Alone

29 Jan

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My cousin passed away a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know him very well because he was a little bit older and always lived far from our family; either in the Philippines or California. From what I’ve seen in pictures and have heard over the years he was extremely smart, had a great career, and loved to paint and write. He was a son, father, brother and friend. My mom was able to go to his funeral in California last week and said not only was his immediate family there (his sisters, brother, and mom) and some extended family, but she said the room was filled with many grieving friends. He was loved by many. A few days after the funeral, family started the daunting task of cleaning out his apartment. Being a single dad with a grown son, he lived alone. The apartment was filled with books, paintings, and numerous journals. My mom said what was extremely sad was that his last journal was filled with loneliness. He wrote about feeling alone, wrote about feeling sad and about his debilitating illnesses. On the outside was a man with a giant smile, a great career and numerous close friends and family, but within his walls lived a man that felt alone and who passed away alone in his home. Why? No one will ever know his exact thought process but all pray he is finally at peace.

When I had cancer the first time I was in the hospital for awhile and there were many long periods of alone. At the time, the prognosis wasn’t great so my mind was all over the place. One thing that was extremely difficult for me was all the time I spent in my room alone while trying to process the fact my cancer was ‘worse than they expected’. It was a sad and scary time and I shed many tears alone in the dark. After leaving I had a tug on my heart to make sure no one would feel or be alone. I told myself I would figure something out, volunteer to visit those who had no visitors just to say hello and let them know that they mattered. Today, it’s been almost 8 years since that first bout with cancer and I confess I haven’t done a thing. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled with loneliness, what’s out part? I guess it’s to make sure people know they matter.’Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.’~Mother Teresa  We are slowly losing the art of eye contact, smiling, talking (instead of texting). So no, I haven’t done what my heart was pulled to do 8 years ago, but I do try to make eye contact, smile at strangers, and listen intently. One of my work mentors flew in from Dallas to work with me and I watched him ask for people’s names,say thank you, asked how their day was or paid them a compliment; every single person from the valet, to reception, to people on the elevator. I can’t tell you how many times people’s face lit up with a big grin, why? Because someone noticed them…they mattered to someone even if for just that blip in time. Let’s try a little harder.

Today I wear Stila Color Balm Lipstick in Ali which is a berry/raisin color. This is my current fave because they’re creamy with lots of color. This color in particular looks like a pop of deep berry on my lips which adds a little pick me up to the day. Also, they actually feel like a lip balm on my lips which is critical during dry winters. Cheers!

 

Alternate Ending

31 Dec

 

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Another year has passed and one of the best lessons (or reminders) I learned from 2015 is that there is usually an alternate ending to your story. As humans we all have a certain set of expectations on how our life is supposed to be, how it’s all supposed to turn out, what we deserve out of life, etc.. but most of the time it’s not what you expect and some of the time it’s beyond what you yourself could have imagined. It starts at a young age and is influenced by our personal experiences. I see it and hear it from my kids, what they want for their future, what they expect to happen; like my daughter saying she wants to have only sons because daughters are too hard, and my son saying what age he’ll marry…it’s fun to hear because as a parent I just nod my head and pray for the best knowing that life has lots of twists and turns. We all do it. We create a story, a scene in our head of how our life is supposed to be and many times we are disappointed because life just doesn’t meet our expectations; it could be a job, a marriage, our kids, even friendships. At one point after years of disappointment in one area of my life, I decided to either have very low expectations or to have no expectations of anything or anyone because then I would never be disappointed and anything above zero would be a bonus. I’m not sure that’s the best way to think.

There are two words that are closely tied together, expectation (a strong belief that something will happen), and hope (a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen). They almost sound the same don’t you think? Joyce Meyer says, ‘Hope is favorable and confident expectation; it’s an expectant attitude that something good is going to happen and things will work out, no matter what situation we’re facing.’ The difference between the two words seems minuscule and huge at the same time; what sounds better, ‘I’m expecting a better story,’ or ‘I’m hoping for a better story’? I think I can live without having expectations but there is no way I can live without having hope.me1.5.15

My story isn’t at all what I was expecting but without hope (and the love of family and friends) I don’t think I could stay sane. I didn’t expect cancer or divorce, but I also didn’t expect the awesome twists and turns, the people, the joy, the love, and even the heartache that has met me along the way but alas, always an alternate hope-filled ending. Yes, our stories are rarely what we expect but if we always have hope then we can be confident that God works all things together for good and in His time.‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’~Romans 12:12 

Today I wear YSL Rouge Pur Couture Satin Radiance lipstick in Le Rouge which is a blood red. These lipsticks are pure class, they are moisturizing and go on silky smooth. A little bit of a splurge but hey, every once in a while….I chose this color because it’s red and we’re ringing in a new year. HAPPY NEW YEAR, Cheers!

 

 

See ya! Wait, don’t leave!

12 Dec

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I think the most difficult time in raising children is the teen years.When they’re young they need you. They eat what you prepare, they do what you tell them (for the most part), they are like sponges constantly learning and they have that childhood joy. Slowly (or rather quickly), they get AJbabesolder, start to get more self-sufficient, start to become more influenced by friends and media, then of course, start to talk back. Why is it that the most difficult time for raising a child happens at the exact time they are about to leave home?

I have an 18 year old senior boy. I specify boy because I think there is a huge difference between raising boys and girls. Anyhow, I am trying to navigate through a multitude of feelings and every day brings something different. There are times I count the days until he leaves for college and AJgoofthere are others when I want to never let him go. He pretends to be fiercely independent but then will ask for something simple or say something which points to the fact that he is still young, a child. I think it’s more difficult with boys because somewhere around the age of 12/13 they start talking with one word answers while girls get more emotional but don’t really stop talking/yelling/whining and still communicating with you. I was told a long time ago that when boys leave home conversations become scarce until they find a wife or serious girlfriend who then becomes the central communicator between mom and son again.

AJ 3.5My son’s been receiving college acceptance letters. When he got his first acceptance letter I was so happy for him but my heart dropped because reality showed itself. He is a young adult. He can vote, check into a hotel, maybe rent a car, he’s had a job for a couple years now, etc. yet in this last year he is home I want to hug him more, have him around me more, and kind of spoil him because it has gone way too fast. My first baby who was born 5 weeks early with giant eyes and the longest eyelashes is going to be my first to go. How can I be joyful and heartbroken at the same time?

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.~K.Gibran

I know my children are a gift from God and they belong to Him who created them. I am grateful.

Today I wear Bite Beauty Mix and Mingle lipstick in Holly/Tannin. I got one of these for Christmas last year as a gift and they are great. LOTS of color! I chose this because it’s double ended, two different colors for my two different moods; Holly, bright red for joy and Tannin, a deeper red for sadness. I know, I know, millions of parents have been through this, it’ll all be fine. Give your kids extra hugs and make good memories! Cheers!!

Thank You, Doctor

26 Nov

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This past week I had my last appointment with one of my doctors because he is retiring. Unexpectedly at the end of my normal check up, I burst into tears as he said good bye, hugged me and told me it was his privilege to have taken care of me during my cancer journey. It’s hard to describe how I felt saying good bye to this man because the feelings kind of took me by surprise. Dr. K has seen me from the very beginning of my cancer story 8 years ago and has treated me like I was his only patient. He called me on Christmas to tell me the results of my PET scan because he knew I wouldn’t want to wait, after a medical conference he called me to tell me there was a new test for rare cases like me and although it had not been approved yet by the FDA he was going to arrange I have it done, during a period when I had no insurance and cancer was suspected again he told me he would take care of the additional tests necessary, and every time my cancer came back he would personally call doctors, surgeons, specialists across the country and tell me who he’d spoken to and who he would recommend; he himself a cancer survivor, always offered me the encouragement I needed. I feel so fortunate and grateful to have had him as part of my medical team.

Did Dr. K treat all of his patients like that? Probably, and it probably added more work to his days to make those extra phone calls and do extra paperwork. How easy would it be for us to squeeze in kindness, love, respect, empathy, etc toward other people in our busy days and should it really take that much effort? Dr. K made me feel important, valued, like I mattered, and isn’t that what we want in general? In our homes, friendships, workplace? His extra 10 minutes spent on me created a place in my heart and memory that will last me the rest of my life. ‘Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.’~ Mother Teresa. How do people feel when they leave you? Encouraged? Happy? At Peace? Like they listened? What memory are we leaving? Sometimes we only get one chance, let’s remind people they matter.

This Thanksgiving I have so much to be grateful for; health, family, home, and love. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families! Today I wear Dior Addict Lipstick in Not Shy, a pink-brown, which is my new favorite daytime lipstick. I’ve always loved Dior lipsticks for moisture and shine and this new formulation adds a little more staying power. Cheers from my family to yours!

#thestruggleisreal

15 Nov

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I’ve kind of been feeling like a fake lately. I always write about finding the good in people, inspiration, and people having a story and how that story has shaped and molded them into who they are, their actions, their beliefs, etc. Well, I’ve been struggling and I mean really struggling at times with a couple things for a specific person from my past; hate and unforgiveness. That’s right, this is me being honest. I can find no other way to say it or to feel it. Yes, I know the saying ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ and also the conversation from the Bible where Jesus was asked how many times we need to forgive and He says ‘…not seven times, but seventy times seven.’ Believe me, I get it. I’ve listened to enough sermons that tell me that the one ‘suffering’ is the person who can’t forgive. Here’s the deal with me though, it’s the 70 times 7 thing. This is where it gets difficult because honestly it just gets tiring. It is so emotionally draining to forgive, release, then have another offense where you have to forgive again for essentially the same thing from the same person. Now, the hate comes in because the offenses done over and over are not directly toward me but to my children and I am one protective mama bear. I cannot stand the actions and lies told to them, and from where I stand it has become very difficult to separate sin from sinner. Fortunately my kids are older and wiser. Like all kids, they crave truth in both words and action and when the two don’t match they don’t pay attention and they lose trust. Sometimes there is this shadow of sadness that veils my days because of this situation and I can’t help but feel anger, then back to that hate thing. It’s a work in progress because I’m pretty confident it will never change.

I know this is vague and confusing but relationships, good and bad, are complex. Forgiveness in this case is hard because it is an action that literally for me has to be exercised daily for this specific person and it is mentally draining. It is truly that 70 times 7. How easy it would be to forgive someone for a single offense and be done with it but this has to be a constant, active process for me.  ‘Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.’~Corrie ten Boom  Yes, I will continue to forgive and gain strength from that. ‘Let no man pull you so low as to hate him’~ Martin Luther King Jr. Again, work in progress but I already feel a little better just talking (or writing) through it. Hurting people hurt people because of their own damage and insecurities;love the sinner, hate the sin. Last quote from an unknown author, ‘Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior, forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.’ Done….for now.puppy

It turns out I don’t think I’m allergic to lipstick…I think I just have to stop rubbing my face in my new puppy’s fur. Today I wear Nars Audacious Lipstick in Charlotte which is a deep burgundy and great for this upcoming holiday season. These lipsticks are great because they have TONS of color and feel like nothing on your lips. Until next time…cheers!

Story

3 Nov

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I’m kind of addicted to the stories posted on Facebook from Humans of New York. If you haven’t heard of this and you’re on Facebook you should take a gander. Every day, or several times a day, they post a picture of someone (old,young, and all in between) along with a piece of their story. All the stories are so different and interesting. They have so many followers that they recently published a book of the many people and stories they have collected which my daughter bought me for my birthday. It brings to light the fact that everyone brings something to the table, everyone has different and unique stories, and also the fact that no one knows what happens behind closed doors. Looking at the beautiful pictures they post of all these different people, you would never know some of the things they have faced or celebrated; I find it so interesting.

Last week a close friend found out her young son was beaten by her ex-husband and more than likely not for the first time. It has been a long and stressful week for her but thankfully he is safe and ok for now. If you truly knew all of her story this would not be a surprise, but since most people don’t, it comes as a shock. What angers me a little is that people assumed the worst of her (or maybe the best of him) until this happened. Why? Partly because we love a great bad guy/good guy/gossipy story (admit it) but also because she stayed mostly silent. He continually spoke poorly of her and her choices while volunteering at church and school and putting his best face forward. He looked like the hero, people felt sorry for him, took care of him, and essentially believed his story without question. He was good at telling it, he was good at showing it, while again, she stayed away, she stayed silent. Is silence better? This has been a struggle for me because I have a whole piece of me that I’ve been silent about. I’m not so sure. What I’m fairly convinced about is this…the person who will not stop talking or accusing is typically the person feeling guilty for the thing they are making accusations for; they are the one’s having difficulty looking at themselves in the mirror and don’t want people looking so closely at them so point the finger elsewhere. Here’s the lesson…don’t assume until you know all sides of a story. Silence? I guess it’s ok for now.IMG_7347

It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”~Maurice Switzer (Also see Proverbs 17:27-28)

Today I wear Aquaphor on my lips. Why? The unthinkable happened to me, the lipstick connoisseur…I had an allergic reaction to a lipstick. Which one? I have no idea because I used a couple new ones last week. Oh well. I love Aquaphor because it is one of those multi purpose products. Cheers!

Good and Bad

13 Oct

Sculpture called 'Changing Woman"

Sculpture called ‘Changing Woman”

There have been a few changes to my body post cancer that have just become part of my everyday. I’ve had 5 years now to get used to them but some days are a little more difficult. First, my breathing. With a paralyzed vocal cord the process of getting air in and out is a little tougher and therefore most cardiovascular activities for me are limited or ‘adjusted’, second, my voice is a bit quieter and gets tired more easily because of said vocal cord. Also, since my last surgery and radiation, I have had numbness and tingling in my left arm and hand. There are other things but these are the most bothersome. About 2 weeks ago my arm took a turn for the worse and I’m not sure if it’s a pinched nerve or what but it is just about completely numb, like dead weight. Throw that into the seasons changing in Michigan and allergy season which is my most difficult breathing time, well, makes for hefty reminders of that cancer past. In fact, it’s actually a little difficult to type so I am mostly using my right hand…I’ll be at the doctor soon.

Have you ever asked why God allows bad things to happen? It’s too big of a question so I try to not ask why and I don’t intend to try to begin figuring out an answer. What I do know is this, there is always a lesson or reason and sometimes you don’t know what it is until much later or maybe not even in this lifetime. Why did I get cancer when no one in my family has cancer? Why did it come back so many times? I’m not sure, but today I am a much stronger person then I was before; a warrior. A lot has transpired since that first diagnosis but I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not happened. I physically lost my voice but I have truly found it again. Cancer allowed me to see life with fresh eyes and consider life’s brevity; yes it’s fallharder to breathe but I have breathed in new life. There is a bible verse which says, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’ (James 1:2-3) It’s hard to consider it joy when you’re going through something but it helps to know that there may be a reason or a positive because of it. Here’s the other thing, with trials of faith like cancer or any illness, the person going through it is not the only one learning. Most of the time illness is not solitary; it affects family, friends, even co-workers and acquaintances therefore the lessons in faith and perseverance are multiplied 10-fold to those around you.

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.~W. Anderson 

Today I wear NYX Butter Gloss in Maple Blondie. I LOVE these glosses because they’re super moisturizing, have good color , and they are inexpensive as well (the lipsticks are pretty awesome too)! I chose this color because it’s great as a light brown/pink neutral and because the name reminded me of fall (Maple). It’s fall in Michigan and all the leaves are turning colors, cheers!

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