Long time, no post.

Wow it has been a long time since I posted.  The busyness of life just took over.  Sometimes it seems easier to give in to the busyness rather than push against it, but then you get down the road a bit and realize that the way back to your life is a dirt road that's all uphill. 

Yep, that's where I am now.  Standing on the dirt road looking up the hill I have to climb in order to reclaim my life.  The good news is that I've started walking.  I've stopped standing, mouth gaped open in disbelief and started the walk back.

Bible.  Books.  Markers.  Paints.  Pencils.  Journals.  Clean desk.  Decluttered bookshelves.  Tennis shoes. Water bottle.

Determination.

 Photo by Drimafilm/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Drimafilm/iStock / Getty Images

I've been meditating on the scripture from I Kings 19 about Elijah and the broom tree.  Elijah had seen God's miracles and was a man of great faith, yet when Jezebel threatened him he went running away.  He hid under a broom tree and told God that it was all too much.  He caved in.  He was ready to end it all.  

God allowed him to rest and even sent angels to cook for him.  God met him right where he was and gave him enough.  Enough to continue his journey to where he would meet God as a small still voice.  Enough.

Looking over the last year of my life, seeing so many amazing miracles by God, how have I ended up lacking faith in the challenges that have appeared? How did I allow myself to get back on the hamster wheel of busyness and spiritual lack?  How have I ended up caving in?

Where are you in the journey?  Caved into the busyness?  Walking the road back?  So overwhelmed you have no idea where you are and neither does Google Earth?  Are you at the "too much" from life or the "enough" from God?

Wherever you are, I pray you receive the Enough from God you need to be on the way.

And now, with shoes on and chin up, off I go.  Trusting God for Enough.

Sunset

I'm happy to say I've come to the sunset of breast cancer season.  Yes, I hit the one year anniversary of my diagnosis.  My twin Susie and I sat on that same beach, looking at that same pier as last year when I first learned the news....and just look at the beautiful sunset God gave us.  At first the sunset was a non-event and we almost left the beach for our room, but then we saw a lovely pink cloud behind us and decided it meant we should sit a little longer.  We were not disappointed.  The sky changed colors for a good 30 minutes.  What a show!

 Untouched- I'm not savvy enough to alter it and God made it beautiful enough for my photo skills to still glorify Him.

Untouched- I'm not savvy enough to alter it and God made it beautiful enough for my photo skills to still glorify Him.

 We marveled at all God has done over the last year. He has been so faithful that I've struggled a bit with a survivor's guilt.  All I had to do was have a double mastectomy-no chemo, no radiation.  Every time I hear about another woman facing the diagnosis, many facing so much worse than I did with a very long treatment plan ahead, some even facing a terrible prognosis, I earnestly pray for them.  And then I pray that I do not allow satan to steal the glory of God in my story because I feel guilty.  Living bound by survivor's guilt is not helping anyone but the devil.

I'm still trying to figure out the Double or Nothing way of life.  It doesn't mean I suddenly stop working and travel.  It doesn't mean I do whatever, whenever I choose.  It means I change my perspective.  It means I enjoy the little things more than ever and don't hold onto the negative things.

I remind myself that I am a pilgrim on this earth journeying to Heaven.  There are many enjoyable parts of the journey with glorious views and good times.  There are also many flat tires and uncomfortable hotel beds. Heat waves and road rage.  I can't hold on to any of it, good or bad. My goal is to glorify God and become more Christ like through it all.  

 A pilgrim shell and journey notes.

A pilgrim shell and journey notes.

Interestingly, my most favorite seashell is the scallop.  I fell in love with the uniformity of their shape, yet each one unique with so many colors and shapes.  We are all humans, but each one unique.  

(Side note- The scallop is a prominent symbol of the Camino, marking the pilgrimage way.  It has long been a goal of mine to walk the Camino with friends, but I've collected scallops years before the Camino was on my radar.)

I found this little grey scallop, marked with a few wisps of orange, while taking a final walk on the beach.  After the walk I sat down to journal my final reflections on the weekend with this little guy in front of me.  I stared at the scallop and wondered about it's journey through the ocean.  What gave it those little orange wisps?  Good things?  Bad things?  Both? 

It was a reminder of my pilgrimage of the last year.  A journey of a lifetime.  A journey marked by blessings and miracles that far outweigh the pain.    

I imagine myself as a scallop.  Am I grey with wisps of pink?  Am I one of the burgundy ones with waves of pink sprinkled across it? (I know I have pink somewhere on my shell!)  Whether waves of pink or wisps of pink, I hope one thing is clear....my markings come from God and are all for His glory.

Wherever you are on your journey, sunrise of a new season...good or bad....or sunset of a season ending....good or bad...may you know you are chosen and marked by a mighty God.

The State of the Union

Well friends, the weekend is coming to an end.  I've had some much needed Sabbath rest this afternoon.  I've also had time to reflect on the past week which has looked pretty much like the picture below.  I made eno time a priority.  It is such a good thing for my soul, and y'all know that is my life rule for a few more months don't you?  I am keeper of my soul.  It's taken more work than I thought it would when I came up with that last July.  Who knew what August was about to whoop out on me?  God did. duh.

 Writing this blog post from this Eno perch of mine.

Writing this blog post from this Eno perch of mine.

The week started off in it's usual busy way with work and life rushing in.  Our "adopted" son Collin came home from college and brought his first girlfriend to stay for a few days.  They cooked dinner for a crowd Monday night so folks in the neighborhood could say hi to him and meet her. That's when 3 Eno's got hung in the back yard and I couldn't be happier about that!

Marty left for his volunteer work week at Windy Gap on Tuesday.  He still isn't home and feels like he's been gone for longer than he actually has.  B and I went to our S5 dinner, the group of gals we've been friends with for about 20 years now.  We all helped take care of our friend Sandra when she was dying-that's what the S stands for.  Sandra, and there are 5 of us.  Aren't we so creative? ha

Wednesday was the craziest day with a social media gone wild about school shootings here in our not so sleepy town.  That will make a mama crazy.  It was a non-event thank God.  The evening was eno time. Collin and I spent time hanging out in our eno's once his girlfriend headed home. It was a good catching up time.

Thursday was my hair-do day!  Yay, my roots look better!  I also took a sunset drive in Velma with my top down while Erin was at work then Bible study after work.  Then porch and eno time to end the day.

Friday Erin left for Raleigh right after school to stay with her cousin.  Collin hung out with a few friends.  I got my toenails painted orange in honor of Sandra, my friend who died 7 years ago (anniversary date in about 3 weeks).  After that I had a steak dinner all by myself and it was marvelous.  I ended the night on the porch, party lights doing their nightly shining.  Marty was able to call so we got caught up on the events of the week.  Matt and B saw the party lights on and stopped in for a visit.  A very good night.

Saturday started on the porch with coffee.  I spent the day mainly running errands and the evening going to church.  I worked on moving more stuff into our newly renovated closet and out of our bedroom.  I could rest much easier with my room looking neat again.

Sunday has been lovely.  Coffee and Bible my Roost in the backyard early in the morning. Time with Erin and Collin.  A nap in the eno.  Cooked a little.  Walked with Daisy and without her.  Waiting on Marty to come home.  Thinking about how to be the keeper of my soul in the week ahead, otherwise life drowns me. Starting to work on my new life rule that will start in August. Yes, August.  Goals and a word to focus on in January then a reboot with a focus on life rule in August.  Keeps me going/focused to have something twice a year.

Swinging in my eno now....marveling at God's creation all around me....reveling at God's sustenance all inside me....returning my soul to rest once more because the Lord has been good to me. (Psalm 116:7)

Have a good week and we will chat later.

Yay Sprinkles!

In working on my "Double or Nothing" way of life I have decided to collect a few sprinkles from my day. Yes, sprinkles.  Those little moments that God sprinkles over me that I often miss.  The extra little polka dots of fun, beauty, laughter, grace, love....you get the idea.

Some sprinkles over this last week:

~The morning sky was a brilliant pink backdrop for the bare winter trees.

~Sitting in a warm spot of sun with a cup of hot coffee and book on my afternoon off.

~A stop by a new bakery with B.

~Breakfast alone eavesdropping on three older southern men discussing election fashion trends in between talks about firewood and trucks left me laughing for hours.

~Marty showing up at the end of my work day to ask me to dinner.

I enjoyed my first week of savoring the sprinkles.  Hope all of you are able to find some sprinkles too.  

Cheers!

 

 

Post-Op Progress

Quick update:

This time around is much easier than last time!  Praise God.  The limitations are the most difficult part of being compliant. Having a T-Rex reach is challenging at home and at work....yes work.  I was able to return to work on Monday!  Everyone is being most helpful at putting things at arm's reach, literally.  

Many loving hands have been helping me with the around the house stuff, meals and rides. I have started driving which makes getting to work easier.  I just can't wave to anyone because I can't lift my arms high enough.  Isn't that funny?  

 Comfy in my fluffy pink robe, photo bombed by my fluffy black dog Daisy.

Comfy in my fluffy pink robe, photo bombed by my fluffy black dog Daisy.

All in all a better process than I had feared and worried about.  Just goes to prove to myself that worry is a waste of time. ha.  Will I ever learn?

Thanks for prayers and well wishes.

The Road to Surgery

We headed out early this morning.  The moon so big and round, a beacon to nudge us along the way.  More than gravitational pull, it was a summons to keep moving forward. God's beauty on display.  A reminder of God's power and faithfulness from before time began.  The moonlight showered an ease over the fretfulness that lived in my soul this past week.

 Ignore the distracting street light.  

Ignore the distracting street light.  

Marty and I sat quietly holding hands as we traveled the moonlit road, comfortable in the cocoon of 25 years of marriage.  I thought about the many roads we've traveled together.  Smooth  roads, rough roads, happy roads, sad roads, angry roads, joy roads....and now this road.  A road of its own.  An unexpected road.  A road that detoured us at the cancer mile marker. A road that will become the "after road" for us.   A road that has changed our direction, for the better actually I think.  

Now we will walk the recovery road. A road I am so relieved to be on.  I am so happy to have the expanders out and implants in.  I am so happy that I woke up with the normal post-op hang over without hallucinations or delusions.  I am so happy for the many of you who have been on this road with us.

I go for an early post-op visit in the morning.  Maybe he will unwrap me and we will see what's beneath the bandages.  I will clarify my restrictions.  I am in so much LESS pain that I can tell I will have problems with rules this time.  The only way I will be able to keep myself in check is to remember that I can mess these up and then need another surgery to fix them.  That is motivation!

For tonight I will wallow in the presence of my family and have peace in the mystery of what is to come.  

God's peace to us and you in whatever mystery you are living in right now.  He is the author of our lives and while things are mysterious to us, nothing is a mystery to Him.  Rest in this.

Goals 2017

I have used the same little journal to write my goals in since 2014.  Kind of like my 5 year journal, it lets me see history...and as y'all have figured out, I love seeing the tapestry created by history.

In 2014 I decided to focus on categories and sub-categories and have just continued those.  It is interesting to review what I've accomplished and what went by the wayside.

 My little polka dotted bird goal keeper. 

My little polka dotted bird goal keeper. 

Along with history and polka dots, I also have a thing for alliteration.  My categories all start with the letter H.  Heart....Home....Head....Health....Hijinks.  The subcategories under each are where I focus my goals.  

Heart- goals for spiritual, relationships, community.

Home-goals for family, household management type things.

Head-goals for personal growth and career goals.

Health-goals for exercise, diet and rest.

Hijinks-goals for fun things from bigger ideas like travel to intentional daily celebrations.

Before 2014 I'm not sure what happened to my written goals.  I don't know what I accomplished or not.  I love that I can look back over the last few years and see what happened...or not...what I want to continue to focus on...or not...how I have lived my life...or not.

For 2017, it will be double or nothing.  Somehow.  Join me?

Reading Challenge 2017

I've never done a reading challenge before but I decided to try one out for 2017.  Here are my categories and titles.

 photo courtesy of enw photography

photo courtesy of enw photography

1.  A book set in my home state- The Marrowbone Marble Company (set in Huntington, WV which is my original home state and the town where I went to college-Marshall U, WE ARE MARSHALL and I will be forever green, with hint of Duke blue.)

2.  An award winning book- The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Man Booker Prize plus the title grabbed me.)

3.  A classic I haven't read- Frankenstein

4.  Collection of essays-  How the Universe Got its Spots

5.  A book I will read with a friend -  The Post Birthday World (This book is on my friend Lacey's list and we will read it the same month.)

6.  A book someone gave me-  In the Sanctuary of Outcasts ( thank you Laurie! )

7.  A book about books/reading-  Ex Libris: Confession of a Common Reader (thank you again Laurie!)

8.  A book about a topic I usually avoid- Home, How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings (topic is Heaven and I read a fair amount of Christian non-fiction but find that I avoid this topic.  Thanks B for the book!)

9.  A collection of short stories-  I Am Crying All Inside

10.  A book recommended by someone with good taste- In the Shadow of the Banyan (recommended by my well read friend Amy)

11.  A book I bought for its title-  Still Life with Bread Crumbs

12.  A book about generations of a family-  The Gathering ( I love heritage/ancestry and am intrigued by history).

There you have it!  I decided to start January with a book about reading to set the tone so I will start with Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.  The only other month I know for sure is that I will read Frankenstein in October.   I will let you know how this goes!

Do you have a reading challenge?  Do tell!

December Review

I thought I would write more but I sure haven't!  Oh well, here's the month in review.  Nothing profound or even well written in this post.

December has held its usual holiday busyness, good busyness.  Plus I made a change in my job and had pre-op.

We started our annual Christmas puzzles as soon as Thanksgiving was over and worked 4 of them.  We've decorated, baked cookies, shopped, wrapped, visited family & friends, gone to church services & school programs just as many of you have.  I had a hard time not over-doing it because it felt so good to do things again.  Then came Christmas weekend and it was was fabulous...I couldn't have asked for more!  Very blessed!

 

 

The job transition is going very well so far.  My schedule has been much busier so that has added a little extra challenge, but I really do like the new office.

Pre-op went....not as good as I had hoped.  I felt stressed out and tired that day. (and I do not want to be stressed out as stress is what likely landed me in this spot) My BP was the highest it's ever been so I just didn't feel well.  Now, I am monitoring my BP which has improved and shouldn't cause a problem as long as it doesn't get any higher....

AND I busted my boobs.  yep.  Sprung a leak.  First the right, then the left.  I should have called when it happened but instead I figured they were busy, and I would just address it at the scheduled pre-op.  Health care workers make horrid patients.

The expanders have flattened out quite a bit but there's still some saline in them. Reconstruction Man thinks they were expanded long enough to be able to handle the implants.  I sure hope so. Surgery on January 12 so we are going to just leave them alone.  Y'all can pray the surgery goes off without a hitch please!  I will keep you posted about that.

On the reading front:

1.  So Long, See You Tomorrow-Fiction 

2.  A Guide to Fervent Prayer-Arthur Pink, Christian nonfiction (took me months to get through this one) 

3.  A Thousand Vessels-poetry

4.  The One True Story-Christian nonfiction (daily Advent readings, thanks B!)

5.  The Dawning of Indestructible Joy-Christian nonfiction (daily Advent readings)

6.  Lying Awake-Fiction 

7.  Hidden Christmas-Christian nonfiction and book club selection.

Hope the rest of you had a marvelous Christmas and are gearing up for New Year's!  

Some Days and Other Days

I can't believe we are at the end of November.  The time continues to fly by some days and drag by other days.  The next surgery seems so close some days yet so far away other days.  

In all honesty, some days I still can't believe the events of this year, and on other days I know it's real and am thankful for the answers to prayer.

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November has been a good month. Some days have been better than others.  Some days I have more grace for myself on the bad days, other days I have little grace for myself when I'm having a bad day.  I think I should not have a bad day in light of things so I get frustrated with myself on the bad days.  My mom always told me I was harder on myself than anyone else ever would be.  She was right.

Several good things this month.  November has been a social month.  Neighborhood dinner, book club, S5 monthly dinner and birthday parties.  Plus Thanksgiving.  Lots to celebrate!

I also read more this month, so that makes me happy! Here's the list if anyone is interested.

1.  You Learn by Living-nonfiction

2.  Present Over Perfect-nonfiction

3.  The Art of Hearing Heartbeats-fiction (book club)

4.  Next Life Might Be Kinder-fiction

5.  84 Charring Cross-nonfiction

6.  Four Seasons in Rome-nonfiction

I also managed to watch Bleak House and the first season of Poldark.  Record screen time for me in one month!

All in all a pretty well rounded month...kind of like me after Thanksgiving.  

Now, Advent has begun.  The season of hope and anticipation.  I encourage each of you to seek the King who came as a baby all those years ago.   

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Neighborhood Dinner- A Novel November

Today was Neighborhood Dinner Day.  Well, not officially of course, just here in my little world. We started our Neighborhood Dinner 6 years ago and have not missed one single month. Amazing really.

We have lived life in a real and rich way with one another.   We have had times of great laughter and times of great tears.  We have been blessed to be neighbors in an old fashioned sort of way....the "can I have an egg and a cup of flour?" sort of way....the "I've locked myself out can you come help me get in my house?" sort of way.... "can you watch my cat/dog/child?" sort of way....in a sort of way that makes me sad that not everyone has this....in a sort of way that reminds me of how very blessed I am.

We are multigenerational, from 70's to newborn.  That is part of what makes this gathering so awesome.  We have wisdom and youth.  Salt and sugar.  Vim and vigor.

Today was the first time I've hosted since August.  It was at that dinner in August that I had just gotten my mammogram report and it was my secret.  It was at that dinner that I saw my neighbors through a different lens, the lens of "life is short and I want to taste all of it."

This dinner marks the first meal I've cooked since surgery.  Marty helped me get it started Friday night.  He cut the carrots and potatoes, I sauteed the onions and measured the seasonings.  As I listened to his steady chopping and my onions sizzling, I prayed.  Prayers of thanks. Prayers of joy.  Prayers of peace.

Our theme this month was A Novel November.  Foods from books... I made beef stew from an Alice Munro book, B made chocolate pie from The Help (Isn't that funny?!) and L made salad from Treasure Island.  We were a small group today, but it seemed fitting just as the bigger louder full of laughter crowd in August seemed fitting. With this being my first hosting after the diagnosis, it hit me that this really is a Novel November.  

Another meaning of the word novel is "new or unusual in an interesting way".  Life feels new and unusual in an interesting way.   Hosting Neighborhood Dinner last time compared to this time is like bookends....life before and life after.  

I'm thinking this blog will become my place to figure out how to live life truly Double or Nothing in a Novel sort of way.  The girl that has been buried beneath layers of life is ready to once again be the girl full of life...to make this November a Novel one that carries through the rest of my life.

Thanks for being a part of it all. 

Cheers.

 

October-The Short and Long of It.

Well, I woke up and October was gone.  Thought I would do a little wrap up with something other than cancer.

The short of it is my reading list...probably the shortest in my adult life but at least I got 2 books in.  Both were on my Kindle as it required less energy to hold.  Also my Peeramid Bookrest is super for hands free reading.

1.  Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World-Christian non-fiction.

2.  God in the Sink: Essays from Toad Hall-Christian non-fiction  

The long of it is my 5 year journal.  I'm on my 4th year and so thankful that I have 3.5 years of "normal" life recorded.  Amazing what I've captured over the last 4 years! I am so glad the breast cancer journey is part of this journal.  The 5th year will start in 2017 and get me through the recovery period as well.  The timing will seem right in 2018 to start with a fresh new 5 year journal.

I became intrigued with 5 year journals after some family members found lost journals of my grandfather.  A man who died before I was born. He was an avid journaler and between a 5 year and a few 1 year journals we have a small window into several years of his life. 

 I've been able to read about his work as an engineer, local events and restaurants of his day, his banking experiences, his BP problems which had no fix back then (which is why he died in his 50's of a sudden heart attack), his very first vehicle back before they even had adequate roads, his time with older family members visiting his parent's graves, his hobbies....and the most painful part of my mother's life when she was 3 and he dropped her at an orphanage after my grandmother died.  So many things about my family that I never would have known if not for his journals.

I was so intrigued to "get to know" my grandfather as well as read about that time period, it convinced me to start the 5 year journal habit. Have you ever considered starting this habit? Now is a good time to buy one for yourself to start in 2017!  You can buy them on-line or at most book stores.  You won't regret it, especially when you get to the second year and are able to reflect on the past year.  Plus you never know who will be reading about you in the future.  I bought someone's 5 year journal at an antique shop and her life was amazing! I'm not sure how it ended up being sold, but I love reading about her life in the early 1950's.

So, there you have the short and long of it.  2 books and a 5 year journal.

Hope your October was good and you are ready for the holiday season!

Doctor Day

A brief update on the physical part of this journey:

Saw the Reconstruction Man this evening and all is well.  Started the expansion process.  Will have some minor reconstruction work on the left side due to post op complications but he assures me it will be minor and turn out fine.  I'm happy with that because at one point the other option was me back in the OR a week ago.  Praise God he prevented that.

Fatigue is from low blood counts and will improve as my hemoglobin improves.  I just like knowing there's more of a reason than not.  For some reason that helps my mental state...and I am feeling better each day.

It is amazing that I've had no major set backs or complications.  Once I crawled out of Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole things have progressed ok.  

If I can tolerate expansions and no complications we will try to do the big exchange in late January!  What a relief that will be. 

That's the latest physical update.  No cancer so I'd say all is really well!

Pumpkins and Pink Camellias

It seems like it is has been awhile since my last update.  Although I tried to get my foggy brain to focus long enough to write a post I barely remember it.

The last 3 weeks have really been much more difficult than I had prepared myself for, and I don't even really remember 2 of those same said weeks.  Goodness.  

Sunday I took my first stroll beyond the driveway. As Marty walked on the right of me, I dreamed aloud all the ways next October would be different. This one feels lost.  Gone.  A whole month with not much to show for it.  At least that's how it feels.  Sadness instead of gladness began to creep along on the left of me.  

I looked at the pink camellias blooming along side the pumpkins on the steps.  I thought about seeing the first bloom the day I came home from the hospital.  Although I was in a haze I remember how odd it seemed to see that bright pink flower near the pumpkins and took note of it with the glee of a child.  As the surgery fog dissipated over, I learned that pink flower made me so obviously happy that Erin cut it and put it in a vase.  She realized there was something significant about it for me.

 Yesterday I came across another breast cancer survivor who now says that October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is a dreaded month for her.  I wondered if I would feel the same in the future? Today when I'm not feeling all pumpkins and flowers... more like mack truck and deep pits...when that sadness creeps up on the left of me....how could I still love October in the future?

Today, I thought this:  I get to choose.  That's right.  My choice.  I did not get to choose the diagnosis (boo, hiss, but still really good in the breast cancer realm) or the prognosis (praise, blessing,life!), but I do get to choose my attitude.

I have always loved pumpkins and only now do I realize how beautiful they look next to the October pink blooming camellias that my GardenBuddy Meghan planted last year.  She had no idea when she planted those in 2015 that those pink blooms in October would be the color of my memory of 2016. 

I can choose to remember the color of healing through God's hands and His people who have surrounded me or I can choose to remember the pain and losses.  I suspect there is a healthy way to remember both as God uses it all to bring glory to Himself and growth to us.   I suspect this balance is much of what I need in order to choose the right attitude...the healthy attitude.

This next year will be a balance of patience for the healing process and grace for myself on the difficult days....a balance of choosing joy even as I allow myself to grieve the changes....a balance of focusing inward while still reaching outward....a balance of memories and on-going dreams for the future....a balance of loving pumpkins and pink camellias.