched me, shook me up and the resulting feeling i have is that my problems are small potatoes. not worth writing volumes about and i've been feeling something between self-conscious and ashamed. there is so much suffering in the world and the horrors that maryam writes so eloquently about makes me just want to keep my individual worries to myself.

so this blog has had her head in the sand for a while. i'm back.

meanwhile, this blogger has been both busy and idle. one moment hopeful and feeling free, the next wanting to fall asleep and never wake up. only one word gets at how the past two weeks have been: intense. i've melted down and pulled myself back up. there have been many tears. the group therapy sessions on tuesdays leave me feeling very wobbly. i've been revisiting my breast reconstruction choices and quite frankly, freaking out for days and days on end.

i have been questioning the very deepest parts of me and my life. soul searching, life-path searching, career searching. all i've been doing is searching, researching, thinking, writing - trying to answer for myself those big, big life questions. then sitting down and meditating, hoping the answers will plop right down into my lap. yeah, right.

who am i, really?
what path should i choose?
where do my gifts best intersect with the needs of others in this crazy world?

an initial decision has been made. i will seek and secure a job. my business will take a back seat, perhaps be dismantled altogether. what i am doing is not sustainable, i am gathering debt nearly every month and i am so, so tired. being part of a team sounds comforting, after all this time as lone wolf in my studio. i am not romanticizing any job, i know the reality of both sides. my friends, i need a break and i need to stabilize.

and i do feel i have succeeded, i made my grand experiment. that was my goal, five years ago, to take a life-long dream and try making it into a business. and try i certainly did. could i go farther? yes, of course. do i want to? no, i don't. production is hard on the body and creative spirit. i am looking forward to making art for its' own sake again. this is the time for damage control and to regain some security. the health insurance issues and costs have been the straw that broke this little camel's back. cancer has changed the playing field forever.

so now i am writing my resume, putting out my feelers and setting my intention. somehow, even in the fierce job market of portland - i will land a position with benefits that is interesting, at a company or non-profit that shares my values. i know i bring a extraordinary package to the table and i am excited to see where i can contribute. this is my short-term goal.

the longer-term goal is going back to school. i am looking at grad school and pondering my options. who knows what type of business i might launch later on, or what kind of fulfilling career path i might embark upon?

i've also boiled down the parts of my Honey & Milk business plan that i was the most excited about and found something i didn't expect. the pieces about making a positive difference in the world, working on sustainability and fair-trade, eradicating poverty, traveling internationally, teaching diverse groups of people -those things really make my eyes sparkle. turns out, the parts about focusing on my jewelry and designs, the high fashion world and marketing - those pieces aren't the heart of the plan. the service to others part is the most compelling piece. that has helped me start in a job search direction.

i guess you could call this a mid-life crisis. trying to answer that question: what was i put on this earth to do? and cancer heated up the urgency. what am i waiting for?

blessed. wealthy. fortunate. i know that these words do apply to me. i have the luxury of being able to work on all of these issues. i am not fighting for survival as the people of rwanda have and still do. as hurting people all over the world do. even with all my issues and health crap and past traumas, even with our failing economy and high cost of living and shitty american health plan - i can make big plans and dream even bigger dreams.

for a fresh perspective on wealth, check this out.

Monday, September 29, 2008

what is freedom? what is security?

here's a quote from my favorite online astrology site, aquarium age. it's my weekly forecast for this past week:
You've got money on your mind and while money is important, it might be wise to think about why it matters so much to you. The more you understand it's role in your life, the better you'll handle it.
certainly that could apply to many of us, but it has got me thinking. when i ponder why money matters so much to me right now, two words pop immediately to the top. freedom and security. money doesn't solve all my problems, of course i know this. but considering that the lion's share of my worry is around my lack of money ~it sure feels as if more would make life easier.

freedom and security. it strikes me that they are in many way opposing ideas. and that both can be found without any change in finances. maybe i need to define those terms for myself specifically:
  • freedom from worry about how i will pay for necessities. freedom to buy a healthy life-style and diet.
  • security for the future, both near and far. security to know if my health fails, and when i grow too old to work, i have the resources to sustain myself.
when i was working for someone else full time, i looked at owning my own business as the ultimate freedom. now i am on the other side and lately have begun to look longingly at the greener grass over over there. make no mistake, their are freedoms to this life of an entrepreneur. i do set my own schedule, i don't have to get permission to take a day off. i can spend alot of time on healing. yet, the reality is, i am still struggling to make ends meet and my debt mounts. i work all the time, often more hours a week than i ever did for someone else. and mentally, i am never "off", it's very difficult to clock out from your own business.

so my freedom often feels like a trap. it's a fake freedom when your business isn't making money. i can't afford to take vacations and i am certainly not free from worry. i also don't feel free to reward myself, to celebrate in any way that costs money, when i reach a big goal or achieve something significant.

and i have zero security. i have no savings, no investments, no disability insurance. i don't have a spouse or children to depend on when i'm elderly. come april, i will have to fall back onto the oregon state health insurance plan. the state of affairs has begun to bother me on a very deep level.

what i am processing now is this: can i find a way to have both freedom and security? i wonder what form of income creation that would take? working for "the man" in the past has felt very oppressive, i've often undersold my talents and intellect. i know i have spent years in jobs that did not exploit my best gifts and my contributions were not valued.

then i come to this past year. what a crazy fucking year. deep sigh. a year not without it's own gifts, i recognize that. but not a year where i felt freedom. cancer has stripped the romantic glow from life, from my view of my life. i see that as progress, as a good thing. i certainly have not stopped dreaming about the future, there is no stopping the flow of ideas from my brain. but coming out of cancer treatment and leaping into the process of writing an articulate, specific business plan - that was very illuminating.

as i've gone through this month of cleansing, i've been shining a bright, penetrating light on my business plan and my life plan. i've allowed myself to really see where it fall short, where it falls into fantasy and doesn't tell the whole truth. i've been looking at myself with as much objective constructive criticism as i can muster. let me tell you, my friends, it's not all pretty and inspiring.

it has occurred to me that strong, successful business leaders are honest about their weaknesses and in touch with where they often falter. their homework is very complete. and they are excellent at surrounding themselves with people that have complementary strengths. that is the kind of business leader (yes, leader!) i want to be.

i'm also trying to sort out what are my greatest strengths. what are the biggest gifts i bring to the table of business, the table of life? can you tell i've been doing a hell of a soul search? there is a rebel yell bubbling up inside me that feels like it might just blow the top of my head off.

breathe, breathe, breathe.

for most of my life, i have not placed much value on money. i place greater value on people, on relationships, on family, on doing what is ethical and right. i cannot abandon those principles, they literally are my moral fiber, an important part of who i am. i'd like to accomplish this: create a life and earn a living in such a way that provides freedom and security, without compromising my values. i want to work with people that share my values and are committed to making this world a better, healthier, sustainable place for all.

and a final note for this post. i miss making art. my jewelry business is only marginally satisfying. i miss creativity that has no involvement with commerce or marketability. art for art's sake. after three years of my jewelry business i don't want to do it anymore. if i was making a comfortable living, i think i would feel better about the whole thing. but to struggle so much, for so long? i am sick of struggling. i am tired. and a job is a job is a job. making jewelry is a job and lately, has not felt like a joy. all jobs get to this place eventually, it seems.

so maybe my big question is, how can i find or create a job that does not feel like a job?

i am doing my best to think outside of the box i usually stay within.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

stones from the river

closing the cleanse and opening the next phase of healing has been interesting this past week. it feels a bit like a part-time job, this taking extra good care of myself, eating just right and putting all my intention to healing.

if only i could get paid for all my hard work.

here's my sticky-wicket. i've spent the last ten years working my ass off on healing myself. working through layers of trauma, old stuck places, ancient wounds, toxic ideas. i have painstakingly shifted, inch by inch, my core beliefs. i have recovered from cancer (twice!). i have faced the darkest places and looked honestly at what is. of course, i am not done. no one is done until they are dead.

after all the hard work, i still struggle to pay my bills every month, i still struggle with the basics of making a living. the kind of hard work i've been doing doesn't pay the rent. that's the sticky bit, for sure.

yet, there is always more, it seems. a cleanse like i've just experienced brings new mirrors to face, more sludge from the bottom of my emotional river. as my bowels, gallbladder and liver released old waste, heavy metals and toxic run-off - my heart let go of a few things as well. it's been a time of questions, a time of opening and a extraordinary time of relaxing my thinking.

i think i have flushed out some old rocks in my brain. thank goodness. i feel so much lighter!

things are still unfolding. each day i feel a little shiver, a new idea, a small glimpse into where i might be going. inside, my river is flowing more freely than ever before. it's clear and sparkling to the bottom. perhaps somehow, my personal work will eventually pay dividends that show up on a balance sheet. i am hopeful that could be true.

what's up you say? where are things flowing? well, a few examples:

a simple altar on my dining table has created a sacred space for eating.
i am surrounding myself with healing objects, transforming my nest.
my new ideas are fluid, not fixed about the future.
i am looking at going back to school for an MBA.
my business model is flexing and growing.
my father and i are talking again, after five years of silence.
closets are getting cleaned, data backed up.

it's a new season. even without being able to take a long walk or dance, i am in motion.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the close of the cleanse

in truth, it is the beginning of something new. closing the cleanse just means opening up my food choices. yet, i will continue to be on this path of ph balance for life. for now, that means eating way more raw than cooked foods, a 90/10 split. Eventually, i will be able to transition into a sensible and livable 70/30 split. yesterday i followed the cleanse until dinner, then i ate a veggie meal than included chewing my food.

what a simple joy. the ripest heirloom tomatoes, sliced and dressed just with sea salt and good olive oil. ah, they tasted so, so delicious. i ate a big plateful!

my heel was also acting up over the weekend, a very discouraging situation to say the least. goodness, these health issues are a bummer. i am so very sick of them. so ready for healing and change.

i made a bold move on that front. saw a podiatrist ( a move suggested by my acupuncturist a few weeks ago) and choose some standard western medicine treatment. he was great, did x-rays immediately and then used a diagnostic ultrasound to look at the tissue in my heel.

his first words upon seeing what was in my heel? "wow, oh wow". not what you long to hear from your doctor. it was bad. at least i know this last 18 months of pain and struggle with my heel was absolutely not in my head. i was starting to wonder if i was crazy. to treat something for so long, with daily stretching, ice applications, herbs, shoe inserts, rest - and still not get better?

so yes, i have a bone spur on the bottom of my heel and yes, i have plantar fastitis. i also have an extraordinary amount of inflammation in that heel. enough to elicit a "wow" from the doctor. he asked me how the hell i have been living with this? i told him everything i do to take care of it, and that i can not walk much. that i sit. that it limits my life in terrible ways.

i asked for a shot to the heel. one dose of cortisone to hopefully flip the switch on the inflammation. if any of you out there reading have a practice of prayer or meditation, please offer up some for me. i need this to work. it is the last resort.

the shot hurt like nothing i have ever sustained. sharp, deep pain, as they moved the needle into exactly the right place, using the ultrasound to guide. i cried out and used all my deep breathing techniques to get through it. after, it was numb. today it is achy and hard to stand on.

i am turning 42 tomorrow, yet don't i sounds like i am 92 with all my aliments?

there is much more to say, of course. the cleanse brought incredible mental, spiritual and emotional clarity. i will be sharing more on that very soon. some of it is just too big to throw in a post like this one.

thanks for all your support and caring, my dear friends. getting through the cleanse with you all following along has been really good.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

cleanse report, days 12 - 14

the past three days have been tough on the cleanse. my energy has been low, too tired to even work in the studio. and i really, really need to work. today is day fourteen. i've made it to my original goal, the whole two week cleanse finished.

should i continue? do i need to?

today i figured out that my lack of energy was due to a few factors. for one, the deep level of detox this week. between the eatable clay and two colon-hydrotherapy sessions, some major release has happened. my liver and gall bladder have both been seriously detoxing. but i do think it's potentially depleting as well. i've needed more rest and sleep than i've taken. i had a good meeting with my doctor on thursday and that was her only concern about the cleanse. she asked me to pay careful attention to my body and adjust if i was getting depleted.

for two, the fear factor. setting the surgery date and getting my mom's ticket secured has made my deadline real. real scary, to be honest. it is a serious emotional challenge to just breath through that fear of failure and take each hour as it comes.

and for three, i think i have not actually been taking in enough calories. so today i ate more, i consciously worked on that. and i feel better this evening. plus i slept 12 hours last night. at the suggestion of a friend, i signed up at the site allows you to create a simple, private profile and then use the tools there to figure out calorie intake/needs, track fitness and weight goals over a time period. using the food tools, i was able to figure out how many calories i was getting a day on the cleanse.

not quite enough.

i haven't been hungry and all the water really keeps me full, so didn't realize that i wasn't getting enough fuel. that definitely has a dramatic effect on energy!

so i am going to continue, but transition into more food and not all liquefied food. i'm ready, after fourteen days, to chew. i really can hardly believe i made it this far, to be frank.

it's something like a personal miracle. or marathon. it's both.

Friday, September 12, 2008

cleanse report, day 11

detoxing. what a concept. it's like cleaning the hard drive of your body. all my organs are releasing, being renewed, feeling perky and fresh. my skin is starting to be a bit glowy and dewy. that's pretty great as i approach my 42nd birthday next week. i am starting to think doing a cleanse the 2 weeks before my birthday is a good idea every year.

out with the old, in with the new.

i am rolling along on the cleanse. had another session of colon hydrotherapy this morning. my liver and gall bladder are letting go of bile and toxic stuff. most of you probably think this is a really gross subject, but i must say i am fascinated with it all. and i feel wonderful, so that is what matters most.

i have not felt this good in a long, long time.

we are about to have a heat wave here in portland, oregon. which i am thrilled about, as it's way easier to eat 100% raw food when the weather is hot. thanks, mother nature, what a thoughtful birthday gift!

yesterday i cleaned out under my kitchen sink. i didn't just organize- i scrubbed it, put down pretty silver contact paper and now that area (which was a mess) is all lovely and calming. i am quite proud of myself, i have to admit. i am thinking about the parallels between internal body cleansing and home cleansing. cleaning closets is like really getting into the nitty-gritty. who knows what will open up in my life with a detoxed body and home?

i am excited to find out.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

cleanse report, day 10 - deep detox

my day ten was packed full, a little too much on the schedule for comfort,to be honest. it takes focus and time to do something of this magnitude gently and safely. to end each day feeling good, i have to work at how i construct my days.

it is alot of paying attention, this cleanse business. a bit like a part time job.

which makes social outings challenging. not impossible, but advance planning has to be complete. my first attempt at a social evening didn't go so well from the standpoint of taking care of my body. a point to remember: a person will always stay longer than they planned when catching up with an old friend. so be prepared. i should have brought my whole jug of water and a packet of protein powder & small bottle of almond milk. a little something would have really made the whole difference in how i felt later. yesterday i went from colon hydrotherapy to massage therapy to my friend's house. too many hours away from home base (and kitchen) in a row to plan for, i didn't plan well. lesson learned. i'd like to think i can go out and be social and still be on this cleanse.

especially because i have another 10 days to go! this morning, that is feeling like a long, long time. i know i just have to take it as it comes. keep listening to my body and have faith in the process.

surrender to healing.

i am going to skip the eatable clay today. my period started and after yesterday, i am feeling a bit shaky. i think it is important to adjust and flex any healing program to respond to how your body feels. which, of course, does not include listening to the crazy voices in my head that chant "pizza! pizza! pizza!"

i am trying to tune into the small quiet voice that always says water, water, water.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

cleanse report, day 9

day nine was a day of movement. things are shifting into place in wonderful ways. within hours of putting it out to the universe that my mom needed northwest airline points for her ticket to take care of me after surgery, a family member surprised us and came forward with enough to take care of it in one fell swoop.

that is what i was hoping for, that people would have stashes of points they knew they wouldn't use. what a blessing. and for the family member, he is thrilled to be able to do something to help.

several of you reading reached out as well to help. thank-you so much! it is so good to be reminded that the universe is holding me with love and compassion.

the cleanse goes on. now i have a firm deadline on the weight loss. i will have surgery the third week in december. suddenly, it feels like pressure. the kind of pressure i don't do well with. losing weight for a reason, for a deadline...that has been disaster in the past.

of course, this is a bit different than the past. trying to reduce for a wedding or before my 40th birthday wasn't based on the serious issues i am facing now. those deadlines were about looking good. facing surgery is a much, er, weightier proposition.

but i can feel myself panicking a little. i am trying to just breathe through it, just stay the course. walking up to my scale saying another pound lost helps. each pound is a small cheer of "you can do it". my body is releasing what it doesn't need. i am working on making that my focus.

35 pounds to go. exactly 14 weeks to do it.

i wonder if i am crazy, is it possible? i am guessing that in the end, the exercise piece will make or break this path i am on. if my heel can sustain exercise, i think that yes, i can do it. my success is based on not re-inflaming the heel injury.

the most exciting part is that by the time 2009 begins, i will be walking around in a body, my body, that is healthy, whole, healed and despite a few scars - is one that i feel good in. i am very glad to be getting the surgery out of the way before this year ends. to start fresh in 2009.

in the interest of this goal, i believe i am going to stay on the cleanse for the maximum amount of days, which is 21. that is what i will try for, anyway. the ride has really just begun, my friends.

yesterday's ph averages: urine 5.58, saliva 6.92

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

cleanse report, days 7 & 8

i am still going strong, my friends. thank-you so much for your support and encouragement! i really appreciate very comment and email. it's not easy, what i am doing. don't let my light tone fool you. there are still moments everyday when i struggle.

yet, whatever suffering i face with something like this cleanse, it's fleeting. and in the balance against the pain of not being able to live and active life because of my heel spur (or wear any kind of cute shoes, ever) well, it's just not so bad, this cleanse. at this point, i would endure alot to heal my body. cancer treatment, that sucks. not being able to dance at a wedding or take a hike with a friend? that sucks too.

so all this cleansing business is worth it. i am encouraged by results so far and very hopeful of greater healing on the way.

i met with my plastic surgeon a couple of weeks ago, which also helped motivate this cleanse process. he evaluated my breasts for reconstruction and there was some good news. my skin healed from radiation very well. the tissue and skin is in great condition and i am a perfect candidate for augmentation, if i choose to take that route. he can easily do a lift on the other side to achieve symmetry.

the only hold up is me. i am not at a healthy weight for my height and certainly not for preventing cancer in the future or healing the heel spur. (excess body weight being one of the causes of heel spurs) so, to get the surgery now, i would not be happy with the results after the weight loss. so i must lose it before surgery. a few weeks ago, i was facing 50 pounds to lose. now it's just 37! still a formidable number, to be sure. but more manageable.

and i learned something important about the implants they use. it will go under the muscle, so i will still be able to feel my existing breast tissue for new lumps and gt mammograms (oh joy!) and the silicone implants are like a gummi bear, you could cut them in half and they wouldn't leak. it's still scary to me to think of having a forgien object inside me. and complications are possible.

in any ideal world, i'd have months and months to lose the weight and get the surgery when the time was right. sadly, i live in a world where my COBRA insurance policy runs out april 1st and then i am thrown onto the state (which will cost me $450 a month) for insurance not half as good as i have now. i join the millions of americans that are uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions.

so all this surgery business has to happen sooner rather than later. we are trying for mid-december, because if i do it before the end of the year, it won't cost me a dime. my deductible and breakpoint for the year was met with radiation treatment. ah, another december, another holiday season recovering from surgery. at least i get to see my mom.

i have a request, dear readers. i need to have my mom here to care for me after surgery. and to be there as i go in. it's too scary to face alone. and there is no one in portland that makes me feel safe and comforted like my mom.

but the plane tickets are crazy expensive in december. she is retired and on a fixed income. i am hoping some kind soul out there has northwest airline frequent flyer mileage points they could donate to my cause. she needs about 15,000 more points to be able to afford the trip. it costs only $25 per transaction to transfer them to her account, which i can cover. if you have any significant number of northwest points you can spare, i would be so, so grateful. just email me and we'll figure it out.

meanwhile, i have my work cut out to drop this weight before surgery. i started with my eatable clay yesterday and wow, what an effect on my bowels! very interesting. tomorrow i have another colon hydrotherapy session scheduled. it's all about releasing.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

cleanse report, days 5 & 6

as i begin day seven of this cleanse, i am feeling so much better than i could have imagined. there is a lightness and contentment in my emotional self that has surprised me. what a nice surprise! i am also surprised that i have such sustained energy in body, given the drastic reduction in protien this week from my previous diet.

it actually takes less than i think to feel good. that is really interesting. i do believe the water is key. lots and lots of ph balanced water. my skin is clearing up and my eyes look really clear and bright.

i feel bright all over, actually!

i'm still dealing with cravings, yes. mostly for chewy crunchy salty things. pizza and popcorn, you know. nibbling on a little piece of Himalayan salt fends off most of them. it really is mineral rich, tasty salt.

another odd thing is the dreams i've had this week. very vivid, strange dreams. maybe my subconscious is also detoxing? sure seems like it. worry, death and destruction. it's all coming out.

my apartment detox continues. yesterday two pieces of furniture i replaced went bye-bye. such a relief to have that extra desk and coffee table out of my livingroom. today i am going to clear off my dining table and create a space to concentrate on conscious eating. i live alone, why not make my eating area into a sacred space?

eleven pounds lost in this last month. i am frankly amazed and deeply encouraged. i have renewed hope that i might just be able to do this thing. lose 50 pounds and renew my health. heal my heel and be ready for reconstruction surgery. and i've read dozens of studies that found cancer cells cannot thrive in an alkaline environment. this sums up my anti-cancer strategy. to create and maintain a slightly alkaline environment in my body so that cancer (and we all have "cancer" cells floating around in us all the time) cannot gain any ground, ever again.

i am so aware of how it is not just about the water i drink or food i eat. it's about my state of mind and the health of my emotional world. in a couple of weeks i am starting a 6-week workshop, like a group therapy type deal, at project quest. it's just for women with or healing from, breast cancer and is focused on developing your inner healer. lead by a naturpath doctor and a Jungian psychologist.

tomorrow i begin week two of the cleanse...