Friday, October 30, 2015

When We're Helping We're Happy -

My honey has had 2 surgeries in the past 6 weeks - he had his thumb joint rebuilt 6 weeks ago, and he had rotator cuff surgery on Wednesday.

Now you who know Scott know he's not a calm, sit-still, kind of man (remember Uncle Pete referring to him as a "fart in a frying pan"?). So sitting the past few days has taken more energy than moving around. But he's done pretty darn good.

And - I have had to be the one to do the laundry, grocery shopping, organizing, odds 'n ends around the house. These have mostly been chores Scott has taken as his since my cancer, and me working full-time.

I've really enjoyed doing the household chores as well as caring for Scott. I've kept his water glass full, his ice packs cold and changed, and his access to Netflix clear and easy.

Although this sounds minimal, any of you with a sick spouse or child know how much care is involved in helping them heal.

I have a load of work that I should have had finished by tonight, yet caring for him has been my top priority, and as I write, I am thinking how grateful I am for the opportunity to serve someone who serves others every day, without any recognition or atta'boy's. At least I get reviews from students and colleagues! And Scott's been a pretty good patient.

Starting the weekend off on a happy note -

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tempers -

Thankfully I haven't lost mine lately - but there are times when I have to count to 10, take deep breaths, and make a conscious decision not to engage in whatever event is causing me to be ready to let loose.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has to walk away from "testy" encounters, has to shake my head at some idiocy, walk away from a short/sharp clerk, look into the eyes of someone who hasn't a clue what they're doing, and "hold" my angst until the episode is over.

There are times I do let go - and typically they are with Scott, or about a loved one. Typically my anger lasts about 2 minutes, and that's the same for Scott. We then begin our "make up" with, "Can we start the day over?" And just like that, water under the bridge, bygones are bygones, we don't rehash or revisit. We move forward.

I was talking with a dear friend on Monday. She had gone to a lecture, and the person shared a phrase with her about Temper and Anger.

"Tempers are typically lost due to unmet expectations."

Pretty powerful, if you ask me. And as I look at my times of getting red-faced, that's true. The guy cuts me off on the freeway, my order at the restaurant is wrong, a child shows up late for dinner, a wrong item is purchased at the grocery store - even these little things, that are just enough to give me a temper-buzz are unmet expectations!

Oh, I wonder who I would be now, if I had figured this out much earlier in my life!

What makes you mad? How do you respond, how do you remove, how do you resolve?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Holding My Breath - Exhaling Pink -

Pinktober is almost over, and I haven't had a freak-out attack yet! I have worn my silver-ribbon necklace, with a pink quartz stone dangling with it. That's it, no pink hair, no pink pins, watches, clothing, ribbons - I'm so proud of myself.

What have you done for Pinktober? Or not done for Pinktober?

This is a good article, as is this. There are a million other stories available, opinions, tributes, fund-raisers, yada yada yada. However, my GoTo for news about breast cancer is, and will always be - Living Beyond Breast Cancer rocks - they are the most influential, legitimate breast cancer organization, and I won't go near breast cancer news without looking up, for verification, on

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lost and Found -

Today I had the privilege of counseling a mother and daughter. They are both lost and drowning in their own pain as well as a collective pain, that I believe can only be had between a mother and her daughter. As they are trudging through their healing (and it is mucky) they are also working on re-defining their relationship/s, and this sucks - it is hard, hard, hard to move from mother-caregiver, to mother-needing, to daughter-needing, to daughter-caregiver. And now that mother is ready to move forward, cutting those ties (having already grieved the loss of herself and now rediscovering the new her), daughter is grieving the loss of her mother (already having lost friends because of needing to be with her mother), and they are not sure how to put their feelings into words without hurting themselves and each other. Not sure how to move forward, what that will even look like.

And I know I'm making perfect sense here!

As I helped them hone in on their fears and their post-traumatic-stress, guilt, grief, I thanked my Heavenly Father for a daughter with whom I had just recently danced this dance. And I am grateful that my experience could be used to help this duo. And I'm grateful for a daughter who continues to dance with me.

And then - I lost my wedding ring, on my way to serving another group of folks at the hospital! And I was calm. And I knew all would be fine. I reported the loss to housekeeping and to security, then served.

Scott picked me up after my long, long day at the hospital. The first thing he said to me was that he had lost his contact! He'd looked for more than an hour for it. And he was calm.

We arrived home, I cleaned out my purse, and there was my ring. We went to where the contact fell out, and I brushed the carpet, and his contact flipped up, and there it was.

Loss, losing, finding, moving forward in newness, in gratitude for constancy and change, and the ability to be OK with either, knowing we have each other (mothers, daughters, husbands, wifes, friends, support).

I believe that if we can firmly rooted in the present, and not stress what's lost, or what might have been, or what could be, but calmly moving forward, one moment at a time, we will find what we thought we had lost.

Or who can at least be OK with losing, because it is part of being found?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Zion -

Scott and I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience this past weekend. Here are a few pictures - the story will come later!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall Break - Potato Harvest

A Nod to The Harvest: Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes

I have an affinity for potatoes – both in the ground and on the table. Now I’m aware potatoes are a stereotypical Idaho, and poor man's, food, one that kept the people who literally lived off the land alive during some of the darkest days of Irish history, but I am an Idaho girl, thus my roots are their roots - Russet Potatoes, that beautiful fruit from the earth.

There is no downplaying the power of an Idaho spud. Potatoes, and the elements that affect these gems, still remain the mitigating factor in Idaho life. In fact, my life revolved around a potato’s life: public schools in Southeastern Idaho were empty for two weeks every October. This time of year was officially called “Potato Harvest,” although we lovingly referred to it as “Spud Harvest.” 

Teenagers worked on the combines (emphasis on the first syllable) sorting potatoes as they came up from the ground and across a conveyor belt. Junior high, and sometimes elementary age, kids earned less than twenty-five cents for every fifty pound bag they filled with potatoes, no rocks in those bags, and hand-picked from the ground that had been tilled so the potatoes lay bare. Those of us who were city kids often worked for our parents in their businesses during this time of year. My father’s restaurant, Walkers Family Restaurant, was a hopping place anytime, but particularly during the harvest; Dad needed all the help he could get, so I worked for fifty cents an hour peeling carrots, scrubbing potatoes, trimming radishes, cleaning tables, and running the cash register. I was happy to get back to school when the harvest ended. My friends and I were happy to have money in our pockets for school clothes, the drugstore ice cream, and fun with friends. 

Our church had a welfare farm, a multi-acre field that yielded a grand harvest of potatoes. In the fall the church families would gather again at the fields and pick these potatoes, by hand. No combines here. We wore brown jersey gloves, towels, bandanas, or diapers around our faces and necks, and layers and layers of flannel shirts. At lunch time we would gather at the church and eat a meal made by the women in the congregation, then head back to the field to pick spuds until dark. We would rise the next morning, stretch out the sore muscles, and do it again. It took a couple of days to harvest the church farm’s potatoes.

In the spring, the potato cellars (A-framed storage units built partially in the ground and often covered with soil) were empty, except for seed potatoes, used for that season’s crops. As a spring project, the church families would gather at the potato cellar with knives and cut the potatoes into pieces, making sure each piece had at least one eye or seed. These eyes were then planted into the freshly turned dirt, by hand.

Daylight savings time was instigated for the farmers who would rise early, work late, and have the light necessary to get to the fields; my father arrived early in the mornings to get to the restaurant and get the coffee brewing and eggs, pancakes, and breakfast steak cooking for many of these men. While my father ran the restaurants, my mother served her family and neighbors. Often I came home from school to see a kettle of potatoes on the stove cooking – for dinner and what remained for breakfast the next morning and for baking later the next day. 

If I ever had a moment free from homework, even when the Harvest was over, my father would pull me into the restaurant to peel carrots and potatoes. I tried, oh I tried, over the years to peel potatoes, but even now my eyes itch, my hands and arms break out in hives, and I sneeze until I cannot breathe. I was absolved from raw potato duties, but not with honor. My job would then turn to peeling boiled spuds.

Dad worked through the evening, with farmer’s stopping by for a cup of coffee slice, a slice of pie, and a talk crops and cattle prior to heading home for supper.  He kept the lights on and the coffee hot until 2 am some nights/mornings. It wasn’t unusual for the cattle ranchers and potato farmers to work through meal time, stop in at the bar for a drink or two, and talk the original stock market with anyone who would listen – usually another farmer or the bar tender. After unwinding, these men would meander down a block to “the cafĂ©” for a cup or two of coffee and a bite to eat before getting in the pickups and on the road for home. Then Dad would close up shop and hurry home for a few hours sleep before starting all over again, earlier, at times, than the farmers who rose at the crack of dawn to begin their watering turn.

Potatoes were plenty at home. I can see my Idaho mother baking potatoes wiped with shortening and wrapped in foil; making bread, with a handful of dried potato flakes added for flavor; I smell potato donuts – spud nuts – frying as I walked into the kitchen, home from school and starving. I can hear Grandma’s red-handled potato peeler flicking the skins off the potatoes prior to boiling a kettle full for mashed potatoes in the winter and yummy potato salad in the summer, served wherever Grandpa happened to be grazing cattle. Grandma’s worn, chipped, beige and pink, ceramic potato bowl is a prized possession that can still only be filled with potato salad. I have eaten potatoes chipped, mashed, scalloped, au gratined, hashed, souped, baked, double-stuffed, twice-baked , dutch-ovened, candied, fried, even raw, with gravy, cottage cheese, sour cream, ketchup, ranch dressing, fry sauce, chicken noodle soup, to top. Just recently potatoes were the main course of our Sunday dinner. Scott still can’t figure out why my family makes volcanoes or dams with their plate full of potatoes and then fills the void with gravy – but then, he’s not from Idaho.

I prefer my potatoes simple, home-baked, lathered in butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and there isn’t another potato on the planet that can measure up to the flakiness and versatility of an Idaho Russet potato. Potatoes – not spuds – that term is meant only to be used by those whose lives are intertwined with the potato vines. 

Contemporary Potato Harvest

Potato tune sung by singer-songwriter Cheryl Wheeler

Monday, October 12, 2015

Aging - in the Best of Ways - and Wisdom from Maxine -

This month I'm working on being at ease with my age, my body, my stage of life; October is a tough month, and I'm wanting to leave this month having grown rather than stewed (not parallel, I know). When seasons change I get the urge to change - to run go do something new something challenging something that will push me higher harder more.

And although I am finding peace in my journey - restlessness still resides in my soul. I have this list of things I want to do - get full-time employment so I can have health insurance, take a Sunday afternoon nap, drink Diet Pepsi without the guilt that comes with knowing the ingredients, travel to Cuba, find a really cute pair of shoes - that are comfortable, be surprised, laugh out-loud, stop pressuring myself to be more do more ("have more" left a long long time ago).

Some things I'm good at - never looking back, never saying "If only," not judging, accepting others for themselves (now if I could learn to do that for myself), partaking in political discussions, turning down the road less traveled, making decisions, changing my mind, being as spontaneous as my schedule will allow, following my dreams, growing strong nails, rocking short hair, being honest, speaking honestly.

I have made a list of things I am not interested in ever doing - again. I have checked them off my refrigerator list. This includes - float the Provo River, drive the back side of Squaw Peak to Hobble Creek, run, build a home, move to another home, wear low-riding jeans, talk bad about others, list my strengths and weaknesses, job hunt, think I'm less than, feeling obligated, worrying, having dinner with ex's, holding on, stewing about church and church callings, micro-managing.

And that list of things I hope I never do - guilt my children into spending time with me, feel sorry for myself in front of others, say "I wish," "If only," "I can't." Cling. And mostly, I hope I never make "busyness" my life - ever ever ever. I may be busy, but I do have time for the things I want to do. - which includes having an adventure.

Back to what I don't want to do - I found this awesome article by Michelle Combs, in Huffington Post a few days ago. She affirmed my thoughts - hurray - and her words are more humorous than mine.

Today? I can read one of thousands of articles on aging ranging from reasons it sucks (no it doesn't) to age appropriate ways to wear eye shadow (you can have my black eyeliner when you can pry it from my cold dead fingers).

I love getting older. I spent a life time filled with self loathing. I gave that up. I gave up feeling stupid, because I'm not. I gave up beating myself up over being awkward. I'm socially anxious. That's who I am. There are a lot of us. We're a tribe. Well, a tribe whose members prefer to keep to themselves. I have replayed times when I've said or done something embarrassing literally decades after it happened. I'm done with that. I'm done worrying about how I look. I spent decades worrying about every gray hair and every bulge.
I stopped dying my hair over a year ago. I won't lie though, I still worry about the bulges. But see? That's the other thing, I'm cool with that as well. I accept me for who I am. Who I am right now is someone who would like to be a little less squishy. I am all about self-acceptance. And that is very nearly true.
There are things I am too old for. Time does change a person and I am finding that it is easier to accept these changes than to fight them.
These are things for which the ship has sailed:
1. Shutting up -- I no longer want to keep my mouth shut when I see an injustice. Or feel one. It's not that I never spoke out, there were times when I did, but it was usually on behalf of someone else. Not for myself. I'm done with that. I don't know how much good it will do, but if I get treated like shit, I'm going to shout about it.
2. Worrying how I look to others -- My husband and I had breakfast at an upscale cafe this morning, well, upscale compared to Waffle House. We were going grocery shopping afterward. My hair would have looked okay if I hadn't run out of dry shampoo, Also, it's possible I was wearing jeans that should have been washed three wearings ago. But really ... jeans don't ever get dirty, do they? There were four women sitting at the table next to us and every one of them was wearing an infinity scarf. I had a brief moment of panic. I kind of looked like a pan handler and my husband ... well, he definitely looked like a pan handler. What would the infinity women think of me? Then I decided that their opinion of me wouldn't change how my bacon and avocado omelet tasted. For the record, Waffle House has better coffee.
3. Guilty Pleasures -- I no longer have any guilty pleasures. I just have regular pleasures. I don't feel guilty about liking Lady Gaga. I don't feel guilty about reading every Stephanie Plum book and I certainly don't feel guilty about getting obsessive about a TV show and watching it over and over. I have moved on from Supernatural and Doctor Who. I am currently re-binge watching The Walking Dead. Because Daryl.
4. Uncomfortable shoes -- Screw wearing uncomfortable shoes. I also don't care if my socks match or not. If they mostly match, that's good enough.
5. Making excuses for my messy house -- You know why my house is messy? Because I don't feel like cleaning right now. Also, it's messy because I'm unorganized and a bit of a slob.
6. Accumulating stuff I don't need -- I cannot convey how much I am done with this. Nearly everything we have isn't necessary or entertaining or comforting. We have less than two years before our youngest graduates and starts college. During that time, it is my goal to relieve ourselves of at least half of everything we own. Maybe more.
7. Spending unnecessary time with people I don't like -- I actually started this one a few years ago. I used to go to lunch a few days a week with a group of coworkers. I don't like them. They are mean, petty, and we don't share the same interests. One day, I looked at them while they squabbled over sports or politics or a work project and thought what am I doing here? And then I stopped having lunch with them. Life is too short to spend unnecessary time with douche twizzles.
8. Finding the good in every person I know -- Sometimes, people are assholes. I'm sure, even with the biggest asshole, if you do enough digging, you'll find something good about that person. But why would I do that? Why have I done that? I don't want to waste anymore time than I have to on unpleasant people. People make their choices. If they decide to be insufferable, then so be it. I no longer feel compelled to find something attractive about people like that. I just want move on from them as quickly and painlessly as possible.

What is on your "I am too old for" list? 

Philippians 4:11-13: 
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, 
therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Friday, October 9, 2015

October and Storms -

It feels so good to be going through this October (as opposed to this one, this one, or this one) - crisp mornings, warm days, cool evenings, work that is so satisfying, family who want to be together, life in general is pretty calm (although my days are crazy, and I don't sit, it's good stress). I think this storm is over, and knowing this gives me such a strong sense of comfort, calm, peace of mind, and purpose.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ayurveda and Healing -

In Homer, Alaska, at Peterson Bay, Scott and I love to wander the shoreline when the tide is extra low. All sorts of sea-life can be found. But - beware of rough rocks and sharp barnacles that can poke, puncture, tear, and infect. Enjoy the multi-colored and multi-armed sea stars, the spitting mud hiding oysters and crabs, but make sure to wear heavy gloves for picking up and examining all aquatic creatures; they are spiney, stingy, and gooey; the salt water leaves everything with a coarse coat of salt, leaving creatures coated in a film of white. Wear water-proof boots on low-tide times, the barnacles are sharp, and if you step in mud, you may lose a shoe, or your balance, it's so sticky and thick and gripping.

When the tide comes in, it's almost as if the sea life grabs at the water, pulling it toward them, begging to be covered, to be protected, to be soothed, rather than left bare and exposed. The natural state of being is being smoothed by the water, not exposed to the sun and elements.

I've been on this "heal my body and soul" journey since April 18, 2013, when I finished my radiation therapy. Cancer treatments left me raw, rough, exposed, bare. My dear friend, David, a nurse, retired FBI agent, and all around man-about-town, told me, during my chemo journey - "Ronda, you fight cancer with chemical warfare, not green drinks. When you're finished, then you can heal with green drinks." And I've been attempting to heal, as much as possible, with supplements, nutrition, exercise, and cleaning my soul. I've been getting closer and closer to feeling evened-out - exercise and nutrition with Cody, supplements with Brian at Sprouts, therapy with Heidi.

I have felt like I was reaching the turning-tide of my healthcare, yet I knew I still needed some tweaking. It's amazing how long-lasting the effects of cancer treatment are. I prayed, and I knew I needed a metabolic shake-up, but I didn't know where to turn, except - So here I was, looking for just that last little shift. In June I was chatting with Heidi, my therapist, and she suggested I give Ayurveda a try. Interestingly, I had spoken with Brian a day or two before, and he had suggested I proceed similarly.

After some research I knew I couldn't do Ayurvedic medicine without a practitioner, so after much research and on high recommendation, I reached out to Jessica Vellela. And she has rocked my world. I'm not opposed to non-traditional modes of healing, and when I met Jessica I knew she was the answer to my prayers. I began this portion of my journey the first part of July. Jessica tested my Dosha's: Praktri (Natural Constitution), Vikrti (Imbalanced State), Ama (Levels of internally-generated toxins), and more.

And it as more than evident my biggest issues have had to do with my digestion - my digestive system has not been the same since cancer, and I really wanted to feel at peace in my gut. As well, my moods have been swinging, radically, including needing anti-anxiety medication, and I have been so tired, since my initial chemo treatment three years ago. Bio-identical hormones have been added to my ritual, hoping that some of what was taken away can be replaced - not!

So I was anxious to give Jessica's rituals, recommendations, and remedies a try. She adjusted my daily routine to accommodate the practice of mindfulness, the practice of being, implementing Ayurvedic remedies, and tweaking my diet - which included drinking warm water, eating lightly cooked vegetables. We've met twice a month for the past three months. She has been more than generous with her time, chatting and texting as needed.

Now I'm not trying to sell anyone anything, yet here's what's happened to me.

I am healing! My gut - particularly my bowels, are now operating properly! My head is clear. My moods have evened out. And my anxiety is 99% gone. I am off all but one of my prescription medicines, and I finally feel whole! After three months of work with Jessica, I, and those close to me, have noticed this shift from rough and coarse and cracked, to me.

I've been those barren sharp cutting irritated barnacles for three years. And with Ayurveda I'm feeling covered, protected, in my natural state. It's as if a slow flow of warm salt-water has washed over me, evening me out, healing my sores, and smoothing off my rough spots, soothing. I no longer feel exposed and irritated. Amazing. Oh my goodness I feel good, well, whole.

Between Idaho, Ayurveda, UVU and chaplaining, the owl in my tree, and a Lotus blossom, I am balancing out my balancing act.

(Looking for examples of what I'm talking about, was awesome! I need to get back to Alaska, a gorgeous place I never thought I'd visit, and a place I'll return to again and again.)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Happiness and Corn

I've been thinking about happiness a lot these past couple of weeks. Every morning I have a choice as to whether or not I will be happy for the day. And I typically choose happiness. There are moments during the day that aren't necessarily highlights, memorable moments, but for the most part, I love my life, and I am truly trying to be happy, every single day.

I have patients, students, friends who choose similarly, and it is amazing that when happiness is a conscientious choice the entire surroundings appear differently. I also have patients, students, friends, who suffer from depression, and happiness isn't always a choice, there are so many barriers in the way of that happiness. And I feel sorry for them, because I know that for them, the road is tough. And again, I know others who are glass half-empty folks, and not choosing happiness is a choice they make, on a daily basis. These people aren't a joy to associate with, and it often appears their choice is to pull others to their level of unhappiness.

Interesting, that when looking for happiness, I find sayings that validate my pursuit of happiness.  For instance:

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination. For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.”—Alfred D. Souza (died 2004)


 "There isn't necessarily more to life, just there is more to your beautiful life than you first recognized."

And lastly, this story:   Growing Good Corn (Author Unknown)

There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.
One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
"How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.
"Why sir," said the farmer, "didn't you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."
He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor's corn also improves.
So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

Give happiness a try -