Provo WC Party--Round 2

The next Provo WC Party will be on November 14th at 1pm at my place, 454 South 300 East in Provo. Everyone is welcome to come. I'm thinking I'll make soup and breadsticks/rolls for this one. Chris is bringing some "flippin' tasty desserts." (If that doesn't persuade you to come, I don't know what will.)

Hope to see you there.

PS if anyone needs somewhere to go for Thanksgiving, feel free to come on down to Provo. My cousin is hosting this year, and she happens to live right above me. Ladies can stay in my apartment, and I'll find accommodations for any men.


Cough Drops and Dad

We had Stake Conference this weekend, and for a split second during last night’s meeting, I felt like I was back in the Acequia II ward sitting next to my dad.

I smelled a cherry Halls cough drop. That’s what Dad smells like nearly every Sunday at church. It always happens the same way. First Dad clears his throat—a very distinct throat clearing that always reminds me that I need to clear my throat, too. Then he readjusts his positioning, shifting his weight so he can reach into his suit coat and pull out a cherry Halls cough drop. Sometimes he puts the wrapper in my mom’s hand, and then mom looks up at him and gives him a funny look, one that I interpret as “I love you, you funny man.”

But I haven’t been home for a while. So I haven’t smelled that cherry cough drop, until last night in Stake Conference. I never knew how much I liked the smell until last night.


I once was blind, but now I see

I remember one seminar where Sis. Morgan was either running late for seminar or was busy with something else (most likely tweaking a PowerPoint post), so she had Kaitlin go outside with a trash bag and collect a bunch of the leaves that had fallen on the ground outside and bring them into seminar. Each one of us had to pull one out of the bag and spend at least 15 minutes describing that one little leaf. At first we were all probably thinking "You're kidding me, right? It's a leaf. The end. What else is there to say?" But as we all looked closer and really looked and saw what was in front of us, words began to flow. I remember detailing the little scar on the front, the glossy front and rough back, the way the veins moved across the body of the leaf, all stemming from one large vein that ran down the middle. I remember trying to find the words to describe the formation of little brown specks and the shape of the leaf itself down to its tiny teethlike edges. Then, when we were all done, we each read some of what we had written. It was amazing to see that each leaf was very unique even if at first glance they all seemed so alike.

The sad part about that day is that that was one of the few times I had really taken the time to stop and look at the minute details while in college. I remember that leaf more than I do some people's faces or even the hallways or the buildings around me.

The happy part is that now I have a child. And that child helps me see more than I have seen in a long time. I finally see all of the flourescent lighting hanging above me in Wal-Mart; I see the trail of little black ants across the sidewalk; I see the water dripping out of a drain pipe after a storm; I see the joy in my child's face as she feels the flour between her fingers and hands as she plays in the bowl of it that will be used to make our bread; And finally, I see the leaves in our yard and wonder at the beauty of all the fall colors, and I remember that day in seminar when my little Hazel picks up a leaf and stares at everything that it took me years to see--the spots, the veins, the scars. That is when I feel a little closer to heaven and so thankful for a little child who can help me see.


Breakfast with Peter Pan

Today, I made my breakfast into a face. With my fork, I cut both my eggs into eyes. A piece of bacon was broken in half for the eyebrows, and three more strips were lined up into a smile. When I sat back to admire, I realized that my breakfast face needed teeth. I split the three bacon strips in half and then arranged them into top and bottom lips, filling in the teeth with my toast that had been torn into squares.

For almost twenty minutes, I had an internal conversation with my breakfast as I ate him. It was only small talk at first—topics like what his name was, where he was from, if he had any family, and, if he did, how they were doing. Then I moved into matters that were more serious: universal healthcare, North Korea, loss of language due to technology, and the pace of our society.

You know, Breakfast Face, my stepsister texts all the time, and she has awful grammar. Coincidence?

My breakfast said nothing.

I think it’s really dumbing down my generation. I never thought I would see texting lingo in a college paper, but then I started working at the Writing Center.

Still nothing.

It really opened my eyes to how bad things have gotten. It’s not just grammar anymore—it’s basic punctuation and even spelling too. I mean, that should be easy, right?

The only thing that my breakfast face told me was that I was immature.

I sat there staring at my eggs, and the only thing I could think was that Breakfast Face was right—I am immature.

Within the past week, I’ve stayed in my pajamas all day twice, eaten cereal for all three meals once, and watched at least three hours of old Tranformers, Thundercats, and Captain Planet cartoons on Youtube, including one titled “Optimus Prime saves McDonalds.” Four days ago, when I went to my mom’s for Hawaiian Haystacks, and I was the only one who made small screams when I drowned my rice with sauce. Even though I work at a bookstore, I’ve still read more cartoon strips then real literature. Yesterday, I rearrange my dad’s living room, so it would be easier to play video games.

All this mounts up to the fact that I’m immature. But I’ve always known that, and it’s never been a problem. I’ve always been a little more childish than most, and it’s never really bothered me until two days ago. That’s when I realized I’ll be turning twenty-one in two months. And twenty-one doesn’t feel old, but it feels like maybe it’s time for me to start growing up.

I would say that with all the negativity going on, a person needs to be a little childish to get by, but then I remember that last semester, I had a coloring book and crayons in my backpack all the time. I would say it helps me relax and unwind , but then I realize that I’ve done a sock puppet show for a major college presentation. I would say all this and more, but, really, I know I’m just scared of growing up.


You can all breathe a sigh of relief. I just got back from the doctor's office. I have to have some tissue removed, but it's benign.

Of course I will continue with my yearly exams and monthly self exams, but for now I am in the clear. I also have to start having mammograms when I'm 30 instead of 40 as a precautionary measure.

Thank you for your prayers and kind words on my behalf. I appreciate all of you.


Across the Universe

It can be terrifying that life is constant change and loss. In fact, besides the church being true, loss is the one constant I can count on. When I lost my twin sister to suicide, I had never been alone before. I lost my best friend and my identity in one quick minute, which left me wandering around bumping into doors and falling into holes as life took a surprise detour. Next, Losing Jason’s father smashed my future plans like crystal glass against rocks. Years later, in Provo, 1986, my dreams and identity splintered again when my husband, Randy, lay down behind a car exhaust because “his heart hurt too much.” Four years later, just after Jason left on his mission, Jim came along and volunteered to help build Beau’s Pinewood Derby car. For the first time in decades, I felt “safe,” a particulaly important feeling for women. But,I became ill with an auto-immune disease, and after many years of my up and down health, he crumpled under a strong desire to just be happy, and he left us. He just walked away. Then I lost Megan to addictions and watched her die--not just once but over and over--in front of me. After that loss, I actually disappeared, melted down, and became dust and ashes. And my identity? What’s that?

But, Sara is right. Illness is the last betrayal. I always picked up the pieces of a crushed life and walked on. There was no alternative—though this last crash has taken me years to put Humpty Dumpty together again. But being ill was worse than losing people I loved, or the abandonment and rejection, because it left me too vulnerable—-without strength to reach down and grab handfuls of courage that we all have in us but seldom know about until we desperately need it. For a couple of years as I lay in bed and memorized the ceiling—-unable to even read my beloved books—I watched my family fall apart from behind helpless eyes. Not only did I see a good husband collapse under the pressure of caring for a spouse whom he expected to be strong and walk by his side, I also watched children in great pain because they had no mother. I was useless flesh that needed to be fed and taken care of by others, and sometimes they’d forget. I remember one morning—-as the family rushed along without me—-eight-year-old Beau slowly walking into the bedroom, trying to balance a bowl of Cheerios he’d filled too full of milk. “Aren’t you hungry, Mom?” I pushed my tongue way back into my throat and vowed to love him forever. What do we do when we can’t be who and what we want to be? When our futures float away and our present moments are dense with dread? Well . . . Dear Prudence, we are not our illnesses or our losses unless we choose to be. We’re something awfully fine, even related to gods, no matter what happens during the minutes of our days.
This is what faith is all about. Faith is this huge gift; it’s our armor, our safe and golden magic wand, but unlike those fake Halloween props, it really honestly truly WORKS. It brings the eternities back into focus even when our eyes are blurred and hearts are numb. It softens every black cruelty. But I have learned that it goes away when we don’t use it or exercise it, sort of like leg muscles that atrophy when we’ve been laid up in bed too long. I believe in God. I know He’s alive and real. My life has become an often failed, but constant search for him, filled with a longing to get closer to Him and to understand Him better, because He is my true home. I have felt peace and light and love there. AND IT’S freedom all blended in with safety. When my faith is high and active, I walk the earth like a giant woman, taking huge strides, happy to plant sunflower seeds, coloring the sky bright blue even when it’s black with clouds. I feel alive and well and the world is a fine place even when I break and die a little more every hour. But, fear keeps me from faith. It blackens everything it touches and suffocates me. I am more afraid of my own fear than I am of Satan because it drains away light. I don’t want to give it room in my head or attach it to my identity because I am more than my fear, losses, or illnesses. As trite as it sounds, I am the child of a God, walking (sometimes crawling) home, and it’s a whole lot easier to do when I keep my faith fed and operating. “Across the Universe; nothing’s going change my world.”
Illness is very difficult, Sara Lee, but don't identify with it. You're above it, and you'll be OK even if you're ill for a long time.


Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee

I hate to be a blog-hog, since this makes three posts in a row that are mine, but I figure those of you who weren’t at the WC party this weekend might want to know what I shared with those in attendance. I’ve been keeping it a secret for a while, but I’m ready to share it with you.

Even for those at the party, I’m not usually such a blubbering, trembling mess, so I’ll give you some of the details I failed to mention there.

We each shared something we fear and something we love. My fear is breast cancer.

To give you some background, my paternal grandmother has breast cancer, and my maternal grandmother died of ovarian cancer, making me a likely candidate for both cancers. I started hormone therapy when I was 15 (my OB/GYN changed my regimen recently, which I don’t appreciate because it messes with my moods, my appetite, and my sleeping patterns). Because I’ve been on artificial hormones for the past seven years, I have what they call fibrocystic breasts.

Most of the cysts are small and harmless. Recently a few of them aren’t so small, which also means they’re not quite so harmless (and they hurt like the dickens). I also have been experiencing some skin changes in that area, which does not bode well for me.

The cysts make me an even more likely candidate for breast cancer, but I’m especially wary of the skin changes, because those symptoms match a less common form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). Only 25 to 50 percent of those diagnosed with IBC live past the first five years.

I fear death, but that is only a small part of my fear.

I’m even more scared of what it would mean to live through this. The pain, the weakness, the vulnerability. I’m scared to lose the things I have: from my mobility and strength to my friendships and relationships.

Which brings me to what I love: I love real people who are real and honest with each other, which is also why it was important to me to come to Rexburg this weekend. I find myself clinging to the things I’m scared I’ll lose.

I’m also scared of what it means for my future. When my OB/GYN first told me that IBC was a possibility, I asked myself what that would mean for me. What kind of choices would I make? I told myself that I wouldn’t drop out of school, that I would stick to my April graduation deadline. But in the past couple of weeks as a (relatively) healthy person, I almost buckled under the stress. I wonder if I’m as strong as I pretend to be, and I don’t want to find out that I’m not.

I’m scared for my future children. I want to be able to feed my babies (sorry if that grosses any of you out). I don’t want my little girls to have to experience the same problems and fears I’ve had to face. I want to live to have children.

In “Cinderella Man,” Russell Crowe/James Braddock tells his wife why he wants to box during the Great Depression. He says, “at least I can see who’s hitting me.” I don’t think I really understood that until now, because I’m fighting against something that is somewhat intangible to me. If I have IBC, it means that something within my own body has betrayed me, and I don’t even have a battle plan to get rid of it. Because at this point, there’s nothing I can do. My OB/GYN is monitoring any changes, but for now I have to wait, and the waiting intensifies my fear.

PS—would anyone be interested in another Provo WC party? Maybe in November or December? We can eat food, share the depths of our souls, and have a great time. If you’re in like flynn, comment or shoot me an email (sararachels@gmail.com).