Thursday, January 18, 2018

Speaking of Avalanche Mode

So it has been a while since I’ve written anything. The holidays happened with gusto . . . and lots of family and fun. Then our clan was blitzed by the raging flu bug that is unfortunately going around. My mother was hit very hard by that particular bug. One night she got up, was extremely dizzy, and began to fall. She tried to stop herself by grabbing onto a small chest of drawers located in her bathroom, and pulled it on top of herself. She lay on the bathroom floor for a good 30-40 minutes before she was able to finally pull her herself out from under all of that.

My mom lives by herself in a cute apartment not far from where I dwell, but I had no idea she was in trouble until I called to check on her the next morning. When she told me what had happened, I knew we needed to take her in to see a doctor. So my oldest son and I hurried into town. (We live about 4 miles outside of the local village.) Since it was January 1st, we knew none of the local clinics would be open, so we took her to ER.

Luckily, Mom hadn’t broken anything, but she was covered in bumps and bruises. She also tested positive for the flu. She was placed on Tamiflu, and her doctor (who happened to be on call that day) insisted that we needed to look into a medical alert system for her to prevent this kind of situation from happening again.

We were just starting to get on top of things after all of that, and our ward suffered the loss of two beloved members—in the same week. Both deaths tore at the heart strings. One was expected, the other was not. And as luck would have it, my husband and I had been assigned church cleaning duty the first two weeks of January. Let’s just say we weren’t bored for those two weeks.

Thus far, the new year has been a bit of a blur. I haven’t even had time to ponder life-changing resolutions. Free time has been nil. (This means there hasn’t been any.) Between all of the adventures mentioned above, plus little things like helping my husband with the local meals on wheels program available in our area, Cub Scout adventures, etc. I do my best to swamp out our abode, and keep up with things like laundry, meals, so on and so forth. 

I barely had time to acknowledge and ponder the loss of our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. A lot of things have slipped to the way side, including blog posts. I apologize for that, but am happy to report that despite everything, I am somehow managing to keep my nose a bit above the turbulent waters that currently surround us.

That’s kind of how life is for a lot of us. I’ve talked to other family members and friends, and though their life adventures differ, they all appear to be in the same boat. LIFE IS CRAZY!!!  (Emphasis on “crazy.”)

I remember years ago hearing a seminary teacher state that in the latter days, church members will be kept so busy, they won’t have time to worry about all of the intense events that will be taking place in the world. At the time, I thought that was rather silly. I have lived to a point in my life where I take back what I once thought. We are seeing it. We are living it. It is happening. Just sayin’ . . .

I am realizing that it is crucial these days to make the time for items like personal prayer, scripture study, and however we manage to fill our personal buckets. For me it’s a combination of things, like the two items I already mentioned, and hot baths, going for a walk with a good friend, taking pictures, writing, strumming my guitar, etc. I find that life seems to go better when I can work that stuff in . . . but in light of the crazy times . . . it doesn’t always happen. And a price is paid. Peace of heart and mind seems to fade as we flop into Chicken Little mode.

So we take a step back, take a deep breath, and try again, knowing we must work in the things that will inspire the peace of heart and mind that we desperately need these days.

A writer writes. I’ve heard that saying repeated countless times . . . but it is true. And sometimes we take a lot of notes. I’ve been accused of that on family trips, during General Conference season, etc. So it may not be a surprise to my close family members and friends that I took a few notes the day our new prophet was announced. The ones that stand out are as follows:

“Keep on the covenant path!” President Russell M. Nelson

“The best is yet to come!” President Henry B. Eyring

“Maintain faith in the Lord!” President Eyring

“Wake, eager to face the day’s adventures!” President Russell M. Nelson

“(The Savior) will guide and bless each one of us!” President Dallin H. Oaks

“Face the future with optimism and joy with faith in the Lord!” President Russell M. Nelson
“See the Church as it really is!” President Henry B. Eyring  (I took this one to mean that we need to ignore the small stuff and to quit judging each other!)

It’s looking like our new Church Presidency is trying to tell us that despite all of the craziness taking place in today’s world, we need to focus on the good things. We need to shrug off the negative vibes and actively pursue those items that bring us happiness. It won’t be easy, things of worth seldom are, but I have decided that despite the avalanche of life that mowed over the top of us at the beginning of this new year, it will be possible to find joy. I am determined to make 2018 a year to remember, one that is filled with positive events and peace. 

Only we can change our mind set. Only we can pull ourselves out from under whatever has fallen on top of us thus far this year, and be as my mother has been, determined to survive! 

With that said, I realize it will be a challenge. It will take everything we have to offer and then some to heed the advice from our church leaders. I am determined to try. And if other avalanches come along in our lives, let’s help each other dig out!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Speaking of Bionics . . .

I am the bionic woman. Seriously. I jest not. At least that’s what my diabetic specialist is thinking these days. I had an appointment with him yesterday and to say that he was stunned by some test results would be putting it mildly. He also seemed a bit overwhelmed and kept saying things like, “So this is the future.” “What is my role going to be with all of this?” etc. and so forth. 

I understand his confusion. I was feeling similar items about 3-4 months ago. Back then I was feeling overwhelmed and wondering what my role was going to be. Long story short, I was given an opportunity to join a study for a brand new type of insulin pump. As a Type 1 diabetic, I’ve had my share of experiences with insulin pumps. They have been part of my life for years. They function as an artificial pancreas and have done a great job of keeping me alive. Instead of giving 6+ shots a day (for some reason, my body balked at allowing me to mix long lasting insulin with fast acting, but I digress) I merely changed an IV site every 3 days and tada, I could program the pump to punch in needed basal and bolus amounts of insulin. 

Fast forward to this past year—now it is possible to allow an insulin pump to figure out how much insulin you need. It’s like wearing a tiny robot 24/7. It “talks” to me when my levels are getting too high or too low, and has a tendency to be a little bit of a dictator. Just sayin’. But the cool thing is, my A1C (diabetic lingo for blood sugar averages—it goes back over a 3 month period) is now lower than it has ever been. Ever. This is impressive. This means I’m under better, tighter control and I may be able to avoid some of the complications that tend to go along with diabetes.

I’ve been dealing with this disease since I was 19. They figure I actually started having problems with it in high school, but we didn’t realize that symptoms like having chicken legs (a term of endearment from my mother) always feeling hungry, and drinking water like a camel were signs that something was amiss. It would take a couple of years in college for my body to go into total rebellion mode. Things got so far out of whack, I began passing out in class, and having seizures. I would later learn that those were symptoms of out of control Type 1 diabetes, something a specialist told us about when I was finally diagnosed.

Unfortunately, most Type 1’s are in rough shape by the time they are identified. As in my case, big red flags are passed off as other things. “Cheri is a toothpick with eyes because she’s always on the run.” “Cheri is constantly running to the potty because she drinks so much water.” “Cheri is exhausted because she is always on the go . . . literally.” So on and so forth. 

Type 1’s are usually about half starved by the time the light bulbs click on. Since our bodies don’t digest food properly, in part because the insulin levels aren’t strong enough to process what we’re eating, we lose a ton of weight. And while this may fit the current trend in society to resemble twigs and such, it’s actually not healthy . . . at all. 

When it was finally explained that I would be dealing with diabetes the rest of my life, I was ready to celebrate. Having been told that I had items like a brain tumor and/or epilepsy while traversing the diagnosis trail, finally knowing what I was really dealing with was pretty much a relief. I know this type of reaction isn’t normal, but I never have been classified as such, so it was typical for me. Instead of throwing myself or having a meltdown, or screaming that my life was over, I tried instead to learn everything I could about this new challenge.

Through the years, I have tackled odds that seemed rather stacked against me, and currently feel like I have done okay with this particular marathon. I haven’t had perfect control, but I have had good control. This has permitted me to have 3 healthy children. I still have most of my body parts, and though I may possess a bit of an attitude when it comes to life, it is due in part to the fact that I have been fighting for my life for years. I treasure things like family time, personal space, and the ability to accomplish important goals. I realize there are no guarantees with this disease and there are days when I feel like the proverbial last chapter. I did end up with a little heart glitch a few years ago, but we fixed things and I am trying to slow down and take better care of myself.

Since I am the bionic woman, I do sometimes tend to take on more than I can handle. So I am striving to remedy that. (You can hear my children cheering in the background.) I’ve had to pick and choose between activities that I love and adore, but can no longer keep up with. Perhaps in time and with the addition of this new amazing super pump, I will be able to jump back into the fray of life as I once knew it. I know this, I will not go gently into that dark night. When this life is over I will more than likely throw down a very worn out body with a grin on my face that says it all: “I truly lived!” And now, back to showing this new pump who is the actual boss!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Time Has Come to Talk . . . of Wibbies & Icebergs

I’ve noticed a tendency in my life—when I’m facing overwhelming trials, I avoid keeping a journal. For example, during the two years following my father’s death, there is no record of how I survived. Looking back, I now wish I would’ve made an attempt at keeping even a small journal. However, there are other things that I did write: poetry, songs, and my first attempt at writing a novel. Those pages contain snippets of how I was feeling and items that helped me endure.

I found that on the nights I couldn’t sleep, it helped to write out everything I was feeling. Then I would shred those pages and throw it all away. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I was doing my own form of therapy following an extremely traumatic episode in my life. I was, in essence, getting rid of toxic emotions that were tearing me apart following Dad’s suicide. 

It worked! Writing has always been an outlet for me. I feel a sense of calming peace when I write. And I feel like I have been guided somewhat on what to write, after I get rid of “the wibbies.” (A family term that means something scary.) 

This past year has been filled with “wibbies.” Lots of change, serious illness, parental decline, earthquakes, weird weather, and heartrending trials within our family. And we won’t even go into the daily tragedies we have witnessed on the news. There are days when I feel like I’ve been strapped to the front of the Titanic just as it hit the iceberg. But there have also been numerous tender mercies that have kept us all going. 

Probably one of the most challenging items I’ve dealt with this past year was my mother’s serious illness the end of April. For some strange reason that we’re still trying to figure out, her electrolytes plummeted dangerously low. Her condition mimicked a stroke. She went from being a fairly vibrant character, to someone who couldn’t walk or talk. We have spent months helping her regain a sense of self, and to relearn skills most of us take for granted, like using a TV remote, or telephone. 

My mother has always been a fighter, and she has, for the most part, bounced back from this year’s challenging “wibbie.” Since I’m the offspring that lives the closest, (I only live 4 miles away) I’ve been the one to primarily help Mom through this adventure. My siblings all rallied when everything hit the fan, but eventually, they had to return to their own adventures at their respective homes. Shortly after Mom was released from the hospital, she came to stay with Kennon and I for a few weeks until we felt like she could return to her apartment, with some assistance. I’ve made countless trips from our abode to Mom’s apartment on an almost daily basis the past few months to help in any way that I could. And it has worked! She is now pretty much back to her independent self—with just a glitch here and there. 

So the past few months have been a bit of a blur—and there were other character building moments going on at the same time—enough that most of us have felt like we’ve faced one continuous emotional tsunami. Can I just say that 2017 will not be one of my favorite years? And, true to form, I have not kept a record . . . at all. There is no new poetry, no new songs—but there are a handful of blog posts, and (drumroll please) two new manuscripts that I have tinkered with inbetween all of the fun. We’ll see what happens with that.

The thing I have noticed in my life—there does seem to be a plan. Even when life becomes complicated and my heart feels shredded—the pieces begin to fit together to form a picture I would have never guessed existed. I surmise this is where faith comes into play. I’ll admit, when one is strapped to the front of the Titanic and an iceberg is imminent, it’s a little bit difficult to believe that somehow, things will be okay. The “wibbies” fill us with fear and doubt becomes a real adversary. 

There is a scene in one of the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movies where the main character is frozen in place. He is inside of a cavern and the item he is seeking lies across an impressive gorge. As he is thinking there is no way possible for him to cross to where this item exists, he is told that he must have faith—he must believe there is a way to accomplish this task. Eventually he gathers his courage and takes a step into what appears to be thin air. And as those of you know who have seen this movie, there is a sturdy path that only becomes visible after you take that first important step. 

That image has come to mind a lot this past year. I’ve found myself facing a few impressive “wibbies,” and it has been scary to take that step into what appears to be “air.” What I have found . . . again . . . is that there is a path through daunting obstacles. Faith is crucial to possess these days, and it truly is the simple things that give us the strength to carry on: prayer, searching the scriptures, meditating on what really matters, and taking care of our physical selves. (Yes, I actually said that last item. I’m not always a good example of that, but I’m striving to do better. Sleep is starting to become my friend again, exercise is important, and thanks to this new impressive insulin pump, my blood sugar levels are even better than before. Now to kick the pop habit . . .)

Back to my original topic: I may not have kept a journal this past year, but I have kept journals during other adventures in my life. There are enough of those that my posterity will ponder what to do with all of those volumes. I’m sure some of it will be discarded as silliness. But hopefully in some of what I have written, there will be snippets that will make sense and possibly even help when they are facing a difficult time. And when there appears to be a gap or two, I hope they’ll understand that there have been moments that were too difficult to record. Those are the times when they may have to search some of my poetry, songs, blog posts, and books to read between the lines and understand the lessons I learned when “wibbies” surfaced and icebergs seemed too close.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Are We "As" the Army of Helaman?

I’ve shared some fairly personal things in my last two blog posts. That was for a reason. There are some people that I know and love who are really struggling right now with their testimonies. It occurred to me that they may not know why I believe the way that I do. They don’t understand what I went through to gain the testimony that I treasure. So I shared some of the experiences that shaped me into who I am today. These are pieces of my life that helped me realize that God is real and that He does answer prayers, although not always in the way we envision. He helps us through difficult times, though not always in the manner we wish. And I have found it is because of trials that we grow—if we so choose. 

I think often of the stripling warriors, when I’m facing something that isn’t very fun. These 2,000 young men faced overwhelming odds fighting for something they believed with their entire hearts. (See Alma 53, 56, & 58—yes, I mean the entire chapters.) They relied on teachings from their parents, and the example set by them, plus their own beliefs to become the strong force that helped turn the tide in important battles. They fought bravely to maintain the things they treasured most—freedom to worship as they desired, and to protect their loved ones, and those who dwelled alongside them.

I mentioned a key point—they not only relied on the example and teachings of their parents, but they found out what was true for themselves. I learned long ago that we can’t lean on the testimonies of others. We have to find out for ourselves what is good and true. I had worked so hard to gain my own testimony while in high school, that it became one of my treasured possessions. I wrongly assumed that others felt the same way. It wasn’t until I went to college and saw those I knew from active LDS homes make some terrible mistakes once they were “on their own” that I realized the importance of having your own testimony. If you don’t understand for yourself what is truly important, when you hit important crossroads in your life, it’s difficult to know which way is the correct path. 

Back to the Stripling Warriors: the following scripture is one of my favorites with regard to this courageous army: “But behold, they have received wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith is strong . . .” (Alma 58:40)

The stripling warriors earned their testimonies through experiences that strengthened them and helped them to know for themselves what was true. And once they gained that testimony, they accomplished what others deemed impossible.

We’ve been asked in recent times by our prophet and his apostles, to read the Book of Mormon frequently. We’ve been promised the strength we need to face the challenges of our day if we will do so. I testify that this book of scripture is sacred and it was preserved for us. Our Father in heaven knew we would desperately need the teachings it contains to survive all that would take place in our time. This book of scripture has helped me endure countless trials. It was where I drew my strength when I was facing some pretty intense trials during my teenage years. It continues to be a source of comfort and peace during those I face now.

We are all here on earth to grow and learn. And because we’re all different, we all learn in varying ways and times. What works for one person, will not work for someone else. One thing remains constant—the fact that our Father in heaven loves us and is there for us whenever we remember to turn to Him. We all make mistakes and we often learn the most from those mistakes. (I still have a face, even though I did my best to burn it off—see last week’s blog post to understand that comment.)  There is always a way back to where we need to be, if we’ll humble ourselves enough to seek a better path. We’re all in this journey together, and together, we can keep pushing forward toward a time when things will make sense and we can understand we were more watched over than we ever imagined possible.