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So, a blog it is…

Everyone has battles to fight. Some are hidden well, while others are marked blatantly with scars and loss. Personal struggles can deplete our will and our happiness and our health; but in most cases, there is at least some small thing that remains in our life for which we can be grateful for. I may not always feel balanced and sure, but I can always find some small moment to appreciate or some new way to be well.

Wellness by definition is not a goal; it is a process. And although the tenets of emotional, physical, social, vocational, intellectual and spiritual awareness create the framework for a model of wellness; each person’s goal is unique, and the paths can vary greatly.  I am all about finding workable routes on those individualized paths. For 25 years, no matter my occupation, I have aspired to help others learn on different levels.  I believe I was born a teacher, but I have officially taught Behavioral Health, Wellness, Nutrition, Yoga, Communications, Language Arts and Aromatherapy.  My current area of study is Integrative Health.

Last week, life led my career out of a beloved, concrete-block classroom and back to my humble home with my husband and two sons.  Keeping a job while caring for my youngest, medically fragile child was no longer in my family’s best interest. For two years, I have cared for my eight-year-old son, Abraham, as he battled brain cancer.  He was diagnosed at six during his final week of kindergarten.  Up until that point, he was a healthy, strong and active child. Then our world shifted into survival mode. As Abraham transitions to recovery after two years of treatments which included five brain surgeries, six weeks of a chemo-radiation combo, and then straight up chemotherapy for an additional nine months, I am recovering, too. His prognosis is still unclear, but with each stable three-month MRI, we celebrate. This blog is my outlet to simultaneously deal with my “new normal” while building my own version of a positive, happy existence.

I hope others will benefit from the intended transparency of my family’s journey, too.  Even though the online haters will bother me, the technology will challenge me, and my time to work still comes in waves, I want to share our story.

I may always prefer pencils to pixels, but I try to live in the modern world where some of today’s best helpers write blogs.  I may not have a classroom anymore, but I have a computer, basic internet service, and a desire to continue educating others on ways to find harmony amid the chaos of our singular existence.

So, a blog it is.

Modeling Care

“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” -Dorothy Canfield Fisher

This photo by the lake feels real to me: my eyes are closed and I’m clutching my phone, yet my boys are happy by my side and my heart knows that I am standing right where I should be.

Taking the time to rest models healthy behaviors and nurtures the peace in our hearts. Finding that peace alongside those we love can be one of life’s greatest blessings. I try my best to nourish and protect my own energy because I cherish the responsibility I’ve been given to care for those I love.

Directions Wellness began as a desire to provide a space of safe, practical, natural, energy-based support to “care for the caregiver.”

Why?

Within hours of entering the world of pediatric brain cancer, I wished that there was a handbook -a set of “directions” to help me push past the terror and desperation clouding my judgement and choose what was best for our family.

As time went on, I saw the need for an integrative approach to healthcare, and felt at home bridging the gap between the conventional treatment our child desperately needed to save his life with the support that can come from a variety of natural healing modalities.

For many, healthy options can be difficult to find and implement. Finding ways to feel well despite mounting obstacles became my mission. Over the last five years, that mission evolved into vocation, and the emerging platform became Directions Wellness.

Oftentimes, those who by choice or by circumstance are responsible for the wellbeing of others can lose sight of their own self care. I share my knowledge and experience as a behavioral health educator and functional practitioner as a means to help others discover, personalize, and examine their health options -no matter how seemingly vast or limited the time and resources.

This week, I took my own self-care advice and recharged with family by Lake Michigan. As a result, my body is rested and gratitude fills my heart as I humbly offer my best self to those around me.

Peace, love, practice, and hope…

Infusion Game Strong

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough.” -Mother Theresa

With patience and a solid sense of humor, Abraham can bring happiness and ease to some serious situations. Today, our young warrior was exceptionally prepared, present, and positive. Even at the onset of a long, daunting medical task, those smiling, honest eyes let everyone in the room know he was going to be just fine.

Back home, Big Brother Tom shined up the kitchen, washed the windows, and set out these little lovelies (snips of Saturday’s bouquet) to make us feel cheerful, welcome, and calm.

Since May, Abraham knew the stim tests were happening after the 4th of July. Even though he’s been infused plenty, it’s never easy; plus, hormones are new territory.

We were blessed with a smooth day: highly-skilled double IV access to start, a LOT of necessary but swift blood draws, 7/8 of a game of checkers, laughter during two movies (Zootopia and Minions), one ice pack, plentiful ice chips, a puke bucket rapidly taken out that was not utilized, quick traffic (big shoutout to chauffeur Aunt Margaret), and warm sunshine .

Thank you for carrying us in your thoughts today -it lifted us.

Peace and love…

Moments before Cancer

Treasured moments are everywhere. Coach Dad and Babe waiting for the team to arrive is one I was lucky to capture in May 2014.

For many, the simple joys of life are overlooked due to rushed schedules, skewed priorities, distracted downtime, and apathetic outlooks. Yet, with the right perspective, even the worst of days deserve gratitude.

The time we are given each and every day to honor a life we love can easily be ignored, but its value becomes shockingly evident the moment we realize how fragile life can be.

This second photo was taken just as I was leaving for Abraham’s first MRI. We were ruling out a concussion because he’d smacked his head on a newly posted metal sign as he and his brother ran off the T-ball field. I had planned to return to work after lunch; I was to direct these two happy boys and the rest of their class at the 8th grade graduation that night. Instead, I found myself frantically driving a frightened, pain-stricken Abraham to Lurie Children’s Hospital for the first time. The Dan Ryan expressway was under construction and it took nearly three hours to get there. Helplessly stranded with traffic at a standstill, our sweet, always-happy 6-year-old began to cry out from his booster seat that he couldn’t stand the pain in his head and was “absolutely sure” he was dying. My husband, Chris, tried from the passenger side to help us both, but there really was nothing he could do. Our ER experience was surreal -colored in blurry waves of panic, pain, and tears.

Ultimately, the incredibly talented and compassionate hospital team got our little boy into emergency surgery and relieved the pressure on his brain. I remember still being in those same clothes the next day.

So in addition to the happiness this photo represents, I remember that horrific day as graced with blessings because we were pushed by circumstance, guided with care, and able to address the truth of Abram’s situation before it was too late.

Treasurable moments aren’t always obvious. In fact, we rarely know when a particular happy experience could be our last. With gratitude, we can uncover our own valuable truths -as we celebrate each precious day we are given.

Peace and love…

Life Matters

Letting go is not the same as forgetting. Loss happens. Illness and injury happens. But, LIFE happens to matter most of all. What we do with our pain is up to us. Do we ignore it? Do we surrender to it? Do we let it define us? Or, do we feel it, tend it, and grow through it? We are not what happens to us. We are who we become -driven by our choices, our actions, and our reactions to life’s blessings and trials. Notice those blessings; learn through the trials; and nourish the gift of life that remains.

Peace.

Smile Searching

Always in search of a positive path while still living a life in the now.

Smile: it’s Monday!

-Jac

Positive Attitude In Negative Situations (P.A.I.N.S.)

You know Abe’s had more than a couple surgeries when the anesthesiologist asks, “Which flavor mask would you like?” And he looks her pointedly in the eye like DeNiro ordering a cocktail,

“Mixed. One tiny drop strawberry first. THEN, the rest bubblegum.”

Also, Abram said to Dr. Chin as the team wheeled him in to Surgery yesterday, “Doctor, I’m so tired after last night, you’re not even going to NEED those anesthetics.”

Ever the definitive comedian:)

(Chemo Groucho. Chicago, 2015)

Peace, love, and happiness…

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