Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WFTDA Skills Test

Tonight was the first skills test for Roller Derby but I did not take it. I "chickened" out and scheduled myself to take it next week. Remember that I previously told you that Roller Derby is serious s**t! The skater must demonstrate proficiency in the following WFTDA areas in order to be placed on a team:

Skating Posture
1.1.1 Bends at knees and hips with shoulders back
1.1.2 Swings arms fluidly
1.2 Stride
1.2.1 Has steady, confident, fluid strides
1.2.2 Uses both feet to push forward on straightaways
1.3 Crossovers
1.3.1 Performs smooth crossovers while skating at a brisk pace going into and coming out of turns.
1.3.2 Uses both feet to push during crossovers
1.6 Stops
1.6.1 Skater must come to a complete stop from a brisk pace, using proper form and without losing her balance
1.7 Other skills
1.7.1 Performs one-foot glides with each foot for the length of the straightaway with good balance
1.7.2 Has the ability to propel self while keeping all eight wheels on the floor
1.7.3 Can move easily and fluidly from one side of the skating lane to the other.
Skater must perform the following falls safely, accurately, and naturally with quick recovery
2.1 Single Knee Falls
2.1.1 Left
2.1.2 Right
2.1.3 Recovers from each without putting hands on the ground
2.2 Double Knee Falls
2.2.1 Recovers within three seconds
2.3 Figure 4/Baseball Slide
2.3.1 Performs this fall with both legs on or near the ground
Skater must demonstrate the ability to perform the following tasks without losing her balance or falling
3.1 Stepping -From a standstill:
3.1.1 Forward and Backward
3.1.2 Side to side in both directions
3.5 Weaving
3.5.1 Maneuvers through 10 cones placed six feet apart, covering both straight-aways and turns
The skater must demonstrate proficiency in the following areas:
7.1 Additional Skills
7.1.1 Pushups and situps executed with correct form. Beginners (20)
7.1.2 Warm up and stretch. Skaters must perform their own warm up and stretch appropriate to their level.
7.1.3 Safety. Skaters must show working knowledge of safety equipment and practices.

1.4 Speed
1.4 Completes 5 laps around the track in one minute or less (based on WFTDA regulation track)
2.4 180 Degree Turn Single Knee Fall
2.4.1 Exhibits control to complete the fall in exact opposite direction
3.2 Squatting -While skating:
3.2.1 Squats and coasts through the entire straightaway and turn
3.2.2 Squat and propels self on straightaways and around turns
3.3 Hopping
3.3.2 From one foot to the other
3.4 Focus
3.4.1 Can look left, right, and behind quickly and unexpectedly while skating
4.4 Weaving Around Moving Obstacles
4.4.1 Demonstrates weaving through a line of moving skaters that are an arm’s width apart (such as in the “Last In Line” drill).
The skater must demonstrate proficiency in the following areas:
7.1 Additional Skills
7.1.1 Pushups and situps executed with correct form. intermediate (35)
7.1.2 Warm up and stretch. Skaters must perform their own warm up and stretch appropriate to their level.
7.1.3 Safety. Skaters must show working knowledge of safety equipment and practices.

1.5 Endurance
1.5.1 Skates 25 laps around regulation track within five minutes (based on WFTDA regulation track)
3.3 Hopping
3.3.1 With both feet, moving forward, both feet landing simultaneously
Skater must demonstrate the ability to perform the following skills legally and safely
4.1 Whips
4.1.1 Giving whips
4.1.2 Receiving whips
4.2 Pushes
4.2.1 Giving pushes
4.2.2 Receiving pushes
4.3 Pacing
4.3.1 Varies speed while being “sandwiched” between two skaters, maintaining an arm’s length distance without falling, tripping, overtaking, or running into another skater.
4.5 Unexpected Obstacles
4.5.1 Skating within a pack of at least four other skaters, who are falling in front of the skater at various unexpected times. Skater must demonstrate the ability to deal with unexpected obstacles, such as another skater who has fallen within a pack, by avoiding or safely falling without hurting self, the fallen skater, and without causing an unnecessary hazard for any of the pack skaters.
4.6 Leaning
4.6.1 Skates while leaning shoulder to shoulder with another skater without falling, while maintaining an upright position and propulsion
4.7 Bumping
4.7.1 Maintains or recovers balance while being bumped into and having wheels bumped by another skaters without falling
5.1 Taking Hits
5.1.1 Responds safely (without falling or falling safely, accurately, and small, without sprawling unnecessarily, with quick recoveries) to repeated heavy checks
5.1.2 Demonstrates the above in a pack situation, without causing an unnecessary hazard for pack skaters.
5.2 Body Blocking/Frontal Blocking/Stall Blocking
5.2.1 Performs with good posture and without loss of balance or focus
5.3 Checks
5.3.1 Performs checks with legal body parts delivered within legal blocking zones with moderate to heavy force while skating at a brisk pace
Skater must demonstrate knowledge of current rules.
6.1 Rules
6.1.1 Skater must demonstrate knowledge of current rules. Skater must sign off on having read the VRDL rules document. The league official/team captain is responsible for ensuring that skaters are familiar with VRDL rules and demonstrate this knowledge in their play.
The skater must demonstrate proficiency in the following areas:
7.1 Additional Skills
7.1.1 Pushups and situps executed with correct form. advanced (50)
7.1.2 Warm up and stretch. Skaters must perform their own warm up and stretch appropriate to their level.
7.1.3 Safety. Skaters must show working knowledge of safety equipment and practices.
After reading through all that don't even try to tell me this is a sport for "lightweights". We're talking some serious workouts here! It takes a lot of stamina and commitment to do this every week. Besides, you won't find a better group of women to hang with! So, a big shout out to my 10 Roller Derby sisters who took tonight's skill test and passed it! Way to go! You rock (or should I say roll?)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Should I be tested for the BRCA gene?

Tonight was the Young Survival Coalition meeting. You have to understand what an incredible group of women they are. They have battled breast cancer, some more than once and yet come together once a month to support and empower each other as well as educate and advocate with the public when necessary. While supportive, they are not too "touchy-feely". We have open and honest conversations about things such as how every ache and pain we now have is cancer [i.e. if I have a headache, I have a brain tumor]. We talk about ways to deal with this (for lack of a better word) paranoia. We talk about "living" our lives even though cancer can rear its ugly head at any moment. It was through a discussion with them and disclosing that my mother was just diagnosed with breast cancer, that it was suggested I get tested for the BRCA gene.
In the general population, 12% of women are likely to develop breast cancer and 1.4% of women will develop ovarian cancer. If a woman has a BRCA mutation, her risk of breast cancer is five times that of a woman without the mutation, or 60%, and the risk of ovarian cancer in a woman with the mutated gene is 15% to 40%. Certain ethnic groups, such as people of Ashkenazi Jewish, Norwegian, Dutch, French Canadian, or Icelandic descent, have a higher predisposition toward cancers caused by a BRCA gene mutation. Patients with a strong family history of certain cancers are also likely to be carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations and should be tested. These groups include those with a:

• Personal history of breast cancer before age 50

• Personal history of two primary breast cancers

• Personal history of both breast and ovarian cancer

• Family history of a male breast cancer

• Family history of breast cancer before age 50

• Family history of breast or ovarian cancer in more than one relative

• Family history of both breast and ovarian cancer in one relative

• Known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation in the family.

The BRCA gene test is a blood test that uses DNA analysis to identify changes (mutations) in either one of two breast cancer susceptibility genes — known as BRCA1 or BRCA2. Genetic counseling also is part of the BRCA gene test process. After having a BRCA gene test performed, you learn whether you carry an inherited BRCA gene mutation and receive an estimate of your personal risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Since the BRCA gene test is a blood test, a doctor, nurse or medical technician inserts a needle into a vein, usually in your arm, to draw the blood sample needed for testing. Your blood sample then goes to a laboratory for DNA analysis. It takes about three to four weeks before test results are available. In most cases, you meet with your genetic counselor again to learn your test results, discuss their implications and go over your options.
So far, researchers have found two genes linked with breast cancer—labeled BRCA1 and BRCA2—that everyone inherits in pairs: one from our mother and one from our father. When they function normally, they are supposed to stop the growth of cancerous cells in the breast. When both genes in a pair are damaged, they don’t work properly and cancer may develop. People who inherit a damaged BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene from one parent are at greater risk of developing breast cancer than people who inherit two normal genes. The fact I was diagnosed before age 50 and now that my mother has been diagnosed along with knowing that I have had a few relatives on my mother's side die from cancer (one was melanoma, the other I'm unsure about) and having had a cousin with either cervical or ovarian cancer, I guess I better find out!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hi, my name is Tami and I'm a recovering catholic

The Easter season always make me think about the Catholic Church. Now, while I do not begrudge anyone their religious beliefs or practices, I realized that I didn't agree with a lot of things the catholic church taught. I didn't want to put 100% belief in a man just because he's the pope. I didn't want to do everything the church said. I didn't agree with the fact that they teach only abstinence sex education. Sometimes I feel like being a Catholic made me crazy; like they somehow put a chip in my brain telling me what I'm supposed to think and I can't quite get rid of it. The effects of being a die-hard Catholic are still plaguing me - even though I quit going to church 20 yrs. ago. My big issues that still haunt me are: feeling guilty for silly reasons, a neurotic desire to help the needy, a dislike of conflict and expressing anger, and being nice to people while inside being highly judgmental of them.
It's that time of year - Lent. Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock; it is a period of 40 days of repentance, with prayer, fasting and abstinence, and confession. Many catholics choose to give up a single indulgence (like chocolate, french fries or cola) for the 40-day period as a sign of repentance and an exercise in self-control. I was a "good" Catholic; I attended mass every week, went to confession and deprived myself during the lenten season, proving my worthiness. I was well on my way to heaven! I once gave up candy for Lent, which was a living hell. Anyone who knows me well, knows how much candy means to me. That same year, my (then) husband, gave up sex. Well, just sex with me, not everyone else. That's why soon after he became my ex-husband! If he was really repentant, he would've given up sex with everyone! LOL!
Apparently, abstaining from Facebook for the 40 days of Lent was the rage among college students last year. College students who have abstained from Facebook for Lent in recent years say it was brutal, but valuable. This Lenten season the cause has been taken up by a surprising number of adults. The digital sacrifice won't be easy, they say, but it may help them reclaim their analog lives. There is even an online quitting-Facebook-for-Lent support group. (Since the group is hosted on Facebook, none of the members -- in theory, at least -- will be logging on to comfort one another during their days of trial.) I wonder if I could give up my Blackberry?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An authentic life

Living together and having a new baby
Raising an adopted child as a single mother or father
Starting a new relationship
Developing same sex relationships
Beginning a new career
Going back to school
Retiring after 30 years of being at the same job
Practicing Yoga
Riding a motorcycle
Looking great
Being comfortable with who you are
Letting go of control
Acknowledging your discomfort
Laughing at yourself
Becoming an emotional yo yo
Accessing your wisdom
Taking care of aged parents
Spending time with yourself
Taking up a new hobby

--Barbara Biziou

Aren't we meant to live an intimate and authentic life? A life that honors the very core of who we are, a life that nourishes our heart and expands our mind, a life that is unencumbered with what others think, a life that empowers us to be who we really are? Today I am better at taking care of myself by nurturing my body, mind and spirit; it is a priority in my life. Putting myself first is not "selfish," but rather "self-full." I dare to be myself by taking time to have fun and allow myself to find humor in everyday life. My purpose for being born wasn’t to live life according to what society deems correct. My purpose is to discover my true self and live from that awareness.
We, as a culture, worship youth. We try to tighten our abs, botox our faces and dye our hair on the eternal quest for youth. Moving into midlife (whenever that is) is actually a freeing and exhilarating experience. The essence of mid-life is the reevaluation of the present with an eye toward an uncertain future. It represents both the end and the beginning of a cycle. Some of us may recall forgotten dreams and wonder whether it too is late to realize them. Many of us have to give up our fantasies of how we thought our life would be. Facing this reality may leave us feeling vulnerable and unsure of ourselves. This time is a gift as it allows us to correct the flow of emotional energy in our life. I can take this opportunity to look at life in a new and fresh way. This is a time to reinvent myself and make new choices based on what I truly want. It is time to take stock of my life, reevaluate my dreams and goals as I make peace with what I haven’t done and take steps towards my new expanded vision. This is not about regrets -- everything I have ever done and experienced has made me who I am today.
I now walk into my future one day at a time, trying to focus on each moment I have. The power of focus is important for energy follows thought: what you think is what you get. So the most important step in my process is the control of my own mind, thoughts, hopes and wishes. I search for the "signs" in my life. Signs come from songs, license plates, road signs, people, radios, televisions, movies, dreams and animals. I just have to recognize them. English author Mary Anne Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot, said "It's never too late to be what you might have been."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Knight of Cups

Today's tarot card is The Knight of Cups card; it suggests that my power today lies in passion. Pursuing and expressing my hearts desire honors my love, passion, and beauty and is worth waiting, courting or crusading for. What I lack in external means, qualification or ability, I make up for with a true and dedicated heart. I am not a victim therefore I do not need to be rescued. I am empowered by patience or self-worth and my gift is emotional availability and devotion. Unlike two of the other Knights, those of Wands and Swords, the Knight of Cups is not dashing across the land with the wind blowing through his hair. His horse moves forward, but slowly, giving an impression of calmness and peace. Indeed, the Knight of Cups is the most feminine of his group of four, though that does not mean by any definition that he is any less of a Knight. He is in touch with his intuition and emotions, and he uses them for his own good during his quests of romance and seduction. He can manifest as an event, a person in your life, or as a part of yourself.
The posture of the Knight of Cups implies that of a messenger, so it comes as little surprise that he often manifests as a bearer of news. He represents invitations, messages of love and proposals of marriage. In addition to the physical sources of information, the Knight of Cups can also represent wisdom that comes from your dreams to help you surmount obstacles in your life at the moment. Sometimes this card can represent the start of a relationship, but in this case if often serves to warn one or both partners. It shows daydreaming and idealism, and it can highlight relationships in which one partner is placed on an unfair pedestal.
Given that, it's easy to see that the person represented by the Knight of Cups will be a dreamer, one who is prone to wild ideas and flights of fancy. His wild imagination puts a bit of a spark in any relationship he's involved in, and he always seems to be in a relationship of some kind because he's a born romantic - and a hopeless flirt. Beneath his calm exterior he is a man of intense passion, though he generally diverts this passion towards reaching his goals and making his dreams come true. His is an idealistic view of life that is scorned by the active and despised by the realist. Inversely, he has no tolerance for people who cannot believe in their dreams.
When you are getting too wrapped up in your dreams, or when your idealism is starting to blind you, the Knight of Cups will appear as a warning. When you have no dreams and your view is too realistic, he will appear to show you what you are missing out on! As the Knight of the suit of Water, his view of life is fairly moderate in the majority of cases. Follow your dreams, but do not let them become an obsession. Develop your imagination, and let it guide you, but never let it rule you or lead you to ruin. Show love but do not go overboard and become committed to something you cannot handle. Make sure you are in control of your life, and your dreams.
What is my passion? Why, Roller Derby, of course! I guess you could call it following my dream but don't think I'm obsessed with it. Not yet, anyway!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Electric Avenue

All week long I have been hearing the song Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant. First I heard it at Skateland at Open Skate on Tuesday night, then on some oldies station on the radio and again on an episode of the Simpsons! So I thought I'd better figure out what the Universe is trying to tell me.

Electric Avenue lyrics
Boy -
Now in the streets there is violence
an-na-na lots of work to be done.
No place to hang all our washing and then I can't blame it all on the sun.
Oh no
we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
And then we'll take it higher.
we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
And then we'll take it higher.

Working so hard like a soldier
can't afford the things on T.V.
Deep in my heart I abhore you
can't get food for the kid.
Good God
we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue . ..
Oh no
oh no
oh no
oh no

Oh Lord
we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue . . .
Who is to blame in what country? Never can get to the one.
Dealing in multiplication and they still can't feed everyone.
Oh no
we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
Out in the streets
out in the streets

Out in the playground in the dark side of town.
we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue . . .
we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue . . .

The song reached #2 on the charts in 1983. Most American listeners didn't read much into the lyrics, but Grant claims this is a serious song. It refers to a real place in London, and tells the story of a poor man who beholds the things in life he could never achieve. So, does this mean I behold things in my life I will never achieve? What are the secrets to success? Former United Nations Ambassador Alan Keyes says that there are four core values that virtually guarantee your success. These are honesty, giving (rather than taking), busting your tail (being a hard worker), and doing what is right. Haven't I been doing that my entire life? What the hell? Maybe the Universe knows I like that song and "played" it for me?!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I don't need therapy, I have Roller Derby!

Last night during a scrimmage, as I wove through the eight girls around a curve, I went around the outside - always the hardest way around a pack - right into the beeline of one of my opponents. In a blur of bodies, she crouched down and popped up, hitting me in the shoulder. I sailed out of bounds. After practicing my tomahawk stop (or sometimes called a turn-stop), I raced back onto the track. This time she jammed her hip into me, sending me out of bounds again! Almost sounds like a fist-fight, huh? It all started in February when I attended an open practice. Some of the girls were good skaters, others were wearing fishnet, and still others were dripping with attitude. Most of all, they were having fun. As I watched the skaters practice drills, I thought, "I could do this." I had learned to skate as a kid. I wasn't afraid of contact. I have an older brother and I played coed football in high school (much to my mother's chagrin). I was immediately hooked!
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and subjecting my body to chemotherapy, I needed a distraction. There was no sense feeling sorry for myself! But roller derby is more than that. It's a new, ruthless world that includes a great workout - and a built-in support group of open-minded and strong women. It's helped me focus less on what I lost and more on what I am gaining - new friends, a positive outlook and a stronger butt. The physical and mental exertion can help put emotional pain in perspective. There's something both fear-inducing and exhilarating about getting bounced around or bouncing someone like a pinball. Even veteran skaters get anxious about it.
I started subconsciously using derby as a metaphor: Getting past the anxiety and ache going on in my life was nothing compared to overcoming my fear of seriously hurting myself or someone else on the track. I balance on eight wheels between my two feet afterall, getting checked by some powerful women. Also, the adrenaline high is a payoff. It's a feedback loop that makes you want to do it more! There's also an evolutionary reason why people going through hard times might join derby: survival. Humans - all primates - want others around to help find food, water, give warning signals, gain power or form alliances. It is somewhere in my primordial unconscious, even if I'm not thinking about it, because it's in my genes!
I'll probably still spend a good amount of time on the ground. I don't know how tough I've gotten - I still say, "Sorry! Are you ok?" after knocking someone down - but I am considering getting a roller derby tattoo. I'm getting better at absorbing hits (hitting her at the same time or before she can hit me) and I'm not as afraid to mix it up with the hardest hitters. Now it's starting to be me, more and more, coming out of nowhere and knocking my opponents down, or out of bounds. I'm increasingly skating away triumphant!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Five of Pentacles

Today's tarot card is the Five of Pentacles. This card suggests that my power today lies in defiance. We are willing to reject the sure thing or accept excommunication to try to make it on our own rather than endure the status quo or submit to conditions that assume we are invisible -- in this, we have nothing to lose. We accept responsibility for the difficulties ahead and do not seek pity for having chosen against the grain. I am empowered by mutual support and my assets are self-worth, hope, and pride. In a world that equates success with financial security, the loss shown on the Five of Pentacles can be a humbling blow to one's self-esteem. This can be brought about in many ways, but even though an exterior event may seem to be the cause, this card often shows a loss that you bring upon yourself. Even though the Pentacles are a material suit, and Fives usually deal with real-world problems, the theme of poverty is not the true destitution shown on the Five of Pentacles. There is a spiritual loss that often precedes or accompanies loss of material wealth.
But since outer problems must often be resolved before inner conflict can be attended to, the outer meaning of the Five of Pentacles shall be explained first. This card shows the many faces of material misfortune and lack: loss of funds, general poverty, illness, unemployment, solitude. The card also tells you that many of these are caused by your emotions. Greed will lead to loss, anxiety will lead to error, possessiveness will lead to solitude. By focusing on the material, you lose sight of the spiritual development the Ace promised. You may be rich for a while, but all will be lost if you learn nothing. This leads up to the more spiritual meaning of the Five of Pentacles. This card represents the dark night of the soul, when you must stumble around in the darkness because you can no longer see the light shining within you. Often, during times like this, salvation is not far away, but because you are so preoccupied with your material problems you cannot see it. The two people on the card walk by a brightly lit church, unable to acknowledge how close a solution to their destitution is. The church is an apt symbol because it provides spiritual comfort while helping those who cannot help themselves.
When the Five of Pentacles appears it is almost always a warning that you are likely to experience some kind of loss, material or otherwise. If this loss has not yet happened you can prevent it or lessen the blow. Worrying about problems like this will do nothing but make them even worse, so stop worrying and start doing something! If you are in a situation where you have lost a great deal, know that you have the ability to get it back. There is always a solution, always a way out, always a church window just around the corner. So either open your eyes and go to it, or close your eyes and let the inner light guide you.
I'm trying to figure out if the defiance is in my personal life or my professional life. Can roller derby be considered an act of defiance? Or is it my "in-your-face" attitude towards the breast cancer? Is it my general rebelliousness that has always had me trying to being justice and accountability to survivors of domestic violence? Or is it all of those things? Do I often feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark these days? Oh, yeah. I am searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The dreaded plow stop!

Tonight I went to Open Skate hoping to practice my plow stop. Yeah, that didn't really happen as it was so crowded! I forgot it was Spring Break. I was hoping that because it was so nice out, the kids would outside playing rather than skating. Wrong! In order to be placed on a team, you have to pass the written exam (which I have already done) and the "skills" tests. The two skills I am most worried about are my plow stop and jumping on skates. I can jump if I'm not going too fast but I've got to master that damn plow stop. I'd like to do it sooner rather than later! So, derby girls, what is the technique for a plow stop? The techniques goes like this:

1. Go wide - really really wide. Your feet (and weight) should NOT be under you, your feet should be about a meter apart with your weight slightly back.

2. Dig in with your outer edges first. Your stance should be wide (about a meter apart) with your feet angled inward. You will feel the pressure on the outside edge of both feet. Push into this pressure hard! Dig in and you will slow down.

3. As you slow almost to a complete stop bring your stance smaller (with your feet almost right under you), squeeze with the muscles of your inner thighs and with dig with the inside edges of your skates. By doing this last move you will come to a complete stop. If you find that you can slow but not stop using the plow technique is probably because you lack the finish move.

4. Practice, practice and then practice some more!

I guess I better focus on #4. There is so much in derby that is absolutely nothing like anything I've ever done before in my life. It's been a challenging and interesting process on so many levels and I'm loving how strong it makes me feel. Really, it makes sense for me to push for this thing I really hope to master: becoming an ass-kicker to be reckoned with!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Power of Simplicity

In today's modern life there are a seemingly endless series of options and avenues. At each turn, life seems to present numerous complications. It becomes hard to resist the allure of doing more things and trying to solve every problem. However, we are often, consciously or unconsciously, yearning for a more simple life. If we can make an effort to bring more simplicity into our lives, we will find many benefits arise. I took a quiz about simplifying my life. It said that I could simplify by running fewer errands. It further stated, "You're good at taking charge, getting things done, and looking great in the process. But, while you like being the boss of an active life, sometimes you might feel like you spend more time in your car than you do at home. Wouldn't it be great if you could have a personal assistant to see to your to-do list while you multitasked on the more important things? You know that a star like you is completely capable of running the show yourself, but you may shine a bit brighter if you learn to delegate — even if that just means that the Chinese restaurant down the street cooks your dinner tonight instead of you. Now that's using your noodle!" So, how do we simplify?
  1. Peace of Mind - Real simplicity begins in the mind. If we have numerous anxieties and problems it is not possible to have peace of mind. Simplicity means we learn to clear the mind and not allow ourselves to be bombarded by an endless stream of needless thoughts.
  2. Living in the present - We can become so concerned about what may happen tomorrow or next year that we forget to enjoy the present moment. To have one’s focus on the here and now, is to encompass life as it is supposed to be.
  3. Less Planning and Thinking - When we complicate life through our endless planning we bring tomorrow’s problems into today. Yet it is always worth remembering that our worries and fears about the future often prove to be groundless.
  4. Avoiding Judgement - It is human nature to criticize and judge other people. If we feel it is our duty to change others, there can be no simplicity and peace in our life. Rather than try to change others, let us just try to focus on changing ourselves. Our own weaknesses are probably more than enough to deal with.
  5. Focus and Achievement - Simplicity enables more to be achieved. Simplicity means that we are focused on one thing at a time. Often, when we simplify our life, we find we can actually achieve more than when we juggled several things at once.
  6. Simplicity and Beauty - Simplicity is often synonymous with beauty. Man has never been able to improve on the beauty and simplicity of nature.
  7. Happiness - Be happy with what you have.
Keeping things simple is absolutely key in attaining inner peace, self improvement and harmony.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Roller Derby is like crack...with no rehab

It was one in the morning and I was thinking about roller derby. If I had been asleep, I might have been dreaming about it. I couldn't help but think that women put an amazing amount of time into this sport. I’m not talking about the time spent on the rink floor. I’m talking about effort that goes into the organization and creation of a league with its committees and boards, the formation of teams, the league fundraisers, the self-promotion and marketing. I think it might be difficult for family and friends to understand why you’d want to put so much energy into a sport that takes up all your free time, forces you to do lots of volunteer work and is nearly guaranteed to your body black and blue at the end of the evening. The only explanation I can give is derby is worth the time commitment, worth the headache, worth the bumps and the bruises because when I’m on the track I am allowed to forget about everything else. Job stress, money issues, cancer, fights with friends or family – I leave all of it off the rink floor. Besides the rush I get when I’m on the track, I’ve met some incredible women, am making some great friends and because I can’t help but let a little bit of my derby persona stick with me when I’m off the track, I’ve became a much more focused person. Roller derby is a chance for me to be a superhero. In the words of retired roller derby girl Sister Mary Jane of the TXRD Holy Rollers, "It’s hard not to feel special all decked out in too much makeup, neon leggings, wild skirts, a team shirt, derby girl name written across your back and a funky colored socks on your feet". There is nothing like becoming your own superhero. Even if it’s only for an hour or two!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Roller Derby: Perfect for girls that ripped the heads off their dolls!

The other day someone again asked why I joined roller derby. My answer is never the same. Sometimes it is, "Why not?" or "I love to skate" or even "It's a great way to take out your aggression". I’ve been thinking about those answers a lot lately. But it wasn’t until today that I completely understood it myself. Although growing up I was always encouraged to be a strong woman (I hail from a long line of extremely strong women), I followed all the rules, believed all the parental threats and fought for good grades like my life depended on it. I'm sure my mother would have preferred to polish me up, but learned early on she had a tomboy on her hands. And for whatever reason, I did not inherit any "fashion sense". I will literally live in the same pair of sweat pants for weeks, I wear my Birkenstocks well into winter, I can cuss like a sailor and I avoid styling my hair (when I have hair!) like the plague. Despite my questionable footwear and lack of fashion sense, I was a good kid. I, in no way, caused problems for my mother (well, maybe some in high school). If you ask her, she'll tell you just how good I was! I was shy and quiet on top of being a hyper-sensitive child who would cry at the drop of as hat! I know, I know, not the person most of you know today.
So, why then, after all this rambling, did I join derby? To feel strong, it’s as simple as that! Both mentally and physically strong. I have something to prove to myself. I may have fallen victim to breast cancer but it doesn't get to win. I am still in control of this body, no matter what appendages have been cut off and how much poison has been "infused" into it! I decide what life looks like. For years softball was my sport. Thinking back to playing softball helped me realize that I have been over-thinking roller derby, which throws me off my game! I'm happy to report that today at practice, I stopped thinking too much and just did it. My fear of falling is dwindling. I’m ready to fall and hurt and try harder than I have ever tried, because I am in love with this crazy, awesome sport! Roller derby makes me feel "alive" and "strong"!

Friday, March 19, 2010

White Trash Porch

Last year our porch started falling off the house so we set house jacks to hold up the roof (of the porch) and tore it off. We spent many hours out on that porch. Yesterday, Bert & I started rebuilding it. We set the joists in place and now it is ready for the sub-flooring. We have decided to make it a 3-season porch because three season porches (also called sun porches) have evolved to solve the problems of the outdoors. Building a three season porch can give you the best of both worlds. They enable homeowners to enjoy their porch even with changing weather, seasonal issues and insects. The difference between a sun porch (or three season porch) and a 4-season porch is that a sun room is not insulated, or heated or cooled through mechanical means.
The whole purpose of adding a three seasons porch is to create a space that can be used in at least spring, summer, and fall, and in many areas it is not uncommon to have cold snaps far into the spring and early in the fall. Just like screen panels can be made to keep out the bugs, glass or Plexiglas panels can be used to keep out the cold. With a bit of skill and creativity it is even possible to construct screen and glass panels in such a way as to be interchangeable, making the three season porch adaptable to any circumstance. We are thinking about installing a small gas stove so it may evolve into a 4-season porch after all. Bert & I have built decks and porches before but this project will be our biggest yet.
Tonight, we picked up the plywood needed for the sub-flooring and laid it up on the joists. Then we drug the rocking chairs out of the garage and put them out on the porch so we could sit out there again! I'm sure the neighbors think we're a little nuts or a little "white trash". I actually looked up "white trash" on line and found this: "White trash" being a slang term for white people that usually live in a trailer park, with low incomes that spend their tax returns on things like big screen TV's instead of clothes for their kids. These people tend to be mouthy and fight frequently. Generally these people are uneducated and have little concern for personal hygiene. To see these people at their best watch Jerry Springer. Lets be clear, I would never appear on the Jerry Springer show!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sources of strength

Today, I'd like to talk about sources of strength. As a cancer survivor, my life has been changed significantly. I've adapted to a major change in my health status and how I view being healthy. What I had considered a "normal" lifestyle is much different now than prior to my diagnosis. In a recent survey of cancer survivors, people were asked to identify their primary sources of strength. The three most prevalent answers were, in order: family, spirituality and friends. It's not usually just one thing, but a combination of things that give people strength. Everyone has their own unique way of dealing with the impact that cancer has had on their life. As you may have already noticed, I like tarot cards. Tarot cards may conjure up images of gypsy women, crystal balls and hocus pocus; it's hard to separate the cards from their long history. However, the tarot cards themselves are rather benign; their only power is the belief we place in them. And they fill a spectrum of needs, from an amusing hobby to a powerful tool for exploring the inner workings of our lives. Tarot cards are not even really meant to tell your fortune or future. It has been said that the most powerful sources of information come from within; the Tarot aids in coming in contact with one's higher self.
Open readings address the larger aspects of your life rather than a specific problem area or question. They're usually done when you're entering a new phase of life, such as getting married, graduating from college or starting a family. You can somewhat direct the reading if you have a general area you want to cover, such as your career or health, but that's as specific as the direction gets. How can randomly drawn cards have any relevance to someone's life and what's happening in it? What most readers say the Tarot can enlighten you about are the choices you have. The cards don't tell you what you should do or what specifically is going to happen in your future, but rather the possibilities depending on the path you take. Carl Jung believed that in addition to the repeatable cause-and-effect relationships on which the scientific world is so strongly based, there is also another connecting principle that does not share that cause-and-effect relationship. He called this principle synchronicity. According to Jung, synchronicity explains the guiding forces in the universe. Things we might see as coincidence are actually signs that can help us make decisions and guide our lives -- if we recognize them.
Some say it all boils down to your subconscious mind. Arguably, how we perceive things relies heavily on our subconscious, and there are those who believe that with Tarot, the subconscious projects its own interpretations on the Tarot cards. As a person receiving a Tarot reading, your interpretation of the cards is a result of the factors in your life that shape who you are and what you are about. The questions you have about your life (usually the reason for consulting the Tarot in the first place) are projected onto the pictures, so you divine answers from what you see. In this way, the Tarot is useful in helping us to tap into our subconscious to find answers that we might never consciously think of. Whether you believe that Tarot cards hold any power or ability to shed light on your life, your problems or your future might depend on how easily you can open you mind to the idea of it. Many Tarot-card readers have differing ideas about how or why the Tarot works. In fact, some say we only need the Tarot to help us until we learn to get in touch with our "inner guide" on our own.
Today's card is the Ace of Pentacles. The Ace of Pentacles card suggests that my power today lies in assets or seeds. I have everything I need to co-create my own reality. I have value and I matter. I am empowered to nurture and tend to my own garden of purpose. I bring new life into the world. The Ace of Pentacles is the foundation for all kinds of projects in the real world; this foundaton is as valuable as gold, and as solid as concrete. It is the cornerstone of a building that might stand for decades, or crumble to dust after a few years - this is determined by how the rest of the structure is put together. The Ace of Pentacles is not the promise of long-lasting financial and material security that some might expect, but it is the sign that such things are within your reach. It gives you the resources to go in search of higher goals.
The appearance of this card is usually the sign of a turn for the better in terms of fortune and wealth, and sometimes it can even indicate gifts of money, or inheritance from unexpected sources (hence the coin appearing from "thin air"). This gift does not have to be money of course; any kind of gift that has value to both the giver and the receiver can be indicated by the Ace of Pentacles. In particular, the card often refers to wedding rings and proposals of marriage, which may seem out of place in the Pentacles suit until you realize that such proposals are the solid foundation upon which the castles of love must be built. The Ace also represents the fertile soil in which ideas can be planted to grow and mature. This will be a slow growth, as the Pentacles never move at a fast pace, but the success of the harvest is practically assured. The only caveat is that the Pentacles suit demands a realistic outlook. If you want to succeed, start now - it is not the time to dream and fantasize when there is work to be done! Forget flourish and dramatics, because hard work is the only thing that is going to produce results when the Ace of Pentacles is afoot. Keep your feet firmly planted in the Earth and let your common sense (and your intuition) guide you to success.
More often than not, the realms of material and spiritual wealth are mutually exclusive, and in some cases they are in fact detrimental to one another. But on the Ace of Pentacles all types of wealth are portrayed, and though the material world is certainly in full view, most cards feature a gateway or a passage into the more spiritual realm far in the background; through the gap in the hedges we can see the cold white mountains of abstract and spiritual thought. You can achieve spiritual peace through material means, if you knows the path. Ok, I'm ready to be enlightened!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Five of Swords

Tonight we had roller derby practice but I was off my game. I felt so out of it. I am happy to report that I passed my written exam with a "grade" of 100%. Now I just have to pass the skills tests! Apparently I should have paid attention to my tarot card of the day as I did feel pretty defeated today in more ways than one. Then I totally sucked at derby practice and just could not get it together! Today's tarot card is the Five of Swords. This card suggests that my power today lies in the upper hand. I can outwit or outlast and I choose my battles wisely. This puts me in a superior position. I know when it's time to hold, fold, or walk away. I am a survivor and am not easily defeated. I am empowered to gain the advantage by turnabout and by virtue of fair play. But we can find ourselves back in the thick of conflict with the Five of Swords. The image on the card and its many variants is that of a victorious man and two defeated opponents, and in this symbolism we see more of the typical duality of the Swords suit. When this card appears it usually means that you are defeated - cheated out of victory by a vily and cunning opponent. But sometimes you are that victor, the one who has defeated your opponents through the use of your mind. Whether the victory was an ethical one remains to be seen.
But let us return to the theme of defeat, which is the primary meaning of the Five of Swords. This is perhaps why the card is so unwelcome in readings; it shows that, despite your best efforts, you are likely to be beaten. But the Five of Swords is not only about being defeated and disappointed because of that defeat. If you allow yourself to become disillusioned after such a loss then you are on the path to greater ruin. Take defeat, learn from it, and then try again to succeed. It has been said that a good man will be beaten, and accept losing - but a great man will be beaten, then go back and win. When the Five of Swords appears and you feel that you are on the winning side this time, there is still a warning to heed. Arrogance and pride often come hand in hand with a difficult victory such as this, and you must be careful not to think you are invincible. You have overcome a challenge, and you have the right to feel proud, but know that there will be other foes to face and that some of them will eventually defeat you. Declaring your invincibility is an invitation for someone to prove you wrong. If your victory was won through cheating or unethical conduct, beware of an attempt at vengeance.
An interesting facet of this card is revealed by symbolism in the scene. It shows a man with two swords lying at his feet - the spoils of his victory. But he already had three swords, and his trophies really represent nothing more than a hollow victory. It is plausible that the two "defeated" men were really not defeated at all; they simply laid down their arms and walked away. They either knew they would lose, or they knew winning would be a pointless exercise. And by choosing not to fight, they are really the winners here, because he who knows when to fight, and when not to fight, will be victorious. So, yet again, the cards seem to be on target.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Dearly Departed Wayne

Last week, in the blog entry entitled Waxing Nostalgic, I spoke of Wayne. Tonight I will tell you about Wayne. Those of us that worked together at Aunt Sonya's (way back when) used to hang out together on Sunday evenings at the Rose Bowl tavern. We worked our butts off every weekend, especially if there was an Illini home game, so we needed to unwind. There's no better place to unwind than the Rose Bowl; it has been called a "townie, redneck, dusty, hole-in-the-wall bar that nonetheless has charm". Sounds about right. Anyhow, our favorite band, Gator Alley, always played on Sunday nights. After enough drinks, we would sing back up for the band! We were unofficially known as "The Gatorettes". Needless to say, we were regulars!
Wayne came into our lives as we were celebrating Char's birthday [her 29th, I think ;-) ]. Wayne was from Las Vegas and he was introduced to us by Roxy, one of our co-workers. He was to be Char's date for the evening. We liked to dance and we never had enough guys around for the slow songs, so Wayne's presence was greatly appreciated. He was a horrible dresser and wore a goofy smile on his face. Although he was a man of few words, he knew how to party! He even laid on the floor, allowing us to "conga" over him. Wayne was so popular that other women kept asking him to dance. It got to be very annoying. Wayne hung out with us on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, Wayne took turns staying with all of us as he was from out-of-town and did not have anywhere to live at the time. Besides, it wasn't a party without Wayne!
We were fortunate enough to have Wayne in our lives for about 6 months before he was tragically taken from us in an accident at Hessel Park. It happened while we were having a picnic during a concert in the park; Gator Alley was playing (of course). When the band realized what had happened, they had a moment of silence for Wayne. They, too, had grown quite fond of him. No one knew how to react to his passing for life was never the same. For a long time after, we reminisced about our time with Wayne. Whenever we spoke of him, those who hadn't had the pleasure of knowing him, would lament their misfortune. After telling one of our "Wayne" stories, one person commented, "I want to party with you!". We had to tell her that no party would ever be the same without Wayne.
Hopefully, this story wasn't too sad because I need you to know that Wayne was a blow-up doll. He looked like Wayne Newton but was not anatomically correct (as far as we know). Roxy's brother picked him up in Vegas. We did enjoy our time with Wayne. He was a great dance partner and he never talked back. He was always up for anything. Wayne's tragic accident happened because Roxy got carried away and bit a hole in him! As he deflated, he flew up onto the stage where the band was playing. Hence, the moment of silence! We had many good times with Wayne and (somewhere) there are incriminating photos to prove it. Guess I can never be President! A toast to the good, 'ole days and the gang from Aunt Sonya's!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tapping Creativity

It has been written that to tap into your creativity, you should make a list of 100 things you'd like to do - a "dream list" if you will. I did that a few years back and just came across it. Finding the list made me realize that I have, in some form, been working on a few of the items. A couple of things from my list:
  • Go rock climbing - I climbed a 50 ft rock wall this past summer in Michigan!
  • Write a book - I haven't started my book but I am writing this blog.
  • Own a roller rink - (I wrote that because I love to skate) I don't own it, but I sure spend a lot of time there these days with Roller Derby.
So, have I opened the door to my creativity with these activities? Maybe. Do you have those days when it feels like whatever creative spark you might have had has been extinguished? I know I do as most of the time I don't feel very creative. It took me a while to realize that you don’t have to be an artist, musician, or writer to benefit from unleashing your creativity. We all tap into our creative passion differently. For some, setting the table is an art form. For others, it’s playing the guitar, cooking, drawing, scrapbooking, writing, making pottery, aromatherapy mixing, candle-making, painting, wood-working, photography, jewelry-making, knitting, or flower-arranging.
Some tips to tap into your creative self:
  • Change your venue - find some new scenery and open up those blocked pathways.
  • Engage in childlike play - try hopscotch, Twister, scribbling on the sidewalk with chalk, jumping on a pogo stick, or swishing your hips with a hula hoop. You never know what ideas will come bubbling up.
  • Do something wacky - spend the day "turning left" and see where you end up!
  • Be in nature - there’s something about nature that can make you feel part of something much bigger. That sense of wonder may just stir things up.
  • Send your inner critic for a time out - give yourself some love instead. Get a massage, paint your toenails, or take a long soak in a warm bath.
  • Shake your booty - movement opens things up and brings a fire into your belly and into your creative life. Go dancing, take a yoga class, climb rocks, hike, stand on your head, or just wiggle around your living room.
  • Try something new - whatever it is you'd like to try, quit talking about it and just do it!
  • Create a ritual - invoke your muses in a ritualistic way that feels right to you.
  • Take a nap - a nap may be just the thing to rejuvenate and inspire you.
  • Pay attention to everyday magic - you don’t necessarily have to change your environment or your circumstances to experience life with fresh senses. Magic is everywhere, and where there is magic, there is creative flow.
Those who balance their right brain creativity with their practical, analytical left brain live life more fully, more healthfully, more vitally, and more successfully. Who doesn’t want that?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Tower Card

Today's tarot card is the Tower. The Tower card suggests that my alter ego today is the Survivor, whose superpower for revolution lies in my epiphany for change, brought on with the aid of a serious reality check. Today I have reached a turning point. It may be all over but the crying -- but I have the strength to move on and create a better situation for myself. You may say that I never saw it coming or learned the hard way, but with profound change comes new opportunity. One door closes -- another opens. So tear down the wall, and rebuild anew. Sometimes, when accepted and welcomed, divine wisdom and enlightenment flow freely like a calm river. The rest of the time, wisdom is blocked until it rages forth like a tidal wave and crushes anything in its path, including the recipient of the wisdom. This is the energy of the Tower card, an energy very similar to Death in that it is both a destructive and a creative force. When a building is old and decrepit, it must be demolished so that a new structure may stand in its place. The same is true of the symbolic Tower. When old attitudes and beliefs are outdated, you will have to let go of them, whether you like it or not.
In most cases, the latter is true - you do not want to give up your ideals, and you cling to them like a child to his precious security blanket. This attempt at security ensures nothing, really, except a disastrous change that will painfully rip away that which you did not discard of your own volition. But there is a greater purpose at work here. The power of the soul and the mind is far greater than the energy of some physical thing, and it can be taken with you anywhere and always. To extend the security blanket analogy, the blanket must be taken away so the child can find power and security within himself, instead of within some material object. When you believe material objects are more powerful than spirit and mind, you start building up a Tower of falsehoods on a very unstable foundation. If, by some miracle of engineering, it does not collapse under its own weight, you will eventually push it over yourself. The Tower falls not because Fate says so but because something within can no longer endure the strain it must bear. Sooner or later it will give out. This is a humbling experience because its lesson is that no one is invincible. The problem for most people is that they concentrate on the negatives and ignore the great opportunity that has been given to them.
The fire of the Tower card burns away all that is negative and outdated, but it leaves behind all that is positive, all that is necessary to begin your life again and replace all that was lost. In essence, this is the energy of Death and Temperance combined, because sweeping-away and building-up both happen at about the same time on the Tower. As soon as the tumbling figures on the card land on the jagged rocks of reality, they are greeted with the influx of wisdom that they need to survive. And with that wisdom in hand, they can take the first step back on the true path to enlightenment: building a mental Tower to Heaven rather than a physical one. When wisdom must be forced upon you, or when ignorance must be taken away, the Tower will appear to let you prepare yourself. If you choose to let go of what you no longer need, and accept what you do need, things will go much more smoothly and without frustration. If you ignore the warning of the Tower, however, and cling to the status quo, be prepared for a downfall. You have been oversleeping and this is your spiritual wake-up call. When the Tower is in the area, know that anything that seems secure could not really be safe at all. If a change is destined to happen, to not try to fight it, because all change happens because it is needed.
On an inner level, the destruction of Tower is akin to the breaking-down of the fortress called the ego. When you build a wall to hide your secrets or to conceal your true self, you must know that sooner or later the wall will come tumbling down. Fantasies are particularly prone to being shattered by the power of this card; the Tower dissipates them like sunlight burning away fog. Fantasies and daydreams will not help where you are going so it is best to let go of them now. Do not place your faith in illusions of security; the crown on this card must be worn on by a human head, not placed atop a tower of cold stone.
Wow! I wonder what the cards are trying to tell me?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Roller Derby is serious!

Not a lot of "me" time today even though it's Saturday! I ended up at work for about 2 1/2 hours as it was pouring down rain. I did manage to get my required mouthguard for derby and study the rules some. I also reviewed the required proficiency skills and hand signals. This is some serious shit, now! In order to be put on a team, one has to pass both the written test and the skating proficiency test. We are beginning the testing process this month.

So many myths abound about Roller Derby so I will address some here:

Myth: Derby girls are rough and rowdy — nothing but trouble.
Fact: Though we’re rough and tough on the track, this is a sports team dedicated to good sportsmanship. Our goal is to provide strong, positive female role models, give back to the community and promote the sport of roller derby (and have a little fun while we’re at it).

Myth: Roller Derby is staged, the whole game is fake and the winner is decided before the players take to the track.
Fact: Roller Derby is a true sport, and as such, all the hits, plays and penalties you see play out on the track are real and not “staged.”

Myth: You can tell the hits and fights are fake because they don’t get hurt.
Fact: All skaters are required to wear protective padding and train to fall in order to minimize injuries to themselves and others. But injuries can and do happen. EMT and other trained medical personnel are present at all bouts to ensure skaters receive immediate medical attention in the case of an injury.

The new generation of derby skaters pays homage to the theatrical tradition of the past but play by real rules with real penalties, real referees and real champions. Modern day roller derby is a fast paced, hard hitting, explosive sport.

The Twin City Derby Girls is a skater-owned and operated nonprofit organization. All of our skaters, referees and support staff are volunteers, and even put up their own money to play.

WE ARE STILL RECRUITIN'! We are still looking for skaters, volunteers and sponsors. Be sure to check out our website at

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mitral Valve Regurgitation

Today was my first Herceptin only infusion. You may remember that late last month I had an echocardiogram to check my heart. Today, the oncologist told me my numbers were good but that I did have mild regurgitation. Mitral valve regurgitation — or mitral regurgitation — happens when your heart's mitral valve doesn't close tightly, which allows blood to flow backward in your heart. The mitral valve is located between your heart's two left chambers, and allows blood to flow forward through your heart during a normal heartbeat. Mitral valve regurgitation is also called mitral insufficiency or mitral incompetence. I was shocked to learn this but he didn't seem very concerned because for mild cases, treatment may not be necessary. He plans to monitor it but feels it is ok. When mild, mitral valve regurgitation may not progress and never pose a serious threat to your health. I asked if this was caused by the Herceptin, but I didn't get an answer.
When working properly, heart valves open and close fully. In mitral valve regurgitation, the mitral valve doesn't close tightly. So, with each heartbeat, some blood from the left ventricle flows backward into the left atrium, instead of forward into the aorta. Regurgitation refers to this backflow of blood through the heart valve. People who take ergotamine and similar medicines for migraines and those who took pergolide (now removed from the market) have an increased risk of mitral regurgitation. Similar problems were noted with the appetite suppressants fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine, which are no longer sold. Also, by middle age, many people have some mitral valve regurgitation caused by natural deterioration of the valve. However, mitral valve regurgitation causes symptoms in only a small percentage of older adults. Boy, with cancer the fun just never ends!
Recommendations for improving your quality of life if you have mitral valve regurgitation:
  • Check your blood pressure regularly. Control of high blood pressure is important if you have mitral valve regurgitation.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Food doesn't directly affect mitral valve regurgitation. However, developing coronary artery disease — blockages of arteries that feed your heart muscle — may lead to heart attacks with further weakening of the heart muscle. To follow a heart-healthy diet, eat low-fat foods and check your cholesterol levels regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight may make you short of breath and may complicate heart surgery if you ever need it. Keep your weight within a range recommended by your doctor.
  • Cut back on caffeine. Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) may occur in people with mitral valve regurgitation. Arrhythmias may worsen if you consume caffeine.
  • Cut back on alcohol. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause arrhythmias and can make your symptoms worse. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause cardiomyopathy, a condition of weakened heart muscle that often leads to mitral regurgitation.
  • Exercise. Physical activity helps to keep your body fit and may also help you to recover faster if you ever need heart surgery. Don't stop exercising if you've received a diagnosis of mitral valve regurgitation.
  • See your doctor regularly. Establish a regular evaluation schedule with your cardiologist or primary care provider.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Waxing Nostalgic

Sorry that there was no post last night but I had a horrendous headache. I even missed roller derby practice! Yesterday was my first "official" day at part-time and I spent it fighting that damn headache. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself anyway, but that sure wasn't fun. In theory, the time off is great but in practice I'm having trouble "letting go". It is so automatic to jump in and take care of things, that I have to remind myself that there is someone else "womaning" the organization. Today I went to Springfield for a workshop. When traveling, I like to listen to my MP3 player (on my phone) through my hands-free device. As I'm trying to figure out what to do with all this free time, I'm thinking back on what I used to do in my younger days. That's when I realized that I have an eclectic mix of music and many of the songs have a special meaning that take me back.
I love 70's music! Let Your Love Flow by the Bellamy Brothers is the song we used to skate backwards to at the Roller Rink. We also skated to Saturday Night by the Bay City Rollers. Both of those songs make me want to throw on my skates and take off! I have even been known to "pretend skate" through the grocery store when one of those song was playing over their speakers! Me and my best friends (Karen, Sharon & Lori) were "rink rats". We loved to roller skate. Hell, I still do! We were there every Sunday night and sometimes other nights as well. There was a whole Sunday night crowd of us who used to skate together. Those were some good times that give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I like to think that Lori, who departed this life several years ago, is roller skating wherever she may be and smiling upon me as I roller derby. I'm excited to say that next month I'm planning a weekend visit with Karen and Sharon and I can't wait!
There are other songs like, Help Me Hold On by Travis Tritt, The Chair by George Strait, If Tomorrow Never Comes by Garth Brooks and Killin' Time by Clint Black that remind me of the Aunt Sonya's crowd (Char, Roxy, Amy and several others) who hung with me at The Rose Bowl on Sunday nights when Gator Alley played. After all, we were their back-up singers, aka "The Gatorettes". We certainly weren't very good but we were enthusiastic! We worked hard and played even harder! I could not have asked for a better group of friends. I could always depend on them, no matter what. We always had a good time, even when we fought over "Wayne". Alas, "Wayne" is a story for another night!
And then there are songs like Bohemian Rhapsody and We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions by Queen that are extremely special because they remind me of Hannah & Mike "rocking out" when Hannah was about 3 years old. They would listen to Queen and play "air" guitar. They were quite cute together. I didn't realize that music held so many happy memories for me until I saw my playlist. So many "happy places" to visit through music!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Energizer Bunny is taking a break!

Some have called me "The Energizer Bunny" because I keep going and going...even through chemotherapy, a fiscal crisis and a reduced workforce on the job. In case you don't know, the Energizer Bunny is the marketing icon and mascot of Energizer batteries. It is a pink toy rabbit wearing sunglasses and blue and white striped sandals that beats a bass drum, bearing the Energizer logo. His personal mantra is "Keep Going". I have been given the opportunity to reduce my work hours to part-time for the next few months and I'm taking it! Now, those of you who know me well are probably saying, "WTF? What's the matter with her?" How will I spend my time? I'm not exactly sure! Perhaps I will take this time and embark on a journey of self-discovery. The process of self-discovery involves asking a series of questions, always probing deeper until the underlying truth emerges. I can ask myself the following 10 questions:

1. What is the purpose of life?
2. What is my goal in life?
3. Why did I choose this career?
4. How do I spend my spare time?
5. What is my motivation for doing what I do?
6. What really makes me happy?
7. Am I as happy as I want to be?
8. Is it more important to be rich or to be happy?
9. What are my future plans? Why?
10. What are my secret dreams and ambitions?

I won't be surprised if the answers aren't immediate. This process can take months. I'll have to stick with it and find out what makes me tick. Actually, the most important question to ask is: "What am I living for?"

It is critical to our well being that we believe and understand that we each have an individual purpose as well as a purpose of oneness with the entire universe. Our purpose is not defined by our title, nor by how much money we have in the bank, nor by whether or not we are in a relationship. I am here today because I have purpose; I am here today to fulfill my purpose. Some people get hung up on the belief that their purpose must be of some notoriety, while for some they may gain notoriety as they live their purpose. It is important to note that our purpose is to love and to experience this life. I want to live life to the fullest, live life on purpose!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Tarot Card For Today

Today's tarot card is the Hermit. The Hermit card affirms that my alter ego today is revealed in the Doubter, whose superpower is to reconsider acts as a beacon to a second chance through soul-searching. The truth is out there, so leave room for uncertainty. Isolation without aim, or to avoid or linger among past emotional baggage is to navigate by a sign which obscures validation and burdens perspective. It's all catching up, but results to date are not enough. Today I make time to 'go retro' to assess matters or hedge my bet, and let conscience be my guide. It's only by illumination of my failures in this personal quest for truth that I can start to measure success or recognize an opportunity for trusting my heart and stepping back into circulation. Look to past experience for strength or enlightenment, or suffer in silence, or look for trouble, speculating or wandering in the dark until the chance is lost.
The Hermit is a card of introspection, analysis and, well, virginity. This is not a time for socializing; the card indicates, instead, a desire for peace and solitude. Nor is it a time for action, discussion or decisions. It is a time to think, organize, ruminate, and take stock. There may be feelings of frustration and discontent during this time of withdrawal. But such times lead to enlightenment, illumination, clarity. The Hermit is a card of connections and enlightenment. Combined with a desire to just "be alone," the one who gets this card is probably feeling impatient with people who disturb their peace or who can't see what they're seeing ("Are you blind?" might be their refrain, or, more typically, "You just don't get it, and I can't explain it to you."). They're likely to be grumpy and anti-social but this is a special time. Like an artist who hides for days then emerges to paint a masterpiece, this quiet time allows all the pieces to fall into place. So go ahead and encourage them to go on late night drives, long walks, hide in their room or go on retreat for a month. When they come back, they'll see everything in a brand new light. It'll be the best thing for them, and for everyone else in their lives.
In regards to people, the Hermit represents a wise, inspirational person, friend, teacher, therapist, someone the Querent (one who inquires) usually sees alone, someone the rest of the Querent's friends and family may not know about. This a person who can shine a light on things that were previously mysterious and confusing. They will help the Querent find what it is they are seeking. Very interesting because this is exactly how I've been feeling, like I am searching for something. Let's hope I find it soon!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Tami Management"

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can
determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
~Carl Sandburg

If you've been reading this blog, you may know that I have talked about just how precious time is and how it now "flies" for me. And in that vein, you need to know that time management is a myth! No matter how organized we are, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn't change. All we can actually manage is ourselves and what we do with the time that we have. I like to call it "Tami Management" rather than Time Management! The focus of time management is actually changing your behaviors, not changing time. Maximize your day with these seven tips courtesy of Then, apply them again tomorrow.

7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Days

1. Write a To Do list - Include from 4-6 tasks on your To Do List, and work on those items. Don't allow yourself to put anything else on your list, until those initial items are completed. In addition, be sure you have a mix of A (High), B (Medium) and C (Low) Priority items on your list. Try to have your list reflect 60% 'A' Priority items, 30% 'B' Priority items and 10% 'C' Priority items.

2. Write a NOT To Do List - Write a list of what you're doing each week that you want to stop doing. Remember, you have the power to say 'No.' The choice is yours.

3. Give yourself an hour - Give yourself a minimum of an hour a day. Use this time to read, meditate, enjoy your garden, take a walk in the park--whatever it is that you love to do. And whatever you do, don't break that appointment with yourself.

4. Get enough sleep - Determine how many hours of sleep you need, and get that needed sleep each night. If possible, try to go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each day. This will help your body get into a routine.

5. Take short energy breaks - If you're hungry or you are feeling light-head, take a short break and have a snack--something nutritious.

6. Eliminate interruptions - If you really need to get something done, it's important to focus. And the only way to focus is to eliminate interruptions. Close your office door. Let your calls go to your voicemail or answering machine.

7. Define your hours - If you need to work on something important every day, define the hours you plan to work on that project and block those hours of time out on your calendar.

Establish your true priorities, and then allow yourself the time to do what needs to be done. Anything less will result in stress and disappointment. You may just find yourself stress-free and most successful when you give yourself permission to take the time to do things that are important, and even more successful when you allow yourself the time to do them right.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday is "Me" Day

Since my mother now has breast cancer, I've been thinking about my own diagnosis lately. When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, it was unreal. It was difficult to accept that my body was betraying me by harboring a life-threatening illness because I felt no pain and appeared to be just fine. But losing my left breast made it all too real. I felt denial, anger, anxiety and even grief, which I understand are perfectly normal responses to such a traumatic event. I felt assaulted, first by the cancer, then by the surgery and then by chemotherapy. I also experienced those same feelings one feels after being assaulted: loss of control, fear, and self-doubt (big time). Having breast cancer challenged my self-esteem, my sense of who I was, my self-worth and self-image. I had to adjust to the changes in my body yet recognize that I still possess all the qualities that make me who I am.
I also felt relieved after the surgery since the cancerous tumor was gone, happy to be alive and determined to let go of all the negativity. I am fearful of recurrence, unsure about reconstruction and confident in my survival. I know that all of these feelings and fears are valid. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease forces you to confront your fears about death. We are all mortal; we are all going to die someday. I am finding that the best way to come to terms with my fears about death is to face them, accept them and go on living. That is how "Me" Day came about! Now, I haven't ever been good at taking time for myself and this has taken some effort on my part, but I'm doing it.
On Saturdays, I drop Mike off at the Circle of Friends Day Center and head off to roller derby practice. Once done with practice, I have about 4 hours to myself. I can choose to spend it by myself or with others. Sometimes I take myself to lunch with a good book. Other times I head to the bookstore or the library. One Saturday I went to lunch with my sister and mother before spending the afternoon with a good book. Once, I even went shopping (which I usually find bothersome at the very least). As the weather turns warmer, who knows what I'll be off doing?! Taking time for myself is really about self-care and is an extremely important component to creating the life I want. It is about honoring myself and connecting with myself. Taking care of myself is one of the first steps on the journey of discovering my truth and accessing my creativity. When I take time for myself it allows me to stop doing for awhile and to just BE. It is in the BEing where my power lies. I automatically raise my standards and capabilities and create potential and possibility in my life. When I honor and nurture myself I can hear my inner voice much more clearly - I can hear my own truth and this connection enables me to live authentically. I want a life "well-lived" with no regrets!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Radiation Therapy

I've been reading up on radiation since my mother is a good candidate for it (if she has a lumpectomy). I was under the impression that radiation is easier on the body than chemotherapy but the more I learn about radiation, the less I think that. But patients should only experience side effects related to the area of the body being given the radiation therapy. Side effects usually begin by the second or third week of treatment, and they may last for several weeks after the final radiation treatment. In rare instances, serious side effects develop after radiation therapy is finished. The side effect most often reported by patients receiving radiation is fatigue. The fatigue patients experience is usually not very severe, and patients can often continue all or some of their normal daily activities with a reduced schedule. Many patients continue to work full time during radiation therapy.
Tumors are made up of cells that are reproducing at abnormally high rates. Radiation therapy specifically acts against cells that are reproducing rapidly. Normal cells are programmed to stop reproducing (or dividing) when they come into contact with other cells. In the case of a tumor, this stop mechanism is missing, causing cells to continue to divide over and over. It is the DNA of the cell that makes it capable of reproducing. Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to damage the DNA of cells, thereby killing the cancer cells, or at least stopping them from reproducing. Radiation also damages normal cells, but because normal cells are growing more slowly, they are better able to repair this radiation damage than are cancer cells. In order to give normal cells time to heal and to reduce a patient's side effects, radiation treatments are typically given in small daily doses, five days a week, over a six-or seven-week period. It is estimated that more than 50% of cancer patients will receive radiation at some point during their treatment.
Radiation therapy is considered to be a "local" therapy, meaning it treats a specific localized area of the body. This is in contrast to systemic therapies, such as chemotherapy, which travel throughout the body. There are two main types of radiation therapy: external radiation therapy, where a beam of radiation is directed from outside the body, and internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy or implant therapy, where a source of radioactivity is surgically placed inside the body near the tumor. We should know next week what she will be facing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Breast Cancer Patients' Bill of Rights

I feel like I'm back at square one with my mother's breast cancer diagnosis. So, remembering how overwhelming hearing the words, "You have breast cancer" was for me, I wanted to make sure that my mother knows what she has the right to expect. As a breast cancer patient she has a right to:
  • A diagnosis within a week of a suspicious mammogram and biopsy. A quick diagnosis will help to allay anxiety.
  • A prompt referral (within three days) by her family doctor to a breast specialist or team specializing in breast cancer.
  • A breast specialist with whom she feels comfortable. She may feel that she doesn't have time to find a good caregiver, but most breast cancers are slow-growing. She should ask her family doctor if there is anything about her diagnosis that would prevent her from taking the time to find a good specialist.
  • A specific diagnosis. She now knows she has breast cancer, but she needs to know its attributes. Is it estrogen dependent? How many lymph nodes are involved? What stage is the cancer? The answers to these questions will dictate her treatment.
  • A second opinion. Mistakes can be made, so she'll want to confirm the details of her diagnosis. Her biopsy slides should be sent to a pathologist (preferably one who specializes in analyzing breast tissue) at a different institution. In addition, she may want a second opinion when it comes to deciding on her treatment.
  • A copy of her medical records, including the pathology report. She'll need them to obtain a second opinion and for your her files. Most states allow consumers access to their records, but may charge a small fee.
  • Information about her condition and treatment options in language she can understand. If the doctor is having trouble communicating in layman's terms, he/she should recommend books or Web sites that might offer clearer explanations.
  • Know the scientific evidence behind the doctor's treatment recommendation, and the strength of that evidence. Doctors are often influenced by their peers in the way they treat diseases. For instance, studies have shown that women are more likely to get a mastectomy if they live in the Midwest. Scientific evidence shows that a lumpectomy with radiation is often equally beneficial.
  • Information about the benefits and risks of a particular treatment in her case-including the benefits and risks of not having the treatment.
  • Information about clinical trials. Some doctors don't recommend clinical trials to their patients because they don't want to admit that they don't know something about breast cancer. Plus, some doctors don't want to lose a patient to a clinical trial for financial reasons. So she should ask your physician if he/she knows of any studies she might be eligible for, and check the list of trials at the National In-stitutes of Health Web site: www.
  • A referral to another breast specialist if she's having trouble communicating with her doctor. If she's not happy with her doctor's referral, she should ask other breast-cancer patients in her community about their physicians.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another breast cancer diagnosis in the family

Today my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has a small, cancerous lump in her right breast. It is less than 2 cm. They are thinking lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing a suspected malignant (cancerous) tumor, or lump, and a small portion of the surrounding tissue from the breast. This tissue is then tested to determine if it contains cancerous cells. A number of lymph nodes may also be removed to test them for cancerous cells (sentinel lymph node biopsy or axillary dissection). If cancerous cells are discovered in the tissue sample or nodes, additional surgery or treatment may be necessary. Women who undergo a lumpectomy normally receive radiation therapy (RT) for about six weeks following the procedure to kill any cancer cells that may have been missed with the removal of the tumor.
Radiation therapy is used as an attempt to kill any cancer cells that may have been missed during the lumpectomy. Radiation therapy is a standard follow-up treatment for any woman who has had a lumpectomy. The woman is typically scheduled to receive radiation therapy for about six weeks beginning as soon as possible after the lumpectomy, usually after the breast has been given some time to heal (about a month). Radiation therapy is given daily, with each session usually lasting a half hour or less, and does not cause any pain. Some women with small tumors may be candidates for local breast irradiation that is given twice a day for five days. Chemotherapy may be given to the woman, especially if tests reveal that the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes. The doctor may also prescribe tamoxifen (Nolvadex) or recommend hormone therapy.
I did not have the option of a lumpectomy as my tumor was too large. I also did not need radiation since the entire breast was removed. So, this is a whole different ball game. I'm trying to talk her into having her treatment down here so we can be available to help but she is so damn stubborn. I can only hope that she doesn't need chemo as chemo is HELL! I wouldn't wish chemo on my worst enemy. Strangely, I feel like I'm reliving my own diagnosis as all the fear and uncertainty came flooding back. I also don't have enough information on her diagnosis so it's hard to know how to suggest she proceed. She sees her surgeon on the 11th. Although this isn't about me, I just don't know if I can wait that long to know how to proceed because the waiting is the worst!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Obsessed with death?

For a while now, I thought that I was obsessed with death. Then, I found this on the internet:

5 Ways that Prove You are Obsessed with Death

Your Favorite Websites are: at this website you will find the recently deceased myspace members and the cause for their deaths. This website allows you to view their myspace page as well. A warning, some are very sad and disturbing! go here if you want to put in a little information about yourself and see when "The death clock" predicts you will expire. They use different little things that you do to predict this event. this is one of the largest Death and Obituary databases there are online. Here you can find anyone that has died in the world, for a fee of course, in less than a minute.

Your favorite things to do:

Visiting cemeteries and looking at the pictures on all the graves. Maybe taking snap shots of the graves and when you show the pictures adding that you admired the flowers. Checking to see the birthdates and see if they match your own or someone you know.

Your favorite things to read:

All the books and magazines that cater to poor old Hollywood tragic short life situations. Maybe, you've just become obsessed with sad poets such as Sylvia Plath, Sarah Hannah or some of the others that have commited suicide and write such deep depressing poetry and thoughts on it.

Your favorite DVD's:

You have all the faces of Death movies 1, 11, 111, 1111..worse of faces of Death, faces of Death fact or fiction etc... These are movies that "supposedly" show the faces of real live "deaths". It is very graphic and not for the young or sensitive!!

Your favorite things to write:

Your "Last Will and Testament" is an absolute necessity, but some people change their will several times a month!

Writing poetry and journals that speak of death as though it was going to happen in the next second.

Ok, I will admit to #3, reading about those who have died tragically but I guess I'm not so obsessed after all! The truth is we all are going to die eventually, but it is not healthy to dwell on it every day, not for your health or your state of mind! That's good because I like to think I'm obsessed with living these days!