Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reunited, and it feels so good...

So...the reunion between Gage and me....not at all what I had pictured or hoped.  I went to the airport to meet him, my sister, and my brother-in-law.  Mikey went with me.  Ben, Sadie, and Dylan were still en route to Idaho.  My parents went to the airport, too.  When they came out of those doors and approached us, I saw Gage, I knelt down, and I gently said, "Gagie!" I opened my arms to have him run into them. 

And he ducked behind his uncle Chris and wouldn't look at me or touch me.

It was devastating.

I had a hat on, and we had FaceTimed so often that he had seen me bald and he had seen me with hats.  So it wasn't that.  He was just...weirded out.  Plus he had been up for a really long time and had flown for a really long time.  And he has autism.  Change, transition...these things are hard for him. 

I feel so guilty about this whole thing.  He's doing so much better than he was when he left, but sometimes I think, "Did this mess him up emotionally?  Is he going to have abandonment issues for the rest of his life because of me???"  But then he'll actually ask me, in a complete sentence, for something that he needs, and I think, "My sister did such a good job!  He has grown by leaps and bounds!!"  It's just so complex.

Anyways, it took him a few hours to warm up to me, and a few days, really, to get back to where we were when he left, but things have been great since then.  Right before we left - the passing of the child from the aunt to the mommy:

And no, my left pinky isn't deformed or broken.  I'm not sure what was happening there.

He did really well on the long drive to Oregon:

And he has settled in really well to our apartment.  He and Micah sleep on the third floor loft area.  It's a large room with the kids' Wii  and our computer all set up.  There's a couch up there....it's nice.  Because the kids all spend so much time up there, and Gage likes to be with them, he really loves having all of his toys and his bed there.

Micah is also thrilled to be reunited with his siblings.  He and Gage got along for about....a day...and then they got back to their incessant fighting.  Micah is jealous of Gage's toys.  Gage is jealous of Micah's toys.  Neither will share.  It's fun for me.  But honestly, I'm not bitter about being back in Referee Mode.  My family is together!!! 

We have dinner together at the table!  We play games!

We snuggle!  I can take care of things while Ben is at work!  He, Dylan, and Sadie are glad to have me back.

I have to take little rests throughout the day still.  I mean, it's only been two weeks since my last chemo.  The first day we were here, I worked most of the day to organize and unpack things, and I started feeling really gross and had to rest for quite awhile in the evening.  Yesterday, I tried to rest a little bit more, and only collapsed into a heap at about 7:00 p.m. instead of 4:00 p.m. :)  It will just take time, and I need to be patient with myself.  This reminds me so much of trying to recover from my hysterectomy.  The pain from the surgery didn't last long.  It was just the sheer exhaustion that I felt afterwards that killed me.  It was a good two months of major resting.  My oncologist in Idaho told me that it would take about six months to really get back to the stamina I had before this whole thing began.

Things are in the works for me to see my new oncologist soon.  I've had to make a lot of phone calls and jump through a lot of hoops and do all that crap you have to do when you get new insurance and move to a new state - finding a primary care physician, getting a referral from him, blah blah blah.  But my dad and I chose an oncologist here in Bend long before I got here; we chose a health plan that had her in its provider network.  I'm supposed to start radiation in two weeks, so hopefully we can get things going soon.

I got lost yesterday trying to find the bank.  Haha!  But it wasn't entirely unpleasant.  Bend is adorable.  Evergreen trees everywhere.  Cute little craftsman-style houses.  Mom-and-Pop stores galore.  I think I'll really like it here.

The apartment...well, it's drafty.  It hasn't really gotten very cold here yet until the last couple of days, so it's taken Ben and the older kids by surprise, as well.  It's -10 today, and our ground floor is frigid.  It has like five windows, and a really drafty front door, so I think that's our problem.  I'm trying to find all of our blankets (Ben hasn't completely unpacked from clear back in September), and when I do, I'm going to literally tack them against the windows to help keep the heat in. We won't have much natural light, but at least it won't be like 55 degrees in our living room and kitchen.  It's weird living in a townhouse again.  The last time I lived in a townhouse, I was in college.  Lots of stairs, but that's good for the ole' quads.

I tried to get the Two Littles enrolled in school before Christmas break, but I haven't completed that process yet.  I was so sick and didn't finish the forms for Micah in time, so he may start school a day late.  Ah well.  An inconvenience, not an emergency.  And I couldn't get the lady at the special preschool to call me back, and she is off work all this week, as well, so Gage will probably start school a day late, too.  It will be okay.  I'm doing my best.  I'm really trying to watch my mental health, which means not stressing myself out about things not being perfect from the get-go.  I'm unable to hit the ground running.  So I'm hitting the ground limping.  Literally. Because my dumb foot is still giving me trouble.  So I'll limp along and slowly get everything ship-shape, eventually.

Kay, Gage just pooped in his pull-up, pulled a poo berry out of it, and tried to hand it to me.  So I'm on diaper duty (And yes, I need to potty train him.  Don't judge.  And remember that mentally, he's a two-year-old.  Baby steps.  I keep telling him that, if he poops in the potty, he can have a little wooden birdhouse like Micah does.  Oh, boy, does he ever covet that birdhouse.  Yesterday, he ninja pooped in his diaper, snuck into the bathroom, put the poo berries from his pull-up in the toilet, then proceeded to show me that there was poop in the toilet.  The kid has autism, but he is smart.  I had seen him sneak into the bathroom, but I hadn't seen him sit on the potty, so I knew his game.  I gently told him that I had to see him actually do it.  He understood that I was on to him and wisely let it go.). 

See ya!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Too scary for a little six-year-old.

So.  I spend a lot of time on the couch.  We've established this.  It comes with the territory.  The territory of chemo.  This territory should never apply for statehood.  It's not good enough to be a state.  It's a wild west, vigilante kind of desolate place.

Anyways, I end up watching a whole lot of really stupid kids' shows.  My personal top worst kids' show is Caillou.  He is such a WHINER!!  And I know he's voiced by some adult woman who just talks whiney and thinks she can pass as a little preschooler by doing that.  Not.  Caillou is a selfish punk.  Even though his name is cool.  But cool names do not necessarily a cool person make.

Narrator:  Caillou felt jealous.  He wanted his daddy to only pay attention to him, not to any of the other children on Caillou's baseball team.

Caillou:  Daddeeeeeeeee, I know you're the coach and all, but...I'm jealoussssssss!!!!!  Wahhhhhhhhh...

Even the lyrics of the theme song refer to his naughtiness:  "Growing up isn't so tough, except when I've had enough...."

Aw, you've had enough of your carefree life?  Your endless stream of snacks?  Not having to work?

Can't stand that kid.

Though I do need to give the animators of Caillou props for making his mom look like a real mom.  She's got a spare tire.  Because she has borne children.  Reality.  It's refreshing.

So now that there are some good Christmas shows on TV, and because Micah is the Holiday Man, I can usually talk him into switching from Horrible Caillou or Stupid Johnny Test (another hated cartoon of mine - "Hi!  I'm Johnny!  I'm selfish and use people and think it's funny to get crappy grades and play video games with my talking dog all day!"  *Shudder*) to a good kids' Christmas movie.

He's a huge fan of any rendition of A Christmas Carol.  He hasn't seen that one from the eighties with the weird, scary Gollum-like creatures that hang out under the Ghost of Christmas Present's fluffy robe.  Have you seen that one???  *Shudder*

So Home Alone was on the other night.  He was like, "It's not a cartoon.  I don't want to watch it."

I was like, "Babe, this show is seriously hilarious.  You'll love it.  I promise."  He said okay, and we snuggled in to watch.

As the danger to MacCauley Culkin increased with these menacing robbers casing his house, Micah started getting really agitated.  "Mom, I changed my mind.  I don't want to watch this.  I'm weally scared.  Can we watch something else???"  He started pacing and looking around for the remote.

"Oh, sweet, don't worry.  I've watched this show a ton.  Those guys don't lay a finger on him.  He is so smart.  He is going to kick their butts.  And it is really funny when he does."

"But why isn't his mommy there yet??"

"She's getting there as fast as she can.  Don't you worry.  And he has that nice guy next door with the beard that he can hang out with if he's scared."

Brow furrowed, he snuggled back in with me.  There were a couple of more times that he didn't think he could handle it, but ultimately, the blowtorch to the head, the iron to the face, the tar on the feet...he was giggling.

"You were wight, Mom! This show is funny!"

Then we pulled out A Christmas Story to watch.  Looooooooooove that movieeeee!!!  Micah had been playing a game on the iPad, but he eventually lost interest.  As he should.  Because this movie is the greatest.

But during that part when Ralphie just loses it, tackles Scott Farkus, and starts beating the crap out of him, Micah freaked out.  He started BAWLING.  He ran toward the TV, put both hands up to it, and shook them back and forth.  Then he turned around and blocked our view of the movie with his body, weeping and frantically searching the room for the remote.

"No!  NO!!  I can't watch this show anymore!  This is so scary!!!!  I can't!  I can't!!"

"Oh, kiddo, come here," I said.

He ran into my arms and tried to bury his face in my rock-solid weird boobs.  I rubbed his back.

"Are you scared because Ralphie beat up Scott Farkus?"


"But don't you remember all the times Scott Farkus hurt Ralphie and his friends?"

A pause.  "Yes."

"That didn't bother you."

"Well, it did.  It just wasn't as scary."

"Well, Ralphie was so tired of that, and he was so sad that he wasn't going to get that special gun for Christmas, and he just kind of...burst.  But look at Scott Farkus now - he got a little bloody nose, but he's not crying anymore.  And now he knows what it feels like to get beat up."


"And I'll bet he'll stop bothering Ralphie and his friends from now on, huh?  Look, I'm not saying that it was okay for Ralphie to fight Scott Farkus.  What do you think he should have done instead?"

"I don't know."

"Tell his mommy, that's what!!!  Tell his teacher!  Tell his daddy!  If anyone ever tries to hurt you at school or on the way to school, don't be like Ralphie, okay?  Tell me or daddy or your teacher or the counselor or the principal.  That way, nobody gets bloody noses."

Sniff.  "Okay."

It surprises me how tender this little man is.  Very, very sensitive.  It makes me feel badly.  I feel like I'm extremely careful about what I let my kids watch, and I thought I was playing it so safely...

By the way, at the end of Home Alone, where Macauley Culkin and his mom see each other at the base of the stairs and run and hug each other, I bawled like a baby.  It just...I don't know.  Macauley Culkin has these really big red lips, like my little Gagey.  And Gagey and I have been apart, and it's just been so awful, and I get to see him in two days!!  And I hope his face looks like Macauley's face does when I see him. I can't wait to hug and hug and hug him.  My little man.  Back with me again.  I can't WAIT!!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No diggety. No doubt. Unh.

Kay, first, a little housekeeping.  Thank you, oakleyses, for ruining the fun for ALL of us.  As Oh said in The Year One, "Well, there won't be any berries in the fruit salad now, so we all lose."

Oakleyses, this...this person, or computer program, or whatever the heckfire he is, spammed me.  He put all of these stupid long-arse comments on here that just listed products for fancy-arse clothing and purse brands.  Like five comments on each post.  The d-bag.

Look, Oakleyses.  You have NO IDEA WHO YOU'RE MESSING WITH HERE.  I have gone to hell and come back.  And I will get up in your grill and cause you a world 'o' PAIN if you think for one MINUTE that you can get onto my teeny little piece of the internet, where my friends and I gather to enjoy some peace and fun and communing with each other, and ruin it!!!  I will find out where you sleep.  And I will find a way to insert the Red Dragon into your body.  And then we can see how you feel about stupid-arse Louis Vuitton bags or whatever the hell you're selling or whoever the hell you work for.  Can you sleep at night??  Really?  Is it really worth whatever they pay you to get onto a CANCER SURVIVOR'S blog and ruin it??????????  (Hint:  No, no.  It's not.)

And just so you know, Oakleyses.  My readers don't give a rat's ARSE about Coach Bags or whatever.  They have more substance than that.  I ain't no fashion blogger.  We talk about deep stuff and funny stuff on here.  We talk about raising kids.  We share our souls.  My readers probably have one purse that they got at Wal-Mart.  Because Dolce and Gabbana bags DOOOOOO NOTTTTT MATTERRRRRRRRRRR.

Now let me just say that, if you really love bags and choose to spend your money on them, good on ya.  I'm just saying that my bet is that most of you don't really care about that stuff.  Otherwise, you wouldn't be visiting my blog.  Am I RIIIIIIIIIGHT??

So.  Goodbye, Oakleyses.  You watch your back.  I'm not kidding.  I may be weak right now, but I'm scrappy.  Visualize Joanna's two seconds on screen in Mockingjay Part 1.  She's skinny and bald. Um, I'm fat and bald.  But the point is, she is ripping out that oxygen thing and getting ready to fight whoever is up in her grill.  That's me.  Picture me sneering.  And please picture me skinny.  I will punch you.  I'll sit on you.  Whatever it takes.  Get off my piece of internet.  Buh-BYE.

Sorry.  That lasted longer than I thought it would.  Phew.  I've got a lot of anger inside sometimes. As Sadie used to say, Saw-yee!  So now I have comment moderator turned on for my blog.  I'm sorry I have to put another obstacle in front of good, honest, nice people.  It makes me mad.  But we gotta do what we gotta do.

Now to the fun part.  No Diggety.  By Black Street.  Circa...I don't know.  1995?  1996?  My very hip sister, Nat, had the CD.  One year, in that 1995 or 1996ish time, we were given the assignment to wrap presents.  We were sick to death of Christmas songs by then, so Nat popped Black Street into the CD player, and we listened to No Diggety on repeat.  Really loudly.  I'm surprised my dad didn't put a stop to it.  There are some nasty verses in there.

Thus a tradition was born.  Every year, all through college, and whenever we got married and visited, we listened to No Diggety and wrapped.  And rapped.  Bwahaha!  We loved it like 18 years or whatever before Pitch Perfect made it come back.  When I studied abroad in London, we went to an LDS singles dance, and I requested it.  That is how long No Diggety has been a part of our family.

One of my favorite parts of the song (there are tons) is at the end, where each singer names his girlfriend or wife.  I mean, during the song, each guy talks about how cool his girlfriend or wife is. Which is awesome:

Sheeee's got class and style...
true knowledge by the pile...
baby never act wild....
very low-key on the profile...

Isn't that cool?  I love that.

And then at the end, each guy says his wife or girl's name:

Jackie in full effect.
Lisa in full effect.
Nicky in full effect.
Tomeka in full effect.

So, of course, we would yell each others' names during that part of the song.  "Nat in full EFFECT!  Brianna in full EFFECT!  Alexis in full EFFECT!  Karlenn in full EFFECT!!"  It was the best.  Of course, we played No Diggety at Brianna's wedding reception, and I was in dang China for Lexi's, but I have a hunch it was probably played at her wedding, too. [I will regret missing Lexi's wedding until the day I DIE.  It makes me want to cry.  Every day.]

I actually felt good enough to wrap some presents yesterday! This is a HUGE deal, you guys.  I got the flu with this last round of chemo, and I couldn't even sit up for like five days.  So the fact that I'm able to sit up yesterday and today is HUGE!!  It's funny what you become thankful for.  I'm thankful I can sit up.  So, since I couldn't wrap/rap with my sisters, I sent them a leetle video:
Warning:  I look really poofy from IV's and from the chemo.  I'm starting to not even care anymore.  I mean, the jig is up.  I don't have hair, dude.  Who cares if I'm poofy?  I'm alive.  So I sent it to the sistahs, and you know what I got in response?

Lex:  Karlenn in full effect.

Kar:  Alexis in full effect.

Nat:  Beej in full effect!

Beads:  Nat in full effect!!!

I love my sisters.  Merry Christmas, my loves.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dang side ponytail.

I felt well enough to go to Micah's little Christmas program at school on Friday.  To my utter surprise, he actually sang all the songs!  My boys, historically, have a hard time singing in things such as this.  Like for the Primary Program every fall (which is, by the way, my favorite sacrament meeting of the whole year - so hilarious!!!), Dylan kind of lip-syncs.  And barely moves his mouth. Micah just stares blankly out at the audience.

But not this time!  I think maybe it's because the songs were about the holidays.  Micah is a holiday fanatic.  Decorating for them, counting down to them....that's what he's all about.  That's the only thing I can figure.

I had the hardest time getting a good angle for photos.  There was a girl in front of him with this ENORMOUS high side ponytail with this HUGE red scrunchy in it, and she was just a teeny bit to his right - enough to make that ponytail be right in front of his face.  I did my best, but I was like, dude.  Note to self.  Never make high hair for Sadie for any of her school recitals.  So that she doesn't block some poor bloke's face.

I made my way to the other side of the gym, tripping over people, ducking, etc., and eventually got a kind of decent shot of him:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ohhh the Poohish.

My BFF, Pooh, came up a few days ago, originally, go to chemo with me and to kind of nurse me and give my mom a break.  But my docs wanted me to have a few more healing days under my belt before they hit me with my final chemo, so I don't go in until Monday.  It's a bittersweet situation. It's been nice to have a few more days to climb out of the chasm of illness I was in, but I also wanted to get the dang thing done.  But it was just so much fun to feel well enough to spend quality time with my lifelong friend and catch up and chit-chat and kind of...heal each other.  Like best friends do.

We did some stuff - a little bit of eating out, a little bit of movie-watching, a lot of laughing...  It was great.  It took us like 17 tries to get this selfie to come out kind of okay:
Oooh, ooh, and I felt good enough to teach ballet on Wednesday, and she came and watched (and took a photo for me):
I'm gonna miss these girls so much.  It was my last time teaching them!!  I'll be too sick next week, the following week is Christmas, and then I'm gone... I got all of their last names, though, and many promises were made to friend each other on Facebook.

Last night, while we were out to eat, I tried to do a photobomb on a picture of my son, but it looks instead that I'm wanting to take a bite out of him:
We also got our crafting on.  Pooh is not a crafter, but I help her in her urges to have the finished crafting project.  We painted a big letter B to put in her living room (her last name starts with a B). She was very nervous, but it turned out really cute.  And then she helped me glue some stuff onto my Christmas cards.  I'm seriously unsure about my ability to get them finished and out in time for Christmas this year.  If not, hey, next year's cards will be ready, right??  Cancer makes you realize priorities.  Is it a big deal if my Christmas cards don't get sent out this year?  Nope.  All that matters is that I'm alive and that I get to be with my family again.

Oh, and a little interesting side note - my poor mother has, once again, caught a bug, which, once again, seems to have entered my system.  This is another coughing bug.  Which I can handle.  It's the stomach bug that I cannot do again.  It's uncanny - for the last three rounds of chemo, she gets sick right before I go in.  And then I go in, my immune system gets killed, and I get her illness, but ten times worse.  I'm popping the echinacea and vitamin C like nobody's business, but.... I don't know how much it will help.  I told my mom that her immune system is shot, too, if she keeps getting sick every three weeks!!!  We have taken every precaution; it's just been...unfortunate.  We're unlucky ladies.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Okay. I'm back.

You guys, I am so sorry for not having posted in so long.  But DUDE.  I have never, ever been as sick as I was the past few weeks.

The thing is, it's not just the chemo side effects, which by themselves are horrific.  But now it's to the point where my immune system is so ineffective that I catch every single little bug floating around. We have been so careful.  We've kept me quarantined.  We use face masks.  We disinfect every dang thing.  We are hand sanitizer maniacs.  And yet, I keep catching these horrible bugs.

If you remember, my fourth round of chemo had me fighting bronchitis.  This fifth round involved another head cold (somehow my body fought it off before it turned into bronchitis again), which had me coughing so hard that I was vomiting.

The worst bug I caught this time, though, was The Intestinal Flu from Hell.  We're talking the violence of food poisoning.  Have any of you guys had food poisoning??  Oh my word.  It's awful.  It's nightmarish.  It has you wishing you were dead.  "Death is okay by me!" (What movie?)  And I had this flu that was just that violent, FOR SEVEN DAYS.

I went in for IV fluids and tests the first four days, and everything indicated that this was "just" a virus.  Yet it wasn't going away, and my body was expelling any form of fluid, IV or otherwise, just as quickly as they put it in me.  I was on the floor of the bathroom for four days.  Because being anywhere else was too far to travel and get there in time, if you know what I mean.  I was crying, crying, crying. But without tears.  Because I was that dehydrated.  I had to wear Depends.  Which are actually quite comfortable.  I'm a fan.  Because they kept me from soiling my pants.

When you're dehydrated, you start vomiting violently.  So that started happening, too.  I had been drinking, drinking, drinking clear fluids, but I couldn't keep anything down.

Eventually, in the worst part of it, I couldn't drink.  My body wouldn't let me drink.  I knew I had to, but...it was weird.  My mom kept trying to get me to drink, and I just couldn't.

Of course, we were in contact with my oncologist or his PA's every day.  They sent me to the ER one night for fluids.  They sent me to a local instacare twice for fluids.  They recommended Immodium (which did NOTHING for me, which was weird).

Finally, I decided to go to the hospital in a neighboring city, because that's where these doctors are based, and they had no idea how serious this was.  All of these different places were doing tests, but they weren't sending the test results to my oncologist, and my oncologist wasn't contacting these places to get results.  Or to even see how I was doing.

I'm not going to lie, I'm still pretty miffed at my oncologist.  I know he's busy.  But I could have DIED, you guys.  My potassium levels were dangerously low.  The hospital nurses told me that's why severe dehydration kills people - low potassium levels.  I felt that my doc, and his PA's, didn't care, or didn't care to know, what I was dealing with here.

So I recruited my dad to drive me to this city - it's only half an hour away.  By darn it, I was going to see my doctor.  Not some random ER doc.  Not some random instacare doc.  HIM.  And the reason I recruited my dad is because I needed a bulldog.  Dad can get stuff done.  I'm jealous of his feistiness. For reals.  I have a hard time getting up in peoples' faces when it needs to happen.

So we got up there to the hospital, and basically, I demanded to be admitted.  And I demanded to see my oncologist.  The ER doc was all, "Oh, we'll call the PA who is on call..." and my dad was like, "Nope.  You're going to get a hold of her oncologist.  And he will come and see her.  Tonight.  Or I will find his house and knock on his door."  The ER doc was like, "Well, alrighty then."  But I am a fan of him, because he called all of these places I had been to and gathered all the test results and information to give to my oncologist.

So my oncologist showed up, saw the results of the tests, realized how truly ill I had been, and said, "I'm not letting you leave for at least three days."  And I told him, "Oh, I'm not leaving until this crap [get it?] is GONE.  If it takes 20 days."

So I stayed there for three days, and it was a nice hospital.  My nurses were attentive.  I had continuous IV drip the whole time, as well as a heart and oxygen monitor. Look - I'm that girl from The Fault in our Stars!
 See what I was doing there?
I just needed Ben to be upside-down next to me.  And we would both need hair...

And here is my glowing heart and oxygen monitor:
It was BRIGHT.  I had to tuck my hand under a pillow to sleep.  And if I moved in my sleep and my hand came popping out, LAAAAAA!  This bright, glowing fingertip woke me up.

This reminded me of the theme song from Goldfinger, one of my fave Bond movies.  I was so bored in my bed in the hospital that I changed the lyrics.  Do you want to hear them?  Of course you do!

RedddddddFINGA!  She's the woman...
The woman with the ruby touch
A cherry's touch
Such a bright FINGA!
Beckons you to enter her hospital room...
Please come on innnnnn....

Thank you very much.  I'll be here all week.

I was also on a potassium drip for the first two days.  Each little potassium IV bag was worth a box full of bananas, they told me.  They gave me some pretty powerful stuff for my...ah...dysentery, wink wink.  It would work for awhile, and then, well, the floodgates would open again.  Finally, one of the PA's (I got a daily visit from the PA's, but I didn't ever see my doctor again.  Sigh....) was like, "All of the tests show that this is a virus.  But I want to try antibiotics and just see.  Maybe you have a bacterial infection that didn't show up in our tests."  I was willing to try anything.

Whether it was the antibiotics or the virus finally running its course, I was able to leave the hospital Friday.  Though things still aren't completely back to normal, they're manageable and much better.

Except I got a UTI on Monday.  So now I'm on antibiotics for that, as well.  Three antibiotics total, currently.

I'm supposed to do chemo tomorrow, but only after I have a visit with the doctor and he feels that my body can handle it.  I feel...not strong, certainly, but not in the throes of devastating illness, either. Emotionally, I want to hit this thing hard.  Like a football player that's running with the ball and hits his helmet into the gut of a defender, which I have learned is against the rules.  (I have been watching a lot of football with my dad these past four months.  I've become quite a fan of it.  And I get it a little bit more.  And I mean just a little bit.  It's so complicated...  I am a huge fan of the Packers.  They are amazeballs!)

I just want to get the darn thing done, you guys.  But if the doc doesn't think I'm ready, they'll have to postpone it to Monday, to give me a few more days to heal.  We'll see.

There is also a lot of fear associated with this round - what will I catch next?  Bubonic plague? Cholera?  Smallpox?  You are left so defenseless.

Spiritually, round number five was tough.  It's really, really hard to continue to say, "Thy will be done," when you legitimately feel like you're dying.  When you beg for help, and the help doesn't come immediately, but you really do need immediate help, that's tough.  It's tough to say, "Heavenly Father answers us on his timetable.  Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is 'wait'" when you're crying on the bathroom floor for the fourth day in a row. It's hard to wait for the blessings promised in a priesthood blessing when you're vomiting so hard that you pull your diaphragm muscle (not kidding about that).

I have to admit that I felt a little...angry...at Heavenly Father.  Which I'm repenting of.  I've never been mad at Him, throughout all of this cancer process.  But something about an immediate, ongoing, life-threatening illness really pushes you to very dark places.  And I also have to admit that my faith in Him faltered a little bit.  Not that He exists and knows all things, but...that he would save me.  I feel really guilty about having these feelings.

But as I think about this concept of a child being mad at her Father, I think about my own kids.  There are times when they're really mad at me.  But I know, as their mother, what is best.  No, Micah, you cannot use a knife.  You'll get hurt.  No, Dylan, you can't play iPad for 20 hours a day.  It's not healthy for you.  No, Sadie, you can't play until you clean your room.  You need to learn responsibility.  We all have to enforce things or disallow things, because we're older and we see the bigger picture and we want what's best for our kids.  And when they're mad at me for these things, I shake my head in frustration, but I don't take it personally.  I just say, "They don't get it.  Eventually, they will."  I've got to hope that Heavenly Father is that same way with us.  Being angry at Him isn't a good thing, but I'm repenting.  And He will forgive me.  Gladly.  Because He's perfect.

Another thing I've been thinking a lot about is the First Presidency Christmas devotional that aired on Sunday.  Elder Christofferson said something that really resounded with me.  Now, I know that Christ atoned for our sins so that we could repent and be forgiven and have a chance to live with He and Heavenly Father, right?  I also know that he suffered our pain, emotional and physical, so that he could know how to succor us - send us help - in the way we need.  I also know that going through trials makes us more sympathetic and kind to others, as well as helping us to grow and learn.  But that sympathy part really hit home for me when Elder Christofferson said that, like Christ, we too go through pain and suffering so that we can succor others who encounter the same difficulty.  I guess I've never thought about it in that way.  Because I've had breast cancer and have been going through chemo, I'll know how to help anyone in my neighborhood, circle of friends, acquaintanceship, or ward who goes through it.  I'll know exactly what things help and what things really don't help.  I'll know exactly what she needs.  I'll know exactly what to say.  Because I've literally been there.  So this is a chance, really, to prepare to serve others in the future.

So.  That's where things sit right now.  Physically, I'm doing...okay.  Weak, but okay.  Spiritually, I'm repenting.  And also very, very grateful that Heavenly Father helped me and spared me.  Emotionally, I'm ready to get this last round DONE.  So I don't ever, ever again have to say, "I still have such-and-such more chemo sessions to do."  I think that, once I'm done with this one, even if I get really sick again, I'll have hope.  I'll have the ability to say, "I'll get better.  I won't get knocked down ever again. From here on out is nothing but healing."

That will be a great feeling.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I retract my former statement.

Not too long ago, I told you that cancer/chemo wasn't the worst thing I had ever gone through.

I've changed my stance on that. Chemo, specifically, without a doubt, is the worst thing I have ever, in 37 years, encountered. It has brought me to my knees.  It has me begging Heavenly Father for mercy.

Please pray for me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Harsh Times

Do you remember that movie that came out a few years ago?  Harsh Times?  I didn't watch it, but I thought it was the dumbest title of a movie, like, ever.  It was supposed to be a war movie or something, but what it sounds like is the movie title for Clueless 2.  Alicia Silverstone's character says "harsh" all the time in Clueless:

Ty:  Why am I talking to you about this?  You're a virgin who can't drive.
Cher:  [Tears pooling in her eyes]  Ohhh, that was harsh, Ty.

Picture it on the marquee:  Clueless 2 - Harsh Times.

Maybe Cher and her ex-step-brother realize that their relationship is really weird, and they break up, thereby having the harsh times.  Maybe Cher's dad gets thrown in jail and Cher has to pay off all his debts and then be poor.  That would give her the harsh times.  The possibilities are endless, really.

Anywho, I'm so sorry I haven't updated in awhile.  The  main reason I haven't is that I've felt truly horrible.  It's been three weeks since my last chemo (I go in tomorrow - blahhhhh), and I've had really awful side effects clear until, like, yesterday.  A LOT of them I can't talk about on here.  I do have some sense of appropriateness.


I did confide some of the grossness to a journalist the other day...

It's a long story.  In a nutshell, she's doing a story on this camp that my kids went to last summer - Camp Kesem - and she wanted to interview me.  She asked me lots of stuff, on and off the record (she would turn on and off her cell phone recording device accordingly), and one of the off-the-record things she asked about was what my side effects are.  I mentioned things that are okay to mention in public and then vaguely told her that there were some other, really gross, really scary side effects, as well - things that made me so scared that I cried and cried.  For realsies.  She really, really wanted to know the nitty-gritty.  So, off the record, I told her.  She handled it well.  She actually started crying... and then I started crying...  Haha!  I appreciated her sympathy tears.  I did.

I've told you about my bronchitis (I'm still coughing, but not as badly.  I think the worst of it has passed).  I can tell you about my low blood pressure.  It's crayyyyy not to be able to function at normal capacity.  Going up the stairs winds me for a few minutes.  Every time I stand up from sitting down or lying down, I have to grab some furniture and wait for the dizziness to pass.  I taught ballet last Wednesday, and it just about killed me.  I really wanted to finish up a grand allegro (big leaps) combination we'd been working on a couple of weeks before.  I had to show them a few different jumps in this combo, and dude, I couldn't jump.  I tried so hard.  I'd plie and squeeze my butt cheeks and try so hard, and...nada.  So I had to show them the moves by lifting myself onto the barre and showing them what their feet do in the air.  So sad.  A few of them were having trouble remembering the combination, so I'd do it with them.  I'd say "do it with them" is a bit of an overstatement.  More like stumbling around and trying not to fall.

Chemo also affects your balance - I've read that in pamphlets.  And I can feel that when I'm trying to teach slow, sustained, balanced movements.  My balance is just SHOT.  We were doing a simple reverance on Wednesday and I almost fell right on my butt.

I overdid it so much last Wednesday that I couldn't teach Thursday.  And that's another thing - you have to really conserve your energy.  For instance, I went to spinning with my dad Monday (don't worry - I kept my heart rate below 150), and then I did the stationary bike and weights with my mom yesterday (I couldn't lift as much weight as her, and she's 60 years old).  Neither workout really even induced any sweat.  They were very low-key.  And yet last night, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  I think it was from the exercise.  It's weird, going from being such an active person to having to be a couch potato.  It's really frustrating.  I just have to keep telling myself, "But you're going to live.  That's all that matters.  You're going to emerge from this."

Oh, and a dude did a hit-and-run on my SUV.  Luckily, I wasn't in my car when it was hit.  I was inside, at my friend's house.  On a residential street.  But this guy must have been booking it, and I think he had a really big, jacked-up truck. Because when he ran into my car, he pushed the right rear bumper clear up onto the sidewalk (flattening my tire) and the left driver's side clear out into the road.  The left back is crunched pretty hard.  We have a $500 deductible.  Boo-yah.  Spending money on fixing cars is fun.  We called the police and he did some investigative work - he thinks it's a big truck, blue (his truck left blue marks amidst the crunchiness that is the back of my car right now).  From the tracks in the snow, the officer deduced that the truck hit the breaks to stop for a stop sign a couple of car lengths in front of my car, and he slid into my car.  And then backed up and drove off.

So yeah, kind of a bummer of a week.  But it's okay.  Here's a silver lining - when we first got our SUV four or five years ago, I immediately (and accidentally) backed up into a light post at the end of my parents' driveway.  That light post is a serious hazard.  I remain resolute on my opinion of that.  At any rate, it left this...well, incision.  I can't think of a better word for it.  Because I can't think of words.  It seriously looks like someone got an exacto blade and sliced it up and down.  We haven't ever had money to fix it, so there it's been for all of these years.  Well, the silver lining is that we are getting a whole new bumper.  Incision gone.  That's nice. Now if we could just get the driver's side heatie seatie button fixed...wish we could claim that as part of the accident:  "But officer, the impact of the hit-and-run must have jiggled my heatie seatie button loose, thus tragically taking away my ability to warm my tooshie in these frigid temperatures!"

The real reason that button is loose somewhere in the ether of behind-the-dashboard is because my oldest children were fighting over who could sit in the front seat one day.  I was grabbing Gage and Micah and my purse and all that crap while they ran out into the car.  Things got physical (My kids?  Naw...) and they somehow, someway, hit that button, and it fell backwards behind the dashboard.  End of warm tooshie for me.

For the record, they were both grounded.  Tooshie warmth is of utmost importance to me.

So, to offset the bummerishness of this post, let me show you what I saw at Sam's Club with my mom yesterday.  While we were there for like three hours.  I'll let you in on a little secret:  my mom is the slowest shopper I have ever met.  Even slower than Ben.  And that's saying something.  My motto with any kind of shopping is "Get in, get done, get out."  So it's hard for me to walk around with meandering shoppers.  I love her to death.  I love Ben to death.  It's just a fact that they're slow shoppers.  It's a quirk.  And we all know how many hundreds of quirks I have.

Anywho, we saw this toy:

Who on God's green earth wants a doll that magically poops charms???  It ain't right, you guys.  It just ain't right.  Notice that you can collect the charms once they've been defacated from the doll's bottom.  And apparently make a bracelet out of said defacated charms.  Normally I'm a La-La-Loopsy fan, but this is really pushing the envelope for me.

Kay, so...chemo is tomorrow.  Wish me luck.  I keep having these daydreams that the doc will say, "You know what?  You've done enough.  You're finished.  Congratulations."  OR that he'll say, "You know, your blood pressure is too low.  We need to put your chemo off for another week."  But that wouldn't necessarily be a good thing, because then it would put off my ability to get up to Bend after Christmas.  Still, another week of recovery would do me a lot of good, dude.  Usually, at this time, I'm fully recovered and ready to take on another round.  This one - this one is different.  I haven't climbed out of the hole from the last one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chemo Brain!

Have I told you guys about Chemo Brain yet?  Probably.  I first heard of it when someone was telling me I should call her friend who had just finished chemo.  She said that she'd tell her friend that I was calling, but because of her friend's Chemo Brain, she might not remember who I was when I called her.

And let me just apologize really quickly about this - in the past few months, I've probably had...maybe 20 people offer this to me - they give me their friend's/aunt's/grandma's/cousin's number, saying, "Hey, my ____________ has gone through this; they can offer you some good advice."  And I've meant to call them; I really have.  It's just that...I get soooo overwhelmed.  I'm on the phone sooooooooo much with friends and family and insurance and doctor's offices already.  I think I'm kind of tapped out on phone usage.  So I just want to apologize to you if you've offered me the help of a friend and if I haven't called them yet.  I had this cute lady in my parents' ward who gave me the number of one of her co-workers who's just starting on chemo; she wants me to call this lady and give her encouragement/advice, and I'm really hesitant to do so.  If this lady is anything like me, she wants the phone to just freaking stop ringing.  You know what I mean?  I don't know.  Maybe I'll just text her and say, "Hey, I'm your coworker's acquaintance.  I'm almost done with chemo [which is a huge overstatement, probably.  Two chemos left does not an "almost done" make...], and if you need any advice or insight into the process, just call me."  I just really don't want to annoy the poor gal.

Kay.  So.  Back to what I was talking about.  When I read that this girl had this Chemo Brain thing and forgot stuff all the time, I was, of course, alarmed.  I thought, Not only is this stuff going to poison my body and make me feel really sick and horrible, but it will affect my BRAIN FUNCTION??

Unfortunately, Chemo Brain is very, very real.  I mean, I don't know if you'll read about it in scientific journals or whatever.  But in my experience, and in many chemo patients' experiences, yep, it's real.  And yep, it's sad.  I mean, it's not horrible, but mainly, your short-term memory is just shot. I can't remember the names of my ballet students.  I try so hard, but it's just taking longer than it would ordinarily have taken to remember.  When I show them an exercise we're going to do, I often forget it, so I have to keep a little notebook with me to glance at.  I have to write every single solitary thing I want to do on my calendar, or I'm so screwed.  I've missed two wedding receptions and a funeral because of my stupid Chemo Brain.

The nurses who work with me refer to it all the time.  I'll say, "Oh, I meant to get you this or that information, but I forgot," and they'll shrug and cheerfully say, "Chemo Brain!"

I also forget words.  Nouns, mainly.  Simple words.  Like the other night, I was FaceTiming with Ben.  BT Dubs, I'm starting to kind of hate FaceTime, because the screen shows me in up the corner, and I hate that I have to look at myself, because I look like a hard-boiled egg.  Also, for several days after chemo, my neck and face are poofy.  It's sooo butt ugly.  My eyebrows are quickly thinning. My eyelashes are also thinning rapidly.  I just look...not so great.  And I know that beauty is inside and all that crap.  I do.  And I believe it.  But I also know that if you don't feel decent on the outside, you feel a little bummed out.  Like when you see a picture of yourself, and you're like, "Wait, I look like that???"  Man, that sucks.  You think, "Well, I have a little spare tire, but I look alright!"  And then you see pictures.  And then you get depressed.  And then you ask your friend to photoshop those pictures for you.

Sorry, tangent.  So anyways, when Ben and I were FaceTiming the other night, here was our conversation:

Me:  Dude, I look so gross.  I'm so sick of looking like an egg.

Ben:  We should call you cue ball!  You just need a little black dot on your forehead.

Me:  A black dot?  What are you talking about?

Ben:  Cue balls have a black dot on them.  Like a target.

Me:  No, they don't.

Ben:  Yes, they do.

Me:  I mean, sometimes they have little blue smudges on them from the chalk you use...

Ben:  No, they're manufactured with a black dot.

Me:  I think you're thinking of the black dot on the table.

Ben:  No, I'm thinking the white cue ball.  With a black dot on it.

Me:  Dude, trust me.  My grandma and grandpa had a....a....  Um, okay, one of those tables.  That's covered in green felt.  You know, it has holes in the corners and sides?  And you use those.....sticks? You know, the long sticks that you kind of....aim at the cue ball?  And you hit the cue ball, and it hits another ball, and that ball goes into one of the holes?

Ben:  ...A pool table?

Me:  Yes!  Yes!  A pool table!  So I should know.  Cue balls don't have black dots on them.

Ben:  [Doubtful silence.  I'm sure he was thinking to himself, She does not know what she's talking about with the cue ball, since she can't even remember that a pool table is called a pool table...]

We agreed to disagree.  Which, by the way, is one of our Marriage Strengths.  We're lovers, not fighters.

Addendum:  Um, okay, so after having googled images for "cue ball," I found that we're both right. Some are plain.  Some have little red dots on them, some have little black stars on them...  So that settles that.

Oooh, oooh, two pieces of information that you may or may not care about:  

1)  I got bronchitis.  From a cold my mom had.  We were so careful, you guys.  The poor woman wore a mask for like four days.  We sanitized everything.  We stayed away from each other.  But I got it.  And it very quickly turned into bronchitis.  I felt really, really awful.  I couldn't even sit up.  It required so much energy.  I just lay around for like 5 days.  But then I went to the doctor yesterday and got the official diagnosis of bronchitis, and they gave me an antibiotic, and BOY HOWDY.  I feel like a million bucks.  I felt this when I got an antibiotic after I got thrush, way back after my first chemo.  As soon as that antibiotic did its thing, I could feel an enormous difference.  And I was so peppy and energetic!  It makes such a huge difference for those of us with low white blood cell counts.  So I feel really good today!!  So grateful for the good days.

2)  My left boob has finally "dropped."  That there is pregnancy-talk, isn't it?  If you recall, Leftie was too high and wouln't soften and drop.  It finally did.  So now my boobs are even.  Do you know how awesome it is to have two boobs that are even???  So grateful for even boobs.

Monday, November 10, 2014

First Love Letter

My ornery dear son has an admirer.  She gave him a love letter the other day:

Very passionate stuff.  I love it.  I also love that she says he is her friend "four ever."

He had ZERO idea that this was a love letter.  Um, because he doesn't read very well.  Actually it's been a couple of weeks since he got the letter, and I see daily improvements.  So I think he could read it now if he wanted to.  He's started picking out words when we're out and about - "Mom, this button for the seatbelt says 'Press!'"  And sometimes, if I'm reading the newspaper, he'll try to read some of the words in the headlines.  I'm glad.  We've worked our tooshies off trying to help him.

Anyways, the girl's name is Harleigh - interesting, right? - and she gave him her phone number on the back of this paper.  I was impressed.  I don't think Micah knows my cell number (which functions as our home number).  Oh, I have failed him in so many ways...

I'll have to call Miss Harleigh's mom and arrange a playdate sometime soon.

I was planning to ignore the lovey parts of the message.  I told him how cool it was that he had a good friend and how glad I was that I had her number so we could arrange playdates.  My mom was the one who clued him in on the contents.  She asked if Harleigh was his girlfriend, etc.

I thought he would get really embarrassed (which is why I had skirted around the issue), but he was cool as a cucumber.  "No, Gwamma, we're just fwiends.  She's not my girlfwiend."  And that was it. No blushing, no stammering, no embarrassment.  I was impressed with his panache in the situation.  I would have done all of the above - the blushing, the stammering, the embarrassment, the hot denial... It's fun (and sometimes excruciating) to see the differences between my children and me.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

It's mainly teenagers that get my lame-o jokes. Mainly.

I felt good enough to teach ballet on Thursday evening, which was a minor miracle, since I have felt horrid before and since that class.  This has been a rough chemo round, you guys.  A rough one.  At least I'm not "in hospital," as they would say on Call the Midwife (my new TV show obsession).

I was teaching 7-9 year olds that night; I really do love them.  They are (with a few exceptions) willing to try stuff, and they really love pleasing their teachers.  They also give me huge spontaneous hugs, which I love.  

I work at a studio that mainly focuses on jazz, so these little teeny girls can do double jazz pirouettes, chinese split leaps, and aeriels - seriously impressive stuff - but they haven't focused so much on ballet.  Ballet in this studio functions as mainly a training place.  A place to get them strong and make them get into the habit of pointing their toes and sucking in their guts.  I love being their "trainer."  I love showing them the beauty of ballet.  I've had just a blast at this job, truly.

So on Thursday, I thought it might be fun to teach them adagio at the barre (slow, sustained movements, bringing the leg way up high and holding it, moving it into a new position while still in the air, etc.) - something they haven't learned yet.  It's difficult, but it's really great for creating the long, lean muscles in your arms and legs.  And it's great for balance.  

One of the movements I had them do is called attitude.  Your leg is high in the air, but bent at the knee.  It's a really beautiful position.  Here's me showing attitude devant last summer:
And here's me, demonstrating attitude arabesque:
Yep, that's me.  Did you know that I lost about 40 pounds, magically regained my center pointe skills, and regrew back my hair?  Crazy things happen.

So when I was teaching them about attitude, I showed them the move, told them that it was called attitude, and then cracked the following joke:  "It's the only time when attitude is good to have in ballet class!"


Crickets, you guys.  Crickets.  They didn't get my joke.  Even when I said, "Get it?  Attitude??  Get it?"  So sad.

Please tell me that you get it.

I'm saving up this joke, friends.  I will be using it with my teenager class on Wednesday.  I'm hoping for a good response. :)  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A special discovery.

So...I changed my sheets before I went in for chemo last Thursday.  Brand new white pillowcases, etc.  I went in for my treatment, which, if you remember, involves a chemo drug called The Red Dragon.  You pee red for about 24 hours.  Ain't no thang...

The  morning after chemo, when I woke up, I found these pinkish areas on my pillowcase:
It's kind of hard to see; I should have used my good camera to show you.  The pink marks hadn't been there before.  As I studied them, I realized that they were right where my head and neck hit the pillow when I sleep.

It was then that I realized that The Red Dragon seeps out of your pores when you sweat.  My mom concurs with my extremely scientific assessment.

It's really creepy.

The other night, I was lying on my side, in bed, of course, because that is all I do the week after chemo, and I had some weird nerve twitches there, on the side of my rib cage.  I hate twitches that aren't caused by my own movement - they freak me out.  Especially since my mom and I (against our better judgment) watched that show called Monsters Inside of Me.  Have you SEEN that show??? Eeeeek!  I think it's fascinating.  I think it seriously frightened my mom.

Anyways, the one we saw was on this gal who got Ratworm while she was in Fiji.  She ate a slug because she was hungry.  Yuck.  And that's how she got ratworm.  So of course, the show has these animated renderings of ratworms swimming around in her body, wreaking all kinds of havoc (that's the part my mom really freaked out about).  And the gal was saying that she could see them kind of crawling around under her skin.

So when I got my weird twinges by my ribcage, I thought to myself, "I wonder if that's what it feels like to have ratworm.  Or ringworm."  I wasn't worried about it - I knew that it was just nerve stuff. My nerves have been freaking out ever since I started this chemo - it's just...par for the course for me.

But I did tell Mom when I woke up the next morning - about how I felt these weird twinges and how I wondered if that's what ratworm or ringworm feels like.  And she said, "Well, one thing we know for sure.  If you had it, chemo would have kicked the worms' BUTTS.  They couldn't live through it."

It's true.  They would be DEAD.  Chemo is a butt-kicker.  To anything alive.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Lesson - How can I find answers to my own gospel questions? - What I Would Do

Alright, so...a couple of years ago, when I first got this calling, I got a hysterectomy in November. Which really doesn't explain why I only have one week's lesson plan for November in my archives... Ah well.  It is what it is.  I used to be really busy with kids and being a mom and being...normal.  (I kind of miss that.)  So I guess I just never got the chance to put the lesson plan up here.  Plus, Ben had just gotten home from China!  Obvi, I just wanted to spend time with him - not as much time to update the ole' blog when he got home.

And then last year, we started going to our new ward (which we would only be a part of for 8 whole months before Mr. Cancer reared his ugly head) at the beginning of November.  So this explains why November has only one measly lesson plan.  However, in my quest to do something besides watch the dumb TV, I'm going to try to work on this lesson on finding answers to our own gospel questions. My quest is two-fold, as you know.  My hubby is in the Sunday School presidency and may need to sub at the last minute every now and then.  So this is for him, too.

Why is it that he and I seem to always be separated?  Blech to that.  That's what I say.


When I was thinking of questions we have and why it's important to find those answers for ourselves, I was thinking about how dumb it is to let gospel questions we have just...hang there.  What is the point of questions if we can't answer them?  So I thought of this game we used to play in college, in my FHE group.  I thought it would be a fun intro to the lesson.

So in the Question Game, you sit in a circle.  Someone starts by asking a question to someone else in the circle.  You indicate to whom you're talking by making eye contact with them.  That person cannot answer the question.  He has to turn to someone else in the circle and ask a question of them. And on and on.  If someone answers the question instead of turning and asking another question, they're out of the circle.  If they can't think of a question in enough time, they're out of the circle.  It's a funny game.  It's soooo hard not to answer some of the questions; to instead turn to someone else and ask a question.  We're so used to answering questions that it seems strange not to do so. Eventually, it will get down to two people, asking each other rapid-fire questions, and one is bound to become the winner.  (Hint:  I always thought of questions before each round would start, so that I wouldn't just sit there with my mouth wide open, with no question to ask, when it was my turn to ask one.  It helped.)

So after you play it, just point out that questions are made to be answered!  And that our lesson today is on finding answers to our gospel questions.

The Scriptures Teach Us about Questions and Answers

I was thinking of dividing the class into groups for this one, but there are only a few scriptures.  I think you could do this part as a group.  Have all of the kids turn to each scripture, and before they read it, remind them that they're looking for principles about asking questions and getting answers.  In fact, write that at the top of the board:  "Principles about asking questions and getting answers."

Sometimes, I pick one kid to write on the board.  For some reason, they pay better attention when one of their own is up there, writing, than if you are up there writing.  So, you can direct the reading of the verse, guide them to come up with what they want to write on the board, and tell the kid at the board what to write.  Here's what I came up with from each verse:

Matthew 7:7 - Heavenly Father will answer our questions.
D&C 6:14-15 - Heavenly Father wants us to ask questions of Him.
                       - Questions are often answered by the Spirit.
                       - Heavenly Father answers our questions.
                       - Heavenly Father answers our questions by enlightening our minds.
D&C 9:7-9 - Come to a decision first, and then come to Heavenly Father and make sure that your decision is right.
                   - If it's right, you'll feel your bosom burning.
                   - If it's wrong, you'll feel a stupor of thought.

Getting Answers to Questions

In this same paragraph of the lesson, it asks why sometimes we don't get answers to our questions immediately or completely.  There's this article in the Friend Magazine from ages ago that I think I might have used before in this class.  If you've seen it before, I apologize, but it's such a good way to teach this principle - that sometimes the answer is quick to come, and sometimes the answer is "wait".  Here's the link.  If you don't want to head over there, here's the story:

Fasting and Prayer

It was still early on Sunday morning as Dad called the family together.
“Where’s Mom?” six-year-old Katie asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“That’s what I need to talk to all of you about,” Dad answered. “I took Mom to the airport this morning. Grandpa called late last night to tell us that Grandma is very sick. Mom has gone to help them.”
“Is Grandma going to die?” Melanie asked, her eyes filling with tears.
“I don’t know, sweetheart.” Dad put his arm around her. “Grandpa doesn’t know exactly what’s wrong. Mom will call us after she arrives and has a chance to talk to the doctor. Meanwhile, there is something we can do to help.”
“We can pray for Grandma,” Katie said, kneeling and folding her arms.
“Exactly right, honey,” Dad said. “And we can fast for Grandma today, too. Let’s begin our fast with a prayer. Would you offer it for us, Katie?”
The little family knelt together, and Katie prayed, “Heavenly Father, please bless Grandma. Bless Grandpa, too, so he won’t worry too much. And help Mama so she can come home soon. We are fasting for them today.”
Everyone felt peaceful as Katie finished the prayer and they prepared to go to church.
At home after church, Dad pulled two big photo albums from the shelf and told the children about some of the pictures. They talked all afternoon about their many happy memories of Grandma. Then, when it was time to end their fast and have supper, they knelt to give thanks for the day and to once again ask for a special blessing for Grandma.
Mom telephoned just as the children were getting ready for bed. “Grandma is going to be just fine,” she said. “I’ll stay to help Grandpa for a few days while Grandma rests. I’ll be home by Friday.”
After everyone had told Mom about their day and their fast for Grandma, they gathered again for family prayer. “Before we pray,” Dad said, “tell me what you learned today about fasting and prayer.”
“Heavenly Father answered our prayers,” Rachel responded.
“That’s true,” Dad said. “We know that He always answers our prayers. Sometimes the answer is yes, as it was today.”
“Sometimes it’s no, “ Melanie put in, “like when I prayed for my team to win the tournament and we lost.”
“That’s right, Melanie,” Dad said. “Sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ And sometimes the answer is ‘not yet—just wait and be patient.’ But Heavenly Father always answers our prayers in the way that is best for us. Did you learn anything else?”
Katie said, “Fasting helped me feel close to Heavenly Father.”
Natalie added, “Fasting today wasn’t as hard as it usually is. I didn’t even feel hungry! Is that because we were fasting for Grandma, not just going without food?”
Dad nodded. “Fasting helps us learn to control our bodies and it helps us develop faith. When we are baptized, we make a sacred promise to Heavenly Father that we will bear one another’s burdens and comfort those who need comfort. We have surely kept that covenant today as we fasted and prayed for Grandma.”
That night, family prayer was a prayer of gratitude—for Grandma feeling better, that Mom was coming home soon, and for keeping their baptismal covenant through fasting and prayer.
You could easily change parts of the story - take parts out about fasting, for example.  Whatever you need.  My teenagers LOVED the puppets.  I kid you not.  Teenagers love anything that entertains them.  They didn't even make fun of me.  They were like, "I want to be Rachel!!!"  Here's the JPEG for the puppet thingeys - you use popsicle sticks:
These puppets have come in handy for those Sunday mornings when one of my kids is like, "Oh no!  I have to give a talk in primary today!"  Bam.  We got the popsicle puppets.

Is It True?

I think at this point I would want to work on the section of the lesson from Elder Uchtdorf's talk.  It would definitely be time for a sheetie.  Now here's the deal - you can show the actual part of the talk by going to this link and then fast-fowarding to 35 minutes into it.  That is the section the lesson is talking about.  Then hand out the worksheets below.  Have the kids watch the portion and answer the questions, and then discuss what they came up with when they're done.  OR, you can have them read the portion of the talk (a dear reader found a link for me) and then do the worksheet.  Here's a hard copy of the "Is It True?" portion of President Uchtdorf's talk:

Is It True?
Now the next issue: What about doubts and questions? How do you find out that the gospel is true? Is it all right to have questions about the Church or its doctrine? My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is the way the Church got its start — from a young man who had questions. In fact, I'm not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. In the scriptures you will rarely discover a revelation that didn't come in response to a question. Whenever a question arose and Joseph Smith wasn't sure of the answer, he approached the Lord, and the results are the wonderful revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. Often the knowledge Joseph received extended far beyond the original question. That is because not only can the Lord answer the questions we ask but, even more importantly, He can give us answers to questions we should have asked. Let us listen to those answers.

The missionary effort of the Church is founded upon honest investigators asking heartfelt questions. Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn't feel that way. Asking questions isn't a sign of weakness; it's a precursor of growth.

God commands us to seek answers to our questions and asks only that we seek "with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ." When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us "by the power of the Holy Ghost."

Fear not; ask questions. Be curious, but doubt not! Always hold fast to faith and to the light you have already received. Because we see imperfectly in mortality, not everything is going to make sense right now. In fact, I should think that if everything did make sense to us, it would be evidence that it had all been made up by a mortal mind. Remember that God has said:

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. . . .

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Nevertheless, you know that one of the purposes of mortality is to become more like your Heavenly Father in your thoughts and in your ways. Viewed from this perspective, searching for answers to your questions can bring you closer to God, strengthening your testimony instead of shaking it. It's true that "faith is not . . . a perfect knowledge," but as you exercise your faith, applying gospel principles every day under any circumstances, you will taste the sweet fruits of the gospel, and by this fruit you will know of its truth.

Reflection on the Water - Is it True?

Watch the portion of Elder Uchtdorf's 2009 CES fireside and see if you can answer these questions.  If you find it hard to do that, in the space provided, jot down notes about this topic, and we'll discuss them when the talk is finished.

1.  Why does the Lord want us to be a question-asking people? 

2.  What is the difference between asking questions about the gospel and doubting its truthfulness?

My answer key:  
1.  Inquiry leads to truth.  That’s how the church got its start!  Revelations come in response to questions.  The knowledge we receive extends even beyond the original question.  He can even give us answers to questions we should have asked.  Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony.  Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness.  It’s a precursor of growth. 
2.  The difference is this - when we ask questions, we seek with a sincere heart, with real intent.  When we do that, the truth can be made manifest by the Holy Ghost.  We are curious, but we don't doubt.  When we ask questions, we need to hold fast to faith and light we’ve already received.  We need to realize that we see imperfectly in mortality.  Not everything makes sense right now.  If it made sense, it would have been made up by a mortal mind.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.  His ways are higher than our ways.   If we sincerely ask questions, these questions will bring you closer to God.  As you exercise faith, you will taste the sweet fruits of the gospel.  You’ll know the Gospel's truth by its fruit.

Answers to the Questions of the Soul

Okay, I think I'd have the kiddos work in pairs for this one.  I made a sheetie to make the assignment a little more clear - kiddos need directions in writing.  Or you will end up telling them what to do approximately 10,000 times.  That's just the way it is.  That's why I do sheeties.  Each of these sheeties is different, so you'll see a few with the same picture, same directions, but different questions and scriptures on them.

The Book of Mormon Answers Questions of the Soul

Directions:  With a partner, pick one of the following questions to work on.  Read the scripture that's given with the question.  Write down the answer to the question.  Be prepared to share!

  • Is there a God? (Alma 22)
  • What does Jesus Christ expect of me? (2 Nephi 9)
  • How can a belief in Jesus Christ help me? (Alma 36)

The Book of Mormon Answers Questions of the Soul

Directions:  With a partner, pick one of the following questions to work on.  Read the scripture that's given with the question.  Write down the answer to the question.  Be prepared to share!

The Book of Mormon Answers Questions of the Soul

Directions:  With a partner, pick one of the following questions to work on.  Read the scripture that's given with the question.  Write down the answer to the question.  Be prepared to share!

The Book of Mormon Answers Questions of the Soul

Directions:  With a partner, pick one of the following questions to work on.  Read the scripture that's given with the question.  Write down the answer to the question.  Be prepared to share!

    How can I find peace and joy? (Mosiah 2, 4)
    How can my family be happier and more united? (Mosiah 2)
    How can I balance my family and career? (3 Nephi 13)

The Book of Mormon Answers Questions of the Soul

Directions:  With a partner, pick one of the following questions to work on.  Read the scripture that's given with the question.  Write down the answer to the question.  Be prepared to share!

    How can I strengthen my relationship with my spouse? (3 Nephi 14)
    How can I avoid the evils that threaten my family? (Alma 39)
    How can I avoid sin? (Helaman 5)
After the kids have shared their answers, make sure to point out that, in answering their own questions by using the scriptures, the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide are invaluable.  Also, doing searches of general conference talks on lds.org is a great way to go.  Let them know that it's important to find answers to gospel questions from the gospel itself - through the scriptures, through our latter-day prophets, and through prayer.

And that's it!
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