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New Year. New Me.

{Disclaimer: I’m working with The Edge Sports and Fitness to bring you this information, but the opinions presented here are entirely my own!}

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New Year. New Me.

Yeah, I know it’s almost the end of February. It took me a while to recommit to my own health and fitness, you know? Plus, I want this to be a continuous commitment, not just a flash-in-the-pan “New Year’s resolution” that fades away after a month or two. So I really had to think about it. Okay, I’m not aiming for a totally new me. But I am seriously dying (no pun intended) to get my bod in shape and adjust to this post-chemo, post-ovaries, post-menopausal body and metabolism.

In the past year, I stopped chemotherapy and started new medications that offered fresh, new side effects. Muscle weakness and pain, joint pain, fatigue, hot flashes and weight gain are just a few of the gazillion side effects I could be experiencing at any moment. Just in the matter of typing a few of these sentences, I’ve gone from dressed with a sweater and scarf to wearing only a t-shirt.

Adjusting to a new body has invoked more feelings than I would like to admit. I have run the gamut of emotions. I feel sad about my thickening waistline and anxious about my sweaty hotness. My weakness makes me feel inadequate and lazy. Breathing offers a sense of peace, because I am, in fact, breathing however labored that breathing becomes.

On top of the wear and tear on my whole body, I’ve got this knee injury that has curtailed my ability to engage in my favorite source of cardio- anything dance fitness related, and I’ve had to become creative about finding a no-impact cardio exercise. And that’s where I have rediscovered swimming!!swim-lane-edge

Now, on top of everything, I am facing another round of chemo. I could very easily use this as an excuse to put off my self-improvement project. I know how chemo will impact my body, and I know that I need to be fit and strong to fight against this recurrence of cancer. Rather than slacking off, I need a strategy to strengthen my body, and help me release the stress of cancer treatment and maintenance. I have no plans to become a world class weightlifter or competitive athlete. I need endurance for a long term fight.

I’m really excited to announce that The Edge Sports and Fitness is partnering with Maggie’s Bright Side for the next three months to help me work toward my fitness goals! This all started when I began to use The Edge Physical Therapy to rehab my knee. Physical Therapist, Tori Lamphere DPT, put me to work, measuring my muscle strength and weaknesses. She helped me identify which muscles I need to strengthen in order to protect my knee and she developed some swimming drills for me so that I could improve my cardiovascular health, improve my stroke and not burn myself out.

I am not the same person as I was before my cancer diagnosis, and I mean this in more than one way.

Exercise classes can be costly, however, and when you are spending $200-$400 a month on co-pays, vitamins and other medical appointments, the cost of working out can really add up. I get that exercise is an investment in my overall health, but when I’m counting my pennies, paying for fitness never comes first because I can usually figure out some free fitness activities on my own. The thing is, nothing I can do gives me the sense of community or the option to try so many different types of exercise as I’ve found at The Edge. The Edge has childcare. Easy parking. Classes throughout the day. A pool. A gym… For the value, you can’t get a better deal on fitness- or a more convenient way to get in shape.

For me, for now, that’s swimming. Low impact, and a great cardio workout. I can feel good changes in my body, but my knee isn’t getting overworked.

What I love about The Edge is that my physical therapist and personal trainer can work together to offer me the most effective exercise program without exacerbating my injuries! I also love that there are a ton of group fitness classes that I can check out and build up to as my body allows! My day-to-day schedule changes so rapidly that it’s nice to know that no matter what life throws at me The Edge has classes that will fit into any schedule and tons of open swim time and the fitness room is always available! There are many different exercise options and I appreciate that!

Having a terminal illness means coming to terms with the fact that your abilities could change at any point in time. Chemo will certainly have an impact on my strength and endurance, and I will be instructed to stay active and keep moving. This can be discouraging, at the least, and expensive, at best. The Edge is making it possible for me to keep moving and keep my fitness level up, without breaking my budget.

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I’ll be taking you with me on my workouts! Maggie’s Bright Side will be by my side, pushing me and encouraging me, and if you want, you can be my workout buddy! I’ll post what I’m doing for workouts on my Maggie’s Bright Side Facebook page and if you want to come along, I’d love to have you! The Edge members, I’m excited to work out with you! Tell me when you are there and I’ll try to make it! And don’t forget to tag all of your workout pictures (at The Edge or otherwise) with #maggiesbrightside.

We’re going to stay strong together!

Dearest Amy Schumer

Dearest Amy Schumer,

I’m coming to Montreal to see you on Friday, February 17th and I wanted to tell you that I’m going to need you to make an exceptionally funny show for me and the thousands of people who will also be attending your show. I mean, I know that you are hysterical all the time, but like- FOR REALS– on Friday, I’m gonna need you to bring it. I know I’m being an annoyingly demanding fan, but let me tell you where I’m coming from, because I really need a good laugh.

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A year and a half ago, at the ripe young age of 35, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. You may not know this, but there is no cure for Stage IV Breast Cancer. It suuuuuucks. Big time. Quick rundown of what I’ve been through thus far: I had chemo, then had my ovaries removed and now I’m on maintenance medication which comes in a trapper keeper type container and is labeled “cytotoxic material. It’s probably fine, Amy, don’t you think?

I was managing my terminal illness and doing my best to make a positive impact on the world around me, and then two weeks ago, I had an appointment with my good ole’ breast surgeon who I like to call “the Breast Guru.” I pointed out a few changes I had noticed in my breast, since I basically have been doing daily self breast exams for a year and a half. The Breast Guru was very worried that the changes in my breast indicated new tumor growth, so she sent me to get a mammogram. This was not too big of a deal for me. I’d had a mammogram in October of 2015, so I knew what to expect. I’m used to scanxiety, since I have CT Scans every 3- 4 months and I get my results immediately, so that was helpful. The Breast Guru thought that the alternative to new tumor growth was that I was experiencing symptoms of Lymphedema, which is swelling caused by lymphatic system blockage.

Well Amy, it wasn’t Lymphedema, but the Breast Guru thought maybe we should gather more information. After considering a breast MRI- which is an MRI where you lay face down on a table and let your breasts dangle below you for 45 minutes while listening to the soothing bangs, ticks and jackhammer sounds produced by the giant machine- the Breast Guru decided to bring my case to the TUMOR BOARD. This is a Board in which bunches of doctors you don’t know talk about you and your body, and don’t take notes, so you know you aren’t getting the full story (“cause no one else is in the room where it happens, the room where it happens, the room where it happens”) and then make decisions about your course of treatment. Cool.

The Tumor Board suggested, after looking at AAAALLLLL my imaging from the beginning until now, that there is definitely progression in the breast tumor, that a breast MRI would not provide additional details and that it would behoove me to obtain additional imaging of the rest of my body in order to ensure that there is not additional tumor growth elsewhere. Amy, I know what you are thinking: “It’s just a precaution.” Yeah. That’s what I was thinking. Except when the dark side shines through.

The dark side is motherfucking dark as hell. It’s grocery store parking lot rage and “I’m gonna cut you if you say the wrong thing” and of course, nothing will go right. It’s piled with “you’ll never move into that house you want and you don’t deserve to be happy and you don’t have time for that.” Sometimes the dark side makes me think that I should have gone with a different doctor and I must not care enough about staying alive if I can’t cut out sugar and what about Rick Simpson? And then I explode with tears and screams and maybe I even throw up a little and then I put myself back together because my kids will be home soon and I have to make them dinner.

I’m not saying that DID happen, I’m just saying it COULD.

The week leading up to seeing you in Montreal consists of the following:

First, a brain MRI. That’s right, brain. Because I think it makes sense to look at my entire body and make sure there is no cancer progression anywhere. Have you ever had a brain MRI? It’s what I imagine lying in a closed coffin would be like. Doctors ask me all these questions like if IEDs have ever exploded in my face, or if I have a pacemaker or piercings, or tattoos (this one I answemri-scanred yes to because like you, I rock the tramp stamp pretty fricken hard). I had already answered all of these question over the phone on Friday, but apparently those answers were not legitimate. Then, they made me take off all of my clothes and wear scrubs. I got to lay on a board with a cage on my head and a rearview mirror at eye level so I could peek out and be sure that nothing weird was going on outside the tomb I was in. Like, for instance, maybe the zombie apocalypse would start while I was trapped inside the MRI. I could not move, turn my head or scratch the itch on the back of my neck. They gave me earplugs and headphones, which they told me was for any Pandora station I wanted, except they are liars because the music kept cutting out and eventually I gave up asking for them to turn it back on and just focused on my deep breathing. This was the deepest breathing I have ever experienced. Of course, I forgot my anti-anxiety medication and the guy at the front desk said they didn’t have any medication there that they could give me. No medication at the hospital- that sounds legitimate.

After 45 minutes of listening to what seemed like a building being destroyed next to my head and not being able to protect myself when the bricks could have started falling on my face, I was free to go. And not to worry, those pictures of my brain will be processed and ready for review by my doctor in 3- 5 days. I should sleep fine. I got dressed and deposited the hospital scrubs in the bin labeled “soiled linens.” Soiled linens? It’s not like I shat all over them.

Next up will be a PET Scan. I will not be allowed to do vigorous exercise and was instructed to just “be a couch potato” the day before the scan. Now, some people might be excited about this but not me! During these anxious times, the only thing that keeps me sane and full of endorphins is a good workout. So telling me to couch potato it up is like saying, “I think it would be best if you sat in a ball and rocked back and forth for the next 24 hours!” Can I at least have some medication with that?

Then, I was instructed to not have any food or drink for 6 hours before my 2 hour 9:30 AM scan. Cool.  That should be fine. It’s probably best that my mom offered to go with me because she made it through my teen years. Did I mention the dark side? Oh I did. I basically live on coffee, particularly when I’m not sleeping. So this should go well. However, once that is over, I will be done with the testing. For now, and will only have to wait for my results for one day.

Here’s the thing, Amy, once I get those results, I’ll be hopping in my minivan to drive me and 5 of my friends timg_1695o Montreal to see you. Those results could say that they see no progression of the disease anywhere else in my body. This, in a manner of speaking would be good news because it would mean that my medication is still working, for the most part, and we just have to deal with the local progression- which could mean a quick mastectomy, maybe a little radiation. Or the results could be that the cancer is progressing in the rest of my body and a total change in treatment is warranted, in which case I have no idea what to expect.

What I do know is despite the completely warranted mental breakdown I am clearly having, my body feels good. The other thing I know is that laughter is quite literally, the best medicine. So Amy, for the fucking love of goddess, I’m ready to laugh my ass off, so PLEASE make it your best show ever.

See you on the bright side, 

Maggie Van Duyn (*pronounced dine, not dunn)

P.S. You may not be able to hear us or see us from the stage because we’ll be in the back. No, I mean like super far back. (Section 321-Row DD-Seats 1-6, to be exact)

P.P.S. If you want to keep up with the results of my scans, please follow me at maggiesbrightside.com

Not Normal

Vermont Gas Company came to inspect our furnace. The furnace looks great and is running well, but the gas guy noticed that we did not have a chimney liner. Like a normal home owner, I asked how much it would cost and he replied, “around $3,000.” Then I stopped acting like a normal home owner. I swore and was extremely sarcastic (weird, I know). I didn’t name call or anything, I don’t do that. I just made statements to make him feel bad like, “well at least when I die because I can’t pay for my breast cancer treatments for the next 3 months, I’ll be happy knowing my children didn’t die from carbon monoxide poisoning!” I am not normal. It was a smashing ottomans type of moment.

I lost my cool. Big time.

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Let me back up and tell you how I arrived at this moment.

First, Trump’s inauguration. I have tried really hard not to talk politics on this blog, but it just infiltrates everything I think about right now. The current political landscape is creating intense chaos and I find myself frantically signing petitions, joining in the resistance and grasping at straws to understand why anyone would support a man who is so openly racist and xenophobic. I just don’t get it. On a personal note, I feel worried about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act because if my husband, Jim, for whatever reason needed to find a new job, my cancer treatment would not be covered by his new insurance because it would be considered a pre-existing condition. How fucked is that, you guys? Let that sink in for a minute. This is not normal. My husband is tied to a job (that he thankfully loves) in order to get me cancer medication and treatment. Not to mention, I feel fairly confident that the price of my daily, required-to-live medications will increase, so I just pray that the pharmaceutical companies can show some sympathy.

Next, we are trying to sell our house because we have a contract on another, larger home around the corner. We will remain in our idyllic village and the owners of the house we are moving to are being extremely accommodating and kind. I feel like we were meant to live in that house. It’s easy to imagine my family, settling in and making memories. I can smell it. It’s nearly tangible. However, we have no buyers for our house. I really thought we would have no problem selling. I thought our house would fly off the market. We have had tons of interest, but no offers. Realtors tell me it’s a great property and listed at the right price. So what’s the problem?

This is discouraging.

I’m confused about why the new house feels like destiny and yet our old house stubbornly remains in our possession. I continually try to understand the meaning of this and search for what “life’s lesson” is being taught. I have spent the last year manifesting positivity and realizing that you can do anything you set your heart to and yet, here I sit, in my same old house, with no contract, and not nostalgically reminiscing on the joyful moments my family and I spent here. I am mad, and quite ready to GTFOH.

Additionally, real estate is the most passive aggressive profession on earth. I mean, how do you even know what agents mean when they say things like, “I’m not trying to get your listing, but I don’t know why your house hasn’t sold”? Or when they send you “free advice” about selling your For Sale by Owner property? That is not normal. I’m a truth-teller. I cannot exist here in this land of real estate doubletalk. For now, we have a safety plan where another amazing family from our community who is also searching for their forever home will rent our new house until we sell. #richmondvtisthebest

On top of this, I have this knee/hip/joint injury thing going on and I’m trying to fix that and get back into shape. I know, how cliche for the beginning of the year. It’s basic. It’s normal. Me and everyone else, right? But seriously, remember back when I had that erythema nodosum thing in my leg and my leg swelled up? I think I have some residual effects from that. One nurse practitioner said I have patellofemoral pain syndrome, which means, in a nutshell, that my knee hurts. Seriously? I paid for this diagnosis. Why did I even bother going to the doctor? It’s on the mend, but annoying and a reminder that my body has an expiration date.

And if that reminder wasn’t enough, I saw the breast guru this week. I have been feeling bothered by my left breast. It feels heavy and sometimes gets a little swollen. I knew I had an upcoming appointment with the breast guru, so I thought I would wait and see what she had to say. Here’s a lot of information about my breast (so skip this part if you don’t want to talk about my boobs): I have inverted nipples and now there is a huge dimple next to my inverted nipple.  I think the dimple had just been encased in the inverted nipple before and now it’s independent. But it’s weird and different and the breast guru thought so too.

Side note: when you are doing your monthly self breast examinations, be aware that there are multiple abnormalities that could be visible. My favorite guide is this lemon one. If you need reminders, I suggest you follow @feelitonthefirst on instagram.

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Photo Credit: http://cdn.vogue.com.au/media/file_uploads/1/6/6/0/16609-1.png

This new breast development could be a few things. It could be what just what I think it is; a change in the tumor that does not signify progression of the disease. It could be additional fluid in my breast caused by the inability of my lymphatic system to drain based on the fact that I have multiple healed lymph nodes that created scar tissue and thus, blockage. The breast guru has made an appointment for me to see a doctor at the Breast Cancer Clinic at UVM Medical Center to assess if this is the case. If it is, she refers me to a physical therapist who specializes in lymph drainage. It also could be new growth on the tumor in my left breast, so I will be having another mammogram in the coming weeks to determine if there is new growth to be considering and then we’ll make plans from there.

With all of this going on, you can imagine how the off-handed remarks of an unsuspecting Vermont Gas Technician informing me that I would have to come up with an unexpected $3,000 in the next 30-60 days might tip the scales to the point of spiraling out of control. $3,000 may not seem like a big deal to some, but to a special educator and a part-time social worker trying to start a new business, move, and manage the costs of cancer, it’s a lot.

I mean, I handled it.

After quietly apologizing to the gas guy, I spent the next hour of my life sobbing uncontrollably in the shower until the hot water ran out. I cried for the refugees and for women and for the GLBTQ population and for people of color who are being terrorized by our own government. I cried for our children and their education and because my 5 year old thinks we need guns in school to protect us from fucking grizzly bears. Hot tears ran down my cheeks because I’m worried that the signs from the universe telling me not to buy this house are because we can’t afford it because I am sick and the cost of being sick is that you can’t have nice things. I wept because I might have to tell my children that things are bad again and I’m worried about the impact of that on their spirits.

The day I had my doctor’s appointment with the breast guru, I was unflappable. I’m fine, I told my mom. She knows how I work, so she didn’t push and she won’t be surprised to read this. I texted my friends and family. “I’m okay,” I said. It turns out I am not okay. They knew I would not be okay. I’m okay now. But I’m also not okay. Both. I’m both. About all of these things I’ve listed above. I’m okay and I’m not okay, because I’m normal and I’m not normal.

Normal people are not okay and not normal people are okay. Not normal people are not okay and normal people are okay. We all move in and out of normal and not normal multiple times in one day. “Normal” is all relative and these are trying times. It’s fine to be okay or not okay as long as we have compassion and understanding for one another and for ourself. The gas guy totally gave me a pass. He was okay. We all have different ways of handling chaos and uncertainty and sometimes we smash ottomans and yell at gas guys and cry in the shower. That’s fucking normal. And I’m okay too.

Are You Happy?

2016-A year when a lot of people got pissed off and believed that the actual year was shitty and the unrelenting badness of it all wasn’t just life offering you a hot pile of actual shit. Here’s something you don’t hear me say very often: Life sucks! Bad things happen to all kinds of people- good, bad and ugly, no matter the year or the season. We can always hope for better/easier/happier times, but I hate to break it to you- shit will suck in 2017 too. Hopefully most of us will put on some red lipstick, turn up the gangsta rap and handle it. It’s important to be equipped with the right tools, though. As someone who frequently makes lemonade, I’ve got plenty of tools to share with you and I’m happy to lend them out.

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Some people probably even thought 2016 was awesome. Maybe they had their first baby or got married or won the lottery or found out that they did NOT have cancer. That’s fucking stupendous for them. Don’t get me wrong, 2016 was not my favorite year of all time, but some stellar things happened. My medication worked and thus I did not have to schedule additional cancer treatments. My kids are pretty great humans. My husband is mostly rad. I went to Paris. I pretended cancer didn’t exist a lot and that felt pretty good.

Then again, in 2016, there was a lot of sadness around me. Many of my close friends and family experienced significant loss, betrayal, and huge life changes that made huge impacts on their health and happiness. People I know have children who are sick or dying or they themselves are sick or dying. That’s the true definition of bad times and it is hard to live with such grief. It is hard to figure out what to say or do when people you love are sick and dying or when someone they love has died. I haven’t seen the statistics so it’s a tough call to say if 2016 itself caused more sickness and death than other years. I can’t say if this is a unique phenomenon or just the unpredictability of life. I don’t necessarily blame 2016, but I hope that 2017 is better for people who think they have been wronged by 2016.

As for 2017, my resolutions feel pretty lame. I want to drink more tea, get more sleep and… what was the third one? Oh, right- eat healthy. I eat pretty healthy in general, although my portions are a bit ridic and the holiday butter/sugar/cream factor is always pretty high, but I think that’s always one to throw in there for good measure. Mostly lame resolutions, like I said. My resolution list last year kicked some serious ass and when I read back through it, I was like, WTF Maggie, what will you say now?

But then, as I was laying in bed with my sweet little 5 year old snuggle muffin, I spontaneously asked, “are you happy?” I have no idea where this came from except that sometimes as parents we can have these thoughts that we are royally screwing up our children. This weighs heavily on me as I feel like I have limited time. I’m always grasping for moments where I can expound to my children about my values. Where I can truly lay down my legacy. Where I can give my children a tangible memory that describes who I am and what I stand for so that after I die, when they are remembering me, they can have that moment to look back on. I have no idea where this question came from, but Emmet quickly answered, thumb in his mouth, blanket against his nose, “yes.” Oh, good.

Yes. I am happy. Are you happy?fullsizerender

What if each night we asked ourselves this before we went to bed? How would we answer?

If the answer is yes, then carry on. Think of what it is that is making you happy. Acknowledge and honor it. Remember what it is because one night, you might answer no.

If the answer is no, then the next question is why not? Why not takes a lot longer to deconstruct, but it is possible. Is it your house? Your family? Your relationships? Money? There are a lot of reasons you could be unhappy. Is it something you can change or not? If it is, change it. This is probably not an overnight type of solution (although it could be, you never know). It may require some long-term planning and may take some hard work on your part. If it’s not something you can change, then you have a choice to make. Are you going to keep allowing this static issue to make you unhappy?

Maybe you are suffering some grief or loss, in which case, of course, it will not get better overnight and maybe “am I happy” feels like the wrong question. I agree, it seems so basic. There are so many factors to consider and our lives are wrought with intricacies that manipulate our complex brains to feel certain things. Still, if there is something contributing to your continued unhappiness that you can change or shift to make life more manageable, maybe consider changing it.

My life includes this sense of urgency and obligation toward my children. Have I seen them enough? Am I giving them what they need? Am I too harsh? Too lenient? Am I choosing the right enrichment activities? Do they know how to be a good friend? How will they remember me? These questions and questions like these become pervasive when you have a terminal diagnosis. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, but I’m constantly aware of how I’m contributing to molding their lives in a way that I wasn’t before my diagnosis.

At night, when I go to bed, I could spend hours lying awake ridiculing myself for all of the things I fucked up. But what good will that do? I could continue pretending I don’t have cancer but then one day you find yourself listening to Brandi Carlisle, organizing art supplies and covered in glitter, sobbing in the middle of the floor while your children and their friends play Pokemon in their bedrooms. I need some balance, I think.

I’m a big fan of finding the difference between things you can control and things you can’t. If your answers to “am I happy” are things you can control, figure out how to change them or move them into a place you can accept, and stop feeling like your happiness hinges on these things. If you are unhappy because of something you can’t control, think about what you can control and try and shift it to make life more manageable.

Maybe this isn’t the answer to your 2017 dreams, and maybe I’m oversimplifying my solution. But I’m going to add this to my list of resolutions- ask yourself, are you happy? Then I’m going to eat a salad, steep some tea, and head to bed! Have a Happy New Year (but actually happy, I’m not just saying that)!img_0798

Meditation for the Nation Wrap-Up

Well, it’s over. The 10 day Meditation for the Nation Challenge was completed on December 16th and I, for one, thought that it was fantastic. The timing seemed perfect, the participation was much appreciated and the meditation itself was everything I knew it would be and more. My brain always knew that if I could build a meditation practice into my daily life, I would benefit. There is TONS of evidence-based research proving that meditation improves your health and happiness. Meditation changes your brain making you more productive and compassionate. It helps you regulate your emotions and strengthens your connections to others. This is science, you guys. It’s like, really real.

Now, I know from experience that meditation makes life more manageable. Over the past week, I have been able to control my level of anxiety around my upcoming CT scan, buying and selling houses, and Christmas. My sleep improved due to meditation. Overall, I felt like a better human. Meditation put me more solidly inside myself, I guess, rather than frantically chasing after every whim and attending to every unnecessary detail.

Many of the participants in the Meditation Challenge expressed similar sentiments. The level of participation was AWESOME! I have never done anything like this before and so when I first had the idea, I had no idea how people would respond and who really would follow my lead. I was pleasantly surprised and my expectations for engagement were completely surpassed. But not only did you guys show up for the challenge, you actually did all of the meditations too. And many of you did more and are still doing them! I can’t wait to do another challenge. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted about the details of this new meditation challenge.

No challenge wrap-up is complete without a little word from our sponsors. There is no way I could have done this project with such success without the participation of the unbelievably talented artists who donated their masterpieces so that I could give their stuff to you (you lucky ducks). Just to remind you exactly who these artists were, let me say a little something about each of them.

Emily Mitchell’s paintings are colorful, vibrant and intriguing. Her art belongs in every home. Go ahead and scroll through her gallery and try not to pick something out for yourself. Seriously. Try it. I’ll wait.

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Reproduced with permission from the artist 

See? It’s like a glass of champagne for your eyeballs.

I’m in love with Christy Witters for so many reasons, one of them being that she has a glass kiln in her basement AND traveled to fricken’ Scotland to study glass because she is so passionate about this artform. Listen, Christy has a day job15192559_10209295044585647_5246102632212773957_n-1, but she loooooovvves glass so much, I won’t be surprised if THAT becomes her day job one of these days! When I first saw the Mindfulnest in person I was in awe of it’s beauty. The colors are rich and bright and no two vessels are identical. Line up and wait for these to become available because her inventory flies off the shelf as soon as it’s ready!

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Alloy Jewelry strolled into my life courtesy of a close friend and I’m wondering how I ever lived without it. It’s positive, meaningful, handmade, and customizable. As someone who loves to express myself with words, this jewelry company is my soul mate. If I had a different phrase to wear every day that expressed what I felt or what I needed to remind myself, I would probably be a better person. You can be a better person too. Check out Alloy Jewelry.

 

 

Finally, my step-sister Kristine Harootunian has been making stuff since she was born. She is one of those crazy people who sees something and thinks, “I can make15492257_10209406590494225_6577033511230123972_n-1 that” and then she does. I’m one of those lazy people who sees something and says, “I should buy that.” That’s just one difference between me and her. Kristine used a laser cutter to make the leaf design earrings. She’s currently working on wedding invitations for her brother and has made a beautiful Settlers of Catan set as well. She once wrote a cookbook, makes cutting boards, quilts and can accomplish pretty much anything that inspires her! I have been benefitting from her homemade creations for about 15 years or so now, and I’m so grateful for that! Kristine doesn’t have a website, but if you have something in mind that you want to make, but don’t know where to start, let me know and I can hook you up with Kristine.

Thank you all for helping make my first 10 Day Challenge a success! I foresee more challenges in our future. Many people would like to throw 2016 out with the bathwater and are hoping that 2017 is brighter. I hope that 2017 is easier than 2016 has been, but I think we have done a good job emotionally managing what has impacted us in 2016. Look at us! We are still here. We wake up each morning and handle all the bullshit life serves up. Life has provided us with some giant lemons and we have gotten really creative with what we make. Stay with me now, as we sip our lemon drop martinis, and enjoy our lemon-scented sugar scrub: We’ve got this. 2017, we are ready for you.

 

America, Love and Meditation

I don’t know about all of you, but since the election I feel like my breathing has been so shallow. Whether you are on the right or the left, I think we can all agree that this election has brought forth a lot of emotions: fear, anger, sadness, resentment, elation. It feels like America is on a really rickety roller coaster that could fly off the track at any moment. And while we are being promised that America will be “great again,” I’m not really sure America was ever all that great to begin with. I think it’s always evolving and changing and it’s never going to be perfect. It certainly hasn’t been perfect yet. In many ways, America is like a toddler- amazing, courageous, and so loveable, but it is also prone to unreasonable temper tantrums, petulant sulking, and don’t even get me started about potty training.  

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To me, America feels stuck. We can’t get out of this two party political system. We can’t seem to move beyond our status quo. We argue endlessly. While I’m here in my fairly comforting Vermont bubble, even we are not immune to the bigotry, racism and sexism coursing through our country. We live in a democracy and that allows people to vote for whomever they choose and I am grateful for that. This election, however, has evoked such hatred and anger my heart is literally aching. Yet, my tears haven’t fallen. My palpable fear for my black, gay, immigrant and other vulnerable friends paralyses me and I don’t know where to begin to help.

Sometimes I think I could have this terminal illness because I am too sensitive for the hatred in the world.

Other times I think, “well, I certainly can’t die, because the world needs my love.”

Mostly, though, I think about how I can help love win. Love is not defined or portioned out by Hillary or Donald or even Bernie. To me, love winning looks like equality, like peace, like fucking logic. Love looks like inclusion and safety and fearlessness. I am not particularly religious, but I do believe the Bible got it right in Corinthians 13:4-7 when it reads: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I get that it feels impossible to access the simplicity of love when we are talking life or death. I deal with this conflict on the daily, believe me. When your livelihood and well-being are being violently threatened. When your actual life is on the line. I really do get that. I understand if you need to be angry or sad, I do. However, at some point, we are going to have to figure out how to move forward. I feel desperate to do something to show that I am not on the side of racism and sexism and hatred, but I can’t figure out what to do. My words seem inadequate and my actions feel misdirected.

I really like what Obama had to say to his daughters about this topic during an interview published in the the November 28th, 2016 edition of The New Yorker:

“Societies and cultures are really complicated… This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop… You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”

Personally, I have an overwhelming need to get grounded before I figure out what I can do to help move our country forward. I want to respond in a way that is both from my head and my heart. That’s why I’ve decided to do something I’ve never done on this blog before! A challenge! Do you think you are you ready?

Here’s the scoop: Throughout my breast cancer diagnosis, I have been doing some oneonone yoga and meditation practice. My teacher, Jessica, and I have been working on meditation a lot. She had me sit still and in a comfortable position and breath. She told me to visualize the breath coming in through my nose, down my body and curling around my heart, then exiting the same path it came in. It’s quick and you don’t need to lengthen your breath or anything. Meditation is not easy but I think I could benefit a lot from the stillness of it all. Regular meditation practice changes the way your brain works and calms the reactivity that is ordinarily triggered in high stress situations. Meditation is grounding and centering and puts us in a stable position to RESPOND instead of REACT. I want to learn to respond thoughtfully to the wrongs I see in the world.

My challenge is simple. 10 days. 5-10 minutes of meditation every day.

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Here’s how it will work: Let me know if you want to sign up to be a part of my meditation challenge. If you do, I’ll add you to a secret Facebook group where you can find strategies on how to prepare for your meditation challenge. Every day during the challenge, I will post a 5-10 minute guided meditation video. You can choose to use the guided meditation video or you can do your own form of mediation. Throughout the 10 days, I will post tips, articles, and blog posts about mediation. I’m a beginning meditator too, so we can learn this together. You just need to be willing to spend 5-10 minutes per day alone in a quiet area of your home/office/life where you can meditate. It’s as simple as that.

The challenge will take place from December 6th- December 16th, and is meant to trigger a positive change in your life. I’m hopeful that you will join me and can find some value in adding meditation as a daily practice in your life. I also hope you’ll join me because there will be some AMAZING giveaways from local artists to help enhance your mindfulness and keep pushing you forward! More details on that coming soon.


Finally, make sure you are following my blog by heading to www.maggiesbrightside.com and scanning down the right side of the page until you see the button that says “follow” (then click it). This way, you can receive emails about giveaways and other tips about the challenge.

This election has left me feeling confused and conflicted. I want to hold some positivity and joy, but I know that our country has some serious work to do. I want to be a part of moving the country forward, but in order to do so, I have to be as centered and grounded as I can. I am ready to get started. Will you join me?