#30 days

 

20160706_112252#30 days left (minimum) of social distancing here in Massachusetts! How about you? Here are some fun/inspiring/challenging 30-day ideas for #athome:

Delicious:  30 plant based power bowl recipes

Gentle:  30 days of yoga

Challenging:    30 days of daily burn workouts

Inspiring:  30 days to declutter your home    

Informative: The Alcohol Experiment audio   &  30 days to interrupt your pattern

Let us know if you try any of these or other 30-day challenges! We have the power to raise the consciousness of the planet by raising our own, one good choice at a time. #stayhome  #stayhealthy 

The Silver Lining in Sensitivities

pexels-photo-1099680My oldest daughter and coauthor of this blog, Brittni,  was recently ruminating over her inability to consume anything but the cleanest substances without suffering some pretty significant consequences.  Any caffeine, even if consumed first thing in the morning, will keep her from sleeping that night. A single alcoholic drink in the evening has the same effect. Gluten, sugar, and even dairy and meat have a noticeable effect on her energy levels and mood. She is intolerant to many medications. The list of sensitivities could- and did- go on.

You are the luckiest, I’ve said to her more than once.

Essentially you are forced to have a clean diet and live such a healthy lifestyle.  You cannot skimp on your self-care without some real suffering. So you have the opportunity to be the pinnacle of health and well-being!

Of course, I do sympathize too, especially on the caffeine front. She has two toddlers. I cannot imagine having gone through the toddler stage without my morning coffee.

And I also know what it is like to be sensitive to substances.  A glass of wine or an extra pour of coffee can send my heart racing these days. Consuming sugar(my nemesis) or white flour products make me want to take a nap.  But I am not as sensitive to such substances, or to the loss of sleep they may cause.

Recently, I heard of a new book, a memoir, called We are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life.  It is written by Laura McKowen, a woman who struggled with  alcohol dependency.  I immediately fell in love with her title and delved into the book, interested to learn about all the ways she thrived when she gave up her vice. And she is indeed thriving, but holy high balls, she takes the reader through some devastating sh** before she reaches the lucky part.

Still, in the end, she is lucky and amazing and makes some very valid points about the rest of us, too okay or functional or distracted to even contemplate giving up our diversion, whatever that is for us. Instead of thriving, we may be chugging along in mediocracy.

So for all you sensitive types, who cannot tolerate whatever it is that you cannot tolerate – noise or stress or alcohol or sugar or negativity or whatever your poison is- chances are it’s something that isn’t really great for anyone.  But you, my delicate flower, the orchid, the canary in a coal mine, your rock -bottom of tolerance is always right there forcing you to course-correct with your next breath, with the beating of your wild, tender heart.

You are the luckiest.

Where’d You Go, Creativity?

21897 cropped lake pic
It is no accident that I am writing about the challenge of carving out a creative life when it’s been about six months since I’ve written anything here.

Why is it so challenging to carve out a creative life that stays consistent?

Allow me to state the obvious:  Creative projects are often  solo pursuits in which we have to give ourselves permission, accountability, boundaries around our time and the will to keep going when it is just so easy to let it go among everything else competing for our time and attention.

And in addition to a creative life requiring time to create, it also requires time to just be. Writers and other creatives need alone time like they need air and water.  So if we need quiet time to prime the pump and quiet time to create, and we live in a time that practically insists – or at least expects – us to be hyper focused on the outside world, much more so than on our inner selves,  then of course it takes more than a little effort to protect a creative life.

Essentially though, I know I am capable of doing better, of doing more. Life is full of choices and I think I am running out of excuses.

Recently, I saw the movie Where’d You Go, Bernadette, based on the bestselling novel. Bernadette, so far removed from her former artistic career, has become anxious, destructive and unhappy.

It’s not so difficult to imagine a bout of writer’s block that goes on far too long resulting in my own demise. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but the longer I leave a written book gathering dust, an essay unwritten, or new ideas to die on the vine, the more intimidating it feels to crack open the door to the work. It’s as though I cannot bear to face what I have neglected.

Good things, life affirming things, happen during a creative spell that are hard to replicate. When engaged in a creative pursuit, we are in the flow of a higher consciousness. In the act of creation we feel energized,  joyful, at peace, and expanded.

We don’t think and feel in the same way. Those neural networks our survival thinking had wired are turned off …we see new possibilities. We are now quantum observers of a new destiny. And that release heals the body and frees the mind”.

 ­- Dr. Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.

In short, we are better when we are creating! We are happier, calmer and freer. Who doesn’t want that, for themselves and every creative person they love?

***

I could write about how to fight the good fight and maintain consistency in creativity, but clearly after such a dry spell, I am not the one to give such advice. Besides, it’s been spelled out already in some fabulous books such as The War of Art and Big Magic.

But speaking of magic, I occasionally get some good insights in my dreams and recently I awoke with these words in my head:  Just do a little bit each day.  The message was that simple and that clear.

So there you have it. This was my little bit for today.

HALF THE CHILD Author Event

Please join us for a book discussion on Saturday, April 27th

1:00pm to 3:30pm at the Holliston, MA public library

752 Washington Street, Holliston, MA

Questions?  You can email Dana:  danalaq@gmail.com

*RSVP helpful but not required

HALF THE CHILD takes place over four consecutive summers in the lives of Michael Mullen and his son Benjamin, who ages from 2½ to 5½. The novel chronicles the separation, divorce, custody battle, and abduction that threaten to tear apart father and son. For Mike, an air traffic controller at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the cost of asserting his rights as a father and Ben’s rights as a son continues to escalate and negatively affects Mike’s career, education, financial state, friendships, romantic life, physical health, and emotional well-being. Yet he steadfastly refuses to consider a life that consists of him living apart from Ben. Ultimately, they will write their own love story. HALF THE CHILD was a semi-finalist in both the James Jones First Novel Competition and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition.

William J. McGee is a journalist, teacher, and consumer advocate. He also is the author of ATTENTION ALL PASSENGERS, a nonfiction exposé of the airline industry. He lives in Connecticut.

The Wolf at the Door

“The world breaks everyone, and then some become strong at the broken places.”

 -Earnest Hemingway

 

October 31

My husband receives a call from the doctor who has his biopsy results. The small lump at his jawline is not uncommon- the doctor has been optimistic up until now – cavalier even- but it turns out that his is not benign at all. It is a rare cancer of the parotid gland.

We are about to find out that getting a cancer diagnosis causes one to enter the stages of grief. First stop: denial.  How can this be?  He is healthy.  His medical reports have always been perfect. He is active, a young fifty-five and never felt better.   

***

I’ve forgotten all about Halloween and now it’s getting dark, the time that little ones will start showing up at our door, looking for treats. We have no candy and are in no mood for visitors. We turn out most of the lights and sit in the near-dark living room, allowing this new reality to sit with us.  We’ve kept the trick-or-treaters at bay, but we are not alone. There is a wolf at the door, and it is Cancer.

I call our daughters and deliver the news.

My husband is very concerned about disrupting mine and the girls’ lives. Always confident, capable and available, he feels he is failing us with this new and shocking title: cancer patient.  Usually such a logical man, this makes little sense. Of course he did not choose this, no one does, and all we care about is him getting better. But the love and protection he has always given us, above and beyond what is expected, is one of the things I love about him. And now I want to protect him, to cure him, to save him. I am simultaneously aware of my inner strength and my mortal limitations.
November 8

It is our 31st wedding anniversary and also the day of my husband’s surgery. The surgeon removes the tumor as well as many lymph nodes in his neck. The doctors call it a neck dissection, but my husband prefers to call it a neck fillet. Even in his current state, he maintains a bit of his sense of humor. I am relieved.  The past week has been emotionally rough to say the least, but we find reasons to laugh too.

 

November 22 

We follow through on our plans to host Thanksgiving dinner at our home.  It is a day of family and food and also of forgetting, for a few minutes at a time, that we are awaiting the next day’s pathology report.
November 23

 We stop at the second floor of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. We are fortunate to be just an hour drive away from such a reputable treatment center. We ride the elevator to the second floor.  “Welcome to the land of the fucked”, my husband says as he looks around.

The oncologist is young, impeccably groomed and impossibly thin. He’s also friendly and kind but maintains the necessary level of detachment.  He delivers the pathology report. It has been a successful surgery. No facial nerves were damaged.  But cancer was found in one of the thirty-one lymph nodes that were removed. We discuss treatment options.
November 25

I gather books and food; I read and cook and freeze and clean. My husband makes calls and fills out paperwork. He deals with insurance details and prepares for his leave of absence from work. He is a pilot and I wonder if the radiation from the cockpit has contributed to this misfortune. Friendly skies my ass.  I make a mental note to research this.

We update the people closest to us. We are grateful for their kindness, and for the resources that we have to get through this great challenge as best we can.

 

December 14

Treatment begins. There will be six weeks of daily radiotherapy plus weekly chemotherapy. We have had every discussion, imagined every scenario, asked every question.

The technician brings me back to the room with my husband so I can see the radiotherapy equipment. They place the custom-made mask on his face and lay him down on the table. A giant machine looms above, like something out of Star Trek. The technician is explaining things to me, being both thoughtful and clinical, just like the oncologist.  I glance over at the table again, at my husband strapped down now, and my eyes start to fill. I silently demand of myself not to cry before I look back at the man who has been giving me the low- down on radiation. I cannot make his job harder, I think.  I cannot make any of this any harder.

 

December 25

Our daughters, sons-in-law and baby granddaughters are all gathered at our home. We are genuinely happy, our hearts full. My husband has a few days off from treatment, which feels like a gift.
January 1

One more month of treatment.  It will get progressively more painful from here, affecting his teeth, his mouth, his swallowing. I was made for hard things, but watching a loved one suffer is not one of them. I want to curl up in the fetal position at the thought of his pain, but mostly because of the shadow of uncertainty that Cancer has cast upon his life. I gather my strength though, doing my best to stay in each moment. I recall the words of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now: “Whatever your present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

Cancer arrived at the end of 2018, unannounced and unwelcome, an intruder in our lives. With all the love and strength and hope we can muster, along with all that modern medicine can offer, I believe we will send Cancer away. I picture my husband and myself, our amazing family, thoughtful friends, and the team of medical personnel, leaning on the door, all of us with all our might. We lock the door.

I believe the new year will bring healing, life, and glorious days.  I will welcome those moments, those days, eagerly, as if I had chosen them. God knows I have.

 

– Dana Laquidara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Ways to Calm a Highly Sensitive Nervous System

20141010_100545 lake pic turning leavesA Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is someone with the genetic trait of high sensory processing sensitivity. HSPs make up about 15% of the population, and have uncommonly sensitive nervous systems.

To me, the theory that many children who have attention deficit disorder are HSPs whose brains are trying to cope with the onslaught of sensory input, makes a whole lot of sense but is a topic for another blog post.

When the volume is turned up on the already very stimulating world, what is a highly sensitive person to do for relief? As you can imagine, or as you know if you are an HSP, this sensory overload can be overwhelming.

Here are my two broad and general tricks-of-the-trait, none of these ideas invented by yours truly, but rather adopted as habits that I’ve been naturally drawn to for their positive effects:

  1. Limit substances that negatively alter your nervous system. This includes caffeine which HSPs tend to be very sensitive to. Hello stimulant. If I have too much coffee, my heart beats out of my chest, I become anxious, irritable and generally want to jump out of my own skin. And by too much, I mean more than a cup or cup and a half in a day. Many HSPs need to avoid caffeine altogether.  As I understand it, alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant, so you get to be anxious and depressed if you consume enough of it.  Unfortunately, many HSPs overuse alcohol as a way to numb their central nervous systems and obviously this can lead to much bigger problems over time. Personally, I just feel bad if I consume more than one or two drinks; the brain fog that sets in almost immediately, the feeling of poison in my body, the tiredness to follow.  And I always feel better and clearer with none. The same goes for junk food.
  1. Increase activities that calm your nervous system. Exercise, yoga, meditation, time in nature ( or any quiet time). Highly sensitive people can enjoy stimulating environments such as weddings or parties, but we just crave less of it, and need to recharge in silence more often. After a certain number of hours, if I am in a noisy, chaotic or otherwise stimulating environment, I will find myself “checking out”. I’ve hit a wall. I cannot take in any more. And if my physical space is very limited (think a crowded bus or a concert, for instance), my tolerance level drops significantly.

 

There are many gifts to sensitivity, yet another topic for a new post.  But these gifts cannot be realized unless we are tuned in to our bodies, our feelings, our own needs. And when we do tune in and honor our unique temperament, not only are we living with more integrity and peace, but we also have more to offer this noisy, beautiful world.

~ Dana

Transitions

 

21897 cropped lake pic  One of my daughters used to have trouble transitioning through the seasons. She recognized the change coming through all of her senses. I can smell it, she would tell me with concern in her voice.  (Another daughter smells lightening coming, so talk about heightened senses!) I remember her resisting the changing over of jackets, not wanting to put on a winter coat and then not wanting to shed it as spring arrived. The jacket was a tangible sign of change and she wanted to cling to the old.

Recently I said goodbye to summer which is what got me thinking about transitions in general – how they require a letting go of what was in order to be fully present and embrace what is. Some transitions are imposed on us but others are a choice.

The most exciting, though not necessarily easy, transitions are the ones we choose make within ourselves; a new habit, a new focus, a peeling off of layers (of distractions, defenses, or old thoughts that don’t serve us). The change can triggered by a new season in life, or by a desire to make a dream come true. In some instances, it just becomes too painful or costly not to make a change.

We have to give up something of the lower self in order to attain something of the higher self, right?  Lately, I find myself wanting to make enormous effort in transitioning from the lower me who wants to give in too often to laziness, distractions, and wasting precious time, to the higher me who knows better and wants more.  I am looking at it like an experiment. If I do my best each day, how will I feel in a month, a year? Where will I be in three years?

Are you going through a transition? How is it changing you?

~ Dana

A Farm Fantasy

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Many years ago, I went through a phase when I sort of wished I lived on a farm. But when I dug deep into this desire, I realized I only thought of “farm” as a noun, and not as a verb.

To farm – the verb- would mean getting up at the crack of dawn and feeding or milking various animals, collecting eggs and gathering vegetables and swatting mosquitoes. And that’s just the first hour of the day.

I figured that I really just liked the idea of a farm – the adorable red barn (that would never need repairs) and the acres of lush green with little animals grazing (it would never snow) and most of all the farm fresh food that I would turn into healthy, delicious meals at the end of every day.

I would love the scenery, the spaciousness, the sunsets, the quiet.  It would be a great place to raise our children, I thought. The nature!  The freedom! 

But I wanted a farm without actually having to farm.  I’ve had a bad experience with chickens.  I like to spend my early mornings writing. I don’t exactly love getting dirty.

“I think you want to be a farmer’s wife”, my husband said.

“Probably not even that”,  I responded. ” I have issues with canning.”

Once I tried fermenting some vegetables. When it was time for me to loosen the lids on the jars I’d carefully placed in the basement, I could not get them off.  I was home alone with my future sauerkraut  and simply could not get the lids off, not matter how I tried.

I worried the glass jars would explode. I imagined shards of glass and shreds of cabbage bursting violently into the air, the smell of vinegar and rotting vegetables taking over our home.

I called my husband to ask if they might indeed explode.  He has a chemical engineering degree, so obviously he should know.

He told me they wouldn’t.  I didn’t think he sounded sure enough, so I kept a safe distance, treating the jars like angry house guests that might blow their tops, quite literally, at any moment.

***

I’ve long since given up my  farm fantasy.   I can buy locally grown produce at farmer’s markets, at least in the summertime.   I can find beauty all around me, in the plants and trees and art. It is easy for me to seek out quiet. I continue to spend my early mornings writing.

Occasionally, I still wonder what it might’ve been like to raise our daughters so close to nature, on some vast piece of land that feeds the soul. But I’ve also wondered what it would’ve been like to raise them in the city, surrounded by culture and diversity and subway systems.

Alas, every choice means saying no to something else.

And every farm needs a farmer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking Inside the Box

20180626_105010  Long before I ever had a laptop, back in the day when I was tapping at keys on a typewriter, I kept various writing notes in a decorative box, the kind you find at a craft store for keeping photos or other treasures in.  While I was raising young children and my writing time was limited, it got my creative juices flowing just to take the box out and hold in.  I always knew I’d get back to my work-in-progress when I could steal time again and often that was enough to keep me satisfied.

My daughters have grown and moved out, and like Virginia Woolf, I now have A Room of My Own in which to muse and write and pile up essays and book chapters on my laptop. But despite the space and all the technology available to me today, I have not outgrown The Box.

20180623_124724My box has changed in size and type only, having now upgraded to one I found at Staples that fits my 4×6 index cards full of notes, quotes, and ideas. It comes with matching dividers and an adjustable follow block, keeping all cards upright and orderly. If one can fall in love with a box, I surely have.

I store essay and blog ideas, memorable quotes, notes from books I’ve read, and anything else that may inform my writing.  For jotting down notes away from home, I simply carry a little green index card holder, one that easily fits into a purse or a book bag. Notes from this can be transferred into the box later.20180626_145743

Why not just store all these notes digitally? Because I often read in bed and want to be able to write on a 4×6 card rather than record info onto my laptop. But mostly because, whether working on an essay, blog or book, I want to be able to move the cards around, rearrange them while I am referring to them, build the piece I am working on.  Having so many tangible ‘moving pieces’ to work with gets me to the finished product, the whole thing, in a way that feels so satisfying to me. It’s all part of the creative process.

I see my oldest daughter, now a mother of two babies, struggle to find time to create.  I recently reminded her of her art journal, of the importance of getting her ideas down on paper, of not letting them fade away like a poignant dream that can no longer be recalled.  Whether in a box, a journal, or digitally, capturing our ideas in a way that we can easily refer to later, is half the fun and half the progress.

Place holders of inspiration. Nuggets of information. Parts of the whole, pieces of projects, even with small pockets of time, bit by bit will bring the dream into focus.