Monday, December 11, 2017

My Cancer Experience in One Phrase -

Jules Jones Peters, the wife of musician Mike Peters, has had her own cancer journey (Mike has been down the cancer path multiple times). The BBC Wales affiliate, interviewed her about her cancer. And while I can't find the video anywhere except Facebook , one phrase reached out and summed up, pretty much, how I feel: 

"And I think it's made me less fearful about the future."

I've used these phrases, "Bring it on," "Faith," "It is what it is," "What's the worst that can happen when the worst that can happen has?" to describe how I feel. Yet Jules' statement is perfect - Less Fearful About The Future. Great thought for the week -

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hallelujah - Last Day of Class at UVU -

I have been teaching at UVU for 16 years, and most of that time has been teaching night classes. I really like teaching older students, students who work, students who have lives outside of school. And this semester has reinforced that for me.

Two of my three classes have been fantastic, with my third being ok, yet it's an 8:30pm class, in a yucky classroom, which I think has something to do with the dynamics.

Some of my students are:

Tim - Older, married young, has a child nearly ready for college, works during the day, writes well, works hard, makes good eye contact, always attends, turns in assignments on time, is engaged, participates, good final project.

Elise - Younger, opinionated, likes Taco Bell and brings it to class, has a skateboard, asks good questions, thinks for herself.

James - Mid-twenties, sits in the middle-back, works during the day, always connected, keeps me honest when it comes to numbers (dates, percentages), asks good questions that typically everyone wants to ask, good writer, great final project.

Brandy - Mid-twenties, sits in front, works during the day, always alert, has good questions.

Aaron and Aron - Foreign students, cousin, always attend class, pay attention, stay after class and ask lots of questions, and because of this they are succeeding, participate, share in group work.

Doug - Older student, parent to 4 nieces and nephews, works full-time, comes in late, wears pink backpack, irreverently funny, loud, no boundaries, definitely created class community, learning to write and doing well, worries, good student.

Elise - Older student, kind, asks good questions, reinforces my comments, new to UVU.

Marie - Older student, mother, sits by Annette; they are the two that are my anchors in a rowdy funny class.

Jacob - Older student, new to Utah and Mormonism, asks questions without pause, moves casually through the classroom, talker, unifier.

Nathan - Older student, serious but fun, good writer, shares, steady.

Janie - Mid-twenties, works during the day, asks questions, shares easily.

Brent - Older student, makes fun comments, asks questions that need to be asked, engaged.

Ryan - Older student, wants to finish 2010 after 3 tries, good writer, diligent, concerned, works during the day, serious.

Jarod - Older student, anchor in class, doing school to say he's been to school.

Jordan - Younger student, funny, asks good questions, stays after class, cares.

Michael - Younger student, funny without knowing he's funny, makes random statements that engage the class (or at least make me laugh), eats way too much sweets, doodles during class, great research paper.

Julie - Younger student, took class last semester, dropped out, finishing this semester.

Matthew - Mid-twenties, new to school, came into class with a "show me" attitude, engaged and participates.

Amber - Early twenties, asks lots of questions, sends lots of emails, does her best to participate.

Kimberly - Early twenties, struggling juggling with assignments and work, tears up easily.

And I could give personal information about each of these students as well, that may stereotype, but are endearing - autistic with no emotion, struggling financially, gay, lesbian, Saudi, ex-military, newly home from a mission, drug addict, dyslexic, ADHD, over-weight, perfectionist, newly married, etc.

And I could list several students who haven't been engaged, who have a million excuses for why they're missing classes or haven't done their work, but the students I've mentioned by far make up for these others.

And I NEED a BREAK from them - at least for a few weeks!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

On My Mind -

Facebook - Sucks! I log in to see who is having a birthday, wish them a Happy Birthday, then off. If I take the time to scroll through any posts, I typically find myself sucked in to nonsense! I miss the days of personal postings rather than reposts of videos. Yeah - thumbs down.

December Colds - I can't make it through the month without a cold, haven't been since I began teaching at UVU sixteen years ago. It just happens. This year it hit last Thursday, and I caught it, and I stopped and slept and medicated. I think I'll be better in a couple more days.

UVU - I love teaching! And I have my grades up to date, which is always a concern right now, and I'm ready to grade my last batch of papers. Having a new textbook this semester has been tough, and I'm still not comfortable with it, but the lessons and assignments have been going fine, I'll adjust.

Insurance - Sucks! I have to teach an extra class every semester just to pay for my premiums. It's going up tremendously come 2018. Good grief - the working poor.

Being Married - I am totally in love with my husband, right now! He makes me laugh, we joke, we have a history, we tease, we help each other, and we are just relaxed with each other. We are in a really good spot - having learned how to negotiate and when to give space and when to come together. Nearly fourteen years of "dancing lessons," and I think we've got it. Fingers crossed.

Chaplaining - I adore being a chaplain. The combination of chaplaincy and folklore is perfect for me. I appreciate working with those who are facing death - being forced to face this is scary and beautiful, and a fundamental aspect of all our lives. I faced it five years ago. Empathy goes a long ways. 

Christmas - Gifts are purchased or made, some delivered, wrapping to be done. I even took the time to write a Christmas letter! Hopefully it will go out in the next ten days. My goal is always to be as close to being finished with the business by Dec. 1 as possible. Then I can tackle finals and relax - with kids, grandkids, Scott, friends. Going for that again this year.

Gifting - Scott and I don't typically buy "Christmas" gifts for each other. We don't need anything, want any thing, and time sitting in front of the fireplace rather than online or shopping, is my idea of time well-spent - a great gift.

Anxiety - Along with my cold these past few days I've had some anxiety. Cancer seemed to really bring it on, and every once and a while I get some palpitations, some sweats, a headache, feel like the walls are closing in, and my mind doesn't stop racing. It's hard for me to stop, even when I stop and address my triggers. This week it's been the post-Thanksgiving rush, the pre-Christmas and pre-finals pressure. God grant me the serenity -

Happiness - Life is what we make it. And today I'm choosing to be happy, and fit, and mostly healthy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Crossing Muddy Waters - Hiatt and Watkins -

I first heard this song by John Hiatt when it was newly released in 2000. I remember where I was when the local independent radio station, KRCL, played it.  It's a pure acoustic tune, not even drums, and the melody plus the story brought me to tears. Such a tragic story, from all directions. And my heart broke, and I could see me as one of the characters in the story. And I think it's one of the most lovely lost bitter sorrowful songs I have ever heard.

I heard it again, on a Spotify station earlier this week. This time sung by Sara Watkins. And hearing it from a woman's voice didn't change the sorrow that I felt. And I'm once again reminded of the power of music. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

I've had enough -

Let's practice a little kindness, not turning a blind eye, but a helping hand. Not all bad things, or bad deeds, or pissy attitudes, turn a person into a bully or a narcissist, or a serial rapist, but we are products of our environment, and our words can hurt each other and ultimately, ourselves. If day after day we are discriminated against, degraded for things that are out of control, we need to be the change to get rid of these people, these situations. And I know some of us stay - because of loyalty, duty, money, or having been put down so often that we think we don't deserve better.

But we do - I do, you do. And I can change myself - my behavior, my work ethic, my attitude, but sometimes - the best thing we can change is by not staying - we can leave, we can walk away, and we can end the life of letting the little things slide.

I have left, more than once, a relationship and a job, where I felt uncomfortable. Sadly, I have often left silently, without letting anyone know about the uncomfortableness I was experiencing. Because - like many others, I began to doubt myself - did I bring the bullying on, was it my fault, did I dress wrong, maybe I listened too long, did I send the wrong message. But - bullying and harassment are in the eyes of the receiver, and being assertive is typically a trait the perpetrator (whether that's a 7 year old girl or a 55 year old man or an account executive, the POTUS, or a big brother) is the one asserting their behavior, while the passive, or quiet person is the one who gets hurt.

Stop it, damn it. Be an advocate. Get involved. Show a little kindness.

And remember -

"I am my best friend. I need to treat me with dignity and respect, and most importantly, I need to be compassionate with me. I need to accept me in whatever state and condition I am in." ~ Anonymous

Great article regarding my rant:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Instrument of War - BYUTV - Jack Ashton -

My friend, Russ Kendall, invited Scott and I a few weeks ago, to attend the premier of a movie he has recently produced. It's a war movie. I was not excited to go. But Scott loves war movies, and I love Russ, so we went.

After the first 2 minutes, I was ready to go home, but I didn't. And goodness, I'm glad I didn't leave the theater.

An amazing movie - inspiring, thought-provoking, tear-inducing. The script, cinematography, soundtrack, lighting, costumes, acting, could not have been any better.

And a little "behind the scenes" info:

  • Russ' company, Kaleidoscope Pictures, produced this movie for BYUTV. It was filmed completely in Lithuania, where Russ and his colleague, Adam, took their families for 3 months during the late winter and spring. 
  • All of the actors are British, with a couple from Lithuania. 
  • The lovely Jack Ashton, from Call The Midwife, is the star in the movie. 
  • Jack Ashton does not, and could not, play the violin that is featured in the movie. 
  • The movie is based on a true story. 
  • The gentleman whose story it is died in 2010. 
  • His family are musicians, yet they didn't know about this part of his life until shortly before he died.
  • Russ' daughter is in the movie (he did Jenna and I a "favor" years ago, and we're in the original "Charlie"). Russ' son and wife are part of the film crew. 
  • Last year Kaleidoscope Pictures produced A Winter Thaw, based on a Tolstoy short story. The crew fell in love with Lithuania during that filming. 

This movie will premier on BYUTV on Thanksgiving Day, and show throughout the holiday season.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Must Read - This Appalachian Life - The Bitter Southerner -

The South seems to give birth to some amazing writers - fiction, non-fiction. What is the reason? A plethora of experiences, environment, examples (good and bad), history, or the culture of writing and expressing oneself through some creative genre whether writing, music, art, dance?

But I know this, dang, there are some great young Southern authors appearing, and I am really enjoying their brashness - their unapologetic tone for all that is good and bad in their lives, their values, without demeaning their lives and culture. 

I'm just blown away at the thinking and expressing that are being presented. And here at The Bitter Southerner, you can find great examples, in quick easy read material, nonetheless thought-provoking. As well, This Appalachian Life, by Joshua Wilkey, is filled with Joshua's own stories - his own thoughts, ponderings, questionings, and thinking-things-through pieces. His "Appalachia Needs a Reformation" is poignant and leaves me wondering about my own religious heritage and change. David Joy is also a favorite of mine. His "Digging in the Trash" essay is required reading for all of my UVU classes. 

I highly suggest exploring. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

I Live in an Old House -

Scott and I bought our home nearly 12 years ago. It was owned by two previous families; the last family lived here about 5 years, and the first owner built this home in 1961 or 1962.

When we purchased the home, March 2006, it was move-in ready. However, over the years we've remodeled, repainted, finished, and replaced nearly every item in the house from roof to furnace/AC to flooring and appliances (except the mirrored closet doors in our bedroom ;)). We've been able to do this over time because it was livable from the beginning.

Since moving in, until now, we figure this house has become 2-3 houses, so we never have to move again. We've had more than our share!

Home #1 which we repainted, but that was all: 

Remodel of Home #2:

Our Final Remodel, or Home! 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

On Pooping -

Poop - something we think of as disgusting, we don't talk about. But did you know pooping is extraordinarily important, even down to the size, shape, color of poop, and habits of the pooper? Those who have had Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other intestinal ailments, food allergies, or poor bowel habits almost always have issues pooping. And - those who have had surgeries, chemo, or are on pain pills know that pooping is not easy and can be downright debilitating.

So - I'm here to say - me too. 

Food allergies, particularly milk, and then little tolerance for certain grains (wheat in particular), and a gut torn up from chemo, have put me in the category of folks who have irregular bowel habits. 

In the years following my cancer treatment I've been bothered by constipation. And honestly, walking around with a gut full of digested food waiting for it to be eliminated is not happy. I am bloated, feel like I need to be close to a restroom, gassy, and ache. 

In my office, one of the top 3 complaints is constipation or bowel habits, and one of the top 3 points we address - pain and anxiety being the other 2, is constipation. And no one is embarrassed to discuss this, because of the health effects. Pooping is just part of life! 

We "prescribe" non-prescription antidotes for constipation and its cousin - diarrhea. Most of all that includes drinking lots of water, eating vegetables first, then fruits, cutting back on grains and processed foods, and moving - being sedentary is not good for someone constipated, but exercise may not always be an option for someone in pain. In addition, we suggest Senna and Miralax. Senna "smooths" the poop and Miralax "mushes" the poop. So it makes pooping easier and more regular. 

While my gut is not where it was, and yet is not where my patients' guts are, my habits are a little different. I exercise, eat correctly, and yet I rely on a cup of coffee in the morning and on tough days I rely on an herbal laxative from Puritan's Pride - cascara, senna, fennel, licorice root - to do the job. Or some sugar-free gummi bears (joking on this, although I ate them once, and the reviews are accurate).

And boy oh boy, when my gut is free, I am free. So there - don't take pooping for granted; a healthy gut is a healthy you. A poop a day keeps the constipation away. 

Great Chart

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Living Rather Than Fearing -

Have you ever decided to stay home, in the safety of your own four walls, rather than venture out - for fear of the unknown or unsafe?

Have you ever stepped away from an experience because of what you don't know? How about because of what you do know?

My saying that keeps me from living in fear is this, something I've written about before, and really, my life motto since I was a young mother: "Sometimes we're so busy existing we forget to live."

And yet, those of us who are going through tough times - whether rearing a houseful of little ones, living with a chronic illness, barreling through school or life, often exist, not live. We just need to make it through the day, but then that becomes a pattern, a pattern of existing.

Example - "I'm just waiting for the next shoe to drop." "It will return, so why bother." "If only . . ." "It's an evil/tough/hard/unsafe world out there; why would I want to expose myself/my family/my children to this?" "I'm just too busy right now." "I like my routine."  "I know I won't like it." "Nah, not my thing." "I'm comfortable with where I am."

And so, we exist, making it through the day, and although we don't mean to have blinders on, and maybe our days our so busy that we can't even look past our schedule, what is keeping us from opening up to Life? I dare say it's fear - fear of the unknown - fear of failing - fear of trying - fear of sinning - being wrong, doing wrong?

I must say that I'll try anything once, unless it's heights or illegal/immoral. And as I age I'm finding out that it's the doing that is keeping me young and alive. I'm finding that fear is not really a good judge of should/should not - but my own irrational thinking that keeps me blocked, keeps me from living.

I guess my message is this - live a little - just even a little. Try something new; do something again; face a fear (you can do this in safety), and then, if you have a spouse, a parent, children, who is cautious, fearful, timid - let them see you live, so they see that leaving a comfort zone, if only for a minute, doesn't need to be scary.

Don't spend your life existing - What would you do if you did not fear?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Introducing Myself to My 18 Year Old Grandson -

Scott and I have a tenuous relationship with one of our six children. Because of this, we have little to no interaction with five grandchildren. This letter is to the oldest of our grandchildren, but really, it's to all of his siblings as well.

Dear Grandson,

You know, Grandson, I know little about you. And I'm sorry about that - I don't know you, and you don't know me. But I'm trying to mend this, so by way of introduction -

I was born in the small town of Rigby, Idaho. My parents were well-established, even as a young couple, in the community - my father owning restaurants, both of them active with church and community efforts, and, before they knew it - active with 7 children! I was 15 when my youngest brother was born. That's a handful! I grew up with both sets of grandparents nearby, and I had wonderful friendships with all of them. I can't imagine my life without my grandparents - one set was active LDS, lived on a farm outside of town, the other set were active in the community, living in a small apartment in town; both sets loving their families, doing anything, sacrificing often, for their children and grandchildren. I loved the time I spent with them all. And I loved being seen with them - I was so amazed at how well respected they were, and at how many people knew them and wanted to visit with them.

My parents are such amazing people. While my dad was busy growing his businesses, my mother kept us kids involved in piano and dance lessons, soccer and other sports, baked for neighbors and people in our congregation. They were so busy with church and community - serving in leadership positions in all areas of their lives, but they always found time to serve - and involved us kids in that service.

Three of my fondest young memories with my parents -  visiting the widows in our neighborhoods on Saturdays, with my mother, while she washed, curled, and fixed the hair of several of these women, so they would look nice, and feel nice, on Sunday. Another - going to work with my father - and I'm sure this was not a treat for him, and peeling big bags of carrots, wiping off tables, organizing papers and menus and the candy shelf by the cash register. The third, water-skiing! We had a boat, and on a Saturday, when my dad had a minute to get away from the restaurants, he'd gather some of the boys in the ward, us kids, and take us out of town to a small area of the Snake River (we called it the Boat Dock, which is now a park, named in honor of my grandfather) where we'd ski in the cold water, battling mosquitoes and loving every minute of the warm summer sun.

My memories of my parents are golden. My father was always so good to my mother. I remember one time my brother sassing my mother, and my dad saying, "Don't you treat my wife that way." This has stayed with me. My parents taught us how to treat others by showing us how they treated each other and those around them.

I do remember my mother losing her temper, only once, and I remember it as if this happened yesterday. We were in our house in Rigby. She had 2 little ones in high chairs (13 months apart in age), and the other 4 of us all hungry, wanting lunch, right now. She was making bologna sandwiches on white bread. She was spreading mustard and ketchup on the bread, the kids were fighting and noisy, and she yelled, "Damnit, I have had enough," and threw the piece of bread with ketchup in the air, where it hit the ceiling and came back down. The ketchup stain and story remain, and we quickly quieted down!

I'm sure my parents both were a little hot-headed at times, even with each other, but I never saw this. NEVER! Pretty good. I knew my parents loved each other, loved us kids, and just like my grandparents, would do anything for us and for their community.

I'm grateful for this foundation - it is the pavement I walk on every single day. Love you - Gma

Here I am with my mother's parents, Vernal and Geneve Jensen, Tyler, who turns 37 on Wednesday, and my parents. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sewing and Cooking and Reading and Teaching - Healing -

I have ridden this cancer journey as alert, awake, alive, as I possibly could. I did not slack during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. I have not rested - or, when I have rested, I have been aware of this resting, in full awareness of how my body is receiving every ounce of the universe. I know when I overdone, underdone, when I can push, when I must rest, when I need to do more, do less, think more, go, stop.

And I get irritated by those who choose, because yes, it is a choice, to not do, push, go, stop, conscientiously, and choose, instead, to complain, medicate, resign.

As I finished my cancer treatments, and I'm happily closing that 5 year healing/no evidence of disease (NED) window, I am acknowledging my medicine - the treatments I've given myself, found myself, for healing. I have not waited to see what the "universe will provide," rather, I've provided, for a huge part, my own healing methodology. I've listened to myself and provided what I needed to heal.

Here are a few of those therapies I provided me - pushed myself to engage in, and have benefited from:

Sewing - I went to something known, a craft I've enjoyed for years, but had put aside for several seasons, and began creating. The first thing I made was a linen tunic, without a pattern, rather, based on a tunic I had purchased, with a few changes. I had to focus on yardage, measurements, work-arounds, and my past knowledge, bringing it forward to implement. I don't do numbers - and numbers have been the last to return to my post-chemo brain, but with this tunic, and the many many articles of clothing I've created since, I've pushed myself to push myself - to measure twice, cut once, unpick, be patient, stay focused, stay steady, be methodical. And with each piece the past 4 years, the work has not necessarily become easier, but the knowledge I've needed has been easier to access. I have great clothing to show for my hard work, and to me, these are tangible truths that brains can heal.

Health - As I've incorporated more protein into my diet, particularly for my bones and my brain, I've tweaked so many recipes to fit my needs. Adding protein powder, eggs, chia seeds, flax seeds to recipes, adjusting for density, flavor, palatability! I've thrown a few items in the trash - admitting this creation or that one hasn't worked, but I've succeeded. And in doing so - I am showing my health - skin is clear, hair is thick, bones are strong, and finally, weight is dropping. In eating correctly, for my body - and only I know what this is, I am healing. And let's not forget exercise - never stopping, for the better part of my adult life I have worked out, 5 times a week, made this a priority; I have not slacked during my healing - my time to thank and remind my body for the ability to push and heal.

Reading - I have become a voracious reader. A reader of student papers, philosophy, health, narratives, and fiction. Pushing myself into a genre or two I had no interest in (fantasy in particular), pushing to learn, understand, and even enjoy words and pictures that were unfamiliar to me. And of course, I've written - creative, non-fiction, clinical, content for others - forcing myself to think clearly, and again, methodically. Reviewing and reviewing as I go.

Teaching - I remember that first semester back to school, a year to the date of my diagnosis, and feeling so rusty - knowing what I knew, and not being able to find words or approaches to teach the concepts. I was cronky, rusty, but I did not give up. And I've found the words, and the rust has dissipated, and my mind is clear, and my teaching is better than its ever been.

Healing - Healing is hard, damn hard. And it's hard work even in the resting. And yet, I knew if I was going to heal, I had to forge my own path - cut down the weeds of fogginess, doubt, fear, dread, fatigue, anxiety, and - if I want to see "me," I had to whack away at the detritus that was in front of me. Moving forward, carrying a big stick to clear those cobwebs and thistles that stood between me and me.

It ain't over, I don't think this journey will ever be finished. I'll be eating and drinking and sleeping cancer for the rest of my life. But cancer, and repercussions, are companions now, not thorns in my hiking boots. Sewing, taking care of my Health, Reading, Teaching - these elements have helped me heal, are helping me heal. Push, grow, push, heal, push - Know thyself -

Make sense?

May in Switzerland

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Universe Provides?

A friend posted this thought on Instagram:
"I was in shock. Funny how the world works. You don't get the something you really covet, but then the universe provides unexpected compensation. Here I thought you had to make a wish for it to come true." (Sarah Dessen, Saint Anything)

And right after her post came:
"Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending - to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how the story ends." (Brene Brown, Rising Strong)

Both make me tired! I'm the author of my own story, I am the the master of my fate, the captain of my soul. Honestly, I don't want to be jerked around by anyone, become someone's puppet or pawn, yet when I work hard for what I want, am I not letting my will control myself - am I the inflicting my will on my will?

In being independent, writing my own story, am I shutting the door on fate, on universal compensation?

Yet again - are "being the change," and having "faith in every footstep" contradictory or synonymous? Being, doing, controlling, opening, receiving, creating . . .

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pinktober and Second Chances -

This month, Pinktober, I've been determined to NOT reflect on my cancer journey. I began the month wearing my cancer ribbon and pink quartz necklace, then on Oct. 4 I took it off. Because I no longer needed a reminder, nor did I feel the need to remind anyone else of my journey.

Yeah, cancer sucks. And the journey has been hard. But it's been rewarding - even though I didn't ask for the hard or the reward.

And today, I'm reminded of my own spirituality and the place my cancer journey holds in this. So I'm sharing this today - My God is a God of Second Chances, and yes, third, fourth, fifth. My Higher Power isn't going to sink my ship, and I'm not going to either.

Second chances - what a gift!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yawn -

I'm going to begin with an apology - not apology. Life is calm right now, and I am taking glory in not having anything out of the ordinary to write about.

I go to work at the hospital, serve my patients - counseling those with cancer and those who care for them, and I try to give them a moment of respite in their otherwise crazy and emotional lives.

I go to school, serving 65 students, most eager to learn, and try to instill enough confidence in them that they can tackle my assignments with some trust in my system and in themselves.

I come home - and I have enough time to work on a project, read a book, have lunch with a friend, be a grandma/sister/daughter, and still have a moment or two for Scott.

Life is calm, and I guess not really boring, but peaceful and orderly and full. And I'm not gonna mess with that.

PS - Down 12 pounds - finally.

Friday, October 6, 2017

End of Life Article - Correct Link -

Here - written by my cousin's daughter - and we didn't discover our connection until after our interview.

She did a good job with the story - can be a very very sensitive topic.

Thanks Kelsey for the opportunity!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sequencing - I am doing it! Damn Cancer After-affects -

One of the biggest mind-glitches I've had these past five years post-cancer treatment, has been sequencing. That is - remembering order, number, style, type, and particularly - groups of these. I found this out shortly after I began receiving chemo - I couldn't remember dates, times, appointments, and even when I was writing them down, I wasn't sure if what I wrote down was correct. Almost as if I was dyslexic - except for this was in my mind - I doubted my ability to write things down correctly and then read them back correctly. This loss, and very aware concern, continued - I could possibly remember the first three numbers of a phone number (area code), yet even if I knew the entire number, I would doubt myself in moving that number from mind to phone, having to look at the written number for assurance multiple times.

Do you know how many times we use number sequences? Goodness - phone numbers, addresses - directions, passwords/codes, times - particularly appointments and commitments, department codes and numbers, and I could go on and on, because I have not been able to remember them - and dang, that has been so frustrating.

And how do I tell someone who didn't know me before that this loss is not natural? I've apologized more than once for my lack of ability - even apologizing to the time-keeper payroll admin, for my lack of correctness in filling out time sheets - either missing days and times and/or entering or not, the correct department code. As well, keeping a work schedule, where patient visits cannot conflict with other appointments, has been difficult, and apologizing to my admin for having to request do-overs and reminders has been a tad humbling. (And this doesn't even cover the sequential order of stories, recipes, step-by-step instructions - which I'll elaborate on another time, along with my self-prescribed rehabilitation.)

Admitting this fault to another person/s took great soul-searching, honestly, because this isn't me, and did I want to bring attention to the "not"? But I reached out, once I gave myself permission to do so,  once I saw that this type of task was debilitating - and embarrassing. And folks have been so very kind and patient.

This is all to say that just in the past month the fog is clearing. I can remember a serious of 6 numbers now! I can remember an entire phone number (if I have always known it), and I am getting better at checking and re-checking data before I send it (and - more than that - recognizing where information is wrong).

Ya'll - numbers and data have not been my strong suit - ever, but, I am beginning to see improvement. I am amazed I recognize this - impairment and improvement. I have chosen to be consciously aware of my cancer journey - always hyper-sensitive to my changes, and I am so grateful for this step.

It feels so good to see the fog continuing to lift. I am almost me - in so many ways, and I have to congratulate myself, and give myself permission to acknowledge my growth.

Can you believe, that cancer treatments can cause such debilitation that even 4.5 years later there are still changes being made in my cognitive well-being? Amazing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

4 Years 5 Months - and Counting

Made it through my FINAL chemotherapy appointment today! Five years ago this week I began chemo, and today I was give the nod to "move on with your life." Ha! Like I haven't been! But - the goodness is this nod was official. One more nod in 7 months from my radiation oncologist, and I'm off - or - 5 years cancer free, No Evidence of Disease, and doctor's appoints will be fewer and further between.

All of this commotion gives me cause to reflect and look forward - mostly in my own quiet celebratory way.

Hallelujah - almost there.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Elevator Pitch -

This week I've been teaching my students how to consolidate their research into a 5 floor elevator pitch. You know - when you're on an elevator, someone asks you who you are, what you're doing, where you're going, what you're presenting on, and you have approximately 5 floors to answer that question.

My students need to be able (well, anyone) to verbalize what their research papers are about, in a succinct, precise, brief, clear approach - no humming, full of confidence, and hopefully, do that in 3 floors, with 2 floors left for feedback!

As a college professor, that's been easy for me to do: "I teach Freshman and Sophomore writing and a Folklore, or Cultural Studies course." Bing batta boom, message sent, plenty of time for questions and conversation.

As a chaplain, an introduction is horrible. "I'm a chaplain, a clinical chaplain, at a major hospital. I work with those who are dying, or have received a diagnosis that has rocked their very foundation." Beautiful - but what does that mean? "When we face any major upheaval in our lives, our entire being is traumatized. My focus is to help those who are in this situation as they question their beliefs, their values, their life's purpose." Or - "I listen as others sort through their thoughts and feelings."

But I had a friend awhile back who said to me, "Ronda, who are you? What do you stand for? What's your life purpose?" Yikes! Don't pin me down! I felt cornered, caught, tied down, and then stuck in that spot until I could give an answer. And my life is not one that is static - I am constantly on the move, emotionally, intellectually, physically, and to be asked to put myself in a box just about caused me an anxiety over-dose.

Today I attended a meeting at UVU (where I teach), and while one of the presenters talked about the Inclusion initiative at UVU, my elevator pitch to my friend, and to ya'll came to me.

"My deepest desires are to make sure that every person has a place to land where they can feel safe, share their story, and be heard." "I am one of those safe places."

There you go - that's what I've worked for and toward, all my life. My academic world, my professional world, my chaplain world, my interpersonal world. These are the people I'm attracted to, and quite often, they are attracted to me. Put the message out - verbally or silently, and it will be heard.

I came home from this early morning meeting quite happy - feeling at peace. I did it! I created my elevator pitch, defined my "mission," and expressed my deepest emotions, all in the matter of 5 floors, or a lifetime - depending -

What's yours?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Circumstances -

I've been thinking about this a lot lately - while it rings true to me, I wonder if it's just a little too simplified. Yet I know that whether circumstances reveal or the refiner's fire unveils, once we're down to our essence we're pretty exposed to the realities of the world and how we work in that world.

Thanks,, for sharing this thought with me today. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Waiting -

Remember the days of dial-up internet? Waiting and waiting and waiting - for the phone line to be available, for the connection to be made, for the computer to accept, for information to load? 

My husband - he'll tell anyone who asks that he waited for me for 16 years, and that the waiting was worth every minute. After being together me for 13.5 years though, he still does a fair share of waiting. For example:

Waited for me this morning as I showered and got ready for work, prior to us eating breakfast. 
Waited for me in the car (I'll just warm the car up, hon) while I gathered all my materials for the day. 
He takes me to work (I love that time with you), which means he waits a few minutes more to begin his day. 
He'll pick me up from work, take me to job #2 (UVU), and for sure he'll wait when picking me up after classes tonight - there's always a student or two who want to talk after class . . . 
He waits for me when I stroll rather than hurry; he waits for me when I visit with someone rather than scurrying right out the door; he waits for me to check emails before he can read the latest news. 
And the list goes on. 
He usually has a book or a radio, which makes the waiting more tolerable. 
He's a patient man. 
But then, what does patience look like? 
Is it the waiting, is it the learning to wait, is it being at peace with the waiting? 

So I've always been told I'm impatient. "Ronda, just be patient." "Ronda, slow down so others can catch up," etc., but then I think about the waiting I do in a day - 
Wait for patients to arrive (often late).
Wait while patients share their stories. 
Wait with patients. 
Wait for doctors, nurses, medical staff. 
Wait for students. 
Wait with students. 
And I've learned how to be peacefully present while waiting. 
I have to be present while I'm patient. I wish I could have a book with me, but no. 

More than Scott being patient with me, and me being patient with others, I'm learning how to be patient with myself. Time - being is a good place; being present, available, aware, engaged, or not, waiting is not an evil. 

"I waited for you for 16 years," takes on a new definition, when understanding that waiting is letting the path unfold, in front of us, with no idea what the future is to bring. Being in the moment, living for today, trusting the process, having joy in the being. 

Waiting - a good characteristic. "Hi, I'm Ronda, and I'm waiting."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Past, Present, Future - 4 Generation Pic -

This photo, today, describes who I am, more than any picture or any story could. I love these women, and this Tom.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bugs and Lemonade -

So – Scott and I took a much-needed, 5 night, break and drove to McCall, Idaho (north of Boise) for what was supposed to be a stay in a cabin on a lake. Ha! The cabin was nice, the lake was across the street, but we couldn’t see it from the cabin because of the bigger cabins on the lake-side, the beach was a dingy dirty rocky sandy little area, the water had receded, so the dock that was so beautiful in the pictures was on dry ground, surrounded by muck! And then, to make matters worse, the area was covered in smokey haze from fires all around, so we couldn’t even see the lake or the mountains. And – Scott and I both got sick with stomach flu day 2. And – well, it wasn’t the dream mountain vacation I was hoping for!

Thank heavens Scott and I have both been through enough hard times in our lives to recognize and realize that we didn’t need to make this any tougher on ourselves than it already was. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, sometimes making lemonade is impossible, so you just have to accept that there are going to be lemony, sour, pucker up days, and roll with it, and we did: thank goodness the bed was comfy, there was a DVD player and a video store nearby, we had cold cereal to eat, and there were toilets that flushed and running water. And really, there wasn’t anything we could do but just make it through our situation.

However, last night we decided that since we have a busy week this week, no sense in arriving home tired on Monday evening, so we drove home today, using our day off tomorrow to really rest for the week. Good decision! We're unpacked, wash is happening, stomach is still deciding where it's rolling, and life. goes. on. 

I guess my “and thus we say,” or moral to my story is – sometimes you’re the windshield (or lemonade), sometimes you’re the bug (or lemon); but regardless, I've learned, and continue to learn, rolling with our circumstances, rather than fighting them, can be a good way to go!

And - we had a safe, warm, dry, happy home to come home to. Praying for those who want similar. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

This week -

Five years ago this week - whew, although I'm feeling a little anxiety today. So I'm taking the week off to "ommmm." In the meantime, I found this bit of good news -

Triple negative breast cancers tend to recur within a few years and when they recur, prognosis is usually poor. However, because triple negative breast cancers tend to recur early, if a woman survives five years without a recurrence, her chances of survival are high.

Once the five years are over, TNBC cancer rarely relapses, and a person can feel confident that they’ve been victorious over their cancer.

In celebration - this - 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Scary Story -

Once upon a time there was a middle'ish aged woman. She thought she knew what needed to be known.

Then one evening she found a lump in her breast.

That's when her lessons began.

Five years later the fear is still there - and the unknown is far greater than the known.

to be continued . . .

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Huff Post on Melania -

Great article/editorial -

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Contributor

The Problem With Melania Isn’t Her Shoes

Her silence, not her stilettos, should be of concern to us all.

I don’t care what Melania wears, I care what Melania does.
I don’t care if Melania walks in stilettos, I care if she uses her platform to defend sexual assault as “boy talk.”
I don’t care when her portrait is airbrushed, I care when she says she will fight cyberbullying but instead continues to stand by the biggest cyberbully in her own backyard.
I don’t care when her hat says FLOTUS, I care that she is FLOTUS ― that she uses one of the more powerful positions in the world to do anything productive, save promote her personal brand and line her personal pocketbook.
I do understand the instinct to critique her, whenever and however possible. Her husband is a morally repugnant and dangerous leader, and she stands by him, silently waving, smiling, and normalizing his despicable behavior. My spirit was crushed when I realized that my four young children would grow up with him as our president instead of one of the smartest, most accomplished, and experienced women in politics. And Melania as First Lady is setting a terrible example for my daughters. She is passive when we want her to be substantive, an object when we want her to be an agent, and prejudiced when we want her to be inclusive. And so I too want to poke holes in her carefully manipulated image. But I refuse to do that by commenting on her footwear.
Because when our critiques of Melania focus on her appearance, we play right into her and Trump’s hands. We are complicit in their worldview that demands women act mostly as prized possessions, in a Barbie-esque package, who speak only on script. And when we judge one woman in power on superficial terms, we make it acceptable to judge anywoman on those same terms. And that has real world consequences for how we see and value women - and how women see and value themselves.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

New (to me) Author - David Joy, et al -

So, David Joy's writing is refreshing, irritating, laughable, gritty, and pure Southern. I found him on The Bitter Southerner, and his story about his grandfather had me laughing and hurting.

Give this young man a try; his "Blessed are the White Trash," certainly applies to others besides those living in the South.

And while you're at it, read "My Mother Wasn't White Trash," found at This Appalachia Life, and Hillbilly Elegy, a controversial memoir by young JD Vance.

With this quality of writing coming from young Southern men, the likes of Faulkner, McCarthy, Berry, Bragg, Ferris, are living on in these young men - strong material comes from a strong love and dislike for family, region, community, culture.

I'm always drawn to Southern raw/real/romantic writers - I think the portion of me that still longs for the life I left in the South, and the life I discovered while living there, lives on, vicariously, in pieces such as these.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Zucchini Muffins, Lemon Muffins, and Service -

One of my favorite book titles is, Today I Baled the Hay to Feed the Sheep the Coyotes Ate. Interesting isn’t it! A rancher/farmer works so hard to take care of his sheep, and in the end, the coyotes love his sheep as much as he does!

Today, I baked nearly 10 dozen muffins – blueberry raspberry ones and zucchini chocolate chip ones. I also made nearly 2 dozen lemon ricotta pancakes. All are filled with extra protein. Why? To freeze and feed Scott and myself for a few weeks of breakfast, to share with our neighbors, and to get some healthy breakfasts into my mother. Scott also husked, cooked, and de-corned a dozen heads of corn, to freeze for use this winter.

What does our undertaking today have to do with the book title? Sometimes what we think we’re doing for ourselves is really for someone else, and they benefit just as much, or more, from our service as we do. In fact, cooking today was a joy, because service was at the root of it all. I wonder if the farmer sang to the coyotes as he planted his clover fields!

My father died last summer, July 5; he was a month shy of being 86. He’d been really really ill for the last 2 years of his life, and aging significantly for about 5 years. All but one of his children, and my mother, were around his bed when he died. It was a beautiful experience. Scott and I had the privilege of serving him, helping care for him, those last years. In fact, one of the reasons we purchased our home was to be close to my parents and Scott’s parents, helping them as they aged. And now, last Sunday, I took my mother to the hospital; she was not feeling well, and rather than “wait and see,” I took her to the ER, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was in the hospital for just 2 nights, which was enough! She’s home now, next door, and Scott and I are caring for her, with a little help from 2 of my sisters. Not only does she have pneumonia, but exhaustion, dehydration, and she needs to eat better.

Hence – today I baked to feed the people who fed me – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and who give me the opportunity to serve. If we listen, and if we act, we will always find ways to serve. And we are blessed in that act – those muffins weren’t only for others, they were for Scott and me too, and there were more than enough! ! (My grandmother, my mother’s mother – Geneve Jensen, taught me that food is always best when it’s shared.)

As with nearly everything I make, cook, sew, I seldom follow the recipe exactly. Hence - 1/2 white flour, 1/2 whole wheat, less sugar, raspberries with the blueberries, no glaze because then I can't freeze them, pumpkin pie seasoning rather than only cinnamon, chocolate chips too. For both recipes, to increase the protein in the muffins, I added extra eggs or egg whites and unflavored vegetable-based protein powder. For the zucchini bread, bake muffins for 20 minutes. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Plugfones - My Son -

I've written about Tyler's business a couple of  times -
and his business just launched a new product, and with that, a new website. If a momma can't boast about her kids, well . . .

Have a great weekend. And if you need some peace and quiet, give his Plugfones a try! I like 'em.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Feelin' It -

Tired, Overwhelmed, Grateful, Irritated, Calm - all emotions I'm feeling right now.

This week:
Mom in the hospital, then home with pneumonia and dehydration and exhaustion.
Added another class - now teaching 3.
New course curriculum for all 3 classes - means new lesson plans, new syllabus and calendar, etc.
Chaplaincy - need more hours to do everything I should be doing.
Diversity Council - presentations right and left.
Airbnb guests keep arriving and reserving.
Sleep - not much with responsibilities and commitments.

And wondering - Is caregiving the way of our life going forward? And who will care for Scott and I when we are older? And with a blended family, just whose responsibility is it to care for both/each of us?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

We Found Love - Running From -

A colleague asked me how Scott and I met, and whenever I share our story, I am reminded just how magical our meeting was. As I walked away from our conversation, with a smile on my face, this Ed Sheeran tune came to mind. And the line that has been running through my head - we found love right where we are - reminds me of how I was ready to run to another part of the US, where I thought I'd find myself and love, and yet, it was just across the street.

How often do we run, when really, if we stand still, the goodness will come to us? I'm a runner, learning how to be still.

Thinking Out Loud
When your legs don't work like they used to before
And I can't sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks

And darling I will be loving you 'til we're 70
And baby my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud

Maybe we found love right where we are
When my hair's all but gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don't remember my name

When my hands don't play the strings the same way, mm
I know you will still love me the same
'Cause honey your soul can never grow old, it's evergreen
Baby your smile's forever in my mind and memory

I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it's all part of a plan
I'll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you'll understand

But baby now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are, oh

So baby now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh darling, place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are
Oh maybe we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are

Songwriters: Amy Wadge / Ed Sheeran
Thinking Out Loud lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, The Royalty Network Inc.