Friday, March 31, 2017

Five on Friday (March 31, 2017)

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us
from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.
He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word.
And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
James 1:17-18

1. Spring break seemed like a good time to make a fast trip to Cincinnati to use the tickets to the Ark Experience and Creation Museum we received for Christmas. It was a good 2 days of family togetherness that was both wonderful (spring break!) and challenging (middle schooler on board!). Spending the night together in a hotel is a rare event, and Brian went to bed early while the kids ate an insane amount of snacks and watched The Voice. They were bottomless pits! We visited 2 ice cream spots in 2 days time, went to the Cincinnati Art Museum, browsed Findlay Market, and ate pizza while people-watching. The weather was gloomy, but we never got caught in rain or needed more than a light jacket so I would call that a win.



(my favorite picture from the whole trip - such a rare, impromptu smile from Camden)


2. Dr. C decided I was not well enough for chemo this week and it's as if my whole mind and body exhaled long and slow. For weeks I have struggled to regain my strength between rounds of chemo and this extra week (next week is my regularly scheduled week off) comes just in time. I have been lucky in that I haven't been desperately ill, but it is exhausting to feel sick and fatigued all the time. In the big scheme of things, it's not awesome to skip chemo, but it sure feels good.

3. Random bragging on my kids: Camden was awarded Most Christ-like at his basketball dinner 2 weeks ago, and Rory put on a bake sale to raise money for a family in our church who is moving to Uganda for a year.

4. After Cincinnati, spring break has been uneventful: a trip to the library and Starbucks, Karate Kid 1 and 2, church work day, going-away party, and naps every day.

5. Brian decided to tackle a Pinterest project by building a palette privacy fence for our backyard. I have faith in his ability, commitment, and work ethic. I have less faith in his finding the time to work on this over the next few months, but it will look awesome if he can pull it off. He and the kids spent a couple of afternoons breaking down the wood and enjoyed the hard work. Some (the adult and 10-year old) more than others (the middle schooler).




Yesterday was Cancer-versary #6 and we celebrated, as usual, with ice cream for breakfast. Brian and the kids were on spring break and I worked from home. It was nice to not have to rush through it the way we've done in the past. Waffles and praline pecan ice cream were delicious! (there has been a lot of ice cream consumed during spring break this year, and I am not sorry)


It's back to work and school Monday, Becky arrives Tuesday, scan on Wednesday. But first, some basketball-watching tonight and maybe one more nap tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Five on Friday (March 24, 2017)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O Lord,
my rock and my redeemer. -Psalm 19:14

So I didn't quite get around to posting on Friday, but I'm spending Sunday morning at home recovering from a stomach bug that seems to be sweeping its way through our church. Blogging seemed a good way to make use of recovery time.

1. My mom has been here for the last 10 days and now we have my dad too (despite being diagnosed with shingles last week - ugh!) for a couple of days. Last week mom and Liz accompanied me to chemo; we did some shopping and eating prior to my appointment. This week mom and I visited the milkshake bar at The Grilled Cheeserie for a sweet treat. Ice cream makes everything, even a chemo treatment, better.



Family trip to see Beauty and the Beast, which was lovely!

2. Rory competed in a district competition last weekend (related to our church/denomination) in Bible memorization and piano. She had to memorize 8 passages of Scripture (for reference, they were in a small font, single spaced and took up an entire 1-1/2 pages of paper). She was 100% in charge of her own practice and memorization, and I am almost as proud of her self-motivation as I am that she is moving on to the state competition in memorization. She did very well in the piano competition but was much more a beginner than the other competitors. Camden chose not to participate this year, and this was a battle I chose not to fight. Maybe next year I will be back to fully functioning over-achieving helicopter mother status!

3. Thursday marked the 13th anniversary of bringing Camden home to our family. I realize that I always sound like a broken record on these days, but we are so blessed. I just cannot get over the way God provided for us and for Camden and Rory when he put us all together. Our tradition is always that the kiddo gets to choose the lunch/dinner spot. Camden, who cannot make a decision to save his life, waffled back and forth over restaurants but finally chose Chuy's. He is very opposed to pictures and social media sharing these days, mostly because a few of his classmates follow me on Instagram. I'm trying to respect his 13-year old wish for privacy, but also share for my own memory-keeping purposes.


4. Brian and the kids are on spring break this week. I have chemo on Wednesday and I know the days will pass quickly. We were gifted tickets to the Creation Museum and Ark Experience for Christmas so if the rest of the family can avoid the stomach bug, we're headed there tomorrow for a quick trip.

5. Reading continues to be a struggle for me in 2017 for whatever reason (maybe I'm just not reading the right books), but I read 3 articles recently - all on wildly different topics - that are worth mentioning: I Traveled 6,222 Miles To Meet My Birth Mother,  10 Things Every White Teacher Should Know When Talking About Race, and So I Quit Drinking.


Thursday, March 23, 2017


And I am sure of this, 
that he who began a good work in you 
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Phil. 1:6

God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. I Thess. 5:24

I burst into tears this morning. And while tears may flow a little more frequently these days, literally bursting into tears is unheard of! The verse I listed above cut right into the heart of the burdens we're all carrying these days. If you're a parent, God will be faithful to complete that good work you're doing. God will be faithful to complete the good work of your marriage. He'll be faithful to help me complete the good work of living with this cancer diagnosis and the challenges it brings.

As I was finishing up these verses and a good cry, my phone beeped with my Vanderbilt appointment reminders for next week. Not. a. coincidence.

My tears suggest I needed the word of encouragement more than I knew. And now I have Mandisa's lyrics where she uses this verse as a bridge in Stronger ringing in my ears. Maybe you need to hear it too?

I'll try to be back tomorrow with a life update.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Five on Friday (March 10, 2017)

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.
There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace
to help us when we need it most.
Heb. 4:16

1. On Tuesday Rory went on a field trip to the state capitol building and a TN history museum. She came home with a surprising number of facts regarding bayonets and guns. Their guide did an excellent job explaining to the class because she retained so much information! Of course, because she has an older brother who has been to the same museum during his own 4th-grade year, she had to contend with all of his corrections (his recollection of the facts were slightly different than hers). Bless that child. She has the patience of Job.

2. Because recovering from chemo is not happening as quickly as I would like, I made a point to focus on rest as a form of self-care this week. Those precious moments at the end of the day when everyone is asleep and there are no demands on my time or attention (because I am the last one awake in our house 100% of the time) are my favorite of the day. But I've been making sure sleep meds are taken and screens are off by 10-ish. I also closed my eyes for about half an hour every afternoon.

3. We had temps in the 80's yesterday, but tomorrow is going to be a cold snow day. Welcome to spring in Tennessee! I plan to thoroughly enjoy the cozy day at home. In fact, Brian and I already have plans to stick a frozen pizza in the oven for the kids, but cook ourselves a Hello Fresh meal, lock ourselves in the bedroom and watch the Survivor premiere.

4. This is my off week from chemo and Wednesday was my first free Wednesday since December 7. Prior to chemo, Wednesdays were reserved for extra cleaning and organization (think closets, pantry, etc.). Basically, anything other than the basics have gone out the door in recent months so I was excited to tackle some closets. I bagged up 3 garbage bags just from Camden and Rory's closets. They both tend to wear the same couple of shirts over and over until they are WAY too small. In fact, I counted 21 brand new shirts stuffed in Camden's closet, all purchased over the past 18 months, that he has never worn. I got rid of all the too-small, stained shirts and now he has no choice but to wear them.

5. We are hosting a family of 5 for supper tonight and Rory could not be more excited (they have 3 daughters). There are already plans to play with their hair, try on lotions, and color together. Camden could not be rolling his eyes any harder. I am making this butterfinger dessert. After a week back on our FMD diet, we could not be more excited about it.

Welcome to life with a 13-year old boy. We are going to survive this, right?



Saturday, March 04, 2017

February Photos

Catching up with some leftover February photos.

I posted this picture on Instagram.

Here's what happened right before. Please don't judge your real life against what everyone else posts on social media because there's always a picture like this that isn't published.

Do you see how old this child looks?

Super Bowl party #11 - always one of my favorite nights of the year










Friday, March 03, 2017

Five on Friday (March 3, 2017)

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh every morning.
I say to myself, "the Lord is my inheritance,
therefore, I will hope in him!"
Lamentations 3:22-24

1. We celebrated 9 years of Rory on Wednesday. I ran across our airport pictures and here are two of my favs. I couldn't help but be struck by how blessed our family is. Not just with the miracle of two children born to another woman in another country all of the way across the world, but with the family and friends who surround us in these moments. The kids always get to choose their favorite meal or restaurant to celebrate, and Rory has made the surprising choice of Buffalo Wild Wings so I guess we'll be eating wings over the weekend.



2. I have to say our Hello, Fresh meals were a complete success. I have some credits from some of you who ordered a box using my referral link so we'll definitely do it again. If you'd like to give it a try and receive $40 off your box, I'd love it if you use my referral info.



3. Speaking of referral links (clearly, I have spent lots of time seeking out retail therapy this week), I received a free month-long subscription to Rocksbox and it is so fun! For $19/month, you receive 3 pieces of higher end jewelry to wear. Swap out as often as you'd like in a month's time. Use the code MELISSALBFF40 for your own free month. No commitment required! Here's what I received for my first shipment (the Kendra Scott necklace is the perfect size and length). I plan to wear these over the weekend then return Monday for another 3 pieces to try (free shipping both ways, btw).


4. Although I usually enjoy reading books by Jodi Piccoult, it's been several years since I've picked one up. I grabbed her newest book, Small Great Things, earlier this week and haven't put it down. It has been a complete page-turner, and I can't wait to see how the story wraps up.


5. The past 7-10 days have been tough physically (for instance, my bp was 144/101 Wednesday although it came down to normal after I had seen Dr. C). Fortunately, our schedule has been light during these days. I am consistently amazed at the meals that find their way to my kitchen, and this week has been no exception. Next week is my chemo-free week, and I am really looking forward to no chemo and doctor-free days!

Tonight we are celebrating both Camden and Rory's family day at the Toby Mac concert. You know live music is my all-time favorite thing so I may be more excited than anyone. I rested all day yesterday and today in an effort to conserve energy, and I am so looking forward to sharing this experience with them. Happy weekend, friends.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Being Bald

Despite what everyone says, being bald does not make me brave or beautiful. It just means I have cancer and the way to counteract that cancer is to take medicine that has bad side effects. It's not like I have a choice.

Here are a few things about being bald that you might not know.

1. Clothes fit differently. Okay, so clothes maybe don't fit differently, but they feel like they do because the lack of hair throws off your proportions visually. Of course, chemo tends to make me gain weight so those extra 5 pounds don't help, not to mention the puffy face that accompanies the steroids.

2. Getting ready in the morning should take a lot less time, but now you have to choose not just your outfit but a hat or scarf to match. Hats are easier and more comfortable, but they're hot as well as casual (at least the ones that I like). I currently only have 3-4 scarves and they're a pain to tie and the knot at the back of my neck drives me crazy, but they're dressier so a necessity with some outfits. By dressy, I simply mean not a t-shirt). :)  I also spend more time on my makeup because it feels important without hair to bring the feminity factor.

I have been late more in the last 3 months than ever in my life because I completely underestimate how long it takes to choose clothes and hat.

3. Kids cannot stop staring. If they're lucky, bald women do not cross their paths often, and I do not take offense at this ever. If you have kids, what an excellent opportunity to share about the challenges that accompany life and tell them they can help by praying for me. Inform them about cancer and medicine and side effects, but remind them that I am exactly the same Miss Melissa they've always known.

Even though Addison sees me often, she still spends quite a bit of time trying to figure it all out. The first couple of times we were together, she refused to kiss me but she's over that now. And she asks me every time if I feel better yet and lets me know that she prays for me to feel better every day. She always seems a bit confused as to why I'm not better yet. You and me both, sister.

4. It's not just the hair on your head that falls off. All of your body hair disappears. My eyebrows and eyelashes are slowly but surely disappearing. Did you know eyelashes are actually useful and not just on your face for vanity's sake? They help keep dust and particles out of your eyes, which means without them, my eyes are much more sensitive.

Another fun fact is you no longer have the tiny little nose hairs that help catch drippage so my nose constantly drips.

You know what doesn't fall off? The fuzz on your face.

5. Men (although I've noticed these are mostly acquaintances, not men I truly know) address me as beautiful and gorgeous. As in, "hey, beautiful" and "hi, gorgeous." While the intent is kind, this would have been considered inappropriate prior to being bald and so it always just feels so awkward. Women tend to comment on my looks often as well, but it feels different coming from women. Feels more supportive and loving, and I know that I would give the same encouragement to another woman.

How about we just do this whether bald or not? That sounds like a plan to me.

6. Your hair doesn't fall out evenly. Mine is fuzzy and randomly grows (just a little) in small patches. It is 100% not awesome.

Being bald is such a visible sign of illness and I hate the extra attention it brings. I wish that I could be just easy breezy about it, but I'm not really easy breezy about anything so definitely not about this. I haven't gone out in public bald yet, mostly to be as inconspicuous as possible, but I'm imagining that summer might bring out the bald because hats and scarves are so hot and we do live in hot and humid Tennessee. Maybe I should move to Alaska.

If I were truly brave, I would post a picture without the extra eyeliner, penciled in eyebrows, lipgloss, and filter, but I have more vanity than bravery.