Friday, October 14, 2011

Remembering the Beginning of the End

On this date in 2006 was what I call, "The Beginning of the End."

I remember because October 13, 2006 was a Friday and a man died at Restaurant.

Anyway, so October 14th was a Saturday. I was at Sis's house and was sleeping in "my" room when I woke to hear sirens going down the street a few blocks away. I absent-mindedly thought, "I hope that is no one I know." Just then Sis burst into my room saying, "Get up! We have to go to the hospital!" I thought, "OH CRAP! Did BiL electrocute himself!?" (He's an electrician).

Anyway, Sis said that Mom's friend called from the Emergency Department to tell us that she had taken Mom there. Mom had blood in her urine (a symptom called "hematuria). Mom's Friend drove her to the hospital where they performed some tests and then referred her to a urologist.

Fast forward to the urology appointment a few weeks later. Mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It ended up being Grade (not stage) 4. Grade speaks to how fast and aggressive a cancer is while Stage speaks to how advanced it is. So, she had a weird Grade 4, probably stage 2 or 3 bladder cancer. The doctor took a scope and burned the tumors off at first. That's how he staged and graded it. The next course he tried was intravesical chemotherapy, which is different from systemic chemotherapy. Systemic is what you're probably thinking of where a person gets an IV for a while and then usually they feel sick and often lose their hair. Intravesical chemo is such that the doctor inserts a syringe into the person's bladder, puts the chemo in the bladder, and then it sloshes around for at least 20 minutes before it is eliminated. After the four treatments were done, a follow up appointment was scheduled.

Just after her chemo ended, I moved to Seminary. I had taken care of her in the best way that I could while I could, and felt called to a new venture. The chemo treatments hadn't been TOO hard on her...They certainly seemed easier than when she'd had breast cancer and had endured systemic chemotherapy. I had driven her to all her bladder appointments and had handed the baton to my siblings.

I probably hadn't been at Seminary for more than a week or so when YS called and said that Mom had more hematuria. I suggested she call the urologist to see what he thought. So, they went back, he burned off more tumors with the scope thing, and it was decided that "Big Surgery" was the only way to get rid of the cancer. So, we convinced Mom to have the surgery, and so it was scheduled.

She had her surgery on March 21st. The procedure is called a radical cystectomy, in which the surgeon did a complete hysterectomy and bladder removal. At that time, the doctor guided her ureter to a stoma on the outside of her body. That's how people without bladders eliminate waste...The ureter goes to the stoma which then empties into a bag that is attached to a person's side. The adhesive gets changed about once a week or so, and a person empties the bag as often as it starts to fill.

But the thing is...Mom had dementia even then. And when she woke up, she was never the same. Looking back, and having talked with some professionals, it seems like she may have had a stroke while under anesthesia. Post-Surgery Mom was drastically changed from Pre-Surgery Mom.

So, that's a long post to basically share a short sentiment-Dates are important for those who grieve. It's been a year and a half since Mom died, and yet I still grieve. I think about her every day, and especially on days like today that hold significance for me and for our family. This date marks "The Beginning of the End" for Mom's earthly pilgrimage. It marks the "jumping in point" for really having to face dementia head on. I'm still learning from this, but also still grieving. I hope that in another five years, I'll have more time and more peace with it all. Peace to you wherever you are in your own grief journeys.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I recently got a haircut. I really love when "haircut day" rolls around, which is usually about every 4-5 weeks, since I wear my hair short. The time before this haircut, I tried a different style, but I couldn't style it the way the cosmetician did, and so gave up on trying that one. So, this haircut was a smidge overdue.

The thing was, I am really cheap. I wanted to wait at least a month to get my new haircut. Then I ended up waiting a little bit longer because I had a doctor's appointment.

What? Why should that matter?

I have been having headaches every morning on the top left of my head. They're not horrible, but they're bothersome, especially considering they've been going on for 2 months. So, I finally went to the doctor. After listening to me describe the headaches, the doctor wanted me to have an MRI to make sure it wasn't a brain tumor. This was the second time in about 9 months that the words "brain tumor" have been spoken to me, so I was a little nervous about it all. And, still cheap.

Cheap, because I didn't want to get a haircut BEFORE the MRI in case I DID have a brain tumor and would need surgery. After all, they would have just shaved my head anyway. Why spend twenty bucks if the hospital would just shave my head in a few days, anyway?

So, last Tuesday, I had my MRI. I have had MRIs before, so I knew what to expect. I just tried to chill out in the tube, and then waited anxiously for the results. Finally, on Thursday, the doctor's office called and said it was clear. What a relief! How thankful am I that these persistent, nagging headaches are not something malevolent growing inside my brain.

So, the day I got my results, I got a haircut. Even though it seems that I'm thankful for the simple thing of getting a new haircut, I think it's something more profound; a gratitude that I could GET a haircut and not have to worry about getting my head shaved. It's a gratitude that I am still pretty healthy, even though I have no answers as to why I have these headaches. But, it's not a tumor. And so, I am thankful-for health and for haircuts.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


I was just reading some older posts and realized I missed some more stuff...

First off: The awesome family related news I alluded to in February...YS got ENGAGED on Valentine's Day! She and her man decided to get married on April 30th at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas! All my siblings except for OB went. It was SO awesome, and I'm very glad that they took the leap. YS's husband is a very awesome guy, and I am excited that he's officially my brother in law. He treats her well, and they seem genuinely happy together.

The other big thing: I broke my wrist in March. Some friends and I went roller skating in SeminaryTown, and within 15 minutes, I had fallen. A roller rink employee was right there when I went down and she said, "Are you ok?" I was afraid of getting into trouble, (odd, I know) and so I just said, "Yeah, I'm fine!" Then I got up and started skating around again, thinking that I had just bumped it a bit. But then, the roller rink announcer said that there were no shoes or coats or sweatshirts allowed in the skate-putting-on-area, and so my friends and I all went to move our stuff to the cubby holes. I sat down and my wrist was still really hurting, and I felt like I was going to pass out. I mentioned that I was really in pain and one of my friends asked if I could move it. I could, though it was sore. So, as I got more and more light-headed, they told me to lie down. I asked, "Do they have free water here?" (I have a penchant for asking stupid water-related questions), and then one of my friends came back with a bottle. Another employee came over with a bag of ice, and looked at my wrist a little. Then, my friends said, "It's time to take Molita to the hospital!" So, we got up and were walking out when the guy who took our money came up and said, "You hardly got to skate, so here is your money back." So, we took our money, loaded into the car, and made the drive across town...

AND BOY, WHAT A DRIVE! Every bump hurt like you would not believe. It didn't really, REALLY start hurting until we got into the car, but man...Yikes. I was saying words that are not befitting for a seminary student to say. Oh, and I was laughing hysterically because I am not very good at crying. So, there I was, laughing and swearing profusely, amusing all my friends on the trip.

When we got to the Emergency Room, I was still laughing, and when I went to the window, I told them my name and that I fell down and hurt my arm. I took a seat by all my friends and we waited. When we got to the hospital, I stopped swearing, but I was still laughing and saying fake swear words (Fudgesicles, shoot, frick, and the like) because there were little ears around. Finally they called my name and my friend Sarah walked with me back there. I was having a hard time breathing well because it hurt so bad and the lady told me I needed to breathe better or my face would get numb. So, they got me a wheelchair to sit in because every time I moved, my wrist would hurt more. Sarah pushed me back to the waiting room after the receptionist took some of my info. Then, some dude came and Sarah took me back to talk insurance. At that point, I was mentally cursing whomever chose to put square tiles down in the hallways because each groove caused me serious pain.

When I was done giving insurance information to that guy, Sarah pushed me back out to the waiting room to wait with Meganne and Matt. Some other guy was waiting for his wife, too, and I think he was thoroughly amused by me. All the laughing, I think, was odd for people to see. While we were waiting, one of the seminary employees came out of the ER with stitches in her face. She'd been at a hockey game and had gotten smashed in the head with a puck! So, we are ER buddies now.

Finally, they called me to come back. And so, Matt, Meganne, Sarah, and I went back to a room. Matt and Sarah were classmates of mine, and Meganne is a music therapist, so I said they were my "Spiritual Care Team." We waited and waited and waited, and Sarah took photos of me on her phone and uploaded them to FaceBook. Before long, people were commenting and the like. Another couple of friends saw the pictures and Sarah's status update and asked if we needed anything. So, about half an hour later, they showed up, Matt went and got them out of the waiting room, and they brought bottles of water, some cookies, and a never-been-chewed doggie toy to replace the decimated water bottle I'd been squeezing for the pain. It.was.EPIC!

By that time, I'd had X-rays, and the nurse practitioner (I guess broken bones don't require a doctor) had talked to me. Medical people who were around would occasionally glance in to see what all the laughter was for, and I think that my laughing made them under appreciate the immense pain I was in (really, you wouldn't think a broken wrist would hurt that bad, but it DOES. It REALLY does)! Finally, about ten minutes before it was time to go, they came in and gave me a splint, and asked if I wanted something for the pain. I said, "YES!" The nurse asked if I wanted a pill or a shot. Meganne chimed in and said, "She wants a shot! It'll work faster and she's in A LOT of pain." It was funny, but Meganne does know about these things since she was a music therapist for Hospice (We even started to write a song about my pain and the experience of it all...She says it helps). So, the nurse came in and I got a lovely pain killing shot, and then was discharged with instructions to go to the bone doctor later that week for a cast. Matt and Meganne and Sarah and I went directly to the WalGreens and got my Vicodin, and when we got back to Seminary, Sarah put me to bed.

Having a broken wrist is not pleasant, but the experience was helped by friends who helped me when I couldn't do things for myself. I am very blessed to have such considerate people in my life. I had people to take me to the bone doctor since I wasn't allowed to drive my own drugged-up self (Thanks, Jealaine and Sarah!). I had people to do my dishes so I didn't have to stack them up for a month. I had a neighbor who would open things I couldn't, and another friend who bought me some bath supplies that would help me be able to bathe more easily.

But, I think one of the other highlights of having an awesome orange cast, was the fact that I got so many awesome people to sign it! The day I got it on, my new bishop was at the seminary to meet me and the other WND assignee and his family. So, in addition to many friends who signed it, Bishop Mark Narum also signed my cast. And then, the president of the seminary and his wife ALSO signed it (He's an ex bishop and his wife is just freaking amazing anyway). AND THEN!!!! Because the president was new, he had to be inaugurated in early April. And WHO does the inauguration of a new seminary president? THE CHURCHWIDE BISHOP!!! So, when that day rolled around, I walked up to Bishop Hanson and I lifted up my arm and I said, "Will you sign my cast?" He said, "Sure!" And I handed him my Sharpie and he signed it right in the palm, where I had conveniently left him a space. It was so funny and awesome for me. I mean, how many people can say that Bishop Mark Hanson has signed their cast? I almost wish I'd saved the thing when they took it off...Almost.

So, that is what has been happening in my life. I hope things have been good for you all, and that none of you have broken any bones lately. And if you have, my sincere sympathies are with you.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Wayyyyy too long...

Sincerely, my apologies for not updating with any sort of regularity. I have thought often about the need for updating, but simply have not gotten around to it.

Much has happened in the months since my last post. I graduated from seminary in May with my Master of Divinity degree. I had interviews with two different parishes and because both issued me a call, I had to discern to which one I was called. The Holy Spirit absolutely led me on the decision, and I am happy and excited about where I find myself.

I was ordained at my home church in Illinois on July 30th. My old pastor came back to be the preacher at the service. I thought it was a great sermon, and I am SO glad he was willing and able to be there for such an important day. Two ladies from my new congregation made the trip from North Dakota to Illinois to be present with me on my ordination day. I thought THAT was so awesome! That's a really long drive. I also had several family friends there, old friends from grade school and high school, and of course, many fantastic and supportive people from my home parish. I experienced a lot of love and affirmation that day, and I give thanks to God for their presence in my life and in the world.

I start my new call tomorrow morning. I'm so excited that I get to start on a communion Sunday. This is a humbling calling, and it is my hope and prayer that I be a good pastor for these people and their community. They seem so amazing, and I hope that we have a good time together.

Something really neat about my new congregation (one of many, many things that makes them flippin' sweet) is that when we were interviewing, they told me that they were the only church left in the town. This being the case, they said they wanted their pastor to be a "COMMUNITY PASTOR." They wanted to make sure the pastor would not sit holed up in the office all day every day, but instead to get to know not just the members of the church, but also of the village. I thought that was incredibly mission minded, and amazing.

Anyway, I already feel very welcomed at the congregation, even with my limited exposure to them. J and I went to the Finn Hall Annual Steak Fry tonight, and that was a good time. It's a very Finnish area, and they take pride in that. The church has deep Finnish roots, so this old German is going to have to learn about the Finns. One thing I learned is that the Finns can be very "sisu," which means, "stubborn or determined." Ha ha. Thanks to the congregation council president for telling me that one.

Seriously though, I am considering myself very blessed by all of this. I am excited, and a little scared (as I always am with anything new), and I hope that I am a good pastor. I hope I don't make any huge mistakes, and that I can be an effective and engaging preacher and teacher. I have many hopes, worries, and ideas, and I am hopeful that the Christ who walks on water will beckon me also onto the surface, and will catch me when I begin to sink.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Movin' on Up

Well, hmm.

Today was a big day for senior seminarians in the ELCA. Most of us got our regional assignments today on a piece of paper in an envelope in our mailboxes (that's how we did it at our seminary, anyway). I already know my region and synod because J is a rostered leader and bishops don't like to give up their rostered leaders. It's been kind of nice to not have to worry about where I'm going, but again, I find that I ventured away from "the norm" on this one. I didn't have to worry about doing CPE in between junior and middler year because I did an extended unit my first semester here. I didn't have to worry about being flung to some state about which I knew nothing for internship because I was married (though there was anxiety regarding the question of whether or not I'd actually get to live with my new husband). And now, I know where I'm going for first call because J is a pastor. I find it slightly odd that each step along the way, I've had a slightly different experience from a lot of others. Oh well. The majority of my classmates are waiting to see what synod they'll be assigned to. Bishops can start calling on March 3rd for most of us, though one region is earlier, and one is later. Please continue to pray about this.

I'm looking forward to first call. I like North Dakota well enough. The people are great, the scenery has its own unique beauty, and the winters are...interesting. The ONLY thing I really dislike about North Dakota is that it is 800 miles away from my family. I have always been very close to my sisters, and I think we all three are grieving that I will not be around much for the next (at least) three years (probably). Yet, the call of God to serve the Church is not always full of sunshine and roses. Certainly, I don't think I am DOOMED because I won't be near my sisters (and brothers and nephews), but I have realized even more fully these past 11 months HOW VERY IMPORTANT family is. I will miss my sisters, but I have hope that someday J and I will move back to be closer to them. I don't need to be ridiculously close, but 13 1/2 hours is a bit excessive.

Anyway, I keep reminding myself that we get vacations. We have phones and webcams and some of us keep in touch via Facebook. And, I am married and love my husband and want to live with him. And, it's also kind of fun and interesting in its own way that I am the only one in my family who is flung far and wide.

I know that many of my classmates are having similar reactions to their own assignments; a mix of grief and excitement and wondering what is next. I know that some of us are happier than others, and I know that many of us are in different places regarding accepting the changes coming our way. But most importantly, I know and deeply trust that God is present through all of this. The Holy Spirit has called and continues to call us to be messengers of the Good News of Jesus Christ. I know it because I see it and live it every day as I live in community with my amazingly talented and thoughtful classmates, and as I live in community with the wider church and the world.

Please continue to pray for all seminarians, their families, and the places to which we will be called. God hears our prayers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I just wanted to put it in writing that I'm really not into this semester. Ha.

I am SO ready to be done with school that I am having a really hard time focusing on classwork. Although, all of us are required to do Spiritual Practices 2, which is a class that focuses on our nutrition, spiritual, and exercise lives. I'm digging this because I'm working on losing some weight and so when I'm down in the Re-Formation room (haha, get it?), or when I'm playing on my Wii Fit Plus, I don't feel guilty because I'm "doing homework." Anyway, we shouldn't feel guilty for taking care of ourselves, anyway. I'm also trying to be a bit more intentional about devotional practices, too. But my "devotion time" is usually involves music (specifically hymns), and being musical isn't something I like doing when there is a chance other people might here me. So, I don't always engage myself. Anyway.

Also, there is really good news on the ol' family front... I'm excited, and will tell you later when I am given the go-ahead. And for the record, no-I am not having a baby.

Anyway, that's about it for now. Peace out.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The light at the end of the tunnel...

Well, here I sit, at my desk in my dorm room, realizing that this is the last semester I will ever "get" to live in a dorm. I have, for the most part, enjoyed my dorm dwelling days, though I do find it frustrating sometimes. Such is life.

I realized the other day that I haven't posted on here in a very long time. I think I only had something like fourteen posts in 2010. Woops. My bad; I had other stuff going on.

Since my last post, some things have happened. My hard drive had massive failure in mid-December. I was not able to recover anything from it. However, I did find several of my assignments from last semester still hanging around in my "sent items" folder from school. Victory #1. Also, I found my flash drive and realized that I had EVERY SINGLE FILE from my internship on there. When I was finishing internship, I took my flash drive to my office, put all my office files on there to move them to my laptop, and then never deleted them from the flash. Awesome. Victory #2! Really, there's nothing too horrible that I lost... I did lose three year's worth of Prayers of Intercession, all of my college files, and many of my seminary files. I lost a lot of pictures, music, and a letter I wrote to my mom when she was sick, but that I never gave her. I'm grateful for Facebook because many of my pictures are in albums on my FB page. Since then, I had a new hard drive put in my computer, and have that all squared away. Now I just need to wait for external hard drives to be on sale (or for my husband to let me put my stuff on his), and backup my files.

During the month of January, J and I took an 11-day vacation. We had Christmas with his family in Minnesota, went to Illinois for my approval interview (the last official step with the Candidacy Committee), had Christmas with my family, went back to Minnesota to see J's grandma, then headed home. Good news-I was approved for ordained ministry in the ELCA. I'm pleased about this affirmation, and am pleased that they see the call that I have for this ministry. It is good to be "done" with that.

During January, I also worked diligently on my January Interim (J-term) project. I worked it out with my advisor and school for me to do an independent study. I worked hard, read a lot, thought a lot, and wrote a lot. The final project ended up being 23 pages (including 2 pages of resource information in an annotated bibliography style). The title is, "With Sighs Too Deep: A Pastoral Resource Regarding Dementia." The project was my effort at creating a biblical, theological, and pastoral resource for people to use. My advisor told me that she wanted me to also make it personal, because that would bring it alive for people. So, I wrote and wrote and wrote, trying to integrate the Bible, theology, pastoral care, and my own experience with dementia together in a cohesive, engaging, and helpful way. I was slightly worried when I handed it in when I came back to school because I'd never done an independent study before, and I wasn't sure that what I did was exactly what my advisor was expecting.

I found the paper in my campus mailbox the first week of class. I was on my way to a "clergy tax seminar" on campus. When I got there, I opened the binder (I wanted it to look professional!), and flipped through the pages looking for comments and the like. I like comments because they give me a better idea of what works vs. just seeing a letter or the wonderful words, "CR." Anyway, there weren't too many comments, but when I got to the last page of text (before the resources), I saw that she had written at the bottom of the page. Apparently, I did a good job because the comments she gave me were really humbling. She even mentioned that she would like to see me find a way to distribute my work to a larger audience. She and I are exploring a possibility or two, and in the meantime, I have offered it to people who indicate an interest. I hope that it is helpful in some fashion or another for all who read it. I am passionate about the subject of dementia and of helping people to know God's comforting, redeeming, and loving presence in the midst of such catastrophic forgetting. I'm also excited that it was so well received by my advisor/grader and that she is helping me find a way to distribute it more widely.

Apart from these things, school is back in session. Four years has really flown by. When I was an underclasswoman, all the seniors used to say, "Seminary time really flies!" I always thought, "Yeah right!" But as I sit here in MY last semester, I can't help but agree. It's amazing. I'm excited to serve the Church professionally, and I am excited at what might happen in the future. I realized the other day that people must already see me as "pastor-like." I knew this was the case for SOME people, such as those who I served while on internship, but the realization has deepened. I have been asked many theological and practical church questions in the past few weeks, and I have been involved in several pastoral care and theological conversations with people from back home, as well. About half the time, the people have prefaced the question or conversation with, "I've been thinking about xyz, and I thought, 'Who better to talk/ask than Trisha!'" It's slightly daunting, but even more exciting at the same time. I enjoy it, and am continuing to live into the knowledge that God gifts people for ministry in many ways; one of which is by gifting the Church with teachers and leaders who help shape us.

Anyway, that is what has been going on in my life lately. I hope you and yours are well.