Personal Stuff

What Are You RSVP’ing to This Month?

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holiday perspective

Can you name 2 – 3 Christmas gifts you received five years ago? Or even one?

I can’t. In fact I can’t even remember anything I got LAST Christmas.

At church last weekend our pastor had anyone who could remember Christmas gifts of 2010 raise their hands.  Only 2 people out of huge congregation said they could. The majority couldn’t recall one gift.

But looking back, I can tell you the people we were with that year, the traditions we carried out, and memories of things we did together.

Bottom line?

People trump presents. 

It is so easy to get caught up in the buy, buy, buy craze.

But what really matters are the people you spend time with this month.

RSVP to People, Not Parties

Our church urged us this month to think carefully when RSVP’ing to things.  To think about the events, the people, and the connections that are meaningful to us.  RSVP “yes!” to those people.  Carve out the time for soul-fillers. 

December is a ridiculous month of social obligations, right? I give you permission to RSVP to that party you are not super excited to attend.

Book a date with your bestie, hubby or kids instead.

Happy holidays my friends.  Thank you for reading my blog.  Thank you for being soul-fillers to me!

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Enough.

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Everytown for Gun Safety

Truly enough is enough. The gun violence in America has got to stop.

Join the Everytown for Gun Safety Movement to add your voice to this cause. The louder and bigger the movement gets, the more attention it will get.

Did you know there have been 161 school shootings in America since 2013? 161. Click here for a map and details. It’s time to get common sense gun laws in place in America.

Please join me in this movement if you too are concerned about safety from gun violence in this country and please share this with your friends.

Everytown for Gun Safety – Join the Movement to End Gun Violence

http://act.everytown.org/sign/Join-This-Fight

Everytown’s plea: 

“So if you’re angry, if you’re fed up, if you agree there’s more we can do, then join this movement using the form on this page

The bigger and louder this movement gets, the greater our power — power to break the gun lobby’s stranglehold on our nation’s laws, power to throw out politicians who fail to lead, and power to set a new course for this country.”

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers grieve with San Bernardino. It’s time for change.

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What Will Your Kid’s Friends Remember About You?

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Mtvmoon

My mom was diagnosed in August with pancreatic cancer.  You can read about it here and here.

In times like this, having a support system and people rallying around you is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. In the spirit of having another place for people to share their support, my sister and I started a Facebook page for my mom to share inspiration and updates.

Yesterday one of my sister’s childhood friends wrote a comment to my mom that hit me. It said,

“Praying for you Julie. I have the fondest memories of you letting us watch MTV at your house.”

I love this memory of my mom. First, because it brought back my own memories of MTV when it first came out. I will never forget the rocket ship and intrigue surrounding that channel – a revolution in the making.

I am sure many parents in the 80′s were concerned about what they were exposing their kids to. Was MTV in the 80s what Elvis’ hip moves were to the previous generation?

I wonder if my mom letting her watch MTV at our house was magical because she wasn’t allowed to or if the memories were just connected to being at our home during that time in life.

It doesn’t really matter, but what struck me is the fact that our role as moms will be connected to other kids’ memories down the road.  Isn’t that powerful?

What will I be known for many years down the road?  What will my children’ friends remember about coming to our house? I don’t have a clear answer to that – but it sure made me think about it.

Does answer come to your mind? How will your kid’s friends remember you when they are all grown up?

I would love to hear your comments!

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What’s Going On Over Here

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whats going on

For those that might have missed it, I shared here about my mom’s recent pancreatic cancer diagnosis, which turned our worlds upside down.

The day before yesterday I joined a group of my mom’s best girlfriends for a belated birthday / pre-starting chemo luncheon for her.  This circle of women have known each other since childhood and are still the best of friends.  They care so deeply about each other and their families. They even follow my blog (bless them!)

One of her friends said to me at lunch, “Jen, I think I have to resubscribe to your blog because I am not getting your posts?”

To which I had to tell her, “That’s because there haven’t been any!”

HELLO. I realized I hadn’t written a post about why or what was going on over at Tiny Oranges. Here is that post.

When mom my got sick things what was important in my life came very clearly into focus. Namely, God +  family +  friendship + human connections.  

Since August 18th, I have devoted, willingly and gratefully, most of my “free” time away from kids to my mom and dad and her path to healing.

These days when my kids are in school I am care taking, researching, going to doctors appointments, connecting with others that have faced or are facing pancreatic cancer to learn from their journeys, fundraising for pancreatic cancer through Team Julie, morale boosting, praying and connecting with people. For being such a horrible situation, it has also been really enlightening, the way it prioritized things for me.

One of the pancreatic survivors we have met told my mom,You will be in awe of the blessings you’ll experience in this most unwanted journey.”  

I think that sentence sums it up just perfectly.  I wish it wasn’t under these circumstances, but sometimes unwanted journeys do also bring some of life’s biggest blessings.

blessings

Tiny Oranges is NOT going anywhere - it just has to take a back seat for a little while.

I am so blessed to have a work scenario which affords me the opportunity to step away for a period of time and be able to return. I will always return. Tiny Oranges is a part of me.  But for now, I need to focus on my family, and if time allows and I can fit in posts here and there, I will do so.

Please don’t leave me – I am still here – please sign up for the emails so when I do post you know when I am writing again.

In the meantime, thank you for your support and understanding.

Also, if you are free 11/14/15 to come join us in Irvine to support Team Julie and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network at the PurpleStride event, I would be so humbled and grateful. Click here to join our team (top right) or click here to make a donation to my page.

I love you all – hang tight – until next time!  And please send up some prayers for my mom Julie!

xo

Jen

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Our Family Got Cancer

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pancreatic cancer hope

This is a post I never wanted to write.

I thought about not writing it.

I didn’t know if I could have the strength to write it.

But I wanted to write it because I wouldn’t feel right carrying on with posts as if nothing happened.

So here it is.

My mom has pancreatic cancer. 67 years old and completely healthy up until this (insert expletive here) cancer.

That’s our family above a few weeks ago. I’m on the left with my two girls standing behind. My sister is on the right with her two boys. And my beautiful mom in the middle.

Her name is Julie and she is the center of our family. Her cancer is our cancer.  Our family got cancer.

Julie | Mom |  Nana

familypicture1

To know her my mom is to love her. She is like sunshine. She sparkles.

Everywhere she goes and to every one she meets she makes life brighter with her positivity. She loves people and has a genuine interest in every one she meets.  We joke that she is the only person that can meet a stranger in any situation and walk away knowing their kids’ names and where they went on their last vacation.

My kids worship the ground their Nana walks on. Because she is a LOT of fun.

Our relationship is so close that I can’t remember in my 40 years having a major fight with my mom. She has been my # 1 fan and is now tied for # 1 fan of my two girls.

She’s an extraordinary mother.

This summer, after 10 years of saving, and dreaming, my husband and I put in a swimming pool in our backyard. It was something I never thought we could do – but we did.  I always dreamed of having my whole family over for pool parties with the cousins swimming and us all enjoying time together.

This photo was taken 3 days before her diagnosis.  The water in our pool had just gone in 2 weeks prior and it was our first family swimming party for my parent’s 46th wedding anniversary.

I remember sitting there next to my dad, and saying to him, “I am SO HAPPY. I am just SO HAPPY.” I hadn’t felt that magnitude of joy in a very long time.

familypoolparty
It is ironic how life can change in the blink of an eye.

The Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis 

April 1st my mom got hit with bad abdominal pain out of no where and ended up having surgery to remove her gallbladder.  She recovered nicely and the pain that sent her to the ER went away but afterwards the bloating in her stomach never went down.

Come June 24th she started experiencing bad abdominal pain that didn’t go away.  She went to her doctor and because abdominal pain can mean a lot of things, she went down a road of different tests…that returned nothing. Weeks go by between different tests and results with no answers and then a CT scan was ordered that revealed a mass on her pancreas.

An endoscopy to biopsy the mass was scheduled and after the procedure the doctor came in and said you have a tumor on your pancreas and it is a cancerous tumor.

Life Changes In One Day 

No one can prepare you for that moment of sheer horror.

NO. NOT MY MOM. Not now. No. No. No. No.

I went into the bathroom and dry heaved, shaking, crying, “No, no, no, no, no.”

The days afterward are hard to explain. I couldn’t stop the tears, I couldn’t talk about it without crying. It hurt to breathe. I would wake up in the middle of the night and just sob. I didn’t know how I could still have any tears left. I was emptied.

“I Don’t Know How to Do This”

I kept saying, “I don’t know how to do this.” I have always thought of myself as a fairly capable person who could handle obstacles placed in my path. But I didn’t know how to do this.

I didn’t know how to handle this pain, I didn’t know how to get through the day, I didn’t know how life would ever feel normal again.

A good friend of mine’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer two weeks prior to my mom. I called her in a parking lot not being able to drive because I could not stop sobbing. I asked her, “How did you do this?”

Her words and empathy that day were so healing. We cried together.  But behind her tears and voice was a strength that inspired me.  She assured me we were all going to get through this. I had hope that one day my voice too would find its strength.

We needed more information, and a plan. She told me, just get on the path to a plan for treatment.

The Cancer Diagnosis to Treatment Plan Roller Coaster of Hell 

rollercoaster

The pancreatic cancer diagnosis with no information yet was hell, pure hell.

The minute I heard there was a cancerous tumor inside of her I wanted to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – like NOW!! I wanted her in some sort of treatment the next day.

But it doesn’t work that way. One must wait for appointments to get more information with each day feeling like a year. You desperately wait for the next appointment, but that also comes with a dread of what you might find out.

The first appointment was with an oncologist who said surgery to remove the tumor was the best shot. In order to be able to operate, it had to not have spread and be in a spot on the pancreas to be operable.  She was very positive and encouraging.  We left that appointment feeling like a hand was reaching down to us to pick us up. We felt hope. Maybe the surgeon could operate and cut it out. Get it out of her.

We were chugging up the roller coaster towards the light.

The next morning we met with a surgeon with no bedside manner that delivered the news that it was inoperable because of its placement near the veins and arteries that run behind it. Surgery was not an option. We could do chemo to try and shrink it. His delivery was not hopeful.

Enter the free fall roller coaster of fear drop. 

In total we had five appointments with oncologists and surgeons, with each one a different outcome of hope or fear or a mixture of both.

This is Bigger Than Me

The highs and lows and loss of control and fear were more than I could handle. At one point in the middle of the night I realized I couldn’t do this on my own. This was bigger than any human. I started to pray.

I have always been a Christian, but there is nothing like a cancer diagnosis to drop you to your knees with a need for God in a way I had not experienced before. Our pastor has said that God is always found at the end of your rope.  I was at the end. And God was there.

The next day, things started to shift. I went for an early morning run and there was the most beautiful silver lining behind the clouds with the light shining through. I felt God in that moment sending me a message that there would be a silver lining. I felt hope.

clouds

The Beauty of Human Connection

In the midst of our devastation and sadness, our eyes have been opened to the beauty of human connection. They say it takes a village to raise children, well it also takes a village to get through times like this.

We have witnessed the most intensely beautiful outpouring of love and support.

I had multiple friends jump to help me watch my girls so I could make all the appointments. My best friend helped me through the beginning days when I didn’t think I could get through this. One night a friend left dinner on the doorstep so I didn’t have to think about what to make.

I have shared beautiful moments with both my girls who have been there to give me hugs and “mother” me.

My sister got a pep talk from a friend who fired her up and told us to get out there advocate and fight for the best care for my mom, who in turn fired us both up.  Yes, the “put on your big girl panties and do what you need to do to take care of your mom” phrase was used.  And we did!

My husband continues to be a source of unwavering comfort.

I got a call from a woman I know, a cancer survivor, that put me in touch with a family who is currently (and successfully!!!) fighting pancreatic cancer. This man’s wife has become a source of support, encouragement, information and expertise for us. They have both been a gift from God.

My family, the four of us, has spent more time together in the past month than we probably have in the last year. Memories I will always treasure.

I have turned into the communicator to send out email updates to my mom’s family and friends, and the words of encouragement and prayer that come back are overwhelming.

My mom has an army of Prayer Warriors praying for her.  Team Julie is STRONG!!! JOIN US!!!

Pancreatic Cancer Hope – Join Team Julie!

TeamJulie3

How You Can Help 

If you made it to the end of this post, I applaud you. It was a long one. I appreciate you taking the time to read it because I know your time is precious.

If you are moved to help our family during this time, there are a few different ways, and I thank you so much. So very much.

1. Pray for my mom Julie, and our family. Pray for the chemo to shrink the tumor and for her to tolerate it well.

2. Join Team Julie just you or the whole family and walk or run a 5K with us Saturday, November 14th in Irvine to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and RAISE MONEY AND AWARENESS for this ugly disease.  You can even sign up for the 5K and just show up to give out hugs or cheers! We don’t care!!  We want to get 100 people on our team and raise $10,000 and we are half way there!! Join us!!! 

3. Donate to my personal page on Team Julie. Any amount appreciated!!!

4. Like our “Team Julie” Facebook page to stay updated on progress and to give my mom inspiration and support.

5. Sign this petition on Change.org to turn the NFL and sponsors to turn “purple” in November for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in November.

Choosing Hope 

Facing a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is terrifying and there is so much fear.  However, there is always, I mean ALWAYS hope.  

My mom will start chemo in the next week to shrink the tumor.

I recently wrote out a Family Mission for us, to remember what we believe as we walk this path with her, before she begins chemo in the next week.

My mom and our family chose hope

We choose to be positive. 

My mom is one of the most positive people you will ever meet. She is ALWAYS upbeat, looking on the bright side, and filled with a God-given ability to overcome any obstacle life has put in her way. With a smile and an “It’s all going to be OK” attitude.  This situation is no different.  

We believe she will be one of the success cases to give others hope and we believe she will be a survivor of this disease.

We believe in the power of the mind, body and spirit working in conjunction together and we believe that the positive energy of the people on Team Julie that surround her during this time will have positive effects on her spirit and health. 

We believe this path is in God’s hands and we know our faith can move mountains.

healing-scriptures-matthew-1405346206nkg84-1

Thank you for reading and thank you for your prayers.

XO

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