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Sunday, March 19, 2017

We now have an(other) 18 year old!

We now have an 18 year old! Hard to believe he is so old With him going to friends houses to watch them open mission calls and planning out college classes and arranging prop - it all feels a little surreal. We had his birthday dinner a day early - steak, fruit salad and chocolate milk with ice cream cake - as Wednesday night was our mutual night. Luckily his very kind "mission presidents" stuck a candle in his cannoli for him. This weekend he had a combination Christmas/birthday present with going out for sushi with Jeremy and then going to a Panic at the Disco concert at night. He had a great time. He jammed his knee which we learned by loud screaming one morning when he couldn't stand up or walk. Luckily we have a knee expert in our house and a few hours later things shifted and he could bend his leg again. But it did mean a few days of no exercise for him which made us all really appreciate him going to cross fit on a regular basis.

Jeremy had his company's Big Outdoor Expo last weekend.  Lots of work leading up to it with design and advertising.  Allison worked both days for him taking tickets and Spencer worked all day Saturday before leaving to work at Chubby's (I figured out he worked 15 hours straight that day - it was awesome).  Robyn, Taylor and I just got to go enjoy all the booths.   In fact Robyn liked it so much she had me take her and her friend back again in the afternoon.

The girls had their piano recital.  Both were disappointed on how they did but I thought they did wonderfully.  Allison had a piano festival she competed in as well.  Allison is starting to do some really tough pieces which makes for lots of practicing.  Allison also had her big choir concert and she and Robyn have started the busy season for their play.  So they are staying busy and music is filling our house.

Robyn had battle of the books at school this week where she competed with teams to decide who knew the most trivia for the books their grade has read this year.  We have gone in the span of 2 weeks from Robyn reading books by the fireplace with hot chocolate and dunkers:

to her having a group of friends over for a spring is here party of painting pots, planting flowers and making muddy buddies.

Odds and ends of the weeks are Taylor breaking his Daffos and the visits needed to fix them, Jeremy's studio being sold so looking for a place to move to and Jeremy having some photo gigs.

Biggest news was that I got a job for next year.  I have interviewed at a couple of schools and all of them I could see working at.  But the one school I really, really wanted offered me a job at a local Jr High and I accepted.  I knew since it was mentioned as a possibility in January that that school just felt and sounded right.  So that is what I have been praying and hoping for.  Lots of really nice people and some little miracles and it all came together for me.  Big stress of my shoulders.  I have two more weeks to finish up all my school work and get it sent in for review, one more graded observation and then I just get to enjoy teaching for a few more weeks.  So close.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

If this is it...then I will be happy

I notice that my posts are getting fewer and fewer.  Mostly because the days seem to just blur together.  I was talking to a neighbor and she was saying that life for her is work, kids, church and sleep but if that's all her daily life consists of for the rest of her life she would be content.  It was a good reminder for me to remember how blessed I am and to enjoy this new routine of our life.  It doesn't make for very exciting blog entries but it makes for a happy life.

School is going well.  The teaching part is just a lot of fun.  I even enjoy the prep part, I just never have enough time it seems like.  Most of my week nights and weekends are spent preparing lessons and doing assignments.  I got to go up to Logan last weekend with a fellow cohort member who lives in Payson.  We drove up Sunday night and stayed in the hotel on campus because we had a class at 9 am and were worried about snow.  So we were all dressed and headed to breakfast at 8 am when we got the call that because the canyon was closed to all but 4 wheel drives with chains they had cancelled the day.  So we spent the morning meeting with our professor, waiting for the canyon to clear and then came home.  I beat kids home from school which made us all happy.  Right now I am in the middle of applying to schools to teach and I am really appreciating the efforts of many friends to help me get a good position at a near by school.

We have had a few fun things these last weeks.  I took Spencer, Allison and Robyn one night to see Peter and the Starcatchers at Hale Theater.  Allison loved those books as a child but I had never read them so didn't know what to expect.  It was an awesome play and very different than those we had seen before.

One Saturday Robyn, her friend Jill and I took Jasper up to the Humane Society to get his shots and worm medication as well as pet all the animals there.  I wish it were closer because our kids would live there on weekends if possible, especially Robyn.  Robyn has been enjoying doing Student Council at school as they help organize the Battle of the Books.  They finished reading a book about a book scavenger hunt so she quickly printed out scavenger hunt instruction and had to run to a park to hide it.  She has been enjoying her drawing class every week especially learning how to use pastels.

Saturday night with Spencer at work the rest of us got to go enjoy a Vocal Point concert while Jeremy took photos.  Their version of Nearer My God to Thee just brings me to tears every time.  Throw in some milk shakes and fries on the way home and Dad's night out was a huge success with the girls. 

Allison has been busy practicing for her piano recital and festival this coming weekend, doing choir, practicing for the play and doing tons of homework.  She and Jeremy both caught a cold which left Jeremy sniffling and coughing for two weeks but made Allison pretty wimpy and miserable for a few days.  Luckily she has a friend who is willing to spend a weekend watching a princess movie marathon with her.  I did get to go with her and the YW to watch a BYU volleyball game along with Spencer and Jeremy.  Robyn, our anti-volleyball member of the family babysat Taylor for us instead.

On President's Day the kids and I headed up to SLC to see the new Family History museum.  Unfortunately it was closed so Allison and Kaori hit up the mall and the rest of us did a tour of the conference center.  Spencer is still a little bitter about it.

Jeremy and I were able to go one night to the Police recognition dinner.  It amazes me how much the police in our community do in return for so little.  He has enjoyed being a part of the Honorary Colonels and getting involved in the community.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How do you handle a rough week?

You know those weeks. The ones where day after day just seems to pile on from the unpleasantness of the previous day. When there just doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, at least that you an see. Where you just feel blah, then awful, then downright terrible. You know what I’m talking about, because we’ve all had them.

So it’s really more of a question than any particular answer I might have to offer. How do YOU handle it?

This week has been a tough one physically. Just as I think I’m starting to get a handle on the whole crappy sleep thing, all that sleep depravation combined with my lower immune system left me open to catching a cold. Nothing special, just your garden variety cold I think. But add that on top of everything else already in play and it makes each day that much harder. Each morning a little more difficult to get out of bed early and keep up the healthy fight. Each night a little harder to sleep because, you know, that coughing thing does make sleeping a bit tougher as well.

By Wednesday I was dragging along and my gut decided to chime in. “Hey, remember me?” The sharpest and most consistent pain I’ve felt since being diagnosed. As in doubled over ouch.

I know, ladies out there are rolling their eyes saying we go through this pretty often too you know. Lately I’m feeling a lot more sympathy for you.

For whatever reason it was a doozy, and I have no big change in my diet or activity I can pinpoint as the cause. Just one of those things I’m dealing with as part of the challenge. But thankfully I was able to take some sleep assistance, crawl into bed and by morning feeling ok again. Back on the bike and enjoying some fitness driven endorphins. Apologies to those on bikes around me having to endure the periodic hacking into my elbow. I do try to avoid spreading the unwanted bugs.

Friday I got some tough news on some things work related, which only adds to the stress. Crap. That’s been all too frequent in the last few years. Who knows how that will turn out. Don’t need that right now, but what can you do? Just work harder and try to contribute to the solution.

Mostly that’s been my week. Up each day putting forward some effort to be healthy as I can, be productive, and get to bed each night early enough to get a full night of sleep if my body will cooperate. I can definitely feel the difference when I get a more solid set of sleep hours vs when the night is more interrupted. But then can’t we all?

This too shall pass

That’s how I typically make it through any challenge in life. Realizing there is an end in sight, or a finish line I can work toward. That’s how I hit the rest button on my weight and fitness, putting forward a plan with a finite goal in mind. I can do anything for a specific period of time. Cut the calories and tough it through the hunger. Check. Cycle a little harder knowing there is only so many more minutes left in the class? I got this. Those kind of challenges are easy to wrap my mind around.

These bigger ones take a bit more thought and finding a long term view.

The outcome in this case is uncertain. I don’t control all the factors involved. We have our goals, hopes and expectations, but some of this we have to just trust that whatever happens will happen. I hope some day to be able to say that changing my health in a significant way this last year saved my life. Not just figuratively, but literally.

So I still believe this too shall pass, but cancer really is one of those things that never does fully pass. It’s with you as a challenge for the rest of your life. There’s gotta be some other life lesson to be found there, right?

Thanks to you

As I’ve mentioned many times, all I can do is what I can do, and I try to do that each day. I’m grateful to those that have offered their support in so many ways. Even those small gestures to stop by and say hi, or that card that comes in the mail with a “thinking of you” sentiment. I’m continually amazed at the thoughtfulness of people I know have busy lives and somehow have thought to follow that prompt to send a note of encouragement.

To those ladies that stopped by with a some gift cards and a hug for my wife. To those neighbors who know a gift card that lets me take the kids for a some solo time and a treat means more than anything. To those near life long friends of my parents that send a note with some crafty origami of a dollar bill and words of encouragement. To those friends that drag my butt to the gym or yoga to make sure I don’t give in on a particularly groggy morning. To those…the list goes on, and you all know who you are. Thank you. I’m finding this journey to be a team effort, and your efforts sure have made a difference.

So how do I handle a rough week?

After experiencing my week, I happened online to see a friend lament at his bad week. And it was a bad one from what was shared. Reminds me that no matter how bad things seem to get, there’s always someone else having a worse time at it. Sometimes days, weeks or even longer periods of time can pretty much suck. There’s no two ways about it. We can have the best attitude about it all and have the long view in mind, but it’s ok to sometimes admit that at the moment, some things are just not great. Sucky. Crappy. No bueno.

Do what you need to do. Have a good cry. Drive up in the mountains and shout it out to the sky. That’s a particular favorite of mine. But what we do after that is what really matters. Pick yourself up and move forward. This week it was all about getting to the next bit of fitness to fuel with some endorphins & sweat. The photo at the top of this note is my happy to be in some warmer weather little dog dragging me for a mile or so. Good stuff.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. This next day, this next week, this next month. Just look forward to the next upswing and work toward making the next day better. Seems a whole lot better than any alternative.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some Questions and Answers

Over the last couple of months there have been plenty of questions asked about how things are going, and of course how everyone is doing, both about me and my family. I appreciate the interest and concern, and always try to share honestly exactly what’s going on and the latest in what I know about my situation.

I also know that not everyone reads everything I write. I know I probably wouldn’t if I wasn’t the one doing the writing! So I thought it would be good to address some of the most common questions in the update today. If you already know it all, feel free to carry on scrolling through your social feed. Actually, if you know it all please let me know the answers because I’m still figuring some of it out myself!

First, what’s the latest? I had my first visit with my Oncologist this week after starting my treatment. I was having a rough week physically, mostly due to many nights of poor sleep in a row. We talked about my blood draw results, the pain I’ve been feeling, sleep, diet, etc. If nothing else my doc is a good listener. I explained my issues and what I felt were the possible contributing factors, and he pretty much agreed with all my conclusions.

On the pain side, it’s pretty much suck it up buttercup. No, he didn’t use those words. That’s my paraphrasing and applying a bit of my opinion. He agreed that most of my abdominal pain was the tumor pressing agains my gut and organs, and likely much of it is a result of whatever is happening in my digestion mixed with bad sleep. So I’m adjusting some of my diet choices to see if I see benefits and we are trying some sleeping aids to try and get back on track on the sleep side of things. Hopefully overall that will get me more consistently having good days over bad ones in how I feel.

By the end of this week I’m feeling like I’m on the upswing a bit. Though I have a cold, I’ve stilled worked out each day (hard), my weight is back down a bit (yes!), and my gut has felt a bit better with the adjustments in my diet even after just a few days. Baby steps.

Now on to the most frequent questions.

What kind of cancer do you have?

My tumor is called a Gastrointenstinal Stromal Tumor, or GIST. It’s a rare form of Sarcoma typically located in peritoneal cavity (the gut) originating from the small intestine or lymph node.

How bad is it?

Short answer is it’s pretty bad but hopefully treatable. With some areas being a little undefined without surgery, my doctor has classified me as an upper Stage 3 to lower State 4 cancer. Mostly due to the size of my tumor, which is big. Like really big for it’s type. 20 cm (8 in) on it’s longest measurement and all around my spleen. On the good side it’s a slower growing tumor and isn’t clearly seen in other organs at this point, though that isn’t conclusive.

This shake you're using, did it cause the cancer?

Short answer, no the shakes did not in anyway cause my cancer. I know my rapid weight loss and talking about it makes this a real question that has been asked or thought about by many and probably left unasked. The nutritional shakes I’ve been using are called OGX Fenix by a company called Organo. They were simply a way for me to maintain great nutrition despite reducing my calories to lose weight. While the shakes do have a proprietary blend of ingredients, at their base they are a whey protein and other high quality nutrients. They did not create my cancer. In fact, looking at the size of my cancer and it’s low mitosis (growth), it’s likely been there for a very long time before I started losing weight.

Did losing weight so fast cause it?

What the whole body transition did do for me was allow for this cancer to be found. I shrunk my core so much smaller than it was before, removing fat and space within my abdominal cavity that the large tumor was pressed against all the other organs causing pain. That led to me finally get into the doctor and the cancer diagnosis. So I’m still thankful for that benefit of getting into the healthier mindset again and getting in shape.

Are you still drinking those shakes?

After losing weight they’ve been a great way to continue to get protein as I focused more on my active lifestyle and overall fitness. So yes I’m still utilizing the shakes daily for good nutrition and continuing to manage my weight with good diet. I often make a morning shake that includes spinach or kale, ice, a couple of pieces of fruit and a banana. I vary the ingredients a bit for variety. During the day I often have a salad for lunch with various veggies, nuts and veggies for snacks, and then a sensible dinner focused on portion sizes for overall calorie control. I’ve maintained my weight loss now for an additional 7 months since the initial challenge. How are you able to workout so much?

Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

Sleep is definitely a top priority for me right now. My issue isn’t falling asleep, I seem to do that just fine because frankly I’m exhausted by the end of the day. The problem is I typically wake up multiple times after a few hours of sleep due to pain or discomfort, then have a hard time getting back to sleep. Eating healthy and being active physically has been the BEST medicine for my overall ability to handle each day. So even on those mornings where I’m groggy from lack of sleep or feeling terrible, I’m forcing myself to get up and stick to my routine. But in order to do this I’m getting up at 5:20am each morning, so therefore going to bed at 9:20pm each evening. So I’m working hard to get in the 8 hours each night, we just need to get it so I get in a quality 8 hours instead of this interrupted garbage I’ve been experiencing recently!

So the fitness is part of my plan of attack, and even on those rough mornings I feel so much better after for having done the effort. Those fitness endorphins are a real thing!

Is the cancer treatment working?

At this point we have no idea. Unfortunately the drug I am on is a long process. I wish I knew answers already! What we do know is I’m feeling the side effects, but they are manageable overall. Fatigue, rash, digestive pain and mostly interrupted sleep has made it tough at times. My blood work has reflected numbers that are expectedly lower than normal, but normal for this kind of treatment. The first time the doc will look for measurable results is with a CT scan in a few more months.

Is this chemo? Will you have radiation?

The drug I am taking is called Gleevec. It’s not chemo, but it’s kinda like it in a way. Gleevec was developed specifically for this type of cancer and is a growth blocking treatment. It’s had good success overall for this type of cancer, so we are hopeful. Radiation is not effective against this type of cancer.

What if this treatment doesn't work?

Good question. I don’t have a lot of info on what’s next. Mostly we are remaining hopeful and optimistic on the current treatment and my healthy efforts. Generally speaking they would look at possible surgery to remove part of the tumor or other more experimental drugs.

Sugar feeds cancer. Are you sugar free?

I’m reading about a lot of different dietary treatments for cancer. There really is no one perfect answer, and everyone’s bodies are different. That said, generally a healthy diet is the best treatment you can do on your own. Ever since embarking on losing the weight I’d put on in recent years, I’ve skipped all deserts, sweets in general and processed sugars. So I skip all that anyway. Being truly sugar free is harder than many might think. Fruits have natural sugars. Breads and carbs in general are turned into sugars as they are digested. My shakes have pure cane sugar in them. So no, I am not 100% sugar free, but I am really low in my sugar intake. I’ve recently cut out almost all breads from my daily intake, relegating it to a very periodic indulgence as part of an effort to see what might help in my digestive related pain. I may get even closer to purely sugar free if I choose to try some other dietary approaches I’m researching.

Meat causes cancer. Have you gone vegan?

Animal proteins are another hot topic as it relates to cancer. I’m reading more about this (slowly) and have cut way back on any meats. Again I haven’t gone completely vegetarian or vegan yet, but significantly more so than in the past. I enjoy chicken chunks in salad, and boy howdy a great burger is much more enticing to me than any dessert. But for now it’s out of my diet. Sigh.

Have you hear about ________ clinic?

Probably the most common suggestion I’ve received next to various diets is out of state or out of country cancer clinics. While they likely do great things, right now my focus is on treatment available to me here at home. I’m doing much in my own diet and fitness efforts combined with the traditional medicine available to me. If those don’t work, perhaps I’ll look closer at other options out there. I really don’t have the financial latitude to try anything like those anyway.

How expensive is your treatment?

The drug I’m on costs $10,000/mo retail in the US. That’s craziness. Outlandishly crazy. I’m very fortunate to be insured through my employer, which covers 70% of that prescription cost. I’m sure they are thrilled to have me as a client. I did qualify for manufacturer assistance on the drug, so I’m able to pay only a copay on the prescription. That was a HUGE relief.

There are still plenty of other costs involved. The oncologist is of course a specialist, so the copay there is higher. Regular blood draws, the cost of the biopsy and various scans are high. I have a high deductible and out of pocket insurance plan. Other prescriptions and supplements I am trying have their costs. Then there are the less apparent costs of having to do less freelance work simply because I don’t have the energy and have to sleep more means less income. It all adds up, but overall we’ve been able to handle the expenses.

Have you heard about ketosis?

Diets that put your body into ketosis are another area I’m reading and exploring. It’s definitely a bit more extreme in what is required to maintain daily and the discipline. I am not doing it yet, but it’s a possibility to try.

Have your tried essential oils?

I have been talking to one friend about what oils might alleviate or help with the various side effects I’m feeling. I’m willing to give most things a try that might improve my sleep, digestion, etc. after I’ve researched them a bit.

Are you able to work?

Yes! Fortunately most days I’m feeling well enough to put in a full day at work. Some days are a bit harder and I’m toughing through the discomfort, pain or overall fatigue. Unfortunately I’ve had to pass on some project work where I was failing the clients in how long things were taking to get done. My work has been very helpful and supportive and outside of a few sliding deadlines I’ve been able to keep up on things.

How’s your family handling this?

They are troopers. Really they are super supportive and allow me to having my bad days with the good ones filling in the gaps when they appear. Heather is super busy with student teaching, so daily schedules were already going to be hectic this year, and they definitely have been. We’re managing though and grateful to some neighbors that have helped with some rides for kids when we just can’t be in enough places at once!

Do you mind being asked about this again and again?

I think from my previous post “When the Sympathy Fades” some people got the impression that I didn’t want to talk about the cancer at all. No, I don’t mind at all really. I was mainly wanting to make sure people felt released of any feeling of responsibility to always talk about it. Feel free to ask away. But also feel free to not ask about it. It’s ok. I’m ok. We’re ok.

Do you have other questions?

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them. My goal has been to share this adventure with anyone that is along for the ride. I love your support and know that it’s only through knowledge and awareness that others can benefit from my challenge. Include your questions below or message me if you’d prefer. I may share further answers in a video or other means if I have enough questions asked.

Your weekly dose of optimism

And now for your dose of optimism. Despite a harder week, I’m working through the physical difficulties of pain and sleep and starting to feel a swing to the better side. I read a quote this week “Treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping.” What a good way to look at things, especially when it comes to making hard adjustments that should prove beneficial but frankly are not what you want in the here and now! We can all do a little better in helping ourselves as we would help someone else we care about.

That’s all for now folks!

I finally let Allison drive me a few times.  She is always eager to hop behind the wheel.  Jeremy takes it much more in stride letting her drive everywhere.  This week Allison finished up her online Financial Literacy class and did a very relieved happy dance.  She has not enjoyed that class at all.  I on the other hand thought it was full of actual useful information!  She and I got to go see LaLa Land together and I thought how grateful I was to have a daughter who is willing and wanting to share such things with me.  She loved all the tap numbers and is busy practicing away for her play in the garage tapping away, wishing we had heat out there.  We had New Beginnings this week and she helped do one of the rotations.  I was just beaming with happiness in her ability to stand up and bear her testimony.  She did say on the first rotation our bishop was in the room, on the second it was a member of the Stake Presidency and she said in the third with her luck the prophet was going to walk in.

For my birthday we all drove up to Cheesecake Factory and everyone (but Jeremy) picked out their own slice.  In case you think I am mean, Taylor and I split one, he really did eat half of it!  Birthday was awesome as I had so many family and friends think of me.

Spencer and Jeremy did a late night when Jeremy was given tickets to see BYU basketball vs Gonzaga.  They had a great time marveling at how tall and how big a beard one player could wear.  Spencer had his first date Saturday night taking an awesome girl, Kaley to Sweethearts Dance with a group of friends.  They rented an archery range for the day date followed by Sodalicious.  Then at night they did photos with Jeremy, dinner at Macaroni Grill, dance with lots of mosh pitting (Spencer swears his date wanted to), and JCW's for shakes.  He had a great time and has been sleeping all afternoon to make up for it.

Spencer started attending the archery team at school and has discovered more of a social life.  He learned he could leave school with friends to go get pizza for lunch.  I asked him what happened to the lunch he brought and he replied that it was long gone by lunch time.  He lives by Hobbit rules - first lunch and second lunch whenever possible.  Met Spencer's doctor this week and he is told just to keep up meds and he is doing great. 

We had the Hall's over for Superbowl Sunday.  Ate way too many wings thanks to Jason and had a great time hanging out.  Watching football is incidental for me but talking, visiting and eating yummy stuff is wonderful.

This Sunday we had Stake Conference.  As part of it our Stake President and Elder Worthen (BYU Pres) came to visit us.  They were very kind and loving and just wanted to make sure we felt of their love for us.  I always feel like deer in the headlights a bit at visits like those.  Never quite know what to say.  Besides which its either true, or it isn't.  And if the gospel is true than we just trust the path we are on because we know the destination, put our heads down and get on with it - with as much joy as possible.

Student teaching is going well.  11 weeks left, 5 down.  I had my first observation this week which went pretty well although I have a long list of things to improve on!  I also had parent teacher conferences which made for a very, very long day.  No one does well with 12 hour work days, no one.  I think school should start late the next day and all teachers should be given brownie sundaes.  On Friday I got to take my class to Olive Garden for a 3 hour field trip.  We have been learning and practicing restaurant skills for a month now and it was fun to put them to use.  One boy ate I swear 10 breadsticks and a pizza.

With parent teacher conferences I only got to go to Robyn's and Tayor's.  Both are doing well.  Spencer and Allison I just have to trust their grades posted online are telling the true story and emailing the teachers.

Jeremy met with the oncologist this week.  Blood test numbers are low but normal for being on his medication.  Won't look at a CT scan till summer.  For now just suck it up, stick it out and wait.  Can't do anything for the pain as its all pressure related so he is trying hard to eat small meals, mostly plants to keep his digestive system as empty as possible so there is less pressure on the tumor.  Some days are great, some days not so much.  They did prescribe some sleep medication which he can use a few times a week and I am hoping getting some sleep in will help the pain.  I know I feel much better when he sleeps better at night.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

No Really, Life is Good

How goes the battle

First a little update on the journey. Overall I really can't complain. Compared to the extreme effects of typical chemo and radiation, I feel like what I'm experiencing is relatively not that bad. Most of this last week I felt pretty decent, if a little tired and easy to fatigue. I've got some other minor expected physical reactions, but overall the biggest struggle is fatigue, difficulty sleeping and abdominal pain. But more days are good than bad, and for that I am grateful!

This last week the first several days were good, the last few days not so good. The days that are harder involve stronger gut pain that radiates out to overall joint and muscle pain much like when you have the flu. Yeah, yuck. It's no bueno. But again, its more manageable and at a level I can simply push through with some willpower. Be stubborn in a good way. Oorah. We can do this.

Most days I wake up early and stick to my workout routine. Monday, Thursday and Saturday spin class. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday weightlifting. Tuesday yoga at the rec center. Friday hot yoga at a Brick Canvas. Busy? Yep. But I find pushing myself to stick to the daily early schedule and rolling out of bed despite really wanting to succumb to the fatigue has helped me more than anything. Yet I haven't succeeded every day. This Saturday I had to give in after several nights in a row of little sleep and increasing gut pain to miss spin class in exchange for some additional attempted sleep. I didn't really sleep though and wished I'd still gone to spin. Still, got in some weights and felt better for it.

I'll take that as a win. Sometimes we retreat a little before we charge forward again.

Two weeks in on the daily dose of Gleevec and doing pretty well in handling the actual taking of the pills. By taking the pills right before bed I've avoided the nausea, which is a welcome success. Had my first blood draw this week to check levels and how the drug is impacting my system, but as of yet don't know the results. Doctor appointment in another couple of weeks.

So there are struggles. There are pains. But it's manageable and for the most part I just do my best to live each day the same as before. We still do family stuff, like the choir concerts, running kids to all their stuff, the family outing to take in a BYU volleyball game.

Live. Enjoy. Love. I can't complain.

Now on to some ramblings of my thoughts this last week. You with me?

Life Is Good, The Book

A few weeks ago I mentioned receiving a gift of a book titled "Life Is Good" by Bert and John Jacobs, founders of the Life Is Good apparel company and charitable foundation. I appreciated the gesture of goodwill both in those sharing of my challenge and attitude, and the support from their organization.

I dove into the book and found it a quick read with a simple message of optimism and celebrating the good in the world. The founders emit an earthy, hippyish outlook that seems to be displaced by a few decades, yet is also fitting to more of what our society needs. With news feeds crammed full of divisive rhetoric, fake and deceptive news, and highlighting all the worst events of the day, recognizing and enjoying what is good in each other is a refreshing alternative.

The book shares the story of their struggles to build a business literally from the back of a van for many years while describing what they describe as life's superpowers accessible to us all: openness, courage, simplicity, humor, gratitude, fun, compassion, creativity, authenticity, and love. Applying these superpowers to our outlook and daily efforts can surely only help in how we feel, how we treat others and our outlook when life throws us curveballs. Even those crazy screwballs.

There is so much in life to be grateful for, and no matter what direction our health turns, we can still celebrate and cherish those good things. Life changes, whether it be health, jobs, relationships, whatever, they tend to help us refocus on what matters most to us. Priorities. Simplify by cutting out what doesn't matter. Remove whatever steals our time, energy and mental effort without returning anything of real value.

Positivity & optimism are part of the treatment. A better outlook simply makes us feel better even when other influences are pushing against us.

Inspired by “Clouds”

Have you heard the song “Clouds” by Zach Sobiech and the story behind it? I saw this video several years ago and the resulting response by many touched by his message. Embrace every day with hope and joy. What an inspiration. Knowing his time here was limited, he made the most of it. He loved and was loved. He left a legacy and inspired so many. It sure has even more meaning to me now.
"You don't have to find out you're dying to start living." -Zach Sobiech
We don’t have to be dying to do the same. I don’t have the musical talent like his, but I hope to make the most of the time and cherish those I love. We can choose to live at any time and for any reason.

Then there was the amazing response coordinated by the channel “Sound Pancake” makers of the ever awesome Kid President.

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." - Oscar Wilde
Do more than exist. Really, truly live. I’m hearing that message loud and clear.

Peace. Calm. Be Present.

I’m a recent yoga practitioner, and I use that term very heavy emphasis on the “practice” element of the word. I always knew it had good benefits, but frankly the hippy-dippy, earthy side of it was always a bit too much for me. Fortunately the classes I attend are a bit light on the philosophy, more helping with strength, balance, focus, alignment, etc. They help newbies like me approach the practice.

This week during hot yoga at Brick Canvas while I was mid pose, trying to balance, compress, and stretch all while shaking a bit (ok more than a bit) with exertion, the instructor said to the class “If you can find peace here, you can find peace anywhere.” I chuckled a bit but the more I processed it, the more the statement started to make some deeper sense to me. If we can find peace when we are in the midst of our greatest struggle or exertion, then we can find peace in aspects of life.

A little epiphany for me. If I can find peace in my current biggest struggle(s), then I can find peace at any time. I can find the positive even while wading through a strong current of adversity.

A little later in class she encouraged us to “be present” here, in class, in the moment, in the movement we were making. Clear our minds of everything else and be present. Experience all the moment has to offer. Again, building on the previous thought, find peace and be present. How true this is in all areas of our life.

Being present often means pushing aside distractions and giving our full attention to who or what task is in front of us. I’m guilty as anyone - if not more so - of letting those phone notifications steal away my focus, even a part of my brain. I’ve had to turn off many of my notifications, keeping my phone on silent, and even putting my phone upside down on a counter away from me so I can stay in the moment during dinner or spending time with family or friends. And it’s not just the n computer gets riddled with notifications for email, messenger, SMS, tabs open in various social media, etc. More and more I’m finding the joy in simply closing and turning these off. I love the interaction with people, but too often it steals away my focus.

Especially during that oh so important date time with my lovely bride, the phone has to go away so I can make eye contact, listen and be in the moment. Those times are far more important than any notification I’m going to receive. Except maybe the kids calling to say the house is on fire. That call would be a good one to answer. Except usually the call from home is because child 1 is upset with child 2 and they want you to resolve their dispute and side with them. Fortunately those calls don’t happen too much any more. Old parent benefit.

Fuel for the soul

The Life Is Good group has received thousands of letters of personal experiences and inspiration based on their resonating message. Often these notes are thanking them for their message and efforts to help others. They call these "Fuel" notes. In their book and online. Eh share some amazing stories of people with tremendous challenge, loss and difficulty, yet they express a message of gratitude and optimism. Amazing and beautiful.

I have come to view messages and comments received from all of you much the same, especially those with personal stories of success, struggle and optimism. Thank you to every one of you being willing to share your suggestions, your support, your sympathy, your encouragement.

I love the reminder from so many that yes, there is life after cancer. Life while you fight cancer. Most importantly this is about living life, cherishing all those people and things that matter most. These truly are fuel for my soul.

Now It's Your Turn

How great would it be if we all spent more time sharing and celebrating what is good instead of the many problems we see in the world. Those bad things don't go away, but we can sure feel better talking about some good things too.

So can I ask a favor? Can I give you an assignment today? You can say no, but I hope you'll give it a try.

Take a moment and leave a comment of something good you did, saw or just thought was cool recently. I love good quotes that inspire or motivate. How about a person you really appreciate or is an example to you. Share any of these as a comment here, or share it on your timeline and put a link to it here in a comment. Share something good so we can all celebrate and enjoy it together. If nothing else, we can enjoy a little good in the world for a moment and reset our perspectives.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Snickers, Volleyball, Portraits, Oh My

Snickers the class pet bunny came home with Robyn this weekend.  It means that we have sawdust shavings all over our house and two happy girls who wish their bunny was so cuddly and willing to give kisses.

This week we started to get our groove on handling life.  It helps that every time I turn around someone seems to be doing something kind for our family.  Seriously, it is overwhelming because I just can't say thank you enough and with enough emphasis for the love that is being shown towards us.  There is the saying that it takes a village to raise a child while in our case it is taking a ward, an extended family and a network of friends to carry us through this time of life.

Allison had choir concerts this week.  We split it so Jeremy went to the first concert, I went to the second and Robyn made brownies for all of her choir carpool to pick up and eat after the last concert.  She had a really generous person reach out to her this week and help her out with something that just blew us away.  Truly our kids are learning about the power of love right now.  She is busy practicing along with Robyn so our house if usually ringing with different songs from the Music Man.  Saturday night Spencer had to work but the rest of us had an awesome night out, and of course Kaori, Allison's friend was along for the ride.  I think most pictures should be titled, "Our family...and Kaori".  I am so glad that she has entered Allison's life and they cheer each other on to be even better than they are.  Couldn't have asked for a better friend, except for when her family talks of moving and then we are not happy.  We went to get Kup Bop, a Korean noodle place as Jeremy pointed out that I wasn't being very politically correct to celebrate Chinese New Year's.  BYU volleyball game that they won in super tight sets.  Thanks to Taylor we sat right in the front behind the players and were in the thick of the action.  And then Jeremy took all the girls for ice cream.  Can't ask for a better family outing than that!  One volleyball player gave Taylor a poster and a mini-volleyball.  Taylor gripped that ball and patted it all night long.

 Taylor helping to pick up the girls from practice.  He is doing well.  Struggles between not eating and being constipated and then the opposite where he eats like there is no tomorrow.  He still loves Megan who gives him a massage twice a week.  Jasper got a bark collar today and I have high hopes that his barking every time Megan rings the doorbell are at an end.

Robyn has been busy making movies with her friend.  It involves lots of giggling, script writing and parading around in outlandish costumes.  A few weeks ago she started a drawing class once a week with a friend.  She has loved learning how to hold a sketch pencil correctly and making projects.    And yes she is gorgeous but has huge bags under her eyes as she stays up with the big kids and gets up the earliest so she can have a quiet uninterrupted bath every morning and her hair will air dry by school time.   We are working on that!

Spencer is struggling with senioritis and just wants to be done with homework already - especially Chemistry.  Most nights you just hear this mutter, grumble sound coming from the dining room.  Saturday I got to take him to lunch and then the archery range which was fun just to hang out and let him talk my ear off.  We had a Duty to God fireside last week and I am hoping it was good kick in the tush for him to get his priests section done when he got his Deacon and Teacher recognitions.

Student teaching is going well.  It really is a lot of fun to do all the teaching part and leave the administrative stuff to the teacher.  I had a district training for a few hours this week and it reminded me that its time to start applying for jobs for next year.  Hard to believe that its here already.  Some big decisions to make!  I had my group of Orem friends meet me for dinner Friday night.  Good food, good friends, lots of laughs and hugs.  There is something really comforting about being with people who have known you for 18 years and where we all have shared our life stories.  And then I got to meet two more friends Saturday for a run.  I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people.