2,922 Bonus Days: That’s EIGHT Extra Years of life!

It’s that time of year again, ALREADY.  Thanksgiving has somehow come and gone, and Christmas is right around the corner.  My childhood BFF Mary just celebrated her birthday on December 1st (a chronological landmark I remember every year) and now the third is here…

It’s my EIGHT YEAR CANCER-VERSARY! 

Can you believe it?  It’s been eight happy, wonderful, blessed bonus years that I’ve been gifted since beating Stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in college.

The funny part about this commemorative occasion is that for the last several years, we’ve been celebrating it on December 5th.  In writing a post for this very blog, I uncovered some old photos, and actually found my radiation completion certificate – and lo and behold, it was dated the 3rd.  So the third of December it is.

The certificate of radiation completion!

The certificate of radiation completion!

This morning when I woke up to some texts and emails from family, I kinda found myself reflecting for a bit.  My moods ranged from full of awe and reverence to downright giddy. On Facebook, I posted an image of my cancer-beating certificate, and I’ve gotten an obscene amount of likes on it, like in the 160s and climbing.  And my dear pal and former-roomie and current co-worker Sasha “Salsa” Freeman Gray has been quite lovely in uploading some of the sillier pics from those crazy cancer days.

I was in college, had already gone through some really crazy health issues (a mis-diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease led me down the garden path of insane meds and eventually a full bowel obstruction which required a surgical resection), when my neck started to look like a sock full of golf balls – at least that’s the easiest way I’ve come to describe it.   I was tired, running slower than usual (literally, I ran a 5k and noted that my time was really slow, even for me), and I was having terrible night sweats.  Eventually I developed a non-producing cough, and around the holidays I just assumed I had some kind of supercold that my immuno-suppressed body couldn’t really fight so well.  It wouldn’t be until February of 2004 that I’d begin the process of diagnostic testing, and actually April when we found out for sure that it was Stage III-BS Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that had taken my collegiate body hostage.

61418_10100321625971022_1936053665_n

With Sasha, while getting my head shaved. I didn’t want to wait for it to fall out, so I took the matter into my own hands and got my pretty round head buzzed after my first chemo round.

In the process of shaving my head, I of course, had to take pause when I reached the excellent stage of MULLET.

In the process of shaving my head, I of course, had to take pause when I reached the excellent stage of MULLET.

I’ve gotten some interesting questions today – people wanting to know what it was like, how I’ve made the most of my time since, how I’m doing now… so without boring you all to death, I’ll try and give some tidbits:

What is it like to know you have cancer? 

Cancer was wacky crazy and very surreal for most of the experience, with one grindingly serious memory that jumps forward in which I finally absorbed the fact that I indeed had fecking CANCER and that it was hardcore.  Most of the time though, when you have cancer and you’re all chemo-bald, people know what your deal is and they’re very nice to you.  In my ongoing health issues with “Crohn’s Disease” and what we now know to be Acute Porphyria – it’s different. 

The serious realization came about very randomly.  I was driving home, and I was getting on Hodges from JTB (Jax ppl know what I mean), and it just hit me: I HAVE CANCER.  THIS IS SERIOUS.  And it kind of quietly overwhelmed me for a few moments, but by the time I got home I felt “normal” again.

How old were you? 

I was 20 when I was diagnosed, and celebrated my 21st birthday between chemo sessions.  I remember going to the Pepsi 400  (because that’s what it was called back then) on my actual birthday (July 3rd) and when a freak rainstorm came through I was freezing.  My then-boyfriend, Rick Neidringhaus, went and bought me some sweats and a windbreaker for my two favorite drivers: Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr, respectively.  I still have the pants and actually wear them often!

Sasha and bald-me, circa Fall 2004.

Sasha and bald-me, circa Fall 2004.

What got you through?

This one is easy: God, faith, family, friends, the entire UNF family, the Greek system, and my incredible team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and techs – all the good people of Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville who efficiently and effectively saved my life.  I had top notch doctors – I was already a patient at Mayo because of my aggressive “Crohn’s Disease” (since I really didn’t have Crohn’s, my body would never respond to the treatment – rendering me a medical outlier with an extreme case and therefore in need of the best doctors in the land.  Luckily for me, I lived in Jax, FL at the time and had Mayo access just a few miles from home).

I kept a really awesome attitude the entire time.  I bore everyone to death with the stories I tell again and again – but the one that I must tell when I saw a mother and her wheelchair-bound small child park next to me at Publix the day I was officially diagnosed.  Seeing that kid who has likely never walked and likely never will, I refused to feel sorry for myself.  It changed my entire perspective on the situation.  The first 19 years of my life were spent in excellent health, as I lead a life of privilege, freedom and one full of lovely memories and special experiences.  Had I died the day I was diagnosed, I wouldn’t have had a regret or a single sad feeling for myself.  Having cancer is what it is – once that tough lump is swallowed, all that’s left is making the best of it.  So I fought hard, kept my chin up, and did what I always do: plow my way through with some jokes and a lot of laughs, and a firm anchor to God and faith in the ultimate plan He has for my life.

Have these eight years been well-lived?

I mean, according to me – YES.  Heck, yes!  I’ve done some pretty amazing things and I believe I’ve chocked eight years full of an awful lot of life.  I’ve traveled, I’ve helped others, I’ve tried new things, I’ve experienced love, loss, happiness, and pain, full spectrum human experience.  I’ve created art, made others smile, formed friendships in the strangest and most normal of places – and every now and then I hear the “I word,” that I’ve inspired someone else into doing something good or at least having a good attitude about whatever it is he or she has going on.

Knowing that I can actually inspire others is very humbling.

Knowing that I’ve literally been granted 2,992 extra days of this life (heck yes I counted Leap Years) is humbling.

Snorkeling in Hawaii.  I've had a very happy life, yes!

Snorkeling in Hawaii. I’ve had a very happy life, yes!

I ran my first marathon this year, 26.2 miles!

I ran my first marathon this year, 26.2 miles!

Helping Sandy Relief in NYC last month.

Helping Sandy Relief in NYC last month.

My husband + me, smooching from a deer stand.

My husband + me, smooching from a deer stand.

Me - hunting just this past week or so!

Me – hunting just this past week or so!

So what’s it like now?

It’s both far-removed and ever-present.  The scars have faded, but they’re still there; and I still have my very first tattoos – the radiation dots that they marked me with to make sure they hit the same spot every day.  (As far as scars go, I had a couple stitches in my neck from a biopsy, another incision on the left side of my neck from having a lymph node removed, and I have a scar on my chest when I had my port-a-cath taken in and out).  I don’t obsess or worry about relapsing like I once did, and I don’t have to do the often check-ups and scans as I did in those first crucial years of remission.  I passed the five-year milestone three years ago, and that was a BIG ONE.  That’s the “you’re cured” milestone.

I don’t ever want to lose touch with that experience though.  After all, having been through cancer is a huge definer of who I am as a person.  It shaped me into a MUCH nicer person in general, and a tougher person in many ways.  It gave me a glimpse of my own frailty and left me with a profound appreciation for life and every breath I take.  And with that comes a responsibility to carry out a life well-lived and to do good in this world – and I find myself still trying to grasp at the best ways to keep that promise.

From this experience, what still impacts you today? 

I forever live with inexplicable gratitude in my heart.  For every nurse who held my hand, every doctor who took the time to make sure I received exemplary care… to my loved ones who came with me to chemo, prayed for me around the clock, and supported me in so many ways that words can never express… to the friends, classmates, and total strangers who came together to raise funds to help cover the costs of my treatment, to my Dad for working hard and having a good job that provided excellent insurance for me and money still to cover the costs that even excellent insurance didn’t take care of.

I carry with me a legacy of the hopes, dreams, and the honor of so many people who aren’t as lucky, of those who came before me and the technology that saved my life, of those in circumstances that don’t allow for early detection or top-notch medical care, of those who just don’t win the fight.  And that’s something that’s very real with me, a part of who I am.  We stand on the shoulders of so many giants, and I can’t ever forget that.

Mostly though, I just feel like me: Rose.  A happy wacky tie-dye loving slightly-redneck weirdo who often smiles and laughs everyday, and who is truly loved.  And I’m happy to be me, and I feel blessed to be me – each and every day.

I suppose if there was ever a profound take-away from an experience like mine – it is knowing in every ounce of my being that I am loved.  By my God, my family, those around me then and now, my husband, my friends, my sister, and even strangers – yes.  I am loved.  And being able to come face to face with such colossal concepts as life, death, and love is an honor that I am humbled to have experienced and lived through to write about now.

This post is dedicated to all of the many, many people who saved my life.  And to the many more lives that are forever changed by cancer, in all manner of ways – both happy and sad. 

Thank you for reading and for your support.

XOXO, 

HHR

Advertisements

Jesus Doesn’t Want You To “Eat Mor Chikin”

Toddlers and Tiaras.  Oil and Water.  Ammonia and Bleach.  JESUS and HATE.

Some things just don’t go together, y’all.  They just don’t.   Add one more combo to the list:  Chic-fil-A and my money.

from gawker

I normally like my blog to be a place of fun, happiness, passion in proper doses… but today it’s taking all the restraint I own not to go thermonuclear red hot Sicilian on everyone.  Let’s get fired up! 

(This blog will probably go down smoother if you crank the Gaga and let her pulse pumping melodies take you to that happy place of tolerance and dance moves)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Chic-fil-A is a homophobic company.  A company based on Christian ideals, but one that is ultimately homophobic and comfortable announcing such vile hatred to the country at large.  The mostly-Southern chain famous for slinging delicious fried chicken sammies and breakfast biscuits has been embroiled in a homophobic slurry for years.  This is not new news.  I’ve been on a permanent “boycott” of the establishment for a while now; in 2009 they gave nearly $2million to anti-gay groups and funded politicians of the same credo.  Based on a recent statement made to the public by CFA’s head honcho – new flames of fury are being stoked, fresh eyes are opening to the hatred, and more people are newly becoming aware of what is going down.

CFA isn’t all bad.  Duh, I know this.

Their food is beyond dope.  It’s some tasty chicken, y’all (let’s just be real).  And I am super aware of the local good they bring to the communities in which they’ve established restaurants.  CFA has a pretty open door policy about helping local groups of all kinds fundraise using their goods and facilities.  I know so many people who’ve personally said “our school band wouldn’t exist without CFA,”  or “the scholarships they offer employees put me through school.”  I know that they do good works.  And fundamentally, I’m cool with a company that has a religious background and works to keep those ideals intact.  CFA has never been open on Sundays, and I respect that choice.  Heck, I even admire it.

Here’s what President Cathy had to say about CFA’s religious affiliation, from the NY Daily News:

Despite a corporate statement declaring that the purpose of Chick-Fil-A is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us,” Cathy told the Baptist Press that it isn’t a Christian business.  Christianity “is about a personal relationship,” he said. “Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are. But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/chick-fil-a-cops-anti-gay-guilty-charged-company-president-article-1.1116841#ixzz214cv2oRi

But telling the whole world that gay ain’t okay is the line in the sand.  Don’t believe me?  Ask the Internets:

CNN Blog: CFA and Gay Marriage = Media Storm

Daily Mail UK:  Anti-Gay Stance Sparks Protest

Huff Post: Chicken with a Side of Bigotry 

Facebook has been a flurry of debate since the newest set of statements coming from CFA’s top dog went viral yesterday.  Also making news this week – the Boy Scouts of America went ahead and chimed in to the national debate of gay rights by letting us all know that they’ll be upholding their ban of gay kids.  It’s enough to make a gal sick.  But crumpling in defeat in the face of hate ain’t my style.  When the going gets tough, the tough get blogging.

Last night I made a pretty passionate Fb Status:

Attn America: The Boy Scouts and Chic-fil-A want you to make SURE that you know how evil homosexuality is, and thus, in the year 2012 they’re randomly issuing statements to go ahead and inform of us their bigoted positions.

Methinks this is another stunt from the Romney propaganda machine. I mean, he got the NAACP to boo him on purpose to help increase votes in racist areas.

The debate that sparked was pretty intense.  You can check out my profile to see it all for yourself!  I’ll also be posting a part two after this with some of my favorite talking points – in case you find yourself asking questions and/or ensnared in vitriolic discussion.

Last night and already today, I’ve been jumping into debates here and there – I’ve also gotten some PMs asking me to explain my beliefs.  How is it that I can be openly Christian, a Bible-believer – and still support gay rights?  The answer, dear reader, is easily and readily.

I am a Christian Who Supports Gay Rights. 

I believe in a Jesus that exclusively taught love.

I believe that the Biblical use of words that “support” anti-gay rhetoric are misinterpreted.  For more clarification and get my POV – check this link out.

Hypocrisy is not okay:  Leviticus is not a substantial reason to be anti-gay.  If you’re still wearing poly-cotton blend, eating shellfish, touching a woman when she’s on her monthly, if you don’t stone to death adulteres… you’re not upholding ALL of Leviticus.  The Bible ain’t a grocery store, you don’t get to pick and choose.  Furthermore, Leviticus is from the OT.  If you’re NT kinda Christian (which, technically, you must be – right?) using one odd phrase from the Old Testament to fuel your hate is (more than) a stretch.

Furthermore… the very same parts of the Gospel that speak against “homosexuality” also speak against a host of other human sins, some that I think are important and others that I don’t. If you want to go the Levitican route, it seems so silly to uphold just that one teensy clause when so many Christians are allowed to wear cloth made of mixed fibers (poly-cotton blend is against the Bible, you know). You can eat shellfish, touch a woman within eight days of her period and refrain from stoning to death known adulteres, all without condemnation from Christians… but but… if you “lay with a man” you’re evil?

It’s all or none. And I can’t stand the hypocrisy of picking and choosing.

In other sections of the Bible that speak to homosexuality, it speaks to sexual depravity – and again, I evoke the translation error.  Jesus speaks SO MANY times at lengths about things that are important to Him. Where in the Bible does Jesus actually address being gay?  NO WHERE.

Love each other. Be patient. Take care of one another. These are the things that Jesus took the time to teach us about….  He never ranted and raved about the evils of being gay the way today’s big time super conservative preachers do.  I think its a misuse of power and persuasion to throw the church and God behind an ideal that’s clearly political and of our own culture.

There’s always the idea of hating the sin, but loving the sinner. While I think that’s pretty lame and not embracing gay people and their rights in a full context – it’s better than being all around hateful. I suppose by that same mentality people can hate adultery, but still love adulterers.

But beyond all of this – I truly know and believe in my heart that people are born gay. Sure as I was born heterosexual, I believe that others are born gay. And thus, I must accept and know and trust that God created these people this way.  And it’s neither our place or God’s desire for us to be the ones who judge them. Not at all.  Love is love. People are people.   If two people love each other and want to love each other, and that’s what makes them happy – then I am so all about it, 100% flying (rainbow) colors in support of it.

Jesus taught us to love. 

This is something I’ve just known in my heart of hearts, and something I’ve had reinforced for me via prayer many times.

that’s me! (photo cred)

So there you have it folks.  In case you didn’t know – now you do.  I am a Christian and I fully support gay rights.  I’m a straight ally, and I have been for a very long time.  Even back in my UNF Student Gov’t days, I was an ally (before I even knew how that term applied to this issue!).  I used to always be the Senator to introduce/sponsor bills from the PRIDE club – they even gave me an award my junior year for being such a fervent supporter.

If you’re a reader with a difference of opinion – please know that I respect and appreciate all sides of an issue, as well as your right to your own beliefs and ideals.  I’m a true American in that spirit and proudly embrace the freedoms of choice that we all have.   Hopefully, this post serves as insight into my belief structure and not as a form of antagonism.  If you have ANY questions or want to hash this out more – just reach out to me.  I’ll try my best to get back to you in a timely manner.

I will publish that second post of links and quotes in a hot minute too.

Edit: Here’s the second post, it’s up now! 

AS ALWAYS – Thanks for reading y’all!  This is a biggie and an important one, and even if all you did was read this and then decide this blog isn’t for you – I at least appreciate your time. 

xoxo, hhr 

Losing My Religion

“That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight … losing my religion.”  Great R.E.M. jam, right?  It’s totally how I feel today.

Friends of faith, calm down!  I’m not being literal, or rather – I’m not talking about my spiritual religion, Christianity.  My love of Jesus is as intact as ever.  It’s actually thriving I’d say: going through this huge move with so much uncertainty and loose ends, Duggs and I have been very laid back.  I’ve really been able to just hand the reigns over to God and trust that we’ll be fine, it’ll all work out in His time, and that He has my back.  He always does, so why worry now?

love this!

Of course, we’re doing all we can to work hard and set ourselves up for success – but fretting over things out of our control?  Not happening.  We’ve had faith and it’s been very comforting.

What I’m referring to is my religion of eco-friendliness.

Practicing my beliefs through the way I run a home, the purchases I make, the products I choose to surround myself with, put into the environment and my body… I’ve lost that “religion” big time.

I’ve been SO BAD.

Drive-throughs, food dye, nitrates, preservatives… you name it, I’ve been eating it this past month+. I’ve had more take out and delivery than you’d even think humanly possible.  My first week in New York I ate at Dunkin Donuts literally every single day.  (There aren’t any DDs in Hawaii, and I was dying for jelly donuts and pumpernickel bagels like woah).

be still my beating heart

It gets worse…  Much worse.

Hi. My name is Rose, and I’ve shopped at Walmart recently.

(Hi Rose).

Yeah, I need a Walmart Anonymous meeting or something to help me cope.

i’ve been here, and i’ve spent money. oy.

I’m downright ASHAMED that I’ve supported the giant corporation that I’ve been a sworn enemy of for years.  I mean, I belong to an anti-Walmart watchdog group that keeps tabs on all of the pollution-causing antics, third world sweatshop supporting practices and employee rights-squashing shenanigans that the big blue box condones (and usually tries to hide with price roll back smoke and mirrors).

what do all these products have in common? check the brand. sigh.

It still gets WORSE.

I’ve used paper towels.  Lots of them.

the devil’s mess vessel

(I’m basically in tears at this point.  Who am I? Where has the real Rose gone?).

I’ve drank coffee made in a Keurig.  Oh how I swore I never would.  But I did. In multiple homes on multiple occasions… and I liked it.  It’s delicious.  I even bought more K-cups to refill the ones I willfully consumed.

the set-up here at nick’s. it’s sinfully wasteful… and yet sinfully delicious.

look out landfills, mama’s thirsty!

And if we’re getting really honest – which we are, I’m confessing to quite a lot of eco-sins here – I’ve also used some chemically crazy cleaning agents.  A little bleach here, a little neon colored scented spray there.  SIGH.

oh the shame. i should have to turn in my friendship bracelets and bandanna. am i even a hippie anymore?

I mean, I have excuses – sure.  I’ve been a guest in the homes of others.  I’m trying to be polite and keep things simple.  I’m living out of suitcases (essentially), and for a while we were technically homeless.  Going with the flow, not making waves, and so on… but you know what they say: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I know I’m being hard on myself.  But there’s a certain level of conscientious living that I’ve strived for and I feel like I’ve just totally ignored all of my earthly beliefs lately.

Really though, there is some adjustment period to be expected.  I didn’t pack rags with us like I had intended to (I was so ill the day the movers came to our house in Hawaii, so many of my plans for what was to get packed/shipped and what was to come with us for immediate access went totally out the window – I’m lucky to have underwear and socks with me, it was that crazy, I was that ill).

So I’ve been bad and I know it. 

Duggs and I went more than a year with only buying a single roll of paper towels for our home (for doggie pee when we were dog sitting and other such “emergencies”).  We use cloth napkins, rags, and towels.

I had actually kicked my coffee habit to the curb and was drinking tea, usually only one caffeinated tea a day – the others decaf, herbal, etc.  And even if/when we made coffee, it was with a regular pot.  Many of my (dear beloved) pals have gone Keurig, and while the idea of making one cup at a time seems convenient and nice, the waste just seems inexcusable.  All that packaging! Ugh.  (And I know there’s the “my K-cup” thingy that’s reusable, but still… who uses those? It’s way more fun and easy to just buy the regular disposable K-cups).

And Walmart? Ha! I haven’t been in a walmart in years.  Actually, Duggs and I made ONE purchase there the entire time I lived in Hawaii.  And before that, I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d been in one.

I like to practice what I preach.   I sure try to anyways.  We all slip up, yes.  I know I’m not perfect, but I try and that’s been something I define myself by, a source of pride.

As an American I know I have power in my vote, sure.  But we all have a power that seems to carry even more impact: consumer power.  Where we spend our hard earned money speaks volumes.  By not buying products I consider wasteful or harmful, by not shopping at stores whose practices I’m not down with – I vote with my money.

I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in recent years. It seems like every year since ’07, my resolution has been “to be greener,” and every year I’ve made imporvements.

Buying and eating better food to not support farming practices I don’t agree with (factory farming is downright evil) and to be kinder to my body is one that I’ve worked on for years.  The amount of waste reduction in our home has been impressive.  Using less and less “disposable” items and more reusable stuffs – it’s better for the earth and it’s better for our pocketbooks.

Do you know how pricey paper towels and paper napkins are?  That junk adds up! Back in Hawaii, I cut up one old towel and made like 15 rags.  They work better than paper towels and you just wash ’em and voila, good to go.  Cloth napkins are nice too, they’re softer on your skin and again, save money, waste less, so on.  Making our own cleaning products is WAY better for the environment and much, much cheaper.  Those fancy products add up; but white distilled vinegar?  Blessedly affordable.

oh wdv, our love affair will never ever end!

My crunchy habits do save us money, which is great.

But more than that, I’ve been able to live a lifestyle I’m proud of, one that allows me to live out my beliefs.  

So without those habits I feel like I’m being untrue to my heart.  I’ve had that R.E.M. song stuck in my head for days, and I don’t think it’s coincidence.  My eco-religion is a little lost right now.

I’m not all evil these days, though.  I’m slowly getting back into my green hippie groove.   The jostle of moving and being on the road, going from place to place was unstable.  But now that we’re here at Nick’s and settled in, I’ve been getting back into a greener routine.  I know it won’t be long before I’m up to my old hippie tricks and living at a level that’s reasonable and good.

It’s just the lapse that happened during the in-between for which I feel guilty.

I had to confess, get it off my chest.  But that’s it, I’m wiping the slate clean and moving on.  While I’m not pleased with some of the wasteful ways I’ve taken up lately, and the whole Wamart thing (*shudders*) … I’m not going to beat myself up too much.  What’s the point?

I’ve recognized the problem, and that’s always the first step.  So now, it’s about moving on and regaining my crunchy cred.  I’ll post soon (tomorrow maybe?) about the greenie ways I’m getting back and the hippie practices I’ve never lost sight of.  There are so many little, easy ways to keep an eco-friendly home, save money and be nice to ourselves and our animals (chemicals kill, yo).

And at some point I should post about all the crunchy hippie habits of mine that save money.  You’d be amazed at how my gentle ways also go so easy on the wallet.  But that’ll be a long post, and I’ll need to think of all the things I do – I don’t want to leave anything out.

For today though, the confession feels nice.  It’s off my chest – so thanks for letting me do that.

As always, thanks for reading!  xoxo, hhr

Image Sources for the ones that aren’t mine:
Trust God image (it’s actually a teeshirt you can order, rad!)
Dunkin Donuts pic
Walmart storefront pic

Running Into Tragedy

(Warning: sad content about a fatal motor vehicle accident).

Yesterday afternoon I went for a run.  Well, more accurately, it was a jog and walk mix up, doing three minute intervals of each.  Considering how sick I’ve been over the last few months and how little exercise I’ve gotten in (I haven’t gone on a run in way too long), I’m really rather proud of myself!

red faced and sweaty close up. yikes!

happy pooch on a run

It was a sun-filled, warm afternoon.  I wanted to get an idea of where I have to run around here, what the scenery and paths are like, sideswalks vs. grass, quiet roads vs. busy streets and so on.  I used my RunKeeper app to notice the mileage and keep track of landmarks – I now have a great idea of whereabouts my half-mile and mile marks are, etc.

these will be tall vineyards one day

on south roberts road, a little ways down from our house

The pooch was happy to stretch his legs.  The worst part about me being sick and not going for runs is that the pooch doesn’t get to go jog either.  Now, he’s had a lot of chance to play lately.  At the hotel in Hawaii there was a doggie park for him, all during our trip he got to hang out with other pooches and play, and without fenced-in yards – to go potty he was taken on walks.  So it’s not like he’s all cooped up… but the pooch LOVES going for runs with me.  He was so excited he pulled on the leash the entire time, to the point that it was straining and annoying.

exploring doggie

my jayjers

a little farm access road i found to jog down and get away from traffic

While I was out I had the music pumping, I took some fun snapshots with my iPhone camera.  I was really stoked for myself, exercising again, getting some sun, checking out my new home, etc.

a fun place to run, so green and open

I was on my way back to the house, jogging my last “run” interval when I looked further down the road and I saw a ton of dirt and dust clouding up into the air.  Traffic started backing up and I could see cars swerving and zig-zagging.  Something was wrong, and I could just tell.  It seemed like an accident.  So I took off in a sprint and tore down the road.

I am so out of shape, and I’m sore today already… but when I can tell something serious has happened, that lifeguard in me just responds and I sprinted the whole way there.  I got to scene and started yelling, “I’m an RN, is anyone hurt?”

I could see one conversion van, blue with handicap decals and a wheelchair ramp, just smashed to pieces and sticking out into the road at a weird, dangerous angle.  I saw a semi truck in the opposite lane pulled over, and who appeared to be the driver, trying to direct traffic.

a photo of the accident from observer today (link below)

From what I initially gathered, one man was dead and the other was fine – no one else claimed to have been involved and no one else said they were hurt.  The deceased was pinned underneath the rear axle of the blue van, and the scene was just horrendous.

Some volunteer firefighters on the scene started calling up more guys.  They said they would need a lot of help, and I asked if I should run home to get Duggs (“my husband’s a Marine – do you need him?” – “oh yeah, go get him now!”).

So I sprinted home as fast as I could, got Duggs and we hurried back to the accident.  It all happened a country block away from Nick’s house (where we live now) and we could see the whole thing from the end of our driveway.  By the time we got back there so many professionals were on the scene and taking care of everything, they didn’t need us at all and we were told we could go home.

we were really close to the wreck

standing in the driveway, looking toward the accident scene

Now.  I did take some photos with my phone.  I was worried that people were going to try and move the car or move the man, so since I was the first one on the scene with a camera – I just started taking some photos in case things weren’t left as is (I was just trying to do anything I could to help).  No.  I will not post those photos or share them.  I’m going to delete them actually, the officer directing the scene already told me he didn’t need them (it turns out they didn’t end up moving the vehicles or the man).

I went back home and I just felt so weird.  I was so sad for the man who died and for his family.  I know accidents happen all the time, people die everyday – but it’s sad when you deal with it firsthand, so up close.  And I was all mixed up.  I had been so happy, so excited to be out on a run – and now patting myself on the back felt weird.  It felt disrespectful or inappropriate.

But life has to go on, right?

I didn’t know the man who was killed yesterday.  I’m not suffering or grieving his loss.  But I know that many are, and that’s what makes me sad.  After we got back to the house I went out back to the vineyards and jogged, walked, prayed, and just cooled down.  I aksed God to bless the man who lost his life, to comfort his family, loved ones, the other driver and everyone involved.  Other than praying, I wasn’t really sure what to do.

happy pooch, running and playing

love the views of grape country

off leash running in back of the house, sprinting up and down the grassy access road between vineyards

Today in the news I saw the story about the accident.

Turns out the man who died was a very well-known and respected former public official: John Dillenburg.

john dillenburg, rest in peace – this is a photo of him they posted on the daily observer, from 1999

He’s been serving in government since the 70s, he was in the national guard and he went to State Ranger school out here.  His whole life he’s given back to his community and the people around him.  His wife of 45 years survives him, along with his daughter and grand-daughter.

Forty-five years of marriage.  Wow.

My heart breaks for his wife, and now I ask God to bring her comfort and peace.  I just can’t imagine what she’s going through.  I wish there would have been something we could have done, some way we could have helped or saved him.  But that’s not how this played out.  The only respite is that he didn’t suffer, it all must have happened so quickly.

Here’s the link to the news story, you can read all about his service and the work he did in this part of the country.

While I am happy to have gone on a run and to have worked out, I’m just left in an interesting state of mind.  I’ll take this experience as a call to appreciate life, to recognize how fragile we are, how fleeting and delicate life can be.  Each day is a gift, and every day we encounter so many blessings.

I’m in awe of God’s beautiful creation – coming from amazing Hawaii to wester New York, which although different in scenery, is another gorgeous, green, natural place.  I love living here so far, and I’m so grateful for my life.  I’m so grateful that I felt well enough to go running yesterday, that my husband and loved ones were alive and well at the end of the day.

Even on our worst days, there is so much gratitude to fill our hearts to overflowing.  Ever since having cancer, I try to approach and value every day as so special.  But it’s easy to get caught up, it’s easy to get into a routine and come to know distraction.

smiling, again – there’s lots to smile about and even more to be so grateful for.

So while yesterday is a tragedy and it’s sad, and the whole thing horrifies me and hurts my heart, at least I can try and take away some lessons.  A wake up call, a reminder, a poignant and painful lesson about just how precious every moment is.

I know I hugged Duggs much tighter than usual last night.  And I hope everyone who’s blessed enough to have your loved ones alive and well will do the same.  Be glad for all that you do have.

As always, thanks for reading my blog. 

 

Aloha to Hawaii, I’ll Miss You So… Saying GoodBye In Photos

Aloha Beautiful Hawaii! 

aloha rainbow state!

good ole wackiness from my first ever trip to hawaii, back in 2009

Saying goodbye to paradise was harder than I thought it was going to be.  This next step of life is so exciting and wonderful, and trust me: I’m blessed, happy to be where I am physically, emotionally, and everything – this point in life is good.

honeymoon at turtle bay, an amazing time

Our life in Hawaii was extreme, we saw great times and faced challenges.  We reunited there after deployments, but it’s also the place from which we had to say good bye.  We spent sun kissed afternoons out on the water, luxurious days at Turtle Bay, fun evenings out and about… it’s where we said “I do,” and it’s where we found the apple of our eye – our sweet pooch JJ Duggan!

our wedding day

exchanging vows on kailua beach, we did our wedding our way and it was so perfect for us

me and the sweet lil’ pooch, oh i’m so glad we found him in hawaii

It’s also where I’ve battled some health issues, it’s where we suffered a great loss when we experienced our miscarriage, coping through a lonely and hard deployment that was tossed at us without much warning.  But through it all, we came out on top, our marriage was bonded tighter and stronger – so we’ll take with us the happy sunny sweet tropical memories and get ready for a clean slate as we wipe away and move past some of life’s tougher trials.

saying goodbye before a deployment

saying hello when he comes back home again! ahhh, the reunion kiss is always the best.

I’m excited to be in New York and starting this next phase of our lives.  We’re literally writing the first page of a new chapter.  Matthew is out of the Marine Corps and he’s now a civilian, we’ve left Hawaii and moved to New York.  We’re setting out on our own, together.  Duggs was already established in the USMC and living in Hawaii when I came out and joined him – this is a step we’re taking together, going through it all hand in hand.

So yes, I’m stoked to be here in New York…

But I’m going to genuinely miss Hawaii.  I just wanted to take a little post to reflect on the gorgeous aina paradise and really say Aloha.

aloha to paradise, i’ll miss the warm pacific oh so much

we had so much fun boating and out in the hawaiian sun – too much fun to be had every hawaiian day

Hawaii is the kind of place where everywhere you go, there’s an epic view and a breath-taking scene to just suck in and fill yourself with.  The lush mountains, rainbows, flowers, the amazing bright blue oceans and the warm buttery sun bathing all of us.  Hawaii really is this vibrant, happy, relaxed paradise and I am so incredibly blessed to have lived there and spent the time there I was able to.

horseback riding on the north shore, romantic and something i’ll never forget. a truly one of a kind experience.

this island is incredible, i could take a million pics and still wish i had more

When family and old friends came out to visit, we were able to have an awesome time with them in Hawaii – showing off our island home.  I made some amazing friends and connections in Hawaii, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay refreshed and renewed my faith and my love of Christ.

sky diving day in the fall of 2010 – duggs, me, anna (my sister), and brian (duggs’ all time bff)

hope chapel women’s retreat 2011 – arise and shine!

L.O.V.E. HCKB Women’s Retreat 2012

me and ashtan and her navy day ball!

haunted lagoon 2011 at the polynesian cultural center, with ashtan + me

girl’s hiking morning at makapuu lighthouse, while all of our hubbies were deployed we made the best of it!

hope chapel k-bay is where i so found my heart for God – this past christmas was so awesome, here i am in between mel and tami!

The military experience is one that we’ll always remember.  Me as a spouse and Duggs as a dutiful member of the United States Marine Corps.  His service is the whole reason we were ever in Hawaii.  Even though the USMC liked to throw wrenches in our plans all the time, I have the utmost respect for the branch and the military in general. I’m grateful for the hard and brave work those dedicated men and women do, and I’m so proud to be married to a man as nobel as a Marine.

our first usmc ball together, in 2010

I tried to pick a couple photos to sum up my amazing Hawaiian experience, the wonderful times I’ve spent in paradise.  And yeah, it was impossible.  So thus… here’s a crazy montage of pics as a way for me to say Aloha!

I’ll miss Hawaii so very much.  I hope that we’ll be able to visit again one day, and hopefully it won’t be too far in the future that we get to go back.  Until then, I’ll take my mainland life one day at a time and find new beautiful sights to oooh and aaah over, I’ll discover new favorite places and I’m sure Duggs and I will forge tons of new memories and create lots of new adventures, all with stories to tell.  But as we do, I take some little pieces of Hawaii with me always – the sea turtle tattoo I got on my first trip to the island, the wedding ring on my hand that will always make me think of Kailua’s soft sandy beach, and the thousands of memories forever etched into my heart.

Aloha Hawaii – I’ll love you always! 

pretty islands (photo credit here)

And to my readers, I thank you (as always) for reading! xoxo, hhr

Retreat IceBreakers – Copy, Borrow, Steal!

This past weekend was the annual Women of Hope retreat.  140 women gathered on the beautiful North Shore at  Camp Mokule’ia.  I was invited to be on the ministry team for the event, and it was my pleasure to help out.

photo courtesy of robyn pratt - to give y'all an idea of the cafeteria we were in all weekend, this is where we played all of the ice breaker games.

One of my roles was to come up with and lead some icebreaker activities.  A lot of the women were new to retreat and new to the community.  Hope Chapel has multiple services and campuses, so even women who’ve been attending for years may not have had the pleasure to cross paths.

The theme of the ice breakers was to connect the women.  Our goal was to foster friendships, highlight commonalities, encourage teamwork.  Basically, it was all about bonding and creating a stronger sisterhood.

Annmarie, my dear Irish pal, was my co-leader and we had a blast all weekend!  We’re both pretty funny (if I do say so myself) and we were able to inject a lot of banter and jokes into our on-the-mic time.

here's a pic of annmarie - with her hubby vic. i snagged this off of her fb!

So, since I helped create all of these games, with lots of borrowed common ideas and a little bit of my own creativity – I’ll be the first to encourage any readers to go ahead and re-use them.  Borrow these ice breakers for your next retreat, workshop, classroom, whatever.  And if you do, let me know how it goes!

Stand Up / Sit Down

I’ve played variations of this game tons of time, in all kinds of group settings.  Since the idea was to connect women, we came up with this idea in a planning meeting for the event.  We drafted a list of categories to call out, some serious and some fun.

How to Play the game:  Basically, Annmarie and I read a list.  We told the gals, if what we read applies to you – stand up.  While standing, look around and see who else is standing with you.

For the first night it was a good way for the women to get a feel for who they’ll have things in common with – who’s going to be up nice and early, who will stay up late.  For the newest members, finding out commonalities is a great way to start a conversation.  It’s also a gentle way to start things out, no one had to do anything crazy or super outgoing.

The list had administrative items like “first time at a retreat,”  “if you’ve been to five or more retreats,”  we listed out all the church services HCKB offers, we asked about what campus they attend, if they’re visting from another church.  Morning people and then night owls were asked to stand – this was all so people could find a familiar face, so newbies wouldn’t feel alone.

We had a lot of silly items, “love sushi,” if you “like rock’n’roll” please stand up!  Dog lovers, cat lovers, parents, married, single, and so on.   Oh, and we called out for “motorcycle owners” knowing durn well it would apply to a specific person, and it was so funny!

Pros: it was easy, fun, our jokes made it funny, and people seemed to have fun when something they liked or included them was called.

Cons: it was simple, possibly kinda boring, and it doesn’t really work if it goes on and on forever.

I didn’t hear any negative feedback on it, in fact people said it was fun.  I know it sounds like it would be really boring, but when you actually do it – people get pumped.

Things in common game! 

I’ll preface this game by saying that when everyone checked in to camp, they were given a yarn tied around their wrists.  Groups who came in together were told to get different colors.  We had pre-cut a pile of them, seven different colors.  Then, during the event when we needed to break up into groups – using yarn color was the easiest way to go.  By breaking up people who traveled together, ladies were forced to make new friends and get out of their social comfort zones.

How to play the game:  Teams were given five minutes (or was it ten?) to brainstorm a list of things they had in common, every single one of them!  Team with the most commonalities, wins.  A prize will be given (we used a paper bag full of candy and treats).  The catch is that if other teams also listed the same thing, they’d cancel each other out.

After time was called, we went one team at a time and they read their lists, if others heard something called out that they had written down, they’d cross it off.

It went really well.  They ladies had to get creative, clever and learn about each other very quickly.  The ONLY way to succeed was to find things out about each other.   The pressure of the timer helps everyone to bond by coming together.

I created this game based off some similar ones I’d seen online.  I really loved it.  The winning team had 37 items!  Examples ranged from “we all love chocolate,” to listing anatomical consistencies, “we all have boobs,” “we all have hair” being some (it’s easier for a same-gendered team to play if you go that route!).  Some answers were really sweet.

Pros: Players get to know each other, it was fun, the sillier the answers – the more everyone laughed.  It got the teams working together, competing.  It was everything an ice breaker should be.

Cons: I think it could get a bit boring during the reading.  Since there’s only one list, a lot of people just had to listen and hang out during the reading phase.  It could be hard to figure out things you have in common, especially if they were more meaningful things/less superficial.

Mad Libs-styled Skits

skit performance - this one took place in narnia!

We ran this game in three parts – so it helped to fill a lot of time, and the opportunity for teamwork was immense.

How the game is played: 

every team did a great job!

Part One: Every team takes out a sheet of paper.  Annmarie and I give them six categories, they must come up with something for each one.

Our’s were:  a location (anywhere – real or fictional), a date (day, month, year – past, present or future), a food, a celebrity, a Bible verse, and an Olympic sport.

The teams filled in the lists and then we collected them.  And of course, we redistributed them so each team had a list they didn’t create.  The instructions were that each team must create a performance using ALL six elements on their list, each one must be incorporated somehow.  We told them they could write a song, put on a skit, anything really!

amanda on the guitar as her team sang an original, and hilarious, song!

 

i loved watching all of the performances

Part Two: We just gave them all 20 minutes to practice.  Practice during free time was encouraged, but just to make sure everyone did a great job, we opted for practice time instead of doing a different ice breaker.

Part Three: Performance time!

This was so fun.  Our lead pastor, Tami, was in tears watching the show.  She was so impressed at the great job every team did.

Groups were judged on creativity, humour, thoughtfulness, fact accuracy, props, energy and using everything on their lists.  Prizes were given to first place and two runner ups!  Picking the winners was about impossible, each team did an amazing job!

Pros: LOTS of bonding time.  We saw so much teamwork and creativity.  Groups spent a lot of time together.  Women who usually stay behind-the-scenes totally got up on stage and gave it their all. New friends were made, people had fun, it was fun for the audience to watch.  Since our retreat was faith-based, having a Bible verse in there was a good way for them to incorporate the Word into the project.

I just heard rave reviews about the skits, everyone seemed to have enjoyed it very much.  By creating the mad libs style lists, the skits were wacky and funny!  Since they had no idea they’d be doing skits ahead of time, they didn’t really have props, so it was fun to see everyone come up with stuff on the fly.  We had a lot of musicians at camp, with instruments, so the music abounded!

Cons: I used Curling as an example of an Olympic sport, and I’m pretty sure five out of seven teams used it, so that was kind of a bummer.  I’d caution anyone using this activity to limit the number of examples you give.   It was a time-consuming activity, a lot of the groups needed much more than the 20 minute allotment to put it all together.

The idea for this game just came to me Friday night during the teaching.  I quickly scribbled the rough idea down, then Annmarie and I hashed out the details.  I’m really quite sure the inspiration was Devine – it just popped into my head out of no where.  So praise God for the spurt of creativity!

So, if you were at retreat – what did you think about the ice breakers?  Annmarie and I really tried to give everyone activities that would encourage friendship, sisterhood, and bonding.  Mostly, we wanted everyone to just have fun.

If you’re going to use any of our game, please let me know how it goes and what modifications you make to suit the needs of your groups!

as always, thanks for reading!  xoxo, hhr

Whew. What An Amazing Weekend – Women Of Hope Retreat 2012

I spent this past weekend on the North Shore with 140 of God’s LOVEliest women at my church’s 2012 women’s retreat!

the women of hope

I’m fired up, filled to overflowing, loved, happy, encouraged, humbled, grateful, and … exhausted!  Hence, this post isn’t the actual rundown post.  No, this weekend was so full of post-able pieces of wisdom, insights, joy, fun, photos, and good ideas it’s going to take me a hot minute to compile it all together.  I think I’ll actually make a few posts.

I was so honored to be on the ministry team, working at the event.  I was in charge of the tie dye event and I came up with/led some ice breakers.  I want to post about the group bonding games we did in hopes that others could take the ideas and use them for their own events (Annmarie and I co-led the ice breakers and we are oh so clever, we invented our own games for the ladies to play!!).

The ministry was amazing.  We had devotionals, testimonies, teachings, praise and worship, prayer, prayer and more prayer.  Eight women were baptized in the ocean! EIGHT! Countless women had their faith renewed, re-ignited; sins were purged, the enemy was attacked, others were forgiven.

ocean baptism - amen!

The theme of retreat was LOVE.  We are Lovely, Overcoming, Victorious, and Eternal.

I learned so much, I just feel so pumped up.  I’ve been falling off in my obedience and commitment to God, and this weekend really gave me a chance to dig in and reconnect.  I was able to lay a lot of my own junk down and serve my God, happily.

So, there is MUCH to share, much to say and much to show.  Just give me a few days to collect my thoughts (and notes – I used like seven different notebooks, so everything is all scattered and out of order)… and a series of posts will ensue!

camp mokule'ia is amazing.

If you have any requests of stuff you’d like me to talk about, lemme know.

Oh, and the location!  The location was epic.  Camp Mokule’ia is peaceful and amazing.  The new direction of the facility is to live and run the operations of the camp in a way that is most kind to the land it’s on.  Sustainable living is totally promoted with a new gray water system, aquaponics, composting, gardening, and beefed up recycling.  A hippie like me couldn’t be more excited, especially because Camp management bases all of their green-inspired efforts in Scripture!  I’ll be interviewing the owner of the Camp and giving a full explanation of all their new eco-friendly installations, what the impact has been like, the theological inspiration for the efforts, and how camped have been responding.  So rad, right!?!?

I’m excited to get cracking.  Love to all of my sisters – thank you for a wonderful weekend.

Thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

being grateful for grace

So, I’ve been a bit of a derelict.  In adjusting to my new job, getting through the holidays, adding a lot of working out into my schedule, and any other excuses I can think of – some things have slipped a bit.

I haven’t been crafting as much lately.  I’m behind on my TV shows (tragic, I know).

And sadly, some aspects of my Spiritual Life have slipped. 

Around the time of making New Year’s Resolutions Goals, I decided to make my prayer life, and time spent with God, more of a priority.  It seems kinda lame to slap “pray” on a to-do list; shouldn’t prayer be constant, readily on my mind, and a must-do kinda item (not something that can just get dropped to make time for other activities)?

But I’m not perfect, and so I am literally making it a goal, I am slapping it on my to-do list (well, maybe I’m gingerly placing it there).  I want to work more on my relationship with God, making time for Devotion is a priority for me. 

yesterday's sunrise, as seen from my front yard - a beautiful brand new day, an awesome symbol for starting fresh

Duggs and I go to Church. we’re great about saying Grace before meals, and we have our bed time prayer.    But I used to wake up and pray, do some yoga and thank God for the millions of blessing I experience daily, play worship music while cleaning, driving or working out, Bible study or focus on a devotional just about everyday, and so on.  I used to make time to focus on thanksgiving, on praying for others, on just being with God all the time.

I miss the priority that my walk with Christ used to be. 

So, I’m making the effort to get it back. 

My Dad’s friend Amy gifted me this amazing book: “Praying God’s Word” by Beth Moore.  Every time I crack it open, Beth Moore seems to speak straight to me and she facilitates the devotion I need, when I need it.  The book is divided into different obstacles we need to overcome – like overcoming sadness, or overcoming deception.  Whatever need the occasion calls for, I’m able to just flip to the chapter and find all these applicable verses.

I’ve been feeling guilty for my lack of prayer life.

I turned to the chapter on Overcoming Feelings Of Guilt, and the most perfect verse was just right there waiting for me:

Father, I thank You that You’ve had mercy on me according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion You blot out my transgressions.  You can wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin … You can create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirirt within me. (Ps. 51:1, 2, 10)

Amen.

The most perfect Word from God comes at the most perfect time; that’s how He works.  His grace is perfect, and it’s for all of us.  Just when I’ve sinned and I feel bad about it, and I’m sorry… here comes His most perfectly fitting forgiveness.  His grace washes me clean, gives me that clean slate, and helps me to honestly start fresh.

He blots out my transgressions.  He washes away my iniquity. 

It’s okay that I’ve slipped, because He is there to catch me. 

I’m so happy to have found this word and I know it’s a prayer I’ll be re-visting more than once.  It’s simple, beautiful, and just leaves me feeling clean and refreshed.  A power washing for the soul.

I feel totally picked up, dusted off and set back off in the right direction.

Thank you Lord, for your Grace.  For giving me second chances, not allowing me to wallow in shame, self-pity, or marinating in guilt when I’ve messed up.  You offer me a chance at earnest sorrow and whole forgiveness.  Thank you God.

Back on the To-Do List: Do this more often.

as always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

post-thanksgiving catch up

Hi everyone!!  I’m here, I’m doing okay.  Let me catch everyone up on the holidays, my health, and just my overall happyhippiness.

I’ve missed you dear bloggy-readers, (all seven of you, ha).  To those who’ve missed me and checked in on me, thank you.  And to those who just read, I’m thankful for you too!  (((hugs)))

Today’s post is a long one, but I think it’s a real gem.  Enjoy!

Post-Thanksgiving Catch Up

Thanksgiving!

We had a lovely Thanksgiving.

Duggs and I woke up, put on the parade and got to cooking, baking and smooching.  Yeah. We smooch a lot. I love watching the parade, just so I can get all annoyed at it’s cheesiness and weirdness, it’s so so so commercialized it’s just like a two mile long inflatable advertisement.  Bee tee dubs, when I just wrote advertisement, I totes pronounced it the Brirtish way in my head, so please do so while reading.  It’s much more sophisticated.  Ad-vert-is-ment.

Moving along…  So ole Duggs and I baked and cooked, and it was fun.  Christmas music was playing and I was just so happy.  I LOVE the holidays.  I miss my family, but to celebrate the entire holiday season with my husband: amazing!! what a gift!!

We spent the day with some great friends, here on base.  The Tanners (of course, we heart the Tanners so hard!), our friend Chiffon came and our friend Dana. So six people total.  Luckily, we cooked for about thirty, so the leftovers abounded! Score!

me and ole stinky duggs at thanksgiving dinner and he made a weird face to ruin my photo. thanks a lot duggs.

duggs and his man-friend, jed, at turkey day

the spread of amazing food. such a bountiful feast.

ashley was kind enough to purchase special doggie thanksgiving dinners for the pooches. they went totally nuts. it was great!

dana and chiffon were our other guests. this isn't a great photo bc chiffon isn't looking, but i didn't want to leave them out of my recap!

On Being Thankful

I have so much to be thankful for now. It would take up shifty-five blog posts to even list it all.  I try so hard to focus my daily prayer on thanksgiving year-round.  This season is a great opportunity to reflect on our blessings, to immerse in gratefulness for what we already have.

Also coming along with this season: the temptation to want want want, to shop, to desire things.  The temptation to become materialistic is immense.   In order to shop for others, we see many other things we want.  I’m going to write another blog about gift-giving and my process and etc.

But to summarize the concept of being thankful on Thanksgiving: I am.

  • Thank you God, for life, for your Grace, for everything.
  • Thank you family, thank you friends, for your love.  I need you all so much.
  • Thank you kind strangers, the little random angels that were at the right place at the right time to just get me through.
  • Thank you people who have allowed me to learn, facilitated the improvement of my health, offered me comfort.
  • Thank you United States Marine Corps for training my husband, bringing hom home safely, for putting a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, for taking care of our medical needs.
  • Thank you Hawaii for being beautiful.
  • Thank you church family for loving me, fostering my faith, giving me chances to love on my community and do good works, teach children, help those in need.
  • Thank you tie dye customers for your support and belief in me.
  • Thank you Cletus, for teaching me a special kind of love I never knew.  I miss you greatly  and severely.
  • Thank you JJ, how would I have ever survived this year without you?
  • Thank you Matthew Duggan, your relentless love, patience, care, charm, wit, strength, protection and devotion keep me alive in every literal and metaphorical way. I love you so much.
  • I am so thankful for TV, giggles, my warm and safe home, snacks, cold clean water, hot clean water, the Bible, Scentsy warmers, baked goods, art, music, I could go on and on and on…

Catching Up

So after Thanksgiving, we spent Saturday watching the MICHIGAN/ohiostateblah game at my pal Trish’s house.  Since the game came on at 7:00am here, we had a breakfast party!

trish and me on gameday

a rather sassy photo of me with like one third of duggs back there.

Thanksgiving weekend was a mix of awesomeness and awfulness.

Awesome, because Duggs got a 96 from work (four days off!).  I really wanted to hike one day, maybe snorkel. The weather wasn’t suited for it though, it was rainy and dreary most of the time.  I prefer exploring Hawaii on super sunny days!

It was awful because of how I was feeling.  My ear and thus my face/under-eye-area/cheekbone all started hurting.  All the plans we had for the long weekend were dumped and we spent the whole time, sans Thanksgiving Day and the Michigan game, planted in front of the TV.   We actually went on a huge movie streak and I did some Christmas-crafts, card designing, and present planning.

So… I just had to take it easy.  Rest.  Lay down.  All of which I really don’t care for.  I’m a mover and a shaker, a dancer and prancer.  I was in a lot of pain, and just really not doing well.

On Sunday night I got ambitious.  I know know know I’m not supposed to so much as touch a drop of alcohol.  And while I don’t really mind being dry, every now and then I just miss it.  That missing it has become harder around the holidays.  Spiced wine.  Eggnog. New Year’s champagne.  I cannot partake in any of it and it’s bumming me out.

Sunday night I told Duggs that I wanted to try some wine.

Sweet Duggs went out and picked up a bottle of red.  A nice pinot noir.  I had about half a glass, was enjoying it.  Then bam! All of a sudden it hit me and it was all over from there.  My throat was burning.  My tongue, swelling.  I was getting hot and clammy and I was so incredibly nauseous I couldn’t move.  We busted out the saltines and ginger ale, and I just held on.  We prayed. We prayed so hard.  And eventually, it came to pass.

Because of the porphyria, my liver just cannot metabolize ETOH like a normal liver could or would.   My doctor suggested it may have been the red wine, and that if I’d like, I can try something different.  However, that risk of feeling  acutely crappy is pretty impressive.  I felt MISERABLE.  Like, downright awful.

On Monday morning, I woke up feeling better.  I went on a decorating and cleaning rampage.  I gave this house the deepest cleaning I have since Homecoming!  I was on hand and knee scrubbing out every nook and cranny.  This place is sparkling. Seriously.

look at the shine off that floor! and this was taken a day later, even.

I cleaned so hard I was sore the next day and I chipped my nail polish, *gasp*, the horror, I know.  Don’t worry, I fixed them on Tuesday.  Monday night I started slowing down and the pain started creeping back.   I assume I pushed myself a bit too hard on Monday.

i stole this idea from my friend trish and i think it's so cute. i'll opine on gift wrap at a later time.

kitchen table, set for xmas

Tuesday.  I woke up feeling okay again.  My ear was hurting a bit, but I decided to push through and go for a run.  Post-workout I felt amazing!  Runner’s high, endorphines, it’s all good and they really do make me feel better.  It’s natural pain relief.

i fixed the nails i chipped on monday

After lunch my friend Lynnie called, and as we were chatting I decorated the Christmas Tree, lights, ornaments and all.  I’m so proud that I cranked it out in like two hours!  I had a lovely catch-up with my darling pal (thanks for calling, Lynn, I love you!).

this year's tree!

my fav ornament, courtesy of my friend krista! LOVE!

winnie-a-pooh (how i used to say it, so it's my family name for sweet ole winnie)

i like my own reflection in the ornaments. sigh. my vanity is an issue i need to work on.

Then… it hit me.  A wave of pain came over me that was so incredible all I could was just lay on the couch and text. I was texting Duggs explicatives.  We discussed going to the E.R.  I didn’t know what to do.

I realized my super tight sports bra was still on from my run.  The straps pull hard on my shoulder, which then trigger neck and ear pain.  It sounds weak, or maybe bizarre.  But this whole area of my body is so tender, inflamed, wacky, that even a simple touch like a shoulder squeeze can set me off into barrels of pain.  Hours of uber tight sports bra = crazy amounts of ouch.

I just layed out on the couch.  I cried.  I packed myself with ice. And I just hoped and hoped it would go away.

here i am, tuesday late afternoon, icing and praying ... laying in the worst pain it's been in a long time.

It was bad.  We (Duggs and I) discussed going to the E.R.  My two main docs are both out on holiday leave though, and I so hate to go to the ER blind, without someone who knows the particulars of my case to be there to help out.  (And that’s not snotty… someone unfamiliar with porphyria could accidentally make me super ill, or even kill me; also, explaining my whole medical history takes an hour, the meds I’m on are staggering and I hate explaining them all, and I just get stressed out dealing with new hands in the mix – which I know is inevitable – but it is what it is).

Tuesday evening I felt the worst, strongest, most direct pain I’d felt in a long, long time.  I could have sworn an ice pick was being jabbed into my ear and going through to my cheekbone and under my eye. Just miserable.  I couldn’t concentrate, think, do anything.

I decided to stay home, to ride it out.   I posted this on FB the next day:

it’s been a really rough week/ten days. i was miserable on thanksgiving – but i was having such a nice time with my friends – i didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. the whole long weekend was ROUGH. it’s just been crappy lately.

i’m staying positive and optimistic, and my faith is really getting me through. my lovely amazing husband helps a lot too ♥

but, i’m being honest: it’s been rough. i’m not well, and i’m not sure what we’ll try next, what there is to try next. all my docs are on holiday leave till next week =(

….

[thank you miles!!] i know i’m known for being so cheerful and upbeat, but there comes a time when i have to just be honest and admit that’s it’s been harder than i make it seem.

something HAS to give, i just know it. God has brought me through many many challenges before, and i just know He’ll do it again. and through every struggle i’ve endured, amazing good has come from it. so my hubs and i just keep examining and seeking… looking for the good that will come out of this, the lessons we can learn, the path this is leading us down. and well, we have ideas, but we’re still in the weeds. hindsight is always 20/20, so once we’re out of this, i’m sure we’ll have gained much from it. it’s just no fun going through it!

…it’s tough. but when bad things happen, when times get rough, He pulls me out and dusts me off and shows me some good that has come of it. even cancer.

loss is hard to understand. death, pain, suffering…

but i trust Him. that was my prayer last night. i was literally ailing, just tears rolling down my face from the pain and the anguish and frustration of being in so much pain for so long. and i just prayed, “i trust You. now, get me through this, please.”

so we’ll see. cancer made me a better person, times a million. i was just rotten beforehand. mean, bitchy, bitter, jealous, etc. cancer slowed me down, gave me appreciation – made me NICE. i’m tellin ya… i wasn’t always sugary sweet.

Wednesday was much better.  Still in pain, but it was calming down.  I was starting to rope it in and get ahead of it.

hi, wednesday morning!

I worked on some crafts, took it easy, and just tried to focus on feeling good and calm, asking peace into my body.  Inviting Grace to just come in and soothe.  And it started working a little bit. Thank God.

a cup of tea is oh so nice.

Wednesday afternoon Duggs and I had doctor’s appointments and errands.  During and afterwards my ear was just aching.

my fun outfit for rainy cool wednesday

We came home and had a veg out night, and I just had to ice and take it easy.  It’s just been a rocky road lately.

Thursday. 

Today is Thursday.  I woke up feeling alright and I’m trying to be productive.  I’m doing lots of chores, working on a romantical surprise for Duggs, sprinkling some more Christmas flavor around the house.

this me and the pooch right now. hi!

I have a lot I want to talk about, but I don’t want to have this textual diarrhea and blurt it all out in an unthoughtful manner.  I need to write and edit before I post.  I’m thinking about opening up the floodgates to some feelings I’ve been plastering in for a while.

Losing my health is something worth grieving.  I’ve been really emotional lately whenever I think of past memories that highlight my vitality and strength, like my English Channel Expedition, for example.   On a related note, I actually went swimming recently and I was so slow.  It left me sad and longing for when I was quick, sure of my physical self, toned and in shape.

But, it’s not a total wash. Not by a long shot.  I’m still so very able-bodied and well in many many ways.  I must keep that in mind, be grateful for the many parts that do work, and the oddles of things I can do.

On the worst of days, this medical malady of mine is debilitating. Sure.  But I have okay days, good days and wonderful days on which I’m able to do quite a lot.

I have no idea how I could maintain a work schedule while I’m in this condition.  My docs don’t consider me stable enough to work, and it’s hard taking criticism from people for not having a job.  It’s been really hurting my feelings lately.  I WISH I was working right now, I WISH I was doing what a normal, healthy person of my age would be doing.

Similarly, we want to start a family soon.  But with my meds, it is out of the question.  And there’s no end in sight.  I have no idea, no clue, how long I’ll be on these meds or when something will work.  Family planning is 100% on hold now.  And after the miscarriage, it’s hard to have zero clue when we can try again.  It’s very painful, and I don’t think many people realize how that feels.

So yeah, I have more to say, but I want to say it carefully and tactfully.  In the meantime, at least I’ve come this far in opening up my vulnerability and being honest about what’s really going on.  I am happy, and positive, optimistic.  I do smile.  But I also cringe and cry, I worry and I get upset.  I feel loss and sadness, and most often: physical pain.  There’s two sides to this whole thing, and I think I can show both now.

As always – thank you for reading !! xoxo, hhr 

P.S.  I totally have so many blog posts I’m just dying to type out and put up! More fun stuff, less heavy stuff, too.  Like: Holiday craft and gift ideas, more cruelty-free product reviews! Christmas tie dye, Making your own giftwrap (a fave of mine for years now!), etc.  I want to post about giving, and what orgs Duggs and I are giving to this year.  So, I’ll try and get back on a more regular blogging schedule, I mean it.

operation christmas child part 2: seven new awesomely crafted care packs

I asked and y’all answered!

OCC Part 2 – Seven More Boxes Made With Love, Thanks To You!

My Church, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, participated in this year’s Operation Christmas Child project, a drive to send shoes boxes stuffed with toys, gifts, candy and what-not to underprivileged kids world-wide.  The church’s goal was 3,000 boxes.  Matthew and I made two on our own.  When we turned them in, our church was well under it’s goal.  I solicited an offer – if anyone funded the cost of a box, I would do all the legwork to create, shop and fill a box.

I wrote this blog about OCC a couple weeks ago.

Seven more boxes were funded, packed with love and turned in – thanks to y’all!  My friends and family came together to help us with this amazing project. And ultimately… our church reached it’s goal!  3,002 total boxes are being sent to kids in need.

AMEN!

How awesome is that?!?!?

Thank you: Miss Alice (my wonderful mother-in-law), Viper and Anna (my Dad and step-mom), Claire and the Williams Family, Kayla and the Hayes Family, Staci and the Ostrowski Family, and my lovely friend Ariana!  With all of your love and funding we were able to make SEVEN boxes to go out and send some love to seven more children.  How amazing is that?

I’m so appreciative.  I love this project and just believe in it so much!

So, because I’m too lazy to sort through all these pics… here’s a big mishmash of the assembly and turn in process, including what the inside of each box looks like.  Check ’em out:

Just to mention, every box got a hand-written note from me… I finished them so late on Saturday night though, I was too tired to snap any pics.  I used some nice stationary I had, and I just kept the letters simple and sweet.  For those of you who OK’ed it, I included your name, photos and address!   I basically just said that God loves them (the kids) and that we’re thinking of them.  And for each of you, I gave a couple generic/simple sentences about what you like to do… “We like going to the beach” or “I live in New York!”  etc.

THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE!