Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Life after cancer: It does exist

I don't know if you know this, but September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  Although culture has not seen fit to dye every doggone object teal like they will pink next month, this cause is a big one for me.  As a survivor nearly 4 years out of my diagnosis of STAGE III Ovarian Cancer, I want to dedicate this post in THANKFULLNESS of my health status.  Cancer-free.

I considered what I wanted to write about in light of the above. I could post pics of me bald.  I could reminisce.  I could re-tell my story.  I could give you warning signs and medical facts.  All of which would be fine.  Perhaps even better than what I will give to you.  But I've settled on something else.

Instead, I want to give you a snapshot of what HEALTH.  LIFE.   And HEROES look like to me- just a  Mom. Wife.  Cancer Survivor.  Regular Joe. (or should it be Jane.)  With a life lived fully and gratefully (for the most part. ) Hey, nobody's perfect.

Life around my castle has been full.  I gave myself a few weeks "off" when the kids went back to school.  During my weeks, I like to keep busy by volunteering at their school.  With all of the travel and moving and settling, I decided to wait and go back to "work" until after Labor Day (as the good lord intended!) I used those couple of weeks to settle the house, get things just so and do errands without my entourage.  But just about the time Labor Day rolled around, I was starting to get a little bored and was ready to get back into the swing of things.

The teachers at my kids' school are true HEROES.  Each person that I know personally who works at River's Edge Montessori goes above and beyond their pay grade to love and serve the kids of Dayton, OH. Many of these students are starting life off in ways that would make the average American's head spin.  Each day, these teachers do the best they can to teach kids who don't speak English, don't know where their next meal will come from, don't have stable home lives or don't have a home. Period.

Not to be misleading, there are plenty of students who come from homes that would rival any suburban situation.  We have many a gifted/talented student.  Our families who have found Dayton to be their home on immigrant or refugee status are some of the hardest working and most loving families I have met.  Their whole existence revolves around their children having a bright future. This city is beautiful because of it's diversity.  It is the same thing that, in my opinion, would make being a teacher here so challenging.

But these teachers give of themselves.  They go the extra mile.  They purchase snacks for their class because they know their kids are hungry.  One teacher I know goes weekly to Panera to collect the day old bread and sweets to pass out to students and teachers.  The only treat some of these kids will get all week.  This same teacher often stays HOURS after school to work for her students.  Teacher after teacher loves their kids with their whole being.  I want to be like them when I grow up.

The least I can do each week is serve these saints for just a few minutes.  Some days I sharpen pencils (it's my forte!)  Some days I grade papers or check home work (one hour less they have to do over their weekend).  I break copiers... I mean, I make copies.  I help kids read.  I give hugs.  I've even been known to sit in the school office (NOT my forte) and have only accidentally hit the panic button twice.  And NO, the cops didn't show up.  The school nurse bailed me out before that happened.  I listen.  I even fight at the district level when needed.  (It does nothing, but it makes ME feel better.)

My part is small.  My expertise, non-existent.  My heart is big.  My admiration for teachers, indescribable.  My thanks to GOD for granting me these bonus years... NEVER. EVER. ENDING.

The rest of my time I spend as a juggler.  A schedule magician.  A taxi driver.  A referee.  A ring master.  An illusionist.

Gymnastics practice three nights a week, soccer practice just as many, two after school tutoring sessions (for the kids, not me), violin lessons twice a week an hour before school starts (at the school at a whopping total of $30 for the entire year.  Yes, we will and thankyouverymuch!) modern dance on the one weekday that doesn't include all of the other activities, missions club once a month, church, pta, daily aerobic classes, keeping up with the house work so that the castle is a happy place to live, date nights, play dates, and the wrap up of another summer of Big Brother (my guilty pleasure).  Those are a few of the OTHER things that have been keeping me busy.

Just for fun this week I'm throwing in some dentist appointments, a mammogram, a cat scans blood work, bi-annual cancer check up, baby shower, birthday parties, backyard bbq's, a monthly meeting with the Sheriff to discuss race relations in Dayton, work with Athletes in Action and planning an event for our school to help foster relationships between families at the school.

This schedule is not a complaint.  It is not a boast or a brag.  It isn't even overwhelming.  It is a praise offering to the Healer God.  Ovarian cancer had a plan for me.  God has a bigger one.

While I do not know my future, I am thankful for today.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for life, a gift to be used and shared.  Not to be taken for granted.  Today, a woman sits in a chemo chair that I once sat in.  I don't know her story.  I don't know her outcome.

Awareness. Thankfulness. Life.

I will not take what I have for granted!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Slowly but surely

Moving on Up

Well, it took me a little while to climb upstairs and show you the rest of the rooms.  But finally, we've wound around the spiral staircase and you have found your way into Olivia's room.  Which is really quite a privilege- because true of most 4th grade girls with pesky 2nd grade brothers, she doesn't let just anyone in.

Honestly, I'm secretly jealous of my 9 year old.  She has the COOLEST room on the planet.  I would have killed to have this room when I was her age.

Several years ago, she really wanted a loft bed.  Steve and our brother in law, Todd, built this thing from scratch.  It is as sturdy as they come and believe you me, a beast to move from house to house! It really is a space saver and in this house, albeit beautiful, we need to make use of every inch of floor space.  What it lacks in "extra" it makes up for in breathtaking.

She is currently in love with aqua.  If it's aqua she wants to wear it, look at it, wrap herself in it.  So... I did manage to talk her down for all walls aqua.  (I had a bargaining chip... I was the one painting the room and to be honest, I just couldn't get all of the walls done in time for the furniture to be delivered.)

Plus, I'm a fan of less is more.  9 year olds, notsomuch.

In addition to aqua, she is obsessed with all things gymnastics.  She has several posters and this really cute decal.  I would say it is just the right touch of sport and girlie.  We found the perfect accent rug for the room at Ikea, and thankfully we were decorating just in time for Target's back to college push.  They had these really cute dorm chairs that also work well for my kids' rooms.  (The boys have one in black.)

Because of the loft, there was also room for a small Ikea flip sofa underneath her loft.  It is ideal for sleep overs and for relaxing.  Seriously,  Jealous.

It was hard to capture this in photos, but to the left of her desk is a door.  A door to an OUTSIDE DECK.  Girlfriend has her very own second floor deck, complete with a bistro table and chairs.  We've had several conversations about how this is not her very own personal deck.  But since the girl keeps the room locked up like Ft. Knox, it may as well be!

Finally, behind the curtains is an enormous closet.  Because the doors of the closet are mirrors, the previous owners had hung these curtains to cover them up.  I liked the idea and am keeping my eyes open for some curtains that would add a pop of color and youth to the room.  These will do in the meantime.  The closet is big enough for clothes and every single toy and craft item she owns.  It's like a mini American girl doll apartment behind those doors!

I have really failed to capture the brothers' room.  Poor guys.  If he were here right now, Quinn would totally call favoritism on me.  (That is his latest trick.  "Olivia gets another friend over?  I call favoritism.  It's favoritism, I tell 'ya.")  Hilarious, yet annoying.

Anyhow, this room was the previous owners' master bedroom.  Because our house is actually a true 2 bedroom (I really had to get creative and persuasive to get my way in this deal) it made sense for the boys to get the master.  It works perfectly.  Turner wanted a loft bed and Quinn did not.  So he gets the cool little nook for his bed.

Each boy has his own full closet.  There is room for one desk under the loft and one of those Target dorm chairs.  There is room in between the closets for the second desk.  And STILL room for the flip couch from Ikea.  Once again,  this is a room fit for a king (or two).  The boys were a little miffed that they would once again be sharing a room.  To be honest, I think they would be lost without each other.  During the weekend nights, all three kids end up doing sleep-overs together.  We might as well live in a one room shack as far as they are concerned!  Unless, of course, I made them do sleepovers.  Then it would be "so unfair."  A parent can never win.

 Something I was really happy to be able to put up in their new room was these two photos of owls.  My dad, who has been gone 4 years as of next Monday, took those pictures and had them framed.  Before he died, he gave them to me and told me he wanted the boys to have them.  When we moved, I asked if they would want the owls to hang in the room and they both agreed.  Honestly, I think they look great in the room.  

I was also glad that we were able to re-purpose our old dining room rug for their room.  Sadly, with the move and the different reconfiguration of the rooms, some of our furniture and rugs no longer fit.  (Literally)  It wasn't even a matter of I just didn't like it any more,  some simply didn't fit.  Thankfully, this was one item that worked and we didn't have to invest in one more thing.

This is a peek out of the boy's door.  If you took an immediate right you would be at Olivia's door (which as previously mentioned would be tightly locked.)  That little landing directly in front of you has a desk and "gramma's bed".  I'm not sure if that will be the permanent solution for that space. The former owners had a little office set up there and it was really cute.  Perhaps some day there will be a tv and gaming system/ bean bag chairs etc.  This space is the least of my worries for the time being.

If you walk through that wide open door there are two wardrobes on your left.  Because the room that Steve and I use for our bedroom was actually a living room, there are no closets.  We use the wardrobes there for our clothes.  This works well since to the right of the wardrobes is the full bath.  I have yet to get pictures of the bathroom.  Maybe that will be tour III.  The washer/dryer is in the bathroom as well.  It is a really large and spacious and fun bathroom with a black and white tile floor.

Each day that passes by, I feel more and more like I am at home.  Just the other day while talking with a friend I made a deep discovery of my soul.

She asked if I missed the old house.  I thought for a second and honestly answered, "Not one bit."  I think it surprised both of us.  But as I got to explaining I realized that the old house was my "cancer house."  There were so many hard times associated with that house. The months and months I spent hostage to those walls because of my treatment.  The laps I would take around my living room because I was too weak to go outside.  The kitchen where I shaved my head bald to beat the chemo to the punch.  The bedroom where I laid in bed and was so nauseous I couldn't go downstairs.  The layers of dirt that accumulated from the time that I just didn't have it in me to keep up on my housework due to depression, anxiety and raising little ones.

Sure, there were good memories.  It was our first home.  It was the only married home I knew.  The only home in which my parents would ever visit.  We had our routines there.  There were beautiful aspects. 

But it was time.

And now, I am home in my DREAM HOME.  

And I'm happy.  

And Thankful.