9.07.2015

Radio Silence.

WRITTEN APPROXIMATELY END OF SUMMER, 2015:

All apologies for the silence emanating from this wee corner of the Blogosphere.  The past 13 months have been demanding, and though blogging has been historically a great way to journal, document, and process through stuff for me, unfortunately it was the ball that this juggler had to let drop for a while.

Have you ever heard of that analogy?  It's one of the best I've found:

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls...are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” 
― James PattersonSuzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson


Not that blogging is work, but it IS a rubber ball.  So it's now a season where I can allow that ball to bounce back into the mix. (Maybe not with the same vigor as before, but a meager bounce nonetheless.)


Where The Time's Gone...


The main headline of the past year has been Mini-Me's senior year of High School.  

Those who have been through senior years with their own kids will understand.  Those who are yet to experience the enigma, all I can say is: 
1) Buckle up
2) Don't blink!  (Haha, if you're a Doctor Who fan that's clever. If you don't know Doctor Who, get to your Amazon Prime account STAT!)

Imagine a smorgasbord of a buffet.  Mini-Me's senior plate was overflowing, even before reaching the end of her first semester.  TREK right before classes started + Running Start at the local college (aka Concurrent Enrollment in other spots on the map), a second year as ASB secretary, Senior class activities, being a member of her YW Laurel class presidency, Cross-Country, a second go at the SATs, Homecoming week & dance, countless community service endeavors, Senior writing exits, planning her 30 hour Senior Project (based on her Junior research paper), college applications, and the commencement of the scouring for any and EVERY scholarship she could get her hands on had the whole house frantic.  

In addition, being the parent of a highly-involved kid means the parent is automatically highly involved.  Supporting her in all of those activities was only part of what was therefore on OUR buffet plates.  Plenty of time was required as I switched officer hats in the High School Booster Club, from Vice President to Secretary.  This meant not only regular meetings, but near-constant concession stand assignments, silent auctions, community meals + activities.  Those responsibilities piggy-backed on top of heading the 2015 CHS Senior Parents Group as we rallied our last year's worth of fundraising efforts & soliciting donations for the kids' After-Grad Party.  Dinners at all the of the home football games sounds like an easy-peasy thing to organize, but don't be fooled. Loads of work + lots of drama ensues.  Same went for our very last Mr. Columbia Pageant (our biggest fundraiser each year)

Worth it? 100%. But I can finally say that, now that it's all over, the dust from the party has settled, and we're months removed from it all.

Somewhere in all this I kept my photography business going, as I changed my business structure up and specialized solely in Senior Photography.  (Great niche.  Fulfills my soul as I focus on empowering today's youth with the knowledge that they are already incredible and they don't need to subscribe to society's plastic image in order to feel validated or realize they are beautiful/handsome.) I even branched out into more graphic design this past year. And between the two, I learned how personally rewarding my business was becoming for me!

Mr LKP had his hands full as well, for not only was he a co-supportive parent to a highly involved kid, but as the husband to an extremely supportive mom of a highly involved kid who happens to wear too many hats, he was often treading water just to keep us all together. Poor him!  

Church callings were also on the plates as I continued to prepare the weekly bulletin/program for our ward, and co-taught our CTR 6 & CTR 7 class. Mr LKP continued his best efforts as a counselor in the Elders Quorum.

Please know, my dear reader, that I don't intend for this to be a complaint session, cause it's not.  I simply have to document (for myself really, and maybe my posterity) everything we've met head-on; where we persevered and where we triumphed.


Aunt L...

In the midst of all I've listed, Aunt L (Mr LKP's aunt who was my CTR 6/7 co-teacher & dearest friend) was diagnosed with breast cancer. To be expected, the strong, independent, single woman she was insisted she would fight this battle on her own as much as possible. She'd tackled every other obstacle in her life with the same gusto, whether is was watching her 2 year old battle Leukemia, being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes or enduring a miserable divorce.  She knew she could do all things with Christ's help.  And she did the same with her cancer for the longest time.  Evidenced in the fact that as an OT, she was seeing patients in her practice throughout the week (her pediatric clinic specialized in meeting the therapy needs for children on the Autistic Spectrum - these kiddos have always been her life mission), and then she would report for chemo/infusions every Friday afternoon so she could recover over the weekend and be back with her kiddos each Monday morning.  

Shortly after Aunt L's diagnosis & treatments began, at nearly 91 years old, Gma R (Mr LKP's grandmother) fell on some uneven pavement at a local car wash and shattered vertebrae in her neck.  Once she healed enough for her many subsequent follow-up appointments, Aunt L and I took turns being Gma R's transportation and patient advocate.  This became a treat for me, to be able to give service and love to a couple of women I cherish so much.

Over time though, and four different rounds of chemo, Aunt L's doctor felt that her particular cancer was chemo-resistant. So she began a fifth & last ditch round of a new chemo drug that was derived from marine-based organisms such as sea sponge (she joked and said patients under this specific drug regimen called themselves "SpongeBobs").  It was at this point that my role as chauffeur & caregiver shifted from Gma R's needs to Aunt L's needs as Aunt L's daughters were limited in how much time & frequency they could come and help care for her.  Though they did come, and they helped her fight her battles as much as they could from where they lived (one in Seattle & one in Brooklyn).  To complicate matters, her liver was not fairing well. At that point the term "Liver Cirrhosis" was used -- which was shocking for her to hear since she'd never had a drop of alcohol in her life! 
Her liver was distended and hardening,  body was unable to to retain magnesium and sodium 
at adequate levels to continue treatment.

So not only was Aunt L running a clinic, fighting breast cancer, trying to save her liver, but she was still more worried about those who were caring for her than her own battles.  She worried more about our sweet little Primary boys.  She worried more about her children. She worried more about if I lifted with my legs vs. my back.  And she worried more about her dignity than her illness.  She worried more about her caregivers having to see her looking sickly, therefore she refused to go to chemo in her pajamas.  Her wardrobe still had to be pulled together, she had to at least have a mineral foundation, her glossy reddish lips & her eyebrow powder brushed on so she wouldn't scare anyone.  An elegant lady if there ever was one.  Aunt L was incredibly selfless, and incredibly faithful.  

Never any guile from this courageous woman.  Always positive.  Always grace in the face of opposition. Always a good joke or an immense amount of intelligence to take the sting out of set-backs.  Always wore her testimony on her sleeve, and sought out peaceful, sacred, spiritual moments in every occasion whether it was an infusion or an admitted hospital stay. 

Aunt L was a beautiful soul who I miss terribly, and I search for her comfort from beyond the veil on a regular basis.  She was my friend, my second mom, and most importantly my sister in Christ.


Mini-Me and College...

By March, Mini-Me had received word back from the 5 colleges she had applied to (BYU-Provo, Westminster College in Sugar House SLC, University of Utah, BYU-Idaho, and Western Washington University), all of which she had been accepted to except BYU-Provo. Slightly disappointed by the decision, Mini-Me had a very mature way of looking at the decision and said she knew that someone else who needed BYU-Provo more received the slot she would have taken, so the Lord knew and was answering everyone's prayers appropriately.  It was slightly sad as a mom, cause I know she had desperately wanted to be a part of the BYU Animation program, however I was so proud of her outlook on the situation.  Plus she was very mature in comparing apples to apples, and oranges to oranges, when it came to education costs, scholarships awarded, etc.

She had been offered an $8000 scholarship from the University of Utah for her freshman year, which was enticing. However, she was not thrilled at the overwhelming numbers at the U, nor did she like how disorganized it felt being there on campus.  Though the U remained in her top 3 due to the fact it is Ed Catmull's Alma Mater, and he is one of her heroes and she wants to be a computer animator in the end. Plus the U's got a great animation program going for video gaming.  Their Feature Film Animation program is only a few years old, so not as established as the gaming animation is concerned, but she thought this is very promising.

However, Westminster College just 10 minutes away from the University of Utah and 1/10th the student population really stole Mini-Me's heart!  Plus they awarded her with a $52000 scholarship, which made Westminster as affordable if not MORE affordable than if she stayed in Washington State for school.  Plus, despite not having a dedicated computer animation program on campus, they have what's called the "Make Your Major" program where she can create her own animation degree as she works with the heads of Computers Science, Communications, Film Studies, and Fine Arts to make her competitive and extremely employable in her desired field.  Internships are an important part of Westminster as well, and they value them so much that they work side by side with their students to find the perfect fit internships for them.  Mini-Me is hoping that, even though Westminster doesn't have internship relationships with Pixar or Disney per say, that they will be able to help place her with Sundance and/or Adobe.  (Fingers crossed on that coming through for sure!)  In her field of choice, a Bachelor's degree is a Bachelor's degree.  Kinda like a bellybutton.  But internships are what set an animator apart.  So this is so important to Mini-Me.

Despite it's outside appearance, Westminster College offers SO much within. Like the TARDIS. Bigger on the inside. (Again, see Doctor WHO!)


Why Mention This in the Timeline...

Third week of March, we needed to attend Westminster's Overnight Experience & Accepted Student Day so Mini-Me could see if this was truly the right fit for her. 

Aunt L & education went hand in hand.  Knowledge equals strength & power.  Intelligence was something of the greatest value to Aunt L.  So this event she knew we needed to take advantage of, as a result we had been working on arranging a schedule of caregivers to fill in while I was gone.  We had everything in place the Monday prior when Aunt L called me to her and told me she couldn't do this anymore.  Her treatment had been interrupted with a hefty infection & hospital stay in February, and she had been unable to get healthy enough to restart that last round of Chemo. And daily infusions were too long + exhausting for her. So she decided she was ready for Hospice care. Tears were shed, promises were made regarding how she wanted her services to be handled, and she insisted that I be sure she had rockstar eyebrows for the viewing.  Honestly, it was one of the hardest conversations I've ever been a part of.

Respite care was made available to her, so rather than having multiple different people cover her needs while I was away, it made more sense for her to go to the local Hospice House where she could be cared for by a nursing team until I returned.

The morning we left was a bit scary, as her blood sugars were extremely low. We got her back into an acceptable range, got her bags packed, and as I was buckling her into the car I told her that I would be back before she knew it, and I asked for her to try to hold on until I got back as we had plenty of decisions & arrangements to make together. She promised to try, which made me feel terrible for even asking. I had to apologize for my selfish request, and told her I hoped she would still be here but that if she had to go I loved her. She told me to enjoy my family + the experiences to be had that weekend, then kissed my cheek and I wept inside.

That night around 11pm Aunt L's sister, Aunt K - who had been battling her own cancer for five years, passed away. Grief was not an easy way to begin the weekend trip, but it was certainly a tenderizer for the heart. When tender, its easier to be more receptive to the Holy Spirit. Which was something the Lord knew we needed that weekend.  Despite having been spread so thin to cover all our bases prior to that weekend, we were able to be tuned right into Mini-Me & her experience on Westminster's campus. To Mini-Me it was extremely important for Mr LKP to see what she saw and feel what she felt when she & I had visited the summer before Without a doubt we could see her completely in her element.  Surrounded by brilliant, like-minded kids. It was apparent that Westminster was exactly the institution that could nurture all of her best qualities, and amplify them in a manner that will not only create a better future for Mini-Me, but would allow her the ability to positively impact her future world for the better.

By the end of the activities that Saturday, Mini-Me was positive that Westminster was the school for her. She made a phone call to her birth father to inform him of her decision, then she went to the admissions department and made her official commitment + rang their gong in the courtyard.  It was an epic moment in her life, and I am eternally grateful to Aunt L for her insistence that we go.

We drove all day that Sunday to get home.  And that night, approximately 90 minutes from the Oregon-Washington border I got the strongest impression that we needed to drive to the Hospice House straight away, before going home. Mr LKP agreed, saying he felt the same way.  As we arrived Mr LKP's parents and sister were just pulling in.  We had not spoken with them, but apparently Aunt L had requested a Priesthood blessing of release. Upon learning that we were so grateful we listened to the Spirit so we could be there.

Shortly after we arrived, I was able to sit bedside and hold her hand for a bit. She woke up and asked about Daisy's college weekend. I shared with her the good news, to which she smiled contently and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. My heart fluttered at the sight of her excitement. I shared with her that we were ready to bring her home the next day and to that she closed her eyes and smiled. She received her requested blessing, and we stayed only a bit longer that evening as she had become overwhelmed by all the family present. Providence's timing is beautiful because just as we were leaving, her two daughters (one having flown to the other from Brooklyn & then they drove down from Seattle together) arrived to be by her bedside.

When Mr LKP, Mini-Me & I went home that night we were tired, but relieved to be moving forward on big college plans, as well as to have returned home in time to find Aunt L still with us. Knowing her daughters were now back on the scene also allowed enough room mentally for me to feel like I could exhale. But that room to breathe quickly faded as Aunt L passed not 24 hrs later.

Breathing turned into a burden as grief overtook me.

I know God's beautiful Plan of Salvation. I'm grateful for it. But the sting of losing her & her daily teachings and companionship was too sharp for my already fragile heart. There was much to do, but I couldn't help the pain.

To top it all off, the rest of the family, including Grandma R, had been in the throws of preparing to travel to Colorado for Aunt K's funeral. So the majority of coordinating funeral arrangements fell to the cousins and I. Once we thought we had it all to the specifications Aunt L had requested, there was a bit of a struggle once the rest of the aunts & uncles returned from Colorado as they all had their own ideas of how the services should be and there was an awful lot of comparison to Aunt K's funeral services. Though I understand they too were doubled over with their own grief, it was a challenge to help them remember there were specific requests Aunt L had made + the greatest priority was to honor both her wishes as well as her children's wishes.

I firmly believe it to be one of the most difficult things, when grieving, to see outside of our own individual aching. Granted, grief is important to not stow away but to process through while it is present. However, something I learned through this was that no matter how sad I may be in situations like these, it is paramount that the sorrows & needs of those MOST directly impacted be tended to and made priority over all other grief. Especially when those individuals most closely attached to the departed may not share the same testimony & knowledge of Heavenly Father's Great Plan of Happiness.

According to her last requests, Aunt L's funeral did turn out to be the most colorful & kid-friendly funeral there had ever been held in that church building! In addition it was the loveliest tribute to boot, as even her former kiddos/patients came with their families. There was even a children's choir who sang some of her most closely cherished Primary songs. It took standing firm on many things, but her wishes were fulfilled.

I had no idea at the beginning of this specific timeline that I was signing on for the majority of my year. But I am forever changed from the experience, from the daily increases in knowledge & strengthening of my testimony. And I am forever grateful for the year I spent tending to the needs of a living angel.

Yes, through all of this, I most certainly know my Heavenly Father is intimately aware of my needs and loves me unconditionally. I watched His hands at work in the daily happenings of her life, and subsequently my own. Heavenly Father is in ALL of the details.

He truly holds us in His hands. I promise.

Spread Your Love For the Gusty Ridge Ranch

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