Sunday, November 23, 2014

Grandma’s Timing

One of my first thoughts when Russ’s mom died was a little dismay about the timing.  She died on the 30th of October and there were two big problems with this.  First that the kids and I were planning to record a bunch of interviews with Grandma later in the month, which she obviously was no longer around for.  And second, since we were already planning to drive to Utah for Thanksgiving that meant that we would be driving it twice in 4 weeks.  Ouch.

But it turned out that there was also some really terrific things about the timing, things I will always be grateful to Grandma for/about.

The girls marched with the high school marching band this year, and their last game was Halloween night.  Their last competition was all day on November 1st.  We drove to Utah for the funeral on the 2nd, so they didn’t have to miss the end of the season.


Our first fall in Oregon Russ & I took a drive into the Columbia River Gorge hoping to see some fall color.  It was a beautiful day and we had a great time but we didn’t see anything that looked like fall.  When we drove through the Gorge on our way to Utah for the funeral it was really gorgeous.  I’d thought I would try to go back to sleep as soon as possible but the colors were so pretty that I just sat and watched and tried to take pictures until we were through the gorge.



In the first day or two that we were in Utah Jason mentioned that he had 2 tickets for his men’s chorus concert that Saturday.  He had told me that he’d have to miss a concert because it was on the day of the funeral, but it had never occurred to me that there would be another performance the next night.  It wasn’t super convenient, but I’ve never had the chance to go to one of Jason’s concerts and this is going to be his last semester in the men’s chorus.  I decided then and there that I was going to drive down to Provo for the concert.  I ended up taking Jenna with me and we totally loved it.  I’ve listened to the concerts every time on the BYU web page, but being there was amazing. Throughout the entire concert I was thinking that it was so amazing to be able to be there and soak it all in.

  Actually, Grandma, your timing was impeccable.                                           


Worth It

About 18 months ago we were driving home from Utah and had one of Josh's friends with us.  We drove as far as Boise on Saturday and spent the night in a hotel, planning to drive the rest of the way on Sunday.  I decided that since I didn't *have* to drive on that Sunday but was choosing to do so out of convenience, we would find a church near the hotel and go to sacrament meeting before heading home.  The kids weren't thrilled with this idea but I was firm about it.  We had a hard time finding a church building on the website the next morning and I could tell the kids were hopeful that I'd give up and we could just get on the road. 

I finally figured out where we should go and the kids reluctantly got into some semblance of church clothes.  Josh's friend realized that his church shirt was out in the van and decided that he would just wear his blazer over a white tshirt.

When we got to the church building and walked into the chapel I saw that there was a real pipe organ and got kind of excited.  The hymns were pretty normal sounding, but the postlude?  It. Was. Amazing.  And the talks were really extraordinary.  As we walked out of the chapel (but not until the postlude was over!) each one of the kids commented on how good the meeting was and how glad they were that we'd come.  Josh's friend said that he wished he'd worn his church shirt!  I was so grateful for the whole experience.


Last spring we were in Utah over 2 weekends.  Often when we are traveling and go to church we just do "vacation church," and just go to sacrament meeting.  This trip was right after general conference though, and one of speakers had talked about the importance of going to all of our meetings all of the time.  I decided that especially since we were going to be in Utah for 2 Sundays we would stay for all 3 meetings both Sundays.

This was *not* a popular decision with my shy children.  Each one of them let me know how unhappy they were with this decision but I stuck to my guns, wanting to impress on the kids the importance of attending all of our meetings where we were able to. 

After finding the right class for the triplets I went into Sunday School with Russ, Jason, and Josh.  I love Sunday School and thought that the lesson on the Exodus would be great for the week before Easter.  My expectations couldn't have been farther from the truth.  Instead of a great and inspiring lesson the substitute (who was old enough to know better) had prepared a power point for his lesson, narrating the sequence of events of the Exodus using screen shots from the Charlton Heston movie of The 10 Commandments complete with a commentary about individual actors.  The awful pinnacle of the lesson was a 2+ minute video clip of Moses parting the Red Sea.  Jason and I commiserated later that every time it has seemed like the spirit might be coming into the lesson the teacher would say something again and it would be gone. Instead of sitting in Sunday School basking in spirituality with my boys the experience felt more like torture.

When the lesson was (blessedly) done, Russ and the boys went off to priesthood meeting leaving me alone in the Relief Society room.  In that moment I felt like an idiot for having made us stay for all of the meetings.  I felt so alone.

A woman came in and sat next to me.  Realizing that she didn't recognize me she introduced herself and asked where I was visiting from.  I hesitated for a moment, then laughed and said that I just wasn't used to identifying myself as being from Oregon.  She laughed with me and asked where I had lived before Oregon.  I, of course, said that we had lived in North Carolina for almost 20 years.  Much to my surprise her eyes brightened and she said that she used to live in North Carolina.  When I asked where she had lived, she said Durham.  Can you imagine the shock and awe I felt in that moment?  It turned out that we knew many of the same people and were happily occupied until Relief Society started talking about the places and people we both loved.  Just as the lesson was about to start she told me that the teacher had also once lived in Durham, so after the lesson I introduced myself to her and we also talked.  Instead of leaving church that day sad and lonely, my heart was happy because of my bonus North Carolina "reunion."  I felt like I had been blessed because of my faithfulness in staying for all of the meetings that day.

When we went to Utah for Russ's mom's funeral we traveled both ways on Sunday.  It was just the way our schedule worked out.  And I know that there will still be some times that we do go to "vacation" church.  But I also know that when we do go despite the discomfort or the sacrifice, we will be blessed.  Maybe not always in warm and fuzzy ways.  Maybe not always in immediately apparent ways.  But I know it will happen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Part 4a: Operation Survive the Portland Winter

In the summer of 2013 my friend Lindsay’s husband started a one year fellowship in Miami.  They moved from Durham to an 11th floor apartment on the beach just north of Miami.  From the beginning I thought going to visit her would be amazing, and as she began to post incredible pictures on facebook and her blog I became determined.  I love Lindsay and I love the ocean, this would be a fantastic way to combat the depression of the long Oregon winter, and I was pretty sure I’d have enough Southwest miles to make it work.  I finally figured out when I could do it and put myself on her calendar. 

From the first moment I arrived it was an amazing 4 days.  Lindsay and I always have plenty to talk about and we talked until we were bleary every night.  It was fun to get to visit with Brian as well, and he was so kind and got me mother’s day treats since that’s when I was there.  (I must put in a plug for Russ & the kids who were at home cleaning the garage for me—quite possibly the best mother’s day gift ever.)  Lindsay was worried that I would be bothered because it was windy but instead I loved the waves the wind created. We had such a great time on the beach, in the water, in the Everglades, in the water, walking to the jetty, and in the water.  I often wished I’d brought my big camera, but other than that it was just about perfect. 

One night I woke up and looked outside and could see the biggest clouds I’d ever seen—filling the whole sky, just rushing by.  (Sorry—that didn’t photograph well.)  Another thing I wish I’d taken a video of was the palm trees in their picnic area blowing at night in the crazy wind, illuminated by lights from below. 

I loved their pool.  It was seriously almost as warm as a hot tub and was such fun to warm up in.  Of course when we had to get out and back into the wind we didn’t feel so warm anymore.

I had such a great time in Miami and am so glad I went!

 10408647_10152078530032131_6277827530863823108_n10310530_10152345186013762_3883883917881149573_nIMG_0056IMG_0073IMG_0084IMG_0088IMG_0093IMG_0135IMG_0141IMG_0143Lindsay panoIMG_0004IMG_9899

Friday, November 14, 2014

Waiting for the miracle

Last year after my fall I had quite a few tests in the ER.  In addition to finding out that my head was ok and my neck was ok and my back was ok and my rib was broken, the tests found a nodule on my kidney and a cyst on my uterus and I was told that I’d need to follow up on these to make sure they weren’t dangerous.

At some point as I was going to appointments to sort these things out I started having the feeling that seriously important information was going to come to light as a result of my fall.  So when I went for the ultrasound I thought “now they are going to find something important about my uterus.”  (Nope.  After the world’s longest ultrasound they gave my uterus a clean bill of health.)  And as I lay in the MRI machine (such strange noises!) I thought “there must be something going on with my kidney.”  (Nope.  Lots of people have benign fatty nodules on their kidneys; I am one of them.) 

At some point realizing that out of pocket max was met I decided to have some blood work done that we normally wouldn’t have been able to afford.  I was sure that this blood work would turn up a significant piece of information, some kind of important deficit that I would then be able to remedy that would make a difference in my life.  I did find out that I was low in several nutrients, but still nothing like I expected.

But as I was talking to the physician’s assistant that I saw that day (she went to Duke!  yay!) and giving her a list of the medications and supplements I was taking, I mentioned the ongoing and sometimes intense sacroiliac pain that I was frequently experiencing.  When she said that I should have an xray of my SI joint, I agreed (remember the out of pocket max?) even though I was sure that it wouldn’t show anything.

Except that I was wrong.  It did show something.  It showed that I have arthritis in my SI joint.

More interesting than that information was what happened because of that information.  Suddenly the head doctor of the clinic who was no longer taking patients was interested in seeing me.  Apparently arthritis in the SI joint was one of the things she dealt with.  Between her lack of bedside manner and my confusion about what she wanted me to do,  it was quite possibly one of the most awkward doctor’s appointments I’ve ever had.  She ended up prescribing a medication that she said would help me sleep—by preventing the nerves from expressing pain.  I was very excited about this, since night time was when my SI pain was the worst and I’d slept very badly for several months before that.

I got the prescription filled right away and took the medication for the first time that night.  I climbed into bed and lay there, waiting for the pain to start.

But I didn’t.

Instead I slept, and slept, and slept.  And didn’t wake up till many hours had passed and my bladder was just about bursting.  After months of nighttime pain and waking up every hour, It was amazing.

Over the next few days, I had a dawning awareness.  This was the miracle I’d been waiting for.  And if I had to go through all of that (fall/concussion/broken rib/ultrasound/mri) to get to this, it was worth it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Missing Mom

A few weeks ago I saw reminders everywhere that I should wake up early the next day, October 8th, for a total lunar eclipse that was to be visible throughout the United States.  Not our part of the United States, of course, since by the beginning of October Oregon is just as likely to be covered by clouds as not.  But if it had been clear, I would have been able to see this.


It made me smile.  October 8th would have been my mom’s 74th birthday.  When I was growing up she would always tell me that Cynthia, the name that she and I shared, meant “moon goddess.”  Of course the moon would be performing on my mom’s birthday.

It’s been almost 17 years since my mom died.  I’m used to living a life without her and I am usually ok with that, but in the last few month I’ve missed her more than normal.

Several months ago I had an interaction with someone that made me feel my motherless status.  It was clear that the other person disapproved of my thoughts & feelings on a really fundamental level.  In that moment I just wanted to be around my mother and feel her love for me and her approval of me.  Even if she had disagreed with me on the topic of that interaction, she would have disagreed while still loving me completely.  She was wonderful that way.

One morning this summer Jenna and I went to our favorite farm to pick berries.  I looked over at her in the other seat of the van and was just amazed at how lovely she was, and a little frustrated that she is so unable to see that.  I just wished that I could have asked my mom—is this how you felt about me?  Was your heart almost unbearably full when you looked at me?  Did you wish you could find a way to show me how much I *was* to counteract my own personal vision of how much I lacked?

Russ’s mom’s death 2 weeks ago brought up all sorts of unexpected grief about my mom’s death.  Russ’s mom lived until she was 85.  She lived long enough not only to see all of the grandchildren but to see a lot of great grandchildren as well.  She was so lucky that way.  I often wonder--what kind of 74 year old would my mom have been?  Would she have still been vigorous?  My mom didn’t live long enough to see her children all grown or to see them marry, let alone see their children.  I think of how delighted she would be with all of her grandchildren.  With my three youngest that were not born until several years after she died.  With her two great-grandchildren.  I’m so glad that we had her as long as we did, and I’m so grateful for the gift of love she had.  But I wish she had lived longer.  I sure miss her sometimes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dahlia Heaven

In the middle of the summer one of my friends posted some pictures on facebook of really lovely dahlias, and when I asked her where she’d taken them she told me of a vast dahlia farm on the other side of Portland.  One day in late August I took myself and my fully charged camera off to spend several delightful hours on the dahlia farm.

The setting was so terrific—acre after acre of blooming dahlias, with Mt. Hood in the background.

dahlias mt hood (3)

I took over 500 pictures.  I was like a kid in a candy shop.  At the end of the day I wasn’t sure which new flowers I should get for next year, just that I definitely needed some!

candlelight (1)chilsons pride (2)Croydon Masterpiece (1)DSC_0092DSC_0121DSC_0193DSC_0497DSC_0574herbert smith (1)helen richmond (1)DSC_0044Matilda huston (3)lindy (2)lauren micheleleila savannah rose (1)Neon splendor (1)Mardy Gras (7)mikayla miranda (2)miss deliah (1)wannabee (2)zakary robert (1)precious (3)oregon reign (4)outta da blue