Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Dying Process -

I've had several patients die these past 3 years; in fact, I would say 90% of the patients we've had, have died. And that's part of our business in Palliative Care - caring for those who will eventually die from their disease, but aren't ready to, so we help them live.

Many have asked me about dying. And as a chaplain, I ask, "What do you think will happen?" "What do you believe about the dying process and death?" Tough questions to ask and to answer.

It's often said that we are more afraid of dying than death, and this is very evident with my patients. They want to know, "What will my dying look like?" "Will you make me comfortable?" "I'm afraid," "How much time do I have?"

Sometimes I'm asked if I ever felt like dying or had a near-death experience. And I haven't, although this experience happened after I began to heal, but I do remember 2 distinct times when I knew I could die, when I knew I had a choice to leave or stay. All I had to do was decide what I wanted.

One of these times was I had just finished my 5th chemo. Another time was about 10 treatments into my 33 of radiation. Both times I was absolutely exhausted - to the bone, bone-tired. So tired and sore and sick I was taking a morning and afternoon nap and sleeping through the night. I remember Scott having to help me out of bed, after a nap, I was too weak to stand on my own. And as he held me in his arms, face to face, I told him I couldn't go on. I didn't have the energy to live another minute. And I wasn't afraid. I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. His look, his words, I'll never forget - "Please, stay. Stay for me, for the kids, for the grandchildren. Please, stay." And I begrudgingly agreed.

There is no doubt that my nearly dying experiences were those near-death experiences. And while looking at death material, I found this video. And it explains, better than anything I've seen or read, this choice to die or stay. Grab a tissue first -

Vencer o câncer é mais fácil quando se está cercado de amor

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Peace - Weight of the World -

I am amazed at the beauty of the past two weeks when it comes to me having some peace. I think I don't always realize the load I'm carrying until I put it down, and I'm able to stand just a little taller.

Not having to juggle my schedule at work has been the biggest burden lifted. Working 5 days a week is nothing compared to attempting to figure out how to cram 5 days of work into 2.5, and then figuring out what days of the week those 2.5 should be.

Another load released is that of my out-of-pocket payment of health insurance. With my work benefits, that is no longer weighing me down. I've wanted to be self-sufficient since my divorce nearly 15 years ago, and I am. Whew.

Plus, I have free evenings! I'm not attempting to fit a client in, grade papers/create lesson plans, and slowing waaaaay down on our Airbnb rental. Having our entire house to us is just like a breath of fresh-air. It's been booked almost solid since February, and as nice as that income and meeting awesome people has been, it can be very wearing - on our house and on us. I can walk into my kitchen naked without worrying about someone coming in the back door!

Lastly, our yard is beautiful, finished, and it is a relaxing and peaceful spot - from 7am to 10pm, I am in love with my sanctuary.

The only load I want to be carrying these days on my back is that of my backpack -

James Christensen art 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Healthcare Chaplaincy -

I became a healthcare chaplain 10 years ago. This was a dream I have had since I was 13 years old. However, I did not know this was possible being a woman and Mormon, and so I took a circuitous route to this "calling," first looking into social work, then sociology, then anthropology, then finding the closest connection in Folklore. Here I was able to listen to others share their lives, better understanding their beliefs, their ways, their actions, and just being, what I've come to learn is a chaplain's phrase, a "Listening/Healing Presence."

However, I wasn't willing to put this dream aside, and once I found out I could become a Mormon woman over 40 chaplain, those dreams were realized, and after much work I earned my certification to become a healthcare chaplain. Not only one certification, but two, and one specialty in Palliative Care chaplaincy. I've written so many times about this dream - this passion of mine. And I've written about the day I was able to begin receiving a paycheck for my chaplaincy - because even though it's a service, just like a social worker or a doctor or a nurse or a tech, it is a livelihood.

And after 6 years of serving as a hospital volunteer, and 4 years of being an on-call chaplain and a part-time chaplain, I was offered a full-time Palliative Care Chaplain position a couple of weeks ago. And not to brag, but to brag - I am the first full-time female chaplain Intermountain Healthcare has had, the first FT, female, Palliative Care Chaplain Intermountain has had, and I am elated.

There is a need for healthcare chaplains, particularly for chaplains who have experienced crazy life situations and can empathize with those they serve - patients and colleagues. I won't say it yet - but hmmm, divorce, second marriage, cancer, near-death, father dying, son-in-law nearly dying . . . I've always said the one thing I love to collect is "experiences."

I am welcoming, with open arms, my 40 hour work-week, benefits, paid time-off, a 401K, and the opportunity to serve without trying to crowd way too much into 18 hours of chaplaining and then volunteering to cover what I couldn't do during that time.

I'm happy to move from multi-jobbing to focusing on one job, and then spending time at home with Scott and my family. I have taught night school at UVU for 14 years; it will be nice to not have to do this any longer. Multi-tasking is one skill I didn't recover after cancer treatments, and these past 4 years of chaplaining and teaching and editing and private counselling have been tough.

So - here are to dreams, and realities. I KNEW, KNOW that I'm supposed to be a chaplain at Utah Valley Hospital. I KNEW, KNOW I was supposed to be a professor at Utah Valley University. And I'm happy to be a part of an amazing team - I have never ever ever been on a team - I've always worked alone, remote, as adjunct, or as the only woman. My team rocks!

It's time for me to focus now on serving through chaplaincy, and I'm so grateful for this opportunity. Besides - I can hold hands and give hugs, something typically only a female chaplain can offer.

PS - when I googled "Chaplains," all I found were pictures of male military chaplains. When I googled "Healthcare Chaplains," many of the images were from Utah and included women! I'm excited that finally, in the 21st century, healthcare and the LDS church (my chaplain certification organization requires an endorsement from my faith group) are recognizing the need for women in this role.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

AA - Sobriety - Independence -

Scott and I celebrate the same Independence Day, unbeknownst to each other.

July 4 has special meaning for both of us -

15 years ago I declared my independence from a relationship that wasn't happy, hadn't been, and neither one of us had the tools to move forward.

26 years ago Scott declared his independence from alcohol. He had several friends call him and text him yesterday wishing him "Happy Birthday." Tomorrow we celebrate, as a family and with AA friends, as he receives his 26 year chip.

We both owe a lot of our happiness to knowing AA, knowing the AA 12 steps and traditions, and practicing them. These life lessons keep us sane, happy, and independently together.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Diet, Exercise, Nutrition - Weight Watchers -

I gained 35 pounds with my cancer treatment. That ended 5 1/2 years ago. I was able to pretty quickly drop 15 pounds, but those last 20 have been my nemesis, a burden that I have not been able to get off my back, butt, legs, and belly.

I've exercised diligently all of my adult life. I am typically slender, small-boned, a Vata in Ayurvedic terms. However, cancer, and to some extent age and menopause, have made me a little plumper than I like, and, it's just tough for a woman to lose weight.

I've tried eating Paleo, and I'm a vegetarian, so that was tough; I've tried Keto-type processes, putting my body in starvation mode; I've tried clean eating, sugar-free, grain-free, no additives, and I've tried just plain eating right, along with exercise, exercise, exercise.

And until a year ago, nothing has worked. Last July 5 I decided to give Weight Watchers a try. I looked into it carefully. Basically - I only worked online, with their amazing app, and counted every little thing I put in my mouth for all but 3 weeks this year (I skilled England and Holland). And while some folks on Weight Watchers have significant losses (40 pounds in 10 weeks), mine has been slow and steady.

My weight-loss has been slow, but never have I felt deprived, isolated, bummed-out, from doing this plan. I have been able to eat what I want, in moderation, and lose. Now - I have already developed healthy eating habits, so I wasn't trying to figure out how to fit in "crap," because I don't eat crap. And Weight Watchers has given me the freedom to be a vegetarian (although I've had to add some meat-based protein since cancer), and I haven't needed to eat pre-packaged additive-filled pseudo-food.

Along with steady exercise (weights, cardio), and good nutrition, monitored and accounted for by me, I've met my goal and then some. I am happy with the way I feel - which is such a blessing; I haven't been sick; I have more energy; I move easier. I have lost 25 pounds this year - and that's "only" 2 pounds a month, but remember, I didn't lose any on Paleo, Keto, etc.

So here's my high-five for Weight Watchers and for setting a goal, working the plan, having faith in the plan and in myself, and not quitting. I guess that's number one for me - I did not quit. And the perk, Scott is eating cleaner, healthier, and he has lost weight too. It's so much easier to do any weight-change program when those you live with are supportive.

Amen, and Wahooo!

PS - I did not give up Diet Pepsi!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Retiring/Leaving/Resigning/Moving On - UVU -

June 25, 2018

Dear Friends,

I’ve been teaching at UVU since January 2002, and it’s time for me to leave. I’ve actually been at UVU since 1992, when I started attending school as a non-traditional student. My academic advisor was Dawn Chase, and the first class I took was a Women’s Lit course from Karin Anderson. Since then I’ve praised UVU every chance I’ve had. Even after my graduation, with my AA, from UVU, my sojourn into BYU territory, and then to USU, I knew I’d be back to UVU, somewhere, somehow. So being asked to teach Introduction to Folklore, by Dept. Chair Paul Tanner, with the recommendation of Dawn, 18 months before I graduated, was a dream come true.

I’ve seen so many changes (like many of you), but more than that, I’ve seen constants. Every fall semester when I return to campus after a few months off, I look around and see the same students with the same issues, same dreams, same innocence, same drive. It’s almost a Tuck Everlasting scenario – time stands still while time marches on. UVU has been my security in so many ways; here I’ve developed from a curious hesitant student to a curious confident college professor. Here I honed my skills as a folklorist as well as taking advantage of many professional opportunities to present, write, and publish – all making me a better instructor. Steve Gibson’s patience with me as I journeyed through my cancer treatments was priceless, and I’ve appreciated Wioleta and Jerry cheerleading me and other adjuncts. Their support has been extremely valuable.

The 2016-2017 school year was phenomenal. I have always enjoyed teaching evening classes, and this year was no different. I felt like I was at the top of my teaching game. I gave my students my very very best, and they gave me their best. We had fun, we shared, we were vulnerable, and we learned – from me and each other, about culture, language, writing, life. And – the icing on my teaching profession cake has been seeing one of my first folklore students become a lecturer at UVU – Devin Patten; I could not ask for more.

And with this, I am ready to put my teaching aside and spend time with my other loves – husband, children and grandchildren, traveling, and chaplaincy at Utah Valley Hospital. I say good-bye with a heart full of gratitude; I appreciate your trust in me and my abilities. Here’s to looking forward.

Sincerely, Ronda Walker Weaver

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Should I Stay or Should I Go -

This week I need to decide whether or not to teach classes at UVU this upcoming fall semester. I've taught for 17 years, adjunct, no benefits - except for spending time with amazing young people, sharing what little wisdom I have, and learning so much for them. 

I'm a good teacher; my student reviews (not just these on RMP) have shown this. Yet this past school year was very difficult and very rewarding. I've had amazing students - some of the best, and funnest, who have ever past through my classroom. They have kept me at the top of my game, and I gave my very very best to these past 6 classes. Yet I've had a few students who have harassed and pushed and stalked and whined, and they have made me tired and anxious, and yes, a little fearful. 

So I'm tired, ready to move on, but not quite sure if that time is now or later! I'm wondering if I should go out in a blaze of glory or a slow simmer down to nothing. I love UVU; I've been there for nearly 26 years - as a student and as a professor. And I have enjoyed my time there. 

Hmmmm - Decisions -