“It Is What It Is”…but God IS Bigger

“… I mean, it is what it is,” the flippant remark accompanied the doctor’s flick of the light switch, “there’s nothing we can do – you won’t regain the sight in that eye. Good thing it’s your weak eye.”

His quick exit did nothing to relieve my rigid shoulders.

My stoic 19-year-old son and I sat in the silence of shattering dreams.

It is what it is! Andrew starts work at summer camp.

I’d asked for an explanation to the doctor’s bustling orders of immediate laser rescue treatment in one eye and a five week wait for major surgery in the other, with the addition of pre-surgery eye drops and mind-numbing instructions for post-op. The medical staff had blown in and out, shuffled us from room to room and thrown medical terminology around. There was no attempt to break the news gently or explain.

Until I fought for it, and then the explanation slapped hard:

“It is what it is.”

We’ve been fighting for Andrew’s sight for years. He’s had a ‘weak eye’ since birth and we worked on that!

Andrew with his first pair of glasses!


Contacts plus glasses.




Dr. visits.

But 15 years ago (in just a couple of weeks), we had to make the choice to fight for Andrew’s life instead of his eye-sight. He couldn’t wear contacts while undergoing the regimen of chemotherapy and eye-exercises paled in comparison to life-saving medications and weeks at a time in hospitals battling with leukemia.

It was what it was.

Leukemia was beaten, praise the Lord. And this mom returned to efforts of preserving eyes that now had the added burden of long-term chemo. If Andrew wore the strongest contact, he could see, not a lot, but something! He’s not been blind in that “weak” eye.

A couple of weeks ago, while working at camp, people began noticing that Andrew’s eyes were turning different colors. Weird. Andrew shrugged – it is what it is. He’s dealt with worse so it’s no big deal if his eyes are different colors.

But mom googles and it is a big deal.

So we began the whirlwind of doctors and found ourselves hearing the oh-so-comforting-and-kind words, “It is what it is.”

Monday, Andrew has an eye operation. It’s not to restore sight, says the retina specialist. It’s to maintain the health and viability of the eye, so he doesn’t lose it. He might keep the slice of vision he has left. It is what it is.

But my faith is audacious. I’m writing this post to ask for your prayers.

See, 15 years ago, doctors did not think Andrew would make it through the night (we had several nights like that). After surviving that horrific night, the medical teams weren’t sure Andrew would make it through the next three days. When Andrew made it through those three days, nurses weren’t positive about the end of the week.

At the end of the week, doctors began to speak of the first month and earning that coveted phrase of chemo-induced remission.

When Andrew made it to that first month’s milestone, everyone finally began to talk of the next three and a half years. Every step of the way we dealt with, “If we make it that far.”

Cancer. It is what it is.

But friends. Life might be what it is, but my God IS.

If you would be so kind, please pray that Andrew’s surgery goes well and that the health and viability of the eye is maintained.

If you’d like join me and just be a bit audacious, please pray that some sight is restored to Andrew’s weak eye. I’m not asking for more than he’s had and I’m not trying to be greedy, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. God has my full permission to do what’s best for my children, but I can ask for eyesight too!

It can’t hurt.

Because God is who God is!

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.



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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What If and If Only

Caregiver burdens we must stop carrying

what if

What if we let God handle our doubts and fears

As I stood under the spray of my shower yesterday morning, the what if moments of our cancer journey replayed through my mind.

The remonstrating hospital staff telling me that I shouldn’t do that repeated in my head as well.  But my son bleeding in his tears haunts me and I’ve always wondered how I let him get that sick.  The bruises spreading like wildfire as I drove the hour to the hospital have sent their own bruises into my mind, leaving black holes of self-doubt.  The wondering voices of nurses who came back to see us our third and fourth week in the hospital, speaking in awe that Andrew was “still with us” as they hadn’t “thought he would survive the first few days” have sounded like a gong of “bad mother” through my head.

No matter how many times the doctors said not to, I always wondered, “What if…”

Andrew on his way to chemo

What if I had brought Andrew into the doctor earlier.  If only I had known the bruises wouldn’t make doctors think of abuse, but of cancer.  If only we hadn’t all caught that flu bug.  What if I had taken Andrew to the doctor when he first began throwing up?


This week is a sad, confusing and rejoicing week for our family.  It was thirteen years ago this week that my four-year-old Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia – a terrible day, an awful week, a horrible month and a terrifying time.  Also, a friend (found through this website) had her oldest son (Gianmarco) diagnosed with leukemia this week two years ago.  Sadly, he didn’t survive the fight.  Another little girl (Julianna)  I’ve been praying for many times a day (click here to read a post), passed away on Friday, the valiant victim of DIPG.


The difference for this caregiving mom is that my son is a survivor.  He didn’t survive because of anything I did or didn’t do, nor did those others pass away because of anything done or not done.  It’s the ugliness of cancer. Our battle wasn’t easy, and at times it still isn’t – but we’re out the other side of that cancer fight.  For the two moms mentioned above?  My heart aches for theirs as they mourn the loss of their beautiful children.

I couldn’t help myself this weekend, I’ve been thinking about the what if and if only thoughts that have plagued me.

I wondered about Gianmarco’s mom and Julianna’s mom and I know that these thoughts hound them too and I prayed for peace.

After thirteen years of beating on myself (logic says not to, but emotion often doesn’t agree), I heard something different yesterday.

Several doctors told me (all through the three and a half years of treatment) that if I had brought Andrew in earlier, they would have said the same thing I did.  “Oh, your family has had the flu?  Get this boy some juice and let’s deal with the anemia brought on by all the throwing up.  He’s a healthy kid, he’ll be fine.”

Suddenly I actually HEARD that.  As that memory popped into my head, so did the distinct realization that had I taken Andrew into the doctor earlier, that doctor would have told me the above lines.  After which, I would have gone home and proceeded to treat my boy as I was: juice, water, rest, anti-nausea medication and lots of cuddles.  I would not have gone in again very soon – not wanting to over-react to throwing up, paleness, and listlessness.

What if I had gone in earlier to a doctor, like I’ve been kicking myself for not doing?

I would be, right now, so ANGRY at that doctor for not catching the leukemia.  They all assured me it was acute and extremely fast and hard to predict until it was almost too late.

Immediately my what if and if only mantra that I’ve clung to for years changed tune.  First, catching leukemia early doesn’t mean you don’t have leukemia.  Second, What if my waiting saved his life because he was diagnosed and received help just barely in time.  Literally one day later and he might not have made it.


If I had gone in earlier, I might have gone in the second time too late.

The Bible tells us that to EVERYTHING there is a season.  Not my timetable – His.  God says that He’s got the whole world in His hands.  Not mine – His.  Jesus said that He holds the keys to the grave.  Not my keys – His.

I know that.  Logically.  But I too often forget and try to place things on my own shoulders that are designed for Jesus to carry for me.

Caregivers, moms and dads, loved ones – let go of those what if and if only moments.  We can’t go back and change them anyway, and maybe things worked the way they were supposed to in spite of our limited understanding.  Our lives don’t always feel good (please keep Gianmarco and Julianna’s families in your prayers) but God ALWAYS has our best interest in His plans.

What if we let Him keep control?

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Autopilot – the mode of operation for long-term caregivers

And the God who gets us through

In times of trial, when it feels like we’re flying alone – God provides better than “autopilot” and becomes the pilot of our journey

Autopilot becomes the way we handle things flung at us as new caregivers.  Actually, who am I kidding?  It didn’t get easier just because it became longer – in fact, the longer I lived on emergency-ready, life-and-death mode, the grayer my world became.  My son was four-years-0ld when we started his cancer journey, and I was 39.  When we finished chemotherapy, he was 7 1/2  and I was 93.  My always-learning brain had turned to mush (Anita calls it chemo brain by proxy) and I literally saw through a gray haze. I functioned on autopilot – but it worked, because of Who my pilot is:  this is a poem I wrote shortly after finishing chemo and realizing I was in deep-struggle-mode.

I’m on autopilot

Feet float

From place to place

Unaware of where they’re going

Lost from where they’ve been


Eyes drift

Across words on a page

Reading and rereading a passage

Unable to soak it in


Ears buzz

Around conversations flying by

Desperately trying to pick out information

Confused by threads of thought


Mouth stumbles

Over pieces of a conversation

Tripping over thoughts refusing to be expressed

Incapable of coherence


Hands flutter

From task to task

Forgetting how to accomplish anything outside of an emergency

Helpless to proceed


I’m on autopilot again Lord,







The only way I can do anything at all

Is to have You

Be my pilot

Caregiver coping - #autopilot. Let God be your pilot! #caregiving Click To Tweet

Put God in the pilot seat!

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Safe in the Tub – the love in the midst of the impossible

Five-Minute-Friday: Safe

This post is written with the gang over at Five-Minute-Friday where we write on a prompt, for five minutes, and then post.  Don’t think, just do it!  This week’s prompt:  SAFE

It’s been sitting for nine years, safe in the bin I threw it in when I tried to return to “normal” after Andrew’s last chemotherapy appointment in December of 2007.  I cherished each card, letter, poster, and note people sent to us. But suddenly, that year, I needed to hide them.  We had more than enough reminders of Andrew’s travel through three and a half years of leukemia treatment.

I felt desperate to return to life.

Safe in the bin where I placed them. Reminders of support and love.

This week my school is kicking off the Pennies for Patients campaign for the Leukemia/Lymphona Society. On a search for the Pennies for Patients poster that featured Andrew, I rifled through that plastic tub that I have kept safe, but untouched for years. Just opening the lid provided a lightning flashback because of the innocuous heplock flush valve lying on top of the last MRI results.  I could not read more than 6 or 7 cards, as the tears blurred my vision. The valves, flush syringes and deadening cream in the bottom of tub ensured the return of the cover.

But not before a huge rush of appreciation and love flooded me.  I saw some imaginative and slightly odd cards decorated with love by children none of our family have ever met – those children who prayed for my boy.  There were recognizable post-it-notes that I would find on my desk after returning to work after a nine-hour-day at chemo.  I read hand-written poems and prayer placed in my mailbox by my high-school students and a note left on my clean pile of laundry by a friend.  A couple of empty envelopes baffled me, but just until I remembered the lady who sent us half of her over-time check for 6 months straight to help us out.  I hadn’t met her then, but she chose to bless us anyway.

There are more.  So many more.

A tub full of blessings and love waiting for when I need it, or when I can handle it.

A safe place full of reminders that our world holds beauty in the midst of ugly, and safety in the middle of a storm.

There is still beauty in our world that keeps us safe and grounded through hard times #fmfparty #five-minute-friday #blessedbutstressed Click To Tweet

Confessions my FMF friends:  I honestly have no idea how long this took me to write.  I got hung up on the tub full of blessings tonight, which forced me to write when I thought I had nothing on the prompt!


Five Tips for Celebrating National Survivors Day

National Survivors DayToday we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day—a day to celebrate survivorship as well as bring attention to the fact that winning cancer doesn’t always signify that the battle has ended.

Life after #cancer exists, but one should never expect it to follow familiar trajectories. #NCSD2016 Click To Tweet

It’s a day to cheer on those who survived as well as acknowledge that survivors face ongoing challenges. Cancer changes everything—it changes one both physically and financially; it causes trauma in family members and caregivers; it can alter the course of one’s career.

All too often the survivor never mentions the subtext of those multiple ‘survivorships.’ But the reality of life post cancer can prove just as overwhelming as life during cancer.

In our case, cancer’s ravages left Pedro in a weakened state that took over a year to recover from. To this day, he has neuropathy (nerve damage) in his right foot that prevents him from enjoying hiking great distances. The chemo drugs also caused necrosis (death) of the bones in his hips and about seven years after cancer he had to go through core decompression surgery on one of his hips. Eventually, he’ll need a hip replacement.

Each of those subsequent treatments puts a financial strain on our family. A clean bill of health doesn’t mean that a survivor no longer has to worry about financial stresses and corollary health issues. It took us 12 years to pay off cancer. For some families, it takes even longer.

The emotional toll can nibble at different family members like a piranha, quietly wounding the soul until the wound festers and rises to the surface. In retrospect, I wish I would have signed the family up for counseling to treat the wounds as they happened—it may have made a difference. On the other had, I can’t let regret become a piranha in my life.

Cancer survivorship can cause upheaval at work as well. Pedro lost his job because of his cancer, and it took nine long years and additional schooling to rejoin the education workforce as a full-time employee again.

Of course, his experiences during those nine years working in construction, building a house, substitute teaching, and going to school uniquely prepared him for the job he holds now as the principal of a private school that operates almost exclusively on donations.

Remission from Cancer Doesn’t Equal Remission from Its Consequences

#Remission from #cancer doesn't mean remission from it's consequences. #NCSD2016 Click To Tweet

These five tips for celebrating a survivor will help you think outside the box when it comes to celebrating with a survivor.

1. When you celebrate a survivor, remember that that battle might not be over—it’s just being fought on a different front.
2. Continue to come alongside a survivor (which means listen more and talk less).
3. Don’t be afraid to ask sensitive questions—What do you find the most difficult part of your life after cancer? or I know you’re in remission, but do you still need support in any way?
4. Offer to help. Maybe the survivor could use free childcare once a month to reconnect with a spouse. Perhaps the survivor needs help cleaning the house or shopping for groceries as they build back their strength.
5. Give advice sparingly (and only when asked). Survivors don’t need to hear about your neighbor George’s second-cousin-once-removed who had cancer and went on to win an Olympic medal).

What about you? Do you have a survivor you’d like to acknowledge?  Tell us a little about them and their battle and leave a line of kudos and encouragement (and don’t forget to let them know in person, too). 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up an inspirational post.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Do You Have a Life Plan?

Living Forward

 out-of-control focus? A Life Plan Can help: Part II (CLICK FOR PART I)

Have you ever had a focus problem? Mine started when I became a parent (parenting is HARD work and seems to require all of our focus!), and intensified during my caregiving journey. About three years after Pedro’s miraculous healing, I realized that I needed to re-find my health. Our girls needed a mom who could keep up with them as they entered their pre-teen years, and I had a hard time doing much of anything. Suddenly, I had a new focus.

It took nine months of hard work, eating better and exercising more, but I eventually lost my caregiver weight (I may have over-focused on weight-loss and healthly eating, though, because our youngest daughter ended up struggling with aneorexia her sophomore year in high school).

When I took a photography class six years after Pedro’s recovery, I started to realize my my focusing problem. Hyper-focusing on something has its advantages—a photographer can create ‘bokeh’ where the subject matter jumps from the print and everything outside the plane of focus takes on a soft blur. On the other hand, spending the time to stitch together a panorama that shows a larger-than-life view of the subject can produce a startling effect, too.

I’ve learned to ask myself which kind of focus I need in a situation. Do I need to focus intently on something small and detailed? If so, for how long should I spend time on that one thing? Would stepping back and looking at the bigger picture help me more?

Learn to distinguish what kind of focus you need for each of life's problems. Click To Tweet

I actually find looking at the bigger picture a difficult task. Out of the 80,000 or so (but who’s counting, right?) photos that I’ve taken in the past five years, only a fifth of them are landscapes.

Life reflects art. I do ok focusing on the small things and the details, and I can even do some mid-range planning (for a few months or years) but I hesitate to step back and look at the really big picture—my life and where I’d like to be in five, ten, fifteen or even twenty years. That’s why a letter in my inbox got me pretty excited this week. I’m on the launch team for Michael Hyattt and Daniel Harkavy’s upcoming release, Living Forward.

Living Forward is a book about creating a life plan. Other than a vague sense of ‘I’d like to get married, have some children, have a fun job and enjoy life’ I’ve never had a life plan. I’ve had a great life drifting, but it’s time to step back and focus on the really big picture. I want to stop drifting and start living intentionally. You can find more information about the book by checking out this post. 

After reading the first chapter, I can’t wait to read the rest of the book and start charting a life plan (aka, focusing on the really big picture).  What about you?  Do you have a life plan or are you like me, just drifting along?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I'm joining my friends @blestbutstrest and @caregivermom for some inspration for my Monday! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Out-of-focus Caregiving Can Harm Your Health

watch your focus

I learned the hard way what happens when I lose my focus.

I opened the box and quickly tore the wrapper from around its contents. Ah. Pure bliss—a thick layer of dark chocolate covered an incredible sweet bar of chocolate ice cream. “How do you spell relief?” I asked myself. “H-A-A-G-E-N D-A-Z” I said under my breath as I bit into heaven and I started trudging up the eleven flights of stairs to Pedro’s hospital room.

I took the stairs because I wanted to eat an ice cream bar, and I figured the climb might cancel the calories. A niggle of doubt wormed into my brain. After all, I’d already put on about 45 pounds since Pedro’s initial diagnosis with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma six months earlier.

My internal argument raged as I huffed and puffed up flight after flight to the blood cancer ward.  “Everyone says I need to take time for ME,” I thought. “If I want to eat an ice-cream bar, that’s taking time for me, right?

Unfortunately, I had lost my focus. I had focused so intently on helping Pedro get well, that I lost sight of myself and the bigger picture of my life. I coped with stress by eating—too much, too quickly and too often. I had quit exercising (I had a perfect excuse—big cities had dangers around every corner, and if something happened to me, what would happen to Pedro and the girls?).

My focus had caused a severe case of denial. As in, I thought I needed to deny myself everything good and healthy in my life in order to help Pedro, and then I ignored the results of my denial (increased feelings of tiredness and ability to cope without resorting to crutches—like chocolate).

It's unhealthy to deny yourself everything good in life when you become a #caregiver. Click To Tweet

Photography eventually became the catalyst to help me understand balance in my life. But that’s a story for next week (and my five minutes have ended).

(You can find my first caregiver self-care tip here.)

What about you? Have you ever had a season of caregiving or extreme stress that caused your focus to slip?

The Shocking Truth About My Neck and Calves

Living with distortions

Dealing with Distortions

I have a huge, thick, gargantuan neck. When I wear something with a rounded collar, my face doubles in width and takes on a moon-like glow. Ever since I noticed this amazing propensity of necklines to change the proportions of my face, I’ve avoided athletic t-shirts and turtlenecks.

My legs resemble those of a chicken’s. I remember reading an article in Glamour magazine back in the dark ages—I think I had started my freshman year of college—where the authors detailed how to measure your legs to see if they had perfect proportions. Mine came pretty close, according to my measuring tape and my best friend (who envied my lanky legs and my comely calves).

“But you have a nice neck and a tiny waist,” I pointed out (my theory was that women have either a waist or nice ankles and calves—but very few have both). Later that same year, my friend confessed that she’d stopped at a bakery and purchased a dozen chocolate chip cookies—and eaten the whole box.

I shrugged. “That sounds good,” I said, “although I can’t imagine eating 12 cookies.” It wasn’t until years later that my friend confessed to me that she struggled with bulimia. Her tiny waist came at a great cost to her mental and physical health.

The Sinister Role of Food

Food has played a sinister role in my life as well. I discovered its self-medicating properties when the world seemed scary. During Pedro’s bout with cancer, he dropped to 130 (five pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight) and I blossomed to 185 (his pre-cancer weight). The only known photo of me during this time is on my school ID card—I couldn’t avoid having my photo taken. My neck looks even larger than normal—but I consoled myself that my calves and ankles still looked pretty good.Dealing with distortions

Two years before my fortieth birthday I decided that I didn’t want to be a ‘fair, fat and forty’ statistic and end up with gallbladder problems. I wanted to have energy to keep up with my almost teenage daughters. Maybe they would even take pride in their mommy. I went on a low-carb diet and over the course of ten months I slowly returned to my pre-pregnancy weight.

The negative thoughts about my weight remained. In fact, I hate having my photo taken because I want to live up to my ideal image of what I should look like. All too often the photos that others take don’t meet my expectations. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend hours in front of the mirror putting on make up (I got too lazy to wear that stuff about six years ago). My daily hair routine involves running a wide-toothed comb through my curls . That’s it. I have no feelings about my looks—unless someone snaps a photo that I deem ‘horrible.’ It’s possible that I’ve asked my children to erase photos of me that they took on their phones.

Accountability Solution?

The struggle with food didn’t end with my initial weight loss, though. I will never have the metabolism of a hummingbird. Food will always sound the siren call of comfort when I feel stress and pressure building in my life.  In January, after an extremely stressful year, I realized that I had slowly gained back twenty of those 55 pounds I had worked so hard to lose.

I decided I needed accountability, so I bought a FitBit and started keeping track of what I ate on the FitBit app on my phone. A few of my blogging friends have FitBits as well, so we challenge each other to keep moving during the week and on the weekends. My employer’s health program gives rewards for weight loss and exercise, and so I decided to enter my stats in their database as an additional form of accountability.

About the third time I entered my stats, I came to the shocking realization that the measurement for my calves is THE SAME as the measurement for my neck. All these years I’ve lived with the distorted belief that my neck is gargantuan and my calves are slim.

The possibility that the two areas shared a circumference never occurred to me. I passed judgment on my calves and ankles years ago and consoled myself about my giant neck and thick waist by putting down other women’s cankles.I passed judgment on my neck and consoled myself by putting down other women's cankles. Click To Tweet

Good Advice from a Good Book

Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy, would call my distortion “Labeling and Mislabeling.” I don’t need anyone else to put me down. I do a fine job of it myself, thank you very much. It’s time to give up the idol I’ve built on my dimensions and just accept myself for who I am. Dr. Burns also says, “Only one person in this world has the power to put you down—and you are that person, no one else!”

I’m ready for more accountability, so snap away—I promise to never ask you to delete a photo from your camera or your phone (it might take me awhile to view the photos without wrinkling my nose, though). My neck and calves measure the same—and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My neck and calves measure the same--and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Click To TweetMy job is to keep my mind on positive things and my body as healthy as possible.

That Glamour article promised perfection if my legs measured up. But I’d rather have perfection in my relationship with God and with my fellow travelers.

How about you? Do you have any distortions that you’ve discovered and are ready to let go of?

Tales from the Border Tell Two Sides of a Story

Every story has two sides
The Beggar’s Face Again

I sat quietly on the steps of the farmacia on the corner, fanning off flies, vendors, and heat.

Almost directly in front of me, young soldiers guarded the square dusty space between the town and the border crossing; the gateway to my own country waiting to welcome me back.

To my left lay the town—the town that tourists don’t see. The shops that the locals frequent. The shops without air-conditioning; flypaper hanging in the doorway and globs of cement forming steps. The part of town where houses cram indiscriminately between the street and the businesses. Houses that may or may not have running water or electricity.

To my right stretched the street that was designed for me to see. Fancy tilework and nice storefronts invite one in to shop –into the air-conditioning and out of the stifling heat of the dusty street. Vendor stalls lined up in front of the stores and the hierarchy was clear: Air-conditioned stores first, vendor stalls second, vendors on foot third and of course, beggars last.

I’ve known that for years—it’s true of most countries or cultures around the world.

But this day, because I had lost my family, I had a different view.

Neither a tourist nor a local, once I waved away the on-foot vendors, I became invisible while sitting on that fake marble stairway.

And the clash and the mesh of the different worlds kept me captivated.

The children, the ones with the professional beggar faces? I watched as they approached other tourists with the same sad faces and slumped demeanor. But I also got to watch as they ran back by me, giggling and poking each other to rest in the shade I had found. They stood around and laughed and joked until someone new came from beyond the crossing. One little boy poked the other, “It’s your turn.” A new little girl was prodded into activity. “What is it again? Twelve for one dollar?” Eyes rolled as they went through the prices again for her and off she went, to look sad and helpless and try to sell some visiting Meester her quota of chicles. The waiting children spoke of school and their families and which street vendor would be most likely to give up some taquitos.

The street vendors bustled back and forth trading freely with each other according to who needed what. “Hey, I got a lady who wants a dress in purple…hurry!”

“Fine, then bring me back a green.”

They brought lunch or maybe a water bottle to one another.

One street vendor ran into the farmacia where I sat and a moment later burst out the door and ran over to an over-dressed couple who waited in the street. He handed them what they wanted, and I wondered how much he made on the 15 steps he took to sell it to them.

I almost laughed aloud one moment, listening to a vendor bargaining with a tourist. They hassled and harangued and jostled back and forth with the vendor whining about feeding his family and the tourist declaring she only had so much money with her. The lady walked away happy with her deal and the vendor turned down my street to check his iPhone for messages.

I loved it every time one of the vendors would dash into the farmacia for something, because the air conditioning from inside would blast out onto the dusty street, cooling me as it went by.

The two faces of a poor border town. The beggars with smart phones and the well dressed store workers walking around the corner to have lunch in their electricity-less houses.

Every story has two sides, right? So often we judge on the side that we see and forget there might be another view, or more information.

Earlier on, before I misplaced my family, we had passed an old woman, sitting pitifully on the sidewalk, waving her Styrofoam cup at passersby. She called out in a pathetic voice for change, for money, for help. After seeing the one guy whip out his smart phone, my son turned to me and asked, “Do you really think that old lady needs the money, or will she go around the corner to her luxury car?”

It’s a valid question, but I think I may have given a valid answer. “For whatever reason, she has the temerity and the stamina to SIT on that concrete sidewalk for at least the 3 hours that we’ve seen – I would say she needs the money. And we don’t know the rest of her story.”

I ended up sitting on those steps after that conversation with my son. One of the boys selling chicles raced by and a clerk stepped out of the farmacia. He called the boy over and asked him what he was eating. The boy replied and told a story about the taco he had been given. The man asked sternly, “Did you ask for it?”

“No, Papi, I didn’t ask for it. She offered!”

“Did you pay for it?”

Eyes widened in innocence, “No, Papi, she said I could have it, she couldn’t sell it.”

He shook his head, “Ok then, but don’t you be asking for food. You should earn that. You could trade gum for tacos.”

Two sides–the sad face to sell, but maintaining the pride of not begging. There’s always more to the story.

Having a child fighting cancer and on chemotherapy for three years provided many opportunities of growth for me as a mother. It also seemed to provide many opportunities of judgement from others; people who assumed we did not discipline him, people who assumed he was well when his hair grew back and people who had not one clue as to what we dealt with at home and hospital. Two sides of a story: the reality side and the viewable side.

I’ve had students with autism, with hearing loss or vision loss, students with real life struggles that I watched be judged. On those rare occasions where I could explain, I would watch faces and attitudes change because the listener heard the rest of story.

I’m sure each of you readers has a similar story you could share about being misunderstood, or feeling that you had another side to your story. What do YOU wish people had done differently? That’s what it takes—if each of us assumes there is more to the story, maybe each of our stories could be more beautiful!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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