Over the past few months it has become quite apparent that life has changed a lot for me. I am learning a new normal of taking life “one day at a time”. My “health” struggle is new for me. One that brings unexpected rushes of emotions and can sometimes cause me to get discouraged easily. Yet, there is so much to be thankful for. So, I need to work on focusing on the positive things happening in my life rather than on the negative!.
As I write this, I am filled with gratitude over the incredible travel adventure I just experienced with my family. Being able to travel was such a huge gift! I am so thankful!!!
I earned the 2019 Stampin’ Up! Greek Isles Grand Vacation and our path to get there led us from Hawaii to New York, New York to Paris, Paris to Florence, Florence to Rome where the Greek Isles cruise began!
Because of my recent respitotry challenges, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to travel. However, as the days led up to the trip, I started to get well (with no treatment). My immflamuation numbers came down, my breathing improved the only question was whether or not I still had a mass of “something” in my lungs. I believed with all my heart that the answer to that question would be no… but we had to wait and see. I met with my doctor and I was feeling great so he gave me the green light to go.
Since the decision was last minute, I had only a few days to work on swap cards. I guess since I was about to go on an adventure I was drawn to our new set called, On To Adventure!
I created this “inside outside panel card” that highlighted two of my favorite images from this adorable stamp set. To create this type of card, you create a window in the card and put a piece of card stock in it that is stamped on both sides. Here is what the card looks like on the inside.
Today, I want to share a few highlights of the trip as well as give you an update on my health situation which continues to be quite an adventure!
Our trip got off to a great start.
We boarded our flight in Honolulu and headed straight to New York City. New York is like a second home to me, I love going there because it gives me an opportunity to visit my big brother.
The visit to the city was brief. It was actually just a long layover but we had a chance to show my son in law, Brett, some of the highlights of the city because he had never been there before.
We ate breakfast in the East Village and then took the subway to the Top of the Rock,
We visited Grand Central Station and tried out the whispering walls in front of the Oyster Bar.,
We passed through Times Square and saw all the bright lights by day.
Our final stop was Kat’z deli! Brett said it was the best Pastrami Sandwich he had ever ate! I agree. Even though its a big tourist spot, I love going there!
Next top was Paris. We were only there for two days but we packed in a lot of adventure.
I loved seeing the kids experience Paris for the first time.
The girls especially loved the chocolate croissants!
Our visit to the city of love was brief but we had enough time to take them to some of our favorite places. One really amazing thing that happened is that I ran into two friends outside of the Louve. First, was my friend Anna, whom I knew was in Paris but we just happened to be in the same place at the same time.
The second was my college BFF Kari who I saw was in Paris only after I got there from an instagram post. We also just happened to be in the same place at the same time! I was so grateful to God for the blessing of running into her not once but twice that day! Paris is a big place so the chances of that happening are pretty unreal.
Our next flight took us to Florence, Italy. At the end of all our travels the kids agreed that this was their favorite city. I feel the same way. It was my third visit to Florence and if I could be there again tomorrow, I would be.
There are so many placed in Italy I want to visit. I really can’t wait to get back there again! Our first stop was Pizza and Gelato of course.
In Florence, there is a gelato shop on almost every corner!
Florence was unusually hot on the day we arrived. The heat normally doesn’t bother me but after a full day of exploring the city I started to feel a little fatigued. After the first day in Florence I noticed that my breathing was heavy again and I began to cough a bit. The next day, things got worse and I was forced to come back to our house to rest while the others explored the city. That didn’t keep us from having some fun “take out” Italian dinners together at the end of the day in the comfort of our amazing apartment! Here is the view from our rooftop terrace.
I started to take cough meds but that didn’t seem to do the trick. I began to get concerned as I noticed my oxygen level was dropping a bit too.
We prayed together and felt peace about continuing our journey via train to Rome. Our last stop before boarding the ship.
Once in Rome, I couldn’t wait to get to the Trevi Fountain. Again, I just wanted to experience it through the eyes of my kids who would be seeing it for the first time.
After the Trevi Fountain we walked over to the Pantheon. That day as we traveled through the city I could feel a heaviness in my lungs, fatigue was setting in and it was quickly becoming apparent that my symptoms had returned. You see a smile on my face in this picture but there is also a growing concern happening within because I could feel my respiratory challenges returning.
Just moments after taking this photo Derek and I returned to our apartment while the kids continued to explore the city. After a short time it became apparent that I needed medical attention. Things got so bad that I ended up having to go to the hospital. This experience was rather traumatic for me and definitely eye opening. I hope and pray that I will never have to be hospitalized over seas like that ever again. After one long traumatizing night at the hospital it was confirmed that all my symptoms had returned. A CT scan also showed that my lungs still had a mass and were covered with nodules. I was released with medication and we had a decision to make. Should I return home, or should I go on the cruise? I got in touch with my wonderful doctor who gave us wise advice but let us know the choice was up to us. We knew that continuing on would be a risk because if I needed medical assistance my options would not be great moving forward. I sat on our terrace in Rome hand in hand with Derek, praying for wisdom. I didn’t want the kids to know that if they weren’t with us, we would have probably went home. I could feel their excitement to board the ship and continue our adventure and I wanted to be a part of it too. I also however, wanted to do what was best for my overall health. I waited till morning to make a decision!
The next day, I woke up feeling great and had such peace about moving forward, so we did.
Stampin’ Up! worked hard to find me a wheel chair at the last minute and that was the thing that really helped me my first few days on the ship when my medicine was still kicking in.
We had an incredible time on the ship as a family and when I say family I mean not only my immediate family but my Stampin’ Up! family too.
I was surrounded by so much love, support and prayers. How could i not feel better?
Seeing my Stampin’ Up! friends filled me with such joy, it was the best medicine and just what I needed.
At our advisory board reunion, these ladies surprised me by forming a prayer circle around me. I was brought to tears by their beautiful heartfelt prayers for my complete healing and restoration.
I was glad I made the decision to go and each day I felt a little stronger. I even stopped using the wheel chair the last few days but continued to be careful not to do anything that would cause me to lose my breath.
The Greek Isles were amazing to see! My favorite port was Mykonos. I loved exploring through the maze of cobblestone streets filled with cute shops and restaurants.
Derek certainly got his workout carrying the chair around. I was glad I didn’t need it on this day but sorry that we didn’t know that in advance cause he had to push is on the cobblestones all day! What a trooper!
After a little bit of shopping we walked over to the shore and jumped into the sea!
We all agreed that this was our favorite port because of the fun day we had there.
Mykonos also was where we enjoyed some family bonding over lunch.
As well as finding the best gelato in Greece at a place called Ninnolo. I think we went back inside the shop about 5 times to try new flavors.
Santorini was great too. I’d love to go back when I have the ability to explore more without a wheel chair.
Maneuvering the cobble stone streets was a bit tricky but I had a great helper all along the way. There was one big steep hill that Kalani had to push me up, good thing he is strong.
We found a place in Oia where we ate the best Greek Salad I have ever eaten.
Can you tell by Brett’s reaction, how good it was? Seriously, it was the BEST greek salad with the most amazing view.
In our short time on this island we did manage to find some really delicious food. Thanks to Brett and his research for the best Gyros!
We loved this place and wish we had more time to explore.
Hopefully I can return again one day when I am in better health!
My favorite thing about the trip was just the quality time we shared as a family. We managed to meet for breakfast and dinner on the ship every day and even in between found time to do fun things together like playing mini golf.
We also enjoyed meeting to watch the beautiful sunsets before dinner each night.
On our final night we had a Stampin’ Up! farewell party. It is always bittersweet because we know our time together is coming to an end.
I am so grateful that Shelli started this company so many years ago! In just a couple of days I will celebrate my 20th anniversary and I am SO grateful that I have been blessed to be a part of this amazing company filled with the most loving, incredible people!
After the party we went to our final dinner together. Gathering for dinner at the end of a long day is always my favorite part of the cruise. At this dinner we surprised Jessica with a cake as her birthday is this week and we knew she would be away at camp, so we wanted to celebrate as a family.
We loved our servers and they brought us this amazing chocolate cake and sang a very out of tune Happy Birthday song to her.
However, they did it with such passion and we will never forget it. It was a fun memory to have on our last night at sea!
We are home now and the first few days back have been a challenge for me. I was feeling very overwhelmed with life which can happen after traveling so far and feeling jet lagged! Right now, there are so many unanswered questions as to what is going to happen next. I know that as my meds wear off, my symptoms may return. How will this affect my classes and business?. I am concerned about my monthly sales so I will stay on track to keep my annual goals. There are things at my house that are in need of repair. My Dad hasn’t been in the best health and my Mom needs my help so I need to stay well. And overall, the biggest concern is, “what is my diagnosis”? I wonder, will they ever find something that they can treat so I can feel normal again?
This morning I woke up and felt as if God was reminding me to walk in victory and not defeat. I read Psalm 23:4 and felt encouraged where it says, “even if I walk through a valley as dark as the grave, I will not be afraid of any danger, because you are with me”.
I need to remember that life is an adventure. Today if a gift. I am thankful that I woke up, that I have breath in my lungs and I have the ability to sit and share with you how thankful I am for a new day just to be alive. I trust in God’s purpose and plan for me. We are not promised that life will be easy but we are promised that we don’t have to walk through it alone!
I don’t fully understand God’s plan at the moment but I am grateful that His plan allowed me to spend this precious, unforgettable adventure with my family. One that I will not soon forget.
Whatever you are facing today, know that you are not alone! I pray you will find strength in knowing that God is with you and He is able. Put your hope and strength in him and allow Him to lead and direct your path. It’s not always easy, especially when we face obstacles but when we find our way back to Him, we can rest in the assurance that He is our peace and is by our side through all of life’s adventures!