Monday, October 24, 2016

EdWynn Weaver - Life is Too Short for "Estranged" -

Scott's youngest brother, we called him "Wynn," others called him "Ed," was killed on Saturday afternoon in a 4-wheeler accident near Cedar City. He was 65.

Sadly, Scott and he did not get along. When I asked Scott for memories of Wynn, he had none. He remembers clearly that they were polar opposite - Wynn was a great student, with 2 masters degrees; he was a good public speaker; he was an LCSW, as of late working as a social worker for the Paiute Indian Nation, where he was loved; he was a family man, married for more than 40 years.

Scott said Wynn bucked the system - leaving Utah for Hawaii to avoid the draft in the early 70s. Probably did some 1970s-style experimenting as well.

But - Scott has said that "drinking messed up any relationship I could have had with Wynn. I couldn't write, I was a poor student, and I let booze control me from a young age. And when my kids were growing up, I wasn't the exemplary father Wynn was; he even helped raise my kids when I couldn't. And those resentments and bad feelings continued as we grew up, and we really never had or made the opportunity to get to know each other as adults, as grandfathers. We were busy with our own families, and I was busy mending relationships with my children."

A few weeks ago Wynn ran into my sister at a Mental Health conference in Provo. After they made the connection, Wynn told Maria, "Yeah, I don't see or talk to Scott much. We're estranged." And when Scott heard this, it broke his heart. But - that was it. Hurt - just as history had proven. Neither had any interest in working things through, in getting to know each other, no desire to mend fences, or at least, "not now."

And now - never a "not now" to work through differences and find similarities - they both loved US history; they both are amazing grandfathers; they both doted on their daughters; they both were stubborn strong men of integrity; honest to a fault, quirky senses of humor, and they both loved SUU and BYU. Too bad they didn't see past the past. I think they would have enjoyed spending time together.

And I'm not dissing Scott or Wynn here. What I am doing is pleading with my family and friends - it's always too late to say "I'm sorry." ALWAYS too late. Say those words now, mend those fences, tear down the walls of pride, shovel the shit into a barrel and toss it away, let bygones be bygones, and get working on relationships. Because - all we have are memories. Don't let them be "estranged" ones.

EdWynn, Kurt (passed away 4 years ago), Scott, Kimball, Max
Probably mid-70s. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Stand All Amazed - Awe -

At church this past Sunday we sang a hymn, "I Stand All Amazed." And then as we moved from one church congregation to another, the organist was playing, "For the Beauty of the Earth."

This time of the year I vacillate between soaking in the last drops of the summer sun and autumn leaves and making sure I've prepared myself and my home for winter. Do I work or do I play? The grasshopper or the ant? This year I've chosen to relish every moment of the outdoors that I possibly can.

Goodness life is beautiful. And I am amazed at the stunning'ness surrounding me - I am in awe at all that I have been blessed with. And I do not take it for-granted.

When was the last time you felt a sense of wonder, awe in your life? Have you taken the time to absorb not only the beauty but the emotions associated with this? I can think of several moments of amazement through my life, so powerful I remember them clearly:

Visiting the rolling hills of Virginia and praying that I would some day be able to live in the south.
Seeing the "Village" house, in Alabama, for the first time and knowing this was home.
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in autumn.
Entering Provo Canyon and promising myself I would see Utah County through the eyes of a tourist.
Driving from Georgia into North Carolina, cresting the hill, and seeing "as far as the eyes could see."
Watching Tempest's birth.
Holding each of my new grand-babies.
Driving in to Ketchum Idaho.
Hiking to the Lily Pond at Redfish Lake.
Looking east up Henry's Fork, from Macks Inn.
Witnessing my father's death.
Walking through Chihuly Gardens in Seattle.

And I could elaborate, in great detail, about each of these events and the significance they played in my life at that moment and since. And these are just a few.

These moments caught me off-guard, which makes them even more stunning. Pretty interesting that the sound I make when struck by beauty is an inhaling and an exhaling of aaah. When I thought there was no beauty, no generosity, no kindness, no place for me in this world, I remembered these moments, and counted them, and re-experienced them. They have kept me alive in those darkest loneliest moments, yet this sense of awe continues to stun me -

Awe, amazement, wonder, beauty, blessed - God's tender hand - call it what you may - I see an artist's hand in creating these moments, so at just the right time, I am able to be a witness to the glory.

Jules Jones Peters - recently diagnosed with breast cancer - Begins her Chemo Journey with her husband, Mike Peters, right where he should be -

From Jules Jones Peters, lovely wife of Mike Peters

As most of you know by now, I was diagnosed with breast cancer the week beginning July 4th, the day I temporarily lost my Independence! I know! You couldn’t write the script!
It’s been an unimaginable 15 weeks, full of tears, exasperation, fear, love, laughter and most importantly fun. I was even able to negotiate an absence of leave and disappeared to New York for a month to get my head together. Running 4 miles a day along the New York skyline certainly helped me gather some perspective and galvanise myself for the eventful journey ahead.
By the time I returned to Wales, I was more than ready for surgery on August 25th. Keen to get cracking! Cancer is a lonely business. I mean that in the wisest of ways and despite being surrounded by an eclectic bunch of loving and supportive friends and family... In order to cope mentally and physically, one has to be prepared to manage the journey alone, to a degree, in order to survive. Never is this more apparent than when you walk the walk to have surgery, with nothing more than a pillow for company ;0) The doors swing shut and there you are, all by your self with a room full of strangers, all doing their best for you, to try and literally, cut the cancer away.
This is why I felt compelled to send Mike away on tour to the USA a week after my surgery. I am used to being alone. Despite my diagnosis, we had important business to take care of for Love Hope Strength in Washington DC, It would have been a negative for me, to have to cope with the process of cancellation and disappointment of the Alarm family, at a time when all I needed was a bag of positives. So Mike headed to the USA for a month and I moved my girlfriends in (grin). You see, there is always a silver lining. Alone but not really alone.
Poor Mike couldn’t have been further away. Mike, who is always so calm and positive wanted to jump on a plane and run to me, especially when I needed a second surgery but I didn’t want him parachuting back into my life. The show had to go on. It made me strong, dealing with it all by myself, with my nearest and dearest, running alongside me, ready to leap in if I needed a ‘love’…
I have mainly been dealing with this situation by seeing the funny side, belly-laughing with my mates through the ups and downs of this little curve ball. It honestly hasn’t been the worst time of my life. It’s been quite celebratory. I feel extremely lucky to be alive. I feel extremely grateful to my friend for nagging me to get checked. Make sure you all check yourself for lumps and bumps. Checking has literally saved my life. I just feel lucky!
Most of you who know me, know that I am very appreciative and grateful for the life I lead. I love living in Wales. I love our rock and roll gallivanting I’m addicted to the sunrise, the sunset, the beach, the mountains. My amazing folks raised me to see the positives outside my window. I certainly didn’t need a wake up call to shake up my life. However, now that cancer has happened to me, I feel forever changed. I feel more resilient. Formidable perhaps? No fear. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. It’s just that when you have walked into countless medical appointments, massaging the fear in your throat, managing the demons licking at your heels, staying calm and positive when all colour is draining from your life and the pit of your stomach is falling away, you become less afraid, less fearful, more knowing, more understanding. This has all been about small steps. There can be no reassurance at the beginning of a breast cancer diagnosis. My situation has been so subtle. It has been such a battle for my amazing medical team to figure out where my cancer began and where it ended. Cancer is still weaving its deadly dance and it has taken great skill for my team to decide on the best form of treatment to get my personal situation under control. Small steps and gallons of patience are required. Slowly, the colours are returning and they are more psychedelic than before. Life takes on new meaning...
Now this week, the goalposts have shifted and I am delighted to announce that I am actually excited to begin my chemotherapy journey. I never thought I’d be saying that. Back in July, despite wanting to grab cancer by the balls, I was terrified at the prospect of chemo. Chemotherapy doesn’t scare me. I’ve sat next to Mike enough times and poured him tea and tossed him the occasional biscuit (biscuits are a no no in our house but MP is allowed special treats on chemo days) to see that it is much more manageable in 2016 but I am scared and dare I say cross about potentially losing my hair ;0) For most women, losing your hair, losing your breast is a dreadful option but you still feel a teeny weeny bit guilty for worrying about vanity when cancer is out to get you.
Vanity gets you through though and I think it’s important to be honest about these kind of fears and explore them. I explored my fears by shooting straight off to Manchester, finding myself an amazing and empathetic hairdresser who is slowly but surely creating me a wig to die for. Well not to die for but you get my drift ;0) Think Marianne Faithful. Think heavy fringe. I may never take this wig off! It will also be handy in the future when I’m done with this cancer journey to just wear for fun. It will be useful at the Gathering for example when I arrive early at Venue Cymru and never have time to wash my hair for show time. It will be useful for Fri nights out at the pub with the girls. No more need to wash and go.You see, there is always a positive to grasp for. Silver linings pop up when you least expect them.
This segueys smoothly into the Gathering. The Show Must Go On! The Gathering will go on! Feb 3/4/5, Venue Cymru, Llandudno, 2017… You Gatherers can do what you always do and pack your bags and go on tour whilst Mike and I (and the band) can do what we have always done and stay at home. I will hopefully be a few weeks short of my final chemo by then. I am also busy negotiating for a larger venue to house all you lovely extra Gatherer people who wish to attend, now that the Gathering has sold out months in advance. Please bear with me, as trust me, there is no one more than me who wants this Gathering to be the best EVER!
This then leads me on to the Alarm shows later this year. Whilst the show must go on, I’m hoping that my beautiful Alarm family will cut me some slack in this department ( I know you can get frustrated at times) to allow me to reschedule these shows for a later date. I just need Mikey by my side for the chemo, not necessarily to hold my hand as no doubt I will be tapping away furiously at my laptop under my Cold Cap (yes, I’m going to fight hard through the brain freeze to keep hold of my hair despite the ownership of my new Marianne wig) but I just need MP home to manage the home life. My close friends and family have been managing this in his absence but they all have their own jobs and families to take care of too, so time for MP to be By My Side...)
Think ‘putting the bins out’ (It’s a Thursday, Mike!!!!) think taxiing the boys to tennis, golf, footie, drums, Tic, guitar, swimming (Good luck with that, Michael!) and don’t keep asking me "what’s the plan today, Jules… check your itinerary!!!!” ;0) Mike has never forgiven me for making him shift a few boxes outside the chapel after his first ever chemo or making him shift his backside in the morning after most of his chemo appointments… (You get enough lie ins on your tours, Mikey Boy!!!)… I’m hoping for ‘The Good Wife’ Boxset, bit of ‘Cold Feet’, tea in bed, the day after my chemo but I think it’s all a negotiation...
I’m actually quite excited about Mike being home for a few months. Lately, we have been gallivanting. A LOT. My North Walian mates get frustrated by our gallivanting sometimes. Makes it hard to plan ahead. Where are the Peters’ Family? Month in Los Angeles. Month in New York. How they get frustrated with us sometimes for our rock and roll lifestyle (grin) Now they get us all to themselves. Dim gallivanting o gwbl. It’s going to be fun. Comforting. Like slipping on an old holey jumper (no offence Delyth & Leanne) and when I say holey jumper check out the new new 2016 version in All Saints…
Mike and I will get to watch TV together. We never usually do normal stuff like that. We might even start going to bed early! It’s going to be like entering a whole new world. Box set recommendations please! Something that can please him and her… 24 did it for us in the past. Homeland. Stella ;0) (On Tour) Should we re-attempt Breaking Bad? Lost our way there…
We are also going to get cracking on making music. Oh yeah… With our special team, kicking off this week with Marky, George and Smiles… Nothing like a few melodies bouncing around to lift the spirits. MPO will be open for business as usual and we will be keeping as busy as ever. Bus-yness is good for the soul.
My soul needs nourishment and for the last few years, running has become my mantra but as I can’t run just yet, I decided to walk. The idea of not being able to exercise each day would have finished me off! Go to keep on moving...So the day after my surgery, I took MP out of the door and headed out into the local lanes. It just happened to be our wedding anniversary too. 28 years. We took small steps and it felt great so we just kept walking and I haven’t stopped since. Each morning, I wave the boys off to school, stick ‘Staying Alive’ on the turntable (Let the vinyl wars begin in Chez Peters’) and step out the door. I clock up 5 miles a day at least. I love to feel the wind on my face. Check out the beautiful view. I listen to Radio 4 and so am now super hot on current affairs ;0) and by the time, I am sat back at my desk in the Chapel, I’m full of positivity.
Of course there have been black moments but in all honesty they have been few and far between. I prefer to see the funny side, laugh myself senseless. You certainly couldn’t write this script. Feeling black isn’t particularly helpful to me so I’d rather get the friends round, crack open a bottle of something, share the fear and and put the world to rights… There is always a way...
Plus, I am being documented!!! It’s like having round the clock counselling! The Avanti Team, who started making “Being Mike Peters” long before my diagnosis, have been thrown into a whirlpool of activity… Wales, New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, The Hamptons, Bangor Hospital! Diolch to the Avanti Team. You are the best and have always kept me smiling even through the darkest of times!
So, now as my Manny arrives… (Smiley can drum, play footie with the boys, make me laugh and serve up tea and toast), I’m feeling calm and positive to face up to the next chapter of my journey. Who knows what it will bring…? Everything happens for a reason. I have no regrets and would’t change a thing so don’t feel sad for me. Laugh with me, love with me.. Feel hope and strength. Join me for Snowdon Rocks next year and our 100 mile trek from Wrexham Hospital, via Glan Clwyd to Bangor Hospital and then straight up Snowdon!!!
I hope to be fixed and right as rain for June 24th 2017… Hope you can join me… (Yep, I’m milking this ;0)
What doesn’t Kili me makes me stronger….
Love Hope and Strength,
Jules Jones Peters x
October 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Struggles = Strengths

I came across this quote the other day:

I am thankful for my struggle because without it 
I wouldn't have stumbled across my strength. 
(Alex Elle)

I know nothing about the woman who made this statement, and I'm choosing, for the time being, to not. Instead I'm chewing on these words - figuring out their meaning to me - because if they struck me, and I'm still thinking about them, then there is something here for me.

And you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Living in the Moment - Happiness

I gave this presentation to the Women's Cancer Support Group this past week.

“This” Was Not in My Plans: Living with Cancer”
Joy in the Journey or Celebrating the In-Between Times

“Life is short and we never have too time for gladdening the hearts

of those who are traveling the dark journey with us.

Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”

—Henri-Frederic Amiel (1821-1881) Philosopher, Poet, Critic
When I was diagnosed with cancer I was told that I would be doing cancer full-time, and to drop commitments and focus on cancer treatment – and living.
There have been times in my life when I’ve been so busy being busy, that I haven’t been able to “fit one more thing” into my life. But I tell you, when this crisis came, I was amazed at how easily and quickly I was able to simplify my life. In fact, I really felt like I did as a new mother – wanting to really really really savor (Yikes) every moment; I know this sounds weird, but as I told a friend, “I want to live cancer to the ultimate – I want to make sure that I learn everything there is to learn, while I’m in this state.” And my friend told me, “Ronda, you’ll be learning from this experiences for years to come.” Yes – journey – not destination. Just like rearing children.
So I began living day by day, minute by minute, second by second, with chemo and radiation and doctor appointments becoming my social life, and the time-tracker as I moved through cancer.
Slowing down allowed me to really stop and smell the roses, living in the moment, with no plans for the future, except to nap!
Cancer moved me from where I was to where I am now. All of us, of course, go through similar alterations and changes. The difference between the changes in my life and the changes in yours is only in the details.
And as sick as I was, I learned that life is worth living, not just getting through. I promised myself that as sick as I was, as much as I hurt, I would not get angry, and I would not let my cancer define me. My mottos during my twelve month treatment journey were:
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Thoreau
“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” Margaret Lee Runbeck
In this goal driven, 12-Step focused, promotion preparing, dollar strengthening, daylight extended, with the end in mind society, it’s tough to focus on the here and now, the right this very minute, the one step at a time, perspective. Yet it’s not the beginnings and endings as much as it is what’s in the middle, the middle part is the most important – living in the moment.
What are you doing today that brings you joy?
Can you live in the moment, being grateful for the here and now?
Real life most often happens during the in-between times when we are not celebrating a special occasion. While moving from one moment in time to the next is seldom considered a significant occurrence, I think we all know how important and difficult it is to live in the middle, in that in-between time where we’re not able to make plans, planning for the future, let alone tomorrow, is not always possible. So we learn to live in today.

And here I am today, 3 ½ years post-treatment, and I am so excited to be alive, to be healthy, to be continually learning from my cancer experiences. I often celebrate the simple fact that I am alive and that every day is a chance to spend time with the people I care about and do the work I love. And as I look at the good that exists in my life, I see many reasons for celebrating the in-between times: a cup of my favorite tea, a beautiful sunrise, snow on the mountain, a grandchild’s laugh, a joke, a good book, and the smell of fresh air.

Celebrating these times can be as easy as paying special attention to them when they do happen, rather than taking them for granted. We can also pay homage to these times by slowing down and allowing ourselves time to look around and allow our hearts and mind to take in all of life’s wonders. Far too often, we can let those simple moments of awe pass us by. And when we do, we lose the happiness that can so easily be ours.
Throughout our lives, we must deal with change. Some changes are welcome – like a new child; some are not – like cancer. There are changes in our lives which are sudden, such as the unexpected passing of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of a possession we treasure.
Yet the longer we live, the greater is our realization that life is short. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by. Instead, find joy in your journey—now. Find happiness in the middle as well as the beginnings and endings.
“Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.” Jack Kerouac 
“Stay patient and trust your journey.”
Of course, there is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, let’s make the most of today, of the here and now.
Pre-cancer it was easy to be busy and take myself, my husband, others for granted, but when I knew my days may be numbered, I did not want to be left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Author Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” I knew I had to relish life as I lived it, finding joy in the journey, and sharing my love with those I initially neglected.
Some of you may be familiar with Thornton Wilder’s classic drama Our Town. If you are, you will remember the town of Grover’s Corners, where the story takes place. In the play Emily Webb dies in childbirth, and her husband, George, and their four-year-old son grieve the loss of Emily. Emily does not wish to rest in peace; she wants to experience again the joys of her life. She is granted the privilege of returning to earth and reliving her 12th birthday. At first it is exciting to be young again, but the excitement wears off quickly. The day holds no joy now that Emily knows what is in store for the future. It is unbearably painful to realize how unaware she had been of the meaning and wonder of life while she was alive. Before returning to her resting place, Emily laments, “Do … human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?”
Said one well-known author (Sarah Ban Breathnach), “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”
The ancient Roman philosopher Horace admonished, “Whatever hour God has blessed you with, take it with grateful hand, nor postpone your joys from year to year, so that in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily.”
Despite the changes which come into our lives and but with gratitude in our hearts, may we fill our days—as much as we can—with those things that matter most. “Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, all the fears you have overcome.” Unknown
I’m not saying life is hunky-dory and that you should put on rose-colored glasses, and see life as a Pollyanna movie. I’m saying wallow in your sorrow, your pain, your anger, your fear, your anxiety, and then put it down and move forward; let it go.
Now that’s easier said than done – last month was freak-out month! September is when I found my tumor, and all my surgery, etc., happened that month. On top of this, I began teaching another semester at UVU, and another chaplain was questioning my ability to think clinically. And as often as I took deep breaths, went for walks, exercised, wrote, and prayed, I could not calm myself down. Even Ativan worked only temporarily (I only use in Sept. and April). My angst became a bigger issue than my issues! Finally (why didn’t I think of this earlier) I pulled out this worksheet, and with a friend, we walked through the steps. It was then I felt like I could put my burdens down. That and school is going fine, my mammograms are clear, and the chaplain was asked by someone above us both to calm down!
“The struggle is part of your story.” How do you define your struggle? How is it a part of your journey?
Surprised by Joy is a book written by C.S. Lewis. This is a recollection of his coming to faith. He talks about how joy was something he searched for and experienced in brief “stabs.” He tried often to induce joy by reliving the things that had at one point or another given him joy.
My favorite quote from the book is, “All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still 'about to be.” In the end he realizes those “stabs of joy” were the everyday happenings, just like sign posts that were leading him in the right direction. Upon this realization, Lewis was more at peace, not so preoccupied with trying to find and experience joy.
It will be interesting to look back on this chapter of our lives in 5 years – I wonder if we will have clarity to see the reason behind all of it, to understand the pieces that needed to come together to get us to where we are supposed to be.
“Stop on our life's journey to look for the joy instead of dwelling on the negatives, joy that is possible because we are loved by God.” Max Lucado
As much as I really hate cancer, and some days I’m really pissed that I am a “cancer survivor,” I’m blessed for the lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn. Happiness is where I want to be, regardless of how long I have to live. I am choosing joy.
Won’t you join me in happiness, not toward, but wallowing in the beauty of living in the present, and being grateful for today?
My sincere hope is that we may adapt to the changes in our lives, that we may realize what is most important, that we may express our gratitude always and in doing so find joy in the journey. Live my friends, dream and live.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hope -

There's always tomorrow and tomorrow brings hope. You have the power to change your life.