Happiness Project#87: Banana Muffins!

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PTSD. I’ve been through a ton of scary medical situations in my life, but none have created such a strong reaction from me as living with cancer has. Recently, someone very close to me was diagnosed with breast cancer, and has already gone through her 1st round of chemotherapy. Fortunately, although she’s had a couple of side effects from the chemotherapy meds that she started, she’s doing much (MUCH) better than I did when I went through chemotherapy. Which is SUCH a relief. To everyone.

But because of seeing her start chemotherapy, and seeing how tired it has made her, the PTSD that I have from my own experience, has been hitting me HARD. For the past 7 days, I’ve been trying to quell this crushing anxiety about it. Because it reminds me too much of the hell that I endured last summer. A hell which I honestly did not think I would survive. And even though I feel like I’ve come pretty far this year since walking out of that terrifying experience, just the word, “cancer,” strikes dread within my heart. To where I’ve been struggling with sleeping, and eating, and leaving my house.

So for the past couple days, I’ve been working on new fondant products, and baking. A lot of baking. Since the act of baking (usually) provides me a small dose of therapeutic relief. The messier, the better.

Hence these new Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, which my Daughter will be taking to her teachers tomorrow, as a THANK YOU for everything that they do. A quick little baking project, with a wonderful punch of flavor. Stress therapy has never been sweeter.

2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

pinch of cinnamon

3 ripe bananas, mashed well (I use a fork to mash them all up nice & good)

1/4 whole milk plain yogurt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two cupcake pans with 18 paper liners.

In bowl #1 combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well.

In bowl #2, either on a stand mixer, or handheld, combine all 3 mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract, mixed well. Slowly add the wet mixture (bowl #2) to the dry ingredients (bowl #1), and gently stir until the flour mixture is absorbed. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the banana mixture into each of the 18 paper cupcake liners, filling them 3/4 of the way full.

Pop the 2 pans into the oven, and bake for 18 minutes. Pull both pans out of the oven, and let cool on a wire rack. And serve, with or without butter.

The best part of this recipe? When a 4 year old bites into one, saying, “YUM!” That always makes my day. Even though they’ve recently been a little darker.

The predicament of busy.

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Every morning, I wake up breathing in the essence of life. Cherishing every new dawn, and every coinciding nightfall. Because this time of mine is precious. And not a certainty. It’s hard, if not nearly impossible, to go about my day without acknowledging the threat of possible re-lapse, that sits quietly (far) back within my consciousness. I cannot, for the sake of responsibility, believe that I will, from this year forward, never again need to worry. Because I always will, in some way or another. This is what we survivors do, I believe.

So to combat any anxiety that I feel, I try to do what most restless adults do: I stay busy. Or try to, anyway. Which sometimes feels more like a curse than a relief. But why a curse? Because the act of busyness can sometimes bring about more harm than good. Physically, and emotionally. Something that I’ve seen far too often in the lives of both adults, as well as those of children.

There’s a quote being thrown around, in many of my closest circles; “Stop the glorification of busy.” And it’s something that I wholeheartedly believe in. For myself, my daughter, and my family. After last summer’s 6 months of chemotherapy, where I was too sick to do anything on my own, one of the lessons I learned was that it was OKAY to NOT DO things. That it was OKAY to NOT be busy all the time. Because I’ve come to realize that being busy doesn’t always equate being happy. In many ways, being busy (running around & always making plans) prevents me, and many of those around me, from having the time to FEEL happiness. From acknowledging the quietness of being ALIVE. Because, yes, it’s generally within moments of silence, and quiet, that we truly FEEL the many things within our hearts & minds. Something that we’ve forgotten how to do, because of this drive to be busy doing things.

So maybe instead of allowing the busyness of life to dictate our every moment, maybe it’s time that we take the TIME to be STILL instead. Where instead of rushing to the store, we’ll sit in the parking lot, with the windows rolled down, listening to the breeze pushing it’s way through the trees. Or instead of doing the dishes every day,  we’ll let them sit in the sink, or in the dishwasher for one more day, so that we can go outside, and sit in a favorite chair, watching the clouds roll by. Maybe instead of pushing our children into 2 or 3 after-school activities, we’ll let them come home from a full day of school, so that they can PLAY instead. Where they have the freedom to DO or NOT do whatever they want. So that they can re-charge their imagination. So that we, as adults, can re-charge our lives, and in turn, our souls.

This one life of ours, is just that: one life. One chance to be who we truly WANT to be. Considering that we spend a good half of it (if not more than just half) in school, where school days are anywhere from 6-8 hours long, and then in jobs, where a job is anywhere from 40-50 hours a week, perhaps NOT being scheduled all the time, will give us the space, & time, to see the many blessings that this life has given us. To feel again. To let go of the glorification of busy, and just…breathe.

Those dishes sitting in the sink? That laundry piled up in the hamper? That dirty car resting in the driveway? They won’t be any less functional by being dirty for another 24 hours. But living through the quietness of being still? This is something much too precious to waste. This is time spend wisely.

Stop the glorification of busy. Rest. Relax. Breathe. You are worth it.

A world without standard.

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“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful, than the belief that she IS beautiful.”

Let’s talk. Let’s talk about the idea of what “beauty” is, and how we, as people,  particularly as women and girls, become “beautiful.”

Societies all over the world, show beauty in different ways. From what I’ve studied, women in Africa show beauty through intricate body paintings, and lip plates. In certain Middle Eastern countries, women become beautiful with stunning body wraps, or colorful head scarves. Here, in America, society opinions of beauty tend to revolve around a woman’s physical form, through smaller body sizes, makeup, and how a woman chooses to dress themselves. While none of these American views of feminine beauty are necessary wrong, it’s become very apparent within the past few decades how “important” they’ve become within mainstream society. Important enough so that our opinion of ourselves has been steered relentlessly towards the mindset of physical completion through society standards instead of towards what truly matters: that true beauty comes from within.

Have you ever really LOOKED at how biased society has become towards the female form? How there are FAR more stores within our malls that cater towards “beauty” products, and clothing, than any other kind of consumer product? How commercials are nearly entirely based on being a “wrinkle-free,” and “swim suit ready” mentality? How in order to be “beautiful” or “desirable” a woman must be a size 5, always dressed in fashionable clothing, with perfect hair, and a face full of makeup? That, according to magazines, the only way that you’ll be happy in life, is if you conform to the beauty of “perfection?” Or worse, if you’re NOT a size 5, without a face full of makeup, you’re not “good enough” to be seen? Because showing gray hair upon your head, or an un-formed eyebrow means that you don’t care about yourself, or body?

Well, I’m here to call ALL of that “beautiful perfection” as bullshit. How does painting one’s face every day, or covering up the gray within one’s hair, define a person’s beauty? Those winking little wrinkles around your eyes, and your mouth? They’re from smiling, and laughing. They grow each year because of JOY. So why do we feel the need to cover them up, or worse yet, erase them? Why are these beautiful marks of life considered “imperfections?” Those lovely strands of gray, threading their way throughout your hair? They’re because, as humans, we age. Have we turned a blind eye to how miraculous that is? The blessing of being well enough to celebrate another year of life, when there are so many others, because of illness, & disease, who don’t receive that blessing? Why should being a size 5 determine what a woman can or cannot wear? Does being a size 14, automatically guarantee that I won’t look just as beautiful in a summer dress, or bathing suit, as I would if I was wearing a pair of jeans? Why do we, as women, place so much importance on what others think?

Have we forgotten how important we are as individuals? There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter society, so why do we force ourselves into a cookie-cutter mindset? I, for one, refuse to do so. Why? Because my life is my own. It’s not one that’s based on what others think, or feel.

Last year, before loosing all of my hair to chemotherapy, I fell into that vicious social standard. Because I was a size 18, at that point in time, I wore jeans all the time, and shirts that hid my arms and stomach. I felt uneasy, when being out in public places, because of my weight, and because of what others might think. Which, once you really sit down, and THINK about, was, and still is, ridiculous. Yes, ridiculous. Life is complicated enough, when faced with it’s many uncertainties, than to be controlled by a society’s biased opinion.

Because of my experience with chemotherapy, and how it changed my entire body last year, I’ve found myself learning how important being REAL is. Being real about my heart, and my thoughts, and the importance of lessons learned. Lessons of forgiveness, and strength, of health, and beauty. Lessons that have shaped me into a different, hopefully better, woman this year.

A woman who’s learned that I am more beautiful with a makeup-free face, no matter my wrinkles, and scarred skin. That I am more beautiful with a hair full of lovely strands of gray, and brown freckles upon my shoulders. That I am more beautiful without painted nails or toes. That I am more beautiful because I SHOW my true, natural beauty. Because I show MYSELF.

Imagine what we could do, within society, and our own lives, if we lived within our own beauty, without bias, or expectation. Without worrying about appearances or standards. Perhaps we would accept more, we would care more, we would love more. Perhaps we would BE more.

So here’s my challenge, to women far and wide, no matter your physical size, or age, or skin tone. BE YOU. The real you. Without that painted face of makeup. Without the perfect colored hair, or perfect shaped eyebrows. You, with all of your beautiful wrinkles, and battle scars. With bared shoulders, and bared legs. YOU are BEAUTIFUL. You, beyond what a misguided society may think. You are, and have always been WORTHY. Your physical size doesn’t dictate your worth. It never has, and never will. Believe it. I do. So now, go SHOW it. Get out there, in a pretty new dress that shows off those lovely legs, or a dreamy new shirt that shows off those freckled shoulders, and show them what beauty truly IS.

I believe in your beauty.

I believe in you.

Happiness Project #86: Dragon Flyers Iced Lemonade!

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Mothers Day this year was truly MAGICAL! This was the first Mothers Day where I was healthy enough to go out and celebrate Mothers Day with my little family of 3. Which is a testament to where I’ve been and how very far that I’ve come.

What made it most US though, was how it wasn’t about flowers, or breakfast in bed, or jewelry, like a vast majority of other Mothers seem to want. Nor did I care about having an empty kitchen sink, or the laundry done. To me, those things are well…just things, that don’t really make any day more special than the last. I’m okay with a messy house on Mothers Day. A messy house means I’m doing something far more important (than worrying about cleaning) with my sassy little 4 year old daughter: spending real, uninterrupted time with her. Doing something that she loves. Which in turn, I love.

Which meant spending the day at our favorite local amusement park & zoo! Which was planned for the Friday before Mothers Day Sunday instead, so that we wouldn’t be slammed with massive crowds. Since I’ve become so much of a social introvert when it comes to being out in public places, the smaller, more familiar places, the better. Something that thankfully, my husband understands very well about me.

Anyhow, one of my daughter’s favorite rides at HH, is Dragon Flyers, where an adult passenger, with a child passenger, strap themselves into a dragon shaped flyer, pedaling themselves up & down, while the ride is in motion. Hence something akin to controlled “flying.” To say that this is my daughter’s favorite ride, is a major understatement though. Considering how she would “fly” in this ride ALL day long, if I let her. All. Day. Long. No joke.

Once we had finished “flying” and enjoying the parks other little kiddie rides, my husband and little girl enjoyed a couple of turns on the park’s lovely carousel, while I relaxed on a bench, in the sun, watching them. And while I was sitting on that bench, reviling in the moment, I realized how very blessed I was. Blessed to be healthy enough to be OUT at that favorite park, enjoying the day with my two favorite people.

Back in January, after I had finished chemotherapy, and had started living my life again, my little girl & I had gone to the same amusement park, just the two of us. But because I was so recently out of treatment, and in remission, I was still only functioning around 60%. So it was physically very difficult to run her around in her stroller at that point. Yet on this Mothers Day trip, everything was different. I WAS able to run her around in her stroller, and visit the lower area of the zoo, without exhaustion leaving me completely immobile. Being able to DO all of the “normal” physical things again, was truly exhilarating. And once again, life was reminding me of how very fleeting, and uniquely precious that it is. Something to never be taken for granted.

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To end such a perfect Mothers Day, the three of us, along with our 2 stealthy cats, and easily excitable dog, played hide & go seek until bed time rolled around. A game that is fast becoming one of my daughter’s favorite bedtime activities.

Oh! And just to add a bit of extra sweetness to the day, my little girl & I created this lovely Frozen Lemonade recipe together! A refreshing little indulgence right before bedtime!

May you and yours also celebrate many happy days together, with this yummy citrusy drink!

Juice from 3 lemons

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup cold water

3 cups ice cubes

Throw all of those ingredients into a blender, and pulse together for a couple of minutes, until your frozen lemonade is nice & slushy. You can add in another tablespoon or two of  granulated sugar to the mix, if you like a sweeter taste.

Serve immediately, or freeze for a more frozen texture.

I hope that all of the Mommies out there also had a wonderful, fulfilling Mothers Day! No matter how difficult life may get, I pray that you are always SEEN for the many, beautiful  little things that you do for those closest to you, and that you are always LOVED for every little part of who you are.

Freedom!

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“Look, Mommy! I’m the tallest!”

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve posted anything. Not because I haven’t had the time (because I do have the time), but mostly because I’ve been reevaluating most, if not all, of my priorities in this 2nd chance of life. Last year, with the cancer diagnosis, and the resulting 6 months of chemotherapy, changed the way that I look at my life, as a woman, wife, and mother. It was a dramatic (& horribly traumatic) wake up call.

After living with my Mom throughout my chemotherapy, I was OVERJOYED to move back to my own home in January. To be back within my comfort zone, my safe space. To be able to drive again, and cook, and clean, and DO things with my Husband & Daughter. To be gloriously independent. To be free. FREE from the mind numbing, soul crushing fear, and anxiety. FREE to be ME again. The loving, happy, go-getter ME.

Not to say that I’m don’t need to work on my physical & emotional health anymore, since I do, and am. Nor do I see everything in life as some sugar coated land of rainbows, because it isn’t. I’ve still got a long road ahead of me to BE my best self. But for now, since I’ve been given this 2nd chance of life, I’m happy, truly happy, with where my life is right now. No foreseeable surgery, no sickening chemotherapy, no more hospital stays away from my Daughter. Just….freedom. Something that I never saw quite as clearly as I do now.

Have you ever really mulled over what FREEDOM is? What freedom actually means? To me, freedom comes in the form of being able to DO the things, the activities, that most people take for granted. Like baking my 1st cake in over 6 months. Like being able to jump into my car, at a moments notice, to run errands at my favorite stores. Like digging my hands into cold, new soil gardening soil. Like being able to read a book again without feeling emotionally overwhelmed by it’s plot or characters. Like date nights, in Santa Cruz, with my Husband. Like taking my Daughter to the playground. Just me and her. Watching her run through the grass, plucking up flowers to hand me. Watching her climb her favorite rock structure, twirling in circles, calling down to me, “Look, Mommy! I’m the tallest!” Watching her beautiful little face soften into slumber, in the dead of night. These things that I’m able to do again, these precious things that I once took for granted. These things that embody freedom.

Freedom, to just be, me. Finally.

A priority, that I pray, I will never change.

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Butterfly Brave: my fight continues…

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It’s been a while. Since I’ve talked about this battle I’ve been fighting. Because most of how I feel is dark and sad and very broken. So I don’t talk much about it. This darkness that has overcome me.

It’s now been nearly 3 months since my diagnosis, and I’ve undergone 4 chemotherapy sessions, with 15 more rounds to go. 15 of which I try not to think about often. Which doesn’t work in the dead of night, when I’m in pain and feeling sick. Because 15 more sessions, to me, feel like forever. All 4 of my previous sessions has made me very sick. Sick as well as struggling with sometimes horrific pain. Which none of the pain meds I’ve been taking have relieved. Pushing me towards seeing the inside of the ER a dozen times since starting chemo. Because their drip meds have been the only thing to bring me any sort of relief. Needless to say, most of the ER doctors and nurses know me. Well. Not something I’m proud of.

I’ve been an emotional wreak. Pain and constantly feeling sick does that to me. Forcing  the darkness deeper into who I am. And so far, I’ve found nothing to save me. With the exception of the brightness of my daughter, everything is dark. And I’m struggling now more than I’ve ever struggled before. And am jealous of everyone else around me going about their daily lives, with work, and homemaking, and activities with family & friends. Most of which I’m too sick to partake in. And with this jealousy comes a lot of anger. At cancer. Of where I am right now. Of who I’ve become within this bleakness.

With the sole exception of my beautiful, fiery, loving, affectionate, comforting little girl. Who’s big smile and wide, merry eyes are the only things keeping me from giving up. Because without my Mischief Maker, I would. Give up.

Because this is where I am right now…

A warrior fighting a battle she doesn’t want to face. A warrior too tired and hearts worn to do anything but try to keep her stand.

Photography by the most loving Colleen R with C.R. Photography

Butterfly Brave! A lesson in eggs!

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Beautiful, farm fresh eggs. With lovely speckled shells and thick (perfect) yolks. A dream for hard core bakers and pastry chefs like me. Every (rather infrequent) time I get my hands on fresh organic eggs like these, my heart sings a little (okay, a lot) like it’s Christmas Eve. In July. Since it IS July. Because not only do I love working with what I call “real” eggs within my recipes, but eggs have become incredibly symbolic in my 38 years thus far. For more reasons than I can relate in one small blog post.

Eggs, to me, to all humans, and most other mammals as well, mean one very important thing. Truly the most important thing. They mean life created. They, very technically, mean the realization of children, following in very expectant footprints. Love reincarnated. As I know, with every beat of my heart, because of my own own daughter, now 3-1/2 years old. She, who my husband & I fought for, for nearly 2 years, through more physical pain than most can imagine. Because we knew that we were meant to be parents. A miracle that the Universe, that God, bestowed upon us, in the form of this warm, affectionate, loving, spirited, fiery, mischievous soul who is our beautiful daughter, Arianna. The greatest gift we have ever received. Because of the beauty of one little egg, that despite all odds and every battle that I faced, became our Miracle.

So in light of my reminiscing, of the odds that were spoken (& assumed) against us, of the physical, exhausting pain that I endured while we struggled to create our Miracle Baby, of the many, many years that we could have “tried” yet didn’t, of the cancer specialist who urged us 11 years ago, after my 1st multiple tumor removal surgery, to begin our family THEN instead of risking my (then borderline) cancer from becoming malignant, today, after so many years of battle, this is what I’ve learned.

Don’t wait. If there’s something in your heart, beating up against your soul, screaming quietly to break out, to break free, to experience, let it. Let it break free. Let whatever passion that is, whatever dream of yours that may be, break free from whatever restraints have been holding it back, for whatever reasons. Let it happen. Take that dream, that passion, that lifelong goal, and just…do it. Now. Because there’s a reason why you’ve kept that passion, or dream of yours tightly bound, and confined within you, for so long. It’s something that your soul WANTS, NEEDS, something that’s been burning, and burning, brighter & brighter within you, something that’s made to be taken up within your hands, and molded, and shaped into being. Something that is meant to happen. Because the sad truth? Life is too short to not BE or DO the things that you truly WANT to do. Life is complicated, and messy, and very uncertain. But that’s NOT the point of life. The point of life is this: do what makes you happy. Do what your heart wants. Your dreams CAN come true, little by little, if you choose to let them. So don’t wait. Don’t wait any longer because of what this world has tricked you into believing. Let it just..happen. You might be surprised by what awaits when you do.

Today is the most important gift that we have been given. Use it. Before it’s gone.

All my love, xoxo

 

 

 

Happiness Project#81: Broccoli Salad with a side of Chemo!

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3 weeks ago I went in for my 7th surgery. To remove another tumor. But things didn’t quite go as planned or expected. Instead of leaving the operating room with one less adrenal gland, I ended up leaving without a full kidney as well. Though I wasn’t told WHY I had unexpectedly lost a kidney (throughout a grueling 10 hour surgery), until my 2nd recovery day in the hospital. To put it as simply as possibly, though not lightly at all, my 3 doctors took out my left kidney in response to a rapidly growing tumor that had gone from eating up my adrenal gland as well as encasing my entire kidney within the 3 months that I had been undergoing pre-surgical testing. 3 months. Needless to say, when the oncologist came over to my recovery bed, on that 2nd day within my 6 day hospital stay, and revealed to me the “news,” my heart froze, and my verbal response was nothing short of absolute silence. The 5th day, before the day of my release, the same doctor (now my official oncologist), visited me again to reveal that the preliminary testings from that unexpected tumor had come back as active (malignant) cancer. Yes, cancer. Stage 3 Ovarian cancer.

So with this shocking, unexpected diagnosis, my life has been turned completely (& brutally) shaken up, and turned upside down. Because after 11 years of benign tumors, severe endometriosis, depression, a panic disorder, menopause and more visits to the ER than a person could ever imagine, cancer was never something that I believed could ever happen. Not when I was still struggling with so much. Yet it’s happened. And nearly 3 weeks later, after hearing of my diagnosis, I’m still angry, and overwhelmed, and very scared.

Since meeting up with my regular MD, my surgeon, as well as the specialist who completed my first massive ovarian/tumor removal surgery nearly 11 years ago, within the past two weeks since being released from the hospital, I currently know just enough about my cancer to have a very general idea of the “plan.” Which means chemotherapy for the next 5 to 6 months. Though NO radiation. Which seems like a pretty significant blessing, in my book right now. This Wednesday though, will be the BIG day, when I meet up with my oncologist for the 1st time, to figure all of this out.

Until then, when I start my half year regiment of chemotherapy, until my body figures out what I can and cannot take, until I have a better idea of what I’m up against during this new battle of mine, I’ll scream, and cry, and rail against this Universe. A Universe that continues to push me beyond what I thought I was ever strong enough for. Because I’m beyond scared right now. In more ways than I can ever explain.

So for now, I wanted to leave you with the yummiest broccoli apple salad (or as I affectionately name as broccoli candy salad), that I have ever feasted upon. Feasted upon like I could eat this ENTIRE recipe all on my own. For real. Ready for your own?

3 cups uncooked broccoli florets, minced

1 cup shredded or finely diced pealed carrots

1 cup green grapes, rinsed

2-1/2 cups diced Gala apples (my personal favorite apple)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

pinch of fine sea salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup low fat Greek vanilla yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

*1 cup dried cranberries, optional

You’ll need two medium sized mixing bowls for this salad.

In the first mixing bowl, combine the broccoli, carrots, grapes, and apples.

In the 2nd mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, mayonnaise, yogurt and lemon juice, until nice and creamy.

Drizzle the dressing onto the dry broccoli salad, and with either your fingers (who’s ready to get messy?) or a big wooden spoon, toss everything together until fully coated. Throw in some dried cranberries if you want an added pop of sweetness! Pop that pretty salad into the fridge to chill before serving!

And believe me when I say that this is one of those salads that you will never tire of. I could eat this every other day if I wanted. Because this is MY idea of candy salad! Try it. You’ll totally get it once you do!

In conclusion, I might not be blogging as many family recipes while undergoing the next 6 months of chemotherapy. It mostly depends on how well I handle everything. I will however, be blogging here, all about this unexpected new battle of mine. Because I know that I can’t fight this battle alone. Without those who love, encourage and hold me up. Those who are my army.

Until next time, all my love to you! xoxo

 

 

 

 

Happiness Project: 3 Days

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I’m just 3 days shy of going in for my 7th major surgery in 11 years. To remove my 6th tumor. This one being a 7cm tumor engulfing my adrenal gland. And no matter that I’ve undergone so many major surgeries, it never gets easier. I always go through short bouts of nerves and anxiety throughout the days leading up to the actual procedure. Because no matter how much I like both of my surgeons, and have been walked through the actual (very intriguing) 3-4 hour surgery, my brain, and my heart, can’t help but fret over it.

So in anticipation of my big day next week, I wanted to put to ink some of the most poignant lessons that I have learned in my 38 years. Because I know how quickly life can change. Sometimes in an instant.

BE SOFT.

I’ve had many individuals that have crossed my path, name me as soft hearted. And I’ve learned within the past couple years, that I would rather be soft hearted than not. This life, this world, can be so very cruel, and unforgiving. Because sometimes people believe that in order to get by, they must be thick skinned. But I’ve learned that even though being soft hearted, and open to the people around me, may cause me pain, and grief, it has never changed the brightness within my heart. Choosing to respond to the world around you in a soft way, isn’t a disability, or a weakness. It’s a strength. Of character, of will, of heart. So no matter those who seek to hurt you, may you also choose to see things with a soft heart.

LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE.

Throughout the years growing up within my family, my father affectionately named me the “black sheep” of my two other sisters. For whatever reason, I just went my own way, against the grain (so to speak). A way of doing things that is still very prevalent within my adult life. From being a children’s book specialist for 18 years (which paid just a little over minimum wage), to going about planning my wedding in a unconventional manner, to choosing to fight extreme pain (while risking my life), while my husband & I fought to conceive, to choosing to share my life, with all the ups & downs with friends, and strangers alike, without taming my own truth (no matter if my words have been liked or not), I’ve always chosen to do my own thing. To create my own way, without regard to any nay-sayer. Because no matter others opinions, at the end of the day, this is my life to live. To journey through. To create. No one else’s. And that’s a beautiful thing.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART.

It may seem like an impossibly surreal idea to follow one’s heart in such a hard world, but I’ve found that every time I follow my heart, instead of doing what seems most necessary, my life is better for it. Every time I’ve followed a passion of mine, I discovered parts of myself that I never knew existed. And every single one of these passions has led me into experiences that both challenge yet satisfy so many aspects of my intelligence and emotional stability. They’ve shown me that there IS a higher purpose to one’s life, beyond having (or not having) a typical 9-5 job. I believe that by following one’s heart, there will always be something learned of great worth & empowerment. And I wish that more individuals were just as willing to follow their own, instead of struggling so terribly for peace, and contentment, and happiness, in this hard world. Because I’ve learned that when you follow your heart, no matter the circumstances, life is simply better than before. More beautiful than before.

CHAMPION YOURSELF.

In the last 3 years, I’ve learned a staggering amount of information pertaining to mental illnesses, because of myself becoming bi-polar depressive, with a panic disorder. And the degree of ignorance involving the general public (not knowing enough about the “hidden” world of the mentally ill), is incredibly saddening. This stigma following those like me around, created from those without proper education or the ability to be compassionate, must change NOW. And by NOW, I mean with those like me challenging the ignorant many. I’ve discovered that though there will (inevitably) be those who don’t understand, and therefore walk away, there will always be those who DO choose to learn about, and therefore understand, the many facets of an individual living with a metal illnesses. Because although a mental illness changes things, (such as, perhaps, one’s ability to socialize or function in a predictable fashion) within one’s life, it does not become that whole person. This is why I’ve found that championing myself, by being completely open & honest about my struggles, is pivotal in opening up a much needed dialogue between myself, those like me, and those who do not know the necessary information pertaining to a loved one’s diagnosis, but WANT to learn. Sometimes, it takes one voice, to free the many. Be your own voice. Be your own champion. You ARE WORTH IT.

FIND YOUR PEOPLE. 

My family (my husband, mom, two sisters, cousin, and my mother & father-in-law), as well as a very small circle of 4 close friends, are my people. These individuals who know me, who get me. The ones who have never walked away, or left me, because of my many physical & mental disabilities. This group of mine, who continue to love me, truly love me, unconditionally, without reserve. Some who have been in my life for 20 years, some only a few years, or with one of my (now) out-of-state friends, a couple months. Yet no matter any distance, or time, or hardship between us, have chosen to be MY people. These are the kind of people to hold on to, and grow with. To love, and appreciate, with every ounce of being. When you find your people, never let them go. They will always be worth keeping.

BREATHE. 

Just breathe. Tomorrow will come when it’s ready. So until then, breathe.

Before I log off for my surgery next week, I’d like you all to know how appreciative I am of you choosing to get to know me, the real me, through this digital ink, and these many black words. Thank you for following my adventures, as both a recipe blogger, and a Mama. I’ll see you on the flip side! xoxo

*My sister gifted me with this beautiful Grateful Jar last Christmas! Etsy has similar designs, like this one, that you might like if you’re wanting to start your own penny collection!

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