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Gin Schaffer is a former higher education administrator and works part-time at MWHC's Regional Cancer Center as the Coordinator of Integrative Medicine. She lives in downtown Fredericksburg and enjoys walking and biking with her husband and 2 kids (especially if coffee is involved).



Pink Ribbon Journey

The Fork in the Road

fork

Right before heading out on our spring break RV journey, I was fortunate to meet up with other Fredericksburg Parent and Family bloggers.  Such an inspiring group of people with wonderful stories to tell.  So, why did I leave the meeting feeling so confused, so out of sorts?

Before leaving for our trip, I had suspected that what had happened at the meeting was that as I listened to each blogger, learned a little about their lives and their blogs, I felt a bit stuck in my own blogger existence - the breast cancer survivor, the mom who had cancer.  Experts in the oncology field say survivorship can be quite difficult for people because we, as survivors are left asking, “now what?” - and no one can answer that question for you.  It’s a lot of work!  I love James Bay’s song, “Let It Go” - there is one particular stanza that really speaks to me:

I used to recognize myself

It's funny how reflections change

When we're becoming something else

I think it's time to walk away

Driving up towards a total of 24 hours, in an RV, will give you plenty of time to reflect and think about life.  And, it helped that my sounding board (Steve) was a captive audience as the driver of the big rig.  It came to me almost as an epiphany that it’s time to say good bye to Pink Ribbon Journey - it’s time to walk away and choose a different path.

I can’t think of a more fitting way to close my blog than on the heels of our RV trip.  Taking that adventure embodies what this journey of mine and my family’s has been all about...embracing all that life has to offer, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  No matter how ugly.

Even though I’m saying good bye to the pink-hued blog, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing.  If there’s one thing I know for sure, writing has been at the cornerstone of my recovery and survivorship.  And with that writing, Steve has been by my side, holding me accountable and making sure I’m being true to myself and to the readers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Pink Ribbon Journey and are ready to have some fun with my new blog, Pillow Talk. I am excited to launch this new blog and I am really happy to have Steve be a part of this process so that readers get to hear his perspective a little bit more often.

Thank you for your support and readership - stay tuned!

 

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Résumé: Birthday Party Planner

I was born on December 28th.  As a child, having birthday parties could be challenging, but my mom, a constant party planner, was creative in providing me with summer half birthdays or having parties early (before school let out for winter break), taking me on a special day trip, and, even though I know she dreaded it, combining my birthday with other holiday celebrations.  

Having had this experience as a child and teenager, I think I hold onto the need to create fun and unique birthday experiences for my own children (and thanks to my mom, I have a genetic predisposition to plan parties!).  I also wonder if having a birthday around the holidays led me to plan Anna and Jack's births for May and June!

Today, birthday parties for kids have reached something far beyond the "come over to the house, play a few games, stick a candle in the cake, and go home" formula.  It is easy to fall down that rabbit hole and think any party you plan has to be elaborate - why we feel the need to compete for some top party honor that doesn't even exist is just so crazy.

Back in 2013, in an attempt to combine our 15th wedding anniversary and kids' birthday parties together, we did a big open house, all-day type of party with lots of food, lawn games, a bouncy house, etc.  I made the mistake of trying to do too much for the party and looking back, I should've asked for more help and/or just not tried so hard.  I definitely think that party helped me to focus on the meaning of celebrating the ones we love - it should be about the moments shared, everything else is truly just icing on the cake.

So, for the past two years, we've just tried to find birthday experiences that celebrate who our kids are and what they love to do.  We've gone to a farm, a bowling alley, an aquarium - sometimes as a planned party with their friends and sometimes, simply as a family outing. Since coming back to Fredericksburg, I've enjoyed discovering new ways to party!  If you haven't read the birthday party location list on Fredericksburg Parent - take a look.  And, check out a new place we discovered:

Anna just had her birthday party at Bricks 4 Kidz - a wonderful place for kids to explore their creativity by using Legos.  The owner, Melani Lyon is a  teacher who, along with other qualified teaching staff, lead participants through a variety of fun and imaginative activities.  Bricks 4 Kidz offers workshops, camps, parties, and specialized programs - learn more at their upcoming Open House on May 21st.

IMG_20160507_110956.jpgMelani gave me this great idea for Lego Brownies.     IMG_20160507_110319.jpgAnna Loves Her Legos!

It was so great to see the children focused and enjoying each activity station.  My personal favorite was the ice-breaker of sorts, when each child reached into a bucket of Legos and made something from whatever they got; spaceships, houses, boats, and machines were all made with such flair!  Then, they got to make robotic pirate ships and also used robotics to crinkle paper for a Parrot craft.  What I truly appreciated about our hosts was that the kids were engaged, the parents could help out and socialize at the same time, and we had the place to ourselves.  Easy. Relaxed. Simple.  Parties like these make me want to plan the next one ;-)

IMG_20160507_112053.jpgSuper-focused on their creations!     IMG_20160507_120123.jpgA completed Pirate Ship.

Please note:  This is not a paid advertisement; no products or services were exchanged.
 

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Humble and Kind, Bitter and Resentful in a Flash!

I love music, I enjoy discovering new music.  I listen to all types of music and recently heard country artist, Tim McGraw's new song, "Humble and Kind" - it shares a good message that I like my kids to hear whenever I stumble onto it.  The link here is for the video, which is even better! Honestly, it makes me cry every time I hear it, but not necessarily because of what the lesson I imagine the writer is trying to teach, but because of the sadness I feel when I realize how I don't always show my family, especially my children, my kind side. 

It is really hard to embrace that kind spirit when at least once a day, I have to strip down to my bra and underwear because I am so freaking hot!  Hormonal hot flashes have made me one mean mom.  Well, I certainly wasn't a beaming ray of sunshine and rainbows prior to my cancer-induced menopause, but I really don't recognize myself in these anger-filled, sweaty moments. 

So, if you don't put your shoes in the hallway bin, you may just experience the wrath of my internal furnace from hell in 0-30 seconds.  

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My kids, like many others, complain about equality.  Are they getting the same amount of toys, screen time, etc. (I mean, do you really need the exact amount of Goldfish as your sibling?)  I can usually deal with this.  But, during a hot flash?  That's a different story.  They sit there, watching me yell at them, something along the lines of "LIFE ISN"T FAIR, IT WILL NEVER BE FAIR, GET OVER IT!"  At this point, I think they have become used to my surges and probably are thinking, "Geez, mom, chill out and go put some clothes on."

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Of course, it's not anyone's fault that these surges happen and I guess because a) there really isn't anything I can do about it and b) I have no idea when, if ever, they will end, it just makes me feel crazy and a little sad.  So, forgiving myself for my hormonal tirades is hard.  I like that I can use music to get myself back on track.  I love P!NK's new song for the upcoming Alice in Wonderland movie, "Just Like Fire" - helps me to feel good about myself and who I am because there is no one else like me and that's a good thing.

Let me know if you have any music that helps you, I'd love to hear it!  Look for me on the streets of Fredericksburg in the coming weeks with my Agora cold-brew, iced coffee (the ice cubes are coffee!) and cooling towel ;-)

 

 

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Our RV "Ten Feet Off of Beale"

When we departed for our RV journey, at "O-Dark-Thirty", we left with fingers crossed and 2 feverish children.  For the most part, we are glad we took this adventure; we tried something new and showed the kids a beautiful part of the country.  We also shared stories about Steve's dad's love of camping and the outdoors.  Would we do it again?  Probably not, and that's o.k.  Maybe it should be that special to be forever called, "The One and Done". We have some pretty funny memories to cherish for a lifetime.  I'm sure the kids will be talking about me flying towards the back of the RV and landing on the bed for many years to come!

Our itinerary was Fredericksburg to Knoxville (University of Tennessee) to Memphis (St. Jude Children's Research Hospital) to Nashville (Vanderbilt University) to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg (Dollywood, time permitting, and, there wasn't) and back to Fredericksburg.  We made some little pit stops along the way to break up the trip.  My favorite surprise was stumbling onto the Bush's Beans Factory Museum and Cafe - a nice interactive set of displays for the kids!

anna bushes

If you love camping and have always wondered whether you should try an RV, I say go for it.  Your camping skills will give you the foundation you need to have an enjoyable RV experience.  Preparation is key (Steve has a lot of experience with RV camping and I'm proud of my time as a Girl Scout). Do your research about driving routes, packing lists, parking restrictions (we didn't tow a car with us), and campgrounds.

It takes you a lot longer to drive in an RV because pushing 70 MPH usually gives those things what Steve liked to call the "Alabama Shakes."  Your trip will take you even longer when you find yourself at the Firestone in Hermitage, TN for 3 hours due to a tire problem.  We are thankful for the kind soul who told us, "your tire is about to blow!"  And, packing things like duct tape will help close the loose drawer/cabinet that keeps flying open during the drive. Steve's toolbox saved us many times - the carbon monoxide alarm going off at 6:30am was not in our plans!

sunset

Driving all of Tennessee was a recipe for overextending ourselves, but we didn't see that until it was too late to make any changes.  We have a formula for our spring break trips and we had missions to accomplish!  And, that drive time did give the kids a chance to feel better - our RV was a Rolling Clinic. So, for a week timetable, I would suggest a shorter distance.  I admire those driving RVs cross-country - I would like to know the shortest time someone has done that trip.

You may already be thinking that this type of vacation isn't for you and that's totally understandable.  Or, maybe you are still wondering about renting an RV? I suggest that you consider whether anyone in your family would be comfortable driving/being responsible for the RV, whether you are o.k. with the set-up, clean-up, etc. that is required for the RV, and are you sensitive to small spaces, shared bathrooms (reduced privacy)?

For us, visiting the awe-inspiring campus of St. Jude's was critical for us and our kids to remember to serve others and give thanks every day.  Something that I feel pretty confident in saying is part of the RV culture: being part of those communities.  At every campground, we were met with kind and generous people always ready to lend us a hand.  At our final location in Pigeon Forge, we were at a larger family campground where children rode their bikes everywhere and readily introduced themselves to each other, asking to play basketball, baseball, etc.  I loved seeing that in our youth -- they were TALKING to one another.  No electronics.  No distractions.  This is what will bring us back if we ever decide to try it one more time.

grandma kids

Now that our spring breaks have come and gone, it feels like we'll wake up one day soon and summer will be here.  I hope that everyone is feeling the spirit of new life and renewal that the season offers.  Who knew that an RV could make me feel so grateful?

"Give Thanks for the Healthy Kids in Your Life, and Give to Those Who are Not."

hope mosaic

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Heading to Tennessee in a RV

When you read this...if all goes well...my little family of four will be on Day 3 of our RV Spring Break Trip. As I am writing this, we are gearing up for departure. With two sick kids. It's Spring Break, Schaffer-style, folks!

 

How did we decide that a week in a RV with a seven-year-old and a four-year-old was a good idea? Well...when Steve and I were newlyweds we moved to Florid to try something completely different. We ended up in Gainesville and discovered that there was nothing like that first home football weekend, when we saw the town come alive right before our eyes.  Before we knew it, we were dressed, head to toe in Orange and Blue, yelling, “Go Gators!”

 

 As we got to know the ins and outs of our new home, we couldn’t help but notice a unique area given very special attention on campus during football weekends.  Upon closer investigation, we realized the area was reserved for RV campers.  We're talking large recreational vehicles that have the capabilities to do just about everything - I think a helicopter could have probably landed on one.  It was hard not to admire people for their extreme dedication to both the school and their love of food, drink, and the game of cornhole.

 

I had a running joke that Steve and I would hop in an RV one day and visit all the Southeastern Conference (SEC) universities and their football stadiums.  Well, fast forward almost 15 years, and even though we haven’t had an RV until this trip, we’ve had a blast with our kids, using our spring break vacations to visit SEC college towns. We’ve taken the following trips:

 

2012 - Alabama and Auburn (we snuck to Kentucky later that year too)

2013 - Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Louisiana State

2015 - South Carolina, Georgia, Clemson and Duke (ACC schools are creeping in)

 

It should be noted that Jack was taken to the University of Florida within 4 months of his birth and Anna was taken at age 2 (picture below). These very early college tours have led to Jack cheering for Alabama and Anna being convinced she belongs on a beach in California. Since they've done well on our trips, we figured this year was our year to try an RV!

IMG_20130704_115713.jpg

We rented a 30-foot RV from CruiseAmerica.com.  We will be driving to Tennessee to focus on visiting Vanderbilt in Nashville and University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Steve and I have done lots of research on driving routes, campgrounds, public parking lots for large vehicles, and recommended packing lists for RV campers.  Hopefully, our research will pay off and we don’t run into any issues (yeah, right!).  We even watched the movie, “RV” to learn what not to do. 

 MV5BNDgxNDE2NDU3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzA2ODQzMQ__._V1_SX640_SY720_.jpg

 

I will definitely post a blog after we return from our trip so that I can share pictures and lessons learned.  So, we’ll see if our “try new things” trip works next week and we’ll see you in the blogosphere soon. Happy Spring! 

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