Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Third Step -

AA's 3rd step has been a blind spot for me for years. "We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God." Every time I think, "I've got it," I don't, and my inability glares at me.

I had some trauma this spring, for the most part it's cancer anniversary trauma - where would I be if it wasn't for cancer, why aren't I "there" yet, and what it in hell happened and is happening and will happen to me!

So I decided in April that I'd turn things over to God. No teaching for the summer means no paycheck. I quit Cirque, couldn't handle the stress and anxiety that came with this job - although I loved the clients. Another paycheck gone. So, "Hey God, I'm turning it over to you." And then the biggest insult happened - my hours at the hospital were cut. And I had nothing to fall back on. NO JOBS, NO PAYCHECK, NADA. I considered scrambling to catch a summer term class at UVU, but I really figured it was now or never to fully implement this step, and once my panic wore off, I really sank into the routine of finding good in the every day.

One of my bestest friends in the entire world, and a dear woman who was my college professor, who gave me words, was down with a creepy busted up leg. And I had time to visit her - to have lunch with her, without watching the clock and thinking about "obligations."

Tyler and Meili had baby Asher. And I had time to care for kids, have sleepovers, play, without watching time.

Dad's surgery and complications. And I had time to care.

Isn't that awful - I had to have the financial rug pulled out from under me to find time to care? So not me - but the anxiety of go go go and make up for lost time had taken hold. And yet with the letting go, the shackles of this disappeared. When I let go, they let go.

And I KNEW, I KNEW that when the time was right, when I had learned to put caring for myself and others at the top of my list, when I had learned, and could practice, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," jobs, money, finances, would be there.

So I enjoyed my summer, thoroughly. I enjoyed my Idaho time, time with my children and grandchildren, time with my parents and siblings, and time with me and time with Scott. I picked up some editing, our house was booked, through AirBnB (, the entire summer. We had some income that kept us floating. We gardened, enjoyed the local, visiting places nearby that have been on our list for years. And our savings - we were able to make our Idaho trips.

Living in the moment has always been tough for me. But this summer has been spectacular. I realized that not having control can be scary, but when mixed with having faith - well, mountains can be moved.

And the day after my self-realism crisis, in Idaho, I received 3 phone calls - all about job possibilities. And not just any job, but all 3 were chaplaining positions. I had options - in the area of my dreams. Go figure.

I am learning! I am. Ronda's 3rd step - "Have the will to turn my will over to my Higher Power."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Own Private Idaho - Part 2 - Awakenings -

An experience - and this will sum up my Idaho epistle.

Scott and I were sitting on a bench, on Main Street, in Ketchum, during the Farmers Market, people watching. A guy was playing the guitar and singing. A casually dressed man was dancing (come to find out later he is world-re-known for his black and white Idaho photos, but too much sniffing, shooting, and smoking fried him, and now the community watches out for him).

We were also watching a man dressed in many shades of purple, with two sets of glasses on, a braid on his gray beard, as he collected fruits and vegetables from various vendors. He'd gather them, then set them by his parked bike, go back for more, add to his cache, and leave to gather more (we were wondering how on earth he was going to fit all of his food on this bike). His movements were smooth, and he had a Zen-like look of peace and knowing about him. I didn't think he'd had too much to smoke, but he was a little off.

I stepped away, this man-in-purple sat on the bench with Scott and began visiting. I returned, Scott introduced us. The gentleman asked what I taught, asked who my favorite authors were. I asked him about himself. He was a Yogi, a Buddhist monk, an herbalist, and an Ayurveda practitioner. He told us about his stroke a few years earlier, and how he lost all that he thought was meaningful to him. He shared how he returned to the land of the living by slimming down his life to what he could take with him. He talked about healing, accepting, needing to find his own fit in the world, being OK with being different, asking for, and receiving, help, and accepting and being accepted. I told him about my cancer, my cancer brain (still searching for words), my tip-toeing into Ayurveda, and returning to Idaho.

His ride arrived; well, his friend with a van arrived to take his goods home. He gave me a hug, told me I was beautiful, said how fortunate he was to meet us, how we had blessed his life with our conversation. I wanted to hold him, hug him longer, take him home, make him my best friend, and yet, there, he was gone.

I turned to Scott and began to cry. This ten minute encounter was so intense, and I was so touched my this gentleman's kindness. I yearn for that here in my own Happy Valley. I want these types of people in my life, these types of small-town encounters where everyone knows everyone and takes care of each other. And I know it's here, but that's another story.

Scott and I left, on our bikes, for a ride along the river. And I cried. And then I got angry. And then I allowed that anger, that dozens of years worth of low self-talk take over. I couldn't talk with Scott (conversation on bikes is not easy), so I had almost three hours to sort these feelings out. And - I - did. By the time the cathartic ride was finished I had won my battle, and I was cleansed. I had baptized myself in the waters of the Wood River, the Salmon River, the Snake River, and I was reborn, really. In three hours the years of negativity and self-doubt and self-loathing and inadequacy and apprehension and shame were gone, becoming a puff of emotion to burn off in the smokey Idaho-fire air that surrounded us.

We left this area - and typically I leave a piece of myself wherever we travel, as a token of sorts that I will return and reconnect. However this time, I took a piece of Idaho with me, to remind me of the peace I found there.

Idaho has a way of bringing out authenticity - you can't bullshit an Idahoan. You'll rarely find someone from Idaho who BS's, who isn't authentic, isn't independent, stubborn, honest - or as we're known, a straight-shooter.

Thanks, Idaho, for greeting me with open arms, allowing me to sit and sup with you, and for reminding me of my roots - and my branches. Thanks for changing me -

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Own Private Idaho -

Rather than stewing about the unknowns, and the knowns, neither that I had much control over, nor did I want to control, I've let go. And the most wonderful summer has just happened.

Scott and I have a new grandson, Asher, born the first of July; my dad did have hip replacement surgery, with a multitude of complications; we've had grandchildren sleepovers; and we were able to spend three weeks in Idaho - MY Idaho.

Typically time spent in Idaho is time spent with my parents and siblings and our children and grandchildren. I step back from being Ronda, mother of 2 + 4, grandmother of 20, and become a first child and sibling. I honestly don't really care for this type of Idaho time. Too many people, too much noise, too much waiting for folks to make up their minds, too much too much. I want one on one conversations, time to really visit rather than chase, cooking time that's creative rather than assembly line, and for this introvert, I am exhausted when I get home.

This summer, because of my dad's health, there was no big family reunion, rather, a simple half day Walker reunion with my Walker relatives. It was enjoyable, and enough. Deciding to attend this, in Rigby, opened the door for Scott and me to determine what Idaho we wanted to be a part of. And this is what we did:

Three nights in Ketchum/Sun Valley, Idaho. Oh, what stunning gorgeous take-my-breath away beauty enveloped us. This was a totally new area for Scott and I to explore (I had driven through here as a young teen, but very little recollection). I fell in love with Ketchum, and we relaxed and were.

Two nights in Salmon, Idaho. The drive to Salmon was gorgeous, seeing the headwaters of the Salmon River, watching it grow and wind through forests and fields.

Onward to Island Park, Idaho. We met Jenna and Cliff and Tempest and Tommy in Island Park and spent five nights at a cabin, with them, at Macks Inn.

This, this time, was my time to be the mom, the grandmother, and enjoy and define my role. Which was, according to Tempest, to be a grandma and have a fun time.

We did. Jenna had never heard about Macks Inn from my perspective. From my lived experiences here. And I certainly had my story to add to the Walker Family Island Park saga. We had a blast just doing very little. Cliff fished, we sat on the patio and visited, watched the kids play in the water and wander the woods, walked, and just sat still. Sharing, being.

I was in my Idaho, living my authentic self, and oh goodness, learning to love the place I so shut the door on and walked away from some forty years ago, as a teenager, and one I've been needing to return to as an adult.

So we came home from Idaho, hit the road running with my dad's surgery - which actually turned into a life and death situation x 3, as "we" (because he was out of it) battled hip replacement, mild heart attack, aspiration pneumonia, and a myriad of other complications. I am forever grateful for siblings who know how to communicate, know how to compromise, and know how to say, "I don't know." I am blessed with 2 sisters who live nearby, and between the 3 of us we were able to negotiate Dad's hospitalization while also keeping Mom healthy. And we did, with only 2 scares, both including ER visits and hospitalization. Dad came home about 2 weeks ago, and he is smiling, mostly pain free, and he has used up another of his 9 lives. Dad said to me the other day that he needed to have a conversation with Mom about his death and funeral and burial arrangements. He told me what I wanted, and then I told him we'd already had that conversation 3 times. Needless to say, he had no idea how sick he was, how close to death he was.

Scott and I had went back to Idaho, mid-August. We typically leave town the week prior to UVU Fall Semester beginning, and this was no exception. We certainly needed respite time. Caring for Dad, and Mom, was tiring. And honestly, with parents and children so close by, with work demands, Scott and I need time to be alone, together, us, we, ourselves.

Rather than Driggs, the Tetons, Star Valley, we headed back to Sun Valley. And oh boy, I love this area. A six hour drive, that's enjoyable, and then arrival into this valley - stunning, again. This time we got a little involved in some community things - AA meetings, Sun Valley Symphony series, the library's local author round, the Farmers Market, and visiting with people. Felt like home.

After five nights in Sun Valley we drove to Boise for two nights with my brother and his wife. They are brilliant and beautiful people, and I miss them, and I enjoy any time I can catch with them. I love them.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Peace Like a River -

So I had that big freak-out this spring. So big I decided I wasn't going to put myself in a spot where these freak-outs could happen - meaning - I turned and faced my angst, for the first time since cancer.

I think the issues came on with an anniversary (2 years post-treatment), me quitting a job, not knowing what would take its place, the semester being over, and then having my hours reduced at the hospital. That's fairly significant. On top of this, my father/neighbor has been in pain for quite awhile, and he was debating, and determined, to have hip replacement surgery (which was not in "our" best interest, but in his).

Scott and I hit the road to Durango, CO the end of May, and I tried to live in the moment for a week. And as the miles between Orem, and Scott and me, grew, my peace began to return. My anxiety attacks lessened (something I hadn't had in 11 years, until cancer), and my jaw-clenching abated.

I see vacations as a time to let go of the baggage I've collected while living in the every day. I become burdened, or I burden myself with the non-essentials of day to day life.

I released, I felt free, and I came home, not necessarily refreshed, but with my shoulders a little lighter. And my realization has been this - something I've been preaching, but not totally practicing: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him."

That is - I could either micro-manage my life, semi-letting go, or I could truly let go, step into the unknown, and trust the unknown. I'd preached to my addict congregation that in order to practice the 3rd Step, it was important to make the decision to make the decision to turn our will over, and although I'd made the initial decision, it wasn't until I was in Durango that I realized I couldn't do the entire step. So - a cut in hours, a tremendous cut in pay, and well, there was truly panic, anxiety, pain, and freak-out angst. And then the  realization came that I could either continue in that direction, which was just sticking around with the same 'ole, or I could turn my will and my life over. I did. I was forced into this position out of sheer necessity. And with that release came the most tremendous peace I have ever felt.

Peace like a river. Not even letting the river flow, because I don't have that kind of control! Stepping into the flow, and floating. I can't control my dad's decision, my employer's decision, my cancer anniversaries. But I can "be." I can float and be kind, be true, and do no harm - to myself or others. And just like that, the river began to flow, and the lessons I've learned this summer, without forcing lessons, have been amazing. I've sought out rivers this summer, and as I've found them, I've found me.

More to come -

Ouray, CO June, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

See the Light - Be the Light -

Having some conflict with a former colleague. Not even sure why. 
With all the goodness in my life, I cannot allow her to mangle my emotions. 
Gonna have to look hard - but we all have light - don't we? 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Helping Hands and Stephanie Nielsen -

I've followed NieNieDialogues for quite some time. She was burned about the same time as Clifford. Jenna and I were blessed to be able to attend a couple of UofU support groups in the burn unit. She comes from good Mormon "stock," and her writings about her journey to healing are touching.

She's much younger than I; we're not in the same league, blog and notoriety-wise, but I do relate to some of what she is learning.

Today's post on receiving help from others touched me. Enjoy -

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Another One (Good One) -

Another anniversary - three years ago this week - and boy howdy, I am reliving this week. Let me explain the re-living -

Two weeks ago I was hired as a member of the Palliative Care Team for Intermountain Healthcare, as their chaplain!!!

The Palliative Care offices are in the same wing of the hospital as Radiation Oncology - with Dr. Jay Clark and his wonderful team as now colleagues rather than caregivers!

I walked down the hall last Thursday grinning - here I am, full-circle, healthy, happy, and hired - to my dream job. What more could I ask for - the opportunity to help those who are hurting, emotionally and physically. And although I'll never say, "I know how you feel," I can say, "I had cancer; I had chemo; I had radiation; I had anxiety; I had fear; I had questions." And I can listen - believe it or not, one of the main elements of being a folkorist and a chaplain, and this is a lane I am very comfortable in (perfect place for a introvert).

Last Thursday the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival began - the same night, three years ago I found my tumor.

Yesterday I had my annual mammogram (same as every year for the past 15 years). I had found a bump, and although I wasn't worried, I was. Mammogram, then wait. Ultrasound. Call in the doctor to read. Doctor feels, asks questions. Says, "No - it's a rib and dense tissue." I exhaled.

I am strong. I am breathing. I am healthy. I am not just alive; I am full of life (although still prone to being worn right out by 6pm).

Thank you to the many of you for your support, for your love, your prayers, your words of encouragement. It takes a village.

And I am sooooooooooooooooo excited to begin my journey as a member of this village.

Thursday, September 3, 2015