Thursday, September 21, 2017

If the Shoe Fits...

You see these shoes here? This pair of Chucks have been around for as long as I can remember. I can't recall if I bought them in junior high or high school, but I know they have been around for a good, long time.

They are obviously well-loved. The rubber soles have started to crack in places, the canvas fabric has become faded, weather-worn and fragile. They are torn, frayed, and holey. But I just can't bring myself to get rid of them, no matter how tattered they become. They hold so many memories. If they were still in good condition I could donate them to a thrift store, but the best place for them would likely be a trash can. (It hurts me to even say that.)

When I wear them, I look down and see the shoes I wore on my first date. I see the shoes I wore on my first road trip with friends. I see the shoes I was wearing when I broke my leg and had a baby on the same day. They are not just the pair of old, worn out shoes that others see. To me, they are memory keepers.

People are like that, too. Sometimes, on the outside, they look a little worse for the wear. But when we take the time to get to know someone, we learn the story behind the facade. Every person has a unique story, experiences that only they have had and only they can share.

The next time you see someone in a pair of old, ratty shoes, think of the stories they could tell.

(Both the person and their shoes.)


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lost In Emotion

I went on Facebook the other day to waste some time (that's what usually ends up happening, anyway) and found out that my brother-in-law's dad had passed away. The week before the same thing happened to the father of a close friend. 

It's crazy how all the emotions associated with my own father's death, over 16 years ago, come right back up to the surface when I hear of someone I know losing a parent, or a child, or a friend.

We attended the funeral service for our good friend's father. It was a beautiful service, filled with stories of his goodness and love, and we couldn't help but compare all that was said to the life our friend is living. He could be described in much the same way as his father, and I guess that is part of his father's legacy, to pass on the good in him to his children, so they can continue what he started.

I couldn't help comparing myself to my own Dad's wonderful qualities, and finding parts of him still alive there in me was a beautifully overwhelming thing.

Here's the other thing I've been thinking about - grief. I have discovered that grief does not happen in a perfect cycle. It does not happen when or where you want or expect it to. It can show up on a random Thursday on aisle 3 at the grocery store when a song on the overhead system evokes a memory. It can show up in the middle of the day when you have some form of inspiration and have the thought that your Dad is right there, whispering ideas into your mind. It will show up when you attend a funeral - any funeral, even one for someone you don't know - and you may find yourself a blubbering mess, worried that the family will wonder why you are so emotional about someone you didn't even know. 

Grief does not follow any patterns. It does not get "easier with time". You may remember the pain and heartache less, but the person that is gone is always there in your heart. You don't want to forget them and you don't want others to forget them either. 

In 2013 I wrote about how thinking in terms of Horcruxes helped me work through my emotions after the death of a good friend. The last couple of paragraphs read:

There are a million things I could say that I haven't over the last year, but the one thing that really stands out lately is this: in losing Jason I have gained something else - a whole network of friends who look out for and care about each other. Because Jason was such a big fan of the Harry Potter books, I like to think of it in terms of Horcruxes.

Jason is no longer here with us but a small part of him is alive in every person who loved him.  So, even though he may not be here with us physically we can still have a part of him with us when we associate with each other.  He lives on in each of us. We are like his Horcruxes, anchoring fragments of his soul to the earth in the memories that we've shared with him. Every person who has a memory of Jason holds a piece of his story. I think that when we remain connected to each other we remain connected to him.  That is something I can hold on to.  That is something I am thankful for.    


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More Jokes for Kids!

I still put jokes in my kids' lunches. Every day. We're going on somewhere around 15 years of this now, so finding new jokes is often a challenge. I have learned that I can recycle jokes from 2 years past and the kids have forgotten them. Thanks to this discovery, I'm going to start adding the good jokes I find to my collection here so I can recycle them every couple of years. I mean, I do still have at least another 11 years of this!

Q: How do you tie up two space men?

A: With an astro-knot!

Q: Why do cows have hooves instead of feet?

A: Because they lactose.

Q: How do you know when the moon has enough to eat?

A: When it's full!

Q: What happens when you play Beethoven backwards?

A: He de-composes.

Q: What do you call a funny mountain?

A: Hill-arious

Q: Why do Norwegians have barcodes on their ships?

A: So they can Scandinavian!

Q: What makes pirates such great singers?

A: They can hit the high C's!

Q: What did the ninja order at Burger King?

A: A Whoppaaaaaa!

Q: What do you call a witch who lives at the beach?

A: A sand witch!

Q: Did you hear about the lumberjack who got fired for cutting down too many trees?

A: He saw too much.

Q: What does a robot frog say?

A: Rib-BOT

Q: What did the ground say to the earthquake?

A: You crack me up!

Q: Why don't lions eat clowns?

A: Because they taste funny.

Q: What do you call a belt made out of $1 bills?

A: A waist of money.

Q: What do you call a belt made out of watches?

A: A waist of time.

Q: What do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft?

A: A Flat Miner

Q: What's the first thing a taxi driver says to a wolf?

A: Where, wolf?

Q: What do you call a sleeping dinosaur?

A: A dino-snore

Q: What happens when you get a bladder infection?

A: Urine trouble

And, a few nerd jokes for good measure...

Q: Why can't the Ender Dragon understand a book?

A: Because he always starts at the end.

Q: Why do Daleks eat apples?

A: Because an apple a day keeps The Doctor away.

Q: What do you call a time traveling cow?

A: Doctor MOO!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sowing and Sewing

In the course of working on costumes for the show my daughter is in at her high school, my sewing machine went kaput. I mean, there I was, sewing a waistband onto a skirt, when BAM. No power. It completely shut down. I tried plugging my machine into various outlets around the house, hoping that somehow one of them would have a magic power source that would bring it back to life. My attempts were unsuccessful.

My sewing machine is 25 years old. It was a gift to me from my husband's grandmother, along with lessons to learn how to use it. That meant so much to me to receive such a gift back then. I taught myself to make simple things at first, small patchwork quilts and pillows, and then got brave and tried things like maternity clothes and then dresses for my girls when they were small. Since then I have sowed that talent to where I feel pretty comfortable trying just about anything. All on this little machine.

I sent a frantic text to Allen, detailing all my fruitless efforts to revive my machine. His simple response was this: Time for a new one.

I love that man.

I went to a local Bernina store in search of a used, newer machine that would hopefully last me another 25 years. I found some great options, then Allen reminded me that his brother buys/fixes/sells Berninas as a side job/hobby. So I contacted my brother-in-law and, long story short, ended up with the Rolls-Royce of sewing machines at a steal of a price.

The creative possibilites before me are suddenly endless. I want to finish these costumes so I can start to design and construct the ideas that keep floating around in my brain!

As for my old machine, I am still planning to pay the small fee to get it running again. Like an old friend who has taught me a lot, I can't just leave it behind.

And with my new machine? I can't wait to reap from what I sew.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Of Singing and Writing and Discovering

It has happened. My baby, who is no longer a baby, is in school full-time.

I was recently re-reading a book that I love, The Running Dream. At one point in the story she talks about how the finish line in a race is really also the starting line. A beginning of something new to conquer. I've thought about that a lot.

We are down from 10 kids in the house to only 6. And when I tell people 'only six kids at home' I get why they think that's kind of funny. But to me, it's kind of sad.

My mom's cancer seems to be gone, but the doctors are cautiously optimistic. She hasn't been declared cancer free yet, but her visits to the doctors are less frequent and she's getting her energy back. So, although I can still go visit anytime I like, she is not as dependent on me for rides and care. This is a wonderful, beautiful thing.

But man, what do I do with all this free time?

I thought I had my life figured out. I have put my interpreting career on the back burner for so long, just waiting for this time in my life. I am still needed and wanted in my profession. But I have discovered it's not really what I want to do anymore. So I am torn.

I can't let go of interpreting, not yet. It's a huge part of who I am and how I feel I remain best connected to the Deaf community. I'm exploring ways to maintain that connection without needing to be an actual certified interpreter any longer, but for now I just can't let go. I just can't justify paying for hours and hours of workshops to maintain my certification when I work so little, but I do it anyway. I'm not sure what it is that keeps me tethered to this, but I'm going to figure it out, as well as figuring out some way to stay close to ASL and the Deaf community. I have some ideas, some totally outlandish, some completely doable. So I'm exploring those. And discovering more about me.

This completely new phase in my life has helped me to understand two absolutes about myself. One is that singing makes me happy. The other is that writing makes me happy. So I'm going to make time every day to do both.

I guess this is the beginning. My new starting line.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Change Is Hard

We have been going through a whole series of changes over the last month. And it is hard.

Allen TY and his cute family have moved to Northern California for an internship over the summer, which will be followed by another internship in another state to finish out the year. I get it, kids move on, it's what we want them to do, and I'm happy for them and their successes and adventures - but do they have to go so far away? It's hard.

Kobe (formerly known as All-a-Boy) has graduated from high school and will be leaving for New Mexico for the summer to work at a scout camp. There is still so much to do and remember before he leaves tomorrow! But I'm letting him enjoy one last morning of sleeping in. Once he returns home at the end of the summer, he will head off to school in Idaho with Julia. That makes 4 kids that have left home. And I guess I'm happy they do that. But still, a bit of my heart leaves with them. It's hard.

Little X graduated from kindergarten, which means he will be in school full-time next year. He's my baby - so now what? I feel like I need to re-define myself. Initially, I thought I would go back to interpreting at least part-time, but there are so many politics involved in that right now that I just can't see myself pursuing it. So what do I do? Find a dream job as an assistant librarian?  Volunteer in my kids' classrooms? I'm still unsure. It's hard.

Hubba moves on to middle school next year. Tomorrow he graduates from the 6th grade. And Little O was accepted into the same accelerated studies program that Curly is in now. Which means they will both be at our neighborhood school, leaving Little X at the school we've been going to for (I think) 8 years. So I have cancelled our school choice and transferred them all back to our neighborhood school. I wasn't expecting all of the emotion that I've been experiencing over that change. I am going to miss that school so much! This could be a post in itself.

I will miss seeing Marci at the crosswalk every morning with a smile and a wave for everyone who drives by. I will miss the wave from Amy as we're crossing paths in dropping our kids off in the morning. I will miss the awesome office staff and nurse who have been so helpful to our family. I will miss the opportunity for Little X to be in the amazing Mrs. Pace's class when he's old enough. I'll miss carpooling with my neighbor, Sarah, who loves my boys and lets them know it. I'm even going to miss being in charge of the Golden Apple award for the PTA. I'll miss seeing my friends Rachel and Natalie at assemblies and activities. I'm going to miss Janett in the library and how fun she makes things there (library time is one of my kids' favorite things about that school). I'm going to miss the music classes that Mrs. Seamons made so fun for them, teaching many of my kids to play the recorder and ukulele as well as songs that are still sung in my house on repeat. Mostly, I will miss the memories being made. It's so hard.

My mom finished her last round of chemo at the end of March. What a relief! She is getting her hair back, slowly, but she is still experiencing some neuropathy in her feet and hands as a side effect. She went in for some routine bloodwork earlier this month and they noticed that her CA125 (test for tumor markers in ovarian cancer) was elevated. So she got a PET scan, which initially we got pretty hopeful news from as far as ovarian cancer goes. They tested her CA125 again, and it was continuing to rise, so the doctor got some more opinions on her PET scan and they think she has a very small nodule of cancer that has returned. Very small = good, right? Not really. Any recurrence of cancer that soon after completing chemo is an indication that the cancer could be aggressive. They still aren't positive that the "nodule" isn't actually scar tissue from surgery, so now we wait for clarification. She'll have a CT scan next month which they will compare to the PET scan and we'll see where we go from there. There are no words for how much I hate cancer and all it has taken from me. This is incredibly hard.

The one thing I have noticed the most in the face of all of this change is that it is a great reminder to me of what is most important. And despite how hard all of this is, I can see the good in all of it.

Allen and Kia are opening up a wider world of opportunities for their family's future as they travel and work in these internships.

Kobe is going to gain some great insight and experience as he lives away from home, which will prepare him in so many ways for his future.

Little X and I are both learning to be more independent as he transitions to a full day of school. And I'm sure it will give me more opportunities to explore, discover and strengthen my talents.

Going to our neighborhood school will help my kids strengthen their friendships in our neighborhood. It will be wonderful for all of my elementary aged kids to be in the same school again.

As for my mom - this has brought us together closer as a family and has given me opportunities to spend more time with her.

(But I still hate cancer. SO. MUCH.)

And all of this has helped me grow closer to God as I recognize that He is ultimately in control.
Be still, and know that I am God. —Psalm 46:10 #scripture #LDS:   

Friday, January 20, 2017

Love Changes Everything

You want to know what I've been thinking about lately? And not just thinking about, but more like poring over and maybe even borderline obsessing on? Love. And its ability to change the world. Not just in big ways, although there is that. I'm talking small, simple things that can happen in my home, and then my community, and then beyond.

Every person on this planet is going through something hard. I don't care who you are. So instead of comparing ourselves to others or lifting ourselves by putting others down, why can't we just all LOVE each other and support each other?

My children are awesome. Every single one of them. They have their struggles and challenges, and so do I. As a mother, nothing hurts me more than seeing my children hurting and pretending like they're not. It tears me apart. I can show love here at home, tell them how amazing and wonderful and smart and kind they are - but when that is not reinforced in the way they are treated by their peers, there is a point when they stop believing me. When I tell them how incredible they are, they start saying, "says my mom" or "you have to think that, you're my mom". 

When kids are little, they own their awesomeness. What happens between then and the tween years, when they start to doubt themselves and their abilities and their uniqueness? It's outside forces. People and situations that I can not control. All I can do is hope that I have infused my children with enough love and light and hope to get them through the hard times that are inevitable. I don't want their hearts to be too soft, and I don't want them to grow too hard. I want to find that balance.

Have you ever met someone who seems to always find the negative in every situation? Someone who seems to always cause division and contention? These people are hard to be around. I try the 'kill 'em with kindness' approach, but sometimes it gets to the point where it becomes too draining and I have learned when it is time to let go. It can be freeing. But then I continue to see these people around, and they continue to make me feel small. I know it is in my power to change this. But so far, I have not figured out how. I care too much about what people think. I wish I didn't, but I do.

Politics right now scare me. For many reasons, but mostly for what they are bringing out in people. So many people who I love and respect are filled with hatred and anger and fear. Instead of responding in this way, wouldn't love be a better answer? Whether or not we agree with what is going on, I can't see how our negative thoughts and actions toward those who need guidance and direction will help. But I can imagine how having a whole nation praying for someone would help them in a positive way. Love is always the right answer.

I wish that every one of my kids could understand their potential and see the goodness in themselves. I wish they could see themselves through my eyes. I wish that people who get to spend time with my kids every day could see them through my eyes. Ultimately, I wish all of us could see each other the way God sees us. With unconditional love and understanding.

I think about all of this way too much. And all I can do is continue to love, despite my brokenness and imperfection when I try.     

Here's what I can do. I can be a friend to someone who needs one. I can be a light to someone in darkness. I can show love where there is hate and anger and fear. And I can pray. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Light The World: 25 Ways in 25 Days

I am excited to be a part of this initiative to find ways to serve others over the Christmas season - 25 ways in 25 days. My daughter Julia, who is serving a mission for our church in New England, challenged our family to participate in this with her despite the miles between us. For the first time in a long time, I am excited for December.

If you would like to get some great ideas of ways that you can join us in serving others, there is more information, including a daily calendar for the month of December, HERE.

Here's what we've done so far...

Day 1: Worldwide Day of Service (Serve anyone, any time, anywhere, any way)

I took every available child with me to go help clean up my mom's yard. There is a giant walnut tree behind her house and a couple in her yard that scatter leaves all over her driveway and sidewalk. So we raked and swept and made it so that she no longer gets leaves tracked into her house. (And found 5 eggs amongst the leaves, left behind by her neighborhhod chickens which often come and kick bark from her flowerbed onto her driveway.)

Day 2: Honor Your Parents

I shared these memories on Facebook:

One of my favorite memories of my dad was when I was about a month away from getting married and I had a $188 fine I needed to pay, but not enough money to pay it. Without hesitation my dad gave me his entire collection of $2 bills and a roll of quarters to pay the fine. 

A favorite memory of my mom was back in high school when my brother and I talked endlessly about wanting to go see REM in concert and she surprised us by buying us tickets. My parents have always been wonderful examples to me of love, service and kindness. I am so blessed to call them my mom and dad!

Later that day I took my mom some of her favorite treats.

Day 3: Help Others to See (See the good in themselves, the good in the world, or literally to see by donating a pair of used eyeglasses to a charity)

I posted one of my favorite quotes on Facebook to remind others that we are all meant to SHINE.

I also went out of my way to tell people the genuine, kind thoughts I had of them. Sometimes it was awkward. But who doesn't love hearing about the good you see in them? It always went over well.

Day 4: Find a way to worship

This day seemed almost too easy to me, because we attend worship services at church every Sunday. However, this Sunday was extra special because we were able to attend the blessing of our sweet grandson. (Allen had to leave a little early for some meetings so he is unfortunately missing from the picture.)

We were also able to attend our own church meetings as well as watching an uplifting Christmas Devotional later that evening. 

Day 5: Help to heal the sick

One of the suggested ways to do this was to donate blood. So I did.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Random Thoughts

I realize it has been a couple of months since I have written and I thought it would be good to post an update. My mom has finished her first 9 weeks of pre-surgery chemotherapy and is scheduled for surgery mid-December. After surgery she will undergo another 9 weeks of chemotherapy and then we'll see where we're at at that point. Ovarian cancer stinks. However, I feel very blessed to live close enough to her to be able to take her to every appointment and be an advocate for her in her medical care. Cancer has to be my least favorite thing in this world.

That being said, last month my sister was also diagnosed with medullary cancer of the thyroid. She had extensive (6 hours) surgery to remove almost all of the cancer and is recovering well. She will start radiation treatments before long. Again, I am so glad that she lives close to me and that I can be available to offer support as needed. But I still wish cancer would just go away.

With all of this going on in my family, I find myself down quite a bit. I don't like to talk about it because I feel like people will think I'm being too negative and need to look at the bright side of things. Believe me, I try. I am able to find the sunshine in my storms about 75% of the time but some days it just feels better to let the rain and gloom soak me through and through.

That being said, there is so much sunshine to be thankful for. There are so many HUGE, life-changing events in our lives here that I am behind in writing about on my blog! For one, on the day my mom was diagnosed, my oldest daughter Elle married this awesome guy:

Meet Calvin, my new son-in-law. He is awesome. They are a perfect match and seeing them together makes me so happy! I love how much they love each other.

Also, my oldest son Allen TY and his sweet wife Kia gave us the best gift ever at the end of October:

Yes, I am now blessed with the much anticipated status of grandma. Isn't he the most perfect baby you've ever seen?  In the moments that I get to hold him nothing else matters.

Another one of the sunshine moments has been helping design, make and rent costumes for my high schoolers' production of The Little Mermaid. If you know me well then you know that I have been obsessed with Little Mermaid for many, many years. (27, to be exact) All-a-Boy was cast as Sebastian and Cowgirl has roles as a chef, a lionfish and a flamingo. It is the most beautiful version of this musical I have ever seen and the amazing sets and costumes along with talented cast and crew are more than anyone would expect from a high school show. I have been to every showing and I am not even close to sick of it.

I had this fantastic idea the other day, which I would love for someone to take and make happen. I'm sure there are a good number of people like me who used to love musical theater in high school and would love to continue to be performing on stage, but life circumstances prevent it for now. All of my dream roles are ones I am too old to pull off anymore. So, I propose (for lack of a better title coming to mind right now): "Oldies Theater". We should have entire shows cast with "more life-expereinced" actors and actresses. Then we can still fulfill our dreams of playing certain roles later in life, even if we're "past our prime", so to speak. I think it's brilliant.

On a different note, I have been profoundly affected by the influence of music in my life lately. Including finding new, deeper meaning to the lyrics of many of the songs in Little Mermaid. I wrote this on facebook one morning when a song on the radio brought out some emotions I didn't even realize were bubbling just beneath my surface:

"Music is on my mind today. And I tried to find a quote that expresses what music does for me, but there wasn't one. I grew up in a home with two Deaf parents who both loved music. It was played at full volume for the appreciation of everyone in the family - a whole beautiful mix of oldies and songs from whatever radio station we were tuned in to. Some of us loved the beats more than the words, some just loved the freesytle dancing involved, but we all loved music. No matter where life has taken me, music has been there. It helps me to understand myself. It helps me to express myself. When I want to be happy I can turn to music. When I need to remember (or forget) I can turn to music. Sometimes music helps me realize there are emotions just under the surface that I need to let escape. Often the words of a song will speak straight to my heart, or the peaks and valleys of the music will express what I'm feeling. In that moment when a song is playing, I remember who I am or who I want to be."