Friday, January 8, 2021

Smiling is My Favorite Exercise


I found myself wide awake early this morning, and feeling great. This is an unusual combination, compliments of health issues I have faced this past year. So you can understand why I also felt a tiny bit suspicious, figuring there was something I was supposed to do. And when words started going around inside my noggin, I figured this is what was going on.

I haven’t written a blog post for quite a while. In my defense, life . . . fatigue . . . holidays . . . did I mention life? So here goes . . . my first attempt at a blog post in 2021.

As this new year approached, I found myself dealing with conflicting emotions: excitement, apprehension (considering all that took place this past year) dread, and eager anticipation. I’ve always been a bit of an optimist. Through the years this has tended to annoy people. In high school I was accused of being one of those silly people who smile all the time. Was my life easy then . . . no, it was not. Did I have reasons to be happy . . . yes and no.

Light speed to the current time . . . is my life easy . . . no, it is not. Do I have reasons to be happy . . . yes and no. So in essence, nothing has changed, and neither has my tendency to smile even when things don’t warrant that expression.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I frown a bit. We all do. It’s part of the human experience. Bad days happen. Like that one a couple of days ago . . . when our nation seemed to be a bit off balance. Just sayin’ . . .

In my own personal life, I have been enduring a series of nasty arthritis flares the past couple of weeks. The kind that leaves you feeling like a walking canker sore. Not my idea of a fun time. And when I’m in a bit of pain, my blood sugar levels tend to run low. . . a lot. Go team . . . and Type 1 diabetes.

The doctor who has been helping me with my cancer adventure, is convinced this less than fun escapade will resurface. We have agreed to disagree on that one. So far I’m winning.

Daily I do my best to help my mother with her varied challenges. Her eyesight is dimming, and I know if I feel like a walking canker sore, she is feeling the same x 10. Character building moments, as we call them.

I’m also still doing my best to help my husband deliver our county’s version of meals on wheels twice a week, and we are still serving as the housing coordinators for the missionaries who serve in our area. And while I’m busy helping my mom, my husband is helping his, since she recently moved to our valley. So we are rarely bored. And maybe that is what is keeping us going. Each day we look at our list of things to do and attempt to accomplish the most important items. I think that’s all any of us can do.

Granted, we live in a precarious time. I find that I can only stand to watch the news for a few minutes before turning to my current favorite show: “Chopped,” on the Food network. I get a kick out of seeing what these creative cooks come up with using the strange ingredients they are required to use. In some ways I guess I can relate to that challenge in my own life. I’ve been given an interesting set of character building items to make things entertaining. It’s up to me to determine what I do with them. ;)

I’m taking satisfaction in finally regaining some of the strength I lost this past year. This gives me hope that one of these days when I cross off my long list of things to do, I might just actually feel well enough to venture into my new craft room and do something fun.

I guess in essence, we are all facing similar adventures. And because we are all so different, our challenges will vary. But the emotions are the same. We deal with fear, weakness, irritation, etc. quite a bit these days. And yet, there are still good things taking place . . . we just have to look for them. There are reasons why I keep pictures of my family in a place where I can see them everyday. And reasons why I also treasure items that close friends have given me. Their love and faith in me often keep me going on days when all seems lost.

All is never lost. That is something I have learned repeatedly in my life. Even during the darkest moments when my heart has felt like shards of glass, there has been a tiny flicker of hope that has kept me going. It is the knowledge that I am a daughter of God. Despite everything, I know that He is there, helping me survive the perilous journeys I am often called upon to make in this life. Through it all, I am never alone. I also have the guidance of a beloved Elder Brother who sacrificed so much for me . . . and for all of us. His example lights the way and gives me something to cling to when the world seems crazy.

So during these times when we don’t seem to know from day to day what we will face or endure, know that hope lives on . . . always. Despite everything, there are still reasons to smile. And someday, when we find ourselves at the summit of this uphill battle we call life, we will know that it was all worth it in the end.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020


 To say that this year has been interesting, would be a huge understatement! Our entire world has been affected by events that we’re still striving to survive. And to me, the past few months have been a blur of healing, regaining strength, and chaos as life continuously threw curve-balls our direction.

And now, as we approach the holiday season that most of us enjoy and look forward to, I think we’re all experiencing an exhaustion of epic proportions. One can only live in flight or fight mode for so long before feeling drained emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

As a huge holiday approaches (Thanksgiving) I’m still finding that I’m too tired to even contemplate putting up my usual decorations for this time of year. This is sad to me. I found it sad last month, when all I seemed to have the energy to tackle was a few half-hearted Halloween decorations that I managed to set up outside with my husband’s help.

The past few days as I’ve attempted to keep up with my daily list of activities, responsibilities, etc. I’ve realized that all things considered, I’m doing remarkably well. Even if there are days when I feel much like our refrigerator that just died: “I’m done now.”

So I’ve taken a step back and tried to ponder all of the things that I’m very grateful for. It’s helping me take stock of the things that really matter as I sort life out in my head and heart.

I am grateful for the power of prayer. Even though things this year did not go according to plan . . . at all . . . I’m still standing because of prayer. I have survived cancer in the middle of a world-wide pandemic because of prayer. We have seen miraculous things take place (see my earlier blog posts for details) because of our personal prayers, and the prayers of others. Prayer is our lifeline to our Father in heaven. And currently we need His help . . . a lot. Prayer is crucial!

I am so thankful for healthcare workers who daily put their lives on the line for all of us! I saw firsthand this year the huge sacrifice nurses, doctors, dietitians, and the hospital support staff make on our behalf. Three of our immediate family members have bravely stood on the front lines of this horrid battle with the Covid virus, trying to save lives and make a positive difference in this troubled world. They wear uncomfortable gear that most of us would balk at on a daily basis. I only had to wear a similar outfit one day while helping with last week’s interesting election adventure, and by 7:30 that night (my shift started at 7:30 that morning) I was so done with wearing gloves, a face mask with a filter, and a face shield. And that’s only a small part of the protective gear that our hospital crews have to endure each day. We owe our healthcare workers a huge standing ovation for all that they have done to help us survive this pandemic. And is it really such a hardship that we’ve been asked to wear a simple mask to help ease their load?

This year has been a reminder of what is important, and what is not. I am so appreciative of teachers, counselors, and principals who put in countless hours trying to help kids learn both on and offline. This is another brave group of people who deserve a standing ovation. We may never fully realize just how much these courageous souls have sacrificed to make things work this year. Just as we may never fully understand how much time parents have put into helping their children endure this strange year of learning and coping. They also deserve a huge debt of gratitude for all that they have done! Their creativity is astounding as they help their offspring survive a time that has been difficult and taxing.

We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who work in grocery stores and other places of business. Daily they face huge risks to their health status as they help us get the items we need for every day life. Where would we be without their willingness to bravely face crowds of people knowing that at any time, they may come in contact with Covid?

I would also like to give a huge shout out to those who are working hard to finalize a vaccine that is being developed in a miraculous fashion to help stifle this Covid virus. I have a sibling who is among those courageous individuals involved in running tests for this all-important vaccine. Kudos to all of those who have spent countless hours researching something that is coming together faster than any other vaccine ever did.

I am grateful for toilet paper . . . and other items we take for granted until we can’t get it. We have so much in comparison to other eras—those little things that make life easier. How sad is it that we don’t fully appreciate what we have until it’s no longer available?

So this year, my list of items/people that I’m grateful for is very long. As I count my numerous blessings, it is a reminder that as draining as this year has been, it could’ve been a lot worse. Yes, there have been lots of disasters, natural and otherwise, and sadly, we have lost loved ones along the way, but we have never been alone. When we stop to ponder all of the challenges we have survived this past year, it becomes clear that through it all, we had more help than we realized. I suspect that if we could truly see what is going on, we would find that we have been surrounded by angels throughout the past few months. When we have experienced a touch of comfort here, or a bit of peace there, it has been a reminder that in the midst of our suffering, our Father and Elder Brother are very aware of us and all that we are enduring. Hope lives on, and faith will thrive if we will be charitable to one another and express gratitude for the tremendous blessings taking place all around us.

Someday we will look back on this time with wonder. Our great-grandkids will marvel over all that we survived, and hopefully, we can truthfully state that it was indeed the best of times, and the worst of times, but we came through with flying colors because we never fully gave in to despair.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lessons Learned


We live in an interesting time. Understatement of the year . . . decade . . . era! Our lives have become whirlwinds of challenge, trials, heartache, and change. And yet, there is hope! Words to live by, literally!

This past year I have battled a fierce opponent that most call cancer. I will freely admit I may have called it other names, some I won’t share here, but this challenge has taught me many lessons. And in light of recent events (ie: life in Covid mode) I feel impressed to share some of them.

It is normal to feel scared. We are human and we deal with a lot of emotions as a result. Some things are frightening. I believe it is our responsibility to face those fears and not allow them to control us.

On the morning of my first surgery, one of my nurses made a less than helpful list. She brought it into my hospital room to share:

You are a Type 1 diabetic.”


You have a form of heart disease.”


You have lupus.”


And a crippling form of rheumatoid arthritis.”

I’m sure at this point in that particular conversation I was probably wearing my Scott’s face (We Scottish types tend to be stubborn on occasion.) I thought the following: “And your point is?!!!” But I have been raised to be polite, so I merely said: “Yes.”

And now you’re facing cancer.”

In my mind I was thinking something like: “Thank you, Captain Obvious!” Yes, I have a warped sense of humor. It has helped me survive many things. But I try to behave, most of the time. That morning I forced myself to reply:

That’s what my doctors tell me.”

She merely nodded, made a note in my chart, and said something like: “Good luck today.” I could tell what she was thinking by the look on her face: “You’re going to need all the luck in the world.”

That enlightening conversation should’ve scared me spit-less. Instead, it added to my determination to come through with flying colors . . . and I did. But I didn’t do it alone. Prayer is huge. I’ve shared this part with several others, and I feel impressed to share it now—I was carried by the prayers of others. I literally felt wrapped in love and peace that day, and on the morning of my second surgery a week later. I will be forever grateful for everyone’s prayers on my behalf—they were answered in a big time way.

So lesson one: don’t allow fear to control you when life seems to be spiraling out of control. Process that emotion, but allow hope and faith to take the driver’s seat when you’re facing trials.

Lesson two: prayer is a real force. It’s so important for us to pray for others when they are facing difficult challenges. They will draw tremendous strength from those prayers. And we also need to pray for ourselves. It is our link with our Father, a way for us to communicate with Him and a way for Him to communicate with us. I’ve heard it said that we communicate with our Father in heaven through prayer. He communicates with us through the scriptures. I can’t tell you how many times I have turned to specific scriptures that contained just the message that I needed during challenging times.

I mentioned faith a moment ago. This is also huge when we’re facing obstacles in our mortal journey. Someone once told me that attitude is everything. This would be correct. The morning after my second surgery, as I was being walked around the Covid-free environment in the surgery wing of the hospital, I was being myself and making a few bad puns along the way. Something I said made my nurse laugh and she said something I needed to hear: “You are going to be okay! Your attitude will help you survive this challenge.”

Lesson three: No matter what we’re facing, attitude is everything! I’ll admit, when you are aboard what appears to be a sinking ship (and sometimes, it does seem like the Titanic) don’t give up! I believe that is part of our test in this life, to see how we will respond to challenges, heartaches, or loss of any kind. My mother is a great example of making lemonade out of lemons. After our father’s death, she went back to school and became the valedictorian of her class. She worked at a career she loved for many years, supporting us all. She kept moving forward, showing us that it is possible to rise above difficult things to succeed.

Now, I’ll admit, it was a crushing blow to me the day I flunked my first cancer recheck. I had survived two surgeries, and all of the fun that went with that. I had totally shocked my doctor and nurses by how early I was talking, and how well I was talking. (I have a type of oral cancer and a portion of my tongue, etc. was removed.) The day of my second surgery, my nurse stepped into the room and told me to merely nod or shake my head in response to her questions. When I spoke instead, she was stunned, and quickly ran to find my doctor so that he could see this small miracle for himself. She later told me that my doctor had written in my chart that it would be a long time before I would be able to talk. They were all amazed by my ability to speak. All things considered, I was doing well. And so was the cancer. It was refusing to leave. Here’s what I learned from that experience:

Lesson four: there will be setbacks in our lives. Things won’t always work out the way we envision. And sometimes, this makes no sense to us. I believe it’s part of the test. If things always worked out, we wouldn’t appreciate the blessings and miracles that take place all around us. We would come to expect that everything will always go the way we want. Surprise: it doesn’t. These type of challenges become character building moments. Stepping stones as we learn to push forward despite the difficulty of each step.

It would take a couple more months of small procedures to get rid of the lingering cancer cells. These were not fun adventures, but they worked. Eventually. And I finally got to see my doctor smile about 3 months ago when he shared that I was finally cancer free—for now. Through this experience I learned that patience truly is a virtue.

Lesson Five: Patience means trusting in the Lord’s timing. I think I’ve been learning this lesson most of my life. Things have rarely happened when I thought they should. Perhaps you can relate. But when we’ve done all we can on our part, we must then possess enough faith to put our hand in God’s and trust that things will eventually work out. Until then, we endure the storms that pass through, knowing that one day, the sun will shine again. We will find reasons to smile, again. And items like Covid, will become memories that we’ll look back on, not with fondness, but perhaps with an appreciation for all that we survived with God’s help.

So I am now almost 3 months cancer free (yes, I’m hoping for good results next week!). And yes, it has been quite the journey. I’m still learning the importance of pacing myself. I am getting stronger all of the time, but I’ve had to swallow a bit of pride and admit that I am not 100% yet. Periodically, I have to ask for help. (Yes, I know, I can’t believe I shared that either. We Scottish types don’t like asking for help. We are the eternal two-year-olds: “DO IT MYSELF!” souls who struggle with being dependent on others.) I believe that would be lesson 6: it’s okay to ask for help. I said it, but I’m still struggling with it.

Another thing I’m struggling with: I have to avoid some foods with acid content like luscious tomatoes that I love, and can’t enjoy right now. This is sad for me, but I’m dealing with it. Chocolate is still my friend, so I take comfort in it. I’ve been told that it may take up to a year for me to be able to eat items that are acidic. I’ve learned (the hard way) that when I do eat items of that nature, my tongue reacts very badly. Sigh . . .

So to sum up, life happens! There will always be challenges. We are living in a time that will no doubt be recorded in history. And if we look back through history, we will note that there have always been adventures that test what we’re made of. I suspect that’s part of why we’re here. On bad days, reflect on what is really important. Cling to hope, knowing that brighter days are ahead. Learn from the journey, but keep moving forward, and look for the good. We hear a lot about the bad things taking place these days, but there are good things happening, too. Start making a list of those items, and I think we’ll all be surprised by how many positive blessings are taking place all around.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Facing the Bridge

April 9th has stood out in my mind for a long time. To me, April indicates that spring is just around the corner. April 9th also happens to be the birth-date of a dear friend of mine, someone I’ve known since high school. This year April 9th took on an entire new meaning. That date would mark the first of two surgeries that I would need to keep the dreaded word, cancer, at bay.

Shortly before April 9th, I was diagnosed with a type of oral carcinoma that had settled in my tongue. Three doctors teased me about discontinuing chewing tobacco, thinking they were funny. But I guess that is what usually triggers this sort of thing. In my case, we’re still trying to figure out the culprit. I do have an autoimmune condition (Lupus) which can cause all kinds of adventures. And a genetic wild card—my paternal grandmother suffered from a type of oral cancer. Regardless, something I thought was just an annoying canker sore, morphed into a condition that was alarming.

As the doctor who would be performing the surgery explained the ins and outs of what I would be enduring, phrases like: “It may be difficult to speak.” “You may not be able to swallow for a while.” or “You may need speech therapy to restore these two abilities,” haunted me. Until they were in the middle of the actual surgery, they wouldn’t know how much of my tongue would need to be removed. So we told family members, friends, and neighbors what was going on, and asked for their prayers. We weren’t sure what else to do.

April 9th came all too quickly. My tongue was already sore from a biopsy that had taken place a few days before. If that was any indication of what was ahead for me, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through with the surgery. And yet I knew my best chance to survive this ordeal, was to obediently submit to all that lay in store.

So on April 9th, we arrived in a timely fashion for surgery. And it wasn’t long before I was whisked away for the procedure.

As all of you know, in the middle of all of that, the Covid-19 virus was rearing its ugly head. Many precautions had to be taken before my surgery could take place, including a test to ensure that I didn’t have this disease. When my test came back negative, the surgery was scheduled.

Kennon was allowed to be with me on the 9th, but he had to remain in my designated hospital room until I could leave the hospital that day.

And because they didn’t want to keep me in the hospital any longer than was absolutely necessary because of the Covid risk, I was released to go home later that same day. In the words of my sons, “Leave it to Mom to develop cancer during a world-wide pandemic!”
In many ways, this adventure was like standing near a precipice. Far below lay a deep, scary canyon. Ahead was a tiny, swaying bridge that didn’t look very sturdy, and I was being asked to trust it to get me to the other side. I wasn’t sure I possessed the courage or stamina to do so. And then I was flooded with peace. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I knew it was a direct result of the numerous prayers that had been offered on my behalf. I’ve always known that prayer is a very real gift—it’s how we communicate with our Father in heaven. And I’ve known that prayer on behalf of others works—I’ve seen it before—but never in my life have I felt as carried as I was the day I had to cross that scary canyon alone. And yet, I wasn’t alone. I could literally feel the love of so many, and an assurance that no matter what, all would be well.

So, when the time came, and I was wheeled inside the surgical room, I slipped down from my gurney, and hopped up onto the surgical table, ready to face what was ahead. Shortly after that, the anesthesiologist did his job and the lights went out for me.

When I came around in recovery, I was relieved to still be in mortal mode. That is always a big risk for me—since I tend to throw blood clots. Yet another family gift. But all seemed to be well, aside from being unable to say much of anything. We were told that they had had to go deeper into my tongue than they had figured, but they had left my lymph nodes intact, thinking all was well.

After a bit of time, Kennon was permitted to take me home. And then the adventure truly began. Swallowing was not my friend. I had to really work to drink liquids, and for a few days, my diet consisted of mostly Gatorade, water, and milk shakes. Kennon did a fantastic job as my nursemaid, and I owe him big time for all that he did while I was recovering. Our sons and their wives and offspring also did a wonderful job of keeping my spirits up as well as providing answers to the questions we had about the medical world. And I appreciated my siblings who stepped forward to take care of our mother while I recuperated.

 My ability to talk was slightly impaired and as I’ve told people, for a couple of days, I sounded like a combination Julia Child/Cindy Brady.

I’ve always believed pride is a bad trait to possess, but that is what propelled me into a determination to improve my new voice. Not only had the left side of my tongue been carved on, but the stitches went down into my throat, indicating that a piece of it had been taken as well. We were just told that they had removed anything that looked suspicious. And the fact that I now had the worst sore throat of my life spoke silent volumes about what had taken place during the surgery.

It took me about two days to figure out that if I held my tongue at a different angle, I could talk quite normally. This took some practice, and at first, my tongue and I went the rounds over this new position, but as time went on, it became second nature to me and my ability to speak improved.

And something else took place that boosted my spirits. I currently serve in the Primary organization of our ward. Daily, we found cards and artwork created by the children of our ward. Eventually a scrapbook was dropped off to store all of these creations that are dear to my heart. I will be forever grateful to the leaders and children who took part in this endeavor—as well as to all of those who sent cards, flowers, etc. as we faced a daily battle of pain, healing, and hope.

My doctor soon called with the news that the pathology report revealed just how deep they had carved into my tongue, and because of that, I would need a second surgery to remove the lymph nodes in my neck. Somehow they had seen that at least 2 of them were enlarged, (possibly compliments of a recent CT scan) and they wanted to make sure that they had removed all of the cancer cells, fearing that some had strayed into the lymph nodes. And so, about a week after my first surgery, I found myself back in Logan for round two. Only this time, the restrictions in place against the Covid virus prevented my husband from coming with me into the hospital. He had to leave me curbside in the hands of a very capable, awesome nurse. Fortunately, we have family in the area (one of our sons and our daughter-in-law and their cute kids live fairly close to Logan) so my husband had somewhere to go while he waited. And this time, they were keeping me overnight—it would be a long time to just wait in the car. Most of the businesses in the area were closed—aside from drive-through restaurants and gas stations. I was relieved that Kennon could just stay with our kids.

As it turned out, I had some of the same surgical nurses that day that had been part of my tongue adventure. They were stunned by how well I could already talk. One of the nurses told me that the doctor had written in my chart that it would be a long time before I would be able to communicate because of the first surgery. When he was told that I was talking already, he had to step inside my hospital room to see for himself. He was impressed. That’s when I reminded him that I possess stubborn Scotch blood that helps me through adventures like I was facing. I also had the comfort of a recent priesthood blessing (I was promised that I would recover quickly from all of this—good thing—my husband and I are currently serving as service missionaries/housing coordinators for the missionaries who serve in our valley), as well as the numerous prayers that were being offered on my behalf. Once again I felt total peace of heart as I faced surgery number two.

I was told that depending on what they found with this second surgery, I would possibly need radiation treatments to ensure that the cancer was gone. The thought of that made me feel a bit sick. As a Type 1 diabetic, I’ve learned that everything affects my blood sugar. It had already been bouncing a lot compliments of surgery number one. I was sure it would continue to do so as I healed. Learning that I might be facing radiation, too, was almost overwhelming. But once again, my heart filled with peace as I faced this second string bridge across a daunting canyon.

Surgery number two went well and I was later told that twenty lymph nodes had been removed. They had done a quick inspection of the last lymph node during the surgery and it was cancer free. But it wouldn’t be until the pathology report came in that we would know if any of the others contained cancer.

I was wheeled back to my room where I received excellent care from a very compassionate nursing staff. And I need to pay a tribute to these brave women and men who daily face the Covid virus. Most of my nurses bore war wounds from wearing protective gear—especially the masks over their faces. Their noses were nearly raw from this requirement. My heart went out to them—they are putting their lives on the line to help others through this trying time. I have two sons who are also on the front lines of this disease and it is a worry, and one of those things that I put in the Lord’s hands each day. We need to be forever grateful to the men and women who are courageously facing this battle.

I did well after my second surgery—it seemed like a piece of cake after what I had already endured after the first one. I made jokes with my nurses about various unfunny things, and I was told by one of them that my positive attitude would get me through all of this. I should admit that there might have been a time or two when I didn’t feel so upbeat, but for the most part—I have tried very hard to keep a positive spin on things. And it has worked, as we saw two major miracles take place.

The first I’ve already shared—I was able to speak quite well in a matter of days and without speech therapy. I invented my own therapy—with help from above. The second took place about a week after the second surgery. I’d had an appointment with my doctor for a surgery recheck, and removal of an uncomfortable drainage tube. However, the pathology report hadn’t come in yet. It was hinted that I would likely face radiation as a precaution. We left that appointment feeling a tiny bit worried over what lay ahead, so we headed to our kid’s abode, since “Grandpa” had promised that this “Grandma” would put in an appearance after she felt better. It was a much needed break in our routine. And it was while we were surrounded by family that we received the welcome news that my lymph nodes had been cancer free and I would not need radiation.

My doctor heard all of the cheering in the background from our kids and grandkids, and possibly myself, and he laughed, telling me that I had quite the cheerleaders in my life.

He’s right—I really do! Thank you to everyone who fasted, prayed or sent positive thoughts my way throughout this adventure. I continue to do very well! It has taken me a bit to regain my strength, but that is improving daily. I know this battle isn’t completely over yet—I will be making monthly visits to my doctor for at least a year to make sure the cancer doesn’t return. But I know I’m still here for a reason, and I plan to make the most of my time in mortal mode.

Having this adventure in the middle of this world-wide pandemic has helped me keep things in perspective. I still feel peace—I know that as we place ourselves in the Lord’s hands, miracles can take place. I also know that we will be watched over and guided as we face the days ahead. We aren’t crossing this scary canyon alone—there are those who are at our side, some unseen, who continue to love us and help us through this perilous journey we call mortal mode. And someday, we will reach the other side as we take things step by step across the bridge of faith.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Dispelling the Fearful Fog

I believe most of you would agree that we live in an interesting time. So much is going on, it’s often difficult to know what to focus on. One emotion that seems rampant during this current world-wide pandemic is fear. I see it on the faces of people I pass in grocery stores as they frantically search for needed items. I see it in the faces of experts on TV who think they know all about the financial world. And I see it in the faces of political leaders who worry about the future.

For the most part, I feel a sense of peace and a calming comfort. I’ve been asked by some why that is. My mother and I even discussed it a couple of days ago. I suspect it’s due in part because of other events we have survived in our lives—difficult trials that brought us to our knees. Foremost among them would be the tragic suicide death of my father years ago. Our entire world shattered in one day, and everything changed.

I experienced a similar change when we learned that I was a Type 1 diabetic, and I knew that for me, life would never be the same.

With the birth of each child, I faced a myriad of health challenges, and during my final pregnancy there were moments when it looked as though my unborn infant son and I might not make it. My blood pressure plummeted in a dangerous fashion, and my husband thought for certain all was lost. When I survived, and our son was later delivered healthy and alive, my doctor cried, held that precious boy out for all to see, and proclaimed his birth a miracle.

On another dark night, our entire valley experienced a loss of lives that would impact every community in our rural county. Once again hearts were shattered and some of us wondered how we would ever go on. Would we ever smile again and actually mean it?

I also remember a night that seemed so black, I thought for certain I would never survive. Heartbreaking news tore at my very soul and I silently cried out to our Father in heaven for solace. Solace came in such a dramatic fashion, I’ve never forgotten that experience. For several precious seconds, I felt as though the Savior was right there with me, an image of His loving face was impressed upon me, and the following words were seared into my heart: “Ye shall find comfort in me.” From that moment on, I knew I would be able to endure, and all would eventually be well.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. Each one of us has survived hard things. We are stronger than we think we are. And we are never as alone as we sometimes believe.

A couple of mornings ago, I had an interesting experience. It was one of those character-building moments that I filed away in my heart, knowing that when I had the time, I would write something about it—it seems to be what I do.

We had been enduring several wintry storms in our valley, on top of the current health crisis that our world is facing. It wasn’t lifting anyone’s mood, and for those of us with arthritis, we’re beginning to feel like human pretzels.

On the morning in question, I needed to drive into town, four miles away, to pick up my mother. I am her primary care-taker, and we’ve been understandably trying to keep her safe and well during this Corona Virus scare. As such, my mother keeps a very low profile, but I do bring her out to our house a couple of times a week to give her a break from her apartment, and to help her with things like her laundry.

As I gazed outside, I wasn’t amused to see that it was a foggy mess. The fog was so thick, we couldn’t see our mailbox that sits across the road from our house. My husband expressed his concern over my plans to drive into town that morning. I felt certain I would be fine and I figured the fog wouldn’t be as thick when I made it down to the main road that led into nearby Montpelier. I was wrong.

The fog was thick everywhere. I made it safely to the main road, then paused in a state of indecision. I couldn’t tell if anything was coming either way. Highway 30 in our neck of the woods is a major thoroughfare. Truckers use it all the time to transfer goods throughout the area, and to reach other communities. Usually, during foggy conditions, you can see lights coming that reveal trucks or cars are traveling through. But not on that morning. On that morning, the thick fog shrouded everything in a blanket of mist. You couldn’t see headlights until they were nearly on top of you.

I offered a silent prayer, begging for guidance, for help to find my way safely to my destination. When I opened my eyes, again, all I could see was thick fog. But I felt a calm assurance that I was safe to pull out onto the road. Gathering my courage, I did just that, and I was fine. I didn’t travel as fast as I normally do, because of the limited visibility, and when I reached a road we call the 8th street exit, I signaled, not that anyone could see me, and turned off onto a route I knew was a safer option that morning. This road leads into the heart of Montpelier and I use it quite often when the weather is less than great in our area. It has a slower speed limit, and semi trucks don’t usually use it.

I continued on my way and gradually the fog began to thin until I could finally see where I was going. This was a vast improvement. By the time I reached Montpelier, the fog was dissipating. At first I wondered why. As I approached the town, the answer became very clear—the sun was making an appearance. As its bright light moved through the clouds, the fog lifted and I could see things very clearly. Breathing a sigh of relief, I drove safely to the apartment complex where my mother currently lives.

As the sun continued to shine, spreading warmth and light, I was hit with a major analogy. (No groaning—it’s what I do.) We all face dark times in our lives, moments when the fog of fear and despair clouds our sight. Discouragement fills our souls as we struggle to know which way to go. Our faith is truly tested when we struggle to move forward, uncertain of what lies ahead.

Lehi saw this uncertain path in a dream he recorded in the Book of Mormon. This inspired prophet shared that the only way to move forward through the mists of darkness was to cling to the iron rod. Only then could people find their way to the tree of life, or the love of God. (See Nephi 8:19-24; 11:25)

I can truly testify that when the need is great, our Savior is right there beside us, helping us to find our way through the mists of darkness that often cloud our path in life. His light can shine through the darkest night when we think all is lost. The warmth of His love cuts through the fog of despair and grief, helping us to find our way. And whenever we feel the need for comfort or guidance, we have but to pray, and to search the scriptures for answers. Those are my “go-tos” as a dear friend calls it, whenever life has been a challenge.

I keep a very worn triple combination close during foggy moments in my life. I have marked so many scriptures on those sacred pages, that it appears the entire book is marked. I have taken it with me when I travel, and it has helped me survive many dark nights. It has a sticker on the front. I placed it there the night my mother nearly passed away in a large hospital in Salt Lake following a major surgery. It simply says: “ER Visitor,” and it is stamped with the date, Sept. 29, 2005. I keep it there as a reminder of yet another trial we endured and survived.

The pages of this book not only contain scriptures that are comforting to me, but also notes of encouragement I have received through the years, as well as tiny artwork treasures made by my grandkids. Someday, it may be a precious keepsake for my posterity. I truly hope it will be. And I hope that during their dark days, my children and grandchildren will pause to reflect on the comfort this book can offer.

We can do hard things! We will survive the days ahead, no matter what they may bring. The Sun will eventually appear and disperse the dark mists of fear that cloud our vision, and we will grow and learn from this experience as we go on, knowing there will be brighter days in store.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Falling into Gratitude

Hi all. So I’m sitting here, wide awake, still adjusting to the time change, staring at a blank computer screen. I keep feeling like there’s something I’m supposed to be sharing in a blog post . . . but I’m not sure what that is. I guess I’ll ramble for a minute and see what takes shape.

It has been an interesting past few months. I’m sure everyone else can relate. We had a cold, looonng winter, not much of a spring, two months of summer, and an extremely short fall, and yep, back to winter. Sigh . . . joys of living in a mountain valley. We usually enjoy three months of summer, but that was not the case this year. As I recall, we built a fire for warmth on June 22nd for an outside social, and still froze. It really didn’t start getting warm until July. So I’m a bit peeved that winter surfaced in our neck of the woods long before Halloween. Most uncool . . . actually, it has been very cool, pun intended.

And is it me, or does time keep picking up speed these days. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that we were huddling around a campfire trying to stay warm the end of June, and now we’re entering that interesting time of year when most stores, etc. skip from Halloween to Christmas, jumping over my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving!!! I love getting together with loved ones, cooking up a storm, and pondering the blessings that have come into our lives. So I still stubbornly decorate for Thanksgiving right after Halloween as my way of protesting. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, too, but I think it’s sad that Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle.

And this year, despite a myriad of challenges, there are many things that I am thankful for. I am grateful that for once I was able to grow not one, but two pumpkins in my short-lived garden, something that has never happened before. We used to try growing them when our boys were young, but the plants always froze. This year I cheated and bought actual plants instead of seeds, figuring it was the only way I would harvest anything this year with our two month summer. And it worked . . . after my first plantings all froze and I had to start over. Good times.

I’m grateful that my husband and I survived being in charge of not just one, but three reunions this year. Whew, no wonder the summer was a bit of a blur.

I appreciated the time we were able to spend with our kids and grandkids just recently in South Dakota, and throughout the year at family gatherings, reunions, camping trips, etc. Those are the things that matter most. My family means everything to me, and I’m hoping that one day, we will manage to get everyone together at the same time. Shush . . . one can dream.

I also treasure the time I was able to spend with a dear friend that we lost not too long ago. I miss her gentle smile, but I will always remember her courage, positive attitude, and compassion for others as she faced the tremendous challenge of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

And I am so grateful for friends who help me maintain my sanity during these crazy times! You all know who you are and you are all very much loved and appreciated!!!

I am grateful for the beautiful world in which we live. True, some places might seem a bit more scenic than others (this said after surviving 2 jaunts through the Wyoming desert recently) but even in the desert, there are wonders to behold.

I’m thankful our youngest son and his awesome wife survived med school, and all that that entails. They were able to move to South Dakota for his residency after his graduation this year, and things are falling into place. I’m grateful that our others sons currently both have wonderful opportunities to embrace that will help them achieve the goals they have with their own chosen careers in dietetics, and cyber security. All three sons have come in handy with the sage advice they offer as their father and I blunder through life. And we will be forever grateful to our wonderful daughters-in-law for all that they do, and for patiently hanging in there as our sons pursue lofty goals.

I think I mentioned something about this earlier, but it warrants more attention: I am beyond grateful for each and every one of my grandchildren. They are the light of my life! And the plaque one gifted daughter-in-law made for me that hangs in our living room is true: “Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your children!” We love the time we get to spend with these precious gifts from heaven, and look forward to future adventures.

I'm also extremely grateful for a husband who is supportive to all of us, and goes out of his way to help everyone around him.  

And I need to add how much I appreciate my awesomely talented siblings who have always been there for me. We've walked a difficult path together and it has bonded us in ways we're still figuring out. I'm also grateful for their respective spouses, and their families who all hold a special place in my heart.  

Also on my list of blessings are all of my in-laws on my hubby's side of the family tree. They have all played important roles in our lives.

And though I may cuss it a lot on occasion, especially during stormy times when Rheumatoid Arthritis tends to rear its ugly head, I am still grateful for a body that functions . . . most of the time. There is the occasional blood sugar glitch compliments of Type 1 diabetes, but I am able to do most of the things that I desire.

I’m also grateful for the chance I currently have to be my mother’s primary care-taker. Her health has steadily declined the past couple of years and there have been some challenges, but her determined spirit continues to amaze and astound doctors, nurses, and myself. She experienced a slight stroke in January, and has fought her way back. She is still living in her own apartment and I check on her daily to help with varied needs. Her perseverance is a wonderful example to us all.

So . . . in short, though this year has been filled with challenges, it has also been filled with wonderful people and experiences. And this Thanksgiving, as we gather together with precious loved ones, I will have a lengthy list of blessings to be extremely grateful for. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. ;) [This is a hint. Start pondering your own list . . . just sayin’--it does make you feel better about things when life appears to inhale, like early snow, for instance.]

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Braving the Trail

Salu! It has been a looooonnnngggg time since I composed a blog post. In my defense, life has been a blur the past few months. Weddings, graduations, reunions (we were only in charge of 3 this year), camping adventures . . . and unfortunately, funerals, have occupied our time. In short, we have not been bored. I’m sure most of you could say the same.

In recent days, I have mourned the loss of a dear friend who faced her Goliath of a health challenge (Lou Gerhrig’s Disease) with courage and grace. She will be missed greatly by anyone who knew her. And though our hearts are aching, we are grateful she is no longer suffering. And we know that someday, we’ll see Deb again.

I was appreciative that shortly after her passing, I was able to spend time in the nearby mountains with family members who helped me absorb the pain in my heart. And on one of our adventures, I was taught an important lesson that has helped me regain perspective. I’m hoping to share this now for any who might also need a small boost along life’s journey.

Each year our family spends time together in the mountains, enjoying each other’s company and feeling the healing peace that is there. We usually spend some time looking for fossils. This has become a fascinating family hobby that we enjoy together. This year we decided to hike back into the famed trilobite bed that lies up a local canyon. We have made this journey before and though it is a long, hot hike in and out, we’ve always found trilobite treasures that take the sting out of the ordeal.

This year, we decided instead of walking in on the fairly easy path that lies out in the hot sun, we would take the other trail that descends through a forested mountain, thinking the shade would be an easier way to go.

My husband and I rode in on our trusty RZR to where the trail begins down the mountainside. As we waited for the others who were walking in the entire way, we did some explorations. My husband selected a path on the right side, and I chose one on the left, trying to figure out which one would be better for our grandchildren to use. I hiked in several yards, then came back to where the RZR was parked to wait for everyone else. Just a few short minutes later, the rest of our group showed up, with one exception. Our son had decided to take his three-year-old in on the lower, hot and dusty trail, figuring it would be easier for her.

My husband still hadn’t returned to the RZR. What I didn’t know at that time was that he had already descended down to the fossil bed and was waiting for everyone else to arrive. So as the rest of our bunch decided to head down, I waited by the RZR for Kennon. A few minutes later, I was very glad that I was there. My five-year-old granddaughter softly called to me, “Grandma, I need your help.”

I looked up and saw that my granddaughter was on her way to where I was, looking quite distraught. “Oh, Grandma, I couldn’t keep up.” Nearly in tears, she was in need of comfort and encouragement. I assured her that all would be well and that I would help her make that difficult journey. This granddaughter takes after me somewhat in the height challenged department and is not very tall. Her short legs couldn’t keep up with the older kids who had hurried down the trail. The adults in the lead hadn’t caught on that this young lady was missing yet, but I knew they would eventually. So, hand in hand, my tiny granddaughter and I began what proved to be an arduous climb down that mountain.

I could quickly see why my granddaughter had panicked. There was a lot of tree-fall all along that trail. At one point we ran into 4 large trees that had fallen on top of each other. We had no choice but to walk down to where the tip of the trees lay on the ground, a place where we could finally straddle the trees and climb over. I was able to lift my granddaughter up and over that set of trees, and each succeeding log or tree that blocked our path. Together we faced spider webs (we both hate spiders), ants, and places where the trail seemed to disappear as we carefully made our way down that steep mountain. When we began to see that we were nearing the ravine where the fossil bed lies, we began hollering, hoping someone would hear us. We knew that by now they were aware that two of us were missing and we wanted to let them know that we were ok. Winded, scratched, and bruised in places, but fine nevertheless.

Eventually, my husband heard us. He had come back up to search for us, figuring we were somewhere along the path. When I assured him that we were ok, but taking our time on the trail, he went to share the news with everyone else that all was well.

Not long after that, we emerged above the fossil bed, and made our way to where everyone else was waiting. It was a joyful reunion as most had been concerned about the missing five-year-old, and her diabetic grandmother. We had survived that journey together, realizing that we had needed each other to make it through.

And that is the lesson I learned that day. We were never meant to make life’s often difficult journey alone. We are blessed with family members and friends who can help us along when the path ahead seems daunting. We will all face challenges that will stretch us beyond what we think we can endure—having others at our side helps us to survive and make it through.

Myself, I tend to be the eternal two-year-old: “Do it myself!” seems to be my theme. But I am learning that there are times when it’s too difficult to do things alone. How grateful I am for those who willingly wade in after me . . . and for the times when I am given the opportunity to do so for others. And to me, that’s what life is all about.