Wednesday, July 23, 2014

These are My People - A Nod to My Pioneer Heritage -

July 24 is Pioneer Day - a day much celebrated in the Mormon world. Well, I am proud, yes, proud, to say I come from these Mormon pioneers. I am strong, resilient, stubborn, committed, diligent, tenacious, and I know how to put one foot in front of the other and move forward - living in the hope of a tomorrow.

I have often thought of my female ancestors and all they gave for their convictions. They are my people, and I'm no stranger here -

Mary Taylor Upton Simmons Robinson is my surviving ancestor; she was with the Martin Handcart Company. Her parents and her husband died on the journey; her mother and her husband died at Devil's Gate, now known as Martin's Cove. Her dad died at Fort Laramie, one month earlier. Their names are listed on the wall at Martin's Cove's visitors center. Mary is listed as Mary Upton there, and her husband was William Upton. Joseph and Harriet Sidwell Taylor are her parents. Mary was born at Cotton, in, the Elms, England. Her family converted to the LDS religion there in August, 1845. She married William Upton in 1855 and along with her parents they immigrated to America. They joined the Martin Handcart Co., and headed west. Her father, Joseph, became sick and died October 8, 1856 of malnourishment and fatigue. With her feet wrapped in gunny sacks, she, William, and her mother traveled to Martin's Cove. Their clothes froze to their bodies, and Mary's mother died. That same day her husband also died. A shallow grave was dug in the frozen earth, and mother and husband were buried together. 

A group of men were sent by Brigham Young to rescue the pioneers at Martin's Cove. William Burt Simmons was 58 years old when he left Bountiful, Utah to help. When he rescued Mary, her feet were black and frozen. He took her and a group of pioneers to his home where they were nursed back to health. Mary married William Burt in polygamy in March 1857. They had five children. When Burt died in 1866 her youngest child was one year old. In 1867 she married Joseph Robinson who had four wives. They had four children. 

Mary was 69 years old when she died. She didn't like to talk about her experiences traveling to Utah. She had thinning grey hair and wore it in a bun. It is said that she had a serene and pleasant personality.  

Amanda Chipman Simmons was William Burt Simmons' first wife. She and Burt had six children. She was 46 years old when Burt married Mary Taylor Upton, whom they had nursed back to health from the Martin Handcart Company. Amanda received personal revelation that Burt should marry Mary in polygamy. She said, "Unless you have been touched by the spirit, one will never understand a polygamist marriage." She was a seamstress and made clothing and household fancies. 

Ann Shelton Howard was born in England in 1816. Her family of eleven children converted to the LDS faith, and her husband, Joseph, became a branch president for the church. When an opportunity came to travel to America, the Shelton's oldest two sons were sent over to work and earn money to bring the rest of the over. It is said that Ann was a loving mother, affectionate, and generous. She weighed about 200 pounds and had auburn hair, which she wore in ringlets. The family arrived in America and left Nebraska headed west in August 1864. On the journey, her daughter, Matilda (6 yrs. old) died in August, and another, Tamar (3 yrs. old) died in September. Broken hearted and weak, Ann died in October 1864, 300 miles east of Salt Lake City, at Little Bitter Creek. She was buried there. She never did see her two sons. 

 Song by my good friend, Sam Payne.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

When The Cross Seems Heavy -

When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Serenity Prayer - Big Change Ahead!

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
Courage to change the things I can, 
And the wisdom to know the difference. 

Scott and I watched a movie on Sunday evening. One of the lines in the show was a rework of the Serenity Prayer.

"And the courage to change the things I cannot accept."

Oh yeah - it really does take courage to make changes. Acceptance is hard enough, but courage to change what is not acceptable - that's where I'm operating these days.

Be courageous - stay on the path that I know is the correct path and "be ye unafraid" of changing.

Change usually means action, but for me, change needs to be that state of "being" rather than "doing." The "change the things I can't accept" means I don't like the anxiety, crazy, stress-ridden life I'm leading right now (sometimes I feel like there's so much make-up work to do, catching up from 2 years of being AWOL). I have myself back in the frantic life I led years ago, and I don't like this. The courage for me then is saying, "stop," I can change this way of doing life - I don't have to live at this pace, I do not have to accept this way of life, damn it!

So today, today, I've turned down 2 jobs, turned down 2 volunteer roles, and I'm refocusing. I'm going to make time to meditate, weed my garden, get my work done, and enjoy my chaplain class. That's it, and this is change, and change takes courage.

Monday, June 30, 2014

This -

Over and over again this month I've reflected on how blessed I am to have made it through another tough year - the year of healing. I woke up Saturday morning and realized my arm didn't ache, my boob didn't ache. In fact, the parts of me that did ache were because I had hiked the "Y"  on Friday - a healthy ache!

As I recently listened to Joshua Prager's experiences from several years ago, and his subsequent rebirth, I couldn't help but think how similar our feelings are.

When I feel down, feel hurt, feel the victim, I am relinquishing my ability to heal and to grow from my experiences - and I'm not talking "only" cancer. I refuse to be a victim, I refuse to wallow, I refuse to linger on the "what if's" the "what could have been." I am stronger, better, more because of my life's experiences -

Monday, June 23, 2014

Busyness -

The article below, written by Allison Vaillancourt, for The Chronicle of Higher Education, could not be more timely. Busyness is a monster I've been trying to banish from my life for many years. Just when I think I have "it" down, I get too cocky, add something to my plate, and off I go again in busyness.

However - Last year, this time, when I was walking faster than I could run, I had a lovely accident. This blown elbow and accompanying injuries was my awakening, hopefully for quite awhile. And it was here when I really learned that being busy, even in goodness, is not good.

So now - a year later - I am still learning, but I am implementing the "Life is great. My plate is full, but I wouldn't choose another way" lifestyle. And - I've learned to say "No," even to things I really want to be a part of. And it is freeing! And I haven't lost any opportunities to grow, so it must be OK to say no!

One choice I made when my children were young was "to come to them with dry hands," meaning I'm never, ever, ever too busy for family. They come first. They always have, they always will. There's nothing wrong with taking time to breathe and enjoy - life is short, I know.

Amen -

Let's Banish Busyness!

June 10, 2014
I work with someone who begins every conversation by telling me how busy she is. I don't mean some conversations, or most conversations; I mean every single conversation. Whenever I am about to talk with her, I ask myself, "I wonder if she will tell me how busy she is?" And every single time, she does. Is she accomplishing a lot? No; less than most. But is she "so busy?" Oh, yeah.

This particular colleague is not the only one who does this. As Jen Sincero, the author of You Are a Badass, has noted, "I'm so busy" is the new "I'm fine, thanks." And it is getting annoying.

I'm curious about why so many of us seem obsessed with talking about how busy we are and why it seems acceptable to acknowledge that our lives are basically out of control. How can this be a good thing? I'm sure there are many who think being buried is a badge of honor—proof that they are important and in demand. But really, when is the last time you heard a world leader or MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner moan, "I can't believe how many meetings I have. And, oh my God, the email!"

The people who seem to accomplish the most seem to complain the least, and they also seem to have an unusual sense of focus. They don't think they can do everything people want them to do, and unlike us, they don't even try.

A circle of my friends has been exploring the topic of busyness lately and we have decided there are three key lessons for us to remember.

Lesson One: We can have it all, just not at the same time. Rather than trying to be superhuman, what if we decided to focus on just two or three key areas and let everything else fall away? Life might not be as interesting, but it might be less chaotic.

Lesson Two: Talking about being busy signals to others that we can't be trusted with anything new or bigger. "David can barely handle what's on his plate now, so he certainly can't be trusted to lead this high-profile project."

Lesson Three: Our minds pay attention to our mouths. Constant conversations about feeling overwhelmed and out of control are self-reinforcing and self-sabotaging. When we talk about being overly busy, we feel overly busy, and this mental swirling makes it hard for us to get anything done.

In response to these realizations, my circle has pledged to banish the word "busy" from our collective vocabulary in order to sound less pathetic and more in control. When asked how she is doing, one friend now responds, "I am doing more than I ever dreamed possible." Another says, "Terrific; there is a lot going on." They both appear energetic and engaged rather than scattered and manic. It's a good look for them.

Are you feeling "incredibly busy" these days? What's you standard response to "How are you?"

Monday, June 16, 2014

Flat Tires -

I recently read an article that said people who have spent time on the cancer bus make less money after treatment, have a more difficult time finding employment, and have more post-treatment expenses, than the everyday person. Yup. Feeling those effects.

Thunk, thud, psssssh. Another stack of nails on this journey - and I'm running out of spare tires.

Somewhere there has to be a "no-flat" tire.

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Nod to Crisfield, Maryland -

Eleven years ago today, on Friday, June 13, 2003, I made a decision that forever changed my life and the lives of my family. I packed 2 suitcases and flew to Maryland, where for 3 weeks I worked with a team of folklorists, historians, and ethnographers whose mandate was to take a snapshot in time of the town of Crisfield, a maritime community on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Crisfield used to be the crab capital of the world, yet as pollution increased in the Bay and the crab count decreased, and as Asian crabs became cheaper to buy than American crabs, the town and its industry began to falter. We met beautiful people, gathered their stories, took photos of their lives, and presented it back to them. It was a beautiful 3 weeks, one of the first times I felt free to be me, and a time I felt accepted, appreciated, even loved. I loved every moment, and coming home was brutal; I wanted to stay where I could start-over, make changes, and redefine myself, or better yet, be my authentic self.

Well, I came home, and I made changes anyway, because that's how I operate - "Be the change . . ." was something I learned when I was a child - "If you don't like something then change it," was a phrase I heard from my parents over and over again. "Don't wait for someone to do it for you, do it yourself," was another adage. As a 44 year old woman, about to launch into single life, I had to look at all the changes that would occur not only in my life, but in the lives of many many loved ones. And I stewed and stewed about how I was going to move forward - how I could be true to myself without hurting others - and I couldn't do both - so I chose being true to myself, hoping that as time went on, wounds would heal.

I couldn't make these changes alone - I had cheerleaders and doubters on both coasts and in-between.

And here I am, 11 years later, facing other changes, particularly the changes of these past 18 months, and I am fine. I am. I am happy and hopeful and growing and good. "Be the change you want to see . . . " is not about changing a hairdo, rearranging the living room, changing clothes, although certainly those are changes, but I've learned that change is within - changing attitudes, perceptions, realizations, adapting and adopting, and moving forward. Yes - change is good - change is not a one-time deal - change is progress - if we allow ourselves to be authentic, to be our true selves, and to embrace whatever it is life dishes us - or we dish ourselves, we can move forward in health and happiness.

I thank my higher power, my friends, my family for being on this change path with me. Yeah -