Tag Archives: cancer survivor

Letting Go

17 Jul

bus stop

My 16 year old daughter just came back from Africa a few weeks ago. She had a fantastic opportunity with our church to go to an area where a school is being built for 600 children. Daily they were there to play, teach, sing, and just love these kids. When she came home she had a certain glow about her; she has been more open, appreciative, loving, and as an aside is more willing to use public restrooms because of the ‘not so nice’ bathroom situation where she stayed in Kenya. She’s always been pretty stubborn and staunch about her future plans in regards to college and career (especially lately), but this trip has changed her a little and I see (and hear) some uncertainty now. It’s been great listening to her and what’s on her heart and I’m excited. I’m praying that she will remember this trip, the people she met, and that her heart remains soft to those in need. I think it’s amazing how just leaving your comfort zone for a bit can change your perspective, your opinions, and maybe even some of your goals and worldview. IMG_2574

This summer has been a little difficult for me. Not only has it been jam packed with just stuff to do but most of that ‘stuff’ has had to do with letting my kids go and that reminder that they’re growing and ‘going’. My oldest child graduated high school and will be leaving in a month for college, my daughter went to Kenya then came home and got her driver’s license, and my youngest finished his first year of Jr High, went to a weeklong camp, and grew 6 inches somewhere along the way making him almost 6 foot tall. Parenting is hard and as I watch them become more and more independent I realize that it’s just a process of teaching them some of the lessons you’ve learned, loving them, then letting them go and be who God created them to be. As much as I want to hold them captive and continue telling them what to do (I mean offer them guidance), my time is nearly up and now I watch, pray, and support. It. Is. Not. Easy. But change and growth is inevitable.grad

‘Your children are not your children.
They are 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 make 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 also loves the bow that is stable.’~K. Gibran

Today I wear Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Quench Lip Rescue in Rose. I chose this because my lips seem to be perpetually dry right now so I’m wearing lots of colored balms and lipgloss. It’s super sheer and not bad in terms of moisturizing but I was hoping for a little more color. I know the job of mom or parent never stops, just changes; it’s a privilege and a blessing. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged so thank you for bearing with me! Cheers!





19 Jun


When I was 2 my dad came by himself to the United States leaving my mom and me in the Philippines. My parents decided to immigrate to the US in hopes of a better life and more opportunities for their children, and to achieve that American dream. My dad came first to look for a job, save up some money, find a place to live, and essentially ‘set up shop’ for my mom and I so we could be comfortable and set when we arrived. I was told by my mom that I stopped talking the day my dad left because I was heartbroken he was gone. I’m not sure how long I decided not to speak but I know it was quite awhile.

My dad is an introvert like myself. He is a man of few words but he is also a man you can count on to be there for you when you need him, no questions asked. Throughout my youth there were times my dad had two jobs to help support us but he never missed a dance recital, piano recital, parent/teacher conference, athletic event, school play, etc. I grew up confident that he and my mom (who was also a working mom) loved me and supported my every endeavor. I don’t remember a time when I wondered if one or the other or both would be there, it was never even a question. In college, my dad would come visit once a month or once every other month for an afternoon to eat and shop with me, just to hang out. When I got cancer, all three times my dad was the one driving the car to take me to the hospital for my surgery with my mom in the passenger seat. Now my dad dadalexdoes the same for my kids. He tries to be at most of the games and he drives them around too. Yes, a man of few words, but his actions speak volumes of his love and support.

What makes a great dad? Someone who loves not just through words, but through actions. He lifts his kids up with support along with sacrifice. He makes sure his kids know they can lean on him and not question whether he will show up or not. He disciplines when necessary but also makes his child feel protected and safe. He does not compete with his kids for attention or accolades, no, he mostly takes the back seat. A dad is someone who is supposed to give us a glimpse of what our Father in Heaven is like. I know there are many situations out there out of our control. There are moms having to be both mom and dad, step dads, grand dads, uncles, and even friends  who have stepped up to be that ‘fatherly’ role necessary for some. God bless you and thank you, we all need you. Anyone can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad (quote from somewhere I heard). Thanks dad for being an example of love, commitment, and sacrifice. dadkoy

No lipstick today, just Chapstick because my dad usually has one close by. Cheers and Happy Father’s Day!


18 May


I have been going to church my entire life. My parents did not exactly make church optional. This was not a bad thing really, I didn’t know any different and my parents didn’t make church look like a chore, it was a place they enjoyed going to. I grew up taking Sunday school classes, singing in the choir, working in the nursery, and really having community while learning about God. Although as a teen it wasn’t great fun and maybe I rolled my eyes those early Sunday mornings but we never missed. I have to say when I went away to college church was not on my mind but eventually I was drawn back. I missed the stability and the community and honestly the peace I felt listening to God’s Word so again in my 20’s I became a regular attender and volunteer.

I recently read another blog which said ‘the church is a beautiful and broken place..it can heal and restore and it can hurt and turn away.’ The author also says regarding current hot button issues, ‘…it’s a lot harder to just swallow what scripture says when there’s a face on the other side.’ Good stuff. So, last weekend I had a bit of an epiphany while sitting in church. The topic was ‘Where’s God when bad things happen?’ a loaded question which they unpacked beautifully. I have to say I have had a few not so fun things happen in my life in recent years and I did turn to my church and the people there for love, support, advice, etc. and have felt both loved and restored but also hurt. Awhile back I felt completely supported after months of asking questions and seeking prayer during an extremely tough time but after a single conversation about me with someone else who could speak more ‘bible-language’ the tune changed from supported to maybe more questioned and judged. It was hurt compounding hurt and I felt myself become guarded, distrustful, and distant. It became increasingly difficult to go to services and engage and to even look some people in the eye. The institution I had relied on my entire life, poured into, and loved did not feel like home anymore and I could feel my heart harden a little. Was the church really a SAFE place for ALL the broken; broken hearted, broken families, troubled kids, abused, blended families, those with more complicated life stories? Are those just empty words and invitations that can turn on a dime when a truly difficult situation happens? Is a person more religious and believable if they have more bible verses memorized? All questions running through my mind.2012-07-08 16.33.59

So what happened last Sunday? I let it all go. Forgiveness. I looked at everyone around me and even the pastor speaking at the pulpit and realized the church is just a bunch of broken people gathered in a building doing the best they can while seeking God. We’re all human, we all make judgement calls and sometimes they’re not always right (and that includes pastors because they’re human too).One thing I know for sure, that question, ‘Where’s God when bad things happen?’ He is right there with you. Whatever I felt toward ‘the church’ through the difficult times with cancer or family issues I never doubted that God was right there holding my hand and that He had a plan. Last Sunday despite the questions in my mind and heart, I realized the church and its imperfections were just part of my journey to continue drawing closer to God. People always say they feel judged or not accepted or maybe that they don’t have a place or feel welcomed but should that be the burden of the church or the person or maybe both? The true burden lies with us, the people professing to be Christians. We are the church. Why does someone feel judged, because we judge. Why does someone feel left out, because we place ourselves in our cliques or comfort zones and stay there. Last Sunday I felt my shoulders relax a little and as they closed out with a song near and dear to me, the song I heard in my head before fully waking up after my first cancer surgery, the words rang true for me, ‘It is well with my soul.’

‘The kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God~D. Campbell’

Today I wear my old standby Dior Addict Lip Glow. I ALWAYS have this in my purse. It is like a lipbalm but it brings out the natural berry of your lips. It is the only lip thing I buy consistently. I chose it today because of the topic and what this product does. Glow brings out the natural color of your lips and adds a hint of berry, being a Christian we glow from the Holy Spirit inside us. Let’s work harder to be a little nicer to each other showing less judgement and more mercy and grace. Cheers!


The Perfect Mom

8 May



There’s this woman I see on Facebook, always perfectly coiffed. She’s always smiling, she’s at all her kids’ events, and when she’s not in her work out clothes (because she still has time to work out despite also having a successful career), she’s hosting a party or looking great out with her friends. Sometimes she’s at the school helping in a classroom or out volunteering for some charitable organization. Her kids love her and are all accomplished. She looks like the perfect mom, the woman who can do it all with grace and charm. Don’t you wish sometimes you could be like her? Of course you do because you are a woman and we do a good job of comparing ourselves to each other. So who is she? It’s you, it’s me, it’s all of us who post those perfect pictures and status updates on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Here’s the truth, life is hard and it’s messy and no one is put together and perfect, thank goodness. It’s ok to post the awesome things in our lives and the kids’ activities we can actually get to. We should all celebrate with each other and for each other but let’s stop believing that all the social media posts are accurate of a daily 24/7 life. Behind the smileskids15 are the struggles with our kids, the days when no amount of hair products or make up can camouflage a bad night’s sleep, the arguments with a boss or spouse, you know, real life. So on this Mother’s Day, I choose to let go of the constant struggle to keep up with the perfection I see on social media because the daily struggles of life, a job, and keeping up with teens is hard enough. The flowers, the candy, breakfast…all beautiful but for me the kids are a special gift from God and what I want most of all this mother’s day and really every day is for them to know without a doubt that they are loved from the depths of my heart and that I will always love them through~through pain, through struggles, through the good stuff and the bad. How can we expect to have perfect kids when we ourselves are imperfect?

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.~Washington Irving 

‘Still will she cling to us..’, what a beautiful line! Today I wear Lancome Juicy Shaker lipgloss in Piece of Cake. I just got this and I have to say it’s pretty awesome. They call it a lip oil so it’s not exactly a gloss. It feels super silky and actually nourishing with a hint of color. LOVE IT! Cheers!!

Prince and the past

25 Apr


Last week the musical icon Prince passed away. The minute I heard the news I didn’t believe it at first then as the news was confirmed by numerous sources I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of loss and sadness; the kind that leaves a pit in your stomach. I label it strange because I didn’t know him personally and I don’t generally idolize people but news of his death was utterly shocking to me. As the days passed and the countless hours of Prince music streamed on the radio (and my iPod), I realized the reason for my feelings of such great loss was because Prince’s music was such a huge part of my life in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. Each song I listened to evoked several memories; from the parties in the ‘D’ family’s basement where we had dance-offs, to my college roommate writing one of her first papers on how the movie Purple Rain impacted her life(true story-I had to proof read it for her). Prince’s music reminded me of some of the best times of my youth and also brought back memories of who I was, who I wanted to be, my adventures, my hopes and dreams during that time.

It’s been over 30 years since Purple Rain, since watching the music video of When Doves Cry, from desperately wanting a Raspberry Beret, am I the girl I wanted to be? Life has a way of tossing you around a bit, so no. I had mixed emotions thinking about all that’s transpired between then and now but I told myself it was all ok. I have had a crazy beautiful and blessed life so far with some heartache stuffed in between but that’s what life is. We all have dreams and expectations when we’re young and there are so many choices we have to make that literally takes our life one way or the other. My 15 year old was telling me about her plan for the future, what she wanted to achieve and how she saw her life turning out; when she’d get married, how many kids she’d have, where she would work, live, etc… expectations. She has always been a stubborn, strong willed and determined little being so as I listened to her ‘plan’ of how her life was going to turn out I worried a little. I told her Audreyshe had amazing goals but there was currently no room for space or curve. I told her it was great to have a vision of what her life was supposed to look like in the future but she should absolutely leave room for the unplanned things. The things that make life move and bend, that force you to make decisions, to make hard turns and to maybe change the course you had originally planned but make you who you are truly created to be.

How do we combat the disappointments of some of our own expectations of ourselves and how our life was supposed to be? Gratititude. It’s almost impossible to be grateful for the blessings in your life and be depressed about them at the same time. GK Chesterton says ‘…gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder‘. More wonder, more gratitude, less expectation. Life is short. ‘We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life’~Prince

Today I wear Buxom Lip Polish in Jane which is a deep purple color Sephora describes as huckleberry jam. I’ve always loved these Buxom glosses because they have just enough color to not overwhelm, they’re moisturizing, and they make your lips tingle (and I guess has a plumping effect on lips which clearly I don’t need but if you’re a little older like me it does fill in those lip lines). I chose this color because duh, it’s purple. Prince…thanks for the memories



18,If Only You Knew…

11 Apr


The other day my 18 year old son had a conversation with my mom, the normal grandma type talk about school, siblings, struggles (good thing my mom was a social worker). My mom shared with me part of the conversation and it went something like this:

AJ: ‘I think mom is getting weird, like really paranoid.’

Grandma: ‘Why do you say that?’

AJ: ‘She’s always asking where I am, if I’m drinking or doing drugs. Is that part of menopause?’

My mom laughed out loud then proceeded to explain the trials and tribulations of being a mom to teens. She also shared her story of when my brother and I were teens and she started growing bald from all the stress we put her through which then made my son laugh out loud. Literally she was losing her hair and was diagnosed with alopecia when I hit high school but was fine before I graduated college.

Being a mom to teens is hard. I believe my gray hairs are showing themselves at record pace but of course we worry about our kids the minute we welcome them into this world. My son will probably never know that when he was born 5 weeks early and placed in the NICU incubator I held my breath, that when he had his first asthma attack at the age of one I cried and couldn’t breathe myself, or when he had a cold on top of asthma as an infant I would sleep with him on my chest sitting up so his nose wouldn’t plug up laying down, or when he continued to need breathing treatments well into elementary from meandajasthma I would lie awake in his room on the floor listening to him struggle to breathe and set my alarm every 4 hours for his breathing treatment. He will probably never know that when he would get hit as a quarterback in 7th and 8th grade I would physically feel sick to my stomach, or the time he cried because he couldn’t understand math and wanted to give up that I cried too. He won’t know that when he didn’t make the varsity basketball team and he sat in his room and cried that I was sitting in my room crying harder because when your child’s dream dies a part of you dies with it. He may never know that when my cancer diagnosis was bad I would lie awake in my hospital bed crying thinking about him and his siblings and willing myself to fight just for them.

So today, it’s not menopause or paranoia, it’s love and the process of trying to let go (ok maybe peri-menopause). I ask the questions because I want to know. I ask them so he knows I care. The world is hard and at 18 they think they know it all. In a few short months he’s graduating high school and leaving for college. I still want to hold him, I still want to take care of him. I want him to know how much he’s loved. His hurts will always be my hurts, his joys will be greater joys to me. All I can do is pray, trust God, and KEEP ASKING MY PARANOID QUESTIONS 🙂car

Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them – a mother’s approval, a father’s nod – are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.     — Mitch Albom

Today I wear Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Lullabye. If you want great color and staying power Kat Von D is the brand. The lipticks are not super moisturizing but not super dry either. This is a fun color for spring with sparkles. I chose it mainly for the name because I used to sing lullabies to the kids when they were young. Cheers!



30 Mar


I can’t remember the time I started loving large birds; mainly hawks and eagles. It hasn’t always been the case but it became noticeable to me some years back. What I loved the most about watching them was how free they were. They could fly without too much bother from other birds, they ruled the sky, they floated, but mostly, they were free. Seeing a hawk or an eagle would stop me in my tracks and give me a longing in my heart and tears in my eyes. A few years ago during a difficult time I wrote a poem that a friend of mine recently turned into a song:

Little bird landed on a branch this morning

singing the songs of yesterday

The night has passed a new day begins

but freedom still seems so far away


How do you fly again she really doesn’t know

How do you fly again, staring out the window

She’s seen love, she’s seen pain but will she fly again


She’s not anything she used to be

She wants that fire back in her eyes

Scared to open up those scars might bleed

For so long she felt paralyzed.


How do you fly again she really doesn’t know

How do you fly again, staring out the window

She’s seen love she’s seen pain but will she fly again


Bring her back, why not now. Fly so free, little bird show her how

To sing that song she used to sing, to breathe the air above all the pain. 


How do you fly again I think I know

Fly again, open up the window

I’ve seen love, I’ve seen pain but I will fly again

Yes I will fly again cuz now I know

Fly again, open up that window

I see love above the pain

I will fly again.

It’s been a wild ride these past few years in more ways than one but looking up at those birds and their freedom in the sky no longer brings a tear to my eye. My life has changed dramatically and it’s filled with peace and love. Now when I look up and see a beautiful hawk floating above my house I smile with joyful anticipation for what comes next.

“…for to have faith is to have wings.”~ JM Barriebird


Today I wear Buxom Lip Polish in Brianna which is a gorgeous orchid color great for spring. I have always loved these glosses. They have color but not too much, they’re not too sticky, and they make your lips tingle. Cheers!


7 Mar

cancer poster


I am part of an online cancer support forum which connects cancer fighters/survivors across the country called ihadcancer.com. This month they wanted to hear from us about our life after being diagnosed starting with the number of days since first being told we had cancer. It has been 2990 days since I first heard ‘you have cancer’ and 2265 days since the second time I heard ‘your cancer is back’. May 10 will be my 6 year anniversary of cancer free and wow has life changed and looking back I know I have changed. I think what has changed most for me has been my day to day attitude and the things I seek. Here are some of the changes I’ve experienced:

  • I’m grateful for every moment
  • I try not to stress about things and even if I do it usually subsides quickly
  • I’m less tolerant of bad behavior and meaningless complaints
  • I mainly seek peace and anything that brings me there
  • I try to avoid negativity including negative people
  • I notice beauty more
  • Sometimes I want to shake people when they’re so caught up by irrelevant things
  • I care less about stuff and more about time
  • I realize that there are many things not in my control so I let go more easily

So many more but hard to describe. One of the big ones is acknowledgement of time. Until you are faced with the knowledge that your time is limited you pretty much feel like it’s unlimited. I float in between hope for a long and beautiful life along with a ‘we may only FullSizeRenderhave today’ attitude. Life, I mean real life, happens in the ‘in between’. In between jobs, kid stuff, activities, vacations, etc. we spend a whole lot of time in anticipation of the next game, the next season, the next vacation, and we work and focus on those things but what about all the routine we chalk up to ‘a normal day’? That’s the real grit of life. All of the mundane, the annoying things, the actions and reactions, the relationships…all of the stuff that transpires in the monotonous in between spaces of daily living, that is life. If you rush through to just get to the ‘next’, you’ll miss it. Don’t miss living.

Today’s lipstick is Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Cayenne, a bright red. These are lightweight, have lots of color and are moisturizing; just about perfect. I chose this color because it’s red and the name Cayenne…almost 3000 days later, feeling spicy! Cheers!


27 Feb

I am participating in an on-line woman’s group study based off a book called Undone by Michele Cushatt. Like myself she had cancer a few times, kids, and divorce and the book talks about her life becoming ‘undone’ and turning around, but not the way you would expect. I love it and resonate with her journey so much. Since all the participants communicate online I think it’s easier for us to immediately be vulnerable. What is striking to me is all the pain and sadness from unexpected life twists, lives that were ‘undone’ because of illness or failed relationships, or whatever it is that each person has not healed from. Everyone’s story is so different but what seems to have caused the greatest pain to these ladies stem from people and relationships; from parents to siblings to spouses to mentors, many of these people’s lives were affected greatly by another life.

I read this quote, ‘To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us’~Timothy Keller

Life is funny. Experiences and people mold and change you. A single person can make you question yourself and your self worth, lead you to a life of fear, make you think you’re not good enough or that your needs don’t matter. Then there’s unforgiveness, usually toward some of those same people. About forgiveness Tim Keller says it’s ‘absorbing the debt…taking the cost of it completely on  yourself instead of taking it out on the other person.’ How hard is that? Your life, your mind, your heart has changed and to forgive we absorb it, find our strength in God, and move on. He compares it to a kind of death. Fully known and truly loved, that’s what we crave but that kind of love only comes from God. While some of us have people in our lives that come close (spouse, parents, kids), we still are influenced/disappointed by many. Our stories lie behind our smiling faces and perfect Facebook updates. There’s a lot of hurt, pain, fear, etc , out there; how can we expect perfection from imperfect people? We do the best we can and hopefully we learn from our own ‘undone’ life stories and move forward with great lessons and more love knowing the Son is always there fully knowing you and fully loving you, behind the clouds, right in front of you, or in the ‘rearview mirror’ behind you lighting your path.

Today I wear Butter London Plush Rush lipgloss in Flirt. I think this company was first known for their nail polish but then created lipgloss to match some of their nail colors. This lipgloss is a little sticky but has great color and stays put for a long time. Flirt is a great berry color for spring as the crazy weather has spring temps flirting and teasing us in this tail end of winter. Cheers!



17 Feb



‘Life is a tapestry of relationships, every thread is crucial’ 

Yesterday was a strange day. It started off not so pleasant with anger arising (from me) because of a certain situation which then turned to sadness because of the realization that some things and people will never change. Then at work someone passed out and stopped breathing, ‘code blue’. I was at a hospital so you think it would be a ‘normal’ occurrence but generally it’s not in a waiting room. About an hour later it happened again, then about an hour after that an older woman standing in the tall lobby area (with great acoustics by the way) started singing at the top of her lungs which stopped people in their tracks and maybe even scared some. Really. She stopped walking, started singing, then after her song was done she kept walking, all this before noon.I hadn’t slept that well the night before so I felt like I was in partial dream state. Despite the crazy events of the morning the one thing that I couldn’t shake for most of the day was the anger/sadness I felt right at the beginning which stemmed from a long history of control and manipulation; I couldn’t shake the anger and maybe the frustration.

I read the other day that according to sociologists even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime. Think about that, that’s about the population of Traverse City, MI (~15,000) or Sedona, AZ (~10,000). A single person, even an introvert, will influence a small town in their lifetime. How does that happen? Words and actions; not just one or the other, both together. The start of my morning yesterday? Almost a lifetime of actions contradicting words with me cleaning up the shrapnel from actions that are far reaching. The actions of those surrounding the two ‘code blue’s’? Medically quick of course, but loved ones surrounding them, using words and prayers to comfort each other. The woman singing? ‘Jesus is a friend of mine’~”He taught me to live, my life as it should be. He taught me how to turn my cheek when people laugh at me. I’ve had friends before, and I can tell you that, He’s one who will never leave you flat.” I needed that, so maybe that was just for me.

There’s nothing more frustrating than someone whose words don’t match their actions. Don’t spew out bible verses if they are twisted in a way to fit your needs and judge others. Don’t talk about loving others then throw out hate language for certain groups of people or nationalities. Don’t talk about peace, patience, kindness, when what comes out of your mouth (which really stems from what’s in your heart), is hateful or hurtful because the consequences of that can leave long lasting scars.My day ended well.Grateful for the love I have found and the life I have now, and grateful for the constant reminder that we impact other people every single day. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to perfect something. Hopefully it doesn’t take that 10,000th person in our lifetime to recieve our best. 10,000 people. What legacy will you leave behind?

Today no lipstick, it’s all about a lip balm. Last month I bought an all natural lip balm made mostly of emu oil, yes from an emu. Now, I don’t want to even think of how they get oil out of an emu, all I know is it’s the best lip balm I’ve used for my extremely dry winter emu1lips. I’m hoping I can find it locally since I bought it from a store about 4 hours away. It’s great, and lipstick never looks good on dry lips! Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: