Saturday, February 27, 2016

Happy #12 -

In our short twelve years together Scott and I have packed in a lifetime of marriage.

We have:
Been to Alaska 4 times
Been to Hawaii once
Traveled to the east coast twice
Traveled to Zion National Park 50+ times
Traveled to Southern Utah 10+ times
Traveled to Idaho 15 times
Attended 11 Storytelling Festivals

Had 12 surgeries
Had 3 cracked or fractured or broken bones

Owned 2 homes

Retired and changed jobs

Chaplained together

Weathered Cancer together

Cared for parents

Cooked and shared billions of meals

Gained and lost weight together

Lost parents and dear friends

Sleepovers at our home with nearly 50 people

Shared our home with more than 100 students and friends

Renovated and updated two homes

Read and shared nearly 2 books a month - (200 books)

Watched thousands of movies

Played with children and grandchildren

Took selfies and took ourselves less seriously

Cuddled, snuggled, held hands, kissed, whispered sweet nothings, laughed, cried

Listened, created

Yelled, walked away, talked through, learned about ourselves and each other

Learned each other's love languages, learned our triggers, said "I'm sorry," said, "can we start today over," and moved forward

Developed a life together that exemplifies our interests, our similarities, our differences

Grow old with me -

Winter 2004

Getting our marriage license 2004

Atlanta, GA June 2005

Halloween 2006
Christmas 2007
Zion 2008

Zion 2009
Alaska 2011
Pre-surgery 2012

Spring 2013

Summer 2014

Stuck in a storm in Zion, Fall 2015

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Be Happy - March Project - Steve Achor -

At work this week (hospital and UVU) we've been talking about being happy, and the difference in health when one person is optimistic rather than pessimistic. I'm not talking Pollyanna denial happiness, but just being happy in the moment, regardless of what happened or may happen. We watched this Happiness TED talk by Steve Achor, at both places of employment - and I tell you, he's funny, and he's pretty darn smart. So . . . for your watching enjoyment this weekend, take 11, and learn how to be happy, and how happiness will truly benefit your entire life. Then - join me in working this premise for March. I'm in. You too? 


GRATITUDE Write down three new things you are grateful for each day.

JOURNAL Write for 2 minutes a day describing one positive experience you had over the past 24 hours.

EXERCISE Aim to be active for at least 10 minutes a day.

MEDITATE For two minutes, focus on your breath going in and out.

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS Write one, quick email first thing in the morning thanking or praising a member on your team.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Make A Difference - Kleenex Commercial

I love teaching. I really really love teaching - unless it's mid-semester and the sky is gray and my students are restless and mid-terms are due and . . . But other than that, I adore 99.9% of my students. Teaching about the subject is only a portion of what I do as a professor. I want my students to know they are valued. They are loved.

Today, on Instagram, a person asked, "What is one of your dreams?" And I didn't have to think long - I wrote, "To make a difference."

Remember the story about the sea star? The little boy throws one sea star back into the water and tells the older man, "Made a difference to that one." And see, to me, this is what my life is about, making a difference - if only to one person. And I begin every day asking my Higher Power to lead and guide me to people and places where I can make a difference.

I'm the first one to say I don't think what I do matters. I'm pretty much a tiny person in a great big world, and I don't matter. And I'm fine with that. I don't have any big ideas of grandiosity. I'm not self-centered (in fact, when the attention is on me I hide), and I'd rather talk about you, any day, over talking about myself.

There's this point in life where one begins thinking about destiny, and living, and the meaning to existence. And I believe my existence is to make a difference, to be the change, and to help someone, somewhere, see that they matter.

And I'm loving being a teacher and a chaplain, and helping others through their pain, and really being able to empathize is my life's purpose. Students and clients need to know they are important.

The below video is very sweet. And while I expect nothing like this to ever happen, it already has, in so many many ways.

Enjoy -

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Utah Inversion - aka Smog

So here in Utah, the Wasatch Front, we are victims of some unmerciful smog from November to March. The air is so cold and dirty, and the warm air holds this in (kinda like a warm lid over a cold pot. We call it inversion; the snow reflects the heat, rather than absorbing it, so it's also stinking cold. We get fog, with very low visibility - causing accidents quite frequently. There's nowhere for the pollutants to go, and so the air quality index is horrible. I think twice last week we had the worst index in the US. And because we're in between the mountains and the lakes, the crap stays in the air until a strong wind comes through - not a snowstorm, that just keeps the crap in the air. We seldom see the sun, and if we do, it's a moment of celebration.

Now, you can go to higher elevations to get out of this crap - say skiing or a day in the mountains, but most folks live in the valley, so we can run, but we can't hide.

This type of weather makes lots of people sick - we call it the Utah Crud. My friend from China talked about the pollution being so bad in his city that wearing a face mask is the norm, and taking one's shoes off before entering a house has practical purposes too - that of keeping pollutants out of the home.

I have a case of the crud right now - seems like my lungs and bronchial tubes are just shut tight. I have constant post-nasal drip, a barky cough, and a fear of going outside; it's just not healthy. My mom is sick, lots of folks - the very young and the very old, are hospitalized with it, and while decongestants and cough syrup help the effects of, nothing but a good windy storm, can clear the external and internal air. We're encouraged to drive less and drive cars that emit less emissions, but reality is - we have a long skinny heavily populated strip of land, with no where to expand, and the more populated the area becomes, the harsher the effects.

Folks get pretty depressed - we need our sunlight, strong healthy rays, and we need our fresh air, and waiting for either reminds me of Ray Bradbury's short story, "All Summer in a Day." (It's a great short movie as well.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

2 Years ago - and Sex

Remember this post? Well - my body is regenerating, and I'm continually amazed at what I thought was dead, or at least dormant, is coming to life. And oh, the relief. 'Nuff said -

Spring may be on its way!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Full Mind - Mindfulness

Practicing Mindfulness (or, a full mind needs to be emptied every once and a while)

According to an article in Hartford Business Review, “Mindfulness can Literally Change Your Brain,” mindfulness is a way to, “keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training.  When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.”

With this in mind, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is active and clear attention to the present – to the moment, suspending judgment. Mindfulness is awakening to the present experience, being fully conscious and engaged in the “task at hand.”  How is mindfulness practiced?

First, mindfulness does not mean you need to "om." Mindfulness can take only moments, and meditation may or may not be a part of that centering. In fact, meditation is a type of mindfulness. So - no worries if you only have four sips of coffee to get centered, you can do it. 

Mindfulness means fully focusing on the moment. Some natural ways of being mindful include coloring, playing with a child, putting together a puzzle, shaving, showering. At these times we are often focused and are able to allow our minds, in that intense focus, to be clear and purposeful, for a moment, to be present. This doesn’t mean one has to set aside a ten minute block of time to practice, but only have times where we are consciously aware of what we’re doing, rather than our minds being elsewhere. 

Some simple ways of practicing include:
1. When you wake, before rising, do a simple body scan or check in. Starting at your toes and moving up, focusing on one part of your body at a time. Tighten, the relax. What are you feeling? Any aches? Any tension, hesitation, apprehension, excitement? 
2. Sipping on a cup of tea, coffee, and feeling the heat, of the cup, the steam rising from the cup, the warmth as it hits the mouth, goes down the throat, fills the belly.
3. Use all of your senses when you eat. Look at the color of the grape you are about to eat. Smell the ripeness and freshness of it. Feel the grape pop in your mouth. Taste the juice as it rolls around your mouth. Hear your stomach saying thank you as you digest it.
4. Sitting straight in your chair, roll shoulders forward three times and back three times.
5. At intervals throughout the day take 3 deep Buddha or Belly breaths, breathing in through the nose, and deep into the belly, and out through the mouth. Feel that breath.
6. Place the tongue at the top of the mouth, which then unlocks the jaw, relaxing the jaw, and preventing grinding teeth and clenching the jaw.
7. Pay attention to your footsteps, how do they sound on the ground, how your feet are touching the ground, try placing your feet heel to toe or toe to heel, changing the gait.
8. Use telephone rings, apps, door knocks, as cues for relaxation.
9. During sleepless or restless sleeping times, our minds seem to revolve almost like a stuck record, going over and over something, with no movement forward. Jot concerns down, so they are out of your mind and on paper.
10. Take the alphabet, and choosing a topic (names, weather, emotions) find one for each letter.
11. Make friends with the night – get up, deep breath, walk, quietly, making each step an intentional step.
12. When feeling pain (physical, emotional, spiritual) doing a “check-in” or scan. Acknowledge the pain, see where it originates, where the pain is radiating, how your body is reacting to this. Ride with the pain, implementing any medical directions along with breathing exercises.
13. STOP – Stop, Take a breath (feel the presence of breath in your body. Notice the quality of your breathing. Observe thoughts, emotions, physical sensations present in your body. Proceed; step back into what you are doing with more awareness and presence. Remember – you have a choice in how you step back in. 
14. If feeling overwhelmed about the future, stop it! Imagine you have a flashlight in your hand. With that flashlight, shine it in front of you. How far in front of you can you see, before the light diminishes? Take a couple of steps forward, does your perspective go further now? Only worry about what can be seen. One day, one step, one moment at a time gives confidence in the now, which also brings hope rather than doubt, worry, confusion.

It is wise to take a break from our work, worries, stress, and come back to the present moment. Rather than staying in the state of distraction, consciously choose to come back to what’s happening in the here and now.

As part of my 2016 goals of Hygge and Glean, mindfulness is becoming a go-to during my days and nights. I'm loving the opportunity to center myself. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Survivor, and Why I Don't Like This Word -

If you had 3 minutes to introduce yourself, how would you do it? Would you identify yourself by your experiences - good and bad, your wounds - healed and unhealed. Would you introduce yourself by your titles - parent, wife, spouse, professor, chaplain? Would you explain yourself by the emotions you've carried with you through the years?

Only a small part of the cancer journey is about losing and finding my faith, losing and finding my identity, understanding what the most important things in my life are not things.

I don't like taking on "cancer survivor," as my identity, but yes, there is strength and validity in that title. But - I can talk about cancer, and I can support others who do the same - because I've been there. But - I am NOT a survivor. Cancer is not even a word I'd use in my elevator pitch. I will always claim my experiences, but I will not let them claim me, not divorce, job loss, religious persuasion, breakup, loss of friends, education, cancer. There you go -

Friday, February 5, 2016

Utah Snow -

Scott and I woke up to about 4 inches of fresh snow! Utah is very dependent on a good winter - meaning lots of snow - to make it through spring, summer, and fall. We beg and pray for snow. And the past few years have not been too prolific with snow. "We need the moisture," is something we say quite often, throughout all four seasons. So when it does snow, complaining about it is difficult, although we do.

This year we've had more snow than we have had in quite a few years. It's a blessing, as long as the snow stops by the end of the month, 'cause I'll be ready for sunshine and green!

Enjoy these pictures taken this morning -

Front yard

Back yard looking at Timp, northeast

Back yard from my deck, northeast

Scott with snowblower, looking southeast

From my front porch looking south

Snow flakes on the front porch

Looking south

Looking east

Back yard from my deck

Monday, February 1, 2016

Gleaning - and Caitlin Connolly -

As I wrote earlier this year, this is the year of Hygge - living simply, in the moment, with no concerns and no desire to complicate. As I've adjusted my "Om" word for this year, hygge just doesn't roll of my tongue like "Home," or "God is love, Love is God," or "Nourish." It doesn't breathe in and out with me. It doesn't calm me.

So I'm adjusting my sails. I love the art of Caitlin Connolly, and I set off to buy one of her pieces as my Christmas present to myself. I wasn't planning on this piece, but upon seeing it live, I changed my mind. For some reason. And I purchased "Finding Fruit."

I took the piece home, placed her in my writing room, and she fit right in. She fit with my glass grapes, my brown and blue and green and gold chairs. And more than that, she fit perfectly with a more than 100 year old hand-hewn oak framed mirror, with a cluster of fruits - apples and grapes, in a bowl. And the cluster is red. Framed, she's perfect, just perfect.

"Finding Fruit" became "Glean." And I've found my "Om" for this year. The "G" is a little hard, but the "lean" rolls, and it's gonna work.

Not just the word, as my "Om," but Glean is my perfect companion to Hygge. And this picture, yes, this epitomizes my intentions for the year. To take joy in what I have, to enjoy the earth, to know the best is within my reach. To take time to glean, not pick, but look deeply and detailingly for what is. To be more intent on my intentions. To be more content with my circumstances.

See the turquoise frame in the corner of the mirror? That's a beautifully stitched, my favorite shade of green, Serenity Prayer, each stitch lovingly and intentionally sewn by yt, Scott Weaver. 

What more could I ask for?