Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Memories past and present

My dress was similiar to this 
Most people know that I flit from one craft to another. I'm kind of ADHD when it comes to crafting and get bored easily if I focus on one thing too long, so I welcomed the chance to sew again. I'd last used my machine when Covid first started, and everyone was needing face masks. After making about 200 of them, I grew tired of it and put my machine away. Inside the case, I knew it wouldn't collect dust, no matter how long it was there. 

So when it came time to make a special gift for a dear friend, I pulled out the machine, set it up, got everything ready and began working diligently. I would be presenting the gift on Saturday, so time was of the essence. 

Flipping on the sewing machine light, I slipped the pinned fabric beneath the presser foot and lowered it. As I depressed the foot pedal, the machine began to run, and it wasn't long before I was enjoying listening to the constant humming of the machine. As I worked, my mind began to wander, and I was transported to my childhood where that familiar rhythm was a constant in our home. 

Sewing was one of my mother's favorite things to do. She had a tiny sewing room in the upstairs of our house. It couldn't have been more than 6 feet wide by 9 feet long, but she didn't mind. It was her space, a place where she would retreat when my brother, sister, and I were being a little rowdy. 

I don't remember when she first started sewing, but her old Singer sewing machine seemed like it was constantly going. Before we began attending school, Mama was making our clothing. I remember visiting a nearby fabric mill not too far from our home with her on many occasions, the dye from the fabric burning my eyes as we entered the shop. Mama could spend hours in there, searching the pattern books, picking out buttons or thread, and having fabric measured and cut. Being there was interesting to me and is probably where I began my love of crafting many, many years ago. I loved feeling the different textures of the fabrics- corduroys, velvets, and linens. I loved seeing the beautiful prints of cotton, playing with the metal zippers, and digging my hands into large bins of multicolored buttons. We visited so often, the cashier and Mama became friends, calling each other by name. Usually, when Mama was having her fabric cut, I'd sit at a table perusing the pattern books. I quickly learned how to find a pattern number on the page and find the corresponding pattern envelope from the filing cabinets based on the maker's brand. Butterick, McCall's, Vogue, and Simplicity were the most popular back then. After Mama had paid for her purchase, we'd leave the store and head to the car. I still remember the sound of the brown paper bag crinkling as Mama tucked it under her arm and reached in her purse for her car keys. Many times, we had no idea what Mama was going to make, but we quickly learned that if she was making something for one of us, we'd better leave her alone and let her do her work when we got home. 

As we grew older and money became tighter, Mama took in sewing for others. There was one woman in particular who was fond of Mama's sewing skills and employed her regularly to make her wardrobe. Mama would work on her dresses when we were at school, but sometimes, she'd work on a specific request late into the evening in order to complete it by the customer's deadline. 

Throughout our growing up years, Mama made my sister and I dresses, shorts, pajamas, and other things. She was determined to dress us fashionably on a budget. 

One of my favorite memories was of a skating outfit I'd asked Mama to make for me. I was a preteen and all of my friends had cute little skating outfits with skirts that would flair and flutter as they spun around on the roller-skating rink. I knew we couldn't afford to buy one of those but asked Mama if she might make one for me. She told me if she could find a pattern, she'd be glad to do it so the next time we went to the fabric shop, guess who was the first to reach the pattern books?! Me! I was bound and determined to find a skating outfit and I did. When I showed Mama the pattern, she said she could make it and agreed to do it before my next skating party. 

Her sewing machine hummed all day and most of the night that Friday before my party. In fact, I fell asleep listening to the rhythmic humming of her machine. I had no idea what a sacrifice it was for her to do that for me and didn't understand it until I had a family of my own and began making their clothes. The eye strain she must have endured during the twilight hours and the nagging back pain as she stayed hunkered down in that hard, wooden chair at her sewing table were evidence of her love for me. 

On the morning of the party, she presented me with a beautiful lavender skating outfit complete with matching bloomers. I tried it on, and it fit perfectly. I knew I was going to look so pretty out there on the rink floor with all my girlfriends and I did. 

As I rounded the corner on the last section of my project, I watched the sewing machine needle move up and down quickly piercing the fabric. It was mesmerizing to see how delicately and swiftly the thread was locked into place. When I completed the project, I held it in my hands and felt the stitching. I wondered how many times my mother must have done the same thing as she finished one of our pieces of clothing. 

Love comes in many forms. Some ways are practical and found through acts of service like the ones my mother gave me. I'm so thankful she was resourceful while we were growing up. We were taught never to waste a thing. Her mother, my grandmother, taught Mama well and used to say, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I'm sure that was a depression era sentiment, but I've remembered that since the day I first heard it. If there's ever a scrap of fabric in our home that can be reused, repurposed, or recycled, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be saved for a rainy day. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Crucifying the flesh

 

Nailing it to the cross
I once had a Sunday school teacher who taught me a valuable lesson. As we sat in the classroom, a group of about 15 young women listened carefully as our teacher talked about how Jesus took all of our sins to the cross with Him. 

As a visual learner, I did my best to picture Him doing that, but it wasn't easy until Mrs. Woods pulled out a simple wooden cross and laid it on the floor in the middle of our circle. 

Slowly and carefully, she walked around the circle handing each one of us a slip of paper and a big metal nail. She instructed us to think about the sin we wanted to nail to the cross. After we'd thought about it, each of us began scribbling on our slip of paper. With tear filled eyes, we folded our slips in half and waited. Mrs. Woods began to read scripture from Galatians 5. As she reached verse 22, we listened to the various fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. The teacher explained those were virtues that we should all possess and those were ones that would help others see Christ in us. She continued reading and when she reached verse 24, we listened attentively, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

I don't remember everything she talked about that day, but I know she worked hard to help us understand that Jesus was and is our sin bearer and although He had already paid our sin debt and had taken all of our sins to the cross, we were probably still hanging on to some of them. She explained that wasn't healthy and it was time to let them go. 

Calling us up one by one, Mrs. Woods instructed each of us to take our burdensome sin and nail it to the cross. She handed the first girl a hammer and all of us watched as that girl pounded her nail into the cross. The sound of each hammer blow inflicted pain and sorrow on all of our hearts. One after another, each girl went forward and repeated the action of nailing a folded slip of paper to the cross. 

When each of us had taken our turn, Mrs. Woods instructed us to look at the cross. There on the floor it lay covered in nails and slips of paper. There was not a dry eye in the room as the reality of what Jesus had done for us was apparent. We'd only nailed one sin to the cross that day but I'm sure the other girls felt the same way I did. Though we were just teens, we'd already committed many sins in our young lives. Though they were "small" sins, jealousy, lying, stealing, etc. Those sins had pounded the horrid nails into our Savior's body. 

That object lesson helped us understand what it meant to crucify the flesh every single day. I'm so grateful to Mrs. Woods for taking time to teach us a valuable truth. 

I'm not sure but I believe Mr. Woods built the wooden cross for Mrs. Woods to bring to class. He was a very godly man and a skilled carpenter. I can just picture his smile as she asked him to help with the lesson. 

Some of the girls in class that day probably forgot the lesson a day or two after we'd participated in it but not me. I've remembered if for almost 50 years and I'm sure I'll remember it until the day I die. Daily I think about the need to crucify my "flesh woman." She rears her ugly head so often, I feel like I need to keep a pail of nails, a hammer, and a stack of notepaper handy. 

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Galatians 5:24. 

Our fleshly bodies are sinful and prone to fall into temptation. And that's why I keep a wooden cross nailed to my office wall with another verse of Scripture adhered to it - "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." 

My prayer is that I will never forget to live cruciform daily. I pray you'll receive a blessing from this post and you'll find a need to nail your sins to the cross too, whether figuratively or literally, because Jesus has already taken them there for you but you need to remember your flesh needs to be crucified daily.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Grief is like the ocean

 A few days ago, a dear friend of mine asked me to meet her at the cemetery. She was going to view her dearly departed husband's headstone for the first time since his death in August. I didn't really want to go because my own grief was so heavy. I'd lost my brother in July and hadn't been able to completely process the loss yet. Visiting the military cemetery where my sweet friend's husband was buried was going to be hard for several reasons. My parents were both buried there and my brother could have been buried there too since he'd served in the Army, but his wife had chosen to have him cremated. Without going into detail about that, I'll just say there is a lot of unresolved hurt in our family over the way his death was handled. Anyway, back to my friend's request. 

My husband and I drove 2 hours to get to the cemetery. It was important for us to be there to offer moral support to my friend, Janice. We didn't know it at the time, but she had asked some of her aunts, her brother, and sister in law to join her. I was thankful she wasn't going to be there alone, but when we got to her, the tears began to flow. 

I watched as she clung to Jack's headstone. As I went over to her, she told me she didn't want to leave, that she wanted to stay there forever. I did my best to console her and tell her that she'd see Jack again one day when she got to heaven, but I could tell the words weren't much comfort. 

As we all stood in front of Jack's gravesite, I did my best to remember his sweet smile and his hearty laugh. He was always so jovial and optimistic. I missed him terribly and wished he'd never been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Though he'd done everything the doctors had suggested to prolong his life, he didn't even make it a year past diagnosis. 

When Janice was ready, we left the cemetery and headed for a nearby barbecue joint for lunch. We all reminisced about Jack while there and as we were about to leave, Janice reached into her purse and pulled out a sandwich bag. I knew what it was without her telling me. She'd mentioned a special request to me at his funeral - she wanted me to make some sort of keepsake for her that would include clippings she'd taken from his beard his last week on Earth. Discreetly, she passed the bag to me and I nodded my head. She knew I'd do my best to make something meaningful and that I'd treat his beard with respect. I didn't want to take it but I did. I'd promised and I would keep my word. 

On the way home, I cried. Phil asked what was wrong and I told him. That bag of beard trimmings in my purse was a tangible reminder of my sweet friend. I didn't want to open the bag and touch his beard. I knew it would be too much. 

When we got home, I took the baggie out of my purse and put it in my craft room. I couldn't bear to look at it and I needed time to think of something to make for Janice. 

I wracked my brain trying to think of something I could make with his beard and the only thing I could think of was a keepsake pillow. I'd put the beard trimmings inside the pillow but somehow I'd have to make them accessible to Janice, too. 

Making the pillow was easy. I took some muslin and printed a photo of Jack onto it. It was one of Janice's favorite photos - one of Jack as Santa Claus. He used to work as Santa every year at Christmas for a department store in Florida. They requested him because of his "real" white beard and his happy spirit. After printing the photo of Jack on it, I used my Cricut machine to cut some iron on vinyl into a saying, "I'll hold you in my heart until I can hold you again in Heaven." I ironed that in place and then embroidered a heart in the center of the photo and the wording. I took the muslin and a pretty floral piece of fabric, some ball fringe trim, and made a pillow then stuffed it with poly-fiberfill. Next came the part I dreaded - incorporating the beard hair. I had to think of a way to do it that would keep the beard trimmings together and yet allow Janice to touch them whenever she wanted. I prayed about it and asked God what I could do. He gave me the idea of making a small heart and stuffing it with the beard hairs to place inside the pillow permanently. 

I made the heart out of 2 pieces of muslin and embroidered the edges with a blanket stitch of maroon embroidery thread. When it came time to stuff it with Jack's hair, I wept. I did not want to open the bag. I didn't not want to smell the sickness of cancer on his beard and I did not want to touch the hair. I know it will sound callous and unkind, but I'm being truthful. I'm embarrassed to admit it but I put on an N-95 mask and some nitrile gloves before removing the beard hair from the bag. 

Through the gloves I could feel the coarseness of Jack's beard and I couldn't contain my sadness. The tears came quickly and overwhelmed me, but somehow, I managed to push all of the hair into the small heart and sew it shut. 

Gently, I place the heart inside the pillow so Janice could see the outline of it through the muslin. I centered it directly under the embroidered heart I'd sewn between Jack's photo and the wording. When I was done, I showed the completed work to my husband and asked what he thought about it. He said he was sure she'd like it. 

In the next week or so, I'll meet up with Janice to give her the pillow. I pray it touches her heart. 

Grief is so hard to process. It comes in waves like the ocean. Sometimes the feelings are mild and gentle ebbing and flowing. Other times, they're rough and relentless pounding hard against the inside of your heart. 

Jack as Santa

I don't ever want to make a keepsake like that again. I know the custom of keeping a deceased loved one's hair has been around for a very long time, but to be the one to touch and hold it after the person has passed is so very difficult. 

Christmas will be coming soon and I've got a picture of Jack in his Santa suit on a table in my living room. I prefer to remember him doing something he loved and I can just bet he was a great encouragement to all of those dear little ones as they visited him at the mall. 

This year has been tragic in so many ways, but I can't dwell on all the negatives associated with it. I know God wants me to focus on the good things. Jack was a good friend and a jolly soul. Janice still needs my love and support and I'll do my best to give it to her. Friendship is a wonderful gift and one I'll always treasure, but sometimes, a broken heart reminds us of the brevity of life. We should never take a day for granted.

The keepsake pillow I made


Friday, November 19, 2021

I don't want to miss Jesus this Christmas

 

Last night, after hubby had gone to bed, I sat in the livingroom enjoying the quiet. Glancing up at the mantle, my eyes fell on the baby Jesus from my nativity scene. It was a modest nativity, handcarved, one I'd purchased from Hobby Lobby a few years back, but I loved its simplicity. 

The baby Jesus seemed to be calling to me so I got up and went over to the mantle. Staring into the face of that tiny, carved babe, I could hear a faint whisper, "Be careful not to miss Me this year." 

Miss Jesus? How could I possibly do that? Christmas was all about Jesus and I loved celebrating His birth, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was possible to miss Jesus. With all the craziness we've been experiencing this year, our world most certainly could miss Jesus and in a big way. I didn't want that to happen in my family. 

This year had already been very different from years past because of Covid. I'd lost several dear friends to the disease and my youngest daughter had been hit hard by the virus not once but twice. On top of that, I'd lost my brother to cancer and I'd had several medical scares throughout the year. It had been a challenging year but I was determined we were going to get through it. 

Before Thanksgiving, I put up my Christmas tree. That's a really big deal. I've never done that before. I've always waited until after the Thanksgiving evening meal or even pushed it to the following day, but this year, I felt an urgency in my soul. I wanted to soak up every single minute of Christmas and I wanted it to last as long as possible. In fact, I even considered leaving my tree up through the end of January, just so I could see and experience it a little longer. 

The older I get, the more I realize how fleeting time is and how I must hold tightly to the seconds and minutes I have left. This year, I'm praying I don't miss Jesus. I can't. He's my everything.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

It's beginning to look a little Grinchy around here!

One of my all time favorite childhood movies was Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." What a classic! It came out in 1966 and has remained a treasure for many, many years. 

The first year that animated movie appeared on TV, my brother, sister, and I sprawled out on our living room floor. In front of our large console TV, we'd lie as close to the screen as Mama would allow and watch intently as Cindy Lou Who sauntered around Whoville. 

My heart was filled with emotion as the gentle Who people gathered together in celebration and of course, I felt sorry for sweet little Max, the Grinch's pet dog, as he tried so hard to pull that big overloaded sleigh up and over the hill at the Grinch's command. Of course, we all loathed Mr. Grinch for the first half of the movie but grew to love him as he realized there was so much more to Christmas than all the trappings. As his itty bitty heart began to grow, so did our hope in the goodness of love. When the movie ended, we enjoyed a special "feel good"moment knowing that all was right in the world. That's the way it was in the 60s. Not so much now. 

This year has been a Grinchy year. In fact, if I had to choose a line from the movie, I'd say it's been a "Stink, Stank, Stunk" year. Not only have I lost several dear friends to Covid 19, I also lost my brother to cancer. My youngest daughter has endured multiple cases of the virus and still struggles today with post Covid fatigue and other symptoms. I've had more medical visits that I ever expected and was rushed to the emergency room three times! Medical bills are piling up, but we still have confidence that there's a silver lining somewhere. We pray next year will be better. 

Yes, it's been a Grinchy year and in honor of that, I began making Grinch ornaments about a month ago. They're scattered all over my kitchen counters in various stages of completion. Phil doesn't complain. He knows the entire house is just one huge craft room to me. Crafting helps keep me sane and provides a little extra income now and then, so he's okay with it. 

It would sure be nice if we could wake up on Christmas morning holding hands, circled around a huge tree singing in the language of the imaginary Whovillians- 

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!
Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in
our grasp
So long as we have
hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome, welcome
Christmas
Welcome, welcome
Christmas Day

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!

Then maybe, all of our hearts would grow two sizes that day and that nasty ol' Covid would go far away. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

4 words

If anyone had to sum up my life in 4 words, they’d either choose the phrase, “She loved the Lord, or “She was a planner.” And while both of those choices would be true, my flesh woman would definitely meet the latter description better than the first.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a planner. Maybe it’s a typical Type A personality trait, but it works for me. I like knowing the plan ahead of time and often, when we’re going on a trip, I spend days making out a detailed itinerary and menu. That way, things usually run smoothly but I’m also okay with spontaneity and find it fun to travel off the beaten path now and then. I’ve found that’s where the best photo ops tend to be and where some of the most precious God moments occur.

Though I find comfort and security in having a well laid plan, I’ve found, over my almost 64 years of life, that no matter how much I try, I don’t always have the whole picture. Sure, I can plan to my heart’s content, but things can always go wrong. Like the time I was spelunking and my headlamp went out leaving me stranded completely in a dark eerily damp cave. That was an quite the experience and one I won’t ever forget. During that time, God taught me a huge lesson in faith.

There’s an old saying, “Man plans, and God laughs.” I imagine He’s gotten a lot of guffaws as He’s observed me making and trying to keep all of my detailed plans. But in life, God doesn’t always give us the entire plan. Usually, He provides one small step at a time.

In the Bible, we find evidence of that many times as He taught people to life by faith. Just look at the prophet Samuel.  “The Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.”  Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do.’ ”  (1 Samuel 16:2,3)

He told the Samuel to go to Bethlehem and do all the things necessary to prepare a sacrifice with Jesse and his sons. That was all. He gave them one thing to do, one step. Then He said, “I’ll show you what to do.” He didn’t give them steps one, two, three, etc. He only gave Samuel one step.  

God takes great delight in the obedience of His children. He expects us to trust Him enough to do exactly what the Holy Spirit guides us to do and to do it at the very moment He prompts us to do it. We are to act without question. Now, that’s not easy for someone like me who likes to know the entire plan, but I’m thankful He’s patient with me as I continue to learn this valuable lesson.

Only Jesus knew the Father’s plans from beginning to end. God understands our human frailty and that’s why I think He only gives us one thing to do at a time then tells us to wait for further instruction. As we are obedient, He’ll provide the next step. If it didn’t work that way, we’d surely make a big mess of things by doing them in our limited knowledge and in our haphazard way.

The Bible tells us that God’s ways are not our ways and that He knows the plans He has for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a future and a hope. He is trustworthy and true.

If I had to compare Him to a battery, I’d have to rename a popular one. I’d have to call Him the EVERLASTING battery, because Everlast or Duracell wouldn’t hold a candle to His amazing, unending power to lead, guide, and direct us through these difficult, dark, uncertain days of life. Aren’t you glad He only entrusts us with one step at a time? Our Heavenly Father always knows best and I’m so glad He loves us enough to know exactly how much we can handle at any given time. 


I love this quote by Corrie Ten Boom, “In darkness God's truth shines most clear.” What a profound truth to cling to in today's evil world!

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Incoming!

 When I was a kid, I remember listening to my Daddy occasionally talk about being in the service. Those occasions were very rare so whenever he'd talk, I'd really listen. Once he told about being outside a bunker in Japan. He said planes were flying overhead and he heard a guy yell, "Incoming!" They knew that meant it was imperative to take cover and they did, but some of the soldiers weren't fast enough. They lost their lives in a split second. 

That one word was a very serious warning and one I never forgot. I think my eyes bugged out of my head when he first said it although he didn't say it in a frightening way. I imagined the sounds of aircraft overhead as the warning went out. And imagined how I'd have felt if I'd been right there with him. I'd have been petrified, probably unable to move. No wonder so many soldiers came back from war with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). And when they were freshly home, it didn't take much to set them off- a movement, a noise, the slightest sound.  But soldiers aren't the only ones with PTSD.There are a lot of cancer survivors and people who've experience traumatic events that feel that way, too. Sometimes, when my youngest daughter calls her ringtone literally scares me to death. It's a loud and bothersome tone that quakes me to my core. I keep meaning to change it and keep forgetting, but it really causes me to feel anxious. Some days are worse than others but on the bad days, they go from bad to worse. 

This morning started out that way for me. After waking at 5 a.m., I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, wandered to the kitchen turned on the coffee maker and waited for my cappuccino to brew. While that was going, I pulled an egg white delight from the freezer. I wasn't in the mood to cook and that frozen sandwich was not only going to be a quick fix, but a tasty one at that. While I enjoyed breakfast, I glanced through emails and made a "to do" list. No big deal, right? But before I put my pen down, my phone began to send one notification after another. Emails, news apps, and texts started alerting me to the fact that something or someone needed my attention. It was not what I expected and immediately, I began to feel anxious. After several more texts came in, I decided enough was enough. I was not going to let that phone order my day. I stood and with feet planted firmly refused to go over and see who had texted. Instead, I yelled across the room to Siri asking her to read my text messages. After hearing that none of them were important, I decided I was going to do something to exert a little control over my day.  I flipped my phone to silent and walked away. 

Those constant pinging, dinging, and chiming noises irritate and antagonize me. I get so tired of all the stuff I am supposed to pay attention to. I've done my best to distance myself from social media. In the past, I'd spend hours trying to keep up with everyone's news but that became exhausting. Now I only check it once in the morning, once at midday and then after dinner.

Maybe it's just a "me" problem. Maybe I'm just getting too old to multi-task well any longer or maybe I just don't care. It might even be a little of both! In any event, I think it's important to do something when we realize our things are causing undue stress. 

There's a great feature on your phone and if you haven't found it yet, you need to employ it - the DO NOT DISTURB feature. You can set time limits for your benefit and you can set auto responses so your loved ones don't think you've been kidnapped or kicked the bucket. I have an iPhone and it's become one of my most used features. I don't know if Androids have it but if not, I'm sure they have something similar. 

Take back control of your life and remember, you have the power to squelch the noises. If incoming alerts freak you out, take shelter and protect your sanity. It's not worth it to allow those things to continue to bombard your life!


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Can you be sad but happy at the same time?

 I'm conflicted. This morning I woke up and read my emails before getting out of bed. It's a bad habit and I keep telling myself I won't do it any more, but I do. I can't help it. I'm a multi-tasker, always have been, always will be. Anyway, as I was reading, I almost skipped over a notification telling me a friend had recently made a new blog post. I don't know why, but sometimes I just find it hard to get sucked into the problems of others. I have plenty of my own. Thankfully, I didn't skip it. This email notification was different. Not only did it alert me to the fact that my friend had made a recent blog post, it also told me she was no longer living. Yes, you read that right...she was no longer living. 

Apparently my sweet friend, Jen, had thought ahead. She'd been planning for this day. She knew it was coming. 

You see, we were both diagnosed with the exact stage and grade of breast cancer. I was diagnosed in June 2014 and she was diagnosed in August of 2014. I was 56, she was 41. I had 4 grown children, she had 3 teenage daughters. She lived up North. I lived down South. There were a lot of differences between us but there were so many similarities, too. Besides sharing the commonality of breast cancer, we were also fellow believers in Jesus Christ. He was our life and our faith in Him is what helped us navigate the scary and uncertain world of breast cancer. 

I'm sad to say that Jen and I took different routes in our cancer treatment. She chose to go the conventional route - surgery, chemo, radiation, and anti-hormone therapy. I chose the more natural route although I did have surgery and endured 28 rounds of radiation, I have tried to manage my health with supplements and vitamins and whole foods. 

Jen and I compared notes often through emails and letters. It helped to know someone else understood the fears and frustrations that came along with the silver plated diagnosis we both never expected to receive. And that's why it hurts so much to know she's gone.I've ticked off another box in the long list of friends who've gone ahead to be with the Lord. And I can't help but wonder why I'm still here...

Tom and Jen

But it's just like everything else with cancer. Nothing makes sense. 

This year has been tough. Not only has Covid wreaked havoc on our world, I keep losing friends and family members to cancer. It hurts. I won't lie, it hurts really bad. "Dying is a part of living, but only a very small part," says Ashleigh Brilliant and she's right. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know this life is only temporary. My eternal life has yet to begin. 

I'm honored and thankful to have known Jennifer Small. She was a good friend. Please pray for her family in the days ahead as they shift into living without her. And if you've never thought about where you'll spend eternity, please do. There are only 2 places you can go - to Heaven or to Hell. I'd much rather see you in Heaven than dream of you being eternally tortured in Hell. The decision is yours and yours alone to make. No one else can make it for you. Don't know how? It's easy: 



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Clinical trials are they worth it?

 I have a friend who recently lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. Over the past year, I followed each event on his health care journey doing my best to offer love and support. As his tumor marker numbers went up and down, the constant rollercoaster became very stressful. The chemo worked for a while and then it stopped, that's when we knew his time was short. 

When the doctor told them there was nothing more he could do, they became desperate for a cure, and who wouldn't? There's an innate desire for survival in all of us. I wasn't shocked when they said they were willing to try anything but when the doctor mentioned a clinical trial using a deworming medication used on dogs, I was dumbfounded. 

Panacur, the brand name for pet strength medication, Fenbenzadrole, is used for ridding animals of parasites but apparently, some doctors are finding it to be a possible treatment for cancer. 

When we received the call that Jack wasn't doing well and wasn't expected to make it through the end of the week, we immediately went to visit. We wanted him to know that we loved and supported him, that we would be there for his wife in the future. That visit was very difficult. When we arrived, it was evident his physical condition had greatly declined and he was indeed on his death bed. Though he did his best to communicate, the strong doses of morphine made him too sleepy to stay awake. As he lay in the recliner resting, I noticed a package of Panacur on the side table. When his wife saw me looking at it, she explained the doctor had told them about a clinical trial and suggested they try it as a last attempt at a cure. I had mixed feelings about it but kept them to myself. 

In the car, on the way home, I told my husband about my concerns. I didn't understand how Jack's wife could give him a strong, antiparasitic medication when he was in such terrible shape. His belly was bloated from the cancer and he was unable to eat. How could he swallow a pill that was going to wreak havoc on his system like that? And how could she encourage him to take it? 

Every person with cancer has to fight it in his/her own way. I understand and respect that but when does one draw the line at ending treatment? I imagine, if I was stage 4 and had no other recourse for a cure, I might try an off the wall remedy, but I'd hope I'd have sense enough to do some research before accepting anything the doctor threw my way. 

Maybe I was appalled at the thoughts of my friend, a person I loved and cared about, being treated with a medication for dogs or maybe it was just the thought of him taking it and becoming violently ill on top of what he was already going through, I don't know. 

More than likely, we'll never find a cure for cancer. There's too much money in Big Pharma to ever hope for that. Wouldn't it be nice if someone stumbled upon a helpful option through trial and error, something so simple and so benign that people would shake their heads and say, "Wow! We had this all along!" 

I'm all about science and understand many medical discoveries have come to us through trial and error, but it doesn't seem right to play around with human lives. 

My friend, Jack, died 5 days after we visited him. It was a great loss and I'll always wonder if perhaps the Panacur contributed to or hastened his death but I can't bring myself to mention it to Jack's wife. I know it would be too painful. 

Learn more about Panacur & cancer

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Earth is not our home

Tomorrow I'll say goodbye to a dear friend who recently lost his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After fighting for almost a year, Jesus finally called him home. 

My friend's name was Jack. He was a kind and simple man, very loyal and friendly. He loved to tell people he was an alien and claimed that status due to the fact that he was born in Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell, New Mexico is famous for the legend of Area 51- a supposed crash site for an alien spaceship many years ago. Jack even bought alien facemasks and tshirts so he could dress the part and he always got a good laugh when he suited up, but really, Jack was telling the truth. He was an alien. As a follower of Christ, Jack knew the Bible gave clear insight on this fact, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20.

Janice, Jack, and Bonnie
Jack's death is a reminder that I'm an alien, too. Though I may not dress up in funny masks or bright green alien laden clothing, my home is in heaven. 

The world we see today is getting uglier and uglier. There are wars and rumors of wars, there are plagues and pestilences. There are earthquakes in diverse places...all the things that the Bible warns us will happen during the end times. The constant lawlessness abounding around us should make us all want to go HOME, and I do!!

Thank you, Jack, my dear friend, for helping me remember this world is not my home. I can't wait to leave this wretched world behind and travel to Heaven's celestial shores. 

One day soon, my friend, we'll have a reunion. Until then, I'll hold on to the memories we shared, and I'll do my best to help watch over your sweet wife. You were such a dear friend. I'll love you always and forever. 


Monday, July 12, 2021

On this day, 7 years ago...

 


I was just 3 days out from surgery to remove both my breasts when a stranger came to visit me. We'd "found" each other through a Facebook breast cancer group and she'd been a wealth of information so when she offered to come see me, I hesitantly agreed. I wanted a new friend, but I was scared. Although Karen was also a breast cancer patient, she was six months ahead of me in her treatment. She'd already been through everything I was going to face and she wanted to help ease my fears. I didn't realize it then, but that gift was one of the biggest blessings I'd ever receive. 

When I heard the gentle knock on my front door, I was nervous. I didn't feel well and was in a good deal of pain. My husband opened the door and greeted Karen, my new friend and pink sister. As he welcomed her in, she immediately came over to my chair and gave me a gentle hug. She made a joke about the way we looked, laughing and pointing to her practically bald head as she exclaimed, "We're quite the pair!" That ice breaker was perfect.

I was embarrassed to be wearing a surgical compression top underneath my blouse. There was no way to fully hide the dangling JP drains, or the bloody fluid they contained, but Karen didn't mind. She'd already been there and done that. She didn't see all that surgical stuff. Her eyes were fixed on mine. She saw me for me. 

We sat and talked for hours. It felt like we'd known each other forever. No question was off limits, she told me, and she even offered to let me see her new breast prostheses if I wanted to, but I wasn't quite ready for that. 

Karen gave me hope as she explained what lay ahead of me. Knowing what to expect made things more bearable. 

I don't know what I would have done if Karen hadn't come to see me that day. She went out of her way to help me and I'll never forget it. 

That's one thing about the breast cancer community - we're all about helping each other. Whether it's sharing helpful hints and tricks or just offering a listening ear, the compassion between pink sisters is real.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Tomorrow is the big day


Tomorrow is the big day, the day I celebrate 7 years of being cancer free. 

As I think back on all God's brought me through, I can't believe I've made it this far. 

A friend I met through an online breast cancer site and I share the exact same diagnosis and we were diagnosed just a few months apart from each other. She's not doing well at all and is about to enter hospice. I can't help but wonder why God's allowing me to live on while she is facing the end of her life. It hurts my heart and while I can't quite understand it, I have to remember God is God and I am not. He and He alone has numbered our days. My only hope is that my friend will know she was well loved and she will certainly be missed when she goes home to meet the Lord. I'm so thankful for her faithful witness, her strength and her resilience. Though she chose a different treatment path than I, I can't help but wonder if perhaps the chemotherapy and all of the other medications she endured during treatment may have contributed to her ill health. 

When I first began fighting cancer, I chose to go the natural route. The only conventional treatment I agreed to was surgery and radiation therapy. I felt those were the best choices for me and for the most part, I've been happy. Other than the burns I suffered and the cording, I think I've done quite well. It hasn't been a bed of roses though, by any means. And the side effect of lymphedema in both arms sucks, but I'm still here, so how can I complain? 

Everyone has to make their own decisions in the fight against cancer and we can never fault someone for choosing a treatment plan that differs from our own. We all want to live and we'll do anything possible to gain better odds toward that end goal, but sometimes, we react from fear and don't always make the best decisions. 

It would be nice if doctors would present all choices and allow the patient to make an informed decision, but that isn't usually the case. Most doctors steer patients toward conventional therapies and those usually involve severe life altering remedies. Chemotherapy and radiation both kill the good and bad cells in our bodies. There's no way to only target the cancer cells. If there were, we'd have so many more survivors than we currently have. 

I've always wondered why doctors don't help their patients discover natural, less invasive solutions to fighting cancer. Their Hippocratic oath of "Do no harm" should be all encompassing, but there are big bucks in big pharma and many doctors are all about the dollar signs. 

Seven years seems like a lifetime ago. It's hard to remember what life was like B.C. (before cancer) but I try. Some of the things I do remember and miss terribly are my physical stamina and my body image. I used to have so much energy I could go for days, now, I'm lucky if I make it to 9:00 p.m. without flopping into bed exhausted. I used to look in the mirror and think, "Hey, you're one hot chick!" But now, I can't help but look at my body with sadness and disgust. 

God has been faithful and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, He understands all of the emotions I've faced throughout these past 7 years. He's watched me cry tears of heartbreak and joy. He's held me tight when I felt I was unloved and unlovely. He's comforted me and given me strength on days I never thought I'd make it. I am so grateful He's deemed me fit to continue on. I know He still has work for me to do. 

Throughout my 63 years on Earth, I've learned, over and over again, through every trial I've ever faced that God is loving and kind. He has a good plan for me, a plan to prosper me and not to harm me. A plan to give me a future and a hope. 

And so, I press on. 

Now instead of watching the clock, I move through life minute by minute trusting God for the next step along the way. Jesus is my portion. He is my one true love. He is my everything. His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

7 Years is a Long Time to be Cancer Free

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 2B with Metastasis to the lymph glands. When I heard the words, 2 jumped out at me – carcinoma and metastasis. I knew those words and knew they were bad. I didn’t pay much attention to the stage or the type of cancer. The only thing that concerned me was whether I was going to live or die. 

The first year was tough. Being thrust into the world of breast cancer is challenging. There were so many experiences I never dreamed I’d face, from surgery to treatment and then, learning to live life after those were through. 

It took time to learn to cope. Most days, I felt alone and helpless like I’d gone to sleep and had woken up in a bad dream, a dream that seemed as if it would never end. But as I fought through each challenge that came my way, I found myself becoming stronger. I was determined to live, no matter what the cost.

 As a person of faith, I found myself relying on God for each minute of the day. Whenever I was discouraged, felt unlovely, or like I didn’t matter, I turned to the Bible and found solace there. 

My family and friends were also a source of strength. They offered their love and understanding when I needed it most. Without them, I don’t think I would have made it. 

Learning to live as a breastless woman, I had to conquer the feelings of self-loathing and learn to extend myself grace. When I finally learned to accept my appearance, I found others did, too. 

I look back now and it seems a lifetime ago that my life was turned upside down, but it’s only been 7 years. 

 Seven, in Biblical gematria (the study of the significance of the usage of numbers in Scripture) has great significance. It’s the number of completion. That makes this cancerversary ominous for me. With cancer, a fear of recurrence is normal, but sometimes, especially in instances like this, the fear seems to loom and a sense of foreboding engulfs me. 

 I wonder how to shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, my time of being cancer free is over. I can’t help but question, what I’d do if the cancer returned. 

I’d like to hope I’d fight with the same determination and resilience I did when I was first diagnosed but it might come back with a vengeance. If that happened, I might choose to do chemotherapy instead of refusing it, like I did 7 years ago. I might choose to take drastic measures to fight the cancer, instead of doing everything I could to fight it naturally like I’ve been doing for the past 7 years, or maybe not. Perhaps I’d just give in and give up…who knows. 

I don’t like to wonder and worry about something over which I have no control. That’s no way to live! I think I’ll make a conscious effort to stay in the zone of positivity. If I’ve survived for the past 7 years, chances are, the cancer won’t return. More than likely, at the age of 63, I’ll die of something else, right? And then I think of my dear friend who also suffered from breast cancer. She was diagnosed over 22 years ago and then, when she least expected it, her cancer returned and took her life. When that happened, I was devastated and even more afraid than ever. But if you give fear the power, you lose. 

Once I read an acronym for the word fear. It said, “Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. And that’s the truth, isn’t it? Fear causes us to accept the thing that appears to be true even if there’s no substantial evidence to prove otherwise. 

I can’t live that way. 

So today, and every day forward, no matter how many days I have left, I choose to live like it could be the last day of my life. None of us are ever promised tomorrow anyway. And if we choose to live like we’re dying, the choices we make will be profound.

I am not going to let go of my survivorship crown, the one I’ve been wearing for the past 7 years. I earned it and I’m going to trust God to give me many more years of life to live, love, and enjoy.

This survivor is grateful for every minute of life and I won’t let fear scare me any longer. I. AM. A. SURVIVOR, today and forever. 

Amen.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Power to Forgive

I'm a writer. I write all the time. I was probably born with a pen in hand. My mother used to get so mad at me because I was constantly writing. Every slip of paper in our house was fair game for me. I'd write on scraps, napkins, even toilet paper! As far as I know, I never wrote on anything other than paper but I could be mistaken. There were always so many thoughts running through my head I just had to record them. Usually I'd write with a pencil but every now and then, I'd write with a pen. The only problem was, when you write in pen, it's not easy to erase. As I grew older, I gave up the pen and pencil opting for the ease and speed of a typewriter. Whiteout became my best friend until I learned to type quickly and efficiently. My first typewriter was a manual Royal, a heavy machine, from the 1950s. I loved that typewriter and still have it to this day. When computers came along, I was in heaven. Not only could I record thoughts quickly, I could store them easily on disks or hard drives for posterity's sake. But, there was one key on the keyboard that gave me absolute power - the delete key. In an instant, I could wipe out everything. I loved depressing the delete key and seeing the words permanently gone. I could start over with a clean slate and if I didn't like the words I'd written, I could delete them and start over again. Thinking about the delete key, I wished we had one for life. A few weeks ago, one of my family members hurt me. In a volatile situation, words had been shouted and the wounds cut deep. I stood in shock as I listened to venom spew from that person's mouth. It was evil and ugly. I cried myself to sleep that night wondering where the poison had come from and why it had poured forth so easily, but deep down, I knew. When we walk in the flesh, things can get nasty in a hurry. My heart had been hurt. I loved this person. And I knew, Satan wanted me to allow a root of bitterness to grow up in my heart. He wanted me to be angry and for our relationship to be strained and broken. But God wanted restoration. I wished we could delete the incident and start over. That's when God reminded me of the delete key. He spoke to my heart and said forgiveness is like the delete key on a computer. When we choose to forgive, it's like giving a promise - the promise that we'll never bring up the offense commited against us again. Forgiveness gives us the power to delete the mental record of the pain of our hurt. We eliminate it. It's as if the sin never occured. And isn't that exactly what God does for us? When we ask Jesus to forgive us, when we repent of our sin, He doesn't say, "Oh, no... you owe me." No. His arms open wide and He says, "Yes, beloved! I forgive you." And not only does He forgive us, the Bible says He forgives us as far as the East is from the West. And He remembers our sin no more. Now if God can do that, why can't we? Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Why hold onto an offense that will constantly remind us of an unhealed wound? The power to forgive is a gift from the Father. I hope you use it and use it often.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Don't Waste Any Time

Frances McDormand as Fern
Today I finally watched the acclaimed movie, Nomadland. I'm always a day late and a dollar short, it seems, when trying to stay up on the most recent social media items, but I try. I'd heard about it from my youngest daughter and made a note to watch as soon as possible. 

The movie won best picture in the 2021 Oscars and Frances McDormand did an excellent job in her role as lead character, Fern. Following the economic collapse of Empire, a small town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off exploring life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.

I found myself in a pensive and introspective mood as I watched. This hard working woman, recently widowed, left everything she knew and loved due to circumstances beyond her control. She was a seeker on a journey to find herself. 

As I watched, I immediately became entrenched. As an avid camper, hiker, and backpacker, I loved all the beautiful scenery in the movie and paired with beautiful music, it really touched my heart. 

Watching as Frances/Fern traveled in her van from place to place, I was reminded, the Earth is not our home. We're all just wandering here on this planet and the majority of us have an inner sense that we don't really belong here - that's because God has placed the desire for eternity in our hearts. 

Throughout the movie, Fern meets one person after another on her life's path. Some become good friends and others are just casual acquaintances. But in every instance, each person was meant to touch her life in some small way or, vice versa. 

There was one particular scene where Fern and another woman are talking. The woman tells Fern about her husband buying a beautiful sailboat and how he couldn't wait to retire so he could enjoy it, but ten days before he retired, he died. The woman admonished Fern saying, "Don't waste any time." And when she said that, I felt an arrow pierce my heart. 

Time. So valuable and so precious. Yet, every single day, we waste it. Why? With such a priceless commodity, we should be wise about our expenditures. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I stopped wearing a watch. I didn't want to know what time it was any more. I wanted to focus on being present in the moment. In the past, I'd let time slip away but from that day forward, I resolved, no more. 

Daily, I push myself to the limit, often to my detriment. In fact, my husband and children often tell me I don't know how to rest. My husband, Phil, is always encouraging me to partake of Dolce Far Niente, the art of doing nothing. He says it's okay, but I feel if I do, I'm wasting precious time. Only those who've gone through cancer can truly grasp that concept. 

A Facebook friend send me a beautiful painting the other day. At the bottom of the painting are the words, "Sometimes you have to rest. The world can wait!" It's a reminder that sometimes I need to slow down. The Bible reminds me, too, "Be still...and know that He is God." Being still is hard for me, but I'm trying. 

There's a big difference between resting and wasting time, between being still and frittering away the moments. 

It can be difficult to find a balance, but we must. 

Oh to be a nomad, wandering from place to place, with no responsibilities or encumbrances! 

Though we're tethered to this Earth right now, there's a constant tugging at our hearts for home. That's why we can't waste even a second. We must use our stories to point others to Christ and that way, we won't have wasted any time.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Little Things

The day started out bright and early, earlier than I'd intended. 5 a.m. isn't my idea of a "normal" wake time, but today, it happened that way. So I jumped out of bed, put my phone on speaker so I could listen to a sermon, and hopped into the shower. (I'm a multi-tasker,  a vice I've had since birth - typical type A, you know the drill.)

After showering, I stood, wrapped in a towel, staring at myself in the mirror. "Who are you and what are you doing here" I asked myself. Analyzing my face, I realized the number of wrinkles there had multiplied. No doubt about it, I was getting old. 

63, by most standards, isn't really old, but some mornings, I beg to differ. Bones creak and muscles ache and yet, I'm thankful to be able to feel them. And as we age, body parts start to need special attention, most recently my left eye.

Around 2008, I began to notice cloudiness in that eye. It grew more and more bothersome until I went to see the ophthalmologist who said I'd developed cataracts in both eyes. In 2011, I had surgery to remove the cataract in my left eye and insert an artificial lens. In 2012, I had the same done for my right eye. Then, in early 2020, the outer edge of the left eye became clouded and I thought another cataract had formed. Once again, I made a trip to the doctor and he told me I had been leaking vitreous fluid. I'd need another surgery called YAG. That surgery would involve a laser and I was assured it wouldn't hurt, so I had it done. For a couple of months, it seemed to have cleared things up and then, I began to have eye pain and loss of vision. Another trip to the doctor revealed I'd continued to have issues with leaking vitreous fluid and needed another surgery called an Anterior Vitrectomy. In March 2021, I had that done and have been recovering from it since. 

Months before the YAG surgery, during my prayer time, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. He whispered, "You're going to lose the sight in your eye, but don't be afraid." When I heard that message, I questioned whether or not I was actually hearing from God or if, perhaps, I had some underlying fear that was expressing itself. Pushing the thought to the back of my mind, I'd almost forgotten about it, until 2 days after the anterior vitrectomy when everything went pitch black in that eye. Instead of freaking out, which I would have normally done, I remembered the word I'd received. I chose not to be afraid but to wait and see what happened. Gradually, over the next week, my eyesight got a little better each day. First it was like looking through a thick, dark curtain. Then, it was like the curtain had been changed to a sheer brown one. A day or two later, it was like looking through a hazy, gold curtain and then, everything was just fuzzy but noticeably clearer. I was so thankful! The doctor had warned, before I was sedated for surgery, that there was a small possibility that I could lose vision in that eye but he hoped that wouldn't be the case.

Since eye surgery, I've had to shield my eye from bright light and foreign objects. Daily, I've followed the medication regimen of 4 different eye drops four times a day. It's been tedious and frustrating, but anything to protect my eyesight is worthwhile.

I stare at myself In the bathroom mirror. Leaning in close, I notice my eyes look weak partially from the bright light and partially from the lack of makeup. It's been over a month since I've been able to wear eye makeup. That may not seem like a big deal to some, but for the woman with sparse lashes, mascara can be a lifesaver. 

Today was the day I was going to try it. At my appointment last week, I'd asked the doctor if it was okay to resume using eye makeup and he assured me it would be fine, so why was I hesitant to bring the mascara wand close to my eyeball? 

Fear paralyzed me for a few moments before I had enough courage to move the mascara wand lightly across the lashes of my left eye. Slowly and methodically, I applied a light coat of black mascara. I'd made sure to purchase a new tube at the drugstore in anticipation of this day. (They say you're supposed to discard mascara every 3 months, so I even took a Sharpie marker and wrote the date on the tube so I'd know when to ditch it.)

When I'd completed my makeup regimen, I looked in the mirror and smiled.

There I was! I'd missed mascara more than I realized. 

Isn't it funny how the little things in our lives seem to matter so much? The things we can control seem to help us understand who we are and why. But there are so many things we can't control, and those things tend to make us wonder and worry. God doesn't want us to worry, even over the little things. 

In the Bible, we're told many, many times not to worry or be afraid. Why? I think God wanted to emphasize that worry accomplishes nothing and fear can keep us paralyzed. He wants us to enjoy freedom and peace. 

Little things, like my mascara, remind me I can only enhance the beauty God's already given me and even without mascara, He sees me as His beautiful daughter. 

As I slip the tube of mascara back into my makeup bag, I hear a quote in my mind - "Vanity, thy name is woman." And you know, I'd have to agree.

The Bible says, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

I'd much rather be known as a woman who fears the Lord than a woman who looks good on the outside and is hollow on the inside. 

It's always the little things...

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Where do the wounded go?

 

Where Do They Go?

By Bonnie Annis

 

Where do the wounded go when the cut is fresh and deep? 

Where do they hide to keep others from tasting the bleeding?

Where do they go when healing begins, or when it's too slow in coming? 

Where do they go? 

Where do they go when the wound has mended? 

When scars once raw no longer weep? 

Where do they go when the pain has eased but the trauma remains? 

Where do they go? 

And when the scar is old but still reminds, where do they go? 

I'll tell you. 

They go where they've always gone, into that dark, quiet place. 

The deep space inside where warriors live. 

The place of solitude and strength. 

The place of sorrow and tears. 

The place of resilience and hope. 

That's where they go. 

How do I know? 

It's where I live. 

Day in and day out. 

Until cancer came, it was a secret place. 

But then, I received permission to enter. 

That’s when I discovered I was not alone. 

There were others. 

Invisible to me, but they were there. 

Kindred spirits.  

We were the wounded warrior women. 

The ones without choice in the matter.

But we bore our scars with dignity. 

 © Bonnie Annis 2021

Backtracking isn't always a bad thing

I've always been a person who liked to move forward, even when the path was difficult. As an avid hiker, I'd rarely waste time resea...