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That one time I tried a mohawk…

When I first learned I had cancer, I wasn’t sure how to respond.  There was an element of disbelief, of shock, and of grief.  Ironically, I was not scared, not for my life, not for my health or my future.   I knew it would change things, being uneventfully healthy for so many years, one expects to live a very long time.  What would be a reasonable expectation for that now?  Would I get 10 years?  20 years? Most likely not the 50+ I was expecting.  Would I lose my breasts? My hair? My eyebrows?  Would I be less of a woman? These questions were fueled by conversations with friends and from my daughters, they were things I never thought to ask myself.  I was unprepared, rarely venturing into self questioning of my mortal limitations.  Young people tend to be invincible in life, maybe some people dare to ask the scary what if’s… I was just trying to figure out how to live now.  Some of those questions are not for me to know the answers to yet, and I realized I am not willing to negotiate with God on such matters, HIS plan for me is sovereign.  

I have a great oncologist, she told me flat out that I would lose my hair.  As I talked with others they tried to soften the blow and comfort me with well-intended stories. I heard over and over, “some people don’t lose their hair.”  Their encouragement was sweet but left me questioning if I would be one of the lucky ones?  Growing up, I remember my Grandma tweezed her eyebrows right off and used thick liner to draw on her eyebrows.  I am not sure if that’s where it stems from but I have a fear of losing mine…  I have caught my youngest daughter praying at night that mine would stay put.

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My oncologist suggested I try a “transition cut,” something shorter and with bangs. This was so that should I want to wear a wig, it would be a more natural transition. I looked up the closest Aveda salon and booked an appointment, first for my girls, then I picked a stylist for mine.  Annie, was quiet with long wavy hair and streaks of fun color.  She did a great job.  I haven’t had bangs since grade school.  When I looked in the mirror, I was surprised at how much I looked like my oldest sister. 

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This was also a turning point for me, does losing your hair have to be sad?  It actually was freeing to try a new hairstyle with such a low commitment.  Two weeks later, on a Wednesday before my second chemotherapy round, I went to see the oncologist. She was surprised my hair was still looking as full and radiant as ever… then she told me “sorry, but you’ll lose it this week.”  Sure enough, the next day strands of hair began to fall like light drizzle before a storm.  I have heard people say their head is itchy and when they scratch the hair falls out.  Mine felt much more like the soreness of being in a tight pony tail, and when you brush your hair, or run your hand though it collects between your fingers.  By Friday, the strands turned to clumps, and for as long as I ran my hand through the hair, the clumps would continue to fall out.  My hair was noticeably thinner but not patchy.  I filled several small garbage bins in my room and bathroom with mounds of hair.  It became inevitable to me that I could not do this much longer, it was impossible to shower. 

I called the stylist who gave me the transition cut, her first opening was Monday night.  So Saturday and Sunday,  I left my hair secured in a pony tail, to slow the shedding.   In high-school I kept my hair long, even on the swim team.  I would coil it up under a swim cap to keep it out of the way.  It was during this time that I began donating my hair to locks of love.   I loved the shock value of it, rarely would I tell my friends before I went to get the required 10+ inches off.  Normally I just go by myself to get my hair done but this felt very different, I was the one affected by shock.  This wasn’t a trim by choice, but a forcing of giving up control.

I thought of what I wanted this hair raising event to look like.  I looked online a bit to see what other chemo fighters have done but found few positive personal stories. Was there some empowering moment to  shaving your head?  Some girl power – breast cancer – maiden voyage, right of passage celebration, that I should be willing to share with others?  Who would be comforting for me to have with me?  I decided I wanted to share it with my sisters.  Could we have a little fun with this so it was not all emotional? 

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Thankful that I had at least met my stylist once before and had shared a little of my story, I didn’t need to explain, or send her searching for clippers.  She offered me a little glass of wine, I took it knowing I could only take a few sips, perhaps it would put my nerves at ease. I sat down in her chair, and then I asked for a Mohawk.

I saw a slight smile on her face as she started to take the fastened pony tail out that was literally holding the hair on my head.  As she trimmed away, I heard her say, “I have to throw out everything I know and just respond to your hair.”  My hair was falling out so quickly now, every time she teased out the hair to trim with the scissors, it dropped from the root.  My oldest sister took a swipe with the clippers then retreated around the corner, I don’t think she wanted me to see her tears.  

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We managed to cut and shave off the sides, leaving a row of hair down the top of my scalp.  The product she used worked double-time as she styled the row upward and effectively glued it in place for a photo-op.  Being around artists (and high-schoolers), I am accustomed to others expressing themselves through radical hairstyles, clothing choices, tattoos, and piercings.  I have always maintained a more traditional look, even though I house some of the same unique personality quirks and radical thoughts on the inside. I am not sure if I would have ever had the guts to shave my head or try Mohawk on my own.  I am glad I did it, who knows next time it may keep a little longer!

After the Mohawk I asked Annie to shave off the back just leaving the elevated patch where my bangs would be.  This I chose to shave off myself. 

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Looking in the mirror for the first time was a bit shocking.  I could clearly see my face without the framing of my hair.  I was relieved that my facial features and ears were symmetrical, something I teach often to students in art class.  I am so thankful my ears aren’t off kilter.

DSC_0429What now?  How do you end a little session like that? Reality set in and little tears began to form in the corners of my eyes,  my hair was really gone (or so I thought in that moment.)  They all sensed my emotion, and in my best defense to lighten the mood,  I turned to Annie speaking sarcastically  “This is the worst haircut I have ever gotten, it is way too short, I demand to speak with your manager!”  We all burst out laughing.  Annie, told me later that was one of her favorite parts of the night.

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My other sister who had been quietly watching, exclaimed that the baby inside of her was kicking and moving around.  Then I realized this event of losing or lessening became a moment of embracing and celebrating.  There is something beautiful about going with life, if I would have fought it, feared it, raged against it, I would have missed the sweet moments, the tears, and the laughter.   It’s not hair that makes you beautiful, it’s loving others from a deep place in your heart.  It’s about sharing life moments with each other, not getting all caught up in how they’re played out.  It’s about making memories and recording them. It’s about responding joyfully and mostly it’s about new life.

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“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

 

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When you take the leap, and the ground gives way…

9I have been trying to write this post for weeks… at first I was anticipating posting a picture of a shiny new RV that would carry our family to neat places around the country.  We planned an epic adventure, a family sabbatical, one of trusting God and waiting on his timing to reveal what was next for us.  We looked forward to reconnecting as a family, investing in our girls who are rapidly approaching tween years, exploring the beautiful land of the free, and living in the space between.  But in the last few months our plans have taken a drastic change, an unbelievable turning of events.

After we were finished at camp,

after I gave my two weeks notice to the school,

after I communicated the plan for our family sabbatical,

after we found the perfect RV and researched our route,

after I packed half our house,

after I thought the change was enough, I went to the doctor…

Continue reading


backlogs on a “full” year

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I never intended a year of silence at least in this space.

My word for 2014 was “full.”   Who even knows what that means until you live the year and reflect on its happenings.  Confidently I can say it was FULL indeed.

I started the year off with some goals, it seemed to be a transition year from full time stay at home mom to whatever God held next.  One of my goals was simply to contribute to our family’s financial picture.  I threw $10,000 out there as a optimistic goal.  But opportunities began to present themselves.

In January, I took on a long-term substitute teaching position at our local high school teaching art (imagine that!)  The first weekend I broke my arm and I learned two things.  First being, I love teaching.  I forgot how much fun it is to be in the classroom.  Second, I could do it with one arm… It was a schedule that worked for our family.

During the lenten season,  I took on another goal/challenge.  I decided to fast using the daniel plan, eating vegan diet for 40 days.  Three specific prayers grew deep in my heart.  One of these prayers was for “what’s next.”   In a small town there are few options to grow professionally, what are the chances there would be something here for me? How could our family “get ahead” and be faithful to where God has placed us?  At the end of lent, the three prayers were still unanswered.  Depressed that I gave up all my “comforts” for silence, I continued to wait for the answers.   Fasting isn’t so much about giving up for getting as it is intentionally withholding and waiting.

During the summer, I was honored to be asked to serve on a committee to interview a new principal and teacher for our local elementary.  After viewing dozens of cover letters and resumes, one thing came to mind… I am never going back into teaching.  It seemed that taking 10 years off was too much.  Look what all these other people have accomplished while I was home raising babies and playing in the mud.

But there’s one thing about comparison, it usually works against us instead of for us.  When God begins a prayer in your heart, be prepared for an answers that defies odds.

Ten days before the beginning of the school year I got a text from middle school principal, saying the current art teacher left, am I interested in applying.   YES. I am amazed to have an opportunity to teach and dive deeper into the community here.  Saying yes, is daunting and life changing.

After reflecting,  I remember my first teaching experience,  the “call” was very similar.  In the small town of Wilmore, there were few jobs around.  Two days before the start of the school year a principal from LCA called because they happened to hear I had an art teaching degree.

How amazing that I have gotten not ONE but TWO personal calls to teach.  I am still in the adjusting and overwhelmed stage but I trust that God calls us to use our giftings and our yeses to FILL our lives.  He doesn’t open doors to see us fail or struggle but to follow after him and grow us it deep ways.

 

 

 


swaying pines

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It has been a long gloomy season around here, gray skies, with continual snow or rain.  Yesterday was sunny and I paused.  Just warm enough to get out with only a fleece and vest, camera in hand.

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I prayed a circle around our yard and captured natures red, skies blue, listened to the tall pines clap together as they swayed in the wind.  I looked for the blue jay that has been hiding in the large lilac but all I saw were a few nests.

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I needed yesterday  to recharge and remind me of life beyond walls.

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spring light box

 

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Today I am using my ipad as a light box.  (pressing VERY lightly with a mechanical pencil)

The sun is shining and I am diving into some projects from my clayer mishima class.  I have a kiln to fire, that I have been putting off because I like to cram as many pieces as possible in it. Two half finished books, two rich bible studies, half baked meals, a dozen phone calls to make… and a slew of posts that are partially written in my drafts.  My daughter had her spring concert last night, that I dragged her to in tears because she didn’t want “100 eyes” on her.  We were overtaken by spring mud last week and this week a fresh blanket of snow to cover it all.  The spring dance has arrived.  I have been drawing slews of daffodils, iris, peonies, ferns, hacianths, and a whole swarm of butterflies.  They will be awakening on fresh beds of white clay soon.

collection sketch peony iris sketch  butterfly sketches overlay flowers


foundation for a legacy

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This past week we celebrated at the annual SpringHill Christmas party.  It is always such a treat to gather all Michigan, Indiana and Daycamp staff and volunteers together and fellowship, something that doesn’t occur often as we are usually the ones serving from several location.  I love this group of people, for the shared vision and commitment to Jesus and kids.

This year our party coordinator/detail extraordinaire Dina, included us on the fun!  All the centerpieces were made by staff/volunteers and were part of a game.  Guess that Christmas Carol…  Mine I  bet will be obvious to you.  I was so excited to put my ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ votives together I was literally the first one to decorate my table, and one of the first ones to the party.   I tried to leave my hands open as to who would join us at our table and prayed that Jesus would bring the right people to the spots.  Well you can imagine my disappointment when after 35+ minutes of mingling not a single person sat at our table!

 

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A little crushed and dinner almost ready to begin, two couples discreetly entered in.  Chuck and his wife, one of our creative duo at Site and Enoch and Joan, our Camp founders.  My fears aside, He brought just the right people, I am so thankful.  Even though we were the closest to the buffet line we were the last table called.  I didn’t mind,  I was in awe of the conversation taking place with Chuck and Enoch talking shop about the dining hall renovation.  Of all the conversations I hear around camp about kids, numbers, revenues… these two were talking about details of the building, specifically floor tiles.

Enoch recounted the 8000 tiles he personally laid in the original dining hall and still exist today in the space.  Talk about laying a foundation for a legacy!  I love that such a dynamic and personal leader was willing to get on his hands and knees to serve a place that reaches so many.  What a great example of humility to all who aim to serve.  Being willing to do even the most redundant lowly projects, that get walked on every day, not for recognition because it’s what needs to be done!   Not delegating just doing.  Something both of these men know a lot about.

I don’t think I could have hand-picked two better couples to sit with.  What a delightful evening it turned out to be, plus the girls crushed at family feud!   To pass on the fun, can you pick out some of the carols?

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“And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the  donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night,  God gave the world his wonderful gift.  The baby that would change the world was born.  His baby son… And they gazed in wonder at God’s Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.  Mary and Joseph named him Jesus, “Emmanuel” – which means “God has come to live with us.”   – Jesus Storybook Bible


locked out

Its been a bizarre 12 hours,  thunderstorms, grumpiness, power outages, and then I was locked out.  It kind of rattled my cage today, but once I was in I found myself gazing out.  It’s just one morning, one day, one miniscule trial – it’s the same air on both sides.  Just take a moment and breath and let it all wash over.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  2 Corinthians 4: 16-17



under the magic lilac bush

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A child has not made up his mind yet about what is and what is not possible.  He has no fixed preconceptions about what reality is; and if someone tells him that the mossy place under the lilac bush is a magic place, he may wait until he thinks that no one is watching him, but then he will very probably crawl in under the lilac bush to see for himself.  A child also knows how to accept a gift.  He does not worry about losing his dignity or becoming indebted if he accepts it.  His conscience does not bother him because the gift is free and he has not earned it and therefore really has no right to it.  He just takes it, with joy.  In fact, if it is something that he wants very much he may even ask for it.  And lastly, a child knows how to trust.  It is late at night and very dark and there is the sound of sirens as his father wakes him.  He does not explain anything but just takes him by the hand and gets him up, and the child is scared out of his wits and has no idea what is going on, but he takes his father’s hand anyway and lets his father lead him where he chooses into the darkness. 

Federick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

The other day I looked out the window across the street and saw a gaggle of boys climbing in a tree, hanging from its limbs.  My daughters begged to join them, and after approval they flew across the street like so many times before.  As I glanced across the street again I reached for my camera, it seems safer sometimes to grieve good friends moving from the other side on the lens.  A van pulls up and more kids pile out.  Their little laughs and giggles seem so natural, in fact this is all they know in life, they have played together since they were born.  I quietly trail behind them snapping photos as they move from one favorite playing spot to another.  They play hard together like they know the last time they get to be all together is coming, but I doubt they fully grasp yet the reality of that.

As a mother my heart breaks for these kiddos, I have learned to love them as my own, watch them grow, prayed for them and celebrated them.  My heart is mindful of the  teachable moments as I press through my own tears, for many of them this is their first “loss.”   I can’t predict how they are going to respond or hurt as their little world changes, but I can come alongside to embrace and encourage in this moment.  My youngest we tried to prepare by telling her they were moving around Easter,  has remained quiet other than saying repeatedly “mommy, I don’t want Easter to come.”   But my little love, it is here, now is the time to say our good byes, and hope that even this sad event may demonstrate to our kids about the meaning and cost of love, how to leave well, and the tie that binds.  It’s Easter – it all happens according to His plan and glory.   Thank you lord, for friends to journey with, our lives have been enriched and we have been blessed.


beauty of silence

“Peace is first of all the art of being.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen

There is a stillness this week, it feels like Christmas but the pace has slowed.  I have a Christmas tree up and a poinsettia on the kitchen table,  but I hope the nutcrackers’ and other decorations don’t mind their boxes for another year.  I realized I haven’t set foot in a mall, and really just stopped at one physical store.  All my gifts are handmade or bought online.  Some may argue that I am missing the season but as I am on the couch more often these days with a cold I cannot shake, the knocking me off my feet is kind of what I needed.  Without the commercialism of the “holidays,” hype at school, numerous parties and fabricated to do lists, I just sense “peace.”  Today I got to read to my 5-year-old and hold my 7-year-old as she was melting down after-school and I realized that the excitement of Christmas could have easily  carried me right past these tender moments.  How precious to embrace peace, to focus on the story, the quiet night, the entrance of a new family, a new journey, a new place, a new hope.


What I learned from a year of blogging

I just finished my first year of blogging!

This is a great milestone for me because it is not the first time I tried.  I registered this blog in 2009, but in two years I wrote 2 post, with probably as many views.  I had recently quit my job to stay at home full-time with my kids.  I thought I would have so much time but discovered I had less time for myself than ever.  I think there was just so much going on I failed as I struggled coming up with something creative on a regular basis. Truthfully it was just the lowest thing on my priority list. Did the world really need one more mommy and craft blog???   One year ago on November 28, I felt compelled to revisit the idea of blogging, which terrified me.  I had in my mind this was a writing and journaling thing.  What would make this time around different?  I followed through with that burden laid on me and I found a whole new relationship with blogging.  I feared the day I posted my link on my Facebook page, and my world knew I was writing.  Here are some of the things that encouraged me and defined the time;

1. Write about what you’re PASSIONATE about and add ORIGINAL photos!

When my girls were little I had very little time to make artwork,  I turned to photography as a quick way to capture all that was going on around me at its fast pace.  When I returned to blogging I began to see how important this hobby was in telling the story.  I love using my own photography on my blog, it often speaks just as loudly as the words.  Not to mention it adds consistency and I don’t have to worry about infringing on someone else’s copyright.  I found that there was more than one theme I was drawn to writing about – I let my heart guide me towards what to write.   I love looking back now and seeing the growth in my interests and artwork.  My passions lead me to my “voice.”

2. Give yourself a creative project

I think I stumbled upon the post-a-week project around new-years.  I just didn’t have the time or ambition for a daily routine so once a week sounded more my style.  I often give myself goals every year but always add a few fun goals along with the serious ones.  So after receiving an ice cream maker for Christmas, the idea of a flavor a week in 2011 began.  The two ideas really rolled together and gave me a sure post every week.  Amazingly, I averaged about three posts a week when I added something about my family, a reflection or an art project I was working on.  I am thankful for these different areas as they narrow down the blogosphere of readers but didn’t limit me to just one topic.  I read up on tagging, and try to be consistent when labeling my posts.   I think I surprised myself this year writing over 185 posts and almost 15,000 views!

3.  Be flexible

It was daunting at first to commit to posting every week but after a while it became a habit .  As ideas came to me  I started  keeping a note in my email so when I had a chance to sit down I didn’t just stare at the screen.   I also learned that you can write posts and schedule them ahead of time.  That way if I was having a good week I could write-up my post and schedule a date in the future for it to automatically publish.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work that smoothly (sorry to any of you who got used to 8AM posts…)  I found that it was important to let this be a natural thing – so If I didn’t post much during a week it meant there was a lot going on or I just didn’t have much to say…  Beyond scheduling I have found that some of my random posts at odd hours are the ordained ones.  How encouraging it is to post something in the middle of the night and get an immediate response from someone trolling around commenting “I really needed to read that just now.”  I would have missed that if I kept to a rigid schedule.

All in all, I am thankful for this experience to write and share in this space.  I have grown in confidence  in all areas and it has challenged me creatively, spiritually and professionally.   I have even written a few guest posts and diy’s art projects shared on other blogs.  I thought blogging would connect me to the world outside this small town, but found in addition to that it has connected me to my family and friends even more.   Thank you for reading and commenting,  sometimes that is just the encouragement I need to continue writing.  I have loved having a chance to be transparent  and grow as a follower, wife, mother, friend and artist, and share that journey with my readers.  For now the plan is to keep writing and making more artwork to share in this space.

Thanks for joining me on the ride.

Kate