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 -