Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Succulents and Sisters -

I adore succulents - I have a greenhouse window in my kitchen, over my sink. In it I have a bundle of succulents.

I have 3 larger pots in my library, and I have one on my dresser in our bedroom (my favorite, the wild-child).

There's all sorts of metaphors for these low-maintenance bits of green. And that's one of the reasons I'm attracted to them.

For Christmas I bought a bunch of these babies for my sisters, potted them in a variety of containers.

And I included this:

Succulents and Sisters -

Need little sunlight
Need little water
Covers up the dirt
Low maintenance
Add a little life to the area
Receive little acknowledgement
Require little nourishment
Blooms where planted
Come in all shapes and sizes
OK with "Being"
Adaptable - can live anywhere
Beautiful year round
Can reproduce
Bring joy

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I Have a Cold -

I'm a boob when it comes to being sick. I always have, but since cancer my inability to handle being sick has increased.

I had a sore throat on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning I could feel my sinuses backing up, and by yesterday morning, I was full-blown sick.

I get scared. See, with cancer treatments, being sick was out of my control. There was nothing I could do but wait for the side-effects to wear down, and then I'd be healthy for a few days prior to the next round of chemo or radiation.

I feel similarly when my body begins to ache, a cough comes on, I have to breathe through my mouth. I get scared. I have no control. And even though I know I'll get better, I fear this will get worse, last longer, and I'll never be healthy.

Weird, but not a lot about post-cancer-treatment/PTS makes sense.

Here's to tissue, mentholatum, cough drops, neti pot, and lots of liquids. So much for all of my post-holiday, pre-second semester plans.

Book recommendations?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Letter - 2015 - Gratitude -

This saying: "If I had more time, I would have made this letter shorter," has been attributed to many authors and philosophers, and I remind my students of the need to make every word count when they are writing.

And when it comes to writing Christmas letters, how do you condense 12 months worth of activity, or inactivity, into a letter that someone will enjoy reading rather than reading out of obligation? Likewise - Christmas letters are notorious for sharing too much information, having some ulterior motive, bragging, leaving someone/thing/place out, etc.

So a couple of Sundays ago, when Scott said he'd address the Christmas cards (What? I said, are you feeling well?), I wrote our Christmas letter. I wanted it short (less than a page long) and concise, without making our lives any more, or less, than what they are. I spent the entire day writing (well, write, rest, edit, write, rest, edit . . . ).

Merry Christmas; I am blessed. Scott and I are blessed.

December, 2015

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

This thought has been on re-run in my mind the past few weeks. And I can’t help but count our blessings. Scott and I are grateful for:

Family – With six children and their spouses, and twenty grandchildren, our hearts are the fullest when we are able to share time with them. Being grandparents is an incredible gift, and watching our children parent is beautiful.

Extended family – We gather and work and rally and care for Dad and Mom and each other. Our priorities and our hearts are first and foremost for our family. Living next door to Ronda’s parents gives us the opportunity to see siblings and nieces and nephews regularly. We’ve had some beautiful sunrises and sunsets this fall, and these Max Weaver Sunsets are reminders to us of Max and Ruth and the goodness they left us.

Friends – We are surrounded not only by “family of blood,” but as well by “family of choice.” We are grateful these lines are often blurred. We have been able to share our home with some amazing folks this year who entered as strangers and left as friends. There is always room in our home and hearts for one more. Ronda loves seeing the transition from student to friend, and we cherish these relationships.

Opportunities to serve – Although we carry no big titles, service is in our blood. Scott is always busy helping someone – Ronda’s parents, our children, and with his spare time he serves at the Food and Care Coalition and with Alcoholics Anonymous. Ronda continues to teach at UVU, and when classes are finished for the day, she heads to Utah Valley Hospital where she serves as a chaplain, and her cancer journey adds beauty to this role.

Relationships are our focus, yet we make sure our souls are filled. We are beyond grateful for healthy bodies and minds. We exercise together, hike and bike together, and we have enjoyed Zion National Park, and an amazing hail and rainstorm that held us captive on a mountainside, as well as rediscovering Ronda’s Idaho. We have a beautiful home that is large enough for the two of us and visits from family and friends, yet small enough to be able to care for – our yard and garden bring us peace and joy – Scott is the constant gardener.

With all this said and shared, there is still much goodness that goes unacknowledged. For 2016, we commit to speaking kinder, sharing more readily, smiling more often, and reaching out with arms open wide. This is our gift to you – Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

Merry Christmas!   

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Stress -

I wrote this for the Palliative Care Clinic where I work. And as I wrote, from experience, I realized how relevant so many of these pointers are. So I'm sharing.

‘Tis the Season – Facing the Holidays and Illness – for You and Your Caregiver

The holiday season is upon us – but with a diagnosis that does not allow for “normal,” what can be done to celebrate the holidays, rather than just existing through them? Traditions and memories of holidays can underscore the confusion related to loss and make the holidays overwhelming and unbearable.

First and foremost – Don’t forget the holidays!!! Taking time off to enjoy life, wanting a little bit of normalcy and routine in life is a good thing. Wanting to continue with some traditions and celebrations is just fine, if you know how to make this happen. Think about how you want to manage your symptoms and how they coincide with this time of the year.

1. Forget about perfection. It isn’t going to happen, and it doesn’t need to happen.

·         Ask yourself, ‘How much energy is this going to take, and how willing am I to pay for this after it’s finished,’ before undertaking anything strenuous (emotionally or physically).  Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do.

·         Simplify. Delegate (or delete) and don’t micro-manage. Think, ‘Does it need to be done by me, or does it just need to be done?’

2.  Stay rested. One of the biggest holiday stressors is lack of sleep.

·         If you must push yourself, then give yourself a day off or a couple of naps the following day. Plan for time on and time off.

·         The strain of shopping, social demands (both are public areas with unwanted germs just waiting for you), can wipe you out. Being exhausted increases your stress level as well. This can become a vicious cycle. Enjoy the holiday moments rather than the holiday bustle.

·         Shop online or consider donating your Christmas budget to a local or national not-for-profit organization, and acknowledge this to your friends in a card.

·         If your finances cannot handle this strain, how about a letter sharing your love for those around you, written by you, or a piece of poetry, or a story?

·         Stop! Don’t push yourself.

3. Eat and stay hydrated. Doing anything can be difficult, so plan on taking care of yourself so you can enjoy others.

·         This means healthy foods and liquids!

·         Treats are good. However, be careful when eating home-made goodies. That peanut brittle or fudge might be very enticing; do you know where it came from; do you know the giver?

 4. Holidays seem to bring out the best and the worst in people. Know your limits.

·         Family trauma is as toxic for your health as too much sugar. Play the ‘I am too sick to be involved’ card if you’d like. No apologies necessary. But do not isolate yourself!

·         Get creative. If the doctor says your counts are low and to stay away from visitors, then think of how you can enjoy visitors without their germs. Devise a schedule for visitors and keep those visits short and sweet.

·        Consider online face time with friends and family – Skype and other conference and face time programs and apps are readily available.

·         Hand Sanitizer – keep a bottle with you, and by the front and back doors at all times. Even if you don’t see the guests who enter your home, germs travel. If you do venture outdoors – stay in open spaces and keep cuddled up. If you must go to an event that is held inside, keep your hands covered and your nose and mouth covered. Give shoulder or elbow bumps, don’t shake hands (even in gloves), and no hugs or kisses. Use a caregiver as a buffer from contact with others. Think of them as your body guards.

5.  Emotions are heavy during times of crisis – and holidays.

·         Feelings of sorrow, sadness, anger, and melancholy are normal. Allow yourself to go wherever these emotions take you. Use this time to process your feelings and memories surrounding the holidays. Watch movies or listen to music that share in those emotions. Writing these feelings down is good, it takes the mind rushing and racing around emotions and calms your heart and mind down. Think of it as a race car going around and around on a track, with no pit stop. Writing and/or talking about these things gives your car/mind that pit stop/break.

·         Practice gratitude. Count your blessings when you wake in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. Write these down – where they are visible to you or to all. Perhaps this could be an exercise where all in your home could be involved.

·         Minimize the time you spend with “don’t have/can’t do.”

·         With no expectations, anything accomplished is a success - and a brilliant one at that!
6. Surround yourself with “lovelies.”

·         Be gentle with yourself. Live in the present. Be grateful for today. Enjoy the beauty of life and the power of love. Practice joy – find it in even the every day moments.

·         If there are scents, sounds, sights that bring you peace and bring you positive light, then for sure, get them around you. Candles, flowers, lights, music are all sterile ways of giving you warmth.

·         Start new traditions. Rather than going out to a Messiah Sing-along, watch a televised version and sing your loudest. Rather than wandering the mall looking for the perfect gift, send kind words instead. Rather than decorating your home, take a drive to look at the lights and decorations. Rather than baking like crazy, watch a movie with the fake fire burning while drinking instant cocoa and eating store-bought gingersnaps. Revel in the simplicity.

Think about why this season is important to you. Make a conscious effort to focus on what you do have. Follow your heart and your doctor. And be happy – one moment, one day, one holiday at a time. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hands - Cosmas -

I could write forever about how grateful I am for my hands. Instead, I'm sending you here and here. If you can spare a dime or a dollar, I know this will benefit Cosmas.

(The Aldana's are good friends, rallying to support this young man out of the goodness of their hearts. This is a cause I choose to support.)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Kimmel, Fallon, Cobert - and Late Nights -

I'm an "early to bed, early to rise," kind of person. I need 8 hours of sleep, and if I rise at 6am to exercise before work, that means I'm in bed by 9:30, asleep by 10pm. I probably miss out on some things, but missing out on sleep is catastrophic for me.

But - if I wasn't an early riser, I would so be hooked on . . . Thank heavens for Youtube! Enjoy -

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

End of Semester Advice -

I try to teach, not preach, to my students, but along the semester they certainly "should" begin to learn what I believe, how I operate, and what my thoughts on life are. At the end of every semester I leave them with a board of advice.
In addition to what was on the board for the first final, I added (with the help of some of my Instagram friends):

Question everything
Follow through
Keep wondering
Be authentic
Make good art
Live life loud
Don't take yourself too seriously
Try new things
Follow your gut
Get a tattoo :)

I'm still learning how to take my own advice, but bit by bit it happens - and life is always better when I listen to myself!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Not All That Glitters is Gold - Being a Writing Instructor -

This past semester I have taught 3 entry-level college writing classes. There are 23 students in each class. They are required to write 3+ papers plus an expository research paper of 7-12 pages.

23x3=69. 69x4=276 (x approx. 30 pages per student = 8280). And though I do much better with words than numbers, that's one hell of a lot of papers (and pages) to grade.

Paper 1, 3-5 pages: First Kiss (Gets me acquainted with my students' writing skills, and the students can write this one! Plus, folklorist Ronda says this is a great document for the students to have in their life history.)

Paper 2, 3-5 pages: How To (How to make a sandwich, change a tire, peel an orange, avoid the zombie apocalypse. The student chooses, and now that they have their first paper graded by me, I can see how well they can take what they've learned and apply it.)

Paper 4, 7-9 pages: Expository Research Paper, and I assign the topic, which is: My Name (Typically 1010 students spend most of their time trying to decide what to write about, then they choose a gigantic subject, and their paper turns into a cut and paste paper. Assigning my students this topic gets rid of that mess, and again, they have a personal interest, and it's a great addition to their life story.)

Paper 4 also requires about 10 pages of pre-work.

Paper 5, 3-5 pages: Persuade Me (This is the segue into the next writing class, Argumentative Writing. Their topics have ranged from going to Disneyland vs. a road trip, benefits of getting married, women in combat, Utah's snow, benefits of living in Iowa.)

Paper 6, 1 page: Final (Course evaluation)

And my happy bright energetic eyes that approached the first, and even second, paper have dimmed. And I am tired of grading papers, putting grades into the gradebook, pushing myself to getting these papers out of my house, and the romance is far over.

Every semester, about this time, I swear I will cut down on my teaching for the next semester, and it doesn't happen, because I love teaching. But I promise, grading bites, and it is not pretty, not kind, not sparkly. Ask Scott.

I want December to be bright white snow sparkling in the morning sun, carols on iTunes, the scent of gingerbread cookies and peanut brittle in the air, and me wandering through the mall looking for the perfect gift for my loved ones. Oh - and writing a really witty Christmas letter and spending quality and quantity time with family.

Bah-humbug. Rather, I get Scott and I bickering, a pine-scented candle burning, no Christmas tree or Christmas lights (inside or out), Christmas gifts consisting of things that can be purchased online, in-between grading, or at the hospital gift shop, Chik-fil-a lunches with children and grands, and I'm tighter than a piece of freshly pulled taffy. And still - final grades need to be tabulated, and students will whine, and grades need to be reported, and hopefully by Dec. 22 school is over. Oh, but wait - I still have 2 other jobs and their commitments and deadlines.

Happy freakin' holidays to you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Looking at Both Sides -

Don't wait, please, to see if there's another side to "the story." Please look at whomever is being bossy, annoyed, stand-offish, angry, and see what their reasons are. And what it is you're doing to cause this - and I can just about bet you dollars - there is fear in that reaction. And you and I and the finger-pointers of the world would be much better people if we looked first, reacted second. 

As adults, it is our imperative to not always have an answer, not always be in the right, but to always look at another's perspective. Put yourself in the other person's shoes, even if yours are on so tight it hurts to take them off - do so anyway. Then look at their reaction from their point of view. This won't make you Queen for a Day, but it will help you see more of the world, and in doing so, you will develop some empathy. 

Believe me, please. Do this before "it's too late," whatever that time means to you. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Trigger Dreams -

This morning, as I lay between sleep and awake, I heard Scott blow his nose. And instantly I was lying in my twin bed, aching from chemo, and Scott was out of the shower getting ready for the day.

I had to shake my head a couple of times to realize I was in our King-size bed, 3 years later, healthy, and sleeping in.

Interesting what a noise can trigger.

Today I will set my intentions to being grateful for my health and the opportunity to sleep in, not because I'm sick, but because I was tired.

Happy day -

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My boy - and Plugfones -

I brag quite a bit about my best friend/daughter, Jenna. Well, I also have a son, Tyler. He is an amazing man. When he was growing up (well, he still is :)), all he wanted was to have a family with lots of children, and be a fireman. He loved serving in the nursery at our church, he was a good baby sitter, kids naturally gravitated toward him. He could tease, console, and play with children very very easily. Cousins adored him, and I think Tyler would have loved having a house full of younger siblings.

As a young man and new husband, he felt very pressured to have a career that could support him and his goal of having a family. He graduated from the UofU with a bachelors degree in Social Work, partially because he wanted to work with children, as well as not really knowing what his passion was, besides people.

Tyler worked for the state of Utah as a social worker for foster-care children, and while the interactions were extremely satisfying, the paperwork and pay were not. So Tyler took job and talent assessments, personality assessments, career quizzes, and nothing stood out as a "must" career for him.

Tyler was disappointed - thinking that he had no direction, that there really wasn't a career "out there" for him. He did summer sales (alarm systems) in Texas for a summer, and while he enjoyed visiting with people, door to door sales became visits and making relationships rather than selling alarm systems!

Then - the tides did turn. Tyler linked up with his cousin, Shaun, who had a concept company, but didn't know how to implement the concept. And those tests that showed "no focus," really showed "entrepreneur."

Their company, Plugfones, has soared, and has been featured as one of the top growing small companies in the state. Tyler has been able to think the product through from beginning to end, and with the relationships he's made over the years, create quite a team to support their company. In addition, Tyler has several other "projects" going on, and he has total confidence in himself, thus in his ventures.

And - Tyler and Meili, who will be celebrating their 12 year anniversary in a few days, have 5 of the most gorgeous children anyone could ask for. They range in age from 10 to 6 months, and oh, I love them.

Congrats Tyler, on making your dreams come true. And to Meili, for supporting these dreams. The best is yet to be -

This a news report on small businesses. The website developer, SEO guru, Justin Wilde, is a friend of Tyler's. Justin chose to focus on Tyler's company in this report. Very sweet!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Why I Teach -

Over the Thanksgiving holiday break I graded 69 7-11 page research papers and their accompanying portfolios. Yikes! I assign my 1010 students their research topic - otherwise so much time is lost in them coming up with a topic. Their topic is to write about their name/s.

As these students took me on their discovery of their names - from how their name was chosen to the meaning behind their surname, to the other names they are known by, I thought how grateful I am for the opportunity to teach. And the students love this topic - they are on an adventure as they do their library research, as well as talk to their parents, their grandparents, friends.

I try to make a difference - I want my students to leave my classes energized rather than drained, enlightened rather than numb, and I want them to leave knowing that I am choosing to teach - because I love teaching, but I also love my students.

I teach because I am energized by their youth, by their innocence, by their grandiose plans and dreams. I teach because I get to see eagerness turn into studiosness, see ahaa moments rather than sleeping (I do occasionally have a student fall asleep; I typically let them sleep). I get to see them grow through the semester, gain confidence - not only in the classes I teach, but as a university student.

I teach because my students keep me on my toes. I have to learn their lingo (I got a laugh yesterday with my "swipe left, swipe right" reference to binary thinking), I watch how they dress, watch what they talk about, watch how they interact with each other - and they think I'm only in the classroom to teach!

I teach because I want my students to know I care - I care enough to grade their papers over Thanksgiving, so they don't have to stress writing them over Thanksgiving. I care enough to cautiously put $20 bucks into a student's hand when he made a casual comment about not having gas, not having food. I care enough to pray for them at night. I care enough to worry about them after class, to notice the other student who was bright and sparkly when the semester began but who now struggles to come to class on time.

I would like to think that I'm doing my part to make the world a better place - to make a difference -

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanks Giving - Prayers -

I adore Thanksgiving. And I love spending my Thanksgiving with the people I adore. I cannot think of a holiday that brings me closer to my softer side than this one. Sometimes I need to be forcefully stopped in order to really think about more than just the moment (I've become quite good at staying in the moment - not nearly so overwhelming). So when I have cause to pause, for four days, I can't help but think about the goodness that is inside me and surrounds me.

There are three Thanksgiving songs and prayers that come to mind that say what I think and feel better than with my own words:

"There is a time for every season and every purpose under heaven. A time for family and friends, a time for happy memories and thankful hearts, time for traditions and blessings shared. Thank you for the many reasons I have to give thanks." (Psalms +)

"For health and strength and daily food we praise thy name, O Lord."

  1. Come, ye thankful people, come;
    Raise the song of harvest home.
    All is safely gathered in
    Ere the winter storms begin.
    God, our Maker, doth provide
    For our wants to be supplied.
    Come to God's own temple, come;
    Raise the song of harvest home.
I am smitten by the fact that we have a national holiday to give thanks. Whether we have similar Higher Powers or not, stopping to acknowledge the goodness in our lives is good. Rather than finding fault and looking at the terrors and deprivation around us, we must be grateful, otherwise we live in a victim mode, and I refuse to be a victim. I am too blessed to be depressed. May you find moments over these next few days to give thanks. 

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dancing Mashup -

I grew up surrounded by music. One of my first memories is of my parents teaching dance lessons on the cement floor in our unfinished basement. I remember Dad sprinkling the floor with sawdust, sitting on the fireplace hearth, watching people dance. My parents met through dancing. They danced quite a bit as young marrieds, even teaching youth groups. They are beautiful together on the dance floor. They know, in their hearts, how to move, how to read each other, how to help each other. I love watching them dance.

As a family we went to plenty of musicals, whether professionals coming to town (IF, Rexburg) or local - high school, college. I can sing most of the tunes to plenty of these oldies - South Pacific, Westside Story, Finnegan's Rainbow, Camelot, Sound of Music, Music Man, Dr. Zhivago, Man of La Mancha, Fiddler on the Roof. And we watched musicals and musical variety shows on TV, including Lawrence Welk. Oh, the lovely innocence of these shows (for a young girl who didn't look for hidden innuendos). 

I can sing, and I have rhythm, but I was never good enough or brave enough to put myself on stage. So I opted to be a set-designer, choreographer, pianist during my high school years. I did act in one play - a melodrama, put on for my church congregation. I was the heroine, my boyfriend (not LDS - yikes) was the hero. We kissed at the end of the play. Oh so sweet, and so forward of me! 

My parents wanted all of us kids to marry guys/gals who danced, so we could dance together. None of us did.

And - closet reveal - I like Glee (well, did for about the first 4 seasons). In my next life I will be a dancer; I love the music, the moves, the coordination, the feeling of being light on my feet. But for the meantime, and I'm in no hurry, I love the restoration of reels with the old tunes and the old actors and actresses and the old dance. Oldies, but goodies! And I really really love the mash-ups, juxtapositioning the old with the new - think A Knight's Tale (so sensual, so touching, so very very innovative). Like this one - Enjoy. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bringing Tidings Conclusion - Lessons -

So now – 2 ½ years post-treatment - 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 I haven't lost any opportunities to grow, so it must be OK to say no! I’ve learned to live for today – in the moment, because tomorrow will come, whether I worry about it or not.

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 lessons of cancer. 

I had dinner one evening, the night prior to my last chemo, with two friends. We were talking about life’s lessons, and what we were learning from the experiences we were having. In my innocence I said, “I am living this cancer as intensely as I can, because I want to learn every lesson cancer has for me to learn. So when treatments are finished, I can move on.”  Both friends smiled, and said, “Oh Ronda, cancer will be teaching you for the rest of your life. There will be plenty of lessons you can learn from it.” And dang it – they were telling the truth!

If we can be firmly rooted in the present, and not stress what's lost, or what might have been, or what could be, but calmly move forward, one moment at a time, we will find what we thought we had lost. Or we can at least be OK with losing, because it is part of being found.

I believe we will understand more if we never assume we've arrived at the place where we know. We can reach a point where we are reasonably confident, enough to take action. But I believe human progression depends on always being open to new information, new insights, new possibilities, more lessons. If we are too certain, we might stop asking questions. And if we stop asking questions, we might stop altogether.

In my humble opinion – I  have learned these lessons, as well as the ones mentioned – I have learned to live today today; to be patient with myself and others; to be gentle yet bold; to be authentic. To fall, get up, and begin again. Life is good.

John Banse, April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon Survivor said, "My soul is so full of gratitude that there is no room in me for sadness, anger, or fear." I can say the same. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bringing Tidings 4 - Joy -

Life is beautiful, even in the pain there is beauty –

I have spoken with many survivors of various types of cancer. A theme that is consistent no matter what stage or course of treatment they had, is post-treatment phase of recovery, or "finding the new normal." There is good reason this phrase is repeated so often by us, and frankly by anyone who has endured a trauma or loss. While our loved ones might want to see us recover and resume our lives as close to how they were before as possible (for good and loving reasons), the truth may be that parts of us will simply never be the same.

Finding the new normal is often job number one following a treatment. I know how hard it can be to reassemble the pieces of a life following a long and exhausting treatment. While the good news for many of us is survival, there are new concerns and challenges (lymphedema, prosthesis, surgeries, neuropathy, and constipation). And just as unique as these are to each of us, so too will be the way in which (and depth to which) cancer touches our lives. But one thing is for sure, it touches something, and getting to the new normal takes time, patience, effort, and a good bit of help.

Life used to have one shape, now it has another. I used to do, think, feel one way, and now those things either don't work or no longer feel right. But the new perimeters do not reveal themselves like a runway in the dark, all lit up, and they can't be found with the ease of a Google search. No, the process of recovery, and rediscovery, is one of patience, honest assessment, acceptance and a lot of self-care (and self-love).

Still, there are days when I am sad. I cry. I hurt. I ache for me, for the innocent Ronda who was about to undergo a life-change she could not comprehend. Cancer is a bitch - and that day, and with the days that followed I lost any remaining innocence I may have had. I'm still in shock - I want to apologize to the 20 pound lighter, 53 year old Ronda, with natural blonde hair, for all she went through. I want to hold her in my arms, hug her, cuddle her, let her know she is loved. 

The result of our cancer is a new shape. If this happens at a slow enough pace, it is not overly stressful. You take it in one move at a time. And in that pain, and because of that pain, the joy - oh boy, the joy is immeasurable. Believe me. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bringing Tidings 3 - Comfort -

Vulnerability is valuable –

Kurt Vonnegut said,
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

When I am at my weakest, I am my most vulnerable. I am fearing my own fear. Bitterness definitely steals my sweetness. Yet being vulnerable can be so rewarding, and beneficial. This is when friends and family, others can be by my side, supporting me – reaching out for meals, errands, cleaning, seeing me in my pj’s or sweats, no makeup, no hair – being brave and vulnerable enough to cry.

I have learned how to be comfortable with uncertainty. I learned how to have faith. I learned I wasn’t in control, and that was OK. Uncertainty became my middle name, but I knew my support system and my Higher Power had my back.

I had to learn what “need” really meant, and be fine with needing and wanting others.

Vulnerability taught me how to be humble. All games were tossed to the side, all of my facades were broken down, and there I was, in my nakedness, in my authentic self.

Life is precious. Not because it is unchangeable. To love life means to love its vulnerability, asking for care, attention, guidance, and support. Life and death are connected by vulnerability and remind us of the preciousness of our lives. I have had to trust my intuition on this journey, working at my own pace, and asking as many questions as I could. And I’ve found out life has all (well, most of) the answers.

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis

Vulnerability = Intimacy

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bringing Tidings 2 - Support -

I am stronger than I ever thought I was, and I have learned how to ask for help –

As soon as I was diagnosed, I invited a group of friends over for a Sunday evening boob party. My desire was to be surrounded by folks who could help me with answers, with prayers, positive energy, and who were “move-the-body friends.” And I loved the support.

Brene Brown says we all need a “move-the-body friend,” someone who is going to show up and wade through the deep with them. She says this is a person who loves you not despite your vulnerability, but because of it.

I have several of these friends and family, who have supported me along many of my life transitions/lessons, and who still show up for me. Three are here this evening -  

Scott - He teaches me daily. He adores me. I am the most important thing/person in the world. Through him I am learning I can be loved, I am loveable. He saved me by saving himself; he has taught me about unconditional love. He is my first. He has taught me to have "more heart" and "love is stronger than terror." He has taught me I don't need to be strong alone, that we can be stronger together.

Jenna – I had the opportunity to rear my best friend - she is my gift. She kept me out of the cancer mode by sharing her daily life with me. When we were together, I was not a breast cancer patient; I was Mom. 

Mom – as much as I didn’t want to need her, I needed her. She held my head, my hands, fed us - put pounds on Scott and me, and kept me honest.

I had folks around me who said, "You sure were a bitch today, worse that you've ever been, but I know tomorrow will be better, I love you, I'm here for you, go take a nap, let’s go for a walk."

With loss, losing, finding, moving forward in newness, in gratitude for constancy and change, I think we need each other – women tend and befriend (mothers, daughters, husbands, wives, friends, support).

I also found out what I was made of, and I became my own friend. I had the strength inside of me to help me. I've learned lots about myself in all of this. I've had to turn inward to find strength to make it day to day.

I'm coming to the realization that what I had been searching for, for so many years, is deep inside me. I'm still finding that. “Being still” is a lesson I'm learning. Turning inside, pulling myself up, searching my own psyche rather than the internet, has brought me peace, a time for reflection. The support I have had has allowed me time to be pensive, reflective, hesitant. What I've learned is that I needed time and space for meditating, sorting, and sifting, bringing answers to questions. How often do any of us really take the time to stop and look inside? I believe we are "outsource" driven, looking for someone, something, somewhere, that we fail to realize that often our answer is deep within. 

Have you heard or shared the phrase, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle"? Oh my goodness, I really hate this phrase, and all of its cousins - "God must sure love you to give you this trial," is one of those nasty versions. Or how about these, after the "trial," "What did you learn?" "Have you learned your lesson, yet?"

Hardships such as bad health, sick kids, anxiety, cancer, these are things of this world - and so we deal with the natural consequences that come with this world. God doesn't give these to us, we don't ask for these hardships, they are just a part of this natural world.

When I had cancer, that wasn't God's love showing up in the disguise of a lump in my chest. That's the natural world - there was suffering that went along with this, there were hardships, sure, there was growth and knowledge and experiences gained, but this was no gift from God! Cancer is a bad disease that is somehow related to this world, not a temptation! And when my pain was too much to bear, I didn't buck up because God said I could handle this, I crumpled, and ran to His arms for comfort.

So I'm calling BS on "God doesn't give you more than you can handle,” and saying, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given.” 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Lucky Day -

I will always be grateful for Friday the 13th. June 13, 2012, the day my life changed, and I can't help but acknowledge it on any Friday the 13th.

So here's to my lucky day - and yours.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Daughters and Passing the Baton -

On Sunday Scott and I attended church at Jenna's ward. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the fourth row and watching/listening to sweet Tempest sing and sign her heart out. She was filled with joy, no inhibitions, and right on tune!

I attribute her lovely voice and her ability to make a joyful noise to her sweet parents who are extraordinarily musical and to Tempest's love of music (many of you have seen her Instagram tunes).
She was pure happiness - and her confidence was pure innocence. She sang because she wanted to sing.

As the program was wrapping up, Jenna walked to the front of the chapel, beckoned to Tempest, and they walked to the pulpit together. And they sang. Oh, my heart was in my throat, and my smile was bigger than the chapel. And I didn't record it.

With this moment came a gigantic realization. All that I have worked for, with, toward, was standing in front of me. All the good and bad, the pains and triumphs, were made manifest. My baby is a mother, and she has a girl, just like her, just like I had, and yet no longer, no more. The roles have changed significantly, and that cute little girl I loved, I taught to stand in front of an audience with a smile, singing loudly and clearly, is now that momma, doing just the same. What I saw was me with Jenna by my side, along with Jenna standing over me, with Tempest by her side, almost as if it was a shadow superimposed over a clear image. Am I making sense?

I saw the love Jenna had, as she gently sang her song, prompting Tempest along with a guiding hand, a comforting smile, confidence and gentleness. And the payback/payforward was made.

I am the grandma, the proud grandma now. Yet I'm also the proud mother - Miss Jenna is doing a mighty fine job with her little ones. I could not be more 'puffed up in righteousness." And now - my role of rearing children is finished. I can be there for my kids, support them, love them, but I have taught them what I've taught - no go-backs, no rewinds, no do-overs. It's done, finished, over. However, I can smile, I can guide, because just like Jenna is doing an awesome job with hers, and Tyler is a splendid father, I know I gave them my best; I can continue to do so. And my heart is full. The baton gets passed, and I'm pretty ok about letting it go -

Is that hairdo cute? And oh her outfit was darling, totally Jenna. I mean, Tempest!
And isn't that Knudsen chin so stinkin' cute?!