2011: A Year in Pictures

2011 started out a little rough, setting the theme for what would be a really hard year.

But, like anything that is very hard, there were also plenty of blessings… like getting the thirty staples taken out of your skull (my right cochlear implant surgery was 22 December last year):

Gross, right?  Lucky you, that’s the last time you have to see that nasty picture of my cut open head.  Ouch.  Oh!  It hurt so bad, and my left side (which was a twice as big scar from the incision going all the way around to the back of my skull) was still healing.  I had the worst vertigo, and was so sick.  Learning bilateral sound was so hard and frustrating, like starting over, and I was so grateful for the friends who cared for me, stood by me, and were kind to me during these hard days and the hard year that unfolded since then.

It was also in January that we found out my father had cancer.  My brother got to go meet with him, while I waited with my mom.  When he came home, we all just held each other and cried.  My feshly-healing-but-still-swollen head was not ready for that kind of crying, and it sent me back to the hospital. Everything turned out okay, though, and my head finally healed enough to go get my processor (the outside part of my cochlear implant):

But finally, it got turned on!  Click here to see the video: Emily’s Second Cochlear Implant Activation.  It was special that the Campbells got to go with me (Cheryl Mason, Cassie Hamilton, and Sherrolyn King went with me for the first one).

While the first cochlear implant had more complications during surgery, the second one had more complications after surgery – but they are both working now, and I am so grateful for them.  But that hard day of the three of us crying together was the day we knew we would survive this year together as a family, no matter what.

It was a good thing we were ready to survive, because the next big thing was the blizzard!

I barely escaped the snow for my big trip to Salt Lake City!

I got to go in the Church Office Building for my meetings and interviews, and enjoyed a lovely visit and wonderful food.  I was taken on tours and on top of the buildings for the magnificent views, and taken to see the General Conference podium:

I flew back home just in time to see that we all survived the snow, just barely, but definitely in time for one of my favorite Deaf holidays of the year: the Senior Valentine’s lunch!

The next week, I was officially called as a Temple worker, with a specific assignment for helping our Deaf patrons be comfortable and have the experience they hope to enjoy while at the Temple.

I also had my first attempt at cutting my poodle’s hair with the clippers myself:

Poor puppy!  It took practice.

We also moved my brother to Springfield, because he found a girl he wanted to marry:

That was an adventure like none other, we all agree!

In further celebration of Missouri, we also celebrated the Kansas City temple construction on its way.  Moroni was placed atop the temple on March 24th.


My next great adventure began at the end of march, when I was assigned the project of blogging one chapter a day (four to five days a week) of the Book of Mormon.  I got the first chapter published on March 31st, and by this last week of the year had made it more than halfway through to the middle of Helaman.  It was a big project, with some chapters more in depth than others, and it taking a long time just doing it for weekdays – but it takes all weekend to get them ready, and there was a lot happening in real life!

General Conference was the first weekend in April, of course, and I was so glad because I was drowning in real life.  February and March had been so difficult and emotional from drama and contention that was not-of-God that I was exhausted from the battle and raw from my weak places.  I was grateful for the timing of General Conference, which did – as always – directly answer my questions, correct my errors, guide me through the confusion, and help me through the grief and losses of my old life that I must surrender if I want to embrace what is new.  A deep peace and joy came – slowly and gently over the next few months, despite the circumstances – and it grew me up far more than anything else had thus far.  It took me the ENTIRE YEAR to learn the lessons I learned from these challenges and grief-nesses, and it took these challenges and difficulties to get me to focus on Him and deepen my roots so that I would not just be blown about by any influence or poisoned by the bitterness of others.  These were the most painful lessons I have known in my life, and yet so carefully and exactly prepared me for what was to come later in the year.  I am grateful for what I learned, and grateful for His tender mercy in timing, so that I was ready to practice these new skills when I needed them.

As a temporal parallel to these experiences, it was the year anniversary of my yellow house, so the people came back to redo all my caulking and touch up the painting and fix some tiles and the carpet and clean all the drains and all those fun year-anniversary things that I made sure were part of the deal of my new yellow house.  I really live here!  And I do love it!

Feeling proud and excited, I bought my first mower!

I didn’t make it through July before I destroyed it, which you can read about HERE if you missed it the first time.  It’s one of the most shared/re-posted blogs ever on my site, so definitely a “Talk and Favorite”, even if it wasn’t some big fancy speech.

My mom came at the end of April to visit me and help at the Belk fundraiser for TSHA:

Her visit, and my brother’s talk about ideas for donating bone marrow to my father, was well timed to save my life from whacky ovaries.  My mother survived ovarian cancer herself, and so is very adamant about following up and having everything checked and being sure it is all okay.  I hate it when she starts in on it (like now is time for my next follow-up and tumor marker test), but I am glad of it for because she saved my life.  That’s what mothers do.

At the end of April, she and I celebrated at the symphony, going to hear Whitney play:

This was a year after my first cochlear implant (when my entire head was shaved from complications in surgery), and I was glad to even have that much hair again.  This symphony was my first bilateral cochlear implant experience, and I loved it!  I do think that live music is my favorite thing.

It also was a big night for me and my mom.  Lots of pieces I had been struggling with all spring fell into place, and my mom helped me figure things out, and it was such a significant moment in our mother-daughter-grown-up-relationship-friendship.  The lessons I had fought all year to understand were starting to finally sink in, so that I could spend the rest of the year practicing what I had learned.

This was a good thing, because May was INSANE.

First, Bin Laden was killed (here’s my “I Have Faith in America” post on that).

Everybody said that would keep our country safe, so I focused on keep my garden safe by adding an extra row of paving stones around the outside edge.  I did it all by myself!  I dug the trenches, did the tilling, dug the grass out, did the sand, and placed all 75 stones on my own.  It was such hard work!  But it was proof to myself that I wasn’t sick anymore, that I was strong and healthy and well and all better now.

Little did I know the rest of the month would prove the point.

We started moving mom the following weekend, and it took THREE weekends and a gazabillion people to get her moved.  We so appreciated all those who worked hard at her old place (especially Gina and the Campbell boys), helped unload here at her new place, and welcomed her in friendship (especially L.  We have been so encouraged by those who have loved her, helped through her surgery, and cheered her on along the way.  We appreciate your prayers  and support and smiles and hugs.  Thank you!

The move all went well, with only one incident: her poodle ate my internet.

But a poodle only has to eat the internet once to learn not to do it again!

And even my garden survived the moving days, thriving well as summer came:

The last week of May celebrated a year since my first cochlear implant, and five months since my second – and my hair finally starting to grow back from The Year of Ugly (Bald!).

I was finally cleared to return to dancing! I celebrated with my best friends the Hamiltons, when I got to visit their ward for a talk – this was the family that baptized me!

The best thing about girl talk is how much you feel better when you can finally start seeing straight again.  Since the beginning, Cassie has been there for me when I run into my brick walls and can’t find my way out of the maze.  She listens, points me back to the Scriptures, and then lets me figure it out.  She keeps it simple, so that I don’t run myself in circles, helping me to easily discern what is of God and what is not of God, so that I can adjust my behavior accordingly.   This is the best part of getting all the way through repentance, getting to move forward again.  I learned that when I finally got baptized, and continue to learn it even today.  It takes us right back to the “Just Don’t Do It” skit that always makes me laugh and get myself out of messes when I keep repeating the same thing from trying to hard to fix everything.  Cassie makes me watch it once a year, and then I am always much better for the rest of the year!

It is a good thing I got cleansed and replenished spiritually and physically, for because I needed every ounce of all I had to handle what happened next:  the Joplin Tornado (click here for my Talk on the Joplin tornado experience, the blog that has had more shares and re-posts than any other of my blogs EVER, not just this year).

To chillax after that experience, Gina and I went camping and kayaking, and it was amazing.

By June, my garden was AMAZING, and I was getting excited to enjoy it!

That was so fun that I looked up how to swim with my cochlear implants!

The other fun we had this summer was driving through the snow cone to see Whitney and eat her marvelous snow cones:

We also celebrated a new Miss Deaf Oklahoma:

Then we had Father’s Day.  It was our first Father’s Day all together, even with my brother’s new family, and it was an amazing day.  We each got alone time with my dad, and we really had good talks and good visits and lots of laughs and special hugs.  It was a miracle of a day, and it was a good day, and we were happy of it – and now, at the end of this year, appreciate it even more.  Here is the picture we took of my grandfather, my dad, my brother, and my brother’s son – four generations!

The rest of June was spent making sure my whacky ovaries were okay, trying to work through the physical pain, and taking care of my garden as the drought came to us.  June was really the last time I saw my garden alive, really.  I mean it was thriving, but the following weeks were so intense and I was gone so much and the drought came, that it barely hung on without me.  It did, just enough for us to eat through the summer, but without me there to care for it, weed it, and water it, we did not get the bounty we did last year.

The first death was my Uncle Dean:

But God sent us smiles and hope through this hard year, consistently, and always perfectly timed.  It was at the end of June that my four year old niece-to-be came to spend the weekend with us for the first time:

Since being cleared in May to return to normal physical activity, I began interval training to build my strength back up.  My first goal was a 5k in September, which never happened because my father was so sick.  But in June I didn’t know what was about to happen, and I was training hard.  It felt so good to be back at the gym, to be getting healthy and strong, and to be living in my own skin again.  The interval training program was the hardest thing I have ever done (as far as working out), but it was so good for me!  I used the “podrunner” program, and loved it!

At the end of June, I was honored to attend a stomp dance, and got to dance with the medicine man.  This was so special!  I have Muscogee Creek friends, and also work with many Native American kiddos who have diabetes.  It was an honor to get to stomp dance with the medicine man, and an amazing experience – especially since it was my first stomp dance with cochlear implants.  What incredible sounds!

It was July 1st before we got the pathology results that my tumor marker had not raised.  It was longer before I was feeling well again, or before the pain went away.  But the news meant that I was going to be okay.  We got the news while away on a family weekend with my brother and his new family, and it was such a relief.  I cried.   The last three years have been so hard, and it felt like every turn was a battle for my life, so one more miracle reprieve – even if just the buying of time – was a gift I did not take lightly, and the power of it did overwhelm me.

I was still well enough by the middle of July to attend the state youth conference, which was the most amazing dance show I have seen!  It’s also where I met Sister Dibb, and this was a powerful and healing experience that prepared me for the months that followed.

Two weeks later my brother called with the news that my father was in the hospital again. We did not know yet that he would stay in the hospital, go home for a weekend, and then go back until the end of September when he went home on hospice.  Everything stopped when my brother called that day.  It was a Thursday, and I rushed to meet my family there.  These early days were hard because he was so sick, but good because we had such good times together, such long talks, such funny stories, and so many songs.  I was glad to be with my family, and glad to see my father loved so much and cared for so well.

We spent so much time in the hospital that I needed something to do.  So I tackled the project Kirk and I had been talking about, setting up a blog for our family history.  This was made obsolete almost as soon as we got it up and going, with the new apps that includes pictures and stories and combing info from different sites.  What a great breakthrough!  I will take that blog down, then, probably, soon as we know all the information got transferred.  But at least it was a positive project that kept me occupied and (mostly) out of trouble during these long and hard days (and nights).

I was gone so much in August that by the end of the month, my mom and I really needed some time together.  So we took the day just to play, and went to India Fest, where I gorged on amazing food while we enjoyed the dances and cultural festivities.  It was so fun!

In September, two friends died the same week.  Their funeral was the same day.  It was hard to leave my family to attend because my father really was not doing well.  But my mom told me to go, knowing that I needed to come up for air and that I needed to say goodbye to my friends.  Here is my favorite youtube video of my friend Gwen, who was hilarious:

My friends were also starting to worry about me, and so got me season tickets to the Owasso high school football game, talking me into being sure I was working enough, caring for my mom, and taking time to rest.  It seems so impossible, when nothing else matters, but they were caring for me well when they insisted – and if any activity would honor my dad, it would be watching the band play!

The Owasso band did so great this year!  They made it to nationals!  Three bands from the Tulsa area made it to the top ten!  It was amazing!  We were so proud!

The weather began to cool off as September came to a close, enough that I could go to the river to run when I was home.  That was a bit of a drive, but my soul did need it.  These were such hard months, and the river always refreshes me.

I had received tickets to General Conference in Salt Lake City last year (reserved last year, got the tickets this summer), and had meetings in Salt Lake City.  I didn’t want to leave my father, but once I could not be there anyway, then my family and friends encouraged me to go.

It was amazing, and I was so glad I went.

I cried every time the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang, knowing how much my father would love it.

My plane landed Monday afternoon, and I texted my aunt before I even got off the plane, to find out how he was doing.  I was ready to head straight there.  “Not good,” she said, the same as they had told us for weeks – months.

By the time I had gotten off the plane, gathered my things, and gotten in the car to head that way, he had passed away.

That was Monday.

On Tuesday my mother had spine surgery to keep her from being paralyzed.

His funeral was Wednesday.

Christy Moss sat with my mother in the hospital so I could go to the funeral.

I was able to attend, and went to the grave side service, but had to skip the church dinner because mom was not doing well, her heart wasn’t right, and they were having to give her blood.

I rushed back to Tulsa to care for her, in some kind of beyond-exhausted state.

They had to put in a port, and were worried about some blood tests that might show infection, and we had to wear masks and gloves and aprons.  It was scary for a few days.  And I was on month four of being in the hospital – nothing of what my parents had been through, I know – but I just mean I was so very exhausted physically and emotionally, and so grateful for the friends that visited us, supported us, texted us, emailed… they kept me going, and kept me alive.  We so appreciate their prayers and the friendships we made these hard months, and the strength that came from those who loved us so well.  It was a long and lonely year, and I am grateful for those who worked so hard to stay in touch and be supportive.

After my mom came home from the hospital, all I wanted to do was sleep.  But we had to care for her well and carefully, and there was a lot to do to be sure she was okay.  She worked so hard at her recovery and her rehab, and I was so proud of her.   A few more weeks later, and I was able to finally sleep through the night again, and returned to work full time for the first time since last November – almost a year.  I also returned to ballroom dance full time, qualifying for the competition in February (even though the months away in Arkansas meant I did not get to participate in the Christmas show).  That was exciting, and I committed to doing it, knowing I needed the playtime and the balancing it gives me – especially after the last few years of intensity.

As grief-stricken as October began, it closed with the most hilarious surprise ever: my blog got bought out as the first blog-app in the App Store!

November brought earthquakes, and that was crazy!

Especially crazy if you are in the cemetery, the weekend after Halloween, with a bunch of little kids visiting family IN THE DARK.

Crazy, I say.

Then, on November 11th, 2011 (11/11/11), at 11:11 am, my brother and his fiance were married in the St. Louis Temple!  What a day it was!

The kids got all farmed out for the honeymoon, and Jess has been with us ever since, except for a few visits home.  It’s been crazy there and crazy here, and we are all learning to be a family!

The first thing in December is always the Deaf kids holiday party!

Then we had the Allstar Christmas show!

The other big December project was making Jess a book to keep her busy (and quiet!) during church.  We cut out magazines and told all the stories we knew to tell, from the beginning to now!

The best part of December?

My whole family being here for our first Christmas together, healthy and well and happy!!!

2011 was hard enough that I am relieved to bid it farewell.

But the lessons I learned I will take with me into 2012, which will be full of its own adventures.

Happy New Year!


About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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