Just a plain-ole-Monday…

Growing up, my parents had a boat. We enjoyed many summers on the local river, spent quite a few nights camping and have a lot of stories and memories to share. It was a point of fun (and frustration) throughout a few years of childhood. My big sister and I took boat lessons and I took pride in being the copilot of my parent’s boat. I could drive it, dock it and set the anchor at a young age. Though I lost many of those talents over the years, they are memories that my sisters and I laugh and talk about now.

The excitement of the past few days didn’t end today. We went out for a boat ride with friends. We spent the day on the river, the boys played at Blue Springs park while checking out the manatees (though they were more interested in running around the grass) and we cooked out at Hontoon Island. We shared stories, enjoyed the sun and were shocked by the massive alligator we saw sunbathing beside us. It was a gorgeous Florida day.

There is an old tree that my family and I always stop to take pictures at. Daddy stuck his hand through it and startled Jacob. Well, that sent him running and screaming (nothing a quick snuggle couldn’t fix). I happened to capture the moment on camera without realizing it. His face is quite priceless!

Despite getting yelled at by the park attendant (apparently they closed 15 minutes before we returned…oops!), the day was amazing. My boys, my momma and Jacob’s friend from the womb (and our good friends!) and the day was built for memory making.

I hope all of you enjoyed the day after Christmas and were able to snuggle your family and enjoy every moment. Happy Monday!

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Oh sweet pedicure…

How I’ve missed this!  One recommendation while undergoing treatment is to avoid pedicures.  Since my immune system is down, there is a greater risk of infection.  I can’t recall the last pedicure I had, so it must have been a while.  With this chilly weather and the dry skin I have from treatment, my feet have seen better days.  After my last round of treatment, I asked when I could get a pedicure again.  Just a few weeks after treatment – yay!

I met my friend Cara years ago when she was my peer at work. We became fast friends and one of our favorite girl days has always been heading to the nail spa to enjoy a pedicure (and typically a little shopping too)!  Cara and her family have been huge supporters throughout this journey.  Her kind heart and listening ear have been priceless during this time.

So when my sweet friend asked if I wanted to join her for a little foot spa treatment, I jumped at the chance!  Our tootsies enjoyed a long soak and scrub while we chatted away, catching up on life, work and everything in between.  It was a great way to enjoy a Thursday before treatment day (thankfully not an aggressive one anymore!).

Cara and I always tend to lean towards the bolder nail colors, with me choosing a beachy blue (to remind me of my happy place while recovering) and her choosing a bright green (Team Red Phoenix!).  What’s your favorite nail color?

I misunderstood

When I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree, I had no intention of walking across the stage. I had already walked when I received my Associate’s Degree and didn’t feel the need to do it again. Working towards my Bachelor’s Degree took longer than I anticipated and I was relieved to be at the end of my college journey. I was glad to be done and I was ready to move on and that was that. Or so I thought. After further conversations with my family, I decided to walk and end my long years of schooling at the stage.

I went to the graduation ceremony and while sitting and listening to the opening speech, I looked back and saw the smile on the face of my family member’s – my husband, his parents, my mom and my baby sister. They each sat there with wide smiles, cheering me on and supporting me.

I walked across the stage with a huge smile and a sense of pride. I didn’t understand the importance until I walked across the stage that day. I hadn’t realized that I needed to mark the end of this portion of life and for my family, who supported me throughout my many, many years at college, to witness me receive that degree.

I experienced something similar today.

I remember walking past the bell in the infusion center when I went for my first treatment. I saw it hanging on the wall, read the sign and thought it was neat. I thought it was a nice way to signify the end of chemotherapy treatments. When I first saw it, I didn’t think I would ring it. I’m not sure why but I felt like it wasn’t something that I needed to do. I didn’t think much of it. Until recently.

At my last treatment, I asked the nurse her thoughts on ringing the bell after my first 6 rounds or after I finish my year of Herceptin. Her reply? After BOTH!

As the weeks went on, I started thinking more and more about that bell. I thought about how I felt initially, about it being unnecessary, and I thought about watching a sweet woman cry when she rang it while I watched after my last treatment. I thought about how I cried, seeing her ring that bell and hug her family. And I realized, I misunderstood.

I misunderstood the bell in the beginning. I didn’t get it because it was my first treatment. I was naïve to what the next few months would be like going through these treatments. I misunderstood what the bell meant; what the bell represents.

This bell symbolizes every step of this journey over the last 5 months. It represents every treatment, every doctor visit, every tear, every pain point, every missed moment, every frustration, every moment of fatigue. But it also represents all of the moments in between those treatments – the kind words, the prayers, the cards, the happy tears, the laughter, the family time, the sister snuggles, the dance parties, the new friends and so, so much more. It represents ending this portion of my journey and moving on to the next.

This bell represents strength that I never knew I had in me.

I didn’t understand how important it was to ring this bell, until it was time for me to ring it.

And today, I did just that. After a long, 8 hour day, I stood in front of my wonderful husband, my sweet sister, my kind friend and all of the incredible nurses and I rang the bell.

I RANG THE BELL!

And now we move on!

Merry Christmas!

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After moving to Florida, Christmas was always an odd time of year for me. I was used to the cold weather and my own family traditions from upstate New York, so the first few years were tough. I missed my sister snuggles and the yearly attempt my parents made at pop over perfection (the struggle was real!).

One year, Joe & I were talking about what to do Christmas Day. We had tried spending Christmas Day at home but it felt a little off because it was just the two of us and the weather was warm. That’s when it hit me.

We need to embrace Christmas in Florida. Instead of trying to make it feel like the Christmas I had in New York, we needed to create the Christmas we want here in Florida. Seems simple, right?

That year, we headed towards our favorite restaurant near the beach, only to find out it was closed Christmas Day (oops). Hungry and disappointed, we started driving again and passed a restaurant that we had talked about trying before. We pulled in and grabbed a table. We enjoyed a really nice meal with a wonderful waitress but it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t quite the Christmas that I was looking for and I felt bad eating out on a day that everyone should be with their families.

After our meal, we headed towards the beach to spend the afternoon. As we sat staring at the ocean, I realized that this was exactly what I was looking for in my search. What’s more Florida than Christmas at the beach?!

And our tradition was born.  For the last five years, we have headed to the beach on Christmas Day. We grab a picnic table or two, Joe heats up the grill and we sit enjoying the ocean air while cooking chicken wings, potatoes and a yummy veggie. Some years we spot Santa handing out candy canes while walking in the sand, while other years there are barely any people around the beach at all. It’s become our “thing” and I love it more and more every year.

Last year, Jacob joined us for his first Christmas Day beach trip and this year our friends joined us as well. Though this was the warmest year yet, it was still filled with fun and laughter.

Though Christmas in Florida is not filled with snowmen or hot cocoa, it is filled with a sandman or two and love. And that, my friends, is what makes this holiday so wonderful. I hope your holiday was magical, no matter what traditions you have.

Merry Christmas, everyone!