A Different Kind of Mommy – Mother’s Day

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Mother's Day 2013

Today is Mother’s Day. As I reflect on this past year of being a mom, I realize being diagnosed with cancer makes you a different kind of mom. My prognosis was and still is great but hearing you have cancer three weeks post-delivery of your first baby does something to you. It is like a switch turns on and you feel the need to experience and expose your little one to as much as possible all the while absorbing as much as possible – immediately.

Last year on Mother’s Day I didn’t feel so good. I was in my third round of BEP chemotherapy and it was starting to catch up with me. Up until that point I had been feeling pretty good in general. Mother’s Day was so important to me, after all it was my very first Mother’s Day and a lot had happened since having Grace that in some ways it made me feel like I was cheated and in other ways made me feel like super mom. For my first Mother’s Day, we went to brunch, which I was worried about making it through because I was having some pretty bad digestive issues that set in with round 3. I did pretty good. Good enough to make it to a picnic Ryan planned later in the day. In general the day was a success and I made it through.

Here it is Mother’s Day again and I feel like a completely different person. I actually feel better than ever. If you would have asked me last year at this time if I thought I would be saying that now I probably would have responded with a bit of doubt that I would be feeling better than ever. All in all I am very thankful for my cancer and it’s timing, it made me a different kind of mom.

How has cancer made me a different kind of mom than I thought I would be?

  • Slowing down- absorbing life: Cancer slowed me down and made me realize that I wasn’t absorbing the great moments in life like I wanted to. I really focus on absorbing every moment with Grace which I am so thankful for. Everyone says “doesn’t it fly by?”. Yeah, your baby growing up does fly by but when you are present, in the moment and absorbing those precious minutes, hours, and days of time, you realize how amazing the process is and it seems to slow things down a bit.
  • Remembering special moments- even in a fog: With chemo came a bit of “chemo fog”. It was important to me to remember Gracie’s special moments and all the little things that make me so proud to be her mom every day. So when my memory began to slip I started keeping a daily calendar of little things she did or new milestones. I would read them over and over again at the end of the week and it would make me remember and smile. Even though I am out of my chemo fog this is still something I do every day and probably will continue to do until she is off to college. It is so cool to look back at the day to day.
  • The Jolt: Time is precious: Cancer jolted me and made me realize that time is precious. I honestly spent the last year trying to do as much as possible with Grace all while taking a lot of pictures along the way. Creating memories for her through pictures. She is pretty young to remember this time when she is older but if anything ever did happen to me she will have an awesome set of pictures to look back on. Oh how cool and amazing this year has been with her. We have taken many, many trips large and small, more than most kids do before they leave for college. Friends laugh and ask “How do you do that with a baby?” “How do you do that with a baby being sick?”. I just do. I have to.
  • A different kind of role model: I believe one of the most important parts of motherhood is leading by example. You have an awesome ability to form and mold a child into anything. You have an attitude, your child will have an attitude. You roll your eyes, your child will roll their eyes. You treat others poorly, so will your child. All simple things, really. I am so focused on leading by example for Grace, I have been since the beginning. What I didn’t know is that I was going to have a less simple example to set. I was going to immediately have to show her strength, grace and joyfulness through cancer. I could have never imagined this would be my first example of being a role model to her.
  • Making up for lost time: I didn’t really miss out on much with Grace. It just didn’t start out so easy and at times I long for those precious alone, one-on-one mommy times with her that I didn’t get at the beginning of her life. Trying to make up for this has been a lot of fun. We have gone on a couple trips together across the country just the two of us in the car, bonding and giggling. She is my very fun little travel buddy. Lost time? What lost time?

I love being a mom. It is so much more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. This Mother’s Day, today I am full of energy- like a little kid! I ran a race, my first race since Grace and cancer yesterday and it went really well. Today we are off to brunch again and I am not worrying about keeping my food down. I have a wonderful, happy baby and I feel like an awesome mom. In fact, I feel like super mom to have made it through all of this with a new baby. What a difference a year makes. There is light on the other side of cancer.

Mother’s Day 2013

Mother's Day 2013Mother's Day 2013

Mother’s Day 2012

Mother's Day 2012Mother's Day 2012Mother's Day 2012

My First Race Post Baby and Cancer 10k!!

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First race post cancer

Pre-race: What a day!! Perfect running weather! As many of you know I have been training for the Sunburst Marathon on June 1st, 2013, to mark exactly 1 year post the completion of chemotherapy and I am SO EXCITED! I promised Ryan I would attempt one shorter race before attempting a marathon. He worries about me, it’s cute. :) Today is the day! My “prove-I-can-do-it” day. I am running with my sister who is also a cancer survivor! 10 year survivor and going strong!! Woooo Hoooo! You go girl! We are doing the 10k at the 5/3 Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids, MI. Start time: 8:00am!!

It’s go time! Off to the races!!!

Post-race reflections: There is something so special about the running community. It is such a great group of people. It was such an awesome feeling to run this race today. There were people cheering for the runners all along the route and I couldn’t help but smile the whole time I ran. I was so, so happy. At the 4 mile marker there was my hubby and little Gracie. I yelled “MY FAMILY” and Gracie let out a big laugh! :) What a joy it was to show her mommy is okay and doing something that requires good health. The last quarter mile I had tears of joy in my eyes. I was really doing this and it was a piece of cake! Holy Cow! Am I really this okay? It’s been a lot of hard work but I feel like I am very strong again and it hasn’t even been a year post-chemo!

Every time I see someone struggling to begin a journey to health out on my training route I want to yell, “YOU CAN DO IT!!!!”. I just had a baby, surgery, cancer, chemo, and a pulmonary embolism, and I’m doing it. YOU CAN DO IT!! YOU CAN DO IT!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!

ps: Big congrats to my sister for running and completing her longest race ever!

IMG_2937First race post cancer

Chemotherapy is Done – Now the Hard Part

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last day of chemo

I thought I would be so overjoyed upon completion of chemotherapy instead it was quite the opposite. After all when you go to chemo M-F 8-5 you can’t help but have it become part of your routine. More than that chemo had become my sense of security and I didn’t even realize that until I was done. What I didn’t prepare myself for was what I feel was the hardest part of my journey. Post chemo, post constant care.

On my last day of chemo I got a card from my husband and my mom along with many, many praises of support, happiness, and relief from a close watching family and friends on social media. I walked out feeling great, went to lunch with Ryan and Gracie and had a glass of wine!! I chose not to drink much during chemo because I thought it would be best for me and I had just gone 9 months without drinking. What’s a few more? This glass of wine was my celebration. Later that day we went to dinner with my mom and some family friends. It was a nice evening.

All seemed to be going well until later in the week when I went from feeling very positive to very disconnected, worried, and lost. I didn’t have these feelings while battling. Not once. I always felt like everything was going just as it should and I was under the best care I could ever ask for. I felt like the pilar of positivity and strength. What was this new feeling? Is this normal? Why do I feel lost? Why at the end when it is all over? Despite these feelings I tried to maintain positive lifestyle behavior in an effort to not let myself spiral out of control.

After several weeks trying to rationalize my thoughts I came up with a list of what I was feeling which really helped my healing:

  • I was worried that I was no longer under constant supervision. What if it came back?
  • My stomach hurts. Should I call the doctor? Maybe it’s just gas and I’m being dumb. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is. Back and forth, back and forth.
  • Should I call my oncologist for all my problems?
  • I’m terrified of another pulmonary embolism. To the point it’s crippling. Am I sleeping too long, sitting too long, traveling too long?
  • I have spent all my time either in the hospital, being taken care of at home, or being taken care of at the treatment center. That isn’t the case now.
  • I was in my cycle of sickness. Everywhere I went was where I was sick. The people I was surrounded by were people I were sick with.

What to do? What to do? Well darn it!!!!! Conquer this list! I conquered cancer, I can conquer this.

Item 1: I was worried that I was no longer under constant supervision. What if it came back?

This is not a controllable. I need to learn what I can and can’t control. This was an awesome realization and has helped me in so many aspects of my life. To read more on this subject you can read my previous post, controlling the controllable.

Item 2: My stomach hurts. Should I call the doctor? Maybe it’s just gas and I’m being dumb. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is. Back and forth, back and forth.

I quickly learned that my body was healing and I was going to feel aches and pains as I return to daily life. My strategy for not obsessing about every ached and pain in my stomach was to give it a day or two. If it was still bad and out of character I called the doctor. With a couple minor exceptions this always worked for me. Usually the pain went away and with that, the worry. I wasn’t going to die if I waited a day or two to see if it resolved itself. I did however tell my husband every ache and pain which in retrospect had to have been very hard on him. He never got upset with me for sharing and took all my complaints seriously which I am eternally grateful for. I think every survivor needs that support person to listen to their concern and take them seriously and not make them feel silly.

Item 3: Should I call my oncologist for all my problems?

I really struggled letting go of my oncologist. I still do. When you find a gem of a doctor it is hard to let them go and know they only handle what they handle. At my last major appointment I asked him what I should and should not be calling him for. He was very kind and explained that I should call him regarding anything to do with issues in the area he treated. It seemed like common sense to me but every time I had something I thought was related to the treatment I had I felt compelled to call him. Like my itching and etc. I still sometimes call his office with a problem I am having and the nurse always kindly reroutes me to my family physician. I’m getting better at resisting the urge to call the oncologist which makes me feel like I am learning to let go.

Item 4: I’m terrified of another pulmonary embolism. To the point was crippling. Was I sleeping too long, sitting too long, traveling too long, crossing my legs too long?

Major need to pull the reigns in on this line item! First of all, this is uncontrollable. Secondly, I got a pulmonary embolism because I had a major surgery and cancer. I can control this like I can control the weather. I can’t. I can’t control if my cancer comes back and I can’t control this. I needed to plunge forward and live.

Item 5: I have spent all my time either in the hospital, being taken care of at home, or being taken care of at the treatment center. That isn’t the case now and I have a newborn.

I have never been one to let others take care of me. I am pretty independent in that way. It was very hard for me to let go and be taken care of. Once I did it was a very nice feeling and I could rely on it. I needed the help. When chemo ended I ended up at home with a newborn and a husband that had to return to normal too. I was worried I couldn’t do it. I was worried that I wasn’t strong enough and I was also pretty fatigued by the end of my treatments. To conquer this I started taking it day by day rather than looking at weeks and months at a time. The things I couldn’t do because I was plunging all of my energy into Gracie during the day I left for Ryan to assist with when he was done with his work day. I even made a list of things that needed to be done that I needed help with and began to ask family to come over and assist. This was very helpful in my adjustment period. I think it is important to explain to your support system that even though you are done, you still need them. Keep them on stand by and don’t feel guilty about it. I know you may think they helped you for months and months and it’s hard to ask for more but you can. This is your time to heal.

Item 6: I was in my cycle of sickness. Everywhere I went was where I was sick. The people I was surrounded by were people I were sick with.

I needed to break my cycle post chemo. I needed to do something different somewhere new. If you are healthy enough I highly suggest taking a trip somewhere by yourself to see friends or just get away post chemo. I chose to take Gracie on a little trip to see friends in Canada. I felt like I had some one-on-one mommy daughter time I needed to steal back :). I used our travel time to bond, be silly, laugh and dance without anybody else being there to monitor. Gracie was by my side the whole way but I never got those precious mommy daughter moments alone with her that I so desperately wanted as a first time mom. This was my chance. We travelled, had a blast then saw some awesome friends for some silliness and much needed relaxation away from home and the cycle. I needed this time as much as I needed chemo to make sure I was okay. It broke my cycle and I came back myself again. My “non-sick” self.

I firmly believe all the feelings I was having post chemotherapy were completely normal. I just didn’t talk to anybody before I went through the phase to be prepared. I wish I would have. Talking to survivors now I realize many have this time period post chemo that they too didn’t know what to do with. I hope this entry provides comfort to anyone starting post chemo life to know that they are not alone in how they are feeling. If I would have known these feelings were normal I really believe it would have been an easier time and I would have reached out and talked to someone who had gone through it.

Stay well mentally and physically friends. My thoughts and prayers are always with anyone in this fight.

As I Return to Blogging Regularly

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Hi all. Back to my weekly Starbucks routine of writing after a long hiatus while traveling. I suppose my travels are a way of still trying to make up for lost one-on-one mommy-time with my dear Gracie at the beginning of her life. As I start to write I find myself once again with coffee in hand and tears in my eyes. It must be the coffee :). I’m fine when I write anywhere else.

The song playing as I begin to write is “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer. I don’t want to wait on the world to change. I want to change it. There is a whole world of fighters and survivors out there I had NO IDEA about until I got sick. To me it is such a shame that our society doesn’t know how amazing, inspiring, and strong this network of people is. I want to change this.

I often write or talk about the things we are doing for others and the money we are trying to raise. It isn’t for recognition. I could care less if anyone gave an ounce of recognition. Talking about it is an effort to raise awareness, and money for research :), as well as to inspire others to get out and make a difference large or small. We are small, small potatoes in the world of giving back now but we are doing it in a big way. I only hope that someday we become big potatoes giving back in a big way. This world is a learning process. Raising money isn’t easy. Friends will comment and like a post on Facebook in massive quantity regarding a picture of Gracie or our dog Frankie but if I post something about team Joyful Hope there are absolute crickets. We will learn the fundraising process and are very dedicated to doing so. In the meantime we will continue to cook for patients and counsel new moms with cancer or any woman with cancer that just wants to sit and chat over coffee or tea. If you want to chat, check out Coffee and Cancer.

The Corliss family, Ryan, Trish, and Gracie will not sit and wait for the world to change. We are going to do something about it. One day at a time.

World Ovarian Cancer Day

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This year marks the first ever World Ovarian Cancer Day. I am so happy to have a step in the right direction for raising awareness of Ovarian Cancer. My dream is to have just as much awareness as breast cancer does. This will be a big feat but I do believe it will happen someday.

What is World Ovarian Cancer Day (WOCD) all about?

Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all gynecologic cancers, and is characterized around the world by a lack of awareness of symptoms and late stage diagnosis. May 8th, 2013, is the first World Ovarian Cancer Day. On this day, Ovarian Cancer organizations from around the world will unite to educate their communities about Ovarian Cancer and its symptoms. For women living with the disease, and their families and friends, World Ovarian Cancer Day will build a sense of solidarity in the fight against the disease. To read more: http://ovariancancerday.org/about-wocd/.

I am very happy to be a part of this community and am looking forward to making a positive impact on awareness and fundraising in hopes that there will be many more survivors out there.

Ovarian cancer symptoms are quite often confused with gastrointestinal issues and therefore go undiagnosed. Here is a list of symptoms to watch for:

If a woman experiences one or more of the following symptoms on most days within a three week period, they should discuss their concerns with their doctor:

  • Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
  • Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently


Itching Post Chemotherapy Another Follow Up

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post BEP chemo itching

As you may have read previously, I have been suffering from chronic itching and hives post chemotherapy. My previous posts, Itching Post Chemotherapy and Itching Post Chemotherapy Follow Up have been very popular in Google search so I know there are other people out there looking for answers. I am happy to report I found my solution (for the most part)!!

After my last dermatologist visit I was determined that I would not be drugged into a sleepy coma to avoid itching. Furthermore, no other prescription had worked so far and I honestly didn’t believe this tactic would work either. For good measure I tried the Atarax and Zyrtec three times a day along with Pepcid. After a couple weeks of trying to get the insanity that was my itching under control with this method I gave up on the meds and started calling around to see if a spa around town had a steam room. I thought maybe I could get some relief with steam. I never found a steam room but talked to a spa representative that said I should get a body scrub. My instant thought was I was going to itch more after that. I WAS SO WRONG! I think all this time the crazy insane itching has been my skins toxic wasteland trying to be purged. It now makes sense to me that I had several layers of dead skin due to the chemotherapy killing my healthy cells and I needed to get rid of all of it.

Here’s how I did it!

  1. I got rid of my soap. It was drying out my skin more and leaving a film. I opted for Gracie’s soap, Just Hatched.
  2. I started scrubbing my skin every day with Lavender Scrub from Ummelina Day Spa (you may have to call them, I don’t see it currently listed on their site). I scrubbed vigorously twice a day with this stuff.
  3. I increased my water intake from 3 to 4 liters a day in an effort to hydrate from the inside out.

It seemed so easy. Within two days of starting this scrubbing ritual my itching and hives were virtually gone. I still have a small spot on my left thigh that always itches but it is certainly better than my whole body itching and covered in hives. It may just be coincidence that my itching stopped when I started down this path but it seems so closely related that it is worth reporting. Maybe some of you will benefit from this ritual. Good luck my fellow itchers.

Tell a GOOD Story

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another trip

Writing from Bar Harbor, ME today friends. Gracie and I are on a little trip visiting Ryan’s family and our friends. It is so nice to be healthy enough to take a trip! We are having a wonderful time and counting our blessings as always but I am definitely missing my hubby. :)


In my experience telling someone you have cancer is like opening Pandora’s box. People suddenly feel like they should tell you every horrific story of cancer they have ever heard. Perhaps it is an ever-present uncomfortable feeling people get when you tell them you have cancer or perhaps it is just our culture to be relatively negative. Either way, it is important to me to help change the culture of cancer talk. Every story has some good in it. Find the good. Find a way to inspire and give hope to someone fighting this battle.

If you are a survivor, fighter, family member or caregiver with a good story of hope and inspiration I would love for you to share your story in the comments section of this post. It’s always nice to read a good story when you are sick. It is a good way to counteract any crazy stories you may hear along your journey. Please make this post a stomping ground of positivity. We have plenty of fighters reading this blog that would LOVE to hear a good story.

Every day is a blessing. There is always a way to be positive. Positive attitude, positive results.

Have fun writing my endlessly strong friends.

As a side note here are my golden rules of talking to a cancer patient or a mom with cancer:

        1. Please DO NOT tell a cancer patient a list of everyone you have known that has died of cancer.

2. Please DO NOT say, “Yeah, I know someone that got through cancer with flying colors and is back in chemotherapy again and almost dead”.

3. Please DO NOT tell a cancer patient all the horrible things that have happened to your friends with cancer.

4. Please DO NOT tell a new mom with cancer about all the kids you know that moms have died of cancer.

5. Please DO NOT say “Well, at least you can say you’ve lived.”.

6. Please DO, DO, DO, tell a cancer patient a GOOD story, a story of hope and promise. We know all the horrible things cancer can bring. Tell something to lift us up. Tell something inspiring. Tell something hopeful.

7. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. -Thumper

Team Joyful Hope Sets a Goal to Raise 100K by 12/25/2015

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When you are diagnosed with cancer, you spend a lot of time fighting for yourself. As a person that has always fought for others this was a difficult task for me. Day in and day out, I would sit at my treatments in a room secluded from the rest of the treatment center because I had a newborn and didn’t want to disturb anyone or jeopardize anything medically. I wanted to be out with everyone, talking to the elderly people that were alone. I wanted to give them companionship because I knew how much it helped having people with me during my treatments. I made a promise to myself that when I made it through this I would make a difference. I would do everything I could to help put an end to this awful disease.

We have been doing many things to give back since getting healthy, blogging to provide a place for other people struggling through this to relate, opening ourselves up for video chatting with people fighting the battle “Coffee and Cancer”, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the patients at the chemo center to take home with them, baking, making soup, etc. Now we start the next leg of giving back and this leg is very near and dear to our hearts. While I was sick I learned about the StandUp2Cancer foundation. You may have heard of it. They take over all the major networks once a year to raise money. 100% goes to cancer research. We have started team “Joyful Hope” in an effort to raise 100K or more over the next two years. Please join us in making a difference and contribute to our campaign. No amount is too small or too large and your donation is tax deductible. Please spread the word to everyone you know. Your employer may even donate. Click here to join team JOYFUL HOPE today!

We will be doing several events to raise awareness and money. The first one is my very first MARATHON!! This marathon will be exactly a year and a day after my completion of chemotherapy, June 1st, 2013. I will be doing the Sunburst in South Bend, Indiana.

This journey of giving back and fighting this disease will be a part of the rest of our lives. After we hit this goal we will be adopting families struggling financially with the endless costs of cancer and raising money for them. We know from personal experience that cancer can devastate you financially and don’t want it to happen to others.

Click here to join team JOYFUL HOPE today!

Let’s put an end to these situations!!!


Pain with Neulasta Shots

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Good morning all! I wanted to write a quick post about my experience with Neulasta. I started Neulasta in an effort to keep my white blood cell count from dropping during BEP chemotherapy. I had quite a bit of unexpected pain with these shots that worried me at first. Hopefully this  post will put your mind at ease if you are experiencing similar symptoms. As always, talk to your oncologist if you are running into side effects. This is just my account of how my oncologist and I handled it.

Description of the pain:

  1. Similar to the feeling I had when I had my pulmonary embolism. I would be up all night worrying I had another clot.
  2. Intense pain for 2-3 days after each shot.
  3. The pain was a throbbing, pulsating feeling up my spine into my neck.
  4. Bone and joint pain. I felt like my hips and knees were giving out and breaking.

After the first two shots I realized it was directly related to the Neulasta.

The solution:

I talked to my oncologist who suggested pre-medicating with Advil one day before the shot was administered. I was convinced the pain was so intense, pre-medicating with Advil wouldn’t work. I was already taking Advil after the shots and the Advil did nothing for me. But that was the issue – I needed to take it beforehand. As always, my oncologist was right. Pre-medicating did the trick for me.

Carrot, Egg, and Coffee

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My mom sent me this story today and I thought it was very fitting to share here. Coffee has always been a passion of mine. It’s given me my most favorite job of all time, my husband, and my best girlfriend. Coffee has been good to me. It’s only fitting that I would consider myself the coffee bean. Life is beautiful! Make the most of your hurdles. Enjoy the read! :)

Carrot, Egg, and Coffee…You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again…

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see. “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?” Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial
hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to make you happy.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.
The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can’t go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

-author unknown