HOW MY HUSBAND AND I CAME TO LOOK LIKE TWINS AFTER 37 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

 

About a year and a half ago, as I was about to start chemotherapy treatments, my daughter shaved my head in preparation for the coming hair loss. Her little children watched the whole haircut with limited interest.  When it was all done, my little 7-year-old granddaughter climbed up on my lap, threw her little arms around my neck, and said, “You’re still pretty, Grandma.”  Then my husband came and sat by me, putting his head next to mine. Little Autumn stood back so she could see both of us well, then said, “You and grandpa look just like twins! I can’t even tell you apart!” Earlier in life this might have seemed like a strange comment, but with the unexpected course life has taken, she actually was quite right!

Our story started out like so many others in this room:  Rick and I both graduated from Skyline, went to college, got married, had a few children (four, to be exact), worked hard, grew older, gained in-law children, and had grandchildren.  And through it all, we had wonderful, amazing experiences along with heart wrenching, difficult experiences.  In our very happy version of life, the sky was mostly blue and sometimes there were clouds that came and went.

About three years ago, a big cloud came along. I was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer. I had surgery and spent 6 months having chemotherapy, and battled that cancer into remission. We felt especially blessed when that big, scary cloud cleared away.

But a different version of the cloud came back a year-and-a-half ago, when I was diagnosed with stage 4  breast cancer. It had already spread to my spine and my sternum, so I had surgery, then radiation, then chemotherapy. The cloud got bigger when we found out a few months later the cancer had spread again, this time to multiple spots on my ribs and my hips. And three months ago, it spread to my brain, leaving me with 3 brain tumors.

This big cloud just gets bigger and bigger and it isn’t going away anytime soon, I’m afraid. It appears to be here to stay.  I undergo appropriate treatments in the hope that I will have more happy, not-too-sick days and I believe they will come.

Many, many years ago, I recall hearing Rose Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy Family, say, “Whenever a tragedy happens in our family, I never curse God and ask Him why this happened to me? To us? And in the same way, whenever great blessings come into our family, I never ask God, why has this happened to me? To us?”

I loved that the first time I heard it, and I love it still. Our family has had unimaginable, remarkable, awe-inspiring blessings and miracles. There have been so many, we can’t even begin to catalog them and try to keep track. It’s impossible. The blessings have been SO MUCH GREATER than the challenges, it is almost unbelievable.

Sometimes it seems like everything about this world is awful, but I have found that there is so much good if I just open my eyes and look for it. I believe that no matter who you are, no matter what your situation, everyone single person can “be the good”  in someone else’s life.

Three New Richard Stories

I have a couple more Richard stories. Either he’s been funnier lately or I’m feeling well enough to laugh a little bit. Not sure which. But these cracked me up.

Richard is really very innocent and naïve. He quite often says things that imply a “double meaning” and he doesn’t know it. It’s part of his charm, I guess. He also loves to watch kids’ TV shows and he loves what he calls “the creature channel”. I’m not sure what channel that is, but it has shows about different animals and their habitats, it has The Wild Kratts, and shows of that sort. So he knows quite a few “creature” words, but doesn’t always know what they mean. Also, a couple of weeks ago, our Bishop and his family adopted a couple of raccoons and Richard got to see them from inside the car. He thought they were pretty funny. That’s the background, and now here’s the first story:

Whenever my friend Lori leaves the house, she and Richard always have this exchange, “See ya later, Alligator!” “After while crocodile!” The other day Richard turned to me and said, “What else, Mom?” So I said, “See ya soon, ya big baboon!” He laughed and yelled, “See ya soon, ya big baboon!” As she drove away he couldn’t stop giggling and saying, “Lori’s a raccoon!”

Story #2:

Richard has the bad, bad habit of pointing at people and things. He has these skinny, long, bony fingers and they are always pointing. He points at people across the church, gets their attention, and then does the “crazy” sign around his head. Or he just points until he gets someone to point back. He also has some chauvinistic tendencies. I swear I do not know where they came from, but he loves, loves, loves to say things like, “Girls are crazy” or “Girls are weird” or “Girls are goofy”. A favorite is “Girls are trouble”. A few days ago Lori came over and she said, “Richard, it’s too hot! I’m so hot!” So Richard pointed his bony finger at her and said, “Hot girls are trouble!”

Oh, wait. In the interest of honesty, this story from LONG ago should be told here, as it’s related to the previous story. Several years ago, Richard came home on a very hot summer day and I was sweating and my face was quite red. Richard very lovingly put his arm around me and said, “You’re a hot mama!”

More Funny Richard Stuff

Richard is mostly very quiet around the house. Especially at night. He’s a very sound sleeper and usually sleeps from 10 until 7 or 8. The older I get, the more I appreciate that quality in him.

A couple of weeks ago, I was wide awake at 2 or 3 in the morning. Since I couldn’t sleep, I took my phone into the living room and sat on the couch to catch up on Facebook. Suddenly, out of nowhere I “felt” a lurking presence which jump-started my heart and then heard Richard’s voice:  “Mom. Why are you up?”

I told him I just couldn’t sleep so I was going to read for a while and I asked him why he was up in the middle of the night. He said, “Gotta go potty.” And away he went.

He came back a minute or two later, rubbed his eyes, and said, “Mom. You shouldn’t do that. Go to the potty and go back to bed.” And then he went back to sleep.

Have I mentioned that he is just full of wisdom and good advice? Yes he is.

GREAT NEWS!!!

I have several blog posts rattling around in my brain, just waiting to be written. But most of the time I don’t feel well and/or I’m just plain too exhausted to do much at all. This is not a way of life that I enjoy, but there it is. I’m not going to write a big, long post right now, but I do need to get this short little post done.

After a long and difficult summer of brain radiation and its everlasting recovery, I finally got to have my follow-up brain scan two days ago. Dr. Whipple called me yesterday with the great news: All 3 of my brain tumors have shrunk “considerably”! They are all still there, but he says there is no need for further radiation  or surgery at this time. HOORAY!!!

This round of radiation was really, REALLY hard on me, so I’m very grateful that it worked so well! Unfortunately I still have some headaches, some dizziness, balance and stability problems, and vision problems, and it looks like they’re here to stay. The damage has been done. But —– it’s not going to get worse anytime soon! I feel like I’ve won the lottery!

Going into fall we have some choices to make, but none of them are urgent at this point. So for today I’m not thinking about them. Yay for me. Hopefully I’ll feel well enough over the next couple of weeks to be able to have a few days of blogging. Maybe I will think better if I can get those blog posts out of my brain!

A Room with a View

President Spencer W. Kimball, who served as the 12th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, once said this: “God does notice us and He watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that He meets our needs. Therefore it is vital that we serve each other in the Kingdom”.

There are so many loving, kind, good, amazing people in this world who meet our needs by following personal inspiration. When we pray, God will inspire someone – another mortal – to be the answer to our prayers. I firmly believe that is true.  I KNOW that is true because our family has experienced it again and again and again in multiple ways and by a multitude of people.  Here is one incredible example of this principle:

Rick and I moved into our little happy home in Millville in July, 1989. We rented it for 3 years before the owners decided they were ready to sell it to us and we jumped at the opportunity! Having already lived here for 3 years, we had a list of improvements/changes that we wanted or needed to make. The home was already about 10 years old, so it was in need of some loving care.

We compiled a wish list/necessary improvements list and got started. Each year, from January through May, we saved most of my teaching income to make our home improvements. From the very beginning, one of the items on my WISH list was to remove the window in our dining room and replace it with a sliding door, and add a deck or a patio off the dining room. Many of our NEEDS had to be met most of those summers – things like a new refrigerator, oven, or dishwasher, new carpeting/flooring, some landscaping, finishing the basement, etc. And many of our WISHES were met – things like new living room furniture, repainting/redecorating bedrooms,  and other rooms, new trees, etc. But the one thing that never, ever made it to the top of the list was the patio door, along with the deck or patio. We talked about it often, and apparently we told friends and family about it from time to time. Or perhaps I talked about it endlessly.  I’m not sure.

Around the middle of April this year, the phone rang one morning and a gentleman told me his name and said, “Mrs. Morgan, I’m a contractor here in Cache Valley.  I’ve been hired by an anonymous donor to do some work on your home.” We arranged to have him come over the next day to discuss what his plans were. When he got here, we went out to the backyard and he pulled out his measuring tape. He said that he had been paid to build us a new deck and to replace our dining room window with a sliding door! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!!!  Did I mention that there are loving, kind, good, amazing people in this world who listen to inspiration and become the answer to other people’s prayers? It’s true!

The contractor and his crew spent about 3-4 weeks working on our project and the final product is incredible!  We love our new door and deck! It is such a blessing to us and we can hardly believe it! He never did tell us who our anonymous donors were, but we love them, whoever they may be. I even told him that I needed to write a thank you note to the donors, and I couldn’t do that if I didn’t know who to write it to. He just said, “If you write it, I’ll make sure they receive it”. Darn!  I thought I had him tricked…

I took pictures throughout the process and I’m going to add them to this post. Sometimes when I do this, the pictures show up where I want them and sometimes they don’t, so if they seem out of sequence, oh well. That’s just life as it is for me right now.

Our new deck has become our new favorite room in the house!  It is absolutely beautiful and amazing!  It’s about 16’ x 16’. The decking is Trex and the railing is white vinyl. It is HUGE and there’s room for two rocking chairs, two planters with plants, a large grill, and a 6-person patio table. There are stairs off the west side that go down to the backyard. In the evenings the temperature in our little mountain valley gets down into the 50’s and 60’s most nights all summer long. We love to sit outside in the evenings watching the sunset, looking at the animals in the pasture behind our house, and listening to music. Last night we watched a movie with friends who had come up from Salt Lake. It is a wonderful place to relax and unwind with family and friends. We can’t wait until it cools down a bit so that we can eat dinner out there soon. Richard and I sometimes eat our breakfast out there if we get up early enough in the morning. I woke up very early one morning and it was 57 degrees, so I took my toast and hot cocoa out on the deck.  LOVED IT!

There are so many sad, awful things in this world, but there is also SO. MUCH. GOOD! So much good! This kind of thing has happened to us many times, and many of our friends have had similar blessings. I’ve never been able to answer someone else’s prayer in a huge way like this, but I’ve been inspired to help others in small ways, many times. I love it when I get to participate in being the good in the world. And right now we are so happy to be on the receiving end once again. We are so blessed!

post holes

post holes

framework

framework

Trex decking

Trex decking

new door, siding pulled off the house

new door, siding pulled off the house

completion day...rainy day

completion day…rainy day

new, perfectly-sized rocking chair

new, perfectly-sized rocking chair

deck with grill and one planter/plant

deck with grill and one planter/plant

looking west

looking west

You Never Know What’s Around the Next Corner, Do You?

I’ve got several blog posts rattling around in my head, just waiting to be written.  Since I can’t pay attention long enough to just sit down and write all of them, one right after the other, I think I will start with this one and see what happens next.

It’s been 3 years since I was diagnosed with colon cancer. It’s been about a year and a half since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the same amount of time since we found out that it had spread to my spine and my sternum. It’s been about 7 months since we found out that it had spread to my hips and my ribs. I felt pretty good for a few months, but back in early March, I started having some weird vision problems and some unsteadiness and balance problems and headaches.

In mid-April, my oncologist, Dr. BenJacob did a blood test called a cancer marker. It’s a test they do every 3 months and it had been staying in the 17-20 range for over a year, which is acceptable. But when he did the test in April, my marker had gone up to 42. So talked to him about those vision and balance and headache problems and also about a fairly large lump I had discovered in my breast. He sent me for a mammogram, which showed a tumor about the size of a ping pong ball.  He also told me he needed to take a look at my brain.  I should have said “no thank you”, but I didn’t.

I had a brain MRI a few weeks ago and it showed that I have 3 brain tumors. Two are in the left cerebellum, and the other is in the right frontal lobe. So now my weird symptoms make sense, but sense or no, I’m not happy about it.

We met with Dr. Whipple, who is the radiation oncologist, and he recommended 14 doses of full-brain radiation over 14 days. I’ve already had 8 doses and it’s a bit rough on me. It gives me nausea, dizziness, and exhaustion, and my headaches have gotten worse. It’s all kind of stinky.

We have been surrounded by help and kindness and love by our family and our community and our ward and it has made all the difference. So many people are praying for us, and we invite anyone reading this to include us in your prayers. We are grateful for every prayer offered in our behalf and they truly, truly do make a huge difference. We can feel your love, and we can feel God’s love.

I will try to keep my blog updated as changes occur. Because of the exhaustion, I have a hard time sitting down to a task and actually completing it. I fall asleep when I sit down. J Isn’t that great?

I’m hoping that my next blog post will be about a wonderful, amazing, incredible thing that someone has made happen for us. It will take some time to write it, but it’s a really important story that needs to be told and shared. I’m very anxious to write about it.

I’m going outside now to look at the sunset and listen to music and relax a bit. Hooray for being able to enjoy life!

A Tale of Four Graduations

In June 1934, my mom graduated from Utah State University.

Sixty years later, in June 1994 I graduated from Utah State University.

Eighteen years after that, in May 2012, my son Jeff graduated from Utah State University.

Three years after that, in May 2015, my daughter Tina graduated from Utah State University.

My mom was raised in Ogden, but chose Utah State over Weber State or BYU. I was raised in Salt Lake and attended the University of Utah for 3 years right after high school but I didn’t graduate.  After we moved to Millville, I decided to finish my degree, so I attended Utah State.

When my mom was in college back in the ‘30s, she was a member of Chi Omega sorority and she lived at the Chi Omega house, which was near campus.  It’s a beautiful home on the Boulevard in Logan.  On her graduation day, she had her picture taken on the front steps of that house.

Rick and I and our family moved to Cache Valley about a year and a half before my mom died.  Several times when my folks came to visit us here, she and I drove past the old Chi Omega house and she would tell me about her fun experiences there.  I’ve always enjoyed driving past that house and imagining what she must have been like as a young college woman, living in a sorority house, of all things!

When I graduated, I took a page from my mom’s scrapbook and we went to the house on the Boulevard. The scrapbook page I took with me had a picture of my mom standing on the steps of the house.  I held the scrapbook page while Rick took my picture standing on the steps of that same house.

When Jeff graduated, he didn’t do all the “pomp and circumstance” of graduation because he was doing an internship with Outward Bound in Florida. No cap and gown, no graduation pictures on the steps of the house on the Boulevard.

A few days ago, when Tina graduated, she decided to go to the commencement and afterwards we went to the house on the Boulevard to ask if we could take her picture there.  Tina and Richie arrived at the house about 20 minutes after we did. I went to the front gate of the fence around the house and as I was trying to open it, a couple came walking up the sidewalk towards me. They asked if they could help me and when I explained why I was trying to “break in” to their yard, they very graciously invited Rick and me to sit on chairs in their side yard and visit while we waited for Tina and Richie.

The folks who live there now are Bruce and Shauna Crane and they are just a lovely couple.  They were so kind and gracious and were excited to hear our history with the house. As we talked with Shauna, Bruce went to the back yard and cut a few stems of Lily of the Valley for me. What a kind, sweet thing to do!  They smelled so wonderful and reminded me of my mom.  She loved Lily of the Valley! It made me wonder: maybe that very plant had been in the yard when she lived there so very many years ago.  Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

Bruce and Shauna encouraged us to take as many pictures as we wanted on the porch and steps of their home.  It was a wonderful afternoon and I know my mom would be so happy to know that she started a fun graduation tradition.

CCI05052015

My mom in 1934.

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Me in 1994.

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Tina in 2015.

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Tina and me in 2015.

Richard’s Words to Live By, Part 2

Several months ago I wrote a blog post about these funny little sayings Richard hears on his PBS shows, mostly Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. They must have a few new episodes, because today I heard a new one.  It goes like this:

Clean up, pick up, put away.

Clean up every day!

When Richard shared this piece of advice with me, he said it as if it were a brand new idea…something he’d never considered before. I said, “Richard, that is a great idea!” And he said, “I know!  Maybe you could try it!”

OK then.  Richard is not a snarky person.  He did not mean that in a snide or unkind way.  He just really sees that I need some cleaning tips.  Thank you, Richard.  That is very helpful advice.  I will try to keep it in mind. 🙂

Frustrated and Whiny

Just so you know, I feel whiny.  It will pass, and luckily it doesn’t happen very often. But right now, it’s how I feel.

My dad was a woodworker.  He was a construction worker and he did fantastic finish work.  I love to visit the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake because in the lobby and in the hallways, I can still see some of his work.  It makes me happy.

When I was very young, I loved spending time in the garage with  my daddy.  He had a workshop inside the garage and I spent hours pounding nails into boards, helping clean brushes, and playing in sawdust.  When I was about 10 or 11, my dad started teaching me how to use his tools.  I knew all the different types of nails and screws and screwdrivers.  I knew the difference between the different types of saws and other tools. By the time I was 15 or 16 I could use a band saw, a table saw with help, a compound miter saw, a lathe, and other amazing tools.  I loved cutting and building and sanding and painting and varnishing.

When I was 25, my parents decided they needed new shingles.  My dad planned to start the project early that summer.  My 2nd baby, Annie, was about 4-6 weeks old and my mom took care of her for several days so I could be up on the roof helping my dad lay the new shingles.  That was such a fun experience!  It was really hard, but I loved doing it.

A couple of years later, Rick and I wanted a small wall built between our living room and kitchen.  My dad came out and did the work and I helped him build that wall and I loved it.  I felt like it was “my” wall.  It was the first time I had done actual construction.

Today, Rick and I went to Lowe’s and bought a new bookshelf.  It’s a small unit and came as a kit.  The pieces are laminated and they just had to be screwed together and the backing nailed on.  And you know what?  I couldn’t do it myself.  I couldn’t even help. Well, I held the nails, but that was about it.  It made me so sad to realize just what the health problems of the past couple of years have done to my body, my mind, and my spirit.

Dang it!

A Wonderful Wedding

Our littlest girl, Tina, got married on December 20.  It has taken me until now to work up the energy to blog about it.  It was a wonderful day and it’s only taken me this long because I need help figuring out how to get pictures from one place to another when everything is done digitally.  When things are too hard I put them off for another day and finally that day is here!  Hooray!

Tina and Richie have known each other for many years and have loved each other for a long time.  He served a mission in London, England and two months before he got home, she left for a mission to Redlands, California.  They wrote to each other and supported each other the whole 3 years and 4 months they were apart.

And now they are married!  And we are all thrilled about it!  Richie is a wonderful, smart, hardworking, fun, talented, funny, loving person and we are so happy that he loves our Tina.  He comes from an amazing family who lives just a couple of miles away. They are a perfect match for each other and a truly beautiful couple.  We love both of them so much, and we are so happy for them!

Mostly, I want to share a few pictures that show what a great couple they are. They were married in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint Temple in Logan, Utah and their reception was at The Alumni House on the campus of Utah State University. Their fantastic photographer was Eric Richards of Izlas Imaging.  Hope you enjoy these beautiful photos!

park - panoramic Tina alone b&w formal downtown R&T barn formal with sky