Perfected Morning

Today is the day we start reclaiming normal, as a family.

Not just normal, but healthy.

Nathan and I worked hard to be in bed on time last night, and got up for our exercise plan this morning. I love working out with him, and we have always had fun together. We have a modified plan from my treatment team, so that I can ease my way back into health without damaging anything or overdoing it. All of it is monitored by my fancy bracelet, and Nathan has some helpful apps to use as well.

I am excited because now that we know the source of my health problems for the last FIFTEEN years, my health now will be a whole new kind of health.

So healing is hard work, but it will be exciting to be healed.

Also, I don’t want to call them my “treatment team” anymore. I want to call them my “wellness team”. Much better, yes? Everything is changing, for the better!

We did our routine for today, and it felt so good to move! I finally can stretch all the way out, and even slept some on my stomach last night. It is such a relief to be back in my own skin! I can roll over without pain if I am careful, and the pains in my bones are mostly gone, most of the time. These are miracles to me, the freedom to move and sleep and change positions.

The kids were waking just as we finished our exercise this morning, so they helped me with juicing. They squeal and laugh so hard as we drop the vegetables in! We made oatmeal and egg beaters, and had our sign language breakfast as a family. I loved it so much!

While the toddler helped me with dishes, Five helped daddy gather trash. I am so proud of them! They do much better, and are much happier, when they have ways to help.

When we finished our chores, we all got play clothes on, and headed to the park! We walked a mile, which seems like not very much, but is my body waking up, and it is something. Five ran at least two if not more, running ahead and coming back to us the way my puppy Neitzshe used to do!

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I sat there in the crisp morning air, breathing in the freshness as if it could clean my insides as much as the rain refreshed my skin. They played on the playground, and we had happiness and peace. I saw them run through their favorite games, and accomplish new playground feats they had never tried before. I saw them fall and pick themselves up, and I saw them run to me for high fives when they did something awesome. I saw them flash the “I love you” sign from the sky.

It was a bookend for us, I knew, from a year ago, from three months ago.

It’s a new beginning we are seeing, and new lives being born.

We are a family, and this is how we live.

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Today starts me going back to work. When we leave the park, I will drop the toddler off at the grandparents. I will go home for a protein shake with Nathan and Five, and they will just be excited for something that seems like ice cream. While I sit and rest, I will do paperwork and scheduling to be ready for the week. I will pick up the toddler for lunch together on this holiday, and enjoy family naptime one last time before returning to seeing patients tomorrow.

This morning was what I needed, to feel ready and confident, to feel like me again. I want to open the doors and windows of the house, to let in this breeze that says we made it through this hard summer. I don’t need to rush in winter, I just need to breathe today.

Because today is already amazing.

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When I cleaned up and sat down to study while the kids were sleeping, I found this old quote in the discourses (Jedidiah Grant, 1854, JoD, 2:14):

Jehovah has, in all ages, tried His people by the power of Lucifer… and by the priesthood power of His prophets… The grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. [No matter what is asked], a man who has got the Spirit of God, and the light of eternity in him, has no trouble about such matters… They know it is to prove the people, both men and women, and to develop what they will do…

If ever you are brought into the presence of God, and exalted to a seat in His celestial kingdom, it will be my virtue of the Holy Priesthood, therefore, you have got to be proved, not only by being tempted by the devil, but the Priesthood will also try you – it will try you to the core.

…If the Lord our God does not see fit to let the devil loose upon you, and mob you, He will employ some other means to try you as in a crucible, to prove you as gold is tried seven times in the furnace.

I loved this quote because our lives the last few years really do feel like we have been mobbed!

Also, seriously, I do think there is purpose in our trials, and rarely is it a big mean God waiting out there to punish us. Sometimes we have natural consequences, it’s true, and some things are just a part of living in a fallen world. But most things are used by our Father to help us, ever so tenderly, remember who we are and whose we are, and for that, I am grateful. All of it, He can work together for our good (Romans 8:28), when we are seeking what His purpose is and trying to live it.

I love this because there is hope in it, even when the work is hard.

I love it because it changes what some say is oppressive into what we know is true freedom, and there is air in that.

I love it because it means these hard years are not wasted.

I love it because it makes recovery greater even than redemption alone, for He adds to us by bringing us back to ourselves.

Technically, as my friend LeAnne once said, that means I am actually un-learning a lot instead of only trying to learn or change who I am. Instead, it is a peeling away all that is not of God and not of me, and a tuning in to who I have always been.

I love it because it makes this journey about me, not about cancer or miscarriages or dead parents.

I love it because all these hard things make me perfected-in-process, even when I am not finished yet.

That’s why it is a perfected morning. It’s not because our kids never argue like siblings, or because the toddler never screams “Nooo!!” like any other two-year-old, or because Five never stares at me blankly when asked to do something. It’s not because vitamins all the sudden taste yummy, or we like getting out of bed in the mornings, or caring for children is easier than when it was just the two of us.

But that’s the point: it’s not about becoming something fake, buying into illusions, or willing yourself through the impossible.

It’s about getting real, living the truths that set you free, and becoming the you that you have always meant to be. Today.

And you? You are as good as gold, on this perfected morning that is as normal as anything. What a gift some normal can be!

Art Installation

Next week is September.

Know what happens in September?

It’s my baptism anniversary, and it will be five years since I was baptized.

And then in October?

It will be our second anniversary.

Two years.

Do you know what has happened to us in two years?

A lot.

We got married in October, and then Nathan had to fly back to New York because he didn’t even live in Oklahoma yet! Then I had a miscarriage, and he got caught in hurricane Sandy. When he moved home in time for Christmas, he was laid off, we did my father’s temple work, and then my mom was killed a week later. Then we had another miscarriage. We had another miscarriage on my first Mother’s Day without my mom, endured fertility testing all summer, and got our first foster child on Nathan’s birthday. We got Five the week we finally buried my mother, and the toddler three weeks later. Thirty foster kids came and went, and we usually had five to seven at a time.

That was all in our first year of marriage.

I responded to the death of my mother by going back to school for a post-doc in Hebrew studies, and have done that while still on my church service mission. We had two more miscarriages after that (because we are really bad at math). In November last year we were prompted to move to Bartlesville, and nine weeks later, by the first week of January, we had already bought this new house and moved and rented the Owasso house. We had three foster kids in a row that tried to kill us or one of the other children (we couldn’t talk about it at the time), and had to be removed and hospitalized. This caused their siblings to also get moved, which caused an unusually high turnover rate of new foster kids coming and going in our home. Our oldest foster child turned 18, so we furnished her apartment and got her moved, and almost have her green card to make her legal so she can go to college. In the Spring, we were offered a newborn for adoption from a birth mother who changed her mind, and then before we could be upset got a meth baby preemie to foster, just in time for one last miscarriage. That’s when they found my cancer, and took away our three month old baby. In July, I had a full hysterectomy and we were released from any more miscarriages. That’s how I lost another baby, had one taken, and was told I would not have any more babies, all in one week. Our first two foster babies are still here, allegedly in the process of being adopted.

That was our second year of marriage.

It has been intense.

Our sealing counsel warned us that it would be, though, so we know the purpose it serves. We hold on tightly to each other the way you do before a roller coaster starts, and we laugh because any adventure is worth having finally found each other in mortality.

That’s how we are happy, despite our circumstances, because we see the bigger picture.

And because our love is really big, too.

And we keep growing it by focusing on how we can serve the other, and giving it all we have.

Life has never been so hard.

But I have never been so happy.

That’s why I don’t want to miss our anniversary. It’s in six weeks. I don’t know if that weekend will find me well, or sick, or doing okay but exhausted from trying to be back at work.

So, just to be sure, I made Nathan’s present tonight. It’s an art installation, New York style, right in our bedroom. Or maybe it’s just a bunch of photos tacked to the wall like high school, but I am pretending.

I made him our story!

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We already had a few pictures up, like at the yellow house, of the temple and our New York engagement trip, but now our story goes out from there, parallel on both sides, telling our story!

I added pictures of our Israel trip, and our trip to our very own Connecticut beach, Nathan playing violin, me doing Hebrew, funny memories, a chicken party picture, Passover, kites, and Five’s first Sunday (he had Spider-Man in his pocket), and the toddler’s first night (when I gave her the bear she still sleeps with at night), our homemade holiday things, me doing summer school with the kids, and all kinds of good memories.

I want our story to be there for Nathan to see every day.

I want our story to be there for the children to learn, and love, and grow into – become a part of, as they are grafted in to our family.

I want all of them to remember that life is good, and living is an amazing adventure, no matter how hard it gets sometimes.

And it’s not finished.

Because this is not the end.

It’s just the beginning.

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Homemade Salsa

We have more tomatoes than I can juice in time, and although I could not garden this year, I did grow root vegetables because the kids can just throw them in pots for me and we don’t have to do anything for them. So I have a ton of onions left!

And it’s the very end of summer, and a hot week for sure!

So it’s definitely a day for making salsa!

I do the peppers first, so they can start opening up right away. I don’t use any seeds in mine, though you could if you want it hotter. Five is anti-heat, so I only use 2 jalepenos, but you could use up to 5 if you want it really hot (or if only serving the toddler!).

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I use white, yellow, and purple onions, though most salsas just use white:

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Tomatoes are key. If you chop the whole tomato, your salsa will be too watery. We like our chunky, so we seed the tomatoes. Cut off each end just like you would a squash or something, and then stand it up and chop off just the sides, like you would a pineapple. Then only use the chopped up sides for the salsa. The core of the tomato you can save for stewing and/or freezing.

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If you add salt, let it sit for at least thirty minutes before eating it. We don’t, since chips have plenty of salt! We do add fresh garlic, and also lots of lime juice!

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That’s a basic recipe of delish, and it’s easy to tweak for more fun or variety based on what you already have in the garden or pantry. Today we had corn and an extra pineapple, so I added those in with some black beans:

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How do you make your salsa?

Roast #cooking #food #gf

I am trying to be a positive contributor to my family, and making dinner in the crockpot for them while I have some energy this morning.

Here’s how I do a simple roast:

I put the meat in fat side up, and salt it in honor of my mother. I add one bullion cube on either side of it at the bottom. I cut up one potato, and sprinkle it around the meat. I add garlic on top of the meat, and then later the chopped onion on top of that. Carrots go on top, with some parsley, and if we are having company (or have more kids), then I add another potato on top. I pour a ginger ale over the whole thing, and add a cup of water also. For those who like gravy, we save some juice and add corn starch or rice flour since Nathan and Five can’t have wheat flour.

How do you make your roast?

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Cold Water

Here’s what is good about having been out of the house all day yesterday: it was good practice for going back to work next week.

Also, I had my kids with me for most of it.

That makes me an awesome mom, to use them for experiments like determining how physically ready I am to return to my job successfully, part of which entails loading kids in and out of my car all day.

I am more confident now, and less anxious, because I made it through the day.

Not only did I make it, without any pain crisis (though I definitely felt the fatigue), but I slept almost a normal amount of hours last night.  I didn’t crash for days after, and I didn’t sleep for fourteen hours.  Just eight, like a normal person.  Well, eight, which is more than I was getting when I wasn’t sick but had a house full of foster kids!

And not only that, but this morning I woke up, and my body was functioning.  It is not a day for going on walks doing more.  I need to rest today.  The fatigue will also be heavier today, I already feel that.  But my body is okay.

This is exactly what I needed before going back to work.  A good week of practicing.  This week turned out to be perfect for that: I went to church more on Sunday than I have thus far, and I rested on Monday; I went to court all day Tuesday, and I rested on Wednesday; I went to Tulsa all day yesterday, and will rest today.  It’s a good start.

Next week I am planning on sliding back into my routine as gently as possible.  Monday is a holiday, so that helps, and my doctor said not to even think about pushing through my first holiday.  In fact, he wrote my release to return to work for Tuesday, and gave me strict instructions to stay in my sick chair all day Monday and not do anything at all.  Rest, he said, as if I were so quickly obedient.

On Tuesday, I have a handful of kiddos lined up to be seen, but spread out.  That way if I am doing okay, I can take my time with them since I haven’t seen them in so long, but if I need to rest in between, there is time for it.  On Wednesday, I only have one scheduled that meets me at the office, so I can just sit still with that one and rest physically (instead of playing hard with kids), but I have discharges and treatment plans and other paperwork I can do the rest of the day.  On Thursday, I have another handful of kids spread out, and on Friday I have time for some assessments if I can get more referrals, or can do some reschedules if I can’t make it all day Tuesday or Thursday, get the next week’s schedule set up and solidified, and will need to make sure all my paperwork is caught up by that day.

That’s my plan.  I know it won’t go down exactly like that, but it at least gives me enough structure to feel prepared and confident.  There is just no way around jumping back in: I know the water will be cold.

I am not going to do chemo today.

We are not refusing treatment, and we are not dropping out of healing programs, and we are not avoiding what is terrible-hard.  We also want to be clear that our decisions on treatment are specific to us, based on our unique circumstances and revelation, including successful surgery that removed everything – and that it was already dead when they got there.  If I had another kind of cancer, we would not be drinking kale instead of doing chemo.  If cancer begins to spread in my body, or any of my levels go up even the slightest, we will do everything the doctors say will help – even chemo.

But right now, we have a miracle.

And right now, I am being closely monitored through hospital visits and doctor appointments and labwork and some crazy technology.

And right now, we feel comfortable just sitting with that, and letting it be.

For today.

I am still taking pill medication, which sometimes has some side effects, and I am still taking my vitamins.  We are still juicing, though this week was crazy and my two early mornings both threw me off, so doing well with my long morning routine that is required will be one of my challenges going back to work.  I also was very nauseous last week and this week, so eating every three hours was a real challenge. I am holding food down better now again, though, so I plan to really focus and try hard at keeping me fed on schedule (like a baby!) and feeding my family well.

Going back to work will make me extra glad for the frozen meals people have brought us, as keeping up with everything at once will be a challenge.  I do not know how much help I will be at home once I go to work, since usually being that active in the day sends me to bed as soon as I get home.  It will be a new adjustment for us, but I guess I haven’t been that much help for two or three months anyway.  Kudos to Nathan, for being amazing.

I do have some mouth sores, and I do have some sores on my head and different places, but mostly we have worked hard to care for my gums and my skin.  I think the nutrition has helped a lot.  I am trying.

There are some practical issues.  If I had to do IV chemo, I would have to miss some more work days.  If I get sick, I will have to miss some more work days, and it could also be scary if my immune system is down. If I get tired, or overly-fatigued, or the pain comes back, I have to go home.  That’s the deal.  It won’t be a season in my life where I am working overtime (which the governor just made a law against for my profession, by the way) or worrying about meeting any kind of quota hours.  Not working enough will cost my paycheck, use up PTO that I don’t have, and make me pay for my insurance, all of which can potentially be a financial and emotional crisis, but not necessarily one that can be avoided.  All I can do is my best, and to be most successful, I will pace myself so that I keep getting well and stronger.

There has been the question whether to wear a mask or not, and when and for how long, but I don’t feel like in my clinical setting it would be very therapeutic for my clients, so I am working around that as best I can.  I will be wearing either my fancy hair wig or one of my nicer caps, at least until my hair regrows to cover my scars – not because I am ashamed or embarrassed of my scars, but because this is a clinical setting that is about my clients and not about me.  It should be a healing environment focused on them, and not about me or about my healing (or about me being sick).  That is the decision I have come to thus far.

I do hope, ultimately, I will be able to return to my work for the church one afternoon a week, but I don’t know yet when that will be.  I do not think I will be able to write for Deseret during this season of returning to work.

That’s the best I can do at planning to do it well.

I did wake up today with a very stuffy nose, and am hoping it is only allergies from being out and about yesterday and the rain this morning, so prayers for that, please.  If I am sick this weekend, I will not get to go back to work next week.

Or, you know, be well.

 

Expression

I was in Tulsa for 12 hours today, starting the morning out super early at St. Francis Hospital, and ending with children on a playground. I got home in time to kiss my babies and tuck them in, delight in piles of clothes for the kids, and rattle off girl-style to Nathan to chatter every bit of my day in three minutes or less, for I missed him very much all day today.

I am exhausted, and too tired for typing words, but have words to share.

Mostly, I think, being in Tulsa all day made me sentimental.  I miss you guys.

I know I am in the right place for me at this time, but I soaked in all of Tulsa that I could today.

(The app does not yet support video, my apologies. View from your browser using THIS LINK.)

I do not have the energy or strength or focus tonight to caption that for you.

Welcome to my world.

It’s simple, though.  I say it’s a hard day.  I say there’s lots to share.  I talk about the cancer scare, that surgery was successful, and that I hope I keep improving.  I say we moved to Bartlesville to be closer to my husband’s parents.  I say we may be adopting two foster kids.  Maybe?

I say that getting answers about what has been wrong with me the last few years explains more than just this most recent surgery, and I am glad to finally have answers so that I can be finally well instead of all these weird medical crises happening again and again every so often.  It is good to have answers, and that feels better.

I do want to be well, and am grateful now to have that chance, and for the love of good friends who by their example show me – and many others – the love of God.

Thank you.

Date Night

We knew today would be long and intense, so we had our favorite game to play together while we waited. We try not to be disrespectful to the severity of the mood, or mock the struggles of the waiting families, but it is a very long wait and precious time for the two of is just to be together:

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I did take off my fancy court hair as soon as we were out, and startled the lady getting in the car next to us. That was kind of awesome.

We had plans to take Keyssie to dinner and a movie, but she was not home! We couldn’t believe she wasn’t home, when we even called her this morning to remind her we were coming. I brought a new phone to give her and everything! That girl!

It means, though, we got a surprise dinner date just us!

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We called her after dinner, and she was so glad we tried again. She had worked late and missed us, and thought we left without her. So we ran back to her place again and picked her up for the movie!

And I wish I could have recorded her squeal when she saw her phone:

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And, because we gave her a new phone, that was the end of chatting with her:

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Gotta love teenagers, even if they are the grown-up ones.