Happy

Ander and Terri My little 2 year old grandson, Ander, is often all smiles. His bumpy start in life has in no way diminished his sheer joy of being on this planet.

He has difficulty speaking and has speech therapy every Monday. Progress is slow, but steady. There are only a few words that he can say clearly. One of them is “happy”.

Ander’s eyes twinkle and his face lights up with his precious smile when he says, “Happy”. It is the only word that he is able to say to express what he is feeling and he says it frequently. Sometimes he throws his little arms around me and says, “Happy”; sometimes he says it as he is running around playing; and sometimes he says it when he is sitting still in a roomful of people he loves.

As I have contemplated Ander’s use of “happy”, I have come to see the emotion of happy in a whole new light. Happy is often thought of as a state of being or a state of mind when things are going well. But what about when things are tough or trying or downright miserable? Can one be happy at those times?

Sure. But it takes effort and a completely different mindset of what it means to be happy.

Rainbow at work

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness called vasculitis. As with so many autoimmune illnesses, it can be beastly. Its physical damage is wide ranging and can ring every drop of happiness right out of me. In the words of Ron Weasley when encountering the dementors for the first time, “I felt as if I would never be cheerful again.” I was 49 when I was diagnosed and the life I had worked so hard to achieve was over.

The first 3 months after I was diagnosed, I prayed to die. Living was hard and painful and the horror of what other damage my illness might cause was terrifying. I asked God to please be merciful and take me, but He did not.

As my life lingered on, I had to find ways to be happy.  All around me were reminders of the way my life used to be and those reminders were hazardous to my happiness. It was challenging to figure out how to work around the memories of what I had once had and what I had once been.

garden 2008
After 25 years of having a vegetable garden, this was the last big garden that I was able to have. My daughter, Tricia, and her husband, Tim, surprised me one day in May 2008 and worked all day to get the garden planted. It turned out to be a magnificent garden that year.

One of the most important things I did for my mental well being was to keep a regular journal. An integral part of my journaling was a list of things each day for which I was grateful. Keeping a gratitude list caused me to focus intently on the world around me and to notice things that I had so often overlooked — blades of grass, individual flower petals, the multitude of blues in the sky, dust particles moving through sunbeams, sounds of all kinds, my shoes, breathing in and out, indoor plumbing, the steady presence of The Savior in my life holding me while I descended into the abyss.

My chronic illness brought about new perspectives and made each good thing in my life rich and beautiful and precious. One night as I was taking out the trash, I paused and looked up at the sky. I could see so many stars — far more than I had ever seen from my yard. I live near the city and city lights block the light from all but the brightest stars. On this particular night, however, Heavenly Father gave me a gift — the ability to see more than I ought to have been able to see. It was an amazing blessing.

Most of the time my blessings were not so grand, but I found things each day which caused me to be grateful and HAPPY. I learned to allow myself to feel happiness despite fear and pain and having to live my life with diminished capacities. I became intensely grateful for my family and enjoyed them in ways that I had not imagined possible. Often I have thought that my heart would melt with joy because of something a family member said or did.

Best Grandma Ever
Sometimes my grandsons will have a sleepover at my house. The morning after one of these sleepovers, I awoke at 7:00 am and found this note and the roses laying on the floor outside of my bedroom door. The note says, “Mom-mom, you are the best grandma ever!”

I learned to do new things and began blogging. At first I had a personal blog, then a couple of years later I opened up my food blog. I learned a few things about photography and have learned, for the most part, how to compensate for eye issues when looking through a camera. Blogging became a huge blessing in my life, namely because of the wonderful people I have met from around the world.

Jerusalem at sunset Oct 2010
Another miraculous blessing — I was able to go on a 14-day Mediterranean cruise with my husband and his family in Oct 2010. One of our stops was in Israel and we were able to visit Jerusalem. I stayed healthy for the entire trip.

As many of you know, I am a nurse. I went back to school when I was in my mid forties and got my RN. I only got to work for about 11 months before I was diagnosed and became too ill to get off of the couch for very long. My boss was gracious and held my job for six weeks. I truly believed that I would be well enough to return to work within that time, but by the 5th week I realized that work was out of the question. I was devastated. The day that I finally removed my uniforms from my closet was a terrible, sad day. I thought that I would never again be able to practice nursing and I was markedly sad. However, God was merciful and after 10 months of misery He made it possible for me to start working again. I can only work parttime, but it is enough and I am so very, very thankful to be able to work at all.

Jesus and surgeons
I often feel The Savior with me when I am working. He has helped me many times. It is a testament to me of his awareness of all of us and our circumstances. He loves us. I know he does.

So now, eight years into this strange life that I live, my health appears to be relatively stable. I still have to take meds to keep my immune system suppressed, but all-in-all I’m doing astoundingly better than my doctors have expected me to do. To help me reclaim, or maintain, a bit of my former identity, I like to set up little challenges for myself — can you lift that heavy-ish item? can you run across the yard? can you still sit cross legged on the floor?; can you hold your breath for 30 seconds, 45, 60?; can you still lift your leg up onto the counter top?; can you give even the grumpiest patient something to smile about?; can you love the unlovable?; can you still do math in your head?

Can you start blogging again?

Yes, I can start blogging again. I can return to something that both challenges me and blesses me. I can blog and be happy.

I never meant to stop blogging; just the opposite as a matter of fact. I had many blogging plans for 2015, but by June of this year my health required me to take a step back. As I re-examined my life, I felt okay about not blogging.

There were good days and bad days. There were weeks when I never even looked at my blog. I forgot my password. My camera laid untouched for months. My kitchen was relatively untouched as well. I tucked inside myself emotionally and replaced blogging with scrapbooking. I have been working on documenting my life and the lives of my father, who died when I was 24, my paternal grandparents and my maternal grandmother. I reexamined my life and made time for exploring my soul.

blog logo
Terrrrrri…come baaaaaack!

Lately, I have been feeling the call of my blog to come back and start again. I have thought about it for about a month now and am happy with my decision. I have had a lot of encouragement from my daughter, Katie, from friends at work and from many of you.

My heart has truly been touched by those of you who have sent me emails and left me messages on my June 1, 2015 post. Thank you for your prayers; I am so very, very grateful for them. I honestly never knew that people I have never met would have such kind and loving feelings for me. I have gotten misty-eyed more than once.

So, I’m coming back to blogging. I will post a new recipe on Monday of next week. I’m pretty sure that if you live in the United States, you’re not interested in anything new right now because of Thanksgiving on Thursday. Yay for Thanksgiving! (By the way, my grandsons are helping with Thanksgiving this year. Kade (6) is making toast — hahahaha; Gavin (9) is making green jello with pomegranate seeds — a recipe from his other grandma; and Ander (2) says that he wants to help with the cooking in general — he loves to help stir things and lick the spoon.)

The Boys

Hi. My name is Terri and I am happy.

Terri in John's new Lazy-Boy
This is me sitting in a new Lazy Boy that I got for my husband last year for Father’s Day. I’m 5′ 5″ so you can get a good idea at how big this chair is! 🙂