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Friday, August 03, 2018

Five on Friday: Back to School Edition

The Lewis Family verse for Fall 2018:

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. -Colossians 3:14-17

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1. Where, oh where, has the time gone? The Lewis family now has a 9th grader and 6th grader. It dawned on me just this morning that next summer Camden will have his license. Did our last family summer just happen and I didn't even recognize the end of an era? It was really great to have Brian with us on the first day of school - something that hasn't happened in forever!

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Both kids adore school and Camden has been excited to return for several weeks. Rory was a bit more anxious, but anxiety had transformed into excitement by the time we dropped her off the first morning. It was sweet to listen to them talk a million miles a minute as they tried to cram their entire day into the drive home.

2. It's become a tradition to "surprise" the kids with ice cream the night before school begins. This year we introduced them to rolled ice cream tacos.

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3. Camden is taking a foreign language for the first time (Spanish), and it is his favorite class by far although he is also excited about his Bible and History teachers. The school is offering honors classes for the first time, and Camden is choosing the Honors classes for all available subjects. He says, "I don't love work or learning yet but I'm committed to trying to learn how to love it." Rory's favorite subject this year is history although that has everything to do with her teacher and nothing to do with the topic.

4. Brian is supposed to "show up" at 6:00 a.m. Monday and the transportation department will hand him a bus route. So to be clear: He is driving a bus with kids for the first time on a route he has never seen or driven before. Yikes!

5. New eyeglasses for this girl. For the first time, I let her pick them out all on her own even though it killed me. I just may be a control freak.

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We closed out the first week as usual with Sonic Happy Hour and a trip to our favorite Mexican restaurant for supper. I sure do sound like a broken record, but our schedule for the next 3-4 days is unusually heavy even for us.  Happy Friday!



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Closing Out July

Where to begin?

Let's start with our whirlwind trip to Little Rock for the annual denominational convention, which included youth competition in areas such as music, art, drama, and multiple Bible categories. Rory competed in a children's choir and individual drama. Camden competed in Bible memorization and vocal solo. Becky and her boys (along with a large group from her church) were present and competed in many categories. We spent 2 days running back and forth between competition rooms. Our hotel rooms were miraculously side by side. I have no idea how that happened, but it was awfully convenient!

I'm not sure how we missed taking a picture, but we did - only a quick (but cute) one of the cousins.

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Brian is officially not a teacher, is a full-time pastor, and is a bus driver after passing his test Friday. The county's previous record was 21 days of training, but Brian completed it in a mere 17 days. This was not an easy process, and I am so proud of how hard Brian worked. These training weeks coincided with some of our busiest weeks of the summer but there was nothing to do but press forward.

A family friend took Camden for sushi Wednesday and he downed 32 pieces. Our friend ate 54 so 32 seems downright amateurish. ;)

Camden purchased a PS4 and is having himself a blast breaking it in. Our family screen guidelines have been as follows for the summer: 1 hour per kid plus an episode of The Flash (finding something they both enjoy and is age-appropriate was not easy, but The Flash has been a huge hit). If we have activities planned outside of the house, their screen time goes down to 30 minutes. Friday nights they have free rein until 10:00. I can feel good about this amount of time and putting a schedule in place at the beginning of the summer cuts out all the nagging (parents) and begging for more time (kids). Mostly.

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My mom, sister Liz, and I had ourselves a little girls day Friday to celebrate/mourn (depending on your perspective) the end of summer. The kids start school tomorrow, which is ridiculous since it is only August 1. We visited a friend's cute little shop, had coffee, of course, made a Trader Joe's trip, and ate pizza. It was quick and all we could manage, but provided some kid-free time to chat.

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My dad took Camden, Rory and Addison to supper and a rodeo Saturday. Brian and I had hoped for a movie date night, but Movie Pass failed us and we ended up renting a movie and running errands. For long-time readers, remember Camden's early birthday celebrations with matching cowboy hats (Camden and Grandpa)? This is the same rodeo, except Camden is now taller than Grandpa.

A back-to-school miracle - I found khaki pants in a 28/34 for Camden. This size is so insanely hard to find! With one day to spare before school started, JCP ensured Camden wouldn't embarrass himself with high waters from last year.

Our schedule in the upcoming weeks makes me want to lock myself in the bedroom and cry. Working from home several days in the coming weeks will save the day.

Goodbye, July.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Present Participle List - July

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. 
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy. -Psalm 34:4-5

I am desperately behind in blogging because summers are bananas. What happened to lounging around? Binge watching your favorite show? Eating ice cream every night.? Okay, we've actually got that one down.

I'm just going to hit a few summer favorites and call it good.

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Eating . . . Anyone else having a hard time cooking in this heat? We've been pulling out cheese, summer sausage, crackers with some fruit and veggies multiple times a week. And Rory is baking.

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Babysitting . . . As a thank you to some friends, we've done a little childcare these past few weeks. Our kids have had a blast playing and so have we. It's also a good reminder that I'm not sad we're past the younger stage.

Camden couldn't be there one night so he left out his legos for the boys. :)
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Surviving . . . We're on the other side of a week of VBS so it feels a bit like we survived a war. I was on the treat bag/attendance team so I only spent one night battling 3 4-year-olds.

Tanning . . . I've started using a self-tanner for the first time since my teenage self used to lather up in an orangey mess. I'm happy to say that self-tanners have greatly improved!

Reading . . . Three really good books since my last post: The Book of Essie, No One Ever Asked, and The Ensemble (content warning on this one). Here's what's sitting in my "to read" basket right now:

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Listening . . . to the Goodbye Road EP with JohhnySwim and Drew Holcomb and the In The Dark season 2 podcast.

Working . . . Brian is spending about 65 hours worth of training in 2 weeks in order to take his bus driving test on July 27 in addition to running VBS and becoming pastor. This is contributing heavily to the life is bananas comment at the top of the post.

Watching . . . Kids are burning their way through The Flash (the adults have even been known to go to bed early this summer leaving the kids to watch alone - something new for our family). Two of our summer family favorites are America's Got Talent and World of Dance. The new season of Somebody Feed Phil was a very welcome surprise (all of the Phil shows are our FAVORITE travel/food television) and we're savoring the episodes instead of binge-watching.

Debuting . . . I have officially given up hats/scarves. It's been about 2 weeks since I started going out in public with a bare head, and it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Just like when I went through this experience 7 years ago, random strangers stop me to give me a high five, thumbs up, or a "rock it, mama" comment. It also produces A LOT of staring, which is difficult to ignore.

Week 1
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Celebrating . . . Camden turned 15 on July 15 (WHAT??) so he and a friend went to The City Forum for the afternoon; we celebrated with the grandparents Saturday and then spent Sunday afternoon eating his favorite meal (Italian Drip Beef Sandwiches) and watching the World Cup championship game. Brian also took him out for his first driving lesson. He received everything on his birthday list: money (he's saving for a PS4), a pull-up bar, and cologne.

First driving lesson
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He's been saving this Mt. Dew since May to drink on his birthday. Notice the French flag in the background.
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Praying . . . In addition to losing a young father in our church this month, we are surrounded by friends and family who are walking through incredibly challenging circumstances. There is absolutely nothing we can do but pray for God's continued work in their lives.

Pressing on . . . In just 10 short days, the kids start school and Brian begins his new full-time job as pastor. We're making a quick 48-hour trip in the next few days and then I hope to fit in some last minute fun and relaxation before those 10 days are over.

Happy weekend, friends.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Professional Help

I've never given much thought to psychology, counseling, or therapy. Not until my oncologist suggested I might benefit from talking to a professional, that is. Maybe the fact that I stopped taking medication without permission and increasingly spent my time crying and feeling incredibly anxious were her first clues? She sent me to a psychologist who specializes in oncology.  I showed up to my first session with absolutely no expectations. I know very few people who have utilized counseling. I didn't have negative feelings; counseling was just a complete unknown. I walked away from that first 1-hour session with every single bit of my makeup cried off but feeling 100 pounds lighter.

I didn't realize how much I had been withdrawing from everyone around me, how much I was hiding from my family and my doctors, how many tears I was shedding. Riding the ups and downs of cancer has never been easy, but I've managed fairly well until recently. As Dr. PC walked through various coping mechanisms, I felt the proverbial lightbulb going off in my head. How had I forgotten? The truth is that nothing she said to me was new, but we all need reminders.

First on the list? Keeping a gratitude list. This one is pretty significant because I've often said that the way I survived the first year with cancer was documenting my list of 1,000 gifts. Next up was reconnecting with friends and hobbies. She asked me to pick up my camera, to put down my phone and read a book. To stop protecting my husband and confide in him. To trust myself and my doctors enough to know that when they prescribe medicine it's for my own good. That I'm smart enough to acknowledge the pain and side effects of both chemo and cancer are not imaginary. She reminded me that I don't have to be tough when I have doctor's visits and that they're professionals, not friends. Which means I don't have to protect them from how I feel, just be honest. It's their job to listen to my list of ailments. She encouraged me to pursue 8 hours of sleep, to walk, drink water, and eat healthy foods. 

She also encouraged me to drink less caffeine, but I'm ignoring that one.

I am lucky enough to have a strong support system, and the psychologist released me from her care after a month with the freedom to schedule a visit any time. As a believer, it's easy to say that trusting in God should be enough. But sometimes it's not. Sometimes you need a professional to give professional advice with practical solutions. The mild depression I found myself experiencing had nothing to do with how much time I was spending in prayer and reading the Bible. It was about needing to redirect my thoughts, to revisit practical ways of taking care of myself. 

The initial chemo break, followed by a more extended break is playing an important part in how I feel. But the house I spent with a psychologist trained to address the unique needs of someone living with cancer is just as important. So the next time someone suggests counseling, I'll be the first to say yes or to encourage you to say yes.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Five on Friday (June 29, 2018)

Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses. -Proverbs 10:12

1. Our lives changed pretty dramatically Sunday, when 180 Church offered Brian the job of pastor. This means he will no longer be teaching but will instead be a pastor and part-time bus driver (in order to keep our very excellent insurance through the school system). Way back in 2004 when we brought home an adorable 8-month old Camden, I was devastated to return to work and leave him in daycare. We decided there would be no more additions to the Lewis family until we could figure out a way for me to be a stay at home mom. At the time I was working at a college (our alma mater) and Brian could take classes tuition-free. So he returned to college for an additional 2 years to complete requirements for certification to teach in Tennessee. He taught his first class in fall 2007, and I will always be so grateful for the way God provided a way for me to stay at home with the kiddos. When he started the process of becoming a teacher in 2004, there was no way to know about Rory coming into our lives, about cancer, or about 180 Church.

Eleven years later, and he has been the best teacher. But ministry has always had his heart. I am overwhelmed with the ways the Lord has been so faithful to provide for us throughout the years. Brian is studying hard to take the CDL test and will begin 4 weeks of driving instruction before receiving his own route. All of his personal days and sick days will transfer over to this new job (which is only 20 hours a week and half of those hours are before 8:30 a.m.), and we continue with the same excellent insurance. Truly a blessing. All of it.

2. The kids have settled into summer and are enjoying being together, which just makes my heart sing. Listening to them giggle and tease and screech in laughter is so much fun. Loud, but so fun. As you know, peace among siblings can be as rare as a unicorn, but Camden and Rory are currently in a delightful phase and I love it.

3. We went to see Incredibles 2 as a family Monday night (Movie Pass continues to be so fun, even though flexibility is a must). Later in the week, they watched Jurassic World from home during an incredibly gloomy, stormy morning, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how they intensely watched. Brian and I hope to go see the newest Jurassic movie tomorrow (again, Movie Pass). So lots of movies this week.

4. Mom accompanied us to the Frist Museum this afternoon, followed by a trip to Trader Joes. The Frist is always on the summer bucket list but Rory was still in a stroller when we last marked it off our summer list. The current exhibit is contemporary art called Chaos and Awe. The museum also has one hallway devoted to telling the story of Nashville's part in the civil rights movement from 1960-1967. As we were browsing through this section, an older black gentleman was just ahead of us with a young man who I'm assuming was his grandson. He was telling his own stories from that time period and I (1) nearly burst into tears and (2) really wanted to follow along and learn from him.

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5. I have read several good books in the last 10 days. The Ensemble is the story of a professional string quartet ensemble; despite a few 8 uncomfortable lines (via Modern Mrs. Darcy), I could not put this book down. The book explores what it's like to work your entire life to be the best in your field and the relationships between such a tight group. I immediately looked up string quartets on YouTube when I finished the last page. A Place for Us was also a great story and look into not just an immigrant's life but also the Muslim culture. If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey was a fast read with an important message. I'm on a long streak of 4 and 5-star books, and it's wonderful.

Happy Weekend, Friends. May it be full of ice cream and air conditioning.

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