Friday, May 11, 2018

Dancing in the rain

"Life isn't waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain."

This is one of my favorite quotes, one that many have heard before.  To me, it means to find joy, in any circumstance you are in.  While working in my yard today, it took on a much deeper meaning.  I'd like to share my experience, but hope it makes sense.  Sometimes it's hard to articulate lessons learned from the spirit that teach your heart.

I have several things that I love, but right up there with family and friends would be flowers and nature of all kind.  I'm guessing that I gained this love from my mother who would be frequently found sitting on a log sketching twisted driftwood while we children would play in the dry river beds in the desert of Arizona, or the times we would stop every few miles on a road trip to gather soil and compared their colors when we arrived home.  Maybe it was from my dad who loved taking us fishing, dove hunting, frog gigging, or working outside in the garden, milking cows, or heaven the stinky chicken coop in a million degrees weather.

Because of that love, one of my favorite times of year is when I can go to the nursery and start creating a palette of color that will bring beauty to the outdoors surrounding my home.  I love looking for different colors and textures of leaves that will compliment each other and together create a harmonious picture and place of peace.

I mentioned that working in nature was my love, but failed to mention that my family does not have the same sentiment.  Yes, they are grateful for a beautiful place to live, but have no desire to be outside creating it.  They patronize me once a year and help me out for a few hours to help lighten the load of the flats upon flats of plants I bring home that need to be planted...not because they love doing it, but because they love me and know how much joy it brings to me each season.

That being considered, I try to do all I can to not bother them.  Today was a case in point.  I got up around 6 am, put some old clothes on, and headed outside.  To my disappointment, it had rained during the night leaving my flowerbeds muddy.  I contemplated going back inside and heading to the gym but decided to see what was I could possibly accomplish in light of the circumstances.  I ended up planting the last few herbs and a clematis surrounded by yarrow in my side yard.  Mud caked my sandals to the point where I could hardly walk, but with a  few scrapes of a shovel and I was on my way again.

What I really wanted to complete was to place mulch in my newly planted flowerbeds, a task that seemed far above what my MS legs would allow.  It was still early.  I was impatient to wait for help, so decided to give it the old college try, first carrying the waterlogged bags to their destination, then using the wheelbarrow to carry them.....all of which left my arms and legs shaking to the point I had to sit down and reevaluate my methods.  I wanted more than anything to be successful.  It was then that I decided to rest a bag on top of the pile of bags, cut it open, then poured its contents into the wheelbarrow.  It could then be easily pushed to it's destination and dumped or shoveled out into the beds.  I was so excited!  It was working.  Slowly the 24 bags of mulch dwindled....very slowly.... to a smaller and smaller pile.  This was a job that I knew that if I was patient and wait for others to help me would only take a short time but I have to admit, part of my motivation was to prove MS wrong....I could still do these things.  I didn't want it to stop me.

As I worked, the clouds gathered.  The temperatures dropped.  Part way into my adventure it started raining.  I thought, "Guess that's the end of this.  I better go in."  They I asked myself "Why?" "How is a little water going to hurt me?"  I put on a flannel shirt, only to quickly get wet.  Later I tried a windbreaker, but even that over time became heavy with water.  I got a step stool and reached high for an old rain pancho hanging on the garage wall.  The water couldn't weigh me down now!.......then.... it started hailing.  I had to find shelter.  The hail was starting to become painful as it pelted every part of my body.

I went into my garage, door wide open, and propped myself up against my car.  I wondered what I should do next while listening to the wonderful sounds created by the rain and hail on the pavement.  It wasn't too long before the hail turned to heavy rain, then slowly over the next few minutes back to a light rain.

I ventured back out....large blue pancho covering my body, rake in hand, ready to finish the job.  I noticed that although it never stopped raining, it's density ebbed and flowed throughout the morning making my job easier at times, giving me a break from the pounding rain.  I'm sure I was a sight to behold, muddy from head to toe and hair plastered to my head like a drowning rat, but it didn't matter.  I was in the present noticing everything around me.

Although job wasn't easy, my job was made lighter by seeing beauty in every corner of my yard.  The sandstone rocks dug into the ground to be used as stepping stones.  Stones that were carried home by my mother while searching for wildflowers in the mountains.  The peonies, flowers I planted for my daughter in law, getting ready to show their bright colors, reminded me of my love for her.  The rose of Sharon tree getting ready to flower reminded me of my mother in law and her mission to Hawaii and how she filled her yard with beautiful flowers from the islands upon her return.  Then the memory of my mother just before her passing, holding the "little Woodruff" flower in her hands as she recounted memories of her grandmother that lived in Woodruff.

When I started this job, my thoughts were, "I am going to do this despite the rain", but as I emptied that last bag I recognized all that I had gained.  My muscles were stronger due to the heavy lifting.  I had enjoyed the beauty of being in the "now", leaving any cares of the world behind me for a time.  I was blessed with many memories of those I love, and I had a beautiful yard.

It dawned on me that I was looking at the storm all wrong.  I didn't do those things despite the rain.  I was able to do those things because of the rain.  What I had perceived as my obstacle was the conduit in providing me strength.  The rain cooled my body allowing me to work, which gave me an opportunity to strengthen my muscles through work, making me stronger for other things that may come my way in the future.

So....maybe those storms aren't storms at all, but opportunities for us to grow and learn.  We might need to try different ways to get our mulch to its destination, but if we persist, we will succeed and be stronger than we ever imagined.  Sometimes we may have to take shelter when the storm becomes too strong, but even though the storm may continue, it's intensity will change over time if we are patient.  I know as we hang in there/continue to work through the rain, we will find many hidden beauties and treasures we never would have found had we not stepped out into the storm.

"Life isn't waiting for the storm to pass.  It's learning to dance in the rain."  It's still my favorite saying, but it's meaning is changed forever in my heart.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It's been forever

I was right....when I started feeling better, my desire to blog seemed to lessen.  It always seems to go that way.  I think blogging is a way for me to sort out my mind and process everything that is going on around me.

So what has happened in the last month since I've posted? A LOT!!  Seeing that I print my blog and keep it as my journal, I am going to add a ton of pics and a little recap of the last month.  We have been a lot of places and done a lot of things. Although MS has not gone away.  I've learned to juggle it's needs and affects with what I've wanted to do.  I'm slowly learning this new dance, but I feel grateful.

So here it goes:
We've had a little sister's reunion and welcomed home missionaries.  Then family birthday parties and having a goodbye dinner with high priest quorum leadership after being released due to a change in the way the church organizes it's leadership.

We've had super fun visits with our grandson and daughter.  Always love to see that shining smile of his.

My husband and I went to Edisto island/Charleston for Spring break where we ate a lot of yummy Southern food, stayed in a cute cabin near the beach, renewed my love for drawing, getting my snake fix at a local serpentarium, kayaking with the dolphins, and just relaxing.



Having fun trying new recipes in my new instant pots and going to caucus meetings.
Saying goodbye to my sweet therapist who is retiring and has been with our family for at least 15 years.  This is a picture of a quilt she made me.  It is made in the same colors that I made a oil paint brush hold for her.  She will be dearly missed but is going on a service mission to help other missionaries with mental health needs that may come up while on their mission.

And right now?  It's filled with watching the neighbor boy play baseball, working, painting the picture for my sister's studio, and OF COURSE...planting LOTS of flowers (my favorite part of the year).


When reading this you might, her MS has been totally good, but the reality is?  I've learned to take wheelchairs in airports, finally got a permanent handicapped placard for the car, sit in the announcer booth to stay out of the heat of the baseball game, take a nap before and after shopping for beautiful flowers, and taking vacations to quiet getaway places where MS can have a break.

What I've learned?  I can still do many of the things I love, I just have to do them differently.  I also have to have patience and know I can't do everything I want to...and that's okay.

What's in store for today?  I had plans for an art lesson and riding in the cart while my son golfs, but my teacher got sick and the weather is cold and don't know :)  I will probably hit the gym, maybe plant a few flowers that can handle the cold, and maybe work on my oil painting.  The day is mine.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Changing of the guard

It's early on a Sunday morning.  Everything is still.  No March Madness playing in the background.  Few people on the streets.  The only sound around me is the whirring of the refrigerator.  It is so peaceful.  I wish it could stay like this forever.  I pulled the blinds to see a small dusting of snow on the lawn and low lying clouds still threatening to leave us with more moisture.
For over 15 years a sweet woman named Cindy has provided guidance to our family.  When faced with the decision of choosing a therapist for some family members, after being given a difficult situation, I obtained a list of names and went to my knees in prayer.  They were just a list of names.  I didn't know any of them, but the Lord did.  I labored over my decision, but each time I prayed, I was drawn to Cindy.  I made my decision to call.  I felt a peace that all would be okay.

That was 15 years ago and she has seen more than one family member during that time, most recently seeing me for the last 2 years.  She was the angel that was by my side when I had chosen not to be on this earth anymore.  She was the angel that came to me in the hospital "just because" she cared, not for the money.  She is the one that helps me see the world through untainted glasses and gives me strength for change.  She grounds me when my brain is tricking me to think my world is bigger than I can handle.

Her husband is retiring and she has chosen to do the same.  When she announced this in the Fall it was scary to hear, but I brush my fears out of my mind.  The time has now come.  I can count our remaining visits on one hand.  She has passed the torch to another, a stranger, yet I trust that she knows me and has put me in good hands.

I would be lying if I said it was easy.  I try to think of the positives, a new person, a new perspective, new ideas for change, but the old feels comfortable and safe.  She has sustained me through many hard times.  Change is hard.

I have to remember....I'm a warrior.  I can't do hard things.  The Lord still has me in the palm of His hands.  He will not leave me alone.

Today?  I am grateful.  I'm grateful for those who share their talents with us to help our lives become better.  I'm grateful for my Lord and Savior who has not forgotten me but guides me and those around me each day.  I'm grateful for a supportive husband and family who love me in good times and bad.  I am truly blessed.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The pendant

Yesterday was the best! My husband had to work and so I decided to pretend I was on vacation and do all the things I love or that I wanted to get done but hadn't been able to.  I started out with the gym, not in a hurry like usual, but chatted with friends that came in and out.  I then went to a pedicure, went to the store to pick up some undershirts that I need for our upcoming vacation, then headed off to the rock and mineral show, the car wash, and lastly the grocery store. The evening ended with a movie with my husband.  Well, it was a great day, but MS reminded me part way through the rock and gem show who was boss and by the time I hit the grocery store, stopped me dead in my tracks.

MS is a funny thing and is so hard to explain to people. It's hard to explain how you have to think through everything you want to do to help mitigate its effects.  It's also hard to explain how it feels when you're body is just "done"....not being able to take one more step.  It's so different than the fatigue I've felt previous to MS.  You know, the kind you can push through.

 I strategically went to the rock show at a time I knew there weren't going to be very many people there....early afternoon on the first day of the show before everyone got off of work.  Well, I was SO wrong.  It was kids day. The place was full of activities for children.  Lots of noise (I probably should have broken out the emergency earplugs in my purse), people everywhere moving unpredictably around me, lots of visual information (which messed with my vestibular system).  Needless to say, by the time I got about 1/2 way through, I was toast.  My legs were zapped of any energy I had walked in with.  I had to devise a system of how to look at the tables so that I didn't get too much visual stimuli, and I had to plan out where I was going to walk so that I had enough reaction time to keep my balance with kids running everywhere.

I thought sitting and waiting for my car to be washed after the show would help me regain some of my strength.  It did a little, but not a ton.  I didn't want to come back to the store later, so I went to the store.  By the time I was checking out, I had to sit down.  I wondered how I would get the groceries in the car and then out of the car again and put away.  I had made a bad choice. I should have waited to shop until later.   I arrived home and managed to get everything in, but just put the essentials in the fridge knowing that my husband would be home soon and could help.  I crawled into my chair and slept.

I probably should have cut out a few things from that day, but I'm so stinkin stubborn and always think I'm stronger than I really am.  Today?  I had planned to go to Zumba or boxing or even settle for a normal gym workout, but I made my bed yesterday and have to reap the consequences....a low key day.  I'm slowly learning what I can and can't do.  It's been a year and a half since my diagnosis, but learning my limits has taken time. It's hard to do because with MS, those limits are different every day.

I had a very precious thing happen yesterday that I need to share.  I had made my way to one of the back exhibits at the rock show.  It was quieter there and I made some conversation with the seller.  He stated that this was his last show.  He was moving from CA to Tennessee so that they could be closer to care and resources for his wife who was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's.  We talked a little about neurological diseases and I eventually decided to disclose mine.  We talked about how we hate to use the handicapped know, people seeing us walking in normally so we don't use them, while knowing that by the time we are done, we will hardly be able to walk out and should have swallowed our pride and have done so.

The whole time we were talking, I was trying to decide on this tiger's eye pendant.  I love to keep smoothe rocks in my pocket (they help with anxiety), but am always losing them.  I thought if I had it on a necklace, it would be much better.  I looked at it for a minute then handed it to him to purchase.  I fumbled in my purse to pull out the cash.  He looked into my eyes and told me there was no need to pay.  I argued with him for a moment and told him that money wasn't an issue and I wanted to pay him.  He refused by saying that the joy he would receive by giving it to someone would mean more to him than a few extra dollars in his pocket.

I couldn't fight back the tears, tried to argue about paying him again, but he wouldn't have it.  I thanked him and knew that that pendant would mean even more to me than before.  It would represent kindness, understanding, and kind of a feeling of connectedness to this family of people who are on this journey with these unpredictable diseases. 

We are all on this mysterious journey.  One that from hour to hour we have no idea where it is taking us.  There are times we feel like we are on a tropical vacation, meds working well, no sign of disease, and other times we are driving over deception pass...wondering if we are going to make it across...closing our eyes and moving forward slowly so that we don't get too scared by looking off to the sides.  If we can just continue to have in ourselves that we can do this and faith in a God that He will be our guide on this journey, we CAN do this.  We are warriors!

Friday, March 16, 2018

End of term? Teachers love it too!!!!

This weekend is going to be awesome.  End of term was yesterday.  If you've read my blog for very long, you know I LOVE my job, but end of term is the worst.   Kids stressing out....parents stressing stressing out trying to get my study hall students to pass their classes.  It's not a pretty scene.  I wish I could say that all my study hall students passed all their classes, but that's a big no.  All my students in my other classes though were passing but one.  I told him he could turn in his project up until midnight last night, crossing my fingers that he would.  I woke up to the most glorious email......Teacher.....I turned in my assignment.  YAY!!!!!!  It kills me when students earn an failing grade.

So....Today I'm floating on cloud nine.  I feel as if I'm headed to Disneyland (even though I'll be honest...I can't stand Disneyland...but you get the metaphor)

So here are the things I'm grateful for for this weekend.  It's already been an awesome start.
1.  End of term
2.  Finding an icecream that I could eat and devour last night
3.  My favorite pizza place now carries gluten free crust (ate pizza last night until I was about to pop)
4.  Woke up to a student's email saying he was passing
5.  Feeling good, (MS somewhat in hiding) headed to the gym with no time deadlines
6.  Found of a new nail salon close to my house that I heard was good (after my favorite one changed management and is now a health trap)...Getting a long overdue pedicure today
7.  Rock and mineral show is in town (yes, I'm a rock nerd) work and can wander around all day by myself if I want
8.  Going to the movie of my favorite childhood book (Wrinkle in time) with my hubby tonight
9.  No appts tomorrow and can choose boxing or Zumba if I want
10.  Smoking a pork roast on the smoker...first time in months

That's just through tomorrow!  I don't have to go to work until Tuesday!  Oh, and one of my favorite substitutes picked up a job for me on a day I didn't know if I could get anyone (the day before Spring break).  And I AM WINNING MARCH MADNESS at my work, beating all the coaches in my department. Yeah!  Last year I was the first one out due to not knowing anything about sports, but this year????? I got help.  Yes...I am in the number one spot!  My husband broke out in laughter and unbelief a few times last night because I was so into the game.  I have to admit though, I need to relish in the glory today, because my team to win it all is already out.....I'm going down.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Why do I write?

Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I've written.  I wondered if the need to write would lessen as I started getting better.  Writing has been a way for me to get big feelings out of my head and onto paper/screen.  It helps me see them for what they really are.  I'll admit that many of my posts, although always genuine, sometimes lack the intensity of what is really happening or how serious things are.  I guess I want to keep it as positive as possible, not only for my readers but for me too.  By trying to find the positive in my situation, it helps me to see my world in a way that allows me to know that no difficult situation is forever and that I can do hard things.

So where am I at now?  I need to come up with a good answer for this because I think someone asks me this question every day.  It's always so hard to know how to answer.  I could be running on the treadmill one minute and laying in my chair that afternoon with uncontrolled nerve pain and fatigue.  I NEVER know what the next hour will be for me.  I have learned to "roll with it" much better, making plans that can be more flexible, and doing things to help mitigate some of the fury of MS with simple things like earplugs in loud places, breaks for naps, etc.

All in all though, I think the Tecfidera is really helping.  I'm able to lead a somewhat normal life.  My mental health is much improved, just dealing mostly with anxiety.  My stamina still a bit compromised, but I'm able to do a little more shopping than before which had been halted to almost nothing due to vestibular issues. I have legs that want to behave as long as I'm treating my body right at the time, and less brain fog.

I've now disclosed my mental health story to two audiences at local high schools for our mental health nights, but tonight will be the scariest.  It is at my own school, in my own city, with those I work with every day.  Writing these words sends electrical shocks through my body.  I think I'm ready, but it is not without anxiety.  I've worked through a lot of my fears and triggers with my therapist and I'm stronger than when we gave our first presentation.  Each presentation triggers my PTSD surrounding the death of my brother, but more so than his situation, the near death of myself by my own hand.  I'm far from that place emotionally now, but thinking about it scares me.  I know the more I talk about it and work through feelings about it with my therapist, the less power it will have over me.

My life is good.  This week I have my sister, daughter, and grandbaby in town.  We had lots of family over (almost 30 people) last night.  Today we are going to the airport to greet my daughter's best friend home from and church mission.  Tonight is our presentation.  I know I only have some much reserve in my gas tank, so I'm choosing to exercise lightly at home just to make sure I have enough for the whole day.  I'm going to the airport with someone else, so they can drive if I need to rest and driving up separately.  This will allow me to get home early to rest before my presentation....... simple adjustments I make to my life to give me the ability to do the things I love and keep my MS in a happy place.  It's taken me awhile to figure these out.  I still overdo many times during the week, but each day I figure out new tips to keep my life as normal as possible and enjoy the beautiful things of life.




Saturday, February 17, 2018 we come

It's president's weekend and my husband and I took a little extra time so that we could see our daughter and her family.  Our flight was good.  It is good to get out of the cold and see some sunshine.  I've been a little worried about the trip because my MS has been giving me some trouble this past week, but I rested up for a day or so and so far it has been awesome.

I love my daughter and son in law, but my heart misses my grandson more than words can express.  We were greeted by his darling smile and he "helped" us with our luggage up to their apartment :)  The evening was full of playing ball, reading books, and of course...him having to not only take one of our fingers, but both of us to walk around the house several times during the night.  He didn't have a nap, but was cute as a button all night long.
Later that night we went to a restaurant.  We overheard a little boy next to us, probably about 7 years old, talking all kinds of stats about football.  My son in law couldn't help but overhear their conversation.  He spoke out and said, "what about those Broncos".  The little boy replied, "The Broncos suck".  We couldn't help but laugh as my son in law was wearing a Broncos hat and plays for the team.  The conversation went back and forth between our table and theirs.  Pictures were exchanged and my son gave him his hat to keep.  The mother came up to us and thanked him for his time and shared a little bit about his story.  Our hearts were touched.    They thanked us for our time saying it was a special thing for them, but the opposite was true.  It was such a special experience to meet this young man and his fervor for football.  He shared his light and his passion for the world.  What started out as being just a night out with the family turned into something special for us.
These moments continue to remind me how small and little things can not only bring light into the light of others but for ourselves.  No one is ever going to come up to me and want my autograph, but a sincere thank you to a server or hostess at the restaurant can make their day and can make me feel good inside and brighten my day.  We truly can change the world one act of kindness at a time.