Saturday, December 19, 2009

Angels Among Us

My mom called Thursday and asked if she could come and visit. DUH! :)

I asked how this is possible, as I know money is tight. She said that one of her co-workers is giving my mom her frequent flyer miles so that she can come and stay with me. She's coming at the end of next week and will spend a week at home with me while I recover. My kids and I are so excited to have her!

I'm so grateful. I'm 36 years old, but still need my mommy. This co-worker may never know how much this means to me. She is truly proof that angels live among us.

My Drama Queen

Tonight is closing night of the play Courtnie is in. She has been rehearsing since the end of October and has been loving EVERY minute of it. She told me the other day that she wants to be an actress when she grows up. I have no doubt that her choice is the correct one for her.

Here's an article our local paper did on the play. Courtnie is quoted about half-way through. I'm going to take some pictures and post them in the next couple of days. It's been fun.

http://dcourier.com/main.asp?sectionID=74&subsectionID=514&articleID=75779.

Enjoy! :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secret Weapon

Everyone around me is worried about me. People are scared, one of my best friends cried and told me she's not "emotionally ready" for me to have this surgery. (She was joking, of course.)

I am completely at peace.

Is it because I'm heavily medicated? Perhaps... ;o)

People tell me that they're praying for me and that I'm in their thoughts. I have felt it. I know, without a doubt, that prayer works. I have seen it work in my own life and in the lives of others. I have faith that it will work here again.

My dad has called our family and asked them to have a special fast for me on Sunday. At another time in my life people I didn't even know fasted for me and a miracle happened.

I was at the end of my cancer treatments, and had another battery of tests to make sure I had the "all clear" to end treatments. One of the tests showed that the cancer was back.

As you can imagine, my parents were devastated. I had been through Hell for two years, and we thought that it was going to work. My parents called their friends who attend our church, and word spread quickly. The following Sunday, the entire stake fasted on my behalf.

The following Monday, when I had the same test again, it showed no traces of cancer in my body. Does prayer and fasting work? I'm a witness to that fact. I'm here today because of that power.

I've been thinking a lot about my parents recently. I love them so much. I think that somewhere, back in the recesses of their mind, they wonder if what they did for me was the right thing. I've been through so much in my life, and (being a parent now myself) I know that they would do ANYTHING to take it from me. I know that they are worried about me, and that they are very concerned with this most recent development. I know they have been by my side through all of it, and have watched me suffer.

I want them to know how grateful I am for their decisions on my behalf. When I think about what you must have gone through, and I think about what I would do if it were Ian or Courtnie, I am amazed. I know it wasn't easy, but I know a lot of prayer and inspiration went into doing the best you could with me. I also know that I am the person I am today because of the trials I've been through in my life. I've said it before, but I believe 100% that who you are in life depends on how you react to the things that happen to you. You can't always control what happens to you, but you CAN control how you react.

Mom and dad, I love you. More than you know.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Aortic Bypass

So, here's the verdict:
It's called an Aortic Bypass. Dr. Wheatley will make an incision below my sternum so that he can access my aorta. He will then attach the artificial aorta to a spot above where the damaged portion. The artificial aorta will then attach to my femoral artery. (The picture above is what will happen...the white tubing is the artificial tube, the blue and red are the actual aorta.) He's also going to do a mini-bypass in my left renal artery in hopes that he can save that kidney.
My surgery is scheduled for Monday, December 21. I'll spend a week in the hospital and then be recovering for six to eight weeks.
Although I'm a bit anxious about major surgery, I'm excited for the prospects. I don't know if I've ever had adequate blood flow to my legs--this may be a new experience for me. I know that things will work out well. I'm just so grateful to have some resolution!!
Thanks so much to all of my family and friends for your prayers. I have felt them and know that they work. I love you all!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Son of Man

I was asked to lead the music in Sacrament meeting yesterday. We got to church a little bit late, so Gordon and the kids had to sit in the back. Rather than trek up and down the aisles, I stayed on the stand the entire time.

One of my friends, Missy, gave a talk about Joseph Smith. She talked about his life and trials, and spoke about his time at Liberty Jail. This time of his life always hits me hard. I imagine him sitting in the cramped, cold jail cell and suffering miserably. From this time comes some of the most beautiful and poignant scripture we have (in my opinion.)

1 O God, where art thou? And where is the pavillion that covereth thy hiding place?
2 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
3 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
4 O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol--stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
5 Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.
6 Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
9 Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

And then the clincher...at least for me:
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

As she was speaking, these verses of scripture kept coming into my mind. I kept thinking of the trials and afflictions I have in my life, and how often I feel sorry for myself.

It then hit me that Christ knows of my afflictions, and has suffered more than I. He knows me, He knows what I'm going through, and He loves me. I am grateful for this knowledge. I have known it my entire life, but haven't really needed it until now.

I sat on the stand and cried for joy. I realized how much I need Him, and how much more I need to depend on Him. I also felt a little silly for complaining about my current state of affairs when my suffering is miniscule compared to what is going on in the world around me. I'm a complainer, but I'm going to try to be better about it. I need to realize that in the long term, this trial is just "but a small moment." If I endure it well, I will know true happiness.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Heart My Doctor

I've been taking my blood pressure a couple of times a day for the past week or so. I was just curious if my kidney issues would affect my blood pressure, and sure enough--they have. My blood pressure has been hovering around 160/100 (normal is 120/80.) SO...I made an appointment with my primary care doctor.

I really love her. She is always concerned about me when I come in and is (or at least seems to be) genuinely interested in me being well. When she came in today, she took a look at my chart, which reflected my current blood pressure issue and said, "Oh-oh!"

I told her about my aorta/renal artery issue and asked for advice. She looked me in the eye and asked me why we were even talking about it. She told me that I'm only 36, and need to be healthy. She said she could tell just by looking at me that I was tired and not feeling well, which is true about 80% of the time.

We talked about how remarkable it is to live today, when so much can be done to help someone in my situation. She said that I should stop doing the "temporary fixes" and do something that will give a better quality of life. I couldn't agree more.

It feels good to have someone reaffirm what I already was feeling. I trust her opinion, and value her input. It gives me more to talk about when I go see the vascular surgeon next week. Solutions, people! Solutions!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Random Thoughts for a Monday

It's raining/snowing--I'm calling it slushing right now. I had a concert with the community college big band I play with, but found out it was cancelled AFTER I drove there. NICE! They cancel things here for 1/2 inch of snow on the ground. On the one hand, I'm glad for the cancellations, as people here DO NOT know how to drive in snow. On the other hand, I was looking forward to playing tonight. (I had a few solos...)

Saturday Ian had a wrestling tournament. He is doing so well. He ended up taking 1st place in his weight class. This is something he's been gunning for since he's started wrestling, and I'm so proud that he's been able to accomplish this goal. He's a great kid, and so strong and athletic. He is amazing to me.

On the way to the wrestling tournament, my nose started bleeding. I get bloody noses occasionally--but haven't had one for several years. This nose bleed was scary because it would not stop. Every time I would try to take the tissue away to see if had stopped, it just kept dripping out. Gordon had me use some of the wrestler's "stop nosebleed stuff" and finally--one hour later--it stopped bleeding. This nose bleed lasted two hours. I'm sure it's a result of the Plavix and aspirin I'm taking, but it scared me a bit. I think I lost quite a bit of blood, because I didn't feel so hot after.

We had the Christmas parade in Prescott on Saturday as well. I really don't care for parades--don't see the point, but people like them, so whatever. :)

I have two concerts with my students this week. Orchestra, jazz band and percussion ensemble play tomorrow night and jazz band and concert band play Thursday night. I'm looking forward to them, but also looking forward to having them over with, too. It's a lot of stress!

I think I've decided that (unless the surgeon has a better suggestion) I'm going to have my aorta replaced this summer. I can't live like this anymore. My legs hurt so bad when I walk. I want to be healthy and in good shape, and I can't be either in this condition. I'm ready.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In My Quiet Moments

The dishwasher is running, my comforter is in the washer. Courtnie is at play practice, Gordon and Ian are at wrestling practice. (No, Gordon doesn't wrestle...silly!) I'm home alone for a bit--it's kind of nice, but VERY quiet.

I was speaking with a friend yesterday about my health issues. (I'm not going to call them problems...they're just "issues.") She is also a cancer survivor--I believe she had breast cancer around three years ago. She's doing well now...a happy, healthy, spiritual person. I love her dearly.

We talked about quiet moments yesterday and how the adversary works on us during those times. It's easy to not get sidetracked with doubts when we're busy, but the times when we're quiet and alone are when he really goes to work. I thought maybe if I wrote some of those doubts down I could let them go.

In my quiet moments I wonder if a body that doesn't work like it should is worth it.
In my quiet moments I wonder what other's lives would be like if I wasn't here.
In my quiet moments I wonder if the doctors are doing the right thing.
In my quiet moments I wonder if I'm going to be around and able to walk with my kids at their graduations, weddings, births of children...
In my quiet moments I wonder what it would have been like to not have had cancer.
In my quiet moments I wonder if my depression is related to my health issues.
In my quiet moments I wonder if my kids worry about me. Are they scared?
In my quiet moments I wonder if my husband is sick of me.
In my quiet moments I wonder what it feels like to feel normal.
In my quiet moments I wonder if the reasons I wasn't ever able to do physical activities like others could had anything to do with my aorta and the blood flow. How long has it been like this?
In my moments times I wonder if I had been born today if I'd be dealing with the side effects I have now.
In my quiet moments I wonder if everyone is sick of hearing me talk about my issues.

In my more confident moments I know that I have a wonderful life...full of happy and joyful things. I have an amazing family. I have the best job in the world. I know that I am the person I am today because of the fights I've had to go through.

At Thanksgiving, one of Gordon's aunts told me that I need to take better care of myself. She told me that I need to get a golf cart and ride around in that all of the time. I smiled politely and said, "No, I can't do that."

I can't give up. Getting a golf cart would be giving up. It would be letting the cancer win. I refuse. In my quiet moments, I sometimes wonder if it would be better to give up...it would definitely be easier.

But that's not why we're here. It ain't easy, baby!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Battle for Blood

*Begin playing "Rocky" theme music here*

In this corner...weighing in at (insert amount here), wearing typical schoolteacher clothing, Amie "Cobbie" Cobb

And in this corner...weighing in at a less than a pound, wearing a stent that doesn't work anymore...Amie's aorta.

It's become a fight to the finish, and right now, my blood vessels are losing.

Two years ago I had a stent put in my aorta, which at the time was 75% blocked. I was having severe claudication issues (cramping when walking.) The stent helped dramatically and I was doing great. I had a stent put in my left renal artery about six months later, because it was not getting enough blood flow.

About six months ago, I started noticing that my claudication issues were back. I can't walk from the band room to the football stadium without having to stop and rest my legs. They cramp up so badly. I went for a check up with my vascular surgeon who said to come back again in a couple of months. I think I talked about this in previous posts. Sorry if you're bored...

So, the prognosis wasn't good after having an ultrasound and we scheduled a "lookie-see" into what was going on with my vascular system. Turns out it's not good news...
1. My renal artery is completely blocked. The stent failed, and my artery is just plain blocked. This means my left kidney will eventually lose function and die.
2. The stent in my aorta is also failing. They did an angioplasty and blew it open a bit (with a miniature balloon) for the time being. I'm also on Plavix and asprin to thin my blood and hopefully increase the flow a bit better to my legs.
I go and see the doc again in a couple of weeks. We'll see what he has to say.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Role of a Righteous Woman

An article I wrote for our ward newsletter:

I love being a woman. I cherish the attributes that make me different than men. I am grateful for the divine nature that is within each one of us as daughters of God. The first sentence of the Relief Society Declaration states that “We are beloved spirit daughters of God.” President James E. Faust said, “To be a daughter of God means that you are offspring of Deity, literal descendants of the Divine Father, inheriting godly attributes and potential.”

I am grateful for the examples of strong, righteous women throughout history. They have truly been—at times—the “unsung heroes” of the work of the Lord. I love reading about Eve, Sarah, Rachel, Emma Smith, Lucy Mack Smith and countless others. Their strength and courage in the face of adversity pushes me forward when I face struggles in my own life.

I also look to my own mother who raised seven children through many hardships. Growing up, we didn’t ever have a lot of money, but my mom worked very hard to see that the needs of her children were met. She would babysit, sew, and do whatever she needed to do to bring in money. She did all of this while being a great example to me of service to others.

There is no end to the influence of women. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, in April 1978 conference said this: “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time. The women of God know this.”

I pray that each one of us will recognize our divine potential. As women, we have an innate spiritual sense that allows us to trust in the Lord more fully. As we trust, we will find the joy in being a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a wife.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gobble Gobble

I'm not going to be able to go to Utah for Thanksgiving. I'm bummed.

I went for a follow-up to my previous follow-up on my stents, and they're worse. (Funny how I knew that two months ago!!)

The doctor isn't sure until he gets in to my aorta why this is happening. Two possible reasons:
1. My aorta is squeezing the heck out of the stent because it just keeps hardening
2. The stent is getting gunked up. (This happens with stents about 25% of the time.)

It could also be a combination of the two.

Tuesday I'm going to go to the Arizona Heart Hospital (again) and have things checked out. Two possible outcomes:
1. Insert new stents
2. Roto-rooter these stents and do an angioplasty to open them up.

He's going to have to look at/fix both the stent in my aorta and in left renal artery as both showed blood flow at less than 50%. Fun, huh?

So--stent procedure Tuesday, hospital until Wednesday then at Gordon's mom's for Turkey Day. At least it will be warm! :)

Riding the Yellow Dog


Our football team has made the playoffs. This isn't really anything new--we've made the playoffs for the past few years. We usually lose in the first round, so it's not a big deal.

This year, we won the first playoff game, so our entire town is in a tizzy. Our first game was against a team we'd lost to in the regular season, so it was nice to win, and we won on their field. Very cool.

This next game is in Vail, AZ. About a five hour drive from Prescott Valley. Ouch! We played in southern Arizona two years ago and lost pretty badly. The football coach thinks it's because we took a five hour bus ride and then had to go and play right after.

This year, he's decided to "do it right." They've chartered NICE coach buses to leave today (Thursday--the game is tomorrow) and they're staying the night in Tucson. What they're doing tomorrow all day, I don't know. I do know they're eating at the Olive Garden for an early dinner before the game.

Who's paying for all of this? The football boosters, who somehow manage to raise over $20,000 a year. I can't figure out how they do this. My band boosters squeak out around $5000 a year, and that's in a good year.

This just seems like a waste to me. I'm sure that this trip is costing the boosters somewhere in the neighborhood of $5000 for a ONE night trip. I understand that this is a big game, but it's ONE NIGHT! Do you know what I could do with $5000? I could buy a tuba that I desperately need...I could buy sheet music for my pathetic library...the list could go on forever.

I understand that things will NEVER be equal...I get it. I do. I'm married to the "enemy" (so to speak) who sees the other side more clearly than I do. His philosophy is that if they raise the money, they should be able to spend it how they see fit. Meanwhile, our school is in desperate need of textbooks, kids are coming to school without coats, and I need a new tuba! :)

The band is going down to support the team, but guess what we're riding in?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

No Pain, No Gain

I've often wondered what that statement means. It applies to a lot of situations in life, but two stand out to me today.

I've been going to physical therapy for the past two weeks. First visit: nice...did a little stretching and then got the "shock therapy" massage. AHHHH... Second visit: got in the pool and did a nice little workout. Third visit: PAIN!! I exercised a bit and then Kurt (the PT) decided to go to work on my IT band (this is the large band that goes from your hips to your knees on the outside of your thigh.) It was so sore and tight, so he "massaged" it into submission. I had racing stripes in the form of bruises down my legs almost immediately. (Still there one week later!) This week I went in the pool on Thursday and then more pain yesterday.

You see, it turns out that my body has been doing the exact opposite of what it's supposed to do. My hip flexors are practically non-existent and getting them to engage has been one of the most painful and exhausting things I've had to do. My "interesting" body make-up has caused my other muscles around my pelvis to overcompensate for my lack of muscles in my pelvis area. I have great abs (most of that comes from playing wind instruments) and decent thigh muscles, but in between is not so good. So, we're strengthening them. Slowly and painfully. I hurt so bad right now.

We have our first marching band festival today. It's early for us, and we started school later than usual this year, so we've been under the gun since day one. (that rhymed....tee hee) Last night we didn't have a home football game so I called an extra practice to make sure we were more prepared for today.

All season long the drumline has been whining to me about their music. One of my former students wrote more challenging parts for them, and all I hear is complaints. The music is great, and adds so much more to our show than the original parts.

A couple of weeks ago, we were getting ready to perform the third song at a football game, and the drummers came to me and told me that they didn't know their music. I copied their music (shrunk it down) so that they could read it while marching and they just basically stood there and performed. They hated it, and so did I, but the show HAD to go on. In retrospect, I shouldn't have "saved" them, because they tried telling me the same thing last night. THE DAY BEFORE OUR FESTIVAL!

I lost it. I got angrier than I've ever been. Why do they get a different standard than the rest of the band. If anyone in the wind section didn't know their music, they didn't get to march. I told them to get down to the field and play their parts. They proceeded to try to reason with the drum major, who was caught in the middle. I got on the loudspeaker and told them that I am the band director and I want them to get on the field and play. I also told them that the disrespect I was feeling from them was unacceptable. In the six years I've been teaching high school, I've never had this happen.

Was it easy for them to get out and march? No, but they did it. We're not a band without every member--especially the drumline. Why should the entire band suffer because they didn't take the time to learn their music.

ARGH!

Anyway--here we go. Will it be our best performance? Probably not, but it will be good for us to get through it.

No pain, no gain!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Finito!

I just finished writing the last sets of the last song of our marching show for this year.

This is a big deal for a girl with NO drill writing skills whatsoever... I'm simply trying it out (well, I have been "trying it out" for the past three years to varying degrees of success.) Sometimes I suffer from "drill writer's block" and other times the ideas flow feverishly. I guess that's the way most writers feel.

Now, if the kids can just learn the sets in ONE week, we'll be sitting pretty. Nothing like waiting until the last minute! :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Same S***, Different Day



It's time for my yearly check-up with my vascular surgeon at the Arizona Heart Hospital. I really like my surgeon (Dr. Wheatley)...he's genuinely interested in my case, and listens to what I have to say.

So, I needed a CT scan, which for me means some heavy duty Benadryl and Prednizone. Both of which make me VERY tired and VERY spacey. Luckily, they didn't give me an additional IV dose of the drugs, as I would be in bed right now.

The CT scan showed that the stent in my aorta is starting to develop build up again. Not good news. Dr. Wheatley said that it's not bad enough that we need to do something about it right now, but that we definitely need to watch it closely. He wants to see me back in two months.

Two thoughts come to mind:
1. When is this going to end?
2. If it's "starting" to look bad, why wait until it IS bad before doing something about it?

Of course, both of these questions come to me after I've left the hospital, as I'm too loopy to ask him anything while I'm hopped up on Benadryl. (Maybe that's why they do it...) :)

I'm grateful for my husband who just sits and listens to me complain about all of it and just offers words of encouragement and support. He doesn't judge, he doesn't tell me to "suck it up," he just says "I know, I know" and, "We'll get through it." He's the best thing that's ever happened to me.

All right--enough complaining for tonight. I'm "manning up" right now. (Promise!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Promises fulfilled

I had a great day Saturday.

We woke up early (much to Courtnie's chagrin) and travelled to Camp Verde for Ian's last "off season" wrestling tournament. He did a great job. He's learning so much and is having a great time.

We then booked it home so that I could get ham in the oven for a funeral in the afternoon. (Note to family members: I DO NOT want ham and cheesy potatoes for my funeral. Pick something fun, like pizza.) I got to the church, hams in tow, to prepare for the funeral. The joys of being in the RS presidency. The family was very grateful, and all was well.

At 4:30, we had a BBQ at the church for a friend who was getting baptized. It was actually the husband of a friend. They have been married for ten years, and she has been patiently awaiting the day when he would make the decision to be baptized. To my knowledge, she hasn't pushed or badgered, she's just quietly hoped and prayed. He's such a good man...a wonderful husband and father, and it was so neat to see her prayers answered.

It affected me a lot, as it reminded me of another promise that was fulfilled when we sat in the Salt Lake temple and witnessed a special sealing. Gordon and I were promised that the Lord would take care of this person, and He has.

Both of these occasions bear testimony to me that the Lord knows each one of us and knows the righteous desires of our hearts. I am so grateful that He listens to our prayers and wants so much for us to be happy. I know that it's not always going to be easy, but it will always be worth it.

On another side note--I went to my first physical therapy session today. I can see already how it's going to help me so much. He said that the big problem is not necessarily my lower back but my pelvis and my hip flexors. They are so tight (from everything being so small and the overcompensation issues) that it's causing stress on just about everything in that area. He gave me some stretches to do and a shock therapy back massage (which was heavenly) and sent me on my way. It's going to be great... We'll see how I feel tomorrow! :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A-ha and ??? moments...

So, after my last post I was thinking and thinking about what I could do differently to teach drill. It didn't go well on Tuesday, and I was discouraged.

I was looking around my office Wednesday afternoon for something to read while sitting and waiting for Ian and Courtnie at their piano lessons and I found two issues of The Instrumentalist that I hadn't read. Cool.

One of the articles in one of the issues was an interview with a college director from Texas somewhere. He talked about how he teaches drill, and it was amazing! Rather than trying to get students to remember 4 sets of drill at a time, he has them learn one, then they go back and forth between those sets five times to reinforce it. He said he'll spend 10 minutes on one set of drill. The big trick was to give 30 seconds to find the new drill spot, then 10 seconds to reset the form after each run-through.

Before rehearsal today, I told the students that we were going to try something different in reviewing/learning the drill. They were pretty receptive, but hesitant at first, but then were so excited once we got the hang of it. We were able to learn and clean 15 sets of drill today in 2 hours. This may not sound huge, but for us it was enormous! Not only were the spots learned, but I'm sure they'll be retained much better this way, and the best part is that the kids all felt like we accomplished something. I was so happy.

Now for my ??? moment...

I've been having problems walking and with my legs in general. As I said in a previous post, my symptoms all pointed to spinal stenosis. I had an MRI, and all it said was that I had arthritis in my back. Well, crap. That doesn't help me at all. My friend Katie's dad is a physical therapist and offered to talk to me about my symptoms. With all of my history and issues I've had, it made sense. We talked about some things while he was here, and then he called me with some other possibilities yesterday.

I called my doctor's office to run these other possibilities by them, and they all said that the radiologist said I only have arthritis. This doesn't really explain my neurological symptoms (numbness after walking a while.) Their only explanation is that perhaps the muscles in my lower back are causing pinched nerves. The PT I talked to said that's not very likely. My doctor gave me an order for physical therapy, which I'm hoping will help. Now, when I'm going to have time to actually GO to physical therapy is a different story.

I'm going to my vascular surgeon in Phoenix next week to see if there's any more blockages. That might also account for the pain in my legs while walking, as the symptoms are very similar. I'll have a CT scan and find out. I was walking Tuesday morning and by the time I got back to my office I was almost crying because my left calf hurt so bad.

I just want answers, and not more questions.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Random Thoughts

I have a confession to make.

I skipped work today. I could have gone. I should have gone.

But I didn't.

And MAN, OH MAN did it feel good!

I came home early from school yesterday and slept...just wasn't feeling great. I woke up this morning feeling "blah" again, so I called in. And then I slept some more.

I managed to make it to rehearsal tonight, which brings me to my random thoughts writings...

Sometimes I wonder what I can do differently to make things better. Wait, I know...that's a pretty broad statement. I want the band to be all it can be...all I know it can be. I'm struggling with how to get them to that point.

I went to a leadership workshop with some of my leaders this past Saturday and the speaker said something that makes a lot of sense to me. He said that, as a teacher, he can fix wrong notes, bad posture, incorrect marching technique, and a host of other things, but he can't fix "I don't care." It's kind of like the adage that you can "bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." I can't motivate students to excel more than they choose to excel.

The only thing standing between them and greatness is them.

I've done the "heart to heart" talks, I've threatened them with bad grades, not marching Friday's game, and begged them to do more. Some do, some don't. What makes the difference? I wish I knew. (But then again, I'd have the monopoly on what makes a teenager "tick," and WHO on earth wants THAT???)

We have 20 more hours of rehearsal until our first competition. We need to learn 20 pages of drill in that time. The time has come to move.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Freedom isn't free...

This post isn't going to be about what the title suggests, although that would be a good blog entry.

I had an exceptional group of seniors graduate last year. Twenty-five of them, to be exact, and I cared very much for each one of them. They were my second group of students to be with me all four years, and we had a very close relationship. I know what each one of them is doing, and I'm so proud of their choices in attending college, joining the armed forces, or working to save money for future endeavors.

I just read a post on Facebook today that made me sad.

One of my students is attending NAU on a music scholarship. He wants to be a band director. He posted on one of my other students a comment about her photos. She's posting the typical "girl" photos--her room, going to eat, etc. He commented that she should see one of his photos...he said it's pretty incriminating. He said he was dressed like a pirate with a beer bong in one hand and a tequila in the other.

Stupid.

This kid has had things handed to him his whole life. He had a family that supported him in music--provided lessons for every instrument he wanted to learn, encouraged him to practice, and made sure he did all of the things he was supposed to do. He was always a little arrogant of his talent, but was a good kid and a good leader last year.

I just can't fathom why people think they can't have fun without getting drunk or high. I've had a great life--filled with lots of experiences and joys--without once touching alcohol, drugs or tobacco. For me, being in band and performing was all the "high" I needed. I just wish I could convince more people of that.

(I'm chatting with one of my other former students online right now and he just said, "People who say you can't have fun without alcohol have never sat next to the clarinet section!")

I know that I'm just one person in their life, and that they will have many other influences. I also am not so naive to think that they won't ever drink--it's too prevalent in our society. I just wish they would have the brains to wait a while. Too many of them get out of the house and think that they're free, but freedom comes at a cost, and sometimes the cost can be great.

Whenever I think of drinking, I always think of Gordon's dad who's life was completely changed by a drunk driver. Gordon's dad was so full of life--athletic, strong, and charismatic. One poor choice by one person changed all of that. I wish I could change all of that.

I am content at times to think that maybe the way I am and the choices I make will affect one of my students who, in turn, can affect many others. I'm hoping that poor decisions can be avoided--or at least postponed a while.

I've been asked a few times in my life what would make me the happiest. If I had one wish, it would be for my own children and my students to make good choices and be happy. This may sound a little "Pollyanna-ish," but I believe with all of my heart that one leads to the other. When you make good choices--even though they may seem restrictive at the time, they really open up doors and give us more opportunities. You limit yourself exponentially when you make poor choices in life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Amazing!

We had an exceptional practice tonight. It was our first evening practice, and our leadership team was dedicated 100% to demand perfection from the band.

It probably doesn't hurt too much that our first football game is this Friday. It's also amazing how kids seem to step it up when they know they're under the gun. We're going to perform the first two songs of our four song set Friday, and that's a record for us. (We usually only perform the first song at the first game.) I really want to have songs under our belt early this year so we're not panicked getting in to our first competition.

It also helped a lot to be able to use Josh's laptop tonight. I was able to review the animation of the drill and help students know which way to move. I can't believe that I've been teaching high school band for five years and I just now thought to get a laptop. It's going to make things so much easier!! **Thanks, Josh!**

I'm cooking pizza in the oven right now and it's dripping onto the oven floor. I hate that. Now the pizza will taste like burnt smoke. Oh well. Next time I'll do something different. :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

No Smoking

I was at Circle K today (yes, getting a Diet Pepsi) and was walking out when I was bombarded with cigar smoke.

Smoking is such a nasty habit. (Kind of like drinking too much Diet Pepsi--I know, dad!) I'm so grateful that it never appealed to me. Particularly in this day and age, you just can't smoke anywhere and it's become so expensive.

If what I'm seeing is correct, a pack of cigarettes cost around $5.00 a pack. I'll be the average person goes through 5 packs/week. That's $1300 a year on something that is really terrible for your body. It's also rare that just one person in the household smokes, so that $1300 probably doubles to $2600. Then there's the cost of health care, which is most likely higher because they are smokers, along with the additional doctor's visits they have related to their smoking.

When I go out to eat I'm accosted with smokers getting their last cigarette before they go into eat. Or their first cigarette after they're done eating. How awful to not be able to enjoy just sitting and relaxing with your "date" as you're too busy worrying about how quickly you can go out for a smoke.

It's like a huge ball and chain, and not the one you're married to! :)

I'm grateful for Joseph Smith and for the Word of Wisdom. It makes so much sense--it's what we know for a fact today, and what they did on faith then. I'm grateful for my children who see how incredibly stupid smoking is and have no desire to do it. I hope they remember that decision when times get tough and they are tempted.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury...

Before you read this letter I wrote to Mike Vax, I should give you a little of the back story behind it...

Mike Vax is a resident of Prescott who used to play lead trumpet in the Stan Kenton big band. This is kind of a big deal, as the Kenton band is one of THE top five jazz bands, historically speaking. Eight years ago, he started a jazz festival (called the Jazz Summit) where he brings in other jazz musicians and they have concerts throughout the weekend. The "pros" also do clinics for the high school musicians in the area, and my high school has been a part of this festival for the past two years.

Sounds like a nice guy, huh? It's a nice idea, but done in a way that is not good. As I said before, Mike Vax is not only a trumpet player, but a lead trumpet player, so the ego is so over-inflated I'm surprised he can fit through the door.

Anyway--here's the letter I wrote to him after the festival yesterday. I think it's pretty self-explanatory.

August 30, 2009

Mike,

As a music educator for the past fourteen years, I feel I have the best job in the world. I have the opportunity to teach my students about music and in the process instill a life-long love of the arts. I would say that the vast majority of my professional days are exceptional, and I leave at the end of the day feeling like I’ve done what I set out to do.

I have had two “low points” in my career, and yesterday at the Jazz Summit was one of them. I was humiliated publicly by a clinician, made to feel stupid and inferior by another director, and belittled and yelled at by you.

Scott’s comment about my selection of music for my band is a comment that should have been made privately to me—not in front of my band and the entire audience. Of course I know who Sammy Nestico is, but to insinuate that all of my students –many of whom hadn’t even played jazz before school started this year—should all know who he is after two weeks is ridiculous. I have plenty of Nestico in my library, and we play several of his charts throughout the year. The performance yesterday was one small “snapshot” of our year, and his comment made it seem like I don’t know what I’m doing at all.

After my band’s clinic, Doug Tidaback asked me if I’d had any jazz training at all. Needless to say, this didn’t sit too well with me. As you know, I attended Brigham Young University and studied jazz with Ray Smith, who directs one of the top jazz programs in the country. I didn’t bother telling Doug this, as he thinks what he does is better than what anyone else could ever do.

Throughout the day, you continually made comments to me about my students and what they couldn’t do, as if I didn’t know how to manage my students. My students are extremely well behaved and respectful. Perhaps we shouldn’t have left before Doug’s band finished, but I will tell you that we were there the entire day and not ONE of my students took out a cell phone the entire time. Doug’s kids were continually texting on their phones during all of the performances. Who got more out of the performances?

You and your clinicians have no idea what it is like to teach in rural Arizona, where we don’t have the resources that schools in larger cities do. There aren’t teachers available for private lessons, we don’t have a university nearby, and at Bradshaw, many of my student’s parents didn’t even attend college. Even if we did have teachers, most of my students couldn’t afford to take lessons—their parents are barely paying the rent. Most of my students don’t even have a clue what jazz is, and I have a huge job to do in teaching them the language, culture and history of jazz. I work hard to do this under a severe time crunch. The fact that your festival is three weeks after school starts, and I’m expected to have two charts ready to perform makes it difficult for me to get to deep into what jazz is…I’m too busy teaching the notes on the page.

You gave me an ultimatum yesterday (again in front of my students when it should have been done privately.) You said that if we couldn’t stay, we couldn’t play. I don’t deal well with people who give me ultimatums—that’s not how an educator operates. In the future, we won’t have anything to do with you or your festival. I am enclosing a check for the tickets we sold, and you can keep the money that you would have given us as a donation. Better yet, give it to Dan Bradstreet. He works way too hard at this festival and doesn’t get enough out of it financially. It seems as though neither of us can live up to your expectations. You cuss at me, speak disrespectfully and condescendingly to me and nothing I can do is good enough. I am fairly certain he feels the same way.

Life is too short to deal with people like you. I refuse to be treated like a lesser person—a little girl who doesn’t know the first thing about jazz or how to teach it. I don’t have time for it anymore. Please don’t ask me to be a part of your festival anymore. It’s not “about the kids,” it’s about you and your opportunity to re-live the glory days with other musicians in the name of “doing it for the kids.”

I will continue to do the very best I can with my students and the limited resources I am given. That is my job as an educator—not to cater to the whims of others. I have to trust in my own judgment and what I know is best for my students.

Respectfully,
Amie Cobb

Friday, August 28, 2009

Forgive and forget?

I had an incident happen over the summer with a couple of students. One might call it "sexual harassment." I don't know what happened...I wasn't in the room when it happened. It happened during our summer leadership workshop that we attend each year in Mesa.

The two students involved seem content to move on and get past it. In fact, I haven't heard a word about it from either of them (or from anyone else, for that matter) since school started. One of the students involved was punished, and my administrators consider the case closed, and the situation complete.

I take some of my students to another mini-workshop in a couple of weeks. It's a four-hour workshop in Mesa and I take them because I need to go down there anyway. (It's our annual band director's meeting.) Plus--it's a great workshop and a super pick-me-up for them.

I sent out an email to the parents and students that I'd like to have attend. The mom of the student that was "assaulted" sent me an email that said she was "disgusted" that the other student who "assaulted" her child is still allowed to be in a leadership position and that she didn't feel he'd been appropriately punished.

First of all, the only thing that's been admitted to is arm-rubbing while head was on shoulder. That's it. Secondly, the student has been punished--he's not allowed to go on any more overnight trips, which is huge this year as we're going to Disneyland in the spring, and he's a senior. Thirdly, he's been an EXCELLENT leader, probably the best we've had in this position.

When is it time to let things go and move on? Would I feel differently if this were my child? Perhaps, but I'd also know that the punishment fits the crime. I like to think that I'm pretty fair and level headed, but is she right in being so hateful towards this child? I know that I can be a little "mama bear"-ish when it comes to my kids, and I'd do anything to protect them. How would I react to a situation like this?

I was pretty upset at her email this morning. It got me thinking a lot (which is something I don't like to do very often.) I care about both of these students, and--like I said--they both seem to have moved past it. Why can't she?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Liberty Jail

I grabbed September's Ensign to read today while at Ian's piano lesson. The cover headline was President Uchtdorf's article on the role of righteous women. Normally I read the first article right away, but I flipped through to the middle this time.

The first article I came to was Elder Holland's article on Joseph Smith's time in Liberty Jail. Even though I have learned about this period of time before, reading this article made me think differently about this time. I was reminded of how terrible the conditions were in the jail...men couldn't stand upright because the ceilings were so low, their food was rotten and moldy--and sometimes poisoned, they were cold, without their family, and--worst of all--had no idea what was going to happen to them.

I can imagine being Joseph Smith in that jail, the suffering and trials he had to endure. The counsel he was given while in the jail is some of the most beautiful in the scriptures. Our Father in Heaven is truly speaking to Joseph Smith and the words He gives are exactly what I would imagine my earthly father giving to me. It is beautiful advice and counsel. The words that are that is the most poignant to me are these:

Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

The part that hit me today was "endure it well." Elder Holland encouraged us to be cheerful about our afflictions. Hmm... I'm not always as happy as I could be about my afflictions. Isn't that why they're afflictions? If they were anything else, they'd call them happy-flictions or something! :)

Elder Holland speaks to us as though we're right in the room with him and he's having a conversation with us. He spoke at our stake conference a few years ago and I don't recall having a more spiritual meeting. His counsel struck me today as I get grumpy about my own trials...sometimes feeling sorry for myself and wishing things could be different. If I seek to be exalted on high, I need to learn to endure my trials better. I know that this is what life is all about.

Once again, life isn't about what happens to us, it's about what we do with what's happened to us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm just a girl who can't say no...

I think I can blame my mom for this one...

I can't say no.

"Hey, Amie. Do you want to come and play in the the community college big band?"

Sure...it's only once a week, right?

"Hey, Amie. Do you want to be a part of the Prescott Jazz Summit?"

Sure...how much time can it take?

"Hey, Amie. Do you want to be in the band to back up Toni Tennille this weekend?"

Sure...it pays a little, too!

"Hey, Amie. Do you want to go and teach band to 100 kids per day? Be their teacher, counselor, advisor and part-time mother?"

Sure...I think I can do that.

"Hey, Amie. Will you be the 2nd counselor in the Relief Society presidency?"

Sure...it will be tough to schedule things in during marching season, but we'll make it work.

"Hey, Amie. Can you be my mom?"

Sure...it's what I've always wanted.

I know, WHINE, WHINE, WHINE.

Someday maybe I'll learn to say, "No thanks, I'm just too busy right now."

On second thought, I probably won't.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thoughts on Julia Child

I just got back from seeing the movie "Julie and Julia." It was one of the cutest movies I've seen in a long time.

I remember seeing snippets of Julia Child's cooking show growing up, and laughing hysterically when Saturday Night Live would do a parody of her on their show. She could make even the most uncoordinated and clumsy person feel graceful! I didn't realize how tall she was!

She began cooking because she loved food and needed something to occupy her time while her husband worked. She enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, where she was the only female in a world dominated by men. She became very competitive and excelled in class. Her attitude was great to watch--she almost thrived on someone telling her that she couldn't do something.

While I'm no Julia Child, I was able to see some parallels in my own life. I am a female high school band director--which is rare. I think there are only five or six of us in the entire state. I, too, seem to thrive when someone tells me I can't do something. It's like I enjoy doing things anyway--just to spite them. I'm also pretty competitive, but don't tell Gordon that! (Especially when we play cards...)

At one point in the movie, Julia's sister gets married and becomes pregnant right away. When Julia (who had been married for several years and unable to have children) learned of the pregnancy, she cried...and then said, "I really am happy." You could see the disappointment and hurt on her face.

This was poignant to me, as I felt the same way when I found out my sister-in-law was pregnant after only being married a short time. Gordon and I had been waiting for five years for a child, and she was married less than six months! It hardly seemed fair, and I remember crying and crying about it. I didn't know it at the time, but Gordon had found out earlier that day that we'd been chosen to be Ian's parents. He let me suffer--the goof!

Throughout it all, Julia kept a great attitude. She maintained a fighter's attitude and never gave up, even when she'd ruin a perfectly good dish on national TV. She'd find a way to learn from it while at the same time teaching us all to learn from her mistakes. What a lesson to me. When life gives me issues to deal with, I need to look at them as learning opportunities rather than trials. I know we're sent here to deal with those issues, and I know we'll be judged on how we deal with them.

If Julia Child can deal with a ruined omelet on national TV, surely I can deal with whatever can come my way.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Nobody knows...

Okay, it's time for another pity session again. Don't read on if you don't want to hear it. I don't care. :)

So, for the past few years I've been having problems with my lower back and numbness in my legs when I walk. It feels like I would imagine an epidural would feel. I have function, I can walk, but my legs and butt go completely numb.

About 3 years ago I started seeing a chiropractor for it, and then realized after about 3 months that it wasn't getting any better. I couldn't walk for more than about a block without going numb. It was expensive, and not covered by insurance, so I stopped going. Eventually the numbness went away almost entirely, so I thought I was fine.

This past spring I started having serious pain in my conducting arm. My forearm and elbow would hurt like none other when I'd conduct. I knew that our friend Sam (another chiropractor) had helped Gordon with pain like this in the past, so I went to see him. After some serious bruising and intense pain sessions, my arm is better.

During one of the visits, he told me he wanted to take a look at my lower back. (I guess I just have "that look" about me.) He did some decompression therapy on my lower back, and told me that my muscles were extremely tight back there. I figured we'd work on it and it would be fine.

Right after I left Sam's office, I went to Wal-Mart to do some shopping. Five minutes in to my shopping, I went completely numb. More numb than I've ever been before. I felt like I was wearing clown shoes, and it was all I could do to keep going. I went back the next week to Sam's office and told him what happened. He ordered x-rays to see what's going on.

Right about that time I left for my trip to Utah and didn't get the x-rays done. I still continued to go numb about 1-2 times a week. In addition to the numbness, my leg muscles grow EXTREMELY fatigued after walking a short distance. I know I'm not in the greatest shape, but I should be able to walk farther than the parking lot to my room without growing so tired that I feel like I can't take another step. I knew that something more was wrong.

I Googled my symptoms. (I adore Google!) All of my symptoms seem to point towards something called "lumbar stenosis," which basically means my spinal cord is being choked to death. Knowing my history, with the radiation treatments in that area and all, it makes a lot of sense. I also have a mild case of osteoporosis, which also accounts for the deterioration of the bones in my spine.

I went to see my primary care doctor (whom I also adore) and she was very concerned about my symptoms and ordered an MRI right away. If this deteriorates much more I'll lose control of my bowels. Not cool. Definitely DON'T want that to happen!

There are several things that can be done for this, if in fact it turns out to be lumbar stenosis. The first step is physical therapy and cortisone injections. The next step is surgery to open up the cavity where the spinal cord is located. Given my age, this may be the most logical step. We'll have to wait and see what the MRI says, but it's so good to know that we're "on the case."

I am so grateful for a wonderful doctor who listens and is concerned about me. Sometimes I feel like such a whiner when I go in and see her, but she never makes me feel that way. I definitely don't want to sound like a hypochondriac, but I feel that way sometimes, too. I just want to feel normal. But then again, who knows what "normal" is? I tell my students all of the time that they way they feel right now is just about as good as it gets. :)

I'm also grateful for good health insurance. In this time of debate over the current insurance situation, it makes me truly frightened for what could be. I don't pretend to understand it all, but I enjoy what health coverage I have now, and the freedoms it gives me to get the testing I need. I'm hoping this issue will come to a resolution soon, and it is one that will benefit all.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gordon and the mighty horse

Today is Gordon's 42nd birthday. As we were driving today, he looked at me and said, "When you're 42, I hope you look this good." I love his sense of humor. (He was rubbing his "keg" as he said it.) ;)

We traveled to the Valley of the Sun today and (yet again) wondered why/how people can live there. It was 108 at 1:00! Too much!

We were able to get Gordon his favorite bean and cheese burrito from Elmer's, so it was a great day for him. We stopped in at his mom's for a bit and then went to Queen Creek to pick up Courtnie's new horse, Buddy.

Buddy has been around the block a few times. We think he's 35 years old, which is like 90 in human years. We don't know if he'll canter, or even trot, but he'll be fun for Courtnie to hang out with. It's amazing how quickly she's fallen in love with riding horses. Her teacher, Kaylee says she's a natural. I'm glad she's found something she enjoys. That's all we can hope for as parents.

I was texting my brother Alex today and giving him a hard time for going to Utah and not coming to see us in Arizona. He texted back and said he's on his way to come see us. I was just kidding him, but he's serious. He's probably close to Flagstaff right now. He's alone, and will have a long drive back, but it will be fun to see him for a bit. I'm still hoping he can hook me up with a cheap laptop. (He works at Best Buy.)

I slept really well last night and feel somewhat refreshed for the week ahead. I have a rehearsal tomorrow afternoon--that means I'll miss my Sunday nap, but I'll survive. I always do. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Well, after a long hiatus, I'm back.

I've realized that I've missed writing down my thoughts, and even though I'm now woefully busy, I'm going to start back up. (Like it or not!)

I'm now starting my fourth day of school. It's weird to me that we start so early--band camp started in July! I think I get to a place over the summer when I'm just ready to go back, so I guess early is good.

I volunteered to do some pretty weird stuff with my schedule this year and it just may kill me. I love jazz...teaching, playing--whatever. When I started teaching at BMHS six years ago the principal called me in and told me that he was going to have to cut jazz band because there weren't enough kids in the class. I told him that I'd find the kids, and I did. "Finding kids" has come at a cost, and I've been fighting it ever since. For the past five years, we've had a mediocre jazz band because most kids can't fit it into their schedule. I've been stuck with whoever could make it work. I have had some great musicians in the class, but a lot of kids who just don't belong. I believe very strongly that the jazz band should be the "cream of the crop."

In order to make it work this year, I'm teaching it as an "early bird" class, every morning at 7:00 a.m. This may not sound early, but it means I have to get up and get going by 5:30, which is torture for a non-morning person like me. So far, so good--kids are showing up on time and we're getting work done. It's hard to get Ian and Courtnie up and moving some days (Courtnie more so than Ian) but I think they'll get used to it.

I also have marching band practice from 2:30-5:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that's another story...

I saw my husband for a total of 10 minutes yesterday. After leaving early from school early yesterday, I rushed home, put dinner in the crock pot, then went and did RS visits. That ended at 6:20. I rushed home again, cooked some rice, did the dishes and had another meeting at the church. When that ended at 8:45, I went to the hospital to visit a sister who was having chest pains. (Turns out she's okay...) I got home around 9:45, just in time to kiss my husband good bye before he went to work and I went to bed. He has football practice every day from 2:15 to 6:00, and although he's happy and I'm happy, we're both too busy to do much else.

When do we clean our house, fold laundry, and everything else we need to get done?

Frustrating!

So, we take it one day at a time.

I'm having a great year so far in band. I'm up to 90 kids in the band, and 43 of them are freshmen. Luckily, they're all pretty good kids and they've learned fast. Things are progressing fairly well, which is good because our first game is September 4. It's going to be here before we know it!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Week in Review

I've had a pretty successful week...thus far. I've accomplished all of the things I set out to do, and am feeling pretty good about it. :)

Courtnie's dress--DONE!
House clean--DONE!
Practiced solo for Sunday's fireside--DONE!
Written talk--DONE! (almost)
Family on their way or here--DONE!

Courtnie and I have enjoyed our time together. I miss my husband and son, but am glad that they're having a great time. Gordon called on Wednesday and had fun tales to tell of Ian eating worms and riding wild burros. Mostly, I'm so glad that he hasn't been troubled with the separation anxiety that has plagued him for the past couple of years. I was worried about that, and have been praying daily for his happiness. I'm hoping that this will be a great turning point for him.

Courtnie had her baptismal interview with our bishop on Tuesday. Afterwards, the bishop told me what a sweet testimony she has. We talked a bit about the interview on the way home, and I felt the Spirit so strong as she told me what she told the bishop about her relationship with Jesus and what she thinks about Him. I truly knew the meaning of "child-like faith."

Wednesday night, my good friend Katie came over to watch "Ben-Hur." (She'd never seen it, and your life just isn't complete until you do!) I've seen this movie probably 25 times, and learn something new every time. This time, the character Balthazar struck me. In the movie he plays one of the three Wise Men who brings gifts to the infant Christ. He shows up in the movie a couple more times--each time searching for the grown Christ. The line that hit me this time was when he said, "When I see Him, I will know it is Him."

Throughout my life, I have been taught to live so that when Christ comes again I will recognize Him. One of the biggest struggles I have in my life is that I tend to be too self-reliant. I think I can do it all without asking for help. The person I need help from the most is my Savior, and at times, He has been the person I am least likely to ask. I don't know why. The thing that is the most astonishing to me is that He never tires of waiting for me to shape up and just ask. I know that He is there, and I know that He is listening. I have felt His presence in my life many times.

Later on in the movie, when Christ is delivering his Sermon on the Mount, we see Balthazar again. He tells Judah Ben-Hur that he KNOWS this is the man he has been seeking his entire life. I hope that I can live my life so that when He comes again I can be that kind of a witness as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

So my boys are gone.

They left this morning at 6:30 for Scout camp. Gordon is the new Scoutmaster, so he's off with the boys for the week. They're in Greer, AZ for some horseback riding, fishing, and whatever else boys do at Scout camp. (It's one of those boy mysteries they don't tell girls about...) :)

I'd like to say that Courtnie and I have big plans, but we actually have a week full of stuff to do. Today we ran a ton of errands, tomorrow I have practice and a RS presidency meeting, Wednesday I'm (hopefully) getting my hair done and have a chiropractor appointment, Thursday I have to be at school in the afternoon for color guard practice.

Sometime during the week I have to...
--Get Courtnie's baptism dress made
--Practice and write a talk for Sunday's fireside
--Clean my house
--Get food preparations done for Saturday's lunch
--Plan meals for the weekend with the family
--Get programs printed for her baptism

I'm sure there's more. I'll get to it. One step at a time, right?

I'm so lucky to have an easy-going girl. She just rolls with the punches and is happy pretty much all of the time. I'm grateful for some girl time this week...I'm going to make the most of it, even if it's just hanging out while I'm at the sewing machine or putting on loud music while we clean the house together. We'll work it out, because we always do.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Papa, Can You Hear Me?

I love the movie "Yentl." I love it because my mom loved it, and she loved it because Barbara's in it. Nuff said. :)

In the last few months, I had the opportunity to watch it again. It's been a while since I've seen it--maybe ten years or so. I saw it with a new set of eyes. I began to appreciate even more the relationship Yentl had with her father, as it reminded me a lot of my own father. Over the years, I have come to realize what a great man he is, and I appreciate him, as Yentl appreciated her father.

Here are a few of the things I have learned from my father:
1. What to expect from a husband. Expect nothing less than the best from him, and make sure he treats me like a queen. (Which he does!)
2. How to be a teacher. My dad is an excellent teacher, and I love his teaching style.
3. How to love learning and to be a life-long learner.
4. To love books and the adventures the can take you on and places they can take you to. My dad and I are both VORACIOUS readers. I love books so much I could cry.
5. To show unconditional love. His kids have all screwed up from time to time--well, except for Bill :)--and he loves them all anyway.
6. How to give great advice.
7. How to write a great paper, resume, and letter. I am confident that the reason I have the job I do is because I wrote a great cover letter! :)
8. How to be an expert in teasing others. It's a family trait, and I excel at it!
9. Never settle for less than the best in yourself.
10. Love music and appreciate it. I also wouldn't be where I am today if my dad hadn't taken me to the music store all of those years ago...
11. How to love and appreciate Scouting. I'm gaining a new appreciation for this as my husband just got called to be Scoutmaster...again!
12. How to be a great parent--one who loves, teaches, listens to and appreciates each one of his kids.
13. Most importantly--he taught (and continues to teach) me the importance of having the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. The blessings we receive from Him are evident every day.

I love you so much, Dad. I'm grateful for each one of these things...and many more...that you have taught me.

Happy Father's Day, Papa!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Cahkoola!

I'm so excited that I got these photos in the right order! (The trick...for all of you bloggers out there...is to enter them in reverse order.)

Here are some photos of our "pre-birthday" celebration dinner at Chili's. Courtnie LOVES Chili's, but the only thing she eats there is the Skillet Queso with chips. Gordon, Ian, Courtnie, Amie and Allison waiting to order our food.
Kassie, Josh and Megan looking cute.

Mikey and his Uncle "Go-Go."

The kids after dinner.

For dinner tonight, all Courtnie wanted was mashed potatoes and gravy, so I cooked a roast. We had Josh and Kassie over so we could all eat cake and ice cream together. Here's Courtnie blowing out her candle.
Happy birthday, sweetie!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Splendid--but difficult--reading



Yesterday I borrowed a book from the library. It was a book that one of the book clubs I belong to was/had read(ing) and was going to discuss soon. I haven't attended this particular book club in a while, so I thought I'd check out the book and try to join up again.

The book is called "The Book Thief" by Marus Zusak. It's about 550 pages long, and was in the "Young Adult" section of the library, although I wouldn't have placed it there. (The subject material was pretty hard to read.) I finished it just a few minutes ago. (I think it took me about 8 hours total...I read too fast for my own good sometimes!)

It's the story of a young girl growing up during in Munich, Germany during WWII. She is orphaned at the age of 9 because her parents were Communists. She was sent to live with a foster family in Munich. The book details her life with the family--an older couple with two grown children. Along the way they hide a Jewish man, she becomes friends with a mischievous boy, and she steals books.

As you would imagine, the story is hard to read--full of tragedy and loss during this awful period in human history. The book is narrated by Death, which puts an interesting perspective on things. It allows the story to be told matter-of-factly, as you would imagine Death would tell it. Even so, you can visualize exactly what is taking place and you can feel what each character is feeling.

As I was reading, especially the rather tragic ending, I couldn't help but think about what a terrible thing war is. I am not a peace-loving hippie, and I understand that sometimes war is necessary, especially when you're trying to stop a total lunatic like Hitler, but it doesn't stop me from feeling sick inside about all of the loss. The German people (well, many of them) blindly followed Hitler, believing him to be the "ultimate leader." I wonder how many of them knew what was really going on (not many, I'm sure), and how many were sickened when they found out. They lost so much in the name of prosperity and the "forward thinking" of one man.

Are we so blind that we wouldn't recognize the same thing if it was happening under our noses? I hope that we have learned enough from the lessons of the past to know better, but sometimes I feel like we could be headed for a similar fate. We are told to pray for our leaders, and I know that's the best we can do.

I'm still thinking on this, and may add more later, but that's all for now...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Football Widow

I knew it was inevitable. I knew it was just a matter of time.

I've become a football widow.

My husband is coaching football at our high school, and is having the time of his life. This makes me so happy. I am grateful that he has found a way to work with the youth and teach--two things he excels at.

He spent the entire day with them today. Practice/conditioning from 8:00-9:00, car wash from 10:00-2:00 and their Friday 7-on-7 game from 4:00-6:00. He came home tonight happy, tired, and very sunburned!

My hope is that I will be as supportive of him as he's been of me. He's never once complained about the hours I put in as a band director...never. I tend to complain a bit more. (I like to call it "murmuring." It sounds better.) I need to remember that he's been my #1 fan throughout my career, and I need to be his #1 fan in this endeavor. That's what a good marriage is all about.

It's going to take work from me, but I love him and want him to be happy. So it's worth it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scriptures

In our church, a lot of emphasis is placed on Joseph Smith and his translation of the Book of Mormon. This is the most important book ever written, no doubt about it.

In the past year or so I've been reading a lot of historical fiction that takes place around Henry VIII's time in England. (It all started with "Pillars of the Earth.") In the past month, I've read two books that discuss the translation of the Bible into English and how heretical it was at the time.

I am so grateful to those brave men and women who risked life and limb--literally--to translate the Bible. In these books, stories are told of people beaten, tortured, and even burned at the stake for disagreeing with the Catholic church. We are taught that the Lord prepared the earth for a long time before Joseph Smith questioned in the Sacred Grove. I am confident that without these brave men and women who lived hundreds of years before Joseph Smith, we wouldn't be where we are today. If Martin Luther hadn't written his 95 Theses, if John Wycliffe hadn't insisted on the translation of the Bible so that the "common man" could read, understand, and question for themselves, Joseph Smith wouldn't have found James 1:5. How pivotal that was to all Latter-Day Saints.

Reading these books also makes me realize how important it is to do our family history. To find these people who, I am sure, if they had the chance, would have embraced the Gospel. I'm grateful that there will be a time and a season for me to work on this. (It's not right now, but will be some day.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming

Short blog entry today. I'm tired! :)

We went swimming today at Kassie's. I am so grateful for this, as it has given my kids the opportunity to get wet. My kids have been scared of the water, and it's mostly my fault as I haven't provided swimming lessons like a good mom would. :(

Today, Ian felt confident enough to do several "cannonballs" off the end of the pool, and Courtnie actually let go of the side of the pool. This doesn't sound like much, but it's huge for them. Even though it's rather humiliating for me to get in a swimsuit and go out in public, I'm willing to do it if it gets them going.

(Oh, and I have to put up with a little sunburn, too. Not fun. You'd think I'd know better!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

G+A=TLA

I have a great husband.

Sure, he drives me nuts from time to time. I'm sure I drive him nuts FAR more often than he drives me nuts.

I just read an article in this month's Ensign (pronounced: N-Sign, not N-sun--that's pet peeve #3). The article was entitled "Granola Crumbs and Paint Cans." In the article, a woman describes her slight annoyance at her husband for leaving granola crumbs on the couch. She then looked around and saw that, as an artist, her messes were taking over the house, and he hadn't said a word about it.

I wish I could say that I don't get annoyed at my husband for leaving his plate by the couch, or for leaving empty pop cans around, or for folding his clothes after wearing them and placing them on the back of the couch.

It seems to me that the only time Christ really got annoyed at people was when there were "moneychangers" in the temple. (That would tick me off, too.) He didn't get annoyed when people spat at Him, made fun of Him, or called Him vile names. If we are striving to be more Christlike, perhaps I need to start with my patience for my husband's little quirks. Maybe then he'll be more tolerant of mine.

We're going to have to move soon. Our landlord is putting our house up for sale. We found out yesterday that he had scheduled an appraiser to come out today, so we were frantically cleaning the house. Instead of going to sleep when he got home from work, my husband stayed up and cleaned. I had a RS presidency meeting, and he stayed up and cleaned. When I got home, the house looked great. He's pretty amazing.

I love you, babe. Thanks for sticking with me--I'm not so sure than anyone else would have! :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Power of Prayer

Another cool teaching moment today.

In case you don't already know, I have the WORST veins in the history of the world. You may think you have bad veins, but you've got NOTHING on me.

Fortunately for me, I have to get blood drawn and/or an IV put in about six times a year. My two favorite words in the English language are "blood draw." Oh joy!

I had a follow-up MRI for my kidney cancer today. When I arrived at the hospital, they told me that I needed a blood draw to test my kidney function before they could give me the contrast dye I needed for the MRI. I freaked out (temporarily) and then remembered what Ian and I had done just a few moments before.

As I was leaving my house this morning, Ian was the only one up. As I was stepping into my truck, I asked Ian to say a prayer for me that I'd have an easy time with veins today. He smiled and said, "Sure, mom. I'll do it." He then asked me to pray for he and Courtnie to be safe while they were alone for a bit before Gordon got home from football practice. I told him I would and was on my way.

Low and behold, the lab tech got a good vein on the first try. He took the blood he needed and I was on my way.

When I got to the MRI room, they were already set up for me. They obviously remembered me from last time, and were going to do the IV first. The radiology tech tried a vein on my right arm without luck. (It hurt like heck!) She then said she wasn't going to try anymore and called for the nursing supervisor. (She was the one who finally got a vein after 6 tries by others the last time!) She found the same vein the lab tech used and got the IV going on the first try. I almost cried.

I called Ian when I was leaving the hospital to tell him the good news, and he said, "See mom, prayer works!" I told him that I prayed for him, too and he said he knew it because he felt comforted when he was alone.

I'm grateful for a son who recognizes the power of prayer. He knows that it works, and I hope that he'll always remember it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

I have a new church calling. After my millionth stint as Primary Chorister, I was called last Sunday to be the Enrichment counselor in the Relief Society presidency of our ward. I think out of the almost 18 years Gordon and I have been married, I've actually been able to attend RS about one year--total.

Needless to say, this is all pretty new to me. I'm also not a big "Enrichment Night" attendee. I'm usually so tired and/or want to spend time with my family on Thursday nights. (Plus...HELLO...that's the night "Survivor" is on!!) So, I'm in need of some serious repenting here, which is probably why I was given this calling in the first place.

I also know that I need a challenge. It's easy to get in a "rut" when you've been doing something for so long. My Sundays took little-to-no preparation. I'm sure I could have done a better job...no, I know I could have done a better job. But, I feel that way with all of the callings I've had over the course of my life.

So, today was my first Sunday in RS. Our ward is gradually shrinking as the economy of the area weakens and people are forced to move. Today we had 21 people in RS, and that was HUGE for us. Granted, a lot of sisters are in Primary or Young Women, but it's still small. When I was able to attend RS just a year ago, it seemed much bigger.

Our new RS president is awesome. I really like her, and she and I have similar personalities. She gave a great lesson today on unity in sisterhood. I know she was inspired in the things she shared with us and the lesson went by very quickly and smoothly.

Before she got to the lesson, she announced that we'd have a new member baptism in a couple of weeks. I didn't know this, but her family has been working with the missionaries on this cute older couple...the Newtons. Sister Newton talked a bit about the plans for her baptism, and was just so excited. It was so neat to see the glow in her face and the love for the Gospel she had. It just beamed from her.

As grateful as I am to have been born to goodly parents and raised in the Church, at times I envy those who join later on in life. It is so obvious that they have been seeking for something their whole life, and are thrilled beyond description to have finally found it. I take my membership in the Church for granted so much. It was good to be reminded of how important it is to not only me, but others as well.

Her excitement in the Gospel was infectious, and her eyes were full of joy. I want to live my life so that others see me that way. As I said before, it's easy to get complacent. Maybe this new calling is just the kick in the pants I need to make me realize how important it really is.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Finding "Teaching Moments"

Our family had a busy morning...

Gordon left for his company's charity golf tournament at 6:00 a.m., and the rest of us got up about 6:30 to get ready for Ian's "Wrestling War" in Camp Verde.

Courtnie gets bored at Ian's wrestling events, so I dropped her off at her friends house. It was then just Ian and I in our truck.

I invited Ian to sit in the front seat, something I never do. Even though he's 12, and "legally" able to sit in the front, he's still just too little--in my opinion. But today, I wanted to talk, and I needed him close to me.

We chatted about this and that...Ian's a smart boy who has a good head on his shoulders. I love that he wants to badly to do what's right. He can't understand why people make bad choices...he never has been able to comprehend that. From a very young age, he would ask me questions like "Why do people smoke when they know it's bad for them?" and "Why do we have these rated 'R' movies in our cabinet when we promised Heavenly Father we wouldn't watch them anymore?" Sure, some of these questions make me feel more than a little guilty, but it's just because the "wicked take the truth to be hard."

Today we got on the topic of the Word of Wisdom and caffeinated soda. If you know me even a little bit, you know that my biggest weakness is Diet Pepsi. I love it more than a fat kid loves cake. Truly. I've tried to stop drinking it several times, and it just keeps calling to me. I explained to Ian that the general authorities have counseled us that it's a personal choice. I am currently trying to cut way back on the amount of soda I'm drinking--not necessarily as a caffeine issue, but as a health issue. I just plain need to drink more water. He told me that he's made the choice not to drink soda with caffeine, and I'm proud of him.

After kicking butt and taking names at the wrestling war, we had another chance to talk on the way home. I told him how much I love watching him wrestle and how in awe I am of him and his physical abilities. I told him that every time I watch him struggle with his opponent, I am reminded of one of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon, where Enos "wrestles with the Lord." That scripture never really hit me until I watched my son wrestle.

Ian and I discussed Joseph Smith and how much he loved to wrestle. I told him that I can imagine Joseph Smith, translating the Book of Mormon, and getting a mental image of Enos and his struggle with the Lord. How interesting it is to me that the word "wrestle" would come to him, as it so aptly describes the struggle we all go through at times. How easy it would be if we would just stop being so pig-headed and just accept that the Lord is right--always! I'm sure it gets really frustrating for Him sometimes. I'd be tempted to say "I TOLD you so!"
Anyway--I'm grateful for the time I had with my son today. I know that I need to take advantage of every opportunity to be with him. Our family isn't always the best at sitting down and having "gospel discussions," but I'm hoping that the informal, "in the car" discussions will stick with my kids. Some of my fondest memories from my teenage years are when my dad would take me to the store just because he knew I needed to talk. I remember those talks, and more than that, I remember that he cared for me. That's more important than just about anything.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I've got a camera, I've got a camera, I've got a camera hey hey hey hey




Gordon and I have been wanting/needing:


a) a new digital camera
b) a camcorder


The camera I currently have (or should I say had) was a 5 mega pixel that occasionally took a good picture. Actually, I think I've taken five or six good pictures on that camera since getting it as a gift almost four years ago.


We wanted a camcorder to record--among other things--Ian's wrestling matches. We've borrowed Josh and Kassie's camcorder and in the past and it's been so helpful for Ian to watch his matches. He learns a lot.


With those two things in mind, we went to our local Best Buy today. We were going to purchase just a camcorder, and picked out a few that we liked. We asked if the camcorder took decent still photos and were told that the camcorder "photos" were terrible. We then asked if we could purchase a camera that would shoot decent videos and were told that we're better off doing it that way.


We purchased the camera you see above.
We took it to Josh and Kassie's today for Allison's birthday and here are a few of the photos:

The "head honcho" rigging up the pinata:



Mikey and Megan picking up their loot:



The birthday girl:



Ian and Courtnie examine their loot:

I also called my dad for some "expert" advice. I always like talking to my dad, and I'm grateful (as always) for his no-nonsense advice. I can't wait until he's here at the end of the month!!

I love you, dad! :)