My Dad & ALS | 52 Weeks of Gratitude

My dad has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). He was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. If you don't know what ALS is, it's a terminal neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. It eventually leaves a person paralyzed and unable to breathe on their own. 

It probably seems weird for me to say I'm thankful for such a terrible disease, but it's not the disease itself for which I'm thankful. It's the lessons that it has taught me.  

I was a daddy's girl up until I hit my teenage years. We butt heads A LOT during those years (everyone says because we're so much alike) and our relationship left much to be desired. Then I moved away for college leaving things as they were. As his health started declining, we lost several close family members, which taught me how much I should truly cherish my loved ones. I moved back home to be closer to my family and help out. 

That was before my dad was diagnosed, when we had no idea how serious his condition was. Now, I'm one of his primary caretakers, along with my mother. The opportunity to take care of my father full-time could be seen as a burden, but I choose to look at it as a blessing. The time I get to spend with my dad is something that can never be replaced, and it has brought us much closer than we were before I moved home. I know that regardless of the sacrifices I have to make to take care of him, I will never regret my decision to do so. 

I am not sure that I could list all the things I've learned (and am still learning) through this process, but these are a few that stand out the most at the moment.  

We take small things for granted, and we shouldn't. I'm talking about things as simple as brushing your own teeth. Things we don't even think about because they're just so normal they don't seem very relevant. It's easy to thank God for new jobs, new cars, and material things. However, when you watch someone lose their ability to be independent day-by-day, it really stresses how important these seemingly small things are. Before this, I never considered that there are people who wake up realizing they can no longer feed or dress themselves. I'm sure my dad would give almost anything to be able to do those things for himself again. 

Life itself is a miracle. I'm sure we've all heard "tomorrow is not promised" time and time again, but how many of us can really say that we live every day like we might not wake up tomorrow? I am certain most people don't, including myself. At least, I didn't before this experience. It wasn't until death visited my family multiple times that I truly started to recognize how fragile life is and how quickly it can be taken away. Elements of my father's life slip away on a regular basis. It not only makes me grateful for each day he's still living and able to laugh & talk with me, but it also makes me grateful for each day I am given to wake up - especially with my health and abilities.  

Love is not always pretty or easy, but it is always a choice. The world likes to portray love as this perfect, sweet feeling that just yields constant happiness. If something doesn't always make you happy or feel good, it's not really worth it, right? Wrong. Now, I can't say that I ever believed that lie, but I know I did not realize how hard truly loving someone can be either. Love is much more than a feeling, it's actions. It's charity. This is easily one of the most challenging situations I've ever faced. I believe it's worth it though. 

My best example of love's ability to look like an ugly, painful choice would be Jesus choosing to die on the cross for his love for the world. I cannot truly claim to be Christian if I'm not willing to try to love like God loves me. I love people so much differently now. I'm less likely to get hung up on petty issues. I would rather cherish who I have, while I have them. And I would encourage you to do the same. Don't let tragic circumstances teach you that. 

Thanks for reading & following along as I try to become a more grateful person. I hope each post isn't this hard to write, but I am certain that my readers will get to know me a lot better by the time this is over. 

Is there anything you're grateful for that may seem unusual? 

Relaxer Update, Quick Length Check & Steam Rollers

I relaxed my hair at a little past 22 weeks post. I didn't plan to stretch that long this time and I don't plan to do it again, but who knows. I spent the majority of this stretch in protective styles so I didn't really struggle with battling my new growth. I think it was a pretty successful stretch. Protective styling has been treating me well. My goal was to finish the year with another style, but I think I may continue with it throughout the winter. Not sure yet, just thinking it may help keep me from having to figure to keep my hair moisturized all the time. My hair hates winter. I am certain I will need to trim soon, but I'm still playing keep away with my scissors so that will have to wait. 

Anyways, my relaxer day went as smooth as I could have asked for. Creme of Nature's Straight From Eden relaxer is definitely my staple now. I was able to repeat my desired results without any problems so that sealed the deal for me. Here's the details:

Prep - 
{1} I thoroughly detangled my hair using my fingers followed by a wide tooth comb. Divided into four sections.

{2} Layered the length of my hair with my "triple threat" - grapeseed oil, PM Tea Tree conditioner, and vaseline - to protect my previously relaxed hair.

{3} Parted my hair to base my scalp with vaseline. After applying vaseline to my scalp, I twisted the length of each section.

{4} When I mixed the relaxer, I added about 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil to the mixture to make sure my hair would not process faster than I wanted.

Relaxer Process - 
{5} I always start applying the relaxer at the crown of my head since it is my most coarse area and work my way down each section, saving my nape and edges for last. I love this twisting method because I can move through my whole head in about 5-6 minutes. I use the rest of the time to make sure I didn't miss any areas. I do not smooth the relaxer in my hair. Total time: 14 minutes.

{6} Rinsed the relaxer out and soaked up the excess water with a towel.

{7} Mid-step protein treatment with Aphogee 2-step. I actually hate this stuff, but in an effort to pare down my ridiculous product stash, I decided to use it. It definitely does its job as far as the protein treating is concerned, which is what matters. Everything else about it sucks though.

{8} Neutralized with the Straight From Eden Hydrating shampoo. I lathered three times, allowing the third to sit for a few minutes just to be sure.

{9} Deep conditioned with Silk Dreams Soothing conditioner and TRESemmé Naturals. Rinsed and did and ACV & aloe rinse. 

Styling - 
{10} Applied my leave-ins - Elasta QP H2 & Straight From Eden Repairing Oil - and detangled my hair.

{11} Blew my hair dry on low heat and lightly flat ironed (1 heat pass).

At this point, I started trying to take pictures for a length check, but ended up playing with the slo-mo video feature :) I posted that on my Instagram last week.

{12} Decided to use my Caruso Steam Rollers, hoping for better sleeker results than the first time. I used mainly the jumbo rollers and a few medium sized ones.

I totally fell in love with my steam rollers this time!! My hair was so soft and bouncy and I LOVED the curls. They gave me soft, loose curls. The curls fell into nice waves by the end of the day, too.  Overall, this relaxer day went very well! 

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