Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lessons from Fall

Summer is my favorite time and every year I feel punched in the gut when I realize it’s really going to end.  But then once I reconcile myself to the change of season (especially if the skies stay blue) I am enchanted by the beauty that is Fall.  I’m also endlessly interested in the lessons (spiritual and not quite spiritual) that I learn from the things around me.
#1) The first year we were in Oregon I noticed that the leaves changed colors for a long LONG time.  First one kind of tree and then another, a succession of intensifying colors and leaves falling.  For a while I was a little cranky about this---I thought that it would be a lot more beautiful if everything turned at one in a glorious finale of color.  Like Maine, I thought.  (Not that I’ve ever been to Maine at all, much less to see the leaves.)  But then I realized that this gradual Fall had a serious benefit because it stretched out the beauty over a longer time.  Instead of one major moment there were a series of smaller moments. 
Sometimes I might want my life to feel like a (picture of a) Maine autumn looks, like the finale of a fireworks show.  But in reality it’s probably better to pace myself, to stretch out the moments of joy and fun and happiness over more time rather than experiencing them all at once. 
#2) In Hendersonville one time my dad took me for an autumn drive to show me some trees.  I can’t remember exactly how we got there, but I remember what we saw once we arrived—enormous flame colored trees around the perimeter of a factory.  He told me that every year those trees were brilliantly colored.  I’ve noticed that in the years since—that the trees that are beautiful one year are also beautiful the next. 
It was an adventure the first fall or two in Oregon (or would have been, had I been emotionally stable enough to appreciate it) learning the spots of fall beauty in the area.  The scarlet trees behind the gymnastics club, the multi-colored trees lining Evergreen, the late turning tree in the yard across the street, the red trees on the way to Glencoe, the burning bushes in the Costco Parking lot and at Intel.  Each year I watch for the now-predictable places of beauty, watch for them and cheer inwardly when they hit their peak of beauty.
I think maybe life is like this--that there are  predictable places of beauty in our lives, like a Christmas LotR marathon, family game nights, and a beach trip with friends.  Pieces of beauty small and large that dot our years, coming back every year to delight us.
That is also good for me to remember.  That the beach trip is over for this year, but it will come again.  That there are always things to look forward to, predictably beautiful moments that will bring happiness and joy.
#3) I can still remember the year in Durham that I was determined to take a picture of the perfect autumn leaf.  I looked and looked and looked.  And much to my surprise, I never found one.  Because when I looked up close, the most beautifully colored leaves were never perfect.  I finally had an a-ha moment: the colors come as the leaves are dying.  The colors are a moment of brilliance before the leaves fall from the trees and the trees go dormant. 
I thought for a long time that year about the profoundnesss of this understanding--that there can be flaws in things that are amazingly beautiful, that sometimes the process of death brings great beauty.  And I remember it every year as I scuff along the sidewalk through brightly colored leaves.
So forgive me, Autumn, for dreading your approach.  And thank you for your beauty and the lessons you teach.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Times and Seasons

"Do you still blog?" Jason asked the other night while we were talking on the phone. 

"Maybe once a month if I'm lucky," I answered with regret.


Blogging isn't popular anymore like it used to be, but I never blogged because it was a trendy thing to do.  I blogged then for the same reason I wish I was blogging now--because I had pictures and words and wanted a place to record them.


For whatever reason(s) I just can't seem to find the time in my life for a lot of things right now.  So I keep reminding myself that this season is extremely finite.  In fact I try not to look at the endpoint because it looms so large.  When it finally does arrive, I'll have time for different things, hopefully even more blogging.  But for now I'm just going to enjoy this season. 

[Blogged from my bed on my phone when I was supposed to be sleeping. ]

Monday, September 4, 2017

A nighttime miracle?

I’ve had some amount of pain during the night for years thanks to my unstable SI joint.  Thanks to medication it’s been well managed for over 3 years and wasn’t really something I thought a lot about.  Last year around Thanksgiving, though, a thyroid medicine change caused an enormous spike in my nighttime pain.  Instead of just being in my butt it was tension in my hamstrings, calves, and feet.  And instead of being managed by my medication, it was like being on fire all night long.

In the intervening months it’s been up and down, with an awful lot of down.  Unexpected things have set it off and sometimes the things that I have tried to manage the pain have ended up making it worse. 

It wasn’t very bad at the beach or on the cruise, which I now think is due to the excellent physical therapy treatment called “putting your legs in the warm minerally ocean for hours every day.”  Sadly this successful treatment isn’t covered by insurance.  Sad smile

In the weeks since we’ve been home from the cruise it’s gotten worse and worse and made my nights more and more miserable.  Two weeks ago I even bought a portable inflatable hot tub on Amazon, thinking that surely soaking in the hot water every night before bed would provide some relief.  To my surprise/disappointment/frustration it wasn’t helpful at all, although sitting out there every night with Russ was definitely a relationship benefit.


Last Sunday I noticed an announcement in the bulletin about a blood drive on Thursday.  I tend to ignore those announcements these days because the last time I gave blood a couple of years ago I bled so slowly that I timed out and they threw away my blood.  It hurt WAY too much for that to be ok with me, and I figured I’d have to find other ways to be a good citizen.  But this time the announcement said that there is a blood shortage in our area and I thought maybe, if I could find a way to increase my chances of donating successfully, I would donate again.  After church I did some googling (what did we do before google??) and found two suggestions: hydrate well (which I’d already known and already done) and take aspirin to thin the blood.  I tracked down some aspirin that day and took it that night and the next day, and worked on hydrating even more, even though I was really always drinking water already.

On Tuesday I had a massage with a new massage therapist at work.  I explained to him what my biggest problems are right now—the car accident shoulder, and the night time fiery tension.  After the massage he said something I wasn’t expecting to hear.  He said that my leg muscles felt very dehydrated, and that when muscles and fascia are dehydrated they can drag against each other and cause pain. 

This was interesting AND frustrating, since I was already trying so hard to be hydrated!  It made me think about the fact that while I was always drinking water, I rarely actually felt hydrated.  But I didn’t know what to do about it.  It was also frustrating that despite having had an excellent massage, Tuesday night was hugely painful.

Wednesday night was YW, and it was a combined personal progress night.  I didn’t want to go because I never want to go (though I’m always happy once I’m there) and I considered not going because I figured there would be plenty of leaders there and no one would miss me.  But I grabbed my water bottle and went, though a little late as always.

I was sitting between my friend who cuts my hair, and one of the other leaders.  As I grabbed my water bottle to take a drink, I told Kathy that I was signed up to donate blood the next day but I wasn’t very confident that I’d been able to, because I was having such a difficult time getting hydrated.  And then she said,

Sometimes I put a teaspoon of chia seeds in my water bottle because drinking the water with the chia in it makes the water stay in my body longer and hydrates me better.

My first thought was “that’s so strange" and my second was “good thing I have some chia seed I’ve never been able to figure out how to use, I’m totally going to try that.”  So Thursday morning I got up, grabbed a full water bottle, and added 3/4 t. of chia seed, shook it, and started drinking. 

Wow was that strange.  Kind of like drinking water with frog eyes in it.  But it wasn’t unbearable and so I kept drinking it.  The first thing I noticed was that I needed to go to the bathroom much less throughout the day.  The second thing I noticed was that when I went to give blood (after having had at least 6 chia seed spiked water bottles throughout the day) the needle went in much more easily and they got enough blood in time!!

[Fun facts: You have 20 minutes to donate blood.  It took me 9.5 minutes this time.  The guy said he thought the average was 6-7 minutes.  Russ is an excellent blood donater and currently holds the record for the Red Cross bus at Intel for a 4.5 minute donating.]

The third thing I noticed was that my muscles stayed relaxed.  All. Night. Long.  It was AMAZING and I was so grateful that I wanted to cry.  I was afraid to celebrate too soon, though, because I’ve had other randomly better nights.  So Friday I focused on more hydration again and again on Friday night I was fine!  Last night was my third good night, and that was after working outside for 7 hours in the heat on Cindy Lynn’s deck!

I’m hopeful for the first time in a long time.  I have prayed and prayed and prayed about this.  I have taken so many supplements hoping that they would help that buying a hot tub didn’t seem like an unreasonable expense.  I even investigated and bought (and am using) hemp oil, which is supposed to help with pain and sleeping.  Finally I feel like I have a real answer to my prayers, a miracle that occurred in the most random way possible.  I’m so glad I decided to try to give blood this week!


On Friday I googled more.  Some people, it seems, have problems hydrating well with plain water, which almost all I ever drink.  For the time being I’m going to try to drink only my frog-eye water, water with electrolytes in it, or at the very least, water with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of sea salt.  I’m very curious to see if I notice any other changes as I become better hydrated.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The tank top miracles

I always wish I could really see all of the places where the Lord touches my life, see and feel and understand which bits were evidences of divine love.  Would I be surprised?  Have I recognized many already?  Are there so many more I'm not seeing?

I wonder.

Sometimes something will happen and I'll think that it was a convenient coincidence...but then sometimes something else will happen that, for me anyway, solidifies the situation as a Tender Mercy.  Like the tank top miracles a couple of weeks ago.

My car accident shoulder has been bothering me this year.  Not in an every-minute-of-the-day kind of way, but at night and with some kinds of movement.  One day I was at work and mentioned to the naturopath that I probably needed some acupuncture on my shoulder.  A couple of hours later she came out of her office and said that she'd had a cancellation and could do it that afternoon after I was done working.  As I was sitting on her table and she was getting ready to start I had a little sinking feeling...she was going to need me to take my sweater off to access the front of my shoulder and that was going to make me uncomfortable.  But then just as quickly as I had that thought, I had another one.  In an unusual turn of events I was wearing a tank top under my sweater!

That morning I'd picked a v-neck sweater to wear and had wondered if it would be a little too low, so I'd also grabbed a tank top to wear under it even though in the back of my mind I knew that I regularly wore it alone.  Who knew how grateful I'd be for that tank top just a couple of hours later!

I think I told Jared about what had happened later when he asked me how my day was.  I told him I thought it was probably a tender mercy, and how grateful I'd been to have the tank top on under my sweater.


About two weeks later I was at work again and my shoulder was bothering me again.  I had to reach under the desk to pull out a plug and re-plug it and the action of reaching was seriously painful.  When I mentioned it to Hilary she told me that she had an opening on her schedule again that day.  (I should mention that both of these last minute openings were highly unusual, she's often booked out a week in advance.)  So once again I found myself sitting on her table, having that sinking feeling about needing to take my sweater off, and once again in EXACTLY the same way I realized...I was wearing a tank top!

It had happened in just the same way.  I had taken down another v-necked sweater that I regularly wore alone, been concerned that it would be too low, and put on a tank top first.  I hadn't even thought about it after that because (as it always does) within a few minutes sweater pulled up in front and the tank top wasn't even visible.

Sitting on the table in Hilary's office I happily pulled off my sweater.  But part of my brain was on fire.  "Did you SEE that?!?" it asking.  "Not once, but TWICE!"  Those random thoughts in my head (that really do sound like every other thought I've ever had) nudged me towards the tank tops, on days when having a tank top on was going to bring peace to my heart.

Tender mercies indeed.

Election Fallout...

I just saw a post on facebook talking about someone having a hard 2016 and feeling like they were still recovering from the last year.  I'm still not over 2016.  One of the parts of my life that seemed relatively stable last year that I didn't think needed that much worry (beyond the normal amount, anyway) was Cindy Lynn's health status.  I never expected the election would go the way it did, putting her access to healthcare in jeopardy.  That in and of itself is traumatic, but what's been worse has been the almost absolute silence from all of our family members.  I feel like I don't even know how to process it. I'll work and work on it and get to a place of calm (not necessarily peace, but at least neutrality) and then it will come up again in Washington and start all over again in my heart.  I normally chat with my sisters in a group chat at least several times a week--after the election I didn't feel able for almost 2 months.  I have felt so betrayed on so many levels.  And while I'm succeeding at surrendering to some of the difficult situations in my life, surrendering to the idea of my precious child not having access to the life saving medical treatments she needs...I just don't know how to do that.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Calling Thoughts

I'm not sure if you know this about me, but I don't do change well at all.  Not in any area of my life, really.

One place I'm almost always resistant ​to change is in my calling at church.  Even when I feel like I've had plenty of warning from the spirit that a change is coming (which, interestingly, has happened when I've had callings that I've loved--isn't it nice of Heavenly Father to have given me a heads up?) I've still struggled with the change.  And even when I've had a calling I haven't loved (bored behind the piano much???) I haven't handled change well.

Some of my less graceful responses to callings have included "no one cares about that calling" and "you want me to do what??" But despite my issues with change in general and with being asked to do something I don't want to do, I have a multifaceted testimony of callings.

I remember when I was called to be the Laurel advisor many years ago.  It was the first time I really saw that there was power in being set apart. I walked into the Bishop's office, was set apart, and walked out loving Brandi Butler.  And not because Brandi was easy to love, but because the spirit changed my heart.

Last year when I was called to play the piano in primary I wasn't thrilled about it.  It turned out to be a good experience in several ways, though. Yes, I was bored a good amount of the time.  (I'm not really good at doing a mediocre job of something while watching someone else do a mediocre job of something I'm terrific at!) But I was surprised at how often the primary songs would be in my mind, bringing peace though a difficult time in my life.  Best of all, being the pianist occasionally meant I got to sub as the chorister, including teaching one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs to the primary kids last year. 

At the beginning of this year I was asked to be the assistant Mia Maid advisor.  The calling was presented in the least attractive way possible and I responded with my usual lack of graciousness.  I was especially unhappy about having to go to YM/YW on Wednesday nights since I work on Wednesdays.  And it's true, I am tired and have to take a nap between work and YW and we often eat leftovers that night.  But it's also amazingly true that I'm actually enjoying myself, and loving these sweet girls who I had mostly never noticed before. 

We have a terrific home teacher.  He's retired now but has been a super successful businessman, a stake president, and a mission president.  I noticed recently that he must have a new calling, probably something like Webelos.  Every week when I get to the church (a few minutes late, of course) I see him in a room with the boys. Maybe he loves doing it.  But really there's every chance he doesn't, or that he didn't when he was called.  I'm inspired by his service at what is a far more taxing calling than either playing the piano or being the assistant Mia Maid advisor. 

So this is my goal, for next time.  To do a better job of keeping the "I hate change and am sure I will hate this calling" freak out inside my head, and give the Lord a chance to show me how wrong I am yet again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Best and worst of 2016

In the category of "better late than never."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Band and letting go

When we moved to Oregon and the kids could go part time to school and the 6th grade had a band it was like a long time dream come true for me.  I have loved their band experience.  The two flutes of my fantasies and a fun saxaphone as well.

They all enjoyed band in middle school.  Especially in 7th grade when their band director was a lot of fun.  I loved it when I could see them during a concert.  

They all played their freshman year at Glencoe.  What's not to like about teens in formal attire, right?  

But that's where the one-band-path stopped.  Jenna wanted to play her flute again this year.  (Yay!)  Jared (who had hated marching band with a passion) chose to be in 0 period Jazz band instead of regular band, so that the marching band issue wouldn't be raised.  And Rachel wanted to take other classes, so she dropped band altogether.  

It hurt my heart, but I knew she needed to make her own decisions.  As great as released time seminary is (and it *is* great!) it takes the place of one elective.  I could understand that Rachel wanted to have another elective class instead of having both of her electives taken by seminary and band.

Now Jared is talking about not taking jazz band next year.  He's really enjoyed it, but it does mean that he has an early start 4 days a week.  And once wrestling and lacrosse start, he's so busy every afternoon and evening.  I can tell that the schedule is wearing on him.

It's not like they were ever going to be professional musicians, I need to remember that.  It's provided them experiences and memories that they will always have.  I just need to keep remembering that it's their lives, not mine, and be grateful for the years of band we've had.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Reading the Book of Mormon

Four years ago I wrote about my super slow scripture study program.  At the beginning of 2016 I felt like I should read the entire Book of Mormon during the year, so I abandoned my slow study somewhere in 2nd Nephi and embarked on a different experience for the year.  On December 30th that I finished the "Read the Book of Mormon in 1 year" challenge. That is much faster than my typical scripture reading, but it was a good experience. It reminded me that over the last few years when I've felt like I've known few things, I've known that I love the Book of Mormon, that it helps me feel the spirit, and that my life is better when I read it.

The interesting effect of having just pushed through and read the assigned amount every day (almost) for the year is that by the end I was desperate to be able to slow down and read more about different verses, figure out what they meant or how they were meaningful.  2016 made me excited to go back to reading slowly again.  Back to 2nd Nephi I go!