Carry On

July is full of outdoor activities and celebrations that last all month long in Utah. It’s my favorite time of year with family reunions, outdoor plays, concerts, parades and many festivities to look forward to. The sun rises early, which makes it easier for me to do also. The weather is usually sunny and the daylight lasts until 9 pm, making this month the one to accomplish the most outside. I always have great aspirations for this month.

This year we started the month out by driving to Vancouver, Washington with our daughter, Katie. We enjoyed visiting with Mom Wilson, Karen and Mark Ray. Lucky for us our son, Christopher, lives just across the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon making our visit quadrupled the fun. We enjoyed an Independence Day celebration at the park with energetic music, food trailers, beautiful fireworks and the great company of family. It’s always hard to say good-bye to loved ones especially without knowing when we’ll see them again. We made the long trek home in about fourteen hours, which includes our fuel and rest stops.

My asthma flared up during our trip and I struggled more than usual to get it under control. When we returned home I went to the doctor for what I thought would be just a medication change. I left Mark home alone, expecting it to be a short doctor’s visit since I was her second appointment of the day. My oxygen level was low so they gave me a breathing treatment and oxygen, which confined me to the room until my oxygen level reached normal.

Two hours later, I left the room anxious to get back to work and to Mark. Remodeling construction had started near the large entrance/exit sliding glass door of the building. With no cone or sign before it, I didn’t see the piece of metal track that had been attached to the tile floor during my doctor’s appointment. I tripped and fell on it, landing hard on the tile, dislocating my right shoulder.

Dislocated shoulder 1

Dislocated Shoulder 07/08/16

My body wrenched in pain like I’d never felt before. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. A man came to my aide and before I knew it, I was sitting in a wheelchair and whisked to the Urgent Care Clinic in the building.

I heard someone report I was in and out of consciousness and my vitals dropped. “Call an ambulance; she needs to go to the hospital.”

“Please put my shoulder back in place,” I pleaded. “I need to get back home to my husband.”

The look on the doctor’s face helped me realized how silly the statement sounded, so I explained. “My husband has a traumatic brain injury and is confined to a wheelchair. He depends on me to get him in and out of the chair.”

“I don’t believe you’re going to be able to lift him for six to eight weeks,” he said while placing an IV for fluids and another one for morphine.

The first stranger who rushed to my aide looked at me drenched in perspiration from the pain and in sympathy said, “I’m sorry. Don’t worry about the medical cost. We’ll take care of you.” I assume he was the job foreman.

Submissive to all the medical team requests, I moved every which way they asked as they transferred me to the stretcher and rushed me to the hospital. For the next three hours the only thing on my mind was getting my shoulder back in place. My right arm went from feeling like it weighed 100 pounds, to numbness, to sharp, shooting pains running down it. I was sure my arm was dying and at times I thought death would be my only relief. No matter how many times I begged them to fix my shoulder there were tests that needed to be done to make sure I didn’t need surgery or an x-ray that had to be taken to show the best way to maneuver it back in place. Finally I was given a conscious sedation and like Humpty Dumpty who fell off the wall, I was put back together again. Instant relief followed, but then came the body shakes, which I will take anytime over the pain of a totally dislocated joint.

Located Shoulder 2

Healing shoulder, 07/19/16. The bump on my clavicle is from the break 25 years ago. I’m glad it didn’t break again!

I’m an aging caregiver who is dedicated to the love of my life. My worst fear is not being physically capable of caring for him. I’ve always known it’s a possibility, but I don’t know how to prepare for it. I know the options and none of them feel right. Even the option of relying on family and friends for help ties my stomach up in knots.

This year the sunny month of July has been the darkest I have felt in a long time. Depressing thoughts linger because my body can’t do what it wants to do. With my arm splinted in a sling and strapped to my side to allow torn tendons and ligaments to heal, my mind keeps focusing on the negative aspects of my life. Having to depend on others to help with Mark’s care for several weeks makes it hard for my heart to find hope in a brighter future. How do I dig out of this gloomy place and feel the sunshine in my life again?

brigham-young-and-pioneers-entering-the-valleyAnnually on July 24th, our state honors the Mormon pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. I imagine after pulling handcarts or driving wagons with oxen or horses across the plains more than a thousand miles, the pioneers were happy to settle the desert landscape now known as Utah. Last week our celebration reminded me their trek exemplifies courage and faith. Their stories inspire me. They endured harsh weather, death of loved ones and starvation as their food and water supplies diminished.  Nothing had prepared the majority of these travelers for the exhaustion, illnesses and injuries they would suffer. They were beginners in a new territory, learning a new way of life.

I see similarities between my caregiving trek and my pioneer ancestors who walked approximately 1,248 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois. Although we thankfully have the comfort of a home with plenty of food and water, nothing had prepared me for the anxiety and exhaustion of caring for another, or the illnesses and injuries which keep arising. As we make it through one challenge only to receive another, I continue to be a beginner in a new territory, learning a new way of life that most people can’t fully understand. I am a modern-day pioneer and so are you as we struggle through our own personal trek. This connection gives me courage and faith to carry on.

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, I don’t know how or when ours will end. Like my ancestors’ examples, I’m committing to carry on with faith in every footstep for a brighter future. Even if we don’t reach our desired destination in this life, I believe we’ll be blessed beyond the grave, free from the harsh physical ailments which we have endured. With confidence, I picture this celebration far grander than I’ve ever witnessed and possibly can even imagine.

Just as I started the month of July with great aspirations, I end it with the same for the future and will carry on as best I can.


Celebrating Independence Day

July 4, 2015 2July 4, 2015We had a great night  with our daughter, Katie, and son-in-law, Eldin, at the Stadium of Fire celebrating Independence Day. We rocked it with Olivia Holt and Journey concerts and were delighted by a huge firework display. July always reminds me how fortunate and proud I am to be an American. I love reflecting on our nation’s history and the many heroes who made our country great. I wish I could feel this patriotic spirit all year long.

One of my favorite trips of all time was when we took our two kids at ages thirteen and fourteen to tour the U.S. historical sites. I wrote about it last year in an article titled Giving Thanks to a U.S. History Teacher. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

Today I’m remembering Mr. Fox, an excellent American History teacher who taught both my children in the eighth grade. Mr. Fox had plenty of gray/white hair, which indicated he had been teaching for many years, yet did not lose his zest for teaching or history. My children described him as a creative, enthusiastic storyteller—and history is all about stories.

White House entrance

White House entrance: Chris with Grandpa, Mark, Katie and I in the background.

Our son, Christopher had Mr. Fox in 1997. He would come home from school eager to share with me what he learned in his history class. “Today Mr. Fox told us about the rooms in the White House. He said there’s no charge to take a tour of some of the rooms.” Another day he said, “Mr. Fox told us about the Smithsonian National Museums and all the cool things you can see in the Air and Space Museum,” and another day it was about the American Art or the Museum of Natural History. Every day Christopher came home excited about something he’d learned and his wish to see it.

His enthusiasm was rubbing off on me. I’d daydream about a trip to the historical sights and then wake up to the realization of the cost to fly there and the struggle of getting Mark, a wheelchair and all the extra things like a commode seat riser and other equipment we’d need to take for his care across the United States. It seemed impossible.

Additional days came where Christopher would come home with more exciting information about the historical east coast. After about a month of dreaming about these historical sites, I decided to call the airlines. They were running a special from Salt Lake City, Utah to Baltimore, Maryland with a two hour layover in Chicago. The cost of a round trip was $154.00, which was a lot less than I expected. I began to do more research on the possibility of making the trip. With Christopher’s interest about American history and knowing our daughter, Katie would have the same class the following year it was the perfect time to take the trip.

I knew it would be hard to handle without another adult to help me with Mark. It was six years after our car accident and Mark needed total assistance transferring out of his wheelchair into a bed, shower, commode and vehicle. The kids were thirteen and fourteen years old and were helpful, but since I wouldn’t have the equipment I routinely used in taking care of Mark’s needs, it was necessary to have the support of another adult. I asked my brother, Steve, and my parents if they’d be interested in making the trip with us. They all said yes and were excited to see the sites as well. I booked the flight tickets and started planning the ten day trip which was just a month away because I wanted to take the trip during the school’s Spring break.

While researching the places to visit, I was relearning a lot about American history and my excitement to see the sights calmed my fears of getting Mark there and not having certain equipment I use daily in his care.

Philadelphia carriage ride

Philadelphia carriage ride

In Baltimore, we rented a van which all seven of us fit in along with luggage and a folded up wheelchair. It was an educating trip with only a few minor problems. It was a thrill to see the Liberty Bell and take a horse and buggy tour around historical Philadelphia. Yes, we lifted Mark up in the carriage and all went on the tour. We saw Independence Hall and Congress Scan0073Hall.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Washington soldiers tents at Yorktown

Washington soldiers tents at Yorktown

We were in awe of the sacrifice at Valley Forge and saw the original tent which was George Washington’s. We enjoyed seeing Amish town and were amazed by the sacred spirit felt at Gettysburg. We saw where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and the cemetery of some fallen soldiers from the Civil War. We toured Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house, and James Monroe’s home.

Two of the three ships at Jamestown

Two of the three ships at Jamestown

We loved the reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg, but many of the buildings from the 1700’s were not wheelchair accessible. We explored three recreated ships which brought 104 Englishmen in 1607 and enjoyed seeing the reconstructed settlement of Jamestown. We appreciated the Yorktown Victory Center and seeing the military encampment like those that housed Washington’s soldiers.

Mt. Vernon, George Washingtons home

Mt. Vernon, George Washingtons home

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Utahs statue of Philo Farnsworth, T.V. inventor—born in Utah

Utahs statue of Philo Farnsworth, T.V. inventor—born in Utah

We toured George Washington’s home, and saw his and Martha’s burial sites. We felt reverence at Arlington National Cemetery and watched the changing of the guard. We saw Lincoln’s and Jefferson’s memorials and enjoyed three out of the thirteen Smithsonian Museums.

U.S. Capitol

U.S. Capitol

The flight back home left in the evening so we spent our last day admiring the beauty in our nation’s capitol building and enjoyed a tour of the White House.

Our days were packed with history and my patriotism grew each day as I realized the sacrifices and bravery of those early settlers and soldiers. It was awesome to walk in places our forefathers lived. I wasn’t just reading, I was experiencing what their lives were like and had a better understanding of what it took to start our nation.

I’m grateful to a passionate U.S. History teacher and Christopher, who motivated me beyond my fears to make this memorable trip. I appreciate my brother and parents who helped make it all possible.

Recalling this experience reminds me of those who loved their country more than self and mercy more than life. I’m indebted to them for their sacrifices. If you haven’t seen the sights and felt the strong nationalistic spirit of the early settlers and founding fathers, I highly recommend a trip like this.

Believe in America

July-Believe in AmericaI’m excited to celebrate our Nation’s Independence Day. I’ll be thinking about and honoring all the service men and women this weekend. Thank you to all who cared enough to serve our country. Military service affects parents, children, spouses and friends. I appreciate the sacrifices made by families along with the soldier’s. For the families who have lost their loved one because they gave the ultimate gift, their life, I recognize the noble and courageous cost.

I’m proud to be an American and I hope it shows in the way I live my life. Independence Day always fills my heart with gratitude and a desire to give back by serving others.

How will you celebrate July 4th?

Flying the Flag with Horsepower


1976 – Star and I

I love the month of July. In Utah it’s a month-long celebration of parades, fireworks, rodeos, city carnivals, outdoor concerts and other festivities. We not only celebrate Independence Day on the fourth, but Pioneer Day on the twenty-fourth. Pioneer Day is an official holiday which commemorates Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entering into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. All month long we see more than the usual number of American and State flags flying.

Patriotic feelings swell whenever I see the American flag, but it grows even stronger when it’s flying by horsepower. My fondest teenage memories are having the honor of carrying the American flag in parades and horse shows with my American Saddler, Star. She was a nervous horse and didn’t enjoy the crowd noises of cap guns shooting, cheering and cackling, but she behaved differently when the American flag pole was placed in its holder mounted on my right stirrup. I took the responsibility very seriously and apparently she did also.

Closeup of Star and I carrying the American Flag

Closeup of Star and I carrying the American Flag

I felt obligated to present the flag with the proper respect it deserves and within the set guidelines. I was concerned about keeping the flag straight upright at all times, never letting it lean from side to side or forward or back. This can be complicated due to the constant movement and changing of speed and positions while preforming the team’s drill. Also, the American Flag should never touch anything beneath it, and the horse carrying the flag should never back up because this historically denotes retreat. With my anxious horse, I was constantly worried she’d back up, which unfortunately she did do a few times, but I never lost control or dropped the flag. I didn’t realize these specific rules relating to carrying the flag until I was given the honor. I’d like to think I was chosen because of my horsemanship, but having a tall, beautiful horse is most likely the reason I was given the opportunity.


1972 – Ginger and I                     dream to reality

Star wasn’t my first horse. While I love all animals, horses are at the top of my list for their muscular beauty. I had a gerbil, dog and a cat as a child, but they didn’t fulfill my ultimate dream of having a horse. We sometimes rented horses and I loved to feel and hear the beating of the ground as they ran with fierce power. To sit in a saddle and have control of this mighty animal was such a thrill to me. After years of begging, my parents told me if I saved my money, I could buy a horse. I would also be responsible for the feed and stabling. I saved the money I earned babysitting and cleaning

Dad on Chili

1974- Dad on Chili

Dad’s construction business office. At age twelve I had saved one hundred dollars and bought a beautiful two year old buckskin filly named Ginger. Dad bought her mother, a bay quarter horse named Chili. She was fast and had won barrel racing contests. I have wonderful memories of horseback riding with my dad.

1973 - Riding Ginger bareback

1973 – Riding bareback Ginger (4 yrs. old)

I joined the 4-H Cimmerons horseback Riding Club and learned a lot about horses and riding. Ginger was a gentle filly and was the perfect horse to train; she only bucked me off once. She never grew to be as big or was as fast as her mother, Chili. While horseback riding with my friends I was often teased, “Pick up your feet they’re dragging.” or “You look like you’re riding a basketball.”

Three years later, when Ginger was five years old, it appeared she was done growing and wouldn’t get any bigger. She was a perfect pet and I regretted needing to sell her because I had outgrown her. I loved and I missed her terribly after I sold her. It took a long time to get use to my very high-strung, spirited, but tall and beautiful American Saddler. Although I didn’t sell Ginger and buy Star with the ambition of carrying the American Flag, it turned out that way. Another guideline is that nothing can fly higher than the American Flag, so having a tall horse makes it possible. Ginger would have been a much calmer horse to carry the American Flag but her height wouldn’t have allowed it.

1976 – Parade drill routine

My happiest teenage memories are centered on horseback riding and the 4-H Club I belonged to. My proudest memories are the opportunities I had with Star to carry our American Flag.

Happy Birthday, America

Among the annals of national anthems as a prelude to sporting events, few have topped the one delivered by Whitney Houston before Super Bowl XXV in 1991 in Tampa. Just a woman, her incredible voice and the bare minimum of extraneous notes. Her rendition came at a particularly patriotic time, just after the onset of the Persian Gulf War, and was released as a single. It was re-released after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Houston donated all proceeds to charity. She ranks among the best of all-time because of the circumstances and … that voice.

Star-Spangled Banner


The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics
By Francis Scott Key 1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!