Amélie: An Alsatian Tale…Music as a Muse

49 Amelie Music Box

I love music boxes…

Last year our son and daughter-in-law came to visit us in Germany. We took them to Alsace, France because…why wouldn’t we. Our son had been before as a teenager on our family camping trip. This time we rented an apartment in the old city centre in Kaysersberg for several days. It was enchanting.

50 Blue Rental Kaysersberg

(We rented this blue upstairs apartment in Kaysersberg, Alsace, France.)

Previous to this trip, I discovered music boxes at a souvenir shop in Paris. They were cheap and fun. The perfect thing to start collecting. I came across the one pictured at the beginning of this post  in a little shop in Alsace while shopping with my husband, son, and his wife. They always have a significant number of music selections to choose from. I picked this one up and began turning the handle ever so slowly. The music was…enchanting. I looked at my family and said, “I’m going to write a story to this music. It’s wonderful and mysterious sounding.”

Then, as fate would have it, time passed and the music box sat on my desk, its story held captive inside. I was busy getting my first novel ready to publish, among many other things.

This fall my husband and I returned to Kaysersberg and a story began to form, as I’ve written about in previous posts. The name of my main character came on our second visit in as  many weeks…Amelie. My youngest son reminded me there is already a movie by that name. I’d forgotten, so I googled the name to see what all was out there. Basically, just this movie, which is in itself enchanting. A French film that takes place in Paris in contemporary times. Do I keep the name? Was I mistaken in choosing it?

51 Yellow Dresser French Room

Time passed again, and I was in our guest room, which I’ve decorated in what I like to call Alsatian-French Style. I noticed the little music box and picked it up. I turned the crank ever so slowly, and the haunting melody played. As it did, the story was released, and I knew I must find the name of this music. I remembered it had a french girls name in it, but more than that I couldn’t remember. How would I ever find it? I would have to wait till I returned to France…to the shop.

More time passed, and I was looking for French music to play while writing my new novel because it helps transport me into the world I’m creating. I decided to look up the soundtrack to the movie, Amélie. I listened to the first two songs and knew this was what I needed! I bought it. And, today, as I sat down at my desk to write, I hit play. Several songs into the album I heard it! I quickly pulled up iTunes and looked at the title of the song, La valse d’Amélie. (Amélie’s Waltz) It was the song in my music box. The one I bought in Alsace, where my medieval story takes place. It was like magic! I picked up the music box which I had placed on my desk days earlier and again, turned the crank ever so slowly. It was her waltz!

Music is a beautiful Muse indeed!

Guest Post: Cameron Von St. James

The following is a guest post by Cameron Von St. James…

Caring for My Wife During Her Fight with Cancer

On November 21, 2005, my wife Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. We will never forget that day, the day that our lives were changed forever. Just three months earlier, our only child, Lily, had been born. We had hoped that we would spend the upcoming Christmas together as a happy new family, but our happiness fell apart when Heather was diagnosed, and I became a caregiver in addition to a husband and father.

Things started changing before we even left the doctor’s office after Heather’s diagnosis. The doctor told us about mesothelioma and said we could choose treatment at a nearby university hospital, a reputable hospital in the region without a dedicated mesothelioma program, or a mesothelioma specialist named Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston. In what would be the first of many decisions I made during that time, I told the doctor that we were going to Boston.

In the following months, our daily lives changed dramatically. Previously, we had both held full-time jobs, but Heather couldn’t work after the diagnosis, and I switched to part-time so I could focus on making appointments, setting up travel to Boston and caring for our daughter. It wasn’t long before I was drained by the amount of work and number of decisions to be made. More than once, I crumpled onto the floor of the kitchen sobbing, wishing things were different. Fortunately, these moments of weakness were few and far between, and I never let Heather see me break down. I knew I had to be strong for her no matter what.

We were helped through that time by friends, family and even strangers. The financial help and emotional support was invaluable. Cancer patients and their caregivers should always take help from those who offer it during their time of need. Emotionally, this help is a powerful reminder of not being alone in the world.

Caring for someone with cancer is incredibly difficult. In the face of so much stress, you can never quit. Although you have to understand your emotions, you also have to manage them. No matter what, you have to stay hopeful and use your resources to get through this.

After Heather dealt with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, she miraculously survived mesothelioma. Now, seven years later, she’s still free of cancer.

Learning how to handle stress and manage time effectively during Heather’s fight with cancer prepared me for many more obstacles in life.  Two years later, I returned to school to get my degree. When I graduated with honors, I was my class speaker. During my speech, I told everyone how five years earlier, I never would have thought I’d be there. Above all, we have to remember that we can overcome if we keep our hope and believe that we can accomplish anything.


PET Scan Results: The Super Power of Prayer

48 Prague Lennon Peace Wall

Imagine a world with no cancer…

My doctor pulled up my PET scan results on her computer screen and smiled…a Cheshire Cat Smile. My Lymphoma is disappearing before our very eyes. The radiologist asked her what treatment I’d had to bring about the great change. I’ve had no treatment…yet. She said she’d only seen this one other time in her career as an oncologist. That patient also was a strong Christian and had also been the recipient of many prayers on her behalf. Miracle was a word used that day in my doctor’s office. No other explanation.

I’m so grateful for the grace given me. I don’t know what the future holds as I “live with lymphoma” but I do know for now I’m breathing deeper and walking lighter. I have a number of close friends battling cancer…too many. They are ever in my prayers and thoughts. Hoping for more miracles.