Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Advent Joy

On Friday, I played piano for my hour from 12 to 1 p.m. at the Cancer Centre.  I was allowed (as I am this coming Friday) to play Christmas music.  I always choose soothing music mixed in with some upbeat music when I play background music at the Centre.  I decided to play some traditional Christmas carols but also some fun and quirky Christmas music such as "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth".  I wanted to impart some fun and joy into the atmosphere of a place where there is often sadness, grief and worry.

On Sunday, it was the week during Advent to focus on Joy.  Joy....how do people manage to feel joy during difficult times of ill health or unhappy family homes full of strife?  As I pondered this, I thought that joy doesn't necessarily mean happy.  Joy can be a very different emotion which is found deep in our core.  I remember worrying and feeling very anxious during the Advent season of 2011 when I knew I had cancer and by the week of "Joy", I knew it was lymphoma.  I just didn't know what kind of lymphoma.  I was still able to feel joy deep within when I was surrounded by my family.  When I received phone calls from extended family who live far away.

As we feel sad, worried or lonely, we can still feel joy from small moments of love and kindness that happen in our day.  Maybe it is a smile from a stranger.  Yesterday, I had a few moments of joy even as I've struggled with some new worries.  My day started with a ring of the doorbell.  There were some friends standing on the doorstep in -20 degree weather holding a poinsettia and a cookie tin full of cookies.  What a surprise and source of joy!  Yesterday I also drove 10 hours round trip to pick my son up and bring him home for Christmas.  It was wonderful to see him!  I was filled with a deep love and joy.  As I drove home and we got caught in traffic on the highway, my son fell asleep and I was still filled with joy as I remembered being pregnant with him almost 20 years ago.  As we stopped for dinner on the way home, we reminisced about his preschool days when he was a very busy, active little boy.  We laughed and I was filled with joy from the memories which at the time were actually very upsetting and worrisome.  Joy is found deep within.  Sometimes we have to look for it and consciously choose to tap into it.  On the other hand, sometimes we just have to be open to the small moments in life that give joy.  When I arrived home last night, there was a small package that had arrived at the house during the day.  It was addressed to me, so I opened it up.  What joy I received!!  Inside the box was a coffee mug with Hershey kisses and a couple of small candy canes.  I lifted the mug out and there was the real surprise and source of major joy!  On the outside of the mug is a picture of me holding a clam with my muddy hands!  My friends in PEI had a picture which was taken of me clam digging and they had it transferred onto the coffee mug!  What a wonderful gift!  An instant smile sprang to my face and I was filled with the warmth of love and joy!

As I said, sometimes we have to really look deep and hard to find a source of joy while we are going through adversities.  I totally understand this.  Not just from my more recent experience, but also in 1990 when my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He spent Christmas in the hospital that year although they gave him a day pass to come home for a few hours.  We, as a family, were able to feel real joy that day.  My dad was able to feel joy that day too.  My future sister-in-law had been in contact with my sister, my oldest brother, my other brother (her fiancé) and me.  She arranged to bring a tuba (which my oldest brother used to play in high school), some music stands and some Christmas band music.  That particular day that my dad was home from the hospital, we went downstairs where there was more space and set up our instruments.  I played the flute, my sister played the trumpet, my brother (the fiancé) played the clarinet and my oldest brother tried to play the tuba while my future sister-in-law played the alto saxophone.  I remember as we tried to play, my oldest brother couldn't remember the fingerings for the tuba.  No problem.  My future sister-in-law was a music teacher and knew the fingerings so while my brother blew the tuba, she did the fingers on the valves.  We played Christmas carols.  I remember seeing the bright eyes and smile of my dad during a very difficult time.  You see, he knew that his lung cancer was terminal.  He was going to start chemotherapy over the holidays that year knowing that it was only a 30% chance that it might work.  But I can tell you that he felt great joy as we all gathered and played music.  Later that night when he returned to his room at the hospital, my future sister-in-law came in with her guitar and we all sang Christmas carols around his bed.  The nurses on the floor that night came in and listened.  There was pure joy even as we were all grieving and sad.  I remember singing Silent Night and crying as I watched him lying exhausted in bed.  But there was also joy that we were all together.  Sometimes you have to look hard for the joy and then hang onto those moments and memories.

So I hope that you may be touched with God's strong and joyful spirit this holiday season so that laughter, warmth, and delight in small things may fill your heart and soul.  I pray that we can all have joy that runs deeper than our sorrows and worries.  Hope, Peace, Joy.  These are the real gifts of the Christmas season and Advent.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent 2013 - Peace and Hope

I was asked this past week to prepare for my church how I, personally, practice HOPE or manage to feel HOPE in situations.  I spoke at my church this morning and now feel it appropriate to share it on the blog.  May it help you have HOPE in this season of Advent but also at other times of the year and in all situations.

 Hope.....what is hope?  I was asked to speak about how I, personally, manage to feel hope in all situations.  Over the years, it has been music and scripture that has provided me with hope in various situations where I felt utterly hopeless.  Singing is a form of worship and prayer even when I am at home by myself.  I always rely on Psalm 31: vs. 3-5, "For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name's sake, lead me and guide me.  Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength.  Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me O Lord God of truth."  This scripture is a balm to my soul when the going gets rough in life.  I imagine a rock and a strong, thick fortress built from rocks that protects me from all sides; a refuge in times of difficulty.  I practise keeping an open line of communication with my God.  Sometimes I drift away when the going is good but I always find God's glorious presence in unexpected moments in nature and music.  When I finished my last treatment, my husband took me to Lemoine's Point for a very slow walk to the water's edge where I saw sunbeams shining through the clouds and reflecting on the water.  He used to take me to the parking spot across from the airport while I was in treatment and too weak to walk.  We would sit and just soak up the peacefulness of the water whether it was calm or choppy.  This always gave me hope as I looked forward to being strong enough to walk at the water's edge.  2 years ago while I waited for diagnostic tests, I knew I had cancer.  We just didn't know what kind.  My options were thyroid cancer, lymphoma or lung cancer.  Lung cancer......This caused major fear and terror because my dad died in 1991 from lung cancer and was diagnosed at the exact same time of year....Nov. 30, 1990.  Fear is a powerful distractor from our ability to hope.  I couldn't sing or play my flute.  I didn't feel like playing the piano.  However, the birdsongs I heard outside my home were another form of music which was a balm to my soul.  It gave me hope that as the old children's hymn says, "God sees the little sparrow fall, He meets his tender needs".  If God can look after all the tiny sparrows and birds that provided me with such wonderful music, then God would take care of me too.  No matter what.  That's where the hope came from.  God is the source of the hope that all things would be taken care of including me.  But....to connect with God I needed quiet time.  I think this is why nature is such a draw for me because there is nothing like the peaceful quietness of nature to connect with God.  I used to fulfill my responsibilities from the time I arose in the morning straight through to the time I fell exhausted into bed at night.  During my illness and treatments and even now, I build in quiet time in the morning and at night to reflect on my relationship with God.  Sometimes this comes in the form of prayer.  Sometimes it comes in the form of meditation with the aid of "The Book of Awakening" by Mark Nepo.  Sometimes....during the day I have unexpected moments which I call Godcidences where I see God is with me.  These fill me with hope that things will get better.  I had one just on Friday.  I returned a friend's phone call and we chatted.  She mentioned how she would just like to sing for the pure joy of singing (make a joyful noise).  This appealed to me as I've continued to struggle with my voice.  A private get together to sing music without any expectations!  What a gift this would be in my day!  We decided to be spontaneous and meet at the church to sing in Upper Founders' Hall.  I was supposed to do my groceries but instead I quickly ran downstairs and grabbed just a few books and pieces of music without thinking.  When I arrived at the church, I saw my minister in the hall and she discussed with me the possibility of speaking about how I practise my hope.  I agreed and planned to ponder this on Saturday.  I continued to Upper Founders' Hall with my friend and we chose music at random.  The very first song spoke to me very strongly!  I had a Godcidence!!  This music fit the topic of Advent Hope and Peace perfectly.  As I sang it, I had a full warmth fill my body and soul.  God was with me again as I was struggling with a very chaotic personal week.  God provided me with hope as I sang with a friend in a spontaneous rendezvous.  I would have missed this wonderful experience if I had said no to it so I could get my groceries done.  Hope is available to all of us if we allow ourselves to be still, quiet and accept the possibility of God's constant presence with us.  I will now sing a short excerpt from the song that was definitely a Godcidence on Friday.  It's called "From A Distance" which was performed by Bette Midler.

Since I can't sing on the blog, the words that really spoke to me were "It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace, it's the voice of every man."

I wish you all an Advent season filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Tests, tests and more tests

It has been a very busy last couple of weeks.  I had a check up at the Cancer Centre which resulted in two weeks of fear and anxiety as I was referred for a CT scan and then awaiting the results of that.  On Wednesday this past week, I had another appointment with my new hematologist (oncologist that specializes in lymphoma).  This was a great appointment as I found out the CT scan was clear!!  However as my doctor pointed out that does not help to explain some of the symptoms that I'm continuing to experience.  I do not need to come back to my hematologist until 6 months from now.  But I was referred to another doctor who specializes in throats as well as ears and noses and I am to have a Barium test of my upper GI.  I saw the ENT doctor on Thursday when he put small camera on the end of a fragile flexible cord up my nose and down into my throat.  The pictures he saw showed that my throat and vocal chords are very healthy.  There was some slight swelling that was unexplainable so I am to go back and see him again in 3 months.  The swelling may be related to my other symptoms to do with my upper GI.  But I have been given the affirmation that I can work on getting my singing voice back into shape.

In the midst of the appointments, I've been starting to think about Christmas.  I've been practising some Christmas music on the piano in preparation for playing it at the Cancer Centre on Fridays during the Christmas season.  This then puts me in the mood to decorate and do some more Christmas baking.  Some of my piano students have been working on Christmas music as they prepare for a small Christmas recital.  This always helps me get into the joyful spirit of Christmas.  I do love Christmas time and the season of Advent.  It also helps because we had our first real snowfall on Wednesday.

With the first snowfall comes the beauty of the snow on the trees.  I was out shovelling our driveway at 6 in the morning so that we could get my daughter to her commitment at 8 a.m.  The snow was very wet and heavy.  It was very difficult to move and throw with the shovel.  As I struggled and put all my weight behind the shovel, it inevitably stopped with a rolled up wave of slushy packed snow at the end of the shovel.  I could have become very discouraged but what I truly saw was the perfect snow for making snowmen.  I didn't have time on Wednesday to build a snowman but I wish I had.  The temperature dropped well below freezing overnight into Thursday and then made the snow crunchy and crumbly which is not conducive to building a snowman.  Oh well, hopefully I will have more opportunities later on.  I really don't like the cold but I do find that if I embrace some of the winter activities that it helps the winter go by more quickly.  But I've digressed.  What I really wanted to describe was the beauty of the heavy snow on the trees.  When I awoke on Wednesday morning, all the branches of the various trees and shrubs looked like they had white fluffy icing on them.  The evergreen trees looked like umbrellas that were closed up due to the weight of the snow on the branches.  It was very beautiful to look at though.  I must confess that as I huffed and puffed my way through the chore of shoveling, I stopped to catch my breath and enjoy looking at the trees up and down the street.  It was a beautiful morning!

While shoveling, I was reminded about how a brief moment can change your life and the lives of those around you in a flash.  I was carrying a heavy load of snow with my shovel to a spot further along the road on my property.  I was walking in the gutter of the road and as I heaved the snow off of my shovel, I heard a couple of short honks of a car horn.  You know the kind I mean.  The little friendly toots of friends driving by.  Since my snow was off the shovel, I turned around to wave and saw an SUV sliding towards me.  It didn't hit me but the woman driving had a terrified look on her face.  She rolled her window down and apologized.  She was sliding on the icy road towards me and she didn't know what to do so she honked her horn.  No harm was done but I do believe that she drove down the street a little slower.

Wednesday's snowfall helped keep me busy until my appointment at the Cancer Centre and it helped keep the full extent of my anxiety and fear at bay.  I must admit that this weekend I can finally feel my body relaxing as the lingering wisps of worry evaporate.  As I see the sunrises and sunsets, they are full of rosy pinks.  The few fluffy clouds at sunset have been edged by a brighter shade of crimson which highlights the beauty of the sky.  I'm back to appreciating the joy of each day.  Worry and fear really do drain your energy and rob you of the simple pleasures in life.  I must admit that I was back to repeating "One breath at a time".  The anxiety was almost debilitating at times in the last couple of weeks.  But onward we go as we head into Advent.

I still have my GI test to have done next week.  Getting older really is not fun.  I'm not sure how much of my discomfort has been due to lingering effects of the chemotherapy or just old age.  I do know that it takes up to 2 years for the body to fully recover from the chemo.  BC (before cancer) I rarely went to the doctor.  I would see my family doctor once a year for a physical.  That was it.  I didn't have multiple appointments with various doctors.  I didn't have any physical ailments or complaints that hung around my neck like a weighted stone.  I saw a plaque recently that said "Getting old is not for the faint of heart".  How true this is!!  I don't like having all these appointments.  They keep you from being able to do the things you really want to do in life.  However, I also know that these appointments are necessary in order to find out what is going on with my body.  But the really great news is that there is no cancer!!!  I'm free!!!!!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

My Invisible Fear and Anxiety

For the most part I've been able to enjoy life and live each moment to the fullest since I finished my chemo and have been in remission.  I look back at all my fun activities and deep moments of connection with family and friends in the last 16 months and I can truly say that life is good.  Now here comes the but.  I still grieve for the singing voice I used to have.  This was such an integral part of my identity.  I would sing around the house.  I would sing with the radio.  I would sing in the shower.  I would sing while I played the piano.  I sang all the time.  I can sing tenor now and maybe on a good day, I can sing in the alto range.  But regardless of the day, my throat hurts after singing and there feels like there is a lump of hard something in the throat.  I have returned to singing in the choir at church although I have not been to practice or church for the last couple of weeks because I was busy.

On November 9, we travelled to a dear friend's 80th birthday party.  This was in another city and required staying overnight.  We enjoyed seeing our friend and her family.  It was a wonderful afternoon tea in a century home called Osler House which is a bed and breakfast as well.  The tea was excellent as well as the dainty sandwiches, pickles, homemade scones with jam and clotted cream, the shortbread and the birthday cake.  The afternoon went by very quickly. This lady is the mother of my husband's childhood friend.  We don't see these friends very often any more as we have all moved away.  We went off to our hotel and settled in to relax for a bit before we went to dinner with my husband's friend.  I was very tired which could be explained from the travel as well as the rush to get some Christmas baking done for an early family Christmas gathering on Nov. 16.  But regardless of the logical reasons why I may have a deep fatigue where it is difficult to complete my day, I do have fear of the lymphoma returning.  We did have dinner with our friends and as has been happening for the last number of weeks, I had bloating, gas and stomach pain.  This has been happening after every meal and snack that I have ingested since Thanksgiving.  Again my invisible companions that are fear and anxiety let me know they are with me.  The next day, my husband and I made a short jaunt to visit our son at university and have lunch with him before returning home.  It was so nice to see him!!

As I mentioned, I've been very tired and dragging.  Night sweats have returned with a vengeance.  They may be caused by menopause and I wouldn't be as worried except that I have the deep fatigue which I had in the summer and fall of 2011 before being diagnosed.  These 2 symptoms combined with the new symptoms of belly pain, bloating, acid reflux and indigestion feed the anxiety and fear that hum just under the surface of my consciousness. I've been handling my anxiety by keeping busy.  As I mentioned, I spent the last couple of weeks baking and cooking in preparation for a family Christmas gathering we had this past weekend.  It's been a busy time which could explain my fatigue.  Before I played the piano at the Cancer Centre on Friday, I had packed the van with all the food, presents and our clothing so we could get on the road for the trip to my hometown.  We left Friday at 1:00, picked my son up at his university and continued to my brother's home where we stayed Friday and Saturday night.  This was eight hours of driving.  We drove another four hours (round trip) to the Christmas event on Saturday and then another eight hours home on Sunday. Extended family is important and we really enjoyed ourselves even though my symptoms were constantly with me.

In the midst of the preparations last week, I had a scheduled check-up at the Cancer Centre.  This is when my blood work is done to look for the elevated protein in the blood that would indicate lymphoma.  When I was diagnosed with the specific type of lymphoma on January 4, 2012, that protein was not elevated in my blood work. I was seen by a "fellow" (like a student doctor).  I told him about my fears and hoped that I would be reassured that everything was fine.  He examined me.  What has added to my anxiety is that he was tapping and feeling around my abdomen on the left side.  He spent a fair amount of time in that area which I believe is where the spleen is.  I remember that an enlarged spleen is another identifier of lymphoma.  After talking with me and examining me, he went to confer with his mentor which is the hematologist that I have been assigned to since Dr. Meyer moved away.  I am now waiting for an appointment to be scheduled for a CT scan.  The hematologist wanted the CT scan done this week.  I remember vividly that the waiting and the unknown future feed my anxiety and fears.  It doesn't help that this is all happening just like it did 2 years ago.  It was exactly 2 years ago that I had a sore throat and hoarseness.  The same symptoms are happening again.  So I find myself praying and repeating my mantra "one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time".  I'm trying to take one moment at a time.  When the fear starts to take hold, I focus on one breath at a time.

I'm also continuing to take each day as a gift.  I fill it with responsibilities to keep me distracted from my fear.  I spend my "down time" with family and friends as well as practising the piano.  Making music is a balm to my soul and helps ease the tightness of anxiety that is taking hold.  Friends and family see me and I look well.  I smile.  I laugh.  I enjoy their company.  I don't want to appear as a neurotic "basket case".  However, the fear and anxiety are there.  There has been an entry in my Mark Nepo book, "The Book of Awakening" that mentions identifying the emotion, acknowledging it and then breathing deeply to release it.  I find this helps because it acknowledges the reality of what I'm feeling and then I can breathe and release it for a little while.  This is especially helpful in these times when I'm waiting for appointments and I have no "news" to share.  I don't want to worry my friends and family needlessly so I carry my fear and anxiety within until I either have confirmation that everything is just fine or that we have the next step.........  My hope is that everything will be fine but my fear is that the lymphoma is returning.

I guess I'm writing all this to remind myself and others that people aren't always what they seem.  We may see people on the street who look "normal" and "healthy" but they may be struggling with demons of which we are not aware.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Strong Winds and Wild Waves

What a glorious day this has been!!  When I had a check-up at the Cancer Centre in April of this year, I noticed there was a grand piano in the foyer at the main entrance to the Cancer Centre.  I had a strong urge to play and share some music that day with the various staff, patients and family eating lunch at the tables, waiting for appointments or waiting for rides to come and pick them up.  As I ate my lunch that day back in April, I watched the number of people coming and going.  I truly felt a strong pulling sensation to give back to all the staff and employees for all their positive support throughout my chemotherapy treatments and check-ups over the last year and a half.  Since April, I've discovered who I needed to contact in order to have permission to play the grand piano in the foyer of the Cancer Centre.  Last week, I was granted this permission to play on Fridays from 12 to 1 p.m.  Today was my first day of playing some background music on the Steinway that is in the foyer.

As I set out from my home, I was pelted with leaves and twigs from my maple tree in my front yard.  The wind was tremendously strong and vocal as it whipped the leaves off the trees and snapped twigs from their branches.  I needed to hold on to the steering wheel with both hands as the wind buffeted my van while I drove to the Cancer Centre.  At one stop light, the wind rocked my van from side to side as if there were large men shoving on my van.  Once I was parked, I had a 10 minute walk to get to the Centre.  I was literally bent over to make progress down the street against the gusting wind. 

Once I arrived, I got myself settled at the piano with all my music.  You see, I'm not very good at memorizing music.  I never have been.  But....put some written music in front of me, and I can play almost all of it.  I had spent the last week picking out music that would appeal to various types of people.  Some people like classical while others like pop or jazz.  Some people even like rock or country.  I am always nervous performing in front of people.  The thought of being the background music and not the main attraction always is a much better fit for my temperament.  So today, I was able to play music as background music to people eating their lunches, or waiting for appointments or waiting for family members to come down from appointments.  Some people were even just waiting for their transportation home.  This relaxes me as I am not the focal point of the venue.  I played some classical, jazz, big band, children's music, reels, rock and pop music.  I even played a few selections from musicals.  I was acutely aware that the acoustics in this foyer are very lively and it does not require a lot of volume.  I had fun and was able to just enjoy playing without an excess of nervous energy.

At one point, a gentleman stood behind me, listened and watched while I played.  When I stopped playing to change music, he mentioned that he had heard me perform a reel and he thought I must be from the east coast.  I looked at him and noticed that his jacket said "Schneiders Male Chorus".  I asked him if he was from Kitchener.  He indicated yes and I stated that I had seen his jacket.  He used to direct the Schneiders Male Chorus.  I looked at him again and he seemed vaguely familiar.  Through our conversation, we discovered that he used to direct me when I was a teenager in the Ontario Youth Choir.  Talk about a small world.  His compliments on my playing took on new meaning!  This was a man that knew his music and was very well educated in music as well as a fine performer in his own right.  I felt a warm glow within as I realized that my strong urge to give back to the Cancer Centre was in fact also returning a wonderful gift back to me.  I received many other compliments from people who were in the foyer throughout the noon hour today.  Unknownst to me (and thankfully so), my first performance at the Cancer Centre was actually an audition of sorts.  I passed and am now allowed and welcomed to play every Friday during the noon hour.

As I battled the wind back to my van, I was filled with a deep joy.  I am so blessed!!  Although I don't sing very well anymore and I don't seem to be able to play the flute anymore, I am able to still make a difference to someone else's day through my music!  Music has always been such a large part of who I am and I have been feeling sorry for myself as well as lost.  Today's experience was absolutely wonderful and magnificent!

Once at home, I started working on some of the administrative tasks associated with my studio teaching.  The afternoon flew by.  In the late afternoon, a new friend contacted me, knowing that I love the water down at the lake and that I am willing to stand in the wind and the rain to take pictures as I try to capture the lively and angry waves.  She asked if I would like to go with her to capture the roiling water in the high winds today.  I was torn.  I should finish the paperwork I was working on.  But on the other hand, the paperwork will be there tomorrow but the high waves may not be.  So I made the impulsive decision listened to my inner voice to abandon (take a break?) my responsibilities and grab the camera to go down to the lakeshore with my friend.

I am so glad that I followed the urgings to go to the lakeshore.  The winds were so strong that I was being moved around.  A fir tree was bent at a 45 degree angle due to the winds.  The high grasses were almost levelled to the ground as the wind whipped them sideways.  The waves were higher than I've ever seen!  They had to be close to 12 feet high!  My pictures were fantastic!!  They're still on camera because after spending an hour down at the lake, I then exchanged my camera for my van keys and picked up some other friends to go to the local OHL game.  It's been a super, super day!!

November is normally cold, wet and windy.  It signifies Remembrance Day and the beginning of the long, dark winter days.  Today was anything but long and dark.  It was glorious and exhilarating!  I loved  the wind.  I loved the wild waves with their angry looking white caps.  I truly have an affinity with the water in all its forms whether it is calm and still or roiling and angry.  My music was a gift that I was able to share today.  I also shared some friendship and maybe even kinship with a new friend.  How thoughtful it was of her to ask me to accompany her to the lakeshore!  I've been feeling a little blue due to the end of the summer months.  Today reminded me that I can embrace the not so nice days of winter, enjoy them and accept them as a gift.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Thanksgiving and Autumn Excursions

It's been a month since I last posted.  The time has flown by very quickly again.  I intended to post on Thanksgiving Monday (Oct. 15) but instead, I went on an excursion for the day on the back of my husband's motorcycle.  My bout with lymphoma has made me more open to dropping all my chores and responsibilities for an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful earth or spend time with people who are special to me and enrich my life.  So the last month has been full of bike rides, dinners with friends as well as my family and yes, I'm still trying to keep up with the chores.

I've been continuing to teach piano and have been still trying to sing.  I've started practising with my church choir again but I am more of a body than a section leader like I once used to be.  I used to sing soprano and now I sing tenor or if I'm having a good day, I can sing alto.  My throat still gets sore and swells after too much singing so I have to sing lightly and limit the length of time that I am at practice.  I'm still grieving the loss of my singing voice.  I'm mentally working on trying to get past what I used to be able to do.  I used to be able to sing so well that I would bring tears to people's eyes and I could worship my God in full glory.  Now my voice is just a small whisper of what it used to be.  I had hoped that the voice would come back but I'm beginning to accept that this is as good as it gets.  Most of the time, I'm in a good headspace regarding my singing but occasionally, I am surprised with a bout of tears and sadness as I remember what I used to sound like.  When my daughter was confirmed in June 2011, I sang "The Prayer" as a duet at the service.  It was very emotional and I've heard the recording from that service.  It was an absolute gift to my God but also to my daughter.  I have mixed emotions because it was the last time that I sang so well.  Anyway, I mention all this because these are the thoughts and feelings that surround my attempt to return to the choir.  I will continue to try to sing in church as I believe that God can still use my attempts to sing to His/Her glory.

On Oct. 11, I drove 10 hours (round trip) to pick my son up from university and bring him home for Thanksgiving and his October reading week.  What a joy it was to arrive at his residence, open up my door, climb out and find myself enfolded in his big hug!  My thoughts were "He missed me!!!"  Oh how I missed him.  After arriving home, we went directly to the local OHL hockey game and enjoyed time with my husband and our friend.  I loved Thanksgiving.  I was feeling so thankful for being alive.  I remember feeling that way last year too.  I'm not sure that this feeling of thankfulness will ever leave.  My daughter had to work so we delayed our Thanksgiving dinner until after she returned home.  What a nice day and evening meal it was.  We had our turkey, my homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, corn kernels and a turnip casserole.  Dessert topped off the meal with my homemade pumpkin pie and apple pie.  It was so good but we were very full.  I have always been able to eat these kinds of meals and feel just fine.  This year, I was experiencing heart burn and acid reflux after the meal.  In my thoughts, I was anxious as this can be a symptom of the lymphoma returning in my abdomen.  I've also been experiencing more night sweats again and have been feeling tired and dragging which are also lymphoma symptoms.  I then had a silent conversation with myself reassuring me that it is most likely from the high fat food and that I'm getting older.    I also reminded myself that I have a check-up scheduled at the Cancer Centre in mid-November.  I didn't let anyone in on my thoughts as it is Thanksgiving and no sense in worrying anyone else at this point.  I dismissed my thoughts and came back into the moment with my family.  What an enjoyable weekend it was!  I was happy to see my children laughing together like they used to when they were younger.  They were truly happy to see each other again.

The week that my son was home flew by much too quickly.  We had a wonderful visit with our friends from PEI who were in the area visiting family.  We had our friends over for dinner and combined my son's request for steak during his time home with our friends' visit.  They were so happy to see our children who were both home that evening.  Time went by much too quickly which is why I'm trying to be present fully in the moment most of the time and not be distracted by what chores are waiting for me or activities are coming up in the immediate future.  If we are not fully present in the moment, we miss so much of the joy of living.  A wink or a fleeting smile are gone in a moment and if I'm not fully present, I miss it.  It can't be brought back or repeated.  By the end of the week, my son had to return to his new home at university.  He referred to it as home which means he has fully settled in.  We were not able to drive him back this time so he took the bus.  He left at 10:30 a.m. and arrived just before 4 p.m.

That same Saturday (Oct. 19) my husband and I attended a black tie fundraiser.  I was very anxious about this because it is something where I'm totally out of my element and comfort zone.  I do not own "formal" clothing and had to get myself a long ball gown.  I had tried on some of the current fashions which are the short, tightfitting sheaths that look fabulous on young teens.  It was an exercise of futility and frustration.  I do have to say that my sense of humour kicked in.  At one point, I tried on this dress that looked wonderful on the hanger.  It was gold and full of sequins.  It had lots of ruching from the bodice down to the hips.  The sales assistant thought that it might work for my body type.  I tried it on.  When I looked in the mirror, I looked like a sausage that has been stuffed into its casing by an inexperienced butcher.  There were lumps and bumps all over the place and the dress certainly did not look like it did on the hanger!!  Obviously, this style was not for me at all.  Unfortunately, the store did not have anything longer or in an A-line shape.  I eventually found a long ball gown and accessorized it with some of my own jewelry as well as some borrowed from a very good friend.  My husband rented a tux and off we went.  I have lots of insecurities which generally only my husband is privy to see.  I was a bundle of nerves as we went off to the event.  I ended up having a good time.  I truly believe that God steps in and helps us out even when we don't ask.  I saw some beautiful gowns that I would love to have had.  Oops, the green-eyed envy monster was making an appearance.  I was feeling out of place and very insecure when a friend of mine saw me in passing and mentioned that she couldn't wait to get home and back into her "jammies" that were laid on the bed.  This snippet of conversation just made me relax.  Other people were there that were uncomfortable too!  My husband and I browsed through the silent auction items and then went to our assigned seating at the table for dinner.  I was seated beside a young women in Grade 12.  She was very nervous and out of her element as well.  We had a very nice evening chatting together as she took notes in order to write a journalistic piece for an upcoming edition of the local newspaper.  The Lord provided me with people such as myself in order to help me get through the evening and actually enjoy myself!

In the last month, I've also gone out on a couple of excursions with my husband on the back of his motorcycle. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I chose to go out for a ride on Thanksgiving Monday instead of raking leaves and cleaning up my flowerbeds for the upcoming winter.  We drove north in order to see the autumn coloured leaves.  Unfortunately, the leaves were just getting finished their brilliant show of colour but there were still hints of the reds and oranges that had graced the landscape in the last week.  We ended up stopping to stretch our legs and wander around in a little place called Newboro which is on the Rideau Canal waterway system.  The Newboro Lock was closed for the season but we were still able to wander the grounds and take some pictures.

Hooray!!  My attempt to upload a picture into my blog worked!!  You see, as I've blogged since January 2012, I've never known how to put pictures into the blog.  I have a friend who writes a wonderfully uplifting blog and she always inputs pictures into her blog.  So I was aware it could be done but I was afraid to try as I'm not that sure of my technological ability.  Anyway back to our bike ride....we got back on the bike after this visit to Newboro and continued on our way home to turkey dinner leftovers.  It was a beautiful day!

The day after the black tie fundraiser, my husband and I were very tired.  It was a sunny day so we decided to take advantage of the weather and go for another tour on the bike.  This time we decided to go north west of where we live.  Somehow we took a wrong turn but took pleasure in the scenery of the country roads that we travelled through.  At one point, we were literally in the middle of nowhere.  There were no houses or farms or signs of human existence.  There was just woods, water and a narrow winding road.  I reminded my husband that he always wanted to just hit the open road and go where the road took him.  We did end up connecting with the highway we originally intended to take and discovered a lake and little park with wonderful views.

We continued north and we were both starting to feel the cold, biting wind.  Our day excursions on the bike will be limited if this is not the last one of the season.  However, the views on the ride were spectacular and our travels brought us to one of our favourite villages north of where we live.  My husband parked the bike and we climbed stiffly off.  We set out for a walk through the village in an effort to get our legs moving.  This was when I was starting to feel my age.  We went into a shop and bought ourselves some coffees to go.  We continued our stroll and walked down to the marina and waterfront.  We've never ventured down into this area of the village.  We've always just strolled on by.  What a wonderful surprise!!  I'm so glad we explored the marina.  I took many pictures that day.  The water was very, very calm and I took a picture through some grass at the side of the lake.  Someday, I'm hoping I'll be able to recreate this picture as a painting.  It's hard to believe that I'm looking at water and not the sky!

We climbed back on the bike and headed for home.  About halfway home, I looked to my left and I saw a small doe (female deer) nibbling on some long grass beside the woods.  Just think, if I had made the choice to do chores or outdoor work, I would have missed out on these glorious views and memories that were created with my husband.  Just another example of what I've learned from my bout of lymphoma and my continued remission.  Do I still have worries and anxieties?  Yes I do.  I've been experiencing breathlessness again but it may be from having gained too much weight.  Certainly, these photos caused some breathlessness just because of their beauty.  I will continue to enjoy my current moments in my life and will deal with the anxieties at my next check-up.  I'm still using my mantra of "One breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time".

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Life's Perspective...It's All How You Look At It

As always, I've been too busy living to blog regularly.  I grab a few moments here and there to write in the blog.  Perspective....it's all how we approach things.  I could complain that life is too busy and I'm constantly running here and there.  But by complaining, I would actually be detaching myself from enjoying each and every small moment.  I sent my son off to university and then I've started my teaching year.  I have a few less students at the moment, but I'm alright with that.  I could complain but instead I'm looking at the extra time that I can work in my garden or learn some new skills.  I have plans for that extra time.  I'm not going to fill it just for the sake of being busy, but I'm hoping to learn how to sew a quilt.  I'm also using some of that extra time to take a creative writing course online.  I would also like to return to learning how to paint on canvas.  Over 20 years ago, I took some oil painting classes and I enjoyed it.  I liked the paintings that I created.  As I've raised my children, I haven't had the time to paint and perhaps now may be the time.  I look at how my time gets filled and revel in the experiences.

Perspective....it would be so easy to miss a breathless moment as we turn away or grumble about our existence.  I even enjoy the mundane task of hanging laundry on my line outside.  Especially at this time of year when the days are shorter and getting cooler, it takes a full day for the laundry to dry on the line.  So as I stand on the patio hanging my wet laundry, I listen to the birds and I enjoy the crisp, cool dampness of the morning.  I find it a very peaceful way to start my day.  There are so many little moments in our days that we miss if we grumble.  As I stand on the patio hanging laundry, I could be fretting about how much I have to do that day.  I could be so preoccupied with the worries and "lack of time" that I miss the wonderful birds singing and the peaceful calmness of the early morning.  I think the one thing that has stuck with me the most since returning to good health, has been the ability to live in the moment fully and enjoy whatever goodness is in that moment.  Sometimes it is hard to find that kernel of goodness but it is always there.

Perspective.  This past weekend, we were busy travelling and doing things with my daughter.  She had an opportunity to be a film "extra" in a movie being made 2 hours from our home.  We jumped in the car and made the trip.  We spent 11 hours in a room waiting for her to be finished her time on set.  I could have used this time to clean and do any other myriad of chores and duties at home.  Instead, I decided to enjoy an outing with my husband and daughter.  I was able to do some word puzzles that I normally don't have time for and that I enjoy completing.  I was able to work on my current homework from my creative writing course.  I was able to read a book that I've not had time to pick up.  I was able to observe some of what happens behind the scenes in film making.  It was an interesting day but it all depended on which perspective I chose to see it.  After a long day, the next morning we had to be up and out to take my daughter to a photo shoot.  Again, I enjoyed each moment to the fullest.  On our way to the photo shoot, I saw a sign that tickled my odd sense of humour and shared a laugh with my husband much to my daughter's disdain.  Oh well...that moment of humour has come back to be a private chuckle between my husband and I throughout the last few days amidst our busyness.

I'm not always able to see my days through "rose-coloured glasses", but I do know that I much prefer the days that I wear them.  Perspective is a mental exercise that is beneficial to making life full and abundant.  I'm constantly reminded of my mantra while I was sick..."One breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time".  On difficult days and in difficult times, this helps ease the pain and suffering.  It can also help flip my perspective to a much happier and fulfilling view.

So let's take on the day and see how our perspective can be flipped to help us enjoy it more.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Making the Most of the Weekend

In our climate, the coming Fall season means shorter, cooler days with more cloud cover.  So yesterday was a glorious sunny and somewhat warm day.  This was forecasted so on Friday night my husband suggested that we go for a day long motorcycle ride on his 1980 Honda Goldwing and take advantage of the few remaining days of Summer.  The last time I was on his bike, my back paid for the trip with major pain.  My husband is fairly new to owning a larger bike, so he was unaware that the shocks in the back needed to be filled up with compressed air.  Now that he knows this, he decided to take me out for the day which included a picnic lunch.  I made egg salad early yesterday morning (Sat.) and my hubby made sandwiches and packed us some snacks and water.  We climbed on the bike and took off for the day.  What a fantastic day it was!!  As we went over bumps, I didn't feel them like before.  Hubby obviously figured out the rear shock thing.  I love the feel of the wind in my face!  I love travelling in the open air and smelling the various odors that assail my nostrils as we travel through the countryside.  We ended up visiting Wolfe Island for the day.  We've driven around the island a couple of times since we've lived in the area but always with our van.  Yesterday's experience was totally different especially with the big wind turbines spinning lazily around overhead.  I loved seeing Lake Ontario to our right and farmland on our left.  Deep within, I am not really a city girl.  I love the peacefulness and silence of the countryside.  We meandered our way along the various roads and ended up at Sandy Bay Nature Area.  Off came our helmets and leather jackets.  On went our hats, out came my camera as well as the lunch bag that my husband hefted over his shoulder.

We followed a gravel and woodchip combination path as it gently twisted and turned through the area.  It started off with forest and meadow like terrain.  As we kept walking along through the dappled shade, we realized that we must be in a more wetland environment as we saw numerous frogs leap from under a feet into the foliage at the side of the path.  We also startled several garter snakes ranging from long, thick adult snakes to small, thin young snakes.  I was very pleased to capture some of these with my camera which is only a digital point and shoot variety.  We met young couples and playful families along the trail as we walked along.  This trail was very easy to navigate.  What a surprise it was to walk around a curve in the trail to find our feet in the soft white sand of a sand dune.  I stopped to take a picture because there ahead of us, through the foliage of the trees and sand grass, winked the sparkling water of Lake Ontario.  This view took my breath away!  After taking my picture, we continued on the trail over the sand dune and down onto the beach.  There are signs all over warning people to stay off the sand dunes as the supervising body is trying to re-establish the grass that is native to sand dunes.  There was also a sign pointing to a nature viewing platform.  This caught our interest and on we continued.  The platform ended up being a wooden bench placed at the base of a sand dune.  We sat down and enjoyed a quiet lunch.  We were the only people on the beach!  As we ate, we looked out over the water and enjoyed the waves rolling rhythmically onto the beach.  Way off on the horizon we saw a lake freighter making its way out into the deep water of the channel.  Then I noticed a driftwood tree on the beach.  It was on its side as if it had tumbled down off the sand dune or else maybe it had been washed ashore at some point.  What was interesting about this tree was that the roots were up in the air.  Obviously a couple of roots had re-rooted themselves into the sand because there was bright, healthy foliage in various places of the tree.  This tree was a combination of living branches and dead, bleached driftwood.  After our lunch, we continued walking further along the beach.  It was cool and windy but what a wonderfully exhilarating way to spend our afternoon.  Eventually we turned around and returned to the path.  It was time to leave and go back to the bike.  On we hopped and we returned to the roads.  We finished our time on Wolfe Island with travelling along the various roads, arriving at dead ends and eventually making our way to the ferry to return home.

As we waited for the ferry on the dock, we met up with one of my daughter's old teachers.  What a nice chat we had as we travelled across Lake Ontario on the ferry.  When we reached home, my husband and I sat out on our patio and enjoyed a beer together.  I was chilled from being on the bike, but it was a relaxing and serene ending to a glorious day.  This was a beautiful gift from my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.  We also enjoyed a wonderful impromptu evening with our friends as we were all at "loose ends".

I awoke this morning to the beginnings of a nasty sinus cold.  My daughter has had it for a few days and I had been nursing her through it the last part of the week.   I had wanted to attend church this morning but that didn't happen.  I was very lethargic as I tried to get up.  I ended up drifting off to sleep again.  My plans for today had been to get my laundry done, clean the bathroom and start trimming the hedge.  Some of the laundry has been done but the rest of my "to do list" is being put off.  I am spending my day quietly on the patio listening to the breeze blowing through my grape vines and the various birds chirping away in the neighbourhood.  I'm drinking lots of tea with lemon and honey as I sit quietly and rest.  I had hoped that I would not catch the virus as I constantly washed my hands with hot soapy water and used hand sanitizer throughout the week.  I have even been wiping down the various surfaces with rubbing alcohol in an effort to avoid the bug.  Oh well, now it is time to enjoy resting.  This has allowed me to work on this post for my blog today so there is always "a silver lining" in our days.

It has been a wonderful weekend and as I end my post, I can smell the ham and split pea soup that my husband has been cooking since this morning.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Changes and Transitions

Where has the time gone?!  My last month has been jam packed with getting ready for changes and transitions.  Not only in my household but in the garden.  I've picked my grapes and made grape juice, I've been busy picking up the pears and apples that are falling off the trees fully ripe....at least that's what I tell myself.  Most likely they are riddled with ants, wasps and other creepy crawlies.  I like to keep up with removing them from the yard because they really do attract the wasps.  However these pears and apples also give food to the squirrels and birds who frequent my yard.  It is fun to watch the squirrels pick up the apples/pears with their front paws and then sink their teeth into the fruit just right.  Then they scamper off and either run along the top of the chain link fence to another yard or they use their other escape route of scampering quickly up the tree trunk to a branch far above.  Then you either hear the rustling leaves as they leap from one tree to the next.  Sometimes you even see the branches bending and shaking as they land on the next tree.  The squirrels manage to do all this with the fruit in their mouth! It looks comical and always brings a smile to my face.  The birds also are enjoying pecking at the various apples and pears on the ground.  Sometimes the birds are responsible for knocking the fruit off of the trees.

The other changes in my household have been in the human variety.  My father-in-law has come for his annual 4-6 week visit.  At the same time, my son was preparing to go off to university for the first time.  We had lots of fun shopping for the various items that he would need to live in residence.  My basement was loading up with boxes as they were filled, taped shut and labelled.  My husband and I went with him to his new city (4 hours away) to watch him try out for the varsity baseball team.  He was guaranteed 2 days of tryouts and then each day after that there were cuts made.  We couldn't very well leave him and return home until we knew he had made it through the first few cuts.  As it turned it out, he survived the first round of cuts but was cut in the second round.  So after spending 4 days away, we returned home for 2 days and then packed our son up on Sunday, September 1 to return him to his new city and move him into his residence.  My father-in-law made the trip with us and helped settle our son into his new home.  The process of getting him moved kept me busy so that I wasn't dwelling on how much I would miss him.  When I did have nostalgic moments and some full emotions inside, I reminded myself that it is the job of parents to raise their children to become independent and ready to leave home.  I would comfort myself with the fact that I've been successful in raising him to leave and start this next phase in his life.....on his own.  Two days after he was gone, I went into his room and just tidied up a little after I had stripped and washed his bedding.  I came across a report card from high school and I put it in his "school days album".  This is a booklet that my grandmother gave my son when he was just a baby.  It has pockets for every school year from Preschool through to University.  As I put the report card in its proper pocket, a small t-shirt fell out of the book.  It was a t-shirt my son made in his Kindergarten class when we lived in a small village.  There were his hand prints on the front.  Oh my!! They were so small!  Each child in the classroom had their names printed on the t-shirt including the teacher's name.  What a keepsake!  As I looked at this t-shirt, my heart filled with love and memories.  The years have flown by!  I find myself trying to adjust to this new change in the household.  I find my ears listening for my son's feet to hit the floor in the mornings as he jumps out of bed.  I'm still listening at night to hear him thump across the floor of his room as he goes to bed.  I find myself just....listening.  Life is changing.  I'm still in transition.

The summer is over and I'm back to work.  How I enjoyed my summer!!  I rode on the back of my husband's motorcycle.  I travelled and spent 2 glorious weeks with very good friends in PEI.  I've enjoyed my backyard in the early mornings and in the late evenings.  But now it is time to go back to work and look forward to the school year.  There are students to contact.  There are old students who have moving on to the next stages in their own lives.  There are new students to take their place.  New parents to meet and new schedules to adjust to.  Changes and transitions.  These are not always easy for me.  Change and transition is good as it shakes us out of our complacency and our comfort zone.   Or maybe I should refer to the "comfort zone" as the proverbial rut that we find ourselves in.  Whichever term I use, it is still a change and riding through the transition to the change is difficult at times.  I find myself facing insecurities and doubts until I've travelled all the way through the transition to the point of being settled into the new schedule of changes.

I like having family come to visit.  I think that extended family is important for our children to know and see and I, personally, like having family around me.  For me, there is always a time of transition that I go through as I have people come and go.  I find this hard to explain but I'm going to attempt an explanation.  It is like doing a dance and as one person is added to the mix, I have to learn a series of new steps and get used to the new dance.  As one person leaves, I have to again learn a series of new steps and get used to the new dance again.  This always takes me some time to adjust and get comfortable with the "new dance".  As I look back over the last month, I've arrived home from a holiday to adjusting to the new dance steps of being home.  Within 2 weeks, I had to adjust to more new dance steps with family arriving which is a good thing.  Within another 2 weeks, I had to adjust to another new dance as my son has left home.  One week after that, I was learning the new steps of a new teaching year.  I have navigated through all these new dances in a short period of time by focussing on one day or even one moment at a time.  Sometimes I don't handle the stress of  change and transition particularly well.  I don't know if we ever truly learn to handle stress well.  All I can do is try my best.

In amongst all these changes, I've enjoyed many moments.  I've visited a vineyard that produces one of my favourite wines.  I've seen my husband's cousins and extended family at a wonderful family BBQ.  I've enjoyed shopping with my daughter.  I've enjoyed some fabulous meals and conversations with my father-in-law.  We went out to a favourite restaurant one night when my son was still home.  The warm memory of my son and daughter sitting across from me sharing some laughter will always be imprinted in my mind.  I will remember the warm afternoon sitting on my patio with my father-in-law as the two of us sorted through the grapes that we had just picked.  Life has been busy with changes and transitions, but overall it has been a great time.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Golf and Old Farts' Baseball

Today has been another fantastic day.  It started off with lots of rain all morning.  The weather forecast was calling for the clouds to clear and the sun to arrive in the afternoon.  Good thing for me, my husband and my son.  We were in a charity golf tournament this afternoon.  It was a best ball format.  The last time I played golf was at this time last year in the same tournament which raises money for a local group that supports women with breast cancer.

We arrived at the golf course just before 12 noon and we received our golf carts, "goody" bags and our lunch.  We sat on the deck of the golf club and enjoyed a very tasty chicken Caesar wrap along with a bag of chips, a bag of chocolate chip cookies and a piece of fruit.  My husband and I both received crisp, crunchy, fresh apples.  They were very juicy and tasty.  My son had a plum in his lunch bag.  The afternoon ended up being hot and dry.  My husband and my son were the consistent players that got us up to the green.  I really need to work on my driving off the tee as well as my fairway play.  However, once we were on  the green, I  was able to hold my own and often it was my putts that were used.  At one point on the course, my son pointed out that there were three hawks circling lazily above us.  This golf course was located in a rural area and I'm sure these graceful birds of prey were looking for mice and other small animals to feast on.  We certainly had fun on the course and enjoyed each others' company.  The day included dinner as well.  We ate very tender slices of roast beef, with a roasted potato, horseradish, gravy, mixed beans and a Caesar salad.  There were also baked beans included.  The dinner was topped off with chocolate cake for dessert along with tea or coffee.  As part of the fundraising, there was a live auction, a silent auction, raffles and the old standby 50-50 draw.  As we were listening to the names being called who won the silent auction items, my son whispered that he and my husband were scheduled to play softball at 8:45 p.m.  It was 7:45 p.m.  So we silently and unobtrusively crept out of the venue in order to get home.  The intent was to drop me off at the house.  My husband and son would then go on to play softball.

As we were driving home, my son asked me if I wanted to play on their team.  I guess they were needing a female to fill in.  I haven't played since the summer of 2011.  That summer I remember feeling extremely tired and that it took every ounce of strength to try to swing the bat.  Every step that I took as I tried to run the bases felt like my feet were made of concrete.  I was very slow and every step hurt.  At the time, I put it down to me just getting too old to play ball anymore.  All this went through my mind as I considered trying to play ball one last time as requested.  I also needed to remember that my back has been very sore all week long.  I've been using ibuprofen every day and I finally resorted to going to the chiropractor yesterday afternoon.  Now, my back was feeling pretty good after playing golf this afternoon.  The fact that I was being asked to play softball indicated to me that the team was not going to have enough females and they'd have to take an automatic out.  My husband was very concerned that my back would not handle the game.  I decided to say "Yes, I'll play."  In my mind, I would not swing the bat hard nor would I run really hard.  Yeah, right. (snort).  I have never been able to not play hard.  So off to the house we continued and I found my ball glove, we grabbed the bug spray, the ball bag and off in the van we went.

We warmed up and I was surprised at how well I threw the ball.  I was surprised that I was still able to catch the ball.  I was really surprised at the spring in my step when I went for a short jog.  I seemed to have lots of energy!  This is when I really began to wonder if what I experienced in 2011 was actually the effects of the lymphoma (which I didn't realize I had) rather than the effects of aging.  I was third in the batting order and our team was the home team which meant we batted first.  I surprised myself at hitting a strong single at my first at bat.  I've never been a fast runner and so it was no surprise to be thrown out at second base on the next hit.  But I didn't feel lethargic and old!!  Woo Hoo!!!!  As the game progressed, I was able to jog (with a bounce I might add) out to the left field to play the left rover.  My next at bat, I hit a line drive right at the third baseman for an out.  Oh well.  I wasn't too upset because I had energy!!!  During the rest of the game, I ended up having a hit and then scoring a run.  I had a lot of fun and felt much younger than I did 2 years ago.

As we drove home after the game, I couldn't help smiling.  I've played 18 holes of golf and 7 innings of softball.  I wasn't sore and I wasn't exhausted!  My back doesn't seem to have any pain and feels limber.  It's been a great day and I've had a lot of fun with my husband and son.  I'm happy because I only have 2 weeks left with my son being at home.  He'll be leaving to attend his first year of university in another city.  I haven't been feeling to anxious about that yet.  However, I did enjoy his company and his humour today which made me realize that these moments are going to be more precious to me as they will happen less often.  But I won't dwell on the future.  I'll live in the moments that I have now and enjoy them to the fullest.  It's been a wonderfully fulfilling and satisfying day.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

So Much Fun and So Little Time!

My summer is zooming by.  I'm not complaining as I'm really enjoying each and every day.  Since I've been back from PEI, I'm enjoying having time to keep my house in order.  I really feel adrift when I'm surrounded by chaos.  That's me being nice and calling it chaos instead of mess.  I remember ranting just over a year ago about the "slime" of mess that crept into my living room.  I'm a little dense and slow sometimes and it has taken me much too long to realize that I can always catch up on the mess and grime but it is much more fun to play in the sunshine and dirt of my garden.  Or to enjoy time with my friends and family.  The mess and grime will be there when I have a rainy day to stay inside and clean it up.

On the sunny and even cloudy days, I've been playing outside in my flowerbeds or in my vegetable garden.  When I get a little weary, I "take 5" (or maybe even 30) minutes to just sit in my rocker on the patio and listen to the wind whisper through the trees as well as watch the various birds and animals visit my yard.  My favourite time on the patio is in the early morning while I drink my coffee and after supper when I sip on a glass of wine.  The traffic environment seems more quiet and I can enjoy some peaceful times communing with nature.  I especially like the gentle, soft chimes of my new wind chimes from Island Winds in South Granville, PEI.  Check out their web site at www.islandwindcraft.com.  Anyway, I digress again.  I seem to do that a lot lately.  There's nothing wrong with digressing because that is when invaluable surprises seem to occur in life, at least mine.

So as I was writing, I've been enjoying every day since I've been home.  I have started to play musical duets with one of my best friends again.  We had got out of the routine of playing duets together in late 2011.  We used to play oboe and flute duets and always enjoyed the music but also the laughter of a warm and close friendship.  Just before I became ill, we had started to explore other music with me singing and her accompanying me on the piano.  Since the singing and flute playing seem to be taking longer to return to me, we've started playing piano duets.  I'm enjoying this as we learn to play together again.  We've managed to meet for 2 weeks in a row and I find myself looking forward to our next session!  While in PEI, I rediscovered my love of maritime music.  So I'm hoping to learn some of the melodies on my flute.  I tried this afternoon and was pleased with my efforts.  Certainly I'm a long way from where I was before but I enjoyed playing and that is the very first step.  To me it is a huge accomplishment that I enjoy playing the flute!  It's been many, many years since I've played "for fun".  I've always put lots of pressure on myself to have my tone be just so and my breath control just so.

My hubby bought himself a used Honda Goldwing in the Spring with the expectation that I would hop on the back and ride with him on day trips.  He's been getting used to the bike and now feels more confident to have me on the back.  Last week, he took me out for a spin after dinner one night.  I love feeling the wind in my face and smelling the various aromas as we travel.  Sometimes I catch a whiff of steak being grilled on the BBQ.  When we're travelling through the countryside just north of our city, I smell the fresh cut hay, cattle or horses.  It's amazing how smells can be enjoyable when they are associated with warm memories.  My husband does not like the smell of cows or dairy barns but I love this smell.  It is the smell that was always on my grandpa's clothes when he came in from the barn.  That smell conjures up memories of a warm, caring man who would come in from the cold outside and stamp his feet at the door.  The cattle/dairy smell is also associated with my grandma's kitchen which was heated with a wood stove.  Again I have gone off on a tangent but it is these smells that I enjoy as we travel on the motorcycle.  As we were travelling, we passed by a softball game and it was fun to hear the chatter and cheers of the players and spectators as we drove by.  Unfortunately, my back was really sore the next day.  I refuse to let the back keep me from doing things.  I honestly believe that if "I stop using it, I'll lose it".  I go to the chiropractor on a regular basis and I'll be seeing him again after he gets back from vacation.

So this past weekend, my husband and I hopped on the bike again and went downtown.  The city had closed the main street to make a pedestrian promenade for the day on Saturday. We walked the length of the main street and enjoyed seeing the various displays, sidewalk sales and food.  We ended up down at the waterfront where we caught the last few competitors in the World Town Criers' competition.  We then meandered up to the local farmers' market and checked out the displays.  We started to walk back up the main street because I had a craving for a lunch from Burrito Amigo.  We enjoyed our lunch and then hopped back onto the bike.  We drove to a local newly improved park.  As we drove into the park, there was an agility dog competition.  We parked the bike and wandered down to the path along the shoreline.  I love to people watch and so we sat on a bench overlooking the water and watched the various families with young children play in the sandboxes, run along the water's edge and enjoy the warm summer weather.  I loved seeing an elderly couple walking slowly along holding hands.  When I see couples such as this, I always think how comfortable they look with each other and how much they love each others' company.  It again brought to mind my own grandparents who used to walk holding hands well into their 70's.  I was getting overly warm because it was a warm day and I was dressed in my jeans for riding on the bike.  So we started to make our way back up to where the agility dog competition was taking place.  Along the way, my husband asked me if I would like a drumstick from the snack truck in front of us.  Of course I wouldn't turn down a drumstick!!  So we slowly walked along and enjoyed licking the cold ice cream.  I had the caramel flavoured drumstick.  There's nothing like discovering that gem of caramel in the centre of the ice cream which is covered with peanuts.  We made our way to the agility dog competition and enjoyed watching the competitors.  The owners must be in really good shape to keep up with the speed of their dogs as they run through the course!  What an enjoyable Saturday we had!  My back did not seem to be any worse even on Sunday morning.  Woo Hoo!!  Maybe I will be able to enjoy riding with my husband on his bike.

On Sunday, we had made plans to go out for the day with our friends who also have a Goldwing motorcycle.  We decided to go to Prince Edward County and visit a cidery and a vineyard.  What a beautiful drive it was!!  The day was a little cooler than Saturday and the sun was shining brightly.  The only drawback was there were some bumps and I could feel my back starting to ache after one particular rough bump.  The plan was to eat lunch at the cidery where they have an outdoor patio.  Once we arrived at The County Cidery, we discovered there was going to be an hour wait for a table in order to eat lunch.  We also wanted to do a tasting at this venue as well as make it to the other vineyard for a tour later on in the afternoon.  The hour long wait for a table would have put the tour at the vineyard in jeopardy.  So we did the cider tasting which was very nice.  If only money was not an issue!!  I would love to have bought a couple cases of the premium cider as well as a couple bottles of the ice cider.  The ice cider is similar to an ice wine but it was made with apple cider and had hints of caramel at the end which reminded me of crème brulee.  Crème brulee is one of my favourite desserts.  Oh well, I know where this cidery is so that when I have some extra cash, I can indulge.  After the tasting, we hopped back on the bikes and went down the road to the Waupoos Vineyard where we enjoyed lunch before the wine tour.  It was a gorgeous day while we ate our lunch under a tent in the warm breeze.  Before we knew it, we needed to go up to the main building and sign in for the tour.  We have concord grape vines in our backyard.  It was interesting to see how the vineyard pruned their vines.  I also learned that at this time of the year, they prune the leaves down so that the grapes are left open to the sunshine so they will ripen.  This particular vineyard also planted rosebushes at the end of the rows of vines.  It was explained that when pests started to invade the roses, then it was time to spray the vines with a sulphur mixture in order to protect the grapes.  Who knew!!  After the tour was finished, we stayed for the wine tastings.  I did splurge and buy an expensive bottle of red wine in order to celebrate our wedding anniversary which is coming up.

At the end of the tastings and shopping, we climbed on the bikes again and headed for home.  Our day wasn't finished though because we took the scenic route home along the Lake Ontario shoreline via the Glenora Ferry.  I think this route is one of my favourites in the area.  I like to drive that route at least once or twice a summer.  Again, as we were on the bikes, I could smell the water and various smells as we passed homes and restaurants en route to home.  What a glorious outing it was!!  When we got home, my husband and I sat on the patio and just enjoyed the peace and quiet of our backyard.  We moved indoors when the mosquitos chased us in as dusk approached.  As I went to arise from my rocker, my back spasmed.  Oh no!!  I tried stretching but there was definite pain.

I don't have time to have my back become an issue!!  There's too much living to be done.  Monday morning, I woke up to almost being seized up.  I hope that this is not going to be a common occurrence after riding the Goldwing.  I felt very comfortable on the bike on Sunday so I'm not sure what's going on.  Anyway, I had plans on Monday morning to go for a walk/hike with my daughter.  I was slow moving but hoped that the walk/hike would loosen this old body up.  We packed up our lunch, water bottles, bug spray, sunscreen, camera and batteries.  My daughter and I went off in the van to just north of the city where there is a trail that used to be a railway.  The rails have been gone for a long time and the line is now used as a trail for walking, hiking, biking and horseback riding.  We set off for our walk/hike from the van at 9:45 a.m. after spraying ourselves with bug spray.  I've walked this trail before and remember being attacked by deer flies as well as mosquitos.  I was dressed in my jeans while my daughter chose to wear her shorts so that she could go for a run as well.  I put the backpack on my back and off we went.  We started off at a slow walk in order to warm up and stretch our muscles.  This is what I told my daughter although in truth, I was not up to walking very fast.  After about 20 minutes, my daughter informed me that it was time to speed up the walk to a quick walk.  I have always had trouble finding someone who can walk briskly with me when I want to exercise.  Well....I've met my match!  My daughter can leave me in the dust of her strides.  This is good because it meant that my heart rate increased and my cardiovascular system was working hard.  As I struggle to walk briskly and keep up, my daughter informed me that it was time for a run.  I suggested she go ahead.  I slowed down to a more manageable walk and then started snapping pictures of the beautiful surroundings.  At one point, the path was bordered by rock cliffs where you could see the compressed lines in the limestone.  A couple of trees were gripping strongly to the rock face with their roots as they grew straight out from the ledge.  I took a picture of my daughter running back towards me as part of her jog.  The path was shady as the leafy canopy created some cool areas for those of us using the trail.  We continued walking until we had walked approximately one hour north of where we parked the van.  We sipped our water at various points along the way.  Then we decided to turn around and start the walk back.  We did not have as much of a spring in our steps as we were getting tired.  We decided to eat our sandwiches once we got back to the van which was about 11:45 a.m.  I was very, very tired.  My back was sore and my legs were feeling like jelly.  We've decided to do this on a regular basis as it gave us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect and enjoy ourselves.  Next time, we'll drive a little further north and then pick up the trail so we can explore a new section.  Needless to say, I didn't do much more that day.  I got home and sat on my rocking chair on the patio.

Yesterday was another fantastic day.  Over the weekend, I had been in contact with a friend from my university days.  She has been living overseas for many years now and I haven't seen her since 1986.  She was touring our area of the province and we made arrangements to have her stop by.  We went for lunch yesterday and talked non-stop as we caught up.  She indicated she is learning to sew and quilt.  When my children were babies, I had the opportunity to help a very good neighbour lady with her quilts as they were spread out on their frame.  Over the years, I've been wanting to learn to sew and I do have a sewing machine now.  I tried to sew an outfit for my daughter's teddy bear a number of years ago but I proved to be inept at it.  I still like the idea of learning to sew and learning to make a quilt.  I do knit afghans but it would be fun to make a quilt.  Anyway, my friend and I visited a local quilting store where she picked up some materials for small projects as she learns to sew.  I had fun looking at the various projects and the seed of an idea has started to sprout.  My daughter also wants to learn to sew.  I think I will look for a place that offers basic sewing lessons and we can learn together.  My friend and I continued to talk non-stop.  Now it was late in the afternoon and so we made the decision to have her stay for dinner and overnight.  She would continue on her travels this morning.

She met my husband and children.  I made stuffed pork roast for dinner along with a rice dish and some peas.  We chatted and chatted as we ate.  After dinner, we continued to visit and watch "America's Got Talent".  My friend chatted with my daughter and they looked at my friend's various sewing projects which she is going to be working on in the next week or so.  Before we all knew it, it was after 11 p.m. and my daughter needed to be out the door for 7 a.m.  We headed to bed and I set the coffee maker to brew a full pot of coffee early in the morning while I slept.

This morning, my friend went on in her next leg of her vacation.  It was absolutely wonderful to reconnect and spend time with her!!  As I mentioned to her that her life has had such great opportunities and life experiences, she mentioned to me that it has come with a sacrifice.  She mentioned that I am so fortunate to have a family and one day will have grandchildren whereas she will always "just be an auntie".  We both realized that someone else's life always looks better than our's.  So we shared a hug and said our goodbyes.  Today has been a quiet day but also very satisfying.  I have played my flute until my embouchure tired and I fully enjoyed it even though it was just for a short time.  I played the piano for a little bit and fully enjoyed the music that I played.  I've spent time with my son this afternoon.  I took my sewing machine out and tried to reacquaint myself with it.  I have caught up with blog.  This has been a great day even though it has not been earthshattering.  Summer is too short as I have so many fun activities to do and people to see with so little time.  This is not a complaint but rather a celebratory statement of life.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Life's Highs and Lows

The last few weeks, I've been looking back over my life and remembering memories from my childhood as well as some of the major events that have shaped my outlook on life.

I'm part of Facebook and I recently joined a group of people that reminisce about growing up in my hometown.  It's been interesting reading and it has jogged some memories from my childhood and teenage years.  Recently there was a post about a local street that was not a throughway when I was about 10 or so.  I do remember when the city decided to make it a through street and they started construction.  What used to be a field with long grass became a dirt area with big hills of dirt as they started making the road.  The children in the area used to ride their bikes up over these hills in an effort to become airborne.  This was before there were bicycle helmets.  This was when children spent all day in the summer outdoors and creating their own fun.  I remember trying to ride my bike up over these hills.  I was in shorts and a t-shirt and about 10 years old.  I remember pedalling hard as my legs pumped in order to gain speed up the hill and then try to fly over the top of the hill.  This was with a standard bike in those days without any special gears.  There was only one speed and that was what you could attain with your own energy.  I remember that as I got to the top of the one hill I was attempting, the soft ground gave way and I went tumbling down with my bike.  I didn't get any airlift.  My bike and I didn't become one and a poetry in motion.  Nope.  I was definitely not poetry in motion.  I was in motion but I was going over the top of the handle bars and the bike was coming down on top of me.  By the time I got to the bottom of the pile of dirt, stones and rocks, my elbow was deeply scraped and bloody along with my bloody knees.  I managed not to have a head injury.  I had no broken bones.  So I painfully got up, picked my bike up and started the walk home.  I couldn't ride my bike home because it was bent.  What was a short bike ride from my house and should have been a short walk home, is in my memory a very long and painful walk as I limped trying to force my bike along.  It didn't want to roll very well because it was bent.  I also knew I was going to be in big "doo doo".  I had been forbidden from riding my bike in the construction area even though all the other kids did.  What seemed like such a great idea for an afternoon of fun, was becoming a really bad idea for which I was going to pay dearly.  I remember I got home and I was in immediate trouble.  I was dirty and bloody and my bike was definitely bent.  My mom helped me clean up but I remember the sharpness of her words of disappointment in me.  I was grounded from the use of my bike for a week.  In the summer at the age of 10, that is a very, very long time to be without the use of your bike.  On top of that, it took my dad another week to fix up the bike and bend some things back into shape.  I had forgotten about this memory even though the scar on my elbow is still there.  That facebook group helped jog my memory and relive a simpler time in our lives.

As I relived this memory, I started to think about other events in my life that have given me an inner strength to meet head on life's steep mountains and deep valleys.  As I was travelling through Vermont and New Hampshire in this year's holiday, I couldn't help but remember when my husband took me to Lake Placid, New York for my birthday in the Spring of 2011.  While we enjoyed that trip, little did we know that I would be facing my own personal steep climb to the top of a mountain like Whiteface Mountain later in the year.  This year as we drove through the mountains on our way to Prince Edward Island, I saw rugged rock cliffs and steep, twisting climbs up to the top of the mountains.  As we would come around a curve, the scenery would open up in front of us and we would see low valleys off in the distance.  This drive in our vacation really resonated deeply within me.  My personal journey from 2011 to 2013 has been full of mountain peaks and deep valleys.  As I contemplated this, I realized that just as these various views are all beautiful and peaceful, our own life journeys and trials can also bring positive moments of beauty and peace.  While I was going through the chemotherapy in 2012, I was blessed even in my darkest moments with the love and support of friends and family.  My husband, children and I live in an area where our closest extended family is about 2 hours away.  Some live 4 hours away and some live on the other side of the continent.  While I was battling my way through the chemo through to renewed health, I had positive moments of love, fellowship and friendship from friends who were near, family from farther away and friends as far away as other countries.  I was truly blessed.  I also learned that when negative emotions and events start to overwhelm me, I just need to focus on the positive blessings in my life.  This helps bring the beauty of the lushness of the deep, dark valleys into my view.

I remember while I was in the midst of one of the deep valleys of chemo, all I could do was breathe one breath at a time as I laid in bed and tried to keep the nausea and immense exhaustion from burying me alive.  My mantra at that time was "one breath at a time".  The full mantra is "one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time".  From something that was unpleasant (that may be an understatement), I gained the ability to explore and live fully in the moment.  That meant embracing the pain at times and breathing through it one breath at a time.  I learned to rest, accept and feel the love of friends and family from afar.  I learned what it was like to experience peace at the same time as I was experiencing something very negative.  As one of my friends told me at the time "If the chemo is making you feel bad, then you know it is working and doing its job."  I was able to have a little bit of peace.  At times, I was able to just think and explore my thoughts, feelings and views on life.

So as I look back on my life and more recently my journey through lymphoma and its treatment, I realize that like all vacations and journeys, there's always positive moments that can come from all of it.  I am still a being that is in the process of transforming myself into someone even better.  I truly believe we can all make improvements to ourselves.  As I've been weeding my flowerbeds this week, I have recognized how I'm also in the process of pulling the weeds from my personality and life.  I am embracing life fully with a deep joy of being alive and surviving it all.  My friends in Prince Edward Island showed me what it is like to laugh again.  Life will always be full of mountains and valleys and everything in between.  The lesson I've learned and I am still trying to apply to my daily life is that there is always a positive to offset a negative.  We just need to look deep within ourselves to find the calm, refreshing pool of water that is always in the valley.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Summer Vacation in PEI, Return Home and 3 Month Check Up

I tried to keep up with the blog while on holidays and on a regular basis.  As seems to be my habit now, I was too busy enjoying living and experiencing the numerous moments of joy to sit down at my laptop and update the blog.  I'm home now and will try to do justice to my wonderful holiday in Prince Edward Island.

On our second day in PEI, July 10, my friend and I went to see the matinee showing of "Anne, The Musical" in Charlottetown.  We wandered around the downtown before the matinee.  In downtown Charlottetown, there is a bench with a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald sitting on it with his top hat beside him.  There's room on the bench for people to sit beside him.  As many of the tourists seem to do, I sat down beside Sir John A.  As I turned towards the statue, it really seemed to be looking right through to my soul.  I decided to try to look romantically at him but couldn't pull it off and ended up throwing my head back and laughing instead.  My friend captured that moment on camera.  After wandering a bit more, we headed to Confederation Place to watch "Anne, The Musical".  This is a musical about Anne of Green Gables.  What a wonderful afternoon it was!  Since music is so much a part of my being, it is not surprising that I love musicals for the singing and orchestral performances.  However, I also love musicals for the live dance and the bold colours.  The acting in "Anne" drew me right into the story.  During the performance, my emotions ran the gamut.  I laughed at Anne's antics and joie de vivre.  I empathized with her bouts of being teased for her red hair.  Those moments brought back my own memories of starting kindergarten and being teased for having red hair.  I smiled as Anne earned a scholarship.  I had slow tears leak out as Matthew died.  My friend was comforted to know that she wasn't the only one affected by that scene in the play.  It was a grand afternoon.  On our way back to my friend's home, we saw that a cruise ship was anchored in the Charlottetown harbour.  We also visited my friend's favourite vegetable stand on the way "home".

On July 11, our friends took us on another tour of the area that they live in.  This time we saw a canning factory that their relatives own and operate.  As we drove by the factory, we saw the leftover shells from crab being dumped into blue bins by a conveyor belt.  Once the bins were full, they were moved to a manure spreader to be spread on local fields for fertilizer.  Nothing is wasted!  The factory cans crab, lobster and scallops but also packages them in vacuum-sealed plastic and flash frozen to keep the meat fresh.

On July 12, my husband and I struck out on our own to drive the East Coastal Drive.  In the tourism literature, Prince Edward Island is divided into 3 sections (East Coastal Drive, Central Coast Drive and West Coastal Drive) with circular routes for tourists to sightsee and experience the various areas of the island.  We left our friends' home and drove east towards Woods Island which is where the ferry arrives from Nova Scotia.  We followed the highway all along the coast.  I took lots of photographs as we saw cliffs that are eroding away.  We stopped at Cape Bear Head where we toured our first lighthouse of the holidays.  This particular lighthouse has been moved back from the crumbling cliff once already.  The original site is no longer there due to the erosion.  The current site is also right on the edge of the cliff and we were informed that the lighthouse will be moved back another 250 feet in the Fall of 2013.  As we returned to our van, we saw a small white car emblazoned with the bright green word "GOOGLE" across the sides.  On top of the car was a large video camera.  We saw this same car at the Holiday Inn Suites Hotel in Moncton, New Brunswick when we stayed there.  The car is obviously collecting images to update Google Earth and Google Maps.  My husband had passed this car on July 10 on the way back to our friends' home from his round of golf.  We continued our leisurely drive up the east coast of PEI.  The water was always within view even if it was in the distance on the right with potato fields in the foreground.  Our next stop was at Panmure Island.  This island is connected to PEI by a small causeway.  There is a public beach as well as another lighthouse.  We stopped, took pictures of the lighthouse and wandered along the beach.  The sand was still very red at this point.  When we climbed back into the van, my husband was concerned that we had better stop "dallying" and take a more direct route to our destinations which included the Singing Sands in Basin Head and then on to East Point.  We stopped for a late lunch at Souris, PEI which is a large town from where a huge ocean going ferry arrives and departs for Ile de Madeleine.  We ate at a place called the Sheltered Harbour Café.  I enjoyed a cup of clam chowder along with an oyster po' boy.  It was very enjoyable as we had a window seat where we could see the vehicles being loaded onto the ferry.  On we went with our tour.  Our next stop was at Basin Head where we walked along a white sand beach which is called Singing Sands.  As we walked on the dry sand, there was definitely a different sound with our footsteps.  We wondered "Is this the Singing Sands?"  As we walked, we saw the ferry from Souris out in the Northumberland Strait.  Then we heard the waves making a very different sound than I've ever heard waves make before.  The waves "chattered" as they travelled along the shore.  Was this the Singing Sands phenomena?  We still don't know but it was interesting none the less.  After enjoying a leisurely stroll in the heat, we returned to our van and continued on up the coast to East Point.  Here we saw our third lighthouse of the day.  East Point is the most eastern point of Prince Edward Island.   It is hear that the waves from the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait meet almost perpendicularly.  It was very windy and very interesting.  As it appears with all cliffs in PEI, there were signs warning of the danger of crumbling edges along with fences to keep people away from the edge.  After wandering around and taking even more pictures, we returned to the van for our trek back to Flat River.  That evening, we went to the Belfast Community Centre for a Kitchen Party.  Our friend plays guitar in the "house band".  It was an enjoyable evening with east coast music.  The house band played for a bit and then opened up the stage and mikes to anyone who wanted to perform.  One person was from our city in Ontario.  He was very good and we discovered later that we've heard his band play a number of years ago at one of our favourite haunts in our town.  A lady played her accordion which I really enjoyed.  There was another local lady that performed impromptu step dancing to the music.  These were the highlights for me.

On July 13, all of us (our friends included) hopped into our van and we drove to South Granville to go to Island Winds where the owner creates wind chimes.  Along the way, we ended up driving down another Heritage Road.  It was beautiful as the sun shone through the canopy of trees and created dappled sunlight on the red clay road.  The artist at Island Winds has transformed an old barn into his studio.  Our friends bought a wind chime from this gentleman many years ago.  During our visit, we saw his son assembling a wind chime.  I bought one that is in the key of C.  The pendulum is a blue stained glass circle that is encircled by metal to protect it.  The glass looks like waves on the sea.  Visually, the wind chime is very peaceful but the sound of the chimes is also very serene.  The chimes have found a home on my patio.  They gently and softly chime away while I work in the garden or while I sit in my glider on the patio watching the various birds and wildlife in  my backyard.  After visiting Island Winds, we drove through Cavendish on our way to Rustico Beach where we climbed out of the van and strolled along the boardwalk from the harbour all the way along the inlet to the beach.  Again, I took lots of pictures which included old wharfs, a blue heron, plovers, lupins, sea grass and beautiful views.  On our way to Cavendish, we stopped in Stanley Bridge where we had lunch at Carr's Oyster Bar.  I had the clam chowder which was very good.  Again, we had a wonderful view of the marina across the river.  As we ate, we watched children jumping off the bridge and swimming to shore.  We also saw fishing charters going out of the marina along with tour boats.  I found it really interesting to see the neat rows of mussel lines in the water.  After visiting Rustico Beach, we continued on our way to New Glasgow where we were going to have dinner at the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.  We arrived in New Glasgow very early so we went to the PEI Preserves Company.  What an interesting array of various preserves!!  If you ever get the opportunity, this is a nice place to visit and do some shopping.  It was very, very warm this day and we cut short our walk through their Garden of Hope.  Regardless of the heat, in my opinion, New Glasgow is a gem nestled in the valley of the surrounding hills.  It is a quaint village with beautiful green space.  Finally we went in to the New Glasgow Lobster Supper!  This is another event that was on my "must do" list on our trip to PEI.  So, of course, I had lobster.  The dinner started off with the most wonderfully fresh baked rolls.  Then we had PEI mussels.  Did I mention the rolls and mussels were all you can eat?!  Then we had our seafood chowder.  Again this was all you can eat.  Next was our salad plate which included coleslaw, garden salad and potato salad.  Now it was time for the LOBSTER!!  It was so good and fresh!  My husband had scallops instead because he doesn't like the effort needed to get to the lobster meat.  We finished our meals off with dessert and coffee.  My husband had the lemon meringue pie which was "to die for".  I had a walnut cake which was also very good.  I think I have forgotten to mention that throughout our holiday we have shared wonderful bouts of laughter with our friends!  This particular day was more of the same.

July 14, we crossed off another  one of my "living list" items.  I have always wanted to go clam digging ever since my family took me to PEI when I was 12.  It was something I wanted to do way back then but we never did.  Our friends took us to the backshore in the morning while the tide was out.  What fun I had digging in the red mud when I saw the air holes from the clams.  It was great fun and we collected just enough clams in order to make a meal for the next night.  I truly felt like a joyful child as I embraced this experience while dressed in my rubber boots, shorts and t-shirt.  Life truly is for embracing and living to the fullest.  I'm trying to imprint every memory and experience into my mind so that I can relive it during the dark valleys that sometimes happen in our lives.  After clam digging in the morning, we relaxed at our friends' home.  My husband and his friend were relaxing in the sun on the deck at the back, while I sat in the shade on the front porch overlooking the beautiful view of Flat River with the Northumberland Strait way off in the distance.  I was also enjoying the breeze and their wind chimes gently making music.  While sitting there, I had a tune going through my mind that I couldn't think of the name.  My husband's guitar was in the back of the van so I went and got it out and tried to "sneak" it around to the front of the house without anyone seeing me.  I haven't played guitar in many years but I figured out the chords to the tune that I was able to quietly sing.  Unknown to me, my husband and friend had seen me go by with the guitar and they were standing inside an open window listening.  My husband was able to identify the tune as "Mull of Kintyre" by Paul McCartney.  Suddenly, we had our own little kitchen party happen on the front porch.  Two guitars were strumming away as we all tried to sing.  What impromptu fun this was!!  Another gem of a moment in time!  That night we went into Charlottetown to The Ol' Dublin Pub to listen to a group called Guiness.  We knew about this group through another friend who grew up in PEI and had mentioned that her sister, brother-in-law and nephew were going to be playing in the pub.  What an enjoyable meal and subsequent night of music!

July 15 we went back into Charlottetown for some errands but also to be tourists.  At noon, we went to the amphitheatre behind Confederation Place where we saw the Confederation Young Company perform "Les Feux Follets".  What a great performance by young adults this was!!  It was about an hour long performance of various musical vignettes acting out the settlement of Canada.  It was during record-breaking heat that we sat, watched and totally enjoyed the performance.  We then had a small lunch at our friends' favourite Chinese restaurant before travelling to COWS Creamery.  We saw the production of the COWS t-shirts line as well as had a sample of their chocolate covered chips and a sample of ice cream.  This was the best ice cream I've ever tasted.  It was creamy and delicious.  Needless to say after the tour, we bought ice cream cones and I must admit to enjoying every single lick.  Mmmmm!  We then picked up a few things and returned to our friends' home for a clam dinner which included the clams, garlic bread and Caesar salad.  It was great!!

July 16 was more of a day of rest.  During our time up to this point, I had been collecting rocks and shells with the thought of having some jewelry created.  My husband went off for a round of golf.  It was not long after he left that I realized I had left all the shells and rocks in the van.  This was my morning that I was going to walk to my friends' neighbour who creates jewelry.  Then I remembered that I had 2 pieces of blue mussel shell that might work.  My friend and I laced up our runners and went for a walk to her neighbour with my shells in hand.  What a wonderful artist and creative jewel this neighbour is!!  We came up with a concept and she was going to be able to produce 2 necklaces in 2 days.  Check out www.kuriosities.com  That night, my husband treated our friends to a dinner of maple spareribs.  Man....we've been eating really well while on holidays!

July 17 was another relaxing day.  That evening we went to our friends' church in Eldon to listen to a Scottish folk group from Scotland.  They were a group of 5 men.  One played guitar, another played fiddle.  The third man played the bagpipes and a group of metal flutes that looked like recorders.  The fourth man played guitar, banjo and mandolin.  The fifth man sang unaccompanied in gaelic.  When the bagpipes and fiddle played a duet together it made chills go up my spine it was so beautiful.

July 18, we enjoyed a walk on the backshore again with the tide fully out.  I truly love nature of all sorts.  The world we live in is miraculous in its beauty.

July 19 and 20 we travelled back to Ontario and home.  We managed to find more red clay roads before we reached the Confederation Bridge into New Brunswick.  We stopped for the night in Edmunston, New Brunswick and then continue on our way through Quebec.  We crossed the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City and avoided Montreal by staying north on some secondary highways which wound through the foothills of the Laurentians.  We crossed back into Ontario at Hawkesbury.

Since being home from holidays, I've enjoyed puttering in my yard and garden while listening to my wind chimes.  Yesterday, I had a check up with my oncologist, Dr. Meyer.  This was an appointment that was earlier than it was supposed to be because he is moving to Hamilton into a new job.  He checked me over and declared that I am "over the hump".  I am feeling great and healthy.  After examining me, he declared that there is only a very slight remote chance that cancer will visit my doorstep again.  This made my day!!!  I still have this overwhelming urge to live life to the absolute fullest.  I still have some items on my "living list" that I want to do or accomplish.  I will now be seen at the Cancer Clinic every 4 months for the next couple of visits.  This was wonderful news to receive especially after such a special holiday with friends.

I will continue to blog when I can.  I will not be choosing to work on the blog if opportunities come up to continue enjoying life to the fullest.  I guess I'm living in the moment more than I ever did before.  This is easier to do in the summer in our climate.  So please feel to drop by and check the blog.  You never know when some gem of an entry will greet you.  Here's to a fantastic life full of opportunities to create memories.  Always choose to leave a positive footprint on someone else's journey through life.