Wednesday, March 31, 2010

. . . . . . . .Birthday Blessings

Yesterday I received so many phone calls, emails, Facebook messages and cardsfor my birthday. It was truly a special day. Thank you for making me feel so loved.

My husband treated me to dinner at the Bombay Grill, where I had my favorite meal on Earth, chicken tikka masala, loaded with extra veggies. I love Indian food! He also showered me with meaningful gifts, including a beautiful ring and a new set of scriptures! The last set of scritpures I received was also from Tolan,, he gave them to me as part of his proposal to me. My ring was hanging from the scripture marker ribbon and my new name was engraved on the cover. Ahh, I am so blessed to call him mine forever!

More important than then temporal gifts I received were the gifts of Healing I received from my Father in Heaven. Last week I mentioned the twitches I had in my face. Well, I didn't have any more twitches, but over the weekend I noticed increased movement in my face!

My dear friend, Brittany Hanamaikai and I went to lunch yesterday. We went somewhere so the kids could play, but we enjoyed a wonderful visit between friends. We have a special connection that started the moment we met. As we prepared to leave, she took a photo of us together. When I returned home and saw the photo on the computer, tears welled up in my (good) eye. I couldn't believe how much I have changed, how much my facial movement has improved.

For the first time in almost a year, I looked at the picture and saw myself! It is no longer half of a stranger's face staring back at me. Though I have clearly still have a ways to go in my recovery, I am looking more like "me" every day. The feeling is too much to describe. Of all the gifts I could have received, the love and healing are truly the most important.

My sweet Casen and Daven with Brittany's cute boys, Ash and Kaipo. :) A fun time together!

Me and Brittany will be friends forever. Thanks, Britt for a wonderful morning! (You can read more about our time together and see more photos at Brittany's blog:

Thank you all for blessing my life, not just on my birthday, but every day. And a special thanks to a loving Father and Savior for giving me more miracles than I deserve!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

.. . . . . . .Transformation: Thrifty and Nifty

If there is one thing that I am, it is frugal. I learned it from my Grandma Lisenbee and it has stuck. I am a saver, not a spender. And, I love to try new things.

Because of that, I end up doing many projects on my own, rather than paying to have them done, or buying things new. Right before I went into the hospital, I decided I was ready for a new kitchen table. The set we had was one given to us by our parents, shortly after we were married. I loved it. It served us well. However, I like change and I was ready for one.

In checking out the prices on new dark wood dining sets, I realized they were quite expensive, between $800 - $2000, way more than I could afford. In the hospital I even looked at sets online when my dad gave me his laptop to use for a while. So, in the fall, when I was very "homebound" but starting to get tired of looking at the same old surroundings, I started another transformation project.

Here is our kitchen before my "do it yourself" remodel. Our oak table had 12+ years of great use and I was ready for a new table, new fabric on my window treatments and a new look.

The window treatments I made when we first moved in to our home in late 2004. I was definitely ready to update this look. and get some new fabric.

I went about trying to find an affordable table, but to no avail. So, I started searching the classifieds instead of buying new. I found an old set, that included 6 chairs, for $200. The set looked great to refinish, but I knew it would take a bit of work. So, I sanded and sanded, stripped and prepped the blonde wood in preparation for the transformation.

This is a wing of the table I purchased from the classifieds. It had some dings, but overall was in great just needed some TLC. The wood was very light, perfect for adding some dark stain.

This project was very labor intensive and I still didn't have a ton of energy then, so it took me several weeks to complete. I did it a little at a time, eventually adding 4 coats of stain and 3 coats of polyurethane. It was far more difficult than I anticipated, but it was worth the wait and the effort.

In the end, I got new fabric for the window treatments and got a brand new dining table and chairs, and the whole project cost me about $400, but if you take into consideration the fact that I sold my old oak set, then the project cost was $0! A new look in exchange for some hard work and a few quarts of stain!

The deep color of the wood makes the whole room look rich and new! I love it! Have I mentioned how much I love TRANSFORMATION?? :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

. . . . . . . Transformation: Labor of Love

Many friends have asked me about the "transformation projects" I have been working on. I have several that I have completed over the last few years, which I will highlight over the next week or two.

None however have the sentimental feelings that this project does. The project I am highlighting today is a labor of love. For this project, I refinished a small kitchen cupboard playset. This set was built by my grandfather, when I was just a little girl. Grandpa Lisenbee passed away when I was only 7 years old, and this is a major part of my memories of him, and my love for him.

My Grandma Lisenbee had this set in her home for years and years (one set was made for each family). Before she passed away last year, I asked her if I could have this piece for my daughter. She mentioned that she no longer had all the other pieces of the set, the couch, stove, table and refrigerator. They had already been given to other family members. To me, it didn't matter. This piece represents my Grandfather and Grandmother, and everytime I look at it, I will remember them.

So I took the old cupboard home. It was brown with bright yellow 1970s laminate on top. It was showing wear from many years of loving play.

I started refinishing this in late 2008, a few months before Grandma's passing and before my diagnosis. Though I have searched high and low in two years worth of files for the "before" pictures, I cannot locate them, though I will keep looking.

When I got sick, the cupboard sat in my basement, started, but unfinished. This week I decided it was time to finish the project, for me, for Grandma and Grandpa, and for my children. Last night I put the finishing touches on, as I carefully laid the new formica laminate for the counter and edges (this was tricky to cut and place, so it took a bit of work). Over night it was held tight by clamps and heavy books, so the contact cement could set.

Today, it looks like a new cupboard, the kind you cannot buy from a magazine or toy store. No, not even Pottery Barn or Toys R Us would carry a quality piece made with so much love. And, it was transformed with love, which is what made the project complete.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

. . . . . . . .Paralysis Analysis

Paralysis is a strange experience. I used to see someone with paralysis and imagine what it would be like to tell your body to move, only to feel the frustration of your body not responding. I wondered if you really could have a positive, no-fail attitude and overcome the physical challenges.

When I came out of surgery on May 13, I had grade 6 facial paralysis on my right side. There are only 6 grades, and the 6th is the worst, meaning you have no control at all and your entire face "droops" because the nerve connections are lost and the muscles no longer hold everything in the right places.

I couldn't hold any liquid in my mouth at all. I drooled while eating, drinking, and even brushing my teeth (I am now better with eating, though drinking and brushing my teeth are still challenging). My eye could not close at all (hence the surgery to implant the weight in my eyelid and place a collagen implant in my lower lid to assist the blinking process. Sadly, it didn't really work for me.). I could not smile because half of my mouth wouldn't move. My speech was slurred. I couldn't chew food well. I could hardly even open my mouth. My nose didn't (and still doesn't) "work". It doesn't run, it simply clogs all the time and the nasal passages on my right side are paralyzed.

Listing it out, it still seems like a lot, but it no longer feels that way. This is a much better place than where I was 10 months ago. I have made so much progress. Recent twitches gave way to movement of new muscles and I am seeing miracles before my eyes. I have spent a while in front of the mirror, watching my muscles move and "willing" others to move. I watch in amazement as I try to make my face move, only to realize that not only can I not make it move, I can't even feel the sensation of trying. I don't feel the muscle, the nerves, anything. It is as though there isn't anything there at all. Very strange sensation to not have any sensation. I go through the motions of what should lift my eyebrows, scrunch my forehead, wiggle my nose...and nothing. So weird.

I cannot imagine paralysis of limbs or large portions of the body. It would be very frustrating to "will" your body to move and not have it respond. I continue to be grateful my paralysis is just in part of my face. I am looking more and more "normal" all the time, as the movement returns. I am confident that in time I will return to full facial mobility. Still, I want to remember what these days are like, so I never lose empathy and understanding for others with paralysis, so I never take for granted the little things, like runny noses and brushing teeth.

Monday, March 22, 2010

. . . . . . . .Twitches and Tears

Miracles abound in our home. Yesterday afternoon I felt a little twitch in the middle of my face (cheekbone). I haven't had a "twitch" in months, so this caught me by surprise. These are always good, as they signal returning nerve connections. I ran in to tell Tolan and he watched as I attempted to use the muscles. Dormant for almost a year, now I can move another muscle in my face! It runs all the way up next to my eye, so I could actually see the difference as I focused and flexed that little muscle.

Tears welled up in my (good) eye and I began to cry. Every time this happens, I am keenly aware that God is watching out for me, still. The emotions are so overpowering, I cannot explain. Tolan gave me a big hug and assured me, yet again, that I am still getting better, with the help of a very loving Father in Heaven and Savior looking out for me. :)

I am crying again now, just thinking about it. So many blessings!

Even though I have been dizzy quite a bit this weekend and today, I am still so happy and excited. Just like the tulips peaking through the ground, I feel I am getting a new lease on life!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

. . . . . . .Birthday Tribute to My Dad

Today is my father's birthday. I cannot buy or give him anything that will demonstrate my love for him. Honestly, I cannot even say the words to adequately describe how I feel about him.

No adjectives can describe the feelings of peace I felt, lying in the hospital, as I would wake up during the day, and see him, STILL sitting there by my bedside. Not one day, one two days, but for 28 days, all day long he sat there, for me. Sometimes he was on the couch. Other times he was on a chair. Other times he was kneeling by my bed, rubbing my aching body. Many times he was getting me food, watering my flowers, cleaning my room or simply silently praying. He read to me, he watched movies with me, he blogged about me, and he demonstrated his love, day after day. He called me and texted me when he wasn't there, and only left long enough to go home, shower, sleep and come back again. He was there to record everything, to take pictures of each moment so one day we could be strengthened by remembering the journey.

Yes, there are times when words just won't do. But perhaps, a few photos will help.

The only gift I can truly give him is to honor him through my actions. Actions that reflect what he has taught me and that mirror my Savior, Jesus Christ. So Happy Birthday, Dad. Though I am far from perfect, I am trying to be more like you and Him every day.

Please join me in wishing this wonderful man and father a wonderful day!

Friday, March 19, 2010

. . . . . . .Time to Prepare

Recent earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters have wreaked havoc and destruction on people throughout the world. When disaster struck, they had no time to prepare, they simply had to act to save themselves and those around them.

In the Bible, especially in the early books, (Exodus, Leviticus, Joshua), we read of the Lord's commandments to His people. As the Israelites wandered in the wilderness they were instructed to do certain things. As time continued, the Lord became frustrated with their efforts and lack of faith. After a while, He began punishing the people immediately, if were not following His commandments for them.

The people knew what they were supposed to do, and yet the often chose not to obey. The Lord began acting promptly, as a way to demonstrate His power. Upon disobedience to His commands, whole families and cities were wiped out in a day and those who remained saw that as a reminder to do His will.

Today I believe the Lord is far more patient with us. He gives us chance after chance to right our wrongs, repent and come unto Him.

However, as the natural disasters of our time demonstrate, the time for our preparations is now. Perhaps the Lord is gently reminding all of us to obey and prepare. In Alma 34:32, we are told that this life is the time for man to prepare to meet God. What are you doing each day for your preparations?

As I contemplated this, I realized I need to alter some of my daily activities to prepare myself both temporally and spiritually. This will be my reminder each day that my tasks and "to do" lists should be focused on activities that will help me draw closer to my Savior and prepare me for what is to come.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

. . . . . . .Leprechaun's Spell

A little Leprechaun must have come during the night because today some strange things happened in our house. The milk and pancakes turned green.

But even stranger than that... "Mom" was singing and dancing around the house. She even used the orange juice container as a "microphone".

Trenden ate his green pancakes without syrup!

And Lindi...well, Lindi was pretty normal, I guess.

Still, it was simply the strangest thing we've ever seen. No doubt about it, that must have been one powerful spell! :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

. . . . . . .Exercise!

I'm doing it! I'm getting my body and my life back in shape after a very long year of losing weight and muscle. I'm starting with 3-4 times a week, doing rowing, speed walking (can't run or "bounce" my head) and basic weight lifting. Yesterday I rowed so hard I could hardly use my legs, as they felt a bit like Utah green Jello. :) It was great.

I exercised daily, right up until the day of my diagnosis last year, then life went crazy. It feels so good to do something so "normal" and even taxing on my body. It tells me I am gaining strength, gaining energy and regaining so many parts of my life that were on hiatus for a year.

Exercising, even walking, I will never take for granted again. I look forward to the day when my eye is functioning again and I can do more exercising outside, but until then, my basement gym will do! :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

. . . . . . . .Temporary vs. Eternal

Many people lately have commented to me about my new symptoms and how sorry they are that I am having more problems. New symptoms are never fun and they are often disheartening. I usually need a day or two (or week or two) to “vent” it out before I can cope and move on. Now that I have done that I am dealing with everything better.

The way I see it is that symptoms and pain are temporary. They are part of this life. My family, however, they are forever, and I can’t risk losing my eternal family over my temporary problems. If I lost my testimony of Jesus Christ or ignored my family "in favor" of my illness, I would lose what really matters, forever.

So, when something new hits, I try to give myself time to come to grips, then I try (I emphasize try, not all my attempts are perfect!) to re-focus again. It helps me not focus on “Me” and “my pain” so much, but on what really counts! Frankly, they are far more fun to focus on anyway. My hubby and little ones continue to amaze me every day with their prayers, caring and unconditional love! I would never want to jeopardize that!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

. . . . . . . .Club Membership

About a year ago, I joined a club. It has such amazing benefits, it is hard to believe them all until you experience it for yourself. It also has extremely high dues. In retrospect, I guess this makes sense, they have to charge high dues or the benefits wouldn't seem as valuable.

This is me with my my dear friend, Jodi Carlson. She joined the club a little more than 2 years ago. In fact, it was her example that got me through my initiation in the club! She was the pioneer who led the way.

Her dues were paid by her stroke. Mine were paid with my brain tumor.

We have many friends in the club, some with cancer, others who paid through a terrible accident or degenerative disease. It is strange to be part of this club. You desperately need the other members of the club, though you wish with all your heart that they weren't in it at all. You wish they didn't have to be part of the club, but they are, just like you.

This photo was from our last club meeting, on Tuesday, at the home of Jodi's mom. Her mom is an honorary member of the club, as is her husband, my husband and so many other caregivers.

Our meeting was wonderful. We have missed each other so much since our last club event over the summer. Though we tried to focus on all the benefits of our membership, I have to admit that we also shed a few tears. It is OK though. We know there will continue to be rewards to reap, though the price sometimes still seems high.

As we left, we hugged. No more tears for now. We have come too far, accomplished too much and survived the unthinkable. For that, we could not cry, but smiled crooked smiles and parted ways... looking forward to the next club meeting when we can again meet to love, encourage and remember what life was like before we joined.

Monday, March 8, 2010

. . . . . . . All Thumbs

Ahh, my little Daven is getting too big to suck his thumb, but he just doesn't want to stop. Tonight I heard him coughing and coughing so I went to check on him. He had pulled the bandaids off his thumbs and was trying to lick off the cayenne pepper so he could suck his thumb(s) again. Hence, the coughing.

I say thumbs because he used to suck only his left thumb, until we started weaning him from it, then he decided his right was just as good, so now I have to keep both away. We have tried bandaids, tape, socks over hands, yucky tastes, etc. etc. and so far his habit has survived them all.

Suggestions anyone?? I thought the others were hard to break, but this little guy is down right determined!

BTW, I had a great day yesterday and a very good day today, my best days in weeks! I also heard back from Dr. C's nurse and she said we will have to wait another week until he is back in town before we move forward with anything else for my symptoms. So, I will be waiting for the call.

Now, back to the your ideas here please!! :)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

. . . . . . .My Future Olympians!

Someday we will all be a family of skiers. For now, my hubby and the 3 big kids are. Daven and I are homebodies for another year. The kids are doing great. They had another fantastic day today on the slopes and were the very last group to leave the resort.
Trenden's form looks great. Lindi is getting braver and braver. And Casen is a natural. He has only taken 5 lessons, but he is doing great. I definitely see a future for him in the sport. Here is a quick video clip of my 5-year-old phenomenon.

Casen on the ski lift with Tolan after he finished ski school.
Trenden, Tyler Rhoads and Lindi on the ski lift.

Friday, March 5, 2010

. . . . . . .Keep moving forward

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows... Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, its about hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.

This is just the little reminder I needed today. Thanks, Rocky Balboa. :)

. . . . . . .Dizzy Spells and Stumbling Blocks

Dizzy spells. Blackouts. Stumbling blocks. Not really ready for all this again.

Don't know what is happening, and my appointment on Monday didn't help figure anything out. Too hard to think about going through this again. Feels like I have gone back in time a year. But it's not possible. I've seen the MRI scans. The tumor is gone. So what is happening now??

My body is telling me not to ignore this and I have learned to trust my instincts, so we will get it figured out. Hopefully just another "side effect" or "complication", and a normal part of recovery. Not fun to be having "spells" again and having less functioning ability. I pray that is just a temporary setback.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

. . . . . . A Child's Prayer

Last night we were having family prayer before everyone went to bed. Casen, my 5-year-old boy, said the prayer for the family...

"Please bless Mom and help her brain not to be sick anymore, and help that her eye will get better."

I couldn't have said it better myself, and certainly not with as much feeling and love as he did!

Monday, March 1, 2010

. . . . . . . Holding Pattern

I went to an appointment this morning to have an evaluation because of the new symptoms I have been experiencing over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, my neurosurgeon is out of town, so I saw someone else. The appointment was a bit frustrating and didn't really provide many answers. If anything, we are just in a holding pattern, giving things a little more time before we decide what (if any) steps need to be taken next.

One thing I have learned over the last year is that you have to trust your instincts and listen to your body. When doctors were telling me that ear infections were the cause of my dizzy spells and vertigo last year, it just didn't "feel" right. History obviously proved my feelings were correct and now I listen to my feelings and trust myself more than I did before.

So, I don't think this is the end of the issue, but I am going to wait until my doctor gets back in town in a few weeks before I do anything else. In the meantime, I will "just keep swimming", one day at a time!

Love you all. Thanks for the continued support, love and prayers!