Author: Angie Harris

Attacking adventures, searching for amazing food, and finding new friends.  Home in Branson, MO, or exploring Disney, I am searching for deals, finding new experiences, and sharing stories along the way.

Time for a Mammogram

Once a year, like clockwork, I stop and go in for what I lovingly refer to as my annual squeeze and peak, or as you may call it, a mammogram.  I do not think twice about it.  As I leave that appointment, I schedule the following year and keep that same appointment.  It’s a priority. This last session did not go as planned and was a first for me.

Just do it

Something about walking into that building always makes me giggle. No, I do not enjoy having parts squeezed until they feel like they will pop.  But, other thoughts always play through my head like a movie.  

As you enter, the ladies working in the women’s clinic are always smiling and kind.  It is never very many minutes before they call my name, and I go back into that tiny bathroom, take off my top, and put on a nasty old hospital gown backward, so it opens up in the front.  The nurse will remind,  ‘if you have on deodorant, please remove it’.  I have never seen in all my years of this process another female going back to be tested.  It’s tranquil and quick.

30 Minutes

The room is fairly dark.  The machine is about the same size as a normal-sized person.  You walk right up, the technician steps beside you and adjusts the machine to be the right height.  With her hands like ice, she takes that all-important body part and lays it on a piece of clear plastic in the machine.  The next step… she cranks down the top piece of plastic until your boob looks like a pancake.  She steps away to hit the photo button, you hold your breath while the machine does its job, and then you are done.  Well, with that one angle and that side!

Now, this is not as much fun as it sounds.  But, here is what makes me giggle.  If a man had to put his business between two pieces of plastic and squeeze it flatter than a flitter, they would come up with a new way for testing!  Don’t you think the song,  “I am woman!” should be playing on the speaker the entire time.  

The best part, after going through that, you get a bonus, a piece of Dove chocolate.  Well, at least in Branson, MO, you do.  

“I got my boob squeezed”

When I was in elementary school, you got a stamp on your homework if you did well.  If you did excellently, you got a gold star sticker!  During the 1960s and 1970s, moms across the country saved those examples of excellence like a trophy!  When I vote, I get a sticker that says, ‘I voted.’  When we do our annual duty for our body, shouldn’t we get something that says…” I Got my Boob Squeezed?”  or “I had my Mammo
Grammed?”  A sticker that we can proudly display on our chest as we stroll through Target, attend PTA meetings, or even stop to pump gas.  Some way to tell the other women in the world, “Reminder, take care of yourself.”  Or a way to show men, “I am woman hear me roar”!

Again, I have been doing this for years and never think anything about it.  The truth is, I am fat but still healthy.  There is no breast cancer anywhere in my extended blood family, so; I have never been concerned.

This Time Was Different

This last year was different.  I went in like always, and did my deal, got my chocolate, complained about no sticker, and went along my merry way.  Several days later, a letter came in the mail with the results.  I left it with the bills because I knew it was fine.  I had missed a call from the doctor’s office, but I figured if they really needed me, they would call back.  Ya, I know.  Don’t judge me.  The point is, I was not worried.

Several days later, the doctor’s office called again.  See, I was right!  The nurse said they found something and wanted to do another mammogram.  Ok.  She said it often happens, so I still was not concerned.  But, I had to call and schedule the follow-up.  The sweet girl on the phone wanted me in asap.  My schedule was nuts, and I tried to accommodate all the things I just “had” to do.  When the lady said, we need this to happen now.  I assured her, “I am fine’.  This is just what happens sometimes.  They see a spot and need to look closer, or it was something on the machine.”  I had looked it up!  That’s when the scare happened.  She said, ‘there are multiple spots.’  

Multiple Spots

Oh.  I could not think for a minute.  My brain had never entertained that something might actually be wrong.  I took the first open appointment and rearranged my schedule.

This time when I went into the clinic, the hospital gown was replaced with a soft and warm housecoat.  Things seemed to be a little slower and a little more serious.   When I finished the first test,  I kept on the robe and moved to a small lounge with leather chairs and a love seat.  There were snacks and magazines, making it feel more like home.  It was moments later that another sweet lady, wearing an identical robe, joined me.  We exchanged stories about this process.  It all happened so fast.  The nurse came to get me to show me the two spots in my left breast.  I could not decide if I were in denial or if the spirit was speaking to me, but I felt like everything was fine.  This could not be me.  She said I would need to stay and do an ultrasound next.

The Waiting Game

In between tests and visits with the nurse, more ladies had entered the lounge.  Total, there were four of us.  One was older, one was the same age and one was in her 30s.  I had been the first to start the process so I would share my experiences, and then they would follow with theirs as the process moved forward.  

After the ultrasound, they determined that I had cysts, and I would likely be ok.  They would see me next year.  As I went to say goodbye to my three new friends, the lady that had come in last, the 30-year-old, had been taken aside.  Her process would be different.  They would skip the ultrasound and take her directly to the biopsy.  I wanted to cry right then and there.

1 in 8 Women

I hated leaving that day.  My story turned out well, but I never knew for sure about the other three ladies because my appointment was first.  There was a bond in that room.  We all understood the fear and how that day had the potential to change futures.   No one wants to hear the words breast cancer.  The fact is that one in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and that over 42K women die every year from breast cancer.  

That day scared me.  Not just for me, but for women across the globe.  The families that will mourn the loss of a mom, wife, sister, aunt, cousin.  The loss of late-night phone calls, long lunches, and road trips with best friends.  Today, I do not know the outcome for that 30-year-old girl sitting in the waiting room with three strangers.  But, I can assure you, I have prayed for her as if she were mine.  

My heart goes out to those women who are fighting the good fight, to the families who love and support them, and to the medical professionals who have dedicated their lives to healing others.

Please, encourage those you love to be tested, get their Dove chocolate, and someday, maybe they will get a sticker that says, “I paid someone to squeeze my boob!”  

Squeeze and peaks for everyone!

Onward: A Disney Movie Review

Onward is a no go for me!

First of all, I love movies, and I love Disney, but this time, I am a ‘NO’ vote.  Let me explain why I feel this way about Onward.

Here is the real question.  Should you go to the movies to see Onward? Wait until it comes out on DVD? See it at home? Or just avoid it altogether?  To help you make this decision, I am going to spoil the storyline.  I feel like it is essential before you take your child to see it that you have a larger picture. 

Dad Passed Away

Dealing with death is hard for adults and even more so for small children.  My father died when I was 12, and I can tell you that the grief and understanding come in waves as you age.  I’m not sure sitting in a movie theater is the best place to deal with a child’s grief and pain.  

The movie opens with Dad already gone.  You do not see him die, but as the movie progresses, you learn that the dad died of an illness. 

Youngest Son, Ian

Ian is the awkward, anxiety-riddled teenager that has been raised by a single mother and an older brother.  He never met his father because he died before Ian was born.  He makes lists of his deepest desires, which include having a heart-to-heart talk with his dad.

Oldest Son, Barley

Barley still lives at home as an over-weight, game playing, rule-breaking, undesirable.  His biggest regret in life is that he didn’t get to say goodbye to his dad.  He shares the story of being scared when his dad was hooked up to tubes and machines and, as a young child, could not force himself to go into the room to say goodbye.

Onward Review Quote

New Mushroomton

The setting is a ‘modern’ town filled with dragons, elves, and memories of magic.  Toss in a nod to Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, and fantasy adventures, and this should’ve been a fun experience. 

There were tons of amazing characters introduced throughout Onward, but they are not developed and leave you wondering to the point of being annoyed.  They used both feet and jumped straight into the emotional trauma of death but did only wrapped it up for one character.  

The two brothers create this awesome 24 hour adventure with the quest of bringing back their dad so that Ian could meet him for the first time, and Barley could apologize for not saying goodbye.  Unfortunately, Barley got a few seconds with dad while Ian saw him from a distance through a hole in a rock.

There are many times in their quest where the situations are high stress.  One specific scene is where Ian steps out over a gorge on an invisible bridge.  Everyone in my group said they physically responded to that scene with nausea, wiggly knees, and a rapid heart rate.  It was realistically shocking.  

My mind went to small children throughout this entire movie—those dealing with anxiety, depression, and stress.  Depending on the child, I would proceed with caution. 

In the End

Ian realizes that his older brother was his dad, and his life has been blessed. He no longer has anxiety and moves on with his life.  Barley has proven himself to be an asset to his family and no longer feels like the loser he was originally portrayed to be.

There are many variables to consider when attending this movie.  Has your child lost a parent and what was the circumstance of the death? What is the current relationship your children have with their siblings following the death?  Maybe your child has not lost a parent but has the fear of losing a parent?  Overall, this is emotional and you need to be prepared to deal with those emotions.

The audience, the mother, and the youngest son Ian, never get to communicate with the father.  We are left with the only closure being that Barley got to say he was sorry and hug the dad.  I get the meaning, but after over an hour of swimming in grief, it was not enough closure.

If you decide to go watch Onward, take the tissues.

You can watch the trailer for Onward here.

A Branson Christmas: Do you feel what I feel?

As adults, it’s often hard to compete with the Christmas memories of our childhood.  Growing up in Van Buren, Arkansas, several traditions tripped my excitement meter to the bursting level.  Some of those things included the day the city started putting decorations up on the street lamps in downtown, the day we drew names for the gift exchange in our classroom and the day we saw the three Wise Men decked out in blue lights walking against the Arkansas River.  Mix those few traditions with the smells of mom baking pies, the special scheduled events, surrounded by family, and my young heart was thrilled.  

At 30 years old, I found a new home in Branson, MO.  There are many things I remember about the first time I saw an Ozark Mountain Christmas, but most of all, I remember how I felt.  That was nearly half my life ago, but every November 1st, I am reminded about the first time I felt a Branson Christmas.

In 1948 with a population of just over 1300 people and very few phone lines in town, the city of Branson held its first-ever Adoration Parade.  Different organizations, clubs, and churches in the community came together, built floats out of tissue paper and crepe paper, and walked through downtown in celebration of the true meaning of Christmas. The decision was that for this parade, no one person or business would be highlighted but that every float would focus on celebrating Jesus Christ.  There’s no way that a small group of citizens could’ve predicted the feeling they would create and how it would spread over five generations and throughout the entire city.  

The population of Branson is just now over 10k, and it was 1996 before every home was able to get a private phone line.  It’s amazing that such a small group of people create such a colossal holiday transformation.  What used to be a weekend-only event for four weeks is now all week for nine weeks.   Each year Christmas begins on November 1 and runs through December 31.  The buildings decorate inside and out, the music switches to holiday medleys, the costumes change, and you can feel Christmas everywhere you go.  The individual businesses create their version of decorations and theming, but it all seems to end up with a holiday emotion that you want to bottle up and take home.

Several places in town still embrace Christmas spirit to another level.

The 28 foot Adoration Nativity sits on top of Mount Branson just above the Branson Landing and can be seen from most of downtown.  In February of 2017, a devastating tornado roared through the little town damaging the nativity.  The community pulled together to replace this iconic piece, and it never missed a season.  Each year on the first Sunday in December, it is lit to kick off the Adoration parade and sits as a reminder to keep Christ as the center of our celebrations.

Silver Dollar City presents a precious Christmas moment as they transform their train ride.  The steam locomotive is decked out in holiday lights filled with passengers singing carols while the train chugs through the dark hills.   Surrounded by woods in the darkest part of the hills, the train comes to a complete stop and turns off its lights.  A single spotlight shines on a grandparent sitting in a rocking chair.  No explanation offered; he begins to read from the book of Luke in the bible, and as he shares the story of the birth of Christ, as different elements of the event appear spotlighted in white light.  The pure and simple story, as read by a grandparent, is touching and one that most people remember from their childhood.  

“The 20-minute train ride during Christmas at SDC is a magical moment to experience. Our family loves the music and learning about the birth of Jesus. Our hearts leave warmed and ready for the true reason for the season.” Thena, HodgePodge Hippie

The Sight and Sound Theatre presents The Miracle of Christmas.  The producers do a fantastic job of mixing acting, speaking, and music to share the story leading up to and including the birth of Jesus Christ. You will feel like one of the entourage as you travel from Bethlehem to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and all of the live animals.  Then your heart will sing as the shepherds, and wise men appear for that miraculous moment.

Branson Christmas, Hughes Music Show, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

The Hughes Brothers Christmas Show is one of the very few performances in town that is Christmas from beginning to end.  The first half of the show is all about family traditions and musical treasures.  The second half starts with a handbell choir that sings and moves to the sound of the bells.  Santa immediately follows by saying, “Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas.”  The rest of the show is Santa presenting the symbols of Christmas and how they all lead back to Jesus Christ.  The Hughes family sings and dances their way through the story until it leads to the birth of the Christ child.  Then angels Harold in the birth with a real baby as the newborn Savior.  

“Christmas in Branson is magical! October 31 may be Halloween, but in Branson, Christmas lights turn on the very next day and stay on through December 31. It’s the craziest of times as the busiest season in Branson unfolds. I as a theatre owner and mother & grandmother of the “world’s largest performing family” have to deal with a daily boatload of managerial tasks and huge stacks of paperwork.  I feel overwhelmed, but when the music drifts up to my office I can not resist following it. I sit down in the auditorium and I’m immediately spellbound by what is happening on stage —and I look around at the faces of our audience and see that they are enchanted too.  Once again our show has captured the true essence of Christmas and as I stand by the door and thank people for coming, they clasp my hands and say things like “this was an amazing experience—it was truly magical!” I am now rejuvenated and say to myself, “It was truly magical—people are changed.  This is why we do this,” “ shared Miss Lena Hughes, The Hughes Brothers Theatre 

The residents of Branson and those that visit all seem to have the same experience.  It’s just that special feeling.

Branson Christmas, Hughes Music Show, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

“I’ve always got a tear in my eye as they’re doing their finale because I never want that experience and an almost indescribable feeling of warmth, love, and family to end.”  shared Gina from Illinois. 

Experience Christmas year-round in the 9000 square foot Kringles Christmas Shop at the Grand Villages.  Holiday cheer fills all your senses as you stroll through the 125 themed Christmas trees listening to Christmas Carols and letting your memory skip down memory lane.  There’s a nativity, ornament, or collectible to fit every personality on your Christmas list. 

“The Kringles Christmas shop in Branson feels comfortable and warm.”  Ava from Missouri. 

The Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center on selected dates during the Christmas season, late in the evening when the guests have returned from the day of Branson adventures, they gather in the Christmas hall for storytime and a kiss goodnight.  Each night a different Branson entertainer reads a different Christmas story while the guests young and old drink hot wassail and eat sugar cookies.  This bedtime tradition is very touching and is never the same two nights in a row. 

Branson Christmas, Hughes Music Show, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

I hope you know the feeling.  The one where people are just a little kinder, they open doors, smile and make eye contact, share a table at a crowded restaurant and say Merry Christmas as a greeting.  The feeling you get when you hand your kiddos coins to put in the red kettle, purchase extra toys and clothes for someone you don’t know or take can goods to the local food pantry.   I love the feeling I get for the nine-week Christmas season.  It never gets old!