Whitening Sensitive Teeth at Home for Your Best Smile

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In Which I Discover a New Product: Smile Brilliant

So far in life, I’ve avoided the embarrassment of a student saying, “Teacher, your teeth are yellow.” But, I have wondered about teeth whitening systems—especially since I enjoy a cup of coffee (or two) on a daily basis, and drink herb teas. When Ashley, from Smile Brilliant, reached out to me to ask if I’d like to do a blog collaboration with her company, I thought, “Why not?”

In exchange for an at-home teeth whitening kit, I agreed to write a blog post about my experience and to post about it on social media. So, here’s my story. First of all, I’m a bad student—Ashley has graciously put up with all of my other deadlines and teacher-related things that prevented me from holding up my end of the bargain in a timely manner.

Second, Smile Brilliant has a cracker-jack customer service (including Ashley) program. The brochures and emails explained exactly how to go through the teeth-whitening process, from creating the molds to using the product.

The first step involves a quick survey to determine what kind of teeth you have—I classified mine as sensitive, so Ashley suggested that I use their product for sensitive teeth. A box comes in the mail with everything necessary for creating the molds and whitening one’s teeth. They even include an extra tray in case you mess up (which I did on the first mold).

One advantage to the at-home system involves drool. Yes, drool. For some reason, the casting process made me drool copious amounts—something that would have embarrassed me a lot in the dentist’s office just made me laugh at home.

The Whitening Process

Once I’d completed the molds, I popped them in the mail in the pre-paid mailer. I love it when companies give attention to detail like this—our small-town post office has limited hours. Smile Brilliant offers discounts to customers who might want to order two sets of trays—I didn’t see the point in this until after I’d started the whitening process. It’s a great offer, so you might want to consider it. They also have a discount on additional whitening product if purchased at the time of sending in the tray molds.

Two weeks later, I received the trays in the mail—they come in a nice plastic carrying case. I confess that it took me awhile to get started with the process, but once I did, it worked like a charm. Whitening involves a two-step process that’s repeated daily (more or less) over a period of several weeks.

I found that using a Q-tip to apply petroleum jelly to my gums kept me from tasting the product. Not that is has a bad taste, it’s just not chocolate! The instructions directed me to start for 30 minutes, and to work my way up to several hours.

After wearing the trays with the whitening gel, you’ll need to rinse and dry the trays before applying the desensitizing gel. This is where having two sets of trays would come in handy.

Enter TODAY to win a FREE at-home teeth whitening kit from Smile Brilliant! #smilefearlessly #smilebrilliant Click To Tweet

The Custom Fit

Because Smile Brilliant customizes the trays to fit your mouth, they fit like a glove (ok, a weird analogy for one’s teeth, but you get the picture). Sometimes, conversations sounded a little funky, but I could easily converse with others.

Smile Brilliant claims that you can carry on with your normal life whilst wearing the trays. Although I wouldn’t advocate wearing them when speaking in front of a large audience, I had no problems wearing them during my aerobics class, walking, hiking, running, and birding.

The trays keep the whitening gel and desensitizing gel where they belong, and comfortably on your teeth.

Does it Work?

YES! It does! Smile Brilliant suggests that during the whitening process, customers should forego things like coffee, tea, and berries. Did I mention that I’m a bad student? I read that piece of advice after I had finished whitening my teeth.

Despite my failure to read all the suggestions, my teeth looked noticeably whiter by the end of the process. I had just had my teeth cleaned three months prior to using Smile Brilliant’s whitening system, so I wondered if my teeth would actually get whiter. They did!

Here are the before and after photos:My whiter, brighter smile after using at at-home teeth whitening kit from Smile Brilliant.

So, if you’ve thought about whitening your teeth, and wondered whether to invest in whitening strips or a procedure at the dentist’s office, Smile Brilliant has a great alternative. You’ll get custom-fitting trays, a great product, superior customer service, and above all, a brighter smile!

ENTER TO WIN Your Own Teeth-Whitening Kit!
COUPON & GIVEAWAY DETAILS:
15% off coupon code: blessedbutstressed15
Giveaway link: www.smilebrilliant.com/g/blessedbutstressed

The giveaway is for a $149 Smile Brilliant credit. It is open for 1 week (closes on June 12) and open to USA, UK, Australia and Canadian residents.

Crutches for a Caregiver

Use those crutches - they help us keep moving!

Caregivers have to survive along with the patient.

Pudding.  Dora the Explorer.  Juice. Bambi.  Burritos.  Blankets.  Chemo backpacks. The Lion King. Ice Cream.

Crutches for a caregiver.

Crutches I thought I would never use!  But I used them for sure.  I used them often. Did that make me a bad mother?

I had always been a careful mother.  I oversaw every aspect of my children’s food, activities – everything.  As an educator I was careful with their screen-time, diet and bed-time.  I invited children to our yard to play, because I could keep my eye on my own kids better that way. I didn’t succumb to the temptation of using TV or screen-time as a baby-sitter.  Ice cream was rare.  Juice and pudding were treats.  Dora the Explorer?  I’d never seen it. We didn’t watch TV.

Having a four-year-old too weak to play, too lethargic to care, and too sick to eat spun my mothering ideals into a tail-spin.

Andrew’s medication tasted awful.  He was four so I ground it up and we got it down with pudding.  He was tired, but looked forward to Dora the Explorer during blood-draws.  Playing was out of the question, but a good dose of Bambi occupied him long enough for me to actually take a shower.

Burritos was the one food that trumped all other options and let’s be honest, I could hide one of his medications in that burrito.  I’d read that little ones drinking juice was a bad idea for their teeth, but water tasted pretty bad to my little guy and we worked to keep him hydrated.

Andrew had more blankets than anyone I’ve ever met in my life.  We used every single one.  He was extra cold, threw up often and we traveled to hospitals and clinics a lot – blankets made those trips bearable.  The chemo-backpack was started by my friend and added to often by other friends.  Toys abounded.  They had to be sanitized and switched out often in order to be of use.

Lion King was the funny movie Andrew wanted when he felt well.  And ice cream?  That was for those days when the medication was overwhelming and too much and the tears and the refusals had to be felt.  Ice cream was the reward for that nasty medicine going down all three times that day.  Ugh.

Where did my careful mothering go?  And did I do the right thing?

My mothering-style?  It went to survival mode.  Us mothers?  We have to survive.  Our most important job is to help our kids and our families survive.  Did I do the right thing to change the format of our lives?  Absolutely and I’d do it again in a second.

There is no “perfect” in caregiving.  There is no absolute “right” in mothering.  I hate all the stuff I see online – – the judgmental everyone-should-tolerate-each-other-as-long-as-they-do-it-my-way stuff that’s out there on social media.

Caregivers have to operate the best they can with what they are handed each day.  We have to use the tools at hand.  The patient needs to be comfortable, loved and taken care of the best way we know how.  But don’t forget this important part.

Caregivers have to survive this medical emergency too – it’s not just about the patient.

So do what you need to do to survive.  Use any and all crutches you can find,

And I’m just going to say this – my biggest, best and most stable crutch was not actually a crutch, but a foundation:

Jesus.  He’s the One that will get us through the difficulties.  I know I’m biased – but He is why I can sit here, on a Sunday, while my recovered Leukemia patient is outside shooting hoops!

Praise God for crutches.

A caregiver should use all the crutches available - and do NOT feel guilty! #caregiver #caregiving Click To Tweet

 


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Caregiver Loneliness Can Delay YOUR Recovery

Five Tips for Avoiding Isolation

loneliness

Take a Peek at Caregiver Loneliness

ICU minutes stretch like bubblegum—at some point, I know they’ll burst and slap more messiness into my life. I wait, lonely in the busiest place on the planet, for the nurses to allow me back into Pedro’s room. The tubes cascade out of his mouth, bringing life and hope that I won’t have to face the future alone.

***

Hospital minutes twang with anxiety—Pedro’s not in ICU any more, but nurses rush in on quiet feet each time I press the call button. Days have passed since he knew that I sit next to him, counting each breath and movement—hoping that this crisis will pass. The beeps of his vitals accompany my prayers. The loneliness presses in—squeezing hope into the corners.

 ***

I am on a highway, looking towards a bright future, yet time whizzes past me in a blur. I tend to Pedro’s needs during my lunch break, than hurry back to work. The four of us (Pedro, Laura, Sarah and I) relish his recovery, and long for time to regain its measured pace. Normalcy dances within reach, yet I feel lonelier than when minutes stretched like bubblegum.

The bills, the burdens, the new normal, all build an invisible wall between me and everyone else. No one understands the sheer panic a sneeze or a sniffle produces in my mind. No one understands the confusion of no longer living in panic mode.

I blindly hang on to the one constant from my journey. I know I have never been alone. Never been forsaken. But MY road to recovery is a lonely one. #caregiver Click To Tweet

Lessons Learned in Retrospect

Fifteen years have passed since Pedro’s stem-cell transplant saved his life. For him, recovery lasted about a year. For me? A lot longer. Cancer and other catastropic illnesses can act as blinders for the caregiver. We hyper-focus on the tasks at hand: taking care of our loved one, finding answers, and willing them to live. We forget that the world continues while we fight an isolated battle.

In retrospect, I would have done things a bit differently.

1). I would have found a support group for cancer caregivers.

I don’t know if they didn’t exist at the time of Pedro’s illness, or if I just didn’t see signs offering help. A few years after his recovery, I went to the same hospital and noticed posters all over the place for caregiver support groups. It would have been helpful to know that I wasn’t the only one having all the feelings that accompany caregiving.loneliness

2). I would have taken more interest in my friends.

Pedro’s illness took place before the advent Facebook and Instagram, so keeping in touch with friends meant phoning or writing letters. Nowadays, constant communication takes very little time and effort. You can take an interest in other people’s lives while you wait.

3) Make an effort to keep in touch with friends and family on a regular basis about non-caregiver related things.

This seems counterintuitive, because your world seems consumed by caregiving matters. But if you come out of the bubble, you’ll find connection with others that will help you when the crisis has ended and you return to normal life.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer for yourself.

I had no problems asking for prayer for Pedro and his specific needs. I had no idea that I could ask for prayer for myself. You can ask to join our Blessed (but Stressed) group of caregivers on Facebook. We pray for each other every Wednesday.

5) Acknowledge that YOU need time to recover, too.

Hopefully, if you take care of yourself during your journey (I didn’t), you’ll find that recovery takes less time. By staying connected with friends and family about non-caregiver related things, you won’t feel so isolated when your caregiving duties have ended. You’ll find it easier to resume activities that feel ‘normal’ to you, thus decreasing your sense of isolation and loneliness.

Know a Caregiver?

Do you know a caregiver?  Have you wondered if he or she might might suffer from caregiver loneliness?  What can YOU do to help? Don’t feel rejected if your caregiver friend seems distant and unresponsive. Keep reaching out! Caregivers suffer from loneliness but often don’t know how to express their feelings. They need YOU!


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Why You Should Forget About New Year’s Resolutions

Brainstorm Solutions, Instead

ResolutionKiss Resolutions Goodbye!

For years I made New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, start an exercise program, have better health, give up chocolate, and myriad other impossible proclamations.  While my husband recovered from his stem-cell transplant, I spent all of my spare time in bed. I felt grumpy and depressed and weighed fifty pounds more than I should. All of my resolutions clustered around me, tying me to my perpetual inaction.

And then I learned a secret.  ‘Resolution’ simply means to decide on a course of action—there’s nothing to ensure that I stay on course.  Lofty plans sound great on December 31, but without action they fall by the wayside quicker than couch potatoes running a 5K.

‘Solution,’ on the other hand, means ‘the act of solving a problem’ or ‘the state of being solved.’  Action equals motion.  This year, decide on solutions to problems and ditch the resolutions. Start with a list of things you’d like to accomplish, and then brainstorm ways to make those things happen. Don’t focus on your goal, though. You might end up feeling overwhelmed.

Focus on the little changes that you can make each day that add up to big changes over a long period of time. Those daily choices add up. Give yourself grace during your journey to forming new habits.

Resolutions

 

Changes Don’t Happen Overnight

Since saying ‘Adios!’ to New Year’s Resolutions, and acting to solve problems I saw in my life, I’ve lost those fifty extra pounds, lowered my cholesterol and learned that chocolate isn’t the enemy. I have more solutions to work out in my life, but I’m not the grumpy, frumpy middle-aged lump I used to be.

You can find out more about learning to really nurture yourself over at my other blog. On my journey, I’ve discovered lots of solutions to adding extra movement into my life and finding healthier ways to deal with stress.

Whether you’re a busy mom or a stressed-out caregiver, remember to give yourself grace for your journey. Change takes time (more than the month of January) in order to remain permanent. If you’d like to find a grace-filled support group, check out Faithful Finish Lines and their two-week FREE Grace Camp (affiliate link).

True change takes time! Give yourself grace, and don't try to accomplish everything in the just one month! #newyearsresolutions #solutions Click To Tweet

You can also download the printable graphic right here:





 

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It’s Not About the Wise Men – It’s Just a Simple Gift

- from shared wisdom gleaned from experience

It’s not about being wise – it’s just about sharing the journey

It’s not about the wise men, this Christmas.

Our gift to you comes from two ladies who consider ourselves anything but wise.  In fact, our story started with the words, “Don’t you wish you would have known…?” and continued with a resounding, “Oh, wow…yes!  I wish someone could have prepared me for…!”

Because there is no way to know what you’re going to need when a loved one’s life hangs in the balance.  There is no preparation you can do for administering dangerous chemicals to your child.  No studying prepares you to learn to let go of your loved one while at the same time fighting harder than your own life to help them with theirs (and that phrase makes sense if you’ve been there).  Nothing takes your breath away like hearing those diagnostic words declaring the battle plans you didn’t even know existed.

When your loved one is diagnosed, your life changes as much as theirs.

But the treatments are for them.  The medicine is for the patient.  The financial help is for the recipient.  Support staff, books, hospital rooms – everything is geared toward helping your loved one survive that catastrophic, life-changing illness.  Just like you want it to be!

Anita and I have said to each other, repeatedly, there isn’t much we’d change, looking back over the treatment for her husband and my boy.  We’d still fight the battles, maintain the home, fight for the rights of our patient.

There’s not much we’d change in the care we gave…

But boy could we have treated ourselves better in the process!

Maybe we could have understood, a little better, what the nurses said when they sympathetically clucked, “Now, you must take care of yourself too.”  What if we had accepted more offers of help?  Maybe we should not have buried our worries, fought the insurance companies all by ourselves or eaten whatever we could grab in between treatments?

What if we could have known?

Our gift, we pray, is that others can learn what our life-of-care-giving has taught us.  One step at a time.

Our gift, this Christmas, is a free book for you.  It’s not gold, frankincense or myrrh from the Wise Men – it’s just some stories and advice from two ladies who’ve been there.

Subcribe below or beside (depending upon your browser) and receive a free book pictured on this page!

Merry Christmas!

Our gift, this #Christmas, is a free book for you. It's not gold, frankincense or myrrh from the Wise Men - it's just some stories and advice from two #caregivers who've been there. Click To Tweet
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A Near Truth is Really a Lie

Give the Gift of Honesty (and a Helping Hand)

nearGoing to Church, but Avoiding the Members

The exhaust from our 4Runner billowed like clouds in the sub-zero temperatures. Snow squeaked under my feet as I went outside to check the temperature in the vehicle. I felt chagrinned that we would drive less than a block before parking. Church was so near, but Pedro couldn’t risk a fall on the ice, nor prolonged contact with the cold. He wanted to go to church, but didn’t want to see church members.

near

Pedro and the girls in front of the tree that transplant Christmas.

“Don’t want to see anyone,” he had told me. “Tired of everyone telling me how good I look. I don’t.”

And he didn’t. When people he knew saw him, I could see the quickly veiled shock and the scarcely masked struggle for a response. They usually blurted out, “You look great!” A near lie, if by that they meant he looked good. A near truth if they meant he looked like an extra for a movie about the Holocaust.

After assuring myself that Pedro wouldn’t freeze, I went back inside to help him bundle up for the short drive. I could give him the gift of church without people.

“Drive up the sidewalk,” Pedro instructed.

I blanched. Pedro must have noticed, because he assured me, “They drive a pickup on it all the time to clear the snow. It won’t hurt anything.”

“Ok,” I breathed, before backing out of the drive way and heading to the sidewalk. I needed to let go of my compulsive rule-following and concern over what others thought of me. I pulled up near the front steps and helped Pedro inside before dashing outside to get the car off the sidewalk.

When I ran inside, Pedro had made it across the lobby and up one of the steps leading to the mother’s room.

Nothing but the Truth

He looked so frail—more like a 90-year-old than a 34-year-old. After battling cancer for eight months, he looked like he’d walked off the set of Schindler’s List—emaciated, expressionless, and practically immobile.

Many church friends hadn’t seen him since the summer, when he looked near-healthy; just a young man dealing with a bout of cancer. The battle had turned ugly in late July, and he had experienced several near-death experiences in the interim. No wonder he wanted to avoid them.

We labored up the stairs together, and sank into a comfortable couch in the darkened room. The annual Christmas program came through the speakers, filled with songs and readings of hope. After the program, I went back down to the 4Runner to get it warming, and then went back inside to visit with a few people and wait for the crowds to clear.

The lobby emptied out, so I went upstairs to help Pedro. As we neared the bottom of the stairs, a voice called out, “Pedro! It’s good to see you!”

Pedro and I both looked up and saw one of our friends rushing across the lobby to greet us. As he neared, I saw the shock and horror. I braced myself for the usual near lie. I had worked so hard to give Pedro the gift of a morning at church without having to hear the hated sentence.

Instead, our friend blurted out, “Man, you look awful!” He clapped his hand over his mouth and froze, stunned by what he had said.

Pedro burst out laughing—but considering his weakened vocal chords and his frozen face, our friend couldn’t read Pedro’s reaction.

When Pedro finally caught his breath, he held out his hand, “Thanks! I needed to hear that today. The truth.”

How to Avoid Near Lies

Give the gift of truth this Christmas. If someone looks haggard and worn out, don’t lie and say they look great. Go deeper and ask them how they are doing. Invite them out for a cup of coffee. If they say they can’t get out because they can’t get away, offer to bring the coffee to them. Caregivers don’t have a lot of spare time, but they always appreciate help!

Those who struggle with illness, whether physical or mental, don’t feel better when we, the healthy, tell them near truths (lies). They would prefer the truth. Or, if you fear offending, an honest offer of help.

To say that someone looks great when they obviously don’t, diminishes their struggle. #mentalhealth #Christmas #caregivers Click To Tweet

In this busiest of seasons, make a vow to spend less time on decorations and fleeting gifts of things, and more time looking for friends in need. To this day, Pedro has fond memories of our friend’s blurted truth—the perfect gift in a season of darkness.

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Celebrate Ten Years in Remission!

Ten Years Since the last Day of Chemo

Celebrate!

Ten years since the last day of chemotherapy. Celebrate!

Today is big!  Huge!  Today we celebrate one of those milestones you never expect to even think about with your children.  Once thought of, however, the prayer that you’ll ‘make it’ is a never-ending process-type prayer!  That prayer for remission and the end of chemotherapy!

Ten years ago, my seven-year-old had his last day of chemotherapy.  It was not the last day of dealing with cancer, by any stretch, but it was the end of three and a half years of at least one chemo appointment every week, the setting aside of lengthy hospital stays and the termination of inserting horrific drugs into a little body.  Hair grew back, skin returned to healthy pink, stomach aches receded and this mom began the process of adjusting to a new normal.  My son began the process of learning to deal with the things the physicians call the “price of survival” from a catastrophic illness.

I will never forget that day.  Our whole family went to the last day of chemo.  We sat through the last drip and flushed the port for the last time  (port removal was later in the month, but we never had to access it again).

I wanted to celebrate.

We needed a huge, knock-out party.  Our family should do something fabulous.  A plane toting a giant banner.  A fireworks display.  A party with huge balloons and lots of happy shouts and singing.  A prayer-of-thanks-meeting in our church. But that takes energy – and mine had all been sucked up in the fight for life.

Instead, our battered family sat quietly together in the hospital, while Andrew cried because he wouldn’t be coming back the next week for his time with those wonderful nurses.  We watched Dora the Explorer with him, as usual, and we all ate the breakfast burrito that usually followed his early morning chemotherapy sessions.  Andrew made his round of the nurses with a very small token of our appreciation and we waved our way out the locked door of the hospital.

The longest, most painful process of our lives was over.

There was no parking lot party.  The world went about their day much as they had the day that Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia.  I wanted to shout at the passing cars, “Hey!  Don’t you see this is a big day here?”

Big.  Huge. Gigantic.

Our God got us through chemotherapy.  Cancer lost.  Sure, the doctors reminded us that the remission might or might not hold.  Of course, my boy faces a lifetime of cancer checks.   It’s a given that physical therapy for abused muscles and coordination followed.

But, for that day, the battle was won!  God carried us through.

Praise God for the end of #chemotherapy! Praise Him in the Storm! #cancercaregiving #childhoodcancer Click To Tweet

Celebrate.

We walked to our car, each quietly contemplating, in our own ways, the grandiose and loud thing that was so quietly happening.

Randy unlocked the car door and the girls climbed into the back.  Andrew stood there, looking at the playground outside the hospital.  “I wanna play on the slide,” he announced.

We all began to laugh and the girls popped back out of the car with relief.

Celebrate!

No germ phobias any more!  If Andrew wanted to be outside, he could be!  We didn’t have to wear masks!  Ever single one of us climbed up the playground equipment and went down the slide.  We played hot-lava-monster and raced around, kicking up frozen bark chips with our joyous steps.  The cold air pinkened our cheeks and the foggy air bounced our laughter back at us.  I ran to the car and took out my camera.  My gang piled up on the slide for a picture.

Andrew was done with leukemia.  Andrew was done with cancer.

Praise God!

So today I repeat: Praise God.  It has been ten years since that day our family celebrated all alone in that cold playground.  Ten years since God handed us a miracle and waited to see what we would do with that gift.

My boy is a senior in high school.

Ten years of remission.

120 months to recover from three tough years.

520 weeks without chemotherapy.

3,650 days without cancer.

From then to now – 10 years to celebrate!

Praise God and Celebrate!  His love endures forever!

Celebrating 10 years since chemotherapy! #leukemia #cancer #chemotherapy Click To Tweet
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The Difference Hair Can Make

When the beauty of love shines through the ugly of cancer

The difference that hair can make…

A bright red ponytail and flying blond hair edged around the corner of room number 11 in the Children’s Cancer ward.  Wide-eyes greeted me as my two precious little girls tip-toed over to where I perched on the parent chair/bed/sofa/storage unit.  I hadn’t seen them for over a week: the same week we all adjusted to our youngest having Leukemia.  The first week I’d ever spent apart from both girls.  I expected questions about Andrew – his diagnosis, his prognosis or the tubes running into his body while he slept heavily.  They stared at him in silence and cuddled deeper into my sides.

“Mommy,” whispered one, “we walked past rooms…”

The other added, “Mom – the children were bald!  All of them.  Will Andrew be bald?”

I nodded.

Bald wasn’t my major concern – life and death took precedence.

Later in the evening, after piling onto Andrew’s bed and reading stories, pulling him around the cancer ward in the sanitized red wagon and getting a lesson on the “pokes” that had become Andrew’s routine, both girls again asked questions.

They asked about blood, pokes, the masks we’d have to wear and tests.  Then they asked if Andrew was going to get well.

Then the girls returned to the subject of all the bald children they’d seen throughout the afternoon.  My girls had such thick, long hair –  one was bright red hair and the other with blond streaks.  They kept fiddling with with their hair as they recalled the little bald girl next door.  Larissa whispered, “Mommy.  No one should have to be bald…if they don’t want to be.”

That thought stuck in my oldest child’s head and somehow, by the time Andrew and I were able to come home from the hospital a month later, both girls had determined to grow their hair out as long as possible.  They had heard of something called Locks of Love” and were determined to donate.  I explained that those wigs were not necessarily for children with cancer, but for children who couldn’t grow hair long-term.  Both girls could care less WHY the children were without hair – they just wanted to help them.

A favorite picture of mine: Larissa’s hair donation #2 and Karina #1.

Having fun and messing around with that long red hair, before cutting it off!

This thanksgiving my “girls” came home from college.  The oldest is a senior pre-med student in the mid-west and the middle “child” is a sophomore engineering major in the northwest.  They both have long, beautiful hair – despite three hair donations over the years.    Friday, before heading back to school, Larissa insisted on a hair cut  – a short one (relatively).  I suggested not cutting it so drastically, as she’s had long hair for years.

“Go big or go home!” Larissa declared, “As long as I’m donating, let’s donate a lot!”

15 inches.

That brings Larissa’s total hair donation to well over 35 inches of hair over the years.

I told her she could sell this batch – after all, she’s a struggling college student.  Rolled eyes and a shrug reminded me that she didn’t do this just for the shock of a dramatic change in looks (although she’s having a blast with that too).

Long ago, in a children’s hospital, Larissa’s heart was changed by challenges strangers faced.  She saw a need and did what she could.  I’ve often wondered if that’s also where her desire to be a doctor has come from – helping strangers face challenges.

Cancer is ugly.  Horrible. Awful.  It changes people’s lives.

Every once in a while, those changes are for good.  I’m so thankful for the beauty from God that shines through the ugly of sin.

When the beauty of love shines through the ugly of #cancer #locksoflove #childhoodcancer Click To Tweet
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The Blood and the PTSD

What Jesus can do with one - for the other.

I ran frantically through the house, sweat dripping down my back and my eyes wide open with that familiar gritty I’ve-spent-all-night-awake-in-the-hospital-feeling.

I grabbed things and flung them into suitcases and yelled again for my kids to get out! No one answered and I redoubled my efforts. Piles of laundry gave way to my kick and I grabbed my son’s favorite jammies and thrust them into the outside pocke of his hospital suitcase. But this was not about hospitals. It was about life or death. Something was fast approaching our house and I dashed through the kitchen with it’s pile of dirty dishes and stack of mail to sort through.

I peered through the dirty windows and screamed, “Run! Get out, everyone’s got to get out!” Again, no one replied. “Andrew!” I screeched at the top of my lungs. I knew he wouldn’t be able to get out of the house in time, he was slow from his chemo treatments and I searched frantically for his bald head in the house.

My breath seared my lungs as I gasped and raced down the hall to the girls’ room. “Larissa, Karina!” I shrieked with everything in me, but only silence greeted my calls. My breath sobbed out my throat as I raced into my own room. “Randy!” I screamed with everything I had in me, shaking uncontrollably I looked under the bed and raced to the closet, yanking everything out in my search.

I could feel the flood reaching the house and I could smell it surrounding the house and still I had not successfully gotten my family out. As I backed out of my bedroom, whimpering in dismay, my feet sloshed through the deluge sweeping into our house. I fought my way back down the hall only to see with dismay that the front door had been swept open by the flood and the warm, thick liquid poured into our house. As it swept around my knees I staggered under the weight and the swirling red mass, “Help me!” I screamed with every fiber of my being. “Someone help me get my family to safety!” I have never worked harder in my life – not for rescue, nor safety, nor love. Where was God? Why was this blood overtaking our house and why could I not rescue my family?

I screamed again – the strongest most horrific screech of fear – it echoed and bounced into the silent, blood-filled night.

“Carol!” my husband’s warm hand found my frozen and trembling one and I grasped it like a life-line. “Carol,” Randy’s drowsy voice barely penetrated my fear, “everyone’s okay. The girls are in bed, Andrew is asleep. Nothing’s coming in the house. We’re okay.”

I stared at the ceiling in confusion. I could hear no sounds of an approaching flood and the room was dark with a sliver of moon showing out the window. My heart pounded in my chest but my feet were dry and no smell of blood hovered in the air. I clutched his hand tighter and looked at my bedside clock.

2:00 a.m. My most hated hours of the night. Either I was wide-awake or dreaming awful things – neither option was a good one for me.

“Was I screaming?” I asked, pulling his hand closer still.

“Just once.” he responded, already drifting back out, used to my nightmares and my sleeplessness.

“Is Andrew okay?” I persisted. My mind knew, without a doubt, that something was wrong. My heart-rate warned of imminent threat and my brain told me it was Andrew.

“Andrew’s fine. I just checked. No fever. Carol, go to sleep. Everything is fine.”

Everything is NOT fine. I must be dying. That’s it. I’m going crazy and I’m going to die from it. Oh boy – here goes my cycle.

With that I got up and went outside, to sit with my dog in the moonlight, pouring out my need to the God of the stars. My doctor said PTSD. I said crazy. My husband said I’d get through it.

Blood.

Really? Blood overtaking our house and flooding us out? It doesn’t take a genius to interpret my dream.

Almost three years of fighting leukemia with spinal taps, blood transfusions, plasma donations, platelet cells and the constant need for blood counts explained the dream. Almost three years of trying to let my girls live a “normal” life while juggling hospitals and treatments, work and housekeeping made the out-of-control feeling in the dream an obvious choice.

I sat on my back deck, my dog huddled at my side, staring at the moon and unconsciously I began to hum the closing-the-worship song that we sang every Vespers at the school where I taught.

When floods overwhelm us (even when it’s PTSD and in our minds), Jesus blood can get us through.

I smiled at the moon. Blood had taken over our lives, enough to permeate my dreams. Worry threatened me in constant over-loads. My feelings of inadequacy flooded me often. I sighed again.

Yes, Jesus, let the blood overtake me.

Let it wash over me.

Allow it to reach the highest mountain, and flow to the lowest valley!

Permit that blood to give me strength to soothe my doubts and calm my fears

Please Lord, dry my tears.

Let the blood give me strength, from day to day, and never, never, never lose it’s power!

Feelings of inadequacy during #caregiving almost overwhelmed - until Jesus' blood... #blessedbutstressed #caregiverstress Click To Tweet

Take a moment and listen to this song – it’s so incredibly powerful!  Then, leave a comment and link up if you’d like!  We love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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Submersion or Submission: Which would you choose?

How a caregiver can prevent "drowning" or going under, when struggling to keep afloat

We have a choice as caregivers: accept help or drown!

In the fifth part of our series on how caregivers seem to experience the same reactions to circumstances that a drowning person experiences, we explore the options a drowning person has–submersion or submission.

“From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.” On Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

Drowning:

Overwhelmed. Depressed. Struggling. Devastated. Overpowered. Shocked. Overcome. Distressed. Swamped. Drained. Exhausted. Scared. Confused. Done in. At the end of the rope.

All caregivers know these words.

No matter how brave we want to be – no matter how brave we ARE, there comes a point in a caregiver’s journey where we just feel like we can’t go on. We KNOW we must be going under.

For some, that point might come out of the nowhere and smack us when we think we’re doing great. For others, that point might creep up on us; we know it’s coming, but we don’t know what to do about it—except just tread water for all we’re worth until we cannot struggle any longer. For some, “the point” might last for a few moments of desperation. For others, that point might become a new way of life that terrifies us with it’s ceaseless reality.

The point of submersion hits us all.

The waters will close over our heads: Unless a “trained lifeguard” comes to our rescue.
A caregiver’s network of ‘trained lifeguards’ includes caring people who know how to spot signs of distress. Many of us cling to a Higher Power. Most of us receive offers of help, but we feel unsure of how to balance things. Some of us feel that we wouldn’t be doing a great job as caregiver if we relinquished responsibilities.

I am a trained lifeguard. In our training and practice for water rescues (especially deep water or water with currents), the most important training involves knowing what to do with those drowning victims who resist rescue efforts—the people that fight (out of sheer panic) our efforts to help.

Lifeguards learn to approach with words, so that the drowning person knows we want to help. We practice gripping the victim firmly and continuing to talk, if we can, so that the victim understands what we are trying to do. But often people panic anyway, sure that both rescuer and victim will drown in the overwhelming waters.

Lifeguards learn that sometimes we will have to keep our distance and let the victim lose energy so that we can rescue them.

Carol dries out after rescuing a girl from drowning in Trujillo, Peru in 2010.

I rescued a child once, in a pool I was not familiar with and therefore did not know the water’s depth. At first, the frightened girl struggled in my arms and tried to “help” me kick, but her futile efforts took us both under water several times. I ordered her, in a rather stern manner, to lay back and let me carry her—to let me do the work—and I promised to get her over to the edge. For me, the edge was only about 10 feet away and I knew I could get her there with no difficulty. For her, the distance seemed insurmountable, and she had no idea of my swimming ability.

In the end, she clung to my arm, which I held firmly around her, and she relaxed, until I boosted her onto the edge of the pool. Her mother thanked me with tears while I sat in the sun, drying my clothing so I could continue my day.

I felt blessed; I had been able to use my training to help someone survive.

While I was a struggling caregiver, desperately trying to hold my head above water, but feeling that with each submersion it took me longer and longer to reach the surface, a friend told me that I was depriving others of the blessing of helping me, by trying to be so strong and to do everything myself. I was a good “swimmer”, but even the best can only swim for so long before they need a helping hand.

Don’t keep “struggling on the surface until submersion occurs”:

Let others around you gain a blessing by helping. #caregiver #caregiving #blessedbutstressed Click To TweetSubmit to the lifeguards that hover nearby. Don’t submit to submersion!

If you’re a caregiver, have you ever had to submit?  How did it make you feel?

If you’re someone who loves a caregiver, do you have any tips on helping out a frantic ‘drowning’ caregiver?

 

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