Friday, January 30, 2009

I Guess She's My Girl

When my friend saw one of the old pictures in my post about the Farm, he said "I can see Jenna, but where are you?" I told him that Jenna wasn't in the picture; that it was taken when I was very young. And I told him where I was in the picture. It turned out that the child he'd identified as Jenna was me. He went on and on about how much I looked like Jenna. I sent him another old picture to prove the lack of resemblance--he recruited his wife to agree with him that I looked just like Jenna. I still couldn't see it.

This afternoon I was going through some new pictures. And I guess I am going to have to change my mind. Maybe she does look like me after all!

Bosch Experiment #2

I know you all have been waiting with baited breath (whatever that means) to hear the continuing saga of my efforts to make bread without ending up with the inner shaft of the mixing bowl filled with dough. Today was Experiment #2.

After my last attempt I had decided to abandon the little gizmo that shredded the duct tape, and decided that I would use longer stronger pieces of duct tape that went all the way down into the bowl in hopes that these pieces of tape would survive the mixing and kneading process relatively intact.

I am exceedingly pleased (but not so pleased as the dishwasher boy will be) to be able to tell you that it worked! My pictures turned out a little too bright, but they still establish the presence of duct tape, the absence of duct tape shreds,

and dough-less bottom of the bowl immediately following the kneading process!


It's True...

In this era of political correctness I feel like it's important to tell everyone I know (and some people I don't know as well) that Russ came out of the closet at lunch time today.

Yes, you read that right.

Russ came out of the closet.

Because he knows I don't like it when he eats in the bedroom...

P.S. Isn't this a great setup? We have too many (homeschooling) kids for him to have separate office space in our house for the occasions that he works from home. This way he has his desk in the closet, and then when he's done working he just closes the door. My sewing stuff used to be on the opposite side and for the first 6 years that we lived here it was the perfect setup. But then came the Big Wedding Sewing Project and I had to move my equipment into the playroom...I couldn't do that much sewing from a closet!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Costco Escape

I needed to run some errands this afternoon, so I headed over to pick Josh up from school so that we could have some quality time together while shopping. Unfortunately I had a communication mix-up with his regular car-pool person, and by the time I got to the school she had already picked him up. I was on my own. (I'm sure you know how much that pains me.)

When I got to Costco I was greeted by a row of industrial size massage chairs. I have passed many a pleasant minute sitting in the $200 massage chairs in Bed, Bath, & Beyond; these massage chairs put those to shame. Instantly all thoughts of what I was looking for in Costco fled my mind. All I could think of was how much I wanted to try the $2000 massage chair.

And so I sat. And sat, and sat some more. After a little while the salesperson finished talking to the woman in the chair on the other end and came over to me. "I'm sure you're enjoying that chair," he said, "but this one here will also massage your feet too." So that's what $500 more got you--a foot massage along with the neck, back, and calf massage I was already getting. Sweet. I moved right over.

If I had had an extra $2500 in my pocket I would have bought the thing on the spot. It was that good.

After I felt good and relaxed I decided it was time to get on with the real purpose of my visit to Costco. As I approached the food part of the store I was happy to see that the sample ladies were out in force. Very convenient. First a massage, and now a snack as well.

I had a nice piece of high fiber bread with butter, some yummy mango salsa, bbq pork, thin crust pizza, and a meatball. And then I had a piece of cheese. Not your garden variety chedder cheese, no. This was obviously a fancy imported piece of cheese. As I picked up the sample I asked the lady "Is this cheese really strong?" In my present relaxed state I didn't want to shock my system with a really smelly piece of cheese. She immediately launched into a discourse about this imported cheese, showing me the package of cheese with it's purple coating made of mumblemumble that soaked into the cheese as it aged, giving it the flavor of the wine. All of a sudden my brain kicked into gear. Did she just say that this cheese was soaked in wine? The cheese I was already eating? "Excuse me," I said carefully around my mouthful of cheese, "Did you say there is wine in the cheese?" I could tell she was pretty excited at my interest, and she explained some more about the wine-filled purple coating. She probably thought she'd made a sale...instead I dropped the rest of my piece of cheese in the next trash can. Too bad--it was yummy. But better safe than sorry!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Meal With Many Names

There is a meal that is almost as much a part of my family heritage as grits and eggs. It's an infamous dish called Chicken Bog.

Chicken Bog is made by cooking chicken pieces in a pot of water, removing the meat from the bones, cooking rice in the water and then adding the chicken back in. There are variations like adding onions and peppers or various spices, but the basic bog recipe is simple.

One year at a family reunion my grandparents hired a caterer to make a big Chicken Bog and Squash Casserole to feed everyone. I don't know if they overestimated or what, but there was a lot of food leftover. And my grandma, having grown up poor and lived through the Depression, was not going to let it go to waste. So she served it the next day, and the day after that. When she tried to serve it for breakfast some cousins decided that this Chicken Bog experience had gone on entirely too long. While Grandma was out that day they dug a hole out on the Farm and buried the rest of the Chicken Bog and Squash Casserole. When Grandma asked where it was so that she could serve it again, they told her that it must have gotten all eaten up.

My grandparents came for a visit one time when we lived in Pocatello . Grandpa decided that he would make Chicken Bog for us, and we shared it with our neighbors, a retired couple. The neighbors enjoyed the meal so much that they came over later and requested the recipe for "Chicken Gob."

Last week Kroger had a great sale on split chicken breasts. I asked Russ to pick up 40 or so pounds on his way home from work on Friday. When he got to Kroger the cooler that had held the sale-priced chicken was almost empty and he panicked--and bought almost every package of chicken left. About 70 pounds worth! So I've been boiling chicken and making chicken dinners for the freezer and trying to figure out what else I can do with chicken. On Tuesday I had the brilliant idea--I could make chicken bog. It was easy and everyone loved it--even my pickier eaters thought it was good.

Tonight Jared asked what was for dinner and I told him we were having chicken again. (Big surprise there!)

Jared: What kind of chicken?

Jenna: I'll bet it's "Chicken Gabon" again.

Rachel: It's not "Chicken Gabon", it's "Chicken Bock"!

Whatever they call it, it was obviously a hit and I'll be making it again. But I won't be serving the leftovers for breakfast! (Sorry, Grandma!)

PS--Tonight's meal was a surprise hit too. I put 3 split chicken breasts in the crock pot, and poured over them 1 bottle of salsa mixed with 1/4 c. brown sugar and a couple of big squirts of mustard. It cooked on low all day. I shredded the chicken and served it with rice. Next time I do it I think I'll put the pieces breast side down and put the salsa sauce on the bottom...That would make it easier to get the bones out.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Talk, Talk, Talk

I had all of these (grand) plans when I was taking pictures after my grandma's funeral that I would come home and just blog out all of my thoughts over the next week. Instead I did a bunch of no-blogging and the posts I'd planned in my head are coming out as I can fit them in between everything else.

On Sunday after church everyone who had come into town for the funeral gathered at the Farm. We ate lunch, and then as is our tradition, we sat and talked.

One year many years ago one cousin brought her fiance to the Farm for a family reunion. (I think this was back in the days before the family outgrew the farm so completely and we moved the reunion to the beach.) When the fiance returned home his mom was excited to hear about the Watson reunion. She was supposed to help with her family's reunion and knew that we Watsons had been holding successful reunions for many years. She was ready to pick her son's brain to find out what our secret was--she figured we must have some great organization and activities. And so she asked him, "What do the Watsons do at their reunion?" And he told her, "They sit and talk." She didn't get it, and so she asked again, "Yes, but what do the Watsons do at their reunions?" And he answered again, "They sit and talk." By this point she was frustrated, and she said "But what activities do they have at their reunion???" It was then that he told her the truth. We really don't do anything. We really do sit and talk. But we mix it up a little. We sit and talk in this group for a while, and then we migrate over to that group to see what they're laughing so loudly about and talk with them for a while. And then we realize that we're missing out on whatever discussion is going on in the living room and so we move on over there to check that one out. Later a big group might sit out on the back porch and listen to the bug zapper killing friendly insects and hopefully a few mosquitoes. Always talking, talking, talking. It is wonderful.

Here is a picture from maybe 15 years ago of my Aunts, Grandma, and mom
sitting around talking in Grandma's room.

One of the things that happened this year while we were sitting and talking was that my Aunt Pam, Grandma's only surviving daughter, brought out all of Grandma's necklaces. Grandma loved jewelry and she had quite a collection of beads. Aunt Pam wanted everyone to take one of Grandma's necklaces to remember her by. I was lucky enough to get two the same to bring home to my little girlies. I love that as they wear them (for dressup, I'm sure) they will be able to remember that those belonged to their great grandmother. Here's a picture of all of us modeling Grandma's beads. And if the proportions of the picture look a little strange, it's because they are. We are standing in the dining room that was originally a back porch. When the back porch was built they just continued the slant of the roofline on down. Neither of my grandparents were tall people so it wasn't a problem for them, but I'm sure my brother in law who is 6.5 feet tall can't stand up in there!

Before we left the Farm that evening we all wanted my dad, who is a chiropractor, to adjust us. I think he liked thinking that he had me under his thumb...or elbow....

And here is a picture with my sisters Laila and Margaret before it was time for them to fly out--we really had a great weekend escape together!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rediscovered Muscles

Recently I've been seeing some physical therapists at the Duke Sports Med clinic. Not because I'm going to do anything sporty, but because for the last 8.5 years I have suspected that my stomach muscles did not, in fact, survive my last pregnancy.

Not only did the fine physical therapist comfirm this self diagnosis; she also showed me (very painfully) that I also do not have any working butt muscles or inner thigh muscles. (Which are called adductors, in case you wondered.)

I got off to a slow start (I blame Aragorn and Legolas and my grandma) but I've been working diligently for the last week or so. Yesterday I had an appointment where they said I was doing a good job on my two exercises and taught me two more to add to my regimen. I left the clinic hobbling. Let me tell you, muscles that have been living the good life (i.e. not having to work) are not too happy to be rediscovered.

A few minutes ago I was grating some cheese for my lunch. Much to my surprise I noticed that the act of grating was working my heretofore non-existent stomach muscles! It was such a novel feeling that I really paid attention to it as it was happening. And before I knew it I had been thinking too much about my tummy and not enough about the cheese and a whole stack of cheese had accumulated. Far more than I need.

Maybe I can talk the little kids into nachos for lunch....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reframing the Past

Almost eleven and a half years ago, just 2 years after we moved to North Carolina, I found out that my mom had cancer. She had been in pain for much of the spring and summer, but had assumed that the pain came from falling while walking her dogs. By the time the right tests were run she had stage IV cancer.

Much of the discomfort that she was experiencing, it turned out, was because one of her lungs was surrounded by fluid. The doctors in the community where she lived were only able to remove a little bit of it, but there were surgeons at UNC who would be able to remove all of it—so she came to stay with me so that she could have this surgical procedure done.

When we went and met with the doctors they told her that it was a simple procedure and that she would be in the hospital for 2-3 days afterwards. Instead her lung was punctured during the procedure and she was in the hospital for 10 days after the surgery. Eventually my dad checked her out of the hospital against the doctors advice and took her home, where she lived for about two more months.

At this time I had three children, ages 9, 5, and 2. In the 11 days my mom was in the hospital at UNC, an hour from my house, I drove there 14 times. My little kids were babysat for hours every day by kind and loving friends, but they were obviously stressed. During the two months that she lived after the surgery the kids and I drove the 4+ hours each way to my parents' home many times. I was grateful to live close enough to be able to do that and grateful that we homeschooled so that missing school was not an issue. I was also overwhelmed; one of the ways I knew that was that for many years after her death I knew exactly how many miles I had driven in those months before she died. And for the next year whenever I took Cindy Lynn for her quarterly checkup at the CF clinic at UNC and I drove up the long road that the hospital was on, I got sick to my stomach.

This is a picture of me and one of my dearest friends, Katie. Katie was my visiting teacher when my mom died and she was one of the people who most helped me deal with the emotional trauma of my mom's death. Katie has been very sick and in the hospital for the last 2 1/2 weeks out in Utah. I am surprised by the amount of helplessness I have felt during this time. If I was there I could help in some way. I could make meals and watch children and clean the house and even shovel snow. Instead I worry and call and ask for updates and pray for their family and worry some more.

I was talking to one of my sisters about how difficult this has been for me, and she quietly said something like "Now you know how it was for us when Mom was sick in North Carolina and we (the other daughters) were all in Utah."

Talk about an instant paradigm shift. In the years since my mom's death, while I've always been grateful to have been here in North Carolina so that I had time with her and was able to have helped so much, I've been equally aware of what a physical and emotional hardship it was on me and my kids.

Suddenly I saw clearly what I never could have comprehended before—the constant worry and fretting that my sisters endured being so far away from our mother for most of that time. Suddenly the feelings of burden associated with those memories fell away and all I was left with was gratitude. How blessed I was to be the one who was living close enough to sit with our mother in the hospital every day. How blessed I was that I could visit her at home without needing a plane ticket to do it. How blessed I was to be surrounded by friends who cared for my (probably cranky) children so that I could have the luxury of all of that time with my mother.

And how blessed I am to be able to see more clearly now.

P.S. In two weeks I'm going out to Utah to see Katie for a few days. I'm going to watch her kids, and cook some meals, and do some cleaning, and even shovel snow if need be!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pictures Not Taken

Or in other words
I Need a Camera Phone!

Earlier today I drove Jason to the Hillsborough DMV to get his "after 9" driver's license. (North Carolina is one of those brilliant states that awards a graduated drivers license--he's had his for 6 months now, so he graduates to the next one.)

We were driving along a country road when I saw an amazing sight. Both sides of the road were farmland--lined with wooden fences. On one side there was a large rusty red metal gate in the fence that was the same height as the fence. The field beyond the fence was still snow-covered, and the sun was shining brightly enough to almost make everything a silhouette.

Sitting in a row on both the gate and the fence were at least a dozen vultures--just sitting there looking toward the road. There were more vultures on the ground between the fence and the road, and while we were watching a couple flew up to join the others on the fence. It was an amazing sight. All of those huge birds just sitting in the morning sun with the snow covered fields behind them.

The other thing we saw was one of those moments when you thank the Lord it was someone else and not you. At the DMV a older driver had obviously had a mental lapse while pulling into the parking space and had overshot the space, ending up in the ditch between the parking lot and the road. Which was something that everyone in the DMV had to come to the window to look at. Poor guy--I hope he wasn't there to renew his license!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Much Fun

All day yesterday we listened to reports of the "huge" winter storm that was headed our way. Up to 4" of snow predicted! But then as we watched the news last night they kept changing the forecast--predicting less and less and less snow. We were relieved to wake up to any snow at all. I think we probably got 1-1.5 inches, although about 30 miles SE of here they got 4", and further east they got 6-7". Darn it. We wanted more. But we still enjoyed what we got.

One of my good friends recommend that I read a book titled "Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!" What better evidence of that can I provide than this picture of Josh making a snow angel in his pjs?!?

Last year when it snowed we got up and out early to go sledding on the hill by the pool. Today Russ was working (from home) and I was being lazy, and then we watched the inauguration, and then we ate lunch, and then we finally went sledding. The snow was, well, well-used by the time we got there. But that did not stop us from having a great time. And we will say a prayer for the grass at the top of the hill--that it recovers by this summer.

Josh brought his small bike ramp and put a bunch of snow on it hoping they could add to the excitement of the existing hill. Here you can see Jason going off the ramp

and Josh catching a little bit of air.

And here is something you probably did not know about me. I am a screamer. Truly. I scream on roller coasters, I scream when jumping big waves, and I scream when I'm on a sled and going fast.
I cannot stop myself.
Here are some pics of the little kids having fun too.
The only thing missing was Cindy Lynn...and a little more snow!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bosch Experiment #1

This morning I noticed that we had eaten the last of the homemade bread. I resolved that I would try InkMom's mom's suggestion for solving the original Bosch problem--the dough going down into the shaft of the bowl. And so I searched for the duct tape, and had several small children search for the duct tape, and eventually Jared found the duct tape. I placed two small strips across the openings at the top of the bowl.

After further consideration I put an optional part on top of the duct tape. This is a little gizmo that you're supposed to use if you're making a smaller batch--it somehow helps the smaller batch knead better. I hoped that it would hold the duct tape in place.

My experiment was somewhat successful. There was much less dough in the shaft of the bowl and underneath the bowl than the last time I made a full batch of bread. The duct tape did not fare very well, though. I had not counted on the friction created by the little gizmo turning against the duct tape, and one piece was pretty much shredded. Since I am really clueless about the toxicity of duct tape, I was happy that most of the duct tape shreds were confined to the area between the gizmo and the bowl and I threw that dough away. I think that next time I will try without the gizmo and use bigger pieces of duct tape that attach further down in the bowl.

I realized after the bread was baked that I had put far too much bread in the pans. Oops. It's delicious, but not as pretty as I like it to be.

I also realized that there's a mouse in my kitchen. Somehow that's not a surprise...

Scones for Lunch

My mom often made scones when she was making bread, and I've been making them a lot lately. For many years I didn't like the way they turned out, but I think I've figured out some tricks.

I start by greasing a cookie sheet and then rolling out some bread dough on it. It's ok if the dough has already risen once, but it also works fine if it hasn't. Then I use the pizza cutter to cut the dough right then. If you wait and cut it after it's risen, it will make the dough fall at least a little. Then I cover them with a light towel and let them rise for a while.

I used to worry that letting the scones rise before cooking them was making the raw bread dough a little "crusty" on top and they wouldn't rise as well in the hot oil. I think I've decided that that's not a problem if you put the scones upside down in the hot oil. So the surface that was against the cookie sheet is on top in the pan of oil. This seems to allow them to rise a lot more.
And rise they do--they puff up just like little pillows. I always start with a test scone to be sure that the oil temperature is ready before I put a bunch in. If they cook too slowly they absorb more oil, and that's no good. But if they cook too fast they won't have time to rise and they'll be doughy in the middle.
When they come out of the oil I set them on a paper-towel covered plate so that any excess oil will be absorbed.

We love to eat scones with
with peanut butter and honey. Yum. Or peanut butter and homemade strawberry freezer jam. Yum Yum!

Cemetery Sights

There something about a small country cemetery that you just have to love. I happen to love this one especially because it is where many of my "people" are buried. I am also attached to it because the land it is on originally belonged to my grandma's grandpa. For many years the family legend was that he had donated this land to the church, and that the church building built on it was the first LDS chapel in SC. Recently my family history uncle found a deed showing that instead my great-great-grandpa sold one acre to the church for $50. The deed was even signed by Joseph F. Smith.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye when I was there for my grandma's burial last week.

I didn't know that my family now had our "own" bench--that was pretty cool. Although much too cold to actually sit on it right now! (And no, I didn't take the littles to the funeral with me--this was from Tuesday. When they told me anxiously that they wanted to go to the cemetery and see where Grandma-Great was buried, and my heart was full at the thought of the family history moment in the making, and when they just ran around the cemetery collecting dropped flowers instead of listening me tell them about who was buried where...Oh well, they are only 8!)

You'd think that a gravestone that includes the epitaph "Gone but not forgotten" would, perhaps, also include a name???

Obviously a little Mormon boy...

I mentioned this marker to my aunt because I was impressed by the lovely pictures and also by the boldness of someone putting "no comment" on a headstone. My aunt said (and I do so wish you could hear her say this yourself in her beautiful southern voice) "Oh Honey, that man was as mean a human being as ever lived!" And then she also told me that he was married to my great grandmother for a time after my great grandfather died. Until she found him cheating on her...

This is obviously a relatively new marker, and there's no more information. Of course I can't help wondering. Did Ollie and Pearl have quads? Or did they have 4 single babies who died? Either way, so poignant...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Poll Results

FYI--here are the final poll results for the question "Why Don't You Comment on Blogs."

1 vote for "too busy"
1 vote for "uncomfortable"
1 vote for "I'm a stranger"
1 vote for "other."

2 votes for "I don't think anyone would be interested in what I have to say"
6 votes for "I don't have anything to say."

I appreciate both the voting and the comments on the post about lurking. And especially Sharon, who went to the trouble of setting up a blogger account so that she could comment!

I also wanted to say thank you to everyone who has/does comment on my blog. I have enjoyed the blogging process far more than I expected; both recording the sweet and funny moments of our family and working through my thoughts in this format. I love having a place to put my pictures and my thoughts together. And while comments aren't necessary to do any of those things, it does make it that much sweeter to know that I've hit the mark, entertained you, or said something that you find helpful or meaningful.

Thanks to the friend who got me thinking about the whole topic. BTW--I happen to think you're pretty amazing, and shouldn't need to ever feel uncomfortable about anything you have to say! ;)

I'm Back!!!

Since I lasted posted I have:

Done a mountain of laundry,
Cooked meal after meal,
and let Jason use my computer to work on a huge slideshow for tonight's stake fireside.

Gotten my hair cut & highlighted,
Shopped at Costco,
Cooked more meals,
Gone to book club,
and let Jason use my computer to work on a huge slideshow for tonight's stake fireside.

Taken a day off,
Read a new book,
Had a good nap,
Gone to the temple,
and let Jason use my computer to work on a huge slideshow for tonight's stake fireside.

Taken the littles to a primary activity,
Bought clothes for Russ,
Helped two friends practice a duet for a different fireside last night,
Learned a new song for singing time today,
Gone to that fireside,
Grocery shopped,
and let Jason use my computer to work on a huge slideshow for tonight's stake fireside.

Gone to church,
Taught a new song to the kids in singing time,
Organized the choir nursery,
Had a Sunday afternoon Near Death Experience (aka Nap!)
and HALLELUJAH, sent Jason and his huge slideshow off to the stake fireside--WITHOUT MY COMPUTER! Hooray! It's mine again!

I'm so proud of him for having done all of this work--it's really been hours and hours. But at what point did someone (not me, for sure!) decide it had to be done on my computer? It's been all I could do to check my e-mail for most of the week, and I've missed blogging!

Thanks for letting me get that off of my chest...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Heart's Home

I lived in many different places as I was growing up--at least 4 states and 7 houses that I remember. I don't feel like this was a bad thing, but it did have the result of never being to look back at any one "childhood home." It also meant that my grandparent's farm was the only place that I have returned to my entire life.

Both of my parents were from South Carolina, but we lived in California until I was almost 12. My dad taught school for many of those years, and every summer we drove from California to South Carolina. I can't imagine how hard these trips were for my mom--especially the year we drove the 3000+ miles with 6 young children in a small pickup truck with a hard shell on the back. I don't remember how I felt as a child about the long journey east, except that I felt very important as I sat in the front seat with my dad at night to help keep him awake. We ate gumdrops and listen to Marty Robbins sing "Cool, Clear Water" and "El Paso", music that I still remember.

What I do remember is the Farm. When members of my extended family talk about the Farm you can literally hear the capital letter. It is that important to us.

My grandparents bought the first part of this land towards the end of World War II, after my grandfather was done working in some kind of munitions factory in Arlington, Virginia. They bought the land and had the small house built and finished raising their family there. As their children grew and married and had children of their own, bringing their families back to the Farm every summer (as they were able, of course) was an important priority.

This picture wasn't taken at the farm--I think it might have
been taken at my uncle's house in Richmond.
I am the second from the left, with the short brown hair.

My first memory of the Farm was the same every year. The excitement of realizing that we were now on the highway--the one the Farm was one. And then the fear of turning into the driveway. The driveway, you see, was not too wide. And there was a very deep ditch on either side. We always seemed to arrive at night, and I was so worried that my dad would somehow miss the drive and we would end up in the ditch.

And then there were the relatives. A few years ago my sweet sister in law gave us a book called "The Relatives Came." She told us how that book made her think of when we came to visit them or they came to visit us. But I knew the truth of it--that book was about my Watson family. Because we did drive for days to see each other, and there were just so many uncles and aunts and cousins and hugs and kisses. It was like kid paradise.

The Farm did not have any luxuries. As I've mentioned before, it was originally a small 4 room house that had been added onto many times throughout the years. One bathroom was off of my grandparents' bedroom, and the other bathroom was inbetween two bedrooms. The kitchen was small and the dining room was originally a back porch with a sloped roof. Until we were teens most of us slept there at the farm. Each married couple slept in a bedroom with their youngest children, but the rest of us slept in the living room, dining room, or wherever we could find a little bit of floor space. We slept all lined up in rows, packing in as many of the 43 grandchildren as were there at that time. One time one of my sisters even slept under the table! And we thought it was wonderful.

I managed not to be in this picture.
I was probably off sulking somewhere, since in 1979 I was an angsty teenager!

The very best part of The Farm was The Tree. On one of the side property lines of the Farm there was an irrigation ditch. Growing up from the near bank of the ditch was a huge sweet gum tree, with branches spreading in every direction. My grandpa had brought home a huge broken pulley belt from the mill that he worked in, and tied it onto a branch hanging out over the ditch. There was usually a decent amount of water in the ditch, and we spent hours and hours every day playing there. We would swing back and forth across the ditch, hoping that we wouldn't fall in the water, and I'm sure hoping almost as hard that we would. One morning our oldest cousins gave me and a couple of cousins my age "taxi" rides across to the other sides and then left us stranded there. My mom had given me specific instructions that morning not to get wet, and I was devestated to be forced to be disobedient. (One of my cousins still says that my mom knew we were going to get wet; unfortunately my mom isn't around to ask, so I still maintain that I was supposed to stay dry!)

I do have other memories from the farm; playing at a park on the banks of the local lake, playing house under the muscadine grape arbor with the sweet smell of ripening grapes, playing in the huge tractor tire (before the fig tree took over), taking walks on the hot deserted country roads. There was the year that my grandpa took all of us to swim at the club pool of the company that he had worked for all of his life. I think at that time the rule was that employees or retired employees could bring their family members to the pool. After that summer the rule was changed and we were never able to go swimming at the Sonoco pool again. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that there were at least 20 of us, several of those rowdy teenage boys. But the dominant memory of our time at the farm was the Tree. We were broken hearted when the Tree was hit by lightening when I was in my late teens. It was no longer safe for children to play in or around, and the younger generation of cousins grew up hearing about it but never experiencing it.

One of the delightful things about living in North Carolina for the last 13.5 years has been being only 3.5 hours away from the Farm. We have not been many times in recent years, but when the kids were younger we were able to go far more often. I want my kids to have a sense of where, as their southern relatives would say, their "people" come from. Each time we visit I am struck by how deeply rooted I am to this place. My heart knows that this place, this piece of land with it's modest house, means family and connection and love. I may have never lived on here, but it is still where I am from.

I know that now that both of my grandparents are dead my dad and his siblings will have to decide what to do with the Farm. Fortunately a local farmer rents and farms the land, so nothing has to be decided immediately. I am glad that I won't have to be a part of this tough decision making. And I will forever be grateful to have had the experience of the Farm in my life.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Uh...That's Not Exactly What I Meant...

I was walking outside with my dad tonight just after twilight, and I was admiring the evening sky. I'm sure he was a bit surprised to hear me say, "I love Venus. Did you know it's just outside my neighborhood???"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Celebrating a Life Well Lived

I spent this weekend in Hartsville, South Carolina, honoring the life of my paternal grandmother. When I told someone today that that's where I was yesterday, she said in surprise that I hadn't mentioned that my grandma died. And that's true. I hadn't told many people because it was hard for me to explain my calmness about her death. Believe me, I know what it is to feel grief at the death of a loved one. My mother died when she was 57 and I was 31. That was devastating. My grandfather died several years ago. That was sad because, although physically he had been declining for several years, I knew how much my grandma would miss him. But this weekend had none of those feelings. It was a celebration of a good life that ended gently and calmly--just what we all would want.

As I listened to my dad, his sister and brothers talk about their mother at the funeral I was struck again by how blessed my life has been. My grandmother was born to a very poor family in rural South Carolina in 1917. When she was a teenager her father died, and before she was 16 she married my grandfather, who was equally poor and 21. Neither of my grandparents went to high school. Both came from families that were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and I am grateful that for whatever reason they made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives. I can't imagine how hard they worked during their lives to get from where they started to where they ended.

One of the things I learned this weekend was that their house on their farm--the original four rooms, anyway--were built entirely from salvaged materials. My grandpa and three of his friends bid on an industrial building that wasn't in use anymore, and they took it entirely apart so that they could use the materials themselves. My grandfather worked as a machinist at a local factory and farmed his land in his "spare" time.

My aunt told at the funeral of how hard my grandma worked to take care of her 7 children. She told of clothes made from flour sacks and of picking cotton in the fields. My grandma may not have had much education herself, but she encouraged her children to get as much education as they could. One of her sons went on to get a PhD and three to be chiropractors.

My grandma left behind quite a legacy. Seven children, fourty-five grandchildren, most of them active in the church and raising families of their own. What an accomplishment; one that young 15 year old girl could not have imagined.

Way to go, Grandma.

A Small Miracle

In the February 1985 Ensign was a short article by my uncle, Charles Watson. It told the story of my father's family going to the temple for the first time to be sealed. My uncle used this story in his talk at Grandma's funeral on Saturday, and I wanted to share it here. I love to hear stories of the miracles that happen in the lives of ordinary people, and I love that this miracle helped make me who I am today.

One of Those Small Miracles

“What a blessing to have the Washington Temple so near,” my mother wrote in a 1976 letter. “A day up and one to return home is all it takes for us to enjoy a temple session.” Her words stirred my memory of that time long ago when we made our first trip to the temple.

It was 1950, and the postwar prosperity had finally reached our family. That must have been what enabled Dad to trade off the ’38 Pontiac for the ’50 Nash. Things had never seemed very prosperous on our South Carolina farm, and we’d heard Mom and Dad talk many times about how much they wanted to have the family sealed to them in the temple, but how far off Salt Lake City was and how fearful they were that the Pontiac would never make it. But when Dad showed up one day with the new Nash, we knew he’d bought it so we could go to the temple. Why, the seats even folded down into a double bed, which meant we could save on motel expenses by letting the “big boys” sleep in the car.

So plans were made. We’d go in the fall, when all the crops were in. Of course, we would have to have a good harvest to be able to afford the trip. In fact, the field of cotton right behind the house was a very important part of our temple plans. Dad had told Mom that if she and us kids could pick a bale of cotton, we'd use the money from it's sale to finance the trip. Even with the postwar boom, Dad’s job at the mill, and the produce from the farm, it all seemed barely enough to provide the necessities for our growing family. One of my most vivid memories of preparation for this trip was coming home from school and finding Mom in the cotton field, dragging a burlap sack filled with cotton, with 6 week old Mark laying on a blanket at the end of the row. We'd join her and pick until dark, and again on Saturdays. She was determined that we'd make this trip.

When a snag would appear, Mom’s faith and optimism would push us along. “Callis,” she’d say, “if you don’t take me to the temple and something should happen to you, I’ll find someone who will.”

We suspected that she really wouldn’t have, but it was her way of letting it be known that she planned to get to the temple that fall. Mom and Dad and all the older children knew how close Dad had come to being killed only four years before. He’d been terribly hurt in a motorcycle accident, so when she told him “if anything happens to you” we all knew what she was talking about.

As fall approached there was much activity around our home. Arrangements had to be made for taking us out of school for a couple of weeks; someone had to make sure the animals were fed and watered; and the crops all had to be gathered in. There was an air of excitement as September turned into October—then finally the day of departure arrived. We’d planned to leave between 10:00 p.m. and midnight; that way we’d get in a day and a half of driving before we had to stop for a motel. But as last-minute chores were being done, a cry cut through the stillness of the autumn afternoon: “The pump house is on fire!”

The family came running from nine different directions, and in moments the source of the billowing smoke was found and extinguished. Some days before, one of us had set a gallon jug of gasoline in the pump house, and behind the jug, just under the pump motor, were some burlap bags. The rays of the afternoon sun had magnified through the jug onto the bags, creating a smoldering heat which burned out the pump motor.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse time! It would take days to find and install a replacement motor. Our travel time had to coincide with Dad’s vacation, and our schedule was already tight for what we thought of as our once-in-a-lifetime trip.

I can never forget the scene that followed. After surveying the damage, Dad slowly turned and with drooping head moved toward the house some thirty yards distant. Raising both hands and dropping them several times, shaking his head slowly back and forth, he spoke only half aloud: “How can I leave with no water for the animals? There’s no way we can go.”

Never, before or since, have I seen such great discouragement. Excitement over the anticipated trip suddenly turned to gloom for all of us. We weren’t going after all.

Just then, without our looking for it, came one of those small miracles that happen in our lives in such a matter-of-fact way that we sometimes fail to recognize that they are miracles. Down our driveway came my Uncle Heber.

Heber was Dad’s brother and had taken his family to the temple some ten years earlier. Like all of our relatives there in the Hartsville Ward, he knew of the hopes and anticipations of my parents concerning this trip. The family was close that way. Heber took in the whole situation in a single glance, and for what he did next we’ll all be forever grateful.

“Callis,” he said, “get your family in the car and go. I’ll have water here by nightfall tomorrow.” And we knew he would.

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since that time. Uncle Heber, dad, and mom are gone; all the children have grown up and married, and there are grandkids galore. Temples now dot the earth and are far more accessible than in the 1950's. Still, I reflect with a grateful heart on that first trip. So many things conspired to keep us away, but always it seemed that when an obstacle appeared, the way was prepared. I suppose the only obstacle the Lord might not have helped us overcome would have been our own lack of desire. I’m convinced that he wanted our family sealed to each other, and the blessings we received on that first trip to the temple will be with us for generations to come.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Our $100,000 Raise

I've been reading a book called "What Happy Women Know," by the author of a book I loved called "What Happy People Know." The third chapter is titled Wanton Wanting: The Myths and Burdens of Affluence." This chapter explores the reasons that we believe more money will bring us more happiness, and shows why they are not true.

The most interesting part of the chapter told of a research study carried out in 2004 inn the US and England. 50,000 people were interviewed for this study, the purpose of which was to work out the financial value of a good sex life. The authors of the study went on to show that it would take $55,000/year to bring people as much happiness as a regular sex life. And then also calculated that a loving marriage makes people as happy as an extra $100,000 a year.

Now I am just as stressed about the current economic situation as the next person. I am praying that people will keep buying cell phones so that my husband can keep his job. But as I read that my brain shifted from the "worried about money" mindset to the "how incredibly blessed am I" mindset.

Good job + loving marriage = Wealth beyond description!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Life's Perplexing Questions

Russ and I watched a movie from the library the other night, and I forgot to take the dvd out of the tv and put it back in the case before I returned the case to the library. They were nice enough to call me yesterday and ask for their dvd back (so smart that they check these things!) and so I set it on the stack of library books beside the microwave so that Jason would take them to the library on his way to swim practice.

Cindy Lynn called around lunch time. "Mom," she said, "I have a strange question for you. What do you do with a dead cat?"

This was one of those moments when I wonder why my children seem to think that I know everything. I don't mind when they ask me reasonable questions, but when my kids ask me strange questions that I can't possibly know the answer to I have to wonder what they're thinking.

"I have no idea what you should do with a dead cat," I replied. "Why? Do you have one?"

She explained that some residents of the apartment complex that she and Mahon manage had just reported the presence of a Very Dead Cat in the complex parking lot. And she had thought that I might know what they should do with it.

"Well," I said, "You could always put it in the dumpster."

She sounded a bit dubious. "Do you think that's legal? Don't you have to call someone when there's a dead animal?"

Just then Jason decided that it was time to leave for swimming, and came into the kitchen to gather the keys and cell phone. He saw the stack of library books by the microwave and picked those up too. Not noticing (not caring?) that I was on the phone, he called over to me, "Mom, am I supposed to take the dvd to the library too?"

I am a Very Conscientious Library Patron and was concerned about the safety of the now caseless dvd. And so I moved the phone away from my mouth a little and said to Jason, "I think it would be better if you put it in a sandwich baggie."

Apparently not far enough from my mouth, because Cindy Lynn's shriek came loud and clear through the telephone:

"You want me to put a dead cat into a sandwich baggie???"

P.S. In case you're wondering, Animal Control in Rexburg reports that they only need to be called for animals weighing more than 10 pounds. Smaller animals may be disposed of in whatever manner you please. (Good thing it's winter!)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Calling All Lurkers

Recently I had an e-mail from someone at church whom I admire very much. In it, she said "Here are some of my thoughts on your blog post about Mark 10 that I was too chicken to post there..."

I was really surprised. First, because it's always interesting to find out who reads my blog. But also because it never occurred to me that anyone would feel uncomfortable commenting on a blog. I comment often on people's blogs. Russ almost never comments on blogs. The sociologist in me is fascinated by this disparity and my inquiring mind wants to know more.

I know that I am at a disadvantage in trying to understand why people read a blog and never comment. As an very extroverted person, I am interested in what people have to say and assume that they are equally interested in hearing what I have to say. It is also relatively easy for me to think through things on my feet (or fingers!), so to speak, which my more introverted friends assure me is not the case with them.

I want to know--if you are a lurker and not a commenter (on this or any other blog), why? I've put a poll on the right hand side of my blog and I'm asking you to at least answer the poll. If you have more to say about why you do or do not comment, feel free to leave a comment on this post!

Connecting the Dots

As I look back over 2008 I can see that once again, it's a good thing that the Lord was in charge instead of me, and that sometimes things that seem unbearable prove in the end to have been absolutely vital. I've learned that it's very important for me to remember and record these kind of awarenesses--both to remember that I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life (or the life of my children) and to help me have faith in His plan during future trials.

In February of 2008 Cindy Lynn went into the hospital for what we would consider a "routine CF tune-up." She needed IV antibiotics and it was a convenient time to do it. It seemed a pretty uncomplicated decision.

Instead it was a week of misery. Because she wanted conscious sedation for the insertion of her PIC line (like an IV line, only much deeper, and trust me, you would want sedation too!) she couldn't eat anything before the procedure. They didn't decide until after 3 that first day that they weren't going to be able to install the PIC, and then they finally let her eat. The same thing happened again on day 2, except that at 3 they decided that they would be able to install the PIC line, which they did not do until 5. After which she was allowed too eat. And despite the sedation it was a miserably painful procedure.

In addition to the misery that Cindy Lynn suffered the hospitalization made my life difficult. All of the kids wanted to go and spend time with her, but it was overwhelming to take them all at the same time. And she didn't want to be alone in the evening either. So I did a lot of driving back and forth from the hospital. The day she was supposed to be discharged I took the three little kids with me. At one point, after we had already been there an hour, the nurse in charge suggested that she would not be ready to discharge for as long as three more hours. I was not a very nice person at that point, I probably offered to let her babysit 3 seven year olds in a 60 square foot room for the next three hours!

After the hospital discharge there were 2 more weeks of IV antibiotics at home, which was more convenient than the hospital but still mean less sleep for Russ and me. We were glad when the whole experience was over. We were Done and now she would be Healthy again.

Until she contracted influenza just one week after the antibiotics were over. Yes, she'd had her flu shot, but the flu shots last year were only 50% effective. And Cindy Lynn was lucky enough to come into contact with the right germs. Now I am not a fan of flu shots--I have never had one myself, and don't intend to have one. (Because I am not a cow. But that is a topic for another time.) Regardless of my feelings about flu shots, Cindy Lynn has to have them. A lot of people think flu shots are for the nasty throw-up illnesses that go around, but they're not. They're give some protection against nasty in your lungs illnesses that could be really deadly for people like Cindy Lynn. So to realize that she had influenza was scary. And to make it even worse, she was scheduled to go back out to Idaho for the summer semester of college just three weeks later. This meant there wasn't even time to wait and see if her body could fight off the virus on it's own--and so back into the hospital she went.

Hospitalization #2 had it's own set of problems. Including more days without food, another agonizing PIC line placement (even with the extra help from an ultrasound), and a doctor who did not want to release her from the hospital to finish the IV's at home. It was an emotionally exhausting week, and I will be forever grateful to her friend Ben who hung out with her a lot and provided company and emotional support. Then we got to do 2 more weeks of IV's in the middle of the night. We were tired.

After the second round of IV's was done we had a little moment of revelation. The PIC line placements had all been difficult and painful, even with the use of sedation and the guidance of the ultrasound. And we were pretty sure that not only was her insurance deductible met, but quite possibly her out-of-pocket maximum as well. It seemed like an auspicious time to investigate a surgical procedure to get a device called a port installed, which would bypass the need for a PIC line in the future. The surgery went off without a hitch and we thought that all of the medical drama was over.

Unfortunately, she still wasn't back to normal--what we call baseline, and so in June she went in for yet another round of IV's. This time it was relatively uneventful. Due to the newly installed port they were able to start the IV's immediately and easily. And this time we negotiated a release date in advance, so there were no unpleasant surprises there.

At the same time that all of the hospital dramas were taking place, other interesting things were happening. In January she and Mahon got engaged, and in the spring we started gathering information about what would happen with her insurance once she was married. There was no happy news there. The worst part was learning that BYU-I had no prescription coverage whatsoever! In order to soften that blow they have a pharmacy on campus that provides prescription medicines at a fairly reasonable cost, but for someone with a $35,000/year prescription medicine habit, fairly reasonable doesn't cut it. The only possible way we could see for her to get medical coverage was to qualify for SSI, which would then qualify her for medicaid. We were told by a lawyer specializing in SSI that she would need to have been hospitalized 3 times in the last 12 months in order to have any chance of getting approved for SSI, and that it was still a long shot. She said that the SSI approval process typically took as long as 6 months, and that if her application was denied it would take another 6+ months to appeal that decision. And, of course, she could not officially apply for SSI until after she was married. After lots of prayer and fasting we felt like things would work out ok, but it was still frightening to not know exactly how that was going to happen.

The week that Cindy Lynn got married she found out that she had won a scholarship from one of the pharmaceutical companies that provides medications for people with CF. It paid for most of the tuition for this year, but more importantly, it provided a year's worth of her most expensive medication for free! She later found out that the company that makes her other really really expensive medication has a compassionate care program so that people without insurance could still get the medicine. This left her with about $250/month of medicines that she would need to pay for--which is a lot, but a whole lot better than $3000/month! I could finally see a way that Heavenly Father could provide what Cindy Lynn needed while she waited for SSI, even if it took a long time.

Cindy Lynn found out right before Christmas that she has been approved for SSI. I was so excited--she didn't even get denied! She doesn't even have to appeal! It actually happened! Now we are just waiting for the medicaid paperwork, which I think we can do more calmly.

The year in retrospect looks much different than it felt while we were living it. Having to have that second hospitalization, with a second painful PIC line placement, seemed like too much to bear. In hindsight, that hospitalization provided both the incentive to get the port, and the medical history necessary to qualify for SSI and medicaid. Without that hospitalization--if she had had a regular health year with only one round of IV antibiotics, neither would have been a possibility.

It is amazing to me to look back and connect the dots of the Lord's plan over the last year. I am forever grateful that the Lord doesn't withhold blessings because of my impatience or lack of faith; that he continues to tutor me patiently. And I look forward to the day when I will be able,even in the midst of a trial, to trust in the Lord and his plan.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Goodbye 2008

I am not very good at traditions. Once I read a book in which the authors talked about the many, many traditions their family had. Including having to find a body of water every year to float one child's birthday cake on. I was so overwhelmed I couldn't even go on reading.

One of the traditions I have been successful in implementing, though, is our New Year's tradition. Every year we make a best/worst of the old year list. We put down newsprint on the table and bring out the markers and read through the calendar from the last year to help us remember what actually happened. Then we all write down our own lists, and usually compile a family best/worst list. Some years this happens on New Year's Day, sometimes not. This year we were busy watching Aragorn and Legolas on New Year's Day, so we did it for Family Night this week.

Here you can see that while the fabulous tripod I got for Christmas (and having finally figured out how to use the timer on my camera) makes it possible for me to be in the picture too, it does not guarantee that every child will be looking at the camera.

Here are some of the highlights of this year's lists.

Jenna was obviously very affected by the frequent (and expen$ive) visits of the squirrel man.

Jared celebrated the Father & Sons outing, getting baptized, and the presidential election. (I thought you could use a little translation help--it took me a few minutes to figure those out!) In his "Bad" list he lamented the fact that "Nin (Cindy Lynn) left us" and that our tree smashed our neighbor's car.

Jason had the typical 16 year old boy's list--complete with friends, girls, dating, and driving.

Rachel didn't produce much of a list. She spent most of her time writing her name with different colors and trying to persuade people to play tic-tac-toe with her. But her bad list did include Cindy Lynn getting married. As you can probably tell, while we are all happy that Cindy Lynn is happily married, we miss her a lot!

Josh was in a fairly non-compliant mood during our activity. He spent most of his time drawing "political cartoons" on every free bit of newsprint and making up a list of good things that he wished would happen to him, and bad things that we are glad haven't happened to him.

Russ's list and my list are not nearly as entertaining as the others, but we both enjoy making them. It's always such a good feeling to me to make a list of the events of the previous year and see how many good things have happened and how blessed we truly are.

And lastly, just in case you wondered: