Monthly Archives: January 2011

About That

In case you’re wondering–yes, I got the test results back.

Yes, it’s my liver.

No, they have no idea why.

Yes, I’ve been put on a cancellation list in case somebody else doesn’t want to consult the specialist at their appointed time and I can drive to Wenatchee in time to take their spot.

Yes, that means that I might call you up and cancel on you at any given notice.

If nobody cancels, the next available appointment isn’t until February 17th.

Yes, sometimes I feel like sitting here and crying. On my hands, so I don’t scratch my skin to ruin.

No, I don’t really want to hear any more theories about what is wrong with me.

Unless you happen to be a specialist in liver disorders–then bring it on.

Yes, I have two overdue posts simmering; I will publish them this weekend.

I have to sneak a couple of photos first.


Goodly Parents

We came to the end of our family scripture study once again last night. Final verse, final chapter. Whereupon, Quinton wanted to know if we were going to read the Index this time. Pleeease?

Uh, no. As enlightening as I’m sure that would be…

At any rate, we started over at the beginning, chapter one, verse one, which of course got me to thinking about parents. Good parents, specifically. (Ha! At church last week an old lady put up her hand and expressed the opinion that Mary and Joseph were pretty negligent parents for losing Jesus that year in Jerusalem. I love it when the front row shakes things up in Sunday School.)

It occurs to me tonight that goodly parents are those who pass on to their children the things they need to know: how to read and write and drive a car. How to order a pizza and how to make jello. Whatever it is you have, you pass it on. Most of it, your children will never even realize they gleaned from your experience.

You don’t have to teach them everything that other parents of other children understand; you teach them what you know, and then you encourage them to learn more–to become more than you are, to know more than you know, to question the world around them and all of the information they encounter.

And so it occurs to me, of course, that I too, have been born of goodly parents, and how fortuitous, because it is after all a Thankful Thursday. Ergo:  I am grateful for parents who taught me frugality, honesty, and table manners. For teaching me real literacy–not just the ability to read, but the ability to think about what I read and express my own thoughts in writing. How to cook and clean, and sew.  Thousands of life skills I take for granted. Even from their faults and shortcomings, I have learned life lessons: that we keep trying, day in and day out. That we do not have to be perfect to approach God or to ask for his help.

(And yes, if my parents had been here tonight, they would have probably agreed with Quinton that the Index would make perfectly acceptable reading material. They’re a little freaky that way about words…)


Everything That Freaks Me Out

(Yes, that title is a possibly obscure reference, if you have not listened to Blue October lately, but there you have it, today is an obscure day…)

Ran into my mother-in-law at the clinic this morning. Maybe they schedule blood letting by last name, I don’t know; we were lab buddies. Only, they took just one vial of her blood and off she went on her merry way. Me, on the other hand, they parked in a corner seat so as to be out of the way, and sicced a student phlebotomist upon me.

I know it was a student because it said so, in REALLY BIG LETTERS on his name tag.

That’s even less reassuring than the day I got a student nurse in the delivery room. What’s the worst that she could have done, really? (I mean, besides put her ice-cold hands on my arm repeatedly and make odd crooning sounds in the back of her throat?)

I have a hard and fast rule, while sitting in the lab chair: do not pay attention to the guy with the needle. I sit there, I study the bulletin board and count vials in the storage cabinet, and before I get to twenty or so, they are asking me to hold a tiny little piece of cotton over my latest puncture wound.

Today, however, long after my mother-in-law had come and gone, I was still counting vials.

One hundred eighty eight, one hundred eighty nine…

Seriously, I’m still sitting here? What is he using, a hair’s breadth needle to aspirate my blood with?

“Wow,” he finally says. “They sure ordered a lot of blood work on you today.”

Followed by him readying yet another vial.

I held fast to my principles and did not look at the blood until it was safely drawn, capped and labelled; once it is no longer pumping from my own body, it does not bother me. I pressed the little piece of cotton into the crook of my arm and counted vials–full this time. It occurred to me to wonder if the Imaging Department and the Lab Department of the clinic ever compare notes and if Lab knew I’d been told by Imaging to arrive fasting both food and drink.

As I walked out, leaving a significant part of my fluid weight on the counter, I thought to myself, that can’t be good.

I made it to said imaging department before beginning to doubt my depth perception. I made it to a chair before the entire Pacific Ocean was roaring in my head, over my head, miles above me and I was floundering somewhere at the bottom of it all and the music over the intercom was getting really bizarre. I had a fleeting suspicion that someone was surgically implanting faulty speakers into the depths of my ear canals and then everything was gone.

At some point I woke up, fighting to both surface from the bottom of the ocean and to resist the phantom ear buds. Or at least my brain was. Body was incapable of motion. I was as fully drenched as though I really had taken a seaside dousing, and the nurse was asking me if I thought I could stand up. I looked down at my hand and studied it carefully, and sure enough, it wasn’t responding to any commands I sent it by way of my cerebrum.

Fun times. No answers yet–but it made me remember how very much I hate being sick and count my many blessings for so many years of health.

I know, this isn’t much of world-view Wednesday, is it? I mean, there was that reference to the Pacific Ocean but really, it’s all been about me, me, me. A bit obsessive really. Didn’t intend to get all ghoulish on you, but there it is. Off to bed, with hopes that I do not wake singing along with Blue October for any other reason that their song is stuck on replay in my mental iPod playlist…


Celebrating, Inca Stinka Style

So. Since I took my ease yesterday, I suppose that makes this Monday. Or something. I’m not taking a nap, at any rate. I am, however, going on a date. Yes, that’s right. Me and he. He even shaved.

Speaking of going out on the town: class was cancelled this weekend, and so I got to join some of my female in-laws for a weekend lunch to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. She thanked me by flinging a good-sized dollop of whipped cream across the table and down my front. Luckily, I associate with this type of table manners all week, and it didn’t bother me one bit. Besides, if you have ever been to Inca’s in Moses Lake, you know that we call it Inca Stinka and you understand that if you don’t want to tack the cost of a seriously hefty dry cleaning bill onto the cost of your meal, you wear something you can take off and wash when you get home. As soon as you get home. There’s a reason my hair is up in as tight a knot as I could get it. That’s me in the black coat, blessedly obscured from the camera. (Have you ever seen a good photo of yourself, eating?)

The important thing in this picture is that pink box on the bench beside Charli–keep your eye on that one:

I couldn’t help but ask myself, as the waiters came out singing, with a plate of free (you guessed it) whipped cream covered, deep fried tortilla crisps, and the dreaded sombrero, How many other people has that hat been worn by? Do they disinfect it between celebrations? Somehow I think not:

This is the birthdayee, my mother-in-law, Carlene. She’s an amazing woman–she’s put up with my father-in-law for more than fifty years now.

Kidding, Glade. (But you know it’s true…)

She seriously has the patience of something beyond Job. Or her teeth are permanently fixed in her tongue, I don’t know. The only time I ever heard of her losing her cool was the day one of my nieces was walking out of Chico’s pizza parlor and her baggy pants fell down around her ankles. And her hands were full of nearly $100 worth of pizza.

You have to understand that Carlene is seriously old school. As in, she cannot bring herself to say words like “pee”: Ew, she will say when the litter box needs changing, it smells like wet in here. She is also very frugal, however, she certainly will not endure her grandchild exposing herself to an entire parking lot. My daughter–who was there–says that on this occasion, Grandma Carlene proved she can make herself heard.

Which might make it even funnier that inside that pink box was a racy pair of scarlet underthings: a gag gift from her daughter, Shalene. Apparently this set of lingerie has been making the rounds for more than a decade in various gifts and surprise appearances between them. This is a bizarre little family secret I have never been privy to. There was also a head from a goose decoy which appeared in vehicles and under pillows and strapped into infant strollers. It made a final disappearance in Idaho a few years back.

This is the family where Santa hides the stockings so well that weeks have gone by without them being found. They’re shifty like that.

Carlene opened up the box, unwrapped the tissue, and immediately clapped the lid on again. Her sense of decorum must be slipping, however, because she relented and showed the rest of us what was in the box–in full view of everyone else in the restaurant. I suppose us young folk are rubbing off on her.

At any rate, with patience and a sense of humor and she has been capable of endure just about anything we dish out. In all the years Marty and I rented her basement apartment, she never once let us drive her to distraction (that she has ever admitted to, anyway.) Now, she lives less than a quarter of a mile away, and I rarely see her anymore, shame on me. It was worth the whipped cream stains–happy birthday, Carlene!


Unmanic Monday

New favorite symptoms of liver disease: excessive sweating–as in: get up and change all your clothes  or freeze to the sodden sheets in the middle of the night sweating. Yeah. Fun times. Especially when my palms spontaneously turn into water fountains in the middle of the day.

What?

You thought that because I didn’t post strictly on schedule you weren’t going to have to listen to me whine this week?

Let me tell you a secret: I took the day off. Yes Ma’am, that’s right. We celebrated the ultimate Take It Easy Tuesday by starting twenty four hours in advance. Not a single child (who I did not personally participate in the creation of) crossed my threshold, and I slept until nine.  I also started dinner at two and made apple crisp and puttered around playing a glorious version of housemommy all day long.

I know, you’re jealous–unless you, too, take federal holidays seriously. In which case you had a wonderfully unmanic Monday also.


I Will Go, I Will Do

Someone in class today asked today what a person is to do when their reality falls far short of their dreams. What do you do when the longed for child does not come, or your college of choice rejects your application or blessings of health or employment fail to materialize. What do you do? Where do you go from that path that you never planned to be on, and feel you scarcely recognize as your own?

Besides the obvious Hallmark answers: counting blessings, looking on the bright side, etc.,  What do you do?

I said I unload the dishwasher.

You might think I was joking, but I wasn’t. Entirely.

I think I was fifteen years old or so when I sat across the desk from the ultimate authority figure in my life and was completely misunderstood. So misunderstood that I did not have the composure to speak up and say, “Wait, wait a minute, that’s not what I meant.”

I just sat there speechless, stunned.

We were discussing a recent problem I said something like, “You know, in a way, I’m glad it happened. I’m glad something happened.”

I meant: I’m glad that something real happened; I’m glad that there is some physical evidence of an elusive conflict I could never confront or define in the past. At least now, I have a place to curve my hand around and say, Here, right here–this is where I hurt.

What he heard, was a fifteen year old kid with black eye saying she was glad for a change-up in the boring routine of day-to-day get up, go to school, come home, repeat–as if, on some level, I had enjoyed the excitement of being clobbered.

I realized how very misunderstood I had been when he frowned over his fingertips and said, “Kimber, you know–there are two types of people in the world: those who wait for things to happen to them, and those who make things happen.”

I stared at him, totally astonished to have my words interpreted that way, and I didn’t protest. I left his office feeling utterly confused and humiliated.

And yet, those words have stayed with me for almost twenty years, and whenever I feel paralyzed by disappointment, sorrow or indecision, I close my eyes and I tell the ultimate authority in my life, Hey. I don’t know where to go from here. Help me to do something, anything. Where do I go from here?

Honestly, His advice usually runs something along the lines of unloading the dishwasher, or cleaning a window. Something benign but doable. And then I have to take it from there, even if I don’t feel like it, or understand it, or think that sorting the silverware is going to get me any farther along my path than I already am.

I can tell you that whenever I begin, no matter how small the opening steps, the path opens up in ways I never imagined in the midst of my former paralysis.

Sometimes you just have to do something. Anything. You have to get out of bed, put on your shoes, and make something happen. If you cannot face mailing out another application or having that talk with your boss or your child or your father or your spouse or your mother–do something you can do. If you’re a praying sort, you might want to ask for some direction. The important thing is that you act.

If you’re on the right track, you’ll soon recognize it. If you aren’t, that will become apparent too. If you huddle in fear at the crossroads, you just get cold and damp.

You’ve heard it said that faith without works is dead, and you might as well be, too. If you are not working at something, working towards something, you do not exist. Doing is the essence of humanity.


Jaidon Hop-a-long Lybbert

Up next, this third Saturday Spotlight of the new  year, we have Jaidon–although, we’ve taken to calling him Hop-a-long because he can hop around on one leg pretty much faster than you or I can walk.

It all started out with a snowstorm and a couple really cool sleds the day after Thanksgiving (just as I was headed out the door to do go Christmas shopping, too. And yes, I totally blame him for my Christmas eve panic-shopping binge):

If you’ve ever had a kid build a sledding “jump” and try to launch himself over a large pit while travelling at a high velocity–and not… quite… make it… over said pit, you’ll know what this means:

That’s right, we had to cut it off. He spent the next three weeks flat on his back in his corner behind the Christmas tree in a full-length cast, doing homework, reading dozens of books, and, well, getting really greasy hair because it was nearly impossible to take a shower:

He finally got a new cast, just in time for Christmas morning, that he could sit up in and swing around easier. This was him, about an hour ago, notice the blue cast on his left foot still:

He looks eerily like my older brother here; I’ve never noticed that resemblance before. And no, I don’t usually cut hair in my nylons, nor do I typically wear them under my jeans;  it’s been a crazy day of costume changes and tasks piling up and running over into each other. He wanted a haircut at 8 pm, and who am I to argue? He’s hoping to get this last cast off on Tuesday, or at least before his left leg withers into nothing.

Jaidon is my silent, intense kid. He has always been one of strong emotion and once he grew up a bit, he stopped expressing his strong emotions quite so frequently and instead sort of simmers in the background at times. As a toddler, he was intensely happy, and intensely angry, rarely in between. He’s also fiercely competitive and the size of his opponent doesn’t seem to matter. This was him, about three years ago sneaking up on his brother:

He’s also tenderhearted and kind:

I don’t know if you can see the scar over his right eye in this picture–it was taken a couple years ago not long after yet another trip to the ER with him. He’d ridden down Grandma’s driveway just a little too fast and split his head open. This was back when I was babysitting round the clock. I had to take two kids with me to the ER, besides the profusely bleeding one. Egad. What a day.

None of my other kids have been in so many fixes as Jaidon. I think he’s naturally brave and physically very strong and this makes him a little more fearless than the other kids. In a way, I was grateful for the broken leg this winter; I’m hoping he will remember what a long recovery just one shattered bone required, and maybe the experience will lead him to stop and think in the future. I’d rather him learn that lesson now than when he’s twenty-one and thinking about diving off a cliff or something. Hopefully.

All I can say, is he was a lot easier to keep safe when he was this old:


On Ball Point Pens, the Gulf War, and Food Shortages

Donated some of every bodily fluid to the lab yesterday, re: irresistible urge to flay myself alive. Turns out that every male in my paternal line going back to Adam maybe didn’t die of alcohol-related liver failure after all.

Wouldn’t it that be ironic, if the teetotaling Mormon in the family developed the same problem?

No hard and fast answers until after more testing next week, but at any rate, it’s good to know the itch isn’t all in my head.

Enough about my internal organs already. Let’s talk about a certain fourteen year old, living in Canada, twenty years ago, shall we?

Jan 8-14, 1991

Nearly every entry during this section starts with a rant about the availability of functional ballpoint pens in my household. Some things never change. My handwriting? Not included. This week marks the beginning of an experiment with extremely small ALL CAPS WRITING.

Possibly trying to conserve ink, as I was also fairly concerned about the family resources. My father had been out of work since before Christmas, our car quit for good, and I was ravenously hungry as only a fourteen year old can be.

Nearly every entry also pontificates on various issues related to the pending Gulf War, which was the first conflict Canada had actively participated in during my lifetime, or my mother’s for that matter. There must have been talk about a draft, because I worried over the young men my sister’s age who would be affected. Every entry counted down the days to January 15th:“January 13th, 1991 Sunday. Two more days to war. Tension is building…” followed by much political commentary and speculation about the actions of the UN and “that creep, Saddam Hussein.”

Mostly I expressed the opinion that everyone over the age of 30 who had anything to do with the war should be locked into a giant arena together and left to fight it out for themselves.  I didn’t see why, in the event of global chemical warfare, the likes of  Mikhail Gorbachev, Brian Mulroney and George Bush should be whisked off to safe, airtight havens while the rest of us were left to inhale the fumes of their erring ways. I frequently mulled over the question, “What are we saving them for?” I even had opinions on the monopolies of oil companies in Saudia Arabia and freedom of speech in Russia.

Long story short: I cared way more about politics twenty years ago than I do now.

On January tenth I thanked my lucky stars for an unexpected arrival of food–or more specifically my grandmother for sending a load of carrots and applesauce, Uncle Shane for some venison, and our bishop for several bags of wheat. We ate wheat in every dish: it replaced the beans in chili, the rice under sweet and sour, and the hamburger in spaghetti sauce. We ate it boiled, ground, and sprouted. Ugh. I do not, under any circumstances (including teenage starvation) recommend wheat sprouts, however I seem to have been ridiculously happy over having any food at all. I did, after a disclaimer about knowing I shouldn’t complain in the face of so many blessings, fantasize briefly about having margarine, dairy products, eggs or fresh fruits and vegetables in the house.

I recounted several miracles of the Christmas most recently past, in which we found quality gifts and clothing at the thrift stores, and the fact that my mother made doll blankets for the Salvation Army in turn “for many brand new, never-been-opened toys for the kids, including a $60 hockey game Clarence [my youngest brother] went bonkers over.”

Oh, and that all-caps mini writing didn’t improve my penmanship much: I think I fell asleep writing every entry. I was making a dress for youth conference, trying to make a February 1st deadline on the yearbook committee, and studying for one test or another, and never getting in bed before midnight. Egad, I think I get more sleep as an adult than I did then.

I ended up attending the youth conference without the new dress completed, but had enough fun to ramble on for several pages about it in shorthand, although when it came to relating what we had for dinner I made an exception and used full and complete sentences. How else to dignify the experience of “real butter,  amazing rolls, amazing gravy and carrot cake for dessert!”

 


Keeping Kimber From Under The Sink

I’ve heard that certain people look better on paper than they do in real life.

Me, for example.

I could tell you that I played two instruments in junior high, and one of them with the high school symphony orchestra from the time I was nine years old and you might be really impressed… unless I also mentioned that there were only six viola players in the entire city of Lethbridge, Alberta. I was total seat decor. A place holder in the landscape of the orchestra.

(And yes, I was also the nerd carrying two instrument cases around campus for three of the most crucial years of social posturing. I have a faint scar across the bridge of my nose where my glasses ((I did specify nerd)) came into fierce and simultaneous contact with both the cement and my nasal bone because as I was leaping over a low chain-type lawn border in front of the school, my toe caught said chain link, my arms flew out–one right, one left–in, I’m sure, a picturesque spread, with oboe on the left and viola on the right, and being brain heavy, but not having that organ entirely in sync with the rest of my physical being, I, well… went around with electrical tape holding my glasses together for some time following that balletic moment.)

Yes, I could rosin a bow and drag it across the correct string in time with everyone else. But I was never more than a passable musician. I was too interested in other things to devote that kind of time to one activity. Well, that, and I believed there was this impenetrable barrier between decent playing (mine) and breathtaking playing that I would never cross. I could play decently without any effort at all, or bang my head against the barrier indefinitely and still only play decently, so why not just play decently to begin with and skip the concussion entirely?

Point being:

Today’s grateful shout out goes to all those people who didn’t, and do not, believe in that barrier that I placed in my own path. Musicians who write and play and sing amazing melodies. Who dedicate their entire lives to bringing me that miracle we call music. My son tells me I feel this way because I’m a dopamine addict. Good to know. I mean, it really is; I had no idea that the pleasure I get from good music is more than just an absence of whatever sound I’m drowning out with said tunes. It also explains why whenever I press play I usually feel like doing something more than crawling into that space under my kitchen sink, drawing the cabinet doors closed and banging my head against the pipes.

I have no desire to produce music of my own, finally. My childhood interest in the viola and my adolescent affair with the oboe had more to do with being surrounded by that music than with participating in its production. But I love music; I really do, and I’m so grateful for its influence in my life, for all the people who make it, and for all the technology that makes it so accessible and enjoyable today.


The Best Books

You may already be familiar with the Mormon near-obsession with education. A lifestyle of continuous learning is right up there with laws  of physical health, familial loyalty and sabbath day observance.

From the time we were tiny little people learning to read from the pages of scripture, the expectations were clear: We would grow up and learn languages and science and history and everything else the world offered. Perhaps the most oft quoted admonition I heard, related to education, was this succinct little tidbit: “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”

The value of education has never been debated within the church; what constitutes the “best” books has.

When I was a child, my parents subjected media and books to a sort of “three strikes, you’re out” rule. If a movie or text offended their sensibilities with vulgarity or profanity more than three times, it was turned off, closed up, set aside. That was the measuring stick. My friends’ parents had different measuring sticks; some more flexible, some more rigid.

I suppose I followed the same general three strikes rule with my own kids, until last semester when a teacher assigned us to read “Burro Genius”, a memoir written by Victor Villasenor.  This book struck-out within the first few chapters.

And yet…

This man was beaten by his kindergarten teacher for speaking Spanish on the playground. This man was so humiliated and persecuted for being his own essential self that when he was graduating from highschool, he took his guns and his pick-up truck and a long list of abusive teachers and determined to wipe them all out.

He didn’t.  And oh, he has a powerful story to tell about race and education and ignorance in America.

And I’m not going to listen to him because he speaks differently than me?

I’m not going to listen to him, even though he is a man of primal, intrinsic faith and intelligence and compassion because even though he speaks two languages with power, the one we share is peppered with words I feel are profane?

Can I justify that?

I can’t. That book was worth reading. Not by children under a certain age, maybe, but its message is valid and maybe there isn’t another man or woman or another voice that could have expressed that message as well as Mr. Villasenor did in his.

Obviously I am required to adjust my definition of “the best books.” The three-strikes rule certainly isn’t going to cut it, this semester, folks. I’ve seen the list.

I am reminded of this counsel, by one of the very first leaders of our faith, Brigham Young:

It is your duty to study to know everything upon the face of the earth, in addition to reading [scripture]. We should not only study good, and its effects upon our race, but also evil, and its consequences…. If I do not learn what is in the world, from first to last, somebody will be wiser than I am. I intend to know the whole of it, both good and bad. Shall I practise evil? No; neither have I told you to practise it, but to learn by the light of truth every principle there is in existence in the world.”

I assume that includes becoming familiar with the literature that humanity has held up as worthwhile for ages past and which every college reading list contains and which intelligent people are expected to have informed opinions about, even if I have been too queasy to read it in the past.

Perhaps that’s the part of the oft-quoted scripture I’ve always overlooked, “by study and also by faith.” I have to read these things with faith in my own capacity to learn by the light of truth that which is worthwhile, and to slough off the rest and walk away from it. I don’t have to adopt the vocabulary or the cynicism or any laxity of morality I do not choose for myself.

Maybe that’s part of growing up, I don’t know. I’m 34; you’d think I’d have done that by now…