Saturday, October 10, 2015

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Yes, I know you are dying to see and hear (read) all about our life in Doha, Qatar. And I am dying to share it! (Trust me...I have TONS of pics waiting for you!)

BUT, I truly do need to finish sharing our summer recap (for myself as much as for family and friends who need/want to see pics of what all we did). So, without further, where did we leave off?

Oh yeah...

More Wrapping Up Our Time on the Louisiana Northshore 
(in Southeast Louisiana...our home-away-from-home for several years)

Packing the house we have lived in for over 3 years! Longest we have ever lived in a place and had to pack it up to move. Never an easy task. I say it's like having a forget how excruciating the moving process is and embrace the joys of new places, new people, and new expeditions.
I cannot move on from the above pic without telling you how unbelievably selfless, helpful, loving, and amazing my mother is! Y'all...she did probably the majority of the packing of my house while I was away at work every day. She did this WHILE she was caring for my less than 6-month-old baby AND helping me get my 9-year-old son to and from school.

She is an angel! 

I wish I could repay her even slightly in comparison to what all she has given me and others in her life.

Baby Girl hanging out with Mommy after work one of the last days of my work before moving.

The things you come across and ponder while packing to move... Our son made this in preschool in New Orleans (actually River Ridge) the first time we moved from South Louisiana to Shreveport (North Louisiana). Doing it again...this time only temporarily before moving across the globe.
Found this. Just had to share some pics from it. :) This was from the year between Kindergarten and First, which in St. Tammany Parish Louisiana School System is called Transitional First Grade. Anyway, it's adorable! ;)

Not sure who the HUGE one is...
Still his fave...

Baby Girl sleeping in her makeshift floor palate/play area in one of the empty rooms while we continue packing.
Just too cute...
Really. Does it get any cuter?!
Our bunny friend in our front yard telling us bye.
And a beetle friend even came to tell us bye.
Our 10x15 storage room in South Louisiana after our main (and first BIG) load went in. This was done with MAJOR help from some wonderful friends of mine - The Romage Family! Major props to them!!! They were a BIG answer to prayer! One of the many in this moving process. Thank you so much for your help! I miss y'all sooo much!
Believe it or not, after that load above we still had a TON to do at the house--both in packing and cleaning. By the way, I gave away and threw away a TON of stuff! Sold a couple of things, too. I know it doesn't look like it, but we probably would have needed 2 of these if I had kept everything. No joke!

Now for another HUGE thank you and answer to prayer. 

Picture this. 

It's nearly midnight on the last night we have the house. My mom, myself, and my children are supposed to be driving away in just a few hours (in two STUFFED vehicles that aren't even nearly packed yet) headed for North Louisiana. Instead of being ready to plop in the bed and get some rest at the hotel in town I booked at the last minute (when I realized we would still be in town through the night), I am looking around at the piles of things that are still yet to be taken to "the giveaway place" (a.k.a. Habitat ReStore), taken down to the curb as trash, packed into the last few things to take to storage, packed into the car after we get back from the giveaway place and separately the storage facility, then cleaned (with hopes of getting back our deposit for this multi-year rental).

At this point I am completely at a loss. 

Completely overwhelmed. Can't throw in the towel, but want to. Can't imagine how I (and my mom and young children) are going to get this done and get through this. So, I just keep working. Crying a little, but working. Can't stop. Won't stop. Nose to the grindstone. One foot in front of the other. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

All the while, I am praying...and praying...and praying.

Then, a bit freakily, in the middle of the pitch-black night, my son starts yelling to me from the front of the house that somebody is coming up our driveway...our long driveway surrounded by trees. SCARY! I come up front and look outside only to realize that this is a young teenage boy that we know from church. (My husband also used to train him for football before my husband moved overseas.) The young man and his friend were coming by in his friend's pick-up truck to take the lawnmower and a few other outdoor things we told him he could have. (He used to mow our yard, also.) I had been wondering if he forgot all day. He didn't forget. God planned for him to come now. The young man probably didn't expect us to still be in town, much less there at the house. But we were. 

Who knew?! God knew.

So, thanks to my mom's wonderful quick thinking since my brain was far past fried, I offered them a little money if they would help us load up the stuff for the giveaway place and take it there then more money if they would also after that help us load up the rest of the stuff for storage and take it there.

Not only did they kindly oblige, they even brought back one of my young friend's younger brothers to help. This is all now past midnight at the point that they came back from dropping off their load at their house so they could help us. Let me just say that the next hour or two that they helped us, I kept thinking how amazing this answer to prayer was. I still do. I made a point to use this as a major teaching moment for our son about the power of prayer and God's love for us in all things at all times. I also made sure he saw what kind servants these boys were being, not complaining for a minute. He was helping right along side them as well. I was very proud! And very thankful for these wonderful real-life role models for him. 

Another awesome answer to prayer was that, once again, eveything that still needed to go in storage did fit! And the friend that my young friend brought along had quite the Tetris-like brain for putting the last of our things in the storage unit. He took charge and we were done in no time. Here are the final pictures to prove it. :) Whew! 

Thank you boys!!! (and your parents!!!) 

And thank you and praise you, LORD!!! 

Yes, there IS a God!
And yes, He does love us in BIG and small ALL ways!

Now, even after all of that help, which finished around 2am, I still had to load my car for our move to Shreveport and ultimately Qatar (with a pile that didn't look like it could possibly fit) AND I had to do the final full-house cleaning. All while Mom did her best to keep Baby Girl happy. (Except when I had to stop to nurse her, of course. Oh yes. That too.) By the way, Mom had already loaded her own car all by herself while I was working in the house. 

She is amazing! 

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I did not plan to take 2 car loads of stuff to Qatar...EVER! BUT, I had no mental capacity to make the final adjustments there in that house that night when I knew I still had at least 3 months before the actual flight out. Also, I did need to bring some things to use in Shreveport while we were there that I would ultimately give away, throw away, or maybe somehow store somewhere (but as little as possible for that one).

Our short mailbox that was a victim of mailbox tipping right after we moved in that house.
All that said, we pulled away from that house for the last time at 5:30 AM and headed to that local hotel I mentioned earlier!!! Thankfully I am a Rewards Member at the hotel chain we stayed in so I got a discount as well as a late checkout. After we got some good, quick sleep we even got to swim in the swimming pool before we pulled out of town. That was definitely a much-needed time of relaxation and fun together. Another answer to prayer!

Are you tired with me now? Whew! It stresses me just to think back on this, but it also encourages me to remember the goodness of the LORD as has been so often shown to us in real life through precious family and friends! 

How about you?

One last cute baby pic of her sporting her New Orleans Pelicans onesie. :) You better believe that is here with us in Qatar!

So again, there you have it! Until next time...

Friday, October 9, 2015

Flying the Friendly Skies

And now for a brief interruption in our regularly scheduled programming...

In other words, I'm going to take the liberty to pause our rewind of our summer to catch you up just a bit on our BIG move across the BIG globe.

Still I will likely use mostly pictures and far less words with these posts in order to move more swiftly through this catch-up time. :) Hope you don't mind!

And so we begin...

After spending July through almost all of September with family in Northwest Louisiana and traveling to visit other family as well as for our son to attend church camp in Mississippi, some of our family drove us to (&/or met us in) Dallas, Texas in order for us to board our nearly 15 hour flight from there to Doha, Qatar (yes, non-stop!).

You can very well imagine at least a bit of the stress and emotions that went into preparing for and executing this day. Remember, the flight will consist of me, our 10-year-old son, our 9-month-old daughter, and all of the belongings we could possibly fit within our checked and carry-on ("hand baggage") size and weight allowance. (We did ship a few things ahead...fairly small ones...and left a few more to ship periodically as we are ready to pay the shipping fees.)

As far as the luggage, I used a luggage scale throughout my initial and final packing processes and was fully prepared to have to pay weight overage fees for two bags plus one extra bag fee (which for our airline was $250 USD!). I was also prepared (though very reluctant) to have to throw out some things in our carry-on luggage. All I can say is God truly answered my prayers time and time again throughout this entire move process (as He has since way back when the idea of it even started). More confirmation that we are on His path for us. BTW, we didn't have to pay any weight overage fees nor throw anything out. We only had to pay the one extra bag fee. AND we (me & 2 young kiddos) made it through security as smoothly and swiftly as possible. Not without stress, but only due to all we had to juggle in that rushed space and time. I must praise our 10-year-old son for being so obedient and helpful! He truly was amazing! Love him! So thankful for him! :)

Okay, okay, I said less let the pics begin!

Wish I had more pics on my own phone from our goodbyes at the airport, but this is a sweet one that I do happen to have. These are my sweet in-laws who let us live with them from July to September. Very bittersweet moment here saying goodbye to them at the airport.

My mother and one sister and two of my nieces were there at the airport with us also. It was very special and sweet (and, of course, sad) to have them all there! We also had a very nice lunch together with all of them and my other sister at Pappadeaux's in Grapevine, Texas right before we headed to the DFW airport. It was a sweet time as well. So glad we all had that time together.

Part of our voyage through DFW International security...stroller and all.
Sweet, handsome young man helping Mommy and Little Sister :) (You can't imagine how many gray buckets we had to use! Not to mention the items that went through without buckets! We made it though. And no one seemed to get frustrated at us! All were patient and understanding and even helpful! Whew!!!

There's that sweet, handsome young man making his way through.

I put him in the bright green shirt on purpose! ;) Could spot him from anywhere! It worked!

Waiting on our call to board the plane. Looks like Baby Girl was a bit teary-eyed! ;) Me too.

Baby Girl and Big Brother entertaining themselves while we waited to board the plane.

Baby Girl is excited to fly on a plane for her first time ever! :)

Baby Girl watching the horizon and the sunset and the clouds. Oh, the view!

Big Brother LOVED his built-in TV/Movie Theater/Video Game Station complete with headphones! BTW, Qatar Airways is the #1 airline in the world from what I am told. I must say, it truly was very nice. Seats were very spacious (and we were NOT in First nor Business class, though those seats looked AWESOME!).

NO, she did not really drink Coke! ;) Just thought it was a cute pic of the tiny Coke can with Arabic writing.

Sorry for the lighting. Thought I would edit these but decided not to put off the post any longer for that. So, you get what you get and don't throw a fit! (as my niece would say) But anyway, this is a little pic of the makeshift play area I set up for Baby Girl in my foot space in our bulkhead seating aread. The magazine pockets made for a nice toy holder!

Baby Girl playing with her toys.

I think she may be a Flight Attendant when she grows up!

Beautiful sunset out my window!

You can barely see it but that is Baby Girl's bassinet on the bulkhead wall in front of my seat. When I stand up, it's about chest height. There were two others (one in each of the 2 sections to the right of us). She slept in and on. Plus I had to get her out if there was turbulence. She even sat up and stood up in it once (with me standing up holding her) and gave the passengers a Pat-A-Cake hand-clapping show! :) It was very nice to have the bassinet, even if only to let her stretch her legs sometimes. Also to give me a little break off and on from holding her...for 15 hours!

Hard to see but the TV screen on the bulkhead wall in the center showed us a representation of our plane and where we were flying at the time on the globe. Was pretty cool to recognize map spots from what we have been learning in Classical Conversations homeschool lately! (We flew over, among other things: Africa, the Red Sea, etc. and our son recognized it all!)

I tried to catch a better, quick picture but really missed the full effect. We were surprized with Meet & Greet services by my husband when we got off the plane, so this nice lady met us with a sign with all of our names on it and guided us to a nice lounge where she handled our immigration as well as getting a man to collect our baggage and escort us and my husband to our car and load it! AWESOME!

The kids hanging out in the lounge while we were served hot tea, water, and Coke while we waited on everything to be done.

I had to get my eyes scanned at one of those machines on the counter on the right. Very futuristic!

And there you have it! Please excuse any typos! Until next time...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Skin Cancer...Seriously

Yep. Just had to rev up an already busy time of life.

During the last few weeks of my employment prior to our time of transition mentioned in previous posts, I took advantage of a free skin cancer screening being offered at my employing hospital's cancer treatment partner clinic.

Why, you ask?

Well, no, I had not recently noticed anything suspicious I wanted to have assessed. No, I had BEEN having a spot for nearly 15 years that I knew NEEDED to be assessed. (Pics at the bottom of this post)

Why did I wait so long, you ask?

No good reason. Truly. I guess the old cliche' that "Nurses are the worst patients" is partially true in my case.

Long story kinda short... 

Way back in my college days when I frequented tanning salons, I noticed almost immediately after one tanning session that I had a strange, small, black sore on my mid-upper chest. It was about the diameter of a pencil eraser. It scabbed over with a black scab but had a strange burning sensation that went well below the surface. I took months to fully "heal" though it never fully went away. It basically eventually turned into what looked like a scar. However, that spot on occasion would become more pronounced than at other times. I did quit using tanning beds very soon after I noticed this new "friend."

A couple of years ago during a beach vacation, this formerly scar-looking spot actually opened back up with a small scab in the center that easily bled then scabbed over off and on again. Once again, I should have had it assessed then...but never did.

Finally, during this year's skin cancer screening I went and had it checked. Crazily, at the time of this long-overdue assessment, it was actually nearly unnoticeable for the first time in years. Almost immediately, however, when I walked into the screening dermatologist's exam room he spotted it and said I definitely needed to see a dermatologist for a biopsy.

Fast forward...

I found a derm on my insurance plan, had a shave biopsy done during a lunch break from work, waited over a week for results which still did not come. I called to schedule a surgery to be done during the last week of my employment just in case it was needed since he had verbally told me he was certain it would need to come out regardless of results. Time on the job, and in town for that matter, was ticking away for me and I could no longer wait on results to schedule the surgical excision (removal) of this spot.

The day I came for surgery (during a work day, since this was to be a quick procedure) the dermatologist (who was wonderful and had wonderful staff) told me he had JUST received results the day before and that the results were not definitive (in other words, the pathologist was not able to certainly diagnose my situation). He had even re-routed the specimen to a specialist who then ran every possible test on them that he could and still could not definitively diagnose my specimen.

All-in-all, my dermatologist said that I definitely had Basal Cell Carcinoma (skin cancer, but very treatable and not one that spreads)...however, there was a possibility that I also had melanoma mixed with it (very bad skin cancer that does spread elsewhere). Either way, he said he was going to err on the side of caution and remove more than he would have if it was just Basal Cell. He also was going to send the tissue he removed for more testing to see if they could get a definitive diagnosis with it.

Sooo, during the last Wednesday I lived and worked down in South Louisiana, I had minor in-office surgery to remove this spot. All went well. It took several days to get the final results back from the biopsy of the specimen removed in surgery, but they came back as only Basal Cell after all and clear margins (he got everything, in other words). (Please do not worry for me. This was really a very very easy situation compared to what so many other people face daily with regards to cancer and many other debilitating conditions. I just want this to be a warning to all of you that this or worse could happen to you or someone else you know.)

That all being said, I now have a much larger scar than the initial "scar" that I had learned to live with. That is okay though. Another lesson in humility. ;)

Now, for the whole point of sharing this with you...


Seriously, my dermatologist said that the UV rays from tanning beds are NOT the same as getting the sun's UV rays at a much more concentrated amount. They are MUCH WORSE and you have a VERY HIGH CHANCE of getting MELANOMA SKIN CANCER!!!

Sorry to yell, but I care about y'all! :)

Now, like any good, crazy nurse would do...
I documented some of the procedure with pics for you. 
No, not the actual procedure, but the before & after as well as, of course, the room setup!

My "friend" before the procedure...seriously...very small.
If you can read this, it is my initial biopsy resullts from the specialist.

My bandage after the procedure

A few days later...notice the bruising

After I removed the bandage on the day I was told to. Had to start using petroleum jelly and bandaids or other bandages as directed by the doctor after removing his waterproof bandage.
One last look before suture removal

And now the stitches are out!

Yes, of course I removed them myself.
No, really, I almost got a nurse or doctor friend to do it, but instead, I spent my Independence Day evening home somewhat alone (with the baby in bed) removing my own stitches. Yes, I have removed hundreds of stitches (and staples) in my past life as a trauma/surgical ICU nurse. Never my own, though. Was a strange sensation, but not bad. Much better than the unexpectedly odd sensation when the doctor was actually putting the sutures in. 

And in case you are wondering, the redness is the beginning of a horrible reaction I had to the tegaderm (clear, waterproof) dressings I was using. I finally just had to stop using a dressing (against my doctor's advice). Never knew I was one of "those patients" who has a strong sensitivity to some bandages. It was no fun. Burned like the dickens...whatever the dickens is. Felt like they were eating through my skin like acid. Blistered and everything. Not fun at all. 

So there you have it! 
My PSA for the day (no, not the Prostate PSA...the Public Service Announcement PSA). 
Please, avoid potential danger and at the very least discomfort and scarring. 


And until next time...Carry on... 


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