Time Cherished

Wow! I don’t know if I could feel more exhausted right now because I haven’t really slept the last few days. I never sleep well in a hotel.   My oldest daughter and I flew to Atlanta on Friday for her first live cheer competition of the season, and we got back late yesterday afternoon.  It was our first time traveling since the pandemic began, and it was quite an experience.  I was nervous about it and our chances of exposure, but I was also excited to be doing something that sort of resembled our old normal.  We took every precaution that we could given the circumstances and will be quarantining ourselves for the next week to make sure we didn’t pick up anything we could spread.  

The trip started out like a normal trip except having to wear a mask.  We got to the airport in plenty of time to get through security and get to our gate.  As we boarded the plane, the flight attendants handed us each an individually packaged sanitizing wipe that we could use to wipe down our area before we sat down.  I had actually brought a small pack to do that myself but didn’t need to use them.  The fact that the flight was full made me a little nervous, but I tried to put it out of my mind.  I felt like most people were being cautious and trying to be safe.  What I did not count on or consider was that since it was a night flight, the lights would be turned off, leaving the plane dark.  This gave some people around us the opportunity to get away with pulling their masks off and not wearing them.  I was pretty upset about it, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to say anything.   I just kept hoping the flight attendant would notice, but that didn’t happen because the flight attendants had to remain seated for the majority of the flight due to turbulence.  It wasn’t just a little turbulence either.  It was probably the worst I have ever experienced and certainly didn’t help my nerves.  I get bad motion sickness too, so that was fun.  Needless to say, the flight to Atlanta was not pleasant at all. I was so happy to get off that plane and to our hotel.  Thankfully our flight home yesterday was not full or turbulent and everyone kept their masks on! 

Typically, when we travel for competitions, we go out to eat and try new restaurants, do a bit of sightseeing, and hang out with teammates when they aren’t competing.   That was not the case this trip.  In an effort to minimize our interaction with others, we stayed in our hotel room the whole time.  The only time we left was to go to the competition, and then we came right back after it was over.  This was my first experience using Uber Eats, but it actually worked out great for lunch and dinner for the duration of the trip.  The driver brought the food directly to our room and left it outside the door to minimize contact.  It was perfect and super easy.  We watched a lot of TV, experimented with new ways to do her competition hair and makeup, and just hung out together.  It was kind of fun in a way because we just talked and laughed a lot.  I know my opportunities to do that with her are dwindling since she will be off to college soon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I love the young lady she has become, and I found myself really enjoying her company.  Even though there wasn’t much excitement to the trip, it is definitely one that I am going to remember forever.  Time spent with my family is the biggest thing that I have taken away from the pandemic.  It has opened up opportunities to just be together like never before, and I will cherish this time always.  

While we didn’t bring home the win, we came back with memories to last a lifetime.  The girls killed it both days and placed third among a super tough division.  My girl walked away with a renewed confidence in herself and pure happiness for the first time following a competition in a long time.  I saw the same light in her eyes that I used to see when she first started competing in gymnastics return, and it was shining so bright.   She even kept saying to me over and over all weekend that her eyes looked so blue.  I think she was seeing that same light that I saw.  I caught myself several times just staring at her during the trip thinking how beautiful she is and how much she has grown up.  I am so happy that she has found a new sport that she loves and is excited to learn, improve, and give it all she’s got. Although it is a sport that I never saw her doing or ever wanting to do, she is thriving in the midst of it.  I couldn’t be more happy or proud of her. It just goes to show that it is never too late to try something new and that hard work and determination pays off. 

I am happy to be back home and to have gotten a full night of sleep last night snug in my own bed, but I already miss our mom and daughter time together.  Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but it is also the most rewarding.  I would give anything to go back and do some things over so that I would have had more moments like this weekend.  We rushed through so much over the years, and I hate that I didn’t take the time to simply just hang out with both girls more.  COVID had taught me such a valuable lesson.  NOTHING is more important or more precious than time spent together.  Going forward I promise myself that I am going to take more of that time and cherish every single second of it.  

Anchored,

The Only Voice That Matters

Necklace/Earrings/Lipstick (Lead the Way)

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you just can’t do anything right? I recently had something practically handed to me on a silver platter, TWICE.  All I had to do was accept it and make it work, but I failed both times. I couldn’t bring it to fruition, and I don’t know why.   I don’t think that it is possible for things to get much easier than it being handed to you, so why couldn’t I make it work?  Why did I let it slip through my fingers, not once but twice?  Is there something wrong with me? Why am I failing? Maybe I am not cut out for this like I thought.  These are all the things that were running through my brain this morning when I learned that the second opportunity didn’t pan out.  That was Satan talking.  It was him trying to get in my head and make me doubt myself and God’s plan for my life.  I know this in my heart, but it still didn’t stop the thoughts from coming.  It didn’t stop me from beating myself up and second guessing every decision I have made.  It didn’t stop the “what if’s” from coming.  

I can tell you that Satan is good at his job.  He knows what he is doing. If we aren’t careful, he can take over.  He can overwhelm us with all this negativity and make us give up.  I have seen it over and over in myself and in those around me.  When you put your heart and soul into something and are constantly getting slapped in the face, it is hard to keep going.  Who likes having the door slammed in your face over and over again? Satan can use it to wear you down.  He will make you believe the lies if you aren’t careful.  It is easy to call it quits when you convince yourself that you aren’t good enough, but that is when Satan wins.  That is when he gets his way.  Trust me, there have been numerous times in my life when I have let that happen.  For years I believed the lies that he was feeding me.  I lived my life never feeling confident, never believing in myself, never feeling worthy.  I was miserable.  It wasn’t until I realized that I had to simply be still that I came to see myself in a different light.  I had to push out Satan’s voice and zoom in on God’s voice. I can only do that by being still and truly listening.  It was when I started doing this regularly that I was able to distinguish between the lies and the truth.  

I am not telling you that I tune out Satan’s voice all the time.  If I did, I wouldn’t have had that brief conversation with myself this morning about what a failure I am for missing out on two incredible opportunities.  What is different about me now from all those years before is that I don’t let those lies sink in and take root.  I don’t let them affect my decisions and actions going forward.  When I catch myself letting them creep in, I stop completely and tune out everything around me.  I consciously push that voice aside and listen to the only one that matters.  That is when I start to hear that I am worthy.  It is when I start to see the path laid out before me may not be an easy one, but it is the one I was called to follow.  That is when I start to see those failures as lessons and opportunities for growth.  It’s not easy, and I don’t expect that it ever will be because Satan will always be there putting those negative thoughts in my head. Just this morning I had to keep shutting those voices down. I will admit that it took me a few minutes to truly be all in this morning and tune out the negativity. I am human. Once I did, though, all the thoughts of failure faded away. Only one voice matters.  It isn’t your voice, it isn’t mine, it isn’t Satan’s.  It is pure and simple.  The only voice that matters is God’s.  I think we all have to learn that the hard way, and it is a lesson that we need reminding over and over, but it is one of the most important lessons of our lives.  

Don’t let yourself be overrun by those negative thoughts. Don’t let them take root inside you and allow you to feel less than you are. Don’t give them power over you or the authority to rule your choices. Don’t allow them to give you permission to quit. Be still and let the only voice that matters wash over you. Allow it the space to come in and change you. Only then will you know the truth about yourself. You are worthy! You aren’t a failure! You are on the right path.

Anchored and Still,

INTENTIONAL

I have never really been one to make new year resolutions.  There is no real reason why other than I am not good at keeping them long term.  I think most people would agree that we always start the new year with good intentions, but then life gets in the way and those resolutions fizzle out.  Instead of new year resolutions, I create small goals for myself all throughout the year that help me to achieve the long-term goals I have for my life.  I have found that to be a much better way for me to stay focused on what I want to accomplish all year long.  At the start of each month, I sit down and think about the things that I want to accomplish that month and I write them down in my calendar and my phone as a constant reminder.  Narrowing down my focus each month, seems to make my goals more manageable and more likely to be accomplished.  This has been a very effective practice for me and is something that I will continue to do. 

Two years ago, I started coming up with a single word that I wanted to focus on throughout the year in addition to my monthly goals.  I saw this idea somewhere, and I really loved it.  I wanted to choose a word that would represent my year as a whole. It was to be a word that I posted around my house and would impact every decision and thought that I had throughout the year.  I wanted to choose a word that would be impactful on my life.  It sort of became my mantra for the year.  My word of the year in 2019 was JOY.  It was something that was really lacking in my life at that time and desperately needed.   I wanted JOY to be my focus for that year as a way to change my mindset and the way that I looked at day to day things going on in my life.  I wanted it to be a constant reminder for me to choose JOY in all circumstances.  It allowed me to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, and by the end of that year, it had become a habit. It was completely freeing.  I feel like it truly made a difference in my life that year and really helped to change the way I looked at everything.  My word for 2020 was RELENTLESS.  My goal was to be RELENTLESS in the pursuit of my goals. That word was placed on my heart after hearing a song that I love.  It was like God turned on that song at the exact moment I was praying about my new word. It turned out to be the perfect word for this past year.   I wanted to focus on being RELENTLESS in multiple areas…relentless in love (for my family and friends), relentless in faith (growing in my relationship with God), relentless in work (making a global impact with my Trades of Hope business), relentless in pursuing my dreams (not giving up on reaching them), relentless in personal growth (becoming a better version of myself), and relentless in joy (continuing to choose joy every day).  While 2020 did not turn out like any of us had planned, I stayed true to my word of the year.  I never gave up and keep pushing forward in all of those areas.  I really was RELENTLESS.  I am proud of myself for continuing to choose joy in the midst of everything that went wrong in 2020.  I chose to see the good that came from it as much as I could, and it brought me so much joy this year.  I also spent more time with my family (thank you COVID) and was really focused in on cultivating my relationships.  My biggest accomplishment of the year, though, was remaining relentless in my work.  I was able to grow my Trades of Hope business in ways I never imagined I could, especially in the middle of a pandemic.  I am very proud of myself for that.  It just proved to me that hard work and persistence are important and can really make a difference.  We should all be relentless in pursuing our goals.

We are already 5 days into a new year, and I have been struggling to find my word of the year for 2021.  The last two came to me so easily and were the perfect fit, but this year’s word has taken a lot of reflection and prayer to find it.  I’ve been toiling around with several words for weeks now.  I’ve had a running list of possible words in my phone since the beginning of December when I started reflecting on the past year and began looking forward to this year.  None of them seemed to be calling to me, though.  If I am being perfectly honest, I still didn’t have the word when I sat down and began writing this post this morning.  It’s true.  I was just kind of hoping that it would come to me as I wrote, and that didn’t happen.  I actually had to stop writing after that last paragraph thinking that I was going to have to postpone this post to another day. I decided to close my computer, close my eyes, and begin praying for the word to come.  I finished my prayer and just sat here with my eyes closed for a few minutes.  I wanted to be still and present.  I wanted to take the time to push out everything around me and just listen to what God had to tell me.  It was in that moment that my word for 2021 appeared in my head.  As I sat here letting the word sink in, it became clear to me that this word was placed on my heart at this very moment because it is exactly the word I need.  It even kind of goes along with my word from last year.  

My word for 2021 is INTENTIONAL.  The Oxford dictionary says that intentional means “done on purpose; deliberate.” I think for me that it ultimately means choosing to make all of my decisions and actions about things that are important to me.  It means taking an active role in my life and with my time versus living my life just reacting to what is happening around me or waiting for the storm to end.  That reminds me of that saying, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning how to dance in the rain.” I want to dance in the rain.  I want to truly live.  Prior to COVID, my life was crazy.  Most days were spent just going through the motions, trying to make it through.  The pandemic brought with it a much needed break from all that insanity.  It allowed me time to do things that I wanted to do instead of simply doing all the things I thought I had to do.  That is how I was able to grow my Trades of Hope business.  I became more intentional with my time.  I really want to keep that going this year.  I don’t want life to go back to the way it was before this extended break.   I no longer want to live my life reacting and simply surviving as I weather the next storm.  I want to continue to be intentional in my decisions, actions, emotions, and time.  I want to be INTENTIONAL with my quiet time with God—not just asking and repenting but choosing to listen and be still, INTENTIONAL with my work—continuing to be relentless in my pursuit of my goals and using my time wisely, INTENTIONAL with my time—choosing time with family and friends over things that are much less important and keeping my focus on the things that matter, INTENTIONAL with my pursuit of becoming a better version of myself—actively working to become the person I want to be instead of just waiting for it to happen. It is time to take control of my life and start living it the way I want to. It is time to stop merely surviving and start truly living. The more this word is swimming around in my brain, the more excited I am becoming about the future.  This is definitely the right word for me for this time in my life. It came to me when I got INTENTIONAL with my time of prayer. How ironic is that? All I can say is that it is all God! I can’t wait to see how living out my word this year is going to change my life. I just know it is going to be great!

Anchored,

It’s 2020, Ya’ll!

Wow! December 1 hit, and it was like someone hit fast forward on my life.  Things started piling up and life has gotten completely crazy.  It is almost like 2020 wants to go out with a bang here in the last month. Just in case the other 11 months weren’t insane enough, it had to throw a few more punches at us.  COVID cases are on the rise and people are trying to figure out what to do for the holidays.  Should we travel or not? Should we gather with family in small groups? What is Christmas even going to look like this year? I have no answers to these questions as they are things we are trying to figure out ourselves.  Our cheer competitions are being canceled, rescheduled, or going virtual left and right.  Yesterday, they even tried to throw an unexpected competition at us for this coming Saturday, which just about sent me over the edge after the last few days I’ve had.  I already had a commitment and was scrambling to figure out how to get my kids to the venue 3 hours away and find someone to do their hair and makeup.  I had a mini freak-out only to find out that it was all for nothing and the gym had decided we weren’t going because the venue required our kids to have a negative COVID test since we were coming from another state.  I am grateful that they didn’t want to put the girls through that, but, needless to say, my nerves were shot yesterday.  My kids are supposed to return to school at the end of January for 2 days a week, and now that is up in the air as well due to the rise in cases.  It is almost like we are back in March all over again.  The uncertainty is so stressful and causes so much anxiety.  

I have never seen so many pictures on social media of Christmas trees that have fallen down as I have in the last few days.  Many of them have fallen for no apparent reason other than “It’s 2020!”  People keep posting about lost packages too.  A few of my own packages seem to have been lost by FedEx, and I don’t know if or when they will arrive. I spent a long time on the phone with FedEx this morning trying to figure out where they are, and no one seems to be able to help me.  I have also seen an unusually large number of posts from friends who have lost family members in the last few days.  They weren’t a result of COVID either.  It is sad, especially knowing that COVID had kept them apart for months.  People keep saying that the hits just keep on coming this year, and I am starting to believe they are right after the last few days I’ve had.   I have really tried to remain positive through all of this, but some days are hard. I’m human.  Yesterday was one of those days that got to me. I know that I just said last week all the things I was grateful for that this year has brought about, but sometimes I lose sight of those things when one thing after another keeps pounding me. It was like I had taken so many hits (1 literal hit but that is a story for another day) over that past few days that it just got to me yesterday.  When the whole thing happened with the cheer competition, a flood of emotions came out that I had been holding in and caused me to explode.  It was like the last straw.  I don’t like myself when I let things get to me.  I beat myself up for losing control and letting things affect me in that way.  I don’t like spouting negativity, but I sure did that yesterday! (Sorry to those of you that felt the brunt of my frustration!)  The only thing I can do when I reach my limit of frustration like that is to try to step back and breathe.  Then I usually say a long prayer to get myself back together and on track. That is what I did yesterday, and I am doing totally fine today. I just needed to let it all out and pray my way to a better mindset.

I have a feeling that there are going to be more days like that for all of us before this year comes to a close in a few short weeks.  It’s 2020, ya’ll! Buckle up and hang on because it’s not over yet! 

Anchored,

An Attitude of Gratitude

Top/Necklace (sold out)/Earrings

It is hard to believe that December has arrived.  With it comes so much joy and love, as well as, marking the end of a very trying year.  As November, the month of gratitude, came to a close yesterday, I sat and reflected on all the things that I was truly grateful for this year.  I know that was supposed to happen on Thanksgiving, but as 2020 has reminded us time and time again, not everything goes as planned.  I could sit here and tell you about everything that went wrong this year, but I am choosing to see the good that has come from it.  It forced me to slow down which is something that I needed more than anything else.  It allowed my body, mind, and spirit to heal and recharge after years of nonstop insanity.  I cannot even begin to explain how necessary that was for me.  I hate to imagine what would have happened if I had continued life down that crazy path.  I feel certain that my body or my brain would have eventually given out completely.  This year has also helped me realize that all that “extra” that was contributing to my stress isn’t really necessary.  We are doing just fine (and even better) without it all. I am so thankful for time to recharge. 

Another thing this year has given me is so many opportunities to actually have real conversations with my kids.  Much of my youngest daughter’s life has been combative with me.  Her younger years were very trying, and she and I have been like oil and water.  Prior to the last year or so, all we did was yell at each other because she did everything she could to push all my buttons until I had no choice but to lose it. To say it was a rough few years with her is an understatement! Now we have real, intellectual conversations that amaze me at her intuitiveness and that have shown me how much she has grown and matured.  She really is a neat kid.  Don’t get me wrong, she still knows how to push my buttons, but I have learned to remain calm (most of the time) and give her space.  It has made such a huge difference.  I don’t think any of that would have occurred had I still been living the crazy, hectic, stress-filled life.  I am so thankful for time to bond in ways we never have before.

When it comes to my oldest daughter, I am really getting to know who she is as a person. Our mother/daughter bond that the two of us have always had has strengthened this year because we finally have the time to just talk. She was always at practice and very rarely home so there was only time for superficial or necessary conversations. Now we talk about anything and everything because she has all the time in the world.  This year brought about a LOT of change for her.  She made the decision to leave the sport that has consumed her life for 15 years. She started a whole new sport that she had no clue in the world about, and I have seen her blossom through it.  Her confidence has returned, and I see a light in her eyes that has been dim for the past few years.  She also got her driver’s license and gained some independence which has brought about a little maturity that I thought we may never see in her.  She still has a long way to go in the maturity department, but I am hopeful that she may actually be able to survive when she leaves home for college in another year.  I am thankful for time to connect and grow. 

Finally, this year has definitely strengthened my marriage.  I don’t think that my husband and I have spent as much time together in the entire 20 years that we have been married as we have this year.  He has always either been deployed or we have been running every which way with the kids and everything else life throws at us. I think we have both been on our own personal growth and discovery this year, which has allowed us to also rediscover what we love about each other.  We’ve come to appreciate each other more, and I think we have made it a point to really try to meet either other’s needs. I have never seen him more relaxed and chill than I have this year, and I think he would probably say the same about me.  Less stress and chaos lead to less arguments and more time spent just enjoying each other’s company.  We actually have had time to simply “hang out” with each other, and it has been great.   I am thankful for time to love and be loved. 

I am thankful for all that I have received from this strange, insane year, but I am thankful most of all for TIME. It is such a precious thing and something we often take for granted. If this year has taught me anything is is to take time for myself, time for the ones I love, and time to enjoy life. We have such little time on this earth and we shouldn’t waste it. I have seen so many say that they are glad that the end of 2020 is near or can’t wait for this year to be over, but I have to admit that I will be a little sad for it to end.  My prayer for all of you is that you choose to look at 2020 as the year that things slowed down and families came together. Make the choice to look for the good in it all and be thankful. Have an attitude of gratitude instead of one of negativity.  Yes, it was hard for all of us (some more than others), but don’t let the hard days be your focus. Choose to appreciate the little things and be thankful for all you have been given this year alone. I promise it will make this Christmas season so much brighter and will set you up for the start of 2021 with the right mindset.

Anchored in Gratitude,

The Spirit of Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go, and I am loving it.  Did you just sing that like I did as I was typing it? Haha!  I bet you did! There is nothing better than Christmas lights and decorations.  I love that so many people are decorating early this year to try to bring a little joy to this insane year.  I NEVER decorate this early.  I have always done it the weekend after Thanksgiving because that is what we did when I was a kid.  We would load up the truck and head out to the Christmas tree farm in search of the perfect tree.  Oh, how I loved the hayrides through the trees followed by hot chocolate afterwards! I hate that my kids have never experienced that tradition.  All my adult life, we have only had artificial trees.  That was just easier since my husband was deployed for so many Christmases. Plus, there really weren’t tree farms where we lived like we had in the deep southern, country towns growing up.  While I love big city life, it is the little things like those traditions that I do miss about living in the country.  You can’t beat searching for the perfect tree, watching your dad cut it down, and the smell of the fresh pine. 

My youngest has always loved decorating for Christmas.  Her eyes light up the moment the tree goes up.  She loves helping me put everything out on display and hanging all the ornaments.  The more decorations and lights the better for her.  As we have seen other people decorating early this year, she has been begging to get all of ours out for weeks.  I told her I was ok with it, but she had to convince her dad.  I never thought he would agree, but he did.  As soon as church was over on Sunday, he started pulling everything out of the basement.  She was at cheer practice all morning and by the time she got home, all the totes of decorations were out, and the tree was up.  I wish I had a camera on her when she realized the tree was up.  She gasped and got so excited.  We immediately got to work decorating the tree which is my favorite part.  Our tree may not look like one out of a magazine or a Hallmark movie, but it is special to us.  We don’t have matching ornaments or elaborate garland. Each of our ornaments have meaning and memories attached to them.  There are those that the kids have made over the years, some that my husband and I made as kids, and some that belonged to our grandparents.  We also have ornaments from all of our travels.  Every time we go somewhere on vacation, we get an ornament that represents that trip.  Each one holds great memories.  We have so many from our Disney trips that now we have our own mini tree full of just Disney ornaments.  I pull out each ornament one by one, reminiscing about where it came from or who made it. Then I add the hook and pass it on to the girls to hang on the tree.  I love their smiles as they remember where it came from as well.  They even argue over who gets to hang certain ones and which ones get prominent placement.  They also laugh over the ones they made when they were younger and tend to hang those in the back because they are embarrassed by them.  I wouldn’t trade our tree or our ornaments for a fancy tree ever. I love it so much.  

We didn’t get all of the decorations up on Sunday, and still have a few things left to put up, but the important ones are out.  The tree is up and decorated and the stockings are hung on the mantle.  My youngest came downstairs yesterday and I caught her admiring the fireplace.  She said, “It looks so much better with all the stuff on it.” I wish she would remain this in awe of Christmas forever.  I love seeing it through her little eyes.  Now she just has to convince her dad to put up lights and our blow-up Santa in a submarine outside.  She asked me yesterday why I married such a Scrooge when I told her he said he wasn’t putting them up.  I reminded her that she wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t married him, to which she asked me why I hadn’t made him love Christmas in all the years we’ve been married.  When I told my husband what she said, he laughed and told me I missed a prime opportunity to tell her that you can’t change men! LOL! I bet if she were to bat her pretty eyes and beg him a few more times, she could convince him.  He definitely has a soft spot for her. 

Whether you decorate early or not, I think this Christmas is going to not only look a lot different than normal, but I also think it is going to mean a lot more to everyone.  It has been a tough year and I don’t foresee it changing any time soon. I hope that we can all use the holiday season to remember why we are all here and the importance of family and time together. I also hope that we can all find some joy and peace in the midst of the chaos.  Choose to be present in the moment and take time to stop, breathe, and be grateful for all you have. Try to look at the season through the eyes of a child like mine. I promise it will change your perspective.

Anchored in the Spirit of Christmas,

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,