Thursday, December 28, 2017

Call Me Klutz - or Serving Others Isn't Always a Blessing -

Last Wednesday afternoon, Scott and I had a couple of neighborhood goodies to deliver. He walked out the door with one, I hurried to catch up with him to give him one more to deliver. As I quickened my step, I caught my toe on the extension cord attached to the outdoor Christmas lights. Scott had plugged the lights in, and the cord was not secured to the cement. So, I tripped, and FFFFFEEEELLLL.

I turned toward my front porch, with its metal railing, and slammed my face into the top rail. I had my glasses on, and they were knocked off. I caught myself with my hand, turned, hit my arm, and landed on the ground - but I didn't slam onto the ground, rather just slumped down.

I knew for sure I'd popped my eyebrow, so I covered my eye with my hand, "got a grip," walked into the kitchen, grabbed an ice pack, and fell onto the bed.

I could feel my forehead swelling, and thankfully, there was no break in my skin, just a small puncture - but no blood.

By the next morning I was full-blown swollen, and my headache and nose-ache hit with full force.

My "black eye" has been every shade of pink, purple, blue, black, and now some added green and yellow. It looks like I took a pretty tough punch to the eye socket. Interestingly, I don't hurt where it appears I should hurt! (I've never had a black eye. A first for everything. I love experiences!)

My external wound is healing, but my headaches and forehead and nose ache have continued. But I was able to take it pretty easy through the holidays - not even driving until today! I've slept, been cautious, and just tried to rest.

Yesterday was my first day back at work, and the doctor I work with about had a fit that I hadn't seen a doctor, had an x-ray, MRI, CT scan. Last night at the Walker family party, my brother similarly "fitted."

Early this morning my brother called me, urging me to see a doctor, so I did.

I have a "displaced fracture of the medial aspect of the anterior left maxillary sinus wall (ethmoid sinus fracture) and a mild concussion. Nothing that 4-6 weeks won't heal.

As Jenna said when I fell, "This is an old lady thing."
Scott - "You sure have odd medical issues."
And my brother, "You're one tough cookie. Now you know . . . you did hit hard."

Yet Jenna summed this up well a few minutes ago with her, "Go hard or go home!"

Happy Christmas Break!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Letter 2017 -

Christmas 2017

Sending greetings from our home to yours. It’s been a great year. We’ve traveled to the Netherlands, Switzerland, the tip top of Italy, and have caught the international travel bug. We’ve spent loads of time in Southern Utah, Idaho, and our own backyard this year. We’ve renewed friendships (Ronda’s HS reunion), strengthened friendships, and made new friends (being Airbnb hosts has broadened our world, as we share our home with folks from Australia to India to China). We’ve learned about the generosity of others, and have had our faith renewed, again and again, in the goodness and beauty of relationships.

Our six children and their spouses and twenty grandchildren continue to amaze us with all of their goodness, and we are so happy to be a part of their lives. As well, Ronda’s mother is the best next-door neighbor we could ask for.

We are blessed to be able to spend our forty + hours a week serving others – Ronda is still teaching at Utah Valley University as well as working as a chaplain at Utah Valley Hospital. Scott spends his days working with the homeless and recovering alcoholics (and gardening and reading and caring for anyone who needs a helping hand).

In all sincerity, we are just two grateful people in love with life, this beautiful world, and each other.

Happy Holidays, Ronda and Scott 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas YouTubes I Like -

Here are a couple of YouTube videos that have made me smile this month. 
And the music is lovely. 
I hope you enjoy them. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Am I Being Rude? Introverts and Parties -

I hate, hate, hate parties, especially Christmas parties - church, work, family, friends. The older I get, I enjoy them even less. And my angst has gotten worse over the years. I think my two years down with cancer fed my introvert and perhaps even strengthened that part of me. I do not enjoy small talk, trying to figure out what to say, mixing, mingling, chatter, finger-foods, meeting spouses, sitting, standing, wondering.

With that said, I love, love hosting a party. I enjoy watching people small talking, mixing, mingling, chattering. I get a kick out of seeing who hits it of with whom. I enjoy being behind-the-scene, cooking, coordinating, adjusting, refilling, observing. And I can come "out" occasionally for a touch of chit-chat, but then I need to go back to my hovel (kitchen typically) and regroup.

Problem is this - how do I say, "No," to these get-togethers? It's nearly impossible to tell colleagues, extended family, that these occasions are brutal! I'd really rather meet for an intimate dinner, a small family visit, and I'm happy to host, or pay!

How do I gather then energy it takes to go to a party, and then, where do I go to put myself back together again? It takes hours, sometimes a day, before I'm back to myself after an event. And "Oh, but we'll miss you," is just not enough incentive for me to attend.

Sorry siblings, friends, colleagues, but my idea of a Merry Christmas is my intimates - myself, Scott, kids, grandkids, a cup of tea, a bowl of popcorn, fire in the fireplace, pj's, Christmas music or movie or book, and I'm as happy as I could possibly be. Keep inviting me though - just in case!

Please don't feel sorry for me, or for you, it's better off this way - for all of us. I promise no one is missing out! I love you all, I really do!

Monday, December 11, 2017

My Cancer Experience in One Phrase -

Jules Jones Peters, the wife of musician Mike Peters, has had her own cancer journey (Mike has been down the cancer path multiple times). The BBC Wales affiliate, interviewed her about her cancer. And while I can't find the video anywhere except Facebook , one phrase reached out and summed up, pretty much, how I feel: 

"And I think it's made me less fearful about the future."

I've used these phrases, "Bring it on," "Faith," "It is what it is," "What's the worst that can happen when the worst that can happen has?" to describe how I feel. Yet Jules' statement is perfect - Less Fearful About The Future. Great thought for the week -

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hallelujah - Last Day of Class at UVU -

I have been teaching at UVU for 16 years, and most of that time has been teaching night classes. I really like teaching older students, students who work, students who have lives outside of school. And this semester has reinforced that for me.

Two of my three classes have been fantastic, with my third being ok, yet it's an 8:30pm class, in a yucky classroom, which I think has something to do with the dynamics.

Some of my students are:

Tim - Older, married young, has a child nearly ready for college, works during the day, writes well, works hard, makes good eye contact, always attends, turns in assignments on time, is engaged, participates, good final project.

Elise - Younger, opinionated, likes Taco Bell and brings it to class, has a skateboard, asks good questions, thinks for herself.

James - Mid-twenties, sits in the middle-back, works during the day, always connected, keeps me honest when it comes to numbers (dates, percentages), asks good questions that typically everyone wants to ask, good writer, great final project.

Brandy - Mid-twenties, sits in front, works during the day, always alert, has good questions.

Aaron and Aron - Foreign students, cousin, always attend class, pay attention, stay after class and ask lots of questions, and because of this they are succeeding, participate, share in group work.

Doug - Older student, parent to 4 nieces and nephews, works full-time, comes in late, wears pink backpack, irreverently funny, loud, no boundaries, definitely created class community, learning to write and doing well, worries, good student.

Elise - Older student, kind, asks good questions, reinforces my comments, new to UVU.

Marie - Older student, mother, sits by Annette; they are the two that are my anchors in a rowdy funny class.

Jacob - Older student, new to Utah and Mormonism, asks questions without pause, moves casually through the classroom, talker, unifier.

Nathan - Older student, serious but fun, good writer, shares, steady.

Janie - Mid-twenties, works during the day, asks questions, shares easily.

Brent - Older student, makes fun comments, asks questions that need to be asked, engaged.

Ryan - Older student, wants to finish 2010 after 3 tries, good writer, diligent, concerned, works during the day, serious.

Jarod - Older student, anchor in class, doing school to say he's been to school.

Jordan - Younger student, funny, asks good questions, stays after class, cares.

Michael - Younger student, funny without knowing he's funny, makes random statements that engage the class (or at least make me laugh), eats way too much sweets, doodles during class, great research paper.

Julie - Younger student, took class last semester, dropped out, finishing this semester.

Matthew - Mid-twenties, new to school, came into class with a "show me" attitude, engaged and participates.

Amber - Early twenties, asks lots of questions, sends lots of emails, does her best to participate.

Kimberly - Early twenties, struggling juggling with assignments and work, tears up easily.

And I could give personal information about each of these students as well, that may stereotype, but are endearing - autistic with no emotion, struggling financially, gay, lesbian, Saudi, ex-military, newly home from a mission, drug addict, dyslexic, ADHD, over-weight, perfectionist, newly married, etc.

And I could list several students who haven't been engaged, who have a million excuses for why they're missing classes or haven't done their work, but the students I've mentioned by far make up for these others.

And I NEED a BREAK from them - at least for a few weeks!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

On My Mind -

Facebook - Sucks! I log in to see who is having a birthday, wish them a Happy Birthday, then off. If I take the time to scroll through any posts, I typically find myself sucked in to nonsense! I miss the days of personal postings rather than reposts of videos. Yeah - thumbs down.

December Colds - I can't make it through the month without a cold, haven't been since I began teaching at UVU sixteen years ago. It just happens. This year it hit last Thursday, and I caught it, and I stopped and slept and medicated. I think I'll be better in a couple more days.

UVU - I love teaching! And I have my grades up to date, which is always a concern right now, and I'm ready to grade my last batch of papers. Having a new textbook this semester has been tough, and I'm still not comfortable with it, but the lessons and assignments have been going fine, I'll adjust.

Insurance - Sucks! I have to teach an extra class every semester just to pay for my premiums. It's going up tremendously come 2018. Good grief - the working poor.

Being Married - I am totally in love with my husband, right now! He makes me laugh, we joke, we have a history, we tease, we help each other, and we are just relaxed with each other. We are in a really good spot - having learned how to negotiate and when to give space and when to come together. Nearly fourteen years of "dancing lessons," and I think we've got it. Fingers crossed.

Chaplaining - I adore being a chaplain. The combination of chaplaincy and folklore is perfect for me. I appreciate working with those who are facing death - being forced to face this is scary and beautiful, and a fundamental aspect of all our lives. I faced it five years ago. Empathy goes a long ways. 

Christmas - Gifts are purchased or made, some delivered, wrapping to be done. I even took the time to write a Christmas letter! Hopefully it will go out in the next ten days. My goal is always to be as close to being finished with the business by Dec. 1 as possible. Then I can tackle finals and relax - with kids, grandkids, Scott, friends. Going for that again this year.

Gifting - Scott and I don't typically buy "Christmas" gifts for each other. We don't need anything, want any thing, and time sitting in front of the fireplace rather than online or shopping, is my idea of time well-spent - a great gift.

Anxiety - Along with my cold these past few days I've had some anxiety. Cancer seemed to really bring it on, and every once and a while I get some palpitations, some sweats, a headache, feel like the walls are closing in, and my mind doesn't stop racing. It's hard for me to stop, even when I stop and address my triggers. This week it's been the post-Thanksgiving rush, the pre-Christmas and pre-finals pressure. God grant me the serenity -

Happiness - Life is what we make it. And today I'm choosing to be happy, and fit, and mostly healthy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Crossing Muddy Waters - Hiatt and Watkins -

I first heard this song by John Hiatt when it was newly released in 2000. I remember where I was when the local independent radio station, KRCL, played it.  It's a pure acoustic tune, not even drums, and the melody plus the story brought me to tears. Such a tragic story, from all directions. And my heart broke, and I could see me as one of the characters in the story. And I think it's one of the most lovely lost bitter sorrowful songs I have ever heard.

I heard it again, on a Spotify station earlier this week. This time sung by Sara Watkins. And hearing it from a woman's voice didn't change the sorrow that I felt. And I'm once again reminded of the power of music. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

I've had enough -

Let's practice a little kindness, not turning a blind eye, but a helping hand. Not all bad things, or bad deeds, or pissy attitudes, turn a person into a bully or a narcissist, or a serial rapist, but we are products of our environment, and our words can hurt each other and ultimately, ourselves. If day after day we are discriminated against, degraded for things that are out of control, we need to be the change to get rid of these people, these situations. And I know some of us stay - because of loyalty, duty, money, or having been put down so often that we think we don't deserve better.

But we do - I do, you do. And I can change myself - my behavior, my work ethic, my attitude, but sometimes - the best thing we can change is by not staying - we can leave, we can walk away, and we can end the life of letting the little things slide.

I have left, more than once, a relationship and a job, where I felt uncomfortable. Sadly, I have often left silently, without letting anyone know about the uncomfortableness I was experiencing. Because - like many others, I began to doubt myself - did I bring the bullying on, was it my fault, did I dress wrong, maybe I listened too long, did I send the wrong message. But - bullying and harassment are in the eyes of the receiver, and being assertive is typically a trait the perpetrator (whether that's a 7 year old girl or a 55 year old man or an account executive, the POTUS, or a big brother) is the one asserting their behavior, while the passive, or quiet person is the one who gets hurt.

Stop it, damn it. Be an advocate. Get involved. Show a little kindness.

And remember -

"I am my best friend. I need to treat me with dignity and respect, and most importantly, I need to be compassionate with me. I need to accept me in whatever state and condition I am in." ~ Anonymous

Great article regarding my rant:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Instrument of War - BYUTV - Jack Ashton -

My friend, Russ Kendall, invited Scott and I a few weeks ago, to attend the premier of a movie he has recently produced. It's a war movie. I was not excited to go. But Scott loves war movies, and I love Russ, so we went.

After the first 2 minutes, I was ready to go home, but I didn't. And goodness, I'm glad I didn't leave the theater.

An amazing movie - inspiring, thought-provoking, tear-inducing. The script, cinematography, soundtrack, lighting, costumes, acting, could not have been any better.

And a little "behind the scenes" info:

  • Russ' company, Kaleidoscope Pictures, produced this movie for BYUTV. It was filmed completely in Lithuania, where Russ and his colleague, Adam, took their families for 3 months during the late winter and spring. 
  • All of the actors are British, with a couple from Lithuania. 
  • The lovely Jack Ashton, from Call The Midwife, is the star in the movie. 
  • Jack Ashton does not, and could not, play the violin that is featured in the movie. 
  • The movie is based on a true story. 
  • The gentleman whose story it is died in 2010. 
  • His family are musicians, yet they didn't know about this part of his life until shortly before he died.
  • Russ' daughter is in the movie (he did Jenna and I a "favor" years ago, and we're in the original "Charlie"). Russ' son and wife are part of the film crew. 
  • Last year Kaleidoscope Pictures produced A Winter Thaw, based on a Tolstoy short story. The crew fell in love with Lithuania during that filming. 

This movie will premier on BYUTV on Thanksgiving Day, and show throughout the holiday season.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Must Read - This Appalachian Life - The Bitter Southerner -

The South seems to give birth to some amazing writers - fiction, non-fiction. What is the reason? A plethora of experiences, environment, examples (good and bad), history, or the culture of writing and expressing oneself through some creative genre whether writing, music, art, dance?

But I know this, dang, there are some great young Southern authors appearing, and I am really enjoying their brashness - their unapologetic tone for all that is good and bad in their lives, their values, without demeaning their lives and culture. 

I'm just blown away at the thinking and expressing that are being presented. And here at The Bitter Southerner, you can find great examples, in quick easy read material, nonetheless thought-provoking. As well, This Appalachian Life, by Joshua Wilkey, is filled with Joshua's own stories - his own thoughts, ponderings, questionings, and thinking-things-through pieces. His "Appalachia Needs a Reformation" is poignant and leaves me wondering about my own religious heritage and change. David Joy is also a favorite of mine. His "Digging in the Trash" essay is required reading for all of my UVU classes. 

I highly suggest exploring. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

I Live in an Old House -

Scott and I bought our home nearly 12 years ago. It was owned by two previous families; the last family lived here about 5 years, and the first owner built this home in 1961 or 1962.

When we purchased the home, March 2006, it was move-in ready. However, over the years we've remodeled, repainted, finished, and replaced nearly every item in the house from roof to furnace/AC to flooring and appliances (except the mirrored closet doors in our bedroom ;)). We've been able to do this over time because it was livable from the beginning.

Since moving in, until now, we figure this house has become 2-3 houses, so we never have to move again. We've had more than our share!

Home #1 which we repainted, but that was all: 

Remodel of Home #2:

Our Final Remodel, or Home! 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

On Pooping -

Poop - something we think of as disgusting, we don't talk about. But did you know pooping is extraordinarily important, even down to the size, shape, color of poop, and habits of the pooper? Those who have had Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other intestinal ailments, food allergies, or poor bowel habits almost always have issues pooping. And - those who have had surgeries, chemo, or are on pain pills know that pooping is not easy and can be downright debilitating.

So - I'm here to say - me too. 

Food allergies, particularly milk, and then little tolerance for certain grains (wheat in particular), and a gut torn up from chemo, have put me in the category of folks who have irregular bowel habits. 

In the years following my cancer treatment I've been bothered by constipation. And honestly, walking around with a gut full of digested food waiting for it to be eliminated is not happy. I am bloated, feel like I need to be close to a restroom, gassy, and ache. 

In my office, one of the top 3 complaints is constipation or bowel habits, and one of the top 3 points we address - pain and anxiety being the other 2, is constipation. And no one is embarrassed to discuss this, because of the health effects. Pooping is just part of life! 

We "prescribe" non-prescription antidotes for constipation and its cousin - diarrhea. Most of all that includes drinking lots of water, eating vegetables first, then fruits, cutting back on grains and processed foods, and moving - being sedentary is not good for someone constipated, but exercise may not always be an option for someone in pain. In addition, we suggest Senna and Miralax. Senna "smooths" the poop and Miralax "mushes" the poop. So it makes pooping easier and more regular. 

While my gut is not where it was, and yet is not where my patients' guts are, my habits are a little different. I exercise, eat correctly, and yet I rely on a cup of coffee in the morning and on tough days I rely on an herbal laxative from Puritan's Pride - cascara, senna, fennel, licorice root - to do the job. Or some sugar-free gummi bears (joking on this, although I ate them once, and the reviews are accurate).

And boy oh boy, when my gut is free, I am free. So there - don't take pooping for granted; a healthy gut is a healthy you. A poop a day keeps the constipation away. 

Great Chart

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Living Rather Than Fearing -

Have you ever decided to stay home, in the safety of your own four walls, rather than venture out - for fear of the unknown or unsafe?

Have you ever stepped away from an experience because of what you don't know? How about because of what you do know?

My saying that keeps me from living in fear is this, something I've written about before, and really, my life motto since I was a young mother: "Sometimes we're so busy existing we forget to live."

And yet, those of us who are going through tough times - whether rearing a houseful of little ones, living with a chronic illness, barreling through school or life, often exist, not live. We just need to make it through the day, but then that becomes a pattern, a pattern of existing.

Example - "I'm just waiting for the next shoe to drop." "It will return, so why bother." "If only . . ." "It's an evil/tough/hard/unsafe world out there; why would I want to expose myself/my family/my children to this?" "I'm just too busy right now." "I like my routine."  "I know I won't like it." "Nah, not my thing." "I'm comfortable with where I am."

And so, we exist, making it through the day, and although we don't mean to have blinders on, and maybe our days our so busy that we can't even look past our schedule, what is keeping us from opening up to Life? I dare say it's fear - fear of the unknown - fear of failing - fear of trying - fear of sinning - being wrong, doing wrong?

I must say that I'll try anything once, unless it's heights or illegal/immoral. And as I age I'm finding out that it's the doing that is keeping me young and alive. I'm finding that fear is not really a good judge of should/should not - but my own irrational thinking that keeps me blocked, keeps me from living.

I guess my message is this - live a little - just even a little. Try something new; do something again; face a fear (you can do this in safety), and then, if you have a spouse, a parent, children, who is cautious, fearful, timid - let them see you live, so they see that leaving a comfort zone, if only for a minute, doesn't need to be scary.

Don't spend your life existing - What would you do if you did not fear?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Introducing Myself to My 18 Year Old Grandson -

Scott and I have a tenuous relationship with one of our six children. Because of this, we have little to no interaction with five grandchildren. This letter is to the oldest of our grandchildren, but really, it's to all of his siblings as well.

Dear Grandson,

You know, Grandson, I know little about you. And I'm sorry about that - I don't know you, and you don't know me. But I'm trying to mend this, so by way of introduction -

I was born in the small town of Rigby, Idaho. My parents were well-established, even as a young couple, in the community - my father owning restaurants, both of them active with church and community efforts, and, before they knew it - active with 7 children! I was 15 when my youngest brother was born. That's a handful! I grew up with both sets of grandparents nearby, and I had wonderful friendships with all of them. I can't imagine my life without my grandparents - one set was active LDS, lived on a farm outside of town, the other set were active in the community, living in a small apartment in town; both sets loving their families, doing anything, sacrificing often, for their children and grandchildren. I loved the time I spent with them all. And I loved being seen with them - I was so amazed at how well respected they were, and at how many people knew them and wanted to visit with them.

My parents are such amazing people. While my dad was busy growing his businesses, my mother kept us kids involved in piano and dance lessons, soccer and other sports, baked for neighbors and people in our congregation. They were so busy with church and community - serving in leadership positions in all areas of their lives, but they always found time to serve - and involved us kids in that service.

Three of my fondest young memories with my parents -  visiting the widows in our neighborhoods on Saturdays, with my mother, while she washed, curled, and fixed the hair of several of these women, so they would look nice, and feel nice, on Sunday. Another - going to work with my father - and I'm sure this was not a treat for him, and peeling big bags of carrots, wiping off tables, organizing papers and menus and the candy shelf by the cash register. The third, water-skiing! We had a boat, and on a Saturday, when my dad had a minute to get away from the restaurants, he'd gather some of the boys in the ward, us kids, and take us out of town to a small area of the Snake River (we called it the Boat Dock, which is now a park, named in honor of my grandfather) where we'd ski in the cold water, battling mosquitoes and loving every minute of the warm summer sun.

My memories of my parents are golden. My father was always so good to my mother. I remember one time my brother sassing my mother, and my dad saying, "Don't you treat my wife that way." This has stayed with me. My parents taught us how to treat others by showing us how they treated each other and those around them.

I do remember my mother losing her temper, only once, and I remember it as if this happened yesterday. We were in our house in Rigby. She had 2 little ones in high chairs (13 months apart in age), and the other 4 of us all hungry, wanting lunch, right now. She was making bologna sandwiches on white bread. She was spreading mustard and ketchup on the bread, the kids were fighting and noisy, and she yelled, "Damnit, I have had enough," and threw the piece of bread with ketchup in the air, where it hit the ceiling and came back down. The ketchup stain and story remain, and we quickly quieted down!

I'm sure my parents both were a little hot-headed at times, even with each other, but I never saw this. NEVER! Pretty good. I knew my parents loved each other, loved us kids, and just like my grandparents, would do anything for us and for their community.

I'm grateful for this foundation - it is the pavement I walk on every single day. Love you - Gma

Here I am with my mother's parents, Vernal and Geneve Jensen, Tyler, who turns 37 on Wednesday, and my parents. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sewing and Cooking and Reading and Teaching - Healing -

I have ridden this cancer journey as alert, awake, alive, as I possibly could. I did not slack during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. I have not rested - or, when I have rested, I have been aware of this resting, in full awareness of how my body is receiving every ounce of the universe. I know when I overdone, underdone, when I can push, when I must rest, when I need to do more, do less, think more, go, stop.

And I get irritated by those who choose, because yes, it is a choice, to not do, push, go, stop, conscientiously, and choose, instead, to complain, medicate, resign.

As I finished my cancer treatments, and I'm happily closing that 5 year healing/no evidence of disease (NED) window, I am acknowledging my medicine - the treatments I've given myself, found myself, for healing. I have not waited to see what the "universe will provide," rather, I've provided, for a huge part, my own healing methodology. I've listened to myself and provided what I needed to heal.

Here are a few of those therapies I provided me - pushed myself to engage in, and have benefited from:

Sewing - I went to something known, a craft I've enjoyed for years, but had put aside for several seasons, and began creating. The first thing I made was a linen tunic, without a pattern, rather, based on a tunic I had purchased, with a few changes. I had to focus on yardage, measurements, work-arounds, and my past knowledge, bringing it forward to implement. I don't do numbers - and numbers have been the last to return to my post-chemo brain, but with this tunic, and the many many articles of clothing I've created since, I've pushed myself to push myself - to measure twice, cut once, unpick, be patient, stay focused, stay steady, be methodical. And with each piece the past 4 years, the work has not necessarily become easier, but the knowledge I've needed has been easier to access. I have great clothing to show for my hard work, and to me, these are tangible truths that brains can heal.

Health - As I've incorporated more protein into my diet, particularly for my bones and my brain, I've tweaked so many recipes to fit my needs. Adding protein powder, eggs, chia seeds, flax seeds to recipes, adjusting for density, flavor, palatability! I've thrown a few items in the trash - admitting this creation or that one hasn't worked, but I've succeeded. And in doing so - I am showing my health - skin is clear, hair is thick, bones are strong, and finally, weight is dropping. In eating correctly, for my body - and only I know what this is, I am healing. And let's not forget exercise - never stopping, for the better part of my adult life I have worked out, 5 times a week, made this a priority; I have not slacked during my healing - my time to thank and remind my body for the ability to push and heal.

Reading - I have become a voracious reader. A reader of student papers, philosophy, health, narratives, and fiction. Pushing myself into a genre or two I had no interest in (fantasy in particular), pushing to learn, understand, and even enjoy words and pictures that were unfamiliar to me. And of course, I've written - creative, non-fiction, clinical, content for others - forcing myself to think clearly, and again, methodically. Reviewing and reviewing as I go.

Teaching - I remember that first semester back to school, a year to the date of my diagnosis, and feeling so rusty - knowing what I knew, and not being able to find words or approaches to teach the concepts. I was cronky, rusty, but I did not give up. And I've found the words, and the rust has dissipated, and my mind is clear, and my teaching is better than its ever been.

Healing - Healing is hard, damn hard. And it's hard work even in the resting. And yet, I knew if I was going to heal, I had to forge my own path - cut down the weeds of fogginess, doubt, fear, dread, fatigue, anxiety, and - if I want to see "me," I had to whack away at the detritus that was in front of me. Moving forward, carrying a big stick to clear those cobwebs and thistles that stood between me and me.

It ain't over, I don't think this journey will ever be finished. I'll be eating and drinking and sleeping cancer for the rest of my life. But cancer, and repercussions, are companions now, not thorns in my hiking boots. Sewing, taking care of my Health, Reading, Teaching - these elements have helped me heal, are helping me heal. Push, grow, push, heal, push - Know thyself -

Make sense?

May in Switzerland

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Universe Provides?

A friend posted this thought on Instagram:
"I was in shock. Funny how the world works. You don't get the something you really covet, but then the universe provides unexpected compensation. Here I thought you had to make a wish for it to come true." (Sarah Dessen, Saint Anything)

And right after her post came:
"Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending - to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how the story ends." (Brene Brown, Rising Strong)

Both make me tired! I'm the author of my own story, I am the the master of my fate, the captain of my soul. Honestly, I don't want to be jerked around by anyone, become someone's puppet or pawn, yet when I work hard for what I want, am I not letting my will control myself - am I the inflicting my will on my will?

In being independent, writing my own story, am I shutting the door on fate, on universal compensation?

Yet again - are "being the change," and having "faith in every footstep" contradictory or synonymous? Being, doing, controlling, opening, receiving, creating . . .

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pinktober and Second Chances -

This month, Pinktober, I've been determined to NOT reflect on my cancer journey. I began the month wearing my cancer ribbon and pink quartz necklace, then on Oct. 4 I took it off. Because I no longer needed a reminder, nor did I feel the need to remind anyone else of my journey.

Yeah, cancer sucks. And the journey has been hard. But it's been rewarding - even though I didn't ask for the hard or the reward.

And today, I'm reminded of my own spirituality and the place my cancer journey holds in this. So I'm sharing this today - My God is a God of Second Chances, and yes, third, fourth, fifth. My Higher Power isn't going to sink my ship, and I'm not going to either.

Second chances - what a gift!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Yawn -

I'm going to begin with an apology - not apology. Life is calm right now, and I am taking glory in not having anything out of the ordinary to write about.

I go to work at the hospital, serve my patients - counseling those with cancer and those who care for them, and I try to give them a moment of respite in their otherwise crazy and emotional lives.

I go to school, serving 65 students, most eager to learn, and try to instill enough confidence in them that they can tackle my assignments with some trust in my system and in themselves.

I come home - and I have enough time to work on a project, read a book, have lunch with a friend, be a grandma/sister/daughter, and still have a moment or two for Scott.

Life is calm, and I guess not really boring, but peaceful and orderly and full. And I'm not gonna mess with that.

PS - Down 12 pounds - finally.

Friday, October 6, 2017

End of Life Article - Correct Link -

Here - written by my cousin's daughter - and we didn't discover our connection until after our interview.

She did a good job with the story - can be a very very sensitive topic.

Thanks Kelsey for the opportunity!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sequencing - I am doing it! Damn Cancer After-affects -

One of the biggest mind-glitches I've had these past five years post-cancer treatment, has been sequencing. That is - remembering order, number, style, type, and particularly - groups of these. I found this out shortly after I began receiving chemo - I couldn't remember dates, times, appointments, and even when I was writing them down, I wasn't sure if what I wrote down was correct. Almost as if I was dyslexic - except for this was in my mind - I doubted my ability to write things down correctly and then read them back correctly. This loss, and very aware concern, continued - I could possibly remember the first three numbers of a phone number (area code), yet even if I knew the entire number, I would doubt myself in moving that number from mind to phone, having to look at the written number for assurance multiple times.

Do you know how many times we use number sequences? Goodness - phone numbers, addresses - directions, passwords/codes, times - particularly appointments and commitments, department codes and numbers, and I could go on and on, because I have not been able to remember them - and dang, that has been so frustrating.

And how do I tell someone who didn't know me before that this loss is not natural? I've apologized more than once for my lack of ability - even apologizing to the time-keeper payroll admin, for my lack of correctness in filling out time sheets - either missing days and times and/or entering or not, the correct department code. As well, keeping a work schedule, where patient visits cannot conflict with other appointments, has been difficult, and apologizing to my admin for having to request do-overs and reminders has been a tad humbling. (And this doesn't even cover the sequential order of stories, recipes, step-by-step instructions - which I'll elaborate on another time, along with my self-prescribed rehabilitation.)

Admitting this fault to another person/s took great soul-searching, honestly, because this isn't me, and did I want to bring attention to the "not"? But I reached out, once I gave myself permission to do so,  once I saw that this type of task was debilitating - and embarrassing. And folks have been so very kind and patient.

This is all to say that just in the past month the fog is clearing. I can remember a serious of 6 numbers now! I can remember an entire phone number (if I have always known it), and I am getting better at checking and re-checking data before I send it (and - more than that - recognizing where information is wrong).

Ya'll - numbers and data have not been my strong suit - ever, but, I am beginning to see improvement. I am amazed I recognize this - impairment and improvement. I have chosen to be consciously aware of my cancer journey - always hyper-sensitive to my changes, and I am so grateful for this step.

It feels so good to see the fog continuing to lift. I am almost me - in so many ways, and I have to congratulate myself, and give myself permission to acknowledge my growth.

Can you believe, that cancer treatments can cause such debilitation that even 4.5 years later there are still changes being made in my cognitive well-being? Amazing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

4 Years 5 Months - and Counting

Made it through my FINAL chemotherapy appointment today! Five years ago this week I began chemo, and today I was give the nod to "move on with your life." Ha! Like I haven't been! But - the goodness is this nod was official. One more nod in 7 months from my radiation oncologist, and I'm off - or - 5 years cancer free, No Evidence of Disease, and doctor's appoints will be fewer and further between.

All of this commotion gives me cause to reflect and look forward - mostly in my own quiet celebratory way.

Hallelujah - almost there.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Elevator Pitch -

This week I've been teaching my students how to consolidate their research into a 5 floor elevator pitch. You know - when you're on an elevator, someone asks you who you are, what you're doing, where you're going, what you're presenting on, and you have approximately 5 floors to answer that question.

My students need to be able (well, anyone) to verbalize what their research papers are about, in a succinct, precise, brief, clear approach - no humming, full of confidence, and hopefully, do that in 3 floors, with 2 floors left for feedback!

As a college professor, that's been easy for me to do: "I teach Freshman and Sophomore writing and a Folklore, or Cultural Studies course." Bing batta boom, message sent, plenty of time for questions and conversation.

As a chaplain, an introduction is horrible. "I'm a chaplain, a clinical chaplain, at a major hospital. I work with those who are dying, or have received a diagnosis that has rocked their very foundation." Beautiful - but what does that mean? "When we face any major upheaval in our lives, our entire being is traumatized. My focus is to help those who are in this situation as they question their beliefs, their values, their life's purpose." Or - "I listen as others sort through their thoughts and feelings."

But I had a friend awhile back who said to me, "Ronda, who are you? What do you stand for? What's your life purpose?" Yikes! Don't pin me down! I felt cornered, caught, tied down, and then stuck in that spot until I could give an answer. And my life is not one that is static - I am constantly on the move, emotionally, intellectually, physically, and to be asked to put myself in a box just about caused me an anxiety over-dose.

Today I attended a meeting at UVU (where I teach), and while one of the presenters talked about the Inclusion initiative at UVU, my elevator pitch to my friend, and to ya'll came to me.

"My deepest desires are to make sure that every person has a place to land where they can feel safe, share their story, and be heard." "I am one of those safe places."

There you go - that's what I've worked for and toward, all my life. My academic world, my professional world, my chaplain world, my interpersonal world. These are the people I'm attracted to, and quite often, they are attracted to me. Put the message out - verbally or silently, and it will be heard.

I came home from this early morning meeting quite happy - feeling at peace. I did it! I created my elevator pitch, defined my "mission," and expressed my deepest emotions, all in the matter of 5 floors, or a lifetime - depending -

What's yours?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Circumstances -

I've been thinking about this a lot lately - while it rings true to me, I wonder if it's just a little too simplified. Yet I know that whether circumstances reveal or the refiner's fire unveils, once we're down to our essence we're pretty exposed to the realities of the world and how we work in that world.

Thanks,, for sharing this thought with me today. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Waiting -

Remember the days of dial-up internet? Waiting and waiting and waiting - for the phone line to be available, for the connection to be made, for the computer to accept, for information to load? 

My husband - he'll tell anyone who asks that he waited for me for 16 years, and that the waiting was worth every minute. After being together me for 13.5 years though, he still does a fair share of waiting. For example:

Waited for me this morning as I showered and got ready for work, prior to us eating breakfast. 
Waited for me in the car (I'll just warm the car up, hon) while I gathered all my materials for the day. 
He takes me to work (I love that time with you), which means he waits a few minutes more to begin his day. 
He'll pick me up from work, take me to job #2 (UVU), and for sure he'll wait when picking me up after classes tonight - there's always a student or two who want to talk after class . . . 
He waits for me when I stroll rather than hurry; he waits for me when I visit with someone rather than scurrying right out the door; he waits for me to check emails before he can read the latest news. 
And the list goes on. 
He usually has a book or a radio, which makes the waiting more tolerable. 
He's a patient man. 
But then, what does patience look like? 
Is it the waiting, is it the learning to wait, is it being at peace with the waiting? 

So I've always been told I'm impatient. "Ronda, just be patient." "Ronda, slow down so others can catch up," etc., but then I think about the waiting I do in a day - 
Wait for patients to arrive (often late).
Wait while patients share their stories. 
Wait with patients. 
Wait for doctors, nurses, medical staff. 
Wait for students. 
Wait with students. 
And I've learned how to be peacefully present while waiting. 
I have to be present while I'm patient. I wish I could have a book with me, but no. 

More than Scott being patient with me, and me being patient with others, I'm learning how to be patient with myself. Time - being is a good place; being present, available, aware, engaged, or not, waiting is not an evil. 

"I waited for you for 16 years," takes on a new definition, when understanding that waiting is letting the path unfold, in front of us, with no idea what the future is to bring. Being in the moment, living for today, trusting the process, having joy in the being. 

Waiting - a good characteristic. "Hi, I'm Ronda, and I'm waiting."