Monday, July 31, 2017

It's Always a Choice -

Today, just like every other day, I make multiple decisions:

To get up or stay in bed.
Make up.
What to wear.
What not to wear.
Hair - straight or curly.
Breakfast - healthy, fast.
Work - time to arrive, time to leave.

And you get the idea.

But over the years I've found that while these are choices I make every single day, they are the most obvious, apparent ones, and yeah, while looking professional is important, and eating healthy and exercising is extremely important, I make other decisions that weigh heavily on me.

Am I a victim or a survivor - divorce, education, cancer, career.
Do I have a half-empty or half-full attitude.
Gratitude or unappreciative.
Engaging or isolating.
Supportive or needy.
Defensive or open.
Inviting or judging.

While I'm not always on the cheery end of the spectrum, there are a few things that keep me in the "Life is good" mode.

I have a choice.
I choose . . . .
Be the change.
Today is a new day.
Who is to blame?
Is there fault, or is it strictly attitude?
Am I Hungry Anxious/Angry Lonely Tired?
Where are the fingers pointing?

And when I'm physically hurting, I have to ask similarly and tell myself - "Trust the strong ones." Because I can't always be strong, but I always have a choice. And even if the choice is being weak or sad or ornery, it's still a choice.

New tattoo idea, "Be the change" across the side of my right foot. I learned this phrase from my father - "If you want something done, what are you waiting for? Do it." And while that's probably too much for my size 8 foot, "Be the change," is certainly the message that gleaned from his lessons, and one I've proudly carried with me. What do you think?

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Price for Peace -

It's been a great week; saying "NO" to something that was on my mind for so long has really been freeing. Even Scott has commented on how much at peace I've been. And I didn't even know it was causing me the unrest that it was - until that was gone, and woah, I'm a new person!

Earlier this week we had a house full of grandchildren, with lots of excitement and carpooling, thrown in. And I really didn't care. My house was a mess, there was lots of time spent in the car shuttling, and yet, we were happy. The kids had a great time, and honestly, so did I.

Peace is often hard to come by, yet how often is anxiety self-driven rather than other-driven? And when I found I could be the self to tell the other, well, peace came.

So going into the weekend, with amazing sleep all week, I'm happy to have found a few moments of "ommm." I hope you can as well.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Simple Summer -

I "feel like" I "should be" writing, but honestly, it's summer, and the living is "supposed to be" easy, and I like the idea of no obligations, no duties, no needs outside of my every day.

And I've had a chronic sinus infection since coming home from Switzerland, that doesn't seem to get any better regardless of medication.

So I only do what I feel like doing, and since this rarely happens, rather than feeling guilty, I'm enjoying.

And I'm not writing.

Happy Monday -

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Traveling Light - Leaving Baggage Behind -

A key tenant for chaplains endorsed by my endorsing organization (CPSP) is that we "travel light." This belief is that we hold no animosity toward others, we choose to not judge, we carry no bundles of books and robes and collars and banners, and we own no buildings. We are travelers, bringing with us who we are, not what we have.

This principle goes well with my personal beliefs - baggage only makes the journey harder, heavier, less enjoyable.

When I was going through cancer treatments, there were days when I lay in bed and cleared my mind - sorted and sifted through my own emotional baggage, and asking for forgiveness where possible, giving forgiveness where necessary.

And on the days when my blood count was low, but I was functioning, I sorted and sifted through my house. Cabinet by cabinet, room by room, corner by corner, I touched and tossed or saved every single item in my house.

By the time April 18, 2013 rolled around, my mind and my house were much lighter.

But just because my house is more clean and better organized does not mean my traveling lighter has ended. I notice my baggage often, and I try to attack it immediately rather than letting it sit around taking up space.

For instance - my "no" last week? That mess was with me for quite some time, but as soon as it was over, I reviewed the experience, looked for what I could learn from it, and then moved past it. In fact, even the thought of undertaking that potential journey was heavy, there was baggage from the beginning that I would have to carry - baggage that was not mine. Last week an encounter with a work colleague that wasn't smooth took a short, "I'm sorry, how can I do better," and then a promise to do so, and a step forward. Today I had a tiny melt-down with Scott. And rather than even carry that with me through the day, I quickly owned my anger (really anxiety and doubt), asked for forgiveness, and moved into the day - and thank heavens so did Scott, also choosing to travel light. Emotional house cleaning is as beneficial as literal, and when the two are combined, as they were today, well, I feel so much better - and both of my houses look dandy!

When we left for Amsterdam we took an extra piece of luggage, just for keepsakes, and we spent a decent amount of time looking for things we could bring home - mementos as well as gifts. And the gifts we shared were awesome and well received.

But we decided our trip to Switzerland would be a great opportunity to travel lighter, with only our backpacks and no room for souvenirs.

Talk about freedom! Traveling around the country with only what we could carry on our back gave us the opportunity to not shop, but to look, linger, savor, our experiences. We each bought a small item, and we brought home some chocolate, but otherwise, we arrived home with what we took from home. Wow - did that make unpacking easy!

Now I'm not talking about living a life with no obligations, responsibilities, or memories, but I do know this - that when I'm traveling - whether in my heart, my mind, or with my own two feet, that I'm lighter when I'm carrying less - when I'm not burdened, but lightened by my load.

As a chaplain this is extraordinarily important - if I bring my burdens into a visit with a patient, they can sense this; I add to their load, and then, interestingly, I add their load to mine - I don't want to bring any type of illness "back with me." As a teacher this is so important - if I carried every student's "my dog at my paper," excuse I would be stuck under a pyramid of dog poop. I listen, reflect, and then move on, praying those I serve will find answers to their burdens, not praying that I will find an answer to their burden. And when I travel - particularly lately - I enjoy the few items in my suitcase, but knowing my choices are limited leaves me free to use my energy in other ways - especially of having experiences that will turn in to fond memories.

And my house? Oh goodness - ask me - "Where is your . . . " Because I'll know. I won't have to wonder and hunt and sort through piles to find it.

I keep reminding myself that the only things I can take with me are my experiences and my memories, and I will not leave my burdens or things, for someone else to carry when I'm gone. Some days I carry excess baggage, too much, belongs to someone else; I think we all do. But I find when I drop what's not mine, the world is a better place for everyone.

Travel light - part of the Hygge experience, part of Nourishing myself, Gleaning - taking only what I need, what I can use.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sherman Alexie said "No" -

I thoroughly enjoy Sherman Alexie's writing. Brutal, honest, painful, hilarious, stunning. And this article about him pausing his book tour is so rich for me. It validates what I did this week. Self-care, we all need to say "no" when our heart, or our mothers, tell us to. If only we'll listen.

Read a report about his decision here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Confident NO - And Sinuses -

I did it - I said "No," to something that's been creeping up on me for the past nine months. And oh, I had major angst about this "no." I tried and tried to figure out how a "yes" could work. I could get a loan, push through faster than normal, sacrifice for the betterment of society (i.e. Mormon's in chaplaincy particularly), and yes, I could make this work.

But I'll tell you something - I don't operate on confusion. When I can see a project clear, or mostly clear, I can take hold of it and make it into a blooming success. And I have enough of these to be confident in my abilities to make something out of nothing.

And this - no matter how I looked at it, I was wandering into a dust cloud - with too many folks telling me what I "should" do, too many unknowns, too many entities involved. Typically I talk these types of situations out with a confidante or two, but this one, it was for Scott and I to figure out.

Until I took a leap and called a colleague - not even a bestie, but someone I could trust, and who understood the magnitude of this decision. After listening to me, as I rambled and sorted, she said, "And what is in it for you?"

I hadn't really thought about this, because I figured I'd be altruistic here, doing what was best for the other, pushing for another two years, making this happen, forcing it to work, and, as the bargaining chips fell into place - well, it looks good, and they have confidence in me, I am the best person, so why not. But I'd forgotten about me. There was nothing in this project for me! Why on earth was I stewing over it?

And with that question, and my answer, I finally had my entire answer - NO. No excuses, no options, no negotiating, just a "No."

I have a tough time saying "No." I don't want to disappoint others, don't want to minimize their efforts or their confidence in me, and I'll make sacrifices to make things work. But this time, I realized I don't want to make sacrifices; I don't want to make things work for someone else. I want to make things work for me! And when I had to tell two organizations that I was not interested, "No," I felt free - really really free.

So here I am. I've been flowing snot, swallowing snot, coughing snot non-stop, since saying "No." And I believe my mind is purging, cleansing, removing, and I'm doing my best to honor this. And it feels so good to be releasing the expectations others had for me. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when the release will be finished, and I can input my plans - my dreams - my goals - that I've had on the back-burner for far too long.

Tissue, liquid, cough drops, nasal spray, good music, good book - gonna be a great day!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Yes - No - Yes - No -

Have you ever said "yes" when you really meant "no"?

Have you ever felt pushed into saying "yes," because someone has said "it's for your best" and then you felt obligated, thinking "then they must know"?

Have you ever had to say "no" after having said "yes"?

How do you do that? How do you say, "I know what's best for me"? "Thanks for the opportunity, but no"?

Even if it will make you "the first," "famous," "a rock star," a "pioneer," a "ground-breaker," and all you want is to do what's best? All you want to do is be a good person, a listener, a guide, a mom and grandma.

And then what?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sunday Dinner and Ex's -

Keegan turned 9 on Saturday. He is a beautiful child, so much like his father, so much like his mother - kind, funny, fair, friend to all, still a hugger, loves to run around without a shirt (suns out, guns out), loves people, cautious, tease, and so much more. 

Yesterday was his family birthday dinner. Tyler sent me a text mentioning it was for "all" the grandparents. That's at least seven grandparents. Five of those grandparents came, two were in Hawaii. That means - Alice (great-grandma), Scott and Ronda, Ex and his wife. 

It's the first time we've been together without any other in-laws. And having us all in the same room has been worrisome for most of us; I think to some degree it's been tough on Jenna and Tyler and their spouses - how will their parents behave?

Why is that? It's been 14 years, life goes on, we're all adults, there is proper etiquette, etc. Nothing "bad" is going to happen; the worst thing that ever happened was the divorce. But that fear is still there - interesting how memories of the past can be actual physical triggers for the present. An upset stomach, shakes, sweats, headaches - all points of tension that can surface. 

This happened to me yesterday, and I push through "for the sake of the children," and then, nine times out of ten, it's just fine. And it happens to the kids, and they bully through, not allowing their parents' issues to become theirs.

And yesterday was decent. We even laughed together, joked about the past, Ex even making a remark that had me laughing out loud, and Tyler breathing a sigh of relief, stating, "Ok, I think we can move forward now." 

With the relief also comes some pain for me. Because as I'm listening to conversations, I thought of missed opportunities, mistakes, my anger, and the unrealized, or unmet expectations from that past life. 

There were things I wanted, things I thought I needed in my first marriage, that didn't happen - for either of us, and with this came my anger, my frustration, my fears, my dread. 

Why - in a relationship, is it that it's not necessarily money, sex, or in-laws that kill a marriage, but those expectations, that aren't even discussed, just assumed, that bring a marriage to its knees? My marriage dissolved because my needs weren't being met - or better yet, I claimed he wasn't meeting my expectations - over the years, not just over-night. 

And this time around - I've had to make sure that my expectations for Scott and my expectations for me are clearly verbalized, all of the time, and that I analyze and parse out what it is that I need from myself - not just what he needs to give me. And when my expectations aren't being met - well, I have to look at myself, reign the future back into the moment, and move forward in reality.

This morning, upon perusing Facebook, a friend had posted this - "The Silent Killer of Relationships," and guess what - Expectations. And I found validation, and to a small extent, sadness. I try not to live in the past; I'm so happy with Scott and I, but I wonder . . . 

Happy Day - 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Value of Education - Regardless - Call to Action -

As a young child, during the hot Idaho summer days, my friends, siblings, and I liked to play school. Funny - out of school, wanting to play school. And yet, when it was time to think about what I would do after high school, I felt like my choices were limited - get married or go to school to become a secretary, teacher, or nurse. I chose marriage.

I began college in 1991, I was 31, no college experience. I began school the year Jenna entered first grade, at Shoals Community College in Tuscumbia, Alabama. My first classes were mythology, sociology, and math (probably math 95).

I had always loved learning, but the day I stepped onto the college campus I fell in love with higher education.

We were in the quarter system, and I went to school there for about 6 quarters - taking math, literature, sociology, and a writing class.

We moved back to Utah one December, and in preparation for continuing my education, I contacted my friend, Merilynn, who put me in touch with her friend, Dawn, who was an academic advisor in the English Dept. at Utah Valley University (UVCC at that time). Merilynn had suggested a couple of her favorite professors, and Dawn helped acquaint me with the college.

After getting Tyler, Jenna, and Clark all in school, I began that journey myself. My first classes at UVU were an Organizational Behavior class, and Women's Lit class, and a Wordperfect class.

And I was off. After taking all the classes I could at UVU, I moved to BYU, where I took 2-3 classes a semester.

I graduated with my BA in English from BYU, and then, still hungry, I traveled to Utah State University weekly, and took summer week-long workshops, until I received my MA in American Studies/Public Sector Folklore in May, 2003.

That's 14 years ago, and I daily count my blessings for a family who supported me on my academic journey. While the kids complained about classes, homework, tests, teachers, I did the same. While the kids studied and wrote papers, I did similarly. When they were figuring out their class schedules, I did as well. And we all saw the value of education.

A year before I graduated from USU, I began teaching Folklore at UVU. Tyler and Jenna both took that class from me - what a blast to have my own children in the classroom. There were many days we drove to school together - and had great conversations as we did so. And thank heavens for Aunty Dawn and others who gave Tyler and Jenna the same great advice they gave me, and they helped them with class schedules just as they did me years earlier.

I never have left the classroom (well, I did take a leave for cancer treatments). I went directly from being a student to being an instructor. And I have loved every minute of it. I love, love, love learning. And the classroom - regardless of age and stage and gender and knowledge, is a tremendous place to learn.

I'm not saying we can't learn in a non-traditional environment - I have my chaplain certification because of a non-traditional classroom-hands-on learning situation, and the online learning world is rich. And I have learned through reading, studying, watching, creating - my entire life.

But there is something about tradition - the classroom, that breeds inquiry, questioning, critical thinking, and an environment rich and ripe with like-minded folks.

Lately I've been thinking about going back to the classroom, as a student. I hunger to be fed, to feed. To a large extent learning has been my sanity. It has kept me happy, functional, at peace with myself. I am a restless soul, and I can't even, don't even want to, imagine where I would be if it hadn't been for the ability to attend college. Learning is something I do well. And because of this, I have some sense of self and some self-confidence.

And as I listened to Eva Witesman's talk about Women and Education, I realized, again, how fortunate I have been to know the classroom, to know professors, to know students, and to be on both sides of the desk. Formal - or traditional, learning is incredible. And it is available to nearly every woman. Even Malala Yousafzai, and her champion father, understand the value of educating a woman.

We, women, MUST be the mirrors for our children, our husbands, or communities. We can speak, not only from a lifetime's worth of experience, but from our knowledge based on stretching our minds in a classroom, from being fed by those whose brilliance is that of a teacher. And we can share - by studying, complaining, writing, choosing, testing, thinking, with our children - by our example, we can teach the world, or at least, inspire our own to continue to learn.

I'm amazed, that in 2017, 27 years since I began my education, there are still men and women who say women don't need a higher education. I am worried that there are women (and men) who believe women are not worthy, capable, financially able, to get into a classroom to learn. Or that there is no need for them to have a higher education. I am saddened that talks such as Eva's are still necessary - and that we applaud them as spectacular.

When will we listen? When will we learn that learning is important for everyone? When will society understand that it's as important to know how to double as recipe as it is to understand the Socratic way of teaching and Kepler's laws of planetary motion? It is important we not only know how to grow tomatoes as it is to understand botany - and the need for healthy soil. We need to know not only what to do when our kids have snot noses, but to understand the respiratory system. We need to understand how the United States government is set-up, and how it can break down - so we can teach and vote and advocate for what is right - we must know our rights. And soooooo much more.

Someday, just as I was, there will be a time when necessity is as important as breathing. Whether that be the intense need, not just desire, to learn, to leave, to work, to find independence. And higher learning is a journey - which means, that just as buying a week's worth of groceries takes budgeting and planning, so does getting on that path to a Higher Education - and don't let anyone tell you there is no money for you to go to school. There are so many many many resources.

Eva - thank you for your talk, it was beautiful. And I'm saddened it was necessary.

(Addendum - I keep thinking of so much more I can say about this topic - never-ending, but one thing I've learned from being in the classroom all these years is this - sometimes you just have to push "print" and be finished.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

AA and Scott -

Today is Scott's Independence Day. 25 years ago he declared his independence from alcohol, or as he calls it, Jim Barleycorn.

I am so proud of this man, his journey, and his continual diligence in staying sober - he serves, he preaches, he teaches, he examples, he lives his sobriety.

Scott's youngest daughter, Julie, posted this on Facebook today, and I'm sharing here - to honor both of them.

Today Marks 25 years sobriety for my father! We will be celebrating tomorrow his mile stone! I have many different feelings growing up in a divorce home! As a little girl my dad was my hero! I have had many feelings I have had to work through as an adult! I do however believe it has been the change in him that I have been shown the capacity a person can change and over come with seeing this in him. I am grateful I was able to live with him the short time I did before I had Madison!! I can see a lot of my father in myself! I have learned the valuable lessons from him such as not caring what people think! Learning to stand up for what I believe in even if I am the only one standing! I have learned to be true to myself above all else! I have learned that life doesn't always turn out the way we may want but there is always a new day to begin again! I admire the honesty of what I can share with my father and the compassion he has always shown the under dog struggling! I have held this trait throughout my life because of him! I see the value in everyone where many would see it lacking because of him! I saw a man at my young age loose everything, not want anything to do with his religion, family You hold a love for your family and religion in your own way today.... and made a change to be a better man! I love you dad! I don't say or see you nearly enough! I do value the lessons that you taught and the memories you gave that you couldn't otherwise if you had not made the choice to change!! Much love and respect to your day of Independence from your old self!!! I love you!!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Women and Education - Eva Witesman -

Regardless of your religious persuasions, listen to this -
well worth the 28 minutes,
and then let's talk.