Sunday, November 20, 2016

Operation GIFT CARD Birthday Blog





#40days Day 40: On this 40th day, I'm taking a leap of faith & thanking YOU in advance for helping me continue to leave a legacy of #giving, #goodwill and #gratitude. {keep reading!}

My 40th birthday is in exactly 2 weeks. 

I've been back and forth on what to do to celebrate me but every time I kept thinking of what I could do for others. 

You know if you've followed me for long that #childhoodcancer and #caregivers are dear to my heart. You know in years past we've made contributions in honor of my #adoption, you joined me as I did "a gift to myself" with 36 random acts of kindness #rak and you helped me deliver 50+ caregiver bags on my birthday in 2013 with #operationlove 

#superJace actually helped me with the idea for this year --> 

#OPERATIONgiftcard

We want to deliver AT LEAST 40 gift cards to the kids at Jace's clinic {Children's Hospital}. 

One of Jace's FAVORITE things after chemo was being able to go pick out his own toy at a real store after his long day of infusions. He most often went with his mask on and me sheltering him from any possible germ but his face and smile were always worth it when he walked out proudly with a small toy. 

See, those of us that have walked the path of incredibly ill children don't take even a quick visit to a store for granted because we know how impossible it can be to do with immune deficient kids. 

We know that many kids get to pick out toys while at the clinic and many of them are delivered toys by many other organizations but we wanted to give them the freedom to pick out something they really love. 

So $5 or $10 cards will work! It need not be expensive to make a HUGE impact on their day. 
You can deliver the cards to me or mail them to me at PO BOX 6, Celina, Tx 75009
We will be delivering the cards on Dec 7, so that gives you some time to pick one up and get it to us! 
Thank you in advance for helping us! We couldn't make a difference this big without your help! 


#gratitude #grateful #thankful #thankfulness

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Become Thankful in 40 Days

9 years ago I sat in my car realizing that the world around me was more negative than I ever expected. I was going through a difficult time and had a revelation that I did not have to join in the negativity of the crowd. I decided to start a movement that started within me first. I began posting my gratitude on social media. One day turned into two and so on until I was at the end of 40 days. 

If this sounds like a place that you're coming from, keep reading. . . 

A question I continue to ask of my family and my students is this: Are you using the power of social media to help or hinder those around you? 

In those early years of #40days, I didn't blog about my experience and I wish I had. The transformation within me is what helped me get through some of my worst days and years. 

My first blog (40 is all you need) talks about changing the world with an attitude that isn't driven by the issues and struggles in your life. 

My second blog (Grab Gratitude) tells exactly how 40 Days of Thankfulness was birthed and how one single declaration a day can help change your attitude altogether. 

You can visit my past blogs to read about Maria's gratitude story , how 40 Days WILL Change You, and my perspective on gratitude in the middle of our childhood cancer days with #superJace. 

I started this blog based on my belief that gratitude is one of the most powerful keys to living life to the fullest. 

You cannot and will not grow until you take time to stop and breathe out a moment of gratitude. 

40 Days of Thankfulness is simply about cleansing your mind and detoxing yourself from the negative, toxic thoughts, comparison to others,  bitterness, unforgiveness, low self-esteem, focus on lack or dwelling on mistakes. 

I cannot promise you it will be easy. 

It will not. 

Every single year within the 40 days, something I have struggled with has been revealed. Every single year, I've had to stretch myself to overcome a situation or a thought that has had power over me. 

When you commit yourself to take 40 days to declare even the smallest gratitude you will begin teaching yourself to live a new level and will change your heart and your life in the process. 


So, how does #40days work? 

You choose where to document your thankful. You can write it in a journal (as shown below). 

You can post it on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (don't forget to include hashtag #40daysIf you're a SnapChat user, you can also snap it to your story so that your friends see it. 

The idea is to declare one gratitude per day. Some days you may have what we call a "bonus gratitude" or an extra good day where you want to acknowledge your blessing. 

Eventually your friends will start asking what you're up to, that's when you'll share this page with them and have them join you, too! https://www.facebook.com/40daysofthankfulness/ 
{They do not have to have facebook to see this public page.}

In years past to get the kids involved, we've bought a large poster frame, thrown on some chalkboard spray paint and let them use chalkboard markers to declare their own gratitude. They LOVE makers and seeing the board after 40 days with thankfulness in their own handwriting is fun for all of us and a good conversation started for visitors.  

            
 
           




You could also write your daily thankful on some pretty scrapbook paper strips and add it to a jar to go back through and read later. 

There is no right or wrong way to do this. However, writing it down is imperative to your success. 

You will want to stop.

Like anything that grows you, you will want to resist it. You will come up with every excuse in the book. 

"I had a long day. I was too tired. I didn't have time. This day had nothing good in it. I can't think of anything. I didn't feel well enough. The kids kept me too busy. I was out late."

Look, I know. I KNOW. 

But you have to push through those days and moments. 

Join the Facebook Page we've created for you! Accept and "Go" the current year's 40 Days of Thankfulness event. You will have support there and many gratitude friends to cheer you on. 

The event page will list for you the days we've set aside to start and end, but if you want to start immediately, DO IT! :) 

The ending date is intentionally set so that you will end your 40 days the week of Thanksgiving. 

Now,  prepare your mind for these next 40 days! 

#40days



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Do Something. Do Anything. 4% Isn't Enough.

For all the days of my life, I'll be an advocate for childhood cancer. 

Jace looks normal now and most people will forget his journey eventually, but the last 3 1/2 years have changed everything for us. We will never be the same. We will never look at life the same. 

There's not much left to say that I haven't already said, but there's so much left to do. 

4% of funding is all our kids are getting for childhood cancer. 

Meanwhile, because it's more profitable for drug companies, breast cancer gets $584 million. 

How can that NOT resonate with you? 

We can talk about how sad it is that 36 kids are diagnosed with cancer each day. 

We can cry because we feel and see the pain they and their families go through. 

We can look away  because for some it's just too much to handle. 

OR we can do something. Anything

  • Give up your Starbucks for the month and give all of the money saved to one of the organizations listed below. 

  • Buy a T-shirt to wear to bring awareness. (don't worry. I have you covered. Link will be posted soon)

  • If you run, sign up to run as a St. Jude hero or something similar. 

  • Shave your head with St. Baldrick's. 

I'm always churning ideas in my head to make an impact. 

We will offer you at least TWO ways, locally, for you to make a difference and GO GOLD in September for Super Jace and kids like him. 

Just because Jace's treatment phase is over doesn't mean we will stop teaching, leading, and showing others why 4% ISN'T ok. 

Nothing will change if all we do is sit and wish the reality was different. 

No one in power will change anything unless WE make them see why this isn't ok. 

I hope you'll join our family this month and choose to do at least one thing to create change. 

Childhood Cancer Donation List


  We cannot say enough about many of these organizations. Most of them have directly impacted our lives. We share them with you in good conscience that they are doing what they say they will do with your monetary donations. 

Visit Charity Navigator to view efficiencies & financial information for many major charities:

National
Cure Search

Triumph Over Kid Cancer

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Alex's Lemonade Stand


Local - Texas
Team Connor

Heroes for Children

Sarcoma specific:
Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative

1 Million 4 Anna


OTHER

Make A Wish

Hope Kids

Kenna's Kids

Peach's Neet Feet

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Off Treatment Means It's Over, Right?!

Look. We will be the first to tell you that we know many are tired and worn of hearing about Jace and cancer. We know people talk negatively about it and maybe even talk negatively about us. In the last three and half years, we've had it happen more times that we'd like to admit from people we've loved and thought were for us. 

We did not ask to be put in the middle of this disease and did not ask to have to miss out on so many "normal" everyday moments. We know that many care so much for Jace and maybe care not-so-much for the rest of us. That definitely comes with this territory as we've recently learned.

However, I'm fully confident that someone, including us, is learning some sort of lesson surrounding all of the above. Maybe the lesson is grace or compassion. Maybe the lesson is holding your tongue more and giving out love in lieu of criticism and judgement. The lesson might even be to find joy even when joy isn't anywhere in sight.  We've, personally, learned lessons in trust, discernment, and extending undeserving grace. 

Today as we embark on a new season, our family stands together moving slowly into a new normal while many around us will not understand the emotions and complications of this new life we are living. 

Tomorrow Jace will get his port removed. We are joyous that he will be able to experience life without it. We are excited that a small fever won't mean a rushed trip to the ER. But no matter how faithful we are, we are still human. We still pray everyday that he is cured, we ask for healing from his head to his toes, we cry out victory over his life and we hope with everything we have that he will spend many, many, many joyous and fun years living life to the fullest. We constantly have to put our faith over our fear now. 

Cancer/Leukemia will always be part of who we are. We will talk about it. We will be passionate about it. We will work to raise money for families affected by it and for research to cure it. It is intertwined into all of our individually unique life stories. 

For that reason, I will continue to give you a small peek into our perspective in the current moment. 

Our new challenges are different, but equally as daunting some days.  

One of the challenges is getting people to understand that just because Jace is off treatment and has his port removed that everything is as normal for us as it is at their house.  "Cured" in our case usually isn't used until several years off of therapy. 

Another challenge is helping others understand that many of the side effects of the many medicines that flowed through his body will not show up right away. Often learning difficulties or educational challenges take some time to show up, but we have friends ahead of us on this path and have confirmed classroom struggles that were not present before.  We've also had friends tell of unempathetic teachers or administrators who refuse to keep the kids who are off-treatment on their 504 plans while in the classrooms. (NOT in our district) As an educator, my heart so goes out to these kids and families who are struggling themselves to adjust to a new normal and still help those around them understand that "this isn't exactly over." 

Some effects do show up right away. The rash that he battles all over his body that could take up to a YEAR to go away is something we didn't even think about until now. His legs and muscles still ache and hurt and his bones are still weak. He still gets exhausted like before. 

I won't even bore you with the financial or emotional burdens we face everyday. We aren't unlike the majority of people in the world. 

There are days that we still cry overcome by the emotion of it all and moments that we feel like we can't breathe because this journey was hard. And because it was hard and we had to work everyday to keep lifting our face to our faith, we are now trying to relearn who we are now, what we like, what our relationships can be while not being surrounded by chemo. 

Off-treatment, monthly checkups and no port IS a great season to be in, but like anything else it, too, comes with it's challenges and lessons and as long as we get to do that along side of this sweet face, we will be good. 


xoxoxo



Sunday, May 8, 2016

Faith and Fear

I've been waiting a very long time to write this blog. And, though, exciting, I've been putting it off on purpose

In 2 1/2 weeks, Jace will take his last spinal infusion and his last infusion since 2013. 5 days later he will take his last oral chemo pills at home. The day after that he will graduate from kindergarten and the next day he's asked to be baptized. 

Needless to say, I will be more of a mess that week than I typically am on a daily basis.  {you've been warned}

It is the weirdest thing to actually be at this point and I guess today is as good as any to post this blog. 

Those of you who've been in my audience for a while know that this day {Mother's Day} has always been hard for me. I was not super close to my mom and being adopted I already felt as though I was missing a huge part of my story by not knowing my birth mother. 

Instead of being sad, I do my best to celebrate the mother I am to my own three kids. They know it's a hard day for me and they know that I don't expect any special or expensive gift or a fancy restaurant. My favorite thing is to have a day of unplanned rest and relaxation doing what I want which mostly includes sleeping in, going for a run and writing or watching movies. 

Today, I woke up to a sweet video of Super Jace in 2011  in which I was so hopeful that he would finally say "mama" and yet he continued to say "dada." It's one of my favorite videos because of his sweet voice and how carefree those days seemed to be.  

As I watched that video, I was reminded of how we never really know just how we can be jolted by life's curves and twists. I also realized it was time to share the next chapter in our cancer journey with you all. 

You see, I've been very quiet about his last chemo date. It isn't something I wanted to yell out to the world. I've been keeping the date safe within our family and pondering on what that meant exactly. I'm planning a few surprises for that day, but we wanted to keep it intimate for our family so that we can really be in the moment instead of hosting visiting friends. 

When people find out how close he is to being "finished," they are always so excited. And so I just smile. 

It is exciting. I am so excited for him to not be dictated by a medicine schedule. I am thrilled that he will get to start doing "normal" kid things that he has not previously experienced. I am relieved for what it all means for our family and the things we are able to do again. 

At the same time, only people who've walked before me know this part: It is about to be the scariest time in our lives, too. 

To recap for you: 

  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (Jace's diagnosis) has one the longest treatment plans of all the childhood cancers. I remember the dr specifically saying to us the day he had his port put in: "This treatment will be at least 3 years long since he is boy." Girls are treated in 2 years. 
  • He was in remission soon after his diagnosis and after he started the intensive chemotherapy, however, that doesn't mean he stopped his treatment plan. It must be seen through to the end. 
  • He has gone through 5 phases of treatment over the course of the last 3 1/2 years: Induction, Consolidation, Interim Maintenance, Delayed Intensification, and Maintenance
  • Though, he will be finished with treatment, he will still go to the dr monthly for blood tests and check ups. 
  • Those visits will taper off over the course of a few years, but he will always be monitored over the course of his entire life. 
  • The chance of relapse is higher the first year off of treatment. 

The next season in our journey is much like being in the ocean without a life preserver. The chemo, though, harsh and difficult on him and his body was a safety net for our minds and fears. 

Now more than ever will our faith have to diminish our fears. 

We've ran this like a marathon. It's been long and grueling and some days we just didn't think we would make it. 

When he started he was still potty training. Now, he is about to be a first grader. We often joke that even though he is the youngest in our family he is sort of like the oldest. He's experienced so much life and overcome so much in his short 6 years that he really is leading our family. 

We want to thank each and every one of you for following along on this journey, for putting up with my many blogs and posts and pictures.  

There is a story in the Bible that my friend, Mandy Hall, referenced last night as we were preparing to serve at our church {Luke 5: 17-20} and I found it fitting for our relationship with all of you. 

Some men were trying to bring their paralyzed friend down before Jesus, but because they could find now way to get him in through the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles. 

You see sometimes when our faith isn't leading us, the faith of our friends and family is what is getting us through and seeing us to the next day. Many of you have done that for us. Your prayers and your faith and your words of victory have gotten us from that devastating day in 2013 to now. 

You cannot know how thankful we are to have all of you behind us, beside us and leading us. 





Monday, April 18, 2016

Snack Drive! April 18-22

Most of you know that Jace goes to the clinic at least once a month for his chemo treatments. But in the very beginning of his fighting of leukemia he was at the clinic many days of the week for at least 8 hours. 

The time there is taxing even with such a great staff. 

Oftentimes, the highlight of the day for these kids is the one prize they get to pick and one snack. 





We'd love to have any donations so we can bombard our clinic goers with tons of drinks and snacks! You can drop off at Celina Intermediate School or deliver directly to Children's CCBD in Plano. 

Ideas: 

Gatorade or Sports drinks
Juice
Soft Drinks
Chips in individual size
Granola Bars
Crackers
Cookies

*Individually wrapped snacks are most appropriate for this setting! 

Thank you to all of you who are helping us love on these kids and families! 

xoxo


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Being Vulnerable

There's no bigger test to your vulnerability than cancer. 

I recently read this great article my friend, Kate Crawford, posted on Facebook the other day. 
Kate and the article come from the perspective of breast cancer, but, man, was it spot on for me, too. {Kate and her story are worth checking out here and you can find the article I read here

Years and years ago, I made the observation that many people who had lived through tragic circumstances sort of "pull away" from all things: social media, attention, social gatherings, being outgoing with new people, etc. 

Back then I curiously wondered why. 

Now, I am that person and completely get it. 

The article talks about "fighting hard" and all the ribbons and races and bravery. It talks about how those who are seemingly healthy and "look good" doesn't mean they aren't still dealing with the mental, physical, and emotional aspects of the disease. 

That article spoke to me like nothing else lately. 

This journey IS isolating. We are very, very, very careful who we trust with our true feelings about all of this. Sure enough as soon as we let someone 'in' they just as quickly cannot actually deal with it and pull away first. 

OR

I find that the normal chatter between friends about normal daily worries and such just don't apply to me at all. I don't feel like I can add much to the typical mom complaints because, well, I can't.

Last week, we were almost late to school because Jace was sobbing and sobbing. He finally told me what was wrong. He was afraid of dying. He was worried that Jason and I would die. He was worried about his teacher. He kept asking questions and for the first time I was speechless. How do you talk to your 5 year old about his fear of death? 

Yep. This is a topic we've had to tackle several times over the last few months. 

And then today when he woke slower than usual and was walking slower than usual, I had to remind myself that the big chemo dose he took last night SO affects him, his bones, his energy and his daily activity. He ALWAYS looks like he is doing great because he is #superjace has a great attitude, but he's still being treated for leukemia. He's still taking chemo. It's still VERY up front in our face even if it's not for the rest of the world. 

At the end of last year, after his two long stays at the hospital and the IV at home for a week, I entered what I would call my "angry phase." If you talked to me at all, I was pretty up front about it. The Tisha that you got was much different than the normal one. 

Our doctor is amazing (and so are our nurses) and she wasn't surprised at all that the anger hit. She also prepared us for being angry again because just as soon as Jace takes his last chemo infusion and then gets his port removed, "EVERYONE will think it's all over and it's NOT." (her words)

Many times people just don't ask. That's a whole different emotion that I  won't go into this time. 

Other times when asked how things are going you'll hear us say "We are good" not because we are necessarily good, but because it's just easier than explaining all that's actually happening. 

Currently, Jace is sleeping on the couch while his sister cries because he doesn't feel good enough to play with her. Today, she told me that a friend asked her if she had a brother that had cancer. She said it made her feel sad but also happy that someone at school cared enough to ask. It's kind of like that for all of us. 

Why do people pull away after a tragedy or long term illness? 

For us, it's a safer place. We can be vulnerable with each other free of judgement. 

Staying off of social media prevents us from comparing our lives to others. 

Avoiding large social settings prevents the large amounts of anxiety that any of us have at any given time. 

We've become very guarded because we are all still working it out as we go. 

Meeting new people is difficult because you simply just don't want to share everything to people who haven't earned the right to be in "the circle." 

....And this is where we are right now...still working on embracing our vulnerability.