Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Change #4

Fall's in the air, a time to harvest, draw in, heat up, pull together. Seems like I've been doing this for quite sometime, and today, for today, the storm is over. I am at peace - really no worries, no hurries, no pressure, except that I put on myself. The below quote sums up my feelings right now. Happy day-

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.”
Haruki Murakami (born 1949);

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Many years ago, while living in Alabama, I was the chorister for our church congregation. The organist was a fair pianist, and a not so good organist. It was the week of July 24th, which in the Mormon culture is Pioneer Day, when we celebrate and acknowledge our ancestors who have crossed the plains from New York, Illinois, Ohio, to Utah.

One of the songs we sing in this acknowledgement is, "Come, Come, Ye Saints."


This song is supposed to be sung "With Conviction" and at a pretty decent tempo. However, it is often sung slowly and mournfully. 

A good accompanist follows the music director, but because this woman was new to accompanying, I had allowed her to set the tempo for the congregational singing. Yet I was determined we were going to sing this song with a voice of affirmation and great vigor, but the organist had a different idea. She played the prelude, slowly. I turned to her and whispered, "A little faster, please." We began to sing, and not only was she playing slow, but the congregation was singing slower, and we had quite the round going - all at different tempos. It was horrible. I was so disappointed in the accompanist and congregation. No one was even looking at me to see that we were all out of synch. 

As soon as the song was finished, I walked from the front of the chapel to the back, briskly, and out into the foyer. A friend of mine, who happened to be the president of our women's organization, the Relief Society, followed me. I was frustrated, I felt betrayed, and I was tired of trying to get the Southerners to better understand the value of hymns in worship services (I also taught a music appreciation moment every Sunday). 

My friend, Ann, said to me: "Ronda, before you begin to weed everyone else's garden, you need to weed your own." Yes, I did. What were my motivations, and why was I so angry at the congregation and accompanist?

Over the years, when I point a finger at someone/s, I try to look at the 3 pointing back at me and look at my role in the pointing. I have tried to keep my garden weeded, and in doing so, realize what a huge undertaking that is, and I have more empathy for those who see life differently than I. I know we cannot be singing with one voice at one speed, and different voices and tempos are good.

So these past 2 years (since my back accident on Sept. 17, 2011) I've been vigorously weeding my physical, spiritual, and emotional gardens. This isn't the first time I've done a deep-weeding, and probably not the last. But, here is what I've re/learned this go around:

Don't underestimate the power within. If I have good soil, I will reap decent crops. They may need to be fertilized and watered, but good soil is paramount. My good soil? My naturing and nurturing. I have a strong foundation - and even when I waiver, if I stop swaying and wandering around, and look inside, my inside is plowable, good, rich. 

I reap what I sow. Back to the 3/1 fingers adage. If I plant kindness, I will harvest kindness. If I sow anger, I may as well plan on receiving anger, from myself and from others. If I sow seeds of self-doubt, that's what I will harvest. 

Fear is only a flower disguised as a weed. That's right - as my father-in-law used to say, a weed is a flower someone hasn't yet discovered. Fear is an emotion that leads to another emotion, that leads to an event, which leads to a realization. Fear is good - but it needs to be acknowledged and contained, and often plucked from the ground so that what is being sowed will have space to grow. 

Worries are the snails and slugs of the garden. 'Nuff said. 

Even goodness needs to be thinned. My garden can be filled with beautiful beet greens, but too many greens do not make good beets. I can be busy doing good, but busy is not always good. I have to make time to see the soil. There has to be time to breathe, to be. 

Harvesting is a process, not an event. Life is going to happen, and just because I've conquered one aspect of my life does not mean it's the only part of me that needs refining. And just because I've been through that refiner's fire is no insurance I won't be going through it again. I am the constant gardener, and like my pioneer ancestors, "No toil, nor labor fear."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

N. E. D.

Mammogram and Doctor's visit this week - both turned out A-OK! I knew all would be well, but I didn't realize I was holding my breath until after the No-Evidence-of-Disease was declared. Whew! I see my radiation oncologist in 3 months, then see my chemo oncologist every 3 months for the next 2 years, getting mammograms every 6 months. I'll be dealing with the repercussions of chemo and radiation for awhile, but I can do that knowing my energy can be spent here (as long as I don't crash on my bike, stub a toe, crack a rib). My body knows how to heal, how to be healthy. Thank you, body.

It has been a good week. I love being back at school, in the classroom, teaching. I am past deliriously in love with teaching, and I hold this treasure, this gift, gently. I've had a couple of chemo-brain moments, but I was honest with my students the first day of class, and as long as I can continue in that honesty, being kind to myself, I know I can continue to have the respect of my students, and teach them not only how to write, but also how to live - life isn't always smooth, and professors aren't perfect.

I am reaching out - it feels good to be outside of myself. Heal yourself, help others heal. I've spent time the past weeks with a couple of friends who are having their own journeys. I'm glad they've invited me to ride along with them. It feels good to be in the back-seat again. I'm seeing the kinship that comes with similar travels. I am finding that what I have to offer are these 2 words - "I understand." There is peace in knowing we aren't alone.

I did something this week I haven't done in probably 8 years - can fruit - when the fruit was ready, rather then when I made time. This isn't a skill I thought I'd ever use once my children left home, but standing on my feet for hours, next to a hot stove, with glass bottles filled with "safely gathered in" bounty has brought me much joy. 60 1/2 pints of peach and peach/nectarine jam, 25 quarts of tomatoes, 16 half pints of raspberry jam - the beauty of jars lined up on my kitchen counter, the high-fiving myself for a job well-done, the sisterhood in this communal undertaking, something I cannot discount. Touching earth, handling creations, preserving - not only the fruit, but the moment.

“Canning is a whole world of a thing to do. It requires that you get out of your head. It's a Zen thing. You cannot be wondering about your inadequacies and how they drove Bob off and be making jelly. You'll wind up with big, cylindrical jujubes.”
― Debby Bull, Blue Jelly: Love Lost & the Lessons of Canning

Onward - reaching in, reaching out, learning to live in the today. Quite a simply extravagant and necessary process.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Letter To Myself -

A year ago tomorrow morning, 9:30am, Dr. Dayton pulled Scott and me into her office and said, "I'm sorry Ronda, it's bad news, you have breast cancer." I covered my face with my hands, cried, shook, cried. I was stunned, in complete shock like never before. She said, "You can do this." Scott said, "We can do this." Dr. Dayton made a quick call, and within minutes I was in the office across from hers talking to the surgeon who would remove a portion of my left breast.

Today, as I've read my first posts, I am sad. I cry. I hurt. I ache for me, for the innocent Ronda who is about to undergo a life-change she cannot comprehend. Cancer is a bitch - and that day, and the days that followed I lost any remaining innocence I may have had. And for that, I'm still in shock - I want to apologize to the 147 lb. 53 year old Ronda, with natural blonde hair, for all that she is going to have to go through - hold her in my arms, hug her, cuddle her, let her know she is loved.

Dear Ronda -
You have cancer. You're going to need medical care to move past this invader. The next few months are going to be tough, I ain't gonna lie. You are going on a journey that will try your limits of physical, spiritual, and emotional endurance. You will turn inward at the same time as turning outward. You are alone, yet the community that surrounds you will become your salvation, your savior, your strength.

Your will lose your innocence (there are some things in life you can avoid, but apparently this isn't), but you will gain wisdom (the type of wisdom gained from going through trauma). The insight and knowledge you gain will keep you from becoming hardened. The experiences you will have will soften you, giving you more empathy and compassion than you ever thought possible.

You will survive this ordeal. You will, I promise. In fact, not only will you survive, but you will thrive. This will take courage and effort, but you already know that - you are one courageous woman, a woman who is not afraid of hard work, of learning. In fact, you have lived your life with a "bring it on" attitude, and this will serve you well.

You will change, life will never be the same, yet most-likely, you will be a better person because of this. Remind yourself of this often. You like change, you thrive on change, see this as an opportunity to evolve. I have faith in you, as do hundreds of others. Don't forget this. Enjoy this journey. Find the joy in this adventure. Find the goodness, the generosity, the gratitude, let this move you forward, not take you back.

And then when you think you've experienced it all, cancer will continue to be a part of your life. Just being finished with treatments will not mean you are healed. Your scars won't be the only constant reminder of your cancer. Your body will be beaten up. You'll be forced to listen to your body as you continue to battle the side-effects of your treatment - broken bones, weakened balance, weight gain, and you thought losing your hair was going to be the only change! Listen. You couldn't hurry your treatment, you cannot rush your healing. Pace yourself (a lesson you really need to learn), and you will heal.

I love you, lady. Turn inward, find the power within, it's there. A life's worth of lessons will be handed to you this year and in the years to come, gather them, hold them gently, they are yours forever.

My love - Ronda 

  Sept. 11, 2012

First chemo, Oct. 10, 2012

 Oct. 23, 2012

 2nd chemo Oct. 30, 2013

November 15, 2012
Dec. 20, 2012

 Last chemo. Jan 16, 2013

April 4, 2013

 April 23, 2013

 July 25, 2013

August 18, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Let The Anniversaries Begin!

A year ago Thursday I found a lump in my breast. I've been through surgeries, chemo, radiation, hair loss, and a broken elbow this past year. As I was looking at pictures from this past year, I wanted to hug my inner-self and tell her this year would be tough, but she could make it. She did - and this saying is exactly how I feel.