Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I am not ready for summer to be over. I'm not good at endings and goodbyes anyway, but even less in this summer of fragments. I wanted a few more sultry evenings at the warm swimming pool with pizza and friends, another violent summer storm, more dinners with squash and beans fresh from the garden. The result of having crammed so much into one short summer is that I am left unsatisfied by it all, feeling that on almost every count I have come up short.
(You might suggest that surely two weeks in a row at the beach should at least fill that need, but let's be real. This is me! I will always need one more day in the ocean.)
As I've walked the quiet streets of my neighborhood in the last week I can see that fall is inexorably approaching, with total disregard for my feelings. First a branch of red leaves near the stable, then a few days later across the street. Yesterday as I drove home from church I noticed that my beloved tree outside of our neighborhood had patches of leaves that were no longer green.
I know that in the end I will be seduced by the new season; I will enjoy the crisp temperatures, the drier air, and I will persuade my friends to take a walk near the river to enjoy the glorious colors.
But I was not ready for summer to be over...
Monday, September 29, 2008
I finally figured it out. Think about it. Extroverts like a party, they like to have something going on. They recharge in social situations. Well, isn't it obvious? I got the wrong ears!
In no part of my life is this more true than the years between 2000 and 2004. I remember very little of what actually happened during those years. Obviously I had a baby or three at some point, and we moved into a new house somewhere in there as well. (Don't worry--I actually do remember when those two things happened. It's all of the other events that I'm a little fuzzy about!)
But when I look at pictures from that time period--of those three precious babies, and of the my three other young children--my heart melts.
I feel a pang of guilt. How is it that I did not enjoy these beautiful children more?
But then I remember....Oh yes. The lens of time is a soft focus lens. It conveniently makes no mention of things like sleep deprivation, endless biting, terrible twos times three, or a number of other overwhelming stages that we experienced.
I'm glad I can enjoy it all so much from my comfortable vantage point in 2008--and that I have a lot of pictures!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Sleep isn't the only piece missing from my life right now. Somewhere in between the 4 month long sewing marathon and being out of town for 5 weeks I feel like I've lost many of the pieces of my life. And I've spent a lot of time worrying about how to get them all back in the right places--so that everything would be just how I had it.
But it occurred to me recently--what if the point isn't to make things just like I had them before? What if, instead of finding all of the lost pieces and shoving them back in, I'm supposed to use this moment to make things better than they were? What if, instead of figuring things out on my own as I almost always try to do, I ask the Lord for help in finding the right pieces and putting them in the right places?
This is a bit frightening to me. I don't give up the old pieces of my life easily. I don't trust my ability to hear/feel/see the Lord moving me in the right direction either. But I have this feeling that it would be the right thing to do...
Saturday, September 27, 2008
In the past, when I've read the verses above from D&C 130, I've always thought to myself "I need to learn some laws to obey, so I can get me some blessings." Ok, so I really wasn't thinking in redneck. But that was always the thought I had--to figure out what some laws were, so that I could obtain some blessings.
Last year I spent quite a bit of time composing poetry. Almost all of it was poetry inspired by beautiful words from the scriptures, and while it was a lot of mental effort, it also brought me real joy. I finished the last poem right before Christmas and started a new one sometime in January or February. I had had the idea for a while, had made some notes and done some research on my thoughts. But I could only get a few lines on paper.
Then in February Cindy Lynn got engaged and suddenly my life was busier. Lots and lots and lots of sewing. I had a wonderful time doing all of the sewing but one of the things that suffered (in addition to the laundry, the cleaning, dinners, etc) was my personal scripture study. If it did happen it was less thoughtful than it had been before. So I didn't think about the unfinished poem very often, and when I did look at it I had zero inspired thoughts.
Then in May I went out to Utah and went to the BYU Women's Conference. The speakers were wonderful and inspiring and I felt spiritually filled. And that Sunday, sitting in Relief Society, more words came to me for the poem. I realized that the reason that I had not been able to get any farther on the poem was that I not making enough effort in my life to be sure I had the spiritual nourishment necessary for that kind of inspiration.
This week as I've thought about what it means to put myself in a place that is close enough to the Son that I will be able to flower & flourish, these thoughts came together. I realized that I had been receiving a blessing (being able to write poetry) because of my obedience to a law. (Meaningful scripture study and spending enough time in spiritually nourishing activities.) Once I stopped obeying that particular law, there was nothing I could do to force the blessing to come. It was not until I moved myself closer to the Son that I again qualified. After the Women's Conference when I came home to my busy sewing (and later traveling) schedule, I was very obviously farther from the Son again, and the flowering again stopped.
It's been interesting that I haven't felt some kind of heavenly condemnation about this change in my life. I think that's partly because there are times and seasons, and 2008 has been a season of much sewing. But also partly because that's not the way Heavenly Father operates as a parent. (Even if it is the way I operate too much of the time!) What I have felt is a real longing to have those thoughts and feelings again.
I guess that now I just have to figure out how to move my flower pot.
Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration. But they grow well in that dry disease-free climate and were a common sight in our neighborhood and around town.
North Carolina, on the other hand, is not a rose-friendly place. Instead of thriving in the hot and humid climate like so many plants do, they are vulnerable to all sorts of mildewy diseases.
Having a rose garden here in North Carolina is a big deal. The plants are carefully spaced for optimal air circulation and are usually professionally maintained.
Which is why, having seen these on my walk the other morning, I had to go home to get my camera and come back.
Hopefully the homeowner wasn't too upset that I was stalking her roses...
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Voices surround me, all set to confound me
Damaging hopes and fostering fear
Rules and commandments ring heavy handed
In my ears, loud and clear
Sins and omissions, laws and conditions
And while I feel the need to make these known
Who'll speak of heaven's every intention
To make me whole, and bring me home?
Tell me, tell of a God that won't slow down
That will not rest till I am found
Tell of His heart that won't let go
His arms that long to hold me
Tell me, tell of that Love that knows my face
And speaks my name
P.S. No, the picture has nothing to do with my walk. I just wanted a nice picture. And the ocean does always remind me of God's great love for me.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
All of that changed when the triplets were born. I could hardly go to the grocery store with three babies, much less on a camping trip. (What can I say--I'm a wimp!) And by the time I might have been ready to take the little kids camping, Cindy Lynn's need for medical equipment had increased and the teenagers had taken over most of our spare time. And so the camping continued not to happen.
Several years ago, in a moment of optimism I bought a new tent--super big for our expanded family. Russ & the boys enjoyed it once a year at the Father & Son's camp out, but that was all the action the tent saw. Until last Friday. Friday was the Durham 2nd Ward's Camp out and WE WERE THERE!!
We had a great time. The little kids spent the whole time playing in the fire.
Jason spent the whole time hanging out with the other teens.
Josh seemed to be having fun too...
Jared was so excited to go fishing Saturday morning.
Rachel gave it a try too, but the only thing they caught were tree roots.
Jenna had fun walking around on the fallen log and watching the water.
I enjoyed watching the wildlife,
As did Jason. ;)
Hopefully it won't be 9 more years before we go camping again!
Something strange has been happening on my front porch for the last couple of years. At first I thought it was a random occurrence. Or a mistake made on my part. But careful observation and some consultation with friend Nancy have lead me to the realization that there is actually something going on.
Every year since I started to get my life back (sometime in 2003 or 2004) I plant flowers in these pots in the spring. Always the same thing. Petunias, impatiens, a little ivy, and some tall grass for the back. Every year by halfway through the summer the plants in the pot on the right hand side of the door are flourishing--growing like crazy with flowers galore. And every year the plants in the pot on the left hand side of the door are...just green. They're not dead, mind you. Just not blooming either. So puzzling.
This summer when it happened again I figured that something must be done. So I asked friend Nancy what to do. She said that the non-flowering pot was probably not getting enough sun. How could that be, I asked? They are both sitting on the same porch! Flanking the same door! Separated by just 73 inches! (Yes, I measured. If you must know.) But apparently there is a difference. And so I switched the pots in the middle of the summer.
When we got back from Utah the pot I had moved to the right was now blooming profusely so I switched them again. The picture above was taken two or three weeks later. Already I could see that the blooming was slowing down on the left, and beginning on the right.
My first thought was that this is rather annoying. These are heavy pots, filled with lots of potting soil. I am inconvenienced by needing to keep moving them!
My second thought (because Mormons Like Analogies) was that this is probably a lot like life. There are probably plenty of times in my life when I am not blooming as much as I could be because I am not getting enough sun. Or, I should more accurately say, because I am not getting enough Son. Perhaps I am only 73 inches away from enough Son--sitting on the wrong side of the door and telling myself that I am so close that it shouldn't make any difference.
I think I should start noticing sooner when I'm not quite blooming like I should be, and move myself closer to the light...
Monday, September 22, 2008
When Cindy Lynn was young she loved to put on plays. Sometimes plays that just involved her. Sometimes plays that Jason was roped into participating in. Sometimes plays that had programs and tickets. Sometimes plays that went on endlessly. (She has since apologized about much of this.)
Jenna just handed me the card above, complete with a "tikit" inside that allows me to come to tonight's performance. Maybe I can get them to reschedule the pupit show right after I wake up from my nap. I'm usually pretty groggy for a while...
The little kids were playing some make-believe game in the living room. Suddenly I heard Rachel say, "I'll be a Seal! And you can teach me math, and jiy-ology, and all sorts of things!"
P.S. If you looked at this before and are confused that the picture of Rachel is different now...when I really looked at the post and saw how tender and precious that picture was, I decided it had to be saved for a different time. This picture works better for me with the playful words.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
On Friday mornings I drive my little kids and Sherry's little one to art class in Southern Durham. While we're there Jason is at Sherry's house doing Biology and other high-schoolish things. He's not ready to be picked up as soon as art is over, so I have to find things to entertain the little kids for at least an hour.
This whole week has been gray and cool, so I assumed we were headed for the mall after art class. At the last minute the sky cleared and the day was fabulously beautiful. We went to the park.
This picture does a good job of showing that this is a great park, and that the trees surrounding it are beautiful. Unfortunately it doesn't show how blue the sky was, with just the right amount of puffy clouds. Or that the sun was just warm enough that the light breeze was perfect. But you can see the beautiful sky here:
The kids had a great time playing. They were in no hurry to leave after an hour.
And, quite frankly, neither was I.
It was one of those moments when it's a great thing to be a fast reader. I came to the park just having started this book, and left 2 hours later almost done. It was wonderful. Except that the book is about kidnappers, and I spent the whole night thinking that someone was going to kidnap one of my kids....
P.S. One of the unexpected benefits about having had triplets is that I have very little memory for things that happened BT. (Before Triplets) Which means that this year I have had a delightful time re-reading or re-listening to quite a few Dick Francis books, which are some of my all time faves. I've read them all before, but I don't remember a thing!
A couple of years ago I got tired of feeling like I was going to sprain my wrist every time I opened a can...and so I went to Walmat and bought a new can opener. We were all very excited that it opens the cans differently. Instead of slicing out the top, it seems to unwrap the seam on the edge of the can, so that you can lift the entire top off and there are no sharp edges. It doesn't work well when you're trying to use the can lid to drain the tuna can, but for everything else it's great.
Until this week.
One of the little kids chose tacos for lunch. (Which at our house usually means refried beans and flour tortillas.) I thought we were out of refried beans, but when I looked in the pantry there was one lone can. I grabbed it out, and as I grabbed it thought that the top of the can looked a little different. It almost looked like...it had already been opened with my nifty can opener.
I set it down on the island and tested my hypothesis. Sure enough, the lid lifted right off of the can. Revealing that someone had eaten some of the beans, put the lid carefully back on, and returned the can to the pantry shelf. Some time ago. Days ago, maybe. More likely weeks ago. It was gross, nasty, and truly disturbing.
We had sandwiches for lunch.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Many years and many miles (and many beaches!) ago, Russ and I, along with 18 month old Cindy Lynn, moved from BYU to Idaho.
In the first couple of weeks that we lived there a nice family invited us over for dinner. We had a pleasant evening, but I remember thinking as we drove away, "We could never be friends with them...they have a 12 year old and are way too old to be our friends!"
Now in my defense, we had just come from the most homogenized population possible. BYU's married student housing.
But really. How stupid could I be?
I am afraid that I must admit that this mental short sightedness continued, and probably helped contribute to the loneliness that I felt in our first year there.
Lucky for me S moved into our ward. She was almost exactly my age and we became friends. One Sunday night we were eating dinner at her house, along with several other couples. I had been walking regularly and wanted to find someone to walk with me. "Hey, is anyone interested in walking a couple of mornings a week?" I threw it out there, and much to my surprise, D, a much younger newlywed answered. She might have even been....gasp...5 years younger than me! I thought to myself--this person is not the person I want to exercise with. But there was no way to extricate myself gracefully, and so we made a date to start walking. And guess what. She turned out to be a delightful friend--bubbly and effervescent and always fun to be around. We exercised together for a long time before our schedules diverged, and we continued to be good friends. But I was still pretty sure that friends were generally about the same age.
Several years later our family moved to North Carolina. Heavenly Father blessed me with an immediate friend. J had children the right ages and we had a lot in common. And she was just a few years older than me. I was set. After a year in NC Heavenly Father sent me a new visiting teacher--K. And for a year or so she was just that--a visiting teacher. A sweet young girl who was hardly more than a newlywed. But then I found out that my mom had cancer and was dying. My visiting teacher had already experienced the loss of a parent in her (young) life, and so she was there for me in ways that J, my same-aged friend was not able to be. And by the end of that traumatic year I realized something startling. K was my friend--even though she was 7 years younger than me! Much to my surprise I realized that the things we had in common connected us far more than the years between us separated us.
It was a blessing that I learned this lesson, because within a few years J moved and left me with a shortage of potential friends that were exactly the right age. Thankfully I had my young friend K, and then later N, who was 8 years older than me, and M, a few years older than that. And eventually A who was my age. Each woman filled a different and vital role in my life-- even if they weren't the same age as me.
Now I organize (very loosely) a book club each month in our ward. Every month I come home very late and my sleeping husband groggily asks, "How was it?" And every month I think that my heart & soul are full from an evening of talking with this group of friends. Talking first about the book, and then about our lives and children and worries and joys. And laughing like I do few other places. And the funny thing about it is, I am so much older than these book club friends. Some of them are only a few years older than my oldest child. I am almost as old as some of their mothers. Fortunately for me, they are not as short-sighted as I have been. They welcome me enthusiastically and seem not to notice my gray hairs.
Several years ago we made friendship angels at church. I made 4 for several dear friends. One of the women asked questioningly why I would make so many angels. What can I say? When it comes to friends, I have an embarrassment of riches. Older friends. Younger friends. And a few that are just my age. I consider myself truly blessed.
Monday, while waiting for my mammogram, I read in an old Ladies Home Journal "The ongoing Harvard Nurses Health Study found that the more friends that a woman has, the less likely she is to develop physical impairments as she ages."
I think that bodes well for me... :)
I learned a pretty good lesson on Andra's (beautiful) front porch this summer. I'm recording it to help me remember it, but maybe someone else will find it helpful as well.
We were all so excited when we got to Genola--both to see the cousins and to see the new house. Andra proudly gave me the grand tour and I was thrilled about every last bit. It was as she was showing me the front porch, though, that she said something that has stuck with me. We stood on the porch surveying the vista in front of the house. Not the gravel and lack of lawn, but the orchard across the street and the mountains beyond that.
The picture I took doesn't begin to show how lovely the view was. It was particularly beautiful in the evenings when the sky was tinged with pink, but I didn't manage to get a picture of that either. Andra pointed out that she had specifically requested that the new house not be oriented parallel to the street. She said, "I knew I didn't want to always be looking at that.
I shifted my gaze a bit to the left, and sure enough--a small concrete block warehouse sitting right beside the road. Given a choice I'm sure I would not want to be looking at it all day, every day, either. Good call, Andra!
I've thought about this a lot since that day. How often would I be better off, more peaceful, happier, if I chose to orient my gaze a little to the left or the right? Focused on the beauty that was in front of me instead of the stress that was off to the left a little? Had more gratitude for the incredible good health of 5 of my kids instead of always focusing on the health problems of 1? Spent more time with my cute kids and less with my messy house? I think there's a lot of wisdom here for me...
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I've really liked being 40+ so far. But this part? This is no fun.
For those of you who are worried that you won't be prepared when your turn rolls around for a mammogram, here are some simple exercises you can do. The best part is that they can be done in the (relative) privacy of your own home.
Open your refrigerator door and insert one breast between the door and the main box. Have one of your strongest friends slam the door shut as hard as possible and lean on the door for good measure. Hold that position for five seconds. Repeat the exercise for the other breast.
Visit your garage at approximately 3 AM when the temperature of the cement floor is just perfect. Remove your clothes from the waist up and lie comfortably on the floor with one breast wedged under the rear tire of a car. Ask a friend to slowly back the car up until your breast is sufficiently flattened and chilled. Turn and repeat exercise for the other breast.
Freeze two metal bookends overnight. Strip to the waist. Invite a stranger into the room. Have the stranger press the bookends against one of your breasts and smash the bookends together as hard as possible. Repeat exercise for the other breast.You are now properly prepared for your mammogram.
Wish me luck tomorrow....
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Friday morning I went out to get in the van and couldn't find my keys. Normally I might have panicked when they were not hanging on the key rack, or somewhere in my purse. But Russ was working from home, so I just borrowed his keys and went on my merry way to pick up friend Sherry's little one for art class.
It was not until Friday evening when Russ was going in one direction in one car and I was going by myself in the other that I realized that I still hadn't seen my keys. I quickly searched my purse again, looked around my computer, and started searching the countertops.
And then I heard one of my children say it.
"I put the keys on top of the van last night. And then you made me come inside."
On top of the van? If the keys had been left on the van, they could be anywhere. Half-heartedly I made my way to the top of the driveway, reasoning that if I'd driven out of the driveway fast enough (one can always hope!) they might have fallen off when I'd turned out onto the street. No such luck.
Russ was ready to leave with the kids in the van, so I quickly grabbed a ziploc bag of rice and threw it onto the top of the van. I hoped that this would be a reasonable facsimile of keys, and would fall off of the van in the same place, leading us like bread crumbs to my poor ring of keys.
I watched as the van pulled out of the driveway and drove off down the street--rice bag still sitting comfortably on the roof of the van. A few minutes later Russ called to tell me that the rice bag had come off has he turned out of the neighborhood and onto the busy road. I hoped that the momentum of his turn would have caused the bag to fall out onto the grass at the side of the road, but no such luck. It fell right down onto the road. I figured at that point that my keys had probably been run over 100 times during the day, and that I'd be replacing the expensive clicker & electronic key. Ouch.
I was kind of depressed as I went back to getting ready to leave . We had just totaled up all of the wedding expenses earlier in the day, and while we felt good about how much money actually got spent, I still was not ready to need to spend over $100 for lost keys.
About 15 minutes later Russ called again, with a story for me. He had gone to friend Sherry's to return her little one and pick up her teen for a fireside. They were going out of the neighborhood the back way on their way to the church. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a sign on a mailbox, and thought it said something about "keys" on it. So he stopped the van and backed up.
He got out of the van and walked over to the mailbox, and sure enough---there were my keys!
Now for those who aren't familiar enough with the geography of my life, let me explain. From my house to friend Sherry's house is aproximately 11 miles, most of which are driven above 55 miles per hour. I counted (on my fingers) and I think there are 6 right turns and 4 left turns to her house. Then driving into and out of her driveway, and then another 2 right turns before the street where Russ found the keys.
What are the odds? Quite frankly, I think the odds are better that I'd have triplets.
When I told Sherry what had happened, she said "I think that Heavenly Father loves you."
I couldn't agree more...
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I think it's in my genes. When I was young we lived in Southern California. Every now and then it would rain really hard, and my parents would get in the car and drive around to look at the water. I don't remember them ever taking us--my mom was probably desperate for time away from all of her kids. But that need to go look at the flood waters was passed on and is alive and well in my heart and mind.
In the 24 hours starting right before Cindy Lynn's wedding reception Durham got 5.8 inches of rain. Yep, the drought may be over at last. So Saturday afternoon Russ & I set out with the little kids to survey the damage. Our first stop was just outside of our neighborhood--the normally invisible Little River. Seriously, driving by the only way to know there's a river there is that you're on a bridge. There is no water to be seen--only some rocks if you slow down and look closely enough. Well on Saturday this was not the case--it was very exciting!
Our next stop on this road was to look at the recent surprise additions to our community. Jason & I were driving down this road on our way to the reception the day before and I stopped the car because of the shock I was experiencing. Luckily we live in the middle of nowhere, so if you stop in the middle of the road its generally not a traffic crisis. We're still wondering how the zebras (not one, but two!) got to Bahama.
Even funnier than seeing the zebras was seeing a big truck pass by, turn around, and come back. The driver hopped out with his camera. (Yes, there were now two cars stopped in the road. It's that kind of road.) As he walked up to where I was taking my pictures he said "Now that's not something you see very often!"
After the zebra sighting we resumed our survey of flood waters. Just a little farther down the road there was another bridge across the Little River, and the river had taken over adjacent fields on either side. I did feel bad for the owners of this little house. It seemed very neat & tidy, and I'm sure they normally enjoy their proximity to the mild Little River.
We left Bahama and turned South into Durham, driving over several of the bridges over the Eno River. At one point we noticed a helicopter hovering high in the air to the east of us. Our hypothesis was that it was a news helicopter filming the flood at one of the Eno bridges. Sure enough, when we got to that bridge the normally tame and low Eno was completely out of it's banks and almost as high as the bridge. Little did we know it, but the highlight of our afternoon was still to come. We turned onto Snow Hill Road to begin making our way towards home, but within a mile or two saw a warning sign on the side of the road: High Water. Now this is a road that I normally think of as fairly flat. How high could it be? And the bigger question--were we willing to find out? Russ said that we should turn around and go back. On the news that morning he had heard one of the local highway patrol officers reminding people that their motto was "Turn around; Don't drown."
I pointed out (accurately, I might add) that since there was water on both sides of the road, turning around in a minivan was going to be a bit tricky. And that it couldn't be that deep. So he proceeded cautiously forward. Before we'd reached the halfway point, however, I got cold feet. By then I could see that it did get deeper, and I wasn't sure my poor minivan was going to make it. So Russ backed up slowly until we were out of the water. On the opposite side of the water a big white truck pulled up. Hooray! We were sure that the big white truck driver was going to power through the water, and then we would be able to see how deep it actually was. But no. After driving slowly forward a few feet, the big white truck driver backed up and made a complicated turn to get out of the way of the car behind. Who was behind the truck? Well...it was grandpa in his Cadillac. Really & truly. And let me tell you, grandpa wasn't going to let a little thing like a "High Water" sign and a road covered by water stop him. No sir.
He drove into the water--slow but determined.
After the first minute a wave formed in front of his car.
And then broke. And on he came. I worried for a minute that he was in too deep--that he would have water in his car. But he didn't hesitate at all.
As he drove into the shallower water Russ & the kids & I gave him a cheer. Hooray! If grandpa's low slung car could do it, then our minivan certainly could as well!
We thought the fun was over after our successful drive through the flooded road. But then we remembered one other bridge we wanted to check out. The very high bridge on Johnson Mill Rd. over Little River. The bridge is so high that we normally can't see a thing when we drive over it. That doesn't stop me from driving reallllly slow so that I can look longer. There is so little water and it's so far down that it doesn't make a difference.
When we arrived at the Johnson Mill Rd. bridge we could see that we were not the first people to have this idea. It turned out that a team from the U.S. Geological Survey were at the bridge trying to determine the surface velocity of the water. Apparently the water was too rough for their regular equipment to work, so they were using a lower-tech method. One of the men dropped a marked stick into the water on the high side of the bridge. The other man then timed to see how long it took the stick to travel to the low side of the bridge. Jenna got to be a place marker while the workers retrieved their meauring tape. (I told you it was low-tech!) They determined that the water was moving 10ft/sec. It was certainly fast and furious--and very easy to see from the bridge.
I'd have to say that our afternoon of looking at the flood waters was highly entertaining. Russ was a hero, Jenna was a marker for the US Geological Survey, and we got some great pictures before the rivers settled back down into their banks.
Thank you Mom, for teaching me to love the floods...