Identity

20 Nov

firstsnow14
It’s been a bit of a challenging week. Work has been busy because it’s almost the end of the year, the holidays are creeping upon us at what seems a faster rate than normal, we had our first snow and it wasn’t exactly just a ‘dusting’, and I heard from a friend who had some not so good news (and those are just a few of the things from this week). Having cancer connects you to lots of different people but there are always a few that you really connect with because either your cancer or your journey is similar. Last year, at around this time, I received a goodbye email from my friend Bob. I’ve written about him several times and needless to say, his passing was extremely difficult for me (read about him here). This week, almost exactly a year later, I heard from a woman I have actually never met in person but have emailed fairly consistently since the start of my cancer path 6 years ago. I’m not sure how we even got connected but we had similar cancer stories; thyroid, multiple surgeries, radiation, etc. Anyhow, she reached out to me and told me she now has breast cancer and it hurt my heart. It was difficult for me to hear that after all she had been through she was once again back in the fight, this time a different type of cancer. She has an incredible faith in God and like all of us, she will do what she has to do.

I have a friend who’s a flight attendant. She loves talking to people and she told me that she recently started asking people she meets to sum up who they are in one or two words or phrases. I had to think about that for a minute because what would I say about myself? How do we define ourselves? I would venture to say that ‘cancer survivor’ may be one of those phrases that slips out of me but is that good enough? The definition of survivor in thefreedictionary.com is to remain alive, in yourdictionary.com the definition of survivor is someone who got through; so do I want survivor to be my word, my identity? Sounds a little…eh, no growth. Yes I had cancer but that is not who I am today. It’s easy to identify ourselves by what we’ve been through but maybe our description should be more about who we’ve become. Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.~Bernice Johnson Reagon. Life is challenging for everyone in many different ways but let’s not get trapped in events or life’s drama, good or bad, and let’s not have them define us. Maybe how we define ourselves is more fluid, ever changing based not on our experiences but what we’ve learned from them; always moving forward, always growing. So if we by chance happened to sit together on an airplane, how would I describe myself to you today? Courageous (based on the definition I spoke of in a previous blog, sharing my heart and vulnerable), easy going (because I take each day as it comes), and optimistic. These can change with the ebb and flow of life but I think our core generally stays the same. It’s been a challenging week like I said, but I’ll take it as a chance to continue to learn more about me and more about life.

Today I wear Nars Audacious lipstick in Olivia. You pretty much can’t go wrong with a Nars lipstick. This formula feels really light but packs a punch in terms of color, hence the name, audacious. I chose Olivia because it’s a deep red…loving life and feelin’ the red again! Cheers!

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Scars

16 Nov

scar
I was sitting in a lunch room speaking to some of my customers when one of the staff members asked what the scar on my neck was from. She made some assumptions and I told her my story while she ate. Like most people, after hearing my story, she didn’t know what to say but I’m ok with that. Usually I start asking questions about them to divert attention away from me. I asked about her job, what her responsibilities were in the office, her plans for Thanksgiving, etc. What’s great is that typically when you actively listen to someone, they will continue to speak and open up (at least that’s been my experience). She ended up telling me all kinds of things from her job woes to her food allergies but ended up talking about her strained relationship with her kids. She had been a single mom for a very long time and now that her sons were grown and out of the house they were no longer speaking to each other. She teared up talking about some events that led to the situation and how hurt she was, but pride on both sides prevented them from speaking and she wasn’t going to be the first to apologize,hmmmm…sad. She said she has grieved the relationship with her sons like a death in the family and she will always have a broken heart because of it; sounds like ‘sorry’ would be easier.

I have a few scars, one on my neck from cancer, one on my shin from banging my leg into a car door, and probably a few that I don’t remember. Every scar tells a story, either a funny one or maybe a difficult one, but either way, it’s a wound that’s been healed while also leaving it’s mark.’Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.’~ Cormac McCarthy. What about the scars you don’t see? The ones left by hurt, words, anger, discouragement, do those heal? I think it takes a really long time and maybe, without the ‘sorry’ and forgiveness, will never heal. My daughter recently showed me a picture that her friend drew of herself. I was shocked and saddened to see this self portrait because it showed a girl, sad and scarred pulling a mask away from her face; the mask was of a beautiful smiling girl. Being a woman and a mom of a teenage girl, I know how hurtful girls and other women can be to each other and because of my past I am fully aware of how damaging words and actions can be. When scars heal they change the texture of your skin, what about the damage of scars on your heart and soul? The hurt always alters something. ‘It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.’~Rose Kennedy

We are all damaged and scarred to some degree and we should remember that when speaking to each other. How do scars of the heart heal? Kindness, peace, patience, love, sound familiar? (Galatians 5:22-23). Some scars run deep and are easily injured again, be patient, continue moving forward. Maybe your heart won’t be the same, but like the scars on your skin, you’ll be a little bit tougher.

Today I’m wearing Cherry Chapstick, it’s a throwback kinda day! Cheers!

Before I Die…

8 Nov

church

I know it’s been a while since my last blog but sometimes whether you like it or not, busy takes over. Between work, kids’ activities, other hobbies, etc…life takes over. A couple weeks ago my daughter’s good friend’s dad passed away suddenly in an accident. He was our neighbor, 49 years old, and a father of three. It reminded me how precious and tender life really is. With cancer or other illness, albeit difficult, people have time to prepare and say goodbye. Here one second, gone the next, is completely different and unimaginable.

There is an artist based out of New Orleans named Candy Chang and with the sudden death of someone she was close to she decided to paint the side of an abandoned home with chalkboard paint and asked the question ,’Before I die I want to….’. Not only did hundreds from this community fill in the blanks, with things like ‘sing for millions’,’hold her one more time’, and ‘straddle the international dateline’, but it has become an international phenomenon with ‘chalkboard walls’ around the world asking the same question. Her motivation? We live in a disconnected society where people don’t take time to share struggles, hopes, and dreams, and at least if you can see that people want the same things as you, it can open up connection. The morning after my surgery from having cancer the first time, the doctor came in and told me that my prognosis was bad and to make preparations. Essentially he said, my time was going to be cut short because the cancer was ‘all over the place’. After he left my hospital room I sat alone contemplating this very question (and crying my eyes out of course), before I die, what? I thought about my kids first, what do I want for them, how do I want their life to be, who will surround them with love, how will they navigate through adulthood? Then came the, ‘but I haven’t done _______ yet’ and ‘I haven’t seen________yet’. My list in my head included things like perfect another language, write a book, learn another instrument, see The Great Wall of China, etc, but what impacted me the most was the time factor. All I wanted was more time with people and family; time to sit, to talk, to laugh, to cry, to just be. I wanted to free myself from the cage of an image and I wanted to be real, to be myself, because in the end, we only have our time and our relationships.side

It’s easy to get busy and get caught up in day to day junk while forgetting what’s truly important to us and what matters most. Death always brings clarity to what those things are but because of how quickly time passes and the ‘stuff’ of life, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain that perspective. I never want to forget how I felt and how I thought for those long moments alone in my hospital room. What is it you want to do before you die? I’m curious. ‘Life is brief and tender….thinking about death clarifies your life.’~ Candy Chang

Today I wear Nars Lip Gloss in Wonder. Nars reformulated their lip gloss a short time ago and what I liked before, I like even more. They have a little more color and are a little heavier but not sticky. Don’t let this color scare you, it looks orange but is still sheer and pretty. I chose it mainly for the name because I always want to look at life with childlike wonder. Life is beautiful, cheers!

Symphony

29 Oct

fall
When I was growing up my house was always filled with music. We had a record player (those of you under 30?, ask your parents what that is) and I think for many years we played music much more than we watched television…probably why I love music so much. My dad would sing constantly; Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, etc. and when he wasn’t singing, he would be playing classical music and pretending to conduct an orchestra playing Beethoven, Chopin, Bach (usually in his robe and pajamas). I have very fond memories of sitting on our stairs watching my dad and sometimes even joining him.

This past week was an amazing week for me. I randomly ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile and the reunion was beautiful (and tearful). She shared with me some of the things going on in her life and told me that I had come to her mind just the night before, so she prayed for me. That simple prayer led to her releasing some of her stress and then seeing me the next morning, after at least three years, confirmed to her that God cared for even the little things. Over the weekend I visited my alma mater and had another reunion with an old friend whom I’ve kept in contact with. It was surreal as we visited where we lived on and off campus and some of the places we used to hang out over 20 years ago. What was even better (to me), was sharing some of the memories we had from those college days. I realized how much she played a part in my life for that period of time.wmu

I am always in awe of the different people that I’ve gotten to meet and do life with; those that have weaved in and out of my story. Some who have consistently been a part of my ongoing journey and some who are there for just brief moments of time. I don’t believe in accidental meetings because I do believe in a much grander plan by a big God who never ceases to amaze me over and over. Life is like that beautiful symphony. The treble clef carries the melody; interactions, work, nature, beauty. The bass clef is the foundation; solid, consistent, feet on the ground. There are times when we have some sharps; exciting, thrilling, or just changing peaks and moments. Then there are flats; maybe setbacks or maybe just calm. God is the conductor and the different movements in a piece are the different movements of an ever changing life. People, events, job, day to day, those are the instruments; some loud, some soft, but all working together to form a beautiful piece of art called life. There are no mistakes.
Life, he realized, was much like a song. In the beginning there is mystery, in the end there is confirmation, but it’s in the middle where all the emotion resides to make the whole thing worthwhile~Nicholas Sparks

Today I wear Nars Audacious Lipstick in Anna. These are long lasting but surprisingly creamy and smooth and feels weightless on the lips. This color is a smokey rose color, easy to wear for anyone. I mainly chose it for the name because of course I love that name :) Beethoven, Moonlight Sonata….Cheers!

Que Sera Sera

20 Oct

Annababy

Doing what I love-West Side Story

Doing what I love-West Side Story

ag
Once upon a time there was a shy little girl who had big huge dreams. She dreamed of being Little Orphan Annie, of having powers like Wonder Woman or at least ‘adjusted’ to have powers like Bionic Woman, she wanted a love story like Joanie and Chachi, style like Charlie’s Angels, she wanted to be in the Olympics or at least get hair like Dorothy Hamill, then Farrah Fawcett, then the Go Go’s, then style like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna (in the 80′s not later). She wanted to be a musician, a dancer, an astronaut, Miss America. By the way, if you know all my references then I can guess what age range you’re in! She loved the world and everything was possible.
lissabday50spartysonggirlsmeandfranDLA2

Years later just days before her 45th birthday she believes once again that anything is possible. Life is full of adversity that can take you off your path, distract you, and maybe deter some of your dreams. She learned that adversity doesn’t really change people, it just exposes their character and brings them closer to who they really are. So, through cancer and a broken relationship, she stands strong and looks back at the many miracles God has brought. The healing of her body and her heart, the closeness of old friends and the beauty of new ones, the realization that life can change in a moment of time, and the gratefulness for each breath. Her senses are hyper-aware of all the little things, the stars, the sky, the rain, but most of all the people that surround her. Life is beautiful.
fam

My dad used to sing this song around the house when I was young (along with a bunch of other songs, of course), I just thought it was fitting for this post. Que Sera Sera (great version), whatever will be will be…I’m overwhelmed looking back at all that has transpired and all the people God has put in my path (sorry I can’t put everyones pictures up but you know who you are). You have all inspired me, thank you and I love you…best birthday ever. Oh yeah, Marc Jacobs Lust For Lacquer lipgloss in Magic because of the name, duh!

3 Words

15 Oct

AW3.22
There are three words that have become synonymous with cancer fighters/survivors or really anyone who has or is fighting some type of battle externally or internally…COURAGE, BRAVERY, HOPE. I have been called courageous for fighting something I didn’t choose, but also had no choice but to fight back. What truly do these words mean?

Bravery and courage are sometimes used interchangeably but actually have very different origins and meanings. Today’s definition of brave means possessing or exhibiting courage, or courageous endurance. From Middle French it means splendid, valiant. It’s also an American Indian noun for North American Indian Warrior. Courage is interesting. ‘Cor’ is the Latin word for heart, and originally courage meant to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart. Today it means acting heroic. Social researcher Brene’ Brown says “Heroics are often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line.” WOW. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. In old English it is wish, expect, look forward to possibly connecting; root word ‘hop’-leaping in expectation.

Interesting. Can you have any one of these three words without the other? Can you have hope without bravery? Can you have bravery without courage (vulnerability)? See what I’m getting at? We need all three. If you go back to the definition of bravery and consider courageous endurance it takes on new meaning. Being brave requires ongoing vulnerability, enduring the road or path you are on valiantly.

All of us face battles every single day. Some internal, like illness, depression, cancer…battles with our bodies. Other battles are external;jobs, relationships, conflict. The only aspects in our control we really have with both are our attitudes and our actions. I have had a tough week but because of my faith I always have hope, and since the three words go together… I guess I am brave and courageous too. We can’t control others’ actions, just ours. I love my life. Pressing on…

Today I wear Dior Glow…my standby, constant. It’s a lip balm that somehow brings out the natural color of your lips. It’s simply awesome, get your inner glow on! Cheers!

Live Today

12 Oct

oneleft

I passed several of these flowering plants leaving an office last week while working. What I found so beautiful about them during this season was that on each of the plants there were only one or two flowers left. While most of the flowers had died already, there were one or two bursts of yellow on each; flowers appearing healthy in bloom, beautiful…survivors. So I got to thinking (of course), are we merely focused on surviving every day, or are we, like this flower, pushing every moment, taking in the sun, taking all the nutrients available, to truly live as much as possible? Yes I know it’s a stretch but that’s how my mind works. Sometimes life seems like survival of the fittest. Every day testing our patience, our kindness, our worth, our fears, every moment of every hour challenging us to make the right decision, then that choice leading us into the next moment, then the next decision, it’s kind of a lot.

What does it mean to truly live and not just keep your mind in survival mode? This past week I went to a fundraising dinner to support a great organization that I mentioned in a previous blog. They are doing some amazing work rebuilding a small section in Detroit. Although things haven’t happened quickly, they are making progress bit by bit. One of the speakers challenged us by asking how change happens…his answer, one step, one day at a time. Another spoke about pouring out your life into others because the return is 1000 fold. I am a believer. I’ve talked about this a million times before but sometimes we only get one chance to impact someone’s life and you leave them walking away feeling something. I want my impact to be a positive one. Receiving 1000 times back? Yes, when I was sick I was overwhelmed by the support from everyone I knew, some I hadn’t seen or talked to in at least 20 years. Pour an ounce of yourself, your time, your support, your smile into someone…it comes back. All this junk, the stuff we collect is just stuff. So what does it mean to truly live? For me, first noticing the beauty and being grateful for today. Like those flowers, we are surrounded by miracles all day every day, if you just keep your eyes open and notice. Second, pour into people; arms open, hands open, heart open…it comes back beyond what you can imagine. Oh yeah, take a risk and sneak in something daring when you can too! Always good to feel your heart racing every now and then!

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.~ Henry David Thoreau

Today I wear Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in L.U.V. which is a rich purple color. She is known for her tattoos and red lips so of course her lipstick is long lasting and full of color. Since this is matte it’s a little dry for me although I do have a couple other colors that are not too drying. I chose it because it’s a hot color for the season and for the name. We could all use a little more love! Cheers!

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