Wednesday, August 30, 2006

While Others Slept

As a third-generation insomniac, I was grateful to receive several years ago, a book entitled, While Others Slept, which is the autobiography of Ellis Reynolds Shipp, who was the mother of six children and the second female to become a doctor in Utah.

She established her own practice and during her career delivered more than 5,000 children. The School of Nursing and Obstetrics, which she founded in 1879, trained five hundred women who became licensed midwives. She continued her study of medicine with graduate courses at the University of Michigan Medical School in 1893, graduating with honors. Her medical career lasted more than fifty years and she continued to teach obstetrics classes into her eighties.

Beyond her medical career, she remained an active and devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving on the general boards of the Relief Society and the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association. In public life, she was president of the Utah Women's Press Club and a delegate to the National Council of Women. She also wrote poetry. She died in Salt Lake City on 31 January 1939 at the age of ninety-two.

She obviously did a lot of stuff "while others slept", including writing her autobiography. Recapping her achievements makes me tired. (Well, okay, and so does blogging close to midnight in my quiet, dark home.)

For those of you who saw my "brain on steroids" post back in December may recall the time when I was taking advantage of my active post-op mind and my steroid-induced insomnia and writing up a storm "while others slept". My dad came downstairs and discovered me in my office in the wee hours of the morning, as I cranked out two articles for submission to a church magazine. One was accepted - with edits - for publication.

My other project "while others slept" was a book that I had "in me" for many years, but could never quite get it together. It had actually been stagnant for years. As I lay in my hospital bed, tearfully digesting the news about my diagnosis and prognosis, a very clear voice in my head said, "Finish your book." So I did. Pretty fast, in fact. While others slept. While my surgical incision was still raw. While I still had my brain on steroids.

I submitted it for publication at the beginning of the year, and the first publisher passed on it. But a favorite author of mine, who read my manuscript, gave me some helpful feedback and advice, as well as lots of encouragement to try again. While others slept, I made the recommended changes and sent the revised manuscript to another publisher. Their verdict was recently announced to me: a rare 100% committee consensus to proceed. I'm "pregnant" with a book that is due to be published in March. (Actually, that's a pretty poor analogy, since my "labor" is basically finished and theirs is only beginning as the publication and production process commences.)

My daytime hours are filled with doctor visits, lab tests, my children, and my clients. If I'm lucky, some laundry might also get done once in a while. And, of course, gotta squeeze in that daily exercise. (Every day that I eat, since May 5th!) It feels good to go to bed, having "earned" the night's rest after a busy day. Being busy is much better than being bored. Gotta use the good glial cells while I can, so I'm always grateful for the opportunities I have to work. Grateful that I have enough energy during this "chemo maintenance cycle # 5".

But sometimes, no matter how busy the day has been, I am still a third-generation insomniac and I am often drawn in this zombie state to my writing - be it blogging or creating a manuscript or doing some technical writing for a client or sending a long-overdue letter to a friend - while others are sleeping. I know it's not like raising six kids and getting a medical degree and establishing a medical school, but it's therapeutic and it's using something that I don't want to lose. After all, every so often I have half a mind (literally) to write!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Rain in Spain...

I keep picturing Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, repeating very carefully, "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain". And I keep thinking that this rhymes with "brain", but I couldn't come up with a clever phrase to tie the rain in Spain to my brain. (The glial cells are resting from yesterday's Scrabble game. I won by almost 100 points - another successful neuro test!)

Last Tuesday I prayed for rain to relieve the drought we are experiencing this summer. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before, but all of a sudden I felt like I should do it. So I did. Later, as I was closing the door on our car (it was one of those days when I had access to our car), I noticed how dirty it was, and I considered taking it to the car wash. But a little voice inside said, "You prayed for rain. Why would you wash your car?" So I decided to exercise a little faith, in the hopes that it might actually rain.

Later that afternoon, during my son's football practice, the clouds gathered, lightning flashed, and we were caught in a downpour that hadn't been seen all summer. It was great! And then, in typical "wow" fashion, this prayer was answered with more rain over the past several days. It's raining this afternoon again.

I'm not having a Bruce Almighty moment. It's not like I get credit for the rain. And it's not like I automatically get everything I pray for. And it's not like praying for rain was a unique idea during this season of drought. But it was nice to be guided in what I should be praying for. And it was nice to be reminded of the importance of faith. And it was especially nice to see the outpouring of blessings that came in response to this petition.

One day this week, as I walked my son to kindergarten, he noticed a rainbow in the sky and excitedly proclaimed his discovery, jumping and pointing and shouting. Rainbows are cool. The colorful light through the rain. A reminder that the storms of our lives can help create beauty and blessings. A symbol of God's promises to his children.

I remember that a friend shared with me one of the verses from the hymn, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way", which includes the following words:

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

She reminded me that adversity, like rain, is a necessary part of life. Sometimes we think of rain like the cartoon character who has a cloud following him around. Or as Karen Carpenter used to sing, "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down..." But living in a drought helps create an appreciation for rain. Not much grows in a drought. And not much spiritual growth happens without adversity.

Of course, as useful as rain can be, too much rain can be overwhelming. I remember helping clean out homes after a major flood in the Houston area in the mid-90's, and I remember hearing my husband's stories of his relief efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans last year. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the storms of adversity in our lives. But even these storms are followed by a rainbow. Even our worst afflictions can be consecrated for our benefit. I have been amazed by the blessings that emerged from the most difficult times of my life.

I remember being much younger and hearing the classic song from the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:
Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothin' seems to fit
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'
So I just did me some talkin' to the sun
And I said I didn't like the way he got things done
Sleepin' on the job
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'
But there's one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me won't defeat me
It won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me
Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Cryin's not for me'
Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothin's worryin' me
Yeah, nothing's worrying me today. In fact (and my apologies to any lactose-intolerant readers for this super-cheesy final thought)...
I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin'
I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I've a smile on my face
I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singin',
Singin' in the rain

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Anniversary Therapy

People who are happily married tend to have a lot of anniversaries. So we had one - our eighteenth - on Sunday.

We were married August 20, 1988 in the Salt Lake Temple, almost six years after our first date, five months after my husband returned from his two-year missionary service in Japan (the longest two years of my life, but well worth it), and one week after my graduation from Brigham Young University. (If I finished college before getting married, my parents promised to give us a car, so I did and they did.)

I often spend some of my Sunday time doing genealogical research, and it so happened this weekend that I discovered some roots of my family tree that tap into the royal Tudor family of England. And I thought it was kind of interesting, because despite that being unknown eighteen years ago, my wedding day still felt like a celebration befitting a princess.

The morning wedding ceremony was private and beautiful, with close family and friends in attendance. That evening, many more joined us for a wonderful reception at the historic McCune Mansion in Salt Lake City (pictured right), complete with a harpist, a buffet dinner surrounding an ice sculpture of the temple, a ring exchange ceremony, a beautiful cake adorned with fresh flowers, and dancing accompanied by a live band. Afterward, a horse-drawn carriage whisked us away, fairy-tale-style, to our "happily ever after".

We honeymooned in scenic Star Valley, Wyoming, in a private cabin generously loaned to us by a friend. And we did live happily ever after.

In the past eighteen years we have ridden the rollercoaster of life together, and there's nothing more wonderful than riding with your best friend.

We celebrated this weekend in our typical style of celebrating things with a string of several mini-events. We attended the Dallas Temple on Saturday, followed by a lunch date, and then Saturday evening we went out to dinner and came home to watch Beetlejuice. I remember the night before my wedding, staying in a hotel in Salt Lake City with my parents and my brothers, and we watched Beetlejuice on the television because I was too excited and nervous to sleep. So it was funny to watch it this weekend as a nod to that memory, and it was also funny to watch the scene where all the dead people are sitting around in the waiting room, and you can tell how some of them died. (I once blogged about a thousand years from now, when we're all gone and we sit around in the afterlife yakking it up about the details of our life and death, and this scene reminded me of that. It also reminded me that I promised to haunt my husband if I die before he does.)

On Sunday morning we had muffins for breakfast, because I remember on my wedding day, as my mom and I were running late and trying to get to the temple, she kept insisting that I eat something. The last thing I wanted at the moment was breakfast, but Mom grabbed a quick muffin in the hotel lobby and kept trying to force feed it to me so I wouldn't faint during my wedding. So I like to eat muffins for my anniversary breakfast because it's another funny memory of that day.

After church we had a family dinner featuring salmon (because at our reception we had salmon mousse) and white cake with raspberry filling (like our wedding cake). My wedding dress, a framed invitation, and the satin pillow that held our wedding rings during the ring ceremony were used as decorations. We put a television in the dining room and played our wedding video while we ate. Our son picked out some roses for us the day before, to help us celebrate "our family's birthday", and these also adorned our feast.

And, as usual, the celebration is not yet over. We have a trip scheduled to return to the honeymoon cabin in Star Valley next month. And truth be told, it seems like the past eighteen years have been an on-going celebration anyway, and it will continue that way (awwww).

After all, a temple marriage is one that is sealed "for time and all eternity", instead of "'til death do you part". That has always been important to me, but when mortality hits the radar screen it becomes all the more valuable to me, to know that cancer isn't signaling the impending end of our marriage. It'll just be a temporary separation, like it was during Jared's two-year mission in Japan (except this time I get to haunt him), and then we'll be reunited again. We will share many, many more anniversaries, long after cancer or gravity or whatever else finally claims us and sends us back from whence we came. On our eighteen thousandth anniversary I think we'll have muffins for breakfast again, and we'll ask for a replay of our wedding day on the heavenly Jumbo-tron (or whatever the angels record our lives on), we'll have another family dinner (maybe invite some of the Tudors - preferably the ones who didn't behead their spouses) and then we'll go off to haunt the honeymoon cabin again.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

House Hunting

I remember going to my grandfather's funeral when I was eight years old. This was my mom's dad. He died of melanoma cancer, and outlived his six-month prognosis by seven years...succombing only after it had spread to his ...(shudder)... brain. I felt very close to him and remember this being my first experience with significant grief. I have six memories of that moment in my life:

1. Mom coming into my bedroom to tell me the news, and crying with me on the floor.
2. Mom teaching my brother and me about death and resurrection, using a glove as the person's body and her wiggling hand as the person's spirit.
3. Dressing in a blue dress, because Mom said blue was better than black for a funeral, because we were celebrating life.
4. Going to the wake and feeling overcome with grief, but not wanting to admit it, so I told everyone I was crying because I had a stomachache.
5. Riding in the limousine, and sharing caramel "bullseye" candy with my aunt.
6. Hearing a man sing, "In My Father's House Are Many Mansions" during the funeral service.

Speaking of mansions, I also remember when my grandmother died when I was 23 years old. This was my dad's mom. Her husband (my other grandfather) died before I was born, so she had been widowed for a long time. She was serving as a missionary in Tennessee when she died of heart failure in her late sixties. She had lived an extraordinary life, and one of my memories of her death was when someone at the funeral commented, "Gee, I'd love to see HER mansion!"

Six months before I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we bought a new home. It was the fifth house we'd lived in during the ten years we had lived in Plano. It was my son's third home (he was four years old at the time). We were so excited to have finally found THE house we could stay in for a long time. It has all the rooms we wanted. It has a nice backyard. It is in a great neighborhood, and very close to a great elementary school. It has enough space for large gatherings of family and friends, fulfilling my dream of being surrounded by loved ones and making memories together and making a huge mess with all of our playing and eating and stuff, and no one caring about the mess because we all just love each other. It has a floorplan that accommodates my home office, plus growing children and retiring parents, since we are potentially part of the "sandwich" generation of couples who may find themselves caring for young children and aging parents at the same time.

Our previous house was the opposite. It was a nice house, but we outgrew it way too fast. I felt like we hadn't made the best of our housing dollar (which in Texas can usually go pretty far). We were short-sighted in our decision to buy it, and we suffered from buyer's remorse for a long time. It had a tiny backyard that was not kid-friendly. The house was too cramped to accommodate visitors, a home business, and our plans to grow our family. For three years we built a list of the things we wanted in our next home, and prepared ourselves financially so that we could maximize our equity and other assets, optimize our credit score, and take advantage of the best interest rates.

It was nice to shed that house and move into a place that matched our list. One that met our needs as well as many of our wants. Our planning and preparation paid off nicely. We decided that this new house was "IT": the last house we would buy until retirement.

Even so, there is one dream house that we drive by once in a while, just for grins. I call it a dream house, because it could not possibly exist in our reality. It is in a very exclusive neighborhood, and is worth about twenty times what we paid for our current home (which wasn't cheap). It is a huge, gorgeous house. The rear exterior looks like a Mediterranian resort, and I swear it would make an ideal film location. It is indeed a mansion. We do a "drive and drool" every so often, just to enjoy its beauty.

Enter cancer. Suddenly houses aren't that important anymore - even that dream mansion - except that I did appreciate having enough space in our current home for the parade of family and friends who have come to visit. As I pondered this, I naturally realized an important parallel.

In our Father's house are many mansions. If we are shortsighted, we might end up having to settle for a less-than-optimal dwelling place. If we plan and prepare carefully, we may find ourselves in a glorious home in the presence of God. When I consider the focus we placed on scoring the right earthly house, and the kind of preparation and resources that would be needed to obtain the "drive and drool dream mansion", I realize that we are really better off putting our energy and effort into building our eternal residence. I hope to live near the grandparents and other good people from whom I descend, because I know that they invested in beautiful heavenly mansions.

And I hope that someday our heavenly home will once again be filled with family and friends. President Ezra Taft Benson shared his goal that there be "no empty chairs" in his family circle in the next life. Likewise, I don't care whether our heavenly home has Travertine floors or a swimming pool. My list for this home is short: good location, and no empty chairs.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Krista-"L" Clear

(Sometimes people think my name is Crystal, because "Krista" sounds close enough to it, that they are almost interchangeable. In fact, one of my birthday gifts was a beautiful Swarovski crystal figurine of a girl, and I started calling it the Swarovski Krista.)

Anyway, good news on the MRI front today. I am crystal (or Krista-L) clear today. In fact, my oncologist even said that there is improvement. Other previous areas of interest have cleared up, and prior inflammation is gone. And most importantly, it was another "knee-deep" scan: NEDP = No Evidence of Disease Progression. No new tumors so far (knock wood). And my neuro test was a breeze. I didn't have to count backward today (but I did anyway). I got a new test today, which was easy: spell "world" backwards. (Close your eyes and try it without looking at the word.) I also proved once again that I am very sober and capable of walking a straight line like a supermodel on the catwalk (the only thing about me that even remotely resembles a supermodel). Which brings me to the only bad news I received: 97 days of daily exercise didn't really reflect on the scale, although I was at least able to show off the loose waistband on my pants.

Not in the death spiral yet, thank goodness. (And there was no ironic deadly car accident on the way home, either!) In fact, it was really nice to hear my doctor talk to me about how they do things during the second year of this process. I was just so darn happy to be able to talk about a second year of anything, as though it were actually realistic to consider instead of being some kind of medical oddity. My doctor smiled and said that there are some treatments that are working really well with her patients, even if the Temodar stops working (which is not my problem so far - knock wood). Speaking of Temodar, I start that up again on Monday for my five-day, high-dose "maintenance" regimen this month.

As has been the case before, the MRI process itself was very comfortable and easy to handle. I felt very calm and reassured that no matter what, everything was okay, and I swear it is because I was once again floating on prayers today. I really appreciate everyone's prayers on my behalf, which helped both the outcome and the ease of the process leading to the outcome.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Drumroll, please...

Yes, it's that time again. MRI Eve. I can't help but remember that I am nearly 8 months past diagnosis, and I once read an article that mentioned the prevalence of fatal tumor recurrences that happen within the first nine months.

I keep reminding myself that I am functioning well and I don't have any apparent signs of any new neurological problems. (100...93...86...79...72...65...58...51...44...37...30...23...16...9...2)

I keep reminding myself that EVEN IF something new is there, it might open doorways to new and better treatments. For example, immunotherapy is not an option for me right now, because they can't make a tumor vaccine from the original tumor site. It is considered "contaminated" by the chemotherapy wafer they inserted during surgery. So one good thing about a new recurrence is that it might be a source for a tumor vaccine (IF it's in an operable location and IF I have willing insurance and/or other resources to pay for experimental treatments and IF I can enroll in a study group, and so on...). There may be other treatments that are easier to qualify for, once I fall into the category of "progression after initial treatment". (NOT that I'm hoping for this!) But all is not lost, just because of a recurrence. My oncologist has reminded me that she has many tricks up her sleeve.

And finally, EVEN IF something shows up in a non-treatable and life-threatening location (shudder)...well, I am reminded of a couple verses from a popular hymn that the LDS pioneers repeated during their exodus to Utah to escape religious persecution:

Why should we mourn, or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins, fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake.
And soon we'll have this tale to tell;
All is well! All is well!
And should we die before our journey's through,
Happy day; all is well.
We, then, are free from toil and sorrow, too.
With the just we shall dwell.
But if our lives are spared again, to see the saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell:
All is well! All is well!

I keep reminding myself to ignore what I read about the bleakness of glioblastoma, to quit trusting in the "arm of flesh", and to trust in the Lord instead. I know that this is out of my hands. I've done my part to be healthy, I'm using prayer and faith, and the rest is in the hands of the One who loves me and who has a great plan for me, and who watches carefully over this process. No matter what, all is well...

...Even so, it's a nervous time, waiting to hear the outcome of the MRI results. Sometimes even bad news (NOT that I want it!) is easier to handle than uncertainty (especially when someone has a lively imagination). As much as I trust in the goodness of whatever the outcome is, it's hard to be in limbo, not knowing what the battle will look like. This is a time when I really tap into the many prayers being offered on my behalf. They have kept me doing so well so far, and they really do carry me and comfort me through the anxious moments. There is great power in prayer. For those of you who pray, THANK YOU--and please send another one my way.

Milestone Therapy

Today was my son's first day of kindergarten. A day we have planned together for a long time, especially during "Camp Mama-atta-home-a" this summer. He was ready, although there was a funny side effect to all of the phonics work that we did: he now insists that his last name must have an "x" in it, because "Oakes" has an "x" sound in it. He has been spelling it correctly from memory for two years, but now he is learning enough to analyze words and how they are spelled.

Speaking of memory, I had to help him memorize a six-digit code that he is to enter on a keypad at the cafeteria, to access his prepaid school lunch account. He learned it quickly, and I was happy that we both passed that neuro test.

This night-owl child went to bed uncharacteristically early last night, so he was up uncharacteristically early for his first day of school. He (uncharacteristically) wolfed down a huge helping of scrambled eggs (his request for breakfast) and stood proudly for a picture, sporting his new school uniform and a sign that said, "Jacob's first day of kindergarten - August 9, 2006".

We walked together to school and easily found his classroom, thanks to the "meet the teacher" orientation we attended on Monday. After putting his backpack in his locker and his snack in his cubby, my son sat down at the classroom table in the spot labeled "Jacob" and began coloring a picture. His teacher gave me a little gift as I left - a plastic bag filled with a tissue, a cotton ball, and a teabag, and a little note. It expressed gratitude for being entrusted with the care of my child, and instructed me to hold the cotton ball and let its softness remind me of the gentle spirit of my child; to go home and dry my tears with the tissue, then make a cup of tea and relax. It was a thoughtful gesture, since I think more parents than children were crying as they said goodbye.

I know that the first day of kindergarten can be a proud but traumatic milestone for a mom. I had several people ask me this week how I was handling this time of our lives. It is a special, sentimental moment, just like other milestone moments can be. I missed my little guy. But truth be told, the overriding feeling today was one of gratitude and relief that I was able to be here for this milestone.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cancer Glasses

When I was about six or seven years old I began wearing glasses for reading, having been diagnosed as far-sighted. I always wondered if it had something to do with the fact that I learned to read at a very young age, and reading had become my favorite hobby. Having glasses in a really stylish case was kind of fun, but the novelty soon wore off and my glasses went the way of my piano lessons at that age: a nice idea, but not for now. Besides, I could still read just fine.

Later, in my teens, I was diagnosed as near-sighted. I could see okay, but sometimes I would get headaches reading the blackboard at school or watching movies. The long-neglected reading glasses were replaced with a new pair of glasses for use in school and at the movies. Again, I tried it for a while, but the novelty wore off, and I went "au naturel" with my eyes again before too long.

In college I had an eye exam and was told that I was neither far-sighted nor near-sighted. I had "perfect...better than 20/20 vision", according to the eye doctor. No glasses anymore, which was good, since I had no idea where those old glasses had gone anyway. And I was happy to know that I was seeing things the right way.

Around the same time, my mom started wearing reading glasses. She had never worn glasses before, but she had just finished law school, and I guess all that extra reading had taken its toll.

My dad and my youngest brother have both worn corrective lenses since they were babies. Another brother started on lenses in college, and another is lens-free, like my husband and me. Well, or at least like I used to be.

Now I have new glasses: Cancer Glasses. They don't have rims or lenses, but they are real in the sense that they have changed the way I see everything. (Figuratively, of course. I am aware, after all, that this cancer might eventually make me go blind.)

I now see each evening as a chance to give thanks for another day of life. Especially each day of life when I could be with my family.

I see Thursday (my weekly blood draw day) as the day NOT to do upper body workouts. Veins need a break that day.

I see phytonutrients as crave-able food, and bacon as toxic waste.

I see my Temodar week (chemo taken on an empty stomach at bedtime) as "diet week", because there is no evening snacking.

I see my bike as "Lance Armstrong Therapy".

I see EVERYTHING as a neuro test.

I see my business as a fortunate circumstance that was already in place when I needed a flexible schedule where I could work from home in sickness and in health.

I see my Mary Kay makeup as a reminder of how well that company takes care of us with their employee and spouse benefits, and with their family-friendly focus. (Buy lots of their stuff!!)

I see adversity as an opportunity to draw nearer to God as I seek His help, and an opportunity to develop compassion for someone in similar circumstances. Also, an opportunity to lose my inner control freak. ("Let go and let God.")

I see my children as my reason to survive. Also, as my reminder that blessings sometimes come in unexpected ways.

I FINALLY see trivial stuff as just that -- trivial. "The most important thing to remember is that the most important thing is the most important thing." The rest is just details.

I see some really funny stuff, even in the world of cancer. If you don't know what I mean, you just haven't seen my hair. You must not get asked to stick your tongue out at your doctor every month. You must not have spent much time lying in a noisy tube, feeling like toothpaste sitting on an airport runway. Erma Bombeck was right - if you can laugh at something, you can live with it. I'm hoping that cancer is something I can live with, instead of just die from. And so I guess that's why things get so darn funny every now and then.

I see miracles and blessings every day. Once you start acknowledging them, they become impossible to miss, and you find yourself surrounded. ("Some may see a rainbow as nothing more than light; others see a promise and a sign.")

I could go on, but suffice it to say that when life becomes precious, you see things for what they are. The real treasures in life are more brilliant, and the "zircons" of life are more obviously fake. And life itself becomes more colorful, more delicious, and more worthy of gratitude.

Cancer glasses correct "near-sightedness" (or short-sightedness), making it easier to focus on the long-term, and making it easier to see things in their true light. They provide a valuable perspective.

It would be nice if the cancer itself would only last as long as my enthusiasm for my first pair of glasses. However, regardless of how long it lasts, I hope the glasses stay for good.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Things I've done that are cool and fun

So, what have I done for the past 14000+ days? I always think about that during birthday season. It's kind of a lot to try and inventory, and I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging or writing my own eulogy, but here are a few cool and fun things that I have done (in no particular order):

  • I wrote three songs (one by myself; two co-written with Jared).
  • One of those songs was written for the prophet Ezra Taft Benson, and I got to sing it to him before presenting him with a copy of the music (and I forgot some of the words but he hugged me anyway).
  • I recently sang to Elder Richard Hinckley, son of the current prophet (and I didn't forget the words).
  • I have sung Handel's Messiah at least a dozen times, and was a soloist in most of those performances.
  • One of those solo performances was at the Artisan Theater in North Richland Hills.
  • I sang for eight years with Evening Song (, performing in the Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas, the Bass Performance Hall in Ft. Worth, Southfork Ranch, and a bunch of other places in Texas and Virginia. We have performed with LDS notables Kurt Bestor, Janice Kapp Perry, Senator Orrin Hatch, Michael Ballam, and more. We have three CD's on the market, and will soon have a fourth coming out. In September I am rejoining the group to sing at Temple Square in Utah.
  • I danced on an age-division world champion clog dance team (and fell in love with my dance partner, who is now my husband).
  • This year will mark the 24th anniversary of our first date.
  • I have been on television twice: once waving outside the Today Show window, and fleeting shot during a studio audience pan on the Rush Limbaugh Television Show (also got to shake Rush's hand and get his autograph after the taping). Both TV appearances happened during a trip to Manhattan in 1995. (No wonder you thought I looked familiar, right?)
  • I have been a caller on two radio talk shows: the Rush Limbaugh show and a local talk radio show.
  • I was a radio disc-jockey in high school. (I mentioned this in an earlier post -- we had a school radio station that played top-40 hits.)
  • I finally met my pre-teen heartthrob, Shaun Cassidy, touched his jacket, and got his autograph at the stage entrance where he performed in Blood Brothers with David Cassidy.
  • I went to church with Donny Osmond (my other pre-teen heartthrob) one Sunday. Actually, he was visiting my congregation because some of his family members were there, so I just kind of saw him across the room.
  • I have been able to correspond with and visit with Ardeth Greene Kapp, one of my favorite authors.
  • I received two proposals of marriage, and I definitely said "yes" to the right person.
  • I knew someone who played Christine in Phantom of the Opera, and I got to see all the cool backstage stuff that goes on there.
  • I graduated from high school and started college at Brigham Young University before my seventeenth birthday. (I skipped the first grade.)
  • I was three weeks older than the youngest person in my BYU graduating class. (It was the first time I wasn't the youngest in my class.)
  • Being young paid off: I climbed a few corporate ladders (and swung from a few trees) to become a company president (and later quit being a company president) before I was thirty-five.
  • I considered it a promotion to quit and become a freelance consultant so that I could spend more time as a mom.
  • I won a silver medal - for essay writing - in our state academic decathlon when I was a senior in high school.
  • Learning to write paid off: I have been published in two different medical device industry publications: Medical Device Executive magazine, and the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society's Focus magazine. A lot of my consulting work involves technical writing. I have another blurb that will be published in an upcoming church magazine, and there are other writing projects in the hopper. And, of course, this blog is very therapeutic to me.
  • I have lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of RESOLVE (a national infertility organization) on the topics of insurance coverage and adoption tax credits. As a reward for my efforts, a congressional aide took me on a VIP tour of the Capitol.
  • I have had the pleasure of making friends around the world through my "2ofus4now" infertility support network. Even adversity pays off.
  • I have added three members to my family without giving birth (married one husband and adopted two children).
  • I have worn out three paperback copies of Gone With the Wind.
  • I have read the Bible cover-to-cover, and The Book of Mormon too many times to count. (I treat those copies more gently.)
  • I have driven a quarter-million miles in my lifetime, but have never pumped gas.
  • I had someone knock me unconscious while someone else cut a hole in my skull and removed part of my brain. Two days later I was talking with clients, with full recall of the projects I was working on with them. Thirteen days later I was leading the choir Christmas program at church.
  • I have survived surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, drug reactions, steroid weight gain, nervous moments in the MRI tube, and that awful moment of realization that I was under assault by a silent, deadly invader known as cancer.
  • I have witnessed miracles and I know first-hand the power of faith, hope, charity, and prayer.

These are just a few highlights off the top of my head. I've done more than that to fill up 14000 days.

None of us knows how many days we get. If you're reading this, you have today. We can all make a list of highlights from the days we have had so far. And today is an opportunity to not only reflect with gratitude the bounty of life that we have already received, but also to build upon it and add another highlighting experience to our list.