The Day My Life Changed

It’s Valentine’s Day, but I probably didn’t need to tell you that. We usually don’t view Valentine’s Day as anything overly special in our house, besides the opportunity for deals on chocolate the next day. That’s something to celebrate.

However, I thought it would be fun to share our love story in the world of bloggers.

Before I start, I want to give a shout out to my friend Sarah Quinlan. She is one of my favourite people and definitely one of my favourite artists, so when I saw that she was branching out and marketing some of her artistic talents, I wanted in. She did a Valentine’s promo where she offered a cartoon sketch for couples – so I immediately messaged her and ordered one of Brian and me. It turned out so perfect, right down to some of the little details that describe us to a T! Check out her Etsy store for some of her latest artwork for sale.

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Ok, now for our story. (check out this post to catch a glimpse of our crazy life together)

It was Sunday, a beautiful August morning a long time ago…1998 to be exact. I thought it was going to be like any other Sunday – get up, get dressed, go to church, then home to nap. Instead, it was the day that changed my entire life.

After church, I tried to sneak out quickly without anyone noticing. As I exited the Sanctuary and turned down the hall, I felt like I could hear my name being called. I turned around to see Brian facing me. There was no way he was calling me, I thought. I had been going to the church for 10 years and he never indicated he even knew my name. I had only ever seen him from afar, so the idea of him stealing my heart never presented itself – until now.

Brian’s strong jaw and stunning eyes captivated my attention for what seemed like an eternity! All of a sudden, I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to his words, but only to the hook that he knowingly threw my way.

He asked me who I hung out with. His suave was uncanny. Me, on the other hand, knew nothing about how to be suave. I awkwardly told him I was a lonely homebody with no friends. Real smooth. He asked me if we could hang out sometime, to which I said yes. Somehow, he responded, he misplaced my number. Funny, I had never given him my number before. Sly, Brian. Real sly.

We exchanged numbers. My heart fluttered more than I had ever felt before. I was captivated, weak in the knees and so nervous. Thoughts of what was happening were rushing through my head at the speed of light. How could this be? How could this happen? Brian was interested in me? Hmmm…

I raced home and literally sat by the phone, willing it to ring. Sure enough, it did and Brian was on the line, asking me if I knew how to rollerblade and if I would like to go down to the Ganatchio Trail the next evening after he was finished work.

For the record, this would officially be our first date. Not to be confused with Brian’s idea of our first date which came 2.5 years later.

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I barely slept on Sunday night, but just like clockwork, Monday morning rolled around without giving any sympathy to my sleepless night. On the bright side, the lack of sleep wasn’t unsolicited. Thoughts of change had crept into my mind and I spent almost the entirety of the night on my knees petitioning God to show me who would be my knight in shining armour.

The day couldn’t pass fast enough! However, though as slow as it may have been, I made it to the end of my work day. Sure enough, my phone rang shortly after five o’clock. There was no question in my mind as to who I would hear on the other end of the line.

After the call, I let out the biggest scream of excitement I had ever let escape my lips. Brian Ciaramitaro was taking me out on a date!

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I wish I could end it here and say that the rest was history – and it was, but just not the fairytale kind. That would come 2.5 years later.

When Brian picked me up, my eyes met his and my heart took a leap inside my chest. The way the sun was hitting his striking eyes was enough to make me weak in the knees.

The next few hours flew by. The sun was starting to set and the picturesque view from the trail was simply breathtaking. As we skated back to his car, I couldn’t help but think about how idyllic my life would be with this amazing man.

We got in the car and I assumed this was the end of the date. When he turned the opposite way out of the parking lot, I couldn’t help but wonder where he was taking me.

“Want to split a strawberry sundae?” the words came off his lips like a sweet melody. Once again, I was completely mesmerized.

My awkward reply? “Uh, yeah. I mean, if that’s what you want.”

He pulled the car into a spot at Dairy Queen. I slid into a booth while Brian ordered a sundae. I watched him intently with a twinkle in my eye. This very well was the start of an amazing adventure.

The next year and a half was a rocky ‘on-again-off-again’ ‘interested-not interested’ ‘are we dating or not’ ‘Sheri’s madly in love with Brian, but Brian could take her or leave her’ kind of adventure. We parted ways for a full year, during which time it appeared that Brain was moving on. I didn’t think I could ever move on – he was all I wanted. Little did I know that he spent that time doing some praying and soul-searching, which brought him right back to me.

Cue Brian’s version of our first date.

No games, no nonsense. If we were going to date, it was going to be with the intent to marry each other. He gave me his knight in shining armour ring.

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We were married 1 year and 3 weeks later.

The rest, my friends, is a dream come true.

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Names of God | El Shaddai

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous run into it, and is safe.
Proverbs 18:10

Brian and I recently preached on the Names of God. Many people are unaware of the resources and power we have available at our fingertips. All throughout the Bible, God constantly reveals himself and his character.

One of the things that we like to do as a family is to pray together. There are so many important elements to having a regular time of prayer with your family. So, this morning, like many other days, we prayed. My daughter had friends over, so we asked if they would like to be included in this time, which they were good with. Brian presented them with some options of the different names of God that we could use in our prayer time. After realizing that God has about 1000 names that describe his character, the name El Shaddai was selected. Knowing absolutely nothing about what El Shaddai meant, it was chosen as a powerful force that rhymed with “The Jedi”. So we embarked on learning about, El Shaddai the Jedi. It’s strange, right, like anyone ever watches a Star Wars movie in modern culture?  I mean, have you ever seen someone dressed up as stormtrooper, set your alarm for 3am to ride “Rise of the Resistance” or tote a purse with your favourite character, like baby Yoda?

Nonetheless, El Shaddai, was selected as the choice name of God.

Names tell a story and speak the future hope over people. My name means ‘beauty , grace, favour, slender and fair.’ My husband’s name, Brian, means ‘strength, virtue or strong one.’

The fact of the matter is names mean something to people. It’s special and unique to you, no matter who else bears it. They not only influence us, but those around us and their attitudes towards others.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Every time we say a name, we are making a confession over someone’s life. Our identity is attached to it.

In the Bible, a name stood for a person’s reputation, character, desires and future hopes.

The Hebrew word “Shem” translated “name” in the Old Testament literally means “A mark or a brand.” It reveals personality, character and purpose. For example, Nabal, whose name means “fool,” is referenced in 1 Samuel 25:25 “For as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him:” Other examples include, David (beloved), Isaac (laughter), Satan (adversary).

Names are so important to God that he will even change your name to line it up with his destiny for you. Jacob (deceiver) was changed to Israel (God contends) or Abram (Exalted father) to Abraham (Father of a multitude).

When God reveals to us a name about himself, he is describing his character so we can know him better and he can be to us exactly who he is. Prayer is an excellent way for us to develop an intimacy with God. Knowing his names helps in this process.

Matthew 6:9 “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

Jesus is teaching us how to pray in this passage. He starts off by addressing God as our Father. This establishes a relationship with Him. He is our dad and we are his family.

He follows this up with the “hallowed be your name”. Hallowed means consecrated to a sacred use, reverenced, holy. Isaiah 6:3 states that there are angels who just speak of the holiness of God by just repeating over and over “Holy, Holy, holy is the Lord God almighty”.

God takes his name very seriously and so should we. In Exodus 20:7, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” This literally means empty or without meaning, conveying an idea that something is without substance.

Our culture has developed a disdain and lack of honour for God. This stems from a lack of the Fear of God. Psalms 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O’ Lord; I will walk in Your Truth; Unite my heart to Fear your name.”.  The Fear of the Lord is a foundation stone in the life of a believer as it connects us to the reverence, honour and respect that we have for our Saviour.

You see, everything that we will ever need in life is in God. He is our father and we can go to Him when we pray and He will give us what we need. As we learn about the names of God, we can activate those revelations of him in our daily lives through PRAYER.

Let’s jump back to El Shaddai, which means Lord God Almighty and All-Sufficient One. It’s first referenced in Genesis 17:1 “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.”

These reveal to us not only the supreme eternal nature of God, but that he is also our sufficient source in time of need. This is important, for we need to understand that when we go to the source we will be sustained.

Let me further clarify.

Isaiah 60:16 “You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles, And milk the breast (shad) of kings; You shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” and Isaiah 66:10-11 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom (shad), that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.”

Shaddai comes from the root word shad, which is literally translated breast. These passages are used to describe the supply of nourishment, like a woman to her baby. So when God says He is El Shaddai, He is basically saying I’m the breasty one who supplies the nourishment needed to sustain your life.

What a revelation, God is the complete nourishment that we need to live every day. I’m pretty sure we need God in this capacity daily, so praying to El Shaddai is a great way to start the day off, and that is exactly what we did.

El Shaddai, the Jedi gave us nourishment for the day.

Garnier Bio Facial Oil | Review

Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in your body? If you think about it, your skin endures so much – from harsh elements like wind and uv rays down to the effects of products we subject it to in the name of beauty and skin care.

In recent years, I have started to care more and more about the health of my skin, particularly the skin on my face. Maybe it has something to do with the wrinkles I’m getting as I’m growing older or even the bags and dark circles I see developing under my eyes from exhaustion. Either way, I’m beginning to see the true need for skin care.

That being said, I love trying new products. Influenster recently sent me a complimentary bottle of Garnier Bio Facial Oil. I had never heard of it before, so I wanted to try it out and let you in on my thoughts.

First, let’s talk a bit about facial oils. Oil has been something that most people want to steer away from when it comes to their face. There are products on store shelves everywhere that state ‘oil-free.’ I admit, I’m usually one of those who shys away from putting oil on my face. After all, I don’t want my face to be oily. I’ve tried the oil cleansing method (washing your face with oil), which has pros and cons (leave me a comment below if you want me to do a post on it). However, using oil as a moisturizer of sorts has never made its way into my skin care routine.

Let’s jump into the review.

I’ll start off by saying that I tried this oil on two different occasions, 1 week apart. My first impression was slightly different than my second try, but the end result was the same for both.

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Garnier Bio Organic Lavandin Smooth and Glow Facial Oil sells for $19.99 (CDN) on Amazon. It claims to be non-greasy and provides regenerating hydration for your skin. It claims to be 100% natural-origin fragrance. It also states that it is for all skin types, even specifiying use for sensitive skin. Garnier states that the oil is certified organic and vegan. They also utilize 100% recyclable cardboard in the packaging.

My Thoughts:

Purpose

There was no clear information on what this oil was meant to be used for. I assumed it should be used as a moisturizer, but I had a difficult time finding out why I should add oil to my routine. After posting on social media, I realized that a lot of people use similar oils in their skin care routines, so maybe I’m just behind the times on this.

Scent

The scent had an essential oil smell, but not distinctly lavender. Before I tried it for the second time, I did a bit of research on Lavandin. I found that it is a cross between a few varieties of lavender, but it has a sweeter scent. I did find this to be true. It’s also not only lavandin, but has other oils in it. I found the scent to be very relaxing, soothing and calming.

Non-Greasy Formula

The oil was not greasy, didn’t leave a film or greasy feeling on my skin the first time I used it. The second try, my face didn’t feel greasy on my face, but I did have to wash a slight film off my hands after applying a drop to my face.

Skin Sensitivity

In regards to the claim that it is for sensitive skin, the first time I used it, my face felt agitated, rashy and itchy. This is the reason why I waited a week and then tried it again. When I tried it the second time, I put a timer on just in case it happened again. Sure enough, within 7 minutes of applying 1 drop to my face, my skin became itchy and agitated. I did find this strange since I don’t have extremely sensitive skin. However, I react that way to Jojoba Oil and after googling the ingredient list, I found that Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil is in fact Jojoba Seed Oil.

Aside from my reaction to the Jojoba Oil, I did like this product. Although, the reaction is kind of a big deal. It means I won’t be able to utilize this particular oil in my skin care regime. If you have any suggestions for me on another oil that doesn’t have Jojoba Oil in it, let me know in the comments.

I’m Back

It’s Sunday evening.

Nine months have passed since I’ve last posted.

I’m writing this post as I sit and enjoy a honey crueller donut from Tim Horton’s.

I drove to the store in my pyjamas with disheveled hair specifically to buy 6 donuts. I have no plans to share them with anyone. It almost sounds like a spontaneous, impulsive decision.

It wasn’t.

I thought it out. Planned it out. I weighed out the pros and cons and decided.

You see, 2019 was a difficult year for me. As a matter of fact, I’d say it was probably the hardest year I have ever endured. Strangely enough, it’s not due to any major event. It was the hardest simply because the pressures never let up. Ok, it doesn’t sound like the two thoughts are connected, but they are.

Let me back up here for a moment.

I’ve been refined sugar free since May 15, 2011. Most of that time was spent attempting to gain some self-control in my life. What I didn’t realize was that, although it was a decision that propelled me into a physically healthy place, it was also an extreme decision. When I reflect on my life, I realize that a vast majority of my decisions are extremes. I’ve always felt some sort of comfort in those extremes. Yet, over the last year, I have come to a place where I’m attempting to live my everyday life in balance – for the sake of my mental health.

Ok, back to 2019 where many people are talking about anxiety and mental health. Rightfully so, and it’s something that’s been weighing heavy on my heart.

As a pastor and leader within the church, people often think that you’re exempt from feeling the effects of the stresses of this world. That’s simply not true. The enemy knows our weakest points. He will work at nothing to knock you – and me out of the race. If he can’t get you with one thing, he’ll try the next – and so on, and so on. Philippians 3:14 says it plainly.

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Even though the pressures in my life have only increased, I press on to reach the end of the race. I know God’s grace is sufficient. Lately, I’ve found that grace with the simple act of implementing balance. That means sometimes I have to say ‘no’ to preaching because it’s not healthy to leave my kids to their own devices for four days straight. Sometimes that means I miss training at the gym so I can work on my business before my family gets home. Other times that means going to the mall in sweats and no makeup because my daughter wants to spend time with me. It also means filling my spiritual tank before I attempt to pour into someone else’s life.

I started blogging so that I could have something that was mine simply because I enjoyed it. It gave me time to recharge with a hobby instead of filling all of my free time with obligations. My first post was 2 years ago today. Since then I have dabbled with digital art, painting, writing a novel and singing. This season of balance is helping me realize that it’s ok if I enjoy makeup or working out, crushing virtual candies or potentially trying to eat 6 donuts. *update – I couldn’t do it.* These hobbies won’t keep me from fulfilling God’s purposes – unless I’m extreme with them.

Our fight is not with mere humans, but the evil forces that are at work under the surface. The enemy has been out to steal my purpose and I’m not ok with it. I mean, the enemy went straight for the jugular in the life of my purpose. One by one, I had my heart’s passions and desires shredded to pieces. I’ve had to revisit where I’m going in life, what gifts and talents I have, what I’m meant for. For now, I’m still in that process. However, I will not judge my value based on what others have projected on me – good or bad. I know my value comes from the Lord. Even amidst all the chaos, one thing I know for sure – I only ever want to be in the centre of God’s Will.

I am so beyond grateful for every encouraging word anyone has ever spoken to me over the course of the last year. In a season where many words and actions have cut me deeply, those sweet encouragements have been a treasure I’ve held on to.

If there’s one thing I can leave you with that has helped me in some dark moments, it’s an old hymn sung by Lauren Daigle, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.

FabFitFun Spring 2019 Unboxing

Today’s video is my FabFitFun unboxing for Spring 2019!
#FabFitFunAffiliate #fabfitfun

Click here and use the code SPRINGLOVE for $10 off your first box: https://t.fabfitfun.com/SH18k

This video is not sponsored. The link above is an affiliate link, which means I can earn a small commission if you purchase through my link (no added cost to you).

All opinions are my own.

Rowena Reviews |Marc Jacobs Velvet Primer & Mascara

If there’s one piece of makeup I could wear, it would probably be mascara…

…and I’ve been on the hunt for the best one out there.

Recently, Influenster sent me the Marc Jacobs Velvet Primer & Mascara for free to try. I thought it would be fun to do a side by side comparison of it with my current favourite. (Scroll to the end of this post to see the video)

Here are my thoughts on it:

First Impression

The primer kind of weirded me out. I felt like it made my eyelashes look like spiders – it just really creeped me out. I couldn’t even post a picture of each step on instagram because it just weirded me out too much.

Packaging

The packaging is beautiful and definitely feels luxuriously expensive. The tubes are a bit large, so it wouldn’t be extremely practical for traveling.

Primer

The primer separated my eyelashes well and places them nicely. It coated the lashes well and I only needed one coat. Once again, I didn’t love that the primer is nude coloured.

Mascara

The mascara was nice and voluminous and it applied nicely to my lashes. It kept them separated, yet coated them in a nice balance. I found that it lengthened my lashes, but added no curl to them. As a matter of fact, I felt like it lengthened them by straightening them. I lost all natural lash curves while wearing this.

Final Thoughts

I don’t normally use a primer, and I didn’t love this one entirely. I found the colour made mascara application a little more tedious. I’ll still use the one I have on days when I can spend some time putting on makeup.

The mascara is good (It didn’t make it to my absolute favourite), but I’ve been using it almost everyday.

I would rate it 8/10.

Also, I will point out here that while editing my video review, I definitely liked the look of the Marc Jacobs Primer & Mascara better than my everyday L’Oreal mascara. I just found that the camera picked it up so much better.

Fasting For Lent // 40 Days of Fasting & Praying

*Disclaimer* I am not a doctor, please check with your doctor before you attempt to fast.

So, Lent is coming.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to it before (except when we used to sell chocolate covered almonds for a fundraiser every March/April – every person I tried selling them to responded with ‘I gave up sweets for Lent’).

Normally what we do is join in a fast for the month of January. However, this year, we decided to fasting during Lent.

But this brings me to my first question…

Do you ever feel like fasting is a little far-fetched for the average person to achieve?

Today I’m going to show you some practical things that you can do to make your fasting experience a little easier, so you can focus on praying and not on how you are dying of starvation.

#1 Prepare

I used to get so mad at myself for not being able to complete a fast.

…until I gave up sugar.

That’s when it hit me! Sugar makes it so much harder to fast!

2 weeks before a fast, I like to give up sugar, caffeine and any other food item I feel drawn towards – like breads.

#2 Have A Plan

One of things I’ve been learning over the years is that planning and preparation is key to so many areas in life (if not all of them!).

Things you want to plan for are:

  • Type of fasting
  • Length
  • Expectations
  • Spiritual focus

I put together this handy fasting guide to help get through this fast with focus and purpose. There are no dates on it so that you can use it at your own convenience.

#3 Bring Power To Your Prayer

Go into your fast with great expectations. Know what you want to seek God for. Seek His face with everything you have!

If you want to join me in this fast, leave me a comment and download the fasting guide.

Also, if you want to join in with the Bible plans on the Bible app, add me as a friend (search Sheri Ciaramitaro or VinGoshen).

Happy Fasting!!

Israel Video Highlights | 2018

It’s February 11th.

Last year on this day, I boarded an international flight to Israel.

So, to help me reminisce, I decided to edit some video footage into a highlight video – it definitely gives me all the feels.

Editing the video made me realize how much my heart longs for Israel. I loved it with everything in me.

I will be back.

Until then, hopefully this video gives you a glimpse into the treasure of a trip we had in Israel.

Iron Kettle | Bed & Breakfast

I’ve never been to a bed and breakfast before.

To be honest, I never really wanted to. The idea of a personable travel experience kind of scared me.

However, last week, Brian & I had the opportunity to visit the Iron Kettle in Comber, ON. It was part of a work getaway – a retreat to plan out 2019 and connect with the other members of the team.

My first impression

Comber is a pretty small town, established in 1848 – if you blink, you might miss it. It’s quaint, and the perfect location for a B & B.

As I do with every other travel experience, I researched everything I could about it. I read every aspect of the website, read articles and even watched some videos. The thing that stood out the most to me – and what I loved about it – was that they do not serve alcohol. I don’t know entirely why I loved that so much, but I did.

Bags in tow, I instantly felt nostalgia tug on my heart as we stepped through the front door. If I closed my eyes, I could very well have been walking through the front door to visit my Oma & Opa.

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The foyer was beautifully adorned with an 1800-style trim & wood details that perfectly framed the entrance. A bucket full of knitted slippers were available to keep your feet toasty warm.

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Food

We arrived at noon and the owner, Benjamin Leblanc-Beaudoin had prepared a spread of culinary cuisine. There was no denying that he is a chef, by trade – foccacia, prosciutto croissants, root vegetable salad. After eating lunch, I knew I’d probably eat more than I should over the next 24 hours.

After a few hours of working and brainstorming with the team, we sat down in the dining room for dinner. Warm bread welcomed us as we gathered, followed by a salad of baby greens, honey roasted carrots and macadamia nuts tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette. My favourite part of the salad was the macadamia nuts! For the main course, we had a choice of lemon poached salmon or grilled rib-eye steak with mashed potatoes and a roasted medley of vegetables that invigorated every taste bud. I had the salmon, which had a burst of flavour in every bite and tasted like nothing I’ve ever had before! For someone who has never really cared about food, I absolutely loved it! Dessert looked amazing – vanilla creme brulee – and for a split second, I almost caved and ate it. Instead, I watched as everyone savoured every spoonful of the perfectly carmelized custard.

Sitting Room

After dinner, I pretty much-needed a nap. Food that good should never be followed up by work. However, since that was the purpose of our retreat, we retired to the sitting room. There was more than enough room for all 10 of us to sit around the room, comfortable enough to engage in a planning session.

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Accommodations

Brian & I stayed in the Iron Kettle Room, located on the main floor, just inside the foyer and at the base of the stairs.

Each room is equipped with a queen bed, a bathroom (with a shower), a bathrobe, toiletries, ceiling fan and a sitting space. There is also wi-fi throughout the house, so people like me can stay connected to our kids. We also had a portable heater in our room due to the fact that it was -40 outside.

Just a little chilly.

The bed was quite comfortable and surprisingly warm, given the fact that it was so cold outside.

I woke up to the sweet aroma of breakfast and coffee – the perfect way to start the morning.

Final Thoughts

I loved the atmosphere – especially the feel that the house had in the wake of the polar vortex. Everything was clean and beautiful. The owners (we only met Ben) were so personable and I loved hearing their story and the history of the house. Also, we felt so welcomed that it was almost like we were old friends.

For my very first experience at a B & B, it was definitely an impressionable stay. Although work brought us there, it absolutely felt more like home.

If you haven’t been there, I would highly recommend checking it out.

Knee Injection with Durolane

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a blog – I want to say it’s because I’ve been busy.

Yes, we will say it was a combo of the holidays, vacation, and busyness of trying to serve in ministry, film & edit videos, all while entering into the production phase of our new board game (check out SoapBox Games).

…but I’m back….

Today, it’s a video on my latest gel shot experience.

12 years ago I tore my meniscus (working out on the elliptical of all places). I ignored it until a few years later when we went on a cruise. Simply walking around NYC for a full day, I tore it even further.

I’ll spare you the details, but the back of my knee turned into a blue baseball.

Surgery was the answer. It was supposed to make it all better.

Except

…it made it all worse.

I had a scuff on my knee cap and the doc decided to take all the shredded cartilage out of my knee.

Bone on bone. That’s what I was left with.

My options were slim, but I opted for gel injections. (Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried them before). I have a love-hate relationship with them, but they provide me with much-needed relief.

I don’t want this post to be too long, so I won’t go into the details…but until something new and innovative comes along (like a bio-knee or something), I’ll be injecting this beauty of synovial-fluid-like gel into my knee for the next 30 years.