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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…

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…

Protection Forever

“It is the nature of grace always to fill spaces that have been empty.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I miss my mother every single day. At scary times when I try to conjure a sense of security around me as “Brave Mom,” I miss my mother extra.

Those who follow our story know how Abraham can sometimes make tough days seem like holidays. Today was one of those days.

Surgery was scheduled for 8:00 a.m., and we’d come up to Chicago a day early to enjoy the city.

Although the hotel was a comforting luxury, we both had a rough night sleeping so near Navy Pier. Fireworks were a thrilling bedtime story, but the continued pulse of hot rods, motorcycles, and 3:00 a.m. rogue fireworks (with a quick follow up of sirens that chased away said rogues) made our 6:15 hospital arrival a bit robotic. Luckily, Aunt Marg is a great driver and RoboMom is incredibly efficient; consequently, we arrived early.

We definitely weren’t robots for long. Every single worker we met from the minute we arrived at Lurie Children’s Hospital lifted us up today: smiling receptionists at the ready; security guards comfortingly on duty; an anesthesiologist who kinda looked like me and definitely shared my sense of humor; a successful on-time surgery; and a smooth recovery without complication.

I snapped a quick pre-surgery shot just as he was ready to roll…

I also shared the following update on Facebook as we waited for the anesthesia to wear off:

“Got it done! Apparently, Abraham was cracking jokes with the surgeon on the way in, and although he’s still a bit anesthesia-loopy, he has the sweet nurse smiling and feeding him a red popsicle. Plus, the hospital has new, improved, Looney Toons band-aids:)… Love and big gratitude, all 💛✨”

As soon as we were ready to leave, two candy-striper-age volunteers found a wheelchair quickly (no small feat) and easily escorted us downstairs -engaging Abraham with a true, sweet tale of his beloved neurosurgeon, Dr. DiPatri having been on “Cake Boss”. We can totally picture it!

Add in our 70-mile transit time plus a huge Rosatti’s carry-out order, and we were still safely home by noon!

So, everyone who sent us the happy feels today, we got them. Your energy wrapped us in a protective, loving grace and carried us through our day.

“Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves it’s own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”

J.K. Rowling

I am forever grateful.

Peace and love…

Discovery Passage

No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.

-Helen Keller

Discovery lights children with vitality. As we age, it seems we find fewer moments that fill us with awe. Is it that we become jaded to joy? Or, do we become so resigned to our circumstance and routine that we decide there isn’t anything worthwhile left to find?

When Chris, Abraham and I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Loyola, the director informed us that the home was built with a secret. We were free to walk the floors and look for a hidden room. Despite the looming task of cancer treatment, the mystery fueled our sense of wonder. Knowing there was something to find kept us searching. We searched for hours and were delighted to discover a brightly painted secret passage with a spiral staircase hidden behind a bookshelf. One by one we wound our way up the tiny stairs to an enormous attic. The entire floor was sparsely furnished and minimally decorated, but its expanse was thoughtfully accented with quiet cubbies, game tables, and children’s art.

In the secret attic, we met a red-haired boy named Andrew expertly sinking billiard balls (despite his heavy reliance on a walker) who became a dear friend to Abraham. A small window seat overlooking the flower garden became my favorite hideaway. After our discovery, years fell from Chris’ eyes while his movements and posture revealed a lightening of his spirit. He often recalls our time at RMH Loyola as “our magical stay at the castle.”

We had arrived at “the castle” physically, emotionally, and spirituality exhausted just days after Abraham had received his central line, and we remained there as the dreaded combination chemo-radiation treatments began. The rooms were small, and the area was sketchy, but the atmosphere of possibilities at our home away from home was different-otherworldly. As a result and despite our pain and apprehension, we had great fun.

I mention this today because it reminded me of how different life becomes when we actively seek hidden joys instead of expecting them to materialize without direction or effort.


(Chris and Abram in front of RMH Loyola, July 2015)

My recent lack of posts belies my standard routine. I write every day to let go and work through the pieces of life that strike me -good or bad. Currently, my family is steadily progressing down the twisted, singular road of pediatric cancer survivorhood. Though I sometimes share the teachable moments we uncover, lately I’ve become cautious.

With each paragraph I write, I feel more and more protective of my thoughts. Why should I add our personal joys or struggles into a social mix where blanket hatred abounds and keyboard critics reign? Scrolling through the social muck and placing a photo of my children or myself in the mix feels like trickling glitter down a drain.

Then I remembered searching for The Secret Garden at Ronald McDonald House and the lasting effect that day of discovery had on all of us. I want readers to feel my faith in the unseen possibilities that can come despite trials and loss. It’s easy to choose joy when days go well, but it’s vital to choose light when life goes dark.

Maybe if I cast out flashes of decency and hope, some of its glitter will stick to the edges of our plunging, murky standards. It’s a small drop in a large bucket, I know. Yet, I am compelled to remind others that amid the endless trauma and pains of life there remains abundant happiness to seek.


I see myself as a hopeful realist. I know that there is a shortage of love and an abundance of evil in the world. I know it is always a close race between what should be, what can be, and what will be. I also know that life isn’t always fair.

But I choose to focus on what I can bring to the human race so that I can best lead my family through its tricky paces. I find it fruitless and ridiculous to spend precious time fixated on the transgressions of others running in their own lane.

So, despite the social spectacle dousing reality with real (and imagined) fears, I will face forward and move along in positive measures.

While doing so,  I hope no matter the climate, I can continue to chronicle our shared, imperfect, spectacular landscape where limited days draw purpose and unlimited hope fosters love.


Peace.

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