Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Count Your Many Angels

Surveys about the belief in angels have been performed.  It does NOT surprise me that MOST people believe in the concept of angels.  For those of us who have been separated by death from our beloved family members it is greatly comforting to believe that they are now still with us but in a different dynamic.  Some people say they are in a "Spiritual Realm," and we are in a "Physical Realm."  I don't really care what it's called but I know for certainty that there IS something after this life. 

I have been gifted to have sacred not all of my dreams, but many of them.  They are different from my regular dreams.  There is a different feel to them, almost as though someone says to me, "Pay attention something important is about to happen."

I also believe that when God wants you to receive critical information he uses someone that we love, or feel comfortable with to give that information.  If some angel that you didn't know gave you knowledge you might not believe it or you might rationalize it away.  There is more power in the connection of love.

When I was going through breast cancer treatment I was only 34.  I couldn't sleep, terrified at the concept that I might die and leave my beloved family.  I wanted to grow old with Nyle, watch our precious girls grow into adults, and work hard to improve myself.

One morning I awakened feeling happy, energetic, ready to tackle a new day (even though that day included a round of radiation).  At first I was too detail oriented to think about the difference in how I felt.

When I was in the waiting room at the radiation clinic I had lots of time to think, and the dream came back to me.  In the dream I was in a place that really did not have boundaries as we think about on earth (rooms, walls, etc.)  This place was crowded with people.  I recognized many of them, My Papa, Grand parents, brother, etc. etc.

I also realized that I loved the rest of those spirits but did not know them.  I felt that I had perhaps known them before this life, or that they were assigned to watch over me.

In my dream Grandpa spoke (I adored my Grandpa and he died when I was only 8 years old).  He told me, "You have heard that people have a ministering angel that watches over you on earth.  I want you to understand that all of these people," he pointed to the crowd, "Are watching over you to give you strength and comfort in the hard parts of life."

The dream was so real to me.  I felt as though I was in a sacred time and place during that dream.  One of my friends jokingly said, "Wow, you are going to have a seriously difficult life if you need THAT many angels!"  I chortled over that idea.

Still the course of my cancer path was changed by that dream.  I believed with all of my heart that I DID have a large group of angels watching over me that loved me and wanted to help me through that very difficult time.  Having that faith, I knew that I WOULD come through this particular "Valley of the Shadow of Death."  Psalms 23

In the darkness of night when your particular trial looms far too large for sleep I have a suggestion.  Count your angels."  They are much more fun to count than sheep.  I mean, talk to each one.  Visualize them as though they are right there.  Only positive thoughts, this is NOT the time to work out abuse, or negative things.  So you should skip the angels that have harmed you or that have caused you trauma.

Focus on the angels that loved you unconditionally on this earth...friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. etc.  It's amazing what a positive space this can create for you to fall asleep in.  I'm not speaking about praying to these angels.  God is who we pray to.  Death does not elevate our loved ones above our Heavenly Father.  Talk to those beloved angels....tell them things that are bothering you, and feel the warmth of the love that they still have for you.

I believe in angels.  Especially I believe in angels now that my soulmate has joined their ranks.  I count those angels, and then pray and thank God for the gift of eternal life...that we will be together again, and that sometimes we can feel the healing touch of those angels that love us but are in a spiritual realm.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Co Executive Officer

Have you ever listed the tasks that are in your life.  If you have not done is the day.  Here is the list that I have compiled.  I base this list on the time in my life when my children were little, and I worked part-time.  This list is NOT to show my nobility, or superiority.  This list is to encourage all of you to stop and take notice....adjust priorities, rearrange time waste.  (Nobody can afford to waste money, so how come we can so freely waste time?)

I list my position as Co-Executive Officer because that was simply my very favorite position in life.  Working with my beloved was at times extremely thorny and difficult, but usually the greatest gift life gave me!

Now that my children are grown, and my husband has passed my list has changed greatly.  I also remember those of you who are CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS because you simply don't have the privilege of a husband or wife to share the duties in your life.

Job Description for Co-Executive Officer (Please note that duties are NOT listed in priority order)

1.  Inventory and Procurement Officer
     A.  Tracking all supplies necessary to keep a home or office running, including purchasing food to supply three meals and a snack or two a day.  This is a daily oversight job, with a weekly and monthly component as financial assets are surveyed and "creatively" managed.  (No I do NOT condone embezzlement but there were those times that I had to round up cans to get enough money for gas to drive across town to pick up my children from school).
     B.  Planning all meals,  making them nutritious,  keeping in minds the likes and dislikes of those you are feeding.  Also factoring in the possibility of diabetes, gluten intolerance, fat intolerance, and food allergies.

2.  Chef, AND clean up committee. 
     A. So in grand kitchens there is a chef who oversees the process of cleaning, preparing, and combining elements into a delightful meal.  He or she has a delightful group that rush about following the chef's every direction.  In your home you ARE the workers AND the chef. 
       B. Training and development of new chef's and prep cooks, and clean-up duties.

3.  Waste Product Manager
      A.  Tracks weekly garbage pick-up.
      B.  Plunges toilets when needed (which when the children are small is often...think of a child
            filling the toilet with toilet paper and then flushing?)

4.  Coordination Expert
     A.  Works together with Co Executive Officer smoothly to access and combine schedules of all in the family.  This includes
            sports events, work, church activities, church volunterism, community outreach, and needs for
            duties to maintain a home.
      B.  There is no litigation involved in this particular job item but there is DEFINITELY intense
             arbitration and diplomacy skills needed.

5.  Plumbing expert
     A.  Able to plunge an overflowing toilet, and then provide the clean-up afterwards that is necessary.
      B.  Able to work with the interior of the back of a toilet to connect a chain that has come undone, or cause the bulb ish thingie to work properly.  (I did not mention that this plumbing job necessitates learning the appropriate descriptions of official plumber, now did I?)
       C.  Able to retrieve a ring from a pipe, and then put the pipe back together.
       D.  Using the plumbing to provide a proper burial for fish, and/or tiny mice (able to unplug the
             toilet once again when a gerbil is flushed down the toilet!)

6.  Chauffer
      A.  Providing transportation for any and all small children who do not yet have the capacity of getting themselves to where they need to be when they need to be there.
       B.  Coordinating efforts of using the vehicle with Co CEO since there is only one car in the

7.  Nurse/Doctor/Vet
      A.  Able to diagnose symptoms of common ailments including sore throats, stomach aches, indigestion, flu, cold, and other maladies.
       B.  Determination expert.  Makes quick and qualified decisions about when to seek further assistance for symptomatic relief.
      C.  Able to give healthy and necessary injections to husband, children, or yourself.
      D.  Calming influence in times of trauma.  Example, seven year old child cuts herself to the bone.  Able to say, "Oh no you won't need stitches" when you know they absolutely will, or perhaps to say, "Let's wait and see," only with this particular child if you even hint that they may have to have stitches they will go into a whirling frenzy and it will necessitate four people to pick them up, get them in the car, and KEEP them in the car, until they reach the clinic, and then pick up the whirling child and carry them in to the doctor and keep them still long enough to make the stitches!  Deep breath!
       E.  Able to diagnose and treat creatures from the family dog or cat, to a fish, a gerbil, other various and sundry rodents, a snake, or a gila monster.  (Have you ever had to give a cat a pill twice a day?)  See above job description of nursing or doctoring scratches incurred in said dosing.

8.  Electronics Expert
     A.  Directly responsible for the maintenance of all computers (hardware AND software), cell phones, video games, television, cables, and connections.
     B.  In my case, supporting my Co officer in HIS duties in this area.  (The most I can do with electronics is unplug it, and then plug it back in and see if that solves the problem! :)

9.  Security Management
     A.  In charge of keeping home properly secured at all times, including locking windows, and dead bolts on all doors.
     B.  Tracking fire alarm, keeping fire extinguisher loaded and in the kitchen, having carbon monoxide alarm as well
     C.  Watching over small children at ALL times.  Being aware that even if you don't have much in the way of financial success sexual slavers now troll the streets of America looking for an easy "Snatch."
      D.  Being constantly vigilant when in stores, museums or other public places with your children.  Children are not taken because they ran away from their parents.  All you have to do is turn your back for a short moment. 
      E.  Doing your best to make your child filled with faith, and not fear.  (Faith can include, faith in family, faith in God or religion of your choice, faith in friends....etc. etc.)
       F.  Setting curfews
       G.  Waiting up for child who doesn't pay any attention to the curfew that you've set.

10.  Laundry/Mending Management
       A.  Inventory and upkeep of all clothing in the home. 
        B.  Awareness of what clothing item will be needed by what family member next.
        C.  Folding of clean clothes.
        D.  Putting away clean clothes
        E.  Picking up clothes that haven't been worn, are still fairly clean but have been thrown on the floor multiple times in the search to pull some item of clothing out of a chest of drawers, repeat this step times forever.

11.  Tutorial Expert
        A.  Able to assist children with homework
         B.  Able to read bedtime stories, or help children read stories
         C.  Able to assist with high school math (maybe take a class yourself?)
         D.  Competent to help a child maintain the wide eyed wonder that they are born with into their teens and beyond

12.  Chaplain
        A.  This does not mean that you are affiliated with any organized religion.  You may be an atheist but you will still need to learn how to explain dreadful things to your child.  Like, why are there so many people being killed in Rawanda?   How could there be a God if he lets such evil exist?
        B.  Attending church as a family (if you do embrace organized religion)
        C.  Creating an open forum for religious discussion in your home
         D.  Reading and studying of scripture
         E.  Prayer, or meditation

13.  Psychological Therapist
       A.  Able to think of wise and helpful ways to address your growing child's needs, "Mommy, Tommy just pushed me into a mud puddle, and my brand new dress is ruined....WAAAAHHHH!"
next scenario, "Mommy, Tommy says he hates me and doesn't want to sit by me anymore in school....WAAAAAHHH!"  "Mommy, Tommy is going to the school dance with Judy and she's such a creep....WAAAAHHHH!"  to "Mommy, Tommy wants to marry me, but I haven't finished college, and I want to get my degree and I don't know how we can juggle everything and have a degree for both of us....WAAAAAH!"  Those are the EASY times.  Generalizing can be a dangerously exclusive activity but it IS true that for the most part boys are all about MOTION, girls are all about E---MOTION.
        B.  What if your child develops a mental illness (which should actually be called a chemical illness with mental's more about other parts of your body than your brain...pituitary gland, thyroid, red blood cells, etc. etc.  Now you will need the wisdom of a therapist to guide this troubled child to helpful environments...possibly even taking them to a hospital if they become a danger to themselves or others....definitely seeking out emergency medical assistance for those dynamics.

       A.  Learning about your own weaknesses and strengths through performance of your job duties.
       B.  Two small arms wrapping around your neck (did I mention the small arms are sticky with honey, and tree sap?) and a small mouth that is just learning to speak saying, "I wuv you Mommy."  OK...AWESOME reward.
        C.  Watching tiny infants grow into moving, grooving toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults.  It's AWESOME in the truest shape of the word (awe inspiriting).
         D.  The arbitration, and interconnectivity of being married for 27 years (me) to the man of my dreams!!!
        E.  Having a family, and BEING a family!
         F.  Two adult arms creeping around your neck and saying, "I love you Mom." 
         G.  AMAZING to see your children become consultants of history, and school teachers, or doctors, or attorneys, or childcare workers, etc. etc.  Beyond exciting to see them be productive members of our society.
          H.  Too many rewards to even list. if you feel overwhelmed, your house is a mess, you are still in your pajamas at 2 in the afternoon, your kids are quarreling AGAIN for what seems like the millionth time and it's ONLY 2 in the afternoon.  Step back, turn on your MP3 player and dance with them, or go outside and play catch, or hopscotch, or take them to the park. 

Remember housework, will ALWAYS exist, but childhood will NOT.  Make a memory today, and everyday, and focus on all the rewards instead of the troubles and problems.  Feel free to remind me of this the next time I need some cheese with my "whine." 


Building Duomos?

This post is for women...and those who love women.  The list includes Mother's, Daughters, Sisters, Cousins, Friends who are family, Wife, Husbands, Fathers, Sons, Brothers, Cousins....etc. etc  Hmmm that includes pretty much everybody, right?  (Wink)

Please show by the raise of hand how many that are reading this right now had "Stay at home Mom's, or Dad's?"  Now by the show of hands, how many of you ARE "Stay at home Mom's, or Dad's?"  Next, "How many of you work outside the house and still try to carry the load of a "Stay at home Mom or Dad?" 

First I wish to paraphrase a wonderful story.  The story is about a woman who feels that her contribution in life is paltry.  She's a "Stay at home Mom."  She's NOT changing the world.  When she dies her absence will not even be noticed.  Hmmm....anybody else out there that feels that way?  You are raising too many let's change your mind.

In Europe there are grand cathedrals, in Italy they call them duomos (I like that better than the word much more user friendly).  As you gaze on these towering, majestic works of art raised for the privilege of worship have you ever thought about the craftsmen that built them in the first place?  What kind of labor of love can create such beauty...a gift to raise our eyes upwards into the heaven's. 

Do you see plaques anywhere naming those amazing artists that worked hour upon exhausted hour?  Look at the masonry, design, flooring, walls (some are three feet thick), nave, sanctuary....look at all those amazing items. 

In America there are also majestic works of art that fail to name the craftsmen who created them...Brooklyn Bridge, lovely churches that dot the land, the London bridge which is now residing in Arizona?  (Still confused about  All of these things fail to list a single name that created such majesty for us to enjoy.  Their names are gone, their contributions left to anonymity, yet their works continue to inspire.

The comparison is direct and easy to make.  There will be no plaque raised that says, "Ardis Kay, and Sarah Smith, and many part-time daughters and sons, were assisted and directed by CJ and Nyle.  The awards that my daughters have already achieved in their young lives do not have a postscript at the bottom that says (awarded to Ardis and Sarah because they have amazing parents!)  That is as it should be, yet as we change what seems like the millionth stinky diaper today do we have that vision...that knowledge of what a long lasting contribution we are making?

So today, Mom's and Dad's, all those unnamed heroes and sheroes who stay up nights with a sick child, and then go to work the next day and work despite being unable to keep their eyes open.  Those of you who are actively molding, loving, and guiding children.  Please catch a glimpse, a vision of who these little ones ARE and who they have the power to BECOME!  Remember, you are building cathedrals!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Love My Mother!

Sitting quietly in the dark I almost missed my Mama as my eyes swept across her  neat room.  The room is filled with memories, photos, gifts made by grandchildren now grown with children of their own, and gifts made by great-grandchildren.  She lived long enough to see her very own GREAT-GREAT GRAND daughter.

Mama was always action in a body.  She could NOT sit still for 2 minutes unless she was mending clothes, folding clothes, doing some action.  She often quoted to me, "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop."  If that didn't seem to catch fire within us she would quote, "Never sit still and do nothing."  I used to hate that I simply can NOT sit still and do nothing.  I must be knitting, folding clothes, mending, etc. etc.

Now I have come to the realization that I have created over 100 afghans that I made stitch by stitch while I watched TV or chatted with family or friends.  Even though sitting still is problematic for me, I am grateful for her example of filling life, each moment of it to capacity with activity.

Being with Mama now is so very different.  I will talk to her, actually often it's more as though I talk AT her.  I see in her eyes that her attention has slid away to some place that she can't take me.  Sometimes I sit quietly, and we share a companionable silence...and then I find her sleeping in her recliner.

We all change and rearrange as we move through life.  It's been a blessing to me that Mama, at this stage in her life, is much more serene.  Oh she still has "Worry parties."  My Mama takes worry to a new level.  It's a masterful skill in her world.

She can't remember what she was worried about most of the time now.  This lack of memory calms her, soothes her sometimes...other times it drives her frantic.  Yet the quiet times together with my Mom have enriched my life, and helped me with MY restless, need-to-move-NOW spirit.

There are blessings in life...but sometimes we have to look harder to find them.  Today I give thanks for the blessing of a beloved Mama who I have gotten to keep for 57 years!  I love you Mama!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Another Great Loss!!!

My beloved youngest daughter will be starting to teach 5th grade tomorrow.  I am so excited for this goal that she has achieved through very hard work. 

Today she received dreadful news.  One of the teachers at her school found their fifteen year old son who had killed himself.  NOT ONE MORE!  We can't afford to lose one of our precious children.  They are our future.  It won't do any good to think, how could we have stopped him...UNLESS....unless in thinking these thoughts we can find the way to stop just ONE person from taking their own life.

My life has been far from easy.  I was born with such severe asthma, chronic bronchitis, and very  little immune system (oh did I mention that I was basically allergic to any substance known to mankind), the doctors literally told my parents that I would not live long.

We moved to Utah when I was 6 and I began school.  I was a very sensitive little girl.  The children said cruel, unkind things to me from first grade all the way through 12th grade.  I was barked at (I was told that I was ugly, like a dog they said), things were thrown at me (including a pen that stuck in my forehead a short distance from my eye, I was sexually harassed (male students sitting around me would say the crudest, most vulgar thinks imaginable).  One boy cornered me at my locker and grabbed my breasts and fondled them.

Then there were the 10 car accidents (I'm a great driver, but some of the people that I rode with weren't), many, many surgeries because of the accidents, breast cancer, and many, many other illnesses, including a long bout with clinical depression.

I don't say these things to make me seem noble...."Listen to me, I've had a hard life."  I'm saying these things to affirm the fact that in my youth I considered killing myself on many occasions.  What saved me was my family.  They were my sanctuary, my safe haven. 

Through all of the trauma and drama that I have faced I have learned the lesson over, and over, and over, again that "LIFE, EVEN IN THE WORST OF EXTREMITIES, IS PRECIOUS!"  I actually repeated this mantra like to myself sometimes in the hardest times of my life.

I believe that those who kill themselves hoping to solve their problems will be shocked to learn that they are applying a "Permanent solution to a temporary problem."  Life has a way of surprising you not only with hard things, but with joyous surprises, such as a brilliant sunset, a card from a family member, a post on Facebook, flowers from your sweetheart, etc. etc.  It's not always the earth shaking changes that give you courage to continue, indeed it's usually the small things that DO give you that courage.

Please TODAY...write down as many blessings as you can.  I'll make a list so you can see what I mean.

1.  My faith
2.  My family
3.  My friends
4.  A safe home
5.  My fur lined friends
6.  Food to eat
7.  Perspective that I have gained from 57 years of life
8.  Eyes to see with
9.  Ears to hear with
10.  A brain to think with.

If your life is impossibly dark right now, write just one thing...but write more than just a couple of words.  TALK TO SOMEONE!  Tell them of your struggle.  There are phone numbers that you can call to talk to a counselor.  GET HELP!  The entire internet is at your fingertips...find someone to talk to!  Please oh PLEASE, do not rob our world of one more precious person!!


Twirling, whirling from one end of the room to the other I kept my young focus securely on the picture in the corner of the room.  These balletic turns were to help us strengthen our core, and create focus and balance.

Today is July 24th.  For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, this is a very special day...a day of celebration and remembrance.  It doesn't matter if you are a member in Utah, or a member in all members stop and think about the brave men and women who marched across a wilderness to create a safe haven for themselves and their families.  A place where they could worship God the way that chose to worship Him.

Like me, focusing on something as I twirled and whirled these people focused on something as well.  They focused on their faith in Jesus Christ and in their belief that their Heavenly Father loved them and was watching over them.  They focused on the importance of family, and friends.

I had many beloved ancestors who marched in this mass exodus.  One story that touches my heart deeply is about Ann Shelton Howard, my 2nd great grandma.  She was 5 foot 8 inches.  That was very tall for the time.  She had beautiful blue eyes, and auburn hair.  She liked to keep her beautiful long, auburn hair shiny, clean, and well fashioned.

She and her husband had eleven children in quick succession.  They lived in England, and struggled constantly financially.  They joined the church and when they were able they sent two adult sons to America to join the Saints in Utah.

When they came west they rode first by ship for a month and several days.  Then they traveled in a train boxcar that had most recently housed cattle...and had NOT been cleaned afterwards.  The car was so packed that nobody could sit or lie down.  They endured the stench and press of this situation for over a week.

When they began their overland trip their wagon was packed to capacity.  (Did I mention that they still had nine children with them?)  Then the two oldest sons accepted a job working for a trailmaster going to the same destination that they were.  He paid them and the entire family needed the money.

Two of the young daughters, one 3 and one 6 became very ill and died.  Then Ann, Ann of the beautiful eyes and hair fell sick.  She still walked along, until finally she fainted.  They made room in the wagon for her, and her little daughter held her sick Mama in her arms (there wasn't room to lie down).  Ann passed away the next day.

Can you put yourself in the travel worn shoes  of these people and imagine just how difficult it would be to continue?  How would you bury your beloved children, and then wife, and walk away....and keep walking...and walking....and walking?

I imagine that Joseph HAD to keep moving, he still had five children counting on him for care.  Yet can you imagine how leaden and heavy his heart must have been as he continued?

Talitha Cumi Garlick Avery Cheney, my 2nd great grandma on my Papa's side of the family, lost her husband, and one baby, and was left with one young son, and her brother to make the journey to Utah.

She married again and had several more children.  She taught school, and taught her children to read and write.

In her late 60's her family crossed the high mountains from Utah to Idaho.   Talitha recorded in her journal how difficult it was for her to walk over these immense mountains.  She recorded the difficulty but didn't complain, only reported. They settled a town known as Victor, Idaho.  The winters there were extreme, long, with very cold conditions, biting winds, and deep, deep snow.

What possible concern is it to us in the 21st century what happened to people so many years ago?  How does history impact us in our present, and lead us to a better future? 

Being a pioneer does NOT mean that JUST those who came to America, to make a better home, to free themselves from religious persecution, or to forge new possibilities in life for their families were the only pioneers.  You can still be a pioneer.  Right now, in your own home, you can be a pioneer.

What does that mean?  Are you doing your best to forge a life for your family?  Are you doing your best to teach them by example?  That is be on a road ahead of someone, and stop to build a bridge, or some means for them to travel that is easier than the weary road you have followed. July 24, 2013...stop and think, who have been pioneers in your life?  Have your parents forged a road for you to follow?  Have teachers, grandparents, or even further back, great, or great great grandparents been an example, and given you courage to face life's challenges?

Happy glorious 24th of July everyone.  Be a pioneer and remember to find that focus for your life...just like that picture in the corner that I focused on kept me from wobbling and going the wrong direction, the focus that you have in your life will also help you to keep from wobbling and leaving the path you have chosen.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Story Continued...Suicide

Heather's days were difficult, but her nights were impossible.  Every single night she would awaken once or twice, soaking wet from tears and sweat, her sheets wrapped around her like she had been tied in them.

She started staying up late, terrified to go to bed because Thomas wasn't in it, would NEVER BE IN IT AGAIN!  Late at night she consumed bags of chocolate.  She didn't drink, and she wouldn't abuse drugs, so instead she comforted herself with sugar that had chocolate connected with it.

This carb comforting caused her weight to balloon in one month she gained 15 pounds.  She stopped looking in the mirror, not wanting to see the pain that was leaking out of her eyes.  Sometimes she imagined the pain climbing out of her, and filling her apartment...reaching out to color everything black and white.  She loved color, and slowly but surely her world turned to black, white, and gray.  Next the black and white also faded and Heather was left with a shadow world...a world of gray,  grayer, then grayest.

Sometimes when her baby, Roxy, would cry in the morning to get up and out of her crib Heather imagined what it would be like to take a handful of sleeping pills and then just not wake up.  She wasn't quite certain what happened after you die.  She knew what her religion taught, but sometimes that concept seemed like the same fantasy as Snow White, Peter Pan, and The Lion King.  She wasn't frightened by the idea of never knowing consciousness again.  It seemed fabulous to think of just not existing, not feeling.

She was stopped by the knowledge of what Thomas death had done to her, his child, his family, his friends, even the people who worked with him that didn't know him all that well.

Heather forced herself to keep working, and going to school.  It was a Herculean effort.  She really didn't care at all about anything except her precious baby.  That love drove her to keep living, keep trying.

One day she came home with an armful of bills, and her baby in arm, to discover that her electricity was turned off.  It was Autumn and the nights were more than just crisp they were cold.

Anger at her situation drove her to pick up the phone and call the electric company.  She screamed, "How could you turn off my power.  Don't you know I have a baby, and I must have warmth, and food for my baby?"

The man on the other end was completely bored with his customers.  He had heard all of this before, far too many times.  "Ma'am, if you can't pay your bills, it is not our problem.  We are NOT a charity.  We are a business.  I suggest you go to your clergy, or to Workforce Services, you know, the Welfare System."  Then the line went dead and Heather stood listening to an empty dial tone.

"Damn it all to hell."  Heather screamed the expletive, and threw a glass across the room.  The glass shattered, spraying everything for many feet.  The baby started to cry, the loud noise had startled her.

Heather ran to her, "Oh God in Heaven, What have I done, what have I done?"  Snatching her precious child in her arms she ran to the changing table.  Carefully she removed her daughters clothes.  She was ever so relieved to find that Roxy had not sustained a scratch from the glass shower.  There WAS lots of shattered glass in the babies outer clothing.

Sobbing, Heather took off her own clothes.  Next she carried her precious child into the bathroom, and climbed into the shower with her.  Roxy was screaming, frightened by excess stimulus to her tiny brain. 

Heather let the warm but not hot water flow over them.  She sang soothingly to her babe a song from her childhood, "Stay awake don't rest your head.  Don't lay down upon your bed.  You're not sleepy as you seem.  Stay awake, don't nod and dream."

Soon Roxy quit crying, relaxed, and fell asleep in Heather's arms.  Heather felt like staying in the shower forever, with warm water running over her and her sleeping baby. 

Finally when her skin was pruned with water Heather turned off the shower and climbed out.  She massaged lotion into Roxy's skin, then dressed the baby in her buckaroo pajamas.  Those buckaroo pajamas had been sewn by Thomas' mother.  Mom Lila had sung Thomas to sleep with the song, "Go to Sleepy Bye, My Little Buckaroo."  Roxy had already been fed at the sitter's house so Heather tucked her into her crib with her favorite blankie next to her.

Heather had just finished dressing when her doorbell rang.  The decision to ignore it was instantaneous.  She had no desire to talk to anyone, not even her family.  When the doorbell rang twice, three times, and then four she sighed harshly.  Walking down the stairs she marched to the door and angrily pulled it open.

There stood the Bishop with a broad smile on his face.  "May I come in Heather?" 

"This really isn't a good time, I was just about to go to bed, and Roxy is asleep, and maybe another time?"

The Bishop put his foot in the door so that Heather could NOT shut the door.  "Really Heather, this won't take but just a minute, and it's rather important."

Wearily Heather led the way into her tiny front room.  She picked up baby toys, and clothes that were draped everywhere as she went.  She took the large armful and dumped it on her postage stamp sized table in the dining area. 

The Bishop pushed some things to the side and sat down on their thrift store couch.  "Heather, do you have electricity?"

That was the final straw that broke her camel-like, burden laden back.  She began to sob, "Oh Bishop, I just can't do it anymore.  The bills are all behind.  Our family depended on Thomas' income.  I can't work anymore hours and finish school.  I must finish school because my current job skills don't earn enough money to support our family.  The world has turned to gray Bishop, there are no colors, and don't tell me that there is light at the end of the tunnel because at the end of MY tunnel there is just another tunnel!"

The Bishop stood and awkwardly patted Heather on the shoulder.  "Heather, why didn't you come to my office and tell me all of  this?"

"It's MY problem Bishop, my family.  I have to be responsible.  Roxy needs me, but I just want to go to sleep and not wake up!"

"Heather, you are not considering killing YOURSELF are you?"

There was an extended space when Heather's sobbing would not allow her to speak.  Finally she wiped her face on the back of her sleeve and said, "NO, I will NOT leave Roxy alone.  Thomas and I brought her precious spirit into this world as an extension of the love we shared.  I will NOT leave her alone to face this world.

The Bishop pulled up the other chair that they owned.  It was wobbly, ugly, but it was a chair.  Facing Heather he handed her some toilet paper that he had retrieved from their bathroom.  "Have you ever considered killing Roxy, and then yourself?"

That startled Heather enough that she quit sobbing.  Her answer was immediate, "NEVER!  I could never take the life of my precious baby.  I brought her into the world...I was in labor for three days.  Stubbornly she refused to be born.  I had to have a Caesarean section.  After giving her life, I could NEVER take it away again.

The Bishop said, "Our church group is very concerned for you and Roxy.  We love you Heather, God loves you.  I know that it's hard to believe right now but life is precious...even in the worst of circumstances, and I know that your circumstances are hard as can be."

Pulling an envelope from his pocket the Bishop handed it to Heather.  "The people who contributed this wanted you NOT to know their names.  There were many, and I did not solicit funds from anyone.  They came to me asking if they could help you.

"Where are your utility bills?
"Oh no Bishop, I couldn't..."  Heather's words trailed off as she opened the envelope and saw five crisp, new hundred dollar bills. 

The Bishop said, "Please Heather, the bills?" 

Wordlessly Heather walked to the corner of the cupboard where the bills were stacked.  She pulled out the electricity bill, the gas bill, the trash bill, and the water bill.  Handing them to the Bishop she said, "But Bishop, shouldn't I use the money that they gave me to pay these?"

"No Heather, the money I just gave you needs to help with rent, and food.  I know that your parents are having a tough time financially or they would help you.  I want to visit with you in my office at church tomorrow night at seven o'clock.  Does that work for you?" 

Heather said, "Just a minute Father."  Running to the kitchen she grabbed her planning journal and came back.  "Seven o'clock is fine, but I will have to bring Roxy with me."

"That would be grand.  I love your precious daughter.  She is such a happy child."

Heather said, "Well, she's not so happy at three in the morning when she awakens with "Night terrors."  Thomas used to rock her, sing to her, and pray for her.  Now there is no Thomas to take a turn, or to take care of her.  No Thomas...Heather began to sob frantically.

The Bishop said, "In the New Testament Christ teaches the apostles to "Lay hands" on the heads of the sick or afflicted.  Then to offer a prayer of faith.  I would like to pray for you Heather, is that all right?"

Heather had sobbed so hard that she had the hiccough's.  She managed to get out the one syllable, positive affirmation, "YES."

The Bishop put his warm hands on Heather's head.  Instantly she felt a flowing movement that seemed to come through the Bishop's hands, and into her body.  Peace, warm and rich, filled her soul.

The Bishop's prayer was life affirming and positive.  The line that Heather planned on remembering forever was about how much God loved her, loved Thomas, and loved Roxy.  When he was finished Heather was amazed at the light, and peace that she felt in her small apartment.

The Bishop said, "Heather you still have a rough road ahead of you.  I want you to understand that you will NOT walk this path alone.  We have a prayer group that meets every Tuesday night at church.  We pray together for those in need in our church group.  Your name and Roxy's name have been prayed for with rich love, and faith, since Thomas' death.

In addition, God will NEVER leave YOU.  If you feel far from God, it's because you have drawn away from Him.

He handed Heather a card.  She read, "God loves you, and so do I, call me, Bishop Brown....801 555 HELP.  Heather you can call me anytime, day or night that you need me.  Several church members take turns with me so that I can sleep through the night once in awhile.  All of the volunteers are licensed psychologists"

"We will schedule some appointments with one of the psychologist's.  You need the release of being able to tell the worst to someone."

"But I have no money to pay..."

The Bishop said, "Did I say we wanted your money?  This is a service provided for those in desperate need...I believe that would make you slightly OVER qualified? Right?"

Heather started to laugh, it felt good, that creation of endorphins.  "Bishop, how can I thank you?  How can I ever repay all of you?"

"Repay us by letting us help you.  Remember my dear, all of us will need help at some point in our life.  By letting us serve you, we are blessed."

The Bishop stood and walked to the door.  "I'll see you at our appointment.  Remember, if you need anything, anything at all, call, any hour of the night or day you can call.  Also, the Bishop held up the utility bills...these will all be paid.  Your power should be turned on by tomorrow or the next day.  If you need to go somewhere warmer you can come to our home.  OK?"
Heather stood on her tippiest toes and kissed the very tall thin Bishop's cheek.  "Do you know what you just did for Roxy and me?"

The Bishop winked at her.  "I gave you hope?"

Heather smiled through tears.  The tears were different this time.  They weren't of bitter sorrow, they were tears of joy.  "Yes Bishop, you gave me hope."


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What is Perspective?

Remember that phrase, "Everything from soup to nuts?"  I have no idea how that began but it's one of those interesting American idioms that refer to a broad plethora of items.  Well that is the fashion of many of my posts.  The subjects wander from recipes, to happy posts when I focus on somebody who has touched and changed my life for good, my writing,  to sexual slavery, human entrapment and ways that we can educate people and help prevent those evils.

I am writing another book called "Thrive Don't Just Survive."  It will be a compilation of my thoughts, ideas, hopes, and fears.  This book has taken all 56 years of my life to write.  It's an idea that has taken me through being a babe with virtually no immune system, to a young woman in multiple car accidents, through death of my beloved Papa (I did NOT understand how the sun even came up without him in the world), death of my beloved Nyle (27 years of love and growth with my darling), breast cancer...more car accidents (including one that impacted all three of my family members badly and permanently).

There are many more challenges than the ones that I've listed above but I watched a documentary once that said, "People who claim to have more than one car accident, cancer more than once in a family,  have just plain too much tragedy, are probably looking for a way to scam the public."  My daughter and I laughed so hard that we cried.  I guess we are scammers and just didn't know it! 

Our girls (Note that I said OUR girls.  I will include Nyle in my statements to the day that I am reunited with him) are endlessly positive.  They march through the world spreading cheer and "Splashing in the sunshine," each and every day.  People are absolutely stunned when they hear the challenges we have faced as a family.

Yet it is through those challenges and times of barely hanging on, (Apparently there is a reason for the statement "Hang in there.") we have learned amazing Master Classes of ways and means of facing the worst that life can hand you!  Thrive Don't Just Survive is the product of those "Master Classes" of life.

I love the little story about the Mom who is trying to teach her little girl perspective.  She marches her daughter to the window and says, "Honey look out and tell me what you see?" 

"Mama this window is disgusting, it's dirty and there are dead bugs on it." 

The Mama holds tightly to her patience and says, "Now honey look THROUGH the window and tell me what you see?" 

"Well there is the next door puppy.  Look how cute he is wiggling his tail...the tail he barely has.  Oh the grass is so green, and the sky so blue?"

"That right my dear, both things are right, the windows are dirty, but there is beauty to be found by looking out past the window.  In life it's all about where we CHOOSE to place our focus."

It IS possible to use perspective, a highly under used word and idea in my way of thinking, to change "The Darkest Night Into Day," as the old hymn says.  Stuck in bed sick?  What can you use those quiet hours for?  Can you use those "quiet" hours to call friends or family?  Can you send a letter to someone who needs a lift?  Social Media is nice, but it's absolutely WONDERFUL to receive an old school card, or note in the mail!  Maybe you are so sick that you just sleep.  None of us EVER sleep enough these days. 

In each and every day of our lives we will find "bugs on the window."  There will also be cute puppies, and green grass, and an azure sky over our heads.  Where do you wish to focus?

The Ugliest Form Of Death...Suicide

Rushing into the house with a heavy diaper bag, a baby carrier, and their adorable baby she called out to her husband of three years, "Thomas, where are you?  Are you feeling any better?  What shall I fix for dinner?  Can you hold Roxy while I cook dinner?  What would you like to eat?  Is your stomach still a little queasy?"

The questions stopped...still...and silence filled the air for a suspended split second.  Then a keening wail filled the small apartment space.  "Oh, no Thomas, what have you done?"  Falling to her knees, still holding the baby who started to cry because her Mommy was sobbing, "Oh God, why has he left us?  Why has he done this terrible thing?"

She stayed on her knees long enough to plead for God's help in this hour of crisis.  Then she began moving.  First call was to her parents.  "Mom, please put Papa on speaker phone I must speak to both of you!  Dad, please come, Thomas has hanged himself.  I can't cut him down...he's dead Mama, darling is dead!"  A long wail escaped Britte.  "How shall I raise Roxy without her Papa?"

Her Father said, "Oh my darling, we'll be there as soon as we can get there." 

The next call was to 911...Heather couldn't get her mouth and brain to connect.  She felt numb, disconnected.  "Hanging in the front honey....he's dead...oh God No............."  Heather began sobbing frantically.  She hung up the phone, forgetting for a moment what the strange object in her hand even was.

Roxy's sobs finally pierced Heather's shelter of numbness.  "Oh my poor baby.  You are hungry, and you," Heather sniffed "Need your diaper changed."  The child's need helped Heather to stay connected to reality...this new normal at a time she desperately needed the assistance.

Just as Heather finished changing Roxy's diaper, sirens alerted her that emergency help was coming.  Quickly she put her crying baby in her crib.  Giving Roxy her pacifier Heather said, "I'm sorry baby I know you are hungry.  I'll be back as soon as I can." 

People poured in peppering Britte with questions.  "Was he depressed, has he ever attempted suicide before?  Is there anyone that would want him dead?  At one point Heather's mind froze...solidly.  It was after the question, "Have you and your husband had marital problems?"

Heather's mind raced to the day that Roxy was born.  Thomas held her proudly, securely in his masculine, strong arms.  Tears raced down his cheeks.  He came to Heather and handed her the baby.  "Oh my darling," he said, "Look at the miracle we've created with our love!"

Next Britte thought of the laughter they shared, the tears, the praying together, the worshipping together.  She thought of the times that Thomas brought her a flower (usually from the landscaping at their tiny apartment) and said, "No occasion we're just celebrating that I love you so MUCH!"  Heather felt her body sinking, down deep, she swayed. 

"Ma'am, ma'am, are you all right?" 

Slightly hysterical Heather laughed out loud.  "All right?  Does this look all right to you?"  Those were her last words before she passed out into blessed oblivion.

"Wake up sweetie.  Dad and Mom are here.  It's going to be all right.  We're here."

Heather shook her head.  "Wow, Mom, Dad, I had the worst, most terrible nightmare.  It was so real, I dreamed that Thomas was...that Thomas..."  Heather saw Thomas'' body hanging from a belt that was looped over the exposed beam in their front room.  "No....oh no....!"  Her cries were old as time....old as Eve crying over the broken body of her son Abel who had been killed by her other son Cain.

Soon there was a crowd in the room.  Police had quit trying to question Heather.  She simply seemed speechless.  She couldn't take her eyes off Thomas....HER Thomas...ROXY'S Thomas!  Anger poured into her shocked body, hot, fiery as molten lava from a volcano.  "Why Thomas.  WHY?  Why did you do this to Roxy, to ME!"

Standing Heather ran to Ellis' body.  She pounded on his limp form with her fists.  "Why, Why, WHY!" 

Coming to her side her Father gently led her back to the couch.  A female paramedic came to Heather.  "Honey, you need some help.  Do you have a doctor that I can call?"

Heather tried to speak and incoherent babbling came from her mouth.  Finally, after a very deep breath she was able to say, "No doctor.  I'll be fine."

Bishop Henry Massey, her unpaid clergy leader,  walked through the door and straight to Heather.  "Oh Heather, I'm so very sorry.  Can we go into a different room and pray?"

Heather shook her head no.  "Not yet Bishop, not yet.  I have to stay here, as close to him as I can be.  He was alive when I left for church...if I hadn't gone...would my baby still have a Father?  Oh no.....dissolving into tears Britte sobbed harshly.

Several brutal hours later the police gave their permission to cut Thomas down from the beam.  As his lifeless body slid to the ground Britte ran to him, lying there he seemed asleep.  Except for the brown, ratty old belt that still clung to his neck he looked peaceful.  Britte gently, ever so softly removed the offensive weapon of Thomas' death.

She smoothed his beautiful, oh so soft hair back  She lifted up his upper body and pulled him into her lap.  Rocking his head and shoulders she sang, "Families can be together forever, through Heavenly Father's plan, I always want to be with my own family...and the Lord has shown me how I can.  The Lord has shown me how I can."

Softly, ever so fervently she leaned down and kissed Thomas's lips.  They were still warm, still soft, still the lips that she wanted to kiss forever.

A man came to her.  "Ma'am, we need to take his body."

"NOT YET!"  Fiercely Heather shielded Thomas from the mortician's eyes.  "I must pray him home!"  She began to pray out loud.  "Dear God, you know just how much I love this man.  I choose him to be my husband, my children's Father.  I don't know why he did this terrible thing.  I do know that he will have to repent, and face his choice.  Yet I pray that you with your unconditional love will help him.  Take him home to you now Lord, until I am with him again.  Amen"

Amen came from most of the people present.  Heather noticed that the gruffest, hardest looking policeman had said amen...and then crossed himself, genuflecting.  Flooding through Britte was the purest, richest form of peace and love she had ever felt.  This strength was powerful, empowering.  The physical weakness she had felt left her.

Two men picked up Thomas body and slid it into a black bag.  Just before they zipped it all the way past his face, Heather called out.  "Wait, not yet!"  She reached down and kissed the still warm, beloved lips.  Then raising her head she said, "I'm so angry at you Thomas Taylor.  You took away my best friend, and Roxy's Papa.  Yet I will love you now and forever until we are again together."

Heather was too focused to see that everyone in the room started to cry.  Even the genuflecting policeman wiped away a tear.

"Now," Heather said as she zipped the plastic case over Thomas' beloved face.

Next came the worst moment of this nightmare.  Heather had to call Thomas' parents.  Heather knew that Thomas' parents were strong...but they were his parents.  She couldn't drive to their house almost two hours away, she had to tell them by phone that their beloved son, filled with light, and joy, had taken his own life.

The next days were vicious...filled with planning, how do you plan a life without your beloved...then how do you plan to bury him?  They were poor college students there was no money for the embalming, coffin, obituaries (Heather was stunned to discover that it cost HUNDREDS of dollars to eulogize her honey in a newspaper.  She was convinced that the newspapers were preying on the grieving.) cemetery plot, headstone, and the costs kept piling up.  The cost of the paramedics, and the fire truck simply stunned Heather.  "They didn't do anything.  He was dead.  How can they charge a fee for doing nothing but driving their vehicles to the scene and then standing around getting in the way?"

The next several days were a brutal blur.  Each and every breath reminded her that Thomas was gone, dead, and by his own hand.  She wondered, "Did he not love Roxy and I?  Was having a wife and child too much responsibility for him?  Did he kill himself because of something I did....or didn't do...or something I said?"

She could not, and did not sleep all those days until Thomas' funeral.  The autopsy decree was "Suicide by hanging."  Heather knew that was correct.  Nobody would kill Thomas, everybody absolutely loved Thomas.

Still, deep in her tortured mind there had been a hope that somebody else had killed him.  If they did then she would not feel this deep need to understand, "Why, why, why?"  Sometimes the questions began to align with each breath that she took.  Breath in, "Why?"  Breath out, "Why?"

She forgot to eat.  Loving family had taken Roxy until after the funeral.  Food poured in until there was no more room in her tiny fridge.  Britte took comfort in reaching out lovingly to comfort others.  She had no idea that this was an unusual reaction to her situation.  It was simply part of her nature.

After the viewing, funeral, and burial at the cemetary was over, done, and she was alone with Roxy, she went to the store.  She purchased her favorite ice cream, 20 candy bars, and a chocolate silk pie.

At home she put on her most comfy old pajamas....ratty things that she had worn off and on since high school.  Putting Roxy down for her nap she kissed her.  "You are my precious princess, but Papa is still watching over you."

Next she took a spoon, ice cream, and all the candy bars.  Sitting on the floor in front of the TV she watched videos of her, of Thomas, of Roxy.  She ate the ice cream, and then all 20 of the candy bars.  The chocolate tasted different, mostly because it was salty tear soaked.  Her sinuses swelled up and shut down under the onslaught of her grieving tears.

When Roxy woke up, woodenly Heather stood up and went to the baby.  "My sweet baby, let's feed you something yummy, shall we?"

In the night Heather woke up and rolled over to Thomas' side of the bed, "I just had the most horrible, realistic dream.  You killed your..."  Heather's words trailed off as she realized that Thomas was NOT on his side of the bed.  The dream turned into reality, and her reality was even worse than her dreams.

How would she afford anything on her part-time salary.  How could she afford to finish her education?  She really wasn't prepared to get a job that paid enough to support a family.  She and Thomas' wages put together weren't enough to support their family, and now how could she possibly finish her schooling, and support Roxy and herself while doing it?

Next day the electric bill, the gas bill, the garbage bill, and the water bill all arrived.  She opened them all quickly, thinking that maybe like a bandaid, quick and it's over philosophy applied.  Wrong, she had been completely wrong.  Opening them all she realized that she would have to deplete the fledgling college saving's fund they had started for Roxy, to survive for just a month or two...then what?  Thomas had paid the bills, and she knew that he had been juggling them for quite a while.  She did NOT know that they were as far behind as they were.

She threw them all up in the air and screamed, "Really Thomas?  You couldn't do your share of this family?  You left it ALL to ME?  You told me once that Roxy and I would be better off without you.  Does this LOOK better off?"
(Continued tomorrow)

New Mountain to Climb...VERY SLOWLY?

I am terrified!  Let me try a different approach.  I am HORRIFIED!  Not quite right.  I AM SCARED TO PIECES!

Last week I wrote many posts on Miracles.  THIS WEEK...drumroll, I found out that not only are my knees a little bad, the actual joint on both has been shifted sideways.  The cartilage is GONE on part of my knee, and the lower leg bone and knee joint have become way too familiar with each other!!

This explains why my knee collapses when I stand, or walk.  It means I need my knee replaced.  I just watched my beloved sister go through a double knee replacement and that is where I am going.  In her words, "It's HELL!"  This from my sweet, non-swearing sister.

Healing is supposed to take three months...oh how I hope that is true.  Let's see there was my foot surgery that was supposed to take SIX WEEKS, and instead took SIX MONTHS.  Or my tonsillectomy at the age of 32 that was supposed to be a non-deal, and took ONE MONTH to heal.  In other words I don't heal very well. 

Knee replacements have come a long way in my lifetime.  When my sweetie needed his knee replaced they told him that it would only last 15 years so he would need to have it replaced multiple times in his life!  Now the possible life of a new knee is THIRTY YEARS....double what it was just 20 years ago.  (Yes 20 is a JUST when you are at least halfway to ONE HUNDRED)

I AM fearful of pain...I have lived with the chronic variety for 20 years now (there's that 20 years things again) and I have learned that living with chronic pain does NOT mean that the longer you live with it the better you cope.  To the contrary, it's like listening to a drip of water, over and over for years, and years...just sitting and listening to that drip of water.  No other activity, just DRIP, DRIP, DRIP....over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over and over, and over, and over, and over...(times the rest of your life!)  If you think that you could handle problem, right?  Well psychology has a word for that belief, DELUSIONAL!

So once again I am there....that frightening, annoying place where chronic pain meets with ACUTE pain control.  My coping structures are all scurrying to get in place...but quite honestly I feel like one giant fear generated WHITE KNUCKLE!  (You remember in the romance novel....the hero or shero is clenching their hands together so tightly for whatever reason that they develop the dreaded WHITE KNUCKLES?)

My beloved daughter said, "WHY US?  Why are WE faced with medical crisis over, and over, and over, and over, again?  We ALL ask this question at some point or another.  There IS no answer to that question. 

I try to ask another question of myself.  (Sometimes that is harder than others).  Not why but HOW?  HOW gives me a positive action to move with instead of asking a question that has NO ANSWER.  HOW do we face this difficulty, challenge, struggle, trauma? 

With each new challenge that life hands me I throw a LARGE, indeed HUGE pity party.  I DO set a time limit on that party.  If the party bleeds over into the next day...and the day after that...etc. etc. it changes from a pity party to WALLOWING!  Wallowing is ever so dangerous.  It can lead to nothing positive and everything negative.

So...I'm terrified, but I am going to work hard today to change my fear into faith.  I would welcome, be VERY grateful, move that into THRILLED, to hear from others how they cope with challenge, and difficulty.  If we network maybe we can all be stronger.  After all, if you take one stick, and try to break it, depending on the strength of that one stick you can most likely break it quite easily.  Now add another stick, and then another, and then another, and soon you couldn't snap the bundle of sticks if you were Arnold Schwartsenegger  (can YOU spell his name?) in his prime!  Strength comes in unity...strength comes in love...strength comes in faith.  Please bless me with your examples of faith under challenge.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sarcoid...a Modern Medical Enigma?

It started with hoarseness, a cough, and a general feeling of exhaustion.  Flu or cold symptoms, right?  Next the hoarseness took away completely his beautiful baritone voice.  Even a whisper became a severe effort.  How can you be an actor, attorney, or singer, without a voice? Then the cough went deep, deep, down into Nyle's incredibly broad, barrel of a chest.  The cough became so powerful that it would literally drop him to his knees.

At that point I became the Nagging Nancy wife.  (No offense to any of you Nancy's out is a lovely name it is just an example of alliteration which I enjoy).  "Nyle, it's time to go see the doctor.  At the very least you need to get on antibiotics."  He HAD virtually NO trust in doctors.  It didn't help when his beloved brother died at the early age of 42...from an infection he picked up in the hospital!

Finally Nyle agreed to go to the doctor.  She listened to his lungs and said, "I think we need a diagnostic test of your lungs."  That would be easy for most people.  Nyle was never, EVER an easy patient.  Any test of your chest is difficult when the simple physical space of your body is so immense.

We were very nervous when the doctor called us in quickly after the test.  (Any and all tests took a VERY long time to took 4 months to diagnose me with breast cancer).  We were in the Kaiser System.  To give you an example, I once had a partially blocked intestine.  Since it was an emergency it only took six months to get the surgery to repair the blockage.  (After all it wasn't totally blocked, right?)  NOPE, NOT EXAGGERATING....six, long, miserable months.

The doc explained that the lymph nodes in Nyle's chest were enlarged.  They feared that he had Hodgkin's Lymphoma or some other type of cancer.  I had battled breast cancer two years before.  It seemed truly a nightmare to think that now it was Nyle's turn to battle cancer!

 Nyle went into the hospital for a lymph node biopsy.  He had the biopsy the day before our 10th anniversary.  That amazing man still had flowers sent to me at home for our anniversary, (he called from the hospital!)

The doctor explained that Nyle had a rare incurable disease.  (I hate these words when delivered by a clinician, rare, unique, unusual, incurable...HATE THOSE WORDS!)

"Nyle," she began, "The good news is that you don't have cancer.  The bad news is that you have an incurable disease called Sarcoid."  She didn't know much about the incurable, disease so Nyle went home and looked it up on the computer.

The first thing that he read said, "Sarcoid, is a modern medical seems to be most common among AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN.  Not AFRICAN men...they had to have the combination of American and African genetics.  To the best of Nyle and my knowledge he has absolutely no African genetics...we have since learned that apparently those of Danish descent are also vulnerable to the disease.

The disease could strike any part of your anatomy, and it could move from one part to the other.  The most common cause of death was heart attack.  (The physiology of the disease granulates any soft tissue that it becomes involved with).  The second most common cause of death was from suicide.  The disease hardens soft tissue.  I think anyone can imagine that making your lungs, heart, or any other part of your body would NOT make you feel any kind of good!  In addition, the physiology of attack by the Sarcoid would definitely repress Serotonin, Neurepinephrine, and Dopamine production.  These are the three chemicals that our brains need to maintain a simple sense of contentment.  With a short of any of these three chemicals you WILL start struggling with clinical depression!  So, you feel terrible physically, and then you are so blue that you can't bear it?  Who would be surprised that someone would choose to end that type of suffering?

Nyle's disease had attacked his vocal chords, lungs, and heart.  There is no answer to why or when this disease may strike.  It can cause lesions on your skin, and granulate your skin...or it can petrify your internal organs.

We were referred to a pulmonologist.  (A lung specialist).  He was a most charming gentleman.  He was extremely well read, and intelligent.  He and Nyle quickly became kindred spirits.  Dr. Nottingham was a rich blessing.

What a wild ride followed the diagnosis.  Nyle was put on massive doses of Prednisone...a steroid.  Your appetite climbs out of feel as though you MUST have food in your mouth at all times.  You gain weight, even if you are living on nothing more than water.  Nyle's weight ballooned to 375 pounds.  The steroids made his already uncontrollable diabetes even worse.  His blood sugars were almost always 300 and above.  Then randomly they would drop down to 40, 50 which can cause Diabetic coma and death.

He was in bed 24/7.  He developed Benign Positional Vertigo (another unusual, and unique disease, STILL HATE THOSE WORDS)!  Now he would cough until he threw up.  He was too dizzy to get out of bed.  Yet he would force himself to sit in a chair for 5 minutes at a time almost every hour. 

He had respiratory infections, one after another.  He was desperately ill.  Dr. Nottingham called Nyle at least once a week.  He didn't really ask Nyle about his health except in passing.  They would discuss literature, politics, world events, current events, anything and everything.  This was a grand blessing for Nyle. Being stuck in bed for months at a time can make you feel SOOOO ISOLATED!

I was convinced that Nyle was dying.  I didn't tell Nyle that.  I tried to be as positive as I could be.  Yet the stress was wearing me down.  We had two small children, one 6 and one 9.  I was working a part-time job as Childcare Supervisor at a Racquet Club.  I had my own list of medical issues. 

At one point I asked an Elder from our church to give me a blessing.  It was such a sacred thing.  I was told not to focus on Nyle dying, but to enjoy any and all time that we had together.  One of the great lessons I learned from this incredibly difficult part of our life was to NEVER give up when someone faces health trials.  Even if the doc says "You have 6 months to live."  God knows more than any doctor....he is the ultimate physician.  There is simply no benefit to be gained by "giving up."  Make the time you have on earth count for as much joy as possible. 

Our girls would literally run from the car after school in to their beloved Papa.  He was ALWAYS there for them.  They would have a snack with him.  We would all watch TV, or play a game, or nap.  Tough times, and yet such profoundly joyous memories!

Amazingly, after a year Nyle's health started to improve.  His voice started to return.  His coughing lessened until it stopped.  The Benign Positional Vertigo got much better (never completely went away but went away enough for him to have a quality of life.)

I made a goal that I would NEVER forget what a miracle it was that Nyle not only lived through that tough medical time, but got back his voice, and was able to sing, and act again!  The Sarcoid would pop up every once in awhile in random places, like his tongue?  It never completely left him, and I'm pretty certain that it was one of the factors that led to his death at 54. 

Yet it WAS a miracle that I got to keep him for another 18 years beyond that time!  I got to sing with him, and listen to him sing, and perform.  Lest any of you feel skeptical that this was a true blue, dyed in the wool miracle I want you to think about what the doctor told us when Nyle's Sarcoid went into remission.  "Nyle, now that you are doing so much better I just have to tell you that I was convinced that you would not live longer than a year, if that long.  I have never seen a patient with symptoms as severe as yours that lived."

Oh I believe that the Prednisone and other medical treatments helped.  Yet, other patients with the same severity of disease as Nyle received the exact same treatments and DIDN'T live. 

It reminds me of the priorities, the privileges, and blessings I have had in my life to post this blog.  Thank you any who read this for letting me share and rejoice in this miracle in Nyle and my life together.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Miracle # 3...Third Day of Remembering Miracles

I was supposed to be with them.  My family was going to play games with our nephew and niece.  That was a past time that I enjoyed IMMENSELY!  In fact, up to the last minute I wanted to go with them.

My dear daughter insisted that I must stay home and get our poor old car over to a friend's for repair so that it would pass inspection, and could get registered.  (I think she was tired of us using her car for the family car while we tried to get the aforementioned steps done to our own car).

So...I stayed home, went to the friend's and got the car repaired.  May I just mention here that having loving, supporting, friends that you can ALWAYS depend on is a miracle of it's own kind!

Driving home in our newly repaired car I noticed that the night sky was brilliant with a rotund moon.  It floated high above the earth, turning each cloud that it passed into shimmery brilliance.  I gave thanks as I drove home, for beloved family, good friends, moon brilliance, and the sense to appreciate all of those wonderful blessings.

I started getting ready for bed.  I spoke to our youngest daughter on the phone several times.  They stopped at the store for Nyle to stock up on frozen meals.  They went to Walmart, and oh how Nyle loved to spend lots of time in Walmart.  The girls were slightly frustrated...the hour was late, and they wanted home, and bed.

I put my cell phone next to my head on the bed, and went into blissful slumber.  I must have REALLY gone deep into that slumber.  I did NOT hear Sarah's desperate calls, once, twice, three times, I did NOT hear that phone ringing next to my head.

I did awaken with a start when someone came POUNDING on my door.  It was about 2:15, or 2:30 in the morning.  I don't know about your life but in mine NOTHING good ever happens when I get a phone call or knock at that hour of the day.

My beloved nephew and niece were there.  Sarah had managed to find her cell phone and since I hadn't heard her calls for help, she called them.  I will be eternally grateful for the gift of my nephew and niece.  I can't imagine what I would have done if faced with the horrid news by myself.

My family had been in a dreadful automobile accident.  Sarah's very old car had stalled on the freeway.  They coasted into the emergency lane, and were just letting the car drift to a stop.  (They were hoping to get within the mileage range to get the car towed without paying extra).

The stall was NOT the cause of the accident.  A teenager was driving at 75 miles an hour.  He just looked away for a second (his words) and didn't have time to brake (again his words).  That 19 year old boy hit Sarah's car on the RIGHT SIDE of the back of the car going 75 miles an hour.  He flipped them around in a complete circle, most of the glass shattered and covered my family.

If I had been with them in the car, whoever had been sitting behind Nyle WOULD HAVE BEEN CRUSHED!  Miracle #1  Nobody DIED!

Nyle wanted to die as the effects of the accident became apparent.  Nyle already had more than any human being should have to cope with in the way of physical challenge.  Diabetes, Sarcoid, Degenerative Disc Disease, Neuropathy, those were only a few of his festive challenges (please note the sarcasm as I use the word festive).

Ardis our beloved oldest daughter was sitting in the backseat of the car...on the left side...driver's side.  The unfortunate reality is that she was dozing to the right, resting on her arm.  So the impact shattered her right arm, and damaged her head, neck, shoulder, lower back, and arm.  Still Miracle #2...Ardis was ALIVE. (I realize that I already counted the miracle about all four of them, but I reiterate because each of my family is OH SO important and beloved to me).

Sarah was driving.  In the aftermath of the accident the car looked like metal spaghetti, shredded into long metallic nightmares.  Yet the compartment where Sarah had been, looked fine, slightly angular but not shredded.  Miracle #3  Sarah was alive.

It took 45 minutes to extricate Ardis from that shredded metal hour and a half for Nyle.  The trunk had been forced forward, Nyle backward, and all of that metal had wrapped around him.  Miracle #4  Nyle was alive!

Those miracles were reinforced to me when Eve, Jeff, and I arrived at the Emergency Room.  An police officer who reported at the accident came to the ER to specifically tell me that the week before he had reported to an identical accident to the one my family had been in.  There were three people in that accident...and NONE survived.

We had to drive past the accident to get to the hospital ER where my family had been taken.  A voice said inside my head, "You are about to receive a Master Class of Information.  Do not let it overcome in the Lord."  With the message came an engulfing sense of peace.

When we reached the ER I clung to that peace.  All three of my family members were in different rooms in the ER.  How do you possibly keep track of three ER docs, three nurses, three diagnoses, three is beyond my capability at the same time.

Miracle #5  Jeff and Eve were THERE with me.  We each took a room, watched over the person in that room, listened to the information, and then periodically traded rooms.  They have two precious children and their Mom lovingly came over in the middle of the night, and stayed with them.  I simply can't imagine what I would have done if Jeff and Eve had not been there to help.

I will stop here to explain my definition of "miracles."  I know that most of the world sees miracles as some experience, or occurrence that defies natural law.  I see an additional component to miracles.  When the need is greatest and is met by people or situations that I could not have foreseen, that too is a miracle to me.

Nyle was admitted to the hospital.  His entire right side was black with intense bruising.  He broke every rib on the right side (EVERY RIB....12), his right arm, his right shoulder, and 5 levels of his back.  Miracle #6....with all of those broken ribs he only had ONE puncture in his lungs.  Broken ribs are incredibly sharp, lung tissue is incredibly soft.  You do the math.

Miracle #7 Ardis called two beloved friends Chris and Cassie.  They were at the hospital almost immediately.  These beloved friends stayed with Ardis and Sarah at our home, so that I could stay with Nyle in the hospital.  I couldn't be at home with our girls, AND at the hospital with Nyle.  The girls wanted me at the hospital with their Papa, but they needed someone to help care for them.  Chris and Cassie lovingly put their own lives on temporary hold, and cared for our precious girls.

Miracle #8  The hospital protocol is to get you up and moving ASAP.  Lots of bad things can happen when you are still in a hospital bed for any protracted length of time.  They didn't get Nyle up for a week or two (he had all of this medical stuff connected to him at every turn and twist).  They finally did get him up to walk with two very large young men.  Nyle kept telling them that his back REALLY hurt.  They kept telling him that it was just because of the general body damage.

So, the one time that I went home to shower and sleep for a couple of hours the hospital decided to discharge Nyle.  I was stunned, his injuries were still so extensive.  Then worse still, Nyle called sobbing, and panicked, the trauma staff had re-imagined his CT scan of his back....amazing computer technology allowed them to turn the image all the way around and back.  Low and behold, several levels of his back were not just damaged, they did NOT exist.  He had been walking everyday for multiple times with a shattered back.  They missed the damage by just looking at one angle of the diagnostic tool.  They couldn't do an MRI (which would have been so much better)  Nyle's massive shoulders were 6 inches too big to fit in the MRI tube!

They missed the damage in the ER...I'm not too surprised really, there was just SO MUCH damage to notice.  The girls and I dashed back to the hospital (so much for my shower and nap!).  They now had Nyle at a certain level in his bed, and he was not allowed to all.

The hospital hired the best surgeon in Utah.  I've been told that you can't get an appointment with this Dr. for a year, he is so acclaimed.  At first he and Nyle butted heads.  Two very strong men, one of them in shock, and dealing with far too much bodily injury.

Finally, Nyle agreed to have surgery.  Dr. Howard Reichman is amazing!  He basically created a new spinal structure for the middle of Nyle's back.  The scar was slightly over 12 inches to explain the extensive level of damage.  Nyle lost an inch and a half in height after the car accident.

Miracle #9  Nyle survived the surgery.  Considering all of the trauma, and the existent illnesses that was TOTALLY a miracle.

Then came the day after surgery.  Nyle was in agony.  None of the pain meds did a thing to relieve his anguish.  The girls and I stayed with him, taking turns sleeping on a floor mat that I had brought, and a terrible recliner chair that had a bad habit of folding you into an accordian if you quit holding it in a certain position.  We all prayed, prayed, and prayed some more.  Interesting how REAL God becomes where there is nobody else to turn to.

Miracle #10  The next day

An anesthesiologist came in and said, "There are several different pathways in our brain to conquer pain.  All of the meds that we've given Nyle so far all travel on the same pathway.  That pathway can become congested with too many meds, and quit working effectively.  How about if we try this different med?"

So they did try that med, and Nyle slept for the first time in two days...and pretty much slept solidly for two days.  Sleep is a grand restorative.  The girls went home, and slept in their own beds, and I slept on my sweet little foam pad in the corner of the hospital room.

I could not leave Nyle.  His health issues were so complex that even with just one nurse watching his case it was easy to miss things.  I'm NOT noble, but I AM madly in love with Nyle Smith, and I just could NOT leave him alone.

Miracle #11  November, Several months later

Nyle auditioned for, and got the part of The Ghost of Christmas Present.  He had played the role the year before and adored the part, and the play.  He was still supposed to be wearing a back brace at this point (which he didn't), and he could only lift his right arm up a short way (his right shoulder was still broken)  but dance he did...laugh he did...sing he did...and I knowing about all the miracles laughed through tears of triumph.  I was also touched because watching him you would NEVER guess the price that he still was paying for the love of theater.  The pain that he endured, the struggles to be at rehearsal and then performance days on end, had a price, but to Nyle it was a gift. 

I wanted to start each performance by standing up and saying, "I just want all of you in the audience to know that this man is a miracle!  He can't dance, but he does, he can't sing, but he does (that miracle is explained tomorrow), he can't hear, but he does (maybe the day after tomorrow?), he can't speak but he does.  This man is a miracle!

I give thanks to each and every angel that walked with us through those days of "Master Class."  We had angels that were in human form, and angels that we could not see but felt with us.  I am the witness of about you?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mama and Miracles

Mama had a very tough time giving birth.  She had one kidney that was pesky and didn't like to work properly.  This made it very difficult for her to carry a pregnancy to term.  That did NOT stop her...oh no.  Eight pregnancies, but only three live births.

When Mama was thirty-two she became pregnant.  She carried this baby to term, but another problem was evident.  Mama had a placenta previa.  That means that the placenta instead of attaching at the top or sides of the uterus, developed over the opening of the uterus.  So, the placenta was before the baby.

They didn't discover this problem until she began to go into labor.  The labor and delivery were diabolical.  It lasted for two days.  There were no monitors to indicate the babies heart or health condition.  At one point Mama left her body.  She observed from above the scene the things that were going on.

Leaving her body gave her a space of relief from the excruciating pain, and fear that were wrapped into her current experience.  She felt total peace, and love embracing her as she watched the doctor working on the delivery of her baby.

It was too late for the doctor to do a C section because the baby was in the birthing canal, but the placenta was blocking his delivery.  Somewhere in the process the cord was wrapped around the babies neck.

He was born, a beautiful eight pound baby boy.  The problem was that he was not breathing.  They worked with him and on him but it was too late.  He was dead.

Mama came back into her body before he was delivered.  She spoke of how she felt as though she were being compressed into something tight and confining.  There was a noise so loud that it hurt her head.  When she was again in her body and aware of her surroundings she realized that the incredibly loud sound that she had heard was the clock on the wall ticking off the minutes and hours of life.

Papa, Howard, and Carla-Rae went to the Memorial Service for my brother David Mark.  Mama couldn't attend, she was still far too weak and in the hospital.

 The incredibly tough delivery, and the death of yet another of her "dreams," sent Mama into shock.  She had long periods of time when she simply didn't remember getting from one place to another.  Sometimes she would forget as much as 1/2 an hour at a time.

She didn't tell anyone about these blackouts.  My Mom was young in a time when the world was still recovering from the extensive wounds of a depression and a world war.  The credo was, "Keep a stiff upper lip!"  Her lip was extremely stiff...too stiff to share with anyone what was happening to her.

Finally she went in for a postpartum check-up and the doctor found out that she had gone into a trauma induced menopause.  It had happened so rapidly (the hormonal fluxes between pregnancy and menopause are huge), that it was causing the blackouts.  She no longer had the age of 32.

Now you may ask, "Where is the miracle in all this suffering?"

The good doctor told Mama that she should NOT become pregnant, ever again.  Her body was completely devastated by her many attempts at pregnancy.  She should simply not even consider being pregnant again.

Four years later, she again was in labor and delivery.  She delivered an 8 pound baby girl.  The good Catholic doc who had worked with her throughout the pregnancy didn't make it through California traffic to deliver me.  He stood in the back of the room saying to anyone with ears.  "Do you know what a miracle is?  This baby is all kinds of miracles.  Sarah couldn't GET pregnant.  She couldn't carry a child to full-term, and she could NOT deliver a child.  In addition not long ago the baby was in breech position.  Somehow that baby turned, in time for a normal delivery."  He elaborated on all of the reasons why this was an impossibility (I will leave it to your imagination to recall all of those reasons).  

For my fifty-six years of life Mama has told me often and lovingly that I am a miracle.  She counts the many reasons why I am a miracle.  I am grateful for every minute of my improbable life that Mama wasn't a quitter.  She just knew that the Lord wanted her to have more children, in spite of anything a doctor might tell her.   

Any birth is a miracle...if you have been in the room when a baby is born you understand that principle. Yet Mama continues to explain to me why I'm so many types of miracles.  I'm so very grateful that Mama had the faith, and strength to dream of children.  I adore my parents, and I'm grateful everyday that I had such amazing parents.

Monday, July 1, 2013

On Cancer and Miracles

At the age of four my family moved from Pomona, CA to Colton, CA.  We moved into a lovely home on the end of a cul-de-sac.  It had hardwood floors, an enormous fireplace, a dining room, and a huge garage where I set up my train set.

There were two reasons that we moved to Colton.  One was because my Papa had gotten a civilian job working at Norton Air Force Base.  The other was because my beloved Aunt Luana had cancer of the brain.  (Aunt Luana wasn't really my Mother's sister.  She was my Mother's first cousin, but they were as close as any sisters.)

Aunt Luana and Uncle Pat had five children.  The oldest at four years of age, came home from playing at a friend's to find her Mama unconscious on the floor.  Desperate, tiny Christeen ran to the neighbors for help.

Soon an ambulance came to take away Aunt Luana.  What about Christine, and the rest of the kids?  Somehow neighbors and church members reached out that day.

That was reason two for our move. (I don't know for certain the priority order of their choice, I just know that I addressed the choices in that order).  Reason two is that it was a long drive everyday for Mama to come to their home and clean, or care for the children.  It was a long drive to take Papa to work, so that she could keep the car and then pick him back up in the evening and make the long drive home.  They did this for quite a while.

A wonderful lady named Clara came to work for the Patterson family.  She used to laugh (she had a magical laugh) and say to my Mama, "I'm Clara, you're Sarah, we're twins."  At the time my young sensibilities missed the fact that Clara's skin was a deep rich brown, while Mama's was a light white.  In other words they didn't look very twin-like.

Clara and Sarah became an indefatigable team.  They held Luana's tongue down as she struggled with seizures.  (That was the medical idea at the time, hold the tongue down with a spoon so that the seizure patient can't swallow her tongue.)  I witnessed one of her seizures.  I wish I could forget that sight...but it was so attached to emotion that some fifty plus years later I still can see it vividly.

The doctors did exploratory surgery.  If you remember the time when doctor's invaded the human body on "fishing expeditions" you are probably older than 40.  In a time before CT scans or MRI's, ultrasounds, or echocardiagrams, the only diagnostic tool was x-ray and it did not show soft tissue disease with great clarity.  So the answer was to open a person up and look under the hood, so to speak.

When they opened Luana's skull there was an extremely grim prognosis.  The tumor had invaded most of her brain.  It was inoperable.  All that they could do was to leave a small part of her skull open. This was done so that as the tumor grew further it could expand through that space and help alleviate the horrible headaches that they knew she would suffer.

Aunt Luana and Uncle Pat had five children five years of age and under.  There was Chris at 4, Rex and Reid, twins at 3, Dee somewhere around 2, and then there was baby Becky 6 months old.

Mama had three children of her own.  One of them was special needs.  (That was me, with severe allergy asthma...there were no medications to treat my asthma with.  I would be put on oxygen until the attack subsided).  My attacks happened most often during the night, and off we would go to the nearest clinic or hospital to get me on oxygen.

Now Mama and Papa took in five more children, one a baby of 6 months.  Carla and Howard (my siblings) were old enough to help a bit.  Dee adopted Howard as his "cool" big brother.  I have fond memories of Dee trailing after Howard like a precious family pet.  I remember it as being a chaotic time, but one filled with love and service.

I adored having a "twin sister."  Chris and I were only born a couple of days apart.  She was blond, blue-eyed, gorgeous, and I was strawberry blond, hazel eyed, and a little awkward.  I loved Chris with an adoring love.  Fifty years later she's still gorgeous blue-eyed, blond haired, and I'm still a little awkward!  

Aunt Luana had radiation and chemotherapy but the prognosis was dire.  She lost all of her beautiful auburn hair.  Through all of the treatments and stress Aunt Luana remained endlessly positive.  I think we all thought that she was in denial (if we actually knew what that was back then).

One day Uncle Pat was helping Aunt Luana to take a bath.  I heard a low keening cry coming from him.  (I was in the next room playing with Chris but I'll never forget that horrible sound of a man weeping from the depths of his soul).  I heard him say, "Luana, your skull has turned dark."

Aunt Luana had a weird response.  She started to laugh.  "Of course," she said with her amazing ability to be positive, "My hair is coming back."  Come back it did.  Not quite as thick as before, and it couldn't return to the place where she had no skull, and no scalp but it was her lovely hair again.

When Uncle Pat would mourn over each new negative prognosis, Aunt Luana would smile and embrace him.  "Pat, I'm going to live to raise our children."  It made no sense for her to be so positive.  Every single doctor (and there were many) gave her less than 0% chance of beating this disease.  They also spoke of all the brain damage that she would suffer between the surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Radiantly, Aunt Luana battled on.  A year later (and she was getting stronger by the day), our family was wrenched away when Norton Air Force Base was closed.  We moved to Utah, where Papa was transferred to Hill Air Force Base.

I shall never forget if I live to be 120, precious little Becky sitting on the porch screaming, and crying as we drove away.  We were all in tears.  Aunt Luana and Uncle Pat were there with Becky, they tried to hold her close but they had become strangers to her in the time that she had lived with us.

I wonder as an adult how painful it was to Aunt Luana that her own precious baby wanted nothing to do with her for almost another year.

Aunt Luana DID live, and grew stronger, and stronger.  When she was in her 50's there was a brain scan done.  There was absolutely no sign of a tumor, or scar tissue from a tumor.  Miracle?  Oh yes.  If you had heard the doctor's reports relayed by Uncle Pat as he sobbed, if you had heard my Mama and Papa planning emergency contingencies for when she died (late at night when I was supposed to be asleep and not eavesdropping), you would have understood that as the world counts proof, empirical proof, that can NOT be denied, proof that is able to shown by our senses, sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, you would know without a doubt that Aunt Luana should NOT have lived to see her children grow up.  SHE DID!

I was there on the day that her youngest son married.  She cried tender tears and said, "I told you that I would live to see all of my children grow up."  Why did any of us ever doubt her?