Pomp and Pandemic Circumstances

Welp, I finally did it. I finally had the opportunity to participate in a graduation ceremony. To walk across that stage and receive my diploma. To wear a sweaty cap and gown.

And the graduation was canceled because of COVID-19.

You’ve probably heard a lot about the high school seniors, and participated in some celebration for them. Completing high school and getting to celebrate that milestone deserves celebration. College graduates are considered, but their considered a little less. And graduate school graduates? I haven’t seen much.

My school, The Citadel, held a virtual commencement ceremony in place of the actual ceremony on May 9th. Graduates (cadets, evening undergraduate, and graduate) were asked to submit a photo, a quote or message, and a video. All optional.

Here’s my page.

The quote? Well, I think that’s obvious. I want to see changes in things and the only way I can do that is by actually doing something. I’m a doer. I’ve said this before. It’s why I volunteer for the American Cancer Society, it’s why I coach a wellness group with some good friends of mine, and it’s why I want to become a BCBA.

Of course, my posts can’t be all serious, right? I have to add a little silly. That picture? There’s a story behind it. First of all, I hate it. I received an email from the university shortly after they canceled graduation asking for a photo in professional clothes. I ignored it for about a week, thought about it, ignored it some more. I mean, what was I supposed to do while in self-isolation? Schedule a sitting with a photographer to take a nice picture because I legit have NONE?! I did reach out to a few photographers mentioned on our neighborhood Facebook page as ones who were doing senior photos. Since I’m not one of the “cool kids,” I got no responses (I say this because other people got their pics, but no one replied to me – oh well). So I ignored the email some more (and the subsequent reminder emails). and briefly mentioned to Brad that I might have him take a picture and Photoshop it to look professional.

This brings us to April 23rd, the DAY the picture was due.

I got a little hissy early in the day. All up in my feelings because my graduation was canceled and how dare they ask us for a professional picture during a damn pandemic?! (Seriously though…) So at about 8pm that evening, right after I finished exercising, I whipped out my nice camera and said, “OK, Brad. We gotta do this.” I was sweaty and gross in my workout clothes. I was trying to stick the camera on the tripod and find the perfect space. Then I let my stinky, sweaty hair down and straightened just the front on both sides (the back looked like a bird’s nest, I kid you not). I changed my shirt from my workout shirt to a dressier shirt. I didn’t even put on makeup. I stood in front of my bedroom door and Brad took a few pictures. From the shoulders up, obviously, because workout shorts. So I took the pictures to the computer and had to chuck like half of them because of blurriness and all my chins. I couldn’t do enough Photoshop magic to fix that crap.

So I pulled a Hail Mary. I reached out to a cover designer friend of mine who is an amazing photographer and graphic designer (just not local to me). She made it look like I was standing in front of a white wall, instead of a white-paneled door (sigh). She also fixed my face so it didn’t look like I was glowing (from sweat).

I still hate the picture of me, but I love that (as usual) I have a ridiculous story to go with it. That will help make this achievement in my life more memorable, for sure. A story I can tell my grandchildren some day.

Or maybe not…

Adventures in Container Gardening

I tried this last summer and got fed up and gave up. Something kept eating my strawberries and tomatoes. That something might have been Barkley. Or it might have been a squirrel. Judging by the way he went after the weeds in some of my pots today, I’m thinking Barkley was the most probable culprit.

I downsized this year. I didn’t plant as much as I did last year. I basically went with the plants that grew well last year since I knew (hoped) they’d do well again. I also didn’t do any herbs since I didn’t end up using them last year. Pictured above are green onions, an assortment of sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, garden beans, and okra. I planted the seeds back in March and they grew so well! We’ve also had some good rain, which is awesome because I only remember to water them maybe once a week. I need to move some of them to new pots to spread them out, so I’ll be doing that over the weekend.

Hopefully I’ll get something out of these this year!

Virtual Wine Run 5k

Finding things to do these days is tough. It’s all about being innovative! Our neighborhood has had bear hunts, sidewalk chalkings, and Easter egg hunts. The other day there was even a Jeep and golf cart parade.

It’s been great catching up on some stuff I’ve been neglecting and taking walks and drives around town, but I’m a doer, and I want to do more!!

While scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across a Virtual Wine Run! I guess it’s traditionally an in-person event, but they’ve made it a virtual thing because of social distancing. You register (and get a t-shirt with your race packet mailed to you), then do your run/walk around your neighborhood or on your treadmill or whatever, then submit your time to the website. You can also share pictures.

It seems like a fun thing to do and a way to feel part of something bigger when you can’t actually be part of something bigger.

From what I understand, after a typical Wine Run, local wineries or vineyards provide wine. I’m not entirely sure if it’s to taste to buy, but you do get a wine glass with your registration packet, so yay!! Maybe I’ll break out some of the strawberry wine I got from Deep Water Vineyards over the summer.

The race benefits the Nikolas Ritschel Foundation. The foundation grants wishes to people 18-24 years old with varying types of cancer. Check out their website, the stories and wishes are heartbreaking. Most of them just want to go on vacation with their family and not have to worry about anything for a week. Surely this is a cause we can all get behind. Kids — young adults — NO ONE — should have to deal with cancer.

If you want to join us, click here.

I’ll post some pictures after we do it. ❤

Social Distancing: Barkley Style

It feels weird that I posted about the new direction I’m taking BST without a nod to the pandemic affecting nearly everyone in the world. Obviously, the ample time I’ve had on my hands since our area began social distancing is what allowed me the opportunity to even think about the blog.

That being said, I’ve been doing a whole lot of nothing, otherwise known as staying home and staying safe. I’ve watched a lot of Netflix/Hulu/Amazon. I make the occasional trip to the store or we aimlessly drive around town for a change of scenery, but where we’re getting most of our out-of-the-house entertainment from is Barkley.

This is him and his best girl, Chloe. I don’t really know if they’re boyfriend and girlfriend or if they are just the best of friends. Either way, it’s like they were made for each other.

These days, this is what Barkley lives for. Those few minutes when he gets to play with Chloe while his mom and/or dad are being eaten by gnats. Sometimes he gets to see his other dog friends: Geisha, Ellie, or Snoopy.

I can’t wait until I’m able to go out and play with my friends! In the meantime, I’ll continue to live vicariously through Bark.

Welcome to the new BST!

Hello friends and family!

I’ve been struggling with what to do with BST for some time now. I’ve always enjoyed blogging, but I didn’t want to keep blogging about breast cancer when that isn’t the focus of my life anymore. I was torn between starting something new somewhere else, or moving forward here.

I’ve finally decided that I’m going to move forward here. BST is going to focus on Living a Healthy Life after C. It’ll be a lifestyle blog where I’ll continue to share my adventures, this time with an emphasis on healthy living for both mind and body.

I hope to include:
– some of my favorite recipes (and recipe mishaps)
– fur-mom life
– container gardening (insert more mishaps here)
– traveling adventures
– my love of music

I hope you’ll stick around as I continue to find humor in my day-to-day life!

I hope you dance

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately.

I don’t have too many local girlfriends I can call up and say “Hey, let’s go out.” I have family nearby, neighbors, and some friends I’ve made through my current and previous employers. I’m not friend-less, by any means. We just all have lives and responsibilities and schedules, and it isn’t always easy to get together without proper planning.

Yesterday I was thinking about a particular friend and how I might reach out to her and see if she wants to go to dinner or lunch to catch up, then I remembered how the last few times I reached out to her, she left me hanging. I decided that I didn’t really want to do that again. Relationships take work from both people, you know? My time is just as valuable as anyone else’s time. It got me thinking of a few other friends who I’ve had similar experiences with recently.

I can appreciate that people have loaded schedules, lord knows I do most of the time. Juggling patients, graduate school, a thesis, internship, doctors’ appointments, coaching, and writing doesn’t leave much time for personal and family time, let alone a social life and leisure. I do what I can to try not to leave people hanging, but I’m sure I have a time or two.

Isn’t it just weird and a little sad to think about how time passes and people who were once significant parts of your life, in one way or another, sort of fade away?

It’s been almost a year since our fur-baby Daisy passed away. I was in such a dark place after we lost her; so incredibly sad. I felt like an actual piece of my heart was missing, she’d had that significant a role in my life. I was having a bad day about a month after she passed and wrote about it here. I was venting. Sad, upset, and frustrated with life and all the crap Brad and I had been dealt over the years. I wasn’t sharing for sympathy or anything like that. I was just being real and getting it all off my chest. After that post went live, a friend of mine from high school reached out to say she’d seen my post and was sending me a hug. It was such a nice gesture, something that probably took a minute of her time, and something I will probably remember for the rest of my life.

Gestures like that are priceless.

She and I don’t talk often at all and it’s been years since we’ve seen each other, a couple decades probably. But she saw I was sad and she sent me a hug. How cool is that? Isn’t that what we all should do? Not just comment on someone’s public post, but send them a message to let them know we’re really thinking about them? This friend doesn’t just share posts about mental health checks for friends, she actually does it. #friendshipgoals

Some people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Author Unknown.

It’s hard coming to grips with the fact that some of the friendships I had in the past — ones I’ve treasured and are part of so many fond memories — may have reached their expiration dates. Our reason or season has ended, and as much as it may stink, I guess it’s okay. Moving on and growing is part of life, right? Constant motion. I’ll probably still see them on Facebook, but our days of personal check-ins have come and gone. Maybe our paths will cross again in the future — I’d like that — but I think it’s healthy to let go and make space for new friendships.

To all my old friends, I hope you dance.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance

Lee Ann Womack

Experiences, not things

Since Brad and I have been married, every year we’ve made a photo book out of our digital pictures through Shutterfly. While I was going through our 2019 photos, I noticed how much we did. We had so many new experiences throughout the year. I feel like every year we do a little bit more and I love it.

One of my reflections is to enjoy experiences, not things. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be collecting mugs, shot glasses, and other kitschy stuff. I just want to see more, to do more.

Brad and I have been talking about that a lot lately. We only get one life, you know? We can do the same stuff we always do, or we can experience new things. In 2019 we went to concerts, visited new places, painted, went to a hockey game, and spent time at the beach. We spent time with friends and family, doing new things in old places, like renting a cabana at the pool while on vacation. Tonight, we’re going to one of the local bowling alleys for a New Year’s Eve party. We’ve never gone out-out on New Year’s Eve before.

A while ago, I had a conversation with one of my sisters about stuff. I have my grandmother’s china and I hid it away in the cabinet because I didn’t want to damage it. She told me to use it. I have a bottle of wine I got at a vineyard in Sonoma Valley, California. She told me to drink it.

She’s absolutely right (and that’s not something I’d openly admit to, haha). What am I saving that stuff for? Plates are meant to hold food and wine is meant to be drunk. Drank? Drinked? I’m still sober, I promise. I’m just not good at grammar.

Things are cool. I’m not gonna lie. But why have stuff and not enjoy it? Open that bottle of wine and drink it with friends. Instead of staring adoringly at the bottle on your shelf, remember fondly the memories you made with people you love while you drank that wine.

Back to the cabana at the pool…we go to the same resort every year and we love it. We always have a great time with family. Out of all our vacations there, the time we recall and enjoyed the most was when we rented that cabana. It was something we’d always wanted to do and it was new and different. We had such a fun time, acting like royalty for a day. It was nothing epic, it was a small way we could enhance our experience and it certainly did.

It’s the little things, you know? We got a park pass this year and went to the beach and the Festival of Lights. We traveled to New York, North Carolina, Florida, and West Virginia. Man, seeing the beautiful mountains in and on our way to West Virginia was something.

We can’t take things with us when we’re gone. Some may say we can’t take our memories of our experiences, either. Maybe that’s true. But I’ll tell you what…when I’m in my final hour and I’m thinking about my life, you can bet I’ll be reminiscing about the good times I had. I’m not going to be thinking about my clothes or my car or my computer or even my shot glasses. I’m going to be remembering all the good times I had. Isn’t that what we do when we celebrate the life of a lost loved one? We remember the times we had with that person, rather than the stuff that person had? We remember the type of person they were, not the things they bought.

May your new year be filled with experiences that will last a lifetime.

xoxo
Jen

Aunt Life

I shared in my last post that my family has experienced some loss lately. The most recent was my Aunt Barbara, my dad’s sister. She had breast cancer, not the same as mine, and it eventually spread to other areas of her body. I last saw her when I was in New York for my other aunt’s funeral, but I’ve talked to her on the phone since. I can still hear her voice and her sass. I hope I never forget what she sounds like. I have a lot of my father’s traits, and I’d like to think I have some of my Aunt Barbara’s, too.

I used to spend a lot of time with her when I was little. I went to stay with her and my grandmother occasionally and we’d go shopping, play bingo, and hang around the house. I’d bring my toys or my bike and just play. I remember that I would spend hours using the staircase as some kind of apartment community for my troll dolls or Barbies. We’d also do most major holidays at her house, too, since she lived downstairs from my grandmother. It was a home away from home.

All losses suck, but hers really sucks. She was an awesome aunt and, until my sisters talked about it, I hadn’t really thought about her as a teacher. She taught us how to be aunts. Yes, we have more than one aunt, but she was our constant. Birthdays, holidays, milestones…she was always there. She set an example for how an aunt should be, and while I have absolutely slacked here and there (who doesn’t?), I intend on changing that. I want to be the Aunt Barbara of aunts because she was so good at it – the gold standard, if you will. She may not have been perfect in all ways, but no one is. She loved me and my sisters hard. Years from now I want my nieces and nephews to remember me in the same fond way.

This was something else I’ve been thinking about lately. How important the role of an aunt is in a child’s life. We’re friends and we’re family. We are full of love and tons of fun. We’d do just about anything for our nieces and nephews. The same could be said for uncles, I guess. I can’t wait to watch my nieces and nephews grow up and turn into awesome people, and I’m looking forward to being there and supporting them (or spoiling them, haha) along the way.

Merry Christmas!

Brad and I had a great holiday spent with family. We were spoiled rotten, as usual, and indulged in some delicious food.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting these past few weeks. As we near the end of every year, I think we all spend a little time reflecting. Maybe more so this time around since it’s the end of a decade. What were we doing 10 years ago? What were we doing 20 years ago? How have our lives changed? How are they the same?

I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff lately and I’ve wanted to write about it, but I’ve felt like I needed to organize my thoughts so I’m not bouncing all over the place. I’m still not quite sure my thoughts are organized, but I’m working on it.

I guess my biggest take-away from the last few years has been mortality. I was diagnosed with and survived cancer in 2017-2018. Part of me feels like I’ve been given a second gift of life and I need to take advantage of that. I had a conversation with a fellow cancer survivor recently and he told me that I didn’t owe anyone anything. I believe that, but I do feel like I owe a little something to myself. I feel like I need to take this chance and use it. I need to take care of my mind and my body. I need to live…because that’s what I’m meant to do. I’m meant to live, and I think I’m also meant to do great things. Things I won’t be able to do if I don’t live every day to its fullest potential. How cliché, right?

Anyway, I’m a work in progress with all those things. I’m working on my physical and my emotional health. I’m exercising daily and I have a great fitness and nutrition support group. I also got this fun little book that has me spending a little bit of time each day on myself, it’s called Zen as F*ck. Excuse the language, but it’s so appropriate for my mindset and attitude. I’m also volunteering with the American Cancer Society, and that’s helping me on the “do great things” thing…that and my day-to-day work as an ABA therapist. It’s some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done in my life.

2018 and 2019 had some lows that also had me thinking about mortality. We lost three loved ones in 2018 and three in 2019. I’ve heard people say that death comes in threes, and I wish it weren’t true. Four out of the six deaths were cancer related. Two of them were friends who were taken far too soon. I went to two of the four funerals in New York. It’s always bittersweet, because the loss of a loved one sucks, but getting to see my relatives is nice. If only we weren’t always meeting up for a funeral.

So, this is part one of my year-end reflection. A summary of sorts. I’ll be back in the next few days to share more about some of the bigger things I’ve been thinking about.