Friday, January 20, 2012

seminary superman.

My dad taught seminary for 33 years, and this month we celebrate 100 years of seminary. Here is my latest article published by the Deseret News,  "Seminary Superman."

Friday, January 13, 2012

50,000 words.

I have reached 50,000 words in the memoir I am writing, "White Bees", and find each day I write, is a day I know myself better. Everyone has a journey to share. Below is the first part of chapter 1 to my story ...

1 My mother has loved me from the very start.

She has only ever seen me the way God does, right into my soul from the window through my eyes, and that has never changed. I must have felt her faith, as she took me in her arms the day I was born and looked upon my tangled face, and into my new blue eyes with courage and complete understanding. Knowing the road ahead would be laced with trials and mixed with grace.

“How old are you,” said the nurse, leaning down to tape the IV to my small arm.

I looked straight ahead and held up five fingers on my opposite hand, spreading them apart as far as I could.

“Five! Wow! You are getting so big!”

I nodded my head, the surgical cap covering my hair scratched against the stiff cotton sheet, but I did not speak a word.

Just minutes before I was safe with Mom and Dad in a room divided by a dark fabric curtain. Mom sat next to me while a man I didn’t know talked to them about the medicine he would be putting in my body.

Now, I was here all alone, and this felt nothing like what Mom had explained to me.

The IV was positioned mid-way up my right forearm, and throbbed where the nurse had placed the strip of white sticky tape. I was scared to move, even the slightest bit.

The ceiling towered high above me, and every wall that fell from it was painted stark white. The cold metal crib that I lay in made me feel like such a baby. I was not a baby! I was big, and I did not belong in this crib. There was an empty one next to me, aligned perpendicular to me and pushed close against the wall. I turned my head all the way to the left and looked out the metal rungs into the room adjacent to me. A room filled with bright white lights.

“I am going to have you wait right here until Dr. Broadbent is ready for you, then we will take you in for surgery,” the nurse said as she wheeled me into the hallway waiting area. Her hair was a soft brown color, and curled around her face like a rainbow.

I nodded my head again, trying my best to comprehend the unfamiliar surroundings. Voices, lots of voices came from the big bright room. I stretched my ears and listened as tightly as I could to the words the voices spoke.

“Dr. Broadbent is going to be doing the palate-lengthening operation on her today,” said a voice coming from the big bright room.

“He has been seeing this patient ever since she was six months old. Her case is one of the worst we have seen at this hospital,” said another voice.

I dissected each sentence, as I tried to determine if I knew anyone in the big bright room.

“Did you know Dr. Broadbent is one of the best plastic surgeons in the world?”

“He was top of his class at Duke University…he is very talented.”

I kept so quiet; listening and trying to understand.

Then a door swung open and I heard the whoosh from the pushed air followed by deliberate motion and the sound of a clip board hitting a hard surface.

“Hello everyone, I am Dr. Broadbent. It is a pleasure to be with you students in this teaching session. Today I will show you a technique for improving the speech of this patient.” His voice was familiar, but I didn’t know why. My mind raced to catch the answer. “The operation will be done by attaching a flap of soft tissue from her throat wall to the back of her soft palate.”

“How will this improve her speech?” asked a younger man.

“Well, if the palate and throat do not touch, air leaks into the nose and produces nasal speech.”

Above me I could hear the ticking of the second hand coming from a large black and white clock.

“Are there any more questions before we begin?”


Then I heard footsteps, lightly did they pad the shiny floor, almost in a quiet whisper.

Were they talking about me?

“OK, looks like Dr. Broadbent is ready for you now,” said the familiar nurse, her rainbow hair tucked up neatly into her own surgical cap, the elastic edges gripping her smooth forehead. She unlocked the wheels, then put both palms on the side of the crib and pushed.

I sunk as deep as I could into the mattress, my face pointed up, feeling scared and so very alone. The wheels creaked when she made the turn from the hallway into the big bright room.

She stopped in the center, locked the crib in place, and in an instant she was gone. I was now certain I was in the wrong place. Not one single person said hello to me; almost as if I did not exist. Yet, I could hear them, buzzing around me in a productive fashion. I kept my eyes glued to the ceiling. Perhaps if I did not move, they would go about their business and forget about me, and then Mom and Dad would come looking for me and take me home. I had a wrist band on my left hand, and my name was typed, along with my birthday in a neat legible font. I stared at it, while I wondered what would happen next. All the while my heart raced, filled with anxious mystery, yet I found no bearing to hold my fear. Seconds passed, folding into minutes. I could still hear the clock on the wall outside the big bright room, ticking so obediently.

“Hello, Amy Jo,” said Dr. Broadbent leaning over the crib from behind my line of sight. His eyes were full of kindness, and goodness. I knew him. I knew his face. And my body relaxed, if only just slightly. “We are going to move you to the operating table where your surgery will take place,” and then before I could re-arrange my thoughts there were four people, two on each side of me, “on the count of three we will need you to become as light as a feather, OK?”

I nodded my head; then closed my eyes. Eight hands lifted me from the crib to the table in a swift display of teamwork. My cotton gown tangled around the tubes, which my nurse quickly set about to move into a position that was comfortable, snapping the cord onto the IV tower and taping it into place. Then, her focus came back to me. She attached a sticky circle just above my heart that had a wire coming out of it, and put some sort of a cover on my pointer finger which instantly throbbed. All the while she was fielding requests for surgery preparation. My heart beat so fast and loud I was sure she would notice. In the background I heard the sound of metal instruments bouncing on metal trays, moving to the beat of soft footsteps. Dr. Broadbent’s voice was calm and low somewhere behind and to the left of me as he talked to others in the room. I couldn’t hear anything, no matter how hard I tried to stitch together his words.

The lights above me were so bright that my eyes burned. I could see the faces now that were linked to the voices. There were so many of them. Each came by and looked down at me, so briefly they did not catch the fear in my eyes.

I lay as still as I could.

“Can you count to 100?” Dr. Broadbent asked, looking down at me with his white surgical mask over his mouth and a surgical cap covering his head

I shook my head.

“How about to 50?”

I shook my head again.

“Well, I want you to start to count as high as you can then, OK?”

I nodded, and wished I knew how to count higher, they all wanted me to count to 100! And I didn’t know how. The vein in my right arm was suddenly filled with a cold sensation; gripping and fierce did it go as it followed the length of my arm all the way up and across my shoulder. I shook with a sudden chill.

“One, two, three…” I started, trying to stay focused on counting as high as I could.

“Good job, Amy Jo, keep counting,” said Dr. Broadbent, his eyes steady on mine.

My mind felt so heavy, so tired. So very, very tired. I wanted to show him how high I could count, but I could hardly remember what came next.


The room became fuzzy, and my focus skewed as I tried with all my might to keep my eyes open, but my lids pressed heavy on my lashes.

“……….e…i…g..h…t…” and then, I could no longer hold on. I looked up at Dr. Broadbent and saw a flash of white, and then I disappeared into a deep, wonderful sleep.

While I slept, he worked. And I felt no pain.

Friday, January 6, 2012

keeping katie.

When I was young my sister Jeannie and I used to spend the night at my Gram and Gramp's house, just a mile from where we grew up. Gram would let us split a can of Pepsi AND stay up and watch Dallas with her before tucking us into the hide-a-bed for the night. She would lay the red blanket on us and make sure we were warm before she walked the ten steps down the hall to the master bedroom. Jeannie and I would stay up as long as we could stand it talking and sneaking more TV.

On one such sleepover Jeannie told me, in secret, that Gram only had "one boob", and she could prove it. She had seen her bra hanging in the bathroom, and it was completely filled in on one side. Of course I did not believe her. I had never heard of anyone being born with just one. The whole thing just baffled me for days.
Little did I know the story of how, or why...or the struggle she took on so silently most days.Cancer had found her and took part of her all those years ago. But Cancer did not take her grace, or her kindness, or her fight to wake up each day and make it to the end. One more time.

Now, I watch my friend Katie take a similar path, at an entirely too young of age. My Katie, who shared a backyard with me, taught me how to drive a van, and lent me all her clothes through high school. My Katie, who never says a bad word about anyone, and who fiercly loves her husband and five children.


Keeping Katie means losing part of her.

But not her sweet personality, or her listening ear, or her warm heart. Cancer can't take any of that. Keeping Katie means months of radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, rehab, and physical therapy. But keeping Katie also means she will find her strength in this trial, and share it with all of us who never want to lose her.