11/20/2016

Cruising for a Bruising!

  

Some people are just made to find laughter no matter where they go. I suppose I am one of those folks as I boarded the Norwegian Epic a little over a week ago, that is after standing in line almost 2 hours till I was finally on the ship. Luckily in line my husband and I met this younger adorable couple who just made things light and humorous so we could pass the time as if this was the best part of the vacation, barely moving forward for two hours.

Things progressed well, once we boarded, wandering around aimlessly as very little personnel were visible to anyone so we all were at a loss as to where to go, how to get there and what there was to see. Everyone was asking each other as if someone actually knew on a newer revamped ship.  Seemed like everyone we ran into spoke a different language, many no English which made it interesting, and counter-productive!  So we settled where most folks do, the hottest place on a cruise ship, no, not the pool, the sundeck but the bar!

During the course of our trip, we met the most diverse group of people, one of the neatest things of cruising. Personal highlight of mine was meeting a woman traveling single at a
So thrilled to even see recognition
to breast cancer in Nassau!
show the first night. It turns out she was a breast cancer survivor who has finished treatment one month prior, having had the same type of pathology report as me. She was celebrating her end of treatment by herself as none of her friends could go. As a hospice nurse, she truly understood how lucky she was and was a beacon of light and hope.  We shared stories, hugs and blessings.

As the days past, my husband was quick to point out several women on the ship that had obviously been in a hurry to buy swimsuits and neglected to buy the correct size or had borrowed their teen-age daughters. He did this more as the cruise winded down as my eating was causing my waist line to feel as if it was doubling in size. This was to remind me some ladies certainly were having trouble keeping their bottoms up. Or as one passenger said to me on an upper deck, I have seen more butt cracks on this ship than in my entire live!  I never knew there were so many female plumbers these days.

On one of our stops, I found myself admiring one of the vendor’s wood working. He was
This merchant on Tortola hand-makes all her items.
After having had a baby 2 wks prior, back to work. 
quite persistent in feeling I needed one of his talented pieces and that they would fit perfectly in my home decor. I assured they would most certainly not. He was quite the
charmer and I was extremely polite and courteous looking at the pieces he was placing in my hands. When I told him about 10 times, no thank you, he then began to berate me, loudly in front of several people. At first I found it mildly annoying. My husband had casually wandered away a booth or two. He then proceeded to get even louder attracting more attention. Now my husband was listening and looking over as were several others. He then was saying “Geez lady, I was even very nice to you, spent time with you, paid you compliments and you can’t even give me one dollar.”  My husband walks over to me and says “Wow, he is really angry at you.” I look at him and say “Oh you think so” by this point, quite angry myself. Needless to say, I booked out of that area to the sound of him practically yelling at me at this point. What an odd way to get someone to purchase items!

We loved that this ship has free time dining meaning you can eat anytime you want. For about two hours there were wonderful two food lines on the top deck. The food options were scrumptious and everything tasted great. However, several of the passengers made these lines feel similar to Black Friday!  It began to feel as if I was back on the basketball court playing defense, elbows up, swing them to the side and cut right and left not letting anyone in to the basket, in this case, the food trays in front of me. This may sound funny but it was fishy, e.g. one night an obnoxious lady slipped in and grabbed all the luscious shrimp on the platter right in front of me. I wanted to take the tongs and pinch her but my husband said that would be an automatic foul!

Why so many cruise ships have trivia games is beyond me. I think it is filler time that is cheap. They use their cruise directors to run these games. On this ship, there was one from China. The hardest part of the game was seriously understanding what he said. One we sat through, a preacher, of all people, felt God sent him a message to stand up and be the mouthpiece to read the answers as no one had the foggiest of what the young man was saying. The second go round, we happened to meander by when answers were given and got a bad case of the giggles watching several strain to make sense of answers that made no sense.

This was the only cruise we have been on where the free entertainment on the ship you had to run to your room and pre-book or you could not see the shows. If it filled up early, oh well,
Cirque Dreams & Dinner which you
pay extra for & have to book early!
no show for you! Many missed shows due to them reaching capacity. We tried on the second day of a 7 day cruise and were apparently much too late for several!  I have no idea how all the others got booked so quickly. I suppose maybe they knew the routine better than first times on the epic experience of being on the Epic.

What is the deal with Germany? When we went on our last cruise, we booked a private excursion not associated with the ship.  Off we go to snorkel for an entire afternoon, so excited.  Not too long on the boat, we discovered that we were the only tourists on the boat that spoke one word of English. All others on the boat spoke solely German. The crew spoke English and we, and the passengers were lousy at charades so it made for an interesting 3 hours!

Fast forward to this trip, most of our excursions were ones that we booked with the cruise-line with the exception of one. This one event was an afternoon tour with several stops with a talkative tour guide who asked many questions requiring avid listeners. There was only one problem, we were once again, as we quickly discovered, the only ones who spoke English. And what are the odds everyone spoke German in this entire group. Not good but yes, it happened again!  The only thing that seemed to be understood was the word, boat, stick shift and good bye!  I suppose, before we cruise again our friend Detlef must teach us a few German words because the next day, we landed up on the forward part of a glass bottom boat with another couple who only spoke German! She wanted desperately to communicate with me using her hands as in charades like I did the day before but I quickly grew weary of the game. 




I must say one of the highlights of my cruise experience will forever be etched on my brain
or rather my knees. Many times my husband has mentioned the beauty and majesty of the Baths at Virgin Gordas on British Virgin Islands. This is a beach area that has huge house-
B4 my fall
from 'grace'
sized granite 
boulders with water housed between them you can wade through and climb among the rocks. You walk through a hike to get to this area and then proceed on a 15 minute hike through forest like area and many rock formations where there are crevices and cave like formations to literally climb through, on top of and water to wade though. It can be rather treacherous in spots.

 I did fine until the very end. I bumped my head in a closed area and then my sandal, which had no tread on it slid out from underneath me. As luck would have it, the area I was sliding was a rock that dropped practically straight down that was quite rocky. As my face went down first I had no way to grip and pull myself back up. I felt my chin scratch  slightly  on the rock, my right hand smarting and my legs sliding forward and I  knew I was done for. Screaming I yelled grab my leg, hoping my husband was close behind. He grabbed it but yelled back I can’t hold you. I wasn’t sure if that meant my hero was going down with me or if I was in for a Dateline special!

 Then another hand on the other leg. Relief! Nope, that person said, I can’t pull her up
Actual image of part of the hike,
down on your knees tall folks!
without her hand. As my hands are sliding forward, this man yells give me your hand. Now, the real dilemma, as I look face down, with only my hands in front of me, I am supposed to put my hand behind me with no way of seeing if someone can actually reach far enough over this rock I am sliding down and grab it. Not even enough time to pray, he screams put your hand back now and I do. He got it and pulls and I am up to safety! Immediately someone from the front side runs up and asks if I am okay. At this point, I am looking at the guy like are you freaking kidding me? Hell no, my legs are killing me, my shoulders feel out of the socket, and I just about died and you want an answer now? Can you give me a few minutes to recover dude? 


The rest is history. It was beautiful there, the man was my angel along with my always hero, my husband. And once back in town, my sandals were pitched for a pair with tread!  Do visit this place, it is so worth it!  But don’t cruise down the rocks; it ain’t a fun way to see your life flash before your eyes! 

10/07/2016

Facing Death Taught Me...

1) Big Girls Do Cry and sometimes it is okay to be damn proud of it. Holding in feelings can destroy
you. It’s so cathartic to let them out and it’s very healing. We don’t have to wear our emotions on our
sleeve but we have a right, men and women to express our emotions. Passion and sensitivity is a gift. My older sister use to tell me when I was a little girl that I was blessed with sensitivity. Most of my life, I saw it as a curse. Many times, even my kids, have teased me for it unless they needed it tapped into towards them, their hurts and hurdles through life. Crying is part of life, Jesus cried. Let the tears flow, happy tears, sad tears, and moving tears.

2) As Milton Berle said and the first thing I saw on my first day of chemo on a sign next to my chair, “Laughter is an instant vacation” and we all need an escape. You can’t laugh without smiling and smiling puts you in a happy mood and others. Smile frequently and laugh as well. If you find yourself with others that can’t take smiles and laughter, maybe you are in a down crowd. Life is meant to be enjoyed not dreaded.

3) Little moments in life are those to be cherished the most. When you are flat on your back, your goals are simple, walk to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. Be able to eat a meal. Watch a movie from start to finish without falling asleep. Too often we are so busy and so easily disappointed because we can’t travel to Europe, buy the hot car, or put the kids in everything they want to be involved in that we forget about simple things that truly matter. I was reminded of the joy of decorating cookies for Christmas, you are never too old to use colored icing on cookies and have bragging rights! Kids love it so try doing this instead of taking kids shopping for new toys. Sit on the porch with a new book instead of going on a shopping spree. Take the kids out to feed the ducks crackers and watch your kids go from being scared to you being frightened by how close the children go to the wild animals!

4). Forgive those that have trespassed against us. Harboring ill feelings and not letting go of what you can’t control is like a cancer growing inside of you. However, give yourself permission to divorce drama from your life. I learned to take a personal inventory of those around me. Evaluate who is bringing value to you, who is building you up and accepting you for who you are and making you feel good as a person. If they are not, as much as you may love them and cherish them, you need to consider letting them go. Life is about loving others, but also about loving you. If someone is constantly badgering you or subtly putting you down and making you feel less of yourself, this is not a good way to finish out your life. You must be whole and be able to give to those who love you the love you have for yourself. That love won’t be complete without wholeness inside.

5) Hold to your belief system. If others shun you for staying true, perhaps they are not meant in your inner circle. God created us uniquely but with a goal for us to attempt to follow in his footsteps. Our perception of those footsteps may vary and we may be at different steps in the journey than others. If others are lagging behind, don’t allow yourself to be pulled back into an unhealthy unjust unholy place. Evil and contempt breeds unhappiness and resentment. Always maintain your character, integrity and values. Christianity and faith must be your stronghold and foundation.

6) Life leads to death. And death leads to life, life everlasting. It is imperative that you stay on the path of faith, prayer and development of your Christian journey for you know not when it ends. It is so much easier to accept your death and others that will die before you if you have reached some sort of acceptance and understanding of the passage of this life to the next. It also aids in helping those
around you to accept yours. Peace will come with our crossing over if we have faith in God, in Jesus’s words. But to truly comprehend we must continue and be committed to a higher level of our spiritual development. This is defined by each of us differently. But in each of us, it must be a higher priority. I have faced the reality of my mortality and accepted it.


  

9/19/2016

Special Dance for Nashville Strides 2016



American Cancer Society hosts the one of largest Breast Cancer Fund Raising Drives in major cities across America every October, Making Strides against Breast Cancer. Ever since I was diagnosed in 2007, I have been advocating for people to get involved. Debbie Thomas has been leading the charge of Strides in Nashville for several years. My involvement has encompassed several areas. Debbie has given me opportunities to bring some new ideas to the event also. This year I am thrilled to introduce participants of Making Strides Nashville to a special performance on Oct. 22nd as a way of saying thank you for all the donations you have raised and to inspire others.

Several years ago I met Justin Jenkins. He use to dance with Southern Movement, a dance
Justin & Taylor Jenkins of Diamond Academy of Dance
crew that had competed on MTV’s hit show America’s Best Dance Crew,  produced by Randy Jackson of America Idol fame. Justin was raised in Memphis and went to MTSU for college. He toured with the group Southern Comfort and eventually landed up staying in Nashville and finding a home here.

Justin could not leave his incredible skill sets behind and innate talent thus began teaching in dance studios. He finally started teaching at what he learned was one of the top dancing studios in Nashville, Diamond Studio of Dance in Mt. Juliet. Its standard of excellence was most definitely only improved with Justin on staff teaching hip-hop.    

The owner, Taylor Corlew has built a life devoted to dance, from a young age, winning many awards for all styles of dance and getting certified as a teacher in Chicago.  Taylor has been
Mr. & Mrs. Justin Jenkins
touched by cancer in her own family. The two of them, Justin and Taylor recently married this past May!  Their entire staff is committed to their students, young and old.  Emphasis is the importance of good health, which is not just exercise but a strong mental attitude. The studio embraces prevention of disease and stress by being positive with their students and encouraging them in all their live pursuits.  Their values emphasized are the same that the American Cancer Society knows decreases not only cancer but all illnesses. 

Justin is a natural fit for working with Making Strides. He is compassionate, enjoys working for a cause that affects so many others, and feels strongly about healthy lifestyles.  Justin has said realizing large numbers of women of all ages are getting diagnosed with breast cancer is even more concerning since he works with so many females at the studio. Last year he and his close friend from Southern Movement, Kemmian Beard of Bearded Productions, choreographed and produced a Dance Flash Mob downtown at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville.  This performance brought local dancers and the Titan cheerleaders together with local media to highlight our event and the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness.

This year, Justin is coming back to raise the roof the day of the event on center stage!  To show the importance his studio and he personally has towards decreasing cancer risks by exercising to maintain a good healthy lifestyle, he will be performing with two very special young ladies and members of Diamond Dance Studio’s Dance Team. 

Amira Domenique Doss (14 yrs) and Morgan Elyce Doss (12) are both hearing impaired
teens, raised by their single mother Regina Smith-Doss, a speech pathologist at Rutherford Schools.  The girls attend Rocksprings Middle School. These girls have been intimately touched by breast cancer, having an aunt and a grandmother that are survivors. We need young people to stand up and take notice of this issue and get involved.

Amira and Morgan dance, as they did last year in the Flash Mob, but this year with Justin Jenks, their teacher and mentor on stage. They will again be joined on stage to give a show-stopping performance. The purpose of this dance it to celebrate Making Strides for all in the field of Breast Cancer and to encourage others to care. These girls are kind-hearted, bright and great students. They could do many things with their talent but are committed also to wanting to step up and show their grandmother this cause matters to them and her life is a blessing in theirs. Their dance is also a lesson to show, yes, even those with challenges facing adversity can persevere with faith and accomplish their dreams. You can make it through a breast cancer diagnosis just like these girls can learn to dance without perfect hearing!

Regina Smith-Doss
Regina, the girls’ mother has been having her daughters’ dance and compete for Diamond Academy for several years now.  She is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to breast
Amira, Regina (Mom) & Morgan
cancer progress.  She also has two sons she has raised that have added so much to her life!  Regina has a profound faith and believes we all are called to do what we can to help each other and so shining a light on this event, to her, is a chance to pay it forward for the lives in her family that have been saved. She also was chosen this year to attend Lobby Day at TN State Government to help promote cancer-friendly legislation with American Cancer Society employees and other delegates asked through-out the state.  She recently volunteered to participate for Look Good Feel Better program for the American Cancer Society.

Cancer can be scary and all who have faced it will say it knocks you initially off your feet. But with major hurdles in our life, taking on an attitude like Amira and Morgan, we can survive and, we can do more.

Justin’s choreography is upbeat and entertaining, it is about a celebration of life!  This dance is proof we can all dance, we can all dance during our lifetime, and we just have to have the
Justin Jenkins & Morgan 
will. All of his dancers celebrate not just dancing but joy of being together, of helping others in this cause and being a part of something bigger than just the dance.  Justin believes that coming together is about building his students up so that they are better people, so that they learn to build others up. Making Strides believes this is the nature of Nashville also; we support each other and we come together.  We are stronger people, and we can beat this nasty disease breast cancer eventually. Each year, Making Strides Nashville’s donations go up and participant numbers go up.
.
I hope you all will contemplate the meaning of this dance and not just the quality of their dancing when you attend. We can overcome if we donate, volunteer and walk this year. And definitely, plan on supporting these three as they hit the stage. Make noise for all the other students that perform as well knowing that are equally excited to be a part of this event! Show the love for a young man with amazing talent who freely shares it simply because he wants the future of his students brighter and is devoted to a cause that matters, strides in breast cancer. 

The girls & their Grandmother (Breast Cancer Survivor)
If you wish to support Regina Smith-Doss & her daughters & team this year  please Click
here PINKED. and search on her name. Use this same link to sign up to walk or start your own team!  #igotpinked

Facebook: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer -Nashville
Twitter - IAmStridesNash
Instagram - IAmStridesNash

Missing Woman

It was all I had hoped for
or maybe not
But it was a reunion.
of sorts.
I had waited years to meet her
and so it was
I found myself looking at what was someone I should know well
and yet felt like a stranger of sorts.

Time had not treated her well
or maybe it had.
She had led a rigorous life
of sorts
Hard partying catches up with us all
And being with a slew of Mr. Wrongs
in the hopes of finding a Mr. Right
or maybe just in the hope of new excitement
possibly around the corner
but never quite finding it lasting
no matter who or where she was.

And so here I stood
watching, looking and wanting
To see what I wanted needed and craved for years
Some semblance of what I had dreamt up in my mind
but somehow knew not to be true
But we girls have our dreams
even when we ourselves grow old.

What stood in front of me was an older woman
who may one day remind me of myself.
But for now it was a faint memory
of something I had wanted to hold dear, tightly to me
but was always more than a phone call away.

9/04/2016

Fate Is Under-Estimated

We all face hurdles in life. It is part of the growing process at all stages of development. The difficult part is understanding how to process these issues. Deciphering which ones you can affect directly and which ones you can’t is one of the keys to creating harmony in your life.

I remember taking a class in college called Adult Development. I was somewhat miffed to learn, after going through all the stages of development as a child that now,  I was entering  adulthood,  I had  all these new phases of changes to face.  Hadn’t I gone through enough growing pains already?  Does this adjustment period never cease?

 I think in our youth we think at one point in our life we will hit the stage where we have somewhat mastered life! As we age, we learn that plateau does not exist. What’s more, it should not exist for if it did, one of the best parts of life would be gone, learning and growing.

Facing issues most of us that like to be in control want to fix things immediately. Creating solutions comes naturally to Type A personalities, it is innate, part of their chemistry. The lucky Type B’s seem to have it easier in my mind, they can roll with it. My type tends to obsess, look at problems from every angle, make lists of ideas, bounce it off of others, research the problem and then circle back around.

The reality is we need to always, when confronted with problems step back.  The types of issues I am referring to tend to involve emotions. Recognize, with issues you are facing, if they are truly under your control. In these cases, it is really worth your efforts?


I have come to find out, from seeing friends die of cancer, too much time in our lifetime is wasted. We do not spend enough time rejoicing in the beauty of life.  Those issues, when they pop up, ask yourself, can you send the request up to God and move on?  If you can’t control it and tomorrow is not promised should you perhaps let it go?  Sometimes life’s problems don’t get solved. And then, fate will intervene, and when it does, the situation is taken completely out of your hands. Do not try to force your will, give fate a chance.  

8/31/2016

Mother's Love Stone

The ring was a gift. It was one that I always wanted. I had seen so many older women with those mother rings with all their children’s stones lined up so beautifully in a row. I could see the gleam in their eyes when they proudly looked down on them, each stone representing a little life they had brought into the world. Each stone held all the memories of a life’s worth of laughter and tears shared.

Then one year, several years ago, on my birthday, my two kids surprised me.  My daughter came to town and I got that gift I always wanted, that ring, a mother ring. Mine was unique, specially designed by my daughter. It was more than just the stones; it was beautiful and represented to me more than just my two kids, it represented years of memories with my children, something I hadn’t been able to experience with my own biological mother who had left when I was young.  I was raised by my step-mother and had always felt cheated. My children gave me that chance to have a biological relationship like I have never had, lifelong. Reconnecting with my mother now, as an older adult is not quite the same.

The ring was beautiful, it has a scroll design. Their birthdays, one in May and the other in Jan were stones that made it look like a Christmas ring, one being a garnet and the other emerald green. It was a stunner and for a long time, I never took it off. Wearing it with pride, I showed it off every chance I got. At some point, I started switching out the ring with others I owned.

Three years ago, my daughter quit speaking to me and cut off all contact with me and disallowed me to have any communication with my grandson. From then on, I quit
wearing the ring. It was a painful reminder of a relationship that wasn’t there anymore. It reminded me of those feelings I had growing up of not really being part of a real family. I have friends with adult children enjoying those relationships and their grandchildren and here, with a grandson Kaleb at age 5, no longer was I allowed being a part of his life. 

One day, after prayer, I begun to think, maybe just by miracle, she would realize she loved me, that I had given her all I had to give and she would want me in her life.  I went to my jewelry box, where I kept that ring in safe keeping.  I had always planned on bequeathing it to her in my Will as it was her stone and her brothers so I thought perhaps it would mean more to her when I was dead. When I pulled it out, I let out a sob. To my dismay, the stone was missing, only hers.  I knew immediately what it meant.

I went outside looking for my husband. I held up the ring and said aloud that a stone was missing with my eyes full of tears. I told him I knew what it meant. She was gone permanently from my life. I knew, after all my prayers that was a sure sign.  The ring had never ever left that jewelry box and the stone is gone.  He came in the house and I sat down in the kitchen and sobbed. He feverently searched in the box but I knew what the outcome would be without a doubt.  He came out of our room, shaking his head and saying he had no idea what happened but the stone was gone. I let him know it was okay, I understood.  I slowly put the ring back, incomplete, like my heart. A piece gone, but knowing I had the beauty of it once.

I still have the ring, minus the stone. Little did I know in just a few short years, the phone
would ring and my son be on the end of it and a similar scene would play out.  This one too shocked me as he knew how hurt I had been but it did not matter to him.  He pushed me out of his life without a so much as good-bye Mom.  Gone now are my husband and I’s wonderful close relationships with our dear three other grandchildren. I went in the bedroom a few weeks later; the green stone is still there, the one for my son, for now.  I thank God for that. Whether it will remain or not remains to be seen. God answers prayers but not always in the way we want but according to His plan.

We must always learn to recognize our blessings while they last, Hold those loved ones close while you can. Not everyone will see a blessing the way we will. Not everyone will accept you; some will judge you and you must not let that control you or your life. You may have to let go or they may push you out and then you need, no, you must move on. Life is a forward progression. Continue with God’s purpose and plan for your life. This is what faith in action is, walking with the light of God.  The incompleteness you feel will be a blessing of sorts because it will develop into a higher level of passion and a deeper understanding of faith.


My ring may be missing a stone, and in the future, maybe God will take away the other, but it will remain circular. This is a reminder to me that my love is complete; it always was and will always be unconditional towards my children.  It is far more painful to not feel loved by a parent than to feel rejected as a parent.  I may not be perfect but I was the chosen one by God to have them and have always been there for them even when it is unrequited love. For that I feel peace, more joy than in the stones.