Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Morning Reflections

Have you ever gotten a strong urge to write something. To share your thoughts. I don't often but when I do it is super strong and I have to believe that there is someone out there that needs to hear it.

It all started yesterday while I was taking a shower after learning how to use the lawn mower. I cried. Seriously?? What in the world. It was a darn lawn mower and weed eater. But I know it wasn't just that.

I'm a firm believer that we are on a certain path in life. That all the struggles we go through are placed in our path so that we can learn and grow. Sometimes so that we can share our experiences so that it may help others through their struggles. I'm the first to scream UNCLE....I'm really over all these tests of faith. But for some reason...while in the shower...all I could think about was my life. Some people know this stuff I'm about to post...some do not (guess you do now)! Right after graduation God decided it was time to test me. I was madly in love (so I thought) and pretty soon found out I was carrying my daughter. A few months later I was married at the ripe ole age of 17. Looking back now I am pretty sure that was not the right option BUT...life had other plans. If I would have not followed this path..I don't think I would be the person I am today. I moved way from home and every thing I knew to a place where I knew no one. Jump forward about 3 or so years and I was about to be the mom of two....moved back to GA....living in a one room motel with drug dealers across the way....and getting up the courage to call my parents to come get me. I was living in a life I didn't understand...an abusive relationship...and so lost. It took a LOT of courage to make that phone call. My family never liked the choices I made years prior but it was a choice I made and mistakes I had to learn from. God blessed me with two beautiful children during that time. And now I was a single mom of two trying to figure out what to do next.

Pretty soon I had found a program that would help me go back to school...learn an occupation...and get a job. I've since been with that job for 25 years. It wasn't easy....and working full time, single mom, trying to figure out how to make ends meet...it's tough. And I commend each of you facing those struggles now. But do know....you will make it through.

5 years later I met my husband. Well, I knew him already....but the dating part had never crossed our minds. I had years of self-doubt, not being good enough, and emotional abuse that made it hard for me to think anyone would want to love me. But he did. And as most of you know...the rest is history.
Since that time I have struggled with "am I good enough", "am I pretty enough", "why can't I be thinner", etc, etc. And the whole time God is telling me to trust in him. That I AM a child of God and that he loves me. That he made me just as he had planned. I keep fighting with him on that but as I get older I am giving in and trusting ;)


Fast forward through raising the kids (that is a struggle in its self..lol).  2010 brought us with the reality that we were going to be grandparents. And let me tell you...being a mother at 18 had a huge impact on how I handled this. God lesson right there. And of course she was a huge bright spot in our lives. We love that Butterbean like you would not even believe. And life goes on...with some added small people laughter in the house on a daily basis. We continue on living our little ole lives....buying cars...buying a camper...going here and there. When I guess we needed a reminder. A reminder that you don't need all those fancy things...that life is more than that. 2014.......on our sons birthday to be exact...Billy had an MRI that would change everything. A few days later we found out that he had a brain tumor. A few months later he would have a 12 hour surgery to remove it and then learn how to live life with a new normal. While I sat there at the hospital waiting for repeated surgery updates....it became very clear what was important in life. It wasn't what we had...where we would go on vacation...but it was all about life. How precious it is...how breakable it is....how special. That day changed us both. Now when I look back on that year I know that it was just a way to prepare us for what was coming.

Shawn moved out...broke my heart! That was so hard. And then in 2016 Kayla and Butterbean moved out. I cried for months. They were both about to embark on growing their own families. All I could hope was that I taught them everything they needed to know in life. It was now out of my hands. But the timing - even though I didn't know it then - was just right. Because what was to come...I couldn't have managed with the kids at home. 2017...the year of all years. Cancer. I will never forget those words...ever. And it changed me...again. But I knew what I had to do...I knew God would not leave us....and I dug my heals in. Let's do this. Let's beat this. It's been almost two years now since that diagnosis. It's been a hard ride....long...challenging...frustrating...scary...emotional....you name it. I've learned a lot in two years. Researching, patient advocating, flushing ports, pharmacy tech wanna be, exploring every section of Northside Hospital...juggling life, job, emotions and caregiving. Now see if the kids had been at home...lord have mercy...I couldn't have juggled all of that. Just putting that out right here right now. Very quickly I have had to learn to do a lot of things on my own. One thing I have tried to teach my kids was to stand on their own two feet. To be able to support themselves. To be strong. That is the life lessons I learned over the years. My 30 years after high school has been a building block to get me to where I am today. To the person I am now. I am so much stronger than I was 30 years ago. I can take care of myself AND my family. I know in my heart that I can tackle whatever mountain is thrown our way. It may not be easy....but I CAN do it. WE can do it. So back to the shower and crying over the lawn mower....you see....that simple task...learning something I didn't know how to do....made me feel even more stronger. It made me realize AGAIN that I CAN do anything I put  my mind and heart into doing. The last few months have been pretty challenging for me. And at times I have felt like I just wasn't going to make it through this. And it goes beyond just dealing with the cancer. Other things in life. But it has been God's way of opening my eyes. Showing me that I'm not through growing and learning. And that it is okay to take chances and to really believe in myself and what I am capable of accomplishing. To trust in him. Read that again.... TRUST IN HIM. 

My point....this life is not easy. And so many of you have the same story...or have a similar story...or maybe you are just starting a story like this and don't know what to do. I want you to know it is okay. You will be okay. Struggles are okay. It is what shapes us. It is what makes us stronger. It will open your eyes to things you never thought you could do or accomplish. Don't give up. It's hard. Life is hard. But I'm here for you. Look around...there are others here for you as well...to help you get through and reach the other side of the mountain. Don't be afraid to to learn new things...don't be afraid to take a leap of faith...believe in yourself. I do!




Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What do I do?

At least once a week I get an email, text or message asking me..."what do I do"...because they are now facing a life altering event. A loved one was just diagnosed with cancer...unexpected loss of wages...things are happening that they never expected to. And I get it! Just 21 months ago...we took what we thought was a simple trip to the ER...which in a span of a few hours turned our lives upside down. And it has been a roller coaster ride since then. I don't have super educated advice to give...but I can tell you how we are getting through things in hopes that it helps someone else along the way.

For us....it was cancer. That was the life altering event. We were not expecting that diagnosis NOT ONE bit. And we had no idea going into that ER that evening that he would not return to work again. I mean....both of our kids just got married....we were finally empty nesters and getting ready to enjoy a well deserved second half of our lives. BUT...the year prior I did make one step that I am glad I took. During our open enrollment I signed us up for the Colonial Cancer policy. I mean you never know right? Thankfully that one policy helped us tremendously because we were able to cash it in and help with some of the medical bills that we didn't expect to have. It's a one time deal though so I can never use that on Billy again. But do check into that policy and if you can afford it...look even deeper into the critical illness policy as well that has hospital coverage.

Start NOW! I can't say this enough. Start now putting back into an emergency fund. This is so, very important. We go through life thinking...that will never happen to us...until one day and you are living it. Anything you can put back is a blessing somewhere down the road. We went from a two income family to one. Thankfully he was able to receive some income from his job for a few months but once that ran out....it was gone. Social Security Disability takes 6 months from the date of diagnosis to your first pay out. Always keep that in mind as well. You need to have enough put back to get you through paying the house payment. And in our case his disability is only temporary. I just completed a 15 page re-application and we just hope they approve it for another year.

Research research research. Google is your friend. Start searching for foundations or funds that may be able to help. If you have been newly diagnosed with cancer...it is overwhelming....but there IS help out there. You just have to find it. For us....there is not a lot out there for Leukemia unfortunately. Our biggest source of help was LLS.org. They also have funds there for certain types of Blood Cancers but they are not always open. Keep checking back.
 - www.rarediseases.org
- www.tafcares.org
- www.cancer.org
- www.mygooddays.org
There are just a few places that I repeatedly would check to see if funding became available. If you are a Leukemia patient you will also want to stay in contact with Be The Match. They have a fund available for Allogeneic Transplant patients.
If you have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer there are TONS of sources out there for you. As well as other cancers....just keep looking. Need some help...reach out to me and I will help you search as well.

Sometimes these funds are not huge. Maybe $200 a month if you are currently undergoing chemo. But to put things into perspective - Billy was in the hospital, earlier this year, for 38 days. Our hospital charges for that 38 day stay was $800K. Yep you heard that right. And currently just a month going to the BMT clinic is $25K each month. In 21 months our claims have reached 3 million dollars. Now I don't know about you but I am incredibly thankful for our medical insurance. It hurts coming out of my paycheck but I will not complain one single bit. All we have to come up with is our deductible each year. Which is not chump change but compared to the other....I will take it. So don't stop looking for funds. There are stipulations so make sure to read into what they cover. For example...we received a $5000 fund last year. We can actually, crossing fingers, apply again this July if the fund is open and available but it only covers transfusions, chemo drugs and certain doctor visits.

If you are local to Marietta  - do check out  https://lovingarms.support/. This is an amazing group with a cancer survivor/caregiver support group that meets every Tuesday.

Find support groups. No matter what your situation...find people that are going through the same things you are. Our friends and family will always be there for us but there are just some things that they will not understand unless they have walked the same path. I was talking to a friend who is now a caregiver. She mentioned to me that she thought she was ready for something like this from reading my posts about our journey but she didn't realize all the "behind the scenes" emotions that went with it. And that is so true. I can my post sound like it's a cheery day....or smile when I am out and about....but there are a lot of things that I just don't post about....emotions I don't share. One evening on my way home from the hospital I called a long time friend of mine. I just let out all my feelings to her. And I knew she "got it". She had lost her husband years prior after several years of a terminal illness. Sometimes it just helps to talk...don't be afraid to reach out to someone and just be honest about how you are feeling....any struggles you may have.

No matter your situation...take time for you. Oh man....I need to listen to what I preach huh! LOL. That is the hardest part for me - I admit that honestly. But do try.

And remember....you are NOT alone. I promise you that.
Hang in there. We are given these mountains in life to climb but when we get to the top....how beautiful that view will be. How much we will have learned. How stronger we will be.





Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Guest Room Redo

My son moved out years ago. I haven't really done much with his room since he moved out. I started redoing the furniture which was my grandmother's. I still haven't finished the dresser. And then it became a dump all for my Thirty One bags and my Artwork. We were going to build an entertainment center but then the cancer happened and now I have three huge cabinets sitting in there. It was just not happening but I so badly want a guest room. Kayla's old room was converted into Danie's room when she comes to stay with us so I wanted something pretty neutral if we had company. I spend so much time on Pinterest and watching DIY shows that my mind just never stops. I saw someone else do a brick focal wall using Peel and Stick wallpaper and knew immediately that is what I wanted to do in here. So the project began :)

My first tip...measure your wall and make sure you have enough. I just knew two rolls would be plenty...umm....no. I needed 4. And the 4th one was hardly used at that! So this project was spread over two weekends. AND keep in mind it is still in process but this is where I am currently at.



 As you can see the room is really dark. Originally we had Shawn's guitars hanging along both walls. It was a really cool boy's room. I took the old quilt from my bed and used it on this one for the time being just so it had "something". I can't show you the rest of the room because....well....it's just bad! LOL. Cabinets, unfinished furniture, junk...you get the picture.

So peel and stick wallpaper is AWESOME. And you can pretty much get it anywhere...Home Depot, Lowe's, Target, Amazon. Just play close attention to your square footage. The rolls I found on Amazon maybe cheaper but they don't have nearly enough on the roll for a large wall. This room is 12x12 in size. I decided on Home Depot. It was $38 a roll....ouch....BUT what an impact it made and that was pretty much all the expense in this room.

So I started on the left side by using a level and making a vertical line 24" from the corner. This will help you get the first strip of wallpaper straight. Then it is just a matter of lining up the bricks on your next strip. Make sure you have a squeegee type item so that you can work out the bubbles. Do about a 12" block at a time when it comes to peeling off the paper.

I used an exacto knife to cut off the excess around the trim and the plug in/phone jack areas. I also ended up painting the top of the bed headboard black so that it popped from the wall. Otherwise it was blending in too much. Now I feel it has some character. While I was cleaning out my Thirty One closet I found this trinket tray. It was perfect. And the large picture I purchased back around December from a facebook ad I found. I will eventually add a floating shelf above the headboard to display the blue Mason jars and a few more blue pieces that I may find along the way. I'm already working on the rest of the room and can't wait to share that when it is finished as well.



Total cost so far:
Home Depot Peel and Stick wallpaper $38 a roll (I needed 4 rolls)
Home sign from a facebook ad - $25
Cute 3 piece jar in a tray set from Michael's on clearance $3
Quilt ladder - handmade by Art from the Heart (aka Billy and myself)
Blanket on the quilt rack was a gift
I already had the jars in my craft room so just refocused them here.
The original quilt was folded down at the foot of the bed once I found this white quilt at Target - $60 (I had an in store credit so it ended up only costing me $10)
Pillows from Thirty One and Sanctuary Girl - already had them laying around