Today's guest blog comes from Monica Cajayon, who is featured on the cover of the Spring 2011 issue of Lupus Now magazine along with her brother, Eduardo Xol (ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition). Read, in her own words, how her Zen retreat is helping her living with lupus. You can also read more about her story in Lupus Now.
Having lupus, it’s very important for me to minimize stress in my life. When I moved into my home, I really took inventory of my life and cleaned house, literally getting rid of anything that didn’t add value, symbolic or otherwise, to my everyday life. I can’t stand clutter, so the first thing I wanted to do with respect to my backyard was to create a calming space where I could relax and enjoy the surrounding mountain views.
Last summer, just six months after moving into my first home, my brother, Eduardo Xol, a member of the design team on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had a little break in his busy work schedule and offered to re-design our backyard. We live against the foothills in the San Gabriel Valley area, so it’s incredibly hot in the summertime. The previous owner had a variety of bushes, plants and trees in the backyard, but no unifying style. Quite honestly, our backyard was a bit of a mess.
My brother thought I might really like a beautiful space to meditate, read or simply relax. Being extremely sensitive to sunlight, I also needed at least a semi-shaded area to avoid excessive exposure. Knowing how much I love Japanese design, Eduardo decided to remove a few olive and citrus trees, dramatically prune other native bushes and ferns, and remove random flowering plants. He then replaced the other trees with a few maples, added green shrubs and Japanese boxwoods, and various pine bushes. To complement the plant choices, Eduardo hand-stained the existing pavers on the garden floor black. The real treat, however, was that he created two lounge areas, one with a fire pit to enjoy the evenings with my family, and another shaded area just outside our living room.
This much needed Zen retreat that Eduardo designed has allowed me to relax outside with my family in an environment that is conducive to living with lupus. I especially enjoy the quiet mornings and evening dinners with my husband and daughter in our backyard oasis.