Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Being Beautiful--My Many Nose Jobs

 It's funny to think about now, but when I was a little girl I always hoped to grow up and become this beautiful woman that just stopped people in their tracks. I think that's probably what most little girls hope for. I mean, I don't know many little girls who dream of growing up and becoming someone homely or anything, but for me, it was something I thought about a lot. Probably more than I should have. I never felt like I was a very cute little girl, so I think I sort of envisioned myself as a caterpillar in a cocoon that would someday blossom into a beautiful butterfly somehow. And I thought a lot about the word "beautiful." I didn't want to be cute or adorable or even gorgeous, as great as all those words sound. No, I was really hung over on that word beautiful. It just sounded so . . . well. . . beautiful! To me, it meant flawlessness, exquisiteness, poise and unmistakable appeal. It was pretty much the whole enchilada!

Now, being beautiful physically was something I hoped for, but I also was determined to be beautiful inside as well. That's right--I was going to be the whole package! Not only was I going to stun everyone with my ravishing looks, even more importantly, I was going to impress them with my humility and goodness and deep inner strength and integrity. Sounds like a brilliant life plan, doesn't it?

There are a few hitches in a plan such as this, however, one being that a person cannot really control what physical characteristics or natural beauty she is born with. Now, I am not complaining in any way--it's just that it didn't take me long to realize as I started getting older and a bit more mature that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder and that working on that second part of my life plan was the part I really needed to focus on--and focus hard. But, even despite what life naturally deals you, there's still so much you can't control, like the aging process, for instance--ugh! My children remind me regularly that I am looking older and more wrinkled all the time. And why is it that every year on my birthday they keep assuming I am older than I really am???:)

Anyway. . .there are other factors out of our control as well. For instance, this is what my face looked like two-and-a-half years ago. It was only a week before I was to go into the dermatologist for a routine procedure to have a very small lump removed from beneath my nose. I decided we should get family pictures taken before I went in, just in case I had to get a stitch or two. That turned out to be a very good idea.

This is what I looked like a week later when I walked out of the dermatologist's office from that "routine" procedure (Sorry about the graphic picture. And I know I shared some of the following photos and a bit about this in a post a couple of years ago, but since I just finished the last of many procedures, I decided to post this again and show some of the different faces I've worn the past couple of years).

 Little did I know that the small little lump of cancer (basal-cell carcinoma) had spread clear to the corner of my eye and was to-the-bone deep. Nor did I know it had spread so far up my face and down my nose. I was supposed to walk right over to the next office over and have the plastic surgeon stitch me right up. He studied my face for a long while, then told me he would have to take pictures of my nose, study it that night and meet me at the surgery center the next day with a possible solution of how to fix the hole I now had in the middle of my face.

All hopes of being a beauty pageant contestant were now dashed. Ha! I'm telling you though, the little flaws I used to complain about seemed to inconsequential and stupid in that moment when I looked in the mirror and saw a good portion of my nose missing. It was definitely humbling.

I left the surgery center the next day looking like a prize fighter who had definitely not won the prize.

This was right after surgery. My eye was so swollen I could hardly see out of it. The worst part is that I had to teach my preschool class and I was so worried they would be scared of me.

A few days after surgery. I look like a ran into a barbed-wire fence.

I don't know why my eyes always look cross-eyes when I take these pictures, but thankfully they aren't in real-life:)

This is after the bandages had come off. I had that huge red square on my face for a long time where they grafted skin from my collar bone. 

A few months of healing had passed.

This is where they took a skin graft from. 

 Over the process of the next two years I went through a number of procedures to repair that nose. It was not fun. At times I looked like I had a run-in with a barbed-wire fence; other times I looked like I had been beaten in a dark alley. Each time it would take weeks to heal and everywhere I went people stared. I was pretty sure the stares were not from my ravishing beauty:). I remember one day when Regyn told me if she were me she wouldn't leave the house because she would be too embarrassed. I understood what she meant but was so glad I was over that stage of my life where being beautiful was so important to me because the truth is, even though I looked absolutely awful time and time again, it never phased me. My dreams of being beautiful had long since passed, and I was content simply being me. I had no idea what my nose would look like when it was all said and done, but I knew it didn't really matter. I was thankful to have caught the cancer before it had spread any further and very thankful that my day job wasn't modeling. Ha!

Don't you love that pocket of scar tissue that had built up on the bridge of my nose? There's also another pocket toward the bottom of my nose but this view doesn't show it well. Oh yes, I went around with my nose like this for months before they could inject something in there to fix it. 

This one was one of the worst ones. Half way through they decided to do a rhinoplasty (where they break your nose with a hammer and chisel) while I was awake! It was awful! So glad my nose isn't still that swollen.

After yet another surgery. The only thing that changes as often as my nose jobs are my hair styles. Ha!

I look like a battered wife here. I'm glad no one questioned my husband or anything--it does look pretty suspicious:)

In the end, here is what my nose looks like now:

That is one goofy picture, and here is a goofier one, but let's take a closer look:

It's pretty amazing when you consider the hole that used to be there, right? Well, I certainly can't take credit for it. I have had some great doctors who have worked to help make it look more like a nose again and then worked to get rid of that horrible-looking skin graft (their idea, btw, not mine, but I'm sure glad they had it).

The best part about the whole ordeal is that I realized something I think I already knew about being beautiful--it has nothing to do with my face. And boy, am I glad! Being beautiful is about loving and learning and teaching and laughing and enjoying and really living. It's about being the best that's within you. And it's not possible to be the best all the time, but it's about trying all the time, because you know it's worth it, and you know there's a whole lot of important people looking to you--hoping, watching, needing--you to be your kind of beautiful to them. Because you are so beautiful to them. And that's what really matters.

And so, although you will never see this mug on the front of a magazine or sweeping across a movie screen or entering any beauty contests, hopefully I'm working at being the right kind of beautiful to this family that depends on me so much.

And besides, I've decided that this face below--the one that laughs at my husband because he is so, so amazingly wonderful--the one that smiles from deep inside when my children surround me because I love them with every piece of my heart--that is my most beautiful face!

Monday, March 10, 2014


One of the best things about the weather warming up is the opportunity to get outside and work in the yard. I absolutely love spring! It is definitely my favorite time of year. Although I love the change of seasons we get here in Utah, I think I love spring best because I am so ready for sunshine again after a long, cold winter. I love the blooming of tulips and spring bulbs and the grass that starts to green and the hope that I feel as I watch the earth begin to change from grays and dingy whites to yellows and bright blues and greens. And I love breathing in the fresh air! After being cooped in all winter long, it feels so good to get outside again and walk and play and work.

Saturday was a beautiful day, so we prepped the kids for a day of yard work. We told them how great it was going to be to work together as a family. We had a huge pile of compost delivered the day before and had plans to beautify our flower beds and get our yard in tip-top shape by the end of the day. We were soooo enthusiastic, we could hardly contain ourselves, let me tell you! Ha! We got our work clothes, cranked up our favorite tunes and got busy.

That cute little girl in the background is a neighbor who couldn't resist stepping in to help.

Can't you just feel Hallee's enthusiasm as she smooths over the compost? Ha!
We worked and worked, and after about two hours, that huge compost pile was down to this:

Hallee assured me it was not getting smaller! I assured her right back that it was, but I must admit, it didn't seem like it.

We had another little neighbor who stopped by to help. This little guy was sure he needed sunglasses like the rest of us so the dirt wouldn't get into his eyes. Regyn accommodated him with the funniest sunglasses ever. They had eyes painted on the front of them. I am so sad I didn't get a picture of him in those sunglasses!

Boston only lasted about 10 minutes before I realized he had run off to play. Regyn worked for about an hour. She recruited one of her friends to help trim our day lilies (a job that should have been done last fall). They pretended they were barbers giving the plants haircuts, and they did a mighty fine job, I must say. When they were finished they jumped on the trampoline for at least an hour. I loved listening to the two of them play! They were so full of life! They laughed and laughed as they made up routines and cheers and little plays. It made my heart soar just listening to it all. I love being privy to the imaginations of youth. They are truly so creative and lively.

Hallee was the only one who lasted nearly the entire afternoon. It might have helped that she rested between loads.:)

Either way, she was quite the trooper. She worked hard and long, and I was grateful for her (mostly) positive attitude, especially as the afternoon wore on and we were more than ready to be finished with the project. I kept thinking how I sure wished we had chosen a weekend when our 12-year-old son wasn't out of town playing baseball in Arizona! We definitely could have used Nate's help, but I assure you he had a huge grin on his face when he arrived home late last night and learned we had done the entire yard without him. I just smiled inside, thinking, there's always next year, son!

I personally felt I earned the "Hardest Worker of the Day" award (that's if you don't count Dan, of course:). I told myself I would only help for a short while since I have a really bad back and technically shouldn't do yard work at all, but I have to say, there is just something contagious about the sunshine and working together as a family and seeing a yard begin to take shape, and once I started, I just couldn't stop.

No, I don't usually dress this fancy to do yard work. I only planned to really supervise the whole affair, but then I worked like a dog all day and never stopped to even go change my clothes. It's the best I've ever looked while raking leaves and spreading compost--too bad I didn't smell as good as I looked!
The best part about work is that it gives you lots of time to think. Breathing in all that beautiful fresh air and sunshine cleared my head and my thoughts, and my mind just ran from one thing to another. It was like therapy. One thing I couldn't help but think was how grateful I was for two arms and hands. I wondered how I would possibly be able to do the work I was doing without both of my limbs, and I couldn't help but offer a silent prayer of thanks for all my working body parts. I thought how grateful I am for a strong, healthy body that can work. Yes, my back ached like crazy by the end of the day, but I was strong and able to spend the day working alongside my husband and children (while they lasted), and that was so fulfilling.

The other thought I couldn't help but muse over was how much I wish my children were better workers. Work is such an important aspect of life, and although I have tried very hard to teach this skill to my children and even to help them understand how to value and enjoy work, I don't think I'm succeeding. My children really love to play--and that is good. But man alive, helping them understand that play and satisfaction come after the work is done is not an easy thing to do. Teaching them how to work hard is not an easy thing to do. Teaching them how to stick to something until it is done is not an easy thing to do. And apparently, I am not so great at teaching these principles because I don't think my children are so great at doing them. And it saddens me. It's definitely something we are going to be working on in our household.

At the end of the day, I looked at some of our flower beds and smiled with joy. They looked so great! This rock bed was one of my favorites.

To me, there is just something beautiful about rich, brown earth dripping over rocks and piled over flower beds. Anyway, it was a great day. Not one I care to repeat any time soon since my back is still trying to recover, but one I am happy to have experienced.

I am definitely thankful for the principle of work. I never end a day full of work and feel like the day was wasted or unfulfilled. And if I could spend every workday right beside my husband, well, life really couldn't get any better than that!