I find it perfectly appropriate that Santa Barbara seems to be having the most cleansing powerwash of a Super Rainstorm today on the first day of Spring 2011. Seeing as how there's not much to do outside today, I'll sit inside, cozied up to the fire in my little cabin in the woods, listen to the rain on the roof (in the bucket under the skylight, too) and reflect on the messages of the changing season and cleansing rain.
Such a magnificent metaphor, Spring is, with the cleaning, renewal, rebirth, spring showers nourishing new growth, and fresh starts. I've been having a similar experience within myself, as persistent positivity continues to pay off in the way of increased opportunities thus far in 2011.
I'm preparing for my own rebirth of sorts as I approach my "cancer-versary". April marks two years since my brain cancer diagnosis, and while I continue monthly chemo as a precautionary measure, that nasty old tuber thankfully remains missing, nowhere to be found, in any of my scans since the December 2, 2010 MRI that had us all asking, "Where'd it go?" Best day ever...
So even though the posting has been light here on Girlbert.com, it simply means that I've had other things to do beside dwelling on that silly old tumor that isn't there! I'm finding myself getting wrapped up in other activities, you know, the stuff of life? Finding myself less hindered by health concerns (and the nasty anxiety that comes with them), I'm getting a fresh start with a new version of normal. Opportunities abound in 2011! It goes something like this...
I'm learning new things: taking watercolor and yoga classes at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. So important to keep my brain taking in new information, my mind happy, and my body active; as I continue on my healing journey.
I'm getting back on the horse: riding, teaching, and training. Very important that a horse girl have horses to ride, pamper, and learn from. Many opportunities to do just that have recently presented themselves, making me think I could find work doing what I love, just as soon as I'm ready!
I'm gaining control over my financial situation: tackling my ongoing credit issues and thinking about what kind of work I can do that will supplement our income.
I'm going places: I'm looking forward to my first trip abroad this week - I'll be traveling to England with my Mom to visit my brother for the next two weeks! I'm flying to Chicago first, then Mom and I leave the next day for London. A couple of days there with my bro and then we're taking the train to Paris for the weekend! The second weekend we'll get to see Stonehenge, which has long been on my "Must See Before I Die" list! I'm bursting with excitement about getting spend time my parents and brother, but I'm over-the-top-busting-at-the-seams-giddy about seeing England and Paris! Lifetime opportunity courtesy of my amazing parents. Love you guys!
I'm making more time for social activities: Boyfriend and I are making a point to take ourselves out for "Date Nights" after two years of putting "Us" on the backburner for my physical health. I'm making new friends through all of my classes, support groups and horse activities; and reconnecting with old friends, too. Interacting with people and putting myself out there as a soon-to-be-employable horse girl again has been good for my mind and spirit!
I'm happy: I see everything I've overcome in the last couple of years and I'm smiling. A lot. I'm letting the creative, interested, smart, curious horsegirl out to play! And she's having fun, even in the rain!
I'm grateful: I acknowledge all of the help and support I've received in the last couple of years, and I'm humbled by all the love and kindness that continues to flow in from friends, family, and even strangers. Virtual hugs!
So - the messages of spring are reccurring, universal, and blatantly obvious. My brain tumor is gone, then my car breaks. My car is fixed, turned out not to be a big deal, but I have to file for bankruptcy. But that's life - your very own version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride through a series of ups and downs, with the point being there is an up to every down. Realizing that is the biggest hurdle of all, so once you're there, the rest is easier and the lessons, clearer.
So weather the storm, because there's always something good on the other side. Waiting out the rain, no matter how torrential, is the only way to get to the rainbows, the flowers, the sparkling trees, green grass, and singing birds. And the storm passes more quickly if you learn to smile, laugh, and dance in the rain!
We're traveling again, so I'm still sorting through pictures and stories, but I've come up with a fun list of fast facts a la Girlbert and Boyfriend's Big Road Trip.
Equipped for travel and leisure with:
1 1991 Toyota Land Cruiser
1 bitchin' roof rack (more on that later)
1 2-person tent (cozy, with a GREAT view!)
1 full-sized air mattress
1 feather bed
1 blanket, set of sheets
2 down comforters (for desert camping, no less)
2 mountain bikes, helmets, shoes, tire pump, etc.
3 yummy pillows (because two couldn't possibly suffice)
1 trunk containing food and food preparation, including Grandma's cast iron pan and Boyfriend's favorite (favourite) wooden spatula (which we left at the first stop, but thankfully promised to be kept safe by our gracious host)
1 propane stove
Electronically prepared with:
1 inverter with 4 AC plugs with which to charge all electronic devices while on the road
2 cameras, 1 point and shoot with video, 1 digital SLR with 2 rechargable batteries
We have returned. What's that? You didn't know we were gone? Great.
Our trip had been in the works for months, with the primary purpose being to visit Boyfriend's brother, sister-in-law, and new nephew, James. Road tripping inevitably involves side trips and unexpected delays, but the plan, as loosely defined as it were, was to get out of California and do something different! No doctor appointments, nothing concrete, no obligations. Just drive and see. Sweet flexibility!
We didn't make a big deal prior to our departure, because my platelets were scary low, throwing my chemo schedule for a loop because "there's really nothing you can do, but wait for them to go back up again." I wasn't going anywhere until those platelets went back up again. So much for flexible.
Our first big road trip, our first vacation in, err... two years, all up in the air - because I needed more platelets?
Nobody was going to tell Girlbert there was nothing I could do, so I took those uncooperative little platelets into my own hands. I opened my mind, Googled, asked my cancer support group friends, took my vitamins, exercised, and I ate and ate the biggest variety of foods I could come up with in five days. On day five I took my next blood test and marched it upstairs to oncology.
"This is better - whatever you're doing is working!" My uber-oncologist smiled and shook his head as he flipped through the results of my blood tests, past and present. I'd done my homework, listened to my body, and more than doubled my platelets in five days. Whew for a flexible mind!
I started my chemo that night. We packed up and left the next day.
More on the Flexible Adventures of Girlbert and Boyfriend coming soon!
I've been trying to write this post for over three weeks now, but it's the post that never ends (Yes, it goes on and on, my friend...). Edit after edit, the message had become infinitely convoluted, and I'd become increasingly frustrated. So I scrapped the whole thing and started over.
I'll get straight to the point, because the message is very simple: Thank you, everybody, for an amazing visit back home. I had so much fun! I love you and miss you very much. I am overwhelmed by your love and support, as always, and I can't wait to see you again. When the weather's warmer.
And if pictures are worth a thousand words, well, then my work is done, because here's the link to the photo gallery. Enjoy! I know I did...
Here I am! Not writing has been killing me, with so little space in my head for remembering!
Boyfriend had sailing work in Southern California and Mexico for most of February. My oncologist almost fell out of his chair laughing when I asked. "Mexico? That would be a NO." I sort of need a babysitter, so we decided I would go stay with friends and family while he was working.
So off the midwest I went. My first stop was St. Louis, to visit my friend Kari.
Kari is one of my oldest horse friends. And I'm not talking about her age, because we're only a year apart. But I've known Kari since the fourth grade, that would be twenty-four years, which is a long time in horse years. We took lessons at the same riding stable in North Aurora, Illinois. We grew up riding and showing Saddlebred horses together in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. She came to my graduation from William Woods University in Fulton, MO. We were in each other's weddings.
Then I was out of touch. Recently, her old horse Bubba passed away and we got back in touch. When Kari suggested that I make St. Louis the first leg of my three-week tour, I jumped at the chance. I had yet to meet her daughter, Ella (she's six already!), and her new horses, Rooty and Thumper.
Kari and I didn't miss a beat, riding horses, talking horses, breathing horses. (Thanks for putting up with us, Dave!) The only thing that has changed is the addition of the fascinating, profound combination of Kari and Dave that is their daughter, Ella. Nice to meet you, young lady.
We even took a road trip (sans the 80s music - damn broken iPod!) to Farmington, MO to see another couple of dear friends - Andy Amsden and my old horse, Amy. She looks fabulous and happy, and clearly remembered me. I can still see her expression as she touched my arm gently with her nose (Mom!... touch...You're... touch...here!... touch....), just like she always did. I love you, too, girlie. Thank you, Andy, for taking such great care of my girl!
We finished up our five days of good 'ol equine-saturated bliss with a drive up north into Illinois, meeting my parents halfway. We had lunch, tearful goodbyes, then my parents took me the rest of the way to their house in Aurora, IL. On Kari's birthday, no less. Thanks for sharing your day with me, Kari. Thanks for everything.
A couple of weeks ago, Boyfriend and I drove out to Vegas to meet Little Brother and his BFF for a series of adventures that can best be described as a Totally Gay Vegas Weekend. My brother's BFF, Mike, is the world's most amazing hair stylist and lives in Vegas. He's an honorary Tomlin - my other little brother. He's also a fabulous host whenever we're all crashing at his place. (Thanks, Mikey! XOXO) Blast for not having any hair for him to cut and style this time! So I got a mani-pedi while my bro got his hair done. (Thanks, Little Brother! XOXO)
I know what you're thinking: "Girlbert, what kind of a brother makes his sister, her brain tumor, and her chaffeur/boyfriend drive all the way to Vegas to see him for the first time in over a year?" And I'd say, "The World's-Biggest-Bette-Midler-Fan, that's what kind of brother!" January 31st just happened to be Bette Midler's closing night after her two-year run at Caesar's Palace in The Showgirl Must Go On. I saw her on opening night with the same boys two years ago, so it only seemed appropriate that we were there on closing weekend.
Bette was A-MAZING. Everyone was in tears for the last few numbers, including the Divine Miss M. It was Boyfriend's first Bette Experience, and as he put it, "She rocked! And she's hilarious - I had no idea." I remember feeling the same way when I saw her for the first time on her Kiss My Brass tour - no idea she was such a fantastic entertainer.
And entertain us she did! Her final performance was particularly moving because Bette was genuinely sad it was over. Us, too. We love you, Bette!
Over a year ago, Boyfriend and I were in Puerto Vallarta for one of his sailing events. He was working, sailing every day, and I was along for the ride. We were in the throes of new love, just beginning our relationship.
The suite we were staying in had a big balcony on which a peahen roosted every night. She was often still there in the morning. One morning, I blindly got up and went to the kitchen for a bottle of water, and THERE SHE WAS. In the kitchen. She had entered the kitchen through the sliding glass doors, left open overnight for some fresh air! Boyfriend was still asleep, so I shooed her back out onto the balcony. It didn't take much, I was clearly more alarmed about her situation that she was. She had no trouble finding the door, and left no evidence of her presence. What a good peahen!
So we fondly named her Consuela. When our stay in Mexico came to an end, we sadly said goodbye, figuring we'd not see her until we came back. We agreed that we would miss that big, beautiful, funny bird.
Shortly after we returned home, I moved into this little cabin in the mountains of Santa Barbara. Once I was settled in my new home, I discovered the resident wild turkey group. Fascinatingly, they have kindly allowed a peahen into their flock. Consuela had followed us all the way back to California, just to keep us on our toes.
So yesterday I awoke to turkey and Consuela peeps outside my window, when this wave of new energy hit me. And she remains our symbol of fresh starts and new journeys.
I'm one of those, "It's merely a flesh wound!" kind of people. Can't stop. Never give up. Even when I'm hobbling around with a limb missing. Offers of assistance are often countered with, "Nope, I got it!" I suffer from bouts of extreme guilt, worried that I may not deserve what help I do receive. And God forbid I ask for help, even when I've fallen and can't get up.
But I'm changing. Slowly, but surely. I had a breakthrough on the asking-for-help business while in Colorado. My new friend Frances let me help her in her garden for a couple of days in exchange for some herbal advice, essential oils and a plant brushing healing ceremony that we did together while I was at her Frogworks Studio.
"Are we square, Frances?" "Sure we are - you spent two days helping me in the garden." "Don't give too much away, you did a lot for me..." Suddenly, it was like I was talking to myself.
Several people took me aside during my Colorado visit and said, "If you ever need anything, just ask." Apparently lot of people love me and would do anything for me. Huh.