Clean Those Filthy Lenses, My Friend

Wow, this life is good…this feeling is hitting me especially hard today while reflecting on the week that is ending.  There are challenging days and moments in my rear view, but my heart is so full, and I’m left with a feeling of pride and hope.  I didn’t get a pay raise or promotion.  I didn’t achieve a lifelong goal.  I wasn’t given an extravagant gift or compliment.  Instead my wonderful life-view this week was the accumulation of the ordinary extraordinary moments.

I have weeks like this past week all of the time, as I’m sure you do as well.  I experience these extraordinary moments every day, but the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.  The difference is that many times my lens is out of focus….or more likely covered in dirt and fingerprints….or truly, covered in my worries, heartaches and anxieties.  Have you been there?  Are you there right now, unable to see the beauty before you because you can’t see past your challenges?

the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.

For me and my family, the hard times were there this week.  The sadness of illness, the pure exhaustion of working, keeping a household and having a million kids (okay, maybe we have two kids but it often feels like a million), and the injustices and unfair things that sneaked their way into my world daily.  What is different for me today is that when I look back on this  week, I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

So how do we get there, to the clean lens?  How do we maintain the gratitude that helps us to appreciate the good and to weather the not-so-good?  Here is a simple recipe:

  1. Ask for help when you need it.  Ask with clear, direct requests for the specific things that you need.  Don’t be a martyr or a victim of your situation.  Figure it out and be honest with those around you about how they can help.
  2. Read something that you’re interested in and invest in your own personal growth.  If you’re one that just doesn’t enjoy reading, I get it….but there’s this wonderful thing called Audible.  Download it.  Today.  Make the most of your time driving or bathing or washing the dishes…and put new and wonderful ideas into your mind and soul.
  3. Listen to music and podcasts that make your heart happy and inspired.
  4. Exercise, whatever that means to you.  It may be a five mile run, or it may be a ten minute walk, but move your body and treat it like a temple…it’s the only one you’ll ever have.
  5. Do nothing. No dishes. No laundry.  No cleaning or planning.  When your body and soul tells you that you need to do nothing, just do nothing and be okay with that.
  6. Say yes.  When your son asks you to play cars.  When your daughter asks you to go on a bike ride.  When your spouse begins a conversation, say yes and tune in.  When real joy is offered to you, say yes.
  7. Spend time physically close to your spouse…intimacy is so important and healthy for your relationship and for you as an individual.  We all need to feel physically connected to the person we love.  Hold hands.  Give hugs.  Look them in eye.  Connect.
  8. Be honest about your feelings.  When you’re disappointed, be honest about it.  When you’re struggling, be honest about it.  When you’re mad, be honest about it.  Putting all of those feelings out into the open allows you to deal with them and move on, and then, when the happiness comes, there is clear open space to let the good vibes in.
  9. Eat well.  Think about what you put into your body and treat your food as fuel most of the time…with the occasional mocha muffin splurge now and then.
  10. Don’t hold yourself to all of these things at one time.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Choose progress instead.  One step into the right direction.  One moment at a time.  Being better today than yesterday.  Living in this very moment.

For me this week, my extraordinary moments through my lens of gratitude looked like this:

  • My husband and I met with our children’s teachers for parent-teacher conferences, and got to see our children through their teachers’ eyes.
  • I spent one evening just curled up on the couch with my husband (not so easy at seven months pregnant…the two of us trying to fit on the couch together looks more like like an assault on my furniture than cuddle time, but we took time to make that happen and my soul is happier for it).
  • I saw my son set academic goals for himself and then put in the work to meet those goals.
  • I read my daughter’s latest book where she chronicled our back-to-school shopping adventure, and my heart melted in knowing that time together meant as much to her as it did to me.
  • I watched my son pitch, play first and second base, and get some good hits in at his ballgame.
  • I found my children snuggled up in my son’s bed this morning sleeping like angels, and came across one of those rare moments in between all of the sibling arguments where their love for one another shone through.
  • I went on a bike ride.
  • I had my 27 week OB appointment, heard my baby’s heartbeat again, and felt her move countless times.
  • I had lunch with a good friend, talked about hard things, and also laughed a lot.
  • I had a meal with my parents, sister, niece, nephew and my children.
  • I started reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and am loving it.
  • I listened to the Rise Together Podcast by Rachel and Dave Hollis and found myself so inspired that I was in tears.

In this moment I am GRATEFUL.  Just completely grateful.

Friendships that all Women Need

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There is a scientific theory called the law of averages, which says that any given situation will be the average of all outcomes.  Snooze fest, I know.  But Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, took this scientific theory and applied it to us, humans, and that makes this scientific jargon pretty darn interesting.  Rohn theorizes that each of us are the average of the five people that we spend the most time with.  Think about that for a moment, and picture who those five people are for you.  It’s pretty likely that you’ll see a lot of yourself in each of them.

So how is this information useful?

we can build upon who we are today, just by being intentional about who we surround ourselves with

This thought means that we can build upon who we are today, just by being intentional about who we surround ourselves with.  We usually spend time with people that we like, and most of us like people who are very similar to ourselves.  These relationships are comfortable.  But they keep us exactly where we are.  My hope for my readers is that you can look inside yourself and see places for improvement, because I truly believe that personal growth is the key to happiness in life.  The areas in which you are lacking, areas of opportunity if you will, can develop simply by surrounding yourself with someone who has mastered the desired quality.  To think about it a bit more simply, we learn from our friends.

We’ve taught this concept to our children, knowing the concerns we have about our kids falling into the “wrong” crowd, but have we thought about this for ourselves?  For adults, the “wrong” crowd means something different.  The “wrong” crowd for us can be something as harmless as the complainer, the pessimist, the fearful, the uninspired.  The people we truly invest in should be the people who can show us the bright side in this life, those who can put a smile on our face when we can’t seem to muster it on our own, the ones that push us a bit beyond our own limits and inspire us to be our very best self.

The “wrong” crowd for us can be something as harmless as the complainer, the pessimist, the fearful, the uninspired

I made a conscious decision some time ago to be intentional about my friendships, and the results have been incredible.  And here’s the thing, I totally have lifelong friends that I ran around in diapers with, and they feed my soul in a different way with memories, laughter, a special kind of sisterhood.  But for those relationships I foster as an adult, I’m not afraid to say I am choosy, and you should be too.

Here are three examples of ways that my selected She-Tribe have rocked my world in the past few years:

  • I had an insane idea to take a road trip up Highway 1 in California from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and I had not only one of these fabulous, brave, adventurous females sign on, but THREE.  Three devoted wives and mothers that saw an opportunity to have an adventure and grow personally, and thought it worth their while to spend their precious life moments with me.  Wow.  Without those ladies, I would have never made that trip, made those memories, or lived an adventurous dream of mine….I’m forever thankful.
  • I have had some personal and professional struggles over the past few months.  Without asking or even communicating what I needed, these women have sent emails, cards, and even small gifts of encouragement, love and understanding.  And even more importantly, they have asked, “How can I help you succeed?”  Every single one of us should be so lucky to have these people in our lives.
  • I have been inspired by their accomplishments.  I see what they do in their daily lives, and I am blown away by their strength, determination and boldness.  Those qualities that I admire make up the woman I aspire to be, and how I want my husband, daughters and son to see me.  These ladies make me want to be better, my best self.

This is not a science (although I started you off with some scientific theory…sorry about that!).  It is truly simple.  There are people you admire in life.  Ask them to lunch. Say hello.  Cut the small talk and have a real conversation with them.  You will be surprised at how open people truly are.  You don’t need to sit down and say in the most un-creepy way, “Hey, I admire you and want to be friends”….although this is something I would probably do….sorry to anyone I’ve creeped out in the past, or will creep out in the future.  It’s as simple as beginning a conversation, and allowing things to progress from there.  You won’t become best friends with everyone you would like to learn from, but you can certainly develop enough of a relationship to soak in some of what makes them so awesome.

Here are a few simple ground rules for me for my She-Tribe:

  • She has to be a “she”.  I have nothing against men.  In fact, some of the professionals that I look up to most in this world are men.  However old fashioned as this may sound, I will always keep my relationships with men professional, while I’ll allow my relationships with women to grow deeper.  I don’t want to form a significant emotional bond with any man who is not my husband.  As a married woman, I see that as inappropriate, and my husband has the same respect for me.  It works for us.
  • She has to be totally rocking something…her health, her mommy-ness, her positivity, her professionalism, her personal-style, her intelligence, her motivation.  Women who rock their lives are confident, happy, and willing to invest in friendship in the same way that I am.  It’s a winning combination.
  • The relationship must be reciprocal.  I’ve had friendships in the past where I thought the other person was great for one reason or the other, but I found myself constantly giving, constantly reaching out, constantly trying, without feeling like I was receiving the same in return.  This one’s simple.  Life is draining enough.  Friendships should not be draining.
  • She doesn’t need fixed.  I used to feel a drive to connect to people I could help, and not in a personal development kind of way, but in a struggling to find themselves kind of way.  I’ve learned that I cannot fix anyone, and shouldn’t.  We are each on our own path, and my way isn’t the right way for you, or her, or him, or anyone else.  Anytime I disrupt someone’s natural path, I am keeping from them from their personal journey.  Fixer just isn’t my place anymore, and it truly never was.

That’s it.  That’s all there is.  I hope you’ll take the time to be intentional in your life.  You deserve it.  You deserve to be surrounded with those who love life, who wish to grow and develop every single day, who rock life, who spend their time in an attitude of gratitude.  You deserve that, and I encourage you to create it if you haven’t already.  And if you have, kudos.  Keep on keepin’ on!  Please share your tips in the comments of this blog/post so other readers can learn from you too.

Make it a great moment, a great day, a great week and a fantastic life!

The Good

Thursday was a bad day.  The bad mojo actually started on Wednesday evening, when I made the unwise decision to binge watch Bachelor in Paradise instead of going to sleep at a decent hour.  I’m six months pregnant and sleep is my very best of friends, so I have no idea why I thought it would work out to stay up until 11:30 to see who got a rose.  Temporary insanity…wait, scratch that…Bachelor insanity.  I swear, those producers know what they are doing!

So I woke up groggy on Thursday morning, wishing I had thought more about my wellness than my reality television addiction.  And while I set with my coffee trying to readjust my attitude, my husband woke for the day, also in a very foul mood.  We’ve been married for a while now (just celebrated 12 years of marriage).  But even prior to marriage, we had discovered that morning is just not a good time for us.  I know other couples wake together, roll over and look lovingly into one another’s eyes, but that just isn’t us.  We have an understanding in the morning that we just don’t speak to each other.  He gives me my time to adjust to the world, and I give him his.  It works out perfectly for us.  This Thursday however, my husband dearest decided on his own to break our sacred agreement, and he unloaded his frustrations to me at 5:30 in the morning.  Ugh.  Not to sound like the worst wife ever, but I don’t even want to think about my own frustrations at that hour.  He realized his folly and apologized before giving me my morning kiss goodbye and heading out the door for the day.

I began the day’s routine, waking up my son.  Then off to my daughter’s room.  Sitting on the edge of her bed, I kiss her forehead and immediately feel the heat radiating from her tiny body.  Fever…there’s no mistaking it.  She wakes, telling me her throat hurts and sure enough, the thermometer confirms what my ther-MOM-meter already detected: 101.2 degrees.  What to do now?

My mom-planning starts to spin.  I begin to make phone calls and send texts.  I need to talk to my boss, arrange for someone to cover my responsibilities for the work day, find someone to stay with my daughter for an hour while I go to a scheduled OB appointment, write my son a note so that he can walk home from school instead of taking the bus to the sitters, call the school and let them know my daughter will be absent today, message my husband and ask him to request a vacation day for tomorrow just in case there isn’t a quick recovery this go-around.  These are the things that parents go through when life throws a curve ball, the thinking-on-our-feet, the quick reactions to make sure everything in life just keeps on moving along smoothly…we never miss a beat.

I saw my son off to school and snuggled my daughter, and I let the frustration of the unplanned, unscheduled day go.  I let it roll off my shoulders and I focused on my daughter…my puny, sore-throated, coughing, feverish, precious, little daughter.  That is the moment that my phone dinged.  A message, I had a message.  My husband messages me “I’m coming home at 9.  My machine is down today.  You can go to work today.  My work issue should be better tomorrow.”

What?!

Wait….what?!

To be clear, I am an administrative assistant.  I have to communicate with a minimum of five different people to be out for one day.  I had sent all of the messages.  I had made all of the calls.  I had everything lined out to be off of work on Thursday and back to work on Friday.  And now, that was all for nothing.  My mom-mind was spinning….if the husband was off today, then he couldn’t be off tomorrow, then I need to be off tomorrow, so I need to go in today, so I need to call my father-in-law and let him know I don’t need a sitter for my doctor’s appointment, I need to send five more text messages and….ugh, I need to take off my fuzzy pants and shower and brush my teeth, and make the switch yet again from mommy-mode to professional-work-Melissa-mode.  Again, my day turned upside down, and I felt like I was just along for the ride.

I sucked it up.  I showered.  I dressed.  I gave my husband a frosty welcome home.  I was sad, unhappy, frustrated.  There are other things brewing in our life as well.  And to be honest, while all of these circumstantial life events may have shaded my and my husband’s mood for this day, the real culprit…the real, gut-wrenching, terrifying, hard thing in our lives in this moment, in this season, has nothing to do with the happenings of Thursday.

My mother-in-law has been battling renal cell carcinoma for two and half years now.  She has faced brain surgeries, kidney surgeries, radiation treatments, and recently we had moved on to immunotherapy treatments.  I write “we”, but that is a lie.  She has faced these horrible things.  She has been the strong one.  She has endured.  She has survived these ugly things, and we have only been here to support, love and pray for her.  Because that is all there is that we can do.  The immunotherapy was supposed to be the saving grace, the magical medicine that would keep the cancer at bay so she can continue to enjoy this life with us.  We got the news a few days prior that the immunotherapy did not work.

I hesitate to share this at all, because this is not my story.  This is her story, but if I’m going to be completely honest with my readers, this is such a raw, close and intense part of our life, that I have to share.  I have to give you the full picture of the good and the scary parts of our lives.  We are not at the end of this story.  My mother-in-law has an appointment with MD Anderson this month.  She is strong and amazing, and all of the wonderful things that the rest of us can only hope that we have inside of ourselves.  She is truly a rock for us many times, although that is so backwards…we should be a rock for her.  But that’s not the truth.  This is our reality.  She is the strong one.

I left for my OB appointment with all of the weight of the world sitting squarely on my shoulders.  I felt heavy, sad…I felt like I was failing…at life.  My heart hurt.  My soul ached.  I sat in the waiting room.  This was my 23 week appointment.  At my 19 week appointment, we had an anatomy scan in which the doctor was able to clear everything for our little growing bud, except for her heart.  She was still just too small to get a clear picture of her heart structure.  So here I was at my 23 week appointment, heading to get another ultrasound, so that we could clear her heart, showing four beautiful chambers, working just the way they should.  I laid on the table with the lights dimmed, the tech placed the scanner on my belly, and on the screen appeared my baby, my third child, my second daughter, my beautiful blessing.  She had grown over the four weeks and her heart was bright and clear, pumping away, beating like the most beautiful drum.  And then I got to see her face, her perfect sweet little chin, her upturned nose (just like her sister’s), the sweet curve of her cheeks…and I realized, that this moment, this moment was good.

this moment was good

And isn’t that how life is?  The quote popped into my mind, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”  There is so much that is hard in life, so much that drains us and breaks us.  There are moments we want to give up.  There are moments that we cry, and scream, and times that we hate the things we are going through.  But even on the worst days, we are given these beautiful moments.  Even on the worst days, I can look at my son, at my daughter, at my baby bump, at my silly dogs, at my sweet husband, I can look to my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, our family, the cousins.  I can pull back to the memories, the trips, the beaches, the rides in a teacup, the hugs from a princess.  We can feel the breeze on our face, the sun on our skin, the floor beneath our feet.  We can find the good in the worst of times.  That ability is what makes us as humans so very unique, so resilient, so incredible.  The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

Wherever you are today, whatever life has thrown your way, whatever difficult, unfair thing, I challenge you to find the good.  Hug the good, kiss the good, absorb it into your being, absolutely squish it into yourself until you feel it inside, and you are no longer observing it, but feeling the good.  And if you can’t seem to find the good, I challenge you to be it.  Be the good because I guarantee those around you are in need of it.  We are capable.  We are survivors.  We are strong.  We are the good.

5 Things I’m just so OVER in my 30s

It’s my BIRTHDAY!  Woot woot!  That’s right, I’m celebrating my own birthday…and I’m not sorry.  I turn 33 today, and I have planned a massage, lunch with my two favorite people in the world (my mom and #1 sister….she’s my only sister but still my favorite), and some shopping for ME!  I took the day off work, which I have never done before, and decided to just enjoy my special day.  I’ve always loved birthdays, and I’ve put countless amounts of time and energy into celebrating those people around me.  However, I have never felt comfortable doing the same for myself.  But this year is different.  I’m totally and completely thankful for another birthday, for another year of this life, and I’m going to celebrate my life and all of the time I’ve been given.

My birthday, and all of this free time this morning, got me to thinking about how much I’ve changed since my teens and 20’s.  Inwardly, I’m the same bubbly, obnoxiously positive, and reserved person.  But outwardly, my habits and lifestyle have changed.   I’m thinking about all of the things that I’m just so OVER (and glad to be over) in my 30’s.  Here are my top 5:

  1. Late nights – Am I the only one who loves crawling into bed at 9:00….errrr, 8:30…..errrr, 8:00…..errrr, okay, okay, as soon as I possibly can?????  Late nights just aren’t gratifying when a five year old is staring at you at 6:00 a.m. waiting for her chocolate milk.  And mornings…I seriously love mornings.  All of the potential of a new day waiting for me.  The calmness of a sleepy world.  Why stay up late and miss out on the fabulousness of morning?  In my 30’s I am so OVER late nights.
  2. Cheeseburgers – And french fries, and deep fried oreos, and chicken strips…shall I go on?  In my 30’s, I eat healthy (aside from the cheesecake I indulged in last night).  But seriously, I make healthier choices, not because I have to, but because I want to.  I’m not trying to stay skinny.  I’m not trying to follow a fad.  I truly care about my health and quality of life.  In my 30’s I’ve found that when I eat better I feel better, and I’m so thankful for that revelation and the desire to make better choices for myself.  This is coming from the former “Queen of the Thickburger” (sorry Hardee’s), and I never thought the day would come, but I’m so OVER cheeseburgers.
  3. Needy People – I’ve had a lot of great people in my life over the years, and I’m thankful for each experience and how it’s shaped who I am and the life I’ve had.  However, in my younger years, I was drawn to people that I wanted to help/fix.  I had many wonderful friendships, but some relationships were draining.  I learned a lot, but friendship for me, in my 30’s, has changed.  Today I’m drawn to friends who challenge me to be a better, stronger, more mature and kinder me.  I want friends who challenge me to think differently, to try new and exciting experiences, and who want a reciprocal relationship in which we both grow together, learning and vibing off one another.  In my 30’s, I’m not interested in fixing anyone.  I’m interested in laughing and learning with my friends, and I’m thankful I have some amazing people in my life fill that space in my heart/mind/soul.
  4. Trends – Trendy clothes, trendy diets, trendy social media, blah, blah, blah.  In my 30’s trends make me tired.  I’ve become a fan of the tried and true.  I want my clothes to be classy, I want my food to be healthy, and I want my communication to be real life.  I value my time and energy.  In my 30’s I’m not interested in being cool or hip.  I’m interested in being me.  Doing the things I love, the way I love to do them.  I’m so OVER trends.
  5. Birthday modesty – As you’ve seen above, I’m pumped it’s my birthday, and I’m okay with that.  I’m so over birthday modesty.  And this why…the fact that we were born….that we were created should be celebrated.  We need to celebrate the fact that our existence isn’t random, we are not accidental, we are not the result of chaos.  Instead, our creator took the care, thoughtfulness, humor and creative effort to design each strength and weakness that we possess.  He did this all in an effort to prepare us for the path that He has made for us.  How can we not celebrate our special day, the day we were born and began this amazing journey?  I’m so OVER birthday modesty….I could not be more grateful for my birthday today.

I received a birthday card yesterday from my co-workers, and it truly touched my heart.  It says:

Celebrating you. On birthdays, we honor our beginnings and remember that in God’s eyes, we have a place in this world no one else has.  Your birthday is a reminder that God put you here for a purpose.

How amazing.  My childhood was magical.  My teens were adventurous and also tumultuous (as everyone’s are).  My 20’s were too much fun and transformational.  And my 30’s….well, so far, my 30’s are just right.

I hope you enjoy your birthday this year (feel free to celebrate yourself…you have my permission).  Every day we are given is a blessing.

 

Making This Year’s Resolution Just For You

This is the time of year that we all start to look back and reflect.  Although we know that time is continuous, it is hard not to feel like one door is closing and a new, bright, shiny door is opening. I have been thinking about 2017 over the past few weeks, trying to recall what I have accomplished, where I have grown, what made me smile and how I spent my time.

The single, over-powering memory that crowds my thoughts is the hours upon hours of studying.  I completed six MBA courses in 2017…and it was hard.  It took most of my free time, and the focus and dedication it required, stole some of my happiness.  While I am proud of my accomplishment, a particular sadness hovers over the fact that school is my most vibrant and lasting memory of the entire year.

I woke up this morning and began to look back at my pictures, blogs and FB statuses in order to see where else I spent my time.  I saw pictures and blogs from early 2017 when we were worried that Jera, my then 4-year old, may have cancer due to an asymmetric enlarged tonsil.  It brought back the memories of her tonsillectomy and waiting for test results that followed.  I thought about how grateful we were when those results came back cancer-free.  I am thankful to have a healthy and vibrant 5-year old today.

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I saw Facebook status updates on my mother-in-law’s surgery to remove her second brain tumor.  I thought about the journey she has been on, and our journey with her, as she has dealt so bravely with renal cell carcinoma (and when I say dealt so bravely, I mean kicked a**).  Pardon my language, but it is what it is.  I think about her recent test results that showed no new tumors and how truly thankful we are to have her in our lives every day.

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I thought about losing my grandfather, Linus Knebel, and in doing so, watching my father lose his father.  I thought about how brave my grandpa was the last time I saw him and how strong my dad was in letting him go to be with God.  And in thinking of these milestones, I thought about how grateful I am for my own parents.  How truly blessed I am to have them in my life, in my children’s lives, every single day.

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I saw pictures of happier times too.  Jera’s preschool graduation, which feels like a lifetime ago, but was only months ago in reality.  My son, Jace’s, first day of third grade and Jera’s first day of Kindergarten.  I saw our family vacation to Kentucky and all of the joy we felt being cooped up in a cabin together.  I saw a trip to California to see my sister-in-law’s new home.  I saw pictures of taking my children to Disneyland, venturing to Santa Monica Pier and swimming in the ocean, traveling down to Laguna Beach and watching Jace jump into the waves.  I saw three great friends fly into LAX to meet me (in Christmas sweaters IN JULY!) and then make the drive up Highway One to San Francisco.  I saw a gum wall in San Luis Obispo, an ultra-windy/hilarious boat ride to Alcatraz, and a breathtaking (figuratively and literally) hike through the Redwood Forest.

As I sit here and recall all of these absolutely amazing moments, I am shocked to feel like they happened to someone else.  I am sad to think that the memory that sticks with me is the struggle to balance, the exhaustion, the feeling that I haven’t been good enough, done well enough.  How can that be?  How after so many life changing experiences can I be left with only memories of feeling defeated?

I am well aware of my character flaws, perfectionism being one of my worst.  I work on this every single day, and every day, it is a battle for me.  I have thought a lot about what my New Year’s Resolution could be for 2018.  Nothing has stood out to me.  Of course, there are plenty of things I could work on, but knowing I’m going back into another MBA course in one week is daunting, and I fear putting additional pressure on myself.  In April I will complete the MBA program, and this very challenging goal will have met its end.  I am sure I will find myself looking for my new normal and things like a clean house, working out and fitness, social events and all of the items I currently view as luxuries that I do not have, will find their way back into my priority list.  But for today I cannot think of those things.

So what can I do for the New Year?  How can I ensure that I don’t come to the end of 2018 and only recall the struggle?  The answer is both ridiculously simple and impossible.  I must work to be happy.  I had a lot of happy moments in 2017.  I am so thankful for this year and all of the blessings that I was given, but I don’t remember this as a happy year.  For my New Year’s resolution, I will focus on my happiness.  I will find time to do the little things that make me happy.  It sounds selfish.  It is an absolute truth that in order to make others happy, you must first make yourself happy.  To be the mother, daughter, father, son, sister, brother and friend that we were designed to be, we have to find our heart’s happiness.

Do you do that?  Do you find time for yourself?  Do you find time to do something that YOU enjoy, on your own.  Not for your family, for your husband or partner, not for your children, church, not for your employer, pet, parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors.  There is so little time and we often feel guilty about what that means to those we love.  So we focus on giving what little time we have left to others, which is fantastic, BUT we must give to ourselves first.

We must give to ourselves first.

For me, happiness is writing.  Writing is what makes me happy now in my life and it is just for me.  Whether it be in my blog, or my newly started journal (throwback to junior-high Melissa and I’m loving it!), I will take time, whether it be five minutes in the morning before the crazy day starts, or an hour on New Years Day while my family buzzes along without me (they’re really all okay, I swear…to my amazement they don’t even miss me when I take an hour to myself).

I hope for this New Year’s resolution, you do something just for you.  Take a moment and think about what makes you feel really good.  Not about the reaction or approval of those around you, not even of the result…but think about what you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled.  Got it?  Okay, now can you put a little bit of that thing into every single day?  Do you think you can do that?  I hope you’ll consider it.  I hope you’ll commit to it.  Most of all, I hope you’ll take time to love and care for yourself in the New Year.  You deserve it.

What do you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled…

Happy New Year to all of my readers, friends and family.  Thank you for taking time out of your day today to share with me.  Much love.

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A Bump, a Blessing and a Biopsy

Today was the day for a mammogram and ultrasound…the day to get some answers about the bump that caught me by complete and utter surprise yesterday morning as I laid snuggling in bed with my youngest.  At 31 I had never had a mammogram before and I was nervous about the procedure as well as the answers that it could lead to.  Thankfully I received an enormous amount of support after my blog post last night and it helped to give me strength.  I received countless messages, comments, friends sharing my story and asking for prayers…as I said yesterday, I believe in the power of prayer and your prayers carried me through today.

Back to the mammogram…a friend had advised me to take a couple of Tylenol beforehand to offset the discomfort of the test…I had no idea what to expect.  A bundle of nerves, I was relieved to find not one, but two friends, waiting for me at the registration desk.  I registered and made my way to the Women’s Center.  There I dressed in the lovely hospital gown (at Jace’s tonsillectomy the week before a nurse referred to the gown as the “Dr. Seymour Butts Gown”…I liked that.  I’m easily entertained.).  Within ten minutes I was escorted to a room and had my very first mammogram.  I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as awful as I had feared.  Awkward…a little.  Painful…not at all.  Also, word of advice, you can’t wear deodorant when you have a mammogram.  Sometimes being a woman is so weird.

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From there I waited in the waiting room for a few more minutes before it was time for the ultrasound.  That procedure took a total of five minutes and the doctor came in shortly from there.  From entering the hospital doors, registering, having a mammogram, having an ultrasound, the whole ordeal took less than an hour.  The doctor read my tests and explained to me that he believed (and please forgive my lack of medical knowledge…I interpreted the best I could) that the lump in my breast was a tumor (not the word he used).  He could not be sure if it is malignant or benign.  He explained that he had a two percent leeway to make his assessment.  If the tumor had characteristics that cause it to fall between the 0% – 2% range, he could assess that the tumor is benign and no other action would be necessary.  Unfortunately, my tumor has some abnormal characteristics.  He assured me that the likelihood of the tumor being malignant is still very low (he placed me at the 5% range) but he could not be sure without performing a biopsy.

I was left to dress and then met the nurse to make an appointment for the biopsy.  She explained that during the biopsy the doctor would give me a shot for general anesthesia that would numb my entire breast.  From there he would make a tiny incision and insert a needle to remove samples of the tumor to send for further testing.  The doctor would receive my results back within 24-48 hours and would have me come into the office to talk through the results, as well as to check my incision.  She pulled up the calendar and found that the nearest appointment was on the 30th…eight days away.

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I left the office feeling a little deflated.  I was thankful for that the tumor was most likely benign but still uneasy to not know for sure.  I also couldn’t imagine waiting eight days to have the biopsy and then an additional one to two days to learn the results.  I realize this is the experience for most people…the waiting.  My heart aches for them.  I’m not sure that there is much worse than not knowing.  I headed home and made a few phone calls to give updates to my family.  I choked back tears thinking of going through Easter egg hunts, church services, work days with this heavy burden on my heart.

I was still processing my morning and allowing the events of the past 24 hours to sink in when my phone rang.  It was the hospital.  They had a cancellation…it was about 11:30 in the morning and they could take me today at 1:15.  This is a miracle in my mind and soul.  I didn’t expect or dream that this would happen although I prayed for it, and to my awe and surprise, my wait was over.  Eight days were turned into an hour and a half.  Isn’t that amazing???  I was in awe.  I called my sister and asked if she could come with me.  And as always, she didn’t miss a beat.  There was no question…she was by my side.  My Pastor also stayed with me through this entire ordeal.  I feel so blessed to have so much support.

The nurse had warned me that the numbing shot for the biopsy would be painful.  She actually repeated that sentiment several, SEVERAL times.  I went in anticipating a painful experience and to my surprise…it wasn’t bad.  That’s all I can say about it.  It isn’t the most pleasant experience…I don’t care to do it again…but all in all, it wasn’t bad.  After making the incision, the doctor placed the long, needle-like instrument into my breast.  I could watch on the ultrasound as he prodded the mass in my body.  He warned me that I would hear and feel a pop and sure enough, there was a pop.  I don’t know for sure but I imagine it is like when you get your finger pricked and the little needle explodes from the plastic to pierce through your skin quickly.  After the pop, he would draw out the instrument, remove the sample and then go through the process again.  We did this a total of four to six times.  And then it was done.  The nurse applied pressure to my incision for fifteen minutes, dressed the wound and I was able to get put my clothes on and head home.

Hopefully, the results will be in by noon tomorrow.  If the results come in, I will return to the hospital between 1:00 – 3:00 tomorrow and learn what my results are.  At the absolute latest, the results will be in on Thursday.  Either way, good news or bad, I will know an answer for certain by the end of this week.  I can’t exercise for 48-72 hours.  I can’t take any aspirin, blood thinners or ginkgo biloba.  I can’t lift more than 10 pounds.  But that’s it.  At this point that is the only fall-out from the bump that turned my week on it’s head.  I can handle all of that.  I can be grateful that there will be an answer…and hopefully one that says that I am cancer-free.

I still can’t believe the past two days have even happened…they have been bizarre and blessed and unreal all at the same time.  I have felt every range of emotion…fear, sadness, nervousness and anxiousness, happiness and excitement, worry, stress, thankfulness.  The past two days have been everything…every single thing.  But what stands out the most to me is the kindness.  I have been shown so much love and kindness over the past two days that I am astounded.  I have received messages, prayers, surprise visitors and friends that wouldn’t allow me to do this alone.  I have been given support from those that are closest to me and old friends alike…from those that know me well and those that have only known me a short while.  The nurses and the doctor were nothing short of amazing and gracious.  They were understanding and patient.  And above all other amazing happenings the past two days, when I received the call that said I could have the biopsy today…eight days before the next opening…I saw all of the prayers come into fruition.  I can’t say thank you enough to those of you who took the time to mention me in your prayers.  It is so powerful.  So thank you.  Thank you so much.

I hope to have an answer tomorrow and will update when I do.  Tonight I am thankful for God and his graciousness.  Today could have gone much differently but tonight I feel I can go to sleep with some peace.   The tests are done.  What will be will be.  Now I wait on results.  I have nothing but hope and optimism for what tomorrow will bring.

I am the Tickler of Toes…Among Other Things

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After my first blog, I was talking with a friend who also blogs. She said to me “I’m not a writer”…to which I responded “I’m not a writer either.” That sentence, that thought, that discredit, stuck with me. Why do we do this to ourselves? True…blogging, practicing my writing, exercising this rarely used art form of prose, is very new to me. But what would I have to accomplish to make me a writer??

I came across this same quandary when I began running 3 years ago. I’d repeatedly tell people “oh, I’m not a runner…” What I was thinking and feeling is “please don’t judge my running…I’m not fast…it’s not pretty…I look and feel like I’m dying when my feet are pounding the ground…so don’t call me a runner and don’t measure me by this high standard.” Today, I’m still not the fastest and I can’t run the farthest. Look at me in the pic below with this fancy little medal (…I still didn’t consider myself a runner even at this point). I was still discrediting myself saying “All of the good runners were participating in the half today…that’s why I was able to win the 5k.” When I look at myself and know those thoughts run through my mind, I can’t deny that’s it’s disappointing. We have to believe in ourselves. Love ourselves. Today I consider myself a runner. So what has changed???

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I began thinking (super scary, I know). The primary thing that has changed in my running is my perspective. I have the same tiny frame, the same slender muscles, the same excruciatingly pained face (lol)…but my perspective has changed. I haven’t  changed; my mind has changed.

Who would we be if we stopped discrediting ourselves and discounting our abilities? If our minds stopped telling us what we can’t do? I decided to try an exercise and list everything, every single thing, that I am. This is what I came up with:

  1. a Christian
  2. wife
  3. mother
  4. daughter
  5. daughter-in-law
  6. sister
  7. sister-in-law
  8. friend
  9. Godmother
  10. aunt
  11. niece
  12. granddaughter
  13. employee
  14. executive assistant
  15. ….this is where I started to have more fun with this exercise…you’ll see
  16. Runner (YES!)
  17. Writer (really…I changed my mind on this one)
  18. cook
  19. financial guru
  20. motivational speaker
  21. church council member
  22. scout den leader
  23. volunteer
  24. dog mommy (to my Rusty-Roo)
  25. carer for the sick
  26. tickler of the toes, arms, bellies, underarms, necks…you get the idea
  27. dancer (in my kitchen at least)
  28. singer (also in my kitchen/sometimes shower)
  29. music enthusiast
  30. bath lover
  31. love lover 😉
  32. Over-sharer (refer to #31)
  33. cleaner
  34. bedtime tucker
  35. Reader of stories
  36. Hair obsesser
  37. smile giver

And this is where I ended. I’m really quite terrible at some of these things (totally referring to singing). But these things make me feel alive. These things bring me joy. What if I start focusing on all of the things that I am and stop discounting myself by stating what I am not? You don’t have to be the best at something to BE IT. You just have to do it. From your gut, do it and love it. And there you are, the writer, the runner, the singer, the [enter the thing you desire/fear here].

That’s it. It’s simple really. Forget “I’m not”….it’s a pretty useless statement. Let’s be what we set out to be. Let’s challenge ourselves and love ourselves. I challenge you  to get out your pen and paper and make your “I Am” list. When you do it, ignore the fear. No one is seeing this list but you (unless you decide to blog about it!). You’ll be glad you did it. My last piece of advice, once you’ve written these things on your list, be them. Don’t step back, don’t discount, don’t discredit, and don’t be modest. Get out there and take life by the reigns. BE IT.