Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

So far we have had a joyous Christmas season. David decided he was going to get into the spirit of it, and has worked extra hard to stay healthy. He hung up the Christmas lights both inside and outside of the house; it looks so festive!
Two of the grandchildren with their gifts in front of the tree

We helped out with the ward Christmas dinner last week, and we had a good time with it. Jeff and Katie with her family came to the party, and it was fun to watch baby Sierra (8 months) look around and take it all in. Two of our grandchildren, Brad and Gabby, stayed the weekend with us, and on Saturday night we took them, along with granddaughter Jenna, to Temple Square to see the lights. Crowd scenes are always difficult for David, but he went anyway, and we had a lot of fun watching the children run around looking at the sites.

On Temple Square

The nativity scene

One of the luminaries on the plaza

At work, we had a devotional and Christmas parties to help celebrate the season. Bishop David Burton spoke about keeping Christmas simple on a day when I really needed this message. Among other things, he said, "Simplification can help us focus on what is important. Simplification helps us to serve and distinguish between wants and needs. Simplification can be therapeutic and help us focus on our blessings and heritage. Focusing on gratitude will make a difference in our lives, and help us think of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Too often we look for the Savior in the big, glamorous events of life, and miss seeing Him in the small and simple experiences of life."

A young lady with bipolar on a board for spouses in a bipolar relationship said that the holidays are difficult for her because routines get stretched and changed, and can cause frustration and anxiety. I think the key to a happy holiday season for those suffering from this disorder is to keep track of moods, and adjust festivities accordingly. Besides, I get overwhelmed, too, and appreciate scaled-back celebrations, with a chance to relax and enjoy the spirit of the season, as well as to ponder on the greatest gift of all: that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

On the family front: We were snowed out for our annual post-Thanksgiving pie party on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. So this year we had it a week later. Those who were in the area came, and we had a nice time visiting with each other. Truthfully, the food is an afterthought at these events, but I did make a cranberry cheesecake that turned out well. My favorite part is having the house full, listening to bits of conversation, and the sound of grandchildren running through the house and playing together. The remodeled room where the toys are kept was a big hit. And this week Ben and his family are moving to Idaho Falls where he will be starting a brand-new job. We are so excited for them about this next chapter of their lives.

The magazine recently published a story about a choir in South Africa. A young 20-year-old composed and conducted the beautiful music, and I wanted to share it with you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

November happenings

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving a huge blizzard was forecast for the area. The hype was so intense that we were sent home early from work (not that I minded), and the stores were crowded with people getting last minute supplies. When the storm rolled in, the clouds were impressive but the storm only dropped a relatively small amount of snow. Then, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, a snowstorm came through the area with little warning, and dumped 15 inches where we live.

Aftermath of the storm
Isn't that the way life is? While it's a good thing to be prepared, I have found that too often I end up worrying needlessly about a crisis that doesn't happen.

For example, on the last warm fall day the week before Thanksgiving, David decided to go fishing at his favorite spot by himself. I did manage to smile and wave good-bye and to not "mother hen" him with a list of do's and don'ts, but I worried about him off and on all day at work. I had a hard time relaxing until he came home at dark, just as he said he would, happy and showing off his string of fish. He had a good time, and we enjoyed a fish fry that night. All that worry for nothing! I have to keep reminding myself that worrying, in an of itself, really doesn't accomplish much.

I took a day off for our 24th anniversary, and we chose to spend it fishing at our favorite fishing hole. Then, the next day one of our sons joined us for another fishing trip. The weather was lovely, I enjoyed the serenity of the area, and the company of David and Ben. In addition, we caught some beautiful fish.

During the Thanksgiving holiday David and I painted and rearranged our spare bedroom. It was a fun project to work on together, and nice to have it done. I'm thrilled to have quiet office space, as well as a place for the grandchildren to play with a stash of toys when they come.

David's mood has been fairly stable this fall. We've noticed that he'll have some upbeat, productive days followed by a day or two when he can't do much. When that happens, he's learned to take some his meds, and then go lay down in a quiet room by himself. He manages his disorder best when he takes steps to minimize its affect on him. It takes some mental effort, but he is able to pull himself together, and continues on with his life. I'm really proud of him.

Family update: We also went to dinner for our anniversary and were so happy to have all of the children who live in the area there. Our family keeps growing, soon to number 18 grandchildren. And our Soldier Brian was just promoted to 1st Lt.—so proud of him and his family, as well as his brothers and sisters and their families. We have much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day Musings

Veterans Day has become a good time to stop and think about those who serve or who have served in the military. We read moving tributes to veterans. I think of those in my family who have served.

One of the programs at the Spokane youth conference was a tribute to those serving in the military and a service project of creating cards of thanks from the young men and women to those deployed around the world. When a ROTC chapter from one of the local high schools presented the colors in a dignified manner there was complete silence, respect and reverence in the hall. The speakers, which included a young serviceman, a gold star mother, and a colonel, spoke about the theme of the conference: Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."

Col. Adams had recently returned from Iraq where he worked with senior Iraqi government and military leaders to help train the Iraqi military so they could defend their country. Among the interesting experiences  that he shared, he said that regardless of what we may hear or see, there is much gratitude for the young men and women who went over there to give them freedom. One of the Iraqi generals told him, "With our freedom we are always being attacked by sharks trying to take it away. Freedom is the most precious gift we have. The Americans left their families and came half way around the world. Why would they come? They came in the name of their mission, 'Iraqi Freedom.' They came here to give us freedom. They made a difference."

The experience had an impact on those who were there. Said one young man: "I've gained a greater sense of gratitude and respect for the people who serve our country in the military." And a young lady added: "Now on patriotic holidays I will know the meaning of it and remember the troops and all that they go through." I also had the chance to visit there with a Vietnam Vet, who was so overcome with emotion at his service being remembered that he could barely speak. I'm grateful that on November 11 we have the chance to thank those who serve their country, instead of letting it get lost in the activities that come with most three-day weekend holidays. I still cry when I think of the experience.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time Flies on Wings of Lightning

We cannot call it back. It comes, then passes forward Along its onward track.
And if we are not mindful, The chance will fade away,
For life is quick in passing. 'Tis as a single day. (Hymns, no. 226)

That about sums up what's been going on with us. Before I realize it, another week, then two, then three have passed since I last wrote.

Improve the shining moments; Don't let them pass you by.
Work while the sun is radiant; Work, for the night draws nigh.
We cannot bid the sunbeams To lengthen out their stay,
Nor can we ask the shadow To ever stay away.

I took some days off a few weeks ago. We spent one day fishing at Lost Creek, and then I spent two glorious days cleaning the house. It feels so nice to have clean(er) closets that I don't have to risk life and limb to get into. I also (sort of) organized the camping gear and put it away for the season. Organization is not one of my strong points, but I feel better about the state of the house.

I have also been extra busy at work with some writing projects, including 2 stories about leadership from the Spokane trip. I enjoy writing, but it does take a lot of time and effort with lots and lots of revisions and rewriting. I feel good about the end product, though, and appreciate the help from coworkers on making it a stronger article.

David has, for the most part, been stable with bouts of depression thrown in for good measure. Last week we helped out with a ward halloween party, and that put him in a better frame of mind. We had a potluck dinner of soup and chili, with pie for desert. Then the children went to 4 different decorated rooms in the building for "trick-or-treating." David interacts well with friends from the ward, and our son Jeff and his wife, Nikki, came for the festivities. A good time was had by all.

I have been doing some knitting and crocheting projects; I'm definitely a beginner, but it is relaxing to work on something. I'm not brave enough (yet) to try anything more than baby blankets, but I'll get there. I think of my grandma when I knit; it was something she loved to do, and taught me the skill when I was in high school. Somewhere along the way I quit doing needle work, then picked it up again a few years ago. I like it so much I can't imagine why I put it down in the first place.

I also started work on a HUGE family history project: scanning family history photos into the computer. That's something else that I feel strongly about doing, and hope to keep working on it through the winter months.

As winter time doth follow The pleasant summer days,
So may our joys all vanish And pass far from our gaze.
Then should we not endeavor Each day some point to gain,
That we may here be useful And ev'ry wrong disdain?

I am taking tomorrow off for our upcoming 24th anniversary. We plan on going fishing again. The weather is beautiful this week, and it seems like a good idea to take advantage of the last of the good weather. Besides, a day of knitting and reading sounds really good right now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thoughts on Leadership

Along with the rest of the world, I have been watching the rescue of the Chilean miners. I like this comment from President PiƱera of Chile: "We have learned from this accident that unity, faith, hope, and courage can achieve all the goals that we can set for our country." It is true, also, in our everyday lives and relationships.

Reading about Luis Urzua, the crew leader of the trapped miners gave great insight into what a true leader is: one who loves and serves those who are in his care. "As the leader of a group that was forced to live in perpetual darkness, high humidity and hot temperatures, Urzua kept up order, spirits and solidarity among the group, by setting everyone tasks and making sure that no one was marginalized."

It reminded me of the conversation I had with some teens in Washington. When I went to Spokane in August I covered a two-day youth conference for 1,600 teens. I also interviewed several of them about the qualities of leadership, as well as what it takes to be a good follower. The conference was well-done with group activities, service projects, and a spiritual program; the adult leaders were organized, kind, and helpful; the kids were excited to be there and had a lot of fun meeting new people and participating in the event. Several of them talked to me about the feeling of unity and friendship that was there. I enjoyed the whole experience, but the best part was getting to talk to the young men and young women; they were delightful.

Some of the group scenes from the conference.

During the discussions on leadership, they shared sweet experiences with me and gave insight wise beyond their years. They often mentioned the qualities of unity, faith, and courage. Said one young man: "Part of being in a leadership position means helping those that may need an extra hand. I have found that by helping others I help myself, and I am learning to be a better friend and person."

They also understood the importance of listening to what others have to say. One young lady commented: "Part of being a good leader is knowing when to put aside what you want and give others what they want. I think knowing when to step back and compromise is important." Someone else said, "You have to know how to serve before you can be a good leader."

They know that along with learning to be good leaders they need to be good followers also, and do what is asked of them with a good attitude. Said one: "followership is active." Observed another: "I know that followers behind a leader are like links in a chain. If a follower isn't helping another follower up, like a chain holds itself together, then the chain will fall apart and the leadership will be worth nothing."

Like the example of those trapped in the mine, their counsel applies to us all. When I follow these qualities in my relationship with David as well as with the rest of the family, it all goes so much better.

Scenes from Spokane: the clock tower, falls, and river

Monday, October 4, 2010

Changing Seasons

I always feel introspective around my birthday season, and this year was no exception. I had a good birthday weekend, complete with flowers and dinner from David, a family party, a happy phone call from my daughter Lara in Mexico, and two grandchildren (Gabby, 8, and Brad, 4) who spent the weekend with us. I couldn't have asked for better.

I had lunch with a friend last week. We talked about the way our lives are so different from what we envisioned when we were young. She asked me if I would change any major decisions that I have made.

It made me pause for a few minutes and think back over the years. I was very idealistic when I was young; I also didn't have a clear picture of what it was I wanted to do besides being a wife and mother. I have often thought that if I had had any idea of what was ahead for me I would have run the other way. But then I would have missed out on choice experiences; so no, I wouldn't change anything:
* Leaving school to work full-time (well, maybe that one); but that was when I met my first husband.
* Marrying my first husband. As difficult as it was because of circumstances and personality conflicts, I still learned important lessons about myself and life, and gained three amazing and precious children in the bargain.
*Divorcing that first husband. No, it needed to be that way for both of us to grow and move on. Twenty-five years later we have a good relationship. So, there again, no real regrets.
* Marrying David. I can't imagine life without him and the blended family we worked so hard to create, including the three children he came with and the two that we had together. Each one is important and loved. And while it hasn't been easy by any stretch of the imagination, the last 24 years with him have been worth it.

The first week of April and October has traditionally been incredibly hectic with preparing the conference edition of the magazine. Because of changing technology and a streamlined schedule I have been freed of post-conference work; that means my life isn't put on hold for two weeks and I can do my regular work assignments. While I am not sorry for the change (28 years of running at a breakneck pace for two weeks is plenty!), I do feel slightly displaced. It's part of a cycle of change that happens in life, and I'm seeing that cycle of change happen more and more often at work lately: A dear friend that I enjoyed working with for 27 years retired on my birthday; news came recently of health problems that a good friend and former coworker is dealing with; hearing about the unexpected passing of another respected friend and former coworker. When I went to the retirement party for my friend I saw a number of friends, and thought back over the years. I realize that I have been truly blessed to work for the magazines and have been taught by masters in the field of editing and journalism. I can only hope to be as truly talented as they are.

David took me for a long ride this last weekend to celebrate the changing season, both in nature as well as at work. I enjoyed the fall colors in the mountains, the sleepy towns that we drove through, and the quiet conversation between us. His mood has been fairly stable, although he struggled at times last week with some depression. When he was manic earlier in the month he decided that he wanted to buy a harley-davidson motorcycle. I wasn't happy with the idea, but eventually told him that I would support him if he did. I also told him that I was not willing or able to cosign on a loan for one. He was sad when he couldn't get the financing, and I did my best not to be too happy about not acquiring a motorcycle. Happily, he's working through the disappointment.

He also decided to put together a fishing pontoon made of pvc pipe and styrofoam while he was manic, and he's been working hard at finishing his project. I think that part of the problem is that he doesn't have enough to keep him busy; having something to work on helps keep him stable. I'm hoping we can find something more for him to do this fall and winter.

This week is also Mental Health Awareness Week. You might want to check out the following for more information.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Manic Season

We had a great Labor Day weekend, with a four-day camping trip to the Uinta Mountains. We camped at a beautiful, serene mountain lake (interrupted on occasion with people on ATVs), hiked to several mountains lakes, David fished, and I read and knitted. I enjoyed the beautiful weather, and noticed leaves slowly changing to mark the beginning of a new season.

Unfortunately, on the way home I noticed David slipping into mania. A few days later he told me that he had been slipping out of the house to go on his midnight walks when he couldn't sleep several times for the last few weeks, and asked me to call his dr. for help. By the time I came home with a report of the concerns the dr. shared with me, David had forgotten all about what had happened, and accused me of over-reacting. It was not a pretty conversation because I felt incredibly upset, worried, and angry over his behavior, and I forgot the first rule about staying calm.

I try not to go into gory details here of all that was said until after a crisis has passed because I want to be as fair as possible to David. I also want to focus on what I have learned, instead of the crisis itself. (I have also been really busy with work and family issues lately, as well.) We managed to have a truce for several days because our Soldier Brian and his family came for a visit. It was fun to have them here, and to get better acquainted with and enjoy the grandchildren.

His mood, though, kept getting more and more manic, complete with listening to the voices in his head, no sleep, and irrational ideas. He started realizing that he was out of control and asked me again to call the dr. for help. We went to a therapist for the first time this week, and David has another appointment to see him in two weeks to work on his temper.

It was helpful to spend a few minutes talking to the therapist about my view of David's behavior, and some of the challenges that I have in dealing with his moods. He and my brother both told me that I cannot "make" David to do what is healthiest for him; it ultimately is his choice. I've been thinking about that, and I do see their point. However, I also do not have to protect him from the consequences of his actions. On the occasion when he succumbs to a desire for some alcohol I refuse to give him sympathy for the hangover that accompanies it.

Fortunately, David finally worked through the mania, and is relatively stable again. We've been able to talk about what happened and some more on what we need to do to work through these difficult cycles that come every few months. For example, my birthday is this coming weekend. At first he wanted to go on another camping trip, but I frankly am really tired of being away from home on the weekend. We were going to compromise for a one-day camp, but we both decided that we would rather just go for a drive in the mountains to see some fall color. Now that I can live with; I'm looking forward to the day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Have you seen a miracle today?

Someone asked me that question in an elevator the other day. And then I enjoyed this thought from my "kindness calendar" today: "Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle."—A course in miracles

It made me think about miracles in my life. There are the big miracles, such as the ones Jesus performed, and still does today as we let Him. There are also the miracles associated with nature and the boom in secular knowledge, such as how an apple comes from a seed (I know the botanists know, but I don't) and being able to speak to my daughter in southern Mexico on a cell phone (I know the scientists understand it, but again, I don't). Then there are the small everyday miracles that we may not notice until we look back over time. Miracles such as these frequently demand a lot of time, patience, perseverance and hard work, but miracles they are.

Miracles in my life include, but are not limited, to:

*Watching David work through his illness with courage. He has struggled this last week with unwanted mood changes, including 2 days of not being able to do anything. I worried about it, but decided that sitting home and fretting with him was not going to solve anything, so I went to work. When I came home the other day he, as he put it, "decided I had to climb back up on the bucking horse again" and cleaned the house and yard. I know it is hard for him, but he does it anyway. He has his regular appointment today with his doctor, and I'm hoping he can help David manage his moods a bit better.

*Learning to do things that as a formerly shy person I couldn't have ever imagined doing, such as (and I know it sounds silly) making business phone calls as well as interviewing others about their opinions and experiences on a variety of subjects. That was one of the great things about the recent trip; it gave me confidence and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

*Seeing my children grow and progress and bloom. I try to respect their privacy and don't discuss here the family dramas that are bound to happen in a family as large as ours filled with strong-willed, high-spirited people, but I do reserve the right to gush over them when occasion demands. Last Friday was one of those occasions: I watched my engineer student Ben defend his master's thesis. He was well-prepared, knew what he was talking about, and it was obvious from his master's committee that they understood what he was saying and signed the important 4 signatures on his project. I am so proud of him! This young man grew from an inquisitive little boy to a bored teen who wouldn't go to school and ended up passing his GED with flying colors at the end of his junior year of high school. As his dad and stepmother put it (who both deserve a huge pat on the back for helping him), they helped turn him from a long-haired dropout to a math and science nerd. At one time we despaired over him but he grew up, served an LDS mission to Australia, came home, married well, had 3 children, and worked hard during his 7 years of intense schooling. He and his wife are both excited and ready to move on to the next phase of their life, and I am so happy for them.

(The apple is symbolic of not just the miracle of nature, but of my recent trip. I promise the story WILL come soon.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back from a Long Weekend

We had our annual family camping trip last weekend. We had been planning this for a month or so, even though half of the family couldn't come because of work and other obligations. (Sometimes it feels like herding cats trying to accommodate everyone's busy schedules.) We were getting excited about going when we had word that one of David's aunts passed away following a long illness. We didn't know what the funeral plans were until Thursday afternoon, which was when we had planned to leave for the mountains. The upset about the funeral plus the stress of packing for a trip sent David into a manic episode, but we finally left Thursday evening. By Friday noon, the mountains had worked their calming magic for him, and we ended up having a good time. He loves being in the mountains, finding serenity in the beautiful scenery. That is where he is at his relaxed best.

Three of our daughters, their families, and David's ex, Bette, joined us Friday afternoon. Bette has joined us on a number of camping trips over the years, and we enjoy being with her. She has been great at helping me to understand David, and on occasion we have been known to "gang up" on him to get him to behave.

We were at Lily Lake in the Uintah Mountains, much to 3-year-old Lily's delight. David taught the 5 grandchildren who were there how to fish, and gave them some poles without hooks to practice casting out into the lake. We also hiked around the small lake, and relaxed. The kids had fun running around, playing hide and seek, building a fort, and having "smarshmallows" in the evening. The weather even cooperated. This was Lily's first real camping trip, and she had a great time observing all that was going on and keeping up with the bigger kids. Watching the kids have such a good time made all the effort and stress involved worth it.

The dogs were also in heaven running through the long grass near the lake. By the time we left they were so tired they could hardly move. But they were happy.

On Monday David and I spent the day with his mother driving to her sister's funeral, and then taking some time to locate and visit family grave sites. The weather was pleasant, and the funeral very moving and thought-provoking. I have been thinking of my own mother's passing lately, and the speakers reminded me of important and soothing truths about the purpose of this life. I realized again that family members past and present are an important part of who we are and that we best honor them by the way we live our lives.

David did well through the funeral and the drive home, but the last two days have been difficult for him. He slipped into depression, thinking about all the possible "what ifs." One of the reasons for this latest sadness is that it is the 2-year anniversary of his father's passing from Alzheimer's. He does tell me about how he's feeling, but I worry about his lack of energy and wonder how long this cycle will last.

When he was manic while preparing for the camping trip I was also stressed, and decided to try some deep breathing for a few minutes. While it didn't work miracles, it did help me relax a bit and focus on what needed to be done. We go through pre-trip mania every time we go somewhere, and even though I know it's going to happen, it's still frustrating and nerve-wracking. Even though camping is a lot of work, I still enjoy going.

I was so pleased and excited when I came home to see that this blog had been nominated for an award! I started this as part of a class assignment when I took a blogging class 2 years ago and discovered that it helps to write down what is happening and share some coping skills that I have learned along the way. I'm delighted that others find it helpful, too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm Back!

from my trip to Spokane; it was wonderful and very memorable. I have been really busy catching up on regular work assignments and starting to transcribe tapes of interviews, but I plan on going into more detail about it soon. David has become fairly comfortable with me going to visit my family in Idaho, but this one was tougher on him because I was by myself for part of the time in an area that he is unfamiliar with. He went fishing again with Shannon, and spent Sunday with his mother. He said he had a major anxiety attack when he came home to an empty house (except for the dogs and cat), and had a meltdown on the Monday I was gone. By the time I came home, he was doing better, but it took him a few days to work through his mood. He was a bit short and critical, but since that was all it was, I can deal with that.

This past weekend we went with some members of our ward (church congregation) to an overnighter in one of the local canyons. We've been asked to help out with organizing and carrying out ward activities, and it is just the right assignment for David. It lets him be involved with others, but focused on what he's doing so that he doesn't feel overwhelmed by a lot of people. There were a number of old friends that we hadn't been able to visit with for several months, and he had a good time talking and laughing with them. We also went on a hike with 2 other families there; the scenery was spectacular. It was a good weekend to be together and to visit with friends.

Some of the sites we saw in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Headed Out of Town . . . Again

for both a work assignment and a few days of personal leave.

I am going to Spokane, Washington, to cover a two-day youth conference for the magazine and to do some other interviews as well. I'm both excited and terribly nervous because this is my first solo traveling assignment. This is one of the reasons why I went back to school, and now I get to put that brand-new diploma to work.

After I get done working, my beloved 85-year-old dad is going to join me for two days of exploring family history sites. He grew up in the area, and I am so looking forward to seeing places that meant a lot to him and hearing the stories that he tells with flair.

David is happy about the opportunity for me, but I'm a little worried because I can hear in his voice and see in his body language that his mood is starting to sour. There isn't much I can do about it right now except pray a lot and keep in touch with him by phone. Hopefully he'll do his best to stay busy and calm so we can work through it when I get home Tuesday. Prayers for him, please.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back from R&R

Usually I try to do too much during a vacation and come home tired, but last week's vacation was just the right mix of activity and rest. And, to make it even better, David's test results came back and were good: he does have some esophagus problems because of acid reflux, but the rest looked all right. He's been feeling much better as he takes the stomach medicine he was prescribed, and his mood has been mostly upbeat.

He had a wonderful time camping and fishing for 2 days with our daughter Shannon and her 2 children, 8-year-old Gabby and 4-year-old Brad. They went to a high mountain lake that they had mostly to themselves and enjoyed the view, the fishing, and the company. It was just what he needed. Camping and fishing are the best medicine in the world for him.

I love going to McCall, Idaho, a small resort town located around a beautiful lake and forested mountains. I feel my stress level getting lower almost as soon as I get there. All of my brothers and sisters were there for part of the time, and I had fun visiting with them and our beloved 85-year-old dad. There was a nice mix of good conversation, good food, fun activities, and time to relax and read an interesting book. And for an added bonus, the weather was just right: warm during the days and cool at night.

We went on morning walks to the lake pictured above, hiked up to a mountain lake, took a chair lift to the top of the mountain at the local ski report for breathtaking views, and went on a day rafting trip on the main fork of the Salmon River.

View from the top of the ski hill.
Mountain lake we hiked to. Rafting on the Salmon. Such beautiful country!

I love rafting on the Salmon with my family. My brother knows the river well and we have a good time visiting, laughing, and enjoying the ride. The river has a strong current, which is why it is known as the "river of no return." In addition to the rapids (so fun! Like a water roller coaster), there are long stretches of calm, clear green water. The river flows at its own pace and reminds me that life is also flowing along as it should, with stressful times as well as tranquil moments. We need to have both present in our lives. I always feel renewed in body and spirit after a day on the river. No wonder my brother lives for it!

Photos of the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho.

This week verified again to me the importance of getting regular rest and relaxation. We need it to keep our troubles in perspective, and to give our bodies time to rest and heal. I came home happy, rested, and ready to carry on with my life and its challenges.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Vacation

I'm leaving tomorrow for a five day visit with my dad and all my brothers and sisters. In the last year we've been able to see each other more than we had previously, and in a fun coincidence we will all be together on what would have been our parents' 64th anniversary. On the agenda, besides enjoying each other's company, is a rafting trip on the Salmon River and hiking. One of my brothers has been rafting on the river for the last 30 years or more, and knows all the best rapids. It will also be about ten degrees cooler than here. I am so looking forward to going.

I also feel a bit conflicted because we haven't heard yet what the medical report is on David. Last Friday he went to have an ultrasound on his gall bladder, and they ended up looking at his liver, kidneys and spleen as well. We're nervous, but he insists on me going ahead with my plans. He's also feeling the effect of not having a part-time job and is starting to have some anxiety. Hopefully he will be able to get something soon. He needs it not just for the money, but also to help him focus. We noticed that having to go to even a part-time job helped him work through his mood cycles. I think the heat is also affecting him.

He and our daughter Shannon, with her two children, are planning an overnight fishing trip while I'm gone. He's looking forward to that, and I think some time to himself as well. I'm just praying that the medical reports will be good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

David's Health Issues

"Perseverance and spirit have done wonder in all ages"---George Washington
I came across that quote during the 4th of July weekend when I started reading David McCullough's book "1776." This is a great one about the first year of the Revolutionary War with George Washington and the Continental Army. I am in awe of those who were involved in an effort where everything seemed stacked against them. Brave men and women indeed.

One of my favorite things is to relax with a good book. I don't get the chance very often, and it's a real treat when I find some extra time. David's ulcer has been bothering him, so while he rested, I read.

I read a lot when I was growing up, and had a tendency to block everything else out. My family used to tease me that if I was reading a good book the house could burn around me and I wouldn't notice. I used to hide out in the library and read during lunch hours when I was in high school. Then one day a friend came into the library, told me I needed to socialize more than I needed to read another book, gathered everything up, and nearly dragged me to the lunchroom where some mutual friends were. He was right, and I learned to put a limit on how much recreational reading I did.

We ended up having a nice, quiet long weekend, except that we had to miss a family BBQ. David felt progressively worse during the weekend, and finally went to the dr. He ended up having a scope and biopsy yesterday (the 13th). The initial reports are good. The dr. who did the scope is the same one who did his emergency operation when he had a bleeding ulcer two years ago. She said that he's looking much better and thinks the problem is acid reflux.

David came through the procedure well, and his mood is a little blue but stable. I appreciate the fact that he usually can monitor how he's feeling and knows what he needs to do to keep stable. I have a tendency to hover over him when I think he's vulnerable, which irritates him. So I am learning to control that motherly instinct and walk away when he needs to be alone with his thoughts.

In addition to that stress, the company that we work for part-time lost the contract the building that we clean. While it is upsetting, I actually don't mind. I was getting really tired of working 2 jobs. We're hoping they will have something else for David to do. He really needs a part-time job to help him focus and stay calm.

That's why I like the quote by George Washington. It fits my life.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More on Managing Emotion

David has been doing better by degrees for the last two weeks. He went to his dr. last week for some blood tests and we are waiting to hear the results. In the meantime, he is working hard at controlling his emotions. I appreciate that about him. Every time he goes through a bad cycle, when he comes out of it he becomes introspective and redoubles his effort to control his illness. He's learning to use his character trait of being strong-willed and stubborn to fight this illness. David commented the other day that just as he thinks he has it under control, it escapes him again. It's a never-ending battle that sometimes wears him out, but he keeps fighting it.

Even though things have calmed down, I've been thinking more about how to manage my emotional reaction to his moods. Most of the time I can stay calm and fairly detached emotionally because I know it's the illness talking and not him. But every once in a while it gets to me, and I react.

Fortunately for us, after he's had a fit of bipolar rage, he becomes quiet and that allows me the time I need to gather my thoughts and feelings and get back to my emotional center. Only then are we able to talk over what happened.

One of the challenges of mental illness is that it affects people in so many different ways. Because of that, there is no one-size-fits-all method of treatment or coping for mental illness. I have been looking at different sources for advice about handling the emotional roller coaster, and have found some helpful hints. I hope to fully explore the subject in another post.

One piece of advice that I've read in several places is that it is important to acknowledge my feelings so that I can work through them and move on. I appreciate that, because I find it too easy to bury my feelings. That doesn't do either of us any good because my resentments build up and it eventually boils over and poisons my desire to work with him.

Several sources mention the need to take time for myself to de-stress. I have learned the importance of taking several mental health days a year. I know I need one when I start to feel resentful, overly tired, and pre-occupied. I'm planning on taking another one soon.

One of the best ways for me to cope is to turn to prayer for help. When his moods get to be too much for me to handle I rely heavily on prayer to get me through the tough times, and for David to get the help he needs. And without fail, that help comes.

Learning what triggers his mood is also important. Holidays are stressful for him because of expectations that come with them. We decided to stay home and relax this year. We are hoping that this Fourth of July will be a lot better than last year.

I read this essay on the Declaration of Independence and wanted to share. Wishing everyone a happy and safe July 4th.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

fishing trip

Last week was a rough one. David went through another bout of rapid cycling mixed episodes, and I had round two of sinus and ear infections. Because of his mood cycle he was not very understanding when I stayed home in bed for three days; it really aggravated his anxiety and paranoia. Then on Saturday, just when I was about to throw in the towel, his mood suddenly shifted back to normal. That's one of the things about having a bipolar spouse that I find most challenging: keeping up with his mood swings. He went from Mr. Nasty to David at his best in about 1/2 hour. When I asked him why the change in attitude, he just shrugged and said, "that's how my moods operate." It's pointless to stay angry at him because he doesn't remember half of what he said that was so hurtful. But trying to adjust my mood from being angry back to being "normal" is sometimes draining. I finally let go of being angry, bit my tongue, and asked him what he would like to do for Father's Day weekend.
"Go fishing," he said.
So we did a hasty packing job, loaded up the dogs, and went to his favorite fishing hole. It was just what we both needed. Lost Creek reservoir is at the top of a remote canyon and has been limited to day fishing only. It used to be open to camping and waterskiiing, but 10 years ago it was closed and strengthened for earthquakes. Before they closed it, we spent many weekends there camping overnight with our children when they were young. Now with just small fishing boats allowed on the lake, it has become a serene spot. David had a good time fishing, and I read and knitted and napped to my heart's content.

David ended up catching two 18-inch fish. It made his day. I refuse to do anything with fish, so he cleaned them and cooked them. They were tasty.
The dogs, Lucy and Sunny, also had a great time running around and exploring the area where we were camped. There weren't many people around, so they had the run of the place. When we came home, Lucy refused to get out of the car for over an hour. Here she is looking woe-be-gone.
I'm on the mend, thanks to a heavy-duty dose of antibiotics, and David, while his mood is still fluctuating, is doing much better. I had planned on painting my room, but it is still there, waiting to be painted this coming weekend. I think it comes down to being willing to roll with his moods and being flexible about getting my projects done. Frustrating? Oh yes. But I have to look at the bigger picture, which is helping David to keep as level as possible. It was a good choice to go fishing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Work Projects and Change

I planted some flowers and herbs last week. I am no gardening expert, but I enjoyed doing it and they have added nice color to our front yard. Next year I plan on doing more gardening, but this is a good step in the right direction.

I also starting preparing my room for a new paint job. Here is a "before" picture. The room has been home for the past 23 years to our daughters as they went from little girls to young women to leaving home and starting their own families. Katie had this room last. She insisted on painting it bright pink and had lots of Tinkerbell drawings on the wall. It fit her. When I took down all the pictures I felt terribly sentimental about her and her sisters. But I decided it would not be healthy to keep it as a shrine to them. I felt similarly when we turned our boys' old room into a pantry off the kitchen. We left it alone for 2 years until Jeff got married, then made the change. Even though it was hard to deconstruct their room, we are glad we did it.

And so it is with life. Changes come whether we want them to or not. The trick is to learn to make the most of what comes along. I enjoyed (for the most part) watching my children grow up in these rooms: their good times and bad, their play times, their learning experiences, their laughter and their tears. I miss my babies. But I also delight in the good things they are doing with their lives. With this new stage of being empty-nesters, I like the (relative) quiet, and the chance to do some things around the house that I never had time for before.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Memorial Day Trip, 2010

David heard about some ancient Indian ruins in southeast Utah and was anxious to go see them this spring. The trip down was rough because he has such a hard time leaving his comfort zone. Once we found a campsite in a great central location, set it up, and took a nap he was fine.

One of the fun things about this trip was coming across other people who were also exploring the area and who were excited to tell us about what they had found. One acquaintance was a geologist who had worked in the area 30 years ago as a student helping to map out the ruins. He told us that there are ruins in almost all of the nearby canyons and that a good many are not on maps. He was right; and we had a lot of fun finding some of them:

We also went to Moon House ruins. The site is spectacular:

Sidenote: The hike to the ruins is not for the faint-of-heart, however. To get to it you have to climb down one side of the canyon and then climb back up the other side to get to the ruins. It was well worth seeing, but to be honest, on the way back I kept saying to myself, "I'm not doing this again!"

We were awestruck by the sites and the people who built them, and we wondered what their lives were like. Some of the rooms were incredibly small; probably grain storage. And some of the rooms were larger and could comfortably accommodate several people. I have to admit, though, that I felt increasingly more grateful for modern conveniences of running water, electricity, soft beds, and modern medicine as the weekend went on.

David forgot to pack his lithium, so we were extra diligent to make sure that he stayed calm and relaxed. I did bring his zyprexa, and had him take some the night before we came home so that he would stay calm for the drive back. He came through it really very well, and the post-vacation blues have been manageable.

Another problem were little stinging gnats that were out in full force; they must have just hatched. I came home grateful for the pleasures of hot epson salt baths, antihistamines, and anti-itch medicine. I have also been marveling at how quickly the skin will repair itself after so many bites. It will only be a few more days before I'm willing to expose others to the sight of my legs. A note: Do NOT hike in shorts and shortsleeves!

And this weekend I am looking forward to planting a flower garden and preparing my bedroom for painting. I had hoped to plant a vegetable garden, but realistically I won't be able to with all the painting I plan on doing.

I truly am grateful to be living in this day and age, and marvel at those who lived so long ago.

Have I mentioned how much I love desert flowers in the spring?