Bold, Bald, and Beautiful: Part 2

inked by Julia

I started this blog post in the hospital when I was anticipating my homecoming. I arrived home last Tuesday evening, and by Wednesday afternoon, the deed was done—I shaved my head.

I couldn’t take another day of looking like a balding middle-aged man. I took a before shot of my hair and sent it to my sisters and I don’t think they really knew how to respond because it was that bad. My goal of hair loss was to not reach Gollum status, which I think I succeeded in, but it’s a close call. 7

Along this hair loss journey, I feared how I’d feel buzzing my head. When the day came, the mood in the house was quiet and somber, and no one really knew what to do or say. My mom and I cried together.

Being an all-girl-plus-a-dad house, we were unsure of how to even use clippers. Luckily, my mom had not given away her mother’s (a former hairdresser) clippers, and we dusted them off to give ‘em a whirl. I have an awesome husband, like I’ve said a billion times, who offered to go first. We all laughed watching my mom shave a head for the first time. Once his head was shaved, it was my turn. It’s strange—after all the tension building up to that point, I wasn’t nervous after seeing Michael shave his head.  My head shaving went smoothly and easily.

Now I’m five days into being a bald beauty, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s really not that bad. I mean, don’t get me wrong–there are times when I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. I also feel pretty self-conscience when people see my baldhead for the first time, and I’m aware of the stares I get out in public. I don’t blame them, either, because I’ve been there! But most of the time, I embrace the new look. Getting ready takes no time at all. I do miss having the feminine look that long hair gives me, but a baldhead shows off the rest of my face. I’m ready to give bald a chance!

I searched the internet for tips from other young women who’ve battled cancer and lost hair in the process, but I couldn’t find much. Here are a few tips (I wrote them when I still had some hair) for any other women out there who might be in the same hair loss boat:

Depending on the length of your hair, it’ll shed like crazy even as you cut it shorter and shorter (which I highly recommend).  For most of the stages of hair loss, you need a lint roller. Rolling up the mess is a lot less sad than picking it up strand-by-strand, and it’s much easier.

I would also recommend a silk pillowcase. They are much most gentle on your little head, and I think they are very comfortable. I used a head wrap instead of the hospital towels after showers. In the early stages, it didn’t pull any hair out. Now, it’s a little bit different, but I still think it helps.

Accessorize! As I approached the end of the first phase of treatment, my hair was mainly thinning out on top, but the back was starting to go as well. I found the cutest headbands to cover up the top of my head and make it look super stylish! Stock up on every type of hat, scarf or headwrap that tickles your fancy. I tried not to wear anything in the hospital, because I felt like it pulled out the hair I had left, and it just littered the inside of my clean hats and headbands with hair.

Lastly, don’t leave the house without confidence. I say that as a pep talk for myself, because I want to share my new look with you. I do this with hesitation, but here I am, world!IMG_0043

Anddd here’s one to tug at your heartstrings.

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Back to Maine

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inked by Julia

This summer has been a summer of weddings for just about everyone I know. I attended four in the month of July and two of those were in Maine. Luckily, they were back-to-back weekends, which allowed me to spend some time in Portland with Michael’s lovely family. I tried my first Maine lobster, we climbed the observatory at sunset, visited the Portland Headlight, checked out L.L. Bean, and had so much fun in between. My parents attended one of the weddings, and when they came in for the weekend, Michael’s parents, brother, and I packed our day full of touristy fun. We had a blast showing them around town, and our favorite adventure was our lobster cruise. We learned how to bait, pull, and toss traps, while learning about other sea creatures. We even saw baby seals swimming in the bay. If you’re looking for a new area of the U.S. to explore, you should really consider checking out Maine. So much beauty, and so many fun things to do. Until next time, Maine!

Labor Day Weekend

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The stars aligned and for the first time in Neal history, we were able to sneak away on a last minute trip to Hilton Head with all of our significant others. We spent the long weekend laughing, eating, relaxing, singing Pink songs at the top of our lungs, and lots and lots of kan-jamming. There is absolutely nothing better than spending a weekend at the beach with all of your favorite people and all of their favorite people. Three cheers for having more boys around to carry shopping bags! Hope your weekend was equally fabulous.

4th in the Cleve

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inked by Emily

I was fortunate to spend the entire weekend with Danny and his friends and family over the 4th of July– representin’ the Midwest in the Cleve! Between Danny’s recent missions trip to Mexico and my long hours working as a nurse extern, we were certainly ready for a laid back weekend with some of the people we love.

I made the drive Thursday morning up to Cleveland, where we had the afternoon to relax with Danny’s family, the lovely Schilleros, and cookout with our friends. We made an impromptu decision to catch a matinee of Despicable Me 2–best decision we’ve made in a while–and ended the night with a visit to the 4th of July Festival in Aurora for a funnel cake and a spectacular fireworks display that we watched from Starbucks with lattes in hand! A very successful July 4th in my book.IMG_2790 IMG_2753

We woke up Friday morning with a craving for Yours Truly breakfast in Chagrin Falls, where I happened to have THE BEST omelet ever. After breakfast, the boutiques in Chagrin were just too inviting, so Danny reluctantly agreed to a brief shopping escapade. We finished off the night attending a family friend’s wedding reception, and they had the cutest DJ (Danny was the DJ, of course. Or rather, DJ Danny Fresh).IMG_2784

Saturday morning we obviously had to start the day with Starbucks, and we were pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a mini car show in the parking lot. Danny and I have mutual appreciation for beautiful cars, so we sipped our Pike Place blend with a side of Ferrari. It was then off to the Schillero’s for their 4th of July cookout.IMG_2792IMG_2791

It’s always a joy being with their family, and you can guarantee it will always include Kan Jam. The Schilleros are some fierce competitors when it comes to Kan Jam- it could have been a deal breaker had I not known how to throw a frisbee!

That night we went to see Monsters University– Danny and I clearly have very mature tastes in movies. Honestly, I had low expectations going into this movie– rarely is a sequel worth all of the hype.  That being said, it exceeded my expectations! It had such a fun story line and the characters were hilarious. I may even go as far to say it was better than Despicable Me 2.IMG_2745

It was sad to say goodbye on Sunday. I’m finding that the goodbyes gets harder and harder every time! I am so grateful to have spent a relaxing, fun-filled weekend with some precious people. Looking forward to my next trip back up to the Cleve!

Visiting My Maine Man

inked by Julia

My boyfriend Michael and I are doing the whole long-distance dating thing for the summer. With Michael having a full time job and my summer class meeting every other day, any kind of trip involved taking days off for one of us. I decided to make a trip to Maine, and we counted the months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes until July 1st at 10:30 pm.

I experienced some major fight delays, but finally made it to Boston where Michael met me. We hopped in the car and headed north!IMG_4191

Our first day was very rainy, but we took that time to relax and settle in. We met up with friends and enjoyed some local restaurants.

For day two, we went back to Boston and it was quite toasty! We started down the Freedom Trail and ended up at Quincy Market. I found some delicious Greek food, and we plopped down upstairs by a fan. It was so hot that we decided we had to get to air conditioning. The most logical idea was to go to the Aquarium, where we saw so many cute penguins, and I tried to touch the rays to no avail.IMG_4215 IMG_4200 IMG_4203

It was so fun to be able to celebrate the 4th of July with Michael and his family. We started off our day by searching for bagels and ate our breakfast at Fort Williams. I loved looking at the Portland Headlight and seeing the old fort. We then headed to the lake for a few hours, and I tubed for the first time!  We hurried home and got ready for a cookout with more friends.  IMG_4224 IMG_4251

Apparently Mainers love some L.L.Bean, so that was a must-stop attraction on my trip. We also had an amazing meal at the Lobster Shack! Even though seafood is not my favorite, you’ve got to have fresh Maine seafood when you go. And the view was unbeatable, and not easy to grasp in a photograph, unfortunately. IMG_4243

My last day and travel day were even crazier than my first travel day. We went to church and had lunch at home and left directly for the Boston airport. We thought giving ourselves 3 hours to get to Boston was adequate(seeing that it usually takes around an hour and a half), but with so much traffic, I was very close to missing my flight. Once I got to my connection in Cleveland, my flight was delayed an hour or so. This meant I could not leave Cleveland until midnight and would get into Dayton at 1am.

Despite my travel frustrations, the trip was better than I ever could have dreamed! I had so much fun seeing my boy, getting to know his family, and meeting all of his awesome friends.IMG_4248 IMG_4244

Time with Dear Friends

inked by Holly
Since the girls were all going on their various trips, Steve and I decided to head south to visit friends!
We hit the road Wednesday afternoon and by dinner time, we were in Maryville, TN to have dinner with our dear friends the Crafts. Although his name is also Steve, we’ve only known him as “Preach” for the past 12 years as he was our pastor for almost 10 of those years.  Preach and Brenda are just the kind of friends who are easy and are like balm for our souls. You know the kind I mean?  We’ve been through a lot together and just being together through difficult seasons was all we needed to keep moving forward. Crafts
We shared a meal at Sullivan’s, which is in an old JC Penney building. Oh, and do they have a great burger! Afterwards, we went to church with Preach & Bren. It was really fun to sit in on their small groups and see just how wonderful their church people are! Although we miss them here, we know they are right where they are supposed to be. And they get to live in the beautiful Smoky Mountains!
We said our goodbyes and got back on the road toward Atlanta to visit our friends, Tam & Kurt. I don’t even want to count how long Tam and I have been friends! When they moved to Atlanta 15 years ago, we thought life as we knew it had ended. In a way it did, but we discovered that there are also benefits from long distance friendships. When we finally do get to spend time face to face, it’s like a giant slumber party and we hug and laugh until we cry and just enjoy being together. Before the move, an acquaintance warned us to prepare ourselves, that we’d keep in touch at first but then we would slowly lose touch. Thankfully, Tam and I proved her wrong and we regularly talk, email, text and photo stream. Sidenote: we even played matchmaker with my baby brother and Tam’s baby sister.  They just celebrated their 11th anniversary, and Tam and I like to think we’re now related by marriage!The Tottens
Tam and Kurt have had an exciting new addition to their family a few weeks ago–they are now GRANDPARENTS!  Baby Noah will be moving back home to the Bahamas in a few weeks. and this was our chance to snuggle their precious little Grand Guy. And snuggle we did. Isn’t he the cutest thing?baby Noah
Tam and I can veg with the best of them (and clearly, so can our husbands),so we don’t plan too much when we get together. But on this trip, we had a few projects to accomplish. Tam and Kurt’s daughter Kati is furnishing her cute new home.  I brought a few pieces of thrifted furniture and shared the joy of chalk painting with Kati, and let me tell  you, that girl was a painting beast!  She painted 4 chairs, 2 end tables, a table base and a bathroom vanity in 2 days.Napping Husbands photo(1) Paint workshop
Danielle, Tam’s daughter-in-law, has always enjoyed handmade cards, so I brought supplies to have our own little card class. (photo )  Tam and Danielle are still going strong– they sent me more pics last night of all their creations.Card Class
We did manage to get out a little, too.  While in Atlanta, you just have to have a burger from Flip, a restaurant owned by Richard Blais from Top Chef. I had the southwestern burger, and it was amazing! And of course, we had to end the meal with a Nutella shake. They’re also known for their Krispie Kreme shake, which made me really miss my donut-and-milkshake-loving Chris Beals.Tam & Holly at Flip Collage of Flip food
We also fell in love with Woodstock Market. It’s a home furnishings consignment store and we loved perusing the aisles looking for treasures.  Lunch in the market cafe was fabulous– I recommend the homemade pimento cheese sandwich.
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While we loved the time with friends, Steve and I hit a few proverbial bumps along the way.  We heard a strange noise in our SUV just about an hour before arriving in Atlanta– the power steering pump went out, forcing us to take the car to the shop. Even thought Kurt loaned us a car while ours was being repaired, the repairs delayed our trip home.
When we eventually got on the road, we hit major traffic on the highway. We felt adventurous so we mapped out a detour, which happened to be through the Boone National Forest.  It was a beautiful two lane road with scenic hills and the occasional home. We eventually came across a downed tree blocking the road. (photo of tree down) Steve got out to look and another couple of people arrived on the other side of the tree. One of them had a truck and a chain so eventually the road was cleared and we were back in business.  As soon we were back in the car, we burst out laughing.  I do love traveling with that man! Never a boring moment.Steve & stranger moving tree departing Dayton

Holiday in the Sun

inked by Lindsay

We had an amazing time in St. Thomas, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend 5 full days with Chris. I can’t remember the last time that’s happened. Since Chris is a pastor, Sundays are work days (but who am I kidding– for him, every day is a work day) and weekend trips are out of the question. Because of that, we strategically plan and save up for each vacation. And this was the best one yet.
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Since I’m sure most of you don’t really want a play by play of our trip, I’ll share the highlights of each day. We visited three very different beaches, and I can’t get over the individual beauty of each one. You’ll see what I mean in the photos. I felt like I was in Never Never Land from Peter Pan– I’ve never been to a more beautiful place.
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Day One
The hotel breakfast buffet was included in our Orbitz package, and hotel breakfast buffets are usually nothing special, right? Wrong! This one was incredible. There was a huge spread of pastries, fruit, breakfast meat, an omelet station… you name it, they had it, and it was delicious. We grabbed breakfast after hitting the gym, and let me tell you, nothing beats sipping your coffee while watching ships sail by. After breakfast, we spent the morning at Magens Bay, the most picturesque beach on the island. The water is very calm, making it perfect for swimming. We spent almost 5 hours at the beach, and on our way back to the hotel pool, we stopped at Udder Delight (a Trip Advisor find) for THE best milkshakes. Chris had a black and white shake (fancy for chocolate) and I had coconut. Bliss.

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Day Two
Our skin got a little crispy after sitting in the sun for 9 hours the first day, so we went to the beach connected to our hotel, called Morningstar. This beach was much smaller than Magens Bay, but the waves were pretty big. We got there early to claim beach chairs and an umbrella for shade and finished the day poolside. That evening, we went into Charlotte Amalie to hunt down a restaurant I read about on Trip Advisor called Greengo’s Caribbean Cantina. Holy. Cow. That food was amazing. I had nachos that were out of this world, and in addition to it being our favorite meal of the trip, it was also the least expensive! IMG_1411

IMG_1420 IMG_1415IMG_0990^^There were iguanas everywhere^^IMG_1423IMG_1427 IMG_1429 IMG_0970 IMG_0971IMG_0988 IMG_0977^^This is what happens when your husband gets tired of posing for photos^^IMG_1008 IMG_1007

Day Three
We lost count of how many people told us we had to visit St. John while we were in St. Thomas, so we did just that on our last full day. Getting there was quite the production– we drove 20 minutes to the marina, took a 20 minute ferry to St. John, and then had a 20 minute cab ride through the mountains to Trunk Bay, the most photographed beach of the USVI. Let’s talk about the cabs for a second. On the island, cabs consist of pick-up trucks with bench seating in the truck bed. No seat belts, of course. So, the 20 minute cab ride consisted of me holding on to Chris for dear life as the driver made hair pin turns around the mountain with no guard rails. Real fun.
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But I digress. Trunk Bay was absolutely breathtaking and completely worth the trip! I have never seen a more picture-perfect setting. The water was crystal clear and so warm! The seagulls, however, not so friendly. Chris bought us lunch at the snack shop on the beach and he warned me of the relentless birds. I paid no mind, of course, and the second I held my sandwich to my mouth, a seagull literally took it out of my hands! Scared the daylights out of me. At one point, we had a dozen seagulls chasing us down the beach as we tried to protect the rest of our lunch. We were just providing entertainment for the rest of the tourists.

IMG_1441 IMG_1438 IMG_1436 IMG_1039 IMG_1033 IMG_1028IMG_1473^^This is where we ended up every night to watch the sunset. The balcony overlooks downtown Charlotte Amalie^^

Day Four
Since our flight didn’t leave till later in the afternoon, we went back to Morningstar Beach and took one last dip in the pool before heading to the airport. We woke up to a rain storm and stepped out on the balcony to find the most beautiful rainbow over the ocean. Perfect ending to the trip!
IMG_1477IMG_1475 We’re so sad it’s over! Back to reality, I suppose. And on to planning the next trip!