For the warrior in pink

by Lesley on October 19, 2014 · 1 comment

in books,cancer

warrior in pink

For the average American, October is a month when autumn leaves fall, goblins and ghosts emerge, and a signature pink ribbon makes it’s appearance on football fields, yogurt containers and billboards along every major highway.

At the Miller house, October is also the anniversary of Jonathan’s terrible discovery of cancer within his own chest; not of the breast cancer variety but Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which started as a mass under his collarbone and above his heart.

While I’m not opposed to the fun of Halloween dress-up and trick-or-treating, I always find it a bit ironic and twisted that we Americans celebrate a holiday centered around death during the same month we’re working so hard to eradicate a very deadly disease. But, I digress…

There are a lot of terrible parts about cancer, but one amazing part is that Jonathan and I have separately, and together, met many other patients and spouses fighting this disease. And while everyone’s experience is a little different, we’ve found camaraderie, understanding and comfort in other’s journeys; many of which look similar to our own.

Vivian Mabuni is a friend and mentor I met almost two years ago through the Redbud Writer’s Guild. She’s a breast cancer survivor, mom, wife, and friend who loves Jesus and wants to encourage other women facing this terrible disease. As soon as I heard she was working on a memoir about cancer, I knew I wanted to be among the first to read about her journey.

Earlier this year, Vivian released Warrior in Pink: A Story of Cancer, Community, and the God who Comforts. The book chronicles her experience as a young mother fighting cancer, and she beautifully shares about everything from the intimate moment of diagnosis to her tough conversations with family and the after cancer wilderness. Through it all, Vivian keeps pointing readers back to Jesus. She writes, “I found a difference between existence and life. I didn’t want to spend whatever days God had for me merely existing. I wanted to live fully without fear.”

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Vivian is giving away a copy of her book to one of my readers. Even if you don’t have breast cancer, it’s likely you know someone who does. I hope this book might help you to better understand cancer, and see how our compassionate God is so present in our suffering.

Vivian, thank you for sharing your heart with a world who needs hope during the cancer journey. Friends, make sure to visit Vivian’s website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

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Bruises, bullying and protection prayers

by Lesley on September 29, 2014 · 2 comments

in motherhood

bandaid

On Friday morning at breakfast I noticed a big, red raspberry on the inside of Anna’s arm, and for the first time since becoming her mama, I didn’t know when and how the injury occurred.

While Anna seemed just fine that morning–not even a bandaid request!– the red and oozy sore just about broke my heart. She’d fallen, and I hadn’t been there to pick her up. 

***

Our little girl started preschool a few weeks ago. It’s only two mornings a week at a little Christian school about five minutes from our house, and for the most part I love our new routine. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings a babysitter comes to our house to watch Owen, while I drive Anna to school and then continue on to Starbucks so I can work for a few hours. On our short drive, with just the two of us in the car, I like to pray for her day.

While she looks out the window, I ask God to help her have fun, to teach her a love for learning and how to be kind. I also ask God to keep her safe.

Every time I pray these words, “Lord, protect Anna today,” I wonder if it would be better to just say them to myself, as a whisper, so her spongey little brain won’t pick up on what I’m not saying: the world isn’t always a safe place, crazy bad freak accidents and horrible evils happen daily across our world, and kids say and do the meanest of things.

***

At MOPS on Friday morning, lovely Becca gave a beautiful introduction to our theme for the year: Be You Bravely. As part of the year’s kick-off, she told a story about being bullied as a child, and how a few terrible words stuck with her for many years after. While listening to Becca’s story, it made me think about my own brave story (which I wrote about publicly for the first time last week on this popular blog.) As a child, I was teased and ridiculed, as many children are. Someday my own children may also be teased and I won’t be there to protect them. Even crazier? Depending on my children’s personalities, it’s possible I won’t even know that teasing or bullying took place.

I’ve been staring at Anna’s raspberry all weekend, and it’s now been rubbed raw and looks terrible. I’m still sad I don’t know what happened, but at least I know something did happen and she’s okay. These days, Anna’s red and raw injuries show up clearly on her skin. But they won’t always be so visible.  Someday, inevitably, she will carry more internal wounds that external scars. Someday, someone, might say her crimped hair makes her looks like a cocker spaniel, or her ears look like Dumbo. If I’m lucky, maybe she’ll show me where it hurts and explain what happened. And other times, I will simply have to guess.

***

The more I look at Anna’s raspberry, the more I’m starting to wonder if my prayers for safety and protection aren’t exactly the words I want to be praying.

Bumps and bruises and heartaches in this life can’t be avoided. As Tim Keller said in a recent radio interview, all of us will face suffering at some point.

Almost three years ago, on a windy fall day in Sacramento, Jonathan was diagnosed with cancer. A few people asked how we could still believe in a good God if He allowed cancer to attack nice, kind people like my husband. But when I think back to that particularly stormy season in our life, I don’t question why God allowed the storm to hit, but I remember how he so faithfully held us through it. We weren’t safe, but we were protected. 

***

Anna’s elbow will be all healed up by the time she heads back to preschool on Tuesday, but when I load her into her car seat and begin our short drive to school, I think I might change my prayer strategy. I’m starting to wonder what it would look like to pray that God would hold her, instead of protect her and I’m starting to wonder what it would look for me to loosen my tight grip, just a little bit, and trust that He can handle her pain and heartache even better than I can.

Letting go, even just a little, hurts. But I think it will hurt a little less if I place her sweet hands directly into the hands of One I trust most.

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Six things I learned in August

by Lesley on September 1, 2014 · 5 comments

in lessons learned

photo (57)

This beautiful, fast-paced mom life offers many learning opportunities but I’m not always great about writing them down. This month I’m linking up with Emily to share what I learned in August. Get ready for a little silly, a little bit helpful, and a little bit gross.

1. Cleaning barf out of a car seat requires patience and practice. Unfortunately, we’ve had lots of practice. It appears both of our children get carsick. I am hopeful this is just a toddler thing because it’s been awhile since Anna has had an incident, but poor Owen…poor, poor Owen.

Two separate incidents this month alone! We’re learning to: avoid winding roads, carry extra wipes, have a change of clothes in the car, and try not to panic. (I’ll just admit: I panic and freak out every single time.) Here’s my biggest tip: tempting as it might be to scoop your child out of the car seat and comfort them, wait until you’ve assessed and dealt with the damage. I’ll leave it at that.

2. Bribery is a beautiful parenting strategy. I never thought I’d be a parent that bribed on the regular, but Anna’s new sticker chart is both simple and effective. I have an ugly printable from Pinterest and I wrote in four categories:  “Trying new things” + “Not interrupting” + “Getting yourself dressed” and “Saying hello when you are introduced to new people.”  The chart has been most helpful before we leave for swim lessons. “See if you can put your whole face in the water today, Anna girl, so I can give you a ‘tries new things’ sticker.” Bam. Next thing you know I’ll be paying for grades. Ugh.

3. Uber is awesome. Have you tried this (somewhat new) transportation app? We used it while in Los Angeles for our anniversary weekend. It BLEW MY MIND. We never waited longer than three minutes for a ride, and it was cheaper and cleaner than a taxi. You must try it. And, if you’re looking for a flexible job, you should consider becoming a driver. Props to my husband for knowing about this LONG before I did.

4. Speaking of great apps, we also used Waze. If you hate traffic, and want real time reports and alternative routes, you’re going to love this invention.

5. Sometimes I need to make room for spontaneity. I tend to keep our life very scheduled, but not because I necessarily like routine. There is so much to see and do–both fun things and productive things–that an intentional schedule seems like the only way to make it all happen. But last week we had nothing on the calendar! I couldn’t find a babysitter so I was home every morning, the YMCA (and swim lessons) were closed, and I hadn’t planned any play dates. We took each day at a time, doing what we felt like doing and not overextending ourselves. On Friday night we headed up to Cayucos to spend time with Zach and Dana at the beach. We had so much fun, we stayed an extra night! Spontaneity (and salt water) is good for the soul.

6. We also learned that our children love dogs. For a long time, Anna was very afraid of dogs and we’re not sure why. I think our neighbor’s black lab, Lincoln, has helped with her fears. Both kids spent much of our weekend climbing all over Zach and Dana’s golden retriever, Bella. It warmed my heart to watch them delight in her. In fact I may have had a “WE NEED A DOG” moment, but then I collected myself and decided it’s a terrible idea (for now.) As soon as my kids are out of diapers…game on.

What did you learn this month? Leave me a comment, or head over to Emily’s blog and post your own!

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soaps

It’s been almost three years since Jonathan’s cancer diagnosis, and in that time we’ve been SLOWLY making changes to what types of cleaning, home and cosmetic products we use. After cancer we felt paralyzed by all the choices there are when it comes to using “the right products.”

To be honest, the whole switch to safer products felt like a lot of work and potentially more money than we wanted to spend. And when I did sit down to research I became angry.  Cancer fears and conspiracy theories are everywhere and some of them made me feel guilty I hadn’t done a good enough job as a consumer. No one was trying to make cancer feel like his fault or my fault, but it lurked underneath every new article, book or commercial reporting the latest findings.

Hear me when I say: sometimes we simply don’t know what causes cancer or why it happens to him and not her. 

As a couple we made a conscious decision to not live in fear that a certain food, cleaning product or deodorant had contributed to Jonathan’s cells behaving wonky. Instead, we made a few small changes here and there and decided that over time we’d slowly begin researching and buying products we felt might be safer for our family.

Just a few days ago I was reading news about potential cancer causing toxins in toothpaste. The article was a good kick in the butt to sit down and research some of the cosmetic products I’ve been using.

If you’re trying to make healthier product choices for your family but feel paralyzed by the research or the cost, here are my (recently discovered) tips:

1. Check out vitacost.com. The site is like a combination of Whole Foods and Amazon Prime. They have a huge selection of healthy living products at discounted prices. Spend over $50 and you get free shipping. I decided to create an account first which allowed me to build a list of products I’m already using, or that I’d like to start using.

2. Check out www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners for a database of safer cleaning products. We’ve already been using Seventh Generation liquid dish soap, but I keep meaning to research dishwasher and laundry detergents. The EWG confirmed that Seventh Generation is a great product, and Vitacost carries this brand. Easy peasy! I’ll start ordering Seventh Generation from Vitcost.

3. Check out Skin Deep for a database of cosmetic products. This database isn’t as user friendly as the cleaning products’ site so I ended up searching for best selling products on Vitacost and then comparing the ratings on the EWG site. As a result of my research I’ve decided to say goodbye to Cepahil, Jonathan’s Suave shampoo and our Burt’s Bees baby products. We’ll be trying a few new products instead, while holding on to some of our old favorites like my eye makeup remover and Dove bar soap which were rated well.

It took a few hours to go through all the various databases and evaluate the products we’re currently using, but I feel SO GOOD about my discoveries. I hope some of these websites might help your family too.

Also- did you know that Trader Joe’s line of food is all non-GMO? That’s another post for another day…but…just one more reason I love my beloved TJs!

Any tips for finding better cosmetic or home products for my family?

p.s. Interestingly enough, on the EWG site Mrs. Meyers isn’t ranked as high as I’d like for “safe” products. But, I love the scent and decided to keep purchasing their hand soap and countertop spray, at least for now.

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Long live summer

by Lesley on August 23, 2014 · 5 comments

in what i'm into

Jonathan’s playing basketball tonight so naturally I’m home eating Rocky Road ice cream…because if I can’t exercise I might as well do the opposite, right? I hope he burns enough calories for the both of us.

It’s been awhile since I posted an update about life around our house, so here’s a quick update even though I’m way late for Leigh’s July link-up, and way early for the September one.

I present to you a recap of the last six weeks: 

 

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We have been totally and completely in love with summer in this town. The buzz of tourists, the smell of saltwater, the chlorine scent on my kids’ heads…it’s all intoxicating. After the mellow craziness of last summer (only moms of newborns will understand that oxymoron) all of us are enjoying the ability to get out of the house. I can’t even tell you how many beach walks and picnics we’ve done in the last six weeks.

As for celebrations, there have been plenty. Both my sister AND brother (in-laws) got engaged in the last few weeks! Sarah just sent me links to the ring bearer and flower girl ensembles. You guys, this is about as close as I’ll ever get to pageant mom and I can’t WAIT. 

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We also celebrated Owen’s first birthday with a family party at Doheny State Beach, and Anna’s third birthday with a Thomas the Train party in our yard. For some reason I really believed they needed separate parties but as fun as they were, I should have just combined their special days while I had the chance. In a few years I won’t be able to get away with that trick, you know?

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Jonathan and I decided to have Owen dedicated when he turned one, just like we did with Anna. Our church thoughtfully prepared us for his dedication with podcasts, homework and a small celebration the night before with a few other families. Owen was perfectly charming on stage. Anna, however, kept slipping her hand up my dress…which was awkward to say the least. (Speaking of charming–do you like her “I refuse to smile for the camera” face?)

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Fun alert! We got to see a bunch of friends over the last six weeks. Ashlee visited in July for a few days with Everett and I had so much fun showing her my new home. Kelly and sweet Piper,  Janelle, Bethie, Justin and Tricia, and Dana were all in the SB area for various reasons, too. I’m learning that beach towns tend to draw people to visit which is great for us because we get to do fun things like ride the carousel and go wine tasting and eat a lot.

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Speaking of the beach, Janelle and I spent a hilariously chaotic afternoon together at Refugio. Let’s just say that taking four children (three and under) to the beach might have been ambitious.

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Over the course of a few weeks I read The Invention of Wings which was SO SO good. I tend to read a lot of non-fiction and was hoping to dive into a great fiction book this summer. I highly recommend Sue Monk Kidd’s newest novel which is all about slavery, abolition, and women’s rights.

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In early August we celebrated our first FIESTA weekend since forever ago. If you’re not familiar with Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days, it’s basically a five day festival with parties all over town, a carnival, a parade, and really yummy churros. Anna learned how to crack confetti eggs- a HUGE hit- and I was reminded about the charm of small town living.

 

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Anna finished up her first session of swim lessons on Thursday. I’ve been taking her to the YMCA twice a week, and while she is by no means swimming, we’ve enjoyed seeing small successes in the water. She smiles through most of the class, but I still think her favorite part is the warm shower when it’s over. Those gym showers I tell ya. Phew, they’re fun.

I’ve been hard at work on Kidaround’s next issue, which debuts on Thursday. (Yay!) Over the last few weeks I’ve been just wanting to veg out after the kids fall asleep, so Jonathan and I spent many nights glued to the most recent season of 24. The show is still unrealistic and way too gory, BUT I’VE LOVED EVERY SECOND.

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Last week we celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary by taking the whole family to see a country music cover band at a local park. It was a lovely night until Jonathan dropped his stroller on our toe and I got stung by a bee…all within 30 seconds. I was so shocked by the whole thing that I was in hysterics–laughing and then sobbing at the same time. The next day we left for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS ALONE in Los Angeles where we sat by the pool, ate amazing food, read, got a massage, and saw Boyhood. (Which you should totally see, by the way.)

This week we have no plans! No work. No swim lessons. No MOPS. No home group. It’s our final week before all the fall commitments start up, including preschool. (Preschool!!!) We plan to soak up every last drop of summer.

How have you spent these last, lingering days?

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