Friday, May 26, 2017

What 'Beauty and the Beast' Taught Me as a Child With a Facial Difference

I finally saw Beauty and the Beast this weekend.

It was incredible.

While in recent years I've become an advocate of how villains are portrayed in movies, the 1991 cartoon version of this movie has been a constant favorite in my life.

I don't remember the first time I saw the movie, but I was young.

I loved Belle's personality. She had a sense of adventure, daring to be herself - regardless of what the townspeople said about her. Oh, and she loved her books. While they never showed her as a writer, I often pretended in my childhood that she enjoyed holding a pen to a piece of paper as much as I did.

But, as a child with a facial difference, my reason for loving this movie was so much more than relating to the beautiful Disney princess.

You see, I was born with a purple port wine stain birthmark that covers half my face.  Three in 1,000 have my condition, but as a child, I didn't know anyone else with a facial difference - let alone anyone with the same condition. Facebook support groups for people with birthmarks weren't a thing, and we still had dial-up.

Watching the movie's story-line unfold in front of me, I was in awe...Especially when Belle fell in love with the Beast.

Often, as a child, I would forget about my birthmark. Unless someone made a comment, stared, or I had a medical treatment, it wasn't the focus on my life. I was just a kid. I was just like everyone else. I was focused on hanging out with my cousin, watching "Boy Meets World," and building things with my Legos.

But, in that moment where Belle started to develop feelings for the Beast, I remembered my birthmark. I remembered my unique physical appearance.

"People who look 'different,' can find love too. Maybe someone will one day fall in love with me," I remember myself thinking.

At around 6 years old, I don't recall ever worrying about dating or finding love. I don't recall ever wondering if I would ever marry, or if anyone of the opposite gender would ever be able to see past my face's two-shaded skin tone. But as I watched Belle and the Beast fall in love, the thought of love was planted in my mind, and it would never leave.

I'm now 25 and still very much single. "Beauty and the Beast" still remains my favorite Disney film, but now we have high-speed internet, and Facebook groups for a variety of topics - including some for people with birthmarks like my own.

Discovering these social media groups for the first time, around the age of 21, I never realized how much I craved to connect with other people with the same condition. I made new friends with similar appearances, with similar stories.

Then, one day, the question emerged from my mind, "How many people who look like me have found love? How many are married, or are dating?"

I then found myself shamelessly clicking from profile to profile, curious on their marital status. My 21 years old, single self needed to know it was possible. I needed to know that the concept of "Beauty and the Beast" wasn't just a Hollywood story-line.

Last night, I asked my mom, "I know it was a different time with different resources when I was born, but did you ever consider trying to find someone with the same birthmark for me to connect with?"

She told me that she never thought to ask, as that seemed to be the farthest thing from the doctor's minds.

And for the first time, I told her about why I truly loved "Beauty and the Beast." I told her, "Growing up, I saw many married couples. But all those couples had typical appearances, none of them looked like me. 'Beauty and the Beast' was the first time I realized that people like myself could find love too."

As an adult, I see the even deeper connections I feel with the Beast. Like the Beast, society has a hard time seeing past the appearance. Like the Beast, rumors about my appearance travel. Like him, I'm often misunderstood and mistreated - all because of how I look. And also, his name. He's literally known as "the Beast." While several know me by name, as Crystal, strangers often refer to me by my appearance. And even some friends, who have known me my whole life, my name still doesn't go beyond the phrase of, "The girl who has something wrong with her face."

In a season and society of high expectations where where I've been asked to be on a show called Too Ugly For Love, Body FixersThe Undateables, and where I've been called "contagious," and "ugly," by blunt strangers....Beauty and the Beast gives me hope. One day, it's possible that I may meet someone who won't "shudder" when they touch "my paw." He may even love both me, and my birthmark - maybe just as much as I do. To one man, one day, I may be known as so much more than "the girl who has something wrong with her face."

The Travelin' Chick,

Crystal

Side note: As an adult, thinking about the movie through my advocate-tented-glasses, beyond my personal, childhood, experience, there are many other issues I could cover. But, if you'd like to read about those, feel free to check out this article by my friend, Carly.

Friday, March 31, 2017

To the Woman Who Feels She Can't Leave Her House Without Makeup on


A sweet gal from the Ukraine wrote to me today and shared that she has the same type of birthmark that I have.

Reading her words, she told me, "I am afraid to leave the house without cosmetics. How do you live without cosmetics? I'm afraid people will laugh at me and don't want to communicate with me."

I read messages like this on a weekly basis, and my heart breaks...Every. Single. Time.


My heart breaks, because I get it. I've been in her shoes...Afraid others will laugh, afraid of what others will say.

In fact, I've been in situations where people have done just that.

I've had to tell people to stop staring at me, and they've laughed as they continue their forever-long, awkward gaze.

A woman working at a well-known department store once refused to talk to me the whole time I sat in her cosmetics chair, as she put makeup on my face...Once I sat in her chair, she instantly switched gears and chose to only speak to to my mom. Sitting in her chair, she began to only see me as a birthmark, forgetting to see me as a person. Instead of feeling beautiful after my makeover, I left our session with a broken heart and my confidence feeling depleted.

People have told me I must be contagious, and they've even cursed in reaction to my face.

In addition, my image was once stolen, commented on by thousands of strangers writing their unkind words and opinions next to my unknown face, on the unexpected, popular Facebook post.

My heart breaks that this has to even be an issue in society - regardless of the country and culture people are born into.

But here's the thing...

In my journey, I've learned a lot.

When I went viral to over 30 million people, and endured some intense cyberbullying, I questioned many things. I remember asking myself, "Am I making life more difficult by not covering my birthmark? Should I be investing in the expensive, uncomfortable makeup, made for conditions like mine?"

It took a while, and with the help of my family and friends, I finally came to an important "ah-ha" moment.

A little foundation on my cheeks can't be the foundation of my confidence. That is not where my identity lies.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I like makeup. It's artsy and I think it's quite fun. Plenty of makeup brands sit in my own cabnent. But, I've always been taught that makeup is meant to enhance our natural beauty - not to hide it.

I am so much more than my birthmark on my face, and honestly - I think it's beautiful. Some have told me that it reminds them of a heart. Others have told me they love the ombre affect, and all the colors mixed within it.

I think it's beautiful, and hope the whole world sees it the same way one day.


And most of all? I've learned that with every cruel person, there are at least two or more people who are kind. People who are encouraging me on my journey, who see beyond my obvious difference.

Maybe you're in the same situation as the gal who messaged me - and maybe you don't even have a birthmark like ours. Maybe you've struggled with accepting your natural appearance, afraid to leave the house without a few layers of makeup on your face.

I've heard from a lot of people over the last few years, and I know she's not the only one who struggles with the same topic. Better yet, I know I'm not the only one who has struggled with the topic. Overtime, I've heard from woman who have been put in makeup at the age of two (yes - you read that right), and from women who's husbands have forced them to wear makeup to bed.

Ladies, I'm sorry that society has told us that we aren't acceptable to go out into the world just as we are.

I'm sorry that others have twisted the concept of beauty, turning it into a competitive sport, rather than treating us as a one-of-a-kind, priceless gems that we are.

I'm sorry there is an industry that has made millions off of our insecurities.

I apologize that it hasn't been reinforced enough that we can see the beauty in others, without tearing ourselves down in the process.

I wish we weren't handed a box on the day we are born, one full of society's unrealistic expectations...One that we feel we have to tightly squeeze into for the rest of our lives.

But hey. Guess what?

You're right. Others are beautiful...But can I tell you a secret?

Just because we see the beauty in other people, that doesn't make our beauty any less.

Iron sharpens iron, remember?

Regardless of what others and the world may try to tell you...

You are beautiful. (Or swagful, if you're a dude reading this.)

You are unique.

You are one-of-a kind.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

You are a rockstar in the skin you're in.

...And I hope you never forget that.

The Travelin Chick,
Crystal



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Whole Foods Market Makeup Review

Did you know that Whole Foods Market sells vegan, gluten free makeup?

Yeah, I didn't either.  And actually, I didn't even know vegan and gluten free makeup was even a thing...Not until recently.

Since learning about this type of makeup, I've had people laugh it off while asking, "Why would they make makeup gluten and vegan free?"

When I learned of it, I didn't laugh it off, but was confused as well. But then my friend told me why it was important to gals like herself.

My new friend has celiac disease.  Her conditions prevents her from eating anything gluten related, or even being touched by it.  Her whole body reacts, from her digestive system to her skin.  She was telling me about a time when her sister, who doesn't have celiac disease, was spraying her hair with a new hairspray.  Shortly after, my friend and her mom (who also has celiac) were both having reactions on their skin.

Turns out, the hairspray had wheat in it - and it travelled through their house's vents, sharing the fumes with everyone within it.

Speaking at an event at Whole Foods, I had the privilege of testing out some of their makeup before the event.  Now, while I taught about topics like beauty on my blog - I am far from being a makeup guru or blogger.  My review will come from the mindset of a gal with limited makeup knowledge, who still wears the same makeup her best friend told her to buy when she was standing in an aisle at Target at 17, buying makeup for the very first time...totally clueless.

All the products of my choice. I tried to stick to the same brand for everything,
for consistance purposes. 

1. Mineral Fusion foundation: Wowzers.  This felt great on my skin.  I've tried brands that leave my skin feel like they are suffocating.  But this?  It felt like, and instantly felt more on the natural side.  Because of my birthmark, I do have to watch out for sun exposure, so I did ask if the foundation had any sunscreen in the ingredients.  The sweet gal at Whole Foods told me that it didn't, but that the minerals used would help protect my skin in a more natural way.

2. Mineral Fusion powder: This stuff was great, however, it didn't have it's own applicator included.  The first time I tried the makeup, I was in a hotel, far from a local Target or CVS.  Luckily, I had my regular compact with me, which had the applicator in it.  So, the downer is, while I think the coloring looked good - I don't know how much of it was from my usual makeup choice, or how much was from the Mineral Fusion.  I also wasn't sure if they mixed together too much.  That being said, while it looked and felt great - I'm not sure how much of it was because of the Mineral Fusion alone.  Also, knowing the price of this makeup and how it compares to the price of my makeup from Target, I'm confused why a basic applicator isn't included.  I've tried about four or five makeup brands in my life, and this was a first for me.  (I'm not doing a star rating for the products, but if I were and it was based off a five star concept...This would take the review down to about 3.5 stars.  But I like simplicity, and  as someone who travels a lot, I like having things like this together.)

3. Mineral Fusion blush: Oh, what a great color!  I loved the way this looked, and was pleased with this product.

4. Mineral Fusion eyeliner: LOVED this.  This was the first time I've ever tried a liquid eyeliner, but I was in-love with it by the first stroke.  Granted, I still need a lot of practice using liquid versus what I'm accustomed to, but if I can get the hang of it - I will totally be buying a liquid form again.

5. Mascara: I liked the mascara.  Pro?  It looks a lot cleaner than the kind I've used from Target.  Less clumps, less mess. Con? I couldn't get it to pop as much I would prefer.  It came off onto my lashes on the light side.

Here I am, wearing the new makeup.
All-in-all, I like how the makeup feels and looks.  I also love the concept of wearing all-natural products.  All the products were great and I was super impressed.  The only two that lacked in some way were the mascara and powder.  Had the powder had an applicator?  I'm confident it would hit the highest rating.

Since this is a review, I will disclose full honesty.  I'm a 25-year-old adult and only work part-time.  While there is great power in the look of the makeup, the feel, and knowing it's natural...I won't be back to purchase it any time soon.  I simply cannot afford makeup that averages $17-$35 per product.  However, it's not completely off my list of future possible products to consider purchasing.  I'll definitely be keeping Whole Foods and their variety of makeup products in mind for the future, when it is within my price range, or on-sale. (Which, if you live in the Central Valley in California - the Fresno store has a sale taking place THIS month!)

I know many of you have skin conditions, like I have my port wine stain birthmark, so I did inquire about the products for those of you looking to coverup.  I very seldom choose to cover my birthmark, and meant to at least try before putting this up.  However, the lady who helped me pick out my products told me that the intent of this makeup is not to completely hide skin conditions such as my vascular birthmark.  She predicted that it would not achieve that goal, if that was what I wanted to do.   She still recommended using Merle Norman, Derma Blend, or other like products if that it the purpose of its use.

The Travelinchick,
Crystal


Monday, February 6, 2017

Valentine's Day Giveaway (2017)



It's almost Valentine's Day, and last year around this time, I did something fun that I really enjoyed
doing as a blogger.

Just like last year, I want YOU to be my Valentine.

You might be wondering, "How can I be your Valentine??"  Fair question.

Because Valentine's Day is the 14th of February, I'm going to list 14 items that I love - and I'm going to giveaway an item to TWO of my readers.  (Maybe you??)

Here are the rules to enter the giveaway:

  • "Like" my Crystal Hodges page on Facebook.  (If you've already done this - thank you!  You can skip to rule #2 and #3.)
  • Write on my Facebook post that links to this blog entry, and tell me which item you'd like to receive.  (If you're torn between a few of the items - don't fret.  Just list the items you're interested in...If you're picked, I will surprise you with one of them!)
  • Share this blog post with your friends.

On February 10th, 2017 (at 5 pm California time),  I'll pick two people.  Once I pick the two people, I'll announce their names on my Facebook page and I will then private message those selected, requesting their address.

And in case you're wondering....Yes, I am including my international friends in this giveaway! :-)

This is one way of thanking you for playing such a huge part in my journey.  You've spent your time reading my blog, encouraging, and supporting me.  This is the least I can do to thank you for being one of my 'people'.

Okay...So, what are 14 of my favorite things from the last 12 months?
  1. Book: Finding Your Voice by Natalie Grant
  2. Flavored Pistachios (Pick a flavor: Chili Lemon, Guacamole, Jalapeño, or Chipotle  They're a California specialty!)
  3. Travel Coffee Mug: Camera Lens
  4. Movie: A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story 
  5. Game: Five Crowns Card Game
  6. Book: Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen
  7. Bicycle Pizza Cutter
  8. Children's Book: Adventures with Barefoot Critters by Teagan White
  9. Cookie Cutter: I Love You (ASL)
  10. CD: Love Remains by Hilary Scott & The Scott Family
  11. Book: Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
  12. Movie: Pete's Dragon
  13. CD: Britt Nicole (Deluxe Edition) by Britt Nicole
  14. Coffee Mug: Oh, Snap! 

Thanks again for being such great friends and for reading my blog.  I'm thankful for you, and I can't wait to celebrate Valentine's Day with you.

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal

Friday, January 6, 2017

Recognizing Beauty in the Brokenness: K-LOVE Radio Interview

It's no secret that I'm a big dreamer...A "God-sized dreamer".

One of my many God-sized dreams was to share my story with K-LOVE Radio...And today that dream became a God-sized reality.

When I first became a meme and went viral to over 30 million people - all because of my physical difference (a port wine stain birthmark - and Sturge-Weber Syndrome), I struggled; and I'm sure reading over 30,000 comments from total strangers probably didn't help much.

Pain overwhelmed my heart, and I had some incredibly dark days.  Many days I knew God would create something beautiful from the ugly situation I found myself in.  But there were days where I could only focus on the cracks that temporarily shattered my heart.

Although my heart has done a lot of healing, I still vividly remember the initial struggle.  I remember the pain, I remember how my journey took a drastic change two years ago.

Every time God takes one of my dreams and turns it into reality, I can't help but feel all the emotions...especially the sense of being overwhelmed with his love and purpose for my life.

The Japanese culture has a special tradition when certain things break...and while many may think this is a stretch - I feel God's response to our broken hearts is similar to their tradition.

When items break in Japan, "instead of tossing these pieces in the trash, some craftsmen practice the 500-year-old art of kintsugi, or 'golden joinery', which is a method of restoring a broken piece with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum."

They do this to celebrate that items history, its story, its worth.  Even though it breaks, they still see it's value, adding even more value to the cracks with gold or silver - while most cultures have a tendency to just throw the broken things out.

But I feel God reacts in a similar way to our brokenness, if we stay willing and allow him to do so.  He recognizes the beauty in our brokenness, and He honors it. While our brokenness and cracks often make us feel worthless and damaged, he can fill in our gaps with a valuable, irreplaceable, beauty - like the Japanese do with the broken items and gold.  We feel like our value is gone, but God's saying, "just you wait and see."

Being cyberbullied and mocked for my appearance was shattering.  Yet, there's no way I could have ever imagined all that He had planned for the two years to follow: having a key group of friends surround me and lift me back up, sharing the stage with Natalie Grant, interviewing with K-LOVE, going on the TD Jakes Show (which aired on OWN: Oprah Winfery Network), being interviewed by People Magazine, amongst many other things?  Wow...What beauty.

If you're reading this and find yourself in dark times, fumbling around to find a light switch - know that I am praying for you.  I pray you'll hold on tight, and stay willing and ready for God to use you and your story - as He fills your cracks and brokenness with golds and silvers.

K-LOVE is one of my all-time favorite radio stations that I grew up with, and they're doing some incredible things around the world. I hope that I can work with them in the future, as more doors begin to open.  (And trust me - I think 2017 is going to be a BIG year with BIG, beautiful things to come.)

It's always been my goal to "make a difference with my difference" - and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to do so with K-LOVE.

Thank you, K-LOVE, for the opportunity, and for creating some beauty with my on-going story.

Check out the article they've written about my story.  Also included is one of my videos, a link to my blog, and my interview with them is listed at the bottom:

http://www.klove.com/news/2017/01/06/god-turns-cyberbullying-into-a-platform-for-true-beauty/

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal Hodges

Follow me on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.  You can also find me on Snapchat: crystal.hodges

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

12 Perks of Having a Purple Birthmark on Half of My Face (#BirthmarkWin)

It isn't always easy having a purple, port wine stain birthmark that covers my face.  People aren't always kind, there's lots of medical stuff involved, and I've had my fair share of struggles.

But y'all...There are also so many perks.



1. It makes my eyes POP.  Seriously.  The darker it is, the more amazingly blue my eyes look.  I'm so glad that God perfectly color-coordinated my eyes and birthmark together.

2. I'm unforgettable...Especially in moments like this one, which took place in February:

Walking to class today, I ran into my speech teacher I had a few years ago.

Greeting one another, I told her, "I don't know if you remember me, but I took your speech class a while ago...And now I'm actually a speaker."

Reminiscing with me, she said, "Yeah, I remember you! That was a couple of years ago, right?? You did GREAT in my class."

"Oh wow, I'm surprised you remember me." I replied.

Walking away I couldn't help but laugh while I thought to myself, "Duh she remembers me. After all, who could forget a face like mine?" (Birthmark joke. #sorrynotsorry)

When meeting someone for the very first time, instead of telling them how to ID me by my choice of clothing that day, I just tell them, "Oh, I'm the girl with the purple face."

My birthmark jokes even made it in my college year book,
during my time at Welch College.

3. I have more birthmark jokes than I can keep track of.  For example: I color coordinate what I wear to match my face.  If it dares to clash, it goes in the trash.  (Well, the mental one anyway.  I wouldn't be wasteful.)  But you'll see a handful of the jokes in this entry, if you haven't already.

4. Kids are the best, and definitely my favorite kind of people.   They are so genuine and are often trying to learn how to be curious in a kind way.  But while they learn how to do that, I'm often found with a great story and laugh to accompany it.

Below are some real questions and comments I have received from children. (Seriously.  You can't make this stuff up.)

Child (5-years-old): "So that's a birthmark??"
Me: "Yep!!"
Child: "And you've had it since you were a baby??"
Me: "Yep, I have."
Child:"Did you get it from a hamburger??"
Me: "A hamburger??

---

Student (5-years-old): "Why do you always have that birthmark on your face? Why don't you ever take it off?"
Me: "I always have it on. I can't take it off. I have it on when I shower, when I eat dinner, when I go to the store, work, school..."
Student (interrupting me and excitedly saying): "And when you see me!!"

...Then kid tried to reach up and touch my face.

---

Child (6-years-old): "You've STILL got that OLD birthmark?"

---

Student (5-years-old): "What happened to your face?"
Me: "It's just a birthmark. I was born with it, just like you were born with brown eyes."
Student (with wide-eyes): "Actually...I was born with REALLY CRAZZZZZZYYY HAIR!!!"

...And trust me.  There's wayyyyy more where those came from!


5. It helps me connect with many strangers in an unexpected way, helping me realize I'm not alone in my experiences.  From people in real-life and online, I've had opportunities to make new friends from around the world that are on similar journeys.

Just this summer I had an unexpected, beautiful moment with a waitress at a Nashville Cracker Barrel:

Sitting at a table, I started working on an article. Before I knew it, one of the waitresses walking by me stopped, exclaiming, "You have a birthmark on your cheek just like me!!"

Looking up, I saw a beautiful African American gal beaming with excitement. Sharing a bit of her story, she told me, "Middle school was especially hard for me, but you get through it. I used to know a caucasian girl with a matching birthmark, and we called ourselves 'salt and pepper' because we matched so perfectly. I'm so glad that I noticed your birthmark!"...And I'm glad she noticed it too.
The waitress and I are total strangers, yet we have similar stories which resulted in an instant bond.

I've learned that just because you don't see a birthmark on someone, it doesn't mean they don't understand your journey.  So many people choose to cover their birthmarks with makeup, or they are a father of a child with a birthmark.  Just because you can't see something, that doesn't mean the story isn't there.

6. After 25 years, I'm basically a birthmark, medical pro.  I may not have a medical degree, but I've quickly realized that I know wayyyyy more about vascular birthmarks and Sturge-Weber Syndrome (a rare condition that tags along with my port wine stain) than most doctors.  There's always more to learn and I don't know everything - but 99.999% of the time, I feel extra smart walking into a doctor's office.

7. My birthmark is the equivalent of a purple shield that often protects my heart.  It's almost like I got a steal of a deal: "Get one birthmark, get a kindness detector for FREE!!" (And this girl loves a good deal.)

Yes, I have a lot of painful memories and experiences around my birthmark.  However, I get to see the side of people that many don't get to see.  When people react to my birthmark, whether it's kind or unkind, I try to engage in a conversation with them.  Many of the people who are initially unkind are willing to learn about my condition and story, while also hopefully changing for the better.  But, some people aren't willing, refusing to go beyond what they see.  My birthmark has helped protect me from the get-go from cruel people focusing on superficial things.

8. I really like the color purple.  It's not my all-time favorite color of the rainbow, but I do like it a lot.  I'm so glad the color I walk around with every day on my face is a color I really like.  In a way, it's like a free accessory given to me at birth so I can rock it the rest of my life.

9. I have a natural contour line.  Well, at least for half of my face...Which is great, because I struggle in the make-up department.  (I also save tons of money on make-up when I don't cover it.)

I'm so glad Annie's books are out changing the
world, and I'm so glad to call her my friend.
10. It's never the same.  I mean, yes - it's always some kind of purple.  But because it's affected by the temperature, if I'm sick, and blood flow, sometimes it's a deep purple, sometimes it's lighter.  I always joke that it's like my personal mood ring, changing colors with how I feel.  Sometimes it has a dash of red, sometimes it's on the pinker side.  Meeting one of my favorite authors for the first time in-person, she told me, "This is my first time seeing your birthmark in person.  There are so many colors - it's beautiful."  I instantly knew she was my kind of people.  (Thanks, Annie.)

11. I've learned a lot, and I continue to learn important things.  I've learned about kindness, respect, and how to treat others - no matter what they look like, or don't look like.  I've learned about compassion, confidence, and realizing that there's so much more than what we see.  Everyone has a story.

12. Having a birthmark on my face isn't always easy, but I have the privilege of helping others learn important lessons in a unique way.  I'm literally a walking billboard for life lessons for thousands of people - while still learning many myself through these interaction.

---------

If you have a birthmark and have a #BirthmarkWin you'd like to share, write it in a comment below.  Tweet it out.  Instagram it.  I'd love to hear what you love about your birthmark.

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal

Follow me on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.  You can also find me on Snapchat: crystal.hodges

Saturday, December 10, 2016

8 Lessons my Grandma’s 3rd Battle with Breast Cancer has Taught Me about Love

***While she has a long road of recovery still ahead, my grandma is now doing much better.  (Radiation is even finished....Yay!) However, this is is a blog entry I started in October, and I decided to leave the voice of this entry in that timeframe.***


----------




“Your grandma is headed to the ER.  The doctor called and told her she needs emergency spine surgery”, my mom told me.

The next day my grandma had fast-growing masses removed from her spine and she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time.  In addition, a rod was surgically added to her back as the cancer cells had been eating her spine, and once the masses were out – she would need that extra support.  Once her surgery was complete, her doctors told us that because of the location of the masses, had she come in a day or two later, she would have been paralyzed. 

Since her surgery, she’s been in and out of the hospital three times, and radiation was been put on hold.

…And this all started a month ago.

Thinking about the last 31 days, I can’t help but think about my family’s current journey – both the moments of fear, and the beautiful moments.  As I think about the beauty in our situation, I can’t help but see and feel love.

Here are 8 lessons I’ve learning about love.  While I already knew many of these things listed, they’ve been highlighted again and again throughout the last few weeks.




1. Love is patient. There’s so much patience that comes with love, regardless if cancer and surgeries are involved.  Yet, when it is involved, love is taking one day at a time, one moment at a time.  It’s about rearranging furniture in the house so it’s easier for my grandma to get around.  It’s about creating a schedule for family members to rotate during the nights she was in the hospital.




2. Love is kind.  So much kindness has been shown to my family since this journey has begun. People have gone to visit my grandmother at the hospital, and at her home.  They’ve made meal after meal, and have even helped with some house duties when needed.  We've even received messages from people around the world, just to let us know they were praying for my grandma and our family.  Kindness hasn’t been shy, nor has it been timid.




3. Love is more than skin deep.  Recently I was talking with one of my friends about the topic of dating.  Talking about his new girlfriend, he told me that he didn’t even like the girl, but that she was the hottest girl he’s ever dated, “…And if I have to put up with a woman, she better be hot.”  Hearing him talk that way, my heart is troubled.  It’s cliché to say, but beauty is ever-changing, as are our bodies.  Love is loving your spouse when you meet them, and when weight is added after her child-rearing years. Love is loving your spouse when she ages, and permanent creases are added from laughter, to her once smooth skin.  Love is loving your spouse when cancer takes over and scars are added from life-saving surgeries, and permanent reminders of time spent in radiation are tattooed onto her skin.




4. Love is laughter.  In the midst of the struggle, there have been many moments of laughter in the mix.  My family members are naturals at finding the light in the darkness, laughter being one day.  During my grandmother’s 6-hour surgery, I may have offered to teach my 75-year-old grandpa to “whip” and “nay nay” in the waiting room…And he may have accepted the offer.  




5. Love is thinking of others.  The day after my grandma’s major spine surgery?  She was on a ton of medications, and was on a mission: to find me a husband.  The poor men that entered the room had no chance.  As they walked into her room, she would inquire, “My granddaughter, Crystal, was on the front page of the Fresno Bee yesterday.  Are you married??  She’s looking for a husband.”  (Teamwork makes the dream work?  Ha!)




6. Love is creative.  A few weeks after my grandma’s surgery, many of my family members left town.  She seemed to be in the clear and out of danger, and my grandparents insisted that we go on our previously scheduled trips.  One aunt went to a work event, the others of us headed to my grandpa’s family reunion in Florida.  Yet, halfway into our drive to Florida (from California), my mother received a call.  Grandma was put back into the hospital.  We hated to not be home while she was hospitalized, but they insisted we continue on.  It was important to them that we were at the reunion, when they couldn’t be.  And during the reunion?  The most precious thing took place.  All of my grandpa’s 8 siblings sat together, and brought them to the reunion via FaceTime.  Everyone was crying by the end of the call, but hospital or not – grandma and grandpa were going to be at the reunion.  (Mom and I also brought 36 pounds of frozen boiled peanuts home so they could also enjoy one of their favorite southern foods.)





7. Love is scary.  Loving another human being can be terrifying – regardless if they’re a family member or friend.  Loving them means you care about them, and when the hardships come?  When cancer diagnoses are made, and emergency surgeries are unexpectedly added to your calendar? It’s scary, and you can't imagine life without those special people in your life.




8. Love is worth it.  As scary as loving another human can be, it is so worth it.  Love means you’re never alone, that someone is there for you in both the good times and the bad.  Love means that you have others on your team, rooting for you through all the moments brought your way.  It means having a grandma who wants you to find a loving spouse when you’re single, because she wants you to experience the kind of love and joy she’s had for nearly 57 years of her life. It’s having people you can call or text at midnight when you are on the brink of tears, knowing they’re there for you regardless.  Loving other people creates memories, happiness, and an extra special adventure.  Love is scary…But it is so worth it, and life would be lonely without it.


The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal