Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Friday, April 14, 2017

Updating Where We Are Now

After a few years hiatus, I thought I would like to update where we are now. I've missed writing, but have been busy with different projects and other issues. It is so easy to get out of the habit of writing!
1. UPDATE on David
Generally speaking, David has been doing better for the last two years. He's had his usual ups and downs, but is doing a good job at keeping stable. He had a few rough months this last winter, and after consulting with his doctor, realized that his lack of sleep is a big part of the problem. The doctor changed up his meds a little, had him take the meds later in the evening, and gave us a referral to a book that deals with sleep issues: "No More Sleepless Nights." Addressing his sleep issues seems to be helping David with his attitude and energy levels.
Last summer David was asked to help in a small congregation in our stake (like a diocese) at an apartment complex for elderly and disabled people. After some hesitation and a great deal of anxiety, he decided that he would like to try it. He loves it! And the experience of working with others who deal with similar issues to his, along with the warmth and love and acceptance he feels there is an important part of his healing. He takes his assignments to help seriously and he is growing spiritually as he prays every day and reads the scriptures several times a week. Serving others makes a huge amount of difference in controlling his disorder.
David's mother passed away around the same time as his new church assignment. Her passing, which means he has no nuclear family members left since his father, brother, and sister all died some years ago, and the closing of her home and all the memories attached to it was painful. We appreciate our oldest son's handling of the estate, and David is adjusting to the new normal reasonably well.
2. UPDATE on the Family
After spending eleven years in Mexico, our daughter Lara and her children moved back to the States last summer. (If you notice, the summer of 2016 was exceptionally busy!)
We were amazed at how smoothly and quickly everything fell into place: airline tickets at a great price, a home for them to stay in, a car, and jobs for Lara and her oldest son.
We are so happy to have them here and to get to know the children, ages 10, 13, 16, and 18. The change has been challenging for them, but they are doing a great job adjusting to having their lives turned upside down.
We also had two deployments with our military guys. Our son-in-law spent time in the Middle East, and Brian is currently doing a short tour of duty in Europe.
3. Other Odds and Ends
Along the way we have been making some much-needed home improvements: we are enjoying the garage, had new concrete done last year, and are working on making our yard better looking. I've been especially excited with the addition of two new fruit trees.
There have been several trips around the area, and we recently bought a new to us Jeep CJ7, along with a new truck and camper. We are looking forward to many coming adventures!


Our new dwarf peach tree in bloom

Our new dwarf Asian pear tree in bloom
early in the cement project

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Parathyroids

David was diagnosed with parathyroidism in May. He has been good at having his blood levels checked while he was on lithium (about 8 years). In February his pdoc was worried about the calcium in his blood and took him off lithium. His calcium levels still weren't good, so the dr. had a bunch of tests done, and after the diagnosis came back, he called the surgeon for an appointment. When he called, the receptionist said they were booked to the end of June, but then she looked at his chart and said they would work him in as soon as possible. That was sobering!
This is why blood levels need to be checked regularly when someone is on lithium! Here is a link to a site with more on the subject: http://www.parathyroid.com/ parathyroid-symptoms.htm

Some more links about the parathyroid:
http://www.healthline.com/health/parathyroid-gland-removal#TypesofSurgeries

http://parathyroid.com/causes.htm

He ended up having parathyroid surgery the first week of June, and came through it with flying colors. They were able to do the surgery as out-patient, and he came home the same day. The doctor was pleased with the surgery, and said that one of the four glands was not working at all, which put the other three under stress. Right after the surgery, his calcium levels changed from 100+ down to 30 (which is closer to normal).
We have noticed that his kidneys are functioning better, and his mood and energy levels are also better. Hopefully he will at least stay where he is and improve over time. It's amazing to see the difference that one surgery had on his health.
We also had a new garage built this spring/summer, and we've been doing the finishing work on the inside. While a bit stressful for David (and me, too), it was also good to see him work on it, and that has also helped him mentally and emotionally.

Early part of the construction experience

Almost finished exterior

The interior, complete with the shelves David built















And it's finished!



After all the stress involved with events surrounding my father's passing, David's health issues, an office move, and getting the garage built, I realized that I needed a "mental health" day. What to do??? I ended up driving to the mountains and enjoyed the serenity, the view, and the cool(er) mountain air. The peace and quiet helped me restore my spirits.
I ended up going to the canyon where the Mormon pioneers entered the valley. I thought of them and their courage and tried to picture what it must have looked like when they came through the valley for the first time.
View of the Salt Lake Valley from the top of the mountain 
Sign marking the original Mormon pioneer trail

On the trail
 And I loved the wild flowers and the river the pioneers camped by and cooled off in (if I had thought about it, I would have worn more casual clothes that day and waded in it, too).

A day in the mountains put everything back in perspective. And, like the pioneers, I feel like saying, "All is well! All is well!"











Sunday, March 1, 2015

What Would You Take with You?

Not too long ago I enjoyed reading the book "A Thousand Days in Venice," a fun read with great descriptions of Venice and yummy-sounding recipes. The story about a middle-aged American woman who falls in love with a Venetian and moves to Venice, Italy, reminds me of how quickly life can change directions.
I've also been working on family history stories and thinking of those who left behind their possessions to relocate to a new area and rebuild their lives.
It made me stop and think about what I would take with me if I were in a similar situation. Sometimes when I worry about David's health I go through the mental exercise of thinking about what I would do if something happened to David, or what we'll do when I retire. The answers are always changing depending on my mood, and truthfully I expect to be where we are for a long time to come. But it helps me keep my life in perspective.
Our experience of working to finalize my dad's estate was very difficult and sobering. The saying that we can't take material possessions with us when we die sounds trite, but it is so true. However, we can take the things that are of lasting value: love, family relationships, memories, learning experiences.
Dad didn't have many material possessions in his life; instead he focused on his family while we were growing up and during his later years chose to spend his time traveling and meeting new people. In the end, his true treasures were his family and the many varied experiences and adventures that he had during his lifetime.
Dad gave me the book about Venice after he came home from what turned out to be his last big trip. When I received his laptop computer I found a number of his photos on it from the last few years. I enjoyed looking at them, but I wish I knew the stories behind them. Here are some of my favorites from his photo album:

Hells Canyon on the Idaho side. One of Dad's favorite places

The Salmon River; another family favorite

Payette Lake in winter. When he was younger he enjoyed ice skating and playing hockey on the lake 

Every winter Dad and Kathy enjoyed spending a month in Maui. That tradition continued even after her passing. He spent the early spring of 2014 in Maui.


In 2010, Dad visited my brother Mike who was teaching school in Tokyo. The trip was especially meaningful because he had served in China during World War II as a tail gunner fighting the Japanese. The trip gave him closure from a difficult time in his life.




Dad and Kathy visited Europe several times over the years, and he always enjoyed the experience of seeing new sites and meeting new people. In July 2013, he and a friend visited Paris and Monet's garden at Giverny.


In September of 2013, he and his friend spent two weeks exploring Venice, Italy, and the Adriatic Sea on a cruise ship. He relished the sites and sounds of visiting new places and loved the adventure of traveling.

On the Albanian Coast


Roman Colliseum

Interior of the Roman Colliseum




Glass maker


Italian dance scene




Making lace



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Worried, but Not Panicked

This fall and winter has been harder on David than usual as he's struggled with more depression. I'm sure my issues about my dad didn't help, but he was great about giving me moral support to work through it.
David went to his regular dr. appt. and had blood tests to check lithium levels. Unfortunately his sodium levels are way too high and the lithium is low, so the dr. took him off lithium completely. He came through the withdrawal from it ok, but he's not doing very well with the depression. He says, "my body is ok, but my mind isn't."
His dr. is obviously worried and called him again yesterday to have his blood levels checked today with another dr. appt. coming soon. I haven't talked to the dr. recently, but I'm going to go to the next appt. After David stabilized, I felt that it was important that he be in control of his disorder as much as possible so I don't go to the dr. with him very often. He's good about telling me what was said, and I know I can call the dr., but with this latest wrinkle I need to talk to him about what's going on and what to expect now.
He hasn't had the wild mood swings from mania to depression that I was worried about when he stopped taking lithium, but his depression isn't lifting either. He said the Dr. told him that it was part of having the elevated sodium levels that can damage the kidneys and affect his mood. 
Have I mentioned lately how much I hate this disorder? 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Season of Sorrow, Season of Hope




“He loved the warm sun of summer and the high mountain meadows, the trails through the timber and the sudden clear blue of the lakes. He loved the hills in the winter when the snow comes,” Hemingway said. “Best of all he loved the fall … the fall with the tawny and grey, the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods, leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills the high blue windless skies. He loved to shoot, he loved to ride and he loved to fish.” Ernest Hemingway


Shortly after I wrote last, my 89-year-old dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and after a short battle with it, passed away in September. We were all able to gather around him for one last visit over Labor Day weekend, then a few weeks later he was gone.

The funeral, held on a beautiful fall day, was a fitting tribute to this kind, funny man.

Granddaughter watching the grave being dug.


At the cemetery. The coffin was built by my brother.

In a nod to the Native Americans living near the area, we each took a handful of dirt, turned once in each direction, and as we passed the coffin, placed the dirt on top of it. 

Filling in the grave

 Normally I love the fall, but this season has been difficult for me as I've worked through all the emotions that come with burying a parent. David has been supportive and understanding, and I have found great comfort and solace working with our ward's children. This time has been bittersweet, but there have also been the blessings of drawing close together as a family and renewed faith that sustains and comforts during the hard times. I am grateful for both faith and family, and especially for the mother and father who loved us and taught us so much.