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