Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Secret Desires -

What I would have been - 

A Sundance model - but living that model life in real life - expensive clothes that aren't flashy, leisure time to bring home pine cones, in a little red wagon, to decorate the fireplace mantle, for Saturday's dinner with 22 close friends, just to celebrate pine cones. And I've plenty time to change into my black velour weekend pants and Robert Redford blouse, so I look refreshed for guests.

Or - I barely have time to brush my teeth before my lover and I set off for a day of adventuring - in an open-air rickety bus that's overflowing with people discussing their lives in a language not even our guide understands. Of course this is followed by being stranded in a small mountainside/seaside community because we stopped to visit with a cute old man sitting on a bench outside of the barbershop on the corner, we lost our interpreter, but no worries, we communicate with our eyes, hands, and the community falls in love with us and asks us to stay and gather stories of the village elders and youngers. And we do.

Or - I spend my days sitting at the desk writing, because my publisher says I need to get the 3rd book in my series out soon - so many readers begging for the next, and I'm distracted by a faint breeze on my linen curtains which brings with it a light scent of magnolias. I look out my window and see family coming up my walk with empty baskets crying, "Come and gather flowers." I leave my desk, saying, "Fans can wait," and hurry to answer their call - knowing family and soft breezy magnolia scented days can't. 

Better yet - A class of 25 inquisitive students asks me to tell them, one more time, how to form a thesis statement, the difference between your and you're, why their Sunday dinner tradition is unique and worthy of rediscovering. I run up 72 stairs, jump into my mid-sized car, and zig-zag through traffic to lunch, where my love is waiting, the table set for two, with candles burning, even in the daytime. While he cleans up our quick meal, I drop my boots, take off my socks, and begin thinking about my research on the topic for the day. I sit down at my desk, the desk he made, his hands polishing the wood until it glows. I get one sentence typed, one bit of information on the paper, and my phone rings. "Grandma, I love you." And the moment is set in stone, time stands still, and I remember why I'm alive - it is because my world is alive.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Birthday Week -

I turn 55 on Thursday, Jan. 30. I'm fine with being this "old." In fact, last year, I was fine with being 54, and praying I'd see 55, and here I am! This past 12 months has been the year of just staying alive. I'm looking forward to the upcoming months - but I'm also working on that definition of "alive."

Every year on my birthday (since my 40th birthday) I revisit my funeral plans. I rewrite my last wishes, including distribution of my life insurance policy. I make a copy for Scott, e-mail copies to my kids (they do think it's kinda creepy, but they've grown use to my creepiness), and move forward. Last year I was more than a little worried about what the future would bring, so I spent more time on the details. This year, I'm thinking about not even looking at last year's plans, rather moving ahead as if I have all the time in the world.

When I was a young woman of about 25, I was at our congregation's women's dinner. I was sitting at a table of women my age. An older woman came up to us and said, "I may look 62, but in my heart I'm 25. Do you mind if I join you?" We smiled and invited her to sit with us. I remember thinking - well that lady doesn't want to grow old gracefully! And yet here I am, an old woman, looking my age, but acting . . . well, hmmmm, being me.

Having been given the perfect gift of another year - with health and a NED diagnosis, I'm uber-reflecting and uber-forwarding. Am I where I want to be? Am I who I thought I'd be? Am I who I want to be? Have I accomplished my 20, 10, 5 year goals? In some ways I can say "yes" to all of these points. In others, well, let's see -

What I didn't plan on doing as an adult and did anyway:  
1. I'm a statistic more than once - remarried, stepmother, cancer survivor.
2. I am a chaplain.
3. I am a university instructor.
4. I am my parents' neighbor.
5. I have battle scars - or road rash. 
6. I am stronger than I ever thought possible.

What I planned on doing, and did: 
1. I have a college degree.
2. I am close to my children, they are my friends.
3. I am living with, and traveling with, the love of my life.
4. I am caring for others - as a professor, a chaplain, a daughter, a grandmother, a mother, a friend, an advocate.
5. I have a home that is a sanctuary for family and friends.
6. I have an eclectic bunch of friends - all ages, all stages.

So for this year, my 56th - what are my goals?
1. Bench press 250.
2. Run a marathon.
3. Ride my bike cross-country.
4. Swim across Utah Lake.
5. Hike Mt. Timpanogos.

Well, not exactly. But, really, the sky is the limit, and next year at this time I hope to look back and say, "I accomplished all I set out to do this past year - I loved, lived, learned, laughed."

Happy Birthday to Me!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Teaching and Learning -

I follow A message from this week's newsletter touched me (probably because I'm in the thick of thinking I'm teaching, when I'm really learning) - 

Your Perfect Teacher
by Madisyn Taylor
All the situations in our lives, from the insignificant to the major, teach us exactly what we need to be learning.

Many of us long to find a spiritual teacher or guru. We may feel unsure of how to practice our spirituality without one, or we may long for someone who has attained a higher level of insight to lead the way for us. Some of us have been looking for years to no avail and feel frustrated and even lost. The good news is that the greatest teacher you could ever want is always with you—that is your life.

The people and situations we encounter every day have much to teach us when we are open to receiving their wisdom. Often we don’t recognize our teachers because they may not look or act like our idea of a guru, yet they may embody great wisdom. In addition, some people teach us by showing us what we don’t want to do. All the situations in our lives, from the insignificant to the major, conspire to teach us exactly what we need to be learning at any given time. Patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, letting go—all these are covered in the classroom of the teacher that is your life.

We can help ourselves to remember this perfect teacher each day with a few simple words. Each morning we might find a moment to say, “I acknowledge and honor the teacher that is my life. May I be wise enough to recognize the teachers and lessons that I encounter today, and may I be open to receiving their wisdom.” We might also take some time each day to consider what our lives are trying to teach us at this time. A difficult phase in your relationship with your child may be teaching you to let go. The homeless person you see every day may be showing you the boundaries of your compassion and generosity. A spate of lost items may be asking you to be more present to physical reality. Trust your intuition on the nature of the lesson at hand, work at your own pace, and ask as many questions as you want. Your life has all the answers.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hands -

I'm sitting here typing, my nails clacking on the keys, my wrists aching as I put together words on this page. My hands have pruned rose bushes, pulled weeds, lifted rocks, held a baby, caressed my lover, braided hair, picked noses, brushed away tears, tied bows, arranged flowers, written stories.

I've always been able to grow long strong fingernails - never had a problem with my nails, or my fingers, or my hands. Yet this past year my hands have ached - nails fallen off because of chemo, finger tips freezing with neuropathy as a result of chemo, hands aching because of stress fractures, again the result of chemo.

But I'm not here to complain. I'm wanting to acknowledge the hands that have braided, picked, caressed me.

I loved spending time with my grandma Jensen. One classy independent lady - she would have been 100 this past December 26; she died more than 10 years ago, shortly after my grandfather passed away. When we had sleepovers I would kneel at her bed to pray; she would sit next to me and gently push my long blonde hair behind my ear, over and over again. I don't like having my ears touched, but I'd give almost anything to feel her caress, just one more time. As she aged and I grew, her hands fascinated me. Almost paper thin, wrinkled, covered in sun-spots, I would caress her hands, trace the outlines of her veins, look at her palms - her life-lines, and look at mine to see if they matched. They did.

My mother's hands have always been busy. Mom is more a doer than a caresser. Her hands are often wet, doughy, dirty, or filled with laundry, food, books. She has her sunspots routinely removed - pre-cancer or to postpone aging, I'm not sure. Her hands pulled my hair back into a tight bun, trimmed my bangs, spanked my butt, and baked me dinner. I enjoy watching my mom's busy hands - she is a giver, perhaps her caress is one of service.

My daughter's hands - long lean fingers, long nail beds, strong, gentle. Her hands are those of an artist - her hands are creating - whether a baby, a piece of jewelry, or a tune on her guitar. She paints her nails, but seldom are they perfect - chipping and peeling from being needed - chipped nails showing me she cares for herself and for hers. I look at her hands and see fresh, authentic, and brilliant.

I have one fingernail that is split in half. 27 years ago I was weeding my front yard flower bed when I should have been resting. I lifted a boulder to reach the weeds rooted under it and then quickly dropped it on my hand, smashing my middle finger. My nail disappeared, and when it grew back, well, I must have damaged the nail bed. Interestingly, even the chemo did not change this.

Tonight, with long beautiful fingernails, still nicely bearing last week's polish, I see my grandma's hands - skin wrinkling, sunspots now almost touching each other. I see my mother's hands - quick, often wet, agile. I see my daughter's hands - I see my past in her future. My hands are a tribute to my women's hands - eager to teach, eager to serve, eager to caress.

And when they are aching, when they are tired, when they are stiff, I think of Grandma's busy hands that still had time for me. I hope I will have a grandchild who will kneel next to me, or lay their head on my lap, and allow me to pray with my touch.

Have you heard of the Buddha goddess, Kuan Yin? When I think of the women in my life, I'm reminded of her and her outstretched hands, ready to serve - 
(Fall 2011)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Let the Semester Begin -

Spring 2014 Semester at UVU begins tomorrow. I have 3 classes, and I am so excited to be teaching. I really do love being a college professor - I am fulfilled when I am in the classroom, and I give my students my very best.

Happy New Year - and let 2014 begin!