Cancer

Relay for LifeThe American Cancer Society hosts a 24-hour event called the RELAY FOR LIFE in neighborhoods across the USA.  I went to my first RELAY years ago, after my very good friend was taken out of this world by cancer. I enjoyed the day celebrating the cancer survivors and remembering my friend.  It wasn’t until sunset that I realized truly how many people are affected by cancer.

Luminary bags are sold as a fundraiser at the event.  You can purchase them and decorate them in honor or in memory of someone with cancer. The Relay Committee then places them around the track, so that all participants may view them as they walk.  I decorated a few bags my first year and have every year since.  My list of bags needed is sadly, very long. I lost my dear friend, Deirdre and my great-grandfather to cancer. My grandfather battled with colon cancer, and I even have a beautiful friend that is currently fighting colon cancer.  This same beautiful friend, my ex-mother-in-law, an Aunt of mine and countless other friends fought breast cancer.  I grew up in Southern California and have many friends over 40 now fighting skin cancer.  I even have a non-smoking church friend who recently passed away fighting off lung cancer.  Needless to say, there are always a lot of luminary bags surrounding the track and when the sun sets, everything changes.

A candle is placed in every bag and is lit at sunset.  The bags illuminate the track as the names of people who are currently fighting cancer and have died fighting cancer are read.  I live in a very small town. We have only have 35,000 residents, which is not much compared to other surrounding cities.  My throat started to close up as the name reading kept going on and on and on.  The names on the pages were so many.  As the reading of all of those names concluded, I was changed forever.

I have put my poor body through some things I care not to mention and I know my diabetes could come into play when I consider my odds of getting the dreaded diagnosis of cancer.  I tremble as I type the words, as I am terrified of the thought.  But I know that I can not let my fear of my possible future stop me from living in the moment of today.  The names on the pages inspire me every year to do better, try harder and to continue to go for it. They also remind me to relax and smell the roses.  The names shout out to me to dance and sing, and travel.  To try new foods and experiences whenever possible.  The names tell me to dream and to believe in the future; for it is bright and available to me now.  I must go for it all, with the names on those pages in my head and in my heart.

I encourage you to participate in your local RELAY FOR LIFE or come to ours! Everyone is invited. xo

I got busy, getting busy!

Disneyland
My dear blog has been left out.  I allowed my lack of sleep, the love I feel for my children and my incredibly long TO DO list keep me from doing what I promised myself I would do daily.  My commitment to others is true and trustworthy, yet I continually let the promises I make to myself go.  I wonder why we, as a society, put so much merit into fulfilling tasks as we do, each and every day?  Is it all that important?

I know that my sleep is important.  When I am rested, I feel well and able. Sleeping alone is something that has taken me longer to get used to than I expected. I miss having a body in my bed, offering me warmth and security through the night.  I am getting used to being alone.  I am just not sure I like it.

I am positive that the love I feel for my children is important.  My daughters are on Spring Break and I have done everything in my power to direct my attention to them.  I have worked hard to listen and respond when expected to do so.  Just the other day, my youngest explained to me that, “Stress is taking the best of us”.  Her words were profound in the moment.  I took to heart what she said and in doing so, have had to keep my phone tucked away and my computer in its case.  They need me being with them, not just being around them.  It is hard to do but I decided to make the time and effort.  I have planned and participated in fun activities all week and have loved every minute of it. I even got lucky and a superhero-friend of mine gave us tickets to Disneyland ~ The Happiest Place on Earth!  Or so they say, I haven’t traveled to Italy just yet.  All I know is that my time with my daughters has truly been magical.  

My impending TO DO LIST is a whole other matter of importance.  I so badly want to do well by it! I want to succeed and accomplish great things! I want to make a lot of money so that I may be able to give back!  I want to travel and go on adventures!  I want to follow my hopes and dreams!  I want, I want, and what is it that I need?  I need to care for myself, so I may care for others.  I need to write.  I need to exercise and eat well.  I need to monitor my diabetes.  I need to fight for justice.  I need to educate.  I need to laugh and love whenever possible. I need to do what makes me happy.  I believe the money-making and great accomplishments will follow once my needs are met.  And truly, our hopes and dreams are important. Without them, what’s the point?

*452 days and counting…Italy, here I come!  xo

 

BFF

BFFsThere is a term we love to use in America that applies to my story tonight, “BFF or Best Friends Forever”.  It’s a silly slang term that according to Wikipedia, “is a close friendship typical of teenagers and young people”. Well, my BFF and I are not either of those things but the term works for us, even in our old age.

I’ve been running around with her for over ten years now.  We are ten years apart in age and act as goofy as teenagers most of the time. I keep her young and she keeps me grounded.  It really is a good fit.  I don’t think either of us could imagine our lives without each other anymore.

My BBF has lived through the worst of my worst days with me.  She is always there to support me and wipe my tears when I need it the most.  She is also honest, which at times is the opposite of what I am looking for but always what I need.  My goofy friend is wise, compassionate and hard-headed as they come.  But you know what, she has never passed judgment on me, even after all of these years and all the crazy things I’ve done.  She’s just there for me.

I wonder how many people get to share their lives with someone they know truly loves them and expects nothing in return?  It feels incredible knowing that I can call upon my BFF at anytime and she will be honest with me.  I might hear, “Are you #$*^%*! kidding me?!” or “Sweetie, you’re going to be okay, keep moving forward and don’t look back”.  My favorite response from her is, “Sorry, my bra is off, go to the movies by yourself!”  Her husband cracks me up too with comments like, “Let’s drop a nickle in Alicia and see how long she will talk before she notices that we don’t care!”  The realness of our relationship is what makes my heart sing.

We don’t blow smoke, so to speak, we tell each other the truth.  While it is sometimes hard to hear, we really keep each other in check.  We know that whatever we share with each other is honest and based on love.  Where else can we get that in our lives? Not everyone is comfortable being honest. I joke about when people ask, “How are you?”  My question back is, “Do you want an honest answer or are you just looking for fluff?”  I don’t think that most “friends” really want to know and truly don’t care.

It is the goofy friends that we cannot get rid of that care the most.  It is the ones that come racing over when they find out that you are sick or need help with anything. Only best friends forever truly get it.

I wonder if I’ll be able to talk my BFF into touring Italy with me.  She’s turning 50 and I’m turning 40; how could she not go?!  Oh, wait, she’s the honest one.  Her response when I last asked her was, “WHAT? YOU ARE DOING WHAT?  YOU’RE CRAZY.  HAVE FUN WITHOUT ME!”  I truly love that BFF of mine.  xo

My favorite “European” American friend

Claude_Monet_023I have a beautiful friend that I consider to be an excellent source of information for all things European.  She was born and raised in Southern California but studied abroad. She attended a French University and can speak French fluently.  I am in awe of her analytic mind and impressive travel-log.

My dear friend was kind enough to bestow on me a true travel gem.  I am loving the read, Baedeker – ITALY.  The original hand-book written by, Karl Baedeker was published for travelers over 150 years ago.  I have enjoyed all of the fine details of this guide.  I am currently educating myself on the history of Italy, found in the first few pages.  I love this condensed version of valuable information.  I owe her a good read for this precious guide.

I may recommend, The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s one of my all-time favorite books.  I want her to understand my need to drive in Italy.  She thinks I am crazy for considering driving a Lamborghini while I am there.  Her husband and her have a lot of experience driving all over Europe, they lived there for years.  She explained that I will be a wreck, being concerned about being in a wreck!  The streets in Italy are very narrow and she feels that I should consider renting a scooter instead.

While I listen and learn from those who have gone before me, I am going to do my best to keep an open mind. I am open for ideas that come from experience and love of travel.  I am hoping that my friends continue to share their stories with me and help me grow, even at thirty eight years old.  xo

 

 

 

UPS Driver

National Gallery of Art, Renoir
My UPS driver does not have an easy job.  I live off of a long and narrow dirt road, which he must brave a few times a week in his big UPS truck.  I appreciate his efforts and am always pleasant when we meet.  On one such occasion, he asked me what I was so excited to receive.  I explained it was my Rosetta Stone special delivery!  He inquired about what language I was leaning and I told him my story.

He was taken back by my joy for what I was trying to do.  He understood it and took the time to open up and tell me briefly about his trip to Florence a few years back.  He went on and on about a tour company that he and his wife hired, Taste Florence. While I am not one to particularly like scheduled tours, this one sounds gustoso!  I plan to take a lot of insulin with me so that I may eat plentifully.  I do not want to have to pass anything up.  I may even consider sipping wine while I am touring.

I am so pleased that my UPS driver shared his story with me.  Sometimes it is hard for people to open up and dare say, “Hello”.  This gentleman went out of his way and made my day, and possibly my trip!  Take the time to share who you are.  I believe it is worth the effort.

Repubblica italiana

italy-political-mapI have so much to do!  So much to plan for!  I just learned that Italy is 116,347 square miles, with a population of approximately 60,000,000.  I was surprised by this number until I remembered that the United States is 3,794,101 square miles, with a population of approximately 317,000,00.

The difference in numbers makes me wonder why I am feeling the need to go explore another country, when I haven’t completely explored my own.  I think it’s because of the art and history that just don’t exist the same way here in our young country.  I want to visit and learn from the old country.

I am going to plot my course over the next few days so that I may start looking at flight reservations and accommodations.  While I decide where and how I am going to travel, I am hoping to talk with people whom have been or better yet, lived and loved in Italy.  I want them to share their favorite spots and experiences with me.  I have a few friends and such already on my list.  Maybe over the next few days, I will share their stories with the world, as I try to create my own.

Conflict

Keep Calm
I love and hate conflict all at the same time.  It seems to be the perfect catapult to get us where we need to be, so to speak.  Without conflict, how would we be driven to compromise and understand what the other side of our particular position might look like. All the while, it is ugly and hurtful, and sometimes impossible to get over.  

Has a life ever existed without conflict?  I cannot imagine one, even in beautiful Italy!  In Italy, I can imagine there would be conflict about what good food to eat, which incredible art museum to visit or what quaint little town to stay in for holiday.  All of these conflicts of normal day seem so simple, so unimportant, while “real” conflict is rampant in the world right now.  Does that make these everyday, simple conflicts insignificant?   

When I consider conflicts in other parts of the world, I think of: Syria, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Ukraine, Israel and Palestine.  I am sure there are many more that I could list here, but my heart aches for all of them and I can’t bring myself to list anymore.  I think about the children in these countries and their parents.  I try to understand what the constant fear of being killed must feel like and the panic that these feelings must ensue.  It is all devastating. 

There is also plenty of conflict in our own lives. The list of wars that we fight everyday for the most odd and peculiar reasons. I have conflict with friends, my job and unfortunately, my bank account.  I have conflict with my daughters, on so many different levels, and with my damn dog over the guest bathroom trashcan daily.  Some of these conflicts rock my core and some make me laugh because I have a tendency to take life way too seriously.   

Whether the conflict is big or small we have to honor it for what it is and push ourselves into understanding, so we may learn and be more open to compromise.  Keeping calm is key during these moments and following through on thoughts, actions and feelings is everything.  Taking the time to discover who we truly are is probably the most important conflict any of us will ever have with ourselves.  I assure you all, it is worth the fight.  It is worth feeling everything that comes along with your own personal conflict, so that in the end you find your inner-peace.

May we all be so blessed. xo

Resolutions

Image

 

Today I made a few more resolutions.  I would like to add them to my existing list that I created in January.  How could it be that I already have to amend them after only two and a half months?  

Growth comes in forms disguised in different ways, at the most unexpected times.  Today my growth opportunity presented itself to me in the form of an old friend, which shall remain in disguised, as most superheroes are.  

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS (amended from 01-01-14):
LISTEN BETTER

 

~xo  

Forgiveness

Riley's Prize Winning Art
I had to forgive myself today.  I have been buried with work the past few days, my daily chores and countless hours of volunteering in my community trying to support my local PTA and RELAY FOR LIFE.  While these are all good things for me to be doing, I am exhausted.  It was one o’clock in the morning when I decided to go to bed instead of writing my blog.  Once in bed, the wind howled all night long and 
tossed and turned.  I hate when I let myself down.

Today was another day like the day before.  I worked and worked until I found out that I had an engagement that I had to attend this evening.  I did not get everything on my TO DO LIST completed and was feeling angry at myself for another day of personal disappointment.  I missed my language lesson, yet again.  I did not review my Italian map to help plot my course.  I did not complete my database for the upcoming community event that I am helping put on.  I did not even do the breakfast dishes or dust, as I had planned, or catch up on my blog for DAY 468.

Feeling defeated and incompetent, I heading to the event that was waiting for me.  For someone who is joyful most of my days, I was feeling and acting closer to cranky than happy.  As I approached the event, I saw her and everything changed.

I suddenly forgave myself for all of my shortcomings.  I was suddenly filled with joy and the idea that there is so much hope in the world.  My youngest daughter was waiting to show me her artwork that had been picked to be displayed at one of our local school’s art shows.  Her kind face and her presence, offered me forgiveness and I am changed forever.

As if some kind of gift from the heaven’s, my daughter took First Place in her category.  She will get to go to Division Finals and may have a chance of making it to State.  Whether she wins or not, does not matter.  What matters is that she tried.  She put art into the world, not to win, but because she loves it and because of that she will always be a winner.

Here’s to another day of opportunities to be ourselves and ultimate forgiveness for doing so!

Writing

WritingYesterday, I published my twentieth blog.  Twenty days of writing about my thoughts on the process of getting myself to Italy for my 40th birthday.  The accomplishment, if you will allow the term, seems to be a small and insignificant but was actually pretty big and very important to me.  

I found the following definition on Wikipedia this evening, “A writer is a person who uses written words in various styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Writers produce various forms of literary art and creative writing such as novels, short stories, poetry, plays, new articles, screenplays or essays.”  And…blogs.  

I recorded, The Oscars and had the program on tonight while I finished up my work.  I rarely watch television but do like to have it on it the background. This evening, Robert De Niro caught my ear.  As he was presenting an Oscar he said the following, “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying  thing.  Isolated, neurotic, caffeine addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and cursed by inadequacy.”  It made me smile.

I have second guessed my decision to write daily a few times.  I am tired and feel discouraged.  I have been worried I will not have anything interesting to say or that I may just totally fail at this project and never make it to Italy. Then I find my second wind and open my computer.  The process of over coming my fears and telling my story is liberating.  This feeling of accomplishment keeps me going.  

Here’s to the next 469 days of writing my blog.  Wish me luck…