Check Yourself

I am about to get real personal today. It may be a little long, so strap in.  I shared a small portion of this on my personal Facebook page yesterday and figured it was time to share it here too.  You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting as consistently as I used to over the last 3 or 4 months.  Part of that reason was due to a lack of things to write about since my life has been pretty boring with social distancing.  The other part of that was due to a personal battle I was facing.  Back at the beginning of the pandemic, I had felt a lump in my breast.  It was not something that was unusual for me.  I found my first lump about 5 years ago.  That first time I felt one, I freaked out.  It scared me to death.  I went to the doctor right away and was sent for my very first mammogram.  It turned out to be just a simple, fluid-filled cyst that I was told was nothing to worry about.  They said it would likely go away on its own.  I had another mammogram 6 months later, and it was gone.  About 6 months later, I felt another lump on the other side.  I again went to the doctor right away and had a mammogram (my 3rd in a year).  This time, they told me that not only did I have the one I felt, but I also had 7 others that I couldn’t feel.  I was again told that they were just simple, fluid-filled cysts and that I was obviously prone to them.  I was just told to take Vitamin E because it had been known to help with breast tissue.   From then on, I was having mammograms pretty regularly.  Each time, they would see some cysts had gone away and new ones had appeared.  It was just becoming a normal part of my life.  

When I felt the newest lump back in March, I didn’t immediately rush to the doctor.  We were in the beginning of the pandemic and everything was shutting down.  I assumed that it was another simple cyst like all the others and that there was no need for me to rush to the doctor and risk getting sick.   It wasn’t until June when some things had started to open back up and I needed refills on some of my medications that I saw my doctor and told her about the newest lump.  Of course, she sent me for another mammogram just to make sure, thinking it was likely the same as usual.   It was another 2 weeks before I could get the mammogram because I had to wait for the records from my previous mammograms to get here from my doctor in Georgia.  I had not yet had a mammogram since we moved.  In my world, nothing is ever simple, and they had a very difficult time getting my records which is a whole other story in itself. Anyway, I finally got the records after multiple phone calls and was able to get the appointment scheduled.  Now, when you have a mammogram, it is typically followed by an ultrasound.  In my previous instances, the ultrasound tech would tell me where and how many cysts had been found and reassured me right away that they were nothing.  Well, this time was different.  As she was doing the ultrasound, she really wasn’t saying much.  I figured it was because we both had masks on, and it was difficult to understand each other.  Then she told me to stay right there and she would be back with the radiologist.  I thought that was odd because I usually don’t see the radiologist.  In the past, the tech told me what she saw to ease my mind, and then the radiologist would send a report to my doctor and I would get a call confirming what the tech had told me.  The radiologist came in and introduced himself and then instructed the tech to continue with the ultrasound because he wanted to see it for himself.  At this point I was starting the sweat.  This was NOT normal.  When they were done, he asked me to sit up.  He told me that I had several simple cysts in both breasts like usual but that the one that I had felt was different.  He told me that it looked much more complex.  There were none of the assurances that I normally get that everything was ok.  I could literally feel my heart pounding out of my chest as he was talking.  I was trying to pay attention and process all that he was saying, all while trying not to cry or panic in front of them.  He told me that I needed to schedule an appointment to come back the next week to have a needle biopsy.  I held it together long enough to get dressed, schedule the appointment, walk back to my car, and call my husband.  He tried to assure me that everything was going to be ok and that they were likely just taking precautions, but the fear had already set in.  

That next week, I went back for the needle biopsy.  The radiologist cut a tiny slit in my skin. Then using an ultrasound as a guide, inserted a large needle through the slit and into the mass.  It wasn’t painful per se.  It was more just very uncomfortable.  He instructed a tech to push a button and the needle sucked a portion of the mass out through a tube.  He repeated this a couple of times moving the needle around.  Then he placed a “clip” near the mass which he said would show up in future mammograms, so they knew that they had done a biopsy of that particular mass before.  After tapping me up, he told me that my doctor should call me with the results in a couple of days.  The wait was excruciating.  I wasn’t sleeping and was so worried about it all.  When I hadn’t heard from my doctor after about a week, I finally called her to see if she had the results.  It turned out that they had switched systems and my results had been lost in the shuffle.  My doctor had never seen the results.  These things seriously only happen to me! Anyway, after eventually locating the results, I was told by my doctor’s nurse that my doctor would review them right away and call me back.  About 30 minutes later, my doctor called.  She was very matter of fact and told me that the biopsy results were ultimately inconclusive, but that it was possibly a phyllodes tumor.  She didn’t give any other details or information, but I felt like there was a sense of urgency in her voice.  She said I needed to see a breast surgeon right away, and that her nurse would call me back in a bit with an appointment.  Of course, I hung up and immediately began googling what she said.  It took me straight to the American Cancer Society page, and I freaked out.  I called my husband in tears.  I don’t think I will ever forget that moment and the pure terror that was racing through me.

I got those results on a Friday and four days later, my husband and I were sitting in an office at the Breast Cancer Center waiting to see the surgeon.  I was a nervous wreck.  I think the surgeon could see the pure terror on my face even through my mask when she walked in the room.  She immediately started reassuring me that I was going to be fine and that the chances of it being malignant were very small.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if my regular doctor had mentioned that little fact? She then began to talk to us about all the possibilities of what it could be and my options as she was furiously writing it all down for me.  I do want to go on record saying how amazing she has been throughout the whole process.  Anyway, she said that the tumor had to be removed to not only to confirm what it really was but also because we just needed to get rid of it.  She even drew diagrams for us to explain the whole process. She did tell me that I had to have a Magseed placed before the surgery, which was a simple procedure where they placed these tiny little seed-like things in or around the tumor to help guide her to the right location when she did the surgery.   I left her office feeling a little reassured and with an appointment for the Magseed placement in a week and a lumpectomy three weeks later. Even though she told me that there was only a small chance it was malignant, I still worried so much over those next three weeks.  Even little things would make me burst into tears.  I am not sure I have ever felt so afraid in my life.  

I had the surgery on August 19.  My surgeon told my husband that everything went well and that she would call with the results in about a week. However, if we didn’t hear anything, it usually meant that everything was ok. It was the whole no news is good news kind of thing.  I had a follow-up appointment scheduled two weeks later.  The pain following the surgery was way less than I expected, which was good.  I was obviously still worried about the results and I had some insecurities about what I would look like when I healed, but overall, I was doing pretty well.  In true Allison fashion, I never got the call with the results.  I took that to mean that I was ok, and I was just so glad it was all over.  Of course, I was wrong about one thing.  The whole nightmare wasn’t over.  When I went for my post-op appointment, my doctor immediately told me that it was a phyllodes tumor, but it came back benign. I was ok!  I had a brief moment of complete relief before she hit me with the next bit of information.  The results didn’t show clear margins all the way around which meant they didn’t get all of it.  I needed a second surgery to remove more tissue or the tumor was certain to return.  They would go back in through the same scar and take a little bit more.  I had my second surgery on September 16, almost one month after the first one.  This time the bandages stayed on a little longer than the first time, which caused me to have an allergic reaction.  I developed an allergy to adhesive a few years ago and tend to get hives that are extremely itchy when a bandage is left on for any length of time.  I ended up having to remove the bandages myself (they were supposed to fall off on their own), which caused some extreme pain.  The incision was VERY sensitive this time after being cut open twice.  With the large welts from the hives and the sensitivity of the incision, I was miserable for a couple of days.  Only me, right? Thankfully, this time I got good news at my post-op appointment.  They had finally gotten it all and this mess really was finally over.  I will see my surgeon again in March and then will have my next mammogram in June unless I feel another lump before then.  

What I learned through all of this is that life is so precious, and it can change at any moment.  I also learned that I am much stronger than I thought I was.  I cannot imagine what would have happened if things had turned out differently.  Not many people knew what I was going through over the last 4 months because I kept it all in, but I am so grateful to everyone that did know and prayed for me.  It truly was all in God’s hands and he carried me through it each step of the way.  It is only by his grace that things turned out the way that they did.  My heart and prayers go out to everyone that didn’t get the same outcome and have fought or are fighting for their life.  I know that what I went through was very minor in comparison.  Self-checks and mammograms are so important.  Please make sure you are doing them regularly.  No matter what age you are or whether or not you are at risk, you should be doing regular self-exams at home.  They are so easy to do, and they could save your life.  If I wasn’t doing them myself, I would never have found that first lump 5 years ago or the ones that followed.  If you are 40+ years old or have a family history of breast cancer, you need to be getting mammograms at least once a year.  Yes, they are uncomfortable and a little painful, but they are all worth it if it saves your life.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and we are all reminded of the importance of regular checks, but we don’t need to forget about them the other 11 months of the year.  I cannot stress how important this is.  If you take nothing away from my story than this, please check yourself! 

I am still in the healing phase and am self-conscious of my big scar, but I couldn’t be more grateful that I am ok. I have been truly blessed.  There is no guarantee that this won’t happen again or that the outcome next time would be the same, but I know that God has me in his hands and will carry me through whatever the future holds for me.  

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Anchored and Well,

Fear

FEAR. That is a big word these days and something a lot of people feel and are talking about in this crazy time we are living. One of my friends and I had a talked about fear last week, and we were trying to make sense of why fear was affecting so many people that we know when we feel so differently about our current circumstances.  That conversation got me thinking a lot about that word more.  There are people that I know right now that are living in complete and utter fear, and it is ruling every single decision that they make. For some it is debilitating because they have allowed it to completely consume them.  Those people are struggling in ways they never have before.  They don’t know how to manage the things they are feeling, and it is leading to erratic behavior that isn’t doing anyone any good.  I am not at all trying to downplay the risks of this virus or the seriousness of it.  What I want to talk about is how we cannot let the fear of it completely take over all of our thoughts and emotions.  

In our conversation, my friend and I came to the conclusion that our lack of fear was because of our relationship with God, and that is something that those we know who were struggling don’t have.  I truly believe that fear is the absence of faith…faith in a mighty God who has total control.  I have seen women of incredible faith navigate an illness like cancer with unshakable strength, grace, and gratitude. While those women may have had some fears, they were able to manage them knowing that God was ultimately in control.  That knowledge alone was enough to sustain them and give them peace in the midst of the darkest times in their lives.  On the flip side, I have also seen women without faith go through the same illness all while crumbling into pieces. They had no one to cry out to in the depth of their fear and despair to bring them peace and comfort.  They lived in fear and darkness with very little light seeping in.  It is the same when it comes to this virus.  My friends who don’t know God are struggling with it so much more than those that know him. Those with faith are rolling with the punches and continuing to live their lives.  Yes, we should all be taking precautions, but we still have to live.  I cannot even imagine going through something like cancer or this pandemic without my faith…without the belief that no matter what happens, God is with me every step of the way.  

Thinking of fear as an absence of faith helps me to understand those that are struggling right now a little better.  I know why they feel so lost.  They have nothing to place their trust in. That is what leads to their fear the most.  The only way to get rid of the fear and to be filled with peace is by placing your trust in the all-seeing, all-knowing God.  He is the only person that can truly take away the fear and distrust. Locking yourself inside and isolating yourself with your head filled with worry is not going to make a difference.  It may keep you from getting the coronavirus, but it isn’t going to keep your from becoming sick from the anxiety it causes.   The fear is always going to be there unless you give it all away to the one who is ultimately in control.  He alone can take away your fear. I’m not saying that the cure to all anxiety disorders is faith.  Placing your faith in God isn’t going to magically cure you.  However, it will fill you with a different kind of peace…the kind of peace you have never known. That peace is the key to healing. 

Fear is a liar.  It will steal your joy and rob you of so much.  Living your life in fear is no way to live at all.  If there was a way to rid your body of all that turmoil and uneasiness, wouldn’t you take it? It is right there in front of you.  All you have to do is grab hold and let it fill your body, mind, and soul with the peace that passes all understanding.   Take that leap of faith, place your trust in God, cast your fears into the fire, and watch them melt away. I truly cannot fathom going through life without my faith.  It truly is the answer to facing your fears. 

Anchored in FAITH,

Insecurities

I feel like people often view me as a strong, confident, independent woman; but that couldn’t be farther from reality.  Inside I am really just an insecure mess.  I’m always worried about something. I worry about what others think of me, about the way I look, and about the things I say and do. I am always tearing myself down in my head and second guessing everything I do.  I can certainly put on a good show outwardly so that you would never know what was going on in my brain at the same time. I guess maybe in some ways I am strong and independent, but that is because I have no other choice.  I have to keep it together for everyone else’s sake while crumbling inwardly.  No matter how strong I am, I am equally just as insecure.  Why is it that as women we feel like we have to hide our insecurities?  We all project this perfect life when it is often a lie.  I feel certain that the most secure and powerful women in the world have insecurities as well.  As a society we see insecurity as a weakness, so we just hide it and suffer through it alone. We don’t talk about how we feel about our bodies or about our worries about being a mom, wife, business woman, or whatever else we judge ourselves on.  We hold it all in until it manifests its way into anxiety and sometimes depression.  

More and more women are being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and are taking medications to help manage it.  While I have never been diagnosed, I am fairly certain that I have it as well.  There is nothing wrong with needing and asking for help, but we do need to ask ourselves why this has become such an issue with women in the first place.  What are we doing as a society that the cases of anxiety disorders are on the rise? Why are we allowing the pressures of the world to affect us so much? Yes, I put the pressure on myself to look and be perfect, but where did I get the idea that I needed to be that way in the first place? It’s because we’ve been programed not to show our weaknesses. We don’t talk about it…ever.  We put our best life on social media and hide the truth. The so called “perfect life” is on display for us 24/7, and we feel like we are failing when ours doesn’t look the same.  Those little snapshots don’t show the whole picture, though. Those filters don’t show who we really are, but that is what we put out for the world to see. We don’t show those insecurities.  Instead, we try to hide them.  It is something that we as women should talk about.  Think of how much better it would make you feel to know that those strong, powerful women you idolize felt the same way you do. Think of the power it would give you to know you aren’t alone! 

We also don’t believe it when others say something good about us. We don’t accept compliments.  My husband gave me a compliment last night and I laughed it off, rolled my eyes, and said “yeah right!” Instead of saying thank you and allowing myself to feel good, it made me think about all the negatives about myself.  We as women do this all the time.  We say, “Thank you, BUT…” and talk ourselves out of the compliment. We end up putting ourselves down either verbally or in our heads instead of letting the kind words sink in and warm our hearts.  We don’t allow ourselves to believe that anyone else could really believe those nice things about us.  We turn the compliment into destruction. I do it all the time. I honestly don’t know if I know how to truly accept a compliment. I let the compliment fuel my insecurities instead of taking it for what it really is.

Women have got to band together and put a stop to all of this and make a real change.  Having insecurities is not a sign of weakness, but there is a way to get past them.  We have to start by having real conversations with our friends, family, or spouse about our insecurities. This will make them not so taboo.  It will allow us all to see that we are normal for feeling the things we feel and maybe make the insecurities go away. Next, we have to stop only putting the good out for others to see.  Stop using filters. Show the real you. It’s ok to say that you had a rough day or that you are struggling with something. This will keep us all from having a skewed view of real life and real women. It will be actual proof that we aren’t alone. Then, start believing the good about yourself.  Allow a compliment to sit in your heart and fill it with joy. Don’t allow yourself to turn it into something it’s not. Take it in and feel it. Only then are you going to change the narrative in your head. Finally, give your self compliments. Speak positive affirmations to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell your self boldly and proudly that you are beautiful, strong, and confident. The more you tell yourself that, the more you will come to believe it. It is the truth!

Let’s work together to empower each other and force that anxiety curve to plummet downward!

Anchored,

Patience, Grace, and Prayer

I have been MIA for a little bit because we made a last-minute decision to head to South Carolina to visit family one more time before the crazy life of virtual school and cheer begins. We practiced a little social distancing but got to see everyone at least for a little bit.  I do have to admit that social distancing in South Carolina vs. social distancing where we live is night and day.  At home, you rarely see anyone without a mask, and stores and restaurants are fairly empty.   Down there, people were hanging out together in groups, not wearing masks, and stores and restaurants were crowded.  Schools had been in session for a couple of weeks and were in person.  We started school here today, and it is 100% virtual.  It’s just a totally different mentality, I guess.  It makes it hard to know which way is the right way.   Despite the differences, we had a great time and were hopefully cautious enough. I despise the long drive to and from every time, but it was worth it to get to spend time with the ones we love.  My one regret was that I didn’t take a single picture! I guess that means I was just living in the moment.

As I mentioned, school started for my girls today.  It is certainly not a normal first day of school by any stretch of the imagination with school being 100% virtual for the foreseeable future.  I did make them get up early and get dressed despite the grumbles I got.  We shall see how long that lasts.  I also made them go on the porch for a first day of school picture, which they said was pointless and dumb.  Then, I was forbidden to take a picture of them at their computers!! Got to love this age! I mean, I have to get at least one, right? I have to post them along with just about everyone else I know today, right?  No, they weren’t in their usual cute first day of school outfits, but it is still a momentous day. It is hard to believe that I have a junior and a 7th grader.  Where has the time gone? I have no idea how long virtual school will last or if or when things will ever get back to normal.  I just pray that my oldest child’s last 2 years of high school aren’t ruined because of this virus.  I really do hope that they will be able to go back to school and enjoy the traditions and rights of passage that come with these last few years of school.  I do like the fact, though, that I didn’t have to do any back to school shopping this year.  We didn’t buy new school supplies as my “school supply collection” from overbuying during my 17 years of teaching provided the majority of things they needed.  I haven’t bought them new clothes in a while either because they have been barely getting dressed for months.  I figure at some point we will need to do some clothes shopping. Maybe for Christmas???

I know that this school year isn’t like anyone wants or cares for, but it is the card we have been dealt.  We might as well make the best of whatever our situation may be. My heart is with teachers all over the country, whether it is their first day or 15th day.  I can’t imagine the stress you are all under. While I am not in the trenches with you anymore, I know that your hearts are hurting for your students and that you are giving it every ounce of energy you’ve got trying to meet the needs of every student.  Give yourself some grace and try to remember to spend a little time on you in the midst of it all. Trust me, I know that is easier said than done, but it is important.  I was never good at that and it is part of why I am no longer teaching.  I don’t want you to burn out like I did.  You’ve got this and you will get through it.  Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be your best year yet! No matter what, you are all deserving of Teacher of the Year this year! 

Parents, I encourage you to also give yourself grace. I know this is hard for you too.  I know you are juggling a million different hats, and you are stressed to the max.  You can do it too. When you are frustrated or discouraged, take some time to walk away, take some deep breaths, and then jump right back in with a smile on your face.  You’ve got this! I also need you to give grace to all the teachers working overtime to meet the needs of your child.  It isn’t their fault that the technology is not working.  It isn’t their fault we are in this situation.  They are just doing their best. The only way to get through this is together…you, your child, and your child’s teachers. You have to support each other or we will never make it over this mountain before us. We are all in this together.

This year isn’t going to be easy for anyone, but we can get through it together with a little bit of patience, grace, and a whole lot of prayer.  We can do it! 

Anchored,

Obession Overload

It has been so crazy seeing all the back to school posts over the past couple of weeks while my kids still have 2 more weeks of summer.   It is also interesting to see that the majority of the back to school posts I have seen have been kids in masks because they are actually going back to a school building.  I don’t know if they are going to school 5 days a week or if it is a hybrid situation.   All I know is that it appears that they are going back to some degree.   It seems like all of my friends and family down south (Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina) are all going back to school in person.  I don’t think I have seen any posts yet of kids doing 100% virtual learning. I wish I could say the same for our area.   I honestly don’t think our school division here has any plans to go back to school at all this year.  They say that they are working on a plan to phase students back, but I haven’t seen any real concrete evidence that this is actually going to happen, and they refuse to answer any questions about how it will work, which leads me to believe they have no clue. 

I have to admit that the whole school situation has become sort of an obsession for me.  I am following everything super closely and watching every single 8-hour school board meeting while beating my head against the wall trying to get a sense of what they are thinking and what the plans are.  So far, I have very little faith in their ability to figure out how to get us all back in the buildings.  I also get sucked into reading discussions on social media that pertain to our school system. I never get into debates with people, and I have never offered my own point of view or commented on anything.  I just get sucked into reading everyone else’s opinions and the solutions being offered.  I read article after article that gets posted.  I follow news stories about the states that have returned to school and how it is going.   It really is insane how much of my time is wasted obsessing over it.  My friends here that want to know what is going on, know that they can call and ask me because I am following it so closely.  I don’t really know why I am so obsessed with it.  I don’t know if it is the teacher in me, the parent in me, the fact that I have nothing else to do, or a combination of all three.  All I know is that I need to stop.  It is consuming me.   It is just that it has been 167 days (yes, I counted) since my kids have stepped into a school building, and I have no clue how many more days it will be before that actually happens again. That thought terrifies me.   I know my kids and know what they need, and they need to be in school in person as soon as possible.  I know that neither one of them is going to handle virtual school well.  

I have said this before…I will not argue with you about what is best for students because, as a former special education teacher, I know better than most how different each student’s needs are.  I also know that we are all at different comfort levels when it comes to safely returning to school.  I believe that as parents we are the best advocates for our children, and we know best what is most important for our kids.  What is best for your child may not be what is best for mine, and that is ok.  I know with my whole heart that both of my girls need to actually go to school, and I wish so bad that we had that option.  What is funny is that, although I strongly believe they both need in person school, the reasons for that for each kid are vastly different.  One of my kids needs to go to school in person because she is an extremely social person and needs face to face interactions with friends and teachers and more hands-on, interactive learning.   She got very depressed during the spring when we were confined to the house with no outside interactions.  I am terrified for her mental state when classes start back virtually.  My other kid needs in person learning because she can’t pay attention and focus during virtual lessons.  She has even admitted that she can’t pay attention when staring at a computer all day.  She needs more individual attention from her teachers and the structure that comes with being in school.  She struggles with managing her time and schedule with virtual school.  I am afraid of her falling even further behind academically and not being prepared for college in 2 years. 

I tell you all this to say that my mind is working overtime, and I know that many of you are in the same boat.  You may not have reached the level of obsession that I have, but I know that you are worried about school to some extent.  I want you to know that you aren’t alone.  The whole situation SUCKS! There, I said it! Whether your kids are going back to school wearing masks and social distancing or you are praying that your WIFI holds throughout the day, we are all in this together.  We are all doing the best we can with whatever circumstances we have been dealt even though none of them are ideal.  We have to have faith that it will all work out in the end.  I know I have to just accept that this is how it is going to be for the foreseeable future and make the best of it for my kids.  Here is me committing publicly that I am going to stop obsessing and just let it go.  Whatever happens will happen, and we will get through it.   It is time to move on and accept the things I cannot change.  

Anchored,

Just Stay Little Forever

Something happened last week that I am so not ready for.  In fact, I am not sure that I will ever be ready for it.  My oldest daughter, after having completed driver’s education, 45 logged hours of driving time, and a 7 day behind the wheel course, has officially gotten her real license.  She just has a piece of paper right now because the state requires her to appear before a judge in court to get the hard copy in the next few weeks, but that piece of paper means she can legally drive without an adult.  I’m not ready.  Is any parent ever ready to let their teen get behind the wheel alone and drive off? I don’t see how anyone could be.  The thought of her driving without her dad or me there is so scary.  We live in an extremely high traffic area which is a far cry from the small, zero traffic town where I first got behind the wheel alone all those years ago. I am certain my parents were nervous for that first time, but I feel like it is vastly different here. There are so many more opportunities for crashes in the crazy traffic we see around here.  I think I would feel much better about the situation if we lived down there instead of here.  Let’s be honest, though. That’s probably not really true.  I would likely be a nervous wreck no matter where we lived. Ugh! I’m not ready. I know I said this same thing when she got her permit, but this is a whole new ballgame.

Later this week will be the first time that she has to drive by herself.  She has SAT tutoring, and my husband and I are not able to take her that day.  Normally, we would just reschedule, but my husband has talked me into letting her drive herself there and back. He says it has to happen sooner or later. It is only like 2 miles away, but I am not sure I am going to be able to breath until she texts me that she is safely there and parked and safely back home and parked afterwards.  I made her drive there yesterday with me to practice and to practice parking in the parking lot.  Of course, she did fine, but that doesn’t mean that she will do fine on Thursday.  She still makes careless mistakes sometimes as an inexperienced driver that really make me nervous.  Plus, she is a blond and a true dingy sometimes. I can say that because I am her mother. If you know her, you know it is true. She will admit it herself.  I know that she had her own nerves every time she gets behind the wheel, and that does make her more cautious.  I guess that is a good thing, but I would like her to be a little more confident.  She says that she is ready, though, and that she will be fine driving to tutoring by herself.  It is just me that isn’t so sure.  The whole time she had her learner’s permit, she really had no interest in driving. We actually had to force her to drive most of the time just to get her practice and to be able to log her 45 hours of experience. Now that she has the real thing, though, she is making all these plans of where she is going to go and what she is going to do.  I am thankful that the law here is that she can only have one non-family member in the car with her at a time.  She can’t just load the car up with all her friends and go galivanting around town.  My husband and I were talking yesterday about needing to set our own ground rules for driving as well.  I can think of like 50 rules, but he, of course, thinks that is overkill.  

I know that this is a part of growing up and a normal part of life, but she is my baby. She may be almost as tall as me, but to me she is still that 4 lb, 8 oz peanut that we were scared we would break when we brought her home from the hospital. Now I am scared she will break while out driving, and that is a million times worse. I know this is a big step in her life, but I don’t like it.  Why can’t they just stay little and innocent forever? I don’t know how I am going to do this.  I get a pit in my stomach just thinking about it.  I know I have to let her go and just keep praying that she will be safe, but it is excruciating. Is there ever a stage in life when parenting isn’t hard? We have joked for years that we couldn’t wait until she could drive herself to practice and we could get a break from all the trips back and forth.  Now that the time is here, I have changed my mind.  I take back all those times I complained about the time I spent in my car.  I will happily continue to drive back and forth if it means keeping her safe forever.  Please pray for me. I might have a nervous breakdown. Mom life is HARD!

Anchored,

See Something, Say Something

The United Nations has designated today, July 30 as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.  It is a day to celebrate the thousands of survivors, show support to those that are still stuck in trafficking, and to bring about awareness and change. This is a cause that is near to my heart.  Before joining Trades of Hope, I was not aware that trafficking was so huge.  It just wasn’t something on my radar before then.  I knew that this horrific crime existed, but I never really gave it much thought.  Since I joined TOH, my eyes have been opened to this act of violence against others who are most vulnerable like the poor.  People are trafficking for many reasons such as forced labor and sexual exploitation.  It has become modern day slavery with an estimated 45 million people being held against their will in slavery today.  The estimated market value of illicit human trafficking is $150 billion.  Every single day people around the world are trafficked for profit.  Over 70% of these victims are women and girls, and nearly 1/3 of the victims are children.   These numbers are horrifying to me.  We MUST fight back against this disgusting crime. Today I just wanted to share some resources and ways you can help end trafficking. 

According to Unicef…
“Traffickers look for people living in poverty, those who are desperate, those without legitimate job options, those without educational opportunities, and the ones looking for a way to escape violence. At its most basic form, human trafficking is the buying and selling of people. It exists across continents and is facilitated through a variety of venues, but ultimately – human trafficking is an industry, and it profits from the exploitation of people. Human trafficking has been likened to modern-day slavery, and in many respects, the similarities are obvious.”

Ways to help bring awareness to human trafficking:

  • Post about World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on social media using the hashtags EndHumanTrafficking and #HumanTrafficking.
  • Wear BLUE (or a blue heart) as a symbol of unity. The Blue Heart is increasingly recognized as the international symbol against human trafficking, representing the sadness of those who are trafficked while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell human beings.
  • Educate yourself and others.
  • Donate or volunteer at a local organization that helps survivors.You can easily find an organization near you with a simple Google search. You can also donate to any of the organizations listed below.
  • Join me in the fight against human trafficking and poverty as a Trades of Hope Partner or by shopping fair trade.
  • Recognize the signs of trafficking. Visit knowthesigns.org.
    • Victims may be easily startled or agitated.
    • Victims may be unsure of where they are or lack official ID.
    • Victims may be unable to explain injuries or possessions.
    • Victims may have strange markings/brandings/tattoos.
    • Victims may have unexplained hotel use.
    • Victims by be accompanied by a suspicious companion.
    • Victims be children who are dressed up to look older than they are.
  • See something, say something.  Keep your eyes open. You can make a report at makeareport.org or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).

Organizations working to abolish slavery:

Take a stand and make a difference.  Too many of lives are at stake to remain silent.  

Anchored,

Body Armor

As I sit here to write, I honestly don’t even know where this post is going to go today.  I have only posted once this week so far because it has just been a stressful week and things have been out of sorts.  No, I take that back. It isn’t that things have been out of sort…it is that I have been out of sorts.  There have been many things that I have been worrying about, and it seems like they all just came crashing in on me today.  All that I have been holding in is flowing freely this morning.  I almost didn’t even sit down to write today again, but writing out my feelings has always been therapeutic for me so here I am.  I tend to bottle things up and not let my true feelings emerge.  It is super hard for me to be vulnerable.  I have always had that tough girl mentality where I don’t let others see me struggle. Ever.  For so long, I have been the one that has to be strong for everyone else that it has just become a part of who I am. I take on everyone else’s struggles and problems but never share my own. I am the strong one…at least, that is what people always say because that is the persona that I put out there.  In all honesty, I am just good at hiding it from everyone else.  I hold things in until I can’t hold it anymore and then it all comes crashing out like today.  The thing is, though, that even when I am having these kinds of days, I still hide it from everyone else.  I don’t let others see me cry.  It is a very RARE occasion when I open up to someone else and allow them to see me vulnerable, but even then, I still hold back.  I have always viewed that as a sign of weakness.  I don’t see it as a weakness in others, but I definitely do in myself.   I know that this thinking is wrong and totally messed up, but I don’t seem to have any control over it. I honestly don’t even know where it comes from.  It is this weird idea I have put in my head.  As far as I have come in working on myself over the last couple of years, it is days like today when I realize I still have a long way to go.   I know it isn’t healthy to keep things bottled up. Seriously, I even tell this to people all the time.  I encourage people to open up to me or their loved ones and to let it all out.   I just can’t seem to follow my own advice.  

I know that there are many women that feel the same way and look at vulnerability as a weakness.  I see it in several of my friends as well.  I don’t know if it is a woman thing or a human thing to think that others can’t see us struggle, but I know that so many of us as women feel this way.  We put forth this strong facade and don’t let others truly in, all while we are crumbling on the inside. I know I personally even struggle with providing a balance in what I let my daughters see.  I want them to see me as a strong, independent woman who can take on the world, but I also want them to know that they can be vulnerable and that it’s ok to have fears and weaknesses.  The truth is that I never let them see me cry either.  They don’t know the struggles I face because I hide it from them just like I do from everyone else.  In the back of my head I know that this is just teaching them that they have to put on body armor like me and keep everyone out, but I don’t want that for them. I don’t want them to bottle up all their emotions like I have for my whole life. I want something different for them.

It is time for me to break down the walls and strip myself of the heavy body armor I have carried for so long, but I have no idea how.   This is a piece of the puzzle that I think I need the most work on in my journey to becoming the best version of myself.  I am really trying to at least give it all to God and be vulnerable before Him.  I think that is the best place for me to start. Hopefully, He can give me a different kind of armor that will give me the strength to be vulnerable in front of others.  The armor of God is definitely lighter and more powerful than the clunky one I created for myself. I encourage all of you to join me in taking off your body armor and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  

Anchored,

Parents Know Best

I have really tried to avoid this conversation, but I can no longer do that. The subject of the 2020-2021 school year has given me knots in my stomach for weeks. The venom and hatred spewed on social media on this topic is outrageous. Everyone has an opinion and they seem to think their opinion is the only one that matters. Many place judgements on anyone that disagrees with them. The mix of people who are for opening school and those against it cannot seem to agree on anything, and it has really gotten out of hand. Between the mask debate, transportation dilemma, and the overall safety of students and staff, no one agrees on much of anything. Let’s not even get into the argument on the quality of distance learning we all got in the spring either. I personally believe that there is no right or wrong answer here because it depends on each person’s individual situation. I could honestly choose two different scenarios for both of my children because they have very different needs, but neither are an option that I really feel good about. As a parent, it is hard not to get sucked into all of the discussions on social media despite how much we try to avoid it. I admit that I have gone down the rabbit hole more times than I care to admit, and all it does is just make me more anxious and nervous about my choices. We are all concerned about the health AND education of our children, but we are also all struggling with making the right choice. I feel like I am also struggling as a parent with a teacher brain. (Once a teacher, always a teacher whether you are actually in the classroom anymore or not.) This is actually one time that I do not regret not being in the classroom because the stress and strain this is putting on teachers is just as hard as it is for parents, only teachers have to think about their own well-being, their own family’s health, and what they think is best for their students. I have seen teachers be crucified over distance learning which they had very little control over in the spring and for their stance on returning to school. I’ve also seen school board members being threatened by individuals who don’t agree with them. It is all completely unacceptable behavior, and it is making us all crazy.

I am not writing this to tell you my opinion on going back to school. I am not here to argue with you over masks or the safety of your child. My only purpose for writing this is to try to discourage you all from joining in the arguments and hatred towards each other, school officials, government officials, or any Joe Schmoe on the internet. EVERYONE is trying to do the best they can given the circumstances. Spewing hatred and getting into arguments or debates over it isn’t doing anyone any good. It is in fact causing more harm. It is making everyone second guess what their gut is telling them to do, and it is causing dissention when we should be rallying together to figure out the safest and best way to educate our children. There is no perfect answer that is going to fit every teacher or every child. All we can do is try our best. We must accept that times have changed, and things aren’t going to go back to normal any time soon. This virus is not going to miraculously disappear overnight. No amount of arguing is going to change that. I encourage you to trust your own gut and instincts and make decisions based on your individual children. Try to stay off social media and tune out all the chatter. Avoid getting into debates. Do what is best for your child and your family regardless of what anyone else thinks. Be kind to teachers. This isn’t an easy decision for them either, and they haven’t been trained on how to do this. I guarantee you, though, that the majority of them just want what is best for their students and are giving it their all despite all the challenges.

My advice to you as a parent and a former teacher is to tune it all out.  I know that is easier said than done because I have struggled with it myself, but I am trying really hard to follow my own advice.  Take a good look at each of your children and decide what their specific needs are.  Then choose the option that best fits those needs and walk away.  Make your decision and let it go.  Don’t entertain anyone else’s opinion because their opinion doesn’t matter.  You know your child best and you don’t need anyone else to convince you otherwise.  Parents know best! No, your options may not be ideal or what you really want, but you have to pick whatever option gives your child the most of what he or she needs. 

I finally entered in my binding decision for my children yesterday, and I can’t tell you how much weight that has removed from my shoulders.  I do feel judged by some people, but that’s ok.  I am doing what I think is best for my kids.  I have made my choice based on my kids and not anyone else’s opinion, and now I am going to let it go. I am planning to remove myself from the groups on social media that are causing me anxiety and move on. That is all we can do, and it is all we have control over in these crazy times. Parents know best!

Anchored, 

Corna-Cation

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been MIA from the blog for a bit because I had two mini corona-cations back to back. It was sort of a last minute decision not to blog during that time because I wanted to be fully present for both trips.  I am calling them corona-cations because they were very different from our usual trips due to the many precautions that we had to take to keep everyone as safe as possible.  Masks, hand-sanitizer, and social distancing became normal part of both trips.  We did not go to any restaurants or any other adventures because we didn’t feel like that was safe. Despite the extra precautions, both trips for me were still a great success and a wonderful time was had by all. 

First, I spent 4 glorious days in the Outer Banks with 8 of my very best friends.  We have been doing this annual beach trip for, I think, nine years now.  This year’s trip got postponed due to the shutdown for COVID-19, but I am happy to report that it finally happened. We tried to all social distance as much as we could with 9 people in one house sharing beds, but I wasn’t too concerned since I knew everyone had been pretty isolated prior to the trip.  We didn’t share our usual hugs with everyone, and we tried not to drink or eat after each other.   We also did not go anywhere except to the beach and back.  A few of us got up early each morning and made our way to the beach so that we could secure a large socially distanced area for all of us to hang all day.  There were surprisingly more people on the beach than we are typically used to so getting a spot early was key.  We put up our cabana and spread our bags and chairs wide so that new beachgoers knew to stay away from us.  Most people were respectful of each other and everyone was trying hard to maintain distance as much as possible.  We pretty much spent our entire days at the beach since we couldn’t really go anywhere else.  We packed our own lunches and plenty of drinks and snacks to last us through the whole day.  I don’t think that we have ever spent that much time just talking and hanging out on the beach before.  We usually only spend a few hours a day at the beach mixed in with shopping and dining out the rest of the time.  Since we couldn’t do that this year, we just stayed at the beach all day.  We had really good weather, calm waters, and overall great conversations. It was glorious.  Each evening, we headed back to the house in shifts to start showers, and then we took turns cooking dinner each night because we weren’t comfortable with going to a restaurant. After dinner each night, we played crazy games that resulted in so many laughs that there were tears rolling down our faces.  While this trip wasn’t like any of our others, it was exactly what we all needed.  All we really cared about was spending time together and having fun which we did beyond measure.  

After that trip, I can home for two days before the whole family packed up and made the long drive to South Carolina to visit our family, who we haven’t seen since Christmas.  It was very alarming to us to see the difference in safety measures the closer we got to South Carolina as we made stops along the way on the 10-hour trip.  During our initial bathroom stops, everyone we passed was wearing a mask and walking far away from each other. Then, the closer we got to our destination, we encountered tons of people without masks who didn’t seem to make any effort to not walk close to you.  It was a bit scary to us to see that because it is such a sharp contrast from what we have been living the past few months at home.  It was quite interesting to see how the different states are handling things and showed why there is now a spike in COVID cases in many of those states that have been more lenient with their restrictions.  I feel like I was personally more nervous on this trip than I was on my beach trip.  I am not sure if that was because the restrictions were way less down there and, therefore, more concerning to me or if it was because I was around my parents, father-in-law, and my grandparents who are all at a greater risk than we are due to age and pre-existing conditions. I would feel so horrible knowing that we exposed one of them to this horrible virus if one of them were to get sick.  I guess it is probably a combination of both that made me more nervous, but it definitely made me extra cautious.  Before we even left for the trip, I questioned if it were the right thing to do to go down there, but we felt like we should make the trip to see our family when we have the opportunity since it doesn’t happen very often.  I am glad that we went because spending time with family is so important.  My kids got to spend time with their cousins at the lake tubing and having a blast, and we all got to spend time with our loved ones celebrating Independence Day. There were no big fireworks displays this year and no huge BBQs, but we enjoyed a small family gathering for lunch instead. 

While both trips were changed by the new norm, both of them turned out to be more than we expected. We all got just what we needed out of them. I strongly believe that nothing is more important that spending time with the people we love.  Maybe things will never get back to the old norm, but we will continue to adapt and make the most out of what we are given.  I am aware that some of you may think that we shouldn’t be going anywhere at all, and maybe you are right. However, I think that we did the best we could to protect ourselves and those that we came into contact with. I also believe that we have to continue with our lives as much as possible and make the most of the cards we have been dealt in these crazy times. I think as long as you are careful and are smart about what you are doing, there is nothing wrong with taking a mini corona-cation. I am happy with both of mine and am counting down the days for the next ones whenever they may be and whatever they may look like. 

Anchored,