Monday, November 14, 2016

Life lessons from a PhD #2: Stay on the bus



2014 - 2015, I had a serious problem with my back. At first, I thought I had just overexerted it and that it would correct itself (back pain/problems are just a natural result of being tall and having to contort yourself into smaller/shorter spaces your whole life), but gradually my condition worsened. It became extremely difficult and excruciatingly painful to do even simple things, like stand up, lie down, sit, or walk.

During this time, I was not only heavily engaged in my full time PhD, but also taking a class, teaching a class, serving in a demanding calling at church, and working part-time as well. Weeks were very busy, and in a new country without any family around, I had no time or opportunity to be sick or ask anyone for help. It was a very challenging time. My health steadily deteriorated until I got to a point where I feared for my future--whether I would be able to remain in NZ and finish my PhD, whether I would be able to walk or run again, or whether I would end up in a wheelchair.

I'm grateful for difficult experiences, because they offer you the opportunity to test what you've been taught. You can turn either to the Lord or to the world. There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 4:22) that teaches that our lives belong to God, and my faith told me He could help. Most days, after getting home, I would just lie on the floor and cry because of pain and sadness. I often didn't eat because I couldn't bear standing or walking in or to the grocery store, or to cook in the  kitchen--I'd just lie on the ground and feel bad for myself and cry and pray for healing. Each morning, fearing the pain ahead, I would kneel and plead for help to get through the day. Those prayers were repeated as needed until eventually, I felt that I was getting by hour by hour solely by His grace--I talked to God constantly and relied on Him even for the strength to walk a very short distance. To me, my back pain was a personal crucible that felt like an unconquerable Everest--the Lord was my sherpa. And one day, He taught me an invaluable lesson.

It was a Tuesday--my busiest day--and I was headed to the church for Mutual after working and being at Uni all day. My back was on fire--it felt like there was a spear stuck into my lumbar region and every movement or step would send torrents of fire down my leg (I eventually was diagnosed with several bulging and torn disks). I planned to take the bus straight to the church from Uni to get there on time. Now, to help you understand: the route that would take me from school to the church was driven by three different buses--routes which followed the same roads out of the city but then split off to different places the further out you got from downtown. I had only ever taken two of the buses, but when I got to the stop at school, it was the third option that was there. As I boarded, I asked the bus driver if he went past the stop I needed to get off at in order to get to the church on time. He said he did and I got on without worry--I felt grateful that I was able to make it to the bus, and peaceful that I'd get to fulfill my commitments on time. I even said a prayer to thank God for helping me make it. I settled in and started reading while the bus took off.

As the bus passed where I would have normally got off for my own house stop and went further down the road I was less familiar with, I started to panic--the bus turned down a different street, off of the route that I knew would take me to the church, and looked like it was completely deviating from the route I knew I needed to be on. I became very frustrated and internally upset with the driver for lying to/misunderstanding me, and I pushed the button to get off so that I wouldn't get too far off track.

As I got off the bus, I began to cry. I was in so much pain, and felt disappointed in and let down by God--how, when He knew my condition and deadlines, could or would He allow me to get on the wrong bus, get off track, and be deceived by a driver I was now convinced
a) hadn't understood my question
b) had been dishonest
or c) hadn't cared?

Heavenly Father usually helped me so much and was so kind.

Time was ticking and I still had to get to the church, so I started walking around the corner to get back on the right road and on a different bus. It would be more expensive and time consuming, but I had no other choice.

I was still crying when I made it to the stop and sat down on the bench. As I sat feeling sorry for myself and waiting several minutes for the next bus, I kept my eye on the road and the corner I'd just walked around. A bus turned and headed my way. I stood up to flag it down. As it got closer, I was shocked and flabbergasted to realize that it was the same bus I had just got off.

The driver stopped, opened the door, and looked at me.
"Why did you get off?" he asked.
I felt sheepish. "I thought you were going a different direction," I said.
"But I told you," he said. "We're just turn to the mall but turn back around --we go the rest of the way down this road."
He shook his head at me but was actually very nice. It was me who felt red faced and embarrassed as I re-boarded. I sat down and felt quiet. In my ongoing conversation with God, I felt humbled and apologized for being upset. Then I asked, "okay, I know you don't do anything that isn't for my good, so what am I supposed to learn from this?"

The answer came immediately, as a very clear thought and piece of instruction to my mind and heart: 

Don't get off the bus. 
Trust the driver--he knows where he is going. 

I understood immediately that it was a lesson for a lifetime. I understood that "the bus" is a metaphor for the Gospel, and staying on it meant to be faithful to the covenants I have made. Trusting the driver and his direction means trusting Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, and that ultimately, if I believe He is in control, whether He leads me down unfamiliar roads or takes routes I don't know, if I stay on His bus, I will get where I wanted to go in the first place--where He promises He can take me.

I love this lesson, and I'm grateful for the way I learned it. Within a few months of that bus experience, two of my closest friends left the church (as I have mentioned in a previous post), my back continued to be a problem, and other trials came too. But what I learned then has helped me. I am encouraged that if ever I am in doubt of where the bus I'm on is headed, I can always go ask the driver Himself, and be reassured that it's going where I want to go--that I'm still on the right track. Although He is busy driving, He still has patience and time for me. Also, I am convinced that if I ever find myself outside of or off the bus, I don't have to worry that He won't let me back on--there is always a way back and a way home.

How grateful I am for this lesson. I know these things are true. Stay on the bus friends. Trust the driver. He really does know the way.

Love love,
me


Monday, October 17, 2016

I didn't expect depression

I don't mean to do an injustice to any woman who has given birth to a real child and finds herself dealing with postpartum depression, but I feel like that is what I'm going through right now.



People in academia always refer to a PhD thesis/dissertation as a baby or child. There's the same long gestational period, the same anticipation, a lot of work and effort that goes into preparing, a supervisor (birth coach) who helps throughout, regular "check ups," physical and emotional ups and downs, all the people giving you advice about what you need to be doing now and what to prepare yourself for it, vulnerability (being "exposed" to outsiders) and, at the end, there's an incoherent flurry of commotion and activity as many different people rush around frantically to help bring this new "life" into the world. Then suddenly the moment comes and the pressure stops instantly.

Are you convinced of the appropriateness of my analogy yet?

Over the past several months, I have been prepared for the experience of submitting my thesis and finishing my PhD in many ways, but I have discovered that I was not adequately prepared emotionally. The past month before submitting itself was an emotional roller coaster. There were so many things to do, of course, but aside from stress, there was also so much anxiety, ebbs and flows of confidence, etc. Towards the last two weeks, I had difficulty sleeping and could go from perfectly peaceful to churning with anxiety and nervousness in about five milliseconds.

Although those crazy side effects mostly abated after submission (thankfully), sadly, others have jumped in to replace them. All at once I have lost my:
confidence
motivation
ambition
energy
goals
ability to plan or get anything done
discipline
spirituality
memory
resolve
quick smile
desire to see, talk, or spend time with anyone outside of my closest friends and family

and found:
sadness
apathy
homesickness
worry
an insatiable craving for donuts
and a new affinity for staring off into space

In short, I feel like my life has fallen apart.

For the past several weeks I've just been wondering what is wrong with me and why I all of a sudden can't get anything done, or even care much about getting things done (it took me a week to finish this blog post). My list of "to-dos after submission", which I was really excited about and have looked forward to for months, has almost not been touched at all. I even feel like I have lost my spark of spirituality--I've been finding it very difficult to read the scriptures, to say meaningful prayers, and to focus in any church setting. This is uncharacteristic and disturbing to me.

So I've been thinking. And talking to people.
My sister mentioned that it sounds like coming home from a mission. That inspired comment is really what triggered me to realize what I'm going through: Depression. I just wasn't expecting it.

I've dealt with depression at other times in my life, so right now I'm doing the things I know will help me get through.
I'm waking up each morning and giving thanks for the sun coming up and out (on the days it has come out)
Even though I often don't feel like it, I'm choosing to kneel in prayer to express gratitude--I know I have so many things to be grateful for;
I'm trying to do a better job each day at seeing all the ways the Lord has worked and is working in my life, and choosing not to believe that He's suddenly not real anymore;
I'm exercising every day,
And eating healthily (minus the donuts, but I'm cutting myself some slack there).
Although I almost can't stand it, I'm still coming into University and forcing myself to work.
I'm trying to serve and get outside of myself at every opportunity;
I'm trying to be honest with others about what I'm experiencing, so that I don't put up a false front and so that I can benefit from the relationships around me;
I'm trying to remember that the best is always yet to be, and there is a bright future ahead;
I'm trying to be patient with myself and my current situation,
To not look back or give in to feelings of sadness,
To be close to, open, and honest with the Lord,
And most of all, to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ (2 Nephi 31:20).

These things all sound so simple on paper, and they are things I generally take for granted at other times. But right now, in my current situation, little by little, they are making all the difference in my life. I'm still dealing with the depression, and each day is still a struggle in its own way for different reasons, but I've been reminded by the Spirit recently of this fact:

In that truism, I'm reminded that trouble, challenge, and trial are part of the mortal experience, and there is nothing wrong with admitting they are there or that they are difficult. However, giving up, or wallowing in the difficulty, is to be avoided. In these truths, I am finding happiness. Mostly I am finding happiness because I've been reminded of Jesus Christ--I know that I have much to be happy about and to look forward to, because of Him. He is the Light of the world, the Life of the world, and the Hope of the world. He is these things to me.

Because of him, I (and we) still have great reason to rejoice. Even when it's raining.

Love love,
me

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Life Lesson from a PhD #1




If there is one piece of advice I love/feel is the most important to give newbie or struggling students who are looking for a special bit of help in their study or life it is this: never, ever, ever do your homework on a Sunday. And you will be blessed!

Sound too easy to be true? Trust me, it's not!

I have learned this lesson so often. As a child, I remember attending one specific sacrament meeting when I learned about Sabbath day observance. The person speaking talked about JOY as an acronym for how our lives should be ordered: Jesus, Others, Yourself. She gave an example of her son doing his homework on Sunday. She asked him, "son, who are you serving by doing your homework today? Is it the Saviour? Is it others? Or is it just yourself?" I was only young (probably middle school), but for some reason, the lesson hit me hard. I don't know that I had ever done homework on a Sunday up to then, but from then on I made it a point never to do so. It wasn't too difficult when I was in high school, but that resolve could have been tested more robustly at University. When life was packed to the brim with assignments, deadlines, and fatigue, I was sometimes tempted to just squeeze some reading or a quick writing assignment in on Sabbath afternoons. Luckily, I had gained a special piece of knowledge my first semester that helped me stick to my resolve: one day at church early on in the year we sang Hymn #147: "Sweet is the Work." Verse two was particularly instructive to me: 


For me, that line came as a lightning bolt from heaven to my heart. It was an answer and a resolve: for peace in my life, to maintain balance and sacredness and show the Lord my trust in and devotion to Him, I could give up even worrying, thinking, or being concerned about the rest of my life on Sundays. I could just put it all on the shelf on Saturday eve, and when I came back to it Mondays, it would all be okay. That is the inspiration I felt. 

And you know what? By following that, things truly were okay. There ended up being many late Saturday nights and early Monday mornings at BYU, but I know that I made it through my bachelors degree in large part simply because I put the right things first and was blessed for it.

It is a similar story for my PhD. Work weeks here can be rough. At different times, I have regularly worked 70+ hour weeks, for weeks and even months on end. This is (or has become) normal for me and many of my colleagues, yet I feel like I have a secret superpower/source of energy and refreshment that they don't. It's called 'keeping the Sabbath day holy.'

Taking one full day off each week (and guarding it strictly from work, school, or research related problems) gives me many wonderful blessings:
  • I get a reprieve from life every single week
  • I get to rejuvenate and recharge and start over for the week
  • I get to think about the things that generally have to get put on a back burner the other days of the week, and a chance to be myself without the challenges of regular day-to-day life. 
Additionally, giving that day fully to the Lord (in the sense that I go to church, don't generally shop, travel, or spend money on it, focus more on serving others or doing things with longer lasting potential, and try to keep it free from all other worries or cares of life) has further rewards:
  • I get outside of myself and remember my place in this world, in my family, and among my friends--some things are actually more important than that which we tend to spend our most time on
  • I receive peace, direction, help, guidance, and answers as I turn to God and remember my place in His plan
  • I get to partake of the Sacrament, which renews, refreshes, and, I believe, cleanses me for another week. 
These things may sound somewhat small, but I can tell you, they  make a huge difference. On Monday mornings, when I come in to the office and greet my colleagues, we chat about the weekend. How I wish they believed in my secret when I find out that, while I almost always feel chipper and happy and ready for another week ahead, they often feel groggy and overwhelmed and discouraged as a result of having spent the whole weekend at the office, never-endingly working on a project which they are fully and utterly sick of. Additionally, I wish I could share with them some of the freedom and joy and strength I feel because I know and have learned how to ask and allow God to help me with my burdens rather than trying to manage them all on my own. Sadly, I guess because of the anti-faith and -religion world we live in, when I do share this secret with others, it is often met by resistance to it; many of my friends still suffer with their burdens alone, rather than trying this out.

I'm not trying to suggest that keeping the Sabbath day solves all of life's problems. It doesn't fully, by itself. There are still some tough weeks, and sometimes, depending on callings or events, Sundays actually aren't all that restful at all, unfortunately. I'm also not trying to set myself up as an example, or to suggest that I am especially good at keeping this commandment. Rather, I just want to share my experience. I am grateful for the instruction from the Lord to keep the Sabbath day holy.* I have definitely seen the wisdom and blessings in this one. My burdens have been made lighter, my work has been made better, and my efforts have been helped along by unseen aides because I've tried to keep this day special. Truly, the Sabbath is a delight to us. Given to bless and refresh and help and happy us, and not to make life harder. I have seen it in my own life, and if greater peace, ability, balance, and happiness are something you are looking for, I invite you to test this one out. But don't just take a day as a break--give it to the Lord. I promise He will give you back so much more in return.

Love love,
me

*Sidenote: I actually feel like all of the commandments that the Lord gives us are, in reality, special insider tips about how to get along easier and be more happy in life.

Life Lessons from a PhD

Big news: I am finished with my thesis.




I submitted last Wednesday with two of my sisters visiting from the US and some good friends in tow. I can't really tell you how it feels to be at this point. Sort of empty/dazed/nervous/excited/depressed/ecstatic/tired/sad/happy/grateful/other things too. Now I just have to wait for the examiners (I'm not allowed to know who they are) to review it and send back comments before I do my final oral defense--I'm expecting that will all be finished by March next year. In the meantime, there is still lots to do.


There are presentations to prepare,

journal articles to write,
emails to reply to,
library books to check out and read,
country music videos to catch up on,
friends to spend time with,
family to visit,
hikes to go on,
a couple more institute classes to teach,
kms to run,
strength to gain,
new foods to try,
time to spend in the Temple,
etc.

In addition to those things, there are some blog posts I need to write.


Introducing a new series in my blog: Life lessons from my PhD



Many times throughout my PhD, I have reflected on whether or not it has been what I thought it was going to be. I feel like the world expects that I have some sort of new abilities or knowledge or expertise now that I'm about to get three new letters behind my name. I  know that is true to an extent, as I definitely know a lot more than you probably care to wonder about the Tongan diaspora and German history in the South Pacific, although being me at this point basically feels the same as being me at seventeen, albeit with a few more memories, experience, and confidence in between. Looking back, the most important and valuable education I feel I have received has come outside of my PhD program. These things can't be put on a CV (resume), and they won't affect my income level, but they are invaluable life lessons that I (hope) I am better off for learning. I thought I'd share them with you. You're welcome.

me, my sisters, and my child, who had a 3-year gestation and is now currently being cut up with scissors by strangers. #yourewelcomefortheanalogy #happinessandalsotears

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My 50 miles a day

These days, an empty calendar makes me very, very happy. Whereas I used to get excited by a busy, multifaceted day, now, when I know that my time is not going to be split up between meetings, appointments, commitments, or chores, I feel lucky and blessed. Thus blissfully uninterrupted, I will have time to work on my schoolwork. And by schoolwork I mean thesis, thesis, thesis.

A couple of weeks ago I was interested to read this article on Aspiring Mormon Women. Then, even more interested, I found this one, from the NY Times.

As a synopsis: there is a girl named Keila Merino who teaches elementary school in New York and runs ultramarathons in her spare time.* Her training miles add up to over a hundred every week, even when she's not training for something big. But these days, she is.




In 1978, a beautiful, lanky South African grandma named Mavis Hutchinson ran across the United States from Los Angeles to New York in seventy days. She averaged around forty miles a day that whole time.
That is the distance between Salt Lake City and Provo peeps.
On foot.
For more than two months.
Every.
Single.
Day.



This year, under the auspice of raising money for a children's running group in New York, Keila set a goal to beat Hutchinson's record and do it in sixty-eight days. Math= she would need to average almost fifty miles every day for the length of time between Independence Day in July and Labour Day in September.

I happen to love ultra-sports--particularly endurance running--and I discovered all of this on the very day that a new leg of my own race was starting.

It is my goal to submit my thesis in 58 days. Those who have written a PhD dissertation know that it is no mean feat. It has taken me almost three years just to do the research (and I still feel like I could fill up another year!) Writing is a different beast altogether. As in an ultramarathon, where a twisted ankle, dehydration, nutrient-deficiency, inclement weather, or any number of a score of unexpected setbacks could derail your whole plan (as it did Keila's in the end-- #spoileralert), lack of discipline, material, quality, or confidence, personal problems, sickness, writers block, or any number of other issues can derail even the best, most dedicated of students. And I don't even claim to be one of them.

But reading about Keila and Mavis, and thinking of the ultramarathoners I know in my life (speaking metaphorically rather than literally), I found a new identity:

I Am An Ultrarunner, and My Race Is Not Yet Over. 

With that identity comes determination: if Mavis Hutchison and Keila Merino can run twelve hours every day for two months, I can most certainly work on my thesis the same (taking Sundays off). If they can give up personal comfort and put their bodies under that kind of wear and tear, not to mention the mental stamina required, I can resist my warm bed and embrace the cold, pre-sunrise mornings while I get up and get going. If they can keep putting one foot in front of the other through heat and rain and cold and wind, I can walk to school happily, forego social activities, eat the same lunch four days in a row, and set aside any time-consuming habit or tendency that is not helping me move closer to my goals.

Keila's beautiful sunrise shot
Doing something like running across the US or earning a PhD has a tendency to zoom-in your life to only include those things that matter most. For the past three years, I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been the same person I was before. As I've worked to get through this race, I've had to adjust my priorities and cut back on activities and relationships that I might have put a lot more time and effort into before. Yet I've also learned that there are some things that must always be priorities. For me, these are:

1) my Heavenly Father and my responsibilities to Him
2) my family and my responsibilities to them

So, this is my plan: Keep running. Take each day as it comes. Don't worry about the future but just do your best today. And, take time to enjoy the scenery as it goes by--to appreciate the views you get from the road. I know when this race is over, I'll be better and stronger for having run it. I love it.

See you at the finish line!


Love,
me

*Ultramarathons are any races longer than a traditional marathon. The most common distances for ultramarathons are 70 kilometres, 100 miles, or longer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A day in the life: Pangai, Ha'apai, Tonga

The first thing you do when you wake up on a beautiful morning in Ha'apai is to fold and put away the bedding you used for sleeping.

Pictured: beautiful fala (mat), handwoven by my wonderful mum Palolo, plus the pillows and blankets we use to sleep at night.

Then, if it's still before 7, you stretch, walk outside, and climb up to sit on the fence while you admire the beautiful sunrise. You smile with gratitude to be there, listening to the village wake up, seeing the kids getting ready for school, and hearing village boys calling the pigs to feed.


From there, if you want to start your day with a shower, grab a bucket and start filling it. 

Rainwater, as long as you have it, is cool, refreshing, and versatile. It works as bath, cooking, drinking, watering, and washing water. 


It might seem a bit cold at first, but you'll wake up quickly. Here's your shower. You might be surprised how easy it is to bathe from a basin.

Just remember to close the bathroom door. :)



After your shower, you should probably eat breakfast. If you have a sore throat, try squeezing some kola (a type of lime) from the bush into hot water. Drink that with your biscuits and butter--lovely and tart. 



But be warned, you'll have an audience while you eat. 



When you're ready to do something, there are lots of things to occupy yourself with during the day. 

(But there is no mirror, so if you need to look nice when you go out, just check your reflection in a window pane. Or a picture frame will do. Makeup is wholly unnecessary.) 


You might decide to go on a walk. You're lucky if you get walking buddies like mine. 

cousin, brother, cousin. love them so much. 

You could pick oranges (dodge the spiders), 



A monkey we found in the bush... :)

You can't see them in this picture, but I promise there are oranges up there.

practice braiding with Lusi, 

she said we looked like Elsa :)

visit a friend, 

(there was a funeral going on, hence the mourning clothes)

stay home and watch the boys work out, 

video

or go to the beach.



Playing with cousins is always fun. 

video

But tiring. What with the heat and the pace of life, you're probably going to need a nap at some point.  

our communal sleeping 

(even supermom takes a rest sometimes)

If you're lucky enough to be in the Kingdom on a Sunday, going to church is a must. 



The ringing bells and singing choirs can't be missed. 

video

video


And when you get home, if there was any lu sent from Vava'u on the boat and you were lucky enough to get some at the market on Saturday, you can look forward to some special food for lunch. 

Lu is a special and typical Tongan feast/Sunday afternoon food. It's made by wrapping meat and usually onion in Lu leaves (something sort of-kind of-but not really-like spinach) with coconut milk, then cooked in an 'umu (underground oven). This is the first step laid out on the kitchen table on a Sunday morning. 

fish the brothers caught the night before. 

Manioke (tapioca root). A staple.
The 'umu the brothers made out of the top of an old drum, buried  in the dirt and filled with burning coconuts.

Other days, if there is gas, you usually cook on this stove. 

When there's not, you cook on a fire outside. 

The finished Sunday meal. Lu (in the aluminum foil), manioke, kumala (sweet potato) and ufi (yam).

If you're lucky to have a brother who loves you as much as mine loves me, you might even get some coconuts to drink.

Your flavour essentials. Masima (salt) and vai polo--a spicy salt water seasoning made with hot peppers, fresh coconut, and sea water.

In the off chance that you get sick while on the island, rest assured, there is a hospital there, and depending on how sick you are, they might actually even have the resources to help you. Plus, the hospital itself has a great view. 




And, again, if you're extra lucky like me, you'll have some great company to stay with. 


(don't worry, I just had tonsillitis. I was released after four days) 
In the evening, you'll probably spend some time playing cards with family and friends, watching movies on a laptop, or just sitting on the road or on the fence in the dark or laying on a table or the ground outside, looking at the stars, singing songs, laughing, and talking. Remember to bring a flashlight/torch, because the electricity only works in two rooms. Some nights, you might even drag a fala outside and sleep on the grass. The best part of the day will be kneeling with your loved ones at the end, looking at them with bowed heads, while someone offers a prayer of thanks for the food you had to eat, the protection from storms, and the health and energy you had to work and live that day. Blessings will be asked for family members far away, and thanks will be given for the time you have together. 

When you have to say goodbye, you'll cry, as you always do, to leave some of the people you love most in life. I'm so grateful for this family--my family--in Ha'apai. They make my life so rich. 


Life is a great reason to rejoice!
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Sunday, May 1, 2016

What my future looks like


It's been two years and eight months since I started my PhD program. I am almost done. I'm doing everything I can to complete my dissertation and submit it by my birthday this year--September 9. That will be exactly three years and one week from when I began. 

Don't ask me what is next. I don't know. I'm waiting for further inspiration from Heaven. 

And by waiting, I mean doing everything I can to find out :)

Sometimes I get discouraged and wonder if all the sacrifice and struggle and tears and pain and tiredness and loneliness and separation from loved ones and home and Mexican food is worth it. Sometimes I forget why I'm doing it. 

Last year, I attended the opening night of a friends PhD project exhibit. She did hers in arts and media, so she was able to display what she had done and invite friends and family to come. It was an emotional night for me. I was at a low point in my own life and studies, where I felt stuck and depressed, overloaded and under-cared for. I was homesick and missed my family--missed just being in a place where I felt 100% comfortable. And not always so cold! As I left that night, I wrote the following thoughts/poem down:


Why do we do it?
Why all the long days, the short nights, the tears and frustration
and feelings of failure?
Why the unanswered calls, missed events, and unreplied emails?
Why the sacrifices of time and labor and mental and emotional energy?
Why the pain?

For them.

For those who came before.
For those whose lives and own hard work shaped our opportunities, before we were born.
For those whose own long days and short nights nurtured us, returned us to health, and built us.
For those whose own climb enabled us to start further ahead.
For those whose names and blood and torches we carry.
For those who provide the shoulders on which we stand.
To show our gratitude, our respect.
They are the reason we can.

And we do it for those who will come after us, too. 
For my children, unborn.
So that they will know that their mother believed in education
and hard work, 
and sacrifice.
And giving your all for a cause you believe in,
in being honest and true,
living with integrity,
trusting the Lord,
and putting your heart into everything you do.
That they, because of my climb, will be further ahead themselves.

That's why we do it.

That's why it's worth it.

Sometimes, in the struggle, I forget the blessings. But I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget that the life I'm living now is the life I prayed and fasted for, the life I worked for, and the experiences I wanted. I do want them. And I do love it. I truly, truly do. Is it worth the sacrifice of time with loved ones, family, and friends? For me, that is the hardest question to answer. I think it is yes, when it is done for the right reasons, and to follow the Spirit. For me, I wouldn't have come this far if I didn't feel led in this direction to start with. Blessings and peace I receive witness to me that it's right. And someday soon, this mountainous ascent will be finished, and there will be a new trail to start on. I am looking forward to that day, but I'm also enjoying the views from here. What great lives we have to live. Life is a great reason to rejoice. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A poem for today

Sometimes, on a sunny summery day,
when I'm out on the stoop alone with my eyes closed,
I can hear the deer flies and insects humming in the air,
and smell the clean-tree scent of my Snake River valley home.
The day is bright and prime for floating.
We'll eat sandwiches on thick bread, cut vegetables,
and chocolate covered cookies.
I'll nap on the ground on a blanket--
homemade.
We'll turn red and brown in the sun,
then go home tired, to a backyard fire
with chips and s'mores:
a perfect day.

Then I open my eyes, and I'm in New Zealand.
It's the sounds of passing cars, and not insects, that fill the air.
and I wonder how I got here
and where I'm going
and who with--
and if I'll ever get back to that river, and those mountains
and those moments I love so well.
And if, in the eternal scheme of things, it matters.

Perhaps not.
Perhaps it's just heaven.