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Tag Archives: Christianity

Nothing and Everything

6 Oct

img_4451The weather here in Michigan is changing. It’s my favorite time of year as the nights get cooler and the leaves change colors. I love fall. Over the past two weeks I’ve been in a little funk because with the changeover to fall my allergies start picking up and along with that and cancer, breathing becomes a little more difficult. I have had trouble breathing here and there since I got cancer the first time 10 years ago because of a paralyzed vocal cord from the first surgery. Now that my cancer is metastatic to my lungs, difficulty breathing is a little more urgent in the doctors’ eyes. Apparently even though my cancer is technically stable, since I have multiple lung nodules, there are possibilities of other things happening simply because my lungs are now compromised. Ugh. Over the past month I have been to the ER because of my breathing issues (all turned out normal besides still having cancer-still stable), and more recently my doctor thought I should go ahead and get a pulmonary function test which was not a party. That turned out pretty much as expected.

I am not in the mood to see doctors right now but because of breathing issues (which again are not new) I’ve had no choice, and again a reminder of cancer. Something I realized about myself over these past few weeks is that I’m really bad at resting and being still. I was never like that before. I mean, I was never someone who took naps but I’m pretty sure I could sit on the couch for hours staring at nothing. Now, not so much. My mind won’t stop spinning. I have a deep urgency about everything, being everywhere, doing everything I’ve wanted to do, not missing anything in regards to kid stuff and life in general. It’s so hard to be on the line between dreams, responsibility, possibility, and sadness-hard to describe. It all boils down to time. How do we spend it and who do we spend it with? Close your eyes for a minute and think about your life today; your family, your friends, your job, your home, now take a deep breath and imagine yourself  in an exam room with a doctor telling you that you have Stage 4 cancer, or you need a heart procedure, or you have MS, or whatever it may be. In a blink of an eye your life has changed it’s course to something you had not planned. Now open your eyes and exhale because you’ve been holding your breath. What would you do differently? From that point on what would your life look like? What if some things couldn’t change because of responsibility, what would you do today? In the late Paul Kalanithi’s book When Breath Becomes Air he says, ‘I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but didn’t know when. But I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.’ Get it? Nothing changes yet everything changes so how are you going to spend your time?

img_4450-1I’ve been sad lately because there’s so much I want to do but I understand the facts of responsibility. I’m a wife and mom, I’m an employee, we have medical bills (obviously) and college bills so I can’t just tour the world or start a non-profit and help people. I get it but what can I change? What else can I do? This is why I’m restless. This is why my mind won’t stop. It’s kind of a lonely place to be, even lonelier when you try to pretend all is normal and the same as it always is or was because it’s not. I’m still grateful and I’m still forging ahead like there will be a thousand tomorrows because there could be. Today though, I’m seeking out the color amongst the gray because my heart’s been troubled and I know there’s so much beautiful color. I will soak in this encouragement from Ann Voskamp, ‘I have a Messiah who meets me in it, won’t leave me in it, and will carry me through it! We never cry alone. Go slow. Be God-struck. Grant grace. Live truth. Give thanks. Love well.’

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Photo cred: E. Petersen

Today I wear Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Liquorice which is a deep dark red. This lipstick has lots of color and is fairly moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s dark like my mood but has that bit of red that reminds me that there’s still fire deep inside. Cheers!

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Motherhood And Cancer

26 Sep

facetune_22-09-2018-17-18-00Last weekend my son went to his first official high school homecoming dance. He didn’t have a date but neither did most of his friends. Interesting times but I guess less pressure if you just decide to go with a bunch of friends. When I first found out cancer was back a little over a year ago my primary thoughts were of the kids not having a mom around to see them graduate, get married, have kids of their own, etc. Since I’ve been stable over a year some of those thoughts have faded (a little) but every time something significant happens like graduation, off to college, or this homecoming dance, my heart swells and I feel so grateful to still be here.img_4293

What can I say about being a mom with cancer? Many of my emotions I can’t even iterate on paper. This may be the hardest part. When I first got cancer the kids were 5, 7, and 10 and my thoughts were consumed with being able to raise the kids to at least adulthood when maybe they wouldn’t need a mom as much, but now that my kids are there or close to that ‘adulthood’ age I realize they still need a mom and maybe even more. Watching them grow up and being there for these moments is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I guess the best description of being a mom with cancer is ‘overwhelmed’; every event, every moment, every time they lay their head on my shoulder, every great conversation, every text or call just to say hello, and every ‘I love you’ is overwhelming, like my heart may burst into a thousand pieces with joy and love. On the other side, every harsh word or rude comment, every ‘you’re so annoying’, every time they make a bad decision, it is absolutely piercing heartbreak. Thankfully the negative is not often but it still happens and it’s hard. Having cancer has magnified every single emotion for me and as a mom, sometimes the emotions feel unbearable, both the good and the bad.

As it stands, motherhood is a sort of wilderness through which each woman hacks her way, part martyr, part pioneer; a turn of events from which some women derive feelings of heroism, while others experience a sense of exile from the world they knew.~Rachel Cusk

Metastatic cancer generally has no cure, it’s all about time. Being stable means more time. Being stable over a year? Slow growing…more time. I don’t want to miss anything. When they were young, I wanted to see them through to adulthood. Now that they’re older teens/young adults I want to see the rest of their stories and how it all shakes out so I’m kind of mad about it. There is no good time to have cancer. The teen/young adult years, I have decided, are the hardest years to parent. This is the time when kids push boundaries, try to bend the rules, and try to shove their way into adulthood and oh yeah, they can drive away. Why am I mad? Because at a time when I want to hold them tight and spend every possible moment I can with them,  they are trying to push off into the world. It stinks. It’s hard in general to parent during teen years but even harder with cancer because again, it’s about time. So. Incredibly. Frustrating.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt.

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How has cancer changed my mothering? I stare at the kids longer when I see them trying to memorize every feature. I move heaven and earth to be available for the times that they want to see me. I cry a lot more and not just when I’m sad, but when I’m ecstatic as well. I cry so.much. I hug them until they have to push me away and I pray for them and their future without ceasing. Motherhood stretches our hearts bigger and wider than we could have ever imagined and when you add cancer or any illness for that matter, your heart  stretches to the point of breaking. I read somewhere that cancer is not just a disease of the body but of the mind, body, and soul. So true. I will not let cancer break my spirit. I will take ‘stable’ as long as possible. I am a mom. I am strong.

Today I wear one of my favorite lips products of all time, Dior Lip Glow in Berry. I have this in 3 different ‘colors’. Essentially these are lip balms but each brings out a natural hue from your lips. I love these because they’re moisturizing and give your lips enough color to feel ‘finished’. Cheers!

Pain and Church

16 Sep

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I saw a friend the other day that I haven’t seen in years. After the initial surface questions and conversation she broke down in tears. She shared about the many difficulties her daughter has had from a lifelong illness and also shared recent difficulties in her marriage. She expressed her exhaustion, her sadness and her hopelessness; she is at the end of her rope. As she was asking me how I was dealing with having cancer again my heart was breaking for her because she looked so defeated. What was more heartbreaking was after sharing her pain she said one of the last places she wanted to go was church; she’s angry with God, she didn’t want to be judged, and she didn’t want to hear any ‘Christian-ese’ talk. Knowing some of my past struggles and now cancer again she looked me straight in the eyes and asked, ‘How can you still have faith in God? How can you not be angry?’ Tough stuff. When did church become ‘unsafe’ for the heartbroken, hopeless, and weary? Why do we sometimes feel like we have to put on our ‘best face’ to go to church? These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking myself for awhile.img_4188

I have a confession. When I first found out my cancer was back a year ago July, I also didn’t feel like going to church for awhile. Sometimes even now, over a year later, I still feel the same way. ‘With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.’~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church. I go to an awesome Christian church with great leaders and great people. I’ve been attending for over 20 years, have volunteered here, was on the worship team, and have gone on mission trips. I love it yet I wanted not to go after I got the news of cancer’s 4th return. Why? I can only speak for myself when I say that I didn’t want to put my happy, ‘God’s got this’ face on at a time when I felt raw, sad, and disappointed. I didn’t want to hear ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ or ‘God only gives you what you can handle.’  Phrases I’ve probably used before. Do we really think about things before we say them? I listened to a great interview with Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist who spoke about this exact thing, watch it here. She says that Christians are so used to these words and phrases (‘Christianese’) that we have stopped thinking, have we? Maybe. These phrases, words, and easy responses sometimes take away from us listening, thinking and loving the people who are hurting. Words have power and when you’re hurting you hear every single word so when you are on the receiving end of these patent phrases that we use all.the.time. you can’t help but want to roll your eyes and think, ‘You have no idea.’ I’m sure it’s all well meaning.

So what was my response to my friend? I hugged her and stayed silent awhile. Then I told her I was so sorry she was in such pain and that I truly had no words. I told her to be gentle with herself, and that it’s ok not to smile. I look back at some of my pictures from the first few months post diagnosis and I’m smiling but my eyes are not. I told her I’m not mad at God and even though I don’t want to go to church sometimes I know that I still have God and more importantly He has me. I told her churches are filled with hurting people regardless of the shine of the facade but vulnerability and authenticity can only happen if we’re willing. I shared my pain and told her that illness and in her case, serious adversity can be lonely because most people can’t know exactly how you’re feeling. I told her that for me, that is the reason I can’t let go of my faith in God. At the end of the day if I don’t have faith that God is real, if I don’t have God to talk to and if I didn’t believe He loved me I would have nothing to hope for after this life and there would be no possibility of joy in crappy circumstances. How do you convince a broken person that God loves her? You start showing God’s love by listening and loving. ‘Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. img_4187Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.’ I LOVE that quote from Morgan Harper Nichols. In my low moments I don’t remember many conversations but I do remember the encouraging notes, those who sit and pray with me, and the many hugs with no words…love. Can we think on our own and not defer to a Christian-ese phrase as a response to someone’s pain? ‘No one leads people to Jesus; He leads people to Himself. All the pressure’s off; just go love everybody without agenda.’~Bob Goff

Today I’m feeling the red lipstick just because. I chose Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Love Drunk which is a deep red. Love the name, love the color. Cheers!

Chaos

23 Aug

 

img_3915I ended up in the emergency room yesterday, all is fine. Over the past few days I’ve been having periods of time when I can’t catch my breath to the point of getting dizzy. Yesterday I happened to be speaking to a customer/friend for my job at a local hospital and I told her about my breathing issues. I also said that I thought I may be having panic attacks because of all the things on my mind and she recommended I just go to the ER to rule out anything really serious since I do have cancer in my lungs. OK. Two hours and a CT scan later I got the ‘all clear’. The nurse basically said that besides the cancer I’m a picture of health. Good and bad. Good that it wasn’t anything serious, bad that I guess I’m right, I must be having panic attacks. Also bad that the multiple cancerous lung nodules are still there (for some reason with every CT I kind of expect the nodules to have miraculously disappeared-that’s called hope people).

What am I panicky about? I went through a mental list of all the things happening in my life at this moment because I didn’t think I was stressed about anything. After thinking about work and it’s challenges, kids leaving for college, kids still at home, new kids driving, new school year, new dreams taking shape, a half finished book I’m writing, finances (kids+college=$$$), etc…I guess there are lots of things on my mind, oh and I still have cancer.  Not all my stress is about bad stuff but the body can’t differentiate between good/excited stress and bad stress, it’s all the same. With all the moving parts and noise in my life it seems I live in chaos and there’s been one thing I KNOW I have given up over the last week or two and that’s stillness. I have been in such a rush every day that I haven’t sat down with God to read and chat in the morning. I haven’t really made the time to go to the gym (not stillness but good for me time) and until my head hits the pillow at night I don’t think my mind stops because I have not allowed it to. My bad. Plus I’m an introvert and quiet, alone, and stillness is a necessity for me to recharge.img_3722

I decided two things yesterday; not to miss my 5-10 minutes in the morning chatting with God and saying thank you for my blessings, and to finally jump in on the meditation bandwagon. I downloaded the Calm app (calm sounded like something I needed), and tried a free meditation in the parking lot while at work that was mainly 10 minutes of inhaling and exhaling. Through the breathing I said little prayers and within about 8 min I felt my body relax and just about fall asleep. Well ok, I pretty much fell asleep at the back of this parking lot for a few minutes, but when I opened my eyes there was a man standing about a foot away outside of my car; harmless, he was looking for his car and his back was to me but still…there went my calm. I should probably meditate at home.

We’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, and our nights off — our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, our email, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk.~Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness

It’s so easy to forget to stop. We get pushed so much to ‘be all’ and ‘do all’ and ‘achieve’ that sometimes it’s easy to get caught up or feel like we might be missing something. I admit that after my last CT scan and finding out that I was still stable for a year, I pushed cancer aside and jumped right back in to ‘doing’ and forgot the ‘being’; being aware, being still. This scare was a call back.

When everything is moving and shifting, the only way to counteract chaos is stillness. When things feel extraordinary, strive for ordinary. When the surface is wavy, dive deeper for quieter waters.~Kristin Armstrong

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photo courtesy of Leanna Vite Photographu

Today my life is not really any less chaotic and I don’t foresee that part dramatically changing any time soon but I’ve been breathing a little easier. My husband showed me a video today called Why Your Life Is Not A Journey (you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/176370337?ref=em-share). It basically talks about how we are always striving for the next thing like there’s some great finale when really the whole point of ‘dancing is the dance.’ In other words, the whole point of life is the living (at least that’s what I got out of it).

Today I wear Too Faced Throw Back Lipstick in Marcia, Marcia, Marcia which is bubble gum pink with glitter, there are several fun colors to choose from! These are actually moisturizing but I only chose this for fun and for the name. Marcia was always so chill while Jan kept striving. Inhale. Exhale. Cheers!

Life is Not Short

22 Jul

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It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. When it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. Life is long if you know how to use it.’~Seneca

What a change in mindset. I read this a couple of times…we are forced with the realization of death that life has passed before we knew it was passing, how true is that?

Since my last blog my daughter arrived safely home from serving in Haiti (and shortly after the Haitian government fell), and now she is preparing to say img_3425good bye again and leave for college. Raising kids is basically a life long series of good-byes, oh my heart but a blog for another day. Back to the quote at the top. I don’t think there is any other event in life that opens your eyes to the realization of life passing then facing your mortality. I have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have been diagnosed with the ‘c’ word 4 times over the past 10 years so it has been a constant reminder that life is passing by and to live intentionally. I love the last line of the quote which says, ‘life is long if you know how to use it.’ My interpretation of that is instead of saying ‘life is short, do what you want,’ he means if you spend more time doing things you love with people you love, serving others, living with intention, your state of content and well-being will add richness to your life~making whatever time you have on earth worthwhile or in short, a long life well lived.

Last weekend I got to see a couple women I’ve known more than half my life. We met years ago and eventually moved to different areas of the midwest

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Trying to follow directions off our phones..so lost

so last weekend was a reunion for us. We’ve been able to meet up in Chicago a few times over the past few years and we can always pick right up where we left off,  great friendships and time well spent. We talked a lot about life, our current joys and struggles, and just a bit little about my cancer which was perfect. We were lost a lot, we laughed a lot and I cherished every moment.

Over the past several years since my first cancer diagnosis I have learned so much about myself and the biggest lesson has been that I am enough. God made me to be exactly who I am and life is too hard to try to be something else. This has been a hard change since I am a people pleaser by nature but ‘adjusting’ or ignoring your needs to please someone else or make them happy can be detrimental to your spirit and it’s just plain exhausting. Cancer has shown me what I’ve made of; strong, courageous, and smart. I am surrounded and loved by a sprinkling of amazing family and friends (both old and new)  that have given my life that extra sparkle. With eyes wide open to the possibilities I have said ‘yes’ more and ‘no’ more, have done things I haven’t thought of, and have tried to stay away from toxic people. It’s a work in progress but again, it’s about being more intentional. I am hyper aware that life is passing. This past year of having metastatic cancer but stable disease has been a difficult time of crushing heartbreak with the thought of leaving my family sooner than later, but also a strangely beautiful time of completely trusting God with my life, learning more about myself, and truly ‘resting’ in each moment. Yes, life is long if you know how to use it. You are enough.

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.’~ Benjamin Franklin

Today I wear Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer in Fenty Glow which is a beautiful rose gold. I wrote about this before but it truly is an amazing gloss that is great on all skintones. You can wear it on top of lipsdtick or even alone. I chose it because it’s perfect for summer and because everyone needs the reminder that you have that inner glow and you are enough! Cheers

Trusting

8 Jul

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.’ Prov 3:5-6

What does that really mean? Another version says ,’…do not depend on your own understanding,’ while another puts it this way, ‘Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure everything out on on your own.’

This verse has been one of my life mantras since getting cancer the first time in 2008. It’s a bible verse I’ve heard most of my life and it was one of the first I memorized years ago but like everything else, I had my own definition of what it meant to trust God. What I found is that it is so easy to say the words but when adversity happens and the words have to be put to the test, well, that’s a different story. In other words, it is so easy to trust God with YOUR plan of how things should be but what about God’s plan, what if His plans are different? Not so easy to trust, huh? After getting cancer the first time I had faith that God was in control. When it came back the 2nd and 3rd time I still had the faith but then I had to exercise my trust muscle and make it stronger. I discovered that faith is a noun, a belief in a higher power without proof or evidence, while trust is a verb. Trusting God means releasing all our anxieties, fears, plans, and NOT trying to figure things out on our own; releasing control BECAUSE we have faith in God. It means taking that death grip we have on our lives, our futures, our kids, our careers and opening that fist to let in some air and release fear and control even if it’s just a little.

My daughter left for Haiti last week on a mission trip and right now, Haiti is a bit unsettled. I have had some communication with her and all seems to be ok. What part of that can I control? Nothing that I know of so I have to exercise my trust muscle knowing God is in control and trusting Him as well as the powers that be that they are working onIMG_2574 a plan to get them home. I have metastatic cancer which generally means we (Stage 4 cancer fighters) do all we can to get more time. In my 4th battle with cancer I am doing all I can in my control and I am trusting a big God that He knows what He is doing whether it’s a cure, staying stable awhile, or not. Not my plan, His. Pray. Release. Pray. Breathe. Pray. Peace that passes understanding. I cannot function in fear because there’s too much in this world to be afraid of. Everyone goes through adversity, there are always times to practice trusting but we have to be willing. Yes I want Audrey home but I also know she is doing something she loves and feels called to do and this ‘event’ will not stop her from serving in the future. Yes I want to be cancer free but trusting God does not mean life is perfect because again, that would be our plan, to me it means that I trust He knows, I trust He hears my prayers and knows the aches of my heart, and I trust He knows my fears and anxieties. With that I have some peace and I know it’s come from so much practice having to trust. Tomorrow I may feel a little differently because we’re always being stretched but for now, I’ll keep praying and I’ll take today. img_7238

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corrie Ten Boom

No lipstick today, just a PSA…Don’t forget SPF on your lips because they can burn too!

 

Amazing and Awful

27 Jun

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‘Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.’~L.R. Knost

Isn’t that the truth? Last Friday I took my daughter to her college orientation. Leaving her at the dorm the night before was awful (for me) and as I sat there in the silence of my hotel room I got teary-eyed thinking about all of my time with her leading up to this point. The orientation itself went well and it was pretty great seeing her be independent, meeting people, socializing, asking questions, I was so proud of the person she has become and is becoming. We ended the day by driving to northern Michigan to spend a few days at the lake; awful to amazing in less than 24 hours with some ordinary time to relax and exhale in between.

Last week I had my 3 month CT scan and as much as this has become a routine for me I was still anxious. I mean, I guess there are some things to be anxious about. I have formed a love/hate relationship with this because as much as I want to know if my cancer is stable, growing, (or gone), I also don’t want to know. I got the results over patient portal a few days ago and met with my doctor today. Right now ALL NECK AND

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They made me wear this today because I’m coughing

LUNG NODULES ARE STILL STABLE!!  Whew! So, awful last week, amazing today, and really awful (having cancer) and amazing (having stable disease) at the same time. There’s my current struggle. How do I act, process, make decisions and have lots of amazing moments but still have the awful undercurrent of cancer all.the.time.? Do I ignore it? Do I pretend I don’t have cancer and go about my merry way? Having cancer is not in my face all the time but it’s always looking at me through my rear view mirror, you know what I mean? It’s just always there so when prepping for my daughters prom, graduation, college orientation, it’s joyful and exciting but then in my ‘rear view mirror’ I’m reminded cancer follows and I start hoping I’m around for my son to do the same in a few years. Right now I’m 60/40; 60% looking forward , 40% distracted by cancer but I want to get to 90/10. How awesome would it be to have cancer thoughts only pop up 10% of the time. How awesome would it be to not have longer term visions and decisions be tinged with ‘but wait, I have cancer’; thoughts of retirement, grandkids, travel, etc. intertwined with I have cancer that’s really waiting to party in my body. It’s weird. I know I can’t ignore it or control it and I also know I don’t want it to consume me and influence every decision I make. Hmmmm . I was reading about courage again and read, ‘Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.’~unknown

Here’s the good news. I don’t feel broken yet so maybe I’m brave. Maybe I have courage. My doctor told me today that since I’ve been consistently stable for the past year, we are going to stretch my CT scans to 6 months unless something changes in how I feel. I don’t want to hold my breath for 6 months. Maybe I’m feeling funky because it’s scan week. All I know is I want to live this ‘..heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.’ I’ll take the awful, ordinary, mundane, and routine and be more intentional seeking out the amazing!

Today I wear Chantecaille Lip Chic lipstick in Nocturne. I LOVE these lipsticks. They have great color and are super moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s a bright berry which is perfect for summer or when your allergies make you look blah and you want just one pop of color! Cheers!

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