29 December 2012

[talk: Being Brave.]

I really have no clue who reads this ... and sometimes I do posts for myself, sometimes I do it for those that I know visit here ... and sometimes, I write just because I know that there might be someone - somewhere - who needs to read these words.

At least, that's what I hope.

Getting older isn't easy - I've always been told that.  And that's a funny thing - because when you're a child, all you want is to be grown up.  But once you're a grown up, you start to realize all of the heartache that life can cause.  Rejection, illness, loneliness, disappointment, ... death.

In the last 8 or so weeks, I have watched my parents deal with the deaths of seven of their friends/acquaintances.  Plus, one of my father's friends is currently in the hospital, not doing well at all.  

It's a big reality check, isn't it, when you actually KNOW people who are now in eternity.  It makes you face your own mortality, and the mortality of those you love.  A scary thing - even for those who know the Lord - only because sometimes the thought of saying good-bye is just unbearable.  I always say, "either I go to your funeral, or you come to mine.  There's no way around it."

Not only have my parent's friends taken ill - but this year I have watched young people battle with sickness and death.  Young moms, children ... it's just heartbreaking.  But they are surviving and fighting - I'm so inspired by them.  

So yesterday morning, when I thought I felt a lump in my left breast - I tried to just breathe in and out.  "Ok," I thought.  "Let's try that again."  Yup ... that felt like something I hadn't felt before.

I do self examinations often - my grandmother had a mastectomy due to breast cancer, and my mother had a cyst removed in her early 40's.  I'm too young to have had my first mammogram, but waiting for a number seems stupid if you think something's wrong.

I got out of the shower and called my doctor.   

"Um - Hi ... wondering if I can get in on Monday?  No?  Oh - ok.  What's wrong?  Well - I think I found a lump in my breast.  Oh .., oh?  I can get in today?  Really?  3:45pm works just fine - thank you."

I told my hubby ... calmly, and said - "Hey, it's probably nothing - but I'm going to get it checked."

I spent the rest of the day doing regular mom things, and actually forgot about the upcoming appointment.  At 2pm, I remembered ... and grew a little anxious.  I checked myself again ... it was sore now - and yup.  Still there.

My kids have been sick all week - so I brought them in with me.  "Might as well," I thought.  I left the boys in the waiting room and brought Katia in with me - secretly hoping she'd have one of her coughing fits that the doctor could witness.  No such luck.

I disrobed ... "What are you doing, Mama?" Katia asked.  

"Well ... the doctor has to check me."  Oh.  That seemed good enough for her.

The doctor came in, and as he wasn't my family doctor - but rather one of my doctor's partners - I gave him the low-down on my family history and what happened that morning.  He got me to lay down and examined me.

I told him I was sore ... that it was probably from all the poking and prodding I had been doing all day.  He sat back after a couple of minutes and said, "well - there's nothing there.  You're fine."

I breathed.

He then taught me how to search properly on a "breast" prop.  I hadn't realized that I was checking incorrectly, and I was finding lumps that were actually my ribs (a little embarrassing ...) and nodules from hormones and such.  

Here's what I learned ...

1)  always examine with the pads of your fingers - with three of them together, used as one unit.
2) don't "walk" the tips of your fingers and search.  You'll find things that are NOT actual lumps.
3) lie flat on your back with an arm raised, when checking.  It helps any lumps to be more noticeable.
4) lumps are not sore.

And I guess the most important thing that I can tell you - is BE BRAVE.  Check ... don't be nervous.  Ignoring your health is not going to keep you safe.  Being aware of your body is what's going to keep you here longer, to see your kids grow up, to live a long and healthy life.

One of my dad's friends who passed away a few weeks ago, ended up in emergency after not having been to the doctor for far too long.  He was told that day that he was in the final stages of cancer.  He had no clue.

He died 5 days later.

So don't put off your annual pap-smear.  Don't be afraid to get blood work done.  Get that mole looked at, that you THINK looks a little bit different than it did last month.  Check yourself, have yourself checked.  A diagnosis of diabetes or hyperthyroid or even cancer doesn't mean your life is over ... it just means that you now have the knowledge to help yourself.

Be brave.

And if you need a little inspiring - head to my RedHanded Photography blog HERE to be uplifted by the stories of the winners of my "God Made Me Beautiful" contest.  I promise you, you will not be disappointed that you did ... 

And hey ... have a great one *smile*. 

18 December 2012

[talk: Our Kiwi Christmas.]

If you're not related to me - this will be the dullest post ever.  Wait.  Let me clarify that ... if you're not related to me on my MOTHER'S side, you may just wish to skip over this.  Well.  Except that a lot of my father's side, love my mother's side.

Hmmmm ...

Ok ... THIS post is my Christmas gift to my Kiwi Family.  We got back, just over a week ago, from the most amazing family vacation we've ever been on ... four days in Australia and twelve in New Zealand.  Every day was special ... but this last evening we spent was even more so ... 

Our Kiwi Christmas was held at my cousin's place ... not too shabby, and all of my cousins and family members came.  It was so great ... 

There were tables set at various spots outside ... it was sunny and beautiful - no need to be stuck indoors ... 

And no turkey here ... crawfish.  Crayfish?  Whatever ... I'm not claiming to be up on my crustaceans *grin* ... 

What was so wonderful, was seeing our kids create memories with our family ... just looking at these makes me want to cry.  And go back.

We all mixed and mingled ... and this guy?  Scottie?  Awe ... love 'em like the little brother he is to me *grin*.  Right Scott?  Still on the couch?  Thought so *wink* .... 

Ian and Michele were the perfect hosts ... not only for the meal, but for our stay in Auckland.  How awesome to be with family ... no matter how much time passes - it's just always the same.  Love it.

Awe.  My little Boo.

More cousins, and more cousins ... I won't list them all (hey Jules, hey Somer ... hey Melo ... Christine ... James ...  ok.  I'll stop ...)

If you've ever been to my hubby's and my place for a large gathering, you'll know what he does when he prays.  He asks everyone to raise their hands ... and this was no exception.  My family thought he was nuts.  He is.

But NOT quite as nuts as my cousin, Jono.  Nope.  He was the youngest, hippest Santa ever.

Ah yes.  Let the party begin ... 

Poor Charlie.  Jono's a crazy guy ... we know.

So crazy ... he played the mandolin as he led in some Christmas songs.  

Katia loved it.

Then there was the gift-exchange game.  What a mess ... what a laugh!

Then the pavlova, the brandy snaps, the jars of Jaffas and lollies.  You can't go wrong at a Kiwi dessert table ... 

There was music - my cousins Dave, Jono and James let me join them in the fun ... they're ridiculously talented ... and threw in some Beiber tunes in the Christmas-sing-along-mix.  The look on my face is concentration ... trust me.  I was having a good time *grin*.

Mattias thought this was the craziest group, the most fun-group-ever ... I mean, having everyone sing "Baby, baby, baby ... OHHHHH" at the top of their lungs, regardless of age.  At Christmas?  Oh yeah ... fun group.  I couldn't stop laughing.

Finished off by the lovely Geneva and Jono, married this year ... sharing songs they've written together ...  (thanks Somer for catching these IPhone pics ...)

So ... that was it.  An amazing night, with amazing people.  Merry Christmas, dear family.  You are incredibly loved by us all, our kids speak of you DAILY.  Thank you for loving us, for welcoming us, for being just the greatest family ever.  I am so proud to be one of you!!

Much love.  xoxoxo

17 December 2012

[shalom: Seven Years.]

December 17th sneaks up me sometimes ... every year is different.  Sometimes I actually forget.  Other years I feel it waiting to pounce on me, sucking my very breath from within.

Today Shalom would be seven.  Well ... that's a little skewed - as she was due in May, but born December 17th.  So ... she would've been seven in May, I guess.  But today is her birthday ... and today I remember her.

I find it interesting how time has a beautiful way of putting things into perspective ... while the loss of my unborn daughter was massive, it is obvious to me that there are those who's loss is still far greater.

With the tragedy of the kindergarten slayings in America so recent, I think we are all holding our children a little tighter - and being so incredibly grateful for food in their tummies and a safe place to lay their head.  Because the truth is, tragedy is all around us - every day.  And a public shooting, as horrific as it is and as brutal and evil as it seems, children of the world are in slavery, in bondage, in illness, in hunger ... in hell.  Every day.  The loss is unfathomable. 

The problem is so big that when you stop to think about it - it can hurt your brain to the point where you want to yell, " I give up!!" ... but as I was thinking about this post, I was reminded that the small things we choose to do, DO matter ... and tho it may not seem "hero" like in its size, to those whom you touch - you are a hero.

Mattias was my hero recently, when he presented a cheque to our BC Children's Hospital.  Yes - I did a lot of the work ... he's eight, for pete's sake *smile* ... but the heart behind our plan was all his.  He manned a lemonade stand at our garage sale - pouring cups of yummy juice "by donation" ... and he learned about the generosity of others.

He learned that manning a lemonade stand all day was a lot of work, too.

And when we went to the hospital to deliver the cheque, he learned of a place where children were sick and families were sad.  He also learned of a place that dedicated everything it did, to help others.  To make the sick - well, the sad - happy ... the weak - strong.  

The $500 he collected won't do much - but it will do something.   He learned how he could be a part of something grand ... and to simply do the part he was called to do.  The broken and sick are all around us ... we can all do something.  Nothing is too small.

And after our meeting, we went to visit Shalom's tile.  My parents donated it, back when we lost our sweet, tiny girl.    The wall is full of names - not as a memorial, as these are not all tiles of those who did not survive.    It was awe inspiring to read the names, to remember those who were too sick to live, and to see the names of children who would possibly be in hockey or gymnastics now ... 

Such a  tangible way to see how donated money helps.  

I know that through someone else's donations, because of their heart to help in whatever way they could - our lives were deeply impacted during such a traumatic time. 

So ... today as I think back on how seven years has healed me, taught me, and brought me closer to Him, I am actually thankful for the experience of losing Shalom.  I am grateful for the three glorious children that He has entrusted to me, and I know what a gift they truly are.   My heart is full of joy in teaching them about being generous and having a heart for others.    As my pastor said in his Sunday sermon, having joy doesn't mean that I'm dancing a jig every day ... my joy that comes from Him is DESPITE the junk that this fallen world dishes out.

I will cry for Shalom Hope today ... I will cry for who she could've been and the hole that my heart will forever have ... but I have such joy because my life in Him surpasses any loss or heartache.  

My story is not over, there will be more pain to come in this life.  Just like those parents who lost their little one on Friday morning.  They will mourn, they will forever be changed.  But my prayer is that others will rise up around them, do what they are able, and that JOY will reign.

So my thought today is this ... do something for someone else - you never know how it will impact them ... a few kind words,  paying for the lady behind you in the Starbucks line, stopping to take the shopping cart from the mom with two kids in the Costco parking lot ... We are all called to such "hero" things every day.  And to have joy in doing it - despite what our lives look like at the moment.  Joy despite our circumstance, despite our loss, despite how unfair things may seem to be ... 

Because the Word says the JOY of the Lord is our strength ... and through choosing His joy, we can be "heros" every day.

Have a great one.