Thursday, November 29, 2012

God's Soldiers

“God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.”

            This week has been especially hard for me both as a teacher and as a person.  Sunday, I learned that I had lost a student, the second one this year.  Losing the first student was hard enough, but this was even harder as he was a student that I currently had.  James was bright and funny, outgoing, a leader, and a part of one of my favorite classes.  In a weak moment while driving to work, I asked myself why God let these things happen.  It seems our school has had to deal with so much heartbreak the past few years.  Thankfully, however, the strong side of me came back with a quick retort before I even had time to digest my weak thoughts.  The strong side of me repeated a quote I read recently: “God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.”  This quote stopped me in my tracks because it is so true.  Who was I to complain about this particular battle?  It wasn't the first one I’d fight, and wouldn't be the last.  No matter how many I must fight, I know God will be by side like He’s always been.  I have to trust in God’s plan for me, for my students.  I hate that they are losing someone at this age.  I hate the heartbreak I see in their eyes, but I know it will make them stronger.  God doesn't give us bad times to punish us, but to teach us.  He gives them to us for a chance at greatness.  They are our time to show what we are made of.
            Thankfully, Monday and Tuesday I didn’t disappoint my kids and they sure as heck didn't disappoint me.  I was so nervous about seeing them on Monday.  I agonized over what I would say to them.  What do you say to 14- and 15-year-olds who have just lost a friend unexpectedly?  When second hour rolled around a counselor and social worker came to talk to the kids first, which I appreciated.  However, as thankful as I was for their presence, I realized within minutes that it was very much like trying to grieve with family and having strangers in your home.  My students were respectful, but withdrawn.  Once the social worker and counselor left, I realized that I didn’t have to know what to say because there wasn’t anything to say.  So, I looked at them and we celebrated James.  I told them that it sure as heck was ok to cry, even if they were a boy.  I admitted to them that I had cried myself, for James’s family obviously, but also for all of us because it was our loss as well.  I told them that it was also ok to laugh, and not to feel guilty.  I shared with them that James reminded me so much of my Grandpa Bob.  They had the same type of personality.  They loved to make others laugh.  At my grandpa’s funeral, my sister and I stood together and we laughed through our tears as we recounted silly stories about him.  I know that is exactly how my grandpa would want to be remembered, and it’s exactly how James would want to be remembered too.  And then, you know what, our class cried together.  They had showed no emotion with outsiders in our room, and neither had I.  Now it was safe to cry, and so we mourned. 
            The rest of this week has been hard as we have fought through a visitation and funeral.  We have fought through articles in the paper and rumors about his death.  We have fought against that empty desk in the first row that seems to echo with James’s ready laugh.  However, “God gives his hardest battles to His toughest soldiers,” and we are tougher than we ever imagined.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birthday Letter to Grace

Dear Baby Girl,
            Well Tootsie, another year has passed and you are almost two-years-old!!  I can’t believe how much you are growing.  Just this week, someone asked me if I was going to cry on your birthday.  I almost said yes because, well you know me, and I’m a crier.  However, after thinking for a minute, I realized I’m not sad at all.  While I’m certainly not ready for you to hurry and grow up, I LOVE watching you grow up.  I love seeing the beautiful little person you are becoming, and I’m so happy to be a part of your life.  I am so proud of you!
            It has been quite a year for so many reasons, both good and bad.  Through everything, you have been my constant source of joy and hope.  Mommy has had quite a year with being sick.  I was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer in December when you were just 14-months-old.  I’ve had quite a time with surgeries, chemo, and infections.  It would have been easy to give up, but every day I thought of you.  I hope that all you remember from this time is the fun we had and that I had funny hair for a while.  When you are old enough to read this though, I want you to know that you saved my life.  Every time I hurt, every time I was sick, every time I was scared, I thought about my baby girl.  You deserve to have a mom you can be proud of, and so I have strived to be that person.  I have prayed every day for God to help me not only be a survivor, but to be one who walks with grace and strength.  I know that He sent you to me to save my life.  Despite your young age, you have always known exactly what I’ve needed this year.  You knew when to give me a hug, when to say I love you, when to make me laugh, and when I just needed to sit and cuddle.  I was terrified of your reaction when I started to lose my hair, but you didn’t care.  In fact, you made me feel all better about it.  You even would lovingly wash my head for me when I gave you a bath, and you would wear funny hats around the house for me.  Martina McBride sings a song called “In My Daughter’s Eyes.”  While the entire song reminds me of you, one part especially rings true.  She sings, “When she wraps her hand around my finger, oh it brings a smile to my heart.  Everything becomes a little clearer.  I realize what life is all about.  It’s hanging on when your heart has had enough.  It’s giving more when you feel like giving up.  I’ve seen the light.  It’s in my daughter’s eyes.”  This always reminds me of you because you’re my reason to always fight!  On a bright note, my surgery did get everything out.  I only did chemo to make sure that I get to spend a long, happy, healthy life with you!  So, never fear, Mommy is not going anywhere!  I just know that one of the reasons God put me on this earth is to be your mom, and I’m definitely not done with that job yet!
            On to brighter notesJ It has also been a big year because we have had so much fun!  Now that you are getting older, we have been able to do so many more things togetherJ  For instance, we redid the backyard for you!  Your Grandma and Grandpa Bronson bought you a swingset and our friend Amber gave you a little house.  We have spent hours back there playing!  You also got to be a part of the summer library program for the first time!  You’re not actually supposed to join until you are in preschool, but they let you come ahead.  You weren’t behind in the slightest.  You had such fun dancing, reading, and doing crafts!  You especially loved the picnic hat you made, and you looked so cute dancing around in it!  In addition to these, we got to take your first vacation!  You, your dad, and I went with Aunt B, Aunt Jacque, Uncle Jeremy, and Alex to Branson.  Your favorite part was being on a boat on the water when we rode the Ducks! 
These are just a few of the many fun things we have been doing this year.  You and I are always on the move.  We probably make your poor dad tired.  Even when we’re home, we’re usually up to something—playing, giggling, laughing, and having fun.  We are definitely partners in crime;)
You have also learned so many new skills this year.  I am so proud of you every day.  You are so so smart.  Even though I know you’re smart, I’m still amazed at just how much you know and learn every day.  You’re amazing!  I am especially excited that you have learned to say, “I love you!” this year!!!  Every time you say, “I love you, Mommy!” my heart just melts.  I also love that you love to read and learn from books.  I can’t even count the number of books we read together.  Many nights, you want to read more than you want to play and you’ll bring me book after book after book.  Your favorite books of the moment are your Clifford books and Goodnight Moon.
Well, in just a few days we will celebrate with our family at our house for your birthday.  You love Minnie Mouse, so we will be having a Minnie Mouse partyJ  Then, next week is your actual birthday.  For your present, I am re-doing your room in Minnie Mouse!  I can’t wait to see your face when I show you.  I hope you’re excited! 
Above all, I want you to remember always how much your “mommy ma” loves you!  I’m so proud to be your mom!!  I love you to the moon and back!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

Here's my Illustration essay I wrote to share with seniors:)  I think it is SO important to write along with our students!

           “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain” (Author unknown).  This quote sums up both the hardest and most valuable lesson I have learned in my life.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a planner.  That is the nice way of saying that I am a control freak.  I make lists.  I research topics until I feel like a walking encyclopedia on a subject.  I ask questions.  However, I have had to learn to adapt.  I have had to learn that I cannot always plan for everything.  Several instances in the past few years have taught me that things do not always go as planned.
            One example of a time in my life where things did not go as expected is when I went on a cruise a few years ago.  One year, my husband’s grandparents decided to take everyone in his family on a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Of course, I was extremely excited.  I planned for months—what excursions to take, what activities to do on board, and what to wear.  I made lists of every possible item I might need on my trip and spent hours packing the week before we left.  Then, much to my dismay, my suitcase did not travel by at baggage claim.  We waited by the revolving belt until all bags were out of sight, but, still, it did not arrive.  Despite the fact that airport personnel assured me that my bag would be found and sent to my hotel before our boat departed the next day, my bag was never found.  When I realized late that night that my bag was, in fact, gone for good, I cried and yelled.  Then, I decided I had to get a better attitude.  The next morning, my husband and I went on the fastest shopping spree of my life.  I had to pick out new everything, including dresses and a swimming suit.  For some reason, the experience (along with my attitude check) made me feel more free than I have ever felt before.  I had the most relaxing time on my cruise and learned that sometimes, you just have to deal with a situation and be happy regardless of circumstances.
            Another time where I have had to learn to fly by the seat of my pants, so to speak, is when I became a mother.  Anyone who thinks that everything always goes according to plans does not have small children.  No amount of planning will make an infant (or toddler for that matter) go to sleep when you want them to, get hungry when you want them to, or really do anything at the time that would be most beneficial to you.  As an infant, almost without fail, my daughter would fall asleep when we were getting ready for some big event (and you do NOT wake up a sleeping infant).  She would be hungry the moment we were trying to get out the door.  In addition, she usually threw up on me the moment I had finally gotten to take a shower and put new clothes on.  Parenting taught me that while things may not always go as planned, sometimes it is better that way.  Every day with my daughter might be crazy and hectic, but it is also beautiful and filled with wonder.
            Finally, and probably most surprising, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2011 at only twenty-seven-years-old.  This change in my life was most definitely not planned for, nor expected.  I was healthier than I had ever been before in my life—I had just lost eighty pounds (in a healthy way, not from cancer) after the birth of my daughter, I had just finished nursing my daughter for a year (lots of benefits for Mom, as well as baby), I took vitamins, I ate healthy foods, and I kept all regular doctors’ check-ups.  Then, one Saturday I was playing with my daughter.  She happened to jump on my chest and I happened to put my hand up to catch her in exactly that spot.  I felt the lump and knew it wasn’t normal, although I also knew that it could be from just finishing nursing.  I sent up a prayer to God to let me know if I should take care of it.  I said, “God, you know how I am.  I’m a worrier.  If it’s nothing, please let me forget about it.  If it’s something, please let it bug the crap out of me.”  Well, on Monday, that lump was still bothering me.  My doctor, thankfully, took me seriously and ordered tests right away.  Later, after tests and an excisional biopsy, I found out that I had stage 1 breast cancer.  Although this was by far the worst and most unexpected event in my life, it has also been one full of blessings.  I don’t even know that I would change anything.  It has taught me a lot about love, friendship, family, and unfaltering faith. It has taught me strength, courage, and the power of prayer.  It has taught me that things will not always go my way and, while I can’t change that, I can change how I respond to these events. 
            Hugh Downs once said, “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”  Through many unexpected events in my life, I have had to learn to adjust my attitude and make the best out of any and all situations in life.  I’m still a planner.  I’m still controlling.  I’m still a researcher and a questioner.  However, life has taught me to be prepared for anything, hope for the best, and be happy about whichever happens.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Whirlwind of Fun

I wrote a descriptive essay to share as an example for one of my classes:)  I thought it was fun, so I thought I'd share:)

            When many people think of their favorite place, they imagine some far-off land with gorgeous scenery or some picturesque city.  However, one of my favorite places is my crowded and cluttered house.  If someone else walked in my front door right now, they might think a tornado had somehow snuck into my house, terrorizing just this single household on the street.  Too often, toys are scattered about the rooms, along with hats, slippers, blankets, pillows, and books.  Instead of the disaster area an outsider would see, I see tangible reminders of quality time spent with my daughter, Grace.
            Probably the messiest room in the house is also the first a person sees—the living room.  This room is where I spend the majority of my time indoors with my daughter.  As I look at the “mess,” I recall all the fun we have each day, especially on quiet mornings.  My hands can still feel the cool plastic of the Little People toys that Grace and I use to play “house.”  She especially loves the tiny yellow-and-blue-clad baby.  My head can still feel the scratch of Grace’s sombrero that she loves to put on my head and the soothing gentleness of her baby-soft hands as she pats my face or runs her fingers through my still-short hair.  My ears still happily hum with the sounds of “Mommy!” and “Hugs!”  They can still hear my baby girl’s tinkling giggles and big belly laughs.  My mouth is still quietly humming the songs we sang today and thinking of the stories we read.  My feet are still dancing, remembering the countless times Grace and I danced to the “Hot Dog” song.  Thinking of our action-packed day, I remain unembarrassed with my debris-littered floor.
            Stepping over the stack of books by my rocking chair, I make my way to the kitchen.  Although we don’t spend as much time here, it is full of happy memories nonetheless.  Making my way across the room, I dodge our dog as he runs from my daughter, who is trying yet again to make him wear a hat.  The table is littered with crayons, paper, coloring books, finger paints, stickers, and other various art supplies used that day.  Cups line the counter, since Grace wouldn’t decide what kind of “didi” (drink) she wanted.  I can still hear the clink of pots and pans as I make my daughter’s favorite dishes (i.e. all food) and the sound of her yelling “D!” (dinner) from her high chair.  The smells of homemade pasta sauce, baking bread, fresh garlic, and other staples of our house permeate the room.  No matter how cluttered this room, it radiates the essence of home.
            Finally, I make my way up the stairs to the final stop of my daily journey with Grace—my bedroom.  Although Grace sleeps in her own bed, we lie down together in my bed first, winding down from the busy day.  This room is equally messy and evokes just as many memories as the rest of the house.  However, these memories are quieter and more relaxed.  Here I see the colorful patchwork quilt that Grace and I use to cover up when we snuggle.  Since this blanket has kept me warm since I was a little girl, it is worn-out and frayed, but it is also soft and comforting.  My skin feels the coolness of the pale blue sheets, in contrast with the warmth of my daughter lying next to me with her head upon my chest.  As she hugs me goodnight, my arms still recall the many times Grace has run to give her mom a big hug that day, warming me to my very soul.  My lips recount every word of our favorite nighttime tale, Goodnight Moon, and the final “I love you” of the night.  My heart just about bursts from happiness with each return of “I love you, Mommy!”
            “A child’s creativity is only inhibited by her parents’ willingness to clean up after her.”  Although I don’t recall the author of this quote, the message is one that continues to stick with me.  As someone who is a little OCD, I have always kept a neat and tidy household.  As a mom, however, I’ve had to learn to let go of pristine floors and clutter-free countertops.  Although I continue to fight the never-ending battle against the whirlwind of playthings, I also recall the myriad of wonderful sensations and memories that accompany them.  It is in this remembering that I’ve learned to let go.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Educator Self

Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money–in that order; it is a process, a never-ending one.”
– Bel Kaufman

            A co-worker of mine asked us to think about our “Educator Self” and come up with some artifacts that tell the story of us as an educator.  Since I will be with my NHS kids tomorrow morning and have to miss the literacy lab where these will be presented, I wanted to get my artifacts out on paper (so to speak).

  • My first artifact would have been pretty hard for me to carry out of my classroom, as it is my ever-growing ­bookshelf.  I still remember when I started teaching, wondering how in the world I would ever fill even one bookcase up with books.  Now as I begin my seventh year of teaching (wow—is that even right?!  I can’t believe it has been that long!), I’ve filled two large bookcases, a shorter one, and have nine crates of books/audio books!  I feel this helps represent me as a teacher because I feel that reading is so important, both in my personal and professional lives.  I teach and encourage my students to be good readers and to read often.  I do self-selected reading with my classes and love that, by the end of the year, reading becomes a habit to them.  They go back and get their books even when I don’t make them!

  • Another artifact that represents me as a teacher would have to be my graduate school diploma.  Along with being a teacher, I consider myself to be a lifelong learner.  I feel that those two roles go hand-in-hand.  Getting my degree in Teaching of Writing helped me grow as a teacher.  I feel better-equipped to teacher writing in my class.  It also gave me a reminder of how it feels to be a student.  I try never to ask my students to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. 

  • I’m unsure whether my third artifact should be a pen or a keyboardJ  The pen seems more traditional.  However, in a technological world the keyboard seems more relevant.  At any rate, you get the idea.  Writing is such a huge part of my life.  It’s also an important skill for my students to learn, regardless of their chosen paths in life.  As a teacher, I try to not only teach my students about writing, but show them.  For the majority of my writing assignments, I write along with my students. 

  • As all teachers know, sometimes we need to be reminded of why we are in this noble profession.  Behind my desk, I have my wall of pictures.  On this bulletin board (which is starting to run out of room!), I have pictures of my favorite classes/students.  Mixed in with the pictures are little notes and drawings from my students.  This board reminds me about how much I care about my students and how much they care about me.  Since this is the top reason why I love to teach, it’s an important reminder.

  • Finally, I would have to include my pink St. Louis Cardinals mini-bat.  As you all know, I had quite the fight last school year.  While at first glance my fight with cancer doesn’t seem to be teacher-related, I have never felt so close with my students.  It was important to me to be the best teacher I could be last year, even though I had a lot going on personally.  I was open and honest with my students and co-workers.  My students showed love, compassion, and maturity well beyond their years.  One morning, one of my old students who often visits in the morning came in armed with my pink bat.  They are often handed out at the Mother’s Day Cardinals’ game since that game is used for breast cancer awareness.  My student though I needed oneJ  It’s my reminder that I’m a fighter, both in the classroom and out.  My students better watch out, because I don’t consider failure an option!

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” 
- Socrates

Friday, August 10, 2012


“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

            As I approach the beginning of school, I thought I’d do a quick updateJ  I have been so busy lately that I haven’t had much time for writing and I’d really like to get back into it.  I know as I get going into the school year, I will have plenty of professional topics to write about and discuss.  Plus, my daughter is a never-ending source of inspiration.  However, just to get back in the swing of things, I’ll let everyone know how I am.
            First of all—I’m doing great!  People keep asking with this slightly scared look on their face.  The short answer—I really am feeling well, I promise.  I’m starting to get back in the swing of life.  My body is finally feeling good post-surgery.  My energy level still dips by the end of the day because of chemo, but I’m getting thereJ
            As I’m sure everyone knows by now, I had two different check-ups in June—one with my oncologist and one with my surgeon.  Both check-ups went well.  My oncologist put me on a drug called Tamoxifin, which changes the way my body deals with estrogen.  It will help cancer never return, which would be my wish, of course.  I’m also on a heavy dose of vitamin D at the moment, since my post-chemo bloodwork showed that it had dipped extremely low. 
            Since my check-ups went well and chemo ended in May, I got to celebrate with close family and friends at the end of June.  It was a great party and, as always, I felt so loved. 

            The Monday after my party, I was back in surgery—this time for something more positive.  My tissue expanders were replaced on July 2nd.  Surgery went well.  However, I’ve had a couple small issues.  I got a rash after surgery from the antibiotic, but when I was taken off of it, I got the start of an infection.  I was able to fight it off with a different antibiotic.  I also have some issues on one side since there was not much skin to work with.  It will be a slow process getting that side to stretch out.  I said I was finally feeling better after surgery.  I mean that both physically and emotionally.  For some reason, I had a hard time mentally with this past surgery.  Part of it, I know, is that I had such bad luck with the tissue expanders last time.  I’m terrified of getting an infection that will send me back in the hospital or back into surgery.  Those things take me away from my baby girl and I don’t deal well without her.  Also, this surgery is for me.  So, as I was sitting at home by myself recovering with Grace at daycare, I felt extremely selfish.  At any rate, I’m finally feeling better.  I had a check-up about a week ago with my plastic surgeon.  I don’t see him again until the second week of September when, hopefully, I get to start getting fills.  If the skin on my one side cooperates and I have no more complications, I should get implants later this year.
              Now it’s just time to pray for my check-ups next month—one with my plastic surgeon, of course, and one with my oncologist. 
            Thankfully, I recovered in enough time to take two great trips.  My first one was to New Orleans for the READ 180 conference.  I hated to be away from Grace.  However, I have always wanted to go to New Orleans, and when else would I get a chance to get paid to go?  It was an amazing conference during the day, where I learned a lot to bring back to my classroom.  I also had a great time exploring the city each night with my co-worker/friend, Amanda Moore!

            This past weekend, Grace got to go on her first vacation!  Josh and I took her to Branson, MO.  We also got to take her Aunt B (my sis), Aunt Jacque, Uncle Jeremy, and Alex (my nephew).  She had such a great time.  Grace LOVES water and she got to go on a “boat in the wawer,” so she was one happy camper.  When Grace is happy—Mommy is happyJ

            The rest of my time this summer has been spent with Baby GirlJ  We play all day, every day.  We go outside to play in her little house or on her swing set.  We have play dates.  We visit my Grandma Betty on the farm, play in the hose, hang out with Dada, and visit family.  And- we spend a lot of time laughing, dancing, giggling, and hugging.  OH- and one of the best things ever—She has learned how to say “I love you” this summer.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything more magical in my whole life!
            Well, school starts back next week.  I’m sad to see my extra time with Grace end, but part of me is ready to go back.  I do much better with a schedule.  Now that my surgery is done, I need to get back to walking like my oncologist wants me to.  I also need to get back to eating healthy, which I don’t do well when I’m home all day.  So… it’s back to school, back to walking, back to weight watchers.  And- I will still get to spend a lot of time every night and weekend with my familyJ  Hopefully there will be more snow days this year;) 

Monday, June 18, 2012

What Something Means

“John was going at it immediately and intuitively, grooving on it.  I was going at it in terms of underlying form.  He was going at it in terms of immediate appearance.  I was seeing what the shim meant.  He was seeing what the shim was.  That’s how I arrived at the distinction.  And when you see what the shim is, in this case, it’s depressing.  Who likes to think of a beautiful precision machine fixed with an old hung of junk?”
--Robert M. Pirsig
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

            This upcoming school year, I will be teaching a new class.  For the first time, I will be teaching seniors!  Not only will I be teaching seniors, but I will be teaching honors seniors earning dual-credit through the community college.  It’s a little intimidating to say the least.  Therefore, part of my summer is being spent preparing for this new juncture in my life.  As part of that preparation, I am reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  I will be honest—I tried to begin this novel months ago.  I tried and failed.  I didn’t give it much of a shot either, as I only read the first chapter and was so bored that I put it aside for the next couple of months.  I must say, it was a little frightening.  I thought to myself, “If I cannot make myself read more than the first chapter of this book, how in the hell am I going to get seniors in high school to not only read this book, but enjoy it and learn from it?” 
            Fast forward a couple of months, when literally made myself read past the first chapter.  Regardless of how bored I am, I have to teach this book first semester, so I have to read it.  I’m so thankful I pushed past chapter oneJ  Don’t get me wrong, some parts of the book are still utterly boring.  However, I have always enjoyed philosophy and the philosophical teachings in this book are interesting and thought-provoking.  For example, I have been thinking about the section of the book that I put at the beginning of this all week long.  In the novel, the narrator talks a couple of different times about what something means vs. what it is.  I have never really thought about the difference, but it really seems to fit a lot of things in my life right now. 
            Friday, I went for my six weeks post-chemo checkup with my oncologist.  Also that day, I was able to get my port out and I had to get bloodwork.  Going into this appointment, I was least nervous about my port removal, as putting it in was no big deal.  However, taking it out was another story.  While they sedated me for the first, they did not do so taking it out.  Not only do I not relish the idea of someone slicing me open while I’m awake, no matter how small the cut, I also have a VERY hard time sitting still and quiet.  However, this is what I had to do for 45 minutes on Friday, more than a little scared.  Not to mention the fact that they certainly did not put enough of whatever local anesthetic on my incision spot.  What they did put on wore off by the time we got to the stitches part—I didn’t say a word though because I was so ready to be done that I didn’t want to prolong the process.  Walking out of the room to go find my mom afterwards, I was thinking about how much I disliked the experience and complaining to myself.  Then, for some reason, my mind wandered back to my senior novel.  I stopped the negative thoughts in my head because I thought of the difference between what something is and what it means.  If I simply thought about what that experience was—it sucked.  It was long, scary, and painful.  However, if I thought about what it means—AMAZING!  It means that my port was out!  It means chemo is over!! It means I’m a survivor!  Woo hoo! 

On another note- the rest of my appointment went well.  The doctor is putting me on a pill called Tamoxifin (think I spelled that right?) for a while since my tumor was estrogen positive.  It has been proven to cut the rate of occurrence.  While it can have side effects just like any other drug, most of the people I’ve talked to on it have handled it well.  While my tumor was positive for both progesterone and estrogen, it was only just so—therefore he said that if I decide in a few years that I want to have another baby, I would be at no extra risk in doing so.  I will have to be off the pills I’m on now though, but he was also not worried about that.  So… we’ll see what Josh and I decide and what the Lord has in store for our family.  Right not I’m going to enjoy the little girl I have because she’s pretty greatJ  I go back to the oncologist in three months for another checkup.

Now it’s time to pray for the rest of my medical issues the next few weeks.  Next Tuesday, June 26, I go back to the surgeon for my 6 month checkup.  It seems like such a big milestone-6 months since the cancer was taken out.  So- I’m pretty excited, but nervous at the same time.  I really feel like all is well, but I will be much happier to hear it from the doctor as well.  So, I’m praying to God to continue to take care of me for this appointment.  Then, I turn around on July 2nd and get tissue expanders back in.  My philosophical musings apply to this as well.  As it is—it’s another surgery with drains so that’s a downer.  However… when I think about what it means—It means that life goes on and that I get to be put back together againJ  Thankfully, I get to celebrate with my amazing family and friends on the 30th before surgery.  Since they are so amazing, I know they are coming to celebrate with me, to celebrate me getting through chemo and hopefully an end to ugly part of the past 6 months.  I will be celebrating them though, celebrating the fact that God has blessed me with such great people in my life.  <3


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Place of Peace--Teachers Write Tuesday Quick-Write

"The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives." --Albert Einstein

Tuesday Quick-Write: 
Write for two minutes to describe a very specific place.  If you’re just free-writing, it can be a place that you love, or have visited, or a place that frightens you.

When many people think of their favorite place, they imagine some far-off land with gorgeous scenery or some picturesque city.  However, one of my favorite places is my crowded and cluttered living room.  If someone else walked into my living room right now, they might think a tornado had somehow snuck into the house, terrorizing only this one room.  Toys are scattered about the room, along with hats, slippers, blankets, and pillows.  From my eyes though, this room is full of laughter and fun, peace and snuggles.  This room is where I spend the majority of my time with my daughter.  As I look at the “mess,” I recall all the fun we have each day, especially on quiet mornings.  My hands can still feel the cool plastic of the Little People toys that Grace and I use to play “house.”  She especially loves the tiny yellow-and-blue-clad baby.  My head can still feel the scratch of Grace’s sombrero that she loves to put on my head and the soothing gentleness of her cool hands as she rubs its still-bald surface.  My ears still happily hum with the sounds of “Mommy!” and “Hugs!”  They can still hear my baby girl’s tinkling giggles and big belly laughs.  My mouth is still quietly humming the songs we sang today and thinking of the stories we read.  My arms, of course, remember the many times Grace runs to give her mom a big hug, warming me right to my very soul.  My chest is still warm from where my daughter laid her head to be rocked to sleep.  As I recall all of these wonderful sensations from my day, I am happy with my mess of a living room.  So happy, in fact, that I am leaving it a mess and writing insteadJ

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Making" Time to Write

"I must govern the clock, not be governed by it." --Golda Meir

How many times do I think to myself, "I wish I had more time to do _____" (Insert random activity here)?  However, being a mom, wife, daughter, teacher, friend, etc. keeps me pretty busy.  With the exception of making time for my daughter (which is both for my own benefit and hers), I often do not make time to do things for myself.  However, this summer, I am joining hundreds (yes, I said hundreds) of other teachers and librarians in an online writing camp called Teachers Write with author Kate Messner.  I'm excited, and at the same time worried that I won't be able to find the time to concentrate on my writing.  Ironically, Kate's first "assignment" for us was to think about just this topic- "making" time to write.  As she said to us, we will never just "find" time to write, we have to make it.  So, this is something I am doing for myself this summer:)  I encourage others to do just the same.  Make time to do something for yourself!  It might be writing, but it might not.  Find time to read a good book, exercising, or playing golf--but find something you enjoy:)

Here's my plan:)  I want to share it with everyone because, just like Kate said, people are more likely to accomplish tasks that they share with others.

1.  Since I need to make time to write and not except time to just magically fall in my lap, I'm going to have to cut back on something.  Therefore, instead of spending part of my evening after Grace goes to bed randomly perusing the internet, I'm going to cut back on that and focus a little bit of time on writing:)

2.  When will I write and for how long?  Right now, I'm going to start with a easily attainable goal and say that I will work on writing for 15-30 minutes a day most days of the week.  Obviously, life sometimes throws me curve balls, so it might not be every night.  During the summer, I plan to devote a little of my time once Grace goes to bed.  Once school starts in the fall, I will probably devote a little of my "quiet time" before school to writing.

3.  Where?  When I write at home, I plan to be in my comfy clothes in my comfy recliner with my laptop.  At school, I'll be sitting at my not-so-comfy desk, but surrounded my pictures of baby girl:)

4.  Finally, Kate asked us to share our plans--Well, I'm sharing them with all of you:D

I hope everyone has a happy Monday!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lessons Learned

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. – Agatha Christie

                Now I know I’m a little late, but here’s my post in honor of Mother’s DayJ

                Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a planner.  I’m almost manic about it.  Having a baby was no different.  While pregnant, I read everything I could get my hands on (Don’t ever, ever do that while carrying your unborn child and being super emotional!) and planned everything out.  I made list upon list.  I bought everything that I thought I might possibly need (Don’t do that either, you probably won’t need it haha).  I had all of these ideas about being a mom and having a baby that I felt really strongly about, especially considering I’d done my homework.  Then, I actually had a child.  You never realize how much you don’t know about having a baby until you have a baby.  All of those careful plans I’d made and ideas I had flew out the window. …
Here are some of the many things I had to change my mind about.  Those of you who are veteran parents- laugh awayJ
The crib—I remember still how adamant I was that our baby would sleep in her crib.  If she never had a bassinet, she wouldn’t know the difference right?  Haha… this didn’t even last the first night.  I put my (even as a newborn) strong-willed daughter in her crib that first night and she HATED it.  She didn’t just cry, she did what I have since named “the drama cry.”  I couldn’t stand the thought of my sweet baby girl being sad so I snatched her up and took her downstairs her little snuggle nest in the pack n play.  Josh and I bought a Rock n’ Play the next day so she could sleep right by me in our room.
Nursing—All right.  You may judge away- but I will admit what many will not.  The idea of nursing kind of grossed me out a little.  However, I knew that it was what was best for my daughter, so I was going to give it a shot.  I thought I’d hate it.  My goal was the 6-8 weeks I planned on being home with her.  However, it was one of the most beautiful bonding experiences I’ve ever experienced.  And, that 6-8 weeks turned into just over 1 year.  I’m so glad I got to do that before losing the ability to do so.
Food—While I respected them, I used to think those moms who did all these “crazy” things like nursing, making baby food, cloth diapers, etc. were out of their minds.  Like I said, I respected all of those things, but who has time for them?  Evidently me—well, not the cloth diapers part.  Never could get into that.  However, I did decide to nix the idea of buying baby food, and I made Grace’s myself instead—right up until she started eating table food.  And… I loved it and it was good for her.     On another note with food, I used to be a BIG stickler about junk food.  Don’t get me wrong, I have not all of a sudden given up making my kid eat healthy.  I want her to learn that junk is not an all-the-time kind of thing.  However, this child did not even know what junk food was until her first birthday cake.  Now I will admit that I occasionally sneak her a tiny bite of chocolate just for the sheer joy of watching the smile on her face.  And, I will also admit that I let her steal an M&M or two out of the candy bowl on the table when she thinks I’m not looking.  She just is so darn proud of herself when she does it.
No one tells you how “wet” being a mom is!!—HAHAHA that sounds funny doesn’t it.  However, it’s the truth.  No one bothers to tell you while you’re pregnant how wet you will be those first few months.  Unless it’s just my kid, but I’m guessing it is not.  I cannot count the times Grace has puked on me, peed on me, spit milk on me, slobbered on me, etc.  AND, to top it off, she somehow almost always misses herself….
Patience/Mellow Mom—I am not a mellow person.  And, before Grace, with the exception of my students, I was not a very patient person.  So, you’d think I’d be insane as a mother.  I think other people must have thought so too because I can’t count the number of times people have said to me, “I can’t believe how laidback and mellow you are with her,” or some version of that.  However, there’s something about her that brings me such peace.  I feel like I was made to be her mom.  And, I have infinite patience with her, even when I don’t have any left for anyone else in the world.  That will probably go away when she reaches the teenage years though.  Haha
And finally- I am never alone—I used to be big on having a little “me” time, all by myself.  I don’t get that anymore, and really haven’t since Grace was born.  She has always been a mommy’s baby and she likes me aroundJ  Heck, ever since she became mobile, I can’t even go to the bathroom alone.   If someone had told me that at a previous time in my life, I would have been stressed.  However, I love having my daughter around all the time and miss her when she’s away from me.  I don’t mind having my little mini me shadow:D

I want to end my mom thoughts with the lyrics to a song.  I had never really listened to these lyrics since having my own daughter, but I cried tonight when I heard it.  Martina got it right.

"In My Daughter's Eyes"

In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daugter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hope and Love Prevail

Hope and Love Prevail

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will." -Mahatma Gandhi 

            In fifty-nine minutes and counting my relationship with chemo comes to a close, hopeful for good.  I remember when the word “chemo” was first mentioned to me and I totally lost it.  Then, when I found out that I would be facing sixteen weeks with this fearful companion, I felt worse.  It seemed like I would never be able to overcome this obstacle and the end would never come.  However, now that I am sitting here for my last hour of drugs, I realize it was not quite as awful as I had feared.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t fun.  I had plenty of days where I wished I could pull the covers over my head.  I had days where I was so nauseous, where my legs felt like they would fall off, where I didn’t know if I could do this.  Fortunately for me, I have such beautiful people in my life.  First, God has given me strength and courage I didn’t realize I had in me.  He has made my already strong faith ever stronger.  My beautiful baby girl has given me the love and hope I needed to get up and truly live even when I felt awful.  Through my husband’s strength and never-ending faith in me, I have learned to have faith in myself.  My unbreakable bond with my family has shown me that some things in this world truly are unbreakable.  My friends have shown me what true friendship really means as they have supported me in ways only true friends would (and I know people say you know who your true friends are in times of need, but not a single one of my friends has let me down!).  Strangers have shown me that truly is still goodness in the world.  Because of these people, I sit here today with my spirit intact.  My body may have been through the ringers since December.  I may not have hair or breasts.  I may have physical scars that time will fade, but never completely erase.  However, my spirit is stronger than ever.  Every single day, I have asked God to please let me a survivor.  I have also, every day, added that I wanted to get there with my head held high, a smile on my face, fire in my eyes, and faith and love in my heart.  With His help, I would NOT let cancer break me.  I would NOT hide.  I would NOT be ashamed.  I would NOT let my daughter, my husband, my family, my friends, my students, my co-workers, anyone who needed me, be let down.  I’d like to think I have succeeded in this endeavor. 
            It seems surreal to sit here knowing that this is the last one.  I hope that it has all been enough.  I know that parts have been awful, but it still seems too small a price to pay for life.  My hope is that this really is the end and I can move forward to more positive ventures.  I know I still have some surgeries coming up, but I hope that they are positive with no complications.  I hope by the end of 2012, I am complete and whole once again and can move forward.  While I want to move forward and put things like chemo in the back of my mind, many things have happened that I do not want to forget.  I never want to take life for granted again.  I want to cherish each and every second I have.  I want to help people.  I want others like me to know they aren’t alone, and I hope they’ll come to me if they need it and not ever suffer in silence.  I’d like to show my students that adversity doesn’t mean you have to act out and be stuck because of your circumstances.  I’d like to motivate and inspire.  I want to help.  I want to be someone who my daughter is proud claim as mommy, even when she is a teenager and doesn’t like everything I have to say.  I hope the Lord will lead me to the people that I can help.  I think He has already started.
            I also don’t want to lose the strength and faith I have found in myself.  I never knew I had so much.  I still don’t think of myself as brave or inspirational or anything else that others have said I am.  I am just a twenty-seven-year-old wife and mother.  I’m just a daughter, a friend, a teacher, a granddaughter, a niece, and zillions of other roles.  However, I do know that each and every person who gets cancer (or has any other terrible thing happen to them) is one of these things as well.  And, so, I am so glad so many are willing to fight for a cure so that hopefully one day, people won’t have to go through all of this. 
            A final update for now—I will see my oncologist in six more weeks to go over plans for the future, get blood work, and, thankfully, get this darn port out.  I am fairly certain I will be put on a pill for the next five years, but we’ll talk more about that in June.  In July, I will meet with my surgeon, as it will be six months since they took the cancer out of my body.  If all goes well, I will also get tissue expanders put back in sometime in July.  I know I’ve already asked for so many, but please say some prayers that all of these things go well.  I really do not want any more awful surprises.  As I’ve said before, I feel and hope and pray that it is finally time to move forward.
            And so, thank you to all of those who have helped me reach this day.  I know that I can never fully repay you all for your kindnesses, but I can promise you I will do my damndest to pay it forward.  
            In one week, we will celebrate Mother’s Day.  By then, the effects of this round of chemo should have worn away.  I can’t think of a better present.   I know that I will spend that weekend with my family and I will give my little girl an extra hug…. or maybe a dozen extra hugs ;) 

My inspiration :D

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hakuna Matata

“You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it.”  --Matthew 6:27

            One of my favorite memories as a child is singing “Hakuna Matata” with my sister.  Boo and I loved singing Disney songs and this one was our favorites.  We really got into it too.  In fact, the endearing, yet embarrassing performance is on tape at my parents’ house (courtesy of my Uncle Scott and his video camera).  Those of you who are not Lion King fans, the point of the song is to have no worries.  “It’s our problem-free philosophy.  Hakuna Matata.”  Twice in one week I have been confronted by this same message, just not in the musical sense.  Evidently, I should start listening.
            At church this past Sunday, Matthew spoke out in the gospel about the futility of worrying.  I have been reading a book on my Kindle to read the Bible in a year and, oddly enough, this same gospel was my topic for this evening.  In Matthew 6:32-34 it states, “The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things and your Father in heaven knows you need them.  Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants.  Then all your other needs will be met as well.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Now, I won’t pretend that I have seen a great light and will now never worry again.  Since I am one of the world’s biggest worriers, this would be laughable.  However, I must say that not worrying is something I want to work on.  I have been doing better at it tooJ  I may still worry about the big things, but have learned to let go of some of the small things.  It isn’t worth it to worry myself to death or stay up late because my house isn’t spotless.  I try to spend time worrying about things that truly matter.  And so, I will admit, my daughter has toys all over my living room floor.  I have not washed all the dishes in my sink.  I am quite certain that I have things in my refrigerator that should have already been thrown out.  I did not finish all of my grading before I left school.  I just put my clean laundry away that has been done since Sunday.  You get the ideaJ 
            I did spend quality time snuggling with my daughter tonight.  We also read books, played, and ate dinner together.  My wonderful husband brought me home flowers just because.  I got a massage to relax my hurting legs.  Finally, I’m taking time to write even though I could be doing other things.  However, those other things will wait until tomorrow and I trust that God will help me know when I do need to worry.  He hasn’t let me down yetJ  Hakuna Matata and Good Night!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happiest Moments

“A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future.” –Author Unknown

                OK.  I’m going to admit something embarrassing.  I have watched and actually (gasp!) enjoyed watching the lame Newlywed show.  Yes, I know.  Silly.  However, I am a huge game show fan.  However lame the game show happens to be.  One night, I was watching, while my daughter lay sleeping in my arms and the host asked the men the following question:  What would your wife say are her two happiest memories in her life?  Of course, every husband answered very cliché answers and all of them were correct.  They all said that the number one memory was the day their child was born and the number two moment was the day they got married.  For some reason, I’ve thought a lot about this question.  If I wasn’t thinking much about it, these would probably be my answers as well.  I mean, obviously, my daughter is the hands-down the best thing that has ever happened to me and my husband is just behind her.  However, now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I realize this answer is all wrong.  Now, don’t get me wrong, my wedding day is still up at the top of my “happiest moments” list—it was an amazing day and I’m blessed to have married a wonderful man.  However, if all of us moms are honest, is the day our child is born really the best “child” moment?  I was really happy the day Grace was born.  I finally got to meet my baby girl I had so impatiently waited nine very long months to meet.  However, I was also in pain, tired, and disgusting.  Not to mention the fact that Grace was also upset, tired, and pretty gross (however beautiful) herself.  Is that moment really better than the thousand moments since then where the two of us have been happy together and she has willingly shown her love for her mom?  I don’t think so.  So, I’m going to encourage all my fellow moms to think of all the happiest moments with your childrenJ  Here are some of my favorites:

1.       Grace has always been a momma’s baby, but has lately been more loving than ever.  She has gone from referring to me as “momma,” to referring to me as “mommy.”  Her favorite thing lately is to happily shout “Mommy!” with a big smile on her face, run to me as fast as she can, and give me a big hug.  That’s love. J
2.       My baby girl loves books.  While on Spring Break this week, she has become even more interested in them.  About forty-two million times each day (obviously an exaggeration, but there were so many times I can’t remember) she has picked out a book, brought it over, climbed in my lap, and insisted we read.  As a lover of books myself, not much makes me happier than the fact that my daughter loves them as well AND loves reading them with me.  I read, she turns the pages, and she happily points out whatever we are reading about.  Her all-time favorite topic- puppies and kitties.
3.       As all of you know, because of chemo, I had to have a quite the hair cut earlier this year.  I was TERRIFIED of losing my hair.  Sure, part of that had to do with some selfish reasons.  I don’t know any girl that dreams of losing her hair.  However, my biggest fear was how Grace would react.  My beautiful, sweet girl didn’t let me down though.  When I arrived to pick her up after the hair cut of a life time, I nervously called her name.  She acted as nothing had happened.  Smiled happily as she always does and yelled, “Momma!”  I did get a friendly head pat when I picked her up thoughJ 
4.       Another favorite moment has to do with hair loss.  Since I don’t have any, I often wear hats or bandanas.  Grace thinks this is so fun.  She often takes them off and puts them on herself or she wants us both to have one on.  Then we dance around and laugh.
5.       Another love that Grace and I share besides books is music.  Man does my kid love to dance.  She also loves when we dance together and so do I!  When a good song comes on, I pick her up and we dance all over the house, giggling as we go.
6.       Baby girl kisses.  Enough said.
7.       Each night before Grace goes to bed, I hold her in the chair and sing to her.  She cuddles with me.  Many nights she repeatedly says, “Mommy,” just to make sure I’m still here.  She’ll look up at me and smile every once in a while.  When she’s calmed down, I’ll sing her to sleep, always starting with “her” song, “Amazing Grace.”  My singing always relaxes her, and I love feeling her settle in peacefully against me, feeling safe and secure with her mom.
8.       Family time!  I love when all three of us are home and Grace will run back and forth between Josh and me making sure we are both giving her attention.  I especially love when she’s feeling particularly loving, and she’ll run back and forth giving us hugs. 
9.       I bought Grace a Little People house for Christmas, which came with a little family—mom, dad, and baby.  Grace loves babies and this is our little baby to take care of each day.  She’ll sit on the floor, pat beside her, and say, “Mommy!”  That’s my cue to join her so we can play house and take care of our baby. 
10.   This last one will sound weird, so wait for the explanation.  When my daughter is in her crib and cries out in the middle of the night for me, I love the moment I pick her up.  No, I obviously don’t love for Grace to cry, nor do I love for her to wake up in the middle of the night.  However, I love that moment that she knows I’ve come to “save her.”  Grace is a drama queen like her mom so she can REALLY wail.  However, when I pick her up and tell her that “It’s ok because mommy’s here,” she becomes instantly peaceful.  She hugs me like she hasn’t seen me for years and everything is right in the world once again.  I love that I can do that for her.
So, there are ten of my favorites.  If you’re a mom or, heck, a parent—I’d enjoy hearing some of your favorite moments!
Grace shouting, "Mommy!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

When Dads Become Grandpas

“A grandfather is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.”  -Author Unknown

            When I was little, I loved spending time with both of my grandpas.  They were the best.  My Mottaz Grandpa took me to the park every day after school.  We played with every swing, slide, teeter-totter, and monkey bar.  Despite the fact that he had a “few” years on me, he was right by my side the entire time, even on the biggest slide in the park.  He even played “house” with me on one of the enclosed pieces of equipment.  Afterwards, we’d walk back to my grandparents’ house for ice cream with Hershey’s syrup, where I’d make “soup” with my ice cream before eating it.  My other grandpa was a farmer, and the two of us spent lots of time outside on the farm.  We looked at cows, played with his dog Rusty, climbed in the hay loft, and sang silly songs.  While I had plenty of silly and fun stories to tell about my grandpas, my parents told stories about their childhood featuring different versions of these men.  Their stories weren’t bad, but they showed stricter, less childlike versions of the men I knew.  I never thought too much about the discrepancies in our stories until my own dad became a grandpa.
            Don’t get me wrong, my dad was an amazing daddy.  Yes, even at twenty-seven, I think of my dad as a daddy and not a father.  I say this because he’s such a caring, loving dad.  The word “father” seems sort of detached to me.  Detached is not something that would ever be used to describe Lonnie Mottaz.  However, while my father was very involved and made sure my sister and I knew we were loved, he also ruled our house with a kind of quiet authority.  He didn’t need to yell or spank to get a point across (You knew he was REALLY mad if he did those things!).  My father is just one of those wonderful men that commands respect and he got it.  He wanted my sister and me to have fun, but he was also strict so that we would grow up to be productive citizens. 
            Fast forward twenty-six years to when my daddy turned into the man my daughter lovingly calls “Papa.”  I didn’t know there was a force in this world that could turn my somewhat-reserved dad into the crazy, silly, goofy man he is now.  I sometimes tear up watching him play with my daughter because his love for her shines through in every single moment they share together.  Equally precious is the fact that she loves him with equal vigor. As soon as my daughter, Grace, sees him, everyone else ceases to exist.  She has eyes only for her Papa.  She will do whatever it takes to be in his arms, even it means literally jumping from the arms she’s already in.  And, trust me, Papa eats this up.  He only has eyes for her too. J

            This time around, Papa is now in the position where he does not have to worry about the responsibility of making sure Grace is a well-behaved little girl.  He doesn’t have to worry about that well-behaved girl turning into a smart and respectful woman.  That responsibility falls on my husband and me.  So, my dad is able to concentrate on making sure my daughter has fun!  My sister and I repeatedly roll our eyes and giggle good-naturedly as my dad does embarrassing things he would never have been caught dead doing when we were little.  Grace and Papa dance all over the house with their arms waving, singing at the top of their lungs.  Papa spends plenty of time crawling all over the floor, playing whatever game Grace so desires.  Even though he has always been someone who doesn’t like others touching his drink or food, he lets Grace eat right off his fork and drink his water right from his glass without hesitation.   Probably most surprising is the man that my sister and I named “Mr. Picky” when we were little, lets Grace get him and the house dirty, all in the name of fun. 
            While I have been repeatedly in awe of this transformation from daddy to Papa, I also love it.  I have never seen my dad happier.  Not to mention, anything that makes my baby girl happy makes this momma happyJ

Monday, April 2, 2012


"Obstacles are like wild animals.  They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can.  If they see you are afraid of them, they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight."  --Orison Swett Marden

The past four months have been quite the journey.  In many ways it was been the worst time in my life, full of heartbreak and pain, surgeries and illness.  However, thankfully the mental part of that was mostly only at the beginning.  In other ways, this has been the best time in my life, full of more blessings than I can possibly count, more love than I've ever known before.

I'm over halfway done with chemo!  This Friday, I will be getting my sixth round, with only two more to after that.  I can't believe I only have three left to you!  It seems only a short time ago I was looking at the total eight, thinking I'd never be finished.  I was so scared the first time the doctor said the word "chemotherapy."  However, I've survived.  The first four I had two drugs together--adriamycin and cytoxan.  Nasty stuff!  The first one was the worst.  I was down for close to a week.  I was so nauseous.  The other three were better, but still felt pretty sick after each one.  At my last one, my doctor said, "You're done with the nasty stuff.  I think you'll do better with these last four."  I prayed he was right.  My last four are a drug called taxol.  I've only had one of these so far.  I was so scared before the first one because I was told that I could have a very bad allergic reaction, which, thankfully, I didn't.  I wasn't nauseous this time, but I had really bad bone aches a few days after treatment.  Every bone from my waist down hurt for days.  I'm feeling better though and ready for round six because that puts me one step closer to being done!

I've now had several surgeries, not all of them planned.  First, of course, I had my mastectomy in December to remove the cancer.  The surgery went well and they started reconstruction during the same surgery, putting in tissue expanders after they cut everything out.  However, I ended up with an infection in one and having to have surgery to get one expander removed.  I was devastated.  If I hadn't already felt awful enough about my current looks, I now had a lopsided chest.  I guess you should be careful what you wish for because my stitches weren't even out on that side when I developed an infection in the other side and found myself back in the hospital.  On the bright side, I am no longer lopsided.  haha  I don't look so pretty though without a shirt on though;)  My doctor wants to give my immune system some time to reboot, but this summer reconstruction will begin anew about two months after chemo is done.  Tissue expanders will go back in sometime in July, then my lovely plastic surgeon will switch them for something more permanent around October/November.  Guess I'll have an early Christmas present:)

Hair Loss-That was a big step for me.  No matter how many times you prepare yourself mentally for it, you're never ready.  The first time my hair started to fall out I was in the shower.  I stood there and sobbed. However, my biggest fear was not about how I'd look, but about how my baby girl would react.  Would she be scared of me?  Would she even know me?  But- I have realized through all this that I have the best, smartest, sweetest baby girl in the world (don't tell me I'm biased haha).  When I saw her the first time after leaving the hair salon, she simply smiled and me with her arms outstretched and said the best thing in the world--Mommy!  Since that hair appointment, I have had many people make me feel better about my lack of hair.  However, my daughter is still the best.  She rubs my head and smiles.  When I wear a hat or bandana, she wants to wear a hat or bandana.  Our favorite game involves trying them on and dancing around the living room together.  What's better than that? 

Now- the good stuff!  I have never felt more blessed.  I didn't realize how much good there was in the world until I had to deal with the bad.  I have had so many people touch my life in ways that I'll never be able to repay.  I feel gratitude that I'll never be able to adequately express.  For example, I have received probably over 100 cards.  Even though it's months since my diagnosis, I still get them.  People send me words of encouragement, prayers, and pep talks.  God must send them messages too because it always seems that when I'm having a bad day, I go to my mailbox and there's a happy card waiting for me.  Never underestimate the power of cards.  I did before this.  I want to send more cards to people now that I know the power they have.  These cards give me strength.  In fact, I often carry my big bag of them to chemo and look at them.  I think of it as carrying my prayers with me:D  Besides the cards, I have gotten countless gifts (which also always come at the right time), offers of help, put on prayer lists, etc.  People just keep on amazing me with their generosity and kindness.  My group of friends at work alone have done more for me than I can ever repay.  I can only hope that when all this is said and done that I have a long and healthy life to pay it forward.  

My husband--He is the strongest man I know and his faith in me has never wavered.  Even in the beginning when I was a hot mess as I learned to accept all this, Josh saw my strength and somehow got me to believe in me.  I still remember when I found my lump and was awaiting results of the biopsy, Josh said, "I can't promise it's not anything bad Sara, but I do know you'll be ok."  He believed in me.  He believed that even if I had a fight on my hands that I could conquer anything.  I'm not sure what I'd do without him.  He's been my rock.

My daughter--Ahh- my hope, my heart, my survival.  So many people have acted like I'm so strong for living my life pretty normally through this (or at least as normal as possible).  They talk to me like I'm some kind of hero.  What they don't get is that my daughter is the hero.  I'm merely doing what has to be done.  I have no other option.  There isn't any other choice but to get up each day and live life to the fullest.  My daughter deserves that.  My daughter deserves a mom who is active and who has a smile on her face.  She deserves a mom that will play and dance, laugh and sing.  She deserves home-cooked meals and a clean house.  She deserves a mom who loves her job and tries her best at it.  She deserves a mom who's also a good wife, daughter, sister, and friend.  She deserves a mom who will live a long life and be there for her.  She deserves a mom who is a survivor.  I do all this for her.  

And so, I will survive all this.  Come June, I plan to walk in the Race for the Cure as a survivor:D I will have my daughter, husband, family, and friends with me as we walk in that beautiful sea of pink.  I already have learned so much about myself, life, and the goodness of God and people.  I know I have many more lessons to learn.  I also pray each night that God will help me use this.  I don't want to be a hero, but I do want to teach, inspire, and motivate.  I want to give others hope and courage.  I want them to see God's goodness.