A SMILE is worth a thousand words

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Thatta girl, Minnie Mouse, smile! Smile! Smile away.

Whether everything always seems quite so hunky-dory, or not, whether Mickey’s in trouble or not,  Minnie still pulls herself together and stands hopefully and blissfully smiling away.  Why?  Because just the very twinge of hope that happens when you take that tiny effort to smile, gives both yourself and others a sense of peace that it’s gonna be okay.  It sure makes ol’ Mickey feel relief to see her smiling, and an extra boost to keep going on whatever mission he’s got planned with his crew to solve their latest conundrum.  And I’m quite sure that this little cutie pie, Minnie, feels a little more like her ol’ self after a good deep breath and a little flash of that grin we all love and know.  What is it about that little old smile?

It’s just a cartoon.

I know this.

I haven’t completely lost my mind. 😉

But, she kinda reminds me of myself sometimes.  Yet, I’m neither a cartoon… or a mouse.

For me, I’m wife and mother of 5, trying her darndest too kick cancer’s butt for the second time… yet somehow today,  I relate to Minnie Mouse.  Go figure.

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My smile can be my best weapon, and sometimes thwarts me.  No matter how incredible or horrible I’m feeling, I guarantee you, I’ll have a smile on my face.  My eyes may not be very twinkly when I’m really in some pain, but I always feel like smiling.  It’s just a thing.  It’s genuine.  But can be pretty confusing to docs in an ER, surgeons post op, nurses taking care of me, or even mere acquaintances that see me and say “I was gonna ask how you’re feeling, but you seem to be feeling much better, I guess, right?”  The smile is confusing.   I just love people.  When I see people, it’s like social morphine.  It warms my heart and I’m happy to see them.  Even nurses and doctors whom I’ve never met.  Hence… I smile.

I inherited an incredibly large smile.  I have teeth for days.  Not like a shark or anything, although sometimes one might want to start linking me to a great white once my molars start making their presence known quite visibly when I laugh!  And, mind you,  it’s always a good day when I spend it laughing.  Laughter, I always believe is the best medicine (and exercise).  Side Note: The laughing exercise plan is something I can definitely stick to more than the regular 5 days a week gym plan.  I’m all over it a good 7 times a week multiple times a day, if not all day.  Great for the abs!  And if it causes you to laugh so hard you snort a drink out through your nose, then score! Now you’ve cleared your sinuses, too! Win -Win!   …  Now with this whole gargantuan-grin situation comes a unique ability to smile or laugh in most situations. Whether appropriate or not. You kinda have to.  With teeth this size, it’s more comfortable to expose them than to just keep em in all day.  It’s actually exhausting.  Ha!

No seriously.  I grew up laughing a lot with my family.  Finding the positive in most situations,  and no matter how tough times every got (and we definitely have seen our share of some very rocky roads),  we found reason to and comfort in our smile.  Sometimes not in that very moment.  Sometimes, the graces to see the silver lining came later.  But they always came.

Praise God, though,  that that Big Guy upstairs  has blessed me to find much to grin about, even now.   Even in our toughest moments, when we’re digging for every last source of GRIT and strength we can rally, we can look at one another and say, “THANK YOU THAT WE HAVE EACH OTHER TO KEEP US STRONG.  TOGETHER, WE’RE DOING THIS THING.”

And that, my friends, can make me smile at the end of some of my very toughest days.

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Right now,  I must admit,  my treatment has felt harder than it’s felt in a very, very long time.  It’s wearing on me physically, and been very taxing on my immune system.  By adding these extra 4 rounds after my initial 6 rounds for this current diagnosis,  it’s as though I ran a full marathon, got to the end and they moved the finish line up another 20 miles saying, “Just keep running, Mama, you can totally do this!”  To say the least, my body started hitting a wall a little ways back, and my energy for the most basic things has been pretty low.

My kids can see it,  and I can see how it’s affecting them as they watch their Mommy get sick more often and tired on most days.  You’d never know it, because they, like their mama, have a generally happy face and love to laugh, and every chance they get to enjoy and live life they do.  But periodically, especially as of late, it takes just the slightest thing to make them break.  It may happen at school or at a store, who knows. Emotions are unpredictable like that.(Happened randomly for my 12 year old at school while taking photo booth pics in the cafeteria.  It was over something silly, but it was just the straw that made my toughest nut crack, and crack she did. Much to my poor girl’s dismay).  Each of them are having their moments.  To much surprise for those around them, as they seem like every other kid, until they crack.  And why wouldn’t they?  It’s been an incredibly long haul.  They’ve seen their long blonde haired mama, in good health since August 2014.   I gotta give it to my kiddos, and to that AMAZING HUBBIE of mine,  because they are giving this crazy life of ours everything they’ve got and are heads above the rest in learning how to love and show love unconditionally in ways that most their age couldn’t imagine.

Yet if we have to do this, then that’s my prayer.  That we come out stronger.

That we live and love and laugh all the way through this.

I my kids grow up to love deeper and with a strength like no other.

That we continue to cry when we need to,  be quiet when we need to, and SMILE and laugh till our gut hurts whenever  we possibly can, all the way through all of this.

Because it’s healthy.

And as for me, when  I can gather up any and every ounce of energy that I have,  I pray to pour it all into whatever big or tiny event I attend (my apologies, but lately I’m being pretty picky in my  choosing first and foremost those with hubbie and kids) and go out with gusto to seize that moment for all it’s worth.)  And do it all with one BIG FAT SMILE!

Why?

Not because my smile is EVER phony, or “put on”.

But because I find happiness in it.  It lifts my spirit to smile.  It makes me feel like “ME”.

Did you ever notice that when you smile, others smile back?  Boom! Another reason.

The gift that keeps on giving.

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Leaving you all with “SMILE” by NAT KING COLE (How I love his velvety voice!) that’s been stuck in my  head for the past 2 weeks…

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(click on pic above for YOU TUBE VIDEO OF “SMILE” by Nat King Cole)

God bless you all.  Keep praying, keep smiling, keep on trucking’ and …

...every little thing’s gonna be alright.

It’s just gotta be.

Cuz’ I know we’ve got one FIERCE GOD up there who’s all over this.

Much love,

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More Chemo to Go. More Life to Be Lived. HaBUNAmatata!

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Ah yes, “hakuna matata”, what a wonderful phrase!  As we all learned in The Lion King, it means no worries for the rest of your days.   I have to totally agree with Pumba and Timon, cuz it’s my “problem freeeee philosophy…”,  until…

I hear that after my scans, I may have to be telling my kids about adding more chemo rounds.  (I know, I know, cue a big Debbie Downer…. whaa whaa) It’s something I’ve known was a strong possibility after this last 6th round, but also something my family really hoped we’d just be done with.  I always kept that door open, preparing myself to keep going.

This Tuesday, the day that we were all set to go see Broadway’s touring production of The Lion King,  and sing out from our seats, “HaBUNAmatata” as my family had practiced all week,  I met with my doc to go over my latest scans and discuss my treatment options.

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Good News:  We’ve hit some momentum and are making progress in pecking away at each of my tumors.

Tough News:  We need to continue with this same aggressive CHEMO.  AT LEAST 4 MORE ROUNDS.

Good News:  That means that we’ve found a medicine that works for me!

Tough News:  This chemo gives me a LOT of side effects, some that I mention by way of steady cause/intestinal issues.  My most challenging, that are just unmentionable.

Good News:  I am for once in the rare percent for at least one good side effect- hair growth!  My hair has been slowly growing back since my 3rd round!!!  Who knows,  I may be tossing my a beanies and hats aside before I even finish my chemo?  So crazy!

Tough News:  I would need to figure out how to talk to the kiddos about Mommy still doing more chemo.  I needed some inspiration….

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Well wouldn’t ya know, the Big Guy upstairs didn’t leave me hangin’.  On one hand, I wanted to say that I was receiving crumby news on what was supposed to be such a fun night for our family. What kinda joke was that?!?!  But on the other hand, I realized that it was pretty cool timing, actually.  When I was receiving such crumby news,  God allowed it to happen just before such a wondeful night for our family to lift us up and inspire us.  We needed to remember who we are: A family of FAITH THAT NEVER GIVES UP.  And of course, our motto:  NO WORRIES!

#GlassIsHalfFullofSweetLEMONADE

#HAKUNAMATATA

#haBUNAmatata

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Can I just pause for a second to delight in the how “WOWed” I was by this performance, the creativity, the message, and what it did for me and for my family?!?!

My pal, Dodd Loomis, Resident Director of the Lion King met with us just before the show, and arranged for his buddy, Ben Lipitz (aka: Pumba) to give us a backstage tour after the show (while Dodd snuck in to finish up the last half of our tour. So fun)!  Thanks, guys!!! And Congrats… AGAIN!!!

I’ve got to say, every last moment was impressive, fun, unbelievable, and just… WOW!  But I really don’t know if they know what they did for our family that night.

So here’s a little shout out to them as to what we thought of them that night in the midst of all that we were experiencing this day….

(click on any pic for zoom or slideshow)

Creativity:

Each animal and character was represented in multiple varieties of costume forms from puppet shadows to puppeteering on stage to actors dressed in half costume half puppet figures that were wired throughout their bodies on all the way to their head (ex: the jaguar) which they moved about so gracefully that every glance, twitch, stretch, and leap flowed so seamlessly that your eye gazed across each figure naturally as if it had always been created such a way, while equally being amazed by the sight!  (Whew!  Excuse the run on sentence, I can barely take a breath from my excitement!) The artistry of every costume and the grace of the choreography that went on both on and off the stage to keep such constant colorful “circles of life” happening before our eyes upon the stage, throughout the audience, and in the sounds of the drums beating on the sides of the stages and in sync with the orchestra below was simply fascinating.  Never before have I seen costumes built around people in such away to enhance the make up artists’ expression of each said animal, the puppeteer’s depiction, as well as the costume designer’s expression, all working as one with the choreographers’ movements and director’s vision. It was mesmerizing.  

Production and Performance:

This cast and crew took on something that one may not realize was not in any of their comfort zone’s.  Each dancer, actor, singer didn’t previously dance, sing, and perform in this way before: i.e.  while hauling around heavy mechanical puppets and being lifted off the ground to extreme heights only to quickly move off the stage, be taken out of that particular costume and transformed into some entirely new animal that requires a new set of skills, movements, acrobatics in choreography and technique just to maneuver the new costume.  The skill involved just to move about this stage and make this show not look like a circus, but be a true broadway musical of beauty and inspirational theater, was enough to make my jaw drop.  This cast got it right.  They already brought such fierce yet graceful dance skills, combined with powerful yet velvety voices and stage presence to fill the theater and possibly burst out passersby on the sidewalks just outside.  They are made of something out of this world.  I’m quite sure that this “something” out of this world, is very Godly, and was working through them to carry a very needed message to this world as they travel.  And they did it.  

They did for me. They did it for my family.

The message I got out of it.

This show teaches clearly about the circle of life and how it moves and changes.  Life changes.  Sometimes, life can be confusing and scary.  At times, we can see no way out of those very scary moments. We may even want to run away all together.  But, that can’t solve anything forever not for ourselves or for any of “the village” of people that our lives touch.   What can last forever if we apply both Mufasa’s “Remember who you are” lesson and Pumba and Timon’s “Hakunamatata” motto…. is that if we live each moment, and take each challenge and each joy for what it is, as it comes, then we can face them remembering who we are (people of faith).  Then, we remember the strength that we have within us and behind us (the strength of KINGS (God), as Mufasa reminds us to look at the stars of all the kings out their that are always with us).  Shoot! By the time Simba climbed  back on the top of that Mountain at the end, beating his chest, singin’ “HE LIVES IN YOU!”   Y’all,  I was about to jump up in my seat like it was a Gospel revival and shout, “AMEN, MY BROTHA!!!!”  That dude was on FIIIIIIYAHHHH!!  ‘Cuz if He lives within us,  God’s got us.  So why worry?  HAKUNAMATATA!  

PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7

“CAST YOUR CARES UPON THE LORD AND HE’LL BRING YOU A PEACE AND GRACE BEYOND UNDERSTANDING…”

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The moral of the story:

I can’t say I’m not still kinda overwhelmed by it all, but I can honestly say this, when it came to telling my kids my tough news about all of these added rounds of aggressive chemo,  it was ok.  I turned on my BOB MARLEY, “3 Little Birds”, then after we all kinda chilled for a bit,  I told them about the message we’d learned from LION KING.  So 4 more rounds of chemo felt like just another thing to them.  “Mommy, God son’t leave us hanging’.  Remember, what Simba said? HE LIVE in YOU!”

(sigh)

 No worries. We can handle it, God’s gonna fill us up just like He always has and give us the grace to get through it.  And we’ll do it together.  One round and one day at a time. No worries.

#HaBUNAmatata  

#EveryLittleThingIsGonnaBeAlright

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