About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cleaning Out the Cobb Webs

How often do we get caught up in the running of our day to day lives? We run here, there trying to the best of our abilities to be everywhere. We take care of the kids, our husbands ( and wives) and anyone else we feel needs us that we simply forget to take care of our homes? Let me tell you it happens more often than any us would like to admit. Before we know it we are worn out, worn thin and unable to extend ourselves any further than our beds.

So as I have pondered this theory this week I spent time cleaning, sweeping, dusting, moving things around and re- organizing my house. Talk about dirt, clutter and piles of unorganized junk! I moved from one room to the next, one day at a time literally. For months I had been hiding away deep inside my own skin, away from the outside world and my cleaning supplies! I had not realized just how out of whack my home was getting or for that matter how out of balance my soul was becoming.

Isn't it the way it goes though? Life takes a bite out of us dragging us outside our comfort zone deep into the abyss. The light once surrounding us seems to instantly fade and we succumb to the dark waters of uncertainty. We may not even know how how or why we have arrived in this place but we are hear like it or not!

Before we know what has happened we are stuck and sinking all while tied to this cold dark place within our own soul unable to move. We not only see the chains binding us to these unknown frightening waters, but we feel them too.

I don't know about you but I have found myself many times dying to shake myself loose from these chains many a day. Looking around at all this soul clutter piling in on me I have found myself longing to see the light of the sun again ready to surface for a breathe of fresh air. But up till that one moment courage grabs hold of us and forces us to push away from the bottom we are locked to this sunken wreckage of broken dreams at the bottom of the abyss.

So the question is what do we do with all this clutter piling up in our soul? Do we just toss it all overboard? Do we tuck it away in the darkest corners of this decrepit ship or do we just allow it all to continue piling up until there in no room left for us to move? At some point we have to let it all go with no regrets for what has or might have been. No it isn't easy to work through pile after pile deciding what we are keeping, putting away for now or discarding but there comes a time in our all lives it must be done.

Just maybe we need the rain to wash the tears away from our faces so we can feel the grace life offers us. Maybe the process of discarding what we know is not meant to be, what is past, behind us and ready to be let go of is exactly what we need to feel His faithfulness fill us again. Maybe we need to open those closed doors inside us and sweep them clean in order for our souls to heal fully and completely.

Yes life brings us pain without question but what of the joy waiting for us as well? I can't tell you how good it feels to finally have room in my own soul to grow again, to sing and dance without bumping into those dusty piles of clutter. Breast cancer may have taken my life for a ride and yes at times she has spun me in endless circles but after cleaning the cob webs out, packing up the festering fears she left behind and rising from the abyss my spirit and soul had sunk to I feel reborn, refreshed and once again revitalized.

This is who I am, LIFE is full of changes but I am always a SURVIVOR! I am not perfect but I am trying to live life everyday in the hope I know endured. This beast is forever a apart of me and yes she makes life complicated at the most inconvenient times but I believe she has also made me stronger for the journey! I have heard it said :Some see a hopeless end while others see an endless hope. I pray in the end I will find my life in the latter.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Into the Deep Dark Woods...

Where do I start? Do I really want to open this chapter right here, right now? No but ( this word seems to always make me see reason) I need to. This is our world, our life right now. The truth is I have been hiding. The last four weeks have been a struggle to say the least. Life has taken my little family and I down a dark and definitely scary road. One detour after another has led us deeper and deeper into the woods of despair...

When did it begin? Well it all began back in the late part of July. My husband Johnny, bless his heart, came home with a look of fear and disbelief on his face. For days he seemed to be struggling with something though what I did not know. He was very quiet and way too attentive to me, even watching a musical with me claiming he actually enjoyed it. He began by looking me in the eyes, though he had had a beer or two by now I could see the depth of distress in his eyes. Then he told me he had something he needed to tell me. All I could think was oh no, here we go. I began to question myself. Does he still love me? Has he found someone else? Do I really want to hear this? Then he pushed the trigger. It was like a bomb went off in my head and my world, our world changed in a swift yet very brief second. Suddenly we were looking at a very uncertain and deafening world. Johnny's words hit home like a slap across the face as we were faced without work, without pay and without the possibility of insurance.

I will be very honest with you I was very scared....terrified to be completely honest. Breast cancer has taken so much from us, especially when it comes to maintaining my remission. No matter how hard we have tried we have been unable to replenish our saving over the last few years due to medical expenses. I stood there searching Johnny's face understanding his fear, knowing how much we have struggled and so the idea of being without work and pay felt like the lowest blow we could receive.

I knew right there and then Johnny was afraid I would leave him though I never would. Our vows said for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. I was going nowhere! But I knew Johnny felt as if he was letting his family down but love does not abandon those she holds close does she? No when times begin to overwhelm us love embraces the difficulties.
So I stood there listening, crying and wondering how we would get through this blow. My thoughts went to the kids, the house payment, the half empty pantry and of course what would happen if we lost our insurance. I have to tell you the truth my whole body went numb as these thoughts crossed my mind but... yes I love this word... there is always a but isn't there? But my heart caught up with my speeding mind and reminded me of God's grace. I stopped after I wiped my tears away and took Johnny's hand. He is a good man, a loving man and sadly at that moment a very defeated man. Again my heart affirmed I wasn't going anywhere! No way no how! It was my turn to hold fast and not to run away in fear. Johnny never flinched as I lost my breast, my hair and the world we had build together before breast cancer came barreling into our lives and neither was I.

We spent the first week to ourselves swallowed by the darkness. We didn't say anything to anyone. We didn't know what to say nor did we want to add to the "Olachia Trails and Tribulations File" either. Mostly we tried to decide what our options were the first week or two. The second week I made lots of eggs, pancakes and lots and lots of pasta while we asked ourselves how we get here. By the third week we began to emerge a bit and then something beautiful began happening. We saw a light ahead of us as friends began showing up at our doorstep with food, food money, school clothes and emotional support. Even the boys schools came through with supplies so they had what they needed to start the new school year off with.

Have I given up my hope? No, I have not nor will I ever. I may fret from time to time, worry, break down and cry away from the world to see but I will never give up hope! Maybe we have lost our income and yes maybe in the end we may even lose our house... but ( there is that word again) we will never lose our home! Our lives may be minus worldly wealth but this time we have spent together day in and day out has brought us closer than I ever knew we could be. We have spent more time at home, at the parks, searching for free events and activities and with each other without distractions. Our family has gotten back to the basics and I am grateful for this gift.

No I would not choose this avenue. True it was most definitely chosen for me but ( hum see a pattern here?) I can't allow these detours of life to overtake me. What cancer has taught me is to survive! Cancer has chipped away the everyday worries and strengthened my spirit. No it hasn't been easy and at times it has been down right painful but ( just can't stay away from this word can I ?) cancer has also brought my life victories. If it were not for the dark places in life I would never have found this joy and this hope burning inside my soul now.

Yes, the road is still dark in many ways but ( shall I say it?) we do have a lantern to help light the way, in these deep, dark , creepy woods. No matter what tomorrow brings what I do know is this: We are not alone and in times such as these even the smallest of light can cast a large circle of hope!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Monster Under My Bed

Life is constantly changing is it not? Just take a look around you --- the sun never fails to rise or to set for that reason. Seasons change from winter to spring bringing both warmth and cold to our faces. The tides turn, the sands recede, the wind blows and the rain falls. Life definitely moves forward whether you are ready for it or not. This I know is certain: Rain or shine we must bend with the wind or we will be broken by the sheer might of her force.

You may be asking how I can speak so matter- of- factly? How can I be so open with my life and suffering? Why have I made my life with breast cancer an open book for all to see and read? Well the truth is I have watched the last three years of my life carry on with or without my approval. Oh yes I have seen the monsters under my bed and believe me they are just waiting to pounce! On most days I am able to hold the bed down but there are others when one or two escape. Believe me I have lived through being dragged from my bed and out unto the uneven path outside more times than I would like to count. Go ahead and imagine it: Hair ( what is, was or wasn't) sticking straight up in the air, mouth gaping open screaming and yes quite literally my feet kicking and my arms flailing while the monster has pulled, dragged and beaten me out the door! Not a pretty sight let me assure you but still, rain, shine, monsters under the bed or not a new day will begin without fail.

Again let me answer your question my friend, life changes with us, around us, for us and against us day and night. But (yes I know another 'BUT') at the day's end the truth is we are all part of this unbroken circle called LIFE.

"The problem isn't finding out where you are gonna go-its figuring out what you are gonna do once you get there that is!" (- Jamie from A Walk to Remember). This quote is one of my favorites as it really speaks to me. When I think about all we have been through as a family since 2006... breast cancer the loss of a breast, chemo, adjustments left and right,becoming a survivor and remission... well life has not been exactly picturesque. Still it has been, no it is our life and as a mother I have tried desperately to teach my children about living life, embracing hope and the journey both below and ahead of us.

Nothing in this life is predicable. So many things can be unbearably painful if not completely catastrophic if you allow them to overtake you. Breast cancer is one of those things. She sure came into our lives with a sudden jolt! Life changed in a scary and terrifying way for both my boys. Joshua was just nine years old and Micah a mere six years old when the face of breast cancer came attempting to claim me. As time has passed and as this cancer took hold of my body I began teaching my children to live life out loud, outside of the box, in spite of the beast breathing down our necks. In the years since my husband Johnny, the boys and myself, have made beautiful memories, rejoiced in the victories and held onto our hopes close as we have run through breast cancer's dark eerie cave of horrors. So yes I can attest with just a bit of experience once you have begun the journey there is no going back. But... you can make every day a first, making memories as you move forward creating a life of HOPE.

Since my own journey began back in 2006 I have watched my boys grow from children into little men. As a mother and a young breast cancer survivor I have looked at them with double vision. I have seen what life should have been, could have been if this beast had skipped over us. But like all the other changes in our lives I also have seen what life has been since this beast attacked us. My eyes have opened to true beauty surrounding my life. I have experienced unending love like never before and felt grace break what chains I foresaw as a death's blow. But mostly , I have found living to be beautiful. Yes cancer can be powerful and earth shattering but it can also fill us with might and determination, awakening our inner depths of strength.

But what about those monsters? What about our children? What of their eyes? What happens when their little hands begin to slip out of our hands? What of their fear and uncertainty? How do they see this beast and how do they face their own monsters creeping out from under the bed at night? I know I have heard the whispers calling my name, have they heard them too? I have been face to face with Little Miss Reaper packing an attitude. Her sickle and dark pink robes have stalked me, crawled out from under my bed and peaked out from the closet more times than I'd like to count. So I wonder when the lights go out how do such small children learn to ignore the shadows which come to steal their hope away?

Seriously how do we capture and keep their innocence during such times as these? Can our love and resolve be enough for them too? Nothing on earth can move us more as mothers as when our children are hurt or when they face their fears. I know because I have watched both my boys sport pink shirts proudly, hold my hand when all their buddies where watching and walk closely next to their bald mother while all eyes where on them. In the time since breast cancer charged into our lives I have seen such strength and courage in our boys tender souls. Through their daily focus and inspiration I have learned to laugh and giggle right along side them. My boys have taught me to be brave despite the fire breathing dragon an inch away from my nose!

So many times my heart has broken as I have watched the boys struggle since my illness began. But you know what? As life has pushed forward they have to, each one learning to fly and to soar above the turbulence despite the difficulties. Through their eyes I have seen such determination even when they could have given into the pain, the fear and the uncertainty. Again, I say life changes and so we must change with it. We cannot change the course we are given, but we can learn to navigate through it with hope and tenacity. Truly just as I am learning this lesson myself I say to all we must learn to live with purpose realizing our lives our given to us by Divine design.

This is the gift my children have give me... to live every moment determined to rise above the turbulence even if it may be my last. So I say: Be ready to take a deep breath, shake off your fears and go. Why you ask? Well, because when all is said and done and life has completed it's course around the sun you will have lived life with no apologies. Again just as Jamie in A Walk to Remember says, " Maybe God has a bigger plan for me than I had for myself. "

No matter where the journey ends my friend there is a plan greater than ourselves. I may only speak for myself here but I know I have indeed received my own brilliant miracle in both of my children. Because of their love, determination and hope I will leap off the last step with the knowledge I have truly lived a life to be remembered ...monsters and all under the bed.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Down the Rabbit's Hole

Ever feel as if you have fallen down a rabbit's hole? You know what I mean... it happens on one afternoon when you are just lazily strolling outside. You hadn't meant to find it but you did right?Out of nowhere you found an odd little hole and yes this is where you decided to just take a peek. After all it is just a bit curious... seriously what could it hurt right?

Let's just see what may be inside it, just a peeksy. Hum... what could this bit of a nuisance be? It's just the tiniest of lumps. Never mind...

"Alice, oh Alice are you listening to me? Yes, yes of course I am. Well, looky there! It's a white rabbit with a watch and he's telling me he's late. What on earth could he be late for? What? I am overdue... no you are over due! Very important, what could be so important? Oh well, maybe I should have kept my mammogram appointment six months ago? Well no bother.... oops!"

The next bit of insanity follows when curiosity grabs the better of you and sucks you down the tunnel head first and into Boobie Land. After all we are now chasing a white rabbit through a land filled with talking flowers, impassable, but not impossible doors, mad tea parties and insane queens after our heads!

Any of this sound a bit familiar? Well life with breast cancer and the years following it can seem rather like a day in Wonderland. Poor Alice says it correctly at the beginning when she says "Better read it first, for if one drinks much from a bottle marked "Poison", it's almost certain to disagree with one sooner or later. "

Once we hear the words breast cancer, from start to finish, we are lost in a world we know nothing about or understand. From the diagnosis, to the mastectomy, the rounds of chemo and on to remission life is a bit out of control for a while. What is it Alice says , " It would be so nice if something made sense for a change?"

I have often thought my own trip to Boobie Land was more like sitting down for tea with the Mad Hatter. Seriously think about this scenario? " What are we celebrating? Unbirthdays of course! " I don't know about you but before breast cancer I never thought to celebrate an unbirthday.

So now as we sit down to have a cup of tea with the Mad Hatter ( Believe me this irony is not lost on me as I think about the many bandanna's I wore after my own cup of unbirthday tea!) and engage in all his insane merriment we begin asking questions. "Of course I are seeking information... no I don't want anymore tea because I haven't had any yet! "

Mind you, not only is there no room and yet plenty of room at his table, there is more tea choices and questions than we ever thought possible. Tea pots are scattered everywhere and as soon as you pour yourself a cup you are scooted down the table into another chair. No time for sugar if you please! Just keep moving, scooting and pouring my dear.

Honestly before any of us know what has really happened we have caused ourselves more trouble than we thought possible. While chasing after the rabbit he indeed did lead you to his "most important of dates" and right to the ax swinging, "off with her" head screaming queen. (Well in this case your breast! ) She is begins calling every crazy insane character into her lunatic courtroom and proclaiming "everything is very important" commanding it be written down.

Way too many rules have been thrown your way and before you yourself even have the facts straight your head is spinning. The Queen, who you have decided at this point, is just seriously insane is spinning around crazily going on about her temper. This queen of Boobie Land has herself decided she wants the sentence first and the verdict afterwards. What? Is she kidding you? Not in the least and why? Because all ways are the queens ways of course and so informs the jury of her request. No hope for you girlie! You better get moving and soon too because once again she is yelling "off with her head!"

Where is the exit right? How do you get out of this place? The Queen for certain does not want to let you get away, but you must for goodness sake. And truthfully in time we do get out one way or another. We all wake up a bit shaken from our experience, ready to shake it off and possibly a bit more agreeable to our important dates.

In the end our stories may seem curious to others but they are still ours to tell. As Alice so poetically says, " When I get home I shall write a book about this place... "