Angel Note

Angel Note
"If Music be the food of Love, Play on!" -- Wm. Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Friday, April 26, 2013

What Death Has Taught Me

A few weeks ago, my family lost our father. Although his death was sudden, and the circumstances surprising, it was not, in truth, unexpected. His health had been declining for several years, and he had several injuries from falls as he had become more unstable on his feet.

His passing is felt deeply by our family, but not for him. Rather we mourn for our mother, and each other. I, personally, have remarked to several people that I am not sad about his death, but merely for how much we all, and especially his eternal companion, our dear mother, will miss him. You see, the gospel of Jesus Christ has taught me many things about Death, and Death has taught me many things about Life.

One of the things I have learned is the truth of the infinite nature of choice. We have a multitude of choices place before us each day. We have limitless options at this point, but the moment we decide, that vast collection is reduced to one point.

Some of our choices produce more unlimited possibilities. One of those is the choice of education. Learning, growing, developing, and expanding our minds increases our options. Choosing to not learn, to not study, to not practice limits our potential future.

As a youth, I took piano lessons. I also played the violin in school. I didn't always put in the hours I sould have, however, when it came to practicing. Today, if I were to pick up a violin, I would most likely still sound like a beginner--a sound not incredibly pleasant to the human ear--but I would know some of the basic principles to playing.

Over the years, I have spent more time with my piano playing, and I can play things now that I could not play even a few short years ago. I am not, however, what I would consider a proficient pianist. I know that had I spent more time practicing as a child, I would be better now.

But most importantly for this discussion, because I took the opportunity when younger to take piano lessons, I now have, as a possible choice, playing the piano. Had I not made that choice to take lessons, the choice to play would not now be open to me. But had I made the choice to practice more, my options now would be greater.

The second thing that Death has taught me is how eternally important family is. Growing up, I admit I saw my dad as almost super-human. This is possibly due to the fact that I also saw him rather infrequently, since he was on the road for so many days during the week, then busy on weekends. After his job changed, he spent more time at home, and my image of him was shattered. After that, he and I did not get along very well. Until I moved out, that is. Not living in the same house allowed us to develop a better closeness. I still find that odd, but it was true.

In fact, I have found that I often have repeated that pattern. Many of the people in my life get along better with me when we do not lve in the same house. If I had the chance for a do-over, I would spend less of my energies on things that matter less, and more on my relatinships with family.

Even now, my siblings and I chat every Sunday night. Some of these siblings were out on their own before I was old enough to really get to know them very well. But the love I have for them, and the rare amounts of time I spend with them--even online--show me how important it is to focus on those moments when I can.

As our society brings about the collapse of the family, our church asks us to strengthen those ties. Death has taught me that strong bonds of love are not broken at the passing of a loved one, but strengthened further.

Death has also taught me the importance of peace. Not just peace as an absence of war, but inner peace that comes from sure knowledge with a sound foundation. I have always felt that there was either staying busy, or doing nothing. There was little in between. I now realize that we each need moments of peacefulness.

We should not merely be passive in accepting peacefull moments when they come, but we should actively seek them. Merely being inactive is not the same. If we are to truly find serenity, it must be a proactive choice, with conscious actions. I still waste plenty of time, but I am finding ways to build peaceful moments in my life.

And to paraphrase financial guru Dave Ramsey, the surest way to inner peace is to "walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus." My truest moment of peace come from the surety that He has suffered that I may be forgiven, and that from Him I can gain the strength to carry on when the journey seems difficult. From Him I find light when the way is dark.

This brings me to one of the most important things I have learned -- the importance of maintaining an eternal perspective. So many believe that we should live only for today, because there may not be a tomorrow. I know that this is good advice in many ways, but not all.

We must remember to live in such a way that we are prepared for tomorrow. This is good advice financially (which I am still in the process of attempting), and great advice spiritually. We will live again after this life, and there will be a day of accountability, when we will be asked to answer for the lives we have lived.

In that day, we cannot hope to accomplish in one moment what we should have maintained for our entire lives. If we have not lived up to our commitments, and religiously our covenants, that day will be too late. And if we have not made any commitments, our lack of initiative will mean that we have to answer for the good we could have done, but didn't.

You see, one of the reasons we are here is grow in strength and knowledge. If we give in to baser instincts, we cannot acheive that goal, since sin makes us weak. If we never build our character, we stay weak. It reminds me of trees. If trees are given too easy a life, they will be blown over at the first strong wind. Too harsh an invironment, and the tree can wither.

We will not wither, because God will never put us in an environment that is too harsh for us. He knows our strengths, and knows how much we can take. He has promised we will never be given more than we can withstand. Which means we cannot use, as an excuse, that something was too difficult. It will never be so.

So our task is to grow. We are to become strong. We are to become great. And staying weak by refusing to stretch our limits will condemn us as surely as sinning.

The final thing I will discuss (for now) is the third thing death has taught me. That is the importance of death itself. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe that one of the most important, and educational places on earth is the LDS temple. Tonight, while there, something profound occured to me. Death is more than just an end to our earthly life. It is even more than the first step into the next life.

Death is a necessary part of the Great Plan of Happiness. You see, Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden after partaking of the forbidden fruit. Not just because they had disobeyed God's command, but because staying could have disrupted the entire plan. Had they stayed, they may have partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This would have made them immortal once again. But they had allowed the sin of disobedience into their lives and hearts and souls. Had they done this, not only would they have lived forever in their sins, but it is possible that even had they been able to have children, all mankind would have been born into a world of immortality.

Immortal innocence was the state of the world before Adam's Fall. Immortal corruption would have damaged the plan that was to culminate in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That was what I realized tonight about death. We need it. Not just so that we can keep the world rom being too crowded, not just so we can get to the next life. We need death to separate us from our corrupt corporeal bodies, so the Atonement can save us. Immortal beings could not be changed in the way we need to be changed, but a spirit separated from its body by death becomes somewhat lessened.

That is when the Atonement comes into play. First, by relying on the grace of Jesus Christ, after all we can do, we can turn to Him for mercy. His grace fully grants us the gift of immortality once again, after we have been cleansed of our sins. If we have been cleansed. Those who have, by whatever means, rejected the forgiveness of the Savior in this life will be raised to a state that is less than their ultimate potential. They will not achieve Celestial Life with God, because of their choice to deny the full power of Christ's sacrifice in their lives.

But those who allow their sins to be forgiven, who sacrifice their sins in order to know God and Jesus Christ who He sent, will be raised to a state of Celestial Glory. And all of that is possible because we can, at the end of our days, do the one remaining thing we have been unable to do until then--die.

I do not fear death. Will I welcome it when it is my turn? Who can say? Will I seek it? Absolutely not. But when it comes, I will not be looking into a void, but stepping from this room into the next. I will not be taken by a heartless predator, but will be met by a familiar friend. And when that time comes, I will praise God for the time I had, and thank Him for His merciful blessings.

Friday, December 28, 2012

ZeldaPrincess In Trouble

December 24, 2012 we took ZeldaPrincess to the hospital up north. She was having pain, and had a fever of 102. She called her doctor, and he advised this hospital. We had been there when LadyBug had breast cancer, and have always been impressed with the nursing staff. And Dr. Colon was the one who diagnosed LadyBug's gastroparesis, so we know him as well.

They started her on a steroid treatment, but she didn't seem to be responding to that. They were going to do a CT scan, but couldn't find a vein big enough for the contrast. They eventually put in a picc line, which is better for her all around. The CT showed that her heart is slightly enlarged, probably due to the steroids (we hope).

Our boys brought us dinner on Christmas night, and StarGazer and his girlfriend, ArialDancer took us out for dinner the next night. It was nice to have the food, and better to visit with them. StarGazer and ArialDancer also drove to our house (200 mile trip) and grabbed almost all our Christmas presents, so we still got to open gifts on Christmas! With ZeldaPrincess in the bed, with tubes sticking out of her, it wasn't the most joyous occasion ever, but we had the family around, and that is really all that matters.

Last night, they gave ZP a drug to clean her out for the colonoscopy. She was not handling it very well, as it made her nauseous. So they put in a feeding tube through her nose to pump the nasty stuff directly to her stomach. This made her nose bleed profusely, which in turn made her sick. In a trip to the restroom, she threw up all the medication. This made it necessary for them to administer an enema to take care of matters.

After the procedure, the doctor said this is one of the worst cases of UC he has ever seen. He said that if she didn't start Remicade treatments immediately, she could lose her colon. he also said that if she doesn't respond to the treatment, they may have to operate to remove all or a portion of it anyway. Kissa and I will head home tonight, while LadyBug stays with ZP. Then we will come back on Monday after I get my paychecks and see what the situation is. We really don't know what will happen, when it will happen, or anything else for that matter, but we are praying that this will work out somehow. Quickly. Easily.

For all of our family and friends who have been so supportive during this, thank you, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may God bless you!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Hospital Christmas

'Tis the night before Christmas,
And all through the wing
All the patients are sleeping,
So don't say a thing.
The stockings are fuzzy,
With nice rubber treads,
But we have to make do
With big chairs for our beds.
Mom in the lounge chair,
And me on the floor,
Are hoping the doctor
Will walk in through the door.
The nurses all chatter
Outside in the hall,
Coming into the rooms
For the patients who call.
We stay near the room,
Just in case there's a need,
And keep Christmas inside,
Where it's most needed, indeed.
For St. Nick will have missed us,
When he went to our house,
Finding only our puppy,
About the size of a mouse
Our present were wrapped
By the white Christmas tree,
And are waiting us still,
So tomorrow, we'll see.
Perhaps Christmas Day
We will be on our way.
Or it may be the next,
We really can't say.
But you'll hear us exclaim,
If you're close enough to hear,
That Christmas is Merry,
With the ones you hold dear.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Troubles for Number Four

Sme already know, but our youngest, ZeldaPrincess, spent the better part of a week in the hospital. Not to go into all the wonderful details, but needless to say, she couldn't keep anything in her stomach. It either came back up or rushed straight through.

After several days of this, she was admitted to the hospital for dehydration. They gave her an IV, and released her when it was done. By the next night, she was right back in the hospital, this time for an extended stay, which included the IV, nausea medication, morphine, and colonoscopy.

After several days, our insurance company CALLED THE HOSPITAL TO TELL THEM TO RELEASE HER! They said they didn't think she needed to be there any longer! I am so glad our insurance company has medical degrees so they know what patients need! The nurses started getting soft foods into her the next day, and let her go home only after confirming that she could keep it down. The doctors said if she couldn't, they would fight to keep her in!

The diagnosis was not what we hoped. She has Ulcerative Colitis, which is a condition that affects people her age, and she will deal with for the rest of her life. For those who may have never heard of colitis, you are not alone. We are finding out so much about it, including just how common it is!

Basically, colitis is inflammation of the intestine, and can limit itself to the colon, or can be randomly spread anywhere in the digestive tract, as in Crohn's Disease. It can flare up for no reason, or can be brought on by eating the wrong food.

What's the wrong food? Who knows? It differs from person to person, and case to case. Some can only eat meat and potatoes, some have to avoid anything acidic. She is supposed to stay away from anything highly fibrous, much like her mother. LadyBug's issue is gastro-paresis, combined with IBS, and is similar to what ZeldaPrincess is goung through.

There are medications you can take, although our insurance company thinks she doesn't need one of them! another new medication is out and making huge strides for patients. But some insurance companies reject it. Another treatment must be done at the cancer clinic, and runs $9,000 per treatment! Copays vary. We haven't heard yet which ones our insurance likes, but they haven't proven to be the brightest lights on the tree yet, so who kows?

And then there is also the fact that Z.P. had to withdraw from some of her classes in college. A few classes are giving her credit, and some of the professors agreed to give her "Incompletes" so she could make up the work later and get the credit still. But she plans to not return next semester, to focus on figuring all this out and getting her health settled. After that, it will be taking things one day at a time.

Take care!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Breathing Room

With our school musical, The Music Man, done, I have not yet had time to recover. Until this holiday, that is. And barely now.

I had to rearrange my voice students this week, because of everything going on. My last student for the week was Tuesday. Time to relax? Not hardly.

Wednesday, we drove north to visit StarGazer and Skitl at their place. We took Kissa and ZeldaPrincess with us (picking up Z.P.'s boyfriend on the way). The boys have recently moved into a new apartment, and wanted to "host" a Thanksgiving dinner. Since S.G. had to work Thursday, it had to be a day early. Skitl didn't have to work, but as soon as official holidays are over, he does need to start finding a new job, while also consulting attorneys to see if he was denied his contractual rights in his dismissal. Despite the dark cloud, the dinner was very nice, and we left stuffed to the gills!

Thursday, we went south to my sister Inklings home, where we met her, Dee Ice, our brother Stick, our parents, and one of Inkling's sons with his family. We enjoyed the visit, and again stuffed ourselves senseless. But that was not the end! From there, we drove to Ladybug's brother's place, where we me several of LadyBug's siblings, mother, and step-father. More stuffing ensued. 

Needless to say, I think I gained about 5 pounds in two days!

Yesterday, we spent some time cleaning our house, then cooked up a NON-Thanksgiving dinner as our two local LDS missionaries came to dinner. Once again, we were stuffed, but with a different type of food this time! 

Today, I spent some time working on a wood project ( I am making a case for my Penny Whistle!), and then headed to our new Town Square, for the ribbon-cutting ceremonies. My show choir (the ones who were still in town) sang four numbers in the colder and colder evening. 

Tomorrow, I teach Sunday School, go to choir practice, then go to practice for our local production of Handel's Messiah. Then, the next day, it is back to school. Perhaps going back to work will calm things down a bit.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Saturday Project

With cold weather coming in, and scraps-o-plenty around the yard, I decided to make this shelter for our kittens. They seem to like it, and it is sturdier than I thought it would be. After five hours of hammering, sawing, and carrying this thing around, though, I am quite sore today. Now they had better show their gratitude by catching lots of vermin!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Illegal Tenants

Once the leaves started falling, I noticed we had some squatters on our property. I think I will wait until colder weather to evict them. In fact, I may see if our science teacher want to take over their lease! I don't want to just knock down this amazing piece of architecture, though! This is SO cool! I just wish it wasn't wasps! They are the bane of my existence, and have already claimed our deck, and have tried taking over our shed several times.

One friend suggests leaving them, as they will kill other insects. I think I would rather have the other insects.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Life of No Life

I realized how long it has been since I last posted. I thought I would say why. Weekdays, I am up by 6:30 a.m. to get ready for school. I am at our middle school from 7:30 with class starting at 8:10. I have two classes there, then I go to the elementary for an hour. At that point, I go home for lunch on my way to the high school. Luckily all three schools are on the same block as my house! I have two classes each day at the high school, but they are twice as long as they used to be. School ends at 3:10.

Depending on the day, I may see private voice students starting at 3:30 and going until either 4:00 or 4:30. The days they end at 4:00 are better, since Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays I have lessons starting at e college at 5:00. It is a 25 minute drive.

My students on Mondays last from 5:00 until 8:00, Tuesdays from 5:00 to 7:00, and Thursdays from 5:00 until 8:00 again. One of the highlights is seeinng my daughter, ZeldaPrincess during my 6:00 lesson on Mondays, since she is a Music Therapy major. I also have a new private student who will see me as soon as I get home on Tuesdays at 7:30. He is the last new student I will take.

This last week, all my time was spent trying to cope with this flu bug I caught from LadyBug! Yesterday was the worst I have felt, with today pulling a close second. Wednesdays and Fridays, we just try to catch up on the things we couldn't do the rest of the week!

When I told my parents my schedule, mom said, "All work and no play...," to which I replied that I was already dull, so it didn't matter. This has been a typical schedule for me during the school year for some time now, and will be for some time to come, until we can pay off enough bills to hreathe more easily. The crazy thing is, I can make more in a few hours of voice lessons than in a full week of any job except my teaching career. No part time job can compare! Plus, I set my own hours, in a way, and don't really have a boss!

LadyBug continues to improve, but we don't see that she will ever be able to work again, with the combination of lung, heart, memory, and cocentration problems. I worry about my kids thinking that a paycheck is the only thing that matters in life. If I could go back in time, I would tell that younger me a few things about finances that would save me grief now, and I hope we get a president elected in November who won't make things worse for all of us, kind of like the past few have.

Or maybe I just need a million dollar idea to come to me.

Until then, it's just a matter of "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go...."

Friday, July 27, 2012

My ALMOST Century

Well, I finally did my ride. Most of it, anyway. I made it 50 miles feeling very good, but "bonked" soon after. The next 30 miles were purely on willpower alone, but I got picked up by my brother, Stick, and rode in his car the rest of the way. I figure 80 miles isn't too bad for someone who hasn't biked over 30 miles in as many years!

I sent pic messages home the whole way. Here is how my ride went:

 You may have seen this pic already, and only two things have changed, but here is the first image of my completed restoration. Since this picture was taken, I had to replace the saddle with one which does not cause pain, and my front axle was having MAJOR issues, so I ended up replacing the whole front wheel! The new one is a little stiff, but SO much better. And lighter! At this point, there were only minor adjustments left to make, like re-tightening the brakes and setting the gears.

From my text: "First leg in one hour. Feeling good. Still thawing out. Not going to be too hot today!"

My favorite shadow I cast all day. This was still early in the ride, and you can easily see the sun was at my back. I was glad I was on a back road, because I must have looked a little silly riding down the side holding my camera while pedaling so I could get a shot of my shadow down the road...

Don't know if you can really see the horns on this guy. MASSIVE, especially at the base!

And I thought I would never get back there....

"2 1/2 hours. Even stopped to take pics. Still feel good. Officially the longest ride ever. So far. Now just adding on."

This was right before breakfast. I was in the public restroom at the park, and realized I did not have a picture of my full "uniform." Ignore the scratched mirror. This picture shows me how much more weight I still need to lose. though....

"The birthplace of my ride." The very store where I bought my bike.

"3 1/2 hours. Including rest stop!" This is also the town where the bike trail starts.

"4 hours. Feeling tired but still good. Might stop and walk around in a bit." I actually waited awhile longer to stop.

"4 1/2 hours. Almost halfway."

This is a train tunnel that you can see if you are riding the bike trail up the canyon. It has been out of use a looooong time!

"The Cathedral." Can you see the organist? You can see this from the trail, the road, or the river. But only on the trail can you stop and really look at it....

"Almost 6 1/2 hours! The last hour was all climbing! Tired!"

In fact, I was so tired, that I did the math wrong. I think this was only 5 1/2 hours. Pretty mountain. I have passed it MANY times, but have never climbed on it! Still haven't! Even camped there once. Maybe I should have camped there again, and continued the next day! This was my last stop before I bonked!

"Flat tire...." This was the last picture I took on my ride. Two hours later, I was only about twenty miles further up the road, but still had 45 miles of pure climbing ahead of me! Every mile was uphill, it seemed. Even going downhill, I had a headwind, so struggled. 

All in all, this was a great experience, and I am NOT done! I plan to get in better shape and try again next year! I think next time, I will try coming BACK, so I can ride DOWNHILL most of the way and save my legs! Maybe a nice tailwind, too.... If you have bike trails near you, TAKE ADVANTAGE of them! What a fun time! Just make sure you have a light bike, a soft saddle, and provisions!

I want to thank all those who contributed to my 80 miles of successful riding. First, my brother, Stick, for his advice in tweaking the final touches on the bike, and for taking me to the shop where I got some parts. Not to mention throwing my bike in his car and letting me have a ride in air-conditioning the last 45 miles!

Next, my neighbor, Bike Guy for all his advice. Thirdly, my wife, LadyBug, for putting up with my obsession and allowing me my eccentricities. Fourth, my friend, Piano Pythons for all her health, nutrition, and exercise tips.

Lastly, I want to name one group straight out. You may have noticed that I usually do not name names, including my own. Those who have NOT noticed, please do not use our names. I like at least THAT much anonymity. But I want to mention The Christensen Law Firm, PLLC, otherwise known as Utah's Bicycle Lawyers. This firm supplied my jersey. It was a simple matter of helping get their name out to cyclists. If you are unsure of bicycle law in Utah, they have a document you can download on their website. If you do not live in Utah, and will not be riding there, check for laws in your own state. Be aware, be informed, and above all BE SAFE!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ports and Pedals

I realized I have not written A THING in quite some time! This will be short, but LadyBug finally got her port out! She is very excited, as this is one more milestone! She has discovered that she has two mildly bulging discs in her neck, which is what causes her neck pain and at least some of her headaches. We are hoping to ge that under control. I will post some pics later, but I am less than two weeks away from a 125 mile bike ride. I will be biking some highways and some bike trails from my home to my parents' house. The trip is full of beautiful scenery, and I will climb in that dostance a total of 1800 feet! Thankfully most of that eleveation change is gradual, but there are three big hills that I am not relishing. I will post some pics when I get back. I will try to include a pic of my newly restored Schwinn road bike. It is not as light as some of the newer bikes, but I cannot afford any of those! Take care, and get pedalling!