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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Closing out 2017

"But the angel reassured them, "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"

Christmas 2017 highlighted changes in our family (both immediate and extended) - those changes run the gamut between difficult, just not the Lord's plan, and blessings. Our family was missing two members this year and we felt their absence keenly. Brian, the kids, and I drove to East TN before Christmas for a very quick trip and celebrated with Brian's parents, grandpa and aunt in their new home where they now live together. Christmas Eve was our annual appetizer night at our house. Mom and dad came early Christmas morning to watch Becky and the boys along with our family open presents, followed by Christmas dinner at their house with both sets of my grandparents.


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My feet had a chemo reaction and blistered up the week before Christmas. At the same time, Camden was sick, which delayed our trip to East TN (he also missed one day of exams). He passed on the fever to me and I was sick Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As a result, the girl's annual Boxing Day shopping trip had to be postponed to the following day, but not canceled! We enjoyed a delicious and leisurely breakfast and coffee at Milk and Honey, but shopping was a complete bust. I do not know why we didn't take one single selfie to document the day.

Becky, William, and Xavier stayed with us for the week, and their love affair with Camden has not lessened. Poor Rory continues to be on the outs. Becky and I had one long afternoon/evening of nothing and we managed to watch 4 episodes of This is Us while she was here. I completely blubbered through the last 2 episodes, which is fairly typical although I'm generally in bed late at night alone instead of watching with someone.


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We sang Christmas carols on Christmas Day, which is always my mom's request and it was lovely. The 5 grandkids sure do enjoy music. The following day the grandkids put on a little program for the grandparents and my Grandpa Elledge sang The Lord's Prayer and my Grandma Hale brought out her omni cord. We even played a quick game of charades with Christmas carols (definitely the kid's idea; William and Xavier's twin connection totally dominated).

Camden's favorite gifts were his Madden 2013 (yes, 2013) game and the dual controllers although he cried when Gramps gave him a pocket knife. Rory is in love with her Instax camera. I am ridiculously excited about my Lipsense holder and Brian likes his new comfy stadium seat. We are hoping to spend our Christmas money on a beginner espresso machine and milk frother which may easily move to the top of the favorites list.

Between the sickness, the trip to Kingsport, hosting family, and shuffling back and forth between our house and my parents, it was a very full 8 days. Completely worth the effort to make all the memories, though, and I'm so grateful to be here and experience it together. Brian, the kids, and I have spent the last 3 days mostly in our p.j.'s being 100% lazy. Kids have been sleeping in until 10ish and the adults have enjoyed the quiet time. Brian has been working his way through episodes of the Blacklist while I have been reading and browsing Instagram. We've left the Christmas tree up way too long, but I'm having trouble bringing myself to take it down. We are experiencing unusually cold weather. Cozying under the blankets with the tree lights twinkling has been my favorite thing.


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I am planning to post Christmas pictures (along with Utah pictures - finally) sometime in the next few days, but post-date them to this past week so that they will print in my 2017 blog book. Brian and I return to work (much too early!) on Tuesday. Wednesday is a very, very full day at Vanderbilt for me, and, to be honest, I'm struggling with anger over the need to go at all. I'm not sure it's possible for anyone to understand how difficult it is to do this week after week with no end in sight. I knew when we received the news last November that the cancer was growing that this was going to be my life. I know I am blessed to have the opportunity to participate in this clinical trial and I am definitely blessed that the chemo has been working, but that doesn't make it easier to experience. 

I have enjoyed our Christmas break, but the time has passed much too quickly. Someone mentioned on Facebook that the week of Christmas is the fastest week of the year, and I completely agree with that. I guess if every week were Christmas break, then we couldn't possibly enjoy it in the same way. But I'd like to try!

My parents hosted a little family get together tonight with Michael, Liz, Addison, grandparents and my Uncle Dennis and Aunt Dana. We were home by 9:00 and the kids are tucked away on the couch watching Rogue One. Brian has been asleep for an hour and I am well on my way. 2017 was full of memorable experiences: our trip out west, the Crowder concert, an evening with John Crist, and my parents/grandparents moving to TN are at the top for me. I also took 2 work trips and continue to be so thankful for my job and the opportunities it provides. 2017 has been challenging on many, many levels and has brought about hurt for some of the people I love most. I don't know what 2018 holds, but I know that the Lord is good and He is with us.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Reading Round-Up

My 2017 goal for reading was 60 books, and I clocked in at 55. I'm not going to beat myself up about that because it was just a random goal! Here's a breakdown with stats and favorites.

10 Non-Fiction and my favorite was The Tech-Wise Family. This book is less about rules and more about the importance of family and how family rituals and togetherness are influenced by technology. Two that felt important to read and understand:  Hillbilly Elegy and Born a Crime.

45 Fiction. It's hard to choose a favorite, but I would say The Language of Flowers took me by surprise, and I really, really enjoyed Sing, Unburied, Sing, Behold the Dreamers, and Mosquitoland.  

12 written by people of color. This was a focus in 2017 for both me and the kids. I actually thought this number would be higher, but it only shows that being intentional is important. 

A few books that stood out to me even though they didn't make the favorites list are Silence, The Hate U Give, and The Sound of Gravel.

2017 is also the year that I finally read two classics. To Kill a Mockingbird was different than I expected (and the first half is very slow), but completely won me over by the end. On the opposite spectrum was The Handmaid's Tale, which I hated and the end was awful. I also reread Lonesome Dove (I first read this in college) and it is graphic and heartbreaking, but such good storytelling. It is also nearly 1,000 pages.

And that wraps up 2017 in books. I set a goal of 55 books for 2018. What are you reading?

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas pictures

We started a new tradition this year called Our Favorite Things. This was so fun! Here were our favorite things (think Oprah, but cheaper):

Mom - hot cinnamon spice  tea
Becky - a gratitude journal and Sharpie pens
Liz - Underarmour socks and caramel M&M's
Mine - Mrs. Meyers dishsoap and an Ulta facemask

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They are not too big to grab a picture in front of the tree on Christmas morning. Basically the only pictures I took with the big girl camera.
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Christmas morning:

Dad reading from Luke 2 before presents.
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You know, Christmas morning. The day I was running a 101 fever and felt sick as a dog.
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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

I had no plans for a Christmas card this year, but literally 1 week before Christmas Day, I just couldn't let it go and I pulled together this very quick and simple card and printed for family. 

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Fun Friday

Only the good stuff here today.


This Christmas video has made me laugh all 3 times I've watched it.


Our annual work Christmas party was Tuesday, and it may have been my favorite one so far. So. many. laughs. And I walked away with a $50 Amazon gift card!

Today is Brian's last day of school for 2 weeks. I'm pretty sure this is his second favorite day of the entire year.

The kids both won spelling bees this week. Here's the thing. Rory worked so hard studying after school for the past 3 weeks. Really, so much studying. Camden literally said the words "there's too much to learn to even try." But he still won. How do I teach him that studying is necessary when he can win and make straight A's with no effort. College is going to hit hard I'm afraid. We had a family spelling bee earlier this week and I am the true Lewis family spelling champion. Rory's studying paid off, however, and I only won by 2 words.

We have two friends hosting orphans this Christmas and I am so excited for them I can hardly stand it. My heart also breaks as I think about those two little ones returning to their country still as orphans.

With the exception of an eye appointment next week for my monthly hyper dilation, I am doctor free for 2 weeks.

Sometimes you just need coffee, a cinnamon roll the size of your head, and a 3-hour chat with an old friend. We've managed to let an entire 6 months pass by without a chat so we had a whole lot of catching up to do. 

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Basketball game tonight, Rory has a little outing with a church friend tomorrow morning, and next week is about as full as it gets. We've been reading our Christmas Advent and putting our focus on "remembering" and "anticipating" the birth of Christ. Happy Friday!




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

November/December 2017 Catch-Up

God's love was revealed to us in this way: God sent His one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. -I John 4:9

I'm choosing to just quickly write events out in list form with little commentary purely for memory-keeping purposes. Fair warning - I am considering converting to a private blog. As the kids grow older (I have a teen and preteen!), I want to protect their stories and I want the freedom to document our life with honesty and transparency. While I would hate to lose touch with all of my readers after so many years, it just seems like it might be time. Still giving this some thought.

Camden was diagnosed with the flu. He's all good.
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Brian's dad had a heart attack. He also appears to be all good.

I made a quick 3-day work trip to Greensboro, NC (my first visit to NC, btw). If you've ever wondered what the presidential suite looks like, this is one small part of it.

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Brian and I spent the day together during my last scan day, mostly at Vanderbilt, but we also had a chance to grab lunch and it's worth mentioning. Milk and Honey is a new, adorable coffee/food/bakery in Nashville and I can't wait to visit again. We also tried out a new coffee spot - Sump Coffee was interesting, but I'll probably cross it off the list and move on.

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After the first basketball game of the season, we had a 3-week break. Back in action now and Camden scored his first career points. After a couple of games, he appears to be the 6th man, which is fun. I'm certainly not suggesting he's a star, but the personal progress he's made is pretty remarkable.

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Work has been intense, but is slowing down for the holiday season. I only have 1 more day in the office and 1-2 more days working from home and then I'll be finished until January 2. This has also been a fairly intense 5-6 weeks of chemo in terms of side effects. While the cancer is receding, chemo side effects are in full force. I'm hoping to have a little chemo break over the holidays, but that isn't confirmed.

Brian's parents came to TN for a quick overnight visit. I did not even snap a one single picture.

My grandparents rolled and baked my Christmas cookies for me. So sweet and helpful!

Someone gave Rory play make-up, and she experiments pretty much every day. It is not subtle.
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I'm reading books #55 and #56 for 2017; my goal was 60.

The school Christmas program was Friday night and Camden surprised us with a solo.
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We're facing about a 20% overall income reduction as we move into 2018 and life has felt a bit like a living version of Murphy's law with both vehicles needing work, unexpected expenses, etc. But God has also shown Himself so faithful and we've been reminded time after time that finances are no big deal.

I'm headed to Nashville for my regular Wednesday schedule of lab work, doctor appointment, and chemo. I have a friend coming to keep me company and I'm ever hopeful for a smooth, quick day at Vanderbilt.

Happy Wednesday, friends!


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Happy Birthday, Brian!

I posted via social media this morning, but it's worth documenting here.

Happy birthday to the love of my life. I can mention two things from recent days that should give you a glimpse into why he's such a wonderful, godly person. (1) Camden set his alarm for 5 this morning so he could be the first to wish his dad a happy birthday and (2) over the past weekend Brian was due a major iphone upgrade after using the same phone for well over 3.5 years. Without even blinking, he gave me the 8 plus upgrade and took my 7.

Happy, happy birthday!

(those red eyes and wrinkles are proof of his many early mornings)
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Friday, December 01, 2017

Happy December 1

Every year my goal is to make it to December 1 with most of the "work" of Christmas finished. I want the tree up and the house decorated. Christmas gifts purchased and wrapped (the wrapping never happens on time) and Christmas cookies planned and maybe even baked (this also never happens). I'm 100% behind on every single item this December 1, and we're heading into a hectic December (I know we're not alone in the craziness). This year we have the added bonus of chemo and very long days at Vanderbilt. It's hard to believe this is my second December in a row full of doctors and appointments and long days at the hospital, not to mention that I've now completed an entire year of treatment. Twelve whole months is a very long time, friends, and I am feeling every bit of it.

Before I list a few Christmas favorites, let me also tell you Wednesday's scan shows yet another decrease in cancer - I'm now at a 29% decrease from this time last year. If I can make it 1 more percentage point, then not only is that good news for me, but it is very good news for my clinical trial doctor and drug. That one additional percentage point means that the trial drug is officially successful and could have a long-term positive impact on many other cancer patients. And I still get the distinct impression I am their star patient, but maybe they're just trying to make me feel good. ;)

Unfortunately, there are signs the neuropathy is returning, which is no good, very bad news. I'm praying those side effects disappear. The drug I am taking to counteract the neuropathy is a sedative (yikes), but I'm only taking half the dose so we have room to grow. I do not have room in my schedule to deal with the sedative side effects, however.

So. I may not have any of my own Christmas goals complete as I write this morning, BUT I've found some great Christmas favorites that I want to share. Honestly, you've probably missed out on the discounts since Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, but they are great companies that you can bookmark for later.

I also want to note here that I have tried to purchase small business and fair trade more and more each holiday. I don't know quite how to make it to 100%, but I have purchased more this year than ever before and I am so proud of that.

Mery House Global - a fair trade global movement started by Kristen Welch who authored one of my favorite parenting books, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Read all about their mission and then go buy items made by women in Kenya.

May Designs - design your own menu book, agenda, phone case, stationery, etc. I bought several gifts this year and it is going to be an annual favorite. (I also might have bought myself something as well, but I'm not telling.)

Dignify - I still haven't purchased one of the Kantha blankets, but they are on my list every. single. year. One of these days!

Bottle of Tears - I am certain we all have people in our lives who could use a little encouragement. I love this little company and its mission. I've sent one bottle this season and plan to send another soon.

Mezzati 1800 Thread Count Sheets - I didn't buy this as a gift, just replaced our old, worn out, and holey sheets. They are incredibly soft and so cheap!

And my favorite books of the year if you're a reader:
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Fearless Parenting by George Barna and Jimmy Meyers
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
    On the off chance you need something to help track all of the money you're spending, I have been using the Daily Budget app for the past 6 weeks or so and it is easy to use, but effective (I am using the full paid version). I love it and it's the only budgeting app/tool that I've kept up with for this long.

    I'm going to do a catch-up post soon. For now, the best way to stay connected is via instagram - lifeasalewis. It's a private account, but I'll accept your request (especially if you comment here!).

    Putting up the tree. Camden is working on lights; Rory is singing away to Christmas songs. The reality of this was nowhere near as idyllic as it looks.
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    We rearranged furniture so that the tree could go in front of the window this year (Brian's idea). This was also not nearly as idyllic as it seems, although I am enjoying it.
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    Happy December 1, friends.