Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thank You, Mrs. Ruthenbeck

I could not possibly choose a favorite book from my childhood. This would be like asking me to choose a favorite friend from my childhood, as this is what books were for me back then - trusted friends.  As I revisited each of my dear book-friends in my mind and thought of the lessons they've taught me and the moments we've shared I was able to narrow my choice down to two that really stand out. Both of these books were introduced to me in kindergarten.

As a child of parents who are both Deaf, sign language was the main method of communication used in our home and the one I was always most comfortable with.  We had family gatherings with my Aunt Betty and Uncle Jack, who were also both Deaf, and their kids.  We went to church with a Deaf congregation and pastor, and played with other kids at the local Deaf club on weekends.  From my 5-year-old perspective, the world was as fluent in sign as my family was.  Then came my first day of kindergarten.

I was excited, but apprehensive about being there.  My mom left just as school started, along with all the other parents, and my teacher, Mrs. Ruthenbeck, had us introduce ourselves to everyone.   Because I didn't know any better and felt most comfortable with signing, I used my hands rather than my voice in stating my name and favorite color.  To make a long story short, I learned that day the terrible truth that most of the world was not fluent in ASL.  I went home early because I refused to speak.  I cried.

This was the beginning of the discovery that I was different.  I was someone who did not completely fit in to the world of the Deaf or the world of the hearing.  The other kids must have thought I was strange due to my behavior on that first day - no one ever talked to me.  I became so quiet at school that my teacher worried.  She would come sit next to me along the kindergarten wall at recess and try to encourage me to play with the other kids.  She eventually asked if I'd like to stay inside the classroom and color or read a book.  This was how I ended up spending a good part of my kindergarten play time - at a table near the window, reading one of the many books in Mrs. Ruthenbeck's little classroom library.  Oh, how I loved to read.

One day I noticed a book I hadn't seen before, Leo the Lop.
Even now as I write this, I feel emotion welling up inside of me. The story is about a rabbit, Leo, who is different from the other rabbits because his long ears hang down to the ground.  Leo tries to fit in and be like the other rabbits whose ears stand straight up, but his ears don't cooperate.  He and the other rabbits then meet a possum who teaches them that normal is whatever you are.

Normal Is Whatever You Are.  Normal is talking with your hands or your voice.  Normal is living in the Deaf world or the hearing world.  Normal is playing outside at recess or quietly reading a book to yourself.  Normal Is Whatever You Are.

Oh, how I loved those words!  I continued to read every day but always started or ended my play time in kindergarten by reading Leo the Lop.  And I still own a copy of the book today.

My other favorite book came about during Nap Time, when Mrs. Ruthenbeck would read to us from Charlotte's Web as we lay on our nap mats.
I loved hearing of how Charlotte, a spider, became friends with Wilbur, a pig, and how hard she worked to make his life better.  I would lay there each day, eyes open wide, excited to hear what would happen next in Wilbur's adventure.

One day, near the end of the story, Mrs. Ruthenbeck stopped reading.  She told us that a very sad part was coming up and that it always made her cry, so she just couldn't read it to us.  In the same moment that I was thinking, You can't stop reading!  I need to know what happens next! she turned to me and asked, "Gerberta, would you read this part to the class for me?  You are such a good reader and it would be a great favor to me."  I couldn't believe it.  That looked like a pretty big book to a kindergartener.  I was scared for the tiniest moment, but of course I couldn't say no.

I walked to the front of the class, sat in Mrs. Ruthenbeck's Reading Chair, quickly glanced out at the faces of my classmates (who seemed just as surprised as I) and started to read.  I was amazed by how easily the words came to me and my confidence grew with each one.  I remember thinking, if I can read this book then I must be smart!

What a gift my teacher had given me.  Something magical happened after that day.  Somehow, things started to get better for me in kindergarten.  I started to play outside sometimes.  Kids would ask me to help them with letters or words that they couldn't quite get.  I started to look forward to going to school.  And Charlotte and I have remained great friends over the years.

All thanks to an amazing, intuitive kindergarten teacher.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Place Between


As I have mentioned probably a million times before, I was born to the best parents for me, who both also happen to be Deaf. I was raised in Deaf culture, learned to sign before I could speak, and have always been the most comfortable with this language and culture that I love.

However, as a hearing person, out of necessity I also became a part of hearing culture when I entered school. After discovering that not everyone could communicate in sign language (one of my earliest, most devastating memories) I found myself stuck between two worlds.

During the day, I was a part of the hearing culture which I was also learning to love. Here, there was music, which touched every part of my soul. There were spoken words which added beauty to the language that I already knew. After school, when I would go home, I was a part of the Deaf culture that I loved. Here, there was family. There was an aspect of beauty to ASL that could not be translated into words that the hearing could understand in quite the same way. There was comfort at home and a strong feeling of belonging that, for me, was lacking at school. I couldn't find a way to build a bridge between these worlds that each held such joy for me.

One day in high school I heard a friend asking if anyone knew the lyric to a particular song. (Mind you, this is back in the days before home computers and the internet.) With the instruments playing and the way it was sung, it was difficult to understand. Well, I knew that lyric. I knew exactly what it said, because my brother and I watched MTV and VH1 all the time, and our television at home had a closed-captioning machine hooked up to it so my parents could read what was being said. (Again, back in the day before closed-captioning was standard in every TV.) The fact that I knew this lyric was a game-changer for me. I had an advantage over most hearing people because I was also a part of Deaf culture! Eventually, my friends figured out my secret and we would spend a lot of time at my house during lunch, watching music videos.

I ended up joining my high school cross country team because I was asked to, and I liked to make people happy. I had participated in a race at my junior high for the same reason. Our P.E. teacher reminded us that there was an 8th grade race after school and that she was disappointed that not many students had signed up to participate. I knew I was not good at kickball or basketball or dodgeball or any kind of ball. But running? Anyone could run, right? So I showed up after school in my sandals and ran the race, which meandered through the neighborhood surrounding the school. A few different times I was unsure of where to go, so I would stop and wait for the person behind me to catch up, follow them for a bit, then run on ahead. I came in first without really even trying. The cross country coach from the high school was there and he invited me to come run with the team over the summer, so I did. And I found that running was another thing to love. The cross country team became like another family to me.

High school was also where I discovered the magic of theater. I initially joined the beginning drama class because I loved being a part of the musicals our choir in middle school had done. The first couple of monologues I did had no substance to them. But one day our teacher, Mr. Scarlata, said something about becoming someone you are not on stage. About how you are not you when you are playing a role, you are someone else. And suddenly, it clicked. I fell in love with this idea, and the drama department became a place that was like home for me. The friends I made in my theater classes and the plays and musicals I was in were another extension of my family.

I sang, although timidly, in choirs throughout elementary and middle school. I remember a day when a friend heard me singing along to a song on MTV and said, "Wow, you have a really good voice!" It surprised me. I knew that I liked imitating the voices in the songs I heard on the radio but I hadn't thought much about it beyond that. After my freshman year my choir teacher, Mrs. Jensen, encouraged me to audition for the all-girls choir, Les Chansonnieres. I auditioned with a song I loved from The Sound of Music and was put in the soprano section. The year after that she asked me to consider auditioning for the top choir, Aristocracy. I sang there for one year until I auditioned again, this time with a song by U2 that I loved, Van Diemen's Land, and was put in the alto section. Here was where I found another family. A group of people who were as passionate about singing and music as I was.         

I was lucky in that my parents were very supportive of the hearing culture things we enjoyed. They let us listen to music, rather loudly, and enjoyed it with us. They would often ask us to sign the lyrics to songs, which I loved to do. They would come watch us perform in plays, with no interpreter, and my dad would cheer louder than any other parent there. However, this was not typical of the Deaf people we knew. Most of them, understandably, had no love for music or anything else that they couldn't understand. Wonderful interpreters have helped bridge this gap over time, but when I was a teenager it was difficult. There were no laws, no rights for the Deaf, no equal access to communication back then. The equal access in our family was dependent on me and my siblings and our willingness to interpret for our parents. 

I was also lucky in that my new "hearing family" were very supportive of the Deaf culture that was an undeniable part of me. My choir teacher, Mrs. J, asked me to sign a couple of songs that the other choirs sang during our concerts. When I auditioned for a solo one year she asked if I would sign it in ASL, too. One time we wrote monologues about a typical day in our life and after I performed mine with some ASL mixed in, Mr. Scarlata asked me about why it was important to me to include it and I was able to give a brief lesson on Deaf culture to the Play Production class. My coaches and teammates on the cross country team quickly learned that they could speak directly to my parents and I would happily interpret.

Over time I learned that it wasn't so hard to find a bridge between cultures after all. The bridge had been there all along, I just had to find it.

The bridge was me.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pepper Pizzas



Here in Utah there has been a definite change in the weather. We went from highs in the 80's one day to stormy and cold the next. Things have balanced out some, but like many here, I had to go out and save what I could from my garden before the possibility of the low morning temperatures destroying it. This year, the largest result was a plethora of peppers. In the past I have shared my crop because we can not use so many peppers in such a quick time. But this year we discovered pepper pizzas, or, as my kids have dubbed them, Pezzas. So if you're trying to find a way to use a load of peppers, give these a try!

This recipe doesn't have any specific measurements. You can make one or 100 and you just eyeball it along the way.

You'll need:

Green peppers
spaghetti sauce
mozarella cheese
any other desired toppings (we just use mini pepperoni, and sometimes black olives)

First, de-seed the peppers by cutting them in half and removing the seeds. Lay the peppers, open side up, on a cookie sheet. Spread a large spoonful of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of each pepper. Sprinkle cheese on top of that. Then add whatever toppings your family likes. Bake them in a preheated 350 degree oven until the cheese is melty. (I like to look for the cheese turning slightly brown in spots, but that's just how I like it. I'm not the boss of you.) Then enjoy!

The crazy thing about these is that I didn't think they would be popular, especially with my youngest two. Neither of them like green peppers much. But they beg for Pezzas! I don't know if it's because they are not-so-cleverly disguised as pizzas or what, but they love these things.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Becoming






             


Is there a job out there somewhere for moms who like to show up in their children's classrooms (or any classroom, for that matter) dressed up in costume, portraying a character from a book or a movie or their imagination?  Because man, do I miss doing this. Every time one of these pictures shows up as a memory on my Facebook wall I can't help but smile. If there were some way to tie music and ASL with this non-existent job, I would be on cloud nine and love going to work every day.

I remember when my oldest son Allen was in kindergarten, how much I wanted to show up in his classroom in costume and share stories, like Stella the Storyteller from his favorite show, Barney and Friends. Who would have thought that I would start showing up in a 6th grade class instead? And love it so much?

For the first time in a long time I have been able to volunteer in my elementary school kids' classrooms and that is also very rewarding. I find myself looking forward to working with the kids each time I go in and remembering why I wanted to go into special education when I was still in college. At the time, that just wasn't in the cards for me. I was a new mother, we were poor college students, and continuing to go to school didn't make much sense since my life experience allowed me to work as a sign language interpreter immediately and make more money than I would as a teacher with an eventual degree. (How sad is that, by the way?)

I'm still figuring things out. Friends in the generation older than me laugh knowingly when I tell them I'm not sure what to do with myself now that Little X is in school. Friends my age nod their heads knowingly and express the same wonderings. Friends younger than me sigh knowingly and long for that time.

I'm in the middle of costume design and creation for The Phantom of the Opera at my kids' high school. I learned so much when I did this for The Little Mermaid that I couldn't resist helping again. And this time around, I keep getting my own ideas. Mrs. Frizzle sort of ideas. Crazy costumes I could make myself, if there were the time and the place to use them.

I may need to create my own job. I know it is possible. It's there in my head, I just need to figure out the details.







Monday, September 25, 2017

Dressing My Daughters

                                         Girls shirt, size 14                      Boys shirt, size 8

I took this cute girl birthday shopping on Saturday. She wanted to find a couple of new shirts for school, so we hit one of our standard shopping places - JC Penney. There are a few reasons I typically like to shop here.

1. It is super close to our house.
2. They almost always have awesome coupons available.
3. They have a lot of great sales.

First we hit the girls' section and found a couple of nice tops, including the floral top with the grey sleeves. It was hard to find them amongst all the glitter and flippy sequins and cute sayings in cursivey fonts, but we persevered. We found her typical size, 10/12, the one that coincides with her age and is usually the right fit.

Next we ventured into the boys' area because she typically finds clothes that she REALLY likes over there - ones that have to do with Star Wars or science and the like. We found the awesome Star Wars shirt pictured above, grabbed the 10/12 size, and headed to the dressing room.

She tried on the floral shirt first. It was too short, in the front and in the sleeves. We thought it must have been a fluke with that shirt and got another one in the same size. Same problem. Finally I got her a size 14 to try on and it was a perfect fit (as long as it doesn't shrink at all after we wash it).

When she tried on the Star Wars shirt, it was way too large. The front came down to her fingertips and the sleeves just hung on her. So I went and got a size 8 (Small) and guess what? It fit great. Even if it shrinks a little in the wash, it will still be a good fit.

Do you see the problem here? A girl's size 14 fit just a tad smaller and tighter than a boy's size 8.

Can we also address the shirts with the flippy sequins on them? Does anyone else see why this is a terrible idea?

And don't get me started on pants. Both Princess and Curly preferred buying boys joggers in khaki and camo over the girl's pants that were skin tight and available in every color under the rainbow.

I get how supply and demand works, so I can only assume that people everywhere are clamoring to buy their girls these kind of clothes. Or are they? Are we just buying what's available because that's what is there? Because that's what the designers and suppliers and retail stores want us to buy?

Not me.

This is why I love to shop at thrift stores, especially for my girls. There is a wide variety of styles available, there is almost always something that fits what my family likes, and as a bonus - we know how the clothes will fit after being washed.

I'll tell you what, though - if I could find a store that didn't sell to stereotypes I would love to shop there and support them. Girls dresses that have sleeves and reach their knees would be amazing. Girls pants that are loose-fitting and comfortable would be a dream. Girls pants that are made like boys joggers would be all my girls would wear! Girls tops featuring things like science and dinosaurs would be great! Actually, I would just be happy to find some girls t-shirts that have a fun design that does not include glitter.

So, the search is on.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

If the Shoe Fits...


You see these shoes here? This pair of Chucks have been around for as long as I can remember. I can't recall if I bought them in junior high or high school, but I know they have been around for a good, long time.

They are obviously well-loved. The rubber soles have started to crack in places, the canvas fabric has become faded, weather-worn and fragile. They are torn, frayed, and holey. But I just can't bring myself to get rid of them, no matter how tattered they become. They hold so many memories. If they were still in good condition I could donate them to a thrift store, but the best place for them would likely be a trash can. (It hurts me to even say that.)

When I wear them, I look down and see the shoes I wore on my first date. I see the shoes I wore on my first road trip with friends. I see the shoes I was wearing when I broke my leg and had a baby on the same day. They are not just the pair of old, worn out shoes that others see. To me, they are memory keepers.

People are like that, too. Sometimes, on the outside, they look a little worse for the wear. But when we take the time to get to know someone, we learn the story behind the facade. Every person has a unique story, experiences that only they have had and only they can share.

The next time you see someone in a pair of old, ratty shoes, think of the stories they could tell.

(Both the person and their shoes.)

   

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lost In Emotion

I went on Facebook the other day to waste some time (that's what usually ends up happening, anyway) and found out that my brother-in-law's dad had passed away. The week before the same thing happened to the father of a close friend. 

It's crazy how all the emotions associated with my own father's death, over 16 years ago, come right back up to the surface when I hear of someone I know losing a parent, or a child, or a friend.

We attended the funeral service for our good friend's father. It was a beautiful service, filled with stories of his goodness and love, and we couldn't help but compare all that was said to the life our friend is living. He could be described in much the same way as his father, and I guess that is part of his father's legacy, to pass on the good in him to his children, so they can continue what he started.

I couldn't help comparing myself to my own Dad's wonderful qualities, and finding parts of him still alive there in me was a beautifully overwhelming thing.

Here's the other thing I've been thinking about - grief. I have discovered that grief does not happen in a perfect cycle. It does not happen when or where you want or expect it to. It can show up on a random Thursday on aisle 3 at the grocery store when a song on the overhead system evokes a memory. It can show up in the middle of the day when you have some form of inspiration and have the thought that your Dad is right there, whispering ideas into your mind. It will show up when you attend a funeral - any funeral, even one for someone you don't know - and you may find yourself a blubbering mess, worried that the family will wonder why you are so emotional about someone you didn't even know. 

Grief does not follow any patterns. It does not get "easier with time". You may remember the pain and heartache less, but the person that is gone is always there in your heart. You don't want to forget them and you don't want others to forget them either. 

In 2013 I wrote about how thinking in terms of Horcruxes helped me work through my emotions after the death of a good friend. The last couple of paragraphs read:

There are a million things I could say that I haven't over the last year, but the one thing that really stands out lately is this: in losing Jason I have gained something else - a whole network of friends who look out for and care about each other. Because Jason was such a big fan of the Harry Potter books, I like to think of it in terms of Horcruxes.

Jason is no longer here with us but a small part of him is alive in every person who loved him.  So, even though he may not be here with us physically we can still have a part of him with us when we associate with each other.  He lives on in each of us. We are like his Horcruxes, anchoring fragments of his soul to the earth in the memories that we've shared with him. Every person who has a memory of Jason holds a piece of his story. I think that when we remain connected to each other we remain connected to him.  That is something I can hold on to.  That is something I am thankful for.    

 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More Jokes for Kids!

I still put jokes in my kids' lunches. Every day. We're going on somewhere around 15 years of this now, so finding new jokes is often a challenge. I have learned that I can recycle jokes from 2 years past and the kids have forgotten them. Thanks to this discovery, I'm going to start adding the good jokes I find to my collection here so I can recycle them every couple of years. I mean, I do still have at least another 11 years of this!


Q: How do you tie up two space men?

A: With an astro-knot!

Q: Why do cows have hooves instead of feet?

A: Because they lactose.

Q: How do you know when the moon has enough to eat?

A: When it's full!

Q: What happens when you play Beethoven backwards?

A: He de-composes.

Q: What do you call a funny mountain?

A: Hill-arious


Q: Why do Norwegians have barcodes on their ships?

A: So they can Scandinavian!

Q: What makes pirates such great singers?

A: They can hit the high C's!

Q: What did the ninja order at Burger King?

A: A Whoppaaaaaa!

Q: What do you call a witch who lives at the beach?

A: A sand witch!

Q: Did you hear about the lumberjack who got fired for cutting down too many trees?

A: He saw too much.

Q: What does a robot frog say?

A: Rib-BOT

Q: What did the ground say to the earthquake?

A: You crack me up!

Q: Why don't lions eat clowns?

A: Because they taste funny.

Q: What do you call a belt made out of $1 bills?

A: A waist of money.

Q: What do you call a belt made out of watches?

A: A waist of time.

Q: What do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft?

A: A Flat Miner

Q: What's the first thing a taxi driver says to a wolf?

A: Where, wolf?

Q: What do you call a sleeping dinosaur?

A: A dino-snore

Q: What happens when you get a bladder infection?

A: Urine trouble

And, a few nerd jokes for good measure...

Q: Why can't the Ender Dragon understand a book?

A: Because he always starts at the end.

Q: Why do Daleks eat apples?

A: Because an apple a day keeps The Doctor away.

Q: What do you call a time traveling cow?

A: Doctor MOO!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sowing and Sewing



In the course of working on costumes for the show my daughter is in at her high school, my sewing machine went kaput. I mean, there I was, sewing a waistband onto a skirt, when BAM. No power. It completely shut down. I tried plugging my machine into various outlets around the house, hoping that somehow one of them would have a magic power source that would bring it back to life. My attempts were unsuccessful.

My sewing machine is 25 years old. It was a gift to me from my husband's grandmother, along with lessons to learn how to use it. That meant so much to me to receive such a gift back then. I taught myself to make simple things at first, small patchwork quilts and pillows, and then got brave and tried things like maternity clothes and then dresses for my girls when they were small. Since then I have sowed that talent to where I feel pretty comfortable trying just about anything. All on this little machine.

I sent a frantic text to Allen, detailing all my fruitless efforts to revive my machine. His simple response was this: Time for a new one.

I love that man.

I went to a local Bernina store in search of a used, newer machine that would hopefully last me another 25 years. I found some great options, then Allen reminded me that his brother buys/fixes/sells Berninas as a side job/hobby. So I contacted my brother-in-law and, long story short, ended up with the Rolls-Royce of sewing machines at a steal of a price.

The creative possibilites before me are suddenly endless. I want to finish these costumes so I can start to design and construct the ideas that keep floating around in my brain!

As for my old machine, I am still planning to pay the small fee to get it running again. Like an old friend who has taught me a lot, I can't just leave it behind.

And with my new machine? I can't wait to reap from what I sew.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Of Singing and Writing and Discovering

It has happened. My baby, who is no longer a baby, is in school full-time.

I was recently re-reading a book that I love, The Running Dream. At one point in the story she talks about how the finish line in a race is really also the starting line. A beginning of something new to conquer. I've thought about that a lot.

We are down from 10 kids in the house to only 6. And when I tell people 'only six kids at home' I get why they think that's kind of funny. But to me, it's kind of sad.

My mom's cancer seems to be gone, but the doctors are cautiously optimistic. She hasn't been declared cancer free yet, but her visits to the doctors are less frequent and she's getting her energy back. So, although I can still go visit anytime I like, she is not as dependent on me for rides and care. This is a wonderful, beautiful thing.

But man, what do I do with all this free time?

I thought I had my life figured out. I have put my interpreting career on the back burner for so long, just waiting for this time in my life. I am still needed and wanted in my profession. But I have discovered it's not really what I want to do anymore. So I am torn.

I can't let go of interpreting, not yet. It's a huge part of who I am and how I feel I remain best connected to the Deaf community. I'm exploring ways to maintain that connection without needing to be an actual certified interpreter any longer, but for now I just can't let go. I just can't justify paying for hours and hours of workshops to maintain my certification when I work so little, but I do it anyway. I'm not sure what it is that keeps me tethered to this, but I'm going to figure it out, as well as figuring out some way to stay close to ASL and the Deaf community. I have some ideas, some totally outlandish, some completely doable. So I'm exploring those. And discovering more about me.

This completely new phase in my life has helped me to understand three absolutes about myself. One is that singing makes me happy. One is that the Deaf community and ASL make me happy. The other is that writing makes me happy. So I'm going to make time every day to do something with all three.

I guess this is the beginning. My new starting line.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Change Is Hard

We have been going through a whole series of changes over the last month. And it is hard.

Allen TY and his cute family have moved to Northern California for an internship over the summer, which will be followed by another internship in another state to finish out the year. I get it, kids move on, it's what we want them to do, and I'm happy for them and their successes and adventures - but do they have to go so far away? It's hard.

Kobe (formerly known as All-a-Boy) has graduated from high school and will be leaving for New Mexico for the summer to work at a scout camp. There is still so much to do and remember before he leaves tomorrow! But I'm letting him enjoy one last morning of sleeping in. Once he returns home at the end of the summer, he will head off to school in Idaho with Julia. That makes 4 kids that have left home. And I guess I'm happy they do that. But still, a bit of my heart leaves with them. It's hard.

Little X graduated from kindergarten, which means he will be in school full-time next year. He's my baby - so now what? I feel like I need to re-define myself. Initially, I thought I would go back to interpreting at least part-time, but there are so many politics involved in that right now that I just can't see myself pursuing it. So what do I do? Find a dream job as an assistant librarian?  Volunteer in my kids' classrooms? I'm still unsure. It's hard.

Hubba moves on to middle school next year. Tomorrow he graduates from the 6th grade. And Little O was accepted into the same accelerated studies program that Curly is in now. Which means they will both be at our neighborhood school, leaving Little X at the school we've been going to for (I think) 8 years. So I have cancelled our school choice and transferred them all back to our neighborhood school. I wasn't expecting all of the emotion that I've been experiencing over that change. I am going to miss that school so much! This could be a post in itself.

I will miss seeing Marci at the crosswalk every morning with a smile and a wave for everyone who drives by. I will miss the wave from Amy as we're crossing paths in dropping our kids off in the morning. I will miss the awesome office staff and nurse who have been so helpful to our family. I will miss the opportunity for Little X to be in the amazing Mrs. Pace's class when he's old enough. I'll miss carpooling with my neighbor, Sarah, who loves my boys and lets them know it. I'm even going to miss being in charge of the Golden Apple award for the PTA. I'll miss seeing my friends Rachel and Natalie at assemblies and activities. I'm going to miss Janett in the library and how fun she makes things there (library time is one of my kids' favorite things about that school). I'm going to miss the music classes that Mrs. Seamons made so fun for them, teaching many of my kids to play the recorder and ukulele as well as songs that are still sung in my house on repeat. Mostly, I will miss the memories being made. It's so hard.

My mom finished her last round of chemo at the end of March. What a relief! She is getting her hair back, slowly, but she is still experiencing some neuropathy in her feet and hands as a side effect. She went in for some routine bloodwork earlier this month and they noticed that her CA125 (test for tumor markers in ovarian cancer) was elevated. So she got a PET scan, which initially we got pretty hopeful news from as far as ovarian cancer goes. They tested her CA125 again, and it was continuing to rise, so the doctor got some more opinions on her PET scan and they think she has a very small nodule of cancer that has returned. Very small = good, right? Not really. Any recurrence of cancer that soon after completing chemo is an indication that the cancer could be aggressive. They still aren't positive that the "nodule" isn't actually scar tissue from surgery, so now we wait for clarification. She'll have a CT scan next month which they will compare to the PET scan and we'll see where we go from there. There are no words for how much I hate cancer and all it has taken from me. This is incredibly hard.

The one thing I have noticed the most in the face of all of this change is that it is a great reminder to me of what is most important. And despite how hard all of this is, I can see the good in all of it.

Allen and Kia are opening up a wider world of opportunities for their family's future as they travel and work in these internships.

Kobe is going to gain some great insight and experience as he lives away from home, which will prepare him in so many ways for his future.

Little X and I are both learning to be more independent as he transitions to a full day of school. And I'm sure it will give me more opportunities to explore, discover and strengthen my talents.

Going to our neighborhood school will help my kids strengthen their friendships in our neighborhood. It will be wonderful for all of my elementary aged kids to be in the same school again.

As for my mom - this has brought us together closer as a family and has given me opportunities to spend more time with her.

(But I still hate cancer. SO. MUCH.)

And all of this has helped me grow closer to God as I recognize that He is ultimately in control.
Be still, and know that I am God. —Psalm 46:10 #scripture #LDS:   

Friday, January 20, 2017

Love Changes Everything

You want to know what I've been thinking about lately? And not just thinking about, but more like poring over and maybe even borderline obsessing on? Love. And its ability to change the world. Not just in big ways, although there is that. I'm talking small, simple things that can happen in my home, and then my community, and then beyond.

Every person on this planet is going through something hard. I don't care who you are. So instead of comparing ourselves to others or lifting ourselves by putting others down, why can't we just all LOVE each other and support each other?

My children are awesome. Every single one of them. They have their struggles and challenges, and so do I. As a mother, nothing hurts me more than seeing my children hurting and pretending like they're not. It tears me apart. I can show love here at home, tell them how amazing and wonderful and smart and kind they are - but when that is not reinforced in the way they are treated by their peers, there is a point when they stop believing me. When I tell them how incredible they are, they start saying, "says my mom" or "you have to think that, you're my mom". 

When kids are little, they own their awesomeness. What happens between then and the tween years, when they start to doubt themselves and their abilities and their uniqueness? It's outside forces. People and situations that I can not control. All I can do is hope that I have infused my children with enough love and light and hope to get them through the hard times that are inevitable. I don't want their hearts to be too soft, and I don't want them to grow too hard. I want to find that balance.

Have you ever met someone who seems to always find the negative in every situation? Someone who seems to always cause division and contention? These people are hard to be around. I try the 'kill 'em with kindness' approach, but sometimes it gets to the point where it becomes too draining and I have learned when it is time to let go. It can be freeing. But then I continue to see these people around, and they continue to make me feel small. I know it is in my power to change this. But so far, I have not figured out how. I care too much about what people think. I wish I didn't, but I do.

Politics right now scare me. For many reasons, but mostly for what they are bringing out in people. So many people who I love and respect are filled with hatred and anger and fear. Instead of responding in this way, wouldn't love be a better answer? Whether or not we agree with what is going on, I can't see how our negative thoughts and actions toward those who need guidance and direction will help. But I can imagine how having a whole nation praying for someone would help them in a positive way. Love is always the right answer.

I wish that every one of my kids could understand their potential and see the goodness in themselves. I wish they could see themselves through my eyes. I wish that people who get to spend time with my kids every day could see them through my eyes. Ultimately, I wish all of us could see each other the way God sees us. With unconditional love and understanding.

I think about all of this way too much. And all I can do is continue to love, despite my brokenness and imperfection when I try.     

Here's what I can do. I can be a friend to someone who needs one. I can be a light to someone in darkness. I can show love where there is hate and anger and fear. And I can pray.