Shake-ing it Up

I just spent $150 on protein shake powder and I’m just a little bit scared they won’t taste good or work for me. The other 90% of me is pretty excited. This is not me promoting some new fad, I promise. I’m going to explain why shakes seem to be the answer for me personally in this post. I’m not doing Herbalife, Shakeology, or anything MLM. I won’t be selling or making commission off of this. I am also not going to buy supplements or use the detox tea they offer but that goes against my thoughts on weight loss.

If you remember, my word for the year is “Devoted” and to be pretty freaking honest, I’ve done a shitty job living up to that. My schedule is off track. I’m not where I wanted to be halfway through this year. I’ve enjoyed lots of off plan meals, I’ve lost most of my motivation to cook, and I feel overwhelmed and haven’t been faithful to working out.

My home life is changing a bit, and adding another member to the house means less space in general and one more schedule to work around in the kitchen. Somehow in the last 2 years I’ve lost that joy in making food. I think in the back of my mind, cooking 90% of my meals has always been physically taxing. It takes A LOT of time and money and commitment to shop, prep, cook, and consume a special diet.  When I had my own place, I was wasn’t working around other people’s messes and trying to shove all my groceries where they’d fit. I actually had the space and peace and didn’t have the distractions. Now I come home from work and there’s three pans full of food sitting on the stove cooling/needing to be put away, or I forget I have ingredients because it is shoved where I can fit them or someone uses up what I planned to cook with since a lot of the food I buy technically is up for grabs and communal.

I used to be adamant about not using shakes as food but I get it. Our lives are busy and it’s better to fuel up on a shake with nutritious items added then get a refined, greasy, overpriced drive thru meal. I see them in a new light.

I have always used protein shakes as part of my eating plan. The difference is that it was a whey protein isolate and sometimes that gave me migraines or made my tummy hurt. I also didn’t feel like I needed THAT much protein each shake, so I’d never do 2 shakes with the other powders in one day. My Quest protein powder packed a whopping 24g in one serving and I am not an athlete or body builder that needs that much! The THM one had 20g. This new shake has 15g which I think is perfect. I did the math and with the buy 2 get one free deal, each serving of the protein powder is about 1.62. It’ll roughly cost $2-3 with add-ins like almond milk and fruit/oats/etc. It’s got protein and probiotics and is actually plant based, not whey based, so it’s less animal sourced protein and a smaller carbon footprint which I’m excited about. It’s only 90 calories, which means I can pad it with adding fruits and veggies or oats, etc to get it to 300-400. I can still follow Trim Healthy Mama basics with this, it’ll just be way less meal prep. If I throw a 1/2 banana or oats in, I’ll have an E. If I throw MCT oil, berries, avocado, or nuts in there, I’ll have an S.

So here are the pros and cons:

Less decision fatigue
Easier to track macros/calories
Less groceries to store/cook
Takes less space
Eliminates half the time I used to cook/grocery shop
Clean eating and ingredients
THM friendly
Harder to cheat/go overboard
No sugar in protein power
I can customize add ins
Plant based
Less attachment to food
Less costly than a food service
Less costly than eating out

Not as fun as food lol
Still have to add ingredients to shake to get enough calories in
Buying a new flavor for variety is a $68 commitment
Might get tired of “drinking a meal”
Won’t taste as good if just shaking in blender bottle and not blending
If I get lazy and don’t add items to it I’ll have too large of a calorie deficit daily.

I just blocked out my schedule and have it worked out so that most days I use a shake to replace one meal, and 2 days out of the week when I have less control over my meals/are more likely to eat out since they are date nights I’ll have 2 shakes that day to replace 2 meals. I’m hoping that it makes me feel less rushed since it only takes a minute or 2 to throw together and that it works for my crazy life.

My current goals are to finally be faithful to taking vitamins, working on getting my gym schedule back on track, getting into groove of blocking my time daily, and using less mental and physical energy on meal planning. I bought enough protein powder for 3 months, so if I don’t find it working out, I can create a new game plan in September. Wish me luck!


An after Easter Lily

After seeing the big bold resurrection flowers adorn many Easter images and celebrations in late April, I got to meet quite a special Lily on May 2nd. My beautiful niece raced into this world – literally, Mama had a 10-15 minute labor!

Since my SIL is a midwife she didn’t give many details except that baby #2 was expected to arrive some time in May. To our surprise, 2 days into the month I got a call at dinner that asked me to come soon, the baby will probably come tonight. My friend and I rushed to finish dinner and I promptly headed over.

I called and walked into the door and heard…crying. Little sweet shrills of a newborn. That’s when my brother told me the baby was already here. Before the midwife even made it. My SIL settled into the bathtub after her water broke and my brother caught the baby minutes later. Thankfully the midwife was only 10 minutes away and came quickly after that!

Kai was a patient little dude, happily watching an episode of Sesame Street while all the commotion happened around him. My brother told me he really wanted to make a cake for his sister. When I came up to him and said hello he excitedly exclaimed, “Baby come out! Not in Mommy’s tummy!”

We got out all the supplies and found out they were out of eggs. Ha! So we headed to the store and he held out 4 fingers and reminded me we needed “three eggs!” I let him pick out a bouquet for Mommy and we grabbed a carton of eggs. He was singing happy birthday baby as we paced the aisles for supplies and all the way home. He helped stir and crack the eggs in, and when the cake cooled, he proceeded to help frost the cake and eat half the container of frosting. 😉

I can’t remember when I got there, maybe 7:30pm? But the birth photographer and midwife didn’t pack up and leave until around midnight. Because of the precipitous birth they had to give her some coaxing to get her active and thriving but Lily is very healthy and a good eater and sleeper.

Now that she’s nearly 2 months old, she’s beginning to react more to people’s words and facial expressions. Her little smiles are so cute – they start on one end and then slowly widen. She loves to scrunch her lips and furrow her eyebrows. I happen to think she looks a lot like her Momma, and her mom thinks she resembles her grandma.

Kai is both helplessly in love with Lily and jealous of the time she gets with Mommy. We’ve all given him extra love and attention to help him understand he’s still very important to us and we love them both.

When Kai was born, I felt much more prepared and conscious of his arrival and presence. I also spent many weekends over there helping since it was freshly after my brother’s accident. With Lily, the first time I held her it all felt a little alien. That’s not to say I wasn’t excited or think less of her. It just felt less real? I don’t even know how to put that into words. But she is absolutely precious and my brain finally connected that she’s here. Haha. I think when Kai was born we paused the world around us a little bit but when Lily came everything was still whirling around us. I guess that is the plight of a second child. I can’t wait to see the two of them interact more with each other as they grow, but I’m perfectly happy soaking in these baby days again and hoping the time she is little doesn’t speed by.  Auntie life is the best.

Konmari Part Two: My Revised Mission Statement for my Current Living Situation

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and performed several steps of the festival while I lived in a condo I rented with one other roommate. She graciously gave me free reign with decorating and… I ended up accumulating much more than I needed. I had a gigantic master bedroom with 2 closets to myself, and common area storage for all extras. Now my living space is more compact, with less storage, and sharing a home with many people. I thought it was time to revise my mission statement and restart my festival for my current situation.

My Konmari Mission Statement:

I want to end the cycle of overspending, over-consuming, creating clutter and wasting time tidying the extra, so I can spent my time and emotional resources on more valuable things in life.

It is important for me in this moment in time to not live beyond the space I am given. I trust God to provide for me when I move again with the extra furniture and appliances I may need. I understand that not buying nor storing these items now and saving money now, I can get the item again when it is needed, not wanted, regardless of price or discounts. I seek to not be tethered by what I own to any particular place. I seek to get to the point of surrendering fully even what I prize if God asks it. My horizon is most open with possibilities when material possessions to do not limit my outlook. He has always provided.

I seek to keep a more orderly living situation so that I can freely practice hospitality and open my home to those I love or want to know better without hesitation. I will be gracious with myself to not deny fellowship and friendship if and when my home doesn’t look its best. I desire order also for accessibility of resources: for quick dressing in the morning, art projects, and planning for the future. I hope to lead by example by keeping my portion tidy, so that those who live with me might seek the same.

My current priorities and investments include nurturing my body with healthful food, consistent exercise, good company, and commitments that will produce creative, academic, personal, or spiritual growth.

I see myself unbound from long weekend mornings of cleaning. I see myself ready to move freely, with a culled amount of items to bring with me into a marriage one day if that is in my future. I see myself wholly devoted to what I choose to do, and not weighed down by the trivial. I see myself getting better and longer sleep, having less decision fatigue, and being less frustrated. I see more peace at home with others. I see the freedom to save money for the future and a more honed-in sense of self and needs. I see the ability to give my best yeses, guilt-free noes, and do things passionately. I see a life enriched with gratitude and purpose– achieving more with having less to worry about by only keeping what sparks joy.

2018 Finances and 2019 Goals

This Sunday my pastor asked people to raise their hands honestly if they desired to be rich. Because of hesitation, he asked twice. First round, I slipped my hand up quickly. Second time I had it raised more surely. He mentioned that if a family of 5 lived above the poverty line in the US , they were most likely in the 1% worldwide. A sobering a view. He assured that riches were not bad, and it’s the lust of the love of money that can make people falter, for creating compromising intentions.

“You are already rich,” He said. “It’s just not in the way the world describes it.”

And I am. I am so grateful for all the blessings I’ve been provided. I’ve never known true hunger, or feared where my next meal would come from. I’ve complained about big bills, but I have them because I’m fortunate to pay them for things I have, like a car, or a job with health insurance so I could get my sinus surgery and experience relief. If I’m truly honest, I would love to be rich. I would love to be a cheerful giver and give above and beyond. I’d say of the five love languages, the ways I like to show I care are words of affirmation and gifts. Because I realize that physical objects don’t show love, but they can help take care of someone’s very real need. Future philanthropist? Sign me up. But before then, God would have to align my desires for sure and I would hope I would never misuse what I’ve been given or let greed overtake me. May it never be.

2018 Spending Pros

+ I gave more: Tithing and to non profits and not-for-profit organizations and causes. I consider that a win, even though it means being more careful in other categories.

+ I spent less on eating out and on entertainment.

2018 Spending Cons

– I spent way more on (preventative) health care

– I spent more overall, and on merchandise.

All in all: I would have spent about the same as 2017 if I hadn’t spent so much on health care, so it really evens out. I’d say 2018 was neutral. I neither did well nor poorly.

2019 Goals

Be faithful with my payment plan for the surgery bill. Pay it off before 2020.

One of the sucky parts of last year was finding out I couldn’t have my sinus surgery in an out-patient facility and having to spend nearly double to do it in a hospital. I want to kick this huge bill (thousands of dollars) by the end of the year even though it’s going to be a challenge.

Buy less with more intention

I’m still swimming in a mountain of clothes and despite konmari’ing my clothes a couple years ago, I still find my attachment to them quite strong. What worked when I had my condo with 2 master bedroom sized closets is not working in this smaller living situation. I plan to set aside a Saturday to go through the process again, reviewing what I want out of my clothes and style and how it affects my overall goals. Last year I started buying less makeup and skincare but giving myself room to spend more per item on quality products. I really saw a benefit in it. I’d like to do so with clothes and shoes. Especially shoes. I have always been thrifty with shoes and used to sacrifice comfort for style, but now that I have some swelling type issues, quality shoes have never been more important. I also want to buy less snacks and pantry type items in bulk. I’d rather spend a little more overall to only purchase when I need it and not have items everywhere or more than I can use before expiration.

Stop subscriptions to things you aren’t loving anymore

I loved my Sephora play subscription until I didn’t. It helped me try things as deluxe samples for $10 rather than wasting double that or more on full size items just to not like it. I stopped walking down the makeup aisles and being tempted when shopping as a byproduct. And, I probably only paid for mascara twice this year. But, after a while, I realized I wasn’t using them all up in time and the $120 annually could be used differently now that I have a better idea of what I like. I might stop my Scentbird subscription too now that I have quite a few new perfumes to try. I can also re-sub if I find it worthwhile later, but I intentionally bought a pricey perfume and was generously gifted one, and they are worth every penny and will be enjoyed often. I am also a consultant for an essential oils brand and have been enrolled in a program where if I guarantee a monthly order of $50 I can get rewards. Well, sometimes because of the auto-renewal I forget to change my cart or sink $50 into stuff I didn’t really intentionally want. So, that is most likely my next goodbye. I thought I was doing so great, then I saw that with these services I was investing a total of $75/mo and while it is a good deal overall, it no longer fits me or what I want to spend my money on.

Think Bigger.

I don’t like stereotyping, so let me say this isn’t always the case, but from observation, it seems like women (myself included) tend to splurge more often on little things and feel guilty with bigger purchases. Guys on the other hand (my boyfriend included) tend to do less smaller frivolous purchases and save up for bigger purchases. They also tend to care less about spending more on something they want to get (like a sandwich at lunch or say, laundry detergent) since they are spending it very specifically, whereas women set price allowances but will get what they don’t need on sale. I think some of this is society.  It in part is a repeated pattern we observe in from parents or the general public. I think being a good steward of what you have is always good practice, but I’ve learned with a little more life under my belt that frugality is a flawed concept for a lot of women. We’re praised for being frugal by society, but in that cloud of thought, also limit ourselves. Because with frugal, you make do with what little you can. Frugality has personally limited my train of thought and I’m trying to replace the quality of frugality with intention. I’m not stuck with this little bit, I just need to make plans and proactively work towards “the bigger.” Instead of limiting myself and my potential, I should be maximizing my potential to attain the bigger and better. Part of thinking bigger is budgeting/saving up for larger things down the road including retirement, and part of it is pursuing opportunities with intention of getting closer to those goals. I think it’s empowering to not limit myself and dream bigger.

Vacation Fund

I’m itching to go on an adventure new somewhere new — particularly on an international trip. As part of the think bigger I’m saving up for something fun. I meant to go to Europe for my 30th birthday but didn’t have the means, especially when I decided to opt for much needed surgery. I’m going to begin not only setting aside but planning some trips for myself. My cousin’s wedding is set for the latter half of the year and I might try to do some vacationing on that coast while I’m out there.

Word of the Year: “Devoted”

I thought hard about choosing a word for the year and the one that kept coming to me was “devoted.”

It’s a word that is often seen on tombstones, and used during awards and commending speeches because it carries this incredible weight to it. It describes one who gives all their emotion/efforts to something.

1. very loving or loyal.
2. given over to the display, study, or discussion of.
I have a hard time sticking to things. I will have amazing bursts of creativity, start working on an idea, and then never see it to completion. I’ll join something and then grow weary. I’ll give 110% to my friends when they call or visit but then sadly be around 70% in touch otherwise.

I could have used the word committed? But sometimes commitment is a ball and chain: something that must be done even if begrudgingly. No, I needed a word that conveyed love in it. I wanted a word that meant all in because that’s where my heart wants to be.

I want to be more devoted in my walk with God, first and foremost. To spend time with Him faithfully in prayer, reading, and study. I’ve heard it all, how He should have the first rights to my time, not what’s left, but if I’m honest, that’s usually what ends up happening.

I want to be more devoted to my family and important relationships. I think this will be the easiest to fulfill but the hardest to not get comfortable in. How do I devote myself when my parents and I have strongly conflicting feelings about something? How do I reach a better “us” with my boyfriend and openly communicate my needs and do the same for him? How do I show my friend miles away I’m thinking of them and invest in them?

Lastly, in my career and everyday life, I want that notion of devoted to help guide me so my yes means yes and my no means no. So I actually love working on myself and applying myself. So I can press on when I grow weary or start to feel indifference. So I can love the changes I am making and chances I am taking.

It’s funny, every year I am very excited to make long lists of resolutions. This year, like writer’s block, none have truly surfaced, and I don’t think it’s not from being less mindful. I truly think, as I have only started to work on “be still and know”, that in my being still, all those little things have faded and a greater objective awaits me with this one word.

Here’s to a strong 2019. Did you pick out a word for the year, or write down some resolutions?

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning…or How My Brother and I are Tackling the Garage

There are so many new fads out there. Some of them stick and really do provide great results. Methods, procedures, lists,  exercise groups, you name it. You’ve already heard me gush about the Konmari Method…now let me introduce to you The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

I’ll admit outright that I haven’t picked up the book and read it, but I’d read reviews and excerpts and think they’re on to something. But since my parents would never be the kind to browse a Barnes and Nobles and pick up a self-help book, especially one with such a title, I will need to…erm…evangelize them a different way. I plan to read the book soon, but it’ll be a library loan not a buy since I’m not needing it for this point in life for myself (not a homeowner).

The family house has a lot of stories in its bones. It has, at some point, housed ever single one of my mom’s siblings and my grandmother. There are rolls of fabric in the rafters from sewing days of old for one of my mom’s sisters. They started life here as refugees with nothing, and without accepting any government aid, just the generosity of a local church furnishing and helping them settle in, they went from an apartment to getting their own slice of the American dream: a nice modest house with a sizable backyard. One by one, however, these siblings married, had kids, and outgrew the living space and pursued a home of their own. That left my eldest Aunt and Grandmother in a home all alone, not really able to afford a mortgage once split 3-4 ways. So with some deep conversations, my parents decided to secure their living situation by moving out of their town and into that house.

Twenty-four years later, this memorable house is piled high with stuff. Stuff accumulates so fast. My grandmother has since passed, and my aunt had moved away for work purposes but intends to retire and live once again at the family house. That leaves three seniors in a home saturated with a lot of…junk. My brother and I are tackling the garage and slowly but surely taking it on knowing we can do it now and improve their quality of life, or let it continue and be stuck one day with overwhelming grief and many dumpsters to unload. So we are “gently” doing it now.

I’ve quietly sifted through the coat and towel closet in the living room and left it with breathing room. Replaced heavy fragile dishes with lightweight and extremely durable Correlle. They’ve installed grab bars in the bathroom for a bit later in life, and a built in shower bench with the last renovation. The newest couch has three recliners perfect for cat naps in the afternoon.

This garage though? It’s seen so many ebbs and flows of a semblance of organization and cleaning and then been filled to the brim again to the point it’s a fire hazard and nearly inaccessible as a route of escape in case of a fire. Last year, my brother and I installed a clothes drying rack for delicate clothes to air dry. We removed a large pesky second bookshelf, and used it to arrange the excess appliances. We piled my aunt’s boxes up high where leaks and spills wouldn’t damage her years of papers (she’ll have to tackle that herself). We did quite a bit, but then a fire blazed dangerously close to my brother’s home and their items ended up in the garage and they spent a few months at the family house. Now it’s the end of the year, and we’re geared up to do round two. Quietly, during times when my parents are away. Tossing and donating things we don’t have to be careful with. And checking between the two of us, what is worth keeping for my parents to sort.

Not Gonna Write You a Sad Song

I’ve written two entries since the last published post and couldn’t get myself to post them. They were full of sadness. The last one mentioned the mass shooting and fires near me. I just couldn’t.

While life has had more down than ups as of recent, I’m still incredibly thankful for the bright sides, silver linings, and “how are you doing” check-ins from close friends.

2019 brings a lot of changes, and I am hoping they will be good ones. I’ve been occupying my mind when it’s deep in the pit of despair of good things coming, and things I can plan for.

A relative is moving back home and so one of the big items is making room in a house that hasn’t been her primary residence in 10+ years. While my parents are gone on a vacation, my brother and I plan on tackling the garage for the umpteenth time, and hopefully this time with better success [the last time we did so, there was a gruesome fire and they had to evacuate to that home, and their stuff went in the garage]. My parents haven’t understood the thought of downsizing as seniors, but with my mom’s retirement in a nearish future, and my relative retiring and moving back, it’s time to get the house ready for the years to come. I’m giving myself a year-ish to help them settle and make home changes, and then looking to move out again for both our sanity, but mostly mine. 😉

I have a planner ready, and I bought a new type of notebook system to help me start 2019 right. Have you heard of discbound journals? They’re a little pricey initially, but I like that you can customize and move pages and the pages themselves are thick quality paper. Instead of devoting an entire notebook to one subject, I have the flexibility of moving each page around if I wanted, and dividing it however I see fit. That saves real estate as I lessen the amount of notebooks I own and is more eco-friendly considering I don’t have journals/notebooks with unused pages. I have the fitness inserts to help me track weight loss and am going to spend more time tracking finances and spending as well.

Now that Rosina is no longer here and I haven’t got painting on Mondays I will need to dedicate my own time and space to cultivating creativity. I plan to bring that attitude into the new year. Keep exploring, keep attempting, keep trying.

One of my best friends and I have played with the idea of an international trip in 2019. And my closest cousin to me is getting married. There’s other exciting family news that will keep 2019 full of happy things. I look forward to all of it.

And in this holiday time, as I remember the human birth of Jesus and the promise it brought humanity, I think of all the hope in store for all of us. We have promises to hold on to and good things shining amongst the hard times. Keep hoping. Keep seeking that goodness and light.

Goodbyes and Updates

My beautiful friend and art instructor Rosina went to be with the Lord on August 30th. Whenever there is a spectacular sunset in the sky, I still remember her fondly. Every time I go to paint, I will think of her. True to her nature, she planned her entire memorial service out herself. It was so full of love. She gave everyone she cared for her whole heart. I got a call a week after the memorial that she had left all her acrylic paint supplies and brushes to me. I now have probably a lifetime of quality brushes thanks to her, and plenty of paint to continue creating with. She also gifted me one of the custom painting easels she inherited from her dear art teacher and that means so much to me.

I finally had my sinus surgery, and things went so smoothly! I was really blessed with a great recovery time. I had all these plans to read through all these books and get all this stuff done and in the end, I learned to rest. Rest in God and rest my body. I was beyond stressed before the operation. I went to my formal pre-op early, discovered there that I needed clearance from cardiologist, frantically got that done and imaging, just to find out all was well, and barely did that all in time. So when it was done, it was clear my mindset needed to change to heal not only my sinuses but myself as a whole.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but after about a week and a half, my sense of smell started to return. It’s something others may not ever understand, but when one of your five senses doesn’t work for a few years, it’s such a joyous thing. The smell of food wafting…the smell of your perfume lingering…being able to practically smell food to see if it’s gone bad, sense smoke, or *ahem* your pits to make sure your deodorant is still going strong…literally being able to stop and smell the flowers…I feel so blessed to experience all that again.

My dad’s leg is also significantly improved. Even though the necrosis is not completely gone, he’s able to put weight on his leg more and has enjoyed ditching his walker for a cane. If all goes well, he should be on track to go on a planned international trip with my mom.

I’ve been attending life group with a friend of mine that is for a church I don’t attend and have fallen in love with this group of ladies. I’ve even had 2 girls nights with a couple of the ones closer in age to me and my friend, and it’s been so nice to have a very informal “girl gang” of like-minded individuals in town.  I feel slightly guilty I’m not doing a small group with my own church? But I think God gave me this opportunity because I needed to connect with people in my area and zip code. It’s funny because I drive about 25 minutes out to my church and my friend’s church is about 25 minutes the opposite way in the valley.

My boyfriend’s grandpa has stage IV cancer and that has been a big shock to both of us. He checked in to the ER with intense pain in a certain area and tests came back with cancer. This weekend his grandma mentioned the word ‘hospice’ to me and so much of what happened with Rosina came flooding into my memories. His grandpa is such a fun and upbeat person that it’s hard to see him like this. Even when we visited him in the hospital he tried to keep things light but also choked up and was emotional at times. The only grandparent I got some time with passed when I was 6. On the other hand, my boyfriend’s grandparents are all currently alive. I can’t completely understand what it’s like to have grandparents be such an integral part of my life and idea of knowing after all these years and memories one of them is very possibly heaven bound very soon. But I hope I can be a good support to J during this time.

God’s Timing and Riding the Storm

Life has gone full rollercoaster lately.

My brother returned from his intensive brain therapy changed. What a rocky time it was for him to be exhausted in every way to try to make better neural connections for concussion recovery! The imaging and testing from when he started to when he finished the week long therapy had measurable differences in many areas while showing the need for drastic improvement in certain functions. It was a time of intense prayer and empathic distress. We are so joyful in the progress he made as a family, but still know he has a ways to go.

I was scheduled to have sinus surgery last Thursday. For some reason, despite pre-registering, I was admitted and put through 2 gruesome hours of hearing medical staff chatter behind the curtain about me, and finally having the anesthesiologist come to tell me the outpatient center had a policy that discriminated against people of my weight and BMI. He told me he felt confident administering anesthesia to me but couldn’t go against the facility’s policy and the board of directors finally put their firm “no” in. For some reason, I had this anxiety I couldn’t quite shake while preparing. Something felt off, but I also wanted to lean fully on God. When that happened, I was shaken, but also grateful for God’s peace knowing He is ultimately in control.

My dad has been in a lot of pain lately. We first thought it was his meniscus. It was hard to hear him cry out in pain, and see my once very able-bodied father go from a brace to a cane to a walker. They discovered with imaging that he is dealing with spontaneous necrosis of part of his femur. Umm. Whoa! His bone is dying off. That’s serious and absurd, and so not what we anticipated! He’s been ordered to avoid being on his feet and bearing weight on it for 2 months.

My sweet art friend has been a big cheerleader and prayer warrior for my surgery. I called her Thursday and her hospice care person said she was tired and sleeping. I called Friday and Saturday and no reply. Finally, on Sunday, I called and her son picked up. He told me she could have hours left and that she adores me and please come out if I can to see her one last time. I rushed over there and saw my friend, so fragile, laying in a hospital type bed in her living room. Her son and girlfriend were there and we let her sleep and watched TV together. They showed me her last chart update from the LVN and it said “actively dying” “pain 10/10, crying and moaning” He woke her up for some medicine around 9 and she woke up and we prayed together and she cupped my face and told me she loved me. Her voice was gone, a raspy low whisper is all she can muster. Her body so overwhelmed, we had to remind her to close her mouth and suck from the straw to take a drink of water. Her daughter flew out Monday and we think she is holding out to spend a little more time with all 3 children. I’m so grateful I got to see her one last time, and am continuing to pray as her kids come together for these last moments.

I’m currently calling other surgery centers and my ENT and insurance trying to sort out a rescheduling, while taking on some extra work to help my dad out, while dreading a call from one of Rosina’s kids to say she has passed. It’s Tuesday and I’m exhausted and I’ve cried two days in a row. I’m a mess. This little slice of life is currently riding out the storms and waiting on God’s perfect timing.

What I’ve Learned from my Friend in Hospice

I should title this “What I’m learning” I suppose, as my dear friend is still here with us today, as far as I know. But I’m afraid her time is drawing near, and she desperately desires heaven over her cancer-ridden, pain-filled body.

We became friends in a very special way. She was a painting instructor at Michaels and I was an art enthusiast who had no formal painting knowledge and too many canvases. I stopped by her promotional booth and chatted quickly but knew I couldn’t afford lessons. I had just moved out and into my first apartment months ago and there was no way I could fit art lessons into my budget. We met a second time in the paint aisle, chatted some more, and as fate would have it, she offered to trade fine art lessons for digital art lessons and our friendship grew from there.

When we met, she had been cancer free for a few years. I didn’t know this right away, but she had survived staged IV lung cancer when she only had a 5% survival diagnosis. She’s very spirited and told her doctors God let her know she’d make it through. And so she did, to their astonishment.

But we are beautiful souls trapped in bodies that malfunction and age, and even with her prior miracle, she found herself hospitalized with pneumonia about 4-5 years later, and that is when they found nodes of cancer sprouting in her body, in her bones this time.

She was given until Winter 2017, and by God’s grace, is still here, and may see another birthday very soon. But all this time she’s been in hospice, and grows weaker, thinner, and lives in more pain.

Here’s what I’ve learned in this year and a half of her slowly dying:

1. Cancer is a horrible, horrible thing…
I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy. This deterioration I’ve witnessed is heartbreaking. My friend is a spirited, spunky, opinionated, lovely Italian lady. She was very high energy, and now needs to gather strength to speak. 

2. It is important to let your friend have what independence she has left.
Sometimes there is victory in the struggle. I vocalize my want to help in the beginning, and wait for her to ask for assistance unless it’s relayed through body language. If I feel she might be at risk, I’m by her side to keep her from falling, or I ask specifically to give a hand then. Letting her feel able-bodied is very important. When someone grows weak and is unable to do many things on their own, they take pride in what they can do. Don’t take that away from them.

3. There will be tears and conflicted feelings.
We’ve cried together a lot. In the earlier parts of hospice there were dark days with crying and regret for a life snuffed short, and other days were infused with hope for another healing to take place. I wept when she wept, and I laughed when she laughed. And while the spectrum of feelings was hard on me, I felt honored to share those moments with her of absolute despair or wonderful hope.

4. Don’t disrespect their vocal wishes to die.
This is particularly hard on me. No one wants a friend to die. It hurts to hear them want death. I wanted to bawl every time she mentioned it. And I was there when other friends were present, and reacted by saying, “Oh don’t say that!” or “You’ll get better, I know it.” I can’t blame them. Those responses are almost default. But you know what that does? It disrespects my friend’s raw honesty and discounts her feelings. As much as it hurt me to stifle my desires to react the same, I try to reply. “I know. I’m sorry this feels unbearable.” I know there is solace for her in confiding the desire to die with someone else. I don’t want to take that away from her.

5. There is a de-nesting period.
There was a point where the cancer spread and more pain medicine was required and my friend knew chances were very slim for recovery. At this point, she began to think about end of life tasks. This was also hard. She would look around a room and try to note who she would pass things too. She didn’t want to burden her kids. Many times I visited she’d give me little things, useful things, that she wanted to clear but knew others could use. Packs of pens, office supplies, very appreciated paint brushes, and little crafting odds and ends. Sometimes if it was a larger item I’d politely let her know I didn’t have room for it, but for things she didn’t ask if I wanted and just gave, I accepted it graciously. We worked on gathering photos for a slideshow at her future memorial. Things that seemed morbid to me were just preparation for the future, and I had to learn to see it that way.

6. There is a unique intimacy.
This intimacy is two-fold. One is practical, as in, they may show you what is wrong or feel comfortable with you being the room when nurses or aids are helping them. She has lifted her nightgown to show me the way cancer has affected her, with the nodes and bumps all over her back, the way her ribs poke through so prominently now. The other is a deep sense of connection and friendship. We don’t know if this meeting is our last, so we enjoy each other’s company that much more.

7. Visitation is hard. You will leave depleted.
Visiting her leaves me tired. Sometimes it leaves me pretending to be stronger than I am emotionally around her, and crying the entire drive home. It is not easy seeing a friend grow weaker knowing she could go at any moment. I feel very drained. But I do not regret our weekly meeting. It is always worth it. 

8. There is hope in heaven.
I know that one day, whenever her last breath is breathed, that there is hope in heaven. She is a devout Catholic, and I am a Christian, and while some of our doctrine does not align, we both have our hope and salvation in what Jesus Christ did for us by living a perfect life as God and a human man, dying on the cross, and resurrecting three days later. I have hope that she will be in the presence of our savior. And that is beautiful, to know her body will be cancer free and she will never be sick again. I wish that hope for everyone I know.

Her birthday is next Monday, and I know she doesn’t want to be around for it. I have peace knowing whether or not she is granted heaven before her birthday, that she feels ready and we’ve shared many Mondays over the last few years together.