Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Little Update and Some Books

(tortured with patio furniture shopping)

It's summer!  After the longest winter of my life I feel like my body can't repair itself fast enough  with good fresh fruit and vegetables, and sunshine and warmth and love.

I am on the mend but much more importantly cancer-free and looking forward to the gains I am making in getting my ordinary days back-a "new normal"-sort of like after we have babies and we know nothing will really be the same again but soon enough the discomfort of getting used to change feels ordinary.  I've realized that I am not very good at "doing change"-whether it's what cancer does to a person, or children leaving the nest.  I am hoping to get better at embracing it all, knowing the constant is the family that we have created and the home that we all love, but as you all know, a mother's life requires that we embrace the ebbs and flows.

I hope and pray and am so eager to leave the nightmare of cancer behind me.  It really feels like a new world and I don't know if I am ready to talk about it all yet or ever.  I just want to hold my family close and soak up the sunshine and lazy days of summer with my husband and children next to me.

Thank you so so much for all your lovely comments, emails and prayers, they mean so much to me.

I've read a few good books I wanted to share-these are light summer reads (it is hard for me to concentrate on anything more-I have to grow some new brain cells!) that have happy endings.  That's what suits me right now, and if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them.

I went on a Meg Mitchell Moore kick-I love how she weaves normal family life and circumstances into her writing.

Grown children come home unexpectedly, some with children in tow, and the parents find their empty nest full once more-I love this because parenting never really ends-and home is a place for refuge.
(I've read this a couple or more years ago but re-read it again.)

A high school girl succumbs to the pressure and competition of being admitted to an Ivy League college, and her family life unravels.

When her father is injured in a boating accident, his daughter returns to a life she left long ago, replaced by busy motherhood and "country club" existence.

This is one of those very very original books, where you think the author has to be a creative genius.
It's about a very odd woman, who figures out 'life' while eventually dealing with horrors of her past.
It's sad but funny and warm and uplifting and I couldn't put it down.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ordinary Days I Miss You

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you, treasure you, before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest for some rare and perfect tomorrow.
-Mary Jean Iron-

I just wanted to give an update-I didn't ever intend to abruptly stop blogging but I felt in my heart it was time.  I don't know that I have anything else to say, and I feel like God might be calling me in other directions but now is not the time to make that decision.  Thank you so much for all your kind emails and comments over the years and I have loved the friendships that have developed (kindred spirits!) through this avenue.

But also why I've been absent-in October I found a lump in my breast quite accidentally.  I never did self-breast exams because I thought since I had no risk factors to speak of, that was one cross I wouldn't have to bear in my life.  But I found a lump one day-and found out soon afterwards that it was cancer.  A rare kind of aggressive breast cancer (triple negative) that spreads and grows quickly.  I had a "good" mammogram in January but the lump was large enough to be obvious by October.  I just finished 16 rounds of hard core chemo and will follow up with a couple surgeries and hope to avoid radiation but that will be determined later.  And then I will continue to do a lot of praying and deep breaths and crying and doctor appointments and pray pray pray that it doesn't come back.  Because I really love life.

I meant to write this post several times but just couldn't.  I still don't know if I am doing the right thing by sharing it since it seems like a very very personal private journey.  After a cancer diagnosis like this, you feel like cancer takes over your entire life.  And it does really.  And I can't tell you how many times I have said, "I want my life back.  I don't even remember who I am and what my routine was like."  Many times I just don't want to talk about it.  The mirror reminds me every day.  (Never complain about your hair!  Hair is wonderful and keeps you warm. :)

Here are a few things I have learned and would like to share:

1. My breast surgeon told me that the week I was diagnosed she had two other women around my age (48) in the office with  same "rare" diagnosis as me-NO risk factors to speak of, healthy fit women who "did everything right". No one gets a free pass from breast cancer. Check your breasts every month.  Go to THE BEST hospital with the best equipment every time you need a mammogram.

2. If you feel off in any way with your health do not neglect finding out why.  I had been exhausted for close to a year or more and should have taken more time to find out why.  Maybe it had nothing to do with cancer, but maybe it did.  Don't give up on getting answers even if it is hard to find the time to do so.

3. Treasure your days.  You never know how life will change.  Slow down.  REALLY slow down. Although I have talked endlessly about doing that on this blog, I was a hypocrite in ways, because I was a bundle of energy and stress trying to do too much sometimes even if just for my own family.  I have realized I process stress terribly.  I hold it all inside and have worried way way too much about things.  Don't do that.  Don't be strong all the time.  It is ok and good to cry.  It is ok to say "I am struggling with life" to your husband, your friends, or a therapist, and take time for yourself and to pray and journal and be calm.  If you struggle with anxiety, get help.  Take care of yourself. Totally reject the culture of perfectionism, competitiveness, and comparison and illusion that is so easy to find everywhere today. Get enough sleep.  Take walks.  Say no.  Or if whatever it is helps calm and center you say yes.  Grow closer to God.  Build your faith.  Take time to pray every day.   

4. Work hard to find gifts in struggles.  God Almighty, this is so difficult when you are in the middle of crap.  Really it is and some days I just couldn't (and can't).   Sometimes I would set a timer to force myself out of bed.  I have been lower than I ever have experienced in my life.  I have seen and experienced a whole other level of suffering and hope and pain and strength in that damn chemo room.  Often I have heard how strong I am-this is what you say to people facing cancer.  But I have always been uncomfortable with that, although I know it is a form of encouragement and I would say the same thing.  Let me tell you,  I have seen strength through this experience from my fellow companions in the journey through cancer.  But what does not being strong look like?  It's ok to cry your heart out, and say you can't do it (with whatever you are facing) and don't want to and be mad and angry and sometimes hopeless and desperate.

I  couldn't go to church because of low immunity and instead found a few priest's homilies on podcasts and one quote I keep on my phone from Father Ricardo (or maybe it was Father Hudgins) is, "Find meaning in suffering.  Do you see what the Lord is up to?  The greater the suffering we endure the more beautiful plan He is unfolding before us.  See it, know it, believe it."  I have read that 1000 times.  When I look back on other struggles in my life, incredible growth comes through suffering, even though it was always always hard to believe that in the thick of it.  I also think as silly as this is, of Dori from Nemo-"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming."  It reminds me to just keep walking through the pain and suffering, keep praying for strength through the journey.  I have changed and grown so so much in the last six months, even though I sometimes fought against it and wished it away (and still do!) I know I have learned too many things to even list.

5. What is the most important thing in life?  Your relationships with people around you.  First with God, and then with your family and your friends.  I can't even tell you how grateful I am for the undying love and dedication I have experienced through this journey from my husband, my children, my friends and extended family and even strangers.  It has been an incredible experience that way-I have felt like I have moved up to a whole other plane of love-a perfect example of growth through struggles.





Sunday, December 17, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

   

Let me not wrap, stack, box, bag, tie, tag, bundle, seal keep Christmas.
Christmas kept is liable to mold.
     Let me give Christmas away, unwrapped, by exuberant armfuls. 
Let me share, dance, live Christmas unpretentiously, merrily, responsibly with overflowing hands, tireless steps and sparkling eyes.

     Christmas given away will stay fresh—even until it comes again."

Friday, December 15, 2017

Some Teen Gift Ideas

Favorite Toys here.
Favorite Games here.
Book Gift Ideas here.


Ok, ready?  Boys and girls mixed in, junior high into college, here's a list of ideas from Abbey and some of her good friends. (I begged only a few suggestions out of my boys.)  Also at the bottom, is a cute post my daughter wrote when a few years ago with more ideas.

These are GREAT inexpensive headphones.


Nike socks-girls and boys wear them. I have bought so many pairs of these! Where do they all go?

Very popular right now, lots of different choices.


Makeup brushes. I am told they don't have to expensive to be quality.




Sanuk flip-flops.

Soft PJ's.  The Aerie brand is popular.

Crocodile clips.  Can be found at any drug store

Not Your Mother's Beach Spray and Dry Shampoo

These Lush bath bombs are a perfect gift and have a five star rating and are very popular.

Personalized Coffee Mug
This cute one is from Anthro for $8, but you can find these everywhere.

YogaAccessories (TM) 1/4'' Extra Thick High Density Yoga Mat (Phthalate Free) - Jasmine Green
Earth Therapeutics Aloe Socks, Pink

Electric Blanket-Abbey LOVES her electric blanket (and boy did it come in handy early this year when Janey and I had a terrible bout of pneumonia.)  I bought her one at Kohl's on sale.

Fuzzy Blankets
We have this one and this one-these are found everywhere, the softer the better.

IPhone Cases
My niece uses the Otter Box  Commuter Series and really likes it-they are affordable too.
Abbey uses a LifeProof (after having to replace the screen because of a breakage she decided it was in her best interest to spend a little more.


neff Men's Daily Pipe Glove, Cyan, Medium
neff gloves-boys or girls!

neff Men's Daily Beanie, Green, One Size
neff beanies-again, boys or girls, lots of cute colors.

Duffel bags-especially for college kids-Lands End has great ones, I love their sales, and you can get them monogrammed.

Quad copters. This is the brand we chose and you can read about this fun toy here.


Here is a list from a couple years ago, written by my daughter:
Shopping for teenagers is definitely harder than other ages (I would know, I am one) and one of the biggest problems is not knowing exactly what they want.  If you're stuck on this and need a few ideas, these are some of my favorite things that I have gotten, and some things I am asking for this year!

Headphones. Definitely a broad topic. My favorite are the brand Skullcandy .  Lots of styles, affordable, and great quality! Pink and purple are my go-to colors.

Something that I am in desperate need (okay, want, sorry Mom) of this year, this iPod adapter thingy for an older car like the one Isaac and I share.  Because radio music can get old too fast when they play the same songs over and over...

The Wet Brush Detangle Brush . Last time I went to the salon, the lady who trimmed my hair suggested this because my hair is so long and gets tangled so easy. It works wonders.

OPI and Essie nail polish. great quality and true to color. New favorite colors: Gargantuan Green Grape by OPI (minty green) and Mango Bango by Essie. You can find Essie at Target and OPI at salons and makeup stores like Sephora and Ulta.

Image result for mauve opi nail polish

A subscription to InStyle magazine.  Full of great ideas, new trends, fashion advice, cool pictures, and classy clothes!  Once I am finished reading a magazine, I look through it and cut out pictures that inspire me and my style and collage them onto my doors.

Every girl needs something Vera Bradley! Such cute patterns and very durable. I use my bag for everything, school, shopping, etc. (Sometimes I see these at TJ Maxx for a great price.)

Robin Hood Kate Wristlet
And when I don't feel the need to lug around my big purse, I love a wristlet. This one comes in tons of different patterns.

Also I put my cards in a pouch on the back of my phone.



One of my absolute favorite Christmas presents last year from my grandma was this Color Daze Blockbuster from Sephora.  (NOTE: This is crazy expensive now, this is a similar kit at a price close to what was paid for the above kit.)  For girls that love experimenting with makeup and trying new techniques, this set comes with it all: Mascara, blush, eyeliners, lip gloss, eyeshadow, luminizer, and brushes. It could also be a good starter kit.

A jewelry organizer is a must-have for a cluttery closet! This one hangs anywhere and is two-sided.

Hope this helps!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Easy Holiday Recipes

Food, food, food-my life seems to revolve around it, it seems, especially at this time of year.  Here are some simple recipes that make my life easier this holiday season.

If I need to bring an appetizer to a party, my feta dip is super easy and I know it will be gone in seconds.  (It is my most viewed post, no kidding.)  No oven, no bowls, no mixer, no stove top.  Here is the easy step by step recipe.

If I need to bring a dessert, I know Kitty's Brownies will be a huge hit.  I am telling you, these things are divine-and it's just brownie mix and 3 candy bars.  They are ooey and gooey and chocolately and taste like you slaved over them for hours.

Caramel corn or shortbread cookies are usually my old standbys if I want to bake a gift.


These pretzels are fun to make with kids and make a great snack.  My blog friend Sarah made them with her kids and they turned out prettier than mine ever do.  You can check them out here.

My favorite cut out cookies are from an old-fashioned recipe my mom used every Christmas when we were kids.  The recipe uses granulated brown sugar-they are sweet, but not too sweet, look like gingerbread, but not too gingery.  My kids love them. Here is the recipe for Butterscotch Rolled Cookies.
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I have talked about meal planning and how it really saves me time and money and my sanity also-more than ever this season.  Sometimes I just about hate doing it, but if I don't we will end up eating take out pizza every night.  Here is an example of my menu for the week-I just want to prove that it does NOT have to be fancy-I always think "meal planning" just sounds overwhelming. I use notebook paper and tape it up where I can see it every morning. Grilled cheese and soup one night-or pizza night on Saturday-no gourmet dinners or five course meals here.  (Lots of my recipes are here and I've been adding new ones every week.)