Must haves: Outdoor showers, porches, and patios

June 8
What are your favorite decorative items/pieces of furniture/household features?
Kristen

As I mentioned before, I grew up going “to the shore” for our annual summer vacation. Two glorious weeks in Sea Isle City, NJ. It really was the most innocent time in my life. During the day, my siblings and I would swim in the salty goodness of the ocean, feed (or get attacked by) seagulls, build drip castles (mine were best!), and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which always managed to have sand in them, too.When we tired of the beach, we would attach playing cards to the spokes of our bikes with clothespins and ride all over the island in search of penny candy or soft-serve. At night, our family would go out to dinner or drive up the island to the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ.

Part of the getting ready ritual always involved an outdoor shower. I looked for pictures of some on-line. This one is the closest I could get. All of the houses we rented had an outdoor shower. None of them were this nice! Picture more rickety wood, chipping white paint, and pure vacation perfection. Blue sky above you, salt air, the roar of the waves in the background, and your favorite shampoo all mingling together.

The best part of the outdoor shower was taking one at night. Replace the blue sky with stars…ahhhhh! Now that I am older, I think all future outdoor showers will involve cold beer or red wine to complete the sensory experience.

I live in Michigan now. While there is no ocean here, we do have a pretty big lake that has just as much to offer, minus the salt. My new favorite place is Pentwater, MI. It is a small, lake town with a quaint main street, no chain restaurants, lots of bikes, and places to make memories with your family. Through the very generous help of some family friends, my husband and I recently purchased a rental cottage business in Pentwater. Check out Hilltop Cottage here!

When our son was in treatment, we could not go anywhere or do anything. Ever. The summer of 2010 marked the beginning of us reclaiming our new life. We did everything that summer that we couldn’t do during treatment, including swimming in that gorgeous Lake! That summer, we discovered Pentwater. The goal in purchasing this home is to give families who are just coming off childhood cancer treatment a week’s vacation at the lake.

The best parts of Hilltop Cottage are the front porch and screened in patio on the side of the house. There are comfortable chairs for rocking, speakers for the tunes, and hopefully, lots of family and friends for conversation and laughs.

I will always be within driving distance of water! It is good for my soul.

Tarantulas, Sharks, Monkeys, and….Relapse

#ReverbBroads2012 Prompt for Day 2: What gives you nightmares?

In general, I am not afraid of spiders. I don’t like them, but I am also not the type to stand on top of the toilet seat or dining room table while some man comes in to rescue me from a daddy long legs. I just wad up a bunch of TP and attack it. Then, flush it away and moving on. However, tarantulas are in an entirely different category. Just the thought of one gives me goosebumps and makes me feel nauseous (nauseated?). I lived in the desert in AZ for a year and the entire time I was there I was irrationally afraid that a tarantula would make its way into our house. I think most of this fear stems from that episode of The Brady Bunch, when they all go to Hawaii, and a tarantula ends up on Peter’s face. Anyone who grew up in the late 70s/early 80s knows exactly what I am talking about. Creepy! I think it’s the hair. On the tarantula, not Peter 😉

I grew up in NJ. Our vacation every summer was two weeks at “the shore.” (For those uninformed, this is the real Jersey Shore, not that trashy MTV show that ruined it for all of us Jerseyans and forever tainted the rest of the world.) I have also seen the movie Jaws. So, there you go. Pretty natural fear of sharks. Although I am an excellent swimmer, I never ventured too far out into the ocean. Why risk it? Interesting side note, my husband is obsessed with the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.” Stays up until 2 or 3am because he.cannot.turn.away. Then he has nightmares for a week and I get to hear all about them. And then I have nightmares.

I think monkeys are creepy. I love chimpanzees and find gorillas fascinating. But monkeys creep me out. I think it is the annoying oooohhhh-ahhhhhh sound they make. Ugh. Cannot stand it. You know that scene in Toy Story 3 when they tape up the monkey so they can escape from day care? Sets my teeth on edge. Blah! I have to cover my ears when we watch it.

I hesitate to write this next part. I am trying hard to have less cancer and more hope in my life. I am trying not to make every single post about our family’s journey with childhood cancer. But, me being the rule-follower that I am, I feel I must really answer the question.

What gives me nightmares?

That my son’s cancer will relapse and he will die.

Our older son is a cancer survivor. This is a miracle. He is a miracle. He is a fighter. He is a survivor. He was stage 4, with a very aggressive diagnosis (Rhabdomyosarcoma).

It is hard to release these words to the universe. As if somehow saying them out loud might make them true. Silly. Irrational. Even saying that makes me sound crazy. I know this. But once your life has been touched by cancer, everything takes on new meaning, both good and bad. And, you don’t go back to your old life or your old self, because neither of them exist. While my son is two years off treatment and has been cancer free since October 2009, the fear of relapse is an absolute terror that I keep at bay every day. It is a dark shadow that creeps into my room and my dreams at night. When I kiss him goodnight, my heart stops. I bury my face deep into his neck and I inhale. I am trying to memorize his smell. I rub my hand all over his head, which thankfully now has hair. I put my hand over his heart and try to match its rhythm to my own. I kiss his cheek, rub his back. And I thank God that I have been given another day with him.

At night, I have dreams of him running across fields of sunflowers, flying kites on the beach with his brother and grandpa, swimming in the ocean with my mom, going to college, getting married. I have nightmares that all of this will be stolen from us.

I am not sure what to say next. There is no Hollywood ending to this movie. There is no bow to wrap this package. It is my life. I choose to fully live it. Nightmares and all.