Forging New Frontiers

We can learn from pioneers’ examples as they made their way into unknown territory. In July, Utah honors pioneers not only for their difficult trek here, but for their hard work and devotion to establish a new way of life, which opened up many possibilities for all who live here. We appreciate what they built, shaped and created in this beautiful state.

As we are innovators and developers of our own lives, we are like the pioneers of the past. Circumstances often force us to break new ground, hopefully leading the way to a better life. Sometimes we’re unprepared to meet our challenges, but as we initiate faith and courage we discover new frontiers. In this sense, we are modern-day pioneers forming and constructing, with anticipation, something good from a hard or bad situation.

When I reflect on how the pioneers made their trek west, I see wisdom and foresight in their method. I’ve listed five of their practices that could benefit our own journey.

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

1) Gather in groups. The pioneers organized themselves in companies and leaders were assigned to each group. They rallied around each other, helping one another. They needed and depended on each other for survival. They mourned and rejoiced together. It’s hard to imagine a pioneer making the trek on their own. Likewise, I can’t imagine making my journey without the advice, love and support of others. Just as the pioneers circled their wagons for protection at night, we should encircle ourselves by embracing those around us who are willing and wanting to help.

2) Consider advice from a scout or forerunner. Usually, a couple of men rode on horses ahead of the group to explore the best possible route and to help prepare for obstacles that might be in their way. I think of doctors, nurses, therapists and other caregivers who have knowledge or experiences similar to mine as mentors, guides and/or pathfinders. Their advice is valuable when navigating on foreign ground.

3) Allow for respite time. The pioneers walked or rode many miles every day except on Sunday for months. Logically, if they would have traveled on Sunday they may have reached their destination sooner, but they revered the Sabbath Day. I see the wisdom in taking time to rest from our everyday routine, yet it can be hard sometimes to stop and take a break because our eyes are set on the goal and we don’t feel like we have the time to stop. Whether we realize it’s needed or not, we feel refreshed and renewed after respite.

4) Develop courage, faith and hope. I think pioneers had to have these three traits, but did they always have them? Reason tells me no. They were regular human beings, just like you and I, with hardships. I feel fortunate that my difficulties are not like theirs and I appreciate their example of perseverance. I’m encouraged by their dedication as they worked daily developing courage, faith and hope. Hopefully some days were easier than others, when these traits came more naturally.Their endurance developed them into the strong pioneers they were. Likewise we become stronger as we develop courage, faith and hope on the days when it doesn’t come naturally.

5) Your best is good enough. The handcart plan was for seventeen miles a day for sixty days, but none of the ten companies could reach that goal. They must have felt despair and frustration from the slow journey of seven to fifteen miles on a good day, making the trip tedious and wearisome. Giving their best was good enough, so it must be the same for us. It may take longer and be harder than we expected, but if we are persistent in doing and/or giving our best, it will be good enough.

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, we don’t know how or when ours will either, but if we follow their example, we can also forge new frontiers.

What have you learned from the pioneers’ examples?

Advertisements

My Quest For Happiness

Serenity Prayer1I’ve been in a writer’s funk, not because I’m at a loss for words, but I’ve been feeling glum. Since the car accident, my birthday and wedding anniversaries cause me to reflect on life more as well as what I haven’t accomplished. I know I have a blessed life, but it isn’t anything like I’d expected. Many dreams have not become reality and life’s expectations go unfulfilled and it appears the clock is ticking faster and louder with each passing year. I’m realizing some of these wishes and goals may be unattainable under our circumstances. It’s hard to separate what’s worth striving for and what to give up on. I’m not getting any younger and Mark’s not getting any better. The realization of both sometimes overwhelms me to the point where I just want to hide under the covers until Mark can take care of himself. Some days are hard to face, but I make myself get out of bed and do it anyway.

I’d hoped that every year the adjustments would get easier. It did the first several years while Mark was progressing. Seven years after his traumatic brain injury he started having seizures, which brought new challenges. Every added year without the capacity to be physically active brings more difficulties.It appears we are getting older at a faster pace than most others our same age. The major health concern right now is Mark’s hips. I was able to put the worry aside for a few weeks while I focused on recovering from my hernia surgery. Now that’s behind me, it’s time to deal with the more serious matter.

Besides the pain, Mark no longer is capable of bending his hips at ninety degrees, which is the optimal bend for sitting. It makes sense to me that this inability to sit properly is causing his poor posture, which results in low back and neck pain every time he changes positions.

Twenty-two years ago, Mark had extra calcium buildup in both of his hip joints scrape out. We don’t regret that surgery because it gave him years of improved hip function, but now he has arthritis and lots of scar tissue, which is part of the problem. The only hope for possible improvement now is for two total hip replacements. Unfortunately, he’s not a great candidate for this surgery. Twenty-four years of physical inactivity and little weight-bearing ability are making his bones soft and brittle. There’s a worry of them breaking and the muscles being strong enough to hold the hip replacements. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. In order to make the right decision, which the responsibility to do so weighs heavily on my mind, we need more information. This means more doctor’s appointments and opinions.

You may wonder how a hip replacement can be beneficial for someone who doesn’t walk. Besides the sitting concern, which I’ve already explained and believe is contributing to his low back and neck pain; there is the issue of difficulty in transferring from one position to another. Getting him moved from his chair into bed, standing frame or shower/commode chair is tough because his hips don’t easily move. My cue for Mark before most transfers is, “nose over toes,” meaning lean forward because it makes the transfer so much easier. I didn’t realize until just recently that his hips will not allow him to bend forward. Think about the body mechanics of getting out of a chair. Usually, my hips bend about 120 degrees before standing. At best, Mark’s hips only have the ability to bend at eighty degrees, which means it’s a hard pull forward to get him up. A more recent problem is that after sitting for hours his hips don’t want to straighten up, which results in a second pull. Adding balance issues means he is a hard transfer and needs complete assistance to get from one spot to another.

I’ve been upset in the past because hospital nurses and aides are afraid of transferring Mark. I do it with little thought and haven’t realized how hard it is for someone who isn’t use to handling him. A few weeks ago, Mark’s shower/commode aide who was scheduled to come for six weeks during my recovery time, quit after nine visits. I’m still learning how hard it is to be a caregiver.

Nothing can drag me down faster than health worries. Sometimes I think it would be nice if someone else could live my life and take over my responsibilities. Maybe they would make better choices and do a better job. Since that’s not possible, there’s only one thing to do: press forward every day and do my best to find happiness along the way.

Happiness defined by Dictionary.com is “the quality or state of being happy; good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.” My good fortune is faith, family and friends. The love and support I feel from all three, brings me pleasure and contentment. What brings your happiness may differ from mine, but if we recognize what affects our joy and hold onto it by putting it first in our lives, we can more easily weather the storms.

I was reminded in church today that happiness is found by concentrating on what matters most. I made a list of what I thought makes me happy. It included a clean house, laundry completed, an organized desk, beautiful yard, exercise, a healthy diet and a well maintained vehicle. While looking at my list I realized these things bring peace of mind when they are done, but not lasting happiness. Then I noticed I didn’t list any recreational vehicles, or vacation spots. I thought, how strange, these things are dreams, which I’ve always imagined the beauty and enjoyable time bringing me happiness. It occurred to me it isn’t the places I go, or the toys I have that brings joy. It’s the people I’m with that matters the most. My good fortune is definitely family and friends. By recognizing and appreciating what I do have and giving love and care to the people who matter most, I can feel peace and contentment in my not-so-perfect life, finding true happiness.

Miracles Happen

Hope brings MiraclesSome miracles take time and aren’t always what we hoped for, nevertheless, they are still miracles. Mark’s life is a miracle, but it’s not the full recovery I hoped for. I was discouraged and hurt by doctors, nurses and the therapist who tried continually to squashed my hope with their negative statements and statistics because they didn’t believe I was facing reality. Concerning Mark’s recovery I was told I looked through rose colored glasses because I remained optimistic and hopeful. Twenty-three years later and with more life experience, I understand and have forgiven them for their pessimism. They were doing their job and I was adjusting the best I knew how with the strong feelings I had about his recovery. I’ve thought a lot about “false hope.” As shocking as the statement was to me, I recognize the spot the therapist was in, but that doesn’t mean I agree or like the statement. I truly appreciate their knowledge, which kept Mark alive, but couldn’t understand their lack of hope for improvement. I feel without hope life loses purpose. I closed my Sunday Story asking if there was such a thing as false hope. I loved Laura Nordfelt’s comment:

“This is a thought provoking question for me now. I realize that for the first year, I don’t think I placed any expectations on Greg’s recovery. I lived one day at a time. Go to the hospital. Go to appointments. Work with him on his therapy. Go to my job. Cook for him. Encourage him. Love him. Watch him nap. Watch him play brain games on his iPad. Go for walks up and down the street. I just went through the motions.

Then all of a sudden one day, he went to work for 3 hours. Pretty soon, it was 4 hours and so on. One day, he got his driver’s license and a whole new world opened up for us. Our lives began to take on a different meaning. Independence crept back in piece by piece.

I don’t think I ever had feelings that our lives would ever be the same because his physicians set me up from the beginning with cautious expectations. So hope? I tried to set the bar low and decided we would be grateful for whatever we were given. We (Greg) worked as hard as two people could possibly work with all the tools that the therapists had in their boxes and any more we found along the way. I believe it helps tremendously that we are hopelessly optimistic people! Just try and tell us we can’t do something, nope, not having it!”

Thank you, Laura, for sharing Greg’s miracle. I think being optimistic, hopeful and having faith is the most important tool in the box. It is the fuel that drives us to work hard for something. Twenty-three years ago, I set the bar high. Part of it was my lack of experience with life, but most of it came from being an optimistic, hopeful person full of faith. A person who proudly looks through rose color glasses and realizes there is a higher being in charge of life. I’m grateful I set the bar high and I’ve never regretted it. Have I been disappointed? Yes! But I wonder where we’d be today if I didn’t have high expectations and a belief that only God knows all.

We are all on a different journey with different experiences, however the feelings and emotions are the same. No one should tell another how they should feel or react to a given situation, especially when it’s a traumatic experience.

What miracles have you witnessed?

Feeling Lucky

HCI

Nestled in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains just above the University of Utah Hospital is the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). The front of the hospital is nearly all windows that overlook the Salt Lake Valley. Not only is this a beautiful hospital with breathtaking views, it has great reviews. I add mine to the thousands that are already out there.

HCI, Front Entrance

I had never been to HCI until this week. Our daughter Katie was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer and chose to have her surgery at HCI on March 5, 2014. As we drove up to the hospital into the circular valet parking area I was immediately impressed with the appearance of the facility. It was classy, warm and inviting. It did not resemble any hospital I’d ever seen and I believe I’ve seen every hospital in the Salt Lake County. As Mark and I entered into the main lobby area it felt spacious and opened. There was a gorgeous seating area, with nice comfortable furniture, an information desk on one side and a grand piano on the other. A beautiful staircase of cherry wood and steel took you up to the next floor or you could choose to take the elevators which framed with marble. I thought I had walked it to the finest hotel in Utah.

HCI, 5th floorKatie’s surgery was on the third floor. The waiting room had a beautiful view of the valley as did all six floors. The waiting room was decorated with several shamrocks hanging from the ceiling and placed on the walls by the check-in area. The shamrocks added a lucky charm to the room and I said, Katie, don’t you feel lucky to be treated in this place?” She chuckled at my question.

As Katie was checking in, I noticed a plaque “Cancer Is So Limited—It cannot destroy love.  It cannot shatter hope.  It cannot corrode faith. It cannot destroy people. It cannot kill friendship. It cannot suppress memories. It cannot silence courage. It cannot invade the soul. It cannot steal eternal life. It cannot conquer the spirit.”

Feeling Lucky2I showed it to Katie, inspired by the sentiment that cancer cannot take away what’s most important. As we sat for a few minutes waiting to be called into the surgical waiting room, I decided it was the perfect time to give her my gift. She laughed as she unwrapped the gift and stated it was the coolest T-shirt she’d ever seen.  Back in the surgical waiting room I laid the T-shirt over her blankets so the good luck charm would influence her and the doctors. She was a good sport about it and it made a fun conversation piece for the long wait.

The surgery went well, however the cancer had spread to at least two lymph nodes, so those were removed with several others that surrounded the two infested lymph nodes. It was almost a three hour surgery with another hour in recovery before she was wheeled into her room.

HCI, Patient BedHCI, TV ConsoleWhat a welcome sight she was for Eldin, Mark and I. It seemed like we had waited forever. Her color was good along with her spirits. She was relieved as we all were that the surgery was behind her now.  The nurses were as wonderful as the doctors. They welcomed her to Hotel Huntsman with narcotics and took very good care of her. The following day she was released to come home.

HCI, GuestHCI, Bath

The rooms were spacious and comfortable. Check out the beautiful molding in the bathroom. There is also molding around the ceiling. What an amazing place to treat a dreadful disease. Thank you, thank you Jon Huntsman Sr. for a beautiful facility and a caring staff. You are one of my heroes for doing an awesome job. I’m feeling lucky for my daughters successful surgery!


 Related Articles:

Let Go of the Things You Can’t Control

Jon M. Huntsman

The Benefit of Learning Centers


 

Time Is Your Friend

Recently, Mark stated, “Time is your friend, not your enemy.”

If it’s my friend, then why do I  feel like I’m always in a battle with it? I just don’t have enough of it to do all I’d like to do. You may be thinking, well, we all have the same amount of time! This is partially true. There is sixty seconds to every minute, sixty minutes to every hour, and twenty-four hours to every day. However, none of us knows how many years, days or hours we have in a life-time, which makes it different for each one of us.

In my youth I never thought about it . . . I was invincible and too busy planning all the things I’d achieve in a lifetime, like how many children and grandchildren I’d have, all the wonderful vacation spots I’d see, and all that I’d accomplish in my career.

At age thirty-two I was in a car accident that postpone my plans. The desire to obtain has not changed, but in a single second my direction in life took a dramatic turn. I guess I haven’t fully made peace with the change because the older I get the louder I hear the click of the clock, and see that time is rapidly passing. It seems with age, the disappointment of unfulfilled expectation grows, along with the realization that some things may not be accomplished in this life.

Since the car accident, often, when Mark is asked how things are going, he’ll say, “slow, but sure . . . but, sure slow.” This statement is right on. Every ability Mark has comes slowly, much too slowly for me and for him. However, he steadily works every day for improvement and has done so for the past twenty-two years.

He struggles to do things the rest of us do without thought or effort  like eating, drinking; brushing his teeth, combing his hair; typing or writing; propelling a wheelchair; balancing on the edge of the bed, or rolling over in bed. He has to concentrate and work hard at moving his arms, legs and feet. In other words, what most of us do without thought or effort, Mark works at and it becomes meaningful. Speaking also takes a lot of effort for Mark. Consequently, he chooses his words carefully and says a lot with just a few words.  He thinks before he speaks. A trait I’m trying to cultivate.

Because Mark’s progression is slow, his destination is sure. He knows exactly what he’s working towards and he has a plan how to get there. He feels enormous amounts of joy and fulfillment when he reaches his goals. The time and effort it takes makes his abilities so impressive. Mark is teaching me that when things come slowly they mean more.

Mark has also said, “Time is not an obstacle. When you make peace with time you can think positively about the future.”

I’ve been pondering this statement and have come to the conclusion that this is one reason why Mark is at peace with himself. He understands that time is on his side; he’s not in a race against anyone else. Therefore, he is the most positive person I know.

Faith in timing

One day I asked Mark if he had an age goal he hoped to reach. He answered, “just as long as it takes,” another profound statement.

Mark inspires me and I know he is right. The amount of time we have isn’t what matters. It’s the striving to accomplish, grow, and improve that counts. Mark’s patience teaches me that it doesn’t matter if it comes slow, as long as it’s sure . . . and some times, it sure seems slow!

 I love being married to such a wise man.