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."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Inner Monologue

When you get the kind of news that nobody likes to get, the kind that stops you in your tracks and makes you re-think your ways and your habits and your life, the kind that helps regrets to surface and hope to disappear, it doesn't feel right that life goes on all around you as if nothing has changed.

I want to stop people in parking lots, in stores, on bike trails, at schools, and tell them what is happening. I want to tell them to stop acting like life is normal. I mean, how can everyone just go on doing normal everyday things when something so horrible is happening just under their noses?

Why do I have to keep on doing all the things that I always do - making meals, doing laundry, driving people where they need to be, shopping for food or clothes or school supplies or anything when all I really want to do is sit in my bed and read or sleep or eat copious amounts of ice cream or chocolate or nothing at all.

It seems unfair that I have to continue to act like everything is normal when it's not.

Sleep is such a beautiful escape. But then I have to wake up.

16 years ago this August my father was diagnosed with the worst kind of cancer in his brain and given months to live. Cancer in the brain. It makes me think of some terrible creature, living inside of his head, eating away at whatever it sees. Devouring his memories, his abilities, his life. He made it almost to the end of January.

16 years later, on the first day of September, my mother is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Stage 3.

I always choose to find the good in the bad. I always choose to find happiness when there is sadness. But this time it is not so easy. It is almost too much. I find myself crying when I least expect it. I no longer control my emotions, it's like they control me.

My brother told me that, if you think about it, cancer is a gift. I could have been told that my mother was in a horrible accident and died. Instead, we are given the gift of time. And it's true. More time with her is a beautiful thing. But some days it is hard to see beyond this cancer that has taken up residence inside of her without permission.

So, I wear my smiling mask and I wait.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Monster Inside

Around 30 years ago I would often lay awake at bedtime or wake in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, with a song or a poem taking shape in my mind. I quickly learned that I would not be able to sleep until I woke up and wrote out the words in my head. The last time that happened was sometime before I moved from California to Utah.

Fast forward to Friday night two weeks ago, when it happened again. The sensation was familiar but it was an experience I had all but forgotten. It took me a while to realize that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep until the words were written down somewhere besides my brain, so I got up and wrote.

The Monster Inside

This shell that I wear
A facade, at best
Just houses a monster
Awake or at rest

(There is rarely any in-between)

On terrible days
The facade starts to break
And the monster inside
Is alive and awake

(It seems to have a mind of its own)

My guard is let down
As each piece falls away
The monster controls
All I do, all I say

(There is no going back once it's done)

My shell cracked so easily
It makes me feel sick
I'll rebuild - a fortress
Of mortar and brick

(Then pray that it holds)

They call me their friend
But what if they see
This monster that lives
And breathes inside of me?

(I never can let me be completely me)

The monster is arrogance,
Impatience and defeat.
It is anger, pride, contention,
Hatred, loathing, fear, deceit.

And walls or none, the monster's fate is completely up to me.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Make Way For Ducklings

Bad photo timing for one little duckie.

Yesterday the kids came in from the back yard full of squealy voices and excitement. 

"Mooooooom! There's a mother duck and a bunch of her babies in our backyard! OHMYGOSHTHEYARESOCUTE!!"

So of course I had to investigate. And sure enough...

They were so adorable to watch! Wherever Mama duck went, all her little babies would follow. When Mama stopped, they stopped. When Mama sat, they sat. When Mama walked, they walked. 

I am not sure how in the world they ended up in our backyard, or even in our neighborhood for that matter. I actually saw a mother duck crossing a busy road with her ducklings about a month ago. Cars were stopped, there was traffic backed up, and I couldn't see why except that there were two guys in the road. When we started moving again, there they were - mother duck and babies waddling down the sidewalk, unharmed.

And because I know God teaches me in parables, I wondered if there was a lesson in all of this for me. Here's what I decided. Just like those baby ducklings, my kids watch everything I do. Their actions are a reflection of my actions. I love when I see them doing the things that I love, like music and theater and reading and writing. But I don't love it so much when they do things like put themselves down or speak unkindly to others. If I'm being honest, both the good and the bad are a reflection of what they see me do.  

So, like this mother duck that visited our backyard for a while yesterday, I need to remember that my babies (they love being called that) are watching, listening and learning from every thing that I do. I'm not saying that I need to take personal responsibility for every bad choice they make, because they ultimately decide for themselves what they will or will not do, but I can try my best to be an influence for good and hope it guides them in their choices.

I love how you can see the duckling trying to jump onto the platform at :05 and the mom just waits for the little guy to figure out what to do. Then at about :11 he comes running in from the side.