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Author: Christina Menkemeller

Cereal de Mayo Drink Recipes

What better way to start the day than with a Lucky Charms Latte? That’s right – two of your favorite things (coffee + cereal) in one delicious package! We’re starting Cereal de Mayo at 9 am EST on May 16th and couldn’t resist picking the latte below for our first cereal treat! Today we’re sharing lots of delicious non-alcoholic and alcoholic cereal recipes. And who knows…maybe by the end of this we’ll all start adding cereal to our daily coffee! 😉

NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINK RECIPES:

Lucky Charms Latte (You can find the recipe here.)

Cereal Milk Lattes (You can find the recipe here.)

Cold Brew Cereal Milk Iced Coffee (You can find the recipe here.)

Lucky Charms Cereal Milk Matcha Latte (You can find the recipe here.)

Crunch Berries Breakfast Shake (You can find the recipe here.)

Cereal Milk Hot Chocolate (You can find the recipe here.)

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Milkshake (You can find the recipe here.)

Cap’n Crunch Milkshake (You can find the recipe here.)

Fruity Pebbles Shake (You can find the recipe here.)

Cereal Tea (You can find the recipe here.)

DRINK RECIPES CONTAINING ALCOHOL:

Fruit Loops White Russian (You can find the recipe here.)

French Toast White Russian (You can find the recipe here.)

Fizzy Trix Vodka (You can find the recipe here.)

Lucky Charms Cereal Milk Punch (You can find the recipe here.)

Honey Nut Cheerios Milk Punch (You can find the recipe here.)

Cocoa Puffs White Russian (You can find the recipe here.)

Cereal Milk Martini (You’ll find the recipe here.)

Boozy Reese’s Puffs Cereal Milkshake (You can find the recipe here.)

Now that we’ve given you plenty of cereal recipes and craft ideas, you’re officially ready for our Cereal de Mayo celebration! Check out the full schedule for the day here and don’t miss our Cereal de Mayo happy hour on Facebook and Instagram live at 5 pm EST on May 16th. To top off our sugar coma, we’re teaching everyone how to make French Toast White Russians. So pick your recipes, grab your cereal, and get ready to change the lives of adults living with rare genetic disorders by eating cereal!

Join us for Cereal de Mayo on May 16th by sharing your cereal selfie on social media, tagging 5 friends, and donating $5 to Being Positioned! (To learn more about the event, click here.) This is a small, simple way that you can support us after having to cancel our physical fundraiser this year. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with all of our #cerealdemayo adventures!

Cereal de Mayo Crafts

Cereal de Mayo is just a few days away! Aside from consuming way too much cereal, we’re also spending May 16th creating mini piñatas out of cereal boxes! (If you have no idea what I’m talking about – click here to learn about our exciting fundraiser!) Today we’re sharing a list of amazing cereal box crafts the whole family will enjoy!

A Cereal Box Guitar (Click here to view the post.)

Cereal Box Piñata (Click here to view the post.)

Monogram letters from cereal boxes! (Click here to view the post.)

DIY Cereal Box Gift Tags (Click here to view the post.)

DIY Cereal Box Drawer Dividers (Click here to view the post.)

Cereal Box Aquarium (Click here to view the post.)

Cereal Box Succulent Planters (Click here to view the post.)

DIY: Mini Pocket Notebook from a Cereal Box (Click here to view the post.)

Postcards (Click here to view the post.)

Cereal Box Drawer Dividers (Click here to view the post.)

Awesome Cereal Box Elephant Craft (Click here to view the post.)

Cereal Box Bookmarks (Click here to view the post.)

Cereal Box Puzzle (Click here to view the post.)

Cereal Box Night Light (Click here to view the post.)

I’m not sure if I’m talented enough to make that amazing night light, but if you do this one – please send me a picture! Who knew you could turn cereal boxes into so many incredible items?!

Join us for Cereal de Mayo on May 16th by sharing your cereal selfie on social media, tagging 5 friends, and donating $5 to Being Positioned! (To learn more about the event, click here.) This is a small, simple way that you can support us after having to cancel our physical fundraiser this year. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with all of our #cerealdemayo adventures!

Cereal de Mayo Recipes

Cereal de Mayo is almost here! (If you have no idea what I’m talking about – click here to learn about our unique virtual fundraiser!) To help you prep for May 16th, we’re sharing some delicious cereal recipes. Since we’ll be consuming quite a bit more sugar than normal that day, we’re making Ranch Cornflake Crusted Baked Chicken for lunch in our house to help break up the sweetness overload (if there is such a thing 😉 ). Throughout the day we’ll be sharing live videos and stories of us making different recipes, doing cereal crafts, and even playing cereal bingo! So, make sure to follow our Being Positioned Facebook and Instagram pages to be part of all the fun!

Ranch Cornflake Crusted Baked Chicken (You can find the recipe here.)

Fruity Pebbles Breakfast Bread (You can find the recipe here.)

Overnight Fruit Loop Sweet Rolls {Made with Cereal Milk} (You can find the recipe here.)

Cereal Macarons (You can find the recipe here.)

Golden Grahams S’mores Bars (You can find the recipe here).

Cinnamon Toast Crunch French Toast Sticks (You can find the recipe here.)

Crunch Berry Muffins (You can find the recipe here.)

Raisin Bran Muffins (You can find the recipe here.)

Fruity Pebbles Mini Cheesecake (You can find the recipe here.)

Cornflake Biscuits (You can find the recipe here.)

Fruit Loop Waffles (You can find the recipe here.)

Grape Nuts Bread (You can find the recipe here.)

Two Ingredient Cereal Yogurt Bark (You can find the recipe here.)

Savory Hot Buttered Cheerios (You can find the recipe here.)

Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Cookie Stackers (You can find the recipe here.)

Cereal Milk Ice Cream (You can find the recipe here.)

Breakfast Cereal Cupcakes (You can find the recipe here.)

Reese’s Puffs Peanut Butter Balls (You can find the recipe here.)

Milk and Cereal Breakfast Popsicles (You can find the recipe here.)

Rice Krispie Treat Pancakes with Browned Butter Syrup (You can find the recipe here.)

Cheerios Coated Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (You can find the recipe here.)

Peanut Butter Crunch Black Bean Brownies (You can find the recipe here.)

Corn Pop Treats (You can find the recipe here.)

Chocolate Mousse Parfaits with Reese’s Puffs & Chocolate Covered Pretzels (You can find the recipe here.)

Alright, if you’re not excited about Cereal de Mayo yet after seeing alllllll of those delicious recipes, then you have a lot more will power than I do haha! I’ll be honest…I had to hide our cereals at the top of our pantry, but I’ve still caught Cardin sneaking a few bowls. We can’t wait to spend May 16th making crazy cereal recipes with you (virtually 😉 )! Which recipe are you going to make? Let us know in the comments below!

Join us for Cereal de Mayo on May 16th by sharing your cereal selfie on social media, tagging 5 friends, and donating $5 to Being Positioned! (To learn more about the event, click here.) This is a small, simple way that you can support us after having to cancel our physical fundraiser this year. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with all of our #cerealdemayo adventures!

Look for the Good

Wow – who would have ever thought this would be our world right now. I think it’s safe to say our entire country is in a collective state of shock as we watch our lives crumble.

Sitting here trying to grasp our new reality, I feel like I’m back four years ago in tears on my kitchen floor trying to make sense of what my diagnosis might mean for my life.

Of all the bad things to happen, finding out that I’m living with two brain tumors never crossed my mind. And losing my hearing certainly hadn’t made my list of worries because honestly, I didn’t even know that could happen to people.

My life was barely getting started. And then in one day, I lost it all. (Or at least I thought I did).

Except for this time – somehow – we all got hit with the same curveball. We’re all in this together.

The other day I was on the phone with someone discussing our plans for Being Positioned and what this would mean for the nonprofit’s future. Given the current state of our world, everything we had planned is either on hold, canceled, or being heavily altered. After hearing my response he paused and said, “leave it to you to find something good even in this Christina”.

Later that day I started to think about his words and how accurate he is – I can find the good in pretty much everything. Even in my worst moments, I quickly reframe my situation and seek out the positive.

But this is NOT something I’ve always done.

Before my diagnosis, I wasn’t nearly as intentional about finding purpose in my suffering. And it certainly wasn’t my automatic response to pain.

(Before I go any further, I want to pause and say that I do not skip over my suffering. I’m not naïve or in denial when problems occur. It’s extremely important to let yourself feel sad, angry, or any other emotions that you’re experiencing right now. I’m simply sharing how my husband and I learned to thrive in a seemingly impossible situation.)

Looking back over the last four years I feel like Cardin and I are surprisingly prepared for the pandemic. 

Between my diagnosis, traveling for a year, and starting a nonprofit – it’s almost as if we’ve been training for this very problem.

We learned how to respond to bad news with faith instead of fear. We learned how to be creative with our circumstances and react with resilience. And thanks to backpacking around the world – we’re used to losing track of what day it is and being together 24/7 without much other human interaction.

But the biggest thing we learned from my condition is to look for the good.

A few days after we found out that I have NF2, a friend called and told me to look for the “God winks” in my life. I hadn’t heard that phrase before, but quickly attached to it and started writing down a list of every good thing that was helping make my situation bearable. I saved the document on my computer and knew that it would be a helpful reminder as I learned to navigate my new life. 

Reading through my old list of 37 “God Winks” earlier today, I couldn’t help but smile. I was buried in fear. I couldn’t see past my pain.

But creating that list planted a small seed in my heart and kept me grounded in the truth that all hope was not lost. Good things were still happening despite the bad.

The thing is – that truth remains accurate even during the pandemic. Good is still happening alongside the bad. And it’s a lot easier to thrive during a situation like this if you can learn to seek out the good.

Notice that I’m using the word “thrive” not “survive”. Anyone can survive a hard situation, but few decide to thrive because of it.

Even for us, life has taken an unfortunate turn. We are one of many nonprofits who had to cancel a fundraiser. All of our journeys are paused indefinitely and we’re faced with the reality that it could be a very long time before it’s safe enough for our vulnerable recipient population to travel.

Everything has come to a screeching halt. It’s extraordinarily disappointing and defeating to devote so much energy to create something and have it stop before it even had a chance to start.

No one is immune to the pain of our world right now.

BUT – I’m choosing to still look for the good. In fact, I’m looking for the good a lot more than I’m looking for the bad. I know our problems are still there. I feel the pain. But I won’t let the bad steal any more from me than it has to.

I’m facing this with a heart of gratitude that far exceeds my disappointment. And I want you to remember that you have that option too.

Hope is only lost when you decide to let it go.

Despite the readily available list of bad things we’re all facing, I challenge you to not just look for the positive – look for the purpose. Look for small ways every day that you can find meaning in this time at home. Try new things, connect with old friends virtually, do things that you otherwise would never have the time to do. Discover creative opportunities to help others and remember that one of your biggest sources of purpose right now is to do your part and stay home.

And at the very least, use this time to practice looking for the good in every situation.

Subscribe below to receive posts directly to your email! And if you want to keep up with us daily, follow us on Instagram at beingpositioned and christinamenkemeller or on Facebook @beingpositioned!

A Beautiful Distraction

I took this photo the day after we launched Being Positioned – the nonprofit.

Exactly one day after the greatest accomplishment of my life became a reality.

We had planned on celebrating, but through a series of unfortunate events, including an incorrect test result, I ended up having to spend it in yet another infusion chair.

Launching a business at the same time as dealing with my condition has been unexpectedly difficult for me.

Thankfully the side effects from my treatment are minimal, but the fatigue it causes has made it hard for me to keep up. Repeatedly working until 10 pm isn’t great for someone in my position, and my late nights quickly took a toll on my body.

The more tired I am, the worse my hearing gets. That’s what caused the false decline on my hearing test – and that’s why I ended up having treatment the day after we launched.

On it’s own, an extra infusion isn’t a big deal. But, the emotional roller coaster of getting bad news and having to redo my appointments all while trying to launch Being Positioned was extremely defeating.

I did what I could to show up every day, but honestly, it was some of the hardest weeks of my life. I was so proud of everything we were accomplishing but incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t just be normal for a bit and get through everything without the drain of being a patient.

It’s hard to ignore that heavy feeling of disappointment each time NF2 taints another life event.

My condition has stolen a lot from us in the last four years. But at the same time – it’s added just as much. After all, if it weren’t for this disorder, I never would have created Being Positioned.

I feel like I’m stuck in a strange reality. One minute I’m on the phone with our trademark lawyer, the next I’m calling the cancer center. Bouncing back and forth between running a business and being a patient – like I’m living two completely separate lives.

But Being Positioned has been a beautiful distraction for me.

It’s given me something to hope for during an otherwise hopeless situation. And having my health temporarily decline while launching reminded us why we’re doing this and how much people living with these conditions need a break. 

I know how it feels to be desperate for an escape.

When starting a business or taking any big risk, it’s easy to feel like you’re making a terrible mistake. I couldn’t help, but think I was crazy for doing this and doubt whether people would care about what we’re trying to do.

The weeks leading up to our launch, I started feeling more insecure about the process and worried that people wouldn’t think this is a worthy cause.

So, maybe I needed the reminder.

Maybe the reason I had to go through all of those extra tests and appointments at such an important time was that I needed to remember that I’m not doing this for other people’s opinions.

I’m doing this to help adults suffering the same reality that I am.

I’m doing this for everyone fighting to live a normal life despite the battle going on inside their bodies. I’m doing this for everyone feeling like there is no chance of escaping their reality, even if just for a week. I’m doing this for everyone living the same double life and needing something to hope for again.

And despite my fears about sharing Being Positioned with the world – you did an incredible job of proving me wrong. 

Thank you to everyone who wrote such meaningful messages about Cardin and me when you shared our video. We read every single post, and your words of love and encouragement were so healing for us both. And thank you to everyone who donated this last month. Your support and trust mean the world to us.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter here, so we can let you know when new blogs are posted!

Want to keep up with us daily? Follow us on Instagram at @beingpositioned, @christinamenkemeller, and on Facebook at Being Positioned.

Letting Go of Being a Burden

Do you ever feel like a burden?

Like no matter how hard you try—you always seem to need a little extra help.

Even asking for a small accommodation might feel like you’re asking for far too much far too often.

Recently I was interviewed for a podcast called “Unapologetically Me.” 

The host, Boomer Perrault, explores different topics pertaining to mental health. He interviews guests going through a specific situation, whether it’s a chronic illness, depression, or an addiction, and encourages them to reflect on how their experiences have affected their mental health. And he ends each episode with the individual explaining their top tip for dealing with their particular circumstances.

When I accepted the offer to appear on the show, my first thought was: most people with my condition aren’t going to benefit from this at all.

Because they won’t be able to hear it.

Shortly after the episode went live, I posted it on my social media accounts. I was excited about sharing it but feared that people who have NF2 would get frustrated with the lack of ability to listen to it.

Within a few hours, I received multiple requests for a transcript of the episode so that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing could experience it as well.

First off, I’m a bit of a podcasting newbie, so I had no idea that transcribing it was even an option…it makes perfect sense; it just never occurred to me until people started asking for it.

My next dilemma: asking Boomer to get the episode transcribed. I had heard that there are services out there that will do it for you, but still worried that he would reject the idea based on the time or money needed to accomplish it. 

I didn’t want it to be too much of an inconvenience for him.

I didn’t want to be too much of an inconvenience for him.

Even before my diagnosis, I always felt a little guilty asking others to do things for me. I tried to be as independent as possible, and if I ever needed help, I would try to even the playing field and do something for them in return.

This has progressively become more of an obstacle for me as I deal with my own hearing issues and needing a little extra assistance.

I’d rather pretend like I can hear everything and laugh along with the rest of the group than ask people to repeat themselves repeatedly. I’ll eat at a loud restaurant and suffer in silence instead of suggesting a quieter option. My husband is often the one to take the lead and propose an alternative location, sparing me from having to speak up.

Thankfully, Boomer noticed the comments requesting a transcript and agreed to do it before I even had the chance to ask him. Although it ended up being a bit of a tedious process, not only did he finish it in less than 24 hours, he also offered to transcribe the rest of the episodes if needed.

This was a big lesson for me.

Rather than viewing me as a burden, Boomer (who before the interview was a stranger), was more than happy to do what was needed so that everyone could enjoy the episode.

So if someone who hardly knows me was so eager to help, then why is it that I have such a difficult time accepting guilt-free assistance from people who know and love me?

Why is it that so many of us dealing with this disorder consider ourselves a burden?

As I’ve gotten to know more people living with NF2 over the last year, feeling like a constant inconvenience seems to be a pretty common theme. 

And it’s not just the people who are entirely dependent on caretakers to make it through the day—even those of us who need occasional accommodations tend to get stuck in this trap.

One thing I realized during this situation is that there is a delicate balance between feeling like a burden and knowing one’s value. 

Yes, our condition can be very taxing for those around us.  We might require assistance for everything and cause both a mental and a financial strain on our family. But above all else, we’re the ones having to live with this disorder and the daily challenges it presents. 

We’re the ones feeling the full weight of our reality.

God calls us to live in community with others for a reason. 

We aren’t meant to do life alone. We’re worth helping.

And if I believe that truth, then why should I feel guilty for asking others for assistance?

Now, I can’t speak for those who depend on constant aid from their loved ones. I’m not there yet, so I won’t pretend to understand.

But I do know that the more we label ourselves a burden, the more we become one.

We all need help sometimes and calling ourselves a burden doesn’t lessen the load on anyone else. It doesn’t take away the fact that we still need help. It does, on the other hand, make it harder for others to help us over time.

Yes, some people might resent the amount and frequency of help you need.  They might view you as a total pain and an inconvenience.

But how others view you is not your responsibility.

Your responsibility is to show love and gratitude for every bit of help you receive and to return that kindness whenever you are able. 

I know this is often easier said than done and that years of repressed guilt won’t fall away in one day. But I hope this gives you a little freedom to begin giving yourself and those around you a little grace.

Thank you to those who rather than seeing yourself as an inconvenience, spoke up and asked for the podcast to get transcribed. You recognized that you deserve to hear everything just as much as everyone else. You taught me a valuable lesson. 

And thank you to Boomer (who you can follow HERE), for living out your mission of kindness and showing the power of simple good deeds. 

If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, click HERE and go to the episode titled “Being Positioned” to play it. And if you are hard of hearing or deaf, click HERE to read it.

If you want updates about our journey, subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your email. And if you want to keep up with us daily, follow me on Instagram at beingpositioned or Facebook @beingpositioned!

The Perfect Timing

When my doctor first suggested that I stop chemotherapy and take a break from treatment for a while, my immediate reaction was fear.

What if I lose my hearing? What if my tumors grow?

One of the benefits of being on treatment was that it allowed me to feel like we were doing something to stop (or at least delay) the progression of my disorder. Most patients end up on the drug I was on for years, so the idea of “taking a break” from it never crossed my mind.

Despite my concerns, my doctor urged us to trust his recommendation and give my body a rest for a few months.

Little did we know that a “few months” would turn into a year and a half.

And little did anyone know that we would make the most out of our newfound treatment free existence by quitting our jobs and traveling the world together.

In between trips I continued to have MRI’s and hearing tests every 3-months. We kept a close eye on my condition, but the growth was slow, and my hearing remained stable.

I was okay.

Day two of officially living back in Orlando meant it was time for my MRI and hearing test again. After the growth on my previous scan, we knew it was possible that I would end up having to start chemo soon, but as my doctor went over my new scan, he claimed that it was probably ok to hold off for a few more months. He even offered that I might be able to wait until the summer to get back on it.

I was thrilled!

We would have a chance to get settled at home before needing to face our medical world again. I’d get to feel normal for at least a little longer.

The next night I got a call from my doctor in Boston.

If you ever get a call from your doctor after hours—you know its bad news. 

He explained that they received the final volumetrics report (a special analysis that measures the volume of the tumors) and that there was quite a bit more growth than they initially thought. 

A lot more.

Thankfully the type of brain tumors associated with NF2 are typically small and slow growing, but that also means it’s tricky to detect growth. It’s easy for doctors to misinterpret a scan as stable, which is why the volumetrics analysis is so helpful.

Usually, the full report is ready in time for my appointment, but this time it was delayed by a day.

Unfortunately, that one day was enough time for me to get attached to the idea of avoiding treatment for a few more months. 

I accepted the good news a little too quickly.

As my doctor discussed the new chemotherapy schedule and dosage he wants me to try, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. 

Not just that my tumors had unexpectedly grown so much…

But that my break was quickly coming to an end.

I must admit I’ve grown accustomed to feeling like a normal person again. After being thrown so suddenly into a medical crisis 3-years ago, I never dreamt I would have an opportunity like we had this last year and a half. 

Other than my routine scans and tests, I had the chance to forget about brain tumors and hearing loss. I got to explore the world, take risks, and be a regular 26-year old. 

I got to feel like me again—a temporary second chance.

I’m lucky. 

One of the first things my doctor said on the phone was that most patients barely make it 6-months off of treatment before needing to get back on it.

I made it 18-months.

But alongside my gratitude for my surprisingly long break, it’s hard to accept that it’s over. 

This last week has been rough. 

From talks of growing tumors, fertility decisions, and preparing to start chemo within the next week or two, it’s been a harsh adjustment. Throughout the tough reality we faced these last few days though, I’m amazed at how perfectly God has taken care of us.

When I had to start treatment a few months after my initial diagnosis, we were still in so much shock that we barely had a chance to catch our breath. We were in constant survival mode and didn’t know how to fit our original plans into the life we were being forced to live.

This time though—it’s different.

It may feel sudden and overwhelming right now, but in reality, we’ve been preparing for this since the day of my last infusion.

We have the upper hand. We know what to expect. We knew it was coming.

Emotionally we’re stronger, and mentally we’re wiser.

God has provided for us in every way and has continued to place specific people in our lives exactly when we need them.

He’s given us constant reminders that He is in control. 

He’s got us.

And every time I start to doubt, I remind myself of the perfect timing surrounding “my break.”

If I hadn’t stopped my infusions when I did, we never would have been able to see the world.

We finished our traveling stint treatment free.

I didn’t lose my hearing. 

My tumors didn’t grow too much.

We had the adventure of a lifetime together. 

Now we’re ready.

Better Than Before

I’ve been on a safari in South Africa and circled Stonehenge in England.

I’ve gone paragliding through the mountains in Switzerland and strolled the streets of Paris at night.

I’ve ridden the world’s fastest roller coaster in Abu Dhabi and gazed up at the world’s tallest building in Dubai.

I’ve seen the northern lights dancing in Iceland and toured the canals of Amsterdam.

I’ve frequented biergartens in Germany and searched for fairies in Scotland.

I’ve dined on Pasteis de Nata in Portugal and Churros con Chocolate in Spain.

I’ve enjoyed free-flowing Guinness in Ireland and ate grapes fresh off the vine in Italy.

I’ve played with LEGOS in Denmark and goats on the beach in Greece

I’ve explored shrines in Japan and fed elephants in Thailand.

I’ve lived more life in the last twelve months than I ever thought possible.

To say that 2018 was a big year for us is an understatement.

Before we began traveling, I was afraid of pretty much everything. “Risk taker” would never be a phrase you would use to describe me, and I was convinced that something terrible was going to happen to me while we were abroad—especially regarding my health.

Change was not my friend, and I stuck to stability like glue.

But you know what?

I made it.

And aside from a few minor issues with my hearing, none of my fears came true.

Traveling has made me braver. Traveling has made me better.

Straying from my plan doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming anymore—it even feels a little bit normal.

This year has shaped everything for me. It’s taught me how to let go and lean into my uncertainty.

I’ve learned the value of taking chances and seen the blessing of living an unexpected life.

When I first started my blog, I knew that God was encouraging us to take this leap for a reason. I had no idea what it was going to be, but that was ok—the unknown was part of what made this year so fun.

And at the very least, I knew we would have an incredible year experiencing the world together.

I chose the name “Being Positioned” because I wanted to hold onto the idea that God is going to use my condition to position me for something greater. And I knew that our traveling was just the beginning of that process.

Every struggle, every adventure, and every interaction this year has been part of my “positioning”.

So, I’m starting a non-profit. 

I’m not ready to announce what it will entail until we officially launch later in 2019, but I can tell you that it’s a direct result of our traveling and even more so a result of me having NF2. 

Despite a year of learning to trust God and take risks, I’d be lying if I said I’m not terrified of taking this next step.

Once again, I’m surrounded by so much uncertainty.

Once again, I’m very far from my original plan.

But, once again, this is the fun part—the part where I have to sit back and trust the shift God is making in my life.

If I’ve learned one thing in 2018, it’s that the more you let go, the more God can do. 

Even though this next year won’t be filled with wild animals, trying new foods, and exploring different countries, I have a feeling that this new adventure might be even bigger than the last one.

Lucerne & Zurich

After an amazing few days in Interlaken (which you can read about here), we headed to Lucerne.

We were so sad to leave our sweet Airbnb in Interlaken with its incredible view, but thankfully our new place also came with a fun surprise: a rooftop patio! 

Our host doesn’t advertise the patio on the listing because she likes to make sure people are “fit” enough to handle climbing the clumsy stairs to the roof.

The fitness test: walking up five flights of stairs up to the apartment while carrying giant backpacks strapped to your back.

Thank goodness we passed—which meant we had full access to the patio our entire time there. It wasn’t as great as our previous view, but still not a bad bonus!

We spent our first day walking around Old Town, which only ended up taking about two hours. It turns out there actually isn’t that much to do there. But, it was still a beautiful area and worth the visit!

The highlight of Old Town is Chapel Bridge, also known as the world’s oldest truss bridge (…don’t worry, I don’t know what that means either).

It’s a covered wooden bridge built in the 14th century and lined with the sweetest flowers on either side. The ceiling is full of paintings, but most of the originals were destroyed in a fire.

Spreuer Bridge is a quick walk from Chapel Bridge but is much smaller. It was a lot less crowded though, so it was easier to appreciate the paintings and carvings as we walked through it.

My favorite part about Old Town is the paintings on the buildings. They create such a unique feel for the whole area!

Another top spot to visit in Lucerne is Musegg Wall. You can catch a beautiful view of the city on top of the wall and even climb up each tower to explore the interior!

After our trip to France (which you can read about here) I am a huge fan of macarons. So, of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a picture with this macaron tower!

The last stop on our tour of Old Town was the Lion Monument. It was surprisingly crowded and full of large tour groups, so it was a good stopping point for our day!

Plus we needed to rest up for our early morning the next day when we went PARAGLIDING!!!

That’s right; we went flying through the air attached to strange men and a giant parachute thing.

And let me just say—it was amazing!

Although paragliding was my idea, I was terrified of doing it. Cardin, of course, wasn’t scared at all, but he at least pretended to be afraid too. 😉

Below is a picture of us waiting for our guides to arrive at the Mt Pilatus gondola station.

Check out the giant bags used to carry paragliding equipment! They certainly put our little backpacks we take on our trips to shame. 

Unfortunately, as soon as we got off the gondola at the top of the mountain, a wave of clouds came through and stranded us for a bit. When visibility is low, smacking into the side of a rock is a high probability, so we were happy to wait for the sky to clear. 

As we waited, Cardin and I occupied ourselves by having a little fashion show with the super attractive windbreaker pants they made us wear. Gotta love anything in that whole ‘one size fits all’ category! 

And of course the final product: my rain jacket spastically tied to me and topped with a giant bucket seat backpack. 

Since there wasn’t much hope for the sky to completely clear, our guides decided to take advantage of even a small break in the clouds. Cardin kindly offered to go first, so the second we started to see blue sky, he and his guide took off. 

The way you begin is by standing at the top of a steep hill and start running while your guide is attached to your back. You only run for about three seconds before your feet leave the ground and once you’re up, your guide swiftly lifts you into the bucket seat where you sit comfortably for the rest of the ride. 

As soon as Cardin took off, another cloud appeared. His guide had a little trouble navigating and was unable to put him into the bucket seat until they had safely cleared the mountain. From my view, all I could see was poor Cardin running in the air (they told us to keep running until we were in the bucket seat) as he uncomfortably clung to the straps.

I’m not going to lie…it looked hilarious. My payback for laughing at him was having to awkwardly sit while hanging off the edge of the hill attached to my guide for a solid ten minutes before another break in the clouds came. 

Thankfully we finally got the chance to take off, and my guide was able to lift me into the seat immediately, so I was spared the same fate as Cardin. 

Check out Cardin flying in the background! We were even able to talk to each other a little bit while we were in the air! 

The company we used offers a photo package, but it was a bit expensive, so we opted for Cardin to hold our GoPro and take photos and video of himself, while my guide used his camera for me. I’m waaaay more clumsy than Cardin, so we figured he was the safer choice for not dropping our GoPro from 7,000 feet. 

Unfortunately, it was a lot more terrifying to hold our camera than Cardin realized it would be, so he just took video of himself instead of photos. (We can take screenshots from our video of him, but we haven’t had the chance to do that yet.) So, for now, this picture of him in the background is all we’ve got! 

Towards the end of our time in the sky, my guide asked me if I liked roller coasters. I thought that was a random question, but excitedly told him about how we’ve been visiting theme parks all over the world!

Little did I know what he was about to do…

Before I knew it, we were spinning upside down and being tossed from side to side. I can only compare it to feeling like you’re having a severe bout of vertigo. It was crazy!

Once the world finally turned upright, he asked if I wanted to do that again, to which I politely, but quickly declined. 

Most people paraglide in Interlaken since the views are incredible, BUT you only get to fly for about 20 minutes. Plus it’s a touristy thing to do there, so you’re in the air with a ton of other jumpers. 

In Lucerne, it was just us in the sky, and we were up there for an hour and a half (even though we only paid for an hour). Plus our guides only paraglide for fun on the weekends and lead regular jobs during the week. So they do it because they love it rather than wanting to make more money off tourists, which is also why they let us stay up there for so long. 

And the view you get in Interlaken is the same one you would see on Harder Kulm, but the view we had in Lucerne is only visible by paragliding. 

So, if you have any interest in paragliding in Switzerland—we strongly recommend doing it in Lucerne.

(Here is a link to the company we used. Our friends, Jamie and Jess, recommended them and they were amazing!)

For the last day of our trip, we decided to take a day trip to Zurich. When we first started attending our church in Orlando, they had a guest pastor from a church in Switzerland come and speak. The pastor talked about the church they built in Zurich, and as we walked out of the service that day, I turned to Cardin and said how great it would be to get to visit their church if we went to Switzerland this year.

Little did we know it would happen!! 

Without planning it, we ended up being a quick train ride from Zurich on a Sunday, so of course, we had to check out International Christian Fellowship (ICF) church at Samsung Hall!

The church venue doubles as a concert space. That’s how they were able to afford building such a perfect spot—by having Samsung sponsor it as a concert hall when the church isn’t using it. 

It also means they have things like Heineken umbrellas and cigarette vending machines…not something you would usually see at a church, but such a smart business plan! 

They also have two great cafes where we enjoyed a delicious cappuccino and croissant before the service started. 

They have an English service, but we wanted to get the full experience and go to the traditional one in German. Thankfully they have translation devices available, so when we checked in to get a device, the girl asked us where we’re from. We told her the story of how we discovered ICF, and she responded with, “oh, you must be from ReThink Life Church”!

It turns out she is the one who coordinates the pastor’s travel schedule, so she insisted we meet him after the service. 

Here’s our picture with Leo Bigger (the pastor of ICF) below: 

After church, we headed out to explore Zurich for a few hours. It reminded us a lot of Lucerne and didn’t take much time to explore, but we loved walking around the sweet streets. 

One of the best things about Switzerland is their DELICIOUS tap water!! Especially since everything else is so expensive there, it was nice to have something free finally!

They have public water fountains labeled “drinking water” all over the country and it’s seriously some of the best tasting water we’ve ever had—especially while traveling.

Alright, now that I’ve shared with you all of the beautiful places we saw in Switzerland, I need to tell you about our dramatic journey home.

Let me start by saying that the security at the Frankfurt airport is some of the strictest we’ve encountered so far (not including in Dubai). After getting through the main security (which was a struggle in itself), they had us go through an extra passport check, where the agent informed us that my passport had been pre-selected for additional screening.

Ok, no big deal.

The man assured us that it would only take a couple of minutes and I’d be back with Cardin and on our flight in no time…

Little did I know that within just a few minutes I would be standing in front of a big flashing red computer screen while a very large man with a very large gun explained to me that it’s the protocol for him to guard a person when their belongings test positive for explosives. 

That’s right, explosives. 

My first thought: I’m going to miss my flight.

My second thought: I’m going to get arrested, and they’re going to make Cardin go back to America without me.

Dramatic, I know 😉 Seriously though, I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before!

It didn’t help that I was already frazzled because they separated Cardin and I from each other. I rely on him SO much for my hearing, especially at airports. (You don’t want to be the person who accidentally answers questions incorrectly when going through customs.) 

So, now here I was watching my backpack get completely torn apart. I’m talking every stinky piece of dirty laundry (underwear and all) get inspected and unloaded into a bin, while a terrifying man with a machine gun is heavily monitoring me. 

It was not looking good. 

After clearing my bag, they proceeded to do a very invasive pat down of my entire body. Cardin and I always wear compression socks when we fly (which isn’t glamorous but helps a ton). As the woman moves onto my legs, she questions what is underneath my leggings, which means I have to awkwardly pull up my yoga pants and show off my not so cute socks.

Finally, once they have nothing left to search, the agent realized that they misplaced my plane ticket. And then they inform me that if they don’t find it and stamp it, the passport checkpoint will force me to go back through this same screening ALL OVER AGAIN.

This has to be a joke…

Eventually, they locate my ticket, crumpled and torn, underneath the pile of my pathetic belongings. After stamping it, they said I was free to head to my gate.

It’s at this point that I realize that I’m going to have to repack my bag.

By myself.

I’m embarrassed to admit that until very recently, I haven’t been able to squeeze all of my belongings into my tiny backpack without Cardin’s help. He pretty much used to pack my entire bag for me. All I could think was great; after all of that, my inability to put my luggage together is going to cause me to miss my flight.

Just as I was about to panic, my sweet husband showed up, and the guards let him help me gather my stuff. He had seen me struggling from afar, and the gate agent allowed him to check on me—thank goodness! 

We made it to our flight just in time. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to board a plane before!

Also, it turns out that lotion can sometimes trigger the explosives alert if it contains glycerin since that’s used to make bombs. I’ve purchased a small container of Nivea on almost all of the trips we’ve taken this year, but I have officially sworn off of it! Or at least I won’t use it when traveling again. 😉 

Click here to watch our Switzerland video along with our other vlogs!

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A Happiness Reserve

Since my diagnosis two and a half years ago, I’ve had at least fifteen MRI’s.

 

I’m no stranger to spending an hour lying completely still inside a tiny tube with a cage covering my face.

 

In fact, at this point, I would consider myself a bit of a pro.

 

A few weeks ago I had my first full-body MRI.

 

The goal of the scan was to look for other tumors growing on nerves throughout the rest of my body. And it would only take 45-minutes.

 

My other scans usually take about an hour, so I assumed this MRI would be similar.

 

No problem.

 

As I walked into the exam room, the tech instructed me to lie down while he started pulling out large panels.

 

Once I was settled, two techs started placing the heavy panels all over my body…and strapping me to the table.

 

I immediately started to panic.

 

My doctor didn’t prepare me for this…

 

Did they expect me to make it through this entire scan weighted down and strapped to the machine?

 

Normally, they stabilize my head with a cage during MRI’s, which isn’t the most comfortable thing, but at least the rest of my body is free to move slightly.

 

They also usually have music playing while I’m in the machine. I can’t always hear it, but it still gives me something to focus on.

 

This time—no moving and no music.

 

I would be attached to the table from head to toe with nothing to distract me.

 

I’ve never experienced a panic attack before, but as a social worker, I’ve studied and witnessed others having one, so I know how to stop them.

 

As I started a simple breathing technique, I felt a strap snap.

 

My deep breathing was causing the panel on my chest to come undone.

 

Plus, taking big breaths can blur the images.

 

Now I really started to freak out.

 

All I could think was, there is no way I’m going to make it through this test.

 

I would also like to point out that this realization came before they even started the scan. The techs were still calibrating the machine with me lying inside of it, so I still had 45 minutes to go.

 

As my new attempt at calming myself down, I tried visualizing my wedding.

 

That may sound weird, but it was the absolute best weekend of my entire life. So, if any memory would be powerful enough to prevent a panic attack, this would be it.

 

Mentally, I began replaying each event, starting with picking my fiancé up at the airport before our rehearsal dinner and ending with our father’s day brunch the day after our wedding.

 

As I focused on each memory, I couldn’t help but smile.

 

My breathing began to slow, and I stopped sweating.

 

It worked! I wouldn’t say the time flew by, but it went much faster than I expected. And I managed to finish the exam without having a panic attack.

 

Now it wasn’t a perfect fix—periodically I started feeling overwhelmed again, but each time I would bring myself back to the memory and focus on small details about each scene.

 

And this isn’t the first time I’ve tried this trick.

 

I also used it during my very first MRI, but that time I planned my wedding in my head. Even the happiness that the anticipation of getting married brought me was an effective distraction!

 

I’m a firm believer in the power of our thoughts and how quickly negative thinking can cause us to spiral.

 

It’s important to acknowledge our pain and fears, but if you let yourself sit there for too long, you can get stuck. And feeling a sudden rush of panic like I did during my MRI, is much more harmful than helpful.

 

This is why I have a happiness reserve.

 

These are memories I’ve pre-selected or things I’m excited for that make me feel happy.

 

Not only do they bring me out of my panic, but they also serve as reminders of the wonderful life I’ve lived so far.

 

When things get tough, it’s easy to feel like you’ve never had anything good happen to you and it pushes you down even further. But, if you have a few memories on hand to bring you back and give you a little hope, sometimes it’s enough to stop your downward shift.

 

(A little tip: make sure you pick which memories to put in your happiness reserve at a time when you’re not under stress—it’s a lot harder to imagine a time when you were happy if you’re experiencing a crisis. That way you have them readily available when you need them!)

 

Honestly, this may not work for everyone.

 

It may only work for me.

 

But, I think it’s important to share any success we experience when dealing with difficulties. You never know when something like this may help someone else.

 

I’m also excited that traveling this year has been filling my happiness reserve—now I’ll have plenty of memories to hold onto incase I ever have to get strapped to a board inside a small tube for an hour again!

 

What are some happy memories you have that you can put in your happiness reserve? Email me or comment below!

 

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