Preventive Mastectomy and BRCA FAQs

Since my preventive double mastectomy is only a few days away, I wanted to address some of the questions I've been asked most often about the surgery and the BRCA gene mutation. 

How did you find out you had the mutation, and what made you want to get tested?

I have a strong history of breast cancer in my family, so I always figured I was at a high risk. I thought about getting tested for the BRCA mutation for a while but kept putting it off. After my first cousin tested positive for it and I talked it over with my OBGYN and my primary care doctor, I decided to get tested. You can read more about when I initially found out in this blog post.

What is your risk? How likely are you to develop cancer?

My risk of getting breast cancer is around 75%. I also have an increased risk for ovarian cancer (around 15%), melanoma (around 5%) and pancreatic cancer (around 5%). This is specific for my variation of the BRCA2 mutation.

How did you initially react to the news? Did you have trouble trusting God with it?

I was really sad, obviously, when I first found out. I knew the implications and knew that I would have to make some tough choices. Honestly I never struggled to trust God with it. In this big, hard thing I have turned to Him constantly as my source of peace and wisdom. That's not to say it hasn't been difficult or I haven't felt angry or sad or scared, because I definitely have. But He has been a constant source of peace, and I didn't know how people walk through things like this without Him. This diagnosis has never felt totally devastating or like a death sentence.

What kind of doctors have you seen?

My first appointment was with my OBGYN since my risks are highest in the areas that kind of doctor deals with. She gave me names of a breast specialist/oncologist, a genetic counselor and genetic doctor, and a plastic surgeon. Thankfully those names were also recommended to me by multiple other friends in the medical field. I also have to see a dermatologist once a year to monitor my skin, and plan to see oncologist that will help me monitor my pancreas. I'd be happy to give you the names of the doctors I see if you are local to this area and need a recommendation!

When will you have your reconstruction? 

Thankfully the first phase of reconstruction will happen in same surgery as my double mastectomy. I'm having DIEP Flap reconstruction at this initial surgery, which basically means they will use fat and tissue from my stomach to build new breasts. Because I don't have a ton of stomach fat (first time someone has told me that haha!) I will do a second phase of reconstruction in a few months where we will probably put in a small implant. You can read more about my decision to have a mastectomy and more about the DIEP flap procedure in this post.

Does having a mastectomy mean you won't get cancer?

No, it does not guarantee I won't get breast cancer because it would be impossible to get every last cell of breast tissue removed. But it takes my risk from 75% down to around 1%. That's less than a normal woman's risk. And I also will have the other cancer risks to contend with, and will likely get my ovaries removed in my 40s because ovarian cancer is very hard to detect early. Removing them is recommended for people with genetic mutation risks, but it will also put me into menopause so I'm going to put this off as long as I and my doctors feel comfortable with it. I will have to get yearly ovarian ultrasounds and blood work done to try to monitor any changes.

Is it similar to having a boob job?

I have to admit this is the only question or suggestion that has frustrated or hurt me. But I have to realize it’s coming from a place of just not knowing, not trying to dismiss or belittle, which is why I feel it’s so important for me to share my story and hopefully educate people. To be clear, I have zero problems with and fully support people getting "boob jobs", and while I will be rocking fake breasts from here on out, it's not something I would have personally elected to do if it weren't for this cancer risk. They will be removing all of the tissue from my breasts - fat, duct work, everything. Along with that I will no longer have feeling in my breasts. There's around a 10 chance I will lose my nipples because they have to scrape out all the tissue behind them. This is not a surgery I'm excited about having. Maybe one day I'll be able to appreciate that my boobs don't sag, but I'd definitely have preferred to keep what I have!

What are you most nervous about?

I've never had any type of surgery, so I'm nervous about going under anesthesia. I'm nervous about pain after recovery and the side effects of pain meds. I'm nervous the flap procedure will fail and I'll have to go back into surgery with a plan B for reconstruction. Mostly I'm just nervous about the unknown. It's hard to fathom that in a couple of days my body will permanently be very different. I'm nervous about what recovery will be like as far as what I can and can't do. I'm nervous about not being to help and do things with my kids. I'm nervous I'll be sad when I see my body. I can't imagine what it will be like to not have feeling in my boobs anymore. I'm nervous about my husband having to sit in the waiting room while I am in surgery, and then having to take care of me. And while I’m not really nervous or in fear that I’ll die in surgery, I know it’s still a possibility that I could just not wake up. That’s a tough pill to swallow. Having to talk over my living will with Jonathan has been hard. Thinking “I should probably update my kids baby books just in case I die” is a very strange reality I’m in right now. Knowing this isn’t a surgery I have to have, I’m nervous about something going wrong and I could have avoided it. It's all just very weird. That's the only way I know how to describe it. But I still feel 100% confident and at peace with my decision.

How is your husband handling all of it?

Thank God for my sweet husband. Jonathan has been super supportive through every step of it. From sitting next to me as I spit in the container that would be sent off to test, to waiting by the phone with me to get my results. He's been at every appointment, given me his input when I asked for it, encouraged me on every fear I've voiced. He is very supportive and is thankful, just like I am, that I have the option to stop cancer before it starts. That my chances of being here for my boys will greatly increase. That we won't have to deal with the trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. He has been amazing through it all, and I have zero doubts that he will be amazing through my recovery. I'm a little nervous about him washing and fixing my hair, however ;) 

Whose boobs did you go with for your new ones?

This is a super common question that makes me laugh. For this first stage of surgery, there's not really any picking out. I will get to make decisions about size and type of implant before my next surgery in the fall. But for now I will just have some sort of new "breast". I've seen them lovingly referred to as "foobs", which I really like ;) For those who don't do some type of flap procedure like I'm doing, you are basically left with just skin on top of an implant, so it doesn't give you a lot to work with like an augmentation, lift, or reduction would do. 

What are your plans for your kids post surgery?

We are so thankful to have a ton of people to help us! My parents will be staying at my house with the boys while I'm in the hospital (3 nights). Then the boys will go to my sister and brother-in-law's house for a few nights, then I have a friend taking them for a day, then help from my mom again, and then Jonathan's parents will take them for a while since they are both retired. Evan starts school about 2 weeks after my surgery so he will come home the weekend before that. And we will just play it by ear with the other two boys depending on how I'm feeling. They'll stay at Jonathan's parents on weekdays while he is at work, and then they will come home on the weekends.  We will do that until I am confident I'll be able to take care of Gibson - the main concern is with lifting him in and out of bed, the car seat, high chair, etc. And toddlers just need to be picked up and held a lot. So until I'm able to do that, I'll have to have help. I plan to fully document and share my recovery so hopefully I'll have some good advice and feedback about the recovery timeline after that. I know that was my main concern going into all of this! 

If you have any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments, or shoot me an email if you'd prefer. Thank you to every single one of you who have encouraged me and prayed for me through all of this. It means more than I could ever say! 

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The Best Resources to Start and Inspire Your Blog

I get asked a lot about how I got started with my blog. The truth is I just did a lot of googling. A LOT. If there's something you want to know out there, google it and I promise someone has written an article or made a video about it. There's everything from how to get a website domain to how to insert a link in your post. I mean I've googled some crazy things and I've always found the answer. But sometimes that sort of thing can get overwhelming, so today I'm rounding up some of my favorite resources I've found that have done the practical work of telling me how to start a blog and the things I use to "continue my education" as well as encourage and inspire me.

Setting up your blog & Content

If you need help just getting started, you need to get Natalie's Blogging Course. This course is perfect if you've finally decided to start your blog and you don't even know what to do first. It starts with the basics of choosing and getting a domain and website hosting and also covers everything from how to create content to how to earn income with your blog. There's also a private Facebook group for everyone who has taken the course. It's such a good resource to connect with other bloggers, ask questions, and there's a monthly live Q&A. Natalie is now one of my real-life friends and she is the real deal, y'all! She is very passionate about helping others succeed with their blogs. This course is 100% worth the cost.

The only thing I have done different than what the course covers is that I use Squarespace instead of Wordpress. I used Wordpress for a while, but I find Squarespace to be much simpler and much more user friendly. I'm really glad I switched over!! 

Squarespace and Wordpress have some pre-built templates that you can use, but there are other ways to customize the look of your site so it fits you perfectly! If you can afford to hire someone to build and design your site then that's a great option to get a site that looks exactly how you want (my site and brand were designed by Magnolia-Ink). But I know a lot of us starting out are on a budget, right? For my first site design I found a template I loved on Creative Market. I LOVE Creative Market and use it pretty frequently. There are website templates, fonts, social media templates, media kit templates...you get the idea. It's a great way to add customized items to your brand before you can dive in with something fully custom. 

Another great tool for creating custom images and graphics is Canva. Canva is free to use and has thousands of templates to help you create logos, graphics for your blog and social media, PDFs, you name it! This is a great option if you don't have something like Photoshop or Illustrator. Canva also has a free app so you can easily create content from your phone.

Other resources/apps I love for creating graphics and editing photos: Unsplash.com for finding beautiful (and free!) stock images, Word Swag (for graphics); Afterlight, Snapseed, and Color Story for photo editing. Color Story also has a grid feature that helps you plan out your Instagram feed. Planoly is another great app and site for planning out your feed and content.

continuing education: tangible tips & Encouragement

Podcasts are the easiest way for me to learn new tips and ideas about creating content and growing my blog. I can listen while I drive, while I clean, while I paint, etc. These are all of the ones I listen to regularly and have learned a lot from! I'm not providing direct links since not everyone is an Apple user, but you can search for and listen to these on whatever podcast app you have!

The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher. She is such a motivator and encourager, and this podcast is packed with very tangible info and tips on how to grow your blog or business.
3 episodes to start with: 129: Ask Jenna Anything...About Social Media, 111: How to Find Your Secret Sauce and Stand Out in a Crowd, 103: Want to be a Social Media Influencer? Here's how!

Rise Podcast with Rachel Hollis. Y'all know my love for Rachel Hollis runs deep. This podcast is no exception. This podcast has tons of interviews with phenomenal women, and some solo episodes. I have learned SO much from listening, and also been very inspired in both business and my personal life.
3 episodes to start with: Steps to ACTUALLY Achieve a Goal, How to Start Vlogging in 2018 (a lot can apply to blogging too), Turning a side hustle into a multi-million dollar business (interview with Erin Condren).

The Influencer Podcast with Julie Solomon. This is another great one for lots of tangible advice. She talks about specific topics as well as shares interviews with successful women in the influencer world. Julie is not stingy with her advice and tips, and each episode is packed with info you can start putting into place.
3 episodes to start with: 048: Is Blogging Dead + How to Grow Your Instagram Following in 2018, 018: Instagram Basics: Tips to Networking Without Being Fake, 008: Turn Blogging and YouTube into a Mega Business with Angela Lanter.

Christy Wright’s Business Boutique. Christy's podcast is mainly geared toward women starting and owning businesses, but a lot of it still applies to blogging. She is honest and so funny, and helping women succeed is her passion!
3 episodes to start with: Mom Entrepreneurs: Finding Success in Business and Motherhood, Episode 40: Top Traits of Highly Successful Women, Episode 11: How to Make the Most of Social Media.

Awesome with Allison. Allison's podcast is more of an encouragement/motivation podcast, but those are a huge foundation in having success with your blog or business. She's so honest and raw, and insanely motivating. You need to be following her on Instagram for sure, because she has the most amazing dance moves. She also hosts workshops for branding, so that is another thing you can check out!
3 episodes to start with: Episode 25: Big Picture Thinking vs. Small Picture Thinking, Episode 44: How to overcome crippling self doubt, Episode 50: Going after your dreams like a barracuda with Rachel Hollis

How I Built This with Guy Raz. Listen to this one to get inspired by some of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet. They share their stories of how they started their companies - the good & the bad (because there are always failures, but that's the only way to get to success). 
3 episodes to start with: Kendra Scott: Kendra Scott, Barre3: Sadie Lincoln, Spanx: Sara Blakely.

Last but not least, I have a pinterest board where I save blogging tips and ideas if you're interested in following that as well! 

 

I hope these ideas and resources will help you get started or grow what you've already started. I'd love to chat with you about your blog if you ever have any questions. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email!

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The Struggle is Real

June has kicked my butt. Although I probably shouldn't blame the month itself. It didn't do anything to me. It's just that the sequence of events and circumstances this month have teamed up together to try to single handedly take me down. Dramatic? Maybe. But it feels like an accurate depiction. Anyone else? (Raise your hand if you've been personally victimized by June)

I've been putting off writing about all of this for a few reasons:

1. I felt overwhelmed and incapable of putting all of my thoughts into legible sentences.

2. I felt like such a mess so I didn't see the point in writing. 

3. I didn't feel like I had anything of value to say. I don't want to just word vomit on you.

4. It's easier to zone out on TV than it is to sit and process your thoughts.

But I can't run and hide from it anymore. So although I feel a little terrified that I'm not quite sure where this is going and none of you even care, here we go!

First let me just say that I am fully aware that a lot of the aforementioned thoughts are lies. So let's acknowledge and replace those first, both for my benefit and yours.

1. I am not incapable, even if I feel like it.

2. I'm not a mess, even if I feel like it.

3. My words are valuable and important, even when they don't feel like it.

4. Well....the TV thing is true. But probably not healthy haha!

I also know it's a lie to think that none of you care. Some of you may not, but if you're here reading this then I know that you have to at least care a little bit. Even if caring just means you want to see the Hannah-crazy-train-wreck-show. WELCOME ABOARD!

I've shared a little bit of where my head has been at over in a few social media posts and stories. Let me briefly catch you up - Jonathan and I took a week long kid-free vacation, and the day after we got back was the first real day of summer with all 3 kids at home with me...all day long. I truly believe that the intense shift in my stress levels (from pure relaxation to full time SAHM to three young kids in the summer) caused me to crash a little bit. My body didn't know how to handle the influx of stress so it went into total fog mode. No energy, no clear headedness, no motivation. I was basically in survival mode trying to navigate how to function with breaking up constant fights between my older two while a very cute toddler had taken up the new hobby of screaming at my feet for the majority of the day. Maybe you saw this adorable picture I shared a few weeks ago?

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The reason they were all able to climb on top of me was because I had been sitting on the floor feeling overwhelmed and foggy and stuck. One by one they made their way to me and thankfully pulled me out of the funk for a few minutes. Being home with three kids who have no way to understand "mama is struggling" is so hard, y'all. And can I also just take a second to say that it is not normal for a person to be yelled at all day? It's not normal and I don't need to beat myself up for feeling insane after multiple days of someone yelling at me or near me for 12 hours straight. That's basically torture. Again, dramatic? Maybe. But I'm thinking that more than a few of you are nodding your heads in agreement.

All of this was the first week of June. So around this time I was also starting to add stuff to my planner for the coming month here and there, which means I was constantly seeing "SURGERY" written in my planner for next month (if you're new here, you can get filled in on all of that in my last post). Everyday I would get that little nagging reminder, which would lead to a little bit of tightness in my chest. But I was in the midst of full time stay at home mom-ness so there wasn't time to freak out about it, or really even stop and think about it. So there I was trying to dig through this new borderline depression I'd found myself in, and in walks anxiety. 

Here's where some of my thoughts and feelings get a little tricky. Deep down, I know that I'm ok. I am at peace, I know I'm making the right decision about having this surgery. I know that I will be ok regardless of anything that happens. I am actively walking with Jesus through both the days leading up to this surgery and just the day-to-day parenting stuff. So when I tell people "I'm good", I mean it. But at the same time, I'm really not that good. I'm freaked out about a 8+ hour surgery. I have no idea what recovery will look like. I'll have to be away from my kids for a while to heal. I can't get any of the things done that I have been working on and planning the last few months (blogging, the shop I'm trying to open, art, etc.) because my kids are home with me all day. My brain is wiped at the end of the day. I am stressed to the max with being asked approximately 7 million questions per day, breaking up fights, dealing with my 4 year old's epic meltdowns, trying to navigate my 6 year old's sassy attitude, having a toddler scream at me every time I go to pee...not to mention trying to maintain solid friendships and a good marriage....and ya know, function as a normal human being. So while I am good, I am also kind of a disaster right now. 

When you have to continually suppress your feelings, like literally HAVE to because you can't have a freak out meltdown when you have three kids who need you, it's exhausting. Your emotions feel all over the place so when you sit down to try to sort through them, it feels impossible. Everything I do all day long is interrupted, so trying to keep a solid stream of thought once I finally have a second...my brain feels so scattered. I have to actively fight the lie that I'm not a crazy person. I know that Satan wants nothing more than for me to feel like something is wrong with me. And I have bought that lie so many times. It's like he is a child pitching a fit and screaming at the top of his lungs trying to keep me from being able to think clearly, to pray, to hear from my Father on what is true. And what's true? Satan is a totally defeated enemy. He has absolutely no power if we don't allow him to. 

None of my circumstances have changed over the last few weeks. My kids are still hard. My surgery is still less than a month away. I still feel overwhelmed and stressed out. But I don't have to manage all of that in my own strength. I can be weak, and it's ok. I can be honest when people ask how I'm doing, even if it makes some people uncomfortable. I can admit that I'm struggling. I can let friends watch my kids for a few hours. I can accept a homemade meal. I can find supplements to help my energy and mood. I can find a counselor to meet with. I can take lots of deep breaths and call on Jesus every single moment of every single day, and with a clear mind I can tune into what He is saying to me. He may not rescue me from my circumstances, but He comes to my side and rescues my heart, rescues my mind and thoughts. 

Has it been hard to admit how much I've been struggling the last few weeks? A little bit. It feels embarrassing to say you feel like you can't handle your own life. It makes me feel like something is wrong with me that I am not enjoying this particular stage of mothering a lot of days. Or that I'm not marking things off my (non-existent) summer bucket list left and right. But every time I've shared even a tiny glimpse of this struggle, I am so relieved and encouraged with the amount of you that say "me too!". So even though being the one to go first is hard, I'll keep doing it time and time again. I want to give every other woman out there the space to be vulnerable too, and to know she's not alone. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one struggling, but it's still so easy to believe the lie that I am. So I will keep shouting the truth and all my craziness from the rooftops so that no other woman will even for a second buy into the lie that something is wrong with her. That she's not good enough. That she should have it all together. That she should be "enjoying every moment."

This life has hard seasons, and we aren't meant to walk through them in shame or by ourselves. Don't be afraid to let your friends in it with you. Don't be ashamed to let God in it with you (He already knows all of it anyway). Let His peace transform and heal you, and let Him use His people to show you love and grace. I hope you feel that here - loved and accepted. Because you are all of those things and so much more.

I told you at the beginning that I wasn't sure where all of this was going to go. And I'm still not sure if it went anywhere. All I know is that you are my friends, whether we know each other in person or not, and I want to always be real with you. I want to share my heart and my journey with you, the good and the hard stuff. So if we were hanging out this is the conversation I would hope to have with you. Friend, no matter what you're going through, you are not the only one. Even if our circumstances are different, I believe we all understand each other more than we think. You are so loved, my friends!

I'm Having a Double Mastectomy // BRCA Journey Part 2

I don't know if "rollercoaster" is a sufficient word to describe what the last few months have been like since I first found out about and shared my BRCA2 Positive diagnosis. I get asked how I'm doing, and truthfully I am fine. I really am. But sometimes I'm also scared and anxious. Sometimes I'm angry that I have to deal with this in the first place. But mostly I have peace about it. Most of the time I'm hopeful.

Long before I ever got tested, I had already made up my mind that if I were to ever find out I had the gene mutation, I would have a double mastectomy. "Cut 'em off! Take them out!" I know it's a huge decision, and I don't take it lightly at all. But coming to that decision beforehand has taken some of the weight off. On the other hand, being forced to be in a place where you have to actually make that decision really freaking sucks. 

Once the news had settled into my mind, I began researching doctors and hospitals. When I shared that first post a few months ago, the outpouring of encouragement was amazing. I also received an outpouring of very helpful advice and recommendations. Friends were connecting me to other women who had gone through the same thing. I was connected to women who work in breast surgery at our local hospital - yes, multiple friends who I didn't realize did that for a living! Between those conversations, conversations with my OBGYN, and lots of googling, I was able to land on two doctors I knew I wanted to meet with.

The anxiety I've experienced leading up to each doctor's appointment has been hard. For the first month or so I was dreaming of surgery almost every night - nightmares where I was under anesthesia but was still aware of everything happening. I had tons of browser windows open on my laptop and phone, notes written everywhere of questions to ask and things to remember. Each doctor's appointment made the whole surgery decision a little more real. I first met with a breast specialist, and I absolutely loved her. She explained every option I have and didn't make me feel scared or pressured. But she also made me feel confident that surgery was the right decision. 

A month later I met with the plastic surgeon. I was a total mess before this appointment. I felt like this appointment was going to be the final straw in "yes, I'm doing this." I could barely eat that morning and was so shaky. But I made Jonathan take my picture as I sat waiting in the exam room, so that I could remember that even though I was so scared, I was also brave and at peace.

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I felt so comfortable with the doctor. He thoroughly explained my reconstruction options and answered all of my millions of questions. I'll just go ahead and say, however, that standing in front of a full length mirror with my "I've had three children and just finished breastfeeding for a year" boobs while a doctor measured and sharpied on my body was not a highlight of my life. But I did at least know what I was getting into and fully understood my options. I left that appointment with a lot of peace, because I knew the ball was officially rolling. We talked dates and everything. I needed a date set so that I could stop being in the in-between, unknown, and waiting portion of this ordeal. I couldn't deal with any more "maybes". The difference between how I felt going in to that appointment and coming out of it is huge. Jesus. That's all I can say. I even sent out an instastory to you fabulous women asking for prayer, and y'all showed up. BIG TIME. I cannot thank you enough for that.

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After that appointment came all the steps and conversations I needed to have in order to get to the actual surgery, which I still didn't have a solid date for, but I at least had a rough time frame. The following week I was scheduled to go in for a CT Scan at the hospital where I'll be having surgery. The type of reconstruction I'm having is called DIEP Flap. Basically they are going to take a "flap" of tissue from my abdomen and relocate it to my chest to build my new boobs out of it (you can click here for a thorough explanation). Science is CRAY, y'all. So this CT scan was looking at the blood flow to the tissue in my abdomen to make sure it was good, and to see where the blood vessels and arteries are. I've never had a CT scan done before, so I for sure felt like I was walking into a Grey's Anatomy episode when I saw this crazy contraption.

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And once again I wanted to document myself being partly freaked out, but doing it anyway! "Going scared." And I had to show off this sexy hospital gown for y'all too, of course.

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The lead up to the scan took forever it felt like, but the scan itself was easy and super quick! And that's the last official appointment I've had up until this point. I've been able to ask questions to my nurses as needed. I've gotten connected with more women who have had this same surgery for the same reasons. I even got to have a conversation with a woman who had the exact procedure I'm having with the same plastic surgeon at the same hospital, so that was incredible. She answered every single question I could think of and was so encouraging to me. And that right there is the exact reason I want to share every part of this process with you. I don't wish this ordeal on anyone, but if you are walking through it I want you to see what it's like. I want to answer your questions and be your support and encouragement. You are not alone even though it might feel like it sometimes.

A few weeks after my scan, and with one simple phone call, I had a surgery date set. July 25th. July 25th at 7 in the morning I will be going into surgery. At this surgery they will perform the double mastectomy - removing all of my current breast tissue. They will also begin my reconstruction - the DIEP flap procedure I mentioned above. I'm saying "begin my reconstruction" because the tissue (aka fat) on my stomach is not enough to fully reconstruct my boobs on its own (the only time in life I've been told I don't have enough stomach fat!). So a few months after this surgery, I will have a second surgery. During that, they'll do scar revisions, adjust anything that needs to be adjusted, and then I'll also get a small implant put in, unless for some reason I just like being super flat chested ;). 

As I've told my friends and people who have asked for updates, once again everyone wants to know how I'm doing. And I'm good! I hope that I'm not just in total denial, but I honestly feel so much better now that everything is finalized. I have pre-op appointments with both surgeons during the beginning of July. I'm sure I'll have some anxiety and fears around that time and the days leading up to surgery. I'm nervous about what parenting post-surgery looks like. I won't be able to lift Gibson for 5-6 weeks so I'll have to have help with him around the clock until then. Thank God for amazing family and friends. I have other fears surrounding surgery itself, of course. I've never had any type of operation, and this surgery is a big one that will last in the ballpark of 8 hours. I'm choosing to trust in my decisions and trust in Jesus who has gotten me to this place. He is good, and His plans are good. I am standing on that truth and fully believe that's why I am experiencing peace in the midst of this crazy storm. 

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There are more things I'll have to address due to this gene mutation, and I'm working through those things as well. Skin checks, eye checks, ovary scans, blood work. I'm trying not to let it feel overwhelming even though it easily could be. One step at a time, right? That's how we get through hard things. If you ever have any questions, I am more than happy to answer them. You can comment on this post or email me at coldcoffeehotmess@gmail.com. Thank you for walking alongside me through this scary time. It means more to me than I could ever fully express!

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This is my sister Haley and I at this year's "Race for the Cure". She wrote my name on her back as one of the people she was running for. Talk about a humbling moment. But also a moment that lit a fire under me. I am going to continue to support and pray for a cure so that not one more person has to face the potential of this terrible disease. 

Friday Favorites

It's been a long time since I've done one of these. Sometimes it feels like I can't post until I have something super meaningful and motivational to share. But part of being a good friend is being well rounded. I love encouraging you in this space. But...I also love to watch TV,  eat yummy snacks, and wear cute clothes. And I want to tell you about that stuff, too! So here we go!

1. THE shorts.

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On social media this week I shared this photo of me in my absolute new favorite pair of denim shorts. I have been basically scouring this internet trying to find cute distressed denim shorts that didn't cost a fortune and didn't also look like a denim diaper (you know the ones I'm talking about). A friend introduced me to Striped, an online boutique. I was so excited to see the shorts of my dreams when I landed on her page. AND they cost $34. Hello!! I immediately got a pair. The waist is the perfect rise, 4.5 inch inseam, no thigh squish, no sagging material after a few hours of wear. Win win win win win. She adds new items to the shop almost every single day so go check out her shop! For reference, I'm 5'11, 155-160 lbs. (depending on the amount of chocolate consumed), and normally wear a size 10 in jeans & shorts. I got the large and they fit perfectly. Mine are the lighter wash. Use the code coldcoffee10 for 10% off your order!

2. Cucumber water with peppermint

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I've been trying to focus on my water intake, especially since the heat of summer is basically already here. I honestly love water, but I wanted to make it even more appealing. So I've been slicing cucumber, then adding it and one drop of peppermint essential oil (I use this one from Plant Therapy) to a water jug that I keep in my fridge. It's 64 ounces so I know I need to drink all of it plus another full cup or two (I use this cup and love it!) to get the right amount I need each day. It's so refreshing, especially now that it's hot outside.

3. Natural Calm

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I'm so obsessed with this stuff, y'all. It's a magnesium supplement that's made to help with stress. I heard about it from a friend years ago. She kept it in her water glass anytime she was at an event with a large crowd to help her social anxiety. I got it a few months ago when I realized I was struggling with some anxiety related issues brought out by difficult parenting situations (that's a nice way of saying my now 4 year old was being craaaaaay cray). I don't really have those issues anymore, but now I drink it every night at bedtime. I fall asleep like a champ. And I STAY asleep. I used to lay on my pillow and toss and turn for way to long before finally falling asleep, so this has been a huge game changer for me. 

4. Real Life Dinners cookbook

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I may be getting ahead of myself a bit with this one, but that's never stopped me before. I got this cookbook in the mail this week, and I'm super pumped about it. Dinner is hard for me! I want to cook for my family, but 4 PM - 6 PM at my house is INSANITY every single day. So I get overwhelmed and just end up serving the kids chicken nuggets and then Jonathan and I end up eating random leftover things. Not exactly an ideal family meal situation. It works for us, and I know this season won't last forever. But I'm excited to get my hands on a resource with recipes fully intended for families, that fit into our real life. The cookbook is beautiful, each recipe has photos of the finished product and step by step, which this not-so-fancy cook needs. It comes out June 5, but you can pre-order it now! I'm planning to share some full recipes with y'all soon!!

5. So YaYa cleansing balm

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I did a skincare post not too long ago, but that was before I got to try the natural skincare products from my new friend Rachel! She makes a line of oil cleansing based products that are hands down the best I have tried. My skin loves this cleansing balm so much! I can feel that it's cleaning and gently exfoliating my skin. It comes off easily which is not the case with a lot of oil cleansers. It moisturizes. It smells really good. The price point is amazing. And it's a local mom-owned business. If you are struggling with your skin or just wanting to try something new, I recommend checking out her shop. If you are in the Baton Rouge area, she sets up a table at the market downtown on Saturdays as well! Treat yo' skin to some love!!

6. Going Scared podcast

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I have been loving this new podcast from Jessica Honegger (founder of Noonday Collection). Each interview is packed with so much good tangible information and encouragement. This week's episode with Alison Faulkner is SO GOOD. I listen while I drive, but I need to listen again at home so I can write down all of my take-aways. I can't even sum it up for you because there was so much, so you should just go ahead and listen to it, k? And then come back and tell me how much you loved it, too!

That's it! That's the big things I am loving right now. I want to hear from you! What are you loving that I need in my life?! Share away in the comments. And if you want to hear from some other fabulous women about their favorite things, head to this link where lots of other bloggers link up and you'll find a ton!

Some, but not all, of the items I shared today are affiliate links.