For the Love of a Friend

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This is Dana Lewis, friend of Ashley’s. She created a page on Lotsa Helping Hands but asked me to write this out for us all. We welcome you, we appreciate your presence here. Please take a moment to look through a window into her world…My heart breaks watching Ashley hurt. My Ashley, my soul sister. Tonight I walked over to see her, she sat before me with her long raven hair gone. As she opened her front door I caught a glimpse of the tiny scar on the sweet tender skin of her neck where the doctors took the evil knots out. How could any woman be this beautiful, unabashedly beautiful with all her glory, her hair stripped away?  Her voice is weak, her white cell count has been down. Today has been tough. Treatments are getting harder and she is physically tired and emotionally spent. Her youngest angel wanders down the stairs into the foyer, being the little fairy God intended her to be. My eyes drift to her as Ashley talks, shares and weeps. Her gaze follows mine to one of the two loves of her life and she pauses to smile now and almost giggles…our focus returns to the pain. Indescribable pain that will only increase as the battle rages on. It hurts, it feels like you are slowly dying from a terrible hangover. I chime in “but one with no relief?” “Right, there’s no relief.” Finally, time to sleep but your tummy hurts, a gnawing ache, your head in a fog, there’s a bad taste in your mouth and you hurt all over. Although you are cranky and tired it is now morning and as a Single Mother you must arise to feed the cherubs, care for them, arrange for pick-ups, drop-offs, give them love, maybe even get groceries before work but after breakfast, showers and getting to school. … this is indeed a battle. And now you feel bad, sad, mad because if nothing else at all you have always been strong. Damn it, just the sheer force of your will alone has allowed you to survive thus far. Now you are so vulnerable, so shaken, so worn. As a result maybe, just maybe for the first time in a long time – afraid. It’s hard to be strong when you are fighting Hodgkins Lymphoma.  Haley has now climbed into her Momma’s  lap, safe in a perfect embrace. I get a peek at her smile again as she pulls Haley away from her to run her hand up her chest. “Drool, she is so exhausted she is drooling, it’s running down my shirt!” She shifts this sleeping child we both love while continuing to rock her.  God knew what He was doing when He planted us side by side as neighbors. It is an honor to write for this blog. My wish is that you visit the community page at Lotsa Helping Hands as often as you like, bookmark the page, send what message you have in your heart to her.  Go ahead, take a shift, get groceries, take a child to a game, make a meal or two or just come in and check on her. Yes, help out, we are so glad you want to. Just know this: the ultimate gift is prayer. Earnest prayer for Ashley, her family, especially her Mother, Mary Sue and her sister, Amy, who all put on their “Super Woman” capes everyday to help Ash…her sisters Tayler and Rebecca and her brother Derrick. And then most importantly: her girls ~ Hannah & Haley. Praise the Lord, they caught it early, the doctors say that once she reaches the end of her chemotherapy treatments, there is over a 90% chance it could be cured.  . Thank you so much for your precious kindness.

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My Diet Adventure

So many of you asked how I lost weight. This is not the healthiest thing in the world so I would not recommend it long term. A little over a year ago I had lost some weight by cutting out carbs, sugar and any kind of dairy product. I have done something very similar this time.
I am eating mostly protein now. I eat every 2-3 hours without fail. I drink at least 80 ounces of water every single day. I eat 5-7 times a day every day.
Today I had an egg mcmuffin with no muffin for breakfast at 8:30 along with my multivitamin, also got a large unsweet tea and put stevia in it at work. I do not recommend drinking any caffeine at all but I do it occasionally. I may have drank a fourth of that, I put it in the fridge and drink it the next day. At 10:30 am I opened a can of tuna in water, put quite a bit of real mayo in it, stirred it up and ate it straight out of the can. If I were home it would get natural pink sea salt, pepper and pickles of some kind. At 1:00 I didn’t have any time so I only had a protein drink. I use EAS carb control and my favorite is strawberry, they are much better cold but if you are desperate you can toss one in your handbag and drink it warm, don’t forget to shake it up..I was supposed to eat by 4pm but had sales calls today and couldn’t stop. This is extremely rare for me. When I got back to the office I did tuna again with another multivitamin. It was 4:45. At 7 I had several bites of cheddar cheese and took a walk and wound up running 1.6 miles. Around 9 I stuck a spoon into the peanut butter and ate maybe a teaspoon of that. Then I took my 2 calcium tablets and fixed my Greens Drink. It is powder kept in the fridge and you mix it with water, shake it up, I need it for the probiotics. Lelan wanted zaxbys at 10pm (yes I am not kidding) so I got him zaxbys and I ate his slaw and like 2 french fries. I am still drinking water and will probably wind up with about 90 oz in me for the day. For me this was a terrible day, I didn’t really eat enough and I cheated a little tonight. Usually I have at least one real meal a day most days it is at lunch. I will have a salad which many times spring mix or spinach with cheddar or feta or goat cheese, sometimes bacon (only real, don’t eat that fake junk), grilled chicken never with any skin, nuts but only if they are not coated in something (totally raw is best), and salsa, guac and sour cream if possible. For dressings blue cheese is best with ranch as second. Vinegrette is a trap, if they made it they put gobs of sugar in it so avoid it. You cannot put any kind of bean, corn, tortilla strips, tortilla bowl, crackers, croutons, all no-nos. And measuring any of that, yeah whatever. I like dressing, pour it on. Some veggies are ok, watch your sugar content though. Avoid carrots, you may not have sweet potatoes or any root veggie at all, no white potatoes of course. Fruits like berries and granny smiths I gave up even though they are low in sugar, that tiny bit of sugar would make me have cravings later in the day.
Have breakfast very soon after waking. You need to eat soon after you wake up. You need to get your metabolism going. Fit in a veggie if at all possible. I put spinach in my egg, if I have a cucumber I will cut a bit of that up and put olive oil and salt on it. Yum.
Other snacks: half cup of almonds (coconut and cocoa ones are killer but limit this) walnuts, pecans, cottage cheese (limit to a cup and get the real kind not that putrid low fat stuff and organic is really yummy), cheddar cheese (you can have any hard cheese, you can have cream cheese and sour cream), canned tuna or chicken, just a grilled chicken strip, EAS low carb protein shakes, a scoop of peanut butter.
“Meals” I have are salads, grilled or baked fish or chicken, hamburger no bun with gobs of mayo, mustard, tomato, lettuce, pickles, yum. Steak ~ be careful with this, they put marinades on this you need to check the carb and sugar count online if you are eating out. You may also have brisket keep in mind most of the BBQs they put lots of sugar into the sauce so you cannot have it. Brisket is usually made with a dry rub which isn’t as bad.
If you are at the ball park which I often am, have a hot dog with mayo and mustard (no ketchup, no bun). I have been desperate enough at home before to do a slice of bologna with mayo and mustard……
I generally keep some baked chicken strips ready to go and some kind of salad and dressing. The best dressing you could ever use would be just olive oil and vinegar. Watch this when out, sometimes they are rancid which makes me gag, its old or the temp it has been exposed to messed it up. I always have bacon and the protein shakes, cans upon cans of tuna at home.
So, sometimes I crave something sweet or I crave carbs. I have resorted recently in keeping peanut butter ice cream at home. I don’t eat very much. I read the carb count in almost every box at the store and this one was not incredibly bad and I thought, well I am getting the peanut butter too. Now do NOT do this early in the diet because your body needs to reset itself lactose free. I am in month 4 now. I also keep the cocoa or coconut almonds so again I am getting a good protein in either cheat food.
But every now and then I really cheat. Sometimes I feel like I really need a carb so I will eat a few potato chips or eat mexican and eat a few chips n salsa or splurge on fajitas and eat the tortillas. Or if I have sweet tooth I may go crazy and get a small or medium sonic blast or come home and devour about 5 chocolate cupcakes. Yeah, I do. BUT I then act like I didn’t even do that, I eat the next snack or meal as planned I do NOT beat myself up about it and go along my way. Everyone cheats, just don’t go completely crazy, limit how much you have, keep bad stuff out of the house and away from you. When you go to the birthday party decide beforehand how you will handle the cake and ice cream. For me I make a decision based on how healthy I have been about my eating and exercising lately. If I decide to have some I don’t have very much. Sometimes I don’t do it at all. After all, it is just cake same as every other bite of cake I have ever had.
You may not want to have planned cheat foods in your home. Keep in mind, I didn’t do this until like the end of month 3. But for me that is better than me dreaming up fried chicken or something and leaving home to get an entire meal of fried food…..
I have a scale now and I weigh maybe 3 times a week. I have lost at least 25 pounds and I am almost finished with month 4. I also have those skinny clothes that get bigger and bigger, that is more fun and I think tells you much more than the scale ever will.
I am not an exercise freak. I love to be outside and love to put on my ipod and walk. Sometimes I cannot stand it and have to run. Some weeks I do this 5 times, it is always for at least an hour. Some whole weeks go by and I do nothing. Sometimes we all go ice skating together, I am good enough now that I don’t embarrass myself as much, it is a great workout. I am drenched in sweat usually, we go for an hour and a half. I have a bicycle now and sometimes when I go walk I just wanna go fast so I get on my bike, I love it. Sometimes I follow Lelan on his which is a challenge. You need to find something you like to do, I don’t care what it is and do it. If you like to swim find a way to get to swim often. If you like to hike go hike. Ignore the people who say you must do this or that or half cardio or whatever. Uh huh, just get off your butt and go get active and enjoy it. Your body, mind and spirit are all connected and if you force yourself to run and you hate it then your feet will tell your legs will tell your butt will tell your heart will tell your brain YOU DON’T LIKE THIS so it sends a signal to your metabolism not to work as good. Yep, it is a very scientific finding…Oh and by the way, when I go walk or skate or bike my heart rate goes up and my lungs expand, seems like a good thing so I will just keep on doing that. If you have a bad week and don’t do anything but warm your couch that is fine, maybe you were tired or stressed out, you needed a break. Come next week get out there again. Do not give up. If you mess up start over. Don’t wait til tomorrow or next week, start over again right now. Oh and the experts say that this whole thing is 90% diet 10% exercise so make sure you get that food part right folks.
You must drink your water. Find a water bottle you like. I found a 74 ounce jug with a handle at Publix. Whole Foods has reverse osmosis water, it is the best for you. You buy these huge jugs and just refill them, it is very inexpensive, almost unbelievable. If you do not drink enough water you will have cravings for real. If you need to squeeze lemon and stevia into it then do or if you have to, get that MIO stuff. Get the water down. IF you are like me and like your tea or coffee then drink that amount of water EXTRA to make up for what you lost by drinking the caffeinated drink. For what cooking at home I only buy grass fed, no hormones beef, pork and chicken usually at whole foods. The turkey sausage I get is delicious and easy to fix sometimes I have that with my egg in the morning or sometimes it is a snack on weekends, it is AppleGate Farms and Kroger has it, Whole Foods has it. Publix carries the apple chicken flavor and it is disgusting. I buy the best eggs I can find, cage free, not grain fed.
I cook my eggs in butter, real butter. Coconut and olive oils are sooooooooo good for you. Be careful with the temps you cook them in, they are rancid once they get too hot.
I promise once you get through a week of eating like this you will not have cravings, your glucose levels will stabilize and you will feel so much better. You are training your body to start burning fat again instead of sugar as fuel. If you have a yeast overgrowth in your body or tummy ( yeah many of us do ) you will starve it so this fat will shrink. You will have more energy. This routine is training you to eat protein at every meal, to use smaller portions and to eat more often. You can do it, don’t give up.
So this is an ideal day for me. Wake at 6:30, eat breakfast at 7:15 : egg in butter with pink sea salt, pepper, 1 cheddar cheese square melted in and 2 or 3 turkey sausage links, take a vitamin, downing the water. 10am tuna with mayo, pickles, a little onion, salt pepper. 12:30 go to Jasons Deli have spinach, spring mix, shredded cheese, a hard boiled egg, cucumber, red, yellow and green bell peppers, broccoli, sliced almonds, mushrooms and a lot of ranch dressing. At 3pm I have a cup of Horizon organic cottage cheese and my multivitamin. At 5:30 I have a hamburger no bun with mayo and mustard. At 8:30 I do a little scoop of peanut butter followed by greens drink then calcium. And I don’t eat a lot of food late but if I have my little nibble of peanut butter or a few almonds late like this it helps me sleep. I think the greens drink and calcium also help me sleep. Make sure you get plenty of sleep.
I see a gifted chiropractor every week. Dr Ben Sweeney is at 180 Chiropractic in Cool Springs and he has encouraged me every time I have seen him. He lives by the Maximized Living principles which you can google to study. His business partner Dr Gebhardt is also awesome. If you are not seeing a great chiropractor go see one immediately. Your spine to your body is like your motherboard, if it is malfunctioning somehow you will have a problem show up in your body. You might even lose your appendix, gall bladder and start to have trouble with your colon and constant headaches like me. Go see one now. Get adjusted weekly.
My motivation was my wedding. I want to be a beautiful bride when I take my little walk on the beach in my white dress with my fair prince. The full length picture included is fairly recent and the other one is the only one I could find that was about the time I started this change of habits.
Buying good food, taking care of yourself, seeing your chiro weekly, drinking water, getting sleep, exercising, it all takes time and effort. It will pay off though in huge dividends, it is an investment in your future and it is much cheaper than cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Get started right away. You are worth it.

me in a white shirt march 2013

me at lucky store July 2013

Sitting in the Pew Alone ~ from one Divorced Church Member

No matter who left who, divorce feels like rejection. It is a fog that surrounds your very being with every step you take away from one life altering decision that was anything but easy.
Going to church is an activity you once did with your spouse, your child or maybe not. Maybe you always begged her to go, now if she ever does it won’t be with you. Or maybe your child always goes with his dad since he has her on the weekends. Maybe you spent too much time at church and that’s one reason why he finally left. Whatever led up to this point, you now sit alone feeling rejected inside your fog with a gaping hole in your heart.
As you look around all you see are happy fulfilled married people with shining eyes who seem to glow. As a woman, now that you are divorced the married men act differently towards you, the brave ones still speak to you but in a guarded way, they are afraid to get too close cause you may be lonely and cling to them. The rest won’t even make eye contact which leaves you feeling like you don’t exist at all. Surely they just don’t know what to say to you. The women are worse somehow because if they do speak, they hug you if they know and say things that make you feel so pitiful. If they don’t know then they ask “where is your husband, your child?” And this happens multiple times and you have to tell them and every time you repeat your little memorized story the knife cuts into your gut again as the fog thickens. When she looks at you with her sad eyes it isn’t her fault but you feel so ashamed.
You sit in the pew surrounded by fog, the pastor tells his joke. What is the joke about? Oh, of course, he is talking about a family again. A dad, a mom, children. He speaks of the roles of each family member. You peer out of the fog to watch a wife nudge her husband and smile as he puts his arm around her. No one touches you anymore. What did that feel like? Somehow it feels like they mock you.
And the adventure of discovering a small group that fits begins. Why do I feel like a leper? Like I have a dreaded disease no one wants to catch. And then it happens, you are in a room filled with happy married couples talking about someone getting divorced : “Why didn’t they try harder? The Bible says it is wrong. How could they just give up? Didn’t they make vows to one another? Didn’t that mean anything? How could they do that to their children?” And the wound deepens as the fog thickens. You stand there reliving all the pain of those moments while you doubt everything and your pain intensifies until it seems to take on a shape and color. Somehow you wander into the single parents’ class and sit through an hour of people commiserating while putting down their x. Wow, that was uplifting…
Alone in the pew then alone afterwards. Busy happy families dart off into their busy worlds and leave you behind stumbling along in your fog, planning to eat lunch alone and go home to nap alone.
My daddy died. The church sent a gift and I got a phone call. I got divorced and no one looks at me. More rejection.
Now, at home suddenly there are a million more things to do, everything needs repair, the toilet is leaking, the car is making a weird noise. Or maybe now you have to figure out laundry, cooking, bathing the baby. How in the world will you fix your daughter’s hair by yourself? Pay the bills? Feed your children? You feel so inadequate and overwhelmed and there is this enormous weight of making decisions all alone now. No one to lean on if I mess it all up.
But God. But God placed these people in my life, these angels, my true friends who did not attend my church. There was a place to stay when I had nowhere to go. There was food, clothes, a warm hug, someone to hold my hand. A friend says to me, let me help you think this through. Let’s get your child into counseling, right now. Like life after divorce is this car ride down the road and the friends are the rest areas, you get a safe break before you get back on your way again, slightly refreshed for the drive ahead.
As a woman I personally encountered a group of Christian men in one of the circles I belonged to. These were kind men who somehow were not afraid to speak to me, look me in the eye, or even touch me. They were bold, wise, intuitive. They gave hugs. Safe, warm hugs, believe it. I am not sure why but those interactions were very healing. And each time I got a hug, guess what? The big red D etched into my forehead got fainter, and the fog faded. And it is okay to smile again.
Please don’t be sad for us, the divorced church members. Read this and think, search your heart. How would you like to be treated? Is it fair to judge decisions if you haven’t walked in those shoes? Do you have any idea what they may have survived to arrive here appearing intact? Please consider your words and remember that love is the key. Look around, invite him to lunch. A smile, a real hug, a true gesture of kindness goes a lot farther than anything you will ever say to him. And those ladies you see sitting alone, hmmmmmmm wonder if they have something at home that needs to be fixed? What would it hurt to ask her how you can help? Maybe you should bring a friend along so that if something heavy needs to be moved you can handle it. Be the hero God intended you to be cause guess what? Right now she needs one. Be bold.

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